Monthly Archives: April 2018

A Question on ‘Pan-Orthodoxy’

There is a custom in the capitals of certain countries of the Orthodox Diaspora of holding a service called ‘Pan-Orthodox Vespers’ on the evening of the Sunday of Orthodoxy. I first attended such an event in 1975 at the Serbian Church in Birmingham, when the then Fr Vladimir Rodzianko preached against ‘jurisdictions’. I am sure that most of the people present had no idea what he was talking about. Apparently the custom continues, over 40 years later, though few Orthodox know about it or are interested in it. We know who we are, we confess the same Faith, and we have no need of political demonstrations, which change nothing for the rest of the year.

Although the custom is not bad in itself, I have always found it very strange. It does not exist in Orthodox countries, where the average town of, say 50,000-100,000 people, will have several Orthodox parishes, each of which lives its own life. Nobody has ever thought of meeting together as parishes on one Sunday evening a year. (True, the parish rector and one lay representative from each parish do meet when their bishop calls them to a yearly Diocesan meeting). And in the town where I serve, where there are several Anglican and Catholic parishes (the Catholic parishes represent different national groups), the local Anglican or Catholic churches would never dream of holding a ‘Pan-Anglican’ or ‘Pan-Catholic’ Vespers once a year.

It is said that ‘Pan-Orthodox Vespers’ promotes Orthodox unity, although I cannot see how. But why is this necessary? The fact is that all the Orthodox churches are already spiritually united. There is simply an administrative and linguistic division, which occurs in any case and always has and will. For example, in Orthodox countries, parishes are divided between dioceses (sometimes using different languages) and the link of unity is provided by meetings and synods of their bishops, who represent each diocese. In the Diaspora, it is the same thing, only the various dioceses are for some reason not called dioceses, but  ‘jurisdictions’, which is a purely secular term.

And there is something very strange here: the term ‘Pan-Orthodox’ has come to be divisive! Even the foreign term ‘Pan’ (as opposed to the English word ‘All’) suggests that there is something narrowly ethnic here. And the minority who promote ‘Pan-Orthodox’ Vespers often represent very divisive trends. For example, many of them do not use the Orthodox calendar for the fixed feasts, as do 80% of Orthodox, but aggressively use the papal calendar and want to impose the papal Paschalia. Surely, if they were concerned by unity, they would return to the majority Orthodox calendar, which 100 years ago was universal, and not try to promote a heterodox calendar and sometimes heterodox values?

Then these promoters of unity engage in such practices as abandoning the sacrament of confession, have no iconostases in their churches, sing Protestant Christmas carols during the Nativity liturgy after the troparia, shout out names for commemoration at the proskomidia during the Divine Liturgy (which they call ‘the holy liturgy’), and ban all languages other than English! One day perhaps someone will explain such things to me. I have been waiting for an answer for 43 years. I have always thought that Orthodox unity can only be based on the Universal Orthodox Faith, not on minority modernist deviations.

Russian Orthodoxy in South Africa

Summary. In this article the author, Dr Vladimir de Beer, depicts the establishment of the Russian Orthodox Church in South Africa. It is preceded by a sketch of the historical background, including the participation of Russian volunteers in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). Recognition for their sacrifice in the service of Boer independence came more than a century later with the dedication of a new chapel on the premises of the Russian Orthodox Church in Midrand.

Key words: South Africa; Afrikaners; Boers; Anglo-Boer War; Russian volunteers; Russian Orthodox

Historical background

The Christian religion (albeit in its Protestant form) was brought to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch, German and French settlers who arrived at the southern tip of Africa from 1652 onwards. This new Dutch-ruled colony was established to provide a replenishment station for cargo ships and other vessels sailing between Western Europe and South-east Asia. In this way the future city of Cape Town, the Afrikaner people and the Afrikaans language gradually came into being. Among these early European settlers there was a Moscow-born Russian named Johannes Swellengrebel, whose son Hendrik in 1739 became the first Cape-born governor of the new colony [7]. Towards the end of the Dutch colonial era in South, Africa, in 1798, a Russian cellist named Gerasim Lebedev gave a number of well-attended concerts in Cape Town before returning to St Petersburg [2, pp 11-12].

