Chief cornerstone, Foundation and Earthquakes
29 Ιουνίου 2011
This work is separated in three Units, for the Glory of the Holy Trinity
Dedicated to all the Orthodox Fellow-Citizens with the Apostles
«Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the Saints, and of the same household/family of God; having been built upon the Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner-Stone; In Whom all the Building (The Church) put together grows to a Holy Temple in the Lord: In whom you also are built together for a dwelling of God through the Spirit.» (Eph. 2, 19-22)
The magnitude of the Apostles is so great that the more we attempt to praise them, the more we realise how small and unworthy we really are. “Some” unknown, uneducated, humble fishermen, simple villagers, follow an unknown “Someone” who claims to be God and proves it. At His trial & torture, they hide and lose faith, but after His resurrection they become fearsome, fearless heroes and courageously, triumphantly stand before anyone. Their transformation is a miracle, their testimony lasts two thousand years. They not only cause uproar, a storm, and divide their audiences by the scandal and “foolishness” of the Cross, but also, finally, remarkably, unbelievably, split the whole History of the whole Wide-World in two: Before HIM and After HIM, Whom they loved, Whom they lived for, Whom they died for…
Every home, every building, has the most essential elements of a chief cornerstone, supporting pillars and more critical, foundations which are subject to earthquakes and are supposed to be built with standards to withstand them. Apostle Paul, in his most powerful, undefeatable defense and irrefutable apologetics for Creation, predominantly proclaims: “Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” (Hebrews 3, 4) God uses this Architecture image and Building concept for His Church to reveal and underline just how important it really is for us, to give absolute obedience to Him, the Chief Cornerstone and Head of the Church, and how imperative it is to give utmost credit and absolute trust, to His Holy Apostles, whom we joyously celebrate. Our God firmly uses the word “build”: «I will build my Church; and the gates of hell (gates of persecution = ”earthquakes” and gates of heresy = “tsunami”) will not prevail against it.» (Math. 16, 18)
God is the wisest Architect: “Lord, how great is the magnitude of your works! You have created everything in supreme wisdom; the earth is full of Your exquisite creations!” (Psalm 104, 24) God is the greatest Builder! Any trivial Builders (in French = “Masons”), any metaphysical Builder’s Unions or dark, Secretive Lodges claiming to worship the “Great Architect Of The Universe” are in fact honouring “Baphomet”, (whom they actual depict and use in statue) the “god of this world” the Devil, not the True Trinitarian God of the Bible. The nations too, their fancy assorted statues and their man-made diverse idols, are beyond doubt, demons. This is not the author’s view, nor an extremist view. It’s God’s authoritative view, God’s eternal, clear-cut statement: “The idols of all nations are DEMONS!” (Psalm 96, 5)
God built His Exclusive True Church, “on the foundation of the Apostles”, (Ephesians 2, 20) who are actually humans: «we are labourers together with God: you are God’s husbandry, you are God’s building.» (1 Corinth. 3, 9) But, very great caution must be given here: “Christ did notbuild His Church on one individual Apostle, but on all of them collectively, and in extent, in essence, on their steadfast faith that Peter expressed on behalf of all of them, that “Christ is the Son of the Living God”, Christ is True God! Christ did not say “on you Peter I will build my Church”, but “on this rock” (of Faith). Not Faith in general, but on a specific issue of Faith, on a fundamental dogma of Faith, on the gravest, heaviest declaration, on the central theme of the Gospel and thumping heart of the Orthodox Faith, on the immovable, most heavy rock that “Christ is God!” This is clearly denoted in Mathew 16, 15 where Christ asks them all, in evident plural: “ymeis” – “what do ‘you’ (plural, not singular) think about Me?” And whatever Christ gave to Peter, such as the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” and “the power of binding, forgiving sins” = (the Sacrament & Authority of Confession), Christ equally gave it to all of the Apostles as He was not partial or prejudice. This is why, in a revolutional and revelational way, on the very same Chapter, two verses after, Verse 20, Scripture heavily states: “Then He strictly charged the disciples (plural again, not singular) to tell no one that he was the Christ.” (Math. 16, 20)
The Chorus of the Feast of the Apostles, the fabulous Refrain and the Central Theme is Ephesians 2, 20: “God built His Church on the foundation of the Apostles!” What a miracle! What an over-throwing reality! What a shocking truth! In Ephesians 2, 20, one of the most extraordinary explicit and historically valuable verses ever, a very extremely important distinction and declaration is made here: God did not build His Church on the Bible, (which contains the truth), but God built His Church on His Apostles, who are eye and ear witnesses of that truth. THEY are the foundations of the Bible as well as the Foundations of the Church which gave us the Bible. The Church, is “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (the Bible).” (1 Tim. 3, 15) The basis of truth is not Holy Scripture but the Church. The Apostles, the Church are the ones who produced the Bible and not the other way round.
