Fr. Barnabas Powell, Georgia, USA: Finally Oriented – From Protestantism to Orthodoxy



Georgia, USA


Fr. Barnabas Powell is the priest

at Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene Greek Orthodox Church

in Cumming, Georgia, USA

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Finally Oriented

by Fr. Barnabas Powell



The Pentecostal church I grew up in had a profound impact on my life. The lively services, the thundering sermons, and the emotional altar calls gripped my young heart and fed my hunger for an intimate encounter with God.

As a young man growing up in a Pentecostal church, I always knew I wanted to be a preacher because all the powerful men I had ever known had been men in the pulpit, and I wanted to be just like them.

In my Pentecostal church I was told that a stream is purest at its source, so what we had to do was to be like the Church in the Book of Acts. If we were going to affect our world for Jesus then we needed the same power the Early Church had, and that meant being Pentecostal.

The whole purpose for our emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, lively, emotional worship services, and powerful, motivating, sermons, was to keep us motivated to win lost souls. If you weren’t witnessing, you weren’t on fire for the Lord.

I was the youth choir director and our youth group traveled around the Southeast singing and preaching the Good News. Sometimes I would give the sermon, but that had been a honor earned on the streets, since none of the young preachers were allowed to speak at church until they’d proved their metal by preaching on the street corners. It was there that we got our first speaking experience.

Every Saturday we’d gather at the church and get our sound system and go street preaching. We’d set up usually across from a strip shopping center near a traffic light so we could witness to the shoppers and the folks in their cars. Only one at a time could speak so the rest of the group fanned out in the shopping center with Gospel tracts in hand, ready to lead lost people to the Lord. One of the greatest badges of honor was if you were preaching and someone in one of the cars stopped at the red-light heckled you. That was suffering persecution for the Gospel.

Over the years, I began having difficulty dealing with those times when the level of religious excitement wasn’t at a fevered pitch. I knew I was excited about Jesus, but I began questioning whether I knew Him or not. I knew I didn’t want to go to hell. I knew I wanted to go to heaven (after all, if you’re in heaven, then you’re not in hell, right?). I knew I wanted to be a preacher, because everybody listened to the preacher. I knew I wanted to have a successful ministry (meaning a large church), but what I didn’t know is what to do when the emotions died down. All my quick and simple answers weren’t working for me so why would I think that they’d work for others. I was missing something.

It was then that I received the opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do: go to college for a theological education. So, off I went to Toccoa, Georgia, where I attended a small, conservative, Evangelical, college. While at school, I was exposed to a depth of theology I had never imagined. Wow, this was it! Deep theology! But a lot of this theology was causing me to question my Pentecostal upbringing. I could no longer see the Christian life as one of constant emotional excitement, or ecstatic religious experiences. I had to admit that some of the doctrinal positions I once held were not entirely accurate.

I Became an Evangelical

Gradually, I became an Evangelical, committed to the classic theology of the Protestant Reformation. At least our goal was still to win the world for Christ. My time at school was wonderful. The classes were, for the most part, challenging and enlightening. I was being taught to be a scholar, to ask the right questions, and to discover the right answers. But the longer I studied the more I became convinced that something was missing! It was then that I discovered an interest in church history.

Every graduate of a Pastoral theology course of study at Toccoa Falls College had to have what was called an internship at a church. So, the last summer of my senior year I had scheduled my internship at one of the most successful churches in the Southeast, Christ Church, in Nashville, Tennessee. This church was well known for being a Pentecostal church that had successfully married Evangelical theology with Pentecostal worship.

Some of the questions I was asking were also being asked by the assistant pastor of Christ Church, Dan Scott, Jr. He and I had long discussions about this. Dan was a scholar with a Master’s degree in sociology from the University of Southern California. We would talk for hours about theology and church history.

A Dream About Orthodoxy

Dan told me about a dream he had while he was a missionary in Canada. In the dream, he was walking inside this very old church building, with marble floors and high ceilings. Inside there were pictures all over the walls and candles burning everywhere. Several old men with long white beards and dressed in black robes, were praying standing up, and he sensed, stronger than he had ever sensed, the presence of God in the place. The men were actually glowing with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and Dan said he was speechless.

All of a sudden, one of the old, bearded, men turned to him and asked: “Where have you been?”

One day Dan advised me to read The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware. I started reading this book and was captured by the history of the Orthodox Church. Here was the story of what happened to the missions of St Peter and St Paul in the New Testament; the continued story of the missions to Greece, Ephesus, Antioch, Asia Minor and Jerusalem.

It was eye opening to say the least. I had been trained to see all of Christianity as a question of either Roman Catholicism or Protestantism and now I was being confronted with a third Way.

Much to my surprise, I learned that not only were there still Orthodox Christians, but that there was even a group of former Evangelicals and Charismatics who had become Orthodox. I got in touch with them and two of their leaders journeyed to Georgia to visit with me.

By the fall of 1989, I was pastoring a growing Evangelical congregation in Woodstock, Georgia called Church of the Firstborn. I was also working as a Promotions Manager at In Touch Ministries in Atlanta.

This placed me deep in the Evangelical world of media and ministry.

Every week my best friend, Rod Loudermilk (a former Pentecostal pastor himself), and I would meet to discuss theology and the books we were reading and invariably we would turn to the church history books we both found so interesting. In these books we discovered the Church fathers, the witness of the Holy Spirit in every age of the Church and the heroes of the Faith we began to identify as true and genuine followers of our lord Jesus. We began to be convinced that there were treasures here for us today that we desperately needed to reclaim.

I was also trying to incorporate what I was learning about the early Church into our local congregation: things like a weekly Lord’s Supper, and the weekly recitation of the Apostle’s Creed. Also, I began involving the congregation in regular responses:

“Peace be with you,”

“And also with you.”

I imagine our Pentecostal church was the only Pentecostal church in the area with icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary behind the pulpit! As a Pentecostal, I had been taught that worship wasn’t a spectator sport. I didn’t realize till it was too late that the underlying theology behind historical Christian worship wasn’t compatible with my current theology.

It was like trying to mix oil and water. It didn’t work.

Discovering the Orthodox Church

In 1992 I began to have regular discussions with those who had become Orthodox. I found myself drawn to these men and their journey. They didn’t try to persuade me they were right. They just told me about their own story.

After an invitation from one of these men, I visited an Orthodox Church in Indianapolis, Indiana to experience what we had been reading about. What we both experienced there was both overwhelming in an emotional and experiential aspect and exciting in that here was the historical perspectives I had been searching for in a modern setting.

After the service, we said our good-byes and headed back to Atlanta. For a long time neither of us said a word. There were no words. I was convinced that I had to have the theology behind the beauty that I had just experienced.

I eventually had to come to grips with my own spiritual journey and my pastorate at our church in Atlanta. The breaking point came when an evangelist I had invited to our church for a series of meetings (we still called it a “revival” at that time) began praying for my folks in a prayer line and I was there praying that his prayers wouldn’t harm or deceive these dear people.

That was it! I had to make a choice. I approach our church elders and spoke frankly with them about my own journey to Orthodoxy, and we agreed to make a clear message to our church about my own choices. At the end of those days of talking and praying 20 families from our church had decided to enter the Orthodox Church with me. We went through a year’s worth of catechism and were all chrismated into the Church at St. Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church in America) in Atlanta in November of 2001. Our journey to Orthodoxy took almost nine years, but we were finally home.

Orthodoxy attracts me precisely because of my background as a Pentecostal. Worship is very important to Pentecostals. And in Orthodoxy I have found a depth of worship that doesn’t deny my emotions, but doesn’t depend on them as well. Orthodox worship takes into account the whole person. It was said by the great Russian writer, Dostoevsky, that “beauty will save the world,” and I have found a beauty in Orthodox worship that draws me to God.

A former professor and Evangelical (now a Roman Catholic) once said that the theology he read that had been written by Christian writers in the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries (times that were suppose to be gripped in the darkness of ritualism and false teachings) were more awesome and more powerful than most of all the conservative Protestant writers of his own day. In effect, he said that their “error” was more beautiful and more powerful than my “truth.”

Richness and Fullness

My journey has led me into Orthodox worship and belief. This should not lead others to think I have abandoned my desire to find the fullness of Christian faith and worship. It simply means that I no longer feel the need to reconstruct a pure church in the image of the early church. I am not certain I would be able to recognize such a Church if I encountered it. If those folks mocking Christ failed to recognize the scourged, beaten, bleeding, and crucified person hanging on the cross as the Lord of glory, would I recognize his body today? My only recourse is to trust the Holy Spirit has preserved His Church and ask that same Spirit to form me within the Church that exists today.

Nonetheless, for me, Orthodoxy offers a richness and a fullness that is timeless and yet refreshingly new. It is so vast and wide-reaching and so full of mystery that it will take more than a lifetime to fully examine it. While I am not competent to judge the hearts of others, I am convinced that there is preserved within Orthodox Christianity a foundational core of worship and faith that is fundamentally true to the Spirit and life of the New Testament. This is the faith “once, for all, delivered to the saints.”

For those who wonder whether this can be true, I refer them to the words of St. Philip the apostle:

Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathaniel said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”- John 1:45-46


A Ortodoxia – Em Fé Ortodoxa – Bispo Alexander ╰⊰¸¸.•¨* Portuguese





A Ortodoxia

 Em Fé Ortodoxa – Bispo Alexander



É a autêntica religião cristã pregada pelo Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, transmitida pelos Apóstolos aos seus sucessores e aos fiéis e preservada zelosamente na sua pureza pela Igreja Ortodoxa através dos séculos.

É a doutrina certa e justa, compreendida, sem reduções nem acréscimos, nas Sagradas Escrituras, na Tradição e nos Sete Concílios Ecuménicos.

É a doutrina ensinada e pregada pela Igreja Ortodoxa para glorificar a Deus e salvar as almas, segundo a vontade de Cristo.

Chama-se ORTODOXIA a doutrina que observa os ensinamentos de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, reverenciados e transmitidos pela Igreja Ortodoxa.

Igreja Una, Santa, Católica e Apostólica

A Igreja Ortodoxa é a sociedade, baseada na fé dos doze Apóstolos, dos fiéis cristãos que obedecem aos pastores canónicos e vivem unidos pelos elos da Doutrina, das Leis de Deus, da Hierarquia divinamente instituída e da prática dos Sacramentos.

A Igreja Ortodoxa professa a Doutrina autêntica de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, tal e qual nos foi revelada e exercida pelos Apóstolos no primeiro século da era cristã, na Palestina e nas cidades de Jerusalém, Damasco e Antioquia. Esta doutrina obedece aos mandamentos, procede de acordo com a vida da Graça que Cristo nos legou por Sua morte e edificou pelos sacramentos; crê na vida eterna, observa os ensinamentos dos Sete Concílios Ecuménicos e persiste estreitamente unida aos seus pastores, bispos e demais sacerdotes ortodoxos, continuadores em linha recta da obra dos Apóstolos. Reconhece como Chefe Único da Igreja, sem representantes ou legatários, Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, que nos dirige, ensina e eleva. É depositária da Doutrina de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo e prossegue em todo o mundo a Sua obra de amor e Salvação. Ensina as verdades nas quais devemos crer firmemente, os deveres que havemos de cumprir e os meios a aplicar para nos moralizar e santificar.

A Igreja Ortodoxa Oriental reúne as quatro características que distinguem a Verdadeira Igreja: Una, Santa, Católica e Apostólica. Durante vinte séculos, manteve inalteráveis os sacramentos, as próprias doutrinas e os mesmos pastores que são sucessores dos Apóstolos. A designação Ortodoxa procede do facto de ela crer e ensinar correctamente a doutrina do Cristo. Conservou-se exemplarmente na doutrina, desde a pregação de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, até aos dias de hoje. A primazia de honra da Igreja é desempenhada pelo Patriarca Ecuménico de Constantinopla.

Deus prometeu à Sua Igreja a assistência do Espírito Santo e a Sua união com ela até a consumação dos séculos, a fim de não cair no erro nem falhar nos seus ensinamentos.

A Sagrada Escritura e a Santa Tradição

As fontes de onde se extrai a Fé Ortodoxa são: a Sagrada Escritura e a Santa Tradição.

A Sagrada Escritura é a Doutrina de Deus revelada ao género humano por intermédio dos patriarcas, dos profetas e dos apóstolos, e está consignada no Antigo e no Novo Testamentos.

Ao lermos a Sagrada Escritura, as palavras dos profetas e dos apóstolos penetram nos nossos corações como se fossem verdades proferidas pelos próprios lábios desses santos homens, apesar dos séculos e milénios decorridos desde a data do registro dessas obras divinas.

O mais antigo meio de divulgação da Revelação Divina foi a Santa Tradição. Desde os tempos do primeiro homem, Adão, até Moisés, não havia nenhuma Sagrada Escritura. Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, o próprio Salvador, transmitiu aos Apóstolos os seus divinos ensinamentos através de sermões e parábolas, e não por meio de livros. Assim, no começo, procederam os Santos Apóstolos que divulgaram, oralmente, as Verdades Divinas, edificando deste modo as bases da Santa Igreja. A razão do registro da Sagrada Escritura foi para conservar, de maneira precisa e inalterável, a Revelação Divina.

A Santa Tradição é o conjunto de verdades reveladas por Deus, mas não consignadas na Sagrada Escritura; são transmitidas oralmente de geração em geração. Hoje, encontramo-la divulgada, por escrito ou por símbolos, nos concílios, liturgias, costumes, monumentos, pinturas, leis eclesiásticas, bem como através de sentenças e epístolas ensinadas pelos Santos Pais da Igreja.

Em resumo, a Tradição Apostólica encontra-se manifestada:

a) nos Sete Concílios Ecuménicos;

b) nas Obras Cristãs dos Santos Pais da Igreja

c) no Símbolo dos Apóstolos;

d) no Símbolo Niceno-Constantinopolitano;

e) no Símbolo de Santo Anastácio;

f) na Liturgia da Igreja;

g) nos monumentos, pinturas e arqueologia cristãos;

h) nos livros simbólicos da Ortodoxia:

1 – a confissão ortodoxa de Pedro Moghila;
2 – a confissão ortodoxa de Dositeu, Patriarca de Jerusalém, 1672; e
3 – o catecismo de Filareto de Moscovo.
i) no magistério permanente da Igreja;

j) na legislação eclesiástica; e

l) nos costumes e usos cristãos.

Mesmo que tenhamos a Sagrada Escritura, devemos seguir a Santa Tradição, que está directamente ligada a ela e unida à Revelação Divina. A própria Sagrada Escritura no-lo ensina: “Então, irmãos, sede firmes e conservai as tradições que lhes foram ensinadas, seja por palavras, seja por epístolas” (Tes 2:15).

