Wednesday of Holy Week

From Saint Petroc Monastery, Fr. Michael

Today, we pray in the last Collects that God would quicken our understanding that we may believe in the eternal life that He has given us. That is, that our understanding of this gift may be enlivened. The whole purpose of Christ was our life - our eternal life. Life in this sense exclusively means life with God. Beyond that there is only death, which is the meaning of what happens to those who deliberately turn away from God, who persistently until the end deny God, and deny the eternal life.

Any one of us may turn from such disbelief and claim our place with God, but to do so, we must achieve that belief in God and in His gift to us.

From such unbelief, we turn first of all, by confession, for in confession before His Church and the whole company of Heaven and to Him, we acknowledge our denial of Christ, of God and of His great gift to mankind and all that we have done in offence resulting from that unbelief.

Confession, for the Believer is no mere statement of belief, but a full, personal statement of our failings throughout our life. Confession is an unburdening and at the same time a turning away from our former selves and a turning towards and embracing of the path to union with God, the eternal gift that He has made possible for us.

Eternal life and the possibility of union with God, union with the energies of God, unity with His will, perfect alignment with God, complete harmony. That is the possibility that is held out to us. That is what Christ made possible and what God makes available.

Some grasped the possibilities very early on and the reality was expounded by the Fathers of the Church as we, mankind struggled to come to grips with this astounding gift.

This is vastly more than merely “going to church” of a Sunday. This is being unable to stay away from that lifting up of our hearts to God and following Christ’s specific commandment. “Do this in remembrance of Me”. This is not a whimsical test to see if we could follow such a commandment. It was the prescription of communion with Him, the nearest that we can approach on this earth in the normal course of events. Normal course of events? - the Divine Liturgy is a cosmic event every time - it is an intimate participation in the most profound event of all history and beyond time. We ought to let nothing stand between us and our participation in this event-beyond-time, in this time of communion.

Palm Sunday

From Saint Petroc Monastery, Fr. Michael

Palm Sunday is the great triumphal arch of the Christian year, through which we follow our Lord and Saviour into the week of His suffering, degradation and death. Palm Sunday seems to be a bittersweet day of hope. Hope to be bitterly dashed on the hard rocks of the religious authorities of the day and the people that accepted without much apparent thought, their deviant teachings, teachings which over the centuries had moved far from the will of God. Yet, that having happened, we must not regret one whit the events of Holy Week and Good Friday, for, without them, we would not be saved. Without them, we have nothing but the old law by which, as Saint Paul says, we are condemned. We may and must sorrow for our transgressions, each and every one of which contributes to the necessity of the sufferings of God on the Tree of Life which we call the Cross. Because of that which we cannot now call back, the Arch of Palm Sunday must inevitably lead to that distant tree removed so far from the Garden of Eden whence it and we began.

The last week of Lent has always been observed by Christians as a time of special solemnity; and from the momentous events of the last week before the Crucifixion which this week represents to us, it has, from early times been called the Great Week, Holy Week or the Holy Week of Great Lent. During this week, as early as the time of Saint John Chrysostom, there was a general cessation of business among Christian people. Fasting was observed with greater intensity and strictness and, after the conversion of Byzantium, Emperors tried to set an example of charity and mercy of which our own Royal Maundy is a surviving relic.

Palm Sunday is mentioned early in the Christian era. Saint John Chrysostom tells of palm branches being shaken as one of the customs of the day and as recently as this past century in England, people customarily cut willow branches to carry after the Liturgy on Palm Sunday.

