Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Vision of Mr Gibbes

A Talk Given at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Oxford on 23 March 2013 after the Memorial Service at Archimandrite Nicholas’ Grave in Headington Cemetery.

Photo of Mr GibbesCharles Sydney Gibbes, for short Sydney Gibbes, was born 137 years ago, on 19 January 1876. In the 19th century this was the feast day of St John the Baptist, the voice that cried in the wilderness. His parents were called John and Mary – more English than that you cannot find. His father was a bank manager in Rotherham, just outside Sheffield, in Yorkshire. Amusingly, this would later be recorded by a Russian civil servant on Sydney’s residence papers in Russia as ‘Rotterdam’.

With no fewer than ten siblings, Sydney grew up into a stereotypical, Victorian, Protestant young man of the educated classes. He received this education at Cambridge, where he changed the spelling of his surname to Gibbes, from Gibbs, as the adopted form is the older, historical one. This change was typical of his love of detail and historical accuracy. Sydney is described as: severe, stiff, self-restrained, imperturbable, quiet, gentlemanly, cultured, pleasant, practical, brave, loyal, honourable, reliable, impeccably clean, with high character, of good sense and with agreeable manners. e 2wasHe seems the perfect Victorian gentleman – not a man with a vision.

However, as we know from history, underneath Victorian gentlemen lurked other sides – repressed, but still present. For example, we know that he could be stubborn, that he used corporal punishment freely, that he could be very awkward with others, almost autistic, as we might say today, and he is recorded as having quite a temper, though these traits mellowed greatly with the years. Dmitri Kornhardt recalled how in later life tears would stream down Fr Nicholas’ face when conducting services in memory of the Imperial Martyrs, but how also he would very rapidly recover himself after such unEnglish betrayals of emotion.

Underneath the Victorian reserve there was indeed a hidden man, one with spiritual sensitivity, who was not indifferent to ladies and interested in theatre and theatricals, spiritualism, fortune-telling and palmistry, and one who was much prone to recording his dreams. Perhaps this is why, when after University he had been thinking of the Anglican priesthood as a career, he had found it ‘stuffy’ and abandoned that path. Talking to those who knew him and reading his biographies, and there are three of them, we cannot help feeling that as a young man Sydney was searching for something – but he knew not what. The real man would out from beneath his Victorian conditioning.

Perhaps this is why in 1901, aged 25, he found himself teaching English in Russia – a country with which he had no connection. Here he was to spend over 17 years. The key moment came in autumn 1908 when he went to the Imperial Palace in Tsarskoe Selo and became the English tutor of the Imperial children. In particular, he became close to the Tsarevich Alexis, with whom he identified very closely. Why? We can only speculate that there was a sympathy or else complementarity of characters; together with Sydney’s bachelordom, this may have been enough for the friendship to develop. In any case, he became almost a member of the Imperial Family and their profound and lifelong admirer of their exemplary Christian Faith and kindness.

In August 1917 Sydney found himself following the Family to Tobolsk. Utterly loyal to the Family, in July 1918 he found himself in Ekaterinburg, after the unimaginable crime in the Ipatiev House had taken place. He helped identify objects, returning again and again to the House, picking up mementoes, which he was to cling on to until the end, and still reluctant to believe that the crime had taken place. Coming almost half way through his life when he was aged 42, this was without doubt the crucial event in that life, the turning point, the spark that made him seek out his destiny in all seriousness. With the murder of the Family, the bottom had fallen out of his life, his raison d’etre had gone. Where could he go from here?

He did not, like most, return to England. We know that he, like Tsar Nicholas, had been particularly shocked by what he saw as the British betrayal of the Imperial Family. Indeed, we know that it was the scheming Buchanan, the British ambassador to St Petersburg, who had been behind the February 1917 Revolution and deposition of the Tsar. This had been much greeted by the treacherous Lloyd George as the ‘achievement of one of our war aims’. (We now also know that it had been British spies who had assassinated Rasputin and also that the Tsar’s own cousin, George V, had refused to help the Tsar and His Family escape).

In fact, disaffected by Britain’s politics, from Ekaterinburg Sydney went east – to Siberian Omsk and then further east, to Beijing and then Harbin. Off and on he would spend another 17 years here, in Russian China, Manchuria. In about 1922 he suffered a serious illness. His religiosity seems to have grown further and after this he would go to study for the Anglican priesthood at St Stephen’s House in Oxford. However, for someone with the world-changing experience he had had, that was not his way; perhaps he still found Anglicanism ‘stuffy’. Finally, in 1934, in Harbin, he joined the Russian Orthodox Church.

There is no doubt that he did this as a direct result of the example of the Imperial Family, for he took the Orthodox name of Alexis – the name of the Tsarevich. He was to describe this act as like ‘getting home after a long journey’, words which perhaps describe the reception into the Orthodox Church of any Western person. Thus, from England, to Russia and then to China, he had found his way. In December 1934, aged almost 59, he became successively monk, deacon and priest. He was now to be known as Fr Nicholas – a name deliberately taken in honour of Tsar Nicholas. In 1935 he was made Abbot by Metr Antony of Kiev, the head of the Church Outside Russia and later he received the title of Archimandrite.

