This presentation was given by Subdeacon Jeremy Conrad in February 2015 at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois.
Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services.
mp3 Audio: 2015_Feb-Sdn_ Jeremy-The_Original_Gift.mp3
Hello. My name is Subdeacon Jeremy, and I teach a Sunday School class here at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois. A couple of weeks ago, I did this lesson and was asked to do it again on camera so that it could be shared on our website or our blog. So that’s what I am doing!
THE ORTHODOX GIFT
In the beginning, the Church was given a beautiful gift by Christ and the Apostles. It has beautiful wrapping. It has chanting. There is ornate architecture. There [are] vestments. There [are] bells. There is beauty. That gift is wrapped so beautifully, and was given to the Church, and it is very important that we maintain this wrapping. However, what’s inside is very important and very beautiful. It is full of priceless diamonds. Let me show you these diamonds and tell you a little bit about them.
One great big diamond that was given to us was one Church and one faith that has been passed on for 2,000 years all the way from Christ and the Apostles. Another diamond that was given to us is the Holy Trinity – our One God shown to us in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Another beautiful diamond we were given is the Incarnation of Christ – how God, the second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God can come to earth and take on human flesh and join them together so that the created and the uncreated can have communion with each other.
We were given baptism – holy baptism not just to get wet; not just a symbol of something that happened on the inside but actual water baptism to wash away our sins. Included in that, we were also given chrismation, another sacrament in the Orthodox Church where the chrism, the oil, is applied to our body in a sort of anointing that is similar to the anointing of the priests in the Old Testament. Baptism and chrismation are our fourth diamond.
We were given bishops, priests, deacons, and laity – the four orders of the Church, of the episcopacy. We were given that as a gift by Christ and the Apostles and not only given that specifically, but given it through apostolic succession. We have succession of bishops all the way down, laying their hands on the next and the next and the next, all the way back to the Apostles. Our bishops today have tactile, tangible succession from the Apostles.
We also have apostolic succession of doctrine. Our doctrines, these diamonds that I’m giving you, are the same diamonds today as they were when the Apostles had them.
Another diamond we were given is the authority of those bishops in Ecumenical Councils not to develop doctrine, not to come up with new doctrine, but to more clearly articulate the doctrines that go from today all the way back to Christ and the Apostles. Those doctrines are most clearly articulated in the Ecumenical Councils.
We were also given, in this beautiful box, the authority of the Church alone to interpret Holy Scripture. The only interpretation that matters is the true interpretation given to it by the authors. Because the authors of Holy Scripture were members of the original Church who had all these diamonds, it is the Church, the Orthodox Church, to whom the Holy Scriptures were given, and it is the Orthodox Church alone who has the authority and even the ability to interpret correctly all of Holy Scripture.
In this box, we were given the Theotokos, the Mother of God. In Ecumenical Council, they began to use that actual word. We’ve always known that Mary is the Mother of God, but we didn’t always use the term. It is in Ecumenical Council that this term actually came to be used. A little before the Ecumenical Council, but formally in the Ecumenical Council, it began to be used: The Theotokos, the Mother of God.
And this is a Christological term. This doesn’t put Mary above. What it does is it says that the Christ child who was in her womb was God from the beginning. We also have included in this diamond the perpetual virginity of Mary as well.
Another diamond that we were given is Icons and their veneration. We have evidence of icons all the way back to the Church in the wilderness, all the way back to Moses! Even before that, the word icon is used in used in the creation, that man is made as an icon in the image of God. Icons began to be used more readily in worship in the second and third centuries after the Church, but we’ve had them all along. Luke, the Gospel writer, was a very famous iconographer. We have had icons from the beginning.
Another beautiful diamond that we were given is prayers to the saints. We don’t pray to them as God, but we do ask for their intercession for us. We also pray for the departed, those people who have been separated – their body lies in the grave, and their soul is either in paradise or in hades. We pray for them as they most likely pray for us.
We were given another beautiful diamond. One of my favorite diamonds is the Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Christ, the actual Body and Blood of Christ present in the bread and wine at the partaking of the Eucharist.
