On the Eve of the Vth All-Diaspora ROCA Sobor:

 

On the Orthodox Nature of the Teachings of

Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili

on the Church

and the Wrongfulness of the Anathema

by the ROAC Sobor

Fr. Victor Dobroff

He who has an ear, let him hear

what the Spirit says to the churches!”

(Rev. 3:22)

 

 

On February 17, 2007, by a Decision of the Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) the Orthodox teachings of Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili were judged to be unorthodox in nature.  Along with the teachings, all those who agreed with them were also judged as having fallen under the Anathema against Ecumenism issued by the Church Abroad in 1983:

 

“We consider the teachings of Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos to be harmful counsel, secretly instilling ecumenist misbeliefs in the minds of the faithful, and we condemn him.  All those in agreement with the teachings of Cyprian have fallen under the anathema against the heresy of ecumenism issued in 1983 by the Synod of Bishops under the chairmanship of the saintly Metropolitan Philaret (Vosnesensky), the Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.”

 

This menacing Decision of the ROAC Sobor was made on the basis of a speech by Bishop Andrey (Pavlovskiy), which is included in its entirety further down.

 

According to the wording of the approved Decision, even though the Church Abroad under the leadership of the PSEA currently enjoys full relations, as in the past, with the Synod of Resistance of the True Orthodox Church of Greece under Metropolitan Cyprian, and has its own completely independent, traditional ecclesiology separate from Met. Cyprian, there are some that still believe that the Church Abroad falls under its own anathema of 1983.  It behooves us then to examine and consider the speech of the Most Reverend Andrey, as well as the Sobor Decision approved by the ROAC, and see if they are correct.

 

Bishop Andrey Pavlovskiy’s speech to the ROAC Sobor is provided below in its entirety, accompanied by commentary in bold from the author of this article:

 

On the Disreputable Teachings of Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili

Bishop Andrey Pavlovskiy

 

“The prince of this world is Satan, who has waged war with God from the beginning and does so now unceasingly through his servants, his followers, against Almighty God and His chosen entity – the Church of the saints and the city of his beloved (see Rev 20:8).  He seeks to misrepresent God’s Truth, God’s Revelation to mankind, faith, and the teachings of the saints through the fabrication and dissemination of various false teachings and heresies in order to, if possible, tempt the chosen ones (see Matt. 24:24) and turn them away from the redemptive body of the Church of Christ and lead them to eternal damnation.  Even among the small flocks of true Orthodox Christians, the enemy creates temptations and rancor.  In our irreligious times, a time of tepidness in faith, he insinuates the deadly heresy of ecumenism, which has overcome all the historical patriarchates and turned them away from the Church.  This heresy, in its soft and hidden form, is the new teaching of the Greek Old Calendar “Synod of Resistance,” led by Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili.  Bishop Andrey makes this claim right in the beginning of his speech, without any proof or canonical basis.

 

Having split in 1985 from the other bishops, Met. Cyprian of Oropos and Met. Giovanni of Sardinia formed their own Synod and created their own ecclesiology, which they consider to be the only faithful one and call all other true Orthodox “extremists.” – Time showed that Met. Cyprian was right, when, on the basis of the 15th Rule of the Double Sobor, which confessed the original ecclesiology of the Old Calendar Greek Synod developed back in 1935, he broke from the “extremists,” who his opponents actually revealed themselves to be later.

 

This ecclesiology was put forth by Met. Cyprian in his book, “Ecclesiological theses or the explanation of the teachings of the Church for those Orthodox resisting the heresy of ecumenism Fili, Attica, 1993.  The Synod of Resistance also declared that, “the ecclesiological basis of our Holy Synod Resistance, which was established conciliarly, is clearly different from the ecclesiologies of the other Old Calendar Synods in Greece” (from a epistle to ROCOR dated June 24/July7, 1993).

 

The teachings of Met. Cyprian were judged to be unorthodox in 1985 by the Synod of the TOC of Greece under the chairmanship of Archbishop Chrysostomos II.

 

Archbishop Chrysostomos II was compelled to react to the departure of these bishops form his Synod on the basis of serious ecclesiological reasons.

 

In 1924, after the Greek Church adopted the new calendar and began to participate in the ecumenist movement, the old calendar Christians were left without a single bishop and for the next ten years were without a bishop’s omofor.

 

The episcopate of the old calendar Christians of Greece originated with three bishops, who came over in 1935 to the side of the old calendarists from the Synod of the Greek Church, which by then had already practiced the new calendar and ecumenism for 11 years.