Wishing to establish some ‘Anglo-Orthodox organisation’, in 1937 Fr Nicholas Gibbes came back to live in England permanently. He was aged 61. Of this move he wrote: ‘It is my earnest hope that the Anglican Church should put itself right with the Holy Orthodox Church’. He went to live in London in the hope of setting up an English-language parish. In this he did not succeed and in 1940 he moved to Oxford. In this last part of his life in Oxford, as some here remember, he became the founder of the first local Russian Orthodox chapel at 4, Marston Street, where he lived in humble and modest circumstances. In recalling the address of that first chapel dedicated to St Nicholas, we cannot help recalling that today’s St Nicholas church, where we speak, is off Marston Road, and not so very far away from Marston Street.

Not an organiser, sometimes rather erratic, even eccentric, Fr Nicholas was not perhaps an ideal parish priest, but he was sincere and well-respected. In Oxford he cherished the mementoes of the Imperial Family to the end. Before he departed this life, on 24 March 1963, an icon given to him by the Imperial Family, was miraculously renewed and began to shine. One who knew him at the time confirmed this and after Fr Nicholas’ death, commented that now at last Fr Nicholas was seeing the Imperial Family again – for he had been waiting for this moment for 45 years. He was going to meet once more those who had shaped his destiny in this world.

In the 1980s I met in an old people’s home in Paris Count Komstadius. He had met Fr Nicholas in 1954, but perhaps had seen him before, since his father had been in charge of the Tsarskoe Selo estate and he himself had been a childhood friend of the Tsarevich. I remember in the 1980s visiting him. In the corner of his room in front of an icon of the martyred Tsarevich there burned an icon-lamp. He turned to me and said: ‘That is such a good icon, it is just like him and yet also it is an icon’. Not many of us lives to see a childhood playfriend become a saint and have his icon painted. Yet as a young man in his thirties Fr Nicholas had known a whole family, whom he considered to be saints. Indeed, he had been converted by their example.

There are those who have life-changing experiences. They are fortunate, because they stop living superficially, stop drifting through life and stop wasting God-sent opportunities. Such life-changing experiences can become a blessing if we allow them to become so. Fr Nicholas was one such person, only his life-changing experience was also one that had changed the history of the whole world. For a provincial Victorian Yorkshire bank manager’s son, who had grown up with his parents John and Mary, he had come very far. And yet surely the seeds had been there from the beginning. To be converted we first of all need spiritual sensitivity, a seeking spirit, but secondly we also need an example. Fr Nicholas had had both, the example being the Imperial Martyrs. As the late Princess Koutaissova, whom many of us knew, said of his priesthood: ‘He was following his faithfulness to the Imperial Family’.

In this brief talk I have not mentioned many aspects of Fr Nicholas’ life, such as his possible engagement, his adopted son, his hopes in Oxford. This is because they do not interest me much here. I have tried to focus on the essentials, on the spiritual meaning of his life. Those essentials are, I believe, to be found in his haunted and haunting gaze. Looking at his so expressive face, we see a man staring into the distance, focusing on some vision, both of the past and of the future. This vision was surely of the past life he had shared with the martyred Imperial Family and also of the future – his long hoped-for meeting with them once more, his ‘sense of completion’.

To the Ever-memorable Archimandrite Nicholas: Eternal Memory!

The Romanovs – 400 Years

Romanov billboard

The above poster has appeared on billboards in the Ukraine in recent days. It says: Orthodoxy. Sovereignty. The People. Our ancestors lived according to their conscience. What about us? 1613-2013. 400 years of the House of Romanov. According to opinion polls of recent years between 25% and 35% of Russians would like to see the return of the monarchy. However, no-one knows of a suitable candidate.

Another Italian Pope?

The election yesterday of a new Pope of Rome has called forth various reactions, those of the cynical and those of the optimists. What are those reactions?

Cynics say that the whole event is a PR stunt. The embattled cardinals have chosen a weak front man, who has taken the sentimental name of Francis as Pope. The image he will project is of a humble and poor monk. In reality, so they say, this represents no change; whatever his real personality, the same people will run the show from behind the scenes.

They point to the fact that, at the age of 76, Francis I appears to be another stop-gap Pope. Although not officially Italian, he was born of Italian parents in Argentina, the most Italian part of South America, where even the Spanish is Italian. They see in him just another Italian or, at least, semi-Italian, bureaucrat.

Finally, the cynics see in this Jesuit (a word that is a synonym for scheming and cunning, one for whom ‘the ends justifies the means’) a man who compromised himself with the tyrannical Argentinian junta of some 35 years ago. Orthodox will note that Francis I was in charge of ‘Eastern Catholics’ in Argentina and recall the cruelty of the Jesuits who operated Uniatism in Eastern Europe.

Optimists will be appalled at such cynicism. Giving him the benefit of any doubt there may be, they see in the new Pope a sincere, pious, humble man of orthodox faith, who knows how to communicate with simple people. For them, he is a pastor who shares and understands the life of the people, like the average Orthodox priest, traditional in teaching but liberal in social matters and justice.

They see in him not a theoretical academic, but a realist. His age, they might say, proves it. Here is a man of experience, the very experience that is necessary to reform and cleanse the Vatican from its infernal, self-justifying and corrupt bureaucracy. Surely he is intelligent and practical enough to know how to delegate and manage people.

In the new Pope they see the opportunity for Roman Catholicism to return to the essentials. Perhaps he will turn the Vatican, with its indecent frescoes, into a giant Renaissance museum. Tourists could be charged to enter and the money collected given to the Catholic poor of the Third World. Meanwhile, the Church could transfer its centre to one of the early churches of the Rome of the first millennium.

