Holy Orthodox Church
Every private confession of Faith becomes unnecessary when one confesses that one belongs to the Orthodox Church - the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, simply because the fullness of the Truth resides in the Church. Furthermore, since the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be apprehended by the intellect, words can only serve as approximations to Divine Realities. Word proliferations, more often than not, tend to distort or cause deviation in the matters of the Faith.
Since the devil strives to counterfeit the Church’s Faith, through various currents of human thought (personal interpretations, rationalism, etc.) the Faith of the Orthodox Church is written here, insofar as it can be written, in order to preclude and exclude distortion.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I pray to ask of God to protect me from going astray. I ask that He keep me from distorting the Divine Truths through my speech (which has but relative value) since I am not proficient in speaking correctly concerning the things of God. In this solemn profession of faith, God is my witness that I do not wish to display my knowledge, nor do I seek to define things which by their very nature defy definition. I strive to keep myself from error and delusion by denouncing teachings which are false.
I will demonstrate the purity of my intentions to the priest, who will baptize me so that my choice, made in the midst of a chaotic world, is free and conscious. The testing will take place in order to prevent my becoming a victim of self-exaltation, illusion, emotions, or all of these, which can lead one astray, and that I am not a victim of my reasoning powers which are enfeebled because of sin.
I recognize and believe that it is God Who has deemed me worthy, in a way that I do not understand, to perceive the way that leads to eternal life by granting me a foretaste of His grace - the “grace before grace” conferred by Holy Baptism. Although I do not merit the gift of His grace, He has given it to me for reasons unknown to me. It is God who has stirred up the ardent desire and wish in my heart to take the path leading toward union with His glorious Body, uniting me through Baptism and Holy Communion to His true Church - the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church.
I renounce the entirety of my past life and acknowledge that I have never accomplished anything good on earth. I prostrate myself before my God Who has created heaven and earth, “Who discerns defects even among His angels,” and before Whom “the heavens themselves are not pure.” I do not raise my hands to a strange god, but, following the example of the Three Youths in the fiery furnace of Chaldea, I raise my hands to the “God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob,” the God of all the righteous - the patriarchs, kings, prophets, apostles, saints and of the “spirits of the righteous perfected in the Faith.”
Confessing Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, I seek to be deemed worthy of becoming a child of all these saints. I seek to inherit the promises which they received, so that I, along with them, may boldly dare to call the God of heaven “my Father” and the “God of my fathers” without incurring condemnation.
1. Concerning God the Father
I believe in God the Father Who is unoriginate, indescribable, incomprehensible, ineffable, incommensurable; Who transcends every created essence; Who alone knows His own nature; Who is identical in essence only to Himself, His Son and the Holy Spirit, and upon Whom even the Seraphim dare not gaze.
I believe and confess that God the Father never assumed the likeness of any material form, nor did He become incarnate. As our Holy Fathers bear witness, it was not God the Father Who appeared in the Old Testament theophanies but Our Saviour, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (the Logos, the Angel of the Lord, the Lord God of Sabaoth, the Ancient of Days) as He revealed Himself to the prophets and seers of the Old Covenant (see Jn. 12:41 and Acts 10:43). Similarly, God the Father never appeared in the New Testament, but bore witness to His Son on several occasions solely by a voice heard from heaven. St. John the Theologian verified this when he said: “No man hath seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” and our Savior did likewise, saying: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He Who is of God, He hath seen the Father.” St. John of Damascus, as do all the Holy Fathers, writes concerning why we do not depict God the Father: “But furthermore, who can make a similtude of the invisible, incorporeal (bodiless), uncircumscribed, and undepictable God? It is, then, uttermost insanity and impiety to give a form to the Godhead” (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4:16). In addition, the 4th, 5th, and 6th Acts, of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, state that the Holy Trinity cannot be portrayed iconographically since He is without form and invisible. God the Father is therefore not depicted in the holy icons.
I believe that He is the cause as well as the end purpose of all things. All visible and invisible creatures have their beginning from Him. There was a time, therefore, when they did not exist. He created the universe out of nothing. He created the stars, planets, and the earth. He created man out of unselfish love and not because He had any need. Creation is the work of His free and unconditional will. The absence of creation would not have been a privation for Him, even as His creative love is not one which gives Him satisfaction. God has no need to be satisfied, because He transcends every need. God’s love cannot be compared to human love, even as His other attributes (paternity, justice, goodness) cannot be compared to their human counterparts. God’s love is a love which is absolutely free and impartial. It is a mystery which cannot be fathomed by man’s intellect. God has no emotions which might create passions, suffering, and need in Him. Although the nature of Divine love remains incomprehensible to human reason, nonetheless, it is a genuine love. In agreement with Scripture I confess that “God is love.”
2. Concerning God the Son
I believe and confess that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the pre-eternal Word of God. He is the co-eternal Son of the unoriginate Father and, therefore, is also unoriginate. He is true God of true God, Light of Light, the Uncreated and Only Begotten Son. He is of the same essence of the Father (coessential) yet remains unconfused with the Father. The Father begets the Son outside of time and He is without beginning. Through the Son, with Him, and in Him, the Father creates all things visible and invisible. I believe that the Son in time became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was thus made man. I confess that He was perfect God and perfect man from the moment of His Incarnation. He has two natures, the fullness of the Divine Nature, as Scripture attests “...in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” and the fullness of human nature as He proclaims that He is “...the Son of Man.” I worship two inseparable and unmingled natures in Him.
I confess that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ suffered in His humanity but not in His divinity. He descended to earth while at the same time filling the heavens. He became incarnate in the Virgin’s womb without departing from the Father’s Bosom. I confess a condescension of the Divinity, but not a change of place.
I also acknowledge that, even as there are two natures in Jesus Christ, there are two wills in Him -- the human and the Divine. This He graphically demonstrated for us at the tomb of Lazarus. The two wills are in harmony, and the one does not absorb the other, as monophysites say. I worship two natures and two wills, but one single person, i.e., one single hypostasis. According to St. Irenaeus of Lyons, He is the Visible of the Invisible Father, even as the Father is the Invisible of the Son, and it is through the Son that we are created in the image of God.
3. Concerning God the Holy Spirit
I confess that the Holy Spirit, The Comforter, is the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity. I believe that He is a Person distinct from the Father and from the Son. He is a Person and not simply an energy or force. He is not simply the bond of love between the Father and the Son as Augustine and his spiritual descendants (the western heterodox) say. He is glorified together with the Father and the Son, that is to say, He receives the same worship, the same veneration, the same honor as the Father and Son, but He is not confused with Them in His Hypostasis. He has manifested Himself upon the earth on many occasions, but He never became incarnate. He spoke by the prophets, He baptized the Apostles and all the faithful with His Fire; He has clothed His priests in power at the altar table. It is the Lord God the Holy Spirit Who is called upon during the Divine Liturgy (the Epiklesis) to accomplish the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “...this is My body” and “...this is My blood.” He is the unfailing Source of revelation for the Church. Revelation, therefore, has never ceased in the Church.
I believe that the Lord God the Holy Spirit instructs us all in the truth. He intercedes for us “...groanings which cannot be uttered.” He teaches us how we must pray. He convicts us of sin and leads us to repentance. He directs the Church and, as He wishes, He distributes spiritual gifts to each man and “breathes” where He will.
The Lord God the Holy Spirit has spoken through the Holy Apostles (the Scriptures, the Apostolic Canons, etc.), through our Holy and Godbearing Fathers, and through the Holy Ecumenical and Local Councils. The “truth” proclaimed by the Ecumenical Councils is, therefore, nothing more or less than revealed Truth. As such, it is not an invention of man, nor a codification resulting from the cognitive powers of man. Through the Holy Spirit, I confess and know Christ. Just as man is created “in the image of God” by Christ, so also does he attain to the “likeness of God” through the Holy Spirit.
I believe with all the Holy Fathers, and in agreement with the Lord’s clear teaching in the Gospel, that the Holy Spirit proceeds solely from the Father. St. John of Damascus: “All the terms, then, that are appropriate to the Father, such as Cause, Source, Begetter, are to be ascribed to the Father alone... And we speak also of the Spirit of the Son, not as though proceeding from Him, but as proceeding through Him from the Father. For the Father alone is a Cause.” “We speak of the Son neither as a Cause (aition) nor Father, but we speak of Him, both as being from the Father and as the Son of the Father. And we speak likewise of the Holy Spirit as being from the Father, and call Him the Spirit of the Father. We do not speak of the Spirit as being from the Son, but yet we call Him the Spirit of the Son... And we confess that the Spirit is manifested and imparted to us through the Son” [The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Ch. 12 & 8]
I confess that the Holy Spirit is projected (proceeds) whereas the Son is generated (begotten) of the Father. Just as there are not two “begettings,” so also are there not two “processions.” The manner of generation and projection differs incomprehensibly and is distinctive to each Hypostasis, but the Source remains One and the Cause in the Godhead is unique.
