Volume III – Church History
Volume 3 of The Orthodox Faith, entitled Church History, is a succinct overview of Christian history century by century. It presents the most important historical events, leading personalities, and significant doctrinal, liturgical, spiritual, and ecclesiastical developments in the Eastern Orthodox Church, giving the traditional Orthodox perspectives on the historical data. It also includes major events, personalities, and developments in the Christian West, both Roman Catholic and Reformed. The century by century format allows the reader to see what was happening at the same time in different places. The recent centuries that deal with Orthodoxy in North America, and especially with the pre-history and history of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), are treated at greater length because of their nearness to us in time and place, their complexity and importance, and the variety of interpretations that exist today about what occurred. As an OCA publication, this volume provides the OCA’s understanding and interpretation of the historical events.
Christ and the Apostles
The first century of the Christian era begins with the birth of Jesus Christ from the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. Christ lived, preached, did mighty acts, was crucified, rose again, and ascended into Heaven in the first several decades of the first century. After His Ascension into Heaven, God sent the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s disciples on the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2), empowering them to take Christ’s Gospel to the ends of the known world.
During His life on earth, Jesus selected disciples-first the Twelve (Mt 10.2–4) and then the Seventy (Lk 10.1). He trained them to be the leaders of His Church. After Pentecost, the Apostles preached the Gospel of Christ far and wide. We do not know exactly where all the Apostles traveled, but we know a good deal about the missionary journeys of Saint Paul, which are recorded in the Book of Acts (chs. 13–28). In his extensive travels Saint Paul founded many churches in Asia Minor and Greece. All the Twelve Apostles (including Saint Matthias, who took Judas’s place-Acts 1.15–26) except Saint John, as well as many of the Seventy, died as martyrs for their faith in Christ.
The Gospels and Epistles, and all of the 27 writings which the Church eventually selected to be the New Testament Scriptures, were written in the first century. Also in this time, Christian communities were established in the main cities of Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Egypt, and even as far as Armenia and India.
Because the Church in Antioch was growing so much, Saints Paul and Barnabas went there to preach and teach. It was there that the followers of Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11.19–30). Also, this Church sent forth Saints Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13.1). Antioch probably surpassed Jerusalem as the leading Christian center by the time the Christians fled from Jerusalem shortly before the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 66 A.D.
The Church was also established in Rome. The natural prestige of the Church in Rome as the capital of the Empire was enhanced when the two greatest Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, were both martyred there under Emperor Nero around 67 A.D. Their graves became important places of pilgrimage, and their common feastday (June 29) was established in the Church by the middle of the second century.
Though the first Christians were Jews, the early Christians wrote in Greek, the prevalent language in the Roman Empire. Even the Church in Rome used Greek until the beginning of the third century.
The Christian Church was at first an urban phenomenon which only later spread to the rural areas. It was composed mainly of people from what we would call today the “middle classes” of society. It is not true that Christianity gained its foothold in the world primarily among uneducated and backward people who were looking for heavenly consolation in the face of oppressive and unbearable living conditions on earth.
The most important decision the Church had to make during the first century was whether non-Jewish people (Gentiles) could be received into the Church by faith in Christ without being required to follow the ritual requirements of the Mosaic Law, including circumcision. Based on Saint Paul’s understanding of the Old Testament, and on Saint Peter’s testimony about how the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household received the Holy Spirit even while Peter was still speaking to them (Acts 10 and 11), the first council of the Church, held in Jerusalem in about 49 A.D., decided that Gentile converts would not be subject to the Mosaic Law (Acts 15). Held under the leadership of Saint James, the Brother of the Lord and the first Bishop of Jerusalem, this council is considered the prototype of all subsequent Church councils.
While the Christian Church entered Roman imperial society “under the veil” of Judaism, quite soon it became separated from the Jewish faith. The Church embraced all those, of whatever ethnic background, who through belief in Jesus as Lord and Christ, and through repentance from sin, were incorporated into Christ’s Body, the Church, through Baptism. After Baptism, with the laying on of hands of an Apostle or one ordained by an Apostle, the new Christians received the gift of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2.37–39 and 8.14–17), and then participated in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Eucharist.
The separation of the Church from Judaism was made sharper when the Roman army in 70 A.D. crushed the revolt of the Jews against the rule of Rome. The Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple, putting an end to the worship and animal sacrifice (at first done in the Tabernacle, and then in the Temple) that was central to Judaism since the time of Moses. For the Christians, the destruction of the Temple was the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy (Mt 24.1–2), and the final proof that the Lord Jesus had indeed given the Kingdom to all those who believed in Him, both Jews and Gentiles.
The Church was founded in each place as a local community. It often met in private houses, such as that of Saints Priscilla and Aquila-first in Ephesus (1Cor 16.19) and then in Rome (Rom 16.3–5). These early congregations were led by those called bishops (overseers) or presbyters (elders) who received the laying-on-of-hands (ordination) from the Apostles (see Acts 14.23). As the Apostles themselves were called to spread the Gospel throughout the whole world, they did not serve as bishops, i.e., local leaders, of any particular Christian community in any place.
Each of the early Christian communities had its own unique character and challenges, as the New Testament writings reveal. Each church had great concern for the others, and they were all called to teach the same doctrines and to practice the same virtues, living together the same life of fellowship and sacramental worship in Christ and the Holy Spirit. Saint Luke writes that the first Church in Jerusalem “continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and communion, in the breaking of the bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2.42). The bonds of love and faith were so strong among the first Christians that they “had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2.44–45).
Thus, the preaching and interpretation of God’s gospel in Jesus, the basic structure of the Church, and the essential character of Christian worship were all firmly in place by the end of the first century.
The second century saw the further development and expansion of the Christian Faith, and more widespread persecution of the Church by the Roman imperial authorities, for whom Christianity was an “illegal religion.” The Christians were criminals in the eyes of the Romans, not only religiously, but also politically. They transgressed the laws of the state in that they refused to honor the earthly emperor as lord and god, which was required of them as inhabitants of the Empire. The Christians prayed for the civil authorities and gave “honor to whom honor is due” (Rom 13.1–7; 1Tim 2.1–3; Mk 12.13–17), but they refused to give the earthly king the glory and worship which was due to God, and to his Christ, alone. Thus Roman law declared: It is not lawful to be a Christian.
One of the earliest reports about Christianity to appear in non-Christian writings is found in the correspondence between Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, and Emperor Trajan (r. 98–117). This correspondence reveals that Christianity was indeed proscribed, and though Christians should not be sought out and were innocent of the gross charges against them-such as the sacrifice of children and the eating of human flesh (a misunderstanding of the Eucharist, which was conducted in “secret meetings”)-the Christians nevertheless were to be executed when seized, if they refused to renounce their Faith.
The persecution of Christians in the second century was largely localized, occurring sporadically and at varying locations according to what was allowed or authorized by the local imperial authorities. The account of The Martyrs of Vienne and Lyons in Gaul gives a vivid description of one such outbreak of persecution, in about the year 177.
Nevertheless, the persecutions were widespread, and the Christians were generally hated even by the most tolerant and open-minded of the Roman rulers. They were despised mostly, it seems, for what was considered their stubbornness and intolerance due to their exclusive devotion to Jesus Christ as Lord. They were persecuted also for what was considered to be the political danger they posed to the unity of the imperial society, especially as their numbers steadily grew.
The Apostolic Fathers
Among the most famous of the Christian leaders and martyrs of the second century were the bishops Saint Clement of Rome (d. c. 102), Saint Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 110), and Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (d. c. 157). Their writings, along with the Didache (the Teachings of the Twelve Apostles), the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the stirring Account of the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, which strongly attests to the veneration of martyrs and their relics, comprise the literature known as the Apostolic Fathers. Written in the years immediately after the era of the original Apostles, these invaluable writings provide a fascinating glimpse into what the Church believed, how it was structured, and how the Christians lived and worshiped in these early years. As such, these writings can be considered the sequel to the Book of Acts, and to the New Testament writings in general.
While the literature of the Apostolic Fathers was addressed to Christians for their instruction and edification, other Church leaders of the second century were writing to the outside world, explaining and defending Christianity-especially to those who were persecuting Christians out of misunderstanding and ignorance. These writings are called Apologies, or Defenses of the Faith, and their authors are called Apologists. The leading Apologists were the philosopher Saint Justin Martyr (d.c. 165); Saint Quadratus of Athens; Athenagoras of Athens; Saint Melito, Bishop of Sardis (d.c. 190); Saint Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (d.c. 190); and Minucius Felix of western North Africa (d.c. 235). Often writing directly to the Roman emperor, the Apologists did much to help Christianity gain intellectual and social “respectability” in the greater Roman society.
Many of the Apologists also wrote essays and other things for the Church. Saint Melito of Sardis, for example, wrote a magnificent and long liturgical poem called “On Pascha.” In it we find wording almost identical to some of the language in the hymns for Great and Holy Friday. He writes about the Lord’s crucifixion:
He who hung the earth is hanging.
He who fixed the heavens in place has been fixed in place.
He who laid the foundations of the universe has been laid on a tree.
The Master has been profaned.
God has been murdered (ch. 96).
Protecting the Church from Falsehood and Heresy
Near the end of the first century and on into the second century, many false writings about Christ were produced. Some of these were the so-called apocryphal writings (not to be confused with the Old Testament Apocrypha), or pseudepigrapha (see volume one on Scripture). These writings, each one usually bearing the name of an Apostle or another prominent New Testament figure in an attempt to give it more authority, introduced into Christian circles many fanciful, legendary stories about the childhood of Christ, the life of the Virgin Mary, and the activities of the Apostles.
Together with the pseudepigrapha, there also appeared the false teachings of Gnosticism, a group of related heresies which sought to transform Christianity into a kind of spiritualistic, dualistic, and intellectualistic philosophy (see Scripture). The first of the great Church Fathers, Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (c. 130-c. 200), wrote a monumental work called Against Heresies, which powerfully refuted the various forms of Gnosticism.
In this work, Saint Irenaeus emphasized three crucial ways by which to distinguish heretical groups from true Christian Churches. First, all the true Churches, no matter where they are located, hold the same basic doctrines, known together as the rule of faith. In contrast, the various Gnostic groups disagree among themselves in their beliefs.
Second, all the authentic Churches can trace their origins back to one of the original Apostles, with their bishops coming down in direct descent from that Apostle; this is known as apostolic succession. The Gnostic groups, however, could not claim a similar lineage back to the Apostles.
Third, whereas the various Gnostic groups each had their own writings which they followed, the true Churches only considered the Gospels according to the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to be divinely inspired. Saint Irenaeus’s strong affirmation of these four Gospels helped to solidify the first crucial step in the very long and tremendously important process by which the organized Church selected the 27 books which would eventually comprise the New Testament Scriptures. In this canonization process the Church had to determine which of the many writings circulating among the various Christian communities were to be accepted as Scripture, and which ones were to be rejected.
The canonization process was not completed until the end of the 4th century. In fact, the earliest list of exactly the 27 New Testament books that we have today was not compiled until in 367 A.D. This list, drawn up by Saint Athanasius the Great, was based on the usage of his Church in Alexandria, Egypt.
Another dangerous threat to the stability and integrity of the Church in the 2nd century arose in about the year 160 in central Asia Minor-the sect known as Montanism. This strict, rigorist, fundamentalistic group arose partly in protest to what was perceived as a growing laxity of spiritual fervor and moral purity among the majority of Christians. Like many such groups throughout Christian history, they were overly apocalyptic, being convinced that Christ would return in their own day. And they also had an over-emphasis on supernatural manifestations such as prophecy, and probably also speaking in tongues.
Montanism was founded by a man named Montanus, who claimed that he and his two prophetesses, Priscilla and Maximilla, were the chosen instruments for the dawning of the End Times and a new, purer, more spiritually advanced Age of the Spirit. However, they prophesied in a strange, frenzied way, contrary to Saint Paul’s injunctions in 1Cor 14.32–33 and 40. Also, some of their “prophetic” messages contradicted the Gospels and Saint Paul’s epistles-for instance, they forbade fleeing from persecution (violating Christ’s words in Mt 24.16); and they strictly prohibited second marriages (superseding Saint Paul’s words in 1Cor 7.9 and 1Tim 5.14). For these reasons, and also because of the movement’s judgmentalism and divisiveness, the Church condemned Montanism in several local councils in Asia Minor by the year 200.
The Quartodeciman Controversy
We also find near the end of the second century the first time occasion when the bishop of Rome tried to exert his authority over a group of Christians living outside of his area of jurisdiction-Rome and the surrounding region. This occurred in about 190, when Pope Victor I (ruled 189–199), the first Latin-speaking bishop of Rome, attempted to excommunicate the Christians in Asia Minor who were celebrating Pascha on the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan, no matter what day of the week it fell on. Hence these Christians came to be known as Quartodecimans (i.e., the “Fourteeners”).
Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (d. c. 340), the first great Church historian, in his History of the Church, reports that a number of bishops, including Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, “very sternly rebuked Victor” for this action, even though they agreed with him that Pascha should always be celebrated on a Sunday. Victor’s announcement of excommunication was ignored by the Quartodecimans, who continued their custom. When the First Ecumenical Council, in 325, mandated that all the Churches celebrate Pascha at the same time, most of the remaining “Quartodecimans” aligned their practice with that of the rest of the universal Church.
Church Order and Liturgy
In the writings of The Apostolic Fathers, the Apologists, and other early Fathers like Saint Irenaeus, it is seen that, at least by the middle of the second century, each local Christian Church was headed by one bishop who presided over a “college” of presbyters or elders, and who guided the more socially-oriented work of the deacons. Thus Saint lgnatius of Antioch writes in his letters:
I exhort you to strive to do all things in harmony with God: the bishop is to preside in the place of God, while the presbyters are to function as the council of the apostles, and the deacons, who are most dear to me, are entrusted with the ministry [diakonia; i.e., good works] of Jesus Christ (Letter to Magnesians 6.1).
Take care, then, to partake of one Eucharist; for one is the Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us with His Blood, and one altar, just as there is one bishop assisted by the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow servants (Letter to Philadelphians 4).
Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church (Letter to Smyrneans 8.2).
Saint Ignatius was the first to use the term catholic to describe the Church. It is an adjective of quality that tells how every authentic Church is-namely, full, perfect, complete, and whole, with nothing lacking of the fullness of the grace, truth, and holiness of God.
To comment on one more of these early writings, the Didache is a kind of brief manual on Christian living and various Church practices compiled probably by the middle of the second century, but including material most likely coming from as early as the late first century. It contains several passages relating to Baptism and the Eucharist:
Baptize as follows: after explaining all of these points, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water. But if you do not have running water, use whatever is available.?.?.?. And prior to baptism, both he who is baptizing and he who is being baptized should fast, along with any others who can (Didache 7.1–4).
Let no one eat and drink of your Eucharist except those who are baptized in the name of the Lord (Didache 9.5).
On the Lord’s own Day [i.e., Sunday], assemble in common to break bread and give thanks [i.e., the Eucharist; the word itself means ‘thanksgiving’]; but first confess your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure. However, no one quarreling with his brother may join your assembly until they are reconciled; for your sacrifice must not be defiled (Didache 14.1–2).
An early description of Christian worship,
by Saint Justin Martyr, c. 155 AD
And on the day which is called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits.
Then, when the reader has concluded, the president verbally instructs and exhorts us to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray. And as I said before, when we have ended our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought. And the president in like manner offers up prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability, and the people give their assent by saying ‘Amen.’ And there is a distribution to each and a partaking by everyone of the Eucharist, and to those who are absent a portion is brought by the deacons.
And those who are well-to-do and willing give as they choose, each as he himself purposes. The collection is then deposited with the president, who supports orphans and widows, and those who are in want owing to sickness or any other cause, and those who are in prison, and strangers who are sojourning with us. In a word, he takes care of all those who are in need.
Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.
(First Apology 67)
The third century opened with relatively widespread persecution of Christians under Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193–211). The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas vividly recounts the victorious suffering of some of those who were martyred in Carthage (western North Africa) at this time. Also in this wave of persecution, in Alexandria in Egypt, Origen’s father, Saint Leonides, was martyred. And when Clement, the head of the important catechetical school there, fled the city, the brilliant and fervently pious Origen was appointed by Bishop Demetrius to be the head of the school, even though he was only about 18 years old.
The Christian Church lived in relative peace from the death of Septimius Severus to the time of Emperor Decius (r. 249–251). But very soon after Decius came to power, he inaugurated an intense persecution of Christians throughout the whole empire. This wave of persecution ended with his death in 251, but another wave began in 257 under Emperor Valerian (r. 253–260). In these times, not only were the Christians forced to sacrifice to the imperial gods, but also the higher clergy were specifically sought out to be executed, in the erroneous expectation that by eliminating the Church’s leaders, Christianity would wither and die.
Then, after Valerian’s death, his son, Emperor Gallienus (r. 260–268), stopped the policy of general persecution, and the Christians once more lived in relative peace, until the beginning of the next century. During this period, there was ongoing, steady growth in Church membership, which perhaps reached up to ten percent of the population in the Empire by the year 300-or about 6,000,000.
The persecutions by Decius and Valerian, as well as the peaceful times which preceded and followed, brought a great interior crisis to the Christian Church in the third century. The question arose about how to care for the “lapsed”-Christians who had denied Christ under the threat of torture and execution, but who afterwards wanted to return to the Church. This sin of apostasy, as well as the sins of murder and adultery, were considered the three most heinous sins, and many in the Church thought that it was entirely inappropriate, if not downright impossible, for the Church, as the pure Bride of Christ, to offer the possibility of repentance and forgiveness for such sins. Hence, they felt that such sinners must endure lifelong excommunication.
Gradually, however, through the first half of the third century, most of the bishops were realizing that as the Body of Christ, the All-Merciful One Who came “not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Mt 9.13), the Church must allow for the possibility of heartfelt repentance for even the worst of sins. They were careful to stipulate, though, that such repentance must be worked out through a lengthy period of penitence, after which absolution and restoration to Eucharistic communion would be given through the proper channels under the authority of the bishops.
Many rigorists in the Church, however, refused to accept this pastoral decision. They preferred a concept of the Church as “the society of the pure” rather than as “the hospital for sinners.” One such figure was the illustrious Carthaginian theologian and Apologist, Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220), known as “the Father of Latin theology” for his prolific, insightful writings on many topics. But he always had rigorist tendencies. This made him susceptible to the claims of the Montanists, whom he joined in about 205, despite their having been officially condemned by several Church councils. Very sadly, he died outside the Church.
Another rigorist who objected to the Church offering the possibility of repentance for the worst sins was Hippolytus (c. 170-c. 235), a leading priest and theologian in Rome. He felt strongly that Bishop Zephyrinus (r. 198–217) of Rome and his successor Bishop Callistus (r. 217–222) were too “soft on sin” since they held a more lenient view.
Hippolytus also accused these two of being too “soft on heresy,” as they were slow to condemn the teaching of Sabellius, another priest in Rome. Sabellius taught that “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” were just three different names for God, rather than being the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. As a result, in 217 Hippolytus refused to recognize the newly elected Callistus as the legitimate bishop of Rome and started his own church. Thus he became the first of over twenty different anti-popes in the history of the Roman Church.
But as it happened, some time after 230, both Hippolytus and Bishop Pontianus (r. 230–235) of Rome, during a brief period of persecution, were sent to the mines in Sardinia, where they were reconciled before their deaths. This is what made it possible for Hippolytus to be recognized as Saint Hippolytus.
After the Decian Persecution, a new rigorist sect arose in opposition to the Church’s policy of offering repentance to those who had lapsed and denied Christ during that period of persecution. This was Novatianism, founded by Novatian, a leading priest of Rome who led his followers into schism upon refusing to accept the authority of the newly elected Bishop Cornelius (r. 251–253), who favored mercy towards the lapsed if they were sincerely repentant. The virulent sect of Novatianism spread quickly through the Empire; it was still in existence in the 5th century.
The greatest defender of the Catholic Church at this time was Saint Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (c. 200–258), who strenuously opposed the so-called “pure Church” of the Novatianists-and especially the divisiveness of that movement. Although a great reader of Tertullian (most of whose works were written before he became a Montanist), Saint Cyprian defended the Catholic Church, with Her unbroken apostolic succession of bishops, against the newly formed spiritualistic “churches” of the rigorists, or maximalists. He stated in one of his most famous works, entitled On the Unity of the Church, which he wrote to prevent schism occurring in his own church:
Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the Faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, ‘There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God’ [Eph 4.4]?
And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us who are bishops, who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopacy itself to be one and undivided.?.?.?. The episcopacy is one, each part of which is held wholly by each one. The Church also is one.?.?.?.
Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father who does not have the Church for his mother (On the Unity of the Church 4–6).
Saint Cyprian also strongly resisted the second attempt by a bishop of Rome to dictate to a Church beyond her territory. This occurred when Bishop Stephen I (r. 254–257) tried to force the Church of Carthage to receive converts from schismatic or heretical Christian groups by anointing with oil, or even just by a statement of faith, rather than by baptism, as long as the heretical baptism had been done with the proper form. Cyprian, taking a more rigorist stance on this issue, insisted that any sacraments done by those outside the canonical Church have no validity whatsoever; as he said, “How can he who does not have the Spirit impart the Spirit?”
While the Church through the centuries has generally taken Stephen’s approach on this difficult issue, Cyprian was certainly right in resisting Rome’s pretension to have authority over the Church of Carthage. As he said concerning such jurisdictional matters, “None of us claims to be a bishop of bishops or resorts to tyranny to obtain the consent of his brethren. Each bishop in the fullness of his freedom and his authority retains the right to think for himself; he is not subject to any other and he does not judge others.” And as in the time of Bishop Victor’s attempt to force the Quartodecimans to accept Roman practice, strong protests were raised by bishops from across the Empire against Bishop Stephen’s imperious attitude.
Development of Theology
The third century also witnessed the emergence of the first formal school of Christian theology. It was located in Africa-in Alexandria, Egypt. Founded in about 180 A.D. by Pantaenus, a converted Stoic philosopher, the school was developed and strengthened by Clement (d. c. 215), and crowned by the outstanding theologian and scholar Origen (c. 185–254). Whereas Tertullian strongly rejected any alliance between “Athens and Jerusalem”-that is, between pagan philosophy and Christian revelation-the Alexandrians insisted that Greek philosophy was preparation for the Christian Gospel. They affirmed that the glimmers of truth discerned by the great pagan philosophers, poets, and dramatists all point to, and are fulfilled and completed by, the truth of the Christian Faith. Hence, Christianity can be seen to be the Highest Philosophy, the culmination of all human philosophical endeavor. Thus, Origen wrote to his illustrious disciple Saint Gregory the Wonderworker (c. 213-c. 270),
I desire you to take from the philosophy of the Greeks what may serve as a course of study or a preparation for Christianity, and from geometry and astronomy what may serve to explain the sacred Scriptures, in order that all that the philosophers say about geometry and music, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy, we may say about philosophy itself, in relation to Christianity.
The work of Origen was phenomenal. He wrote numberless treatises on many themes. He is known as the “Father of Biblical Criticism” for the Hexapla, his monumental, six-fold, critical (meaning trying to determine the most accurate text) edition of the Old Testament, and for his commentaries on most of the books of the Bible. He is also known as the “Father of Systematic Theology,” mostly for his work called On First Principles, the first of its kind, in which he systematically treated all the major doctrines of the Christian Faith. In general, his work laid the foundation for virtually all subsequent theological scholarship in the Greek Church.
However, in some of his works Origen made use of various problematic Platonistic teachings as he tried to explain certain mysteries of the Faith which the Church had not yet officially clarified. In time, these Platonistic speculations led to various heresies, mostly among certain monks who considered some of these questionable teachings to be dogma. As this problem increased, by the middle of the 6th century, out of a pastoral concern to put an end to these divisive heresies, the Church took the drastic step of condemning Origen himself, as well as his erroneous teachings, at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in the year 553.
Among the major theologians of the third century who also must be mentioned are Saint Dionysius the Great, Bishop of Alexandria (d. 264); Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop of Neocaesarea in Cappadocia (d.c. 270); and Saint Methodius, Bishop of Olympus in western Asia Minor (d. 311). Saint Dionysius, the dynamic bishop of Alexandria from 247 until his death in 264, was noted for his efforts in helping to end disputes of various kinds among and within the Churches around the Mediterranean Basin. He led the opposition to the heretical teachings of Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch, and may have died at the first council in Antioch that condemned Paul’s erroneous speculations about the Holy Trinity and about Christ.
It is interesting to note that when Paul did not cease his erroneous teachings, a subsequent council in Antioch, held in 268, reaffirmed the condemnation of his speculations and deposed him as bishop. However, he refused to give up the episcopal throne and residence. Finally, in 272 the Church appealed to Emperor Aurelian (r. 270–275), who had recently won back Antioch from the Kingdom of Palmyra, to remove Paul by force. This he did, after conferring with “the bishops of the religion in Italy and Rome” (as presumably impartial judges, as reported by Bishop Eusebius in his History of the Church VII.30.19), who assured him that the Church in the East had indeed acted properly in deposing Paul.
This was apparently the first time the Church ever appealed to the civil authorities for assistance. It is perhaps a sign of the Church’s growing &lquo;self-confidence” regarding its place and stature in Roman society that it would make such a request from the emperor, who just as easily could have been persecuting Christians. It also can be seen as prophetic of the alliance of the Church with the State that will gradually develop during the fourth century.
Concerning Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, it is said that upon his return to his hometown of Neocaesarea after his five years in Palestine, there were only 17 Christians; but at his death, after being bishop for about 30 years, there were only 17 pagans. Though Gregory was converted to Christianity by Origen, and though Origen was his teacher for five years, there is no evidence of Origen’s problematic, misleading speculations in Gregory’s writings.
And Saint Methodius, a prolific writer and important theologian, was one of the first Christian leaders to point out and refute various erroneous speculations in Origen’s works. Methodius’s only work which comes down to us in its entirety is called The Symposium, or the Banquet of the Ten Virgins. Interestingly, this treatise contains an especially positive understanding of marriage and marital relations, even though its overarching theme is praise for a life of consecrated virginity. He died as a martyr near the end of the Diocletian Persecution.
Writings also exist from the third century which give many insights into the canonical and liturgical life of the Church in this era. These are the so-called Teachings of the Apostles from Syria, and the Apostolic Tradition of Saint Hippolytus of Rome, the last Church leader in the West who wrote in Greek. The former gives regulations concerning the hierarchical offices and the sacramental practices in the Church of Syria, and it describes the liturgical assembly. The latter gives similar information, in a more lengthy and detailed way, about the Church in Rome-though it probably also reflects influence from Alexandria. It contains the text of the oldest fixed Eucharistic prayer in Church history that we possess, as well as the form for the sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, and Ordination.
Baptism and Chrismation in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus
And when he who is to be baptized goes down to the water, let him who baptizes lay a hand on him, saying thus: “Dost thou believe in God the Father Almighty?”
And he who is being baptized shall say: “I believe.”
Let him forthwith baptize him once, having laid his hand upon his head. And after this, let him say: “Dost thou believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, Who was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate; and died and was buried; and He rose the third day living from the dead; and ascended into heaven; and sat down at the right hand of the Father; and will come to judge the living and the dead?”
And when he says: “I believe,” let him baptize him the second time.
And again let him say:
“Dost thou believe in the Holy Spirit in the Holy Church, and the resurrection of the flesh?”
And he who is being baptized shall say: “I believe.”
And so let him baptize him the third time.
And afterwards when he comes up from the water, he shall be anointed by the presbyter with the Oil of Thanksgiving, saying:
“I anoint thee with holy oil in the Name of Jesus Christ.”
And so each one drying himself with a towel, they shall now put on their clothes, and after this let them be together in the assembly (Church).
And the Bishop shall lay his hand upon them, invoking and saying:
“O Lord God, who didst count these Thy servants worthy of deserving the forgiveness of sins by the laver of regeneration, make them worthy to be filled with Thy Holy Spirit and send upon them Thy grace, that they may serve Thee according to Thy will, for to Thee is the glory, to the Father and to the Son with the Holy Spirit in the Holy Church, both now and ever and world without end. Amen.”
After this, pouring the consecrated oil from his hand and laying his hand on his head, he shall say:
“I anoint thee with holy oil in God the Father Almighty and Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.”
And sealing him on the forehead, he shall give him the kiss of peace and say: “The Lord be with you.”
And he who has been sealed shall say: “And with thy spirit.”
And so he shall do to each one severally.
Thenceforward they shall pray together with all the people. But they shall not previously pray with the faithful before they have undergone all these things.
And after the prayers, let them give the kiss of peace.
Eucharist in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus
Celebrant: “The Lord be with you.”
People: “And with thy spirit.”
Celebrant: “Lift up your hearts.”
People: “We have them in the Lord.”
Celebrant: “Let us give thanks to the Lord.”
People: “That is proper and right.”
Celebrant: “We thank Thee God through Thy beloved servant Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent in the latter times to be our Savior and Redeemer and the messenger of Thy counsel, the Logos Who went out from Thee, through Whom Thou hast created all things, Whom Thou wast pleased to send out from heaven into the womb of the Virgin, and in her body He became incarnate and was shown to be Thy Son born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin. In order to fulfill Thy will and to make ready for Thee a holy people, He spread out His hands when He suffered in order that He might free from sufferings those who have reached faith in Thee.
“And when He gave Himself over to voluntary suffering, in order to destroy death, and to break the bonds of the devil, and to tread down hell, and to illuminate the righteous, and to set up the boundary stone, and to reveal the Resurrection, He took bread, gave thanks, and said: ‘Take, eat, this is My body which is broken for you.’ In the same manner also He took the cup, and said: ‘This is My blood which is poured out for you. As often as you do this you keep My memory.’
“When we remember His death and His resurrection in this way, we bring to Thee the bread and the cup, and give thanks to Thee, because Thou hast thought us worthy to stand before Thee and to serve Thee as priests.
“And we beseech Thee that Thou wouldst send down Thy Holy Spirit on the sacrifice of the Church. Unite them, and grant to all the saints who partake in the sacrifice, that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit, that they may be strengthened in faith in the truth, in order that we may praise and laud Thee through Thy servant, Jesus Christ, through Whom praise and honor be to Thee in Thy Holy Church now and forevermore. Amen.”
Early in the fourth century began the longest and most extensive persecution ever waged against the Church. It was started in 303 by Emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305), at the urging of his deputy emperor in the East, Galerius, who began to suspect the loyalty and valor of the Christian soldiers in the military. During this nine-year persecution, soldier-martyrs like Saint George of Nicomedia proved their courage in enduring fearsome tortures and death on behalf of the true emperor, the King of Glory. Among the other more well-known martyrs of this period are Saint Katherine the Greatmartyr of Alexandria; Saint Panteleimon of Nicomedia; Saint Demetrius the Greatmartyr of Thessalonica and his friend Saint Nestor; Saints Agapia, Chionia, and Irene of Aquileia; and the 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia.
After Diocletian abdicated the throne in 305, Galerius became the Emperor in the East. He continued the attack against Christianity until he was on his deathbed, when he asked the Christians to pray for him. After his death in 311, his former deputy emperor, Maximin, renewed the persecution for another year, until he was overthrown by Licinius.
Meanwhile, Constantine was proclaimed emperor in the West in York, England, in 306, upon the death of his father, the deputy emperor Constantius. In 312, as Constantine was moving with his troops towards Rome to fight against Maxentius, the tyrannical ruler there, he had a vision or a dream that dramatically changed the course of history. He saw in the sky the Cross or Labarum (Chi Rho: XP) of Christ with the words, “In this sign, conquer.” He placed this Christian symbol on his troops’ tunics and shields, and they won the battle-known as the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.
With this Christ-inspired victory, Constantine not only became the sole emperor in the West; he also became a stronger believer in the God of the Christians. So he acted very quickly to bring the era of persecution of Christians to an official end. In February of 313, Constantine met Licinius, the ruler of the Eastern half of the empire, in Milan. Together they issued the Edict of Milan giving freedom to Christians to practice their Faith in the empire-as well as affirming general religious freedom for everyone. Now recognized as a legal entity, the Church expanded and flourished greatly during the 4th century-so much so that in the last decade of the century, Emperor Saint Theodosius the Great (r. 379–395), with advice from Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (c. 339–397), made Christianity the official state religion of the Empire.
In about 320, the eastern emperor Licinius began persecuting Christians in the military. The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and the Greatmartyr Theodore Stratelates died for Christ in this time. Partly because of this betrayal by Licinius of the Edict of Milan, Constantine led his troops against him. By 324 Constantine had defeated Licinius, thus becoming sole emperor of the whole empire, both East and West.
Excerpts from the Edict of Milan
When with happy auspices I, Constantinus Augustus, and I, Licinius Augustus, had arrived at Milan, and were enquiring into all matters that concerned the advantage and benefits of the public, among the other measures directed to the general good, or rather as questions of highest priority, we decided to establish rules by which respect and reverence for the Deity would be secured, i.e, to give the Christians, and all others, liberty to follow whatever form of worship they chose, so that whatsoever divine and heavenly powers that exist might be enabled to show favor to us and to all who live under our authority.?.?.?. we have given the said Christians free and absolute permission to practice their own form of worship.?.?.?.
With regard to the Christians, we also give this further ruling. In the letter sent earlier to Your Dedicatedness, precise instructions were laid down at an earlier date with reference to their places where earlier on it was their habit to meet. We now decree that if it should appear that any persons have bought these places either from our treasury or from some other source, they must restore them to these same Christians without payment and without any demand for compensation, and there must be no negligence or hesitation. .?.?. All this property is to be handed over to the Christian body immediately, by energetic action on your part, without any delay.
And since the aforesaid Christians not only possessed those places where it was their habit to meet, but are known to have possessed other places also, belonging not to individuals but to the legal estate of the whole body, i.e., of the Christians, all this property, in accordance with the law set forth above, you will order to be restored without any argument whatever to the aforesaid Christians.
In the next year Emperor Constantine had a dream which he believed was given to him by God, directing him to build a magnificent Christian city at the site of the ancient town of Byzantium. Very strategically located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, this city was officially dedicated in 330 as Constantinople (meaning “City of Constantine”), the new imperial capital. The emperor helped to build churches there, in particular the Church of the Holy Apostles, where he was buried upon his death in 337.
Another highlight of his reign was the visit of his mother, Saint Helen, to Palestine. There she made pilgrimage to the holy sites of Christ’s life. With divine guidance she made a discovery that inflamed the heart of the Christian world. Near the hill of Golgotha outside Jerusalem, she found the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. Constantine helped to build churches at some of these sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Jerusalem quickly became a great center of pilgrimage for the entire Christian world.
The era of Constantine is sometimes seen in the West as the beginning of the corruption of the pure Christianity of the Early Church. During the fourth century, millions more people become Christians, many of whom may not have had the spiritual fervor of the early Christians. But for Orthodox Christians, the great importance of Constantine is that with his conversion to the true faith, what was only a seemingly impossible dream now became possible: namely, the conversion of the entire society-the whole empire-to Christ.
Constantine not only allowed the Church to operate freely; he also specifically helped it in many ways. He restored or made restitution for properties that Christians had lost during the Diocletian Persecution. He sponsored copies of the Scriptures to be produced. He helped many churches to be built. He entrusted the Church with substantial amounts of tax revenue to use for charitable work. He gave the Lateran Palace to the bishop of Rome to be his residence. And he made it easier for the populace to attend church on Sunday by making it a weekly holiday-thus forming, along with Saturday (the Sabbath), the weekend which we still have. This was not an arbitrary decision on his part; rather, he was honoring Sunday as “the Lord’s Day,” the day of Christian worship from the very beginning (Rev 1.10; Acts 20.7; 1Cor 16.2; also Saint Justin Martyr, First Apology 67).
In addition, Constantine began to bring Christian influence into the law code. In 316 a law was passed prohibiting branding criminals on the face “because man is made in God’s image.” He ended the special taxation of single people (which Augustus Caesar had instituted to try to reverse a downward trend in the population of Italy in his day), thus honoring the Christian practice of consecrated virginity. Constantine also made grants of money to poor families to help them support their children, thus discouraging the practice of exposure of infants by parents who felt they could not provide for them. And he exempted Christian clergy from every form of civic duty-so that, in his words, “they will be completely free to serve their own law at all times. In thus rendering wholehearted service to the Deity, it is evident that they will be making an immense contribution to the welfare of the community”” (Eusebius, History of the Church 10.5).
Another typical Western view is that Constantine initiated the process whereby the Eastern Church became subject to and dominated by the Emperor-a state of affairs called caesaropapism. In reality, while there were some notable exceptions, most of the time the Eastern Church functioned in harmony with the State in a relationship known as symphonia. In this arrangement, the Church was responsible for the spiritual welfare of the people, while the Emperor was responsible for their physical and material well-being. The Emperor had the responsibility to defend and protect the realm; thus he was also seen as defending and protecting the Faith of the realm. But this did not mean that he was dominating the Church. Rather, he was helping to assure that it could continue to function in peace.
The emperor sometimes recognized the need to help the Church to resolve internal disputes. At such times he would use his authority to summon Church councils. Thus, it was an emperor or empress who called each of the Seven Great Ecumenical Councils (called “Ecumenical” because they were received by the entire Church). But this does not mean that the State was interfering in its life. Rather, the emperor or empress acted in collaboration with Church leaders in calling these councils, and allowed the Church to reach its own decisions during the councils.
Sadly, however, some emperors did use their authority to support heretical teachings. The most prominent and grievous example is the era of the six Iconoclastic emperors in the 8th and 9th centuries.
For all of Constantine’s great efforts on behalf of the Christian Church and in promoting its influence in his vast domain, and for his own repentance and life of faith, he is revered in the Eastern Church as Saint Constantine the Great, Equal-to-the-Apostles. He and his illustrious mother, Saint Helen, are honored together on мая 21. Interestingly, he is not considered a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, no doubt partly because of his permanent removal of the imperial capital from Rome to Constantinople.
The Donatist Schism
Though the Church was free from external persecution in the era of Constantine, inner troubles soon arose to disturb its peace. First, there was the Donatist Schism that erupted in western North Africa. This was a schism between those who supported a certain Majorinus-soon afterwards succeeded by Donatus-to be the bishop of Carthage, and those who supported the regularly elected bishop, Caecilian. The Donatists opposed Bishop Caecilian because he was willing to grant the possibility of repentance to those who had lapsed during the Diocletian Persecution, and because one of the bishops who consecrated him allegedly had surrendered holy books to the authorities.
In an attempt to help the Church resolve this conflict, Constantine summoned the parties to Rome to appear before a commission led by Pope Miltiades. When this commission decided in favor of Bishop Caecilian, the Donatists refused to accept the judgment. They complained to Constantine that the matter had been judged too hastily and by too few other bishops. Yielding to their request to reopen the case, the emperor summoned a much larger council to address the problem. This Council of Arles (in Gaul-modern day France) in 314 also decided against the Donatists.
But still the Donatists refused to be reconciled with Bishop Caecilian, and in 316 Constantine resorted to the use of force to try to bring the schism to an end. Unfortunately, this gave the movement an aura of martyrdom. Fueled by the anti-Roman feelings of the native Berber population of the region, the schism became more deeply entrenched than ever.
Constantine stopped using force against the Donatists in 321, but the schism continued into the next century. The Church in western North Africa never fully recovered from this grievous schism, so that when the Muslims swept across this region in the 7th century, there was little resistance from the Christians, and Christianity was virtually obliterated there.
Shortly after the beginning of the Donatist schism, the Arian controversy arose. Arius, an Alexandrian presbyter, began teaching some time before 318 that the Logos, the Word of God who became man-Jesus Christ-is not the divine Son of God. For Arius, the Son of God is not the pre-existent, eternally existing, uncreated Second Person of the Holy Trinity, but a created being-created out of nothing, like everything else, by God the Father.
According to Arius, God is not the uncreated Holy Trinity. Rather, God is the Father, the Creator, alone. For Arius, God the Father created His Logos, or Word, or Son, as the first and greatest of His creatures. This Logos then earned the right to be worshiped as God because of His constant devotion to the Father. Thus the Son became God’s instrument for the salvation of the world, being born as the man Jesus. Hence, for Arius, Jesus Christ is not the uncreated, divine Son of God having exactly the same uncreated divine nature that God the Father has. Rather, He is a created being, as is the Holy Spirit.
Saint Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria (r. 312–328), tried to convince Arius to stop this teaching that directly subverted the Bible and the traditional teaching and worship of the Church. But Arius refused to desist. Instead, he appealed far and wide for support. He found his most powerful ally in Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia, his former classmate in the Christian school at Antioch led by Saint Lucian (d. 312). Ironically, it was this Arian-sympathizing Bishop Eusebius who eventually became the court theologian to Emperor Constantine in his later years, and who baptized him on his deathbed in 337.
The First Ecumenical Council
Soon after Emperor Constantine took up residence in Nicomedia, the eastern capital, after his victory over Licinius, he was chagrined to learn of this new controversy that was troubling the whole Eastern Church. So, with the advice of St Hosius, Bishop of Spain (c. 257–357), his theological advisor, he summoned the largest council of bishops ever held up to that point. It opened on мая 20, 325, in the city of Nicea, near Nicomedia. Constantine himself gave the opening address. According to tradition, 318 bishops were in attendance, including the famous and greatly beloved Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Lycia, and Saint Spyridon, Bishop of Tremithus in Cyprus.
This council, known now as the First Ecumenical Council, decreed that the Logos, the Word and Son of God, is uncreated, ever-existent, and fully divine. He is begotten-that is, “born” or generated-from the Father, and not made or created by Him. He is of one essence (in Greek, homoousios) with the Father. He is true God of true God, the Word of God by Whom all things were made (Jn 1.3; Heb 1.2). It is this uncreated, only-begotten, divine Son of God Who became man from the Virgin Mary as Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world.
The Council of Nicea also decreed a number of canons (i.e., Church regulations) concerning various issues of order and discipline in the Church. Canon 6 confirmed the jurisdictional authority of Alexandria over Egypt and the neighboring regions of Libya and Pentapolis, “since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also [meaning that the Roman Church, in a corresponding way, had jurisdictional authority only over Rome and its neighboring territory-at that time, most likely central Italy]. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces let the Churches retain their privileges.” This canon clearly ratifies the ancient practice of the Churches in the major cities each having full jurisdictional authority only over the surrounding region.
Concerning the lapsed, Canon 11 offered the possibility of restoration to Eucharistic communion, but only after a period of 12 years of heartfelt contrition, in three stages:
Concerning those who have fallen without compulsion, without the spoiling of their property, without danger or the like, as happened during the tyranny of Licinius, this Synod declares that, though they have deserved no mercy, they shall be dealt with mercifully. Those who were previously communicants, if they heartily repent, shall spend three years among the hearers; for seven years they shall be prostrators; and for two years they shall join the people in prayers, but still as yet without receiving the Eucharistic gifts.
Canon 20 prohibited the practice of penitential kneeling during the Church’s Sunday Liturgy, as well as during the entire Pentecostarion season.
The Nicene Council also established guidelines for determining the date of the annual celebration of Pascha-thus helping to bring the Quartodecimans’ practice to an end.
Finally, this council affirmed once and for all, at least for the Eastern Churches, the propriety of allowing married men to be ordained as deacons, presbyters, and at that time even bishops, and to still have a normal married life. While the Roman Church during the 4th century began trying to force its clergy to be celibate, it was not until the 12th century that it was finally able to enforce this rule.
Saint Athanasius and his defence of Nicea
The doctrinal definition of the Nicene Council was not universally accepted throughout the Church for a long time. The Arian controversy raged for over five more decades, and because several Christian emperors in this period gave their support to the Arianizers, the defenders of the Nicene Faith were greatly persecuted. With imperial support, Church councils were held in Milan, Sirmium, Rimini, Seleucia, and elsewhere, to try to articulate the mystery of Christ’s divinity and humanity, but all with varying degrees of Arian influence.
Saint Athanasius (c. 298–373) attended the Nicene Council as a deacon of the Church in Alexandria. Though only 27 years old, he was a leader at that council in promoting the crucial word homoousios as most fitting to affirm the truth that the Son of God has the same uncreated divine nature as God the Father.
Athanasius became Bishop of Alexandria in 328, upon the death of Saint Alexander. As the anti-Nicene party, led by Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, gained strength, Bishop Athanasius was one of the first to be attacked through slander and intrigue. This group managed to get him exiled from his see in 335. Altogether, this fearless champion of Nicene Orthodoxy suffered exile five times for his valiant and eloquent defense of the Christian Faith. Near the end of his life, his pastoral, forgiving outreach to his former enemies greatly helped to bring Arianism to an end. For all this and more, he is revered in Church Tradition as Saint Athanasius the Great.
Compounding the problems for the Church in these middle decades of the 4th century, new heresies arose. One was Macedonianism-named after Macedonius, an archbishop of Constantinople. The Macedonians accepted the Nicene declaration about Christ being “of one essence with the Father,” but they denied that the Holy Spirit was fully divine, saying that He was a created being. Because of this belittling of the Spirit, this group was also called the Pneumatomachians (meaning “fighters against the Spirit”).
The Church Father who led the battle against this heresy was Saint Basil the Great (c. 330–379). In his work called On the Holy Spirit, he refuted Macedonianism by pointing out from the Holy Scriptures and the sacramental life of the Church all the things that the Holy Spirit does as the “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ.” Following Saint Athanasius in his Letters to Serapion, Saint Basil never called the Holy Spirit “God.” The first holy father to do this was Saint Gregory the Theologian.
Saint Basil is also remembered for his wise and firm guidance of the rapidly growing monastic movement, thus keeping it safely within the confines of the Church. His Longer and Shorter Rule, written for the monastic movement, emphasized the communal form of monasticism-as he writes, “since man is by nature a social creature”-with each monastery headed by its abbot, under the authority of the local bishop.
Another new heresy was Apollinarianism, which originated with the speculations of Apollinaris of Laodicea about how Christ can be both divine and human at the same time. He deduced that when the pre-eternal Word of God, the Logos, entered the body of Jesus, the Logos took the place of Jesus’ soul. In such a scheme, Jesus is denied having full and complete humanity.
Saint Gregory the Theologian (c. 330–389), Bishop of Sasima and then of Constantinople refuted Apollinarianism. As he declared, whatever belongs to human nature that Christ did not take to Himself has not been saved and healed. If Jesus had no human soul, He simply was not a human being, and humanity is not saved.
Saint Gregory, Saint Basil the Great’s best friend, is also remembered for finally refuting the Arians by his brilliant and beautiful preaching that won him the title “The Theologian.” This title has been given to only two others in the history of the Church: Saint John the Theologian, the Apostle and Evangelist, and Saint Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022).
The Second Ecumenical Council
Emperor Theodosius the Great came to the imperial throne of the eastern part of the Roman Empire in 379. A strong supporter of the Nicene Faith, he wanted to help the Church finally put an end to the various forms of Arianism which had cropped up since the Council of Nicea. He also understood that Macedonianism and Apollinarianism had to be addressed. In 381 he called a Church council in Constantinople which would come to be known as the Second Ecumenical Council.
This council condemned all forms of Arianizing doctrines by reaffirming the doctrinal statement, or creed, which had been proclaimed at the Nicene Council. It also condemned Macedonianism, and proclaimed the divinity of the Holy Spirit in a paragraph added to the Creed of Nicea. It is this Creed, the combined work of the first two Ecumenical Councils, which Orthodox Christians we recite at baptismal services and the Divine Liturgy. Also known as the Symbol of Faith, it is the most important Christian creed ever written. This council also condemned the teachings of Apollinaris.
The canons adopted at this council reaffirmed the fundamental principle of Church organization-that each region is self-governing:
The bishops are not to go beyond their dioceses to churches lying outside of their bounds, nor bring confusion on the churches. But let the Bishop of Alexandria, according to the canons, alone administer the affairs of Egypt. And let the bishops of the East manage the East alone, with the privileges of the Church in Antioch, which are mentioned in the canons of Nicea, being preserved. And let the bishops of the Asian Diocese [i.e., western Asia Minor] administer the Asian affairs only; and the Pontic bishops [in northcentral Asia Minor] only Pontic matters; and the Thracian bishops [in Thrace; directly west of Constantinople] only Thracian affairs.?.?.?. it is evident that the synod of every province will administer the affairs of that particular province, as was decreed at Nicea (Canon 2).
Canon 3 from this council is also significant:
The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honor after the Bishop of Rome, because Constantinople is New Rome.
This canon affirmed that the Church in Constantinople, the new imperial capital called “New Rome,” would naturally assume leading importance, though the Church in Old Rome would retain its traditional position as “first among equals.”
At this time the bishop of Old Rome was Pope Damasus (r. 366–384), who was intent on extending the power of his see as much as possible. He rejected this canon, despite its assurance that Old Rome still had “the prerogative of honor.” This is a clear sign of a growing difference in basic understanding of the Church between East and West, which will be a major cause of the Great Schism of 1054.
Saint Gregory the Theologian, Saint Gregory of Nyssa-the other of the three great Cappadocian Fathers, along with his older brother, Saint Basil the Great-and Saint Meletios, Bishop of Antioch, were leaders at the Second Ecumenical Council.
In the 4th century, the Eucharistic prayers of the two most prominent liturgies of the Eastern Church-the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, and the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (d. 407)-were substantially formulated. The catechetical sermons of Saint John Chrysostom, together with those of Saint Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (d. 386), show that the sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation were being celebrated in the fourth century almost exactly as they are done in the Orthodox Church today.
By this time, the 40-Day Great Lent and the Feast of Pascha (Easter) were well established. And the Feast of the Nativity of Christ (Christmas) was separated from the Feast of Theophany (Epiphany), thus becoming a separate feast of the Church (see Worship).
With the end of the era of persecution and the rapid growth of Christianity in the cities, many Christians, both men and women, were drawn to wilderness areas to serve God alone, and to fight the devil. Some lived completely in isolation as hermits. Others lived near famous elders to be led by their spiritual guidance. And still others gathered together to live in communities-the first monasteries.
The ascetical life led by the monastics came to be seen as a white, bloodless martyrdom, marked by constant dying to one’s passions and desires. Not rejecting the world as something evil, the monastics served the world in the most effective way possible-by their constant prayer for the whole world, and by giving spiritual counsel to those who came to visit them.
Monasticism began in Egypt in the 3rd century. Saint Paul of Thebes (c. 230–340) was apparently the first hermit in the Egyptian desert. He was seen by Saint Anthony the Great (c. 250–356), the one traditionally considered to be the founder of monasticism, who lived in isolation for many years before allowing disciples to begin living around him. The very vivid and dramatic Life of Anthony, written by Saint Athanasius the Great, did much to popularize monasticism, especially in Western Europe. The 38 “sayings” of Anthony in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers remain to this day a superb teaching of the Christian spiritual life.
The Life of Saint Martin of Tours (d. 397), written by Sulpicius Severus, was intentionally modeled on the Life of Anthony. Saint Martin was a Roman soldier who became a Christian after beholding a vision of Christ in which the Lord commended him for giving half his cloak to a cold beggar. Together with Saint Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315–367), who is known as the “Saint Athanasius of the West” for his ardent defense of the Nicene Faith, Saint Martin established the first monastery in Gaul (modern-day France).
Communal, or cenobitic, monasticism was founded in Egypt by Saint Pachomius (c. 290–346). His monastic Rule greatly influenced Saint Basil the Great, as well as Saint John Cassian (c. 360–435), who founded two monasteries in southern Gaul with the ethos of Egyptian monasticism, as well as Saint Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-c. 550), whose Rule guided nearly all of Western monasticism for some 500 years.
One of the first monks to write about the spiritual and ascetical life was Saint Macarius the Great (c. 300–390) of Egypt. The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, traditionally ascribed to him or his disciples, are some of the most powerful spiritual treatises ever written. Evagrius of Ponticus (346–399), a disciple of Saint Macarius, also wrote important spiritual works, but some of his writing is considered to be tinged with Origenistic teachings.
Saint John Chrysostom
Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347–407) lived for several years as a monk in the caves near his hometown of Antioch. However, he so injured his health through his severe asceticism that he came back into the city to live. Eventually he was ordained as a presbyter and given the major preaching duties in the cathedral in Antioch. Having been trained in rhetoric by Libanius of Antioch, one of the last great pagan rhetoricians of the ancient world, John flourished as a preacher, coming to be known as the Golden-Mouth (this is what “Chrysostom” means).
Many of Saint John’s sermons were preached in series as he went through various books of the Bible verse by verse. He eloquently interpreted and explained the texts with great practical wisdom and deeply penetrating spiritual fervor. Hence he is honored in the Church as not only the greatest preacher who ever lived, but also as the greatest Biblical commentator in the Eastern Church.
In 398 Saint John was made Archbishop of Constantinople. Partly because he alienated Empress Eudoxia, and many others, through his forthright preaching against luxury and ostentation, he was unjustly deposed and exiled to eastern Asia Minor in 404. In his many years of preaching he had said much about accepting and bearing innocent suffering patiently and nobly. Especially in these years of exile, he practiced what he preached. He wrote many letters from exile, including many to his closest friend and co-worker, the Deaconess Saint Olympias, encouraging her to stand firm in hope.
He died in 407 on a forced march to a place of further exile, near modern Abkhazia. In spite of all his unjust trials and suffering, his last words were “Glory to God for all things!”
In 438 his relics were brought to Constantinople in triumph. When his coffin was brought into the Great Church there, his voice was said to have rung out, “Peace be with you all!”
In the first decades of the fifth century, when Alexandria and Constantinople were continuing their feud over their respective positions in the Church and in the Empire, Nestorius, the bishop of Constantinople (r. 428–431), made known his refusal to honor Mary, Christ’s mother, with the traditional title of Theotokos. He claimed that the one born from Mary is not the Logos Himself, but merely the “man” in whom the eternal Logos of God came to dwell. Thus, Mary could not properly be called “Theotokos,” which means “the one who gave birth to God,” but only either “Christotokos,” meaning “the one who gave birth to Christ,” or “anthropotokos,” meaning ‘the one who gave birth to a man’-i.e., the man Jesus, to whom the Logos was joined.
Saint Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (r. 412–444), with the active support of Pope Celestine of Rome, forcefully rejected the teaching of Nestorius, claiming that it is indeed proper to call Mary Theotokos since the one born from her “according to the flesh” is none other than the divine Logos of God. The only-begotten Son of God was “begotten of the Father before all ages”; and He it was “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man” (The Nicene Creed). Thus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary is one and the same Son.