 

This forms the first canonical inconsistency of the ecclesiology of the contemporary followers of Chrysostomos, which leads every alert observer to note the logical paradox: if grace is not present in the new calendarist and ecumenist synods, which they firmly believe, then how could three bishops “without grace” form in 1935 an old calendarist episcopate which has grace and a old calendarist synod which has grace?

 

Is it not Jesus who teaches us that, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)

 

In 1935, Met. Chrysostomos I – the first Hierarch of the old calendarist Greek Synod announced that the sacraments of the new calendarists has grace, as the new calendarists found themselves in the state of a potential schism.  After this announcement from the old calendaristChrysostomite heretics,” two bishops immediately broke off.  One of them, Matthew of Brestensk, founded the so-called Matthew Synod by himself 13 years later in 1948.

 

Fifteen years later, in 1950, the Synod of Met. Chrysostomos I rejected the ecclesiology of 1935 and announced that the new calendarist ecumenists were without grace!

 

As we can see, the ecclesiology of the Old Calendar Greek Synod, presently headed by Met. Chrysostomos II was not consistent and wavered from one extreme to another, contradicting itself, contradicting all reasonable thinking, and contradicting the traditional ecclesiology of ROCOR, which had refrained from passing final judgments on the question of grace in other jurisdictions.

 

They are judged, that is the teachings of Metropolitan Cyprian, to be false by other True Orthodox Churches of Greece as well – but these are not serious accusations, especially since they arise from synods of dubious canonicity and which lack legitimacy.  What is quite regretful is that in thinking this way, some of these synods end up judging their own native old calendar episcopate.

 

Among the Russian bishops, only one, the Most Revered Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), spoke out in 1994 against relations with them – out of all the bishops in the ROCOR Synod, only one gave his personal opinion on this matter – and gave a short critical assessment of Met. Cyprian’s ecclesiology and made the conclusion that Cyprian “confesses his personal view and definitely not the Orthodox teaching of the possible working of grace by the Holy Spirit in churches that are clearly heretical.  This is a very important conclusion by the famous canonist of the 20th century, Bishop Gregory Grabbe.  It is clear that Bishop Cyprian is not insisting that Grace is present in the Sacraments of the new calendarists, he simply does not preclude its possibility.

 

The Most Revered Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) correctly pointed out that having accepted the teachings of Cyprian, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia fell under its own anathema of 1983 against ecumenism.  This claim by Bishop Andrey Pavlovskiy is incorrect.  The Church Abroad at a Sobor accepted the Orthodox nature of the teachings of Bishop Cyprian’s Synod, and without altering its traditional beliefs, entered into a relationship not with the teachings, which were not different from its own ecclesiology, but with its Greek Sister-Church.

 

Certainly, the personal opinion of such an esteemed canonist leads us to consider his points, but so do the words of another esteemed bishop – a pillar of Orthodoxy, the abbe of the diaspora Metropolitan Vitaliy (Ustinov), an Archbishop at that time and later the ROCOR Hierarch, who said in his Nativity epistle of 1987:

 

“The majority of Local Churches have presently endured two horrible blows to their bodies: the new-style calendar and ecumenism.  Nevertheless, though they might be in terrible condition, we do not dare say, keep us from this o Lord, that they lack God’s grace.  We proclaimed an anathema against ecumenism for the faithful of our church only, and in this way, we humbly, yet steadfastly; tenderly, yet decisively, invite the Local Churches to consider this matter…”

 

Nevertheless, what matters to us Orthodox are not the personal opinions of bishops, even the most respected ones, but the opinion of the Church body.  The ROCOR Sobor of Bishops of 1994 determined that the ecclesiology of the Synod of Met. Cyprian was Orthodox and that it coincided with the traditional ecclesiology of the Church Abroad and did not contradict it.  The Sobor refrained from a conciliar decision on whether God’s grace was present or absent in the sacraments of other local churches, which may or may not have been brought into existence by any Local or Ecumenical Council.

 

In light of this, it is indeed surprising to hear the “anathemas” issuing from the mouths of former bishops and clergy of ROCOR, who previously entreated a Church that was in full communion with the Synod of Met. Cyprian to accept them and even ordain them.  In this way, are they not anathematizing themselves?

 

The main precepts of these teachings are:

 

  1. Sacraments performed by heretics and schismatics are valid up to the time that they are judged by an Orthodox Sobor of the whole church.  The decisions of past Sobors are not enough.  This is in fact correct, as only an Ecumenical Council has the power to decide which local church, or independent Synod, has fallen into heresy and is devoid of grace.  Met. Cyprian is not claiming that the sacraments of new calendarists and ecumenists are valid, but he does say that until an Ecumenical Council judges them, the sacraments can be considered to be valid.  From this we can draw the conclusion that such people are not heretics and schismatics, but only “members of the Church whose faith is infirm and who have not yet been judged.” (Chap. 1)

 

  1. The Orthodox Church is actually not one, but divided between those whose faith is infirm and those who resist heresies.  Heretical ecumenists are considered to be members of the Church and are called “Orthodox ecumenists.”  Met. Cyprian in his Orthodox teachings does not say that the Orthodox Church is not one, but having affirmed its oneness, he considers the local new calendarist ecumenical churches to be ailing members of that one Church body.

