Beloved brothers and sisters,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
A DOXOLOGY TO GOD THE HEAVENLY FATHER AND CREATOR
(From the Apostolic Constitutions)
O Lord Almighty, You are great indeed and Your power is majestic and marvelous, there is no measure or boundary to Your Wisdom and Omniscience. You are the Creator of the universe, the Savior of mankind, the abundant and benevolent Provider of all good things. You are the forbearing Provider of mercy Who does not remove the opportunity of salvation from Your creatures. For You are by nature Good and compassionate toward those who sin and You do call them to repentance. Your admonition and Your call to repentance comes from Your infinite Love and compassion for mankind. How could we possibly continue to exist, if each time we transgressed, You immediately exacted a just retribution, when even now, when You demonstrate such great forbearance and tolerance, we very slowly and with great difficulty rise up from the illness of our sins?
You, Lord God, are the Father of Wisdom, the Creator and cause of all creation that has come into existence through Your Son. You are the Provider of Good things of Divine Providence; You are the Giver of the Laws and the Commandments; You fulfill every deficiency and ever need; You love the righteous and are merciful and forgiving to the sinners; Your are the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; You are the Lord God of the Christians, who revere and worship the Savior Whose promises are never contradicted, Whose judicial judgment is incorruptible, and Whose Will is steadfast and immovable. To Him is due unceasing worship in truth and in spirit and unending gratitude. And in His Name, every rational and holy nature is also obliged to offer to You, the God and Father and Creator of All, the appropriate veneration and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.
PROTESTANTISM IN SEARCH OF ORTHODOXY
by Agapios Matsagouras
In their struggles for a more pure faith, the Protestant Reformers i.e., Luther, Zwiggle, and Calvin committed a grave error. By believing that the Orthodox Church was similar to the Latin church, they did not ask for her help. They searched on their own for a solution to the problems that the new faith had created.
The Orthodox Patriarch Jeremiah, on learning about everything that was happening in the West, strove to elucidate the Orthodox faith to the Protestants, but they would not dedicate any time to listen to him.
Rejection of the whole of Tradition
Because of their objection over the practices and dogmas of the Latin church, they doubted even the divinely inspired Holy Tradition of the Church. And when we say "Holy Tradition", we do not imply every single custom that certain people may have preserved.
"Holy Tradition" is the experience of the saints 'in the Holy Spirit', which has been preserved by the Church as guide for the faithful.
This is the faith that was "delivered once only, to the Saints" (Jud. 1:3) and was experienced by multitudes of faithful, who proved to be victors in their Christian struggle. This faith is experienced by those who have cleansed their heart and have placed their life in the hands of the Lord. This life is also described in the Holy Scripture, in the narrations of the experiences of certain Saints.
The holy Apostle Paul spoke of the need (for Christians) "to keep the traditions of the Apostles, which they received either through their word, or through their epistle." In the Holy Bible however, we have only their epistles and not their words, which had not yet been recorded in writing (2 Thess. 2:15).
However, the Protestants "kept only a small part" of the Tradition: those which had been recorded in writing during the 1st century. They "kept" only the New Testament and a part of the Old Testament. The books of the Holy Bible that created problems to their Reformist faith, Luther discarded as "unreliable". Entirely arbitrarily, he selected only those books, which "in his opinion" were correct.
Thus, even from its very beginning, Protestantism did not submit to the Christian faith, but instead sought to subjugate it and place it under its own authority. From the ensemble of Divinely-inspired Christian Traditions (which had been preserved intact by Christians throughout the ages!), Protestantism re-designed only some of them, in order to accommodate the requirements of its own traditions.
The outcome of arbitrariness
This uncertainty regarding the source of faith, led the Reformers to a continuous fragmenting among themselves i.e. currently there are approximately 35,000 Protestant denominations throughout the world. If they had asked the Orthodox Church, she would have been able to inform them on the matter, and also provide her guarantee regarding the sure and God-inspired sources of the faith.
