The Orthodox Church Of Epirus

True Canonical Orthodoxy

Various Grammata Issued By Mar Melchizedek On Contemporary Matters


Given on the Feastday of the Holy Transfiguration of Christ, August 6, 2003


THE VOCATION OF THE CHURCH is to serve in God's love and faithful to his will, involved at all times and throughout history with the task of proclaiming His truth that is above all human whim and time. The mission of the Church therefore is to clarify and to proclaim what God has revealed as being holy from that what is sinful and thus destructive to the human soul and society. It is to clearly teach what is of divine origin and what is not, what is holy and what is not and ultimately what leads to accepting or rejecting God's authority.

It would be a grave error to assume that our faith is relative to the boundaries of its cultural context and therefore could not convey to every society at every age in history its ethical and divinely received premises.

God has revealed Himself to all humanity in His creation. He speaks through His Church to all people, not just to the faithful. For this reason we cannot be silent or indifferent to the questions of paramount importance in our times.

The last century has witnessed an unparalleled and unrelenting assault on human ethics and dignity. Unlike during past eras where relatively few tyrants and their minions perpetrated such attacks, today they are waged across a broad spectrum of traditional human institutions of society, including government, commerce, education, law, the sciences and the arts. Through various elements of our civilization, the human being, who has been created as an Icon of God, is increasingly reduced to the status of a rational, utilitarian being. We are told that there are humans unworthy of life, and that, for instance, a healthy animal could he more useful than a defective child. Additionally, God's gift of gender and its attendant purpose of sexuality have been debased and perverted into the exercise of sensual gratification.

The value of individual human dignity, valued as the crown of creation in God's holy Scriptures, is now measured by its peripheral considerations, such as age, state of health, material possessions and the perceived ability to contribute to society. The subjective conditions of being unwanted and a burden on society have been translated into death sentences. Thus, the traditional Christian values of the sanctity and dignity of human life, still held by most segments of society, have been largely dismissed by most secular governments.

In our 21st century we now face these unprecedented challenges to human culture, traditional values for survival, and the spiritual care through the Savior who came two thousand years ago in order to free this world from such decay.  We therefore must resist the attempts made by the enemies of God that try to silence the fundamental issues surrounding abortion, euthanasia, the acceptance of licentiousness, including the destruction of marriage and the traditional family.


We therefore are strongly committed to the affirmation of the divine purpose and value of human life. We believe that every human being is created in God’s image and likeness for everlasting life. We hereby call for credible witness on the sanctity and dignity of human life at any stage.


The Church  –  from its founding on St. Peter, the rock, the inception by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and throughout her walk through the turbulent times of history  –  has always condemned abortion as a grievous sin.

We hold firm that children are to be received by their parents as gifts of their creator, to be cared for lovingly, joyfully and sacrificially. We therefore must reject the willful abortion of the unborn as a horrible act; yet equal is our moral responsibility to be supportive of those who care for the unwanted or disabled children, as we follow Christ's love, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

Since the dignity and protection of human life both begin at the moment of conception and end until the natural death and since the willful termination of unborn human life may never be dependent  –  neither logically nor consequentially  –  upon peripheral conditions such as age, health, social status, wealth and personal preferences, we demand from civil governments that innocent human life must again be respected and preserved as always throughout history. Whether or not secular or Supreme Court decisions grant protection to unborn human life, civil authority may never be the gauge for legitimacy or an excuse for sinful action. We include in this plea for protection other contemporary threats to life, such as fair and loving treatment of the disabled, the infirm and the elderly.

We therefore reiterate the Orthodox Christian opposition to abortion in all cases, except to save the life of the mother, and that we do so on theological and moral grounds, given under the authority of Christ who has commissioned us to carry out his divine will. We commend the efforts of clergy and laity to bear peaceful and respectful witness to the sanctity of life in the public arena. Additionally, we have a moral obligation to work for the creation and maintenance of adoption agencies and for the facilitation of adoption procedures for families that consider adopting an unwanted or disabled infant, regardless of the child’s racial or ethnic background. The Church as a whole and the parish community in particular are called to give active material and spiritual support to those who accept the responsibility of adoption and participate in crisis pregnancy matters.

We recognize and affirm that all spiritual, pastoral and educational efforts towards higher moral ends of responsibility are directed to the father as much as to the mother in order to help stem the present crisis of unwanted lives. We ask all Christians, as well as all men and women of good will throughout the world to support those organizations that strive to protect peacefully and lovingly, yet firmly the rights of the unborn.

Euthanasia and Mercy Killing


All human beings, who are in a condition of medical dependency due to illness, age or other reasons, must be provided with the basic amenities of food, water, hygiene, warmth and relief from pain. Such basic care must never be considered extraordinary measures in the context of medical treatment. We as Orthodox Christians see bodily death merely as a transition between earthly life and eternal life. All medical treatments that unnecessarily prolong the dying process while offering no benefit to the individual (with the exception of those ordinary measures stated beforehand) may, in good conscience, be refused by the individual or those acting on his or her behalf. However, these individual circumstances should always be decided after thorough spiritual counsel while seeking the will of God.

We therefore affirm that the willful taking of a human life, however understandable the motive, constitutes a serious sin and an affront against God, the lover of humankind.  Even when perceived as an act of mercy, such as the attempt to alleviate suffering or "assisted suicide", is to ignore God’s dive purpose and plan in all things. Our trust, i.e. belief in God's wisdom, is only sincere if it includes the patient acceptance of those burdens that may seem, as in the biblical example of Job's sufferings, to be unbearable.

Celibacy And Marriage

Human sexuality is properly expressed in only two chaste conditions as instituted by divine revelation and providence: Voluntary celibacy and marriage. Thus, the physical act of love is limited to the context of marriage. Since one of the fruits of marriage is having children, all couples must be open to the possibility of both, obtaining or not obtaining this blessing when they make their prayerful decision: Thy will he done.  There is no command, neither in Holy Scriptures nor in the doctrines of Orthodoxy, that birth control measures, whether natural or artificial, would be in violation of God's law.

The Church acts in accordance with God's command by always rejecting expressions of sexuality outside the traditional role of marriage while at the same time offering forgiveness to the repentant for the weakness of the flesh.

Thus, we must never discriminate, disdainfully judge or mistreat any individual in spite of his or her condition or persuasion, but lovingly offer our help and prayer.

At the same time, we strongly reject all forms of forced celibacy, for clergy as well as laity, this being in direct violation of Christ's teaching and that of the Holy Apostles as recorded many times in the New Testament.

Thus, we call upon any church who still upholds illegitimate rules of forcing young men, called to be ministers of Christ, into celibacy; to restore the virtue of voluntary celibacy for the kingdom's sake without concoction and to give back to the clergy of all ranks the privilege of choosing a believing spouse before ordination.

