the-prodigal-son“I will get up and go to my father” are the words of the Prodigal son; this is the experience of the resurrected life. The impact of repentance begins with man’s return to himself by means of the Holy Spirit, to discover he is in a state of hunger. He realizes the ego, the ‘I’, has knocked him down to the ground due to the void situation in himself. He realizes he has absolutely fallen to the ground, and has come to be under the judgment of eternal death. But the Holy Spirit uncovers his vision so that he sees in his Savior Jesus Christ, the risen from the dead “the, mystery of the resurrection”. Christ grants the dead ‘resurrection, so they live in the experience of His resurrected life’. Repentance is not a passive work. It is the means by which man discovers his drawbacks and even his absolute devastation; it is a positive job in which the Christian believer accepts his Christ as the mystery of his resurrection and his life, so that he lives all his estranged days experiencing the new life. He goes on from strength to strength, enjoying one glory after the next, and one grace in addition to the other. He is eager to reach the full measure of Christ (Eph.4: 13). Repentance is the practical blessing of the permanent resurrection.

“The Renewal that we experience in this life, and our transfer from the physical earthly life to the heavenly and spiritual one, is made in us by means of the impact of the Holy Spirit” St. Basil the Great.

“In this age, there is no eighth day, nor there is a true Sabbath” quoted by St. Isaac the Syrian in his Ascetical Homily no. 29, concerning the Lord’s Day and the Sabbath.issac the syrian

The eighth day as we all know is the day of the Lord or the day of Resurrection or the age to come. This is the reason the Holy Liturgy is celebrated every Sunday, the first day of the week, as the Resurrection day.

St. Isaac the Syrian says “Just as those who are worthy receive in this world the mysteries of the Lord’s Day in a similitude, but not that day itself as long as they are in their bodily nature,”

The similitude of the Lord’s Day here on Earth is the state of extreme joy. Means that a person gets to experience the unexplainable joy of knowing the mysteries of the Lord’s Day that we will enjoy in the age to come. This similitude is possible here on earth only for people who are living a life of struggle for righteousness and prayer which is explained further down in the article. These people St. Isaac the Syrian calls as people who are worthy, for e.g. people who have toiled to the extent of being called a Saint.

Further “so ascetic strugglers receive the mysteries of the Sabbath in a similitude, but not the true Sabbath itself which is repose from every sorrow and perfect rest from every troublesome passion.”

Similarly St. Isaac talks of an ascetic struggler (still refers to people who are living a life of struggle for righteousness and prayer;) here on Earth who experiences the similitude of the Sabbath, which becomes the true Sabbath when a human is actually in the grave. Here the similitude involves a personal experience of freedom from tribulations of passions and from the toil against them.

Again “For God has given us to taste a mystery, but He has not ordained that we should here lead our lives in true reality.”

All these experiences of similitude that a person experiences is only for a brief period of time, because God has given this to us to taste a mystery, and as long as we are in the bodily nature, we are not in the true reality. Our life of toil and tribulations of passions continue on Earth till we repose in the grave, which is the repose from tribulation of passions and from toil against them.

How does one make oneself worthy or become an ascetic struggler?st.john the baptist

St. Isaac quotes “Six days are accomplished in the husbandry of life by means of keeping the commandments; seventh is spent entirely in the grave; and eighth is the departure from it.” St. John the Baptist is the best example for an ascetic struggler.

To explain further:

a) Six days are accomplished in the husbandry of life by means of keeping the commandments;

When God told Adam “‘in the sweat of thy face, shalt thou eat thy bread.’ Until when? ‘Until thou return to the earth out of which thou wast taken.’ ‘And the earth shall bring forth unto thee thorns and thistles.’”

Evil does not lie in human nature. Man is not born from sin. He is born from the creative act of God, from whom he receives his nature. Sin is against nature.

St. Gregory of Nyssa says, Existence, excludes evil. To exist is truly possible only in the good. There is no such thing as “sinful existence”. In his commentary on Psalms, “Scripture, through these words, teaches us to exist in Him Who Is, is truly to exist. If anyone has fallen off from Him, Who Is, he is no longer in existence.”

This quote by St. Gregory explains that without God there is no existence for man, only with God can we exist in good, for God is good.

Then how does evil have its origin?

Evil has its origin in the misuse we make of our good gifts.

Misuse or perverse use means a use that runs contrary to the Creator’s purpose. That is when we do not obey or follow His commandments.

Therefore Sin and the passions are always only alien bodies which can and will be excluded. To the extent that evil is not eternal, it exists merely as a parasite and it will disappear along with whatever has provoked it. We get this confirmation in the Gospel itself:
“There was a time when evil did not exist, and the time will come when it will exist no more. But virtue always remains. For the seeds of virtue are imperishable even though evil exists. The rich man convinces us of this. He was in hell because of his malice/ passions, yet he took pity on his brothers. But having compassion is an excellent seed of virtue.”

Sin came by “eating”, by an act of being drawn to the “Tree of the knowledge of good and evil” through external persuasion and actual tasting of the fruit of that tree.

But what is this tree and what is this “eating”?

Sin of Eve was not simply in choosing evil with the knowledge that it was evil, but in choosing something which seemed good, but was not good for her. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil could not have been evil, for it was created by God, and everything God created was necessarily good. But it was not good for Eve, for it had been forbidden. She could have seen that it was not good for her, if she had adhered to the word of God without actually tasting it.

Adam_Eve-279x300But the enemy persuaded her that it was good for her, and she adhered to the word of falsehood (serpent or Devil). If the fruit had appeared naturally as pure evil, she would not have tasted it. Only because it had the appearance of Good, capable of making men “like Gods”, which she must have rightly judged to be a good thing, she had the wrong discernment of what was good for her at that time. So while the tree and fruit are not evil in themselves but good, they became evil to her, in so far as falsehood was the basis on which she approached it.

The “knowledge of good and evil” is thus being drawn towards something which one wrongly or falsely judged to be good for oneself, on the basis of false belief and desire for gratification rather for the sake of good itself. Evil is a latent (hidden) possibility in the misuse of the good. It was this misuse of the good that constituted the first sin.

So the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, good in itself, and good for man and woman also if one refrains from eating its fruit, thus can be misused by eating it against the commandment.

Sin is the act of will, not bodily drives or surge of passions. St. Gregory leaves us in no doubt what the source of evil is—the freedom of Man.

St. Gregory sees man as born to a death bound life. It is from Adam and Eve, whose bodies and souls were condemned to die, that our bodies and souls are derived. They are thus born mortal, subject to death.

But here one has to make a very delicate clarification. It is not sin that we inherit from Adam by nature, but the consequence of sin, namely mortality and corruptibility. At this point Gregory and the Eastern tradition in general, would find the Augustinian notion of “Original sin” unacceptable (This is greatly used by Roman Catholic Church/ Western Christianity).

