Why I Love My Parishioners

My three parishes in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk cover an area of over 5,000 square miles (13,000 square kilometres). That is why we have long needed and, at last have, two assistant priests. How big is my main parish in my native town of Colchester, in the biggest Russian Orthodox church building in the British Isles and Ireland? Well, there are about 100 people I can depend on to be there almost always. Then there are about another 400 parishioners, whom I know I will see within the space of a month. So there are 500 parishioners, of 25 different nationalities, born on four continents.

However, in addition to these 500 there are about another 4,500 people, scattered all over this region and up to 60 miles (100 kilometres) outside it, occasionally attending one or other of the three parishes. I may see them only once or twice a year, and some even less often than that. Many of them only come to church for baptisms and weddings, but when they do come, they come to us. Many of them I hardly know. So, not parishioners as such, but they are still in my mind and heart. There are all sorts of reasons why I see them only rarely, and it is not just a matter of distance. But I will not go into that here.

I want to tell you about two of them. With a title like ‘Why I love my parishioners’, you may think that I want to tell you about two of the 500 regulars. Since I do not want to embarrass anyone, I do not. I want to tell you about two of the other 4,500. They are of two different nationalities.

The first one is a real Orthodox man. In his forties, he is married with two lovely children. He has a business with employees. I first met him when he was in prison. Yes, in prison. Unfortunately, he had criminal competitors who tried to attack him and were jealous of him and his family. They threatened to throw acid in his wife’s face, if he did not take the blame for a crime of fraud which they had committed. He had no doubt that their threat was real. They were capable of it and had already done it to another. So, in order to protect his beloved wife, he went straight to the police and told them a lot of lies about himself. He went on trial and was sentenced. His only ‘crime’ was to lie in court in order to protect his wife. He had to go to prison for one year, but his wife was protected. There was such happiness and rejoicing in his house when he came home.

What a man. No, he has never studied theology, he has never heard of any modern ‘theologians’ (though he does know something of the Lives of the Saints), he cannot tell you about the history and structure of the services, has never met a bishop, does not know the Bible backwards, will not give you lots of pious talk about prayer and fasting, has never heard of ‘the Council of Crete’ and knows nothing about Catholicism and Protestantism. As a real Orthodox, he does not believe in God, he knows Him. So he has humility and there is no self-loving question of proud people about ‘Why has God allowed this to happen to me?’ Just acceptance of God’s will. He has protected and defended what is most precious to him. An example. He sacrificed himself, but has one of the best families in the world. They love each other. That is God’s reward to him. A real Orthodox man.

The second one is a real Orthodox woman, a lady with dignity and self-respect, which has become so rare these days. I first met her when I was making a pastoral visit far away. She married in her early 20s and had two children. But then her husband began drinking. And beating her. She was patient. They only divorced when he began harming the children. (He has since died). So she, then aged 34, brought up two children alone, struggling to pay her bills. She has made a good job of it too. The first went to University and now has a good career. A lovely person. The second, a girl, is finishing school. She has a very noble and idealistic disposition and is not afraid to stand up for the truth. She stands out from the others of her generation. (She has had her mother’s example). A year ago this Orthodox woman, who had shed so many tears for her broken dreams and broken heart these last 25 years, quite downhearted, came to church and there she met a man. The man. Within a week they had fallen in love. It was her dream, the one which she had wanted as a romantic teenager. She had been waiting all those years and then it all came true. Out of the blue.

What a woman. No, she has never studied theology, she has never heard of any modern ‘theologians’ (though she does know something of the Lives of the Saints), she cannot tell you about the history and structure of the services, has never met a bishop, does not know the Bible backwards, will not give you lots of pious talk about prayer and fasting, has never heard of ‘the Council of Crete’ and knows nothing about Catholicism and Protestantism. As a real Orthodox, she does not believe in God, she knows Him. So she has humility and there is no self-loving question of proud people about ‘Why has God allowed this to happen to me?’ Just acceptance of God’s will. She has protected and defended what is most precious to her. An example. She sacrificed himself, but has one of the best families in the world. They love each other. Her new husband adores her – as she deserves. That is God’s reward to her. A real Orthodox woman.

Now you know why I love my parishioners.

