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Saint Augustine in the Greek Orthodox Tradition

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Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou

For the last several decades, not just his theology but Augustine himself has been regarded as heretical by some theologians in the Orthodox Church. An attack on his person has been made by several theologians, excluding him from the list of saints. Meanwhile, others have called upon Orthodox theology to reevaluate and reinstitute Augustine to his rightful place as a great theologian­-philosopher of the universal Church.

In order to clarify where Augustine stands in regard to Greek Orthodoxy, my thesis in this paper is that he has been a “saint” of the Church and has never been erased from the list of saints. It is true that some of his teachings were highly criticized and branded as heretical, but this occurred after his death. The most important doctrinal controversy surrounding his name is the filioque. Other doctrines that were unacceptable to the Church are his view of original sin, the doctrine of grace, and predestination. My intention in this paper is to present the Orthodox writings, both ancient and modern, on the person and theology of Augustine.


The first major theologian of the Orthodox church to come to grips with the filioque was Saint Photios who also deals with the person of Saint Augustine. He makes the case that a saint who erred on a doctrine that was instituted subsequent to his death is not guilty of heresy and that the holiness of the person was not lessened. In the case of Augustine, Saint Photios suspects that his writings were distorted. Photios asks, “How can one be certain that after the lapse of all these years the writings have not been distorted?”[1] Saint Photios insists that even if the writings are authentic and the Latins quote these writings to support their false teachings they do a disservice to these fathers. Photios states, “Read through Ambrose or Augustine or whatever father you choose: which of them wished to affirm anything contrary to the Master’s voice?” And further on, he says:

“If those fathers who taught such opinions did not alter or change the correct statements, then you who teach your word as a dogma ­again, this is another slander against your fathers ­bring your own stubbornness of opinion into the teachings of these men.”[2]

Photios argues that although these fathers were endowed with holiness, they were at the same time human and not exempt from slipping into error. And so Photios advises the Latins to leave the fathers, Ambrose and Augustine, alone. He states:

“Though they were otherwise arrayed with the noblest reflections, they were human. If they slipped and fell into error, therefore, by some negligence or oversight, then we should not gainsay or admonish them. But what is this to you?”[3]

Although Augustine and Ambrose use the filioque, they did not intend to include it in the Creed. The addition of the filioque to the Creed is offensive to the Greek Orthodox. Photios makes this clear in the following statement:

“For they were not, even in the slightest degree, participants in those things in which you abound. They were rather adorned with many examples of virtue and piety and thus professed your teaching either through ignorance or oversight which was never imposed as a dogma.”[4]

Photios contends that the fathers, including Ambrose and Augustine, did not teach error, but even if they did, they were human, and no one, being human, is exempt from error. He states, “for they were all men (anthropoi) and human, and no one composed of dust and ephemeral nature can avoid some step of defilement.”[5]

Photios insists that even though these holy men, Ambrose and Augustine, may have taught the erroneous doctrine of the filioque, they are but a small minority. The majority of the fathers, the consensus patrum, is on the side of the true doctrine and that we must follow. Photios states:

“If the great Ambrose and Augustine and Jerome and some others who are of the same opinion and on the same level and happen to have the great reputation of virtue and illustrious life, teach among others, that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son, this does not lessen their importance for the Church.”[6]

Photios continues in the same paragraph, arguing that, it is primarily evident to say to them (Latins) that, if ten or even twenty such fathers spoke in such a manner, thousands (myrioi) of fathers did not say such a thing. He asks, “Who then insults the fathers?” And, “Is it not those who limit the piety of those few fathers in a few words they spoke and place then in contradiction to the synods and prefer the few to the numberless fathers who defend the true doctrine?” He continues to question the Latins thusly, “Who is the offender (huvristes) of the holy (ieron) Augustine and Jerome and Ambrose? Is it not he who compels them to come into conflict with the common Master and Teacher? Or, is it he who does not do such a thing, but demands (axion) to follow the statutes of the Master?”[7]