We condemn all forms of pornography, associated media violence whether in print, in motion pictures or under the disguise of art. All such things seriously disfigure true human dignity and undermine faithfulness, commitment and stability, as well as family values.


The Environment


All men and women are created as an Icon of God.  God brought forth the whole of creation as a blessing to us; nevertheless, we are made stewards of that creation. Our proper concern for the environment can never allow us to approve of or indulge in abuse or destructive acts. The popular dichotomy of saving the environment or endangered species while at the same time accepting the destruction of society through sinful acts and licentiousness is deemed utter hypocrisy.

We sadly observe that our planet is encountering in its last stages an unprecedented overpopulation problem due to various circumstances. We must face this issue in seeking solutions that respect human dignity as the Icon of God, environmental concerns as to respect God's creation and sober apocalyptic views as God's providence.

The scarcity of resources could never be an excuse for either the neglect or the destruction of our neighbor through selfish means.  Our aim ought not to focus on the size of world population in relation to its supposed resources, but by correcting the uneven distribution of those resources due to greed, power and wastefulness created by human pride and egotism. The call goes out to each one of us for alleviating the suffering  – caused by human error and sinfulness – through individual effort as well as peaceful political solutions. Both must be in accordance with God’s supreme law: Love God and thy neighbor as thyself.


On Orthodox Marriage

Marriage (also called matrimony) is one of the holy mysteries (sacraments) in the Orthodox Church. It serves to unite a woman and a man in eternal union before God with the purpose of following Christ and His Gospel and, wherever possible, raising up faithful children through their holy union. It is referred to extensively in both the Old and New Testaments. Christ declared the essential indissolubility of marriage in the Gospel.

Married life, no less than monastic life, is a special vocation requiring a particular gift or charisma from the Holy Spirit, a gift bestowed in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The same trinitarian mystery of unity in diversity applies to the doctrine of marriage as it does to the Church. The family created by this Holy Mystery constitutes a house church and the marriage is often referred to as a “Skete of two”.

The Orthodox Church teaches that man is made in the image of the Holy Trinity. Man is not intended by God to live alone but rather as family, except in special cases of hermitic life. Just as God blessed the first family, commanding Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, so the Church now gives its blessing to the union of man and woman. The mystery of marriage in the Church gives a man and a woman the possibility to become one spirit and one flesh in a way that no human love can provide by itself. The Holy Spirit is given, so that what has begun on earth is fulfilled and continues most perfectly in the kingdom of God.

Holy Orthodoxy regards the marriage bond as indissoluble, and it condemns the breakdown of marriage in modern-day societies as a sin and an evil. The Orthodox Church does permit remarriage after divorce in some cases, i.e. as an exception, a necessary concession to human sin as to avoid greater sin or evil. While condemning sin, the Church desires to help the sinners and to allow them another chance as an act of divine economy (Oikonomia). When a marriage has ceased to be a reality, the Orthodox Church faces this fact with Philanthropia (loving kindness).

The Church does not deny that those involved in a civil marriage are married civilly. However, it would make no sense for the Church to accept a civil marriage as a sacrament, since persons who perform civil marriages would either deny that they are sacraments or would have no intention and authority to perform a sacrament, let alone that he or she has no church authority to do so.

Persons, who have been married civilly, in another church or a different religion, are still considered unmarried in the eyes of the Orthodox Church. Their divorce in civil court hence would be a moot issue, since they weren’t canonically married in the Orthodox Church in the first place.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He may sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He may present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So, husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are parts of His body. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:25-32).

On Human Sexuality



When it comes to understanding the power of gender differences or anything else related to sexuality in our modern culture, we live under the continuous bombardment of targeted, distorted and often intoxicating messages about our sexuality, presented usually in a radically anti-wholistic way, as if something were to happen to an empty body. Thus, the natural meaning of human sexuality as well as the spiritual workings by the Holy Spirit are ignored. We are steadily indoctrinated by a shallow consumer culture to treat sex as an isolated, mechanical act with no relation to a person’s past, future, emotions, relationships or health. Let us remember that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, not an amusement park.


Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own 

(1 Cor. 6:19).


Sexuality cannot be separated from the rest of existence. It always occurs in a complete embodied life, one humming with ceaseless spiritual and emotional activity. In the mix of contemporary messages about sexuality, the underlying urge to reproduce is ignored.  Additionally, sex also makes us very vulnerable. Hence, the most desired quality in a partner is always trust.


As it appears that our modern generations lack the understanding of sexuality in its instinctive psychosomatic way, it is only consequential that we struggle to grasp gender differences. We tend to forget how savory and beneficial these differences are. Many tend to indulge in gender-based jokes, because clumsy stereotypes point toward something that fascinates and delights our sinful, illusory mind. The difference between genders is how we partner with God in the ongoing creation or evolution of the universe. Respect in honoring this gift enables us to create life, not only physically but also spiritually.


Marriage Or Celibacy Of Orthodox Clergy


Priests and deacons were always allowed to enter marriage before ordination. Since some time in the first millennium, Orthodox bishops were only chosen from the monastic rank. Subsequently appropriate Canons were changed from earlier ones, which required bishops to be married.  However, the canonical prohibitions of the later Canons are somewhat contrary to this early Orthodox tradition and Holy Scriptures. Additionally, the earliest Canons (including the New Testament) have never been rescinded. Obviously such Canons, taken directly from the Holy Epistles, would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to rescind or replace! The statement in the Epistles is to the effect that a bishop is entitled to a believing wife.


The fact of St. Peter's marriage (which is attested to in the Bible) and that his wife traveled with Jesus and His entourage makes it even more apparent that Christ had no provisions against married apostles. - In short, an unmarried episcopate is the concoction of men who adopted such a policy to serve their own ends. It is true that there were some errors of nepotism among the married bishops. It is equally true that some of the celibate bishops have their own brand of sins, which are perpetrated by and amongst their own kind.


Obviously, we cannot speak for Roman Catholics, but we sense that Rome in general is destroying itself over forced celibacy encouraging pedophiles and homosexuals (while discouraging others) the more they become the majority. Further, we find the manuals of moral theology to be quite naïve, relative to issues of marriage and family, labor and the like. They are written from an ivory tower, promulgated by an elderly, celibate church hierarchy.


How can Christians be "light" and "salt" if they confine themselves within monastic walls? There is a certain "mystique" about monasticism that attracts people to it.  We are reminded of a priest who has established several monasteries here in the United States.  A cult of his persona soon developed, but such does not follow in the steps of Christ, but is wrapped up in ethnic superstition. 


As a covenantal bond, Christian marriage is a holy Mysterion (Sacrament) of the union between Christ and Church (Ephesians 5:22-32). The Mysterion of Matrimony is also a decisive moment when the Church reveals itself as the Bride of Christ, as the sign that God is irrevocably committed to the human community in and through Christ. The marriage bond, therefore, is one of infinite compassion and infinite love.


