Yet the most attacks I ever received were not for criticism of Islam but, amazingly, in response to one post I made regarding an internet prophet named Vassula Rydén. It was a long post reviewing the woman's teachings and beliefs in relation to scripture and church history. It was met with a shocking number of responses by Vassula followers who believed I was committing a great error. Some accused me of hiding the truth (even though I referenced from her website numerous times and cited all quotations), others suggested I was part of some vast conspiracy (even though there was nothing that inspired my post except a provoking of the spirit) - but most shocking of all, people accused me of working against our Lord. I even received an email from one of her followers which said the following:
You do a lot of damage to the church by attacking her...Please take down your blog...You are making a mistake...You have no idea the damage you do. You fight against Christ. Like the stewards left to attend the owners land you kill with the keyboard like the son was killed in the parable...Please reconsider your post. Later I hope you try to repair the damage you have done and that your eyes open and you repent. Not just to me for your offense against my faith...but to Christ.Criticism of this women is equaled by her followers to criticism of Christ Himself. This, to me, is the greatest sign of a cult. Just as Muslims are driven into fury by attacks against their false prophet Mohammad, so too are followers of Vassula Rydén driven to defend their prophet with more zeal than they do to defend their Lord. I say this because it is clear, through discussion and dialogue with them, that they are willing to excuse and even defend, often with distortions of scripture, her teachings regarding the Trinity and other doctrines.
It is one thing to admire a Christian leader. It is another to place them beside God. I deeply admire many Christian men and women, past and present, but I consider them only men. For example, I deeply admire John Wesley, however if someone sent me an email saying Wesley was a heretic burning in hell, I would delete it without another thought. Likewise, I deeply admire John MacArthur, but if I found a blog article criticizing something MacArthur had said, I would not accuse them of acting against Christ. At best (if I truly believed they were in the wrong), I would write a simple response with citations showing that they had taken what MacArthur said out of context or were attacking him wrongfully. I would never accuse them of attacking Christ, His church, or any other form of harsh rhetoric. MacArthur, Wesley and others are godly men, but they are still men.
No one, and I repeat no one, not even myself, is above reproach. From the highest saint to the lowest layman, we are all open to criticism. If the apostle Paul could reproach fellow apostle Peter (Gal 2:11-14), and Aquila and Priscella could correct Apollos (Acts 18:26), then there is no reason we cannot at least question the validity of one woman's claim. I once asked a Vassula supporter just who she was to him really, for it was clear he could not distinguish between her and the church, let alone her and Christ. As the apostle Paul wrote: "What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Cor 3:5-7).
The following is a repost of the old article. It is still a long one, but the deep connection many have to this woman has convinced me to repost and expand it. I have included some notes in relation to this expansion, and to further illustrate points that I have witnessed in the responses to my criticism, but it otherwise remains unchanged.
Some time recently, a good friend of mine sent me a link to a website and told me, "The Orthodox should be warned about this." I clicked on the link and was met with a website called "True Life in God," peppered with iconography that made me think for a moment that I might be looking at the archdiocese website. Instead, it was the website for a woman named Vassula Rydén, and on the main page speaks of angels and messages.
I felt a shrill go up the back of my neck, realizing that I was dealing with someone who claimed to have had personal revelations with God and was attempting to share it with the world. As I did further research, what I found shocked me, and I began to realize that perhaps Christians in general, not just Orthodox, should be warned about this woman. I was even more inspired when I learned that friends of friends (even those attending my church) were following this woman like a prophet of old, and were even giving her prayer books to their children to read. Therefore, this struck rather close to home.
The casual reader should be warned that this is perhaps the longest post I will make on my blog for some time, but I believe the time spent will not be wasted. Heresy and controversy within God's church need to be discussed, just as they were hundreds of years ago at the ecumenical councils. No, I am not claiming to be the new Athanasius, ready to take on the Arians - God forbid the prideful thought from entering my mind! However, I do want to at least be a source of education for some and protection for others. I pray that God will allow me to be an instrument for Him and in His name alone. Amen.
Who is this Vassula Rydén?
According to her own website (source) she is an ethnic Greek from Egypt who "belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church." She claims to have started receiving messages from Jesus Himself (through an angel named "Daniel"), beginning in Bangladesh in 1985. According to her website, she has "been invited to speak in more than 70 countries and has given over 900 presentations," even being asked "at 3 occasions to speak on unity in the World Council of Churches of Geneva." She has many "Beth Mariam" charity houses for the poor and orphans. She is married to a Lutheran. Her manifestations are, according to her testimonial video, "still continuing" (source).
WRITER'S NOTE: One of the most common defenses given for Vassula states that she is good because she wins converts. This is a classic case of the "ends justifies the means," and reminds me of the current issue going on right now regarding the questionable comments made by Ergun Caner about his conversion (a fabrication being used to convert people). Christian apologist James White made the comment that when you take lies and apply them to the Truth you lead the gospel into error and fantasy, which I agree with wholeheartedly. In any case, if we are to base goodness on converts alone, then perhaps we should glorify Mohammad, who managed during his lifetime to turn the entire Arabian peninsula away from paganism to monotheism. Of course, we do not treat goodness this way, because theology and orthodoxy is everything. I would much rather win someone by the truth of the gospel than the wiles of a deceiver's personal revelations.