With time we will see who is right, the pessimists or the optimists. For our part, we are reminded of the words of the first English Orthodox priest of the last century, Fr Nicholas Gibbes, who in 1934 described embracing Orthodoxy as ‘like getting home after a long journey’. The Roman Catholic world has been on a very, very, very long journey. It is our hope, however small, that the new Pope might understand this.

The Next Pope: An Orthodox Perspective

Presumably, the next Pope will be elected from among the 115 cardinals now in conclave in Rome. Of course, it is also possible that they could break with some 750 years of custom and elect one who is outside their college. That would be acceptable, although highly surprising. As regards who will be elected, nobody knows and it is a waste of time speculating. Obviously, Orthodox will not be consulted about the election, but we might think what general type of man we would like to be elected.

Firstly, we would like to see a man of faith, and not some swim-with-the-secular-tide conformist. This might suggest an African, or at least someone who is not from Europe. Normally, a man of faith would automatically have some sort of charisma, or presence, which he could express and communicate – that is essential. Thus, the future Pope should not look like an elderly and dreary Vatican bureaucrat, as so many cardinals appear to.

Secondly, it is clear that Roman Catholicism needs to be managed, which rather excludes the ivory tower intellectual, academic, teacher type, represented by the last Pope. However, a manager does not at all mean that the next Pope should be an accountant/administrator with an MBA. That would be a disaster. What is needed is someone who knows how to delegate the necessary management to the right people, so that he is left to perform his main task – praying.

Thirdly, Roman Catholicism surely needs someone who can distinguish between the ‘primaries’ of the Faith and the ‘secondaries’. The primaries are the Church Tradition, teachings established in the First Millennium, the secondaries are those inessential customs that replaced primaries, or else were added on to it, in the Second Millennium. The primaries include all the dogmas and teachings of the fourth century Creed, purified from the filioque deformation first confessed in Rome in 1014, nearly 1,000 years ago. They also include a sacramental attitude to the world, a male priesthood and the Biblical, Apostolic and Patristic attitude to homosexuality.

The secondaries include the introduction of such temporary and pernicious customs as priestly celibacy, which has helped to lead to sexual perversion, or the dogmatic attitude to contraception that makes almost all married Catholics into hypocrites. This also means putting back what has been taken away in the Second Millennium, restoring the original understanding of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of God, the Saints, holiness, the Church as the image of the Holy Trinity, unity in diversity, the role of the Local Church and the episcopate, the sense of the mystical and the sacred.

The above three qualities, a prayerful faith communicated through charisma, the ability to delegate management to the right people, and the ability to return to the essentials of the Christian Faith, rid of the deformations of the Second Millennium, may not be found in any of the 115 cardinals. In that case, it would be time to look outside their college. The right choice is vital – because Roman Catholicism now faces a test of survival. Either it can go the whole way and become fully secularised like most of the Protestant world, as it threatens to do, or else it can return through repentance to the Church and Orthodoxy, which it so short-sightedly abandoned a whole millennium ago. It is make or break time. May God’s will be done.

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Repose of Archimandrite Nicholas Gibbes, English Tutor to the Martyred Tsarevich Alexis

Saturday 23rd March at the Russian Orthodox parish of St Nicholas the Wonderworker, 34 Ferry Road, Marston, Oxford OX3 0EU

9.30 Hours
10.00 Divine Liturgy
12.15 Litya at the grave of Fr Nicholas in Headington Cemetery
13.00 Lunch
13.30 Talks by Metr Kallistos and others
15.00 Tea and departure

In 1934 Archimandrite Nicholas (Gibbes), a Cambridge-educated, Englishman, joined the Russian Orthodox Church, as a result of the martyrdom of the Imperial Family whom he, as Charles Sidney Gibbes, had so devotedly served. In joining Her, he took the name of the Tsarevich Alexis and then, being ordained a priest-monk in 1935, took the name of Tsar Nicholas. Therefore, on Saturday 10/23 March 2013, the day on which Orthodox memorial services are celebrated and the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Fr Nicholas’ repose, we shall celebrate a memorial service on his grave at Headington cemetery in Oxford.

We shall pray for the repose of his soul and so also honour the saints whose examples converted him to the Orthodox Church. With Fr Nicholas Gibbes, a model of nobility and loyalty, we too shall be witnesses before history and stand firm in telling the Truth. In his life for the Tsar, Fr Nicholas became the first English priest of the multinational Russian Orthodox Church, an English wreath on the invisible graves of the Imperial Martyrs and an act of repentance on behalf of the English Nation.

The Future Nears

Twenty-five years ago the Russian Orthodox Lands, ‘Rus’, for short, commemorated the millennium of their Baptism. At that time there began the great spiritual revival that has continued since. A generation on, in 2013, we can see how far things have moved on. The period of the abhorrent Gorbachev, who destroyed tens of millions of lives, that of the ephemeral gerontocrats before him, the period before that of Brezhnevian stagnation, and before that of the ignoramus and atheist fanatic Khrushchev, have been rejected, seen for what they were. That part of recent history has been rejected and even reversed, but the Russian Lands have still not worked their way through the Stalinist period before them. The recent debate in Russia about the role of Stalin in history, sparked by the 70th anniversary of Stalingrad, is indicative of this.

