Whose coming is according to the activity of Satan
In all power and signs and lying wonders,
And in all deceit of unrighteousness in those who are perishing,
Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
And on this account God shall send to them an influence of error
For them to believe the lie, that they all might be judged
Who received not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness
So then, brethren, be standing firm and holding fast
The traditions which ye were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
II Thessalonians 2.8-12, 15.
1. We are the best because we are we
In the contemporary ecclesiastical world hot disputes are being conducted between Orthodox about where it is best and safest for a believing person to bow his head. However, in spite of the proverb: Every sandpiper praises his own bog, the members of the presently existing true and untrue ecclesiastical organisations often expatiate much more on numerous disciplinary and canonical transgressions in their jurisdictions than on the positive aspects of their existence; they abuse their church leadership and paint quite a dark picture of apostasy in their ranks but in the end unfailingly add that our bog is the best!
Of course, the more correct and law-abiding believers (and, correspondingly, church publications) do not permit themselves to make special attacks on the leadership and clergy, but on the contrary are filled with stories about miracles and healings, rivers of grace, pilgrimages to holy places and elders, etc. But those, too, who to some degree try to reflect the objective state of affairs, and are now and then able to communicate a mass of various facts concerning the apostasy of bishops, clergy and laity from the canons and from the faith, nevertheless for some reason insist that their jurisdiction (the same Moscow Patriarchate) is the truest, and consider separation from it or the choosing of some other jurisdiction as the most terrible sin, schism, etc. At the same time they are even able to spread various appeals with threats to separate, in accordance with the church canons, from heretical bishops. However, if anyone really decides on such a step, they will say about him that he was a bit hasty, abandoned the mother-church and went along the path of destruction
Simple believers can say: Theyre all proud disturbers of the peace, and we must listen to spiritual people. But what do the elders and spiritual men say? From them you can also at times hear a recognition that there is something rotten in the kingdom of Denmark, but at the same time our church nevertheless remains full of grace and is the most salvific and even the only true one, no matter what. But the flock must not judge and condemn the pastors, but remain in obedience. But obediences are in conflict with each other, and in relation to certain kinds of obedience it is said: Ye are of your father, the devil, and the desires of your father ye wish to do And because I speak the truth, ye believe Me not (John 8.44-45) for such novices are in obedience, not to God, but to men who have apostasised from the Divine truth and reinterpreted it to their advantage, to make it convenient for them to live in this world and get fewer bumps. Concerning this kind of obedience, the apostle says: Cease making yourselves slaves of men (I Corinthians 7.23).
For these novices it turns out that its a bog alright, but still, you wont find a better one anywhere, because we are by definition the best. The argumentation for this comes down to something like the following: Our Church is true because it has miracles and elders: Our miracles and elders and the resolutions of our councils cannot be false, because we have the Church. But if the conversation turns to bishops of alternative jurisdictions, the pious sandpipers put every kind of spoke in the wheel (mainly, however, because they are schismatics), and without thinking that they are acting simply in a biassed manner, and if they approached their own bishops with the same criteria not one of them would stand up to even a relatively mild critique.
Perhaps the basic advantage of the hierarchs praised by the sandpipers is, first of all, the fact that they sit on apostolic thrones, bearing grand titles, or are the formal successors of the great hierarchs of the past. However, this is what the Pan-Orthodox Constantinople Council of 1848 says about this approach (#11): We have considered it our paternal and brotherly duty and sacred obligation, through the benevolent epistle that is offered now, to confirm you in the Orthodoxy which we received from our forefathers, and at the same time to demonstrate in passing the weakness of the reasoning of the bishop of Rome, which he himself evidently does not understand. For he is not adorning his throne by his Apostolic confession, but by an Apostolic throne is striving to confirm his dignity, and by his dignity to confirm his confession. But in actual fact it is not like that The holy Peter himself was personally judged before all according to the truth of the Gospel (Galatians 2.14) What, after this, are we supposed to think about those who exalt themselves and are proud of their possession only of his supposed throne? . Our Holy Fathers teach us that we should not judge about Orthodoxy in accordance with the throne, but should judge about the throne itself and about him who sits on it in accordance with the Divine Scriptures, the Conciliar decrees and definitions, and the Faith which has been preached to all, that is, in accordance with the Orthodoxy of the unbroken teaching of the Church.
Similarly weak reasoning is, unfortunately, very widespread amidst contemporary Orthodox. Sometimes in answer to the question: In what is our Church better than others, or in what way is it distinguished from others? we hear approximately the following response: The main thing in our Church is that it is the very same.
2. The Very Same
What holy fathers of the Church said that the most important thing in the Church is not keeping the canons and preserving the dogmas, but some kind of sameness that is, formal historical identity. Where and when did the Lord promise to preserve any particular jurisdiction until the end of the age? Such a promise was given by the Lord neither to the Roman nor to the Greek nor to the Russian nor to any other Church. In the Gospel it is said: I will found My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail over her (Matthew 16.18). I will found it on this rock on Peters confession of the faith. If the faith is not preserved, then a church organisation becomes no longer the Church of Christ, but rather the church of the Pharisees and evil-doers, who have sat upon Moses seat, but expound some other faith concerning which the Apostle said: If we or an angel from heaven preach unto you something other than what we preached to you, let him be anathema (Galatians 1.8).
However, when you begin to point out which canons have been broken by one or another group of bishops of this same church, they for some reason become very offended with you, call you an extremist, a Pharisee, and even accuse you of not having spiritual experience and, the most important, hierarchical rank and for that reason you do not have the right, and in principle cannot have the right, you are physically unable, to discern whether those who allow transgressions of the canons, communion with heretics, and dialogues with ecumenists or heterodox are acting rightly or wrongly
But which of the holy fathers taught that to define certain actions as uncanonical some special spiritual experience is required? It is precisely for this that the canons and rules exist. Its great if someone has really received the gift of spiritual sight from God; but we prefer humbly to recognise that we do not have enough spiritual experience, we do not see with spiritual eyes on which altars the Holy Spirit descends on the consecrated Gifts, and on which He does not descend and for that reason we try to orient ourselves on the canons and dogmas. What pride is there in that?