In 1806 the Cape colony was annexed by Britain during its wars against Napoleonic France. Among notable Russians whose accounts of their visits to the Cape during its early British-ruled era became popular were the naval officer Vassili Golovnin, the novelist Ivan Goncharov and the artist Alexei Vysheslavtsov [2, pp 13-16]. However, the most famous Russian to visit the Cape colony during the nineteenth century was Grand Duke Alexei, son of Tsar Alexander II. His first visit occurred in 1872 when the Cape parliament formally welcomed the Russian dignitary, and the second visit took place in 1874 as commander of the frigate Svetlana. Moreover, in 1886 a remarkable letter was sent by the Pondo1 chief

1     A Xhosa tribe living in the Eastern Cape.

Faku to Tsar Alexander III, requesting Russian protection against the British annexation of his land [2, pp 18-20].

Many of the Afrikaners were not content to live under British rule, and therefore during the 1830’s several thousand men, women and children migrated in ox wagons northwards across the Orange and Vaal Rivers. This Great Trek, as it came to be known, gave rise to the establishment of the Boer republics of the Orange Free State, the Transvaal and Natal, although the latter was swiftly annexed by the British. The Transvaal and Free State republics, in contrast, had their independence recognised by the British government in 1852 and 1854 respectively. However, this peaceful situation only lasted until the discovery of the world’s richest gold-bearing strata in the southern Transvaal in 1886. This development brought substantial wealth and growing international recognition to the Transvaal, which was officially known as the South African Republic. Given the global ambitions of the imperialist rulers in London, as well as the influential diamond magnate Cecil John Rhodes’ vision of a British-ruled Africa stretching from Cape Town to Cairo, it was only a matter of time before the Transvaal became their next victim. The resultant escalating tensions between the British and the fiercely independent Boers (as the northern Afrikaners were called, the word meaning ‘farmers’ in Dutch and Afrikaans) eventually led to the outbreak of war in October 1899, in which the Transvaal and the Free State (with a combined Boer population of less than a million) were allied against the might of the British Empire.

In the ensuing three years of conflict the Boer farmers-turned-soldiers astonished the world by their military prowess in the face of overwhelming odds, facing around half a million well-trained soldiers from the British Isles, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) eventually became Britain’s longest and costliest war in the century between the Napoleonic Wars and World War One, prompting the well-known author Rudyard Kipling to declare that the Boers had taught the British ‘no end of a lesson’. The Boer republics enjoyed the sympathy of many European nations, including Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Russia [3, p 46]. Although none of these countries dared to openly provide military assistance to the Boers, thousands of volunteers risked life and limb travelling to the South African fields in order to fight on the Boer side. A notable contingent came from Ireland, which at that time was under British rule, and consequently the Irish pro-Boer volunteers were viewed as traitors by the British and treated accordingly when captured. It is with this groundswell of support for the Boer cause in Europe that Russian Orthodoxy made its entry into South Africa.

Enter the Russians

The Boer republics enjoyed the moral support of Tsar Nicholas II (later to be venerated as St Nicholas the Royal Martyr) and of the celebrated author Leo Tolstoy. Confiding in his sister Xenia, the Tsar wrote “I am wholly preoccupied with the war between England and the Transvaal; every day I read the news in the English newspapers from the first to the last line, and then share my impressions with the others at the table… I can not conceal my joy at the confirmation of yesterday’s news that during General White’s sally two full English battalions and a mountain battery have been captured by the Boers!” In a similar vein Tolstoy admitted, during the early months of the war when the British suffered a series of humiliating defeats by the Boer forces, that even as a well-known pacifist he rejoiced at the victories of the Boers [2, pp 26-27].

