by Protopresbyter fr. George D. Metallinos (+ 19-12-2019)
Professor Emeritus of the Athens University School of Theology

Our readers can purchase the book in paperback form to give to friends as a special gift,

online from here: https://www.greekorthodoxbooks.com/6D23BF52.en.aspx


In Memoriam...

Our beloved Father George, internationally acknowledged for his steadfast Orthodox perception and stance, departed far too soon to be in Heaven with our Lord Jesus Christ and the company of our Holy Mother and all the Saints - especially with the one that he so fervently referred to in his essays, homilies and books: the Apostle Paul.

The present book was compiled by him several years ago, aspiring to an eventual translation for an English publication; perhaps Father George Metallinos wanted his last words before departing from this world to be deposited in the form of a “farewell bouquet” of sermons, intentionally titled “Apostolic Messages” in honour of his most beloved and frequently quoted Saint:  the Apostle of Nations, Paul.

The three excerpts below have been taken from within the book, and are indicative of his characteristic delivery when addressing and guiding his audiences, readers and spiritual children...  




“But do not omit to do good and to share”



When we refer to community struggles and community concerns, we usually turn our thoughts to the variously named social systems, because we think that only they concern themselves with man’s social life. But this is only because we are ignorant of our Christian sources. So, if one were to hear the catch-phrase “ALL THINGS COMMUNAL”, it would be regarded as anything but Christian, and its herald as a suspicious bearer of “anti-Christian” ideas and revolutionary trends.

A society of theosis, love and equality

As an «exit» from the «enclosure», as the cessation of all relations - not only with the anti-Christian hostility of Judaism but also with the world of sin – is how the Apostle Paul sees the life of the Church. The reason for this, he continues, is because “we do not have a permanent homeland here, but we yearn for the one that is to come”.  A course towards the heavens and eternity is the life of the Church, who has Her own means for salvation.  The Church is a self-sufficient “society of theosis and salvation”; but the Church’s worship and Her thanksgiving reference to God are not expended in hymns and prayers; they are also supplemented with “sacrifices”, that are God-pleasing. And according to Paul, those God-pleasing sacrifices are the “doing good and sharing”.

 The Apostle Paul wrote these things to the Hebrews, because he knew that they were the daily praxis of the Church. Besides, he himself had likewise recommended to the Corinthians: “For, not so that others be convenienced and you afflicted, but for the sake of equality, so that your abundance at the present time will be for their shortage; so that their abundance will likewise be for your shortage— so that there be equality“ (2 Cor.8:13-14). It was on the Holy-Spiritual basis of common ownership that the community life of the ancient Church was founded; not only in Jerusalem, but wherever a local church was founded, as proven by the respective words by Paul.

 Just how this truth functioned in practice can be seen in the “itinerary of the ancient Church”, in the Acts of the Apostles (ch.2:44 and 4:32). There we read that Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need”.

 That this was not just a brief and transient flash of love, it suffices to recall the “Didache of the Apostles” – a text from the beginnings of the 2nd century – where that same apostolic    proclamation is repeated: “You shall not remain indifferent towards the one who is in need, but you shall have EVERYTHING IN COMMON with your brother, and you shall not say that (all that you have) are yours, because, when you have the immortal element (the Grace of God) in common, how much more so should you have in common the mortal elements (the worldly and transient material things)!” (Ch.4:58).

 The fruit of in-Christ love

But how was this message experienced and applied by the Christians? Does this social principle of the Church have anything in common with other, familiar theories?  Of course not, because it is not merely a slogan, or a law that demands implementation by force.  It is a natural fruit of man’s communion with the Grace of God, which renders him worthy of displaying that love towards his brethren. Outside the body of Christ, His Grace and His Mysteries, it can never be applied correctly; and wherever it sounds like a social request, without the Holy-Spiritual prerequisites of the Church, it remains a void and inactive word.