We have the Book of Exodus (15:27) telling of the Children of Israel coming to the oasis of Elim with its twelve wells and forty palm trees and we know too from Leviticus 23:40 the significance of palms and willows in the Old Testament. Then in Revelation 7:9, we are told of palms used liturgically. Hence the ancient ceremony of the blessing of the palms with its Lesson and Gospel telling us of the events which we commemorate today: Christ entering His Capital as King, welcomed and worshipped by His people, fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah 62:11, Zechariah 9:9. The King had come to His City, the city that He had prophesied would be destroyed - as it was forty years later, the King Who had prophesied that here He would be put to death - as He was after four days. This King is our God, come for no other purpose than to die at the hands of men, that those who would believe, could be freed from the consequences of their transgressions. Here, on this bright, sunlit Spring morning, He came, riding through the city gate, praised and welcomed by the crowds - many of whom would cry for His death a few days later. Following Him in the procession were twelve men, one of whom would sell Him to the authorities, one of whom would deny that He was the greatest friend and all the rest of whom would run away from Him. Yet He came on to carry out the last acts of His earthly life, to forgive all these in advance, to ask the Father to spare them, to give to them the means of grace and the hope of glory: To set down for them the way of staying with Him, strengthened and protected by Him through the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist.

And so through the Arch of the gate of the City, and the arch of Palm Sunday, Jesus, King of kings rode on the humility of a peaceful donkey, the King of Glory has come in, upon whose shoulders shall rest first the Cross of suffering, succeeded by the government of all who are given Him by the Father.


What Must We Do to Raise our Ecclesiastical Culture?

(Lecture by Protopriest Nicholas Karypov delivered at the 13th Conference of the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, held at SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in December 2001) - From 'The Official Website of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.'

What do I mean by "ecclesiastical culture?" First of all: the cultivation of the idea that nectar exists beyond the flower's beauty (according to the thoughts of St Basil the Great), but also a clear understanding of the relationship between the flower and the nectar.

With this aim in mind it is necessary to clarify what the Church is, for often this remains a shallow, superficial concept of the Church either as an organization, a building, or an ideology. Few Orthodox parishioners think of the Church as an image of Eucharistic life, of constant repentance, of reconciliation with God among brothers and sisters in the parish. One famous Russian parish priest in the early 20th century, Fr Alexei Mechev, called his parish his "repenting family."

Of course, the awareness of this notion is very low amongst us, and so we need to quickly catechize everyone. I mean something more than what people learn at parish schools or religious instruction (The "Law of God"—think about this phrase). Indeed, we often operate under conceptions of this expression, returning to the pre-Christian model of behavior and thought, as though we had never heard the words of Apostle Paul and other Christian writers on the difference between Law and Grace.

In my experience, this gap in the proper catechistical knowledge cannot be filled by the priest during a sermon. Sermons, due to time limitations, are more pieces of advice—not lessons. Lessons must be conducted in groups or in person.

The above has led us to the topic of this lecture—to study which happens in a person in our time. A priest must cooperate in the proper approach to reading [spiritual literature], by recommending books and brochures to read, and making them as accessible as possible through the church kiosk and library. People need the guidance of priests and of experienced persons in selecting suitable reading material, depending on their individual level of knowledge.

Increasing the number of parishioners educated in ecclesiastical matters is a great step towards improving a situation wherein parishioners are passive consumers of the spiritual education provided by clergymen. The Orthodox Church never considers the clergy a separate caste of "Brahmans," head and shoulders above mere mortals. In practice, mutual isolation leads to misunderstanding between the clergy and laity.

At one extreme is the unhealthy veneration of so-called spiritual elders; the other extreme is the disrespectful attitude of the democratic mind which leads to anti-clericalism. Clergymen and laymen must communicate and understand each other on the basis of real conciliarity. We must elevate our knowledge of ourselves, of God and of the Church. The Church cannot be healthy if we fail, all together, to raise our level of knowledge, and correspondingly raise our Orthodox consciousness. The clergy cannot do this alone. We need personnel, we need people who have knowledge to further this cultivation.

Following my opening comments, I would like to offer some practical conclusions, which I hope can be expanded further in our discussion.

