This is an English translation of a conversation with Elder Gabriel from the cell of St. Christodoulos of the Koutloumousiou Monastery, Holy Mount Athos, from Friday, April 24, 2020. The elder talks about the closure of churches, recognition of the pseudo-autocephaly of the schismatics from the Ukrainian “Church” headed by Ephiphany Dumenko, joint prayer with heretics, war with Turkey, and marriage with the heterodox.
Elder Gabriel: With all my heart I wish that the blessing of God be with all the Greek Orthodox people. May the Lord protect us, may He lead us out of these seemingly hopeless situations. And may His disgrace fall upon all those who fight against our faith.
God expects repentance from us Christians. Without repentance, we cannot be saved. When the Persians came to capture Athens, the Athenians addressed the oracle of Delphi, asking, “How can we be saved?” [At first, the answer was that they would die, but after many tearful prayers] Pythia answered: “The wooden walls will save the city”, [and they escaped destruction].
The Holy Fathers said: “Only repentance will rescue our beloved Greece. Without repentance, we cannot be saved. “
In our country, so many laws have been passed that are contrary to the Law of God! There are Ten Сommandments of God, one of which says: “Thou shalt not kill.” But the Greek lawmakers say, “Down with the Law of God!” They legalized abortion. God tells us, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” However, the Greek lawmakers adopted a decision that violates the Commandment of God. They legalized adultery, fornication, free cohabitation, civil marriage. They advocate abolishing the study of the Law of God in schools and removing the image of the cross from the flag of Greece.
They implement laws allowing same-sex “marriages” and empowering same-sex partners to adopt children. How can the Lord have mercy on us in this case? We must repent. Without repentance, we cannot be saved. Now that the churches are closed, until they are opened again, we should turn our apartments into “family chapels”.
St. John Chrysostom says: “Pray, wherever you are, because you are the temples of God, for God lives not in man-made temples, but in your hearts.”
And he cites the following examples: “When Paul the Apostle and Silas the Apostle were in prison, they could not go to the church, so they prayed in prison—and their prayer freed them from their bonds. Daniel the Prophet could not go to the church, so he prayed in a lion’s den. Thus, this prayer shut the mouths of lions, so that they did not touch him. The Three Youths could not go to the church, they prayed in the fiery furnace—and the flame did not touch them, it turned into dew.
The righteous thief could not pray in the church; he prayed on the cross, and thus he entered into Heaven. Neither did Jonah the Prophet have a church; he prayed in the belly of a whale, and thus he forced the whale to release him on land at the coast of Palestine. Nor could St. Job the Righteous pray in a temple, he prayed on the dung heap. Let’s pray wherever we are. The soul of every person is a Holy Altar, and every Christian can make his sacrifice to God and serve Him with prayer.
There is a parable saying: when God was distributing lands among the peoples, the Greeks came to Him last. He told them:
“I have nothing to give you; everything has already been distributed!”
“Lord, then where are we going to live?”
“What can I do? You are too late.”
“Lord, we are late because of You, because we talked about the Unknown God!”
Then the Lord said to them:
“Okay, I have one more land, which I have reserved for Myself. Take it, and I will live there with you.
So God gave us Greece. And this is how the Lord blessed the Greek people among all the peoples of the earth: Of all the languages on the planet, God chose Greek for writing the Gospel. Is such a blessing not enough? The greatest Fathers of our Church are Greeks. Isn’t this a great blessing? When we read the Lives of the Saints, we see that in every corner of the earth there were saints and martyrs. There were forty-two saints in the city of Thessaloniki alone. Is this a lesser blessing? The saints brought great benefit to the mankind both during their earthly life and after their repose.
So, after God has given us so many blessings, we tell Him: “Lord, we do not want to worship You as God and our Lord.” How do we declare this? We abolish the Law of God and vote for our own laws.
Once, during a battle, Alexander the Great noticed a soldier who was hiding. Alexander asked the soldier: “What is your name?” He answered: “Alexander”. Upon hearing that they were namesakes, Alexander the Great said, “Either you change your behavior, or you change your name. Have you ever seen me hiding in a battle?” Likewise, the Greek parliament does not have the right to bear its name. It should change it, after the terrible laws for which it voted. The following names would suit it: the council of the wicked, insane, or unscrupulous. It rejected the Law of God and voted for the anti-Christ laws. After that, who are the Greek parliamentarians: the fathers of the people or its destroyers? The saviors of the Greek nation or its gravediggers? Judging by the laws for which they voted, they are not the “saviors,” but real gravediggers. The people should wake up, protest, change or repeal those laws, and restore the Law of God. Then God will have mercy on us. Otherwise, we will not see the grace of God. We, the monks, pray for the whole world, that the Lord may have mercy on us.
Question: What can you say about the natural disasters that hit Mt. Athos about a week ago?
Answer: In my humble opinion, all this has taken place because some monasteries of the Holy Mount Athos welcomed the schismatics, the not-ordained and the self-ordained, and prayed jointly with them. Moreover, they went to Ukraine and prayed and served with them there. This is God’s punishment for our deeds.
Question: What would you say to those monasteries (i.e. Xenophontos, Pantokrator) that served with the Epiphany’s schismatics?
