We profess the One and Catholic Church. Strictly saying, one
should not say about the Church division, it can only be said about the
falling off from It, such as various heresies and schisms.
The inner divisions of the Church for the local
ones are not separation, for example: Russian, Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian,
Romanian… All these local churches comprise to one Orthodox Church. They are
not even the parts of the Church, for the Church cannot be divided in parts,
but only local, stipulated by the national or state character, separate
displays of one and the same Church. The distinguishing features of each local
Church can be many, but the unity remains indivisible, if the purity of faith
and blessedness of the apostolic succession are preserved.
Striving for Catholicity
With the question of the Church unity is connected
the question of its catholicity. We can be asked concretely: why don’t we,
being the members of the Church, feel neither one-essential catholicity, nor
the full unity within It? It happens because in our soul there can be many
self-orientated, not belonging to the Church sides. Sometimes we keep to our
opinions, which do not coincide with the Christian teaching. But for the
authentic conversion one needs not only the absolute unity with the Church in
thoughts, but putting these ecclesiastic thoughts into practice, into the very
depth of the soul.
The holy righteous, who had cleansed their souls
and made them completely ecclesiastic, i.e. a part of God, distinctly felt that
unity and catholicity of the Church.
Though, we, the ordinary children of the Church,
can understand and feel Its unity and catholic unanimity: when one reads the
life of saints or works of the holy fathers, he in reality can feel his unity
with them, the proximity of his interests, experience and longings. The Church
tries to develop in us that council-like feeling, for example, giving in Its
Divine services the opportunity to experience those feelings, which were known
to the participants of the feast events, and through that catholically unite us
with these of Its children, now belonging to the triumphing heavenly Church.
In communicating with one another each one of us,
the Orthodox, experienced the unanimous feeling within encounters with some,
very often unknown, but also the orthodox, believing people. At the same moment
we see them, they turn out to be dear and close, dearer and closer, than any of
our relatives, who are less like-minded to us, and with whom we are connected
only through the physical relationship.
In the first ages of the Christianity, with the
great strain of the church life, when the Christians fully lived in the Church,
and had no interests out of It, this catholicity was perceived as very
important. In different parts of the Christian world, in Spain and Mesopotamia,
in Mauritania and Gallia, the Christians, with no arrangements, lead so very
unanimous life, that a Christian from Damascus, who found himself in Massilia,
felt himself as in the motherland, in the Church community of a foreign
country. This inner unity of the scattered in many countries Christian
communities was, no doubt, the declaration of will of the Holy Spirit, abiding
in the Church.
Further on, when there appeared the possibility
for that, the same spirit of catholicity, the organ of the Holy Spirit, began
to reveal itself in the gathering of bishops, who obtained the triumphant name
of the Ecumenical Council, zealously, with the complete realization of their
right for that, declaring: "This is what the Holy Spirit and we
Catholicity is not the common subordination to any
authority, is not obedience to the directions how to believe and think, is not
a scrupulous investigation on the question, about how they taught of this or
that in antiquity. An Orthodox Christian believes and professes it not in the
way, what this or that church authority directs him to do, not in the way, how
one or another ancient holy father prescribes, but how his conscience and
consciousness, brought up in the Church, prompt him to do. But he checks his
conscience and consciousness with the help of the voice of the Church — that of
the Ecumenical Councils, holy fathers and of his contemporaries, whom he knows
to be living in the Church. And if he finds in his consciousness divergence of
his and their opinion, he does not assert it as the contrary to the church
understanding, but realizes that if his consciousness came into a conflict with
that of the Church, then some capital error must have crawled in his way of
thinking, which must be corrected through repentance and prayer.
Keeping to the catholicity is not easy, for it demands
steadfastness and resignation. But about it, as of the entire Christian life,
Christ says: "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent
take it by force"
The Church is not only united, it is unique,
and for it has the only Leader— Christ. Everything that has communication with
Him, is united with It.
Besides, the kept by the Church truth is one.
There can be no several truths. If they express different opinions about the
important and precise things, there can be only one of them, which is right,
and the rest are incorrect.