It is well-known that St. Maximus the Confessor was not a bishop, nor even a priest. He was a simple monk. And nevertheless he condemned the actions of all the hierarchs and patriarchs of his time who had deviated into communion with heresy, for which he suffered torture, for which he is also counted blessed. Perhaps, according to the logic of the contemporary spiritual Christians, he was a schismatic? But, you know, the heresy of Monothelitism of that time was much more subtle and difficult to understand than contemporary ecumenism. Ecumenism is quite a crude heresy; it tramples directly on one of the articles of the Symbol of faith I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and many canons; Monothelitism would scarcely be recognised as a heresy by the contemporary Orthodox if it appeared in our days. Who now could begin to make the fine distinction whether there is one will in Christ or two, whether the will belongs to the nature or the person now, when they try to represent the general dogmatic teaching of the Church simply as a collection of private theological opinions!
The holy hierarch Mark of Ephesus went against all his brother hierarchs, although he was almost the youngest amongst them according to ordination. Was he also proud and a disturber of the peace?
St. Theodore the Studite rebuked his patriarch and broke communion with him for what may seem to many now to be a small transgression of the canons, and canons, besides, not having a dogmatic character and not connected with heresy. Was he, too, a schismatic? You know, even the holy Patriarch Nicephorus in his time called him a schismatic.
If these and other saints reasoned as many contemporary Orthodox do, and were as humble as they are, would Orthodoxy have survived on the earth to our time?
3. The Quarrel about Grace
If we recognise that the official churches have fallen into the heresy of ecumenism, and that the majority of hierarchs in them consciously support this heresy, or, while condemning it by their words, in fact remain in communion with open heretics, how can we recognise the sacraments performed there? According to the teaching of the Church, no sacraments are performed by the heretics. At this point some will object: yes, perhaps no sacraments are performed by Bartholomew himself and Alexis Ridiger, but, you know, in their patriarchates there are bishops and priests who believe in an Orthodox manner and condemn ecumenism; can we really say that nothing is performed by them?
But we do not recognise the uniates, for example, as grace-bearing. Why? After all, externally everything there is Orthodox, and the Symbol of faith is Orthodox, and all the Divine services, and even the bishops are sort of Orthodox. Whats the difference? Simply that there our universal lord and hierarch, the Pope of Rome, is commemorated. That is, consciously and voluntarily (in some places, perhaps, also out of fear) the name of a heretic is raised. And in so doing, moreover, some new fourth rank of the priesthood (universal hierarch) is introduced. At this the whole of Orthodoxy vanishes. But why do we hear the shouts: How can we deprive all the members of the MP of grace? but do not hear the cries: Poor uniates!?
The traditional question concerning the poor Orthodox old woman from deep in the country who goes to a church of the MP simply because there are no others in her area, involuntarily elicits a thought concerning the poor pious Catholics from some medieval village. What and where could they hear about Orthodoxy? And what about some Chinese or Hindus from the same village? Can we say about such people that they consciously rejected Orthodoxy and Christ?
The thought occurs that this is already the sphere of Gods justice. But that by no means signifies that the true Body and Blood of Christ were present on the Catholic altar in the medieval European village. It also does not mean that the Spirit of God is present in non-Christian religions, as is affirmed by Patriarch Bartholomew. We can probably hope that the Lord will have mercy also on the simple believers of the MP or of the Antiochian patriarchate, which has officially established communion with the Monophysites. But that does not mean that sacraments are unfailingly performed in these organisations.
If we arrive at the opinion that at the celebration of the Eucharist in one and the same church some people who are heretics by conviction or support heresy do not commune of the Sacraments, while others who are not heretics in their thoughts commune, then any every concept of the Church in general disappears. If the Sacrament is performed, then everyone communes, but impenitent sinners and people who do not think right receive the Sacrament to their condemnation. But if the Sacrament is not performed, then nobody communes, but the Lord in His loving kindness may save and have mercy on those who took part in this without understanding.
But this mystery of the justice of God exceeds human understanding: we must be worried only lest the Lord should not have mercy on us if we, instead of pointing out to the members of the official churches that they are in heretical communities, darken the question with reasonings on who can be saved in these organisations and who cannot, and whether there is still grace there, and if there is, where and how much. Reasoning about grace in this spirit is itself unorthodox, for grace is the uncreated energy of God; but if we recognise that it can be somehow measured, then we come close to the Latin heresy of created grace. The grace of God is present everywhere insofar as God Himself is everywhere, but it does not act everywhere in the same way. If we evaluate the gracefilledness of something simply by the presence of grace there, then hell will be gracefilled. Only in hell grace acts on those who are there by burning them.
In the Church, on the other hand, grace acts by saving people. And outside the Church it can act as it acted on Cornelius the centurion by leading him to the Church. It is the same in believing but heretical communities: grace acts insofar as the Lord wishes all to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved, and for that reason we can conditionally call this grace leading out grace that is, it rouses those who following its promptings to come into the True Church, to which end they must come out of the heretical community.
The Eucharist is the foundation of the Christian life, and if there is any doubt as to whether it is performed in a jurisdiction whose bishops are clearly deviating into heresy, then the normal reaction of believers must be immediately to flee from this jurisdiction. For what can be dearer to us than eternal salvation? And how can we commune while doubting whether we are really receiving the Body of Christ? How can you say: Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess, if you know that your bishop or pastor, or even your parish priest, believes differently from you, and tramples on the patristic teaching? How can we stand at the Terrible Judgement next to the holy fathers if during our lives we had communion with those who only mocked their teaching or simply did not want to know it, and even went so far as arrogantly to distort and reinterpret the Tradition of the Church?
Even when condescending to some ignorance, we must remember the words of St. John Climacus: Do not excuse yourself through ignorance; for the ignorant man who does things worthy of wounds will be beaten for that which he did not know. The Lord will see why a man was ignorant whether because he could not know, or because he did not want to know, did not strive for knowledge, or because, finally, it was more convenient for him not to know.
