Q: What does the name Ecclesia Valentinaris Antiqua (EVA) mean?
A: It may be translated as The Ancient Valentinian Congregation.
Q: What is an ecclesia?
A: The literal meaning of this word is congregation, encompassing both a church in the traditional sense, and a community of people sharing an experience of being, seen as a mystery.
Q: Who was Valentinus?
A: Valentinus was an important Christian theologian who lived 1st-2nd century C.E. He formulated a complete and consistent Gnostic theology based on Hellenistic philosophy and Pre-Nicene Christianity.
Q: Do people who join the EVA have anything in common?
A: In the congregation there is a common focus on Gnosis, a type of knowledge or insight which is transformational in nature. Gnosis is also referred to as the Mystery (cf. infra). Despite its nominal reference to the Valentinian tradition, EVA does not only consist of Valentinians in the strict sense. It also consists of people participating in or belonging to other traditions, who partake in a Valentinian Christian rite; among our members we count, among others, Sethians, Kabbalists, Zennists, Hermeticists, Martinists and others.
Q: Is EVA dogmatic?
A: No. The primary goal of EVA is to aid men and women in the experience of Gnosis through self-knowledge. We perpetuate a phenomenological approach to this task. This means that each person’s experience of the Mystery is unique and individual, though of similar nature. For this reason, we consider EVA to be a heterodoxical congregation, assembled around Gnosis; i.e. the exploration of reality, human nature and the composition of the world.
Q: What traditions are the EVA based upon?
A: The cornerstone of our Ecclesia is the Valentinian tradition, resting on the pillars of Sethian Gnosticism and Classical Gnosticism. Re-worked, re-thought and re-formed by Valentinus and his theological descendants coupled with Apostolic succession which form the historical and spiritual link between our current Ecclesia, and the original Christian tradition of the apostles. Regarding liturgy and aesthetic expression, our Ecclesia is influenced by various Catholic High-Church traditions.
Q: What is Apostolic succession?
A: According to Christian tradition, Jesus empowered his disciples to administer the
powers and virtues of the Holy Spirit in this world. Apostolic Succession connects us to the lineages going back to the Apostles and from teacher to student until this very day. Apostolic succession is experienced as the transmission of certain qualities that strengthen the receiver in his or her capacity to bestow the powers of the Holy Spirit. It is thus a prerequisite for performing any sacramental act.
Q: Are men and women allowed to participate equally and receive ordinations?
A: In EVA, as in Valentinian circles of old, men and women both have the same rights and privileges.
Q: How is EVA structured and administered?
A: The head of EVA is the Archbishop. He or she is the chief guardian of the organization, encompassing all its rituals and written material. The regency of EVA is the Council of Primas, headed by the Archbishop. Every jurisdiction (country) has a leading bishop called a Primas. The Archbishop opens new dioceses, and appoints bishops and Primas as needed. Each bishop is responsible for the churches and congregations in his or her see; each church has one or more priest who performs Mass and administers other sacraments within the congregation. A Parish is a branch of the Ecclesia with a resident Priest running it under the auspice of the Archbishop. Once Parish has a Bishop brought to Primas the Parish will become a Diocese.
Q: Does the clergy take an oath of celibacy?
A: No. The church does not interfere with family structures.
Q: How do people become affiliated with the EVA?
A: EVA is a Church for Initiates or those who have had some experience of Gnosis. Normally one will need to be invited by someone who is already part of a congregation, as EVA is a non-missionary and non-preaching organization. We seek to offer an ecclesiastical alternative to people who have had experiences of a Gnostic nature. We offer Sacraments and Holy Orders to baptized members of the congregation. The Holy Eucharist, however, is open to all invited guests. Feel free to email any of our Parishes and Diocese for more information.
Q: How many sacraments are there in the EVA?
A: We acknowledge and perform five Gnostic initiatory sacraments and three rites of passage.
Q: What is the name and function of the five Gnostic initiatory sacraments?
A: These five sacraments are Baptism, Chrism, Redemption, the Bridal Chamber, and the Eucharist. The experience and layout of these sacraments are highly personal. Their function is to reveal unto men and women the sacred Mystery, and to facilitate the experience of Gnosis, which may lead to a deep transformational encounter with Reality.
Q: What is the name and function of the three rites of passage?
A: These three rites mark important steps in our mundane lives. There is a naming ceremony for infants, Marriage, and the Requiem. As these rites mark important social transitions they are celebrated openly with the congregation and any invited guests.
Q: Which ordinations are practiced within the EVA?
A: Holy Orders in EVA are divided into two sections. Firstly, there are the five ordinations of the Minor orders (Ordines Minores), known as Cleric, Doorkeeper, Reader, Exorcist and
Acolyte. These may be followed by the four ordinations of the Major orders (Ordines Majores), comprising Sub-Deacon, Deacon, Priest and Bishop. Ordination into the Major orders is reserved for those who have been trained as church leaders, and who have been called to the lifestyle of the initiator.
Q: How do those ordained into the Minor orders serve the Church?
A: Clerics learn about the traditions and works of EVA along with taking care of the body and all that comes with treating the body as a temple. The Doorkeeper learns about the human mind, the psychology of religion, how the emotions move in and out of the heart of man and how to guard them. A Reader learns the stories of our traditions, as revealed in our scriptures and oral transmissions along with how to objectively view information and thought. Exorcists learn how to manifest Gnosis in the world and remove what does not serve the work both from within and without. Last of the Minor orders is the Acolyte who learns special candle lighting ceremonies, what it means to tend to this light, grow it, shape it, care for it and finally how to assist those that serve at the altar for Holy Eucharist.
Q: How do the Major Orders serve the Church?
A: Sub-Deacons and Deacons assist in all sacraments, serving the altar and assisting Priests in their work. In addition to performing the sacraments of the church a Priest assists in the administration of local Diocese and Parishes. A Priest may have special permissions to perform Minor orders in the absence of a Bishop although this is rare. Bishops ordain Minor and Major orders and oversee their Diocese under the auspice of the Archbishop and of course with the use of the Mystery firmly centered at the heart of the church.
Q: What is the Mystery?
A: The Mystery is the pivotal point of our Ecclesia seen as the existential experience of Gnosis. It is an experience of the true relation between God, Man and Nature, and is at the center of all our sacraments and teachings.
Q: Is this Mystery the same as a secret?
A: No, it is not. We make a distinction between secrets and the Mystery. A secret is something that can be expressed in words or images. The Mystery, however, is ineffable and can only be truly embraced by direct experience. The Mystery can only be suggested by means of symbols and practices.
Q: Why the sacraments of EVA not public?
A: Because the five Gnostic sacraments are constructed so that each seeker may have a unique experience of the Mystery. The sacraments are as mirrors of the soul and thus have an intimate nature that is to be respected since the mystery exists within them all for the seeker to grasp. However, if their secret is not maintained, the impact of these experiences will diminish and this is not ideal for those experiencing the sacraments. These are initiatory rites to be respected as they bring great change and impact in their wake.
Q: Is the Mystery, as revealed in the Gnostic tradition, compatible with Christian teachings of the major denominations?
A: Yes, but since the validity of Gnosis is highly connected to individual, personal experience, we have felt that the Mystery has been downplayed in many of the major denominations, in favor of what we would label faith and trust in second-hand experience, and the legacy of doctrine and dogma.