December 16, 2016


A Response to Vladimir Moss’s “Seven Theses on Names and Name-Worshipping”
by Thomas S. Deretich
December 1/16, 2016

1. It is a linguistic fact that in Hebraic, Greek, and Christian usage, “name” often means “glory” or “power” and sometimes means “real person.” These are normal, dictionary definitions of “shem” or “ónoma.” It is factually incorrect to assume that “name” simply means a merely-symbolic name (sounds or letters). It is factually incorrect to assume that using “name” to mean “glory” or “power” or “person” is unusual. These usages are common within Christianity.

2. Yes, in the prayer “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” it is “God Himself” Who is being praised. Thus “the name of the Lord” can mean “God Himself.” Thus, “the name of God is God Himself,” does have at least one fully Orthodox interpretation. At the same time, “name” can also mean “glory” or “power.” Saint Cyril of Alexandria (Commentary on John 11.9) teaches us that when Christ speaks of “name” (John 17), He means “glory” or “power” or “energy.” Saint Cyril (11.7) also states that it is the established tradition of Orthodox Christians to use “name” to mean “glory.” Thus, the prayer (“Blessed be the name of the Lord”) can also be interpreted to be praise of “the uncreated glory or power or energy that is God Himself.” There are Orthodox liturgical prayers in which God’s power is specifically worshiped: “Glory to Your power, O Lord”; “Glory to Your power, O Christ”; etc. The prayers of the Church do give divine worship (latreía) to God’s “power” and “name” (meaning God Himself or God’s uncreated power that is God Himself). Saint Clement of Rome teaches clearly that Christians are “those who give divine worship” (latreuóntōn, 1 Clement 45.7) to God’s uncreated “name” (power and energy), which he calls “the author-of-all-creation name” (tò archegónon pásēs ktíseōs ónoma, 1 Clement 59.3). Saint Gregory Palamas (Homily 53, 19‒20) also refers to God’s uncreated “divine name” (divine glory, power, presence). He teaches clearly that “the divine name” (toû theíou onómatos) that dwelled in the Old Testament Holy of Holies, was “the divine name” that is “God alone” (mónōͅ Theôͅ). Worshiping God’s power or energy is worshiping God Himself; and worshipping God Himself is worshipping God’s essence and God’s energy. It is outright heresy to say “we worship the three persons of the Trinity but not the essence or the energy.” Orthodox Christians worship all that is the one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, essence and energy. 

3. It is not a “special use” to use “name” to mean “person.” The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged (Kittle, Friedrich, and Bromiley 1985) has the following entry (with the bracketed words in the original): “Ónoma [name, person].” Thus “person” is a standard dictionary definition of “ónoma.” Saint Luke writes that, for the first Christian Pentecost, those who gathered in the Upper Room were a “crowd of names [óchlos onomátōn], about a hundred and twenty, in the same place” (Acts 1:15). In the language of Holy Scripture, “name” can mean “real person.”

4. Yes, the writings of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite use “name” to mean “divine property” or “divine energy.” However, it is a grave error to claim that this is a “special use.” The prophets and saints and liturgical prayers of the people of God of all ages have used “name” to mean “divine glory” or “divine power” or “divine energy” or “divine property.” 

5. Yes, “the word ‘Jesus’ is a created name.” However, the created name is based on uncreated divine revelation (energy), the revealed truth that “the Lord saves.” God’s truth, revelation, and energy are God Himself. To quote the Synodicon of Orthodoxy, God’s “essential” energy (or “natural” energy) “flows without separation” from God’s essence. God’s energy is the “movement” (kínēsis) of God’s essence. God’s essence and energy are distinct but never separate. Created names refer not to God’s essence but to the activity (enérgeia, energy) or movement (kínēsis) of God’s essence. That is why the Synodicon refers to God’s energy as “essential” (ousiṓdē) energy. The Synodicon of Orthodoxy teaches: “there is in God both His essence and His essential and natural energy.” We must also confess that God’s uncreated energies (“names”) dwell in the God-given sayings and words of the Holy Scriptures, especially the sacred (created) names for God. To quote Saint Gregory Palamas’s Confession of the Orthodox Faith, confirmed as dogma by the great Council of Constantinople of 1351: “we venerate relatively [proskynoûmen schetikôs] the holy icon of the Son of God …, piously offering up the veneration [proskýnēsin] to the prototype; and the honored wood of the Cross, and all the symbols of his sufferings … the divine temples and places, and the sacred vessels, and the God-given sayings [theoparádota lógia], because of the God Who dwells in [enoikoûnta] them.” The fact that God’s power and energy dwell in the words of the Gospel is a consistent teaching of the Orthodox Church. Many Holy Fathers teach about the divine grace that dwells in created words. Saint Justin the Philosopher and Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho 9) summarizes what Orthodox Christians believe about God’s grace and the (created) words of the Gospel: “we have not believed empty myths, or words without any foundation, but [words] filled with divine spirit, and big with power, and flourishing with grace.” Saint Justin’s phrase that is translated “big with power” (dynámei brýousi) could also be translated “full of power,” “swelling with power,” “abounding with power,” “teeming with power,” “bursting with power,” or “overflowing with power.” This is what the Orthodox Church teaches about God’s presence in created words.

