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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Holy Transfiguration Monastery on Name-Worshipping

Issued recently by the monastery fathers in response to the promotion of the name-worshipping heresy by Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston and Bishop Gregory of Concord of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America.

Historical Events and Analysis of the Name Worshipping Controversy

August 5/July 23, 2012 Synaxis of the icon of the Mother of God of Pochaev
“God is without name.” St. Anastasius of Sinai CCSG 8:26

“In all the earth His name is not known, but it is worshipped.”
St. Gregory of Nyssa PG 44, 1028D
For some time we have observed covert and overt efforts to propagate the doctrine of the Name-worshippers. The proponents of these teachings ignore or distort many historical events, offer truncated or misapplied or unknown quotations from Church Fathers, present improvable or unfounded facts; and they vilify anyone who disagrees with them. We have set forth here, in a compilation by many hands, a short chronology of the principal events in the development of the controversy, authentic quotations from our Holy Fathers which make evident the false foundation of the Name-worshippers, and their disregard for the God-established theology of the Church.

A sure mark and sign of their deviance is their frequent statement, when a Saint or Council is cited as being contrary to their doctrine, “Even Saints and Councils can make mistakes; they are not infallible.” Actually, it has been observed, that for the Name-worshippers, almost every Saint – even those who are declared by the Church to be Fathers of Fathers, and Canons of the Faith – has been subject to dogmatic mistakes; since their teachings undercut and deny the premises of the Name-worshippers; only two men have been found by them to be without dogmatic error regarding this issue: Anthony Bulatovich and his modern, fervent advocate and apologist, Gregory Lourie.

Another fallacy that has been widely heard: “Name-worshipping is a Russian affair and must be settled by the Russians; we should avoid any discussion about the subject”. This is another ruse by the Name-worshippers to have history and doctrine ignored while they prepare the ground with pleas for compassion and objectivity.

The fact is that the Name-worshipper sect began and took root on Mt. Athos, and was developed by Monk Hilarion (author of the seminal work On the Mountains of the Caucuses) and by Hieromonk Anthony Bulatovich. Many booklets were printed in Greek, written by Bulatovich and others, disseminating their new doctrines, while others published rebuttals. Their beliefs were first condemned by the Sacred Community of Mt. Athos and later by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, well before their final condemnation by the Russian Synod.

Another gross distortion of fact frequently stated, “We must vindicate the poor, martyred monks of Mt. Athos, who suffered so unjustly for their beliefs at the hands of the ruthless authorities.” An ignored fact is that in 1911, the Name-worshippers became aggressive and violent; they seized monasteries, expelling or imprisoning the brothers and robbing their goods by force, overturned established order and disobeyed the legal authorities. Such criminal acts would not be tolerated in any society.

Finally, we will show with quotations from the Great Fathers and others that the Church’s sacred theology have remained the same from the beginning and contradicts every doctrine of the Name-worshippers. The Church has reaffirmed the Church’s doctrine that the name Jesus (or any divine name) is not an energy of God and that the name is not that which is named.

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.

Anthony Bulatovich was excommunicated from the Church twice. Actually, it was a self-excommunication. He declared that all the Church was in heresy because it did not accept his doctrine. After the second time, he died on Dec. 5th, 1919, excommunicated and anathematized, when he was killed by robbers at his mother’s estate.

Patriarchal and Synodical decisions have definitively condemned the teachings of the Name-worshippers as heresy, and they have never been reversed; these decisions are binding for us all, remaining in force to the present day. All the local Orthodox Churches and Orthodox Christians everywhere have accepted them.

Bishop Gregory Lourie maintains that the Kollyvades of Mt. Athos had also been unjustly condemned by the Constantinople Patriarchate (the decisions of Patriarchs and Synods are not necessarily always true and infallible) but this condemnation was not long after recalled by the same Patriarchate. In any case, the Kollyvades did not disturb the monasteries of Mt. Athos with violent disorders as did Bulatovich; nor was there any new teaching, but only a desire to respect and observe the ancient typicon and usage of the Church. They did not cut themselves off from the Orthodox Church and declare all those who disagreed with them to be heretics. Indeed, St. Athanasius of Paros, one of the leaders of the Kollyvades, accepted his deposition and did not serve until he was restored by the Patriarchate. The Name-worshippers in no wise followed the example of the Kollyvades, which rather serves to condemn their actions.

A chronology of the principal events in the Name-worshipper controversy

1912 – Joachim III, Patriarch of Constantinople[1] describes the Name-worshipper teaching as “foolish theology”, “completely deceived thinking”, “soul-destroying deception”,“innovation and novel teaching”, “foolish and blasphemous doctrine”. Anthony Bulatovich was called to Constantinople to a canonical Church Court, but ignored the summons. [2]

1913 – After the disturbances on Mt. Athos, the Sacred Community (Iera Koinotis) informed the Patriarch of the sorrowful events and petitioned that the guilty be expelled from the Holy Mountain Athos. Patriarch Germanus, the successor of Joachim, in a letter of April 5th mentions the letters of the Mt. Athos fathers as well as of the “newly appeared and vain doctrine”, of this “blasphemous cacodoxy” and “heresy”, especially among the Russian monks, which leads to “pantheism”. The Metropolitans and other Bishops of the throne in turn also judged the subject worthy of great care and study. The Bishops requested the opinion and verdict of the theological faculty of Halki and, after receiving it, they condemned this “newly appeared doctrine” as “blasphemous and heretical”.

With this letter of his, the Patriarch announces “the synodical conviction and condemnation of this deception” and that it be made known in the Monastery of St. Panteleimon and the Skete of St Andrew and that “the deceived monks” “must reject the blasphemous error”, otherwise they will be deemed “heretics and seditionists against ecclesiastical discipline; and if they remain impenitent, they will not have the right to remain on Mt. Athos to infect this sacred place.” [In other words, if they do not repent and reject this teaching, they will be expelled.]

