Strumica Diocese: News

Flesh and Blood Has Not Revealed This to You ( 13.07.2009 )

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”


Children, you remember what I told you in the Fishers of Men homily, that those spiritual children in whom the spiritual father via proper spiritual guidance will manage to turn their faith into experience and knowledge, he will never lose again. In today’s Gospel reading as well the Godman speaks not so much about the right faith as about the right experience and knowledge engendered by it—that is, about knowledge as revelation that springs from the struggle for building a union with God, not about knowledge produced by reading books i.e. by flesh and blood. Hence, this is the solid rock on which and by which the Godman Christ will build His Church that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against. Not only will the gates of Hades not prevail against the Church, because it is the invincible Body of Christ that has risen and is seated on the right hand of the Father, but they can neither defeat all those who are bearers of the knowledge and revelation that stem from the living experience of God in the heart, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord. The gates of Hades can be merely, and they need to be, a part of their practice in the warfare against the spirits of evil in the heavenly places, yet they should by no means prevail against them. As for this practice, some other time.

Christ addresses Peter directly, yet as being the first among the equal in honor, not as the first in authority. The incorrect understanding of this crucial Gospel event gives rise to its erroneous ecclesiological interpretation and many misunderstandings onward. The Lord addresses Peter as the first among the equal by honor who at that moment expresses and witnesses the faith and experience of all the Apostles rather than only his own faith and experience. Lord Jesus asked all the Apostles, yet by the established order, valid to this day in the Orthodox Church, the first among the equal in honor proclaimed everyone’s opinion and spoke on behalf of everyone. Or, there is someone to think that the other Apostles followed Christ by chance and had nothing to say, and thus he draws wrong conclusions from this opinion of his?

Christ’s word about the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven can be understood only in the context of the particular Mystery of Apostolic succession. Just to remind ourselves, Apostolic succession is at the same time both teaching and Tradition of the true faith (of Truth) and sacramental Tradition, which means performance of the Divine Eucharist and the other Holy Mysteries—‘distribution of grace’. The Truth of the Church (true faith) is first and foremost uncreated and ‘deifying’ grace and gift (charisma) of God, Revelation of God, and it is essentially inseparable from the sacramental (charismatic) life of the Church, it is inseparable from the grace of the Holy Mysteries. Thus, where there is no Truth, there are neither Holy Mysteries; and vice versa, where there are no Holy Mysteries, there is neither Truth. Apostolic succession, for its part, is not obtained automatically and, hence, it cannot be active and effective if he who receives it has no inner spiritual preparation for it. For the deacon’s rank it is the serious walking on the road of purification of the heart from passions; for the presbyter’s rank it is the level of illumination of the mind; and for the Episcope’s rank it is the level of deification of the whole person. The previously said is not the point, it is rather reminding.

The keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are nothing but establishment of order in God’s Church, as well as establishment of someone who will keep it and maintain it, and, on the basis of this order, creating an atmosphere for healing of our fallen (that is, proud, distracted, and darkened) mind. This order and hierarchy must be observed if one wants to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and there is no other way or some magic passkey instead of the true key, because God Himself oversees the entrance. This order must be obeyed both by those to whom He outwardly gives firstly ranks, rights, and authority, and by those to whom He outwardly gives only the position of subordination and obedience. The keys of the Kingdom for those who hold them in their hands are a double-edged sword. With this sword they can cut for the benefit of the Church, or they can commit spiritual suicide. This is the simplest explanation.

Can anyone answer me now, children, how can the keys, or authority, be used for the benefit of all in the ecclesial community or be abused only to one’s own detriment; for, as the Lord said, “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church”? Also, can anyone answer me how can the position of subordination and obedience be properly used and bring benefit to all in the Church or give me an example how the same can be not understood and lived incorrectly (and spiritually disable the one who acts that way)? The answer to these two questions is linked with the conditional right of the priesthood to bind and loose.


Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica