PRAYER

 

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

If you do not feel like praying, you have to force yourself. The Holy Fathers say that prayer with force is higher than prayer unforced. You do not want to, but force yourself. The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force (Matt. 11:12). St. Ambrose of Optina +1891

Through the prayer, man is cleansed, brightened, sanctified. Elder Amphilochios of Patmos +1970

Prayer is the basis of our Christian life through which we come to know God. Prayer is the source and the reality of our experience of Jesus Christ, it is not an option; it is an absolute necessity for every human being.

Prayer is a living reality, a personal encounter with the living God, and as such it cannot be limited to a prescribed set of “prayers” and “practices” which while important in the beginning, lead us to further depth of prayer. Orthodox life goes through the stages of purification, illumination, and théosis. Orthodox prayer similarly progresses from oral to interior to noetic prayer, these stages and phases are not strictly seriatim, and often take place overlapping each other.

We first set out to cleanse our soul and our body of passions and lusts with as fasting and vigils, to prepare us for the next stage: illumination.

Initially we learn to pray by reading the prayers given to us by the Church. Saint Theophan the Recluse said that oral prayer is very important, giving “verbal expression and shape” to our prayers.

It is a common mistake to imagine that anything further than oral prayer is the province of monastics, something that ordinary lay people cannot aspire to. That is nonsense.

As we move from purification to illumination in our spiritual lives, the Light of Christ begins to enlighten our thoughts and actions. Similarly, as we practice the externals of a prayer life with steadfast dedication, we gradually begin to enter into interior prayer when we begin to pray with intent and, as Saint Theophan says, “the mind is focused upon the words, speaking them as if they were our own.”

Oral and interior prayer lead to noetic prayer, or prayer of the heart when prayer is no longer something we do but, but becomes part of our very being. Thus noetic or contemplative prayer is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is not necessarily given to all people. We are given what we individually need and can achieve, since all of us are different. We should not give up, assuming that it is not for us since Saint Theophan wrote, “Growth in prayer has no end, and if this growth ceases, it means that life ceases.”

Pray without ceasing is an Apostolic exhortation, and something we must take to heart. Our relationship with God is entirely accomplished within the bounds of our praying. Praying is not necessarily a conversation, it is rather a means of closeness. It is our highly personal approach to God, that gradually builds a relationship, that becomes slowly apparent to us. We “feel” God rather than anything else, we apprehend His presence as we progress in our prayer. That is as good as any human being can normally aspire.

SALVATION AND FAITH

Jesus Christ is God incarnate. God taking upon Himself the bodily nature of man, able in this body to suffer like man. His coming and His teaching did not make us sinless, because it is obvious to us that there is still sin in the world continuing since the time of the Resurrection. What happened was that we could now resist the power – the inclination to sin that man was unable to free himself from. Christ, by uniting mankind and God in His own person, the true “likeness to God”, opened again for us the path to union with God that had been closed at the fall. This is how the Church has always taught “salvation” brought by Christ.

Protestants use the words “salvation” and “faith” somewhat differently from the Orthodox, and it is important for us to know the difference. The word “salvation” is used in the Scripture in two different ways.

The Apostles, taught distinguishing between the salvation of mankind as a whole, which has already been accomplished by Christ, and personal understanding and working with the gift of salvation on by each of the faithful, which depends upon the individual – the individual faith being a gift of God, having said which, Saint Paul added “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians. 2:12). In other words, our personal salvation depends upon our personal work, cooperating with God’s Grace.

The definition of personal salvation is the restoration of our original Garden of Eden communication directly with God. Therefore everyone of us is called to that salvation which is a lifelong process and can be said to be both in the future and in the present. The start of our salvation process is the acquisition of Faith – a gift from God available to every human being. A condition of this personal salvation is of course, in the first instance, repentance . It is however acquired through fulfilling Christ’s commandments, remembering that the early Apostolic Church never looked at one’s struggle to fulfil Christ’s Commandments (one’s works), as the means to earn salvation for one cannot earn salvation. Diligently keeping Christ’s Commandments leads to humility, and this is where our salvation really begins, when the individual understands that he needs and relies upon Christ totally and gains a full understanding of precisely who and what he is. Until he understands what a comprehensive sinner he is, he cannot properly repent.