Around 225 Russian volunteers came to South Africa to assist the Boers in their freedom struggle against the mightiest empire up to that point in recorded history [1, p 45]. Their number included a unit of Scouts containing many Cossacks, such as Prince Bagration of Tiflis and Count Alexis de Ganetzky [3, p 47]. There was also a Russian-Dutch ambulance service active in the Transvaal and the Free State during the war, as well as medical staff from the Russian Red Cross [2, pp 27-28]. Such was the Russian enthusiasm for the Boer republics that a folk song ‘Transvaal, Transvaal, my country’ became quite popular throughout Russia in the early years of the twentieth century. It was still being sung at the time of the Great Patriotic War, while famous Soviet writers such as Anna Akhmatova and Ilya Ehrenburg also paid tribute to the Boers [2, pp 25, 29].

Among the Russian volunteers who fought in the Boer armies, the most famous was Colonel Evgeny Maximov, who initially served as second-in-command of the International Corps [3, p 47]. Renowned among the Boers as an excellent shot and horse-rider, Maximov was also an adviser to the Boer presidents Kruger and Steyn [2, pp 68, 73]. He was eventually appointed commander of the Dutch Corps, in which capacity he was severely injured during the battle of Thaba Nchu on 30 April 1900. A month later he left the Transvaal (as did the afore-mentioned ambulance service) when the conventional phase of the war came to end with the British capture of Pretoria [2, pp 77, 81]. To the chagrin of the British, this was followed by two years of highly effective guerilla warfare by the Boer commandos (to which Winston Churchill would later pay tribute when he designated the British special forces during World War Two as commandos). The British military responded by destroying more than 90 percent of the farms in the Boer republics, as well as herding most of their women and children into concentration camps erected on the open field, where around 30 000 were to die from malnutrition and disease. Prompted by these devastating losses of their families and farms while remaining undefeated in the field, the Boer leaders signed the Treaty of Vereeniging with the British in Pretoria on 31 May 1902, thereby ending the war and bringing the former republics into the Empire.

Another prominent Russian volunteer in South Africa was Lieutenant Yevgeny Augustov, whose memoirs of the war were published in Russia in 1902 [2, pp 24-25, 30-33]. With some of his countrymen he had fought in the Battle of Spioenkop in January 1900 (which was vividly described by Augustov), during which the British suffered one of the worst defeats of their imperial history. Captain Leo Pokrovsky was killed while leading a commando raid on the British garrison at Utrecht in December 1900, later receiving a memorial plaque in that Natal town in 1938. Captain Alexander Shulzhenko fought in the commando of the legendary Boer leader General De Wet, until he was captured by the British in April 1901 [1, pp 42-43]. Alexander Guchkov was wounded in July 1900 and remained paralysed for the rest of his life. However, this setback did not prevent him from later becoming chairman of the Russian Duma and eventually War Minister in the Provisional Government, following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II [1, p 64]. Another volunteer, Vladimir Semionov, designed the opera and ballet theatre in Yekaterinoslav shortly after the war, and had by the 1930’s become a prominent architect and academic in Moscow [1, pp 57-58]. Remarkably, even some opponents of the Tsarist government volunteered for military service with the Boers. Among them were Ivan Zabolotny, a member of the first State Duma in 1905; Alexander Essen, who became a leading Soviet economist in the 1920’s; and Prince Mikhail Yengalychev, who in 1907 attempted to form a republican organisation in Russia [1, pp 65-67].

It is interesting to note that when Russia sent its Baltic fleet around Africa towards the end of 1904 in order to fight the Japanese with whom they were at war, the British government issued strict orders that no Russian ships would be allowed to enter British-controlled ports anywhere in the world, which at the time included the South African ports. This armada included the cruiser Aurora, which would later become legendary for signalling the start of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. Tragically, most of the Russian sailors in the armada sailing past the Cape of Good Hope never returned to their homes, having died in the disastrous naval battle of Tsushima in 1905 [2, pp 30-31].

