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The Reception of Heretic Laity and Clergy Into the Orthodox Church

A Reply to Bishop Tikhon's Letter of Instruction #10

by a priest who wishes to remain anonymous

The reception of heretics into the Orthodox Church is certainly a controversial matter not only today, but also in the past. History shows changing attitudes in respect to this question in various geographical areas.

Nevertheless there is a choice to be made: either to practice akrivia (i.e., fulfilling a Canon in exactness) or economia (i.e., dispensing or relaxing a Canon). In my comments I propose to give a fuller picture of the matter at hand.

First I want to make a few brief, general comments about more recent Russian practices. His Grace quotes service books which he states were in active use for centuries in Russia. We know that historians agree the Russian Church experienced a process of Westernization through figures such as Metropolitan Peter Moghila of Kiev, Peter the Great, and Catherine II. Perhaps we could also add Patriarch Nikon since Fr. Paul Meyendorff in his book Russia, Ritual, and Reform comments,

Historians have generally accepted the 'official' interpretation of the reform of liturgical books conducted in Muscovite Russia in the mid-17th century as a 'correction' made on the basis of ancient Greek and Slavic sources. In fact, the reform was based exclusively on contemporary sources chiefly the 1602 Venice Euchologion (Greek) and 17th century South-Slavic editions from Kiev and Striatin.

We can trace current practices of reception of converts in service books to Metropolitan Peter Moghila, [1] who is responsible for the Kievan edition mentioned above which was published in 1646. The Striatin (published in 1606) along with a few other early 17th century editions had no services for receiving various heretics and non-Christians into the Church. However in the service book by Metropolitan Peter Moghila a three-strata approach was developed:

1. For non-Christians, as well as Socinian Anabaptists: a five day catechumens rite, a profession of faith; this was different for Jews, Saracens, and Socinians, whom he calls "Arians": baptism, chrismation, communion.

2. For Protestants: a profession of faith, as well as an exorcism and insufflation, absolution, confirmation, and communion.

3. For Roman Catholics, Uniates and apostates: a confession of faith, confession, communion.

This new system was a pastoral response to the contemporary situation where for the first time, Orthodox and non-Orthodox lived side-by-side in large numbers. [We should also keep in mind that often whole cities would fall into the domain of Catholic rulers and the Orthodox were forced to go under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus a problem which was faced by the Russian Church was how to unite such to the Orthodox Church when these territories once again came under Russian rule.]

Peter's lenient approach was intended to encourage conversion and contrasted sharply with the Muscovite practice at this time of rebaptizing Roman Catholics and even those Orthodox who had been baptized by aspersion rather than immersion" (ibid. p. 112). However, a council called by Patriarch Nikon and held during the fifth week of Lent (March 25-31, 1655) which was attended by Patriarch Makarios of Antioch and the Serbian Metropolitan Gabriel produced a list of "errors" in Russian practice among which was the Baptism of Catholics. This practice which was formerly affirmed by a council in 1620 by Patriarch Philaret was then abolished. And although, as Fr. Paul Meyendorff states, in "1759 the entire Russian Church adopted Moghila's threefold approach" (ibid. footnote 32 pg. 113), in the next century monasteries such as Optina and Valaamo were known to baptize converts.

Now I want to comment separately on the reception of heretic clergy and laity. First "The Office of Receiving a Priest of the Roman Church into Communion with the Orthodox Catholic Church". On page 4 of the above footnote 1 reads: "This office was formulated by Metropolitan Philaret because of the case of the reputed incorrect bringing into Orthodox Communion of the Abbot Maundreli." As Bishop Tikhon states, this was from the 6th edition of "An Aid to the Study of the Typikon of Services of the Orthodox Church" by Konstatin Nikol'sky. However, I wonder what Fr. Konstantin meant by, "because of the case of the reputed incorrect bringing into Orthodox Communion". I do not have the 6th edition printed in 1900 at my resources but in the 7th edition of "Handbook to Learning the Rubrics of Church Services—(lit. Services of God)" [Posoebie k Izucheniyu Ustava Bogosluzheniya], by the same author printed in 1907 footnote 2 on page 684 concerning the same service reads: "This service was put together by Metropolitan Philaret upon an incorrect basis in order to receive into Orthodoxy the Abbot Maundrel."

