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27 июня 2014, 11:54 Распечатать

ENGLISH VERSION: On Name-Glorifying. A Talk by Bishop Job of Lutsk and Rivne (Ukrainian Autonomous True Orthodox Church) at a seminar on ecclesiological problems in the True Orthodox Church


Your Grace, dear Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters!

I would like to touch briefly on a question that concerns me personally and that, I think, cannot but worry people for whom Christ is the meaning of life, for whom He is all that is most valuable, for whom He is the most important, for whom He is our salvation. This is the question of name-glorifying. What is this thing called name-glorifying? 

Of course, the learned men here present understand this question better than I, and have been studying it for a long time. I will briefly relate how I myself started to think about this question. I used to think that everything that came before the Revolution was exemplary and correct (and then the Bolsheviks came and ruined everything), so the ideal was to restore everything that had been before the Revolution. If before the Revolution something was judged to be a heresy, that means it was a heresy. And inasmuch as I heard that some unreasonable monks on Athos – semi-literate or illiterate – said that the Name of God is God Himself, I could of course only marvel at how clueless these monks were. Until, thank God, I wrote to a nun about this – this is now Matushka Kassia – and told her that this is a heresy. But she replied: this is no heresy at all, and before you say anything, study the question yourself. I said: what, it can be studied? She said: yes, it can: go read the primary sources. She helped me, and then I myself began to get interested. And from that moment (this is already about ten years ago), I began to study this question more deeply and, reading the Holy Fathers, have tried everywhere to find an answer to the question that interested me: what is name-glorifying?

To put it briefly, name-glorifying is the doctrine that the Name of God (God’s Name in general or, in particular, the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, or the Name Jesus, or Jesus Christ, or Lord Jesus Christ – any Name of God) is not just a sound, not just a bunch of letters, but is God’s power, energy, and activity. It is grace, the glory of God, and a great gift of God.

Of the holy God-pleasers and ascetics of piety who are close to us in time, Fr. John of Kronstadt wrote, and spoke, and lived by this especially much. But inasmuch as before the Revolution it was not yet known that he would be canonized among the saints, when his phrase “The Name of God is God Himself” was emphasized by Fr. Hilarion, author of the book In the Mountains of the Caucasus, and Fr. Anthony Bulatovich, a hieroschemamonk from the St. Andrew’s Skete on Athos – when they began to pay serious attention to this phrase, they were simply accused first of being illiterate, irrational, and insane, and later of being rebels and heretics, and the whole thing ended with the persecution and exile of several hundred monks from Athos. There were many articles and books with various accusations published. The name-glorifiers were accused of everything: magic, pantheism (that they worship all creation, considering it to be God), Arianism, Eunomianism, and the like.   

Unfortunately, one hundred years have passed (this year [2013] marks a century since the sad events when the teaching of the name-glorifiers was condemned by a Synod of the Russian Church as heretical), and since that time this accusation has not been withdrawn. Strictly speaking, who should withdraw it, and is it necessary to do so? It would be necessary, if one of the local Churches, either of Russia or Constantinople, was reborn and was in some kind of normal position. But we know that heretics are now in charge there – ecumenists and Sergianists – and there is no point in waiting for this from them.

But, unfortunately, here is the sad thing: there are now, alas, people even among True Orthodox Christians, among True Orthodox jurisdictions (for me this is the saddest thing), who are deliberately trying to make a bugaboo out of name-glorifying and, under the guise of false zeal for the truth, are using this supposed heresy of name-worshipping as a battering ram to crush their competitors and seize ecclesiastical authority. Alas… There was a recent performance by Metropolitan Agafangel, First Hierarch of ROCOR, which was in the same spirit: name-glorifying is a heresy, completely forgetting (or trying to get around the fact) that Fr. John of Kronstadt’s phrase “The Name of God is God Himself” was repeated, explained, and disclosed by him many times – as if this never happened. There was some guy named Anthony Bulatovich, some rebellious monks, harbingers of the revolution, and nothing more…

In connection with this: what is name-glorifying, in short? When we pronounce the Name of God, we are not simply beating the air with our tongues and are not simply calling upon some God, Who is sitting somewhere far away (perhaps someone imagines that He is sitting in the heavens and only hears when He is called?)… We know (we have just chanted “Heavenly King… Who art everywhere present and fillest all things…”) that God is everywhere, and present everywhere. And we can know God, grow closer to God, and commune of the Divine only thanks to His mercy, His gift. These gifts are diverse, and they all have their place. The greatest and most important place is in the Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood. This is understandable. This is the highest form possible for us now on earth for union with God – to take God into ourselves. Although we chant in the Paschal Canon, and read after Communion: “Grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the unwaning day of Thy Kingdom.” That is, when the Kingdom of God arrives in all its fullness, both on earth as in heaven, when there will be the Second Coming of Christ, we ask that we will commune even more perfectly of Christ.

One such gift, by God’s mercy, which has been revealed by God to man, is His Name (or His Names – it does not matter, because in each of His Names are also present the other Names).