Cain’s Technology of Death and the Spiritual Decomposition of the Western World

Weapons Technology

After the Fall and the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, the next tragedy in the next generation of human history is the story of how Cain rose up and killed his brother Abel. It was the beginning of murder, with stones, clubs and axes, knives and spears, then bows with flint-tipped arrows. Much later, after the year 1000 AD, as the Western Middle Ages began, these ‘primitive’ weapons of death developed into sophisticated castles with armoured horsemen, crossbows and long bows. These were followed in the years before and after 1500 by the discovery of more killing technology, by artillery and muskets, leading in the nineteenth century to the invention of repeating rifles and powerful mortars, machine guns and semi-modern artillery, with an immense range and killing power. The battles of the Middle Ages which killed 5,000 became wars, like that in the USA only some 150 years ago, which killed 500,000 and more.

What happened after this, in the twentieth century, is well-known, with its battleships and submarines, aeroplanes and bombs, poison gas and howitzers, shells and rockets, chemical and biological weapons, atomic bombs and smart bombs, what are now called, ‘weapons of mass destruction’. The wars that had killed 500,000 became wars that killed 50,000,000 and more. For over fifty years now, evil people have been able to destroy all human life on the planet with such weapons in just a few hours. This is the ultimate suicide, called MAD, mutually assured destruction. This technology of killing is ‘Cainization’, the technology of Cain, the technology of murder, the technology of death. And it is absolutely clear that such revolting weapons, battles and wars, just as primitive as in ancient times in their ability to maim, mutilate and murder, but with 1,000,000 times the power, have been inspired only by Satan, who is the Father of Death.

The Degeneration of Christian Civilization in the West: 1000-1500

In 1000 AD provincial forms of the Christian Civilization still existed in the extreme western tip of Eurasia. They had not yet separated from its great centres radiating out around Asian Jerusalem, though it was sorely tempted to do so by Satan, who would inspire its technology of death and so its Might. And for it, Might was, and is, Right. It was this once Christian society that after c. 1000 became apostate and degenerated, self-justifyingly aggressive and attacking all others. Within a century the spiritual integrity of these extreme Western provinces had dissolved and what has been called ‘Western Civilization’ based on aggression and plunder formed. In its aggressive violence this Wild West ‘Civilization’ soon came to expand behind a border line of feudal castles and Gothic, inhabited by horsemen with their technology of death, from Finland to Estonia, Latvia to Lithuania, Poland to Slovakia and Hungary to Croatia.

Its violence and aggression began with the massacre of Jews in what is now northern France and western Germany soon after the start of the millennium, then the massacre of Muslims in Spain, southern Italy and the Middle East, then of Christians in England and the Eastern Mediterranean, all by the year 1100. However we may explain its origins, once this intolerant aggressiveness had been unleashed, it resulted in more genocidal massacres and semi-permanent wars, both internal to the various, ex-Christian tribes in this extreme Western tip of Eurasia and also carried outside it by violent and primitive horsemen (‘knights’) with their ever-developing technology of death. The violence of this post-Christian culture increased immensely after about 1500. However, its amoral violence and plunder had already become apparent in 1453, with the destruction and pillage of what was then the capital of the Christian Empire, in New Rome.

The Degeneration of ‘Western Civilization’: 1500-2000

Egged on by the opportunity to steal gold in ‘El Dorado’ outside their own world, in 1492, with the first voyage of the ruthless Italian gold-seeker Columbus, this aggressiveness and destruction were to be carried even outside Eurasia, to ‘New Worlds’. Their greed for conquest, justified only by religious and racial arrogance, had begun. In 1500 there had still existed many civilizations on the planet. There were those in China, those in South-East Asia, those in what is now Australia, those in the Pacific, the Hindu and Muslim ones in the Indian subcontinent, those in Africa, that in the centre of North America with its huge temple mounds, those in what is now Mexico and Central America with their pyramids, those in the Andes, that along the Amazon River, the Muslim and Ottoman, and also the remaining Christian Civilization from Jerusalem, restricted by violence to the Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans and the Russian Lands.

These were to be largely destroyed over the next 500 years in an orgy of slavery, pillaging (‘asset-stripping’) by Western killing technology, camouflaged by words like ‘adventure’, ‘exploration’, ‘trading’, ‘imperialism’, ‘colonialism’ and ‘globalization’. The Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the British, the French, the Germans, the Belgians, the Italians and the Americans all took part in these plunderous genocides. The most ‘primitive’ civilizations, in South and Central America, were conquered first, followed by North America, large parts of Asia, Australasia, Japan and Africa. Their destruction was followed in the early twentieth century by Western machinations which destroyed Imperial China and, in 1917, the Russian Empire, which under Tsar Nicholas II had been the only protector of still independent (‘uncolonized’) countries like Siam (Thailand), Ethiopia and Tibet, and the defender of the Boers and exploited native peoples in Africa.