In fact there is no such terms as “Original sin” in the earlier Eastern patristic writings, either in the Greek or in the Syriac. The idea of “natural sin”, advanced by some, was vigorously refuted by the great teacher of Syrians,saint_severus St. Severus of Antioch, who has been much misunderstood and more mis-interpreted in the West. St. Severus wrote in Greek, but is preserved for us mainly in syriac translations, found the idea of “natural sin” absolutely unacceptable to an Orthodox Christian. St. Severus was preaching in the Cathedral of Antioch against a contemporary heretic (Romanos of Cilicia) who had suggested on the authority of St. Paul that real sin was ‘bodily sin’ which is also ‘natural sin’. The heretic seems to have made the distinction between “natural sin” and “voluntary sin”.

St. Severus argues quoting St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Cyril of Alexandria, that if bodily sin is natural sin, and is the only real sin, the voluntary sin must be unreal. St. Severus calls the distinction unscholarly. Sin is sin because it is voluntary. Otherwise God would not condemn us for it. “It is a disease of the will, and disease is not natural”.

All sin is against nature. This is a fundamental principle in Eastern patristic thought, and St. Gregory has philosophically made clear why this is so. Human nature has become enslaved to sin and through sin to evil, but sin is an alien master that now rules man, not something that belongs to his nature. The source of sin is in Man’s changeability (ability to change) which is also an arena of his freedom and self-creation.

How does this occur to us in our daily living?

Our thoughts are very complex structures. Thoughts understood in positive and negative sense have distinct origins.

The thoughts that come from the senses, memory and temperament are thoughts that are prompted by the angels and the demons. If the human being gives consent to the demons— for everything depends on consent (freedom of man/ act of will)—evil grows roots in us (our hearts), and it becomes a habit and then a passion of the soul. The soul truly suffers then from a disease. The consequence being disinterest in God and self-ruination (Refer to Orthodox Study Journal-youth issue 3: Aug-Sep 2018 for examples of Orthodox Christian living.)

The one thing that is truly good is God. When our passionate and self-directed will finally fixes itself upon God as the one good to be chosen above all others, then we begin to see God and also become God-like. Here the love of God becomes the true expression of human freedom. In this act of love is also true act of knowledge, for in love of God one gets to know the reality that lies behind all reality, the One that is alone good and true and reliable.

St. Gregory quotes, “For when God made you, He at once endowed your nature. He imprinted an imitation of the perfections of His own nature, just as one would impress upon the outline of an emblem. But the wickedness that has been poured all over your divine engraving has made your perfection useless and hidden it with a vicious coating. You must then wash away by a life of virtue, the dirt that has come to cling to your heart like plaster and then your divine beauty will once again shine forth.
Once he has scrapped off the rust like dirt that has accumulated on his form because of evil degeneration, then will he become good once more and shine forth in the likeness of his archetype (God). For surely what resembles the good is in itself good. Thus if such a man will look at himself he will see within himself the object of desire, and thus he will become blessed, for in gazing upon his own purity he will see the archetype (God) within the image.”

This is the true knowledge of God, the blessed vision, or the beatific vision as in Mathew 5:8, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’.

It is not all a mystical experience but something which happens when a man becomes truly human, untainted by evil, in full control of oneself, grown in goodness and holiness.

To love good freely and not by compulsion—that is the greatest gift of God and this gift is given to man.

Now getting back to beginning of this point (a), referring Gen 3:19.

The thorns and thistles in the verse are the sin/evil/passions, which are, quoting St. Isaac the Syrian “mysteries (signifying) the husbandry of this life as long as man lives.

For more than 5000 years, the Lord left Adam to toil in this husbandry, because the path of the saints had not been revealed as the Apostle says in Hebrew 9:8.”

How then did the Lord help us?

St. Isaac the Syrian gives us a beautiful explanation.The-Agony-in-the-garden-of-Gethsemane3
“In His goodness, the Lord sojourned among us in these latter days (i.e. days during Christ and after resurrection, through the Holy Spirit) and commanded human free will to exchange sweat for sweat (first sweat is mentioned in Gen 3:19, the second sweat in Luke 22:44, which says…)
But from the time of that night when the Lord sweated, He changed the sweat that brought forth thorns and thistles into a sweat in prayer and the husbandry of righteousness.
In this manner He manifested His loving kindness towards us, because of our prolonged and wearisome hardship upon the earth.
If therefore we cease to sweat in the labor of prayer, we shall necessarily reap thorns, for cessation of prayer means a tilling of the earth corporeality which by nature bring forth thorns.
Passions are thus thorns indeed and they spring up from the seed that lies in our body. In as much we bear the image of Adam, we necessarily bear his passions also. The earth cannot discontinue to bring forth shoots. This is the nature of earth (reference Gen 1:12), which after the fall brought forth thorns also.
Similarly as it is said in divine testimony, ‘The earth from which thou wast taken’; the earth of our body (i.e. we humans who are rational) is the offspring of this earth bring forth passions.

b) ‘the seventh is spent entirely in the grave;’

“Our Sabbath is the day of the grave; it is here that our nature truly keeps the Sabbath. For he who said (i.e. through the Scriptures we know) ‘God rested on the seventh day’, signified our nature’s rest from this course of life, since grave is also of bodily nature and belongs to this world… The true Sabbath, the Sabbath that is not a similitude, is the tomb, which reveals and manifests perfect repose from tribulations of passions and for toil against them. The whole man, both in body and soul there keeps the Sabbath” quotes St. Isaac the Syrian.
“If by way of a mystery the Lord (Christ) was for us in every respect an example (role model) in all diverse works of His dispensation (an arrangement or favor), and even until the ninth hour (until giving up His spirit on the cross) of Great Friday, He did not rest from labour and wearisome toil (which is the mystery of husbandry of our entire life), but reposed only in the tomb on the Sabbath.”

So is the case with us, we are not exempted from this labour and wearisome toil till we are in our bodily nature. This toil/sweat is the opportunity to live the life of virtue for our perfection, till we are on earth. By practicing this life of virtue we remain in the mode of constantly remembering God and seeking the Divine help to grow in the good. The stillness and peace that we acquire by remembrance of God and virtue that we develop here on earth is what our soul gets to experience in the grave. Which leads to acquiring Christ and living in Christ, in the darkness of our grave, our light is Christ, “Your word (Christ) is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Psalm 119: 105. That is what we sing at the start of the Holy Qurbana:

“By thy light we see the light, Jesus full of light,
Thou, true light, dost give the light,
To thy creatures all”……
…. “Lord, grant good remembrance to
All the faithful dead”

St. Isaac the Syrian quotes “Necessity, therefore, obliges us daily to uproot thorns from the earth of our nature so long as it exists, and because of our prolonged toil at this husbandry the thorns will diminish; but you will be unable to cleanse yourself from them entirely. If therefore, it is the case that during this brief spell of sluggishness or because of a little negligence the thorns multiply, cover over the face of the earth, choke your seed and obliterate your toil, then it is clearly necessary to purify your soil (your heart) each day. Cessation from this causes a multitude of thorns to spring up, of which may we cleansed (through the sacrament of confession) by the grace of the consubstantial, only-begotten Son of God, to Whom together with the unoriginate Father and the life-creating Spirit be glory unto ages. Amen”


