Blog Repost: Dintinguishing the differences between Heresy, Schismatic, and a Parasynagogue

In a letter to his spiritual child Amphilochios of Iconium written c. 373 A.D, St. Basil the Great distinguishes three ways in which there can take place a separation of a baptised person from the communion of the Catholic Church. These three ways affecting Christian unity were said to be heresy, schism and parasynagogue, depending on whether a disagreement fell on actual faith in God, on church discipline or on ecclesiastical rulings.

(1) Heresy. From the writings of St.Basil we find that from antiquity heretics were considered to be people

“who were altogether broken off [παντελώς απερρηγμένους] and alienated [απηλλοτριωμένους] in matters relating to faith.”
Heresy is a disagreement (διαφορά), a discrepancy on vital issues of faith and culminates in the negation of the unity of God and the Church. As causes of separation (χωρισμός; αλλοτρίωσις) St. Basil mentions pride and arrogance (μεγαλοφροσύνη) originating in the human faculty of free choice (προαίρεσις).

Because it was an act of deliberate choice, heresy was not tolerated in the church. Its authors were cautioned first; then if they refused to obey, they were excommunicated from the church.

(2) Schism. The Fathers of the Church defined schism (σχίσμα) as a disagreement (διαφορά) among church members concerning ecclesiastical questions capable of mutual solution. Often (but not always) these disagreements were not of such a serious nature as to warrant a lasting feud among members of church communities.

(3) Parasynagogue. “Rival” or “counter-assemblies” were called “gatherings set up by insubordinate priests or bishops and by uninstructed people”. On this St. Basil says:

“If someone (deacon, priest or bishop) has been found in error (πταίσματι: ‘fault,’ ‘sin’)and has been asked to cease from liturgical functions but has not submitted to the canons of the Church but instead has granted to himself priestly functions and some persons abandon the Church and join him, this is parasynagogue”.

In describing the impropriety of those who originate rival assemblies St. Basil uses the term ανυπότακτος, the opposite of ευταξία, the good order and discipline of the church. Each parasynagogue or constitution of a rival assembly implies the breach of ecclesiastical unity resulting in exclusion from the Eucharistic Communion of the Church. (i.e One cuts themselves off from the communion of the Church).

Canon 5 of the Council of Nicaea (324A.D) speaks of breaches of church unity caused by unruly clergy. According to the canon the end result for the unruly clergy is ακοινώνητος γίνομαι, “to become excommunicated”. The cleric becomes excommunicated, not necessarily in the juridical term, but in the sense that unless he repents he can no longer receive Holy Communion in the Church in which alone abides the Holy Spirit.

 

Advertisements

Apologetics 1.9: Catholic teaching on idolatry, icons, and the True God!


It is commonly argued by Protestants that the Catholic Church teaches to worship saints and images of them. Even though this is commonly claimed, what does the Catholic Church really teach in this regard?

1. The Church teaches that the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) alone is God.

Proof:

The first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, the council of Nicea (325 A.D.) in regards to the belief in God, the Trinity: I believe in one God, the Father almighty,maker of heaven and earth,of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary”

• Catechism of the Catholic Church (234) :

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”.56 The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin”.

• St. Ignatius of Antioch: “The prophets, who were men of God, lived according to Jesus Christ. For that reason they were persecuted, inspired as they were by his grace to convince the disobedient that there is one God, who manifested himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, who is his Word proceeding from silence, and who was in all respects pleasing to him that sent him” (Letter to the Magnesians 8:1 [A.D. 110]).

• The ancient Creed of St Athanasius:
“Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith.For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever. This is what the Catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity.”

• Irenaeus “For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).

What does the Catholic Church teach in regards to images of God, the Theotokos, and Mary?
The Catholic Church infallibly teaches that the worship of saints and images is blasphemy and heresy, for the Trinity alone is God.

Proof:

• The Second Council of Nicaea (787) addressed the heresy of iconoclasm. This was the heresy that taught images of God and the saints must be smashed since they were allegedly worshiped by Catholics. (Which is false and would be blasphemy and heresy.)