It is necessary to organize unified groups of catechistic workers from among the clergy and laity to:

a) prepare people for baptism. This must be done not only for adults, who should be prepared over the course of 6-12 months or more, but also should include at least 2-3 preparatory sessions with parents and Godparents of children being baptized.

b) prepare young people for marriage: to explain what Christian wedlock is, what love is. Yes, yes, people need to be told this, or the number of divorces will increase.

c) help people in times of sorrow after the loss of friends or relatives, explaining the reason and need for prayer for the dead.

d) organize a system of visits by clergymen and laity to the elderly and infirm.

e) organize good spiritual libraries, periodicals, video and audio tapes and compact disks. We can and must establish a means of limited publications, to make instructive and educational video and audio recordings.

Speaking of various teaching means in catechism, one cannot exclude monasteries. St John Chrysostom said that one good example is better than a thousand sermons (even, apparently, his sermons!). Our ancestors would say "Angels are the light of monks; monks are the light of laymen." We must not organize tours but pilgrimages to monasteries. There we learn what cannot be learned from books, or from sermons.

Our ethnocentrism, the confusion between our love for our homeland and for God is a problem for all Orthodox Christians in the New World .

A similar problem is our tendency to live in isolation in a self-created spiritual and emotional ghetto. We must find a way to have contact and communication with Orthodoxy of all cultures, even if on a daily, unofficial level, and also to relate to and bear witness before the non-Orthodox, who are often very interested in hearing us. With God's help, a great deal can be accomplished .

A good lesson from history is that of the different fates of the Church of the Jews and the Church of the Gentiles. The latter blossomed and grew thanks to its freedom and openness, in contrast with the spirit of exclusionism of the Church of the Jews. There are enough examples of this phenomenon in the later history of the Church, for example, in the cultural exclusionism of Russian history of the 15-17 centuries, which led to the tragedy of schism.

In our diocese, we could have better communication between parishes. There is a degree of isolationism among us: a "leave us alone" attitude. Some of my parishioners have complained that they are not greeted warmly in the parishes of other cities. Of course, this does not mean that we are good and everyone else is bad. We probably act the same way towards them.

There is a real need to attract children and youth to actively participate in services through the creation of youth and children's choirs (the church music conferences are very successful in this regard), to develop interest in learning in the next generation. We are faced with a woeful ignorance in liturgics, even with regard to the order of the Divine Liturgy itself, the Eucharist. Study groups should be established with the goal of learning this aspect of Orthodox Culture.

Our diocese has a fair degree of success with its annual youth conferences in Australia for some 40 years now. We must provide the opportunity for adults to participate in regular conferences, too. A few such conferences have proven successful already, though they are not regularly scheduled.

The Greek colony of Australia, because of its large population, was able to establish good Orthodox schools and colleges. Now a good number of non-Greek students are enrolled in them; in the future we might cooperate more among the various Orthodox groups in this regard. Because of our fragmentation, our children end up studying in state, private or Catholic schools. I understand that this might sound somewhat bold, taking into account the seriousness of the divisions in ecclesiastical politics and ethnic exclusionism, but an organized minority can move mountains, especially if it is accord with God's will. In fact, there is an interesting experiment in cooperation among Orthodox Churches: in 2002, a unified Russian -Serbian Youth Conference is to be held in Victoria .

To start: we must seriously examine our church schools and see what needs to be done to better reflect life in Australia. Unfortunately, our schools are often more like "Potemkin villages" created to please the older generations.

The opinion was expressed at our Diocesan Council meetings in Sydney that the diocesan assemblies themselves must be reinvigorated. As a result, the idea of a new type of lecture arose, somewhat different from traditional reports in which we list our "accomplishments" and enable each individual delegate to feel good about himself, but as a whole, we are stultified. Can we begin to think positively about these gatherings, as a forum for expressing the conciliarity of the Church instead of patting each other on the back?