Faith implies conviction, trust and commitment. Conviction connotes an inner disposition to the truth of love. Trust connotes an acknowledgment and acceptance-capability of God and of oneself to love and be loved. Commitment connotes a total self-surrender in active engagement in the service of the Kingdom of God.


If the couple had established the marriage bond, then, out of infinite compassion and love for one another, they would have realized the grace to discover in their human experience a resolution to their spousal relationship problem. Without judgment ("Do not judge, and you will not be judged," Matthew 7:1) and given the Principle of Divine Economy (Oikonomia), the Church solemnizes remarriages with joy and the peace of Christ.


An entirely different matter is when it can be determined that a marriage had no validity from the beginning. An annulment is then established (not granted) by the Church, since Orthodox Canon Law does not recognize, for instance, heterodox marriages, or marriage ceremonies performed with severe defects as defined by Orthodox sacramental Theology. 


Regarding the issue of a revival of the married episcopate in the Orthodox Church, here is what we can summarize from a traditional Orthodox point of view (taken in part from a Treatise on the Married Episcopate as originally composed by Denis M. Garrison, yet extracted and adapted here):


In the Orthodox Church in the New World, since early in the twentieth century, the concept of the married episcopate has been an important and urgent issue. The question has arisen with increasing frequency and force: Is it allowable to elect and consecrate married Priests to the episcopate and to permit them to persevere in the episcopate although they continue their married lives full and complete while maintaining their marital relations with their wives?


Since the 6th Ecumenical Council (680 A.D.), the discipline of the Holy Church has been to prohibit the married episcopate, while still strongly maintaining the married Deaconate and Presbyterate. Such discipline has been adhered to, generally and uniformly, throughout history.


A situation came to be of particular importance after the Russian Orthodox Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh (of blessed memory) married Miss Mariam Namey in 1933, many years after he was consecrated to the episcopate. Abp. Aftimios acted out of conviction that the married episcopate is truly scriptural; furthermore, he was reacting to great scandals in the Orthodox Church involving celibate clergy (such scandals are still common today!). Abp. Aftimios also was moved to marry by his desire to force the issue of the married episcopate to consideration by a Pan-Orthodox Council  –  a wish which was thwarted then, but may yet be fulfilled. While Abp. Aftimios thereupon retired from the hierarchy of the Church, the remaining bishops of his jurisdiction made it clear that they thought his expressed belief (the episcopate should include married men) was correct and scripturally sound. Since that time, a number of bishops succeeding Abp. Aftimios have been elected from the married Presbyterate and remained married as bishops. This discipline – the election of married priests to the episcopate without requiring them to separate from their wives – is also followed in a number of the smaller Orthodox jurisdictions around the globe. However, the later discipline, i.e. the prohibition of the married episcopate, is still maintained in other parts of Orthodoxy, as well as by traditionalist ethnic jurisdictions. Thus, the married episcopate is not universally accepted again in the Orthodox Church as it once was.



Marriage Before Ordination


“No bishop, presbyter or deacon shall put away his own wife under pretext of reverence. If, however, he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he persists in so doing, let him be deposed from office” [Canon V of the Holy Apostles].


In accordance with the most ancient tradition, the consolation of the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony should not be denied to men who wish to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders at a later date.  In accordance with Canon V of the Holy Apostles (as cited above), it seems obvious that a man, married to an Orthodox woman, may be tonsured and ordained as a Cantor, Hypodeacon, deacon or priest, if he is otherwise qualified.  Likewise, a priest, married to an Orthodox woman, should be allowed to be consecrated to the sacred episcopate, if he is otherwise qualified.


Ordination Impediments


“Whoever has entered into two marriages after baptism, or has possessed himself of a concubine, cannot be a bishop, nor a presbyter, nor a deacon, nor anything else in the sacerdotal list” [Canon XVII of the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles].


“No one who has taken a widow, a divorced woman or a harlot, or a house maid, or any actress as his wife, may become a bishop or a presbyter or a deacon or hold any other position at all in the sacerdotal list” [Canon XVIII of the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles].


A man who has married a second time cannot be ordained a Hypodeacon, a deacon, a driest or a bishop, according to Canon XVII as cited above.  "Whoever has entered into two marriages after baptism" (Canon XVII) reflects the fact that, under the very strictest understanding, for a man to marry twice is adultery of a sort on his part. The rules about "a widow or a divorced woman" (Canon XVIII) do not disparage those women's morality; rather they were already married once, and therefore, again under the strictest understanding, to marry such a woman is adultery of a sort (cf. Matthew 5:32 and 19:7-9.) While second (and even third) marriages may be allowed to the laity – for the weakness of the flesh –  clergy are called to be irreproachable and, therefore, the clergy are not allowed to marry widows or divorced women.


We rarely use the word "concubine" (Canon XVII) in these days; we interpret "concubine" to refer to any woman with whom a man has entered into illicit sexual relationship. Also, in this modern age, we interpret "a harlot or a house maid or any actress" (Canon XVIII) to refer to any woman of infamous reputation or who is known for her moral turpitude. The occupations of domestic servants and actresses in the modern world cannot honestly be generically maligned as immoral.  Rather, it is marriage with a woman who is in an occupation that can honestly be characterized as immoral (for example, prostitution), thus being prohibited. As Canons XVII and XVIII both plainly imply, a man who has married within the guidelines of these Canons and who is otherwise qualified may indeed be ordained "a bishop, presbyter or deacon”.


Marriage After Ordination


“As to bachelors who have entered the clergy, we allow only Anagnosts (Readers) and Psalts (Chanters) to marry, if they wish to do so” [Canon XXVI of the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles]. (Similarly, see also Canon XIV of the 4th Ecumenical Council and Canon VI of the 6th Ecumenical Council).


In accordance with ancient tradition, the clergy in Holy Orders should not feel free to marry at will. The Church may exercise discipline in this matter, as seems prudent and expedient at the time and place. An Anagnost or a Cantor who was a bachelor when he was ordained has the right to marry an Orthodox woman, in accordance with Canon XXVI of the Holy Apostles and Canon XIV of the 4th Ecumenical Council (451 A.D.). A Hypodeacon, deacon, priest or bishop who is a bachelor, once he is ordained, is not permitted marriage thereafter by Canon XXVI. Yet, traditionally, we may make exceptions: A Hypodeacon or deacon who announced before his ordination to his ordaining Bishop that he plans to marry may be dispensed from this prohibition, by the same bishop or his successor, to marry after ordination, in accordance with Canon X of Ancyra. Thus, the principle of allowing, by the exercise of Oikonomia (Divine Economy), ordained clergy to marry and remain clergy is well established in ancient precedent. We duly honor the ancient tradition, which discourages men already in holy orders from marrying and encourages special caution regarding the marriages of ordained clergy. However, in light of the permissive precedents established by Canon XXVI of the Holy Apostles, Canon XIV of the 4th Ecumenical Council, and Canon X of Ancyra (and considering a footnote to Canon V of the Holy Apostles which states that "the custom prevailed of not letting those in holy orders marry ..." – showing that this was a custom rather than a necessary discipline),  we cannot absolutely condemn marriage after ordination.





