Система Orphus
The Orthodox Church
(Church History)

by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)

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The Church under Islam

"The stable perseverance in these our days of the Greek Church… notwithstanding the Oppression and Contempt put upon it by the Turk, and the Allurements and Pleasures of this World, is a Confirmation no less convincing than the Miracles and Power which attended its first beginnings. For indeed it is admirable to see and consider with what Constancy, Resolution, and Simplicity, ignorant and poor men keep their Faith" (Sir Paul Rycaut, The Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches, 1679).

 Imperium in imperio

"It doth go hugely against the grain to see the crescent exalted everywhere, where the Cross stood so long triumphant": so wrote Edward Browne in 1677, soon after arriving as Chaplain to the English Embassy at Constantinople. To the Greeks, in 1453 it must also have gone hugely against the grain. For more than a thousand years men had taken the Christian Empire of Byzantium for granted as a permanent element in God’s providential dispensation to the world. Now the "God-protected city" had fallen, and the Greeks were under the rule of the infidel.

It was not an easy transition: but it was made less hard by the Turks themselves, who treated their Christian subjects with remarkable generosity. The Mohammedans in the fifteenth century were far more tolerant towards Christianity than western Christians were towards one another during the Reformation and the seventeenth century. Islam regards the Bible as a holy book and Jesus Christ as a prophet; in Moslem eyes, therefore, the Christian religion is incomplete but not entirely false, and Christians, being "People of the Book," should not be treated as if on a level with mere pagans. According to Mohammedan teaching, Christians are to undergo no persecution, but may continue without interference in the observance of their faith, so long as they submit quietly to the power of Islam.

Such were the principles that guided the conqueror of Constantinople, Sultan Mohammed II. Before the fall of the city, Greeks called him "the precursor of Antichrist and the second Sennacherib," but they found that in practice his rule was very different in character. Learning that the office of Patriarch was vacant, Mohammed summoned the monk Gennadius and installed him on the Patriarchal throne. Gennadius (1450-1472), known as George Scholarios before he became a monk, was a voluminous writer and the leading Greek theologian of his time. He was a determined opponent of the Church of Rome, and his appointment as Patriarch meant the final abandonment of the Union of Florence. Doubtless for political reasons, the Sultan deliberately chose a man of anti-Latin convictions: with Gennadius as Patriarch, there would be less likelihood of the Greeks seeking secret aid from Roman Catholic powers.

The Sultan himself instituted the Patriarch, ceremonially investing him with his pastoral staff, exactly as the autocrats of Byzantium had formerly done. The action was symbolic: Mohammed the Conqueror, champion of Islam, became also the protector of Orthodoxy, taking over the role once exercised by the Christian Emperor. Thus Christians were assured a definite place in the Turkish order of society; but, as they were soon to discover, it was a place of guaranteed inferiority. Christianity under Islam was a second-class religion, and its adherents second-class citizens. They paid heavy taxes, wore a distinctive dress, were not allowed to serve in the army, and were forbidden to marry Moslem women. The Church was allowed to undertake no missionary work, and it was a crime to convert a Moslem to the Christian faith. From the material point of view there was every inducement for a Christian to apostatize to Islam. Direct persecution often serves to strengthen a Church; but the Greeks in the Ottoman Empire were denied the more heroic ways of witnessing to their faith, and were subjected instead to the demoralizing effects of an unrelenting social pressure.

Nor was this all. After the fall of Constantinople the Church was not allowed to revert to the situation before the conversion of Constantine; paradoxically enough, the things of Caesar now became more closely associated with the things of God than they had ever been before. For the Mohammedans drew no distinction between religion and politics: from their point of view, if Christianity was to be recognized as an independent religious faith, it was necessary for Christians to be organized as an independent political unit, an Empire within the Empire. The Orthodox Church therefore became a civil as well as a religious institution: it was turned into the Rum Millet, the "Roman nation." The ecclesiastical structure was taken over in toto as an instrument of secular administration. The bishops became government officials, the Patriarch was not only the spiritual head of the Greek Orthodox Church, but the civil head of the Greek nation — the ethnarch or millet-bashi. This situation continued in Turkey until 1923, and in Cyprus until the death of Archbishop Makarios III (1977).

