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    The respected Elder, Father Sabbas, had followed the policy of the nineteen ruling monasteries of Mount Athos, which believed, as do many people, that we must make certain concessions and accommodations in matters of Faith for a period of time.

     Since he was virtuous, with a sincere and good intention, the fathers who have only recently come to Mount Athos—the so-called New Holy Mountain Fathers—who hold communion with Ecumenists and commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarchate, would visit the Elder frequently. They would hold him up as an example to their disciples and would say that if the zealot dissent and protest were good, would not virtuous Father Sabbas belong to it?

     However, when the Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios concelebrated with the Pope of Rome in December of 1987, the Elder roused himself; his soul could not bear to be found in such a blatantly Ecumenistic Church. Along with other ascetics, he protested and separated himself from all the other fathers of Mt. Athos who followed the nineteen monasteries. He would not go to church in any of those nineteen or in any of the cells or dependencies which followed them.

     All the commemorators were in an uproar; from monastery and cell, many ran to persuade the Elder. But the frequent visits, which became burdensome, were to no avail.

     Finally, the Elder was obliged to answer in writing one monk who troubled him frequently, thereby answering all the others troubling him, for they were well-organized and committed to using every means to draw the Elder out of Orthodoxy into the embrace of Ecumenism.

     Below is the text of the Elder’s letter.

1st Ecumenical Council_CretanSchool±±±

The Cell of Saint Nicholas, Kapsala
August 13, 1991

Dear Father Nicodemos, Bless!

  During your visit to our cell a few days ago, you repeated your un-Orthodox dogmatic pronouncements that we are outside the Church because we do not commemorate Patriarch Demetrios. You also made some other statements as well, for which cause we feel constrained to write the following for your fuller instruction, since the evidence and refutations we tendered during our conversation destroyed your peace and made you angry.

  In the Sayings of the Desert Fathers it is written that when Abba Agatho was asked if he were proud, a fornicator, and a heretic, he answered that he confirmed the first two accusations, for it was profitable for his soul to do so, but not that he was a heretic, for that signifies separation from God.(1)

  According to you (and according to all the monasteries of Mount Athos as well, except for the Monastery of Esphigmenou, the Skete of Prophet Elias, and many zealot Fathers), we are deceived and are schismatics. You find it difficult to admit that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is preaching heresy, because you would be required to admit that your holding communion with these wolves and not shepherds is worthy of condemnation, or you would have to cease following them, according to the command of all the holy Fathers and Councils.

  You attempt to justify the Phanar, but their words and actions show you to be in error. In vain do you invoke the opinion of Father Paisios and of others who are indulgent with present conditions and make concessions, that is, they deal with it by “economy,” but when the time comes (supposedly when Demetrios shall enter into communion with the Pope, as you said), you will separate yourselves from whatever is not in concord with the teachings of the holy Fathers and Councils. You greatly deceive yourselves.

  As for the admonitions to which you refer—whether of Elder Paisos, or of your neighbor Papa-Isaac, or of anyone else—which maintain that Demetrios rightly divides the word of truth, how can you expect us to accept them as being pleasing to God when they are completely contrary to Orthodox teaching? Since the Truth is betrayed, should it not be called iniquity rather than economy, concession, accommodation, or indulgence? You maintain your stand because Elder Paisios said, “Demetrios is misled by the hierarchs around him to do that which he does not want,” and “If we stop commemorating [the Patriarch] we will be outside the Church!” and much more, to which can be applied the words of Saint John Chrysostom, “All their words are foolishness, and the tales of foolish children.” These words of theirs are the fruit of a new theology, which the Phanar used in the notorious Encyclical of 1920 by calling heretics “fellow heirs of the grace of God.”

  You bring forward the words of Saint John Chrysostom, “Not even the blood of martyrdom blots out schism,” and of Saint Ignatius the God-bearer, “Let nothing be enacted without the bishop.” You conclude that when we separate ourselves from our bishop, we are outside the Church.

