Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries

Fighting to keep Orthodoxy unadulterated,

with... Orthodox weapons.

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Transcript of a speech delivered by protopresbyter Constantine Strategopoulos in the cadre of catechist analyses

of the 2nd Epistle to Timothy by the Apostle Paul, at the church of the Dormition of the Theotokos

in the suburb of Glyfada, on Thursday, 27-11-2014.




The Church does not fool around with matters like these. She requires that they be examined retrospectively, and I shall now tell you how this check is performed. It is important, even if only for the sake of learning about it.  Because I must stress that our endeavour here is for you to learn a couple of things - basically to live these things - that is, to work your way into the Church and into deification, because all of us are destined to be gifted and inspired by God's Grace (that is, divinely inspired and living within the Grace of the Holy Spirit).  Beyond this, we need to know a couple more things; but, in case of any attempt at offence, ridicule, reaction, or a fleecing of the Truths of our Church, we need to make an elementary statement. You know, it's not a matter of convincing anyone; it's about having a responsible reason and being aware of it ourselves as well - about having a stability in that which we know.  And even if we testify to the matter, it's not about the other accepting or not accepting it.  Christ Himself spoke Truths, and yet, they crucified Him....


The Church therefore examines closely the matter of divine inspiration. With regard to a persons' sanctity, She examines it over time; She examines it as a whole, where everyone concurs, and She examines it historically with reference to an Ecumenical Synod.  I am telling you all these things so that you may have an experience of our Church. The Church is above all else; the most important thing is the Church, and, if we abide within the Church, all these things can be surpassed - we simply do not need to rush into anything. That's why there can be (I must stress this) both one single opinion, but there can also be two major Fathers each with a different opinion, and then the Church will opine: "This is the correct one".  This doesn't mean that the one with the differing opinion is a heretic.  The Church has chosen. She is divinely inspired. Thus, divine inspiration is not judged by the uniqueness of a person; it is judged by the entire Church, in full, and throughout the ages.  You must keep this in mind, please.

And this entire way of expression and life (we are talking about divine inspiration) is a very powerful thing and very beautiful, and it expresses Orthodoxy from within the secure knowledge that it is true, given that it has been examined from many aspects and many ways. It has been checked.  We do not have doubts whether it is the truth or not the truth. But above all, what is more important, is that the Church continues to function; that we be members of the Church and live ascetically (because the God-bearing Fathers live ascetically and they sanctify their lives) and from in there, all of us, including you, can participate in this process of fermentation of our Tradition... If you are God's people and you live ascetically... Remember how many ascetics lived in remote mountainous places and yet uttered earth-shaking truths - like the case of that holy man who came to the Council of Chalcedon and stated a truth.

Many are those who have said things that became earth-shattering... Who had heard of Saint Nicholas Kavasilas (1322-1391 AD)? He was a monk who lived in Constantinople and lived around the year one thousand three hundred and something... Who had ever listened to him? He had said such amazing things about the Liturgy, the Church examined them over the years, and then opined: "This is our Tradition!"  Well, that's what we say too.  Then you see texts by persons that no-one is familiar with. But the Church is familiar with them. So, when they have become familiar and accepted by all the other Fathers, then it becomes part of Tradition.  Keep these facts in mind, and especially preserve the spirit of ecclesiology. Take care: the spirit of ecclesiology - ensure that the Church continues to function. 

I will now give you an example. I'm aware that you respect the Church, but sometimes, you never know...  So I will give you a very practical example, so that you have a practical understanding, from an example that is recent, just how the Church functions.

A few days ago someone sent me a message from their mobile phone, saying: "Father Constantine, I am on an excursion with my wife at Meteora, and in a women's monastery there, they told me to 'sign this text, which is opposed to the Patriarch'. What should I do? Yes or No?"  

I don't know how you would reply, but if you didn't have an ecclesiastic mindset, whatever your reply might have been - either yes or no - it would have been wrong.  Even if you said "yes" it would have been wrong, and if you said "no" it would again be wrong - if you didn't think ecclesiastically. I am posing this as an exercise, as an example, so that you can perceive what it means.  Now, note this: In the Church, we don't have Protestantism, where each and every one gets up and says his own thing, nor a Vatican, where the people are gagged and unable to speak.  The Church is the surpassing of both the monolithic and egotistic Vatican and of mutiny and egotism, where anyone can say anything and that's that.  No, the Church has other measures.