In footnote 2 on page 4 as a justification for this service the 8th canon of the First Ecumenical Council is referred to in regard to the Iconoclastic bishops and other clergy being received in priestly rank.

Canon 8 of the First Ecumenical Council reads:

As concerning those who call themselves Puritans and who are claiming to be adherents of the catholic and apostolic Church, it has seemed right to the holy and great Council, when they have had hands laid upon them [2], to let them remain in the clergy. Above all, that it is fitting for them to confess to this in writing, to wit, that they will agree to and will adhere to the dogmas of the catholic and apostolic Church. That is, that they will hold communion with persons married a second time, and with those who in time of persecution have lapsed from the faith; regarding whom a length of time has been fixed, and a due season has been set, for their penance. So that they may adhere to the dogmas of the catholic Church in everything. Wherever they are the only ones found to have been ordained, whether in villages or in cities, they shall remain in the same habit (or order). But wherever there is a Bishop of the catholic Church, and some of them are joining it, it is obvious that, as the Bishop of the Church will keep the dignity of bishop, the one called a bishop among the so-called Puritans shall have the honor of a Presbyter, unless it should seem better to the Bishop that he should share in the honor of the name. But if this does not please him, he shall devise a position either of a chorepiscopus or of a presbyter, with the object of having him seem to be wholly in the clergy, lest there should be two bishops in the same city.

The aforementioned practice of the 7th Ecumenical Council is explained in the Concord of Canon 68 of the Canons of the Holy Apostles, This canon states:

If any bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon accepts a second ordination from anyone, let him and the one who ordained him be deposed. Unless it be established that his ordination has been performed by heretics. For those who have been baptized or ordained by such persons cannot possibly be either faithful Christians or clergymen.

In the Interpretation it states:

For all those who have been baptized or ordained by heretics are subject to the feature that this fact prevents any of them from being qualified in anyway whatsoever as Christians by virtue of their heretical baptism, or rather to say, pollution nor as priests and clergymen by virtue of their heretical ordination. On this account there is no danger whatever in baptizing such persons by Orthodox priests, and in ordaining them by Orthodox bishops [3]. Hence in agreement herewith St. Basil the Great in writing to the Christians of Nicopolis says: 'I will never count one a true priest of Christ that has been ordained and has received patronage of laity from the profane hands of heretics to subversion of the Orthodox faith.'

Concord Notwithstanding that the First Ecumencial Council in its c. VIII accepted the ordinations performed by the Novatians, and the Council held at Carthage those performed by the Donatists, the fact remains that the Novatians on the one hand, were not really heretics, but schismatics, according to c. I of Basil, while, on the other hand, the ordinations of the Donatists were accepted only by the Council held at Carthage on account of the great need and want which Africa had of clergymen, according to its c. LXVI. This is the same as saying that they accepted them "economically" (i.e., by way of a concession) and as a matter of necessity. That is why the Council held in Italy refused to accept them, since it was in no such straits, according to c. LXXVII of the same Council. Moreover, even the Council held in Carthage, according to the terms of its c. CI, required that all who ordained heretics, or who were ordained by heretics or who admitted to the privilege of holding services should be entitled to receive ten pounds of gold as compensation for their loss of prestige and for their condescension in lending consent to such unorthodox proceedings. Actually, too, the Seventh Ecumenical Council, thought it did accept the ordinations performed by the heretics called Iconomachs (or Iconoclasts)—not, however, those performed by the chief leaders of the heresy nor those performed by such of these heretics as cherished any rancor and who were not genuinely and truly repentant, as divine Tarasius said; but only ordination performed by the followers of the chief leaders of the heresy and of those who were truly and genuinely repentant: concerning which see the interpretation of the letter of Athanasius the Great to Roufianus—and those who had been ordained by them and who held the Orthodox faith they did not reordain, as appears from its first act, but it did this "economically" because of the great multitudes of Iconomachs that was then in evidence; just as the Second Ecumenical Council accepted the baptism performed by some heretics, as a matter of "economy," i.e., by way of "accommodation," as we have already said.