The millet system performed one invaluable service: it made possible the survival of the Greek nation as a distinctive unit through four centuries of alien rule. But on the life of the Church it had two melancholy effects. It led first to a sad confusion between Orthodoxy and nationalism. With their civil and political life organized completely around the Church, it became all but impossible for the Greeks to distinguish between Church and nation. The Orthodox faith, being universal, is limited to no single people, culture, or language; but to the Greeks of the Turkish Empire "Hellenism" and Orthodoxy became inextricably intertwined, far more so than they had ever been in the Byzantine Empire. The effects of this confusion continue to the present day.

In the second place, the Church’s higher administration became caught up in a degrading system of corruption and simony. Involved as they were in worldly affairs and matters political, the bishops fell a prey to ambition and financial greed. Each new Patriarch required a berat from the Sultan before he could assume office, and for this document he was obliged to pay heavily. The Patriarch recovered his expenses from the episcopate, by exacting a fee from each bishop before instituting him in his diocese; the bishops in turn taxed the parish clergy, and the clergy taxed their flocks. What was once said of the Papacy was certainly true of the Ecumenical Patriarchate under the Turks: everything was for sale.

When there were several candidates for the Patriarchal throne, the Turks virtually sold it to the highest bidder; and they were quick to see that it was in their financial interests to change the Patriarch as frequently as possible, so as to multiply occasions for selling the berat. Patriarchs were removed and reinstated with kaleidoscopic rapidity. "Out of 159 Patriarchs who have held office between the fifteenth and the twentieth century, the Turks have on 105 occasions driven Patriarchs from their throne; there have been 27 abdications, often involuntary; 6 Patriarchs have suffered violent deaths by hanging, poisoning, or drowning; and only 21 have died natural deaths while in office" (B. J. Kidd, The Churches of Eastern Christendom, London, 1927, p. 304). The same man sometimes held office on four or five different occasions, and there were usually several ex-Patriarchs watching restively in exile for a chance to return to the throne. The extreme insecurity of the Patriarch naturally gave rise to continual intrigues among the Metropolitans of the Holy Synod who hoped to succeed him, and the leaders of the Church were usually separated into bitterly hostile parties. "Every good Christian," wrote an English resident in the seventeenth-century Levant, "ought with sadness to consider, and with compassion to behold this once glorious Church tear and rend out her own bowels, and give them for food vultures and ravens, and to the wild and fierce Creatures of the World" (Sir Paul Rycaut, The Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches, London, 1679, p. 107).

But if the Patriarchate of Constantinople suffered an inward decay, outwardly its power expanded as never before. The Turks looked on the Patriarch of Constantinople as the head of all Orthodox Christians in their dominions. The other Patriarchates also within the Ottoman Empire — Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem — remained theoretically independent but were in practice subordinate. The Churches of Bulgaria and Serbia — likewise within Turkish dominions — gradually lost all independence, and by the mid-eighteenth century had passed directly under the Ecumenical Patriarch’s control. But in the nineteenth century, as Turkish power declined, the frontiers of the Patriarchate contracted. The nations which gained freedom from the Turks found it impracticable to remain subject ecclesiastically to a Patriarch resident in the Turkish capital and closely involved in the Turkish political system. The Patriarch resisted as long as he could, but in each case he bowed eventually to the inevitable. A series of national Churches were carved out of the Patriarchate: the Church of Greece (organized in 1833, recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1850); the Church of Romania (organized in 1864, recognized in 1885); the Church of Bulgaria (reestablished in 1871, not recognized by Constantinople until 1945); the Church of Serbia (restored and recognized in 1879). The diminution of the Patriarchate has continued in the present century, chiefly as a result of war, and its membership is now but a tiny fraction of what it once was in the palmy days of Ottoman suzerainty.