During the first two decades of the twentieth century a variety of economic, cultural and academic ties were developing between Russia and South Africa. The economic link was centred on the mining industry, which is not surprising given the abundance of minerals found in both countries. In addition, the years before the outbreak of the First World War saw both the Transvaal and the Cape province import timber, textiles and railway rails from Russia. The academic link, overlapping with agriculture, included co-operation in locust control and irrigation. And in the cultural sphere the novels of the South African author Olive Schreiner became highly popular in Russia from the 1890’s onward, being published in most of the Russian popular magazines and literary journals. One of her publishers was Maxim Gorky, who like many Russians found resonance with Schreiner’s socialist views [2).

  • 37-38]. A later famous Afrikaans author, Louis Leipoldt, visited Moscow in 1908 and was enamoured by the architectural splendour and colourful crowds of the Russian capital, which he vividly described in his letters to a friend. As a young physician Leipoldt was equally impressed by the high level of the Russian medical services, which he considered to be superior to that of Britain at the time. His only complaint was the exorbitant prices in Moscow [2, pp 32-33].

However, by the early 1920’s relations between the newly formed Soviet Union and South Africa practically came to an end, as was the case with all of the British dominions [2, p 38]. Although the two countries were Allies during the Second World War, Soviet-South Africans relations deteriorated further during the second half of the century. The South African Communist Party (SACP) was declared illegal by the Afrikaner nationalist government in 1950 and then formed a strategic alliance with the African National Congress (ANC), which continues to this day. Moreover, from the early 1960s until the late 1980s the Soviet Union actively supported the black guerilla movements fighting white rule in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South-west Africa (now Namibia). The Soviets and South Africans also clashed in Angola during the period 1975 to 1988, backing the Moscow-aligned MPLA government and the pro-Western rebel movement UNITA, respectively.2 However, with the transfer of power from the Afrikaner nationalists to the ANC in 1994, the SACP became an integral component of the new South African government. This surely has to count as one of the greatest ironies of recent history, since by that time the Communist era in Russia had already ended.

Russian Orthodoxy is established

Only in the 1990’s would diplomatic, economic and cultural relations be restored between the post-Soviet Russian Federation and post-apartheid South Africa. An office of the South African diamond mining giant, De Beers, was opened in Russia in 1992 [2, p 34]. Another beneficiary of the renewed links between Russia and South Africa was the Russian Orthodox Church, which founded a parish in Midrand (situated halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria) in 1998. Named after St Sergius of Radonezh, this became the first Russian Orthodox parish in sub-Saharan Africa. The first rector of the new parish was Father Sergius Rasskazovsky, who was also a professor at the St Petersburg Theological Academy.3 Under a new rector, Father Philaret Bulekov, a church began to be built for the parish towards the end of 2001. Funded by the Russian engineering construction company Stroytransgaz and supported by the Russian embassy in South Africa, the newly built church was consecrated early in 2003 by Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk, who later became the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’ [6]. With beautiful golden domes placed atop the building in 2004, the Russian Orthodox Church of St Sergius of Radonezh makes a striking appearance not far from the N1 motorway between Pretoria and Johannesburg.

The Russian volunteers who had fought and died in South Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century finally received recognition from the Church that most of them were

  • The most comprehensive accounts of this protracted yet neglected conflict from a South African viewpoint are the following books: South Africa’s Border War 1966-89, by Willem Steenkamp; and The South African Defence Forces in the Border War 1966-1989, by Leopold Scholtz.
  • This author had the privilege of receiving his first Communion as Orthodox Christian from Father Sergius in 1999.

members of in 2013, when a chapel commemorating them was built on the premises of the Midrand church [4 & 5]. The new chapel is dedicated to St Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, thus affirming a significant link between Russian Orthodoxy and the South African population, particularly the Afrikaners. The current rector of the Russian Orthodox parish of St Sergius of Radonezh in Midrand is Father Daniel Lugovoy, who also travels to Cape Town periodically to serve the Slavonic liturgy in a newly built chapel there. In addition to services every weekend and on major feast days, the parish conducts an active Sunday school for children and an Orthodox study group for adults. It also has a well-stocked library with over a thousand titles in Russian and English [6]. May God grant the Russian Orthodox Church in South Africa many years!