Hence in view of the fact that it did not make this temporal and circumstantial "economy" a "definition," i.e., a definitive rule, it cannot be said to conflict with the present Apostolical Canon. Why, even the patriarch Anatolious was ordained by the heretic Dioscorus and his heretical synod; and even St. Meletius of Antioch was ordained by Arians, according to Sozomenus (Book 4, ch. 28); and many others were ordained by heretics and were thereafter accepted by the Orthodox leaders. But such examples are relatively rare and occasional and due to the circumstances of the case, and they lack canonicity. Anything, however, that is due to circumstances and that is a rarity is not a law of the Church, both according to c. XVII of the 1st-&-2nd and according to Gregory the Theologian, and also according to the second act of the Council held in St. Sophia and according to that legal dictum which says: "Whatever is contrary to the spirit of the Canons cannot be drawn upon as a model." Second ordinations of the Orthodox are also prohibited by c. LVII of Carthage. Read also the interpretations and footnotes to Ap. cc. CLVI and CLVII.

In the canons concerning reception of heretics we also see variation in practice. Canon 95 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council states:

[As for heretics who are joining Orthodoxy and the portion of the saved, we accept them in accordance with the subjoined sequence and custom. Arians and Macedonians and Novatians, who called themselves Cathari and Aristeri, and the Tessarakaidekatitae, or, at any rate, those called Tetradites and Apolinarists, we accept, when they give us certificates (called libelli); and when they anathematize every heresy that does not believe as the holy catholic and Apostolic Church of God believes, and are sealed, i.e., are anointed first with holy myron on the forehead and the eyes, and the nose and mouth, and the ears, while we are anointing them and sealing them we say, "A seal of a gift of Holy Spirit." As concerning Paulianists who have afterwards taken refuge in the Catholic Church, a definition has been promulgated that they have to be rebaptized without fail. As for Eunomians, however, who baptize with a single immersion, and Montanists who are hereabouts called Phrygians and Sabellians; who hold the tenet of Hyiopatoria (or modalistic monarchianism) and do other embarrassing things; and all other heresies—for there are many hereabouts, especially those hailing from the country of the Galatians—as for all of them who wish to join Orthodoxy, we accept them as Greeks. Accordingly, on the first day, we make them Christians; on the second day, catechumens; after this, on the third day we exorcise them by breathing three times into their faces and into their ears. And thus we catechize them, and make them stay for a long time in church and listen to the Scriptures, and then we baptize them.] 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 words in brackets are repeated from canon 7 of the 2nd and canon 19 of the 1st Ecumenical Councils. But if we go back to the Canons of the Holy Apostles in canon 46 it states:

We order that any Bishop, or Presbyter, that has accepted any heretics' Baptism, or sacrifice, to be deposed; for "what consonancy hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath the believer with an infidel?"


It behooves Orthodox Christians to shun heretics and the ceremonies and rites of the heretics. They, i.e., heretics ought rather to be criticized and admonished by Bishops and Presbyters, in the hope of their apprehending and returning from their error. For this reason the present Canon prescribes if any Bishop or Presbyter shall accept a heretics' Baptism as correct and true,[4] or any sacrifice offered by them, it is ordered that he be dropped. For what agreement hath Christ with the Devil? or what portion hath the believer with an unbeliever? Those who accept the doings of heretics either themselves entertain similar views to theirs or at any rate they lack an eagerness to free them from their misbelief. For how can those who acquiesce in their religious ceremonies and rites criticize then with the view of persuading them to give up their cacodoxical and erroneous heresy?