As diferenças Doutrinais entre a Igreja Ortodoxa e a Romana

A diferença fundamental é a questão da infalibilidade papal e a pretensa supremacia universal da jurisdição de Roma, que a Igreja Ortodoxa não admite, pois ferem frontalmente a Sagrada Escritura e a Santa Tradição.

Existem, ainda, outras distinções, abaixo relacionadas em dois grupos básicos:

a) diferenças gerais; e

b) diferenças especiais.

Para termos uma ideia dessas diferenças, vejamos o seguinte esquema, de cuja leitura se infere uma possibilidade de superação, quando pairar acima das paixões o espírito de fraternidade que anima o trabalho dos verdadeiros cristãos.

Diferenças Gerais:

São dogmáticas, litúrgicas e disciplinares.

-A Igreja Ortodoxa só admite sete Concílios, enquanto a Romana adopta vinte.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa discorda da procedência do Espírito Santo do Pai e do Filho; unicamente do Pai é que admite.
-A Sagrada Escritura e a Santa Tradição representam o mesmo valor como fonte de Revelação, segundo a Igreja Ortodoxa. A Romana, no entanto, considera a Tradição mais importante que a Sagrada Escritura.
-A consagração do pão e do vinho, durante a missa, no Corpo e no Sangue de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, efectua-se pelo Prefácio, Palavra do Senhor e Epíclese, e não pelas expressões proferidas por Cristo na Última Ceia, como ensina a Igreja Romana.
-Em nenhuma circunstância, a Igreja Ortodoxa admite a infalibilidade do Bispo de Roma. Considera a infalibilidade uma prerrogativa de toda a Igreja e não de uma só pessoa.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa entende que as decisões de um Concílio Ecuménico são superiores às decisões do Papa de Roma ou de quaisquer hierarcas eclesiásticos.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa não concorda com a supremacia universal do direito do Bispo de Roma sobre toda a Igreja Cristã, pois considera todos os bispos iguais. Somente reconhece uma primazia de honra ou uma supremacia de facto (primus inter pares).
-A Virgem Maria, igual às demais criaturas, foi concebida em estado de pecado original. A Igreja Romana, por definição do papa Pio IX, no ano de 1854, proclamou como “dogma” de fé a Imaculada Concepção.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa rejeita a agregação do “Filioque,” aprovado pela Igreja de Roma, no Símbolo Niceno-Constantinopolitano.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa nega a existência do limbo e do purgatório.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa não admite a existência de um Juízo Particular para apreciar o destino das almas, logo após a morte, mas um só Juízo Universal.
-O Sacramento da Santa Unção pode ser ministrado várias vezes aos fiéis em caso de enfermidade corporal ou espiritual, e não somente nos momentos de agonia ou perigo de morte, como é praticado na Igreja Romana.
-Na Igreja Ortodoxa, o ministro habitual do Sacramento do Crisma é o Padre; na Igreja Romana, o Bispo, e só extraordinariamente, o Padre.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa não admite a existência de indulgências.
-No Sacramento do Matrimónio, o Ministro é o Padre e não os contraentes.
-Em casos excepcionais, ou por graves razões, a Igreja Ortodoxa acolhe a solução do divórcio.
-São distintas as concepções teológicas sobre religião, Igreja, Encarnação, Graça, imagens, escatologia, Sacramentos, culto dos Santos, infalibilidade, Estado religioso…

Diferenças especiais:

Além disso, subsistem algumas diferenças disciplinares ou litúrgicas que não transferem dogma à doutrina. São, nomeadamente, as seguintes:

1-Nos templos da Igreja Ortodoxa só se permitem ícones.
2-Os sacerdotes ortodoxos podem optar livremente entre o celibato e o casamento.
3-O baptismo é por imersão.
4-No Sacrifício Eucarístico, na Igreja Ortodoxa, usa-se pão com levedura; na Romana, sem levedura.
5-Os calendários ortodoxo e romano são diferentes, especialmente, quanto à Páscoa da Ressurreição.
6-A comunhão dos fiéis é efectuada com pão e vinho; na Romana, somente com pão.
7-Na Igreja Ortodoxa, não existem as devoções ao Sagrado Coração de Jesus, Corpus Christi, Via Crucis, Rosário, Cristo-Rei, Imaculado Coração de Maria e outras comemorações análogas.
😯 processo da canonização de um santo é diferente na Igreja Ortodoxa; nele, a maior parte do povo participa no reconhecimento do seu estado de santidade.
9-Existem, somente, três ordens menores na Igreja Ortodoxa: leitor, acólito e sub-diácono; na Romana, quatro: ostiário, leitor, exorcista e acólito.
10-O Santo Mirão e a Comunhão na Igreja Ortodoxa efectuam-se imediatamente após o Baptismo.
11-Na fórmula da absolvição dos pecados no Sacramento da Confissão, o sacerdote ortodoxo absolve não em seu próprio nome, mas em nome de Deus – “Deus te absolve de teus pecados”; na Romana, o sacerdote absolve em seu próprio nome, como representante de Deus – “Ego absolvo a peccatis tuis….”
12-A Ortodoxia não admite o poder temporal da Igreja; na Romana, é um dogma de fé tal doutrina.

Os Dez Mandamentos

A Santa Igreja Católica Apostólica Ortodoxa conservou os dez mandamentos da Lei de Deus na sua forma original, sem a menor alteração. O mesmo não sucedeu com o texto adoptado pela Igreja Católica Apostólica Romana, no qual os dez mandamentos foram arbitrariamente alterados, tendo sido totalmente eliminado o segundo mandamento e o último dividido em duas partes, formando dois mandamentos distintos. Esta alteração da Verdade constitui um dos maiores erros teológicos desde que a Igreja Romana cindiu a união da Santa Igreja Ortodoxa no século XI. Esta modificação nos dez mandamentos, introduzidos pelos papas romanos, foi motivada pelo Renascimento das artes. Os célebres escultores daquela época tiveram um amplo leque de actividades artísticas, originando obras de grande valor. Não obstante, as esculturas representando Deus, a Santíssima Virgem Maria, os santos e os anjos estavam em completo desacordo com o segundo mandamento de Deus. Havia, pois, duas alternativas, ou impedir a criação de estátuas ou suprimir o segundo mandamento. Os papas escolheram esta última solução, caindo em grave erro.

O que significa ser Ortodoxo

É ortodoxo quem pertence à sociedade dos fiéis cristãos que, unidos pela fé ortodoxa, seguem os ensinamentos e a doutrina da Igreja Ortodoxa e obedecem aos seus Pastores em tudo o que é concernente à Glória de Deus e à Salvação da alma.
É ortodoxo quem vive a fé e pratica as virtudes pregadas pela Igreja Ortodoxa, à qual passou a pertencer por meio do Baptismo ministrado por seus sacerdotes; quem assiste nas Igrejas Ortodoxas a todas as cerimónias, recebe os sacramentos, escuta a voz de Deus através dos pastores e empenha-se em viver do culto e da Graça derramada sobre todos os crentes.
É ortodoxo quem ama o Verdadeiro Deus e ama a Jesus Cristo e a Sua doutrina, conforme o ensina a Santa Igreja Católica Apostólica Ortodoxa.
Em outra ordem de considerações, é chamado ortodoxo aquele que crê rectamente (a palavra grega “ortodoxia” significa Doutrina Recta).

A fundação da Igreja Ortodoxa

Fundada por Cristo sobre a fé de seus doze Apóstolos, a Igreja Ortodoxa nasceu no ano 33 da era cristã, dia de Pentecostes, quando o Espírito Santo apareceu aos Apóstolos reunidos no Cenáculo como línguas de fogo. A Igreja Cristã Ortodoxa nasceu com Cristo e seus Apóstolos e não com Fócio no ano 858, nem com Miguel Cerulário, em 1054, como equivocada e erroneamente alguns propagam.

A Igreja Ortodoxa surgiu na Palestina com Jesus Cristo, expandiu-se com os Apóstolos e edificou-se sobre o sangue dos mártires. Não teve a sua origem na Grécia ou noutra região ou país que não seja a Palestina. Ela não morre, porque vive e descansa em Cristo e tem a promessa divina de que existirá até o fim dos séculos. Em vão os seus inimigos e todos os corifeus da impiedade tentaram destruí-la, negá-la, perseguí-la. À semelhança de seu Divino Mestre e fundador Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, a Igreja Ortodoxa, desde o seu nascimento, tem padecido e sofrido terríveis perseguições debaixo do jugo do Império romano, passando pelo muçulmano e turco, até nossos dias. O sangue de uma infinidade de mártires tem selado e provado ao mundo a sublimidade do seu amor, a perfeição e a veracidade da sua doutrina divina. Apesar de todas as campanhas, sempre subsistiu e triunfou. Vive e viverá eternamente em Cristo e, confiante, seguirá com Suas palavras: “Eu estarei convosco até a consumação dos séculos, e as portas do inferno não prevalecerão contra Ela.”

Foi na cidade de Antioquia onde os primeiros crentes em Jesus Cristo começaram a chamar-se, pela primeira vez, Cristãos, denominação que usamos até hoje (At XI,26). Logo após, a prédica cristã chegou até Roma, capital do Império Romano, onde o Apóstolo São Paulo formou a primeira comunidade cristã, constituída por várias famílias que ele enumera e saúda na sua Epístola aos Romanos, Capítulo XVI. Da cidade de Roma, o Evangelho foi propagado por todo o Ocidente e outras partes do mundo.

Os bispos exerciam a administração dos cristãos; aquele que mais autoridade tinha na sua região usava o título de Patriarca. Eram cinco os Patriarcas que o mundo cristão tinha nos primeiros séculos: o de Roma, o de Constantinopla, o de Alexandria, o de Antioquia e Jerusalém. Todos eles, com iguais direitos, eram independentes na administração das suas respectivas regiões e, iguais entre si, considerando-se o

primeiro entre iguais “primus inter pares,” o Patriarca de Roma, pela condição de ser a capital do Império (I Concílio Ecuménico, art. 6; II Concílio Ecuménico, art. 3; IV Concílio Ecuménico, art. 28; VI Concílio Ecuménico, art.36). A mais alta autoridade da Igreja Cristã era, e ainda continua a sê-lo, o Concílio Ecuménico, cujas decisões são obrigatórias para toda a Igreja.

O triunfo do Cristianismo teve lugar no terceiro século após a morte de Cristo, motivado pela paz decretada por Constantino, Imperador de Roma. Até então, o Cristianismo vivia nas catacumbas, locais onde eram celebrados todos os actos religiosos e se aprendia a religião de Cristo (Actos dos Apóstolos). Desde aquela era, a Igreja segue o seu caminho através do mundo, pregando a doutrina de Jesus Cristo.

A separação das Igrejas Ortodoxa e Romana

Em primeiro lugar devemos realçar que a Igreja Ortodoxa nunca se separou de nenhuma outra Igreja. Ela permanece em linha recta desde Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo e seus Apóstolos. Jamais se afastou, através dos séculos, da autêntica e verdadeira doutrina ensinada pelo Divino Mestre. Dela separaram-se outras Igrejas, mas ela não se afastou nunca de ninguém ou da linha recta traçada por Jesus Cristo. A Igreja Ortodoxa é una, ontem, hoje e amanhã – é sempre a mesma. Cristo assinalou-lhe o caminho a seguir, e ela observou-o e cumpriu-o sem se afastar nunca do mandato de Cristo.

Triste e doloroso acontecimento na Igreja de Cristo foi a separação das Igrejas Ortodoxa e Romana, que por mil anos permaneceram unidas. São múltiplas e complexas as causas; psicológicas, políticas, culturais, disciplinares, litúrgicas e, até dogmáticas. Todavia, é bem certo e historicamente demonstrado que a separação definitiva não se processou com o Patriarca Fócio, no século IX, nem com o Patriarca Miguel Celurário, no século XI (1054). Apesar das divergências havidas entre ambas as Igrejas, principalmente a questão do Filioque e dos Búlgaros, a unidade foi mantida. Os Patriarcas Orientais e Ocidental permaneceram em comunhão, pelo menos parcial e, mesmo em Constantinopla, as Igrejas e mosteiros latinos continuaram a existir.

A divisão foi efectuada durante vários séculos. A origem desse facto histórico teve como verdadeira causa a pretensão de Carlos Magno (século VIII – ano 792) de contrair casamento com a Princesa Irene de Bizâncio e não conseguir seu objectivo. Ressentindo-se com a recusa, atacou os orientais, atribuindo-lhes erros que não tinham, nos livros chamados Carolinos, apoiado pelos teólogos da corte de Aix-la-Chapelle. Essa atitude prejudicou profundamente a vida entre ambas as Igrejas, não obstante haver o próprio Papa desaprovado a ocorrência.

A ruptura definitiva e verdadeira produziu-se na época das Cruzadas, que foram totalmente nefastas para as relações entre as duas partes da Cristandade. Os bispos orientais foram substituídos por latinos. O golpe de graça nos vestígios de unidade que ainda existiam foi dado, principalmente, pela famosa Quarta Cruzada, em 1198. A armada veneziana, que transportava os Cruzados para a Terra Santa, desviou-se até Constantinopla, e cercou a “Cidade Guardada por Deus.” Relíquias, museus, obras de arte, e tesouros bizantinos, saqueados pelos Cruzados para a Terra Santa, enriqueceram, inteiramente, todo o Ocidente. Até um patriarca veneziano, Tomás Marosini, se apossou do assento de Fócio, de acordo com o Papa Inocêncio III.

A mentalidade do século XX, mesmo no Ocidente, não pode deixar de recordar-se com profunda revolta e indignação, dos actos dos cruzados contra os fiéis da Ortodoxia neste infeliz Oriente, mormente em Constantinopla, no ano de 1204, quando lançaram o Imperador Alexe V do cume do Monte Touros, matando-o. Destituíram o Patriarca legalmente escolhido, João e, no seu lugar, colocaram um cidadão de nome Tomás Marosini. Em Antioquia, no ano de 1098, despojaram o Patriarca legítimo, João e, no seu lugar, colocaram um de nome Bernard. Em Jerusalém, compeliram o Patriarca legal, Simão, a afastar-se da Sé e substituíram-no por um chamado Dimper.

Os abusos dos cruzados devem ser considerados, no mínimo, actos de inimizade, além de violação do direito. Vieram ao Oriente, alegando a “salvação dos lugares santos das mãos dos muçulmanos árabes,” mas o objectivo era bem outro. Quando passaram por Constantinopla e a ocuparam na terça-feira, 13 de abril de 1204, depois de um cerco mortífero que durou sete meses, ficaram deslumbrados com sua civilização e riquezas, atacaram os seus habitantes, assaltaram os seus museus e lojas, roubaram os seus palácios e igrejas, destruíram a nobre cidade do Bósforo e incendiaram-na, depois de praticarem actos de rapina e pilhagem, não deixando nenhum objecto de valor ou utensílio de utilidade doméstica.

