Name-Glorifying or Name-Worshipping?

The Divine Name Controversy and the Athonite Name-Glorifying Movement, 1910-1920

By Tatiana Senina (Nun Kassia)

December 17, 2001

(the original of this paper is here)


[Part I of II]


What is name-glorifying [imiaslavie]? The reply of the majority of both common believers as well as non-believers will likely be: “I don’t know.” Those few who have heard or read something about the Epistle of the Russian Synod of 1913 and consider it trustworthy will likely say that it is some sort of “name-worshipping [imiabozhnicheskaia] heresy.” Those with an interest in philosophy will recall the names of Fr. Paul Florensky, Sergei Bulgakov, and Alexei Losev, each of whom wrote about a teaching they called name-glorifying. The answer to the question, however, should be sought neither in the works of these philosophers nor in the Synodal decrees of the pre-revolutionary period, but rather in the works of someone who until recently was known better by scholars of Ethiopian history than by theologians or the common faithful: the Athonite Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich, d. 1919). Fr. Anthony, then still a layman, did in fact become well known in scholarly circles by making several journeys through Ethiopia, thereby becoming the first European to travel through this hitherto unknown country. He showed remarkable endurance and bravery, procuring a multitude of valuable accounts of the geography of Ethiopia and the way of life and behavior of the local residents. [1] Yet there are few who know that the Orthodox Church found in the person of Fr. Anthony one of its greatest theologians of the twentieth century and a great defender of patristic Orthodoxy. This confessor was nearly forgotten after the Russian revolution, and it has been only comparatively recently, following the publication and reprinting of material on name-glorifying, that his name has once again been cited in theological discussions [2].  

            Now, just as eighty years ago, there appear to be different approaches to Athonite name-glorifying: one side considers it to be Orthodox, while the other considers it heresy. (The latter were called “onomatoclasts” [imiabortsy, literally “name-destroyers”] by the name-glorifiers at the beginning of the twentieth century; in what follows I myself will employ this term, which was used by the Athonite confessors of the Divine Name in reference to their opponents.) Many people have learned only recently of the existence of this theological controversy and do not yet know what to make of it. The intention of the present article is to explain more or less systematically the essence of this controversy. I will present fairly briefly the historical episodes that accompanied the Divine Name polemics in the beginning of the twentieth century, and then will give primary attention to its theological aspect.    


How it Began, and How it Developed


Opponents of name-glorifying state that the “Athonite trouble” [Afonskaia smuta] began with the publication of Schema-monk Ilarion’s book In the Mountains of the Caucasus [Na Gorakh Kavkaza]. This is in fact not the case. Fr. Ilarion, after having spent more than twenty years on Athos, left for the Caucasus with his Elder, Fr. Desiderii, where he lived another approximately thirty years as an anchorite in the mountains; he was buried in the small settlement of Temnye Buki after his repose in 1916. Towards the end of his life he resolved to publish his dialogues with Fr. Desiderii about the Jesus Prayer. The book, which was blessed for publication by St. Barsanuphius of Optina, was released in 1907; it was republished in 1910 with funds provided by the New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna; finally, it was published a third time in an enormous print run by the Kiev-Caves Lavra in 1912. All three editions were published with the sanction of the ecclesiastical censor and met with a positive reception from many, above all from monastics.      

 Meanwhile, trouble had already arisen on Athos. The popularity of the book In the Mountains of the Caucasus had given birth to envy on the part of the superiors of the Russian monastic communities on Athos, who appealed to a certain monk Khrisanf to write a critical review. The critic’s fundamental point of criticism was Fr. Ilarion’s assertion that God is present in the Divine Name, that His Name has divine dignity, and is God Himself. It was this review that laid the foundation of the trouble. Initially distributed among the inhabitants of Athos in manuscript form, it elicited disquiet among many monastic practitioners of the Jesus Prayer who found the teaching of monk Khrisanf to be non-Orthodox.[3] This disquiet found expression when the monastic “name-glorifiers” (as supporters of Schema-monk Ilarion began to call themselves) shunned the “onomatoclasts” (supporters of monk Khrisanf), refusing to take blessings from them or to serve with them. This, in turn, upset the onomatoclasts who, having well-placed and influential protectors in the highest circles of the Russian Church (the foremost among them being Archbishop, later Metropolitan, Anthony [Khrapovitskii]), began to slander them to their brothers, accusing them of the “name-worshipping heresy” and “sedition.”

 Fr. Anthony (Bulatovich), who struggled in St. Andrew’s Skete, did not initially participate in the controversy; he entered the polemics only in 1912, when God called him miraculously, through the prayers of St. John of Kronstadt[4], to enter the battle for the God-pleasing veneration of the Name of God[5]. This evidently disturbed the onomatoclasts, for the above-mentioned review by monk Khrisanf was soon published with the blessing of Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitskii) in the journal Russian Monk published in Pochaev[6]; remarks of Archbishop Anthony himself, comparing the teaching of Schema-monk Ilarion to the khlystovschina heresy [the “Flagellants”][7], then appeared in the same journal. In this way the non-Orthodox perspective of the Name of God and the Jesus Prayer, as expressed in monk Khrisanf’s review and endorsed by Archbishop Anthony, began to spread throughout all Russia (the journal Russian Monk was received in practically all monasteries).