Since conferences provide an opportunity to feel our conciliar unity, one would like to think that meeting once every three years is not enough. If we wish to grow together spiritually, and make decisions on the future of our diocese together, and not only in financial or legal matters, then we must reconsider whether it is enough to only meet every three years.

The aim of this lecture is to stimulate our thoughts on the question of improving our Church Culture, or, to use a modern expression, to "improve our quality of life," meaning, of course, church life.

Where church life truly thrives there is a spirit of repentance, of restoration, not the self-satisfied resting on our collective laurels.



Fr. Michael, Saint Petroc Magazine, Vol. III, No. 2, July 2000

Western Rite Orthodoxy is undoubtedly part and parcel of the One Holy Orthodox Catholic Church. We are inextricably bound up in Orthodoxy. We cannot and will not be disentangled from Orthodoxy. But, where are we going?

Western Rite Orthodoxy is a child of great promise within the Orthodox family. Given time, love and care, it could grow into a valuable contributor to Orthodox society. What is needed is vision. Saint John (Maximovitch) had such vision. He could see a future in which Western Rite Orthodoxy was restored to retake its rightful place in the family home. We need that vision to be revived in the Church, not just in one or two countries, in a Metropolitanate here and an Archdiocese there, but widely.

Most of us are barely capable of seeing what is directly in front of us. We have no idea how long we must plan for in the earthly Church. We may have very little time, or we may have a millenium. It really doesn't matter. Part of our good work of loving our neighbours is to make provision for neighbours yet unborn. So, we plan new Parishes and make provision for the future work of the Church, spreading the knowledge and love of God.

Western Rite Orthodoxy is integral to the Church's mission of spreading the Word of God. We have been given a tool which enables us to work with people who might not respond otherwise.

More than that, we have a present opportunity. Western society is in a state of spiritual turmoil. We have the only true answer for those in Western society who will hear. We must therefore act with a sense of urgency. When we delay, souls proceed without hearing the message, we fail in our duty to God, and we fail to love our neighbour.

God has given us this tool to use, to speak to our people and we will answer for having failed to use it. We cannot bury this tool in the garden and then produce it on the Day of Judgment, hoping to be praised for having preserved it. We must take it out into the world and use it - with energy and vision - as Saint John of Shanghai did.

After the Chrism Dries

Fr. David Tillman, Saint Petroc Magazine, Vol. III, No. 3, September, 2000. (Reprinted from AGAIN MAGAZINE, Volume 21, Number 1 - Winter 1999)

"Our merciful Lord says, Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13, 14)

Coming into Orthodoxy may look like the end of a long journey home, but on another plane it is just the beginning of another journey - the journey into the Kingdom of heaven. This pilgrimage is the hard way, the way of the Cross, and it is fraught with dangers and pitfalls.

There is a steady stream of souls coming into the Orthodox Church, but, alas, there is also a persistent trickle of those going out. Some are scandalized, disillusioned, and heartbroken; some are rebellious, defiant, and - may God rescue them and us - perhaps lost forever. Joy comes only through the Cross, and all are tempted to flee from it. Let us take refuge in the divinely inspired promise of the Holy Apostle John that as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).

Let's get some basic doctrine down before we have a sober look at the journey after the chrism dries and the baptismal garment is folded and put away. I believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and the Orthodox Church is it. What the Orthodox Church has received from the Lord (the prayers, the liturgies, the Bible, the Mysteries, the Councils, the Fathers, the icons, the canons - in sum, the entire Tradition) is absolutely trustworthy. To reject these things in their proper place and order in the Church is to reject Christ as Head of the Church. To gain these things through Jesus in the communion of the Orthodox Church is worth every sacrifice.


What we have received is absolutely trustworthy. The way we incarnate it in this world as individuals, parishes, dioceses, and the like can be an affront to God. If one flees to the Orthodox Church never expecting to encounter sinners again, one is deluded. Sinners are to be found in abundance not only among the laity, but among the clergy as well. St. John Chrysostom taught that the roads of hell are paved with the skulls of erring Orthodox priests, and erring Orthodox bishops are the lampposts!