Os cruzados permaneceram em Constantinopla de 1204 a 1261, quando foram obrigados a evacuá-la, no dia 15 de agosto, festa da Assunção de Nossa Senhora, pelo General Alexe Estratigopolos, sob o governo do Imperador Miguel Paleólogos, que reconquistou a Capital. Depois, os cruzados foram definitivamente aniquilados na Palestina em 1291.

O cisma estava consumado e, apesar dos desejos e dos esforços conjugados nesse sentido, não houve nenhuma possibilidade de sanar a ruptura até ao dia de hoje. A esperança de união não conseguiu converter-se em feliz realidade, como todos apelavam. Essa ânsia motivou três concílios: de Bai, Apúlia, em 1098; de Leão, em 1274; e de Florença, entre 1438 e 1439. Infelizmente, porém, não se conseguiu, em nenhum deles, a ansiada união de todos os cristãos numa única Igreja, debaixo de uma só autoridade: Cristo. Somente Deus e as orações farão possível a união de ambas as Igrejas. Todos os esforços que se realizam actualmente em todo o mundo serão em vão e condenados ao fracasso se não se apoiarem na oração e no sacrifício. É necessário, inicialmente, que se eliminem e desapareçam totalmente os ataques, as pregações condenatórias e o tratamento de hereges e cismáticos prodigalizados, abundantemente, pela Igreja de Roma contra a Igreja Ortodoxa. (Após o último Concílio Ecuménico de Roma, cessaram os ataques contra a Igreja Ortodoxa e aos demais cristãos). É absolutamente imprescindível reconhecer que a Igreja Ortodoxa não é uma ovelha desgarrada que vive no erro e nas trevas. Pedimos a Deus para que as palavras de Cristo, “um só rebanho guiado por um só pastor,” sejam um dia, uma feliz realidade.

A Fidelidade Ortodoxa e a salvaguarda incólume da Fé

A Igreja Ortodoxa manteve sem acréscimos nem reduções a Lei que lhe foi confiada. Em três ocasiões, São Paulo recomendou ao discípulo Timóteo que mantivesse a fé, incólume e imaculada, tal como a recebera, dizendo-lhe:

“Eu te exorto diante de Deus… que guardes este mandamento sem mácula nem repreensão até a vinda de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo” (I: VI-13 e 14).
“Timóteo! Guarda o que te foi confiado, evitando conversas vãs e profanas e objecções da falsa ciência, a qual tendo alguns professado, se desviaram da fé” (I: VI-20 e 21).
“Conserva o modelo de sãs palavras que de mim ouviste na fé e no amor que há em Cristo Jesus. Guarda o bom depósito com o auxílio do Espírito Santo que habita em nós” (II: I-13 e 14).
Um comentador das Epístolas apresentou o seguinte conceito:

Quem recebe um depósito, cumpre restituí-lo à pessoa que lho confiou. Um depósito não é propriedade do depositário; este deve repô-lo, completo, sem reduções nem modificações. O depósito, que é a fé, é muito precioso por constituir o direito de Deus, revelado à humanidade. Cabe a todo crente e, especialmente, aos mestres, que sejam fiéis na guarda desse depósito e transmiti-lo incólume e sem alterações àqueles que lhes sucederão.

Timóteo, o discípulo dilecto do Apóstolo São Paulo que o sagrou Bispo de Éfeso, cidade situada no coração fervilhante da Anatólia, era igual aos primazes orientais, guardiães dos conselhos dos mestres, que os transmitiram aos sucessores sem nenhuma alteração. Os estudiosos da história do Oriente e os pesquisadores da verdade reconhecem que os homens do Oriente zelam com todo o rigor pelo que se lhes confia, mormente quando o objecto confiado é uma questão de fé, relacionada com o que representa as contas a serem prestadas no Dia do Julgamento.

Éfeso, que teve em Timóteo o seu primeiro bispo, permaneceu durante longo tempo como a vanguarda do cristianismo. Nela se realizou o VI Concílio Ecuménico. Os seus numerosos bispos contribuíram para a grandeza da Igreja, que deles se orgulha através dos séculos. O Bispo Marcos, um dos seus sábios prelados, de atitudes nobres e corajosas na defesa do cristianismo, compareceu ao Concílio de Florença, em 1439, batendo-se quase sozinho, sem medo e sem vacilação, com a maioria constituída de antagonistas, em defesa da fé confiada pelos seus antecessores.

O bispo Marcos não era, no Oriente, o único prelado íntegro e leal, zeloso pela pureza da fé; Como ele existiram numerosas e nobres personalidades. Assim, todas as deliberações dos Concílios Ecuménicos, arquivadas pela Igreja Ortodoxa, sem acréscimos ou reduções, foram a maior prova e o mais santo testemunho da conservação da fé, sã e intacta, na Igreja do Oriente.

Missionary Leaflet #

Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church

2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068

Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

Robert Arakaki, Hawaii, USA: From Unchurched Hawaiian to Local Orthodox






Robert Arakaki, Hawaii, USA:

From Unchurched Hawaiian to Local Orthodox



I grew up unchurched. I became a Christian in high school through reading the Living Bible. I was active in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Hawaii. My home church was Kalihi Union Church (KUC), a fine evangelical congregation that was part of the United Church of Christ (UCC).

I was deeply troubled by the UCC’s liberal theology and wanted to help it return to its biblical roots. This led me to study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for the purpose of preparing to become an evangelical seminary professor in the liberal United Church of Christ to help the UCC return to its biblical roots.

However, in a surprising turn of events, I became Orthodox!

It was my first week at seminary. As I walked down the hallway of Main Dorm I saw on the door of one of the student’s room an icon of Christ. I thought to myself,

“An icon in a Calvinist seminary!?!”

This was to be the first of many encounters with Eastern Orthodoxy.

After receiving my M.A. in Church History, I did doctoral studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. While there I attended Saints Kyril and Methodios Bulgarian Orthodox Church. I was drawn to the deep mystical worship of liturgical worship that was rooted in the historic Christian Faith. I also felt comfortable with its all-English services and a congregation that was made up mostly of converts. Orthodox worship presents a stark contrast to the emotionally driven entertainment that passes for contemporary Evangelical worship.

My journey to Orthodoxy began when little questions about Protestant theology turned into big questions, and the big questions turned into a theological crisis. Protestant theology holds up so long as one accepts certain premises but becomes problematic when considered from the standpoint of church history and the early Church Fathers. As a church history major I became painfully aware that much of what passes for Evangelicalism: the altar call, the symbolic understanding of the Lord’s Supper, the inductive bible study method, minimalist creed, the rapture, all have their origins in the 1800s.

This means that Evangelicalism is a modern innovation as is Liberalism.

But more troubling was my investigation of classical Reformation theology, e.g., Martin Luther and John Calvin. Two foundational tenets of Protestantism: sola fide (faith alone) and sola scriptura (Bible alone), were not part of the early Church and rely upon reading the Bible in a certain way. Moreover, these two tenets originated out of the theological debates of Medieval Scholasticism. In other words, the Protestant Reformation marks not a return to the historic Christian Faith, but rather a late innovation.

What makes Orthodoxy so daunting to an Evangelical is its understanding that to have the true Faith means belonging to the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. If the Orthodox Church is the true Church, then that meant that I needed to resign my membership from Kalihi Union Church and become Orthodox. I was received into the Orthodox Church on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1999 at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Honolulu. I am very grateful for what I have learned from Evangelicalism but there is so much more to Christianity. Orthodoxy is the fulfillment of Evangelical theology and worship.

Robert Arakaki, Hawaii, USA

Jorge’s Journey from Roman Catholic Spain to Wisconsin Orthodox – By Jorge Luque, USA





Jorge’s Journey from Roman Catholic Spain to Wisconsin Orthodox


Jorge Luque, USA




I was born in a nominally Roman Catholic family, though they did not practice their faith. I was baptised in the RC church, and some years later, about the age of nine, had my first communion. And that was all my Christian formation, those two separate instances without anything in between. My family did not go to church, except for baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

I was more or less like them until I was a teenager, when I converted, or rather came back, to the Roman Catholic faith.

I was 16 years old when, after undergoing a severe and long depression, I turned back to the faith of my “forefathers”. That was my thought back then, that is, to make a turn around, returning to my cultural and religious roots. The love for tradition was very strong in me, and was leading me step by step to the true faith, though not directly, for I had to go first through a period in my life dominated by the Roman Catholic faith.

I was sitting in a public library when, reading the first words of the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel, something, finally, changed in me. That was a turning point for me, the moment in which I decided to turn to God.

Months later I went on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Apostle St. James in Spain. After reaching my destination and praying at the apostle’s tomb, I visited and then joined a nearby Roman Catholic monastery of the Trappist order.

I stayed there for a year as a postulant. I was 18 to 19 years old.

It was one of the best periods of my life, that monastery was like a school where to learn about my recently embraced faith. But I could not stay there, for I felt clearly that monasticism was not my calling, and I desired very strongly to get married and start my own family. So I decided to leave before making any vows. After that year in the monastery, my life was like walking through a wasteland, spiritually speaking. I had no contact whatsoever with other Christians. I used to go to mass every Sunday, even on a daily basis sometimes? but those churches were almost empty, except for some elderly people. After a few years I stopped going to church and abandoned all my personal devotions ( I used to pray the psalms and to say the Jesus prayer.) It was a very long and dark period of my life. Somehow, I clung to my faith, but my heart was getting colder and colder, to the point where I almost stopped feeling.

It was then, when I could not bear it any longer, and my heart was almost drained, that I finally found the Orthodox faith.

I was about to turn 35 years old, and all that I knew about the Orthodox Church I had learned in that Roman Catholic monastery in two 2 books: the Way of the Pilgrim, and the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

One day I came across a random article on the internet about the fall of the papacy into heresy, and the schism of the West from the Orthodox East. It was just a mediocre article, but for some reason it set off something within me. I began to doubt what I had been told regarding the Roman Catholic dogmas about the pope (papal supremacy, infallibility, and his primacy)

The whole building of my Roman Catholic beliefs fell apart overnight. When that happened I saw myself swimming in a rough sea without any boat, I turn to the Orthodox Church, running away from the chaos in which I was immersed.

A month later, after rejecting the pope and his lies, I embraced my Orthodox faith, though it took me longer to walk into an Orthodox church.

I found a Russian Orthodox Church in Spain, under the Patriarchate of Moscow, about 50 miles from my home, an hour and a half each way by bus. One Sunday I went to this church and spoke to the priest, after liturgy. An elderly lady translated for us because the priest, Fr. Dimitry, did not speak Spanish well.

I told him about my desire to be baptised, to which he answered, very reasonably, that I needed first to go for a while to church every Sunday before being received into the church. That same day during lunch he advised me to go back to the Roman Catholic church, for I definitely would not be able to adapt, because of the language barrier, almost no one spoke Spanish. I assured him that I would adapt and that I was firmly decided to stay in the Orthodox Church. I asked his permission to keep going to liturgy every Sunday. He was very much surprised and told me to come back and even got someone to drive me to and from church.

After a few months going there every Sunday, Fr. Dimitry offered to chrismate me. I declined explaining again that I wanted to be received into the church by baptism, for the sacrament for receiving people into the Church is baptism, not Chrismation, except by economia.

Fr Dimitry told me he did not have a place to baptise me, and that it was not the practise to receive adults through baptism outside of Russia. Then I asked his blessing to come to the USA to be baptised and to go to the seminary for I felt I was called to the priesthood. He gave me his blessing, though he was taken aback.

To make a long story short, 2 years after first going to Fr Dimitry’s church, I saved enough money to pay for a plane ticket and come to the US, to Wisconsin, where Fr Thomas and Matushka Elizabeth Kulp had offered to have me stay in their house and baptise me in their Church. I came 3 months ago now, right before the visit of the Kursk Root icon to our parish. And got baptised on
Holy Saturday of this year. Fr. Thomas and Matushka Elizabeth took me in like a member of their family and offered me a living example of how to live like a true Orthodox Christian. They have encouraged me in my desire to attend seminary and have helped me with this application.



I just received notice that Jorge was just accepted into the seminary program at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, NY. Congratulations, Jorge, and remember us in your holy prayers!

Confession: The Healing Sacrament – By Jim Forest, USA & the Netherlands



Confession: The Healing Sacrament


Jim Forest, USA & the Netherlands


A young monk said to the great ascetic Abba Sisoes: “Abba, what should I do? I fell.” The elder answered: “Get up!” The monk said: “I got up and I fell again!” The elder replied: “Get up again!” But the young monk asked: “For how long should I get up when I fall?” “Until your death,” answered Abba Sisoes. —Sayings of the Desert Fathers

“When I went to my first confession,” a friend told me, “tears took the place of the sins I meant to utter. The priest simply told me that it wasn’t necessary to enumerate everything and that it was just vanity to suppose that our personal sins are worse than everyone else’s. Which, by the way, was something of a relief, since it wasn’t possible for me to remember all the sins of my first thirty-odd years of life. It made me think of the way the father received his prodigal son—he didn’t even let his son finish his carefully rehearsed speech. It’s truly amazing.”

Another friend told me that he was so worried about all he had to confess that he decided to write it down. “So I made a list of my sins and brought it with me. The priest saw the paper in my hand, took it, looked through the list, tore it up, and gave it back to Continue reading “Confession: The Healing Sacrament – By Jim Forest, USA & the Netherlands”

Fr. Peter Smith, USA: From Peruvian Paradise To Orthodox Priest





Georgia, USA


From Peruvian Paradise To Orthodox Priest


Fr. Peter Smith, Georgia, USA




Perhaps this journey to Orthodoxy really starts for me as a Roman Catholic college student.

The Newman Club was an interesting way to meet “people” [from a college student, you need to read “girls!”] and so I “joined” the Club. Soon, however, there was an instant shock wave through the Newman Club as the priest who was the coordinator and facilitator of the Club, came onto me and tried to “hook up” one evening in the rectory.

Well, that hastened a totally unceremonious departure and immediate exit from that entire scene and – believe it or not – started me on the road to the Orthodox Church.

As a direct result of that dark and traumatic evening the night before I left college I returned home. That summer, a wonderful British family was visiting my folks. They lived in Peru and were on holiday in New York. My father knew them through his position of Vice President of an international import/export firm dealing with companies in South America. After hearing about the recent happenings in my life, they invited my dad to let me spend a year with them in Peru!!

