Two Friends Who Crafted a Rudder

The Ship of the Church

TO
THE MOST HIERARCHICAL, GOD-GOVERNED,
AND MOST AFFECTIONATE MOTHER OF ALL ORTHODOX
CHRISTIANS,
THE HOLY GREAT CHURCH OF CHRIST,
WITH ALL REVERENCE WE TENDER
FILIAL AND AT THE SAME TIME VERNILE ADORATION

To Thy sacred embrace, O common Mother of Orthodox Christians, holy great CHURCH OF CHRIST, is dedicated this Rudder of the catholic Church, the present handbook interpretative of the divine Canons; and the dedication is one that is most proper and on every score of rightness fitting. For, I well know, all persons, none excepted, will concur in the admission that to the same extent that a mariner’s compass is needed by sailors, and the rudder is necessary to ships, the collection of the Sacred Canons, too—this figurative Compass, that is to say—is needful and this spiritual Rudder is necessary and indispensable to Thee, the spiritual and venerable SHIP prefiguring and representing the ecumenical universal transport of the Catholic Church. And, indeed, this canonical handbook is a sort of rudder and spiritual compass; since it alone, in truth, points accurately and undeviatingly to the Pole—that is to say, to Heaven itself. With it, as with a rudder, the Church of Christ can very surely and very safely steer her course on her voyage to that really calm Harbor of that blissful and wantless destination. In fact, this figurative Rudder was constructed in yoretime by the Holy Spirit through the agency of the Godly-learned Apostles and, from time to time, of Holy Councils, Ecumenical as well as Regional, and of individual great hierarchs of the Church. Many others, after them, as collaborators and adjutories, who steered with it joined hands in mending it, and interpreted parts thereof that were hard to understand, harmonizing well enough passages that somehow seemed to conflict with one another. It is from these, indeed, that we too have compiled the interpretations, and, having compendiously gathered them together under one cover, so far as was possible, we offer this present labor in simple language to THEE, the supernal Mother of us all. With this in mind, O divine Mother, open Thy most sacred arms, like the Lawyer Priest of old, and receive this book gleefully, like a sheaf of fresh ears of wheat (Lev. 2:14) newly reaped and most sacred. Receive and accept, O myron-laden SHIP, “like a merchant-ship bringing in wealth from afar,” as the author of Proverbs says (Prov. 31:14), Thine own Rudder.

But rather, to employ a more suitable example, precisely as Euphemia, the virgin martyress of old, by embosoming the volume of the Fourth holy ecumenical Council, kept it safe and above every calumny of the adversaries, so and in like manner be Thou, who keepest in Thyself like a treasure the relic of this very same renowned Euphemia exhaling the odor of a living body, fain to embosom the present Handbook, which contains not only the definitions and Canons of the Fourth, but simply of all the holy Councils, Ecumenical as well as Regional, and of the individual Fathers, so that by embosoming and protecting it, Thou mayest keep it safe and above every calumny of caviling critics, and render it trustworthy and indisputable as reading matter for all Christian peoples with the authoritativeness of Conciliar and Apostolic decision. That is what we prayerfully request. That is what, along with us, all other souls longing after God supplicate for, which souls are voyaging through this billowy and turbulent life towards that unruffled living of our blissful fatherland: accordingly, it is our fervent wish that we may all be spared the fate of being disappointed.

From the Sacred Monastery of the Pantocrator, situate at the Holy Mountain of Athos, December 4th, 1793.

Of Your Most Hierarchical,

Ecumenical and God-glorified Majesty, the least and at the same time the most obedient children in the Lord
AGAPIUS, A HIEROMONACH, AND NICODEMUS, A MONK
(A Dyad of Friends beloved in Christ)

The Rudder (Pedalion) of the Metaphorical Ship of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Orthodox Christians…., translation by D. Cumings (The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1957), pp x-xi