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Pan-religious, syncretic and dogmatic minimalism:
the contemporary Iconomachs.
Secularization in the Church: the Iconomachy of our day
by the Reverend Archmandrite Georgios Kapsanis
Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Saint Gregory of the Holy Mountain
Source of electronic text: Website "HEMARTON"
Re-published by: alopsis http://www.alopsis.gr/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1123
A day of joy and glorification of the Triadic God for the victory of the upright Faith, against the "Christian-accusing" Iconomachs as well as all the heretics. Immense was the pain of the Church, for the prevalence of the the Iconomachy heresy for about one hundred years. Hence Her immense joy today.
«A joyous day and brimming with delight is manifested today; for the Church of Christ is ablaze and glowing with the radiance of the all-true dogmas, adorned with the re-erected Icons of Saints, imprinted and lustrous; and divinely-rewarded harmony is now among the faithful» (Laudations chanted on the Sunday of Orthodoxy)
But it is also a day of commemoration of the Holy Fathers and Confessors, who had never compromised with heresy and political authority, nor with the ecclesiastic authority appointed by them, but had held fast, confessed, and delivered the Orthodox Faith, having suffered persecutions, imprisonment, tortures, exiles, public humiliation and ridicule and eventually, for many of them, death by martyrdom.
«For those Heralds of piety, in brotherhood and fatherly care, for the glory and the honour of the piety for which they struggled, we laud and say: For (Patriarchs)Germanos, Tarasios, Nicephoros and Methodios, the true high priests of God and advocates and Teachers of Orthodoxy, may their memory be eternal» (from the Synodocon of Orthodoxy).
Pursuant to the Fathers, also commemorated are the Confessors who were among Metropolitans, Archbishops, Priors and Monks. Also lauded are the Orthodox kings, and especially those who had become Monks after exchanging their terrestrial kingdom for the Celestial one. But the Church also wants us to not forget those heretics who had opposed Her Truth. On these persons She has placed anathemas, in compliance with the words of the Apostle Paul: "Should someone evangelize contrary to that which was delivered to you, let him be anathema" (Gal.1:9)
It is very sad, that members of the Church (Patriarchs, High Priests, Priests, Priors, Monks and laymen) have preached heretic teachings; have tried to impose them on the Church and have misled a host of souls, towards perdition. They have placed the human word before the divine word. They have judged the Revelation and the Theology of the Church on the basis of secular wisdom, when they should be judging philosophy, using the revealed Truth and Theology as criteria. In this way, they have removed themselves from the Orthodox Faith and thereafter, from the Church Herself. The "anathema" was a personal choice of theirs.
The Church publicly recites anathemas, in order to protect the Orthodox fold from the ravages and the traps of heretics. Therefore, the reciting of the anathemas is of an educative nature and should not be omitted during the Synodicon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, supposedly for the sake of philanthropy.
The benedictions read over the Orthodox Confessors and the anathemas read over heretics render us more careful, so that we do not fall into any heresy - old or new - and thus forfeit our salvation. They furthermore help the fold preserve its dogmatic sensitivity. It is a known fact that the Church's Poemantics always had a dogmatic and theological basis, as also evident during Worship. A dogma-less, theology-less and moralistic Poemantics is responsible for the indifference and lack of familiarity with the Faith by a part of the corpus of the Church. It is a consolation, that in the Diptychs of the Church of Greece, anathemas against heretics have also been included, for the first time. This is a very appropriate action, which returns the Church to a more accurate continuance of Orthodox Ecclesiology. A similar, appropriate action is the issuing of a detailed Encyclical by the Holy Synod, regarding the non-imparting of the divine Sacraments to heterodox.
In our day, we are confronted by another Iconomachy: the pressure that secularized society is placing on the Church to adapt to its own measures and ideals, so that the Church might also become secularized. The danger of secularization is an immense one for the Church. Instead of the Church helping the world to become "churchified", the world is striving to influence the Church and transform Her into something worldly. In that way, the Church will retain Her rubrics, but will lose Her faith. She will be faced with the same thing as Papism, for which Saint Nectary had written:
«Through its dogma of infallibility, the Western Church has lost its spiritual freedom, it has lost its adornment, it was shaken to its foundations, it was deprived of the Holy Spirit's bounty of Grace - of that very presence of Christ. By way of spirit and soul, it was rendered a speechless body».
The essence of secularization is man-centred. On the contrary, the essence of the Church is Godman-centred. If the Church loses or diminishes Her Godman-centred character, She is reduced to a mere religious institution, or to one of the religions of the world.
A secularized person usually accepts the Church as being one of the religions of the world, but not as the only Truth that saves Man, in Christ. To achieve this, he strives to also include our Orthodox Church among the other religions. This eventually leads towards a pan-religion, through the collaboration of all religions. The purpose there is NOT the salvatory Truth, but a mere endo-cosmic peace. This pursuit naturally benefits the potentates of the present aeon, who desire all peoples to be subjugated under their authority, and - through the collaboration between religions - to also be "peaceful" (repressed)...