1913 - Church Truth, the official journal of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in the issue of May 11th, p. 145 states that “Name-worshipping” is a “deception” and “heresy” and urges its followers “to return to Orthodox doctrine, before the Church be obliged to apply the measures enjoined by the sacred canons."

1913 - Church Truth, June 15th, p. 187, publishes the official documents in which the newly-appeared doctrine of the worship of the name of Jesus “is condemned by us, the Great Church of Christ as without foundation and heretical”. It published also the official condemnation of the Name-worshippers by the Church of Russia

1913 – The Church Beacon, official journal of the Church of Alexandria #11, (1913) p. 363 describes the Name-worshippers as a movement of ignorant monks, lacking any theological learning – inclusive of Bulatovich – who were swept along by him and even stooped to violence  [3].

1913 – The condemnation of the Name-worshippers by the Russian Synod is published [4]. To name but a few of those that signed this condemnation are Hieromartyrs Metropolitans Vladimir of Kiev [5] and Agathangelus, the founders and the pillars of the Russian Church Abroad Metropolitan Anthony and Metropolitan Anastassy, who was also called “the Most-wise”.

1913 - It is said that Patriarch Gregory of Antioch also condemned the Nameworshippers, although we have not found any official text. No great reference to official decision is necessary. The official decisions of Constantinople, Mt Athos, and Russia are more than sufficient because of the very important fact that no Patriarchate, no regional church, have ever doubted or rejected these decisions and they have been accepted thus for a hundred years. It is an accepted Pan-Orthodox decision.

1914 – Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow condemned “the false doctrine of the name of God which is preached by schemamonk Hilarion and Anthony Bulatovich".

1914 – The Sacred Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, announces its decision #4136 of 10/24 May, that Bulatovich and those with him had not really repented and so the Synod invalidates decision #1442 of the Moscow Synodical office, which had been deceived by the apparent orthodoxy of the Name-worshippers.

1916 – For a second time, after two years, the sacred Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church confirms by decision #2670 of March 10th, 1916 the decision of condemnation issued two years prior (#4136, May 10/24, 1914).

1917 – 1918 – The Pan-Russian Council had on its agenda to re-open the examination of the question of the Name-worshippers. The council began sessions August 15, 1917, and adjourned on Sept. 20, 1918 because of the political turmoil caused by the Bolsheviks. In any case, a new examination was hardly needed, since three Synods had already condemned them in 1913, 1914, and 1916. That the Pan-Russian Council would not have changed the decision and justified them is proven by the little priority they gave it and the following action of St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow:

1918 – The Pan-Russian council ceased its sessions in September of 1918 because of the Bolshevik revolution. On October 8/21, 1918 St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow (+1925) wrote on the part of the synodical members:
The sacred Synod does not change its former decision concerning the error of the Name-worshippers…and in no way has it changed the general condition according to which the Name-worshippers, in as much as they have been condemned by the Church authorities, are not accepted into communion with the Church…only when they have rejected Name-worshipping and show obedience to the church. The request of the Hieromonk Anthony [Bulatovich] that he be permitted to serve as a priest is deemed not worthy of fulfillment in as much as he continues in disobeying the church and spreads his ideas which have been condemned by the Church Hierarchy as being harmful for the Church.
After this decision, in November 1918, Fr. Anthony Bulatovich wrote to Patriarch Tikhon and the Holy Synod informing them of his secession from any spiritual communion with the ecclesiastical authorities until “an examination of the case in its essence by the Holy Council”041. Not long thereafter, he suffered a violent death as mentioned above, being 49 years old, in 1919  [6].

1921 – Patriarch Tikhon mentions the subject of the Name-worshippers in his Christmas Encyclical of 1921.

...During these lofty days, when the Church celebrates the Nativity of the Godman, Who brought upon the earth peace and goodwill of our Heavenly Father, I deem it proper to remind you, in brief, concerning the Athonite Name glorifiers and to offer you some guidance on how to treat these monastics. From their case it can be seen that in its Resolution 3479, of April 22-25, 1914, the Holy Synod condescended to the spiritual mood and the disposition of mind of those Athonite monks who were not well versed in theology as expressed in books, nor very knowledgeable concerning formal proceedings, [and it, the Synod of 1914] allowed the previously required signed repudiation by the Name-worshippers of their false teaching to be replaced with a written testimony [i.e. from witness] (by sworn promise), while kissing the Holy Cross and the Gospel, of their Orthodox Faith, 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, in particular as pertains to the veneration of the Name of God, not to believe that His Name is God’s essence, not to separate it [the Name] from God, or consider it another deity, and not to deify letters, sounds and random/accidental thoughts about God, and such who believe in this manner and who manifest their submission to the ecclesiastical authorities, the Holy Synod [of 1914] decided to receive into the Church, while those of priestly rank it permitted to perform services. However, while manifesting its condescension, the Synod did not alter its previous judgment regarding the very error contained in the writings of Anthony Bulatovich and his followers, which it decided to refer to the consideration of the Holy Pan-Russian Local Council, from which depends the resolution of this case in its essence…
The Name-worshippers had used a version of the above excerpt of the 1921 Nativity encyclical which is mistranslated and subsequently they misinterpret. Their translation uses the English simple past for the first half of the excerpt: “…the Holy Synod…permitted…decided”, etc., but the present perfect for the second half of the translation: “…the Synod has decided…has permitted”. The implications here is that one body made the first decisions, and that a later body made the other ones. Such is not the case. Bishop Gregory Lourie does use this 1921 epistle of Patriarch Tikhon to argue for the existence of just a separate resolution, which, according to him, “has not come down to us”. He further claims that this hypothetical ‘resolution’ removed all the remaining bans on those Name-worshippers still living. According to Bishop Gregory, the text of Patriarch Tikhon’s epistle was based on this ‘resolution’. He offers no proof for these assertions.

