If It Weren’t for These Three Saints, Christianity Would Look a Lot Different

Today is the feast day of our Holy Fathers and Great Hierarchs: BASIL THE GREAT, GREGORY THE THEOLOGIAN and JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

We owe these godly men an incredible debt. Apart from them we would not have a proper understanding of the Trinity. Were it not for them, we would not believe rightly about the Holy Spirit. Were it not for them and their influence, the Nicene Creed would look different. Were it not for them, we would not worship the way we do.

Thank God today for these men. Even if you’re an evangelical sola scriptura Christian, you would not have the beliefs you do apart from these men.

This from the Prologue:


Each of these saints have their own feast day. St. Basil the Great, January 1; St. Gregory the Theologian, January 25; and St. John Chrysostom, January 27. This combined feast day, January 30, was instituted in the eleventh century during the reign of Emperor Alexius Comnenus. At one time a debate arose among the people concerning who of the three is the greatest? Some extolled Basil because of his purity and courage; others extolled Gregory for his unequaled depth and lofty mind in theology; still others extolled Chrysostom because of his eloquence and clarity in expounding the Faith. Thus some were called Basilians, others Gregorgians, and the third were called Johannites. This debate was settled by Divine Providence to the benefit of the Church and to an even greater glory of the three saints. Bishop John of Euchaita (June 14) had a vision in a dream: At first, all three of these saints appeared to him separately in great glory and indescribable beauty, and after that all three appeared together. They said to him, “As you see, we are one in God and there is nothing contradictory in us; neither is there a first or a second among us.” The saints also advised Bishop John that he write a common service for them and to order a common feast day of celebration. Following this wonderful vision, the debate was settled in this manner: January 30 would be designated as the common feast of these three hierarchs. The Greeks consider this feast not only an ecclesiastical feast but their greatest national school holiday.

And this is from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese:

This common feast of these three teachers was instituted a little before the year 1100, during the reign of the Emperor Alexis I Comnenus, because of a dispute and strife that arose among the notable and virtuous men of that time. Some of them preferred Basil, while others preferred Gregory, and yet others preferred John Chrysostom, quarreling among themselves over which of the three was the greatest. Furthermore, each party, in order to distinguish itself from the others, assumed the name of its preferred Saint; hence, they called themselves Basilians, Gregorians, or Johannites. Desiring to bring an end to the contention, the three Saints appeared together to the saintly John Mavropous, a monk who had been ordained Bishop of Euchaita, a city of Asia Minor, they revealed to him that the glory they have at the throne of God is equal, and told him to compose a common service for the three of them, which he did with great skill and beauty. Saint John of Euchaita (celebrated Oct. 5) is also the composer of the Canon to the Guardian Angel, the Protector of a Man’s Life. In his old age, he retired from his episcopal see and again took up the monastic life in a monastery in Constantinople. He reposed during the reign of the aforementioned Emperor Alexis Comnenus (1081-1118).

Troparion of the Three Great Hierarchs Tone 1
Let all who love their words come together and honour with hymns/ the three luminaries of the light-creating Trinity:
Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian,
and renowned John of golden speech,
who have enlightened the world with the rays of their divine doctrines,
and are mellifluous rivers of wisdom
who have watered all creation with streams of divine knowledge;
they ever intercede with the Trinity for us.

Kontakion of the Three Great Hierarchs Tone 2
Thou hast taken the sacred and divinely inspired heralds,
the crown of Thy teachers, O Lord,
for the enjoyment of Thy blessings and for repose.
For Thou hast accepted their sufferings and labours above every burnt offering,
O Thou Who alone dost glorify Thy Saints.

Fr. Sam Edwards on the Nature of Ecclesial Communion

These remarks of Fr. Samuel Edwards are worthy of some reflection:

The stage is now set for the consideration of the other major Pauline passage which relates to our topic, which begins at 2 Corinthians 10:11. Paul proceeds to ask a series of rhetorical questions which, taken together, give a fairly complete picture of what being in communion signified in the early Church: “Do not be mismated (heterozygountes) with unbelievers. For what partnership (metoche) have righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion (koinonia) has light with darkness? What concord (symphonesis) has Christ with Belial? Or what allotment (meris) has a believer with an unbeliever? What common ground (synkatathesis) has the temple of God with idols?” He then goes on, “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.'”

