Transcript of the homily by the reposed Elder Athanasios Mytilineos

[delivered at the Holy Monastery of Komniniou at Larissa on the 3-3-1996].

By Eleni Linardaki, philologist

Today, my beloved, the first Sunday of Lent, our Church celebrates Her Orthodox stance after many toils and struggles. It is the reason She has named this Sunday “Sunday of Orthodoxy”.  Of course, all the Councils had contributed to Orthodoxy, but projected par excellence is the 7th Ecumenical Council, which took place in Nicaea of Asia Minor, opposite Constantinople, in 787 (A.D. of course), from September 24th to October 13th.

 The “Synaxarion” of the day informs us that:   “On this day, the first Sunday of the Lenten fast, we commemorate the reinstating of holy and sacred icons, which was officiated by the ever-memorable Emperors of Constantinople, Michael and his mother Theodora, during the Patriarchy of the Saint and Confessor, Methodios”.

However, apart from the main topic which was the veneration or not of holy icons (because that was the main topic of the 7th Ecumenical Council - and in fact the icon of Jesus Christ), the contentious issue was:Can we portray the Person of Christ?” The answer was very simple: Yes, since He became a human... God cannot be portrayed; He is unportrayable. But the Son can be portrayed, since He had become an incarnate, tangible human.  Thus, apart from this main issue, other Canons of our Church were also established - of likewise exceptional importance naturally. The reason was that from time to time, several Gospel positions had been “mutilated” thanks to a faulty interpretation. After all, the misinterpretation of the Holy Bible is that which opens the way to heresy.

 The sacred texts must of course be comprehended - and they are comprehended, through interpretation. But, if interpretation relies on rationale, then we have heresy. What is heresy? It is the logical interpretation of doctrine. Interpretation must be supported by revelation. And of course always with the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

This precisely was done and continues to be done with the Synodical (Conciliar) System. The entire Church will convene with Her representatives who are the Bishops, but also by individual Fathers (the truth can also exist there) who have remained faithful both to the letter and to the spirit of the Bible.  Just as we have Canons by Saint Athanasius the Great, we also have Canons by Saint Basil the Great. To be precise, they had actually settled certain issues of their time. An example is Saint Basil’s work “On Monasticism”, which was validated by Ecumenical Synods. It did not remain an individual, personal piece of work. This is the reason the Church acknowledges as genuine interpreters the holy Fathers, and the conclusions of Synods - Ecumenical or local – as divinely inspired and equally valid, having the same authority - equal authority - as the Holy Bible.  After all, what did they interpret? The Holy Bible… except that they “broadened” it, making it easier to comprehend, but also to give it the correct stigma (which is the spirit of the letter). And, this is what is referred to as “Sacred Tradition” - that is, the correct interpretation of the Bible. And of course it is deposited chiefly in writing. The Tradition of the Church exists in written form.

 And now, to return to the 7th Ecumenical Council, we need to note that in addition to the Canons concerning the significance of the icon, other Canons of great value and importance were also established, as you will see further along, on the occasion of the convening of this Council. Because – let’s not forget – that the 1st  Ecumenical Council which had convened in Nicaea of ​​Asia Minor, in Constantinople, took place in 325 AD (early 4th century) and the 7th Ecumenical Council took place in 787 AD (late 8th century), which means a long period of time was spanned, during which various issues, problems, offenses on the part of the Church’s enemies repeatedly cropped up, with ill-crafted, malignant and demonic interpretations, making it necessary for the Church throughout Her duration to tackle those issues whenever She convened synodically.

So, to deviate a little from the standard topic of icons, we could examine something else, if we may.. To see what the 7th Ecumenical Council was - and what else it was - I will quote one specific point and present the pertinent text, followed by explaining what is being stated:

“To those (=heretics of course) - who dogmatize that matter is without a beginning, and ideas are likewise without a beginning - as is God the Creator of all - and that both the heavens and the earth and the rest of creations are everlasting and beginning-less and remaining unchanged – (the heretics) are also counter-legislating against the One who said ‘The heavens and the earth shall pass away; but My words shall not pass away’, and they are voicing vacant words from the earth and also drawing upon heir heads the divine curse – let them be anathema!”

