The Witness to an Orthodox Society

Venerable Isidore of Pelusium

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


Enable us, O Lord, to pass this night without sin. Blessed are You, O Lord God of our fathers, and praised and glorified be Your Name forever. Amen. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us as we have set our hope on You. Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes. Blessed are You, O Master, make me to understand Your Commandments. Blessed are You, O Holy One, enlighten me with Your precepts. Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever. Do not despise the works of Your hands. To You belongs worship! To You belongs praise! To You belongs glory! To the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.


On February 4th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith: Saint Isidore of Pelusium; Saint Nicholas the Confessor; Saint Avramios, bishop of Arbela; Saint Lucius, bishop in Africa; Holy Martyrs Jadorus and Isidore; Saint John of Irenopolis; Holy Martyr Theoktistos; Saint Iasimos, Wonder-worker; Saint George, Prince of Vladimir; Saint Joseph of Aleppos (1686); Abraham of Pechenga; Saint Coprius of Vologda; Saint Evagrius of Tsikhedidi; Saint Shion of Mgvime; Saint Cyril of New Lake.

OUR HOLY FATHER ISIDORE OF PELUSIUM. Saint Isidore was an Egyptian, the son of eminent parents and a kinsman of the Patriarchs of Alexandria Theophilos and Cyril. Completing his secular studies, he renounced his riches and worldly standing and gave himself wholly to the spiritual life for the love of Christ. He was a great and ardent interpreter and defender of the Orthodox faith. The historian Nicephoros states that Saint Isidore wrote more than 10.000 letters to various people, in which he reprimanded one, advised another, consoled a third, instructed a fourth. 'It is more important to be proficient in good works than in golden-tongued preaching', he writes in one letter. In another, he says, 'If a man (person) wishes his virtues to appear great, let him regard them as small and then they will be truly shown to be great.' The first and fundamental rule for Saint Isidore was: first do and then teach, after the example of the Lord Jesus. At a time when Saint John Chrysostom was undergoing persecution and the whole world was divided into two camps, one for and one against this great pillar of Orthodoxy, Saint Isidore stood on the side of Saint John Chrysostom. He wrote to Patriarch Theophilos, saying what a great light Saint Chrysostom was in the Church and begging that the hatred of him should cease. He lived long and labored greatly, glorifying Christ the Lord in his life and his writings, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ in about the year 450 A.D.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Confessors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 11:17-31
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 5:24-34


"The sweetest Name of Jesus, repeated continuously, and with compunction, and with desire and faith, in the depth of the heart, lulls all bad thoughts" (Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

by Archimandrite George Capsanis, Egoumenos [Abbot] of the Monastery of Osiou Gregoriou, Mt. Athos.

The Holy Mountain bears witness to the hidden life in Christ. At the same time, its testimony is to the evangelical manner of organizing life in society. This is no paradox. In a very essential way, interior life is also social life, since through it a man (person) truly communicates with God and with his fellows. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles: "And all that believed were together and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with the people" (Acts 2:44-47).

This blessed common society of the Jerusalem Christians still continues, by grace of God, in the common-life Monasteries which form the foundation of Monasticism on Mount Athos. Here the monastic tables are set daily with love not only for the monks, but also for the flood of pilgrims and visitors who come to the holy places. This occurs only on Mount Athos, and it occurs because of the sacrifice and labor of the brothers. Here we divide our spiritual and material goods with our brethren in the Name of Christ. You will find that on Athos the Church is not a closed circle where others have no place, but rather as it appears on the icon for the feast of Pentecost, an open hemisphere, a welcoming embrace, which invites and has room for all the world.

