Apostolic Succession in the Orthodox Church

Saints Peter and Paul, the Holy Apostles

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

(Saint Paisios the Great)

Lord Jesus Christ my God, today grant me a good day without sin and vain distractions. Lord, do not abandon me. Lord, do not turn away from me. Lord, extend to me a hand of assistance. Lord, support me in the fear of You. Let this fear of You but also Your love be implanted deeply into my heart. Lord, grant compunction and humility to my heart. Lord, grant me constant tears and contrition and the remembrance of death. Lord, deliver me from every temptation of the spirit and of the body. Lord, uproot from me negligence, laziness, sorrow, forgetfulness, insensitivity, callousness and the surrender to captivity of my mind. Lord, as You know and as You want, have mercy on me and forgive all of my transgressions. Lord, having attained peace through a good repentance and a ready and full confession, I hope that You will permit my lamentable soul, in due time, to make its exodus from this body in pure and perfect faith. Amen.


By Saint John Climacus

"Struggle with all your strength to be raising your mind in health and purity during prayer, and to secure and contain all of your thinking and your thoughts to understand the reason and the content of the prayer you are doing, without inclining the whole toward one thing or to another in distraction. And if your mind should tire and fall from its natural weakness, or from its bad habits, recall it and bring it back directly to its proper place. And do not neglect or grow weary in recollecting your mind, if you wish to correct it and to heal it completely. For its characteristic of the mind to be transferred from place to place and to be removed from its proper activity and from prayer. But it is also characteristic of God to be able to hold everything in its proper place."


SYNAXARION FOR JUNE 29th: On June 29th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates the feast-day of the holy and great Apostles Peter and Paul.

By the holy intercessions of Your holy Apostles, have mercy on us, and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Corinthians 11:21-12:9
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 16:13-19



THE HOLY APOSTLE PETER. The son of Jonah and brother of Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle, of the tribe of Simeon and the town of Bethsaida, he was a fisherman and was at first called Simon, but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas, or Peter (St. John 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to give clear expression to his faith in the Lord Jesus, saying: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (St. Matthew 16:16). And Jesus, pleased with His disciple's faith, blessed him with a sacred trust, "You are Peter (Petros) and on this rock I will build My Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." [Personal note: The Orthodox Church understands that the "rock" that Jesus refers to here is St. Peter's confession of faith, not the person of St. Peter.] His love for the Lord was very strong, and his faith in Him went from strength to strength. When the Lord was put on trial, Peter denied Him three times, but it needed only one look into the face of the Lord, and Peter's soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, St. Peter became a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. After his sermon in Jerusalem, about 3,000 souls were converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, in Italy and in Illyria. He performed many wonders (miracles), healing the sick and raising the dead, and even his shadow had the power of healing the sick. He had a major struggle with Simon the Magician, who declared himself to be from God but was actually a servant of the devil. He finally put him to shame and overcame him. Saint Peter was condemned to death on the order of the evil pagan Roman emperor Nero, a friend of Simon's. After installing Linus as bishop of Rome and exhorting and encouraging the flock of Christ there, St. Peter went to his death with joy. When he saw the cross before him, he asked the executioner to crucify him upside-down, because he felt himself to be unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord. And so this great servant of the Greatest Master went to his rest and received a crown of eternal glory.

Legend has it that when the great persecution against Christians began in Rome at that time, St. Peter was advised to leave the city. On the road he saw Jesus heading in the opposite direction towards Rome. "Lord where are you going?" St. Peter asked. Jesus responded, "I am going to be crucified a second time." Saint Peter realized his fate and returned to Rome where he was arrested and condemned to be crucified in 67 A.D. Two of Saint Peter's letters written during his imprisonment in Rome are included in the New Testament.

THE HOLY APOSTLE PAUL. Born in Tarsus of the tribe of Benjamin, he was formerly called Saul and studied under the great Hebrew scholar Gamaliel. He was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christians. He was miraculously converted to the Christina faith by the Lord Himself, Who appeared to him on the road to the city of Damascus. On his way to Damascus to arrest Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem, he was struck by a vision of heavenly light and fell to the ground (see Acts 9). "Saul, why are you persecuting Me!" asked the Lord. "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting." Trembling and astonished, Saul asked, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." Saul was blinded from this holy light and remained so and in prayer in Damascus. Three days later, Ananias, a devout Christian who followed the Lord's command to find Saul, healed him and baptized him so that he would receive the Holy Spirit. He changed his name to Paul. St. Paul began to preach to the people about Jesus and had to flee Damascus when the Jews plotted to kill him. In Jerusalem he tried to join the holy Apostles, but they were afraid of him, having known him as the harsh persecutor of Christians. But Barnabas believed in him and brought him to the Apostles. Saint Barnabas and St. Paul went on many missionary travels together throughout Syria, Asia Minor, Cyprus, and Greece. With others and on his own, St. Paul continued his ministry to the people in these lands again and traveled to Ephesus, Corinth, Athens, Thessaloniki, Thrace, Crete, Malta, Sicily, and Italy to Rome. He was the greatest Apostolic missionary. His great faith and courage, stamina and fierce intelligence were the hallmarks of his ministry. His extraordinary letters or epistles make up almost half of the New Testament.

