Anti-Patristic: The Stance of the Zealot Old Calendarists
Monk Basil of the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregory (Grigoriou), Mount Athos
It is hoped that the following article—translated several years ago, but not posted until now—will be of some help to Orthodox Christians who are wrestling with whether they should remain in communion with their Bishop or “jump ship” to one of the Old Calendarist groups. It may also help those who are struggling with whether the recent reconciliation between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia means they should leave the ROCOR for one of the break-away churches opposed to the reunion.
The article is not without some weaknesses, e.g., when the author writes ”...precisely because [the zealots] also do not have reasons of faith for their schisms.” So-called zealots who read this will likely respond, “The Calendar per se is a canonical issue; but the motivation behind its uncanonical adoption was a wider Ecumenist agenda. The Julian Calendar is not dogma, and our struggle is not primarily over the Calendar. Rather, our struggle is against Ecumenism, which is an ecclesiological heresy, and thus a dogmatic issue. The Calendar change must be seen in the proper context.” These are reasonable points which the author did not sufficiently address. The question is whether conceding these points undermines the author’s argument. I do not think it does (see the closing bullet points).
The author also assails the Studite schisms, writing that they “were not recognized by anyone, but were instead condemned.” This admittedly contradicts at least two Lives of St. Theodore the Studite. For example, The Synaxarion published by the Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia, Greece, the reception the Saint and his followers received after return from exile seems to indicate that his resistance was well regarded. Nevertheless, I do not think this possible error renders moot the author’s points. There were Saints on both sides of this controversy: two successive Patriarchs of Constantinople, Tarasius (Feb. 25) and Nicephorus (Jun 2). In reading their Lives no conclusions can be drawn about how the Church ultimately viewed their actions as opposed to those of the Studite party.
Moreover, even if we grant the praiseworthiness of the Studite schisms there still remains the fact that the key Canon cited by the zealots, Canon XV of the First-Second Synod, was established some sixty years later in order to clarify appropriate grounds for rupturing communion with one’s hierarch:
The eastern patriarchs and more than three hundred bishops, including the papal legates, were in attendance [at the First-Second Synod]. All confirmed and ratified the proclamations of the Holy Seventh (Ecumenical Synod, and once more condemned the heresy of Iconoclasm. Patriarch Photios was accepted as the lawful and canonical patriarch. Also at this synod, seventeen holy canons were written with the purpose of bringing disobedient monks and bishops into harmony with ecclesiastical order and traditions. Disobedient monks were expressly forbidden to desert their lawful bishop under the excuse of the bishop’s supposed sinfulness, that is, personal sins; for such brings disorder and schism in the Church. The holy synod also said that only by a conciliar decision could the clergy reject a bishop who had fallen into sin. This rule was adopted in direct response to those unreasonably strict monks who had erred by separating themselves from their new patriarch. (Holy Apostles Convent, trans., The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church, February, p. 195)
Could it be that this Canon was partly motivated by the Moechian Controversy, which concerned certain Canons, not dogma?
A third weakness of this article is the author’s placing all zealots in the same basket, failing to distinguish between the many groups which deny the presence of Ecclesial Grace in the New Calendar Churches, and those groups which are more moderate, such as the True (Old Calendar) Orthodox Church of Greece, Synod of Metropolitan Cyprian, and those in communion with him (True [Old Calendar] Orthodox Churches of Romania and Bulgaria). These moderate “resisters” do not deny the presence of Grace in the Mysteries of those Churches with which they are not in communion, nor do they consider the Clergy of these Churches mere laymen, if not outside of the Church altogether. They would likely share criticisms essayed by this author concerning the zealots.
Regardless of these and other weaknesses, I think the article is quite valuable. It provides many thought-provoking statements and important historical examples that call into question the position of the zealots today vis-à-vis the Orthodox Churches who tolerate, to one degree or another, clergy who make ecumenist statements or violate the Holy Canons at ecumenical gatherings. The clear impression one gets is that Church history, especially during times of controversy, is not as “black and white” as many zealots today want others to believe. In the light of this article, some key arguments undergirding the zealot stance seem simplistic and wooden.
For the record, I personally refrain from attaching the label of “schismatic” or “uncanonical“ to these zealot groups. That is not a judgement I am willing to make. The issue of lawful resistance to heresy is sufficiently fuzzy that I would rather remain circumspect, awaiting a future Synodal decision. Perhaps once again we will realize that there were Saints on both sides. Until then Canon XV requires further scholarly study to determine whether the zealots are truly justified in applying to themselves the following excerpt therefrom:
“The holy synod did, however, distinguish between unreasonable rebellion and laudable resistance, for the defense of the Faith, which it encouraged. In regard to this matter, it decreed that should a bishop publicly confess or adhere to some heresy, already condemned by the holy fathers and previous synods, one who ceases to commemorate such a bishop even before conciliar condemnation, not only is not to be censured, but also should be praised as condemning a false bishop. In doing so, moreover, one is not dividing the Church, but struggling for the unity of the Faith.”
The use of this Canon by zealot groups raises many questions; and these questions are a main reason why Orthodox Christians are so divided over the proper response to the admittedly serious problem of Ecumenism in the Church today:
- Has Ecumenism as an ecclesiological heresy already been “condemned by the holy fathers and previous synods”?
- Is Ecumenism taught with bared-head, i.e., openly, officially, “from the ambon”, and promulgated as the teaching of the Church?
- Does Canon XV justify the establishment of a parallel, even rival, synod? Where are examples of this from Church history?
- It’s one thing to cease “[commemoration of] such a bishop even before conciliar condemnation”, but does this Canon permit ceasing communion with all other Bishops who might be in communion with that Bishop?
- How can the moderate resisters say that the Bishops with whom they have broken communion are still Bishops when Canon XV states, “For they have defied, not Bishops, but pseudo-bishops and pseudo-teachers;”?
These are serious questions that can only be answered by a scholarly study of Church history during times of controversy, as well as of Canon XV. I look forward to the day when such a study exists in English.
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In the magazine “Holy Kollyvades”1 an article by Fr. Nicholas Demaras was published, in which the Sacred Monastery of Saint Gregory is criticized for its stance regarding Ecumenism and Zealotism.