An intriguing and incredibly exciting doorway and escape was all set for me to walk through on my way to the Orthodox Church…though I had no idea of just how that would happen, since the Lord kept it completely hidden from me. At this point, I was really “far away” from God! After the Newman Club and college, I truly embraced the proposition of a year far away from the chaos of my life as it was. Ever since the disastrous and indelible exit from “the college that will live in infamy,” there was an abiding and almost gnawing sense that there indeed was a God… and He must be somewhere!!

My world totally and graphically changed during that exhilerating flight from New York City to Miami to Panama City, Panama to Quito, Ecuador to Lima, Peru. With the exception of that gnawing sense of the Lord’s presence somewhere within me, I spent quite a carefree and ‘bon-vivant’ life in and around Peru for about 6 months. The caring and incredibly generous British family with whom I lived in a wonderful penthouse apartment in Miraflores, Peru [a rather affluent and “international” section of suburban Lima] helped me acquire a teaching position, allowed me to almost exclusively use one of their several cars, subsidized a club membership to a magnificent private golf course, introduced me to several “unattached” and truly vivacious daughters of foreign dignitaries and brought me along on many of their day-long sailing ventures.

In brief, at 20 tender and inexperienced years of age, I was tending to believe that Paradise was my immediate neighborhood.

Life was sweet, available, enticing, totally satisfying and completely at my beck and call. Seemingly, the Lord merely decided not to warn me to get ready to duck!!

In celebration of the ’78’ that I shot in my latest round of golf, the sister of one of my co-teachers at the Instituto Cultural and I double dated at a local beach with another couple – her other sister and her fiance. So the fiance Antonio and I decided with great gusto to go body surfing in the 6 foot surf at the beach that day. Beautiful weather…, delightful beach and surf…, lovely company…; it just couldn’t get any better than that! That gnawing sense of His presence now rose up to meet me …head on!

As I ran from the beach and dove into one of those enticing, beckoning waves, the Lord drew His two iron from His golf bag… and WHAM!!…He knocked me into the next week. Right through the top of the wave I flew!! A cartoon from the ’50’s comes to mind… a young, careless boy dives from a dock and gets stuck headfirst in the sand below; the caption reads, “LOOK MOM!! NO HANDS!!” Sooo, I went through that wave just like a knife…and smashed onto the hardened sand behind it…CRASH!!!

Totally stunned and unable to move, my mouth finally came to the surface…

“HELP ME!” I yelled as loud as I could!!

And then I immediately thought, “You clown! Nobody understands English at this beach!” So in Spanish, I again yelled


Finally, Antonio came and dragged me to shore…somewhat lifeless.


is the prayer that came to me just then!!

Well, He indeed let me live…but not very comfortably it must be said.

After 10 days of an agonizing uncertainty and a more agonizing pain; it was finally discovered that my vault into hard sand left two cervical bones broken into about 26 pieces as it showed on the X-rays. It took my dad flying to Lima, rallying a couple of his friends and associates to arrange a Panagra flight to New York and convince the pilot to land on a most inclement and stormy night in Lima and fly me back to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.

The Lord had emphatically put my raucous life to a complete stop and began drawing me into the life He set for me. After a lengthy surgery where I was put into skeletal traction with 40 pounds of weight pulling 180 degrees from my neck, I began a rehab that would not only put my neck into better shape…but would alter the entire life I had led and would live from now onward. On a Wednesday evening, the phone near my bed rang.

My ’24-7′ nurse handed it to me, and my girlfriend said quietly,

“Hi Gary, how are you?”

Within the next 10 minutes, my then girlfriend quickly became my ex-girlfriend. While I was living “the high life” in Peru, she had become enamored with another guy. But…the Lord had a plan…I was introduced to another young woman who was babysitting along with my now ex-girlfriend.

After a rather contentious and “sparring” conversation, the young woman told me that she’d try to get by to see me on Saturday. IT WAS STILL TIME FOR THE LORD TO KEEP ACTING!!

Saturday came, as did my dad. He visited on Saturdays and my mom on Sundays. Somewhere in the mid-morning, a most attractive and vivacious young woman showed up at my bedside!! Her name was Terri, and she decided to make good on her statement about trying to get to see me that weekend. Now we know the entire plot of this “conversion” journey… recently high living, young and ‘reckless’ young man, a lapsed Roman Catholic with a need for God; meets a “cradle” Orthodox young nursing student with a great sense of caring for and ‘healing’ people.

Our courtship began that day!! We spent the entire day getting to know Terri and liking everything we learned…both my dad and me, of course. What wasn’t there to like?…friendly, jocular, bright…[Oh, did I mention looooonnngg blonde hair and rather undulating curves?] Well, I told my dad after Terri left that I would marry her in a not too distant time of my life. He was amused!

The next day, my mom was to meet Terri. After a lovely and consuming day, I told my mom just what I told my dad the day before. She, however, was NOT amused. Well, none of us yet realized that the Lord was playing out this story. As I mentioned, Terri was a ‘cradle’ Orthodox Christian in the Russian Orthodox Church. I was still a curious and thirsty pilgrim in search of Christ…I seemed to have lost Him a little while ago! It was an encounter – you will pardon the expression – “made in Heaven.” Terri and I spent the next two months in the hospital – as I recouped from the broken neck – in regular conversation about God, Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy and salvation. I learned a great deal. Finally, I was able to go home for another two-months of recuperation…this time in a leather collar that closely resembled “Ming the Merciless” from Flash Gordon [my, my, I AM dating myself!] We continued my education…actually, my “catechesis.”

We spoke of marriage for a while, and I finally had an opportunity to meet Terri’s folks. Her dad could have been a priest…or at least a catechist! I learned sooo much from him about my future “home.” Terri and I married in September of 1969. After the birth of our daughter [our second child], it was just the right time for me to enter the Orthodox Church and make our family wholly one!! Studying and training with

A) the Irish-Catholic convert priest in their home church;

B) the Romanian-American priest who succeeded the Irish/Catholic priest; and

C) my father-in-law; allotted me every twist and turn necessary to negotiate this journey. Hence, by the time our family was ready for one church and one chalice, I was convinced and anxious for the service of Chrismation to receive the blessing of the fullness of Christ.

Chronologically, I was “introduced” to Orthodoxy [and my future wife!] in 1968 while in the hospital. Our marriage in 1969 took place in East Meadow, Long Island, NY. Fr. Daniel Hubiak was the priest who celebrated our wedding. I was Chrismated in 1975 in Niagara Falls, NY. We moved to Charlotte, NC in 1979 and were members of the Nativity of the Theotokos Mission until we moved to SVS in 1984. It was during our time in Charlotte while we were pastored by then Father Seraphim Storeheim – now Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and all Canada [who was on loan from Canada] when all ahead became clear.

One day in the midst of weeks of unemployment, I asked him,

“Father, after all this stuff that has been my life…do you think God might be calling me to the Priesthood?”

His response was so ‘totally Orthodox,’

“Well…could be!”

Well, we were on our way to SVS 4 months later!! I was ordained to the diaconate in 1986 in Charlotte and to the Holy Priesthood in 1987 at SVS. I guess my life has always been in God’s Hands…I just didn’t realize it until that violent encounter in 1968.

Essentially, any “conversion” truly affected a real change in the manner and intensity of life in the world for me. Yes…the swimming accident was central to any “conversion;” but it is a great mystery as to how much of “an accident” the episode really was.

Fr. Peter Smith is the Priest of St. Mary of Egypt Church in Norcross (Atlanta), Georgia, USA

Video: Ο Αγιορείτης π. Συμεών δε λα Χάρα (Fr. Symeon de la Jara) από το Περού & η μεταστροφή της μητέρας του






Ο Αγιορείτης π. Συμεών δε λα Χάρα (Fr. Symeon de la Jara)

από το Περού & η μεταστροφή της μητέρας του

Le Seigneur distribue Sa grâce à ceux qui s’imposent les fatigues d’un pèlerinage – Saint Jean Maximovitch (+1966) ╰⊰¸¸.•¨* French


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Saint Jean Maximovitch (+1966)

“Dans Sa bonté, le Seigneur distribue Sa grâce à ceux qui s’imposent les fatigues d’un pèlerinage: le pèlerinage ne rapproche pas Celui Qui est partout, mais les efforts des pèlerins rendent ceux-ci dignes de Sa manifestation, non par eux-mêmes mais parce qu’Il les accepte dans Sa miséricorde.”

Saint Jean (Maximovitch), Archevêque de Shangaï, Bruxelles et San Francisco.

Άγιος Ιάκωβος Νετσβέτωφ της Αλάσκας (+1865) – Ένας Αυτόχθονας Αμερικανός ιερέας που αγίασε (+1865) – Ο ιεραπόστολος των Εσκιμώων Γιούπικ – 26 Ιουλίου




Η Νήσος Άτκα των Αλεούτιων Νήσων της Αλάσκας

όπου γεννήθηκε ο Άγιος Ιάκωβος της Αλάσκας



Ο Ορθόδοξος Ναός του Αγίου Νικολάου στην Νήσο Άτκα

των Αλεούτιων Νήσων της Αλάσκας


Άγιος Ιάκωβος Νετσβέτωφ της Αλάσκας

Ένας Αυτόχθονας Αμερικανός ιερέας που αγίασε (+1865)

Ο ιεραπόστολος των Εσκιμώων Γιούπικ

26 Ιουλίου


Ό Άγιος Ιάκωβος Νετσβέτωφ της Αλάσκας γεννήθηκε από πατέρα Ρώσο και Άλεούτια μητέρα στή νήσο Atka της Αλάσκας τό 1802. Ολοκλήρωσε τις σπουδές του στήν ιερατική σχολή του Ιρκούτσκ στή Σιβηρία. Μετά τή χειροτονία του σε πρεσβύτερο, επέστρεψε στήν Αλάσκα, οπού επί τριάντα πέντε χρόνια άσκησε τά ποιμαντικά του καθήκοντα μεταξύ των αυτοχθόνων, υπό συνθήκες διαβιώσεως ιδιαιτέρως επισφαλείς, συνεχίζοντας ετσι τό έργο του άγιου Γερμανού [13 Δεκ.]. Μόλις τό επέτρεπε ο καιρός, επιβιβαζόταν σε εύθραυστα καγιάκ η φόρτωνε τις ισχνές του άποσκευές σε κυνήλατα ελκυθρα και συνοδευόμενος από μερικούς κατώτερους κληρικούς, ξεκινούσε τις ιεραποστολικές του περιοδείες γιά νά φωτίσει τούς διάσπαρτους αυτόχθονες πληθυσμούς των Άλεούτιων Νήσων. Διέδωσε επίσης τό φώς του Ευαγγελίου στή φυλή των Έσκιμώων Γιούπικ, oι όποιοι κατοικούσαν στήν κάτω κοιλάδα του ποταμού Γιούκον (μεταξύ 1845 και 1863). Υπήρξε ό δεύτερος Όρθόδοξος ιερέας πού τόλμησε να εισδύσει στις περιοχές αύτές, μετά τον Άγιο ίερομάρτυρα Ίουβενάλιο. Κι ενώ γενικά συναντούσε καλή υποδοχή και γρήγορα προσηλύτιζε τούς αυτόχθονες στήν αληθινή πίστη, πολλές φορές άντιμετώπιζε την έντονη άντίθεση των σαμάνων μάγων. Δεν ηρκείτο μόνο στο νά βαπτίζει τούς ιθαγενείς, αλλά φρόντιζε γιά την πνευματική ζωή του ποιμνίου του, διδάσκοντάς του τις στοιχειώδεις αρχές τής χριστιανικής ηθικής, πώς πρέπει κάνεις νά προετοιμάζεται για νά αξιωθεί νά κοινωνήσει των άχράντων Μυστηρίων, με την εξομολόγηση, τή νηστεία και την προσευχή. Μετέφερε μαζί του μία σκηνή που χρησιμοποιούσε πρόχειρα ώς ναό, όταν το ψύχος δεν έμπόδιζε τον εκκλησιασμό παγώνοντας τα Τίμια Δώρα. Όταν δεν βρισκόταν σε ιεραποστολικές περιοδείες, μετέφραζε την Καινή Διαθήκη στή γλώσσα των ιθαγενών ίδρυσε, μάλιστα, και ένα σχολείο. Προς τά τέλη του βίου του, έχοντας ταλαιπωρήσει την υγεία του σ’ αυτές τις περιοδείες, συκοφαντήθηκε από κάποιον άλλο ιεραπόστολο στον επίσκοπο Πέτρο, ό οποίος είχε διαδεχθεί τον άγιο Ίννοκέντιο [31 Μάρτίου]. Εκλήθη να παρουσιασθεί στή Σίτκα, έδρα της επισκοπής της Aλάσκας· απολογήθηκε και χωρίς δυσκολία κατόρθωσε να αθωωθεί. Μετά από πολλές περιπέτειες, παρέδωσε την αγία ψυχή του στη Σίτκα στις 26 Ιουλίου του 1865 και κατατάχθηκε επίσημα στους Αγίους της Ορθοδοξίας το 1994.


Νέος Συναξαριστής της Ορθοδόξου Εκκλησίας

Εκδ. Ίνδικτος


Ο Ορθόδοξος Ναός του Αγίου Νικολάου

στη Νήσο Άτκα των Αλεούτιων Νήσων της Αλάσκας

Νήσος Atka, Αλεούτιοι Νήσοι, Αλάσκα, ΗΠΑ


Το ηφαίστειο Korovin της Νήσου Άτκα, Αλάσκα



Νήσος Άτκα, Αλάσκα

με τον Ορθόδοξο Ναό του Αγίου Νικολάου στο βάθος

του Αλασκινού χωριού

St. Jacob of Atka.jpg

Άγιος Ιάκωβος της Αλάσκας


αγιος ιάκωβος.jpg






Ο Άγιος Ιάκωβος της Αλάσκας 

& ο Άγιος Νεομάρτυρας Πέτρος ο Αλεούτιος



Η πορεία του Αμερικανού Matthew Gallatin από τον Προτεσταντισμό στην Ορθοδοξία



Θά παρακολουθήσουμε τήν πορεία τοῦ Αμερικανού Matthew Gallatin πρός τήν Ὀρθοδοξία:

«Στά 23 μου χρόνια βρέθηκα νά ἐργάζωμαι, ὄντας λαϊκός, ὡς βοηθός τοῦ διευθυντή τῆς ἀντβεντιστικῆς νεολαίας τῆς εὐρύτερης περιοχῆς μίας μεγάλης πόλεως. Μέ τήν ἰδιότητα αὐτή δίδασκα στήν τάξι τῶν νέων μιᾶς ἀπ’ τίς τοπικές ἐκκλησίες κάθε Σάββατο πρωΐ.