One apologist for the Name-worshippers likewise interprets this excerpt of the 1921 encyclical in the same manner as we have above. Metropolitan Hilarian (Alfeyev), the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Affairs, is a well-known expert on the Name-worshipping movement and has written a two-volume study on it. Nor can Metropolitan Hilarion be suspected of partiality toward Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, of whom he declares in his book that he was driven into exile after the Revolution and died as a schismatic, outside of the Church. In citing this 1921 encyclical of Patriarch Tikhon, Metropolitan Hilarion writes:
At the beginning of 1921, the Patriarch sent a nativity Epistle to the diocesan bishops, part of which was devoted to the treatment of the Athonite Name-glorifiers. The Patriarch, in particular, mentioned the resolution of the Synod, No. 3479, of April 22-25, 1914, according to which the Name-glorifiers were allowed to participate in the Mysteries and priestly services on the condition of a written or oral testimony “of their exact following of the orthodox Church and obedience to the God-established hierarchy”; however, as the Patriarch emphasized, the Synod, in its Resolution of 1914, “did not change its previous judgment regarding the error itself, which is found in the writings of Anthony Bulatovich and his followers, which it decided to refer to the consideration of the Holy All-Russian Council, on which depends the resolution of this entire matter in its essence.... [7]
The Pan-Russian Council did not need to re-discuss the subject. All the Synods which had previously convened had condemned the Name-worshippers, and had not altered their opinion and decision. Shortly thereafter, robbers murdered Bulatovich. Despising Synodical decisions does not lead to a good end, “the death of sinners is evil” (Ps 33:22).

Another similar occurrence: Archimandrite Arsenius, general delegate of the Holy Synod of Russia, was sent by the Moscow Patriarchate to Mt. Athos to judge the situation in 1913. Having arrived, the next day he attached himself to the party of the Name-worshippers. At the critical moment of the dialogue between the opposing parties, Arsenius suffered paralysis and could not speak. After a month and a half, he suffered another attack and became a complete invalid and never recovered [8] He had been abbot of the Monastery of St. Macarius. His successor, the sacred martyr Macarius, became bishop of the Catacomb Church. He and the entire monastery remained Orthodox [9].

The events of 1911 – 1918 on Mt. Athos and Russia became known throughout the whole Orthodox world, through articles and journalistic reports; and comments appeared in all the centers of the Orthodox world. The Church Herald, official organ of the Church of Cyprus (#3 [1913] 708 – 720), the Church Beacon, of the Church of Alexandria (#11, 1913 pg 362) and Church Truth of Constantinople (#33, 1913, pg 123) describe the new heretical teachings, and the Name-worshippers' vicious language and violent assaults in their invasion of St. Panteleimon Monastery, where they imprisoned the abbot Misael and elected a new abbot David, and of the Skete of St. Andrew, where they expelled the abbot Hieronymous with many monks and seized the Skete. The news accounts have many more details from which the account above is summarized. Most of the Local Orthodox Churches had no problem in their regions with Name-worshippers, so no official action was required, or indeed, canonically proper for them to enact. But the official journals indicate their agreement with the condemnation of the Name-worshippers and their disorderly and illegal behavior; nor was there any objection or demurral voiced.

We either agree with the councils or Synods or we do not. We can summon a council and declare the former a “robber” council and condemn their decisions, or we can ignore their decisions because they are not enacted with ecumenical authority, or not of our province, i.e. not part of our local Church. We should remember, however, the Council of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the eleventh century under Patriarch Michael Cerularius, which put the Latins under anathema. Patriarch Peter of Antioch expressed himself guardedly against the anathema unless the dogmatic accusations were verifiably true.

Yet this decision of a local council has ecumenical force and authority for the Orthodox Church, because its dogmatic formulations were undoubtedly true to Orthodoxy, so the churches all accepted it as self-evident truth and did not convene separate councils.

Sacred martyr Basil (Zelentsov) (+1930) was catacomb Bishop of Proluki, a professor of theology and a witnessing Christian, a lay delegate to the Pan-Russian Council. His sermon at his ordination was more a pledge of fidelity to the Church of Christ to struggle until “his last breath” against the “apostates [he means the Sergianists], the blasphemers, innovators and heretics”. He recognized the condemnation of the Name-worshippers by the Synod and declared “they will be accepted into Church communion and participation in the mysteries of the Church only under the inviolable condition that they reject the false doctrine of Name-worshipping and verify their faith in the dogmas and doctrine of the church, as well as their obedience to the Church authorities."