6. Yes, the grace of God “rests” in the name “Jesus.” God Himself “dwells in” the names for God and that is why we give them relative veneration. The name “Jesus” is not just “associated with” with God, but is based on the revealed grace and truth of God that is God Himself — the uncreated grace that is actively present in created words and names. 

7. Yes, we give veneration to the created names for God, because they are verbal icons. We venerate the physical Book of the Holy Gospels as we venerate the physical (painted) icons, because they are based on divine revelation and because God’s energy dwells in them. Yes, it would be heresy and idolatry to give divine worship (latreía) to created names consisting of sounds or letters. 
8. The Slavic “name-glorifiers” of the Holy Mountain were slandered when they were accused of giving divine worship (latreía) to create names. What these monastics actually confessed is as follows: “As from the very beginning of the dispute, we were unjustly accused of deifying ‘the very’ created name according to its outward appearance and even of ‘equating’ this ‘very’ name ‘with the very essence’ of the One Who Is and of ‘merging’ them. Therefore we feel obliged to declare that we never deified ‘the very name’ and nowhere in our confessions of faith can be found the expression ‘the very Name of God is God.’ But rather, in our confessions of faith starting from 1909, we said it very clearly, that by calling  — together with Father John of Kronstadt — the Name of God ‘God Himself,’ we do it in the same sense as did Father John of Kronstadt, believing in the inseparable presence of God in His Name, but never in the sense of deification of the name in its material, outward appearance and separately from God.” The “name-glorifiers” did not teach the heresy that they were accused of teaching, but explicitly rejected it. 

9. It is a historical absurdity to equate the monastic name-glorifiers with the syncretistic intellectuals (such as Father Pavel Florenskii and Father Sergii Bulgakov) who defended these monastics. If Florenskii and Bulgakov fell into heresy by confusing the Creator with His creation, one cannot simply assume that Father Antonii Bulatovich also fell into that same heresy. We need to take into account Father Antonii’s letter in which he criticizes Florenskii for making that heretical confusion. We need to be faithful to Saint Tikhon’s opinion that Father Antonii’s writings need to be judged by a competent group of theologians in order to make a final judgment. 

10. The letter of Archbishop Sergii Stragorodskii of May 16/29, 1913, condemned the dogma of the Orthodox Church that God’s energies are God. It said falsely that God energies are not God and not even “Divinity” in the normal sense. That, taken literally, is heresy. Because this letter condemned, out of ignorance, a dogma of the Church, the letter must never be given the dignity of an “Orthodox synodal decision.” The letter was a sin; its false theology never had any authority in the Orthodox Church. The letter’s false theology has been rejected by the Church. The Orthodox Church faithfully follows the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas that God’s energies are God Himself. 

11. Orthodox Christians in 2016 should follow the precedent of Saint Tikhon. He did not repeat the anti-Palamite, false theology of Sergii’s letter of May 1913 and the saint reconciled with the name-glorifiers in the last years of his life (1920–1925). He considered them Orthodox and he liturgized with their leader, Archimandrite David Mukhranov, even as David continued to defend, openly and vigorously, what he believed to be the Orthodox teaching of Father Antonii Bulatovich. Saint Tikhon’s 1921 encyclical, which exonerated the name-glorifiers led by Archimandrite David, was in the spirit of the May 1914 decision of the Moscow Synodal Office, signed by Saint Macarius II (Nevskii), Metropolitan of Moscow, and Bishop Anastasii (Gribanovskii) of Serpukhov, the future metropolitan and chief-hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. That 1914 decision also exonerated the name-glorifiers. Saint Macarius II and Bishop Anastasii and later Saint Tikhon all concluded that the name-glorifiers did not deify sounds or letters and concluded that there was no reason for separation. That was the final decision of the Russian Orthodox hierarchy on the matter. Many martyrs and saints of the Orthodox Church defended the name-glorifiers: Saint Macarius II of Moscow, Saint Tikhon of Moscow, the Holy Tsar Martyr Nicholas and the Tsarina Alexandra, Saint Elizabeth the Grand Duchess, and Saint Mark (Mikhail Novoselov), catacomb Bishop of Sergiev-Posad, the New Sacred Martyr. 