The occasional married bishop throughout history was not officially approved by the Church, but was tolerated and kept at a low key. Once the issue was publicly raised, such as in Abp. Aftimios' case, the discovery of the scriptural truth and the reaffirmation of the apostolic teaching in this regard became more possible.


The continuing existence of several Orthodox jurisdictions with married Bishops, give us hope that the facade of ecumenical unanimity amongst Orthodox Churches on banning the married episcopate will one day fall away and the anomalous and anti-scriptural practice of an exclusively-monastic episcopate will be finally overthrown.


Holy Scripture


The Holy Apostle Paul gave explicit and clear directions in his epistles: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife..." - (I Timothy 3:2); and again, "ordain elders in every city.... If any be blameless, the husband of one wife,...for a Bishop must be blameless...." (Titus 1:5-7). (The word "blameless" is best translated as "irreproachable", according to The Rudder (Pedalion). The Orthodox Church agrees, as attested by St. John Chrysostom (noted in the Interpretation of Canon XII of the 6th Ecumenical Council), that the word "elders" in the original means "bishops"). How should Bishops deal with their wives?  - "Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed." - (I Corinthians 7:27) "Defraud (deprive) ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." - (I Corinthians 7:5) "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled:..." -(Hebrews 13:4); for a Bishop to shun his wife would make it apparent that he dishonors marriage, and that he thinks of intercourse to be impure, but the Apostle calls marriage "honorable" and intercourse "undefiled". During His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said, "I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." - (Matthew 5:32; see also Matthew 19:7-9). The Lord also said, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." - (Matthew 19:6). By the clear testimony of Holy Scripture, a man who is married to one woman may be a Bishop, and he is in most grave error if he shuns her bed or divorces her for any reason other than fornication.


Therefore, only the unlearned could argue that Holy Scripture forbids the married episcopate. Indeed, the manner in which the Apostle Paul writes in his epistles, I Timothy (3:2) and Titus (1:5-7), suggests that the married episcopate was even normative. Further, the other Scriptures cited above make it unmistakably clear that any married man, including a Bishop, must respect and honor his marriage, including intimate relations with his wife, and that it is a grave error to divorce his wife or to entirely shun intimate relations with her. It is impossible to enforce, as having doctrinal significance, any Canon which actually contradicts the clear meaning of the Holy Scriptures. Hence, <u>the Canons to which we subscribe are those which are only and  truly consistent with the Holy Scriptures.


The Sacred Canons


These 85 Canons of the Holy and Renowned Apostles, collected in the Pedalion (Rudder), are those which are considered by many to have been promulgated by the Holy Apostles themselves (either by all of them together or perhaps only by Saint Paul and Saint Peter) through Clement, the Bishop of Rome. These Canons are of the highest degree of importance to us, being apostolic in origin.


First and most importantly, Canon V of the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles, which was cited earlier, makes it explicit and clear beyond any honest argument that the ancient tradition of the Holy Church recognized, valued, and positively promoted the married episcopate.


Again, "No Bishop, Presbyter or Deacon shall put away his own wife under pretext of reverence. If, however, he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he persist in so doing, let him be deposed from office."  - This Canon reflects the equally explicit and clear directions of the Holy Apostle Paul to Timothy and Titus.  Only a simpleton could argue that Canon V of the Holy Apostles can be interpreted, in any manner whatsoever, to forbid the episcopate to married men. A footnote to Canon V of the Holy Apostles in The Pedalion (Rudder) explicitly states: "Please note that in old times it was permissible for bishops to have wives." The footnote gives then several cases in point. The same footnote goes on to state that it was Canon XII of the 6th Ecumenical Council which sanctioned the custom of the married clergy except that "bishops alone should not be allowed to have wives".


Those who now forbid the episcopate to married men cite other Canons as the bases for their discipline in this matter. Therefore, we must ask ourselves if Canon V of the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles was ever rejected by the Ecumenical Councils and rendered ineffective. The answer is quite inescapable: both Canon II of the 6th Ecumenical Council and Canon I of the 7th Ecumenical Council explicitly accept and ratify all of the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles. Moreover, Canon XIII of the 6th Ecumenical Council verifies verbatim Canon V of the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles, but unjustifiably excepts Bishops from its applicability. Canon V of the Holy Apostles always was and still is a Sacred Canon of Holy Church.


Again, "Whoever has entered into two marriages after baptism, or has possessed himself of a concubine, cannot be a bishop, or a Presbyter, or a Deacon, or anything else in the Sacerdotal List;"  and "No one who has taken a widow, or a divorced woman, or a harlot, or a house maid, or any actress as his wife, may be a Bishop, or a Presbyter, or a Deacon, or hold any other position at all in the Sacerdotal List." - These two Canons, XVII and XVIII, also cited earlier, both imply that a man, who is married in an accepted manner, can be "a Bishop, or a Presbyter, or a Deacon, or anything else in the Sacerdotal List".


Canon XL of the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles directs that the difference between the property of the bishop and the property of the Church be publicly known, and it prohibits a Bishop both from leaving the property of the Church to his wife and family and from depriving his wife and family from their rightful inheritance by leaving his own property to the Church through there being confusion as to whose the property really is. This Canon plainly takes for granted that some Bishops will have wives, whose inheritance could be at issue.


If any bishop or presbyter or deacon or anyone at all on the sacerdotal list abstains from marriage or meat or wine not as a matter of mortification but out of an abhorrence thereof, forgetting that all things are exceedingly good, and that God made man male and female, and blasphemously misrepresenting God's work of creation, either let him mend his ways or let him be deposed from office and expelled from the Church. Let a layman be treated similarly. [Canon LI of the Holy Apostles]


This Canon LI plainly assumes that there will be men who do not abstain from marriage who will be Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons. It is those who have refused to marry who are at risk of deposition from the clerical state and expulsion from Holy Church under this Canon. This Canon is an eloquent witness to the high regard that the Apostolic Church had for marriage, and explicitly for the marriage of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons. It witnesses to the Orthodox and unchangeable truth of the Christian Faith that "all things are exceedingly good", and that it is blasphemous to misrepresent God's work of creation by holding that certain things (including lawful sexual relations, meat, and wine, which are simply those things about which errors arose early on) would be in themselves unclean, and that it would be blasphemous to abhor them.