Callinicus the Hesychast (+Aug. 7, 1930) was one of the foremost teachers and examples of hesychasm and spiritual guide and confessor upon Mt. Athos in his lifetime [10].
The name of God does not have a magical character so that whoever invokes it gains its powers. A medium, a Satanist, an actor can take in his mouth or use in a book of magic the name God, Jesus, or Christ, without grace obeying him and working, just as an icon or cross in the hands of a heretic or in magic has no power, but is a simple object, inert matter without power, even if it bears thename of God upon it. Christ names Himself: door, vine, rock, spirit, light, life, Lord, shepherd, Lamb, father, mother, teacher, bread, etc. Certainly, that does not mean whenever I see the words bread, door, rock, etc. without fail, God is there. Neither when one says the word “spirit” is only God signified, for a demon is called spirit, as also are the wind and the air and man’s soul. ‘Take caretherefore, when hearing such words lest you be lead astray by the sameness of the sound and understand something else than that which is intended’ (St. Cyril of Jerusalem 16:13). Faith is the presupposition; grace does not pour forthwithout distinction and discretion. Rightly did the Russian Synod condemn theName-worshippers, who believed ‘that the unconscious repetition of the name of God is effectual!’ The same Synod speaks of a ‘mechanical repetition’ and ‘magical superstition’ of the Name-worshippers. ‘An inexperienced monk will forget that prayer is directed to someone’ and ‘only a dead repetition will suffice’ and ‘not gaining the fruits which only true prayers can provide, either he will fall into despair (he will lose heart) or will produce them artificially in himself and he will perceive that exultation as the action of grace, that is, he will fall into deception.’ [see decision of the Russian Synod]
The name of God is holy “certainly not because the syllables contain some sanctifying power” writes St Basil the Great, On Psalm 32  (Ellines Pateres Ekklesias, vol 5, p. 197).
“There exists no name which embraces the whole nature of God, and is sufficient to declare it; more names than one, and these of very various kinds, each in accordance with its own proper connotation, give a collective idea which may be dim indeed and poor when compared with the whole, but is enough for us.” St. Basil the Great, Against Eunomius, I, 10.

“There was a time when God had no name, and there will be a time when he will have no name.” St Isaac the Syrian, Unpublished Chapters on Knowledge, III, 1, syr. e7, Bodleian.
“The movements of the tongue and the heart in prayer are keys; what comes after them, however, is the entrance into the treasury. Here let every mouth, every tongue become silent, and let the heart (the treasurer of the thoughts), and the mind (the ruler of the senses), and the reason (that swift-winged and most shameless bird), and their every device become still.” The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011, Homily 23, p. 239.
“So far, nobody has found any name completely worthy of God; nor is this very ‘Word’ used strictly and essentially of Him; it only shows that the Son was born from the Father without passion.” Blessed Theophylactus, Archbishop of Bulgaria, Commentary on John, 1:2.

Saint Basil the Great in the Hexaemeron describes the dispensation of words as used in Scripture, that the words are human, not directly God’s words:
“It must be well understood that when we speak of the voice, of the word, of the command of God, this divine language does not mean to us a sound which escapes from the organs of speech, a collision of air struck by the tongue; it is a simple sign of the will of God, and, if we give it the form of an order, it is only the better to impress the souls whom we instruct. (Hexaemeron 11:7)
“Let not the unbelieving heart think that the sign of the cross as well as the name of Christ work miracles of themselves independently of Christ Himself…They work no miracle until we see Jesus Christ with the eyes of our soul, with faith.” St John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ, p.75.

Starets Barsanuphius of Optina, contemporary of Bulatovich said, “Power is not in the word, it is not in the name, but in Christ Himself who is named,” (Elder Barsanuphius, 2000, p. 810). A spiritual daughter of the Staretz relates, “knowing the Elder’s strict obedience to the Church, I know that he would have taken these books [In the Mountains of the Caucasus] away from us and would have submitted to the Synod’s order. [11] ( Elder Barsanuphius, 2000, p. 811).
Theophanes the recluse said, “Words are only prayers expression and are always weaker than prayer itself” (Art of Prayer, p. 125). Again he says, “The Jesus prayer is not itself miraculous, but like any other short prayer, it is oral and consequently external” (pg 126). This “external” of which the saints teach, the syllables of the words, are the “cap” that the holy Elder Callinicus so wisely spoke of in his excellent and down to earth metaphor, which the Name-worshippers mocked. He said, “They have left off worshipping the head and are worshipping the cap”. In his correspondence, the Elder Callinicus called it “this stupid heresy."
We have seen all the Synods, Churches and Saints, which, following the Fathers, have condemned the Name-worshippers, or rejected their doctrine by their contrary exposition of Orthodox doctrine. No Synod has repealed these condemnations. The supporters of the Name-worshippers in past decades were Berdyaev, S. Bulgakov (condemned for his heresy of Sophiology) and another Sophiologist and occultist, the priest Paul Florensky.

Bishop Gregory Lourie has revived the doctrine of Name-worshipping by writing about it and lauding their founders Hilarion (who admitted that his doctrine is “new” and never found before) and Anthony Bulatovich, whom he has canonized with an icon and a service. He pretends that this is the genuine Athonite teaching, and that he is battling against “Name-fighters” and innovators. Bishop Lourie says, “There are no strange or erroneous teachings in Fr. Bulatovich’s books”. Bulatovich called anyone who disagreed with him, “heretics”, “fools”, “blasphemers”, and “anathematized”. In fact, according to him, the whole Church was in Apostasy, because it did not agree with him. All the saints, martyrs, confessors, struggles, and godly scholars from the 1900’s, and all the Church’s councils were flawed or heretical.

Both Bulatovich and Gregory Lourie angrily attack and defame Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky, who was a major religious and theological figure of the time.  Bulatovich and Lourie, with no substantiation, pronounce him to be a heretic [12]  This is the man whose students were confessors and martyrs, and was greatly respected, even though many of his theological positions were controversial because they had patristic foundations and were different from the customary philosophical and scholastic theology usual in Russia during the prior three centuries. He was the reviver of Patristic theology in Russia. St. Justin Popovich declared, “We are ants before him, who is a soaring eagle.” St. John of San Francisco was a student of his as well as St. Hilarion (Troitsky) the hieromartyr, and many others. His analysis of the Name-worshippers was convincing and unanswerable.