            In the same year, Fr. Anthony (Bulatovich) wrote Apology of Faith in the Name of God and the Name Jesus, which was distributed at first in lithographic form and later printed in St. Petersburg (1913) with the help of Fr. Paul Florenskii and M. A. Novoselov (the future New Martyr and Catacomb bishop). In the person of Fr. Anthony, the name-glorifiers found fundamental theological support, something which they, the majority of whom were simple uneducated monks, initially lacked; they at first were unable to present to the onomatoclasts the teaching concerning the divinity of the Name of God that they knew through their experience of prayer, but were not always able to articulate in words.

            In January 1913, the brotherhood of the St. Andrew’s Skete on Athos, by majority vote, and in accordance with their skete’s charter, dismissed Igumen Jerome (an onomoclast), and chose in his place Archimandrite David (a name-glorifier). Inasmuch as Fr. Jerome was unwilling to vacate the superior’s quarters voluntarily, it became necessary to remove him by force. Desiring to maintain power, the deposed abbot and his supporters among the monks in the skete (who were in the minority) appealed to the ruling authorities: the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Vadopedi Monastery (under whose authority St. Andrew’s Skete was), the civil powers on Athos, the Russian Synod, etc., accusing the monks of the skete of heresy, sedition, and the use of force. A similar conflict took place at the Russian St. Panteleimon’s Monastery.

 In February 1913, Fr. Anthony (Bulatovich) travelled to Russia in order to explain the situation to the Russian ecclesiastical authorities and to ask for a just examination of the matter. At the Synod he was not listened to, however, because Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitskii), a dedicated opponent of the name-glorifiers, had overriding influence there[8]. In May the Russian Synod published its Epistle on name-glorifying[9], which condemned the teaching found in the books of Fr. Ilarion and Fr. Anthony as well as all those who upheld it. Meanwhile, the Greeks decided to take advantage of the Divine Name controversy in order to gain dominance on Athos by demanding that the Russians expel the “heretics” from Athos[10]. In June, Archbishop Nikon (Rozhdestvenskii), who had been sent by the Synod, arrived by ship on Athos with a company of soldiers. Archbishop Nikon attempted to convince the name-glorifying monks to submit and accept the teaching of the Synod. After their refusal, the monks were removed by force from St. Panteleimon’s Monastery with the use of the soldiers’ bayonets and water from fire hoses and placed on the “Kherson” ship and brought to Russia. The name-glorifiers at St. Andrew’s Skete left voluntarily and were likewise expelled from Athos. Upon their arrival to Odessa, they were all subjected to search, dressed in lay clothes, and sent to their places of registration. They were forbidden to live in monasteries, confess, or receive Holy Communion. All monasteries were ordered to find and destroy all copies of In the Mountains of the Caucasus.

        The situation of the name-glorifiers became very difficult. They were treated with suspicion and considered heretics; priests refused to give Holy Communion even to dying monks or to bury them. However, far from everyone in ecclesiastical circles – among them hierarchs – was in agreement with the condemnation of the name-glorifiers; many were dissatisfied with the Synod’s actions[11]. Many Russian monastics were sympathetic to the plight of the expelled Athonites. Fr. Anthony continued ceaselessly to work, write, and defend the veneration of the Name of God[12].

 In February 1914, Tsar Nicholas received four monastic name-glorifiers, listening to the story of their deportation and flight with great sympathy. Soon thereafter the Sovereign appealed to the Synod with a request that they “forget the strife” and allow the expelled to commune of the Holy Mysteries. The Synod ordered the Office of the Moscow Synod, under Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow, to carry out a legal investigation of the matter of the monastic “name-worshippers.” Meanwhile the Athonite monks sent a declaration to the Synod, in which it was stated: “In conclusion… [because] the incorrect teaching about the Name of God is not an accidental mistake that has crept in, but has now been irrevocably adopted by the Synod as a dogma, we are required, with deep sadness and bitterness, in order to preserve the purity of the Orthodox faith, to cut off all spiritual communion with the All-Russian Synod and all those of like-mind with it, until the aforementioned errors are corrected and until recognition of the Divinity of the Name of God, in accordance with the Holy Catechism and the Holy Fathers.”[13]

 This frightened the Synod, inasmuch as there appeared to be a schism on dogmatic grounds; moreover, the ecclesiastical authority was accused of the heresy of the Moscow Synod. As a result of several meetings with name-glorifiers, Bishop Modest presented a speech to the Synodal Office in which he said that the monks were generally Orthodox, that they did not venerate the Name of God as His Essence and, moreover, that they did not venerate the Name apart from God and did not deify letters and sounds. Following this, the Synodal Office issued a statement on May 7, 1914, in which it was declared that the name-glorifiers “have no reason, based on the teaching on the names of God, to fall away from the Orthodox Church”; the Office’s statement was confirmed by decree of the Synod. As a result, name-glorifiers were granted permission to serve, live in monasteries, wear monastic garb, etc[14]. However, the Synodal decree was issued to the monks in abbreviated form, without the final part, in which it was stated that the Synod, although condescending to the “those in error,” did not however “change its previous decision about the error itself.” Later Fr. Anthony said that if they had known about these terms in the decree they could hardly have been reconciled with the Synod.[15]

 During the First World War ordained name-glorifiers served as army chaplains. The Athonite monks expected that their affair would be considered by the All-Russian Local Council, and wrote petitions to both the Council and to Patriarch Tikhon. The Council of 1917-1918, however, although intending to examine the affair, was unable to do so and did not arrive at a decision. The Patriarchal Synod of 1918 once again suspended the name-glorifiers, among them Fr. Anthony, from serving and communing, declaring that they could be received into communion “only under the condition that they renounce name-worshipping and express their submission to the Holy Church.” In his reply of November 8, 1918, Fr. Anthony wrote that he was cutting himself off “from all spiritual communionwith the ecclesiastical hierarchyuntil essential consideration of the case by the Holy Council.”[16] Thereafter Fr. Anthony lived as an anchorite on his mother’s land in Lutsikovka (Ukraine), where he was killed on the night of December 5 to 6, 1919. 

