As the descendants of the Adam and Eve “increased in number and filled the earth” (Genesis. 1:28) the knowledge of the True God was forgotten and replaced by faith in idols. Man himself invented these idols to fulfill his inherent need to worship God. There was a specific line of people that preserved the true faith and bestowed it to their descendants. From that genealogy, the people of Israel would originate, from whom the Lord Jesus Christ would descend.
The Old Testament does not only present the history of the Israelites. It also conveys how the relationship between the True God and man is maintained throughout time and space. A relationship that will peak and become whole in the New Testament through the coming of the Messiah, the founding of the Church and the salvation of mankind through the Crucifixion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The True God is revealed to man, first being Abraham, whom God appointed the Forefather of the Israeli race.
In the Old Testament the Lord, through fair and righteous men, converses with His creature, guides man, enforces the people of Israel, protects them from their enemies, judges them when they stray from the righteous way, decries denounces their callous manners, disgraces them, and enforces the Law onto them thus preparing humanity for the coming of the Messiah. Our Lord is not a God that sits on the throne of His all-mightiness apathetic to human affairs. He is a God of Love that desires to salvage man from the torture of pain and death that the original sin brought unto him. Through the words of God Himself during the expulsion of the progenitors of mankind from Eden this love is revealed, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis. 3,15). These words foreshadowed the imminent coming of the Messiah, through the sacrifice of His own Son on the Cross this love is also shown.
Many righteous men of the Old Testament, enlightened by the Spirit of God, prophesied the coming Messiah. some of which was written with outstanding accuracy. The verses from the book of Isaiah are distinctive: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah. 7,14). “For unto us a Child is born, unto us, a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah. 9,6). Holy Prophet Micah foretold the place of the Messiahs’ birth: “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth” (Micah. 5,1).
Many Old Testament prophecies refer to the coming of the Messiah, provide details over His earthly acts, or to His Passion. They even foretell of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner: “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in. Behold, He shall come,” saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachi. 3,1); and again: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40,3). He is the last but also the greatest prophet who marks the beginning of the “New Covenant” bringing forth the New Testament.
God created man out of Love and gave him His icon, meaning His characteristics (nous (mind), logos (word) and spirit). Most of all gave He gave him freedom, to render him the king of the material creation and make him an absolute shareholder of eternal existence and of theosis (divinization). But man, making a bad use of this freedom, raised his “Ego” between God and himself and instead of the characteristics of God (incorruptibility, analgesia (lack of pain), immortality, eternity, holiness and Love) he chose the selfishness of self-realization and autonomy. This resulted to him being separated from God and fall into a state where everything that is not from or of God simmers: from now on deterioration, pain, evil, immorality and death rule the world. The multifaceted evil came in the human life because of man distancing from God and the theosis that God created man for. This divination is now distant in the depths of his conscience, but remains a goal impossible to achieve.
God did not stay apathetic before this tragedy because He is a God of Love. By His holiness, He “chose” to redeem man from his existential condemnation and restore him to the beauty of his initial state. He even granted the chance for greater heights. Through His wisdom, He conceived the way and the plan. By His omniscience, He determined the right moment. With His all-mightiness, He initiated historic and dynamic intervention over the built world. These frame His supreme purity, which respects human freedom. God does not impose Himself but approaches and conquers through His Love.
In the proper moment, He proceeds to Kenosis (Christ’s voluntary abasement). By condescension (and not areal transition) our God enters as flesh for an ineffable event to occur. The Timeless One comes in time. The One of no Origin assumes a beginning. The One with no flesh receives a body. The Invisible One becomes seen. The One that is beyond substance is born. The Son of God becomes the Son of Man. God is no longer an abstract meaning or intangible being. For the first time, God reveals Himself to man in the flesh. The Kingdom of Heaven is now among the kingdom of man. Christ came to participate as a human so that humans could participate in the Divine. As Saint Gregory the Theologian writes: “God clads in my flesh so that I clad in His Divinity and becomes poor to my poverty so that I be rich in His Kingship.”