So, the Church is absolutely new, special and
unique being on earth, which cannot be precisely defined by notions, taken out
of the mundane life.
The fact that they call the Church a
"society" is inexact, for the mundane society consists of the
reserved personalities of our sinful and imperfect world. The lay society is
subjected to juridical laws, protecting and consolidating the reticence of
individuals. We cannot imagine any commercial society, built not on the codex
of rights and duties, but on the mutual compassion and sympathy.
The Church has an absolute council character. That
is why the substitution of the council relations of its members by juridical
ones within it is the distortion of its nature. One might compare the Church
with a family, a society, built not upon juridical but natural quasi-council
basis. But a family is too much specific and limited. Though, the Holy
Scripture, in order to explain the nature of the Church, sometimes uses the
comparison with a family, in which God is our Heavenly Father, and connection
of a Christian with Christ is compared with the marriage of the soul with its
Heavenly Bridegroom. The best analogy is given in the comparison, made by
Apostle Paul with a body, but the thought of the Apostle, pointing at the aim
of the body of the Church "unto the edifying of itself in love," already
destroys the image of the body, knowing no love, and by that again points at
the fact, that the nature of the Church cannot be explained through life
In its essence, the Church is the similarity of
the Trinity existence, in which many personalities become one creature. Why is
such existence, as well as the existence of the very Trinity, so inexpressible
for us and impossible to understand? It happens because in our understanding a
personality is a reserved being, radically isolated from any other personality,
to the extent that the notion of opposition of "I" and "Not Me"
became a corner-stone of the European philosophy (Decart).
On the contrary, a personality, which develops
itself in the Church, possesses the fullness of catholicity: self-denial and
love for the others, as for oneself, with the high degree of the individual
development of self-awareness. The most typical representatives of such a
combination are the types of saints of the Church. Let us remember them:
martyrs, ascetics, saints… In all these three types, dissimilar because of the
daily conditions of life, we find the equal harmony of the two elements, which
seem incompatible with the natural intellect.
All these three types are the giants of will with
the extremely intense understanding of their personal responsibility, and at
the same time absolutely alien not only to egoism, but to slightly felt
haughtiness, or any pretensions to their rights.
So, the Christian truth of the Church, as of the
council being, similar to the Trinity not only within the idea, but in life,
frees the man of the natural clash between the self-awareness of the
personality and self-denying love, as a principle of life. That is why the
dogma of the Trinity is the main dogma of the Christianity, and the feature of
catholicity — the main feature of the Church.
The establishment of the Church, the Divine-human
organism, was the greatest act of the Divine love, the victory of Christ over
The attempts of the prince of darkness turned out
to be destroyed by the act of the greatest Divine leniency, which the devil
could not foresee because of his pride. He, the proud and powerful spirit, the
firstling of creation and the head of angels, despised people, physical infirm
creatures. He could in no way suppose that the Son of God — the Creator and
God, sharing the throne with the Father and the Spirit, would become one of
The sphere of darkness was defeated by the Divine
lenience, the hell was destroyed. The Gates of the Heavenly Kingdom opened
wide, and the saved people as a broad stream flew into its light dwellings, "prepared
for you from the foundation of the world" (Math. 25:34).
But the enemy of God and the people in his insane
pride did not want to accept that he was defeated and to give up. Seeing that
people were saved in the Church, he focused all his hatred on It. First, he
tried to destroy the Church physically through the bloody persecutions of
heathen leaders. Having succeeded in the persecutions, he simultaneously began
to try to divide the Church into different hostile parts, through the
establishment of heresies and church schisms.
But the first heresies were not very successful.
With the high tension of the church life, the firm idea of catholicity and
constant communication of the ancient churches, those false teachings were
rapidly noticed by the Christians, as the phenomenon, that was strange and
alien to its nature, and the propagators of those heresies, various false
teachers, were rapidly excommunicated out of the Church. This way and rejected
the ancient heresies of Gnostics, evionites, saulians, dockets were exposed.