Hope in the New Millennium

However, China and Russia were never annihilated like the others and they survived by adopting Western technology. Thus, in the 1940s China defended itself from Western-developed Japan using the same technology and after 1941 the former Russian Empire defeated yet another Western invasion and onslaught with the same. In the 21st century the current and still fragile revival of Christian Civilization in what is left of the Russian Empire, now called the Russian Federation, 100 years after its Western-engineered collapse, may last, but that is not certain. As a revival, it has far to go and far to spread, for it has only just begun. The future here is still unclear. What, however, is clear is that if the revival of Christian Civilization under way in Russia falters, then the end of the world cannot be far. Cain’s technology of death has been so far developed and spread worldwide (‘globalized’) that the Russian Abel may not be strong enough to resist it.

Thus, over a thousand years, we have witnessed the ‘Cainization’ of the Western World. Already in the nineteenth century the Russian thinker Dostoyevsky called his travels to Western Europe ‘visits to the cemetery of dear friends’. Although holy relics remain, corpses in cemeteries decompose. The decomposition of the once Orthodox Christian Western European world has come about because, having lost its beliefs and ideals, it has no inner life, no culture of its own, it is purely superficial. Now it is just an imitation of the new Wild West, the USA, which is marked by Cain’s desire for plunder, jealousy, futility and ugliness. Six virtues have left today’s Westernised world: depth, justice, dignity, nobility, beauty and elegance. All spring from Abel’s spiritual and moral values and so all depth, justice, dignity, nobility, beauty and elegance are fled away. This is why our hope amid this destruction is in Russia, where Christian Civilization is reviving.

Free Europe (FE), L’Europe Libre (EL), Freies Europa (FE), Свободная Европа (СЕ)

The European Resistance Movement

Le Mouvement Europėen de Rėsistance

Die Europäische Bewegung Widerstands

Европейское Движение Сопротивления

Resist! Resistez! Widerstehen! Сопротивляйтесь!

Our Three Aims: International Freedom, National Freedom, Personal Freedom

1. Free Europe from the Political, Economic, Ecological, Social, Immigration, Gender Propaganda and Dictatorship of the Globalist Elite.

2. Restore the Sovereignty of all the Peoples of Europe, giving them the Freedom to Leave the EU and Live in the Countries of their Choice.

3. Work to Return to the Spiritual, Moral and Social Values of the Common Orthodox Christian Civilization of First Millennium Europe, East and West.

Problems in the Contemporary Russian Church in the Russian Lands

Introduction

Difficulties, scandals and compromises in Church life always stem from a lack of spiritual freedom, which come about because the outward Church organization is subjected to secular interests, not to Christ. At the present time, we can perhaps identify the following four areas of concern in the life of the Church inside the former Soviet Union.

1. Paperwork and Statist Bureaucracy.

One thing that most clergy inside Russia complain about today is the mass of paperwork they are faced with. Is it really necessary? Is it the natural result of being a huge Church? I cannot say, but I do wonder. I cannot recall the apostles dealing with paperwork.

2. Simony, Money and Luxury

Simony seems to be rare in Russia, whereas the Constantinople and Romanian Churches are infected with it. In fact, in Russia I have only come across one case (a demand for $10,000 for an appointment to a parish in Moscow 12 years ago), but there may be more. I remember how one of our bishops in the Church Outside Russia once said: ‘We do not have problems of financial corruption in our Church. This is not because we are particularly virtuous, it is simply because we have no money’. He was right of course. Opportunity makes the thief, as the proverb goes.

The vast majority of parish priests (and even some bishops) in Russia are poor. However, a few clergy and monks, in the big cities where there is a lot of money, seem to be very rich. The stories of black 4 x 4s and Mercedes etc are true. I have seen them. He who drives one is not a priest (svjashchennik), but a bad priest (pop). Here there is corruption, and financial corruption quickly leads to other scandals, private flats and ….