The Heresy Of Neo-Manichaeism


Neo-Manichaeism refers specifically to heretical doctrines within Orthodox circles mirroring the particular heresy of the Manichees, who combined Zoroastrianism, Gnostic christianity and pagan elements.


Manicheus' fundamental dualistic theological concepts of a spirit of good and a spirit of evil on an essentially equal footing, that is, of two contending principles of good (light, God, the soul) and evil (darkness, satan, the body), are antithetical to Orthodox Christianity, which holds the fundamental monotheistic belief in One God, who is all-good and all-powerful and who is opposed by satan and the other fallen angels (i.e., the demons), all of whom are inferior to God in every respect. Canon 51 of the holy apostles, cited above, confirms the Orthodox Faith: "That all things are exceedingly good, and that God made man male and female" and that abhorrence of marriage is a "blasphemous misrepresentation of God's work of creation".


If anyone discriminates against a married presbyter, on the ground that he ought not to partake of the offering when that presbyter is conducting the liturgy, let him be anathema [Canon IV of Gangra (340 A.D.)]. This venerable Canon condemns the heresy of the Eustathians, the Manichees and others who forbade married priests to celebrate the liturgy.


It has been decided that in regards to these three ranks, which have been conjoined by a certain bond of chastity and sacerdocy (I am referring particularly to bishops, presbyters and deacons), as befits devout bishops and priests of God, and Levites and those ministering to divine institutions, they must be continent in all things, so as to be able to obtain whatever in general they ask God for, in order that we too may likewise keep what has been handed down through the apostles and has been held ever since the early days [Canon III of Carthage (419 A.D.)].


Canon XII of the 6th Ecumenical Council is, at best, anomalous. While I will not condemn Canon XII nor any jurisdiction which continues to follow that Canon, we as Orthodox believe should remain unhindered to follow the still-standing, never-revoked, God-pleasing Canons V and LI of the holy apostles, and Canon IV of Gangra,  which promulgate the discipline that is consistent with Holy Scriptures: Qualified married priests must be admitted to the sacred episcopate and must be allowed to keep their marriages whole and complete as intended by God.


Church Divorce For Episcopal Candidates


What the 6th Ecumenical Council intended for the wives of bishops is made clear in Canon XLVIII of the 6th Ecumenical Council. This Canon provides that women who are wives of priests about to become bishops and their husbands must first divorce by common consent and, after his consecration, she is to enter a convent; if she is worthy, she may be ordained to deaconess. This is in clear contradiction to the Gospel.


Remembering that our Lord said, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder", we should not actively promote this practice, lest priests abuse the right and coerce their wives into entering convents. In fact, remembering that a married couple are one flesh in the eyes of God [Genesis 2:24], even truly voluntary divorces for this purpose should not be permitted at all. Nonetheless, because there are those rare married couples who honestly and piously both wish to enter into the angelic vocation (monasticism), and where the prayerful discernment of the bishop may find that, for that particular couple, such a course would more likely work toward their ultimate salvation, we ought to allow, again very rarely, an exception, so that husband and wife may become monastics. The bishop examining such a case should be extraordinarily attentive to the real motivations of the wife and to the likelihood of coercion by the husband.

In summary, the hierarchy should admonish the clergy of every rank that they must keep their marriages whole and complete, honorable and undefiled, as intended by almighty God, and that they must not harm their marriages in any way on the pretext of reverence because of their priestly rank.


Genuine Christian Witness


The few married bishops and their wives now remaining in the Orthodox Church are, in fact, the first line of embodying the Christian truth, that God made man male and female and that all things God made are exceedingly good. They show what a heresy it is to say that the body is evil and that a woman defiles a man. They are witnesses of God's plan for the propagation of the race of humankind, the sexual relationship of husband and wife. An exclusively-monastic episcopate never could and cannot now make this witness.


The issue of married bishops is far from being a minor matter of church discipline, as in long being resolved and no longer relevant or important. To the contrary, this is a very urgent matter of the greatest importance to the survival of the Church of Jesus Christ. If such fundamental tenets of the New Testament and the teaching of the Holy Apostles cannot be reinstated;  if false concepts of scriptural, patristic and canonical ideas continue to seduce the minds and hearts of most Orthodox hierarchs, then the visible Church will one day be found apostate. The visible Church will be a heretical super-church organization, no better than the Manichees, no better than the Gnostics, fit only as a bride for the Anti-Christ. The Church has been in the catacombs before, in the beginning of the Christian era, and more recently in Russia in the 20th century. The true Church may walk in the shoes of the catacombs again, if that is the only way where genuine Christianity can survive. If this becomes true (as it is prophesied at many places), one can be assured that the bishops will be married men again  -  like their holy predecessors.

On The Ordination Of Women


As women have begun to be ordained in other churches, the question why Eastern Orthodoxy has never raised the issue still presents legitimate reasons to address this matter.


Discussion about women’s ordination has not gained a high profile in the Orthodox Church because Orthodoxy addresses a different, more patristic aspect in such cases. For instance, if the early church had been in agreement on a matter and if that consensus continued unbroken over the centuries, then it is perceived that the Holy Spirit has been and still is leading the Church. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Thus, the Orthodox Church has not ordained women priests for twenty centuries.


However, there always were women ministers of the Gospel. So-called non-sacerdotal ministry, such as preaching, is open to all people, regardless of gender, once they are trained and authorized to do so. We keep in mind that everything the Church does is sacramental, not merely limiting it to seven sacraments. Can a woman be a missionary evangelist and preach the gospel in foreign lands? Yes, because we see the example of St. Nina of Georgia. She was just a young girl, fourteen years old, when she was abducted and carried as a slave into the nation of Georgia. There she had the opportunity to speak to the queen about her faith, then to the king. Eventually the whole nation was baptized. A woman can preach and prepare the faithful for baptism (St. Nina brought in a priest to accompany her to actually perform the baptisms), as well as pave the way for churches to be founded.


Women’s ministries can be answered by appreciating what Orthodox women have actually accomplished. Can a woman be a theologian and liturgist? Yes, there is St. Cassiane. Can a woman be an apologist and debater, presenting the Christian faith against opponents? Yes, St. Catherine, St. Perpetua and others have done so.


Woman may even exercise authority over both men and women as well as rule an entire nation. A woman can call a Church Council that establishes church doctrine. We call to mind the valiant accomplishments of empress St. Theodora. There are also many women, called Equal to the Apostles, including St. Mary Magdalene, St. Helen and St. Junia.


In the Orthodox Church, women have exercised a vast range of ministries. History confirms that Orthodox women can be healers, missionaries, preachers, teachers, evangelists, spiritual directors, church-planters, miracle-workers, iconographers,  hymnographers, pastoral counselors, debaters, writers of prayers and theology.