I shall outline this in a practical manner, because these are today's issues. So, let's say they tell you that they have certain things against the Patriarch. I will not stop to think whether I (personally) favour the Patriarch - nothing like that; I will think of the Church.  My first response would be: "Who gave you the paper to be signed?"  They answer: "The Monastery".  I ask: "Why did the Monastery ask you? The Monastery has a corps of its own - the monks. If the Monastery with its Abbott has any objections whatsoever, that corps should write a letter..."  But, we must be careful here: NOT to the Patriarch himself, directly. 

Now pay attention to what our Orthodoxy has to say: This body of monastics... if the entire body agrees, not forcefully, with someone cornering the others - and more importantly if they all agree unanimously - and they have a certain objection pertaining to the Patriarch, given that they do have the right to object to any matter whatsoever (you see, we are not a Vatican), they can speak up against the Patriarch.  How? Well, firstly, they all have to agree - the entire body first of all.  You alone are not "a body".  Are you a member of the ------- Monastery of Meteora?  No, you aren't.  What business have you in there then?  You are a part of a parish; you express your views from within that parish and your Metropolis.  So, if those monks or nuns have an issue, they themselves should write it down.  No-one in our Church is reproached, nor is he considered a heretic, just because he has expressed his opinion on whichever matter.  We don't have any Pope.  We have Orthodoxy.  People have the right to say : "This is wrong"; it will be judged by the Church, but they do have the right to say it.  Note well:  THIS is Orthodoxy. 

So, where should they make their issue known ?  Definitely not vociferously and by collecting signatures.  How many nuns are in that monastery? Thirty?  Then those thirty should speak up, but not muster everyone from the neighboring townships, or from the Peloponnese in the south to Trikala further up, and as far as northern Greece, in order to collect signatures, as a show of power. It's a secular system, if we demonstrate our power through a multitude of signatures. It's wrong!  That way, the Monastery falls into a trap.  So, that's the first point: The nuns should write it down, provided they all agree, and they should listen to the opinion of even the very last nun, right?  There must be a unanimous opinion, for such important issues.  Then, whatever they have written should be addressed - to whom?  To their Bishop of course. After all, they do belong somewhere, don't they?  There is surely a Bishop in their region.  Are they going to ignore him?  The Bishop will take their letter and - whether he agrees or doesn't agree - he will duly write a letter to the Patriarchate and say that "I have received this objection from the ------ monastery".  The point is, that the spirit of ecclesiology must prevail.  And of course, if that Metropolis belongs directly to the Church of Greece, the matter must go there first, and the Church of Greece will then forward it to the Patriarchate.  THAT is the proper order, THAT is the way it should be done. Furthermore, we also monitor ourselves in that way.  So I said to those friends: "You will naturally NOT sign, but, you CAN take up the matter with your parish priest, if you too have any objection regarding the Patriarch - whatever objection. Write a letter to your Bishop; your Bishop will duly forward it to the Holy Synod and the Patriarchate. 

That's the whole idea. Is it so terrible?  We mustn't overlook the Church, otherwise we become Protestants. Every one of us says whatever he wants; you shout, he shouts...  He is free to say what he wants; nobody condemns him. And I will even congratulate him - regardless if he was right or wrong - for daring to tell the truth, they way he expressed it, and we can also say to him: "You were wrong".  The Church doesn't scold you if you were mistaken. She does scold you however, if you act as a conventicle. And if you are familiar with the Canons of our Church, the term "conventicle" contains an ecclesiastic term: it's called "tyreia". It is the worst possible thing. It implies the splintering of the Church: You get five or ten people who form their own decision and then they propagate it to the world noisily.  Well, that can't be.  We here do not have a conventicle.  That's how our Church works.  Keep in mind the standards by which you should act.  Which means that neither should you be deprived of your voice, nor should you become a conventicle, forming a group of ten people. Ask yourselves:  Who?  Who grouped you together?  There was that incident one or two years ago - the same thing happened - where ... I don't know, four hundred or so priests, all very familiar names, who wrote a text opposing the "666", you know, that story...  And they too made a protest.  I was wont to ask: "Who are you all? You all belong to a local Church, parishes, Metropolises... Who are you?  Who are all of you that have gathered together? How did you all gather together from all parts of Greece and sign?  Does the Church have such systems?" 