And why do churches have to contain marble and gold? Wood and gold paint are fine. Then you can build three churches instead of only one for the same price. There is something wrong here. But then it was also like that among a minority before the Revolution, especially in the capitals. There is indeed nothing new under the sun: but that is no justification.

3. Nationalism and Ritualism/Superstition.

The attitudes of the unChurched masses can be very nationalistic, for example confusing the Church with Stalin, who persecuted the Church. This seems to go hand in hand with a formalistic ritualism to the point of superstition. Holy water does many things, but it will not cure cancer. No educated Orthodox says that a woman cannot pray in church during her monthly period. Patriarch Pavle of Serbia did not. Some clearly believe in a superstitious god of hatred and punishment resembling some sort of crazed dictator, not in the Christian God of Love.

These are the views of non-Churched people, those who say that children are born handicapped because of their parents. Such shocking, pharisaical and totally unChristian views do not come from the Church, they come from a lack of Churching and that is a voluntary matter. Here 75 years of Soviet-imposed ignorance have played a pernicious role; but there is no excuse today. For 25 years there have been plenty of books, now websites. The only reason for ignorance today is that you do not want to learn. And that is serious.

4. Different Attitudes towards Catholicism.

Today’s Russian Church has little time for Protestantism as such. The aggressive activities of mainly US Protestant sectarians (often CIA-funded) in the ex-Soviet Union since the 1990s, together with the complete secularization of most of the Protestant world with its subjection to political correctness, means that it has little attraction for Orthodox. However, attitudes to Roman Catholicism among the educated vary.

At one extreme, there are those who seem to admire modern, liberalized (Protestantized) Neo-Catholicism and the associated ecumenistic Paris /Crestwood philosophy of the liberal, deChurched emigration. However, most of the supporters of this trend are now quite elderly. At the other extreme there are those whose sympathies lie, somewhat naively, with traditionalist Catholicism and idealized concepts of the medieval West.

Of course, the Orthodox Church is neither, nor is it somewhere between the two extremes, but is different again. The Church is inspired and informed by the Eternal and All-Pure Holy Spirit, not by the spiritual impurity of manmade, secular and always political trends, whether liberal or conservative. For the Church and the Churched, Roman Catholicism is irrelevant.

Conclusion

We must distinguish between the Church and the clergy. The Church belongs to Christ, the clergy are human. The Church is perfect, the clergy are not. And we go to Church for Christ, not for the clergy. Definitely not the other way round. The clergy are called on to be mirrors that reflect Christ: sometimes we are, sometimes we are not. May God forgive us.

For Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis is ‘not a man of the Christian God’

Wild rumours have recently been floating around in the Western liberal Roman Catholic Press about a forthcoming visit to Russia and the Ukraine by Pope Francis. These are nonsense. There have also been wild rumours about a new catechism for the Russian Church which will be extremely liberal, basically inspired by the Protestant Second Vatican Council. These too are nonsense. In fact, President Vladimir Putin, the senior layman in the Russian Church, has a quite different view, like the vast mass of Russian Orthodox.

A statement came from him in early August on a visit to the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Kronstadt. He summed up what Pope Francis is not: “If you look around at what he (the Pope) says, it’s clear that he is not a man of God. At least not the Christian God, not the God of the Bible.”

Indeed, it can be fairly said that in secular matters this Pope has rather socialist views in economic thought, is a One-World Government advocate and an enthusiast of open borders and mass migration. In other words, he appears to be an enemy of the little that is left of Western Civilization.

To make matters worse, an apartment occupied by the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, was raided in July to break up an orgy. The Vatican police who raided it found drugs and men engaged in orgiastic sex.

The secretary in question, Fr Luigi Capozzi, who had been considered for promotion to bishop, was jailed by the authorities. This came on the heels of Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s Chief Financial Officer, being charged with sex crimes against ten children. Pell has since left Rome in disgrace for his native Australia to answer the charges.

The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars

‘Serve Russia just as you served me…Faithful service to your homeland is more precious in the days of its fall than in the days of its greatness’.

The last words of the Holy Martyr Nicholas II to Colonel Kushelyov, 31 July 1917

‘The night will come soon, dark and long’.