The Turkish occupation had two opposite effects upon the intellectual life of the Church: it was the cause on the one hand of an immense conservatism and on the other of a certain westernization. Orthodoxy under the Turks felt itself on the defensive. The great aim was survival — to keep things going in hope of better days to come. The Greeks clung with miraculous tenacity to the Christian civilization which they had taken over from Byzantium, but they had little opportunity to develop this civilization creatively. Intelligibly enough, they were usually content to repeat accepted formulae, to entrench themselves in the positions which they had inherited from the past. Greek thought underwent an ossification and a hardening which one cannot but regret; yet conservatism had its advantages. In a dark and difficult period the Greeks did in fact maintain the Orthodox tradition substantially unimpaired. The Orthodox under Islam took as their guide Paul’s words to Timothy: "Guard the deposit: keep safe what has been entrusted to you" (I Timothy 6:20). Could they in the end have chosen a better motto?

Yet alongside this traditionalism there is another and contrary current in Orthodox theology of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the current of western infiltration. It was difficult for the Orthodox under Ottoman rule to maintain a good standard of scholarship. Greeks who wished for a higher education were obliged to travel to the non-Orthodox world, to Italy and Germany, to Paris, and even as far as Oxford. Among the distinguished Greek theologians of the Turkish period, a few were self-taught, but the overwhelming majority had been trained in the west under Roman Catholic or Protestant masters.

Inevitably this had an effect upon the way in which they interpreted Orthodox theology. Certainly Greek students in the west read the Fathers, but they only became acquainted with such of the Fathers as were held in esteem by their non-Orthodox professors. Thus Gregory Palamas was still read, for his spiritual teaching, by the monks of Athos; but to most learned Greek theologians of the Turkish period he was utterly unknown. In the works of Eustratius Argenti (died 1758?), the ablest Greek theologian of his time, there is not a single citation from Palamas; and his case is typical. It is symbolic of the state of Greek Orthodox learning in the last four centuries that one of the chief works of Palamas, The Triads in Defence of the Holy Hesychasts, should have remained in great part unpublished until 1959.

There was a real danger that Greeks who studied in the West, even though they remained fully loyal in intention to their own Church, would lose their Orthodox mentality and become cut off from Orthodoxy as a living tradition. It was difficult for them not to look at theology through western spectacles; whether consciously or not, they used terminology and forms of argument foreign to their own Church. Orthodox theology underwent what the Russian theologian Father Georges Florovsky (1893-1979) has appropriately termed a pseudo-morphosis. Religious thinkers of the Turkish period can be divided for the most part into two broad groups, the "Latinizers" and the "Protestantizers." Yet the extent of this westernization must not be exaggerated. Greeks used the outward forms which they had learnt in the west, but in the substance of their thought the great majority remained fundamentally Orthodox. The tradition was at times distorted by being forced into alien moulds — distorted, but not wholly destroyed.

Keeping in mind this twofold background of conservatism and westernization, let us consider the challenge presented to the Orthodox world by Reformation and Counter-Reformation.


Reformation and Counter-Reformation: their double impact

The forces of Reform stopped short when they reached the borders of Russia and the Turkish Empire, so that the Orthodox Church has not undergone either a Reformation or a Counter-Reformation. Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that these two movements have had no influence whatever upon Orthodoxy. There were many means of contact: Orthodox, as we have seen, went to study in the west; Jesuits and Franciscans, sent out to the eastern Mediterranean, undertook missionary work among Orthodox; the Jesuits were also at work in the Ukraine; the foreign embassies at Constantinople, both of Roman Catholic and of Protestant powers, played a religious as well as a political role. During the seventeenth century these contacts led to significant developments in Orthodox theology.