Third Ecumenical Council
Nestorius and his followers refused to yield to Saint Cyril’s appeals for repentance. Thus, in 431, in the city of Ephesus, a Church council was summoned by Emperor Theodosius II (r. 408–450) to resolve the issue. On the first day, Nestorius, supported by only ten bishops, still refused to change his mind, so he was condemned by Saint Cyril and his group of 57 bishops, and by Bishop Memnon of Ephesus and his group of 52 bishops. This decision, however, was not accepted by Bishop John of Antioch and his group of 30 bishops, who arrived at the council four days after it started-having been delayed in their travels. They maintained their support for Nestorius, who had previously been an outstanding preacher in Antioch.
The controversy was not resolved until two years later, when Bishop John and Saint Cyril signed the Formulary of Peace of 433, in which the condemnation of Nestorius was reaffirmed, but with language that more clearly honored the typically Antiochian emphasis on the full reality of Christ’s humanity. The Council of 431 (along with the Formulary of Peace of 433) subsequently became known as the Third Ecumenical Council.
The Robber Council
Unfortunately, not everyone was satisfied with the results of the Third Ecumenical Council and the Formulary of Peace. In particular, Saint Cyril’s more extreme followers resented the fact that he had not insisted on one particular phrase concerning Christ: the “one nature of the Word of God Incarnate.” Saint Cyril occasionally had used this phrase, but he had never insisted upon it, perhaps realizing that the term “one nature” could imply that Christ does not have a full human nature. The more extreme Alexandrians, however, feared that by not using it, the Nestorian tendency to overemphasize Christ’s two natures, and especially His humanity-to the point of giving it an independent existence (a personal center of being, or hypostasis)-which would make Jesus two different persons (the Son of God and the Son of Mary), would not be fully rejected.
An uneasy peace was maintained until Saint Cyril’s death in 444. But he was succeeded as bishop of Alexandria by Dioscorus, another fiery Alexandrian, who wished to attain full recognition of the phrase “one nature of the Word of God Incarnate.” His associate, Eutyches, even went so far as to say “Christ’s humanity is different from ours.”
With the support of Emperor Theodosius II, Dioscorus arranged a major council to be held in Ephesus in 449, which affirmed the extreme Alexandrian position that the divinity of Christ virtually eclipsed or even destroyed His humanity. Pope Saint Leo of Rome (r. 440–461) had sent to the council a doctrinal statement, called Leo’s Tome, which strongly affirmed the ongoing reality of the two natures of Christ-one fully divine, and one fully human. But Dioscorus was so much in control of the council that Leo’s Tome was not even allowed to be read there, and bishops suspected of Nestorian tendencies were deposed. When Leo heard later what had happened, he exclaimed that it was a “latrocinium,” a Council of Robbers.
There was widespread resistance to this council, and yet it was the law for the Church and the Empire as long as Emperor Theodosius lived and did not change his mind. Providentially for the Orthodox, in July of the very next year (450), he fell from his horse and died. This brought his distinguished and extremely pious elder sister, Saint Pulcheria, to the throne, along with her distinguished consort, a retired military general who would become Saint Marcian. This Pulcheria had been a champion of the Theotokos during the controversy with Nestorius; it was partly due to her efforts that popular devotion to the Theotokos increased in the first half of the fifth century.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council
Together, in 451, Emperor Marcian and Empress Pulcheria called another general council, this time on a far broader scale, to give the Church the opportunity to resolve the differences while still being completely faithful to the Nicene Creed. This illustrious council became known as the Fourth Ecumenical Council. With 630 bishops in attendance, it was the largest of all seven of the Ecumenical Councils. It was held in Chalcedon, not far from Constantinople, in Asia Minor.
This council defended the teaching of Saint Cyril on the “hypostatic union” of Christ’s divine and human natures as expressed at the Council of Ephesus of 431. It also expressed the Antiochian emphasis on the genuine humanity of Jesus as expressed in the Formulary of Peace, as well as the Roman emphasis on the ongoing distinctiveness of the fully divine and fully human natures of Christ, as expressed in the language of Leo’s Tome. Indeed, when Leo’s Tome was read, all the bishops were reported to have cried out, “Peter has spoken through Leo!” But the Pope’s statement was not the last word. It also was subjected to scrutiny by the fathers at the Council, who decided to select parts of it to be woven into the Council’s final doctrinal definition.
The Chalcedonian Definition states that Jesus Christ is indeed the Logos incarnate, the very Son of God “begotten of the Father before all ages” (Nicene Creed). It reaffirms that the Virgin Mary is truly Theotokos, since the one born from her “according to the flesh” in Bethlehem is the uncreated, divine Son of God, one of the Holy Trinity. In His human birth, the Council declared, the Word of God took to Himself the whole of humanity, becoming a real man in every way, but without sin. Thus, according to the Chalcedonian Definition, Jesus of Nazareth is one person or hypostasis in two natures-human and divine-united “without change, without confusion, without division, without separation.” He is fully human. He is fully divine. He is perfect God and perfect man. As God, He is “of one essence” (homoousios) with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. And as man, He is “of one essence” (homoousios) with all human beings, as the Formulary of Peace had declared.
The union of divinity and humanity in Christ is called the hypostatic union. This expression means that in the one, unique person, or divine hypostasis, of Christ, divine nature and human nature are united in such a way that they are neither changed, nor confused, nor separated, nor divided. Christ is one Person Who is both human and divine. One and the same divine person (or hypostasis) is the Son of God and the Son of Mary.
The Definition of the Council of Chalcedon was not accepted by the extreme disciples of Saint Cyril of Alexandria, nor by those who later came to be associated with them. These Christians were called by the Chalcedonians Monophysites, because of their insistence on Saint Cyril’s phrase “one nature of the Word of God Incarnate” (“one nature” in Greek is “mia physis”). Hence they rejected the Chalcedonian Definition, which speaks of Christ being “in two natures.”
The supporters of Chalcedon claimed and still claim that the Chalcedonian Definition is fully in accord with the thought of Saint Cyril, who did not insist on the Monophysites’ hallmark phrase “one nature of the Word of God Incarnate” in his letters to Nestorius, or at the Council of Ephesus, or in the Formulary of Peace. And from other things he wrote, it is clear that when he used this problematic phrase, his actual meaning was “one hypostasis of the Word of God Incarnate,” which is just what Chalcedon proclaimed and defended.
In 482 Emperor Zeno, with the support of Patriarch Acacius of Constantinople, issued an imperial edict called the Henotikon (coming from the Greek word meaning “unity” or “union”), which was designed to bring reconciliation between those who accepted the Council of Chalcedon and those who rejected it. The Henotikon strongly affirmed the first three Ecumenical Councils, avoided any mention of one or two natures in Christ, and anathematized “anyone who has held or holds any other opinion, either now or at any other time, whether at Chalcedon or at any synod whatsoever.”
The Henotikon mollified the moderate Monophysites, who continued to stay in communion with the Chalcedonian Byzantines-for as yet there had been no actual schism in the Church. But it infuriated the Roman Church, since it certainly did place a question mark over the Council of Chalcedon, at which the Tome of their beloved Saint Leo was so influential. In 484 Pope Felix of Rome (r. 483–492) excommunicated all the Churches of the East on account of their acceptance of the Henotikon. This began the so-called Acacian Schism between Rome and the East, which lasted until 518.
Canons of the Councils
The Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils adopted a number of canons of a disciplinary and practical nature. The Council of Ephesus forbade the composition of a “different faith” from that of the first two councils (Canon 7). This canon has been used by the Orthodox in opposition to the addition of the word filioque to the Creed as it came to be used in the Western Churches. This Council also reaffirmed the ancient independent jurisdictional status of the Church of Cyprus against attempts by the Church of Antioch to hold ordinations there (Canon 8). The Council of Chalcedon, in basically repeating Canon 3 from the Second Ecumenical Council, gave to Constantinople, the New Rome, “equal privileges with the old imperial Rome” because the new capital city was “honored with the emperor and the senate” (Canon 28). The Roman Church, however, fearing that this canon would interfere with her growing aspirations to have universal authority over the whole Church, did not accept this canon of the Council of Chalcedon.
The Western Church was dominated intellectually and spiritually by the towering figure of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (r. 386–430), near Carthage in western North Africa. Living in a kind of communal monasticism with friends on his estate, Augustine wrote massively in Latin. His City of God was the most extensive Christian reflection on human history and its ultimate destiny ever written up to that point. His Scriptural commentaries and his many letters have provided practical guidance for many generations of Western Christians. And his remarkably intimate Confessions became a model for many more such introspective spiritual analyses.
Many of his writings were taken up with fighting three virulent heresies-Donatism, the rigorist sect of western North Africa similar to Novatianism; Manicheanism, a strictly dualist movement from Asia Minor; and Pelagianism, promoted by a British monk named Pelagius, who asserted that man could be saved by his own virtue, without the assistance of divine grace. In the heat of the polemics with these heterodox movements, Augustine did not always avoid the temptation of taking his position to the opposite extreme.
This happened most conspicuously in his anti-Pelagian writings, in which he said that man, due to the grievous calamity of Adam’s Fall, so far from being able to save himself, cannot even do anything good. Because his free will has become totally depraved due to this “original sin” of Adam, man cannot participate in his own salvation, so God must do everything.
These presuppositions led with inexorable logic to what would become known as the doctrine of double predestination. As stated many years later in the Westminster Confession (1646) of the Presbyterian Church, “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.” Such a view is in stark contrast to the Orthodox understanding of synergism, in which God and man-whose free will, though damaged, was not totally corrupted at the Fall-cooperate together in the work of salvation, which God longingly desires for every human being (cf. 1Tim 2.4).
Another problematic side to Augustine, from the Orthodox point of view, is his philosophical speculation about the Holy Trinity, in which he suggests that the Holy Spirit is the love that binds the Father and the Son. Such speculation creates some of the philosophical underpinning for the filioque, which appeared in Spain in the next century.
In addition, his claim that marital relations can never occur without the sin of concupiscence darkened in the West the traditional understanding of the full goodness of human sexuality and marriage (as seen at the Council of Nicea). This skepticism/pessimism regarding sexuality is reflected in the mandatory clerical celibacy practiced in the Roman Catholic Church to this day.
Saint John Cassian
In southern France, Saint John Cassian (c. 360-c. 435) established two monasteries based on the pattern of the Egyptian monasticism of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, with whom he had spent much time earlier in his life. In his most highly acclaimed works, The Conferences and The Institutes, he conveys the wisdom he learned from the monastics of Egypt, including their understanding of the mystery of synergism.
Saint John Cassian writing on synergism
And therefore it is laid down by all the catholic fathers who have taught perfection of heart not by empty disputes of words, but in deed and act, that the first stage in the Divine gift is for each man to be inflamed with the desire for everything that is good, but in such a way that the choice of free will is open to either side. The second stage in Divine grace is for the aforesaid practices of virtue to be able to be performed, but in such a way that the possibilities of the will are not destroyed. The third stage also belongs to the gifts of God, so that it may be held by the persistence of the goodness already acquired, and in such a way that the liberty may not be surrendered and experience bondage. For the God of all must be held to work in all, so as to incite, protect, and strengthen, but not to take away the freedom of the will which He Himself has once given.
If, however, any more subtle further human argumentation and reasoning seems opposed to this interpretation, it should be avoided, rather than brought forward to the destruction of the faith (for we do not gain faith from understanding, but understanding from faith, as it is written, “Except ye believe, ye will not understand” [Is 7.9]). For how God works all things in us and yet everything can be ascribed to free will, cannot be fully grasped by the mind and reason of man.
(The Conferences, XIII.18)
Many monasteries, sketes, and hermitages based on the Egyptian model sprang up and flourished in the mountains and valleys of eastern and southern France in the 5th and 6th centuries. The lives of nearly thirty saints in this setting were compiled near the end of the 6th century by Saint Gregory of Tours.
Pope Saint Leo the Great
In 452 Pope Saint Leo proved to be a skillful diplomat as he convinced Attila the Hun not to sack the city of Rome. Thereafter, the imperial government in Rome continued to weaken, until it was taken over by Germanic invaders from the north in 476. This maed the end of close political connections between East and West. Though political unity was restored temporarily under Emperor Justinian I in the next century, the political, cultural, and linguistic disunity that prevailed after his death was a major factor in the eventual schism in the 11th century between the Roman, Latin-speaking Church in the West and the Greek-speaking Patriarchates of the East.
Pope Leo also played a major role in the ongoing story of the gradual extension of Papal power in Western Europe. In 444 he deprived the archbishop of the city of Arles in France, who was then Metropolitan Saint Hilary of Arles, of his status as a metropolitan, thus consolidating Roman authority over this part of France. He also obtained from the Western Emperor Valentinian III a decree granting the Roman Church supreme authority over the Churches in all of Western Europe. However, it would take many more centuries of overcoming strong opposition in virtually every part of Western Europe before Rome could fully put this edict into effect.
Emperor Justinian I and the Non-Chalcedonians
The 6th century was dominated by the person and policies of the Emperor Saint Justinian I (r. 527–565). Perhaps the greatest of all the Byzantine emperors, he was also an outstanding theologian. He correctly understood the relationship between the Church and the State to be one of unity and cooperation, or symphonia, between the priesthood (which “concerns things divine”) and the empire (which “presides over morals”).
Justinian’s goals were to completely reunite the Empire both politically and religiously, by regaining the western part of the empire from the Germanic Ostrogoths, led by Theodoric, and by winning back the Monophysites, or Non-Chalcedonians, to the Orthodox Faith proclaimed at the Council of Chalcedon. Reconciliation with the Roman Church had already been accomplished in 518 by his predecessor, his uncle Emperor Justin I (r. 518–527), who brought the era of the Henotikon and the Acacian Schism to an end by strongly endorsing the Council of Chalcedon. An annual commemoration, on July 16, of the Fathers of the Chalcedonian council was added to the Church calendar at that time.
Justinian accomplished his first goal through the efforts of his armies, led by the great general Belisarius-although within three years after Justinian’s death, the Lombards had taken back much of Italy. But he failed in his second goal, even though his attempts were bold and persistent.
Justinian’s main attempt to win back the Non-Chalcedonians to the Orthodox Church was through the official condemnation of three theologians who had been quite popular in the East, but who had been connected with Nestorius. The first of these, Bishop Theodore of Mopsuestia, had been Nestorius’s teacher; he died in 428, three years before Nestorius was condemned at the Third Ecumenical Council. The other two, Bishop Theodoret of Cyrrus and Bishop Ibas of Edessa, originally had been supporters of Nestorius at the Third Council and therefore had been condemned and deposed at the Robber Council of 449. But at the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon, after agreeing to the condemnation of Nestorius they were restored to their bishoprics. By an imperial decree in 544, and by the decision of the major council held in 553-the Fifth Ecumenical Council, also known as the Second Council of Constantinople-Justinian formally condemned the so-called Three Chapters. These chapters were the objectionable, pro-Nestorian writings of Theodoret of Cyrrus and lbas of Edessa, along with the writings and the person of Theodore of Mopsuestia.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council
In addition to rejecting the unorthodox, ambiguous writings listed in the Three Chapters, the Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, with great pastoral concern, strove to find a way to remain faithful to the teachings of the Council of Chalcedon while Non-Chalcedonians. In a long series of statements, the Council affirmed, without ambiguity, the traditional Orthodox understanding that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is “one of the Holy Trinity,” one and the same divine person (hypostasis) Who has united personally (hypostatically) in Himself the two natures of divinity and humanity, without fusing them together and without allowing their separation in any way. In these statements, the Council several times permitted the use of characteristic Monophysite/Non-Chalcedonian language, including the hallmark phrase “one nature of the Word of God Incarnate,” as long as this language is interpreted in an Orthodox way, as explained by the Council.
The Fifth Council also officially condemned the problematic teachings of Origen (d. 254) and his 6th-century disciples who taught and practiced a “spiritualistic” version of Christianity which contained many unorthodox doctrines. For instance, they taught that Christ was the only created spirit who did not become material through sin; that men’s souls were pre-existent spirits; and that all of Creation, including the demons, will ultimately be saved through its spiritualization by God in Christ the Savior.
The Oriental Orthodox Churches
Very sadly, despite the Henotikon, the condemnation of the Three Chapters, and the other efforts of the Fifth Council to win back the Non-Chalcedonians, they were not reunited to the Byzantine Church. By 553, their alternate ecclesiastical hierarchical structure was already quite firmly established-a process which actually had not begun until the decade of the 530s. The Non-Chalcedonians generally felt that the efforts of the Fifth Council were too little, too late. Apparently they never became convinced that Chalcedon was faithful to the thought of Saint Cyril. Even though Chalcedon reaffirmed the Third Council’s condemnation of Nestorius, the Non-Chalcedonians always suspected that the Chalcedonian Definition tended towards Nestorianism.
One major reason for their suspicion was that Chalcedon also had restored several bishops to their thrones who had been deposed at the Robber Council-bishops who at one time did have pro-Nestorian leanings, especially Bishop Theodoret of Cyrrus and Bishop Ibas of Edessa. Even though the pro-Nestorian writings of these two bishops were condemned at the Fifth Council, this was not enough to satisfy the Monophysites.
The disagreement was never settled, despite further efforts on the part of the Byzantines to win back the non-Chalcedonians in the next century. And while there have been encouraging discussions between the two sides in recent times (beginning in the 1960s), in which basic doctrinal agreement seems to have been established, the dissenters from the Chalcedonian decision remain separated from the Orthodox Church.
Today, the Non-Chalcedonian Churches are generally known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches. They are the Coptic Church of Egypt, the Ethiopian Church, the Syrian Jacobite Church, the Syrian (Malankara) Church of India, and the Armenian Church.
Emperor Justinian I and Reform
By Justinian’s time most of the citizens of the Empire had accepted Christianity, but there were still some strong pockets of resistance to the Gospel. Justinian’s reign saw a concerted attack against the remnants of Hellenistic paganism in the empire. The University of Athens was closed in 529, and exclusively Christian learning and culture were promoted. Justinian also undertook a massive codification of the laws of the Empire, which became known as the Code of Justinian. In its introduction, the emperor made his own personal declaration of his faith in Christ.
Justinian built many church buildings in the imperial city and throughout the empire, particularly in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and at Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. His greatest creation was the temple in Constantinople dedicated to Christ the Wisdom of God-the magnificent Church of the Hagia Sophia, with the largest dome ever built, even to this day. Iconography, engraving, and mosaic work flourished during this time. The basilicas of Ravenna, with their famous mosaic iconographic frescoes, were built in this era (Ravenna, in northeastern Italy, would long be the main seat of Byzantine imperial authority in the West during this period of barbarian conquests).
Many liturgical hymns were written, including the Christmas kontakion and many other kontakia by Saint Romanos the Hymnographer (early 6th century), a deacon in Constantinople, who was one of the most gifted hymnographers of all time. It is said that Emperor Justinian himself wrote the hymn “Only-begotten Son,” which is still sung at the synaxis of the divine liturgies in the Orthodox Church.
The 6th century witnessed a certain establishment and stabilization of liturgical worship throughout the Eastern Christian world, particularly because the liturgical practices of the imperial city of Constantinople were being accepted voluntarily by other cities throughout the empire. The Church of Constantinople began to use certain liturgical feasts already in use in the Palestinian centers of Church life. These feasts were the Nativity and the Dormition of the Theotokos, and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It is also likely that the feast of the Transfiguration was celebrated in Constantinople by this time.
In addition to the festal celebrations of the capital city that spread throughout the Eastern empire, such elements as the formal liturgical entrances, and the chanting of the Trisagion in the Divine Liturgy, were added.
The convergence of several factors caused numerous changes in the Church’s liturgical ritual and piety. These factors were the rise of the Constantinopolitan Church as the model for other churches; the development of the imperial churchly ritual; the appearance of the mystical theology expressed in the writings published under the name of Saint Dionysius the Aeropagite; and the attempts of the Church and State to reconcile the Non-Chalcedonians.
At this time the practices of the Church of Constantinople were combined with the original Jewish-Christian worship of the early Church, the rule of prayer which had developed in the Christian monasteries, and the liturgical practices of the Church in Jerusalem, to form the first great synthesis of liturgical worship in Orthodox history.
In the sixth century, Constantinople, in the minds of Eastern Christians, was firmly established as the primary see in the Christian pentarchy, even though the see of Rome was still technically considered the “first among equals.” Emperor Justinian called the pentarchy-the great original patriarchates of Constantinople, Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem-the “five senses of the universe.”
The title “ecumenical” was given to all the chief offices in the imperial city. When Saint John the Faster (r. 582–595), the Patriarch of Constantinople, assumed the title of “Ecumenical Patriarch,” the designation was adamantly opposed by Pope Saint Gregory the Great of Rome (r. 590–604) as being extremely arrogant and unbecoming of any Christian bishop, including the bishop of Rome. This is the same Saint Gregory whose name is traditionally connected with the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts which the Orthodox celebrate on the weekdays of Great Lent (see Worship).
Saint Gregory the Great
In the West, the power and prestige of the Roman Papacy increased dramatically under Saint Gregory the Great. In the midst of a general breakdown of civil authority in the face of the invasion of the Lombards, he led the Church in organizing the economic, social, political, and even military affairs of Italy. He successfully negotiated a separate peace with the Lombards, thus effectively setting aside the authority of the Byzantine exarch of Ravenna. Personally very humble, he was also a skilled practical theologian. His Book of Pastoral Rule would have great influence in the Western Church.
Saint Gregory is also particularly remembered for writing the Dialogues, which relate the lives and miracles of a number of Italian saints (hence he is known in the Orthodox Church as Saint Gregory Dialogus). He is also remembered for sending Saint Augustine of Canterbury and about forty companions to England, where they firmly established Latin-speaking Christianity centered in Canterbury, which is the seat of the head of the Anglican Church to this day.
Saint Benedict of Nursia and his Monastic Rule
Saint Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-c. 550) founded an important monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy. His Monastic Rule, in which he drew freely from the Rule of Saint Basil the Great among other sources, would become the single guiding regulation for Western monasticism for the next five hundred years. This moderate, balanced Rule for cenobitic (communal) monasticism continues to guide the Benedictine Order within the Roman Catholic Church to this day.
From the Prologue of the Monastic Rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia
Therefore we must establish a school of the Lord’s service, in the founding of which we hope to stipulate nothing that is harsh or burdensome. But if, for good reason, for the amendment of evil habits or for the preservation of charity, there be some strictness of discipline, do not be at once dismayed and run away from the way of salvation, of which the entrance must be narrow.
Rather, as we progress in our monastic life and in faith, our hearts will be enlarged, and we will run with unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God’s commandments. Hence, by never abandoning His rule, and by persevering in His teaching in the monastery until death, we will share by patience in the sufferings of Christ, that we may deserve to be partakers also of His Kingdom. Amen.
Other Leading Saints
Among the leading saints of this century, mention also must be made of Saint Columba (c. 521–597), a great missionary in Scotland and Ireland; and Saint Sabas (439–532), who built on the preliminary work of the wonderworking Saint Euthymius the Great (377–473) in establishing what would become the leading monastery of Palestine. A stronghold of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy, the Monastery of Saint Sabas is still in existence today.
In Spain, most likely at the Council of Toledo in 589, the word filioque (meaning “and the Son”) was added by the Spanish Church to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed: “And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” This action was taken to further emphasize the divinity of Christ to the Visigoths, Arian Christians who first invaded Spain in the previous century. Their ancestors had been converted to Arian Christianity (which denied Christ’s full divinity) by Bishop Ulfilas (c. 311–383), known as the Apostle to the Goths.
However, it was a serious offense for a local council to unilaterally alter the universally accepted Creed which had been written by the first two Ecumenical Councils. And asserting that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son seriously distorts the traditional understanding of the Holy Trinity. So, as we will see, the addition of “and the Son” (filioque) to the Creed in reference to the procession of the Holy Spirit will have grave consequences in later Church history.
Monoenergism / Monothelitism
In the year 610, a new emperor took the imperial throne, and a new patriarch took the ecclesiastical throne of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641) and Patriarch Sergius (r. 610–638) became close friends and collaborators. Together they led the State and the Church for almost thirty years. And they were very eager to reunite the western and eastern parts of the Empire both religiously and politically.
In another major effort to heal the schism with the Monophysites/Non-Chalcedonians, Patriarch Sergius proposed the idea that in the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ, there must be one divine-human (theandric) energy-hence, this view came to be known as “Monoenergism.” This formula appealed to the moderate Non-Chalcedonians, with their continued emphasis on “the one nature of the Word of God Incarnate”-since having one nature would imply having one energy. And for the Chalcedonians, it did seem to make sense that since the Word of God has only one (divine) hypostasis, He must act with only one energy, operation, or action.
Support for Sergius’s new formula was strengthened by the fact that the concept of “one theandric energy” appeared in the writings attributed to Saint Dionysius the Areopagite. Most probably Sergius got the idea from this source. By now these writings, which first appeared among moderate Monophysites early in the previous century, had become very popular with both Chalcedonians and Non-Chalcedonians. These writings would come to have great influence on the liturgical piety of the Church through their symbolical explanations of the rituals of worship.
For a time, it appeared that the “monoenergistic” formula would be successful in winning back the Non-Chalcedonians. In 632, in Erzerum, a council of 193 Greek and Armenian (Monophysite) bishops was held which formally recognized the Council of Chalcedon on the basis of the “monoenergistic” interpretation. And in 633, the new Chalcedonian patriarch of Alexandria, named Cyrus, succeeded in getting a number of leading Egyptian Non-Chalcedonians to agree to accept the Council of Chalcedon on the basis of the “monoenergistic” formula.
Unexpectedly, even the Nestorians of Persia were drawn to the formula, since the teachers of Nestorius had said that the two natures (though really implying two hypostases) of Christ were united by the one activity, or energy, of their union in Christ. In 628, Emperor Heraclius, in the midst of his military campaign against the Persians, participated, along with his court, in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and received the Holy Eucharist with the Nestorian Catholicos of Persia, Isoyabh II.
The Syrian and Palestinian Non-Chalcedonians were less excited by the “monoenergistic” plan of reunion, though the Monastery of Saint John Maron, near Emesa, accepted it. These monks and their followers eventually fled to the mountains of Lebanon to escape persecution, and in 1182 they joined Roman Catholicism. To this day their descendants are known as Maronites; they are the largest Christian group in the modern state of Lebanon.
Apparently there was no opposition raised against the “monoenergistic” formula from any of the Chalcedonians until 633. In that year the elderly and highly esteemed monk Saint Sophronius (c. 560–638) implored Cyrus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, not to promote it. Sophronius was convinced that something vital and intrinsic to human nature was being denied to Jesus Christ in the assertion that He has only one divine-human energy.
Cyrus was not convinced by Sophronius. But when the determined monk appealed personally to Patriarch Sergius, the patriarch became willing to reconsider the issue. In a letter to Pope Honorius of Rome (r. 625–638), Patriarch Sergius suggested that instead of asserting that there is only one energy in Christ, perhaps it might be more accurate to say that He has only one will.
Honorius eagerly took up Sergius’s hint about one will in Christ. He wrote back saying that there would be no need to talk about one or two energies in Christ if everyone would agree that there is only one will in Christ. So he is the first one to explicitly declare that there is only one will in Christ. This view, however well-intentioned and seemingly reasonable as it may have been, will be condemned at the Sixth Ecumenical Council, held in Constantinople in 680–681, as the heresy of Monothelitism.
Sergius, convinced that Monothelitism is closer to the truth than Monoenergism, was delighted with Honorius’s reply. In 638, in collaboration with Abbot Pyrrhus, who followed him as Patriarch of Constantinople, Sergius convinced Emperor Heraclius to proclaim the Monothelite doctrine in an imperial decree. The doctrine was endorsed by two Church councils in Constantinople, in 638 and 639. This doctrine became the law of the Church and State until it was condemned at the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
Meanwhile, the elderly monk Sophronius, who had become Patriarch of Jerusalem (r. 634–638), was convinced that Monothelitism is just as erroneous as Monoenergism, but he was not able to deter either Patriarch Sergius or Pope Honorius from promoting the Monothelite position. However, he inspired his brilliant follower, Saint Maximus the Confessor (580–662), to take up the struggle.
Saint Maximus the Confessor and Saint Martin of Rome
Saint Maximus, from an old aristocratic family of Constantinople, had been an imperial secretary to Emperor Heraclius before becoming a monk in 614. In western North Africa in 645, Maximus convinced the deposed and exiled Patriarch Pyrrhus of Constantinople of the error of Monothelitism. By the next year he was in Rome, where he so strongly convinced Pope Theodore (r. 642–649) of the error that the Pope broke communion with the Monothelite Patriarch Paul of Constantinople. And in 649, Maximus inspired the new Pope Saint Martin (r. 649–655) to hold a council in Rome which solemnly condemned both Monoenergism and Monothelitism.
What was wrong with Monothelitism? Saint Maximus and Saint Martin, together with their staunch supporters, insisted that both Christ’s divine nature and his human nature each have its own proper energy (or activity) and capability/power to will. Christ, in His divine nature, has the same fullness of the divine will, energy, action, operation, and power which the Father and the Holy Spirit also have. And in His human nature, Christ has the same fullness of the human will, energy, action, operation, and power which every other human being has. He must have this key element in human nature, or else, as Saint Gregory the Theologian said in refuting Apollinarianism, “What He has not assumed has not been healed (or saved). ”
Christ has indeed healed and saved every aspect of human nature, including the natural human will, because He assumed every element/aspect of human nature when he became Incarnate. And it is through His genuinely human action, voluntarily submitting his natural human will to His divine will (the will of God), that Jesus Christ, as the new and final Adam, freely accepted crucifixion to liberate all of humanity from sin and death (see Doctrine).
Saint Maximus and Saint Martin suffered greatly for opposing the Monothelite position. They were both arrested by the imperial authorities and brought to Constantinople, where they were tried on false charges, condemned, imprisoned, and exiled. Saint Maximus even had his right hand and his tongue cut off by the imperial powers, who were determined to force the Chalcedonians and the Non-Chalcedonians into theological agreement. Ironically, by then real reconciliation between the two sides had been made virtually impossible by the Arab conquests, which in effect sealed off Egypt, Palestine, and Syria from the Byzantine world, preventing the possibility of further theological discussion.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council
The doctrine of Saint Sophronius, Saint Maximus, and Saint Martin prevailed at the Third Council of Constantinople, known as the Sixth Ecumenical Council, held in 680–681. This council verified their teaching and condemned Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople and his successors Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, as well as Pope Honorius of Rome, together with all who defended the false doctrine about Jesus that deprived Him of His genuine humanity. Pope Saint Agatho of Rome (r. 678–681) did much to prepare the way for this council and its decision, whereby communion between Rome and the Eastern Churches was restored.
The Council of Trullo or the Quinisext Council
In 692, just eleven years after the Sixth Ecumenical Council was held, another major council of Eastern bishops was held in the imperial palace called Trullo in Constantinople-hence the name, the Council of Trullo. This Council made no doctrinal proclamations; rather, it issued 102 canonical regulations on a wide variety of topics.
This council is probably more often called the Quinisext Council (meaning “fifth-sixth”), because its canonical legislation is understood as having completed the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, neither of which had passed any canons. So its rulings are held by the Orthodox Church to be at the same level of authority as the canons passed by the first four Ecumenical Councils.
Some of these 102 canons were previously included in Justinian’s civil legislation. Others concerned early practices of the Church which had not previously been put into formal Church law.
Some of these canons reveal differences in practices between the Roman and the Eastern Churches. For example, Canon 13 states:
Since we know it to be handed down as a rule of the Roman Church that those who are deemed worthy to be advanced to the diaconate or presbyterate should promise no longer to cohabit with their wives, we, preserving the ancient rule and apostolic perfection and order, will that the lawful marriages of men who are in holy orders be from this time forward firm, by no means dissolving their union with their wives nor depriving them of their mutual intercourse at a convenient time .?.?. lest we should injuriously affect marriage constituted by God and blessed by His presence, as the Gospel says, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19.6); and as the Apostle says, “Marriage is honorable and the bed undefiled” (Heb 13.4); and again, “Are you bound to a wife? Seek not to be loosed” (1Cor 7.27).
Canon 102 of the Quinisext Council, on pastoral care as the cure of souls
It behooves those who have received from God the power to loose and bind, to consider the type and the degree of the sin, and the readiness of the sinner for repentance, and to apply medicine suitable for the disease, lest if he is undiscerning in each of these respects he should fail in healing the sick man. For the disease of sin is not simple, but complex, and can take many different forms, and it germinates many mischievous offshoots, from which much evil is diffused, and it proceeds further until it is stopped by the power of the physician. Wherefore the one who professes the science of spiritual medicine ought first of all to consider the disposition of the one who has sinned, and to see whether he tends towards health or, on the contrary, provokes himself to disease by his own behavior. .?.?.
For the whole account is between God and the one to whom the pastoral rule has been delivered, to lead back the wandering sheep and to cure that which is wounded by the serpent. The pastor must neither cast the sheep down into the depths of despair, nor loosen the bridle thus leading them to a dissolute way of life. Rather, by some way or other, either by means of sternness and astringency, or by greater softness and milder medicines, the pastor must resist the sickness and exert himself for the healing of the ulcer, examining the fruits of the man’s repentance and wisely managing him-for all men are called to higher illumination.
The Roman Church, however, continued to try to enforce celibacy upon all her priests, though she was not able to do so fully until about the 12th century.
Canon 6 of the Quinisext Council reaffirmed the rule that unmarried priests, deacons, and subdeacons may not marry after their ordination. The council also reinforced the law dating from Justinian’s time that only celibates, normally taken from among the monks, may serve in the office of the bishop (Canons 12 and 48). And this council set the ages for ordination to the offices of deacon, priest, and bishop (Canons 14 and 15).
In general, the council reaffirmed the traditional churchly discipline regarding the clergy, such as their strict exclusion from direct participation in the political, military, and economic affairs of this world. This can be seen in varying ways in Canons 9, 10, 24, 27, 34, and 50.
This council also called for the “penalty of murder” for those who “give drugs for procuring abortion and those who take them to kill the fetus” (Canon 91).
Besides his deep and profound theological writings, Saint Maximus the Confessor also wrote much on spiritual and ascetical themes. His most famous spiritual work is probably the Four Centuries on Love, which is included in the Philokalia, the greatest collection of spiritual writings of Eastern Orthodoxy. There is more written by Saint Maximus in the Philokalia than by any other writer.
At about the same time, Saint John Climacus (d. 649), abbot of the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai, wrote one of the greatest, classic works on the spiritual life, called The Ladder of Divine Ascent. This book was held in such high esteem that it gave John his last name, for “Climacus” means “of the Ladder.”
During his long campaign against the Persians, Emperor Heraclius recovered the True Cross of Christ, which the Persians had taken from Jerusalem in 614. On March 21, 631, he solemnly brought it to Golgotha in Jerusalem. This action dramatically helped to spread the celebration of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) throughout the Christian Empire; until then this feast was celebrated mostly only in Jerusalem (see Worship).
The Quinisext Council decreed that on the weekdays of Great Lent the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts should be served instead of the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy (Canon 52). It called for Christians to honor Christ’s resurrection by refraining from penitential kneeling on Sundays (Canon 90). This council forbade all laymen except the Emperor from entering the sanctuary of the church building (Canon 69), and it forbade the sacramental marriage of Orthodox Christians with non-Orthodox (Canon 72). It enjoined those who sing in church to refrain from “undisciplined vociferations” and from using “any melodies which are incongruous and unsuitable for the Church” (Canon 75). And it called for the excommunication of people who for no good reason miss the Divine Liturgy for “three consecutive Sundays” (Canon 80).
Canon 55 of the Quinisext Council reveals a significant difference in practice between East and West concerning fasting during Great Lent, and it mandates that the Roman Church must correct her non-traditional custom:
Since we understand that in the city of the Romans, in the holy fast of Lent they fast on the Saturdays [meaning abstinence from all food, and no celebration of the Divine Liturgy], contrary to the ecclesiastical observance which is traditional, it seemed good to the holy synod that also in the Church of the Romans the canon [Canon 66 of the ancient Apostolic Canons] shall immovably stand fast which says: “If any cleric shall be found to fast on a Sunday or Saturday (except on one occasion only [i.e., Great and Holy Saturday]) he is to be deposed; and if he is a layman he shall be cut off.”
Another difference in practice between East and West is discussed in Canon 82, which addresses how Christ is to be depicted in the holy icons:
In some pictures of the venerable icons, a lamb is painted to which the Precursor [i.e., Saint John the Baptist] points his finger, which is received as a type of grace, indicating beforehand through the Law, our true Lamb, Christ our God. Considering therefore the ancient types and shadows to be symbols of the truth and patterns given to the Church, we prefer ‘grace and truth’ [Jn 1.17], receiving it as the fulfillment of the Law. In order therefore that ‘that which is perfect’ may be delineated to the eyes of all, at least in colored expression, we decree that the figure in human form of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, Christ our God, be henceforth exhibited in images, instead of the ancient lamb, so that all may understand by means of it the depths of the humiliation of the Word of God, and that we may recall to our memory His life in the flesh, His passion and salutary death, and His redemption which was wrought for the whole world
This canon will become even more relevant in the next century, in the era of Iconoclasm, for here is clear proof of the Church’s official acceptance of iconography-in a declaration from the second half, so to speak, of the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
Relations with Rome
No doubt due, to a great extent, to the canons of the Quinisext Council mentioned above that show some of the differences in ecclesiastical practices between the Roman and the Eastern Churches, the Roman Church did not accept this council, and never has to this day. To the Roman Church, these canons represented an independent spirit on the part of the Eastern Churches that conflicted with her desire to bring all the Churches of the world under her authority.
Perhaps sensing this desire on the part of the Roman Church, the Fathers of the Quinisext Council felt obliged to reaffirm the independent position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople vis-à-vis the Church of Rome. This they did in Canon 36, which basically repeats Canon 3 from the Second Ecumenical Council and Canon 28 from the Fourth Ecumenical Council:
Renewing the enactment by the 150 Fathers assembled at the God-protected and imperial city, and those of the 630 who met at Chalcedon, we decree that the see of Constantinople shall have equal privileges with the see of Old Rome, and shall be as highly regarded in ecclesiastical matters as that is, and shall be second after it.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council had restored communion between Rome and the Eastern Churches, but Rome’s rejection of its sequel, the Quinisext Council, reveals that there were still major tensions between the two great halves of Christianity. These tensions will be very much exacerbated in the next century with the rise of Iconoclasm in the East, and with the rise of the Carolingian dynasty, and the Roman Church’s alliance with it, in the West.
The Rise of Islam
The seventh century also witnessed the rise of Islam, founded by an Arabian mystic named Mohammed (c. 570–632), who initiated the Moslem era by his flight, along with his closest followers, from Mecca to Medina in 622. For centuries the various tribes in Arabia had fought against one another, but Mohammed was able to unite them under the dual banner of Arab brotherhood and the religion called Islam, which means “subjugation.”
After Mohammed’s death in 632, the movement was consolidated further by Abu Bakr (r. 632–634). Then the second caliph (meaning “successor”), Omar (r. 634–644), led the Arabs in conquering all of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia by the time of his death in 644. These conquests reduced the Byzantine Empire to basically only Asia Minor and Greece. Nearly all of the non-Chalcedonian Christians were now living under Islamic rule, and all possibility for further dialogue between them and the Byzantine Chalcedonians was cut off, as mentioned above.
The Muslims continued their conquest across northern Africa through the rest of the 7th century, and in 714 they invaded Spain. They would not be driven entirely out of Spain until 1492.
Emperor Leo III the Isaurian
During the winter of 717–718, an Arab fleet of 1800 vessels put Constantinople under siege. The new emperor, Leo III the Isaurian (r. 717–741), a brilliant military commander from eastern Asia Minor, used the secret weapon called “Greek fire” to drive away the Arabs, thus saving Europe from the advancing Mohammedans.
The new emperor, now a popular hero, initiated a number of military, economic, and administrative reforms. Then he turned his attention to the Church, which he blamed for the various problems of the Empire. He had particular animosity towards the monks, who now numbered at least 100,000-a very large number of men who were lost from military and civil service, and the growing monastic estates were free from taxation.
When a dispute about the icons, raised by certain bishops from the eastern provinces of Asia Minor, came to his attention, he took the opportunity to exert his own authority over the Church. Beginning in 726, he issued a number of edicts against the icons and their veneration, for in his opinion they were being worshiped as idols.
It was true that various superstitious abuses had arisen involving icons, and there had always been a certain hesitation about them among a minority in the Church who feared the possibility of idolatry. Since the main thrust of Iconoclasm originated in the eastern provinces of Asia Minor, the part of the Empire closest to the Islamic lands, it is probable that Islam, with its condemnation of pictorial religious art, played a role in influencing the views of the Iconoclasts. And for Scriptural support, the Iconoclasts invoked the second of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Ex 20.4).
The majority in the Church, including many of the great Church Fathers, defended the icons as important aids in personal and corporate spiritual life and worship. As noted above, the Council of Trullo in 692 affirmed the propriety of making and venerating icons of Christ. Nevertheless, Emperor Leo pressed on with his program, despite the willingness of many Christians, especially the monks, to shed their blood in defense of the holy images-and despite the indignant reaction of the Church of Rome, which held a council in 731 that condemned and excommunicated the Iconoclasts (literally, “icon-breakers”).
The defenders of the icons, called Iconodules, were led theologically by Saint Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (r. 715–730), who was deposed and exiled when he refused to reject the icons, and by Saint?John of Damascus (c. 652–749), a great Church Father who extensively quoted previous Fathers in his famous three treatises in defense of the icons, called On the Holy Images. Saint John was able to speak out relatively freely because he was a monk at the Saint Sabas Monastery in?Palestine, a land which had been under the control of the Arabs since 636.
Saint John’s main point is that icons of Christ are entirely appropriate since He, the Son of God, really took human flesh and became man. Thus He can be depicted in that flesh. Saint John states,
In former times God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring [proskynesis = veneration] the matter which wrought my salvation! (On the Holy Images 1.16).
Saint John carefully distinguishes the relative worship, or-much better to say-the veneration (proskynesis) of the icons, the relics of the saints, the Cross, and the Gospel Book, from the highest degree of worship (latreia) due to God alone. And he reminds the Iconoclasts that the same Lord Who commanded “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven ” (Ex 20.4) so that such a thing would not be worshiped as an idol (Ex 20.5), also commanded that golden cherubim be crafted to hover over the mercy seat in the Tabernacle (Ex 25.18–22). He also points out that according to the Holy Scriptures, Christ is the “image (literally, icon-eikon) of God” (2Cor 4.4; also Col 1.15).
Emperor Leo perhaps was eventually influenced by the strong popular reaction against his Iconoclastic decrees, for he did not actively persecute the Iconodules in the later years of his reign. For political reasons, he allowed freedom to the Christians in southern Italy, then still under Byzantine control, to venerate the icons. Many Iconodules fled there in this era, where considerable Byzantine influence is evident to this day.
Emperor Constantine V Copronymos
Emperor Leo’s son and successor, Emperor Constantine V Copronymos (r. 741–775), took a much harsher stance against the icons and their defenders. Even daring to call himself “emperor and priest,” he was more determined than his father had been to subject the Church to his own will. He styled himself a theologian, and attempted to present a well-reasoned, theologically informed case against the icons. He systematically pursued the official policy of Iconoclasm, removing Iconodules from the episcopacy and replacing them with Iconoclasts.
By 753 he felt ready to move definitively at the highest theological and ecclesiastical level. He called a major Church council which he intended to be the Seventh Ecumenical Council. It met the next year in Constantinople, with 338 bishops in attendance-all of whom were under severe imperial pressure to support the Iconoclastic position.
This Iconoclastic Council of 754 condemned the making and venerating of icons. The bishops at the council declared that they were only following the first six Ecumenical Councils, and indeed, all of Holy Tradition-though quite obviously, they were ignoring Canon 82 promulgated by the Quinisext Council in 692.
In trying to make sophisticated theological arguments, the Iconoclastic Council asserted that icons of Christ either are Monophysitic (mixing the divine and human natures, if their defenders say that Christ Himself is depicted in the icons), or Nestorian (separating Christ’s divine nature from His humanity, if it is stated that only His human nature and not His divine nature is being depicted). In conclusion, the council decreed:
Supported by the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers, we declare unanimously, in the name of the Holy Trinity, that there shall be rejected and removed and cursed out of the Christian Church every likeness which is made out of any material and color whatever by the evil art of painters.
It seems that the chief Christological mistake of this council was that it did not properly distinguish between Christ’s divine nature and His (divine) hypostasis. The icons do depict Christ in His human nature, which He has forever joined inseparably to Himself through union with His divine Person or hypostasis. But of course the icons do not depict His divine nature, which forever remains invisible and uncircumscribable.
The theology expressed at this false council also reflects a dualistic streak haunting Christianity in various ways through the centuries, which denies the full goodness of the material order. In addition to calling iconography “the evil art of painters,” this council also labeled it “a dead art, discovered by the heathen,” and “lifeless pictures with material colors which are of no value.” It said Christians are forbidden “to imitate the customs of the demon-worshippers, and to insult the saints .?.?. by common dead matter.” And it slanderously accused the iconographer of working “from sinful love of gain .?.?. with his polluted hands.”
Such a negative view of matter cannot help but undermine a proper understanding of the Incarnation of Christ-and hence, of the very nature and scope of salvation itself. As Bishop Kallistos Ware observes,
The Iconoclasts, by repudiating all representations of God, failed to take full account of the Incarnation. They fell, as so many puritans have done, into a kind of dualism. Regarding matter as a defilement, they wanted a religion freed from all contact with what is material; for they thought that what is spiritual must be non-material. But this is to betray the Incarnation, by allowing no place to Christ’s humanity, to His body; it is to forget that our body as well as our soul must be saved and transfigured. The Iconoclast controversy is thus closely linked to the earlier disputes about Christ’s person. It was not merely a controversy about religious art, but about the Incarnation, about human salvation, about the salvation of the entire material cosmos.
Many in the Church refused to accept the decisions of the Iconoclastic Council. As a result, they were viciously persecuted by the imperial authorities. The time between 762 and 775 is known as the “decade of blood” since hundreds of Christians, mostly monks, were imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for harboring and honoring icons.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council
In 787, during the reign of the Empress Irene (r. 780–802), who favored icon veneration, a major council was held in Nicea which defined the legitimate and proper use of icons in the Church. This council, the true Seventh Ecumenical Council, followed the theology of Saint John of Damascus in affirming the propriety of the icons. It proclaimed that icons “should be set forth” in the churches and in private homes and in public places.
In the 22 canons promulgated by this council, relics are stipulated to be in every church (Canon 7); all monasteries are to be restored (Canon 13); mixed monasteries (with a men’s part and a women’s part on the same property) are allowed to continue to exist, but no new ones may be established (Canon 20); and the buying of church office (simony) is condemned (Canon 5).
In celebrating the decisions of this council, Father Alexander Schmemann declares:
Everything in the world and the world itself has taken on a new meaning in the Incarnation of God. Everything has become open to sanctification; matter itself has become a channel of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
From the proclamation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council
To make our confession short, we keep unchanged all the ecclesiastical traditions handed down to us, whether in writing or verbally, one of which is the making of pictorial representations, in conformity with the history of the preaching of the Gospel, a tradition useful in many respects, but especially in this, that the Incarnation of the Word of God is shown forth as real and not merely illusory.?.?.?.
We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as we all know, the Holy Spirit dwells in her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, in painting and mosaics, as well as in other appropriate materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred vessels, and on the vestments and on hangings, and in pictures both in houses and in public places. These holy images should depict the figure of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, and of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, and of the honorable Angels and of all Saints, and of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory of their prototypes, and to a longing after them. And to these should be given due salutation and honorable reverence (aspasmon kai timetiken proskynesis), but not indeed that true worship of faith (latreia) which pertains alone to the divine nature. .?.?. For the honor which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject [hypostasis] represented. .?.?. Anathema to those who do not venerate the holy and venerable images. Anathema to those who call the sacred images idols.
This Christological definition of icons and their veneration forms the substance of the dogma promulgated by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. The whole Christological dispute, in fact, comes to a climax with this council, which gave it its final ‘cosmic’ meaning.
With rejoicing, the Church acclaimed Empress Irene and her son Constantine as “a new Constantine and a new Helen.” However, Irene did not prove to be a praiseworthy empress for the rest of her rule, for in the year 797 she had her son Constantine blinded so that she might continue to rule by herself. After ruling five more years, she was ousted in a coup d’etat and exiled.
As we will see, the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787 did not bring Iconoclasm to a permanent end. Tragically, it will arise again in the next century.
Saint John of Damascus was also responsible for very significant liturgical developments in the eighth century. He wrote many liturgical hymns still sung in the Church, such as the Canon of Easter Matins, and some of the hymns sung at the Orthodox funeral service. He is considered to be the original composer of the Octoechos, the collection of hymns sung in the Church using eight different melodies, one per week on a rotating basis throughout the year (see Worship). Saint John is also the author of the first systematic treatise of Orthodox Christian doctrine, called the Complete Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. This treatise forms the third part of his trilogy, The Fount of Knowledge.
Saint Cosmas the Melodist, Bishop of Maiuma (c. 675-c. 751), Saint John of Damascus’s adopted brother and a very accomplished hymnwriter, also was active in this era. Fourteen of his canons for various feasts of the Church year were incorporated into the liturgical services of the Eastern Church.
Saint Andrew of Crete, Archbishop of of Gortyna (c. 660–740), wrote the lengthy penitential canon which is still sung in the Orthodox Church during the first week and then in the fifth week of Great Lent.
The feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple was introduced in Constantinople. According to Saint Andrew of Crete, the feast was already being celebrated in Jerusalem as early as the sixth century. By the eighth century, it had found its place in the universal calendar of the Orthodox Church.
In the West in the eighth century, barbarian tribes in northern Europe continued to be converted to Christianity. The greatest missionary in this time was Saint Boniface, the Apostle to Germany (680–754). Working on behalf of the Roman Church, he eventually missionized much of northern Germany, and reformed the whole Frankish Church along Roman lines.
During this century the Roman Church turned away from the Byzantine Empire for support, allying itself instead with the newly emerging dynasty of the Franks. This northern tribe, which gave their name to the nation of France, was led by three remarkable leaders in the eighth century: Charles Martel (r. 723–741), who led the army that stopped the advance of the Arabs in western Europe at the famous Battle of Poitiers in 732; Pepin III the Short (r. 741–768), who gave the Roman Church vast tracts of land in central Italy in return for its favor and support; and especially Charlemagne (Charles the Great) (r. 768–814), who was anointed and crowned as Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day in the year 800.
Ever since Emperor Constantine the Great had permanently moved the imperial capital from Rome to Constantinople, the Roman Church had felt somehow abandoned, if not betrayed. Then it felt threatened when Constantinople began claiming, at the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, to be the “New Rome.” Such feelings only increased with the fall of Rome to the barbarians in 476. Ever since Pope Saint Gregory the Great (r. 590–604) had negotiated a separate peace with the Lombards, the Roman Church had been operating basically independently from Byzantium, fending for itself. When Iconoclasm broke out in the East, the Papacy was given another reason to distrust the Byzantines.
However, in turning to the Franks for protection and support, the Roman Church opened itself to foreign influences which would alienate the two halves of Christendom much further from each other. Three of the most important of these developments were the large tracts of land given to the Church by King Pepin III-the Papal States-that the Papacy would rule administratively as an independent temporal power up until the 19th century; the acquiring of a certain militaristic spirit that would lead to the Crusades, with some Popes even leading armies in battle; and the eventual acceptance of the addition of the filioque in the Nicene Creed, which to this day, along with the dogma of papal infallibility, is probably the single greatest theological difference between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
The Carolingian Renaissance
Through his conquests in France, Germany, Spain, and modern day Hungary, Charlemagne created what would be the largest empire in Europe from the fall of Rome in 476 until the time of Napoleon. From his capital in Aachen, he actively promoted higher learning through his patronage of the many scholars at his palace and the remarkable library there. He invited Alcuin (c. 740–804), a prodigious scholar and able representative of the Christian culture of Northumbria, England, to join his court in 781; this remarkable churchman of wide-ranging interests did much to enrich the flowering of learning and refined culture in this period in the West.
Charlemagne took a lively interest in ecclesiastical affairs. He called a series of sixteen Church councils all held in Frankfurt, Germany, and he promoted various reforms in the Frankish Church, including liturgical standardization based on Roman practices.
In 792 Charlemagne sent his Carolingian Books (Libri Carolini) to Pope Hadrian I (r. 772–795), which attacked not only the Iconoclastic Council of 754 for outlawing the icons, but also the Council of Nicea of 787 for allowing excessive reverence for the icons. This charge was apparently partly based on a faulty Latin translation of the decree of that council which did not properly distinguish between the veneration (proskynesis; veneratio in Latin) of the icons, and the worship, or adoration, given to God alone (latreia; adoratio in Latin).
A big reason for Charlemagne’s attack against the Eastern Church was to discredit the Eastern empire and its emperor so that he himself could be recognized as the sole ruler in Christendom. In his vision of the new Holy Roman Empire Charlemagne wanted to include all of the East together with all of the West in what he believed was the legitimate continuation of the ancient Roman Empire, overriding the fact that the Roman Empire still existed in the eastern half of the ancient Empire.
Charlemagne also played a major role in the sad story of the addition of the filioque into the Nicene Creed. He had grown up with the filioque, and urged the Roman Church to accept it. Pope Leo III (r. 795–816) resisted its imposition in Rome to such an extent that he had the original Creed engraved on silver tablets prominently displayed in Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. However, he allowed the Frankish Church to use it. Eventually, the Roman Church yielded to the Germanic pressure and accepted the filioque-using it for the first time in public worship in 1014. The Byzantine Church actually had dropped the pope’s name from the diptychs five years before, when Pope Sergius wrote a confession of faith that included the filioque. This was the first specific step towards the Great Schism of 1054.
The End of Iconoclasm
In 811, the Byzantine army, led by Emperor Nikephoros I (r. 802–811), was ambushed in Bulgaria, and the Emperor was killed in the devastating defeat. Not since Emperor Valens died at the hands of the Goths at Adrianople in 378 had a Byzantine emperor been killed in battle.
Two years later, a new line of imperial rulers emerged who once again attacked both the veneration and the venerators of the holy images. Again the icons were blamed for the various troubles of the Empire, especially the setbacks in warfare with the Bulgarians.