 Heresy… What is it? A void, hollow word that lacks inspiration by the Holy Spirit by being earthen  (that is to say, without having received inspiration by the Holy Spirit); it is earthen (=materialistically-carnally speaking) and as such, heretics attract upon themselves the curse of Anathema (= “Be gone, go away, far away”)

 This position is extremely important. I need to clarify that here we have a basically Platonic position, and more generally a philosophical one. It is the beginning-less matter of philosophers. Don't imagine that the things we will say further along would be things that will not be of interest to us, and would only be of museum interest - of historical value. No. Take a modern dictionary, say Rosenthal's 'Philosophical Dictionary'; it is materialistic.  Look inside and go to the entry 'matter' and you'll see what it says. What does it say? Well, exactly what the Synod had said (as mentioned above) – that is, what the old philosophers used to say: “Matter is beginning-less, It existed, it exists and it will exist. Without a beginning and without an end”.

 They also claim that: “Matter is likewise beginning-less, as is the Creator.  Beginning-less is the Creator, therefore matter is also beginning-less. Consequently, they are two separate things. The Creator is one thing and the universe, or matter, or ideas are another thing.'  When it says here 'and ideas' he is talking about Plato's ideas. (Who hasn't heard of Plato's ideas?)  What were Plato's 'ideas'? Three points: ‘On this side is God... (take note - these are opportune topics)… God is over here; beginning-less matter is over there, which God did not create, but is simply beginning-less, along with the Creator, and somewhere in a third place there are ”ideas”. Ideas are the patterns of beings. So, let’s see what exists in nature – the tiny flower, the lily?  Its pattern, the idea of it, exists in heaven. Where are ideas? In heaven!  Mankind? Man has his pattern in heaven! Canines? They have their patterns in heaven. Dogs have their patterns in heaven.' These “patterns”, in Plato's language, are called “ideas”.

 So, what does God do?  'God reproduces (copies) the ideas and thus makes the beings in nature, from already existent material!  But what does God do afterwards? He is not a Creator of things ex nihilo (=previously nonexistent things), hence He is not even a Creator. He is merely a decorator...'   To understand this explanation:  I go to the market and buy ready paintings, furniture, trinkets - whatever you can imagine. I bring them home from the market. I did not make them. I just decorate my house with them. According to Plato, God is not a Creator. He is a decorator.

 We also notice mentioned here the everlasting state of matter, but also the immutability of matter. All these, as I said, are Platonic theories. What does “everlasting” mean? It is that which has no beginning and no end.  What does “eternal” mean? That which has a beginning, but has no end.  Man is eternal. In the sense of 'having a beginning', but will have no end. God however is not “eternal”.  An inappropriately used term – as I know you will tell me – given that the word “eternal” is used very many times, even in the prayers of our Church etc... The word “eternal” is inaccurately used, out of necessity; given that God is everlasting: He is beginning-less and end-less.

Platonism, I must tell you, has “plagued” the Church. I might quote here what they used to say in ancient times: “Beloved is Plato, more beloved is the truth”.  Those of us who have been to school for a while and had studied some of Plato's works, Plato became a very likable and wonderful guy for us… but that is another story. He was before the time of Christ… Fortunately, so were the things he said, given that he did not have the illumination of the Gospel. In our time, a Christian needs only the language,

 Anyway, there is one point (no way can I recite them all) which was opined during the 7th Ecumenical Council:  “We may only use the language, the forms, but not the content of philosophy.”  So, Plato is beloved, but the truth is more beloved... And what is the “more beloved truth”? The Gospel. Well, how did Platonism plague the Church?  It was because many Christians became absorbed with Plato and they inserted extra ideas into the doctrine of the Faith. All of them were condemned - or rather - the Church (in particular the 7th Ecumenical Council to be precise), repeated the condemnation, and condemned the Platonic theories in the person of popular Origen. What a pity that wonderful Origen got carried away…

 The answer as to whether Matter (the world) is without a beginning, we reply (with the very first verse of the Holy Bible): 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth'. This is how the Bible begins. The declaration “In the beginning” denotes the founding of Time, as Matter and Time are mentioned together. Space cannot possibly be imagined without Time, given that it holds Matter; for example, think of the “changes” that are observed in Matter, even in static situations…doesn’t a single atom of Matter seem to be static?  And yet, a single atom of Matter is anything but static in its state… it is in a very dynamic state… extremely dynamic... What fields there are, between the nucleus and the electron, God only knows. Then there are also the things that we find and discover in our laboratories.