The occasion of this article was my departure from the Zealot Fathers of the Holy Mountain and my taking up residence in the aforesaid Sacred Monastery. My reason for leaving is the entirely mistaken ecclesiastical line which the Zealots and remaining G.O.C. [Genuine Orthodox Christians] Old Calendarists have adopted. Among my many arguments for this decision was the stance of Saint Sophronius regarding the heretical Monothelites.
In his article Fr. Nicholas deals mainly with the stance of Saint Sophronius. The bishops of the Church are also accused of preaching the heresy of Ecumenism through the change of the calendar, the dialogues, joint prayers and other innovations. Simultaneously our Sacred Monastery is also criticized because we do not sever ecclesiastical communion with our bishops, despite the (supposed) explicit injunction of the holy Fathers and the requirement of the 15th Canon of the First-Second Synod (861).
I lived with the Zealot fathers who, in all other respects, are beloved virtuous monks. I admired their piety, their love for monasticism, and their struggling spirit. I ascertained, however, that they are maintaining an anticanonical schism, misinterpreting the teaching of the holy Fathers and ecclesiastical history.
With the blessing of my venerable elder Father George, I will for the moment respond concisely to the accusations of the article in order to prove that our stance is absolutely in agreement with Orthodox Ecclesiology. The basic criterion for this answer derives from the patristic teaching regarding heretics and bishops who act anticanonically.
A. THE PATRISTIC TEACHING
1. About condemned heretics
The stance of the holy Fathers regarding heretics was always the same. Saint Tarasius of Constantinople says that “in nothing do we find the fathers disagreeing, but as they are of the same spirit, they all preach and teach the same”3. Thus, Saint Gregory the Theologian teaches that we should turn away from heretics as being foreign to the catholic Church. The heretics, according to Athanasios the Great, are wolves and forerunners of the Antichrist, whereas, according to Basil the Great, worse than Judas. Saint John of Damascus commands that we not give communion to heretics, nor take their own, since, according to Saint Theodore the Studite, the communion of heretics is a poison which darkens and blackens the soul.
The commemoration of a heretical bishop is a defilement, whereas, according to Saint Symeon of Thessalonica, even attending church with heretics is forbidden. The Saints urge the heretics to abandon their heresy and to enter the catholic Church, otherwise they are not benefited by their good works, nor can they inherit the kingdom of God.
2. Concerning those who unite with condemned heretics
According to Canons 1 and 2 of the 3rd Oecumenical Synod, whoever affiliates himself with heretics falls from ecclesiastical communion and the priesthood. Therefore, Saints Savvas and Theodosios, together with all the monks of Palestine, declared that they were willing to shed their blood rather than to accept union with the Monophysites. The unions with the unrepenting Latins in the years 1274 and 1439 were faced in the same manner. In other words, the Fathers interrupted ecclesiastical communion with whoever accepted the union of Lyons (1274). They furthermore preferred tortures and death, like the venerable Haghiorite martyrs and Saints Meletius and Galaktion. Saint Mark Eugenicos also urged the Orthodox not to commune with whoever accepted the false union of Florence (1439). He used to say: “Flee from them, as one flees from a snake”17.
3. Concerning those who preach heresy
The sacred Dositheos of Jerusalem, interpreting Orthodox Ecclesiology very beautifully, presents the way in which the Church faces those who preach within Her heretical dogmas: “Heresy which springs up, if it spreads, an Oecumenical Synod judges and condemns”18. While after the Synod the unrepentant heretics were completely cut off from ecclesiastical communion.
In some cases the ecclesiastical communion with these innovators was cut off even before a Synodical judgement. The 15th Canon of the First-Second Synod allows this action, as long as it is done with the goal of freeing the Church from the schism and heresy of erring bishops. Because ecclesiastical schism is not something simple, however, the final judgment and cutting off of heretics from the Church, as we previously mentioned, was entrusted to Oecumenical Synods.
The reason for the aforesaid is that heresies are not easily and immediately realized by the faithful pleroma of the Church. Some people communed with bishops who preached heretical beliefs out of ignorance, others for reasons of economy or some other potentially justifiable cause. As such, it wasn’t right for them to be considered heretics before the final decision of an Oecumenical Synod. Hence, no sacred Canon or holy Father ever imposed on the Orthodox pleroma the cutting off of ecclesiastical communion with the heretics before a Synodical condemnation, nor was any clergyman punished for maintaining communion prior to said condemnation. This is, of course, not the case with those who continued to maintain communion [with heretics] after the Synodical condemnation.
Quite a few examples from ecclesiastical History prove that from the appearance of heretical teaching up to the final condemnation, there was a period during which the Church tried, through Her representatives, to bring to repentance the “new” teachers, implementing the path of oikonomia, which was recognized by all the holy Fathers. Thus, for example, whereas Monotheletism was first preached in 615, its main opponents, Saints Sophronios and Maximos, do not seem to have interrupted communion with the heretics before the Synods of the West (640-649), which anathematized them.
Oikonomia is also encountered in the case of the stance regarding the Latins. We reach the above conclusion even if we accept the extreme case, to wit, the popes officially preached the heresy of the Filioque in 1009 as opposed to spreading it unhesitatingly from the 10th century. The Zealots maintain that the division happened immediately, since Sergius of Constantinople removed the pope from the diptychs in 1009. They furthermore present a related testimony of the sacred Dositheos.
Their perversion of history and the obfuscation of this sacred Father’s words are very apparent. The sacred Dositheos writes that the remaining patriarchs did not remove the pope from the Diptychs in 1009, but instead after forty five years (1054). It is, of course, understood that Constantinople was united with the above patriarchs during this whole period. This oikonomia towards the Latins happened because “the Patriarchs, according to the ancient ecclesiastical custom, instead of implementing the canonical justice of Keroularios, awaited the correction of the Roman Church, hence they also suffered long”23. “The Easterners (in other words), had, by way of oikonomia, kept silent for a long time, thinking the Italians would move their innovations towards the better, but [the Italians] having remained in their own stubbornness, [the Easterners] cut them off from ecclesiastical unity”24.
When also Saint Gregory (the father of Saint Gregory the Theologian) out of simplicity signed a semi-Arian creed (361), the monks cut off communion with him. Saint Gregory and others, however, did not separate from him. This fact the Zealots usually hide, as well as the judgments of the sacred Father concerning the monks. The union was achieved after Gregory convinced his father to publicly pronounce an Orthodox Symbol of Faith (364). What is more, in his first Peaceful homily, given on the occasion of union, the great Theologian censures the [zealot] monks indirectly for their rebellion, hastiness and audacity. He advises them not to return to “their own vomit”, as it is preferable that we remain in the common body of the Church when we are not perfectly sure..