St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, Prophecy of the Twentieth Century, 25 March 1925

In a remote provincial cemetery in Paraguay where the clocks go slow, beneath the brilliant sun and the torrential rain, lie the grave and mortal remains of Evgeny Ivanovich Smirnov, a White Russian Officer from Kursk and hero of the war against Bolivia (1932-35). He died there exactly fifty years ago, in 1967, across the ocean, so very, very far from his forebears’ homes. There were many such who, like him, did not live to see the light in their homeland and so return there. They are scattered in faraway cemeteries under wooden and stone crosses all over God’s earth, from Manchuria to New South Wales, from Saskatchewan to Seine et Marne, from Patagonia to Vermont, from Tunis to Cape Town, from Belgrade to Dublin, from great European cities to outback shacks, from parched deserts to snowy wastes, their hearts broken by enforced exile from their homes and their kin. Why?

Because in 1918 the peoples of the Russian Empire actively or passively, consciously or unconsciously, consented to the murder of the last Christian Emperor and his family and beautiful children at the hands of a clique of foreign maniacs and ever since they have had to pay in blood for their crime, either of treason, or of cowardice, or else of deceit. The ruling elites of foreign powers did not only stand by, but actively financed and encouraged the sadistic murderers. The jealous elites of Great Britain and France had already beheaded their own Christian kings in bloody, secularist revolutions and could not understand why others would not do the same. The greedy elite of Germany had always wanted to destroy the Slavs, militarily, from Charlemagne to Hitler, and, economically, to Merkel. As for the crazed elite of the United States, it wanted, as it still wants, to head a Zionist-inspired World Dictatorship.

In that way, repeating their lie that, ‘you cannot turn the clocks back’, they ensured that there would be no return to the peace of the pre-1914 world, but war without end, with only pauses on the way to their suicide. Having rejected a thousand years of the revelations of the Holy Spirit, in the nineteenth century the Western elite proclaimed the death of God and in the first half of the twentieth century it proclaimed their new gods of Communism and Fascism. But when these failed hopelessly in unspeakable barbarism and downfall came, they proclaimed the golden calf of Consumerism, bread and circuses, which in despair the people turned to, living without an ideal. Us who did not follow the consumerists call ‘losers’. For us there is more important than the stripes in toothpaste. For us ‘losers’, our ideal is still Christ and His heavenly kingdom, which we wish to bring down to earth.

To the ‘winners’, we say let the dead bury the dead, for we know that the last words on earth belong to Christ. Their illusion that they are winners will only lead them to bitter disillusionment. As long as we remain faithful to Christ, we have no cause to fear. In the meantime, we shall continue to fight for Christ’s Truth, delaying the coming of the Antichrist until more can find salvation. This means bringing down Christ’s Kingdom on earth, incarnating the truths of the Orthodox Christian Faith. Perhaps we are mystics, but we are pragmatic mystics, bending the State to all the implications of the Church of God. ‘May thy will be done on earth, as in heaven’. One day, perhaps sooner than many expect, the bourgeois Consumerist nightmare will inevitably end, and then the Western and Westernized world will be faced with spiritual reality: that which Evgeny Smirnov suffered for in his exile in faraway Paraguay.

The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars.

How to Wreck the Church

1. Ignore the two basic commandments and have neither love for God, nor for man. If you have no love for God, you will fail to do His will and if you have no love for man, then you will successfully hamper all efforts to build the church, being an anti-missionary. Through your lack of faith and compassion, your heart will turn to stone and you will be renowned for your lack of love through cruel acts and words.

2. Associate your church with marginal sects and movements, thus compromising it and separating it from the mainstream. The resulting spiritual isolation will greatly help to discredit your church.

3. Show no interest in and mock the history, language, psychology and customs of the country where your church is and always actively oppose the veneration of that country’s local saints, publicly mocking people who do so.

4. Show no interest in the life of your church and make it clear that you will spend as little time as possible there, refusing to visit any parishes and leaving as soon as possible after arriving and talking to as few local people as possible, if you have the misfortune of having to visit them.

5. Make clear your feelings that you are superior to everyone else by despising clergy and people alike, publicly making rude and unpleasant comments about them because they are not at your imagined superior level.

6. Since you believe that you are superior in every way to others, behave dictatorially and do not consult local people who have local knowledge, ordain as many dishonest men clergy as possible and appoint as many dishonest laypeople as possible to positions of responsibility. After you have done this, do not defrock the clergy whom you wrongly ordained or sack the laypeople whom you wrongly appointed, against the advice of everyone else, because that would show your incompetence. Make sure that they continue as clergy and persons of responsibility for as long as possible, ignoring any complaints about them for as many years as possible and allowing them to do the maximum amount of damage.