 The primary leader of the name-glorifiers after Fr. Anthony became Archimandrite David. According to available information, in the beginning of the 1920s he openly served in Moscow with Patriarch Tikhon and began a name-glorifying circle; it is obvious that the Patriarch had reconsidered his previous attitude towards name-glorifying. Unfortunately, no official documents affirming the reestablishment of communion have yet been found[17]; the time of persecution was approaching, and a competent reconsideration of the Divine Name controversy was put off for the indefinite future. To this date there has been no conciliar consideration of this question. 

            Let us now proceed to the theological aspect of the controversy.


What is Name-Glorifying?


The question before us is how to understand what is called “name-glorifying.” The formula “The Name of God is God Himself” may indeed seem strange to one unfamiliar with patristic doctrine or with the practice of noetic prayer. In my opinion, this formula evoked and continues to evoke misunderstanding because people are accustomed to understand as “names” only conventional signs and symbols that could of course not be identified with the object named. But since we are investigating a theological controversy, we cannot operate here on the terms of linguistics or generally proceed from the perspective of common sense. Rather, we are obligated to explain how the Holy Fathers understood the Names of God and what they taught about prayer, and then compare their teaching with the teaching of the name-glorifiers and then decide whether the former is a heresy (inasmuch as a heresy can be only that which contradicts patristic teaching).

 The opponents of the name-glorifiers accused them of deifying the very sounds and letters of the words “God,” “Jesus,” and other Divine Names, of regarding the Name as some sort of fourth hypostasis of the Holy Trinity, of falling into ditheism, pantheism, and other such heretical views. Indeed, if we were considering a teaching that equated created letters or sounds with God, which it would be enough for anyone to write or pronounce in order to achieve the desired miracle, then such a teaching could be called “name-worshipping” and compared with magic and shamanism. Yet this comparison is entirely incorrect. While it is possible that among uneducated monastic name-glorifiers there were those who deified the letters of the Divine Names (and it is unknown whether there were such cases), it is in fact the case that the main defender of the name-glorifiers, Fr. Anthony (Bulatovich), wholly renounced any such teaching[18], about which he wrote at length, of which one can be easily convinced by reading any of his works in defense of name-glorifying. Neither did Fr. Ilarion fall into the deification of the letters and sounds of the Divine Names, pantheism, or anything similar. Considering that the Russian Synod judged name-glorifying specifically as the teaching expounded by these two monks, a consideration of this teaching should proceed from how Fr. Anthony and Fr. Ilarion (especially the former, as the primary apologist) expounded it.

 If Fr. Ilarion, in his defense of the expression “The Name of God is God Himself” proceeded above all from the immediate experience of prayer, Fr. Anthony laid the patristic foundation. The opponents of the name-glorifiers frequently accused them of having created a “new dogma,” citing a not very precise expression from letters of Fr. Ilarion to his spiritual father[19]. However, Fr. Anthony demonstrated in his works that this “dogma” is not new, but rather old, having always been confessed by the Church, but forgotten by recent “theologians.” He founded his teaching on the Divinity of the Names of God above all on the basis that the Divine Name is, according to the Holy Fathers, His energy or operation, and that God’s energy is God Himself. This is the point around which the polemics essentially turned.

 St. Dionysius the Areopagite writes this about the divine energies: “These common and united distinctions, or rather the blessed emanations of the whole divinity we try to praise, to the best of our ability, from the names of God in the Oracles [i.e., the Holy Scriptures][20] that reveal them – first having laid down, as was already said, that every beneficent Name of God, to whichever of the supremely divine hypostases it may be applied, must be understood as pertaining to the whole supremely divine wholeness without exception” (The Divine Names 2.11). That is, the names that names the hypostases of the Holy Trinity in Holy Scripture do not simply “reveal” God and point to Him, but are His operations, inasmuch as these names are “beneficent” (or “good-energizing”) or capable of action; that is, they are essentially uncreated energies of God, through which God communes with creation. 

 It was in accordance with this patristic teaching that the name-glorifiers understood the formula “The Name of God is God”: the Divine Names are God according to His energies. Fr. Anthony (Bulatovich) writes:  In the Names of Christ we have, so to speak, the created shell – that is, the sounds and letters – with which we express Truth. These sounds and letters are different in every language, and they will not carry over into eternity, and are not united in any way with the Lord Jesus Christ, because when we, speaking about the Name, have in mind created human words with which we express ideas about God and about Christ, then it is appropriate to speak of the presence of God in His Name; but when we have in mind the Name itself, that is Truth itself, that is God Himself, as the Lord said of Himself: ‘I am… the Truth’ (Jn 14:6).”[21] Fr. Anthony understood as Truth that which God reveals to people about Himself: namely, that which according to St. Dionysius “reveals” Him to us – His energy.