4. Concerning those who transgress the sacred Canons
How they deal with those who transgress (more or less) the sacred Canons, without touching the dogmas, is completely different. Canons 13, 14 and 15 of the First-Second Synod strictly forbid the interruption of ecclesiastical communion with bishops who fall into whatsoever“crime” before Synodical judgment. The holy Apostles had allowed the interruption of communion for reasons of “piety and righteousness”29. The word “righteousness”, however, was easily misinterpreted, resulting in various schisms which were condemned by the Church. These successive schisms—which were mainly by the Studites, and which continued until the days of Saint Photios the Great—were the reason why the Saint and his Synod legislated these Canons.
Also, about fifteen years before the Synod of Saint Photios, “the holy Methodios synodically brought forth an anathema against the monks of Studium who cut themselves off from the Church, because they opposed what was said and written by Theodore against Tarasius and Nicephorus”30. The tactic of Saint Methodios to accept by oikonomia the ordinations of the Iconoclasts had caused schisms. The Venerable Saint Ioannikios condemned these schisms in various ways, maintaining that the Church must be united because justification for these schisms due to reasons of faith did not exist .
Likewise, the older short-term schisms of Saint Theodore the Studite in response to the oikonomia applied by the holy patriarchs Tarasius and Nikephorus “did not seem like a small fall to the Fathers, but nevertheless again they were corrected”32. Even his biographer, Michael the Studite, did not dare support the action of Saint Theodore. These schisms were condemned by the sacred Methodius and Dositheos, among others. Many monks of that time—notably those who shone forth as great Saints—also did not follow the Studites. Among them was the great confessor Theophanis, who in his “Chronography” mentions the breaking off of Saint Theodore from the “holy Church” and the “most holy patriarch”36 Nicephoros. Again, the cause of their condemnation was that that there did not exist justification owing to matters of faith, but rather a deviation from the sacred Canons.
Of course, the aforesaid notwithstanding, Saint Theodore is a great confessor; and he is a model on account of his heroic struggles against the iconoclastic heresy. Only his short-lived schisms for the above acts of oikonomia cannot comprise a rule for the Church.
Unfortunately, the Zealots publicize these schisms ad nauseam, presenting them as an ecclesiastical law and unbreakable rule, precisely because they also do not have reasons of faith for their schisms. They furthermore call “Adulterers” the opponents of the Studite—as he also called them for a time; and most of the time they hide the names of his opponents, or fail to call them Saints! The reference is to the Saints and Confessors Nicephoros of Constantinople, Michael of Synnada, Euthymios of Sardeon, Aimilianos of Kyzikus, Theophylactus of Nikomedia and other great Fathers.
Saint Daniel the Stylite also called to repentance those monks who separated themselves from the Church without reasons of faith. He exhorted them thus: “not without danger do we separate ourselves from our holy mother”38.
In general, all the schisms which took place on the pretext of exactitude never genuinely expressed the phronema of the Church. Needless to say, those who did not participate in these schisms were also not considered to be outside of the Church.
B. ECUMENISM AND ZEALOTISM
1. The Zealots’ mistaken evaluation of Ecumenism
In the last century a modernistic tendency—seminal elements of which were observed even earlier—began taking shape in the bosom of the Church. This coincided with an intense effort to approach various heretics. One of the many sour notes heard during this time was the correction of the ecclesiastical calendar (1923-1924). This was the occasion of the schism of the Zealots from the Church. Of course, it would have been a great blessing if the calendar had remained unaltered and all of the Orthodox had continued to celebrate the feasts together.
Three great Synods condemned the Gregorian calendar at the end of the 16th century. The historian F. Vafeidis writes that “during that year (1583) a Synod gathered in Constantinople, which mainly condemned the Gregorian calendar; for according to this calendar it happens that we celebrate [Pascha] with the Jews, which is contrary to the Synod in Nicaea.”39 The Zealots, when they mention the above phrase, [often] stop after the word “calendar”, omitting the rest! It seems they believe that the main work of the Synod was the condemnation of the Gregorian calendar per se.
In fact, as the historian stated, the main reason for the condemnation of the Gregorian calendar was concelebration with the Jews—i.e., the alteration of the Paschalion [so that Pascha occasionally coincided with Passover—ed.]. This, however, never occurred, and we hope that it will never occur.* In other words, the full meaning of the above quote removes from the Zealots a reason for schism, since the change of the festal calendar [i.e., the Menaion—ed.] does not touch the dogmatic nature of the First Oecumenical Synod, and consequently it does not comprise a heresy.
Therefore, based on the most strict Canons of the First-Second Synod, and especially on the 15th—which the Zealots constantly call upon—, the calendar schism was completely anti-canonical.
Furthermore, most of the Zealots preach that all those who accepted the new calendar, or who commune with the new calendarists, are excommunicated and are thus without divine Grace!
Of course, the Zealots were not so naïve as one might think based on their odd ecclesiology. They knew they needed a dogmatic reason. One had to be found at all costs.
Unfortunately, they were aided by those who promoted a syncretistic ecumenism through ecumenistic dialogues; excessive longing for union with the heretics; occasionally imparting to them the holy Mysteries; the isolated cases of recognizing their mysteries as valid; the acceptance of an ecclesiastical character in their confessions; and joint prayers, among canonical transgressions.
The Zealots, therefore, declared as heretics those responsible for the above actions, and thus the longed for reason was found, albeit delayed. For them it is not important that the calendar schism occurred a few decades earlier. The important thing is that the dogmatic justification was found! They also rejoice that they were delivered “just in time” from the Ecumenists.
In any case, many times, during periods when heresy was being preached, the holy Fathers implemented praiseworthy oikonomia towards heretics in order to help them change their train of thought. They never, however, instigated schisms on account of some clairvoyant ability [that gave them insight into the outcome of the controversy—ed.].
Unfortunately for the Zealots, it must be stressed that the above canonical transgressions, no matter how grievous and worrisome they are, do not comprise in and of themselves heresy. They comprise “crimes” against the Canons of the First-Second Synod, as well as transgressions of other sacred Canons, but not heresy. Heresy is “to deviate in something from the dogmas laid before us, concerning the correct faith,”42 and estrangement from the faith.