The Holy Spirit is the Treasury of all good things and the Giver of Life.
4. Concerning the Holy Trinity
I believe and I confess, and I worship One Trinity - One Godhead, One Nature, One Essence, One Cause, One Will, One Might, One Dominion, One Power. I worship the One, Holy, Indivisible, Co-essential, Life-creating and Most-Holy Trinity. In the Trinity, I worship three Persons, three Hypostases - that of the Father, that of the Son, and that of the Holy Spirit. I do not divide Its Nature, I do not apportion Its Essence, I do not separate Its Dominion, I do not rend asunder the unity of Its Will. I do not confuse the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, nor do I intermingle the Hypostases. I say, together with the Holy Councils, Anathema to the heretic Sabellius who taught that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three faces or roles of a single Person, of a single and unique Hypostasis.
In the Divine Trinity none of the Persons is alienated from each other. Each has the fullness of the three together. As one of the Fathers of the Church put it: “I behold the Son in the waters of the Jordan, I contemplate the Spirit in the form of a dove, and I hear the voice of the Father in the heavens.” According to Scripture, the Father and Spirit bear witness to the Son, the Son and the Holy Spirit to the Father, and the Father and the Son to the Holy Spirit.
5. Concerning the Incarnation
I believe and confess that since the moment of His conception in the Virgin’s Womb, Jesus Christ was one hypostasis yet having two natures - the human and the Divine. He was and never ceased to be God and man from the time of His conception and will be so unto eternity.
I believe that the Most Holy Virgin Mary truly received the Fire of the Godhead within her without being consumed by it. The type and image of this in the Old Testament was the burning bush that was not consumed by fire on Sinai. I believe and confess that she truly gave of her own flesh and blood to the Incarnate Word and fed Him with her own milk. Christ’s Incarnation was real and His Body was a real human body.
I believe and confess that Jesus Christ was begotten of the Father outside of time without the existence of a mother. In time, He was incarnated (conceived and born in the flesh) without the assistance of a father. He is without mother in His Divinity and without father in His Manhood. I believe and confess, therefore, that through the Incarnation the Most Holy Virgin Mary truly became the Mother of God (Theotokos) in history. She was a virgin before, during and after the birth of our Saviour. The mystery of the Divine Birth is as great as the mysteries of Christ’s Resurrection and His entry into the room where the Disciples were gathered while the doors were still shut. He passed through the virginal womb (the Theotokos was spared the ordinary birth-travails) without destroying the virginity of Mary. Similarly He arose from the tomb despite the fact that the Jews had sealed the stone. Later, He entered into the room where His disciples were gathered while the doors remained shut. Even as the Red Sea remained untrodden after the passage of Israel, so did the Theotokos remain undefiled after giving birth to Emmanuel. She is the gate through which God entered the world “while it remained shut,” as the Prophet Ezekiel proclaimed.
6. Concerning Grace
I believe and confess that the Light (Grace) in which Jesus Christ appeared to His disciples on Mount Tabor at His Transfiguration was a real Light; that it was His Glory (Grace) which the disciples perceived according to their own capacity; that it was an Uncreated Light. Divine Grace (Light, Energies, Glory) are uncreated outpourings from the Divine Essence, indivisibly united to It, yet distinct. God is single and transcendent in His essence (nature) but is manifold and approachable in His energies. God’s Grace unites us to Him in different degrees according to the capacities of our nature. In other words, God’s Grace unites us to Him in a real communion. It deifies us. The Energies (Grace) are God Himself making Himself known to us. With His Grace, He acts in the world and sustains creation. Grace acts and manifests Itself to every individual according to His need, giving rise to different effects. Due to the limitations of human speech, Grace is called “sanctifying” ,”illuminating”, “edifying”, “life-creating” and may other appellations, yet it is always the same God Who acts in us differently. Grace is not something created by God for my benefaction, but God Himself. Through the Lord God the Holy Spirit, we receive Divine Grace. Without the Holy Spirit there can be no genuine spirituality.
I reject the error of the heterodox, who assert that the grace and communion with God that we receive is one of the things created, some higher, created power added to our nature by God, but rather I confess with the Apostles that Christ truly makes us “communicants of the Divine Nature” [2 Peter 1:4], participants in the Divine Life and Light, and that we are really made “temples of the Spirit” and “dwelling-places of God”, who is actively present in us through His energies. I confess with the Holy Fathers that “the created order is one thing and the grace of the Spirit another’ (St. Ambrose of Milan) and I ‘...believe that that which is shed abroad (in our hearts by the Holy Spirit) cannot be common to the created order but is peculiar to the Godhead”(St. Ambrose of Milan), being Its uncreated and beginningless active power; “therefore the grace of the Holy Spirit and the created order cannot be of one nature”. The energies of God are “the rays of Divinity penetrating the created universe” (St. Dionysius the Areopagite).
7. Concerning the Need for Grace
I believe Grace is given to all by God so that all might turn to Him eternally, for God “wills that all men be saved.” We cannot believe in God without Grace. If God does not reveal Himself to man by His Grace, man’s reason (limited and infirm because of sins) cannot of its own strength comprehend Him, the Incomprehensible. Without His Grace, we do not know what constitutes true repentance and true humility. Furthermore, without Grace we do not have the strength necessary to make ourselves humble, nor can we weep over our sins. The absence of Grace makes it impossible for us to love our neighbor. Without It, we not only do not know how to pray or what to ask of God, but we are disinclined to even pray. Without It, we cannot love God, nor can we seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness. Without Grace we risk counterfeiting all these virtues and conditions of the soul; we risk being led astray by our feelings and by illusions; we become convinced to abandon true piety and spirituality. For this reason, I distrust my piety, my feelings, all metaphysical and supernatural phenomena, my emotions, my tears and my “good work.” I believe with St Seraphim of Sarov that the Christian’s goal is not the doing of good deeds, but the acquisition of the Holy Spirit (good deeds will follow). I, therefore, have but one request and one entreaty that I make to God: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Word of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I do this with the hope that one day I may hear Him say, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness”
8. Concerning Creation
I believe and I confess that God created matter in time. Since matter has a beginning, it is not co-eternal with the Creator. Matter was created by the Will and Word of God, and was placed directly under the rule and influence of man. Under man’s dominion, matter was affected when man sinned. Matter (nature) ever since has been in a contra-natural state.
I believe that creation will be purified by the fire of the Last Judgment at the moment of the glorious second coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ. It will be restored and regenerated, comprising a “New Creation” according to the promise of our Saviour: “Behold, I make all things new...” The Apostle Peter refers to this regeneration in his epistle and says of it; “New Heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
9. Concerning the Spiritual Hosts
I believe and I confess that God created the angelic beings. They had a beginning in time and therefore, they are not by nature eternal or immortal. The angels posses a nature different than that of man. The angelic nature is real, but it is subject to laws and dimensions foreign to human nature. Angels are conscious persons. In the beginning they were created perfectly good and perfectly free, having the faculty of choice.
I believe and I confess that certain angels by choice remained faithful to their Creator, whereas others, exercising their liberty in an evil manner, stood in opposition to Him. As a result they became darkened and fell turning into demons. The demons are envious of man of the glory of the eternal destiny for which man was created. They seek man’s utter ruin and destruction, however, they have no real power over those who have been baptized. They can only tempt man after his Baptism, so that he himself might make ill use of his freedom and thereby engage in evil, which will result in his destruction - death. The angels, on the other hand, due to their loyalty to, and communion with God, are not envious nor are they jealous of man. They recognize his destiny. They rejoice when a man, co-operating with God, succeeds in realizing the aim of his existence. The angels are humble. They are instructed by the Church. They belong to the Church and celebrate with man in glorifying the Creator. They pray for man and attend to his prayers.
All beings created by God’s Wisdom, Will and Love are created according to a hierarchical principle. Even as the angels have distinctions between them in accordance with their rank and ministry, so also do men on earth differ according to what talents each has received and the place he will occupy in eternity. Neither in the case of eternal salvation, nor in the case of eternal perdition shall the condition of created beings be equal. The equalitarian principle and all the causes it has spawned (communism, feminism, etc.) are in contradiction to the “normalcy” of the Creator’s purpose.