Two different natures come under one person. Like only the true God can do, He is voluntarily humbled by hiding His divinity under the flesh. Through this miracle, the voluntary freedom of mankind is secured. Now man can choose Him due to His goodness and not His all-mightiness. Out of love and not out of fear. It is a miracle that is hard to approach by human reasoning. It is the greatest of all the miracles for the salvation of man. God received human nature so He could transfuse His divinity in it and absorb in His divinity all the negative characteristics of humanity (pain, deterioration, death). He became light in the presence of darkness.
The Creator of the Universe and King of all is born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. He enter humanity in poverty and His first residence is a cave. His first companions are poor, uneducated shepherds. His first homeland is exile (the escape to Egypt). Unshod, bareheaded, with no wealth or possessions, as an equal among equals, a brother among brothers. Jesus Christ explains to man the range of evil that plagues the world and reveals to him what he must do to defeat it. During his Earthly mission, He defines the context of righteous conduct, answers the question of the meaning of life, signifies the way of redemption, calls to repentance and determines theosis. Preaching with the beauty of simplicity, His words are the most flawless ever heard in human history. His words promote law, equality, offering, brotherliness, charity, forgiveness, forbearance, self-sacrifice, humility and, most of all, Love toward God and the fellow-man. During His mission, He is not indifferent to the tragedies of man. He Himself is The Kingdom of Heaven and He destroys everything that doesn’t belong to the Heavenly Kingdom when He faces it. The poverty and insufficiency, the mental and physical warp of the human person, pain, illness, death, prejudice, injustice, forgiveness, favoritism are all squandered by His Love. He does not evoke fear or threaten, rather, He invites by announcing the “Good News” of the Gospel.
He ascended into Heaven with His resurrected body in order to send to humanity the Holy Spirit that proceeds from the Father, so that in the proper time He rises with Him in Heaven all humanity, when He returns to Earth in His kingship, as King, clad in the glory of divinity during His imminent Second Coming! This is the leader of the Christian faith, the faith that was established by the one and only person among human religions that didn’t climb to heaven by deifying himself, but came down from Heaven. He did not reach theosis, but from divinity became incarnate. He did not become rich, but voluntarily became poor. He was not served, but came to serve others, He did not keep for Himself but gave everything to the others, He did not nominate himself cause He was born Christ (nominated)! Saint Athanasius the Great perfectly summarizes this numinous event, “God became a man, so that man can become a god”!
After his Resurrection, Jesus stayed by his disciples for forty days, preparing them for their apostolic duty, while on the fortieth day He ascended into Heaven. Ten days later, the disciples, scared of persecution by the Pharisees, were hiding in a house in Jerusalem with the Panagia (the Holy Mother). They awaited the coming of the Helper, according to what Jesus had told them. Ten days after the Holy Ascension Christ’s promise was fulfilled. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity came with a great sound and was seen as tongues of fire that went and sat over the head of each Apostle. Prior, the uneducated Apostles were scared for their future. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit upon them, led by Apostle Peter, they departed from the home. Taking courage, and bravely started preaching the divinity of Christ. They spoke in foreign languages, so that – according to the book of “the Acts of the Apostles”- some of the listeners who didn’t discern the miracle thought that the Apostles were drunk! On that day, in accordance to Jesus’s order that the Apostles preach the Word of God to all nations and baptize the believers in the name of the Father, the Sun and the Holy Spirit, three thousand Jews were baptized as Christians and this marks the establishment of the first Christian Church in Jerusalem of 33 A.D., the day of the Holy Pentecost!
The Church is not a human establishment. Since God accomplished in time his grand Divine Act of his incarnation, his utmost sacrifice and his glorious victory over death, he had to establish and guide towards systemization an institution that would safeguard the continuity and universality of His Act, so that the future generations could enjoy the inheritance of the Truth that He offered to us, pure and unaffected by the distortion, falsification or misinterpretation that human empathy and weakness tend to bring to all institutions. This institution, that was gradually formed in the Church of today, by the enlightment, bless, enforcement and guidance of the Holy Spirit, had always been appointed the mission to ensure the incorruptibility of the Holy Scripture, the Dogma and the Sacraments, which constitute the only ways of approaching God and being united with Him. The Church was truly founded by Jesus Christ himself. If it wasn’t for it, the Scriptures would have been altered, the Dogma would have been falsified, the Sacraments would have been corrupted, the person of Jesus would have been distorted, the evangelical message would have been lost, and the entirety of Jesus’s work would forever stay incomplete and unfulfilled.