Though the Church has never spelled out reasons why she only ordained men, this does, however, not preclude women from the ministry of the Church that in itself is sacramental and well beyond the mere function of a priest. Thus, much if not most of Christ’s work in the world is administered by those not ordained to serve at the altar. By focusing on formal ordination obsessively seems to undermine the general priesthood of the faithful and promote a kind of clericalism that exalts ordained ministry while dismissing the value of the work all faithful may undertake.


Let us realize that the question of female ordination to the priesthood is being raised for the first time in our history. Throughout all of Orthodox Church history, this matter has never been controversial. If God had intended women to be ordained, one would conclude that the topic would have surfaced again and again, and perhaps brought tension and discussion throughout the centuries. If half the pool of possible priests were being excluded solely on the basis of gender, one would mourn the Church’s visible damage by such loss. One may assume, based on God’s dealing in the Old Testament, that He would have sent prophets and saints to change it. It appears that the all-male priesthood was never a point of contention.


There are some arguments used by our conservative Protestant and Catholic brothers and sisters that are not tenable and often illogical. For example, opponents of women’s ordination tend to cite St. Paul’s requirement that women be submissive and silent in church (I Tim. 2:11-15 and I Cor. 14:34-35). The real meaning is explained from the word “hesychia” in the Greek text, meaning “prayerful stillness”. Paul honors many women in active ministry, such as the deaconess Phoebe (Rom. 16:1); and he hails Euodia, Synteche (I Cor. 4:2-3) and Prisca (Rom. 16:3) as synergoi (fellow-workers) in the gospel. Vocal prophetesses span the Bible, from Moses’ sister Miriam (Ex. 15:20) to the four daughters of St. Philip (Acts 21:9). The prophetess Anna spoke out in the temple, telling everyone about the child Christ (Lk. 2:36-38).  - When we read St. Paul’s message in context, we know that St. Paul’s primary concern is that worship be reverent and orderly which includes men, women and children.


Another faulty argument is that a priest must be a man, because he represents Christ. Jesus was male but also Jewish, had a certain height and hair color. Why is only his maleness indispensable? Surely the fact that he was Jewish is even more significant, but it does not exclude men from ordination who do not have Jewish genes. Early Christians reflected very little on why Christ was male. Instead, they emphasized the fact that he was human. Christ’s maleness is not even mentioned in the hymns appointed for the Feast of the Circumcision, which would seem the likeliest. There may be good practical and cultural reasons why Jesus was a man, but the early church did not explore them.


How blessed we are to have a living tradition, that sets Holy Scripture in a context of real people and real lives, so we can experience how these Scriptures are lived rather than intellectually interpreted.


If the Holy Spirit were to lead us towards women’s ordination, it will become undeniable. We pray “Thy will be done” every day. If it becomes His will to ordain women priests, the Church will be unable to avoid recognizing it.


We would never want to block the Holy Spirit. If indeed He is calling the Church to a new understanding of women to be ordained, it will be impossible not to heed this demand. The earmarks of such a change will be peace, humility and unity in Christ, not in getting honor and glory.


Since the 1980s, the Orthodox Church has been in the process of reviving the ancient practice of ordaining women deacons. Within this context, a balance of male and female is emphasized.


If we refuse to understand the difference between male and female, we sure will not comprehend what previous generations knew about the value of an all-male priesthood. We hope and pray that we and our future generations will regain peace and clarity and be able to once again recognize and enunciate this mystery.


On The Error Of Ecumenoclasm


Ecumenoclasm is a heresy denying the possibility of salvation to the bulk of humanity. It violates several fundamental principles not only of Orthodox and Catholic but also of core Christian theology. It denies that our creator is a compassionate and loving God who seeks salvation for all who call upon his name (Romans 10:13). Ecumenoclasm ultimately turns God into a cruel divine caricature who creates humans, whose only final destiny can be eternal torment. This is not at all the Christian understanding of God as the lover of humankind, the merciful and compassionate one, the benefactor of our souls.


Christianity has had many forms, names, structures and traditions throughout history – all of which are equal in the heart of Christ: My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2). The true church is not an institution or mega-corporation. It neither consists of artificially created synods nor exclusive conferences. It is the community of all believers, transcending denominational and man-made boundaries.


Hence, all who confess to Christ are naturally identified as brothers and sisters: Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32). Thus, we neither seek nor require anyone’s recognition.


There is only one Church: the community of all believers realizing the relativity of ethnic, historical, cultural and denominational labels. We therefore must respect and honor all Christian traditions, whether they are congruent with our own inherited or adopted theology, whether they are large denominations or small jurisdictions, whether they are traditional or progressive, independent or established. Despite these differences, it is the command of our Lord to act as brothers and sisters and to treat each other respectfully as being part of the loving family in Christ: His holy church.

On The Ordination Of Deaconess


One of the often most misunderstood aspects of the ancient Church is the office of deaconess. Obscured in the contentious polemics surrounding women’s ordination, the office of   deaconess has been largely forgotten. Yet it is an apostolic office found in Sacred Scriptures, such as in Romans 16:1-3.


We equally know of famous deaconesses in the early church, such as St. Olympias who was likely the spouse of St. John Chrysostom. However in the post-patristic era, the office of deaconess became subsumed into the institution of nuns and monasteries and thus slowly disappeared from public life. It had not been not until the year 1836 when it was revived again, interestingly first among non-Orthodox, such as Lutherans and shortly thereafter by the Church of England. One famous example of the time was Florence Nightingale, the legendary mother of modern nursing, who passed through the Deaconess training.


The office of deaconess is a diaconal ordination – no less, no more. A thus ordained deaconess, as her male counterpart, is empowered to perform the following functions in our jurisdiction:


1. To assist at Holy Baptism when administered especially to women and children

2. To conduct prayer services, such as the Holy Typica and other devotionals, as assigned by the pastor or bishop

3. In case of a life-threatening situation, a deaconess can perform Holy Baptism

4. To deliver sermons if so qualified and assigned

5. To help with the distribution of the Holy Gifts (Communion) especially to women and children, both inside and outside of Liturgy (e.g., Communion to the sick)

6. To assist with pastoral care and counseling if approved by the bishop. This typically requires prior theological and pastoral training (such as seminary schooling or a degree in theology).

7. To serve as Cantor/Reader or Deacon during Divine Liturgy as assigned.


A Deaconess is considered clergy and hence may wear clerical attire when appropriate as well as liturgical vestments, similar to those of male deacons.


Please note that neither a deacon nor a deaconess may ever perform sacramental acts (except Holy Baptism in dire emergencies as in #3 above), as such are reserved for priests and bishops in the Orthodox Church.