The first important exchange of views between Orthodox and Protestants began in 1573, when a delegation of Lutheran scholars from Tübingen, led by Jakob Andreae and Martin Crusius, visited Constantinople and gave the Patriarch, Jeremias II, a copy of the Augsburg Confession translated into Greek. Doubtless they hoped to initiate some sort of Reformation among the Greeks; as Crusius somewhat naively wrote: "If they wish to take thought for the eternal salvation of their souls, they must join us and embrace our teaching, or else perish eternally!" Jeremias, however, in his three Answers to the Tübingen theologians (dated 1576, 1579, 1581), adhered strictly to the traditional Orthodox position and showed no inclination to Protestantism. To his first two letters the Lutherans sent replies, but in his third letter the Patriarch brought the correspondence to a close, feeling that matters had reached a deadlock: "Go your own way, and do not write any more on doctrinal matters; and if you do write, then write only for friendship’s sake." The whole incident shows the interest felt by the Reformers in the Orthodox Church. The Patriarch’s Answers are important as the first clear and authoritative critique of the doctrines of the Reformation from an Orthodox point of view. The chief matters discussed by Jeremias were free will and grace, Scripture and Tradition, the sacraments, prayers for the dead, and prayers to the saints.

During the Tübingen interlude, Lutherans and Orthodox both showed great courtesy to one another. A very different spirit marked the first major contact between Orthodoxy and the Counter-Reformation. This occurred outside the limits of the Turkish Empire, in the Ukraine. After the destruction of Kievan power by the Tartars, a large area in the southwest of Russia, including the city of Kiev itself, became absorbed by Lithuania and Poland; this south-western part of Russia is commonly known as Little Russia or the Ukraine. The crowns of Poland and Lithuania were united under a single ruler from 1386; thus while the monarch of the joint realm, together with the majority of the population, was Roman Catholic, an appreciable minority of his subjects was Russian and Orthodox. These Orthodox in Little Russia were in an uncomfortable predicament. The Patriarch of Constantinople, to whose jurisdiction they belonged, could exercise no very effective control in Poland; their bishops were appointed not by the Church but by the Roman Catholic king of Poland, and were sometimes courtiers wholly lacking in spiritual qualities and incapable of providing any inspiring leadership. There was, however, a vigorous laity, led by several energetic Orthodox nobles, and in many towns there were powerful lay associations, known as the Brotherhoods (Bratstva).

More than once the Roman Catholic authorities in Poland had tried to make the Orthodox submit to the Pope. With the arrival of the Society of Jesus in the land in 1564, pressure on the Orthodox increased. The Jesuits began by negotiating secretly with the Orthodox bishops, who were for the most part willing to cooperate (they were, we must remember, the nominees of a Roman Catholic monarch). In due course, so the Jesuits hoped, the whole Orthodox hierarchy in Poland would agree to submit en bloc to the Pope, and the "union" could then be proclaimed publicly as a fait accompli before anyone else could raise objections: hence the need for concealment in the earlier stages of the operation. But matters did not in fact go entirely according to plan. In 1596 a council was summoned at Brest-Litovsk to proclaim the union with Rome, but the hierarchy was divided. Six out of eight Orthodox bishops, including the Metropolitan of Kiev, Michael Ragoza, supported the union, but the remaining two bishops, together with a large number of the delegates from the monasteries and from the parish clergy, desired to remain members of the Orthodox Church. The two sides concluded by excommunicating and anathematizing one another.

Thus there came into existence in Poland a "Uniate" Church, whose members were known as "Catholics of the Eastern Rite." The decrees of the Council of Florence formed the basis of the union. The Uniates recognized the supremacy of the Pope, but were allowed to keep their traditional practices (such as married clergy), and they continued as before to use the Slavonic Liturgy, although in course of time western elements crept into it. Outwardly, therefore, there was very little to distinguish Uniates from Orthodox, and one wonders how far uneducated peasants in Little Russia understood what the quarrel was really about. Many of them, at any rate, explained the matter by saying that the Pope had now joined the Orthodox Church.