But this holy “torch relay” of the Truth, from its’ start in the proto-Christianic years unto today, required that through the generations there would be some “torchbearers” who, by the sacred continuity and connection to the Holy Apostles -connection that is called “Apostolic Succession”- with devotion and self-denial would maintain and spread that Light to the nations of the world both in space and time. So in order to search for the Truth of the Divine Act, we ought to go back in time and use as criteria of authenticity the historically straight and without dogmatic alterations beginning of this denomination, that absolutely has to incorporate through its’ course the factor of the Succession of the holy persons and end up directly to Jesus Christ. This factor is, that among so many different Christian denominations today renders Orthodoxy unique and supreme: because it was founded by Jesus Christ, established and guided by the Holy Spirit, preached and spread by the Apostles and reaches our day and age unaltered, through the sacred carriers of the Succession of the episcopal office. The Eastern Orthodox Church is truly the Church of the Holy Apostles and their successors, the Holy Fathers! Without it, there would be no clear and safe knowledge over Jesus and his work.
The Holy Apostles initially preached the new faith in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, in Palestine, Samaria and elsewhere. By putting their hands on the heads of the faithful they ordained new “apostles” that weren’t permanent members of the local churches and their main task was to found new communities, while the mission of the “prophets” was to establish and develop the communities founded by the apostles. The permanent officers of each community were generally called “executives”, “administrations” and “shepherds” and were divided in three ranks, the deacons, the presbyters (elders) and the bishops. All these of course were consolidated through time, as the Church was increasingly being organized and systematized.
Apostle Peter took action in Palestine, Antioch, Pontus, Bithynia and Cappadocia. Like Apostle Paul before him, he too reached Korinthos before heading to Rome, where he had a martyr’s death. The patron saint of Patra, Apostle Andreas preached in Bithynia, around the Black Sea, Thrace, Macedonia and Epirus and ended up in Achaea where he too had a martyr’s death. Apostle John operated mostly in Asia Minor using Ephesus as a base, where he wrote his Gospel approximately between the years 80 to 82. He died peacefully a centenarian, in Ephesus in 101. But before that he went to the island of Patmos in 95, where according to tradition he wrote the “Apocalypse” (Revelation) that he dictated to his follower Prochoros, in what is called today “the Cave of the Apocalypse”.
John’s Book of Revelation is the last book of the New Testament. It was also written in Greek, just like all the Epistles of Apostle Paul, Peter, John and Iakovos, the Acts of the Apostles and all four Gospels, except for that of Matthew, that was at first written in the Jewish language but then it was translated to Greek by Apostle Matthew himself. And while the Jewish script of Matthew was altered by the heretic Nazarists and was finally lost in the fourth century, the one in Greek was saved and from the beginning was given by the Fathers the prestige of accuracy and authenticity. All the prototype books of the New Testament were written in the Greek language!
Apostle Bartholomew preached in India and Armenia like Apostle Judas who also preached in the lands of Edessa and Mesopotamia, Apostle Philipp in Parthia (today’s Iran) and Syria, Iakovos in the wider Palestine where he had a martyr’s death, Thomas in Persia and India where he also had a martyr’s death; Mathew preached in Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia and Medea where he died as a martyr; it is speculated that Apostle Matthias preached in Cappadocia and around the coasts of the Caspian Sea, while for the action of Simon there is no efficient information. The Holy Disciples, the direct successors of Lord Jesus Christ to His redeeming project, with their titanic efforts, their sweat, their labor and their blood changed the world and truly became “fishers of men”, as the Lord himself had promised them! Like good sowers they sowed the Word of God in the hearts of the salvation-thirsty people and the Word of God bloomed because of them to the ends of the earth!