“[T]he one who redeemed us from the darkness of idolatrous insanity, Christ our God, when he took for his bride his holy Catholic Church . . . promised he would guard her and assured his holy disciples saying, ‘I am with you every day until the consummation of this age.’ . . . To this gracious offer some people paid no attention; being hoodwinked by the treacherous foe they abandoned the true line of reasoning . . . and they failed to distinguish the holy from the profane, asserting that the icons of our Lord and of his saints were no different from the wooden images of satanic idols.”

• The Catechism of the Council of Trent, page 227, teaches that idolatry is of the devil. In objection to the accusation that Catholics worship images, it states that this is committed when:

“As far as this Commandment is concerned, it is clear that there are two chief ways in which God’s majesty can be seriously outraged. The first way is by worshipping idols and images as God, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them, as the Gentiles did, who placed their hopes in idols, and whose idolatry the Scriptures frequently condemn.”

• The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following in regards to idolatry: “Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who ‘transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God’” (CCC 2114).

Apologetics 1.2: ‘Vicar of Christ’ a blasphemous title? 


It has been argued by both Orthodox and Protestants that the title ‘Vicar of Christ’ for the Pope is blasphemy and heresy. Because of the ignorance of Catholic teaching, it is misunderstood that this title means to literally “replace Christ” or to literally be “Jesus on Earth.”

The Catholic Church agrees that it would be blasphemy for one to claim to be Jesus Christ on earth or claim to take His place since there is only One Lord, Jesus Christ, and not many.
However, it must be noted that the phrases such as “The bishops are in the place of God” are pastoral metaphors that simply explain the responsibility of the Bishops for God’s ministry on Earth until He comes again in Glory on the last day!
Let’s first address what ‘Vicar of Christ’ means. “… the title Vicar of Christ is more expressive of his supreme headship of the Church on earth, which he bears in virtue of commission of Christ and with vicarial power derived from Him.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vicar of Christ.)
In other words, the Pope is the Vice President of the Church; since Christ is the literal head in where all power comes from, and the Pope carries out the duties given to him by Christ because of his earthly ministry to govern the Church. Because of the fact that the title “vicar of Christ” is argued to be an ‘innovative blasphemous Latin doctrine’, as many in the schism of the Eastern churches claim, let’s examine what the Early Church fathers have to say in this regard.
St Ignatius of Antioch’s epistle to the Magnesians, 6:1 : “your bishop presides in the place of God.”
According to Sacred Tradition, Saint Ignatius of Antioch is the same little boy that Jesus called over as an example for the disciples imitate. (Matt 8:2)
As a disciple of Jesus Christ and the apostles, can we say that this doctor of the Church is openly blaspheming God by saying that a bishop is in place of God?

Absolutely not, for these are metaphors to explain their ministry. The Pope is simply the head bishop of the Church; therefore, he himself would be the Vicar of the vicars of Christ since all bishops are vicars of Christ. (CCC: 1560)

The Chotki 


 While many people are familiar with the Roman Catholic Rosary, not as many are aware of the Eastern Christian Chotki. It is a very ancient form of prayer that predates the rosary dating back to at least the 5th century. Monks of old said the prayer all day long in this manner… 

“Lord, make haste to help me. Lord make speed to save me.”

The prayer rope, (Chotki/ Komboskini), consists of 25, 33, 50, 100 or 103 beads or knots and is used to focus one’s thoughts on the “Jesus Prayer” or “Prayer of the Heart”. When not in use the chotki can be wrapped around the left wrist like a bracelet but never as a decoration, as a reminder to pray without ceasing.

In addition to private recitation, the Jesus Prayer may be said standing, with bows, or prostrations. The main focus is to pray without ceasing. When using the Chotki, it is customary to begin with making the sign of the cross.
The prayer ropes of 100 and 103 knots are carried with you. The idea of the Jesus Prayer comes from St. Paul’s admonition to … “pray always” or “pray without ceasing”. Many people who pray this prayer synchronize the phrases with their breathing and with practice; it becomes a constant prayer while awake.

The traditional prayer of the prayer beads is an adaptation of the prayer of the publican who cried out, “O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (LK 18: 9-14) The Lord said that this man went home from the Temple justified.

Early Christians made several variations of this prayer, which became known as the Jesus Prayer. It has come down to us in three forms:
Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, by the prayers of Our Lady, have mercy on me.

