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, November 21, 2013

St. John of Kronstadt and the Name of God

Reply to Mr. Tom Deretich, no.2

Name-worshippers love to quote St. John Kronstadt: “the name of God is God Himself” and “you have in that name all the essence of the Lord” (My Life In Christ, pg. 359, St. Petersburg, 2001). Later, however, St. John explains that his understanding of these expressions is founded upon the patristic theology of the Church and not on the ravings of Anthony Bulatovich. The Saint’s words from ‘My Life In Christ’, pp. 467-468:
Since the Lord is everywhere present, His Cross works miracles, His name works miracles, His Icons are wonderworking”. “Since we are of flesh, the Lord attaches His presence, so to speak, and His very self with creation… He attaches Himself to the Temple, to the Icons, to the sign of the Cross, to His name composed of articulated sounds, with holy water, with the sanctified bread, wheat and wine… but there shall come a time when all the visible signs shall not be necessary, and we shall partake of Him more intensely then, ‘in the unwaning day of His Kingdom’, where as now only through the medium of the flesh and through Icons and signs.

First, the Saint well comprehends the basic understanding of God, held for more than three thousand years by the Church: God is omnipresent. The invocation that begins Orthodox services of prayers is the proclamation of this doctrine: “Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, O Treasury of every good and Bestower of life: come and dwell in us, and cleanse us from every stain, and save, O Good One, our souls”.

God is present everywhere, filling and interpenetrating all things, with no limit or bound, entirely free and unapproachable. He, God Himself, both the essence and the indivisible energy, operations, activity, and attributes, which are the uncreated glory in which He the uncreated God dwells; He is throughout us and in us: in the air we breathe and the food we eat and the raiment we wear and the blood that courses in our veins. He dwells in light unapproachable, i.e., we cannot touch or force Him: He is free and absolute and transcendent. Nothing can touch Him unless He will it. His will – one of His uncreated energies – can grant a grace to or effect a creature, but only at His volition. He is ‘ο ἐνεργών, (ho energon) while creation is τὸ ενεργούμενον, (to energoumenon), i.e. He is the energizer while creation is that which is energized. The energizer effects but is not affected by that which is energized; He remains inviolate, for He is uncreated and eternal, unchanging and ever the same. Only the creation is changeable, and never can the two ever be intermingled or confused.

St. John of Kronstadt makes this understanding clear by saying that God is everywhere, and He sanctifies them, who through various mediums, approach Him. This was the teaching of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which stated that we do not deify the medium – Icons, names, the Cross, etc – but our worship passes over and reaches the Divinity to attract His grace. It is obvious that the Saint considers the mediums as means created by mankind, which direct our attention and prayers to the prototype, Who, if He desires, can respond with His grace. St. John lists “name” along with the Church building, Icons, holy water, the Cross, etc (all of which are creations of man), where God Himself is approached and His grace can be received; he follows the decisions of the Seventh Council. There is no mention or hint of an uncreated name or of pantheism. St. John did not preach name-worshipping.

Another quote from St. John of Kronstadt, that the name-worshippers like to ignore is: “Let not the heart weak in faith think that the Cross or the name of Christ act of themselves, or that this Cross and this name of Christ produces miracles when I do not look with the eyes of my heart or with the faith of Christ”. (Sergieff, John I. (1897) My Life in Christ. (E.E. Goulaeff, Trans.). Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery (1971). p. 23.

This quote from St. John of Kronstadt shakes the very foundation of the name-worshippers doctrine. It is clear that St. John was not a name-worshipper, but only said that “the name of God, is God Himself” in the context of prayer and not as an identity or in a literal sense.

Anthony Bulatovich’s writings clearly and explicitly preach that the letters of God’s name are God Himself, as is also the spoken word. His modern followers preach the same as their ‘sainted’ founder. But when they are challenged because they are preaching the ludicrous doctrines of an uncreated creation, or of pantheism, they speedily demur, saying, “No one could ever be so illogical” (and Bulatovich rolls over in his grave). Such a tactic is common among heretics; they deny anything which is pointed out as being senseless or foreign to the Faith. They then send up a smokescreen of obfuscations, and then invent an even worse heresy; in this instance, the uncreated name. Some facets of this error have been mentioned above, but this same error has been condemned in the Synodicon of Orthodoxy and by all the Fathers, who have condemned the Platonic, Gnostic, Talmudic, Cabalistic pagan teachings in their entirety.

