Letter from a heterodox lady.
Text: When we speak of true faith in God, it should not include the idolatry of icons, nor memorials as was done by the ancient Greeks to the twelve gods. Let us remember the second commandment of God, as well as the fourth which nobody follows any more. So, why speak about these, when the Greek people had a life immersed in idolatry? If we are to talk about true worship of God we must do what the Apostles of Christ did. Let us look at the story of Ahaab and of Iesabel with idolatry, as the Orthodox Church has done the same thing. Firstly, God does not wish to confuse the Church with traditions and she is not the only true Christian Church. How is it possible when no one follows the Ten Commandments? Of course the people cannot see these things, as they have been brain washed. It would be sad during the hour of Judgment what defense the Orthodox as well as the Catholic Church can make for the numerous errors. If you wish we may discuss the above. Thank you.
The monastery's answer to the lady.
Honourable Mrs. M.R.,
We thank you for your letter via the internet, of which we must confess was not very pleasant, since it concerns accusations against the Orthodox Faith. We respond though, obeying the Apostolic commandment (1Pet 3:15).
For a start we must set certain things straight. From your writing it becomes very clear that you belong to a protestant group. It has saddened us a lot -and perhaps made us wonder- that you kept silent about it, as it is an essential parameter for the conduct of a theological dialogue. Also, a basic detail of the dialogue is the use of arguments for the adopted positions. In the contrary, your letter - forgive us but we owe it to observe- it is teeming with aphorisms and nothing but accusations. Despite these we shall address briefly five topics that you have raised. It should be remembered that such type of topics could take volumes to expound.
We shall now start on the relationship between Church and Church Traditions. In your letter even though you refer to this in your last lines, yet you characterize it with the word "firstly" (?), therefore we too start from this. Another reason of the great importance of this topic is that it comprises the basis of all other responses. Firstly, when we talk about Holy Tradition we should not confuse it with other type of traditions (religious, public, local etc) which comprise "teachings and human doctrines" (Matt 15:9). Thus we over emphasize in contrast to different religious groups, who explain the Holy Bible with their own traditions while teaching the denial of Tradition (precisely like you).
The sacred Tradition is -we could say - the soul of the body of the Church. It is not possible to separate these two concepts being the two faces of the same coin. It is not the teaching that is passed from generation to the next, but the life of the true worship and spiritual rebirth that leads to theosis. This is a reason that the Saints are Spiritual Fathers and not plain teachers (1Cor 4:14-16). They are fully united with Jesus Christ, the head of the Church. To her was passed ‘once' (Jud 3) the true Faith and only whoever belongs to her (being in a proper spiritual state) can explain correctly the Holy Scripture (2Thess 3, 2Pet 3:16, Jud 3:4 etc). The saints have lived the Faith having received it unchanged from the God-man Christ and the Holy Apostles and passed it on to the next (1John 1:1-3) in a continuous and strict path of the same spiritually sacred experience.
Certainly, Mrs. R., the Holy Tradition is inseparable from the Church and whoever denies it characterizes the Lord a liar! For He declared that the Church will not be defeated even by Hades (Matt 16:18) and that Himself will always be united with her members (Matt 28:20), how then many religious groups contest the authenticity of the Church being five hundred years or less since their founding? In closing we provide you with some of the sacred references that confirm the truth of the Holy Tradition, 2Thess 2:15, 1Corr 11:2, 1Corr 11:2, 1Corr 5:9, Phil 4:9, 2John 12, 3John 6:13, John 21:25 etc.
Pertinent with the above is that you broach the uniqueness of the Church (we believe that is what you mean, as there is some vagueness). We consider such a topic unworthy of discussion as it is greatly clarified in the Holy Bible. Nowhere in the Holy texts is there any reference that could justify the existence of many churches (here we mean bodies of the same faith and not local churches of the same body). The Church is ONE and single as her founder proclaimed (Matt 16:18) and her Holy Apostles. It is the body of Christ (1Corr 12:12-27) and He is her Head (Eph 5:2). It suffices to consider only this and it is not possible to talk of many bodies. What a blaspheme! For this way the placing of "other head" on different bodies can be justified .........