 Fr. Anthony writes: “The Energy of God means the Operation of the Essence of God… St. Gregory Palamas established on the one hand the non-mergence of the Operation of God with the Essence of God, and on the other hand the non-dividedness of the Operation of God from the Essence of God and the Divine worthiness and the Divine nature of the Divine Operations.”[22]


Name-Glorifying and Icon Veneration

The opponents of the name-glorifiers, particularly Archbishop Anthony,[23] described as “nonsense” Fr. Anthony’s words on the Divine Names as Revelation, which is God Himself according to energy, and on the Names in material expression, in which God participates. But this teaching is not only not nonsensical, but it has an essential connection to the dogma of icon veneration. According to the teaching of the Church, icons are not blessed by prayer and the sprinkling of holy water (as many now mistakenly think on the basis of the Latin practice of “blessing” icons), but by inscribing the name of the person depicted on it.

            Let us turn to the Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (in what follows the emphasis in bold is mine).

 The iconoclasts argued: “The impious establishment of the falsely-named icons has no basis in the tradition of Christ, the Apostles, or the Fathers; there is also no sacred prayer which sanctifies them to change them from everyday objects to holy ones; but they remain forever every day items.”[24]

 The Council replied: “An icon, of course, has communion with the prototype only in name, and not according to very essence… The Church… does not separate His flesh from the divinity united with it; on the contrary, it believes that the flesh is deified and confesses it as one with the Divinity, in accordance with the teaching of the great Gregory the Theologian and with truth… We, making an icon of the Lord, confess the Lord’s flesh as being deified, and recognize the icon as nothing other than an icon representing an image of the prototype. That is why the icon receives the very name of the Lord; only through this is it in communion with Him as well; and for the same reason, it is venerable and holy.”[25]

 Here is what St. John of Damascus writes[26]: “Either do away with reverence and veneration for all these or submit to the tradition of the Church and allow the veneration of images of God and friends of God, sanctified by name and therefore overshadowed by the grace of the divine Spirit” (Treatise 1). “Divine grace is given to material things through the name borne by what is depicted” (Treatise 1, Comment on St. Basil’s On the Holy Spirit). The Name of God is holy because He Himself is present in it through His energies. And the saints are holy, “since the Godhead has taken to Himself our nature, it has become glorified as a vivifying and efficacious remedy, and has been transformed unto immortality. Thus the death of the saints is rejoicing, and churches are raised to them, and their images are set up” (Treatise 2). “God, the Scripture says, stood in the synagogue of the gods [Ps 81.1], so that the saints, too, are gods. Holy Gregory takes the words, ‘God stands in the midst of the gods,’ to mean that He discriminates their several merits. The saints in their lifetime were filled with the Holy Spirit, and when they are no more, His grace abides with their spirits and with their bodies in their tombs, and also with their likenesses and holy images, not by nature, but by grace and divine power” (Treatise 1).

 We revere and venerate the Theotokos and the saints, icons and relics because God is present in them in His energy, and because the saints themselves, through their union with God, are themselves called gods – although not by essence, but by grace. The designation, however, is one and the same. The name, in its inner essence, is greater than the icon, inasmuch as it is the energy of God (this is evident from the fact that the Name sanctifies the icon); the imprinting of the name is in fact equal to the icon, inasmuch as in it, as in the icon, God is present in His energies. Fr. Anthony had in mind the consequence of grace and divine action when he wrote: “when we, speaking about the Name, have in mind created human words with which we express ideas about God and about Christ, then it is appropriate to speak of the presence of God in His Name; but when we have in mind the Name itself, that is Truth itself, that is God Himself.”[27]

 That the inscribed Divine Name is His icon, but that its inner essence is His energy can be seen, for example, from the following statement of the great defender of icon veneration, St. Theodore the Studite. Responding to the iconoclasts’ definition of icons as “artistic depictions drawn in order to destroy the soul in life,” he wrote: “What are you saying so brazenly, calling destructive for the soul in life the likeness of Christ, which is salvific for the world? What a most perditious, unlawful, and Christ-hating man! You are against Christ, you are against the depiction of Christ, which angels venerate and demons fear? For whose name is written on it? Could it be Kronos or Zeus… the invocation of which is a lie and the depiction of which is godless? But if Christ is depicted, ‘no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit’ (I Cor. 12:3), as it is written in Scripture. Behold, you speak blasphemy like the Jews, not only against Christ, but against the Holy Spirit, calling the depiction in the Holy Spirit and the name of Jesus Christ destructive to the soul in life.”[28] Therefore one who asserts that God is not present in the Divine Name unintentionally becomes an iconoclast.[29]

 It is indicative that during the rout and expulsion of name-glorifiers from Athos their persecutors trampled icons underfoot; before this, when the Divine Name controversy was proceeding on Athos, the onomatoclasts, mocking the name-glorifiers, wrote the Divine Name on paper and then stuck them in their pockets or trampled on them[30], just as had been done earlier with icons. In this way the kinship of onomoclasm and iconoclasm is evident not only from their teaching, but also from their corresponding actions. 

            Let us now examine the teaching of the onomatoclasts more systematically.


Onomoclasm Compared to Patristic Teaching


The Epistle of the Russian Synod of 1913 was published in Church News [Tserkovnye Vedomosti] accompanied by three articles explicating it by Bishop Nikon (Rozhdestvensky), Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky), and S. V. Troitsky (the Epistle was compiled on the bases of speeches of these three by Archbishop Sergei [Starogorodsky]). The opponents of the name-glorifiers later published the Epistle, articles, and other materials in its own book.