Throughout St. Dionysius the Areopagite’s works, The Mystical Theology and The Divine Names (and indeed, in all his writings), he proclaims that God is without form and inconceivable to human conception, beyond any grasp: physical, spiritual, intellectual; unknowable, uncontainable, infinite, perceivable only by His effects, only when He wills. God acts and can effect, but He cannot be acted upon or affected; God is impassible, changeless, remaining always the same as He ever was and shall be According to St. Dionysis, “God participates in us, but we do not participate in him (Divine Names 2:5 – 6). That is to say, God affects us, but we do not affect Him. So all the Apostles and Fathers have preached.
St. Isaac the Syrian quotes St Dionysius when he discusses the different types of prayer:
“Saint Dionysius, who writes: ‘We use sounds and syllables and phrases and descriptions and words on account of our senses, since when our soul is moved by noetic energies (operations) to things noetic, both the senses and that which they perceive become superfluous; just as, in turn, the noetic powers are superfluous when the soul, having become Godlike by an unknown union, throws herself upon the rays of the unapproachable Light with sightless hurlings.’ [13]
St Basil the Great and St Gregory of Nyssa in their books Against Eunomius [14] say that no name can be applied to God, which describes His nature or essence, because names are material, human constructions. Certainly, the doctrine of the Names of God has been clearly set forth by the church, by St. Irenaeus, Ss. Gregory the Theologian, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, Maximus the Confessor, John of Damascus and many more. These citations are found in the conciliar decisions against the Name-worshippers and in the exposition of Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky.

Bulatovich, in order to establish his doctrine, frequently brings forward these words of our Savior as a proof text, with his peculiar interpretation. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (Jn 6:63) Bulatovich maintains that the Lord meant that whatever words he had said to the Apostles were the Holy Spirit itself and life itself, i.e., since life is one of the divine names, the name is therefore, Life itself. He concludes that every word that Christ spoke was, therefore, God Himself; when the Apostles and disciples repeated these words, their words were God Himself; whenever they were printed and repeated by others, these words also were God Himself, because they are divine energies of God. When God gave the commandments and law on Sinai; these are God Himself, as they are the energies of God. The entire written Gospel is God Himself, because it is the energies of God. Whatever the Holy Spirit did and revealed is God Himself, as they are “the fruits of the Spirit” of which the Apostle Paul speaks therefore they are God Himself. (pg. 74, Bulatovich, The Glory of God is Jesus, Christomanou Press, Thessalonica, 1913) No wonder the Theologians of Halki judged that his doctrine “reeks of  Pantheism”. However, St Cyril of Jerusalem repeats the common interpretation understanding in the Church of this text of the Gospel:
But since concerning spirit in general many diverse things are written in the divine Scriptures, and there is fear lest some out of ignorance fall into confusion, not knowing to what sort of spirit the writing refers; it will be well now to certify you, of what kind the Scripture declares the Holy Spirit to be. For Aaron is called Christ, and David and Saul and others are called Christs, but there is only one true Christ, so likewise since the name spirit is given to different things, it is right to see what is that which is distinctively called the Holy Spirit. For many things are called spirits. Thus an Angel is called spirit, our souls are called spirits, and the wind which is blowing is called spirit…and a devil our adversary is called spirit…And of good doctrine the Lord Himself says, ‘The words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life’; instead of “are spiritual”. Catechetical Lecture, 16:13) [in other words, the Lord says spirit instead of saying spiritual]
Bulatovich distorts the meaning of the phrase “in the name of Jesus” as meaning the very name itself, “Jesus”, which he believes is God Himself. The phrase is commonly understood even in everyday speech as invoking the authority and power of who or what is named as the justification for the action: “in the name of the government of the United States”, “in the name of the King”, “in the name of President Obama”, “in the name of common humanity”.

Bulatovich also claims that the name “Jesus” existed before eternity in the eternal counsel of God and therefore is the most-excellent, eternal name of God above every name. Yet no Father when speaking about the divine names has ever referred to the Word and Son of God as “Jesus” before His incarnation. He is called, “God, “Son”, “Word”, “Angel of great counsel”, “Wisdom”, etc. St Cyril of Alexandria says, “the names before the incarnation are appropriate to His nature, “God” and “Wisdom”…but since he came down to empty himself by taking on the likeness of a man…he accepts the common name, that is both “Christ” and “Jesus”, which is to say, “God with us”… Therefore, then, I declare that the name of Christ is inappropriate for God the Word before His incarnation; if he has not yet received the Chrism, how can he be called Christ? [If he has not yet been anointed, how can he be called the Anointed one?] (Commentary on Esaias 4.4 2.656 A – E)

St Basil the Great: “The name of God is said to be holy, not because it contains in it any special virtue, but because in whatsoever way we contemplate God, we see Him pure and Holy.” (On Psalm 32)

Whatever we know about God “received its name after the name came into being… [For] names were invented to denote the Supreme Being, not for His sake, but for our own.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Answer to Eunomius’ second Book)

“Inasmuch as He is the cause of all, He receives names from all His effects” (St. John Damascene, Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 1, 12). God’s effects, that are His energies, receive names from men, but the names are not the effect (energies) which God causes. Therefore as the Synods declared: the name is not the energy of God; the name is not that which is named.

“The God-inspired scriptures of necessity use many names and expressions for the particular and moreover, enigmatic portrayal of the glory of God.” (St. Basil the Great, On Faith, 5) The glory of God is a divine energy, the “names and expressions” are mankind’s description of the glory of God, but not that glory itself.

“The divinity is un-nameable. When we represent God by borrowing certain traits from that which surrounds God, [His glory or energies] we compose a certain unclear and weak idea gathered in-parts from this and that. And the best theologian among us is not he who has discovered everything, but he whose idea is broader, and who has formed in himself a fuller likeness or shadow of the truth.” (St. Gregory the Theologian, Fourth Theological Oration, 17)
“That which surrounds God” [ta peri tou theou] –His glory or energy– forms in the believer and theologian a shadow or likeness in his understanding. This can be named, but that name is not that glory itself, but one man’s understanding of it. The term “divinity” refers also to the divine energies, which are formless, without shape or image. They are the formless ideas or words logoi of creatures; they are the formless “wills” of God, which are then named by men, not the energies themselves. Therefore as the Synods declared: the name is not the energy of God; the name is not that which is named.