But if, on the contrary, it is reasoned that the official churches are completely salvific and grace-filled they cannot be otherwise, because they never can be then why leave them? Would not such a departure signify a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Leave because there are immoral bishops there? Or perhaps because they shorten the Divine services and needs? Or perhaps because they trade in sacraments? But these are non-dogmatic reasons which are truly capable of being healed and require a struggle from within; and if anyone separates for such reasons he necessarily, according to the teaching of the Church, is a real schismatic.
4. The Cathari
According to the canons of the Church, it is possible to separate before a conciliar judgement only from heretics. All other separations of clergy and laity from their bishops are schisms. Therefore if a person separates from some official church, being convinced that it is equally salvific with the True Church, in the presence of a mass of Orthodox laity, clergy and even bishops, then it turns out that he is seeking, not the True Church, but simply a purer niche within the one church, a niche that more closely suits his rarified spiritual taste. Therefore if, in his new situation, he uncovers around himself some dogmatic deviations, he often relates to them with great condescension.
Many often say that during their time in the MP they had a certain spiritual experience of the action of the grace of God, and therefore they cannot recognise that the MP is not a Church. It is really difficult for them to renounce their spiritual wealth and say that all this was psychological, perhaps even deception! After all, to say this means to reject ones past church life, and to recognise that ones life there has, as it were, been lived in vain But in the Gospel the Lord says that it is difficult for the rich man rich not only and not so much in a material sense, but also psychologically and spiritually - to enter into the Kingdom of God. By wealth here is understood everything that we value in one way or another: if we become too attached to the wealth of the spirit, and begin to overestimate our spiritual experiences and attainments, then such wealth can hinder our entry into the Kingdom, into which only the poor in spirit enter.
Following the logic of the spiritually rich, we necessarily come to the conclusion that those who remain in the heretical churches are simply uncomprehending, irrational, fearful, in a word more sinful than we; and we are simply more clever, righteous, confessing, etc.; but at the same time both we and they are equally members of the one Church (only perhaps in the ecumenical churches the conditions for the acquisition of the grace of the sacraments are simply worse), insofar as the Church of Christ cannot be divided. There are simply, as it were, two parts of the Church like the Anglicans high and low churches
There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.10). You know, there once certain heretic-schismatics, known as the Novatians, or Cathari, or Pure ones, who considered the purity of their community to reside in the fact that they did not accept for repentance those who had fallen in the time of the persecutions and did not accept those who had been married twice into communion, even after repentance. These pure ones were condemned in council by the Church as schismatics and heretics, and were received into communion through chrismation.
5. Cyprianism, or the teaching on the sick in faith members of the Church
In recent years there has appeared yet one more explanation of the fear of condemning the former Local Churches for ecumenism. The supporters of this position often refer to the ecclesiology of Metropolitan Cyprian (Koutsoumbas) of Fili and Orope. They explain his separation from the not without grace churches of World Orthodoxy by their resistance to heresy and walling themselves off from it in anticipation of an all-Orthodox Council which will finally condemn it and subject it to anathema. It is evidently assumed that neither the anathemas of the Old Calendarists against the new calendarists nor the anathema of the ROCA against the ecumenists represents the conciliar voice of the whole Church (although we do not know of a single True Orthodox Church of our time which has considered the anathema of 1983 invalid or not generally obligatory).
Metropolitan Cyprian and his supporters refer to the fact that we have pastors, and even Patriarchs, who already preach and affirm heretical opinions with conviction and in council. But their flock has not yet completely understood that in this way their faith and salvation are being subjected to danger. It is fitting at this point to ask: does the flock of, for example, the Pope of Rome understand that they are in a heretical church? Especially in the 11th-12th centuries, the simple believers of Rome were hardly likely to have understood the subtle errors of their bishops. Nevertheless, they were all condemned together with their pastors, and none of the Orthodox Fathers ever took it into his head to call them the sick part of the Church and invite them to some kind of Unifying Councils. Still less did the thought occur to them that their condemnation of the Latins was invalid because the resisters from the Roman church had not been invited to the Orthodox Council. Naturally, after learning of the conciliar condemnation of the Roman bishops that had apostasised from Orthodoxy, such resisters were obliged to abandon them and unite themselves to the Orthodox Church. This consciousness could have come to some sooner, and to others later; but certain members of the condemned church organisations slowness in becoming conscious of the given problem could in no way have made it Orthodox and as yet uncondemned.
On the contrary, the member of the Council of 1848 in their Encyclical Epistle write: the innovatory teaching of the Roman Catholics is real heresy, and its followers, whoever they may have been, are heretics, according to the above-mentioned conciliar definition of his Holiness Pope Damasus; the communities formed of them are heretical, and every spiritual communion with them in Divine services on the part of the Orthodox members of the Catholic Church is unlawful, by dint especially of the seventh canon of the Third Ecumenical Council.
The Epistle goes on to declare: Our ever-memorable predecessors and fathers, seeing how the primordial Gospel is being trampled underfoot, and how the robe of our Saviour woven from on high is being torn apart by impious hands, moved by paternal and fraternal love, bewailed the destruction of such a multitude of Christians for whom Christ died [our emphasis T.S.], in spite of the fact that the fathers of the Council recognise (#12) the presence among the peoples of the West of wise and pious bishops, theologians and teachers and even call the contemporary Pope of Rome his Beatitude. From this it is evident, as we pass to our time, that neither the presence of pious and wise Christians amidst the members of the ecumenist churches, nor the fact that the holy hierarch Philaret, the ever-memorable First-Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, in his Sorrowful Epistles called Patriarch Athenagoras his All-Holiness (which, however, was before the proclamation of the anathema against the ecumenists) and hoped for the conversion of him and those like him to undefiled Orthodoxy (similar wishes, expressed moreover in the most polite way, were offered in relation to the Pope of Rome by the fathers of the Council of 1848), - none of this alter the fact that the ecumenist churches of official Orthodoxy are heretical communities, and that there can be no communion between them and the Orthodox, and that it is necessary to bewail the lot of the multitudes of Christians who follow the heretic bishops.