But with the growth of the Church in breadth, with
the penetration into it the new human masses, the moral level of the Christian
society began to drop, and as a result the spiritual perceptiveness and
sensitivity began to fade. And so we see that in the 4th century first
the Aryan, and then Nestorian and monophysite heresies began to enthrall many
millions of the Christians.
Nevertheless, the success of these heresies was
not durable. After the first success, those heresies began to fade, not only
outwardly, but first of all inwardly, with the impoverishment of righteousness
and loss of the idea of catholicity. Little by little the followers of those
heresies began to play the role of a local separate phenomenon.
In spite of the troubles among the people, the
deficiencies of the church life, caused by the flow of the former heathens, who
came into the Church, in spite of the certain cooling of religious fire, in
comparison with the apostolic age, the Christian world in the period, preceding
the event of the separation of the Western and Eastern Church, in the 5,6 and 7th
centuries, represented an amazing, bright and enlightened spiritual scene.
The Lives of Saints, the Spiritual meadow, Lavsaik
and the similar books of antiquity tell us of the time, when all over the territory,
which could only fit in the horizon of a European, the holy Christian Church
grew in breadth and took roots. Millions of people freed themselves from the
power of paganism and became the convinced Christians. In spite of the
difference between the belonging to the Church nations, the church life was the
same from Spain to Mesopotamia, and all this territory was inhabited by the
millions of the righteous, so that in every corner of the Christian world each
man, who wished to serve to Christ, could find a good example for himself.
The Roman Catholicism Falling Off from the
In the 9th century for the first time
appeared the sinister crack between the Christian East and the West, that crack
which further on caused the sad division, which till now is painful for the
entire Christian world.
What was the reason for that crack’s appearance?
The dark demonic force always builds temptations
on the base of these or those human infirmities. This happens both in the
respect of a single person and of one or another society, nation and the entire
mankind. Let us explain it with the help of an example: the man can be hungry,
what is quite natural and normal, but through the feeling of hunger, the devil
forces the man to serve to his womb, overeat, what becomes a sin.
The separation between the Western and Eastern
Churches is often explained by the difference of psychology of the East and
West. This is true, but only partly. In this very difference there is no sin
and necessity of separation in the questions of faith. Such a difference
existed from the beginning, but nevertheless the Church of Christ was living
with unanimous life. The blessed unity of the Church to cover all the varieties
of national mentality and way of life, as a full-flowing river covers all the
shoals and reefs, which are at its bottom. The variety of psychology of
different ethnical groups, comprising to the Church, does not separate, but
provides for the wealth and multi-sidedness of the church culture.
Though, in the number of reasons, causing the
psychological difference between the East and the West was the one, which by
the moment of separation became if not to say a sin, then at any rate, the
drawback of the West in comparison with the East.
The East and the West obtained different cultural
legacy from the heathen antiquity. The East got the Hellenistic philosophy, the
West — the Roman juridical empire understanding of the law.
But the East, having accepted the Hellenistic
philosophy, transformed it into the Christian philosophy. The attempts to plant
out the fruit of heathen philosophy in the Christian consciousness, which
undertook Gnostics, Saulians, Arians and other heretics, were categorically
rejected by the Church, and philosophy took its place in the ecclesiastical
consciousness of the East only when it totally went through the ecclesiastic
We see the other thing in the West. There the
juridical and empire understandings of heathen Rome were not transformed by the
Christianity. We see neither the struggle for creating the Christian world
contemplation, nor the work on the transformation of the Roman heathen
psychology in the West. Although, while the unity with the East was still
preserved, there was nothing destructive in that inner inactivity of the West,
for the Orthodox West derived the true world contemplation from the East. For
the East, the period of the vigorous fight with heresies, the calm and stable
in the Orthodoxy West was the precious basis.
Nevertheless, the very imperturbability of the
West concealed danger in itself. "For there must be also heresies among
you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you" —
writes Ap. Paul (1 Cor. 11:19).
The East realized that the true Orthodox faith was
seized by various false doctrines, against which it had to fight; that for the
purity of faith were responsible all the Christians, starting with archpriests
and ending with lay people. The West was getting used to the thought that the
true faith was given to it once and forever, and that it was glorified only because
it is the West.
