In these days, the words heretic and heresy have been brushed aside as some old form of ignorance. The sad fact is that Heresy is still very much with us and perhaps even more prevalent than at any other time in history.
Simple put, the term heresy is from Greek “αἵρεσις”, which originally meant “choice” or “thing chosen”. (Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A., eds. (1974). “Heresy”. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.) Today, we understand it to mean any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established Church teachings.
It may seem odd that a Saint could be a heretic as this seems a rather odd and potentially contradictory assertion. Time to elaborate.
Our story begins with the life of a great and venerable Father, Saint Gerasimos of the Jordan. He attended the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451 AD. His feast day is celebrated on March 4. Saint Gerasimos lived during the fifth century and was born in the province of Lycia in the southern part of Asia Minor. His parents were wealthy, prosperous people, and he became a merchant, frequently visiting the Egyptian hermits in his travels (particularly the region known as the Thebaid). These experiences made a lasting impression on him as he would later follow in their footsteps.
In his younger days, the Saint came under the influence of a certain heretic espousing the harmful teaching of the Monophysites. The Saint initially embraced this teaching, in the innocence of is heart. It was through the admonitions of the great Abba Evthymios that our father St. Gerasimos repented of the Monophysite heresy with bitter tears for his former errors. By Saint Euthymius’ exhortations he adhered to the dogma defined by the holy Council. It is said, that Gerasimos took on the greatest of ascetical labors in ongoing repentance for this error.
Beloved in Christ, there is much to be said of this wonderful story as a great example for each and every one of us. He cast aside all pride and accepted correction for his wrong beliefs. Heresy and destructive teachings still abound in this very day. Some teachings are easy to discern, others are more deceptive. It is easy for us to be lead astray, especially by strong-willed elders or fathers but such was the circumstance for our Saint Gerasimos. Like him, we must be meek and simple in heart, seeking the “Faith of the Church” and accepting it as correction for our former false belief.
Saint Gerasimos was meek in heart and able to accept the counsel of Saint Evthymios. Had he been proud, obstinate, self-justifying, he never could have received the greater’s counsel. Pride is foundation of ruin. It is the cornerstone of heresy and schism. The greatest evil of these acts is that they separate us from the bosom of the Church and cause us to break the great Commandment of our Lord – that we love one another. Schism an heresy cause division in the family of the Church, they rent the Robe of Christ – the garment of purple and fine linen, woven in the blood of the martyrs. The ultimate root is Pride. The dark angel was cast out of heaven before time for this great and grievous sin of pride.
Remembering this most valuable lesson of Saint Gerasimos, let us earnestly beseech our Lord to hearken unto the supplications of us sinners and guide us in the True Faith.