This is what is written later in the same Epistle: The duty of his Beatitude [the Pope of Rome] is to show before God and men that he, as the leader of a God-pleasing undertaking, is at the same time a zealous defender of the persecuted truth of the Gospel and of the holy Councils May it be so! But until this longed-for conversion of the apostate churches to the body of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose head is Christ (Ephesians 4.15), takes place, we shall consider every encroachment of theirs, and every self-willed exhortation of theirs that tends towards the corruption of our irreproachable faith that has been given to us from the Fathers, to be not only suspicious and dangerous, but also impious and soul-destroying worthy of conciliar condemnation (#17). Our faith , being completely revealed and imprinted, permits neither any addition nor any subtraction, nor any other kind of change, and he who dares to do such, or counsel or think such, has already been rejected from the faith of Christ, and has already voluntarily subjected himself to eternal anathema for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, as if He [the Holy Spirit] spoke imperfectly in the Scriptures and at the Ecumenical Councils. This terrible anathema, brothers and beloved children in Christ, is not being pronounced by us now, but was uttered before all by our Saviour (Matthew 12.32) , was uttered by the divine Paul (Galatians 1.6) The same was uttered also by the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and by the whole order of God-bearing fathers. And so all those who think up something new a heresy or a schism have voluntarily put on, according to the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 108.17), cursing like a garment, whether they be popes, or patriarchs, or clergy, or laity; be he even an Angel from heaven, he, too, will be anathema, if he preach unto you anything other than what you received (#20).
And so these definitions of the Council of 1848, which is recognised by the whole of the Orthodox Church, show that:
1. Everyone who falls away from Orthodoxy automatically falls under the anathema of the Saviour, the Apostles, and also of all the earlier Orthodox Councils and Fathers, and the latest Councils do not mark the beginning of his falling away from the Church, but only witness that he has already fallen away from the Church by virtue of his heresy, voluntarily subjecting himself to a curse.
2. Ecumenism includes within itself communion with all the formerly condemned heresies , and therefore the ecumenists have already long ago been condemned by the Church. Besides, ecumenism directly sins against one of the articles of the Symbol of Faith and is the exposition of another faith, which has already been condemned by the Ecumenical Councils; and those who are still waiting for some additional condemnation are most likely caring, not for the faith, but for ecumenist friendship or some other interests unconnected with Orthodoxy. This is especially noticeable when, even after the condemnation of a heresy by some Orthodox Council, we hear declarations that this Council was too small for its decisions to be recognised by the whole of the Church which approach, by the way, was never that of the Orthodox Church.
3. Church communities whose bishops confess heresy are heretical communities and do not belong to the Body of the One Church of Christ.
4. Community in spirit and in prayer with such communities is excluded for the Orthodox.
5. The presence of pious and wise bishops, theologians and simple laypeople amidst the members of the heretical communities does not serve for the salvation of these people, if they do not abandon these communities and do not return to the Church.
6. The members of the heretical communities, whatever their personal faith, are on the path of destruction, for they do not belong to the Body of Christ.
6. Handing Over to Satan
One of the objections to the thesis that all the official churches have already been anathematised and handed over to Satan that the author of the present lines has happened to hear, is as follows: Which of the holy fathers of the 20th century has said that these churches are graceless? Neither St. John of Shanghai nor Fr. Seraphim Rose nor Fr. Justin Popovich nor St. Philaret has said this
It is true that St. John did not speak about this. But he died in 1966, when the ecumenical movement had only just begun to come out onto the broad path on a universal scale, and there could not at that time be talk about a final and irreversible condemnation; the more so in that in the preceding centuries the Orthodox had somehow grown unaccustomed to the struggle with newly appeared heresies, and with heresies in general which is why the deviation into the heresy of ecumenism by practically all the Local Churches took place so easily. There is nothing surprising in this St. John Chrysostom was already talking about the danger of a long absence of persecutions against the Church: Or do you think it is not a great persecution to be safe from persecution? This is worse than persecution itself. Safety, like floodwater, weakens the soul , it brings a sleep upon the soul, introduces all kinds of inattentiveness and carelessness, arouses all kinds of passions But during persecution nothing of the sort can be stirred up: the approach of fear does not allow the passions to raise their voices During the ancient persecutions one could truly Christian men. At that time nobody worried about property, about his wife, about his children, about his fatherland; they all had one care, to save their souls There were not many of them then; but great was the wealth of their virtue.
Fr. Seraphim Rose in his foreword to the publication of the Third Sorrowful Epistle of Metropolitan Philaret wrote: Those who try to obtain from the Metropolitan and the Hierarchical Synod a judgement on the lack of grace of the sacraments of the Orthodox Churches which have adopted the new style or which have fallen under the heel of the communist powers, are not taking account of the fact that such questions lies beyond the competence of the Synod that anathemas except for several indisputable cases only aggravate the illness.
These words were written in 1976 and in no way aid the contemporary ecclesiastical anti-extremists insofar as in the 1970s not only Fr. Seraphim but practically everybody else including Fr. Justin Popovich (who died in 1979) - was unsure whether the destructive ecumenist course of World Orthodoxy was yet irreversible. And it is perfectly fair to say that questions relating to the condemnation of this or that heresy or schism lie beyond the bounds of the competence of the Synod the Synod, but not of the Council. But ecumenism was condemned in council, which witnesses to the fact that the case of ecumenism was already seen as indisputable. Father Seraphim died in 1982, just before the reception of this anathema (1983), and he would hardly have begun to speak about its invalidity. It could have been invalid only if ecumenism were not a heresy.
As regards the MP, for example, it was condemned long ago by many New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, the founders of the Russian Catacomb Church; and the participation of her hierarchs and many of her clergy in one form or another of the heresy of ecumenism is evident. The new calendarists were also condemned as a schism by the True Orthodox Church of Greece, and their involvement in the heresy of ecumenism is undoubted.