We were given another one (I am actually going to be teaching a class on this in the next week or so.) – the essence and energies distinction. It’s a long, drawn-out concept. It goes back many centuries. Gregory Palamas was one who wrote a lot about the essence and energies distinction. I won’t go into it here, but it is a very, very, very important doctrine that touches on, in fact, the idea of theosis in the Orthodox Church (and we will talk about that in another Sunday School lesson). That is a diamond that was given to us: the essence and energies distinction.
We were given the complete Bible based on the Septuagint, based on the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Orthodox Church continues, to this day, to use the complete Bible. We do not take out the Maccabees. We do not take out Sirach. We do not take out Wisdom [of Solomon]. We do not take out Baruch and Judith and several others. We have the entire Bible that was given to us and quoted extensively from by the Apostles and by Christ as well.
We were given incense and candles. Of course we know incense and candles go clear back to the time of the Hebrews. It carried over into the Church as a remnant. It’s very important because it is in heaven. We will have candles and fire lights in heaven in the worship practice in heaven. According to John in the Revelation, we will also have incense up there. We see incense portrayed in some of the prophetic writings in the Old Testament as well. Incense and candles were given to the Church.
We were also given a beautiful liturgy. Beautiful liturgies! There is the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in the East. There’s the Liturgy of Saint James also used in the East. We have the Liturgy of Saint Gregory in the West. In our church, we use the Liturgy of Saint Tikhon. Very, very beautiful, ancient liturgies and their derivations go back all the way to the early Church with our original diamonds. Included in that, don’t let me miss our church calendar. The calendar of feasts and fasts that we do throughout the year and the saints that we commemorate throughout the year, everything that we do on our church calendar was given to us as well will the liturgy.
Another diamond that we were given is Confession, and not just confession but absolution of our sins. No one in the Orthodox Church believes that the priest is the one who forgives us of our sins. No one believes that. What they do believe is that the priest, because he has been given the power by the bishop who has been given power by the succession of bishops all the way back to the Apostles and ultimately to Christ, has the power to absolve us of our sins through that power.
It is similar to a pastor in a Protestant gathering today at a Protestant wedding saying “by the power invested in me by the State of Illinois, I now pronounce you man and wife.” We have, in the line of our priests and bishops the ability to do absolution not by the power vested in us by the state but by the power vested in our priests and bishops by previous bishops all the way back to the apostles and Christ to absolve of sins based upon that. So [we have] Confession and absolution.
This beautiful gift has been preserved in the Orthodox Church for 2,000 years. For nearly twenty centuries, this beautiful gift has been held, has been protected, has been handed down throughout the centuries in the Orthodox Church. Isn’t this an amazing, beautiful gift? The Orthodox Church has a wonderful and beautiful gift from Jesus Christ and the Apostles, and this is a gift that I am proud to pass on to my children and grandchildren.
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC GIFT
Well, the Western church was given this same gift. The Western church, the Roman Catholic Church was given this same gift, but about a thousand years ago, something happened. The Roman Catholic Church opened up the gift, and looked inside, and started seeing some things that they didn’t think were diamonds. They opened the gift, and they started messing with the contents. Thankfully, they did keep most of the diamonds in here, but they removed a very important diamond.
A diamond that they removed is the essence and energies distinction that I talked about a few minutes ago. That essence and energies distinction was removed, and in its place, was put a rock. This rock is called “absolute divine simplicity.” It is a heretical doctrine. It is an unorthodox doctrine, but as yet, it is still a doctrine that has been placed into the box by the Roman Catholic Church. They were given the perfect gift. They have since removed a diamond and replaced it with a rock.
They also began adding some more rocks into this. In the Nicene Creed, we quote, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.” They looked into this box, and they did not like this concept that the Holy Spirit proceeded only from the Father. The Roman Catholic Church added another rock, and this rock they added is called the filioque.
Filioque simply means “and the Son.” So when the Roman Catholic Church, they say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit . . . Who procedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.” They now have the Holy Spirit proceeded not from the Father, as is the truth, but they have the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son, which is a heresy. They have added another rock into the box.