The government authorities recognized only the decisions of the Roman party at the Council of Brest, so that from their point of view the Orthodox Church in Poland had now ceased legally to exist. Those who desired to continue Orthodox were severely persecuted. Monasteries and churches were seized and given to the Uniates, against the wishes of the monks and congregations. "Roman Catholic Polish gentry sometimes handed over the Orthodox Church of their peasants to a Jewish usurer, who could then demand a fee for allowing an Orthodox baptism or funeral" (Bernard Pares, A History of Russia, third edition, London, p. 167). The tale of the Uniate movement in Poland makes sorrowful reading: the Jesuits began by using deceit, and ended by resorting to violence. Doubtless they were sincere men who genuinely desired the unity of Christendom, but the tactics which they employed were better calculated to widen the breach than to close it. The Union of Brest has embittered relations between Orthodoxy and Rome from 1596 until the present day.

It is small wonder that Orthodox, when they saw what was happening in Poland, should prefer Mohammedan to Roman Catholic rulers, just as Alexander Nevsky had preferred the Tartars to the Teutonic Knights. Traveling through the Ukraine in the 1650s, Paul of Aleppo, nephew and Archdeacon to the Patriarch of Antioch, reflected the typical Orthodox attitude when he wrote in his diary: "God perpetuate the Empire of the Turks! For they take their impost and enter into no account of religion, be their subjects Christians or Nazarenes, Jews or Samaritans; whereas these accursed Poles, not content with taking taxes and tithes from their Christian subjects, subjected them to the enemies of Christ, the Jews, who did not allow them to build churches or leave them any educated priests." The Poles he terms "more vile and wicked than even the worshippers of idols, by their cruelty to Christians" (The Travels of Macarius, ed. L. Ridding, London, 1936, p. 15).

Persecution invigorated the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine. Although many Orthodox nobles joined the Uniates, the Brotherhoods stood firm and expanded their activities. To answer Jesuit propaganda they maintained printing presses and issued books in defense of Orthodoxy; to counteract the influence of the Jesuit schools they organized Orthodox schools of their own. By 1650 the level of learning in Little Russia was higher than anywhere else in the Orthodox world; scholars from Kiev, traveling to Moscow at this time, did much to raise intellectual standards in Great Russia. In this revival of learning a particularly brilliant part was played by Peter of Moghila, Metropolitan of Kiev from 1633 to 1647. To him we must shortly return.

One of the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople at Brest in 1596 was a young Greek priest called Cyril Lukaris (1572-1638). His experiences in Little Russia inspired him with a lifelong hatred of the Church of Rome, and when he became Patriarch of Constantinople he devoted his full energies to combating all Roman Catholic influence in the Turkish Empire. It was unfortunate, though perhaps inevitable, that in his struggle against "the Papic Church" (as the Greeks termed it) he should have become deeply involved in politics. He turned naturally for help to the Protestant embassies at Constantinople, while his Jesuit opponents for their part used the diplomatic representatives of the Roman Catholic powers. Besides invoking the political assistance of Protestant diplomats, Cyril also fell under Protestant influence in matters of theology, and his Confession (By "Confession" in this context is meant a statement of faith, a solemn declaration of religious belief), first published at Geneva in 1629, is distinctively Calvinist in much of its teaching.

Cyril’s reign as Patriarch is one long series of stormy and unedifying intrigues, and forms a lurid example of the troubled state of the Ecumenical Patriarchate under the Ottomans. Six times deposed from office and six times reinstated, he was finally strangled by Turkish janissaries and his body cast into the Bosphorus. In the last resort there is something deeply tragic about his career, since he was possibly the most brilliant man to have held office as Patriarch since the days of Saint Photius. Had he but lived under happier conditions, freed from political intrigue, his exceptional gifts might have been put to better use.