For the sake of this "peaceful co-existence", the Orthodox that participate in the inter-religious meetings are not confessing Christ and are thus tolerating the Church's inclusion among the monotheistic religions, alongside Judaism and Mohammedanism.
But it is a fundamental teaching of the New Testament and the holy Fathers, that an atheist is one who does not believe in the tri-hypostatic God and in the incarnated Logos of God:
"Whosoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father Who sent Him." (John 5:23)
"Whosoever is disobedient to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God shall remain upon him." (John 3:26)
And according to Basil the Great, "he does not believe in the Father, who does not believe in the Son." (On the Holy Spirit, PG 32, 116AB)
By not confessing Christ, the Orthodox are injuring themselves, as they are falling away from the Orthodox confession. The Lord had explicitly said that "those who acknowledge Me before people, I shall acknowledge them also, before my Father in heaven." (Matthew 10:32)
However, they are also injuring the heterodox, to whom they are giving the impression that we have the same God and therefore it doesn't matter that they don't believe in Christ. When referring to the neo-martyrs, Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain writes that they had shown compassion to the infidels on account of their loss, and that through their confession of Christ, had given them an opportunity to believe in Christ: «…many of the Martyrs, having shown mercy for the infidels' loss, had intentionally gone towards their martyrdom and had preached the truth there, teaching them to abandon the darkness in which they were, and to hasten towards the light of in-Christ piety and faith, so that they might not be condemned to the undying flame of Hell. But those wretches, blinded by the lord of darkness of this aeon and by passions, could not open their mental eyes and see the truth of the Gospel and the faith of the Christians, as Paul had said: "the god of this aeon has blinded the minds of the faithless, so that the light of the Gospel does not illuminate the glory of Christ in them" (2 Cor.4:4); thus, they are inexcusable on the day of judgment, for they had heard the preaching of those new Martyrs and had witnessed their many and terrible tortures as well as the wonders that God had worked through them, and yet, they did not believe but still remained in the dark, "for their malice has blinded them, and they could not see God's mysteries" (Wisdom of Solomon 2:21-22).
Moreover, this was the way that the words of the Lord were perceived by the holy Martyrs - old and new - and the holy Fathers like Photios the Great, Gregory Palamas and Gennadios Scholarios, who had put their lives at risk when embarking on Dialogues with the Muslims and had steadfastly confessed Christ as God.
There are also other repercussions, with Orthodox participation in inter-religious and pan-religious meetings. The faithful Orthodox are scandalized, on seeing their pastors mingling with the assorted representatives of other religions - even the pagan ones - and especially when certain symbolic acts of worship take place, such as the lighting of candles to the God that each religion believes in. Then there are the indifferent and tepid Orthodox, who become rooted in their fallacy that "all religions are the same". Thus, religious syncretism is promoted, and in fact with the influence of the Mass Media, who broadcast all these inter-religious conventions.
With the reinstatement of icons, the Church continued to reveal Herself as a community of persons in Christ. The Monophysitic Iconomachs did not prevail. The person (hypostasis) of the Logos of God, Who had assumed a perfect human nature in order to unite it with divine nature, continues to be at the centre of our faith and of our cosmos (Greek, cosmos =adornment) in our Temples. The visage of our Lord is surrounded by the persons of the Theotokos and of the Saints. Every faithful within the Church is saved, as a person. The Church cannot, finally, become a mass or an ideology or a religion, the way that secularization desires it.
By abolishing the sacred icons, the Icnomachs were not revealing the Church as a community of persons, and thus were not helping the members of the Church to become persons - images in the image of the image of God and Father: the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Iconomachs' models were the Jewish synagogues and the Muslim mosques.
Of course the Iconomachs characterized the Orthodox as fanatics, idolaters, extremists (fundamentalists, to use contemporary terminology). But it was the "fanatic" iconophiles who had delivered to the Church and the world not only the possibility for Christians to function as persons, but also the unprecedented art of ecclesiastic imagery. Have those "modernists" - who are nowadays aligned with the spirit of Iconomachy - ever stopped to think what theology and civilization would have lost, if the Iconomachs had prevailed?
The Iconomachs were the secularized Christians of their time. The Church had repelled them, with bloody confrontations. The same must be done today. The pastors and the pious populace must watchfully maintain the faith pure of every element of secularization (such as pan-religious syncretism and dogmatic minimalism and pluralism).
The Holy Spirit, Who prevails in the Church, always directs Her towards all the Truth and the Church - despite the storms of human passions and heretic deviations that try to sink Her - continues Her voyage towards the calm harbour of God's Kingdom.
Translation by K.N.
File created: 7-3-2009.
Last update: 7-3-2009.