10. Concerning Immortality
I believe and I confess that immortality is solely a property of the Divine Nature. The angels and the souls of the faithful are immortal only because God bestows this upon them by His Will. Man’s soul is not pre-existent. How the soul receives birth along with the bodily birth of man, and just how the soul is separated from the body at the moment of biological death (retaining its conscious state so that it might be reunited to the body at the Second Coming of our Saviour) is a mystery which God has not revealed to us.
11. Concerning Evil
I believe and I confess that God did not create or author evil, suffering, or death. There is no other cause for darkness except the privation of light. There is a source of speech, but silence has no source. In the same way, there is no source of evil. It does not have a cause nor an existence (hypostasis) as such. It, as well as death and suffering, are the resultant condition when a created being has alienated himself from God. The sinner dies because he has estranged himself from the Source of Light -- God. God therefore, does not slay the sinner in order to punish him thereby obtaining revenge. Man cannot offend God, nor does God experience any satisfaction at his death. God is not responsible for evil, nor is He its cause. Because God created man’s nature with the potential of alienating itself from Him, does not mean that God is blameworthy when man estranges himself from God. If God had created man without the capacity to even deny his Creator, i.e., without a free will, the creature would have been made completely passive in nature. The creature would simply submit not having the possibility of doing otherwise since it would not be free. God however, made His creature so that he could choose to co-operate with God in bringing himself and the rest of creation toward the ultimate in eternal destiny - eternal union (communion) with God. (See sec. 6, 7)
Out of respect for human freedom, therefore, God permits evil, trials, and sufferings, without desiring them or having created them. He did not create these conditions to be used instrumentally in the matter of man’s salvation. Nonetheless, in His infinite wisdom He knows how to transform the results of evil into that which is good for the salvation of man. Suffering or trials, must be received without indignation as unfathomable proofs of God’s love, as disguised blessings. They are to be weighed and studied for their significance and purpose.
I believe and I confess that for the sake of humility temptations must be avoided; that God is to be petitioned prayerfully to spare me from them as He taught in the Lord’s Prayer, “...and let us not enter into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” In all trials, temptations and sufferings, prayer is to be concluded in the same way as our Saviour prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “..not my will, but Thine be done.”
12. Concerning Man and Sin
I believe and I confess that God created man neither mortal nor immortal, but capable of choosing between the two states. Man, exercising his free will, made a bad choice at one time, causing his nature to undergo defilement. This alienated him from God causing his mortality. Sin entered the world through one man, Adam. Baptism in the Church, however, liberates man from the effects of sin and enables him to “work” for his salvation. Yet, just as the memory of our Saviour’s sufferings and the marks of those sufferings were preserved in a material manner and remained even after His Resurrection, so also man’s nature preserves its weakness even after Baptism. The divine adoption received as a promise will be revealed only at the Second and Glorious Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Man’s regeneration through Baptism is, nevertheless, as real as our Saviour’s Resurrection.
In the case of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, she too was born with the same nature as the rest of mankind. Like us, she also had need of God’s Grace. She, alone, without the Grace of God, would not have maintained by herself the state in which the Archangel Gabriel found her on the day of the Annunciation. God is the Saviour of the Virgin Theotokos not only because she was sanctified (“...full of Grace”) on the day of the Annunciation, but also because He strengthened and aided her by His Grace thereafter so that she never fell into a state of sin.
13. Concerning Our Saviour and His Dispensation Towards Us
I believe and I confess that God Himself in the person of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ saved man. There is no salvation in any other name “...Neither by a man nor by an angel...” than that of Jesus, nor is there any other mediator between God and man. He alone accomplished our salvation so that “...those who walk in darkness and who dwell in the region and the shadow of death might see a great Light.” He suffered on the Cross becoming our reconciliation, the remission of our sins, and the forgiveness of our offences. He destroyed, once and for all, the inexorable strictures of death. He planted the Cross as a tree of Life in the place where the tree of temptation once stood. He saved us by His holy and glorious Resurrection thereby destroying the sovereignty of death and breaking the iron bonds of Hades. Casting our ancient enemy and seducer into chains, He freed Hades’ captives who lay in chains.
I believe and I confess that our Lord died under Pontius Pilate, and that He was placed bodily in a tomb -- a true historical fact. I believe and I confess that He suffered in His humanity, but not in His Divinity. On the third day, according to the Scriptures, He arose Himself, since He is the Principle of Life. Leaving behind the burial winding sheet, He left the tomb bodily while the tomb, guarded by the soldiers, still bore the seal placed on it by the Jews.
I believe and I confess that the stone sealing the entrance to the tomb was rolled away by the angel, not in order to permit Christ’s exit, but to allow the Myrrh-bearing Women and the Apostles to see that the tomb was empty - a concrete reminder of His promise to them that he would rise on the third day.
I believe and I confess that Jesus Christ truly partook of food, that the Apostle Thomas actually touched His Flesh, and that His Flesh bore the marks of His Passion even after His Resurrection.
I believe and I confess that Jesus had the same body in the virginal womb, in the manger, on the Cross in Calvary, in the tomb, on the shores of Tiberias Lake, as well as when He ascended to sit at the right of His Father in Heaven.
14. Concerning Our Saviour - His Death and Resurrection
I believe and I confess that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, set out to seek His lost sheep, Adam. When He did not find him among those living on earth, He did not hesitate to descend even into Hades in order to find him. Like the mythological pelican who feeds its young its blood by piercing its side, Christ on the Cross allows His side to be pierced so that He might nourish His children with His Body and His Blood. He gives Himself to them as “a medicine of immortality,” and as a “provision for eternal life.” He becomes conformable to our death so that He Might prepare the way for our resurrection.
I believe and I confess the Cross is an act of mercy, because our Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of all mankind. He became a curse, and canceled our debt by dying in our stead. I believe and I confess that our Lord and Saviour ascended the Cross because of His love for man. The Passion and Crucifixion of our Saviour is also an act of justice. St. Irenaeus teaches that our Saviour, through His death, rescued the souls of the righteous of old who were unjustly held in Hades by Satan even though they “... had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s sin,” and had been justified by their faith in God.
In direct contradiction to heretical “satisfaction theories”, St. Gregory the Theologian proclaims most clearly that God the Father neither demanded nor did He need His Son’s Blood for a supposed appeasement. St. John Chrysostom says that it was not God Who was at enmity with us, but rather we who were at enmity with Him because of our sins. God, therefore, had no need of the Cross so that He might love us. Indeed, if He had so willed, He could have snatched us from the grasp of death without His having to undergo His Passion, Crucifixion, and Burial. Because God always loved us, He ascended to the Cross so that our enemy, the devil, might be vanquished. This He did, not according to justice, but according to a super-abundance of justice since Christ was not subject to death, the common debt of all mankind, but was supremely guiltless.
I believe and I confess together with St. John Chrysostom, that the Cross was a “divine ruse” in response to the ruse of the serpent of old. As St. Paul teaches, the Cross is a mystery “...which none of the princes of this world know; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the King of Glory.” Satan received the Body of Jesus into the realm of death, and saw death’s sovereignty rent asunder by the Principle of Life. “Death...received a Body and it encountered God! It received earth and met Heaven face to face.”
15. Concerning Man and His Free Will
I believe and I confess that according to the Scriptures man “works” for his salvation (salvation is not imposed on man in spite of his wishes, as Augustine, Luther, Calvin and the other Protestant heresiarchs contended, nor is it obtained solely by man’s effort - the human will - as Pelagios taught.) God does not take upon Himself the role which belongs to man. Also, man can achieve nothing solely through his own power (will) or efforts (taking on the role of God). Neither by his virtues, by observing the commandments, nor by good intentions, can man achieve his salvation. Salvation is a matter of synergy, of co-operation - that of man with God. God “Who gives to all men and disregards none,” gives man Grace. But man, even if he perceives that he does not wish his own salvation, must ask to receive this desire from God. It is then, when man wills (actively chooses) to acknowledge and co-operate with the Grace that he is gifted with, that he receives Grace for Grace. His approach to enter the Church is, according to the Fathers, the grace given before grace. Since in reality all is grace.
Concerning the true meaning of the Church Fathers’ words, “...although it be a question of grace, yet grace is granted only to those who are worthy of it,” the word “worthy” indicates the free exercise of our will to ask all things from God.