In 815, Emperor Leo V the Armenian (r. 813–820) ordered the icons in the churches to be placed above the reach of the faithful so that they could not be honored and kissed. Everyone in the Church knew that a second wave of persecution against the icons and their venerators was starting. In defiance of the order, on Palm Sunday in 815, Saint Theodore the Studite (759–826), the abbot of the great Studion Monastery in Constantinople, led a public procession with the holy icons. For this he was sent into exile. He would be the main theological champion of the icons during the second wave of Iconoclasm, through his important work entitled On the Holy Icons.
Persecution of the Iconodules was as fierce at times during the next twenty-seven years as it had been in the previous century. Not until 842 was the persecution brought to an end. And just as it was a woman-Empress Irene-who ended the first wave of Iconoclasm after coming to the throne upon the death of her husband, Emperor Leo IV the Khazar (r. 775–780), as regent for their son who was too young to rule, so again it is a woman-Empress Saint Theodora-who brings the second wave of persecution against the icons to an end when she comes to the throne upon the death of her husband, Emperor Theophilus (r. 829–842), to rule as regent for their young son Michael III.
Empress Theodora worked quickly to restore the icons. In March of 843, John the Grammarian, Iconoclastic Patriarch of Constantinople and advisor to Emperor Theophilus, was deposed and replaced with Methodius, who had spent seven years in prison for his defense of the icons. And immediately, at a local council in Constantinople, the icons were restored, and a huge, triumphant procession with the holy images took place on the first Sunday of Great Lent in that year-March 11, 843. This great event, known as the Triumph of Orthodoxy, has been celebrated ever since in the Orthodox Church on the first Sunday of Great Lent-known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
Hymns from Vespers for the Sunday of Orthodoxy
Thou who art uncircumscribed, O Master, in Thy divine nature, wast pleased in the last times to take flesh and be circumscribed; and in assuming flesh, Thou hast also taken on Thyself all its distinctive properties. Therefore we depict the likeness of Thine outward form, venerating it with an honor that is relative. So we are exalted to the love of Thee, and following the holy traditions handed down by the Apostles, from Thine icon we receive the grace of healing.
As a precious adornment the Church of Christ has received the venerable and holy icons of the Savior Christ, of God’s Mother and of all the saints. Celebrating now their triumphant restoration, she is made bright with grace and splendor.?.?.?.
The grace of truth has shone forth upon us; the mysteries darkly prefigured in the times of old have now been openly fulfilled. For behold, the Church is clothed in a beauty that surpasses all things earthly, through the icon of the incarnate Christ that was foreshadowed by the ark of testimony [Ex 25.22]. This is the safeguard of the Orthodox Faith; for if we hold fast to the icon of the Savior whom we worship, we shall not go astray.?.?.?.
Saints Cyril and Methodius-“Evangelizers of the Slavs and Equal to the Apostles”
In the middle of the ninth century, Saint Prince Rastislav (r. 846–870), the ruler of the Slav state of Moravia (now in the Czech Republic), sent a request to Byzantium asking for missionaries to bring the Christian Faith to his people in their own language. Frankish missionaries using Latin had already been at work in his land, but he realized that the Faith would be much more meaningful to his people if they could have the Scriptures and the liturgical services in their native tongue. He also wanted to strengthen the alliance his nation had recently formed with Byzantium, against possible encroachment by the Frankish Holy Roman Empire directly to the west of his realm.
In response to Prince Rastislav’s request, Emperor Michael III (r. 842–867) and Patriarch Saint Photius the Great of Constantinople sent two devout and well-educated brothers named Constantine and Methodius as missionaries to Moravia. From an aristocratic family, these brothers had grown up in Thessalonica, where many Slavs lived, from whom they learned the Slavic language. They even had already done some preliminary work in trying to develop an alphabet for that language. And they had previous diplomatic and missionary experience. So they were ideal candidates for the mission to the Slavs.
Before arriving in Moravia in 863, Constantine had finished developing the first alphabet for the Slavic language. Called Glagolitic, it had highly unusual characters, unlike those of any other language. In Moravia the brothers used this alphabet in translating Church books into the Slavic language, which came to be known as Old Church Slavonic. They taught the alphabet and literacy, introduced the use of Slavonic in the Church services, and began training men for the diaconate and priesthood as the first step in raising up a native clergy for the Moravian Church.
The mission of Constantine and Methodius created hostilities with the Frankish missionaries from the Latin Church who had come to Moravia earlier. These missionaries insisted that Church services should only be done in Latin, and that only Latin (Roman) customs and traditions should be used by the Slavic Christians.
In 867 the brothers traveled to Venice with some of their Moravian disciples, hoping to find a bishop to ordain these disciples as priests and deacons. In Venice they were sharply opposed by Latin clergy who insist that the services may only be celebrated in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. In response, Constantine called this the “Three-Language Heresy”; he quoted 1Corinthians 14 in defense of the use of the vernacular language in the Church services.
At this point the brothers were invited to Rome by Pope Nicholas, who was anxious to bring the Greek mission to the Moravians under his control. By the time they arrived, however, Nicholas had died, but they were received with great acclaim by his successor, Pope Hadrian II (r. 867–872). Pope Hadrian allowed the brothers to celebrate the Roman liturgy in the Slavonic language, and at least once he participated in such a service.
Constantine died early in 869, while still visiting Rome. Shortly before his death he became a monk, taking the name of Cyril. It is by this name that he is known as a saint of the Church. Before he died he begged his brother to continue the holy work among the Slavs. Methodius promised to do so.
Soon thereafter, Methodius was consecrated by Pope Hadrian as Archbishop of Pannonia and Moravia, with full authorization to continue using Slavonic in the Church services. However, when Archbishop Methodius returned to Moravia, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Frankish-Germanic clergy with the support of Rastislav’s successor, the pro-German usurper Sventopulk, and Louis the German, the Holy Roman Emperor. In 873, when Pope John VIII (r. 872–882) learned what had happened to Archbishop Methodius, he demanded and managed to obtain his release. But the Roman Church was unwilling to give much direct support to Methodius, for fear of offending the expanding Frankish and Germanic powers.
Despite repeated harassment by the German clergy, Methodius continued to promote Church life in the Slavonic language in Moravia for twelve more years, until his death in 885. Then Sventopulk moved fiercely against Methodius’s many disciples. Most of them were arrested, exiled, or even sold into slavery. Some of them, including a number of exceptionally talented missionaries, escaped into Bulgaria.
Led by their leader, Saint Khan Boris (r. 852–889), the Bulgarians had embraced the Christian Faith in 865 at the hands of Greek clergy from Byzantium. The Bulgarian Christians were delighted when Methodius’s disciples entered their land, bringing the services in Slavonic, which they much more readily understood than Greek. In 893, the Bulgarians officially adopted Slavonic as the official language of both their Church and State.
Saints Clement and Naum did outstanding missionary work among the Bulgarians. Most likely it was another of Saint Methodius’s disciples, Constantine of Preslav, who developed a second alphabet for the Slavonic language, based on letters mostly adapted from the Greek alphabet, making it more readily accessible than the Glagolitic alphabet. Constantine named his alphabet Cyrillic in honor of St Cyril, and it is this alphabet which continues to this day to serve the nations of Bulgaria, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, and Byelorussia, as well as the Czech, Slovak, and Polish Orthodox Christians.
In alliance with Charlemagne and his successors, the Roman popes managed to extend their authority in Western Europe. By the middle of the ninth century, Pope Nicholas I (r. 858–867) succeeded in gaining direct control over the entire Western Church by suppressing the local metropolitans and making all bishops in the West directly subject to the Roman see. In this effort, he made use of the False Decretals, documents that were later decisively proved to be forgeries, which claimed that Emperor Constantine the Great in the fourth century had given extensive powers and privileges to the Bishop of Rome. It was claimed that these powers included having governmental control over large territories in central Italy which later came to be called the Papal States. This particular forgery was the so-called Donation of Constantine.
Saint Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople
In Constantinople there were two parties struggling for power in both ecclesiastical and civil affairs-the so-called zealots or conservatives, and the moderates. In 858, in an effort to provide a leader capable of restoring peace to the Church, Photius was elected to be the new patriarch, succeeding Ignatius, who had been unjustly deposed. As the brilliant, popular, highly distinguished professor of philosophy at the University in Constantinople, Photius was an excellent choice, even though he was still a layman. He was ordained and quickly elevated to the patriarchal office.
The extremists of the so-called conservative party were not satisfied. They appealed to the Church of Rome, using the good name of the former patriarch Ignatius-who had accepted his forced retirement for the good of the Church-against Photius and the imperial government which confirmed his election. Pope Nicholas I proceeded to seize this opportunity to interfere in the affairs of the Church of Constantinople, in order to try to demonstrate that the Papacy had legitimate authority over the Eastern Churches as well as the Church in the West. To make this point, he decided to try to have Ignatius restored as patriarch of Constantinople.
In 861 a council was held in Constantinople to resolve the dispute. With the papal legates who presided over the council in full agreement, this council decided that Photius was indeed the rightful patriarch. However, when the legates returned to Rome, Pope Nicholas rejected their decision, since it was not the result that he desired. He held a council in Rome in 863, which presumed to have Photius deposed-along with all the clergy he had ordained in the preceding five years!-and Ignatius was proclaimed as the legitimate patriarch of Constantinople. As proof that the Papacy really had no legitimate authority over the Eastern Churches, the decrees of this council were ignored throughout the East. Patriarch Photius did not even deign to give Pope Nicholas a reply.
Four years later, in 867, Photius finally responded by calling a major council of five hundred bishops meeting in Constantinople. This council condemned Pope Nicholas and declared him to be deposed for interfering in the internal affairs of the Church of Constantinople-and also for interfering in the affairs of the new Bulgarian Church. This council also made the first official condemnation by the Eastern Church of the addition of the filioque to the Nicene Creed.
Later in 867, Basil I the Macedonian (r. 867–886) usurped the throne from Emperor Michael III, who was assassinated. In order to win the support of Rome for this usurpation, Basil reinstated Ignatius as patriarch, which did indeed heal the breach between Rome and Constantinople that had existed since 863. And in 869–870 a council was held in Constantinople, known as the Ignatian Council, which affirmed Ignatius as patriarch and condemned Photius, who was sent into exile. However, Pope Hadrian (r. 867–872) was not entirely pleased with this council, because it refused to give the Bulgarian Church over to the authority of Rome.
By 873, Emperor Basil no longer felt such a need for the approval of Rome, and his favor was turning to the moderates in Constantinople. So Photius was brought out of exile, and was made the tutor for the emperor’s two sons. Photius and Ignatius became reconciled, to such an extent that before Ignatius died in 877, he stipulated that he wanted Photius to succeed him as patriarch. So in that year Photius returned to the patriarchal throne, and soon led the effort by which Patriarch Ignatius was glorified as a saint.
In 879 a huge council, known as the Photian Council, took place in Constantinople. Once again papal legates were in attendance, and again they agreed with the council’s decisions. The council affirmed Photius as the legitimate patriarch, nullifying the decisions of the previous councils of 863 in Rome and 869–870 in Constantinople. It also reaffirmed Rome’s position as the first among equals among the great patriarchates, but without having jurisdictional authority over the East. The Nicene Creed without the filioque was affirmed, and the Council of Nicea of 787 was officially recognized as the Seventh Ecumenical Council.
Pope John VIII (r. 872–882) was not pleased with this council’s decisions, but for the sake of peace in the Church he accepted them. For nearly two centuries this council was considered by Rome to be the Eighth Ecumenical Council.
Photius was officially canonized a saint by the Orthodox Church in the tenth century. She honors him with exceptional regard as Saint Photius the Great, one of the Three Pillars of Orthodoxy (along with Saint Gregory Palamas and Saint Mark of Ephesus). He was a man of many talents. An excellent diplomat in political affairs, he was also a great theologian who wrote extensively. His powerful critique of the filioque, the improper and theologically erroneous addition to the Nicene Creed, has remained the basic Orthodox refutation of this innovation ever since. He was a compiler and reviewer of both classical and patristic writings. As a brilliant scholar and professor as well as a leading churchman, he dominated the cultural flowering in Byzantium in the years after the restoration of the icons in 843. And we recall that he also guided the mission to the Slavs by sending Saints Cyril and Methodius to Moravia in 863.
In relations with the West, Saint Photius defended the authentic Church Tradition in confrontation with the exaggerated claims and unwarranted interference of Pope Nicholas, while ultimately preserving unity with the Roman Church and Pope John VIII. However, he will long be remembered disparagingly in the West for his stubborn resistance to Papal claims. The break in relations between the Western and Eastern Churches from 863 to 867, initiated by the Council of Rome which condemned him, is still known in the West as the “Photian Schism”-i.e., blaming Photius for the schism. Only in the last half century or so has he been acknowledged at least by some in the West as a great bishop with personal humility and wisdom. He was one of the greatest bishops in Christian history.
In the ninth century another great saint, Saint Theodore of Studion, was involved with a number of liturgical developments. The service books for Great Lent and Easter, the Lenten Triodion and the Flower Triodion (also called the Pentecostarion), are almost totally the work of the Studite monks, among the most famous of whom was Saint Joseph the Hymnographer. The liturgical typikon, the order of worship in the Studion Monastery, has been the normative order of worship for the entire Orthodox Church since the ninth century. As abbot of the Studion Monastery in Constantinople, the leading monastery in the Empire of his day, he had ultimate authority over about a hundred thousand monks throughout the Empire.
Also dating from the ninth century is a copy of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which has the Liturgy of the Faithful in virtually the exact form in which it is celebrated in the Orthodox Church today.
New Law Code
Near the end of the ninth century, a famous new law code was published by Emperor Basil I. In its introduction, called the Epanagoge, the system known as “symphonia”-the harmonious cooperation between the Church and State-is eloquently reaffirmed, with extremely high standards of moral probity, personal sanctity, and theological wisdom placed upon both the patriarch of Constantinople and the emperor. For example, the patriarch is to “lead unbelievers into adopting the Faith, astounding them with the splendor and glory and wondrousness of his own devotion”; and the emperor “must be of the highest perfection in Orthodoxy and piety.”
Generally speaking, the 9th century was one of the most significant centuries in Church history. It was a period of renaissance in the East after 843, while in the West it was one of increasing centralization around the Roman Papacy, especially through the efforts of Pope Nicholas I. The most important theologian in the West in this century was John Scot Erigena (d. 877), who brought the strong influence of the Eastern theology of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite and Saint Maximus the Confessor into the Western Church. However, he interpreted the mystical writings attributed to Saint Dionysius along Neo-Platonic lines.
In the East in the 10th century, there was a general continuation of the cultural renaissance of the ninth century. The writings of the Church Fathers were collected and key excerpts compiled in works known as florilegia. For the first time, Lives of the Saints were collected and paraphrased in an elegant style for liturgical usage; this was done by Saint Symeon Metaphrastes (i.e., the Translator).
In 960 Saint Athanasius of Mount Athos (d. 1003) founded the Great Lavra, the first large cenobitic (communal) monastery on Mount Athos. The way was thus opened for the development of the great monastic republic on the Holy Mountain that flourishes to this day. His work was strongly supported by two emperors: Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963–969) and John I Tzimiskes (r. 969–976).
Saint Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022), for many years the abbot of the Monastery of Saint Mamas in Constantinople, wrote many influential treatises, especially emphasizing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians, the vision of the Uncreated Light, and ongoing repentance with tears. He is regarded as one of the most important mystical theologians of all time. His prominence is seen in the fact that he is one of only three figures in the Church who are called “the Theologian”-the other two being St John the Evangelist and St Gregory of Nazianzus. In the 14th century Saint Gregory Palamas will build upon the work of this wonderful saint who walked with God with profound intimacy and who described his experiences with the living God with powerful, poetic eloquence.
From the Hymns of Divine Love by Saint Symeon the New Theologian
Master, how shall I express Your strange marvels,
how shall I relate with words the depth of Your judgments
which You accomplish each day in us, Your servants?
How do You not cast Your eyes on the infinite number of my sins
and not take into account the actions of my malice, O Master?
But You have mercy, You protect me, You enlighten and nourish me
as if I carried out all Your commands, O my Savior.
Not only do You take pity on me, but, still more,
You grant me leave to remain in the presence
of Your glory, of Your power, of Your majesty.
You talk with me and You address words of immortality
to the one who is weak, lowly, unworthy to live.
How do You cover my sullied soul with light
and render it divine light, immaculate?
How do You invest with light my miserable hands
which, by sinning, I have sullied with the stains of sin?
How do you transform my lips by the ray of Your Divinity,
from unclean, making them holy?
And my filthy tongue, O Christ, how do You purify it
and give it a share in the eating of Your flesh?
How do You condescend to see me and to let me see You,
to let me hold You in my hands, You who hold all things,
You who the celestial armies cannot contemplate,
inaccessible even to Moses, the first of the prophets?
For he was not judged worthy to see Your face,
nor was any other man, to avoid that he die.
You therefore the only incomprehensible, the only inexpressible,
that no one can contain, inaccessible to all,
to hold You, to embrace You, to see You, to eat You,
to possess You in my heart, O Christ, how am I judged worthy of it?
How am I not consumed, but divided between joy and fear
and singing, O Christ, Your boundless love for man?
Church and State
The tenth century saw the increasing interpenetration of the ecclesiastical and civil aspects of Byzantine society. The Church received greater control over such matters as marriage and the family. For example, a church blessing-regulated by Orthodox canon law-came to be required for a marriage to be acknowledged as valid by the civil authorities. At the same time, the Church became more concerned with establishing “minimum requirements” for marriage.
This can be seen vividly in the so-called “fourth marriage dispute.” In 906 the patriarch of Constantinople Nicholas Mystikos (r. 901–907, 912–925), a disciple of Saint Photios the Great, refused to grant a fourth marriage to Emperor Leo VI (r. 886–912), whose first three wives all died young without bearing an heir to the throne. For Patriarch Nicholas’s refusal to recognize Emperor Leo’s fourth marriage, he was deposed. He was restored as patriarch upon the emperor’s death in 912.
In 920 a council in Constantinople declared that the Church would never grant a fourth marriage to anyone. The Church’s theology of marriage upholds perpetual monogamy as its standard-a union of one man and one woman which is not destroyed even by death. Remarriage, even of widows and widowers, does not conform to this standard, even though it may be accepted as a concession to human weakness. With the “fourth marriage dispute,” however, attention comes to focus on the minimum-hence the misleading notion that the Orthodox Church “allows” three marriages to its faithful.
At the same time, the beginning of the 10th century witnessed for the first time the “rite of crowning” as a separate marriage service apart from the context of the Divine Liturgy. Civil law now established the practice of “legal marriage” apart from the sacramental marriage of the Church. It also established a special secular form for the adoption of children which was also previously done only by the action of the Church.
Khan Boris’s son and successor Symeon (r. 893–927) did much to strengthen Orthodoxy in his land, promoting Slavonic culture through sponsoring schools, libraries, and much translation work of the Church Fathers into Slavonic. He gained recognition from Byzantium as being the Emperor, or Tsar, of Bulgaria, and the archbishop of the Bulgarian Church was granted the title of Patriarch. This was highly significant, since this was the first new patriarchate to be established beyond the original five-Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
At Tsar Symeon’s death, his saintly and mild son Peter (r. 927–969) assumed the throne. During his long and peaceful reign, Orthodoxy penetrated deeper into the society of the nation, particularly through the establishment of monasteries in the countryside.
The leading monastic in this time was the famous Saint John of Rila (c. 880–946). He was one of several northern Macedonian hermits who found solitude in the mountains and became great ascetics and miracle-workers. Later in life they established cenobitic monasteries for their disciples. These monasteries had great impact on the spiritual life of the Bulgarians. Probably because Orthodox culture spread from Bulgaria into Russia in the decades after his death, Saint John of Rila became especially well-known in Russia. He is considered to be the patron saint of Bulgaria (Feastday, Oct. 19).
Unfortunately, the dualist heresy of Bogomilism also arose in Bulgaria during Peter’s reign. After Peter’s death, the power of the Bulgarian state began to decline.
Saint Vladimir of Kiev
Prince Vladimir of Kiev (r. 978–1015) ruled a domain that stretched from beyond Novgorod in the north to beyond Kiev in the south. He understood the importance of religion not only for the spiritual life of his people, but also for their political, social, and cultural advancement. At first he promoted devotion to the ancient gods and goddesses of the Slavs, such as Perun, Khors, Dazh’bog, Stribog, Simar’gl, and Mokosh.
But in 986 he began to take interest in the religions of other lands-Islam in Old Bulgaria, Judaism in Khazaria, Roman Catholicism in the Holy Roman Empire, and Greek Orthodox Christianity in Byzantium. In the following year, he sent emissaries to see for themselves these various religions in action. Their report upon their return to Kiev is given in the Russian Primary Chronicle (the earliest written historical account of the Slavs, traditionally attributed to Saint Nestor, a monk in the Kievan Caves Monastery who died in the early 12th century):
‘When we journeyed among the Bulgars, we beheld how they worship in their temple, called a mosque, while they stand ungirt. The Bulgar bows, sits down, looks hither and thither like one possessed, and there is no happiness among them, but instead only sorrow and a dreadful stench. Their religion is not good. Then we went among the Germans, and saw them performing many ceremonies in their temples; but we beheld no glory there. Then we went to Greece, and the Greeks (including the Emperor himself) led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.’
Then the Chronicle relates, “Then the boyars [the noblemen] spoke to Vladimir and said, ‘If the Greek faith were evil, it would not have been adopted by your grandmother Olga who was wiser than all other men.’ Vladimir then inquired where they should all accept baptism, and they replied that the decision rested with him.”
Having made up his mind to adopt Orthodox Christianity for himself and his people, Vladimir took an armed force to the Byzantine city of Cherson on the Crimean Peninsula, and besieged and captured it. Then he sent a message to Emperor Basil II of Byzantium (r. 976–1025) and his brother Constantine VIII, asking for the hand of their sister Princess Anna in marriage. They replied, “It is not proper for Christians to marry pagans. If you are baptized, you shall have her as your wife, inherit the kingdom of God, and be our companion in the Faith. Unless you do so, however, we cannot give you our sister in marriage.” Vladimir responded, saying that he had already given some study to the Greeks’ Faith and was ready to be baptized. The Greeks replied, telling Vladimir to come to Constantinople to be baptized. But when he then requested that he be baptized in Cherson by priests brought by Anna herself, they acceded to his wishes.
According to the Chronicle, before Anna and the priests arrived in Cherson, the prince contracted a very serious eye disease. But when he was baptized, taking the name Basil, not only did he receive spiritual healing, but his physical ailment was also miraculously healed-much as Saint Paul received back his sight when he was baptized by Ananias after being blinded by the vision of Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9.17–19). A few days later, Prince Vladimir was united with Anna in marriage.
Upon his return to Kiev, his capital city, in the spring of the year 988, the people of the city and the surrounding countryside joyfully accepted to be baptized in the Dniepr River in the new Faith of their beloved prince. Thus began the history of the Orthodox Church in the lands of Rus’.
Beginning with his baptism, Vladimir experienced a genuine spiritual conversion. He put aside his many concubines and his otherwise wild and violent way of life, and lived in sober and respectful monogamy with Princess Anna. Together they did much to establish Christian principles in their realm, and to enlighten their subjects with the Orthodox Faith. For his personal and official acts of righteousness as a Christian prince, Vladimir has been glorified as a saint of the Church, as “Equal-to-the-Apostles, Enlightener of the Russian Lands.”
Saint Vladimir’s grandmother, the great Princess Olga (d. 969), was the wife of Igor, the ruler of the Kievan state. Upon Igor’s death in 945, Olga ruled as regent for their son, Svatoslav, until he assumed power in 961. In about 957, Olga accepted the Christian Faith and was baptized, probably in Constantinople. She also is recognized as a saint of the Church-like her illustrious grandson, as “Equal to the Apostles.”
The feast of the Protection of the Theotokos (October 1) comes from the 10th century. Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ (d. 956) saw a vision of the Theotokos interceding before God and protecting the praying people of Constantinople with her veil (omophorion) during the time of an attack on the city by the pagan Slavs. Ironically, this feast, which has been detached from its historical roots and is now celebrated primarily as the feast of the presence of Mary in the midst of the Church, is kept as a popular celebration almost solely by the churches of Slavic tradition.
In the later 9th century and all through the 10th century, the West experienced one of the darkest periods in its history. New waves of invasions, especially by Vikings and Muslim Arabs, destroyed the relative security of the empire created by Charlemagne. The Church suffered from the domination of lay lords. Communication with the East was virtually cut off, partly because of the Arabs’ power in the Mediterranean emanating from their strongholds in Crete and Sicily. In 996 the first German was elected as pope of Rome, with the name Gregory V.
In 910 the Monastery of Cluny was founded in Burgundy in eastern France, by William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine. Under its first abbot, Berno of Baume (d. 927), high standards of monastic observance were set and followed-including a return to the strict Benedictine Rule first established by Saint Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century, independence from lay control, and economic self-sufficiency. By the time of Berno’s death, several neighboring monasteries had adopted Cluny’s standards, and under Berno’s gifted successors, especially Saint Odo (r. 927–942) and Saint Odilo (r. 998–1048), hundreds of monasteries, especially in France and Italy, adopted these reforms. These “Cluniac houses” became a major force for general reform in the entire Western Church in the 11th century.
The Great Schism
In 1009 Pope Sergius of Rome wrote a confession of faith which included the filioque in the Nicene Creed. Because of this, the Church of Constantinople removed his name and that of the Roman Church from the diptychs (the official list of sister churches and bishops who are liturgically commemorated by a given church). Then in 1014, the Roman Church, after resisting for over 200 years Germanic pressure to adopt the filioque, finally used this addition to the Creed in public worship for the first time-at the coronation of Henry II as Holy Roman Emperor. Ironically, forty years later the Latin Christians would accuse the Greek Christians of being heretical for not using the filioque.
As we have seen, tensions between the two great halves of the Christian world had been simmering for many years, with roots going back to the early centuries of the Church. The two different languages-Greek in the East and Latin in the West-reflected differences in basic worldview, which contributed to different approaches in theology. The Latins tended to use philosophical, legal, and juridical concepts and categories in an attempt to make the mysteries of the Faith more comprehensible to the human mind, while the Greeks tended to more readily accept the paradoxical, ineffable mysteries of the Faith as being ultimately far beyond the limits of human logic and understanding. And the Greeks, more than the Romans, stressed the crucial importance of having a vibrant, dynamic experience and relationship with the living God, in order to better understand the Holy Scriptures and the mysteries of the Faith. Also, the loss of the political unity of the Empire was a huge factor in disrupting communication between East and West. And the rivalry between the Holy Roman Empire in the West and the Byzantine Empire in the East exacerbated the rift.
From the Eastern Orthodox perspective, however, the biggest single reason for the Great Schism was the reassertion of Papal claims to have jurisdictional authority over all the Churches of Christendom. Ever since Bishop Victor of Rome near the end of the second century tried to dictate to the Quartodeciman Christians of Asia Minor concerning the dating of Pascha, a succession of strong Roman bishops, as we have seen, steadily promoted Papal claims over Churches beyond the Roman Church’s geographic territory, even though this was in violation of the original pattern of each bishop having jurisdictional authority over his own geographic territory-a pattern clearly affirmed in the canons of the first four Ecumenical Councils. Gradually the Papacy did manage to gain at least nominal authority over all the churches of Western Europe, as we have also seen, by the time of the powerful Pope Nicholas I in the middle of the 9th century.
In the middle of the 11th century, after a long period of weakness and decadence in the Papacy, there occurred an intense period of reform. This reform movement strove mightily to bring an end to widespread moral abuses among the clergy-especially the crime of simony (buying church office), and the practice of clergy who were supposed to be celibate living with concubines. Partly in an effort to deal with these problems, the reformers accomplished a dramatic centralization and expansion of the power of the Papacy.
The reforming movement began with the appointment by the Germanic Holy Roman Emperor Henry III (r. 1039–1056) of a fellow German named Bruno as Pope Leo IX (r. 1048–1054). Along with Leo’s efforts to increase the power of the Papacy in Western Europe, it’s not surprising that this particularly strong pope would also have been interested in extending Papal influence in the East. At the same time, the fiery Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius (r. 1043–1058), was determined to resist all attempts by the Roman Church to impose its will upon the Eastern Church.
The “showdown” came as a result of the Norman invasion of southern Italy beginning in 1016, and the subsequent suppression of Greek practices in the churches in this region where there was strong Byzantine influence. Patriarch Michael retaliated by trying to force the Latin churches in Constantinople to use Greek practices-especially leavened instead of unleavened bread (azymes) in the Eucharist. And Archbishop Leo of Ochrid wrote a comprehensive critique of the Latin beliefs and practices divergent from those of the Eastern Church-especially the filioque, mandatory clerical celibacy, and the use of azymes in the Eucharist.
In response, Pope Leo sent to Constantinople a delegation led by Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida (d. 1061), a fiery and fiercely anti-Byzantine personality who tried to press Roman claims to their fullest extent. After a cold initial reception, at which Humbert refused to greet the Patriarch with the customary protocol, Michael refused to deal with him any longer. After waiting about two months in the capital, on July 16, 1054, Humbert strode into the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia during a service and placed on the altar a bull of excommunication against “Patriarch Michael and all his followers.” In a day or two, he and his fellow legates left for home. Michael, in his turn, excommunicated Humbert “and all those responsible” for the bull of excommunication against him.
Very interestingly, Pope Leo IX died soon after Humbert left Rome for Constantinople, but before Humbert issued the bull of excommunication. And Leo’s successor was not elected until near the end of the year. So it would seem that the next pope, Victor II (r. late 1054–1057), could easily have revoked Humbert’s action, but he did not choose to do so. And while relations between some of the Eastern Churches with Rome continued to be relatively friendly for quite some time, the reality and extent of the schism gradually deepened and spread, until the sack of Constantinople and its conquest by the Latin knights of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 increased the mutual animosity to such a degree that future efforts at reconciliation had virtually no chance to succeed.
As we know, the Roman Catholic Church is still not in communion with the Orthodox Churches, even though in 1965 Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I lifted the mutual anathemas of 1054.
Pope Gregory VII
The reforming spirit of the Roman Papacy in the 11th century reached its height under Hildebrand who, as Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073–1085), firmly established the Papacy as a secular power. In a document called the Dictatus papae, he advocated the most extreme interpretation as yet of Papal authority in both church and state: “the Roman pontiff alone is to be called universal” (or “ecumenical”); “he alone can depose or reinstate bishops”; “he alone may use the imperial insignia”; “the pope is the only one whose feet are to be kissed by all princes”; “he may depose emperors”; “he himself may be judged by no one”; “to this see the most important cases of every Church should be submitted”; “the Roman Church has never erred, nor ever, by the witness of Scripture, shall err to all eternity”; “the Roman pontiff, if canonically ordained, is undoubtedly sanctified by the merits of St Peter.”
These radical claims were put severely to the test during Pope Gregory’s monumental struggle against lay investiture (the practice of secular lords, princes, and kings appointing their own priests, bishops, and abbots) in Western Europe. This struggle clearly demonstrated the fact that the Papacy’s authority over the churches of Western Europe was far from secure even in the latter part of the 11th century. For after Pope Gregory forbade lay investiture in 1075, his edict was met with violent opposition in England, France, and Germany-where nobles, according to the feudal system of strict allegiance of servants to one’s lord, were quite used to appointing their own priests for the chapels and churches on their lands, and kings felt it was their right to appoint their own bishops and abbots for the bishoprics and monasteries in their realms.
In Germany, Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (r. 1056–1106) held two Church synods which attempted to depose Gregory from the Papacy for his interference in what he claimed were his own affairs. In 1077, Gregory responded by excommunicating Henry. The emperor then was stung with remorse. Traveling to the Pope’s castle retreat of Canossa in the mountains of central Italy to beg forgiveness, Henry stood for three days outside in the snow doing penitence. But in 1080, Henry set up an anti-pope, since Gregory had acknowledged Henry’s rival, Rudolf of Swabia, as Holy Roman Emperor. Henry then marched on Rome, which he captured after a two-year siege, with Pope Gregory fleeing to Salerno, where he died in 1085.
The First Crusade
In 1074 the Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Doukas (r. 1071–1078) suggested to Pope Gregory VII that there might be a possibility of reunion between their two Churches in exchange for military aid against the Islamic Seljuk Turks. Three years before, at Mantzikert in eastern Asia Minor, the Byzantine army had suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of these Turks, who were then able to spread into nearly all of the heartland of Asia Minor.
In response to this idea, Pope Gregory offered to launch a crusade to liberate the Christians of the East, in return for acknowledgment of Papal supremacy. This crusade was not actually undertaken, probably largely because of Gregory’s desperate struggle over lay investiture. But the idea for the Crusades had been set in motion, and the typical pattern for East-West relations which lasted for nearly 400 years was begun.
The First Crusade was launched by Pope Urban II (r. 1088–1099) at the request of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Comnenos (r. 1081–1118) for knights to fight against the Seljuk Turks. After their victory at Mantzikert in 1071, the Turks captured Antioch in 1085 and Nicea in 1092, thus coming quite close to Constantinople itself. The Pope agreed to try to raise a military force to help the emperor.
However, it was not the quest to drive the Turks out of Asia Minor that fired the imagination of Western Europe. Rather, it was the call by Pope Urban to free the Holy Land from the infidel Muslim Arabs that rallied thousands of Western knights to set out on the First Crusade. On November 27, 1095, at Clermont in south central France, in a rousing and impassioned speech delivered in French, the pope convinced the great churchmen and nobles of Europe that the Holy Land must be liberated. The response was electrifying: cries of ‘Deus le volt’ (‘God wills it’) filled the air. The First Crusade was launched.
The Crusaders were able to capture Antioch from the Turks in 1098, and in the next year they won Jerusalem from the Arabs. But they slaughtered so many of the Muslim residents of the city that the Muslims have been embittered against the West to this day.
The Latin knights proceeded to carve out four kingdoms for themselves in the Middle East-Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli, and Jerusalem-all of which claimed independence from Byzantium. Latin patriarchs were set up in Jerusalem and Antioch, challenging the authority of the Orthodox patriarchs there (as well as the Non-Chalcedonian Jacobite patriarch in Antioch). During the next century the Byzantines tried sporadically to win control of these areas from the Latins, but without success. By 1291, all these kingdoms had fallen back to the Muslims.
In Kievan Russia in the 11th century the new Christian Faith was flourishing. Saint Anthony (d. 1073) founded the famous Monastery of the Caves in Kiev, the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra. Saint Theodosius (d. 1074), its greatest saint, came to be called the “Founder of Russian monasticism.” Saint Theodosius followed the example of the humble Christ of the gospels in an evangelical form of spiritual life. This form has come to be known as Russian kenoticism, which means a life of self-emptying humility and love for the brethren (cf. Phil 2.6). The Kievan Monastery of the Caves was a major center of Christian charity and social concern, as well as of spiritual and intellectual labor and enlightenment.
Saints Boris and Gleb
Among the saints of Kiev are numbered the brothers Boris and Gleb, sons of Saint Vladimir. They refused to fight their elder brother Sviatopolk in a power struggle after the death of their father in 1015. Although they could have fought against Sviatopolk, and were undoubtedly encouraged to do so by their warriors, the two young brothers refused to fight, so as not to take up arms against their brother, and in order to save the lives of many on both sides. As “Passion-Bearers,” turning the other cheek to endure completely innocent suffering, and laying down their lives so that others might live, Saints Boris and Gleb were canonized by the Russian Church in 1020-just five years after their deaths. These first Russian saints have been venerated and loved with special devotion by their fellow Russians to this day.
Yaroslav the Wise and Saint Anna of Novgorod
Yaroslav (978–1054) was another son of Saint Vladimir. He became the Grand Prince of Kiev in 1019 upon defeating the wicked Sviatopolk in battle. He ruled well for 35 years until his death in 1054. During his reign Kiev flourished as a major center of trade, and his building program made his capital the grandest city in Europe, after Constantinople. His crowning achievement was the construction of the Cathedral of Saint Sophia that still stands today. He also assembled many translators to continue the work of rendering the vast treasure of theological writings and hymnography of the Greeks into Slavonic. And in his time, Russian princes and princesses began marrying into many of the royal families of Western Europe.
Prince Yaroslav’s wife is a saint in the Church-she is venerated as Saint Anna of Novgorod. She was the daughter of the first Christian king of Sweden, King Olaf Sketkonung. She took an active part along with her husband in the rule of their domain, sometimes even entering into battle with him, and at other times helping to arrange peace treaties with enemies of the state. They had seven sons and three daughters, all of whom the great orator Hilarion, who later became the Metropolitan of Kiev, declared to be devoted to the Christian Faith. One of them, Vladimir, is also a saint in the Church. Shortly before she died, the princess took the monastic schema and entered the monastery that she and her husband had built in Kiev, manifesting thereby her deep piety and humility.
Other Developments East and West
Near the end of this century, Blessed Theophylact, Bishop of Ochrid (r. 1090–1109), a Greek missionary bishop in southwestern Bulgaria, was writing voluminous commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, making much use of the commentaries by St John Chrysostom as he did so. And in Byzantium there arose renewed interest in pagan antiquity, led by such men as Michael Psellus (c. 1019-c. 1078), who favored the philosophy of Plato, and John Italos (c. 1025–1082), who favored the thought of Aristotle. This flowering of “Byzantine humanism” did not have a deleterious effect on the life of the Church, unlike what happened in the West in later centuries during the Renaissance, especially in the realm of Church art. Psellus also wrote a fascinating insider’s history of the reigns of the fourteen Byzantine rulers who ruled during his lifetime.
Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109), the most important theologian in the West in his time, was producing his extremely influential theological discourses. These writings contain the so-called “ontological proof” for the existence of God, a defense of the doctrine of the filioque, and the so-called “satisfaction theory” of the atonement. In this theory it was contended that the death of Christ on the Cross was the adequate payment of the punishment that fallen man deserved that was necessary to satisfy the justice and wrath of God the Father. This innovative speculation, reflecting to some extent popular notions of chivalry at that time in Western Europe, came to prevail in much of Western Christianity, especially conservative Protestantism, to this day.
The 12th century saw the continuing struggle of the illustrious Comneni imperial dynasty in Constantinople against the crusading Latins from the West and the encroaching Muslim Turks from the East. Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (r. 1081–1118) officially proclaimed Mount Athos as the center of Orthodox monasticism. His son and successor, John (r. 1118–1143), ruled so well that he became known as Kalojohn (“John the Good”), and his wife, a Hungarian princess, was so devout in her Orthodox faith that she came to be venerated as Saint Irene of Hungary. Emperor Manuel Comnenus (r. 1143–1180) continued promoting the arts, but both of his marriages were with Western princesses, and his unwise favoritism of Venetian merchants eventually helped lead to a violent backlash with the sacking of the Latin quarter in Constantinople in 1182. In retaliation, the Latins sacked the city of Thessalonica in 1185.
Early in the 12th century, at the command of Emperor Alexius I, Euthymius Zigabenus produced his Dogmatic Panoply, a refutation of all the heresies both ancient and recent. Much of what we know about Bogomilism, the major dualist heresy that arose in Bulgaria in the 10th century, comes from this work. He also wrote extensive commentaries on the Psalms, the Four Gospels, and the Epistles of Saint Paul.
Art and architecture developed in the twelfth century with such classical Byzantine monuments as the Church of Saint Luke and the Church of Daphni, both near Athens, with their outstanding mosaics.
Christianity in Kievan Russia continued to expand and develop. A fire in Kiev in 1124 is reported to have destroyed six hundred church edifices-an indication of the great development of this cosmopolitan city which had become a leading center of European and Byzantine culture and trade. Early in this century, Prince Vladimir II Monomakh (1053–1125), a great grandson of Saint Vladimir and a grandson of Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus of Byzantium, wrote his famous autobiography called his Testament, or Charge to My Children, a document intended to guide his sons in their lives as Christian leaders.
The Russian Primary Chronicle, the seminal document which records the basic history of the Kievan state, with special emphasis on the coming and spreading of Orthodox Christianity, began to be compiled by the monk Nestor of the Monastery of the Kievan Caves. Saint Alypius (d. 1114), the “Father of Russian iconography,” also lived in this period. Some of the greatest architectural and iconographic achievements of Novgorod, Vladimir, Suzdal, and Pskov come from this time.
The 12th century witnessed the emergence of the nation of Serbia through the efforts of the Grand Zupan Stephan Nemanya (1113–1200). Nemanya’s third son, Rastko (c. 1175–1235), at the age of 17, fled the life of the court to become a monk on Mount Athos. In monasticism he was given the name Sava, after Saint Sabbas of Jerusalem. He was destined to become the great national saint and leader of the Serbian people as the first archbishop of Serbia.
In 1196 Stephan Nemanya abdicated the throne and joined his son Sava on Mount Athos. There he was tonsured a monk with the name of Simeon. The Byzantine emperor Isaakios II Angelos gave the Serbian father and son the monastery of Hilandar on Mount Athos, which remains today the Serbian monastery on the Holy Mountain. Some time after Saint Sava’s father died in 1200, his relics began exuding myrrh, and they began to flow with myrrh again after Saint Sava took them to Serbia in 1208. Hence, when he was glorified as a saint by the Church, he was given the name Saint Simeon the Myrrh-flowing.
In Western Europe the great Cistercian monastic reform movement of the Benedictine Order (now known as the Trappists) arose. This movement’s greatest representative, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), was an ascetical, mystical theologian and church activist of aristocratic background. He promoted the Second Crusade (of 1147), and theologically he fought against Peter Abelard (1079–1142), another important early Scholastic theologian and author of the famous Sic et Non. The Carthusian movement of intensely contemplative, semi-eremetic monasticism, founded in 1084 by Bruno, expanded rapidly in this era.
Together with the centralizing of Papal power and the victory of the Papacy over the secular rulers in the controversy over lay investiture, the 12th century also saw the rise of the Victorine school of Augustinian theology, led by Hugo (d. 1141) and Richard of Saint Victor (d. 1173). Another major Scholastic theologian, Peter Lombard (c. 1100–1160), wrote his very influential Sentences in the 1150s.
On the more popular level, the Waldensian movement arose in the 1170s, led by a merchant of Lyons named Valdes. This very energetic layman emphasized itinerant, Scripture-based lay preaching, voluntary poverty, and works of charity. The various Waldensian groups suffered various forms of persecution at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church during the succeeding centuries. Finally in the 16th century, most of them merged with various Protestant groups.
Also, the dualist heretical movement known as the Cathari arose in Germany around 1140, under the influence of Bogomilism from Eastern Europe. By around 1200 the Cathari had grown and spread to such an extent that they were the principal target of the Inquisition that was instituted in the early 13th century. In southern France these heretics were known as Albigensians.
In 1147, the Second Crusade was launched with the goal of winning back the Crusader Kingdom of Edessa which had fallen to the Muslims. Preached by Bernard of Clairvaux, this crusade was led by King Louis VII of France and Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III. These Crusaders further alienated the Byzantines by their uncouth behavior. At the same time, the Westerners had learned to hate the Greeks, considering them to be deceitful, and their Church heretical. The chronicler Odo of Deuil listed the various practices and beliefs of the Greek Christians now scorned by the Westerners, and he recorded their willingness to kill the Greeks as heretics. More and more, the Latins dreamed of seizing Constantinople for themselves, and they were urged to do so by some of their own clergy.
Meanwhile, the Greek Church’s consternation at the extension of Papal claims was eloquently expressed in a letter by Archbishop Nicetas of Nicomedia written to Bishop Anselm of Havelberg, in Germany.
Archbishop Nicetas of Nicomedia writing to Bishop Anselm of Havelberg
My dearest brother, we do not deny to the Roman Church the primacy among the five sister Patriarchates, and we recognize her right to the most honorable seat at an Ecumenical Council. But she separated herself from us by her own deeds, when she assumed a monarchy which does not belong to her office.?.?.?. How shall we accept decrees from her that have been issued without consulting us, and even without our knowledge?
If the Roman pontiff, seated on the lofty throne of his glory, wishes to thunder at us from on high, and if he wishes to judge us and even to rule us and our churches, not by taking counsel with us but at his own arbitrary pleasure, what kind of brotherhood or even what kind of parenthood can this be? We would be the slaves of such a church, and the Roman see would not be the pious mother of sons but a hard and imperious mistress of slaves.?.?.?. In such a case what could have been the use of the Scriptures? The writings and the teachings of the Fathers would be useless. The authority of the Roman pontiff would nullify the value of all because he would be the only bishop, the sole teacher and master.
The Fourth Crusade
The 13th century began with what is generally considered to be the final sealing of the schism between East and West, when the knights of the Fourth Crusade brutally sacked Constantinople during the first three days of Holy Week in 1204. They pillaged Hagia Sophia and other churches, desecrating the altars and stealing countless relics and other holy objects. The Crusaders took control of the city. A Latin, Thomas Morosini, was named Patriarch of Constantinople; and a Frank, Baldwin of Flanders, was named “Emperor of Byzantium.” Now, for the first time, the entire Latin West became a deeply hated enemy in the minds of the Greek people.
Most of the Byzantines regrouped in northwestern Asia Minor, in what they called the Empire of Nicea. They were led by the capable new Emperor Theodore I Laskaris (r. 1204–1222), who was succeeded by his saintly son-in-law, Emperor Saint John III Doukas Vatatzes (r. 1222–1254). By 1261, Emperor Michael VIII Paleologos (r. 1259–1282) was able to regain Constantinople from the Latins. Even though the Byzantine Empire lasted for almost another 200 years, she never fully recovered from the devastation of the Fourth Crusade and the 57 years of Latin rule in her capital city.
The Second Council of Lyons
In the early 1270s the Byzantines were threatened by the Serbs, the Bulgarians, and especially the Latin state of Achaia, in Greece, led by the Sicilian Norman, Charles of Anjou. And the Seljuk Turks, who had occupied most of Asia Minor in the previous two centuries, were an ongoing threat. In response to these pressures, Emperor Michael VIII appealed for support to Pope Gregory X (r. 1271–1276), who opposed Charles’ designs on Constantinople. Michael suggested that in return for military assistance, the Greek Church would accept the authority of the Papacy.
The reunion of the Eastern and Western Churches, therefore, was the major issue discussed at the Second Council of Lyons, which met in 1274 at Pope Gregory’s request. The Greek delegation brought letters accepting Papal authority and various Roman Catholic articles of faith, including the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. It was at this council that for the first time the Western Church proclaimed that the filioque must be accepted as dogma. The Union agreement that restored communion between the two Churches stipulated that the Greeks could retain their liturgical rites and customs. The council also attempted to launch another Crusade to the Holy Land, and it established the practice of all the Roman cardinals meeting in a closed conclave during the entire process of electing a new pope.
When Emperor Michael VIII attempted to impose the so-called Union of Lyons upon the Byzantine Church, it was met with great resistance. When Patriarch Joseph of Constantinople refused to sign the agreement, he was deposed and replaced with John Beccus, who was the head of the minority party in Constantinople that favored the Union. But after Michael died in 1282, Beccus was quickly deposed, Joseph was restored to the patriarchal throne, and the Union of Lyons was officially renounced. Popular opposition to Emperor Michael was so strong that he was denied a church burial.
Remarkably, Michael retained his loyalty to the Union of Lyons even though in 1281 the new Pope Martin IV (r. 1281–1285) excommunicated him as part of the Pope’s plan to assist Charles of Anjou, one of his major supporters, in attacking and conquering the Byzantine Empire. But that plan, and the Council of Lyons’ plan to launch a new Crusade to the Holy Land, both came to naught.
Serbia and Bulgaria
In 1219 Saint Sava of Serbia went to Nicea to obtain the approval and blessing of the Church of Constantinople for an independent national church for the Serbs. Sava himself was consecrated as the first “Archbishop of the Serbian lands” by Manuel, Patriarch of Constantinople, in the presence of Emperor Theodore I Laskaris. On Ascension Day in 1220, at a national assembly of the Serbs held at the Zicha monastery, the newly-consecrated Archbishop Sava crowned his older brother, the grand zhupan Stephan, as the first “King of all the Serbian lands” (he is known as Saint Stephan the First-Crowned). And Archbishop Sava established the headquarters of the new Serbian Church at Zicha.
In 1233, after designating his trusted fellow monk, Father Arsenije (also later recognized as a saint), to be his successor as head of the Serbian Church, and leaving him in charge of the affairs of the Church, Archbishop Sava set off on a long pilgrimage and good will trip all across the Middle East. His mission was to visit holy places, and to meet with fellow Christians and share with them the story of the Serbian people becoming united in Holy Orthodoxy.
Saint Sava first went to Jerusalem, then to Alexandria, and through the Egyptian heartland of the Desert Fathers of long ago. Then he went to Cairo, where his warmth and generosity to the poor and the blind melted the hearts of the Muslim sultan and the Muslim population (while there he also gave large donations to several Coptic churches and institutions). Then he made a pilgrimage to Mount Sinai and the famous Monastery of Saint Katherine.
Then this indefatigable ambassador for Serbian Orthodoxy returned to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, visiting for a second time the illustrious monastery founded by his patron saint, Saint Sabbas the Great. Then he undertook an exceptionally dangerous journey to Baghdad, where he was received respectfully by the Sultan of Iraq, and where he visited the Patriarch of the Assyro-Chaldean (Nestorian) Church. From there he went to Antioch, to visit the patriarch there, and the monastery of Saint Symeon the Stylite. Then he went north to Armenia, to Kurdistan, and then westward across Seljuk-Turkey.
Finally he reached Nicea. While there he persuaded the patriarch and the emperor to recognize the reestablishment of the Patriarchate of the Bulgarian Church. Then he traveled to Trnovo, the Bulgarian capital, where he shared the good news of the official recognition of the restoration of the Bulgarian Patriarchate.
While still in Trnovo, before he could return to his beloved homeland, Saint Sava died-on January 14, 1235. He had given his Church and nation a life of outstanding devotion and leadership, having been sustained by the Lord through many grave trials and difficulties.
His body was taken back to Serbia, and placed at the royal monastery of Mileseva, where his relics were a source of great spiritual strength for the Serbian people. These relics were burned by the Ottoman Turks in 1595.
With the advance of Serbian King Miliutin (r. 1282–1321) and his army across the Sar Mountains into northern Macedonia, which opened the way for Serbian expansion southward down the entire Balkan Peninsula, the Serbian state once and for all shifted its main attention away from Rome and towards Byzantium. In fact, Miliutin is credited with strongly resisting the efforts of Byzantine Emperor Michael Paleologos to impose Roman Catholicism on the Balkans after the Union of Lyons in 1274.
In the 13th century Kieven Rus was overwhelmed by the Mongolian invasion. The Tatar Yoke fell over the land when Khan Batu, a grandson of the Mongolian conqueror Ghengis Khan, led the four hundred thousand horsemen of the Golden Horde into the Russian lands in 1237. The Kievan state collapsed in 1240.
In 1231 Alexander Nevsky (1219–1263) became the prince of Novgorod. This independent, large city-republic in the northwest had its own unique form of republican government, as well as its own particular spiritual, architectural, and iconographic traditions. In 1240, at the age of only 21, Alexander led the Russians in a victorious battle at the Neva River against the Roman Catholic Swedes, who were invading from the northwest at this moment of terrible crisis in Russia. In 1242 he led the successful resistance against another invading force from the West-this time, the Teutonic Knights from modern-day northern Germany, Lithuanian, and Latvia.
After these two brilliant victories, Alexander was pressured by many of his fellow Russian princes to raise up a counterattack against the Tatars. But he wisely understood that the Tatars were far too strong for the Russians to drive out. In addition, he knew that the Westerners were a much greater threat to the integrity of the Orthodox Church than were the Tatars, for the Swedes and the Germans would have imposed their Roman Catholicism upon the Russians, while the Tatars allowed the Church the freedom to carry on basically without restriction, and even with a certain amount of protection.
In 1247, Prince Alexander traveled to Khan Batu’s headquarters at Sarai, in the Volga Delta, humbly seeking mercy for the Russian people from the Tatars. Alexander agreed to pay annual tribute to the Khan in order to have peace for his people. He returned with the title of Grand Prince of Kiev, and the responsibility to assure that all the Russian princes paid the tribute money and remained subservient to the Tatars. Several times his fellow Russians tried to revolt, but each time the uprising was crushed by the Tatars, and each time Prince Alexander traveled to Sarai to beg the Khan that there be no further reprisals.
Alexander died in 1263 at the age of 44. In 1380 he was glorified as a saint by the Russian Church for his personal holiness, his military bravery, and his practical wisdom and diplomacy-all of which he dedicated selflessly to the service of his people as a true Christian statesman.
Saint Alexander Nevsky was ably supported by Metropolitan Cyril of Kiev (r. 1242–1281), a native Russian (nearly all the previous metropolitans of Kiev had been Greek). This cooperation between the grand prince and the metropolitan laid the foundation for the close Church-State relations that existed in Russia until the 20th century.
The 13th century has been called the “greatest of centuries” in the Western Church. The strong Pope Innocent III (r. 1198–1216) succeeded in upholding the prestige and power of the Papacy. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 defined the official doctrines of the Western Church. The remarkable Francis of Assisi (c. 1181–1226) founded his Franciscan Order (OFM) with its first great members Anthony of Padua (c. 1190–1231) and the major theologians Bonaventure (c. 1217–1274) and John Duns Scotus (c. 1265–1308). And in theological studies, it was the golden age of Scholastism.
By the beginning of the 13th century the University of Paris had taken shape; it was given its statutes by the illustrious Pope Innocent III in 1215. It was the first of many universities arising in western Europe, where theology was taught and studied in a scholastic manner as the “Queen of the Sciences.”
In about 1217 the Spaniard Dominic (c. 1174–1221) founded the Dominican Order of Preachers (OP). The great Scholastic theologian Albertus Magnus (c. 1200–1280) and his famous disciple Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274), the greatest of all the Scholastic teachers, were two of its most illustrious early members. Aquinas’s vast, monumental Summa Theologiae dominated official Roman Catholic theology until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The controversial German mystical theologian Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-c. 1328) was also a member of the Dominican Order.
Around 1233 Pope Gregory IX (r. 1227–1241) established the Inquisition to seek out and punish heretics-often using the death penalty-with full-time Papal inquisitors appointed mainly from the recently founded Dominican and Franciscan Orders.
With the support of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Carmelite Order (OCC) took shape at the beginning of the 13th century among a group of Latin-speaking hermits living on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. A number of smaller religious groups also emerged during this century in the Latin Church.