Opposed to those who see Stalin as a forerunner of Antichrist, there are nationalists who, blinded by their nationalism, see him as a great leader. They fail to see that it was not Stalin who won the War; it was the peoples whom he oppressed who won the War and so saved the West from Fascism. This proves that Stalin has not yet been exorcised from the national psyche. And it is only once he has been exorcised that the final barrier to full resurrection can be overcome. That final barrier is Lenin, whose mummy still lies in mockery by the Kremlin walls, and the thousands of statues, streets and places which still commemorate that demon and his fellow fiends. The Russian Lands are still on a knife-edge. They can still choose to go downwards ever further into the spiral of corruption and degeneration, abortion and alcoholism, emigration in despair and the ever-growing demographic crisis.

The mineral wealth of Rus, like its oil, gas, metals and timber also, are not for oligarchs to buy villas and mansions and waste their substance like the prodigal in London and Tel-Aviv, in New York and Paris, in Nicosia and Bangkok. That mineral wealth was destined by God to build churches in the Russian Lands, in Russian America (Alaska) and the English and Latin Americas, in Europe and Africa, in Asia and Oceania. The fortune of only one of these oligarchs would be enough. Others could pay for decent housing for Russian families, so that the young would not be afraid to have and bring up large families. The vast steppes of the Ukraine and Russia, before the First World War the breadbasket of Western Europe, were also given by God. They are not to be deserted and depopulated, left fallow, so that the Russian Lands have themselves to import grain. They are there to feed the world.

If there is no mass repentance, no return to the only true ideology of Rus, Orthodoxy, Sovereignty and the People, then the Russian Lands will be lost and broken up. Siberia will be occupied by the USA, China and Japan, which will ruthlessly strip it of its resources. Belarus will become a province of Poland. Georgia and the Ukraine will become more EU/NATO colonies, new Kosovos. And European Russia will be divided into various provinces on a divide and rule basis, in other words it will be Yugoslavised. As for the Russian Orthodox Church, it will be Constantinopolised and Antiochised, subjugated to the humiliation of not even being able to use its own calendar, the calendar of the saints and Fathers. And Air Force One will drop off the new puppet-Patriarch from the USA, the Orthodox Patriarch himself deposed and exiled, just like Patriarch Maximos V of Constantinople in 1948.

However, there is an alternative, but only one alternative. If mass repentance does take place, alcoholism, abortion and corruption ceasing with it, then Orthodox Rus can be restored. If there is mass repentance and the spiritual level does rise, then inevitably the Monarchy will be restored. This Tsar, perhaps the last before Antichrist, will be ‘what is restraining him now’ (2 Thess 2, 6). This Tsar will hold back the tide of evil that is now sweeping through the world. Anointed by the Church, he will restore the Church worldwide. To most, such a hope seems unlikely. We will agree that given the current state of the Russian Lands, humanly speaking, this all seems quite impossible. However, given the changes that we have seen since 1988, we cannot exclude the grace of God from the destiny of the Russian Lands, from the possible fulfilment of Orthodox Rus, of Holy Rus, of the light before the end.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

The Sunday of the Last Judgement, 2013

The 400th Anniversary of the House of Romanov

Moscow, 6 March 2013

On 6 March, the 400th anniversary of the election of Michael Feodorovich Romanov to be Tsar, His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and all the Russias celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition in the Moscow Kremlin.

Concelebrating with His Holiness were: Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Church’s External Relations Department; Archbishop Mark of Egorievsk, Head of the Department for Foreign Institutions of the Moscow Patriarchate; Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart; Bishop Theophylact of Dmitrov; Bishop Ignaty of Bronnitsy, Chairman of the Synodal Department for Youth Affairs; Bishop Sergy of Solnechnogorsk, Head of the Secretariat of the Moscow Patriarchate; Bishop Panteleimon of Smolensk and Vyazma, Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church Charities and Social Services; Archpriest Vladimir Divakov, Secretary of the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias for the City of Moscow; Archimandrite Tihon (Shevkunov), Superior of the Stavropegic Sretensky Monastery; Archimandrite Savva (Tutunov), Deputy Chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate; Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, Head of the Synodal Department for Relations between Church and Society; Archpriest Vladimir Siloviev, Head of the Moscow Patriarchal Publishing House; Archpriest Michael Riazantsev, Priest in Charge of the Cathedral Church of Christ the Saviour; Archpriest Alexander Dasaiev, Dean of the Voskresensky District of Moscow; Archpriest Anatoly Kozha, Dean of the Paraskevo-Piatnitsky District of Moscow; Archpriest Anatoly Rodionov, Dean of the Vlahernsky District of Moscow; Archpriest Oleg Korytko, Head of the Review Department of the Moscow Patriarchate; Hieromonk Nikon (Belavenets) and other clerics of the City of Moscow.

Also present at the service were: the Head of the Russian Imperial House Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, the great-great-grandson of Emperor Alexander III, P.E. Kulikovsky, the Chairman of the Association of Russian Nobility, Prince G. G. Gagarin, and the Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee of the Russian Federation for Public Associations and Religious Organizations, M.Y. Markelov.

The Moscow Synodal choir, led by Alexei Puzakov, and the choir of the Academy of Choral Arts, led by Alexei Petrov, sang at the service. Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov, the Rector of All Saints Church in Krasnoye Selo in Moscow, gave a sermon before communion.

