The Relevant Portion of Fr. Nicholas’s Email
From: Father Nicholas
In every instance when the Church has been assailed by one or another heresy, we find that many people are fooled by the heresy without actually understanding what is happening. Heresy is always presented as the truth and in this way many are misled.
-- Metropolitan Ephraim, Holy Orthodox Church in North America, 2001
In my first letter to you, I hoped to illustrate that there is an abundance of passages from the Scriptures and the Fathers that talk about the glory and power of the Name of God. It is interesting to me that so many ignore this and, instead, zero-in on the decisions of a local "synod" in Russia. Why? Why do they ignore the Holy Scriptures which speak of God's Name? Why do they ignore the many instances in the Liturgy and services of the Church which encourage us to glorify God's Name? Why is the Russian "synod" of 1913 so important?Part of the problem in debunking the name-worshipping doctrine is that its promoters do not clearly define what they mean by the “Name of God” and do not take into account that the Holy Scriptures use this phrase differently.
St Anthony Khrapovitsky said of these Russian "synods" in 1912: Our Church [in Russia] is governed by a layman, or, to say it officially, by a collegial institution never seen by the Church of Christ before... The [Russian] Church is deprived of its lawful head and is given over for enslavement to lay officials, which hide behind an assembly of six or seven hierarchs who are changed every half a year, and two presbyters. Who is not aware that such an institution is uncanonical? That it was not approved at its very inception by two Patriarchs; and even if it had been approved by all four, this would only show the unlawful deed of the Patriarchs and not the canonicity of [Russian] synodal rule, because no Patriarch can establish and authorize an institution which is unknown to Holy Orthodoxy and which was invented only to bring weakness and decay..."Metropolitan Anthony, of blessed memory (he has not been glorified as a saint), rightly complained that Tsar Peter “the Great” was wrong to replace the patriarchal system of church governance with a synodal one, in which the synod was appointed and supervised by government officials. However, while this quote is intended to suggest that Metropolitan Anthony did not support the work of the Russian synod, the opposite is true. Metropolitan Anthony not only accepted the work of the synod, but participated in the synod for five years. He was an active member at the time he wrote the above-quoted article and when he participated in the condemnation of the name-worshipping heresy. Like all the saints, tsars, bishops, monastics, clergy and laity of the Russian Church for the 200 years the synodal system was in force, Metropolitan Anthony abided by its decisions and considered them binding on the Church in Russia.
(Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, Voice of the Church, Jan 1912).
The decisions of the 1913 synod condemning Name-worship was reversed several times in the ensuing years. The synod itself back-peddled its own decision soon after by only requiring the "heretics" to venerate the Cross and Holy Gospel rather than renounce their "error."This is factually incorrect.
On October 5/18, 2002 Hieromonk Gregory (Lourié) supposedly expressed “repentance” for his name-worshipping views before the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church. In fact, however, Lourié’s “repentance” read more like a self-justification than a statement of repentance. He expressed “regret”, not about his belief in the Bulatovich’s heresy, but only about the fact that his public statements on the subject had “become a reason for discord within our Church” – in other words, that he had been indiscreet in his public proclamation of the heresy. There was no mention of Bulatovich, no condemnation of any specific heresy, and no admittance that he had ever confessed any heresy at any time. Instead he actually denied that he confessed heresy: “I hold to the teaching of the Holy Fathers and confess no heresy about the names of God, which would have been condemned by previous Fathers and Councils”. He could say this with sincerity (and cunning) because he considers that the teaching of Bulatovich is “the teaching of the Holy Fathers” and is in fact not a heresy. Moreover, no large Council has yet condemned Bulatovich’s teaching, only several Synodal decisions of both the Russian and the Greek Churches. So in saying that no Council has condemned the teaching, he is not lying according to the letter of the law. But there is a direct lie in is his assertion that no previous Fathers ever condemned that teaching. For several Fathers did, including Patriarch Tikhon, Hieromartyr Vladimir of Kiev, Hieromartyr Agathangel of Yaroslavl, Hieromartyr Basil of Priluki, St. Barsanuphius of Optina, etc. And he lies again when he says: “I also hold to the resolutions of the All-Russian Local Council of 1917-1918, which were confirmed by two resolutions of the Synod of our Church, in accordance with which the decision on the essence of the question of name-worshipping belongs exclusively within the competence of a Local Council of the Church of Russia”. For there were in fact no resolutions of the 1917-18 Council on name-worshipping, as Lourié (who has gone on record as calling the 1917-18 Council “a tragic-comic story, which exerted a minimal, or negative rather than positive, influence on the following life of the Church…”!) well knows.So you see, Anastasia, that the Russian Synod was in fact consistent in its treatment of the name-worshippers: it issued decrees against them in 1913, 1914 and 1916. I hope you also see that Lourie and his disciples among the HOCNA bishops use the four points from Patriarch Tikhon's Nativity epistle and the decision of the Moscow Synodal Office as red herrings to make it seem as though the Russian Church authorities sympathized with the name-worshippers and opposed the synod.
A few weeks later, ... Fr. Gregory wrote a further “report”, dated November 11, 2002, in which he states that he “submits to Church authority and rejects the errors listed by the holy patriarch Tikhon” in a Nativity Epistle written on February 19, 1921.
...Let us examine what the patriarch supposedly said in this previously completely unknown Nativity epistle: “In these high days, when the Church is celebrating the Nativity of the God-Man, Who brought the peace and goodwill of God the Father to earth, I consider it appropriate to remind you in brief of the Athonite imyaslavtsi (name-glorifiers) and give you certain instructions on how to treat these monks. It can be seen, that the Holy Synod in its definition of April 22-25 1914, number 3479, was indulgent to the spiritual mood and to the way of thinking of the Athonite monks, who have a poor knowledge of theology as expounded in books and of the forms of paper work, and allowed them, instead of the previously required signing by the imyabozhniki (name-worshippers) of a denial of their false teaching, to substitute for this a written testimony (a promise on oath) of their Orthodox faith, with the kissing of the Holy Cross and the Gospel. They promised exactly to follow the Orthodox Church and obey the God-established hierarchy, believing exactly as the Holy Church teaches, neither adding anything from themselves, nor taking anything away. In particular in regard to the glorification of the name of God, they promised not to consider His name the essence of God, nor to separate it from God, not to venerate it as a separate Deity, nor to worship the letters and sounds and occasional thoughts about God. The Holy Synod decided to admit into Church those who believed in this way and declared their willingness to obey the Church authorities, and to allow their priests to serve. But, in rendering its indulgence, the Holy Synod did not change its former opinion of the very error contained in the writings of Anthony Bulatovich and his followers, whom the Synod decided to pass over for the consideration of the All-Russian Holy Council, upon which depends the resolution of the whole issue in essence”.
Now the teaching of Bulatovich can be summarized in two propositions: that the names of God are energies of God, and that the name of Jesus is Jesus Himself. Neither of these teachings is in the list of errors listed by the patriarch. “To consider His name the essence of God” was not one of Bulatovich’s teachings (although it may have been that of some of his more ignorant followers). For, as St. Gregory Palamas teaches, the essence of God is not to be identified with the energies of God. “To venerate it as a separate Deity” is, again, not one of Bulatovich’s teachings. “To worship the letters and sounds” is, again, not one of Bulatovich’s teachings. “To worship… occasional thoughts about God” is one of Bulatovich’s teachings, and the only one, therefore, which Lourie may be said to have renounced (although it is doubtful, judging from his dialogue with Vladimir Moss on the subject, that he would accept such a phrase as representing Bulatovich’s real view). In any case, the most important point is that the two propositions that summarise Bulatovich’s main views are not in this list, nor can they be reinterpreted to come within this list.
So why was the patriarch’s characterization of Bulatovich’s errors inaccurate? In order to answer this question, we need to investigate a little further. Let us begin by posing the question: In what other document of the time can we find this same list?
The answer is: in the judgement issued by the Moscow Diocesan Court with regard to the name-worshippers on May 8, 1914: “… The Synodal Office has found that in the confessions of faith in God and in the Name of God coming from the named monks, in the words, ‘I repeat that in naming the Name of God and the Name of Jesus as God and God Himself, I reject both the veneration of the Name of God as His Essence, and the veneration of the Name of God separately from God Himself as some kind of special Divinity, as well as any deification of the very letters and sounds and any chance thoughts about God’ – there is contained information allowing us to conclude that in them there is no basis for leaving the Orthodox Church for the sake of the teaching on the Names of God.’ (decree № 1443)”. The coincidence of wording is striking. It is obvious that the list of errors referred to by the patriarch in the document quoted by Lourié is in fact the list drawn up, not by the Holy Synod in its Resolution № 3479 of April 22-25, 1914, which does not contain a list of errors, but by the Moscow Diocesan Court on May 8, 1914.