How tragically sad it is today to observe so many denominations, sects and heresies who all “twist to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3, 16) the Apostolic Faith and devise their “own – personal faith” with God…
- They reject the actual authoritative authors, the Apostles, who are the unshakable foundations of the Bible, and only accept the Bible itself and interpret it themselves trusting foolishly in the own erroneous assumptions and heretical conclusions.
- They consider the Book of God, but demean the Church of God that produced it.
- They give credit to the written form of tradition but not the verbal form which was validated in writing, thus failing to acknowledge the Apostolic command: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions (both) which you were taught by us, either by 1) word of mouth and 2) by letter.” (2 Thess. 2, 15)
- They accept a book of a Church that they have no relationship or communion with, but they do not accept the Faith of that Church which gave them that Book.
- They hold a selection of letters which were written, formulated and are historically / legally owned by the Greek Orthodox Church but they illegitimately claim false ownership of this Book. For this reason precisely, an early Ecclesiastical Writer,Tertullianus, (c. 160 – c. 220 AD), in his inspired work (De Praescriptione Haereticorum), would not accept to even discuss issues of Faith with heretics because, as he boldly declared, «Scripture belongs to the Church and its use (and misuse) by heretics is illegal since they have no right or claim or ownership over the Bible which is not their handbook».
- They utilise the Bible rendered in thousands of translations and languages of today but fail to recognise the paramount importance of the original Text written in Greek (apart from Mathew’s Gospel written in Aramaic) and that there are hundreds of distortions (deliberate or not) in these subsequent millennium translations.
- They accept without any question or doubt the translation of foreign organisations and the pseudo-wisdom of “faithful servants” and “governing bodies” but refuse to acknowledge and examine (even out of courtesy) the original Manuscripts and especially their proper translation by the authors themselves, the Church Herself and immediate associates.
- They take it for granted as a standard Global Religious Book but are not interested in the fact that it is a compilation of Epistles=Letters chosen by the first 2 Ecumenical Councils under the inspiration of the God the Holy Spirit, with over 600 (combined) Orthodox Representatives who were true Holy Fathers, firm believers, purified bodies and minds, deified souls, dedicated Ascetics, Sanctified Monks, Ecclesiastical Writers and Sacred Eminent Personalities in the Life and History of the Mother Church, who chose, validated, placed in a specific order, sealed & concealed with their official approval and thus passed it on to us as “the Canonical and Credible Bible.”
- They accept the Daughter and reject the Mother.
- They embrace a product and denounce the Supplier.
- They follow am unstable branch but deny the actual, solid Tree of Life.
What illogical mentality! What logic could any reasonable researcher ever find in this appalling method of approach? What apology will they have in the fearsome Judgment Day?
How could the Apostles and all these enlightened saintly personalities of the first three centuries be all «wrong» and their whole «faith» be in error? (even though their Faith was revealed to them only a couple of hundred years earlier, at Pentecost). How could then God, the Holy Spirit, be in error? How could God allow His Body, His Church to live for 2000 whole years in falseness, darkness and deception, and then deem it necessary for these “new”, opposing gospels, these multiple sects to revolt, these independent groups to suddenly pop-up, and claim in no authority whatsoever that «they know better» and now have «special» enlightenment by God, since they have a «special» relationship and special «direct» communication with the Holy Spirit… (demonic spirit indeed!)
The Apostles are our Teachers, they are “the faithful and wise Servants!” In the fourth and last Stichiron of the Ainous, in the Matins (Orthros), just before the Doxastikon and the Doxology, the Apostles are mentioned by name and referred to as truthful “Towers, (the only official true “Watch-Towers”) and Pillars of the Church.” They are our mentors, they are our guides, they are spiritual Fathers. Do not let this surprise us. They are not called “fathers” in contradiction to Scripture where Christ says: “call no man your father on earth, since you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Math. 23, 9) In this instance, Christ refers to Paternity with a Divine, absolute, ontological meaning. But there is also a relative, spiritual paternity ascribed to the Apostles and Saints, this is why even Apostle Paul calls himself a holy father and would not contradict God so easily:
“I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children, because, though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Thus I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinth. 4, 14-16) This in itself is also a very bold, daring statement to make. He does not say “be imitators of Christ” but “be imitators of me.” Because the true way of honouring a Saint is imitating the Saint. And when we imitate Saints, we thus imitate Christ, because they are “His extension to the Ages” (Saint Augustinos of Hyppo)
There are 10 Criteria, (in the Form of Ten Commandments) that we essentially need to adhere by, in order to achieve a proper relationship with God and His Church and have a steadfast hope of salvation:
- The Apostle’s written Testimony: Holy Scripture (which was in fact, initially verbal too)
- The Apostle’s verbal Testimony: Sacred Tradition of the Apostolic Church along with the eternal decisions of the Nine Ecumenical Councils.