Bibliography

  1. Apollon Davidson & Irina Filatova. The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902. Cape Town, Pretoria & Johannesburg: Human & Rousseau, 1998.
  2. Apollon Davidson. Russia and South Africa before the Soviet era. National Research University Higher School of Economics, 2013. hse.ru/data/2013/04/18/1297820237/21HUM2013.pdf
  3. Donal Lowry. ‘When the World loved the Boers’, in History Today, 43-49, May 1999.
  4. Andrew Phillips. ‘Orthodox who Fought for Freedom in the Boer War Commemorated.’ (17 April 2013). http://www.events.orthodoxengland.org.uk/orthodox-who-fought-for-freedom-in-the-boer-war-commemorated/
  5. ru: ‘Foundation laid for a new chapel in Johannesburg’ (15 April 2013). http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/60855.htm
  6. Russian Orthodox Church of St Sergius of Radonezh: http://www.st-sergius.info/en/our-church
  7. Wikipedia: Hendrik Swellengrebel. https://af.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendrik_Swellengrebel

Dr. Vladimir de Beer

Email: vladimir.debeer@gmail.com

Bristol, England

30 November 2016

On Roman Catholics and Roman Catholicism

Q: What do you think of Catholics?

A: I presume that by this you mean Roman Catholics. I do not wish to offend you, but I think that your question is meaningless. It is a bit like asking me what I think of human-beings! First of all, which Roman Catholics? Those in Poland or those in Uganda? Those in Brazil or those in England?  Old or young? Rich or poor? Black or white? Traditionalist or modernist? Papist or anti-Papist? I have met some very devout and righteous Catholics who would never harm anyone and also love our Church. But I also know of Catholics in the far west of what is for the moment called ‘the Ukraine’, who go around carrying a portrait of their fellow-Catholic, Hitler, commemorating their grandfathers who were in the Waffen SS and slaughtered Jews, Poles and Russians, and today beat up Orthodox grandmothers and steal Orthodox churches. Why the Vatican tolerates such people who totally discredit it, I have no idea.

We could turn your question around and ask: ‘What do you think of Orthodox?’ I can think of Orthodox who go to church every day and others who only go three times in their life, if that. The apostle Paul was Orthodox, but so was Stalin. Of course, I would never compare them. However, if your question really concerns Roman Catholicism, then I can answer you.

Roman Catholicism is an offshoot of Christianity, often called Orthodox Christianity, which is the faith of the (Orthodox) Church. Roman Catholicism split away from the Church and Christianity 1,000 years ago and soon began to split into various other protesting sects, the best known of which are indeed called ‘Protestant’. Roman Catholicism was founded on two novel ideas:

The first novel idea, which appeared in the eighth century in what is now Germany, but was rejected officially in the ninth century, and then finally accepted in the eleventh century, was that the Holy Spirit, the source of truth, inspiration and authority can come from human nature. This was the beginning of humanism, the worship of fallen humanity and so of sin. In its religious form, this led to the morbid worship of suffering human nature, blood, death and guilt, and the intolerant condemnation of others. Later, in its secular form, it led to the deification of all who confess this humanism and so to atheism (the extraordinary superstition that man was created and exists without God!). It inherently rejected the Church and (Orthodox) Christianity, attempting to make them irrelevant by reducing them to some mere exotic, ‘eastern’/‘Byzantine’/ ’Greek’ folklore or else to an offshoot of Platonism.

The second novel idea, resurrected from Roman paganism, was that the Bishop of Rome had universal power, being the infallible replacement for God (‘vicar’) on earth! In other words, both Christ and the Holy Spirit were replaced by a sinful man. Extraordinarily, this concept of the automatic deification of a man by his office was enforced and some people actually believed it! Later, in it secular form, during the sixteenth century, this led to the deification of anyone who took on himself the mantle of Roman paganism, resulting in assorted exploitative Atlantic European empires, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, British etc. All these fell, having failed to become completely global, and today have been replaced by the American Empire. Centred in the White House in Washington, facing the Atlantic and Europe, with its purely pagan architecture, it is the first attempt to create a truly global and unopposed empire.