            The Epistle is constructed on the assertion that “The Name of God is only a name, and neither God Himself nor His attribute… therefore it can neither be recognized nor called either God or Divine, inasmuch as it is not God’s energy” (Church News, 285) Several un-Orthodox conclusions follow from this formulation.


1.      The Heresy of Iconoclasm


If the Name of God is not God’s energy, then icons cannot be sanctified therewith, inasmuch as God, Who in His essence is inaccessible and entirely beyond bounds not only to our senses but also to our thoughts and comprehension, reveals Himself to the world through His operations or energies; everything else is part of creation, and something created and not related to God called sanctify anything. We venerate icons because God is actually present in them through his energies (if He were not present in them, then we would be idolaters), and this presence is ensured by the inscription of the name, as the Holy Fathers taught. The Synod’s definition openly contradicts the definition of the Seventh Ecumenical Council when it states: “The incorrectness of the new dogma [i.e., name-glorifying] is expressed by the conclusions reached by its adherents, particularly Fr. Bulatovich in his Apology. According to him, icons, and the sign of the cross, and the ecclesiastical sacraments themselves are operative only because the Name of God is depicted or pronounced at their performance.” This appears to be the heresy of iconoclasm.

            The onomatoclasts accused the name-glorifiers of allegedly making God “dependent upon man,” because if God is present in His Name, then even if someone without faith vainly calls on His Name, then “God, as it were, is bound to respond to this appeal with His grace” (Church News, 279). The Epistle opposed the assertion of the name-glorifiers that “the Name Jesus is all-powerful to perform miracles as a consequence of the presence of Divinity in it,” by stating that the “Name of God works miracles only on the condition of faith” (Church News, 283). These two assertions, however, do not contradict one another. St. Theodore the Studite writes the following about the veneration of the icon: “One must with fear and reverence approach and venerate it, for the veneration transfers to Christ; and one must believe that divine grace enlivens it, that it communicates sanctification to those who approach it with faith” (Epistle to His Spiritual Father, Platon, On the Veneration of Icons). It is obvious that those who approach without faith do not receive sanctification and do not behold miracles (although this is not always the case, since there are cases when the Lord has miraculously warned unbelievers and those who scoffed at icons and His Name); but this by no means implies that grace (i.e., the energy of God or Divinity) does not abide in them at all times. The same goes for the Name of God, inasmuch as its material expression is equivalent to an icon.

            God acts sovereignly; it is not possible to “coerce” Him to do anything. Therefore the formula “The Name of God is God Himself” not only does not lead to magic, but its altogether excludes it. The evangelical account in well known in which Christ “did not many might works there because of their unbelief” (Mt 13:58). According to the logic of the onomatoclasts, one must reach the conclusion that the Lord Himself was unable to perform miracles. Thus the teaching of the onomatoclasts leads inevitably to blasphemy, of which the Synod falsely accused the name-glorifiers.


2. False Teachings about the Performance of the Mysteries


It is stated in the Synod’s Epistle that the Name of God “can also perform miracles, but not by itself, not as the result of some Divine power seemingly forever enclosed in it,” and that the “holy mysteries are performed neither by the faith of the celebrant, nor by the faith of the recipient, and also not by the invocation or depiction of the Name of God; but by the prayer and faith of the holy Church, in whose person they are performed, and on the authority of the Lord’s promise” (Church Herald, 285). But here is how St. John of Damascus explains the Orthodox teaching about this: “The very bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s Body and Blood. But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit… And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energizes and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out… The bread of the table and the water and wine are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Christ” (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4.13). The saint speaks of the invocation of God, and not about the “faith of the Church,” and therein the Synod contradicts Orthodox doctrine.


3. Teaching of Prayer Leading to Delusion


The Synodal teaching on the Name of God explicitly contradicts all patristic teaching on prayer. Here is one example of the latter: “The Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, descending into the depths of the heart, will subdue the serpent holding sway over the pastures of the heart, and will save our soul and bring it to life. Thus abide constantly with the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that the heart swallows the Lord and the Lord the heart, and the two become one… ‘No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:3). By ‘by the Holy Spirit’ he means when the heart is made active by the Holy Spirit and prays through Him… ‘Those who mentally keep this holy and most glorious Name unceasingly in the depth of their heart, can see too the light of their mind (clarity of thought or a definite consciousness of all inner movements).’ And again: ‘When this wonderful Name is kept in thought with intense care it very effectively scorches every filth which appears in the soul ‘For our God is a consuming fire’ (Heb. 12:29).” This instruction from these monastic saints is fully in accord with the teaching that the Name of God is His energy and is He Himself.

