"For whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (I Corinthians 3:3).
Beloved Children in the Lord:
It is our wish that the Divine Founder of the Church might count us worthy to pass the New Year of Salvation, 1998, in peace and repentance, rejoicing evermore in the Lord, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all things, as the Apostle Paul says.
In our last year's Encyclical for the New Year, we pointed out to the Faithful that zeal for Orthodoxy—correct belief—must not come at the cost of neglecting Orthopraxis—the correct practice of the Faith—; it is only the joining of Orthodoxy to Orthopraxis that makes "the man of God perfect" and a "lively stone" in the holy edifice of the Church. Indeed, we emphasized that the main characteristics of Orthopraxis are love and humility.
We once more return to this issue with persistence, for the absence of love and humility not only harms every believer who becomes carried away by undiscerning zeal, but also causes a greater evil: it destroys the unity of the Church. We are witnesses to this truth: the illness of schisms and divisions, like unto the very wrath and withdrawal of God, has literally beset the anti-ecumenist Old Calendarists, the direct and tragic consequence of which is the shattering, if not destruction, of faith in the message of Orthodox resistance and a walling-off from error.
The timeliness of the moving entreaty by the Holy Apostle Paul to the Corinthians is truly striking, and it should prompt profound anguish among those pious zealots for Orthodoxy, and particularly amidst their Shepherds: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
The lack of love and humility, these primary components, as we have said, of Orthopraxis, derives from the carnal, worldly mind-set of that man who has not been regenerated in Christ. The Holy Apostle asks the Corinthians: "For whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
The profound experience of repentance, which alone makes it possible to overcome a carnal and worldly attitude and to attain purity through love and humility, and which alone makes possible the regeneration of the heart and the illumination of the mind, is, unfortunately, becoming an ever-rarer phenomenon. Unfortunately, more and more we forget that holy repentance, as a constant recollection of our sinfulness and passionateness, as unceasing self-reproach and inner mourning, as the exaltation of our brother and the abasement of ourselves, as commiserating and rejoicing with others, forms the foundation and cohesive element of our spiritual edifice.
On account of this, even our participation in the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, in this Royal Table of love and unity, not only no longer constitutes an expression and culmination of our unity in Christ, but, on the contrary, even more tragically divides and separates us! We cannot overlook this most grievous tragedy of our times: the Church has been transformed from the upper room of the unifying Pentecost into a Babel of confusion, dissension, and fraternal strife.
This sin is very grave and is a collective one, for which we are all responsible. For this reason, a radical change of attitude is required of everyone; in order for us to be "of the household of God," and to contribute to the unity, the "increase," and the "edifying of the Body of Christ," we must unfailingly cultivate an attitude of authentic repentance, in a spirit of deep humility and genuine love.
Abba Isaac the Syrian introduces us to the true spirit of repentance with his following pithy reminders:
"None of the virtues is loftier than repentance."
"In these twenty-four hours of the night and the day, we have need of repentance."
"What is repentance? A heart that is broken and humbled."
"It is a great thing to grieve over the wicked and to do good to sinners over and above the righteous."
"Do not censure or rebuke anyone, even those who are extremely evil in their way of life."
"Spread your coat over one who is falling and cover him; and if you cannot take his sins upon yourself and accept chastisement and shame in his stead, at least bear with him and do not put him to shame." Children in the Lord:
Keeping these things in mind, let us compel ourselves in the saving work of ceaseless repentance, so that, by the Grace of the Lord, we may contribute substantially to the healing of schisms and to the preservation of the unity of the Church, "that the world may believe."
† Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili
President of the Holy Synod in Resistance
1. Cf. I Thessalonians 5:16-18. [Return]
2. Cf. II St. Timothy 3:17. [Return]
3. Cf. I St. Peter 2:5. [Return]
4. I Corinthians 1:10. [Return]
5. I Corinthians 3:3. See also: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: ...strife [factionalism], seditions [quarrels], heresies [discords]" (Galatians 5:19-20). [Return]
6. Cf. "He must increase, but I must decrease" (St. John 3:30). [Return]
7. "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15). [Return]
8. Ephesians 2:19. [Return]
9. Ephesians 4:12 and 16. [Return]
10. Abba Isaac the Syrian, Homilies 55, 50, 81, and 58. [Return]
11. St. John 17:21. [Return]
* Translated from the Greek by Hieromonk Patapios and Archbishop Chrysostomos from the periodical Hagios Kyprianos, No. 282 (January-February 1998), pp. 1-2.