The name-worshippers exhibited a very poor taste in saints when they canonized Anthony Bulatovich. He was an arrogant, ambitious man who used violence to take over monasteries, evict monks and plunder their goods (see the many contemporary reports in the newspapers of the time especially ‘Ekklesiastike Aletheia’ of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In order to forestall local authorities from dealing forcibly with the problems, the Patriarchate begged the Russian government to intervene so that there could be no doubt of injustice, since the Patriarchates were dependent on Russia for protection from the Turks and Mamelukes. Bulatovich, who used the sword of violence, died by the sword, according to our Saviour’s words. He was killed by robbers in 1919, (shortly after rejecting communion with the Church for the second time).

In any case, when controversy arises, the name-worshippers publicly reject the extremes of their founder; but when on fresh ground or privately, they repeat the old Bulatovichian doctrines. He believed that the Mysteries of the Church are accomplished by the invocation of God’s name. Baptism was in the name of Christ; and the change of the elements in Holy Communion was already accomplished in the proskomide, when the Lamb is excised from the offered bread. Of course, the modern followers might try to deny it, but they are trapped in the chains of their tradition and their attempts to explain and cover up.

One question arises from reading their writings is that the modern name-worshippers never say what name is the divine name. Hilarion and Bulatovich were definite: Hilarion said the name was “Jesus”, while Bulatovich declared that every word in the Gospel was God Himself, even when spoken aloud; wherefore, he was accused of Pantheism. Their present day followers usually say “the name of God is God Himself”, but do not elaborate. Perhaps they fear that they will be accused of declaring created letters and sounds to be divine. In any case, they now are at odds with their purportedly “sainted” founders. What do they mean? The name of God is a name? The name of God is the name? The name God is name? This obscurantism allows them to deny any Orthodox objection and to confuse the issue with pages of ambiguous verbiage, like squids escaping in a cloud of ink.

After giving many quotations, declaring that the power, might, and glory of God protect and save mankind; then tacking on others wherein Mr. Deretich defines, that “in the name” means the same thing, he concludes that St. Cyril of Alexandria says that “the glory, authority, power, might, grace, name, and the truth are the ‘energy/activity/action’ of ‘Godhead that the Father and the Son share”. He then quotes a long passage from St. Cyril, as proof.

In the first part of this quotation, the Saint quotes the Scriptures, Philippians 2:9, “and gave Him a name which is above every name”. This signifies that He is given authority as the Son and Word of God: that Father and Son are of one essence. The Saint later on discusses Christ God’s protection of His disciples, in the “exercise [of] His power”, “by the power and glory of His Godhead”, etc. There is no identification of “name” and “power and glory”, except in Mr. Deretich’s mind. The Saint’s commentary on this scripture and the others, concerns the unity of the Father’s and Son’s essence and will. Mr. Deretich also mentions St. Clement of Rome, who when he wishes to refer to the uncreated power of God, he calls it the name of God. However, there is no statement that the name of God is an energy of God. In any case, these quotations are not from the only received genuine work of St. Clement: the Epistle to the Corinthians.

Mr. Deretich presents a passage in III Kings (no more exact reference is given), when Solomon consecrated the Temple, saying that it is God’s “name and glory (=energy) that fills the newly-built Solomonic Temple”. Here is the verse in question (8:10), “And it came to pass when the priests departed out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house. (8:11) And the priests could not stand to minister before the cloud, because the glory of the Lord filled the house”. There is no equivalence of glory and name mentioned or implied.

In III Kings 9:3 “to put my name there (the Temple) for ever”, is meant figuratively, which is proved as the sentence continues: “mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually”. If “name” is meant literally, then we must conclude that God has physical eyes and heart.

The tactic in these paragraphs is to present a number of Scriptural or patristic quotations mentioning “name” of God, with others, concerning “the glory, the power, activity, energy, operation, attributes of God”, and mixing them together so as to imply an equivalence which is simply not there; in fact most of their interpretations of the meaning of “name”, do not agree with that of most interpreters and translators. Proximity does not indicate equivalence, and even that is lacking here. We can only conclude that Mr. Deretich is, well, lying. Here, at least, he is showing himself to be a faithful follower of Bulatovich.