In fact, even whole churches can fall into sin. The current Bishop of Corinth is reputed to say often that his church has not improved that much since the Apostle Paul left. And we must never forget that the seven churches described in St. John's Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation) were Orthodox churches! They're gone now. Their lampstands may well have been removed forever. Whether this is due to the vicissitudes of Greco-Turkish politics or to a deeper cause, we know that God preserves the Orthodox Church where she is faithful.

There are real live sinners in the Orthodox Church, and anyone that enters thinking to escape them will be terribly disappointed. He might have better luck entering a hospital in order to avoid sick folks.

One escapes nothing by coming into the Orthodox Church. What happens is that everything is intensified, but with a new clarity. The late Flannery O'Connor (a Roman Catholic writer of the first rank and native of the Deep South) was once asked why her stories, and those of so many Southerners, were peopled by such freaks. She replied to the effect that perhaps the Southerner's advantage is that he can still recognize a freak. The Orthodox Christian's advantage is that he can still recognize sin when most of the world would like to deny its existence. There are sinners pedestrian and venal in the Orthodox Church. There are sinners who have damaged and torn lives and consciences. There are sinners intellectual and simple. One healthy sign amidst so much that is unhealthy, even dangerous, is that there is an unchangeable vocabulary of sin, repentance, accountability, and God's coming judgment in Orthodoxy. One can hide from it, but one cannot escape it. The Orthodox Church still recognizes sin and celebrates virtue, even to the judgment and condemnation of some who would count themselves members in good standing, with medals and citations to prove it.


Many come to the Orthodox Church with impossibly high expectations of her. Some of these expectations are quasi-magical. One can be baptized, chrismated, and communed with utmost care in Orthodoxy and still go to hell. The Holy Mysteries grant us an encounter with the Most Holy Trinity; they are not magic. They cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. A sinner who will not cooperate with this grace will be condemned by it.

Many a recovering drunk will say of his recovery program, It works if you work it! The Mysteries of the Church (which is itself the Great Mystery) work if you work them. One can be baptized in the deepest font made and be held under a good long time in each immersion and still end up in hell, for the lack of daily trying to die to self so that one can truly die with Christ and rise with Him. So many fixate on the outer form to the exclusion of the very presence of God in the Mysteries. The Lord is present to empower us to be faithful, not to magically transform us into lovers of Himself and our neighbors without struggle on our part. We must make the effort to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1).

An excessive fixation on the ultra-correct celebration of the services of the Church can be the result of this magical thinking. Some seem to be thinking that if the services are just done right (and there are wildly divergent definitions of done right) then the struggles will be over. Magic lusts after mere power. Alas, many prefer magic to grace and are disappointed that Simon the Magician was never canonized in the Orthodox Church! So they leave, or worse, stay and drive off the weaker brethren. It is heartbreaking to see people scandalized by the sins of others and/or their own sins and struggles. The antidote to this in faith is the foundational virtue of humility. When all is said and done, all that is wrong with the Church in her earthly pilgrimage (remember, there's nothing wrong with her Head) can be discovered by looking in a mirror.

Every Orthodox Christian from the Apostolic Age until today must say at every Divine Liturgy that he himself is the chief of sinners. After many years of saying it, many come to believe it. Of those who believe it, many begin to do something about it. It is at this point that one begins to see and experience the Messianic miracles in abundance. At least on the moral plane one begins to witness, if not personally experience, the disfigured lepers being clean sed, the lame walking, the blind seeing, the dumb speaking, the demons being banished, and the dead being raised.

Yet some persist in wanting - may we say lusting for - a guaranteed magic rather than grace. Those healed by the Lord had to get up, get to work, and get home. Who are we to demand more? Jesus gives us His grace, the presence of the Holy Spirit, to walk the narrow way. He doesn't send a taxi to get us!