However, it is essential to realise that the decision of the Moscow Diocesan Court of May 8, 1914 was overturned by the Holy Synod in its decree № 4136 of May 10-24, 1914, which set aside decree № 1443 of the Moscow Synodal Office, and confirmed the sentences against the name-worshippers. This confirmation of the sentences against the name-worshippers was again confirmed by decree № 2670 of March 10, 1916. And yet again by Patriarch Tikhon and his Synod on October 8/21, 1918. And yet again by the Nativity Epistle of 1921.
Lourié tries to get round this by claiming that there was yet another decree of the Holy Synod that was supposedly passed in 1921, just before the patriarch’s Nativity epistle, and which supposedly formed the basis for the patriarch’s Nativity epistle. “Unfortunately,” Lourié writes, “the true text of the decree of 1921 on removing all the bans from those name-worshippers who remained alive has not reached us”. Unfortunate indeed! And devastatingly destructive for his whole case. For since this mysterious decree “has not reached us”, I think we are fully entitled to conclude that it does not exist. After all, if it did exist, why should the patriarch not refer to it?
So, we come, now, to what I wrote to you in my last email. By the definition of the 1913 "synod", a Name-worshiper is someone who deifies the letters and sounds of God's name; believes that God's Name is His Essence; and that the name is a separate deity. The Athonite monks did not believe this. These heretical ideas were attributed to them by the synod of 1913. When investigations were actually done and the monks allowed to speak for themselves, they were found to the fully Orthodox. A final decision of the subject of Name-worship was expected at a pan-Russian synod which never occurred due to the revolution.This paragraph is full of errors and misconceptions. First, the Russian Synod was not of 1913, its investigation and condemnation of name-worshipping were issued that year. The Athonite monks were not found to be fully Orthodox. Anthony Bulatovich, the chief proponent of name-worshipping, died a violent death outside the Church. The pan-Russian council did occur, but did not take up the issue of name-worshipping.
So, we can all condemn Name worshipers, because they do not exist (as I said, there may be someone, somewhere, but who knows?). St Philaret can condemn them as have our holy Hierarchs.By the definition of the HOCNA hierarchs, indeed there may be no name-worshippers in the world. But by the traditional definition -- one who believes the name of God is God Himself -- the HOCNA bishops have made clear, in stating that the Name of God is an Energy of God and therefore God Himself, that they are name-worshippers. They are joined in their heretical beliefs by Lourie and his followers, and by "Bishop" Job, our former priest in the Ukraine who was consecrated a bishop by Lourie last summer, and his followers.
All should understand that, by these pronouncements, we hierarchs are not Nameworshippers as defined in this statement, and that we believe, confess and espouse the Orthodox Christian belief, also defined in this statement.Again, remembering that Orthodoxy is what the Church has taught always and everywhere, the fact that the HOCNA bishops needed to write their own definition of Orthodox belief should make you deeply suspicious. The fact that their definition of Orthodoxy includes the traditional definition of name-worshipping should be conclusive proof that they have fallen into error, and sadly have drawn Fr. Mark into error as well.
Anastasia, the Name of God is a holy mystery. We cannot understand it. It is a Divine Energy which is a revelation of God (Like Grace). To say that the God's Energies are not divine is to fall under the anathemas of the Synodicon of Orthodoxy and it runs contrary to Holy Tradition.This is not the teaching of the Orthodox Church, it is the teaching of the name-worshipping heretics of the early twentieth century and of their modern followers, Lourie and the HOCNA bishops.
In his statement of September 16, 2012, Bishop Demetrius, formerly of Carlisle, tries to convince the clergy and the faithful of HOCNA, that he departed from the Communion with his fellow bishops for matters of faith. In his own words:
"Since my responsibility is to protect and defend the purity of our Confession of Faith, I can no longer remain a hierarch on the Synod of Bishops of the Holy Ortbodox Church in North America."
In other words, the synod finds it hard to believe that Bishop Demetrius would believe that name-worshipping is a heresy, yet soft-pedal his position to the bishops he was leaving. Yet in the context of the underlying motive of the leaders of HOCNA, to protect Fr. Panteleimon from investigation, it becomes clear that in choosing Bishop Demetrius to become a bishop, the deciding element was precisely that the HOCNA leaders felt they could count on him not to stand up to them. Hypocritically, they criticize him for exactly the approach they had always counted on him to take -- to not make waves, to not boldly state his position in opposition to theirs, to not become an adversary.We find it extremely difficult to take Bishop Demetrius' statement seriously, because in his correspondence with our Synod (September 11, 2012), he claimed that the reason for his departure were certain "differences", and not only did he not mention any lack of "purity of Confession of Faith" of HOCNA bishops, but in his second letter to us (September 12, 2012), he was even willing to receive a letter of release from the self-same Synod of HOCNA.