In agreement with St. Cyprian and his Synod, Firmillian, who served as exarch of the Synod in Iconium and whom St. Basil the Great in his first Canon calls one of his own, as being bishop of Cesarea, also invalidates and rejects the baptism of heretics. For in writing to St. Cyprian he says the following:

But who though he has attained to the acme of perfection and of wisdom can maintain or believe that merely the invocation of the three names of the Holy Trinity is sufficient for the remission of offenses and for the sanctification of the baptism, even when, that is to say, the one baptizing is not an Orthodox?

Read all his letter which is contained in the chronicle of those who held the office of Patriarch in Jerusalem (Book I, ch. 16, p. 4) and which is needed in connection with this subject. St. Basil the Great favors this idea, too, whose Canon have also been confirmed and ratified by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (Canon II). For in his first Canon with the intention of saying which baptisms are acceptable, and which are unacceptable, he divides them into two classes, by saying:

For it appeared to the ancients to be a reasonable rule that any baptism should be utterly disregarded that has been performed by heretics, or, in other words, by those who have been utterly separated from the Church and who differ from the Orthodox in respect of faith itself, and whose difference is directly dependent of faith in God. As for the baptism of schismatics, on the other hand, it appeared to the Synod of Cyprian and of my own Firmilian that it too ought to be disregarded and rejected, seeing that the schismatics—the Novatians, I mean, the Encratites, the Sarcophores, the Aquarians, and others—have separated in principle form the Church, and after separating have not had the grace of the Holy Spirit in them any longer, as the impartation of it has ceased; hence as having become laymen they have had neither the spiritual gift nor the authority to baptize or to ordain, and consequently those who are baptized by them, as being baptized by laymen, have been ordered to be baptized with the true Baptism of the Catholic Church. Yet inasmuch as it appeared reasonable to some Fathers of Asia for the Baptism of schismatics to be deemed acceptable for the sake of some economy in behalf of the multitude, let it be accepted.

But note that the baptism of schismatics which he accepts in his first Canon he rejects in his forty-seventh Canon, by saying:

In a word, we baptize all Novatians, and Encratites, and Sarcophores. Even if rebaptism is prohibited with you for the sake of some economy, as it is with the Romans, nevertheless let our word have the power of rejecting, to put it plainly, the baptism of such.

Hence if Basil the Great rejects the baptism of schismatics because of their having lost perfective grace, then it is needless to ask whether we ought to baptize heretics. In his twentieth Canon he says decisively that the Church does not accept heretics unless she baptizes them.

The same opinion is held by Athanasius the Great, too, whose words were also confirmed and ratified by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. For he says in his third discourse against the Arians:

The Arians are in danger even in the very plenitude of the mystery-baptism, I mean. For while perfection through baptism is given in the name of the Father and of the Son, the Arians do not refer to a true Father owing to their denial of the likeness of the essence emanating from Him: thus they deny even the true Son, and conjuring up another in their imagination built out of nothing real, they call this one the Son. So how can it be said that the baptism given by them is not perfectly useless and vain?

Though it does appear to be a baptism in pretense, yet in reality it is of no help to faith and piety. For it is not he that says merely 'O Lord' that gives a correct baptism, but he that utters the invocation of the name and at the same time possesses a correct faith. On the account too, the Savior did not command the Apostles to baptize merely and in a simple fashion, but, on the contrary, told them first to make disciples of those about to be baptized, and then to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in order that the faith might become correct from their having been instructed disciples, and, thanks to their correct faith the perfection of the baptism might be added. It is for this reason, indeed, that many other heresies, true enough, do say only the names of the Holy Trinity, but inasmuch as they do not believe these correctly and they have not a sound faith either, the baptism given by them is of no benefit to them, owing to its lacking piety. So that as a matter of fact the consequence is that anyone sprinkled by them is rather polluted with impiety than redeemed from it. So the Arians, who share beliefs of Arius, though they may read the words written and may pronounce the names of the Holy Trinity in their baptism, yet they are deluding and misleading those who receive their baptism at their hands, since they are more impious than the other heretics. . .