The meaning of the six Greek words used here (heterozygountes, metoche, koinonia, symphonesis, meris, and synkatathesis) enable us to form a comprehensive definition of the meaning of communion. It is evident from a close examination of them what is the nature of the koinonia to which Paul refers. . . . It is a marital yoking, a partnership, which enables the participants to share in the life of God communicated through holy things and which stands on the common ground of doctrinal agreement and moral concord. The idea of a community not characterized by this shared standard of faith and moral order would rightly have been regarded as self-contradictory. A group of people who live together but have no common agreement on the nature of reality is not a community, but a voluntary aggregation of individuals formed for the pursuit of essentially individual purposes and ultimately held together only by self-interest or sentiment.

The participation or communion to which koinonia refers before all else is participation in Christ, particularly sacramental participation, communio in sacris, communion in holy things. Only in a secondary, derivative, and dependant sense does it refer to the fellowship or community between those who participate in holy things. Its primary reference is to participation in the life of Christ; participation in one another’s lives in a positive sense is possible only to the degree that we first participate in the life of Christ himself. Thus, the contemporary use of the notion of “community” to render this term, involves an inversion of the original priority of meaning.

In the New Testament, the sharing of communion always presupposes common faith. To demonstrate that this is not just a Pauline idea, we need only to turn to the first letter of John. Here he states that, “if we say we have communion (koinonia) with him and walk in the darkness, we lie and are not doing the truth; but if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have communion with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” (1:5-7)

Fr. Edwards expertly criticizes the present Protestant notion of communion (and notes its sources in nineteenth century German theology). It seems to me that Fr. Edwards is rightly debunking “lowest common denominator” ecumenism for the more meaty (and truthful) koinonia in the Person of Christ. And about that Person there are beliefs one must hold (and live) if one would be truly a follower of the Christ.

Stepping Out in Faith; or, Life Gets Scary

Today, my wife, Anna, gave her two weeks’ notice at the public library where she works as a children’s librarian. On 7 February she will change from being at work forty or more hours a week, to being at home full-time to care for our daughter.

It went well, though her boss sent out a terse, one-sentence announcement to the library staff. No, “We wish Anna well.” No, “We’ll miss Anna.” Just, “Anna has given her notice that her last day at SPL will be Saturday, February 7th.” That was a bit disappointing, but, sadly, not surprising. Her boss has been absolutely inflexible with Anna’s schedule; so, in effect, Anna’s resignation is her boss’ own doing.

Well, sort of. Anna and I both committed to one another when we were still dating that when we got married and had children, if Anna wanted to stay home and care for the little ones, we’d find a way to make it work. Our convictions have only grown in the ensuing decade of our marriage, as we’ve seen the ravages of our mobile, sex-with-no-consequences, abortion-on-demand, easy-divorce society on these the most defenseless members of our community, the innocent children. We wanted a better world for our own children. A world in which the faith is taught and lived each day. A world in which each day more time was spent with their parents than was spent with the “daycare specialist,” the television, or the computer. A world in which children are not sexualized, objectified and turned in to tramps and pimps. A world in which each day their joyous voices could loudly and confidently proclaim:

This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
he shines in all that’s fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

It will be more challenging than we now know. But we are convinced that it will be more than worth it.

Fr. Patrick Reardon: On the Three Senses of the Gospel

Each week, our pastor, Fr. Patrick, puts in the church bulletin his “Father Pat’s Pastoral Ponderings.” The following is the one from last week. I thought it too good not to share.

January 18, 2004

Second Sunday After Theophany

Father Pat’s Pastoral Ponderings

Like Caesar’s Gaul, the Christian Gospel is divided into three parts, each theologically identified by the people to whom it is addressed. This division is sequential, involving stages, and all three have to do with membership in the Church.