Well, my beloved ones, Space and Time were founded together. Therefore Creation was produced within Time. It is not beginning-less.   Behold the verification of this statement:  'In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.'  What is the verb used in this statement? 'Made'. God is uncreated, the world is created. Creation is therefore automatically under God… God is uncreated, Creation is created. This is the Church’s response.

Another point: 'To those who say that “at the final and common resurrection’… (this is truly a beautiful reference, as we also had a memorial service today, which provides an answer, so pay attention to it):  'To those who say that “at the final and common resurrection’ (we will all be resurrected at the common resurrection, from Adam and Eve down to the last one who will have died, while those who are still alive will only be changed, without passing through death): “with other bodies shall people be resurrected and judged, and not with those with which they lived in the present life which deteriorated and perished'. What do we read? 'They say. 'with other bodies they shall rise again' because the present ones are perishable. So, they will be resurrected, with another body'?  And it also says 'Anathema'.. We shall examine the 'anathema' further along and analyze that also; i.e., what the heretics assert is not acceptable:

We will not take on other bodies; they will be the same bodies that we had, only renovated; they will definitely be the same bodies….as the Apostle Paul says in his Epistle to the Corinthians... What can I quote? The entire Bible is replete - especially the New Testament. But so is the Old Testament, which says: “…for it is necessary that this perishable one…”  “This?” What did he mean by “this?”  He was indicating the present body. This one. Not some other body… “..put on incorruption, and this mortal one put on immortality.' This body will be clothed (pay attention to the verb, “put on”)… it will be clothed, he says, with both incorruption and immortality - this very same.body…

The Apostle Paul also says in his second Epistle to the Corinthians – the previous one that I quoted is from his first Epistle to the Corinthians. An entire chapter refers to these matters by the Apostle Paul:

 10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (after being resurrected), so that each one may receive the things done through their body, whether good or bad.”  To receive their reward... with their body – the one that they lived with - and the one by which they acted, either for good or for evil.  Says Saint Cyril of Jerusalem: 'Did you remain pure? You will receive your reward. Did you remain a prostitute? You will receive your condemnation.'

That is why the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians: “18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man commits is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body”… 

14 God raised up the Son, and He will also raise us up by His power.”

 'And also us': This implies that the scar of every sin of ours will remain indelibly on the body, especially the sin of immorality. This scar has only one way to be eradicated: with repentance and confession.  Once you cross over to “the other side”, everything is over.. Your body will be resurrected carrying the scars of sin, and you will consequently be judged unfit for God’s realm

 My beloved, all these things are amazing… What are we being told?  We are told how things will be during the resurrection:  It will not involve another body; it will be the one and the same body that we had, which will be made new, incorruptible and immortal.  In fact, Paul the Apostle is indignant with the Corinthians who believed all those heretical things…so he writes to them: :”Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.  Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”  Some of them had ignorance of God. They did not know the power of God. What did I say earlier? What does “heresy” mean? It is the logical interpretation of the doctrine. In this case, they were saying (with their logic): 'How is it possible for this body – which had become earth – to have been resurrected?” See? They immediately interpose their theory: 'That can’t be possible. It must have been another body’.. and Heresy immediately enters the scene.... And what does the Apostle Paul say? 'Some of you have ignorance of God’. Ignorance regarding what? They do not know who God is, or His power. And I say this to your shame', writes Paul in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians.

