By dogcatcher on February 25th, 2012
  Do You Pray “Twelve Times a Day”? After receiving a significant number of emails from individuals all across the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), it has become evident to our editors that the laity of the GOA live in two separate worlds. The common thread connecting these two worlds is the presence of GOA priests. Yet, distinct differences exist in the interpretations of our faith including which canons are emphasized in our modern day world. You are about to read how these two worlds are continuously colliding. We received many comments about a recent sermon given by a priest in the Metropolis of Chicago. After investigating their concerns, we determined that this priest is a follower of the theology of Elder Ephraim of Florence, Arizona. This priest told his congregants that to find salvation and enter the kingdom of heaven, there was a formula they must follow requiring them to pray at least 12 times a day. (This may be the Ephraimites’ own unusual interpretation of St. Paul’s instruction to pray without ceasing). This sermon was presented on a Sunday when many visitors were there attending a memorial service. Most visitors were from non-Ephraimite parishes in Illinois. Those visiting were exposed to a full blown Ephraimite sermon which first defined for them one Ephraimite formula for salvation. The Priest then told them that all negative thoughts that enter their collective minds are placed there by the devil or the evil one. According to people who listened to his sermon, the priest suggested that only the devil had the capacity to place these thoughts within one’s mind. This priest then told the congregants that when confronted with negative thoughts throughout the day the parishioners should: 1. Identify the negative thoughts placed there by the devil; 2. Immediately drop to their knees and prostrate; and 3. Pray intensely for God to remove all negative thoughts and force the product of the devil out. The editors ask themselves whether, we as God’s creation, lack the intellectual ability or capacity or free will to develop our own negative thoughts. Is our Orthodox Christian Faith purely legalistic? Those in attendance at this sermon relayed the following questions to the editors. 1. According to this particular priest’s formula for salvation, could any of us possibly find salvation? 2. Could anyone meet the legalistic requirements for salvation? 3. What if someone prayed 3, 5, 10 or 11 times a day instead of 12, what would be their fate? 4. Do all priests pray 12 times a day? If not, are these men of God destined to Hell? 5. How does the value of the fullness of our Orthodox faith fit in with these formulas? Historically, the “12 Prayers a Day” formula was an instruction given to the Spiritual Children of a much revered Elder named Joseph the Hesychast. Two of Elder Joseph’s spiritual children are mentioned on this website. One such spiritual child is Elder Ephraim of Florence, Arizona, formerly of Philotheou on Mount Athos. The second is Elder Ephraim of Vatopedi. You will find more information about Elder Ephraim of Vatopedi in the archived article posted on our website entitled “Money, Money, Money”. Most of our sources agree that these two Elders began their relationship as spiritual brothers. Many familiar with Mount Athos contend that after Elder Joseph’s death, Elder Ephraim of Arizona assumed the role of spiritual father to Elder Ephraim of Vatopedi. Praying twelve times a day was taught by Elder Joseph to both Elder Ephraims who were leading monastic lives. If any credence can be placed on this teaching, it is obviously a monastic practice. We learned in the companion article on our website entitled How to Choose a Spiritual Father that people who try to follow monastic rules in the outside world are not becoming more spiritual. Mandating this kind of blind obedience is an example of a “false teaching”. For those confused by Ephraimite theology which has creped into the parishes of affected Metropolises, it is our mission to set the record straight. Evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants believe salvation is attained through faith alone. On the other hand, we Orthodox Christians believe that we are neither saved nor that salvation is attained only through faith. As Orthodox Christians, we see salvation as a never ending process to become like God through grace. We are called to cooperate in our own salvation which has been worked out by God. It is through faith and works that we attain salvation. Thankfully, Orthodox theologians have written extensively on this topic. In his book Dance, O Isaiah: Questions and Answers on some of the Differences between Eastern Orthodox Christianity and other Faiths, the author Constantine Platis explains our Orthodox faith’s position on salvation. The author also discusses how the Protestant Martin Luther, changed the Bible and Christian theology to suit his own vision of Christianity and created a new denomination of Christians later to become the Lutheran Church (See Endnote). Just as Luther reinterpreted the Holy Bible and Christian theology to suit his own vision of Christianity, today we have a similar movement in the Orthodox Church. It is our opinion that Ephraimites have taken lessons from these Protestant schismatic movements deciding to change the Orthodox definition of how we are saved. They have produced formulas for salvation such as the myth of the Aerial Tollhouses, praying twelve times a day and salvation for several generations of a family whose child becomes a monk or a nun. (See the archived article on our website entitled The Aerial Toll House Myth and why this Teaching is Flawed). Like Luther, the followers of Elder Ephraim of Florence, Arizona, have placed the Greek Orthodox Christian Church in America on a schismatic path using their network of clergy, monastics and laity. It remains to be seen what schismatic sect or new denomination of Orthodoxy will rise from the Ephraimite efforts to change the tenants of our faith to conform to their version of Christianity. Today we live in one Greek Orthodox Archdiocese with two different forms of faith, one Ephraimite and the other non-Ephraimite. The faith abiding Greek Orthodox Christians are confused conflicted and damaged while the silence of the Hierarchs is deafening. Do not be fooled. The Ephraimite movement has a defined game plan and operates a propaganda machine which continues to publish legalistic formulas. If you have not yet been exposed to the Ephraimites version of theology, consider yourselves lucky. Most of the Orthodox faith abiding priests focus on God’s various gifts of faith, works and His great mercy. If you are sitting in church and your priest’s focus is on the devil or the evil one and he begins disclosing formulas for salvation, you are listening to an Ephraimite priest. We ask all faith abiding Greek Orthodox Christians to begin a dialogue with your fellow parishioners, your parish priest, your bishop and your Metropolitans to put an end to this schismatic movement which is creating much confusion and harming the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Editor’s Note: This article only discusses faith and its relationship to salvation. The sacraments and their connection to salvation are outside the parameters of this article. Endnote: The author Constantine Platis tells us that “for us to be saved, faith is required (Heb. 11:6), but nowhere does the Bible say that salvation comes through faith only. The word “only” is not there, even though Luther added it in his translation of the Bible, after the word “faith” in the verse “For we reckon a man is justified by faith, without works of the Law” (Rom. 3:28). Instead of conforming his theology to the Bible, Luther preferred to alter the Bible. The Protestants’ decision to combat false Roman Catholic teachings (such as indulgence grants and purgatory) by inventing this “faith only” doctrine, and the Protestants’ determination to quote Bible verses that appear to say this (while they misinterpret, or [like Luther] even reject sections of the Bible that flatly contradict “faith only”) show the state of blindness to which the Western denominations have come since the abandonment of Orthodoxy in the Western European countries 900 years ago. Orthodox do not become involved in this controversy, but when I am asked I say only that it is God who saves. If we participate in the Mysteries, God will show us what He wants from us.” Platis, Constantine, Dance, O Isaiah: Questions and Answers on some of the Differences between Eastern Orthodox Christianity and other Faiths, Metropolis of Boston, 2002 p. 55.