Saint Gregory Palamas
The 14th century was the time of the Palamite controversy in the Eastern Church. St Gregory Palamas (1296–1359), a monk of Mount Athos, was a practitioner of the method of prayer called hesychasm (hesychia means ‘silence’). This method of prayer is centered in the continuous repetition of the name of Jesus, usually in the form of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And a rigorous bodily discipline-emphasizing certain sitting postures and breathing techniques-is employed in order to help unite the mind and heart in God. Through the use of this method of prayer, the hesychast monks claimed to experience genuine communion with God, including sometimes a vision of the Uncreated Light of Divinity such as that seen by Moses on Mount Sinai, and by the Apostles Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor.
In 1330 Barlaam the Calabrian, an Italo-Greek monk raised in an Orthodox family in southern Italy but educated in the Scholastic spirit prevailing in Western Europe at that time, came to Constantinople and accepted a chair in philosophy at the University of Constantinople. Barlaam, along with a number of other Byzantine humanists who were highly influenced by Western philosophical and theological ideas, ridiculed the practice of hesychastic prayer. They denied the possibility for human beings to be in direct, genuine communion with God.
Essence and Energies
In 1337 Gregory Palamas confronted Barlaam’s position and began his defense of hesychasm and the various contemplative practices of the Athonite monks. He confirmed the Orthodox doctrine that man can truly know God and can enter into living communion and relationship with Him through Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Church. He explained that the Essence (or Super-Essence) of God is utterly unknowable and incomprehensible, while at the same time, the actions, operations, or Energies of God, which are also uncreated and fully divine (such as the Divine Light), are communicated to people by divine grace and are open to human knowledge and experience. This is what is meant when Christians are said to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2Pet 1.4).
A local council held in 1341 in Constantinople upheld Gregory’s teaching. Amid ten more years of political turmoil and theological controversy, local councils held in 1347 and in 1351 reaffirmed Gregory’s position as that of the Bible and the whole Tradition of the Orthodox Church. From that time this crucial theological distinction between the divine Super-Essence and the divine Energies became an official part of the doctrine of the Orthodox Church.
Saint Nicholas Cabasilas Writing on the Eucharist
Yet I have not mentioned the greatest thing of all. The Master is present with His servants not only to that extent, but He imparts of His own. He not only gives them a hand, but He has given us His whole Self. Wherefore we are the temple of the living God; our members are Christ’s members, whose Head the Cherubim adore. These very feet, these hands, depend on His Heart.
What then can you meditate upon with greater profit and pleasure than these things? For when we examine them, and these thoughts prevail in the soul, no evil thoughts will gain entry into us. Then it will come about that, as we learn of His benefits, we will increase in longing for our Benefactor. When we thus greatly love Him we become keepers of His commandments and participants in His purpose, for as He says, ‘he who loves Me will keep My commandments’ (Jn 14.15, 21).
Besides, when we recognize how great is our worth, we shall not readily betray it. We will not endure being slaves to a runaway slave when we have found out that a kingdom is ours. We shall not open our mouth in evil speech when we recollect the sacred banquet and that Blood which has reddened our tongue. How can we use our eyes to look on that which is not seemly when we have enjoyed such awesome Mysteries? We shall not move our feet nor stretch forth our hands to any wicked thing if the recollection of these things is active in our souls. Since they our members of Christ, they are sacred-as it were, a vial containing His Blood. Nay, rather, they are wholly clothed with the Savior Himself, not like a garment which we wear or the skin with which we are born, but much more, in that this clothing is far more closely united to those who wear it than their very bones.
(The Life in Christ, Sixth Book, parts 3 and 4)
Saint Gregory Palamas also served the Church as Archbishop of Thessalonica from 1350 until his death in 1359. Just nine years after his repose, he was glorified as a saint of the Church, with the second Sunday in Great Lent being dedicated to him in addition to November 14, the day of his death. This double annual commemoration underlines how important this great Church Father is in the mystical/theological tradition of the Orthodox Church.
Saint Nicholas Cabasilas (c. 1322-c. 1390), an important lay follower of Saint Gregory Palamas, wrote a very popular work called The Life in Christ which emphasizes the centrality of the Mysteries, or Sacraments, of the Church in the spiritual life of the people. For Saint Nicholas, partaking of the Holy Eucharist after proper preparation can be for any Christian-not only the monastics-the most profound moment of mystical communion with the Living Lord. Saint Nicholas also wrote a highly respected commentary on the Divine Liturgy.
The 14th century in Byzantium was also dominated by the remarkable John VI Cantakuzenos (c. 1295–1383). He was a close friend and advisor of Emperor Andronicos Paleologos (r. 1328–1341). In 1347, after a six-year civil war, he agreed to rule as co-emperor with John V Paleologos (r. 1341–1391), who was Andronicos’s son. A capable theologian, John Cantakuzenos called and presided at the Third Palamite Council in 1351.
Cantakuzenos also actively encouraged Byzantine theologians to learn Latin in order to carefully study the Scholastic writings emerging from Western Europe, in anticipation of a non-politically motivated theological dialogue with the Roman Catholics that he hoped would lead to the reunion of the Eastern and Western Churches. He and his group hoped that such reunion would be based on the one Faith of the undivided Church of the first thousand years, rather than on the Eastern Church being pressured into accepting Papal authority in order to receive military help against the enemies of the Byzantine Empire. Sadly, such an unpressured dialogue never took place between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches until the second half of the twentieth century.
Emperor John V Paleologos and Rome
The longest ruling Byzantine emperor of the fourteenth century, John V Paleologos (r. 1341–1391), continued to hope that the West would come to the aid of the Greeks in the face of the ever-increasing expansion of the realm of the Ottoman Turks that arose in northwestern Asia Minor in the 1280s. In 1369 John personally entered into communion with the Roman Church, though without making an attempt at formal Church union. This act also produced no lasting results, either for the ecclesiastical or political destiny of Constantinople.
The Rise of Moscow
The town of Moscow is first mentioned in the historical records in 1147. At first a small trading post, it grew rather quickly due to its strategic location on both east-west and north-south trade routes. After being destroyed by the Tatar invaders in 1238, it was rebuilt and strengthened by Prince Daniel, son of Saint Alexander Nevsky. It grew further under Daniel’s son George, and then under his second son, John Kalita (r. 1328–1341).
For almost 200 more years Moscow was governed by a succession of prudent, shrewd, efficient rulers who were determined to unite the feuding Russian principalities under her authority, with the long-range goal of overthrowing the Tatar yoke. These rulers offered refuge to people fleeing from the Tatar domains to the south, and they learned how to deal skillfully with the Tatar overlords.
With Kievan Rus’ almost entirely devastated by the Tatars, and with the gradual strengthening and expansion of the Muscovite state, it was perhaps inevitable that eventually the Church would move her headquarters from Kiev to Moscow. This happened in 1325 under St Metropolitan Peter (r. 1281–1326), who immediately began construction of the magnificent Cathedral of the Dormition (Uspenski Sobor) in the Kremlin in Moscow. This church remains to this day the main cathedral for the entire Russian Orthodox Church.
Saint Sergius of Radonezh
The great Saint Sergius was born in 1314 in the northern city of Rostov the Great. His godly parents, Kirill and Mary, were of aristocratic background. His father was a confidant of the prince of Rostov, with whom he traveled when the prince negotiated with the Tatar Golden Horde. In 1328, as Prince John Kalita of Moscow began the process of annexing Rostov, Sergius’s family moved much closer to Moscow, to the town of Radonezh.
Sergius showed a calling to the ascetic, spiritual life from his earliest days. After his parents entered monasticism later in life and died shortly thereafter-they are venerated as Saints Kirill and Mary in the Russian Church-he and his older brother Stephen selected an isolated spot in the dense forest near Radonezh, where they began a life of seclusion and prayer. After a year or two, Stephen returned to “civilization” due to the rigors of life in the wilderness, while Sergius stayed on alone in his forest paradise.
After a few more years, several others joined Sergius in the little monastic community that he dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The number of monks stayed at around twelve for several more years, until in 1347 a rich and famous abbot from Smolensk named Simon came and asked to be received into the community as a simple monk. His gift of money was used to build a new church.
At this point many more came to join the community, and Sergius, very reluctantly, accepted to be officially named the abbot. Yet even after being made abbot, he still continued to serve his monks by chopping wood, drawing water, and making clothes for them, allowing them to copy manuscripts and paint icons. He was a strict ascetic, a practitioner of silent prayer, and a mystic graced with divine visions and living communion with God.
In 1354 word came from the hesychastic Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos of Constantinople that the community should become organized as a cenobitic (communal) monastery. As the Russian Church was still part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the 14th century, Saint Sergius felt obliged to agree to this change, which was also urged upon him by Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow (r. 1353–1378).
Over the years the monastery continued to grow. Eventually it became recognized as the center of Russian monasticism. And as would happen many times as monastics formed communities further and further into the wilderness to the north and east, settlers came to live around the monastery, and a sizable town developed.
Saint Sergius became so well known as a holy, humble man of God that he was often consulted by Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow and other prominent leaders of the country. One of these, Saint Dimitri Donskoi, Grand Prince of Moscow (r. 1360–1389), rebuilt the walls of Moscow in defiance of the Tatar overlords. When the Tatars, in response, amassed a huge military force to march towards Moscow, Dimitri rallied nearly all the Russian princes to join him in raising a large number of warriors to defend their lands.
At the moment of final decision, Grand Prince Dimitri consulted Saint Sergius, who advised him to advance towards the Tatars, to meet them in battle across the Don River in the Tatars’ heartland in the open steppes. The forces met at the Battle of Kulikovo Pole, on September 8, 1380. Miraculously, the outnumbered Russian forces prevailed. This victory marked the beginning of the end of the Tatar overlordship, even though the Russians had to continue paying tribute to them until 1480.
The legacy of Saint Sergius to Russia and the Orthodox Church is immeasurable. His direct disciples founded nearly thirty monastic centers in northern Russia around which lands were settled and developed. Between 1400 and 1600, some 250 monasteries were established either through the direct or indirect inspiration of Saint Sergius. The mystical spiritual life of the Russian Church, as well as the interrelation between the Church and the socio-political life of the Russian nation in later times, were rooted in the person and work of the illustrious and exceptionally beloved Saint Sergius of Radonezh.
Saint Stephen of Perm
A contemporary and friend of Saint Sergius, Saint Stephen of Perm (1340–1396), was a learned bishop who undertook missionary work among the Zyrian tribes living just west of the Ural Mountains. Saint Stephen created an alphabet for the Zyrian language, and translated numerous Church writings into this language. Thus he continued the Byzantine tradition of fostering Church life in the vernacular in new regions, and he laid the spiritual foundations for the future missionary work of the Russian Church among the Siberian tribes, and later in China, Japan, and Alaska.
Saint Andrei Rublev
Saint Andrei Rublev (d.c. 1430), the greatest Russian iconographer and perhaps the greatest iconographer in Orthodox history, did his marvelous work at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th centuries. He was a monk of the Holy Trinity Monastery founded by Saint Sergius of Radonezh. Much influenced by the illustrious Byzantine iconographer Theophanes the Greek, Saint Andrei worked together with his friend Daniel the Black.
Rublev’s most famous work is the icon of the Holy Trinity, painted for the iconostasis of the new church built at his monastery. This profoundly moving icon depicts, in a perfect harmony of colors and lines, the Three Angels who visited Abraham and Sarah (Gen 18). During this same period there was a renaissance of Church art in the Byzantine Empire, with many famous frescoes and mosaics coming from this time.
Under Tsar Stephen Dushan (r. 1331–1355), who grew up in Constantinople until the age of 13, the Serbian kingdom reached its greatest heights, encompassing nearly the entire Balkan Peninsula. In 1345, with the approval of the archbishop of Ochrid, the Patriarch of Bulgaria, and representatives of Mount Athos, Dushan raised the Serbian archbishop to the rank of patriarch, with his headquarters at Pec. He took the title “Patriarch of the Serbs and the Greeks.”
On Easter Sunday of the next year, at a national assembly held at Skopjle, Dushan was crowned by the new patriarch as emperor (tsar). Tsar Stephen saw himself as the legitimate, natural successor to the Byzantine emperor, since that empire had become so weak, and his had become so strong. At the time of his death, he was actually preparing to launch an attack against the imperial City.
This unilateral double “presumption” by the Serbs naturally scandalized the Byzantines, who excommunicated the Serbian tsar and his religious leaders. But by 1370, with the Serbian Empire in serious decline after the death of Tsar Stephen Dushan in 1355, the excommunications were lifted, and in 1375 the Serbian patriarchate was recognized by Constantinople.
With their defeat at the momentous Battle of Kosovo on June 15, 1389, despite the heroic leadership of Saint Lazor, their prince, the Serbs fell under the yoke of the Ottoman Turks. On the eve of the great battle, Saint Lazor led his troops in receiving the Holy Eucharist, in a Liturgy during which they all dedicated themselves to die as martyrs in defense of their Church and their nation at the hands of the much more numerous Ottomans. Serbia was then completely integrated into the Ottoman realm. The Serbs did not regain their independence until 1830.
The Second Bulgarian Empire, which had begun in 1187 with the successful overthrow of Byzantine rule by the brothers Peter and Asen, came to an end in 1330 when the Serbs absorbed Bulgaria into her rising Empire. Still, during most of the rest of the 14th century, the Bulgarians maintained a rich cultural and religious life. The Bulgarian monastery of Zoographos on Mount Athos was established in this century.
Patriarch Euthymios (r. 1375–1393), the last Bulgarian patriarch before the Ottoman conquest ended the Bulgarian patriarchate for the second time, ardently promoted hesychastic mystical prayer. He also initiated and led a great pan-Slavic literary revival, based on a return to the original Greek sources and to the original translation work of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
On July 17, 1393, the Bulgarians were vanquished in battle by the Ottoman Turks. Bulgaria, like Serbia, became completely integrated into the Ottoman realm. The Bulgarians did not regain their independence until the early 20th century.
Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos of Constantinople (r. 1353–1354 and 1364–1376) consolidated the adoption by his Church of the monastic typikon of the Saint Sabbas Monastery in the Holy Land. This helped stabilize the Church’s worship patterns to such an extent that the order of worship in the Church in the 14th century was virtually the same as it is today.
In his Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, Saint Nicholas Cabasilas gave a symbolical interpretation of the liturgy that is still applicable today. The liturgical commentaries of Saint Symeon of Thessalonica (d. 1429), which also provide detailed information about Church worship, are also still relevant.
Saint Symeon’s writings reveal that at this time in the marriage service, the Holy Eucharist was still being given to the bride and groom if they were Orthodox Christians, and the blessed “common cup” was given only to those who were not allowed to receive Holy Communion in the Church. And for the first time, the prothesis (proskomedia), as a separate rite preceding the liturgy of the Word, appeared in the liturgical books.
The West in the 14th century saw the “Babylonian Captivity” of the Papacy in Avignon, France (1309–1377), when the Papacy became virtually subject to the kings of France. Then, in the very next year after the return of the Papacy to Rome, the “Great Papal Schism” began, with two rivals claiming to be the legitimate Pope. And from 1409 to 1414 there were three rivals all claiming to be the true Pope. These humiliating developments helped lead to the rise of the Conciliar Movement, which became a powerful force in the Western Church in the next century.
Catherine of Sienna (c. 1347–1380), a remarkable Italian mystic, theologian, and advisor to Pope Gregory XI (r. 1370–1378), lived in the 14th century, as did John Wycliffe (c. 1330–1384), the forerunner of the Protestant Reformation in England. Other important mystical writers of this century were Walter Hilton (c. 1343–1396), Julian of Norwich (c. 1342-after 1416), and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, all of whom were English.
In Holland, Geert Groote (1340–1384) founded the popular and influential group of “secular” (i.e., non-monastic) priests and laity called the Brethren of the Common Life. This movement was part of a general revival and deepening of the spiritual life called the Devotio Moderna (Modern Devotion). The Dutch mystical writer Jan van Ruysbroeck (1293–1381) was probably the greatest representative of this movement in the 14th century. Emphasizing as it did the importance of Christian community, heartfelt devotion to Christ, and theological writing in the vernacular, as well as criticizing various abuses in the Church life of the time, this movement can be seen as a precursor to the Protestant Reformation.
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) completed his timeless masterpiece The Divine Comedy in the last years of his life. Also in the early part of the 14th century, the famous painter Giotto (c. 1267–1337) began the revolutionary devolvement of religious art in the West away from traditional Byzantine iconographic patterns and towards a more humanistic, naturalistic realism that remained prominent in Western religious art until the 20th century.
The Great Schism in the Papacy, and the Conciliar Movement
The West in the early decades of the 15th century was in turmoil over the relationship between the Papacy and Church councils. Some held that the Papacy was supreme. Others held that the authority of the Church councils supersedes that of the Pope of Rome.
We have already mentioned the beginning of the Papal Schism in 1378, with two men claiming to be the legitimate Pope. In 1409, in order the settle the issue, the Council of Pisa met. This council deposed the two papal claimants and elected a new man, Alexander V, to be the true Pope. However, the two claimants, Gregory XII and Benedict XIII, refused to abandon their claims, so now there were three men claiming to be the real Pope.
This state of affairs convinced the supporters of the Conciliar Movement all the more that another council had to be called to bring an end to this confusion and furor surrounding the Papacy. As a result, in 1414 the Council of Constance met, which would become the pinnacle of the Conciliar Movement. This council, held in southern Germany, deposed all three claimants and then elected Martin V (r. 1417–1431) to be the one and only Pope.
This council, the 16th in the listing of ecumenical councils of the Roman Church, also asserted that even the Pope is to be subject to the dictates of an ecumenical council:
This Ecumenical Council has received immediate authority from our Lord Jesus Christ; and every member of the Church, not excepting the Pope, must obey the Council in all matters pertaining to faith, the putting down of schism, and ecclesiastical reform. If, contrary to this canon, the Pope or anyone else refuses to receive this, or any other Ecumenical Council, he shall be sentenced to penance, and when necessary even be visited with legal punishment.
And to further assert the authority of the council over that of the Papacy, the Council of Constance mandated that future councils would be held according to a regular schedule, rather than relying on the good will of the Pope to call one whenever he so desired.
In 1431, shortly before he died, Pope Martin V called a council to meet in Basel, Switzerland, according to the timetable set by the Council of Constance. But his successor, Pope Eugenius IV (r. 1431–1447), was determined to resist the authority of this council and to reassert Papal supremacy in the Roman Church.
The Council of Florence
In 1438, as the Council of Basle continued to meet, the Byzantine Emperor John VIII (r. 1425–1448) made a fervent appeal to the West for military aid against the Ottoman Turks, who by now had reduced the size of the Byzantine Empire to little more than the city of Constantinople. Independently, both the Council of Basle and Pope Eugenius offered to pay for the Greeks to come and negotiate the basis for a restoration of communion between the Eastern Churches and the Church of Rome, in return for military aid.
Understandably, Emperor John VIII and Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople were much more accustomed to dealing directly with the Bishop of Old Rome rather than with a council-especially a council that the Pope was resisting! So, very fatefully, they decided to meet with the Pope instead of with the Council of Basle. This decision in itself gave a great boost to the prestige and authority of the Papacy over against the Conciliar Movement.
Pope Eugenius, in order to directly assert his authority over the Council of Basle, summoned it to Ferrara in Italy, which also made it easier for the Greeks to get there. Most of the bishops attending in Basle refused to obey the summons of the Pope. Undeterred, he went on with his small council in Ferrara, and received there the Greek delegation of about 700 people. Early in 1439, this council was moved to Florence, since the merchants there offered to pay its expenses.
The Greek delegation was strongly pressured by both the Emperor and the Patriarch to accede to Rome’s terms for reunion, whatever they might be. So, after long and sometimes bitter debating, the Greeks finally agreed to accept:
a strong declaration of the Pope as “the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church, the father and teacher of all Christians”;
a declaration that the filioque, “this truth of faith, must be believed and received by all”-and specifically, that the Holy Spirit “proceeds eternally” from both the Father and the Son “as from one principle”;
a statement of the medieval Western concept of Purgatory, including the assertion that the souls of unbaptized infants “go down immediately to hell to be punished”;
the allowance for either unleavened bread (azymes; the Latin custom) or leavened bread (the Orthodox custom) to be used in the Eucharist.
Under severe pressure from the Emperor and the Patriarch, every bishop in the Greek delegation signed this so-called “Decree for the Greeks” promulgated at the Council of Florence-all except Saint Mark, Bishop of Ephesus. When told that Mark had refused to sign, Pope Eugenius is reputed to have said, “Then we have accomplished nothing.” For he knew that Mark’s resistance to the forced union would be the focal point for its eventual rejection by nearly the entire Orthodox world. And indeed, for his courageous resistance to this unjust union, and for his eloquent defense of Orthodoxy over against the errors of Latin Scholastic theology-especially their positions on the filioque and purgatory-he is popularly venerated in the Orthodox Church as one of the Three Pillars of Orthodoxy, along with Saint Photios the Great and Saint Gregory Palamas, who also fought valiantly against Latin aberrations of the Faith.
When the Greek Metropolitan Isidore of Kiev and All Russia, one of the major architects of the Union of Florence, traveled to Moscow to try to impose the Union there, he was run out of the city, barely escaping with his life. Returning to the West, he was eventually made a cardinal in the Roman Church.
Before Saint Mark of Ephesus died in 1444, he entrusted the leadership of the anti-Union party in Constantinople to a prominent, scholarly monk named George Scholarios, who would become Patriarch Gennadios, the first patriarch of Constantinople under the Ottoman Turks. He is remembered in the Orthodox Church as St Gennadios, Patriarch of Constantinople (Feastday, August 31).
The Union of Florence was not publicly proclaimed in the Eastern Church until December 12, 1452, in the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, as the Turks were amassing their forces to begin their siege of the city. Even at that most desperate moment, there was so much popular resistance to the Union that most of the people stood behind George Scholarios, who publicly denounced the so-called “Union Liturgy” held that day. The duke Notaras echoed the opinion of many when he cried out, “We would prefer to see the Turkish turban in our City than the Latin tiara.”
The Fall of Byzantium
On мая 29, 1453, the Ottoman Turks, under their sultan Mohammed II (or Mehmet; r. 1451–1481), captured the city of Constantinople after a furious siege of six weeks. Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque, and the city eventually became known as Istanbul. This marked the tragic end of the Roman/Byzantine Empire-an empire that had lasted almost 1500 years.
The Ottomans went on to completely subjugate Serbia in 1459, incorporating it directly into their realm. The same happened with Greece in 1459–1460, and Bosnia in 1463. Moldavia managed to resist Ottoman encroachment during the long and illustrious rule of Stephen the Great (r. 1457–1504), but after his death his realm, and the other &rldquo;Transdanubian Provinces” of Wallachia and Transylvania (regions in modern-day Romania), all became vassal states of the Turks. And Syria, Palestine, and Egypt were taken by the Ottomans from the decaying Arabian Mamluk Dynasty by 1520. From then on, for nearly 400 years the Ottoman Turks would hold sway over the Orthodox Christians in almost all the lands of the former East Roman (Byzantine) Empire.
The Establishment of the Rum Milet
In ruling these vast formerly Christian regions, the Ottomans basically followed the pattern of the Arabs after they conquered so many Christian lands beginning in the decade of the 630s. This pattern was to allow the Christians, as a tolerated minority, to maintain their basic way of life under the leadership of their patriarch, who governed the Christians in his territory as an ethnarch-that is, as ruler of the ethnic minority, or in other words, as ruler of “a nation within a nation.”
Under the Ottomans, the Patriarch of Constantinople quite naturally was made the ethnarch over all the Christians in the realm. This “nation within a nation” was called the Rum milet, the Roman people-since the Turks fully understood that the Byzantines were the perpetuators of the Roman Empire and hence were still Romans, as indeed they still called themselves.
The Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror (r. 1451–1481) was not bent on destroying the very advanced civilization that he had conquered. Rather, he wanted to build upon it, so that his new empire would be the grandest in the world. Hence, he wanted to make sure that the Christians in his realm would contribute positively to the well-being of the Empire.
So concerned was he to assure the continued peaceful existence of the Christians in his newly conquered territory that he personally selected George Scholarios, the head of the anti-Union party in Constantinople, to be the new patriarch (the former one had fled to Italy in 1451). But in the days following the fall of the city, Scholarios disappeared. Agents were sent out, and he was found as a slave in the hands of a rich Turkish merchant in Adrianopolis, in nearby Thrace.
Scholarios was brought back to Constantinople, where the Sultan personally invested him with the patriarchal office on the Day of Theophany, January 6, 1454. According to Sir Steven Runciman, “The Sultan handed him the insignia of his office, the robes, the pastoral staff, and the pectoral cross, a new one made of silver-gilt. As he invested the Patriarch, he uttered the formula: ‘Be Patriarch, with good fortune, and be assured of our friendship, keeping all the privileges that the Patriarchs before you enjoyed.’” Patriarch Gennadios also received a magnificent horse and a handsome gift of gold from the Sultan.
The Patriarchal law-courts alone had penal jurisdiction over the clergy, and over the laity they had full jurisdiction in all affairs which had a religious connotation, such as marriages, divorces, guardianship of minors, and last wills and testaments. If both disputants were Orthodox, the Patriarchal courts had the right to try any commercial/civil case.
A greatly enlarged Church bureaucracy gradually developed to deal with the increased responsibilities of the Patriarch-Ethnarch, especially in the realm of legal matters. Many lay financiers and lay judges were eventually brought into this growing ecclesiastical administration.
The Sultan expected the Patriarch-Ethnarch to make sure that the Christians of the realm paid their taxes and did not revolt. As long as the Christians were cooperative, the Muslims allowed them freedom of worship, basically respecting them as “People of the Book.”
At this point the bishops, and clergy generally, began to dress publicly like Turkish judges, with the riasson and the cylindrical hat. And in church the bishops adopted the vesting and insignia of the Byzantine rulers, such as the mitre, sakkos, and long hair.
However, the Christians were still never allowed to forget that they were a captive people. They could only build new churches or repair old ones with special permission, which was usually denied. They could make no public display of their Faith-no ringing of church bells, no outdoor processions or services, no attempting to share their Faith with non-Christians. They had to wear a distinctive costume, and except for the Patriarch they were forbidden from riding on horseback. And worst of all, they had to endure the seizure of their young sons to be enrolled in the elite Janissary regiment in the Ottoman military, which also meant being forced to accept Islam and live a life of celibacy.
The Rise of the Muscovite State
As the Byzantine Empire was falling to the Ottoman Turks, the seeds of the coming Russian Empire were taking root in Moscow. Saint Dimitry Donskoi was succeeded as Grand Prince of Moscow by three outstanding leaders in the 15th century: Basil I (or Vasili; r. 1389–1425), Basil II (r. 1425–1462), and Ivan III (r. 1462–1505).
These rulers were convinced that God had chosen them to lead the Russians in overthrowing the Tatar yoke, and in defending Orthodoxy. They moved cautiously and deliberately to consolidate and expand the power of the Muscovite state. Chiefly through diplomatic negotiations, leading to purchases and annexations, they gradually acquired authority over the neighboring towns and provinces. They, and probably the majority of the people, understood that a strong centralized political state was necessary to unite all the Russians in their resistance to the Tatars, and to protect the land from other enemies to the west.
In 1472 Grand Prince Ivan III married Sophia Paleologa, the niece of Emperor Constantine XI, the last of the Byzantine emperors. Now Ivan was directly connected with the last imperial dynasty of New Rome. He took as his coat of arms the Byzantine two-headed eagle.
In 1479 Ivan succeeded in incorporating the greatly important city-state of Novgorod near the Baltic Sea into the Muscovite state. The unification of the central and northern principalities was given a great boost by this annexation, but it came at a high price. For the Muscovites, suspicious of Novgorod’s active trading relations with Western Europe, closed down the city-state’s connections with the West. As Nicolas Zernov explains in The Russians and Their Church, “The door into Europe was shut, foreign trade came to a standstill, and the spirit of freedom and enterprise so prominently displayed by the people of Novgorod was extinguished.”
In 1480, the very next year, Ivan felt Russia was strong enough to stop paying the annual tribute money to the Tatars. In 1498, he was crowned by Metropolitan Simon of Moscow as “Tsar [Russian for ‘caesar’], Grand Prince and Autocrat of All the Russias.” The metropolitan charged him “to care for all souls and for all Orthodox Christendom.”
By now, all the elements were essentially in place for the ideology of Moscow as the “Third Rome.”
The Rise of the Possessors and the Non-Possessors
In 15th-century Russia, two quite different approaches to the monastic life, and to the relationship between the Church and the State, gradually took shape. The leaders of the two “parties”-both of whom shared the legacy of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, and both of whom are canonized saints of the Church-were Nil Sorsky (1433–1508) and Joseph of Volotsk (1439–1515).
Saint Nil (Nilus) led the party of the “Non-Possessors.” The monastics of this persuasion mostly lived beyond the Volga River, thus they were sometimes called the “Transvolgans.” Preferring the semi-eremitic life in small sketes, the Non-Possessors believed that monasteries should not own and rule over large estates. They held that the Church should be free from the direct influence and control of the State, and strongly opposed the right of the State to execute heretics. They defended poverty as the chief virtue, with humility and spiritual freedom pervading the contemplative, silent, and reclusive life of the monks. They were the inheritors of the mystical, hesychastic, and kenotic traditions of Saint Sergius and the anchorites of the Kievan Caves Monastery.
The “Possessors” were led by Saint Joseph. Hence, they were sometimes called the Josephites. Preferring large cenobitic monasteries, they believed that it was appropriate for monasteries to own large estates, including serfs, as this would provide income for building and maintaining their large establishments, as well as providing income to distribute to the poor. They held that the Church and State should be in close relationship, and that the Church should serve the social and political needs of the emerging Russian nation. They endorsed the right of the State to execute heretics. They emphasized a life of rigorous ascetic discipline and active social service among the people, which would be rooted in the strict observance of liturgical rituals.
In most of these tendencies the Possessors also followed the tradition of Saint Sergius. Both Saint Sergius and Metropolitan Alexis of Moscow had played a prominent role in Russian social and political life of the previous century-as seen especially in the vision and work of St Theodosius of the Kievan Caves Monastery.
Although the spirit of the Non-Possessors was never totally eliminated from the life of the Russian people, it was the way of the Possessors which would dominate Russian ecclesiastical and national development until the early 19th century.
Other Developments in the West
Besides the Conciliar Movement, other movements grew among various elements of the population in Western Europe, many of which contributed in one way or another to the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation early in the following century. One particularly noteworthy “proto-Reformer” was the Bohemian (Czech) churchman and patriot, Jan Hus (c. 1372–1415). Greatly influenced by the writings of the Englishman John Wycliffe (d. 1384), he preached in the Czech language, including making vitriolic denunciations of the widespread immorality of the clergy. He urged that the liturgy be celebrated in the vernacular languages and that the cup no longer be withheld from the laity in the Eucharist. He also advocated a conciliar view of Church government. For these reasons (all of which Orthodox Christians would affirm), and because he was perceived as a political threat, he was burned at the stake by the Council of Constance on July 6, 1415.
The Brethren of the Common Life continued to flourish, especially in providing free education in many parts of the Netherlands and Germany. Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471), author of The Imitation of Christ, a devotional book immensely popular to this day, was one of its more famous members.
In the 15th century the Renaissance was in full swing in Western Europe, with its center at Florence, where the arts were greatly encouraged through the lavish patronage of the famous Medici family. The paintings of Fra Angelico (c. 1395–1455) of Florence, a devout Dominican monk, reveal the growing extent to which Western religious art was abandoning traditional iconographic styles for much more humanistic portrayals. The seminal work of the celebrated sculptor Donatello (c. 1385–1466) greatly promoted sculpture (which by its three-dimensional nature is more humanistic than iconography) as a vehicle for religious art.
The Florentine Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498) was a particularly fiery preacher in the Dominican monastic order. Claiming to have received special revelations from God, he prophesied an impending divine chastisement of the morally corrupt church and society. For his reforming efforts he was executed on charges of schism and heresy in 1498.
The illustrious Italian artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) flourished in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
The Victory of the Possessors
In Russia in the 16th century, the “Third Rome” theory became a political reality. In 1511, only one year after Moscow’s annexation of the important northwestern city of Pskov, the elderly, scholarly monk Philotheus of Pskov informed the Muscovite Tsar Basil III (r. 1505–1533) of his vision, based on the book of Daniel, that the Russian tsardom was to be the final earthly reign of God’s People.
According to Philotheus, the first Rome had fallen through heresy, and the second Rome, Constantinople, had fallen through sin. The third Rome, Moscow, was standing. And according to his interpretation of Daniel 2.44, it was the rising Muscovite tsardom that would be the kingdom that the “God of Heaven” was raising up which “shall never be destroyed . . . and it will stand forever.” Hence, he proclaimed with prophetic confidence that there would never be a fourth Rome.
The Monk Philotheus on Moscow as the Third Rome
It is through the supreme, all-powerful and all-supporting right hand of God that emperors reign .?.?. and It has raised thee, most Serene and Supreme Sovereign and Grand Prince, Orthodox Christian Tsar and Lord of all, who art the holder of the dominions of the holy thrones of God, of the sacred, universal and apostolic Churches of the most holy Mother of God .?.?. instead of Rome and Constantinople.?.?.?. Now there shines through the universe, like the sun in heaven, the Third Rome, of thy sovereign Empire and of the holy synodal apostolic Church, which is in the Orthodox Christian Faith.?.?.?. Observe and see to it, most pious Tsar, that all the Christian empires unite with thine own. For two Romes have fallen, but the third stands, and a fourth there will not be; for thy Christian Tsardom will not pass to any other, according to the mighty word of God.
Such a dramatic formulation of this powerful political/religious ideology, articulated by a devout monk of the Church, indicates to what extent the way was prepared for the development of an intimate alliance between Church and State in the Russian Empire.
The strengthening of this alliance was greatly hastened beginning in 1521, when Tsar Basil III presented the Church with a difficult dilemma. After many years of marriage, Basil’s wife had not given him any children. So he appealed to the Church for a divorce, in order to marry another who would presumably provide an heir to assure a peaceful succession to the throne. But in the Russian Church, barrenness was not a legitimate reason for divorce. Holding fast to the traditions, Metropolitan Varlaam of Moscow refused to allow the tsar to get divorced and remarried.
However, some in the Church, mostly following the Possessor philosophy of close relations between Church and State, felt that in this specific, extraordinary case, the strictness of the canons could be modified through pastoral economia, and an exception could be made, in the interest of ensuring that there would be a peaceful succession to the throne after Tsar Basil III’s death. One of those who openly promoted this view was the monk Daniel, a leading Josephite.
In 1522, Metropolitan Varlaam was forcibly retired to a monastery, and Daniel was made the Metropolitan of Moscow. In the next year, he celebrated the wedding of Tsar Basil III to Yelena Glinskaya. Seven years later, in 1530, the future tsar Ivan IV, “the Terrible,” was born of this marriage.
Once the Possessors came to political favor and power, they strove to suppress the Non-Possessors. For example, Saint Maxim the Greek (d. 1556), a skilled librarian from Mount Athos who had been invited by Tsar Basil III to come to Russia to help with translation and revision of the service books, was placed in confinement for twenty years for his support of the Non-Possessor position.
As Pierre Kovalevsky writes in Saint Sergius and Russian Spirituality, “The sketes beyond the Volga were closed, and the nationalist tendency definitely took the upper hand over the contemplatives. The idea of Russia as a ‘Third Rome,’ the protector of Eastern Christians, degenerated very quickly into Moscow as the ‘Third Rome,’ which was the only one to profess [true] Orthodoxy, and which considered all other people to be tainted with heresy.”
Ivan the Terrible
Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible (r. 1533–1584) established his reign on the foundation of the “Third Rome” ideology. He was crowned tsar in January of 1547. One month later he married Anastasia Romanova. As long as she lived, she had a salutary influence upon her impetuous, emotionally unstable husband. She bore him six children, but only two of them survived to adulthood.
Later in 1547, a huge fire in Moscow destroyed much of the city. To help in the rebuilding process, Ivan invited numerous technicians, printers, and physicians from the West. In 1550 a National Assembly was called, which approved a new legal code, allowing for extensive local self-government.
Three major local Church councils were held between 1547 and 1551. At the first two, forty-five saints from throughout Russia were glorified. And at the third one, known as the Council of One Hundred Chapters (Stoglav), many necessary reforms were instituted. This council proclaimed the ritual practices of the Russian Church to be superior to those of the other Orthodox Churches.
In 1552, Tsar Ivan conquered the Tatar Khannate of Kazan. In celebration of this victory, the great church on Red Square in Moscow, dedicated to Saint Basil the Blessed Fool for Christ, was built, with Oriental influence in its architecture. It became a national symbol of Russia.
In 1555 the missionary archdiocese of Kazan was established. According to Dimitry Pospielovsky in The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia, “Ivan’s missionary guidelines for the conquered Tatar kingdoms of Kazan and Astrakhan stipulated that conversions were to be only voluntary, by education and conviction, not by coercion.” Saint Gury (or Gurias; d. 1563), the bishop of Kazan, was influential in missionary outreach.
In these years Ivan accepted the guidance of a humble, country parish priest named Father Sylvester, who composed a tremendously popular practical guidebook for Christian family life called Domostroi (The Home-Builder).
Tragically, these “thirteen good years” came to an end in 1560. Ominously, one year before, having fallen under the influence of his courtiers who resented the high standing held by Father Sylvester, the simple country priest, Ivan ordered him to leave Moscow. The next year, on August 7, 1560, his beloved young wife suddenly died. He suspected that she had been poisoned.
Thereafter Ivan fell increasingly back to certain cruel tendencies of his youth. According to Nicolas Zernov, “No longer checked by her good influence, he plunged again into the dark passions and lusts of his early years. Ivan removed, one after another, by execution or exile, his gifted civil and military collaborators and surrounded himself with a crowd of base and unscrupulous men who drove him further along the road of moral disintegration.”
In 1563, Saint Metropolitan Makary (r. 1542–1563) died. He had written twelve volumes called Monthly Readings, a vast collection of commentaries on the Bible, the lives of the saints, sermons, and other material for spiritual reading. He also had had a calming influence on Tsar Ivan. But when he died, according to Pospielovsky, “Ivan’s paranoia lost all restraints.” Then, as Zernov relates, “Haunted by fear and suspicion, he embarked in 1564 on a social revolution which in many ways resembled the totalitarianism of the twentieth century.”
Tsar Ivan ruthlessly persecuted his enemies as he subjected both the Church and the State to his direct, personal control. Among his many victims was Saint Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow (r. 1565–1568), who, after numerous unfruitful private consultations with Ivan, dared to deny Holy Communion to the bloodthirsty tsar, openly rebuking him for his persecution of his own innocent people. The tsar had Philip imprisoned, and later strangled.
The last years of Ivan’s reign were filled with unrelieved misery as he continued to oppress and persecute all those he imagined were his enemies among his own people. After marrying for a fifth time, and after killing his son and heir, Ivan V, in a fit of rage, he finally died, in 1584.
Ivan IV was succeeded by his younger son, Theodore (r. 1584–1598), a man with limited mental capacities. But his people loved him for his deep, simple faith and gentle disposition that were like a balm to the nation after the turmoil and terror of his father’s reign. Early on many mornings the people of Moscow would be roused by hearing their tsar ringing the bells of the Kremlin cathedral.
In 1587 the Patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremias II (r. 1572–1579, 1580–1584, 1585–1595), came to Moscow in quest of aid for his Church suffering under the yoke of the Ottoman Turks. Seeing this as their opportunity for Moscow to be made a patriarchate, the Russians invited Jeremias to be their patriarch. Apparently he considered the offer for some time, but in January of 1589, in the midst of his second long winter in Moscow, he recognized Job, the Metropolitan of Moscow, as the first Patriarch of All Russia.
The installation document of the new patriarch repeated almost verbatim the prophecy of Philotheus of Pskov about Moscow as the “Third Rome.” Thus the theory, which had become practice under Basil III, was now officially affirmed by the highest ranking prelate in the Orthodox Church.
In 1593 the Russian Church received approval of its new status as a patriarchate from the patriarchs of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch. The Russians accepted their new patriarchate being placed fifth in honor after the four ancient Orthodox patriarchates.
The Union of Brest-Litovsk
Ever since 1386, the lands that would become modern Ukraine were part of the Roman Catholic kingdom of Poland and Lithuania. Subject to over two centuries of Roman Catholic influence and manipulation, the Orthodox Church in this region gradually grew weaker. The new ruler of Poland-Lithuania, the ardently Roman Catholic King Sigismund III Vasa (r. 1587–1632), ordered the Jesuits to increase their propagandizing efforts among the Orthodox in this region, which was known in Western Europe as Ruthenia.
In 1589 Patriarch Jeremias II of Constantinople, on his return home from Moscow, tried to bring order and reform to the Church there, but some of the bishops resented his interference. Meanwhile, the Poles were promising the Orthodox bishops privileges equal to those of the Polish bishops, including being seated in the Polish Senate, if they would acknowledge the supremacy of the Roman Papacy.
In 1596, at the Council of Brest-Litovsk, nine of the eleven Ruthenian Orthodox bishops formally accepted union with the Roman Church, with the agreement that the Orthodox would be allowed to maintain all their liturgical rites and customs. This arrangement, built upon the decisions of the Council of Florence in 1439, was contemptuously rejected by many of the Orthodox faithful.
The Orthodox who resisted the forced imposition of this “Unia” arrangement were given much support in their struggle by the Cossack brotherhoods-groups of vigilantes and frontiersmen which formed in defiance of the Polish overlordship of the Ukraine.
In 1619 Patriarch Theophanes of Jerusalem secretly consecrated seven Orthodox bishops in Kiev, in defiance of the Unia. This enabled the Orthodox to reestablish some semblance of regular Church life, especially in eastern Ukraine. But the Unia would continue to hold sway in western Ukraine, and eventually in the traditionally Orthodox lands that would be absorbed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Uniate Christians were steadily subjected to Latinizing influence. The hierarchical, clerical, and academic leadership of their Church was dominated by the discipline and doctrine of the Roman Papacy.
The Protestant Reformation
As the culmination of centuries of calls for reform of various abuses within the Roman Church, the Protestant Reformation exploded across western and central Europe in the decade of the 1520s. Martin Luther (1483–1546), an Augustinian monk, precipitated the Reformation when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenburg, in the German province of Saxony, in 1517. This document was a list of demands for reform, mostly concerning the sale of indulgences (certificates granting full or partial remission of punishment for sins which have already been forgiven). At that point Luther did not envision breaking away from the Roman Church, but when he was officially excommunicated by the Papacy on January 3, 1521, the break became final.
Fueled by anti-Papal, nationalistic feelings among princes and commoners that were fanned by several provocative treatises written by Luther in 1520, in which he attacked Papal supremacy, clerical celibacy, and many other Latin doctrines and practices, the Reformation spread with remarkable speed. John Calvin (1509–1564) of France, Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) of Switzerland, and Menno Simons (1496–1561) of Holland led the Reformation movement on the European continent. King Henry VIII of England (r. 1509–1547), after a long struggle with the Papacy over his request for a divorce from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, on the grounds of childlessness, made himself head of the Church in England-which became known as the Church of England, or the Anglican Church-by the Act of Supremacy in 1534. And John Knox (c. 1517–1572) brought the Calvinist faith to Scotland, in the form of Presbyterianism.
The basic Protestant position to this day is founded on the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone, with salvation understood as a gift from God given at one moment, rather than as an ongoing process with God and man cooperating together in the work of salvation (Phil 2.12–13). Protestants believe that the Bible is the sole churchly authority that can be interpreted directly by each believer through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The sacramental life of the Church is reduced to baptism and the Lord’s Supper understood mainly as symbolic actions.
The Catholic Counter-Reformation
In response to the challenge of the Protestant Reformation, and spurred by its demands for widespread ecclesiastical reform, the Roman Church held the Council of Trent (1545–1547, 1551–1552, 1562–1563). While instituting many needed practical reforms, it also officially reaffirmed the aberrant Medieval doctrines and practices of purgatory, indulgences, transubstantiation of the bread and wine in the Eucharist, communion for the laity with the bread only, the mass as a repropitiating sacrifice of Christ made to the Father, and extreme unction (whereby the sacrament of healing with holy oil became last rites for the dying). The Council of Trent also reinforced the supremacy of the Pope of Rome and the authority of the Church hierarchy, denying to the laity any role in the governance of the Church or in Christian teaching.
The Council of Trent, in addition, claimed that grace is a “created effect” or “created entity”-thus affirming the Latin doctrine that human beings can have no real, direct communion, or fellowship, or relationship with God. This understanding of the spiritual life is in direct contradiction to the Orthodox understanding that through the uncreated energies of God, human beings are called and enabled to have real, direct communion with God-as affirmed in the teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas and his coworkers.
The Roman Counter-Reformation was led by the Jesuits, members of the Society of Jesus, founded in 1534 by Ignatius of Loyola (c. 1491–1556). This monastic order was dedicated to direct service in complete obedience to the Papacy, with emphasis on doing mission work beyond Europe. Francis Xavier (1506–1552), one of the original seven Jesuits, conducted extensive mission work in Portuguese Goa, the Molucca Islands, Ceylon, and Japan. The Dutch Jesuit, Peter Canisius (1521–1597), led the Counter-Reformation in Germany, writing his famous Catechism which became a standard text of post-Reformation Catholicism. This catechism was translated into Slavonic and used by many Eastern Christians, both Orthodox and Uniate.
In Spain the mystical writers Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) and John of the Cross (1542–1591) led the reform of the monastic life of the Carmelite Order of the Roman Church. In Geneva, the Catholic bishop of the city, Francis de Sales (1567–1622), wrote his influential works providing guidance in the spiritual life. During this same time the famous Italian artist Titian (c. 1487–1576) created religious paintings “fraught with tragic emotion,” and the greatly influential Italian musician Palestrina (c. 1525–1594) produced his grandiose musical compositions which were used in the Roman Church.
The most famous of the Renaissance painters was the Italian, Raphael (1483–1520). His friend Michaelangelo (1475–1564) executed his magnificent frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican at the behest of Pope Julius II (r. 1503–1513).
Patriarch Jeremias II and the Dialogue with the Lutherans
From about 1575 to 1581 a noteworthy correspondence and theological dialogue took place between the leading Lutheran theologians, teaching at the University of Tubingen in Germany, and Patriarch Jeremias II of Constantinople. The dialogue was initiated by the Lutherans, who were eager to gain an ally in their opposition to the Roman Papacy. They hoped that their Protestant theology, as summarized in a Greek translation of the Augsburg Confession of 1530, would find favor with the Patriarch. However, the Patriarch, with assistance from advisors, pointed out many theological errors in the Augsburg Confession. The dialogue collapsed principally on the issue of the role of the Church Fathers in the proper interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.
Such careful, extended theological dialogue would not take place again between Protestants and the Orthodox until 1716, when some Non-Juror Anglicans entered into theological discussion with representatives of the Patriarchate of Alexandria who were visiting London. Tsar Peter I of Russia (r. 1689–1725) even took interest in this dialogue, but it ended when it was denounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the grounds that the Non-Jurors were in schism from the Anglican Church.
The next substantial ecumenical dialogue would not occur until the middle of the nineteenth century, when certain Anglican theologians of the Oxford Movement showed much interest in the Church of Russia. Orthodoxy was very ably described and defended in this unofficial dialogue by the distinguished lay theologian, Alexei Khomiakov (1804–1860).
The Greek Orthodox under the Ottoman Turks
During the 16th century, life for the Orthodox under the Ottoman Turks became more difficult. For example, in 1520 Sultan Selim I threatened to annex all the churches. In 1586, Sultan Murad III arbitrarily annexed the Church of the Pammacaristos that served as the headquarters for the Patriarch in Constantinople. In humiliation, the Patriarch was given the use of a small church owned by the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
In 1601 the Patriarch was allowed to rebuild the Church of Saint George in the heart of the Phanar district of Constantinople. This church has remained the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople to this day.
As early as 1466 an aspirant to the patriarchal throne offered the sultan a large bribe to make him the new patriarch. From then on the patriarchal office increasingly became the object of bribery, as well as intrigue among various factions vying for power within the Christian community. Interference in the life of the Church also came from Protestant and Roman Catholic ambassadors and chaplains attached to diplomatic missions in Constantinople.
Accounts of some twenty martyrdoms have come down to us from this century. The most famous of these martyrs is Saint Philothei of Athens, who was born into the wealthy and illustrious Venizelos family in Athens in 1522. After enduring with Christ-like patience and grace a very difficult marriage and being left a widow at the age of nineteen, she became a nun. Some years later, in response to seeing Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle in a vision, she built two women’s monasteries dedicated to him. She had a hospital built in connection with one of these monasteries, as well as a hostel for the poor. She also gave shelter to a number of women who had been taken captive by Muslims from various parts of the Empire. Irate Muslims stormed into her monastery one day and beat her severely. Eventually, in 1589, she died from the wounds she received that day.
The Time of Troubles
With the death of the saintly, slow-witted Tsar Theodore in 1598, the dynasty of the House of Rurik, which had ruled Russia since 860, came to an end. With the support of Saint Job, Patriarch of Moscow, a National Assembly elected Boris Godunov, Theodore’s brother-in-law who had acted as the chief administrator of the government during Theodore’s reign, as the new tsar.
Boris’s reign began well enough, but in 1601 a severe famine struck the land, accompanied by epidemics. His measures to alleviate the suffering were insufficient, and in the midst of the disorders, rumors began to spread throughout Russia that there was a male of the House of Rurik who was still alive. In 1591, the last heir, Tsarevich Dimitry, died under strange circumstances at the age of nine. Now, a young man claiming to be this Dimitry, and claiming to be the rightful heir to the throne, was gathering a following. He would become known as the “Pretender.”
As this false Dimitry began to pose a threat to Boris Godunov, the tsar panicked. He responded to this threat with a campaign of terror against real and imagined enemies in his own government-much as his mentor, Ivan IV, had done. In the midst of the struggle, he collapsed and died, in 1605.
Tsar Boris’s death paved the way for the imposter to take control of the government. After ruling for about a year, he was murdered in a coup d’etat organized by a group of boyars (aristocrats) led by Basil Shuisky, who became the new tsar.
The Time of Troubles continued during Tsar Basil’s four-year rule, as a second False Dimitri arose and set up a rival government in the town of Tushino. Then the Poles and the Swedes invaded, intent on seizing as much territory as possible from the Russians in this moment of extreme weakness. Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius Monastery became the symbol of national resistance to the Western invaders, as this holy place endured a 16-month siege at the hands of the Polish army. Miraculously, the walled monastery withstood the siege, which included bombardment from 63 cannons.
At the height of the confusion and turmoil, Tsar Basil, deserted by his army and his allies after his forces were defeated by the Poles, was forced to abdicate, and the boyars formed a seven-man provisional government. Then, when the Poles captured Smolensk, the fortress city that guarded the road to Moscow, the terrified and self-serving boyars decided to capitulate to the Poles, in the hope of gaining privileges for themselves in return. In negotiations with Polish King Sigismund III, they selected a young son of King Sigismund, named Wladyslaw, as the new tsar, and opened the gates of the Kremlin to the Polish army.
Saint Patriarch Germogen (r. 1606–1612) was put under house arrest in the Kremlin by the Poles, but he was still able to send letters all across the nation urging the people to reclaim their homeland. For his efforts, the Poles starved him to death.
Energized by a vision of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, who urged him to take the lead in saving the nation, a wealthy butcher from Nizhni-Novgorod named Kuzma Minin organized a citizens’ army that drove the Poles out of Russia by the end of 1612. This brought to an end the stormy Time of Troubles.
Tsar Michael Romanov and Patriarch Philaret (Romanov)
Early in 1613 in Moscow, sixteen-year-old Michael Romanov, a grandnephew of Tsar IV’s first wife, Anastasia Romanova, was elected to be the new tsar by the largest and most representative National Assembly ever held in Russia. This marked the beginning of the Romanov Dynasty, which ruled Russia until Tsar Nicholas II abdicated early in 1917. In 1619, Michael Romanov’s father, Philaret, who had been Metropolitan of Rostov, was made Patriarch of Moscow. Father and son ruled the tightening alliance of Church and State together.
The Nikonian Reforms
When Tsar Michael Romanov died in 1645, he was succeeded by his son, Alexis (r. 1645–1676), who was 16 when he took the throne. By now a new generation of reform-minded young priests had risen up who believed that spiritual revival would come through liturgical reform-including standardizing the various liturgical books, correcting various copying and translation errors, and celebrating the services whole and entire. In 1652, Tsar Alexis selected one of these energetic priests, the popular and talented-but forceful and rigorous-Nikon, Metropolitan of Novgorod, to be the new patriarch of Russia.
Along with most of the other reforming clergy, Nikon at first was a firm believer in Moscow as the Third Rome-as guardian of the full purity of the Orthodox Faith. But before becoming Metropolitan of Novgorod, Nikon had spent several years as abbot of an illustrious monastery in Moscow. It was in this time that he met several prelates from the Greek Church, especially Patriarch Paisius of Jerusalem, who visited Moscow from time to time seeking support from the Russian Church and State. These Greek churchmen helped him to see that it was very much in the interest of pan-Orthodox unity that the Russians bring their liturgical practices more closely in line with those of the Greek Church. This would also make the Russians more aware of the plight of the Greek Church suffering under the Turkish yoke, and hence more willing to come to their aid. Tsar Alexis strongly supported this program.
At the beginning of Great Lent in 1653, Patriarch Nikon began his reforms of church practices, bringing them into alignment with Greek practices. Among many other things, he issued injunctions that the sign of the cross must be made with three fingers instead of two, and that during Saint Ephraim’s Prayer, the sixteen full prostrations that the Russians were used to making must be changed to four full prostrations and twelve bows from the waist.
Archpriest Avvakum, another leader of the reform-minded clergy, along with many others, responded to the liturgical changes mandated by Patriarch Nikon with great consternation, even shock. For one thing, the two-fingered sign of the Cross had been confirmed by the great Stoglav Council of 1551 (the Council of the Hundred Chapters), with anathemas against any other practice. Also, the Russians were convinced that the Greeks were the ones who had departed from the pristine purity of the Faith-through their scandalous willingness to capitulate to Roman Catholicism at the Council of Lyons in 1274 and the Council of Florence in 1439. Besides this, the Russians were generally scandalized at the liturgical laxity demonstrated by the Greek churchmen visiting Moscow, who were not used to the very lengthy Russian services and the meticulous attention to liturgical detail observed reverently by the Russians. This added to the suspicions of Father Avvakum and his group.