Eventually the rich and the poor become Christians. They meet, in the new community of Grace, in the body of Christ, and they incessantly receive His Grace in order to defeat death and deterioration. The Grace of God is the spiritual rain that irrigates everyone and everything, without discrimination and exception.  From the moment of our Baptism we all become equal in the face of the salvation that is gifted to us by the Triune God – men and women, glorious and inglorious (Gal.3:28).  The Holy Spirit also distributes charismas to everyone without discrimination (1 Cor.12). Inside the Body of Christ we all become brethren between us.  The power that unites us in an unbreakable social unity; it is the Grace of God, which is expressed in our lives as love.

 Inside the family of the Church, we do not have the right to misappropriate the spiritual gifts (charismas) : to individually regard them as “ours”.  If we do not activate them by converting them into ministering to our brethren, we will be burying our talent (Matth.25), which is tantamount to denying Divine Grace.

 Whatever is done with spiritual gifts must also be done with the material ones that we have in our hands – not unjustly of course, nor with exploitation. Because if we acquire them through exploitation and injustice towards others (especially as Christians), then we are neither Christians, nor do the words of the Apostle apply to us…  And we also have no right to regard material goods as “our property”, because they too are the gifts of God’s love, even if we have earned them through toil – with our labour – given that all our strengths are likewise a gift of His, and absolutely nothing is “ours”.

 Hence, one Christian does not snatch another’s material goods, just as he would never even think of snatching his spiritual goods. But, regardless of whose hands the spiritual and material goods are in – they are COMMON. Without constantly changing possessors, they belong to EVERYONE, because in the time of our brother’s need - be it spiritual or material - they also become his, in order to serve his need.  This is also where freedom is based: in those who have been truly reborn in the Church and where it has culminated in the monastic absence of possessions and voluntary poverty. From the moment that one is not tied to “his” possessions, he is truly free.  And it is from that moment, that “our” material possessions become COMMON in reality.

 Living models of common possession and love are our Saints, of course. Whosoever of them happened to have a fortune, had distributed it among the poor, before freely submitting themselves to the struggle for deification (theosis).  Such were the Three Major Hierarchs who are aptly honoured: not only were they the patrons of Hellenic-Christian education; they were also projected by Orthodoxy as major social benefactors. However, instead of us singing their praise with our feeble words, we consider it more appropriate to listen to their words, which, above all else, testify that they too had lived within the ideals of the ancient Church and had thus shaped their own social ministry. And first of all, Basil the Great: in his homily “In Famine and Drought” (in case of hunger and aridity), he advised: “…let us emulate the example of the “three thousand”. Let us envy the way of life of the first Christians, when everything was common to them all – that is, their lives, souls, agreement, common meals, an indivisible brotherhood and unfeigned love - which united and made the many bodies one, and which bonded the souls into one mindset.”  (Ε.P. 31, 324).

 Then as the blessed Chrysostom would once again note in his interpretation of the 4th chapter of Acts: “...If, at the time, there were no more than three to five thousand faithful… and they had dared to actualize the sharing of possessions, how much more so could it be done today, when, with the Grace of God, the world is filled with many faithful?  Who would then have continued to be an idolater?  At least I believe that NO-ONE would.  In that way, we could make everyone a Christian…  So, if we were to continue in that direction, I believe that gradually, also with the Grace of God, that which seems unachievable now, will be accomplished…  If God grants me more years, I believe that I will soon lead you into such a way of communal coexistence.” (E.P. 60, 98).

But even Gregory himself – that Theologian of “flight” towards solitude and “quiet” – had made room in his Theology for proclamations such as: “You, who hold on to things that belong to others, should be ashamed of yourselves and should emulate God’s kind of equality; that way, no-one will be left poor…” (Ε.P. 35, 889)!  Such is Orthodoxy, in its authentic dimensions. Spirituality and Sociability, perfectly fraternized, compose that way of life - which has DEIFICATION as its final destination.