Another rock that the Roman Catholic Church has added is several more “Ecumenical Councils.” I think they’re around 20 or 21 now. I don’t remember, but they have a lot of “ecumenical councils” that they’re calling “ecumenical.” I would put air quotes around it. They’re not ecumenical. The whole Church has not made that distinction.
They also added this concept of original guilt taken from Augustine and maybe Anselm, some ideas that were either misunderstood or were clearly wrong. Even Augustine admits in a book right before he dies that he got several things wrong, and he recants some of his teachings that he said. Augustine is a saint in the Orthodox Church, and yet some of his teachings were unorthodox! This idea of original guilt says that when Adam and Eve sinned, that [particular] sin is imputed all the way through children all the way through today. It’s called original sin.
The Orthodox Church does believe that we inherited the fall. We inherited the effects of the fall. We inherit sickness. We inherit pain. We inherit death, but we do not inherit Adam and Eve’s guilt. The guilt is not imputed to us; the evidence of the fall is. So Jesus, in His body, even had, when He took on flesh, the evidence of the fall just like every one of us. But Jesus was not born guilty. Neither are we. We are not born guilty of sin. We are born with the effects of sin, but the guilt of sin, original guilt was added into the box by the Roman Catholic Church.
Also, another concept I won’t go into a lot is the concept of merit – that we earn ourselves into heaven. Maybe “merit” and “earn” are not exactly synonymous, but they’re close. The idea is that if you die, and you don’t have enough merit to get into heaven, Mary, who is the treasurer of the treasury of merit, can dole out as she wills as people pray merit that was over and above by the saints.
The saints who are in heaven have extra merit that goes into the treasury, and that treasury is then doled out by Mary to people so that they can get into heaven too by merit. This is a very purely heretical doctrine. This is not a doctrine of the Orthodox Church. It’s not a doctrine of the original Church. This is a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and it stems from some other heretical ideas. It also has a lot of heretical ideas that come from it as well. So I am going to put “merit” in here, because the Roman Catholic Church put that stone into the box.
Another stone that was placed into the box is how Easter is calculated. In the Western Church, we call it Easter. Roman Catholics and Protestants would call it Easter. In the Eastern Rite Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, we call it Pascha. This means “Passover.” We calculate it based on the way we’ve always calculated it from the earliest Ecumenical Councils. The Roman Catholic Church calculates it differently. So there are times that we celebrate Easter on the same day, but most of the time, we are anywhere from a week to five or six, maybe. I know for sure five weeks can be different. The dates that we celebrate Easter and Pascha: that’s another stone that was added into the box.
The Roman Catholics added the doctrine of Purgatory. Of course you’ve all heard about that – where you go until you have received enough merit, basically. It goes back to the idea of merit. You stay in purgatory until you have enough merit to get out of purgatory and find yourself in paradise. The doctrine of purgatory was added into the box.
Because of the idea of original guilt that came from Augustine and Anselm, another stone that the Roman Catholics had to add in by default was this concept of the immaculate conception of Mary – that, because Christ was conceived in purity and did not ever touch sin, therefore the womb in which He grew could also not touch sin. So they’re saying that Mary also had to be conceived immaculately.
There’s an elaborate doctrine around what happened at the moment of her conception, but the concept is that Mary was conceived differently and was handled differently by God than any other person. Now the funny thing is [that] the immaculate conception of Mary [is] just like we affirm the immaculate conception of every human. We are not conceived with original guilt. But what they mean when they say it is different than what we mean, so we will place the immaculate conception of Mary as a heretical doctrine, a stone added into the box by the Roman Catholic Church.
Martin Luther, a priest in 1517 was very angry at the Roman Catholic Church because of this stone. This is a stone that was added in called indulgences – that people who were in purgatory or people who did not have enough merit could effectually gain more merit by themselves or other people doing things besides prayer to get more merit. For instance, they could go visit holy places. They could donate money to the church which was a big one: the money issue. They would end up buying indulgences. They would spend their money to buy their forgiveness, to buy their way out of purgatory. A person could read so many pages of Scripture, could say the Hail Mary or the Our Father so many times, and they were granted so many days, weeks, or years out of purgatory based on these indulgences.