He was baptized by the Apostle Ananias, named Paul and enrolled in the work of the Great Apostles. He preached the Gospel everywhere with burning zeal, from the borders of Arabia to the land of Spain, among both the Jews and the heathen, and receiving the title of "Apostle to the Gentiles". His fearful sufferings were matched only by his superhuman endurance. Through all the years of his preaching, he hung from day to day like a thread between life and death. Filling his days and nights with toil and suffering for Christ, organizing the Church in many places and reaching a high level of perfection, he was able to say: "I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20). He was beheaded in Rome in the reign of the pagan Roman emperor Nero, at the same time as Saint Peter.

The Orthodox Church celebrates these great and holy Apostles in a common celebration and gives them identical honor and acknowledgment for their extraordinary contribution to the Church and our Christian Faith.


Saint Peter, on the left, is portrayed as an elderly man with white hair and beard, his inner garment is traditionally green and his outer garment is yellow or gold. Saint Paul, on the right; is portrayed with brown hair and beard; his inner garment is blue and his outer garment is purple. The holy Apostles embrace each other to denote their concord of love and faith in Jesus Christ.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Tone Four

O foremost in the ranks of Apostles, and teachers of the world, intercede with the Master of All to grant safety to the world and to our souls the great mercy.

Kontakion Hymn. Tone Two

O Lord, You have taken up to their eternal rest, and to the enjoyment of Your good things the two infallible preachers of Divine Truths and leaders of the Apostles, for You have accepted their struggles and their death as being better than any holocaust, O You Who alone know the secrets of hearts.



Apostolic succession is the tracing of a direct line of Apostolic ordination. Orthodox doctrine, and full communion from the Apostles to the current episcopacy of the Orthodox Church. All three elements are constitutive of Apostolic succession.

It is through Apostolic succession that the Orthodox Christian Church is the spiritual successor to the original body of believers in Christ that was composed of the holy Apostles. This succession manifests itself through the unbroken succession of its bishops back to the Holy Apostles.

The unbrokenness of Apostolic succession is significant because of Jesus Christ's promise that the "gates of Hell" (St. Matthew 16:18) would not prevail against the Church, and His promise that He Himself would be with the Apostles to "the end of the age" (St. Matthew 28:20). According to this interpretation, a complete disruption or end of such Apostolic succession would mean that these promises were not kept as would an Apostolic succession which, while formally intact, completely abandoned the teachings of the Apostles and their immediate successors, as, for example, if all the bishops of the world agreed to abrogate the Nicene Creed or repudiate the Holy Scripture.

Orthodox teachings today are the same as that of the first Apostles, though their mode of expression has adapted over the centuries to deal with heresies, changes in culture and so forth. This form of the doctrine was first formulated by Saint Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century, in response certain Gnostics. These Gnostics claimed that Christ or the Apostles passed on some teachings secretly, or that there were some secret apostles, and that they (the Gnostics) were passing on these otherwise secret teachings. Saint Irenaeus responded that the identity of the original Apostles was well known, as was the main content of their teaching and the identity of the Apostles' successors. Therefore, anyone teaching something not what was known to be Apostolic teaching was not, in any sense, a successor to the Apostles or to Christ.


In addition to a line of historic transmission, Orthodox Christians Churches additionally require that a hierarch maintain Orthodox doctrine as well as full communion with other Orthodox bishops. As such, the Orthodox do not recognize the existence of Apostolic succession outside the Orthodox Church, precisely because the episcopacy is a ministry within the Church. (Source: Orthodox Wiki: Apostolic Succession)

The succession from the Apostles and the uninterruptedness of the episcopacy comprise one of the essential sides of the Church. And, on the contrary: the absence of the succession of the episcopacy in one or another Christian denomination deprives it of an attribute of the True Church, even if in it there is present an undistorted dogmatic teaching. Such an understanding was present to the Church from its beginning. From the Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea we know that all the local ancient Christian Churches preserved lists of their bishops in their uninterrupted succession.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons writes: "We can enumerate those who were appointed as bishops in the Churches by the Apostles, and their successors, even to our time." And, in fact, he enumerates in order the succession of the bishops of the Roman Church almost to the end of the second century (Against Heresies).

The same view of the importance of the succession is expressed by Tertullian. He wrote concerning the heretics of his time: "Let them show the beginning of their churches, and reveal the series of their bishops who might continue in succession so that their first bishop might have as his cause or predecessor one of the Apostles or an Apostolic Father who was for a long time with the Apostles. For the Apostolic Churches keep the lists (of bishops) precisely in this way. The Church of Smyrna, for example, presents Polycarp, who was appointed by St. John; the Roman Church presents St. Clement, who was ordained by St. Peter; and likewise the other Churches also point to those men whom, as being raised to the episcopacy by the Apostles themselves, they had as their own sprouts from the Apostolic seed" (Tertullian, "Concerning the Prescriptions" against the heretics). (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Father Michael Pomazansky)

The Testimony of the Early Church

"Through countryside and city [the Apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier...Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed their ministry". (First Epistle of Clement Letter to the Corinthians 42:4-5, 44:1-3 AD 80)

"'The Apostles founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after the other, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves Apostolic, as being the offspring of Apostolic Churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church founded by the Apostles, from which the all [spring] in this way, all are primitive, and all are apostolic, while they are all proved to be one in unity" (Tertullian Demurrer Against the Heretics 20 A.D. 200).


His All Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch is the 270th successor of the 2,000 year-old local Christian Church founded by Saint Andrew the Apostle and First-Called.

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

+Father George