As regards Metropolitan Philaret, he never recognised the sacraments of either schismatics or heretics; he expressed himself about this many times in letters and sermons. Concerning the significance of a church anathema, he clearly said that it witnesses to the fact that such-and-such people, having sinned against Orthodoxy, have already fallen away from the Church. It is completely incomprehensible how he could have regarded the significance of the anathema of 1983, which had been accepted in council under his leadership, in any other light
7. What do you believe?
Let us leave discussions about over canons and dogmas aside for a moment: the majority of contemporary believers are not particularly versed in them. However, this serves neither to their honour nor to their justification, since believers must know their faith; but it often happens with us that some believers know the finest subtleties of the earthly sciences, but do not wish to know the heavenly science, saying that the most important thing is what is in the soul, or, even worse than this, that the study of Orthodoxy and the Church canons is a matter for those specially appointed to it, the bishops or priests, but it is not our business. Let us look at the matter in a simpler manner, so to speak, from an everyday point of view. What do contemporary Orthodox believers believe in?
If you ask: Do you believe in God? they reply in the affirmative. But what beyond that? Very often they display a consumerist psychology, which, moreover, is greatly facilitated by contemporary market relationships, which have penetrated deeply into church life. For example, a believer comes into the church and asks, not about how he should repent, cleanse himself, change his life, live according to the commandments, but about which icon he should put a candle in front of, so that things may go well. He comes when a complicated situation in daily life confronts him, in the hope that God will sort it out. Or when someone has fallen ill or fallen into some misfortune, he will ask for deliverance. And often he receives help, but then it almost always turns out as the Lord described in the parable of the ten healed lepers And it happens that the person does not receive what he asks for, in which case he may then decide in himself that God does not exist, without thinking that what he asked for was perhaps to his profit But one rarely finds the recognition that much in a persons life does not turn out well because he is simply living incorrectly, in an unchristian manner, and that he has to change something in his manner of life radically change it, moreover.
Of course it is difficult to expect great awareness in these questions in people who have come to the church for the first time. And it is at this point that pastors should explain to the people that the Church exists not only for the placing of candles and to get consolation in the beauty of the icons and chandeliers.
If we examine the views of the contemporary bishops of official Orthodoxy, in general they roughly come down to the same everyday interests: the mission of the Church consists in facilitating the friendship of the peoples and peace on earth, so that there should be no war or international tension, so that everyone should love each other and care for universal human values; it consists in the regeneration, for example, of Great Russia, in the recreation of trampled on holy things, etc., etc. so that everything should go well for everybody.
But why should the Church worry about this, and not about Orthodoxy? Why care for universal human values? And what are these values, what do they consist of, where is their source? Why regenerate Russia without regenerating True Orthodoxy? What is the need for such a false Russia? After all, she collapsed precisely because Orthodoxy was not preserved! Why do people often link the regeneration of Orthodoxy with the regeneration of Russia, and not the other way round? For example, one meets believers who are ready to support even the communists not because they have suddenly become Orthodox, but because they supposedly stand for a strong Russia.
Many people go to church for consolation: life now is hard and joyless, all routine things are boring, people want something spiritual sweet singing, golden iconostases, imposing batyushkas in elegant vestments But faith and the Church do not exist in order that there should be more consolations in this world, or in order that one should find some good company in the church that delivers one from the feeling of loneliness and not being needed, but in order that one should prepare oneself for another life and to this end it is not much to visit the church once a week, hand in notes and have pious conversations with acquaintances about the corruption of the world and the necessity of going to the Church. One has to fight with oneself, renounce the world and that which is valued in it (and this renunciation is an absolute condition of salvation not only for monks, but also for laymen, for every Christian; for the Gospel is the same for everybody: love not the world, nor the things that are in the world (I John 2.15)), abandon whatever sinful habits you may have or your sinful mode of life as a whole, renounce worldly consolations and that, not for the sake of immediately receiving spiritual consolations, but simply out of love for God and a striving to live in accordance with His commandments. But when you begin to talk about this, you immediately come up against incomprehension, even offence. Many people want to legalise their lawlessness in life not only in a secular way, but also in an ecclesiastical manner, for which they are ready to pay even large sums of money. And then we find patriarchal batyushkas blessing, for money, whatever you like, only so long as people can live more comfortably with the consciousness that Gods goodwill for their way of life is already guaranteed with the help of the batyushkas who are in charge of it. Other pastors, however, put on a strict face, saying: Dont do this, do this! but all this is normal within the bounds either of the worldly interests of the flock, or of the ambitious strivings of the pastors; but real salvation of the soul interests neither the former nor the latter.
But what do contemporary believers believe in? How do they square up this ecclesiastical reality with the life of the saints and ascetics, with the patristic teaching on salvation, with the words of the Lord on the narrow way, on the bearing of ones cross, on hating ones soul for the sake of the Gospel? Where has the Apostles commandment on unceasing prayer been lost, and on the necessity for those who use this world not to use it, as it were? Where is heed paid to the apostles words on false teachings and heresies? And in general: what relationship does the whole Gospel have to contemporary faith?
And yet contemporary believers still go to services, pray, feel compunction, even weep! But what is the value of spiritual feelings when standing at prayer in church, when after them the person calmly returns to his everyday life (Ive been to church, now I must get down to business)? Why read the lives of the saints if the position is wittingly taken that such heights are not for us, sinful and weak ones, so theres nothing to strive for? How can one regenerate spirituality in the people if the pastors say that Church canons, rules and asceticism are one thing, but simple life something else? And can one expect a person to understand the canons, heresies, etc., if he at times even considers it unnecessary to keep the fasts? Finally, even Catholics and other heretics or Muslims also have sometimes even more spiritual feelings on a religious basis. So in general why go into an Orthodox church if you are seeking such spirituality? Perhaps its more worth your while to go to a Catholic church or a mosque the more so in that Muslims are often much more zealous in relation to everything that concerns their faith than the Christians?