The first thing that caught my eye was, although she claims to be a Greek Orthodox, her Eastern Orthodoxy should rightfully be called into question. In both her visions and speeches she speaks of the "immaculate heart" of both Jesus and the Virgin Mary, a concept decidedly Roman Catholic both in origin and use. She is said to have handed out rosaries to people and paid homage at Roman Catholic shrines, even going so far as to claim a message from God saying "blessed are those who will pray the Rosary" (source). She believes in purgatory and teaches that our prayers save people from Purgatory (source). She claims to have visited hell and saw something closer to Bill Weise's view than the Church's belief on hell (source). Her teaching on the Holy Spirit is more akin to Charismatic preachers on late-night TBN than the writings of the Church Fathers. Her views on universalism and ecumenical movements (which I'll get to later on in this post) would be better placed in the sermons of the Emergent Church. Overall, I don't find anything Orthodox about her.
WRITER'S NOTE: Some have accused me, in an ecumenical spirit, of criticizing too harshly her theological beliefs. The fact is, a person who claims to belong to a certain group should reflect the beliefs of that group. For example, a Calvinist who denies the Doctrines of Grace should have his Calvinism questioned. Likewise, if a woman claimed to be a Sunni Muslim, yet believed Muslims should be ruled by an imamate and Ali was the true successor to the prophet and the 12th Imam was going to return before the Messiah...then her Sunni beliefs should be questioned. I hold people by the standards they apply for themselves. If you wish to break away from the core beliefs of a certain group, it is in your right to do so - but do not continue associating yourself with that group.
My feelings seemed to have some merit, as I found out that she really had no solid knowledge of her Eastern Orthodox faith - let alone any Christian faith at all. She admits in her testimonial video (source, again) that she "wasn't a Church-goer" and that she "wasn't looking for God at all." She knew "God existed" and "knew a little bit," but never "had any catechism." When she got married she "abandoned" her Orthodoxy and became involved in the international organization that sent her to places across the world, neither her nor her husband practicing religion in the meanwhile. Then, in 1985 in Bangladesh, she was writing down a list of groceries and suddenly saw her "guardian angel", who physically held her hand and began to write what he wanted her to say. He introduced himself as Daniel. She was excited and began to talk to Daniel. He instructed her to read scripture, and then continued to deliver messages from God afterward.
Something seemed familiar about this experience, and it was then that I realized the way that the supposed angel Daniel communicated with Vassula is a way many mediums supposedly communicate with ghosts. The method is known as "automatic writing" or alternatively "ghost scribbles." It entails a person scribbling on a piece of paper and allowing the ghost to write for the person, sending out messages that can be either crystal clear or incoherent (the 1980 film The Changeling features this). Such communication really belongs in the hands of the occult - why, therefore, should we be expected to follow theology based on unorthodox methods of communicating with God? It would be like revelation given through tarot cards.
WRITER'S NOTE: Some have accused me of straining gnats here, asking if automatic writing ever looked as elegant as those done by Vassula. Even quick research shows that there do exist copies, especially from the spiritualism craze of the 19th century, of elegantly written "ghost scribbles." This is also, shockingly enough, not the first time someone has claimed to have spoken to Christ through automatic writing. Some have also pointed to articles (sourced to Vassula's website) attempting to compare the writings of the prophets to the type of writing done by Vassula. The fact is, Vassula is hardly Isaiah or Ezekiel, and we must ask by what standards we can apply to either group. No one is able to apply to Isaiah or Ezekiel the same standards of which we can apply to Vassula, except perhaps for the orthodoxy of her theology. We shall see, as time progresses, that she is far from orthodox. We might also look at what role the prophets of old played with the people of God, and how we interact with God today, as stated at the beginning of the letter to the Hebrews (which we will see shortly).
Of course what also bothered me was the fact she was receiving supposed revelations from an angel. I couldn't help but think to myself: who else has received revelation from God? Some names come to mind: Mani, Mohammad, Joseph Smith...but perhaps this list is unfair. Daniel, for example, met and spoke with Gabriel, yet he was a prophet and the role of prophets ended with John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). Likewise, it is clearly stated by the writer of Hebrews:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. [Hebrews 1:1-2; ESV]It's also worth mentioning that the minute Daniel came in contact with Gabriel he became frightened and fell on his face (Dan 8:17). Likewise, the shepherds who saw the angel announcing Christ's birth were just as afraid, for the first words out of the angel's mouth are "fear not" (Luke 2:10). The apostle John, seeing an angel twice, is so overcome he prostrates twice and has to be told not to (Rev. 19:10; 22:8). Here we have three groups of people in scripture - a devout prophet of God, humble laymen, and the most beloved disciple - who all reacted with fear of God at the first sight of an angel. How did Vassula first respond when she met her angel?
I was so happy that I was almost flying around the house, my feet barely touching the ground and I was repeating loudly: "I am the luckiest person on earth, and I am probably the only person on earth who could communicate in such a way with her angel!" [source]Keep in mind that this is after a supposed angel of God has manifested himself to her and has touched her hand and made it move and write - her reaction seems the polar opposite to how those in the past who simply saw an angel. This isn't entirely new - there are people who claim to be watching TV, see Jesus walk in, and kept watching TV like nothing had happened. Oftentimes when a person claims to have met an angel or Christ Himself and not given the reaction that has scriptural precedent, the very claim itself is false.