In promoting the liturgical reforms, Nikon’s brash self-confidence led him to underestimate the opposition that his blunt, bludgeoning injunctions provoked. While the bulk of the people went along grudgingly with his demands, the reforming priests and their lay supporters declared, according to Nicolas Zernov, that “in no circumstances would they give up their belief in the superiority of Moscow tradition over that of other branches of the Eastern Church.”
This stubborn resistance to his plans infuriated Patriarch Nikon. He was staggered by this defiant disobedience to the Patriarchate. This provoked him to his second big mistake-trying to stamp out the dissent by force. The leading dissenters, according to Zernov, “were arrested, ill-treated, unfrocked, and sent into exile. All these measures were useless?.?.?. persecution only inflamed their zeal and strengthened their conviction that Nikon was a traitor, a false shepherd, to be opposed to the end by all faithful Christians.”
Patriarch Nikon continued to promote his campaign for liturgical reform through the end of 1656. Then in January of 1657, Tsar Alexis returned from battles against the Poles to find Moscow seething with discontent against Patriarch Nikon. The Tsar cooled in his support of Nikon, ordering him to restore to communion one of the most out-spoken and prominent opponents of the reform, Father Ivan Neronov, who had been imprisoned in a monastery in 1653. Nikon obeyed, allowing him to use the old service books, and even saying, “Both are good. It doesn’t matter; use whichever books you wish.” From this point on, the Patriarch seemed to lose heart in the campaign for reform, turning to building new monasteries and churches.
Then, on July 10, 1658, Nikon uttered public complaints against the Tsar at the end of a divine liturgy, and announced his intention to retire from the Patriarchate, probably expecting the Tsar to rush to him to apologize. However, Tsar Alexis only sent two boyars to assure the patriarch of his continuing friendship.
The petulant Patriarch, unsatisfied with this response by the Tsar, remained true to his threat, and retired to a monastery, but without officially resigning from the Patriarchate. For eight years he played for time, neither resigning nor taking up his duties again.
Many consultations were held, including with various Eastern Patriarchs. Several councils were held, but still Nikon remained aloof, and the Church remained in a kind of limbo. Finally, in the Spring of 1666, Tsar Alexis summoned a major council of all the Russian bishops, which reaffirmed the new service books but did not condemn the old books as heretical. On this basis, many of the clergy who opposed the reforms accepted them. Those who still rejected them, such as Avvacum, were again anathematized. This council went on to address many of the concerns of all the reformers-matters of pastoral care, proper maintenance of the churches, proper records being kept, proper celebration of services (including yedinoglasno-only one voice being heard at a time), etc.
The Council of 1666–1667
However, the issue of the Patriarchate still remained unsettled. The Tsar felt that the presence of the other Orthodox Patriarchs was necessary to decide the issue. So he invited them all to come to Moscow for another council. Two of them came-Patriarch Paisius of Alexandria and Patriarch Makarios of Antioch. Once they arrived, the council began, in November of 1666.
The main figure at the council was the Metropolitan of Gaza, Paisius Ligarides. This man, who ironically had formerly been one of Nikon’s most ardent supporters, now turned fiercely against him, and was his chief accuser during this council.
The council addressed the issue of the Patriarchate first. After a month of deliberations, Nikon, the very man who instituted the reforms which this council was to endorse once and for all, was found guilty of unlawfully deserting the Patriarchal throne and showing great disrespect to the Tsar. He was deposed, defrocked, and confined to a monastery 350 miles north of Moscow, and a new patriarch was elected-Joasaph II. Nikon’s ignominious fall helped to make possible the fall of the Patriarchate itself in the time of Tsar Peter the Great.
Second, the revered Council of Moscow of 1551 (the Stoglav) was officially renounced, since that council had declared the Russian Church to be the standard and pattern for all of worldwide Orthodoxy. According to Zernov, “Hard pressed by the arguments of Metropolitan Paisius of Gaza, the Russian bishops reluctantly signed the following statement: ‘We declare the Council of 1551 to be no Council at all, and its decisions not binding, because the Metropolitan, Makary, and those with him acted and made their decisions in ignorance, without reason, and quite arbitrarily, for they had not consulted the Ecumenical Patriarch.’” This Metropolitan Makary was canonized as a saint in 1988 by the Russian Church.
Third, contemporary Greek liturgical practices were affirmed, and the old Russian practices in disagreement with the Greek usages were condemned as heretical. Ironically, this was in direct opposition to a letter sent by Patriarch Paisius of Constantinople and 28 other Greek bishops to Moscow in 1655.
And fourth, all those refusing to accept the liturgical reforms were not only anathematized, but handed over to the secular authorities for punishment as heretics.
The Old Believer Schism
True to their word, Avvakum and his group of dissenters refused to obey the dictates of this council, and the Old Believer Schism became a deep and bitter reality, lasting to the present day. During the time of Tsar Peter the Great (r. 1689–1725), whom many of the Old Believers considered to be Antichrist, up to one-third of all Russian Orthodox Christians-many of them among the most pious, most dedicated Christians in the land-were associated with the Old Believer movement.
Avvakum was sent into exile in the north of Russia. In 1682 he was burned alive, along with three of his closest associates, on the charge of blasphemies uttered against the Tsar and his household. Many other Old Believers were persecuted by the Church and State, which only deepened their antagonism. In their desire to preserve pure and unchanged the rituals of the Russian Church of the mid-17th century, the Old Believers have succeeded in preserving ancient Russian forms of iconography and liturgical chant which otherwise would likely have been lost. Most of them have resisted all attempts at reconciliation ever since.
Russian Saints in the 17th century
Besides Saint Patriarch Germogen, the Russians’ heroic defense of their Faith and nation during and immediately after the Time of Troubles was epitomized by Saint Juliana Lazarevskaya (d. 1604), a housewife of the lower nobility who sacrificed herself and her possessions for the poor and needy; the resourceful Saint Dionysius, Abbot of the Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius Monastery; and Saint Dorothy of Kashin, a wealthy widow who restored and led as abbess the women’s monastery in her town. Later in the century, Saint Theodosius of Chernigov (d. 1696) was a particularly effective and beloved abbot of various monasteries before becoming Bishop of Chernigov. Saint Dmitry, Bishop of Rostov (d. 1709), compiled a vast collection of Saints’ Lives that is still the standard in the Russian Church.
During the seventeenth century, in the south of Russia, the Unia continued in force, although large amounts of territory were won back by the Russians from the Poles. The Cossack-led lay brotherhoods in Ukraine and Galicia served Orthodoxy well during this time by their resolute resistance to the Uniate movement. Among these lay leaders were Constantine Ostrozhskii (d. 1608) and Milety Smotritsky, who wrote his Lamentations of the Eastern Church in 1610.
In 1620, Patriarch Theophanes of Jerusalem secretly consecrated seven bishops for the Orthodox in defiance of the Unia, without approval from the Roman Catholic government. This greatly aided the survival of the Orthodox Church in these years.
The Orthodox resistance to the efforts of the Uniates to force them to accept the dominion of the Papacy was epitomized by two holy abbots of monasteries in western Ukraine: Saint Athanasius of Brest (d. 1646), and Saint Job of Pochaev (d. 1651).
Saint Peter Mogila
In 1632 Wladyslaw IV, the successor to King Sigismund of Poland, gave permission for the Orthodox to elect their own metropolitan of Kiev. Peter Mogila (1597–1646), the head of the Orthodox theological school that had been founded in 1615 at the Kievan Caves Monastery, was chosen. Mogila was fiercely opposed to the Roman Church and the Unia, but he had been trained in Latin schools and had a deep respect for Latin scholastic educational methods. He introduced these methods into the school at the Kievan Caves Monastery, including the use of Latin in the classroom. This school would become the Kievan Academy, the most influential institution of theological education in all of Russia, the training ground of many bishops and seminary professors. Also through Mogila’s many written works, including a Slavic translation of the famous catechism of the Jesuit Peter Canisius (1521–1597) and a priest’s Service Book, significant Latin influences entered the Orthodox Church in doctrinal formulation and liturgical practice.
Mogila’s writings were judged acceptable by the Orthodox bishops in a council in Kiev in 1640. And in 1642, a council in Jassy, in Moldavia, approved a modified version of Mogila’s Confession of Faith. However, even in its modified form, Bishop Kallistos Ware calls this confession the most Latin-influenced document ever endorsed by a council of the Orthodox Church. Together with the westernization forced upon the Russian Church through Tsar Peter the Great’s policies, Mogila’s writings and educational practices were a primary cause of a certain “captivity” to Western influences for some two hundred years in the theology and piety of the Orthodox people of Russia, Ukraine, and Romania. Nevertheless, he was recently canonized as a saint by the Churches in Ukraine, Romania, and Poland.
Cyril Lukaris (1572–1638) served as patriarch of Alexandria (r. 1601–1620), and then as patriarch of Constantinople-in five separate periods between 1620 and 1638-under the Ottoman Turks before they finally strangled him on false charges of treason. In his ongoing struggle against Roman Catholicism, beginning in his homeland of Crete, during his education at the Orthodox school in Venice and then at the University of Padua, and in teaching at Orthodox schools in Poland and Ukraine, he was drawn to Protestantism through friendships with various Calvinists. As Patriarch of Alexandria, and then as Patriarch of Constantinople, he became convinced that his flock, suffering under the oppressive hand of the Ottoman Turks, needed rejuvenation that he thought could come through imbibing the enthusiasm, doctrines, and practices of Protestantism.
This is the context in which he wrote his brief Confession of Faith in 1629 that was almost entirely saturated with Calvinist thought. It was forthrightly condemned by the same church councils in Kiev and Jassy which upheld the orthodoxy of Peter Mogila’s catechism and service books.
In 1672 the Council of Bethlehem/Jerusalem endorsed the Confession of Faith written by Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem (r. 1669–1707), which he drew up as a point-by-point refutation of Lukaris’s creed. Unfortunately, this confession also reflects the typical tendency among Orthodox theologians in these years to use Protestant arguments against Roman Catholicism and Catholic arguments against Protestantism. Its last eight chapters are heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism.
The Greek Church under the Turks
In the seventeenth century, the Greek Church continued to suffer oppression and stultification under the heavy hand of Turkish rule. The Bulgarian Church had lost her patriarch and her independence with the Turkish conquest, and Greek influence-most of it unwelcome-increased over the Bulgarian and other Balkan churches. Due to infighting among various groups vying for power within the Christian milet, the interference of Roman Catholic and Protestant diplomats, and the willingness of the Turks to accept, and then expect, bribe money for the acquisition of various church offices, there was much corruption, instability, and strife within the Church administration. For example, between the years 1596 and 1696, there were 61 times when there was a turnover in the office of the Patriarch-with 31 different men involved.
In Western Europe, during the terribly devastating Thirty Years War (1618–1648), fought mostly in Germany between Roman Catholics and Protestants, about one third of the population of the German principalities was decimated. This war started to convince many people that creedal, “revealed” religion had to be rejected-or at least its adherents had to learn not to use force in trying to spread their faith. This realization eventually contributed much to the rise and popularity of Deism, beginning with the work of Lord Herbert (1583–1648) in England. This decidedly non-creedal, generic form of natural religion played an important role in the formation of the United States of America in the following century.
Germany also saw the rise of Pietism, a kind of heartfelt Protestant spirituality and practice that arose at least partly in reaction to the so-called Lutheran Scholasticism that developed after the initial dramatic rise of Lutheranism in the previous century. A Lutheran pastor in Frankfurt, Philip Jakob Spener (1635–1705), is considered to be the founder of the Pietistic Movement. He began holding devotional meetings twice weekly in his home, centered in prayer and Bible study. In 1675 he published his landmark Pia Desideria (Pious Considerations), in which he urged intensified study of the Bible on the part of the laity, greater encouragement of the laity to grow in faith and love and to exercise their spiritual gifts, and a revival of preaching emphasizing practical edification of the faithful rather than discourses on finer theological points. He and his close associate August Hermann Francke (1663–1727) helped to found the University of Halle in 1694 for the training of ministers along Pietist lines.
While Pietism subtly and Deism more dramatically began minimizing doctrinal differences among the various Christian groups during the 17th century, sharply delineated creedal religion still held sway in most of Europe and in the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English colonies in the New World. In the thirteen colonies along the Atlantic seaboard that would become the U.S.A., Puritan Calvinist theocracy prevailed at first in Massachusetts, Congregationalism in Connecticut and New Hampshire, the Dutch Reformed Church in New York, Presbyterianism in New Jersey, Swedish Lutheranism in Delaware, Roman Catholicism in Maryland, and Anglicanism in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.
Full religious toleration prevailed first in the colonies of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania-both of which were founded on this basis during the 17th century. Rhode Island was established in 1635 by Roger Williams (1603–1683), who championed the right of every person to worship God “according to the dictates of his own conscience.” The colony of Pennsylvania (Penn’s Woods) was founded in 1682 by William Penn (1644–1718), a follower of the English mystic George Fox (1624–1691), the founder of Quakerism (officially, the Society of Friends); Pennsylvania is still known as the Quaker State. Fox emphasized experiencing through silent meditation the “Inner Light of Christ” within one’s soul.
In England, the publication of the King James Bible in 1611 was an epochal event in the history of the English Bible. In 1646 the Puritan Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) led a coup d’état against King Charles I, who was executed in 1649. Cromwell established a kind of military dictatorship in England that lasted until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The heavily Calvinistic Westminster Confession, endorsed by the Scottish Parliament in 1647 and the British Parliament a year later, became the law of the land, until 1660.
In France, the Roman Catholic Church was troubled by Jansenism, a rigorist (i.e., moralistic and legalistic) movement based on the anti-Pelagian writings of Saint Augustine-especially his emphasis on the irresistible grace of God given only to the elect. The important French theologian and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) was its most famous convert.
One of Jansenism’s most powerful opponents was Saint Vincent de Paul (c. 1580–1660). He co-founded along with Saint Louise de Marillac the Sisters of Charity, the first women’s religious order without confinement to convents devoted to the care of the sick and the poor. Vincent was partly inspired by Saint Francis de Sales (1567–1622), Bishop of Geneva from 1602, who wrote Introduction to the Devout Life, a famous book of spiritual guidance for laypeople living in the midst of worldly distractions.
The Greek Church
Life under the Islamic Turks continued to be very difficult for the Christians living in the Ottoman Empire. Although some Serbs managed to emigrate to Austria and Hungary where they were allowed to have their own dioceses, this was the darkest hour for those Christians who remained under Turkish control.
Yet this was also a time of renewed hope, as seen in the lives of three very remarkable saints who lived in Greece.
Saint Cosmas Aitolos
Plus Saint Cosmas Aitolos (1714–1779) has been called Equal-to-the-Apostles, Apostle to the Poor, and Father of the Greek Nation. From a family of poor weavers, and basically self-taught, he lived as a monk on Mount Athos for seventeen years. Then he felt compelled by God to leave the Holy Mountain in order to rally the discouraged Greeks and Albanians suffering now for three hundred years under Turkish oppression, and to strengthen them in their Orthodox Faith.
Receiving the blessing of Patriarch Sophronios II of Constantinople to do this, Saint Cosmas undertook three apostolic journeys as an itinerant preacher throughout central and northern Greece, the Greek Islands, Epiros, and Albania. Sometimes he would be followed by hundreds, even thousands, of villagers.
His life and preaching were marked by great humility. Once he said to the people, “Not only am I not worthy to teach you, but I am not even worthy to kiss your feet, for each of you is worth more than the entire world.” He was not a worker of miracles in the physical realm, but through his love, humility, and exhortation, many broken relationships were miraculously healed.
He instigated the founding of over 200 schools by urging the elders in the various towns and villages to get one started. His promotion of Christian education significantly raised the educational level of all of Greece, which helped sustain the strength of the Orthodox Faith, and helped lay the groundwork for the overthrow of the Turkish yoke in Greece in the 1820s.
Typically he would come into a town or village and say to the gathered crowds, “So, my children, to safeguard your Faith, and the freedom of your homeland, take care to establish without fail a Greek school in which your children will learn all that you are ignorant of.” And again, “My beloved children in Christ, bravely and fearlessly preserve our Holy Faith and the language of our Fathers, because both of these characterize our most beloved homeland, and without them our nation is destroyed. Don’t be discouraged, my brethren; Divine Providence will one day send heavenly salvation to gladden your hearts and eliminate this dreadful state in which we find ourselves.” He prophesied correctly (at least for central and southern Greece) that “freedom will come in the third generation. Your grandchildren will see it.”
Saint Cosmas was highly respected by many of the Turkish people living in Greece, but he was perceived as a political threat by some of the authorities. Executed by the Turks in Berat, Albania, in 1779, he is one of the hundreds of “New Martyrs” for Christ who died at the hands of the Ottomans.
Saint Makarios of Corinth
Saint Makarios of Corinth (1731–1805) was of aristocratic background. As a young man he was a volunteer school teacher in Corinth, his birthplace, for six years. Then, though still a layman, he was unanimously selected by laity and clergy to be the new archbishop of Corinth.
As bishop, he immediately began improving the state of the Church under his care by more strictly applying the canons regarding Church life. For instance, he prohibited priests from taking part in political affairs, and he strictly honored the canonical age for clerical ordinations. He distributed catechisms to all his priests, discharged all illiterate priests, and sent ordinands to monasteries for training. He also urged the wealthy to donate large baptismal basins to the churches, so that children could be baptized properly. He planned to establish schools throughout his archbishopric, but was prevented from doing so by the Russo-Turkish War in 1768, which ended his episcopacy in Corinth.
After his episcopacy, he went to live on Mount Athos as a monk. Here he devoted much time to editing and writing. In this way he made great contributions to the life of the Church.
While on Mount Athos, he helped to found the Kollyvades Movement. This was a group of fervent defenders of traditional Orthodoxy. Its formation was in response to the innovation of the Skete of Saint Anne on Mount Athos of holding memorial services for the dead on Sundays-which seemed to the Kollyvades to be a violation of the spirit of Sunday as the day for the celebration every week of the Resurrection of Christ. The Kollyvades (from ‘kollyva,’ the boiled wheat eaten after such memorial services) were first called this derogatorily by the innovators.
The dispute spread to other sketes of the Holy Mountain and assumed dangerous proportions, with the innovators insulting and persecuting the traditionalists. Eventually, after much conflict and indecision, the new practice was accepted by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Many of the Kollyvades party also espoused more frequent partaking of Holy Communion, since for centuries it had become very widespread practice that people were communing only two or three times a year. The Kollyvades saw this as symptomatic of the severe decline in the spiritual life of the people in this era. In 1777 St Makarios published a book called Concerning Continual Communion of the Divine Mysteries. In 1783, Saint Nikodemos gave this book its final form. Appealing to the Scriptures, the Fathers, and the canons of the Church, Saint Makarios and Saint Nikodemos in this book specifically refute 13 reasons typically given as to why the Eucharist should be received so infrequently. The book was met with much resistance, before it was finally generally accepted.
The Kollyvades group also revived and cultivated an interest in hesychastic, mystical prayer, which had fallen into relative oblivion. Saints Makarios and Nikodemos helped very much to revive hesychasm in their own day through their publication of the Philokalia-the highly renowned compilation of selected spiritual writings from the 4th through the 15th centuries. In their introduction, the editors say that they have compiled the work from various old manuscripts “found scattered in dark holes and corners.” To this day, the Philokalia is considered among the Orthodox as the greatest anthology of spiritual wisdom ever published.
Some particularly noteworthy writings in the Philokalia
Saint Mark the Ascetic, “On Those who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works” (5th century)
Saint Diodochos of Photiki, “On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination” (5th century)
Saint Maximos the Confessor, “Four Hundred Texts on Love” (7th century)
Saint John of Damaskos, “On the Virtues and the Vices” (8th century)
Saint Symeon Metaphrastes, “Paraphrase of the Homilies of St Makarios of Egypt” (11th century)
Nikitas Stethatos, “On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect” (11th century)
Saint Peter of Damaskos, “A Treasury of Divine Knowledge” (12th century)
Saint Gregory of Sinai, “On Stillness” (14th century)
Saint Gregory Palamas, “In Defense of Those who Devoutly Practice a Life of Stillness” (14th century)
Makarios went to Smyrna to raise money to publish the Philokalia, along with Concerning Continual Communion and the Evergenitos (a large collection of lives and sayings of the Desert Fathers, which has deeply influenced monastic spirituality). Saints Makarios and Nikodemos also collaborated in compiling The Extant Works of Saint Symeon the New Theologian.
Saint Makarios also contributed to the publication of a new martyrologium, consisting of the Lives of 75 Orthodox new martyrs who suffered under the Ottoman Turks between 1492 and 1794. He played a role in directly encouraging some of the new martyrs through being a father confessor to a number of Greeks who had been converted in one way or another to Islam, but then returned to the Christian Faith and wanted to atone for their apostasy by martyrdom.
Many of the Kollyvades left Mount Athos due to the persecution there. According to Constantine Cavarnos, they “scattered all over Greece, especially the Aegean Islands, becoming spiritual awakeners and reformers through their sermons, personal counsels, the establishment of monasteries that developed into luminous centers of spiritual life, and their exemplary Christian character and way of life.”
Saint Makarios was one of the Kollyvades who left the Holy Mountain, eventually settling in a hermitage on the island of Chios. There he lived in peace from 1790 until his death in 1805.
Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain
St Nikodemos (1749–1809) was born on Naxos in the Cyclades Islands to pious parents; his mother eventually became a nun. He was wonderfully pious and intellectually brilliant, with a nearly photographic memory. His first teacher was the brother of Saint Cosmas the Aitolian. In 1775 he became a monk on Mount Athos, where he lived at several monasteries and sketes. He even left Athos for a while to live on a small island near Euboea.
Often working together with Saint Makarios of Corinth, Saint Nikodemos devoted most of his life to writing, editing, and translating. His works include a modern Greek translation of the commentaries by Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid on the 14 Epistles of Saint Paul and on the 7 Catholic Epistles; a modern Greek translation of the Psalms, with extended commentary; the Philokalia and Evergenitos, already mentioned; and the works of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, already mentioned. He also edited the works of St Gregory Palamas, but the manuscript, except for the introduction by Nikodemos and a few parts, was lost in Vienna.
Saint Nikodemos also revised a book on spiritual guidance called The Spiritual Exercises, written by a Roman Catholic priest named Lorenzo Scupoli, which he published with the title Unseen Warfare. He also produced The Rudder, a compilation of the canons of the Church, with commentary in demotic (popular) Greek. And as previously mentioned, he revised Saint Makarios’s Concerning Continual Communion. He also wrote many hymnological works, especially akoluthias and canons for saints.
In addition, Saint Nikodemos wrote a book giving guidance to priests for how to be an effective spiritual father, especially through proper use of the Sacrament of Confession. Unfortunately, this book, entitled Exomologetarion, or A Manual of Confession, reflects considerable Roman Catholic influence, as seen in its tendency towards legalism concerning penances to be given for confessed and absolved sins, and in its apparent acceptance of the Anselmian sacrificial theory of atonement, with Christ’s sufferings in bearing the sins of the world on the Cross understood as appeasing the wrath of God the Father against all of fallen mankind engulfed in sin.
Two other important saints of Greece
Saint Athanasios Parios (c. 1722–1813), was another leading churchman of this era. A disciple of Saint Makarios, he wrote this saint’s biography. Saint Athanasios was also deeply influenced by the revival of hesychasm. He taught at the Academy on Mount Athos, then in Thessaloniki, then on Chios for 25 years. There he had strong influence on hundreds of Greek youths. He loved to bring forth the wisdom of the great Eastern Fathers of the Church, and he especially tried to revive interest in the works of Saint Gregory Palamas.
Saint Nikephoros of Chios (1750–1821) was another important Greek saint in this era. He taught at the famous school at Chios for 20 years, until 1802, when he became abbot of the Monastery called Nea Mone on Chios. After Saint Makarios of Corinth died, Saint Nikephoros wrote hymns honoring him.
The Holy Governing Synod
The eighteenth century was a period of grave difficulty for the Orthodox Church in Russia. Peter I (the Great) (r. 1689–1725), taking the title of “emperor,” ruled Russia with an iron hand. He became fascinated with Western Europe, especially its advancements in scientific and military technology, and he encouraged the introduction and spread of such technology in Russia. He built the new city of Saint Petersburg on filled in swampland by the Baltic Sea to be Russia’s celebrated “Window to the West.”
As part of his effort to modernize his nation through Westernization, Peter forced the Russian Orthodox Church to accept a radical structural reorganization based on the model of the various Protestant State-Churches in Scandinavia and England. After Patriarch Adrian died in 1700, Peter kept delaying giving his approval for the election of a new patriarch. Finally, in 1721, he issued the Ecclesiastical Regulation. Written by a very Protestant-leaning Ukrainian bishop named Theophan Prokopovich (1681–1738), this document officially abolished the patriarchate of the Russian Church. A standing synod of bishops, priests, and laymen was established in place of the patriarchal office as the highest ruling body in the Church.
All the members of the Holy Synod were appointed by the emperor and were subject to him through its overseer, a government official called the ober-prokurator. A Government-supervised diocesan consistory was set up in each diocese, having more authority than the bishop of the diocese. In effect, the Church administration became an arm of the State. The priests became a kind of caste of lower-order civil administrators.
This radical violation of traditional, canonical Orthodox Church order in Russia-imposed on the church by the emperor-was formally ratified and recognized by the other Eastern patriarchs. This arrangement lasted until 1917, when the patriarchate was officially reestablished at the All-Russian Church Council of Moscow of 1917–1918.
The “Western captivity” of the Russian Church deepened in the 18th century as the seminaries and academies fell more and more under Latinizing influence emanating from the Academy of Kiev. As among the Orthodox suffering under the Turkish yoke, leading churchmen in Russia also tended to be either pro-Roman or pro-Protestant, with those of the pro-Roman school using Roman Catholic arguments against Protestant influences, and those on the other side using Protestant arguments against Roman Catholic influences. Very few on either side plumbed the depths of the Patristic Tradition in order to critique the errors of both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Hence, the living Tradition of the Church was very much obscured through historical circumstances in this era.
Saint Xenia of Saint Petersburg
By God’s providence, Saint Petersburg, Emperor Peter I’s new westernized, secularized capital city, was not without at least one particularly powerful witness to the truth of the Gospel. Xenia Grigorievna (c. 1730-c. 1800) appeared to have been living a carefree, comfortable, happy life with her husband, an imperial chorister, when suddenly her husband died at a drinking party. She was 26 years old at the time. Stricken with grief at the loss of her husband, she was doubly mournful because they had not been living a Christ-centered life, and her husband had died without having partaken of the holy mysteries of Confession and the Eucharist. She agonized for the soul of her beloved spouse.
Giving to the poor nearly everything she possessed, and giving her house to a friend, she disappeared from the city for eight years. It was said later that she spent those years living with a sisterhood of ascetics, under the guidance of a holy elder. Then just as suddenly, she reappeared in Saint Petersburg, where she walked the streets of the poorest part of the city, the Storona district, and slept in a field under the open sky. She clothed herself in one of her husband’s old uniforms, and from that time on, she took his name, Andrei Theodorovich, as her own. After some time she was granted the gift of clairvoyance, by which she helped many residents of the Storona.
She continued this remarkable way of life for 37 years, until her death at the age of 71. Countless miracles have taken place through her intercessions.
Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk
The most well-known saint of the Russian Church in the 18th century was Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724–1783). Tikhon was a gentle, sensitive, scholarly monk who became the ruling bishop of the vast southern diocese of Voronezh in 1763. He poured his heart and soul into reviving the church life in this diocese, beginning with educating and guiding the clergy, many of whom could scarcely even read, and many were very lax in their fulfillment of their pastoral duties. All of this was reflective of the abnormality of the Church being directly subjected to the State. Exhausted and frustrated from all his efforts and little to show for it in his eyes, Saint Tikhon asked for and was granted retirement from active episcopal work after only four years and four months in the Voronezh Diocese.
For the last 16 years of his life he lived in retirement at a monastery across the Don River. In these years he immersed himself deeply in the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Church Fathers, especially Saint John Chrysostom. He knew and appreciated, as well, the Pietist writers of the Christian West, who were calling for and writing about a meaningful living relationship with the Living God, over against the barren intellectualism of both Tridentine Catholicism and Calvinistic Protestantism. Saint Tikhon wrote many books giving practical guidance for living the Christian life, including Journey to Heaven and On True Christianity. Through letter-writing he provided spiritual direction and pastoral counseling to many.
Saint Paisy Velichkovsky
Paisy Velichkovsky (1722–1794) was born into a priestly family in Poltava, in eastern Ukraine. A deeply religious child, he entered the illustrious school at Kiev at the age of 13. However, four years later he fled from there, having explained to the Rector, “I hear only the names of pagan gods and wise men-Cicero, Aristotle, and Plato. By learning their wisdom people of today have become blinded to the end and have digressed from the true way. Intellectuals utter words, but internally, they are filled with darkness and gloom, for their wisdom is of the world only. Not seeing any purpose to such learning, and fearing how I myself cannot but be corrupted by it, I have left it.”
After wandering from place to place for seven years, Paisy reached Mount Athos, where he stayed for about 17 years. Not finding a spiritual father there who could guide him in his quest for direct communion with the living God through hesychastic prayer, he began collecting and translating various writings of the ascetical and mystical Church Fathers. The Fathers themselves became his spiritual fathers through their writings.
In 1763 Saint Paisy left Mount Athos with 63 fellow monks, all speakers of the Slavonic and/or Moldavian languages. Reaching Moldavia, they presented themselves to the Metropolitan of Jassy, who gave them a deserted monastery at Dragomira, which they quickly restored.
Twelve years later, due to the eastward expansion of the Roman Catholic Austro-Hungarian Empire, Saint Paisy and his by now 350 monks fled to the east, where they were eventually given the Niamets Monastery to restore and revive. It was here that Saint Paisy completed his translation into Slavonic of an abridged version of the Philokalia, compiled by Saints Makarios and Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain.
Saint Paisy’s role in restoring the hesychastic tradition in Romania and the Slavic lands cannot be overemphasized. He was one of the first to reemphasize the role of the staretz, or spiritual elder, as a guide in the spiritual/mystical life. This kind of spiritual eldership had fallen into nearly complete oblivion for almost 250 years, ever since the victory of the Possessors over the Non-Possessors in Russia in the 1520s. And besides restoring and/or rejuvenating three monasteries in Moldavia, including leading a community of some 500 monks at Niamets, he so inspired his followers with love for Christ and with a missionary spirit to spread the teaching about hesychastic prayer-this glorious way to intensely experience deep spiritual communion with the Living God-that after his death, hundreds of his followers, carrying his Slavonic translation of the Philokalia, streamed into Russia and spread his approach to the monastic life far and wide.
Metropolitan Platon of Moscow
The leading Russian hierarch of the century was Metropolitan Platon (Levshin) of Moscow (1737–1812). He was an especially eloquent preacher; his collected works include about 500 of his sermons. He wrote a catechism for use by the clergy, and another one for children. More tolerant of the Old Believers than most of his contemporaries, he was the first to allow them to have their own chapels in Moscow, and he formalized the arrangement known as the Yedinoverie (one faith) whereby the Old Believers, upon reconciliation with the Church of Russia, were allowed to continue to worship according to their old rites-though very few of them accepted this offer. He was also the first to write a history of the Russian Church.
Mission to Alaska
During the 18th century Russian missionaries began to move across Siberia towards the Pacific Ocean. In 1794 ten monks from the Valaam Monastery in Russian Finland and two other nearby monasteries arrived on the island of Kodiak in Alaska. These first Orthodox missionaries to North America were pleasantly surprised to find nearly all of the Native Americans quite eager to accept the Orthodox Faith. In fact, many of them had already been baptized by laymen working for the Russian American fur-trading Company.
The missionaries were careful to honor the local religion and culture as much as possible, especially as the natives’ basic worldview was in many ways already oriented towards the sacramental, tradition-based worldview of Orthodoxy. This very much helps explain how it was that some 12,000 natives were baptized and/or chrismated by the missionaries in their first two years there.
The missionaries also proved to be ardent champions of the human rights of the natives, who were often abused by the managers of the Russian-American Company. At the same time, many of the fur-traders married native women, and a distinctive creole, Aleut culture gradually developed.
One of the first ten missionaries, Saint Juvenaly of Lake Iliamna, left Kodiak to spread the Faith on the Kenai Peninsula of the mainland, and beyond. He was martyred by natives in 1797, thus becoming the Protomartyr of North America.
Another member of this first missionary party was Saint Herman of Alaska, a deeply pious, hesychastic monk who eventually settled in a hermitage on tiny Spruce Island, near Kodiak Island. His gentle compassion and care for the natives won their hearts. With his glorification as a saint by the newly formed Orthodox Church in America in 1970, he became North America’s first officially canonized saint.
The 18th century in the West was a time of spiritual revival, especially through the spreading of various Pietist movements. In 1722 Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf (1700–1760), a godson of Philip Spener, welcomed a group of descendants of the Bohemian Brethren from Austria to settle on one of his estates, called Herrnhut, in Moravia. Thus began what would become the Moravians, a Pietistic group that emphasized intense personal devotion to Jesus Christ as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.
Moravians immigrating to America contributed much to the First Great Awakening, a widespread spiritual revival occurring in the English colonies on the Atlantic seaboard from the 1720s through the 1740s. An indefatigable, dynamic traveling evangelist from England named George Whitefield (1714–1770), and America’s greatest theologian of the 18th century, Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), were the principal leaders actively promoting this revival, which cut across denominational barriers as Protestants of all sorts shared similar experiences of dramatic conversion to Christ.
An Anglican priest named John Wesley (1703–1791) was the leader of Methodism, a form of Pietism arising within the Church of England that began among a group of spiritually zealous students at Oxford University in the 1730s-one of whom had been George Whitefield. These students were seen to be so methodical in their approach to the Christian life that they were disparagingly called Methodists.
Wesley wanted his movement to foster and promote spiritual renewal within the Church of England, but in organizing annual conferences for his followers in the 1750s, he in effect laid the foundation for a new Christian denomination. The Methodist Episcopal Church was officially created in America in 1784. In England, the Methodists broke most of their ties with the Anglican Church by 1795, four years after Wesley’s death. John Wesley’s brother Charles (1707–1788) was a gifted, prolific hymn-writer whose 5500 hymns provided inspiration and cohesion for the Methodist movement and beyond.
At the same time, Deism was growing more popular, mostly among intellectuals, in Europe and America. Deism flourished in this era of the so-called Enlightenment, when man’s natural reason was exalted above belief in the supernatural. Deists still held to a belief in God as Creator of the universe, but they generally believed that, like a cosmic Clockmaker who fashioned and wound up the great clock of Creation and then let it go on ticking on its own, God had little or nothing to do with the ongoing affairs of the world. However, most American Deists, such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, attributed the American colonies’ victory over Great Britain to the working of God’s Providence-or as Washington said, “the propitious smiles of Heaven.”
The Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711–1776) and the Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) developed a philosophy which removed God, freedom, and immortality from the realm of human reason. To them, true Christianity was a religion of personal faith and ethical action, without mystical spiritual experience. Their work would have considerable influence in the development of Liberal Protestantism in the next century.
Among the most influential spiritual achievements of Western Christendom in this century was the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), George Frideric Handel (1685–1759), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791).
The Roman Catholic Church in the eighteenth century continued to promote active mission work, especially in Africa, the Far East, and Latin America, including the American Southwest, where the celebrated Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra (1713–1784) established a number of missions along what is today the coast of southern California. However, a great conflict with the Enlightenment spirit and with growing nationalist and popularist forces led to the violently anti-clerical French Revolution that erupted in 1789.
In 1773 the Jesuit order was dissolved by Pope Clement XIV under secular pressures-though they were restored by the Papacy in 1814. Ironically, many Jesuits found refuge in the Russia of Empress Catherine II (the Great) (r. 1762–1796). Herself a devotee of the French Enlightenment spirit, she closed more than three fourths of the monasteries in Russia during her reign.
Russia: Spiritual Renewal
The seeds of spiritual renewal, planted in the previous century especially through the work of Saint Paisy Velichkovsky, blossomed in Russia in the 19th century, even though the Church continued to live under the domination of the State. While the Church was subject to strict governmental control and censorship, and while there was no patriarch and no church councils during the entire century, the life of faith continued to show itself in the lives of the Russian saints, missionaries, theologians, and writers of the period.
Many of the disciples of Saint Paisy Velichkovsky in Moldavia returned to Russia in 1801 after the new young Tsar Alexander I (r. 1801–1825) granted political pardon to those who had fled from Russia in the previous years. These disciples spread the ideals and practices of the Non-Possessors-contemplation and mysticism (hesychasm) in hermitages and small monasteries (sketes), spiritual eldership, healing and prophetic gifts, and missionary zeal-all of which had been virtually submerged in Russia ever since the victory of the Possessors in the 16th century. It has been said of Saint Paisy that he “was for Russian monasticism at the end of the eighteenth and in the nineteenth centuries, as well as for contemporary monks living a true monastic life, the same as Saint Anthony the Great was for the Egyptian monks and the desert dwellers of the Levant. From him stems also that great tradition of Optina elders, headed by Hieromonk Leonid.”
The Elders of Optina
The Optina Pustyn Monastery had dwindled to almost nothing by the end of the 18th century, but Metropolitan Platon of Moscow, seeing its potential, sent a disciple of Saint Paisy, named Avramy, to go there and direct the rebuilding process. The first in the illustrious line of holy, clairvoyant Optina elders (startsi) was Elder Leonid (1768–1841), who came there in 1829 after spending some time at the Monastery of Valaam which had sent the famous missionary team to Alaska, including Saint Herman. Elder Leonid suffered great persecution from his fellow monks, who were not used to the practice of spiritual eldership, and who perhaps resented the many visitors who came to the holy elder seeking spiritual guidance. Eventually Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev intervened to defend him.
At his death, Elder Leonid was followed by Saint Makary (1788–1860) in the office of staretz at Optina. An intellectual from the gentry class, Makary, according to John Dunlap, “carried on a vast correspondence with laymen and clergy from all over Russia. It was during Makary’s tenure as staretz that the Russian intelligensia began to flock to Optina, finding there the light which eluded them in Western philosophy and social action movements.”
Under the protection and patronage of the imposing Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow (r. 1821–1867), Saint Makary worked along with the famous Slavophile philosopher Ivan Kireevsky (1806–1856) and several excellent Patristic scholars and translators to publish in Russian a number of Patristic writings by Saint Isaac the Syrian, Saints Barsanuphius and John, Saint Mark the Ascetic, Saint Maximus the Confessor, Saint Theodore the Studite, Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Saint Gregory of Sinai, and others. Saint Makary wrote to one of his spiritual children, “I have told you nothing that is an invention of my own. All of what I say comes from the writings of the Fathers.”
Saint Amvrosy (1812–1891) succeeded Saint Makary as staretz of Optina in 1865, after Saint Makary groomed him for this office during the many years he served as Saint Makary’s cell attendant. Amvrosy was so impressive as a spiritual teacher and living saint that the great Orthodox Christian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881) modeled Elder Zossima in his masterwork, The Brothers Karamazov, upon him. Dostoevsky wrote that he also was inspired particularly by Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk of the previous century.
The great line of spiritual eldership at Optina continued into the 20th century with Elder Joseph (1837–1911), who had been Saint Amvrosy’s cell attendant for many years, Elder Anatoly (d. 1922), and Elder Nektary (d. 1928).
Saint Seraphim of Sarov
Probably the greatest Russian saint of the 19th century, who has been called by some the greatest saint in all of Russian Church history, was Saint Seraphim of Sarov (1759–1833). Saint Seraphim became a monk at the age of 19. He lived for many years by himself in a hut he built in the woods near the Sarov monastery, devoting himself to intense prayer, fasting, and spiritual exercise. He continued living there for several years even after being terribly beaten by robbers, who later repented after he forgave them.
In 1810 the abbot of the monastery ordered Saint Seraphim to return to the monastery where he continued his life of seclusion and silence, reading through the New Testament once a week, and being granted many spiritual visions. In 1825 he opened the doors of his enclosure to receive visitors, whom he greeted with the radiant joy of the resurrected Christ and the Holy Spirit. Soon the crowds of visitors were so great that he moved to the Near Hermitage, where he continued to minister to the massive stream of pilgrims-people from all walks of life, rich and poor, high-born and low-born-coming for healing and spiritual guidance. In his spiritual instructions St Seraphim identified the purpose of the Christian life as “the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.”
From Saint Seraphim’s conversation with Nicholas Motovilov, a married layman
And Father Seraphim continued, “When the Spirit of God comes down and confers upon a person the fullness of His presence, the human soul, as does anything else that He may touch, overflows with an inexpressible joy.?.?.?.
“Yet however comforting this joy which you now feel in your heart may be, it can never compare with that joy of which the Lord Himself spoke through the mouth of His Apostle when he said, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’ (1Cor 2.9).
“We have been given a mere foretaste of that joy right now; and if it has filled our souls with such a sweetness, well-being, and happiness, then what shall we say of that joy which is prepared in Heaven for those who mourn here on earth? You too have shed enough tears in your life here on earth, and just look at the joy with which the Lord now consoles you!”
Other leading figures
Within this movement of spiritual renewal were two bishop-monks who were especially noteworthy teachers of the ascetic life and the practice of the Jesus Prayer: Saint lgnaty Brianchaninov (1807–1867) and Saint Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894). Saint Ignaty is most well remembered for writing the famous Arena: An Offering to Contemporary Monasticism. He intended this work to be his last words to monks everywhere, but much of it is relevant for laypeople. In it he faithfully transmits the teachings of the Holy Fathers. As he says in his foreword to the work, “The teaching I offer is taken entirely from the sacred teaching of the holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church.” He draws especially upon Saint John of the Ladder, Saint Isaac the Syrian, and Saints Barsanuphius and John. He includes quotations from ascetic writers of every century, including his own-men such as Saint Seraphim of Sarov and Elder Leonid of Optina.
Like Saint Ignaty and Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, Saint Theophan the Recluse also retired from active episcopal service to devote himself more entirely to prayer, contemplation, and writing letters and books. He wrote many works on the spiritual life, including The Path to Salvation, and The Spiritual Life and How to be Attuned to It which consists of a series of letters written to a young woman in the world who was one of his spiritual daughters. His greatest contribution was making a complete translation of the Philokalia into contemporary Russian.
Two other extremely popular spiritual writings in circulation in Russia in the latter half of the 19th century were The Way of the Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way. They are a series of travel narratives written by an anonymous pilgrim who wandered across Russia, practicing the Jesus Prayer, which he first learned from a staretz. He then amplified his understanding through reading the Philokalia. He was advised to repeat the Jesus Prayer thousands of times a day.
The two leading Russian theologians of the 19th century were the great churchman Saint Philaret (Drozdev), Metropolitan of Moscow (r. 1821–1867) and the layman Alexei Khomiakov (1804–1860). In 1840 Saint Philaret oversaw a reform of seminary education at the Moscow Academy, with all subjects now to be taught in Russian instead of Latin, and with more emphasis on Patristics. As mentioned above, his active support made possible the very significant Patristic publishing efforts led by Elder Makary of Optina and Ivan Kireevsky. He was a key figure in the beginning of the “return to the Fathers” in mid-19th century Russia, and the turning away from the Latin Scholasticism which had strongly influenced Russian theological education ever since Peter Moghila founded the Kiev Academy in the early 17th century.
Khomiakov’s writings-such as the famous essay “The Church is One”-were not originally published in Russia due to government censorship. Considered to be one of the most original and creative of modern theologians, Khomiakov was among the first to “discover” the traditional Patristic patterns of Orthodox theology and spiritual life. He encouraged Orthodox thinkers to break away from the “Western captivity” of scholastic theology and to meet the intellectual and spiritual world of the West with a sound knowledge and experience of the genuine Orthodox Tradition.
Besides Dostoevsky, another very important Russian novelist of the nineteenth century, who also wove profound spiritual themes into his novels and short stories, was Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910). His majestic War and Peace, about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, is considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written. However, in his later years, in actively pursuing his burning interest in social reform, and in reaction to what he perceived as dry formalism in the Orthodox Church, he became convinced that the moral precepts given by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, and working towards establishing a just society based upon brotherly love, were the essence of the Gospel, rather than Christ’s Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Second Coming. He was excommunicated by the Russian Church in 1901 for his rejection of the authentic Christian teaching-as seen, for example, in his own edited revision of the New Testament.
In addition to Kireevsky, Khomiakov, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy, several other Russian religious thinkers/philosophers, such as Vladimir Soloviev (1853–1900), Nikolai Fedorov (1829–1903), and the brothers Sergei Troubetskoy (d. 1905) and Evgeny Troubetskoy (d. 1920), made important contributions to the intellectual and spiritual life of the nation. While attempting to create a distinctly Russian form of philosophy, incorporating certain elements from Russian Orthodoxy, these thinkers remained essentially Western-oriented in their basic approach. Still, they helped many of their fellow Russian intellectuals-especially among the Russian emigre community who fled to the West in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917-to return to their Orthodox roots.
Russia: Missionary Activity
The nineteenth century in Russia, as in the West, was a missionary century. The priest Makary Glukharev (1792–1847) dedicated his life to the evangelization of the Siberian tribes. The lay professor, Nikolai Ilminsky (1822–1892), translated the Scriptures and Church books of the Orthodox Faith into some of the languages of these peoples. The theological academy founded in 1842 in Kazan, at the ‘Gateway to Siberia,’ became the center of the missionary activity of the Russian Church to the animistic Siberian tribes (some of whom were being converted to Buddhism by monks from Tibet), and to the Muslims living in the south-central parts of the Russian Empire. In the Kazan area alone, in 1903, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in 22 different languages or dialects.
The first Russian missionary to Japan, Saint Nikolai Kasatkin of Japan (1836–1912), spent six years mastering the Japanese language, and proceeded to convert thousands of Japanese to the Orthodox Faith-despite several periods of persecution by the Japanese government. At his death, as Japan’s first Orthodox bishop, he left a self-governing local church of about 33,000 members, with the Scriptures and liturgical books in the native language, and a number of native pastors. The impressive stone cathedral he had built in Tokyo, affectionately called Nikolai-Do (Nikolai’s house), still is a prominent architectural presence in the city.
In 1970, the Orthodox Church in America glorified its first saint: Saint Herman of Alaska (c. 1758–1837), who was one of the first ten monastic missionaries who arrived on Kodiak Island in 1794. The memory of his extraordinary holiness, expressed by his self-emptying love and care for the Alaskan people-especially in the face of exploitation and abuse of the natives by the Russian-American (fur-trading) Company-and by various miracles accomplished through his prayers, had been kept strongly alive by the descendants of the Aleuts with whom he lived and labored in Kodiak and on nearby Spruce Island.
From Saint Herman’s conversation with 25 Russian naval officers
“And do you love God?” the Elder then asked.
All replied: “Of course, we love God. How can one not love God?”
“And I, a sinful one, for more than forty years have been striving to love God, and I cannot say that I perfectly love Him,” answered Father Herman; and he began to show how one should love God, “If we love someone,” he said, “we always think of him, strive to please him, and day and night our heart is occupied with this. Is this the way you, gentlemen, love God? Do you often turn to Him, do you always think of Him, do you always pray to Him and fulfill His holy commandments?” It had to be acknowledged that they did not!
“For our good, for our happiness,” concluded the Elder, “at least let us make a promise to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this minute we shall strive to love God above all, and fulfill His holy will!”
Behold what an intelligent, superb conversation Father Herman conducted in society. Without doubt this conversation must have imprinted itself on the hearts of his listeners for their whole life!
Saint Peter the Aleut was a young Aleut Orthodox Christian working for the Russian-American Company. He was one of a party of fourteen fur-hunters sailing near San Francisco whose boat was commandeered in 1815 by the Spanish authorities in the area. Imprisoned by the governor, and threatened with death by the Roman Catholic priest at the mission there if they did not accept Catholicism, all the Aleuts remained true to their Orthodox Faith. According to the eyewitness account of one of these Aleuts, Peter was then cruelly tortured until he died from loss of blood. (The others then were released.) Canonized in 1980 by the Orthodox Church in America, Saint Peter is the first Orthodox martyr of the lower 48 states.
In 1977, Father John Veniaminov (1797–1879) was glorified as a saint by the Church of Russia as “Saint Innocent of Moscow, Enlightener of the Aleuts and Apostle to America.” As a young priest, he traveled from Irkutsk in central Siberia with his pregnant wife, his son, his mother-in-law, and his brother to begin mission work on the island of Unalaska in the Aleutian chain in 1824. During his pastoral ministry there, after first creating an alphabet for the Aleut language out of Slavonic characters, he translated a number of Scriptural and liturgical texts into the Aleut language. He also wrote a lengthy catechetical book in the Aleut language and in Russian, called The Indication of the Way to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Saint Innocent was a very fine administrator, carpenter, clock and organ maker, and naturalist, besides being a superb teacher, linguist, and pastor. In 1840, one year after his wife Catherine died, he became the first Bishop of Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands, with his headquarters in Sitka, Alaska, where he built Saint Michael’s Cathedral and a seminary. As bishop he made pastoral journeys of many months and thousands of miles by kayak and dogsled to visit the widely scattered communities of his far-flung diocese. In 1867 he was elected Metropolitan of Moscow. As metropolitan, he continued his interest in mission work by establishing the Russian Missionary Society to raise funds for the support of missions.
At the time of the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867, Saint Innocent recommended that all the clergy who did not know the English language be sent home and replaced by those knowing English, and he urged that English be the standard language of the Orthodox Church in America. He urged that seminaries be established for training American-born men to become priests, and he recommended that the headquarters of the Church in America be moved from Sitka to San Francisco. All of this reveals his vision for the growth of Orthodoxy in North America as an indigenous, English-speaking Church.
Saint Jacob Netsvetov (1802–1864) was another outstanding missionary-priest in Russian America. Born to a Russian father and an Aleut mother, he became the first native American to be ordained as an Orthodox priest, upon his completion of seminary training in Irkutsk. Sent back to the island of Atka, his birthplace, in the western Aleutian Archipelago, for 17 years he faithfully ministered there and all across his far-flung “parish” stretching for 2000 miles all the way to the Kurile Islands of northern Japan.
In 1844/1845, when Bishop Innocent opened the Mission to the lower Yukon Delta and Kuskokwim River Basin of the Alaskan mainland, he entrusted it to Saint Jacob, who labored for 18 years among the Eskimo and Athabascan peoples. Like his mentor Saint Innocent, Saint Jacob was an excellent linguist, translator, and naturalist. A major highlight of his ministry, as recorded in his fascinating journal, was his success in 1852 among the Athabascan Indians along the Innoko River, when he baptized hundreds and narrowly averted a tribal war. In “retirement” he ministered to the Tlingit Indians in the area around Sitka, where he died.
Saint John of Kronstadt (1829–1908) was an outstanding example of what can be called a “home missionary.” Originally he wanted to be a missionary to eastern Siberia, but he came to realize that there were many in his own region around Saint Petersburg who were very poor and very much in need of the Church’s ministry to soul and body. As a parish priest in the naval city of Kronstadt across the bay from Saint Petersburg, he became famous throughout Russia as a brilliant preacher, healer of the sick, protector of orphans and the poor, teacher of children, ardently loving pastor of his flock, faithful servant at the altar (serving Liturgy every day, at which up to 5000 would attend, necessitating the practice of group confession), and prophet to the nation. His insistence on regular participation in the holy sacraments by those who came to pray with him in his parish helped lead to the Eucharistic revival among Russian Orthodox Christians in the 20th century.
The famous “House of Industry” which Saint John founded in Kronstadt included a free elementary school, a carpentry teaching-workshop, a drawing class, a women’s workshop for sewing, a workshop for shoemaking, a library for children, a zoological collection, a military gymnasium, and a bookshop for children and adults. His powerful and insightful spiritual counsels, as given in his diary, have been published with the title My Life in Christ.
The Spread of Orthodoxy in the Lower 48 States in America
The latter part of the 19th century saw the arrival and growth of the Orthodox Church in America’s “Lower 48.” Thousands of immigrants, especially in the years after 1880, came to the New World from the traditional Orthodox homelands of the Old World, seeking economic opportunity. Pan-Orthodox communities developed in Galveston, Texas (perhaps as early as 1862); New Orleans (1865); San Francisco (1867); Pittsburgh (1891); and various other places. The parish in New Orleans was given some of its churchly vessels by the Russian tsar Alexander II (r. 1855–1881).
In 1870 the first bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands was named-Bishop John (Mitropolsky). In 1872 Bishop John moved the center of the diocese from Sitka to San Francisco, to much more readily reach out to the general American public with the story and presence of Holy Orthodoxy. Fluent in English, he was also a well-trained theologian, and until he returned to Russia in 1876, he wrote much in the local press about Orthodoxy. He also wrote a substantial study of the religious environment of the contemporary American society of his day, entitled From the History of Religious Sects in America.
Also in 1870, Nicholas Bjerring (1831–1900), a Danish Roman Catholic married layman teaching in Baltimore, Maryland, converted to Orthodoxy, was ordained a priest in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and was sent to open a kind of embassy chapel in New York City. Father Bjerring translated many liturgical works into English from German, and made great efforts, including publishing for a few years a magazine about Orthodoxy, to make the people of New York (especially Episcopalians) familiar with the faith and worship of the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, funding for the chapel was withdrawn in 1883 by a decision of the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia. Father Bjerring had to close it, and very sadly, he left the Orthodox Church shortly thereafter. The next Orthodox church to be established in New York City was Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, founded in 1891.
Conversion of the Uniates
In 1878, Saint Alexis Toth (1853–1909) was ordained as a priest of the Byzantine Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, in Slovakia. After serving for some time as Director of the Prešov Seminary, where he also taught Church History and Canon Law, he was sent in 1889 to Minneapolis, Minnesota, as a missionary priest to serve the Uniate immigrants there. However, when he reported to the local Latin-rite Roman Catholic Bishop John Ireland, upon his arrival in the city, he was rudely rejected. Two years later, he did what he said was “something which I had carried in my heart for a long time, for which my soul longed: that is, to become Orthodox.” In 1891 Bishop Vladimir (Sokolovsky; r. 1888–1891), head of the Russian mission-diocese, personally received Saint Alexis and his 361 parishioners into the Orthodox Church.
Soon thereafter, Saint Alexis was invited to serve the Uniate parish in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. After receiving the approximately 500 parishioners’ unanimous decision to become Orthodox, he began his 16 years of ministry there, until his death in 1909. In these years, enduring strong opposition from both Eastern- and Latin-rite Roman Catholics, he guided some 29,000 Uniates in 17 parishes, mostly in Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut, into Orthodoxy.