12. The Orthodox Church teaches unanimously that: (1) we give divine worship to God’s (uncreated) “name” (with “name” here meaning “God Himself” or the “uncreated glory, power, or energy that is God Himself”); (2) we give relative veneration to the created names for God because God’s grace dwells in them; and (3) we must never give divine worship to created names. 

13. It is a violation of Orthodox dogma to confuse Orthodox “name-glorification” with heretical “name-worship” (giving divine worship to created names). To confuse these two different things would be a violation of dogma because the Seventh Ecumenical Council teaches that we must always make a clear distinction between the “latreía” (divine adoration, absolute worship) given to God alone and the “proskýnēsis” (veneration, or worship in the broad sense of “honor”) given to saints, icons, relics, and the Scriptures. It is a violation of Orthodox dogma to confuse Orthodox “imiaslavie” (name-glorification) with heretical “imiabozhie” (name-deification with respect to created names). It is a violation of Orthodox dogma to confuse Orthodox “onomatodoxía” (name-glorification) with heretical “onomatolatreía” (giving divine worship to created names). No one should ever use “name-glorification” interchangeably with “name-worship,” since this violates the teachings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. 

14. It is wrong to claim that “A name does not express a truth. It is just a name. A proposition expresses a truth.” The names for God express truths about God that have been revealed by God: God is almighty, God is holy and righteous, God is love, mercy, grace, and truth. The name “Jesus,” especially, expresses a truth. “Jesus” (in the original Hebrew) means “the Lord saves.” The single word “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.” Thus, the name “Jesus” is both a name and a proposition (a statement of truth). The name “Jesus” is a statement of the truth that “the Lord saves.” Whenever a person is named Joshua or Jesus or any equivalent name, the naming is based on and expresses the eternal truth that “the Lord saves” and the name refers to God’s salvific activity (energy) that is God Himself. The sounds and letters are created, but the Lord’s salvific energy is uncreated. God’s salvific energy is God Himself. As Saint Cyril of Alexandria also points out in his commentary on Christ’s words (John 17), both God’s uncreated “name” and God’s uncreated “truth” are the uncreated “activity” (“energy”) of God’s Divine Nature; thus, in that sense, we must confess that God’s “name” and God’s “truth” are God Himself. The Orthodox Church gives divine worship to God’s energies that are God Himself; Orthodox Christians give veneration to God’s created names through which God’s energies are active.

15. The Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA) has been the victim of slanderous accusations of “the heresy of name-worship.” HOCNA has in fact condemned, many times, the heresy of giving divine worship (latreía) to created names. Metropolitan Ephraim’s first official statement on the name-glorification controversy came out in June 2012. He stated that if anyone (including Father Antonii Bulatovich) was guilty of deifying letters and sounds, then he was guilty of heresy. This was a succinct repudiation of the heresy of name-worshipping. Since his writings have yet to be fully and objectively examined by a committee of theologians (as Saint Tikhon and the 1918 All-Russia Council wanted), HOCNA has not taken a position on these writings, other than supporting the reconciliation that occurred under Saint Tikhon. Metropolitan Ephraim also pointed out in the summer of 2012 how the May 1913 “synodal” letter repudiated the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas. The response of those who left HOCNA in September 2012 was to demand that HOCNA endorse the false letter “without reservation” and “without qualification.” Clearly, the 1913 letter was wrong about Saint Gregory Palamas’s teaching. Not only that, the 1913 letter made a superficial, uninformed, and biased inquiry into so holy a subject as the name of God, with conclusions both self-contradictory and opposed to the biblical and patristic teaching on the name of God. Therefore, it would have been a sin against the teachings of the Church to endorse that letter. Logically, we have to conclude that the main reason people gave for leaving HOCNA in September 2012, that HOCNA would not endorse that letter, was an un-Orthodox viewpoint. It was a sin against Orthodox dogma to endorse that letter as those who left HOCNA did endorse it. HOCNA’s writings on name-glorification have faithfully represented the consensus of the Orthodox Church, without adding anything and without subtracting anything.