Perhaps before we pass judgment on Vassula's revelation, we should review the essence of these revelations in detail. They're readily available on her website, posted in chronological order and even in order of subject. They are also quite voluminous: I started reading from the start in 1985, and after two or three hours had only gotten to 1987. Nevertheless, they must be looked at to truly understand the essence of her message.
The "Messages from Christ"
Early on in her record of messages, Vassula records how she began to have doubts that mere experiences with God - especially on so high a level - are possible. Immediately her visions return, assuring her all is well.
(I'm reading a book in which many people reported "experiences with God", but almost all those people are told by 'experts' that they should forget what they experienced because it's not God; they tell them that only highly elevated souls experience these things from God and one has to be highly elevated too. As I know I'm none of this and far from good, I decided to stop these meetings by writing with God; I might as well 'pack-up' the whole thing. They seemed to say that to reach God you have to be a saint and they made me believe God is so far. So I will drop the whole thing, leaving my hand to write for the last time what it wants, led by "the force" that has been writing all these months.)
Vassula! do not leave Me, beloved, be calling on Me and be learning from Me; remember, I am beside you all the time; I, God, am living in you; believe Me, I am the Almighty, the Eternal God;
No. It can't be. It can't be God. Those that know would prove to me that it is not God. Only highly pure souls who are worthy, God reaches giving such graces.
I am not beyond reach! Vassula, I do not refuse anybody; I blame all those who discourage My countenance to My children to come to Me; whoever teaches that to be able to be with Me or be accepted by Me should be pure or worthy are those who are damaging My Church... [source]
In general reading, one might be forgiven for misunderstanding that it seems Vassula is being told that generally anyone can come to the Lord for help. This certainly is true - however, keep in mind that this is being done in the context of receiving personal messages from the Lord and having these Charismatic "experiences." It might have been better for her to give it up (or seek more orthodox training in regards to theology), but she then has a vision telling her not to. The next message elucidates on the last one:
...never ever fall into traps set up by evil; never believe in any message which brings you unrest; do understand why evil is trying very hard to stop you; daughter, any message condemning My previous messages1 is from evil; the devil is trying once again to stop you and discourage you; I, who am your Saviour, am confirming to you that all the messages bearing calls of love and peace, leading those that are lost to find their way back to Me, are all from the Father and Me...And so we have an emphasis on the "personal" relationship with God, which forgoes any true understanding therein. This is emphasized by a later speech Vassula gave seminarians in Asia:
Vassula told them that it is essential to have a personal relationship with God in order to know and understand God. It is very important not to become "bureaucrats", "bookish" nor "technical" theologians. What is important is to give space to the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to them and to have an intimate relationship with God. Only then they will be able to serve God and His people, as He wants them to. [source]I'm suddenly reminded of a Charismatic woman who told John MacArthur, after the publication of his Charismatic Chaos, that he should throw away his Bible, church history, and lexicon and just experience the Holy Spirit. How can one experience God, however, with no foundation of which to discern the spirits (1 John 4:1)?
Ultimately, this vision of Jesus tells her that he will make her his disciple.
I will guide you, little one;After this vision, which results in several visions of the cross, Vassula wonders to herself "if it was from the devil, how dumb can he get?" Perhaps Vassula cuts the devil short - I'll get to that at the very end of this post.
come, take with you My Cross and follow Me; remember, I will help you; you will be My disciple; I will help you to reveal Me; I am Holy, I am Holy, so be Holy, live Holy; I will give you My support... [source]
In a later message Vassula's vision of Christ repeats His self-affirmation:
...many do not believe that I work in this way too; some do not believe in Me at all...I am telling you this so that you are prepared and aware of these people, since they are deaf and blind and have closed their hearts; they will want to justify their cause; they will tell you that this is not Me, that all of this comes from your mind, they will feed you with venomous theories; they will find ways of showing you that you are wrong, they will let you read their theories to prove to you that you are wrong; so I am warning you, daughter, do not let men discourage you; do not let your era destroy you [source]Another early vision Vassula has is Christ telling the story of His crucifixion, like something out of the image of St. Brigitte:
I gazed upon the crowds, from where I was hardly seeing; from My swollen eyes, I watched the world; I saw no friend among those who mocked Me; no one was there to console Me; "My God! My God! why have you forsaken Me?"; forsaken by all those who loved Me;Christ claims that this is all the beginning of "His call."
My gaze fell on My Mother; I looked upon Her and our hearts spoke, "I am giving you My beloved children to be your children too, You are to be their Mother";
all was ending, salvation was near; I saw the heavens open and every angel stood erect, all stood in silence, "My Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit, I am with You now"; [source]
...do not fear, why are you fearing to be holy? remember, you are in the beginning of My call;So what is the purpose of this revelation?
What does this really mean?
it means that you are still learning from Me; I will be teaching you and showing you My Works; I am only in the beginning of My call, you will discover later on how I work; I will call you later on at the appointed time to find Peace... [source]
I want to remind you that the Revelations I am breathing in you are not just for your own benefit, they are meant for others too, who are in desperate need of My Bread; I come to feed all of you who are hungry; My Message is one of Peace and Love and to remind you of your foundations and who created you; [source]And again:
daughter, My Church needs to be renewed; I have come to consolidate My Church; otherwise multitudes are bound to be lost [source]And again:
...all those that have eyes, let them see; all those that have a heart, let them understand, that it is I, Yahweh Sabaoth, who speaks; I have never forsaken you; I am delivering Wisdom to re-establish My given Word; I come to remind you all of My love for you, blessing you all; I do not want to see you lost, woe to the unwise! purify yourselves for the time is near; listen to My words, for in doing what I ask you I will forgive you; I am guiding you to live in Peace and Love, for I am a God of Peace and Love... [source]Christ needs to "reestablish" His given Word? Was it not eternal? Did He not promise that the Gates of Hades would not prevail against His Church (Matt 16:18)? Did He not promise that He would be with Christians until the ages of ages (Matt 28:20)? Why would Christ, the Incarnate Word, have to restore His written Word? Furthermore, why would He need human agents to carry this out, rather than His power, which, while using humans tools from time to time, is able to sustain the church by His very word.