In 1994 the mitred Archpriest Alexis was glorified as a saint, with the title “Confessor and Defender of Orthodoxy in America,” in services held at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania.
Attracted by the California Gold Rush, Serbian immigrants began arriving in California in 1850. Some of them became involved in the Russian Orthodox parish in San Francisco established in the 1860s. This was where a Serbian-American child named Sebastian Dabovich (1863–1940) was baptized. In 1892 he became the first native-born American to be ordained as an Orthodox priest. Two years later he built Saint Sava Orthodox Church, the first Serbian Orthodox church in America, in the gold-mining town of Jackson, California. In мая 2015, Sebastian was canonized by the Serbian Church and became the first American-born saint of the Orthodox Church.
The 1890s also saw the beginnings of the Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago; this would become the “Mother Church” for the Serbian immigrants in America. Also, the first Orthodox church to be established in Cleveland, Ohio, a city that would come to have many Orthodox churches, was Saint Theodosius Cathedral, founded in 1896 by the Serbian Orthodox.
In 1895 the community of Syrian Orthodox immigrants in New York City invited Father Raphael Hawaweeny (1860–1915), a Syrian by birth who had joined the Church of Russia and was then teaching at the missionary seminary/academy in Kazan, Russia, to come and be their priest. He accepted this offer after making it clear to these Syrians that for him to come, they would have to accept the authority of the Russian Administration in America, since he was a Russian clergyman. Thus began 20 years of fruitful ministry to the Syrian Orthodox scattered all across the United States and Mexico, including founding 30 parishes, until his death in 1915. In 1904 he was consecrated as the Bishop of Brooklyn in the first Orthodox episcopal consecration in the New World. He was glorified as a saint in 2000 by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and the Antiochian Archdiocese in America, at services also held at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery.
As with the Syrians, Greeks began emigrating to America in large numbers after about 1890. Before then, in the 1860s, earlier Greek immigrants, along with some Russian, Serbian, and Syrian immigrants, had been active in establishing the Holy Trinity parish in New Orleans. Before the turn of the century Greek immigrants had established two churches in New York City, two in Chicago, and one in Lowell, Massachusetts.
These parishes were established without reference to the Russian Administration. Priests were sent to these parishes, upon the request of the immigrants, by either the Church of Greece or the Ecumenical Patriarchate, depending on which part of the Old Country the immigrants originally came from.
Eastern Europe and Greece
In the 19th century, the traditionally Orthodox lands of Serbia, Romania, and central and southern Greece gained liberation from the Turkish yoke. The Greek Revolution broke out in February of 1821 with the invasion into Moldavia from southwestern Russia led by Alexandros Ypsilantis, who was the Captain-General of the top secret, conspiratorial Society of Friends. However, the revolt did not gain widespread popular support until one hierarch gave his blessing for it. That man was Metropolitan Germanos of Old Patras, who raised the standard of revolt on March 25, 1821; this date has been celebrated ever since as Greek Independence Day. With the reluctantly given aid of Britain, France, and Russia, the Turks were finally expelled from central and southern Greece by 1829. Northern Greece, however, had to wait until the Balkan War of 1912 to gain its freedom. And of course, Constantinople (Istanbul), Asia Minor (Turkey), and Thrace (European Turkey) remain in the hands of the Turks to this day.
The patriarch of Constantinople at the time of the revolt, Saint Gregory V (r. 1797–1798, 1806–1810, and 1818–1821), and twelve metropolitans, along with as many as 30,000 Greeks in and around Constantinople, were murdered by the Turks when the news of the revolt reached the capital. The patriarch was hung from the gates of the Church of Saint George, his headquarters in the Phanar district of Constantinople, on the morning of Holy Pascha, April 10, 1821. He is commemorated as Hieromartyr Saint Gregory V.
At a council in Nauplion in the Peloponnesus in 1833, the Church in newly liberated Greece declared herself to be autocephalous from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This status was accepted and confirmed by Constantinople in 1850. With free Greece now under the rule of the Bavarian King Otto (beginning in 1831), the reorganized Church of Greece was structured along the lines of the Protestant State-Churches in northern Europe. Meanwhile, the patriarchal theological seminary on the island of Halki, near Constantinople, was founded in 1844.
With the liberation of Serbia and Romania from the Ottoman Turks also by about 1830, five self-governing dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church and two dioceses of Romanian Church were set up beyond the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. This gave them the welcomed freedom to use the Serbian and Romanian languages in their services, after many years of enforced Hellenization of their churches under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Within the Empire, the Bulgarian people sought and obtained permission from the Turks to have their own separate church jurisdiction in 1870. The Bulgarians also had been governed by Greek bishops appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople, and they resented the forced Hellenization of their church life.
However, in 1872, at an important Church council held in Constantinople, any attempt to establish a separate Church administration on the basis of ethnicity or nationality was officially condemned as the heresy of phyletism. When the Bulgarian Christians refused to accept this ruling, the Church of Constantinople excommunicated them, thus creating the so-called Bulgarian Schism. This rupture in relations lasted until 1945, when an independent Bulgarian Church was established within the territorial boundaries of Bulgaria as they stood at the end of World War II. In 1953 the Bulgarian Church regained her patriarchate, which had been lost in 1393 when the Ottoman Turks conquered Bulgaria.
A leading saint of this era in the Eastern Church was Saint Nektarios of Aegina (1846–1920). As Archbishop of Pentapolis in Libya he was known for his evangelical preaching and manner of life, characterized by humility, simplicity, poverty, and love for the brethren. He was being groomed to succeed Patriarch Sophronios of Alexandria as head of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. However, when he was slandered by envious fellow hierarchs and others, the patriarch believed the slander and exiled him out of the Alexandrian patriarchate. He found refuge in Athens, where he served as a “holy preacher” and headed the Rizarios Academy for 15 years before retiring to the island of Aegina. There he restored and shepherded a women’s monastery. Many miracles have occurred through his relics and his many appearances to the faithful since his death.
Another remarkable saint of this period was Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia (1840–1924), an exceptionally holy priest-monk who lived in a Christian enclave in central Asia Minor surrounded by Turks. As there was no doctor in the area, everyone came to him for healing, both Christians and Muslims, and many were healed through his prayers.
Western Europe and America
The Protestant West in the 19th century was generally characterized by greatly expanded missionary efforts and liberal theology, along with the rise of the powerful Social Gospel Movement in America. Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries worked together with government administrators as the various nations of western Europe carved up Africa and parts of Asia, the East Indies, and the Pacific islands in their colonial conquests.
In Protestant theology, this was the era of rationalistic reinterpretations of the Gospel accounts using the so-called “scientific methods” of historical and biblical criticism. This movement was begun by the Hegelian German scholar David Strauss (1808–1874) with his very controversial book called The Life of Jesus (1836), in which he denied the historicity of all the supernatural elements in the four Gospels. This movement peaked with the publication in 1910 of the famous, and also very controversial, The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965), the famous theologian and medical missionary to French Equatorial Africa.
Generally speaking, in these years in the West, Protestantism (with the exception of Anglicanism) emphasized either emotional experience (Evangelicalism/Pietism/the Holiness Movement), or rigid dogmatic conservatism (the beginnings of Christian Fundamentalism, usually Calvinistic in doctrinal orientation), or liberal theology expressed especially in social action (the Social Gospel), rather than being centered in the traditional theology and liturgical/sacramental life of historic Christianity.
The Second Great Awakening
In the first decades of the 19th century, America-especially New England, upstate New York, and the Tennessee-Kentucky-Ohio frontier-experienced the Second Great Awakening. This was a wave of Protestant, evangelistic revivalism, centered in a new phenomenon known as the “camp-meeting,” which could last for a week or more. These stirring events featured outdoor preaching, congregational singing, calls for repentance, and fervent prayer, sometimes led by women. Thousands were converted to faith in Christ in these meetings, and several new denominations coalesced in these years. The largest of these was the Disciples of Christ, arising from the Restorationist Movement led by the Presbyterian clergyman Barton Stone (1772–1844), leader of the noteworthy Cane Ridge Revival of 1801 in Kentucky, and by the Presbyterian pastor Thomas Campbell (1763–1854) and his son Alexander Campbell (1788–1866) in western Pennsylvania. The Baptist movement, characterized by hundreds of small churches led by local farmer-preachers, also was given great impetus by the Second Great Awakening.
Charles Finney (1792–1875), a young Presbyterian lawyer who was converted to Christ on October 10, 1821, was the leading traveling evangelist during the Second Great Awakening, followed by Lyman Beecher (1775–1863). In his preaching Finney emphasized the need to combine spiritual growth with active social work, such as participating in the great social movements of his day. In 1835 he became professor of theology, teaching a moderate form of Calvinism, at the newly founded Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. This remarkable school, America’s first coeducational college, became “the abolitionist hotbed of the country.” It was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves fleeing from the South.
Rise of the Social Gospel
Politically-minded liberal Christians in America, along with socially-minded evangelical Christians, became greatly involved in interdenominational causes for social justice and moral reform such as the Abolitionist Movement, which helped lead to President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863; the Women’s Rights Movement, which helped lead to the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote, in 1920; and the Temperance Movement, which helped lead to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing the manufacture, importation, and sale of all alcoholic beverages, in 1919. These movements, along with the work of urban ministry groups like the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), founded by George Williams in London in 1844, and the Salvation Army, founded by William and Catherine Booth in London in 1865, all were various aspects of the Social Gospel Movement.
Another aspect of the Social Gospel was the so-called “Gospel of Wealth,” espoused by the wealthy business magnate Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919). In a seminal essay, written in 1889, entitled “Wealth,” he claimed it was God’s will for a few individuals to gain tremendous wealth so they could administer their fortunes during their lifetimes for the public good. He especially advocated the establishment of institutions, such as colleges, libraries, concert halls, and philanthropic foundations.
Responses to the Social Gospel
Many conservative Christians, especially in the American South, tended to maintain a more individualistic understanding of the Christian Faith, at the expense of participation in social justice efforts. As an example, most southern Christians defended slavery-on the basis of what they understood as being a literal reading of the Bible, among other things.
In England, the Oxford Movement arose in the 1830s within the Anglican Church partly in reaction to the spread of Liberalism in theology. John Henry Newman (1801–1890) was the leader of this movement, which was shaped theologically more by the early Church Fathers than by the Schoolmen of medieval western Europe. A great emphasis within the Movement was a restoration of higher standards of worship. Several of its leaders, including Newman, eventually joined the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1854, Pope Pius IX (r. 1846–1878) officially promulgated the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. This doctrine, strongly promoted by the Franciscans, had been adamantly opposed by the Dominican Order when it was first proposed in the 13th century. It teaches that Mary’s conception from her parents had to be supernaturally free from original sin so that she could grow up to be Christ’s mother (see Doctrine).
In 1870, the First Vatican Council reaffirmed the doctrines of the Council of Trent, and officially, for the first time in history, legislated the dogma of the infallibility of the pope of Rome. This dogma declares that when the pope speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith or morals, his decision is binding on all Catholics-since it is considered to be infallible. This Vatican dogma states that the infallibility of the pope is binding even if, when he speaks ex cathedra, he is speaking “from himself and not from the consensus of the church.”
This very controversial doctrine was opposed by many at the Vatican I Council, and some Roman Catholic bishops broke away from communion with the Roman Church on this issue. They and their followers became known as the Old Catholics. In America, one such group, the Polish National Catholic Church, declared its independence from Rome in 1897, at a convention held in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Also during the long reign of Pope Pius IX, the Papacy lost the last of its so-called Papal States. By 1861 only the city of Rome was left under the direct governance of the Papacy, and by 1870 Rome itself was lost. At that point the Papacy withdrew into the Vatican City within the city of Rome.
France was blessed with the lives of two remarkable saints in this century: the famous Curé d’Ars, Saint John-Baptiste Vianney (1786–1859), and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897). The Curé d’Ars was a simple parish priest in the small town of Ars whose spiritual guidance attracted thousands of pilgrims from all walks of life. Saint Thérèse, having dedicated herself as a child to the attainment of religious perfection, entered a Carmelite convent at the age of 15. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24, but not before writing, at the command of her superiors, her autobiography entitled The History of a Soul. She attained such holiness that many miracles have been attributed to her prayers.
In America, the Roman Catholic Church expanded greatly throughout the 19th century, mainly through massive immigration from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, French Canada, and Mexico. By 1850 the Roman Church had become the single largest Christian group in America, with 1.6 million adherents. By 1860 that number almost doubled. The widespread Roman Catholic parochial school system began to take shape in the 1840s, in opposition to the spread of the Protestant-oriented public school system; it was strongly in place by the turn of the century.
Relations between the Churches East and West
William Palmer (1811–1879), a professor at Magdalen College, Oxford, pursued a serious interest in the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1840 and 1842 he visited Russia to explore possibilities of intercommunion between the Anglican and Orthodox Churches. His work, Notes of a Visit to the Russian Church in the Years 1840, 1841, was edited by John Henry Newman and published in 1882. Palmer had a long correspondence with the important Russian lay theologian, Alexei Khomiakov. He actually inquired into being officially received into the Russian Church, but he was troubled by the fact that the Russian Church would have accepted him by chrismation while the Greek Church would have required him to be baptized. In 1855 he joined the Roman Catholic Church instead.
In 1848, in response to overtures directed to the Orthodox by Pope Pius IX, the Eastern Patriarchs issued an encyclical letter in which the understanding of the conciliar as well as the hierarchical nature of the Orthodox Church is clearly professed. This letter also includes a long list of Roman Catholic errors that the Orthodox have always rejected, most especially the unilateral addition of the filioque to the Nicene Creed. Signed by all the patriarchs of the Orthodox Church, together with 29 bishops, and fully endorsed by Saint Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, the encyclical letter of 1848 is considered to be the most authoritative doctrinal statement in modern Orthodox Church history.
In 1895, a similar encyclical letter was issued by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in response to a similar overture by Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878–1903).
Orthodoxy in America, Part One: From the Russian Mission to the OCA
In 1898, Bishop Tikhon (Belavin) (1866–1925) became the head of the Mission Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1900, the name of this diocese was changed to the Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and North America. In 1905, the Holy Synod of the Russian Church elevated the diocese to the rank of archdiocese, with Bishop Tikhon becoming an Archbishop.
In 1904, the headquarters of the American archdiocese were moved from San Francisco to New York City, to the newly built Saint Nicholas Cathedral in upper Manhattan. In 1905, Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and orphanage were founded at South Canaan, Pennsylvania, through the enterprising vision and hard work of Father Arseny (Chagovtsov) (1866–1945), the monk-priest of the parish in nearby маяfield, Pennsylvania, who later became Archbishop Arseny of Winnipeg.
The First All-American Sobor (Council) of the Church in America took place in 1907, in маяfield, Pennsylvania. Under Saint Tikhon’s initiative and guidance, each parish sent not only their priest, but also a lay delegate to this sobor. The theme of the sobor was “How to Spread the Mission.”
Saint Tikhon’s Overarching Plan
When all the bishops of the Russian Church were asked their opinions in 1905 regarding Church reform, Archbishop Tikhon stated that the American archdiocese should become a basically self-governing Orthodox Church made up of all Orthodox Christians of all nationalities, using the American civil calendar (i.e., the Gregorian Calendar), and eventually using the English language for its church services and activities. English translations of the main liturgical services of the Church had already been done by then, and in 1906 the landmark service book compiled and translated by Isabel Florence Hapgood was published. Archbishop Tikhon and Bishop Raphael were strongly supported in their advocacy of the use of English by Fr Ingram Nathaniel Irvine (1849–1921), a former Episcopalian priest who converted to Orthodoxy in 1905 and was ordained an Orthodox priest in that same year. Saint Tikhon assigned him to “English work” in the American Mission.
Saint Tikhon’s plan for the gradual development of an autonomous American Church included a hierarchy drawn from all the different ethnic Orthodox peoples. In 1904, Fr Raphael Hawaweeny (1860–1915), the Syrian archimandrite who had been shepherding the Arabic-speaking parishes in America since 1895 under the oversight of the Russian Diocesan Administration, was consecrated as Bishop of Brooklyn, auxiliary bishop to Archbishop Tikhon. His consecration in New York City was the first Orthodox episcopal consecration in the New World. In 2000, at a ceremony at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, Bishop Raphael was glorified as a saint, with the designation “Bishop of Brooklyn, Shepherd of the Lost Sheep of North America.”
A similar plan was set for the consecration of a bishop from among the Serbian clergy in America, who would be responsible for the pastoral care of the Serbian Orthodox Christians scattered across North America. With this goal in mind, in 1905, Father Sebastian Dabovich (1863–1940), after being made an archimandrite, was appointed as “Administrator of the Serbian branch of the Orthodox Church in America,” with his headquarters at the Holy Resurrection Church in Chicago.
In an effort to extend this overarching plan to include the Greeks in America, in 1912 Fr Michael Andreades, a priest of Greek extraction and Dean of the West Coast parishes of the Russian Mission Archdiocese, traveled to Constantinople to request the Ecumenical Patriarch to send a Greek bishop to America, who would serve as head of the Greek-American parishes, all to be gathered within the Mission Archdiocese. Unfortunately, nothing came of this overture.
In further efforts to extend Archbishop Tikhon’s original plan, in 1916 the former Byzantine-rite Catholic priest Father Alexander Dzubay (1857–1933) was consecrated as Bishop Stephen of Pittsburgh, with special responsibility for bringing the Carpatho-Russians who were still Byzantine-rite Catholics (Uniates) into the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, this mission was unsuccessful, and in disappointment Bishop Stephen returned to his Uniate roots in 1924.
In 1919, at the Second All-American Sobor, held in Cleveland, Ohio, Archimandrite Theophan (Fan) Noli (1882–1965) was elected to be bishop of the Albanian parishes in America, and Archimandrite Mardary Uskokovich (1889–1935) was elected to be bishop of the Serbian parishes. However, with the Church in Russia in turmoil in the midst of the Bolshevik Revolution and the ensuing civil war, official ecclesiastical approval for these two consecrations never came.
This sobor also discussed positively the possibility of forming a ‘mission’ for Ukrainian immigrants, similar to that of the Serbs and the Albanians. Unfortunately, the Archbishop at that time, Archbishop Alexander (Nemolovsky), did not encourage further development of this idea.
Thus it was the plan to develop a unified hierarchy that would serve the pastoral needs of all the various ethnic immigrant groups in North America. Already in 1905, however, a “Hellenic Eastern Orthodox Church” was incorporated in the state of New York completely independent of the Russian Orthodox hierarchy in America. This was done even though at the time there was no Greek bishop in the country and no plans for a specifically Greek-American diocese-although there were already 29 Greek parishes in America by 1906.
After Archbishop Tikhon was transferred to a diocese in Russia in the Spring of 1907, the American diocese was headed by Archbishop Platon (Rozhdestvensky) (1866–1934; r. 1907–1914 and 1922–1934). One of the highlights of his tenure was moving the ecclesiastical seminary, called St Platon’s, from Minneapolis to Tenafly, New Jersey (across the river from Manhattan), in 1912, so that it could be much closer to the central administration of the archdiocese. He served as Archbishop of the American Church until 1914, when he was recalled to Russia to serve as a bishop there. He was succeeded by Archbishop Evdokim (1869–1935; r. 1914–1917).
From Saint Tikhon’s last sermon preached in America, at Saint Nicholas Cathedral, New York City, on the first Sunday of Great Lent, 1907
But it is not enough, brethren, to only celebrate “The Triumph of Orthodoxy.” It is necessary for us personally to promote and contribute to this triumph. And for this we must reverently preserve the Orthodox Faith, standing firm in it in spite of the fact that we live in a non-Orthodox country, and not pleading as an excuse for our apostasy that “it is not the old land here but America, a free country, and therefore it is impossible to follow everything that the Church requires.” As if the word of Christ is only suitable for the old land and not for the entire world! As if the Church of Christ is not “catholic”! As if the Orthodox Faith did not “establish the universe”!
Furthermore, while faithfully preserving the Orthodox Faith, everyone must also take care to spread it among the non-Orthodox. Christ the Savior said that having lit the candle, men do not put it under a bushel but on a candlestick so that it gives light to all (Mt 5.15). The light of the Orthodox Faith has not been lit to shine only for a small circle of people. No, the Orthodox Church is catholic; she remembers the commandment of her Founder, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature and teach all nations” (Mk 16.15; Mt 28.19).
We must share our spiritual richness, truth, light, and joy with others who do not have these blessings. And this duty does not only lay upon the pastors and the missionaries but on the lay persons as well, since the Church of Christ, according to the wise comparison of the Holy Apostle Paul, is the body, and every member takes part in the life of the body. By means of all sorts of mutually binding bonds which are formed and strengthened through the action of every member according to his capacity, the great Church body receives an increase unto the edifying of itself (Eph 4.16).
In the first centuries it was not only the pastors who were tortured, but lay persons as well-men, women, and even children. And it was lay people likewise who enlightened the heathen and fought heresies. And now in the same way, the spreading of the Faith should be a matter that is personal, heartfelt, and dear to each one of us. Every member of the Church must take an active part in it-some by personal podvig spreading the Good News, some by material donations and service to “the needs of the holy persons,” and some by profuse prayer to the Lord that He “keep His Church firm and multiply it”-and concerning those unaware of Christ, that He would “proclaim the word of truth to them, open to them the Gospel of Truth, and join them to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” I have told this numerous times to my flock. And today, upon my departing from this land, I once more command all of you to preserve and act upon this, and especially you brethren of this holy temple.?.?.?.
Farewell to you, this country! For some you are the motherland, the place of birth; for others you gave shelter, work, and well-being. Some received the freedom to profess the right Faith in your liberal land.?.?.?.
Let God’s blessing be upon this country, this city, and this temple. And let “the blessing of the Lord, with grace and love for man,” rest upon you all, “now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
Father Leonid Turkevich (1876–1965), the future Metropolitan Leonty, rector of the Seminary in Minneapolis and then in Tenafly, became the Dean of Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York City. He wrote many articles during this period about the destiny of the American missionary archdiocese to become a self-governing Orthodox Church. Along with Archbishop Evdokim and Father Alexander Kukulevsky (1873–1963), he represented the American diocese at the great Russian Church Council of 1917–1918.
The Russian-American Archdiocese after the Bolshevik Revolution
With the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia, the Russian Mission Archdiocese in America was thrown into confusion. Archbishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) (r. 1917–1922), who succeeded Archbishop Evdokim in 1917, was having great difficulty in helping the Archdiocese to adjust to the new conditions, especially the loss of all financial support from the Russian Church and State. When Archbishop Platon returned to America in 1921, Archbishop Alexander asked him to take over as head of the Russian Administration. At the Third All-American Sobor of the American archdiocese, held in Pittsburgh in 1922, Archbishop Platon was accepted to lead the Church once again.
John Kedrovsky, a priest serving in the Russian-American Mission who was suspended in 1918 for attempting to subvert Archbishop Alexander’s authority, returned to America from Russia in 1923 as a “bishop” of the Soviet-mandated and manipulated “Living Church.” He demanded, and received by legal action, possession of a number of Russian Church properties, including the leading church of the archdiocese, Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York City. His actions brought further confusion, turmoil, and financial woes to the archdiocese.
The Church suffered another major blow at this time when it was considered necessary to close the seminary in Tenafly, New Jersey, in 1924; its properties and library were sold. There would be no Orthodox seminary in North America for the next 14 years.
In 1924, the Fourth All-American Sobor of the Russian-American Archdiocese was held in Detroit, Michigan. This sobor, on the basis of Patriarch Tikhon’s decree of November 20, 1920 (No. 362)-which declared that all dioceses of the Russian Church cut off from the Moscow Patriarchate should govern themselves and carry on their church life under local supervision-declared that the archdiocese would be a self-governing metropolitanate, maintaining only a spiritual bond with the Church in Russia, until such time as normal relations could be resumed with the Russian Church. Archbishop Platon was officially installed as the metropolitan, and the Church came to be called the American Metropolia. It was legally incorporated as the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America.
The American Metropolia
In 1926, Metropolitan Platon met with members of the Russian Synod in Exile to discuss the problems involved with caring for the Russian Orthodox Christians in the “diaspora”-meaning everywhere in the world beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union. By this time, many new Russian immigrants had come to America and joined the American Metropolia. When the Synod in Exile attempted to extend its jurisdiction over the American Metropolia, Metropolitan Platon objected. Thus, he and his Church were “suspended” by the Synod in Exile in 1929.
At this same time, Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievsky) (d. 1946), head of a number of parishes in Western Europe established by Russian immigrants, also met with the bishops of the Synod in Exile. He likewise was “suspended” by them for refusing to recognize their alleged jurisdiction over all Russian Orthodox Christians outside of Russia.
Pressure from Moscow
In the 1930s, pressure was applied by Moscow upon the American Metropolia, as well as upon the Western European Exarchate under Metropolitan Evlogy. In 1933, Archbishop Benjamin (Fedchenkoff) (1880–1961) came to America from the USSR demanding the Metropolia’s allegiance to the Moscow Patriarchate. The fact that a pledge of allegiance to the Soviet State was also demanded showed that the Russian Church was not really free, which made it impossible for the American Metropolia to enter into normal relations with it. In response, in 1934 the Church in Russia officially declared the Metropolia to be illegal, and opened the Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate in America, headed by Archbishop Benjamin. Most of the Russian-American parishes remained faithful to the Metropolia, rather than joining either this new exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate or the Russian Synod in Exile.
In the same year, Metropolitan Platon died. He was succeeded by Archbishop Theophilus (Pashkovsky) (r. 1934–1950), who was elected primate at the Fifth All-American Sobor of the Metropolia, held in Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1937, the Sixth All-American Sobor of the American Metropolia, meeting in New York City, affirmed a “moral” relationship with the Russian Synod in Exile, which restored intercommunion between the two bodies. However, when the Metropolia tried to have closer relations with the Patriarchate of Moscow during World War II, the Synod in Exile disapproved. In 1946, when the Synod renewed its claim to have governance over all the Russian Orthodox in America, this “moral” relationship, including intercommunion, was broken.
The Sixth All-American Sobor also mandated the establishment of two theological schools-Saint Vladimir’s in New York City as a graduate school of Orthodox theology, and Saint Tikhon’s as a pastoral school at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. Both schools opened in 1938.
The Seventh All-American Sobor of the Metropolia, meeting in Cleveland in 1946, requested of the Moscow Patriarchate that there be a close spiritual relationship linking the two bodies. But when, once again, demands were made from Moscow for loyalty to the Soviet government, the “spiritual” relationship was not realized.
In 1950, upon the death of Metropolitan Theophilus, the Eighth All-American Sobor of the Metropolia, meeting in New York City, unanimously proclaimed as primate Archbishop Leonty (Turkevich) (1876–1965; r. 1950–1965), one of the original leaders of the American missionary diocese. He had been the dean of the seminary in Minneapolis, and then in Tenafly, New Jersey. After the death of his wife in 1933, he served as bishop of Chicago.
Also in 1950, the Russian Synod in Exile set up its worldwide headquarters in New York City. Meanwhile, the Moscow Patriarchate was applying its strongest pressure for the reestablishment of its authority over the Metropolia, which it continued to call “illegal.” In response, at this Eighth Sobor, before his election as metropolitan, Archbishop Leonty made a speech reaffirming the specifically American destiny of the Church which had been planted in the New World by the Church of Russia more than a century and a half earlier. The Archbishop declared, “We will follow our line-the foundation of an administratively self-governing Orthodox Church in America.”
Development of the Metropolia
The 1950s and ’60s were difficult years in the American Metropolia. Internal disputes arose concerning the theological and spiritual development of the Church; for example, many began to desire a more adequate church life. There was an eagerness for administrative and liturgical reform that generally took the form of struggles between the clergy and the laity over their respective rights and privileges. By the end of the ’60s, however, a consensus was developing among the majority of priests and people for the implementation of proper liturgical worship, administrative order, and spiritual development in the Metropolia.
The theological schools by this time were firmly established. Saint Tikhon’s Seminary had developed considerably, while Saint Vladimir’s received a number of famous European professors-Nicholas Arseniev (d. 1977), Alexander Bogolepov (d. 1980), George Fedotov (1886–1951), Father Georges Florovsky (1893–1979), Serge Verhovskoy (1907–1986), Father Alexander Schmemann (1921–1983), and Father John Meyendorff (1926–1992). In 1967, Saint Vladimir’s received from the State of New York the right to grant the Bachelor of Divinity degree (now the Master of Divinity).
In 1960, the Romanian Episcopate, led by Bishop Valerian (Trifa) (1914–1987; r. 1958–1982), formally affiliated with the American Metropolia.
Metropolitan Leonty died in мая of 1965. At the Twelfth All-American Sobor of the American Metropolia, held later that year, Archbishop Ireney (Bekish) (r. 1965–1977), the acting administrator of the Metropolia, was made the new Metropolitan.
Immediately upon his elevation, Metropolitan Ireney addressed a letter to the primates of all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, pleading for an urgent discussion about the confused jurisdictional situation of Orthodoxy in America. His appeal went unanswered. His requests made to various Orthodox patriarchs for an audience to discuss the Church in America were also refused.
Metropolitan Ireney presided at the Thirteenth All-American Sobor of the American Metropolia in 1967, where the feeling ran high for action to declare the Metropolia to be the self-governing Orthodox Church in America without recourse to or even recognition by any patriarchate across the seas. Although no official action was taken, a “straw vote” of the council showed the overwhelming majority of delegates ready to drop the word “Russian” from the name of the Church in America, and to carry on officially as a Church in and for America.
In the late 1960s, informal talks began between representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the American Metropolia, usually at ecumenical gatherings, about the American problem. Official negotiations to settle the difficulties between the two Churches began in 1969. The official delegates of the American Metropolia-Archbishop Kiprian of Philadelphia, and Fathers Joseph Pishtey, John Skvir, Alexander Schmemann, and John Meyendorff-insisted upon a totally self-governing status for the Metropolia, with the complete removal of all ecclesiastical authority of the Russian Church from American territory.
After long and difficult negotiations, with many hesitations and compromises, and many meetings and discussions within both Churches over this complex and sensitive issue, on March 31, 1970, Metropolitan Ireney and Metropolitan Nikodim, head of the External Affairs Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, signed the agreement whereby the Russian Church would recognize the American Metropolia as the fully autocephalous (independent) “Orthodox Church in America” (OCA). Some 40 of its parishes, however, wished to stay under Moscow’s control, so they were allowed to join the Patriarchal Diocese established by Archbishop Benjamin in 1934.
On April 10, 1970, six days before his death, Patriarch Alexei I, together with 14 bishops of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church, signed the official tomos proclaiming the Metropolia to be the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
From the Tomos of Autocephaly for the OCA
The Holy Russian Orthodox Church, striving for the good of the Church, has directed her efforts toward the normalization of relations among the various ecclesiastical jurisdictions in America, particularly by negotiating with the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, concerning the possibility of granting autocephaly to this Church in the hope that this might serve the good of the Orthodox Church in America and the glory of God.
In her striving for the peace of Christ, which has universal significance for the life of man; desiring to build a peaceful and creative church life, and to suppress scandalous ecclesiastical divisions; hoping that this act would be beneficial to the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of Christ and would make possible the development among the local parts of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of such relations which would be founded on the firm ties of the one Orthodox Faith and the love that the Lord Jesus Christ willed; keeping in mind that this act would serve the welfare of universal, mutual cooperation; taking into consideration the petition of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Metropolitanate of North America, which expressed the opinion and desire of all her faithful children; acknowledging as good for Orthodoxy in America the independent and self-sustaining existence of said Metropolitanate, which now represents a mature ecclesiastical organism possessing all that is necessary for successful further growth. Our Humility together with the Sacred Synod and all the venerable Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, who have signified their agreement in writing, having examined the said petition, in sincere love grant autocephaly to the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, that is, the right of a fully independent ordering of church life in accordance with the divine and sacred Canons and the ecclesiastical practices and customs of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church inherited from the Fathers; for which purpose this Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos is directed to His Beatitude, IRENEY, Archbishop of New York, Primate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan of All-America and Canada.?.?.?.
Confirming the Autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, we bless her to call herself The Holy Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America; we acknowledge and proclaim her our Sister Church, and we invite all local Orthodox Churches and their Primates and their faithful children to acknowledge her as such and to include her in the dyptichs in accordance with the Canons of the Church, the traditions of the Fathers and ecclesiastical practice.
The newly-established local Orthodox Autocephalous Church in America should abide in brotherly relations with all the Orthodox Churches and their Primates as well as with their bishops, clergy and pious flock, who are in America and who for the time being preserve their de facto existing canonical and jurisdictional dependence on their national Churches and their Primates.
With profound, sincere joy, We announce this to the Fullness of the Church and We do not cease thanking the All-Gracious Almighty God, who directs all in the world by His right hand for the good and the salvation of mankind, for the successful and final formation of Autocephaly, and we entreat the all-powerful blessing of God upon the younger Sister in the family of local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.
мая the Consubstantial and Life-creating and Undivided Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, acting on Its own wondrous providence, send down on the Archpastors, Pastors and Faithful Children of the Holy Autocephalous Orthodox American Church Its heavenly, unfailing help, and may It bless with success all her future endeavors for the good of the Holy Church.
At the Fourteenth All-American Sobor of the American Metropolia, held at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, on October 20–22, 1970, the tomos of autocephaly-which had been formally received on behalf of the American Church by a delegation of churchmen led by Bishop Theodosius (Lazor) of Sitka, Alaska-was officially read and the event was solemnly celebrated. The new status of the Church was accepted and affirmed by the members of the council by a vote of 301 to 7, with 2 abstentions. This council thus became the First All-American Council of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.
In 1971, the Second All-American Council of the new Church, also held at Saint Tikhon’s, adopted the official governing statute of the Church. It also accepted the Albanian diocese that had been led by Bishop Theophan (Noli), and was now headed by Bishop Stephen (Lasko), into the Orthodox Church in America.
Canonization of Saint Herman
On August 9, 1970, the OCA celebrated the canonization of its first saint, Father Herman of Alaska. A member of the first group of missionary monks to come to Alaska in 1794 from the Valaam Monastery, Saint Herman, a simple lay monk, remained among the Alaskan people as their protector, teacher, and intercessor before God until his death in 1836. The canonization ceremonies, attended by Archbishop Paaveli of the Finnish Orthodox Church, took place in Kodiak, Alaska.
Two years later, under the heavenly patronage of Saint Herman, the Saint Herman’s Pastoral School was established in Anchorage to train native Alaskan clergy. In the next year it was moved to Kodiak.
Aftermath of the Autocephaly
The act of recognition by the Moscow Patriarchate of its former missionary diocese in the New World as an autocephalous Orthodox Church, as of 2013, had still not been officially accepted by all of the Orthodox Churches worldwide. Only the Churches of Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, Georgia, the Czech Lands, Slovakia, and Finland had issued official statements of recognition.
From the beginning, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, its American Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and the other Greek-speaking Churches worldwide strongly opposed and condemned the act of autocephaly. Nevertheless, all Orthodox Churches, including the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the other Greek-speaking Churches, remained in full sacramental and spiritual communion with the Orthodox Church in America.
Continuing Development of the OCA
In 1972, the Orthodox Church in America opened its Mexican Exarchate, headed by Bishop José Cortes y Olmos (1923–1983). Raised in the Roman Catholic Church, he joined the Mexican National Catholic Church in 1951. This group, independent from the Roman Church, was proclaimed the Mexican National Catholic Church in 1928 by the president of the country in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910; its creation, colored by political overtones, was indicative of a broader movement of independence from subjection to the Church of Rome. Bishop José became the head of that church in 1961. Then, after considerable study of Orthodoxy, he and his entire church appealed to the newly formed OCA to accept them. After Bishop José’s death in 1983, he was not replaced until Archimandrite Alejo (Pacheco-Vera) was consecrated as Bishop of Mexico by Metropolitan Herman and other bishops of the OCA in 2005.
In 1976, most of the Bulgarian Orthodox in America-about 15 parishes-were received into the OCA with their Archbishop Kirill (Yonchev) (1920–2007), who was made the OCA Bishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. He led the diocese until his death in 2007. He was succeeded by Bishop Melchizedek (Pleska) (b. 1942).
At the Fifth All-American Council, held in Montreal, Canada, in October 1977, Metropolitan Ireney, due to reasons of health, resigned as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. As no candidate for the office of Metropolitan received the necessary two-thirds vote for election on the first ballot, the assembly nominated two American-born bishops as candidates: Bishop Dmitri (Royster) (1923–2011) of the Diocese of Hartford and New England, and Bishop Theodosius (Lazor) (b. 1933) of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Bishop Theodosius was subsequently elected by the Synod of Bishops to succeed Metropolitan Ireney as ruling hierarch, thus becoming the first American-born bishop to hold the office of Primate of the Orthodox Church in America.
Some of the highlights during Metropolitan Theodosius’s tenure were the canonization of Saint Innocent, Apostle to America, by the Church of Russia in 1977; the authorization in 1988 by the State of Pennsylvania for Saint Tikhon’s Seminary to grant the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree; the canonization of Saint Alexis of Wilkes-Barre in 1994 at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery; and the canonization of Saint Raphael of Brooklyn in 2000, also held aaint Saint Tikhon’s Monastery.
In 2002, Metropolitan Theodosius retired for health reasons. At the Thirteenth All-American Council, held in Orlando, Florida, in that year, Archbishop Herman (Swaiko) (b. 1932) was elected to be the new metropolitan. He served until 2008, when he was forced to retire due to a financial scandal. He was succeeded by Bishop Jonah (Paffhausen) (b. 1959), who only 11 days after becoming Bishop of the South was elected to be the new metropolitan at the Fifteenth All-American Council, held in Pittsburgh in November of 2008. Metropolitan Jonah was the first convert to lead the OCA.
In November of 2011 the Sixteenth All-American Council was held in Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. The theme for the council was “The Household of Faith.” This was the first All-American Council or Sobor to be held west of the Mississippi River. This allowed for the largest delegation from Alaska ever to attend one of these councils and sobors.
On July 6, 2012, Metropolitan Jonah retired in the midst of controversy. He was followed by the new Metropolitan Tikhon (Mollard) (b. 1966), who had been Archbishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania. Metropolitan Tikhon was elected to be the new metropolitan at the specially called one-day Seventeenth All-American Council, held in Parma, Ohio, on November 13, 2012.
Orthodoxy in America, Part Two: Other Orthodox Jurisdictions
The Greek Orthodox in America
The numbers of ethnic Greeks immigrating to America increased dramatically after 1890. Some 400,000 Greeks arrived from Greece in the years from 1891 to 1921, and another 200,000 Greeks came from Asia Minor. Most of these immigrants were single men eager to earn enough money to get married and support a family; many of them returned to the Old Country to marry and get established there after earning enough money in America to do so.
While most of these immigrants came to the United States for economic rather than spiritual reasons, they were very interested in maintaining their Greek identity and culture, which for most of them included the Orthodox Church (the same can be said for all the various ethnic immigrant groups coming from traditionally Orthodox lands). This interest strongly helped promote the efforts that led to the founding of about 150 Greek Orthodox parishes across the United States and Canada by 1918.
These parishes were almost all founded by laymen on their own initiative-organizing some kind of Hellenic society, buying property, building a church, and then seeking a priest. If most of the immigrants in any locale were from Greece, they would request a priest from the Church of Greece; if most of them came from Asia Minor, they would ask the Patriarchate of Constantinople to send them a priest. Apparently this pattern continued even after the Patriarchate of Constantinople officially gave authority over the ethnically Greek parishes in America to the Church of Greece through an official tomos issued in 1908.
The Greek Orthodox in America for the most part organized parishes without any reference to the already established Russian-American Archdiocese. The records in the OCA archives reveal only one instance when Greeks asked the Russian Administration for a priest, and only six times was a request made for an antimension (the “altar cloth” needed for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist). The official lists of parishes of the Russian Archdiocese in 1906, 1911, and 1918 include no churches of Greek ethnic background.
Many of the more traditionally-minded Greeks in America were disappointed that the Church of Greece never sent a bishop to organize the scattered, independent-minded, ethnically Greek parishes until 1918. Finally, in that year, Archbishop Meletios (Metaxakis) (1871–1935) of the Church of Greece came and began the organizational work which led to the official establishment of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America in 1922. This development was given full ratification by the new Ecumenical Patriarch, who by then was the same Meletios (Metaxakis).
Four regional bishoprics were set up-centered in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City-all under the leadership of Archbishop Alexander (Demoglou) of New York. The regional bishops were to be elected by the local clergy and faithful, and to be approved by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (by now, called Istanbul, Turkey)-hence making the Greek Archdiocese in America an autonomous jurisdiction.
However, there was much confusion caused by Metropolitan Germanos (Troianos) during his few years in America (he left in 1922) as he urged parishes to stay loyal to the Church of Greece. Several years later, Metropolitan Vasilios (Komvopoulos) did the same thing, but more effectively, as he established the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of the United States and Canada, which had about 50 parishes by 1929. The other 133 Greek parishes at that time remained attached to the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America led by Archbishop Alexander.
All the feuding among the Greek-Americans was exacerbated by their differing intense political views, with some siding with the Royalists back in Greece (supporters of King Constantine I, King Alexander I, and King George II), and others supporting Eleftherios Venizelos, the Prime Minister (from 1910 to 1915, then from 1917–1920, then for one month in 1924, and finally from 1929–1932).
In 1930, Metropolitan Damaskinos of Corinth was sent as an exarch by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to bring to an end the feuding among the Greek-Americans. Through his strength of character and shrewd diplomacy, Metropolitan Damaskinos managed to unite nearly all the Greek parishes under the leadership of a new Archbishop from Corfu, the dynamic and visionary Athenagoras (Spyrou) (1886–1972), who was Metropolitan Damaskinos’s personal choice for the position. The regional bishoprics were eliminated (the bishops became auxiliaries to Archbishop Athenagoras), and the autonomous status of the Greek Archdiocese was lost, as all the Greek churches in America were brought under the direct supervision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In 1933, Archbishop Athenagoras approached Metropolitan Platon of the Russian-American Metropolia with the idea of founding a pan-Orthodox seminary in America. Metropolitan Platon was open to this possibility, but after his death in the next year, his successor, Metropolitan Theophilus, rejected the idea. With that, Athenagoras worked on his own to establish a seminary for the Greek Orthodox in America. Thus, in 1937, the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School was opened in Pomfret, Connecticut. It was moved to a prime site in Brookline, Massachusetts, overlooking the city of Boston, in 1946.
Archbishop Athenagoras served in America until his installation as Patriarch of Constantinople in 1949. He did much to bolster the financial foundation of his Archdiocese, and to make Orthodoxy more visible in America. Other highlights of his period of leadership were the founding of the charitable organization called the Ladies’ Philoptochos Society, the establishment of a national periodical called The Orthodox Observer, and the founding of Saint Basil’s Teachers’ College in Garrison, New York, along with the founding of the theological school in Pomfret.
Archbishop Athenagoras was succeeded by Archbishop Michael (Konstantinides) (1892–1958; r. 1950–1958), who led the Archdiocese until his death in 1958. He founded the very successful Greek Orthodox Youth of America (GOYA) in 1951, and by 1958 there were some 250 member groups. Under his leadership, the annual income for the national church increased nearly six-fold. A national Sunday School program was established, with an all-English curriculum. And formal recognition was gained for Orthodoxy as being the “Fourth Major Faith” in America, along with Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople appointed Archbishop Iakovos (Koukouzis) (1911–2005; r. 1959–1995) to succeed Archbishop Michael. The new primate of the Greek-American Archdiocese quickly established himself as the leading figure in Eastern Orthodoxy in America through his participation in the social and political affairs and the ceremonies of the nation.
Archbishop Iakovos was criticized by some in America for being inconsistent in his positions concerning Orthodox unity in the New World. A number in his own archdiocese-mostly recent immigrants-attacked him for his ostensibly pro-American, anti-Greek actions. In reality, the diplomatic Archbishop continued to foster the Greek identity of his archdiocese, following official instructions sent from Constantinople, while keeping close contacts also with the Church of Greece, enhancing the archdiocese’s presence in America, and fostering efforts towards Orthodox unity in America.
Along this line, Archbishop Iakovos maintained friendly relations with all the Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. He was one of the founders in 1960 of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA), and he was elected its first chairman.
Under his leadership the Archdiocese continued to thrive, and to become more visible on the American scene. He encouraged successful Hellenic-American professionals to become more actively involved in church affairs. He developed a property on the Greek island of Zakynthos into the renowned camping and retreat center known as Ionian Village. And through a new charter for the Archdiocese instituted in 1977, regional bishoprics again were set up, giving the formerly auxiliary bishops their own territories to care for, but with the entire Archdiocese still under the authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Archbishop Iakovos led the Greek Archdiocese until his retirement in 1995. He was followed until 1998 by Archbishop Spyridon (Papageorge) (b. 1944), who was forced to retire due to his unpopular leadership. Archbishop Dimitrios (Trakatellis) (b. 1928) succeeded Archbishop Spyridon in 1999, and continued to lead his Church in 2013 as a much beloved hierarch.
The Greek Archdiocese is the largest of all the Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. Several small, Greek, schismatic Old Calendarist groups, however, also exist in America.
The Serbian Orthodox in America
In 1906 there were six Serbian parishes in America, overseen by Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovich (1863–1940) in cooperation with the Russian Missionary Diocese. In 1918, the list of parishes under the Russian Administration included 19 Serbian parishes. However, relations between the Serbs and the Russians had been tenuous during the preceding years.
As noted above, Archimandrite Mardary (Uskokovich) was elected by the Russian Missionary Archdiocese in 1919 to be an auxiliary bishop responsible for the ethnically Serbian parishes. But as the Russian Administration in America failed to receive approval for this consecration from the Church in Russia, the Serbian-Americans went ahead with their efforts to have their own diocese under the authority of the Church in Serbia.
Saint Nikolai of Zicha (1881–1956), then a priest of the Church in Serbia, traveled in Great Britain and the United States in 1915 and 1916, giving talks to raise support for the Kingdom of Serbia, which at that time was in the midst of the Great War (WW I). In 1921, Saint Nikolai, by then the Bishop of Zicha in Serbia, again came to America. He, along with Archimandrite Mardary as his deputy, was sent by the Serbian Patriarch Dimitrije. Saint Nikolai stayed about six months, again giving many public lectures, before returning to Serbia. After WW II, during which he suffered for about a year in the Nazi prison camp at Dachau, Saint Nikolai found asylum in the United States, as he was definitely not welcome in the new Soviet satellite state of Yugoslavia under the Communist government headed by Marshall Tito. This is how it happened that Saint Nikolai spent the last five years of his life at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, where he taught-in English-and served as rector of the seminary. He died in his cell there in 1956.
Father Mardary stayed on in America, serving as a parish priest in Chicago, and doing much of the organizational work for the emerging Serbian diocese in America, including purchasing with his own funds the St Sava Monastery site in Libertyville, Illinois.
In 1926, Archimandrite Mardary was called back to Belgrade to be consecrated by Patriarch Dimitrije as bishop and head of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of America and Canada. Three weeks after his return to the U.S. in the following year, Bishop Mardary convened the first Church Assembly, in Chicago. Despite a gradually worsening case of tuberculosis, Bishop Mardary served the diocese well, until his death in 1935 at the age of 46. In мая 2015, in recognition of his tireless efforts and pastoral care of his spiritual flock, Mandary was canonized a saint alongside Sebastian (Dabovich).
In 1963, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Church of Serbia, under the new Patriarch Germanus, divided the Serbian jurisdiction in North America into three new dioceses (Eastern America, Western America, and Canada). In the following year three bishops were elected-Sava, Firmilian, and Gregory-to rule these dioceses, all under the authority of the Church in Serbia.
However, the ruling hierarch of the American Serbian Church, Bishop Dionisije (Milivojevich)-Bishop Mardary’s successor-regarded these developments as a Communist-inspired plot to keep the American Serbs under closer watch. So he broke all ties with the Serbian Patriarchate, which then defrocked him. Undeterred, he gathered together a large number of parishes that agreed with him, and thus the Free Serbian Orthodox Church in America was founded. The rest of the Serbian-Americans carried on as members of the three new dioceses, under the authority of the Church of Serbia.
A period of bitter strife between the two jurisdictions followed, lasting until about 1975. Preliminary reconciliation was achieved in 1988. The process was completed by 1992, after the fall of Communism in Yugoslavia, when Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church visited North America and formally reunited the two groups.
In 1991, Bishop Christopher (Kovacevich) (1928–2010), head of the diocese of Eastern America and the first American-born bishop to serve the Serbian Church in America, was elected by the Assembly of Bishops of the Church of Serbia to be the Metropolitan of the Serbian Church in North America. In 2010, Metropolitan Christopher died, and as of the beginning of 2013 none of the five Serbian bishops in America had been made Metropolitan of the Serbian Church in America. By 2010, the American Serbian jurisdiction included two additional dioceses- Midwestern America, and Canada. The Serbian Church continued to support the Saint Sava School of Theology, a small coeducational school of theology in Libertyville, Illinois, which granted a B.A. in religious studies/priestly formation.
The Romanian Orthodox in America
The first parish in North America founded by Romanian Orthodox immigrants was organized in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1902. The first Romanian parish in the United States was established by laity in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1904. In the next year, the Metropolitan of Transylvania sent Father Moise Balea to be the parish’s first priest and to minister to Romanian immigrants in other cities. Altogether he helped to establish about 20 Romanian Orthodox parishes in North America.
By 1918 there were about 30 Romanian parishes in the U.S. and Canada, but only three of these (in Hamilton, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; and Rayville, Saskatchewan) were within the jurisdiction of the Russian Missionary Diocese. The others were associated either with the Metropolitan of Moldava or the Metropolitan of Transylvania in the Old Country.
In 1929, at a general congress of Romanian Orthodox clergy and laity held in Detroit, Michigan, an autonomous missionary episcopate was formed, to be under the canonical jurisdiction of the Church of Romania. This resolution was accepted in the next year by the Romanian Patriarchate, which officially established the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America. Then in 1935, the Holy Synod of the Church in Romania elected and consecrated Archimandrite Polycarp (Morusca) (1883–1958) as the first bishop of the new episcopate.
On July 4, 1935, Bishop Polycarp was enthroned during the Congress of the Romanian Episcopate, which was again held in Detroit. This congress also adopted a corporate statute for the episcopate.
During his four years in America, Bishop Polycarp was able to heal various factional disputes among the Romanian parishes. He also laid the foundations for many church organizations, and supervised the acquisition of the Vatra, a property northwest of Detroit, and the establishment there of the headquarters of the Romanian Episcopate.
In 1939, after formally dedicating the headquarters, Bishop Polycarp returned to Romania for a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church there, but the outbreak of World War II prevented his return to the U.S. After the war, he was prevented by the new Communist government of Romania from returning to his ministry in the States. He was held as a political prisoner by the Communists until his death in 1958.
Meanwhile, the Communist government tried to take over the American Episcopate, but its efforts were thwarted, largely through the diligent work of Father John Trutza, pastor of Saint Mary’s Church in Cleveland from 1928 to his death in 1954. In 1951 the Episcopate, meeting in council, declared itself to be completely independent from the Church in Romania in both administrative and spiritual matters. The council then elected Viorel D. Trifa (1914–1987), a lay theologian, to be the bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.
In the following year, the bishop-elect was consecrated with the name Valerian in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by three Ukrainian bishops who were not recognized by the other Orthodox. Under Bishop Valerian the Episcopate entered a new era of activity, even as he came under continuous attack, first in the media and then in the courts, for allegedly having conspired with the Nazis.
In 1960 the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America was received into the American Metropolia, the successor administration to the Russian Missionary Archdiocese, as an ethnic diocese. Archbishop Valerian was made a member of the Holy Synod of the Metropolia, becoming Archbishop of Detroit and Michigan. Then, in the next year, the bishops of the Metropolia consecrated Archbishop Valerian again, to remove any doubts about his priestly ordination or episcopal consecration. In 1970, when the American Metropolia gained its autocephaly from the Church of Russia, the Romanian Episcopate continued within the new OCA.
In 1982, because of the controversy surrounding him, Archbishop Valerian decided it would be best for his American flock if he left the United States. He found refuge in Portugal, where he died in 1987. He was succeeded by Archbishop Nathaniel (Popp) (b. 1940). In 2002, Bishop Irineu (Duvlea) (b. 1962) was consecrated as Bishop of Dearborn Heights to serve as an auxiliary bishop to Archbishop Nathaniel. Archbishop Nathaniel and Bishop Irineu were still leading the Romanian Episcopate within the OCA in 2013.
Not all of the Romanian parishes followed Archbishop Valerian in the fully autonomous Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America created in 1951. Some decided to remain within the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Romania, which in 1950 established the Romanian Orthodox Missionary Episcopate in America. The Romanian Patriarchate selected an American citizen, Father Andrei Moldovan, as the first bishop to lead the new Missionary Episcopate. After his consecration in Romania, Bishop Moldovan returned to the U.S. and organized parishes loyal to the new Missionary Episcopate. Subsequently, Bishop Moldovan was succeeded by Bishop Victorin.
By a decision in 1974 of the Holy Synod of the Church of Romania, the Missionary Episcopate was elevated to the status of an autonomous Archdiocese, along with the elevation of the ruling bishop, Bishop Victorin, to the dignity of Archbishop. The name selected for the new archdiocese was the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada. In 2002 Archimandrite Nicolae (Condrea) (b. 1967) was made the new Archbishop of this jurisdiction, with his headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. He was still serving in 2013.
The Syrian Orthodox in America
From 1895 to 1915, Saint Raphael (Hawaweeny) (1860–1915) served first as a priest, and then as a bishop in the Russian Orthodox Mission, taking pastoral care of the Arabic-speaking Orthodox in North America. His consecration as bishop in 1904 was the first Orthodox episcopal consecration held in the New World, as we noted above. During his 20 years of ministry in America, Bishop Raphael helped to organize 30 parishes. Two years after his death, he was succeeded by Bishop Aftimios (Ofiesh) (1880–1971; r. 1917–1931).
Bishop Aftimios’s authority was rejected by Metropolitan Germanos (Shehadi) of Seleucia and Baalbek in Lebanon, who had been in America since 1915. He falsely claimed that he had authority from the Patriarch of Antioch to gather and organize Arabic-speaking parishes to be governed directly by the Patriarchate of Antioch. In 1918 he incorporated his own new diocese as the Syrian Holy Orthodox Greek Catholic Mission in North America, which also included some Ukrainian parishes in Canada. Still, the majority of the Syrian parishes (at least 23 of them) remained faithful to Bishop Aftimios. Bishop Aftimios’s parishes became known as the “Russy” parishes, while Metropolitan Germanos’s were called the “Antacky” parishes.