            The Epistle, however, states: “In prayer (especially the Jesus Prayer) the Name of God and God Himself are recognized by us as inseparable, as if identified… but this is only in prayer and only for our heart; in theologizing, however, as in reality, the Name of God is only the Name, and not God Himself… and neither is it the energy of God” (Church News, 285). Vladimir Ern has noted quite correctly that by this the Synod: “[A]ffirms that, even in moments of the most intense and most elevated, instantaneous, and heartfelt enthusiasm, man does not escape the closed sphere of his own consciousness.  He only ‘imagines’ God and tries, in his imagination, to join and equate the Name of God spoken by the heart with God Himself… A prayer does not break the solitude of man’s soul and does not place it in a real relationship to God.  This, however, is the purest Protestantism!… [I]n this case invoking God in prayer is an occupation completely idle and futile: our invocation of the Name of God is not objectively connected with God, does not create any real relationship between the praying soul and God, and our prayers, being wholly ‘the creation of our consciousness,’ have absolutely no relation to the Existing God.  The Synod manages to avoid this conclusion and… says: ‘We are not separating Him Himself (i.e., God) from the invoked Name.  The Name and God Himself are equated for us in prayer. Fr. John [of Kronstadt] advises not to separate them, and not to attempt during prayer to imagine God in separation from the Name or apart from it’ [Church News], p. 282].  In other words, we, by our own will magically create an illusion of equality that does not exist in reality” (p. 18, 21). Thus we see once again that the accusation of magic hurled by the onomatoclasts against the name-glorifiers falls on the head of the Synod itself.

            In fact, the means of prayer suggested by the onomatoclasts inevitably leads to delusion, as can be seen with particular clarity in monk Khrsanf’s review of the book In the Mountains of the Caucasus. The review states: “When performing the prayer of the heart is only the name of Christ present and clear in our mind and heart, and not He Himself with His boundless, elevated qualities?... For this solely intermediary reason are these names worthy of exaltation and glorification: that as soon as one pronounces them in prayer one remembers the Savior; then the whole mind and heart of the one praying communes with Him, and not in order to dwell on His name alone.” Here we see an obvious appeal to prayer with the imagination, something that the Holy Fathers strictly prohibit, as it leads directly to delusion. The Holy Fathers taught that one should enclose one’s mind in the words of prayer (cf. The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 28:17), that is, in the Name of God; but monk Khrisanf teaches that one needs to leave the Name behind and make the mind strive towards “God Himself” – and what can this mean but to begin to imagine God with His “elevated qualities”? If this entire review is not simply a matter of abstract reasoning, and if Fr. Khrisanf – and along with him Archbishop Anthony and other onomatoclasts – practiced this method of prayer, then they were inevitably in delusion. This is not unlikely, judging by the ferocity and even cruelty, uncharacteristic of Christians but entirely characteristic of the deceived, with which they attacked the name-glorifiers.


4. The Barlaamite Heresy


The fundamental assertion of the Epistle is that the energy of God (Divinity, theotes) is not God Himself and cannot be called God (theos): “St. Gregory Palamas… nowhere calls the energy ‘God,’ but teaches that one should call it ‘Divine’ (not theos, but theotes)… The word ‘God’ indicates Personhood, while ‘Divinity’ indicates attribute, quality, or nature. In such a way, even if one recognizes the Name of God as His energy, even then one may call It [the Name] only Divine, but not God, and especially not ‘God Himself,’ as do these new teachers” (Church News #20, 1913, 280-281). The word “Personhood” is not known in patristic theology, and therefore at first glance it is not entirely clear what the Synod is attempting to say. But if we turn to one of the three speeches from which the Epistle was compiled we will immediately understand where the Epistle got the word “Personhood.”

            Archbishop Nikon stated the following in his speech: “Most importantly, the as it were all-encompassing attribute of this understanding [God] in our Christian thought is all-perfect spiritual personality” (p. 51); “the grace of God… is God’s activity in us; however we do not call our own activity ‘God,’ but namely only the activity of God, that is, not the Essence of God, or the Personhood of God, but a manifestation of God’s attributes” (p. 68). Here Archbishop Nikon immediately identifies “Personhood” with the Essence of God, and claims that the grace (energy) of God is not called God. Further on he writes: “one should not confuse under the single name ‘God’ His attributes and the very Essence, the Personhood of God” (p. 69).

            Hence it is clear that the Synod called “Personhood” the Essence of God and refused to call God’s energy God. The latter represents the Barlaamite heresy, condemned in 1351 at the Council of Constantinople, which recognized as Orthodox and binding on all members of the Church the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas, who taught: “the energy is God (theos) Himself” (Letter to John of Gavra, Hagio Gregoriou tou Palama Syggrammata II (Thessalonica, 1966) 340. 12-13).

            It is no wonder why the name-glorifiers accused the onomatoclasts of the Barlaamite heresy. This heresy, like other heretical delusions, is expressed in the three speeches on the basis of which the Epistle was composed.


Conclusion: The Orthodox cannot and must not accept the teaching set forth in the Epistle as Orthodox, and the Synod’s condemnation of the name-glorifiers cannot be considered as theologically established. For if the Epistle of the Synod is not Orthodox, then it is obvious that its authors could not have correctly judged the Orthodoxy of any teaching, inasmuch as it judged the name-glorifiers from the point of view of an “Orthodoxy” that was in fact heretical.  




[1] The future Fr. Anthony published several works as a result of his journeys, which were republished in the 1970s and 1980s: A. K. Bulatovich, S voiskami Menelika II [With the Armies of Menelik II], ed. I.S. Katsnel’son (Moscow, 1971). Some archival materials connected with his travels were also published: A. K. Bulatovich, Tret’e puteshestvie po Efiopii [Third Voyage Through Ethiopia] (Moscow, 1987). Biographies of Fr. Anthony can be found in the introductory article to these volumes; a more detailed biography can be found in its own volume: I. Katsnel’son, G. Terekhov, Po neizvedannym zemliam Efiopii [Through the Unchartered Lands of Ethiopia] (Moscow, 1975); Fr. Anthony’s biography up until his entrance into the monastery is there related with many interesting details, but his monastic life and participation in the Divine Name controversy is described very sparingly in a few pages at the end of the book; this was clearly due to Soviet censorship.


