Clerical Articles

The basic elements of the Orthodox Dogmatics

  • May 8, 2017

Metropolitan Jeremiah of Gortina

Our preaches, beloved Christians, refer at the Dogmas of our Orthodox Faith. These dogmas  I talked to you about in my previous preach, are the right lines, let’s say it so, we should follow in order to experience our God and accomplish our salvation. By the Dogmas is expressed the entire teaching of our Orthodox faith which is called Dogmatic teaching. 

From the beginning I wanted to tell you my brothers some general principles which represent the basic elements of the Orthodoc dogmatic teaching. The first basic element is the one I mentioned in my previous preach that in our Orthodox Church we don’t create new dogmas, new truths.

The Catholics do this, their system, as if it were a machine, produces all the time new dogmas, as it is the one about the papal primacy. We in Orthodoxy keep the traditional faith of the Church, without adding or removing anything from it. That is why as the first basic element we shall say the word of Saint John the Damascene, he writes at the beginning of his Dogmatics: I will not say anything from myhself. And he adds that he shall say what was stated by the Holy Fathers.

 

Another basic element I would like to discuss, my brothers, is that the Orthodox dogmatic teaching talking about God makes a distinction between essence and energy in God.

This dogma is very important and we differ from the Catholics who do not make this distinction in God. They accept God only as essence.

But God’s essence is unreached and unseen. Then why Christ told us that those pure at heart shall see God? (see Matthew 5,8) They shall see Him through his divine energies. If God is only essence, as the Catholics say, then how was the world created? From God’s essence?

Then everything around us, the stones and the grass would be God if they had been made from His essence. In this way we would reach pantheism which `is the most indecent of all` as saint Gregory Palamas says. Saint Kosmas the Etholian when talking about God mentioned the image of sun.

This image is very beautiful. With heat of the sun, its lava, with its essence, let’s say so, we can never come in contact, because we would be burnt. But although we cannot share the lava of the sun, we share its energies, its light and heat. Thus we commune God through His divine energies. God created the world and takes care of it through His divine energies and through His energies we sanctify ourselves and find our salvation.

Saint Basil the Great, holy father from the 4th century said: `We say that we know God through His energies, but it is not allowed to us to reach His essence. Since His energies fall over us while His essence remains inaccessible.`

And there is a third thing I want to approach in my preach from today, my Christian brothers, which is a basic condition in our Orthodox Theology. It is about the fact that we must make a clear distinction between created and uncreated, between the One who is and the One who is not. God is uncreated while all the others, the world surrounding us, we, the humans and even the angels all these are created.

God is the only True Being, the only True Existence. And we the humans, the angels we became beings, we came into existence by God’s Being. Everything relates to God is uncreated. That is why when we speak about God’s energies by means of which He communicates with us, as I have previously said, we should also add that these energies are uncreated. We should say by means of the `uncreated divine energies.`

I say this because all the Catholics while before they did not accept the energies of God and preached that God is inactive, but because of the bright polemic of saint Gregory Palamas, they were ultimately forced to accept that God has energies, but they called them `created`. `Created, not uncreated energies.` This is the wrong Catholic dogma.

If the energies of God, through which God saves our souls, had been created, then how would we find our salvation? How do we reach godliness? The created cannot bring salvation or sanctification. The created needs its own salvation and sanctification. We mention here saint Gregory the Theologian who, for combating the Pneumatomachi (who were against the Holy Spirit) who said that the Holy Spirit is not God, but a creation, said these bold words: `If the Holy Spirit is not God but a creation then…let Him sanctify Himself then ourselves who are created like Him as well! But let us sanctify ourselves through the divine energies which are uncreated, not created.

But we have some more others basic teachings of the Orthodox Dogmatics as some keys of it that we should know. We shall talk about them with the help of God in our next preach.

With many blessings,

† JEREMIAH, metropolitan of Gortina and Megalopolis