16. Concerning Faith and Works
I believe and I confess that man’s natural virtue, whatever its degree may be, cannot save a man and bring him to eternal life. The fulfillment of the works of the Law does not permit us to demand or to merit something from God. Our Saviour Jesus Christ points out that when a man has fulfilled all the works of the Law he should esteem himself as nothing more than an “...unprofitable servant.” Without Jesus Christ, a man’s personal virtue and his reputation (his personal value, his works, his aptitude, his talents and faculties) in the eyes of men matters little. Only faith in Jesus Christ constitutes a determining factor in his eternal destiny. This faith in Jesus Christ however, should not be considered simply as an ideological acceptance of His Divinity, nor as an intellectual adherence to a religious system, or even to the dogmas of the Church. Even the demons have this type of knowing, but it does not save them. Faith in Jesus Christ is not an abstraction, but a communion with Him. It is an action, or more to the point, an interaction. This communion fills us with the power of the Holy Spirit, and our faith becomes a fertile reality which engenders good works in us “...which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Thus, according to the Apostles, faith engenders true works, and true works which are the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, bear witness and prove the existence of a true faith. Since faith is neither abstract nor sterile, it is impossible to disassociate it from good works; the first is the cause of the second - it is a cause which produces effects.
I believe and I confess that it is by faith in the same Jesus Christ that the righteous of the Old Testament (who are venerated to the same degree as the other saints in the Orthodox Church) are saved. Faith and works, like all other good things, can be counterfeited and parodied. Faith, like Grace, is also a gift of God. Man relying on his own efforts, his own piety, spirituality, and in short, in himself, cannot acquire this faith. Faith is the fruit of Divine Grace. It is God’s desire that all men acquire this faith in that they be saved. Faith is not imposed. To those who desire it, God grants it, not because of a fatalistic predestination, but because of His Divine foreknowledge and disposition to co-operate with man’s free will.
If God has graced us with faith, we must not think ourselves better than others, nor superior, nor more worthy than they. We must not think that we have received it because of our own merits, but we should attribute the gift to the unsearchable goodness of God. God is to be thanked by our bowing down before the mystery of this privilege. We must be conscious that one of the attributes of faith is the lack of curiosity.
17. Concerning our Unworthiness
I believe and I confess that, even if God should raise the dead through my mediation, I must nevertheless, consider myself unworthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. If God works signs and miracles through me, it is God Who accomplishes them not because of my merits, but because of His Love and Grace. I am not saved because of talents, abilities, or good deeds, with which God might honor me, but only because of His Grace and mercy. I declare that I have never done anything good on earth, just as a man cannot pridefully boast of having done anything good before his birth. I possess nothing which I have not received, as the Scriptures say. Nothing belongs to me except my sins. According to the Apostle Paul, I may boast solely for my sins, “I will not boast save in my infirmities.” I therefore, beseech God to grant me His Grace so that I may repent. I am only worthy of hell, yet I do not despair, because this would be a blasphemy against the Grace of God, which is infinitely more powerful than my sins, and which exceeds the number of mankind’s multitudinous sins. I draw near to God trembling, and at the same time confident - sorrowful and joyous - having my sin “ever before me,” as David the Psalmist says. I am sorrowful because of the abyss of my iniquities, and joyous because of the unfathomable abyss of God’s Love. While I am on this sinful earth, my joy shall always be mixed with sorrow, and my sorrow alleviated with joy. It shall be only in the fullness of His Reigning Presence that my joy will not be mingled with sadness, if God is merciful with me.
On this earth, “which lieth in evil,” I will not seek after prophecy and states of exaltation (ecstasies) and euphoria (artificially induced) nor will I seek metaphysical proofs of any sort. The Saviour’s mercy is sufficient for me.
18. Concerning the Theotokos
I believe that the All-holy Virgin Theotokos’ nature is identical to our own. After her free and conscious acceptance of the plan of salvation offered to man by God - offered but not imposed - the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” her, and the power of the Most High “covered” her, and “...at the voice of the Archangel, the Master of all became incarnate in her.” In this manner our Lord Jesus Christ truly partook wholly of our nature and became like unto us in all thing except sin. Thus, the nature of Adam, the fallen man, which bore the wounds of sin and degeneration, was restored to the former beauty (which it had before the fall). In addition, with the Incarnation, it partakes of the Divine Nature. Man’s nature restored and regenerated by Grace, surpasses in Christ, Adam’s state of innocence previous to the fall. According to the fathers, “God became man so that man could become god.” St. Gregory the Theologian writes: “O marvelous fall that brought about such a salvation for us.” Man having been created “...a little lower than the angels,” can by the Grace of God surpass the angelic state. For her role in man’s salvation, we praise the All-holy Theotokos addressing her as “More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim.”
God is equally the Saviour of the All-holy Theotokos, even as she herself proclaims, and she is saved by the same grace by which all those who are redeemed are saved. She is the Mother of all the faithful of the Church, of which she is also a member. She is not the “Mother of the Church” as some say, as if she were separate from or superior to the Church.
I therefore reject, all doctrines of the West concerning “original sin”, and the false notion of “the immaculate conception of Mary”. Alien to the teachings of the Fathers, these doctrines distort the position of the Theotokos whose nature is identical to ours. She truly represented all humanity when she accepted to “lend” human nature to the Second Person of the Trinity for our salvation.
19. Concerning the Saints
I believe and I confess that God “...glorifies those who glorify Him” [cf. 1Kings (1 Sam.) 2:30]. He is “...glorified by the assembly of His saints,” [Psalm 88:7] and He is “...the Saviour of the body” [Eph. 5:23], of the Church.
Since the Church (the assembly of the saints from Adam up until the present, including the gathered baptized Orthodox Christians) is the Body, we are saved insofar as we are members of that Body - the Church. We are not saved solely by an individual relation with God independent of the whole of this Body.
I believe and I confess that our God is the “God of our Fathers,” and as the Holy Scriptures attest in many places, He has mercy on the children of the fathers who were, and are His saints and his servants. Those whom God has glorified, I also glorify. “But by me, O God, thy beloved ones have been exceedingly honored” [Psalm 138:17 LXX]. I entrust myself to their prayers and intercessions, for as St. Iakovos (James) the Apostle says, “The entreaty of a righteous man hath much strength when it is energized” [Jas. 5:16].
In support of this, I recall the Three Youths who prayed in Nebudchodonsor’s fiery furnace thusly: “Cause not Thy mercy to depart from us for Abraham’s sake, Thy beloved, for Isaac’s sake, Thy servant, and for Israel’s Thy holy one.” Furthermore, the Scriptures, from the time when the Angel of the Lord (the Second Person of the Trinity) appeared to Abimelich, testify that God Himself makes such prayer requisite. Abimelich was counseled by God to seek the prayers of the “friend of God”, Abraham, concerning whom our Lord said, “He shall pray for thee and thou shalt live...And Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelich” (Gen. 20:7, 20:17). Moreover, when Israel sinned greatly by worshipping the golden calf, the Lord said to Moses [with whom he spoke “as a friend face to face”(Ex.33:11)], “And now let Me alone, and I will...consume them” (Ex.32:10). But Moses interceded for them, pleading, “Cease from Thy wrathful anger and be merciful to the sin of Thy people, remembering Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”(Ex. 32:12-13). “And the Lord was prevailed upon to preserve His people”(Ex. 32:14). In like manner did God speak to the companions of the “righteous Job”, saying, “Thou hast sinned...go to My servant Job...And My servant Job shall pray for you, for I will only accept him; but for his sake, I would have destroyed you...And (Eliphaz, Baldad, and Sophar) went and did as the Lord commanded, and He pardoned their sin for the sake of Job” (Job 42:7-9). The great prophet and king David chants: “And they changed His glory into the likeness of a calf that eateth grass. And they forgot God Who had saved them, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonders in the land of Ham, terrible things at the Red Sea. And He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen stood in the breach before Him, to turn away His wrath, lest He should destroy them” [Ps. 105]. And I know from the Scriptures that through the Holy Spirit the reposed, abiding in the Spirit, are able to hear my prayers and they can pray to God for us. I know that the righteous priest Onias and the holy prophet Jeremias heard Judas Maccabeus’ prayers, prayed to God for him and his army, and, because of this, the Jews routed the Greeks who wished to destroy the Temple [2 Maccabees 15:11-17, 25-28]. I also infer their consicousness and ability to pray to God from the conversation between our Lord and Moses, who died thousands of years earlier, yet was conscious and spoke with the Lord on Mt. Tabor  at the time of His dwelling among us. This too I infer from what is said by the Holy Apostle John in His Revelation wherein it is said that the righteous souls abide with God, reigning with him now before the coming of Antichrist and the end of the world, and that they pray for Him to speedily recompense both the wicked and the righteous. From these and other passages, I understand that the saints, whether living or reposed, do intercede for us and that it is profitable for me to seek their prayers on my behalf.
