Acrivia, Archbishop Chrysostomos, Baptism, Baptismal Names, Bishop Auxentios of Etna and Portland, Cobleskill New York, CTOS, Economia, Economy, Ecumenism, Etna California, Form of Baptism, Genuine Orthodoxy, Great Council of 2016, Metropolitan Demetrios of America, Monastery of St. Gregory Palamas, Monastery of St. John the Wonderworker, Reception of Converts, Reception of Heretics, Theophany, World Orthodoxy
Common Misunderstandings on the Reception of Converts
A Reply to Father John Morris
by Archbishop Chrysostomos and Bishop Auxentios
Dear Father John [Abraham]:
As you know, I do not consider it appropriate for Bishops to engage in the kinds of exchanges that occur on the various Orthodox computer forums. Nor do I have time to do such an unfruitful thing. However, from time to time I have posted a few comments, when requested by others to do so, and this especially in instances where I have felt that clarification might prove helpful. Since you asked me to comment on Father John Morris’ posting in response to comments […] which, though from another individual, are essentially those which I and others have expressed in the pages of “Orthodox Tradition,” I will do so. I have no interest in debating anyone, and certainly will not engage in any exchange whatsoever (something that I do not think that Hierarchs should do in an informal and often impolite forum); however, I will clarify some of the issues which Father John raises. You may post my words, if you like, or simply consider them personal. The choice is yours.
I will intersperse my remarks (preceded by the initials “A.C.” and terminating with the word “END”) with the posting that you sent me, which contains both Father John’s responses (F.J.) and the comments which provoked them.
> The canonical standard does not require that ALL heretics are baptized. It
> does require that heretics NOT baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity
> with triple immersion are (re-)baptised.
F.J.: Although triple immersion is most certainly the norm in the Orthodox Church, it is not an absolute requirement for baptism. The Church has long recognized baptism administered without immersion in cases of emergency. Once again, whatever was lacking in the non Orthodox baptism, including triple immersion, is provided by entrance into the Church and the Sacrament of Chrismation.
A.C.: Triple immersion in the name of the Trinity is, of course, an absolute requirement for Baptism in the Orthodox Church. Emergency Baptisms are precisely that: acts of emergency. They do not suggest that the established Apostolic form of threefold immersion in water, and in the name of the Holy Trinity, is not the indispensable form of Baptism found in Scripture, the Holy Canons, and the Patristic consensus. In fact, though there is a diversity of opinion on the subject, the prevailing canonical “norm” for the treatment of those Baptized in an emergency situation is that, if the candidate lives, the proper ritual should be performed by a Priest. Moreover, a male so Baptized is, according to one canonical tradition, not eligible for Ordination (see, for example, the 47th Canon of Laodicea, among others). We see, here, how strict the standard actually is. When, in 1932, these issues were discussed in a synodal forum by the Church of Greece, it became immediately apparent that they were complex and not easily understood from a canonical or historical perspective. This should serve as a warning against employing the exceptional case of emergency Baptisms, as Father John does, in arguing against the exactitude of Baptism by threefold immersion in the name of the Trinity.
Father John has also adopted the nomenclature of other writers on this subject, such as Professor John Erickson, which leads to misunderstanding. The issue is not one simply of absolute requirements or conditions, as we normally understand these words, versus diversity, but of exactitude as opposed to oikonomia (economy). I will discuss this matter at greater length below, but I mention it here to bring us back to an Orthodox paradigm in discussing these questions: a paradigm in which the question is not one of varied practice, but of a “canon” (used in the classical Greek sense of the word, meaning an “exact standard”) from which, by condescension, the Church allows, in the presence of compelling reason, some deviation, if you will.
Let me also point out that the Mystery of Baptism is not simply a matter of entry into the Church and Chrismation something like confirmation in the Latin Church. Orthodox theologians, under Western influence, have begun to think in such categories, but they fail to capture the ethos of the Church and the witness of the Fathers. Baptism is illumination, a spiritual and physical means by which Grace is internalized in the individual and by which the spiritual faculty is enlightened (hence, the term “photismos” is used to describe this primary Mystery both in ancient and fairly contemporary texts). Baptism entails a return to a certain balance between the elements of the human person, wherein Grace works fully effectually and therapeutically. Chrismation is the seal placed upon this mystery of regeneration, and when it is used in cases of “economy,” it does not function mechanically or serve as some symbolic ritual; rather, it also imparts the Grace which it is meant to seal.