 

As a result, Met. Cyprian considers the sum-total of all the churches of “global Orthodoxy” to be one church, made up of true Orthodox Christians, in which the redemptive grace of the Holy Spirit inhabits.  It is quite clear that according to the teachings of Met. Cyprian, the sum-total of “global Orthodoxy” is an assembly of members of the One Church, suffering from the spiritual plight of ecumenism and other innovations.  Met. Cyprian does not dare say that the same redemptive grace that works among the healthy members of the Church also works among the ailing members.  His teachings do lead to the conclusion that the redemptive Wholeness of Grace works exclusively in the healthy parts of the Church Body, and at the same time, depending on how far they have fallen away from Orthodoxy, grace is present in a diminished state in the ailing members of the Church.

 

Cyprian compares ecumenists to iconoclasts and insists that before the VIIth Ecumenical Council the iconoclasts were not heretics and that their sacraments were valid.  Cyprian blasphemes, by saying that the iconoclasts were considered holy fathers not by the catholic church, but by “Orthodoxy,” thus seprataing the Church from Orthodoxy.  Once again, we see how wise is Met. Cyprian.  It is exactly Orthodoxy to which the members of the church who were caught up in the heresy of iconoclasm returned, since even the way they were received bears witness to this.

 

Also, the main precepts of the Orthodox Church aver that Orthodoxy and the Church are indivisible, that you cannot be in the Church without believing correctly.  St. Maxim the Confessor said, “Almighty God has revealed that the catholic Church is the correct and redemptive profession of faith in Him.”  St. Cyprian of Carthage also speaks of this, “Just as Satan is not Christ, even though he deceives in His name, so can a person not be considered a Christian, if he does not dwell in the truth of His gospel and faith” (On the Unity of the Church, 14).  It seems, Bishop Andrey is mistaken in his reasoning.  What is Orthodox Faith?  Faith which has been affirmed by one of the newly-formed synods, or Faith which has been established by the Holy Ecumenical Councils?  Who now admires the canonical authority of the Ecumenical Council, while passing judgment and branding the local churches as heretical and schismatic?

 

St. Gregory the Theologian teaches us, “Adhering to other teachings, one turns away and honors that which is alien to God and the ecumenical Church” (Second Epistle Against Apollinarius).  St. Gregory Palamas writes, “Those who are apart from the Church of Christ, are separated from truth; while those who do not dwell in truth, are not in the Church of Christ, as we must identify Christianity not by individuals, but by truth and correctness of faith.”  In the epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox faith, we read, “We believe that the members of the catholic Church are its essence and many are faithful, that is, steadfast in their confession of the pure faith of the Christ the Savior” (para. 11).  The Orthodox profess this Faith through the intoning of the Orthodox Symbols of Faith, the Creed.  In this way, without Orthodoxy, without the Symbols of Faith, there is no Church, and he who distorts Orthodoxy, is expelled from the Church.

 

It was the Church, into which the Holy Fathers at the Councils received penitent heretics.  It was said at the sacred VII Ecumenical Council, “let those who express their repentance before the bishops, do so as if they were before the catholic Church.”  Our Lord Jesus Christ said in the Gospel, “he who does not believe has been judged already.” (John 3:18)  Holy Apostle St. Peter also teaches,“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1)  Holy Apostle Paul writes in his letter to Titus, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11).

 

Each year during the week of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the Church proclaims anathema on all heretics, whose teachings were once judged at the councils, so that it would be clear to everyone that all teachings of the Holy Fathers that were accepted by the Church at the Councils are still valid to this day and that all those who are not in agreement with these correct and redemptive teachings are cast off from them.

 

In his commentary on the VIth Rule of the Double Ecumenical Council, the Byzantine canonist Zophar writes, “Those heretics who disagree with the Orthodox faith, whether recently or in the past, have been cast out of the Church, cast out, as Zophar says wisely, by the Ecumenical Council, whether they believed in new or old heresies.”

 

Similarly, the Eastern Patriarchs in their epistle to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church averred that since the Orthodox faith “has been revealed and inscribed completely, it does not allow anything to be added or removed, nor any other change; and those who dare to try, or advise to do so, or even contemplate it, have already rejected the faith of Jesus and have already willingly gone under the eternal anathema for those who profane the Holy Spirit.”