November 17, 2015


In Defiance of The Synodal Tome of the Holy Council of Constantinople of 1351

“Every Power or Energy [of God] is God Himself.” These are the words of St. Gregory  Palamas. [1] This “Power or Energy,” which is God Himself, as the Saint teaches us, is “boundless” and “before creation.” It is uncreated.
In his book, The Guide, [2] St. Anastasius of Sinai has the following paragraph:

Question: Does the appellation “God” refer to [God's] Essence, or His Person, or His Energy, or is it a symbol, or a metaphor?
Answer: It is clear [the designation] “God” refers to [God's] Energy. It does not represent the very Essence of God; for it is impossible to know this, but it represents and reveals His Energy that is able to be contemplated [by us].

This teaching of St Anastasius of Sinai was confirmed and adopted by the Holy Council of Constantinople of 1351 in its Synodal Tome. The same Synodal Tome affirmed that the Grace or Energy of God “is called 'Godhead' by the Saints.” St. Gregory Palamas endorsed this Synodal Tome of the Holy Council of Constantinople of 1351; this Council, in turn, endorsed St. Gregory's Confession of the Orthodox Faith. These are clear-cut Orthodox Christian synodal resolutions, not the confused and contradictory decisions of later, Lutheran-style “synods” in Russia or elsewhere. [4]
In addition, St. Clement of Rome (c. ✠ 100) tells us that “the Name of God is the origin of all creation” (First Letter to the Corinthians: 59: 2-3).
St. Cyril of Alexandria (✠ 444) teaches that Christ's disciples “ought to be kept in the Name of the Father, that is to say, in the Glory and Power of His Godhead” (On the Gospel According to St. John, bk. 11, ch. 9).
St. John Chrysostom (✠  407), in his explanation of Acts 3:16 (“And His Name, through faith in His Name, made this man strong”), like the  Apostles and all our Saints, also recognizes that the Name of God is one and the same as the healing Grace and Energy of God when he writes that “[the Son of God's] Name raised up the lame man, who was like one dead” (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 9).
St. John of Kronstadt (✠ 1908) affirms this teaching of the Saints when he tells us that “His Name is [God] Himself” and “The Name of God is God Himself” (My life in Christ, trans. by E. Goulaeff, London, 1897).
Consequently, any later “council” or “synod”  — whether it be Russian, or Greek Old Calendarist, or New Calendarist, or whatever — that contradicts these resolutions of the Holy Council of Constantinople of 1351, the Synodicon of Orthodoxy, and the teachings of the Saints is not an Orthodox council or synod, but a false synod, a pseudo-council, not accepted by the Orthodox Church, and those who concur with such false “synods” are themselves guilty of the heresy of Name-fighting — fighting against the Name of God.

Holy Orthodox Metropolis of Boston

1) See the Chapters Against Barlaam and Acindynus, in the Synodicon of Orthodoxy (in The True Vine, issue nos. 27 and 28, pp. 63-68 and 74-77).
2)  See PG 89:53.
3) See  Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition, vol. 1, ed. By Jaroslav J. Pelikan and Valerie V. Hotchkiss, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2003.
4) The Russian Synod of 1913, in blatant defiance of the teaching of Saint Anastasius and the Hesychast Council of 1351, claimed that the Energies of God are not and cannot not be called “God”.

January 29, 2015

November 1, 2014

On Inner Christianity (Excerpt)

By Archpriest John Zhuravsky
Fr. John Zhuravsky was born into a priestly family in Latvia in 1867, later graduating from the Riga Theological Seminary. As a young man he met St. John of Kronstadt, whose example he sought to emulate during the entire course of his pastoral ministry, not only in prayer and asceticism, but also in his labors to help the poor and imprisoned. Noted for his gift of clairvoyance, he reposed in the Lord in Riga in 1964.     
The Saints of God came to know the innermost Mystery hidden in the Name of God; they came to know by experience the saving effect of this Name on the whole person: on the body, the mind, and the heart. They came to know that the greatness of the Name of the Lord Jesus is loftier than any attainment of reasonable creatures, either earthly or heavenly. They came to know that the Name of the Lord Jesus is above all names: It is the source of joy, the source of Divine life. It is Spirit. It grants life, transforms, refines, and deifies.  

The Name of the Lord Jesus Christ contains within itself a special, divine strength. The strength of this Name heals the body of ailments and the soul of passions. The demons tremble before the Name of Jesus, tormented by the fear of the greatness of its Divinity; they flee from it. Therefore the Fathers said: flog the foe with the Name of Jesus, for there is no greater weapon in heaven or on earth (St. John of the Ladder). For the sake of the Name of Jesus, invoked by the one who prays, help from God descends upon him and he is granted remission of his sins. For the sake of the Name of the Lord, our sinful prayers are heard; and for the sake of this Name salvation is granted unto us.