F.J.: It is wrong to argue that the use of economy has not become the normal practice when receiving converts into the Church. In 1888 the Patriarchate of Constantinople revoked the “Oros” of 1755 and decreed that economy should be used when receiving converts. In 1903, the Church of Greece issued a similar decree. In the United States, virtually all canonical Orthodox receive converts who have been baptized through Chrismation as provided for in the Ecumenical Guidelines of SCOBA, the Priest’s Guide of the Antiochian Archdiocese, the Priest’s Handbook of the Greek Archdiocese and the services of the OCA.
A.C.: Father John has simply not done his reading, here. Nor is his thinking correct. It is absolutely wrong to argue against the standard of Christian practice, which is Baptism by threefold immersion in the name of the Trinity. Declaring the standard to be null since it is not “normal practice” today is, once more, to confuse the issue by incorrect terminology. There have been many times in which the Church, acting out of “economy,” has departed from the standard; that is, it has set aside the practice of Baptism and has received converts through Chrismation. Whether this was done in the past, is done now, or was done more times than it was not—such things are neither here nor there. Just as truth is not a matter of the majority view (“One man with the truth constitutes a majority,” St. Maximos the Confessor tells us), so correct practice is not defined by the number of times that exactitude is not followed. Nor does the Church’s condescension serve as a model; in Orthodoxy, we are always called to the standard, not to the exception.
History being less than ideal, the Church has not always been able to adhere to exactitude in carrying out its salvific mission. Thus, human imperfection and historical circumstance have often dictated changes in policy with regard to “economy,” and these always with an eye towards the pastoral responsibilities of the Church. Hence, Father John argues against himself when he uses, as an example of the standard practice of the Church, the exceptional decisions by Constantinople and the Church of Greece which he cites above. Historical circumstance is not binding, but is in all cases a mitigating factor. It should never be called the “standard,” at least in the context of the Orthodox paradigm which I set forth above. Moreover, his citations are misleading, as we shall see below.
F.J.: There are numerous examples of converts such as St. Elizabeth and her sister Tsarina Alexandra, Fr. Seraphim Rose, Bishop Kallistos Ware and others who were received through Chrismation.
A.C.: This anecdotal evidence is of little significance. St. Elizabeth and St. Alexandra were received into Orthodoxy at a time when the ecumenism of our age was unknown. Moreover, if we read their letters and diaries, they converted by a conscious rejection of their former confessions, not to mention a formal rejection of the same. Father Seraphim Rose, as I can demonstrate from personal correspondence, always regretted his reception into Orthodoxy by Chrismation, for which reason he unfailingly Baptized converts from Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, and this not a few in number. At the time of his acceptance, once again, there was no confusion in the Orthodox world about the nature of reception by “economy,” as there is today, and, while I cannot speak for Bishop Kallistos (Ware), the historical record and Father Seraphim’s very open statements on the matter leave no doubt that these other individuals were fully aware that the “acceptance” of their heterodox baptisms was not a recognition (this word and the word “acceptance” are often abused by ecumenists in a way that they should not be, incidentally) of Grace outside Orthodoxy (the real issue at hand, as we shall see below), but the filling of an empty, ineffectual ritual through the condescension of the Church.
And it speaks for itself that, when not exercised by a Saint (his spiritual Father) and when undertaken in an atmosphere in which the exception becomes the standard, Father Seraphim did not favor the exercise of economy in receiving converts into Orthodoxy. This is an important point and his witness should not be misrepresented. Even I, who am very conservative on this matter, have Priests who were received into Orthodoxy by Chrismation (as was my own grandmother). This does not mean that I support unfounded statements to the effect that this is the standard of the Church or that, in these times of ecumenical insanity and when “economy” is used to demonstrate that the Orthodox Church recognizes, along with her Mysteries, the empty sacraments of the heterodox, one is justified in making the exception the standard.
>Anyone converting to Orthodoxy is baptized, with rare exceptions. This is
>because there is no baptism outside of the church, so the term “baptized
>again” is misleading.
F.J.: This statement is historically incorrect. Requiring a Catholic or Protestant to be baptized when they convert to Orthodoxy is the exception.