Saint Basil the Great, legislator and Theologian of the common life, writes concerning the Christian society: '...I call that a most perfect community of life in which private property has been expelled, conflict of will chased away, where every kind of turbulence, aggression and quarrel has been trampled underfoot; but where instead all is in common; souls, wills, bodies and everything which is required for the nurture and care of bodies, where God is in common. Common the goods of piety, salvation in common, common the struggles, the labors and the crowns, where the many are one and the one is not alone but among many. Where is the equal of this way of life? What is there greater?...All are equally servants and lords of one another…Love itself subordinating them to one another…' (Saint Basil the Great). Thus do the monks return again through love to the condition of Adam before the Fall, when sin had not yet broken up the unified nature of man. They imitate precisely the life of Christ with the choir of the Apostles, "where all is common", and where to the Apostles in common, Christ provided Himself. They are zealous for the life of the Angles, "preserving all in common just as the latter."

The unity of the monks reveals to men how many good things the Incarnation of the Savior has brought to us: "For this is the sum of the Savior's economy according to the flesh, that He might join human nature to itself and to Himself, removing the cleft wrought by evil and recalling the original union, just as some wonderful physician might take a body cut in pieces, and with some saving medicines bind it again together, and make it alive" (Saint Basil the Great).

Saint Basil's theological and Christological perspective on the common life is characteristic of the tradition. The Saint always speaks of the common life as anchored on the rock which is Christ.

It is relative to this love, unity, and possession in common that Christian societies in the world must orient themselves if they wish to fulfill the Gospel of Christ. In the common life of Monasticism, one may find the principles for the saving solution of our social problems, a true and human solution which will not overlook the spiritual and God-like nature of man.

The monk who is voluntarily humble, without private possessions, and subordinate to obedience--all after the example of the Savior--proclaims to the world silently yet with great force the realities of faith, sacrifice, humility, love, justice, and peace as the prerequisites for true freedom.

The Witness to the Orthodox Faith

The witness of the Holy Mountain is also precious because it concerns the themes of the Orthodox Faith. The struggle of the Holy Fathers of our Church was to preserve the Faith once delivered to them without innovation. They knew that any 'forgery' in this realm, be it ever so small, leads to greater forgeries, and that dogma, once it errs, leads to a mistaken life and pastorate. This is gambling with man's salvation.

Today, under the influence of secularization, the dogma and traditional Orthodox exobiology of the Church are overlooked. The unity of the 'churches' is being pursued along practical and pragmatic lines, without thought for the necessary unity in Faith. One old Athonite Geronda (Elder) has said, wisely and simply, that: 'The dogmas are not for the Common Market.' Another has said: 'How can we accept the Latins without their changing in any regard while at the same time we light the lamp every day at the icon on the spot where the martyr-monks were put to death who reproved the Latins? These martyrs we honor as Saints.'

The Fathers of the Holy Mountain often say as well: 'If we should be silent about the Faith which is in danger, how can we explain to ourselves sitting so many years on this rock?'

It is a fact that whoever struggles for precision in the life in Christ is also sensitive to the teaching of piety. The monks have the experience of Christ who is truth in person. They cannot be dissuaded from this truth in its dogmatic formulation.

The struggle of the Athonites is certainly not directed primarily against heresy. It is a struggle to realize themselves--and to make manifest--the fullness of the truth and the life possessed by the Church. The labor, the disquiet, the protests of the Holy Mountain are finally elements of the struggle for fullness for Catholicity. It is in order that the preaching of the Cross not be emptied, that the Gospel not be counterfeited. In the words of Saint Gregory the Theologian, we must not theologize in the manner of Aristotle, (scholastically), but according to the fishermen (apostolically.) Athos bears its witness in order that we not lose the possibility of deification (theosis) and of the Uncreated Light by accepting grace as a created thing; that the Church not fall from being the 'Body of Christ' to become some human organization; that some 'infallible' Pope not come to replace the truly infallible, illuminating and Uncreated Grace of the Holy Spirit, who is ever present in the Church.

For these reasons, by the grace of God, we, together with the holy bishops, clergy, and faithful people in the world, shall never agree that there should come about the least alteration in the dogmas of piety. We take this attitude out of love: love for the God of truth and for the non-Orthodox who are not helped when they are prevented from coming into confrontation with the Truth which saves:  "You will know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free."

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George