Being faithful is a struggle on both the individual and the corporate levels. Some give up the battle and settle for a worldly comfort. This is true for individual souls, parishes, dioceses, and patriarchates. None of us is immune to the desire to take the rest appointed for the Last Day right now. North Americans and Western Europeans have a great struggle with the devil's most subtle weapon: prosperity. Again on every level, there are those of us so seduced by prosperity that we create a huge stumbling block to many souls. Worldly prosperity and numerical growth are not always signs of spiritual growth. After all, cancer cells grow much faster than normal cells.

The antidote to the comfy poison of prosperity is ascetic effort. Ascetic effort is the directed and controlled violence of war against the passions. Ascetic effort can be derailed by pride, publicity, and legalism. There are times we Orthodox, again on both the individual and corporate levels, can simultaneously make the Pharisee blush and the publican despair. There are some who deny the centrality of ascetic effort, especially fasting. There are others who can keep a Lenten kitchen more fastidiously than any scribe or lawyer of old could ever have hoped to keep Kosher. Where humility and mercy are lacking, God is banished in the name of Orthodoxy, and souls are led astray.

The Lord grants us grace step by step so that we can walk a balanced walk. When we are confronted with fellow sinners, we need not despair and begin looking for a Church more Orthodox than God. This is a temptation. Neither do we need to say, "Well, no one else is fighting sin in his life, so I am off the hook." In balance we can be grateful to God that He brought us to the Orthodox Church, but we need not have any illusions that the Church would be diminished without us or is enriched by us. With sobriety we can do what grace makes possible and bless the Lord.


One of the finest teachers in the North American Church tells the story of his enthusiasm in his first assignment as a parish priest. At one point his bishop reminded him, Father, the Church saves you. You don't save the Church. This is a saving balance and sobriety in the Christian walk. There is nothing extreme in it. Passionate and intemperate enthusiasm can be purified and tamed to become patient and long-suffering zeal. Being on fire with love for the Lord is absolutely necessary, but it must be a controlled burn.


One of the signs that we are getting off the narrow way of the Cross is ingratitude toward or condemnation of our origins. For those of us who came to Orthodoxy from the Western denominations, this is a major and serious temptation. One must enter Orthodoxy walking forward singing, not retreating backward shouting. It is the height of ingratitude to be without at least a prayer for the folks that taught one to call on the name of Jesus.

In the entryways of many an ancient church building (called the exonarthex) one could see pictures of Plato and Aristotle. The Church knew that the philosophies of the pagan Greeks were inadequate to the mystery of faith in Christ. The Church knew that too many had attempted to subordinate the Tradition to pagan categories and had been lost because of it. Despite all of this she allowed a beautiful expression of gratitude to Plato and Aristotle as seekers of Truth, sometimes even referring to them as the Moseses of the [pagan] Greeks. In this we see sober, open-eyed, and Christ-enlightened gratitude.

Truth is truth wherever it is found, and it always has some relationship to Jesus, who is, of course, the Truth Incarnate. Ingratitude for whatever glimmer of truth came to us from even the most doubtful of sources is a singularly evil symptom of profound spiritual malaise. From the denominational perspective, there are few bodies more inadequate than the snake-handling sects, but their call for total commitment and focus is laudatory. On Judgment Day one can speculate that a rattlesnake-handling sect may fare better because of its hundred-percent commitment, albeit in ignorance, than an Orthodox parish that has it all, at least on paper, but is only thirty percent committed. Where ingratitude is found, judgments abound, and presumption cannot be far behind.

Having said these things, we must be careful not to teeter off the other side of the narrow way by saying, It does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere and committed. Although God is everywhere present and fills all things (as we say in our opening invocation to the Holy Spirit before nearly every private or public prayer of the Orthodox Church), He condescended to be objective - describable, touchable, knowable - in the Incarnation. The Faith has an objective content.