Variation of practice is more clearly explained elsewhere in the same footnote:

In order to have an easily understandable solution of this perplexity there is need that one should know beforehand that two kinds of government and correction are in vogue in the Church of Christ. One kind is called Rigorism; the other kind is called Economy and Moderatism; with which the economists of the Spirit promote the salvation of souls, at times with the one, and at times with the other kind. So the fact is that the holy Apostles in their aforesaid Canons, and all the saints who have been mentioned, employed Rigorism, and for this reason they reject the baptism of heretics completely, while, on the other hand, the two Ecumenical Councils employed Economy and accepted the baptism of Arians and of Macedoniacs and of others, but refused to recognize that of Eunomians and of still others. Because in the times especially of the Second Council the Arians and the Macedoniacs were at the height of their influence, and were not only very numerous but also very powerful, and were close to the kings, and close to the nobles and to the senate. Hence, for one thing, in order to attract them to Orthodoxy and correct them the easier, and, for another thing, in order to avoid the risk of infuriating them still more against the Church and the Christians and aggravating the evil, those divine Fathers thus managed the matter economically—"managing their words economically with judgment" (Ps. quoted)—and condescended to accept their baptism.

Again later in the same footnote a "Baptism " without the Orthodox form of immersion is considered unacceptable:

...those heretics whose baptism they accepted also rigorously observed the kind and the matter of the baptism of the Orthodox, and were willing to be baptized in accordance with the form of the Catholic Church. Those heretics, on the other hand, whose baptism they had refused to recognize, had counterfeited the ceremony of baptism and had corrupted the rite, or the mode of the kind, or (in the terminology of the Latins) species, and the same may be said of the invocations, or that of the matter, and the same may be said of the immersions and emersions, with reference to Roman Catholics and Protestants.

Also in this same footnote even those done by laymen in case of danger of death are not deemed acceptable:

...any such those who may have been baptized by a layman in a time of grave danger if they do not die, but outlive it, since according to this Apostolical Canon XLVII only Bishops and Presbyters are authorized to baptize anyone, and not laymen, in accordance with the first Canon of St. Basil, which says, "We baptize those who have been baptized by laymen." For what is done in time of grave danger and under extraordinary circumstances is not a law to the Church, according to the seventeenth Canon of the First-and-Second Synod. Balsamon and Blastaris say the same thing...This is in accordance with the fact that Dionysius of Alexandria baptized anew and all over from the beginning a certain Jew who had been baptized by a layman in time of illness when death was threatening, after he survived.

In the first part of this extensive footnote the first canon or rule of St. Basil the Great is quoted which Bishop Nikodim refers to in his footnote to the passage quoted by Bishop Tikhon. In this footnote he says "We don't know how it is that the Greek Church applies the first rule of St. Basil to Roman Catholics." In his first rule St. Basil speaks of the need to Baptize heretics and schismatics. How then, could it be wrong to classify Catholics as heretics and apply this rule to them? However even Bishop Nikodim has expressed contrary opinions on this matter in his book, "Rules of the Orthodox Church with Explanations". In an article entitled, "Strictness and Economy" by Protopresbyter George Grabbe [5] he examines the explanations of Bishop Nikodim in reference to the Church canons on Baptism. He writes:

