H.H. Pope Shenouda III
Mary & Amani Bassilli
Coptic Orthodox Publishers Association
50 Netherford Road
London SW4 6AE
Tel: 01-622 0166
Copyright © the Author, 1988
ISBN 1 871646 00 6
H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 117th Pope of
Alexandria and the See of St. Mark
The Veneration of the Virgin Mary and her Perpetual
Spiritual Gifts and the Gift of Speaking in tongues
We are in an age in which Ecumenical work and attempts
towards the recovery of the Christian Unity have flourished.
The meetings between the Churches, in councils, conferences
and symposiums have increased, and the fields of co-operation
and co-working have multiplied.
However, unity is in a much higher level than cooperation.
The Christian Unity should be built on the foundation of the
"One Faith". Thus began the theological discussions between
This book in your hands is a step in this theological
discussion between our brethren the Protestants and us.
Our brethren the Protestants comprise numerous
denominations. There are partial variances between them, but
as a whole they are enclosed within one frame. We will try in
an atmosphere of love to discuss the points they have in
Here we do not include our brethren the Anglicans, as most
of the topics in this book apply to other denominations of the
In our discussion we have taken care to depend exclusively
upon the Holy Bible, quoting none of the sayings of the Church
Fathers or Tradition.
We shall speak with absolute frankness in handling the points
of variance between Protestantism and Orthodoxy. We shall
analyse them and see the opinion of the Holy Bible on them.
This book is the first volume of our discussion. It will be
followed by others to cover the remaining points of difference,
with the aspiration that this may bring us to a dogmatic and
We are prepared to reply to all the comments that we may
Lastly, we pray that the Lord may preserve our discussion in
the atmosphere of love of which we are circumspect.
August, 1988 Pope Shenouda III
One Faith and Sound Doctrine
Theology is the discourse about God, blessed be His Name.
Only those who have known God, and their disciples, are able
to speak about Him.
Theology needs accuracy of expression and interpretation,
and knowledge of the reliable sources believed in by all
Christians. We, as a traditional and conservative Church,
maintain the Apostolic Faith that was once entrusted to us by
the saints (Jude 1-3). We do not introduce any innovations in
religion, nor do we move an ancient boundary marker set up by
our forefathers (Prov.22: 28).
The faith of the Church is "one faith" (Eph.4: 5). The
Church reminds us every day of this one faith, in a reading we
pray in Matins from chapter four of Saint Paul's Epistle to the
Ephesians. This one faith is the faith of every member of the
Church. Whoever did not believe was isolated by the Church
and forbidden to mix with others lest he corrupt their faith.
Therefore, our teacher St. John the Evangelist says: "If anyone
comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive
him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him
shares in his evil deeds" (2John. 10, 11).
The basic source of the one faith is the Holy Bible. The
other sources are the sayings of the saints, the authenticated
creeds of the holy councils, and what was recorded in the
Church books, especially the ritual books. All these are in
accord with the Holy Bible and are called as a whole 'Church
The criterion by which we validate the accuracy of Tradition
is the important condition that it complies with the Holy Bible.
Our teacher St. Paul the Apostle says: "But even if we, or an
angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what
we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal.1: 8). He
also says: "As we have said before, so now I say again, if
anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have
received, let him be accursed" (Gal.1: 9).
That was why, in the Apostolic era and thereafter, during her
early stages, the Church was extremely circumspect to
safeguard the teaching and thus safeguard the faith. For this
reason, St. Paul the Apostle says to his disciple St. Titus the
Bishop of Crete: "But as for you, speak the things which are
proper for sound doctrine" (Titus 2: 1). This sound doctrine
was commanded to the first bishop fathers directly by the
Apostles, and then from the bishops to other generations
through honest teaching. Thus the sound doctrine was handed
down from one generation to the next. St. Paul the Apostle
says to his disciple Bishop Timothy: "And the things that you
have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to
faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2Tim.2:
2) and "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have
heard from me, in faith" (2Tim.1: 13).
Teaching Is the Task of the Clergy
Teaching was the task of the Apostles and then of their
disciples the bishops, priests and deacons. It was never the
work of the laity. The Lord Jesus Christ entrusted the task of
teaching to the Apostles when He said to them: "Go therefore
and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded
you" (Matt. 28:19,20) and "Go into all the world and preach
the gospel to every creature" (Mark.16: 15). He did not say this
The Apostles considered preaching, teaching, ministry of the
word and entrusting the faith to others, their main task. On the
occasion of ordaining the seven deacons, St. Peter the Apostle
said: "...but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to
the ministry of the word" (Acts 6: 4) and he said about the
Lord: "...He commanded us to preach to the people"(Acts 10:
42). St. Paul the Apostle said about the Gospel: "...to which I
was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the
Gentiles" (2Tim. 1: 11). Thus this Apostle lived preaching the
kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts
St. Paul the Apostle entrusted the task of teaching and
preaching to his disciples the bishops. He said to his disciple St.
Timothy: "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of
season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and
teaching" (2Tim.4: 2). And to his disciple Bishop Titus, he said:
"Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let
no one despise you" (Titus 2:15).
The task of teaching was entrusted to bishops, then to priests
and clergymen in general, as we will mention in detail in due
course, since the Law is sought from the mouth of the clergyman.
Holy councils of bishops were formed and had the authority to
legislate laws and canons in the holy Church. The replies of many
of the bishops on religious affairs were considered sacred canons
recognised by the Universal Church. A vivid example of this is
what occurred during the visit of Pope Timothy Alexandrus, the
22nd Pope of Constantinople, to the Ecumenical Council held in
381 A. D. All his replies were considered Church canons. (See
Volume 14 of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers series).
As for the laity, they were always in the position of learners.
The clergymen became teachers not only because they preached
from the Church pulpit but also because of them being spiritual
counsellors in confessions and the like.
Faith and doctrine were the task of the Church, represented by
her councils and bishops, and were interpreted by the clergymen to
the people. Preachers are not entitled to teach their own opinions on
the subjects of faith and doctrine but they must teach what is
recorded in the Church doctrine entrusted to them. For if the
freedom is given to every person to spread his own opinions, we
will have differing dogmas and we cannot call this the Church
Man has freedom of belief but he does not have the freedom to
teach according to his own thoughts because heresies sprang from
the different schools of teaching.
When Luther started to teach according to his own thoughts and
was followed by Calvin, Zwingli and others, a new schism
occurred in the Church. As time passed, many contradicting
dogmas were formed, and what the Church knew as "one faith"
began to fade away.
Everyone is free in his belief. But the freedom of belief might
divert and turn into heresies and heterodoxies that are exterior
to the one faith of the Church. The Church, who has been alert
over the faith to maintain it, does not allow this to happen nor
does she give the authority of teaching to everyone, but
examines the sayings of the teachers against the faith entrusted
to the saints. Thus the saying of St. Paul the Apostle (Gal. 1:9)
remains a fixed criterion.
Sometimes the reason for an error in faith or teaching is due
to mixing with different dogmas, or being influenced by them
and their teachers, or by being disciples of such teachers or their
writings. Sometimes the reason for an error in faith is due to
one's sticking to one's own opinion, neither accepting any
change nor obeying the Church. Most probably the reason
behind this is pride in the heart convincing the person that he is
right and whoever objects to his opinion is wrong, and that he
understands what no-one else does.
Throughout her history, the Church has been cautious to
safeguard the teaching from distortion. Just one wrong teaching
of one ex-priest such as Arius, caused two popes, namely, Pope
Peter the Seal of the Martyrs and Pope Alexandrus, to
intervene. A council was held in Alexandria attended by a
hundred bishops from Alexandria and Libya and another council
was held at Nicea in 325 A.D. attended by 318 bishops from all
over the world. All this was caused by one priest's error in
teaching. There was a danger of his teaching spreading and
nobody said: "Leave the matter alone; there is freedom of belief "!
The first schism in the Church occurred in the middle of the
fifth century, in 451 AD, due to the different teachings on the
Nature of Christ. Another schism occurred in the 11th century
between the Roman Catholics and the Byzantine Orthodox due
to the different teachings on the procession of the Holy Spirit.
A third major schism occurred in the 15th century caused by
Luther, the establisher of Protestantism. Different dogmas
sprang up afterwards within Protestantism.
Hence arises the necessity of presenting a comparative
theology to compare the various beliefs attributed to
Christianity, to study the points of differences, and to reply to
every teaching that does not conform to the doctrine of the
In this book, we are attempting to expound the main
differences in belief which exist between Orthodoxy and
Protestantism, to discuss them in the light of the Holy Bible and
pray to God to unify our belief because. Especially that our
main call with regard to Christian Unity we call for nothing less
than "Unity of faith".
(1) The efficacy of baptism
(2) Baptism is the task of the clergymen
(3) The necessity of baptism
(4) Baptism by immersion
(5) Paedobaptism (Infant Baptism)
(6) Objections and replies
The subject of baptism revolves around in five salient points:
(1) What is the importance of baptism and what are its
The Orthodox believe that baptism is the way to receive
salvation, purification, justification, renewal of life and
membership in the Body of Christ? While these things,
according to the Protestant denominations, are only received by
faith? If the latter is correct, what is then, the use of baptism?
Is it just a sign of Christianity? Or is it merely an obedience to
the Lord's commandment: "Go therefore and make disciples of
all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt.28: 19)?
(2) Should who administer baptism?
Baptism in the Orthodox Church is administered only by the
clergy. But our Protestant brethren do not, at all, accept human
Priesthood. So in their churches, a minister and not a clergyman
administer baptism. He could be an elder (or a lady elder in case
of groups who allow women ministers). Anyhow, according to
the Protestant belief, the elders or the ministers are not
(3) We believe that baptism is one of the Church
Sacraments but our Protestants brethren do not.
(4) We baptise by immersion in water whereas the
majority of our Protestant brethren baptise by sprinkling water.
(5) We baptise infants on the belief of their parents, but our
Protestant brethren do not believe in Paedobaptism since they
condition the belief of the baptised prior to baptising him.
Some of the objections raised by our Protestant Brethren:
1. Isn't faith sufficient without baptism?
2. How was the Penitent Thief saved without baptism?
3. Does water have the property that gives birth and renewal?
4. Why a clergyman? What happens if the clergyman who
administers baptism is a malefactor?
5. If baptism is renewal of life, why do we sin thereafter?
6. How does the infant inherit the sin of his parents who were
previously baptised and whose sins were forgiven?
7. Is the water in baptism a symbol of the word? The Apostle
says concerning the relationship of Christ with the Church:
"... that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing
of water by the word" (Eph.5: 26).
The Efficacious of Baptism
(1) Salvation is completed through baptism
This is pursuant to the Lord Jesus Christ's words: "He who
believes and is baptised will be saved" (Mark.16: 16). The
Lord did not say: "He who believes is saved", but He put the
condition of baptism alongside the condition of belief.
(2) Through baptism we receive the Second Birth which
is of water and the Spirit
(a) This is pursuant to the Lord Jesus Christ's words to
Nicodemus: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John.3:3). The
Lord explained this to him, saying: "Most assuredly, I say to
you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter
the kingdom of God" (John.3: 5). Then He added "that which is
born of the Spirit is spirit. The wind blows where it wishes... So
is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John.3: 6,8). Thus the
Lord considers that everyone who is born of water and the
Spirit is born from above or born of the Spirit.
It also seems strange that some Protestant brethren want to
water-down this text by claiming that the Lord did not say,
"unless one is baptised of water and the Spirit", but, "unless one
is born"! Of course there is no doubt that both express the
same thing, because what is the other meaning of "born of
water" except "to be baptised" since the baptised comes out of
the womb of the font and moreover the Apostle St. Paul affirms
the same meaning when he says:
(b) "...not by works of righteousness which we have done,
but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing
of regeneration" (Titus 3: 5). And about the Church he said:
"... that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of
water by the word" (Eph.5: 26). The Apostle considered that
the washing of water (in baptism) is the washing of renewal and
the washing away of sins.
(3) Baptism washes away sins
This is according to the last two verses and also according to
Ananias' words to Saul: "And now why are you waiting? Arise
and be baptised, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22: 16).
Here we see that one of the outcomes of baptism is the washing
away of sins. We are surprised at Saul's case: He was called by
the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to be an Apostle to the Gentiles
and a chosen vessel to bear His name and to suffer for the sake
of His name (Acts 9: 15,16). Nevertheless, his sins were not
forgiven by his encounter with the Lord or by his faith or by
becoming an Apostle. He was still in need of baptism to wash
away his sins. Probably the Apostle Paul always remembered
that washing away of sins through baptism, so he said to the
Corinthians: "But you were washed, but you were sanctified,
but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the
Spirit of our God" (1Cor.6: 11). This was because they were
baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and received the
forgiveness of sins as St. Peter -had said to the Jews.
(4) In baptism there is forgiveness of sins
On the Day of Pentecost, when the Jews believed and were
cut to the heart, they said to St. Peter and the other Apostles:
"Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then St. Peter and the
Apostles replied: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptised
in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins"
(Acts 2: 37,38).
If the belief of the Jews was adequate for the forgiveness of
sins, the great Apostles would not have instructed them to be
baptised, especially on such an historical day; the day of
establishing the Church; the day on which important principles
were being set up for salvation.
One may ask: How are sins forgiven in baptism? We reply:
(5) Baptism is dying with the Lord Jesus Christ and
rising with Him
The Holy Bible says: "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom.6:
23). The way of salvation began by death: the Lord Jesus Christ
died for us. It is necessary to die with the Lord Jesus Christ or at
least to resemble Him in His death as the Apostle says: "...that I
may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the
fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death"
(Phil.3: 10). This is achieved in baptism. How?
The Apostle says: "Or do you not know that as many of us as
were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death"
(Rom.6: 3,4). And he continues to confirm this expression by
saying: "...we died with Him... we were buried with Him... we have
been united together in the likeness of His death... our old man
was crucified with Him." Confirming the same meaning, the
Apostle also says in his Epistle to the Colossians: "...buried with
Him in baptism" (Col.2: 12).
But why all this? The Apostle says: "Now if we died with
Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Rom.6: 8).
Therefore, baptism is essential for salvation because it is
sharing in Christ's death. It is a belief in death as a means to life
and it is a confession that the wages of sin is death. In chapter
six of the Epistle to the Romans, we notice two important
(a) The phrase "buried with Him through baptism" means
immersion as when the body is lowered into the grave.
(b) It appears that one of the results of baptism is the
crucifixion of our old self.
(6) Another Result of baptism is newness of life
The Apostle says: "Therefore we were buried with Him
through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from
the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should
walk in newness of life" (Rom.6: 4). The new life is the life we
receive through baptism. Therefore our old nature is renewed in
(7) In baptism we put on Christ
The Apostle says: "For as many of you as were baptised
into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal.3: 27). Is there a more
powerful phrase than this to signify the great efficacy of
We put on Christ... We put on His righteousness which He
bestows upon us in baptism, we put on salvation which He
bestows upon us in baptism by His blood, we put on God's
image (Gen.1: 26) which we lost through the original sin.
(8) In baptism we become members of the Church
There is no doubt that baptism was symbolised by
circumcision in the Old Testament. The Apostle St. Paul says
about the Lord Jesus: "In Him you were also circumcised with
the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body
of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried
with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him
through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the
dead" (Col.2: 11,12).
It is known that in circumcision a part of the body is cut off
and it dies. This refers to the complete death in baptism.
Circumcision is a mark that Likewise, baptism can not be
can not be effected
As blood is shed in likewise, the merit of the
Blood shed on our behalf is
received in the new life in
As the circumcised was likewise, the baptised becomes
considered a member of God's a member of the Church; of
people (Gen.17: 7)
As the uncircumcised was cut likewise, he who is not born of
off from the community water and the Spirit (John.3:
3,5) will not enter the
kingdom of God because he
was not baptised, he was not
buried with Christ and did not
rise with Him
As circumcision was a must likewise, baptism is necessary
and a necessity by God's for the forgiveness of sins and
for the membership in Christ's
As man dies only once and then rises, and is circumcised
only once, therefore baptism is performed only once: it is not to
be repeated because the baptised does not die with Christ more
As for the relation between circumcision and baptism and the
forgiveness of sins, the Apostle expresses it in his discourse about
the spiritual circumcision; circumcision made by Christ and not by
the hands of men; circumcision in which the old sinful body is
taken off. He refers to baptism when he says: "In Him you were
also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by
putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of
Christ. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the
uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with
Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col.2: 11,13).
The symbols of baptism in the Old Testament give the
Noah's Ark was a symbol of
St. Peter the Apostle says:
"...while the ark was being
prepared, in which a few, that
is, eight souls, were saved
through water. There is also an
antitype which now saves us,
namely baptism" (1Pet.3:
20,21). We explain that there is
salvation in baptism with water.
Similarly, in Noah's ark which is
a symbol of baptism, all those
who were in the ark were saved
from the death of the Flood.
This confirms what we have
previously said about salvation
through baptism according to
the Lord's words in (M
Circumcision is another symbol
of baptism and we have already
explained this point
Another symbol of baptism in St. Paul the Apostle says:
the Old Testament is the "Moreover, brethren, I do not
crossing of the Red Sea
want you to be unaware that
all our fathers were under the
cloud, all passed through the
sea, all were baptised into
Mosses in the cloud and in the
sea" (1Cor.10: 1,2). It is
known that the crossing of the
Red Sea was salvation to the
people from the slavery of
Pharaoh. Here St. Paul refers
to the salvation we receive in
baptism from the slavery of sin
and death. The element of
water is clear in both
examples. Here Mosses
resembles priesthood in the
same way that Noah resembles
priesthood in the symbol of
the Ark in the Era of the
Another symbol of baptism in This water and this washing
the Old Testament is found in are symbols of baptism and the
(Ezek.16: 8,9) where the Lord
ointment is a symbol of the
says to the sinful Jerusalem anointing of the Holy Spirit.
which here resembles the The phrase "you became
human soul in its fall: "'When I Mine" means that Jerusalem
passed by you again and (the human soul) became a
looked upon you, indeed your member of Christ's Body (the
time was the time of love. I Church).
entered into a covenant with
you, and you became Mine,'
says the Lord God. 'Then I
washed you in water; yes, I
thoroughly washed off your
blood, and I anointed you with
Therefore, in baptism there is salvation and forgiveness of sins,
not only according to the teaching of the New Testament but also
according to the symbolic references in the Old Testament:
circumcision, the Ark and the Red Sea.
The remission of sins we obtain in baptism is explicitly
professed in the Creed by the phrase "We believe in one baptism
for the remission of sins".
Baptism Is the Task of the Clergymen
Baptism should be administered by a canonical clergyman.
The Holy Bible shows us that the Lord Jesus Christ did not
commend the task of baptism to the public but commanded it to
His pure Apostles. Before His ascension, He said to them: "Go
therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit" (Matt.28: 19). This is also confirmed in (Mark.16:
It is very clear that it was the Apostles who undertook the
task of baptism as we read in the Book of Acts in the spread of
the Early Church. Then the Apostles commanded the task to
their disciples the bishops who in turn commanded it to the
For these reasons we do not accept a baptism which was not
administered by a clergyman. The clergyman should be an
canonical clergyman in the sense that the laying on of hands was
carried out by an apostolic and a canonical bishop. He should
not be an expelled nor an anathematised priest, but a priest who
has the Presbyterian to administer the Sacraments.
The above reasons are our answers to the question,
repeatedly asked of us: "why do the Orthodox Church re-
baptise the converts from the Protestant denominations"?
We could also say that we adorn them with all the spiritual
treasures which they did not receive when accepted their
Protestant baptism. We usually ask of them: "Have you
received salvation in your baptism? Have you received
righteousness, newness of life and the forgiveness of sins?
Have you been clothed with Christ in baptism? Have you been
born anew? Especially that you did not consider baptism to
carry with it any of those graces
We also repeat the non-Orthodox baptism as a canonical
priest did not conduct it, while our Protestant brethren refute
human priesthood, as well as the teaching of the holy
While it may have been administered in the Name of The
Holy Trinity , we tend not to call the baptism of a Protestant
convert "a re-baptism" as it lackes three important qualities:
(a) It was not administered by a clergyman
(b) It was not considered a Sacrament
(c) It was not considered to carry any spiritual efficacious
The Necessity of Baptism Ever Since
the Establishment of the Church
Since the beginning of Christianity, baptism has been an
inseparable part of accepting the . Especially that it is an
undisputed commandment by Christ Himself.
His Holy and imperative commandment is "Go therefore and
make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt.28:
19). He also commanded: "He who believes and is baptised will
be saved" (Mark. 16:16). If baptism were meant to be only a
sign, the Lord would have not given it all that importance.
Regarding the practical administration of baptism, when the
Jews believed on the Day of Pentecost, St. Peter immediately
called them to baptism. He said: "Repent, and let every one of
you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission
of sins" (Acts 2:38). On that day 3000 believers were baptised.
Undoubtedly, baptising that multitude was a tedious and
difficult task and must have taken a long time. Unless baptism
was so important for Salvation the Apostles would of bypassed
it, avoiding the hassel of baptising all these thousands. It would
have been easier for the Apostles to say: "Since you now
believe, brethren, you have received salvation. Go, the Lord's
blessing be with you."
We find the same situation with the Ethiopian eunuch who
himself asked to be baptised immediately after he had believed. He
was baptised by Philip and went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8: 36-39).
Saul of Tarsus was called to be baptised to wash away his
sins after he had believed (Acts 22:16). Lydia, the woman
dealer of purple cloth was baptised together with all her
household after they had believed. When Cornelius believed,
Peter the Apostle baptised him together with all those who
heard the message, after saying: "Can anyone forbid water, that
these should not be baptised who have received the Holy Spirit
just as we have?" (Acts 10: 44,47)
If salvation was to only be attained through belief, why were
all those who believed baptised?
Baptism by Immersion
(1) It is clear from the Holy Bible that baptism was by
immersion and not by sprinkling, even at the time of John the
Baptist. The Lord Jesus Himself was baptised by immersion.
That is why the Holy Bible says: "Then Jesus, when He had
been baptised, came up immediately from the water" (Matt.3:
16); (Mark.1: 10). Our Church names the Day on which the
Lord Jesus Christ was baptised "Immersion Day" to confirm
this meaning in our minds.
(2) The same meaning of the expression "came up
immediately from the water" is used in the event of Philip
baptising the Ethiopian eunuch. The Holy Gospel says: "And
both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he
baptised him. Now when they came up out of the water, the
Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away" (Acts 8: 38,39). This
proves that baptism was by immersion. If it were by sprinkling, it
would have been adequate for Philip to sprinkle water on the
eunuch while he was in the chariot without the necessity for both of
them to go down into the water.
(3) The word 'baptisma' means dye. Dyeing cannot be done
(4) Baptism is the action of being buried with Christ and tasting
death with Him, as the Apostle says: "Therefore we were buried
with Him through baptism into death" (Rom.6: 4) and we were
"buried with Him in baptism" (Col.2: 12). The action of burying
cannot be achieved except by immersion. The coming up out of
the font signifies rising with Christ after having died and been
buried with Him, whereas sprinkling does not express the action of
dying and rising.
(5) Baptism is a rebirth. Birth is the coming out of a body from
another body. This is manifested in baptism when the body of the
baptised comes out of the font, whereas sprinkling does not express
the action of birth at all.
(6) Baptism is the washing away of sins as said to St. Paul
(Acts 22:16) and as St. Paul said in his Epistle to Titus: "He saved
us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy
Spirit" (Titus 3: 5). The action of washing needs dipping into
water which is represented by immersion but not by sprinkling.
(7) Whoever looks at the buildings of the early churches will
notice the existence of immersion fonts which are proof that
baptism was by immersion and not by sprinkling because the action
of sprinkling does not need a deep font.
Our Protestant brethren do not baptise little children,
insisting on the necessity of belief before baptism and depending
on the Lord's saying: "He who believes and is baptised will be
saved" (Mark. 16:16) and also on the fact that little children do
not comprehend what is happening in baptism. So how can
baptism be administered without belief or without
But we insist on paedobaptism for the following reasons:
(1) We are concerned about the eternal life of children
because the Lord says: "...unless one is born of water and the
Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John.3: 5). So
how can we prevent children from being baptised and expose
them to God's Judgement as long as the Lord did not exempt
children when He said the above words?