I believe and I confess that my veneration of the saints is a well-pleasing offering to God since it is because of Him and for His sake that I honor them. I honor no created thing, no other being, be it visible or invisible, outside of its relationship with the Most-holy Trinity. I venerate no man for his own virtue’s sake, but for the grace of God which is given to him. In celebrating a saint’s feast, it is God Who is always worshipped, and the saint’s contest and victory are the occasion for worship. As it says in the Psalms: “God is wondrous in His saints” [Ps. 67:35]. By grace and adoption the saints shall be called divine or “gods”, and as God Himself says: “I will dwell in them” [2 Cor. 6:16]. Therefore God Himself granted His saints their ministry of interceding in our behalf. I supplicate them and I am in communion with them even after their death in the flesh, because this death, according to Paul the Apostle, cannot separate us from the love of Christ which unites us. According to our Saviour’s promise, those who believe in Him “...shall never die...but are passed from death unto life” [Jn. 5:24.].
20. Concerning the Spirit and the Flesh
I believe and I confess that God is worshiped in spirit and in truth. While I acknowledge that worship of God “in spirit” is proper, it is not to disdain the body - matter and flesh. The whole person - body and soul - is involved in an act of worship, and the body becomes sanctified by the act of prayer. I reject therefore, any doctrine which says there is a basic and essential opposition, or enmity, between spirit and matter. Indeed, if there is a divergence (dichotomy) of the will of the flesh from that of the spirit, it is due to our fallen state, and not because God created it in this manner. Indeed, it is in fact, as St. Symeon the New Theologian says, a sickness and delusion of the soul which has wallowed in the mire of sensual pleasure and grown to mistakenly love it as “the Good” rather than God, as is natural for that which God gave life and being; moreover, our asceticism is precisely aimed at freeing ourselves of this delusion that the Good is sensual pleasure rather than God and our communion in love with Him, as St. Maximos the Confessor teaches. In spiritual practices, therefore, I do not seek the destruction or the negation (doing away with) of the body, but by grace I seek the healing and sanctification of my whole being - body and soul - as the Scriptures teach and the Fathers uphold in their teachings.
I acknowledge a co-operative effort on man’s part (synergy) with God’s grace, but I reject any disdain for matter or the body, since this would be an insult to all that God created and approved. For this reason I reject a celibacy that has as its base an abomination of marriage (i.e. a belief that ‘marriage is sinful’). I reject also, as the Councils of the Fathers teach, a fasting which harbors within itself a abomination of flesh, or meat, or other foods (e.g., ‘eating ham is sinful’). Conversely, I acknowledge the place that fasting takes in prayer, and to the best of my ability, I espouse the fast periods and the kinds of fasts (i.e. both those from food and those from marital relations) prescribed by the Church. I denounce any proposal to reform these fasting periods or kinds of fasts of the Church, which amount to an affront against Her Tradition. If I should not succeed in keeping all the fasts prescribed by the Church out of bodily weakness (but not due to intellectual pride), I confess nonetheless, that the rule of the Church is the measure which one must continually strive to reach. The measure is not an extreme surpassing the human body’s powers or my nature.
21. Concerning the Passions and Pleasure
God did not create human nature in a passionate state, that is, with unnatural or irrational and involuntary movements or impulses///, but rather passionless, (St. Symeon the New Theologian), sovereign over himself and creation, and rational (logical) in the image of the Divine, Passionless, and Sovereign Logos (St. Athanasios), and for his ever-increasing sharing of the Divine mode of Life (St. Maximos). I believe and confess with the Holy Apostles and Fathers that the origin of the passions is the fall of man from his first communion with God (the Life of all), in part because of our subjection to death and corruption and the consequent physical needs of human nature for self-preservation, but more so because of our irrational, unthinking acceptance of the devil’s suggestions that we make contranatural use our natural powers for ends other than for which God gave us our bodily and mental faculties.
God did not create human nature with a faculty for experiencing pleasure or pain in mere sensations (sense impressions), as unhappily it is now most frequently used, but rather gave him a faculty for experiencing pleasure or pain in objects themselves which either contributed to or prevented (respectively) his accomplishing God’s purpose in creating him, as a kind of spur to human nature to always be moving toward that goal (which ultimately is participation in God Himself). I believe and confess with the Holy Fathers that the origin of our experiencing pleasure or pain in mere sense-impressions is the devil’s deceiving man as to means of attaining that Good estate, convincing him to evaluate objects on the basis of sense-criteria and not in accordance with his intellect and reason. Consequently, deluded man experiences pleasure in obtaining or doing things which do not benefit and even hinder his pursuit of that ultimate good.
Therefore, I denounce and reject the impious new teaching of the paradisaical origin of the passions, which were neither created by God nor intended by him for human life, since this would make God the author of our corruption and death. Therefore, I do not accept that.
I also, therefore, reject the teaching that God gave us our genital (generative) organs and lawful marriage for the sake of the sexual act itself, and not its natural and good end of generation and preservation of our nature from death and destruction. The use of these creations of God for some other additional reason than that conservative purpose for which He gave them, e.g. the prevention of falling into fornication, is pardonable, not praise-worthy, if it does not intentionally prevent the fulfillment of God’s purpose, but subject to condemnation if
On the other hand, I reject the heterodox teaching of the paradisiacal origins of the passions, which the Holy Fathers unanimously teach were not created or intended by God for man and are irrational, unnatural perversions of our God-given powers, which are adversely affected on account of the ancestral sin and the entry of death and corruption into the world. I further reject their idea that the sexual act was given by God for its own sake, that it somehow pleases God in and of itself, and that it raises husband and wife to some kind of higher spiritual communion with God. Rather I modestly confess with the Fathers that the sexual act was granted to man for the purpose of and for the sake of increasing and preserving the human race in the face of its immanent destruction by death after the Fall, and that its use in lawful wedlock with other intentions is pardonable, not praise-worthy.
22. Concerning the Holy Icons
I venerate the Holy Icons in perfect accord with the Second Commandment of the Decalogue.
Previous to the Incarnation of God, any representation of Him would have been the fruit of man’s imagination - a concept of man’s reason. Since God is by nature incomprehensible, inapprehensible, incommensurable, indescribable, immaterial, inexpressible and unfathomable, any conception or imagination concerning God would have been alien to His nature. It would have been false and unreal - an idol. With the Incarnation, the Indescribable One becomes describable for man’s salvation. With the Incarnation, God can be depicted in holy images, that is, icons from the Greek word for image. As the Apostle says, “That One Who was from the beginning, Who we have heard, Who we have seen with our eyes, Who we beheld, and our hands touched” [1 Jn. 1:1].
When I venerate the holy icons, I am not worshiping matter, but I do confess that God, Who is immaterial by nature, has become material for our sake, so that He might dwell among us, die for us, be raised from death in His Flesh, and cause our human nature, which He assumed, to sit at the right of the Father in the heavens. When I kiss His Holy Icon, I confess the relatively describable and absolutely historical reality of His Incarnation, His Death, His Ascension into Heaven, and His Second and Glorious Coming. If someone refuses to venerate the holy icons, then he falls away from the teaching of the Church, clearly expounded by the Holy 7th Ecumenical Council. Such a person denies that God has become man. All persons are able to be honored in the proportion due to them through the reverence that we show to what is theirs and what is related to them. All persons that possess the human nature are able to have their likeness painted. If Christ cannot be honored through the reverence that we show to His likeness, then He is not truly human, whether one objects that His Person cannot be portrayed or because He cannot be so honored through honoring His likeness.
23. Concerning the Veneration of the Holy Icons
I venerate the holy icons by prostrating myself before them, by kissing them, by showing them a “relative worship,” while confessing that only the Most Holy Trinity is to be worshipped as God.
By the words “relative worship,” I do not mean a second-rate worship, since created things, as such, have no right of worship whatsoever. God alone, who is the Cause and the Final Goal of all things, deserves our worship. We venerate the saints, their holy relics, and their icons, solely because of their relation to the Uncreated God. God has hallowed his saints and it is He that dwells in them. Thus, the creatures which are sanctified by God are venerated in relation to Him, because of Him, and on account of Him. The teaching of the church on this matter succinctly states: “The veneration of the icon is referred to the Prototype.” A refusal to venerate the saints, means a denial of the reality of their communion with God. It is a denial of the effects of Divine sanctification and of the grace which works in them. It is a denial of the Apostle’s words, “I no longer live, but Christ liveth in me.”