The normal practice through the centuries has been to receive converts who were baptized “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” by profession of faith and Chrismation. This practices has been mandated by Pan Orthodox Councils in Constantinople in 1484, Moscow in 1667 and Jerusalem in 1672, as well as decrees of the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1888 and the Church of Greece in 1903.
A.C.: In the Pedalion, St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite observes that the local Council of Constantinople, convened in 1484, condemned the Latins as heretics and decided to receive Latin converts by Chrismation, but only on their written rejection of the heresy of the Latins. This he says was to avoid further difficulties with the Latins, following the failed union council in Florence. We should also note that the Latins were not at the time 950 years into heresy and separation from Orthodoxy, as they are now.
In the 1620-1621 Synod of Moscow, the Church of Russia decided to receive converts by Baptism only. In 1667, the Great Synod of Moscow reversed this decision and decided to receive converts by Chrismation.
As early as the seventeenth century (1670s), Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem, in his Dodekabiblos, argues that Latins coming to Orthodoxy should be Baptized. (Needless to say, this applied to Protestants, as well.) He even called the practice of baptism by aspersion “a mortal sin.” This rule was subsequently relaxed to allow for “economy.”
In 1718, Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople also supported the use of economy in the Russian Church because of certain political realities and because of the difficult situation presented by incipient Uniatism.
The Oros of the Great Church in 1755, which called for the Baptism of the heterodox and which was co-signed by Alexandria and Jerusalem and later endorsed by Antioch, remains in effect to this day. It was NOT officially withdrawn, as Father John claims, in 1888, when Constantinople adopted a policy of accepting converts by Chrismation in some circumstances.
As for the 1903 directive of the Church of Greece, it applied only to its clergy in diaspora. In fact, it was not until 1932 that the Church of Greece even published a service for the reception of Latins by “economy,” and this after a synodal forum which (supra) addressed the entire issue of the heterodox in an ambiguous manner and under the sway of an Archbishop who had moved from a rather traditional stance to that of a committed ecumenist. To this day, both in Greece and on Mt. Athos (which is, as we know, directly under the jurisdiction of Constantinople), the common form of receiving converts into Orthodoxy is through Baptism.
A thorough reading and study of the policies of the various Orthodox Churches regarding the reception of both Latin and Protestant converts leads a prudent reader away from the sweeping and inaccurate generalization which Father John offers. First, we are not dealing with mere policies, but with the realities of history and pastoral demands. Dealing with Uniates in Russia, some of whom were Baptized by Orthodox Priests and some of whom were for generations part of the Latin Church (Uniatism), involves condescension of one kind. The unique years of Orthodox immigration present condescension of another kind. But in no manner whatsoever can one argue that these circumstances set a new “standard.” How could this be possible, given the apparently contradictory outline of “policies” that I have presented only in brief above? Is the Orthodox Church incapable of a consistent policy? Again, the matter is not one of policy, but of pastoral condescension to the needs of the People of God. The standard of threefold immersion in the name of the Holy Trinity remains; only human weakness and the trials of history change.
F.J.: This was also the practice of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile until fairly recently. For example, Fr. Seraphim Rose was received by Chrismation with the blessing of St. John of San Francisco, because he was baptized by a Protestant minister in his youth.
The Church is the guardian of the Sacraments and has the power to validate that which is invalid or complete that which is incomplete. Therefore, the reception of a convert by Chrismation is not to be interpreted as a recognition of Sacraments administered outside of the Orthodox Church.
A.C.: The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has for many decades received converts both by Chrismation and by Baptism. So have many moderate Old Calendarists, incidentally. The Church is, indeed, the Guardian of Her Mysteries . She does not “validate” or “invalidate” that which is outside the Church; this is Her role from within. Rather, she endows by “economy,” if She so wishes, the empty sacraments of the heterodox with the Grace of Her Mysteries, as we noted above, doing so as She wills and where She wills, but acting in condescension in such a way as to uphold, at all times, the standards of our Faith. And so, both St. John (who also Baptized many converts) and Father Seraphim would NEVER have accepted the statement that the “norm” for receiving converts into Orthodoxy is Chrismation. This is not a wise statement.
As for the guidelines of the so-called “canonical” Orthodox Churches, which are so compromised by ecumenism, we will simply pass over them without comment. SCOBA guidelines fit into the same category. These are the same “official” Churches which would argue that Father Seraphim, St. John, and I (since our Ordinations derive from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad), are uncanonical schismatics. One wonders about the sobriety or spiritual stature of such officialdom.