At this point, incidentally, I remember one more argument that is often used by us in trying to draw unbelievers into the Church. For example, a person is looking for faith, he is striving for something spiritual and by chance is attracted by Buddhism or some other false teaching. An Orthodox says to him in horror: What, how is it possible?! A Russian person can only be Orthodox! A wonderful argument! So a Tibetan or Buryat, for example, can only be a Buddhist? After all, this is their historical religion . And an Italian can only be a Catholic? Thats a good method of argument one has to be Orthodox, not because the truth is in Orthodoxy, but because Orthodoxy is the historical religion in Russia! And what if a person then goes to live in the East can he then become a Muslim?
Its still worse when a person keeps the fasts, fulfils his prayer rule, goes to church once a week and is content with that as if he were already a completely respectable Christian. But such piety was reproached by St. John Chrysostom .
8. The Influence of Error
It is significant that amidst the more spiritual believers you most often meet the following strivings: to hand oneself over into obedience to a spiritual father, to fight for the regeneration of Russia and search out signs of the approach of the Antichrist.
St. John of the Ladder says: Just as every fruit is preceded by a flower, so exile either of body or of will precedes every obedience (Word 4.1). Therefore it is incomprehensible how these people, who not only are not intending to renounce the world and worldly habits, but in general say that this is not for them, but for monks, can hope to be saved by obedience. And how do those spiritual fathers who do not consider it necessary to tear their children from worldly habits and attachments, and do not themselves try to be delivered from them, dare to demand unquestioning obedience to themselves? Concerning such people the same St. John of the Ladder not only did not assert that they could be capable of any obedience or leadership of others, but he said: The Lord gave judgement concerning all living in the world, speaking of even those who are alive as dead, when He said to someone: Leave the dead, that is, laymen who are dead in worldly vanity, to bury the dead in body (Word 2.5). And such people are striving for obedience, not so as to live in accordance with the will of God, but simply in order to live more comfortably: they dont have to think about anything for themselves, or read any serious Orthodox patristic books your spiritual father will decide everything for you. Whereas the holy fathers commanded us to obey only those spiritual fathers who teach in accordance with the teaching of the Church, and to run away from those teaching something not in agreement with the saints as from fire and certain destruction.
As regards the regeneration of Russia, who will dispute that it is necessary to regenerate her; but we must understand: how? If Russia fell as a result of apostasy from Orthodoxy, we must first strive to regenerate Orthodoxy, and, besides, not everyday Orthodoxy (like: golden cupolas on the churches, icons in the beautiful corner of the house, the general procession for holy water and into the Church at the Baptism of Christ; pussy-willows on Palm Sunday, cakes and eggs at Pascha and communion after quite a formal confession once a year or, at best, once in every fast period) because they had that kind of Orthodoxy in pre-revolutionary Russia, but it did not save her from revolution. We must return to patristic Orthodoxy, which presupposes constant inner sobriety, struggle with the passions, striving for the unceasing remembrance of God in prayer, frequent confession and communion, daily reading of the Holy Scriptures and the holy fathers while striving to carry out their instructions in reality and according to our powers, rejection of vain entertainments and much else. When people acquire a correct understanding of which the true Christian life is, then Russia can be regenerated in time, as in the first centuries of Christianity, when believers first learned simply the faith and how to preserve it, and then the Orthodox empire appeared.
As regards signs of the coming of the Antichrist . It is amazing how sensitive contemporary Orthodox are: everywhere they see the number of the beast, the seal of the Antichrist, Judaeo-masonic conspiracies, the claws of the beast; they fight for the removal of credit cards and appeal that food with bar-codes should not be used. But for some reason they do not consider the apostasy from Orthodoxy of the overwhelming majority of contemporary hierarchs to be a sign of the speedy coming of the Antichrist, and if they do consider it to be one, they do not specially exert themselves to struggle against it. They will try to convince us that it is not worth buying something sealed with the claws of the beast, but if you speak too actively against heretics and the co-travellers with heresy, these same warriors will ascribe you to the proud and unspiritual fanatics. More than that: bar-codes dont you know, are much more dangerous! And struggling against them is much less dangerous for ones psychological comfort and life as a whole than struggling against heretics.
Believers who are particularly aware have one other occupation: with all their strength they struggle with schism. In reply to words about the apostasy from the faith of the official churches they say: how can that be, after all, we have so many miracles, our icons are myrrh-streaming, relics appear, elders instruct the people! But the Catholics and Protestants have masses of miracles, and because of this they have not become Orthodox even to the present day.