By accepting, on four occasions, the breakaway bishops and the clergy from HOCNA, by calling us schismatics (schismatics from whom? we never belonged to the Kiousis group) and now by adding the false accusation of heresy against us, we have come to the sad conclusion that nothing has changed in that group since its uncanonical inception in 1985. The cunning tactics and arrogance that they used against the blessed Archbishop Auxentius, not only have not been abandoned, but are fully implemented even now.The GOC accepted Metropolitan Moses, Bishop Sergios and the clergy and laity with them in April of 2011. It accepted Fr. George Kochergin in May of 2011, and it accepted the clergy and laity of Toronto in June of 2011. In September of 2012, the GOC received Bishop Demetrius and the parishes, clergy and laity with him. The GOC continues to receive those who are fleeing HOCNA. According to the statement of the HOCNA hierarchs, the GOC used cunning tactics and arrogance to bring this about. However, the minutes of the synod meeting in October of 2010 clearly recognize:
...this Synod is the closest Synod to us, since our Church in North America was established by the Church of Greece under the Presidency of His Beatitude, Archbishop Auxentios. The two Synods found themselves separated in 1984, but this separation had nothing to do with matters of Faith and both Synods officially have an identical ecclesiology.The HOCNA hierarchs set their seal of approval on this synod, before backtracking to protect Fr. Panteleimon. This is why those who have separated themselves from HOCNA have asked to be accepted into the GOC. The GOC itself played a passive role: it did not encourage the refugees to leave HOCNA, it simply accepted them.
I. Name-worshippers believe:These four points are borrowed from St. Patriarch Tikhon's Nativity Epistle of 1921. Patriarch Tikhon did not use them to define name-worshipping, but only called on his clergy to be sure that anyone who wished to repent of the name-worshipping heresy and be received back into the Orthodox Church did not hold any of these heretical beliefs. These four points do not encompass all name-worshipping beliefs, some of which the HOCNA hierarchs have snuck into their following definition:
1) That God’s Name is his Essence.
2) That God’s Name is separate from Him.
3) That God’s Name is another deity.
4) That created letters, sounds and random or accidental thoughts about God may be deified, or be used for occult or magical purposes
II. Orthodox Christians believe:The astute reader will note that these are nearly the same four points that the HOCNA hierarchs claim to have distilled from St. Patriarch Tikhon's Navitiy Epistle of 1921. Yet in adding the word "not" to each of Patriarch Tikhon's points to express Orthodox belief, they also have added considerably more to the first point. While they reject that God's Name is His Essence, they declare that it is uncreated, His Energy and His Grace. This is heretical, as the fathers of Holy Transfiguration Monastery showed in their examination of name-worshipping. So the HOCNA hierarchs are insisting that to be Orthodox, a person must hold this heretical belief.
1) That God’s Name is not His Essence, but rather is the revealed truth about Himself, that is, His Uncreated Energy, His Uncreated Grace, His Providence, His Glory. In fact, His Essence is unknowable and has no name.
2) That God’s Name is not separate from Him.
3) That God’s Name is not another deity.
4) That created letters, sounds and random or accidental thoughts about God must not be deified. Further, they believe that these letters or sounds must not be used for occult or magical purposes.
This makes matters perfectly clear, because, as Orthodox Christians, we know and believe that the only Entity that is eternal, holy, supremely-holy, and the source of sanctification by nature is God Himself! This can only mean that His Name is indeed God Himself — again, not in His Essence, but in His Grace.The logic is absurd. The Holy Fathers did use the phrase "the Name of God" to refer to God, in a poetic attempt to express the inexpressible, just as the Psalms refer to "the face of God," "the voice of the Lord," the "right hand" of the Lord and other physical attributes. That does not mean that an actual name or word, however holy, is the uncreated energy and grace of God. Language is created, for it did not exist eternally. As Orthodox Christians we are taught that blessed water and oil are holy, that icons are holy, that the altar, antimension, and consecrated vessels are holy, that the relics of saints are holy, and so on. God's grace may abide in them, but they are not God. In the same way, the names that we use to refer to God are holy, but they are not God. The HOCNA hierarchs quote St. John of Kronstadt as saying,
... when you pronounce to yourself in your heart the Name of God, of the Lord, or that of the most Holy Trinity, or of the Lord of Sabaoth, or of the Lord Jesus Christ, then in that Name you have the Lord’s whole being; in it is His infinite mercy, His boundless wisdom, His inaccessible light, omnipotence, and immutability....In other words, pronouncing in your heart the name of God, you bring Him to mind in the same way as you might upon seeing an icon. The word expresses God to you insofar as you can conceive of Him, but His energies and grace are not inherent in the word, they are a gift God freely bestows in responding to your prayer.