At the Liturgy prayers were said ‘for the eternal repose of the souls of the departed servants of God, the ever-memorable rulers of Holy Rus, faithful Princes and Princesses, Tsars and Tsarinas, and all who were in authority and with diligence cared for the purity of the faith and ruled our land in the faith of the Christian law’, and the names of Tsars, Emperors and Empresses of the House of Romanov were enumerated.

After the Liturgy a short service of intercession to the Holy Royal Martyrs was celebrated: to Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra and the Royal Children, Alexey, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.

His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill gave a speech as First Hierarch to those who took part in the service.

This was followed by a procession to the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael – the burial place of many rulers of Russia, including Romanovs. A short memorial service was celebrated in the Cathedral for the repose of the souls of Russia’s rulers, ‘buried in this place of repose and elsewhere’ with the enumeration of the names of rulers from the House of Romanov. (Report from the Press Service of the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias).

The procession to the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael was accompanied by ‘the solemn ringing of bells’, a peal used for processions. After the short memorial service in the Cathedral a triumphal royal peal of bells was performed – revived by the bell-ringers of the Kremlin and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on the basis of the peal of bells in the coronation scene in Musorgsky’s opera ‘Boris Godunov’. It was performed on the bells of the first, second and third stages of the bell-tower of Ivan the Great, using the ‘Reut’ bell, which hangs in the Dormition belfry. The ‘Reut’ is the oldest 1000-pood (over 16 tons) Russian bell, and was cast in 1622 by the master-founder Andrei Chokhov. The inscription on the bell mentions Tsar Michael Feodorovich Romanov and his father, Patriarch Philaret Nikitich Romanov.

The Sunday of the Last Judgement 2013

The Patriarchate of Antioch is facing oblivion in its homeland

Most Orthodox Christians in Syria live in the westernmost parts of that country. It is from here that most of the Christians have been forced to flee for their lives, mainly to the Lebanon. Catholic sources now say that 65% of the natives of Aleppo, once the largest Christian city in Syria, have fled, that every single parish both in the city centre and in the suburbs of Homs, the third largest city in Syria, has been devastated, and that in Damascus itself most parishes have closed and the enthronement of Patriarch John took place in a half-empty Cathedral; it was necessary to hold another enthronement in Beirut. After the Golgotha of Iraq’s Christians, Syria has followed. The Patriarchate, forced out of Antioch (in Turkey), may now be forced out of Damascus in turn. Two news reports follow.

Syria: Muslim Militia Forces Christian Exodus

Posted GMT 3-2-2013 7:12:8

Syria’s 2,000-year-old Christian community is being devastated by the country’s civil war.
A Swedish journalist interviewed more than 100 Syrian Christian refugees in Turkey and
Lebanon. They say Muslim rebel militia are driving them out because of their faith.
One woman said her husband and son were shot in the head just because they were

Syria’s population of 2 million Christians is the second largest in the Middle East after Egypt,
and now whole villages are disappearing when Islamist rebels arrive. Every week, hundreds of Syrian Christians arrive in Lebanon. A Lebanese Patriarch said it is a ‘great exodus taking place in silence.’

CBN Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell spoke with Lela Gilbert, co-author
of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, about the persecution of Christians
in Syria and the Middle East.
Watch more of Mitchell’s interview with Gilbert.

Number of Syrians in Lebanon Reaches 920,000
Posted GMT 3-2-2013 7:15:51

According to Lebanese government sources, more than 920,000 Syrians (both migrant
workers and persons displaced from the war) are now in Lebanon. The security problems are
getting worse in many areas in Lebanon because many of these Syrians are armed. Western
diplomats in Lebanon have praised the Lebanese government for its cooperation and for not
closing the Lebanese-Syrian border, just as they have praised the Lebanese people for
hosting displaced Syrian families.

But some Western ambassadors have begun to warn Lebanese officials that the displaced
Syrians now constitute a ‘powder keg’, especially since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s
opponents have started thinking of forming armed militias in Lebanon, risking a war between
them and the Lebanese. (There are precise figures about the armed Syrians, which show
they are all over Lebanon, including the capital.)

According to Western circles, the gravity of the issue is pressuring the Lebanese government
to keep a close eye on displaced Syrians in Lebanon. These Western circles told As-Safir
that the Syrian crisis could spread to Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is consistent with the Western officials he meets (most
recently, British Foreign Secretary William Hague when he visited Lebanon, and UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Davos). He has given Western countries three options: to
close the border with Syria, which is impossible for practical and geographic reasons,
especially since 80% of the Lebanese border is shared with Syria; to transfer some of those
displaced to other countries or for Lebanon to be quickly given material aid as its
humanitarian burden grows.

Of course, the third option is preferred by Western countries and the UN, even though they
are very slow in providing the funds promised at the conference for displaced Syrians in

Circles close to Mikati told As-Safir that ‘the disbursement of funds is very slow. Lebanon is
in immediate need of $370 million but all we have received so far are promises’. The two
countries that generally keep their promises of money are ‘Kuwait and the UAE, which are
giving large amounts of money for the displaced’….

By Marlene Khalifeh
AL Monitor
Translated from As-Safir (Lebanon).

From Recent Correspondence and Conversations – March 2013

Q: What dangers should those new to the Church especially try to avoid?

A: There are many dangers, just as many as for those of us who are not new to the Church, but the dangers are different ones. Those new to the Church are neophytes and that psychology, common to neophytes of all nationalities and in all religions, is particular.

