‘The struggle for Holy Orthodoxy’ was a phrase of the ever-memorable Metr Laurus. No doubt the many who knew this saintly hierarch much better than us could speak more about how he used it. The phrase, however, is very apt to describe those who seem to be crashing onto the rocks around the Church, without ever attaining Her. Today Holy Orthodoxy is threatened by two external threats, but above all by one internal threat. Only by struggling against all three of them can we win the struggle. What are these threats?
The first threat is symbolised by the recent announcement that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a pan-European group, has passed a resolution condemning circumci-sion of children as a violation of human rights. The resolution was passed a few days ago with 78 votes in favour to just 13 against. 15 abstained from the vote. This wave of anti-Semitism against all Semites, Jews as well as Arab Muslims, may seem to some Orthodox Christians not to be our concern. However, it is.
Now, as we have seen with the furore around the practice of homosexuality, all faith is under threat from Western secularism, which is being spearheaded by the EU. This ‘secularism’, in fact just another name for atheism, threatens the catholicity, integrity and freedom of the Orthodox Church. Today it is against Jew and Muslim, tomorrow it will be the banning of Orthodox baptism, which will mean that the prophecy of St Seraphim of Vyritsa (+ 1949), that Europeans will be forced to go to Russia for baptism, will come true.
Without the sense of catholicity, integrity and freedom the Local Orthodox Churches are threatened by the development of personality cults, which we saw developing when the Russian Church was not free under the Soviet yoke; then those who did not want the Russian Church to be reduced to a personality cult, left for freedom. But when the personality in question died, those who had created the cult also left, for their only attachment to the Church had been the dead personality whom they had culted.
Without the sense of catholicity, integrity and freedom, the Orthodox Churches are also threatened by homosexualisation, the result of the lack of monastic life. We saw this with the notorious Archbishop German Aav in Finland in the 1920s and the ensuing ‘Finlandisation’ of many parishes there, which have still not recovered. We have seen similar problems in the recent past in the USA and today the horrible problems created by homosexual plotters in the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, who slandered and ejected their Metropolitan.
Nationalism anywhere is a spiritual danger. Nationalism in the Church leads to the ethnic religion of the narrow and self-centred cultural ghetto, the petty religion of the pharisee and the sectarian. It belongs to a primitive world of isolation, for it says that one’s tribal group is above Christ. Soviet nationalism, still infecting Russia, is a good example of this. However, this is also a generational phenomenon which does not last, because it is incapable of bearing fruit in the next generation, which rejects it, unable to bear its constricting narrowness.
We well remember at the end of the 1970s studying at St Serge in Paris and the views of the late rector, Protopresbyter Alexei Knyazev, on the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the very Patriarchate to which he belonged. Having suffered in the 1960s from that Patriarchate’s three-year long abandonment of his diocese, he had been to the Phanar and asked for proof that the Patriarch there really did have universal authority among the Local Orthodox Churches as he claimed and was not simply, as he put it, ‘a petty Balkan bishop’.
He did not receive any proof and so in the 1970s tried to bring his jurisdiction back to the Russian Orthodox Church. Today’s paranoid misreport in the ‘EU Greek Reporter’ (http://eu.greekreporter.com/2013/10/21/conflicts-in-the-orthodox-ecumenical-council/) says indeed that the Patriarchate of Constantinople missed its unitive vocation during the Cold War through its nationalism. The article confirms that petty nationalistic jealousy on the part of the US-run Greek Patriarchate is delaying the convening of an Inter-Orthodox Conference.
The political jealousy of the Phanar with regard to Russian Orthodox Ukraine, which it recently tried to take over with US and EU backing, with regard to Russian Orthodox missionary work carried out for well over a century in Japan, China and the USA (as also in Poland and Czechoslovakia) and with regard to Russia’s present vital role in the Middle East in supporting the now Arab-run Patriarchate of Antioch against American interventionism, is not conducive to inter-Orthodox co-operation.
Despite the external irritants of Secularism and petty Nationalism – and not only Greek – the real enemy of the Church is internal. It is called Nominalism. This is the spirit that decides that membership of the Church is defined as three visits to church per lifetime, for baptism, marriage and funeral. This is the spirit that decides that membership of the Church is defined as a fifteen-minute visit on Easter Night. This is the spirit that decides that membership of the Church is defined as a thirty-minute visit once a month to ‘listen to the choir’.
This is the spirit that decides that membership of the Church is defined as belonging to the 80% who sometimes attend but do not contribute, and not the 20% who take an active part in Church life and without whom the Church would not exist. This is also the spirit that decides that membership of the Church is defined as living the consumerist lifestyle of this world; the Church is a supermarket, from which the consumer is free to choose whatever they like, that is, only ‘the nice, comfortable parts’.
Such a consumerist distortion of Church life in particular affects the demographics of any country that has fallen to nominalism, including once Orthodox countries. There, a large family is considered to be a burden, even a curse, by the consumerist. They say: How can you ‘enjoy’ life when you have a large family? Thus the world has fallen to the greatest holocaust in human history, greater than that of Hitler, Stalin and Mao; this is the holocaust of abortion, the greatest genocide and suicide in history.
All the once Orthodox countries have been infected by this holocaust. Thus, Russia cannot populate its expanses; China will do it instead. It has been calculated that if the atheist Revolution had never taken place, Russia would today have a population of over 600 million. How then can it be that in such a country the prophecies of rebirth will come right? Those who ask this question forget that prophecies are always conditional on repentance. Even so, it is true that Russia may not have quantity, but it may at least have quality.
Today Europe has finished its history. By its own choice it has nothing more to say; so it is no longer a civilisational choice. As for the USA, it has, like its films, only technology, the ‘shock and awe’ of special effects. As for other lands, they have people and productivity, but their cultures, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Animist, have lost the original impetus that came from faith and have only nationalism or violence. Only the multinational Church of Rus still bears a creative civilisation. The world will choose that – or die.