There are times where the words of this vision of Christ seem to contradict not only His teachings, but those of the Church Vassula claims to belong to.
I love you as you are ... be My bride, Vassula [source]His bride? The bride of Christ? This contradicts Eastern Orthodox theology that Christ's bride is reserved for the Church and the Church alone. This is why Christ is called the bridegroom, and why so many metaphors of bridegrooms in the gospels are obvious metaphors for Christ. There are times when Christ even clearly refers to Himself as the bridegroom.
I can hear some responding to this by pointing out that nuns call themselves "brides of Christ" (Vassula brings this up in one revelation), and that virgin saints were often called brides to Christ. The problem is that those were metaphorical titles obviously given because of their virgin or abstaining lifestyle - they were not dedicated to another man. Vassula, on the other hand, is married. Why then is Christ calling a married woman His bride?
The messages are continually attacking those who would doubt Vassula, even claiming they are turning against Christ's church.
...I love you, son, understand that by trying to stop Vassula you are unwillingly damaging My Church... [source]I don't recall even the most devout saints being given such a defense. One could rightfully argue that attacks against the Church are attacks against Christ (Jesus asks Saul, "Why are you persecuting Me?" when Saul was only attacking the Church) but never was this reserved for a single individual. This is only the trait of false prophets who seek to protect themselves of any criticism from followers.
WRITER'S NOTE: The spiritual threats consistently given in Vassula's revelations (and by her followers) are, as stated before, similar to those of cults and false prophets. For example, in a vision recorded by Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, he wrote: "And now, because I foresee the lying in wait to destroy thee, yea, I foresee that if my servant Martin Harris humbleth not himself and receive a witness from my hand, that he will fall into transgression" [D&C 5:32; source]; and "They who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall amelt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun" [D&C 121:11; source].
Some of the messages present some peculiar dialogue between the vision of Jesus and Vassula.
Vassula, do you know why I chose you?Vassula was "the most wretched from any man" that Christ knew of? Seriously? Osama bin Laden, Ghaddafi, Kim Jong-Il, Robert Mugabe...all these other men out there were not better choices? When Christ took Saul, persecutor of the church and zealot of Jewish theology, and transformed him into one of the greatest of the apostles, that was a miraculous sign of grace. I don't want to sound demeaning, but turning an agnostic into a charity worker is not any greater sign of grace by comparison.
No, I don't, Jesus.
I will tell you then; I chose you because you are helpless and by far the most wretched from any man I know of; wretchedness attracts Me because I can console you; you are helpless and insufficient, unable of mastering any language [source]
As I said earlier, Vassula's messages support more Roman Catholic dogmas than Orthodox. This message, for example, claims that Vassula's love for God is freeing souls in Purgatory:
Vassula it is I, Jesus Christ; I am with you, beloved; do you know that I am guiding you through Hades?...your love for Me is healing them; I use your love as a remedy to cure them; heal them Vassula, heal them; you are bearing My Cross with Me, Vassula; these works are heavenly works that My Father is revealing to you, many heavenly works are still hidden and are but mysteries to you... [source; in the footnotes, Vassula identifies "Hades" and "healing them" as referring to those in Purgatory]And again:
daughter, today you will follow Me in the dark dominion of My foe to see how those souls who refused Me suffer;WRITER'S NOTE: Purgatory is a belief solely held within Roman Catholicism. No Protestant church believes it as dogma, and the Eastern Orthodox do not believe in it at all. It is generally agreed upon by the majority of Christian denominations and churches that this belief came long after the apostles and grew solely within the Roman Church. It is considered neither Orthodox nor orthodox. Many Vassula supporters (even non-Catholics) have tried to justify the doctrine of Purgatory, forgetting the very belief itself is heresy. Many more try to separate from Vassula's words, claiming she is not talking about Purgatory. As shown in an earlier quotation, Vassula herself identifies the revelation's wording as referring to Purgatory and those within.
Jesus, are they lost?
those in hell are, but those in purgatory are saved with love by My beloved ones who make prayers and amend; do not fear for My Light protects you and I am with you; [source]
Perhaps one of the strangest parts of the messages is that the vision of Christ does not seem to understand the Trinity. One example:
Jesus, You do not really need anybody, especially me!And again:
no, I do not need anybody, I suffice by Myself; but do I not share everything I have with you? I am your Saviour, your Healer, your Father, your Spouse; I am your God who will never ever abandon you... [source]
daughter, I always loved you, but you had forgotten Me; I yearned to be loved by you, to hear you call Me Father; [source]And again:
Vassula, love is love; I want you to love Me without restraint; I am your Holy Father who loves you intimately; approach Me and love Me intimately; I want to be intimate with you... [source]At one point, the vision of Jesus even reprimands Vassula for not calling Him Father.