I believe that Christianity is essentially iconographic. For me, there is no question of a human element superimposed upon the Tradition of the Church. I believe and confess that the holy icons are not only decorative and didactic (instructive) objects, but that they are also holy and sanctifying. Icons are the “shadows” of heavenly realities. As the shadow of the Apostle Peter once cured the sick (Acts 5:15) in the same manner, the holy icons, being as it were shadows of celestial realities, can sanctify us.
24. Concerning the Holy Relics
I believe and I confess that God who has sanctified His saints, His grace intrinsically indwelling even in their bodies, can act through the saints holy relics to sanctify me. Since the saints’ bodies are veritable temples of the Holy Spirit, their relics are to be accorded veneration and worship, because they are vessels of grace. The Old Testament itself bears witness that the body of a dead man was resurrected when it touched the bones of the Prophet Elliseos. In the Acts of the Apostles, the faithful were healed by “handkerchiefs” and “aprons” that were put on the body of the Apostle Paul [cf. Acts 19:12]; if handkerchiefs laid on his body were the medium of healing, how much more should the body on which they were laid be healing and sanctifying?
25. Concerning the Veneration of Sacred Objects
I believe and I confess that material creation, drawn into evil by the fall of man, is to be sanctified. Once sanctified, it is to be accorded due veneration, and honor. The Psalmist and Prophet David calls all toward such veneration when he says, “Let us worship the place where His feet have stood.”
Matter, affected by the sin of man, can become receptive of grace and receive the seal of the Holy Spirit, i.e., it can be consecrated. In the Book of Genesis, Patriarch Jacob acknowledges the holiness of the place named Bethel, and in Exodus, Moses is commanded to, “Loose thy sandals from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
It is not for sentimental or historical reasons that relics and sacred objects are honored and venerated, but it is precisely because they are endowed with intrinsic holiness by the grace of God. I, therefore, venerate and kiss the sacred Book of the Gospels, the holy and life-creating Cross, the icons of our Saviour, His Mother, and of all the angels and saints, as well as, every material object which refers to, or has relationship with, the worship due to the Most Holy Trinity.
26. Concerning the Holy Scriptures
I believe and I confess that all the Scriptures are inspired by God. Along with the Fathers, I believe that, generally speaking, it is impossible for man to be saved if he does not read the Scriptures.
The holy Scriptures cannot be dissociated from the Church since the Scriptures were written in the Church, by the Church, and for the Church. Outside the Church, the Scriptures cannot be understood properly. Indeed, the holy Scriptures lose their meaning for the man who is a stranger to the Church, to Her Life, Her Mysteries, and Her Traditions, since they were not written for him.
I believe and I confess that there is no contradiction whatsoever between the Sacred Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church. Traditions are not an accumulation of human customs and practices which have been added to the Church, but “transmissions” of Revelation. According to the holy Apostle Paul, the written and oral Traditions (transmissions) are of equal value, because it is not the means of transmission that saves us, but the authenticity of the content which has been transmitted. Furthermore, the teachings (Revelations) of the Old and New Testaments were transmitted orally to God’s people before they were written down. In this very strict sense, without Tradition there can be no Scriptures.
The official texts and versions of the Scriptures in the Orthodox Church are the Septuagint version of the Old Testament (used by the Apostles when they recorded the New Testament) and the Greek text of the new Testament. I acknowledge that there are a plurality of meanings for each verse of the Bible, provided that each interpretation is justified by the teachings of the holy Fathers. Conversely, I reject all human (or man-inspired) systems of Biblical criticism and interpretation, whether they be allegorical, literal, or otherwise. I acknowledge that I cannot read or understand the true meaning of the holy Scripture without the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the illumination of the Tradition of the Church, even as the eunuch of Candace could not understand the prophets without the aid of St. Phillip who was sent to him by the Holy Spirit. I denounce as blasphemous every attempt to correct (improve, up-date, revise), re-adapt, or “demythologize,” the sacred texts of the Bible. I also denounce the deletion of the so-called Deutero-canonical Books (sometimes also called the Old Testament Apocrypha by Protestants) from the Old Testament as being contrary to the Church’s Tradition. I confess that Tradition alone is competent to establish the Canon of the holy Scriptures, since, as stated above, only Tradition can declare what belongs to it and what is foreign to it.
27. Concerning the Church
I believe and I confess that the Church of Jesus Christ is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. It was instituted through the power of the Lord God the Holy Spirit. The Church -- the elect of God called together -- was due to Divine economy. I reject the preposterous notion that the Church is a form of piety which resulted from a developmental philosophy rooted in human reason. The Church is a mystery beyond the understanding of man -- “ a very great mystery,” as St. Paul states [Eph. 5:32]. The Church is a tree which is rooted in the Heavens. We receive benefactions only in the shade of its foliage and in the life-creating nourishment of it fruits, however, the planting remains supernatural.
I believe with St. Cyprian that the man who does not have the Church as his Mother cannot have God as his Father. If, in the true Church, “the righteous scarcely are saved,” [cf. 1 Peter 4:18] as the Scriptures state, then neither ignorance, nor lack of awareness (even with the best intentions) nor error -- even if inherited -- can be excused, or justified in the matter of salvation. “And that slave who knew the will of his Lord, and prepared not, nor did according to His will, shall be beaten much. But he who knew not, and did things worthy of blows, shall be beaten a little. [Lk. 12:47-48]. Furthermore, I believe that there can be no salvation outside the Church. God deals with those who are outside the Church according to His boundless mercy and righteousness, and the Apostle forbids us to concern ourselves with His judgments. God did not institute schismatic and heretical assemblies so that they might work in parallel with the Church for the salvation of man. For this reason, such assemblies are not workshops of salvation, but obstacles created by the devil, wherein error is mingled with truth in varying proportions, so that the true Church may not be recognized. As says the Holy Apostle Paul, “divisions, [and] heresies,... I tell you beforehand, even as I also said previously, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” [Gal. 5:20,21]. Along with the Holy Fathers, therefore, I confess that the martyrdom of heretics is suicide and the virginity of heretics is fornication. Outside the Church there is no true Baptism nor any other Mystery. The Apostle Paul teaches that: “There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as ye also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, Who is over all, and through all, and in you all” [Eph. 4:4-6]. St. Paul did not mean that any ‘baptism’ is the one Baptism anymore than he meant that all ‘gods’ are the one God, or all faiths are the one Faith, or all bodies are the one Body of Christ. For this reason, the Apostolic canons, and those of the Ecumenical Councils forbid us to pray with schismatics and heretics whether in private or in the church. They forbid us, under the penalty of deposition and excommunication, to permit them to function as clergymen in our churches and assemblies.
During the Divine Liturgy, we pray for the catechumens, however, the faithful do not recite the “Our Father -- “ together with them. By the same token, and, indeed, to a greater degree, I believe that I must pray for heretics and schismatics, but I cannot pray with them, for this would be tantamount to yoking truth with error, light with darkness, and joining the sons of the promise with the sons of Hagar who receive not the inheritance.
28. The Church and Innovation
I believe and confess the fullness of the Church, the fullness of Her Grace, the fullness of Her Holiness, and the fullness of Her Truth. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and unto the ages” [Heb. 13:8], and the Church, which is His Body, admits no “variableness, neither shadow of turning” [Iakovos (Jas) 1:17] The Church is eternal, even as Her Divine Head is eternal. The Church knows no change. The Church has “neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such things,” [Eph. 5:27] but is holy, irreprehensible, admitting no addition or subtraction of Her doctrines.
I am in the Church so that I may be changed and transformed by Her, and not so that I may try to change Her. It was man who was created in the image of God, and not God in the image of man. I, therefore, reject and denounce every attempt to reform, to revise, to “up-date” (aggiornamento) or to adapt to the alleged “new needs of modern man.” I reject and dissociate myself from the calendar reform which took place in 1924, considering this to be a unilateral act contrary to the Tradition of the Church. And even more so, I reject as blasphemous the heterodox addition of the Filioque to the Symbol of the Faith or Creed; for I know, that besides its heretical nature, the Filioque addition also violates the prohibition of the 3rd and 4th Ecumenical Councils (Canon VII of 3rd; Definition of 4th) of any changes, additions, or subtractions to the Creed whatsoever. Therefore, desiring to be a child of the Church, I confess with the Holy 4th Ecumenical Council that “The Fathers defined everything perfectly; he who goes against this Symbol (Creed) is anathema; no one adds, no one takes away” (4th Ecumenical Council, held at Chalcedon in 451 A.D. (Acta Concilia, II:1).