In the end, the issue here is not “economy,” but the desire by many ecumenists to exploit the pastoral dimensions of Orthodoxy in the service of their religious syncretism. In a recent article in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Professor John Erickson argues openly that we Orthodox accept the baptisms of the heterodox. Having redefined “economy” in such a way as to dismiss its traditional definition, he has created a new theology of openness. Like Bishop Maximos of Pittsburgh, he misuses St. Basil’s famous First Canon (avoiding the Saint’s own interpretation of the matters contained therein) so as to make of Orthodoxy a religion which is all-inclusive—subtly suggesting that we traditionalists consider it “exclusive.” By twisting the teachings of the Fathers, separating the Canons from spiritual life, ignoring the Patristic consensus, and redefining issues in a language that is unknown to the Church (the antipodes of “inclusive” and “exclusive,” for example, are a set-up for those who properly argue for Orthodox primacy), they have made of Orthodoxy something that it is not. To paraphrase a well-known Serbian theologian, “They are creating within the confines of Orthodoxy a religion which lacks its content.” Hence, the exception becomes the standard, if simply because we have redefined the meaning of exactitude in the Orthodox Faith.
To exercise proper “economy” is not to argue for historical precedent or from the statistical mean or median. Exactitude expresses the consensus of the Church, which is not an intellectual belief, but a manifestation in word and directive of the ineffable: revelation “operationalized.” Those who apply this standard attempt, in all ways, to achieve perfection and to adhere to what is exact. They are guided in such attempts by spiritual discretion (pneumatike diakrisis), not by the preoccupations of a given age (“inclusiveness,” “communion ecclesiology,” “shared love”), inspired by an inner knowledge of the spiritual state and condition of those entrusted to them. Acting together, such spiritual individuals always reflect the consensus of the Church, since they exist, through Apostolic Succession, forever in the unity of Apostolic Truth. In one case, they apply the exact standard. In another, they apply “economy.” They are guided not by a mere intellectual grasp of the Canons, but by a communion with the wholeness of Apostolic Tradition. Thus, what St. John of San Francisco did by “economy” is valid; what an ecumenist does in the name of “economy” to further his ecumenistic agenda—this is not only wrong, but it does violence to the spiritual Truth of Orthodoxy. Like it or not, this is the real issue. And no spiritual Father who truly communes with the Church—even if the “official Churches” should (ironically) render him a “legalistic fanatic” or a heretic or schismatic—would ever call the “economy” of the reception of converts by Chrismation into the Orthodox Church its “standard.” To do so would be to cut himself off from the subtle golden chain of Holy Tradition that links contradiction to contradiction in perfect harmony through the spirit of pastoral love. It would also separate contemporary Orthodoxy from its roots in Scripture and the Early Church.
I strongly suspect that, since so many converts in America have been received by Chrismation, it is THEY who have much to prove in the argument over “economy.” Applied for good reason by a spiritually sober clergyman in rare instances, I see nothing wrong with “economy.” But we have now come to the point that converts want Baptism to be the exception and find everything wrong with applying this standard of canonical exactitude. This is because, in the artificial Orthodoxy of the SCOBA and the “mainstream,” there are many who feel the spiritual consequences of the abuse of “economy.” They see the minimalism in their spiritual lives; they recognize what is missing; and they react, not with humility (in which case they would be covered), but with fury. Orthodoxy needs men and women who, if they have not been properly received, either accept this and trust in the Church or—as in those cases where they really thought that they were changing “rites” and were unaware that Chrismation entails Baptism into Orthodoxy, when properly applied—seek to correct their Baptisms (something which is done, albeit secretly, on Mt. Athos and in many of the more traditional “official” Churches). I am not offering this advice offhandedly. As “peasants in church attire” and “the trash of the streets,” to quote the words of the Constantinopolitan ecumenists about us Greek Old Calendarists (or “Calendarists,” as I see us called in the queer lexicon of some), I often tell people, when they ask what I am, that I belong to what is considered a “sect” of the Greek Orthodox Church. I do not, of course. I am a True Orthodox Christian. But a man who knows himself can afford the doubt of others. And when I am asked about my position, I am never silent. I point out in what way I am correct. A man who lives in improper innovation, however, doubts himself. And hence all of the hatred for us traditionalists on the part of the ecumenists.