 

The saintly Bishop Philaret of New York reaffirms the words of the Fathers, “An Anathema, issued by the Church, is the removal from it of those who have already ceased to exist within it.” (Sermons, vol. 1, pg. 115)

As we can see, the judgments of the Holy Fathers and the Councils are eternal rulings and are applied to all who distort the beliefs of the Church.  The 15th Rule of the Double Council calls a bishop, who prophesies heresy and who has not yet been judged by a spiritual court, to be a “false-bishop,” as he has clearly fallen under the rulings of previous holy Ecumenical Councils and judged by them.

 

And so, the Church, in contrast to Cyprian, has always taught and continues to teach that the heresies themselves, not the Councils, remove their proponents from the Orthodox Church and from God and deny them the Grace of God and salvation.  The Church teaches that a “false-bishop” falls under the judgments of previous Holy Councils, who have condemned the heresy promoted by the heretic, and is judged by them – the Ecumenical Councils do!  The Councils only loudly proclaim judgments of heresies and all those who hold to them.  They confirm the dogmas of the faith and make it necessary for all those who seek to be saved to believe as they have instructed. 

 

Cyprian teaches falsely that the one Church of Christ is separated by those who are infirm in spirit and those who remain steadfast.  Bishop Cyprian teaches that the infirm in spirit and the healthy members of the Church Body separate amongst themselves, while remaining in the one Church Body.  According to Cyprian, the entire Church consists of “healthy members” who are Orthodox and “ill members” who are heretics and schismatics, who have not yet been judged, and therefore not expelled from the Church Body.  The healthy members are forbidden from associating with the ill members.  But the ill members are potentially one with the healthy members, while those who have been expelled are actually condemned. (Met. Cyrpian, Synod of Resistance publication no. 1, January 2000, pgs. 31-32)

 

This teaching though is foreign to Orthodox precepts, which teach that the Church, which is the body of Christ, cannot be separated.  One can only fall away from it.  Just as Our Lord Jesus Christ cannot have several bodies, so can He not have several Churches.  Our Lord said “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18), and “those who did not remain in the good part, will be separated from it, while those who remained steadfast are not separated.” (Sts. Varsanufiy and John.  Question 810)  “The episcopate cannot be divided,” teaches St. Cyprian of Carthage, “and the catholic Church is one, which cannot be divided or destroyed, and is united and bound everywhere by the agreed-upon tenets of its pastors.”  Met. Cyprian does not teach of the division of the Body of Christ, but of its unity.  This is not some new teaching, but one based on an old belief.  St. Paul himself compared the Church to the body of man, made up of healthy and infirm parts, and said, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

 

Heretics and the Orthodox have never been in one Church, in one body of Christ.  Heretics fall away from the church.  Cyprian teaches falsely that new calendarists and ecumenists are members of the Church, while admitting it may be necessary to separate from them into a “oppositionist new creation,” “a parallel” Church, thereby creating a “self-made gathering.”  Only those schismatics who fall away from the Church of their own volition are separated from the Church.  Met. Cyprian does not teach separating from the Church, but to defend oneself from wrong beliefs.  Met Cyprian did not create a self-made gathering or a new church torn away from its Mother Church, as some extremists have done.  He has done what is required by the Holy Fathers and what the Holy Orthodox Church teaches its faithful – to oppose evil and guard oneself from heretics and schismatics until the Judgment of a Council.

 

Cyprian’s ecclesiology distorts Orthodox  theology in a crude manner and injects disorder in the Church’s canonical rights.  He reduces heresy to a simple sin.  Sin can separate a person from the Church faithful, but while a sinner remains Orthodox in matters of faith, he remains in the Church and can repent.  Heresy, like a mortal sin, realistically separates a person from the Church.

 

Our Lord Himself, in revealing to us our eventual demise, inherently affirms the correctness of Met. Cyprian’s teaching of the healthy and ill members of the Church by the mystery of the seven stars (Apocalypse 1:20).  Just as God is pleased with the pure Smyrna and Philadelphia Churches, the Lord still considers the other five to be Churches, though infected by the heresies of false teachings and prophets.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Apocalypse 3:22)

 

An examination of Bishop Andrey Pavlovskiy’s presentation to the ROAC Sobor leads us to the fundamental belief that the teachings of Metropolitan Cyprian or Oropos and Fili are Orthodox, and though they may differ from the traditional ecclesiology of the Church Abroad, they do not contradict them.

 

The judgment passed by the ROAC Sobor on the teachings of Metropolitan Cyprian and those who agree with him is incorrect, as it is not supported by the Canons.