(2) Through baptism, little children are given the opportunity
to practise the life of the Church and enjoy the divine
Sacraments therein together with all their efficacious. They can
also enjoy all the means of Grace in the Church and their effects
on their lives. In this way, we practically prepare the infants for
the life of faith. If we excluded them from the Church we
would be depriving them of faith and of the means of Grace.
(3) The Lord's saying: "He who believes and is baptised will
be saved" is meant for adults who are capable of
comprehending the meanings of faith. That is why we cannot
baptise adults unless they believe, according to the Lord's
words in (Mark.16: 16). As for infants, we apply the Lord's
saying: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid
them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19: 14).
(4) From the point of view of faith, little children are in the
stage of believing and accepting everything; they do not refuse
or reject faith; the doubt, inquiring, questioning and reasoning
of adults have not yet entered their sphere. There is nothing in
them to prevent them from the kingdom of heaven. Baptising
them conforms to the principle of "Free Salvation" which is
believed in and strongly propagated by our Protestant brethren.
(5) If we were utterly strict on the condition of belief, we
would have forbidden from baptism many adults who were not
mentally mature to comprehend the facts and depths of belief,
such as the peasants, labourers, illiterates, the poorly educated
and those of too limited understanding to get into the depth of
the theological facts. May we ask: What would be the extent of
those people's belief? Should we prevent them from being
baptised, as little children should be?
(6) Some ask: What happens if the little child refuses the
faith when he grows up?
He will be considered an apostate. He may refuse the grace
he received in baptism by his own free will. We had done our
duty towards him and the matter is left to him. He will be like a
person who, after having begun in the Spirit, is now trying to be
made perfect by the flesh (Gal.3: 3).
Probably the little children who are baptised and live in the
Church, tasting all the means of Grace therein, are less liable to
perversion than those who are left without baptism until they
(7) Those who deny paedobaptism are in fact denying the
necessity of baptism for salvation (Mark. 16:16); because if they
believe in the necessity of baptism for salvation, it would be a
serious matter to deprive little children of salvation.
Since our Protestants brethren hold that belief is a condition
for salvation and that little children have no belief, what then,
from their point of view, is the destiny of little children who are
unbaptised and have no belief? Will they be saved without
belief and baptism? The question remains unanswered.
(8) We baptise little children because the Holy Bible
indicates this. The Holy Bible mentions baptisms of whole
families or of a person with his entire household, and there is no
doubt that there must have been children in those families.
The following are a few of numerous examples:
(a) The baptism of the jailer at Philippi: St. Paul and St. Silas
said to him: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be
saved, you and your household" (Acts 16: 31). This means that
the jailer's belief would be the first step which would lead his
household to salvation. That is why it is said after that: "Then
they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in
his house" and then "immediately he and all his family were
baptised" (Acts 16:32,33). The Holy Bible did not exempt little
children from the household of the jailer at Philippi but said
about their baptisms: "...he and all his family", of course
including little children.
(b) In the event of baptising Lydia, the dealer of purple cloth,
it is written: "And when she and her household were baptised"
(Acts 16: 15).
(c) St. Paul the Apostle said: "Yes, I also baptised the
household of Stephanas" (1Cor.1: 16). Could all these
households have been without little children?
(d) The Holy Bible does not mention that there were no little
children among those who were baptised on the Day of
(9) Paedobaptism was practised in history. Here we
remember the disagreement between St. Augustine and St.
Jerome on the origin of the soul: whether is it born or created?.
St. Augustine said that it is born with man and St. Jerome said
that it is created. St. Augustine asked: "If it is created, it does
not inherit Adam's sin. Why then do we baptise infants?" St.
Jerome could not reply to this question.
(10) There is not a single verse in the Holy Bible that forbids
(11) With regard to belief, we baptise little children on the
belief of their parents which in essence has many examples in
the Holy Bible:
(a) Circumcision in the Old Testament symbolised baptism as
we have previously explained. The circumcised was considered
a member of God's people according to the covenant between
God and Abraham (Gen.17: 11). It is known that circumcision
was to be done on the eighth day after birth, according to God's
command (Gen.17: 12). What understanding did the eight-day
old baby boy have regarding the covenant between God and
Abraham? To what extent was he aware of this membership in
God's people? Undoubtedly, he had nothing of the sort, but he
was circumcised on his parents' belief in such a covenant; he
became a member of God's people and was entitled to the
promises which God endowed upon our father Abraham. The
baby attained all these through the belief of his parents.
(b) The crossing of the Red Sea was a symbol of baptism or
a baptism itself as St. Paul the Apostle explained in (1Cor.10:
2). It represented salvation from the slavery of death, Satan and
sin. Adults who were aware of God's promise to the Prophet
Mosses crossed the Red Sea; they knew that they were slaves
to Pharaoh; they knew the meaning of salvation from slavery by
the Mighty Hand of God and when they crossed the Red Sea
(baptism), they were saved. What was the position of the little
children who were carried by their mothers and fathers across
the Sea? Of course they received salvation from slavery; they
were baptised, not on their own faith but on the faith of their
parents because those children were not aware of any of the
(c) Another important and very strong example is the
salvation of the little children, through the blood of the
Passover lamb, from the hand of the Angel who killed every
firstborn son. The Lord commanded Mosses to kill a one-year-
old male goat or sheep without any defect and put its blood on
the sides and tops of their doors, and said: "And when I see the
blood, I will pass over you" (Ex. 12:13).
The blood of the Passover lamb was a symbol of the Lord
Jesus Christ's Blood through which we have received salvation,
as St. Paul the Apostle said: "For indeed Christ, our Passover,
was sacrificed for us" (1Cor.5: 7).
And the question now is: What was the belief of the little
children who were saved by the blood of the Passover lamb?
What did they know about the covenant between God and
Mosses or of the Passover and the salvation from death by the
blood of the Passover lamb? Undoubtedly they were not aware
of anything but they were saved by the faith of their parents; the
parents who believed in the blood, its effect and the importance
of the blood of the Passover lamb for salvation from death.
These little children who were saved by circumcision, by the
blood of the Passover lamb and by the crossing of the Red Sea,
came to know the meaning of all these things later on when they
grew up. Nevertheless, they received salvation freely in their
childhood through the belief of their parents in God's promises
and covenants with men. When the children grew up, they
entered into this belief practically.
If baptism is renewal of life, why do we sin after being
Baptism is renewal of life according to the teaching of the Holy
Bible (Rom.6: 4), but it does not bestow infallibility. We receive
new birth, new life and new graces in baptism, and we take a new
nature. The Apostle says: "...according to His mercy He saved us,
through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy
Spirit" (Titus 3:5). This nature has the capability and the
potentiality of a spiritual life. Nevertheless we are not infallible as
long as we are still in the flesh. Here we are in a test, we still
possess our freedom to do good or bad because the grace of
renewal we received in baptism does not eliminate the grace of
freedom which we possess and with which we were created after
God's image. That is why a virtuous person falls seven times a day
and rises again. But we shall receive infallibility and the crown of
righteousness in the life to come. Our teacher the Apostle Paul said
effusively when his hour came: "Finally, there is laid up for me the
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will
give to me on that Day" (2Tim.4: 8).
Does baptism still carry its efficacious if the clergyman
who administers it is a malefactor?
The graces we receive in baptism are from God and not from
the clergyman who is but a minister of the Lord the Giver. The
graces are based on the true promises of God and not on the
deportment of the clergyman.
The clergyman is like the postman who carries a joyful letter to
you; whether he is handsome or ugly does not affect the joy your
We can also compare the clergyman to the gardener sowing
seeds in the earth to bring forth fruits. Whether he is sinful or
virtuous does not matter; what matters are the seeds themselves
and the life therein, not the hands of the gardener who sows
You may drink water from a gold or copper cup, yet the
water itself remains the same irrespective of the kind of cup you
In our discourse about baptism and its efficacious, we shall
discuss the dogma objectively. We shall not touch any
subjective issue as this leads to judging others and to
disregarding what the Lord endowed upon human beings in
baptism according to His true words in the Gospel.
How was the Penitent Thief saved without baptism?
When we reply to this question we say that this thief
received the best baptism after whose example we all wish to be
baptised. What is baptism but dying with Christ, as our teacher
St. Paul says (Rom.6)? The Penitent Thief actually died with
Christ and his death became a baptism. Similarly is the baptism
by blood attributed to the martyrs who believed in the Lord
Jesus Christ and were killed at the time of persecution before
they had received the grace of baptism by water. Their death
became a baptism because they died with Christ like the
Penitent Thief. (We have explained this point in our book
If baptism is essential, why did the Apostles Paul and Silas
say to the jailer at Philippi: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and you will be saved" (Acts16: 31) and not: "Believe and be
baptised", which is proof that belief is adequate for salvation?
The reply to this is that the two Apostles were talking to an
unbeliever. No matter what he did, he could not be saved
without faith. Therefore, they first had to direct him to faith so
that he could be saved. If he accepted the faith then they would
explain to him the necessary matters. That is why the following
two things happened after they said those words to him:
(a) "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all
who were in his house" (Acts 16: 32).
(b) "And immediately he and all his family were baptised"
(Acts 16: 33).
Thus we should not put before us just one verse and forget
all the other verses connected with the same subject. Alongside
the belief of the jailer of Philippi, we have to put the baptism of
the jailer of Philippi. Alongside the words of the two Apostles:
"Believe... and you will be saved", we also have to put before
us the words of the Lord Himself: "He who believes and is
baptised will be saved" (Mark.16: 16) and in addition, all the
verses that are related to salvation through baptism such as
(1Pet.3: 21) and (Titus 3: 5).
If baptism is so important. were the prophets of the Old
If the commandment of baptism had existed in their days,
they would have been baptised. But this commandment is laid
down in Christianity. Why? Because baptism is dying with
Christ and Christ had not died in the Old Testament.
The prophets of the Old Testament practised what they
could in their days: the symbols of baptism such as circumcision
and crossing the Red Sea. They also celebrated the Passover
lamb, which symbolised the Blood of Christ. We should not
expect people to have obeyed a commandment, unknown to
them, as it succeeded their time/s.
Is salvation through the word and not through water?
Do the Apostle's words about the Church: "...that He might
sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word"
(Eph.5: 26) mean that cleansing is through the word, that is,
salvation is through the word? What about the other verses
which signify the necessity of the word for salvation such as:
"...having been born again, not of corruptible seed but
incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides
forever" (1Pet.1: 23) and "Of His own will He brought us forth
by the word of truth" (Jas.1: 18), and which did not say:
"having been born again... through baptism" and "saved us
What is the importance of water for salvation? Since the
Lord says: "He who believes and is baptised will be saved",
then salvation will be attained this way. But the phrase "He
who believes" should be preceded by teaching or preaching,
because the Apostle says: "And how shall they believe in Him
of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear
without a preacher?" (Rom.10: 14) The importance of the
word arises from here.
The word, which results in belief, comes first and then after
belief baptism is administered, the result of which is salvation
and renewal of life. Although salvation and renewal of life are
received through baptism, yet the word should come first
because it leads to faith and faith leads to baptism. That is why
the Apostle says: "...He brought us forth by the word of truth"
and "...having been born again through the word of God", on
the assumption that the 'word' is the origin that led to all these.
The Apostle's words about the Church: "...that He might
sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word"
(Eph.5: 26) means that cleansing is completed by baptism (the
washing of water) through the word, that is, through preaching
and the ministry of the word which result in faith and then in
Here we observe that the Apostle says: "with the washing of
water by the word" and not "with the washing of water which is
the word". If the washing of water means the word there
would have been no need for this repetition. But "the washing
of water by the word" means the washing of water which takes
place following the effect of the word. Without the word and
its effect the people could not have come to the washing of
water, that is, to baptism.
We observe that the word `belief' is not mentioned in the
phrases "having been born again... through the word of God"
(1 Pet.1: 23) and "brought us forth by the word of truth" (Jas.1:
18). Is the word without belief sufficient for the new birth?
This is impossible. The word `belief' is not mentioned because
it is obviously implied.
There is no need to repeat on every occasion words whose
meanings are obviously implied. We cannot on every occasion
repeat the words: word - belief - baptism rebirth.
Preaching has its importance; nobody can deny the
importance of the ministry of the word. Nevertheless, we can
never say that some people are 'brought forth by the word of
truth' whether they believe or not. This also applies to baptism.
The phrase 'washing of water by the word' implies two
things: the word and baptism. We notice that the word 'belief'
is not mentioned since it is implied.
Our Protestant brethren are constantly concentrating on
faith. Does the absence of the word 'faith' in (Eph.5: 26);
(Jas.1: 18); (1Pet.1: 23) mean that it is not important or
necessary? Of course not. Sometimes the absence of a word
does not render it unnecessary, but that its meaning is implied.
This applies to the word 'baptism'.
What is the position of water in salvation and the second
(a) Although the word 'water' is not mentioned in the
phrases: "brought us forth by the word of truth" and "having
been born again... through the word of God", yet it is
mentioned plainly in the Lord's saying: "...unless one is born of
water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God"
(John.3: 5). In this verse, it is clear that rebirth is from water.
The water meant is real water and not symbolic.
(b) This is clear when Cornelius and his Gentile followers
accepted the faith and were joined to the Church. In this case
righteous persons were called to the faith by God: An angel
appeared to Cornelius and Peter saw a vision; a Divine
command. Then St. Peter preached to them the word of God
and the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message (Acts
11: 1) and they spoke in tongues.
Was that sufficient for their second birth? Could St. Peter
tell them: "Blessed is this second birth to you all"? Obviously
this was not the case, as St. Peter, after he had witnessed the
descent of the Holy Spirit on them, said: "'Can anyone forbid
water, that these should not be baptised who have received the
Holy Spirit just as we have?' And he commanded them to be
baptised in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10: 47,48).
The writer of the Book of Acts comments immediately on
this event by saying: "...the Gentiles had also received the word
of God" (Acts 11: 1). Here the importance of water goes
alongside the importance of the word, and the word `water'
does not mean `the word' as some interpret it in the Epistle to
the Ephesians (Eph.5: 26).
(c) Another clear example is the baptism of the Ethiopian
eunuch. When he believed, the Holy Bible says: "Now as they
went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch
said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being
baptised?' Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart,
you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus
Christ is the Son of God.' So he commanded the chariot to
stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the
water, and he baptised him" (Acts 8: 36-38).
This was a baptism of water, exactly the same as the baptism
of Cornelius and his followers; baptism of actual water was
necessary immediately after the preaching of the Word. In this
case the water was not the word. If the eunuch were born of the
word and washed by the word what then was the need for
Concerning this, I would like to speak about an important
The importance of water and its symbols in the Holy
In order to understand why water was chosen for washing and
renewal in the Sacrament of Baptism, we should remember that
ever since the beginning, in the story of creation, there has been a
association between water and life.
The Holy Bible says: "And the Spirit of God was hovering
over the face of the waters" (Gen.1: 2). And God said: "Let the
waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let
birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of
the heavens" (Gen.1: 20). Thus life sprang out of water and we
can see the connection between water, life and the Spirit of
We also read in the Old Testament that God likens Himself
to water when He reproached the people saying: "They have
forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn
themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water"
(Jer.2: 13). This correlation is also mentioned in the words of
the Lord Jesus Christ: " 'He who believes in Me, as the
Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living
water.' By this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those
believing in Him would receive" (John.7: 38,39).
These words are similar to the Lord's words about Himself in
His discourse with the Samaritan woman about living water,
when He said that He is the Giver of living water. He said: "But
the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of
water springing up into everlasting life" (John.4: 10-14).
Therefore, water is a symbol of life and sometimes of the
Holy Spirit Himself. How beautiful are the Divine Inspiration's
words in the First Psalm about the virtuous man: "He shall be
like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its
fruit in its season" (Ps.1: 3). The fruit is the fruit of the Holy
The connections between water, life and the Holy Spirit in
the Holy Bible commence from Genesis (Gen.1: 2) and continue
until the end of the Book of Revelation: "I will give the
fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts" (Rev.21:
6), "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as
crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb"
(Rev.22: 1) and "...let him who thirsts come. And whoever
desires, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev.22: 17).
In the crossing of the Red Sea, the water symbolised life and
death together; death of the servile man and life of the free man
who came up out of the water.
On Maundy Thursday, the water symbolised purification.
That is why, after washing the feet of His Apostles, the Lord
said: "...and you are clean" (John.13: 10). The Psalmist says:
"I will wash my hands in innocence" (Ps.26: 6). This cleansing
is the washing of the new birth with the word; the cleansing
which we receive in the bath of the new birth and the cleansing
obtained in baptism referred to by the Apostle's words: "...and
our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb.10: 22).
Water and Blood
On the Cross, when one of the soldiers pierced the Lord
Jesus' side with a spear, "immediately blood and water came
out" (John.19: 34). What is the Divine wisdom thereof?
From His side blood came out to give us the meaning of
redemption. But how do we receive this redemption?
We receive it through water in baptism. Therefore, the
emergence of both water and Blood from the side of Christ
showed us the means of redemption. We receive the Blood of
Christ which purifies us from every sin through water. How
beautiful it is when, in the Eucharist, we blend the Blood with
St. John the Beloved, who witnessed the incident of the
coming out of the blood and water, clarified this subject when
he said: "And there are three that bear witness on earth: the
Spirit, the water, and the blood,. and these three agree as one"
(1John.5: 8). This verse explains the redemption, we receive.
Redemption was given to us by Blood (the Blood of Christ)
and we receive the merit of this Blood through the birth ofwater
and the Spirit. Therefore the three elements: Blood, water and
the Spirit, gather in baptism.
Does water have all these efficacious?
(a) This question reminds me of the rage of Naaman the
Syrian when Elisha asked him to wash in the Jordan to be
cleansed. He could not believe that the matter was as simple as
just washing in water, especially as he had better rivers in
Damascus than those in Israel (2Kin.5: 10-12). But when he
obeyed and washed, he was cleansed by his belief.
The prophet ordered Naaman to wash in the River Jordan in
which John the Baptist was to baptise later (Matt.3: 6). Shall
we be like Naaman and think it too much for water to have
these efficacious? God gives grace in the way He wishes. The
grace in this case was not in the water of the River Jordan itself
but in the power to cleanse which God endowed upon that
water. The same is said about baptism, as we will explain later.
(b) When the Lord healed the man born blind, He put mud
on his eyes and said to him: "'Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam'
(which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came
back seeing" (John.9: 6,7). With his mere belief, the blind man
could have seen, but God wished to enlighten him (baptism is
spiritual enlightenment) through water. Let God's will be done
the way He wishes; we do not design plans to be carried out by
God, blessed be His name.
(c) In addition, we say in reply to this question that the
water of baptism is not just ordinary water and the baptised is
not only born of water but of water and the Spirit. The Holy
Spirit sanctifies the water of baptism, giving it a special nature
so that whoever is submerged in it is born of water and the
Spirit. Thus the baptised receives the merit of the redeeming
Blood of Christ. When he is submerged into this water, he is
buried with Christ and shares in the fellowship of His death in
order to merit the fellowship of sharing in His resurrection.
That is why, in sanctifying the water of baptism, we pour into it
the Holy Chrism, the ointment of the Holy Spirit. Thus the
water is sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Whoever is born of this
water is born of water and the Spirit.
In sanctifying the water of baptism, the clergyman prays the
litanies of sanctifying the water and of invocations the Holy
Spirit. He also reads certain passages from the Holy Bible.
Thus the water of baptism which cleanses us is sanctified by the
Would it not be better if we say that baptism is rising
with Christ and not dying with Him because death is
harmful and not beneficial whereas rising is beneficial?
Baptism is dying with Christ and rising with Him as the
Apostle explained in his Epistle to the Romans: "For if we have
been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we
also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom.6: 5)
and "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also
live with Him" (Rom.6: 8). In this matter no one may depend
on his own thoughts and stray from the Church's teaching,
saying that death is useless but resurrection is beneficial. The
Holy Bible says: "Or do you not know that as many of us as
were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into
death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory
of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of
life"(Rom.6: 3,4). The Apostle repeats this in his Epistle to the
Colossians, saying: "...buried with Him in baptism, in which
you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of
God, who raised Him from the dead" (Col.2: 12). From these
verses we see that baptism is both death and resurrection.
Truly, those who despise dying with Christ cannot receive the
blessing of His resurrection.
Here we ask: Why is there death in baptism? And what is its
(a) To have fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The
Apostle did not say that he only enters into the power of His
resurrection, but he said: "...that I may know Him and the
power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being conformed to His death" (Phil.3: 10) and "I have been
crucified with Christ" (Gal.2: 20). The phrase dying with Christ
is repeated many times in his Epistle to the Romans (Rom.6).
(b) Man's corrupted nature (the old man) must die in baptism so
he may receive the new nature. This is what the Apostle express in
his words about crucifying the old self in baptism. In the same
chapter of his Epistle to the Romans he says: "...knowing this, that
our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be
done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he
who has died has been freed from sin" (Rom.6: 6,7). Here is the
benefit of death. Death is not harmful as some think. It is better
for us and for our old self to die so that we can rise with a new
nature after the image of God. As for the corrupted nature, it does
not have the power to rise with Christ. It is essential for our old
self to die in order to live.
(c) The fellowship of His death implies that we profess that
we were under the penalty of death; we were dead in
trespasses. Christ died for us and was buried. That is why we
are baptised into His death. As long as the wages of our sin is
death, we are buried with Him in baptism. In this way we
receive the merit of the blessing of rising with Christ.
(d) It is common sense that resurrection means rising from
the dead. Whoever rises with Christ in baptism must have died
with Him in order to rise. If he did not die, how then will he
Why should a person whose parents were baptised and
saved from Adam's sin, be baptised as well?
We did not inherit the penalty of death from our immediate
parents so that we are saved if they are baptised, but we inherited it
directly from Adam and Eve: the first of the human race. We were
in Adam's loins. When Adam's nature sinned and he was
condemned to death, everything in his loins became mortal. We
came out of Adam's loins under the penalty of death. Therefore the
sentence of death was passed on Adam and all his offspring; not
only on Cain, Abel and Seth. Concerning this, the Holy Bible says:
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and
death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all
sinned" (Rom.5: 12) and also "For as in Adam all die, even so in
Christ all shall be made alive" (1Cor.15: 22). Hence death was a
judgement on the entire human race, being the offspring of Adam.
Every born human being is condemned to death because He was in
Adam's loins when Adam was condemned to death.
Salvation from death is an individual salvation, whether or
not the parents received it. This salvation needs repentance and
belief in baptism and in Christ's Blood as well as in all the means
of Grace. There are no parents without sin. The Psalmist says:
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother
conceived me" (Ps.51: 5).
We are born in sin until liberated from the bondage of
corruption (Rom.8: 21). When are we going to be liberated
from this corruption? The Apostle says about our bodies: "So
also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in
corruption, it is raised in incorruption. For this corruptible
must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on
immortality" (1Cor. 15: 42,53). When will this be? When the
trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised.
1. Tradition is older than the Holy Bible
2. The Holy Bible does not mention everything
3. What were the Lord's words about the kingdom of God?
4. Tradition is taken from the teachings of the Apostles
5. The Apostles laid down disciplines for the Church
6. The Apostle Paul received teachings from the Lord
7. The Apostles recorded in their Epistles things they
received through Tradition
8. Benefits of Tradition
9. Valid and invalid tradition
10. Church authority in teaching and legislation
11. Conditions of sound Tradition
12. The Apostles commanded that Tradition be preserved
Tradition is every teaching, other than the words of the Holy
Bible, that was entrusted to us, by the Apostles and the Fathers.
This teaching constitutes subjects that might not be included in
the Holy Bible but in no way contradict it.
Our Protestant brethren do not believe in Tradition. They
only abide by the Holy Bible. In this way they exclude the
heritage which the Church received from the previous
generations: the writings of the Apostles and Fathers of the
Church, the decisions of the holy councils, the Church Canons
and regulations, the Church rituals and the oral Tradition.
Tradition is older than the Holy Bible. It goes back to
the time of our father Adam.
The earliest written Law that reached us was written by
Mosses the Prophet who lived in the fifteenth and fourteenth
centuries B.C. However, Tradition is much older than that.
Thousands of years had elapsed before there was any written
Law. Who led the thoughts of human beings? Their conscience
(the moral law) on one hand, and Tradition, which is entrusted
from one generation to the next, on the other.
We will try to give some examples of Tradition that
preceded the written law:
(1) In the Book of Genesis it is written that Abel the
righteous man brought fat portions of his flock (Gen.4: 4). The
Apostle explains this, saying: "By faith Abel offered to God a
more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Heb.11: 4). Here, we ask:
How did Abel know the idea of offering sacrifices to God?
