Skip to content

… we are not among those who draw back and perish

We said precisely what the truth demanded: God forbid that we deny our God, and whatever was required to reply to our hearers. At this he flogged us savagely. The brother had sustained nothing serious like this in his toils since his first imprisonment and registration, while I, lowly and enfeebled, afflicted by raging fevers and scarcely endurable pains, was within a little of despairing of my life. Nevertheless the good God had mercy on me little by little, the brother helping in what was fitting, even though the wounds are still there and have not yet completely healed. So much for us. I have recounted our suffering to you knowing that you are keen to learn in order to share our pain. What next? The threat is more serious, the confinement stricter. For beatings have been added to the duties of the guards and the gaoler. We are not to grumble, we are not to write to anyone. Shall we cower down then and keep silent, in fear obeying human authority rather than God’s? Certainly not. But until the Lord opens a door for us, we shall not cease to fulfill our duty according to our possibilities, fearing and trembling at the judgment that hangs over silence. “If he draw back, it says, my soul will not be well pleased in him” (Heb. 10,38/ Hab. 2,4). And again the Apostle says, “We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith to the possession of their soul” (Heb. 10,39).

38th letter from the exile


Concerning the fast on Saturday and Sunday

Niconian: Reading the 64th (66th) canon of the Holy Apostles: “If any of the clergy be found fasting on the Lord’s day, or on the Sabbath, excepting the one only (i.e. Holy Saturday), let him be deposed. If a layman, let him be excommunicated”. There: can you see how the Holy Apostles unconditionally forbade to fast on Sunday and on Saturday (except for the Holy Saturday) to all: clergy and layity. Yet Balsamon, in his commentary on this canon, says that this canon is not mandatory for ascetics. However, the Church does not think that Balsamon lost his Orthodoxy for [making] this exception, despite the fact that he goes against the apostolic canon.

Old Believer: By this canon the Holy Apostles forbade not the spiritual exploit (подвиг) of abstinence but that certain people considered it mandatory for themselves to fast during those days, i.e. every Saturday and Sunday as, for instance, Catholics fast on Saturdays. This is why, by making this exception, Balsamon did not contradict the canon itself and, all the more, did not become a violator of the apostolic decree because of this; just as the very holy apostles do not condemn those clergymen that do not partake of meat and wine during the holy feasts for the sake of abstinence, which is evident from other apostolic canons; for instance, the 53rd canon says: “If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, does not on festival days partake of flesh and wine, from an abhorrence of them, and not out of religious restraint, let him be deposed”. Same way, the 51st canon says about those that completely abstain from marriage, meat and wine: “If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them <…> let him be corrected, or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman”. It is clear that you did not find any justification for your Church here either.

Concerning the celebration of the Sabbath

Niconian: The Nomocanon has special canons of Sts. Peter and Paul, the first of which states: “I Peter and Paul do make the following constitutions. Let the slaves work five days; but on the Sabbath day and the Lord’s day let them have leisure to go to church for instruction in piety”. From this canon one can see that the Sabbath must be observed. However, the Council of Laodicea forbids this in the 29th canon: “Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ”.

Read more…

Small cape

Next they cover their necks and shoulders with a narrow cape, aiming at modesty of dress as well as cheapness and economy; and this is called in our language as well as theirs mafors (μαφώριον or μαφόριον is the monkish scapular, or working-dress. Cf. the Rule of S. Benedict, c. 55: “Scapulare propter opera.” In form it was a large, coarse cape, or hood); and so they avoid both the expense and the display of cloaks and great coats.

“The Twelve Books on the Institutes of the Cœnobia, and the Remedies for the Eight Principal Faults” (Book I, Ch. VI), St. John Cassian of Rome

Concerning married bishops

There might be more mistakes than usual, so please forgive me and point out those mistakes, so I can correct them.

Niconian: Here is the fifth canon of the holy apostles: “Let not a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, put away his wife under pretence of religion; but if he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he persists, let him be deposed”. See, this canon says that if a bishop turns divorces his wife, he should be deposed. Therefore he, the bishop, has to be married. However, the twelfth canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council says the exact opposite: “But if any (bishop) shall have been observed to do such a thing (i.e. continue to live with his wife even after the consecration), let him be deposed”. If the Church did not have the right to change apostolic traditions, the Sixth Ecumenical Council would not abolish the fifth canon of the holy apostles. This example splendidly justifies our Church in abolishing certain customs and rites.

Old Believer: First of all, I should note that it is unfair of you to say that the Sixth Ecumenical Council supposedly abolished the fifth canon of the holy apostles. It is not true. The twelfth canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council clearly states: “We say this, not to abolish and overthrow what things were established of old by Apostolic authority”.

Niconian: Pardon me for speaking rashly but be that as it may, this does not change anything. Even if the canon was not abolished, the fact remains that the tradition concerning the wives of bishops, was itself abolished (which is even more crucial).

Old Believer: In order to examine this issue without bias, we must answer the following: is it part of the Apostolic Tradition for bishops to live with their wives? Be so kind as to give an answer to this highly important question; however do so on the ground of the apostolic teaching.

Niconian: Oh, with pleasure. The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy: “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires good work. It behooves therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3: 1-2). That is the answer to your question. Read more…

Concerning the 11th canon of the Laodicean Council

Niconian: The Slavic Nomocanon includes the following commentary on the 11th canon of the Laodicean Council: “The ancients observed certain customs, some of which had been forgotten with time, some had disappeared altogether, and some had been abolished”. Same way the ancient Church of Christ abolished different traditions and customs that existed before. Thus is it not unfare to blame our Church for the same things that occured in the ancient Church of Christ? I am sure that you agree with my conclusion.
Old Believer: I do agree that the Council of Laodicea canceled one custom that existed in the Church and that even before this council, different customs had been abolished. However, I do not agree that in the second half of the XVII century your Church did the same as the Council of Laodicea.
Niconian: Explain why. Read more…

Homily for the thirty-second sunday after Pentecost (Commentary on Luke 19:1-10)

This translation was made by christians from Oregon

Every injustice, theft and unlawful acquisition is evil, and the most evil of evils, reprehensible and deserving of hatred on the part of God-loving souls. And the publican is a constant figure of greed, malice and iniquity. Just as in the mountain lions and bears are the beasts which are far fiercer than other beasts, so also in cities and countries publicans and slanderers are more unjust and wicked than other men. The unjust acquisition of wealth is a sin hateful to mankind; it is opposed to the virtue of hospitality. As cold is the opposite of warm; black, of white; and darkness, of light; so is the publican opposed to the commandment, by oppressing the poor. The wealth of the publican comes from nothing else than the tears of the poor; as many as seek to get rich from such acquisitions will soon afterwards be weeping as they are deprived of their own goods. Extortion is the old leaven, which brings corruption wherever it falls. One who takes even a little unjustly utterly ruins all that he has; for often the little that was brought in unjustly has caused the loss of the large amount that had been accumulated justly. Perhaps thou seest many who have acquired their wealth unjustly and have not immediately suffered anything; nevertheless, they will not escape judgment forever. If they avoid it in this life, they should fear and tremble all the more, because greater punishment is in store for them in the next life. Read more…