7. Refuse to ordain any good candidates. In this way you can make sure that you will frustrate any missionary work that is being done despite your best efforts to stop it.

8. Insult, bully, discourage, despise and humiliate your clergy as often as possible. Be very demanding with them, categorical in everything, making sure that they are exhausted. Your self-centredness will be very helpful here, as it will make you quite blind to their needs.

9. Try to make sure that any remaining good clergy leave for other dioceses or other countries, especially if they are more popular than you. After all, you must always be Number One. In this way you will automatically become a big fish, simply because your pond is so tiny.

10. Always use reverse psychology, rewarding, promoting and protecting bad clergy and exiling, excluding and ignoring good clergy. Make the bad clergy your favourites, believing their slanders and protecting them from criticism, and always support any troublemakers against the innocent – this will be very effective in creating distrust and division – divide and rule is after all one of your chief aims. This will result in the demoralization and paralysis of the good clergy and empty the parishes – something that you can be proud of. In this way, anything that survives in your church will be in spite of you, not because of you.

11. As you are hypocritical and insincere, you can also be inconsistent, with one rule for some, the opposite for others, being excessively strict when you should be lenient and excessively lenient when you should be strict. In this way you will discourage the good and encourage the bad, which will help enormously in wrecking your church.

12. Through your bullying, intimidation, mean criticisms and cruelty make sure that everyone is wary of you, creating a permanent state of nervous tension and dread of your presence as the playground bully, because nobody knows what or who you will attack next. In this case you will not be invited to your neglected church very often and so you will have even more time for yourself.

13. Whenever possible, take petty revenge on those who dare to tell the truth, contradict you and resist you, destroying and demeaning them and their churches. Ensure that you create the maximum amount of injustices and scandals among the faithful, this will help make your church even smaller and give you even less to do.

14. If you have to admit that you have had ‘difficulties’ (you never admit that you were wrong), always be insincere in your half-apologies and always justify yourself by blaming others for the difficulties. Remember that as they are intellectually and culturally inferior to you they do not understand, whereas you of course do.

15. Never show any appreciation or thank your clergy for anything they do, despite your discouragement, but forget them, find fault with them and discourage them, finally crushing them.

16. Love prestige, honours and flattery, and get as many photographs of yourself taken as possible with the important, rich and famous. These you can admire in your leisure time and they will further boost your ego. On the other hand, do not bother to talk to the ordinary clergy and people who populate your church, they are below you, and make sure that they know that you openly despise them.

17. Never forget that all you have done will leave your church traumatized for decades to come. The damage you have done is lasting and will be spoken about for generations. You can feel proud of yourself. Well done!

18. Never think for one moment that you have been seen through, that everyone knows you, and that is why they avoid you, and that you will be judged, if not in this world, then in the next.

19. Always strive to forget that, despite the damage you have done locally, you will never succeed in destroying the Church as a whole because it belongs to God, not to man, especially not to you.

20. Forget that God can at any moment demand back from you your soul that He has loaned you for a time and never tremble for fear of Him.

Zeal as a Spiritual Illness

Introduction

Some people speak of ‘zealous Christians’, as though this were a good thing to be. However, I am always deeply troubled by that phrase, for the simple reason that zeal is by no means good. In fact, there are two sorts of zeal, one is based on pride, the other on humility. The sad fact is that the former, in my experience, is far more common than the latter. Zeal is often a spiritual illness unless it can be channelled by obedience to experience.

Bad Zeal = Contempt for Others: The Pride-Isolation-Discouragement-Lapse Cycle.

Pride comes before the fall – that is the spiritual law in all situations. And pride is at the root of bad zeal with its pharisaic comparisons with others. Pride says: ‘I am better than they are’; ‘I can do everything better than they can’; ‘as regards the others, who do not come to church all the time, who do not pray like me, who do not cross themselves often and do not keep the fasts as strictly as I do, all they are fit for is criticism from me’. Ironically, pride always boasts: ‘I am sinful and unworthy’. (We already know that you are sinful and unworthy, like the rest of us, it is part of being a human-being. Stop being a pharisee). Be intolerant of others and sectarian – and you are well on your way to your self-imposed exit from the Church. Be literal in everything, never be indulgent and show no pastoral ‘economy’ (dispensations for weaknesses).