Bishop Nikodim begins his commentary on the forty-sixth Apostolic canon with a clear statement of principle: "According to the teaching of the Church", he writes, "every heretic is outside the Church, and outside the Church there can be neither true Christian baptism nor true Christian sacrifice, and, in general, no true holy mysteries. The present Apostolic canon expresses this teaching of the Church with reference to the Holy Scripture and permits no communion between one who confesses the Orthodox faith and one who teaches against it. We also read this in the Apostolic Constitutions (IV, 15), and the fathers and teachers of the Church have taught this from the very beginning" [above mentioned book page 116]....I will now quote from his commentary on the forty-seventh Apostolic canon: "Baptism" he writes, "is an essential condition for the entry into the Church and for becoming a true member thereof. It must be celebrated according to the Church's teaching (Apost. canons 49-50) and only such baptism is called true according to this canon...From true baptism the canon distinguishes false baptism which has not been performed by an Orthodox priest according to the Church's teaching, and which only does not cleanse a man from sin but on the contrary, defiles him" (op. cit., Vol. I, p. 117). On page 283 of the same book, in his commentary on the seventh canon of the Second Ecumenical Council Bishop Nikodim reaffirms this position, but, passing to the practice of concession ascribes to it not practical but dogmatic significance in relation to baptism among the heretics and thus introduces confusion into his confession and understanding of Orthodox ecclesiology. He writes: "But if there are other Christian groups who are outside of the Orthodox Church and who have conscious intention to bring a newly-baptized person into the Church of Christ (that is, they intend to impart divine grace to him through baptism, that by the power of the Holy Spirit he will become a true member of the body of Christ and a reborn child of God), then the baptism received in such a group will be considered valid insofar as it has been performed on the basis of a faith in the Holy Trinity..." ...Obviously, his train of thought was such: if the Church accepts a heretic without "re"-baptism, this means that she accepts his heretical baptism as true and valid. Having accepted such a premise he tries to adjust his subsequent opinion to it and falls into a contradiction of that teaching of the Church which he himself had set forth correctly a few pages earlier. [Perhaps it should be noted that geographically Bishop Nikodim fell under the domain of Catholic rule]. There are many today who in conformity to the latter thought of Bishop Nikodim claim that the Church accepts any baptism done in the name of the Trinity. However in the aforementioned footnote on the Interpretation of the 46th Apostolic canon in quoting St. Athanasius the Great states: "Many other heresies, true enough do say the names of the Holy Trinity, but inasmuch as they do not believe these correctly and they do not have a sound faith either, the baptism given by them is of no benefit to them."

And again as was quoted above only triple immersion was accepted by economia. As Protopresbyter George Grabbe later states concerning the teaching that the Church accepts as valid heretical schismatic baptisms: "There is no such teaching in any of the holy fathers or in any canon." The Church did not declare these baptisms as valid rather in particular circumstances accepted them as an act of economia. Perhaps in considering this issue there is one more thing we should bring to our attention: What does God want? Do we simply use our logic to examine the canons, various interpretations, and practices form an opinion and fail to consider: What is God's will? What does God want? I believe by manifestations of the Grace of the Holy Spirit, God has borne witness to what He wants.

+ + +

The following are stories I've heard about people who have come into the Church through Chrismation and were later Baptized. Experiences of Grace occurred in their Baptism. For instance, one spoke of the passion which afflicted him the most being broken, another said his most difficult passion became external, another person experienced a change within and felt more complete, someone else who used to be so weak and frail, after the Baptism became like a roaring lion, another felt as if he had been anointed with peace and had become somehow noble, and spoke of a peace and inner strength that he had never had before, another said after the Baptism it seemed that her whole house was full of grace. There was another who was so weak in fighting against sin, and her spiritual father told her she needed the Grace of Baptism. She was Baptized and afterwards spoke of a peace and inner strength which she had never experienced before. One man said to the priest who baptized him "Thank you father, you were peaceful in the water but I was vibrating. Something was killed within Me, something was put to death within me." The wife of one couple baptized wrote the following testimony to her spiritual father: "I felt very clean and new inside. It was a feeling I have experienced after confession but it was much greater after the Baptism. My husband said he felt very peaceful. He told me last night that he also feels like a different person in many ways. He feels more loving toward people at work with whom he used to have a hard time." She also related that when she woke up the morning after the Baptism, as she was lying in bed she smelled incense. She later discovered that the fragrance was coming from their pillows. And after she said her morning prayers and went to change her nightgown, she noticed that it also had a strong fragrance of incense. She had the thought that this was a sign that she had been purified and cleansed. The elder of her spiritual father confirmed this. I have heard of several cases of barren woman conceiving children after Baptism. In one of these cases a couple went to see an elder to ask his opinion concerning the wife's desire to have Orthodox Baptism. But as soon as they entered the room with the elder before they spoke,he looked at her and said, "She is not baptized, she needs to be baptized." All of these were, as I mentioned, people who came into the Orthodox Church through chrismation and later baptized - some Catholics and some Protestants. In another one of these cases of pregnancy, word got back to the bishop, and the priest who did this secretly was disciplined. This priest asked many people to pray for him, who in turn asked others. Among them was the Elder Paisios-the late, well known hermit and gifted elder near Karyes on the Holy Mountain. This elder was only told that a Fr. X was in trouble with his bishop and could not serve nothing else. A month later a monk acquainted with this priest went to see Fr. Paisios ( who had no way of knowing this monk knew this priest) and before this monk spoke to him, Fr. Paisios the elder said, "I know Father X is in trouble with his Bishop Y. Tell Father X to continue to do what he is doing, but to be very discreet." This elder knew everything: he knew the monk in front of him was acquainted with the priest in question, he knew the Bishop's name, and he knew the reason this priest was in trouble: none of which was told him.