Vassula why, why were you avoiding calling Me Father? Vassula I love being called Father; I am Father of all humanity;Christ is her Father? We should call Him Father? Not even the apostles were told this!
I love you, Father.
I love you too; [source]
At one point, Vassula admits confusion about the calling of Jesus Father. The vision returns and confronts her about this, explaining it.
(Here I felt embarrassed. I still do not understand, who is the Father, and what is the difference between the Father and Jesus. If He refers to God the Father, then how could Jesus say He is also Father?)On the surface it may be hard to discern what is happening here, as Christians do believe that God is one. The problem, however, is two-fold:
listen Vassula, give your attention to Me; learn that God and I am One; I am the Father and the Son; now, do you understand? I am One, I am All in One, I am All in One,
You are all in one?!
(Here I thought it would be difficult to understand and write down as also the question of Holy Spirit was in my mind too.)
let us try; the Holy Spirit comes from Me; do you understand now? all in One, the Holy Trinity is One; you can call Me Father too; Wisdom comes from Me, I am Wisdom too; [source]
First, Vassula claims that the vision of Jesus says "the Holy Spirit comes from Me" - this is the filioque, or believe that the Holy Spirit comes from the Son, which was added to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Church and has been condemned by Eastern Orthodoxy ever since (Photios, patriarch of constantinople in the 9th century, wrote an entire book against it). We must therefore ask, again, if Vassula claims to be Eastern Orthodox, why does she hold up so many non-Orthodox beliefs?
Second, the entire explanation is very modalist in tone. Modalism, remember, believed that God was One Being revealed through three "modes," much like ice can be solid, liquid and air at one point or another but not all at once. God is one, this vision of Jesus says, and therefore He may be called Father. Yet in orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, God is one Being revealed through three distinct Persons - you cannot call the Son by Father because only the Father is Father, just as you could not call the Father the Son, because only the Son is Son. The Persons in the Trinity, while being united in Essence, are still distinct from one another.
Therefore, whatever this is teaching her the Trinity...it cannot be God.
WRITER'S NOTE: This is one of the greatest signs to me that, if Vassula claims a role similar to a prophet, she is a false one. To say that Jesus "is the Father and the Son" contradicts 2000 years of orthodox Christian thought. In speaking with Vassula's followers, I have continually seen them ignore her own words, and either claim she never makes the argument or (sometimes in the same breath) attempt to defend calling Jesus "father" by distorting scripture. When pressed to address what Vassula herself says or what scripture really means, this defense falls apart.
It should be noted that not only did Vassula have visions of Jesus, but visions of the Virgin Mary as well. Here is one such conversation, which leads to a strange announcement:
remember, daughter, Wisdom has brought you up; do realise why;God's bearer? This is a sign that if Vassula ever was Orthodox, she forgot what she was taught. God's bearer is what the Virgin Mary is - her title, Theotokos, literally means "God bearer," and she is the only one. Even if Vassula is not speaking in this context, her use of the phrase is completely erroneous. Incidentally, Vassula also refers to the Virgin Mary as "St. Mary"...Eastern Orthodox do not consider her one of the saints, again calling into question how orthodox her Orthodoxy is.
It is not just for me? All this, it's meant for others, too?
yes, you are being formed to be God's bearer;
I do not know how to be God's bearer.
God has preached to you and has taught you to love Him; trust Him for His riches are innumerable and His Mercy unfathomable; He loves you with ineffable tenderness and watches over you with loving eyes; every heavenly word lives forever; [source]
The vision of Christ tells Vassula that he will give her secrets:
I will continue My teachings in giving you a secret; Vassula take your scrap book; fear not for My teachings come from Wisdom, all mysteries have not yet been revealed; all works are given to those who know how to love Me;Then, like something out of the history of Islam or Mormonism, the vision of Jesus tells Vassula to read from a book He possesses and she is unable to.
(I will take my scrap-book now ... Jesus gave me the secret. Then He said: "I will reveal many more hidden works to you." That was the third secret.) [source]
(You have a book? which You took out from Your mantle from the left side with Your right hand?)The identity of the book book is later revealed:
I have a book;
(It's not very big.)
exactly, you are discerning well, Vassula; look inside and read what it says;
(I try, but I am not very good at it.)
My altar is you;
I can't Jesus, I can't figure out the rest!
try again, My altar upon which I will...
(I can't see. I think I'm reading wrong!) [source]
...its cover is golden; look inside it and read, "I will make of you My altar, upon which I will place My burning desires of My Heart, My Flame will live within you; be drawing from My Heart and fill your heart; I, the Lord, will keep My Flame ablaze for ever and ever;"... [source]Vassula is the alter of Christ? Christ's alter is the cross, upon which He died as the final sacrifice for God's people.
Also peculiar is how the vision of Christ claims she receives the revelations.
Vassula, I desire that My words be known by many; words that come directly from My lips, for all the revelations I breathed into you are from Me [source]Christ breathed into Vassula the revelation? The revelations are god-breathed? Such a title is solely reserved for scripture (2 Tim 3:16).
The revelations continue from here, with many events such as a visit to God's "holy abode" and seeing the gates of Purgatory near Hell (source), but I think from here we should look and see how Vassula applies her revelations and influence.