The Name of the Son of God – Jesus – has great power and meaning, especially in the practice of prayer and in the performance of the Mysteries. Many Holy Fathers spoke about this, and defended it, and confessed it. You know that for the Name of Jesus alone a multitude of martyrs accepted suffering and death, specifically for this Name alone, for the confession of this Name. And when we listen to the divine services, all the divine services are an invocation of the Name. The Holy Fathers, who indeed had experience of communion with God and were partakes of Divinity, spoke about this, about what the Name of Jesus is: it is not simply letters, not simply sounds, but is God’s activity. And therefore we are given the commandment that the Name of God should be pronounced with great reverence and fear. One must not take it in vain, in jokes, or in idle talk, because that is like playing with fire. When children play with fire, sooner or later they are going to get into trouble. The same thing happens if one pronounces the Name of God thoughtlessly and without the fear of God.

I would like to give one quotation from a marvelous book that I recommend you all read: The Watchful Mind: Teachings on the Prayer of the Heart by a Monk of Mount Athos (his name remains unknown, but it is clear that he was a great ascetic struggler and a man of holiness of life, who had attained the heights of asceticism and hesychasm. This book, in a Greek manuscript of the middle of the nineteenth century, has been preserved in a monastery on Athos; it was recently republished and even translated into Russian and has already gone through several editions.[1] In many places this unknown Athonite hesychast, as with all the Holy Fathers, speaks very strongly about the meaning of the Name of Jesus Christ. Here are his words, which personally very much surprised and pleased me, evoking a sense of awe. Indeed, it is so:

“The name of Christ (which means ‘anointed’) is so good and precious, that the entire world is not worthy of it. And it is so sweet and comforting to the person who has tasted of its goodness that all the sweetness of this age cannot compare to it. The preciousness and sweetness of the name of Christ is understood and known only by those who have the pain of the prayer within them, for by this work they have tasted the grace and sweetness of the name of Christ.

“Man is composed of body and soul. The body is nourished by and grows from the bread of the earth. The soul is nourished and strengthened by the Bread of Life, which is Christ. That is why it says, ‘May your holy body be for me the Bread of Life everlasting, O compassionate Lord!’

“So, the person who eats earthly bread without the pain of the prayer of the heart and without bitter and deep sighing does not feel the goodness, power, and energy of the name of Christ. For by eating the bread of the earth without extreme pain, the heart becomes fattened, without feeling God. In other words, he becomes indifferent towards the salvation of his soul. But the person whose heart, soul, and chest ache from the force of the prayer, from sighing, and from the invisible and visible temptations he experiences and endures out of love for Christ, when he hears the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, or when he meditates upon it with inner pain, or when he calls upon it with living faith and fervent reverence, such a person feels the power of the name of Christ which activates his divine energy within him. The divine name of Christ seems to the mind – as well as to the throat and mouth – as sweet as honey and sugar. For this reason the Prophet David says, ‘How sweet to my taste are your teachings, more than honey and the honeycomb in my mouth.’ The divine name seems alive to the senses of the person. His ears are pleased and gladdened upon hearing it. His bodily and spiritual eyes rejoice when they see it written somewhere. The divine angels invisibly write the divine name of Christ, like some royal name, in various places for the preservation and sustainment of the world.

“When the person who has the divine name of Christ etched within him on account of the force of the prayer of the heart hears it, he is filled with such reverence that it penetrates into his soul. After this divine reverence, a sweet joy enters his mind, for he hears the name as if it were some intimate, beloved friend’s name. On account of this joy, tears run from his eyes. Because of the prayer, his heart leaps within him, making merry and dancing. The soul rejoices in the joy of its Lord. What else could all these things mean and express except the intimacy of the soul with Christ, and that the name of Christ works this way in the person whose heart aches from the force of the prayer?”

This is just one saint, who speaks about the importance of the Name of Christ. Therefore, when you compare this with what was written, profaning the Name, in the Synodal period by so-called Synodal theologians, when they humiliated it, effacing everything, and trying to prove that it is a simple name, just an appellation, with nothing special about it – then remember just how far away they already were before the Revolution from a genuine understanding of what Orthodoxy is, of what salvation is, of Who Christ is… They were alien to it. It’s sad, but true.

Therefore, when they condemned name-glorifying, they condemned Orthodoxy. And now, if we want to be True Orthodox, we have no excuse (when we can read everything, recognize everything, and study and compare everything, glory be to God), if we do not understand that name-glorifying is a real diamond and the heart of Orthodox doctrine and Orthodox life. And may God grant us to have this Name always in our hearts, always to pronounce it reverently in prayer, living by this Name, being nourished on it and saved by this Most Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and, in general, any Name of God! May it live in our hearts!  

 


 

[1] It has just been published in English translation: A Monk of Mount Athos, The Watchful Mind: Teachings on the Prayer of the Heart, translated by Fr. George Dokos (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2014). The passage cited by Bishop Job is on pp. 88-90 of this edition.

Myatlevo (Kaluga region), September 6, 2013

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