On True Apostolic Succession



The greater problem with many “independent” churches or religious groups is that their Apostolic Succession, which they typically claim as legitimization, stands clearly outside of Orthodoxy, i.e. some, if not most, of their predecessors were holding to heretical tenets or simply were not Orthodox in practice and belief. Hence, their action of wanting to transmit apostolic validity to their successors automatically has put them outside Orthodoxy, regardless of how many lineages they have claimed themselves. In such case, the succession is broken and hence can no longer be validly transmitted. From an Orthodox dogmatic as well as canonical point of view, the validity of such succession can hence not be substantiated. In short, any so-called apostolic lineage outside of Orthodoxy cannot be accepted as Orthodox doctrine and Canon Law so demand.


Subsequently, we are neither in a position to accept their Orders, if they wish to join the Orthodox Church, nor to enter into any form of sacramental relations.  However, by recognizing our responsibility to work for the repair of the fragmentation that has occurred within Christianity at large, we have adopted certain criteria, which may serve as guideline in the feasibility of entering into relationships of mutual cooperation in charitable efforts (Concordat) with other ecclesial bodies. This noble venture, however, does not necessarily convey recognition beyond such Concordat.


When an Orthodox hierarch openly commits heretical acts in defiance, thus separating himself from his synod or patriarch, the church Canons deny him validity on the grounds that he had broken Orthodox apostolic succession. The so-called Augustinian view (that recognizes succession outside Orthodoxy) should be of no concern, since the Orthodox Church does not hold to Augustinian ecclesiology. 


On the other extreme, being part of a selected Patriarchate, Synod or autocephaly can never be a determining factor of validity in Holy Orthodoxy. This is a modern-day heresy and naturally not supported by patristic teaching, genuine Orthodox ecclesiology and Canon Law. By virtue of holding to the One Holy Orthodox faith in teaching and practice, which makes one canonical, all Orthodox bishops are naturally in communion. However, due to church politics, this communion is not always expressed or explicitly recognized by each branch of the Orthodox Church. 

The Heresy Of Recognition Quest


The question who is recognized by whom can sometimes be challenging. It all depends on more or less subjective opinions. The same applies to any Orthodox jurisdiction, even outside Orthodoxy, such as the Roman Catholic Church, which is not recognized by Catholic traditionalists, for example.


The Ukrainian Orthodox world, similar to Greek Old Calendarism, is quite colorful and multi-faceted. This may indeed be confusing. Hence, we had issued a Grammata on Canonicity to clarify such matters.


Hence, true Orthodoxy is not concerned about striving for recognition, especially in the general administrative disunity of Eastern Orthodoxy. We are too conciliatory and fraternal as to be focused on whether or not our efforts are acknowledged by someone else. As long as we are at a spiritual home where genuine Orthodoxy is practiced, we will always be in the right place. The Gospel truth is clear about this matter.


It is needless to point out that so-called organic connections to selected Patriarchates can never be a determining factor of validity in Orthodoxy. This is a modern-day heresy and naturally not supported by patristic teaching, Orthodox ecclesiology and Canon Law. Thus, the Greek State Church, which is under the Constantinople Patriarchate, would not recognize (in writing) the validity of the Old Calendar jurisdictions; the Orthodox Church would not recognize Roman Catholic orders  —  even to the extent that Orthodox faithful may now receive Holy Communion in Roman Catholic churches under certain circumstances, and vice versa; the Orthodox Church would not recognize the validity of the Oriental Churches, which are in schism with all the Byzantine Patriarchs since the 4th century; and so forth.


In regards to independent Apostolic succession, the truth is, that when an Orthodox hierarch openly commits heretical acts in defiance – thus separating himself from his synod or patriarch – church Canons deny him validity only on the grounds that he had broken Orthodox apostolic succession (which is intrinsically connected to Orthodox teaching and practice), but not on the premises of administrative unity, if he had otherwise remained Orthodox. This differs from the Roman Catholic, i.e. Augustinian, view, to which Eastern Orthodoxy does not hold.


By virtue of being in the One Holy Orthodox Church, all canonical jurisdictions are naturally in communion. However, due to church politics, this communion is not always expressed or explicitly recognized by each branch. 


In all due respect, being part of a particular branch or Synod or carrying prestigious labels does not make one Orthodox. This is especially crucial, as certain parts of Orthodoxy in modern times seem to have changed the Orthodox understanding of canonical into a new version of papacy. Their definition of Orthodoxy is focused on being recognized, for instance, by the Patriarch of Constantinople (as if he were some sort of Eastern pope), whereas there is no such rule in the entire Canon Law. They appear to have adopted the corrupted Roman ecclesiology by making legitimacy or canonicity dependent upon recognition by a particular Patriarch or Pope. This "neo-papal" concept has no historical precedent in Orthodoxy and contradicts centuries of Eastern tradition back to the times of the Holy Apostles. It is as if by being in communion with a particular segment of Orthodoxy, whether patriarchal or not, somehow would make one Orthodox. 


Seeking worldly recognition in the eyes of men and a fallen world by merely emphasizing the administrative, legal entity of the church instead of true unity in Orthopraxis, is spiritually detrimental, utterly false and not at all Orthodox. From a spiritual aspect, the forming of self-styled synods in mutual recognition with the sole purpose of denouncing others or in proclaiming themselves as an elite organization, exemplifies the grave sin of “condemning one’s brother and sister” (St. Ephraim Prayer).  


Contrary to worldly recognition, here is where our focus should be:


- We reflect the love of God to those around us, regardless of class, creed, race, walk of life (John 13:35; 1 Cor. 13; Galatians 3:28). 

- We strengthen and encourage the existence and growth of community (Ephesians 2:19 - 22; 1 Corinthians 12:12 – 14; Acts 2:42-47).

- We teach and practice the Orthodox Christian faith as handed down by the Holy Church throughout the ages (Jude 1:3; Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

- We are a place of peace, healing and reconciliation (2 Corinthians 13:11; Psalm 69:30; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; James 5:13–16).


On Orthodox Fasting Rules



In the spirit of oikonomia we have prayerfully reviewed some of the traditional fasting regulations that have been in use for centuries in the Orthodox Church. While not abolishing this tradition, we wish to provide spiritual adjustments to the faithful and clergy in a world whose food consumption and value has become much different than that of ancient times.


The many church calendars that include the monastic rules of fasting are not, generally speaking, suitable for the laity. It is more important to give up foods that feed the passions than those that feed the body. For example, sweets and gourmet foods are more harmful to the soul than a glass of milk is to someone who engages in much physical labor. Let us keep in mind, that abstinence from food is nothing more than a means towards maintaining soul and body in a disciplined state. It is not an end in itself. Therefore, if we are invited to be someone’s guest, it is unholy (to say the least) to display one’s abstinence.