The Messages in Application
From these messages comes Vassula's teachings, all of which center on love and unity, even across denominational lines. She teaches that all Churches (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) should unite, and that to keep divided is to follow the devil. In one interview she even said that "Christians are in sin because of their division...lay people and Church authorities have to humble them selves and unite" (source).
She also teaches interfaith dialogue...and, unfortunately, preaches universalism. Her message, she says, is one for all mankind (ibid), which even extends to non-Christians. Though this is not always clear, some of it came out in a speech she gave at an interfaith conference:
As a Christian I believe that our Creator created us all from His Sublime Love to be able to return this love and live holy, as He is holy. We are all equal before God' eyes. St. Paul says there is no Jew nor Greek, slave or free man, man or woman. All, in the Eyes of God, are one. Those who are in different religions are no less creatures made in the image of God and destined ultimately to live in the house of God...The apostle Paul would certainly be shocked to hear her using his words of equality among Christians as equaling salvific equality along interfaith lines, which was not Paul's point at all and completely contradicts his ministry. Paul does say there is neither Greek nor Jew, etc, but he says this is because they are all one in Christ (Gal 3:28). To say that men simply need to love "their" God "whoever He is" and they are "destined ultimately to live in the house of God" contradicts Christ's statement that He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one gets to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). It also contradicts His warning that any one who denies Him will be denied before the angels of God (Luke 12:9).
And as one of our Greek Bishops said to us in Egypt in an inter-religious pilgrimage we had, I will take his words and quote them: "as we gathered today in the Church under the same dome and we didn't differentiate Christians from non-Christians or of other religions. From today we will announce to the whole world that men can live in reconciliation as long as they learn to love first their God, whoever He is, whatever His Name is, and then I'm certain that love for their fellowman will spring up as well..." [source]
Such blatant distortion of scripture cannot come from a messenger of God. Such ready acceptance of false religions over the living faith of God is further evidence that her message cannot come from God. If she is indeed speaking to an angel, it is not an angel of God. If there is anything within her teachings that confirms to me that she is a false prophet, this is one of the strongest.
WRITER'S NOTE: I would just like to reiterate here that this is also one of the biggest signs to me that Vassula is a false messenger. Universalism is a heresy through and through. It was a heresy at the time of the apostles, and it is a heresy now. It is one of the most dangerous heresies for it denies the sovereignty of God and permits error. Vassula supporters often ignore this part of her ministry, but, like her confusion of the Trinity, it is one that cannot be ignored.
Many times the tenant of Vassula's preaching seem to be her messages, or inspiration from them. Indeed, some of her speeches (such as this one) seem to quote her own messages just as much as scripture. They are treated with equal authority. She states opinions given in her messages and states that it "belongs to God and comes from God" (ibid), and therefore must be followed. In a speech to Bangladeshis, she says that they should feel honored that "God chose their country to reveal His message of 'peace, reconciliation, unity and love'" (source) as if Bangladesh is on par with Jerusalem. She also said that God "told her from the beginning of this revelation that the messages of True Life in God will spread all over the world. A prophecy that is being fulfilled!" (ibid) At the beginning of this post I mentioned the prophet Daniel, and it should be noted here that the only people who received revelation from God were prophets, and what God handed down was usually written into scripture and made canon. When you hear the words, "God said to me," it's usually quoting from a prophet in the Old Testament. When these words are spoken in our modern times, we have to be careful.
Some Eastern Orthodox who support Vassula might interject and point out that the Church Fathers and those considered saints of the church often claimed to have spoken to an angel or even Christ. Of course, few of these saints ever claimed their sightings to be a canonical revelation (on par with Isaiah, Ezekiel or others), nor claimed that they were being given messages non-stop to spread love to mankind. Anthony the Great, for example, is said to have spoken to Christ, but it was simply to give him strength and was more a personal matter between himself and God - the encounter itself was not the basis of his preaching which was the gospel that had been handed down to him.
The problem with the Church Fathers might be that they were all "'bureaucrats', 'bookish' and 'technical' theologians," who did not "give space to the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to them" so that they could have "an intimate relationship with God," as only then could they be able "to serve God and His people, as He wants them to." Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, and John Damascene would all be saddened to know that personal revelations trumped their hard work and dedication to studying the scripture of their faith.
Does she have ecclesiastical support?
Most notable on Vassula's website is the page featuring supposed statements from various religious leaders showing support for her cause (source). She also includes "testimonies" from various clergy from various churches (source). Is this the case? It would seem sad, given that there are some large names there, especially among the Eastern Orthodox churches.
Yet is this truly the case? Does she have widespread support among the various Churches? Deeper research proves otherwise. It's interesting to note that, while she claims to be Greek Orthodox, the Orthodox Church in Greece has declared her self-excommunicated:
The Committee, having examined the evidence, has reached the conclusion that Vassula Ryden has expelled herself from the Orthodox Church, although she still presents herself as a member.WRITER'S NOTE: In a humorous example of bad apologetics, I've had Vassula supporters respond to the statement that she has been cut off from the Greek Church with, "She's not excommunicated but self-excommunicated"...as if that's somehow better! This makes about as much sense as responding to the statement someone is dead with, "No, you're wrong, they're not dead because they committed suicide rather than get murdered."
In addition it should be known that the Church periodical "Dialogos" in its issues number 14 and 17...has printed extensive reports regarding Vassula Ryden's organization.