Ἕνα Σάββατο, νωρίς τό πρωΐ, προετοίμαζα μία σέ βάθος μελέτη κάποιου δογματικοῦ ζητήματος. Καθώς μελετοῦσα προσεκτικά ἕνα θέμα προσπαθώντας νά βρῶ κάποιο τρόπο νά τό ἐξηγήσω σέ μία ὁμάδα ἐφήβων, ἕνα ἐρώτημα ξέσπασε μέσα στήν ψυχή μου. Ἀπρόβλεπτα καί τόσο εὐκρινῶς σάν κάποιος νά μοῦ μιλοῦσε, ἦλθε τό ἐρώτημα: Γνωρίζεις τί πιστεύεις;

Φυσικά! , ἀπάντησα δυνατά. Θυμᾶμαι ὅτι ταράχθηκα μ’ αὐτή μου τήν ἀντίδρασι. Αὐτή τήν ἀπάντησι ἀπαιτοῦσε πάντως τό ἐρώτημα. Ἐξίσου αἰφνιδιαστικά ἡ ἴδια φωνή μοῦ ἀποκρίθηκε: Ναί! Γνωρίζεις τί πιστεύεις. Εἶναι, ὅμως, ἡ ἀλήθεια;

Μπορῶ ἀκόμη νά θυμηθῶ πῶς ἐκεῖνα τά λόγια ἀντήχησαν στό μυαλό μου. Ἀπείρως, ὅμως, πιό δυνατή ἀπ’ τά λόγια αὐτά ἦταν ἡ ὄμορφη, ἀπό καιρό λησμονημένη παρουσία, ἡ ὁποία μέ περιέβαλε ἐκείνη τή στιγμή —ἡ ἴδια τήν ὁποία εἶχα αἰσθανθῆ ὅταν ἤμουν μικρό παιδί. Ἄρχισα νά κλαίω μέ νοσταλγία, μέ ταπείνωσι καί μετάνοια, μέ ἀγάπη καί χαρά. Ξαφνικά ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῆς παιδικῆς μου ἡλικίας παραμέρισε τά θεολογικά πέπλα τά ὁποῖα εἶχα ὑφάνει γύρω ἀπ’ τήν καρδιά μου —ὅπως λέει ὁ ἴδιος: «ὁ ζωντανός Ἰησοῦς πού βρισκόταν ἁπλά δίπλα μου, εἶχε προηγουμένως ἀντικατασταθῆ ἀπό ἕνα θεολογικό πορτραῖτο»— καί γι’ ἄλλη μία φορά ἦταν ἐκεῖ, δίπλα μου. Πόσο ὑπέροχο ἦταν νά αἰσθάνωμαι τό ἄγγιγμά Του!

Τά χρόνια ὡστόσο μέ εἶχαν φθείρει. Νομίζω, δέν ἤξερα πιά πῶς νά ἔχω τήν παιδική ἐκείνη ἁπλότητα. Ἡ παρουσία Του σύντομα ξεθώριασε στήν ψυχή μου. Ἔμεινε μόνο νά ἠχῆ τό ἐρώτημα: Εἶναι αὐτό τό ὁποῖο πιστεύεις ἡ ἀλήθεια;

Πολλές φορές μοῦ ἔρχεται ὁ πειρασμός ν’ ἀναπολῶ ἐκείνη τή στιγμή καί νά εὔχωμαι ὁ Θεός νά μέ εἶχε φωτίσει νά κατανοήσω τότε ὅλα τά ὄμορφα πράγματα τά ὁποῖα γνωρίζω σήμερα. Θά γλίτωνα περίπου 30 χρόνια συγχύσεως κι ἀγῶνα στήν πορεία μου γιά τήν ἀνακάλυψι τῆς ἀπαντήσεως σ’ αὐτό τό ἐρώτημα. Ἀλλά μέ τήν ἀγάπη Του, τήν εὐσπλαγχνία Του καί τή θεία Του πρόνοια ὁ ἀγαπημένος μας Χριστός ἀποφάσισε πώς τό ταξίδι μου πρός τήν ἀλήθεια θά ἔπρεπε νά εἶναι μακρύτερο».

Στή συνέχεια ἀναγράφει μιά σειρά ὀρθῶν σκέψεων περί Ἐκκλησίας: «Ἄν ὑπῆρχε κάποιος πού πραγματικά γνώριζε τήν πλήρη ἀλήθεια, θά γινόταν… [ἔτσι νόμιζε στήν ἀρχή] ἀλαζόνας κι ἐγωϊστής καυχώμενος: “Ἐγώ γνωρίζω τήν ἀλήθεια, ἐνῶ ἐσεῖς ἁπλά νομίζετε ὅτι τή γνωρίζετε!”. Μία στιγμή, ὅμως! Ἡ ἁπλή γνῶσι τῆς ἀληθείας δέν φέρνει αὐτόματα ἀλαζονεία. Γνωρίζω, π.χ., ὅτι ὁ ἥλιος ἀνατέλλει ἀπ’ τήν ἀνατολή. Γνωρίζω ἐπίσης ὅτι τό αὐτοκίνητό μου χρειάζεται βενζίνη γιά νά κινηθῆ. Τίποτε ἀπ’ αὐτά, ὅμως, δέν μέ γεμίζει μέ ὑπεροψία. Τό ἀληθινό εἶναι ἐξίσου ἀληθινό γιά ὅλους καί ἡ ἐπίγνωσί του δέν μέ ὁδηγεῖ στόν ἐγωϊσμό. Ἀντιθέτως, ἡ γνῶσι αὐτή μοῦ δείχνει ὅτι δέν ἔχω ἐγώ τόν ἔλεγχο τῶν πραγμάτων. Ὅτι ὑπάρχουν πράγματα τά ὁποῖα δέν μπορῶ ν’ ἀλλάξω κι ὅτι ὁ κόσμος ἔχει ἕνα τρόπο λειτουργίας, στόν ὁποῖο δέν ἔχω ἄλλη ἐπιλογή παρά νά ὑποταχθῶ (ἐκτός ἄν ἐπιθυμῶ νά υἱοθετήσω τήν ἀνοησία καί τίς συνέπειές της)».

«Ἄν κάθε ὁμάδα ἤ ὁμολογία κατέχη μόνο ἕνα τμῆμα τῆς ἀληθείας [ὅπως πιστεύουν οἱ Προτεστάντες καί οἱ προτεσταντίζοντες δικοί μας], τότε ὅλα τά ὑπόλοιπα πιστεύω τους πρέπει ν’ ἀποτελοῦν πλάνη. Θά ἔπρεπε, λοιπόν, νά θεωρήσω ὅτι ὁ Θεός εἴτε θέλει εἴτε ἀναγκάζεται νά ἐκτελέση τό σχέδιό Του γιά τήν ἀνθρωπότητα χρησιμοποιώντας ψέματα. Ὁ ἀπόστολος Παῦλος μᾶς βεβαιώνει, ὅμως, ὅτι ὁ Θεός εἶναι “ἀψευδής”(Τίτ 1, 2). Αὐτό ἦταν ἀρκετό νά μέ κάνη νά ἐγκαταλείψω τήν ἰδέα ὅτι ὁ Θεός ἔχει ἀποφασίσει, δῆθεν γιά δικό μας καλό, νά μᾶς κρύψη τήν πλήρη ἀλήθεια».

«Ἄν ἡ εἰλικρίνεια ἀρκεῖ γιά νά σωθῆς, τότε κάθε βουδιστής, ταοϊστής, μουσουλμάνος, ἰνδουϊστής ἤ εἰδωλολάτρης πού εἶναι εἰλικρινής στήν πίστι του μπορεῖ νά ἰσχυρισθῆ τό ἴδιο γιά τή σωτηρία, ὅπως κι ἕνας εἰλικρινής χριστιανός. Αὐτό θ’ ἀναιροῦσε τά λόγια τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ὅτι “οὐδείς ἔρχεται πρός τόν Πατέρα εἰ μή δι’ ἐμοῦ (: παρά μόνο μέσῳ Ἐμοῦ)”(Ἰω 14, 6) καί τή διαβεβαίωσι τοῦ ἀποστόλου Πέτρου ὅτι ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶναι τό μόνο ὄνομα “ὑπό τόν οὐρανόν τό δεδομένον ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἐν ᾧ δεῖ σωθῆναι ἡμᾶς (: μέ τό ὁποῖο εἶναι δυνατό νά σωθοῦμε)”(Πρξ 4, 12). Μπορεῖ ἑπομένως νά εἴμαστε μέν εἰλικρινεῖς ἀλλά σέ λάθος δρόμο!».

«Πῶς μπορῶ νά θεωρήσω ὅτι ἕνας ἀρμινιανός κι ἕνας καλβινιστής μποροῦν καί οἱ δύο νά ἔχουν γνήσια σχέσι μέ τόν ἀληθινό Θεό, ἄν ὁ Ἰησοῦς Χριστός δέν μπορῆ νά εἶναι διαφορετικό πρόσωπο γιά διαφορετικά ἄτομα; Ὁ ἀπόστολος Ἰάκωβος, ὅμως, εἶναι ἀρκετά σαφής στό συγκεκριμένο θέμα. Στό Θεό “οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγή ἤ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα (:δέν ὑπάρχει ἀλλοίωσι ἤ σκιά λόγῳ μεταβολῆς)”(Ἰακ 1, 17). Ὁ ἀπόστολος Παῦλος μᾶς βεβαιώνει ἐπίσης ὅτι ὑπάρχει ἕνας Θεός, ἕνας Κύριος, μία πίστι, μία ἐλπίδα (Ἐφ 4, 4-6). Πῶς εἶναι δυνατόν, λοιπόν, ὁ πνευματικός σχετικισμός νά ἔχη θέσι στή χριστιανική πίστι;».

«Ὁ Θεός θέλει νά εἴμαστε ἕνα μ’ Αὐτόν (Ἰω 17, 21-22). Κι Αὐτός εἶναι ἡ Ἀλήθεια. Εἶναι δυνατό νά διασπείρη ὁ Θεός ψήγματα ἀληθείας στίς ὁμολογίες τοῦ προτεσταντισμοῦ κρύβοντάς τες προσεκτικά μεταξύ ἐλλιπῶν ἀληθειῶν κι ἐσφαλμένων ἰδεῶν; Ὄχι! Ὁ Θεός δέν συσκοτίζει —ἐκ φύσεως δέν μπορεῖ νά συσκοτίση— τήν ἀλήθεια μέ ψεύδη».

«Σκεπτόμουν διάφορα πράγματα τά ὁποῖα γνωρίζω ὅτι εἶναι ἀληθινά: Τή φωτιά, τό φύσημα τοῦ ἀνέμου, τήν πλημμυρίδα καί τήν ἄμπωτι. Καί εἶδα ὅτι αὐτό πού καθιστᾶ κάτι ἀληθινό δέν μπορεῖ νά εἶναι σχετικό. Δέν μπορεῖ νά διαστρεβλωθῆ ἤ νά ἰδωθῆ ἀπό διαφορετικές ὀπτικές γωνίες. Οἱ προσωπικές πεποιθήσεις μου γι’ αὐτό εἶναι ἄνευ σημασίας. Οἱ ἐπιλογές μου εἶναι δύο: Νά τό ἀποδεχθῶ ἤ νά τό παραβλέψω. Συνεπῶς ἡ ἀλήθεια περί τοῦ Θεοῦ πρέπει νά εἶναι ἡ πιό ἀντικειμενική ἀλήθεια πού ὑπάρχει».

«Ὅταν πηγαίνουν στήν ἐκκλησία δέν ἀκοῦνε ποτέ τόν πάστορα νά διαβάζη ἐπί 40 λεπτά τήν Ἁγία Γραφή. Τόν περισσότερο χρόνο τόν ἀφιερώνει στήν ἑρμηνεία της. Γιατί; Διότι γιά νά διδάξη, νά συγκινήση καί ν’ ἀποκαλύψη τό Θεό στούς πιστούς, πρέπει νά ἑρμηνεύση τήν Ἁγία Γραφή. Γι’ αὐτό κι ἐμεῖς προσευχόμαστε αὐτός πού κηρύττει νά “ὀρθοτομῆ τόν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας”(Β´ Τιμ 2, 15). Αὐτό πού εἶναι, λοιπόν, σημαντικό γιά ἕνα προτεστάντη δέν εἶναι ἁπλῶς τό sola scriptura (: μόνη ἡ Γραφή). Αὐτό πού στερεώνει τήν πίστι του καί πού τό ἐμπιστεύεται εἶναι ἡ ἑρμηνεία τήν ὁποία ὁ ἴδιος δίνει στό sola scriptura».

«Θυμᾶμαι ὅταν ἐξέφρασα σ’ ἕνα καθολικό φίλο μου τήν τρομερή ἐνοχή τήν ὁποία εἶχα αἰσθανθῆ, ὅταν συνειδητοποίησα ὅτι εἶχα περάσει ὅλη μου τή ζωή στηρίζοντας τή σωτηρία μου στήν πεποίθησι ὅτι ἡ δική μου ἀντίληψι περί Θεοῦ ἦταν ἡ σωστή. Πρός ἔκπληξί μου, χαμογέλασε μέ σημασία καί εἶπε: “Καταλαβαίνω. Ἐμεῖς οἱ καθολικοί ἔχουμε ἕνα παλαιό ρητό. ‘Οἱ προτεστάντες πιστεύουν ὅτι ὅλοι εἶναι ἀλάθητοι ἐκτός ἀπ’ τόν Πάπα!’”».