Keep these things in mind and don't become victims of conventicles.  Perhaps the issues projected are opportune and significant. No-one denies the importance of issues, but I do deny conventicles.  Which brings me back to the matter of divine inspiration, when the Grace of the Holy Spirit is forfeited, and our egotism takes charge, we abandon the Church.  Who is divinely inspired? The Church - the body of the Church.  How did the Holy Bible come to be? The Holy Bible came from the Church.  And where did the Apostles live? They lived within the Church.  They were obedient to their Church; they would voice their opinion... some of them were even persecuted, but eventually, over time (which is what the Church always does), if they had been persecuted, it is finally revealed that they had spoken a truth. They were eventually acknowledged as God-bearing Fathers of our Church. 

So you see, divine inspiration is a very big deal.  But first of all, before considering whether something is right or wrong, we ourselves should enter the realm of divine inspiration, personally.  Hey - this is about our personal life!  All God-bearing persons, Christians and Fathers, are formed through ascesis and in repentance.  Their entire being is cleansed: their soul, their body, their mind... and as such, they are in a position to express a word of truth.  And even though no-one may hearken to it,  it will certainly be hearkened to eventually. It will be recognized. That is why "throughout all the world their voice went forth".  But you see, we are in a hurry for our own "divine inspiration" to prevail.  We submit whatever we have to say. Whatever we have to say may be mistaken, but we aren't afraid - we haven't said the mistake intentionally. We speak our mind; we aren't intimidated. Nobody judges us as though we are heretics.  We speak our opinion. And our opinion will be judged, in time, by our Church's "methodology" (if the term is an appropriate one). 

Therefore, I have the right to say whatever I wish, since I don't express it in a bad manner - even now, as I interpret the Bible. I always strive here to remain faithful to the interpretation of the Fathers, because I don't know too many things - I don't possess any special divine inspiration for giving my own personal interpretation.  I strive to follow the Fathers, but along the way, I may mention my own opinion on a subject. It will be judged by the Church. And if the Church overall tells me that I'm mistaken, I will say: "thank you very much", and I won't have become a heretic.  But if I persist and say: "No, what I said is correct", then I become a heretic. 

Take note of this balance: that is, even though I have the freedom to speak (not that I want to speak), I want the Fathers to speak. That's what I strive for, but I'm only human. I analyze texts, I examine current situations and take a stance on various issues. No-one is infallible and it is possible that we may make mistakes which aren't intentional mistakes. The Church will judge me, and will tell me if I'm mistaken. 

However, if issues are dogmatic and very profound (as was the matter of transplants which we had opposed), then, because we have an entire theology, an anthropology of our Church, we do not speak our own minds.  We had opposed a heresy when we spoke out.

Beyond these points, keep this in mind:  be ascetically-living people, enlightened by God, humble, sanctified, endowed with Grace, and stay close to the Church.  Let the Church be everything for you, and from within it, the Truth will surface and you will have a word to say. You will submit whatever word you may have to say, and then the Church will opine if it is right or wrong.  Do not have egotism and say "I"... That's what others did, who said: "I know the truth; I also plan to form an organization to get it through to others. I am also collecting a thousand signatures to ensure it."  But these are secular measures; that's why I refuse to accept a democracy of that kind; I accept a democracy of the executive kind - state or conciliar - for practical issues, so that we can have something by which decisions can be reached quickly : for instance,  if there should be five or ten cleaning ladies at the Conciliar Hall...  I believe you have grasped the importance of divine inspiration, which is a very serious matter... that's why the Bible says: "Every divinely-inspired Scripture..." 




Question:  At present, the Orthodox people don't know.... 

Fr. Const.:  No! Orthodox people cannot say "I don't know". They must sit down and do some serious reading... 

Question:  I am curious, how come someone who belongs in the body of the Church, and since he doesn't need to accept the hierarchy and if doing obedience to his spiritual father, should also do the same to the Metropolitan, and the Archbishop and the Patriarch? I mean, how can people break that chain and so irresponsibly pass judgment on the peak of that entire edifice - given that we must support it from start to finish? 