From where did he get that faith? There was no written Law at
his time. Undoubtedly, he received this idea through Tradition
from his father Adam who had received it from God Himself.
This took place fourteen centuries before Mosses wrote about
sacrifices and burnt offerings.
(2) The same applies to the burnt offerings which were
offered by our fathers Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They
knew about the idea of sacrifices through Tradition entrusted to
them. The same is said about the idea of building altars. After
the Flood, our father Noah "built an altar to the Lord" (Gen.8:
20), and our father Abraham built an altar at the great tree of
Moreh (Gen.12: 7). The idea of building altars continued
thereafter although there was no Holy Bible at the time to
command them to do so.
(3) It is written in the Holy Bible that our father Noah took
some of the clean animals and birds and sacrificed a burnt
offering on the altar and the Lord smelt the soothing aroma
(Gen.8: 20,21). How did Noah know the idea of offering
sacrifices of clean animals? He must have taken it directly from
the Lord and then entrusted it to the generations after him,
before Mosses explained the idea of clean animals in the Torah.
(4) In the event of our father Abraham meeting Melchizedek,
it is written that Melchizedek "was the priest of God Most
High" (Gen.14: 18). How was this priesthood instituted. Who
gave Melchizedek the authority to bless Abram and what law
made Abram offer Melchizedek the tenths of everything he had
(Gen. 14:20)? Thus Melchizedek was considered greater than
Abraham (Heb.7: 6,7).
At that time there was no written Law explaining priesthood,
its honour, duties and blessing to others. In the previous
chapters of Genesis there is no mention whatsoever of the
words 'priest' or 'priesthood'. From where did the knowledge of
priesthood come except through Tradition?
(5) In the same episode of Abram's meeting with
Melchizedek, we hear that Abram "gave him a tithe of all"
(Gen.14: 20). How was it known, at the time of our father
Abraham, that the tenth were to be given to priests, except
through Tradition? The Law of tithing had not yet been
received in the written Law.
This also applies to our father Jacob: How did he know the
idea of giving the tithe when he said to the Lord: "... and of all
that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You" (Gen.28:
22)? There is no doubt that he received the Law of tithing
through Tradition, from his grandfather Abraham who offered
the tithe to Melchizedek without receiving it from a written
Law at all. It is obvious that Tradition was the teacher of all
human beings before the written Law and remained so
(6) We read that when Jacob was fleeing his brother Esau
that he saw a ladder extending from earth to heaven, while the
angels of God ascending and descending on it, and the Lord
talked to him and gave him a promise. The Holy Bible says that
Jacob said: "Surely the Lord is in this place... This is none
other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!"
And he called that place Bethel, which means 'House of God'.
He took the stone he had placed under his head, set it up as a
pillar and poured oil on top of it.
How did our father Jacob know the phrase `House of God'?
How did he know the idea of consecrating. God's houses by
pouring oil on them since nothing of this sort had been given in
a written Law? No explanation can be given except that it was
(7) When God gave the written Law He willed Tradition to
remain as well. He commanded the fathers, on various
occasions, to commend and entrust the teachings to their
children. The Lord ordered them to inform their children of the
occasion of sacrificing to the Lord the first male offspring of
every womb (Ex. 13: 14-16). The Lord also said to the people:
"Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest
you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart
from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to
your children and your grandchildren" (Deut.4: 9).
(8) Even in Christianity, we find that some of the writers of
the New Testament wrote information about events in the Old
Testament which they had received through Tradition. For
example, St. Paul the Apostle mentioned the names of the two
witches who resisted Mosses the Prophet. He said: "Now as
Jannes and Jambres resisted Mosses, so do these also resist the
truth" (2Tim.3: 8). We cannot find the names of these two
witches either in the Books of Mosses or in the rest of the Old
Testament. The Apostle Paul must have known these names
(9) The entrustment of Tradition which occurred in the Old
Testament recurred in the New Testament but to a lesser
extent. A long time elapsed before there was any written
gospel or epistle. For a period of approximately twenty years
people received the entire faith, the entire story of Christ
together with His teachings and His redemption, through
(10) The Lord Jesus Christ did not write a gospel Himself
nor did He leave a written gospel, yet He was preaching and
teaching, leaving His words as spirit and life (John.6: 63) for the
people who later spread them. When the Lord began His
teaching and preaching, He said to the people: "The time is
fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and
believe in the gospel" (Mark.1: 15). There was no written
gospel (Good News) but there was preaching of the Good
News representing the oral Gospel or the Divine teaching which
was taught through entrustment. The same meaning applies to
the Lord's words to His disciples: "Go into all the world and
preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark. 16: 15). That
command was not within the written boundary.
11) Here I shall state an important fact. The Holy Bible
does not mention everything:
(a) It does not mention all that the Lord Jesus Christ did or
all that He said. What happened was that the Evangelists chose
parts of the Lord Jesus Christ's sayings and parts of His works,
recorded them at a certain time for the people and left out the
rest. This is obvious from the last written Gospel. St. John the
Apostle says: "And there are also many other things that Jesus
did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even
the world itself could not contain the books that would be
written" (John.21: 25) and also "...truly Jesus did many other
sign sin the presence of his disciples, which are not written in
this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus
is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have
life in His name" (John.20: 30,31).
Do not think that the miraculous signs which the Lord Jesus
Christ did are only those mentioned in the Bible; thousands of
miracles were not recorded. To prove this, it is sufficient to
mention the words of St. Luke the Evangelist: "Now when the
sun was setting, all those who had anyone sick with various
diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every
one of them and healed them" (Lk.4: 40).
How many were those sick? They were too many. Not all the
healing miracles are recorded. Our teacher St. Matthew the
Evangelist says: "Now Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in
their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and
healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the
people" (Matt.4: 23).
What are the details of the incidents of healing every disease?
They are not recorded. What about the Lord's teachings in the
synagogues and His preaching? They are not recorded either. Our
teacher St. Mark the Evangelist says that when the Lord Jesus went
to Capernaum, He went into the synagogue and "taught. And they
were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one
having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark.1: 21,22). What
was that teaching which astonished them? It was not recorded.
In the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes, the Lord Jesus
was teaching the people from morning until late in the afternoon.
What did He teach them? Nothing was recorded in the Gospels.
What were the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ on the shore of
the lake, on the seashore, in the boat and on the roads? We do not
know; as nothing was detailed about it in the Gospels.
(b) After the Lord's resurrection, we find the same situation.
The Lord met the two disciples of Emmaus, and "beginning at
Mosses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the
Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Lk. 24: 27). All these
teachings, and others, were not recorded in the Gospels. But
undoubtedly they, or some thereof, have reached us through
(c) What about the forty days which the Lord spent with His
disciples after His resurrection, speaking to them of the things
pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1: 3)?
What were the Lord's words about the things pertaining
to the kingdom of God?
Undoubtedly His words were of such great importance that
they were worth Him having many meetings with His Apostles
after His resurrection. Yet despite their great importance, His
words were not recorded in the Holy Bible. Most probably
they were matters that concerned the leaders of the Church, for
them to understand and teach, following the Lord's saying: "...
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded
you" (Matt.28: 20), without mentioning what His
commandments to them were.
Have the teachings and commandments of the Lord Jesus
Christ been lost or have they reached us? It is far fetched to
believe that they have been lost since they are so important.
How did they reach us then? With the exception of the Apostle
Paul who was not one of the eleven Apostles and did not attend
the meetings of the Lord with His Apostles after His
resurrection, the eleven Apostles with whom the Lord spent
forty days after His resurrection, wrote too little and what they
wrote does not comprise all the Christian teachings. There is
one explanation and it is that the Lord Jesus Christ's teachings
to His Apostles have reached us through Tradition, that is,
through the Apostolic Entrustment.
The Church has been living these teachings according to the
Lord's saying: "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and
they are life" (John.6: 63). The Apostles understood the spirit
of the words and transcribed them into life, and these words
have reached us in the life of the Church.
Therefore, we can say that Tradition is the life of the Church
or it is the living Church. The Apostles entrusted this life
together with all that they had learnt and received from the
Lord, to the saints in the Church. However, they did not write
them in the Gospels or in the Epistles, but they left them as
living practices and teachings in the life of the Church. Among
those teachings are the Church discipline, rituals and
Do you think that the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5-7) is
the only sermon of the Lord during over three years? This is
unbelievable. The Lord's words have not gone astray; the
disciples kept them in their hearts, ears and minds. From the
treasure of their good hearts, from their sacred memories, they
brought out the Lord's sayings and entrusted them to the
Church under the heading of 'Tradition' or 'The Apostolic
Entrustment. The Holy Spirit taught them everything and
reminded them of everything the Lord had said, according to
His true promise (John.14: 26).
Tradition is taken from the teachings of the Apostles
Many Apostles did not write epistles. Where are their
teachings? Where is the work of the Divine Inspiration in
them? Where is the work of the Holy Spirit who speaks
through the prophets? It is not possible that some of the
Apostles taught only what they wrote. It is not possible that
James the Apostle's teaching was only limited to one Epistle nor
is it possible that Jude the Apostle taught just one chapter.
What about the rest of the eleven Apostles of whose teachings
we have received no word? What did they preach? What did
they leave for the Church? Most probably those teachings, or
some thereof, have reached us through Tradition.
The Apostles used to enter synagogues teaching and disputing
against the opposition, however none of this was written. They
preached in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria until everyone believed,
but only a little of what they preached was recorded in writing. The
Apostle Paul entered a house in Rome where he stayed for two years
preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus
Christ boldly and without hindrance (Acts.28: 30,31). None of that
preaching has reached us in a written form. Where did it all go?
Undoubtedly the Apostles laid down disciplines for the
Church. What are they?
Is it not reasonable to assume that the Lord's Apostles, after
having received all those teachings from the Lord, left the
Church without any disciplines or laws to direct her affairs.
They did not write these in their epistles either because such
things were not for the public or because they would be known
to all through practice. Undoubtedly, those disciplines have
reached us through Tradition and Entrustment.
St. John the Apostle says in the epilogue of his second
Epistle: "Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to
do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak
face to face" (2John. 12). He repeated the same words in the
epilogue of his third Epistle (3John.13, 14). What was the
content of this face to face dialogue? And why was it not
written down? How has it reached us?
From the above quotation in the two Epistles, we notice that
the Apostolic Fathers sometimes preferred speaking to writing
whenever it was convenient for them. Their verbal teachings
were entrusted from one generation to the next until they have
reached us today.
Probably the Apostles concentrated in their Epistles on the
main principles of faith as much as they could and left the
details of the Church disciplines and rituals to the practical
arrangements in the churches. People were learning them not
from written books but through practising the sacramental life
St. Paul the Apostle says in his first Epistle to the
Corinthians: "And the rest I will set in order when I come"
(1Cor.11: 34). What were these apostolic instructions? Have
we received them through Tradition? St. Paul the Apostle said
to his disciple Titus, the Bishop of Crete: "For this reason I left
you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are
lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you"
(Titus 1: 5). He did not spell out in his Epistle how to appoint
priests, with regard to the prayers, rituals and the necessary
conditions thereof. How did St. Titus know about this matter
other than by verbal instruction? That is why the Apostle said
to him: "...as I commanded you". The details of this command
were not recorded in the Epistle but the disciple the bishop
learnt them verbally, 'face to face", and they reached us through
The same applies to what St. Paul the Apostle said to his
disciple Timothy, the Bishop of Ephesus: "And the things that
you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these
to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2Tim.2:
2). Here the Apostle refers to the word `hear' and not `write'.
He did not tell us what his disciple heard from him. But
undoubtedly, that teaching was entrusted from St. Paul to St.
Timothy then to faithful and reliable persons who in turn
entrusted them to others. Thus the entrustment continued
successively until it reached us.
Those who insist on proving everything by a verse from the
Holy Bible disregard what the Apostle said about 'face to face"
(2John. 12), the Apostles' instructions concerning the churches,
which they did not record (1Cor.11: 34), the Apostles'
commands to their disciples (Titus 1: 5) and the Apostolic
teachings which turned into life and practice in the Church
without being a verse from an Epistle or the Gospels.
We mention, to illustrate this point, the consecration of
Sunday as the Lord's Day
All Christians who only believe in the Holy Bible and oppose
Church Tradition, consecrate Sunday instead of Saturday as the
Lord's Day and do not adhere to the literal meanings of the
verses: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex.20: 8)
and "Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Deut.5: 12).
From where do they derive the teaching of consecrating Sunday
instead of Saturday? Is it from the Holy Bible or from
Tradition? Undoubtedly, it is from Tradition because there is
not one single verse which says: "Remember Sunday, to keep it
holy" or "Observe Sunday, to keep it holy. In it you shall do no
The consecration of Sunday has been a Church Tradition,
observed by the Apostles who took it from the teaching of the
Lord Jesus Christ; it is not mentioned plainly in the Gospels but
there are references in the Book of Acts that imply this Divine
entrustment. So the matter changed to a professed practice of
the Church without the need for a written commandment. A
proof of acknowledging Tradition is the unanimity of all
Churches in keeping Sunday holy.
There is a reference in the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle
that he received teachings from the Lord
Regarding the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Apostle says:
"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to
you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was
betrayed took bread" (1Cor.11: 23). Here the Apostle speaks
about the entrustment he received from the Lord and which he
commanded to the church in Corinth. The Holy Bible does not
tell us how and when the Apostle Paul received it from the
Lord. He is giving us an idea about the Church dogmas and
how they entered the Church through entrustment.
We know from the Gospels that the Apostles received the
Sacrament of the Eucharist from the Lord. But the Apostles
did not tell us how they entrusted it to the Church. It was not
necessary to write it down but what matters is that the Church
lives and practises this Sacrament. However, St. Paul
mentioned this entrustment.
The Apostles recorded in their Epistles things they
received through Tradition
(a) We have previously mentioned some of them and now
we shall add what Jude the Apostle mentioned in his Epistle
regarding the dispute between Archangel Michael and Satan
about the body of Mosses. He said: "Yet Michael the
archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed
about the body of Mosses, dared not bring against him a
reviling accusation, but said, `The Lord rebuke you!' " (Jude
9). None of this was mentioned in the Old Testament, so Jude
probably knew it through Tradition.
(b) When the Apostle Paul was describing the fear of the
people on receiving the Law, he said: "And so terrifying was
the sight that Mosses said, 'I am exceedingly afraid and
trembling' " (Heb.12:21). This phrase attributed to Mosses was
not recorded either in the Book of Exodus or Deuteronomy.
So probably the Apostle Paul knew it through Tradition.
(c) We also add what is mentioned in the Book of
Revelation about Balaam's perversion, the details of which are
not recorded in the Book of Numbers (Num.24: 25). In the
Book of Revelation, it is written: "...because you have there
those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to
put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat
things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality"
(Rev.2: 14). In the Book of Numbers it is mentioned that the
people did that but not that it was Balaam's doctrine. So
probably St. John the Visionary who wrote the Book of
Revelation knew it through Tradition.
Also on the subject of Balaam is what the Apostle Peter
mentioned: "They have forsaken the right way and gone astray,
following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the
wages of unrighteousness" (2Pet.2: 15), and also what the
Apostle Jude mentioned: "...they have gone in the way of Cain,
have run greedily in the error o Balaam for profit, and
perished in the rebellion of Korah" (Jude 11).
(e) Likewise, St. Jude spoke about Enoch's prophecy which
is not mentioned in the Old Testament. He said: "Now Enoch,
the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also,
saying, 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His
saints, to execute judgement on all, to convict all who are
ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they
have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things
which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him"' (Jude 14,15).
The source of this prophecy must have been Tradition.
(f) We notice that the commandment of circumcision was
entrusted to our father Abraham by God (Gen.17) and
commanded to people through entrustment before the existence
of a written Law commanding it.
Benefits of Tradition
(1) Through Tradition, we came to know the Holy Bible
itself. Through entrustment the Divine Books reached us and
we would not have been able to know or distinguish them
except through Tradition. The holy councils defined the books
of the New Testament to us.
(2) Through Tradition, the Church heritage, rituals and
disciplines have reached us.
(3) Tradition preserved for us the sound faith that was
handed down from one generation to the next. If the
interpretation of the Bible were left to the comprehension of
each individual, we would have various groups and
denominations fragmented by the one faith, because the Holy
Bible is one thing and the way of interpreting it is another.
(4) Tradition has kept for us certain beliefs and teachings
such as the consecration of Sunday, the making of the sign of
the cross, the law of monogamy, prayers for the departed and
the work of each order of priesthood.
Valid and invalid Tradition
Those who reject Tradition build their objection on the pretext
that the Lord Jesus Christ rejected Tradition when He reproached
the scribes and Pharisees, saying: " Why do you also transgress the
commandment of God because of your tradition?" (Matt.15: 3),
and when He condemned some of the wrong traditions
They also use the pretext of the Apostle's words, "Beware lest
anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according
to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the
world, and not according to Christ" (Col.2: 8).
In our discourse about Tradition, we do not mean the vain
traditions laid down by men or do we mean those traditions
which are not in accord with the doctrine and spirit of the Holy
Bible such as the traditions whose voidness the Lord Jesus
revealed. But we mean the sound Tradition which conforms
(1) The teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was
transmitted to us through Tradition.
(2) The Apostolic Tradition, that is, the teachings of the
Apostles, transmitted to us through entrustment from one
generation to the next.
(3) The Ecclesiastical Tradition, decreed by the holy
Ecumenical councils regarding the Church canons and disciplines
and what we received from the fathers, teachers and heroes of faith
of the Church.
This leads us to the next point:
Church authority in teaching and legislation
This authority was given to the Apostolic Fathers by the
Lord Himself when He said to them: "... whatever you bind on
earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth
will be loosed in heaven" (Matt.18: 18). The Church
commenced this duty of hers by holding the first Church
Council in Jerusalem in 45 A.D. The Council discussed the
acceptance of faith by the Gentiles, and the Apostles decided
not to make it difficult for them, saying: "For it seemed good to
the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden
than these necessary things: that you abstain from things
offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from
sexual immorality" (Acts 15: 28.29).
Therefore, holy councils, local and ecumenical, were held
consecutively through the authority of teaching, legislating and
canonising which the Lord endowed upon priesthood. These
councils have laid down teachings, decisions and disciplines for
the Church which have been included in Church Tradition.
Conditions of sound Tradition
(1) It should not be incompatible with the Holy Bible (Gal. 1:8)
(2) It should not contradict other Church traditions
(3) The Churches should accept it
It is known that in every generation, new matters arise which
had not existed in the previous generations. The point of view
of Religion about such matters is sought so as not to perplex
people's thoughts or make them confused between right and
wrong, because not all people know the rules of Religion or what
is written in the Holy Bible.
Hence the Church, through her teaching and legislative
authority, presents the opinion of Religion in such matters, because
the Holy Bible says that the Law is sought from the mouth of the
priest. Through the succession of generations the Church teachings
have become Tradition to be inherited by all generations.
The Apostles commanded that Tradition be preserved
St. Paul the Apostle said: "Therefore, brethren, standfast and
hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our
epistle" (2Thess.2: 15). He also said: "But we command you,
brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw
from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the
tradition which he received from us" (2Thess.3: 6), He also said to
the Corinthians: "Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember
me in all things and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you"
(1Cor. 11: 2).
We regret to say that our brethren the Protestants, in their
translation of the Holy Bible (Beirut Arabic Translation),
substituted "Traditions" with "Teachings", in matters which
confirm the teaching of Tradition. But kept 'tradition' for
incidents relating to repugnant traditions, obviously rejected by
the holy Church.
Anyhow, although our Protestant brethren deny Tradition,
they themselves instituted their own traditions. They maintain
their own rituals although they deny rituals. They have recited
prayers and fixed readings on ordinations, matrimony, baptism
and funerals although they do not acknowledge recited prayers.
They keep their own tradition but deny any tradition that does
not agree with theirs. It goes without saying that Tradition is a
precious heritage and it would be a great loss for any Church to
be devoid of it, such becomes a Church without history and
without any rules to protect against people interpreting or
teachin things according to their own preferences.
1. The difference between the mediation of the Lord Jesus
Christ and the intercession of the saints
2. The intercession of the saints is merely praying for us
3. God requests people to ask the intercession of the
4. Do angels and saints know our condition on earth?
5. The greatness, knowledge and ministry of the saints
6. Other examples of the greatness of the saints
7. The saints who have departed are still living
8. Examples of the intercession of the angels
9. The saints' favour with the Lord
10. Objections and replies
11. The spirituality of asking the prayers of the saints
12. Intercession is a living reality
Our Protestant brethren reject intercessions of the Virgin
Mary or of the angels or of the saints they base their rejection
on Saint John the Apostle: "... we have an Advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1John.2: 1) and the words
of the Apostle Paul: "For there is one God and one Mediator
between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1Tim.2: 5).
(1) In fact there is a fundamental difference between the
mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ and the intercessions of
The mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ is an atonement,
which means that He mediates for the forgiveness of our sins,
being the Atoner who paid our debts on our behalf. His
mediation means that He says to the Father: "Do not count their
transgressions because I have carried their iniquity" (Is.53:
6). Thus He stands as a Mediator between God and men; or
rather, He is the only Mediator between God and men; He
fulfilled God's Divine Justice and granted people the
forgiveness of sins, by dying for them.
This is what St. John the Apostle meant when he said: "And
if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus
Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our
sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world"
(1John.2: 1,2). Here, the atoning mediation is very clear. It is a
mediation for the sinner: "If anyone sins", and this sinner needs
atonement. The only One who offered this atonement was Jesus
Christ the righteous. Hence He can mediate for us through His
blood which was shed for us.
The same meaning is given in the words of St. Paul the
Apostle about the Lord Jesus Christ being the only Mediator
between God and men. He says: "For there is one God and
one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
who gave Himself a ransom for all" (1Tim.2: 5,6). The Lord
Jesus Christ mediates for us as the Redeemer who sacrificed
Himself and paid the price of our sins.
This type of mediation is utterly unquestionable. It is
attributed to Christ only, whereas the intercessions of the saints
has no connection with atonement or redemption. It is
intercessions for us to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
(2) The intercessions of the saints for us are merely
praying for us; they are of the pleading type, which is
completely different to Christ's atoning mediation
This is sanctioned by the Holy Bible which says: "...pray for
one another" (Jas.5: 16). The saints themselves asked people to
pray for them. St. Paul said to the Thessalonians: "...pray for
us" (2Thess.3: 1) and asked the Hebrews the same request:
"Pray for us" (Heb.13: 18). He also said to the Ephesians:
"...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the
Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and
supplication for all the saints - and for me" (Eph.6: 18,19).
The request to pray for one another is countless in the Holy
Bible. If the saints ask us to pray for them, shall we not ask
them to pray for us? If we ask the prayers of those who are still
in their spiritual combats, 44 subject to sufferings like
ourselves", shall we not ask the prayers of the saints who
completed their striving and departed to Paradise, living with
Christ? Or have these saints been demoted after their departure
from earth to Paradise so that we are only allowed to ask their
prayers when they are on earth and forbidden to do so when
they are in Paradise close to God? If we ask the prayers of
human beings, is it too much to ask the prayers of the angels?
(3) God requests people to ask the intercession of the
God Himself asks that, accepts it and paves the way for it to
happen. I will give you some examples of such intercessions
that God accepted:
(a) The story of our father Abraham and King
Abimelech. Abimelech made a mistake and took Sarah,
Abraham's wife, into his palace. He did so with a clear
conscience because Abraham said that she was his sister. The
Lord came to Abimelech in a dream, threatened him with death
and said to him: "Now therefore, restore the man's wife; for he
is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live"
(Gen.20: 7). God could have forgiven Abimelech as soon as he
returned Sarah to her husband. However, He put a condition
for His forgiveness: Abimelech would be forgiven and would
live provided that Abraham would pray for him. Thus God
asked for the intercession of Abraham and made it a condition
for forgiving Abimelech.
(b) The story of Job and his three friends. In the same
way, the Lord conditioned the intercession and prayer of Job
for his three friends so that He would forgive them. Concerning
this, the Holy Bible says: "...the Lord said to Eliphaz the
Temanite, 'My wrath is aroused against you and your two
friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My
servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls
and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for
yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for
you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to
your folly' " (Job.42: 7,8).
In both events God Himself spoke to the erring person.