In 1922, in response to the growing schism between the “Russy” and “Antacky” parishes, and with the Russian Archdiocese still in turmoil after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Patriarchate of Antioch sent a delegation to America consisting of Metropolitan Gerasimos (Messara), Archimandrite Victor (Abo-Assaley), and Archdeacon Antony (Bashir) (1898–1966) to help reorganize and reunite the Syrian factions. In 1924, Archimandrite Victor was consecrated as bishop to lead all the Syrian Orthodox in America, and this Antiochian Archdiocese came to be seen as the “legitimate” Syrian jurisdiction among a large number of the Syrians. Bishop Victor continued to lead this jurisdiction until his death in 1934.
A substantial number of the “Russy” Syro-Arab parishes, however, remained faithful to Archbishop Aftimios (Ofiesh). He remained at least the nominal head of these Syro-Arab parishes under the authority of the Russian Administration in America until 1931, when he was replaced by Bishop Emmanuel (Abo-Hatab), who had been consecrated as bishop of Montreal and auxiliary to Archbishop Aftimios in 1927.
When Archbishop Aftimios abandoned his episcopal rank and got married in 1933, and upon Bishop Emmanuel’s death in 1933 and Bishop Victor’s death in 1934, and with Metropolitan Germanos’s return to Lebanon in 1933, most of the Syro-Arab parishes gathered under the leadership of Father Antony Bashir, who in 1936 was consecrated as bishop of the Antiochian Archdiocese under the authority of the Patriarchate of Antioch. However, some of the Antiochian parishes-mostly the former “Russy” parishes-followed the newly consecrated Bishop Samuel (David) of Toledo (d. 1958) into a new, separate diocese that also operated under the direction of the Church of Antioch.
Metropolitan Antony (Bashir) was one of the most outstanding bishops in the history of the American Orthodox Church. Ordained a priest in 1922, he served as a missionary among Syrian Orthodox Christians for 14 years until he was made the Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, which since 1931 had operated separately from the Russian mission. He was a pioneer in encouraging the use of English in liturgical worship, and was an outspoken supporter of jurisdictional unity among all the Orthodox in the New World. In 1960 he became a founder and leading member of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).
Upon his death in 1966, Metropolitan Antony was succeeded by the youthful and dynamic Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) (1931–2014). In 1975, the schism with the Toledo group, then headed by Metropolitan Michael (Shaheen) (d. 1992), was healed, with Michael becoming Archbishop of Toledo and the Midwest within the united Antiochian Archdiocese.
In 1979 Metropolitan Philip purchased a property near Ligonier, Pennsylvania, that would become the elaborate camping and retreat center known as Antiochian Village. In 1987 he received nearly 2000 converts from the Evangelical Orthodox Church, led by Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, Gordon Walker, and other former leaders of Campus Crusade for Christ.
In 2013, Metropolitan Philip still headed the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, which in 2003 received “self-rule” status from the Patriarchate of Antioch. In addition to the metropolitan, the archdiocese was being guided by eight auxiliary bishops. And at that time, the Archdiocese had about 250 parishes and missions, compared with about 65 parishes in 1966, when Metropolitan Philip began his long tenure as metropolitan.
The Ukrainian Orthodox in America
The so-called American Metropolia of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) had its beginnings in 1915, when Bishop Germanos (Shehadi) from Lebanon gathered under his care a number of parishes, mostly in western Canada, where thousands of Ukrainians had recently immigrated. From 1924 this group was led by Archbishop John (Theodorovich) (d. 1971), who had been consecrated by the non-canonical Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) that had been formed in Ukraine in 1921. (This group on their own authority consecrated a number of priests to be their own bishops.) Archbishop John, a skilled administrator, was an ardent Ukrainian patriot who helped expand his church through appealing to the nationalism of Ukrainians who were delighted with the establishment in 1918 of an independent government in Ukraine, free from Russian control.
Another group of Ukrainians, more moderate and wanting to be part of canonical Orthodoxy, formed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America (UOCA) in 1929. These Ukrainians had been Uniates (Byzantine-rite Catholics) who left the Unia in large part due to the American Roman Catholic Church’s refusal to allow a married priesthood. Led by Bishop Bogdan (Spylka) (d. 1965), this jurisdiction came under the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1937.
Most of the parishes of both of these groups merged in 1950, forming the new, independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. (UOC-USA). This new jurisdiction was led by the then Metropolitan John (Theodorovich), who in 1949 had submitted to reconsecration as bishop. However, his jurisdiction was still not recognized as being canonical by the other Orthodox Churches. This was partly because one of the bishops who reconsecrated Bishop John, Bishop Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) (1898–1993), had been made a bishop in 1942 in Ukraine by the newly resurrected yet still non-canonical Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine (UAOC). Metropolitan John ruled the UOC-USA until his death in 1971.
Metropolitan John was succeeded by the then Metropolitan Mstyslav, who led the church until 1990, when he became Patriarch of the UAOC in Ukraine. The new metropolitan succeeding Mstyslav in America was Metropolitan Vsevelod (Maidansky). Also in 1990, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (UOCC) was received into the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under the leadership of Metropolitan Wasyly (Fedak) (r. 1978–2005).
Metropolitan Wasyly’s successor, Metropolitan John (Stinka) (b. 1935), was elected at the Twenty-First Sobor (Council) of the UOCC held in 2005. Metropolitan John retired as the presiding hierarch in 2012, and was followed by Metropolitan Yurij (Kalistchuk) (b. 1951). The Metropolitanate also has one vicar bishop as an auxiliary, and two territorial bishops.
Back in 1950, however, Bishop Bogdan refused to join the newly unified UOC-USA, for it was still considered non-canonical by worldwide Orthodoxy. Along with about two dozen parishes, he remained loyal to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Partly due to his advancing age, Bishop Bogdan’s group gradually lost more and more parishes to the UOC-USA. Nevertheless, he was a founding member of SCOBA in 1960.
After Bishop Bogdan’s death in 1965, he was succeeded in 1967 by Father Andrei Kuschak (d. 1986), who was elected as bishop by six parishes of the Ukrainians still under Constantinople. Father Andrei was consecrated to the episcopacy by Archbishop Iakovos (Koukouzis) and other bishops of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America. Bishop Andrei then administered about a dozen parishes.
In 1996, the self-proclaimed autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (UOC-USA) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America (under Constantinople since 1937) were finally united under the leadership of Metropolitan Constantine (Buggan) (1936–2012). For the first time, nearly all the Ukrainian Orthodox Christians in America were unified and in canonical Orthodoxy, within the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The name Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA was kept for the combined body.
In 2012, Metropolitan Constantine died, and was succeeded by Archbishop Antony (Scharba). In 2013, the UOC-USA had about 85 parishes, and a seminary, Saint Sophia’s, in South Bound Brook, New Jersey.
At the time of the merger in 1996, fourteen parishes of the UOC-USA refused to accept the reconciliation, and instead chose to reestablish ties with the Mother Church in Ukraine. These parishes came under the authority of the self-proclaimed autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP).
The Carpatho-Russian Orthodox in America
Less than half of the Carpatho-Russian, Byzantine-rite Catholics (Uniates) immigrating to America had returned to their Orthodox roots by the late 1920s. Yet many who remained Byzantine-rite were still disgruntled at the Latinizing efforts of the Latin-rite hierarchy in the U.S.-especially the prohibition of married clergy. This was the context in which Father Orestes Chornock (1883–1977) led 37 Uniate parishes into Orthodoxy in the 1930s.
Father Orestes Chornock, born in the Transcarpathian area of central Europe, immigrated to America after his marriage and ordination to the priesthood. In 1911, he was installed as priest of Saint John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he remained until 1947.
In 1924, the Vatican sent Bishop Basil Takach to enforce Latinization on the Greek Catholic Church in America, particularly in regard to the prohibition of married clergy. Various clergy and laity, led by Father Orestes, repeatedly protested against this attack on their religious heritage.
In 1936, with Father Orestes and his brother-in-law Father Peter Molchany providing leadership, the foundation was laid for a new Greek Catholic diocese independent of Bishop Takach, yet still loyal to Rome. But the Vatican refused to accept this arrangement, so by the fall of 1938 those in the new diocese declared their final break from the Roman Church. Two weeks later they were excommunicated by the Papacy.
The new diocese was accepted by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Father Orestes was made the first bishop of this new Carpatho-Russian diocese. He was consecrated in Constantinople, and installed in Bridgeport by Archbishop Athenagoras of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America.
During his first year, Bishop Orestes supported the founding of a national Carpatho-Russian youth organization called American Carpatho-Russian Youth (ACRY), and convened the diocese’s first convention, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In 1940, Bishop Orestes led in the formation of a diocesan seminary in New York City; this Christ the Savior Seminary was moved to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1951. The headquarters of the diocese were also moved from Bridgeport to Johnstown, in 1947.
In its first decade of existence, the diocese endured many lawsuits over church property. The Roman Church claimed ownership of its properties on behalf of those who remained loyal to the Unia. The results of these lawsuits depended largely upon how the original charters of the parishes were worded.
In 1965 the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate honored Bishop Orestes for his service by elevating him to the dignity of Metropolitan. Metropolitan Orestes died in 1977. He was succeeded by Bishop John (Martin) (1931–1984). Upon Bishop John’s death in 1984, Bishop Nicholas (Smisko) (1936–2011) became the third hierarch to lead the diocese. In 1997 he was elevated to the rank of metropolitan by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Then in 2011 Metropolitan Nicholas died; he was succeeded by Bishop Gregory (Tatsis) (b. 1958).
In 2013 the diocese had 72 regular parishes and 13 mission parishes, along with Christ the Savior Seminary in Johnstown.
The Albanian Orthodox in America
In 1908, Theophan (Fan) (Noli) (1882–1965) , an Albanian, was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Platon, Archbishop Tikhon’s successor as head of the Russian Missionary Diocese, to be the leader of the Albanian Orthodox community in Boston-which was the earliest Albanian immigrant community in North America. He translated the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom into modern Albanian, and conducted the services in that language for the first time anywhere in the world.
In the 1918 list of parishes of the Russian Diocese in America, we find four Albanian churches listed, with “Rev. F. S. Noli” given as the pastor of Saint George Church in Boston. In that year, Bishop Alexander, Metropolitan Evdokim’s successor, raised Father Theophan to the rank of mitred archimandrite and appointed him as Administrator of the Albanian Orthodox Mission in America. At the Second All-American Sobor of the Russian Diocese in America, held in Cleveland in 1919, Archimandrite Theophan was elected to be bishop over the Albanian parishes. However, approval for this consecration never came from the Church in Moscow, as we have noted.
In 1932, after about a dozen years spent in Albania (where he served for a short time as Prime Minister) and then in exile in Germany, Noli returned to the U.S. as a bishop, but without official authorization to oversee the Albanian parishes in America. As a result, several of the 15 parishes at that time stayed aloof from him. In 1949 these few parishes were accepted by the Patriarchate of Constantinople under the leadership of Bishop Mark (Lipa). This new jurisdiction was called the Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America.
Archbishop Theophan was soon generally accepted as the legitimate leader of the Albanian Orthodox parishes which stayed loyal to him. During his long tenure, until his death in 1965, Metropolitan Theophan translated eight service books from Greek into English for his flock, and he was one of the most outspoken of the Orthodox hierarchs in America for Orthodox unity here. He even called for the establishment of a patriarchate for the American Church.
Bishop Stephen (Lasko) was appointed by the Church in Albania in 1965 to be Metropolitan Theophan’s successor. In 1971 Bishop Stephen led his flock into the newly formed Orthodox Church in America (OCA), within which it became a distinct diocese. This move finally resolved the canonical status of the majority of Albanian parishes in America. In 2013, the Albanian diocese of the OCA, under the leadership of Bishop Nikon of New England, had about a dozen parishes.
Meanwhile, Bishop Mark’s diocese continued its existence within the Patriarchate of Constantinople. After the fall of the extremely atheistic Communist government in Albania in 1990, this very small group of parishes helped significantly with the restoration of the Church in Albania, which had been virtually destroyed by the Communists. In 2013 this jurisdiction was led by Bishop Ilia (Katre), who began his tenure in 1982.
The Bulgarian Orthodox in America
Bulgarian immigration to America became significant after 1903, when several thousand Bulgarians arrived as the result of an insurrection in Macedonia. Being quite scattered, they generally attended Russian churches, although as early as 1907 the first Bulgarian parish was established in Madison, Illinois. Gradually, other parishes were formed, and apparently, in 1909, a small Mission was organized for them within the Russian Missionary Diocese. However, in the 1918 listing of the parishes of the Russian Diocese in America there is only one parish that is designated as “Boulgarian”-in Toronto, Ontario.
In 1922, the five Bulgarian parishes in North America came under the care of the Mother Church in Sofia, Bulgaria. Bishop Andrey (Velichky) became the first bishop for this diocese in 1938.
In 1949, the Russian Church in Exile oversaw the establishment of several parishes for recent Bulgarian immigrants. In 1976, most of the parishes of this Bulgarian Church in Exile joined the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), becoming a constituent diocese of the OCA. Its hierarch, Bishop Kyrill (Yonchev) (1920–2007), became the OCA’s Bishop of Pittsburgh (r. 1976–2007). At that time the Bulgarian diocese consisted of about 15 parishes. In 2013, it had about 20 parishes under the leadership of Bishop Alexander (Golitzin) of Pittsburgh (b. 1948), who was consecrated as Bishop of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese of the OCA in 2012.
Those Bulgarian parishes that resisted coming into the OCA remained within the Patriarchate of Bulgaria. This jurisdiction, called the Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese of the United States, Canada, and Australia, had 29 parishes in the United States and Canada in 2013, having been enlarged by the addition of several parishes of the Christ the Savior Brotherhood that joined it in 2000. In 2013 this jurisdiction continued to be led by Metropolitan Joseph (Bosakov), with Bishop Daniil (Trendafilov) (b. 1972) as vicar bishop.
The American Orthodox Catholic Church
There was also an intriguing but very short-lived attempt beginning in 1927 to provide English-speaking Orthodox Americans with their own jurisdiction, called the American Orthodox Catholic Church. Technically this diocese was to be within the Russian Metropolia, but this connection proved to be very tenuous as its leaders actually foresaw an administratively independent Church, eventually to embrace all the Orthodox in America. This effort was led by Archbishop Aftimios (Ofiesh), who as Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny’s successor was the head of the Syro-Arab parishes under the Russian Administration (though some parishes had already accepted the leadership of Bishop Victor [Abu-Asaley]). Strongly encouraged and aided by two converts to Orthodoxy, Father Michael Gelsinger and Father Boris Burden, Archbishop Aftimios actually in some ways was building upon the “English work” initiated by Father Nathaniel Irvine back in 1905 under Archbishop Tikhon.
This “jurisdiction” was first brought into existence through “a solemn Act” signed by Metropolitan Platon himself, as well as by Aftimios, Archbishop of Brooklyn; Theophilos, Bishop of Chicago; Amphilochy, Bishop of Alaska; Arseny, Bishop of Winnipeg; and Alexey, Bishop of San Francisco.
For a short while the new jurisdiction published the Orthodox Catholic Review which ardently espoused Orthodox unity in America. However, this experiment never really had widespread support, and within a year or two it began to fade. It was brought to an end in 1933 when Archbishop Aftimios retired from the episcopacy and got married.
From an article in the Orthodox Catholic Review, April-мая, 1927, by Archbishop Aftimios of Brooklyn
With a possible three million or even greater number of Her communicants residing in North America, the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church should be one of the major religious bodies in America. That it is not is due solely to the failure of its responsible leaders to come together as one Orthodox Catholic body for the organization of the Church in this country. Though the Orthodox Church boasts a litany in Her daily Divine Service beseeching God “for the peace of the churches and the union of them all,” She is Herself in America the most outstanding horrible example of the disastrous effects of disunion, disorder, secret strife, and open warfare that this country of divided and warring sects can offer.
It is true that She is at one and at peace on questions of faith, teaching, and liturgical practice. One would suppose that, therefore, She should find united ecclesiastical organization and administration an easy adjustment. It would seem that, given unity and uniformity of faith, teaching, rite, and practice, Orthodoxy in America ought to present a most edifying example of that Unity for which all Christian bodies are so loudly calling and for which they are so blindly seeking.
On the contrary, there is no central organization to which all the Orthodox of all racial, national, or linguistic derivation in America yield obedience. There are seven nationalities represented in American Orthodoxy, and these are divided into eighteen distinct groups of churches without any coordinating organization, and almost without any pretense of harmony or cooperation among them. It is time that Orthodoxy in America should take serious note of the causes and effects of its divided condition, and consider the steps necessary to bring about unity and progress for the future of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church and Faith in the New World.?.?.?.
The safety and salvation of thousands of the faithful committed to our trust rests with our defense of the Church and Faith in this country and abroad from the errors and disasters of internal division and external interference and false alliance. Let the Orthodox of America unite for their common Faith and Church at all costs and begin to do the work that lies before them in this land. In spite of all obstacles the Power and Grace of God in our Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church can prevail.
Further efforts at Orthodox unity in America
Besides Archbishop Athenagoras’s overture to Metropolitan Platon about founding a single Orthodox seminary for all the ethnic groups in America, there were several other attempts to forge greater unity among the Orthodox in America. In 1937, the first proposal for a pan-Orthodox council of bishops in America was made by Metropolitan Anthony of the Antiochian Archdiocese, along with support from Archbishop Athenagoras, in a letter written to Metropolitan Theophilus of the Metropolia. Despite the merits of this proposal, however, Metropolitan Theophilus refused to accept it. His continued association with the Karlovtsy Synod (see “Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia,” below) apparently obstructed this collaboration.
In 1941, Archbishop Athenagoras proposed, in another letter written to Metropolitan Theophilus, that an all-English, pan-Orthodox magazine be started. But again, there was no positive response from Metropolitan Theophilus to this idea.
In 1943, the short-lived Federated Orthodox Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions in America was established, much through the efforts of Father Michael Gelsinger, who had joined the Antiochian Archdiocese, and Father Boris Burden, who had joined the Russian Patriarchal jurisdiction. The original impetus for this association was to assure that the religion of Orthodox servicemen would be officially recognized by the U.S. Armed Forces (which would entail a kind of official recognition of Orthodoxy by the whole American government). The association was comprised of Archbishop Athenagoras of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, under the Ecumenical Patriarch; Metropolitan Antony (Bashir) of the Syrian Archdiocese, under the Patriarchate of Antioch; Bishop Benjamin of the Russian Patriarchal jurisdiction; Bishop Dionisije of the Serbian Orthodox diocese, under the Patriarchate of Serbia; Bishop Bogdan (Spilka) of the Ukrainian diocese, under the Ecumenical Patriarchate; and Bishop Orestes (Chornock), head of the Carpatho-Russian diocese, also under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Since the Metropolia was not in affiliation with a Mother Church in the Old Country, it was not part of this organization.
The organization faltered and collapsed for a variety of reasons, but according to Father Thomas FitzGerald, “its significance cannot be diminished. It was the first formal association of Orthodox bishops in the United States. The establishment of the federation was an indication that the old barriers of language, politics, and cultural suspicion could be overcome and that issues of common concern could be addressed. Bringing together in a consultative body the primates of six jurisdictions, the federation was an important association that indicated a growing recognition of the critical need for cooperation and the common resolution of problems. As we shall see, the federation provided a historical precedent for the establishment of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA) in 1960.”
In 1956, the Orthodox Christian Education Commission (OCEC) was founded by Sophie Koulomzin (1903–2000) of the Metropolia, along with representatives from four other jurisdictions-Greek, Carpatho-Russian, Syrian, and Ukrainian-to coordinate Church school efforts among the various Orthodox groups in America. Having formal recognition by SCOBA ever since that body’s founding, this pan-Orthodox ministry was still active in 2013, continuing to produce educational materials for Orthodox church schools.
In March of 1960, Archbishop Iakovos, head of the Greek Orthodox in North America, hosted a meeting of the primates of all the canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States to discuss the possibility of closer cooperation. On June 7 in the same year, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) was established. Although it was founded as a consultative group with no canonical jurisdiction or authority, SCOBA provided a symbol of Orthodox unity in the New World, and it gave a structure for the coordination of inter-Orthodox activities. The most fruitful of the projects carried on under the official auspices of SCOBA in its first 15 years were the Campus Commission for work among college students-supervising the organization known as the Orthodox Christian Fellowship-and the Orthodox Christian Education Commission.
In 1992, the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) was formed by SCOBA. This organization has proven to be remarkably effective in raising and distributing aid to the poor and suffering of the world, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox. By 2013, the IOCC had gained an outstanding reputation for effectiveness in this field, having efficiently distributed millions of dollars worth of aid in many areas around the world.
In 1994, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) was formed by SCOBA, incorporating the Mission Center of the Greek Archdiocese (founded in 1985), with headquarters in St Augustine, Florida. By 2013 the Mission Center was supporting up to about 20 full-time missionaries, in Africa, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. It was also sending out up to 14 short-term mission teams every summer, in fields such as Christian education, construction of church buildings, and medical assistance.
The “Ligonier” Meeting
Also in 1994, for the first time, all the bishops of the canonical jurisdictions in North America met together, at Antiochian Village near Ligonier, Pennsylvania, at the initiative of SCOBA. This unprecedented meeting was hosted by Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese, chaired by Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Archdiocese, and moderated by Metropolitan Theodosius of the OCA.
During this three-day conference the bishops formally rejected the understanding of the Orthodox in North America as being in “diaspora,” and resolved to work concretely towards administrative unity. To proceed with their work on an ongoing basis, they resolved to meet annually as an ‘Episcopal Assembly.’ They also resolved to emphasize cooperative efforts to promote mission work in this land.
However, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew rejected the proceedings, with stern reprimands to the Greek Orthodox and other American bishops within the Ecumenical Patriarchate who participated. This halted any further efforts towards administrative unity on the part of the bishops in America, although they did meet again as a group in 2001 in Washington, D.C., and once more in 2006 in Chicago.
The vision for the establishment of jurisdictional unity in North America was rekindled in June of 2009 when Patriarch Bartholomew, meeting with representatives of all the worldwide autocephalous Churches, mandated that in each of 12 distinct regions around the world that have not been traditionally Orthodox lands, an “episcopal assembly” would be held, which would include all the canonical bishops in each area.
The bishops in North and Central America met in their episcopal assembly for the first time in New York City in мая of 2010. This episcopal assembly established a variety of committees to work out various inconsistencies in pastoral practice among the jurisdictions. It also brought the various SCOBA ministries under its oversight. It requested that Mexico be placed with Central America in a separate episcopal assembly, and that Canada have its own episcopal assembly. And it agreed to meet annually, in preparation for the Great and Holy Council which, it is hoped, will finally bring an end to the jurisdictional confusion and discord in America.
This Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America held its second annual meeting in мая of 2011, and its third annual meeting in September of 2012. Both of these conferences were held in Chicago.
The Orthodox Church in Russia
1900 to 1917
The period from 1900 to 1917 in Russia was a time of spiritual rebirth and ecclesiastical reform. Calls for various reforms after almost 200 years of State control of the Church were heard among clergy and laity in the early 1880s. These reform-minded people were especially concerned to see the restoration of the voice of the laity in the Church, the end of the practice of moving bishops frequently from diocese to diocese, the reduction of the power of government consistories (supervisory boards) in each diocese, and the establishment of conciliarity (sobornost) at all levels of Church administration.
In 1905 an imperial decree granted religious freedom in Russia, ending centuries of official State suppression of all religions except Orthodoxy. This was welcomed by the majority of Church people, such as seen in an open letter supporting the decree issued by 32 priests in Saint Petersburg. This letter also called for “a return to the traditional canonical order, based on self-governance and independence of the Church from the State. This can only be achieved by the convocation of a Council of the whole Russian Church.”
In preparation for such a council, Tsar Nicholas II (r. 1894–1917) authorized the formation of a Pre-Conciliar Commission in 1906. The year before, the Holy Synod had asked all the Russian bishops for their recommendations concerning Church reform. Sixty-one out of 63 diocesan bishops responded in favor of significant reform.
However, in April of 1907, Tsar Nicholas changed his mind, for political reasons, about allowing the Church to hold a great council. The work of the Pre-Conciliar Commission was halted.
At this time Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra were coming under the influence of a shadowy lay figure with hypnotic healing powers named Gregory Rasputin (1869–1916). Posing as an authentic Orthodox staretz (spiritual elder), he was actually a Khlyst sectarian who had been condemned as a heretic in Tobolsk. Especially because he was able to give relief to the royal couple’s hemophiliac son, the Tsarevich Alexis, he was eventually granted great influence in the affairs of the Royal Family and the Church, to the discredit of both. He was assassinated in December of 1916.
On March 2, 1917, under great pressure for political and ecclesiastical reform, and with Russia suffering severe military setbacks in the Great War, Tsar Nicholas abdicated. A provisional democratic government was set up, led by Alexander Kerensky (1881–1970), which allowed the Church again to undertake preparations for the long anticipated All-Russian Council.
The Council of Moscow, 1917–1918
After much debate, it was decided that each diocese would send delegates to the Council from among the clergy and the laity-as at the First All-American Sobor in маяfield, Pennsylvania, in 1907-to sit in council with the bishops, who would make the final decisions in matters of Church doctrine and practice. In August of 1917, in the shadow of the impending Bolshevik Revolution, the Council convened in Moscow-rather than in Saint Petersburg, the headquarters of the Holy Synod ever since the Patriarchate was abolished under Emperor Peter I in 1721. This in itself indicated a strong desire on the part of the Church to return to its traditional patterns of life and organization before the era of the Petrine Reform.
The Council ’s most momentous act was to restore the patriarchate to the Russian Church. On the morning of November 6, 1917, after vigil and prayer, an elderly monk drew the name of one of the three elected nominees from a chalice in front of the icon of the Kazan Mother of God. The name of Archbishop Tikhon (1866–1925) was drawn. Hence, the former primate of the American archdiocese became the first patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church since Patriarch Adrian died in 1700.
The Council continued to meet for nearly a year longer, despite the opposition of the Bolsheviks, and a number of significant reforms were passed before it had to close. These included the formation of a standing Synod of Bishops, and a Higher Church Council with lay participation to assist the Patriarch; bishops in every diocese to be elected by diocesan councils comprised of clergy and laity; bishops normally to be allowed to stay in their original diocese for life; sermons to be given at all services in the vernacular language; the restoration of internal autonomy to the monasteries; and women being encouraged to become members of parish councils.
Unfortunately, the Soviet oppression of the Church prevented many of these reforms from being put into practice. Interestingly, the dioceses which were able to elect their own bishops were most often the ones who stayed loyal to the Patriarchate during the years of Communist rule.
Patriarch Tikhon (r. 1917–1925)
From the very beginning, Patriarch Tikhon struggled to defend the life and organization of the Church in the face of fierce persecution by the Bolsheviks. At almost the same time that Saint Tikhon was selected as the new patriarch, Saint John Kochurov (1871–1917), who as a newly ordained priest had served for 12 years as head of the parish in Chicago, Illinois, became the first priest to die as a martyr at the hands of the Bolsheviks. In 1994 the Russian Church glorified him as “First Hieromartyr under the Bolshevik Yoke.”
On January 19, 1918, with the full approval of the Great Council in Moscow which continued to meet, Patriarch Tikhon excommunicated and anathematized all “the enemies of the Church.” He cried out to them, “Madmen, recover your senses! Cease your bloody vengeance. Your actions are not only cruel, they are satanic.”
This action increased the fury of the revolutionaries against the Church, which they despised for its close alliance with the hated Tsarist regime that they had dedicated their lives to overthrowing. According to James Cunningham, “On January 23, 1918, they issued a decree which separated the Church from the State, took away all schools from the Church, expropriated all ecclesiastical properties, suspended all government subsidies to Church organizations, denied the Church its status as a legal entity, and totally secularized the state.”
Two days later, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev (1848–1918) became the first bishop to be executed by the revolutionaries. During the course of the next three years, at least 28 bishops were murdered, thousands of clergy were imprisoned or killed, and some 12,000 laymen were killed for religious activities. On the night of July 17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas and his entire immediate family were treacherously and shamefully executed at Ekaterinburg; and the next night Grand Duchess Elizabeth (1864–1918) and other members of the extended Royal Family were murdered near Alapaevsk. They all were recognized as saints among the new martyrs, confessors, and passion-bearers of Russia by the Russian Church in 2000.
On мая 12, 1922, Patriarch Tikhon was imprisoned for his refusal to give up consecrated Church vessels which the government demanded during that time of famine and civil war, ostensibly to sell to help feed the poor. He had offered the unconsecrated treasures of the Church to the Bolsheviks, and he had promised as well to raise money for the afflicted through free will offerings of the faithful that would equal the amount which the government was demanding, as long as such offerings would be distributed to the people directly by the Church. He was released from prison in June of 1923, upon making a statement of loyalty to the Soviet government-a step he felt he had to take for the good of the Church.
In his struggles and trials, the patriarch tried to follow a path of political neutrality while defending the rights of the Church. He died in 1925 under mysterious circumstances in a hospital in Moscow, as a confessor for the Faith. In 1989, Patriarch Tikhon was canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate as “Saint Tikhon the Confessor, Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia, and Enlightener of North America.”
The Living Church
Patriarch Tikhon also had to struggle against the Living Church, a group of liberal churchmen supporting the Soviet regime, some quite enthusiastically, who took over the patriarchal administration. This usurpation, fully endorsed if not actually instigated by the Bolsheviks, was begun shortly after Patriarch Tikhon was imprisoned in мая of 1922. The Living Church was recognized by the Soviet State as the official Russian Church, and it was used by the State against those remaining faithful to Patriarch Tikhon. This group of “Renovationists” tried to change various teachings and practices of the Orthodox Church, such as allowing bishops to be married; the Renovationists were hailed by some in the West as bearers of the Reformation in Russia.
At first the Living Church gained some widespread support. But when it held a council in мая of 1923 that attempted to depose Patriarch Tikhon, many of its supporters were alienated. At that point the Soviets realized that the Living Church would not work as a means to bring the Orthodox Church as a whole under their control. So they stopped supporting it, and by the late 1920s its influence had greatly waned, though elements of it lingered on into the 1940s.
Russian Emigration to Western Europe
Quite a number of young Russian intellectuals, at first enamored with leftist political ideology, made their way “from Marxism to Idealism” and on to an affirmation of the Orthodox Faith. Some of them, such as the philosopher P. B. Struve (1870–1944), the theological writer and professor of dogmatics Archpriest Sergei N. Bulgakov (1871–1944), the existentially-oriented religious philosopher and editor Nicholas A. Berdyaev (1874–1948), the essayist S. L. Frank (1877–1950), and the religious historian George P. Fedotov (1886–1951), became leading figures in the Russian émigré community in Western Europe that coalesced in the early 1920s. Some one million Russians, mostly intellectuals and professionals, fled from Russia in the throes of the Bolshevik Revolution and afterwards. This remarkable group produced some 10,000 books and 200 journals in many different fields in the years between the two World Wars.
These Orthodox Christians did much, through their writing and speaking, to introduce to Western Europe the riches of Orthodox thought and life. The academic center of this Orthodox flowering in the West was the Saint Sergius Institute in Paris, founded in 1925.
The Era of Most Severe Persecution
With the death of Patriarch Tikhon in 1925, the Church in Russia entered its darkest hour. Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) (1867–1944) served as Deputy Locum Tenens of the Moscow Patriarchate from 1927 to 1943. This was the time of Stalin’s purges, when literally millions of people, including thousands of clergy, were imprisoned, exiled, and killed. Stalin’s constitution of 1936 officially called for “freedom of religion and freedom of anti-religious propaganda,” yet hundreds of churches, monasteries, and schools were closed. What little Church life still remaining was limited exclusively to liturgical services. The persecution of the Church by the State was fierce and relentless.
Relative Freedom during the Second World War
A period of relative freedom came to the Russian Church during the Second World War. The government needed the Church’s support for the war effort against Hitler. In return for rallying the people to fight for the fatherland, the Russian Church received concessions from the State. Many churches, monasteries, and schools were reopened. In 1943, Stalin allowed the Church to hold a council, which officially elected Metropolitan Sergius as patriarch. Upon Patriarch Sergius’s death in 1944, Metropolitan Alexei (Simansky) (r. 1945–1970) was elected to replace him at another council, solemnly conducted in the presence of a host of foreign ecclesiastical dignitaries.
The Return of Persecution
In the late 1950s and early “60s, the Soviet State under Nikita Khrushchev again began to severely persecute the Orthodox Church in Russia. There were no violent purges as in the Stalin era; rather, this new persecution came in the form of “administrative” measures with supposedly legal foundation. There was the closing of schools and churches-from 22,000 churches open in 1960 to 7,000 in 1964. There was heavy taxation and restricted registration of clergy. And severe punishments were meted out against churchmen for trivial or nonexistent “crimes.”
In 1961, new decrees of the government gravely limited the powers of the parish priests by giving all legal and administrative authority in the churches to the lay councils, the “twenty” members required by Soviet law for the formation of a local corporation with the right to request a church building for worship. The pastors were thus reduced to mere liturgical functionaries who had no official authority to do any further ministry among their flocks.
All of these “administrative” measures were an attempt to destroy religious faith-which, according to Marxist doctrine, should long ago have died a natural death in the USSR. Official atheist propaganda of the period shows a grave concern over the persistence of religion in the land.
Churchmen Appeal to the Soviet Authorities
Because the leading members of the hierarchy of the Russian Church were silent and passive in the face of this new persecution of the Church by the State, voices of protest began to arise from various Church members in what became known as the Dissident Movement. The most powerful appeals for just and proper action concerning the Church came from Archbishop Yermogen of Kaluga and the priests Nikolai Eshliman (1928–1985) and Gleb Yakunin (b. 1934). These spokesmen on behalf of the rights of the Russian Church sent open letters of criticism to both Church and State officials in December, 1965. These letters appealed to Soviet law that technically allowed for religious freedom, as well as to the statutes of the Russian Orthodox Church promulgated at its council in 1945. As a result, together with a number of lesser known colleagues, these priests were deprived of their ecclesiastical positions. Nevertheless, agitation among the clergy and laymen for reform in the Russian Church, for strong leadership and just treatment, continued until the fall of the Soviet government in 1991.
Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn
In addition to churchmen, men from academic and literary fields also made appeals in the name of faith and freedom in Russia. Boris Pasternak (1890–1960) and Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008), both Nobel Prize winning authors and Christian believers, were in this number. Solzhenitsyn addressed his famous Lenten Letter to Patriarch Pimen in 1972. This letter was extremely critical of the policies and actions of the Russian Church in the face of State control. It received great international attention, and caused much controversy within the Russian Church. It received, however, no official response from the Moscow Patriarchate.
After the death of Patriarch Alexei I in 1970, Archbishop Pimen (Izvekov) (r. 1971–1989) was chosen as primate of the Russian Church at its council in 1971. This same council officially confirmed the administrative decrees of the State, promulgated in 1961, which at that time had been strongly opposed by many of the parish clergy. Patriarch Pimen, who made visits to the other patriarchates while patriarch of Russia, was silent in response to all criticism of Church leadership in Russia. He continued the policies of cooperation with the Soviet authorities that had been followed by Patriarchs Sergius and Alexei before him-including refusing to admit the existence of State persecution of the Church in Russia.
Glasnost, and Freedom to Rebuild
Preparations for the celebration of the millennium of the Christianization of Kievan Rus’ in 1988 coincided with a general relaxation of the authoritarianism of the previous decades, under Premier Mikhail Gorbachev”s policy of glasnost (openness). The Church gained more freedoms as the Iron Curtain began to fall. Once it collapsed, in 1991, the Church was free to recover and rebuild.
Patriarch Alexei II
After Patriarch Pimen’s death in 1989, Metropolitan Alexei (Ridiger), from Estonia, was elected the new Patriarch. He guided the Church through the new post-Soviet era when millions of Orthodox came back to the Church, thousands of churches and monasteries were reopened and refurbished, and a new national constitution provided for full freedom for the Church, now fully recognized as a legal entity. The Church was greatly challenged in this time with ministering to so many new members, with very strained relations with the Uniates, especially in western Ukraine, and with various ultra-conservative right-wing groups.
A month after Patriarch Alexei’s death in December of 2008, Metropolitan Kirill (Gundyayev) (b. 1946) was elected as the new Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. By 2010 he had taken steps to develop closer relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including supporting the 12 Orthodox ecclesiastical assemblies that Patriarch Bartholomew was setting up around the world. Metropolitan Kirill continued to lead the Patrarchate of Moscow and All Russia in 2013.
Among the last acts of Patriarch Alexei I was the official declaration in 1970 of the autonomy of the Orthodox Church in Japan. Bishop Vladimir (Nagosky) (1922–1997), the American-born primate of the Japanese Church, which had been affiliated with the American Metropolia since World War II, was made Metropolitan of Tokyo. The Moscow Patriarchate reserved the right to confirm the election of the Japanese primate and to participate in his consecration, but in all other respects the Church in Japan became self-governing. At the time of Japanese autonomy, the founder of the Church in Japan, Archbishop Nikolai (Kasatkin) (1836–1912), was glorified as a saint by the Russian Church.
In 1972, Metropolitan Vladimir returned to the United States, and the native-born, American-educated Metropolitan Theodosius (Nagashima) (1935–1999) replaced him as primate of the Japanese Church. He was followed by Metropolitan Daniel (Nushiro) (b. 1938), who was born into a Japanese Orthodox family. Installed by Patriarch Alexei II of the Church of Russia in 2000, Metropolitan Daniel was still guiding the Japanese Church in 2013. It numbers about 30,000 faithful.
The Church in Greece
In 1907, Father Eusebios Matthopoulos (1849–1929) founded the Zoe Brotherhood in Greece, an organization dedicated to the “enlightenment” and “reevangelization” of Christian Greece. The Brotherhood founded thousands of Sunday schools and study groups. However, it also brought some Protestant doctrines, practices, and forms of piety into the life of many Greek Orthodox Christians.
The first quarter of the century saw the influx of many Greeks from the Turkish territories into Greece, particularly at the time of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1923 in which Greece was defeated by the newly emerging Republic of Turkey led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881–1938). In this era the Patriarchate of Constantinople lost a vast number of members, many of whom emigrated to other places, including the New World. This natural emigration was forcefully increased by the so-called “population exchange” of 1923–1924. As stipulated by the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, signed by all the major European powers, Greece agreed to deport as many Turks as possible to Turkey, and Turkey in turn agreed to deport as many Greeks as possible to Greece and the Greek islands.
This was deemed the best solution to the recurring animosity between the Greeks and Turks in Turkey. But it was a violent measure in itself; hundreds lost their lives in the forced marches of this population exchange. At the age of 83, Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia (1840–1924) successfully shepherded some 480 families from Cappadocia, in central Turkey, to the Greek islands in the population exchange. He died on one of the Aegean islands forty days after his arrival there, just as he had predicted.
In 1923 the Church of Greece adopted the Revised Julian Calendar, and the State banned the use of the old Julian Calendar everywhere except on Mount Athos. This led to the rise of several Old Calendarist groups which were persecuted by the State. This persecution added to the strength of these groups, which exist to the present day in schism from the Church.
Christians in Greece suffered persecution during the civil war (1944–1948) between Royalists and Communists. Then, the coup of the military junta in 1967, as well as its subsequent overthrow in 1974, brought turmoil in Church affairs, particularly at the hierarchical level.
In recent times, the Church has shown leadership in supporting new Orthodox communities in Africa, and in reaching out to the youth of modern Greece. In 2013 the ruling hierarch of the Church of Greece was Archbishop Ieronymos (Liapis) (b. 1938), who followed the popular Archbishop Christodoulos (Paraskevaidis) (r. 1998–2008).
The Ecumenical Patriarchate
From 1948 to 1972 the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was led by the imposing figure of Patriarch Athenagoras (1886–1972). This world famous hierarch was concerned primarily with the survival of his patriarchate in Turkey, and with ecumenical activity. In January of 1964, in Jerusalem, the patriarch met with Pope Paul VI of the Roman Catholic Church. This was the first meeting between the primates of the Orthodox and Roman Churches since 1439 at the Council of Florence. In December of 1965, they issued statements nullifying the anathemas of 1054 (see Eleventh Century), thus signaling an era of friendship between the Churches in the mutual quest for complete unity in truth and love. The two prelates met again in 1967 in Constantinople and in Rome. Patriarch Athenagoras also met personally with leaders of the Church of England and the World Council of Churches.
For his bold words and deeds directed toward Christian unity-particularly in his relations with the Roman Church-Patriarch Athenagoras was both admired and attacked. While being virtually identified with the whole of Orthodoxy in the minds of most non-Orthodox people, the patriarch was severely criticized by some members of the Orthodox Church for acting independently and irresponsibly, without proper consultation with the leaders of all the Orthodox Churches. Others in the Church, primarily in the Church of Greece, on Mount Athos, and in America, criticized not merely the manner of the Patriarch’s actions, but also the actions themselves, as betraying the Orthodox Faith.
The Proposed Great Council
In 1961, Patriarch Athenagoras called the first conference of representatives of all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches to discuss the common problems facing the Orthodox, and to begin serious preparations for the calling of a Great Council of the Orthodox Church-a proposed council which had been discussed for decades. This conference was held on the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea.
In 1967, the Ecumenical Patriarchate refused to place the problem of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America on the agenda of the pan-Orthodox conference held that year in Switzerland. The request was made by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (see SCOBA, above).
Since then, there have been four specifically designated Pre-Conciliar Conferences-at Chambésy, a suburb of Geneva, Switzerland, in 1976; at Rhodes in 1982; at Chambésy in 1986; and again at Chambesy in 2009. It was at this last conference that the plan was first proposed for the meeting of assemblies of bishops of all canonical jurisdictions in regions not traditionally Orthodox.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate continued to have trouble with the Turkish government. The hasty election of Patriarch Demetrios (Papadopoulos) (r. 1972–1991), to succeed Athenagoras in 1972, showed the continuing power of the Turkish authorities over the affairs of the Orthodox Church within its territory. The patriarchal seminary on the Island of Halki was closed in 1971 because of new Turkish regulations.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate also was engaged in controversy with the Church of Greece over the jurisdiction of dioceses in the “new lands” of northern Greece. And many of the monks on Mount Athos continued to express their discontent with the Constantinopolitan leadership because of its ecumenical policies and activities. (From about 6500 at the beginning of the century, the number of monks on Mount Athos dwindled to about 1500 by 1960. Since then, there has been a steady revival in numbers and spiritual life on the Holy Mountain, thanks to an infusion of young monks from around the world.)
Patriarch Demetrios was succeeded by Patriarch Bartholomew (Archontonis) (b. 1940) in 1991. Patriarch Bartholomew has been so involved with ecological concerns that he has been nicknamed “the Green Patriarch.” At his initiative, the Chambésy conference of 2009 proposed the formation of episcopal assemblies in each of 12 regions not traditionally Orthodox, as mentioned above. These assemblies first met during 2010, and continued to have annual assemblies into 2013.
Other Orthodox Churches
The Orthodox Church in Serbia declared its autocephaly in 1832, after the success of the Serbian Revolution against the Ottoman Turks. This status was officially recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1879. In 1920 the Serbian patriarchate-which was lost in 1459, regained in 1557, and lost again in 1766-was restored, with its headquarters located in the capital city of Belgrade. In this same year of 1920, the Church was officially separated from the State.
During World War II, the Serbian Church suffered terribly at the hands of the Croatian Ustashi, in alliance with the German Nazis. Patriarch Gavrilo (Dozich) (1881–1950), as well as Saint Nikolai Velimirovich, were incarcerated in the Nazi prison camp at Dachau, and some 800,000 Serbians were uprooted or massacred by the Ustashi. Sometimes they were killed for refusing to convert to Roman Catholicism.
From 1945 to 1990, the Church in Serbia (Yugoslavia) continued to suffer persecution under the Communist regime established by Marshal Tito (1892–1980). In 1990, when the Soviet era came to an end, Patriarch Pavle (Stojchevich) (r. 1990–2009) publicly apologized for any collaboration with the Communists, and offered to step down from office. This offer was rejected by the Church, and he continued as the Patriarch until his death in 2009. He was succeeded by Patriarch Irenej (Gavrilovich) (b. 1930), who continued to rule the Church of Serbia in 2013.
In 2010 the Serbian Church glorified as saints two famous Serbian ascetics: Father Justin Popovich (1894–1979) of the Chelije Monastery, and Father Simeon Popovich (1854–1941) of the Dajbabe Monastery.
The Romanian Orthodox Church declared its autocephaly in 1859, when the modern Romanian nation was formed. This status was officially recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1885. In 1925, the Romanian Church received a patriarch for the first time, with his headquarters located in the capital city of Bucharest. To this day this Church remains the state-church of Romania, which is the most thoroughly Orthodox nation in the world. Liturgical services are done in the modern Romanian language.
The Romanian Christians suffered much during the Communist era after WWII. The persecution was moderated by the fact that the Church was firmly under State control, and because of close personal relationships between some of the Communist and Orthodox leaders. Unlike the Soviet government in Russia, the Romanian government was not determined to create an atheist state and society.
Freedom for the Church came at the end of 1989 with the fall of the brutal dictator Nicolae Ceause?cu (1918–1989). Patriarch Teoctist (Arăpașu) (r. 1986–2007) resigned under pressure for alleged collusion with the Ceause?cu regime, but he was reinstated by the Holy Synod of the Church in April of 1990.
In мая of 1999, Pope John Paul II visited Romania at the invitation of Patriarch Teoctist. This was in all probability the first time any Roman bishop ever visited Romania.
Upon Patriarch Teoctist’s death in 2007, he was succeeded by Patriarch Daniel (Ciobotea) (b. 1951), who continued to rule the Church of Romania in 2013.
According to the census of 2011, the Church of Romania had over 16 million adherents, who made up about 86% of the population.
Syria and Lebanon
In 1899 the Antiochian Patriarchate in the Middle East received its first Arab primate since 1724, with considerable help from the Russians. This was Patriarch Meletius II (Doumani), who ruled until 1906. At present, all the higher clergy are Arabs.
In 1942 a youth movement was started, called simply the Orthodox Youth Movement. Comprised mostly of laity, it has been especially important in bringing new vitality to the Church in Syria and Lebanon. The group has been active in book publishing and in various forms of social outreach. Their work was especially appreciated during the long years of civil war from 1975 to 1990.
Patriarch Ignatius (Hazim) IV (1921–2012), who was a member of the Orthodox Youth Movement along with others who have become bishops of the Church, began his reign as Patriarch of Antioch in 1979. In 1988 he founded the University of Balamand, which now has oversight of the Saint John of Damascus School of Theology (founded in 1970), the patriarchate’s only seminary for training priests.
In 2012 Patrarch Ignatius died. He was succeeded by Patriarch John X (Yazigi) (b. 1955).
The Patriarchate in Jerusalem continues to the present to have a Greek primate, who must be a member of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre that is responsible for the upkeep of the holy sites in the Holy Land. A council of Arab priests and laymen was formed in 1911 to participate in Church government.
While the Church hierarchy is still predominantly Greek, the faithful are predominantly Arabs living in the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. This has been a source of discontent among the Arab Orthodox, as they have felt that their particular needs have not been sufficiently addressed by the Greek hierarchy.
In 2013 the patriarch of Jerusalem was Patriarch Theophilos (Giannopoulos) III (b. 1952).
For centuries, the ministry of the Patriarchate of Alexandria was mostly confined to a relatively small Greek community in Egypt that was surrounded by Copts, who have had their own (Non-Chalcedonian) Church since the 6th century, and also by Muslims since they took over the country in the mid-7th century.
In the late 1800s, the character of the Patriarchate began to change, as Greek and Lebanese merchants fanned out across the continent, sometimes establishing churches on their own. Jurisdictional confusion was avoided by a general agreement made in the 1920s that all Orthodox churches in Africa would be included within the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
In the 20th century, the Patriarchate also made efforts to nurture Orthodoxy among Africans living south of the Sahara Desert. These efforts were aided by the Churches in Greece and Cyprus, which in the early 1970s built the Archbishop Makarios Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya, to serve all of East Africa.
In the 1920s several native Africans in Kenya discovered the Orthodox Church through their own studies, and gathered followers. In 1946, the Orthodox Christians in Kenya and Uganda were officially received into the Patriarchate of Alexandria. In 1973, four bishops were consecrated for the Orthodox in East Africa, including two of the group’s original leaders-Reuben Spartas Mukasa (1899–1988) and Theodore Nankyamas. Mukasa had first been ordained as a priest in 1932 by a bishop of the non-canonical African Orthodox Church that originated in America in the 1920s under Marcus Garvey.
From 1997 to 2004, Patriarch Petros (Papapetrou) VII (1949–2004) guided the expansion of his Church all across Africa, including into some Arab Muslim countries. His ministry was tragically cut short when he was killed in a helicopter crash that also took the life of the dynamic bishop of Madagascar, Bishop Nektarios. Patriarch Petros was succeeded by Patriarch Theodoros II (Choreftakis) (b. 1954) in 2004. He continued to rule this Patriarchate in 2013.
While the patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa has continued to be a Greek, in 2013 there were several native African bishops, including the dynamic Metropolitan Ieronymos (Muzeeyi) of Mwanza, Tanzania (b. 1963).
The Orthodox Church in Poland received autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1924. This was recognized by the Church of Russia in 1948.
When the Soviet Union annexed eastern Poland after WWII, the Polish Orthodox Church lost about 80% of its membership.
After political freedom came to Poland in 1991, ending its status as a satellite state of the Soviet Union, the new government granted the Orthodox Church equal legal status with the predominant Roman Catholic Church. This law also allowed the Orthodox to reclaim properties previously seized by the Roman Church.
Since 1998 the Polish Church has been led by Metropolitan Sava (Hrycuniak) (b. 1938). In 2013 the membership of the Polish Church was estimated at about 600,000, spread across seven archdioceses, including one in South America centered in Rio de Janeiro.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia
By 1925, there were two dioceses of Orthodox Christians in Czechoslovakia, both under the authority of the Serbian Orthodox Church. In 1942, during WWII, the especially effective and beloved bishop of the Czech diocese, Bishop Gorazd (Pavlik) (1879–1942), a former Roman Catholic priest, was executed by the German Nazi occupiers, along with hundreds of clergy and laity, and the Czech Orthodox Church was outlawed. Bishop Gorazd was glorified as a New Martyr by the Church in Serbia in 1961.
After WWII, the restored Czech diocese, along with the Diocese of Presov in Slovakia, came under the authority of the Church of Russia. In 1951, the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia was granted autocephaly by the Church of Russia.
This was not recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but after the fall of Communism and the establishment in 1993 of the separate nations of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia was recognized as autocephalous by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This happened in 1998, as a unilateral action taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate solely on its own accord (i.e., without reference to the previous autocephaly granted by the Church of Russia).
In 2013, Metropolitan Christopher (Pulets) (b. 1953) was the ruling hierarch of this Church, having succeeded Metropolitan Nicholas (1927–2006) in 2006. As of 2013 there were 82 parishes in the Czech Republic and 90 in Slovakia.
The Albanian Church in the motherland was granted autocephaly in 1937 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In 1939, after Fascist Italy occupied the country, an attempt was made to unite the Albanian Orthodox Church with the Church of Rome, but this failed.
In 1945, with Albania falling to the Communists, the Church was subject to various forms of persecution. Beginning in 1967, the Communist government of Albania began subjecting the Christians and Muslims to the most intense persecution anywhere, as it tried to establish a completely atheistic state and society.
In 1991, after the fall of the Communist regime, the Ecumenical Patriarch appointed Anastasios (Yannoulatos) (b. 1929) as patriarchal exarch. In the next year he was made Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania, along with three other diocesan metropolitans, all of Greek descent. The civil authorities strongly opposed this development for nationalistic reasons. They finally accepted the arrangement after two of the Greek metropolitans were replaced with native-born Albanians, and a synod was formed that officially elected Anastasios as primate.
The Church in Albania has made a miraculous recovery under the energetic, mission- and social-minded leadership of Archbishop Anastasios. He was still leading the Church in 2013.
As of 2013, the Albanian Church had 909 parishes and about 500,000 faithful.
In 1870 the Bulgarians in the Ottoman Empire gained permission from the sultan to have their own churches, to be under an exarchate of the Church of Constantinople. A Church council held in Constantinople two years later condemned this development as the heresy of phyletism (or ethnicism; defined as setting up any church based on the ethnicity of its members). When the Bulgarians refused to yield, they were excommunicated, and the so-called “Bulgarian Schism ” began.
Reconciliation was not achieved until 1945, when the Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized an independent Bulgarian Church within the boundaries of the modern Bulgarian nation. In 1953 the Bulgarian Church proclaimed Metropolitan Cyril of Sofia as patriarch, thus restoring the office that was lost in 1393 when the Bulgarians became subject to the Ottoman Turks. Constantinople officially recognized the Patriarchate of Bulgaria in 1961.
Patriarch Maxim (Minkov) (1914–2012) shepherded the Bulgarian flock from 1971 until his death in 2012. With the collapse of the Communist government, in the early 1990s some of the parishes broke away from Patriarch Maxim, accusing him of collaboration with the former regime. They organized themselves into an Alternate Synod. Reconciliation had still not been achieved by 2013.
Patriarch Maxim died in November of 2012. In February of 2013, he was succeeded by Patriarch Neofit (Dimitrov) (b. 1945), who had been the Metropolitan of Ruse (Rousse) in Bulgaria. An expert Church musician and erudite theologian, he was known to have had a close relationship with Patriarch Maxim.
The Bulgarian Church had about 6.5 million members as of 2013, with an additional 1.5 to 2 million scattered in other parts of the world.
The Church in Ukraine, the original heartland of Orthodoxy in the lands of Rus, has been within the Patriarchate of Moscow since 1686, but there was always a yearning among many of the Ukrainian Orthodox to have their own autocephalous Church. When an independent Ukrainian state emerged after WW I, a self-proclaimed independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was also established, at an assembly in Kiev in 1921. But since no bishops could be found to endorse the movement, the delegates decided to have priests (presbyters) consecrate their own bishops.
The resulting “self-consecrated” Ukrainian hierarchy was never accepted by worldwide Orthodoxy. Yet in the 1920s this non-canonical Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) flourished, with some 2500 priests and 2000 parishes. In the 1930s Stalin completely suppressed this Church. It was revived in the German occupation during WW II, this time with an episcopacy with a legitimate apostolic succession, but after the war Stalin suppressed it again.