The Jesus Prayer is said on each bead.

For special intentions, you substitute the name of another who is ill or in need of special prayers. 
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on … (the intention) 

It is appropriate to add a prayer to the Mother of God while praying. (i.e., Through the Prayers of the Mother of God, O Saviour, save us; Mother of God, intercede for us.)

When this prayer becomes somewhat automatic, the next step is to move the prayer from the head to the heart. One does this by trying to focus the prayer on the heart. The prayer itself is an act of humility calling out for God’s merciful help.
The tassel at the end is to dry one’s tears.

 Source: http://www.prayerfulrosary.com/Jesusprayer.html

The Dormition of the Holy Mother of God by Byzantine Seminary Press

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly proclaimed the centuries-long belief that the “Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of Her earthly life, was assumed body ad soul into heavenly glory” (Apost. Const. “Munificentissimus Deus,” n. 44) This Solemn proclamation of the dogma of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven fittingly describes the crowning event in the life of the Most Holy Mother of God, whose liturgical veneration originated in the East.

1.

dormition

The origin of the feast of the Dormition or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is closely connected with her public veneration since the beginning of the fourth century.  It developed from early celebration of Christmas in which the “Theotokos,” the Mother of God our Savior, played an important role. The solemn proclamation of Mary as the “Theotokos” at the Council of Ephesus (431) greatly enhanced Her public veneration as the “Mother of God.” This is evidenced by the fact that few years later Her divine maternity was celebrated in Jerusalem as the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, on August 15. (cf. Armenian Lectionary, 434 A.D.)

In Egypt, the same Feast of Mary was celebrated on January 18 under the influence of St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) who presided at the Council of Ephesus. In Constantinople, the veneration of Mary’s divine motherhood was promoted by St. Anatolius (d. 458) who also composed the first liturgical hymns in honor of the Theotokos.

A the beginning of the sixth century, a magnificent basilica was erected over the tomb of Mary in Gethsemane. With this, the feast of Mary celebrated on August 15 took on a new meaning and became the solemn celebrated of Mary’s death and assumption into heaven under the name of the Feast of the Dormition. In some liturgical calendars of the East, the feast was referred to as the Journey of the Theotokos into Heaven, or the Deposition of Mary, i.e. the interment of Mary into Her grave.

2.

In Constantinople, the Empress St. Pulcheria (d. 433) promoted devotion to the Blessed Mother and built three churches in Her honor. Being present at the sixth session of the Council of Chalcedon (451), she asked St. Juvenal of Jerusalem (d. 458) for some relics of the Blessed Mother to be enshrined in St. Mary’s Church at Blachernae, near Constantinople. The saintly Bishop replied:

“We have received the ancient and the most reliable tradition that at the time of the glorious dormition (falling asleep) of the Mother of God, the whole company of the Apostles were brought together in Jerusalem. So, amid divine and heavenly praises, they commend Her holy soul to the hands of God and, taking Her God- conceiving body, they carried it in procession to Gethsemani and there placed it in a little tomb.

For three days a choir of Angels continued to sing above Her tomb. After the third day, when finally St. Thomas arrived, (he had been absent and desired to venerate the body that had borne Christ God), they (the Apostles) opened the tomb and found no trace of Her blessed body. Thus, taking the winding sheets, which were filled with fragrance, the Apostles closed the tomb.

Wondering at this mystery they could only think that He, Whom it had pleased to be born of Her in the flesh, the Lord of Glory, desired that after Her departure from this life, Her immaculate and all-pure body would be honored by incorruptibility, being translated (to heaven) before the universal resurrection of the dead.” (Cyril of Scythopolis, The History of St. Euthymius III, 40, written about 515)

Only July 2, the Byzantine Church commemorates the Deposition of the Venerable Mantle of Our Lady, the Mother of God at Blachernae. It seems that, instead of the holy relics requested, the imperial city had received Mary’s vestments which were found in Nazareth and brought to Constantinople in 474,i. e. after the death of Juvenal and Pulcheria.

3.