However, He did not grant him forgiveness directly but
conditioned the forgiveness to the prayer of the saint for the
sinner so that the sinner might receive forgiveness and the saint
would be venerated in the eyes of people. God not only accepts
this mediation but rather asks for it.
(c) The intercession of Abraham for Sodom. God could
have punished Sodom without letting Abraham know about the
matter. Abraham did not intervene on his own accord, but the
Lord revealed the matter to him, involved him in it, gave him an
opportunity to plead for the people of Sodom and accepted his
intercession. God willed that this event be recorded to exalt
Abraham in the eyes of all people and to show us how He
venerates His saints. The Holy Bible says: "And the Lord said,
'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing' " (Gen.18: 17).
Then the Lord presented to Abraham the subject of Sodom,
gave him the opportunity to intercede for its people in the hope
that there existed in the Country fifty or forty or thirty or
twenty or ten righteous persons for whose sake the Lord would
not destroy the whole Country.
The mere fact that the Lord would not destroy the Country
for the sake of the righteous who lived in it gives us an idea not
only of Abraham's dignity but also of the dignity of those
righteous in front of the Lord. The Lord said: "If I find in
Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the
place for their sakes... If I find there forty-five, I will not
destroy it... I will not do it for the sake of forty... I will not do it
if I find thirty there... I will not destroy it for the sake of
twenty... I will not destroy it for the sake of ten" (Gen.18: 26-
The phrase 'for the sake of" has its divine value which
signifies that God saves persons for the sake of others and it is
also a clear proof of the mediation of the righteous for the sake
of sinners. The Lord accepts this mediation without the
beneficiaries asking for it.
(d) The intercession of Mosses for the people of Israel.
God willed to destroy the people because they worshipped
the golden calf. Yet He did not do it directly but revealed the
matter to Mosses the Prophet, gave him a chance to intercede
for the people and accepted his intercession.
In the same way that Abraham said to God: "Far be it from
You", Mosses said to Him: "Turn from Your fierce wrath, and
relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham,
Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your
own self. " Then the Bible says: "So the Lord relented from the
harm which He said He would do to His people" (Ex.32: 7-14).
(e) The departed have greater favour with God. The
above are examples of prayers of living persons for the sake of
living persons. As for the departed, they have greater favour
with God to the extent that He has mercy on people for their
sake even without them praying. How much more then if they
do pray for someone?
Examples of this are the merciful and compassionate works
God did for the sake of His servant David. When Solomon
sinned, God decided to tear his kingdom away from him, but He
said about the division of the kingdom: "Nevertheless I will not
do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; but I will
tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear
away the whole kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son
for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of
Jerusalem which I have chosen" (1Kin. 11: 12,13).
The Lord repeated the same words in His speech to
Jeroboam: "Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of
Solomon and will give ten tribes to you (but he shall have one
tribe for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of
Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of
Israel). However I will not take the whole kingdom out of his
hand, because I have made him ruler all the days of his life for
the sake of My servant David, whom I chose because he kept
My commandments and My statutes" (1Kin.11: 31,32,34).
In one chapter the Lord repeats the phrase 'for the sake of
My servant David" three times. That is why the Psalmist
prayed to Him, saying: "For Your servant David's sake, do not
turn away the face of Your Anointed" (Ps. 132: 10).
If David has such favour with God, how much more has the
Virgin Mary, the angels, John the Baptist who is the greatest
born of women, and the martyrs who were tortured and tasted
death for the sake of the Lord?
Therefore, since we ask the prayers of our fellows on earth,
why do we not ask the prayers of those whom "shine like the
brightness of the firmament" (Dan.12: 3)? And why do we not
ask the prayers of those who fought the good fight, finished the
race and kept the faith (2Tim:4: 7)?
If intercession, which is prayer, is considered mediation,
and if every mediation is unacceptable, then every man's
prayer for the sake of another is an unacceptable mediation
since we have only one Mediator!
In refusing the mediation in prayers, on the pretext that the
relationship between God and man is a direct one which in the
Divine love does not need the prayers of others, then the
Apostle would be wrong (far from it) in saying, "pray for one
another" (Jas.5: 16)!
Accordingly, prayers for the sake of others which are
mentioned in the Holy Bible are meaningless and not in
accord with the Divine love!
Because God loves people, He does not need others to pray
to Him for the sake of His children to remind Him of His
Providence and Paternal love!
Those who think in this way misunderstand the Divine
design when God asked Abimelech to let Abraham pray for him
(Gen.20: 7) and when He asked Job's friends to let Job pray for
them (Job.42: 8).
The prayers of men for each other (whether they have
departed or are still striving in the flesh) is a manifestation
of the mutual love which exists between humans; a proof of
man's belief that those who have departed are still living
and that their prayers are accepted by God, and an
indication that God venerates His saints.
God permits intercession for the benefit of men and this
intercession rears a bridge between the inhabitants of heaven
and those on earth. Heaven is no longer an unknown and
frightful place to people but they have come to believe in the
work and love of the saints' souls.
The following are important questions frequently asked by
those who deny intercession:
(4) Do angels and saints know our condition on earth?
Do the souls of the saints know our condition? Do our
prayers reach them?
We reply in the affirmative. The proofs are:
(a) There is no doubt that knowledge in heaven is
greater than that on earth. It is surprising that someone asks:
Do saints in heaven know our news and our prayers on earth?
The Apostle Paul replies, saying: "For now we see in a mirror,
dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I
shall know just as I also am known" (1Cor.13: 12).
So in the next world our knowledge will increase and many
secrets will be revealed to us when we take off this body which
binds the soul. There, the knowledge of the soul will expand
and go beyond the sphere of limited knowledge to a wider
sphere. To this knowledge will be added the knowledge
revealed by God to the souls, namely, anything that is enclosed
within the sphere of the Divine Revelation.
(b) The knowledge of the angels is shown clearly in the
Lord's words: "...there will be more joy in heaven over one
sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who
need no repentance" (Lk.15: 7).
This means that the news of the earth reaches the inhabitants
of heaven, whether the angels or the souls of the saints. They
know who repents and who needs repentance, and they rejoice
over the repentance of one sinner. Unless they know the news
of the earth, how could they rejoice?
c) The angels know our prayers because they carry them to
God's throne. There are numerous text-proofs in the Book of
Revelation. It is written: "Then another angel, having a golden
censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much
incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints
upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the
smoke of the incense, with the prayers of all the saints, ascended
before God from the angel's hand" (Rev.8: 3,4). Here we see the
prayers of the saints ascending before God from the angel's hand
and censer. So how can the angels not know our prayers?
Likewise, the twenty-four priests know our prayers and
ascend them before God. In the Book of Revelation, it is
written: "...the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each
having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the
prayers of the saints" (Rev.5: 8). This is proof that they know the
prayers which they ascend to God.
Similarly are the angels of little children of whom the Lord
Jesus Christ said: "Take heed that you do not despise one of these
little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see
the face of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt.18: 10).
d) The story of Abraham, the rich man and Lazarus
(Lk.16). Our father Abraham said to the rich man: "Son, remember
that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise
Lazarus evil things" (Lk.16: 25). How did our father Abraham
know the evil things which Lazarus endured? How did he know
the good things the rich man received? How did he know that the
rich man's family "have Mosses and the Prophets", when he had
departed from earth hundreds of years before Mosses and the rest
of the prophets? How did he know all that? How could Abraham,
of whom the Lord said: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My
day, and he saw it and was glad" (John.8: 56), not know?
(e) A testimony from the souls of the martyrs: St. John says
in the Book of Revelation: "When He opened the fifth seal, I saw
under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word
of God and for the testimony for which they held. And they cried
with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, until
You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the
earth?' And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was
said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both
the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would
be killed as they were, was completed" (Rev. 6: 9-11). Therefore
the martyrs know, after their death, that the Lord has not yet
avenged their blood. They cried with a loud voice to God, saying:
"How long will You let the evil prevail on earth? Until when are
You going to let the strong in body destroy Your children? Until
when will they keep on shedding this blood?" How do they know
all these things? They do know, and when the number of their
fellow servants are completed, they will know.
(f) The amazing story about the Prophet Elijah (2Chr. 2l): It
is written in the Book of Chronicles that King Jehoram killed all his
brothers, walked in the ways of King Ahab, built high places on the
hills of Judah, caused the people of Jerusalem to prostitute
themselves and led Judah astray. Then he received a letter from
the Prophet Elijah who had departed from earth and ascended to
heaven many years before. The letter he received from the Prophet
Elijah read: "Thus says the Lord God of your father David:
Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your
father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the
way of the kings of Israel... the Lord will strike your people"
(2Chr.21: 12-14). How did that happen? How did Elijah, after his
departure from earth, know what was happening? How did he
send his letter to Jehoram?
(5) The greatness, knowledge and ministry of the saints
(a) During his lifetime, Samuel the Prophet was consulted
about a lost donkey. It was said about him: "...there is in this city a
man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he says surely
comes to pass. So let us go there; perhaps he can show us the way
that we should go" (1Sam.9: 6). If the man of God, while he was
on earth, knew the unseen, how much more would his soul know in
(b) When Elisha was on earth, he perceived what Gehazi did in
secret when he accepted the gifts from Naaman the Syrian (2Kin.5:
(c) One of the officers of the King of Aram said about Elisha
to his master the king: "...but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel,
tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom"
(d) Elisha perceived, at the time of the famine, that the King of
Israel had sent a messenger to kill him (2Kin.6: 32). If Elisha,
while still in the flesh, had the gift of knowing secret things, how
much more would he know in heaven after putting off his body?
(e) Likewise, St. Peter the Apostle knew what Ananius and
Sapphira did in secret. He disclosed it to them and punished them
(Acts 5: 3,9).
(f) Also, St. Paul knew that after he would leave, savage wolves
would come in among the Ephesians and would not spare the flock
(Acts 20: 29).
If the Apostles knew that much while they were still in the flesh,
how much more would the Lord reveal to them in heaven!
These saints have knowledge and have a message for
people. Their life, which started on earth did not end with
their departure to heaven. We ask them to intervene more than
we ask those who are still striving on earth like ourselves and have
not yet departed.
(6) Other examples of the greatness of the saints
(a) The bones of the Prophet Elisha were capable of
performing a great deed. They were a blessing and brought a
dead person back to life by mere contact, without prayer; they
were only bones with no life in them (2Kin.13: 21). How much
more effect would Elisha's soul have in heaven? Undoubtedly
his soul is more powerful than his bones; having more
knowledge and having more favour with the Lord! How much
more effect would the souls of saints similar to Elisha, have in
(b) If the handkerchiefs and aprons which touched Paul's
body had the blessing of healing many sick and of driving out
many demons (Acts 19:12), how much more blessing would his
soul and the souls of saints similar to him, have in heaven?
(7) The saints who departed are still living
The Lord explained this fact when He said: "...have you not
read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is
not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt.22: 31,32).
Therefore those saints are still living. Why should we consider
them dead and not ask their prayers?
We should not forget as well the appearance of Mosses and
Elijah with the Lord Jesus Christ on the Mount of
Transfiguration. Moses died fourteen centuries before the birth
of Christ and is still living just as Elijah who was taken up to
heaven. Their souls did not die; they are in Paradise and they
see more than we do.
(8) Examples of the intercession of the angels
There are two examples in the Book of the Prophet Zechariah:
(a) The intercession of the angel for the sake of Jerusalem: The
angel prayed and said: "O Lord of hosts, how long will You not
have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against
which You were angry these seventy years?" (Zech.1: 12) If the
angel interceded for Jerusalem even without the latter asking him
to, how much more will he intercede if you ask him for his prayers?
(b) The intercession of the angel of the Lord for the sake of
Joshua the high priest: The angel stood against Satan who was
going to bring an accusation against Joshua, and said to him: "The
Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem
rebukes you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" (Zech.3:
(c) Another example is in the Book of Genesis: An angel of
the Lord guarded and saved Jacob. Jacob talked about him
when he was blessing Ephraim and Manasseh and said: "The
Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads"
(d) We should not forget that the Holy Bible said about the
angels: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to
minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (He.1: 14) This
means that they have a work to perform for the people on earth.
(9) The saints' favour with the Lord
(a) We ask the intercession of the saints because of the great
favour they have with the Lord who loves them and puts them
in charge of merciful deeds for the sake of men. Also because of
the greater knowledge and extensive capabilities their souls
enjoy after leaving their bodies.
(b) Whilst talking about the saints' favour with the Lord, we
mention that God sometimes associated His name with their
names. He said: "I am the God of your father - the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex.3: 6).
(c) That is why the saints used to remind the Lord of His
saints so that His compassionate and merciful heart would be
moved immediately on hearing their names and remembering
His promises to them. In interceding for the people of Israel to
be saved from perishing, Moses the Prophet said to the Lord:
"Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to
whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will
multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven' " (Ex.32: 13).
(d) We recall that when King Hazael of Syria oppressed the
Israelites, the Holy Bible says: "But the Lord was gracious to
them, had compassion on them, and regarded them, because of
His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not
yet destroy them or cast them from His presence" (2 Kin. 13:
(e) On the subject of the saints' favour with the Lord, we
present the example of God's reproach to Aaron and Miriam
when they criticised Moses. The Lord came down in a pillar of
cloud and said to Aardn and Miriam in front of Moses: "If there
is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to
him in a vision, and I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My
servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house. I speak with him
face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees
the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak
against My servant Moses?" (Num.12: 68)
(f) Another example of the saints' favour with the Lord is the
Lord's words to His Apostles: "He who hears you hears Me, he
who rejects you rejects Me" (Lk.10: 16) and "If anyone serves
Me, him My Father will honour" (John.12: 26).
(10) Objections and replies
(a) It is said that in asking the intercession of the saints, we
pray to them. We reply that we do not pray to the saints; we
only ask their prayers and their support for us. Our talk to the
Virgin Mary is not a prayer to her but it is a filial talk from
children to their mother; a sort of confiding the secrets of our
hearts to her and not praying to her. We kindly request her
intercession for us as she is the Queen who sits at the right hand
of the King.
(b) It is said that intercession is a sort of mediation. We see
nothing wrong with that, as God Himself accepted mediation
and He demanded it. He asked Abimelech to let Abraham pray
for him so that he would live (Gen.20: 7), and He asked Job's
friends to let Job pray for them lest He treat them according to
their follies (Job.42: 8). He allowed Abraham to plead for
Sodom (Gen. 18) and allowed Moses to plead for the sake of
the people of Israel. He listened to them and accepted their
(11) The spirituality of asking the prayers of the saints
(a) Asking the intercession of the saints implies belief in the
life to come; belief that the departed are still living and have
their work to perform; belief in the constant relationship
between heaven and earth, and belief in venerating the saints
who are venerated by God Himself.
(b) Intercession is a fellowship of love between the members
of the One Body. The Church is the body, Christ is the Head
and all of us, whether on earth or in heaven, are members of the
One Body. Love, prayers and fellowship are peretually
exchanged between the members of the One and same Body.
We plead for the departed in our prayers and they intercede for
us through their prayers; it is an inseparable relationship.
It is regrettable that people who object to intercession seem
adamant to destroy this fellowship. They resist our for the sake
of the departed and their prayers or intercessions for us? Does
the love relationship between God the Father and every believer
contradicts the existence of love relationship between God's
children? Did the Lord Jesus Christ not ask the Father: "...that
they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You;
that they also may be one in Us... that they may be one just as
We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made
perfect in one" (John.17: 21, 23)?
(c) Intercession is beneficial. Whoever denies it loses its
benefits and gains nothing in lieu. Those who believe in
intercession benefit from the love relationship between them
and the saints. They benefit from the mere connection with the
souls of those who have departed. They add to their own
prayers the more profound and powerful prayers of those
abiding in the next world, without any loss on their part.
However, those who deny intercessions of the saints lose this
relationship and these prayers without gaining anything in stead.
They lose a simple and an uncomplicated belief manifested by
those who celebrate the feasts of the saints, visit their churches
and ask their prayers. How would they cope with meeting
these saints in the next life after, while they have refused to
venerate them or ask their prayers and intercessions?
(d) Intercession entails meekness of heart. The person who
asks for intercession is a humble person. He is not conceited
about his personal relationship with God, but takes the position
of the sinner and the weak who requests the intercession of
others for his sake. Vice versa is he who denies intercession. He
might pompously ask: "What is the difference between me and
those saints? The relationship between me and God is too
strong to need intercession"! He raises himself to the rank of
the saints, martyrs and angels.
Those people will be reproached by the Apostle's words: "Pray
for us" (Heb.13: 18) and "...praying always with all prayer and
supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all
perseverance and supplication for all the saints" (Eph.6: 18).
(e) Intercession is proof of God's justice in the principle of
equal opportunities. If God permits Satan to fight His children,
tempt them in false visions and dreams and torments them, so,
according to His justice and the principle of equal opportunities,
He permits the angels and the souls of the righteous to help His
children on earth. Thus God's justice is manifest in the
intervention of the souls of those abiding in the next world in
the life of men.
If God permitted Satan to harm Job, He also permits angels
to bandage the injuries of men and to minister to His children
without them asking. How much more if they pray for it! "Are
they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those
who will inherit salvation?" (Heb.1: 14)
So long as the angels are sent forth for this purpose why
should we not ask their intervention to help us while they are
(12) Intercession is a living reality
The intercession of the saints for us is not merely a theological
research text-proved from the Holy Bible, but it is a living reality
we experience. It is a living history through the generations,
narrating the amazing relationship between those who departed and
those who are still living on earth. It is a living contact with the
saints who truly pity our state more than we do to the extent that
sometimes our problems are solved for us due to their intercessions
for us without our request or prayers. They understand more than
we do and they apply the verse: "Rejoice with those who rejoice,
and weep with those who weep" (Rom.12: 15) more than we do.
Intercession is proof of the bond between the members of the
Church on earth and the members of the Church in heaven. It is
one Church: one part of it is on earth, which we call Church
Militant and the other part is in heaven which we call Church
Triumphant. Both of them pray for each other.
Those who reject the intercession of the saints are in fact
disregarding the marvellous miracles that occurred and are testified
to by people, through the prayers of the saints on the occasion of
their feasts or in their churches and monasteries. It appears that
such dogmatic arguments in theology may of resulted in denial of
factual history and day to day facts of life.
It suffices to mention the miracles which occurred by the
appearance of the Virgin Mary in her Church at Zeitoon.
Whether to Christians or Moslems, and which were
documented by the people's oral and written testimonials. Also
the miracles which occur in the name of St. George, Archangel
Michael and other saints. All these should be sufficient to
convince our Protestant brethren in coming to terms with the
reality of the intercessions of the saints.
Read the life-stories of the saints and you will come to
know about the intervention of the angels and saints in
people's lives. You will see how they appear, foretell, give
promises and guidance and bring good news of the birth of a saint
from a barren mother or of God's choice of a saint for His ministry.
As far as these people are concerned, the subject of their
relationship with the saints is not a one day and night acquaintance
but it is ages-long relationship. It is a relationship we can never
destroy. It is a relationship between people, the angels and the
saints. This is why many of these people find it difficult to
understand the Protestant stance of rejecting the inseparable bond
between the Church on earth and its members in heaven.
1. Are all fasts in secret?
2. Communal fasts
3. Fasts in set times
4. Reply to Objections:
a. "Let no one judge you"
b. Vegetarian fasting
c. Abstaining from certain foods
5. Church authority in organising worship
It is quite obvious that fasting was not a symbol but a
commandment in the Old Testament and New Testament. Our
Protestant brethren do not utterly deny fasting but they have
practically cancelled it. Here, I will not discuss the subject of
fasting in general with its importance, benefits and spirituality
because all these can be read about in our book entitled The
Spirituality of Fasting.
Points of variance:
(1) Our Protestant brethren say that fasting should be practised
secretly between man and God, following the Lord's
commandment in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.6: 17,18).
(2) Our Protestant brethren do not have fixed fasts for all the
believers at set times and on certain occasions, but most of their
fasts are individual practices. The individual fasts whenever he
likes, in the manner he likes, and the Church has no authority over
him and does not interfere in his fast.
(3) Our Protestant brethren depend on a misinterpretation of
the verse: "Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or
regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a
shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Col.2:
(4) Our Protestant brethren disagree with vegetarian fasting
and with abstaining from foods of animal produce. They accuse us
that in doing so, at least the second part of the following verse
applies to us: ".... in latter times some will depart from the faith,
giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons...
forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods
which God created to be received with thanksgiving" (ITim.4:
Reply to the objection concerning fasting in secret
There are two kinds of worship: individual and communal.
(a) In prayer for example, there is individual prayer; you pray
in your room, to your Father who sees in secret. This does not
cancel the existence of communal prayer for all the groups of
believers to pray in one spirit, in one soul and in one voice.
Examples of such prayers are numerous in the New Testament.
One of these examples is the prayer of the believers after the
release of Peter and John from prison: "So when they heard
that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and
said..." (Acts 4: 24).
Of course the Lord's commandment regarding praying in
secret (Matt.6: 6) does not apply to such prayer.
(b) Likewise in charity, there is a charitable deed done in
secret as an individual act in which you do not let your left hand
know what your right hand is doing (Matt.6: 3). But this does
not cancel the general charity collected from everyone, as when
King David collected donations to build the Temple. He
mentioned in detail how much he contributed, and how much
was contributed by the leaders of the fathers' houses, the leaders
of the tribes of Israel, the captains of thousands and of
hundreds, and the officers over the king's work (1Chr.29: 3-9).
Another example is when the rich people put their gifts in the
Temple treasury and the poor widow put in two very small
copper coins (Lk.21: 1,2).
(c) Likewise in fasting, there is individual fasting practised in
secret that does not cancel the general fast shared by the whole
community of believers.
Reply to the objection: Is communal fasting a Biblical
doctrine or not?
There are numerous examples of communal fasts in the Holy
Bible, such as:
(a) The people's fast at the time of Esther
All the people fasted together at the same time for one
purpose, praying for one request of the Lord, and the Lord
accepted their fast and granted them their request (Esth. 4).
(b) The fast of the people of Nineveh
They all fasted together and not in secret, and the Lord
accepted their fast and forgave them their sins (Jon.3).
(c) The people's fast at the time of Nehemiah and Ezra
Nehemiah says: "Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month
the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in
sackcloth, and with dust on their heads" (Neh.9: 1). And Ezra
says: "Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that
we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him
the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions"
(d) The fast at the time of Joel
The Bible says: " 'Now, therefore,' says the Lord, 'Turn to
Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with
mourning.'... consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather
the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders,
gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go
out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room"
(Joel 2: 12-17).
(e) The Apostles' fast in the New Testament
When the Lord Jesus Christ was asked why His disciples did
not fast, He replied: "But the days will come when the
bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will
fast" (Matt.9: 15). The Apostles did fast together and not in
secret, and the Lord accepted their fast.
Some examples of the Apostles' fasts: "As they ministered to
the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me
Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'
Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them... "
(Acts 13: 2,3).
(f) St. Paul fasted for a long time together with all the
people on the ship (Acts 27:21)
Therefore communal fasting is acceptable and is a
Biblical doctrine. It is proof of the oneness of soul in worship
and in approaching God, especially if the purpose of the fast is a
matter that concerns the whole community, or if the whole
community partakes in the fast, as they do in prayer, in one
There is no hypocrisy in communal fasting
In communal fasting there is no distinction between one
person and the other. The level and depth of the fast of each
individual remains `in secret'. In the New Testament there is
not one single verse that prevents communal fasting.
Reply to the objection of fasting in set times
Fasting in set times is also a Biblical doctrine, as the Lord
defines in the Book of the Prophet Zechariah: "The fast of the
fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and
the fast of the tenth" (Zech.8: 19). The reason of defining times
for fasting may be to regulate communal worship. Occasions of
fasts in Christianity have Christian implications: each fast has its
own spiritual aim, effect and reason.
Reply to the phrase "...let no one judge you"
The Apostle did not say: "Let no one judge you in fasts", but
he said: "...let no one judge you in food or in drink." By this he
meant the unclean foods forbidden to the Jews and the types of
food which they considered impure.
This reminds us of the vision which St. Peter the Apostle
saw in connection with directing Cornelius. The Apostle saw a
great sheet in which were all kinds of food and he heard a voice
telling him to kill and eat. But Peter said: " `Not so, Lord! For
I have never eaten anything common or unclean.' And a voice
spoke to him again the second time, 'What God has cleansed
you must not call common' " (Acts 10: 14,15).