Roman Catholicism, the ultimate source of atheist secularism, continues to exist. However, this is only outside the Western world, which it gave birth to and has since rejected it, in Western colonies in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Philippines. As for atheist secularism, its illegitimate grandchild (a grandchild through Protestantism), it thrives.

 

 

 

FEAST OF ALL THE SAINTS OF THE IBERIAN PENINSULA IS AT LAST TO BE PROCLAIMED IN OCTOBER 2018

The Orthodox feast of the Iberian Saints will be added to the liturgical calendars of the Local Orthodox Churches. The list of saints was first compiled by Fr Andrew Phillips in 1993. It has taken 25 years to reach this situation.

The initiative to add such a feast was made by the Orthodox bishops of Spain and Portugal, which met in Madrid last Friday. The meeting was attended by His Grace Bishop Nestor of Korsun (Russian Orthodox Church), His Eminence Metropolitan Polycarp of Spain and Portugal (Patriarchate of Constantinople), and His Grace Bishop Timothy of Spain and Portugal (Romanian Orthodox Church).

The bishops decided to petition the primates of their Local Churches to establish a date for the Orthodox veneration of the Iberian saints. It was decided to celebrate the new feast on the Sunday before the Spanish National Day, which is celebrated on 12 October. Thus, the new feast of All Saints Who Shone Forth in the Iberian Peninsula will be liturgically proclaimed and celebrated for the first time this year on 7 October in Madrid.

Common Sense and Wisdom

It is often said that the modern world lacks common sense. If this is so, it must be because many people are no longer learning from life, because the source of common sense is experience of life. Indeed, this may be true, for people more and more live not in the real world, but in a virtual world, a world of artifice and so lack of experience and so of immaturity. Without experience of life there is no common sense, only ideology, or theory, or naivety, or else just plain stupidity.

Even more seriously, as our knowledge of facts has in recent times hugely increased (partly through the internet), there seems to be less wisdom. Wisdom is being replaced by mere factual knowledge and the latter guarantees no understanding, no ability to interpret facts. For there is no correlation between knowledge of facts, with its mere technological progress, and wisdom, with its spiritual, and so moral and cultural, progress. So what is the source of wisdom?

The answer can be found in two words in Church Slavonic. Firstly, there is the word ‘tselomudrie’. Although this means ‘chastity’, it literally means ‘wisdom from wholeness’. Therefore, in order to understand what chastity means we must go beyond the superficiality of Puritanism which understands chastity only in the outward sense. Thus, in the Orthodox wedding service we pray that the couple to be wed may preserve their chastity. Chastity is not necessarily about virginity.

For from the Gospel (as from life) we know that there are foolish virgins, just as there are wise married couples. In other words, what chastity actually means is integrity, keeping our wholeness with Christ, despite distractions, such as money or, for that matter, unrestrained (= unchaste) sexual activity. This is what we express in Church services by the words ‘let us entrust our whole life to Christ our God’. Chastity means wholeness, the integrity of our devotion to Christ.

Secondly, there is the Slavonic word ‘smirennomudrie’, which means wisdom from humility. This is the wisdom that angelic, pure and innocent children (still uncorrupted and non-sexualized) can have. They too are ‘chaste’, that is, they have wholeness and integrity, that is, they have humility. However, such wisdom from humility can also come from accepting life’s sufferings positively. For example, old soldiers, who have seen suffering and suffered, are often very humble.

We can see this also with academics. Some are humble and have wisdom, others are pompous and only have knowledge. The pompous are mocked openly or behind their backs; their level of wisdom is less than that of many children and they just seem childish and silly. Little wonder that in English the word ‘pompous’ goes with ‘ass’. They suffer from what the apostle Paul calls a ‘puffed up mind’. In fact such people, suffering from intellectual pride, become ‘humility-proof’.