“...will enter... savage wolves, not sparing the flock”

(Acts. 20:16-18, 28-36)


Of opportune significance for the life of the Church are the words of the Apostle Paul, as given to us by Luke the Evangelist in the Book of Acts.  With his divine illumination, the Apostle details the course of the Church, and Her adventures in the world. And he very clearly stresses that the greatest evil will be the appearance of “wolves”, who will insolently dare to take the place of Shepherds (Pastors).  Shepherds and “wolves” are also portrayed in parallel by the Apostle Paul, in order to reveal the sky-high difference between the two.

 Shepherds of Christ’s flock

Genuine Shepherds are the genuine Bishops of the flock; they are the ones responsible for the incessant care and supervision of the faithful, so that they can remain within the Body of Christ. What weighs most in the conscience of the Shepherds is that the flock – the entirety of the faithful – does not “belong” to them, but to the ONLY “Supreme Shepherd”, Christ.  The Church is HIS Body, which is why it is called “Body of Christ”, and not “body of Christians”.  He is the One Who saved the Church and rendered Her His Body, through His most holy Blood. And that is the reason “Shepherds” look after the flock that Christ entrusted to them, with “care”, fondness and love (cmp. John 21:15 etc), and are always willing to sacrifice themselves for it and its well-being.

The holy Fathers, great and small, known and unknown, are all aware that their opus in the Church is a spiritual one, a regenerative one, and not merely an administrative or authoritative one. Themselves being spiritually cleansed and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, they are aware that they have been assigned as guardians of the flock’s spiritual health – as its physicians and healers. That is why they do not transmit an intellectual faith which is expended in pious speculations and religious niceties; they actually lead to therapy, catharsis and to Holy-Spiritual illumination.  They activate the de-activated "nous" of man and they assist the faithful to progress from “praxis” (actively upholding the commandments and the cleansing of passions) to “theoria” (illumination, which leads to theosis-deification), while in parallel they tend to the communion and the unity of the faithful, in the Truth and the Love of Christ and His Righteousness.

 In this way, they introduce the flock to the tradition of the Church, which is the continuation of Her life, within the Grace and the experiences of the Holy Spirit, given that their aim is not to create good and “useful” citizens or “moral personalities”, but Spirit-bearing people, whose goal is not merely the attainment of morality, but how they can finally attain theosis (deification).

 As opposed to the genuine Shepherds, the witting – or even unwitting – perverters of the Church’s poemantic opus are the “wolves” that Paul so agonizingly mentions.  They are all the false teachers, the corrupt teachers, the deceivers and the insidious, who enter Christ’s fold stealthily, or who live and function inside the Church - but as “wolves”.  Paul’s words pertaining to them are clearly prophetic.  In his Poemantic Epistles, it is teachers such as those that he refers to – in fact, the Ephesians. Their work is altogether satanic.  They usurp the place of genuine Pastor and make their appearance wearing his garment, which makes them especially dangerous.  They appropriate the flock and they exploit it, spiritually and materially, as if it is their own fiefdom. They do not toil for, nor do they concern themselves with the unity of the Body of Christ; instead, they transform the faithful into followers and they form particular groups – no longer of persons faithful to Christ, but of personal followers. “For the aim of heretics hastens to make the people attend to them, not to the Lord, so that they may boast in themselves” (Ammonios).