Cyril’s Calvinism was sharply and speedily repudiated by his fellow Orthodox, his Confession being condemned by no less than six local Councils between 1638 and 1691. In direct reaction to Cyril two other Orthodox hierarchs, Peter of Moghila and Dositheus of Jerusalem, produced Confessions of their own. Peter’s Orthodox Confession, written in 1640, was based directly on Roman Catholic manuals. It was approved by the Council of Jassy in Romania (1642), but only after it had been revised by a Greek, Meletius Syrigos, who in particular altered the passages about the consecration in the Eucharist (which Peter attributed solely to the Words of Institution) and about Purgatory. Even in its revised form the Confession of Moghila is still the most Latin document ever to be adopted by an official Council of the Orthodox Church. Dositheus, Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1669 to 1707, also drew heavily upon Latin sources. His Confession, ratified in 1672 by the Council of Jerusalem (also known as the Council of Bethlehem), answers Cyril’s Confession point by point with concision and clarity. The chief matters over which Cyril and Dositheus diverge are four: the question of free will, grace, and predestination; the doctrine of the Church; the number and nature of the sacraments; and the veneration of icons. In his statement upon the Eucharist, Dositheus adopted not only the Latin term transubstantiation but the Scholastic distinction between substance and accidents (See p. 291, note 1); and in defending prayers for the dead he came very close to the Roman doctrine of Purgatory, without actually using the word Purgatory itself. On the whole, however, the Confession of Dositheus is less Latin than that of Moghila, and must certainly be regarded as a document of primary importance in the history of modern Orthodox theology. Faced by the Calvinism of Lukaris, Dositheus used the weapons which lay nearest to hand — Latin weapons (under the circumstances it was perhaps the only thing that he could do); but the faith which he defended with these Latin weapons was not Roman, but Orthodox.

Outside the Ukraine, relations between Orthodox and Roman Catholics were often friendly in the seventeenth century. In many places in the eastern Mediterranean, particularly in the Greek islands under Venetian rule, Greeks and Latins shared in one another’s worship: we even read of Roman Catholic processions of the Blessed Sacrament, which the Orthodox clergy attended in force, wearing full vestments, with candles and banners. Greek bishops invited the Latin missionaries to preach to their flocks or to hear confessions. But after 1700 these friendly contacts grew less frequent, and by 1750 they had largely ceased. In 1724 a large part of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch submitted to Rome; after this the Orthodox authorities, fearing that the same thing might happen elsewhere in the Turkish Empire, were far stricter in their dealings with Roman Catholics. The climax in anti-Roman feeling came in 1755, when the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Jerusalem declared Latin baptism to be entirely invalid and demanded that all converts to Orthodoxy be baptized anew. "The baptisms of heretics are to be rejected and abhorred," the decree stated; they are "waters which cannot profit… nor give any sanctification to such as receive them, nor avail at all to the washing away of sins." This measure remained in force in the Greek world until the end of the nineteenth century, but it did not extend to the Church of Russia; the Russians generally baptized Roman Catholic converts between 1441 and 1667, but since 1667 they have not normally done so.

The Orthodox of the seventeenth century came into contact not only with Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists but also with the Church of England. Cyril Lukaris corresponded with Archbishop Abbot of Canterbury, and a future Patriarch of Alexandria, Metrophanes Kritopoulos, studied at Oxford from 1617 to 1624: Kritopoulos is the author of a Confession, slightly Protestant in tone, but widely used in the Orthodox Church. Around 1694 there was even a plan to establish a "Greek College" at Gloucester Hall, Oxford (now Worcester College), and about ten Greek students were actually sent to Oxford; but the plan failed for lack of money, and the Greeks found the food and lodging so poor that many of them ran away. From 1716 to 1725 a most interesting correspondence was maintained between the Orthodox and the Non-Jurors (a group of Anglicans who separated from the main body of the Church of England in 1688, rather than swear allegiance to the usurper William of Orange). The Non-Jurors approached both the four Eastern Patriarchs and the Church of Russia, in the hope of establishing communion with the Orthodox. But the Non-Jurors could not accept the Orthodox teaching concerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist; they were also troubled by the veneration shown by Orthodoxy to the Mother of God, the saints, and the Holy Icons. Eventually the correspondence was suspended without any agreement being reached.

