Apology of the Confessors of the Name of God



Address of the Confessors of the Name of God
[to the Court of the Holy Council of the Russian Orthodox Church]

August 1, 1918

I

A much-awaited moment has arrived of the conciliar examination of the dispute that took place on the Holy Mountain concerning the Name of the Lord, and the Holy Synod is expected to deliver its decisions on the following issues:

I.        Is it fitting to offer divine veneration to the Name of God, just as it is expressed by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk: “to give all veneration as to God Himself”, without separating in our mind the Name of God from God? Or is it fitting to render to it only relative veneration, as it is demanded by the decree of the Holy Synod of 29 August 1913?
II.      Is it fitting to venerate the Name of God as divinely revealed, and in this sense as a Divine Energy and Divinity, or is it enough to consider it only a linguistic symbol of material origin, which merely reminds us of God?
III.    Is it fitting to believe in the Energetic Power of the Name of the Lord in the mysteries, in miracles and in prayer, or to see in it a mere human word, which does not possess in itself any Divine power and that does not give to them that call upon His Name any real contact with God Himself? 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.  Because if we understand God to be present in His Name, then we ought to relate to It as to God Himself.

We are also innocent of what we are accused of in the [Ecumenical] Patriarch’s decree of April 5 1913, “of equating Hypostatically the Name of Jesus with Jesus Himself”. Likewise, we are innocent of the accusation of ascribing to the Name of the Lord magical power, as though this power consisted in the pronunciation of verbal combinations. But from the very beginning, we unwaveringly repeated, that if we allow to call the Name of God – God Himself, we do it not in its outward, vocal aspect, but by understanding that it is a Divine revelation, behind which the Church recognizes the Divine dignity, in accordance with the Catechesis, which says the following concerning the Name of God: “It is Holy in Itself”, or as St. Cyril of Jerusalem expressed it  -“The Name of God is holy by Its nature” and St. John Chrysostom – “There is no doubt, that It is wondrous by Its nature.” But our opponents, with means that we are unable to comprehend, have been transforming an absolutely Orthodox veneration of the Name of God in God Himself and our expression “the Name of God is God Himself” – into an expression that is unacceptable to us: “the very Name is God” – something we have never said. Our opponents also have attributed to us the opinion according to which we consider that the very name Jesus is God, when taken separately from Him and with no relation to the Person of the God-man, even when this name was used by the sons of Sirach, Josedech and Navi.

In the same manner did our opponents mock our confession of the inseparable presence of God in His Name, so much that we find it expedient to make it clear what exactly we understand by this “inseparability.” It is not the people that gave Name to God, it is He Who revealed it about Himself to the people and it is His personal possession in the world, His inheritance, being constantly recognized by Him as His own, and He – being the All-seeing Eye and All-hearing Ear, always listens to every utterance of His Name, no matter who, where and how called upon it, and He always recognizes it as His Possession. God also has on earth hand-made holy things that are dedicated to Him, which have become Holy not by themselves, not by their nature, but because people have consecrated them to God by calling the Name of the Lord upon them, and because of this they have come to belong to God. God recognized them as such, because of the calling of His Name upon them and consequently He hallowed them. But the Name of God was not invented and offered to Him by people, but God Himself revealed it about Himself and He Himself assumed it and therefore hallowed it. This is the reason why it is impossible to separate the Name of God from God either in our consciousness (for by consciously calling the Name of God, we cannot be unaware that we are naming God Himself, and no one else), or in relation to God, because God always recognizes his Name as belonging to Himself and as He is inseparably and incomprehensibly present everywhere with all His being, He reveals Himself with grace and power in this inheritance of His.

This inseparability is accepted by our catechesis: “God is being named by diverse and all-glorious names, and no one can separate them from Him” (p. 256, ed. 1878). For the exposition of our understanding of inseparability see “My thought in Christ” [by Hieromonk Anthony Bulatovich], p. 115-117 and 164, 172. For Father John of Kronstadt’s understanding of inseparable presence of God in His Name see “Apology of Faith” [by Hieromonk Anthony Bulatovich], p. 164.

II

We ask our judges to make the effort and read with attention the texts collected by us, which we bring as a proof of our absolute oneness in thought with the Church, and thereby be convinced what “a cloud of witnesses” indisputably support the absolute Orthodoxy of the divine veneration and of faith in the power of the Name of the Lord. In a leaflet “Name-fighting Propaganda” we bring forward two understandings of the Name of the Lord: ours and of our opponents. There we also include 72 main texts in support of our conviction. But even if we did not have this “cloud” of unquestionable proofs from the Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers about the genuineness and the Orthodoxy of our understanding, only the words God uttered in the Old Testament: “I live, and My Name is living” (Num. 14:21), and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “In My Name shall they cast out devils” (Mark, 16:17) would have been sufficient for the Church to recognize the necessity of divine veneration of the Name of the Lord as His Living Word, and not to consider it as a mere human word and to venerate it as a Divine Power, and therefore as Energy and Divinity, and not to consider it a created matter. When Pharaoh had pushed the Israel to the shores of the Red Sea and the unarmed people were facing inevitable destruction, then Moses prayed fervently to God, so that He should save the people for the sake of nothing other than His Own Name, because the worshippers of the hand-wrought gods, knew that Israel did not possess any hand-wrought sacred things, and their only sacred thing was the Name of the Lord (not wrought by hands), given to them by God Himself, would not mock this sacred thing, unless the people that possessed it were to be destroyed by them. As an answer to this fervent prayer of Moses God said: “I live, and My Name is living” and for the sake of his Name he drowned Pharaoh and saved Israel.  So, as you can see, God himself absolutely indisputably testified that His Name “is living”, and consequently it cannot in any way be numbered among the created verbal symbols, but must be recognized as living and eternal “word” (John 3:34, 12:46-50) of His Revelation and therefore  - His Energy.

