The First Sorrowful Epistle

The First Sorrowful Epistle of Metropolitan St Philaret, the reposed first-hierarch of ROCOR, was written in 1969 against the various ecumenical activities that were occurring at the time.  At their ordination, Orthodox Christian bishops make a promise to preserve the teachings of the Church for all time, and, as such, has a duty to speak out against heresies that may be trying to make their way into the Church.  Those outside of the Church must not be told that they are considered part of the Church without abandoning their heretical teachings.

Should we be satisfied with the fact that every Church is responsible for itself? But what if the statements which trouble the faithful are made in the name of the whole Church, and therefore also involve our name, even though we have not authorized anybody to use it?

St. Gregory the Theologian once said that there are occasions “when even by silence truth can be betrayed.” Should we not also be betraying the truth if, on noticing a deviation from pure Orthodoxy, we merely kept silence—always an easier and safer thing to do than speaking out?

We observe, however, that nobody in a higher position than our own is raising his voice; and this fact constrains us to speak out, lest at the Last Judgment we should be reproached for having seen the danger of Ecumenism threaten the Church, and yet not having warned her Bishops.

At the Conference in Lausanne in 1937, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Metropolitan Germanos, clearly stated that restoring unity with the Church means for Protestants that they must return to the doctrines of the ancient Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. “And what are the elements of the Christian doctrines,” he said, “which should be regarded as necessary and essential? According to the understanding of the Orthodox Church there is no need now to make definitions of those necessary elements of faith, because they are already made in the ancient Creeds and the decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Therefore this teaching of the ancient undivided Church should be the basis of the reunion of the Church.”

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