 The grouping of the faithful does not always lead them to becoming followers, even if those groups are not officially condemned as heretical.  But, just as the Shepherds must have certain inner spiritual prerequisites, so do the false shepherds (the “wolves”) have their own prerequisites.  And should they reach - even unwittingly - the state of “wolf” by having made the faithful their own followers without a trace of genuineness, they will definitely lack the spiritual experience of “God-sighting” Shepherds. Albeit not having undergone the spiritual therapy of the Church, they dare to undertake the spiritual healing of others. The Holy Fathers have common esoteric experiences, because they all have the same illumination. That is why they remain united to Christ and keep the flock of Christ united.  However, instead of having the Holy Spirit and illumination, the various “wolves” have wickedness and their passions inside them. In the worst case, they infiltrate the Christian flock in order to “sacrifice and eliminate it”, by not being shepherds but “thieves” (John 3:10). Hence, they don’t see their mission as a continuous offering and sacrifice for the flock, but rather as a stage towards a secular career and profit. In the best case, they might only have the will to work for the flock, but cannot offer it anything, because inside them they do not possess what they should be offering: that is, Holy Spirit and Truth.

 They might perhaps be moral (externally) and as such they would naturally be moralizers, who ruthlessly castigate corruption in others. But they are definitely not (internally) cleansed and illuminated, which is why they can never become proper physicians, and instead remain clumsy “quacks”, who moralize but never lead their flock to therapy, by preserving it at the level of idolatry and atheism. Idolatry, because they teach it to admire and believe in their “virtuous” and “cleansed” self (cmp. those Pharisees “who are convinced about themselves” – Luke 18:9); and atheism, because by not progressing through inner catharsis to illumination in the Holy Spirit, they never become acquainted with the True Christ, and thus remain in the dark, as an observance of ritualism. 

 Only the Holy Fathers throughout the ages, whom Orthodoxy rightly honours in the Persons of the God-bearing Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325) as genuine shepherds, are the ones who continue Paul’s opus, and who uphold his instructions on protecting Christ’s flock from various wolves. With the divine Word and the “slingshot of the Spirit”, they ward off the “savage and pestilent wolves”.

 With their unsleeping care and the tears of their love, they admonish, they console, they correct.  By regarding the Church as Christ’s Flock and not theirs, they do not burden anyone, but instead, they offer everything that they have, to the Flock - both spiritual and material. They render themselves poor (materially), in order to spiritually enrich others. They are in the position to proclaim: “I have desired no-one’s silver or gold or attire”.  Being rich in Spirit, they regard material things as a means for ministering to their spiritual children, and not for making a fortune for themselves....  We often speak of a famine of faith and a decline in the Christian mien in our times; it is because albeit so rich in “wolves”, we are unfortunately so poor in shepherds.




«not because we rule over your faith; we are but accessories to your joy”

(2 Cor. 1:21; 2:4)


The weight of a depressive “anti-tradition” - which unfortunately progresses in parallel to the genuine Tradition of the Apostles and the Holy Fathers – has grafted our ecclesiastic life with a number of secular elements. Thus, our Clergymen are often regarded (even by laypersons) as secular officials who are included among the “authorities”, while the terms “power”, “dominion”, “master” that are frequently used in our ecclesiastic tongue – by clergy and laity – have been inundated by all their secular content.

The Apostle Paul has helped us to discern as he did (in the Holy Spirit) the place of the clergy in the Body of Christ – the Church.

The sorrowed father

The Apostle Paul did not merely establish local churches; he also ensured that they remain in the unity of the faith and in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

This was also the case with the Church of Corinth. At one point, there arose in this Church a serious internal crisis on account of scandals as well as the disruptive preachings by certain “pseudo-brethren” of Paul’s, who persisted in slandering him.  This forced Paul to check the Corinthians bitterly for having allowed themselves to be misled by the dexterous sycophants of his opus.

This was also the reason he did not go to Corinth to visit them, as he had planned. It was imposed by his love for them, because if he had gone, he would have been forced to check them and cause them and himself to become upset.  He had “spared” the Corinthians by not going to Corinth.  However – as noted by Saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite – this reason seemed “authentic and authoritative”, which is why Paul went on to clarify that he was not the master and overlord of their faith. Paul wanted to dispel every suspicion that he was acting as a master and overlord, who directed them according to his personal dispositions.