Christ in Hades holding Cross (Instrument of His death)

The moral progress of the soul, either for better or for worse, ends at the very moment of the separation of the body and soul; at that very moment the definite destiny of the soul in the everlasting life is decided. It will be judged on the Judgement day not according to its deeds one by one, but according to the entire total results of its deeds and thoughts. The Orthodox Church believes that at this moment the soul of the dead person begins to realize/experience the consequences of its deeds and thoughts on earth – that is, to enjoy the life in Paradise or to undergo the life in Hades. There is no way of repentance, no way of escape, no reincarnation and no help from the outside world (apart from the prayers offered by the Church). Its place is decided forever by its Creator and judge.
Example given below is one of songs during prayers for departed during The Holy Qurbana:

“May the departed one receive
Who confessed the Trinity
What was promised to the thief
Paradise with Thee O, Lord”

The Orthodox Church does not believe in purgatory (a place of purging), that is the intermediate state after death in which the souls of the saved (those who have not received temporal punishment for their sins) are purified of all taint preparatory to entering into Heaven, where every soul is perfect and fit to see God. Also, the Orthodox Church does not believe in indulgences as remissions from purgatorial punishment (indulgences, the doctrine and system of the Roman Catholic church, remit temporal punishment. But if the sinner did not suffer in this life by means of penance, or did not acquire a sufficient indulgence, then he would have to suffer in Purgatory, so that God’s justice might be satisfied).

Both purgatory and indulgences are inter-correlated theories, unwitnessed in the Bible or in the Ancient Church, and when they were enforced and applied, they brought about wrong practices at the expense of the prevailing Truths of the Church. If Almighty God in His merciful loving-kindness changes the dreadful situation of the sinner, it is unknown to the Church of Christ. The Church lived for fifteen hundred years without such a theory.

Does the soul “sleep” after death?

From the Scripture passages it is clear that after the separation of soul from body after death, the soul is conscious and consequently, feels, understands, and in general exercises all the energies of the soul (Revelation 6:9-10, 7:15; 1 Peter 3: 19; Hebrews 12:23; Luke 16:27-28). The word “sleep/rest”, by which death is characterized, does not refer to the soul, but to the body. In Matthew 27:52, we read that many Saints who had fallen asleep, were raised.

St. Abba Dorotheus of Gaza from 6th Century says that the soul “remembers everything at its exit from this body more clearly and distinctly once freed from the earthliness of the body,” and St. John Cassian’s teaching that the soul “becomes yet more alive” after death; and similar statements could be found in many Church Father’s writings.

resructionThose who predeceased (all people who died before death of Christ on cross) Christ’s crucifixion descended to Hades, where they patiently waited the coming of their Messiah. But when Christ on Holy Saturday descends to Hades and break open and smashes its gates they are freed from this underworld, and mingle freely with Christ and His angels. This event, known as the Harrowing of Hades, was taught from the very beginning of the Church. St. Melito of Sardis (died ca 180) in Homily on the Passion; Tertullian in A Treatise on the Soul, 55, Hippolytus in Treatise on Christ and Anti-Christ , Origen in Against Celsus, 2:43, and, later, St. Ambrose (died 397) all wrote of the Harrowing of Hell. “Harrow” comes from the Old English word used to describe the ploughing of a field with a cultivator which is dragged roughly over the ground, churning it up. In the icon, Christ is shown with the instrument of His death plunged deep into Hades. Beneath Christ’s feet – which still carry the marks of His crucifixion – lay the gates of Hades, smashed wide open. Often they are shown laying in the shape of the Cross.

Observing the icon of ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ we can understand the following: Christ’s robe is flowing upward, this symbolizes his radical descent into Hades to save those who have died in the flesh. The golden bars by his feet are the gates of Hades, which he has broken and torn apart. There are keys floating in the abyss below, which symbolizes that he has entered and conquered both death and Hades. The two figures whom Christ has grasped and is pulling from tombs are Adam and Eve, symbolizing that his victory redeems all mankind, even back to the beginning. It also foreshadows the general resurrection of the body before the Final Judgment. Within the dark underworld are scattered broken chains and locks; and at the very bottom is the personified Hades, prostrate and bound. Hades is not destroyed – it is still there – but its power to bind people is gone. There are no chains, no locked doors. If only we raise our hands in supplication and longing for Jesus Christ, He is there to lift us from the grave. One of the key things to remember is that icons are not meant to be “photo recordings” of what happened. These are symbolic tools that assists us in comprehension of the gospel truth through our sense of sight.

The doctrine of the descent of Christ into Hades occupies an essential place in the works of Cyril of Alexandria. In his ‘Paschal Homilies’, he repeatedly mentions that as a consequence of the descent of Christ into Hades, the devil was left all alone, while hell was devastated: ‘For having destroyed hell and opened the impassable gates for the departed spirits, He left the devil there abandoned and lonely. The so-called ‘preaching in hell’, which is the faith of the Church, is a revelation of Christ to those who in their earthly life could not see or know Christ. There are no grounds for limiting this event… to the Old Testament saints alone, as Roman Catholic theology does. Rather, the power of this preaching should be extended to all time for those who during their life on earth did not and could not know Christ but meet Him in the afterlife.

Now coming back to the subject of Sabbath, The word of Christ formally condemns the Jewish way of application to God, of the Sabbath rest, understood as idleness. In God there is no idleness; but His activity (reaching out to Human race on earth and in Hades for their salvation) which, as St. Clement of Alexandria says, is identical with “His love”, is exercised without ceasing. And this is of great importance: the idleness, of the Sabbath appears henceforth as a literal and inferior notion. To understand the Sabbath a bit more let us understand the miracle our Lord did:

“And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.” (Luke 13:12-13)

“The Lord worked this wonderful miracle, not at the request of, or in response to the faith of, the woman, but on His own initiative and in His own power. Is this not a clear rebuttal to all those who seek maliciously to belittle the divine greatness of Christ’s miracles, intimating that these miracles only come about through auto-suggestion on the part of those to whom they happen? Where is there a trace of “magical” auto-suggestion in this twisted woman? Her infirmity prevented her from even seeing Christ’s face. She did not ask Christ for mercy, nor did she express faith in Him by any sign. Not only this; the woman was not even near Christ. She did not go up to Him, but He called her to Him.” (Homilies of Blessed Nicolai Velomirivitch, Volume 2, Page 279)

“But our Lord, to show that His coming into this world was to be the loosing of human infirmities, healed this woman. Hence it follows, “And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said to her, Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” A word most suitable to God, full of heavenly majesty; for by His royal assent He dispels the disease. He also laid His hands upon her, for it follows, “He laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.” We should here answer, that the Divine power had put on the sacred flesh. For it was the flesh of God Himself, and of no other, as if the Son of Man existed apart from the Son of God, as some have falsely thought.” (St Cyril of Jerusalem)