In Part II, Command 8, Verse 8 of the Shepherd, it tells us “Abstain not from any good works, but do them. Hear, he said, what the virtue of those good works is which you must do, that you may be saved. The first of all is faith and the fear of the Lord, then charity, concord, equity, truth, patience, and chastity”. Note that the Church in those Apostolic days regarded Faith as a work, unlike today’s protestants who differentiate faith from works.

REPENTANCE

 

As one gets older, thinking about one’s life can be a somewhat disheartening occupation. Nothing is perfect, nothing was done perfectly, almost everything could have been done better. There is little cause for genuine satisfaction. Yes, perhaps you did this or that in the distant past which worked well and to your “credit” but really there is very little that gives us unalloyed satisfaction.

We always see the flaws in the things that we make. Others may not see them, but we can, because we are aware of our own imperfections, and the imperfections that we pass on to the things that we try to do whether it’s carpentry at home or writing a book or painting a picture or carrying out some task for an employer, looking back, we are acutely aware of how much better it might have been done.

So seldom do we actually consciously bring God into everything that we do, seek His guidance, think how He might approve or disapprove. If we did, far more of our life would be carried out properly.

Like most people, I am very, very far from perfect. I can look back on my life and see all the mistakes, sometimes catastrophic mistakes I’ve made. I made them myself, there is no one to blame but me. I can (and often do) try to lay the blame elsewhere. Certainly I have flaws that I can claim to have been born with and which went unrecognised for most of my life and therefore contributed greatly to my offences, omissions, mistakes. I assume that God makes His own allowances for my built-in flaws and then assesses my efforts taking that into account. It doesn’t necessarily lessen my own private embarrassment at what I have done as I see and recognise it now.

Some of our errors and offences are beyond repair because events have moved on and there is nothing that can be done. Lessons can still be learned and re-thinking of our behaviour can be put into place.

However, I’ve talked about repentance before and that is what comes next. If you have never really done it, its difficult to understand. Understanding exactly what repentance is and what it entails is vitally important because repentance is the major action that God requires of us in the aftermath of the mess that we continually make in our lives.

Insofar as one is responsible for some mistake or offence, one can decide never to go that way again. That is in effect, repenting and repenting is what one does, if one understands the term properly. In the first place, repenting isn’t loudly bewailing or bursting into tears. The “tears” are the initial Godly sorrow for one’s failings and that sorrow comes from recognising just what it is that we have done and the magnitude of our offence. Seemingly small things that we do can have great effects which we don’t recognise until we think them carefully through. Tears, however, are only a beginning; someone who weeps and never moves on is like the seed that fell on stony ground.

Once that time of sorrow is done in whatever way, the repenting is more profound because it now involves changing our life significantly. It is literally a re-thinking of the way one lives. Our offences, however small, are nevertheless significant in that they reveal problems in the way we are living our lives. We so blithely carry on often never realising the great effects, negative effects we can unknowlingly have on those around us. The wake of trouble that we can leave behind us as we carry on can be truly very large.

Our pride and our selfishness are often very great causes of the trouble that we cause others. Often we think ourselves to be the soul of care for others not recognising the basic selfishness of our actions. Often we simply do not recognise basic dishonesty in our behaviour. Of course we are not stealing or doing overtly dishonest things, but nevertheless there is an underlying dishonesty in many of our actions and words.

Often enough, it is selfishness or pride that leads to offences, mistakes if you like, things that are wrong. Those things may seem unconnected at first, which is why we do need to analyse how and why they happened because until we do, repentance is impossible. You cannot resolve to change selfishness if you don’t understand that it was the cause of an offence. Many of us lie in tiny, almost nuanced statements, things that are not quite the truth, and we don’t even recognise our lying because it really is second nature to us. Pride is the most insidious of all for it permeates most of our lives. We don’t recognise it but it is there, hidden but active. Therefore analysing what we do minutely is so very important because it reveals to us the multitude of otherwise unrecognised failings that we have. These are submerged into the fabric of our lives and that means that we need radical and ongoing monitoring and changing if we are ever to get closer to God.

You may regret the wrong action, but that won’t lead to repentance. Understanding what caused the action in the first place – our habitual ways of thinking and behaviour – gives us the clue as to how to change our attitudes and habits in order to obviate the repetition in the future.

I could go on and on about this, but there isn’t much point. Analysing the root cause of a wrong action enables us to properly re-think things in order to ensure that we don’t go that way again.