Again, this statement is introduced by Mr. Deretich, “name in ancient Greek can mean both a ‘symbol’ for something and it can also mean the thing itself” and it continues in a similar vein. True, a name can mean or signify or be a ‘symbol’ for something, that is, “the thing itself”. Since this is the definition for “name”, this is hardly a statement of great sagacity and even necessary. (Please explain how “something” or “the thing itself” differ?). It has never been believed, certainly not in the Church, that the name is the thing itself. We cannot drink out of the word “glass”. Nor eat the name “apple”. Nor will the word “lion” rip and tear us to pieces. Words which name something are not the thing named, as experience teaches us and as the Patriarchal decision of 1912 proclaimed. We can be starving but a grocery list will not feed us. A leopard will not change spots if we call him a panther. Names are human labels applied to physical objects or concepts so that we may communicate and understand our experience of creation.

God did not name the animals, but Adam did. (Genesis 2:19, “The Lord God... brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof). It is an illogical and false thesis and conclusion to say “the name of x is n, therefore n is x”. It is not a direct predication or equivalence. Rather we must understand that when we say “we are calling x by the name n”, (we are calling this beast (x) with the name lion (n) is what we mean. It is not a reversible predication nor equivalence. We are applying a conceptual generalization of a species, an abstraction, composed of thought and words of a rarefied matter as a label to a very concrete, material animal. Man has been called the creature, which abstracts, generalizes and names. Names are man made, and the lion couldn’t care less what we call it, just as long as we don’t shoot it.

Gregory Lourie has called such thinking “crassly nominalistic”. Unfortunately for him, it is the pragmatic doctrine of the Church and the way most of mankind thinks. However, he is the scion of Cabalistic ancestors, and appears to share in their magic mentality.

With all of their mixing of supposed quotations from the Fathers and Scriptures, which bear the word “name” and juxtaposing them with others which have the words “power or energy or activity”, etc., they declare an equivalence or identity upon no basis and with no hard references. We have seen, how they have misrepresented many of them, so that what they declare as fact cannot be trusted. They consistently violate logical and religious sense in their interpretations, so that their propositions and premises result in unfounded conclusions.

We later have some more juggling with history from Mr. Deretich. The name of the unfortunate Bishop Sergius (later Patriarchal locum tenens), is associated with the 1913 Synodal decision by insinuation, since the modern name-worshippers consistently refer to “the 1913 decision”. Sergius was not on the Synod and he certainly wrote against name-worshipping at other times besides 1913. This attempt to blacken the Synodal decision by association with Sergius, who broke much later under pressure by the communists is simply dishonest. Also, attempts to blacken Halki, thereby blackening the Ecumenical Patriarchate as being anti-Palamite, is pitiful. Certainly, the Encyclical of the Orthodox Patriarchs answering the Pope of Rome in 1895 was a model of Orthodoxy. In just a few years had everything changed? The Patriarchal decision of 1912, which is available on line in English and in the Synodal decision of 1913, praises the prayer of Jesus and hesychasm. Most had not attended western schools, but were instructed in the traditional Church schools where they read and learned Church Greek from reading the Fathers. They certainly knew of St. Gregory Palamas, for the Synodicon of Orthodoxy was read annually, and its history was part of the curriculum. In any case, calling “Infamous Germanos P. Strenopoulos? It was after his repose in 1920 that ecumenistic statements were made. “Archimandrite Vasileios Stephanides”? He was a deacon then, from Athens, to which he returned and had probably not yet studied abroad. The last two names are not archimandrites, but laymen; Mr. Deretich is mixing his time periods and facts.

After the 1920’s, with the destruction of Asia Minor and its schools, and finally the closure of Halki in 1956, Patriarchal students were forced to study abroad. In any case, the decisions of Halki’s faculty, the Ecumenical Patriarchal Synod’s decree of 1912 by the saintly Patriarch Joachim, and the confirmation in 1913, by Patriarch Germanos are faultlessly Orthodox and in conformity with Patristic Theology, which is why the Russian Synod quoted them in accepting it as the official Theological statement for their decision, and then dealt with the practical portion. All the Orthodox have accepted them.