The solemn celebration of the Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God was extended to the entire East during the sixth century. Since the feast was celebrated on different days, it was decreed by Emperor Maurice (582-602) that, in the entire Byzantine Empire, the feast will be celebrated on August 15 under the name of Dormition (Old. Slav. “Uspenije”) which, literally translated, means the falling asleep. (1 Thess 4:14) St. Modestus of Jerusalem  tradition concerning Mary’s wondrous departure and the assumption of Her purest body to heaven. (cf. Migne, P.G. 86, 3277 ff.)

In the middle of the seventh century, the Feast of Dormition was introduced in Rome from where it gradually spread to the entire West. However, at the end of the eighth century, the Western Church changed the name of the Feast to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

In the East, the celebration of the feast was enhanced by the famous homilies of St. Andrew of Crete (d. about 720), St. Germanus of Constantinople (d. 733), and especially St. John Damascene (d. 749) who became the main champion of the traditional belief in the bodily assumption of Mary. According to his testimony, the tomb, which harbored the purest body of the Mother of God for only a short time, became an object of the public veneration and the source of numerous miracles and special graces. (cf. Homily on Dormition 1,13) St. John Damascene, in the homily he delivered at the Basilica of the Dormition in Jerusalem, pointed to Mary’s tomb and said: “Her immaculate body was placed here, in this renowned and all-glorious tomb, from whence after three days it was taken up to the heavenly mansion.” (Homily on Dormition, 2:14)

4.

The liturgical hymns extolling the wondrous dormition of the Blessed Mother, most part, were composed during the eight and ninth centuries by such renowned hymnographers as St. Germanus of Constantinople (d. 733), St. John Damascene (d. 749), St. Cosmos of Maiuma (d. 760), St. Theophanes Graptos (d. 845) and others. In their hymns, these inspired writers clearly revealed the traditional belief in Mary’s “translation from earth to heaven.” (cf. 2nd Stichera of Vespers)

imgThrough these liturgical compositions, the general belief in the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven remained well preserved and provided sufficient historical evidence for the proclamation of the dogma in 1950. The principal arguments from Byzantine tradition and liturgy in support of the dogma were collected by our Ruthenian theologian, Msgr, Nicholas Russnak, S.T.D. (1872 – 1952) and were submitted to the Holy See by Bishop Paul P. Goldich OSBM of Prjashev (1927-1960) on January 25, 1932. (cf. G. Hentrich-R. De Moos, Petitiones de Assumption Corporea B.V.M., Vatican 1942, vol 1, p.770-779)

Concerning the petition of Bishop Gojdich, the authors write: “The Importance of this petition is obvious since it comes from the Ruthenian Hierarch, well versed in the Greek and Old Slavonic liturgical texts, starting with the ninth century, are in constant use by both Catholic and Orthodox. And these texts ‘clearly and absolutely’ contain the doctrine of the bodily assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Thus, we can conclude that the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, based on the deduction from Holy Scriptures, is a logical development of the centuries-long tradition deeply rooted in the liturgical prayers and minds of the people.

5.

adormireamdstantoine.jpg

The Feast of the Dormition is one of the twelve Major Feasts of the Byzantine Rite and is celebrated with uncommon solemnity. In preparation for the feast, a two weeks period of fasting is prescribed for the faithful, called the Fast of Dormition. (“Uspenskij Post”), which begins on the first day of August. Since the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, popularly known as “Spasa,” fell within this time, the people in the Old Country referred to this fast as the “Spasovaka,” meaning the Savior’s Fast. Historically, the Fast of the Dormition can be traced to the ninth century but it was officially introduced into the Byzantine discipline by the Synod of Constantinople in 1166.

Liturgically speaking, the Feast has one day of pre-festivity and eight days of post-festivity during which time the mysteries of Mary’s wondrous death and Her Glorious assumption to heaven are celebrated. The Vespers of the Feast, celebrated with Litija, repeatedly implore the intercession of the Mother of God: “O Lady, do not forget the kinship with those who commemorate your all-holy Dormition with faith.” (Stichera of Litija)

Accord to an old custom, flowers and medicinal herbs are blessed after the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Dormition. This custom most probably originated from the traditional belief that after Mary’s glorious assumption into heaven, Her holy tomb was filled with a “heavenly fragrance” and flowers. (St Germanus, 1 Hom on Dormition.) The herbs, used by our people as natural medicine, are blessed in commemoration of the numerous healings and extraordinary graces bestowed on the pilgrims at Mary’s tomb. (St John Damascene, Hom. on Dor 1,13)

