My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL B.
A WOLF, DRESSED IN A SHEEP’S CLOTHING
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (St. Matthew 7:15). Then the Lord suggests that their true nature will be revealed by their actions "by their fruits shall ye know them. vs. 16. Many Christians are familiar with this biblical passage and still, others quote it frequently in various circumstances.
A variant fable by Aesop. This concerns a wolf that regularly comes to view the flock, but never attempts any harm. Eventually, the shepherd comes to trust it and on one occasion leaves the wolf on guard. He returns to find his flock decimated and blames himself for being taken in.
In his commentary, Saint Theophylact says, "The heretics are cunning and deceitful, which is why He says, "Beware." They produce sweet words and feign a decent life but within lies the hook. "Sheep’s clothing" is meekness, which some pretend to employ, in order to flatter and to deceive. But they are recognized by their "fruit" that is by their deeds and by their life. For though they can dissemble for a time, they are unmasked by those who are heedful."
One does not have to be a fanatic or paranoid to see suspicious and cunning movements within the Church from people entrusted to guide it and to protect it. We only need to review who were the heretics of the past. One of the most dangerous heresies that threaten the unity of the Church was Arianism which created conflict in the Church for a long time was introduced by the Alexandrian presbyter (priest) Arius. Arius was a student in the theological school of Antioch. He began to teach falsely of the inequality of the Son of God with the Father, and of the created nature of the Son. His heresy seized the Eastern half of the Empire, and despite its condemnation at the First Ecumenical Synod, it survived almost to the end of the 4th century.
Apolllinarios the Younger was a educated man who had been bishop of Laodicea (from 362 A.D.). He taught that in the God-manhood of Christ the human nature was ilncomplete.
Macedonius, bishop of Constatinople(about 342 A.D) taught falsely of the Holy Spirit in an Arian sense, namely, that the Holy Spirit is a ministering creature.
This heresy takes its name from Nestorius, who had been Archbishop of Constantinople. Predecessors of Nestorius in this false teaching were Diodorus, teacher of the theological school of Antioch, and Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia (died in 429 A.D.) whose disciple was Nestorius. Thus, this heresy came from the school of Antioch. Theodore of Mopsuestia taught the "contigruity" of the two natures of Christ, but not their union from the time of the conception of the Logos/Word. Those heretics called the Most Holy Virgin Mary "Christotokos," but NOT "Theotokos" (as having given birth to Christ BUT NOT TO GOD). The heresy was condemned at the Third Ecumenical Synod.
Monothelitism was a softened form of Monophysitism (of one nature). While acknowledging two Natures of Christ, Monothelitism taught that in Christ there was only ONE WILL–namely, the Divine will. Adherents of this heresy included SEVERAL PATRIARCHS OF CONSTANTINOPLE WHO WERE EXCOMMUNICATED (Pyrrhus, Paul, Theodore). It was supported by Honorius, Pope of Rome. This heresy was rejected as false by the Sixth Ecumenical Synod.
Thee were of course other heresies that were introduced within the Church by prominent theologians, Arcbbishops, Bishops and even Patriarch and Popes. The Holy Chuch has been persecuted and injured not only by non-Christians but also from Christian educated hierarchy and theologians. In the first three centuries of Christianity the heresies spread their influence over a comparatively small territory; but from teh fourth century certain heresies seized about half the Roman Empire and caused immense conflict and took much strengthe to do battle with them.
Other heresies were: The Ebionites, the Nazarites, Gnosticism, Docetists, Nicolaitans, Marcionites, Carpocrates, Manichaeism, Montanism and of course Iconoclasm that aflicted the Church for more than 100 years.
I dont’ believe it would be an exegeration to call these heretics as wolves in sheep’s clothing. They were all excommunicated by the Seven Ecumenical Councils over the centuries. It is true that the enemies of the Church can be found both without as well as within the Church. There is no question, however, that the most sinister ones are those who hide among the true believers and present themselves as theologians, as bishops, as all kinds of religious leaders.
The Orthodox Christians of today must be vigilant and knowledgeble so that they will be able to know who are the heretics and who are not. Even today we must be watchful and not to take anything or anyone for granted. We must not be gullible and naive but to be discerning. As our Lord Jesus Christ tells, "YOU WILL KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUITS" (St. Matthew 7:16). All of us need to pay attention to decision made that change our Holy Tradition, our sacred worship, the mandates and religious disciplines, unorthodox innovations and the introduction of foreign religious practices, of ignoring the dogmas, canons and moral principles of our Faith, of the secularization and moderization of the our Church, of allowing the so called ‘cancel culture’ to enter our Church and to begin cancelling Orthodox spiritual practices and values, etc.
Jesus warns us, "BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but are INWARDLY ARE RAVENOUS WOLVES." (St. Matthew 7:15).
Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape ib His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George