When anyone is disturbed or saddened under the pretext of a good and soul-profiting matter, and is angered against his neighbour, it is evident that this is not according to God: for everything that is of God is peaceful and useful, and leads a man to humility and to judging himself.
What can I say in response to this other than to repeat the protest of the disciples when the Saviour told them that in order to inherit eternal life, the must eat of his Body and drink of his Blood? 'This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?'
The truth is that I have no response to this. I do not understand it. When our hierarchs and priests teach and practise things that we know are contrary to the saving Faith, it causes pain and confusion, and yes, sometimes anger, because we know that what they are doing is wrong, and we know that they know that it is wrong, and yet they do it anyway. So how are we to respond to that? The anger is detrimental to our spiritual well-being. It eats away at the soul and affects our relationship with God and creation, and when we recognise this it is very easy to become resentful of those whose actions have elicited these feelings in us. Yet only we have the power to choose to leave it behind. God will strengthen us to do so but not against our will. We must shed the anger and bitterness and seek the peace and love of Christ in our hearts.
But does this mean that we are to remain silent? As Christians, baptised into the death and resurrection of the Christ, and one with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, are we to stand idly by, humbly remaining silent while our beloved brethren are led astray? The Saviour tells us:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
How do we retain our spiritual composure and our focus on the path of humility while simultaneously facing the reality of the dangers that confront us even within the life of the Church? I do not know. Perhaps it is a balance that we are not called to find. Perhaps it is not for most of us to challenge the heresiarchs, and perhaps we should leave it to those who have the spiritual gounding to face them, to the Ephesian St Marks and the Studite St Theodores of today. But what if St Mark of Ephesus and St Theodore the Studite, and others like them, had said the same thing?
This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?