But before the twelve Apostles take action in the lands far from Judaea, Apostle Paul had already begun his work. The previously fanatic persecutor of Christians, having completed along with Apostle Varnavas his first tour in the nations and having established some Christian communities in Cyprus along with the Churches of Pergi, Antioch, Ikonion, Lystra and Dervi, had already begun his second tour. Travelling through Troada to Macedonia, he founded in Philippi the first Church of Greece and of Europe! He then founded the Christian communities of Thessaloniki and Veroia and arrived in Athens, where he spoke in Pnyx of the Acropolis to the people of Athens. But though the action of Apostle Paul in Athens didn’t bring considerable results, nevertheless, before the Apostle went to Achaia, he had set down the first bases of Christianity in the capital of the Greeks, as his preaching had an impact to some exceptional Athenian citizens, like Dionysius the Areopagite, one of the first great mystical theologians of Orthodoxy, who would later be named the patron saint of Athens. In a while, the “apologists” started emerging, like the martyr Justinus, people who attempted the conciliation of Christianity and Hellenism and the support of the former with scientific, philosophical argumentation. But the Greeks of the motherland, proud as they were for their unique in the ancient world achievements weren’t ready to denounce polytheism yet. A fact though remains that when Apostle Paul founded the Church of Korinthos which constituted a great focal point at the time, he finished the second of his three tours and returned to Jerusalem having set the foundations of the Christian edifice in Greece, which soon would dominate over Dodekatheon (twelve Gods polytheistic religion) and would gradually induce the total annihilation of the polytheistic regime. Greece was about to become the core of Christianity, that soon would be called “Orthodoxy” (which means “the true, the right faith”) and would fuel with the spring water of the new faith all the nations of Europe. This is how Orthodoxy becomes the founding of the Truth that maintained onto our days the dogma of the New Testament pure and unadulterated; the new covenant between God and Man.
During the proto-Christian years the Christians were suffering repeated and devastating persecutions by the idolater emperors, a fact that blessed the “hagiologion” (a book about saints) of the Church with millions of martyrs, who chose to give their lives –oftentimes under horrendous torturing- rather than deny their faith to Jesus and confess faith to the idols. This continued for almost three centuries until the Edict of Milan in 313 from Great Constantine, according to which everyone was allowed to worship the God of his choice and so the Christian Faith and the Church were no longer persecuted. The pogroms against Christians and their terrible martyrdoms over their faith in Jesus Christ would only be repeated after 1453, when Constantinople fell under the Ottoman Turks and therefor ended the long-lived (for over a millennium) Byzantine Empire of the Greeks, that favored so much the blossom and spread of Christianity to the rest of the western world.
Over the first centuries after Christ, as the new faith was being spread further more to the nations, the Church would endure its’ firsts inner challenges. For it didn’t take long until some people came about locally who, either because they misinterpreted some citations of the New Testament or because they were trying to mix Christianity with other religious systems of older times or again for strictly personal reasons that concerned their ambitions, but also due to the fact that they were trying to construe dogma with reason, they developed unreal theories that distorted the truths of Christianity and constituted dangerous heresies or schisms. But the existence of these factors truly favored the Church; because pretty soon the local bishops banded together and got organized so that they take the proper measures in order to oppose the novel misbeliefs. The consequences of this movement on behalf of the Church brought about three very important results.
Firstly: the fact that the bishops are by undisrupted order the successors of the Apostles and therefor the gatekeepers of the true Christian teachings enforced the episcopal office and bonded the local bishops and their churches. That way the spirit of communal unity, dogmatic solidarity and brotherly bonds among them was strengthened and the organization of the Church as a whole was accelerated.
Secondly: it is known that during the sacrament of Baptism the person being baptized gave a confession of the Christian faith that referred to some central concepts of Christianity. But due to the fact that many of those concepts were also accepted by some heretics, now the simple confession became insufficient. For that reason the confession of the baptism got enriched in dogmatic concepts, obtained a tighter expression and thus got elevated to a symbol of faith, that at first was called “canon”, or “canon of faith”, or “creed of faith”, or “Christian Creed”. The name “Symbol of Faith” will be given to it later, in the canons of the Arelati Council in 314 and of the Laodicea Council in 360, until through all the Holy Ecumenical Councils it was formed to its’ modern configuration, the well-known “I believe”.