St. Photios suggests to leave these Latin fathers alone, whose doctrines are in conflict with the decision of the Scriptures and the Ecumenical Councils, because by appealing to them to support the errors of the Latins, they uncover the errors of these pious men. The appropriate respect for these holy men is to be silent about their weaknesses.[8]

Furthermore, Photios suggests that one should sympathize with these fathers because they theologized at a time of historical perplexity that led them to errors on some doctrines. So, Photios maintains that he who dies, is not present to defend himself and no one else can undertake his defense. And for that reason, no one of sound mind would make an accusation against him (kategoros).[9]

Photios argues that at the common Council of 879-880, the legates of the Old Rome agreed with the theologians of the New Rome, that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father. At that council all agreed on the Holy Creed and the Ecumenical Councils and sealed with their signatures the faith that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father; and that the Old Rome in the person of Pope John through his vicars (topoteritai) were in communion with Photios and the Church of Constantinople because they were in agreement in their theology.[10]

It is evident from the foregoing that Photios did not exclude Augustine from the list of saints and fathers even though he accepts that he, as a human being, erred in some doctrinal issues. This is my discovery from the several references made to Augustine in the writing of Saint Photios ­ holiness and virtue are permanent in spite of the human frailty of falling into error. Augustine, in the eyes of Saint Photios and the Byzantines, remains one of the fathers of the Latin West.


Augustine himself had not been personally attacked by the Hesychasts of the fourteenth century but Augustinian theology was condemned in the person of Barlaam, who caused the controversy. This resulted in the ultimate condemnation of western Augustinianism as presented to the East by the Calabrian monk, Barlaam, in the Councils of the fourteenth century.

Palamas, the Orthodox protagonist, wrote numerous treatises against the filioque and the basic theological philosophical presuppositions of Latin theology. Saint Gregory Palamas followed the Cappadocian theological presuppositions and maintained that God’s essence is totally transcendent and supported the evidence of personal participation in the uncreated energies. That is, he opposed the identity of the essence with the attributes in God. It was the conflict of the theology of revelation based on Augustine, which came from the West through Barlaam, that was reacted against. Revelation for Palamas is directly experienced in the divine energies and is opposed to the conceptualization of revelation. The Augustinian view of revelation by created symbols and illumined vision is rejected. For Augustine, the vision of God is an intellectual experience. This is not acceptable to Palamas. The Palamite emphasis was that creatures, including humans and angles, cannot know or comprehend God’s essence.[11]

In the person of Barlaam, the East rejected Augustinian theology. The East perceived that Augustine accepts the neo-Platonic presupposition that the saint is able to have vision of the divine essence as the archetype of all beings. Barlaam contended under the influence of neo-Platonism that through ekstasis, the reason going out of the body when it functions in a pure way, one has a vision of the divine archetype. Palamas calls this the Greek pagan error and maintained that man attains theosis through participation in the divine energies.[12]

Later, for political reasons, the Byzantine emperors sought union with Rome to save the empire. The Emperor, the Patriarch and a delegation came to Ferrara in 1438 to participate at a council with the pope and bring about union between the Greeks and the Latins.

In the debate between the Greeks and the Latins, numerous times the authority of Augustine came up. The adamant Greek Orthodox theologian, Mark Eugenikos, used the work of Augustine to support his views. In regard to the errors of Augustine, he tried to place him in the best possible light, following the example of Saint Photios. He makes reference to Saint Gregory of Nyssa who agreed with the Origenist doctrines. He says “it would be better to give them over to silence, and not at all compel us, for the sake of our own defence, to bring them out into the open.”[13]


Also attending the Council at Ferrara-Florence was a theologian of great stature, Gennadios Scholarios. He knew Latin and Latin theology. He had translated several treatises of Thomas Aquinas into Greek for the benefit of his compatriots. He spent a great deal of time studying and writing on Augustine in the debate on the filioque.

Scholarios approaches Saint Augustine and all the other fathers as individuals who must be in concord with the Church’s dogmas and teachings. He states, “we believe in the Church; they (the Latins) in Augustine and Jerome.” The Church holds to our Lord’s dogmas and teachings that were commonly given by the holy apostles and councils.[14]

Gennadios expresses his opinion that no individual person is a “saint” in isolation. Were that the case, the Church would be subservient to the teachers and change according to the whims of strong personalities.

