A Short Recapitulation
of Some Lamentable Aspects
of Matthewite History
On many occasions the schismatic groups known as “The Matthewites” have risen and confounded those who are truly seeking to know the truth. Lately they have introduced deceitful websites which have added to the temptation of many innocent souls, and are even targeting some of our faithful. One may ask, “Why are the Matthewites such a cause of confusion?” The answer is their zeal without knowledge. The Matthewites have always been a group of unstable people, wanting in understanding. These characteristics can be traced to their founder Matthew. Saint Peter the Apostle described them very accurately in his second epistle in which he characterizes those who take the Scriptures and the laws of God and twist them for their own purposes, or rather destruction, when he says, “...which the unlearned and unstable twist, as they do also the rest of Scriptures, to their own destruction.” [2 Pe. 3:16]
When someone, either a convert to the Faith, or someone born into the Faith, realizes that his Orthodoxy has been changed, which is something reprehensible, and that this change has come as a result of the heresy of Ecumenism, he naturally becomes zealous for the truth and seeks to find the True or Genuine Orthodox Church. It is by the grace of God that this person has become zealous for the unalterable Faith. Now even if this zealous person has found the Genuine Orthodox Church or is still looking for it, he may encounter the lies and deceptions of the Matthewites, who fashion themselves as the greatest zealots for the purity of Orthodoxy. Now at this point the zeal of those seeking Orthodoxy will encounter a huge stumbling block, and their enthusiasm may be completely shattered because the Matthewites take zeal for Orthodoxy so far to the extreme, that it becomes radicalism and therefore it is not zeal anymore, but foolishness and outright hate for anyone that does not follow them!
Let us now explain how they operate and cause so much disorder among innocent souls. In these times of the great apostasy, we who wish to follow the true Faith recognize that the greatest threat to unsuspecting believers is the pan-heresy of Ecumenism. In true Orthodoxy we always follow the Royal Path, rightly understanding the canons and properly observing them, so that we do not fall away from the true Faith through heresy or schism.
If one falls away to the left of the Royal Path, he will most likely embrace the so-called “orthodoxy” of groups who are not only schismatics, but also heretical, such as the Cyprianites, who call themselves Orthodox, but are blatantly not so because their teaching opposes the teaching of the Church. They criticize and condemn the heresy of Ecumenism but shamelessly remain in communion with the Ecumenists, and say that these heretics are part of the Church! Therefore, even in their irrational logic, they pronounce that they themselves are heretics!
If one falls away to the right of the Royal Path, he will most likely embrace the schismatics known as the Matthewites, who not only break the Canons and change the Faith, but go to the extreme and say that they are the most exact observers of the canons, because they go beyond what the canons require. In reality however they do not go beyond what the canons require, but think that they are above the canons, and break them at will to suit their own purpose. Therefore they invent their own rules, and as a consequence make their own religion. They are commonly identified as extremists and are rightly labeled as fanatics, even though they condemn Ecumenism. All cults take their name from their initiator; therefore they are called Matthewites, after Vicar-bishop Matthew (Karpathakis), their founder.
To understand this group called the Matthewites, it is first necessary to understand its founder Bishop Matthew, a vicar bishop of the city of Bresthena. This Bishop Matthew was first a monk of the Holy Mountain, Athos, who because of his “zeal” for Orthodoxy, after the change of the Church Calendar from the Old to the New in 1924, used this to justify his departure from the Holy Mountain. He first asked the advice of his elders and spiritual fathers who told him not to leave the Holy Mountain. But, given his temperament and his extreme behavior and character, he decided to disobey, and went back into the world, ostensibly to serve the people in their struggle against the New Calendar innovation. On Athos, it is considered a grave sin if a monk disobeys his spiritual father and leaves the Holy Mountain to live in the world. Many saints were called to leave Athos and to serve the people after they were made monks. But there has never been one person, self-willed and self-satisfying, succumbing to his own temptation, who has ever left the Holy Mountain and has ever prospered. The most lamentable example of such a person in modern times is Bishop Matthew, the founder of the Matthewites. One can bring to mind on the other hand many good examples of righteous men who did leave Mt. Athos such as Saints Gregory Palamas, Patriarch Niphon, Cosmas of Aitolia, etc. but they were all called by God and sanctified because they did His will, and not their own self-will.