Negotiations between the Ukrainian “self-consecrated” jurisdiction and the Patriarchate of Constantinople developed in the 1970s, but without clear and conclusive results.
As an independent nation of Ukraine was again being established as the Iron Curtain was collapsing, the UAOC was again revived, though still without recognition by the other Orthodox Churches worldwide. By 1992, this group had about 1500 parishes, but it was split into two parts. Among the 5500 Ukrainian parishes still under the Moscow Patriarchate, there was also a split, with some of them proclaiming themselves to be independent.
At the same time, the Eastern-rite Greek Catholics (Uniates) in Ukraine had about 2700 parishes. These parishes had been either closed or forced to become Orthodox by Stalin. With the fall of the Soviet regime, they were free to return to Eastern-rite Catholicism. There was still much antagonism on this account in 2013 between the Orthodox and the Eastern-rite Catholics.
According to tradition, the Apostle Andrew was the first missionary to preach Christianity in what is today the Republic of Georgia in the region of the Caucasus Mountains east of the Black Sea. Around the year 330, a woman from Cappadocia in central Asia Minor named Nino (or Nina) came to Georgia as a missionary. Having brought King Mirian and Queen Nana to the Christian Faith, the entire country became Christian. Thus Georgia became the second Christian nation, after Armenia (in about 300). Saint Nina of Georgia is the patronal saint of the nation.
Through the centuries the culture and society of Georgia have been deeply penetrated with Orthodox Christianity, enabling the people to stay firm in their Faith during periods of rule by Zoroastrian Persians and Muslim Arabs, Mongols, and Ottoman Turks. Ten years after Georgia became absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1801, the Church was subordinated to the Russian Church. The Church regained its autocephaly in 1917, but in the Soviet era it experienced drastically severe persecution. From 2455 churches in 1921, there were only 25 left open in 1977, along with only four small monasteries.
Beginning in 1977, the Georgian Church has revived greatly under the leadership of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia (Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili) II (b. 1933), sparked by his open critique of Soviet ideology. By 2003 there were 550 parishes with 1100 clergy, along with 65 monasteries. In 2013 about 80% of the population was Orthodox, with the Church still being led by Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia.
As of 2013, the Church in Georgia had about 3.6 million members, who made up about 84% of the population, according to the 2002 census. The Church has about 33 dioceses, with some 550 parishes served by 730 priests.
In 1918 the Orthodox Church of Finland became the second “established” (State-supported) Church in Finland, after the Lutheran Church. Due to heavy pressure from the State, the Finnish Church is the only Orthodox Church that always celebrates Pascha on the same date as Western Easter.
In 1923 the Church in Finland was granted a fully autonomous status by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, although this was not accepted until 1957 by the Church of Russia, which had missionized the region in the Middle Ages. The local bishops of the Finnish Church are elected by the general assembly of clergy and laity; only the Archbishop’s election must be ratified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
After WWII, when eastern Finland (Karelia) was annexed by the Soviet Union, 75% of the Orthodox there fled to the western part of the country, where the government generously helped them restore normal church life. The New Valamo Monastery has become a place of pilgrimage for the whole nation, and in many other ways the small Orthodox Church contributes to the religious and cultural life of Finland.
Archbishop Paavali (Paul) (Olmari) (r. 1960–1987) was an especially beloved primate of the Church of Finland. He was followed by Archbishop John (Rinne) (r. 1987–2001), who was a convert from Lutheranism. He was the first western convert to become the head of any Orthodox Church in the world. Upon his death, Archbishop John was followed by Archbishop Leo (Makkonen) (b. 1948). Archbishop Leo was still leading his Church in 2013.
The Orthodox Church of Finland had about 60,000 members as of 2013, out of a total population of over 5 million.
Russian Exarchate of Western Europe within the Ecumenical Patriarchate
During the 1920s, the Moscow Patriarchate demanded a pledge of loyalty to the Soviet regime from the Russian Church in Western Europe. Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievsky) (1868–1946; r. 1921–1946), appointed by Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow, refused to comply, and appealed to Constantinople. Thus, in 1931, the Russian Church in Western Europe became an exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Many famous Russian churchmen and theologians were in this exarchate led by Metropolitan Evlogy, who in 1925 founded the Saint Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris.
This spiritual and academic institute became the center of Orthodox learning in the West, where such notable men were gathered as Father Sergei Bulgakov (1871–1944); Father Vasily Zenkovsky (1881–1962); Bishop Kassian (Bezobrazov) (1892–1965); Archmandrite Cyprian (Kern) (1899–1960); Father Nicholas Afanasiev (1893–1966); Father Georges Florovsky (1893–1979), who became dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in New York and later taught at Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline; and Professor Anton Kartashev (1875–1960), who was the last (de facto) oberprokuror of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church, serving under the very short-lived provisional government led by Alexander Kerensky. Kartashev helped organize and served as secretary of the great Russian Church Council held in Moscow in 1917–1918.
Mention also must be made of the Russian priests Father Alexander Elchaninoff (1881–1934) and Father Sergei Chetverikoff (1880–1959). Working in France along with many of the professors of the Saint Sergius Institute, they labored closely with the Russian Student Christian Movement, which did important work among Russian émigrés during this period.
In 1965 the Russian Exarchate of Western Europe was made a vicariate, but in 1999 its status was restored as an exarchate. In recent times the primates of this jurisdiction have been Archbishop George (Tarassov) (r. 1960–1981), Archbishop George (Wagner) (r. 1981–1993), Archbishop Serge (Konovalov) (r. 1993–2003), and Archbishop Gabriel (de Vylder), a Belgian, who was still leading this Church in 2013. Its parishes number about 100, with 40 in France and the others scattered across most of Western Europe and Britain, especially in Scandinavia.
The Moscow Patriarchate continued to operate its exarchate in Western Europe, with Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh (1914–2003) in London and Archbishop Basil (Krivosheine) (1900–1985) in Brussels as its most well-known leaders. Metropolitan Anthony was nationally recognized in Great Britain for his teaching, writing, and radio broadcasts, while Archbishop Basil was a renowned Patristics scholar.
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)
Immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution, a group of Russian emigre churchmen, together with leading monarchist laymen, formed themselves into the Russian Orthodox Synod in Exile, also called the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). This group, led by Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) (1863–1936), established its center in Sremski-Karlovtsy in Serbia, where it received the right to function independently from the local ecclesiastical hierarchy. Because of its location in Sremski-Karlovtsy, the group also received the name Karlovtsy Synod.
In 1930, ROCOR founded Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, which in 2013 was this body’s largest monastery. In 1948, Holy Trinity Seminary opened on the monastery grounds; this institution continued serving in 2013 as ROCOR’s only seminary.
Except for the years from 1937 to 1946, ROCOR and the (Russian) Metropolia in America were not in communion, and both groups remained alienated from the Moscow Patriarchate-until 1970, when the Metropolia was granted autocephaly by Moscow and became the OCA. Under Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) (r. 1964–1985) and Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov) (r. 1986–2001), ROCOR continued to defend and propagate strict anti-ecumenical and anti-New Calendar views.
From 1962 until his death in 1966, the renowned wonderworker and clairvoyant elder Saint John (Maximovitch) (1896–1966) was the ROCOR Archbishop of San Francisco. He was glorified as a saint by ROCOR in 1994.
Under Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla) (r. 2001–2008), relations improved considerably between ROCOR and the Patriarchate of Moscow, leading to full reconciliation in мая of 2007, with ROCOR continuing its independent administrative existence. By 2013, there were still a number of its parishes which had not accepted the reconciliation and hence remained in schism.
Other Orthodox Dioceses in Western Europe
In 1922 Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios (Metaxakis) (1871–1935) established the Diocese of Thyateira to care for all the Greek Orthodox Christians living in Western and Central Europe. Beginning in 1988 and continuing into 2013, this body has been headed by Gregorios (Theocharous), Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, and Exarch of Western Europe, Ireland and Malta. In 2013 this jurisdiction had about 100 parishes in Great Britain, along with the celebrated Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, founded in 1959 in Essex, England, by Father Sophrony (Sakharov) (1896–1993), the most famous disciple of Saint Silouan of Mount Athos (1866–1938).
About 20 former Anglican parishes joined the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the 1990s. From 2008 to 2012, these parishes were under the care of Metropolitan John (Yazigi) of Western and Central Europe, residing in Paris.
Now known as the Antiochian Archdiocese of Europe, this jurisdiction also has parishes in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, as well as France. By January of 2013, a successor had not yet been appointed to follow Metropolitan John, who was elected to be the new Patriarch of Antioch in December of 2012.
Metropolitan Laurus was succeeded in 2008 by Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral). Born in Alberta, Canada, in 1948, he continued to lead his Church in 2013.
Significant numbers of Serbian and Romanian parishes also existed in Britain and Western Europe in 2013.
Beginnings in the Early 20th Century
The movement for closer cooperation among the many various Christian groups, which began among Protestants in the 19th century, developed more strongly in the first quarter of the 20th century with the establishment of the International Missionary Council in Edinburgh in 1910. In 1920, Metropolitan Dorotheus, the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, issued an encyclical letter entitled “Unto All Churches of Christ Wheresoever They Be.” Calling for “a closer relationship and a mutual understanding” among all the different Christian groups, this letter sparked the chain of events that eventually led to the formation of the World Council of Churches.
The World Council of Churches
In 1948, the World Council of Churches was formed in Amsterdam from the Faith and Order and Life and Work movements which met in Western Europe in the 1920s and ’30s. Throughout the process there was substantial Orthodox participation, led by the outstanding historian and theologian, Father Georges Florovsky (1893–1979). The Roman Catholic Church refused to take part in the founding of the WCC, along with many conservative Protestant and Pentecostal denominations.
By the time of the second worldwide assembly of the WCC, held in 1954 in Evanston, Illinois, the Orthodox patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch; the autocephalous Church of Greece; the Russian-American Metropolia; and the Romanian Episcopate in America all had become official members of the WCC. During this period, the leaders of the Russian Exarchate in Western Europe, as well as certain Russians who remained faithful to Moscow such as Vladimir Lossky (1903–1958) and Nicolas Zernov (1898–1980), also played a major role in ecumenical activity.
In 1961, at the third worldwide assembly of the WCC in New Delhi, India, the Churches of Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland joined the WCC. The Russian Church in the ’60s was extremely active ecumenically, being led in this area by Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) (1929–1978), head of the Office of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate. This activity was greatly curtailed in the ‘70s, most likely due to the changing political needs of the Soviet government, which continued to dominate official Church policy.
One major highlight for Orthodox involvement in the WCC came in 1982 with the publication of the Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry (BEM) document. This work shows very substantial Orthodox influence, especially concerning the real presence of the Holy Spirit in baptism, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the three-fold ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon.
Nevertheless, in the 1980s and ’90s, it became increasingly difficult for the Orthodox representatives in the WCC to make the voice of Orthodoxy clearly and unambiguously heard, since there were less than 20 Orthodox member Churches, but up to more than 300 Protestant bodies, all with an equal vote. Mounting frustration over this situation was manifested by the Georgian and Bulgarian Orthodox Churches dropping their membership in the WCC in 1997 and 1998 respectively, while the Russian Church suspended active membership in 1998.
To address the concerns of the Orthodox, a special Commission was established at the eighth worldwide assembly of the WCC, held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998. At the next worldwide assembly, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2006, the Commission’s recommendations were adopted, including a shift to decision-making based on “consensus-building” rather than by “democratic” voting.
The tenth worldwide assembly of the WCC was scheduled to be held in Busan, Korea, in November of 2013, to be attended by delegates from each of the 349 Churches that now make up the WCC.
Besides participation in the WCC, many of the Orthodox Churches have participated in various bi-lateral dialogues, such as with the Oriental Orthodox Churches (of Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, Armenia, and India; sometimes called the Non-Chalcedonian Churches), the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Reformed Churches. In the U.S. there was also a dialogue with Evangelical Christians. These dialogues were still in existence with varying degrees of activity in 2013.
As a whole, the Orthodox continued to stress the top priority of faith and order in the ecumenical dialogue, and to insist on full-fledged unity in the Orthodox Faith as the condition for full Christian unity and sacramental intercommunion. The bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) issued an official encyclical on this issue in 1973.
Protestant Fundamentalism and Protestant Liberalism
In the late 19th century and on into the 20th century, many conservative Protestants felt challenged, even shaken, by certain developing strands of thought and action that seemed to undermine traditional faith in the Gospel-especially Darwinism, German Biblical Criticism, and the American philosophical school known as Pragmatism. The Process Philosophy developed by Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) eventually led, in the 1980s, to the radically non-traditional Process Theology, according to which God is in a process of development along with all of Creation, which is held to be co-eternal with God.
In response to the many various forms of Protestant Liberalism and secular humanism/modernism, a movement arose within conservative Protestantism in America in the early 20th century known as Protestant Fundamentalism. The Movement’s specific roots can be traced to the publication and widespread distribution of a series of 90 essays in 12 volumes entitled The Fundamentals. Published between 1910 and 1915, this project was financed by a wealthy California oilman, Lyman Stewart, and his brother Milton. The various authors, some of them quite well-known scholars such as James Orr (1844–1913) of Scotland and Benjamin B. Warfield (1851–1921), drew upon the previous work of the annual Niagara Bible Conferences; the work of the great urban evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837–1899), founder of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago; and the Scofield Reference Bible, annotated by C. I. Scofield (1843–1921) and published by Oxford University Press in 1909.
About a third of these essays defended the Bible against German higher Biblical criticism, another third presented basic traditional Protestant doctrines, and the rest of them included personal testimonies, practical applications of Christian teaching, appeals for missions and evangelism, and attacks on various “isms” such as Liberalism, Modernism, Secular Humanism, and Darwinism. Presented as a united conservative “testimony to the truth,” some three million of the volumes were sent free of charge to Protestant religious workers all over the world.
The World’s Christian Fundamentals Association, organized in Philadelphia in 1919 by a group of interdenominational Protestants, urged the founding of “Bible-based” institutes and colleges to offer a clear alternative to the growing liberalism in the denominational seminaries and colleges. The new schools were to preserve the non-negotiable, foundational, fundamental truths of Christianity: the Virgin Birth of Christ, His miracles, His sacrificial atoning death, His real resurrection, His Second Coming, the Last Judgment, and the eternal existence of heaven and hell. The famous Dallas Theological Seminary and Bob Jones University were founded in the 1920s as part of this movement.
In 1922, the nationally known liberal Baptist preacher, Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969), preached his most famous sermon, entitled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” in which he challenged their belief in the Virgin Birth, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, and the literal Second Coming of Christ. He argued for the necessity of interdenominational Christian fellowship that is “intellectually hospitable, open-minded, liberty-loving, fair, and tolerant.”
In 1923 J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937), professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary, published Christianity and Liberalism, in which he defended Protestant orthodoxy in the face of the growing challenges of liberalism. In this book he argued that liberal Christianity and historic Christianity were two entirely different religions. In 1929 he and other traditionally-minded professors left Princeton Seminary to establish the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. And in 1936 he led a conservative group that left the Presbyterian Church and founded a new denomination-the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
In the 1940s, a new generation of young preachers and scholars from within conservative, fundamentalist Protestantism began calling for “a new Fundamentalism” that would reject Fundamentalism’s historic anti-intellectualism, divisiveness, lack of social conscience, and uncritical alliance with political conservatism. Major developments in this rise of Neo-Evangelicalism were the establishment in 1942 of the National Association of Evangelicals; the publication of Carl F. H. Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947); the founding in 1947 of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California; the founding of Campus Crusade for Christ by Bill Bright (1921–2003) in 1951; the launching in 1955 of the periodical Christianity Today; and the rising popularity of a dynamic young traveling evangelist named Billy Graham (b. 1918).
Neo-Evangelicalism continued strongly in this period, while the increasingly liberal “mainline” Protestant denominations were losing members in greater and greater numbers. Besides Billy Graham, Rex Humbard (1919–2007) and J. Vernon McGee (1904–1988) were leading evangelical preachers, while the traveling evangelists Oral Roberts (1918–2009) and Jimmy Swaggart (b. 1935) preached the Pentecostal message to broader and broader audiences. In general, the evangelicalism of the latter half of the twentieth century and into the 21st century included much more emphasis on involvement in social action work.
The early years of the 21st century saw continuing development of the megachurch movement-the rise of numerous, mostly evangelical and Pentecostal churches each with a stated membership of over 2000-though by 2013 this movement seemed to be tapering off. The mainline denominations continued to decline in membership.
Major denominational mergers among Protestants
While small splinter groups of mostly conservative Protestants continued to be formed throughout the twentieth century, there also were a number of significant mergers of smaller denominations into larger, united Churches. For example, the United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 with the merger of the Evangelical Brethren Church with the much larger Methodist Church. In 1939 the northern and southern wings of the Methodist Church had rejoined after about 80 years of separation resulting from the Civil War. The Protestant Methodist Church also participated in this reconciliation in 1939. The Evangelical Brethren Church also resulted from a previous merger, when the Church of the United Brethren and the Evangelical Church joined together in 1946.
In 1957, the United Church of Christ (UCC) was formed through the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches with the Evangelical and Reformed Church. At least four previous mergers had occurred to create these two Churches that merged to form the UCC.
In 1983 the United Presbyterian Church in the USA (UPCUSA) began the merger process with the Presbyterian Church in the US (PCUS) to form the Presbyterian Church (USA), known as the PCUSA.
In 1987, the largest Lutheran body in the U.S., called the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), was formed through an amalgamation of the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches.
The United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant body in Canada, was formed in 1925 as a blend of Presbyterian, Congregational, Methodist, and Evangelical United Brethren Churches. The United Church of Canada took its final shape in 1968, when the Canada Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren joined it.
Mention must also be made of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), first begun in 1962. This has been a very serious, ongoing effort to forge at least some degree of unity among nine mainline Protestant Churches: the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA), the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ (UCC), the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion), the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and the International Council of Christian Churches.
In the 1980s, rather than continuing to press for full integration of the ecclesiastical structures of these denominations, the COCU movement shifted to the more realistic goals of intercommunion, mutual recognition of ordination, and increased joint fellowship and service. In 1989 a definitive plan, called “Churches in Covenant Communion: The Church of Christ Uniting,” was offered along this line for consideration by the nine member Churches. In January of 2002, this plan resulted in the establishment of full intercommunion among the nine member Churches, in a relationship that was officially named Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC).
The Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement
The most dramatic development within Protestantism in the early years of the twentieth century was the rise of Pentecostalism. This movement placed great emphasis on the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12.8–10), especially including speaking in unknown languages (tongues).
Pentecostalism arose most directly out of the Holiness Movement within American Methodism, with the emphasis by America’s first major female evangelist and theologian Phoebe Palmer (1807–1874) upon the spiritual experience of “entire sanctification” which she called the “Baptism in the Spirit” (but without speaking in tongues). This experience was also emphasized among Methodists by the National Campmeeting Association for the Promotion of Christian Holiness, founded in 1867.
William E. Boardman (1810–1886), a Presbyterian minister, published The Higher Christian Life in 1859, thus spreading to non-Methodists the idea of sanctification as a second work of grace, subsequent to the experience of justification by faith.
The early Pentecostal leaders, such as Benjamin Hardin Irwin (1854– ? ); founder of the Fire Baptized Holiness Association in 1898 in Anderson, South Carolina); Charles Harrison Mason (1866–1961; co-founder of the Church of God in Christ); Charles Fox Parham (1873–1929; founder of the Bethel Bible School near Topeka, Kansas); and William J. Seymour (1870–1922; initiator of the world famous, bi-racial Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles from 1906 to 1909), all emphasized a third distinct experience, after justification and sanctification-that of being “baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” accompanied by speaking in unknown tongues.
The largest Pentecostal body in America was the Assemblies of God, formed in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1914. This group claimed nearly three million members in the U.S. in 2013, and some sixty million worldwide. Most Pentecostals in the U.S., however, were scattered among over three hundred denominations, or are members of innumerable completely independent congregations.
Beginning in 1959, the Charismatic Movement took a more modernized, more sophisticated, more middle-class based, and less legalistic form of Pentecostalism into nearly all of the major Protestant denominations. This movement began with Reverend Dennis Bennett (1917–1991), an Episcopalian priest in California, who received the “Baptism in the Spirit” in a private home meeting, and who was dismissed from his parish after preaching about his experience. He then took over a dying parish in Seattle, Washington, which he rejuvenated through his emphasis on the “Baptism of the Spirit” and the operation of the nine gifts of the Spirit. The movement quickly spread to other mainline denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, which it suddenly swept into in 1967 beginning at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and very shortly thereafter at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.
Oral Roberts (1918–2009), raised in the Pentecostal Holiness denomination, greatly broadened his base of support and his scope of ministry when he became an ordained United Methodist preacher in 1970. Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, founded by Oral Roberts in 1963, was the world’s first Charismatic Christian college. A Graduate School of Theology was added in 1976.
Demos Shakarian (1913–1993), a wealthy Armenian-American dairyman from California, together with Oral Roberts, founded in 1951 the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, which spread quickly among classic Pentecostals and later among Charismatic Christian businessmen. Beginning in the 1960s, this group, with its monthly meetings of businessmen and the Voice magazine published monthly, has served to a large extent as “the organizational cohesion for the Charismatic Movement.” In 2013 it had about 7,000 local chapters in 142 countries around the world. Since 1993, its international president has been Richard Shakarian, son of Demos Shakarian.
The Roman Catholic Church
The dynamic leadership of Pope Leo XIII (1810–1903; r. 1878–1903) brought the Roman Catholic Church into the 20th century with a new and strong commitment to work in the midst of contemporary issues and struggles, rather than tending to romantize the past (especially the 18th century, up until the French Revolution) as the bygone days of glory for the Church. Pope Leo and his successors (Pope Pius X; r. 1903–1914; Pope Benedict XV; r. 1914–1922; and Pope Pius XI; r. 1922–1939) urged Catholics to get involved in social action and political affairs. Some Catholic political parties and labor unions were formed, as well as religious orders dedicated to social work.
In response to intellectualist criticisms of the Church, Pope Leo and his successors affirmed Thomism as the official Roman Catholic doctrinal standard, with its assertion that there is no opposition between religious faith and empirical science.
During WW II the Papacy, under Pope Pius XII (1876–1958; r. 1939–1958), maintained relations with all the warring nations. Pope Pius was later criticized for not speaking out against the Nazi atrocities committed against the Jews. It was also Pope Pius XII who proclaimed the doctrine of the bodily Assumption of Mary as dogma, in 1950.
Vatican II Council
In 1959, Pope John XXIII (r. 1958–1963) announced the convocation of an “ecumenical council” of the Roman Catholic Church. This council, called Vatican II, was opened in 1962 by Pope John. Upon his death in 1963, Pope Paul VI (r. 1963–1978) followed him. The Council continued under Pope Paul’s leadership until it finished its work in 1965. Attended by nearly all the Roman Catholic bishops worldwide, and with many non-Catholic observers also in attendance, the Vatican II Council published many official documents concerning all aspects of Roman Catholic life.
Vatican II precipitated great changes in the Roman Church, and the post-conciliar period has been one of much confusion and conflict. All Roman Catholic Churches everywhere were strongly urged to begin celebrating the mass and the other services in the local vernacular languages rather than always in Latin. From the Orthodox point of view, this was a very long overdue change. But this development also precipitated new, modern translations of the services which, in the opinion of many, often tended to diminish the grandeur and doctrinal integrity of the original Latin services.
While Vatican II fostered a greater emphasis on the conciliar nature of the Church yet still being under Papal authority, in some quarters there was radical questioning of the Papal system of ecclesiastical authority. The Vatican II Council also prompted the enthusiastic entrance of many Roman Catholics into ecumenical activity.
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II (1920–2005; r. 1978–2005) was the first Polish pope, and the first non-Italian pope since the 1520s. He was the most well-traveled pope ever, visiting 129 nations during his long tenure. This, along with his prolific writings and compelling presence, raised the prestige of the Papacy worldwide. He maintained a generally conservative stance in the face of Liberation Theology, which emphasized social work to and political-even revolutionary-involvement with the poor and oppressed, and he opposed the priesthood being open to married men (in most cases), or to women, or to active homosexuals. He also is credited with helping to bring down the Communist government in his native Poland in 1989.
Pope Benedict XVI
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (b. 1927), former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (from 1981 to 2005; this is the Papacy’s office charged with protecting and defending Christian dogma), was elected to succeed Pope John Paul II in 2005. He took the name Benedict XVI. By 2013 Pope Benedict had established himself as a worthy successor to John Paul II, having continued his predecessor’s basic approach to the Christian life, and to the responsibilities of the Papal office.
In at least one way, however, he showed himself to be more conservative than John Paul II. Whereas under John Paul II, the old Latin (Tridentine) Mass was only allowed upon petitioning the local bishop, Pope Benedict in 2007 declared that any local priest has the authority to hold a Tridentine Mass. He also declared that generally speaking, the Latin Mass should be made available whenever it is requested.
Like John Paul II, Pope Benedict made significant overtures to the Orthodox Church. But also like his predecessor, he did not suggest that there might be a substantial reconsideration of the nature of Papal authority, including the Papacy’s claims to worldwide jurisdiction over all Christians. This issue remains the most fundamental obstacle to any possible reconciliation between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in the future.
In February of 2013, Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly stepped down from the Papacy, citing his declining health. He was succeeded in the next month by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (b. 1936), an Argentine, who was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013. He becomes the 266th Pope in the history of the Roman episcopacy, and the first ever from the Western Hemisphere. Even though a Jesuit, the new pope took the name Francis, after Saint Francis of Assisi (1181–1226), the founder of the Franciscan Order.
Pope Francis was welcomed with great optimism and excitement. He is known for his simple way of life and his concern for the poor, while also remaining firm in his support of traditional Roman Catholic theological and moral teachings.
Autocephaly, (Documents and Commentary on the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America). Tuckahoe, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1971.
Curtiss, John Shelton. The Russian Church and the Soviet State 1917–1950. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1954.
Every, George. The Byzantine Patriarchate 451–1204. London: S.P.C.K., 1962.
Fletcher, William C. A Study in Survival, The Church in Russia, 1927–1943. London: S.P.C.K., 1965.
Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of Christianity. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953.
Meyendorff, John. The Orthodox Church. New York: Pantheon Books, 1962.
Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine State. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1957.
Schmemann, Alexander. The Historical Road of East-ern Orthodoxy. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963.
Struve, Nikita. Christians in Contemporary Russia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967.
Swan, Jane. A Biography of Patriarch Tikhon. Jordanville, New York: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1964.
Ushimaru, Proclus Yasuo. Bishop Innocent – Founder of American Orthodoxy. Bridgeport, Conn.: Metropolitan Council Publications Committee, 1964.
Ware, Timothy (Father Kallistos). The Orthodox Church. Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1964.
Zernov, Nicolas. The Russians and Their Church. London: S.P.C.K., 1964.
History Questions and Reflections for Discussion
When Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko of blessed memory was in the process of revising his series The Orthodox Faith, he requested the Department of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America, which had originally published the series, to create questions to accompany the texts of each volume. The following questions are the fulfillment of his request for the Church History volume of the series.
There are questions for each chapter of this volume, for each century from the first to the twentieth. They can be used to review the material in the chapter, and page numbers follow each question to show where it came from.
A separate document gives numbered answers. We would suggest that a discussion leader, after the group has read a chapter, give each participant a copy of the questions for that chapter. They can then answer them together. The leader can have a copy of the answer pages for that chapter to check answers if need be (though most of the answers should easily be found in the chapter text.) A reader going through the book on his or her own can use the questions and answers in whatever way is most helpful.
Some of the answers also offer points for reflection. Father Thomas always liked to reflect further on things as he taught, and we hope readers will want to do the same. Most of all we hope that many people will use and benefit from the revised edition of Father Thomas’ wonderful gift to the Church, his series The Orthodox Faith.
Department of Christian Education
Orthodox Church in America
How many of the 27 writings selected by the Church to be the New Testament were written in the first century? In what language were they written? (p 20)
Did most of the early Christians come from rural and impoverished backgrounds? (p 20)
Did the first-century Church require non-Jewish members (Gentiles) to follow the Mosaic Law? (p 21)
Roman law declared, “It is not lawful to be a Christian.” Why was this so? (p 23)
In what 3 ways did Saint Irenaeus distinguish true Christian Churches from heretical groups? (pp 26–27)
What are some features of Christian worship as described by Saint Justin Martyr (155 AD) that continue to be part of our liturgical life today? (p 30)
Who were the “lapsed” and how did the Church care for them? (p 32)
How did Origen view pagan philosophy? (p 36)
In what ways is Hippolytus’ description of baptism similar to present practice? (pp 39–40)
How did Constantine&rsquos dream or vision influence him to issue the Edict of Milan? (p 44)
How did Constantine form what we know as the weekend? (pp 46–47)
What was the main teaching of Arius/Arianism? (p 49)
Why did Saint Basil emphasize the communal form of monasticism? (p 53)
Did monastics reject or turn their backs on the world as evil? (pp 56–57)
Who was Saint Pulcheria and how did she influence Orthodox worship? (pp 61–62)
What was the teaching of the Monophysites? (p 63)
How did Saint Augustine’s view of marital relations differ from the traditional view of marriage and sexual relations reflected at the Council of Nicaea? (p 66)
What is the Code of Justinian? (p 72)
Who created the “Monastic Rule” that would guide monasticism in the Roman Catholic Church for the next 500 years? (p 75)
Why did the Spanish Church add the words “and the Son” (the phrase known as the filioque) to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed? (pp 76–77)
How did Saint Maximus the Confessor respond to the popular ideas called Monothelitism and Monoenergism? (p 82)
What significant ruling about clergy marriage came at the Trullo/Quinisext Council? (p 84)
How does Canon 102 of the Qunisext Council direct the pastor to deal with a penitent? (p 85)
How did the Arab Conquest affect efforts by Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians to discuss and resolve their differences? (p 90)
What was the major objection of the Iconoclasts to the veneration of icons, and how did Saint John of Damascus address it in his treatises called On the Holy Images? (pp 92–93)
How did the emperor Charlemagne have an impact on the understanding of icon veneration and the inclusion of the filioque in the Creed? (p 101)
What do Empress Irene (8th century) and Empress Theodora (9th century) have in common? (p 104)
Why did Prince Rastislav seek Byzantine missionaries to bring the Christian faith to his Moravian people? (pp 105–106)
What contributions did the Studion Monastery make to our order of worship? (p 112)
What changes concerning marriage came about in the 10th century? (p 117)
Why was it significant that the Archbishop of Bulgaria was granted the title of Patriarch? (p 118)
What similar experience did Saint Paul and Saint Vladimir have? (pp 120–121)
Other than the filioque, what issues enlarged the divide between the Eastern and Western Churches in the 11th century? (p 124)
What dramatic, decisive event took place in 1054 in Constantinople? (pp 125–126)
What was the original purpose of the Crusades, as called for by Pope Urban? (p 128)
What are “Passion-Bearers” and how were Saints Boris and Gleb examples? (p 129)
What official proclamation concerning Mount Athos was made during the 12th century? (p 133)
With what name was the Serbian ruler Stephan Nemanya glorified as a saint by the Church, and why? (p 135)
How did the Fourth Crusade deepen the split between the Eastern and Western Churches? (p 139)
For what purpose did Saint Sava travel through the Middle East, Europe and the Holy Land? (pp 141–142)
Why did Saint Alexander Nevsky consider the Swedes and Germans a greater threat to the Orthodox Church than the Tatars? (p 143)
What 3 orders of Western monasticism were founded in this century? (pp 144–145)
What did Saint Gregory Palamas teach about the possibility for human beings to know God? (p 148)
How did Saint John Cantakuzenos want Byzantine theologians to prepare for dialog with Roman Catholic theologians? (p 150)
Why were the Orthodox Church’s headquarters moved from Kiev to Moscow? (p 152)
How did Saint Sergius of Radonezh influence Russian monasticism? (p 154)
The Council of Florence was an attempt to unite the Eastern and Western Churches. What were some conditions of this unity? (pp 161–162)
What is the Rum Milet? (p 164)
What is the Possessors and Non-Possessors controversy? (p 167–168)
What 2 events probably turned Tsar Ivan IV (“the Terrible”) toward certain cruel tendencies he had as a youth?
What is the basic Protestant doctrine of salvation? (pp 178–179)
How were the claims of the Council of Trent in opposition to the teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas? (p 179)
Who was Saint Philothei of Athens? (p 182)
Who were the Old Believers? (p 189–190)
Why did 2 Church councils condemn the Confession of Faith written by Cyril Lukaris? (pp 192–193)
What was Deism, and why did it emerge? (p 194)
Why did Saint Cosmas Aitolos undertake 3 apostolic journeys? (p 197–198)
What is the Philokalia and what spiritual quality did Saint Gregory of Sinai and Saint Gregory Palamas emphasize in their writings about this work? (pp 200–201)
What did Saint Tikhon appreciate in the Pietist writings of the Christian West? (p 207)
What was the attitude of the Russian Orthodox missionaries toward the native Alaskan culture and religion? (p 209)
Upon what 2 monks did Dostoevsky model his character Elder Zossima in his masterwork The Brothers Karamazov? (p 215)
What did Saint Seraphim emphasize in conversing with Nicholas Motovilov? (p 216)
In what 2 languages did Saint Innocent write his Indication of the Way to the Kingdom of Heaven? (p 222)
What “first” took place in San Francisco, CA in 1892? (p 226)
How did Father Raphael Hawaweeny contribute to the growth of the Orthodox faith? (p 227)
What is the “Gospel of Wealth” and with whom is it closely associated? (p 232)
What controversial decisions were made by the Roman Catholic Church in the second half of the 19th century? (p 233)
Twentieth century (into the early Twenty-First)
Saint Tikhon gave his last sermon in the United States in 1907. What did he say was the duty of lay people as well as pastors and missionaries? (p 241)
At the 8th All-American Sobor (Council) in 1950, Archbishop (later Metropolitan) Leonty made a statement about the Church in America that was fulfilled 20 years later. What did he say? (p 246)
What were some of the ways Archbishop Athenagoras helped the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America advance and grow? (p 257)
How did Saint Nicholas of Zicha, a priest of the Church in Serbia, spend the final five years of his life? (p 259)
Bishop Polycarp was the first bishop of the new Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, elected in 1935. Besides healing internal disputes and laying the foundations for several Church organizations, what center did he establish? (p 262)
In what way was Syrian-born Metropolitan Antony (Bashir) a “pioneer” and to what did he give outspoken support? (p 266)
In 1929 a group of Ukrainians who had been Byzantine-Rite Catholics formed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America. What was the significant reason for their leaving Roman Catholicism? (p 267)
In 1940 Bishop Orestes (Chornock) led in the formation of a seminary for the Carpatho-Russian Diocese. What is its name, and where is it located? (p 270)
Father (later Archbishop) Theophan Noli conducted the Divine Liturgy in a certain language for the first time anywhere in the world. What language was it, and how did this “first” come about? (p 271)
Why were the years 1949 and 1976 notable for Bulgarian Orthodox immigrants to the United States? (p 273)
What organizations are OCEC, SCOBA, IOCC and OCMC? (pp 277–278)
An assembly of canonical Orthodox bishops of North and Central America first met in New York City in 2010. They agreed to meet annually to prepare for what event? (p 279)
Why might restoring the Patriarchate be called the “most momentous act” of the Council of Moscow in 1917–18? (pp 281–282)
How did the fall of Communism in 1991 change previous decades of “administrative persecution” of the Russian Church? (p 289)
What official declaration was made by Patriarch Alexei in 1970 concerning the Japanese Orthodox Church, and who was glorified as a saint at this time? (pp 289–290)
How did the Greco-Turkish War (1919–23) and the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) affect the population of the area overseen by the Patriarchate of Constantinople? (pp 290–291)
Why is the present Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew known as the “Green Patriarch?” (p 294)
Who are the two recently glorified saints of the Serbian Church? (p 295)
The Romanian Church was harshly persecuted by the Communists. What fact slightly moderated the suffering of that Church, as compared to the Church in Russia? (p 295)
According to the 2011 census, what percentage of the Romanian population is Orthodox? (p 296)
What are two notable activities of the Orthodox Youth Movement, which brought new vitality to the Church in Syria and Lebanon? (p 296)
Patriarch Ignatius Hazim was a member of the Orthodox Youth Movement. What institution did he found in 1988? (p 296)
What Patriarchate encompasses all the Orthodox churches in Africa? (p 297)
In 1991 the Polish government granted the Orthodox Church equal status with the predominant Roman Catholic Church. What did this enable the Orthodox Church to do? (p 299)
What was the legal status of the Czech Orthodox Church during the Nazi occupation? (p 299)
What leader helped the severely persecuted Albanian Church make a remarkable recovery when Communism fell in 1991? (p 300)
In 1953 the Bulgarian Church restored something that had been lost since 1393. What was it? (p 301)
What change came about for Eastern-Rite Catholics in Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet regime? (p 302)
Harshly persecuted in Soviet times, the Georgian Church has recently had excellent leaders. What percentage of the present Georgian population is Orthodox? (p 303)
What are the 2 established (State-sponsored) Churches in Finland? (p 304)
Archbishop John (Rinne) was head of the Finnish Orthodox Church from 1987 to 2001. What was noteworthy about him? (p 304)
What is Saint Sergius Institute? (p 305)
What group has sometimes been known as the Karlovtsy Synod? (p 306)
What significant reconciliation was reached in 2007? (p 307)
What well-known Orthodox monastery is located in Essex, England? (pp 307–308)
What is the significance of the letter written by Metropolitan Dorotheus of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, entitled “Unto All Churches of Christendom Wheresoever They Be”? (p 308)
What does the Orthodox Church as a whole see as a condition for sacramental communion with other Christian groups? (p 310)
Billy Graham was a leading member of the younger generation of preachers and scholars calling for a “new fundamentalism.” What did they object to in historic fundamentalism? (p 313)
What is a main emphasis of Pentecostalism? (p 315)
What new emphasis did the popes of the early 20th century encourage in the Roman Catholic Church? (p 318)
Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI made overtures of reconciliation to the Orthodox Church. What remains as the most basic obstacle? (p 320)
What was unique about Pope Francis’ background? (p 320)
History Answers and Reflections for Discussion
All were written in the first century and all were written in Greek, which was the predominant language of the Roman Empire. This is why the Orthodox Church continues to use the Greek translation of the Bible, the Septuagint.
No, the Church developed largely in urban areas and from among the middle classes. Some members, like Joanna the wife of Chuza, had prominent places in society.
No. The Council of Jerusalem, in about 49 AD, decided that Gentile converts would not be subject to Mosaic Law. This Council is the prototype for all Church Councils that followed.
The Christians, though they dutifully prayed for the civil authorities, refused to honor the emperor as a god, which was required of inhabitants of the Empire.
All true Churches share these things: They (a) hold the same basic doctrines, (b) trace their origins back to one of the original apostles with their line of bishops coming from that apostle, (c) consider only the four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to be divinely inspired.
Gathering on Sunday, reading from Scripture, prayers of thanksgiving, distribution of the Eucharist and collection for the needy.
The “lapsed” were those Christians who denied Christ under threat of torture and persecution. Though some felt that the Church could and should never excuse this, most bishops came to realize that the Church must allow for the possibility of heartfelt repentance even for the worst of sins.
Origen believed that whatever partial truths were discerned by pagan philosophers pointed to and were fulfilled in the truth of the Christian faith.
Water, affirmations of personal belief, anointing with oil, new clothing, sealing with consecrated oil.
Constantine had a great military victory after of a vision of the Cross of Christ in the sky with the words “In this sign conquer.” His belief in the Christian God deepened, and he issued the edict, giving Christians freedom to practice their faith.
He made Sunday a holiday so that people could more easily attend church, and along with the established Saturday Sabbath it became the weekend. (For reflection: Though some think of Sunday as the sabbath, Orthodoxy sees every Sunday as the day of Resurrection, the Lord’s Day. Saturday is the sabbath, the seventh day, on which God rested.)
Arius taught that the Son of God is a created being and not the eternal and ever-existing second Person of the Trinity. The First Ecumenical Council, called by Constantine at Nicaea, confirmed that the Word and Son of God is uncreated, ever-existent, and fully divine. (For reflection: The divinity of Christ was not an “idea” imposed on the Church by Constantine for political reasons, as the book The Da Vinci Code claims. Christ’s divinity was stated as fact in the Gospels and in the letters of Saint Paul, the latter being written no more than 30 years after the Lord’s death. See, for example, John 1: 1, 14 and Philippians 2: 9–11.)
Saint Basil said that “man is by nature a social creature.”
No, they didn’t reject the world, but chose to serve God and humanity by praying constantly for the whole world, and by offering spiritual counsel.
Saint Pulcheria was the elder sister of Emperor Theodosius II. She became empress after her brother’s death and championed the veneration of Mary, the Mother of God, using the traditional title of Theotokos.
The Monophysites rejected the Council of Chalcedon and taught that Christ has one rather than two (united) natures.
Saint Augustine wrote that sexual relations cannot take place without the sin of lust. This attitude is the basis of the Roman Church’s insistence on clerical celibacy.
Emperor Justinian oversaw a massive codification of the laws of the Empire. It was known as the Code of Justinian, and in it he declared his Christian faith.
Saint Benedict of Nursia.
The addition was meant to emphasize Christ’s divinity to the invading Visigoths, who were Arians, denying Christ’s full divinity. But it distorts the traditional understanding that the Son and Holy Spirit both proceed from the Father, as stated in the Nicene Creed.
Saint Maximus insisted that Jesus Christ’s divine nature and human nature each had their own will and energy rather that one united will and one united energy. Christ had the same fullness of human will, energy, action, operation and power as every other human being has. Only by fully assuming these human elements could He save them. This view was upheld at the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
The Council affirmed that entering holy orders should not dissolve their marriages, as the Roman Church was requiring.
Canon 102 states: “The pastor must neither cast the sheep down to the depths of despair, nor loosen the bridle thus leading them to a dissolute way of life.” In other words the pastor must employ both discernment and mercy when dealing with a penitent.
The Arab conquest isolated the non-Chalcedonian Churches, thus preventing attempts to meet with the Chalcedonian Churches.
The iconoclasts considered icons to be idols. Saint John of Damascus countered that in former times God could not be depicted, having neither form nor body, but since the Incarnation-God being seen in the flesh-we can depict the God whom we see.
The emperor objected to icon veneration based on a faulty Latin translation of the documents from the Second Council of Nicaea, which gave the mistaken impression that icons were to be adored. He had grown up with the filioque and used his position to promulgate the addition of the filioque in the Western Church.
Both women ended waves of persecution against those who venerated icons. The Church’s celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy began with the huge public procession, led by Empress Saint Theodora, restoring the icons to their proper place in Orthodox worship.
Prince Rastislav realized that the faith would be most meaningful to the people if presented in their native language rather than in the Latin of the Frankish missionaries who were already at work in his land.
The monks of the Studion Monastery developed service books for Great Lent and Pascha, as well as the liturgical typicon, which continues to be the normative order of worship for the entire Orthodox Church.
The Rite of Crowning began to be served apart from the Divine Liturgy; legal marriage was established as a civil entity apart from the sacramental marriage of the Church; no fourth marriages would be granted.
This was the first Patriarchate to be established beyond the original five of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.
When Saint Vladimir was baptized he was cured of a serious eye disease, just as St. Paul’s sight was restored when he was baptized by Ananias. (For reflection: How do St. Paul’s words “For we walk by faith and not by sight” in 2Corinthians 5relate to these experiences of restored physical sight?)
Different languages reflected differing world views; differing approaches to theology; papal claims of authority over all the Churches of Christendom. (For reflection: What are some steps that could be taken to restore unity?)
Mutual excommunication between Cardinal Humbert, Pope Leo’s delegate, and Michael, the Patriarch of Constantinople.
To liberate the Holy Land from the Muslim Arabs.
Passion Bearers maintain their faith while enduring undeserved suffering. Saints Boris and Gleb refused to fight their elder brother in a power struggle and thereby saved the lives of many on both sides of the dispute.
The Emperor proclaimed Mount Athos as the center of Orthodox monasticism.
He was given the name Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Flowing because after his death his relics began exuding myrrh.
The Archbishop wrote to protest the excessive claims of primacy by the Papal See.
Constantinople was brutally sacked during the first three days of Holy Week in 1204.
He wished to share the story of the Christianization of the Serbian people with other Christians, but also impressed many Muslim leaders with his generosity and care for the poor.
While the Tatars offered a certain amount of freedom and protection to the Orthodox Church, the Swedes and Germans would have imposed their Roman Catholic faith on the Orthodox.
The Franciscan, Dominican, and Carmelite orders.
Saint Gregory taught that God’s Essence or Super-Essence is unknowable. But the divine actions, operations or Energies of God are communicated to people by divine grace and are open to human knowledge and experience. This is the meaning of the phrase “partakers of the Divine nature” in 2 Peter 1:4.
He encouraged Byzantine theologians to learn Latin and study the Scholastic writings emerging from Western Europe.
Kievan Rus had been nearly devastated by the Tatars, while the Muscovite state was growing and getting stronger.
Russian monasticism grew dramatically during the time of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, producing a tremendous and long-lasting effect on the culture and piety of Russia. (For reflection: What personal qualities of Saint Sergius contributed to the effect he had on Russian culture and piety?)
The conditions included acceptance of papal authority, the filioque, the allowance of leavened as well as unleavened bread in the Eucharist and a statement of the Western concept of Purgatory. Saint Mark of Ephesus courageously resisted this union, leading to its eventual rejection by the entire Orthodox Church.
The Christians under Ottoman rule were a “tolerated minority” with certain privileges. The Patriarch was the ethnarch, the ruler of an ethnic minority. This was the Rum Milet or Roman people-a “nation within a nation.” Even with limited privileges the Christians were subject to many humiliating restrictions as a captive people.
The controversy resulted from concern about the possession of property and material goods by monastic communities. Possessors felt that monastic communities cold own large estates and have a close relationship with the State. Non-Possessors held to a more semi-eremitic life, favoring small sketes and minimal involvement with the State.
Jealous courtiers convinced Ivan to dismiss Father Sylvester, who had given him good guidance. In addition, his beloved wife died, having possibly been poisoned.
The Protestant position was founded on the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone, with salvation understood as a gift from God given at one moment rather than being an ongoing process of cooperation between God and His people. (For reflection: How do the verses I Corinthians 1: 18 and Philippians 2: 13 relate to the idea of salvation being a cooperative process?)
The Council of Trent supported the Latin doctrine that human beings can have no real, direct communion, fellowship or relationship with God. Grace, in this understanding, is a “created effect” or “created effort.” The Orthodox understanding, championed by Saint Gregory Palamas, is that through the uncreated Energies of God, human beings are called and enabled to have real, direct communion with Him.
Saint Philothei was a member of a prominent Greek family. As a widow, and then a nun, she built two monasteries, a hospital and a hostel. She also sheltered women escaping Muslim oppressors. She later died from injuries inflicted by those oppressors.
The Old Believers were members of the Russian Orthodox Church who reacted to the attempts of Patriarch Nikon to alter the practices of the Russian Church and bring them in line with those of the Greek Church. Without the Old Believers’ efforts some forms of ancient Russian iconography and liturgical chant would have been lost.
Lukaris believed that the oppressed Church would be rejuvenated by taking on attitudes and practices of Protestantism. His Confession of Faith was nearly saturated with Calvinist thought.
Deism emerged as a result of the devastation and displacement caused by the Thirty Years War, fought between Roman Catholics and Protestants, largely in Germany. Disillusioned with creedal religion, many people turned to Deism, a non-creedal generic form of natural religion. In the following years its popularity would continue to grow in Europe and America.
He wanted to rally the discouraged Greeks and Albanians who were suffering under Turkish oppression and to strengthen them in their Orthodox faith.
The Philokalia is the highly-regarded compilation of selected spiritual writings from the 4th through the 15th centuries. Both saints emphasized stillness as a spiritual quality.
He appreciated their call for a meaningful relationship with the Living God, which he found more compatible than the intellectualism of Tridentine Catholicism and Calvinistic Protestantism.
They were careful to honor the local culture and religion as much as possible, especially because the natives’ basic worldview was already oriented towards the sacramental, tradition-based worldview of Orthodoxy. (For reflection: One example of honoring the local culture was that Saint Innocent learned several native languages and devised an alphabet. He then could translate holy texts into words the people readily understood, rather than insisting that they learn and be taught only in Russian. What effect might his efforts have had on their embrace of the faith?)
Elder Zossima is modeled on Saint Amvrossy and Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk.
The conversation was about the joy that comes upon a person through the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s presence. But this joy is only a foretaste of heavenly joy.
In Aleut and Russian.
Father Deacon Sebastian Dabovich, a Serb, was the first American-born man ordained to the Orthodox priesthood in North America. Later he replaced Saint Alexis Toth as priest of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis.
Syrian by birth, Father Raphael was invited by the Syrian Orthodox in New York City to come to the US and be their priest. This was the beginning of 20 years of fruitful ministry in North America. He was consecrated as bishop of Brooklyn in the first Orthodox episcopal consecration in the New World. He founded 20 parishes and was glorified as a saint in 2000.
The “Gospel of Wealth” claims that God wills for a few people to gain immense wealth so they can use it for the public good. It’s closely associated with Andrew Carnegie.
In 1854 the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary; in 1870 the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope.
Twentieth Century (into the early Twenty-First)
Saint Tikhon said the duty was to “share our spiritual richness, truth, light and joy with others who do not have these blessings.” He added that the Church, according to Saint Paul, is a body, and every member takes part in the life of the body. (For reflection: How well and effectively are we in the Church carrying out Saint Tikhon’s message today?)
He said, “We will follow our line-the foundation of an administratively self-governing Orthodox Church in America.” On March 31, 1970, a signed agreement stated that the Russian Church would recognize the Metropolia as the fully autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. In April of that year, Patriarch Alexei I signed the official tomos.
Archbishop Athenagoras established the women’s charitable organization Philoptochos, bolstered the Archdiocese’s financial foundation, started the Orthodox Observer newspaper, and established Saint Basil’s Teachers College in Garrison, New York. He also hoped to start a pan-Orthodox seminary, but this didn’t work out. Instead he established Holy Cross Theological School in Massachusetts.
Saint Nikolai spent those years teaching, in English, at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary.
Bishop Polycarp established the Vatra in Michigan, headquarters of the Episcopate.
Metropolitan Antony was a pioneer in the use of English in the Liturgy and gave outspoken support to unity among all Orthodox in the New World.
The Roman Catholic Church’s refusal to allow a married priesthood.
Christ the Savior Seminary is in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Archbishop Theophan conducted the Liturgy in Albanian for the first time. He had translated it, and several other services, into Albanian. Notably, he also called strongly for Orthodox unity.
In 1949 the Russian Church in Exile established parishes these immigrants; in 1976 most of these parishes joined the Orthodox Church in America.
OCEC is the Orthodox Christian Education Commission, which produces pan-Orthodox curriculum for church schools. SCOBA is the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America. IOCC is International Orthodox Christian Charities. OCMC is the Orthodox Christian Mission Center.
They would prepare for the future Great and Holy Council.
There had not been a Patriarchate since the 1700’s, when Emperor Peter I, known as Peter the Great, abolished the position. Thus the restoration was a return to the Church’s traditional pattern of life and organization. The Council’s important decisions included having lay participation in decisions, having sermons given in the vernacular, internal autonomy for monasteries, providing stability by having bishops stay in one diocese for life, and encouragement of women’s membership on parish councils.
Millions of people returned to the Church, monasteries and churches were reopened and refurbished, and the Church regained its status as a legal entity.
The Japanese Church was declared autonomous, or self-governing. Archbishop Nikolai Kasatkin, the found of the Church in Japan, was glorified as a saint.
The Greek defeat led many Greeks to emigrate, some to the New World. The Treaty of Lausanne stipulated that Turkey deport as many Greeks as possible to Greece and the Greek islands, and that Greece deport as many Turks as possible to Turkey. This was seen as a way of reducing the recurring animosity between the two peoples, but in the forced marches many lives were lost.
Patriarch Bartholomew is deeply and publicly involved in ecumenical issues.
Father Justin Popovich and Father Simeon Popovich.
The Romanian government, unlike that of Soviet Russia, was not determined to create an atheist state and society.
86%. Romania is the most thoroughly Orthodox nation in the world.
Book publishing and social outreach are two of the group’s notable activities.
The University of Balamand, which also oversees the training of priests at the Saint John of Damascus School of Theology.
The Patriarchate of Alexandria.
The Orthodox Church was able to retrieve properties previously seized by the Roman Catholic Church.
It was outlawed.
Archbishop Anastasios Yannoulatos has done remarkable work in building up the Orthodox Church in Albania.
The office of Patriarch of the Bulgarian Church, which had been lost when the Bulgarians became subject to the Ottoman Turks, was restored.
They became free to return to Eastern-Rite Catholicism, after having had their parishes closed, or having been forced to become Orthodox by the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin. (For reflection: This is a reminder that not only the Orthodox suffered under the Soviet regime. The Church’s prayers are for the whole world because all human beings share both suffering and joy.)
The Lutheran Church and the much smaller Orthodox Church.
As a convert from Lutheranism, Archbishop John was the first Western convert to become the head of any Orthodox Church in the world. (For reflection: What did Archbishop John find in Orthodox Christianity that led him to embrace not only the faith but a very responsible position?)
Founded in 1925, Saint Sergius Theological Institute in Paris was both a spiritual and academic institute. It became the center of Orthodox learning in the West.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, or ROCOR.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was reconciled with the Patriarchate of Moscow.
The Monastery of Saint John the Baptist. It was founded by Father Sophrony Sakharov, the most famous disciple of Saint Silouan of Mount Athos.
The letter called for closer understanding among all Christian groups, and was a spark to events leading to the formation of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948.
Sacramental communion would be based on full-fledged unity in the Orthodox faith.
They objected to its anti-intellectualism, divisiveness, lack of social conscience, and unquestioning alliance with political conservatism.
Pentecostalism stresses the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially speaking in unknown languages or tongues. (For reflection: The Orthodox perspective on speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, is that while it is not ruled out as a gift of the Holy Spirit, it is also not considered one of the more important gifts. The Church has always relied on the words of Saint Paul: “...in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (I Corinthians 14: 18.))
They urged involvement in contemporary social action and political affairs.
The most basic obstacle is the papacy’s claim of worldwide jurisdiction over all Christians.
Pope Francis was the first pope to come from the Western Hemisphere.