Of course, it is much simpler to lay all decisions on the head of one or another spiritual father or elder and live calmly without thinking particularly about this. Time passes, and the general ability to think independently is lost. From personal experience of communion with patriarchal believers we can draw the conclusion that sometimes people who at the beginning were able to think clearly and who did ponder on various phenomena in the life of the MP, later, having read various patriarchal literature and having listened a lot to spiritual fathers and elders, completely lost the gift of discerning truth from falsehood and hypocrisy from true piety. They will tell you about miracles, about somebodys visions and prophecies, about the veneration of the Royal Martyrs in the MP, about some pilgrimages to holy places, about not judging and about the necessity of praying for the hierarchs who are sinning against the faith, that they correct themselves, and the absolute impossibility of separating from them, since this would be a schism
It is particularly terrible that all aspects of the life of believers are being covered with lies. Thus stories about visions of the saints, which are in fact of a clearly demonic character, are taken completely seriously. As an example, let us take a publication in the newspaper Rus Pravoslavnaya, which is read and taken seriously by many zealots and warriors for Orthodoxy in the MP, In issue no. 1 for the year 2000, under the heading Russias heavenly host, there is a lengthy account by a certain servant of God Nina of the Royal Martyrs appearances to her in the course of her whole life. First, the authenticity of the account arouses certain doubts, insofar as it was even handed in to the newspaper through a third party a certain S.G. Trubitsyn. But let us assume that all the described events really took place. What are we talking about here? At the age of 6 years Nina was healed of an incurable disease by the Royal Martyrs appearing to her. At this time she was told by those who appeared to her: When you grow up, tell people directly: let them not search for our remains, they dont exist! The second time they appeared to her in 1972, when she was studying in the 8th class, during a lesson in school: His Majesty came up to us and blessed us all. And he said to me: You will live to my glorification. Write down all that you have seen. The Empress Alexandra said to his Majesty: You know, you are not yet glorified, and yet you are already giving blessings (?! T.S.). And he turned to her, smiled and said: Not you, but we! We are all blessing together! Further on, Ninas account continues: Now I already have five children, and we live in Moscow. In recent years I have several times seen Tsar Nicholas in my sleep. Once his Majesty said: They dont believe you, but soon they will believe. He repeated this several times and pointed to a calendar on the wall, where he was represented together with the whole Family, and said: Hang it in the holy corner and pray! Another time he said to her: Tell the priests that they should paint icons and that there should be prayer. Through these icons I will obtain miraculous aid, I have power to help many And I will receive power to help the whole people when I am glorified on earth! And then tell them that Russia will flourish for a short time! From this it turns out that those who appeared do not consider the glorification of the Royal Martyrs that took place in 1981 to be a true glorification. Further on, he threatens Petersburg and Russia as a whole with all kinds of woes if they bury and venerate false relics, and exhorts: Tell everyone that if we glorify his Majesty, he will arrange everything! And there will be no war! Write it down and pass it on to the clergy Amidst the clergy there some who are not real, they are stooges, liars They will hide much of what I have said from the people. And others will believe and help you. Here we see the patriarchal myth that is now widespread that immediately the Tsar is glorified, immediately everything will be alright. Not a word is said about the preservation of Orthodoxy; it is probably presupposed that the MP, notwithstanding the presence of a certain number of lying priests, is irreproachable as a Church. Nothing is said about the hierarchs. The tsar appeared to Nina for the last time in broad daylight last winter in the Danilov monastery and reproached her for saying nothing about his appearances. He blessed her like a priest, and this time he appeared to her at the beginning in secular attire, but a few minutes later in priestly vestments. He began to disappear before our eyes, as if he was going up, until he dissolved in the air
If all this is not just madness or some church hooligans forgery, then we have before us clearly demonic activity. It is noteworthy that the woman more than once even had doubts whether the person who appeared to her was really who he said he was. She probably never read what the holy fathers say about all visions and appearances, and about the truly Christian attitude to them.
But the most terrible thing is that in the newspaper this appearance is taken for completely genuine and that it will probably be seen in the same light by the majority of readers. If we remember the false relics of St. Alexander of Svir, which in their time were ardently defended by the same Rus Pravoslavnaya, and a mass of for-some-unknown-reason myrrh-streaming icons and other contemporary patriarchal miracles, the conclusion has to be drawn that we are dealing here with demonic deception not just of individual heretic-hierarchs and priests, but also of masses of believers in the MP. Before our eyes there is being fulfilled the Apostle Pauls terrible prophecy about the influence of error sent to those who did not believe the truth of the Orthodox teaching on the faith as it was taught to us by the holy Fathers.
Even those who by the mercy of God are in the true Church of Christ should fear lest, by a mindless justification of the lost members of the official churches, out of a falsely understood love for our neighbours, they draw upon themselves the wrath of God and that same influence of error which is inevitably found in all those who had pleasure in unrighteousness (II Thessalonians 2.11-12). For the truth is not contained in our musings and cogitations, but in the patristic teaching that is recognised by the whole Church. But if we, so as not to frighten the fainthearted, begin, out of a desire to please this world, to distort, soften or keep quiet about this teaching and in this form preach it to people, then we shall undoubtedly be condemned with this world, and our pseudo-Orthodoxy will not help us.
9. This is an hard saying: who can hear it?
To whom must we address our preaching of Orthodoxy first of all? I think: to those people who have not yet identified it with the MP. In recent years the MP has already been turned, in the eyes of many right-thinking people who do not wear rose-tinted glasses, into such an odious organisation that although they yearn in soul for the faith, the MP is not attractive to them and is not perceived by them as the Church. Many, having been in it for a while and seen what is happening there, have stopped going there. Moreover, a significant part of those who go to the patriarchal churches from time to time see the MP, not as a means of the salvation of the soul and the pillar and ground of the Truth, but rather as a state organisation that offers ritual services to the population: baptisms, weddings, blessings of houses, burials for the corresponding sum of money. People need the Church, but they don not see it or find it. And the duty of the Orthodox is to show people that Church which will truly speak not from this world and not for this world; which will not say one thing and do something else; which will obey the holy fathers and care for the preservation in the first place of Right Faith, and not of something else; which will deal first of all, not in the provision of ritual services, but in the guiding of her children onto the path of eternal salvation.
As for those who have already been strongly sucked into the depths of the MP, and who have become more or less her patriots, one must recognise that they have already been basically presented to the will of God. Insofar as the influence of error is allowed by God, it is impossible by human efforts to convert such deceived people to the truth, if the Lord Himself will not enlighten their darkened minds. If they become aware of the destructiveness of remaining in World Orthodoxy and come to the Church fine, but there is no sense in addressing the main part of our preaching to them, insofar s the official churches brain-washing has now been placed on an industrial scale, right to the distortion of the lives of the saints and the patristic writings, and strengthened by a mass of false miracles.
We live in a time of war for the Orthodox Church. And the criteria for a time of war are always harder than for a time of peace. We have to draw into the ranks first of all those who can be warriors, we must teach the believers to be warriors for the Church of Christ that is, be useful in an active way for the Church, capable of recognising her teaching and putting it into practice, and not simply seeking external adornment and a peacefully ritual life, occupying the role of a passive observer, of a sheep who always goes behind the leader of the flock and is not able to make a step on his own.