The power of the Name of Jesus frees the mind from the wavering and whirling of empty thoughts, while the will is strengthened in the fulfillment of the Lord’s commandments. The power of this Name enlightens the mind and permits God-pleasing thoughts and feelings, which belong to immaculate human nature, to dwell in the soul. There is no room left in it for alien thoughts and feelings (Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov), vol. II, p. 282 [in Russian]).

By the Name of the Lord Jesus, revival is bestowed upon the soul and sin is put to death. Christ the Lord Jesus is Life – and His Name is vivifying and full of Life. “His Name is Life Eternal” (St. Symeon of Thessalonica).

It grants life to those who invoke it with faith, making them partakers of Life Eternal. The Name of the Lord Jesus is holy and sanctifying for those who invoke it: it sanctifies the mouth, the tongue, the heart, and the whole body; it even sanctifies the surrounding air.

God hath given Him a Name above every name, the Apostle writes, “That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

June 18, 2014

"We would like to be with the majority, but being with the truth is infinitely more important for us."

Letter of Metropolitan Rafael of Moscow (TOC-R) to Metropolitan John of New York (American Metropolia)

Your Beatitude, Dear Vladyka!

It was with great joy that I received your brotherly epistle, filled with genuine concern for the correctness of our True-Orthodox Confession of Faith, the glory of the good name of our holy Church, and the preservation of our brotherly unity. I cordially thank you for your warm words and your prayerful wishes addressed to my humility, in which I see a pledge to strengthen our brotherly ties.

Indeed, throughout the entire history of our Church’s existence, its unity has been subjected to all kinds of trials, and we should be making maximum efforts to preserve it. Following the well-known commandment of the Apostle, I am convinced that this unity should not prevent private disagreement if, of course, they do not affect the very foundations of our faith, which are related to our hope of eternal salvation. In and of itself, theological polemics within the Church are not only possible, but even necessary – inasmuch as the Church, wandering on earth, is constantly faced with new challenges and temptations to which one is not immediately able to formulate a clear and acceptable answer for the whole Church.

In our opinion, the theological question raised in your epistle has already received a general ecclesial response, which is an integral part of the Sacred Tradition of our Church. This response, contained in Divine Revelation, has attained the fullness of its theological elucidation in the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas and other Greek and Russian Fathers, including those of relatively recent times. Please permit me, dear Vladyka, to devote the majority of this, my epistle to you, to a consideration of this question.

So as not to distract from the subject matter, I will not “get personal” and indulge in arguments about the merits and demerits of Bishop Gregory (Lourié); I will only note that you, through ignorance, are likely to have gathered information about him that does not come from the most reliable sources.

I grieve, dear Vladyka, that my position regarding the burning dogmatic question of the names of God has caused you anxiety and fear. What should we do? We cannot recognize name-glorifying as a heresy on the basis alone that it was condemned by the ecclesial authorities of Constantinople and Russia. For, first of all, we are far from having crypto-papist ideas about the inerrancy of ecclesial powers. Second, we are taught from Holy Tradition that God’s truth is only revealed through the agreement of the Holy Fathers. Third, from church history we know of many examples when not just patriarchs or synods, but entire councils of hierarchs from all over the world accepted erring and even heretical decisions, which happened to be opposed only by the voices of the Saints. But the truth in those dramatic moments of church history was with the Saints alone, and not with the actual ecclesial power and the majority of hierarchs.

We would like to be with the majority, but being with the truth is infinitely more important for us. Therefore we encourage you, dear Vladyko, to approach the question of name-glorifying with great care, sobriety, and reasoning. Who stood behind the definitions of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Russian Synod? What did the name-glorifiers actually teach, and what did their opponents teach? Which of the conflicting teachings is in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Fathers, and which is opposed to it? How does name-glorifying correspond to the teaching of the great luminary of the Church, St. Gregory Palamas? We will try to the best of our limited abilities to reply briefly to these questions.