This is a heretical doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther saw it as such and rebelled against the Roman Catholic Church on that and wrote 95 Theses on the concept of indulgences. Most people, even Protestants, don’t know that the 95 Theses were predominantly about indulgences.
Another very sad stone that has been placed into the box by the Roman Catholics is one called “universal papal jurisdiction.” To use layman’s terms, that simply means that the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, believes that he has authority over every Christian on the planet. It doesn’t matter whether that person is Orthodox (as we are), is Protestant, is non-Christian. It does not matter. The Pope believes that he has the absolute ultimate authority over every single person on the planet. That was never received by the entire Church in any Ecumenical Council, and it is a stone, a heretical doctrine added into the box by the Western Church.
Another stone, and the final stone we’ll talk about today from the Roman Catholic Church is another one pertaining to the Pope: papal infallibility. This only happened in the late 19th century. In Vatican I, they added in the concept of the Pop, when he speaks ex cathedra, that he speaks infallibly, that he cannot make an error. This is a heretical doctrine, a very new, novel doctrine added in only about 140 years ago.
While the wrapping looks basically the same, and some would even argue that the wrapping has changed since Vatican II in the 1960’s, this box is definitely heavier. They were given a beautiful box with sixteen diamonds, and they now a beautiful box with fifteen diamonds and eleven rocks. Is this the same gift that they were given? Absolutely not! The box, the wrapping is the same; fifteen of the diamonds are the same; but they have taken out a diamond and added in eleven rocks.
This is not the same gift that they were given. This is not the gift from Christ and the Apostles. This is a changed gift which, in that case, is really no longer a gift. This is not something I would be happy to pass on to my children and grandchildren and say, “This is from Christ. This is from the Apostles.” This is not from Christ and the Apostles. This is changed; this is different. This is not the same gift!
THE PROTESTANT GIFT
Well, I mentioned Martin Luther a few minutes ago. Protestants unfortunately inherited this gift from the Roman Catholics. This is the gift they started with. They didn’t even start with the original gift, so it’s hard to completely put them at fault. And they protested, which is where they got the name “Protestant.” They looked in this box and they found many things that seemed like rocks to them, and they began to take them out. They removed these Roman Catholic rocks.
They looked in and they saw merit and the whole idea of the treasury of merit, and they took that rock right back out of that gift. They knew by looking that that was a heresy.
They looked in there, and they pulled out the rock of purgatory, and they got rid of it.
They also took out the rock of the immaculate conception of Mary (I have heard many people call it “the inaccurate deception!”). But the immaculate conception of Mary was removed by the Protestant churches.
The Protestant churches also threw out all those extra “ecumenical councils” that were added in by the Roman church.
The Protestants took out indulgences. Again, [this is] what Martin Luther was arguing against in his 95 Theses, when he nailed them on the wall in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517.
They also reached in and removed the concept of universal papal jurisdiction, that the pope is the boss; the pope is over every single person, Christian or non-Christian on the planet.
They removed the rock of papal infallibility that says that the pope can do wrong when he speaks ex cathedra.
They removed those rocks. This is a great thing, because they saw the rocks as rocks, and they rightfully removed them. But there were several things in there that they looked in and thought were diamonds. They thought they were, but they were actually rocks. These are the things that the Protestants kept from the Roman Catholics.
They kept the stone of absolute divine simplicity. They did not keep the stone of essence and energies.
They kept the filioque in their creed instead of, as Christ says in the Gospels, “the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father” as the Creed has always said: “The Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father.” The Protestants had never heard the original Creed. So all along, because they inherited this from the Roman Catholics, the kept the filioque in their Creed, and when you go into most Protestant churches (not all of them but most Protestant churches), they will still continue to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. They kept that heresy in their doctrines.
A third stone that they maintained is that whole concept of original guilt. There is no original guilt. There [are] original effects of the fall, effects of sin that are passed down, but the original sin, the original guilt is not true. They saw it as true, because they looked in their box, having never seen the original gift to compare it with, and they saw that rock as a diamond.