For instance, I remember about 30 years ago meeting a young Irish woman who had converted to Judaism on marrying a Jew. She had taken up her new religion with all the zeal that you used to associate with Irish Catholicism. She was completely over the top, did not use birth control, wore rather strange clothes, had to eat kosher food, was incredibly pro-Israeli, read a lot etc. Her husband, who was a real Jew, could not have cared a less about any of this and had probably never read a book about Judaism in his life. She was the one who imposed Shabbat on him. In other words, there was no theology there, just the obsessive psychology of insecurity – she felt she had to prove herself by being more Jewish than the Jews. I suspect it all had to do with competition with her mother-in-law, rather than her husband.

Q: What can this type of neophyte insecurity lead to?

A: To extremes – and I think, essentially, the neophyte, like all of us, should avoid extremes. I would take as an example the late French convert, Olivier Clement. In his youth, he tried to be more Russian than the Russians, busying himself with wearing ‘Russian’ clothes and other externals and reading a lot, which he thought would make him Orthodox. Realising that this was absurd, he then went to the other extreme and began writing against the Russian Church, adopting semi-Catholic views and even taking communion in the Catholic Church. These same convert extremes can be seen in other personalities who in their youth were over-zealous, then became over-lax. In this country, for instance, I can think of cases of going from being more Greek than the Greeks to being more Anglican than the Anglicans

Q: How can you fight against such temptations?

A: Keeping a sense of reality. For example, this tendency to a lack of balance is greatly reinforced among intellectuals who do not have their feet on the ground in parish life, so that they have no living examples before them. The Church is not about reading, but about experience of real life. This is why mixed parishes with mixed languages are so vital. Little convert middle-class hothouses, passing themselves off as ‘Orthodox’, or even ‘more Orthodox than the Orthodox’, often trying to impose their own strange or eccentric agendas on the Church and always collapse.

In such groups ‘foreigners’ and ‘foreign languages’ are usually despised or made to feel not at home. Such inward-looking communities are just as much ethnic, ‘phyletist’ ghettos as immigrant or exile groups in big cities – but with a difference. Those groups are at least authentic, but the neophyte groups are pretending or playing, starting ‘beard competitions’, so beloved of ex-Anglicans, for example. This is because they have no roots in Orthodox reality, often, sadly, fleeing that reality. You really either have to get on the Orthodox train or else get off the tracks. If you do not, you will be run over – and it will be your own fault.

Q: Are there other consequences of such insecurity?

A: Yes, judgementalism. Censorious convert conversations like ‘this bishop does that’, or ‘that priest smokes’, or ‘there is a scandal there, so I cannot belong to that Local Church’ always display the same negativity. For example, I know a priest of the Antiochian jurisdiction who gives communion to anyone, Orthodox or not. Does that mean that I am not in communion with his Patriarch or all the many serious bishops and priests of his Church? Of course, I am.

Such conversations are very depressing, because they do not focus on reality, but only on the negative. Did the Apostles focus on Judas? No. So we too should focus on the 100 parishes where life is normal or even thriving and forget the one where there is some sort of scandal. This is not even a case of seeing a half-full glass as half-empty, this is a case of seeing a 99% full glass as 99% empty. The demon plays with our sense of reality and, sowing illusions in our minds, creates depressions, schisms and lapses. We do not lapse because of some scandal; a scandal should bring us zeal. ‘There but for the grace of God go I’, is what we should be saying. That is what the Apostles did after Judas. They had no illusions, but they also rejoiced in the Faith.

Q: What can we do to counter such thoughts?

A: Depression comes from pride. Be humble. Life is beautiful – God made it, not death. We should not expect others to be saints, when we ourselves are not saints. We should condemn only ourselves, others we should always find excuses for. We are responsible only for saving our own soul. Stop interfering, looking at your neighbour. Until we have learned this, we are not Christians, we are only sources of pride, for whom nothing is ever good enough. This is where neophyte idealism is dangerous. As they say: ‘If the grass is greener on the other side, start watering your own side’. We must stay with the mainstream and flee the fringes and margins around the Church. Of course, if we ourselves are asked to compromise, that is a different matter. But that is rare.

Q: How do we avoid compromising ourselves in such cases?

A: I remember a priest at a Diocesan Pastoral Conference in Frankfurt some years ago, asking what would happen when ROCOR and the Patriarchate of Moscow were in communion again, because he knew a particular Patriarchal priest who did totally uncanonical things and the priest who asked the question did not want to concelebrate with him. Archbishop Mark answered very simply and I think with great surprise at the strange question: ‘Then do not invite him to your parish. Then you will not have to concelebrate with him’. It is the same with those who use the Catholic calendar. We have no obligation to go to their parishes and concelebrate with them. But they are welcome to concelebrate with us and we invite them to. In that way they return to the calendar that the Church uses, for a day at least.

An example is from the contemporary OCA, where some ordinary Orthodox are at last revolting against certain converts who have tried to impose Evangelical-style right-wing censoriousness on them. Rooted Orthodox do not want hothouse politics and pseudo-Orthodoxy, they want real-world tolerance. But they do not want lax practice either, which is the other side of the extremist coin. They have suffered from this for over forty years and that has led to the present crisis in the OCA, which means that it has been isolated from World Orthodoxy and few concelebrate with it, as we saw at the recent enthronement of Patriarch John of Antioch.