Righting wrongs that we have done is extremely important and must be done if it is at all possible. Of course there are (rare) occasions in life where force majeure intervenes and prevents the righting of a wrong or the taking of a right course. All that can be done then is sorrow and analysis and repentance. Wrongs committed in the distant past may be beyond righting. The very method of righting a wrong may be incalculable. There are however other ways of making recompense sometimes and it is worth being inventive at times.

Sometimes we make major blunderings in our life that have far-reaching effects – perhaps long into the future. We need to look at these events to see as far as we can the effects that have attended our mistake, to understand the magnitude of the unintended effects of what we have done. This is important to our ability to change our ways because the nature of our mistake may not be immediately clear. Righting such wrongs may be difficult or impossible or others may deliberately prevent us from correcting matters because to do so could cause added distress. However if we show willing, then at least we are clear, we cannot force others to cooperate.

Life is complicated and unravelling it is far from easy. Probably none of us has an easy conscience. Those who converted late in life and were Baptised know the immense feeling of relief that immediately and unexpectedly overtakes us as the weight and burden is suddenly lifted. There is no denying that the previous lifetime of wrongdoing is forgiven and lifted from our shoulders.

For all those contemplating converting, I can only recommend a thorough life analysis, repenting and Baptism into The Church for the benefits that will suddenly accrue even against our expectations.

There is no easy path through life. The Way demands that we follow the narrow path – the Royal Path – and that demands a good deal of our concentration. A huge part of this is cutting back the silly pleasures (magazines, much television, internet quizzes, video games and other time wasters) which we seem to have more of than ever, and using that time to spend time with ourselves, with our guardian angel who watches over us and who is pained by our sins and tries continually to guide us to better things, and with God Himself who is always there, always waiting. Take a cup of tea into the garden and watch the birds in thankfulness. Read a good book, perhaps the life of a saint, and ponder it in your heart for a time before moving on to the next book. Go to Vigils. Make your confession more often. Discuss the Scriptures with other believers. All these things will help open your heart and mind to a better understanding of yourself and a clearer vision of the path ahead.

MODERNISM

 

“There is a species of person called a “modern Churchman” who draws the full salary of a beneficed clergyman and need not commit himself to any religious belief” Evelyn Waugh.

Modernism is the name given to a movement which originated in the Roman Catholic church, but which quickly spread to the other churches including the Church of England – perhaps first coming to real notice in England in 1860 in a set of essays “Essays and Reviews” one of them by Frederick Temple, later Archbishop of Canterbury. These essays were vigorously condemned by the Convocation of Canterbury and two of the essayists were sentenced to a year’s suspension by the Court of Arches. These were followed by leaders such as Inge and Gore.

william-ralph-inge-300x300              Bishop+Charles+Gore

                Dean William Inge                                            Bishop Charles Gore

Pierre Batiffol-Toulouse                      Alfred_Loisy

                     Fr Pierre Batiffol                                                 Fr Alfred Loisy

Modernism, in a sense, resulting from the Enlightenment, believed that religion needed to be interpreted afresh to modern man and it welcomed without reserve the results of historical criticism and scientific discovery with their new outlook on the world, and recognised that the time has come when formulae and doctrinal statements require revision. Modernists could believe or not the Virgin Birth, the empty tomb, the Divinity of Christ. They often distinguished between the historical Christ and the supernatural Christ, and prefer a resurrection of the personality rather than of the body.

The term modernism is used, but today it is just liberalism. Every Archbishop of Canterbury since Randall Davidson in 1901 has to greater or lesser degree been effectively a modernist, with the degree becoming greater as the twentieth century wore on. They had their own magazine from early in the twentieth century the “Modern Churchman”.

It can quite safely be said that today there is not a single bishop in the Church of England who is not a modernist-liberal, for it would not be possible to be recommended for consecration if one were not such. In any case no ordinand is taught anything else.

Modernists maintain that ideas are conditioned by the times, thus they generally believe that most dogma or teachings of the Church came about because of specific circumstances in history. At the same time rationalism reduced the role of miracles, so that the teaching was that the existence of God could never be known and it was argued that religion was caused by, and centred upon the feelings of the believers. This argument weakens any favouring of one religion over another on the principle that if no reasonable assumption of truth can be made, then there should be no privilege given to any particular religion.