First, to those outside the Church the Gospel is directed as the announcement of salvation and the summons to repentance. In this context the Gospel is (to translate Hebrews 6:1 quite strictly) “the word of the beginning,” *ho tes arches logos*. This is the Gospel as *kerygma*, or announcement, and it deals with such elementary matters as “the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (6:1-2). The process initiated in this stage of the Gospel is the catechumenate, and its sacramental fulfillment is Baptism, “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Second, to those inside the Church the Gospel is directed as *didache*, or doctrine, and *paraklesis*, or exhortation, the summons to “increase and abound in love to one another and to all” (1 Thessalonians 3:12), to “abound in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence” (2 Corinthians 8:7), “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). This is the Gospel as *theologia*, the more intimate knowledge of God from *inside* the house of salvation, the repeated extension of the believer’s finger to know the place of the nails. The sacramental fulfillment of this Gospel proclamation is the Holy Eucharist, in which “we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).

Third, to those who are passing into glory the Gospel is directed as the completion of the Christian life: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). This is the Gospel in its utter fullness, “for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And inasmuch as sacraments involve signs and representations, there is no sacramental mode to this proclamation of the Gospel. In this third stage of the Gospel proclamation the Church gathers without the medium of symbols, to chant to the Lamb, “You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Continue reading “Fr. Patrick Reardon: On the Three Senses of the Gospel”

Zacchaeus Sunday

Yep. It was a shocker to get to Church and to realize today was Zacchaeus Sunday. Theophany and the long season of Pentecost is “over.” Next week begins the great Lenten Triodion. And then Great Lent is upon us.

The Healy’s have been traveling for almost two months, and thus haven’t been to All Saints in some time. It was very good to be back today. One of the women of the church is babysitting Sofie, and our reconnection to normal life and routine through the Church was anchored in the cares and needs of our daughter. (Found out the woman’s husband once worked in the same university library, and same department, in which I work part-time.)

Some of the men of the parish will begin meeting on Sunday nights, in a couple of weeks, to read, discuss and pray over St. Theopan the Recluse’s The Spiritual Life and How to be Attuned to It. I made arrangements with them. A women’s tea is coming up that Anna may go to. And Sofie played hard and loud with the children in the nursery during Sunday School today. We heard them all.

It’s been a great weekend. Yesterday, the Healy’s got out of bed late. So mom and dad played with Sofie, all of us wrapped up in flannel sheets. Today, the Healy’s got home from church and took a long, blessed Sunday afternoon nap beneath those gloriously warm flannel sheets.

Traveling was fun and exciting. But being home and back amid routine is more conducive of holiness, I think.

Glory be to God for all things.

The Fatherhood Chronicles XXVII

A note of warning before I begin: If you are a feminist who happens to be of the persuasion that not only are men and women equal but interchangeable, then this post will most definitely piss you off. If, however, you are of the more rational feminist stripe and merely assume the equality of men and women, I don’t see how this entry will raise your blood pressure at all. And if you are a male (feminist or not), deep down you know that what I’m about to say is one hundred percent true. Admit it.

That being said, I’ll pick up at the point this past week (Wednesday evening) when Anna and Sofie turned right around and left by big ol’ jet airliner to go be with Anna’s sister, Teresa, who is (still) on the verge of giving birth. (She didn’t so Anna and Sofie had no choice but to return last night. Keep Teresa and the baby in your prayers.)

So here we were: We’d just gotten in from San Diego the night before. I got up and went to work and taught my two classes. I come home and Anna and Sofie are packed for Texas (via Oklahoma). I had about an hour or so with them, then it was drop them off at the airport and return home. The next four days were spent in somthing like a dysfunctional fog. I went to work. I taught my classes. I arranged the next week’s child care. The rest was empty space filled by a bit of reading, some checkbook tabulation, and a lot of movie watching (X2, the three LOTR movies). Though I had picked up a severe cold by the weekend, and was so wiped out on Sunday that I missed the Divine Liturgy, nonetheless, the prospect of picking up my wife and daughter from the airport lent the day some purpose. I rolled out of bed at 8:30 (about three hours late for me), and thought “Twelve hours and the Healy women return to me.”

Here’s my thesis and main point: We men need women. We need them not so much for propagating the race (though this is a true and enjoyable fact). We need them because they give to our masculine lives the domesticity that is our salvation.
Continue reading “The Fatherhood Chronicles XXVII”

More Em Church Reflections

It seems my previous reflection on the “postmodern” embrace of the Em Churchers has gotten some attention I don’t normally receive (and probably don’t deserve). Reverend Mike offers up some gracious agreement on some points. BeChurch has two entries, here and here. And organic church also offers up some comments.