I have one last story to relate: Once someone came to receive Communion from Archimandrite Sophrony. He was about to give him Communion, but then drew the spoon back and he kept going back and forth with the spoon. Finally he asked this person: "Were you Baptized Orthodox or Protestant?" This man was suffering from a very serious loss of faith and Archimandrite Sophrony saw a light coming upon him and diminishing. But the point behind this story is that by the light he saw on those who came to Communion, Archimandrite Sophrony would know if they were baptized Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant. What does God want?


1. It should be noted that "he was born in 1596, the son of a Moldavian prince. In 1612, he fled with his family to Poland following a revolt. He studied in Polish schools, possibly at the Jesuit Academy in Zamoisk and may even have undertaken a trip to Holland. He thus received a classical, Western education." St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 2 1985, "The Liturgical Reforms of Peter Moghila: A New Look by Fr. Paul Meyendorff", 105.

2. In a footnote (footnotes are by Sts. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and Agapius, Interpretations and Concords are from seven different sources mainly Monk John Zonaras and Deacons Theodore Balsamon and Alexius Aristenus of the "Great Church" who are all from the 12th century) it reads:

The laying on of hands here is not ordination, as one might perhaps suppose, but it consists in the action of those in holy orders laying their hand on the heads of such heretics, and thus accepting them as penitents. For c. XLIX of Carthage also insists that penitents be accepted thus with laying on of hands, and not, of course, with any ordination. That my words are true is attested by the Seventh Ecum. C. For when this same Canon was read in the first act of the same Council, and it was asked how the expression "laying on of hands" was to be understood, most saintly Tarasius said that the phrase "laying on of hands" was employed here in the sense of blessing, and not with reference to any ordination.

3. That is why Balsamon (Reply 30, p. 378 of "Juris") says that if any heretical priest or deacon is baptized (or anointed with chrism), his former priesthood is to be regarded as a depravity and never existed as unreal. But if thereafter he be found worthy, he may become both a priest and a prelate. Hence it follows as a matter of logical inference that since, according to the present Apostolical Canon, heretics have no holy orders, whatever ministrations they may perform are banalities and devoid of grace and sanctity.

4. For this reason too, the ecclesiastic martyr St. Cyprian, who served as bishop of Carthage, and all his Synod of eighty-four bishops, which had been convoked in Carthage, following the present Apostolical Canon, which simply rejects any baptism of heretics, but also Apostolical Canon LXVIII, which says that those who have been baptized or ordained by heretics cannot be—which is the same as saying that it is impossible for them to be—either Christians or clerics, following, I say, these Canons, they laid down a Canon whereby they reject the baptism of heretics and of schismatics as well. They prove this by many Scriptural assertions and especially by that of St. Paul the Apostle saying, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). For, they say, if the Catholic Church is one and the true Baptism is one, how can the baptism of heretics and schismatics be a true Baptism at a time when they are not included in the Catholic Church, but have been cut off from it as a result of heresy? But if the baptism of heretics and schismatics is a true Baptism, and that of the Orthodox, Catholic Church is also a true Baptism, then there is not one Baptism, as St. Paul shouts, but two, which is quite absurd.

5. Translated from Orthodox Russia, No. 22 (1144), Nov. 15/28, 1978, pp. 1-3; this appears in Orthodox Life in English.