It was regarding these foods which were considered impure
and unclean, that the Apostle Paul said: "...let no one judge you
in food or in drink. " For at the beginning of Christianity, the
first people who became Christians were Jews who tried to
"Judaize" Christianity, that is, to bring into Christianity all the
Jewish customs such as unclean food, purification, keeping the
Sabbath, moon festivals, celebrations of the beginning of
months and Jewish feasts (such as the Passover, the Unleavened
Bread, the Trumpets, the Tents and the Atonement Day). St.
Paul wanted to resist the Judaization of Christianity. That is
why he said: "Therefore let no one judge you in food or in
drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,
which are a shadow of things to come" (Col.2: 16,17).
Hence this was not an occasion of talking about fasting but it
was an occasion of talking about the Jewish customs which the
converted Jews wanted to bring into Christianity.
Reply to the subject of vegetarian food
(a) Firstly, we would like to say that fasting in our Church
is not merely eating vegetarian food but it is abstaining from
eating for a certain time followed by eating vegetarian food
(food free from animal fat).
(b) Vegetarian food was the food which God presented to
Adam and Eve in Paradise (Gen.1: 29) and also after the sin
(Gen.3: 18). All animals were fed on vegetarian food, namely
grass (Gen. 1: 30).
(c) The Holy Bible did not allow the eating of meat until after
Noah's Ark (Gen.9: 3) when the world had degraded to the extent
that made God send the Flood.
(d) When God led His people in the Wilderness of Sinai, He
offered them vegetarian food, that is, manna (Num.11: 7,8). He
did not allow them to eat meat (quails) until after their wailing,
groaning and the degradation of their spirits. When God gave them
meat He struck them with a severe plague which caused the death
of many of them (Num.11: 33). The place where they were buried
was named `Kibroth Hattaavah' (which means `Graves of
Craving') because they had craved to eat meat.
(e) We notice that vegetarian food was the food which Daniel
and the three youths ate. The Lord blessed their food and their
health was better than all the servants of the king (Dan.1: 12,15).
The reasons for using vegetarian food are that it is light food
which does not stimulate the bodily desires and it was the original
food which God presented to man.
Reply to the objection concerning abstaining from certain
The verse in the Holy Bible on which our Protestant brethren
depend does not speak about Church discipline, but says: "...some
will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and
doctrines of demons... forbidding to marry, and commanding to
abstain from foods which God created to be received with
thanksgiving" (ITim.4: 1-3). Probably the people whom St. Paul is
referring to are the Manichaeans and the Mandaeans who forbade
marriage, meat and wine. The Church excommunicated them and
condemned all their heretic publications.
The Church does not forbid the eating of meat and similar
foods, but abstains from eating them during fasts as an ascetic
practice and not because they are unclean food. This is
proved by the fact that people eat these foods when they break
Daniel ate pulse only and abstained from all other foods, yet he
was not condemned according to the aforementioned verses.
Likewise, John the Baptist abstained from certain foods and so do
all ascetics everywhere and in every age.
Asceticism for a certain time is one thing and forbidding food is
another. We have to say an important remaining point.
Church authority in organising worship
The Church has regulated the fasts and has laid down for them
spiritual rules and set times based on spiritual grounds. Thus the
Church maintains the fasts and they have remained essential and
indispensable spiritual practices.
The Church has the right, or rather the obligation, to organise
for the benefit of her members various spiritual practices so they
may worship the Lord together in one spirit. Here the Church
implement's Lord's commission to her leaders: "...whatever you
bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on
earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matt.18: 18). Thus Church
discipline is biblically based.
Our Protestant brethren, in adopting an individualistic and
congregational approach, made their congregation lose the benefits
of fasting, which is regrettably, almost extinct from the evangelical
Discipline is generally useful for the individual; it does not
hinder his freedom but rather regulates its usage.
THE VENERATION OF THE
AND HER PERPETUAL VIRGINITY
THE VENERATION OF THE
AND HER PERPETUAL
(1) Venerating the Virgin Mary
(2) Reply to the questions:
(a) Why do we give the Virgin the titles `the vine' and
'the gate of Life'?
(b) Is it correct to pray to the Virgin?
(3) The perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary
(4) Reply to the opposing opinions:
(a) The phrase "he firstborn"
(b) The phrase "your wife"
(c) "Before they came together she was found with
(d) "did not know her till she had brought forth her
(e) The phrase "His brothers"
The Veneration of St. Mary the Virgin
(1) Our Protestant brethren do not venerate our Lady the
Virgin nor do they ask for her intercession. Some of their
groups even go to the extent of likening her to the eggshell that
loses its value after the chick hatches. This exaggeration in not
venerating the Virgin Mary is probably a reaction to the
exaggerated veneration given her by the Roman Catholics.
Thus our Protestant brethren do not celebrate any of the
(2) Some Protestant groups call the Virgin Mary `our
(3) In addition, our Protestant brethren say that after the
Virgin had given birth to the Lord Jesus she consumated her
marriage to Joseph and begot children known as Jesus'
brothers" or "the Lord's brothers".
(4) Our Protestant brethren also object to some of the titles
which our Church gives to our Lady the Virgin.
(5) One of the features which reveals the non-veneration of
the Virgin is that, in their translation of the Holy Bible, they
have changed the title given her by the angel from 'full of
grace" into "highly favoured".
(6) Our Protestant brethren frequently give our Lady the
Virgin the title 'Mother of Jesus' instead of 'Mother of God'
Venerating the Virgin Mary
It suffices to mention the Virgin's words which are recorded
in the Holy Bible: "For behold, henceforth all generations will
call me blessed" (Lk.1: 48). The phrase "all generations"
means that venerating the Virgin is a universal dogma which
commenced at the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ and will
continue until the end of ages.
Some of the venerations of the Virgin Mary are recorded in
the Holy Bible. For example Elizabeth, who was about the same
age as saint Mary's mother, said to her: "But why is this
granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in
my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy" (Lk1: 43,44).
What amazes us here in the Virgin's greatness is that when
Elizabeth heard her greeting, she "was filled with the Holy
Spirit" (Lk1: 41). The mere hearing of the Virgin's voice
caused Elizabeth to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Not only did the Virgin receive veneration from the human
race but she also received it from the angels. This is clear from
Angel Gabrielle's greeting to her. He said: "Rejoice, highly
favoured one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among
women!" (Lk.1: 28) The phrase "Blessed are you among
women" was repeated by Elizabeth in her greeting to the Virgin
Mary (Lk.1: 42). In addressing Virgin Mary, Archangel Gabriel
used more glorious and venerating manner of speech, more than
what was used for Zacharias the priest (Lk1: 13).
There are many prophecies in the Holy Bible that refer to the
Virgin Mary. Among them are "At Your right hand stands the
Queen" (Ps.45: 9). The Divine Inspiration also says of her: "The
royal daughter is all glorious within" (Ps.45: 13). Therefore,
the Virgin is the Queen and the daughter of the King. That is
why the Coptic Church, in all the icons of the Virgin Mary,
portrays her as a crowned queen and places her at the right
hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, glory be to Him.
The Church, in her hymns, praises the Virgin, saying: "Many
daughters have done well, but you excel them all" (Prov.31:
St. Mary the Virgin was the desire of all generations. She is
the one whose Offspring was able to "bruise the Serpent's
head", thus fulfilling God's first promise of saving man
As the Virgin is the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, so all
the titles of the Lord can be attributed to her motherhood.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the true Light (John.1: 9). He said
of Himself. "I am the light of the world" (John.8: 12)
Therefore, His mother the Virgin is the Mother of Light or the
Mother of the True Light.
Since Christ is the Holy One (Lk.1: 35), thus the Virgin is
the Mother of the Holy One.
Since Christ is the Saviour, as it was said to the shepherds:
"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a
Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk.2: 11), and since His name
is Jesus, that is, 'Saviour', because "He will save His people
from their sins", therefore the Virgin is the Mother of the
Since Christ is God (1John.1); (Rom.9: 5); (John.20: 28),
therefore the Virgin is the Mother of God.
Since Christ is the Lord, according to Elizabeth's words to
the Virgin Mary: "the mother of my Lord" (Lk1: 43), therefore
the Virgin is the Mother of the Lord. In the same way, she is
the Mother of Emmanuel (Matt.1: 24) and the Mother of the
Word Incarnate (John1: 14).
If the Virgin Mary is the Mother of Christ, then
unquestionably, she is the spiritual mother of all Christians. It
suffices that when the Lord Jesus Christ was on the cross, He
said to St. John, the beloved Apostle, of her: "Behold your
mother!" (John.19: 27) If the Virgin is mother to St. John who
addresses us, saying: "My little children" (1John.2: 1),
therefore she is the mother of us all. Consequently, the title
"our sister" is not welcomed and does not deserve a reply
because it is unacceptable and illogical to consider the mother
of Christ the sister of His children who believe in His name!
Whoever venerates the Virgin is in effect venerating Christ
Himself. If to honour one's mother is the first commandment
with a promise (Eph.6: 2); (Ex.20: 12); (Deut.5: 16), should we
not venerate our mother the Virgin, the mother of the Lord
Jesus Christ and the mother of the Apostles? The Virgin is the
one to whom the angel said: " The Holy Spirit will come upon
you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you;
therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called
the Son of God" (Lk1: 35). She is the one who was praised by
Elizabeth who said: "Blessed is she who believed, for there will
be a fulfilment of those things which were told her from the
Lord" (Lk.1: 45).
The phrase 'Blessed are you among women', which was said
by Angel Gabriel and by St. Elizabeth, means that if the Virgin
is compared with all the women of the world she will be the
blessed one because none of the women of the world received
the glory which she had received through the Divine
Incarnation. Undoubtedly, God chose our Lady the Virgin from
among all women, because no other woman has ever had the
Virgin's qualities. This shows her exaltation and elevated
position. That is why Isaiah the Prophet named her 'a cloud' in
his prophecy of the Flight into Egypt (Is. 19: 1).
With regard to God's indwelling in the Virgin during the
Incarnation, the Church calls her the Second Heaven and the
Tabernacle or the Dome of Moses.
The Church also calls the Virgin the City of God or Zion, as
it is said in the psalm: "And of Zion it will be said, 'This one
and that one were born in her; and the Most High Himself
shall establish her"' and "Glorious things are spoken of you, 0
city of God!" (Ps. 87)
Since the Lord Jesus said that He resembles the manna
because He is the Living Bread that came down from heaven
(John.6: 58), therefore, the Church calls the Virgin the Manna
Regarding St. Mary's virginity, the Church calls her Aaron's
Rod which blossomed (Num.17).
The Ark of Testimony (Ex.25:10-22) is a type (resemblance)
for Virgin Mary because firstly, the Ark was overlaid with gold
on the inside and the outside, symbolising her purity and
elevation. Secondly because the Ark was made of Acacia wood
which does not decay, symbolising her sanctity. Thirdly because
the Ark contained the manna, which symbolises Christ the
Living Bread who came down from heaven, and lastly because
the Ark contained the two tablets of the Law which symbolise
Christ the Word of God (John.1: 1).
The ladder reaching from earth to heaven which Jacob saw
in his dream, is a type (resemblance) for Virgin Mary. Being this
conjunction between earth and heaven in the Incarnation of
Christ; She was the earth in which heaven dwelt and whilst she
was on earth she bore heaven within her (Gen.28: 12).
The burning bush that was not consumed and which Moses
saw (Ex.3), is a type (resemblance) for Virgin Mary, upon
whom came the Holy Spirit with His Divine fire and she was
Since the union of Divinity and Humanity of the Lord Jesus
Christ resembles the union of coal and fire, therefore, St. Mary
the Virgin, who bore within her that Union, resembles the
censer. She is called Aaron's Censer or the Golden Censer,
signifying her exaltation.
The Church also gives the Virgin the title 'The Good Dove'
1. In her meekness she resembles the dove.
2. The Holy Spirit, Who appeared in the form of a dove
(Matt.3: 16), came upon her.
3. She brought the message of man's salvation, resembling
the dove that brought the message of the return of life to the
earth after the Flood (Gen.8: 10,11).
The Virgin is also likened to the Church and many
prophecies apply simultaneously to the Virgin and to the
The symbols and resemblances of Virgin Mary in the Church
rituals and in the Holy Scriptures are numerous. She is
1. the Holy Spirit came upon her,
2. she is the mother of God,
3. she is of perpetual virginity,
4. she is holy,
5. the Holy Bible testifies of her,
6. the Lord Himself venerated her, and
7. because of her miraculous signs and sacred appearances.
This veneration is expressed in the Church rituals, hymns and
songs, in the Church prayers asking for her intercession, in
celebrating her many feasts and in consecrating one of our fasts in
The Virgin's Feasts
1. Her (dormition) dying, 21st Toubi and the 21st day of
every Coptic month
2. Her nativity, 1st Pashans
3. The annunciation to her parents, 7th Mesra
4. Her presentation into the Temple, 3rd Keyahk
5. Her entry into the land of Egypt, 24th Pashans
6. Her assumption, 16th of Misra
7. Consecration of her church in Philippi, 21st Ba'ouna
8. Her appearance in her church at Zeitoon, Cairo, 2nd April
Two Questions on the Virgin's Titles
(1) Why do we call the Virgin `the vine' in the prayer of the
Third Hour, saying: "O Mother of God, you are the true vine
bearing the Fruit of Life", when the Vine is the Lord Jesus
Christ who says plainly of Himself: "I am the True Vine and My
Father is the Vine-dresser. I am the Vine, you are the
branches" (John.15: 1, 5)?
(2) Why do we address the Virgin, in the third watch of the
Midnight Prayer, saying: "O noetic gate of life", when the gate
is Christ who says of Himself: "I am the door of the sheep"
(1) The Virgin Is the True Vine
Giving the title 'the true vine' to the Virgin in no way
contradicts the title of the Lord Jesus Christ as the True Vine.
The Lord is the Vine in one sense and the Virgin is the vine in
The Lord is the Vine when we are the branches; He is the
Origin and all of us originate from Him; He is the Head and all
of us are members of His Body.
As for the Virgin, according to the Church's hymns, she is
the one who bore the Fruit of Life - the Son of God. She is the
vine who neither experienced senescence nor was reaped by
Here we would like to record an important point:
The Lord Jesus Christ grants us some of His titles
(1) The Lord says: "I am the good Shepherd" (John.10: 11,
14). This title was given to God by David in his psalm when he
said: "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Ps.23: 1), and was also given
to Him in the Book of Ezekiel (Ez.34: 11-16).
Nevertheless, the Lord appoints some of His children
shepherds. While He is concerned to make the whole Church "one
flock and one Shepherd" (John.10: 16), He says to Peter the
Apostle: "Feed My lambs. Tend My sheep" (John.21: 15,16). In
the Old Testament the Lord says: "And I will give you shepherds
according to My heart" (Jer.3: 15). The title 'shepherd' became the
title attributed to the Apostles' successors; the bishops who are to
"shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own
blood" (Acts 20: 28). St. Peter says: "Shepherd the flock of God
which is among you, serving as overseers" (1Pet.5: 2).
(2) The Lord Jesus Christ calls Himself `Light' when He says:
"I am the Light of the world" (John.8: 12); (John.9: 5).
Nevertheless, He says to His disciples: "You are the light of the
world" (Matt.5: 14) and "Let your light so shine before men"
There is no doubt that the Lord is the absolute Light in the full
sense of the word. His disciples are light because they derive their
light from Him and with His light they shine before others. In the
same way, He is the Shepherd in the full sense of the wordbut they
are shepherds because they are God's stewards appointed by Him
to shepherd His flock.
(3) It is said of the Lord Jesus Christ that He is the Bishop:
"The Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1Pet.2: 25).
Nevertheless, the Apostles' disciples were ordained bishops by the
Holy Spirit (John 20:20-23) (Acts 20: 28); (1Thess.3: 2); (Phil.1:
1); (Titus1: 7).
(4) It is said of the Lord Jesus Christ that He is the "Priest
forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Ps.110: 4);
(Heb.5: 6). Yet there are numerous verses in the Holy Bible about
the high priest, the chief priest and the priests to whom God gave
an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations (Ex.40: 15).
In the Old Testament it is written: "Let Your priests be
clothed with righteousness" (Ps.132: 9,16); "And he poured
some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him,
to sanctify him" (Lev. 8: 12) and "you shall make holy
garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty"
(Ex.28: 2). In the New Testament, we notice that St. Paul calls
himself a priest (Rom.15: 16).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Priest in the sense that He
offered Himself a Sacrifice on our behalf. But priests from the
human race are ministers and stewards of God's mysteries. They
offer the Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Old
Testament they offered what symbolised Christ's Sacrifice.
(5) It is written that Christ is the Son of God (1John.4:
14,15) and that we also are children of God (1John.3: 1). Christ
is the Son of God in the sense that He is of God's Essence,
Nature and Divinity. But we are children through love
andadoption. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ is called the
Only Son (John.3: 16).
Likewise is the title `vine'
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Vine. The whole Church is called
the vineyard and the Lord sang a song of the vineyard about the
Church in the Book of Isaiah (Is.5: 37) in which He says: "Judge,
please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have
been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it?" And the
Divine Inspiration says: "For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is
the house of Israel" (Is.5: 7).
The same meaning applies to the parable of the vineyard and the
tenants, which the Lord told in (Matt.21: 33-41). In this parable,
the vineyard is the Church, the tenants are the priests, and God is
In calling the Church `the vine' we quote the words of the
Divine Inspiration in the Book of Psalms. We say to God:
"Return, we beseech you, 0 God of hosts; look down from heaven
and see and visit this vine and the vineyard which Your right hand
has planted" (Ps.80: 14,15).
Do we steal God's glory if we call the Church 'the vine' when
Christ Himself has bestowed upon her that title? Do we steal
God's glory if we call people the vineyard, when the teaching of
the Holy Bible commands us to do so? Or is this just an attack
against the Church of which the Holy Bible says: "Sing to her, a
vineyard of red wine! I, the Lord, keep it. I water it every
moment" (Is.27: 2,3)?
Moreover, the title `the vine' is given to every blessed
mother, as the psalm says: "Your wife shall be like a. fruitful
vine in the very heart of your house" (Ps.128: 3).
Therefore, it is not surprising to call St. Mary the Virgin `the
(2) The Virgin Is the Gate of Life
and the Gate of Salvation
In the Holy Bible the Virgin Mary is called `the gate'. It is
written in the Book of Ezekiel that she is a gate that faces
toward the East, and the Lord God entered by it and went out
the same way (Ez.44: 2).
As the Lord is the Life, then the Virgin is the gate of Life.
The Lord declares that He is the Life when He says: "I am the
resurrection and the life" (John.11: 25). Since the Virgin is the
gate through which Christ came, therefore she is the gate of
In the same way, the Virgin Mary is the gate of Salvation
because the Lord is the Saviour; He came to save the world; to
save that which was lost (Lk.19: 10).
It is not surprising to call the Virgin `the gate' because the
Church was called `the gate' a long time ago. Our father Jacob
said of the holy place which he consecrated a church and named
Bethel, that is, house of God: "How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate
of heaven!" (Gen.28: 17).
Is It Correct to Pray to the Virgin?
We do not pray to the Virgin but we address her when we pray
and entreat her to intercede for us. Not only do we address the
Virgin, but we also address the angels, nature, people, ourselves
and even the Devil. This is based on written texts from the Divine
Inspiration and is not considered prayer. Why should we not
address our mother the Virgin in particular?
(1) We address the angels when we pray, saying: "Bless the
Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word,
heeding the voice of His word. Bless the Lord, all you His
hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure" (Ps.103:
20,21) and "Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in
the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His
hosts!" (Ps.148: 1,2)
(2) We address nature in our prayer, saying: "Praise Him,
sun and moon; praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him
you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and
they were created. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great
sea creatures and all the depths; fire and hail, snow and
clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word; mountains and all
hills; fruitful trees and all cedars" (Ps.148: 3-9).
(3) We address the holy city of God and ask her to praise
the Lord, saying: "Praise the Lord, 0 Jerusalem! Praise your
God, 0 Zion! For He has strengthened the bars of your gates;
He has blessed your children within you" (Ps.147: 12,13). In
another psalm we say: "Glorious things are spoken of you, 0
city of God!" (Ps.87: 3)
(4) We address people in our prayer, saying: "Oh, clap your
hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of
triumph!" (Ps.47: 1), "Come, behold the works of the Lord,
who has made desolations in the earth" (Ps.46: 8), "Do not put
your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no
help" (Ps.146: 3) and ? "Bless the Lord, all His works, in all
places of His dominion" (Ps.103: 22). In another psalm, we
say: "Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the
Lord!" (Ps.113: 1). And we also say: "Give unto the Lord, O
you mighty ones, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give
unto the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in
the beauty of holiness" (Ps.29: 1,2).
(5) Also, the worshipper addresses himself, saying: "Bless
the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy,
name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His
benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your
diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns
you with loving kindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your
mouth with good things, so that our youth is renewed like the
eagle's" (Ps.103: 1-5). In another psalm, the worshipper prays:
"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why, are you
disquieted within me? Hope in God" (Ps.42: 5). In the Twelfth
Hour Prayer, the worshipper addresses himself, saying:
"Repent, O my soul, as long as you are still dwelling on earth."
(6) Moreover, in our prayer we address the evil spirits and
all their powers, saying: "Depart from me, all you workers of
iniquity; for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The
Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my
prayer. Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled,
let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly" (Ps.6: 8-10).
Do we pray to all these? Do we pray to angels? Do we pray
to nature, people and devils? God forbid! We address them in
our prayer. This is acceptable; it is a Biblical teaching and
taken from the spirit of the Psalms which St. Paul the Apostle
talked about, saying: "Whenever you come together, each of
you has a psalm" (1Cor.14: 26), "speaking to one another in
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making
melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph.5: 19) and "teaching
and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs" (Col.3: 16).
As long as we address angels, nature, people, ourselves and
devils in our prayers, according to the teaching of the Divine
Inspiration, then it is not wrong to address our mother the
Virgin whilst we pray and this is not considered prayer.
The Perpetual Virginity
of the Virgin Mary
The perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an old
subject which was discussed by the Church Fathers of the
second, third, fourth and fifth centuries.
In 1962, we translated a discourse written in 383 A.D. by St.
Jerome, in which he defended the perpetual virginity of the
Virgin Mary against the wrong teaching of a man called
Helvidius. It appears that the arguments presented by our
Protestant brethren resemble Helvidius'.
Summary of the opposing opinions attacking the
perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary
(1) The phrase `her firstborn Son' (Lk.2: 7); (Matt.1: 25).
Opposers think that the word `firstborn' means the first of His
(2) The phrase `your wife' which was said to Joseph of the
Virgin (Matt.1: 20), and the word `woman' in general wherever
it refers to the Virgin Mary (Matt.1: 24).
(3) The sentences "...did not know her till she had brought
forth her firstborn Son" (Matt.1: 25) and "... before they came
together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matt.1:
(4) The verses in which the words `His brothers' are
mentioned, such as (Matt.12: 46; 13: 54-56); (Acts 1: 14); (Gal.
With God's help, we will reply to all these objections in the
(1) The phrase "her firstborn Son"
The Holy Bible clearly defines the meaning of the word
firstborn. Prior to the establishment of Aaronic priesthood, the
Divine Inspiration had said: "Sanctify to Me all the firstborn,
whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of
man and of animal; it is Mine" (Ex.13: 2). Every firstborn was
consecrated to God; dedicated to Him, whether or not a brother
was born to him later. The parents did not wait until they begot
him a brother, nor did the owner of the livestock wait until
another offspring was born before offering and consecrating the
firstborn to the Lord! But from his birth the firstborn was
consecrated because he was the first offspring of the womb.
Therefore there was a great possibility that any firstborn was an
Thus the Lord Jesus Christ was the firstborn and the only
Son. St. Jerome was right when he said: "Every only son is a
firstborn but not every firstborn is an only son." The expression
`firstborn' does not mean that another is born after him but it
means that no sibling was born before him. That is why the
firstborn of the unclean animals could be redeemed when they
were one month old (Num. 18: 16,17), and the first offspring of
the clean animals were to be offered as sacrifices to God
without waiting until the birth of another offspring. He is the
firstborn, whether or not one is born after him, because he is the
first offspring of the womb.