These latter comments, which may seem gratuitous, are not. They get to the heart of this matter. Since I know Father John to be a sincere and dedicated clergyman, I must emphasize that these observations are not addressed to him. They are, as I have indicated, consequential to the issues that he raised. However, his approach to these issues, however unwittingly, is shaped by the thinking of Orthodox ecumenists, as is the thinking of many. These ecumenists are not adequately facile in the Fathers, in Orthodox spiritual life, and in the language of the Church, even if they hold forth as theologians and academics in institutions that their public relations czars have made more than they actually are. Their thinking and nomenclature should be avoided by all of us, traditionalists and “official” Orthodox alike, since they lead to misunderstanding and the folly of ecumenism. And since we traditionalists are no longer allowed to publish in the journals and periodicals that these ecumenical “experts” publish, let alone sit with them in public dialogue, there is little to check this danger.
Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna
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Further Comments by Bishop Auxentios
F.J. quotes the Archbishop: “In the Pedalion, St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite observes that the local Council of Constantinople, convened in 1484, condemned the Latins as heretics and decided to receive Latin converts by Chrismation, but only on their written rejection of the heresy of the Latins. This he says was to avoid further difficulties with the Latins, following the failed union council in Florence. We should also note that the Latins were not at the time 950 years into heresy and separation from Orthodoxy, as they are now.”
F.J. responds: “I fail to understand what difference how long Rome has been separated from Orthodoxy makes. Is a modern Roman Catholic less separated from Orthodoxy than a Roman Catholic was in 1484? The answer is that they are not. One is either in the Church or one is outside of the Church, how long they have been outside of the Church is irrelevant.”
Comment. If one reads with care such pertinent documents as St. Basil’s First Canon, St. Nikodemos’ complex commentary thereon, and the acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod, in particular, we see quite clearly that heresy does involve a temporal element. A single generation of heresy takes a lesser spiritual toll than longer periods of heresy. Moreover, Churches may fall “ill” from the influence of heresy (as did Rome long before the Schism) and yet not find themselves deprived of Grace, according to St. John Chrysostomos. When illness passes to morbidity, the process of separation becomes final. The question is not simply one of being “in” or “out” of the Church (such a thing is decided not by decrees and administrative decisions, but in the spiritual realm—after all, Grace did not cease in the Latin Church on a certain day in 1054), but involves the gradual loss of Grace and its therapeutic efficacy over time. This is not to say that the gravity of heresy is not an issue, but even here one can persuasively argue, as the Blessed Justin Popovich does, that the heresy of the Latins has indeed become more pronounced over time: the effects of spiritual disease—heresy—intensify as time passes. Hence, there were Latin Christians, even long after the Great Schism and even through the union councils, who were still Baptized in the Orthodox manner. That is not something that can be argued today, except in the most isolated of instances. Likewise, Papal infallibility is a dogma today. It was not in the fifteenth century. One can go on.
Archbishop Chrysostomos observes: “As early as the seventeenth century (1670s), Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem, in his Dodekabiblos, argues that Latins coming to Orthodoxy should be Baptized. (Needless to say, this applied to Protestants, as well.)”
F.J. responds: “I do not know what reference you are making to Patriarch Dositheos. However, his Confession, which was approved by the Council of Jerusalem (or Bethlehem) in 1672 states: ‘Moreover, we reject as something abominable and pernicious the notion that when faith is weak the integrity of the Mystery is impaired. For heretics who abjure their heresy and join the Catholic Church are received by the Church; although they received their valid Baptism with weakness of faith. Wherefore, when they afterwards become possessed of perfect faith, they are not again baptized.”
Comment: Father John is addressing a different issue here than the one at hand. The well-known comments of the Patriarch on the Baptism of the Latins, a specific instance of heresy, is found in the work cited by His Eminence and is quite clear in its position: “Those who are without good cause Baptized without three emersions and immersions risk being unbaptized. Therefore, Latins who perform baptism by aspersion commit mortal sin” (Dodekabiblos in The Writings of the Presbyter Constantine the Economos, Vol. I, p. 93 (Athens, 1862).
Archbishop Chrysostomos observes: “In 1718, Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople also supported the use of economy in the Russian Church because of certain political realities and because of the difficult situation presented by incipient Uniatism.”
F.J. responds: “The point is that it was approved for whatever reason. That means that it is legitimate to use economy when receiving converts.”