Fr.Const.:  You are correct, with one observation to your comment:  All that you said is wonderful, and I agree with you. With one difference:  Here, we don't have a Pope or a Vatican. No-one is infallible. And we have the right and the possibility, respectfully, with very proper words and without forming parties, ranks, divisions, to express our opinion.  Fortunately we don't have a Pope. We have a Patriarch, who essentially has no authority in Orthodoxy. Ecclesiastically, the Patriarch's authority is limited to a very small piece: 1/4 of Constantinople. No, not all of Constantinople. Only 1/4 of it, because Constantinople has 3 other Bishops. The Patriarch's responsibility is only there, and nothing more. No Rome, no Vatican, no universal authority.  He is simply the one who must be the coordinator necessary for coordinating a Council (Synod).  He is the first, among equals. That is his responsibility: to coordinate everyone together.  The Patriarch is a Bishop, who also essentially expresses the humbleness of our Orthodoxy. He is not a priest, but he does have the responsibility - the authority - when he goes to speak.  In fact, note this:  I have shouted this out so many times and have been misunderstood for it. The only one who has the authority to speak to the Pope is the Patriarch. Because it is written in the Canonical Law of our Church:  From where did someone depart?  He must bear the responsibility of his therapy, from where he had departed. Well, they had departed from the One Church - the catholic (universal) one.  

When the Pope had come here, to Athens, I had spoken out boldly to the Archbishop at the time, that he had made a mistake; that it was not within his right to do so; that only the Patriarch can talk with the Pope (because it was from him that they had departed), and therefore he (the Archbishop) cannot.  That's how our Orthodoxy is.  And, as stated in the Pedalion, he also has the right (if someone has departed and defected), as well as the responsibility, to bring back the strayed child. That is the Patriarchs' responsibility, and he must persevere in his attempts towards this. And there is absolutely no way that there will be any kind of union and common Chalice and common prayer.  Absolutely not.  If it does happen, I will be the first to no longer be on his side... It simply isn't possible...

However, the responsibility that only he can speak is also his duty, and he must do it... but no-one else - not the Archbishop of Athens, not of Thessaloniki, nor of Cyprus (where the Pope had also visited)... nor of Cyprus.  No-one.  It was they (the Latins) who had abandoned him (the Patriarch)...  We need to be a bit more informed about Orthodoxy.  Orthodoxy cannot be sold off that way... There are some who say to me:  "Ah, but you're descended from Constantinople..."  Well, it's not because I'm from Constantinople that I'm on the Patriarch's side. Seeing how things are the way they are until now, I have nothing "against" him.  If he were to perpetrate a huge mistake, I myself would point it out.  So far, nothing has been sold of Orthodoxy...

As I said, we shall speak our mind, but not create any disturbance among our people.  Therefore, we speak our mind - whether about our Bishop or our Patriarch - but it must be a responsible opinion, and not just go along with whatever the Mass Media and certain religious pamphlets tell us, thus stirring up hatred and turmoil.   Besides, we have a brain and we can think; we aren't vegetables.  And we don't sell ourselves off. 

I told you: If a union does take place the way it seems to be striving to (IF it takes place, which it WON'T), I will be the first to NOT be "on their side".  

What more can I say?  There is absolutely no way that I will sell off Orthodoxy, for anyone's sake. But, things aren't like that for the time being; they are still at the stage that they were, when they commenced in 1961 with Archbishop Athenagoras. They have hardly moved at all. Athenagoras used to say: "A dialogue of love; let's get together and just say hello, you guys".  He never said: "let's have a theological dialogue". 

They had attempted it once, but it didn't work out, did it?  Theological dialogue doesn't work out... What can come out of it, when they have altered our Orthodoxy?  How can it work out?  To accept their positions cannot possibly be accepted. There will be an impasse there.  The union will take place - if it does take place (and it is something that everyone wants) - by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, without anything of Orthodoxy sold off... nothing at all... not a single thing.  We sell off nothing of holy Orthodoxy, for which the God-bearing Fathers had been martyred, centuries ago.  

We aren't exactly stupid...


Article published in English on: 19-1-2015.

Last update: 19-1-2015.