«Ὁ ἀπόστολος Παῦλος δέν κάλεσε τήν Ἐκκλησία νά θεολογῆ. Δέν προέτρεψε τά πνευματικά του τέκνα νά ἐξετάσουν διάφορα δόγματα καί νά υἱοθετήσουν αὐτό πού θά τούς φαινόταν πιό λογικό. Ἀντιθέτως, συμβούλευσε τούς πιστούς τῆς Θεσ/νίκης νά μείνουν ἀκλόνητοι καί νά κρατήσουν τίς παραδόσεις τίς ὁποῖες εἶχαν διδαχθῆ —τόσο ἐκεῖνες πού τούς μεταδόθηκαν μέσῳ ἐπιστολῶν ὅσο κι ἐκεῖνες πού διδάχθηκαν ἀπευθείας διά στόματος τῶν Ἀποστόλων [«Ἄρα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, στήκετε (: νά στέκεσθε ἀκλόνητοι) καί κρατεῖτε τάς παραδόσεις ἅς ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διά λόγου εἴτε δι’ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν»(Β´ Θεσ 2, 15)]. Προσπαθῆστε, παρακαλῶ, νά τό καταλάβετε αὐτό. Γιά ἕνα σύγχρονο χριστιανό πού θέλει ν’ ἀπαντήση στό ἐρώτημα, πῶς γνωρίζω ὅτι αὐτό στό ὁποῖο πιστεύω εἶναι ἡ ἀλήθεια, τά λόγια αὐτά τοῦ ἀποστόλου Παύλου εἶναι ἀπ’ τά πιό σημαντικά πού ἔχουν γραφῆ. Κατά τά λόγια του αὐτά, ἕνας μόνο τρόπος ὑπῆρχε νά γνωρίζουν οἱ πρῶτοι χριστιανοί ὅτι βρίσκονται μέσα στήν ἀλήθεια: Νά μποροῦν νά ποῦν χωρίς ἐνδοιασμούς, “πιστεύουμε κι ἀκολουθοῦμε αὐτά πού ἡ Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Χριστοῦ πιστεύει κι ἀκολουθεῖ ἀπ’ τήν ἵδρυσί της∙ ἀπ’ τή μέρα τῆς Πεντηκοστῆς”».

Ἐπανερχόμασθε στήν πορεία του πρός τήν Ὀρθοδοξία:

«Ὡς προτεστάντης πίστευα ἀκράδαντα ὅτι ἡ Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Χριστοῦ εἶχε ἀρχίσει νά καταποντίζεται μέσα σέ μία ἤ δύο γενιές ἀπ’ τήν ἴδρυσί της. Ἤμουν ἐπίσης πεπεισμένος ὅτι ὁ Ἰησοῦς στεκόταν γιά περίπου 1500 χρόνια σχετικά ἀδύναμος ἀπέναντι στά διεφθαρμένα σχέδια ἀνθρώπων πού ἦταν μέν διάδοχοι τῶν Ἀποστόλων ἀλλά εἶχαν πραγματικά βαλθῆ νά καταστρέψουν τήν Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Χριστοῦ —ἀκόμη κι ἄν πολλές φορές μαρτυροῦσαν στ’ ὄνομά Του. Ὡς προτεστάντης πίστευα ὅτι ὁ Χριστός εἴτε δέν ἤθελε εἴτε δέν μποροῦσε νά κάνη ὁτιδήποτε, καθώς ἔβλεπε ἑκατομμύρια ἀνθρώπους πού νόμιζαν ὅτι εἶναι χριστιανοί νά ζοῦν καί νά πεθαίνουν μέσα στήν πλάνη. Μέ τήν ἔλευσι τοῦ προτεσταντισμοῦ, πίστευα, ἡ Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἔγινε δύναμι πού μποροῦσε ν’ ἀντισταθῆ στίς πύλες τοῦ Ἅδου.

Θυμᾶμαι τή μέρα κατά τήν ὁποία συνειδητοποίησα ὅτι εἶχα ζήσει ὅλη μου τή ζωή σ’ αὐτή τήν τρομερή ἀπιστία. Πῶς μποροῦσα νά πιστεύω ὅτι ὁ Κύριός μου εἶναι τόσο ἀνίσχυρος; Εἶχα πιστέψει ὅτι μποροῦσε νά μέ σώση, ἀλλά ὅτι ἦταν ἐντελῶς ἀδύναμος νά διατηρήση τήν ἀλήθεια στούς πιστούς Του ἔστω καί γιά μία μόνο γενεά. Πόσο ἀδύναμος κι ἀδιάφορος πίστευα ὅτι ἦταν ὁ Κύριός μας Ἰησοῦς Χριστός! Πέφτοντας στά γόνατα καί κλαίγοντας πικρά, μετανοιωμένος γι’ αὐτή μου τήν ἄγνοια, Τόν ἱκέτευσα νά μέ συγχωρήση.

Μεμιᾶς γέμισε ἡ ψυχή μου ἀπ’ τή γεμάτη ἀγάπη παρουσία Του. Γιά πρώτη φορά μετά ἀπό πολύ καιρό ἄκουσα τή σιωπηλή φωνή Του. Μή δειλιάσης, τώρα, Ματθαῖε. Δέν εἶσαι μακρυά ἀπ’ τή Βασιλεία Μου, εἶπε. Στά κατάβαθα τῆς ψυχῆς μου καί μέ ὅση δύναμι μπόρεσα νά συγκεντρώσω Τοῦ ὑποσχέθηκα ὅτι δέν θά ἤμουν πιά τυφλός κι ἄπιστος»(σ. 107).

Κάποιος φιλόσοφος φίλος του τοῦ τόνισε: «Ἡ Ἀνατολική Ὀρθόδοξη Ἐκκλησία. Ξέρεις, πρέπει νά ξεκαθαρίση κανείς ὅτι οἱ προτεστάντες μεταρρυθμιστές ἐπαναστάτησαν ἐναντίον τῶν ἐκτροπῶν τῆς ρωμαιοκαθολικῆς ἐκκλησίας. Προσωπικά, πιστεύω ἀκράδαντα ὅτι ἄν ὁ Μαρτίνος Λούθηρος εἶχε στραφῆ στήν Ἀνατολική Ὀρθοδοξία, δέν θά ὑπῆρχε προτεσταντική μεταρρύθμισι. Διότι δέν θά ὑπῆρχε μέσα στήν Ὀρθοδοξία λόγος διαμαρτυρήσεως γιά κάτι».

Στή συνέχεια ἀναγράφει τί αἰσθάνθηκε ὅταν πρωτοβρέθηκε στήν Ὀρθόδοξη Λειτουργία: «Ἐκείνη τήν εὐλογημένη στιγμή, καθώς ἡ Ἀλήθεια καί ἡ Ἀγάπη δρόσιζαν τήν ψυχή μου, θυμήθηκα τήν ἐρώτησι τήν ὁποία ὁ Ἰησοῦς μοῦ εἶχε θέσει πρίν περίπου 30 χρόνια, στό ξεκίνημα αὐτοῦ τοῦ μακρινοῦ κι ἐπιπόνου ταξιδιοῦ: Ματθαῖε, εἶναι αὐτό τό ὁποῖο πιστεύεις ἡ ἀλήθεια; Μετά ἀπό τόσο καιρό αἰσθάνθηκα ὅτι ἐπιτέλους μποροῦσα νά Τοῦ ἀπαντήσω. Μέσα στό λιβάνι καί τίς ὄμορφες προσευχές τῆς Λειτουργίας κοίταξα δακρυσμένος πρός τό θυσιαστήριο καί ψιθύρισα: Ναί, Κύριε! Ἡ ἀλήθεια εἶναι.

Καί τότε, τόσο καθαρά, ὅσο οὐδέποτε ἔχω ἀκούσει λέξεις νά προφέρωνται, μοῦ ἀποκρίθηκε ἥσυχα: Ματθαῖε, ἐδῶ βρίσκεσαι πιά στό σπίτι σου».

Καί τελειώνει μέ μιά σειρά, ἀκόμη, ἀπό ὀρθές σκέψεις, σχετικά μέ τήν Ὀρθοδοξία τώρα: «Τό νά στέκεσαι ἔξω ἀπ’ τήν Ἐκκλησία καί νά τελῆς τά μυστήριά της, εἶναι ἀνάλογο μ’ ἕνα νεαρό, ὁ ὁποῖος βρίσκεται σ’ ἕνα λιβάδι παίζοντας baseball καί φαντάζεται τόν ἑαυτό του μέσα στό Yankee Stadium. Μπορεῖ νά εἶναι φανατικός φίλος τοῦ ἀθλήματος καί νά ἔχη ὅλα τ’ ἀπαραίτητα γιά νά θεωρῆται παίκτης —τό ρόπαλο, τή μπάλα, τό γάντι, ἀκόμη καί τήν ἀπαιτούμενη δεξιότητα. Μέχρι, ὅμως, νά μπῆ σέ ὁμάδα, παίζει baseball μόνο στή φαντασία του».

«Ἕνα παράδειγμα ἀπ’ τήν κλασσική περίοδο τῆς δυτικῆς μουσικῆς. Στή μουσική αὐτή οἱ συνθέτες ἔπρεπε νά τηροῦν ἀρκετά αὐστηρούς μορφολογικούς κανόνες γιά τά ἔργα τά ὁποῖα συνέθεταν. Ἄν δέν συμμορφώνονταν μ’ αὐτούς, τά ἔργα τους δέν θά γίνονταν ἀποδεκτά ἀπ’ τό εὐρύ κοινό. Ὡστόσο, ἀκόμη καί μέσα στά πλαίσια ἐκείνων τῶν κανόνων, ἀναδεικνυόταν ἡ προσωπικότητα διαφόρων συνθετῶν. Ὁ Mozart κι ὁ Haydn ἔγραψαν καί οἱ δύο σύμφωνα μέ τούς ἴδιους τύπους, καί ὅμως, ἦταν ξεκάθαρα διαφορετικοί συνθέτες.

Ἔτσι εἶναι καί τά μυστήρια. Ἔτσι πρέπει νά εἶναι δεδομένης τῆς διπλῆς τους ἀποστολῆς νά ἑδραιώσουν τόν ἄνθρωπο σέ μία μοναδική σχέσι ἀγάπης μέ τό Θεό, ἑνώνοντας ταυτόχρονα ὅλους τούς πιστούς μεταξύ τους…

Φαντάσου πῶς εἶναι νά γνωρίζης ὅτι εἶσαι ἕνα μέ διακόσια ἑκατομμύρια ἀνθρώπους σ’ αὐτό τόν πλανήτη. Ὅλοι προσευχόμασθε μέ τίς ἴδιες ἀκριβῶς προσευχές. Οἱ ἴδιοι ὕμνοι ἀναπέμπονται ἀπ’ τά χείλη μας. Μία συγκεκριμένη μέρα, τήν καθορισμένη ὥρα τῆς λατρείας, ὅλες οἱ ἐκκλησίες μας τελοῦν τίς ἴδιες ἀκολουθίες».

«Γιά περίπου 20 χρόνια ἡ Ὀρθόδοξη Ἐκκλησία δέν εἶχε καθόλου γραπτά καινοδιαθηκικά κείμενα. Προφανῶς, λοιπόν, δέν ἦταν δυνατό νά τηρηθῆ τό sola scriptura, ἀφοῦ πολύ ἁπλά δέν ὑπῆρχαν γραπτά κείμενα τῆς Καινῆς Διαθήκης! Πῶς, λοιπόν, κατάφερε ἡ Ἐκκλησία νά ἐπιβιώση καί νά διδάξη χωρίς τά θεόπνευστα αὐτά κείμενα; Ὑπό τήν καθοδήγησι τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος γιά τό ὁποῖο ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶχε πεῖ “ὁδηγήσει ὑμᾶς (: θά σᾶς ὁδηγήση) εἰς πᾶσαν τήν ἀλήθειαν”(Ἰω 16, 13), ἀκολουθώντας τίς παραδόσεις τῶν ἁγίων Ἀποστόλων.

Ἄν, λοιπόν, ἀποδεχθῆ κανείς ὅτι ἡ Ἐκκλησία ἦταν ζωντανή πολλά χρόνια προτοῦ γραφοῦν τά πρῶτα κείμενα τῆς Καινῆς Διαθήκης, ἀναγνωρίζει οὐσιαστικά ὅτι δέν ὑπάρχει ἀπολύτως κανένας λόγος νά θεωρῆ τίς ἐπιστολές τῶν Ἀποστόλων καί τά Εὐαγγέλια πλήρεις κι ἀποκλειστικές πραγματεῖες τῆς χριστιανικῆς διδασκαλίας καί πρακτικῆς. Στήν πραγματικότητα, ὅπως μᾶς ὑπενθυμίζει ὁ ἀπόστολος Ἰωάννης, “ἔστι (: εἶναι) δέ καί ἄλλα πολλά ὅσα ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, ἅτινα ἐάν γράφηται καθ’ ἕν (: χωριστά τό καθένα), οὐδέ αὐτόν οἶμαι τόν κόσμον χωρῆσαι (: νομίζω πώς οὔτε ὅλος ὁ κόσμος δέν θά χωρέση) τά γραφόμενα βιβλία”(Ἰω 21, 25). Οἱ συγγραφεῖς τῶν κειμένων τῆς Καινῆς Διαθήκης ἀπευθύνονταν σέ μία ἀκμάζουσα Ἐκκλησία, τῆς ὁποίας τά δόγματα καί τό τυπικό τῆς λατρείας εἶχαν ἤδη θεμελιωθῆ ἀπ’ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα μέσῳ τῶν Ἀποστόλων.

Ἔτσι, ἐνῶ ἡ Καινή Διαθήκη εἶναι θεόπνευστη, ἀξιόπιστη καί πολύτιμη γιά τήν Ἐκκλησία, τά κείμενά της δέν γράφηκαν γιά ν’ ἀποτελέσουν ἕνα πλήρη θεολογικό ὁδηγό, ὅπως θέλουν νά πιστεύουν οἱ προτεστάντες. Στήν πραγματικότητα, εἶναι προφανές γιά κάποιον πού διαβάζει τίς ἐπιστολές τῶν Ἀποστόλων ὅτι ἀναφέρονταν γενικά σέ συγκεκριμένα προβλήματα ἤ ἀνάγκες τίς ὁποῖες ἀντιμετώπιζε ἡ Ἐκκλησία ὡς σύνολο ἤ κάποια συγκεκριμένη κοινότητα.

Οἱ συγγραφεῖς τῶν Εὐαγγελίων καί τῶν Ἐπιστολῶν δέν εἰσήγαγαν καινούργια δόγματα. Ἀντιθέτως, ἐπιβεβαίωναν αὐτά τά ὁποῖα δίδασκαν ἤδη οἱ Ἀπόστολοι καί προέτρεπαν τούς χριστιανούς νά τά βιώσουν. Λαμβάνοντας, λοιπόν, ὑπόψιν τή θέσι τῶν ἀποστολικῶν κειμένων στήν πρώτη Ἐκκλησία, δέν θά μπορούσαμε νά τά ἐκλάβουμε ὡς πλῆρες ἐγχειρίδιο τοῦ καλοῦ χριστιανοῦ. Τά Εὐαγγέλια καί οἱ Ἐπιστολές δέν γράφθηκαν μέ σκοπό νά δημιουργήσουν ἤ νά οἰκοδομήσουν τήν Πίστι. Γράφηκαν μέ θεία φώτισι γιά νά τήν ἀποσαφηνίσουν καί νά παροτρύνουν τούς χριστιανούς νά μείνουν ἀπαρασάλευτοι σ’ αὐτήν».