Thanks to your mountain of self-admiring pride, you will soon find yourself in a state of self-isolation. You will flee others, but they will also flee you, for your priggish pride and grim-faced airs of superiority will turn them away. And you will have done that to yourself. Isolation is entirely your own fault. The result is discouragement, depression and despair for you, but not for the others. The final stage is when you give up, falling away from the Faith because you cannot go on like that any longer. This is because you have created a devilish brick wall against which you have been knocking your head for so long that the alternative to giving up has for you become insanity. The strange thing is that those whom you criticized so mercilessly and arrogantly as bad Christians at the beginning will still be there. But you will not.

Good Zeal = Love of God: The Humility-Sociability-Encouragement-Discernment Cycle.

Good zeal, that is, the love of God, grows out of humility, the willingness to learn little by little from each and all. For the word humility comes from ‘humus’, the word for ground, for only those who are grounded are realists and you can only build on solid ground – never in the demon-haunted air. In order to learn, you must first admit that you know nothing, that you have come to learn, not to teach and preach, that you have an enormous amount to learn and that it will take a long, long time, that gradualism is vital, that books will help you little here, that you have to learn from other human-beings who have the one thing that you cannot get from books – whoever you are – experience. If you start running without first learning to walk, you will inevitably fall over (see above). So learn to walk before you run.

If you have humility, you will have the willingness to learn. And for that you must be sociable, talking to others, so that you can learn from them, asking them questions, ready to listen to them, obeying them and serving them. If you are sociable, mixing with others, you will not know of isolation and so the discouragement that comes from isolation, for you will find encouragement from others in any simple human contact. That is why monks and nuns live in community, not in isolation. After all, you are new, the others were there long before you and, moreover, they are still there. If you want to be like them, copy them because they have discernment, which is the ability to see the psychology that lies behind what people say and do. It is the opposite of spiritual blindness. And it is the key to survival, your survival.

Conclusion

After over forty years, I can write the above. They can be summed up by the following story that happened six years ago. An ex-Anglican priest in a jurisdiction of converts boasted to me that he had ‘made’ 200 ‘converts’ in 15 years. My reaction was to ask him how many had lapsed. He replied shamefacedly, ‘Nearly all of them’. I do wish that man had become Orthodox before he had been ordained. He was ill.

Some Missionary Notes

After 33 years as an Orthodox clergyman in three different countries, I would like to make the following observations about missionary work. Before anything else, it must be said that missionary work is never done top-down. In other words, it is not a matter of people sitting in offices poring over maps and sticking pins in them. That would be a great mistake. We are not McDonalds. Missionary work begins at the grassroots with the people who are inspired by God. It is therefore down-up. Some 15-20 years ago I wrote an article on what is vital for missionary work. It was entitled something like ‘The Three Ps’. The Three Ps are People, Premises and Priest – in this and no other order. Let me explain.

People

The first P means that all new missions open because there are people who want them. People does not mean self-servers who want to ‘open a mission’ for their own vainglory. Nor does it mean people who have a consumerist mentality towards the Church: ‘We demand a priest who will do everything we want him to do’. People means Orthodox people who want to pray together in an Orthodox church building, worshipping, praying to and thanking God, receiving the sacraments, of whom at least one can read and sing. Their first task is to contact their bishops and ask for his blessing, then decide whom they wish to dedicate their future church to and next look for suitable premises, preparing for financial sacrifices.

Premises

The second P means Premises, suitable for Orthodox services. It does not matter too much what they look like on the outside, at least initially, but on the inside they must be capable of transformation so that they will look like and then feel like an Orthodox church. They must be public-access premises with planning permission, located where Orthodox live, in a town or city, not in the middle of nowhere, still less be part of a private house of property. Ideally, they should be neither too small, nor too big, though with room to expand. If they have a kitchen, meeting-room, toilets, parking and you can have processions around them on Great Friday, Easter Night and on the patronal feast, then they must be near ideal.

Priest

The third and final P is priest. This is the least important issue because if you have people and premises, a priest will appear. However, it is vital that the priest speaks the language of his parishioners – in all senses. This means not only that he speaks and understands at least some of the most common language of his parishioners – which may not be English – but that he understands them and sympathizes with them. It is ideal when a priest is one of the group of people who has made his way through all the stages of priesthood – reader – subdeacon – deacon – priest – and therefore knows what he is talking about and understands.