Part of our aim is to simplify these rules and apply them to all four fasting seasons equally.  In general, we maintain that the consumption of meat is to be avoided during all days of any Fast. Fish, including seafood, and wine, including all beverages that contain alcohol, may only be consumed on Saturday, Sunday and Great Feast days when celebrated during a Fasting season. From Monday through Friday, only one full meal per day should be consumed. Additionally, smoking, secular entertainment (such as theatrical performance), dancing, parties and other jovial activities are to be avoided as incompatible with any serious fasting.


The Holy Church warns us that external fasting alone is not sufficient, however. We must also apply ourselves to internal fasting, which consists of shunning malice, deceit, wrath, worldly bustle and other vices. During a Fast, as at all times, we must show works of love and mercy to our fellow beings, doing all we can to help those in need and in sorrow. Only then will our fasting be genuine and not hypocritical; only then will it be God-pleasing; and only then will we know the true joy of the bright feast at the end of each fasting period.

On Holy Icons


Images have always played an important part in teaching Christians about their faith. However, Icons are much more than religious pictures. They are a way of telling people about Christian teaching in a simple form that anyone can see and start to understand. Icons in the earliest days of the Church were a means of depicting Gospel events (well before the New Testament was compiled) to Christians who were not able to read the biblical texts.


Orthodox Christians emphasize that it is both wrong and impossible to make a picture showing what God looks like. Humans can never see God in this world and often hardly know Him. Hence, we cannot have images of Him. However, God came into this world as a person. He became flesh and blood in Jesus Christ, the incarnation. That God became a human being is one of the most fundamental of Christian teachings. Therefore, we can paint a picture of Christ, because He lived here on earth.


The meaning of Icons reaches far beyond. In Icons of the Saints, for example, the pictures do not look like pictures of ordinary flesh and blood. They look different. The Church teaches that Christ had a human body in order to save our bodies as well as our souls. At the end of time, when Christ will come again, everyone will rise from the dead. We will not look the same as we do now. We will be utterly changed, and we will shine with the glory of God. Icons show people with that kind of body – a resurrected body. The Church also teaches that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. In a way then, all saints are living Icons of Christ.


The Gospels tell us in the story of the transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the Apostles saw that Christ was shining with light (Matt. 17. 1-13; Mark 9. 2-13; Luke 9. 28-36). Similar experiences happen to people who live a very holy life. When they are deep in prayer, they shine with a mysterious light. Their bodies have been changed, so that they show the image and likeness of God. Though not all saints show this sort of outward holiness. More often they grow into the likeness of God in a less visual way, but all Icons of the saints show that they have already changed from the ordinary to the divine (Theosis). Hence, saints are depicted with a halo around their head.



General Rules Of Iconography 

I. ­ We do not "paint" Icons. We write Icons, because Icons contain the truth of the Orthodox faith in shapes and colors instead of words.

II. The word Icon when used as term for church Icons is correctly capitalized in English, since it is a proper noun and it distinguishes from other types of icons, such as computer icons, etc.

III. ­ Iconographers always write Icons under prayer and fasting. They should confess to a priest before they begin and must ask the blessing of a priest or bishop to start their work.

IV. ­ Iconographers do not "create" Icons. Their work must be like an echo through the centuries. Their job is to write the truth that already exists. A new Icon is only allowed when we have a new saint or when an already existing Icon is incorrect or incomplete.

V. ­ An Icon is completed and can only be used after being blessed by the Church.

Clergy Compensation And Employment


As so many small churches, which cannot afford to pay their pastor, many of our clergy reflect more the biblical example, where even the holy apostles had to earn a living. However, here are some guidelines that express accountability, stability and sustainability for any Orthodox clergy person:

(1) Parish clergy are compensated by their respective congregation, not by the diocese or any other jurisdictional entity.

(2) Administrative clergy are typically not compensated, but they may be compensated on a case by case basis as funds are available. Most of the administrative positions are honorary assignments.

(3) Each clergy is required to give an account of their income and to pay income taxes according to local, State and federal law.

(4) Full-time and part-time paid clergy may ask their congregation to provide benefits, but the parish is not compelled to provide such, unless so required by applicable law. 

(5) Secular employment held by clergy must be bi-vocational, i.e.:

(a) compatible with the office, faith and honor of an Orthodox clergy person;

(b) free from interference with the duties and obligations of pastoral care;

(c) an income that solely provides for living expenses, i.e. not for luxurious gain or profit;

(d) approved by their diocesan bishop.

NOTE:  Where applicable, the bishop should assist in finding suitable employment, providing references and helping with employment search.  Clergy are asked to view their livelihood in terms of ministry. Thus, a teaching job or employment in the social or medical fields, for example, may well become part of a priest’s ministry in the real world.

(6) Clergy are prohibited to engage in the following:


Any violation of these prohibitions, found to be true, should result in disciplinary action up to and including suspension.

Holy Orders


Major Orders: Bishop | Priest | Deacon

Minor Orders: Subdeacon/Hypo-deacon | Reader | Cantor | Acolyte

Other Orders: Chorepiscopos (Chorbishop) | Exorcist | Doorkeeper | Deaconess





Episcopal Titles: Patriarch | Catholicos | Metropolitan | Archbishop | Bishop | Suffragan | Titular

Priestly Titles: Protopresbyter | Archpriest | Protosyngellos | Economos

Diaconal Titles: Archdeacon | Protodeacon |  Deacon/Deaconess

Minor Titles: Protopsaltes | Lampadarios

Monastic Titles: Archimandrite | Abbot | Hegumen


The Performance Of Orthodox Baptism


The word “to baptize” is translated from Greek  baptizw as “to immerse”. The Sacrament itself symbolizes death and rebirth of a person: the death of sin and birth in Christ. "You are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:11-12). Thus, we see that baptism by immersion is more consistent with the theological meaning of the Mysterion (sacrament).


On the other hand, it is not always possible to baptize by immersion, primarily because of the absence of special baptistery facilities in many churches and places. We need to realize that the validity of the Holy Mysterion of Baptism does not depend on the amount of water used for it, since the main requirement is the faith of the person being baptized (or their godparents) and their desire to change their life by inviting Christ into it.


Furthermore, there are stories (recorded in the ancient Paterika) about certain ascetics in the desert who baptized people with sand for lack of water. Not one of the holy Church Fathers forced these Christians to be re-baptized by full immersion later. We know from the hagiography that many of the martyrs were baptized with blood, i. e. they did not technically go through the ritual of  Holy Baptism at all; their confession of Christ even to death counted as baptism for them.


The holy apostle Paul says that the New Testament is a transition from the dead letter of the Old Testament (The Law) to the Spirit who gives life, the Holy Gospel (2  Corinthians 3:6). Therefore, ritualism is a misconception; it does not contribute to the growth of the church but rather curbs it. We must remember that it was pharisaic, i. e. the observance of purely external rites to the detriment of the purpose for which they had been established, that led the Old Testament “righteous men” to reject our Lord Jesus Christ !