Also, in the New Testament: if the Lord says that by His “Name” will the demons be cast out, then what kind of an Orthodox can dare to contradict the direct meaning of these words, which do not contain any kind of parable nor do they allow any other interpretation, and to claim in defiance of our Lord that it is not by the Name that the demons are cast out but by something else.

If according to the testimony of God Himself, His Name is “living” and it is His Power, then it inevitably follows that it is His Energy (as understood according to its inner, mystical aspect and not as mere letters and sounds or some abstract idea). But if it is His Energy, then the Church, in the Councils of Constantinople in the 14th century recognized the Divinity of all Divine Energies and has anathematized Barlaam and all those of one mind with him, who did not accept this.

At the same time, God Himself revealed to Moses the greatest importance that His Name has for His Church. Moses called it “zealous”, “wonderful”, “eternal”, “that which ought to be feared” “laid over the people” for their blessing, that with which the Holy Tabernacle was made holy, “by the very calling of the Name of God upon it”, that which “is living” in the temple (see “The Orthodox Church and veneration of the Name of God”, p. 31-36).  And therefore all the subsequent generations of the people of God, unwaveringly continued to pay divine veneration to the Name of the Lord and always prayed, just like Moses did, for their salvation for the sake of nothing other, but His Holy Name, which was revealed to them, by which they were named and which they confessed. Divine veneration of the Name of the Lord by Israel is most vividly illustrated in the Psalter: “Holy and terrible is His Name” (Ps. 110:8), “Praise ye the Name of the Lord” (Ps. 112:1) “Blessed be the Name of the Lord from henceforth and for evermore” (Ps. 112:2) “before the sun doth His Name continue” (Ps. 71:17) “O God in Thy Name save me” (Ps. 53:1) “chant unto His Name” (Ps. 67:4) and etc. (see also “The Orthodox Church and veneration of the Name of God” p. 40). The tradition in the Old Testament Church to pray for salvation for the sake of the Name of the Lord is most clearly testified by the prayer of Maccabees “And withal besought the Lord to deliver them…for His holy and glorious Name’s sake, by which they were called” (2 Mac. 8,15), (see also “The Orthodox Church and veneration of the Name of God”, p 42).

The Song of Three Children in Babylon confirms with exceptional irrefutability that the Old Testament Church together with God also blessed His Name. This Song starts with a prayer before they were cast into the furnace: ”Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our Fathers, and praised and glorified is Thy Name unto the ages.” Then they prayed thus: “Rescue us according to Thy wondrous works and give glory to Thy Name, O Lord.” And when they were delivered from the fire and were filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, then with more exultation did they sing unto the Lord and His Name: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers, and to be praised and exalted above all for ever. And blessed is Thy glorious and holy Name, and to be praised and exalted above all for ever.“ So it is in the New Testament Church, where to this day we unwaveringly continue to pray that God may save us for the sake of nothing other than His Name, as its is said in the prayer: “All-Holy Trinity have mercy on us…for Thy Name’s sake;” and in another prayer: “Lord have mercy on us for in Thee we have hoped; for Thou art our God, and we are Thy people (that is - we have been made Thine own by being called by Thy Name) and we call upon Thy Name.” To this day we hope to be granted that what we ask “for blessed is Thy Name”, “for Holy and Glorified is Thine All-Honourable and Majestical Name”. And let us remember exclamations of the Liturgy: “Blessed be the Name of the Lord, from henceforth and forevermore; “And grant us with one mouth and one heart to glorify and hymn Thine All-Honourable and Majestical Name.” By calling on us the Name of the Holy Trinity and of the Name of Jesus Christ in the Mystery of Baptism we have become God’s own, have been called His sons, and having believed in His Name we have received the Holy Spirit. And of the immense significance that the calling of the Name of God has in this Mystery is testified by the following words: “Thou art justified, thou art illumined, thou art sanctified, thou art washed, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God“ and with this the activity of the Name of Jesus Christ in the Mysteries is proven irrefutably.

The Name of God is given to us as means by which we can have real contact with God Himself, as a beam of His Divine Light for the illumination of our soul, from the very beginning of the existence of the Church, from the days of Enos: “then began men to call upon the Name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26). And for this reason, the Lord Jesus Christ put as the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer – “Hallowed be Thy Name”, He commanded us to Baptize “in the Name”, to ask for everything “in the Name”. All the aforementioned does not permit the limiting of the importance of the Name in our piety, by associating it with a mere verbal symbol, upon which the mystery of our relationship with God cannot in any way depend. Rather, it obliges us to see in the Name of the Lord a most indispensable and real divine link, which unites us with God – a real and divine beam of His light of revelation, in which we can contemplate, to the degree of the purity of the eye of our heart, the Triple-Illuminating Sun of Godhead.

Examination of the theological aspect of this debate, may also require its study from the point of view of philosophy, psychology, ontology, gnosiology etc. However, we must never forget the words of that great interpreter of the mysteries of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, who says that the Name of God “…too requireth faith, neither can one grasp aught of these things by reasoning” (Homily on the Epistle to the Romans, Homily 1).

Monastics - Confessors of the Name of the Lord