In the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ is the firstborn of the
Virgin. For when the Virgin and Joseph offered a sacrifice forty
days after His birth, the Holy Bible tells us: "Now when the
days of her purification according to the law of Moses were
completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to
the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, 'Every male
who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord') and to
offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the
Lord, `A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons' " (Lk.2: 22-
It is clear that the law of the firstborn was applied to the
Lord Jesus Christ forty days after His birth. Of course, there is
no relation at all between the firstborn and the birth of siblings.
Here St. Jerome asks: "When God struck down the firstborn
of the Egyptians, did He strike only those who had siblings or
every male who opened the womb whether he had siblings or
(2) The phrase "your wife"
The word `wife' or `woman' was the title given to a
betrothed maiden immediately after her betrothal. In
interpreting the words of the angel to Joseph: "Joseph, son of
David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary, your wife, for that
which is conceived in her is of the Holy, Spirit" (Matt.1: 20),
St. John Chrysostom says: "Here the angel calls the betrothed
`wife' because the Holy Bible always calls the betrothed couple
`man and wife' before their marriage. "He also says: "What is
the meaning of `take her to you'? It means: `Keep her in your
house, as she has been entrusted to you by God and not by her
parents; because you are entrusted to take her, not to
consummate the marriage but to be he guardian. `In the same
way, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself entrusted the Virgin Mary
to His disciple John" (Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew).
St. Jerome says that the title 'woman' or `wife' was also
given to the betrothed maiden. The Biblical text proofs are: "If
a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and
a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall
bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone
them to death with stones, the young woman because she did
not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his
neighbour's wife" (Deut.22: 23,24) and "...what man is there
who is betrothed to a woman and has not yet married her?"
Thus the Holy Bible uses the words `woman' and `wife' to
mean a pledged virgin. They are used to signify femininity
and not the state of being wedded.
In fact, Eve was first called `woman' because she was taken out
of man (Gen.3: 20). So the word `woman' signifies her creation
and femininity and the word `Eve' signifies her motherhood.
The proof that the word `wife' attributed to the Virgin Mary
meant pledged and not married, are the words of St. Luke the
Evangelist: "And Joseph also went up from Galilee... to be
registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child" (Lk.2:
4,5). Therefore the phrase 'your wife' means 'your betrothed one.
Therefore the Virgin Mary was called 'wife' not because she lost
her virginity, God forbid, for the Holy Bible testifies that Joseph
did not know her. But she was so called because the common
Jewish expression for the pledged to be married was 'wife' and the
expression for the unmarried girl was `woman'. A clear proof of
this is that immediately after her creation, Eve was called `woman'
; before the sin, the dismissal out of Paradise and the begetting of
We notice that the angel did not use the word `wife' after the
Virgin had given birth to the Lord Jesus, but said to Joseph:
"Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt"
(Matt.2: 13). And on Joseph's return from Egypt, the angel said to
him: "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the
land of Israel" (Matt.2: 20). Joseph did as he was told on going to
and returning from Egypt: "When he rose, he took the young Child
and His mother" (Matt.2: 14,21). Here the Holy Bible does not
use the phrase 'his wife'.
The phrase `his wife' was used before and after the
conception so that the Jews would not stone the Virgin Mary
because she conceived a Child while she was not a man's wife.
But after giving birth to Christ, the Divine Inspiration did not
use that expression; not in the angel's words to Joseph, nor in
describing what Joseph did, nor in talking about the Magi, of
whom the Holy Bible says: "And when they had come into the
house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother"
(Matt.2: 11), nor in talking about the shepherds who "found
Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger" (Lk.2: 16).
(3) The sentence "before they came together, she was
found with child"
St Luke the Evangelist aims at proving that Christ was
conceived of a virgin who did not know any man, for two
(a) The fact that Christ was not born through the natural
way from two parents as all people are, but was born of a
virgin, is proof of His Divinity; proof that He was born of the
Holy Spirit as expressed by the angel: "...for that which is
conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1: 20).
(b) His birth from a virgin convinces us that He did not
inherit Adam's sin. Thus He would be able to save us since the
One without sin is able to die for the sinners.
Therefore the Apostle concentrated on the Virgin not
knowing any man before giving birth to Christ in order to
prove the Lord's Virgin Birth. But the fact that the Virgin
Mary did not know any man after giving birth to Christ is
a self-evident truth.
(4) The sentence "did not know her till she had brought
forth her firstborn Son"
The word `till' refers only to the precedent clause, and does
not imply that the subordinate clause it introduces is opposite in
meaning to the precedent clause.
Some examples to illustrate this:
(a) The Holy Bible says that Michel, King Saul's daughter,
"had no children to (till) the day of her death" (2Sam.6: 23).
Of course she did not bring forth children after her death.
(b) The Lord Jesus Christ says: "I am with you always, even
to (till) the end of ages" (Matt.28: 20). Of course, and after the
end of ages as well.
(c) The Lord says to Christ: "Sit at My right hand, till I
make Your enemies Your footstool" (Ps.110: 1). Of course
Christ will continue to sit at the right hand of God the Father
There are numerous examples of this point. Therefore, the
word `till' does not necessarily imply the opposite meaning of
what precedes it.
Joseph did not know the Virgin Mary till she gave birth to
her firstborn Son, neither did he know her after she gave birth.
If he withheld to touch her before she gave birth to Christ, how
would he feel after she had given birth to Him; after he had seen
the miraculous signs, the angels and the Magi, and after
knowing that He is the Holy One, Emmanuel and the Saviour?
Joseph realised that the Child was Christ who completed the
prophecy of Prophet Isaiah who said: "Behold, the virgin shall
conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel"
(Is.7: 14) and "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is
given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His
name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His
government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of
David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with
judgement and justice from that time forward, even forever"
(Is.9: 6,7). The angel must have quoted the last part of this
verse when he appeared to the Virgin Mary (Lk.1: 31-33).
(5) The phrase `His brothers'
In Hebrew expressions, the word `brother' may signify near
relations or step-brothers. There are numerous examples of this
in the Holy Bible, such as:
(i) Jacob and his uncle Laban
The Holy Bible says about the meeting between Jacob and
Rachel: "And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the
daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of
Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near and rolled
the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban
his mother's brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up
his voice and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her
father's brother" (Gen.29: 10-12). Thus Jacob called Rachel's
father his brother although he was his mother's brother. The
phrase `mother's brother' was repeated many times in this
chapter. The word `brother' was used to mean very near
Laban talked to Jacob in the same manner, saying: "Because
you are my brother, should you therefore serve me for
nothing?" Tell me, what should your wages be?" (Gen.29: 15)
Thus Laban called Jacob his brother although he was his
(ii) Abram and Lot
Lot was Abram's nephew, the son of his brother Haran
(Gen.11: 31), yet the Holy Bible says: "Now when Abram
heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three
hundred and eighteen trained servants" (Gen.14: 14). Here
Abram considered Lot his brother although he was his nephew,
due to their near relationship.
In like manner, the phrase `brothers of Jesus' was used
in referring to the cousins of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Who are the brothers of the Lord?
When the Lord went to His own country, the people were
astonished and said: "Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His
mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon,
and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?"
(Matt.13: 55,56); (Mark.6: 1-3)
St. Peter the Apostle mentions that he saw James, the Lord's
brother (Gal.1: 19). This James was called `the Less'
(Mark.15: 40) to distinguish him from James the son of
Zebedee. He was also called the son of Alphaeus (Matt.10: 3)
and was one of the Apostles (Gal.1: 19).
St. Matthew the Apostle says in his Gospel that at the cross
"many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to
Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary
Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the
mother of Zebedee's sons" (Matt.27: 55,56).
Who then was Mary, mother of James and Joses? Was she the
Virgin Mary? Is it reasonable to assume that the Virgin Mary
begot all those children?
The mother of James and Joses was Mary, the wife of Halfa or
Clopas, of whom St. John the Apostle said: "Now there stood by
the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the
wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene" (John.19: 25). Compare
this verse with verses 55 and 56 of chapter 27 of the Gospel
according to St. Matthew.
Mary the mother of James and Joses was with Mary Magdalene
at the cross of Christ (Matt.27: 55,56). They were the same two
persons present at the Lord's burial and saw where He was laid,
and it was they who brought spices to anoint His body when the
Sabbath was over (Mark.16: 1). They were the same persons of
whom St. John said in his Gospel: "Now there stood by the cross
of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of
Clopas, and Mary Magdalene" (John.19: 25).
Therefore, the brothers of Jesus are His cousins, the sons of
Mary, the Virgin's sister, the wife of Clopas or Halpha and mother
of James, Joses and the rest of the brothers.
Regarding the difference between the names Clopas and Halfa,
it may be a difference in pronunciation or, as St. Jerome said, it is
not uncommon for the Holy Bible to give more than one name to a
person. Moses 'father-in-law was called Reuel (Ex.2: 18) and was
also called Jethro (Ex.4: 18). Gideon was called Jerubbaal (Judg.6:
32), Peter was called Simon and Cephas, and Judas the Zeolot was
called Thaddeaus (Matt.10: 3).
It is obvious that Mary the mother of James and Joses is not the
Virgin Mary who was never called by that name in the Holy Bible.
(1) It is unreasonable that the Lord Jesus Christ
commanded the Virgin Mary to His Apostle John when He was
on the cross if she had all those sons and daughters.
Undoubtedly her children, if she had any, should have been the
ones to look after her.
(2) We notice that during the journey of St. Joseph and the
Virgin Mary to and from Egypt, there is no mention of any
other children of the Virgin Mary except the Lord Jesus
(Matt.2: 14,20,21). Neither is there any mention of the sort
during their journey to and from Jerusalem when the Lord Jesus
was twelve years old (Lk.2: 43).
(3) It is unsound to hold, as some people do, that the
`brothers of Jesus' are the sons of Joseph whom he begot from
another wife after whose death he became a widower, because
the Holy Bible mentions that Mary the mother of James and
Joses was present at the time of Christ's crucifixion and burial,
as we have previously explained (M k.15: 47).
(4) There is a clear Biblical text confirming the perpetual
virginity of the Virgin Mary. In his prophecy, Prophet Ezekiel
saw a closed gate in the East and he was told: "This gate shall
be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it,
because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it
shall be shut" (Ez.44: 2). This gate is the Virgin's womb
through which the Lord entered; it remained shut and was not
opened by another child.
SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND.
GIFT OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES
The Spiritual Gifts and The Gift Of
Speaking in tongues
1. The fruit of the Spirit is more important for your salvation than
the gifts of the Spirit
2. Gifts are not your own merit, therefore there is no reward for
3. Are gifts granted or are they requested?
4. The Pentecostal Movement and the gift of Speaking in tongues
5. Speaking in tongues is last in the order of gifts
6. Speaking in tongues is not a gift for all
7. Speaking in tongues should be for edifying the church
8. Speaking in tongues should be interpreted
9. What is the meaning of 'edifies himself'?
10. The Apostle's fight against the errors of Speaking in tongues
11. Speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers
The Spiritual Gifts and the
Gift of Tongues
Some of our Protestant brethren cling to the spiritual gifts
and strive to attain them as privileges of being God's children
and heirs. They put before them the verse: "But earnestly
desire the best gifts", without taking into account the
completion of the verse: "And yet I show you a more excellent
way," (1Cor.12: 31).
While they give great importance to the gift of Speaking in
tongues, they disregard that immediately after this verse the
Apostle Paul says: "Though I speak with the tongues of men
and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding
brass or a clanging cymbal" (1Cor.13: 1). The Apostle is
explaining how love is preferred to all the gifts.
The fruit of the Spirit is more important for your salvation
than the gifts of the Spirit
St. Paul the Apostle talked about the fruit of the Spirit,
saying: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control" (Gal.5: 22,23). The Apostle Paul said that love,
which is the first fruit of the Spirit, is greater than faith that can
move mountains (1 Cor.13: 2,13). And the Lord said about
love: "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the
Prophets" (Matt.22: 40).
When the disciples returned to the Lord Jesus joyful over
gifts, He said to them: "Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this,
that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because
your names are written in heaven" (Lk.10: 20).
Many people lost their salvation and perished despite
their possession of spiritual gifts
The gifts did not help them and did not save them. Thus the
Lord says: "Many will say to Me in that day, `Lord, Lord, have
we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your
name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will
declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who
practise lawlessness!' " (Matt.7: 22,23)
Gifts are not your own merit, therefore there is no
reward for them
Spiritual gifts do not give you salvation. Why then do you
struggle to attain them? They tempt those who seek vainglory
and vanity for themselves, but the great saints, who loved
humility, always escaped from gifts.
One of the fathers said: "If God gives you a gift, ask Him
to give you humility with it to protect it, or ask Him to take
this gift from you."
When the Apostle Paul received many gifts from the Lord,
he said: "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the
abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to
me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above
measure" (2Cor.12: 7). This great Apostle, the man of grace
who was caught up to the third heaven (2Cor.12: 2), was in
jeopardy from the gifts! If there was fear on the Apostle Paul
from spiritual gifts, how much more should the poor youth of
today fear when they pray for gifts, saying that gifts are their
privilege, and their spiritual counsellors pray for them, laying
their hands on them to receive gifts!
Jacob the Patriarch received spiritual gifts. He received the
blessing of birthright, saw a ladder reaching from earth to
heaven on which the angels of the Lord were ascending and
descending, and saw God Himself and spoke with Him. He
struggled with God and with men, and prevailed (Gen.32: 28).
To protect Jacob from gifts, God touched the socket of his hip
so that his hip was wrenched. God gave Jacob a kind of
weakness in the body to protect him from conceit due to having
What is more dangerous than gifts these days is when one
person says to another: "Come, I will commend to you a gift",
or "I will commend to you the experience", lays his hand on
him, and prays to grant him the Holy Spirit or to grant him the
fullness. Strangely enough, even women lay their hands on
people to grant them the Holy Spirit because God sometimes
grants a woman the gift of healing!
But to grant the Holy Spirit is the task of the clergymen,
first practised by the Apostles by the lying on of hands,
then by the clergymen in the Sacrament of Chrismation.
We receive the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Chrismation
(Confirmation) after the Sacrament of Baptism. The Holy Bible
mentions this Anointing in (1 John.2: 20,27) and mentions the
laying on of hands by the Apostles in (Acts 8: 14-17).
The authority to grant the Holy Spirit, which was the
Apostles' and then their successors', is claimed today by youth
and laity who commend the Holy Spirit to others to let them be
filled with the Holy Spirit and speak with tongues!
In our Orthodox theology, whoever receives a gift tries to
hide it, as did Bishop St. Serapion who had the gift of healing,
and many other saints.
Are gifts granted or are they requested?
God endows whatever gift He wishes to whomever He
wishes in the time His Divine Wisdom defines, according to His
words: "The kingdom of God does not come with observation"
(Lk.17: 20). Gifts are like the wind that blows wherever it
wishes, "as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith"
(Rom.12: 3). Why are gifts prayed for, then? And why the gift
of Speaking in tongues in particular?
Gifts are not entrusted from one person to another but they
are given by the Will of God and they are the work of His Holy
When the gift of tongues is prayed for, it may be satisfying
the pride of those who seek vainglory. It is an appealing gift for
the old self. It is not appealing to the spiritual person. What is
worse than this is when those who have the gift of tongues
despise and look down upon those who do not have this gift
and declare them to be of a low level, although the Holy Bible
says that the gift of tongues is not for all (1Cor.14). Does this
conceit not lead us to doubt in those who claim to have this
If a person comes to you and says: "Come, I will commend
to you this experience", tell him: "I do not deserve these gifts. I
have not the meekness of heart that can bear them. If God wills
to give me a gift, He will give me without me asking for it.
Then I will ask Him to give me humility to protect me from
pride. If God gives me a gift I will not speak about it and I will
not declare it to people so as not to expose myself to spiritual
combats above my measure."
The phrase "earnestly desire the best gifts" does not mean
that we ask for gifts, but that we prepare the heart with purity
and meekness to receive the gifts which are not only miraculous
powers, but also include wisdom, knowledge and faith,
according to the Apostle's teaching (1 Cor.12: 8,9).
If you want to ask God for a good gift, the Lord teaches us
what to ask! He says in the Sermon on the Mount: "But seek
first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these
things shall be added to you" (Matt.6: 33).
We notice that in the Lord's prayer, which He taught us
and which is an exemplary prayer, we do not ask for
The Pentecostal Movement and the Gift of
Speaking in Tongues
The most outstanding characteristic of the Pentecostal
movement is that the Pentecostals believe in the baptism in the
Holy Spirit (other than the baptism of water and the Spirit).
This is what the Pentecostals and their followers the
Charismatic group in Egypt call for, as it is clear from their
books without them declaring it. They call this matter 'Spirit
Baptism' or 'Filling of the Holy Spirit'.
The Pentecostals and the Charismatic group think that the
most distinguished characteristic of the baptism in the Holy
Spirit, of this descent and fullness of the Holy Spirit is to speak
with tongues. Speaking in tongues, in their opinion, is the first
sign that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit. That is why, in
joining a new member to their group, the Pentecostals and the
Charismatic group strive to make him or her speak with tongues
so as to resemble the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost.
Following the teachings of their advisors, the Pentecostals
and the Charismatic group place great emphasis to the gift of
Speaking in tongues as if it were everything, whether the
tongues are intelligible or not. In most cases, if not in all, the
tongues are just meaningless voices.
What is the teaching of the Holy Bible about the gift of
Speaking in tongues?
Speaking in tongues
From studying the Holy Bible and in particular chapter fourteen of
St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, which we may call the
chapter of the gift of tongues, we notice the following points:
(1) Speaking in tongues is last in the order of gifts
When the Apostle Paul mentions the spiritual gifts in his First
Epistle to the Corinthlans, he puts the gift of Speaking in
tongues and their interpretation last in the order of gifts. He
says: "Now, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And
there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who
works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to
each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of
wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge
through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to
another gifts of hearings b the same Spirit, to another the
working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another
discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to
another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same
Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one
individually as He wills" (1Cor.12: 4-11). Thus the Apostle
puts the gift of Speaking in tongues and their interpretation last
in the order of gifts. The gift of Speaking in tongues is
preceded by wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous
powers, prophecy, and the ability to distinguish between spirits.
The Apostle also says: "And God has appointed these in the
Church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after
that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations,
varieties of tongues" (1Cor.12: 28). Thus the Apostle puts the
gift of Speaking in tongues last in the order of gifts.
When the Apostle says: "But earnestly desire the best gifts.
And yet I show you a more excellent way" (1Cor.12: 31), he
explains that this more excellent way is love. He explains how
love is greater and more important than every prophecy, all
knowledge, all faith which can move mountains, charity and
asceticism (1Cor. 13). He explains that love is more important
than Speaking in tongues of men and of angels - not of men
only. He says: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of
angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or
a clanging cymbal" (1Cor.13: 1).
(2) Speaking in tongues is not a gift for all
We have seen from the aforementioned that God
"distributes to each one individually as He wills" (1Cor.12:
11); "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is
given to us" (Rom.12: 6) and "as God has dealt to each one a
measure of faith" (Rom.12: 3).
With regard to the gift of Speaking in tongues, the Apostle
plainly says: "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all
teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of
hearings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?"
(1Cor.12: 29,30) It is clear from this passage that the gift is not
for all. Therefore even at the time of the Apostles it was not
necessary for every believer to receive the gift of Speaking in
tongues which was not an essential sign to prove the descent of
the Holy Spirit upon a person. A man can be a saint even
though he does not speak with tongues.
God knows when to give gifts and the reason of giving them.
He gave the gift of Speaking in tongues abundantly at the time
of the Apostles, the beginning of preaching for the sake of
edifying, because it was essential at the time.
Speaking in tongues is not necessary in every age. The Holy
Bible says concerning this: "Whether there are tongues, they
will cease" (1Cor.13: 8). Even in the era of the Apostles there
were conditions for Speaking in tongues. We read some of
these conditions in chapter fourteen of the First Epistle of St.
Paul to the Corinthians:
(3) Speaking in tongues should be for edifying the
The most important word which characterises the chapter
about the gift of Speaking in tongues (1Cor.14), is the word
edifying. The Apostle mentions it many times and emphasises
it. He says explicitly: "Let all things be done for edification"
(1Cor.14: 26) and "Even so you, since you are zealous for
spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you
seek to excel" (1Cor.14: 12).
For the sake of edifying the church, the Apostle says that "he
who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues"
(v.5) because "he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but
he who prophesies edifies the church" (v.4). The word
prophesy at that time also meant teaching. The Apostle
prefers prophesying because "he who prophesies speaks
edification and exhortation and comfort to men" (v.3).
(4) Speaking in tongues should be interpreted
The Apostle says: "Therefore Jet him who speaks in a
tongue pray that he may interpret" (v.13), and adds "But if
there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church" (v.28).
The Apostle's reason is obvious: the edification of the church.
He says: "...unless indeed he interprets, that the church may
receive edification" (v.5). If this edification is not achieved, he
should keep silent, and the phrase `keep silent' is an Apostolic
command. Therefore he who speaks in a tongue must either
speak for the edification of the church or keep silent.
The presence of an interpreter is a testimony that the
Speaking in tongues is sound. Thus the gift of tongues is given
to two persons simultaneously. One is the speaker and the other
the interpreter. Consequently, the Biblical verse: "By the
mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be
established" (2Cor.13: 1), is applied. If speaking in a tongue is
without interpretation, what is its use? What is its use if all
present do not understand the language?
(5) What is the meaning of 'edifies himself'?
To `edify himself' is to be in a certain spiritual state of
the descent of the Ho y Spirit, which is beneficial for the
individual's edification. There are two remarks mentioned by St.
Paul about this state. They are:
(a) The person should keep silent just as in any private
spiritual state between oneself and God. The Apostle says:
"...let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself
and to God" (v.28). It is a matter between him and God, more
suitable for him to stay in his closet and not in church in front of
people. Thus speaking in a tongue will be a kind of prayer.
(b) The mind will be unfruitful; it is just a work of the spirit.
The Apostle says: "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but
my understanding is unfruitful" (v.14). The Apostle could see that
this state should be completed by understanding. The person
should pray in spirit and also with understanding; sing in spirit and
also with understanding. Although the Apostle mentions the
phrase `edifies himself' very cautiously and with remarks, and
points out that it is not a complete edification, yet for the sake of
edification he says: "I thank my God I speak with tongues more
than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words
with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten
thousand words in a tongue" (vv.18, 19).
Therefore there is no need for people to strive with all their
might to speak with tongues, believing that this is a great
If this is the case of Speaking in tongues as a gift of the Holy
Spirit, what then shall we say when some people claim to speak
with tongues and we are not certain of the genuineness of their
(6) The Apostle's fight against the errors of Speaking in
The Apostle fought strongly against the tongues which were not
edifying the church and whose owners did not keep silent. He says
(a) The tongues are not beneficial "But now, brethren, if I come
to you Speaking in tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak
to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by
teaching?" (v.6) He describes these tongues as musical
instruments which make indistinctive, unknown and
incomprehensible sounds (vv.7, 8).
(b) The tongues will be spoken into the air. The Apostle says:
"So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to
understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will
bespeaking into the air" (v.9).
(c) Speakers with tongues will be like foreigners. The Apostle
says: "Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I
shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be
a foreigner to me" (v.11).
(d) Speakers with tongues have no fellowship with the church
and do not edify others.
No one can understand the one who speaks with a tongue when
he stands to pray, to give thanks or to bless the Lord. So how can
he enter into a life of sharing with the believers if they do not
understand him? Therefore the Apostle says: "Otherwise, if you
bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the
uninformed say 'Amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not
understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but
the other is not edified" (vv.16, 17).
(e) Speakers with tongues will resemble the mad. "Therefore if
the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with
tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or
unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?"
(f) The tongues should be appropriate, in order and without
confusion. The gift of Speaking in tongues filled everyone at the
time of the Apostles, but the Apostle insists that the gift should be
disciplined. He says: "For God is not the author of confusion but
of peace" (v.33) and "If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be
two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret"
(7) Speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers
In the Apostle's opinion, believers will benefit from
forthtelling, whereas unbelievers will profit from the tongues
provided that they are interpreted. He says: "Therefore
tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to
unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for
those who believe" (v.22).