“We, following the suggestions of Scriptures, have learned that the nature [of God] is un-nameable and unspeakable, and we say that every term, either invented by the custom of men, or handed down to us by the Scriptures, is indeed explanatory of our conceptions of the Divine Nature, but does not include the significance of that Nature itself.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, To Ablabius, PG 45, 121B)

Our conceptions, which can be described and named, explain the divinity, but do not include its significance, therefore the names also do not include, the energy of the divinity. Therefore as the Synods declared: the name is not the energy of God; the name is not that which is named.

“Note that the name ‘God’ does not show the essence or what God is, but a certain good deed in relation to us, and that we create names for God from the gifts of God of which we are participants.” (St. Maximus the Confessor, Scholia on the Divine Names II)

“We create names for God,” but man does not create the divinity, which is ever existent, beginning less and unending. Therefore as the Synods declared: the name is not the energy of God; the name is not that which is named.

“That which surrounds God,” is His glory, might, power, majesty, light, providence, will, energy, which are referred to, or explained or portrayed by the divine names. These name are inventions of men even, if they refer to the very essence of God or recount God’s revelation, as the divinity is beyond every name or image or conception of man; God certainly cannot be held or enclosed by human words or terms or by any constraints – material, intellectual, spiritual, or noetic.

Many students of philosophy attempted to apply categories of necessity, nature, and essence to God and the incarnation; likewise, many sought for solutions in the Platonic ideas, in the Neo-platonic sympathies, but the Church rejected these. Indeed, Synodicon of Orthodoxy condemns these philosophies in three different chapters.

The revelation of the doctrine of the Tri-Hypostatic Trinity has been the formulation, which has rescued the Church from any such errors. One essence revealed in three sovereign hypostases, of one power, throne, glory, and dominion: Infinite, without beginning or end, impassible, omniscient, omnipotent, without form or body, and uncreated. Divinity is attributed to the essence of God, but He is multiple in His will, because all created things have the formless, shapeless will of God as the ground of their being, an unrelated relationship, a formless icon or archetype (according to St. John of Damascus), thus denying any doctrine of Platonic ideas or images. There is an indivisible division of God among individual creatures, which the Saints call also the natural energy of God. 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.

A sheet circulated by the Name-worshippers recently, purports to compare in two columns, Teaching of the Russian Synod on the Grace of God in one column, and by its side in another, Teaching of St Gregory Palamas on the Grace of God.  The Name-worshippers accuse the Decision of the Russian Synod of 1913, Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky, and S. Troitsky of misquoting and denying the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas, while, in opposition, they quote some few lines from the writings of St Gregory. To prove that the above mentioned authorities did not misquote St Gregory, as is claimed, and that he also used the term ‘Divinity’ as they did, we shall offer the fifth chapter of those anathemas written by St. Gregory against Barlaam and Acyndinus [15].
Again, to those same men who say that the name Godhead or Divinity [theotes] can be applied only to the essence of God, and who do not confess, in accord with the divinely inspired theologies of the Church that this appellation is applied as well to the divine energy, and that by all means, the Saints thus still profess one Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whether one apply the term Godhead to Their essence or to Their operation, since the divine expounders of the mysteries have so instructed us,
Anathema (3)
Clearly the Saint uses the term Divinity, in the same way as do the Synod and the theologians mentioned, to refer to the divine energy. Referring to the divine essence itself as God, was not unknown to ancient church writers. In any case, the quibbling over the term “divinity” is ridiculous, because any dictionary will define it as Godhead, or God, or the deity, or the quality of being divine, or partaking of the divine nature, etc., and this is how it is used here. St. Basil remarked that we will not argue over the order or form of words so long as they mean the same thing. Here they signify clearly that the energies are God Himself.
St. Gregory the Theologian and St. Basil the Great call the light of Mt. Tabor (the divine energy) ‘divinity’ saying that ‘the light is the divinity manifested to the disciples on the Mount’ and that it is ‘the beauty of Him Who is almighty, and His noetic and contemplatable divinity.’ St John of Damascus as well as St. John Chrysostom call that light a natural ray of the Divinity. The former writes, ‘Because the Son was begotten unoriginately from the Father, He possess the natural, unoriginate ray of the Divinity, and the glory of the Divinity becomes the glory of His Body.’ And St John Chrysostom says, ‘The Lord appeared upon the mountain more radiant than Himself because the Divinity revealed its rays.’” (St. Gregory Palamas, Topics of Natural and Theological Science, no. 146)
There are no arguments with the other texts thus quoted from St. Gregory, although the use of no. 126 from his Topics of Natural and Theological Science is an amusing stumble by the Name-worshippers; for a few words before, the Saint uses the word “God” in a manner similar to the theologians they condemned: “God the Father is called Father in relation to His own Son, and fatherhood pertains to Him as an uncreated property, even though energy differs from essence.” Theological terminology shifts somewhat in usage of terms in order to present a truth which is beyond conception and verbalization; it must be understood within the limitations of language as the meaning and significance is presented in all its facets to reach fuller expression and development, after all terms have had their relationship explicated.

Sufficient are the quotations presented to prove that the use of the word “Divinity” by the Russian Synod and other Orthodox Theologians is not a denial of St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodoxy; rather the Name-worshippers attempt to confuse the issue by using selectively truncated quotations to discredit the Synods and the Orthodox theologians; it is also a smokescreen to hide the real reason for their condemnation.