  The Saints made these true pronouncements, however, in a time of Orthodoxy and Church serenity. Today, when the hurricane of the Ecumenist pan-heresy sweeps away even the elect, the words of the same Saints have force. “If your bishop be heretical, flee, flee, flee as from fire and a serpent” (Saint John Chrysostom). “If thy bishop should teach anything outside of the appointed order, even if he lives in chastity, or if he work signs, or if he prophesy, let him be unto thee as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, for he works the destruction of souls” (Saint Ignatius). If Demetrios rightly divided the word of truth, you would have been justified in your use of those quotations you took from the two Saints, but now you edit the Fathers’ writings to your taste, in order to justify your guilt for being a fellow-traveler of Demetrios, Parthenios of Alexandria, Iakovos of America, and Stylianos Harkianakis of Australia. Are all the many quotations from the holy Councils and Saints not enough for you? Or do you fear, perhaps, being cast out of the synagogue of the heretics? The fact that the other patriarchates hold communion with the Phanar is not really important. What is important is, who follows in the footsteps of the Saints and is with the truth? Parthenios, Patriarch of Alexandria, said that he recognizes Mohammed as an Apostle who worked for the Kingdom of God, and other such blasphemies which you know. There is no need for us to write again the heresies of Iakovos Koukouzis of America, and Stylianos Harkianakis of Australia. You are in communion with these men as though they supposedly rightly divided the word of truth! Who is going to condemn Iakovos Koukouzis? Parthenios? or the committee of Phanariotes under Bartholomew which has been “investigating” for two years now whether Harkianakis is a heretic?(2)Do you not understand that they do not want to pronounce a verdict?

  The Phanar promised the delegation of three abbots from Mount Athos that they would retract and correct Patriarch Demetrios’ statement to the United Press about receiving communion from the Latins, that they would replace Stylianos Harkianakis as president of the commission for theological dialogue, etc. Has anything been corrected to this day? Or do you believe that we have no responsibility, or guilt, and may remain in communion because Elder Paisios shamelessly says that the declarations and actions of Demetrios are not contrary to our doctrines and do not violate the truth?

  History repeats itself. Saint Theodore the Studite, Saint Maximus the Confessor, and many other Christians who did not follow the hierarchy which at sundry times preached heresy, were all called schismatics by that hierarchy. Although Saint Gerasimus of the Jordan was served by a lion and was a wonderworker, he was in error because he would not accept the Fourth Ecumenical Council, drawing along with him thousands of monks in Palestine, until he was corrected by Saint Euthymius the Great and repented.

  You could ask, “Could Elder Paisios and the seventy bishops of the State Church of Greece be in error?”

  Do you want God to force them to confess Him? At the Iconoclast Council of 754 in the reign of Copronymus, we read in the minutes that fearsome acclamation of the 338 bishops present at the council, “Long live the King! The icons are idols and should either be destroyed or hung high so that they might not be venerated.” Do you find it hard to believe that seventy bishops can be deceived today, when, as you see, so many were deceived then? Nowadays, monks desire to gain mitres, abbatial staves, while observing only a nominal confession of Faith—that is, protesting somewhat, but not stopping the commemoration of the Patriarch, and tolerating all the innovations to the Gospel introduced by Demetrios, Iakovos, Parthenios, and those like them. Saint Theodore the Studite, however, writes that the work of the monk is not to tolerate even the least innovation in the Gospel of Christ.

  At the concelebration in Rome, Demetrios did not receive the host from the Pope in order to avoid hostile reactions from “conservatives.” However, there in Rome, he did subscribe to the doctrine that the Latins possess the Mysteries of the Church, and he continues to do so. Is that not enough? When did the Saints and Christians of any century in which a heresy was widely preached ever react as do you, who continue to commemorate Demetrios? What precedent have you found in the history of the Church so you can say you are following it? If you are sons of the Saints (that is, imitators and followers of the Saints), “ye would have done the works of Abraham” as the Gospel says. In the time of Patriarch Beccus, the fathers of Mount Athos stopped commemorating him even though he had not been deposed by a Council; and because they remained steadfast in their adherence to the precepts of the Fathers (that is, had no communion with those who departed from the Orthodox Faith), Christ granted them the martyr’s crown. As for those who concelebrated with the commemorators of the Latin-minded “official” patriarch, Beccus, their corpses are found to this day, as is well-known, swollen, stinking, and undecomposed, to be an example to all.

  You told us that if Demetrios does not go to confession for the things he has done, he will be damned. You are now admitting that you are following a man who is damning himself by what he is doing. For him to be damning himself [and indeed, for matters pertaining to the Faith and not personal and private sins] means that he is doing the work of the devil. Consequently, you yourself admit that you have the devil as a fellow-traveler. Are you serious, Father Nicodemos, or are you jesting? If Athenagoras had “repented” and confessed his sin shortly before he died, then would he be saved?(3)Show me even one patristic witness which justifies remaining in a church that preaches heresy, as does that of the “meek and quiet Leader of Orthodoxy, Demetrios.” Would such an obedience to a hierarchy that does not rightly divide the word of truth sanctify us? If you do not wish to admit that the Monastery of Esphigmenou and so many zealot Fathers are worthy of honor—according to the Fifteenth Canon of the First-and-Second Council—at least be silent and do not blaspheme by saying that they are schismatics and outside the Church. You ignore the existence of the Testament of Saint Mark Eugenicus of Ephesus, who did not want the Latin-minded even to come to his funeral.

