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Zealots of Orthodoxy - Part of Chapter 52 from Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works

Concerning Hasty and False Union with Rome

by Hieromonk Damascene

Know that we must serve, not the times, but God. —St. Athanasius the Great [1]

The Sergianist spirit of legalism and compromise with the spirit of this world is everywhere in the Orthodox Church today. But we are called to be soldiers of Christ in spite of this! —Fr. Seraphim Rose, 1980 [2]

In the defense of Orthodoxy against compromise, the chief issue of the day was seen to be ecumenism. According to the understanding of the ancient Church, the word oikouméne (“the whole inhabited earth”) had been used to refer to the confirming of all peoples in the fullness and purity of Truth; but in the modern age this meaning had been changed into just the opposite—the watering down and glossing over of saving truths for the sake of outward unity with the non-Orthodox. To Eugene, of course, this was one more preparation for the world unity of Antichrist, about which the Holy Fathers had clearly written. Throughout history, countless confessors had died to preserve the Church free from theological error, to maintain her purity as the Ark of salvation. And now some of the leading Orthodox hierarchs, according to their “enlightened” modern understanding, were trying to overlook these errors and were seeking ways to amalgamate with those who held them.

At this time, the most visible Orthodox ecumenist was the Patriarch of Constantinople himself, Athenagoras I. Meeting with Pope Paul VI in the Holy Land in 1963, he began to steer a course of non-doctrinally oriented ecumenical dialogue, asserting, “Let the dogmas be placed in the storeroom,” and, “The age of Dogma has passed.” [3] In December of 1965, through an act of “mutual pardon” made in conjunction with Pope Paul VI, he attempted to unite the Orthodox and Roman Churches—without first requiring that the latter renounce its false doctrines. As one of his advisors in his Patriarchate later wrote: “The Schism of A.D. 1054, which has divided the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, is no longer valid. It has been erased from the history and life of the two Churches by the mutual agreement and signatures of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I, and the Patriarch of the West, Pope Paul W.” [4] In December of 1968, Patriarch Athenagoras announced that he had inserted Pope Paul VI’s name into the Diptychs, a therefore signifying that the Pope was in communion with the Orthodox Church.

Since Orthodoxy has no single “infallible” head like Roman Catholicism, the Patriarch could not really accomplish this without the common consent of the Orthodox world. There were some who hailed Patriarch Athenagoras as a “prophet” of a new age, even calling for his canonization while he was still alive, but most of the Local Orthodox Churches did not go along with him. As in former eras when hierarchs betrayed the Orthodox Faith, those who truly loved that Faith remained vigilant and thereby guarded it against theological and dogmatic taint. Among the most prominent opponents of Patriarch Athenagoras’ unionist program were the chief hierarch of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Archbishop Chrysostomos; the clairvoyant and miracle-working Greek elder, Archimandrite Philotheos Zervakos (+1980); and the renowned Serbian theologian, Archimandrite Justin Popovich (+1979). b

During the years 1966 to 1969, Eugene and Gleb published articles in The Orthodox Word showing how Patriarch Athenagoras had gone astray and calling him to return to genuine Orthodoxy [6] In order to place contemporary events in historical perspective, in 1967 they also published material by and about St. Mark of Ephesus, the great confessor of Orthodoxy who in the fifteenth century had thwarted an attempt to unite the Orthodox Faith with Latin error at the false Council of Florence. [7]

Recalling the initial response to their articles about Patriarch Athenagoras, Eugene later wrote: “In our early issues when we began to get complaints about being so outspoken about Patriarch Athenagoras ... etc., we went to Vladika John in some doubt—perhaps we really shouldn’t be so outspoken? But glory be to God, Vladika John fully supported us and blessed us to continue in the same spirit.” [8]

Since they lived in America, the brothers also felt obliged to publish pleas to the chief hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Archbishop Iakovos. Calling Patriarch Athenagoras “the spiritual father of the renaissance of Orthodoxy;” [9] Archbishop Iakovos closely followed his policies, participating in various ecumenical events and services.