“And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.” (Luke 13:14)

healing woman with infirmity“But the ungrateful ruler of the synagogue, when he saw the woman, who before was creeping on the ground, now by Christ’s single touch made upright, and relating the mighty works of God, sullies his zeal for the glory of the Lord with envy, and condemns the miracle, that he might appear to be jealous for the Sabbath.” (St Cyril of Jerusalem)

“The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” (Luke 13:15-16)

“Lastly, God rested from the works of the world not from holy works, for His working is constant and everlasting; as the Son says, My Father works until now, and I work; that after the likeness of God our worldly, not our religious, works should cease. Accordingly our Lord pointedly answered him, as it follows, You hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath-day loose his ox or his ass?” (St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan)

“Now the ruler of the synagogue is convicted a hypocrite, in that he leads his cattle to watering on the Sabbath-day, but this woman, not more by birth than by faith the daughter of Abraham, he thought unworthy to be loosed from the chain of her infirmity. Therefore He adds, And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has bound lo, these eighteen years, to be loosed from this bond on the sabbath-day? The ruler preferred that this woman should like the beasts rather look upon the earth than receive her natural stature, provided that Christ was not magnified. But they had nothing to answer; they themselves unanswerably condemned themselves. Hence it follows, And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed. But the people, reaping great good from His miracles, rejoiced at the signs which they saw, as it follows, And all the people rejoiced. For the glory of His works vanquished every scruple in them who sought Him not with corrupt hearts.” (St Cyril of Jerusalem)

Christians must judge things spiritually. It is obvious to a Christian soul that the “rest” prescribed for the Sabbath does not preclude good works, and in fact requires them! “Rest” is not freedom for labor – it is freedom from all things earthly. The Sabbath day for the Jews was Saturday. Since Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Sunday, this day has superseded the Jewish Sabbath day. Let us keep our Sabbath day by resting from earthly cares, and worldly excuses for our sins and secular concerns. The true keeping of the Christian “Sabbath” is not limited to a single day, but is the entire living of the Christian life.

The woman’s back was twisted, and she was bent over, inclined towards the earth. This is not the way man was created. Twistedness denotes our inclination towards sins and depravity, and the woman’s posture indicates our common inclination towards earthly thoughts. Like the woman, we are often UNABLE to incline ourselves towards heavenly things, because of our sinful habits and inclinations, and our weak will.

“For every sinner who thinks earthly things, not seeking those that are in heaven, is unable to look up. For while pursuing his baser desires, he declines from the uprightness of his state; or his heart is bent crooked, and he ever looks upon that which he unceasingly thinks about. The Lord called her and made her upright, for He enlightened her and succored her. He sometimes calls but does not make upright, for when we are enlightened by grace, we oft-times see what should be done, but because of sin do not practice it. For habitual sin binds down the mind, so that it cannot rise to uprightness. It makes attempts and fails, because when it has long stood by its own will, when the will is lacking, it falls.” (St Gregory the Theologian)

In Greek, the length of the woman’s infirmity reads “ten and eight years”. The Holy Fathers have understood this to mystically point to the real cause of the woman’s infirmity. The “ten” refers to the Ten Commandments, and by extension, all of God’s law. The woman was a sinner. The “eight” refers to her being weak in the hope of the “eighth day”. She was bent over with earthly thoughts. Those who sin are weak in thinking about spiritual things.

“For when a man is feeble in keeping the commandments of the divine law, which are ten in number, and is weak in his hope of the eighth age, the age to come, it can be said that he has been bent over for ten and eight years. Is not that man indeed bent over who is attached to the earth, and who always sins in disregard of the commandments, and who does not look for the age to come?” (Blessed Theophylact)

Coming back to quote from where we started:

“Our Sabbath is the day of the grave; it is here that our nature truly keeps the Sabbath. For he who said ‘God rested on the seventh day’, signified our nature’s rest from this course of life, since grave is also of bodily nature and belongs to this world… The true Sabbath, the Sabbath that is not a similitude, is the tomb, which reveals and manifests perfect repose from tribulations of passions and for toil against them. The whole man, both in body and soul there keeps the Sabbath” quotes St. Isaac the Syrian.

We can conclude that the true Sabbath is the day of the grave, when both body and soul keeps Sabbath. From the above study of Christ’s miracle we know what we need to do to observe our Sabbath. In the grave body and its nature is fully at rest, but our soul is still active in the presence of God through His Love for us.

second comingc) ‘Eighth day is the departure from it (grave)’ (or the resurrection of our bodies at the second coming of our Lord, at the judgement)

for which St. Isaac the Syrian say’s in this homily, “The Lord’s Day, is a mystery of the knowledge of the truth, that is not received by flesh and blood (e.g. we humans), and it transcends conceptions (that which cannot be conceived by us) The Lord’s day, however, is too great a thing for us to speak of.”

But we still can know a lot from Scripture and from the tradition of our church. Here is an icon of ‘The second coming of the Lord’ and we can understand the following: This second advent will be a cataclysmic event: Christ will appear to all in the heavens, which “shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up.

All men, both the just and the wicked, shall appear before Christ, who will separate the sheep from the goats, saying to the one: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, and inherit the Kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” (this is shown to the left side of the icon, where the Angel is also holding a balancing measure/weighing scale) and to the other “Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Mat 25: 31-46. And while those in Paradise will go from joy to joy and glory to glory, certain of finding mercy at the Judgment, it is perhaps not impossible, that due to God’s Love, that some in Hades will also find mercy from Christ and be brought into everlasting bliss at the end.

It is at the Last Day that all shall be consummated; all the time before this Last Day will have been merely a waiting. For only here will the damned inherit their full punishment, and experience everlasting destruction, having been cast into outer darkness with the demons, from which fate may God preserve us all. And only here will the righteous be admitted to the fullness of their reward, and enter into the marriage feast of the Lamb, being ineffably united with Christ forever, and taking boundless delight in His Presence, in the new heaven and the new earth, where God shall be all in all.

Therefore, let us understand our fallen nature and say along with the prodigal son, “I will get up and go to my Father”.


Main Sources: Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian; Cosmic Man- H.G. Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios; Despondency- Archimandrite Gabriel Bunge


Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Part 2

Continuing from Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Part 1….


We are living in an age enslaved in many kinds of deification of modern rationality, its twin product science and technology and in the midst of false teachings or doctrines. 

Before we start with our discussion on heresies let us remember and keep in mind the song we sing at every Holy Qurbana (Eucharist) of the St. James Liturgy . The song is sung before the lesson from the epistle of St. Paul, as:

Paul the Blessed Saint, the Lord’s Apostle said
If one comes to preach to you
A doctrine other than I preached to you
Be he man or angel bright,
Cursed be he in Church’s sight;
Doctrines all diverse arise;
Sprouting up with many lies;
Blest is he who first and last
Trusts God’s Truth and holds it fast.
(Galatians 1:5-9)

Every conceivable opinion, even the most absurd, even those hitherto rejected by the universal consent of all civilized people -now has its platform and its own “teacher.” A few of these teachers come with demonstration or promise of “spiritual power” and false miracles, as do some occultists and ” charismatics”; but most of the contemporary teachers offer no more than a weak concoction of undigested ideas which they received “out of the air,” as it were, or from some modern self-appointed “wise man” (or woman) who knows more than all the ancients merely by living in our “enlightened” modern times.. As a result, philosophy has a thousand schools and “Christianity” a thousand sects.