Beside the difference in mentality, they think the
reason of separation to be the rise of the significance of Roman popes. Though,
this phenomenon by itself does not yet conceal anything sinful within it.
We know that in the ancient Church the
significance of these or those bishop departments rose, and especially of those
so called apostolic departments, i.e. the departments, directly founded
by the Apostles, which they led, being in the role of bishops for the more or
less durable time. There were several similar departments in the East, and in
the West only the Roman one, which apostles Peter and Paul visited themselves.
With time there started to appear archbishops, metropolitans, patriarchs, as
the hierarchs with more wide administrative powers. Such centralization of the
Church started because of the need of the better organization of the Church
life. Theoretically one can imagine that finally the Church could become
administratively united and led by one chief patriarch. But that did not
happen. The highest authority of the Church was given to the Ecumenical
The separations did not yet take place even when
there appeared the erroneous opinion in the West that the Holy Spirit proceeds from
the Son as well, against which first arouse the Roman Popes Leo III and
Adrian I. The separation happened only when the West took root in this
misconception and considered itself to have the right officially, as the
indisputable truth, to announce of its private opinion, despite the protests of
the Eastern Church, and when the West added its new doctrine into the Creed,
despite the categorical prohibition of the 3d and 4th Ecumenical
Councils to change anything in the Creed.
First of all, by this heretical novelty was
violated catholicity, council character, the understanding that the fullness of
truth the Lord gives not to the single personalities, not to the separate parts
of the Church, but only to the entire Church, in all its fullness, to
its council unity.
The break happened when the West wanted to impose
its self-willed change of the Creed upon the East. This tragic separation
became more profound later when the Christians of the West came into the
Eastern Church not like brothers, whishing to protect but like enemies and in
the so-called forth crusade destroyed the eastern empire worse that the enemies
of the Christian faith did further on. Here, strictly speaking, comes the main
and final border, dividing the Christian West and the Christian East.
After the happened separation, all the basic
typical features of the Christian life of the West, the traits of variety,
enriching the church culture, became additional factors for the separation.
The Papacy, used to the thought about the
rightness of its opinion, having seen its spiritual flock growing in number,
and its rising significance in the Church (which boundaries in its
understanding were limited only by the West), finally appropriated all the
basic qualities of the Church, proclaiming on July 10, 1870 that the Roman
bishop "has the same infallibility (i.e. accuracy in the questions
of faith), which the Church possesses …" and that "the definitions of
the Roman bishop cannot be abolished."
The Roman juridical consciousness made the West
forget the authentic relations of the man and God, replacing them by the
juridical formal relations, built on the theory of agreement and purchasing
Left after the heathen times memories of the
"pontificus maximus" as of the ruler of the universe, led to the
mingling of the spiritual and mundane authorities, to the pretensions to the
world majesty of the Roman popes.
The Protestantism and Sectarianism
In several centuries after the separation of the
Western Church, the gap between the churches became greater, because of the
appearance of the Protestantism. If the local Roman church allowed itself to
proclaim the new teaching independently and to enter it into the Creed
willfully, violating the principle of catholicity, then why cannot be such a
right given to any single man?
So, the Catholic monk Luther appropriates the
right to publish the Schwabach articles, which end with such significant words:
"The Church is nothing else but the sum of the believers in Christ,
possessing the up above mentioned articles, believing in them and learning
But this means that anyone has a right to compose
similar new articles and proclaim them to be the teaching of the Church.
The Anglican Church, for example, finds possible
that in one and the same Church can be present the people, both believing in
the basic ecclesiastical truths, and the people, who do not believe in the
incarnation of Jesus Christ, caused by the Holy Spirit and the forthcoming
resurrection of the dead, as it is proclaimed in "the doctrinal
report" of the years 1922-38.
There is nothing left to say about the countless
It is very interesting to define the typical
feature of the world view of these new sects in comparison with the ancient
ones. The ancient sects, which were based on the false suppositions, in
defiance of the catholic thought of the Church, strove for the catholicity by
the fact that they naively thought that their doctrine was in accordance with
the teaching of the Scripture, or at least did not contradict it. That was why
the ancient sects caused the more profound study of the religious questions and
consequently, to some extent, contributed to the development of theology.