Our Holy Fathers discern here a clear allusion by Paul to the pseudo-teachers, who, among their other deviations, were also displaying authoritarian tendencies towards the faithful. This is also expressed clearly by Paul in the same Epistle, when he spoke of “deceitful workers – false apostles” (11:13). He says:  For you tolerate being wholly subjugated, or devoured, or caught, or struck on the face” (11:20).

Paul thus made it clear that the success by any false apostles and false teachers or false shepherds entails guilt by the faithful themselves, for tolerating their presence and not abandoning them!

It is however a fact, that when the ecclesiastic criteria of the faithful slacken or become inactive, that is when the genuine shepherds are weakened and the counterfeit ones prevail...

Paul was in a similar clime at the time; however he did not feel “dominant”, because he was a father – and in fact a sorrowed one. In his Epistle, he speaks of tears, sorrow, a distraught heart;  evidence, that his necessarily chastising words did not cease to be kneaded with love – the love of a Spiritual Father who had “begotten” them in-Christ - spiritually.  

The Master of faith

Paul could never see himself as an “overlord of the faith” of the Corinthians – just as none of Paul’s genuine successors could, because there is only one Lord of our faith, Jesus Christ. He alone is the reason and the content of our faith, because it is He “Who works within us, so that we both will and act for our salvation” (Phil.2:13). It is He, Who ignites the flame of faith within us, in response to our quest. Salvatory faith is not a vague, sentimental state, nor a formal “religiosity”; it is a life relationship between the believer and the Believed.

 A faithful person does not believe generally and vaguely; he believes in Someone. Furthermore, he believes, not by consenting to Him or by acknowledging Him, but by surrendering himself to Him and following His words, in order to finally be able to become united to Him. The content of our faith is that very God-Man Lord, the way that He revealed Himself to us. “I believe in Christ” signifies that I follow Christ, and apply in my life whatever He revealed to me for my salvation.  I accept Christ absolutely – the way that an infant accepts its mother, with absolute faith and trust. We therefore have Christ as “the leader and the concluder of our faith” (Hebr.12:2), Who not only constitutes our faith, but also regenerates us through our faith in Him, in His Word. Paul, who had also accepted Christ thus, as the leader of his faith, is aware that as an apostle of the ONLY LORD, he cannot be anything but a Minister to the faith.

This was Paul’s self-awareness, and was also, for all the other Apostles. “5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?...” This was the question posed by the Apostle to the Corinthians, to check their factional tendencies – to which he also gave the answer: “We are but ministers, through whom you believed...” (1 Cor.3:5). He clarified that they were ministers to their faith, who led them to the Faith and to the One believed in; they were simple ministers and servants of Christ, and not “the root and the source of good things”, which is Christ only. This is also the conscience of genuine shepherds throughout the ages, and is how the faithful people of God accept and regard their shepherds: when they have an ecclesiastic conscience. In a genuine ecclesiastic community there are no “leaders and those being led” in the secular sense.

There are no absolutist demands by clerics, nor any riotous tendencies by the laypeople.  Relations between clergy and laity are not regulated on the basis of the power of authority, but on equality, brotherhood and love, which issue from their common participation in the one Body of the Lord. 

This is how we recognize the ecclesiastic significance of the terms “master” or “authority” in ecclesiastic living.  Just as our Lord Jesus Christ “assumed” man (human nature) – but without sin (which does not belong to human nature) – likewise, His Church “assumes” the language of the world but renders it new by de-charging it of its content and “churchifying” it. Thus, the term “leader” is not rejected by Saint Gregory the Theologian, but is meant in the ecclesiastic sense:  “It seems to me that ‘master’ is a helper of virtues and an opponent of malice” (Epistle 224). The same applies with the term “authority” in the language of the Gospel and the Fathers, inasmuch as it identifies with the terms “ministry” and “love”.  When the apostolic    and patristic conscience is preserved intact, then words find their actual significance in our lives.



Article posted:  5-8-2021

Last update: 09-06-2023