Where is the truth to be found in all this, the truth that needs to be found in our most misguided times?

St. Gregory of Palamas says:
“And not many days after,” it says, “the younger son gather all together, and took his journey into a far country” (Luke 15:13). Why did [the Prodigal Son] not set off at once instead of a few days after? The evil prompter, the devil, does not simultaneously suggest to us that we should do what we like and that we should sin. Instead he cunningly beguiles us little by little, whispering, “Even if you live independently without going to God’s Church or listening to the Church teacher, you will still be able to see for yourself what your duty is and not depart from what is good.” When he separates someone from the divine services and obedience to the holy teachers, he also distances him from God’s vigilance and surrenders him to evil deeds. God is everywhere present. Only one thing is far away from His goodness: evil. Being in the power of evil through sin we set off on a journey far away from God. As David says to God, “The evil shall not stand in thy sight” (Ps. 5:5).
A part of the quote says …The evil prompter, the devil, does not simultaneously suggest to us that we should do what we like and that we should sin. Instead he cunningly beguiles us little by little, whispering, “Even if you live independently without going to God’s Church or listening to the Church teacher, you will still be able to see for yourself what your duty is and not depart from what is good.” This is the spiders’ web the devil weaves around us that separates many of us from the divine services and obedience to the Holy teachers, as a result, falling apart from God’s vigilance and therefore surrendering to the evil of heresy.

The first Heresy in Christian church can be traced back to the apostolic times itself and is written in the Scripture. This is well documented in St. Irenaeus of Lyons’ work from 2nd Century – ‘Against Heresies’. Given below is an extract taken from this book…

“Simon the Samaritan was that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the apostles, says, “But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime used magical arts in that city, and led astray the people of Samaria, declaring that he himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the power of God, which is called great. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had driven them mad by his sorceries.” Acts 8: 9-11.
This Simon, then who feigned faith, supposing that the apostles themselves performed their cures by the art of magic, and not by the power of God; and with respect to their filling with the Holy Ghost, through the imposition of hands, those that believed in God through Him who was preached by them, namely, Christ Jesus–suspecting that even this was done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic, and offering money to the apostles, thought he, too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit on whomsoever he would lay his hands,–was addressed in these words by Peter: “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God; for I see that you are poisoned by bitterness, and bound by iniquity.” Acts 8: 20 – 23
He, then, not putting faith in God a whit the more, set himself eagerly to contend against the apostles, in order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, and applied himself with still greater zeal to the study of the whole magic art, that he might the better bewilder and overpower multitudes of men. Such was his procedure in the reign of Claudius Caesar, by whom also he is said to have been honored with a statue, on account of his magical power. This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.
Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect.”

What is a heresy?

“The Greek word hairesis (literally choice or thing chosen) was applied to the doctrines of philosophical schools. But already in I Cor. 11.19 and Gal. 5.20 Paul uses the term in a negative sense to mean a divisive faction. In the work of St. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107), that is, even before the days of the conciliar definitions of Christian faith, it denotes theological error. Tertullian (160-225) identifies the root of heresy as the willful choice of philosophical opinion over revealed Christian truth”.
The ecclesial meaning of the term signified the sin of a person who, having been baptized and calling him or herself a Christian, denied a defined doctrine of faith even after having been formally instructed. These notions have two aspects: formal and material/concrete. In the first aspect, heresy is the persistent adherence to erroneous teaching. The second aspect, material, heresy means adherence to error, and acting upon this error, without such culpability. The definition of heresy is dependent, therefore, on acknowledged doctrine of the Church. Heresy is the dislocation of some complete and self-supporting doctrine by the introduction of a denial of some essential part therein.

To put it in simple words Heresies are the false ideas of those that disagree with the faith of the Church.

Heresies are always tend to be found at the opposite poles and end up forming their own sects. Once a separate sect is formed, they concentrate on increasing their followership, as did Simon of Samaria who formed his own sect by the name Simonians. It is not unusual for one heresy to arise in reaction to another. One heresy claims that Christ is not God, another that He is not man. One heresy condemns the veneration of the Virgin Mary as Mother of God, another makes her the Immaculate Conception. One claims that man is saved by grace alone, another that he is saved only by works, all with different doctrines ‘that was not from the beginning’, ultimately forming their own sects and each began to mass up the followership. Such extremes are not easily embraced by Orthodoxy. True Orthodoxy tends to be the middle-way between the two extremes.

It is very necessary in this context to understand the Apostolic Fathers.

Who Are the Apostolic Fathers?

By the end of the first century, all the Holy Books of the New Testament were written. But at that time, still were not all compiled into one Holy Book as it is today. However, all the churches in the world during that time accepted these Holy Books as the Pillar of Faith and the Christian life that was inspired by God through the Apostles who were the means used by the Holy Spirit. “For no prophetic message ever came just from the human will, but people were under control of the Holy Spirit as they spoke the message that came from God.” (II Peter 1:21)
From the beginning the Christian Church was more conservative in acceptance of any book as prophetic even than the Jewish Church itself. For example earlier, there were some writings found in certain manuscripts but the Church did not accept them as prophetic books, for example, very early manuscripts contained, in addition to the Holy Books of the New Testament, two books, which belonged to St. Clement, the Roman.
The era of the Apostolic Fathers began in the middle of the first century and these Fathers followed the Apostles of our Lord immediately. The teachings of the Apostolic Fathers are truly considered as a direct reflection of the Apostles preaching. The Apostolic Fathers were either directly connected to the Apostles themselves or they received their teachings from the Apostles through the disciples lives.
In reality, the term “Apostolic Fathers” was not known in the primitive church, however, it is expressed first by scholars in the seventh century and it refers to the church’ fathers who were direct disciples for the Apostles, or saw them, or received teachings and instructions from the Apostles themselves.
The writers in this era included St. Clement the Roman, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp the Martyr, The Bishop Papias of Hierapolic, Higyspoc, Hermas author of the Didache and the author of the Barnabas Letter. Although these writings are very rare, they have a great importance. The scholars examined and studied these writings extensively regarding Theology, Liturgy, and Church Rituals. The Apostolic Writings focused on patronage in Christianity and their style, which is very similar to the style of writing of the New Testament, especially the style of the Epistles.