«Ἄν εἶναι φυσιολογικό γιά τό σύγχρονο προτεστάντη νά βιώνη τήν καθοδήγησι τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος ἐκτός τῶν Γραφῶν, γιατί νά μήν ἰσχύη τό ἴδιο καί γιά τήν πρώτη Ἐκκλησία; Γιατί ὁ προτεστάντης ὑποθέτει ὅτι αὐτός (ἤ ἡ ἐκκλησία του ἤ ἡ ὁμολογία του) μπορεῖ νά καθοδηγῆται ἀπ’ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα, ἀλλά ὅτι τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα δέν θά μποροῦσε νά καθοδηγῆ τήν πρώτη Ἐκκλησία κατά τόν ἴδιο τρόπο; Γιατί νά μή δοῦμε μέ τόν τρόπο αὐτό τήν Ἱερά Παράδοσι τῆς ἀρχαίας Ἐκκλησίας —ὡς δηλ. τήν καθοδήγησι τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, πέρα τῶν ὅσων εἶναι γραμμένα στήν Καινή Διαθήκη;

Φυσικά, ὁ προτεστάντης θά ἐπιμείνη ὅτι οἱ ἐνέργειές του εἶναι σύμφωνες μέ τίς Γραφές, ἐνῶ πολλά στοιχεῖα τῆς ὀρθοδόξου παραδόσεως εἶναι ἐντελῶς ἀσύμβατα μ’ αὐτές. Καί σίγουρα ὑπῆρχε μία ἐποχή κατά τήν ὁποία κι ἐγώ ὁ ἴδιος ὑποστήριζα ἀνένδοτα τό ἴδιο πρᾶγμα. Αὐτό, ὅμως, πρίν κοιτάξω τόν ἑαυτό μου στόν καθρέπτη κι ἀναρωτηθῶ: “Πῶς εἶμαι τόσο σίγουρος γι’ αὐτό;”.

Ἦταν σάν νά ξύπνησα ἀπό ἕνα λήθαργο, ὅταν ἐπιτέλους κατάλαβα ὅτι τό νά χαρακτηρίζω τίς παραδόσεις αὐτές ἀσυνεπεῖς πρός τίς Γραφές ἦταν, ὑπό τήν προτεσταντική μου ὀπτική, ἕνα κενό ἐπιχείρημα. Γιατί τί ἔλεγα στήν πραγματικότητα κάθε φορά κατά τήν ὁποία ἰσχυριζόμουν κάτι τέτοιο; “Οἱ παραδόσεις αὐτές δέν μπορεῖ νά εἶναι σωστές, ἀφοῦ εἶναι ἀσύμφωνες μέ τόν τρόπο μέ τόν ὁποῖο ἐγώ κατανοῶ τίς Γραφές καί μέ τήν πεποίθησί μου ὅτι ἡ ἀλήθεια πηγάζει ἀπ’ τίς Γραφές καί μόνο —τά ὁποῖα τελικά εἶναι καί τά πιστεύω πού ὁδήγησαν τούς προτεστάντες σέ ἀντιφατικές πεποιθήσεις πάνω σ’ ὅλα τά σημαντικά θέματα τῆς Πίστεως καί πού καταθρυμμάτισαν τόν προτεσταντισμό”.

Κατάλαβα ὅτι ἄν ἔπρεπε ν’ ἀποκαλῶ τούς πρώτους χριστιανούς αἱρετικούς, ἐπειδή δέν δροῦσαν σύμφωνα μέ τή δική μου ἑρμηνεία τῶν Γραφῶν, τότε θά ἔπρεπε νά χαρακτηρίσω καί τούς προτεστάντες ἀδελφούς μου αἱρετικούς. Αὐτό, ὅμως, δέν θά μέ ὁδηγοῦσε πουθενά στήν ἀναζήτησί μου γιά τήν ἀλήθεια. Συνειδητοποίησα, λοιπόν, ὅτι ἔπρεπε νά βρῶ κάποιο ἄλλο σημεῖο ἀναφορᾶς μέ βάσι τό ὁποῖο νά κρίνω τίς παραδόσεις τῆς ἀρχαίας Πίστεως.

Καί τό βρῆκα, ὅταν συνειδητοποίησα ὅτι ἡ Καινή Διαθήκη παραδόθηκε σέ μία Ἐκκλησία πού εἶχε ἤδη ἑδραιώσει τό δόγμα της καί τίς λατρευτικές της παραδόσεις. Ἡ προσπάθεια, λοιπόν, καθορισμοῦ ἐκ μέρους μου τοῦ τί εἶναι σύμφωνο μέ τήν Ἁγία Γραφή καί τί ὄχι, πῆρε τότε τελείως διαφορετική τροπή. Κατάλαβα ὅτι γιά νά κατανοήση κανείς τί σημασία εἶχαν τά λόγια τῆς Καινῆς Διαθήκης γιά τούς ἀνθρώπους γιά τούς ὁποίους γράφθηκαν, πρέπει πρῶτα νά κατανοήση τίς παραδόσεις ἐκεῖνες πού διαμόρφωναν τό πλαίσιο, μέσα στό ὁποῖο ἐκλαμβάνονταν τά λόγια αὐτά.

Ὅταν ἄρχισα νά ἐξετάζω τά πράγματα ἀπ’ αὐτή τήν ὀπτική γωνία, ἔμεινα ἔκπληκτος. Ταυτόχρονα, ὅμως, λυπήθηκα. Λυπήθηκα, γιατί ἀνακάλυψα ὅτι μέ τό νά ἐπικεντρώνωμαι στά λόγια τῆς Καινῆς Διαθήκης χωρίς νά γνωρίζω —ἤ καί χωρίς ν’ ἀποδέχωμαι πολλές φορές— τό εὐρύτερο πλαίσιο τῶν παραδόσεων, μέσα στό ὁποῖο τά λόγια αὐτά γράφηκαν, εἶχα ἐξουδετερώσει σ’ ὅλη μου τή ζωή καί τήν παραμικρή ἐλπίδα νά γνωρίσω τό χριστιανισμό, ὅπως τόν γνώριζαν οἱ πρῶτοι χριστιανοί. Ἄν δέν κατανοοῦσα τίς παραδόσεις αὐτές, τό μόνο τό ὁποῖο θά μποροῦσα ποτέ νά γνωρίσω εἶναι μία μερική ἔκφρασι αὐτῆς τῆς Πίστεως».

«Ὡς προτεστάντης δέν ἤμουν ἀφοσιωμένος μόνο στό sola scriptura ἀλλά καί στό sola gratia (: μόνο ἡ χάρι). Στ’ ὅτι δηλ. ὁ ἄνθρωπος σώζεται μόνο διά τῆς χάριτος. Ἡ πεποίθησί μου, ὅμως, ὅτι τά παιδιά δέν μποροῦν νά βαπτισθοῦν μέχρι νά φθάσουν σέ “ἡλικία εὐθύνης” μέ ὁδηγοῦσε στό συμπέρασμα ὅτι ἡ χάρι καί μόνο δέν σώζει. Γιατί πίστευα οὐσιαστικά ὅτι ἡ σωτηρία ἑνός παιδιοῦ δέν ἐξαρτᾶται τελικά ἀπ’ τή χάρι, ἀλλά ἀπ’ τή δυνατότητα κατανοήσεως τοῦ σχεδίου τῆς σωτηρίας. Ὅσο καί νά θέλη, λοιπόν, τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα νά κατοικήση στήν ψυχή ἑνός παιδιοῦ, θά πρέπη νά περιμένη μέχρις αὐτό νά φθάση σ’ ἕνα συγκεκριμένο διανοητικό ἐπίπεδο. Πίστευα, λοιπόν, στή “σωτηρία διά τῆς κατανοήσεως καί τῆς χάριτος” κι ὄχι στό sola gratia.

Τότε, ὅμως, ἦλθε κι ὁ ἀντίλογος: “Ὄχι! Παρότι πρέπει νά φθάση τό παιδί σέ ἡλικία πού νά μπορῆ νά κατανοήση τή σωτηρία προτοῦ τή δεχθῆ, ἡ σωτηρία του βασίζεται ἀποκλειστικά καί μόνο στή χάρι. Γιατί ἡ χάρι τοῦ Θεοῦ εἶναι αὐτή πού ὁδηγεῖ τό παιδί στό ν’ ἀντιληφθῆ τήν ἀνάγκη γιά τό Θεό, νά βιώση τήν πίστι καί νά ὁμολογήση τό Χριστό”.

Αὐτό, ὅμως, δέν ἀλλάζει τίποτε ἀπολύτως. Γιατί ἄν ὄντως ἔτσι ἔχουν τά πράγματα, εἶναι προφανές ὅτι γιά ἕνα μεγάλο χρονικό διάστημα τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ παιδιοῦ ἡ χάρι εἶναι παροῦσα, ἐνῶ δέν ὑπάρχει σωτηρία. Προφανῶς, λοιπόν, χρειάζεται κάτι περισσότερο ἀπ’ τή χάρι γιά νά σωθῆ ἕνα παιδί. Γιά νά μείνω πιστός στήν προτεσταντική μου θεολογία ἔπρεπε νά πιστέψω ὅτι μέχρι τά παιδιά νά φθάσουν στό διανοητικό ἐπίπεδο πού θά τούς ἐπέτρεπε νά κατανοήσουν τήν ἁμαρτωλότητά τους καί νά ὁμολογήσουν τήν πίστι τους στό Χριστό, δέν μποροῦν νά σωθοῦν. Τό παράδοξο αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἰσχυρισμοῦ μέ ἀναστάτωσε ἀφάνταστα, ὅταν μάλιστα ἀναλογίσθηκα ὅτι ὁ ἴδιος ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπε ὅτι ἡ Βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀνήκει στά παιδιά (Λκ 18, 16).

Σ’ αὐτό ἐντούτοις ἔσπευσα ν’ ἀπαντήσω μέ τήν ἑξῆς παλαιά καί κοινότυπη δικαιολογία: “Ὁ Θεός μεριμνᾶ γιά τά βρέφη καί τά μικρά παιδιά. Ξέρει ὅτι στήν ἡλικία τους δέν μποροῦν ν’ ἀντιληφθοῦν τήν ἀνάγκη γιά σωτηρία. Ἄν, λοιπόν, κάποιο πεθάνη, ὁ Θεός δέν θά τό καταδικάση”.

Τά λόγια αὐτά τά κήρυξα κι ἐγώ ὁ ἴδιος πολλάκις ἀπό ἄμβωνος. Καθώς, ὅμως, βάδιζα πρός τήν Ὀρθοδοξία, ἄρχισα ν’ ἀντιλαμβάνωμαι τίς μᾶλλον ζοφερές συνέπειες τῶν ὅσων δίδασκα τόσα χρόνια. Αὐτό τό ὁποῖο διακήρυττα ἦταν οὐσιαστικά ὅτι τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα δέν μπορεῖ νά κατοικήση μέσα σ’ ἕνα βρέφος ἤ σ’ ἕνα μικρό παιδί, παρά μόνο ἄν αὐτό πεθάνη! Ἄν πεθάνη, πηγαίνει στήν ἀγκαλιά τοῦ Θεοῦ, ὅπου πιά νοιώθει τή γεμάτη ἀγάπη παρουσία Του. Ἄν ζήση, ὅμως, βρίσκεται σέ μία πνευματική ἀπομόνωσι, ὅπου καί τό παιδί κι ὁ Θεός περιμένουν τή μέρα κατά τήν ὁποία θά μπορέση αὐτό νά καταλάβη ἐπιτέλους ὅτι Τόν χρειάζεται!

Κατάλαβα τελικά ὅτι ἡ ἄποψί μου γιά τήν πνευματική κατάστασι τῆς νηπιακῆς καί παιδικῆς ἡλικίας ἦταν μᾶλλον σκληρή. Τελικά βρέθηκα ἀντιμέτωπος μέ τό ἑξῆς ἐρώτημα: Εἶναι δυνατόν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ν’ ἀντιμετώπιζε ἔτσι τά παιδιά, ὅταν εἶπε “ἄφετε (: ἀφῆστε) τά παιδία ἔρχεσθαι πρός Με καί μή κωλύετε αὐτά (: μήν τά ἐμποδίζετε)∙ τῶν γάρ τοιούτων ἐστίν (: σ᾽ αὐτούς πού τούς μοιάζουν ἀνήκει) ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ”(Λκ 18, 16);

Θυμᾶμαι ὅτι εἶχα ἐξοργισθῆ καθώς συνειδητοποιοῦσα αὐτές τίς ἀλήθειες. Ὅλες αὐτές οἱ τυπικές προτεσταντικές μου ἀπόψεις ὅσον ἀφορᾶ τό νηπιοβαπτισμό ἦταν τελείως ἀπαράδεκτες. Ἦταν ξεκάθαρα ἀντίθετες μέ τήν προειδοποίησι τοῦ ἴδιου τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ὅτι “ἐάν μή στραφῆτε (: ἄν δέν γυρίσετε πίσω) καί γένησθε ὡς τά παιδία, οὐ μή εἰσέλθητε εἰς τήν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν”(Μθ 18, 3).

Ἐπέμεινα, ὅμως, καί εἶπα: “Τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα κατοικεῖ, λοιπόν, πράγματι καί στά μικρά παιδιά. Ἡ δυνατότητα μετανοίας, ὅμως, εἶναι ἡ μόνη ἀπόδειξι ὅτι τό Πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐνεργεῖ μέσα στό παιδί. Ἑπομένως, δέν μποροῦμε νά δεχθοῦμε τήν παρουσία τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος διά τοῦ βαπτίσματος, πρίν νά φθάση τό παιδί σέ ἡλικία κατά τήν ὁποία νά μπορῆ ν’ ἀναλάβη τήν εὐθύνη τῶν πράξεών του καί νά μετανοήση, κάτι τό ὁποῖο τά βρέφη δέν μποροῦν νά κάνουν”.

 Σκέφθηκα, ὅμως, ὅτι ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἴσως ἐννοοῦσε κάτι παραπάνω ἀπ’ τή μετάνοια ὅταν εἶπε ὅτι πρέπει νά γίνουμε σάν τά παιδιά γιά νά κερδίσουμε τή βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. Μήπως μιλοῦσε γιά τήν πραότητα, τήν ταπείνωσι καί τήν ἁπλότητα τῆς πίστεως πού τά διακρίνει; Δέν εἶναι αὐτά στοιχεῖα πού ἀποδεικνύουν τήν παρουσία τοῦ Θεοῦ; Εγώ ὁ ἴδιος πολλές φορές ταπεινώθηκα κι ἀναλύθηκα σέ δάκρυα, ὅταν μέσα ἀπό μικρά παιδιά ἄκουσα τή φωνή τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος. Καί εἶμαι σίγουρος ὅτι καί πολλοί ἄλλοι προτεστάντες ἔχουν παρόμοιες ἐμπειρίες.