The comments touch nerves, so I wanted to be clear to the Em Churchers: I did not mean my comments in any way to be taken as mere rhetoric to score some Orthodox points. I meant them quite seriously, and sincerely await responses.

There is a part of my questioning that is also–assuming that I have the right understanding on the matter–meant to serve as a warning to my brothers and sisters who are, like me, in search of the genuine life of Christ in the Church.
Continue reading “More Em Church Reflections”

Reflections on Liquidity and Ecclesiology

I’ve been rummaging among some of the Emerging Church, Liquid Church (or other prevailing trademark), websites. I came away sympathetic but unmoved.

Not because I don’t think the Em Churchers are sincere, or that they aren’t deeply reflecting on mission and ecclesiology, nor that they’ve succumbed to uber-relevancy. I do believe they are sincere. It is evident that they are reflecting deeply on church and witness. And though I might question their enthusiastic embrace of the mislabeled “postmodern” milieu, they nonetheless appear to be endorsing it in something of a critical way.

I am sympathetic. There is a bunch of silliness in modern Protestantism. Witness the commercialization of the so-called contemporary Christian music scene. There are a bunch of serious abuses. The priestly sexual abuse of young adolescent boys in the Roman Catholic Church and its coverup. The supression of and attempts to obliterate historic Christian doctrines and practices in some mainline churches. There is doubtless the tendency toward, if not full, institutionalization of ecclesiology in all expressions of the Christian faith. One cannot be blamed for looking for a legitimate remedy.

But I am unpersuaded that the rejection of much of historic Christianity by the Em Churchers is as reflective as their embrace of “postmodernity” and of its tenets.
Continue reading “Reflections on Liquidity and Ecclesiology”

Notable Books of 2003 (from my reading list)

I read twenty-six fewer books in 2003 than in 2002. Guess that’s what a new baby will do to you.

Among the notable reads:

1. Hieromonk Damascene Christenson, Not of This World and Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works. I actually began reading the original version of St. Seraphim’s biography in the fall of 2002. But it was piece-meal at best, and I took it up with more fervor at the beginning of this year. The revised biography is light years better. If you want to see the process of the making of an American Orthodox saint, read Father Seraphim Rose.

2. St. Theophan the Recluse, Unseen Warfare. This book was the primary text for my Lenten reading. St. Theophan actually revised an earlier revision done by St. Nikodemos of Mt. Athos on an Italian Roman Catholic book. It is an amazing spiritual read. St. Theopan’s insights into the inner struggle of faith is among the best. And the healthy introduction giving the history and theology of the book is similarly helpful.

3. George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement since 1945. Though self-described liberals and other general cynics may scoff at the title, the book is incredibly interesting. It discusses the thoughts, ideas and impact of such men as Richard Weaver, Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, Jr., Whitaker Chambers, et al. If you thought you knew what opponents call “the radical right,” think again. (Note: Lee Edwards’ The Conservative Revolution touches on some of the same luminaries, but focuses on the political sphere.)

4. Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm. I’ve actually read this book many times before. But earlier in the spring, I came across a first edition hardcover at a local used bookstore. It’s a brief (about 80 pages) account of a weekend Ms. Dillard spent on an island in Puget Sound. If you ever want to see what good incarnational theology is about, read this book.

5. Christos Yannaros, Freedom of Morality. With Metropolitan Zizioulos’ Being as Communion and Panayiotis Nellas’ Deification in Christ, Yannaros’ work highlights how human ethical behavior flows from the Trinitarian image in which we have been made. These three books alone have been fundamental in my shift of theological thinking toward the patristics and the Tradition.

6. Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation, and Early Man. This is a posthumous collection of St. Seraphim’s writings (and transcribed talks) on Genesis, anthropology, cosmology and the relation between faith and science. The patristic commentary on Genesis 1-12 alone is worth the price of the book.

There were many more good books that I read, but these were among the most important.

There is one regretted read from 2003:
Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Armageddon. This is the penultimate book in the “Left Behind” series, and since I’d read all the others a couple of years ago, I couldn’t help but slog through this one. (And by the way, my regretted read for this year will be the final book in the series.)