(Tomb of the Virgin Mary at Gethsemane)

The blessing of herbs on the Feast of Dormition was introduced by the Fathers to combat he superstitious incantations and charlatanism among our people. Preaching at the tomb of Mary, St. John Damascene reminded the people that: “Divine power is not circumscribed by any place and neither is the inexhaustible goodness of the Mother of God. For if the graces were restricted only to Her tomb, only a few people would gain them. Now Her graces are poured out in every place throughout the world.” (Hom. on Dom 2,19)

In his Homily on the Dormition, St. John Damascene makes the Tomb of Mary talk:

“Why do you seek in the tomb what has been assumed into heaven? Why do you exact from me an account of Her dissolution? I had no power to go against the divine command. Leaving the winding sheet, that holy and sacred body, which filled me with myrrh, sweet fragrance and holiness, has been caught up and has departed with all the power of heaven accompanying it. Now the angels keep watch over me. Now the divine grace dwells in me. I have become a well of healing for the sick,  defense against demons, a refuge to those who fly to me. Draw near in faith, you people, and you will receive grace in streams.” (Hom. on Dormition 11,17)

(Byzantine Leaflet Series No.11, August 1979, Byzantine Seminary Press)

 

Saint Abbot Daniel: The Story of the Real Presence

  

 
Due to the fall of the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s Commands, we live in a world in where God is challenged. Instead of faith by hearing, man rather have faith by sight. Man’s logic is sadly based upon a mindset that grasps materialism rather than the supernatural. 

Unfortunately; those within the Church throughout the centuries began questioning the dogmas of the Church due to their lack of faith and not being able to physically see truth, therefore the rising of heresies. A good example of this is the common rejection of The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

Even though fingers are commonly pointed at the Protestant congregations in regards to the denial of the real presence, we must go back to the 5th century in where the Eucharist was also challenged by even those within the Church, something that is sadly making a come back.

  
Since this contradicts the ancient faith, let’s first examine the lesson of Saint Abbot Daniel;  a desert Church father from the 5th century and a disciple of Saint Arsenius.

St Abbot Daniel the Pharanite stated: “Our Father Abba Arsenius told us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and of simple faith; through his naivete” he was deceived and said, “The bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.” 

Two old men having learnt that he had uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to find him and said, “Father, we have heard a proposition contrary to the faith on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.” 

The old man said, “It is I who have said that.” Then the old men exhorted him saying, “Do not hold this position, Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the catholic Church has given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of Christ and that the cup itself is his blood and this in all truth and not a symbol. 

But as in the beginning, God formed man in his image, taking the dust of the earth, without anyone being able to say that it is not the image of God, even though it is not seen to be so; thus it is with the bread of which he said that it is his body; and so we believe that it is really the body of Christ.” The old man said to them, “As long as I have not been persuaded by the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced.” 

So they said, “Let us pray God about this mystery throughout the whole of this week and we believe that God will reveal it to us.” The old man received this saying with joy and he prayed in these words, “Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do not believe and so that I may not err through ignorance, reveal this mystery to me, Lord Jesus Christ.” The old men returned to their cells and they also prayed God, saying, 

“Lord Jesus Christ, reveal this mystery to the old man, that he may believe and not lose his reward.” God heard both the prayers. At the end of the week they came to church on Sunday and sat all three on the same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their eyes were opened and when the bread was placed on the holy table, there appeared as it were a little child to these three alone. And when the priest put out his hand to break the bread, behold an angel descended from heaven with a sword and poured the child’s blood into the chalice. When the priest cut the bread into small pieces, the angel also cut the child in pieces. 

When they drew near to receive the sacred elements the old man alone received a morsel of bloody flesh. Seeing this he was afraid and cried out, “Lord, I believe that this bread is your flesh and this chalice your blood.” Immediately the flesh, which he held in his hand, became bread, according to the mystery and he took it, giving thanks to God. Then the old men said to him, 

“God knows human nature and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into bread and his blood into wine, for those who receive it in faith.” Then they gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the reward of his labour. So all three returned with joy to their own cells.’