Remember your instructors, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the end of their life… Be not led away with various and strange doctrines. (Hebrews 13:7, 9)

“One should not seek among others the truth that can be easily gotten from the Church. For in her, as in a rich treasury, the apostles have placed all that pertains to truth, so that everyone can drink this beverage of life. She is the door of life.”- St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, III.4
”We have learned the plan of our salvation from no one else other than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us. For they did at one time proclaim the gospel in public. And, at a later period, by the will of God, they handed the gospel down to us in the Scriptures-to be the `ground and pillar of our faith.'”- St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies

St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote a number of books, but the most important that survives is the five-volumes On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, normally referred to as Adversus Haereses (in English, Against Heresies). Irenaeus cites from most of the New Testament canon, as well as works from the Apostolic Fathers.
St. Ireneaus The holy and glorious, right-victorious Hieromartyr St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyons, France. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. He was a disciple of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, who himself was a disciple of the Apostle St. John the Theologian. 

To support this topic on heresies let us look at the following example regarding The True Church and the Apostolic Succession from the writings of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, quotes taken mostly from the book Against Heresies written by St. Irenaeus. These are the common questions that can arise in one’s mind due to the influence of other doctrines (heresies) that is easily available around us. In the following example/case ‘Response’ is given to a protestant believer’s questions/doubts.

In short let us understand what the main doubts of a protestant believer are and what St. Irenaeus says in respect to this

A good protestant always assumes that the criteria for determining if a church is truly apostolic is to look at the doctrine of that particular church. (The answer to this is response to question #2 (How did Irenaeus propose to distinguish a truly apostolic church from their heretical counterparts?) elaborated further in the article)

The church is the custodian of the truth, but only those churches that have continuity to the teachings of the apostles qualify as being the true church. It thus turns out that the Protestant assumption was only half correct, for Irenaeus does teach that to determine if a church was within the apostolic tradition one had to look to see if the church’s theology was in line with the rule of faith that the apostles had passed down in the sacred writings. Thus, Irenaeus used Biblical exposition to show that the teaching of the Gnostic churches were incompatible with the apostles’ doctrine revealed in Scripture.
But that is only one side of the coin. Equally important in determining whether a church is legitimacy apostolic is whether the church is under a bishop that is the recipients of a chain of ordination going back to the apostles. This is because it was to be assumed that the apostles and their successors would only have appointed leaders who agreed with their teaching and also because apostolic authority was transmitted by the laying on of hands in a transfer of real divine power and authority.

Although Irenaeus did not have time “to enumerate the successions of all the churches”, he took the church at Rome as one example and traced the succession of ordinations back to Peter and Paul. This, he maintains, provides “a full demonstration that it is one and the same life-giving faith which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles to the present, and is handed on in truth.”

The doctrine of apostolic succession provided a hedge around the interpretation of Scripture, according to Irenaeus. Any church which taught private innovations different to the public tradition of the other apostolic sees, was a church teaching heresy.

Question #1: Is it correct that Irenaeus taught that a bishop derived his importance from belonging to an apostolic church?

Response:  If a protestant believer reads St. Irenaeus’ writings, he will always start out assuming that Irenaeus looked to see if the church’s theology was in line with the rule of faith the apostles had passed down in Scripture. However, the believer will soon recognize that just as important for Irenaeus was the bishop being part of a chain of succession going back to the apostles.
In the passages below Irenaeus makes it clear that he considers the Church to be the custodian of the truth.
The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith… (AH 1.10; (ANF) Vol. 1 p. 330; italics added)
Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrine different from these (for no one is greater than the Master… (AH 1.12; ANF Vol. 1 p. 331; italics added)
The early Church was apostolic because her bishops were able to trace their lineage back to the original apostles. Irenaeus holds up two men as exemplars of apostolic succession: Clement of Rome and Polycarp of Smyrna. Irenaeus writes of Clement:

St. Clement of romeClement received the lot of the episcopate; he had seen the apostles and met with them and still had the apostolic preaching in his ears and the tradition before his eyes. He was not alone, for many were then still alive who had been taught by the apostles. (AH 3.3)
Note that Irenaeus does not make any reference to Clement receiving the keys to the Papacy (the government of the Roman Catholic Church; pontificate). The stress here is on his deep personal knowledge of the apostles and their teachings. In the case of his predecessor Polycarp of Smyrna, Irenaeus also stressed the personal knowledge of the apostles and their teachings.

st-polycarpAnd there is Polycarp, who not only was taught by the apostles and conversed with many who had seen the Lord, but also was established by apostles in Asia in the church at Smyrna… He always taught the doctrine he had learned from the apostles, which he delivered to the church, and it alone is true. (AH 3.4; italics added)
Irenaeus did not understand apostolic succession in terms of institutional authority but authority rooted in the apostolic Gospel. Only if he taught the true Gospel could a bishop be in apostolic succession. A bishop who altered the Gospel had abandoned the true faith and broken the chain of succession.
For Irenaeus evidential support for apostolic succession came in the form of succession lists.
Thus, the tradition of the apostles, manifest in the whole world, is present in every church to be perceived by all who wish to see the truth. We can enumerate those who were appointed by the apostles as bishops in the churches as their successors even to our time… (AH 3.3.1; italics added)

He enumerates in detail the apostolic succession for the Church of Rome as follows:
To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth. (AH 3.3.4; ANF Vol. I p. 416; italics added)

Unlike the Gnostics who invoked a secret spiritual genealogy, the Christian church in Irenaeus’ time were able to trace their lineage back to the apostles. That this was a widely accepted practice can be seen in Eusebius’ Church History which contains succession lists for various dioceses. Protestantism’s inability to provide a similar listing is something Irenaeus would view with suspicion. The closest thing that Protestantism has to such a listing is the far-fetched claim made by the Landmark Baptists who claim a secret lineage back to John the Baptist.

Central to Irenaeus’ apologia is an apostolic church that was also at the same time a catholic (universal) church.
Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house. She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth. (AH 1.10.2; cf. ANF Vol. 1 p. 331; italics added)

Irenaeus stresses the importance of these handed down traditions in the following words…
….if the apostles had not left us the scriptures, would it not be best to follow the sequence of the tradition which they transmitted to those whom they entrusted the churches? (AH 3.4.1; italics added)

It was not enough for a bishop to claim apostolic succession, he also needed to be in communion with the church catholic (universal). In contrast, Gnosticism was comprised of teachings that varied according to schools and geographic locations. In other words, the unity of the church catholic (universal) stood in sharp contrast to Gnosticism’s denominationalism, a case similar to today’s Protestantism.

It must be recognized that Irenaeus was one of the earliest biblical theologians. Irenaeus did not simply invoke his episcopal authority like a hammer. Instead, he exercised his episcopal authority through the exposition of Scripture. His high view of Scripture can be seen in his carefully reasoned exegesis of Scripture. He writes:
…and all Scripture, which has been given to us by God, shall be found by us perfectly consistent; and the parables shall harmonize with those passages which are perfectly plain; and those statements the meaning of which is clear, shall serve to explain the parables; and through the many diversified utterances [of Scripture] there shall be heard one harmonious melody in us praising in hymns that God who created all things. (AH 2.28.3; ANF Vol. 1 p. 400)
Irenaeus cited numerous scriptural references from Old and New Testaments to refute the Gnostics (cf. AH 2.2.5; AH 3.18.3). He sounds much like an Evangelical when he wrote: “as Scripture tells us.” (AH 2.2.5; ANF Vol. 1, p. 362) In one particular passage in Against the Heretics, Irenaeus invoked the authority of Scripture repeatedly: “We have shown from the scriptures…”; “The scriptures would not give this testimony to him if…”; “.the divine scriptures testify to him…”; and “The scriptures predicted all this of him.” (AH 3.19.2)
Does this make Irenaeus a second century proto-Protestant?