The new sects, on the contrary, totally ignore
the principle of catholicity, do not even wish to hear about it. Haughtily
and disdainfully they wave the historical experience and catholic reason of the
Church aside, and therefore cause not the development but the decline of
theology, and through the material flat reasoning about faith lead to the
cooling in its respect, decrease of the interest to the truth and making the
religious thought mundane; in the final run the new sects lead to atheism.
So, with the époque of the separation from the
East, with the moment of break of the catholic unity and proud self-accretion,
the West of the Christian world forgot the authentic understanding of the
Church, and they began to perceive it as the mundane, built on the juridical
grounds, society with the juridical relations among its members and formal,
contractual relations with God.
The Two Understandings of the Church
The understanding of Christ as the Head of the
Church started to transform from the organic and substantial into the
metaphoric one. Christ started to be accepted as the head of the Church only
like the head of the state, the president or king, ruling its outward ways, but
not giving life to the given institution. Consequently, the attitude of
believers towards Christ changed, and the new, distorted understanding of the
With such an understanding, with the forgetting of
the organic unity of the Church with Christ, the Christian West, which
separated from the body of the Church, naturally started to need the
terrestrial leader, for Christ cannot rule the Church visibly and evidently
for everybody. Together with that such a belittled understanding of the Church
and purely terrestrial reconstruction of its administration turned out to be
convenient for semi-Christians.
The Orthodox organic belonging to the Church
requires constant exploit. Really, in the Orthodox understanding of the Church
as the Body of Christ living one life with Him, in which there must be nothing
sinful, we can belong to the Church to such an extent, to which we constantly
cleanse ourselves from any sin and sincerely strive for righteousness. Any sin
holds us away from the unity with Christ; our communication with Him weakens
and can be finally destroyed.
With the understanding of the Church, as the
terrestrial society, guided by a terrestrial leader, there can be no kind of
such falling off and the return of the man to the Church is not necessary. Any
sinner, even if he does not at all wish to be saved, is the member of the
Church because of his formal belonging to the Roman Catholicity, or to a
certain Protestant denomination. If sinfulness is foreseen and beforehand
protected by certain rules, it forms the norm of life of this church
organization and does not excommunicate from it.
Meanwhile, in the Orthodox world the grave sin
of a Christian is a tragedy and catastrophe, breaking his connection
with the Church, which is painfully felt by the entire Church, on the words of
Ap. Paul: "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with
it." That is why now, in the period of the moral decay in the
Christian world, the drop of spirituality and sinfulness, especially among the
clergy, so painfully affects the Orthodox world. The moral downfall or
infidelity to the purity of the teaching of the Church from the side of a
bishop or a priest is always a catastrophe, causing pain.
In order to understand it, let us imagine first
the norm of the church pastoral life, what it should be like. A bishop or a
priest is totally living the church life, all his aspirations are in God, when
he sets "affection on things above, not on things on the earth"
(Col. 3:2). This does not mean that he does not take care of his parish or
eparchy, but means that he searches for the Reign of God and its truth for him
and for his spiritual children, and for all the rest as a supplement, on the
word of Christ. Together with that, the Reign of God and Its truth are being
searched by him not according to his own ideas, not willfully, but catholically
— in the unity with the Church, i.e. together with the equally believing
How much, how full can be the unity of the members
of the Church in such cases, we know from the church history, from the examples
of the whole line of important church events, for example, the establishment of
the eparchial, and then parish structure of the Church, working out the church
laws and activities, which with the appearance of the similar needs, on the
whole space of the ancient Christian world from Spain up to Mesopotamia were
introduced by the catholically thinking bishops and their co-workers, without
any specially made arrangement.