March 17, 2014


By Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston, Bishop Gregory of Brookline and Thomas Deretich (HOCNA)

By the term “Name of God,” Orthodox Christians mean two things: 1) We mean the revealed Truth about God, and, 2) in another sense, we mean also the human, created words by which this revealed Truth is articulated. The eternal, revealed Truth about God exists and will always exist, whether we articulate it in our human language or not. This is what our Saviour intimates to us when in the Gospel of St. John, He tells the Jews:

"But now you seek to kill Me, a Man that has told you the Truth, which I have heard from God." (John 8:40)

No one in his right mind would assert that the Truth which God the Son heard from God the Father was communicated in human words! The communication in the Holy Trinity is entirely ineffable. Yet it is this very Truth, the uncreated and ineffable Truth of God, that our Saviour, when He became man for us, revealed to us in human speech. This is also the very same divine Truth with which the Holy Spirit enlightened the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, in accordance with the promise of our Saviour:

"When He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all Truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak." (John 16:13)

Again, the Truth that the Holy Spirit shall speak and guide Christ’s disciples in, is an ineffable and divine Truth, which He received from the Son. Yet this is the same Truth that the Spirit showed to the Apostles and which they preached with human words in all the known world!

These examples illustrate clearly the two aspects of God’s revelation and the distinction that lies between them: the uncreated and eternal Truth of God’s revelation, and created, human concepts and words with which this revelation is articulated in order to become accessible to the human mind. And this is the very same distinction that exists between the uncreated Name of God, that is, the eternal Truth about God, and the created names of God, that is, human words and concepts, which the Church has taught us to use in order to articulate the eternal Truth about God.

It is exclusively in the former sense, that is, in the sense of the uncreated Truth about God, that we say that the Name of God is an Energy of God, because every revelation of God about Himself, every Truth about God, is His Energy. In the latter sense, that is, in terms of human speech, the names of God are both created and temporal, being part of this world, and they are certainly not an Energy of God.

March 4, 2014


Sermon of Bishop Gregory of Brookline (HOCNA) on the Feast of the Circumcision, 2014,
delivered at Holy Nativity Convent, Boston.
(lightly edited)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We have come, dear sisters in Christ, to the eighth day after the Nativity according to the flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and on this eighth day the Saviour Who became man fulfills the covenant that He gave to His servant Abraham, one of four covenants that He gave to human beings.

The first covenant was that given to Noah, the covenant that was confirmed by the rainbow, saying that there would not be a deluge anymore to punish the iniquities of human beings. And our Saviour fulfilled this covenant because not only was there not a deluge, but water itself was transformed from a means of destruction to the means of salvation through Holy Baptism.

The second covenant He gave to His servant, the father of all the faithful, Abraham. The third covenant was given on Mt. Sinai—the law which was proclaimed by Moses.

And the fourth and final covenant was revealed by our Saviour Himself when He became incarnate of the Virgin Mary. And thus were fulfilled the words of the Prophet Jeremias who said that there will be given another law and another circumcision—not the law written on tablets of stone, but a law written in the hearts of men and circumcision not of the foreskin, but circumcision of the heart. This our Saviour fulfilled by His Incarnation, when He gave us a new law, new life, new commandments—the final covenant.

But today our Saviour is Himself submitting to the covenant that He gave to Patriarch Abraham, being circumcised and named that wonderful and blessed name—Jesus.[1]

When Abraham believed in God and fulfilled everything that God had bidden him, our Saviour gave him the covenant saying that “you shall circumcise the foreskin of all your progeny, and in your seed all nations shall be blessed.”[2] And He changed his name from Abram to Abraham. And truly, in his seed, as Paul the Apostle tells us, in his seed (he uses the singular form of the word in Greek [3]), that is, in our Saviour, all the nations are blessed.

A great thing is revealed today. If we read carefully the homily written by St. Dimitry of Rostov concerning this feast, we shall understand the depth of the wisdom of God. Our Saviour was circumcised, fulfilling the law, but also on this feast He reveals to us a great treasure—the great treasure of that Name by which He will be called from here unto eternity. By all the Angels and men, unto eternity, unto the ages of ages, God the Son will be known as Jesus, the sweetest of names, close to the heart of everyone that believes.

And St. Dimitry of Rostov most beautifully explains that until now, until this Name was revealed, it was [kept as myrrh] in a jar. But on this day of Circumcision the jar was opened, and the Name was spread abroad. And in this was fulfilled that which was written in the Song of Songs by the Prophet and King Solomon; for this whole Song of Songs is a dialogue between the bridegroom and the bride. And the Fathers say that the dialogue is really between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His beloved, the Church. And the Church, the bride, tells our Saviour, “Thy Name is as myrrh spread and poured forth. Therefore the virgins love Thee.”[4] Truly His Name is as myrrh, as fragrant myrrh spread abroad in the whole world, and this begins today.