No. Irenaeus did not oppose Scripture against church and tradition. He urged his readers:
It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their (Gnostics) doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord’s Scriptures. (AH 5.20.2, ANF p. 548)
Irenaeus described the church’s teaching authority in warm maternal terms and assumed the two to be mutually compatible. This stands in contrast to later Protestant views which often saw the church in antagonistic tension with Scripture. Unlike the Protestant principle of ‘sola scriptura’ which makes Scripture the supreme norm for doing theology, Irenaeus saw the traditioning process as an interlocking matrix of which Scripture was one integral component.

The answer to the protestant believer’s Question #1 is that

while the bishop derived his importance or authority from the traditioning process, Irenaeus also emphasized that apostolic succession is corroborated by the catholicity (universality) of the Faith. The authority of the bishop is not autonomous(independent) but contingent(dependent) on the faithful transmission of the Faith received from the apostles.

Because apostolicity is correlated with catholicity (universality), Eucharistic communion provides an essential confirmation of the bishop’s teaching and his pastoral authority.

Question #2: If the answer to question #1 is affirmative, then how did Irenaeus propose to distinguish a truly apostolic church from their heretical counterparts?

Response:  For Irenaeus two foremost criteria were: apostolic succession and doctrinal agreement with the church catholic (universal). A corollary of apostolic succession is antiquity. This is evident in Irenaeus’ insistence that weight be given to the earliest ꟷ “most ancient” ꟷChristian churches.
If some question of minor importance should arise, would it not be best to turn to the most ancient churches, those in which the apostles lived, to receive from them the exact teaching on the question involved? And then, if the apostles had not left us the scriptures, would it not be best to follow the sequence of the tradition which they transmitted to those whom they entrusted the churches? (AH 3.4.1; italics added)

By means of the criterion of antiquity, Irenaeus finds the Gnostics falling short. This can be seen in the phrase: “much later” used to describe the Gnostic teachings.
All the others who are called Gnostics originated from Menander the disciple of Simon, as we have shown, and each of them appeared as the father and mystagogue of the opinion he adopted. All these arose in their apostasy much later, in the middle of the times of the church. (AH 3.4.3; italics added)

In the above quote ‘Simon’ refers to Simon of Samaria who was a magician mentioned in Acts 8: 20 . And in contrast to the unity and universality of the apostolic preaching, Gnosticism was divided among the various schools of thought which resulted in doctrinal diversity ꟷ another marker of deviant theology.
All these are much later than the bishops to whom the apostles entrusted the churches, and we have set this forth with all due diligence in the third book. All the aforementioned heretics, since they are blind to the truth, have to go to one side or the other off the road and therefore the traces of their doctrine are scattered without agreement or logic (AH 5.20.1; ANF p. 547).

Apostolicity did not reside in any one particular church body but pervaded the entirety of the church catholic (universal). Using the second century Church of Rome which was known for its doctrinal conservatism, he notes that the churches in other areas would be in agreement with it (AH 3.2).

Iranaeous sums his case for the apostolicity of Rome thus:
In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in that Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth. (AH 3.3; ANF Vol. 1 p. 416)

Thus, emphasis is on: (1) apostolic succession ꟷa chain of ordination going back to the apostles, (2) apostolic teaching ꟷa body of teachings going back to the apostles, and (3) catholicity ꟷbeing in agreement with the universal church.
Irenaeus’ commendation of the Church of Rome would give rise to the respect accorded to other patriarchates: (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem), Catholicate (India, Armenia) and Pope (Coptic) by later Ecumenical Councils.

Question #3: One of the reasons that Irenaeus taught apostolic succession is because he believed that the apostles “certainly wished those whom they were leaving as their successors, handing over to them their own teaching position, to be perfect and irreproachable, since their sound conduct would be a great benefit [to the Church], and failure on their part the greatest calamity.” If Irenaeus was correct, might it be possible that the purity of this chain of succession could expire after a time, as the link to the first apostles becomes more and more distant?

Response: Irenaeus did not envision a diminishing chain of succession. It would be like a banker entertaining the thought that one day his vault will be broken into and all his depositors’ money will be lost. Irenaeus understood tradition as a sacred deposit.
Since these proofs are so strong, one need not look among others for the truth that it is easy to receive from the church, for like a rich man in a barn the apostles deposited everything belonging to the truth in it (the church) so that whoever might take the drink of life from it. (Rev. 22:17; AH 3.4.1)

If anything, Irenaeus, like the good banker, would have been horrified at the thought of the Depositor coming back to claim His deposit and finding it gone.
That he expected the Christian Faith to be preserved against heresy and innovation can be seen in the passage below.
Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house. She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth. (AH 1.10.2; cf. ANF Vol. 1 p. 331)

Here Irenaeus fully expects that the Church will “carefully preserve” the apostolic faith. One empirical test of this claim is the fact that the early Church was able to maintain doctrinal uniformity as it spread throughout the vast Roman Empire. One could expect that as the church became dispersed across vast distances, regional differences in doctrines would emerge.
The way of church members surrounds the whole world, contains the firm tradition from the apostles, lets us view one and these same faith with all, for all believe in one and the same God and in the “economy” of the Son of God and know the same gift of the Spirit and care for the same commandments and preserve the same organization in the church and await the same coming of the Lord. (AH 5.20.1; italics added)
In Irenaeus’ phrase “firm tradition” we get the sense that the Christian faith is stable and resistant to innovation and heretical distortion. One can innovate only by “deserting the preaching of the Church.” (AH 5.20.2; ANF p. 548)

Orthodoxy has multiple safeguards to ensure the preservation of the Faith. The most important is the fact that Tradition consists of an interlocking and mutually reinforcing matrix. One important component is the episcopacy. Elevation to the episcopacy entails not just the conferring of ecclesiastical authority but also the obligation to keep the apostolic faith intact and to guard it against change.
Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrine different from these (for no one is greater than the Master… (AH 1.12; ANF Vol. 1 p. 331; italics added)

This is a complete proof that the life-giving faith is one and the same, preserved and transmitted in truth in the church from the apostles up till now. (AH 3.3.2; italics added)

Next, there is the inscripturated word of God. Irenaeus writes:
For we have known the “economy” for our salvation only through those whom the Gospel came to us; and what they then first preached they later, by God’s will, transmitted to us in the scriptures so that would be foundation and pillar of our faith. (I Timothy 3:15) (AH 3.3.1; italics added)

In addition to the episcopal office and inscripturated Tradition is the regula fide in the form of creed. In Against the Heretics 1.10 Irenaeus writes:
The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit.. (AH 1.10; ANF Vol. 1 p. 330)
By the fourth century, the regula fide would be standardized in the Nicene Creed as a result of the decisions made by the first and second Ecumenical Councils. The Orthodox church’s fierce resistance to the Church of Rome’s unilateral insertion of the Filioque clause points to its taking seriously the task of preserving the apostolic deposit.