The Church has its own standards and law for sanctifying a person. The saints are guided and governed by the Holy Spirit, especially those who have advanced in virtue and holiness. This guidance the Holy Spirit of the saint does not mean that they are one. Saints can have their own thoughts that may be contrary to the teaching of God, as their actions may be also, because no one is without error or sin (hamartema).[15]

On this basis, that even saints may err, Scholarios strengthened his argument against the Latins who based their false doctrines of the filioque on the validity and holiness of Augustine. Scholarios makes his case as follows:

“But they state that the blessed Augustine says these things. But we believe neither in Augustine nor in Damascene but in the Church which the canonical Scriptures confirm and the common Synods of the faithful commend, the Church of Christ.”[16]

Another example he gives is Gregory of Nyssa who erred on the doctrine of eschatology and yet is a saint of the Church.[17]

In all this discussion on “blessed Augustine,” Scholarios does not renounce the holiness and the teaching value of Augustine. In fact he anathematizes those who deny his saintliness. He says: “if anyone does not believe and call Augustine saint and blessed, he is anathema.”[18]

In making the point, Scholarios argues that the doctrines of the western theologians must be judged according to Eastern Christian Orthodox standards. This is because of the clarity of the Greek language. He gives three arguments in defence of the Eastern Christian positions as being the true ones: that Greek is more broad and flexible than Latin as well as clearer in meaning. And, of course, the Greek is the source of the Latin language. He gives references to Augustine, Athanasios, and Gregory the Theologian who state that Latin is much narrower and that is the cause of the schism between East and West.

The second reason is the formulation of dogma is clearly stated in the Greek language.[19] The eastern fathers and teachers formulated the dogmas with great care because they struggled against the heretical doctrines. For this reason, it was necessary for them to articulate the faith with great precision in order not to give the heretics the excuse to attack them for their lack of clarity and vagueness.[20]

The third reason he gives is that it prevailed in the Latin language to express itself in universal and general terms (katholikoterais kai genidoterais lexesi), whereas in the East, the Fathers use specific and precise names (idikoterois onomasi) in articulating the Christian doctrines.[21]

Scholarios points out that Augustine accepted and developed the filioque under four presuppositions:

Augustine was under the impression that he was following Hilary and his teacher Ambrose. He points out that Jerome, who was educated in the Greek East, avoided the filioque language. The difference between Hilary and Ambrose on the one side and Augustine on the other is that the first two fathers were expressing a personal opinion whereas Augustine struggled against all those who expressed views opposite to his.[22]
On the basis of Scripture that states the Spirit as power issued from the Son to heal all the sick, as well as the Son who sends and breathes the Spirit on the Apostles, Augustine interpreted these passages on the basis of the opinion of Hilary and Ambrose.[23]
Augustine used human models beyond the limits to describe the Holy Trinity and for that reason he fell into error.[24]
Augustine followed the Platonic position that God primarily is the Good (Agathon). The Good eternally begets (aidios) the Mind (Nous). The Mind is the cause of all beings and is also called secondary cause, and is referred to as “idea” and “logos.” From the mind the universal soul is derived that gives vitality to all living beings. So, Scholarios claims that Augustine transferred this view into the Christian Trinity. The “Good” (Agathon) is unbegotten and not bound to intellect (agenneton). The Mind (Nous) is begotten only from the Good. The Soul is derived from the Mind and returns to the Good. The Soul is the relational connection as love between the Good and the Mind. These views not only were accepted by Plato, but also by Plotinus as well as by numerous heretics.[25]
Scholarios blames Augustine for his notorious philosophical approach to revelation. It was the Manichean influence that Augustine underwent during his pre-Christian involvement with that heresy. His pagan and Manichean training remained with him all his life. In fact, Scholarios says “Lord deliver us from the Augustinian dialectic.”[26]

Scholarios accepts that Augustine believed in the faith of the Church and confirmed the Constantinopolitan Creed,[27] in spite of the fact that he erred as an individual human being.[28] This does not take away from his holiness. For Scholarios, Augustine is “blessed” as well as a “wise” person who deserves all such praises and honors.[29] He is very critical of the theology of Augustine because he feels that he has not shaken off the influence he underwent in his pagan Greek philosophical training before his conversion to Christianity.