They also kept the changed date of Pascha. They still celebrate Easter when the Pope tells them to do it! All Protestants do it. Here’s the interesting thing: I’ve been told by Protestants that they don’t want to be Orthodox because some of the things that we do seem too Catholic to them. I would turn that back around on its ear and say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t be Protestant, because you Protestants are too Roman Catholic for me. You have too many things in there that are Roman Catholic that I can’t stand, I can’t deal with. Protestantism is too Roman Catholic for me.”
Again, having never seen the original gift, you can hardly fault them for mistaking some Roman Catholic rocks as diamonds. But now, when the Protestants lift up their box, they feel it, and it’s kind of empty. It didn’t feel very heavy, so they started adding some rocks of their own. The Protestants began to add rocks.
One rock is a rock called sola scriptura. They said that the Bible alone is all that a person needs – no person, no Church to interpret scripture for them. The Bible alone, with the help of the Holy Spirit is all that a person needs to understand and truly interpret Scripture. That heresy was added into the box by the Protestants.
They also added in a heresy, a rock, that throws out all tradition if possible! Now, logically, it cannot happen. That can’t even be the case logically, but they think that it is. So they have a concept that they use no tradition. “We are unto ourselves.” One says “no creed but Christ,” which, in and of itself is a creed! If you say, “no creed but Christ,” that is a creed. So you can’t escape it. They have added “no tradition” as a rock into their box.
They have also added in this concept of a sinner’s prayer. Now, using the idea of sola scriptura, you would think that they would never come up with the idea of the sinner’s prayer, since the sinner’s prayer is nowhere to be found in scriptura. They have taken from somewhere (I don’t know where), and they have this concept of the sinner’s prayer where a person says with their mouth that they believe in Christ, and all of the sudden, they believe they are going to heaven. That is nowhere to be found in Scripture. That is a stone added into the Protestant church box.
They have also added this concept of personal salvation. Have you ever heard, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” That concept of personal relationship as opposed to a relationship to the Church is a purely novel idea that is less than 500 years old. That novel idea is a stone that has been added into [the box]. We are saved in community. We are saved in the Church. We are not saved personally. In fact, I’ve heard it said that you go to hell alone, [but] you go to heaven in a community.
Another stone that was added by the Protestants was the concept of the individual interpretation of Scripture – “Me and My Bible. This is all I need is the Bible, and I can interpret it myself. I don’t need any church or any other authority to tell me what that Scripture means.” That has never been part of the original gift, and it still is not part of the original gift. This is part of the Protestant gift, and the Protestant gift, as you can see, is full of rocks!
They have this concept of the invisible church – that there is no hard, tangible evidence that a person is in the Church. The Orthodox [faith] says [that] when a person is baptized and chrismated into the Orthodox Church, you are now a member of the Church.
If you are not baptized and chrismated into the Orthodox Church, you are not a member of the Body of Christ or of the Church. It is very visible. It is tangible. It’s objective. This idea that is subjective, that you can be a part of the visible church and not a part of the invisible church or part of the invisible church but not a part of the visible church – this whole concept, this distinction and dichotomy between the visible and invisible church [is] brand new. This is a novel thing, a novel stone added into the Protestant gift.
[This is] a horrible one! Ecumenism – that there is not one Church, that we’re all part of the church, that it doesn’t matter what religion you are; it doesn’t matter what you believe; it doesn’t matter where you go to church as long as you go somewhere. This whole concept that we’re all part of the Body of Christ; we’re all believers, that is a heresy. It is called the heresy of ecumenism. Look it up. It starts with an “E.” E-C-U, ecumenism. This is a heresy that was brought in, and actually, the Roman Catholics now – it has gone upstream towards them as well. I will admit that it has poked its head into Orthodoxy a little bit, but that is something that we are trying to keep out. Ecumenism is a heresy! Period. Pure and simple.
Also, another stone added into the box by the Protestants is the abridged Bible based on a Masoretic Text. Remember, I said the Orthodox Church has our Bible based on the Septuagint, the Greek text which was translated several hundred years before Christ. The Protestants use a Masoretic Jewish version, a translation by Jews. People several hundred years after Christ made the [Masoretic] translation.