Βεβαιώθηκα, λοιπόν, ὅτι τό Πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ μπορεῖ νά κατοικήση στίς καρδιές τῶν παιδιῶν. Μ’ αὐτή τή διαπίστωσι, ὅμως, εἶχα διανύσει ἕνα πλήρη κύκλο φθάνοντας στό σημεῖο ἀπ’ ὅπου ξεκίνησα καί βρέθηκα πιά σέ ἀπόλυτη ἀντίθεσι μέ τή διδασκαλία τοῦ ἀποστόλου Πέτρου: “Μήτι τό ὕδωρ κωλῦσαι δύναταί τις τοῦ μή βαπτισθῆναι τούτους, οἵτινες τό Πνεῦμα τό Ἅγιον ἔλαβον καθώς καί ἡμεῖς; (: Μήπως μπορεῖ κανείς νά ἐμποδίση τό νερό γιά νά μή βαπτισθοῦν αὐτοί πού ἔλαβαν τό Πνεῦμα τό Ἅγιο, ὅπως κι ἐμεῖς;)”(Πρξ 10, 47). Ἐπιτέλους κατάλαβα ὅτι τά παιδιά πρέπει νά βαπτίζωνται. Γιατί, σύμφωνα μέ τή διδασκαλία τῆς Καινῆς Διαθήκης, τό βάπτισμα καί ἡ ἐνοίκησι τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος εἶναι στοιχεῖα ἀδιάσπαστα μεταξύ τους. Τό κήρυγμα τοῦ ἀποστόλου Πέτρου τή μέρα τῆς Πεντηκοστῆς, οἱ Σαμαρεῖτες χριστιανοί καί ἡ οἰκογένεια τοῦ Κορνηλίου εἶναι ἀδιαφιλονίκητα παραδείγματα πού ἀποδεικνύουν ὅτι ὅπου ὑπάρχει τό ἕνα, ὑπάρχει ἀπαραίτητα καί τό ἄλλο».

«Παρά τήν προσκόλλησί μου στό sola scriptura, δέν ὑπῆρχε πουθενά στήν Ἁγία Γραφή ὁτιδήποτε, στό ὁποῖο θά μποροῦσα νά βασισθῶ γιά νά στηρίξω τή μεταφορική ἑρμηνεία τοῦ χωρίου περί πραγματικοῦ Σώματος καί Αἵματος. Ἡ μόνη ἀπάντησι στό ἐρώτημα αὐτό ἦταν: “Δέν εἶναι λογικό ὁ ἄρτος κι ὁ οἶνος νά γίνωνται —ἀκόμη καί διά τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος— Σῶμα κι Αἷμα Χριστοῦ. Κανένας λογικός ἄνθρωπος δέν θά τό δεχόταν αὐτό. Μόνο οἱ ἀφελεῖς καί οἱ προληπτικοί θά μποροῦσαν ἴσως νά τό πιστέψουν”. Εἶδα, λοιπόν, ὅτι ἡ ἄποψί μου γιά τό θέμα αὐτό δέν ἦταν σέ καμμία περίπτωσι θεμελιωμένη στήν Ἁγία Γραφή! Στηριζόταν ἀποκλειστικά στούς περιορισμούς τῆς σύγχρονης ὀρθολογιστικῆς μου σκέψεως».

«Πῶς εἶναι δυνατόν νά πιστεύω σέ κάτι τόσο ἀκατανόητο ὅπως ἡ ἐνσάρκωσι τοῦ Υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ, καί παρόλ’ αὐτά ν’ ἀρνοῦμαι τήν ἀληθινή παρουσία τοῦ Χριστοῦ στόν ἄρτο καί τόν οἶνο τῆς Θείας Εὐχαριστίας; Πεῖτε μου! Ἄν ὁ Θεός μπορῆ νά εἶναι παρών στό ἀνθρώπινο αἷμα καί τούς ἱστούς μέσῳ τῆς ἐνσαρκώσεώς Του, γιατί νά μή μπορῆ νά εἶναι παρών καί στό ψωμί καί τό κρασί; Σέ τελική ἀνάλυσι, καί τά δύο εἶναι ὀργανική ὕλη. Μόνο ἡ διάταξι τῶν μορίων τους ἀλλάζει.

Σ’ αὐτό, ὅμως, ἔδωσα μία ἀκόμη προτεσταντική ἀπάντησι: “Ἡ ἀνθρώπινη ὕπαρξι ἔχει νοημοσύνη κι ὡς ἐκ τούτου θά μποροῦσε ὁ Θεός νά κατοικήση μέσα της. Τό κρασί καί τό ψωμί, ὅμως, εἶναι ἄψυχα πράγματα”. Μισό λεπτό, ὅμως! Δέν μπορεῖ δηλ. ὁ Θεός νά βρίσκεται σέ ἄψυχα πράγματα; Ἔχουμε ἀκούσει τή φωνή Του μέσα ἀπ’ τά σύννεφα καί τή φλεγομένη βάτο. Μέσα ἀπ’ τήν πέτρα στήν ἔρημο, γιά τήν ὁποία ὁ ἀπόστολος Παῦλος βεβαιώνει “ἡ δέ πέτρα ἦν (: ἦταν) ὁ Χριστός”(Α´ Κορ 10, 4). Παραδέχθηκα τελικά ὅτι ὁ πανταχοῦ παρών Θεός μέ τήν ἀγάπη καί τήν παντοδυναμία Του μπορεῖ νά βρίσκεται ὅπου ὁ ἴδιος θέλει.

Καί γιατί νά μή μᾶς προσφέρη τά βασικά φυσικά συστατικά τῆς δικῆς Του ἀνθρωπίνης φύσεως; Ὁ Ἰησοῦς δέν εἶναι κάποιος γνωστικιστής φιλόσοφος πού μᾶς λυτρώνει ἐξυψώνοντας τή σκέψι μας καί προσφέροντάς μας ἱερές ἀρχές τίς ὁποῖες πρέπει νά μελετήσουμε. Ὄχι! Κάνει κάτι ἐντελῶς ριζοσπαστικό —καί ταυτόχρονα ἀπολύτως φυσικό. Μᾶς ἀναδημιουργεῖ ἐνδυόμενος τήν ἀνθρωπίνη φύσι. Ἑνώνεται μαζί μας ἐξαγνίζοντας τή φύσι μας κι ἑνώνοντάς την γιά πάντα μέ τή θεία. Στή συνέχεια μᾶς καλεῖ νά γίνουμε “θείας κοινωνοί φύσεως”(Β´ Πέτρ 1, 4), ὥστε νά “μεταμορφωθοῦμε” στήν εἰκόνα Του (Β´ Κορ 3, 18). Εἶναι τόσο παράλογο τό ὅτι ὁ Χριστός μᾶς πρόσφερε τ’ ἀληθινά στοιχεῖα τῆς δικῆς Του καθαγιασμένης ἀνθρωπίνης φύσεως —τῆς ἴδιας φύσεως στήν ὁποία πρόκειται κι ἐμεῖς νά μεταμορφωθοῦμε;».

«Σέ μία γωνία τοῦ σαλονιοῦ μου, βρίσκεται μία μεγάλη βιβλιοθήκη. Μαζί μέ τά βιβλία καί τά διακοσμητικά ἀντικείμενα, ἔχουμε ἐκεῖ καί τίς οἰκογενειακές φωτογραφίες. Μία ἀπ’ αὐτές τίς φωτογραφίες εἶναι τοῦ ἀγαπημένου ἀδελφοῦ μου, Barry, πού σκοτώθηκε σέ αὐτοκινητιστικό δυστύχημα τό 1976, στήν ἡλικία τῶν 21 ἐτῶν.

Τό νά πῶ ἁπλά ὅτι τόν ἀγαποῦσα δέν σκιαγραφεῖ ἐπαρκῶς τά αἰσθήματά μου γι’ αὐτόν. Ἔχουν περάσει 25 περίπου χρόνια ἀπ’ τό θάνατό του. Καί ὅμως, ἀκόμη καί σήμερα, ξυπνῶ κάθε 27η Ἰουλίου (μέρα τῶν γενεθλίων του) μέ δάκρυα στά μάτια καί μέ τή γλυκόπικρη ἀνάμνησί του στήν καρδιά μου.

Κανείς, λοιπόν, ἀπ’ τούς προτεστάντες φίλους μου δέν θά τό ἔβρισκε ἀφύσικο ἄν, ἐνῶ καθόμουν μπροστά στή βιβλιοθήκη, ἔπαιρνα στά χέρια μου τή φωτογραφία τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ μου καί τή φιλοῦσα. Γιατί, ὅμως, ὅταν πάω δύο βήματα παραπέρα, στό εἰκονοστάσι, καί φιλήσω τήν εἰκόνα τῆς Παναγίας γίνομαι ξαφνικά εἰδωλολάτρης; Τί ἄλλαξε; Τί ἔχει ἡ Παναγία πού δέν ἀξίζει τήν ἀνάλογη ἀγάπη καί τό σεβασμό τόν ὁποῖο δείχνω στόν κεκοιμημένο ἀδελφό μου;

Ἤ ἄς ὑποθέσουμε ὅτι φιλῶ τήν εἰκόνα τῆς προστάτιδος ἁγίας τῆς κόρης μου, Vera. Ὅπως κι ὁ ἀδελφός μου, ἔτσι καί ἡ Ἁγία πέθανε μέ βίαιο θάνατο. Πρίν ἀπό 19 αἰῶνες, στήν ἡλικία τῶν 12 ἐτῶν μαρτύρησε γιά τήν πίστι τοῦ Χριστοῦ μαζί μέ τή μητέρα της καί τίς δύο ἀδελφές της. Στά μάτια ἑνός προτεστάντη, ὅμως, τό νά δείχνω σ’ αὐτήν τήν ἀνάλογη ἀγάπη τήν ὁποία δείχνω καί στόν ἀδελφό μου εἶναι ἁμαρτία.

Ποῦ βρίσκεται τό πρόβλημα τελικά; Ὅταν ἄρχισα νά ἐρευνῶ τό θέμα, διαπίστωσα ἕνα παράδοξο στήν παλαιά προτεσταντική μου ἀντίληψι. Ἀπ’ τή μία καταδίκαζα ὁποιονδήποτε τιμοῦσε τήν Παναγία καί τούς ἁγίους, ἐνῶ ἀπ’ τήν ἄλλη θεωροῦσα σωστό νά τιμῶ τούς προτεστάντες ἱεροκήρυκες καί δασκάλους, ζῶντες ἤ κεκοιμημένους. Ἦταν ἀπόλυτα φυσιολογικό νά ἐγκωμιάζω τούς ἀνθρώπους αὐτούς, νά παρακολουθῶ video καί διαφάνειες ἀπ’ τή ζωή καί τίς πράξεις τους καί νά δακρύζω ὅταν κανείς τραγουδοῦσε τό τραγούδι “Thank You for Giving to the Lord” (: Τίτλος δημοφιλοῦς προτεσταντικοῦ τραγουδιοῦ πού σημαίνει “Σ’ εὐχαριστῶ πού μ’ ἔφερες κοντά στό Θεό”. Τό τραγούδι αὐτό ἐκφράζει τήν εὐγνωμοσύνη κάθε προτεστάντη σ’ αὐτούς πού τόν ὁδήγησαν στήν πίστι). Ἄν, ὅμως, ἔβλεπα κάποιον νά ὑμνῆ καί νά τιμᾶ τή γυναῖκα πού ἔφερε στή μήτρα της τό Σωτῆρα, αὐτό θά ἔθετε ἀμέσως σέ ἀμφισβήτησι τό πόσο χριστιανός εἶναι!».

«Ὅταν τούς ἀκούω νά μιλοῦν μέ τόση περιφρόνησι γιά τή Θεοτόκο, λυπᾶμαι κι ἀναρωτιέμαι ἄν ποτέ ἔχουν σκεφθῆ ὅτι μιλοῦν ὑποτιμητικά γιά τή μητέρα Αὐτοῦ πού ἔγραψε μέ τό δάκτυλό Του στίς πέτρινες πλάκες τό “τίμα τόν πατέρα σου καί τή μητέρα σου”.

Τί μποροῦμε νά ὑποθέσουμε ὅτι αἰσθάνεται γιά τή μητέρα Του ὁ μόνος Ἄνθρωπος πού μπορεῖ νά τηρήση τέλεια τήν ἐντολή αὐτή; Σκεφθεῖτε πόσο ἐμεῖς, οἱ ἄθλιοι κι ἁμαρτωλοί ἄνθρωποι, σεβόμαστε τίς δικές μας μητέρες καί ὑπερασπιζόμασθε τήν τιμή τους. Πόσο λαμπρή θέσι πρέπει νά κατέχη, λοιπόν, ἡ Παναγία στή γεμάτη ἀγάπη καί σεβασμό καρδιά τοῦ Υἱοῦ της!

Πόσο ἀπογοητευμένος θά εἶναι, λοιπόν, ὁ Σωτήρας μας, ὅταν ἀκούη κάποιους, οἱ ὁποῖοι μάλιστα ἐπαγγέλλονται ὅτι Τόν ἀγαποῦν καί Τόν ἀκολουθοῦν, νά θεωροῦν τή μητέρα Του ὡς “τίποτε τό ξεχωριστό”; Πόσο λυπημένος θά εἶναι γι’ αὐτούς πού σέβονται ἰδιαιτέρως τούς ἱεροκήρυκες, τούς προέδρους ἤ τούς προπονητές τοῦ ποδοσφαίρου, πού χλευάζουν, ὅμως, αὐτούς πού τιμοῦν τή μητέρα Του ὅπως τήν τιμᾶ κι ὁ ἴδιος; Πόσο πονᾶ γιά ὅλους αὐτούς πού ὑποτιμοῦν τήν ἄσπιλη ἐκείνη γυναῖκα πού ταπεινά ἄνοιξε τήν ἀγκαλιά της σ’ Αὐτόν, ὥστε νά μπορέση νά πλημμυρίση μέ τή χάρι Του ὁλόκληρη τήν ἀνθρωπότητα;».


Ἀρχιμ. Ἰωάννου Κωστώφ

Τά Ἴχνη του Θεού – Ἀπό τόν Προτεσταντισμό στήν Ὀρθοδοξία

ἐκδ. Ἅγ. Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός

Ἀθήνα 2011