In the last paragraph, Mr. Deretich returns to the first position, “the name of God is God Himself”, as if all the intervening verbiage had proved it. We see that St. John of Kronstadt, understood it in the Orthodox way: “God is everywhere present” and in the manner in which the Seventh Ecumenical Council determined. The names are worshipped but not to be deified. The name cannot be God Himself. The Church has dogmatized for 3000 years, that no name is God Himself.

Another statement in a previous “summary” paragraph: “The Orthodox Church does teach that God fills and dwells in his created names”. We challenge this statement as entirely false; present us with a reference. It will not be found, neither in an official council nor in any of the Saints of the Church. The next statement is inarguably acceptable “God is present everywhere and fills all created things”. But then the statement which violates the former, as we explained earlier on, “God ‘dwells’ especially in sacred, created things”; then Mr. Deretich proceeds to return to all the errors of the name-worshippers: “the name can sometimes have a meaning different from ‘mere created names”, “the uncreated power of God (which is sometimes called the [uncreated] name of God” (where? No where!) and so on and so forth. An incoherent spate of unsupported claims, and unconnected thoughts foreign to the theology of St. Gregory Palamas and all the great Fathers whom we faithfully follow.

Perhaps it is unfair to cast all the opprobrium of false teaching upon Mr. Deretich. He is apparently a spokesman – since he is an employee of HOCNA – for Gregory Babunashvili of HOCNA. He (Gregory Babunashvili) is a faithful disciple of Gregory Lourie, repeating his exact words. I have been told by many who have heard him preach his doctrines, that when someone presents facts or doctrines of the Church’s saints which refute his teachings, so that he cannot answer, he then resorts to shouted denials. For this reason most of the Clergy and people deserted HOCNA, people of the theological knowledge and stature as: Frs. Michael Azkoul, John Fleser, Christos Constantinou, Christos Patitsas and Andrew Snogren. It is evident that Gregory Babunashvili is ignorant of the doctrines of the Church’s saints, even of St. Gregory Palamas, whom he claimed he understood. Furthermore, he makes definite affirmations of facts and references, which upon investigation, are revealed to be false or non-existent. As someone said, “I wouldn’t accept anything he said, even if pearls and diamonds fell from his lips”. His writings also corroborate his ignorance of the fundamentals of the Church’s theology.

Returning to Mr. Deretich’s “In summary” paragraph, third before the end, he states, “The Orthodox Church does teach that God fills and dwells in his created names”. [a ‘teaching’ found nowhere, except in Anthony Bulatovich]… God is everywhere present and fills all created things. And God “dwells” especially in sacred, created things: in the saints, angels, relics, the Cross, icons…” etc. He repeats further on the word “dwells”, with quotation marks and without quotation marks. He states: “God’s power sometimes works miracles through created holy icons”. He is obviously attempting to return to the phrase “the name of God is God Himself”, the keystone of name-worshipping. The Orthodox Church recognizes God’s presence everywhere and in everything, as we have stated. Here, Mr. Deretich is attempting to make a special kind of presence with the word “dwells” or “fills”, although he repeats the Church’s teaching of God’s omnipresence, Who fills all things. What is he implying by these words and their repetition? By his return to the formula “the name of God is God Himself”, this intimates more than the usual divine omnipresence. If he is implying an “incarnation” of God, he would be condemned and anathematized by the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils. Various words are used by the Church for the presence of God in the Church: ‘overshadowing’, ‘presence’, ‘attached’, ‘abiding’, ‘to come upon’, ‘be present’, ‘sense’, ‘nearness’, ‘means’, but usually in a temporary or passing sense. This insistence on “dwells” and “fills” are words also used by many in the Church, but taken in conjunction with Deretich’s other statements, he is implying something more, but dares not say “incarnation”. It reminds one of the Hindu doctrine of Avatars. Rama and Krishna were avatars of Vishnu, in ancient Brahmanism. Throughout India, in the temples of Hanu-man, the mobs of monkeys scrambling about there, are his avatars, ‘God Himself’ as you would be told.