29. Concerning the Body of the Church
I believe and I confess that the Church of Jesus Christ was instituted on earth in a visible and hierarchical manner. I confess that the Holy Spirit manifested Himself visibly in the midst of a visible assembly, hierarchically constituted of the Theotokos (Mother of God) , the Apostles, and the faithful. I reject the theory of the “Invisible Church” and the “Branch Theory” where the Church is considered an abstraction to which clergy and laymen, belonging to assemblies having differing confessions of faith and no Mysteriological unity, can be invisibly united.
I believe and confess that the Mysteries (sacraments) of the Church are not merely commemorative or symbolic ceremonies, but that they are means through which grace is transmitted to the faithful. Pentecost is, thus, perpetuated and just as there were no tongues of fire outside the upper-chamber, so also, are there no Mysteries outside the Church. The Church is the wellspring of the Mysteries, and is Herself the Mystery par excellence.
I believe and confess that the Church is the field wherein both wheat and tares grow until the day of harvest, that is, until the Second Glorious Coming of Jesus Christ. I reject the ideas of the Cathari, and I believe, rather, that the holiness of the Church does not reside in human merit, nor in the good conduct of Her members, but in the sanctity of Her Head Who is Christ, Whose Body She is. It resides in the sanctity of the Holy Spirit, Who effects the Mysteries in the midst of the Church. It resides in the sanctity of the Church’s vocation and in the sanctity of Her Truth. It resides in the sanctity of Her mission in the world and in the entire universe. It resides in the sanctity of those who have realized the goal which God has offered them. The Church of Jesus Christ is the Holy of Holies of the entire universe.
I believe and I confess the oneness (unity) of the Church. Just as the removal of a tumor does not cause the body to loose its soundness, so also, the departure of heretics, schismatics, and hardened excommunicated sinners, does not cause the Body of the Church to be diminished, nor to lose Its unity. The oneness (unity) of the Church is not guaranteed by the number of Her followers, nor by a bureaucratic unity, but solely by Her adherence to the purity of the Faith. Thus, the Holy Canons and the Holy Fathers exhort and authorize that any violation against the Faith is to result in the excommunication of the perpetrators, or in the case of bishops, when they proclaim “heresies recognized as such by the Councils of the Fathers,” they are to be abandoned. The Holy Canons specify that the goal of such a separation is to preserve the Church’s unity and to shelter Her from true schism.
30. Concerning the Head of the Church
I believe and I confess that the only head of the Church is Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Orthodox Church has never had, nor shall She ever have, a visible head. A “primate” or an “Ecumenical Patriarch” should never be confused with the position of the Roman Catholic Pope in his gathering. The Orthodox Church can exist with an Ecumenical Patriarch or without one. The unity of the Orthodox Church is not expressed by the centralization of ecclesiastical power in the control of one person, but by the purity of the Faith which the Church professes. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ remains with us until the end of time, as He promised, despite His Ascension into the Heavens. The fact that He is in Heaven does not mean that His ‘absence’ from the earth requires a ‘vicar’ or a ‘representative.’ The Holy Spirit directs the Church and Our Lord Jesus Christ abides ever-present in the midst of Her.
Concerning the false dogma of the Pope and his being “Bishop of Bishops”,“Vicar of Christ”, and “Head of the Church”, I recall to mind the inspired words of the great Orthodox Bishop of Rome, St. Gregory the Dialogist, who said: “I say it without the least hesitation, whoever calls himself the universal bishop, or desires this title, is, by his pride, the precursor of Antichrist, because he thus attempts to raise himself above the others. The error into which he falls springs from pride equal to that of Antichrist; for as that Wicked One wished to be regarded as exalted above other men, like a god, so likewise whoever would be called sole bishop exalteth himself above others” (). Rather “for us the Pope is just one of the Patriarchs, and that only if he be Orthodox” (St. Mark of Ephesus).
The Ecumenical and Local Councils guided by the Holy Spirit bear witness to what has been believed by the Church, at every time, in every place, and by everyone. This is the Catholicity of the Church. The councils promulgate the canons necessary to put the Faith into practice as it was lived and practiced from the beginning. Infallibility is an attribute of the catholicity of the Church of Christ, and not an attribute of a single person, or de facto, a hierarchical assembly. A council is not “ecumenical” because of the exterior legality of its composition (since this factor does not oblige the Holy Spirit to speak through it) but because of the purity of the Faith of the Gospels which it proclaims. There is no “pope” or “primate” who is superior to the Councils who may, or may not, ratify them. Rather, it is the conscience of the Church which, being infallible, recognizes, or does not recognize, the authenticity of the Council. Hence, there have been Councils which fulfilled the exterior conditions of ecumenicity, but were, nonetheless, rejected by the Church. The Church’s criterion is the Church.
31. Concerning How the Church is Superior to Ethnic Considerations
I believe and I confess that the Church makes no distinction in the race of Her believers, nor their nationality, nor their language. The sister and autocephalous Orthodox Churches may be delimited by national geographic, and jurisdictional boundaries, but not by ethnic or linguistic factors. Thus, according to Canon Law, their cannot be two bishops named for the same see (e.g. one for the Russians of New York and one for the Greeks of New York).
32. Concerning the Church and Holy Tradition
I adhere totally to the life of the Church, to Her Mysteries, Her worship, Her discipline, and Her unwritten law. I believe and I confess that the Church is directed by the Holy Spirit in every detail of Her life. I believe that man cannot invent anything to take the place of revelation and that all details of the Church’s life bear the imprint of the Holy Spirit. Thus, I wish, according to the words of St. Iakovos the Apostle, to be a “doer of the law and not a judge thereof” [ Iakovos (Jas.) 4:11]. I, therefore, refuse to allow my mind to make distinctions between what it thinks to be primary (important) and what is secondary (unimportant).
I believe and I confess that a Christian’s moral life cannot be dissociated from his piety and his doctrinal profession of faith. I denounce the dissociation of the Church’s profession of faith from Her administration as being contrary to Tradition. I reject every sharp distinction that is made between dogmatic canonical rules and disciplinary canonical rules, as well as, every sharp distinction between one’s daily life and the spiritual life. Indeed, if a man’s life did not coincide or conform with his beliefs, this would constitute hypocrisy on his part. By the same token, the Church’s disciplinary canons are a direct reflection of Her faith and doctrine. I denounce and refuse to accept any attempt to revise, or “purge,” or “readapt” Orthodoxy’s canonical rules and/or (authentic) liturgical texts. I acknowledge them to be fruits of the Holy Spirit. Further, I know the Faith does not become antiquated with the passage of time, nor does it decay over the ages, but that it ever remains the same, both ancient and new at the same time.
33. Concerning Written and Unwritten Holy Tradition
I believe and confess that the canons of the Holy Seven Ecumenical Councils, and the canons of the Holy Local Councils, and those of the Holy Fathers which have been approved by the Church, are in reality the fruits of the Holy Spirit and I reject in advance every assembly or council which should declare that it stands in opposition to these canons, or which should contrive to annul or modify them. I accept the teachings of the Holy Fathers who have preceded me and have begotten me in the Faith by the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I accept their teaching as the Church interprets it and I reject every abusive utilization of the Father’s writings, since the Patristic writings can be misinterpreted.
I also accept all genuine unwritten Traditions of the Church, as St. Paul the Apostle dictates, inasmuch as these Traditions are authentic and sanctified by the Holy Spirit and approved by the conscience of the Church throughout the ages. All that is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Orthodox Church professes, I also profess; all that She teaches, I also teach; all that She approves, I also approve; all that She rejects, I also reject; all that She does not approve, I also do not approve; all that She anathematizes, I also anathematize.
34. Concerning Monasticism
I believe and confess that human nature can exist in three modes: in the contranatural, natural, or supernatural states. The state of sin is the contranatural state of our existence. Honorable marriage contracted upon a Christian foundation is a natural state of man. According to the Councils, anyone who becomes a monastic because of a disdain for marriage as something sinful is subject to excommunication as being a reviler of God’s creation.
Monasticism, for the Christian, is a supernatural state wherein the monastic pursues a life of great repentance and wherein he may become, even during this life, a celestial man and a terrestrial angel. As the Fathers teach, the man who has vanquished the flesh, has vanquished nature and the man who has vanquished nature, has attained to the supernatural by the Grace of God. The goal of bodily asceticism is not the destroying of the body by the spirit, as it is with the fakirs, but the sanctification of man’s entire being - soul and body. The Christian ascetical life does not have disdain for the body as its motivation, rather, it aspires to the liberation of the body and of the entire being from servitude to necessity and the contranatural passions. It seeks for the reestablishment of the hierarchy of the values which have been altered by sin.