Thirdly: in order to secure the authenticity of the holy books and distinguish them from the false ones of the heretics –through which they claimed that their teachings had ostensibly the apostolic validity- the Church compiled the Canon of the New Testament, that is the distinction and protection of all the holy books that are nested in the New Testament as authentic and apostolic.
Thus, near the end of the second century the Christian communities of the time were directly connected, not only by internal bonds –most important of whom was of course the faith to Jesus Christ- but now through external ones also, that is by the acceptance of the apostolic authority of the episcopal commission and by the primordial compilation of the symbol of faith and the Canon of the New Testament, which became the three main traits of the real Christians. Those three qualities of course would take shape in time, but the struggle of the Church against the Gnostics and Marcion of Sinope precipitated their establishment. These would be the three main weapons by which the Church would face some time later the Schism of Montanism that marked the last inner-church dispute before the arrival of Great Constantine. At the same time the local Churches compiled the institutional rules of their function: the holy sacraments were lay down, the dates of celebrations and fasts were set and many more. The development of the theological literature was also important, that, as mentioned above, always walked hand in hand with the individual fights of the Church against heresies. Significant Fathers like Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom left behind writings of unparalleled value, that to this day are considered to be insuperable in relation to their beauty and theological depth!
Parallel to the systematization of the Church, Monasticism was developed during the third century, founder of which is considered to be saint Antonios the Great! Before him, a variety of men called “recluses”, with deep Christian zeal and thirst to practice the evangelical life to perfection, by abandoning the laical life they dwelled in desolate places in order to devote themselves to prayer and ascesis undistracted. But they were too few and no one knew the content of their lives, while until then there was no specific way of ascesis according to which one could follow this path with safety. Inspired by them, the young at the time Antonios, after having distributed his significant wealth to the poor, he departed to various desolate places of Egypt where after a longevous, intense ascesis and having endured unimaginable struggles against the devil and emerged from them a winner, he became an attraction pole and unmistakable guide and Father to many people that wanted to follow his example, as he delivered the safe ways for the conduct of the secluded life. At the same time in another place of Egypt, saint Pahomios the Great proceeded with founding Monasteries that under the regime of community property and common praying and working gave roof to thousands of monks. Thus came the systematization of the Commune Monasticism, whose founder is considered to be Pahomios. Since then the Orthodox Monasticism, as an essential part of the Church and as it gradually spread to other countries from the fourth century on, it became a beacon of Christianity and played an important role in every step of the Church’s struggle to carry the Word of God to the nations.
When during the kingship of Great Constantine the Christian religion became the formal religion of the Byzantine Empire, the fight against various heresies by the Fathers was easier and more systematic. In total, Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils were held in the history of the Eastern Orthodox Church, each one convened for different reasons. Concisely, they were the following:
- The First Ecumenical Council (First Council of Nicaea). It was held in Nicaea of Bithynia on 20 of May 325A.D. and 318 bishops participated. Many ecclesiastical (=of the Church) issues were dealt with, but mostly the heresy of Arianism was condemned and the consubstantial (=homoousion= same in essence) of the Father and the Sun were certified. The first seven articles of the Symbol (profession) of Faith –known and as the Nicene Creed- were also configured.
- The Second Ecumenical Council (First Council of Constantinople) was held in Constantinople in 381. Macedonius and his followers that doubted the divinity of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatomachi) were condemned and the rest five articles of the Symbol of Faith were completed.
- The Third Ecumenical Council (Council of Ephesus) was summoned in Ephesus in 431. Nestorius was repudiated and his heretical opinions that wanted Jesus divided into two natures, the divine and the human one, and therefor Panagia (the Holy Mother) was only “Christotokos” (Christ-bearer) and not “Theotokos” (God-bearer) were anathematized. The Council declared that Christ is totally God and totally human with total unification of the two natures and gave the title Theotokos to Virgin Mary. Also a decree was established that forbade any additions to the Symbol of Faith as it was compiled by the two former Councils.