They would have learned that "the Holy Scripture is only a small part of the faith" as taught by the holy Apostles, and that "it does not constitute the entire Divine Revelation" (St. John 21:25; Hebrews 5:11:12).
They would have been informed that they should also search for additional information and accept whatever else has been "verbally" preserved in the Church but was never recorded in writing in the Holy Scripture (2 Thess. 2:15; 2 John 1:12).
They would have learned that the source and "foundation of the faith" is not the Holy Scripture alone, but the Church herself (1 Timothy 3:15).
Therefore, that is where they should have turned to and asked for help, in their attempts to find the pure and unadulterated faith. The Church would have shown them how "the purpose of the prophetic word of the Holy Bible (like every other prophetic God-inspired word) is basically to direct the faithful towards the acceptance of the light-bearer (the Holy Spirit) in their heart, together with the gifts of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19; 1 Cor. 12:27-31).
But the Protestant Reformers did not understand the meaning of these words of the Holy Scripture. They instead sought to interpret their significance through their own scant experience. Based on their own arbitrary interpretations and not on the living experience and the Living Tradition of the Church, they did not realize that these words were factual, so they began to theorize that in this passage, the Holy Scripture is speaking metaphorically about the "indwelling of the Lord inside the heart of the faith.". Given that they lacked the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they assumed that this was merely an old arrangement of God, which was now obsolete.
THE LIVING TRADITION OF THE CHURCH
If they had acquainted themselves with Orthodoxy, they would have been surprised to see that the gifts of the Holy Spirit never ceased, and that as for long as the Church exists, God would continue to bestow His gifts, in order to edify her by producing saintly persons that He would make His dwelling (1 Cor. 12:4-20; Acts 2:38-39; Rom. 8:5-17, 26,27).
The Protestant world would have had the opportunity to familiarize itself, to see for itself an come in contact with those charismatics, on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests. They too would have been taught and also become "a temple of God" and be taught directly, by the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27; John 16:12-14).
In this way, they would have come to realize that not only the Holy Scripture, but also the remaining, Divinely-inspired sources of faith are equally valid and guaranteed, because the Christian faith is a living one, and God Himself validates and confirms it directly, in every generation, by not allowing any foreign elements to infiltrate Holy Tradition.
By not having an "unbroken path" in its faith that leads back to the holy Apostles, Protestantism attempted to explain its sudden appearance in History by arbitrarily teaching that the Church apostatized during the 4th century. They were not aware of the unbroken lineage of the Orthodox presbyters and saints, or that the Lord would not have allowed His Church to be "lost" for 10 whole centuries (St. Matthew 28:20). Our Lord clearly stated: "I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (St. Matthew 16:18).
According to Saint Paul, the Church is nothing less than the Body of Christ, "the fullness of him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). He goes on to say, "for we are members of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones" (Eph. 5:30). Likewise, Christ Himself said, "he that eateth My Flesh and drinkth My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him" (St. John 6:56). Saint Cyprian of Carthage wrote: "Whoever breaks with the Church and enters on an adulterous union, cuts himself off from the promises made to the Church...You cannot have God for your Father if you have not the Church for your mother".
The Holy Church calls all to true communion with Christ. She calls all of her estranged children to come home. "There can be only one Church, for Christ founded but one Church. It is into this one Church that all must enter to live in perfect communion with God, with each other, and with all creation" (Encyclical on Christian Unity and Ecumenism).
"The Church does not presume to judge the eternal destiny of those outside Her bosom; judgment belongs to God alone. Yet, in Her love for mankind, She summons all to enter Her loving embrace. The Church alone is the Body of Christ, "the fullness of Him what filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23). To this fullness She summons the world. To this fullness, She summons you: "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come' (Rev. 22:17).
They failed to comprehend the significance of the Christian Priesthood. Being devoid of Apostolic Succession themselves, they rejected "Special Ordained Priesthood", asserting that it was only "a phenomenon" of apostasy. They never learned that Priesthood was one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, within the general framework of the "royal priesthood" that all Christians [possess (1 Peter 2:2; 9).
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God