The prominent seventeenth-century Greek Orthodox theologian, Dositheos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, contends that the works of Saint Augustine were tampered with and his doctrines distorted. For that reason the Orthodox do not accept them without caution. But all those works that agree with Orthodoxy are very useful. Dositheos himself uses “blessed” Augustine to support his own views of Orthodox doctrines.[30]

The celebrated theologian of the eighteenth century, Nikodemos the Hagiorite, included the name of Saint Augustine in the Synaxaristes (the book of the saints). He states the following: “In memory of our father among the saints, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.”[31] And he includes two verses as follows: “You were enflamed by the love of God, you demonstrated to be all splendid, blessed Augustine.”[32]

Nikodemos refers to Augustine as the “divine and holy” (Theios kai ieros), writing that Augustine is a great teacher and theologian of “great fame in the Church of Christ.” Nikodemos praises him for the great number of books he authored. However, he regrets that very few have been translated into Greek for the spiritual benefit and edification of the Greek Orthodox people. He says we are deprived (sterometha) of the spiritual wealth of these valuable writings.[33]

Subsequent to Nikodemos the name of Saint Augustine appears in the book of saints and also in the calendar (June 15) both in Greece and Russia.

In the modern patrology and dogmatic handbooks of the Orthodox writers, Augustine is included. He is given equal space as a father and hierarch of the Church and is praised for his great number of writings and for his depth.[34]

Also, the philosophy of Saint Augustine has been praised and analyzed by modern Greek Orthodox thinkers such as Constantine Logothetis and Ioannis Theodorakopoulos.[35]

Eusebius Stephanou wrote several years ago that Saint Augustine must be reinstated in his rightful place within the Church. Only in Orthodoxy can his thought be objectively evaluated because of the western errors based on his thought.[36]

Other Greek Orthodox theologians found Saint Augustine to be an Orthodox theologian-philosopher. Recent works that are sympathetic to Saint Augustine were promoted by Metropolitan Bishop Augustinos Kantiotes of Northern Greece. A symposium was held in Thessalonike and three small volumes were published that extol the works and teachings of Saint Augustine. These circulated for popular consumption.[37] Another book claims that “Saint Augustine belongs to the universal undivided Church of Christ, equally to the West as well as to the East, because he lived before the schism.”[38]

Seraphim Rose wrote a small book that attempts to exonerate Saint Augustine from the Orthodox perspective.[39] This approach is not universally accepted in Orthodoxy. Recent Orthodox theologians have attacked Augustine as an innovator of heretical teachings.

Fr. John Romanides and Fr. Michael Azkoul have been extremely critical of Augustine. Fr. Romanides in his doctoral dissertation at the University of Athens in 1957 harshly judged Augustine as the source of all the western heresies and deformation of dogma.

Romanides, in his work, Franks, Romans, Feudalism and Doctrine, severely attacks Augustine’s works and doctrines as heretical. In an analytical method, Romanides points to the thrust of the theological­ philosophical errors of Augustine on the filioque. Augustine’s basic mistake lies in his rejection of the “distinction between what persons are and what they have (even though this is a biblical distinction) and identified what God is with what He has.”[40] So Romanides blames Augustine saying that he “never understood the distinction between 1: the common essence and energies of the Holy Trinity and 2: the incommunicable individualities of the divine hypostases.”[41]

Romanides criticizes Augustine for speculating on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. He claims that Augustine confused “generation” and “procession” and identified them with the divine energies.[42]

The theological presuppositions of Augustine are erroneous because he ignores the patristic tradition. His presuppositions, according to Romanides, are based on scriptural and philosophical hermenuetics and not on the Church fathers. The first criticism, that is the one dealing with the scriptural basis, is that Augustine completely misinterprets the Scriptures because he identifies the Divine Essence with the Divine energies. And secondly, or philosophically, Romanides claims that Augustine theologized on the basis of Neoplatonism. That is, the model of the human soul is used as an adequate image of the Holy Trinity.[43]

Michael Azkoul, a conservative, old-calendarist theologian, equally attacks Augustine’s theology and his works as heretical. He points out that Augustine was not known in the East and had not, until recently, been listed in the list of saints. He states that, “His writings lie at the basis of every heresy which now afflicts the religion of the West.”[44]

In one of his books, Azkoul presents and supports his basic thesis that Augustine fell into several heresies and became the source for the heretical West and for that reason is not included in the Orthodox list of saints. He blames Augustine for the deformation of the theology of the West.[45]


In reviewing the Greek Orthodox literature we see that the Greek Orthodox theologians are very critical of Augustine and his errors. Nowhere, however, did we find evidence in the patristic writings for the claim that his name should be eliminated from the list of the saints. Beginning with Photios, generally, the Greek Orthodox perceive Augustine as a saint whose doctrines have been deformed or distorted by the West and that as a human being he erred on certain teachings. As Greek Orthodox we reverence the person of Saint Augustine. The view of Vladimir Lossky is that, through a better understanding of Augustine by the East, it is possible to bridge the two positions in theology. To quote Lossky:

“Reconciliation will be possible and the filioque will no longer be an impedimentum dirmens at the moment when the West, which has been frozen for so long in dogmatic isolation, ceases to consider Byzantine theology as an absurd innovation which can be found in a less explicit form in the Fathers of the first centuries of the Church.”[46]

I would like to conclude with the Dismissal Hymn chanted in the Orthodox Church on June 15, the Feast of Saint Augustine:

“O blessed Augustine, you have been proved to be a bright vessel of the divine Spirit and revealer of the city of God; you have also righteously served the Saviour as a wise hierarch who has received God. O righteous father, pray to Christ God that he may grant to us great mercy.”[47]

[1] J.P. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus. Series Graeca. Vol. 102, Book 2. Paris (1857-1866), c. 352, cited as PG. Photios, Mystagogia, 71.

[2] Photios, Mystagogia, 67. PG 102, c.345. Saint Photios. The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit. Trans. Joseph P. Farrell. (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1987) p. 91

[3] Farrell, p.91.

[4] Photios, Mystagogia, 67; Farrell, p.91.

[5] Farrell, The Mystagogy, 69, p.93; PG 102, c. 352; Mystagogia. 70.

[6]Letter of Photios to Metropolitan Archbishop of Aquieleia, Liber, 117. PG 102, c. 809.

[7] Ibid.

[8] PG 102, c. 809, 812 Letter to the Metropolitan Archbishop of Aquieleia, Liber 117.

[9]Letter to Archibishop of Aquieleia, Liber 122, PG 102, c.816.

[10]Letter to the Archbishop of Aquieleia, Liber 125, PG 102, c.820. The council of 879-880 condemned the Carolingians without naming them. See John S. Romanides, Franks, Romans, Feudalism and Doctrine; An Interplay Between Theology and Society (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1981) p. 66.

[11] Romanides, Franks, Romans, Feudalism, p.67

[12] Antonios Papadopoulos, Theologike Gnosiologia Kata Tous Niptikous Pateras (Thessalonike: Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, 1977) pp. 79-81.

[13] “Marci Archiepiscopi Ephesii Oratio Prima de Igne Purgatorio,” Ch. 11 in Patrologia Orientalis, Vol. 15. Trans. and edited by Louis Petit. Turnhout/Belgique: Editions Brepols (1973) p. 53. See also Seraphim Rose, The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church (Platina, CA: Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1983) p. 30.

[14] Theodoros N. Zeses, Gennadios B’ Scholarios Bios-Sygrammata-Didaskalia (Thessalonike: Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies, 1980) p. 455. Gennadios Scholarios. Oeuvres Completes (Paris: Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1929). Tome ii, p.64 . See also Demetri Z. Niketa. “The presence of Augustine in the Eastern church” (in Greek) Kleronomia Vol. 14, No. 1 (June 1982) pp. 7-24.