Vassula asked the Greek Minister of Justice to bring to trial for slander and libel both the Secretary of the Greek Orthodox Synodal Commission on Heresies, Fr. Kyriakos Tsouros, and the Church publication. The trial was scheduled for 30 June 2000; however Ryden withdrew the charge two days before the hearing. [Dialogos, issue number 25, page 32, 2001; quoted from here]
In addition, many Eastern Orthodox officials do not believe her word has any real validity, nor should it be taken seriously.
In 1996, Mons. Damaskinos declared that Vassula Ryden, in the eyes of all those who are considered as the authentic bearers and continuers of the tradition of the Orthodox Church, was opposing the conscience of that Church which believes that Divine Revelation has been achieved once and for all through the Apostles. He also criticized in that occasion the attitude of the seer, who had organized a broadly advertised meeting on the same date that the Geneva Churches and Christian communities had scheduled their annual gathering for the Christian Unity Week. [ibid]And again:
In 1995, Fundacion SPES of Argentina asked the representative of the Greek Orthodox Church in that country about the case of Vassula Ryden. The answer was given by Fr. Demonstenes in the name of Mons. Gennadios Chrysoulakys. He stated that the Greek Orthodox Church does not recognize any voice outside the established ecclesiastical hierarchy and if Mrs. Ryden has something to communicate, she should do it through the hierarchy. [ibid]Even Coptic Orthodox have attacked her:
1. In receiving the sacraments at altars other than those of the Orthodox Church [justifying this by quoting the Decree Orientarium Ecclesiarum of Vatican II], Mrs Ryden is disregarding Orthodox canonical discipline which forbids it.In addition to this:
2. Mrs Ryden should seek the canonical permission and blessing of the local Orthodox hierarch having jurisdiction in each place, prior to addressing public meetings, rather than act in the face of their sometimes expressed opposition and criticism.
3. Until such time as a canonical Orthodox hierarchy is able to make a detailed and full examination of the messages received by Mrs. Ryden, they should be regarded with grave caution and their authority attributed solely to the views and aspirations of Mrs Ryden herself, rather than any angelic, saintly or divine source. [taken from this website]
...the statement in the True Life in God UK Newsletter No. 6 (November 2005) that His Eminence Abba Seraphim along with H.M. Queen Elisabeth II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, "sent us their good wishes for the meeting" is untrue. [ibid]Roman Catholic officials have also criticized her. Here is a letter sent by the Archbishop of Monterrey to his flock:
An invitation of the True Life in God group and of the Dos Sagrados Corazones Prayer Groups [Two Sacred Hearts prayer groups] is circulating in the Archdiocesan community of Monterrey, regarding their January 30 and 31 retreat-conference at the Best Western Valle Real Hotel with Mrs Vassula Ryden (Greek Orthodox) and "renowned Catholic priests". I therefore consider it my pastoral duty to make the following declaration:In one article, Vassula mentions meeting dozens of Catholic bishops in India on the subject of Christian unity, and hints that she received support from them. The bishops were later written to by inquisitive minds, and the following responses were received from two:
1) First of all I must clarify that I was not previously informed of this event.
2) The True Life in God group and the Dos Sagrados Corazones Prayer groups are not registered nor recognized by the archdiocesan commission of lay people [Comisión Arquidiocesana de Laicos – CAL].
3) In accordance with repeated notifications from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on some essential points of Mrs Vassula Ryden's writings, I cannot authorize the spreading of her writings and teachings in our local Church of Monterrey.
4) Regarding the "renowned Catholic priests" who are supposedly participating in this event, since we do not know who they are, from where they come nor to which Diocese they belong, they are not authorized to exercise the sacerdotal ministry in this Archdiocese. [source]
Bishop Thomas Mar Koorilos, recently appointed to the office of Metropolitan Archbishop of Tiruvalla, wrote that Mrs Ryden was not invited by [the KCBC] to address the conference. She was visiting Kerala and then she requested for a word to speak to the bishops which our chairman has allowed, that is all (private mail dated July 18, 2007).Fr. Mitch Pacwa, renowned Catholic scholar and apologist, has commented on Vassula himself. He wrote on his experiences in an article entitled "The Spirit of a Prophetess." The very opening of the article alone is frightening:
Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thomas, Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum and recently appointed Apostolic Visitator in charge of the Malankara Catholic Community in North America and Europe, added that it was not intended to support her or to promote her preaching. On the contrary the Bishops council gave her an opportunity to present her faith before the prelates clergy, religious and the selected laity so that they must get a first hand knowledge about her teaching. The general conclusion was that her teaching was questionable and therefore [the KCBC] is not endorsing her. Hence the matter is over and we are fully following the teaching of the magisterium of our Church (private mail dated July 18, 2007). [source]
Vassula had asked me to examine all five volumes of her published notebooks for problematic statements. She suggested that notes could be added to later editions to correct any confusing or imprecise statements about Christ. I read her books, wrote my notes, and in the fall of 1992 sent them to her spiritual advisor, Fr. Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., for his response.Pacwa rightfully attacks the confusion of the Trinity that Vassula (or her angel) seems to portray:
I then received a call from Fr. O’Carroll, who was then promoting a trip by Vassula. Father O’Carroll strongly suggested I not publish my findings. He said I showed “not one single sign of Christian charity”...