Comment: The argument is not whether economy can be used in receiving converts. We are concerned with how the exception (economy and Chrismation) became the assumed or would-be standard, as it has today.
Archbishop Chrysostomos observes: “The Oros of the Great Church in 1755, which called for the Baptism of the heterodox and which was co-signed by Alexandria and Jerusalem and later endorsed by Antioch, remains in effect to this day. It was NOT officially withdrawn, as Father John claims, in 1888, when Constantinople adopted a policy of accepting converts by Chrismation in some circumstances.”
F.J. responds: “The decree of 1888 stated that economy would be the norm. To me that is a withdrawal of the Oros of 1755. Actually, there is every reason to question the legitimacy of the Oros of 1755. It was issued without the approval of the Holy Synod of Constantinople. It also revoked a decision of a Pan-Orthodox Council. One might well question whether or not a Patriarch on his own authority has the right to issue decrees that lack the approval of his Holy Synod and which overrule the decisions of Pan-Orthodox Councils. Patriarch Sylvester of Antioch refused to sign the Oros of 1755 precisely because it lacked the approval of the Holy Synod of Constantinople. Patriarch Sylvester can hardly be accused of a pro-Roman bias since he was himself involved in a bitter struggle against the pro-Roman party in his own Patriarchate which formed the Melkite Church. In any case the decree of 1888 makes the Oros of 1755 of mere historical interest. Fr. Georges Florovsky called the Oros of 1755, “a private ‘theological opinion,’ very late and very controversial, having arisen in a period of theological confusion and decadence in a hasty endeavor to disassociate oneself from Roman theology as sharply as possible.’”
Comment: Father John follows, here, the rather uneven scholarship of Bishop Kallistos (Ware), whose treatment of these matters, as well as the works of the so-called post-Byzantine writers, contained primarily in the book Eustratios Argenti, shows an inchoate approach to not a few Church issues. There is, in fact, no reason to question the validity of the decree of 1755, since this Oros was issued in response to the condemnation, earlier, by Patriarch Cyril’s Metropolitans of the anti-Latin treatise of Christopher the Aitolian (which has, at times, been wrongly attributed to Argenti). The Patriarch’s opponents (who were anti-Papist themselves), were, according to Father Metallinos, seeking to avoid antagonizing the Latins, for which reason the Patriarch dissolved the Synod. Cyril’s decree and his bold actions, however, were vindicated, subsequently, by the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, who signed the Oros, and which would have been signed by Sylvester of Antioch, too, according to Runciman, were it not for the fact that he was traveling in Russia; and this, again, because he was opposed to the schism caused by the Latin-minded in his own Church. Indeed, one might say that it was the Oros of 1755 which was Pan-Orthodox in nature, not the Council of 1484, the policy of which Cyril’s decree reversed. (And once more, we must remember that we are not talking exclusively of Chrismation versus Baptism, but of official guidelines for practices that were quite diverse.) The conclusion that Metallinos rightly draws here, in our opinion, is that 1484 was not normative, for which reason prevailing practice dictated Cyril’s directive, which was enormously popular among the Faithful and clergy. It reflected the conscience of the Church.
As for the simple decrees of 1888 and 1903, as His Eminence pointed out, Father John makes of them things that they simply are not.
Patriarch Cyril, it can be argued, in fact, expresses the Patristic and Hesychastic traditions of the Church in his understanding of its standard with regard to the reception of converts from heterodoxy. St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, the Kollyvades Fathers, and Athanasios Parios, the famous ecclesiastical writer, see the Patriarch’s decree as wholly consistent with the universal teachings of the Church. Research regarding Cyril’s ties to the most sober spiritual leaders of the time—the true measure of catholicity—is wanting, but certainly he stands in circles of great repute and in the tradition of Argenti.
While I am wholly unfamiliar with the particular quotation from Father Florovsky used by Father John , it is not unlike Father Georges to comment, and especially in his earlier writings, with unease about attitudes and decrees that challenged his own ecumenical leanings. Two things can be said. In this instance, Father Florovsky expresses an opinion which is at odds with that of Church Fathers and certainly at odds with his later views. Father John would be interested to know that I was received by Baptism into the Orthodox Church with Father George’s blessing. This speaks rather decisively to the fact that Baptism, as he held, is an expression of the canonical exactitude by which converts are received into Orthodoxy, even if Chrismation is an option “kat’oikonomia.”
