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 in the 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 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 heterodox 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 corner stone of our Ecclesia is the Valentinian tradition, resting on the pillars of Classical or Sethian Gnosticism, re-worked, re-thought and re-formed by Valentinus and his theological descendants; and Apostolic succession, which forms a 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. Regardless of historical factuality, 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 having one or more priest who perform Mass and administer other sacraments within the congregation.
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: Normally, you will have to be invited by someone who is already part of a congregation, as EVA is a non-missionary and non-preaching organisation. We seek to offer an ecclesiastical alternative to people who have had experiences of a Gnostic nature. We offer Sacraments and Holy Orders to baptised members of the congregation. The Holy Eucharist, however, is open to all invited guests.
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, a wedding service, and the Requiem. As they 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: What do people who are ordained into the Minor orders study?
A: Clerics learns about the traditions and works of EVA, the Doorkeeper learns about the human mind and the psychology of religion, as a Reader you learn the stories of our traditions, as revealed in our scriptures and oral transmissions. Exorcists learn how to manifest Gnosis in the world; whereas the Acolyte learns how to perform the sacraments at the altar.
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 centre 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 are not all the sacraments of EVA public?
A: Because the five Gnostic sacraments are constructed so that each seeker may have a unique experience of the Mystery; they are as mirrors of the soul. If their secret is not maintained, the impact of these experiences will diminish.
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 favour of what we would label faith and trust in second-hand experience, and the legacy of doctrine and dogma.