[15] Scholarios, Oeuvres II, pp. 58-59

[16] Scholarios, Oeuvres Tome III, p. 83: alla fasin, oti taut’ Augoustinos o makarios legei: All’ hemeis eis the ekklesian pisteuomen, en ai kanonikai grafai synistosi kai ai koinai ton piston synodi, ten Ekklesian Cristou paristanousai, ouk eis Augoustinon, oud’ eis Damaskenon.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Scholarios, Oeuvres III, p. 59: kai eis tis fronei kai legei ton Augoustinon agion kaimakarion einai anathema.

[19] Scholarios, Oeuvres, III, p. 58.

[20] Ibid. III p.59.

[21] Ibid. III, p.58

[22] Scholarios, Oeuvres, II, p. 46.

[23] Ibid. p.47.

[24] Ibid. II, p. 48.

[25] Ibid. II, p. 48.

[26] Ibid.,II, p. 46: Rysai hemas, kyrie, tes Augoustiniou dialektikes.

[27] PG 160, c. 693.

[28] Scholarios, Oeuvres, II, p. 49: Augoustinon de kai tina allon ton didaskalon dynasthai tes aletheias en tini diamartanein hegoumetha, kan oposeoun agiosyne didaskalia dienegken.

[29] Scholarios, Oeuvres, III, p. 59: makarios esti kai sophos kai epainetos tes toiaytes philotimias. See also PG 160, c. 718.

[30] Nicodemos the Hagiorite, Synaxaristes Vol. 2. Athens: Constantine Ch. Spanos Publishing House (1868) p. 207 note. Dositheos makes reference to (blessed) Augustine, in his Homologia tes Orthodoxou Pisteos. (Athens, 1949) offprint from Theologia 20 (1949) pp. 147, 156.

[31] Ibid. Vol. 2, p.206.

[32] Ibid. Vol. 2, p.206.

[33] Ibid. Vol. 2, p.207. He also makes reference to the Greek translation of the De Trinitate by Maximos Planoudes and that copies are available on Mt. Athos.

[34] Demetrios S. Balanos, Patrologia (The Ecclesiastical Fathers and Teachers of the First Eight Centuries) in Greek. (Athens: I.L. Alevropoulos Press, 1930) pp. 463-482. He gives a good analysis of the works and teachings of Augustine. See also Panagiotes K. Chrestou. Pateres kai Theologoi tou Christianismou Vol. 1. (Thessalonike: n.s., 1971) pp. 257-269. He characterizes Augustine as one of the greatest universal teachers of the Church and one of the most important philosophers of the world.” p.157. Constantine G. Bonis. “Ho Hagios Augustinos Episkopos Hipponos.” Epistemonike Eperteris tes Theologikes Scholes Panepistemiou Athenon Vol. 15 (1965) pp. 535-632.

[35] Constantine I. Logothetis, He Philosophia ton Pateron kai tou Mesou Aionos (Athens: I. K. Kollaros Press, 1930) pp. 278-344. And Ioannis N. Theodorakopoulos. “Ho Hieros Augoustinos.” Philosophika kai Christianika Meletimata. (Athens: G. Rode Brs. Press, 1973) pp. 95-187. Both these authors extol the philosophy of Augustine as one of the greatest Christian philosophers of the world. They give an excellent analysis of his philosophy.


[37] Eusebious Papastephanou, Christianismos kai philosophia (Athen: n.p., 1953) p.14, n. 1. See also: Theodore Stylianopoulos. “The Filioque: Dogma, Theologoumenon or Error?” Spirit of Truth: Ecumenical Perspectives on the Holy Spirit. Theodore Stylianopooulos and S. Mark Heim, eds. (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1986) pp. 25-28.

[38] Aimilianos Timiades, Ho Hieros Augoustinos (Thessalonike: Christianike Elpis Press, 1988) p. 7. In this book of 324 pages the life and works are presented and the contents analyzed. However, the Author does not critically evaluate Augustinian thought from the Orthodox perspective.

[39] Seraphim Rose, Place of Blessed Augustine, p. 30.