Answer: Those Ukrainian schismatics will not be saved. Neither will those monasteries that hosted them, prayed together with them, served, and communed with them, be saved. How do we know that? This is what the Law of God tells us. What does the 45th Apostolic Rule say? “A bishop, or a presbyter, or a deacon, who only prayed with the schismatics, may he be excommunicated. If he allows them to act as the ministers of the church, may he be suspended.” According to this rule, all those who have served and prayed together with the schismatics are actually excommunicated and suspended from their rank. And according to the 2nd Rule of the Council of Antioch, there can be no communication with them in the Sacraments and prayers.
Question: That is, if such a person as Hieromonk Chrysostomos of Koutloumousiou monastery cell [who served with Epiphany and other Ukrainian schismatics] served today, on the Bright Tuesday, on the feast day of the Koutloumousiou monastery, and we attended the service, what did we need to do?
Answer: If there are those priests present in the church who previously served with the schismatics, we do not bear the same responsibility that those people do [because we personally did not pray with the schismatics]. However, a certain part of the responsibility will fall upon us indeed, for joint prayer with them.
Question: So what should we do?
Answer: We should not attend such monasteries.
Question: And if we were not aware of it in advance, but Hieromonk Chrysostomos of Koutloumousiou Monastery then comes to a service we attended, what should we do then?
Answer: I suppose in such case we need to leave, we cannot stay.
Question: This is exactly what we did... What do you think about the crucial events that will cause the wrath of God in the nearest future?
Answer: I did not understand the question, please repeat.
Question: In your opinion, should we expect Divine retribution for the attempts that have occurred and for leaving the right spiritual path in our homeland?
Answer: Surely, God expects our repentance, and He turns away from what we do.
Question: There are rumors about a war with Turkey...
Answer: It may happen. What can I tell you... when we do not fulfill God’s will, how could the Lord bless us? The Patriarch of Constantinople Herman II writes in his letter to the Cypriots: “I beg you: flee from those priests who have fallen into the Latin-minded heresy as soon as possible, and do not go to the churches they serve in, neither take the antidoron from their hands, nor partake of the Eucharist with them [ from the same Cup], but stay home and pray; otherwise, you will go to hell with them. “ If a patriarch, an archbishop or a bishop does not honor the Apostolic rules, does not observe the rules of the Ecumenical and Local Councils, does not honor the teachings of our holy fathers which prohibit joint services and prayers with the heretics, then such a patriarch, archbishop or bishop is not a shepherd. Who is he then? This is what the great father of the Church of the first century tells us: “Anyone who tells you something contrary to what God has commanded, even if he seems trustworthy, even if he fasts, even if he prophesies, even if he is a virgin, even if he works signs, let him be in your eyes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, despoiling the sheep “(St. Ignatius the God-Bearer).
Question: When the one who leads the Liturgy in the congregation of other priests, a bishop or an hierarch, has heretical attitudes, you told us that we must immediately leave such a congregation. However, if it happens as is the case nowadays that one of the ten hieromonks present has communion with the schismatics, like Chrysostomos from the Koutloumousiou Monastery, and we know about this, should we flee? Can this one of the ten hieromonks “defile” all the others, or may he, by dispensation, remain at the service and take communion?
Answer: I can’t say for sure... You need to flee them. Listen to what St. John Chrysostom says. There are some hierarchs who tell the priests to marry the Orthodox to the non-Orthodox, and a priest objects: “Your Eminence, I cannot do this, because the Holy Canons of our Church forbid this.”
His Eminence answers with the apostolic words: “Obey your mentors and be humble.” He demands obedience and says he is a spiritual father.
How does St. John Chrysostom interpret the words: “Obey your mentors and be humble”?
The saint asks: “Well, you tell me, if the master is deceitful, should we disobey him?” And he himself answers this question by the following appeal: “In what sense do you say “deceitful”? If it comes to the faith, leave it and flee—not only man, but even an angel coming down from heaven.”
What does Paul the Apostle say to the Galatians? “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1, 8). Could an angel come to the Galatians and preach to them something contrary to what Paul the Apostle taught them? Of course not! Then why does the Apostle write this? Is this a meaningless or superfluous phrase? This is to protect us from being trapped. After all, we could have said: “Our hierarch is a saint, his prayer raises the dead, opens the eyes of the blind, erects paralytics from the bed of sickness!” Nevertheless, even if he does all of the above and at the same time he says something that does not agree with the teachings of the Church, then we must not obey him—not even an angel from heaven!
Let me add the following to this: We have responsibilities to our spiritual fathers and to God as well. Responsibilities to God prevail over those to our spiritual fathers.
If our responsibilities to our spiritual fathers come into conflict with those to God, then the former become null and we should not fulfill them.
We find a relevant example in the Scripture. What do we read in the Acts of the Apostles? The Scribes and Pharisees, the Jewish high priests were the spiritual leaders in the era of the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ. They seized the Apostles, threw them into prison and forbade them to preach. Nevertheless, the Angel of the Lord appeared and led them out of the prison and told them to preach. And when the Apostles were seized and brought again to the high priests, they were told: “Have we not forbidden you to teach about this Name?” Then Peter the Apostle replied: “We must obey God more than men” (Acts 5, 29). How can I obey a patriarch, an archbishop, or a politician who says something contrary to the Law of God?
—Very many thanks, Father! Christ is risen!
—Truly Christ has risen! God bless you in this age and in the one to come!