The then Hieromonk Matthew left the Holy Mountain and ended up living in a women’s convent. Perhaps in his foolishness, he did not know the canons that forbid this, or in his audacity, he decided to show disobedience yet again, but this time to the holy canons of the Church. He chose to dwell as the only male in a convent of over 400 nuns, rather than to take up his dwelling in a monastery of almost 100 monks just 2 miles away!
While he was on the mainland of Greece, we have no evidence that he caused more scandals before his ordination as a bishop. It appears that he was fervent in serving the people and with the reputation of being a Hieromonk from the Holy Mountain, he probably received great respect and honor from the Greek people. We see this happening even now in this United States with Hieromonk Father Ephraim of the Greek Archdiocese. He is another self-willed and self-called monk who left Mount Athos to lead astray so many souls to remain in the heresy of Ecumenism. He is today incorrectly revered as a great “Athonite Hieromonk”, “the Abbot of Philotheou”, “the spiritually gifted clairvoyant” and an “Elder of the Holy Mountain” etc., and thus it is safe to assume that Hieromonk Matthew at that time was also revered as such by the lay people of Greece. Much more information about Matthew is available on: http://www.TrueOrthodoxy.org/schismatics_matthewites.shtml, but this is a general outline to understand a few points which I wish to make clear.
In due time, in 1935, after the official State Church of Greece was under the New Calendar for over a decade, three of its bishops left and wished to lead the Greek flock who had remained true to the traditional patristic Calendar. Those three bishops were Met. Germanos of Demetrias, Met. Chrysostomos of Florina, and Met. Chrysostomos of Zakynthos. They were immediately embraced by all the priests and lay people who had resisted the official Church and which numbered almost one million souls. As a result of this, there was an immediate expectation that they would be persecuted by the official Church and so they endeavored to ordain more bishops to lead the Old Calendarists in case something happened to them. Naturally, these three bishops did not know their new flocks, especially the Hieromonks, because they were bishops of the official Church for the past eleven years.
Not knowing sufficiently the character of those new priests whom they had received under their omophorion, they had to take the recommendations of others. Therefore they ordained four Hieromonks, three of them they made ruling bishops: Germanos of Cyclades, Christopher of Megara, Polycarp of Diavlia, and lastly Matthew as an auxiliary bishop. Understandably, Hieromonk Matthew must have had a reputation among the people but it must have been somewhat questionable because he was the only candidate not to be made a ruling bishop with his own diocese. An auxiliary bishop cannot perform any ecclesiastical function without permission from his ruling bishop. He could only act as a bishop under the authority of his ruling bishop. Matthew was the last of four candidates to be ordained. All four were ordained within the very month that the three bishops abandoned the New Calendar State Church and vowed to return to the Patristic Tradition and serve the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece.
In 1935, when the three bishops joined the Old Calendarists, no Orthodox bishop in the world considered the New Calendarists as without the grace of the Holy Spirit. They were not reckoned as heretics and all Churches were in communion with each other, even those who had maintained the Old Calendar. Therefore, when the three bishops renounced the New Calendar and came over to the Old Calendarists, they were received as true hierarchs and were embraced as such by all, including Matthew, who was then a simple Hieromonk from the Holy Mountain.
After the ordination of the four new hierarchs, an encyclical was issued by the bishops in the same month, entitled, “A Pastoral Encyclical to the Greek Orthodox People,” commonly known as the “Encyclical of 1935”, which stated that the New Calendarists are schismatics and graceless. This is what they told the State Church to awaken them to repentance, and to their own people to keep them away from the State Church until this issue could be settled. All the ruling bishops held to this position even though they knew it was a harsh and strong statement which could not be justified, for how could the State Church be graceless with a valid hierarchy? How could the three bishops perform valid ordinations, if only one month ago, they were part of a graceless Church?