With all its financial and moral scandals the OCA is suffering from the sort of problems that the Roman Catholics are suffering from – and for the same reason – loss of faith. But that does not mean that everyone there is involved. That is why we must pray for it especially now. It is always a noisy minority that compromises the outward life of the Church. But the angels are still here, in spite of us. Never forget that. We serve God, not man. The Church is God’s, not ours. As for us, today we are here, tomorrow we are gone, but the gates of hell will not prevail. The Church does not need us, we need the Church.

Q: Where can Russian Orthodox in the West go for training at seminary? Would you recommend the new seminary in Paris?

A: Definitely not Paris. It has failed to meet our hopes on all counts and is notoriously ecumenist, as everyone knows and as we have told the authorities in Moscow face to face. It is amazing to us that in Moscow they still naively think in pre-Revolutionary categories, that the Catholic Church is utterly serious and is not subject to the Protestant-style freemasonry, homosexuality and pedophilia that entered it massively after the Americanisation of the Second Vatican Council.

In Russia they never went through the 1960s, so in that sense they still largely retain the freshness and also naivety of the 1950s. However, by compromising themselves by fraternising with Catholics, as they do in Paris, they are also compromising themselves with pedophiles. They do not consider this. It is a great shame that in Moscow they still do not listen to us in ROCOR about such matters. We are the Church Outside Russia, we were born here, we live here, we are aware, we talk to Catholics every day as neighbours and we know what goes on there. There are plenty of ordinary, decent Catholics who look to the Orthodox Church to free them from such tyranny and deformations. But be patient, give them time in Moscow and they will learn.

To answer your question about seminary training today: Seek a blessing to go either to Jordanville or else, in certain cases, to the seminary at Sretensky Monastery in Moscow. One day Paris will be cured. It has only just started.

Q: What is our view today of Metropolitan/Patriarch Sergius (Stragorodsky)? In 1930 over 30 bishops rejected administrative submission to Metropolitan Sergius, disputing his compromise with the atheist authorities. Metropolitan Sergius found himself in isolation, face to face with an atheist orgy, that took on a larger and larger scale. Do we still agree with what Fr Seraphim Rose wrote in his book ‘The Catacomb Saints’?

A: I think our view of Metr Sergius today is very much what it always has been. We do not agree with him, but also we do not condemn him – we never went through what he had to go through and were never faced with the choice between martyrdom and compromise. Having said that, it is true, for example, that Fr Seraphim Rose’s book, ‘The Catacomb Saints’, reflects some of the unnecessarily negative polemics of the Cold War 1970s, but that book is still fundamentally right, despite the sharp language used in it sometimes and its strange title.

In Russia today there is still a hangover from the Soviet period and deSovietisation has not run its course completely. It will take another generation for deSovietisation to be completed. For this reason there are still those there who praise Metr Sergius. However, we should not feel superior, in the West we also underwent the censorious and condemnatory, judgemental pharisee attitudes of ‘ColdWarisation’. But I think most have been able to rid themselves of that alien influence quicker than they have in Russia. Those who did not rid themselves of such attitudes have left us.

Q: What do we make of Metr Sergius’ role in rallying Russians during WWII?

A: As for rallying Russians in World War II, it could easily be argued that the Church survived DESPITE Metr Sergius. Stalin realised he could not win the war without the Church. The Nazi attack on the Russian Lands, on the feast day of All the Saints of the Russian Lands, 22 June 1941, was, paradoxically, what freed the Church, not the compromises of Metr Sergius. And from then on, until Stalin’s death and after that, the Church was not decimated as before 1941. True, Stalin and Khrushchev after him did of course close many, many churches which Stalin had allowed to reopen and still sent many to camps and prisons, but there were no longer the mass shootings etc.

We, who never had to go through Sovietisation, should concentrate on the New Martyrs themselves, on the canonised, for example, on the holy Metr Kyrill of Kazan, and not on such divisive and controversial figures as Metr Sergius. I know that in Russia they are already heading the same way and Metr Sergius is being forgotten by the faithful as, if anything, an embarrassing compromiser. Leave him to the dusty tomes of historians. Let us keep our eyes on the saints, not on the non-saints.

Q: Why does the Church of Constantinople use lots of clerical titles? I know of several bishops and even a metropolitan who are only glorified hieromonks. And the titles of protopresbyter and archimandrite are becoming meaningless as they have become so common there.

A; I think it is quite unfair to say that it is only the Patriarchate of Constantinople that gives out such titles so freely. True, the title protopresbyter seems now to be given there to any priest who has a doctorate and archimandrite is rather used as ‘hieromonk’ is used in the Russian Church. On the other hand, in the Russian Church ‘Metropolitan’ is sometimes used in a titular way as ‘Cardinal’ in the Catholic Church and there is a system of awards in the Russian Church that is often abused. So I cannot see that this is any better than in the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Some people are a little vain and like titles and can be bought with them. Sadly, people have their price and in a world where many priests are not paid in money, they can get paid in titles.

Q: As Orthodox what should we think of Eurasianism?

A: There is something called the International Eurasian Movement, which is Russian-based and developed after the fall of Communism in 1991, though on the basis of a pre-Revolutionary movement. On the surface, Eurasianism has links with Orthodoxy, whose emblem is the double-headed eagle, looking east and west. The Church of God, Orthodox Christianity, has the task and mission of uniting the world, east and west, Europe and Asia, in unity in diversity. (This is quite unlike the Vatican sense of unity – inherited also by the Protestants – which allows little diversity and imposes a totalitarian unitary model on all. This we can see in the EU model, which is a secular form of the Vatican model, and in the US model, which is a secular form of the Protestant model. Such people look at the diversity of Orthodoxy and call it disunity! This is only because they are used to such monolithic, totalitarian heterodox styles).