Therefore if those who are present in church are believers,
what is the benefit of Speaking in tongues, according to the
1. Veneration of the Cross
2. Facing the East
3. The sanctuary and the altar
5. Lights and candles
6. Pictures and icons
(1) Veneration of the Cross
One of the differences between Orthodoxy and Protestantism is
the Orthodox's wonderful veneration of the cross. Our brethren the
Protestants do not sign themselves with the sign of the cross before
or after prayer, and say: "In the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit." They do not sign food with the sign of the
cross before eating, nor do they use the cross to bless people or
Our brethren the Protestants are content that they believe in the
cross in their hearts without using it. Until recently, they were not
raising crosses on their churches. Many of them do not wear
crosses and none of them hold crosses in their hands. Also, they do
not celebrate the feasts of the cross nor do they make any
processions holding crosses whilst singing hymns and praises.
They neither kiss the cross nor take a blessing from it.
Now we will try to explain why Orthodoxy gives such
importance to the cross and we shall see that making the sign of the
cross is beneficial, useful and in accordance with the teaching of
the Holy Bible.
(1) The emphasis of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross
Since the commencement of the Lord's ministry, during His
teaching and prior to His crucifixion, He laid great emphasis on the
cross. He says: "And he who does not take his cross and follow
after Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:38) and "If anyone
desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his
cross, and follow Me" (Matt.16: 24); (Mark.8: 34). In His
conversation with the rich young man, He said to him: `Go your
way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor... and come, take
up the cross, and follow Me' (Mark.10: 21). He also says: "And
whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My
disciple" (Lk.14: 27).
(2) The cross was the core of the ministry of the angels
and the Apostles
An important point is that the angel who proclaimed the
Lord's resurrection said to the women: "...you seek Jesus who
was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said"
(Matt.28: 5,6). Thus the angel called the Lord "who was
crucified", although He had already resurrected. Thus the title
`crucified' continued to be attributed to the Lord.
Our fathers the Apostles emphasised the Lord's crucifixion in
their preaching. In preaching to the Jews, St. Peter said:
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God
has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and
Christ" (Acts2: 36). St. Paul says: "..we preach Christ
crucified" (1Cor.1: 23), although the Lord's crucifixion was
considered "a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness".
The Apostle considered the cross the essence of Christianity
and says: "For I determined not to know anything among you
except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1Cor.2: 2). He means
that the cross is the only subject he wants to know.
(3) The cross was the object of the Apostles' glory
St. Paul the Apostle says: "But God forbid that I should
glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal.6: 14).
If we ask him the secret behind these words, he will continue
and say: "by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to
the world" (Gal.6: 14).
(4) When we make the sign of the cross, we remember
many of its divine and spiritual meanings
We remember God's love for us, who for the sake of our
salvation accepted to die for us: "All we like sheep have gone
astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the
Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Is.53: 6). When
we make the sign of the cross, we remember "The Lamb of
God who takes away the sin of the world" (John.1: 29), and
that "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for
ours only but also for the whole world" (IJohn.2: 2).
(5) When we make the sign of the cross, we profess that
we belong to the Crucified
Those who take the cross only by its spiritual meaning inside the
heart without showing any manifest sign do not reveal this
belonging openly which we proclaim in making the sign of the
cross, in wearing and kissing the cross in front of all, in engraving
it on our wrists and in upraising it on our places of worship. By
doing all these we are merely proclaiming our belief openly. We
are not ashamed of Christ's cross in front of people but we glory in
it, are called by it, celebrate its feasts and cling tort so that, even
without us talking, our appearance professes our belief.
(6) Man is not only spirit and mind but he also has
corporeal senses which should sense the cross through the
Not all people are of the same spiritual level and do not need
the senses for their spiritual contemplation. The senses are
nourished by all the above-mentioned means and are not
confined within themselves but they transfer the effects they
receive to the mind and the spirit. The mind by itself might not
remember the cross or might not remember it much. But when
it perceives the cross before it, through the senses, it remembers
all the divine and spiritual feelings connected with the cross and
the Crucified. Thus we worship God spiritually, intellectually
and physically. All these strengthen each other.
(7) We do not make the sign of the cross in silence, but
we say: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit. One God. Amen"
Therefore every time we make the sign of the cross, we
profess our belief in the Holy Trinity who is the One God
forever. Amen. Thus we are given the chance of constantly
remembering the Holy Trinity.
(8) In making the sign of the cross, we profess our belief
in the Incarnation and the Redemption
We make the sign of the cross from up downwards and from
left to right. We remember that God descended from heaven to
earth and transferred people from the left to the right; from
darkness to light; from death to life. How numerous are the
contemplation we think of with our minds and feel with our
hearts when we make the sign of the cross!
(9) Making the sign of the cross is a religious teaching to
our children and to others
He who makes the sign of the cross when he prays, when he
enters the church, when he eats, when he goes to bed and all the
time, is the one who remembers the cross. This remembrance is
beneficial spiritually and is Biblically requested. It also teaches
people, especially little children, that Christ was crucified.
(10) In making the sign of the cross, we proclaim the
Lord's death for us, according to His commandment
This is the commandment of the Lord: to proclaim His death
(which is for our redemption) till He comes (1Cor.11: 26).
Every time we make the sign of the cross we remember His
death and will remember Him till He comes.
We also remember the Lord in the Eucharist but this
Sacrament is not celebrated constantly whereas we can make
the sign of the cross at any time, and thus remember the Lord's
death for us.
(11) In making the sign of the cross, we remember that the
penalty of sin is death
That was why Christ died. We were "dead in trespasses"
(Eph.2: 5), but Christ died for us on the Cross and gave us life. On
the Cross He paid the price and said to the Father: "Father, forgive
(12) In making the sign of the cross we remember God's
love for us
We remember that the Cross is a sacrifice of love. "For God
so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting
life" (John.3: 16). We remember that "God demonstrates His
own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ
died for us... we were reconciled to God through the death of
His Son" (Rom.5: 8,10). In the cross we remember God's love
toward us, because "Greater love has no one than this, than to
lay down one's life for his friends" (John.15: 13).
(13) We make the sign of the cross because it gives us
St. Paul the Apostle felt the power of the cross and said:
"But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me,
and I to the world" (Gal.6: 14) and "For the message of the
cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who
are being saved it is the power of God" (1Cor.1: 18). We
notice that he did not say that the crucifixion is the power of
God but that the mere word 'cross' is the power of God.
Therefore, when we make the sign of the cross and when we
mention the cross, we are filled with power because we
remember that, through the cross, the Lord trod upon death,
granted life to all people, defeated and overcame Satan.
(14) We make the sign of the cross because Satan fears it
All Satan's efforts ever since Adam's creation and until the
end of ages, came to naught on the Cross. God paid the price
by His blood. He effaced with His blood the sins of all people
who believe and obey Him. Therefore whenever Satan sees the
cross, he trembles, remembering his great defeat and the loss of
his strivings, is disgraced and retreats.
Thus the children of God use the sign of the cross because it
is the sign of victory and the power of God. They are filled with
power within, and the enemy trembles without.
The lifting up of the serpent in the past, which was a cure for
people and salvation from death, resembles the lifting up of the
Lord of glory on the Cross. It also resembles the sign of the
cross in its efficacies (John.3: 14).
(15) In making the sign of the cross , we receive a
The whole world was cursed and under the penalty of death.
But on the Cross the Lord carried all our curses to give us the
blessing of reconciliation with God (Rom.5: 10), the blessing of
the new pure life; the blessing of membership in His body. All
the graces of the New Testament are derived from the cross.
That is why the clergymen use the cross in giving the blessing,
signifying that the blessing does not come from them but from
the Cross of the Lord who entrusted it to them to use in giving
the blessing. In addition, they use the cross because they derive
their priesthood from the Priesthood of the Crucified. All the
blessings of the New Testament sprang from the Lord's Cross
and from its efficacious.
(16) The cross is used in all the holy Sacraments in
All the Sacraments sprang from the merit of Christ's blood
on the Cross. Had it not been for the Cross, we would never
have been worthy to approach God as His children in the
Sacrament of Baptism, we would never have been worthy to
partake of His Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the
Eucharist (1Cor.11: 26), nor would we have been able to enjoy
the graces of any of the Church Sacraments.
(17) We exalt the cross to remember our fellowship with
We remember the words of St. Paul the Apostle: "I have
been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ
lives in me" (Gal.2: 20) and "... that I may know Him and the
power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being confirmed to His death" (Phil.3: 10). Here, we ask
ourselves: When can we enter into the fellowship of the Lord's
sufferings and pray with Him?
We also remember the Penitent Thief who was crucified with
the Lord and deserved to be with Him in Paradise. Probably he
was singing in Paradise the song of St. Paul: "I have been
crucified with Christ".
Our aspiration is to ascend to the cross with Christ. The
cross is our glory whenever it comes into contact with our
(18) We venerate the cross because it is the Father's
The Father received Christ on the Cross as a pleasing sin
offering and also as a burnt offering. He was "a pleasing
aroma to the Lord" (Lev.1: 9,13,17). Concerning this, the
Prophet Isaiah said: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him"
The Lord Jesus Christ satisfied the Father all His life on
earth. But He entered into the fullness of this satisfaction on
the Cross when He "became obedient to the Point of death,
even the death of the cross" (Phil.2: 8).
Every time we see the cross, we remember the perfect
obedience and the perfect submission so that we may resemble
Christ in His obedience: to the point of death.
The Cross which was the pleasing object of the Father, was
also the pleasing object of the Crucified Son, about whom it is
written: "... who for the joy that was set before Him endured
the cross, despising the shame" (Heb.12: 2). Thus the full joy
of Christ was in the Cross. May we be like Him.
(19) In the cross we go forth to Christ outside the camp,
bearing His reproach (Heb. 13: 13)
Christ's reproach is His crucifixion and His sufferings. In
making the sign of the cross, we relive the feelings of the Holy
Week and remember what is said about Moses the Prophet:
"...esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the
treasures in Egypt" (Heb. 11: 26).
(20) We carry Christ's cross because it reminds us of His
The Holy Bible says about the end of the world and the
coming of the Lord: "Then the sign of the Son of Man will
appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will
mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds
of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt.24: 30).
Therefore let us venerate the cross, the sign of the Son of Man,
now on earth as long as we expect to see it in heaven when He
comes on the clouds of heaven at His great Coming.
(2) Facing the East
Our churches are built facing eastwards. We pray facing
toward the East because the East has become a symbol to us
since it directs our hearts to many precious contemplation. It
also has an important place in God's thought. Since God gives
importance to the East then let us also give it importance.
(1) Before God created man, He created the East as a source
of light for him, and God saw that the light was good. God
created the sun on the fourth day and man on the sixth (Gen. 1).
The rising of the sun is a symbol of Christ and His light. The
Lord is called the `Sun of Righteousness', and it is written:
"...the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His
wings" (Mal.4: 2).
(2) Before God created man, He planted the Garden of Eden
in the East for him and then placed him there. He also planted
the tree of life in the Garden where man first lived before sin.
The Garden of Eden symbolises Paradise to which we aspire
(Gen.2: 8). Man's facing eastward has become a symbol of his
aspiration to Paradise of which he was deprived and a symbol of
his aspiration to the tree of life.
(3) The Lord Jesus Christ was born in an eastern Country.
The Magi saw His star in the East (Matt.2: 2). The star was a
symbol of Divine guidance. When the Magi followed it, it led
them to the Lord. This is a beautiful contemplation!
(4) The Lord Jesus Christ was born in an eastern Country,
His star appeared in the East and His mother the Virgin Mary
was likened to a gate facing toward the East (Ez.44: 1,2).
(5) Salvation came to the world from the East. Christ was
crucified in an eastern Country where His blood was shed for
the remission of sins of the whole world.
(6) Christianity and the Church began in the East. Jerusalem
is in the East. It is the Country of the Great King where the first
Church in the whole world was established. The Gospel spread
from the East to the whole world. In the East the blood of the
first Christian martyr was shed.
(7) The Holy Bible mentions several times that the glory of
God is in the East. It is written in the Book of Isaiah:
"Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord" (Is.24: 15). In
the Book of Ezekiel, there is a prophecy about the coming of
Christ in His glory from the East. It is written: "And behold,
the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east.
His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth
shne with His glory" (Ez.43: 2).
(8) Therefore most theologians say that the Second Coming
will be from the East. In the same manner He went into heaven
He will come back (Acts 1: 11). In Zechariah's prophecy, it is
written: "And in that day ; His feet will stand on the Mount of
Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east" (Zech.14: 4).
(9) The East is an appealing subject and evokes splendid
memories. In the Book of Ezekiel, the Prophet writes about
rivers of life in the East (Ez.47: 1-9). And in the Second Book
of Kings, it is written that the East is the "arrow of the Lord's
deliverance" (2Kin.13: 17). Also, in the Book of Isaiah, it is
written: "Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord" (Is.24:
(10) The remembrance of the East has a great effect on the
heart; it has a spiritual effect on the soul. I admire Daniel the
Prophet when he defied pagan worship: He went into the upper
room, opened the window which faced Jerusalem, and knelt
down to pray. It is true that God is everywhere, but facing
Jerusalem in the East has a profound meaning and a strong
effect on the heart. The remembrance of certain places
awakens sacred emotions in the heart.
(11) Our worship is not worship with the intellect only. The
senses also act; they are affected and they affect the feelings of
the soul. An example to illustrate this: When we pray we look
up although God is everywhere. But looking upwards evokes
in our hearts spiritual feelings which give more depth to our
prayer. The same applies to facing the East.
The Lord Himself, on more than one occasion, looked up,
although the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. But
looking upwards has a certain significance.
(12) When we face the East, we are in fact facing the altar
which lies eastward because the Sacrifice has Its spiritual place
in our hearts and Christ our Passover was a Sacrifice in the
(13) In the Baptismal Service, in a symbolic way, the
baptised and his godparent face westward to renounce Satan
and then eastward to recite the Creed. Thus the baptised feels
in Baptism that he is transferred from west to east, that is, from
darkness to light.
(14) We ask: Why do our brethren the Protestants fight
against facing toward the East although it carries spiritual
meanings, sacred contemplation and memories textproved from the
Holy Bible and involves no dogmatic error to stir the sacred zeal?
(3) The Sanctuary and the Altar
There is neither a sanctuary nor an altar in Protestant
churches. The reason for this is more serious: There is no
Sacrifice. We shall discuss the subject of the Sacrifice when we
come to the Sacraments of Eucharist and Priesthood. Now we
will confine our discussion to the altar.
(1) In the Old Testament there are numerous passages about
the altar. But our brethren the Protestants think that the altar
was merely a symbol of Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross, and has
now terminated. Therefore, in our discussion with them, we
have to present text-proofs from the New Testament.
(2) St. Paul the Apostle says: "We have an altar from which
those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat"
(Heb.13: 10). The tabernacle is the Tent of Meeting or the old
Sanctuary. St. John Chrysostom comments on this, saying: "St.
Paul the Apostle turned from the symbolic meaning to the
actual meaning... We now have the authority to partake of the
Holy Blood which was the authority of the priest only."
(3) There is a prophecy in the Book of Isaiah the Prophet about
an altar in the midst of the land of Egypt. The prophet says: "In
that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land
of Egypt. Then the Lord will be known to Egypt, and the
Egyptians will know the Lord in that day, and will make sacrifice
and offering" (Is. 19: 19,21).
Of course, the altar referred to here is the altar of the New
Testament in the Christian Era, because the Jews could not offer
sacrifices in a Gentile land, nor would the Egyptians have allowed
them to do so. Thus the appeal directed to Pharaoh at the time of
Moses and Aaron was: "Let My people go, that they may serve
Me" (Ex.8: 20). Yet Pharaoh refused to let "the people go to
sacrifice to the Lord" (Ex.8: 29). After the Plague of Flies, when
Pharaoh gave his first promise, he said: "I will let you go, that you
may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness" (v.28). It is
understood from these verses that the Jews could not offer a
sacrifice in Egypt.
So when did the Egyptians know the Lord? When did they
begin to have an altar and offer sacrifices to the Lord?
Undoubtedly, it was in the Christian Era. This is an explicit proof
of the existence of altars in Christianity to offer sacrifices on.
(4) God willed that the word `altar' be fixed in the minds and
hearts of people, therefore He mentions it more than once in the
Book of Revelation which was written at the end of the first
century, after the martyrdom of the Apostles and the disciples of
Christ. St. John the Evangelist says: "Then another angel, having
a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given
much incense" (Rev.8: 3). He also says: "I saw under the altar the
souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the
testimony which they held" (Rev.6: 9).
(5) The altar will continue to exist as long as the words of the
Divine Inspiration: "the Body and Blood of the Lord" (1Cor.11:
27) remain before us. As long as there is Blood, then there should
be an altar, and by necessity, a sanctuary to contain it.
We shall discuss this subject in detail, God willing, when we
discuss the subject of the Holy Sacrifice and the clergyman who
Our brethren the Protestants do not use incense or censers,
considering them part of the Old Testament worship which
were mere symbols and have now terminated. Here we would
like to display the history of incense in the past and present and
see whether incense is a symbol or an independent spiritual
(1) The Lord said to Moses: "You shall make an altar to
burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood" (Ex.30: 1).
Here the Lord presents us an important point: The incense was
considered a sacrifice in itself, offered on an altar called the
altar of incense.
(2) The Lord gave great importance to the altar of incense.
He commanded that it be overlaid on all sides with gold, have a
horn of gold, be carried on two rings overlaid with gold and be
placed before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony
where He would meet with Moses (Ex.30: 3-6).
(3) The incense was conditioned to be `sweet incense'. The
Lord says: "Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every
morning" (Ex.30: 7). And also at twilight "he shall burn
incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout
your generations" (Ex.30: 8).
The spices for making the sweet incense are mentioned in
(Ex.30: 34). It is said that this incense "shall be to you holy for
the Lord" (Ex.30: 37). Moreover, "It shall be most holy to
you... you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its
composition" (Ex.30: 36,37).
The phrase `sweet incense' is repeated on many occasions in
the Holy Bible: (Ex.25: 6); (Ex.37: 29); (Lev.16: 12). So
incense represented a fragrant perfume ascending before the
(4) Some people are mistaken and say that incense was
presented with burnt offerings to absorb their smell. And as
there are no animal burnt offerings now, incense is subsequently
cancelled. This interpretation is unsound because incense was a
form of worship independent in itself. It had its own special
altar different from the altar of burnt offerings. It had its own
rites in the way of offering it. It was meant and considered as a
prayer in itself and not as a symbol of another thing.
(5) We notice that when the Lord sent the plague on the
Israelites, Aaron the chief priest, upon Moses' command, took
his censer, put incense in it and burnt it with fire from the altar
to intercede for the people before God. When he ran into the
midst of the assembly and offered the incense, the plague
ceased. The Lord accepted the incense from Aaron as a prayer
(Num.16: 44-48) as though it were a sacrifice.
We notice that Aaron did not offer a sacrifice for the
Israelites, but incense alone. The incense was not offered to
absorb the smell of a burnt offering but it was an offering to
make atonement for the people (Num. 16: 46,47).
(6) Because of the importance of incense, only priests were
allowed to offer it. So incense is in a higher position than prayer
because prayer can be raised by any individual to the Lord.
When Korah, Dathan and Abiram dared to offer incense, the
earth opened its mouth and swallowed them with all their
belongings. So they went down to the pit alive (Num.16:
31,32). This happened not because they offered a sacrifice, but
because they offered incense, even though they were of the tribe
(7) As incense was so important, it was offered in golden
censers as is written in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb.9: 4)
and as is said about the twenty-four priests who had golden
bowls full of incense (Rev.5: 8).
(8) In the Book of the Prophet Malachi, there is a prophecy
about the continuation of the offering of incense and that it is
not limited to the Jewish Era. The Lord says: "For from the
rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be
great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be
offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be
great among the nations" (Mal.1: 11). Of course, worship
among the Gentiles did not happen except in the Era of
Christianity. Thus the Lord has included incense among the
forms of Christian worship.
(9) There are two examples in the New Testament showing
the Divine concern about incense, and both are written in the
Book of Revelation:
(a) About the twenty-four priests, it is written: "and the
twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a
harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers
of the saints" (Rev.5: 8).
(b) St. John the Visionary says: "Then another angel,
having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he
was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers
of all the saints upon the golden altar, which was before the
throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the
saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand"
(10) In commenting on the expression "the smoke of the
incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God",
we say that the whole life of the Church is incense. The Church
is resembled to incense in the Book of the Song of Solomon, in
which the Divine Inspiration says: "Who is this coming out of
the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and
frankincense, with all the merchant`s fragrant powders?"
(Song 3: 6)
(11) One of the important situations in the history of incense
in the life of the saints is that the angel of the Lord appeared to
Zacharias the priest on the right side of the altar of incense
while he was burning incense in his lot (Lk.1: 8-11). This is
proof of the sanctity of the place and the sanctity of the work of
offering incense. This holy occasion was worthy to be
associated with a Divine revelation.
It is clear from the incident of Zacharias' burning incense in
his lot that offering incense was a separate work in itself; it was
not connected with the offering of a sacrifice or burnt offering.
(12) Because incense is important in Christianity,
frankincense (which is a component of incense) was one of the
gifts offered by the Magi to Christ. It was a symbol of His
Priesthood and a profession from the Magi that He is a Priest,
in the same way that gold was a symbol of His Kingdom and
myrrh a symbol of His sufferings.
(13) Incense has numerous meanings, which satisfy the
senses and nourish the soul. Not all those who attend church
are of a profound spiritual level and deep thought. Children, for
example, who do not apprehend much from the sermon or the
readings of the Holy Bible or the prayers, are spiritually affected
through their senses by the incense, candles and icons which
serve as spiritual lessons for them, uplifting them to a spiritual
atmosphere. The same applies to the uninformed and
superficial believers who have no depth of knowledge and have
not studied theological books.
Spiritual meanings and contemplation of incense
(14) The first lesson we learn from incense is the Lord's
teaching: "...he who loses his life for My sake will find it"
(Matt.10: 39). An example of this is the particle of incense, which
burns and burns until it becomes perfumed pillars of smoke. You
look for it in the censer as a particle of incense, but you do not find
it because it offered itself as a burnt offering to God.
Burnt offerings are not only of sacrifices but also of incense,
which the Holy Bible considers as a sacrifice to be offered on the
altar of incense. Incense teaches us a great lesson. How beautiful
it is when a man offers himself as a burnt offering to the Lord!
Every offering is outside the self but the offering of the self is the
greatest offering. Offering the self is represented by putting the
particle of incense in the fire. It is said that our God is a consuming
fire (Deut.4: 24). The saints were particles of incense put into the
Divine censer and were burnt by the love of God.
(15) The second lesson in incense is its constant ascent. The
burning incense does not accept to be kept down, but it rises to the
sky, stretches and spreads and never ceases to ascend and spread.
When you watch and follow it you cannot help raising your eyes to
the sky whether you wish to or not. That is why incense always
attracts people's senses to above as if it is an arrow pointing
continually to heaven.
(16) A third lesson in incense is that it resembles the sweet
aroma. The Holy Bible conditions incense to be sweet incense.
Whoever smells the incense remembers that man's life should be
a fragrant perfume before God. The Holy Bible says: "For we
are to God the fragrance of Christ... through us diffuses the
fragrance of His knowledge in every place" (2Cor.2: 15,14).
(17) One of the most magnificent contemplation of incense is
that it reminds us of the cloud or the dark cloud in which the
Lord appeared. The Lord says: "I will appear in the cloud
above the mercy seat" (Lev.16: 2). It is also written in the
Book of Leviticus: "...cloud of incense" (Lev.16: 13). It was
said about Aaron the chief priest: "Then he shall take a censer
full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with
his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside
the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the
Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is
on the Testimony, lest he die" (Lev.16: 12,13).
In directing His people in the Old Testament, whether in the
Tabernacle or in the Sanctuary or in the Wilderness of Sinai,
God appeared in the cloud or in the smoke. His guidance to the
people in Sinai was in the form of an overshadowing cloud
during the day, representing God who was overshadowing
them. If the cloud moved, they knew that God was moving
them so they moved. If the cloud settled, they settled (Num.9:
17). Thus it is written: "And the cloud of the Lord was above
them by day when they went out from the camp" (Nurn.10: 34).
(18) When the Lord Jesus Christ came to Egypt it is said that
He came on a cloud (Is.19: 1). The cloud was a symbol of the
Virgin who was an ascending fragrant incense. In Christ's
Second Coming, He will also come on the clouds (Matt.24: 30).