In our time there are few pastors, and the flock must learn to do without them in case of necessity. So as to be warriors and soldiers of True Orthodoxy, which is now surrounded on all sides by the hostile sea of the world, the Orthodox must learn independently to think, to pray and to organise services and communal life, and not simply take part in enterprises already organised by someone, basically living with normal secular interests and always expecting instructions on everything from the bosses. Let there be fewer believers than one would like, but they must be able to stand for their faith and the Church.
Desire not a multitude of unprofitable children (Sirach 16.1), says St. John Chrysostom, Such people give more occasion for blasphemy against God than if they were not Christians. What need have I of a multitude? Only more food for the fire Everyone can see the same in war: it is better to have ten experienced and brave men that thousands of inexperienced ones: the latter do nothing and hinder those that do something .. Let us not strive merely that there should be many, but rather that they should excel in virtue. When the latter aim is attained, the first will be also. (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 24:3-4).
Often an Orthodox community collapses because the priest who spiritually fed them moves somewhere or simply runs away; it also happens that the priest serving in the community is often away, and then all Divine services cease. People wander off in different directions or sit at home instead of trying by their efforts to support at any rate some kind of services. No small part in this situation is played by priests who insinuate to their flock that serving according to a priestless rite is uncanonical and even invalid. Such words are comprehensible when they come from the mouths of clergy of the official churches they have to keep their flock in a condition of blind obedience and not allow competition in the market of ritual services. But it would be good never to hear such insinuations from priests of the True Church, who must care, not for their own authority, but for their flock and its salvation .
But if you really want to have a community and Church life, begin now, yourselves, as you can, even if there are some mistakes in the Typicon, the reading and the chanting (but, of course, one must strive to avoid such mistakes in accordance with ones strength and understanding). The Lord, seeing your ardour and desire, will send people who will teach you how to serve correctly, and with time with also send His pastor. But if you sit crossing your arms and waiting until a well-ordered church life falls from heaven, it may be that you will waste your whole life in this way while boasting that we are suffering deprivations and sorrows for the sake of the True Church! Are not stories of departures of priests and the collapse of communities as a result the fulfilment of the words of the Lord: For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath (Mark 4.25)? Not having a correct idea of Church life, the community was held together, not by its inner links, the common interests and strivings of the parishioners and their love for the Divine services, but by an external attachment to a concrete priest -and, as a result, remained with nothing. There are, by contrast, examples of communities that have remained without a pastor but which have continued, in spite of all obstacles and trials, to keep together and to carry out Divine services and in time the Lord sends them good pastors, nor are they hirelings that care not for the sheep (John 10.11-12).
Those who passively wait for manna from heaven are threatened with that about which St. Isaac the Syrian wrote: The beginning of the darkening of the mind (when its signs begin to appear in the soul) can be discerned first of all in laziness with regard to the service of God and prayer. For if the soul does not first fall away from prayer, there is no other way he can be deceived in soul; but when he is deprived of Gods help, he easily falls into the hands of his enemies. And also, immediately the soul becomes careless with regard to the works of virtue, he is unfailingly drawn to their opposite.
Often, too, believers of the official church, coming to some kind of consciousness of the destructiveness of remaining in it, do not hurry to leave it either because there are no parishes of the True Church in the vicinity, or because life in these parishes is not organised there is no church or permanent batyushka, etc, while they themselves are not able to organise anything, to get together and serve. Moreover, they do not think it necessary. But then we have to ask ourselves the penetrating question: do we want to be in the Orthodox Church, or do we want a peaceful, well-organised life with people whom we find pleasant? If we have a consciousness that the MP and those churches similar to it are not the Church, why stay in it? It is better to leave and go, at least temporarily, nowhere, than remain in communion of prayer with heretics and in the red church subject our souls to dangerous spiritual experiments. It is better to sit at home for a while and serve oneself somehow (be it only one Vespers or the Hours), look around, have a bit of a think and work out where to go next, what to do, on what to orient oneself. To sit and wait for someone to make the True Church and present it to us at home seems at first glance a more peaceful course, but who can say whether the Lord will suffer us for long and lengthen the days of our life? What if we have to end our life in communion with heretics, and then as I find you, so will I judge you .
In all ages the true zealots for the faith have struggled with heretics, paying attention neither to their lofty rank, nor to the secular authorities, nor to their fewness of numbers or external insignificance; the truly pious believers always gathered together and prayed, whether with a priest or not (in the ancient monasteries there was often no permanent priest, and all the services were carried out without them; the priest was invited only to serve the Liturgy); the holy fathers always called all the believers to spiritual sobriety and renunciation of worldly interests and attachments, to the narrow path of prayer, spiritual exploits and struggle and we absolutely must follow this path if we really want to be saved.
St. John of the Ladder gives all those who wish to live in a Christian manner this advice: Do not wait for world-loving souls, because the thief comes unexpectedly. In trying to save the careless and indolent along with themselves, many perish with them, because in course of time the fire goes out. As soon as the flame is burning within you, run; for you do not know when it will go out and leave you in darkness. (Ladder, 3.4). This can be understood in the sense that it is dangerous to wait when this or that Christian understands the destructiveness of ecumenism, of modernism, of everyday Orthodoxy, of lukewarmness and of the blind obedience to the hierarchs now in power, and not to the holy fathers. While waiting for the conversion of such people, and hesitating to break communion with members of organisations that have deviated into heresy, we ourselves risk being condemned with them not only because we checked the flame of the true and uncompromising confession of the faith and preferred to it the dying embers of useless humanism, but also because we gave to those seeking the truth, instead of patristic Orthodoxy, a spoiled and lukewarm humanistic Christianity oriented towards this world, which so fears to "offend or condemn anyone that in the end it offends and condemns God Himself and His Church.
I have not come, says the Lord, to send peace on earth (Matthew 10.34), but battle and a sword, so as to separate those who love God from those who love the world, the material from the immaterial, the carnal from the spiritual, those who love glory from the wise in humility. For strife and separation delight the Lord when they spring from love for Himself. (Ladder 3.15).