Being the philosopher that he was, Eugene was not satisfied to merely know about the errors of modern ecumenism, to know that they were foreign to the consciousness of the true Church of Christ. He wanted to go deeper, to discern why people like Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop Iakovos believed as they did, what caused this obvious reorientation of the traditional view of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” The statements of these hierarchs themselves gave him a clue.

We have seen how Eugene felt about the “New Christianity;” the scarcely disguised humanism and worldly idealism of contemporary Roman popes. One can imagine, then, how it disturbed him to witness hierarchs of his own Orthodox Church following the lead of these popes, espousing the very same fashionable ideas. Behind these ideas, Eugene saw what in the early 1960s he had identified as the first corollary of Nihilism: the concept of the inauguration of a “new age,” a new kind of time.

In a letter of 1970, Eugene wrote to a priest who had offered to compose an article on the ideas of Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop Iakovos:

(Several years ago I myself began an investigation into what might be called the “basic philosophy of the twentieth century.” This exists now partly in unfinished manuscript, partly in my mind; but I pursued the question far enough, I think, to discover that there is, after all, such a basic philosophy in spite of all the anarchy of modern thought. And once I had grasped the essence of this philosophy (which, I believe, was expressed most clearly by Nietzsche and by a character of Dostoyevsky in the phrase: ‘God is dead, therefore man becomes God and everything is possible’—the heart of modern nihilism, anarchism, and anti-Christianity) everything else fell into place, and modern philosophers, writers, artists, etc., became understandable as more or less clearly, more or less directly, expressing this “philosophy.”

And so it was that the other day, as I was reading Archbishop Iakovos’ article in the July-August Orthodox Observer: “A New Epoch?” that I suddenly felt that I had found an insight into the “essence of Iakovism.” Is not, indeed, the basic heresy chiliasm? What else, indeed, could justify such immense changes and monstrous perversions in Orthodoxy except the concept that we are entering entirely new historical circumstances, an entirely new kind of time, in which the concepts of the past are no longer relevant, but we must be guided by the voices of the new time? Does not Fr. Patrinacos, in past issues of the Orthodox Observer, justify Patriarch Athenagoras—not as theologian, not as traditionalist, but precisely as prophet, as one whose heresies cannot be condemned because he already lives in the “new time,” ahead of his own times? Patriarch Athenagoras himself has been quoted as speaking of the coming of the “Third Age of the Holy Spirit”—a clearly chiliastic idea which has its chief recent champion in N. Berdyaev, and can be traced back directly to Joachim of Fiore, and indirectly to the Montanists. The whole idea of a “new age,” of course, penetrates every fiber of the last two centuries with their preoccupation with “progress,” and is the key idea of the very concept of Revolution (from French to Bolshevik), is the central idea of modern occultism (visible on the popular level in today’s talk of the “age of Aquarius,” the astrological post-Christian age), and has owed its spread probably chiefly to Freemasonry (there’s a Scottish Rite publication in America called “New Age”). c (I regret to say that the whole philosophy is also present in the American dollar bill with its masonic heritage, with its “novus ordo seclorum” and its unfinished pyramid, awaiting the thirteenth stone on top!) In Christian terms, it is the philosophy of Antichrist, the one who will turn the world upside down and “change the times and seasons.”... And the whole concept of ecumenism is, of course, permeated with this heresy and the “refounding of the Church. d

The recent “thought” of Constantinople (to give it a dignified name!) is full either of outright identification of the Kingdom of Heaven with the “new epoch” (the wolf lying down with the lamb) or of emphasis on an entirely new kind of time and/or Christianity that makes previous Christian standards obsolete: e new morality, new religion, springtime of Christianity, refounding the Church, the need no longer to pray for crops or weather because Man controls these now, f etc.

How appropriate, too, for the chiliast cause that we live (since 1917) in the ‘post-Constantinian age g for itwas at the beginning of that age, i.e., at the time of the golden age of the Fathers, that the heresy of chiliasm was crushed...., h And indeed, together with the Revolutions that have toppled the Constantinian era, we have seen a reform of Christianity that does away with the Church as an instrument of God’s grace for men’s eternal salvation and replaces it with the “social gospel.” Archbishop Iakovos’ article has not one word about salvation, but is concerned only for the “world.” [10]


The following abbreviations have been used in these Notes:

ER—Eugene Rose

FSR—Fr. Seraphim Rose

LER—Letter of Eugene Rose

OWThe Orthodox Word

Letter, Journal and Chronicle dates are according to the civil calendar, except where a Church feast day is indicated, in which case both the Church (Julian or “Old” Calendar) and civil (Gregorian or “New” Calendar) dates are given.