So clouds represent the presence of the Lord in the Old
Testament and in the New Testament.
(19) The incident of the Transfiguration is an example of Go
d's presence in clouds. It is written that while the Lord Jesus
Christ was talking to the three disciples, "a cloud came and
overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the
cloud. Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, `This is My
beloved Son. Hear Him!' " (Lk.9: 34,35)
(20) The Lord talked to Moses from a cloud. When the Lord
spoke to Moses, the Holy Bible says: "Then Moses went up into
the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. Now the
glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered
it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of
the midst of the cloud" (Ex.24: 15,16). The same happened
when the Lord spoke to the people of Israel from the
Tabernacle: the cloud and smoke were overshadowing the
(21) We see the same again in the consecration of Solomon's
Temple. The Holy Bible says: "And it came to pass, when the
priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the
house of the Lord, so that the priests could not continue
ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord
filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon spoke: `The Lord
said He would dwell in the dark cloud' "(1Kin.8: 10-12).
(22) Incense represents clouds or dark clouds reminding us
of God's presence and the glory of God. It is written: "Clouds
and darkness surround Him" (Ps.97: 2). Therefore incense has
numerous spiritual meanings for whoever wishes to benefit from
it. It is a form of worship in itself. It was not connected with
the Old Testament sacrifices thus not necessitating its
termination with that of those sacrifices
(23) Lastly, we say that there is not one single verse in the
New Testament commanding the cancellation of incense: "He
who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the
churches" (Rev.2: 7).
(5) Lights and Candles
The Orthodox Church is characterised by its lights. We use
candles in our prayers, during the Bible reading, in front of the
icons of the saints, on the altar, in the sanctuary in general and in
front of the altar on its eastern side, and the church remains lighted
constantly. Our brethren the Protestants do not use any of these
rites despite their symbolic significance.
In this brief article we will discuss the subject of lights in the
church, the reason for using them and the spiritual meanings they
(1) The church itself is called in the Holy Bible the golden
lampstand. This is clear from the Book of Revelation. St. John the
Visionary saw the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of seven golden
lampstands and the Lord said to him: "...the seven lampstands
which you saw are the seven churches" (Rev.1: 20).
(2) The church resembles heaven because it is the house of
God or God's dwelling place. This is nearly the expression used
about the first house of God. Jacob the Patriarch said: "How
awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of
God, and this is the gate of heaven!" (Gen.28: 17) Since the
church resembles heaven, it must have lights to illuminate it like
the stars of heaven.
(3) The lights in the church may represent the angels in
heaven or the angels whom Jacob saw in his vision ascending
and descending the ladder in Bethel (`House of God') (Gen.28:
12). The lights symbolise the angels because the angels are also
called angels of light (2Cor.11: 14).
(4) The lights of the church also symbolise the saints, to
whom the Lord says: "Let your light so shine before men"
(Matt.5: 16). On this occasion the Lord likens the saints to
lighted lamps put on lampstands (Matt.5: 15).
Also, the Holy Bible says: "the righteous will shine forth as
the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt.13: 43). And the
Lord Jesus Christ said to the Jews about John the Baptist as an
example of those righteous: "He was the burning and shining
lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light"
(John.5: 35). Since the church is full of angels and saints then it
ought to be full of lights.
(5) Primarily the church ought to be filled with lights because
of God's presence in it: God is Light (John.1: 5) and the Lord
Jesus Christ says of Himself: "I am the Light of the world"
(6) The church is lighted by lights after the pattern of the
Tabernacle and the Sanctuary. They were full of lights and their
lamps were never put out. The Lord commanded that the
lamps be lighted by pure olive oil under the supervision of
Aaron and his children as an everlasting statute. The Lord says:
"And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring
you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to
burn continually. In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil,
which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it
from evening until morning before the Lord. It shall be a
statute forever to their generations" (Ex.27: 20,21).
This is a Divine command, given by God who said on the
first day of creation: " `Let there be light'; and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good" (Gen.1: 3,4).
(7) The lamps, which are lighted by oil, have a spiritual
meaning. The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, It was used for
anointing, after which the Spirit of the Lord descended: When
Samuel anointed David, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in
power (1Sam.16: 13). The Holy Bible also tells us about the
anointing from the Holy One (1John.2: 20,27).
Even the candles which we light in church are made of oil,
and the lamps in church are lighted by oil for the same symbolic
(8) We notice that the Lord commanded that lampstands be
made in His house, whether the Tabernacle or the Sanctuary.
The lamps and the lampstands were made of pure gold (Ex.25:
31); (Ex.37: 17); (2Chr.4: 20). All these are proof of God's
concern about the existence of lights in His house.
(9) The lamps were lighted continually upon God's
command. Extinguishing the lamps' light or negligence in
lighting them were considered as treachery to the Lord and
deserved severe punishment. Concerning this, the Holy Bible
says: "For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the
eyes of the Lord our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned
their faces away from the habitation of the Lord, and turned
their backs on Him. They have also shut up the doors of the
vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense...
therefore the wrath of the Lord fell upon Judah and Jerusalem,
and He has given them up to trouble, to astonishment"
(2Chr.29: 6-8). All these show us how God cares for lights in
(10) Lighting lamps has a special profound spiritual meaning.
It symbolises constant readiness, perpetual watchfulness and
preservation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart.
Concerning this readiness, the Lord Jesus Christ tells us: "Let
your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you
yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will
return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they
may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants
whom the master, when he comes, will find watching" (Lk.12:
The Lord Jesus Christ gives us the parable of the five wise
virgins whose lamps were burning whilst the lamps of the five
foolish virgins went out (Matt.25: 1-12).
The oil of the lamp symbolises the work of the Holy Spirit in
the heart. The constant burning symbolises the constant
watchfulness in keeping the heart tied to the work of the Holy
Spirit within it.
(11) What is said about individuals can also be said about the
whole church. When people see the lights in church they are
reminded of their duties in preserving the light inside them and
that their lamps should be lighted continually. They remember
that the church is one of the five wise virgins who kept their
(12) With regard to lighting candles during the Gospel
reading, this is undoubtedly better than reading the Gospel
without light. It reminds us of the verse: "Your word is a lamp
to my feet and a light to my path" (Ps. 119), and also "The
commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Ps.
(13) The Early Church, ever since the Apostolic Era, has
given importance to lights and their symbols. The Book of Acts
tells us about the upper room from which St. Paul was
preaching after the breaking of the bread: "There were many
lamps... where they were gathered" (Acts 20: 8).
(14) The candles that we light before the saints' icons remind
us that the saints were lights in their generations; they were like
candles, melting in order that their light might shine before
(6) Pictures and Icons
Our brethren the Protestants do not believe in the pictures
and icons in the Orthodox Church or in the statues in the
Catholic Church. They consider them against the second
commandment, in which the Lord says: "You shall not make for
yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is
in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in
the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or
serve them" (Ex.20: 4,5); (Deut.5: 8,9).
There was a war waged against icons in the 8th century in 726
A. D. during the time of Emperor Leo III. It continued for a few
centuries then calmed down. It was revived in Protestantism since
the 15th and 16th centuries and has remained among their beliefs
till this day. Some of our Protestant brethren consider icons as
remnants of paganism. They reproach Orthodoxy and Catholicism
for venerating icons, kissing them, lighting candles in front of them
and kneeling before them.
We will try to reply to all these points, showing the spiritual
benefits of icons and why the Church keeps them.
(1) In order to reply to the subject of icons, we must
consider the following:
What does the verse, which our Protestant
brethren use imply? Why was this verse said and what is its
purpose? The reason behind our questioning is the Apostle's
phrase "the letter kills" (2Cor.3: 6).
(b) What are the other verses which, if put beside this
verse, will complete its meaning and make us realise the spirit
and not the letter in the Lord's commandment? We have
previously explained the danger of using one verse.
(2) What was God's aim in banning images and statues? The
Lord's aim is clear in His words: "You shall not bow down to
them nor serve them." Therefore the commandment is not
broken if the purpose of using them is far from worship.
There is no doubt that this forbidding is one of the Lord's
Ten Commandments. It was given in an era in which paganism
abounded and there was so much anxiety that the believers
might apostate that it was forbidden to engrave any stone, even
in ordinary buildings or in constructing the altar.
(3) We see that God Himself, who commanded the people
not to engrave any idol or form, ordered Moses in the incident
of the enormous snakes to "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on
a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he
looks at it, shall live" (Num.21: 8). So Moses did this and he
was not breaking the second commandment.
Moreover, the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us that this act was
a pattern of His sacred cross. He says: "And as Moses lifted up
the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be
lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but
have eternal life" (John.3: 14,15).
(4) When the Lord ordered Moses to build the Ark of Covenant,
He asked him to make cherubim of gold on top of it. He said:
"And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work
you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one
cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you
shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the
mercy seat. And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above,
covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one
another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy,
seal. You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark
you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will
meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy
seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the
Testimony, of all things which I will give you in commandment to
the children of Israel" (Ex.25: 18-22). And it was done.
Forming the images of these two cherubim was not a
transgression of the second commandment which orders not to
make an idol in the form of anything in heaven above, because the
aim was not to worship the angels represented by these two
cherubim. On the contrary, the image of the two cherubim
wasformed upon a Divine command in the same way that the snake
was made upon a Divine command.
(5) In the same manner, Solomon built the Temple and
decorated it from within: "he made two cherubim of olive
wood, each ten cubits high. One wing of the cherub was five
cubits and the other wing of the cherub five cubits: ten cubits
from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other... both cherubim
were of the same size and shape. Then he set the cherubim
inside the inner room; and they stretched out the wings of the
cherubim. Also he overlaid the cherubim with gold" (1Kin.6:
(6) It was not only a matter of two cherubim, but the Holy
Bible says: "Then he carved all the walls of the temple all
around, both the inner and outer sanctuaries, with carved
figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers"
(1Kin.6: 29). He made two doors for the entrance and "carved
on them figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, and
overlaid them with gold" (1 Kin.6: 32,35). Thus the house of
the Lord was decorated with images, paintings and carvings and
the people still worshipped God. They did not worship these
images or carvings. They did not disobey the second
(7) Likewise the Ark of the Covenant, which was respected
by priests, people and kings, did not at all represent pagan
worship. The Holy Bible tells us that after the Israelites were
conquered at Ai, Joshua, the son of Nun and the successor of
Moses, together with the elders of Israel, knelt down and
prayed to the Lord before the Ark of the Covenant till evening
(Josh.7: 6). The Lord did not say to Joshua: "You have broken
the second commandments". But on the contrary, the Lord
talked to him, performed a miraculous sign in revealing the sin
of Achen, son of Carmit, gave Ai into Joshua's hands and lifted
up Joshua's head.
Joshua did not sin by kneeling before the Ark of the
Covenant of the Lord because he was not worshipping the Ark
but he was worshipping the Lord who came and spoke from
between the cherubim. Likewise David the Prophet did not sin
when he celebrated the return of the Ark, leaping and dancing in
front of it (2Sam.6: 12-15).
(8) Similarly, we say that we do not worship the pictures or
the icons, but we venerate them, thus venerating those to whom
they belong, according to the Lord's words to His disciples: "If
anyone serves Me, him MY Father will honour" (John.12: 26).
If the Father venerates His saints, should we not venerate them?
(9) We say the same regarding the cross, of which St. Paul
the Apostle says to the Galatians: "O foolish Galatians...
before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among
you as crucified" (Gal.3: 1).
(10) We thank God that our Protestant brethren now raise
the cross on top of their churches without considering it a
(11) We thank God that in their Sunday Schools, our
Protestant brethren distribute pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the angels, the prophets, Noah's Ark with its animals, the Good
Shepherd and the sheep, David feeding his sheep, Elijah and the
ravens looking after him, Poor Lazarus and the dogs licking his
wounds, Balaam, and the Devil tempting the Lord Jesus Christ
in the wilderness. In distributing these pictures they are not
worried or in any doubt that they may be breaking the second
commandment by having pictures of anything that is in heaven
above or that is in the earth beneath.
(12) We cannot disregard the effect of pictures as lessons
explaining the events of the Holy Bible and the lives of the
heroes of faith and history. An icon may leave a more profound
effect on the soul than reading or listening to a sermon.
Icons connect the believers on earth with the angels in
heaven and the righteous who abide in Paradise. They give us a
strong inner motive to carry out the Apostle's words:
"Remember the leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their
faith" (Heb.13: 7).
(13) In venerating pictures, we are in effect venerating their
owners. When we kiss the Gospel, we show our love to the
word of God and to God who gave us His commandments for
our guidance. When we bow down before the cross, we bow
down, as one of the Fathers said, "to Him who is crucified on
it". The commandment "You shall not bow down to them or
serve them", does not apply to us at all when we do these
(14) It is well known that icons have been recognised since
the Apostolic Era. It is said that St. Luke the Evangelist was an
artist and that he portrayed more than one picture of the Virgin
Mary. Tradition tells us about the image of the face of the Lord
Jesus Christ imprinted on a handkerchief.
If you study the history of icons you will find that the
strongest eras in faith were those in which people venerated
icons. Their faith was not affected but on the contrary, they
were virtuous people.
(15) Why should we deprive artists from sharing in
activating the spiritual life of people? Pictures give spiritual
feelings that affect the soul and effectively transfer to people the
life-stories of saints.
1. Repentance is a sacrament
2. Repentance and confession
3. Repentance and the Church
4. Repentance and salvation
5. Repentance and the work of Grace
6. Repentance and experiences
7. Repentance, joy and contrition
8. Repentance and newness of life
9. Repentance precedes all other sacraments
10. Repentance, conduct and deeds
The Concept of Repentance
The importance of repentance is undisputed by all but
repentance in the Orthodox Church is totally different from
repentance in other Churches with respect to its definition,
efficacy, practice and necessity for salvation.
(1) Repentance is a sacrament
In the Orthodox concept, repentance is one of the Church's
Seven Sacraments. It is called the Sacrament of Repentance.
However, the Protestant groups, in not believing in the Church
Sacraments, do not consider repentance a holy Mystery.
Therefore, there is a difference between repentance and the
Sacrament of Repentance. This difference has its
(2) Repentance and confession
In the Orthodox concept, confessing one's sins represents a
main part of the Sacrament of Repentance. By confessing, we
mean confessing to a priest: "He who covers his sins will not
prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have
mercy" (Prov.28: 13).
People in the Old Testament practised confession. It is
written: "And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these
matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing;
and he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord for his sin
which he has sinned" (Lev.5: 5,6).
The Holy Bible is full of examples of confessions.
Confession continued until the last prophet of the Old
Testament or the time between the Old Testament and the New
Testament, the time of John the Baptist, when "Jerusalem, all
Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him
and were baptised by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins"
In the New Testament also people practised confession. It is
written: "And many who had believed came confessing and
telling their deeds" (Acts 19:18), and "Confess your trespasses
to one another" (Jas.5: 16).
However, the Protestant groups do not believe in confession
and do not consider it part of repentance.
(3) Repentance and the Church
It is true that repentance is a work within the heart involving
regret and a resolution to abandon the sin in addition to the
actual abandoning of sin practically and from the heart. Yet
repentance is completed inside the Church by confession and
the absolution. The sinner is to confess his sins and the priest is
to read the absolution and give the forgiveness, following the
Lord's words: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins
of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any,
they are retained" (John.20: 22,23).
This is also followed by the guidance that the penitent
receives from his spiritual father in order to remain in his
As for our Protestant brethren, they present repentance as
being completely independent from the Church. It is an
individual act, with no relation with priesthood because they do
not believe in priesthood but they believe in the direct
relationship with God.
Regarding this point, our Protestant brethren are divided into
(a) A group which openly rejects confession and priesthood.
This is the weaker group because it is so open that those who are
steadfast in their belief will be aware of it. Also the notions of this
group are clear and can be replied to.
(b) The second group does not speak against confession or
priesthood or the Eucharist, but its followers try to make people
forget these sacraments by not talking about them and by
presenting alternatives. For example, they say: "You are in need of
repentance and in need to return to God. Go and cast yourself at
God's feet; leave your sins to Him to erase by His blood and
immediately you will come out justified as if you had not sinned
before. He washes you and you will become whiter than snow."
They do not speak about the importance of confession or the
absolution or the Eucharist; they leave them out to make people
forget about them. At the same time, they use spiritual words and
thus deceive many naive people. This is an obscure way and it is
our duty to reveal it to people.
(4) Repentance and salvation
Many of our Protestant brethren try to separate repentance from
the subject of salvation. When they concentrate on Christ's Blood,
they say to people: "You are saved by the Blood of Christ and not
by repentance. Repentance is one of the deeds and you cannot be
saved by deeds."
We do not deny that salvation is completed by the Blood of
Christ. But there is no salvation without repentance. The Lord
Jesus Christ says: "...unless you repent you will all likewise
perish" (Lk.13: 3).
Repentance is necessary for salvation because nobody is
without sin. As long as there is sin, then there is punishment for
sin, and the wages of sin is death. There is no salvation from
that death except through repentance. Repentance makes us
worthy of Christ's Blood; "unless you repent you will all
(5) Repentance and the work of Grace
Many Protestant groups hold that repentance is one of the
works of Grace and all man's strivings are void. It is sufficient
that man casts himself at the feet of Christ to save him from his
sins. The Orthodox doctrine holds that the whole spiritual life of
man is a fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit supports
but man should strive. If man does not strive the Apostle will
reproach him, saying: "You have not yet resisted to bloodshed,
striving against sin" (Heb. 12: 4).
The Holy Bible portrays the spiritual life as a struggle which
needs the whole armour of God: "For we do not wrestle
against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against
powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against
spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph.6:
12). This war undoubtedly needs man to struggle and win.
This fight is what the Lord Jesus Christ meant in His
message to the angels of the seven churches when He said: "To
him who overcomes I will give..." (Rev.2: 17). Grace does not
do all the work, otherwise God would not have said: "Return to
Me... and I will return to you" (Zech.1: 3).
(6) Repentance and experiences
Our Protestant brethren consider repentance an experience,
and encourage repentant to inform people of their experiences.
So you hear from them the expression: "I was so and so, and
now I have become so and so". The repentant continues to
recount his previous sins in front of everybody without shame,
covering his sins with the grace he has now attained. If he
keeps silent, he will be asked: "Tell us about your experiences."
but Orthodoxy forbids these narrations as they mainly involve
boasting of the change, which the repentant has reached.
(7) Repentance, joy and contrition
Orthodoxy emphasises the contrition of the soul of the
repentant. He should remember before God the sins he
committed, drenching his bed with his tears as David the
Prophet did. Protestantism, however, pushes people towards
joy, which involves no contrition. In most cases, the repentant
directly becomes a minister, which gives him no chance to
grieve in his inner self over his sins. The reason the
Protestantsgive for this attitude is that a repentant should
rejoice over his salvation.
In replying to this point, we put before them the incident of
the people of Israel eating the Passover lamb: In the midst of
their joy for their salvation from the sword of the Angel of
Death, they had to eat the Passover lamb with bitter herbs,
according to the Lord's command (Ex.12: 8). The bitter herbs
reminded them of their sins because of which they were
enslaved to Pharaoh. It is true that eating the Passover lamb
reminded them of salvation and its joy but the lamb had to be
eaten with bitter herbs.
What is the position of bitter herbs in repentance according
to the Protestant concept? One of the Protestant books even
attacked the phrase "Lord have mercy" which we say in our
prayers! It also attacked all the phrases of contrition,
condemning them to be against the joy of salvation.
(8) Repentance and newness of life
What we call in Orthodoxy 'repentance' is frequently called
by our Protestant brethren `newness of life', `renewal' or
`salvation'. Some Protestants ask one another: "Have you been
renewed? Have you been saved? Have you experienced
newness of life?" And all they mean is the act of repentance; no
more, no less.
In the Orthodox concept, all these expressions: Crenewal',
'newness of life' and 'salvation' are completed in the Sacrament
of Baptism, but repentance is a process of change in man's way
(9) Repentance precedes all other sacraments
The Sacrament of Repentance precedes the Sacrament of
Baptism as St. Peter the Apostle says: "Repent, and let every
one of you be baptised" (Acts 2: 38). It precedes the
Sacrament of Eucharist, as our teacher St. Paul the Apostle
says: "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of
the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the Body and
Blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let
him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he who eats
and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement
to himself, not discerning the Lord's Body" (1Cor.11: 27-29).
The Sacrament of Repentance also precedes the Sacrament of
the Holy Unction. Our teacher James the Apostle says: "Is
anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the
church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in
the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the
sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed
sins, he will be forgiven" (Jas.5: 14,15).
The same applies to the rest of the Sacraments because so
long as the Sacraments are graces of the Holy Spirit then they
should be prepared for by purifying the heart through
repentance but since our brethren the Protestants do not believe
in Sacraments nor in repentance as a Sacrament, these words
are outside their concepts.
(10) Repentance, conduct and deeds
Our brethren the Protestants hold that the Christian life is
not a life of conduct and deeds but a life of Grace and faith. In
Orthodoxy, faith and Grace are important but nevertheless our
Church says with the Forerunner: "Therefore bear fruits worthy
of repentance" (Matt.3: 8). Orthodoxy holds that conduct is an
important matter necessary for salvation.
If our Protestant brethren persist on the importance of Blood
for man's purification, we put before them the saying of the
Apostle John regarding the relation between conduct and the
Blood of the Lord: "But if we walk in the light as He is in the
light, we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of
Jesus Christ His Son Cleanses us from all sin" (1John.1: 7).
Here, conduct is put as a condition. There is no cleansing by
Blood without repentance; repentance is an essential condition.
- BACK TO MAIN MENU
- Comparative Theology
- PART ONE
- The Efficacious of Baptism
- Baptism Is the Task of the Clergymen
- The Necessity of Baptism
- Baptism by Immersion
- Paedobaptism (Infant Baptism)
- Objections and replies
- Tradition is older than the Holy Bible.
- The Holy Bible does not mention everything:
- Things pertaining to the kingdom of God?
- Tradition is taken from the teachings of the Apostles
- Apostles laid down disciplines for the Church.
- St. Paul the Apostle received teachings from the Lord
- Apostles recorded things received through Tradition
- Benefits of Tradition
- Valid and invalid Tradition
- Church authority in teaching and legislation
- Conditions of sound Tradition
- The Apostles commanded that Tradition be preserved
- The Efficacious of Baptism
- Baptism Is the Task of the Clergymen
- The Necessity of Baptism
- Baptism by Immersion
- Paedobaptism (Infant Baptism)
- Objections and replies
- Mediation and the intercessions of the saints
- Different to Christ's atoning mediation
- Ask ing for the intercession of the righteous
- Do angels and saints know our condition
- The greatness, knowledge and ministry of the saints
- Other examples of the greatness of the saints
- The saints who departed are still living
- Examples of the intercession of the angels
- The saints' favour with the Lord
- Objections and replies
- The spirituality of asking the prayers of the saints
- Intercession is a living reality
- fasting in secret
- communal fasting
- fasting in set times
- let no one judge you
- vegetarian food
- abstaining from certain foods
- Church authority in organising worship
- PART TWO
- VENERATION OF THE VIRGIN St. MARY
- The Veneration of St. Mary the Virgin
- The Virgin Is the True Vine
- The Virgin Is the Gate of Life
- Is It Correct to Pray to the Virgin?
- The Perpetual Virginity of the Virgin Mary
- Summary of the opposing opinions
- The phrase her firstborn Son
- The phrase your wife
- before they came together, she was found with child
- did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son
- The phrase His brothers
- SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND SPEAKING IN TONGUES
- The fruit of the Spirit is more important
- Gifts are not your own merit,
- Are gifts granted or are they requested?
- The Pentecostal Movement
- Speaking in tongues is last in the order of gifts
- Speaking in tongues is not a gift for all
- For edifying the church
- Speaking in tongues should be interpreted
- What is the meaning of 'edifies himself?
- Errors of Speaking in tongues
- Speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers
- Veneration of the Cross
- Facing the East
- The Sanctuary and the Altar
- Lights and Candles
- Pictures and Icons
- (1) Repentance is a sacrament
- (2) Repentance and confession
- (3) Repentance and the Church
- (4) Repentance and salvation
- (5) Repentance and the work of Grace
- (6) Repentance and experiences
- (7) Repentance, joy and contrition
- (8) Repentance and newness of life
- (9) Repentance precedes all other sacraments
- (10) Repentance, conduct and deeds