The vicar Bishop Matthew however had no desire to bring the New Calendarists to repentance, and even worked against this end. He broke away from his synod, the bishops who ordained him, because two of the bishops, Met. Germanos of Demetrias and Met. Chrysostomos of Florina, had explained the Encyclical of 1935 in a private letter to a monk, saying that the New Calendarists were potentially schismatics, that they had fallen into a curable error, that this was a unique occurrence in the history of the Church and that a change in the menaion calendar was not a heresy in and of itself even though it was a great and grave error and should be corrected. The letter also stated that a council of all the Orthodox Churches should be gathered to answer this question. Because Matthew received a copy of this private letter, he became enraged against Met. Chrysostomos. Matthew informed Met. Chrysostomos in writing that Met. Chrysostomos was no longer a bishop, referring to him as “the former Metropolitan of Florina”, and the “monk Chrysostom Kavourides.” Thus Matthew became the first schismatic of the Old Calendarists. Matthew maintained that the New Calendarists are not only schismatics but also heretics without the grace of the Holy Spirit, and that this graceless state existed with them since the time they espoused the New Calendar in 1924! Again we see disobedience in Bishop Matthew, this time to his synod, which led him off the narrow path. This difficult period required great discernment and discretion from educated and experienced shepherds. Matthew had neither the discernment nor the education to properly address this crisis in the Church.
It should be said here that Met. Chrysostomos was one of the great and saintly hierarchs of our time and through his humbleness and holy prayers he was looking for a way to remedy this ecclesiastical gangrene that had befallen the Church of Greece. He reposed in the Lord foreknowing his end in 1955 on the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin after being exiled to the Monastery of Ypsilon, on the island of Mytilene, by the State Church and the courts for not recanting the 1935 Encyclical Declaration!
Let us now look at the three major incidents for which I think history will judge the Matthewites.
The first crime of which the Matthewites are guilty is the above mentioned schism which occurred in 1937. This was an audacious act which blatantly broke the holy canons of the Church. Of course, as with all those who sin against the Church, Matthew’s actions are not based on any canons or logic and therefore are unjustified. In his irrational pride he purposely neglects to realize that the three bishops who ordained him came from the New Calendarists. How could they be graceless schismatics and at the same time ordain him and be the leaders of his Church?
The Matthewites over the years try to justify this illogical position of their founding father, whom they like to refer to as a saint, by saying that when the three bishops came to join the Old Calendarists, it was then that these bishops became true grace filled bishops. They say that the bishops received the grace of the Holy Spirit when the priests and lay people who were old calendarists at that time received them back! How did this happen? Did the priests and lay people have a service where they laid their hands on the bishops so that the bishops could receive the Holy Spirit? How ludicrous: nothing of the sort happened or could have happened, since the Orthodox Church is a hierarchical Church, and not congregational.
Now we know in Orthodoxy lay people and/or even priests cannot receive hierarchs into the Church. This is illogical insanity, but to the Matthewites it is acceptable because it justifies their founder. Even in the lives of the saints we have examples where such a ridiculous idea was not even contemplated. We read in the life of St. Maximos the Confessor, that in 646 while in Carthage St. Maximos met the Monothelite heretic Archbishop Pyrrhos, formerly of Constantinople. It was then that he debated the most holy Father Maximos, who was venerable by reason of his monastic achievements. He rightly reproved Pyrrhos and converted him from heresy. But the revered Maximos said to Pyrrhos that he was but a monk and could not receive his confession of the Faith. Saint Maximos urged Pyrrhos to supplicate the Pope to receive him back into the Church. After this, Pyrrhos went to Pope Theodore in Rome. Pyrrhos handed to the Pope a declaration of Orthodoxy, and was thereafter received back into the Church. A bishop can only be received back into the Church from schism or heresy by at least two or more bishops. This is the canonical practice of the Church from ancient times. Lay people or priests do not have the authority to receive a bishop into the Church; sheep do not have the authority to receive the shepherd, who is the symbol of Christ.