  First study and then make pronouncements. According to your way of thinking, Saint Mark of Ephesus, Saint Maximus the Confessor, and hosts of others who did not hold communion with heretics are outside the Church!

  Do you see where your “new theology” leads? Who would ever have thought that fathers of the Holy Mountain would have as their bible the book “The Two Extremes” by Father Epiphanios Theodoropoulos? You recommend making protests like those recommended on pages 19 and 22 of that book, protests over—according to Ecumenists—“sacred canons which are not applicable in our times because they are lacking in love.” He also describes Athenagoras as “having a demonic love.” Nevertheless, he remained in communion with those who have “a demonic love.” Marvellous consistency!

  We saw similar protests on the occasion when the representative of the Monastery of Grigoriou asked that it be recorded in the decisions of the Sacred Community that if the chief secretary were sent to Australia, he would not concelebrate there. The chief secretary finally did not go; but Father Basil, Abbot of Stavronikita, ignoring the decision of all the other monasteries, sent Father Tychon to “help” Archbishop Stylianos Harkianakis. When Father Tychon returned, he was sent to the festival of the Cell of Bourazeri. There the representative of the Monastery of Grigoriou (Father Athanasios) concelebrated with Father Tychon and the rest. No commentary is needed.

  Father Epiphanios Theodoropoulos was silenced when they refuted his errors some twenty years ago. But you, with the same untheological arguments, want to justify your communion with patriarchs who preach heresies “with bared head,” having a demonic love for heretics while persecuting the genuinely Orthodox, and so emulating Patriarch Beccus, the Emperor Copronymus, and all those like them. When you chant them many years and commemorate them, it is the same as if you said, “You are sound in the Faith, and obedience, honor, and commemoration are due to you.” You do not help them understand that they are walking upon an evil path; whereas if you had broken communion with them, mayhap they would have had pangs of conscience and would search for the truth. Your guilt for your reprehensible silence—which Saint Gregory Palamas calls a third kind of atheism—grows day by day, in spite of your so-called protests.

  When the Latin-minded were coming here during the patriarchate of Beccus to enforce the union with the Latins, our Lady, the Virgin Mother, the Guardian of the Holy Mountain Athos, spoke herself, saying, “The enemies of my Son and of me are coming.”

  Last year, when the successor of Beccus—Demetrios (the “Leader of Orthodoxy”!)—arrived, he found the Holy Mountain swathed in black from two weeks of continuous fires.(4)He that hath ears to hear, heareth the voice of the All-holy Mother of God.

  May you find the path of good disagreement, as Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain teaches in his Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Saint Paul, saying, “If he [the abbot or bishop] is evil in Faith, that is, he believes heretical and blasphemous doctrines, flee from him, though he be an angel from Heaven.”

Elder Sabbas,
An un-monastic, but Orthodox, monk

The ever-memorable Elder remained staunch in his good confession until his repose in October of 1991, despite the many efforts of the “new Holy Mountain Fathers”† to persuade him to come over to their views. His worthy disciple and heir, Father Alypios, remembering the Will and Testament of Saint Mark of Ephesus, and following his example, would not permit the commemorators to hold memorial services at the grave of the Elder.

 We pray that the example of the Elder Sabbas will find imitators.

 Editor’s Note: Translated from the periodical Saint Agathangelos of Esphigmenou, November—December, 1991 (in Greek).


† In 1965, the Ecumenical Patriarchate openly espoused the heresy of Ecumenism and broke the holy Canons by lifting the anathemas against the Roman Church. As a result of this action,  all of the monasteries of Mount Athos ceased to commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch. Eventually however, through fear and intimidation, all but three of the monasteries resumed the commemoration. The three abbots who refused to resume the commemoration were Archimandrite Athanasius of Esphigmenou, who was a man filled with gifts of the Holy Spirit and respected by all on Athos; the second was Archimandrite Andrew of the Monastery of Saint Paul, and the third was Archimandrite Evdokimos of Xenophontos Monastery. In the instance of Archimandrite Athanasius, the whole monastery, to the last man, stood behind him, and thus the enemies of the Faith were not able to remove him. To this day, only the Monastery of Esphigmenou  has not resumed the commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch, since, if anything, the espousal of the heresy of Ecumenism has progressively become much worse in that formerly glorious Church, which produced so many confessing and holy Saints. In the case of Archimandrites Andrew and Evdokimos, both were deposed and forcibly exiled from their monasteries.

All three holy confessors have since reposed, never having renounced their confession.