The decisions of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate, of the Russian Synod, of Mt. Athos, of Halki’s verdict, and Metropolitan Anthony’s analysis and exposition prove that they knew and certainly understood St Gregory, who had gathered his teachings from the scriptures, the Apostolic Fathers, and St. Dionysius the Aeropagite, and all the Saints up to his day, in order to refute the Thomist theology of Barlaam, which teachings were also known to the aforementioned, when they declared that the properties, characteristics, and attributes of God were also divine, according to the ancient doctrine of the Church. They all rejected the blasphemous innovation of Hilarion and Bulatovich, which made God material. Wherefore they condemned them as being the actual Barlaamites (for such is Thomism: God’s energies and grace are created, thus material).

God is uncreated. All else is created. God alone is always and forever, without beginning or end, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, infinite, incomprehensible, ever the same, simple, uncomposite, unconstrained, impassible, inviolate and invulnerable. This is God alone, the Trinity, with all His attributes and properties, which aside from the hypostases, are His essential energy, for He dwells in unapproachable light.

St Gregory Palamas, following St Maximus the Confessor, concerning a symbol or sign of divinity, declares that “every symbol either derives from the nature of the object of which it is a symbol, or belongs to an entirely different nature. Thus when the sun is about to rise, the dawn is a natural symbol of its light, and similarly heat is a natural symbol of the burning power of fire.” In other words, it is a natural symbol because it participates in the same nature as that which it symbolizes, thus the light of Tabor is a natural symbol because it is the light of the Divinity as all the Fathers and services of the Church have declared. “As for the symbol which derives from another nature, having its own existence, it is quite impossible for it constantly to be associated with the object it symbolizes, for nothing prevents it from existing before and after this object, like any reality having its own existence.” (St. Gregory Palamas, Triads III, 1, 14) This, of course refutes the claim of Barlaam that the light of Tabor was created, as St. Gregory proves in the following chapters, 15 – 23; but it also refutes the Name-worshippers, for the name is created, derived from a different nature from the uncreated divinity, and impossible to be continually associated with it.
According to those who hold the true faith – and contrary to Acindynus’ nonsensical and impious ramblings – created things are not the energy of God, but they are the effects of the divine energy. For if the created things are the energy, either such things are uncreated – which is sheer folly, for it would mean that they exist before they are created – or else prior to created things God possesses no energy; and this is mere godlessness. For of course, God is eternally active and all-powerful. Thus creatures are not God’s energy, but things that (whatever the precise terminology employed) have been actualized and effected. But God’s energy, according to the theologians, is uncreated and co-eternal with God.” (St. Gregory Palamas, Topics of Natural and Theological Science, no. 140)
“It is not activating and energy, but being acted upon and passivity that produces composition. God activates without in any way being acted upon or subject to change.” (Ibid, no. 145)

It is ironic that the Name-worshippers rush forward, purportedly as great champions and defenders of St. Gregory Palamas, while railing against the Orthodox Church as not understanding him or as misquoting him. But upon actually reading St Gregory, the Name-worshippers find themselves impaled upon the spiritual sword of his doctrine.

The names of God or the divine names are our perception of the revelation about God, not of the essence, but of that which pertain to God or surrounds God, (ta peri tou theou), i.e., God’s glory or energy. These names are given for our recognition and recall. According to all the Fathers, and accepted by all Orthodox, especially after being defined by Ss Dionysius, Gregory the Theologian, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Palamas, these names are created, creations of man, and thus can never be energies of God.

Since God alone is uncreated and cannot change, and he is one and uncomposite, i.e., simple, His essence and essential energy are simple and undivided. A created name cannot become uncreated God, i.e., an energy of God, still less a part of the divine essence, which has no relation with anything created.

St. Gregory Palamas, states in his Chapters Against Barlaam and Acindynus, no. 3, Synodicon of Orthodoxy:
Since according to the Saints, created energy evinces a created nature, whereas uncreated energy designates an uncreated essence; in consequence, they now face the hazard of falling into complete atheism, since they have affixed the mythology of the Greeks and the worship of creatures to the pure and spotless faith of the Christians; to those men, therefore, who do not confess, in accord with the divinely-inspired theologies of the Saints and the pious mind of the Church, that every natural power and operations [energy] of the tri-hypostatic Godhead is uncreated,
Anathema (3)

Therefore if we follow the Name-worshippers, we will either worship a created God and become idolaters, since, as they declare His name, a creation, is now a divine energy; or we will fall into Pantheism, since all the divine names or energies sustain every creature in existence, give life and love, and provide for them and direct them. These are the conclusions drawn by St Gregory in the foregoing quotation, since the worship of creation is idolatry; or pantheism, which results in atheism, i.e., that is the denial of the living, Triune God and the worship of an eternal universe, like the ancient philosophers.

The Name-worshippers attempt to imbue the names – especially Jesus – with mystic, special power, sympathy or attachment. This is the mark of Gnosticism, Platonism, Neoplatonism, or magic. All the foregoing have been refuted and condemned by the Church; in the Synodicon of Orthodoxy, Platonism and its doctrines have been condemned three times.

If the Iconoclasts had heard the Orthodox say that the icon of Christ is God Himself, they would have been justified in calling us idolaters since the Orthodox worship a piece of wood and call it God Himself. Yet Name-worshippers say that this is God Himself if the monograms are painted thereon. We follow the Seventh Ecumenical council in declaring: worshipping but not deifying; the honor passes over to the prototype.

Indeed, this whole sorry attempt to discredit the Orthodoxy of the decision of the Russian Synod, of the Constantinople Patriarchate, Halki’s verdict and that of Mt. Athos, is a smoke screen and distraction to hide the real reason for their condemnation.