What about the sporadic and unofficial—i.e., devoid of any Synodical recognition—unorthodox declarations, agreements or theories of isolated Ecumenists? These do not comprise an official proclamation of heresy. Even the most extreme Zealots teach that the sporadic proclamations of the heresy of the Filioque—which was preached for centuries, and to a much greater degree than the Protestant branch theory—did not comprise a cause for schism. Therefore, since these heterodox teachings have not been [officially] recognized or become hardened and settled, they do not comprise a cause for schism.
The faithful do have a responsibility, of course, constantly and fervently to struggle against these heterodox teachings, to wipe out or at least limit them, so that finally the Ecumenistic attitude and tactic arising from them may cease.
Even the lifting of the anathemas of 1054 against the papists by Patriarch [Athenagoras] of Constantinople—an act condemned by many Orthodox as a very great “achievement” of the Ecumenists—was a formal “gesture of love”, without any relationship to the theological positions of the Orthodox and the Papists. It did not mean the Schism was over, nor was there any change in the teaching, canonical order, divine worship or ecclesiastical life of the Church, nor was there restoration of sacramental communion.
2. Similar situations from previous times
Similar canonical transgressions, as well as direct or indirect deviations from Orthodox Ecclesiology, have occurred in times past, especially in parts of the world where the heterodox were a majority. Notably, these transgressions did not result in schisms. Unfortunately, the Orthodox diaspora has brought about an increase in these worrisome and unacceptable transgressions and deviations.
Subsequently we will mention a few occasions of oikonomia, canonical transgressions and unofficial (direct or indirect) ecclesiological deviations, on account of which the holy Fathers did not, however, interrupt ecclesiastical communion with those responsible. These cases, of course, are much milder than the official declaration of the Filioque in the Symbol of faith, or the huge spreading of the heresy of Monotheletism. Despite this, as we have previously mentioned, for many years the Fathers employed the established method of oikonomia in these more serious cases.
1. The Fathers of the Third Oecumenical Synod condemned Nestorius. They did not, however, anathematize his “father”47 and teacher Theodore of Mopsuestia, who had already died, “so that some people will not, by being devoted to the man out of respect, cut themselves off from the churches. Their application of oikonomia in this was most excellent and wise”, according to Saint Cyrill.
Later on, when an issue arose whether to anathematize the heretic Theodore, the sacred Cyrill wrote to St. Proclus of Constantinople and urged him for the sake of “oikonomia”49 “not to allow him to be anathematized, as this would become a cause for disturbance”. As St. Theodore the Studite wrote, “the divine Cyrill practiced oikonomia so that those of the West would not be cut off (by oikonomia he communed with them), who in the diptychs mentioned Theodore of Mopsuestia as indeed a heretic”51.
2. The 95th Canon of the Penthekte [Fifth Oecumenical] Synod defines that, kat’ oikonomia, Nestorians and Monophysites can be accepted with a simple libellum. This Canon was also used by St. Theodore for the Iconoclasts.
Therefore, these applications of oikonomia were accepted by the Orthodox without creating schisms. Today’s “super-Studites”, however, accept the new calendarists with chrismation. What is more, they claim to act “out of extreme economy,” saying that canonically they ought to rebaptize them (as if it were a case like the Manicheans!).
3. St. Photius bore the iniquitous customs of Rome as long as they did not impose them on the Church of Constantinople. He knew that “what is being neglected is not the faith”54, and consequently there was no reason for schism. Deviations included fasting on the Sabbath, eating non-fasting foods during the first week of Great Lent, forbidding Priests to marry, allowing Chrism to be administered only by the bishops, and overturning the apostolic restriction concerning the eating of choked animals and blood. Thus, according to the Eighth Oecumenical Synod (879), the restoration of the relationships between Saint Photius and Rome occurred through the recognition of the Symbol of Faith without the addition, though Rome did not cast off the aforementioned customs.
4. The holy Fathers bore the Western church of the 10th century, which was undergoing the age of “the reign of fornicators”57.
5. During the age of the Latin occupation the sacred the Germanos the New of Constantinople, along with his Synod, allowed kat’ oikonomia the Cypriot Bishops to accept the profiteering demands of the Latins. Specifically “for their successors to be appointed by the Latin archbishop, who also has the right to judge even every episcopal decision that has been appealed by one of the litigants.”58
6. Following the schism of 1054 there was always a longing for union. At times many epistles were exchanged and dialogues occurred, specifically 1098, 1113, 1136, 1154, 1169, 1175, 1206, 1214, 1232, 1234, 1250, 1253, 1254, 1272, 1333, 1339, 1366, and 1438. Furthermore, in 1253 concessions also occurred; and in 1136 and 1234, conciliatory solutions were suggested by the Orthodox, such as the phrase “the spirit proceeds from the father through the son”60. Schisms on account of the dialogues, however, did not occur, except during the false unions of 1274 and 1439.
Today, both the Haghiorite fathers and all pious Christians proclaim that they will never accept union with the Latins, Monophysites or other heretics if they do not denounce their heretical dogmas.
Unfortunately, in texts of the Zealots we observe much confusion. The Latin-minded ones which accepted the Union of 1274 are identified with those who today engage in joint prayers, dialogues, excessive pro-union efforts, or other similar activities. Likewise, the words of St. Mark of Ephesus concerning those who accepted the false Union of Florence are also applied to them, as if they are the same as those who actually entered into union with the heretics! If matters were so simple Orthodoxy would have been lost centuries ago.
7. St. Mark, when discussing the prospect of true union with the Latins, named them not brothers but “fathers”61. His teacher and great opponent of the Latins, Joseph Vryennios, had previously held union discussions with the Latins. He furthermore wrote a consultative homily regarding the union under consideration. In it, however, he fiercely condemned the “Ecumenists” of his age: in other words, those who wanted—according to the “branch theory” of that day—to be united with the pope even though the Filioque remained in the Symbol. He urged, without separating from those irresponsible parties, that any union must occur in a correct manner—i.e., that the Orthodox not be subjected to error, so that “we do not fall from the intention”62 (of true union in Christ.)