The final overall teaching of Modernism is that teachings of the Church, which are required belief can evolve over time not only in expression but in substance rather than remaining immutable. This was what made Modernism unique in the history of heresies. Using the teaching that doctrines could evolve, made it possible for the modernist to believe that both old teachings and new, though contradictory, could be correct. This permits any new belief to be introduced, and hence Modernism has been called “the synthesis of all heresies”.

Modernism has also crept into corners of the Orthodox Church, such as in Paris, and the Phanar, but hopes that it isn’t there widespread beneath the surface, making progress, are just not be realistic.

What this means is that the western churches (Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and Roman) have already to a very large extent fallen to a form of religion that is ever-changing, ever moving further away from the norms of the first 1,000 years. Those norms persisted even in the west more or less until the 1400s beginning to change with the preceding Renaissance, but they began their really radical path with the Enlightenment in the early eighteenth century.

While the Enlightenment reached its peak perhaps in the 1790s, it persisted particularly moving into the churches by the 1860s. That is where the real downfall began.

Modernism can – and always has – flourished very well beneath the external trappings of traditional worship. So seeing a seemingly traditionalist minister/priest doing a traditional service is absolutely no guarantee of his orthodoxy. Of course after the great break-out in the aftermath of the Vatican II council, the modernists felt quite free to express their views in new forms of worship, and, in keeping with their ideas of doctrinal development, liturgical development has continued apace.

From time to time, one sees resistance but it is of no avail. There is simply no place to shelter in the western churches for it is simply everywhere.

We need to thoroughly understand that in our time, we are living in a great era of heresy. One may, as Orthodox, comfort oneself with the thought that it is mostly a western thing. That however is foolish. As I said earlier modernism has been in Orthodoxy for around a century and it is even now in the Phanar. Names such as Lampert, Florensky, Bulgakov, Evdokimov straight away spring to mind together with Clement, Bobrinskoi, Schmemann, Men and Meyenforff as well as others.

OlivierClment.jpg.jpg     BORIS BOBRINSKOI

Olivier Clement                                           Fr Boris Bobrinskoi

SCHMEMANN                         fr-john-meyendorff

          Fr Alexander Schmemann                                           Fr John Meyendorff

It is time to worry and to chase it into the open every chance we get. If we do not, then an heresy every bit as widespread as Arianism could gain control of the whole Church. It is probably as omnipresent today within Orthodoxy as it was in the Western churches eighty years ago.

A few years ago the Diocese of Yekatrinaberg in Russia held a public burning of every modernist “Orthodox” book they could get hold of. That got a lot of people’s attention. Perhaps it should happen more often and in more places.

There is no real difference between the modernists, whether they are Anglican, Roman Catholic or Orthodox, their beliefs and aims are much the same. The new interpretations of the Scriptures, the careless attitude to the Tradition, saying that ‘the fathers were rooted in their times, which are not relevant to our times’, talking about ‘the historical context’ of the canons and Scriptures, and a perceived “need” to adapt to the teaching and praxis of the Church to the passing times that we live in are in most cases just developing Christianity steadily away from Christ’s original Way, towards a unity with the secular fads of the present day.

Some modernist writers wrote some very valuable things and are not themselves wholly bad. Here one can only warn people that there is a serious problem and point in very general terms to where it may be found. The intricasies of the whole history of the various modernists-liberals is too complicated for a short introduction such as this. Those with access to the university system can no doubt find further papers. Modernism was not necessarily what they taught as the way they taught it. Modernism opened the entire path for the liberalism that followed, and indeed became commensurate with it. Without the modernism of Inge et al, the liberalism of Holloway probably won’t follow. Once you establish that doctrine is not fixed once for all, and open the idea that it can be developed, then you open the path that we all witnessed as it gathered pace during the last fifty years.

While Schmemann, and Meyendorff certainly said some things very well, they nonetheless had fatal flaws in places and their thinking has ultimately led to liberalism such as has now overtaken St Vladimir’s. Hopko too did some very good work, but nonetheless he too has taught some things at odds with the Orthodox truth. This is the problem – as it always is with Liberals wherever they are, their work can seem attractive, but in the long run it leads us away from the right path. It is seductive and it leads both ordinary clergy and laity alike onto a divergent path. It is not for nothing that Elders have warned us to guard our souls and take great care from whom it is we learn the Faith. Listen to the Fathers, they were not merely writers for their times, they were inspired men who opened the Scriptures for us as well.