- The Fourth Ecumenical Council (Council of Chalcedon) was held in October 8, 451, in Chalcedon. It fought the heresy of Monophysitism that taught that the human nature of Christ was totally absorbed by his divine one.
- The Fifth Ecumenical Council (Second Council of Constantinople) took place from 5 May until 21 June, 553, in Constantinople. It verified the orthodox doctrines concerning the Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ and repudiated a number of heretic writings as well as the writings of some authors whose work contained heretic positions.
- The Sixth Ecumenical Council (Third Council of Constantinople) was held in Constantinople from 680 to 681. It repudiated the teachings of Monothelitism by validating the total and true incarnation of Jesus Christ. The Council proclaimed that Christ has a divine and a human will. In the prosopon (person) of Jesus there are two natures, the divine and the human, two wills, the divine and the human and two energies, the divine and the human, that act together with “no confusion, no change, no separation, no division” and with no rivalry undergoing between them.
- The Seventh Ecumenical Council (Second Council of Nicaea) was held in Nicaea of Bithynia, in 787. It declared the restoration and veneration of icons, condemned iconoclasm and forbade the iconization of the Holy Trinity.
The Seven Ecumenical Councils issued declarations based on the Holy Scripture and the authentic apostolic and ecclesiastic tradition and therefor are considered by the Orthodox Church to possess the dogmatic validity, authenticity and intertemporal truth, while any dogmatic deviation from them constitutes a heresy and is condemned. Thus, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, the Orthodox Church of Syria, the Malankara Orthodox Church of India, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Eritrea, although bring the title “Orthodox” they accede to a realm that is called “Oriental Orthodox Churches” and become heresies, since they derived from a number of bishops that denied the results of the Council of Chalcedon that condemned Monophysitism. That’s why they are called “anti-Chalcedonian” or “pre-Chalcedonian” Churches and have no connection to the Eastern Orthodox Church to which belong the Churches of Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania (that have their own Patriarchates), while the Churches of Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Poland and Czech and Slovakia are Autocephalous Churches. Patriarchates are also in Israel (Patriarchate of Jerusalem), the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt and of course the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople of modern Turkey.
A sad date in the history of the Orthodox Church is the Great Schism of 1054 AD. The Church of Rome detached itself from Constantinople with trades of mutual anathemas from both Churches. The reasons that led to this event were many, but the most important was the addition of “filioque” to the Creed by the Catholics. This was contrary to the decisions of the Third Ecumenical Council that forbade any addition in the Creed (Symbol of Faith) as it was compiled by the First and Second Ecumenical Councils. This act by the Latin Church, other than the fact that it directly opposes the first three Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers that participated in them, also constitutes a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the third prosopon of the Holy Trinity. The word “filioque” denotes that the Holy Ghost originates “and from the Son”. This makes it an energy of the Father and the Sun and not a distinct prosopon that holds a position and glory equal of that of the Father and of the Son. If theit would mean that until 1054 the Holy Spirit failed to infallibly guide the dogmatic theology of the Church, thus all the Ecumenical Councils and all –with no exception- the Holy Fathers of the past –including the Apostles from whom we received the truths of our Faith- were in error and after a thousand years a Pope was needed in order to bring the Church on the right way –indeed the pinnacle of diabolical arrogance.The acceptance that the Holy Spirit originates “from the Son” contradicts the Word of Jesus Christ Himself, when He distinctly reveals to us that the Holy Spirit originates from the Father: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, the will bear witness about me” (John, 15:26). Given that heresy is the distortion of the truth and separates man from God through abandonment of man by the Holy Spirit, the direct result of that fact was that the bishops of the Roman-Catholic Church lost the Apostolic Succession since they detached themselves from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, something that by itself renders all the sacred sacraments of the Papal Church invalid and inactive, since they don’t have the seal of the Holy Spirit anymore.
It is worth noting that the word “catholic” is Greek and means “of all”. So the Papal Church is to be called Roman-Catholic and not Catholic, since the Orthodox Church was and remains the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, as we recite in the Symbol of Faith.