January 12, 2014

Homily on the Circumcision of the Lord (excerpt)

By Saint Dimitry of Rostov

“When the Archangel Gabriel descended from heaven and appeared to the most pure Virgin Mary, he made known that her Son would be called thus; whereupon, she consented to the tidings and cried, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1). And immediately, the Word of God assumed flesh and took up His dwelling in her immaculate, most sacred womb. At His circumcision, the Name disclosed by the herald before the Virgin conceived was formally given to Christ the Lord to announce the coming of our salvation. Jesus means salvation, as the same angel explained to Joseph in a dream, saying, Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins (Matt. 1). Similarly, the Apostle Peter declared, There is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4). The saving Name of Jesus was reserved by the pre-eternal counsel of the Holy Trinity for our salvation, and on this day the righteous Joseph brings it forth like a priceless pearl from heaven's treasury, so that it may be used to redeem the whole human race. In it are revealed the hidden and secret things of God's wisdom (Ps. 50). It shines on the world like the sun, as the prophet tells us: “To you that fear My Name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise.” It fills creation with the fragrance of myrrh, as it is written: “Thy Name is ointment poured forth” (Song of Sol. 1). It is poured out and no longer hidden. So long as myrrh is kept enclosed in a jar, its aroma is trapped, but when the seal is broken fragrance fills the air. Similarly, while Jesus' Name remained spoken only in pre-eternal counsels, its power remains unknown, sealed as it were, in a jar. When the infant's blood was spilled during circumcision, however, it descended from heaven to earth like the sweet-smelling myrrh of grace. Now every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2).

The power of Jesus' wondrous Name has been revealed, causing angels to marvel, mankind to rejoice, and demons to tremble; for the devils also believe, and tremble (James 22). Hades is shaken by this Name; the foundations of the abyss are undermined; the prince of darkness flees; idols are toppled; the gloom of idolatry is dispelled; and the light of piety is shed abroad, illumining every man that cometh into the world (John 21). Every knee of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth (Phil. 22) bows at the sound of Jesus' most glorious Name. It is become our powerful weapon against adversaries; therefore, Saint John of the Ladder counsels, "Flog the adversaries incessantly with the Name of Jesus; there is no weapon more powerful in heaven or on earth" (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 15). How sweet is this precious Name to those that seek and love Jesus Christ! Jesus is their sole desire, their only delight. How beloved is this all-holy Name to Jesus' servants and prisoners, captives of His love! Jesus is in their thoughts, Jesus is upon their lips. With the heart they believe in Jesus unto righteousness; with the mouth they confess Jesus unto salvation (Rom. 10). Whether they are sitting or walking - whatever they may be doing - Jesus is before their eyes. I determined not to know anything among, you, save Jesus, (I Cor. 2) says the Apostle. For the man who cleaves to His Name, Jesus is the mind's enlightenment, the soul's adornment, strength of body, happiness of soul, a helper in afflictions, joy amid sorrows, the healing of illnesses, consolation in misfortunes, hope of salvation, and a welcome recompense.

In days of old, relates Jerome, God's Name was inscribed on a golden plate worn on the High Priest's forehead; now the divine Name of Jesus is marked in letters of blood spilled at the circumcision. It is written not on gold plaques, but on the hearts and lips of the Saviour's  servants. Thus Christ testified regarding the Apostle Paul, He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name. (Acts 9) Sweetest Jesus wishes His Name to be held like sweet food in a vessel, for verily, He is sweet to all who partake of Him lovingly. It says of Him in the Psalms, O taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 33). Having tasted His sweetness, the prophet cried, I will love thee, O Lord, my strength, (Ps. 17) and the Holy Apostle Peter exclaimed, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee, (Matt. 19) to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life (John 6). Having tasted His sweetness, the holy martyrs feared neither bitter torments nor bitterest death, but shouted, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or sword, (Rom. 8) or death, or life? For love is strong as death? (Song of Sol. 8)

What material was used for the receptacle which holds the ineffable sweetness of Jesus' Name? Certainly gold, tried in the furnace of afflictions and sorrows. The vessel is adorned with precious stones, the wounds Jesus adorned on our behalf, and proclaims as it were with human voice, I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Gal. 6) The sacred Name of Jesus requires a suitable receptacle, such as is worthy to hold the sweetness, the most precious contents. Not by chance does Jesus bleed on the day He is Named. He wishes the container holding His Name to be dyed crimson. No sooner had He claimed the Apostle Paul as His chosen vessel, than He declared, I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name’s sake. (Acts 9) “Behold My bloody, wounded vessel!” proclaims the Lord regarding His sufferer, who resists unto blood, striving against sin. (Heb. 12) On his flesh the Name of Jesus is painfully engraved in blood-red letters.