Monasticism and the prayer of the heart have existed from the most ancient times, as the Old Testament bears witness. They were practiced by the righteous, the prophets, the Apostles, the Forerunner, and the Holy Fathers. Monasticism constitutes the rule of life which inspires the entire life of the Church. As the Fathers say, even as angels are a light unto the monastics, so also are the monastics a light for those in the world.
Monasticism’s goal is not utilitarian (educational, vocational, etc.,) Monasticism’s goal is communion with God which is sought for and realized in prayer. Prayer is the primary and essential work of a monk, whereas, “service” is secondary (parergon) work. To abolish monasticism, or to transform it into a utilitarian activity, would be equivalent to changing and degrading the norm of the whole Church’s life.
I believe that the “good deed” par-excellence which a Christian can do for humanity is to save his soul. Thus, the monastic life is the fruit par-excellence of the life of the Church, even as the angel said to St. Pachomius the Great: “In this habit (manner of life) shall all flesh be saved.” The True Church cannot exist without monasticism, even as a body cannot live without lungs, for the teaching of the Gospel is fulfilled in life and deed in monasticism.
35. Concerning Obedience to One’s Bishop and Spiritual Father
I accept the spiritual authority of my hierarchical superiors in the Church and voluntarily place myself under canonical obedience to them. Especially do I place myself under canonical obedience to my canonical bishop and the priest in charge of my spiritual direction (my father confessor). I put myself under this obedience in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, following His commandment that one must deny himself.
In the exercise of denial, the renunciation is a free and conscious act, and the submission to my hierarchical superiors and my father confessor is, in fact, my submission to the Church. Just as there is no Baptism, Communion, repentance, virginity, or martyrdom outside the Church, so also, is there no obedience outside the Church, since we are called to obey and submit ourselves to God and not men.
My obedience must imitate that of the Most-Holy Virgin Theotokos, that is, it must be free, total and conscious. My obedience must imitate that of our Saviour Who, “...became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.”
However, should the priest who instructed me, or baptized me, or is my father confessor, or my bishop, my synod, my patriarch, or even an angel from Heaven, preach another Gospel to me (a heresy which has been proclaimed as such, not by my own reasoning or judgment, but by the “Councils or the Fathers”) or should anyone of them teach publicly anything which contradicts what has been taught always and everywhere by the consensus of the Fathers, I will renounce them. I will break any bond or communion that I may have with him. Acting thusly, I am freed from all obligation, submission, and obedience to him. In doing this, I follow the example of those who separated themselves from Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, before his official condemnation. I also will be following countless other similar examples in the life of the Church acting in accordance with the XV Canon of the First-&-Second Council which states:
But as for those who on account of some heresy condemned by the Holy Synods or Fathers sever themselves from communion with their president, (bishop) that is, because he publicly preaches heresy and with bared head teaches it in the Church, such persons as these not only are not subject to canonical penalty for walling themselves off from communion with the so-called bishop before synodical clarification, but they shall be deemed worthy of due honour among the Orthodox. For not bishops, but false bishops and false teachers have they condemned, and they have not fragmented the Church’s unity with schism, but from schisms and divisions have they earnestly sought to deliver the Church.
Acting in this manner, I act in harmony with the Church’s tradition and, therefore, I do not become a sectarian or a fanatic. I do my duty as a Christian to preserve the integrity of the Church for which I will be obliged to give account to God. My dedication is to the purity of the Church’s Faith, and not to numbers of people, personalities, or human organizations and systems bearing exterior unity, or unconditional obedience to a hierarchy that is externally unified. There can be no obedience to anything in deference to the Truth.
36. Concerning the Life that is to Come
I believe and I confess the existence of eternal life. I believe in the glorious return of our Lord (the Second Coming) when He shall come to judge the living and the dead, rendering to each man according to the works which he did while living on earth. I believe in the establishment of the Kingdom of His righteousness. I live in expectation of the resurrection of the dead, which resurrection will be in the same flesh but immortal and, in the case of the saved, glorified. I believe that both the sovereign Glory of God (Kingdom) and the condition of Gehenna shall be eternal.
I observe the prefigurement of the “new creation” on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) not in deference to the fourth commandment of the old Law, but in full cognizance that the Sabbath Day (Saturday) - the primordial perfection of the creation of the world celebrated as rest - came to an end with the final resting of our Saviour in the tomb. By observing the Lord’s Day, the eighth day - the day without evening - I confess the “new creation” in Jesus Christ which is of greater import and more real than the existing creation (that of the Sabbath) which still bears the “wounds” of sin.
I believe that both the righteous and sinners who are departed have a foretaste of their final destiny, and that only on the Day of Judgment, the Day of the Lord, shall each man receive the entirety of what he deserves; on the one hand, what they have now is exceedingly great, but, on the other hand, in comparison to what is to be revealed it is only a foretaste. I believe that God loves not only those who dwell in a state of blessedness, but also those who are in a state of suffering. In Hades, however, according to the Holy Fathers, the Divine love constitutes a course of suffering for the wicked, as do the whole collection of passions which they can no longer satisfy. This suffering is not due to God’s love, but to their own wickedness, which cannot return it and resents this love and, because of the torments of their conscience, feels it as pain. Neither Paradise, nor Gehenna have commenced in a complete and perfect sense. What our souls have is the foretaste of the future reward or punishment that all men, each in our whole person, soul and body, shall receive together on the Last Day. Hence, also, for the present, there is no resurrection of the bodies of the dead. The saints, too, await this eternal and perfect state (even as a “perfect” and everlasting torment [i.e. Gehenna] awaits the sinners) for, in his Epistle to the Hebrews [11:39-40], St. Paul states, “and these all (i.e., all the saints) having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, since God had provided some better thing for us, so that they without us should not be made perfect.” Therefore, all the saints await the resurrection of their bodies and the commencement of their reward of Paradise in its perfect and complete sense, as St. Paul declares in the Acts of the Apostles, “I believe all things which are written in the law and in the prophets, and have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” [cf. Acts 24:14] Although the saints do not as yet partake fully of their glory, their intercessions are, nonetheless, efficacious even now, for St. Iakovos (James) in his Catholic Epistle did not say “The entreaty of a righteous man shall have much strength when it is energized”, but, rather, “hath much strength” [Iakovos (Jas.) 5:16]
I believe and confess that Paradise and Gehenna shall be twofold in nature – spiritual and physical, that is, affecting men in both soul and body. At the present, because the body is still in the grave, both aspects of the requital – well-being or chastisement – only affect a person’s soul, and are only a foretaste at that. Therefore, we speak of wicked souls experiencing sufferings in Hades (the general region of departed souls), because, as such, Gehenna (i.e., the place of full and everlasting spiritual and physical torment) has not commenced. Hades (the general region of departed souls) was despoiled by our Saviour at the time of His Passion and Resurrection, carrying off all who received him to a better place and the foretaste of the Paradise to come; however, all those that are removed into Gehenna on the Last Day shall be there eternally. In that day, Christ shall say to those on the left: “Depart from Me, ye cursed unto everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” The demons know that a time has been appointed, when the torments of Gehenna will commence.
I believe, as the Scriptures attest, that the prayers, almsgiving, and fasts made by the living Orthodox out of love for and on behalf of the reposed have a beneficent effect on the souls of the reposed. Also, I believe that even the souls that are in darkness are benefited in this way. The prayers of the Church, however, are reserved exclusively for those who have reposed in the Church.
Insofar as it depends on my own wish, I shall not permit my body to be cremated, but I shall specify in my will that my body be clothed, if possible, in my baptismal tunic. That it be interred (buried) in the earth from which My Creator fashioned me and to which I must return, until the Saviour’s Glorious Coming and the resurrection of the dead.
I conclude this profession of faith being aware that:
a) There is no genuine moral life independent of the liturgical and Mysteriological life or independent of purity of doctrine and
b) this Profession of Faith will be of no use to me if God, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, does not assist me to live and realize this faith in my daily life.
Therefore, freely and without constraint and, perceiving that I am in need, I request of the Holy Church to seize me from the corruption of death by the holy Mystery of Baptism - by rebirth; to purify me, to enlighten me, so that, with the Apostle Paul, I may hope to “attain to the resurrection of the righteous” [cf. Phil. 3:11].
I approach with a confidence born of the Lord’s promises: “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out,” [Jn. 6:37] since, He “...came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,” [Mt. 9:13] “...of whom I am the chief” [1 Tim. 1:15].