1. Sin and heresy, as the holy Fathers teach us, differ essentially: Sin is a transgression of God’s law, but heresy is an alteration of God’s law.

2. Editor’s Note: Harkianakis was accused of preaching heresy by Metropolitan Augustine of Florina and the Orthodox faithful from Australia.

3. Private confession suffices for the forgiveness of personal and private sins, but for public sins against the Faith, a public repentance and correction must also be made according to our Saviour’s words: “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father which is in Heaven.”

4. Editor’s Note: The fire lasted from the first of August to the fifteenth, that is, the whole of the fast of the Theotokos.


Brethren, I beseech you, mark them that cause divisions and scandals
contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they
that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by
fair words and flattering words deceive the hearts of the guileless.
           (Romans 16:17-18)


     What are these “divisions”? The 15th Canon of the first-second Council of Constantinople tells us:

    As for those persons, who, on account of some heresy condemned by holy Councils, or Fathers, withdraw themselves from communion with their president (who is preaching heresy publicly, and teaching it barehead in church), such persons not only are not subject to any canonical penalty on account of their having walled themselves off from any and all communion with the one called a bishop before any conciliar or synodal verdict has been rendered, but, on the contrary, they shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honor which befits them among Orthodox Christians. For they have defied, not bishops, but false bishops and false teachers; and they have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions.

    There can be a senseless and evil division in the Church, but there can also be a good division, i.e., when that separation is from heresy. The Church teaches us that it is the heresiarchs that have already caused division through their separation from the Truth. But what are we to say when “spiritual” men do not separate themselves from a bishop that preaches heresy? How can this be?

    Satan wars against all men and seeks their destruction. The more illustrious the man, the greater is Satan’s accomplishment when he brings about his fall. If a seemingly righteous man falls into a personal sin, that sin affects him alone, and perhaps a few others; but if a righteous man falls into heresy, all that follow him are separated from Truth and grace. For the student of Church History there are many examples by which we learn this. One example of a righteous ascetic who was ensnared by the passion of ambition and became a heretic and later repented of his heresy through the prayers and admonition of a saint is found in the Life of Saint Joannicius the Great, whose feast we celebrate on the 4th of November:

    When heresy still prevailed and one disturbance after another harassed those who venerated Christ’s image because of the Emperor Theophilus, the majority of the bishops and abbots fled the heretical plague. Abandoning their sees, they were greatly distressed, wandering about the mountains like strangers and paupers. So it happened that Eustratius, the shepherd of the Monastery of Agaurinus, left his post and moved about from place to place for the sake of Christ, and the champions of the heresy of iconoclasm entrusted the presidency and abbacy of that monastery to a certain Anthony from the same monastery, who had consented with the heretics. Although Saint Joannicius had often instructed and warned the aforementioned Anthony and had even thrice rebuked him, he did not desist from this accursed heresy. Finally, the Saint went up a fourth time to censure him, exhorting him again and declaring the right way to him.   The Saint said, “Although I have helped you several times as much as I was able by putting forth my hand and disputing with you, Anthony, you have resisted the truth. I know that your end has drawn near and that a period of forty days remains to you to pass through a difficult trial; however, if you bear this salutary chastisement with joy, you shall be saved.” Then convinced by the Saint’s words and renouncing his heresy, Abbot Anthony replied, “By your prayers, venerable father, I will endure it,” and soon after he was suddenly struck with great pain in half of his body, and was lifted up as if dead by those who found him. After the fortieth day he reposed in peace.—Life of St. Joannicius the Great, Chapter 36

    In our days, the days of false prophets and false teachers, World “Orthodoxy” has a multitude of “spiritual” people who know how to say beautiful and true things about the life of prayer and spiritual struggle; but when anyone asks them about matters pertaining to the Faith, they say that such things adversely affect the spiritual life and Christians ought not to be occupied with them….Since these people do not struggle for the Faith, they do not offend anyone, and they are on good terms with everyone. The majority say good things about them, and even call them saints. Nevertheless they work great evil upon innocent and well-disposed souls by convincing them to close their eyes and to unquestioningly follow the Ecumenistic Patriarchs and Churches. They are the most effective allies of Ecumenism. This terrible heresy could never take root without them, because they disarm precisely those who could be the most vital combatants for Orthodoxy. This is what Saint Isidore of Pelusium says about them:

    “Just as fishermen hide the hook with bait and covertly hook the fish, similarly, the crafty allies of heresy cover their evil teachings and corrupt understanding with pietism and hook the more simple, bringing them to spiritual death.” 

(Cf. The Touchstone, by A. Kalomiros)

    Those who follow the teachings of spiritual fathers who belong to and defend ecumenistic jurisdictions do so at great peril to their souls. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.