Let me ask you: Would you trust faithful Jewish people who were faithful to the Church several hundred years before Christ to translate Scripture and to have that same scripture quoted from extensively by Christ and the Apostles? Or would you rather trust a group of people who basically deny Christ, who hate Jesus, and who translated Scripture so that there are many places where prophesies of Christ are completely removed or changed? That is what the Masoretic Text is.
If you go on our website, you can look around and find enough documentation there to change your mind if you think the Masoretic Text is it. It’s not! You don’t go off the Masoretic Text which is fairly novel. You go off the Septuagint, which is the historical Greek translation of the early Scriptures. That stone of the Masoretic Text was added into the box.
By default, by adding some of those stones in there, we have to remove other ones which contradict it. So, they took out seven Roman Catholic rocks, and they kept four Roman Catholic rocks, but then they added eight more rocks to their own. Eight more Protestant rocks! But the method of protesting continued and instead of just adding rocks into it, now they start to reach in and throw away diamonds. These are the diamonds that they removed from the box:
They reached in their box, and they took out a beautiful diamond: baptism for the remission of sins and chrismation. They’ve stripped it. Some Protestants don’t baptize at all. Those that do don’t baptize three times by immersion. Those that do that still don’t believe that it really washes away your sins; they believe that it’s an outward sign of an inward work, that it’s basically just a pious skit that you do to show everybody really happened on the inside. Hence, a lot of Protestants don’t even baptize or they don’t think that they need to. That is taken out.
They took out the whole concept of one Church and one faith, and they added in that ecumenism we were talking about. They removed that big, beautiful diamond.
They removed the diamond of bishops, priests, and deacons in apostolic succession. There is no apostolic succession whatsoever in Protestant churches. They are completely cut off from the succession of the apostles. Even if it could be argued that they have apostolic succession by the laying on of hands, you have to have the laying on of hands and doctrine. The two together are what make apostolic succession.
If you take out the doctrine continuity, even if you have continuity of laying on of hands, it’s still not apostolic succession. So there is no way you can argue apostolic succession in the Protestant churches. They took that out! Now, some of them will call themselves deacons, but they don’t really have priests or bishops. Most of them have pastors.
They took out the authority of bishops and Ecumenical Councils. “Because we have no tradition, we have no ecumenical councils. Because we have no bishops, we have no authority of the Church to interpret the Holy Scriptures. It is my personal interpretation of Scripture that matters.” So they take out the authority of the Church, this diamond, and they replace it with a rock.
They took out the diamond of the Theotokos, the Mother of God. Many people, according to the original heresy that started in the Ecumenical Council that started the whole concept, will not call Mary the Theotokos, the Mother of God. They will deign to call her Christotokos at the very most, the Mother of Christ. They would not call her the Mother of God. Most Protestants will not, and they do not believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary most of the time although the early reformers did.
They took out a beautiful diamond of icons and their veneration. Most places, most Protestant churches will have no icons. [They won’t have] religions icons. They may have their pastor on a big jumbotron up there, but they will not have any icons of saints.
They took out the diamond of prayers – prayers to the saints, prayers for the departed. Now most Protestant prayers are pretty well devoid of anything having to do with the saints.
They took out one of my favorite diamonds, the beautiful diamond of the Eucharist being the Body and Blood of Christ. Now it’s just bread and wine. Often times it’s bread and grape juice. It’s not the Body and Blood of Christ anymore. It’s just a reminder; it’s just a remembrance; it’s just a memorial. Christ is nowhere present in the Protestant Eucharist.
They took out the diamond of the complete Bible based on the Septuagint as I mentioned. They now have the stone of the Masoretic Text.
They took out incense and candles, and they left them out of most of their worship services. Some Protestants will use candles during Advent, but other than that, there [are] no candles and incense in their services.
They took out the liturgy, and they took out the calendar. There is still some remnant of liturgy, but mostly, the only thing that they celebrate on the calendar is Christmas and Easter. Maybe those two. Some people will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and St. Valentine’s Day, but every day is a commemoration in the Orthodox Church. Most people have no idea that there is any kind of liturgical calendar or any kind of liturgy in the Orthodox Church. They have been so cut off from the original Church that they don’t even have a calendar or a liturgy.