The natural energy of God’s essence does not differ from God’s essence and is not separate from it. They are not two separate things for God’s natural energy is simple as is His essence. St Gregory Palamas repeated this Patristic truth against the Barlaamites, when he declared, that it was a God-befitting distinction, which in no way violated the divine simplicity. God is not diminished, but he is everywhere present in all his essence, wherever his energy is differentiated and measured out according to His will; He is present in His grace in the measure he determines for every creature. The Nameworshippers call those who do not believe in their new teaching, Barlaamites. However, it is their “dogma” that resembles the Barlaam heresy; for they, like Barlaam, declare that the grace of God is created, since they declare a created name is God Himself.
Note 3. The HOCNA hierarchs write, "we will not have any relations with hierarchs or church affiliations that consciously and deliberately accept the false teachings of the same Russian Synod of 1913...."Recently, a heresy called “name-worshipping” has reared its head. This heresy is so called because its adherents believe that the name of God is God Himself; that is, that His name is a divine energy and hence uncreated. This ridiculous idea was condemned by the Synod of Constantinople in 1913 and again by the Russian Synod the same year. These Synods declared heretical the idea that the name of God is an energy of God or God Himself. This is the central point of the heresy, from which all of their other deviant beliefs follow. The Russian Synod, however, added a few comments of its own on the subject of the divine energies and the divinity, which used a slightly different terminology than the manner of expression used by St. Gregory Palamas (the expositor par excellence on the subject of the divine energies.) The Synod’s terminology was not so much heretical as not as clear and precise as St. Gregory’s exposition; and this was evidently the result of the Russian bishops’ lack of familiarity with the polemical writings of the saint, which had mostly not been translated into Russian at the time. The modern name-worshippers have seized upon this imprecision of terminology and have made it their banner; or rather, their smokescreen, declaring that they cannot accept the Russian council because it opposes the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas. In so doing, they have missed the main point, which is that even if the Russian Synod expressed itself poorly, name-worshipping is still a heresy. The Russian condemnation of name-worshipping is still valid in and of itself, even if the terminology it used in its further explanation of the subject is questionable. Moreover, the heresy was also condemned by the Synod of Constantinople, which used no dubious terminology. Yet the name-worshippers also refuse to recognize this council. Hence, it is clear that their motivation in attacking the language of the Russian Synod is not pious concern over expression, but rather because they simply do not accept the Orthodox teaching on the name of God.
He (Hieromonk Anthony Bulatovich) founded his teaching on the Divinity of the Names of God above all on the basis that the Divine Name is, according to the Holy Fathers; His energy or operation, and that God’s energy is God Himself.Name-worshippers contend that God's Name is His energy, but not His unapproachable essence.
Indeed, if we were considering a teaching that equated created letters or sounds with God, which it would be enough for anyone to write or pronounce in order to achieve the desired miracle, then such a teaching could be called ‘name-worshipping’ and compared with magic and shamanism....
But what did Patriarch Tikhon really say? In addition to these four particular points (repeated by the HOCNA hierarchs in their statement above), he wrote that the synod was extending economia to the repentant name-worshipping monks, condescending to their spiritual mood and disposition. But even in this economia, they were required to testify to:their exact following of the Orthodox Church, and of their obedience to the God-established hierarchy, believing according to the teaching of the Holy Church, adding nothing and subtracting nothing on their own...Further, Patriarch Tikhon wrote that while it was manifesting condescension to the repentant monks (extending economia to them in helping them return to Orthodoxy), the Holy Synod did not change its judgment on the heresy of name-worshipping itself. The Holy Synod condemned name-worshipping as a heresy in 1913. That judgment was never modified or overturned by the Holy Pan-Russian Local Council. It stands to this day.
Indeed, the entire Church has condemned the Name-worshippers, either by words of agreement, or by acquiescing to the formal decrees of the condemnation by the Patriarchates. When the Church condemns something, it is binding.