Now one may ask, why did this schism happen and why was it such a blow to Orthodoxy? Matthew, who caused this one schism, crippled the solidarity of the Old Calendarists, in that the hopes of correcting the New Calendar change were shattered because the bishops of the State Church saw that there was no unity with the bishops leading this movement and therefore dismissed them. Why did this happen? I believe that Saint Paul tells us the answer in his Epistle to the Corinthians:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all be speaking the same thing, and that schisms may not be among you, but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same sentiment.” [1 Cor. 1:10] Saint John Chrysostom explains:
“For one who is united in one certain thing, but in another dissents, is no longer ‘perfected,’ and is not fitted into complete accordance. There is also such a thing as harmony with minds where there is not yet harmony of sentiment. For instance, when having the same Faith, we are not joined together in love....For this reason he says it is needful to agree in ‘mind’ and ‘sentiment.’ For it is not only from being set apart according to the Faith that schisms occurred, but from the division of sentiment on account of human contentiousness.” [Hom. 3, P.G. 61:15 (col. 23).] So we see that it is the lack of love which led to human contentiousness that instigated Bishop Matthew to create this schism. Some speculate that because he was not made a ruling bishop, his pride was so hurt that the evil one could instigate him so easily to commit this sin of trampling down the canons of the Church and lift himself up as the only Orthodox bishop left in the world.
Of course if Bishop Matthew had any theological training he would understand that to celebrate the menaion feast days of the Lord or the feast days of the saints on a different day is not a heresy, and that this could in no way justify his creating a schism.
So how will history look upon the Vicar Bishop Matthew and those who follow him? Are they indeed the strict upholders of the Orthodox Faith, or are they the most cunning deceivers in these last times? Vicar Bishop Matthew has only caused disorder, confusion, more schisms and destruction in the Church….which leads us to the second crime of the Matthewites.
The second crime of Bishop Matthew against the Church is his uncanonical consecration of another bishop by himself. Since Bishop Matthew was left by himself as the sole upholder of illogical beliefs, there was no one who could help him consecrate another bishop. Therefore two years before he died, he again decided to set aside the holy canons and consecrated a bishop by himself. In doing so he laid down a new tradition for this sect, for over the years this group would break apart into schism after schism, and one bishop finding himself in the same position as Matthew would emulate him and ordain another bishop by himself.
The first Canon of all the canons of the Orthodox Church states:
CANON I Of the Holy Apostles
A Bishop must be ordained by two or three other bishops.
(See also Canon IV of 1st Ecumenical synod; Canon III of 7th Ecumenical synod.)
The holy fathers of the Church started all their directives with this simple and important canon precisely for the aim of preventing what Bishop Matthew did. They understood that if a deranged person who somehow holds the rank of a bishop wished to propagate a schism, he could easily do this if he had the authority to ordain another unworthy person by himself. So to prevent such a travesty, the first canon they instituted was to ensure that more than one hierarch, i.e. two or more, only had the authority to propagate the Church by ordaining to the episcopacy. Of course when we say ordaining we mean primarily electing a person to be ordained, for in the history of the Church there have been occasions that one bishop ordained another bishop, but this was done only after the conciliar decision of two or more bishops.
In Matthew’s case, he not only did not have another bishop, but being a Vicar Bishop he had no authority even to ordain priests without permission from his ruling bishop! But with regard to the Matthewites all rules can be discarded if you believe you are the last Orthodox bishop remaining on earth, for after all, God, Who orders the world by His Divine Providence has somehow failed to provide for the propagation of His Church! How blasphemous such a thought is!
The consecration that Matthew dared to perform must have been an unsightly scene. From eyewitnesses we have testimony that this spectacle (“blasphemy” according to the witnesses) which they call an “ordination” was accomplished with Bishop Matthew’s one viable hand on the head of the candidate while the other dead hand (he suffered a stroke which paralyzed the right side of his body) was being held there by the Abbess Mariam. She was the ruler of the convent and many testify that she was indeed the ruler behind the scenes of their “church” and of Bishop Matthew also.
The third crime against the Church which the Matthewites are more uniquely identified with is the utter insanity of depicting God the Father in icons. Of all the old calendar groups in Greece, the Matthewites are noted for having the worst obsession for trampling down not only Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Holy Fathers and the secret prayers of the Divine liturgy but also the Seventh Ecumenical Council itself, by depicting the invisible Father in iconography.