They took out of their box confession and absolution. Now, they may go to an accountability group. They may go and speak about their sins, because you just can’t get away from some of these truths. But the whole ability for the priest to absolve them of their sins based on the power given to [him] by the episcopacy is gone. It’s completely devoid in Protestant churches.
BUT WE AGREE ON THE BASICS. . .
All of those diamonds have been removed from the box, from the gift that the Protestant churches have been given. Now the Protestants would like to say that, at least, we agree on the basics; “at least, when you look in here, we can agree on the basics!” So we [ask]: What are the basics? What are the basics that we still agree on?
The Holy Trinity
They reach in, and they say, “We still believe in the Holy Trinity. We still believe in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” But, to be honest, most Protestants hardly mention the Trinity. They don’t end their prayers with it the way that we do in the Orthodox Church. Every prayer that we have ends: “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
They hardly ever use or invoke the name of the Trinity. They won’t cross themselves at the mention of the Godhead. They’ve emptied it so much of all of its meaning, that it really isn’t even a diamond anymore! The Protestant concept of the Trinity kind of looks like a diamond, but it’s really an aluminum foil ball that they’ve dropped into their gift.
The Incarnation of Christ
One more diamond that’s remaining in there, that they’ll say that we have in common is [that] we believe in the Incarnation of Christ. “We believe that Jesus, that God took on flesh in the form of Christ, in the form of Jesus. We believe that in common with you.”
But, if you think about it, denying the Theotokos, denying the Mother of God title given to Mary actually denies the Incarnation. It is a denial of the Incarnation not to use the “Theotokos” word, her title. It is also denying the Incarnation when you deny the veneration of icons. When you look in the Protestant box, they have replaced even the big diamond of the incarnation with another foil ball.
Do we even agree on the basics? There are no diamonds in there. None!
They’ve removed them all. Then, to add insult to injury, in one fell swoop, the Protestants take all of these rocks and these foil balls, and they take them out of the beautiful wrapping that they were given. They throw away the wrapping of chanting, of ornate architecture, of ornate vestments, and bells, and beauty; and they replace it with starkness, with blank walls, with jumbotrons, and with stage bands. They have taken away the beauty of the gift and the wrapping, and dumped all of those rocks and foil balls into a cardboard box.
COMPARING THE GIFTS
You know, what’s really strange is that when the Protestants look at their gift and then compare it side-by-side with our gift, they say, “Why did you guys change so much? Why did you add so many things to the faith?” What’s sad is [that] they think that their gift is the original gift even though, as it is now, at best it’s 500 years old at the oldest. Our gift goes back nearly 2,000 years to 33 A.D. and to Christ and the Apostles – nearly 2,000 years of a gift!
Is this the gift that Christ and the Apostles gave the Church? How is it different? How is it the same? Is it even remotely the same? Is this [cardboard box full of rocks and foil] a gift that you would want to pass on to your children and grandchildren? Not me. Not when I can give them this beautiful gift.
Orthodoxy has sixteen priceless diamonds in a beautiful box.
The Roman Catholics would like to say that their gift is the same as ours, that we’re “two lungs” of the same Church. But Roman Catholics have fifteen diamonds and eleven rocks in a beautiful box. [It’s] not the same gift.
Protestants would like to say that we agree on the basics and that basically all believers are in the same church, but Protestants have two foil balls and twelve rocks in a cardboard box! They are not the same gift.
The Orthodox Church alone maintains the original gift: All the diamonds in a beautiful wrapping, uncorrupted, unchanged for 2,000 years. The only place where you can get the gift like this is in the Orthodox Church. Keep your gift, and protect it, and never, ever settle for any other gift except the gift of the Orthodox Church.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Our God is One.
This presentation was given by Subdeacon Jeremy Conrad in February 2015 at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois.
Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services. Dormition Text Services offers full-service secretarial support (including homily and presentation transcription and editing) for Orthodox clergy and parish communities.