LENT IS COMING

 

LENT IS COMING (from the 14th of March to Easter 1st of May 2016)

The Church has been talking about Lent for nigh on two thousand years. In the lead-up to Lent – the four Sundays preceding the beginning of Lent, we begin to prepare ourselves for what should be a genuinely serious undertaking. I want here, to try to impress on people just how vitally important this might be for each and every one of us. Things that we may not previously have thought about.

There is, however, a problem with Lent. It is seen by many as something that “the Church does” that is a “custom” that is somehow what one does because one ought to. That I’m afraid is the attitude of the vast majority of people who populate churches the world over.

The proper view of Lent – of really fasting during Lent is quite, quite different. It is a difficult concept to “sell” and very difficult to explain.

Lent is the time for reflection – serious reflection on our SINS – the real ones that we individually and corporately commit that were the reason for the passion of Christ.

This is the time for us all to get serious and to look at what we are doing in our lives and to repent and confess our sins.

Most of us have virtually no real concept of sin. It is something that each of us has to talk through for ourselves in order that it might dawn on us that while we imagine that we are nice, normal, harmless people, in fact we daily fall very short of what God expects.

We were created by God with the potential to be “like” Him – we have truly remarkable brains that are still largely unused – we have the capacity for vastly more than we use our brains for at present. We truly are “gods” on this earth.

We have the capacity, if we work at it, to thoroughly align ourselves with God’s will, His teaching, His Way. We have all the information that we need – its right there, He gave it to us. Its there for us to read and understand. He even gave us a whole panel of Fathers of the Church and Councils to explain in depth what His teaching meant.

So what is stopping us? We know (if we read) that there has been a river of men and women down the last two millennia who actually have succeeded in aligning themselves closely with God’s Will.

These saints have lived in all sorts and conditions of life, some seemingly very unpropitious, but they have managed to become close to God and to reflect Him in their lives. Some few like Saint Columcille of Iona and Saint Seraphim of Sarov have in the sight of others, been surrounded by the uncreated light of God, and many, many others have glimpsed it.

For the first time, God opened the gates of His Kingdom on Pentecost when the Apostles and all the Disciples received the Holy Spirit. The point of Hesychasm in Orthodoxy is seeing the uncreated light which is a witness that we are already communicating with God even from this present life. We have it described in the levels of prayer how one can pass through stages towards having a vision of God.

Seeing/glimpsing fleetingly the uncreated light simply means that we are getting to know God on a spiritual and personal level, that we are beginning to interact with Him. It is for God alone to determine if we see the uncreated light in this life, or the next. It may be more likely that a serious Orthodox Christian may begin to experience God in this life in small degrees. We may experience God’s uncreated light, but not really understand it as such, or perhaps don’t even notice it.

All are called to theosis and many of the Fathers have indicated what theosis is and how it may be experienced in this life. It is possible, in this present life, for a man to experience theosis as already starting.

Archimandrite Saint Sophrony (Elder Sophrony of Tolleshunt Knights, England +1993) writes, “This wondrous light … eclipsed all else”, “everything within and without is illumined: only the Light is seen.” “The manifestation of Light affords man existential knowledge of God …” telling us that such a vision of the light is proof indeed that we have had an encounter with God Himself – “participation in the Divine Life, contact with the Unoriginate Being”.

“Divine Light”, says Archimandrite Sophrony, “is eternal life, the Kingdom of God, the uncreated energy of the Divinity”.  1 John 3:2: “Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” “The complete vision of God is ‘the mystery of the eighth day’; it belongs to the age to come ‘the prelude to Christ’s second coming’, the common reward and garment of Christian theosis”.

Through our genuine, total repentance we begin our recovery from our fallen state which always involves an illumination, as Saint Gregory Palamas says, “to the re-assumption of his vestment of light”.

Grace is not some sort of a reward for our works or virtuousness – it is a gift from God given where there is a a true beginning of alignment with God’s will. Saint Sophrony said “contemplation of divine realities is possible only if one’s spirit is to some extent in harmony with the object of contemplation … Every true vision of God is a gift from the High God making us participants in His life, granting us humility and peace, wisdom and knowledge, love and goodness.”

This is what we should be thinking about as we begin Lent. This is where our Lenten repentance should begin to lead us. We may not think of ourselves as “saints” but nevertheless, that is what Saint Paul called us for we are they who are beginning the road of sanctification, thus are we “saints” indeed. It is for us to start down this road in all earnestness, this road to sanctification, this road to thorough alignment with the will of God.