Here is but one quote from St. John Chrysostom:
“Let us call Him the inexpressible, the unthinkable God, the invisible, the inapprehensible; Who quells the power of human speech and transcends the grasp of all mortal thought; inaccessible to the Angels, unseen by the Seraphim, unimagined by the Cherubim, invisible to Principalities and Authorities and Powers and, in a word, to all creation...and is known and revealed only by the Son and the Spirit.” (On the Incomprehensibility of God III, 5)
Here is but one quote from St. Ambrose:
“So it is necessary to agree that although none has ever seen God the Father, the Son was seen in the Old Testament...” And again, “Therefore, none has ever seen God, because none has perceived the fullness of divinity which dwells in God.” (Exposition of St. Luke)
Here is but one quote from the epistle of Pope St. Gregory II’s letter on the Holy Icons to Emperor Leo the Isaurian:
“Why do we not delineate and paint the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ? Because we have not seen and known Him, and it is impossible to delineate and paint the divine nature.” This epistle of St. Gregory was adopted into the minutes of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. This council stipulated that we depict only the incarnate person of Christ. God the Father was never incarnate, and was never therefore depictable as a human being, perish the thought! He is invisible to all created beings.
Let us take another quote, and this time from the great St. John of Damascus. From his book on Christological Arguments: “If we made an icon of the invisible God, we should certainly be in error, but we do nothing of the sort, for we are not in error if we make the icon of the incarnate God, Who appeared on earth in the flesh, and Who, in His ineffable goodness, lived among men and assumed the nature, quantity, shape and color of flesh.”
So we see that the Matthewites, due to their theological ignorance, following their founder, have caused so much scandal and confusion over this topic in Greece, that even the true Orthodox at times were perplexed. None however have been as obdurate in error and persistent in this foolishness as the Matthewites have been as can be attested to by their recent history, where their so-called synod has broken apart because of disagreements about this icon. Undoubtedly this is due to the dull-witted Bishop Matthew who wholeheartedly accepted this icon of God the Father and even plastered it all over his vestments as can be seen in his photographs. The Matthewites foolishly believe he is a saint, and therefore they believe in his errors also.
Now here is a most graphic example of spiritual deception which we call prelest. The Matthewites on the one hand, scream to the ends of the earth lamenting the change in the menaion calendar and try to persuade all that this is the heresy of heresies and even caused a schism over it, yet on the other hand, they undermine one of the fundamental precepts of the whole Orthodox Church, the theological attributes of each person of the Trinity, and even trampled down the teaching of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Christ has referred to these blind guides when He spoke to the Pharisees: “Blind guides, who strain out the gnat, but swallow the camel!” [Mt. 23:24] The gnat is the calendar, and the camel is rejecting the teachings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Then to add insult to injury these people who prefer to follow the path of destruction with perfect exactness, dare to say that those who do not accept or venerate the icon of God the Father are iconoclasts! Christ said, “And yet wisdom is justified by all of her children!” [Lk. 7:35] meaning that those without wisdom will justify their folly or false wisdom.
For the Matthewites, who are continuously in the process of trying to understand Orthodoxy, to think that such a man as Bishop Matthew who has caused so much destruction in the Church is a saint, and to start painting icons of him, is the height of absurdity. Let us be alert and constantly vigilant against schismatics such as the Matthewites, keeping in mind the words of St. Paul who said: “Now I beseech you, brethren, to look out for those who cause the divisions and the stumbling blocks contrary to the teaching which ye learned, and turn away from them.” [Rom. 16:17]. Let it be known that this Bishop Matthew did not leave us with any example to emulate: he did not persevere in his monastic calling, but abandoned Mount Athos in disobedience; he did not preserve the unity of the Faith, but caused division in the Church; he did not uphold the canons of the Holy Fathers, but violated them with no fear of God; he did not safeguard the teachings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, but rather propagated a foolish tradition in iconography which undermined the dogmas of the Church; and he left behind a group of radical followers who deceive many as he did, saying that they are the last and only true Orthodox left on earth.
May God, the living, the mighty and the merciful One, Who desireth that all men should be saved, grant to these people true repentance and union back into the Genuine Orthodox Church of Christ. Amen!
The grace and love of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
+ Archbishop Gregory
Written on this day, 8/21 June, 2009
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