Looking back on the work of Moghila and Dositheus, on the Councils of Jassy and Jerusalem, and on the correspondence with the Non-Jurors, one is struck by the limitations of Greek theology in this period: one does not find the Orthodox tradition in its fullness. Nevertheless the Councils of the seventeenth century made a permanent and constructive contribution to Orthodoxy. The Reformation controversies raised problems which neither the Ecumenical Councils nor the Church of the later Byzantine Empire was called to face: in the seventeenth century the Orthodox were forced to think more carefully about the sacraments, and about the nature and authority of the Church. It was important for Orthodoxy to express its mind on these topics, and to define its position in relation to new teachings which had arisen in the west; this was the task which the seventeenth-century Councils achieved. These Councils were local, but the substance of their decisions has been accepted by the Orthodox Church as a whole. The seventeenth-century Councils, like the Hesychast Councils three hundred years before, show that creative theological work did not come to an end in the Orthodox Church after the period of the Ecumenical Councils. There are important doctrines not defined by the General Councils, which every Orthodox is bound to accept as an integral part of his faith.

Many western people learn about Orthodoxy either from studying the Byzantine period, or through the medium of Russian religious thought in the last hundred years. In both cases they tend to by-pass the seventeenth century, and to underestimate its influence upon Orthodox history.

Throughout the Turkish period the traditions of Hesychasm remained alive, particularly on Mount Athos; and at the end of the eighteenth century there was an important spiritual revival, whose effects can still be felt today. At the center of this revival was a monk of Athos, Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain ("the Hagiorite," 1748-1809), justly called "an encyclopedia of the Athonite learning of his time." With the help of Saint Macarius (Notaras), Metropolitan of Corinth, Nicodemus compiled an anthology of spiritual writings called the Philokalia. Published at Venice in 1782, it is a gigantic work of 1,207 folio pages, containing authors from the fourth century to the fifteenth, and dealing chiefly with the theory and practice of prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer. It has proved one of the most influential publications in Orthodox history, and has been widely read not only by monks but by many living in the world. Translated into Slavonic and Russian, it was instrumental in producing a spiritual reawakening in nineteenth-century Russia.

Nicodemus was conservative, but not narrow or obscurantist. He drew on Roman Catholic works of devotion, adapting for Orthodox use books by Lorenzo Scupoli and Ignatius Loyola. He and his circle were strong advocates of frequent communion, although in his day most Orthodox communicated only a few times a year. Nicodemus was in fact vigorously attacked on this issue, but a Council at Constantinople in 1819 confirmed his teaching. Movements which are trying to introduce weekly communion in Greece today appeal to the great authority of Nicodemus.

It has been rightly said that if there is much to pity in the state of Orthodoxy during the Turkish period, there is also much to admire. Despite innumerable discouragements, the Orthodox Church under Ottoman rule never lost heart. There were of course many cases of apostasy to Islam, but in Europe at any rate they were not as frequent as might have been expected. Orthodoxy in these centuries was not lacking in martyrs, who are honored in the Church’s calendar with the special title of New Martyrs: many of them were Greeks who became Mohammedan and then repented, returning to Christianity once more — for which the penalty was death. The corruption in the higher administration of the Church, shocking though it was, had very little effect on the daily life of the ordinary Christian, who was still able to worship Sunday by Sunday in his parish church. More than anything else it was the Holy Liturgy that kept Orthodoxy alive in those dark days.




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