Archbishop Chrysostomos states: “As for the guidelines of the so-called ‘canonical’ Orthodox Churches, which are so compromised by ecumenism, we will simply pass over them without comment. SCOBA guidelines fit into the same category.”
F.J. responds: “The decisions of the canonical Orthodox Church do matter, for canonicity matters. The issue is neither the validity of non-Orthodox Sacraments nor is it ecumenism. The issue is how does the Church receive converts. Even Archbishop Chrysostomos is forced to admit that it is perfectly legitimate for a bishop to decide to receive a convert by Chrismation as an ace to economy.”
Comment: Churches are not “canonical.” This is a wholly Latin notion. Father Schmemann wrote an excellent essay on this subject some years ago which everyone should read. Churches are either Orthodox or not, and this by virtue of Apostolic Succession, the manifest action of Grace (whether they produce Saints and evidence the therapeutic Grace of our Faith), and follow the Canons. The issue is precisely the validity of non-Orthodox sacraments, as His Eminence pointed out, since the reception of converts by economy is being openly misrepresented by ecumenists as proof that the Orthodox Church recognizes Grace among the heterodox. And this is, of course, an issue pertinent to ecumenism. Once more, to paraphrase him, economy exercised by right-believing Bishops for correct reasons is valid. All else is suspect. As Father Metallinos says, “Only the actions of the truly Orthodox, that is, of those Saints who have beheld God, constitute an expression of Orthodoxy’s knowledge of itself.” Canonicity is not the issue; spiritual discretion and spiritual transformation are.
Archbishop Chrysostomos writes: “To do so [i.e., to argue that Baptism is NOT the standard method of receiving converts into Orthodoxy—B.A.] would be to cut himself off from the subtle golden chain of Holy Tradition that links contradiction to contradiction in perfect harmony through the spirit of pastoral love. It would also separate contemporary Orthodoxy from its roots in Scripture and the Early Church.”
F.J. responds: “What the Church does in Holy Tradition not the theories of theologians. In Pan-Orthodox Councils in Constantinople in 1848, Moscow in 1667 and Jerusalem in 1672 as well as decrees by Constantinople in 1888, the Church of Greece in 1903, and SCOBA, responsible Orthodox authorities have decided that economy should be used when receiving converts.
Comment: The consensus of the Church as it is derived from the whole of Church history and the synodal witness determines what is authoritative. And this authority is expressed in the witness of the Holy Fathers, which is the Holy Tradition of the Church and which begets that which makes a decree viable. This is not determined by simply citing the synods which agree with what we or SCOBA handbooks decide to consider binding and “normative,” while ignoring or dismissing all else. We must seek that continuity which holds together various sources. There have always been opposing views in the Church. However, there also exists a consensus, once more, that is drawn from the perfect standard of the Church (exactitude—in this case the reception of converts by Baptism) and which transcends the apparent vicissitudes of pastoral economy.
F.J. observes: “Thus Archbishop Chrysostomos’ arguments are really without foundation. Indeed, if one reads his statements carefully, he confirms my conclusions.”
Comment: This is perhaps an incautious statement. His Eminence’s observations express the Patristic witness. To be sure, both Father John and the Archbishop affirm together that there are no Mysteries outside Orthodoxy—making them both anti-ecumenical, in effect—and that the exercise of economy in no way suggests that there are. But in reality, the Archbishop addressed something far beyond what Father John sees; that is, he directed himself towards instances of the abuse of economy in the very name of ecumenism. I think that the Archbishop has pointed out, too, that the synodal record is not a simple one and that it must, once more, submit to the pronouncements of prophecy over the parameters of the mere judicial.
Thank you, Father John, for your comments on this matter. I will leave it where it is. We could go on arguing over history and opposing assessments and sources forever. Each to his own is the spirit of our age, in which spiritual primacy seems to be lost on artificial notions of the same, and so we must submit.
Your Humble Servant,
+ Bishop Auxentios
+ + +
“As recently as 1933 the Holy Synod of Antioch laid down that all converts to Orthodoxy received by clergy in its jurisdiction should be baptized, save in cases where a dispensation had been granted. Thus while the application of economy is not excluded by this decision, it is not envisaged as a normal practice.” [Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under Turkish Rule, by Timothy [Bishop Kallistos] Ware (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), 106-107.]