We need however some idea at the outset of the total awesomeness of God, the Master of the entire Cosmos, the one who conceived the Cosmos with its billions of galaxies, its trillions of stars and planets, the One who holds it in being by His steady, ongoing input to this universe.

When we understand that it is He whose will we seek, it is with Him that we seek to align ourselves, that we are made by Him in His image and likeness in the expectation that we would unite ourselves with Him. Then we know what we are setting out to do.

It can all start during Lent with serious fasting and personal repentance for all our falling short of The Way that Christ taught. It must continue with our forgoing many of the comforts of this world, the petty “entertainments” on television and worthless books. We have so very little time – a mere seventy or eighty years in which to align ourselves with the High God. There is so much reading to do – so much learning and discovering – the Fathers will however guide us through the Scriptures, showing us their real inner meaning.

Do not waste time dear brethren, but set out here and now to change your life totally for there is so little time left.

 

CANONICITY – ITS USE AND ABUSE

 

There is much misunderstanding about the use of the word “canonical” in Orthodoxy. The word has acquired a quite wrong meaning in popular usage, which ought to be corrected. Canonical is now used to mean “connected to a Patriarchate”. This is of course a nonsense inasmuch as the very word obviously means adherence to the canons. There are lawful reasons for not being connected to a Patriarchate. There are also examples today of groups which started out in a “canonical” jurisdiction which through no fault of their own have been wrongly and quite unjustifiably abandoned by their original jurisdiction – and left that way through obstinacy on the part of that original jurisdiction.

Though all of these “non-canonical” jurisdictions may have Apostolic Succession as has been admitted by many “canonical” Bishops, and while they say that they take lawful stances as allowed by the canons, they nevertheless are not permitted to participate in joint deliberations should they wish to.

The “canonical” joint episcopal committees in various locations around the world are essentially political organisations comprised of jurisdictions which have common attitudes towards ecumenism and modernism in the Church and being to greater or lesser extent sympathetic to both tendencies.

They however, determine who is “canonically” Orthodox on a political, not actual canonical and ecclesiastical basis.

In both the “canonical” and “non-canonical” jurisdictions, it is not possible to find other than political criteria for applying the notion of “canonicity”. Mere possession of Apostolic Succession, or adherence to the canons of the Church, or even commemorating a Patriarch satisfies the political judgement. The only thing that satisfies it is being mutually connected to a Patriarchate. It is political or personal judgement, not spiritual that prevails.

Apostolic Succession is not understood in the Orthodox Church in a legalistic way. One may have tactile Apostolic Succession, yet violate the canons, ignore the conscience of the Church, and preach heresy. This, then, estranges such a bishop from the grace of the Church, though we can’t point to a moment when that grace ceases. Hence real heretics were received back into the Church in various ways in the Early Church: some by confession, some by Chrismation, some by Baptism.

What constitutes the criteria by which Orthodox validity is established is that firstly, the Bishops who head any Church must have the fullness of Apostolic Succession. They must trace their Consecrations to valid Orthodox Hierarchs. This is the most basic definition of validity in Orthodoxy. Secondly they must demonstrably adhere to the canons of the Church, and teach the same doctrine as the Church.

When Bishops separate from their jurisdiction over matters of Faith, they are often suspended, excommunicated, or deposed by the very hierarchy to which they are in resistance. Some of the greatest Fathers of the Church, including Saint John Chrysostom himself incurred this treatment. So we must discern very carefully the reasons for their separation, their sincerity, and their purposes.

Essentially, we judge the validity of any Orthodox group by its possession of the fullness of Apostolic Succession, including adherence to basic canons, teaching the fullness of Orthodoxy without any innovations and, in the cases of Churches which are separated from their original jurisdictions, by the patristic foundation, canonical justification, and sincerity of their separation. Especially looking at whether they consider themselves out of communion or merely considering themselves in communion when their original jurisdiction does not. There are very few clear-cut cases, and there is no infallible authority to adjudicate matters.

Surely then, it is better not to apply blanket condemnation to all who may not be in “communion” with a patriarchate. Surely it is incumbent on all authorities to attempt to rectify matters. And surely it is not right to condemn those whose consciences have deep misgivings about some major problem which they see in their original jurisdiction.