One more thing (…but unfortunately, time has flown…)   What more is there to say?  'To all those who accept the vain and Hellenic words that there is pre-existence of souls, and that nothing was made ex nihilo and created; also that there is an end to Hell and that there will be restoration of nature and of human things, let them be Anathema!”

As for those who maintain that souls pre-exist… they are supporters of yet another Platonic theory:  “But we have already said that God is not a Creator. Souls preexist, somewhere - also beginning-less and everlasting.  So God takes one soul, from some... warehouse of His – (excuse the expression) - and places it inside a body... He then picks another soul and places it inside another body...”. This is what is referred to as “preexistence of souls”. It is, if you want to expand on it, like the Eastern religions, with reincarnations - and I don't know what else and all those fairy tales, real fairy tales, such as: “nothing was made ex nihilo and created; also that there is an end to Hell…that Hell will have an end…”.

Origen also used to say this – (here we have logic again): “Is it ever possible for God – for the benevolent God – to impose tormentforever and ever? With no end? Is that ever possible?'   God does not impose torture; people freely choose Hell as their destination!

They even speak of a restoration of everything. They will say: “'we will have new things, new worlds, and these worlds will be like the previous ones'”. I repeat, these are Platonic ideas:   Everything was made from nonexistence – that is, from nil. And Hell is eternal…

I am at the 25th chapter of Matthew, which states: “They will depart to eternal life, but sinners to eternal hell'. We see here that the adjective 'eternal' is used twice in that fragment of the Gospel by the author.  So, if the word 'eternal' was used for Hell in a relative manner, then the word 'eternal' must also apply to God’s realm in a corresponding manner!  And these claims are the undoing of heresies. Hence, let them be Anathema also!.

My beloved, knowledge of the positions that the seven Ecumenical - as well as the local Synods – had decided on, provide us with the Orthodox teaching. That is why it is imperative that we know all those decisions. Why? Because in our day and age, Eastern religions have invaded Europe, and Greece of course, as well as America – that is, the West.   It has become glaringly obvious that Orthodox Christians are being easily swept away into those choices, which are heretical beyond every measure, and are of philosophical dimensions. That is why we need to know all these matters, and why I stressed earlier that they are all very opportune. Those of you who may possess the guide book “Pedalion” (=”The Rudder”), or if not, at least the book “Triodion” (3 Odes of Lent) please open it on the first Sunday of the Great Lent of Pascha; where the Annex to that Sunday’s text is titled “Synodicon of the Holy and Ecumenical Seventh (7th) Synod in favor of Orthodoxy” and you will get an idea of the matter. They are also where I borrowed information from, as a quick reference to cater to my requirements here.

We furthermore need to realize that in heresy, neither the proper morals, nor the proper faith or the proper worship of God exist, and consequently there can be no salvation through them. There is no salvation. Heresy is blasphemy against God.  How then will God save me - if I am active within a heresy, within the space of the heresy?  Hence the exclamation of “Anathema”, which is intended to emphasize that every heretic or every heresy does not belong within the Church – just like the term “excommunicate”, which is a common term. What does “excommunicate” mean? It is derived from “ex” (out of) and “communion” - outside of boundaries. As such, it means that a person, a theory or a position or interpretation does not belong within the space or boundaries of the Church. They are outside of the Church. Believe what you want, my man, but you cannot say that you belong in the Church. As the apostle Paul says: “If someone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema”'. Apart.. Separate. “Anathema” therefore denotes something that is or should be separate, as a thing accursed. You will find this term in the book of Leviticus, 27:28.

Beloved, “Orthodoxy” signifies the genuine interpretation of the holy scriptures – the “upright belief”. But it must also be accompanied by “Orthopraxis” (which signifies one’s “upright action-behaviour”). It is not enough to just believe uprightly. These two together will provide us with salvation.

As for those who had toiled - either in the Synods – or even throughout the centuries for the sake of Orthodoxy, then (as is repeatedly noted in the Synodicon for them): “Memory eternal” !


and with immeasurable gratitude to our spiritual guide and blessed elder, Athanasios Mytilinaios.


active³ 5.4 · IPS κατασκευή E-shop · Disclaimer