- The further, extensive Sacred writings of the Great Holy Fathers of the Church along with the close, in depth, imitating study of the Lives of Saints.
- Hymnology of our Church which is profoundly rich in Orthodox Dogmatic Theology along with all other Liturgical Books, Priestly Prayers & Texts
- The fundamental testimony and guidance of all recent Holy Elders & Newly Canonised Saints.
- The critical and discerning guidance of an experienced, canonical and wise Spiritual Father/Confessor.
- A sacramental spiritual life within the Exclusive Body of Christ, His Holy Orthodox Church, under the provision of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.
- A constant struggle against our sinful self and the pleasures of the world (purification) through a humble spirit & true repentance in steady aim of sanctification (theosis), ultimately seeking the Kingdom of Heaven and nothing else.
- Proper worship, unadulterated true faith in agreement and harmony of the Truth: ORTHODOXIA
- Proper practice and implementation of all of the above and all aspects of God’s will: ORTHOPRAXIA
3. Earthquakes and Tsunami’s
In Acts 8, 1, we observe “a great persecution arose against the Church.” Persecutions we foretold and warned by God: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you;” (John 15, 20) This persecution is not really a disaster, but a heavenly blessing in disguise, being beautifully bestowed at the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you when men abuse you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you, giving false account (heresy) in My Name.” (Math. 5, 11) Therefore the Apostles were never afraid of any persecutions, any abuse, because “if God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8, 31) The love they had for Christ is PPP = Paramount, Principal, Pioneering! The love they had for the God-Man Jesus, could never be reduced, distorted or dissolved by any persecution or danger, any deception or heresy, any abuse or attack, any fear or threat. No spiritual Earthquake, no severe heresy or raging Spiritual Tsunami, no mass-divisions and scandals by believers, scandals by Priests, Bishops or Patriarchs, could ever change their love for Christ and His Church. Apostle Paul expresses this remarkably, in a perfect poetic way!
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, «For Your sake we are being killed all day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.» No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Indeed, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8, 35-39) This extreme expression of love till death, is the exquisite Formal and Final “Swan Song” of the Apostles. There are no better words that could ever describe this “different, special kind of love”, this sacred, divine, heavenly love.
It’s the precise Super-natural Medicine that Holy Elder Porphyrios generally, continually prescribed:
“Just love Christ more, love Christ more!”
In the Ocean of this love, the Arch of the Covenant and especially the Ark of Noah, is the Holy Orthodox Church. The enlightened Holy Fathers described and depicted in beloved exceptional Iconography the Church as “i Nafs” = the Boat, the Divine Boat, the Divine Love-Boat. Saint John Chrysostom, the Golden Mouth of Orthodoxy, sensationally states: “The Church Boat, while being battled against, it becomes victorious, while being abused at, it shines on ever more; it receives wounds but does not give up, it is shaken by fearsome waves but does not (and will not ever) sink!”
This is where many of us fail or somehow fall astray. We think that with our panic, our struggles, our protest, our stance and resistance, “that we will ‘save’ the Church… This is blasphemy! We are not here to save the Church, the Church is here to save us! We ourselves are in need and subject to salvation.” (Saintly Elder Athanasios Mytilineos) The Church will NEVER sink, regardless of betrayals, regardless how high up the throne of the persons committing unfaithfulness, deception or heresy. They are independent exceptions which soon, as Christ foretold, may become a majority, “and even the elect be deceived by the antichrist” (Math. 24, 24)
But, the Boat of the Church, the Boat of Orthodoxy will safely deliver us to the Heavenly Harbour, if we safely remain, till death us to part, with the depths of our heart, in the blessed bosom of her Bountiful Grace, tied to the Masts of the Apostles, grounded in the foundations of the Apostolic Faith:
“OUR CAPTAIN IS THE GOD-MAN CHRIST! We can’t go wrong!” (Saintly Bishop Augoustinos Kantiotis)
The Apostles are the exceptional beautification and Golden Crown, the Illuminating Glorious Bridal adornment of the Theotokos. In the Kingdom of Heaven, she appears on a throne, “A great Sign (indication, miracle) appeared in heaven, a Woman (The Most Holy Woman of All) clothed with the Sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a Crown of Twelve Stars (the Apostles).” (Revel. 12, 1) The City of God also has an unconquerable wall: “The wall of the city had Twelve Foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” (Revel. 21, 14)