8. Many transgressions or deviations (direct and indirect) from the Orthodox phronema—transgressions that are similar to today’s—occurred in those times, especially in parts of the world where the Latins abounded. A multitude of testimonies during the 16th and 17th centuries indicate that it was customary for the Orthodox to commune with the Latins, and vice versa. To this we add the commemoration and recognition of Latin bishops, isolated concelebrations, mixed Mysteries, the granting of Mysteries to heretics, funerals for heretics, studies in heretical schools, the granting leave to the papist Capuchins to confess and teach, etc. Even Metropolitans and monks confessed to Latins (in areas occupied by the Turks and Latins), something which the sacred Makarios of Patmos condemned fiercely, without, however, initiating a schism.
During the middle of the 17th century “the monasteries of Athos repeatedly called the Jesuits to found a school on the Holy Mount for the spiritual training of monks”!65 Also in the same period “in many places, in Jerusalem, in Alexandria and other places, in one church, in one area, the easterners chant, and in the other [the westerners chant]”!66 During the same periods dialogues also occurred with various branches of the Monophysites and Protestants, who were liked and defended by a significant number of Orthodox Christians. Nevertheless, schisms did not occur in the Orthodox Church, even though holy Fathers struggled against union with groups such as the “Lutheran Calvinists”67.
9. St. Nikodemos condemned the “Latin-minded ones” of his age, or “volunteer defenders of the Latin false baptism”, as he named them. In 1755 the Eastern Patriarchs synodically decided that the Orthodox “who came from the Latins should be baptized, because until then the Latins were accepted into Orthodoxy mainly by chrismation. Despite this, the Latin-minded ones fought this decision and continued accepting those having the papal sprinkling of the Latins merely by chrismation.
St. Nikodemos grieved over the great falsification, corruption and misinterpretation of the sacred Canons, and for the “fruit that is fatal and an accessory to the perdition of the soul” which was born of them. He also mourned over the severe transgressions of the sacred Canons (especially Canon 6 of the Fourth, and Canons 14, 19, and 23 of the Sixth). As well he grieved for the Simoniacs, who, according to Saint Tarasius, are worse than the Pnevmatomachi. He wrote that this God-hated (according to Saint Gennadios) heresy had become a virtue, and that most are ordained for money. Simultaneously he prudently censured the theologians of his age for their heretical and blasphemous mindsets.
The Saint, along with the other Kollyvades Fathers, struggled fiercely for the sacred traditions. Yet nowhere can we find that they interrupted communion with the Latin-minded ones or the other erring Orthodox. These prudent zealots, contrary to those of today, were able to discern the difference between the Latin-minded ones of their age and the more egregious Latin-minded ones who entered into the false unions of 1274 and a 1439.
St. Nikodemos knew that there are “two types of governing in the Church”74: exactitude (akribeia) and economy (oikonomia). Although he was a lover of akribeia, he implemented oikonomia, as a long as there was no officially preached heresy. He taught that when hierarchs or priests transgress, we must toil to convince them that God’s will should be done, without however making schisms which desolate our souls.
10. The sacred Synod of the Church of Greece, in Her decision of 1834, officially allowed marriages with heretics (they were unofficially done prior to this), a decision which is “illegal and contrary to the sacred Canons”76. Constantine Economos relates also the dissolution of more than four hundred monasteries, the approval of forbidden marriage relations, the founding of theological schools according to Protestant models, and many other painful things that occurred during that time.
It should be obvious, of course, that the above canonical transgressions are condemnable. Moreover, whoever takes them as a model for their relationship with the heterodox is not imitating the holy Fathers, who struggled for their elimination.
3. Contemporary Zealotism
We believe that the inconsistency of the Zealots is made clear when they equate the severity of the calendar change or joint prayers with the fearful heresy of Nestorius, which overturned the “mystery awaited of the ages”  and corrupted the meaning of the salvation of the human race.
Contemporary Zealotism cannot be seen as in agreement with the teaching and action of the holy Fathers. It rather resembles the Studite schisms [arising from canonical infractions] (we do not mean, of course, those which happened in a praiseworthy manner and with an utterly confessional mindset against the heresy of Iconoclasm). This resemblance leads to its condemnation, since these particular Studite schisms were not recognized by anyone, but instead were condemned. In reality, however, the present-day schisms do not exactly resemble these Studite schisms either, since at that time there were not so many mutual defrocking and “Churches”. The unsuspected and lightening-quick defrockings and “acquittals” of zealot clergy can find no parallel in church history.
The Zealots have fallen into a multitude of contradictions, from which it is impossible for them to be freed, since they persist in their positions. Specifically:
1. When they want to justify their schism due to the calendar change (1924) or one of their internal schisms (in other words, situations that do not involve heresy), they call upon the Studite schisms (which justify a schism for canonical transgressions) or the 31st Apostolic Canon, which allows a schism for reasons “of piety and righteousness”. They do this, as we have noted, by misinterpreting the word “righteousness”.
2. When however they want to justify their schism due to Ecumenism, or in order to prevent one of their internal schisms, they call upon the 15th Canon of the First-Second Synod (which allows schism only for reasons of heresy).
Of course the invocation, on the one hand, of both the Studite schisms and of the 31st Apostolic Canon, and on the other hand of the 15th Canon of the First-Second Synod, creates a huge contradiction; for the latter was instituted (as we have said above) in order to avert the Studite schisms and to clarify or interpret properly the 31st Apostolic Canon!
The above contradictions are what contribute to the Zealot divisions. The Zealots typically explain the existence of nine churches for the Genuine Orthodox Christians, as well as other independent groups, as the fruit of bad administration and human passions. We are not in agreement. Rather, their schisms are an outpouring of their utterly deluded and distorted ecclesiology. Their divisions will never end as long as they invoke the Studite schisms and the 31st Apostolic Canon for disagreements over the consecration of metropolitans, ordinations, constitutions, the publication of an encyclical against the new identification cards, iconography and other minor issues. (There even exists a group of “Hexagonists”!) The presidential chair of “the Synod in Resistance” was created out of three schisms, which brought about an equal number of defrockings. These activities remind us of the schisms of those abandoned by divine Grace, such as the Monophysites, Protestants and Old Believers.
Their internal schisms prove how groundless is their schism from the Church. The ease with which they characterize the remaining Zealots as heretics reveals that long ago that they have lost an understanding of the true meaning of heresy and ecclesiastical schism. The simple people have become confused because they are constantly found in a different group without even realizing it!
Every group believes that they alone constitute the Church of Christ, resulting in the performance of rechrismations between themselves. According to information we received, an archbishop was even reordained. They have approximately fifty bishops in Greece for only 60-70,000 people. Years ago the “Andrewite” group in Greece had ten bishops and eighteen priests. Half of the groups have bishops consecrated by either one hierarch or no hierarch at all.