Generally speaking, Eurasianism sees the modern West (not the historic Old West) as having taken a destructive path, especially since the Reformation and especially since the so-called ‘Enlightenment’. Western culture today has been spiritually emptied, it has lost its soul, abandoning its roots in the Christian Orthodox first millennium, decadently reverting to barbarianism. In other words, behind incredible Western economic and technological sophistication, there is spiritual barbarianism, as can be seen in the Western promotion of sodomy and other politically correct but spiritually pernicious views.

Eurasianism sees the future in Russia, not in the West, which in its decadence ever more resembles the Western Roman Empire just before it fell over fifteen centuries ago. Insofar as this is self-evident, we as Orthodox agree with Eurasianism. However, the problem is that Eurasianism is essentially politics, another ism or ideology, not the Church.

Q: Who founded this Eurasian movement?

A: The founder of modern Eurasianism is the Russian Orthodox philosopher Alexander Dugin, who was born in 1962. Typical of the post-Communist generation, at first, in the 1990s, he tried to reconcile Bolshevism or Stalinism with Orthodoxy. In so doing he also got caught up with post-Soviet right-wing nationalist movements like ‘Pamyat’. His Eurasianism developed out of this spiritual impurity. He has since moved on somewhat and begun to free himself, expressing more traditional Orthodox views, though still remaining a nationalist. However, what is written about him on Wikipedia is probably the work of a CIA hack. There is little truth in that.

I met Alexander Dugin at a Conference in London about eight years ago and had a clear impression of him. He is intellectually clever, but still suffers from spiritual confusion. This is why he mixes Orthodoxy with politics of all sorts, though particularly with right-wing views. His closest disciple is a young intellectual called Natella Speranskaya, who heads the Eurasian Youth Movement, but she also suffers in the same way as Dugin. Dugin is linked with the Greek Orthodox intellectual Dimitrios Kitsikis, an elderly geopolitician of the previous generation. Although also a friend of the Orthodox Tradition – Kitsikis wants the Greek Church to return to the Orthodox calendar – he too suffers from spiritual and nationalist confusion and has been closely linked with Maoism!

What is interesting with both these Orthodox thinkers is that they have both been inspired by the father of geopolitics, the Non-Orthodox English geographer Sir Halford John Mackinder. Mackinder called Eurasia (basically Russia and the Orthosphere, or the Orthodox civilisational world), what we call ‘the Centre’, ‘The Heartland’. This is what Kitsikis calls the Intermediate Region and, I suppose, if we use Tolkien’s terminology, we could also call it ‘Middle Earth’.

In other words, there is no doubt that all three geopoliticians, Englishman, Greek and Russian, completely agree that he who controls Russia / Eurasia controls the world. This is why the territory of the Russian Empire, or Soviet Union, or Russian Federation, whatever the name, has been so much attacked down the centuries – because of its geostrategic significance.

Q: What is happening in Syria?

A: I am only an observer. It is difficult for me to say anything. However, I cannot help observing certain public tendencies in US policies since Mr Obama was re-elected last year. Until then his policies seem to have been Republican and Bushite.

First of all, the US right-wing hawk General Petraeus who wanted to invade Syria and perhaps bomb Iran was sacked, having been compromised, and perhaps framed, in an affair. There followed a root and branch change in US foreign personnel. Most notably the hawkish Russophobe Hillary Clinton was replaced as Secretary of State by John Kerry, formerly a personal friend of President Assad of Syria. Clinton had been blamed for the death of the US ambassador in Benghazi in Libya, killed by Islamic terrorists, armed to the teeth with weapons allowed to them by the US. I think that the US administration realised that it had been arming its enemies. This was seen in Mali too, which Islamists had been conquering with weapons stolen as a result of NATO bombing in Libya. I remember the old saying: ‘Do not spit in the sky, it will fall back on your face’.

Then there was the appointment of the new US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and hero, who called the bankrupting invasion of Iraq one of the greatest blunders in US history. It had completely destabilised the whole region, creating a whole chain of liabilities for the US. This involved Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey (where anti-US attacks have taken place), the Kurds, the Jordan, the Lebanon and the money-pit of Israel – the US had lit a fuse on a powder keg and is now trying to extinguish it before it is too late.

Thus, the realisation that many of the foreign mercenaries fighting President Assad’s government in Syria are terrorists seems at last to have come to the US. From what I understand, I have the impression, and it is only an impression, that the US may have realised that the real danger from its point of view is China and that perhaps it had better leave the Middle East to Russia. It cannot fight both at the same time. Even tiny but incredibly wealthy Saudi Arabian and Qatari dictatorships, which financed and armed the tens of thousands of Sunni Islamist mercenaries in Syria, are worried now. The genie was let out of the bottle. It has to be put back. I think only Russia, which has over one million Russian speakers in Israel and influence in Syria, can do this. Someone has to clean up the mess the West has made.

Q: What are we to think of Columbus?

A: I think he was an Italian sailor who got lost at sea, thought he had found India, but in fact had found some Caribbean islands. So he landed in someone else’s country and decided to steal it by massacring and enslaving the inhabitants.