1. St. Athanasius the Great, Letter to Dracontius.

2. FSR, “The Orthodox Revival in Russia as an Inspiration for American Orthodoxy”, a talk given on Sept. 1, 1980, at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In OW no. 138 (1988), P. 45.

3. Constantine Cavarnos, Ecumenism Examined (Belmont, Mass.: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1996), pp. 11, 28-30. Akropolis, June 29, 1963.

4. Archbishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis, The Thyateira Confession (Leighton Buzzard, Great Britain: The Faith Press, 1975), pp. 28, 68.

5. See Archimandrite Philotheos Zervakos, “A Desperate Appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch,” OW no. 18 (1968), pp. 11-20.

6. The articles began to be published in OW no. 7 (Jan.-Feb., 1966), including ER, “Orthodoxy in the Contemporary World: The Latest Step Toward ‘Union.”

7. Archimandrite Amvrosy Pogodin, “St. Mark of Ephesus and the False Union of Florence,” OW no. 12 (1967), pp. 2-14; no. 13 (1967), pp. 45-52; no. 14 (1967), pp. 89-102; “Encyclical Letter of St. Mark of Ephesus,” OW, no. 13(1967), pp. 53-59; and “Address of St. Mark of Ephesus on the Day of His Death,” OW, no. 14 (1967), pp. 103-106.

8. LFSR to Fr. Neketas Palassis, June 25, 1972.

9. The Orthodox Observer, Feb. 1969. Quoted in ER, Translator’s Preface to “An Open Letter to His Eminence Iakovos, Greek Archbishop of North and South America,” OW, 117 no.25 (1969), p.72.

10. LER to Fr. Michael, Sept. 12, 1970.


OCIC Ed.: These appeared as footnoted asterisks in the book.

a. Diptychs: official commemoration lists, kept by each Patriarch, which contain the names of the other Patriarchs whom he recognizes as Orthodox.

b. Now venerated as a saint in Serbia, Archimandrite Justin was a friend of Archbishop John Maximovitch when the latter lived in Serbia.

c. How prevalent has this term become in the years since Eugene wrote this!

d. In his 1967 Christmas message, Patriarch Athenagoras wrote: “In the movement for union, it is not a question of one Church moving towards the other; rather, let us all together refound the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, coexisting in the East and the West....”

e. After his first meeting with Pope Paul VI in 1963, Patriarch Athenagoras told an Italian news agency: “I was especially impressed by the fact that the Pontiff has completely forgotten the ugly past and has made it possible for us to inaugurate a new epoch. Paul VI and I are reaping the firstfruits of this new epoch.” (Katholiki no. 1375, Feb. 5, 1964.)

f. This last statement was made by the above-mentioned Fr. Patrinacos in The Orthodox Observer.

g. The Constantinian era began in the fourth century with the establishment of Orthodox Christian monarchy in Constantinople under Emperor Constantine; it ended in 1917 with the fall of the Orthodox monarchy of Moscow, the “Third Rome,” the successor of Constantinople.

h. At the Second Ecumenical Council of A.D, 381 (the first Council of Constantinople), the Holy Fathers condemned the heresy of chiliasm. They deliberately inserted an article in the Nicean Creed (“and His Kingdom shall have no end”) to counteract the false teaching that Christ will have a political, earthly reign of a thousand years. In more recent times chiliasm has become widespread in Protestant churches, which have rejected the Christianity of the Constantinian era (prior to the Reformation). Their expectations put them in danger of following Antichrist, who will set up an earthly Kingdom, claiming to be Christ.

From Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works (Platina, CA: St. Herman Press), pp. 394-398. Copyright 2003 by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California. Posted on 1/2/2007.