In 1955 one of the two groups was left without a bishop. By necessity they took refuge in the graceless (according to their theory, since they communed with the new calendarists) Russians of the Diaspora. The ends justified the means. Unfortunately they were not able to recognize that this was matter of abandonment by God, which their impasse had revealed.
The Zealots, despite their polemics against Ecumenism, appear to fully implement Ecumenist practices. This is so, because the “heretical” new calendarists are [often] allowed to receive divine Communion and other Mysteries [in their churches].
We reiterate that the means by which they deceive and gather to themselves followers is the misappropriation or misinterpretation of Church history. In time this should be more fully revealed in a detailed and systematic refutation of zealot ecclesiology.
For all these things we believe that whoever joins the schism of the Zealots in order to fight syncretistic Ecumenism is making a serious mistake before God. They harm themselves, as well as those who are properly struggling against Ecumenism, and who are in need of strengthening. Despite our strong words of correction, we love the Zealots and pray that God will enlighten them to be enlisted in the Church, which would allow them to follow the old calendar, as has happened in previous instances. We are certain that the Church will exhaust every oikonomia to effect their return and will show the foremost care for them, since, moreover, they are not heretics.
C. THE CASE OF ST. SOPHRONIOS
Father Nicholas criticizes me for what I wrote concerning the stance of Saint Sophronius during the period of Monotheletism. He said that from this I concluded that the Fathers did not cease commemorating heretics before a Synodical diagnosis occurred. I never said such a thing. Rather, I wrote that, based on the stance of Saint Sophronius, especially in his address “to the concelebrant”88 regarding the heretic Sergius of Constantinople in 634, the obvious forbearance and oikonomia of the Church to those officially proclaiming heresy is proved. By implication, of course, this oikonomia prevails much more today—an age during which no similar heresy is being so openly preached. Father Nicholas describes the ecclesiastical condition during that time and concludes that in 634 no heresy was officially being preached. As such, he argues that there was no reason for interrupting communion or applying oikonomia.
He specifically supports the following:
1. The events leading up to the heretical “Exposition” of Sergius (638) consisted of discussions and other efforts to ensure the triumph of the Orthodox position. Clarification was needed concerning the definitions of Chalcedon, which solved very difficult ideological problems.
2. In 634 Saint Sophronius rightly calls Sergius a concelebrant because the latter’s Monothelitism is not officially proclaimed until in 638.
I answer the above as follows:
His first argument is surprising. After carefully researching the writings of more than twenty-eight historians I realized that a clarification of the Definition of Chalcedon (which had occurred 170 years before) was not at all in view at that time. On the contrary, the only goal was a means for union with the Monophysites. As a result, the following expression: “two natures in Christ on the one hand, but one energy and will”89. This confession comprised the bare minimum threshold for Monophysitism, since all the Monophysites accepted one energy and will[90..
Father Nicholas writes that efforts were put forth for the Orthodox positions to prevail. Does this not reveal that heretical views existed against which the Orthodox ones had to prevail? It is clear that the Zealots label certain periods when heresy was preached in one of two ways, according to their whims: “a period of heresy” or “a period of struggle for Orthodox positions to prevail” (concealing by this choice or words that heresy was truly being preached.)
Moreover, in ten points of the article Father Nicholas admits that Sergius had an heretical phronema (mindset), that he negotiated union (which also was achieved), and that Saint Sophronius reacted to the union and condemned Monoenergitism. These events are not, however, described in chronological order. Moreover, the terms “union with heretics” and “heresy” are also avoided, resulting in confusion. His is, for the most part, a copy of the synoptic history of Stephanidis.
The following precise enumeration of the ecclesiastical situation at that time will thus prove how groundless Father Nicholas’ second argument is:
Sergius of Constantinople sent to the bishop of Pharan Theodore a false libellum of Minas of Constantinople (+552), asking his opinion about the monenergetic and monothelite positions of this libellum. Theodore accepted it. Sergius also sent this libellum to a certain heretic, Paul, stating his and Theodore’s agreement with it. These two events, which must are surely not the only ones, are mentioned by Saint Maximus in his dialogue with Pyrrus. The historians place them around 615-618, since it is certified later in the homily of St. Maximus.
The Saint mentions that Sergius also wrote to the Severian George Arsa and asked him to send patristic statements about the one energy. He furthermore told him that based on these statements he would enter into union with them. Saint John the Merciful became acquainted with this epistle and wanted to depose Sergius. However the invasion of the Persians (619) in that year prevented him.
Around this time Saint Maximus embraced the monastic life. He was frustrated by the condition of the Church due to the expansion of Monotheletism. As a result, when he saw the heresy “expanding rather completely”94, he departed around the year 626 to Africa, where Orthodoxy prevailed.
In 626 Sergius also wrote to Cyros of Phasidos, certifying the heresy. In 629, based on the acceptance of one energy and will, he is united with the monophysite bishop Athanasius, whom he actually recognizes as Patriarch of Antioch. Cyrus ascends in 630 to the throne of Alexandria and begins a struggle for union with the Monophysites. Saints Sophronius and Maximus unsuccessfully try to prevent him . Cyrus united with the Monophysites in 633 based on the heretical confession “one theandric energy in Christ”99.
Sergius, who had already projected “in many ways his own illness” and corrupted “the majority of the Church”100, accepted this union. He was furthermore united in the same year with the heretical Armenians, based on the same heretical confession. Saint Sophronius then went to Constantinople, and “with the appropriate humble-mindedness of his schema”102, entreated Sergius not to renew this old heresy. Frustrated by Sergius’ lack of repentance, however, he goes to Jerusalem and informs the believers that the patriarch and the pope are heretics.
Sergius was troubled by these Orthodox voices. He decided to abandon Monoenergitism and to limit himself to milder Monotheletism. In the “Vote”, which he published around the end of the 633, he preached the heresy in a milder form. St. Maximus hoped for a moment that he would disavow the “innovation”, which had occurred in Alexandria. Furthermore in his epistle to Abbot Pyrrus he likened Sergius with Moses.
