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

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Is Imyaslavie?

Imyaslavie (or imiaslavie), also known as name-worshipping, is a heresy that claims the name of God is God Himself.

It was formulated by a Russian elder and ascetic, Schema-monk Ilarion, in the early years of the twentieth century.  Fr. Ilarion wrote a book on the Jesus prayer, In the Causcasus Mountains, which was published in 1907.  He intended to praise the ancient practice of the Jesus prayer -- Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner -- but in describing it, he fell into error.  Instead of teaching that God responds to the ascetic labor of the Jesus prayer with His grace, Fr. Ilarion taught that grace proceeded from the very name of Jesus which, according to him, was Jesus Himself.

Schema-monk Ilarion
This error of Fr. Ilarion's was further distorted by one of his disciples, Hiero-Schema-monk Anthony Bulatovich.  Bulatovich wrote An Apology of Faith in the Name of God and the Name of Jesus, which was published in 1913.  In his book, Bulatovich claimed that all the names of God -- not just the name Jesus -- are God Himself, and one need not pronounce them prayerfully or even with faith to be in the presence of God.

These heretical teachings were condemned by the Patriarchate of Constantinople under Patriarch Joachim III in 1912 and again under Patriarch German V in 1913.  After commissioning three independent reports on imyaslavie, the Holy Synod of Russia also condemned it as a heresy in 1913.  Patriarch Gregory of Antioch also condemned imyaslavie as a heresy in 1913.