Since we know that the Church is a "column and foundation of the Truth" (1Tim 3:15) by following her teaching we do the Will of God (Like 10:16). This way the above are adequate to confirm the topic. Despite of this we shall respond briefly on the other topics you touched.
We confess that we were specially impressed by your gross censuring ofOrthodoxy as "idolatry" in "breach" of the 10 Commandments. You referred to them seven times in a seventeen line text! Do not be deceived by the inaccuracies you hear. This accusation that is leveled at us by the heretics is iniquitous. The Church of the Lord never did worship or venerate as God any being, or more so, any thing. All worship and veneration is reserved to the One in Trinity True God. However, because "God appeared in the flesh" (1Tim 3:16) we produce the icon of Christ in His human form. Also, our Lord has destined us to conform to the icon image of His son" (Rom 8:21). This way we are empowered to iconize the Saints as sacred examples (for more clarification refer to the Synodic of Orthodoxy, Decisions of the 7th Ecumenical Synod). Please think logically and judge! Would a child intently kissing the photo of his deceased mother be honouring the paper (that the picture is printed on) as his mother? (Keeping of course the analogies between the example and the charismatic reality of the Sacred Icons). And one more thing about your words. We are offended by the Greek element you wrote about. The Greeks were idolaters because of ignorance. However, they always sought the Higher, the Truth. When it was revealed to them, they warmly embraced it and offered for the dissemination of Christianity the language and philosophy.
As far as the 4th commandment that you say we do not observe we must underline that if we did observe it (as you understand it) we would have been Jews and not Christians. The Sabbath was ordained for the people of Israel (Ex 31:12-17). With the coming of the Christ we have a new reality to the law (Matt 5:17) and 9:15-17). The lord transformed everything (2Corr 5:17) and drew the "New Testament" (Luke 22:21) after the "New Israel", the Church. In any case He is "the Lord ......and the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28), Who "violates" it according to the Jewish perspective -but also of some "Christians" in our days-and sets what he demands from the faithful (Matt 12:5-13). The "New Israel" honours especially the Sunday, the first and the eighth day with eschatological perspective, during which the Lord was Resurrected. How then shouldn't we extol particularly this day? This, the Holy Apostles have delivered to us (according to the early Christian testimonies) and we shall observe till the end of time.
In another section of your letter you note that God does not wish memorials (!?). Immediately in the human mind is a nagging question which we do not wish to write it because we do not wish to be vindictive........ The Church of Christ offers memorials and supplications for the departed based on her testimonial as a "community of saints" (living and departed) in her belief of the resurrection, in her sacred Tradition and of course in the Holy Bible (some references : Nehem 9:12, 1Kings 31:13, Jer 16:7 and 2Tim 1:18 in association with 4:16). Besides our Lord Himself has commanded us to pray about anything and He even assured us of the power of prayer (Matt 7:1-8, James 5:16) that is capable of even"reversing" the decision of God (eg. Ex 32:14). Why do you restrict the power and love of the Lord? And how do you limit the loving intention of each faithful that is expressed through hope bearing prayer? Is it possible you do not believe in the Resurrection? Then everything is in vain (1Corr 15:12-20) we regret.
We cannot go beyond a phrase in your last few lines with reference to the "brain washing" to which the "people" (clearly you mean the faithful) have been subjected. It does no honour to you in the least, this double offence. Firstly, towards us as overseers of the Church (for by whom else will such "washing" be done?) and even more so on the faithful people of God, that together you likewise belittle. You should note two characteristic elements of those who have in fact been subjected to brain washing. 1. They fanatically support and without proof the viewpoints they were taught and 2. Their level of comprehension is not adequate to understand, overestimating their capabilities. Let us not continue any further.
Finally, you invite us to discuss all the points you wrote about. Our answer is of course negative. Not because we wish to avoid the dialogue, for if it were so, we would not have answered you, but because as we have observed above, is the absence of certain conditions. However, we provide you the possibility to ask us about any topic concerning our faith - only if you are willing - and we also suggest you turn to our website
www.oodegr.com/english/index.htm where there are serious studies on what we have briefly discussed in this letter.
With blessings, the Abbott,