St. John Kronstadt avoids that trap because he obeyed the Church’s doctrine expressed in the Seventh Ecumenical Council. We can approach an Icon of Christ and pray before it, and Christ God can work miracles; for He is present since He is everywhere. But it is our volition, our will, which reaches Him through the created Icon, but the Icon is not deified, it is not God Himself, as the Seventh Ecumenical Council has dogmatized. Any other doctrine or Hindic avatar teaching is anathematized.

I repeat: No Father has ever said that the name of God is an energy of God. Nowhere does the Church teach of an uncreated name of God.

Names are created by man, and do not pertain to God. “…by the gift of God, it pertains to men alone both to make the invisible thought of the intellect audible by uniting it with the air and to write it down so that it may be seen with and through the body. God thus leads us to a steadfast faith in the abiding presence and manifestation of the supreme Logos in the flesh”. (#63 from the 150 Chapters of St. Gregory Palamas, in the Philokalia, vol. 4). Here the unique Incarnation of the Son of God is affirmed, where the hypostasis of the Word took upon Himself the human nature from the Ever-virgin Mary. There is one hypostasis with two natures, divine and human, inseparably united, undivided yet not confused, two separate and different natures in the one Person of the Word of God, perfect God and perfect man. This is proclaimed by the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils.

“There is no intermediate nature between the created and uncreated, neither is there any such operation (energy). Therefore, if it is created, it will show only a created nature, if it is uncreated, it will indicate an uncreated substance only. The natural properties must correspond with the nature absolutely, since the existence of a defective nature is impossible. The natural operations, moreover, does not come from anything outside the nature, and it is obvious that the nature can neither exist nor be known without its natural operation. For by remaining invariable, each thing gives of its own nature”. St. John Damascus Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, III, 15.

St. John of Damascus explains: “The Deity being incomprehensible is also assuredly nameless. Therefore since we know not His essence, let us not seek for a name for His essence. For names are explanations of actual things. But God, Who is good and brought us out of nothing into being that we might share in His goodness, and Who gave us the faculty of knowledge, not only did not impart to us His essence, but did not even grant us the knowledge of His essence. For it is impossible for nature to understand fully the super-natural. Moreover, if knowledge is of things that are, how can there be knowledge of the super-essential? Through His unspeakable goodness, then, it pleased Him to be called by names that we could understand, that we might not be altogether cut off from the knowledge of Him but should have some notion of Him, however vague. Inasmuch, then, as He is incomprehensible, He is also unnameable. But inasmuch as He is the cause of all and contains in Himself the reasons and causes of all that is, He receives names drawn from all that is, even from opposites: for example, He is called light and darkness, water and fire: in order that we may know that these are not of His essence but that He is super-essential and unnameable: but inasmuch as He is the cause of all, He receives names from all His effects”. St. John Damascus Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, I, 12.

There is no mixture or fusing of created and uncreated. Names are created, as the precious quotation from St. Gregory Palamas stated, who collated and summarized the Patristic teachings. An uncreated name is impossible according to St. John, as quoted, and to all the Fathers. There is no such thing as an uncreated name, as St. John Damascus says above.

“We apply all the names of these attributes to the supra-essential Being that is absolutely nameless”. St. Cyril, Treasuries, PG 14, 240A.

The fathers talk about three levels of prayer (St. Theophan the Recluse. What is Prayer). Oral, mental and spiritual. When one reaches spiritual prayer, the invocation of the name of God ceases. This is what St. Isaac the Syrian means by, “silence is the mystery of the age to come.” (St. Isaac the Syrian. Ascetical Homilies. Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Brookline, MA. (1984) Homily 65, p. 321).

The attributes are the energies of God, the things that pertain to God. We give the names, as is obvious from the above, and the name is not the energy, as is also obvious, for it is God and therefore nameless.

I prefer to follow the Third, Fourth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils, and all the Holy Fathers before and after. I will follow the Councils of 1912 and 1913, which are vilified by your Bulatovich, Gregory Lourie and Gregory Babunashvili, yet believed in by scores of saints and wise and holy men and of martyrs from then till now, whom you slander. I will follow the Apostle Peter who declares: “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”. (2 Peter, 1:20-21).