The tragic consequences of the error didn’t take long to appear. The Papal bishops changed the way that the holy sacraments were conducted, as well as the traditional appearance, worship, and art. They inducted in their theology imaginary elements that none of the holy Fathers or Saints of the past had ever spoken about. Other than filioque, dogmatic aberrations such as the infallibility of the Pope, Purgatory, the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary, the imputed righteousness and earned merits of the saints, indulgences and the built energy of God are only some of the many heretical opinions of the Roman-Catholic Church. Even more tragic, the total secularization of the Papal Church, while in search of authority and social power, imprisoned, tortured and killed in the name of Jesus Christ who “is love” (John, 4:16). Bringing Europe to the brink of destruction during the Dark Ages, the Roman- Catholic Church became the fountain from which a variety of other heresies sprung forth. Indeed the evil deeds of the Roman-Catholics were and are among the darkest wrinkles of Christianity. A clear defamation of the Church and a wound that may never heal. With the blessings of the Pope, the Crusaders raided and plundered Constantinople in 1204. This further solidified the division between the Latin West and Orthodox East. Two centuries after that event, Constantinople had fallen under the Turks, the proverb “better under the Turkish fez (hat) than under the Papal tiara” was circulating among the enslaved Greeks.
During the Turkish rule, which lasted in Greek territory for over 400 years, the Church and, predominately, the Monasteries were the centers of preservation and transmission of knowledge, as it was there that the most writings and scripts were saved, not only those of the Fathers of the Church, but also of the ancient Greek traditions. The Turks, in their effort to Islamize the indigenous population, put to death hundreds of thousands of Greeks, sometimes under terrible torturing. In spite of the war that the Church endured from the barbarity of the Ottomans, it never kneeled. When the circumstances were the most favorable, the Church also became a secret fighter of the Greek Revolution, as it was in its’ bosom that many times the secret meetings, communications and coordination of the fighters were held, while they were blessed and encouraged as they swore to fight “for Faith and Country”. That is why the banner of the Revolution was the Flag of the Cross, that was formed into the cruciferous flag that modern Greece has to this day.
The rescue of the Greek History, Language and Religion by the Monasteries is undeniable and the role that the Church played in general over the fights of the enslaved Greeks is huge.
Modern Greece, with more than 200 Monasteries, the unaltered Apostolic tradition and succession of bishops, thousands of saints that eclipse the present (with the closest ones being saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia, Saint Iakovos of Euboea and saint Paisios of Mount Athos, all of who fell asleep in the Lord among the years 1991-1994) and the multitude of miracles among the faithful is the only country in the world whose population belongs to tOrthodox Christianity in a percentage of 95-98%.
A pillar of this Faith is the Holy Mountain, an elongated peninsula 40 kilometers in length upon the coast of northern Greece. With diligence, an autonomous regime and a history that surpasses 1000 years has been kep. Mount Athos, that numbers 20 Monasteries and hundreds of sketes and cells, is a modern day parthenon (a place where chastity is practiced) where only men can enter. This is due to the peninsula of Athos being dedicated to the Mother of of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As in all the Eastern Orthodox Church,Mount Athos offers the Truth of the Evangelic message of Jesus Christ and the ways of salvation for the human race. These methodologies are as they were delivered by the Apostles, preserved from the transcripts of time. Mount Athos is a place of nearly 2000 monks alongside laity, clergymen and visitors. On an average day, hundred of pilgrims journey to the blessed Mountain for it offers the ideal conditions to submit oneself into prayer to the Lord. Joint with the participation of the sacraments of the Church, these forms of asceticism lead to the cleansing of passions and forgiveness of sins. They guide those who come with faith to the enlightenment of the nous by God and eventually, if God Wills, to theosis, which is the the unification of man with Lord Jesus Christ. Theosis serves as a foretaste of the future which will reveal the Kingdom of Heaven even from this life. In the Orthodox Faith holiness does not cease. The enlightenment and sanctification that the Holy Spirit grants man goes through space and time so that the Church constantly presents new saints. The Eastern Orthodox Church, lives as the depositary of Truth and as the real Body of Jesus Christ. It is the only Faith that kept the message of the Gospel pure and unadulterated. Through ascetic struggles, devotion and deposition of its’ saints, they have transferred the Orthodox faith as a Light unto the ages.