In 634 St. Sophronius ascended to the throne of Jerusalem. He sent his enthronement epistle to Sergius and the patriarchs, striking a blow against the heresy of one energy and will. Nevertheless, he refers to Sergius as “the most holy of all bishops, and most blessed brother and concelebrant Sergius”107. He asked him to accept his dogmatic epistle and to send him the “longed for letters”, which will clearly express the correct faith. Unfortunately, Sergius did not change, and in 638 he publishes his heretical “Exposition”.
So we see that Saint Sophronius was in communion with Sergius until 634, even though the latter preached heresy from about 615, had caused the frustration of St. John in 619, had corrupted the majority of the Church, and had accepted the unions of 629 and 633.** We have no historical witness that the sacred Sophronius cut communion until his repose in 638.
These events triumphantly proves the point of which I spoke, to wit, that the Church was longsuffering and used economy towards bishops who then preached heresy. These events also show that the Zealots are wrong when they argue that the 15th Canon of the First-Second Synod is obligatory. In the Synod of the Lateran (649) against the Monothelites there is clear talk about this oikonomia. In his libellum Sergius, bishop of the Cypriots writes the following: “For until today we kept silent owing to oikonomia, thinking they would correct their own teachings”110.
I will conclude by refuting one more argument of the article. Father Nicholas mentions that St. Maximus did not accept the conciliatory “Formula” (Typos) and cut communion with the heretics. “Finally”, he concludes, “because he was chased from Constantinople, the Saint managed with the convincingness of his teaching to call Local Synods in Chalcedon (646) and in Rome (641) during the reign of Pope John the Fourth, and in 649 with St. Martin, which condemned Monophysitism and his Monophysitic expressions”.
This is a perversion of history. For the sake of the simpler readers I will only say the following: Sergius’ lack of repentance became finally became clear in 638. Saint Maximus then began new struggles to convene Synods which condemned Monothelitism (641, 646, 649). During this period the Saint must have also cut communion with the heretics. The “Formula (Typos)” which Father Nicholas mentions, was published in 648. Saint Maximus was led in 653 to Constantinople to be judged. He was chased out in 655 and sent to exile in Vizyi of Thrace, and finally to Laziki, where he died as a confessor.
So Father Nicholas in his article commits an historical error when he writes that St. Maximus, after being chased out in 650, managed to call the Synods of 641,646 and 649! Accordingly, the result would be [if Fr. Nicholas’ historical math were correct] the Zealots’ beloved conclusion, namely, first the breaking of communion and later synodical judgment.
Finally, we posit that Zealotism and syncretistic Ecumenism actually comprise two great ecclesiastical deviations, both of which bring about many harmful things for the Church. We pray that the God-man Jesus will protect His Church from both of these extremes, abundantly spread abraod His illuminating Grace, “so that we will all say the same thing, and schisms will not be among us”115.
* The author probably has in mind only the Church of Greece. Concerning all of the Orthodox Churches, “The sole exceptions are the autonomous Church of Finland, which adopted the uncanonical Western Paschalion at the instigation of the Patriarch of Constantinople, after the so-called “Pan-Orthodox” Congress of 1923, as well as several parishes in Western Europe, including that of Froisek (Switzerland), which celebrate Pascha at the same time as Roman Catholics and Protestants and thereby, at times, with the Jews, contrary to the First Canon of the Council of Antioch....” A Scientific Examination of the Orthodox Church Calendar, p. 173.
** See also the Life of St. Meletius the Confessor. During the Antiochian Schism he was consecrated in part by Arians, in full knowledge thereof. His irenic, conciliatory personality is similar to that of St. Sophronius.
1. Volume 27 July-December 1999.
2. P.G. 137, 1068 A-C. Presided over by St. Photios the Great.
3. S. Milia “Of the sacred synods...collection, Paris 1761, vol. 2, p. 737.
4. Letter 102, P.G. 37, 196A.
5. Faith of the saints...The Fathers in Nicaea, P.G. 28, 1641C.
6. Letter 240, P.G. 32, 897A.
7. Precise exposition of the Orthodox faith, ch. 13, (86), P.G. 94, 1153B.
8. Letter 24, book 2, P.G. 99, 1189C.
9. Saint Theodore the Studite, Letter 220, book 2, P.G. 99, 1669A.
10. Interpretation concerning the divine temple, ch. 28, P.G. 155, 708D.
11. Saint Anastasius of Antioch, Guide, P.G. 89, 48C.
12. Saint Ignatius the Godbearer, P.G. 96, 508C.
13. P.G. 137, 349-353.
14. Saint Symeon Metaphrastes, Life and lifestyle of our venerable and godbearing father Theodosius the Ceonobiarch, 49, P.G. 114, 517C.
15. A. Dimitrakopoulou, History of the schism, Leipsia, 1867, p. 70-74.
16. Saint Nikodemos, New Eklogion, p. 320-322.
17. Orthodox Christians...everywhere upon the earth, 6 in Jn. Karmiris, The dogmatic and symbolic monuments of the Orthodox and catholic Church, in Athens 1960, vol. 1, p. 427.
18. Dodekabiblos, book 4, ch. 10, 3.
19. Saint Cyrill of Alexandria, letter 11, P.G. 77, 81BC.
20. Saint Nikodemos the Haghiorite, Rudder, Athens 1970, p. 358.
21. F. Vafeidou, Ecclesiastical History, 113:1.
22. Concerning ecclesiastical communion and the memorial and the 15th sacred canon of the 1st and 2nd holy synod, related to them. Holy Mountain 1993, p. 62.
23. Op.cit. book 8, ch. 2:6.
24. Op.cit. book 6, ch. 7:9.
25. Presbyter Gregory, Life of Saint Gregory, P.G. 35, 261C.
26. Orthodox Informer, Sacred Metropolis of Oropos and Filis, vol. 27, p. 1, 2.
27. Presbyter Gregory, op. cit. P.G. 35, 261D-264A.
28. Ch. 19-20, P.G. 35, 745-748.
29. Canon 31, P.G. 137, 96C.
30. M. Gedeon, Patriarchal Charts, Athens 1996, p. 185.
31. Saint Symeon Metaphrastes, Life.....of our venerable father Ioannikios, ch. 51, 52, .P.G. 116, 85A-88B.
32. Concerning Tarasius and Nicephorus the holy patriarchs, P.G. 99, 1853C.
33. P.G. 99, 157CD.
34. Concerning Tarasius and Nicephorus the holy patriarchs, P.G. 99, 1853D.
35. Op. cit. book 7, ch. 4:5.
36. P.G. 108, 992B.
37. Orthodox Informer, Sacred Metropolis of Oropos and Filis, vol. 3427, p. 1.
38. Les Saints Stylites, Bryxelles 1923, p. 85.
39. Op. cit. 216.
40. Voice from the Holy Mountain, that is: Response to...the censure of the Calendar accusations,” Holy Mountain 1981, p. 16.