Now the Name-worshippers say that the name “Jesus” (or any divine name or even any word of scripture) is an energy of God, that is God Himself. As we have seen in the writings of the Fathers, names are created, the inventions of men. We would resemble the Gnostics who said that God degenerated and fell becoming material if we should say what the Name-worshippers do. But such can never be attributed to our omnipotent, infinite, ever-existent, unchangeable deity of one essence and essential energy in three hypostases. Quite rightly have the Synods declared that the divine names are not an essential energy of God. Otherwise we would be saying that the uncontainable God can be contained, the Omnipotent constrained and coerced, and the Unchangeable changed.

With their doctrine of the energy of God being a name (while all the Saints have declared names to be material), the result is that the more frequently the name is said, the more grace is gathered, thus quantifying God and God’s energy: A mechanical process similar to Tibetan prayer wheels, which the more they turn, the more merit is gained. The Name-worshippers appear to be applying one of the so-called laws of Magic, that of Identity: the name is identical with that which is named. We can do without such superstition, condemned by the Church as demonic deception.

If the Name-worshippers should say that Jesus Christ was also God and created, the Incarnation is a completely different matter. The Incarnation concerns the Word of God, one hypostasis of the Most Holy Trinity, a hypostasis not an energy, Who became a man, taking upon Himself a pure, perfect human nature for our salvation, uniting it to the divine nature in Himself ‘without confusion or change”, “perfect God and perfect man”. Even here, the divinity did not change or merge with the humanity, nor was humanity dissolved in the divinity, but because of the intercommunion of the attributes in the hypostasis of the Word, we speak of Jesus Christ as both God and man. But such a union cannot apply to the inviolable grace and will of God, for they are the single, united, essential energy of the Trinity. Even in the incarnation, the human nature retained its natural identity and did not become divine in itself, although the distinction we are told by S John Damascene, is only used in abstract thought, not in reality. But the communion of the divine energy or grace with creation – creature, inanimate nature, or a name – is not a hypostatic or essential change: the created nature remains created and its grace and glory is forever contingent, uncreated and not bound to the nature.

We worship the Cross of Christ, we worship the name of Christ, we worship the icon of Christ, as all the saints have declared; “The worship and honor passes over to the prototype,” “we worship them but we do not deify them”, according to the Seventh Ecumenical Council and the theologies of the Saints.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery
Boston, Massachusetts USA


1   "Joachim III (1834-1912). Born in Constantinople, he served as Patriarch 1878-84 and from 1902 to 1912, the year of his repose. Known for his almsgiving and compassion, he strengthened the bond of the Church of Constantinople with other local Orthodox Churches, especially that of Russia. He was geatly esteemed by the last Sultan, Abdul Hamit. During his exile between his two tenures as Patriarch, he resided on the Holy Mountain where he was loved and esteemed by the fathers of the monasteries and sketes. His family name was Demetriades and, according to some, he was one of the greatest Patriarchs after the fall of the City (1453), characterized as ‘of great mind, majesty, and great accomplishments.’” Peter Botsis, The Elder Ieronymos of Aegina, translated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, pg 77 (the text cited was inserted intothe book by the translator).
2 Archbishop Nikon wrote and rebuked Anthony Bulatovich for not obeying the Constantinople Patriarch’s summons to a spiritual court but instead began violent sedition against his ecclesiastical superior before even hearing any decision of theirs. Constantine Papoulides, “Unpublished Documents Concerning the Russian Name-worshippers of the Holy Mountain” in Makedonika 21 (1981) pp 264-265 (in Greek).
3  See the excellent work published by Dorotheus, monk, The Holy Mountain (To Agion Oros) vol. 1, 1986 (receiving award from the Academy of Athens) on page 175, “[Anthony Bulatovich] belongs to that category of persons who possess some dogmatic knowledge which they vaunt and attempt to apply with exaggeration, violence, and lies".
4 The Russian Synodal Decision, Halki’s Verdict on the Name-worshipping Controversy, Constantinople's Decision, and Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky’s Analysis, are all available in English.

5  Metropolitan Vladimir was the head of the Russian Synod at that time as he was the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg.

6  Anthony Bulatovich entered St. Andrew Skete in July 1907, but was possessed by depression. The Skete Elders, in order to relieve him of the pressure he had from a desire for activity, permitted him a journey to Ethiopia where he remained for almost a year. Upon his return, he became zealous in theological matters. The Abbot Hieronymus admonished him not to spread teachings of Name-worshipping among the monks. He refused to obey and abandoned the Skete. After a few months, he returned with reinforcements. His followers, with uplifted fists shouted, “Blood will be spilt!” They occupied the main church and later used force to expel the Abbot Hieronymous and other faithful. Anthony was the leader, “applying to monasticism the methods he had learnt in his military career.” Dorotheus, monk The Holy Mountain, vol 1, pp 177-178).


8   Dorotheus, monk, The Holy Mountain vol 1, pg 179; Papoulides, “Unpublished Documents Concerning the Russian Name-worshippers of the Holy Mountain” in Makedonika 21 (1981) p. 276 (in Greek).

9  Russian Catacomb Saints, 1982 (p. 362) and Orthodox Word (1972)
10  Contemporary Ascetics of Mt. Athos; Archimandrite Cherubim, vol. 1, 1991, pp. 169 - 219
11  The Starets reposed in April 1913, before the Russian Synodal Decision was released.

12  Bulatovich spends an entire chapter of his book, The Glory of God is Jesus, (Christomanou Press, Thessalonica, 1913, Chapter 4, pp. 34 – 45) in which he calls Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky an “arch-heresiarch”, “drawing all the Russian Orthodox Church into apostasy.”(p. 43)

13  The Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian, Holy Transfiguration, 2011, pg. 241-242

14 The 4th century heretic who declared, “A name is one and the same as the object named.” He believed that the name “un-originate” denoted the very essence of God.

15 Synodicon of Orthodoxy