What I particularly did not like about Fr. O’Carroll’s subsequent letter was its spiritual threat (which also appears in Vassula’s writings): “Since your article and the distress, the real hurt, it inflicted on Vassula, God the Father has spoken to her. He is very severe on those who oppose her. This [book] will be published." [source]
In Vassula’s own handwriting (the handwriting in the notebooks changes depending on who is speaking) she calls Jesus the Father, and so does “Jesus” on numerous occasions. He also says “I am your Holy Father,” and writes, “Little one call Me Abba” and in Greek, “call Me Baba”; “say, Abba to Me every now and then”; and “Come in your Father’s arms.” “Jesus” instructs people to pray to him, “You are the-One-God-and-Only, the Just One, you are indeed the Lamb, You are our Heavenly Father.” Still more problematical are the times “Jesus” writes statements like “the Father and I are One and the same.”It seems therefore that her claims of approval among the general Christian faithful do not hold water.
“Jesus” responds to those who would criticize Vassula for calling him Father: “If they accuse you because you call Me Father it is because they have not understood that the Spirit of Love you received and speaks through you, brings you peace and love to cry out: Abba!” This fails to answer the objections about calling Jesus “Father” or to remove the confusion among the divine Persons which Vassula introduces. [ibid]
Many times it seems that when she receives support or words of kindness from leaders, they admit later that they were not aware of who she was. This is very similar to the trend among Evangelical pastors who readily supported Gail Riplinger's KJV-Only book New Age Bible Versions, only to later admit that they had never read it.
WRITER'S NOTE: This section has also received harsh criticism from Vassula supporters. Some have responded by simply name-dropping various church officials, both Catholic and Orthodox, who have supported Vassula, as if the approval of men equals the approval of God. This borderline argumentum ad populum, however, cannot be a rational reason to consider someone a valid messenger of God. If this were so, then Arius would be a great Christian leader, because at one point nearly the entire Roman Empire, high ranking bishops included, supported him and his heresy. Still others try to find some personal fault in the ecclesiastical bodies or personalities who have criticized her. This has been found, under scrutiny, to simply be character attacking without documentation or evidence. Even more shocking than this may be the threatening position some people take with her critics within the church; an email I received stated: "You will not find a lot written negative by high Greek Orthodox officials about Vassula. They know better. They at least have the discernment to remain quiet."
Vassula claims she works in the interest of the Church. She claims to be Eastern Orthodox. She claims to have God teaching her, training her, and giving her understanding for passages of scripture. She claims to know Jesus on a personal level. Yet she claims that Christ calls her his bride, a title solely reserved for the Church and the Church alone within the context of Eastern Orthodoxy. She distorts scripture to suit her personal philosophy. She seems to present revelation based around her universalist and politically correct world view. Her messages seem to be Emergent modernist thinking mixed with the revelation style of St. Brigitte. All in all, I do not even know if I would call her a true Christian in any sense, let alone a true "prophet."
I can see many interjecting here that she is doing nothing wrong, as she is merely preaching that people love each other - how could that not come from God? The problem is that prophecy and prophethood given in a time when the era of prophets is over cannot be considered sincere. Furthermore, this love which Vassula focuses on and preaches across interfaith lines is simply an easy "feel good" love that even atheist hippies would agree with. It is not the love of God transmitted to humankind, for how can it be? It allows the denial of God within its universalism. Love is good, yes, but like all things love can be distorted and used for evil. Maximos the Confessor warned that "demons attack us invisibly in the guise of spiritual friendship, pretending that they want to accomplish the death of sin by means of which in themselves are good" [Third Century on Theology, 78].
Let us ask ourselves, what is the situation of these revelations? A woman with no strong theological education, using occult methods of communication, begins to speak to an "angel" who gives her a revelation that quite often contradicts the scripture she admits to not being familiar with beforehand. No where else could I find a more fitting place to quote the warning from Peter of Damascus, found in the Philokalia:
There is nothing astonishing in the fact that the devil assumes the form of "an angel of light" (II Cor. 11:14), for the thoughts that he sows in us also appear to be righteous when we lack experience. [Book II, Chapter IX]One begs to question whether or not Vassula truly believes all this. Is it all an elaborate hoax? If so, she is guilty of blaspheming God and deceiving perhaps thousands. If, however, she truly has received visits from spiritual forces and is deceived, I pray that God will free her from this deception. In the meantime, many are being deceived by her supposed revelations, and we must fight this with education and sincere love from our sincere God.
There is a famous quote by the apostle Paul in Peter Damascene's warning, one that I'm sure many reading this have been thinking the whole time. I will end the blog with the full passage of scripture, quoted in context:
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. [2 Corinthians 11:13-14; ESV]WRITER'S NOTE: Comments to this post are closed. Responding to this on other posts will result in a deletion of your comment. If you would like to discuss this matter, for or against, feel free to email me by the address on the right side of this blog.
EDIT - MARCH 17, 2011: The Ecumenical Patriarchy of the Greek Orthodox has finally stepped in and decided they've had enough of Vassula, and her and her followers have henceforth been removed from communion. The link to the individual proclamation can be found here.
A very special hat-tip to John Sanidopoulos for sharing the news, as well as for supplying the following translation:
Hence, we call upon the proponents of these unacceptable innovations and the supporters who maintain them, who henceforth are not admitted to ecclesiastical communion, not only to not be involved in the pastoral work of the local Holy Metropolis, but also to not preach their novel teachings, to prevent the appropriate sanctions under the Holy Canons.