[2] Cf. Nachala. Religiozno-filosofskii zhurnal No. 1-4. Imiaslavie. [Beginning: A Religio-Philosophical Journal, No. 1-4. Name-Glorifying] Issue I. The entire issue is dedicated to name-glorifying and contains many materials on the given theme, including letters of Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich) and a chronicle of the Athonite affair, compiled by S. M. Polovinkinym with an afterword and commentary by V. M. Lourie; Protopresbyter John Meyendorff, Zhisn’ i trudy sviatitelia Grigoriia Palamy. Vvedenie v isuchenie [Life and Works of St. Gregory Palamas: An Introductory Study, tr. G. N. Nachnikin, ed. I. P. Medvedev and V. M. Lourie (St. Petersburg, 1997). (Subsidia Byzantinorossica, pp. 339-343, 393-396 (the Afterword comments on the Divine Name controversy from a theological point of view connected with the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas); “Kratkii ocherk zhizni startsa Ilariona i istorii imiaslaviia v Rusii” [“A Short Description of the Life of Elder Ilarion and the History of Name-Glorifying in Russia”] in Schema-monk Ilarion, Na gorakh Kavkaza [In the Mountains of the Caucasus] (St. Petersburg, 1998), p. 901-930 (it was after the critical review of this book in 1912 that the Divine Name controversy began); Priest Pavel Florenskii, Perepiska sviashchenika Pavla Aleksandrovicha Florenskogo i Mikhaila Aleksandrovicha Novoselova s prisoedineniem pisem ieroskhimonakha German Zosimovskogo, ieroskhimonakha Antoniia (Bulatovicha), ieromonakha Panteleimona (Uspenskogo), V. M. Vasnetsova, F.D. Samarina, F. K. Andreeva, S. N. Durylina, I. P. Shcherbova [Correspondence of Priest Pavel Aleksandrovich Florensky and Mikhail Aleksandrovich Novoselov with accompanying letters by Hieroschemamonk German of Zosimova, Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich), Hieromonk Panteleimon (Uspenskii), V. M. Vasnetsov, F.D. Samarin, F. K. Andreev, S. N. Durylin, I. P. Shcherbov] ed. Igumen Andronik (Trubachev) (Tomsk, 1998); recently an anthology of documents relating to the Divine Name controversy of the beginning of the twentieth century was published: Zabytye stranitsy russkogo imiaslaviia. Sbornik dokumentov i publikatii po afonskim sobytiiam 1910-1913 ff [Forgotten Pages of Russian Name-Glorifying: An Anthology of Documents and Publications Relating to the Athonite Events of 1910-1913], ed. A. M. Khitrov and O. L. Solomin (Moscow, 2001).  


[3] The review contained the Nestorian heresy and a non-Orthodox teaching on prayer, on which see below.


[4] It was with the blessing of this great saint of the Russian land that Fr. Anthony accepted monasticism and went to Athos; St. John also foretold the coming witness of the Athonite monks, writing to Fr. Anthony on October 1, 1908: “To the Athonite monks – martyrs’ crowns” (for the autograph, cf. Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich), Moia mysl’ vo Khriste. O Deiatel’nosti (Energii) Bozhestva [My Thought in Christ: On the Activity (Energy) of the Divinity] (Petrograd, 1914), and also on the logo of the forum “O Bozhestvennykh Imenakh” [“On the Divine Names”]. 


[5] For a detailed account of these events, cf. Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich), Moia bor’ba s imiabortsami na Sviatoi Gore [My Battle with the Onomatoclasts on the Holy Mountain] (Kharkov, 1916), pp. 1-17; this edition is cited in what follows.


[6] Russkii inok [The Russian Monk], No. 4, pp. 71-75; No. 5, pp. 57-59; No. 6, pp. 52-60; reprinted in Sviatoe Pravoslavie i imenobozhnicheskaia eres’ [Holy Orthodoxy and the Name-Worshipping Heresy], pp. 1-17; this edition is cited in what follows.


[7] No. 8 and 15, 1912.


[8] He called them “a gang of lunatics,” “madmen,” who created a “Khlyst rebellion,” and he called Fr. Anthony an “ambitious hussar,” “obviously not a believer in anything” (cf., Istoriia afonskoi smutty ili imiabozheskoi eresi [History of the Athonite Disturbance or of the Name-Worshipping Heresy], compiled by the Athonite monk Pachomius and annotated by A. A. Pavlovskii (St. Petersburg, 1914), 6C. 2-64, 97) and in general he did not mince words, so that the publishers of his letters to the Athonite onomatoclasts had to replace the letters of one word he called Fr. Anthony with symbols (cf. Ibid. p. 64).


[9]Bozhieiu milostiiu, Sviateishii Pravitel’stvuiushchii Vserossiiskii Sinod vsechestnym bratiiam, vo inochestve podvizaioshchimsia” [“By God’s Mercy, the Most-Holy Governing All-Russian Synod to the Honorable Brothers Struggling in Monasticism”] in Tserkovnye Vedomosti [Church News] (hereafter CN) No. 20 (1913), pp. 277-278. Reprinted in Sviatoe Pravoslavie i Imenobozhnicheskaia eres’ [Holy Orthodoxy and the Name-Worshipping Heresy] pp. 39-49.