Another component is the Eucharist. For Irenaeus there is a close link between Christian doctrine and Christian worship.
But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. (AH 4.18.5; ANF Vol. 1, p. 486)
The above quote anticipates the theological principle: lex orans, lex credendi (the rule of prayer is the rule of faith). Worship in the early church was liturgical. The liturgy was part of the received apostolic tradition “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took the bread;”(I Corinthians 11:23). Here the words ‘received‘ and ‘delivered‘ refer to the transmission of Holy Tradition. These words were the part of the Eucharist celebrations in the first century as it is today. It was not the result of creative expression but served to conserve the Christian faith. An examination of the ancient liturgies used by the Orthodox churches ꟷLiturgy of St. James, Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Liturgy of St. Basil ꟷshows how much the faith of the early church lives on the Orthodox churches today. The ancient liturgies have pretty much disappeared from the Roman Catholic Church with the shift to the Novus Ordo Mass in the 1960s.
All these, however, are insufficient apart from divine grace. That is why preservation of the apostolic teaching depends on: (1) the promise of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), (2) Christ’s guarantee of the church against the powers of Hell (Matthew 16:18), and (3) Christ’s charge to teach the nations and the promise of his presence with the church until the Second Coming (Matthew 28:19-20). The Great Commission probably has the most bearing on the protestant believer’s Question #3. The traditioning process is implied in the Great Commission ꟷ “teaching them to observe everything I commanded you” ꟷand is guaranteed by Christ’s promise to be with the Church “always even unto the end of the age.”

Question #4: Is Irenaeus’ doctrine of apostolic succession a Biblical doctrine? If so, where can we find it implied or inferred in scripture?

Response: That Irenaeus’ doctrine of apostolic succession is rooted in Scripture can be seen in the ample citations below.
Irenaeus in the Prologue to Book 3 explains how the Lord Jesus himself laid the foundation for apostolic succession:
The Lord of all gave his apostles the power of the Gospel, and by them we have known the truth, that is, the teaching of the Son of God. To them the Lord said, “He who hears you hears me, and he who despises you despises me and Him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) (Italics added)
Another biblical support for apostolic succession can be found in II Timothy 2:2 in which Paul describes to Timothy how the traditioning process is key to the ordination to the ministry:
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Tim 2:2)
Biblical support for apostolic succession can be inferred from Titus 1:5 in which Paul gave Titus instructions on the ordination of men to the priesthood:
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city, as I commanded you. (Titus 1:5)
The top-down approach described here is sharply different from the ordination practices of congregationalism.
Apostolic succession can also be found in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to preserve the apostolic teaching against heretical innovations (I Timothy 6:3, 20; II Timothy 2:14, 24; Titus 1:9, 2:1). In these verses Paul stresses the need to preserve the Faith against heresy; the very same point reiterated by Irenaeus.

Question #5: If Irenaeus is correct in his doctrine of apostolic succession, which churches today satisfy the criteria for a `true church’?

Response: If Irenaeus were to examine the churches today he would be looking for the “most ancient” churches and at the “sequence of the tradition” from the apostles for those churches.
…would it not be best to turn to the most ancient churches, those in which the apostles lived, to receive from them the exact teaching on the question involved? And then, if the apostles had not left us the scriptures, would it not be best to follow the sequence of the tradition which they transmitted to those whom they entrusted the churches? (AH 4.1; italics added)
The application of these two criteria rules out all of Protestantism. That being the case, there remains two present day options: the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
Irenaeus had some knowledge of these two branches. In Against the Heretics 3.3 Irenaeus showcased the Church of Rome. Irenaeus’ predecessor, Polycarp, was bishop of the church in Smyrna, which would be closely linked to the Patriarchate of Constantinople belonging to the Orthodox Church. Constantinople was the capital of the Roman Empire during that time, one should not confuse Church of Rome with Roman Catholic Church which is based out of Vatican and not Constantinople.
One would think in light of Irenaeus’ high praise for the Church of Rome in AH 4.1 that he would automatically point us to the present day Roman Catholic Church. But it should be kept in mind that he lived in the second century and that much has happened over the next two millennia, most notably the Schism of 1054 A.D.

Would Irenaeus identify himself with present day Roman Catholicism?
No, for three reasons: (1) Roman Catholicism has adopted a strongly forensic approach to the doctrine of salvation ꟷsomething not found in his teachings, (2) it has superimposed Aristotelian categories on to the doctrine of the Eucharist ꟷsomething not found in his teaching, and (3) it has promoted the supremacy of the Roman papacy ꟷsomething not found in his teachings. Furthermore, Irenaeus would likely have regarded Rome’s later independence from the other patriarchates ((Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem), Catholicate (India, Armenia) and Pope (Coptic)) contrary to the catholicity of the second century church.
In Orthodoxy’s favor is the fact that it has retained Irenaeus’ understanding of salvation in terms of recapitulation, i.e., Christ through the Incarnation recapitulated the entirety of human existence (cf. AH 3.20.2; cf. ANF Vol. 1 p. 450). Also, where the Roman Catholic Church has introduced the medieval emphasis on penal substitution as the basis for our salvation, Orthodoxy, like Irenaeus, has retained the emphasis on salvation as union with Christ and theosis (AH 3.4.2; AH 3.20.2).
St. Irenaeus’ Against the Heresies provides historical evidence to support Orthodoxy’s claim that the way it does theology has deep historic roots. A close reading of St. Irenaeus will give pause to any thoughtful Protestant who base their theological method on sola scriptura. Irenaeus of Lyons stands as a valuable benchmark for determining what doctrines and practices are congruent with the historic Christian Faith.

An example of  a great heresy that we will need to look at is Arianism. This was the debate within the Church in the fourth century over the divinity of Jesus Christ. It was great because this heresy, from its beginning, changed the minds of people and urged them to understand divinity in a rational way. Since it is very difficult to rationalize the union of the Infinite with the finite, there is an apparent contradiction between the two terms ꟷthe final form into which the confusion of heresies settled down was a declaration by the Arians that our Lord was of as much of the Divine Essence as it was possible for a creature to be, but He was none the less a creature. It is very interesting how the Arian system keeps its strength after so many centuries, after so many controversies. Arius was the father of many heresies, which have grown up after him. From his roots many heresy take the saps, like the branches from the root of tree. These branches develop own systems, but checking the genesis of them we will see the old root. We will discuss more on this topic on a later date in another article about heresies.

The article continues as….Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Part 3