Each question in no matter what field: personal,
state, national, social — was answered by all the representatives of the
Church in the same way, for they did not have any personal opinions or personal
interests, but only the common church ones. And that happened in spite of the
fact that they, as personalities, in no way were deficient. We imagine them:
for example, St. Ignatius God Bearer, Policarpus of Smyrna, Irineus of Lion and
others, as the giants of the spirit, highly developed individualities, which
they seem to be to a reader of their lives’ descriptions, or their works. Did
such a unity need any outer guidance or juridical registration, if it was
directly supported by the common life together with Christ?
Such, ideally, must be the arrangement of the
Church of Christ. Its unity is provided by the unity of Its members with
Christ, and any breaking of this unity, coming out of sinfulness, self-being,
self-assertion, immediately influences the headed by them church unit (a parish
or eparchy). It cannot be the other way round, for a sin is a catching
It can happen that some member of the Church
starts sinning and not repenting in his sin, but keeps to it. The sin deprives
him from the unity with Christ, the unity with the Church. Until the Church
decisively cuts off this separating from It member, or he repents
("metanoia" — his absolute conversion), until that time his
separation will harm the well-being of the Church. He either would start to
teach incorrectly, trying to justify his sinfulness with a lie, or would behave
himself temptingly, or sow dissension in the Church.
Certainly, as we said, nowadays, with the
extremely low general church standard, this is the way how we react mostly at
the betrayal of the Church by Its archpriest and pastors. But we often do not
pay attention to the betrayal of Its ordinary members, for we got used to it
during the latest centuries. But in reality, with at least some higher church
level, the attitude to the betrayal of any member of the Church should be the
We, the Orthodox, now suffer of all the types of
the church destruction, as a result of the most profound disparity: the Church
in its essence remained the same, what it always used to be, — the body of
Christ, the bride of Christ, which has neither any spot, nor any vice, and the
people, who are called to be its members, representatives, and in their number
archpriests and priests, have many spots and vices and do not want to be
cleansed by repentance, but take root in them and try not to cleanse
themselves, but to liken the Church to themselves. Nevertheless, the Church
remains the same, what it always used to be, is and will be, and they fall out
from It, loose their unity with It, for "What is the chaff to the wheat?"
says the Prophet Jeremiah (23:28).
Seeing this process of the slow falling off from
the Church, an Orthodox Christian cannot stay indifferent. For the healing of
himself and of the whole body of the church, he longs for the interference of
Christ the Savior, prays for the correction of the church life.
The Legalization of Sin
This process is quite different in the Latin
world. In it there is the completed strictly centralized church organization,
which is headed by the terrestrial leader, to whom belongs the fullness of
power. All the members of this church organization — for unanimity of thinking
— do not need catholicity, which requires the spiritual purity. For to have an
agreement, it only suffices to appeal for a reference into the corresponding leading
organ of the highest church authority. Sins do not appear to be tragedies. They
are either punished, if they cause indignation, or are proclaimed a norm, like
the violation of fasts.
Through that is achieved the outer uninterrupted
character of the church life, but it is bought with the high price: the sin is
not exterminated, but penetrates inside of the church, becomes no longer a
personal downfall of this or that member of the Church, but the sin of the
whole Church, causing in it all those abnormalities of the church life,
which are so evidently seen in the Latinism. The Catholicity with its papist
infallibility and indulgencies, with intricate calculations of the number of
good deeds and over-due services, with the juridical relations between God and
the man and formal attitude to the sacraments — all these are the fruits of the
separation of the Latin West from the unity of the Church.
Salvation is understood as the outward reward for
the certain number of good deeds, or by the Protestants — for the belief in
Jesus Christ. They have forgotten that salvation is reached through the moral
cleansing and becoming similar to Christ.
The Catholicity has its own ascetics, but they
fulfill the disciplinary requirements through their duty, for what they are promised
eternal life to come. And the fact that this life already exists and that the
blissful communication with God can be already achieved here, on the earth, and
the after-death lot is the continuation of the process, which started already
in this life, and is not a separate reward for it, — all this was forgotten by
So, as far as we can, let us take care of, make
more profound and perfect our catholic existence with God in the Church, in
order to reach the fullness of it in the Kingdom of the Heavenly Truth and
love, which is prepared for the faithful since the creation of the world.
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