41. 1st canon of the synod in Antioch, P.G. 137, 1276B-1277A.
42. Saint Symeon the new Theologian, Catechism 32.
43. Basil the Great, Canonical epistle 1 (188), ch. 1, P.G. 32, 665A.
44. V. Stefanidou, Ecclesiastical History, Athens 1970, 22, p. 343-344.
45. Concerning ecclesiastical communion and the memorial and the 15th sacred canon of the 1st and 2nd holy synod, related to them. Holy Mountain 1993, p. 62.
46. Jn. Karmiris, The dogmatic and symbolic monuments of the Orthodox and Catholic Church, Graz ..1968, vol. 2, p. 1024 (1104).
47. Saint Cyrill of Alexandria, letter 79, P.G. 77, 341A.
48. Letter 72, P.G. 77, 345B.
49. Op. cit. P.G. 77, 345D.
50. Op. cit. P.G. 77, 344B.
51. Letter 49, book 1, P.G. 99, 1085C.
52. Saint Nikodemos the Haghiorite Rudder, Athens 1970, p. 305. English editor note: “As for Manicheans, and Valentinians, and Marcionists, and those from similar heresies, they have to give us certificates (called libelli) and anathematize their heresy, the Nestorians, and Nestorius, and Eutyches and Dioscorus, and Severus, and the other exarchs of such heresies, and those who entertain their beliefs, and all the aforementioned heresies, and thus they are allowed to partake of holy Communion.” (The Rudder, p. 401)
53. Letter 40, book 1, P.G. 99, 1052C.
54. Saint Photios, Letter 2, book 1: P.G. 102, 605C.
55. Saint Photios, Letter 13 book 1: P.G. 102, 724-725.
56. F. Vafeidou, op. cit. 112, 1.
57. Op. cit. 136, 1.
58. K. N. Satha, Library of the Middle Ages, Venice 1873, vol. 2, p. 85.
59. V. Stefanidou, op. cit. 23, p. 384, Feida, Ecclesiastical History, Athens 1994, vol. 2, p. 588.
60. F. Vafeidou, op. cit. 146, 4.
61. Op. cit. 149, 2.
62. The discovered texts, Thessalonica 1991, p. 400.
63. V. Stefanidou, op. cit. 51, 52.
64. Evangelical Trumpet, in Athens 1867, p. 327.
65. Theodoretus monk, Eucharistic participation in the Holy Mountain, 1972, p. 35-37.
66. Op. cit.
67. Saint Nikodemos the Haghiorite, Christoetheia, in Chios 1887, p. 377.
68. Rudder, Athens 1970, footnote on the 46th apostolic canon, p. 56.
69. Op. cit. p. 12.
70. Op. cit. p. 719.
71. Op. cit. interpretation of the 22nd of the 6th, p. 238.
72. Op. cit. footnote 6, p. 696.
73. Op. cit. footnote on the 124th of the synod in Carthage, p. 527.
74. Op. cit. footnote on the 46th apostolic canon p. 53.
75. Concerning constant communion, Volos 1961, part 3, objection, 12, p. 117.
76. Constantine Oikonomos of the Okonomons, The preserved ecclesiastical writings, Athens 1864, vol. 2, p. 246.
81. Eph. 3:9.
82. Periodical “Church G.O.C. (Genuine Orthodox Christians) of Greece”, Athens, vol. 1, p. 15.
83. Periodical “The voice of Orthodoxy”, Athens, issue 880, p. 10.
84. Periodical “Ecclesiastical tradition”, Athens, issue 104, p. 39.
85. Periodical “Church G.O.C. Greece, Athens, issue 1, p. 24.
86. Periodical “Preacher of genuine Orthodox” Athens, issue 214, p. 214-265.
87. S. Karamitsou, The ordinations of the G.O.C. from a canonical viewpoint, Athens 1997, p. 19.
88. Synodical epistle, P.G. 87, 3, 314A.
89. F. Vafeidou, op. cit. 74, 1.
90. V. Stefanidou, op. cit. 14, p. 242.
91. P.G. 91, 332B-333A.
92. Op. cit.
93. As the biographers of Saint Symeon Metaphrastes, Nikodemos, Agapios, mention, Life and struggles of Saint...Maximus, P.G. 90, 68-110.
94. Life and struggles of Saint Maximus, P.G. 90, 73D-76A.
95. Dialogue...concerning the ecclesiastical dogmas, P.G. 91, 333A.
96. Religious and ethical encyclopedia, Athens 1962-1968, vol. 11, p. 103.
97. P. Christou, Hellenic Patrology, Thessalonica 1992, vol. 5, p. 260.
98. Op. cit. p. 268.
99. F. Vafeidou, op. cit. .74, 2.
100. Dialogue...concerning the ecclesiastical dogmas, P.G. 91, 333A.
101. Religious and ethical encyclopedia, Athens 1962-1968, vol. 11, p. 103
102. Dialogue...concerning the ecclesiastical dogmas, P.G. 91, 333B.
103. Dositheos of Jerusalem, op. cit. book 6, ch. 6:4.
104. F. Stefanidou, op. cit. 14: p. 244.
105. Maximus the Confessor, letter 19, .P.G. 91, 592
106. Op. cit.
107. Synodical epistle P.G. 87, 3, 3148A.
108. Op. cit. .87, 3, 3200B.
109. Theodoretus monk, Orthodoxy and heresy, Athens 1982, p. 63.
110. Dositheos of Jerusalem, op. cit. book 6, ch. 7:9.
111. A. D. Kyriakou, Ecclesiastical History, 101.
112. Op. cit.
113. Maximus the Confessor, Explanation of the movement...during secretus, ch. 1, P.G. 90, 110C.
114. Maximus the Confessor, Concerning what was done...discussed, ch. 33, P.G. 90, 172B.
115. 1 Cor. 1:10.
Translated from the Greek by a Greek Orthodox Priest who wishes to
remain anonymous. Original monograph published in 2000 by the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregory. Posted
to the OCIC on 6/17/2007.