The Lord did not come to give us mere propositions. He came to restore our relationship to Him by freeing us from the tyranny of sin, decay, and death. Nevertheless, this relationship can be described accurately in ways He chose. There is right theology with attendant right practice. The Lord entrusts us with the Faith to equip us to walk the narrow way He pioneered. When we treat the Faith in presumption as our right, we distort it and disfigure it. The light in us becomes darkness, and we cause scandal and harm even though we may be members in good standing of the Orthodox Church.


What should be said in conclusion? Simply this: The Lord came to save us from the reality of rebellion, sin, death, and decay in every facet of our being. The only way to be saved is to take up our cross and follow Him in obedient death to self and sin. If, in reality, our following Him is a charade, then all the tools and arsenal the Lord has provided for our salvation and sanctification will condemn us. Coming into the Orthodox Church does not take away the necessity of genuine repentance. It s a matter of grace, not magic.

In reality, if we have not died with Christ and risen with Him, we will find the Marriage Supper of the Lamb intolerable. The real God makes real repentance possible so that people can enter into the real Kingdom of heaven. It requires a genuine walk in faith with the power of our God, who cannot be fooled. The journey is not over yet.


Secular Academics and the Life of the Body of Christ

Fr. Michael, Saint Petroc Magazine, Vol. III, No. 3, September, 2000.

From time to time, I am invited to attend conferences of "theologians" for the apparent purpose of discussing some aspect or other of the history or thought of Christianity.

Such conferences are overwhelmingly people by academics who are called theologians. They are very often purely secular academics who for one reason or another, have seen the study of the history or the teachings of Christianity as a reasonable means of pursuing an academic career. Many of them admit that they are not members of any church and never attend church, some are honest enough to admit that they do not believe in God/the Divinity of Christ/the Virgin Birth/the Crucifixion/the Ascension or all of the above. Nevertheless, their views are treated by the world at large and often by the Romano-protestant churches as being valid expositions of Christianity past and present.

Even those of them who actually do believe in the major tenets of Christianity, even attend a church, are still primarily secular academics, not the "experiencers of God" who alone are regarded by Orthodox Christians as legitimate commentators about the things of God. I admit that I tend to try to differentiate between these two very different breeds, by referring to the secular academics as "theologicians", for want of another handy term.

What is missing in a larger context than the effort of the secular academic theologicians, is that their work is a thing of secular academic study and as such, while perhaps being informative, yet it holds nothing in common with the Church's Sacred Theology and Tradition. Secular History and Sacred Tradition are not and cannot be the same thing.

It was Bishop Dimitri (Royster) I think, who said: "What can secular theology tell us about the Church except to observe times in history and define the changes and movements in the Church by means of geo-politics, socio-economics, philosophies, clashes of personalities, failures of individuals or groups, wars, natural migrations of peoples, pressures of competing religions and so on? When the actual movements of the Church are witness of God's dominion over history and His incarnation in the Church and are accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. The observable context of these changes and movements, the vagaries of history are only incidental to that truth and may be observed as the mean of a particular movement by conjecture, but never the cause."

The academic study of history applied to the Christian Church sheds no reliable light on the Tradition of the Church which is quite a different thing. The Church sees her Tradition as a non-scholastic view of the life of the Body of Christ (The Church), present and past. Observation of present history in the making, however careful and acute, may give us insight into the nature of current affairs, but ultimately it will tell us very little true history.

The reliance on such scholastic-academic methods for judging the life of the Church is the slow replacement of the perception of the mystery of the life of the Body of Christ with mere philosophical categories and as such, it has to all intents and purposes, overtaken the western Christian bodies entirely. Secular forensic study can never bring about a recognition of the healing reality present in the Church. Such study replaces the Mystery of the life of the Body of Christ with something else entirely and can only hopelessly distort Church tradition and Sacred Theology, creating a breeding ground for heresy and godlessness.