We lovingly praise and fervently revere Thy sweetest and most holy Name, O most sweet, All-compassionate Jesus! We fall prostrate before the blood that dripped at Thy circumcision, O Thou Who art at once a blameless child and the perfect Lord. For the sake of Thine exalted Name, of Thy most precious Blood, and of Thine immaculate Mother, who bore Thee without corruption, do Thou shed upon us Thy rich mercy. Sweeten our hearts with Thy presence, O Jesus. Keep and preserve Thy servants, and receive us into Thy Kingdom, that with angels we may hymn and glorify Thy most honorable and majestic Name forever. Amen.”

The Great Collection of the Lives of Saints, Vol. 5, Chrysostom Press, 2002.

January 2, 2014

Holy Fathers on the Name of God: St. John Chrysostom

“Holy and fearful is His Name” (Ps. 110:9), that is, it is worthy of wonder and awe... And in what way is His Name holy and fearful? Demons are in fear of it and illnesses flee from it. With this Name the Apostles conquered the whole universe; David was victorious over the alien using it instead of a weapon; by means of it are done many mighty deeds; by means of it we perform the Mysteries. Considering, therefore, how many wonders His Name achieves, how many benefits, how it confounds His opponents, how it gives security to Hos own, and pondering the things that surpass natural logic and defy human reason, he says "holy and fearful is His Name." And if it is holy, it requires holy mouths for singing praise, holy and pure.

St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on Psalm 110

December 9, 2013

"Hallowed Be Thy Name"

By Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos)

At the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer we call upon God our Father Who is in the Heavens, since He is holy by nature, as we discussed last Sunday. Now we come to the first request: to ask that His name be hallowed. We say: “hallowed be Thy name.”

The name of God is the energy of God. It is known from our Orthodox theology that God has essence and energy. Even created things have essence and energy; the sun, for example, is a heavenly body and emits its light, and its fire is something that burns and emits energy, that is, heat and light. But God, since He is uncreated, is both uncreated essence and uncreated energy; with regard to His essence, God is without name and beyond names, but with regard to His energies, He has many names.

Whenever God revealed Himself to men, He revealed one of His energies, like love, peace, righteousness, or love for mankind. In this way He has communion with men. For this reason also I say that the names of God are His energies. Whenever, indeed, anyone mentions the name of God with compunction, humility, repentance, faith, etc., he receives knowledge and experience of the energy of God.

When we pray “hallowed be Thy name,” this does not mean that the name of God is not holy, or that we need to pray that it be made holy.
Rather, this request has two meanings. The first meaning of “hallowed be [Thy name]” is that His name should “be glorified” and that we should glorify it by our own lives. For we blaspheme the name of God in our own lives when we do not respond to our noble calling; and we glorify the name of God when we observe the will of God and live according to His commandments. The second meaning of the request “hallowed be Thy name” is not unrelated to or independent of the previous one. It is “make us holy,” so that God may be glorified through our hallowed lives.

This petition shows what the purpose of man is and for what reason he lives. Man’s purpose is to be united with God and to become holy according to the grace and energy of God. God is holy by nature and people are [called] to become holy by grace. In the language of the Fathers of the Church, this is called deification and those who are made holy by their participation in the grace of God are called deified. For one to become holy, to be deified, means that all one’s spiritual and bodily faculties are transfigured, that God is the center of one’s life.

Unfortunately many Christians who pray this prayer, do not have such lofty goals, but limit their Christian life and conduct to good behavior, to some customs and observances and some religious traditions; they pray for earthly things. But this is by no means enough. Many times in the Bible we find the exhortation: “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (I Peter 1:16). There are people who try to justify themselves by saying: “This life of holiness is not for me,“ “I want to experience the joys of this life, and I do not want to be deprived of what earthly life offers me,” “I’m not a saint because I get angry,” etc.

Because our lives are not consistent with this petition [in the Lord’s prayer] and we do not strive to live according to the will of God, our conduct is anti-Christian. We are full of vices and passions, hatreds and animosities, and we commit injustices and slanders. And that is why other people see us and do not believe in God; hence we cause the name of God to be blasphemed among the nations. Usually, when we pray to God we ask Him to give us health, prosperity, material goods, etc. And it is fitting that we do this. But above all we must pray to God to make us holy. But we must know that this does not happen independent of our will. So it is necessary for us, along with our prayer, to also offer our free will, and thereby glorify the name of God in the world.

Hierotheos (Vlachos), Metropolitan of Naupaktos and Hagios Vlasios, “Hollowed Be Thy Name” (written sermon, Sunday, July 10, 2005), translated from the Greek original in Ekklēsiastikē Paremvasē, June 2005,