[40] Romanides, Franks, Romans, Feudalism, p.74

[41] Ibid. p.74

[42] Ibid. p. 88.

[43] John Romanides, Dogmatike kai Symbolike Theologia tes Orthodoxou katholikes Ekklesias Vol. 1 (Thessalonike: P. Pournaras Press, 1973) p. 383. See also his criticism of Augustine in “Highlights in the Debate over Theodore of Mopuestia’s Christology and Some Suggestions for a Fresh Approach.” The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 5: 2 (Winter 1959-1960): 182-83.

[44] Michael Azkoul, The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church. Vol. 1 (Buena Vista, Co: Dormition Skete, 1986) p. 199. See a criticism of this book by Bishop Chrysostomos of Oreoi in The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 32:1 (Spring 1987) pp. 100-103.

[45] Michael Azkoul, The Influence of Augustine of Hippo on the Orthodox Church. Texts and Studies in Religion. Vol. 56. (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990). See my review, The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 39:3-4. (1994) pp. 379-381.

[46] Vladimir Lossky, “The Procession of the Holy Spirit in Orthodox Trinitarian Doctrine.” In The Image and Likeness of God (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974) p. 96.

[47] Nikolaos S. Hatzinikolaou, Voices in the Wilderness: An Anthology of Patristic Prayers (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1988) p. 109.


Dynamic Duo

Holy and Glorious Apostles… Batman! Similar somewhat irreverent exclamations could be heard weekly on the late 1960’s television program Batman. Now, I do not specialize in comic book or television superheroes, so I am unaware if this phrase originated from the comic books or the TV series. Nonetheless, the phrase “Dynamic Duo” most often makes me think of super heroes such as Batman and Robin. But spandex wearing supermen and women of wonder are not the original dynamic duos.

In the month of June we remember and celebrate the memories of the original Dynamic duo – the Apostles Peter and Paul. These two individuals have come to define Western and Eastern Christianity today. Let’s familiarize ourselves with their life story with help from St. Augustine Bishop of Hippo. St. Peter had intense interactions with Jesus. You will recall the formidable conversation between the two when Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves Jesus. Peter admits to loving Jesus like a brother, but not with the agape/unconditional love Jesus asks for. You will recall the despairing denial of Christ that Peter unwittingly falls into when Jesus is arrested. Finally you will recall that Jesus tells Peter that “on this rock, I will build my Church”. (Mt. 16.18) This one liner quote has been misinterpreted by many. St. Augustine helps us understand the play on words Jesus is employing. Peter’s name in the Aramaic and Greek language is Petrus(os) and means rock. Petra in the Aramaic and Greek language means rock; therefore is Jesus saying that on Peter, Jesus will build His Church? No; herein lays the confusion. When we recall Peter’s interactions with Jesus, eventually Peter gets to a point in his relationship with Jesus where he can call Jesus the Son of God. This is a confession of faith. Jesus is after all the divine rock and on Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Son of God; Jesus Christ builds His Church. The foundation for the Church is confessing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the Second Person of the Trinity.

Turning our attention to the East, St. Paul also had intense interactions with Christ. We recall how Paul as Pharisee persecuted Christians; arrested them for their confession of faith about who Jesus is. Paul had a life changing experience with Christ on the road to Damascus where Jesus confronted Paul telling him that persecuting Christians is really persecuting Christ Himself! Paul’s zeal for the one, true God was off base, but Paul was ready to obey Jesus. (Acts 9.1-6) He needed a significant spiritual encounter with Jesus in order to help him get on the right Way. Paul’s zeal was eventually used to bring people to Christ’s Church.

Can these supermen Peter and Paul be imitated today? Where are the blockbuster action summer movies about this dynamic duo? The blessing and miracle of our life in Christ is that we all must become dynamic Orthodox Christians! Many of us doubt Christ; some of us deny Him in our lives. If we can accept that these are just stages of growth and spiritual maturity which one day culminates with our confession that Jesus is God, we can indeed imitate Peter and Paul. Through the prayers of Sts. Peter and Paul, may our lives become a living example of this Dynamic Duo!

May God’s Love and Blessings be with you,

Fr. Dino