[10] The Patriarch of Constantinople rushed to condemn the teaching of the name-glorifiers even before the Russian Synod, based on the critique of the theologians of the Halki school, about which see below.


[11] Cf., Dym otechestva [The Smoke of the Fatherland] (1914) No. 14-15.


[12] Fr. Anthony would pray all night with his cell attendant, Hieromonk Philaret, reading Midnight Office, Matins, and the Rule with Canons; he observed a strict fast, eating only vegetables. He spent nearly all his remaining time, overcoming severe eye disease, publishing his works on name-glorifying and the Athonite affair. He slept no more than six hours a day. (Cf., Dym otechestva [The Smoke of the Fatherland] (1914, No. 21). 


[13] Cited in Nachala [The Beginning] pp. 23-24.


[14] This declaration did not make it to the provinces, where the name-glorifiers continued to be counted as heretics and to be oppressed.


[15] Cf., Nachala [The Beginning] pp. 24-26.


[16] Cited in Nachala [The Beginning], pp. 33-34.


[17] Only the letter of Bishop Juvenaly to Patriarch Tikhon is known, which appears to have been one of the points leading up to the restoration of communion between the name-glorifiers and the Patriarchal Synod.


[18] Fr. Anthony wrote nothing without first finding confirmation in the writings of the Holy Fathers (the most self-contained of his writings on the theological level is Moia mysl’ vo Khriste [My Thought in Christ], in which he lays out his own thought, although even there everything he teaches is in accordance with ecclesiastical doctrine). In this he immediately parted ways with Fr. Paul Florensky, who was more inclined to magic. Thus, on December 2, 1912, concerning sounds, he writes: “I am entirely ready to believe this, but at present do not have sufficient data in order to affirm it. St. Symeon the New Theologian clearly calls God ‘Divine Truth.’ Sounds are structurally neither essence, nor substance, but a vibration of the airwaves; therefore this proposal about vibration in Christ can hardly be spoken of. Finally, sounds are not a required accessory of the Name of the Lord and of words in general, for words can operate silently in the mind. So I am more inclined to regard sounds in the same way as letters, that is, as symbols. But the Truth of God in His Name is God Himself IN ESSENCE, AS THE VERBAL ACTION OF THE DIVINITY.” (Priest Paul Florensky, Perepiska [Correspondence], p. 78). Subsequently, not finding support for Florensky’s magical views in the Holy Fathers, Fr. Anthony never accepted them. Florensky continued to develop occult theories; something similar can be seen in the thought of Bulgakov and Losev (falling eventually into the heresy of Sophianism); consequently, Florensky, Losev, and Bulgakov and their followers could indeed be called “name-worshippers” in the proper sense of the word. 


[19] Cf., Sviatoe Pravoslavie i imenobozhnicheskaia eres’ [Holy Orthodoxy and the Name-Worshipping Heresy], p. 28.


[20] Here and in what follows words in square brackets are my own.


[21] Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich), Moia bor’ba s imiabortsami na Sviatoi Gore [My Battle with the Onomatoclasts on the Holy Mountain] , p. 117.


[22] Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich), Moia mysl’ vo Khriste [My Thought in Christ], pp. 6-7.


[23] In his speech, which was later printed in the supplement to CN No. 20 (1913), and then republished: Archbishop Anthony, “O novom lzheuchenii, obogotvoriaiushchem imena i ob ‘Apologii’ Antoniia Bulatovicha” [“On the New False Teaching, Deifying the Name, and on the ‘Apology” of Anthony Bulatovich” in Sviatoe Pravoslavie i imenobozhnicheskaia eres’ [Holy Orthodoxy and the Name-Worshipping Heresy], p. 78-101, citation on p. 93.


[24] Deianiia Vselenskikh Soborov, vol. 4 [Acts of the Ecumenical Councils] (Kazan, 1909; Reprint, St. Petersburg: Voskresenie, 1996), pp. 540-541.


[25] Ibid., pp. 574-575.


[26] Cited in this edition: St. John of Damascus, Tri zashchitel’nykh slova protiv poritsaiushchikh sviatye ikony ili izobrazheniia [Three Homilies Against the Opponents of the Holy Icons or Images] (St. Petersburg, 1892 [reprint: St. Sergius Lavra, 1993).


[27] Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich), Moia bor’ba s imiabortsami na Sviatoi Gorei [My Battle with the Onomatoclasts on the Holy Mountain], p. 117.


[28] Theodori Studitae Refutatio et subversio impiorum poematum Ioannis, Sergii, et Stephani, recentium christomachorum, in Tvoreniia prepodobnogo Feodora Studita v russkom perevode [Works of St. Theodore the Studite in Russian Translation], Vol. 1-2 (St. Petersburg, 1907-1908), 202-203.


[29] On the connection between name-glorifying and icon veneration, see also: E. Pavlenko, “Imiaslavie i bizantiiskaia teoriia obraza” [“Name-Glorifying and the Byzantine Theory of Images”], in Bogoslovskii sbornik [Theological Anthology], volume VIII (Moscow, 2001), pp. 56-69.


[30] Cf., Hieroschemamonk Anthony [Bulatovich], Afonskoe delo [The Athonite Affair] (Petrograd, 1917), pp. 8-9.