Thus we see children who are wise, but old people who are not wise. In today’s world, the sources of wisdom, outward integrity (chastity), inward integrity, humility and suffering are all derided. Perhaps that is why there is less wisdom today. For wisdom does not come from experience of life, like common sense. Wisdom comes from inner purity. As we say: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’. And Who is God? He is Supreme Wisdom, obtained only through inner purity.

 

 

Three Obstacles to Building Parishes

Introduction

The vital pastoral activity of building parishes is both spiritual and practical, Divine and human, as it concerns both gathering the flock in the Name of God and also finding and preparing buildings. And gathering the flock means being open to all, not just to some particular nationality or class. And all Church buildings are the fruit of the Incarnation of the Faith, for a Church that does not have its own buildings is not incarnate, but is just an idea, a theory without foundation. There are three obstacles to setting up parishes. These are:

Gathering in the Name of Lack of Faith

The first obstacle is when there are those who wish to frequent the church not in the Name of Christ, but in the name of some social or ethnic activity. Such people have a welfare state mentality: they will not commit because of a lack of devotion and knowledge, they expect to be served, ‘the priest will do all that’. Thus, parishes often depend on an inner core of 10% or 20% of parishioners; the other 80% or 90% are initially visitors who do not wish to involve themselves in Church life, but may become involved only with time.

Gathering in the Name of Money

Secondly, there are those who consider that parish life is about gathering together in the name of money or, more simply, gathering money, not souls. For them the Church is a money-making operation, a mere business to make profits. Simony thrives among bishops with this mentality and greed among priests with this mentality. They do not gather, but divide and chase away the flock. Fortunately, they are a very small minority, but they do discolour the rest, who may then become unjustly tarred with their dirty brush.

Gathering in the Name of Power

Finally, there are those who gather to gain power over others, the self-appointed, ego-tripping gurus who want to manipulate others in their ‘private church’ and personality cult. These frauds are drawn to the Church because they have psychological (and sometimes psychosexual) problems or are social failures. They use the Church in order to try and exercise power over others through their personal ideology. They often fall into intellectualism, which is abstract, always sectarian, clubbish, cliquish, even snobbish.

Successful parish life is then built on and around Christ. Any deviation from the centrality of Christ will result in the collapse of any present or future parish. In the Gospels Our Lord says: ‘For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt. 18, 20). Thus, all the obstacles to the foundation of parishes are concerned with gathering together NOT in His Name, as we see above. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’.

 

 

Who Are We?

With a website, soon to be two decades old, called Orthodox England, we clearly believe that there is no England if it is not Orthodox England, i. e, an England returned to its historic roots (just as there is no Russia if it is not Orthodox Russia). So who are we for and who are we against?

We are:

Pro-English (and so pro-Irish, pro-Scottish and pro-Welsh) and so anti-British.

Pro-American and so anti-Washington.

Pro-Russian and so anti-Soviet.

Pro-European and so anti-EU.

Pro-German and so anti-Hitler.

Pro-French and so anti-Napoleon.

Pro-Greek and so anti-Hellenist.

Pro-Ukrainian and so anti Kiev junta.

Pro-Jewish and so anti-Zionist.

It is so simple. We are pro-humanity, because God made us all, and we are anti manmade ideological constructs.

The Ukrainian Crisis: The World Crisis

There has been over the last three weeks a crisis in the Ukraine. The head of the US-installed Kiev Junta, the oligarch arms-dealer Poroshenko/Walzman, has been in Istanbul trying to persuade the local Greek Patriarch Bartholomew to grant autocephaly to one of his schismatic groups which calls itself ‘the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’. Neither of the groups concerned is recognized by anyone in the Orthodox world, least of all by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Both little groups were created out of ultra-right wing nationalist politics and represent only small minorities of regional groups, which until 1939 were under Polish rule and before that under Austro-Hungarian rule.

This activity comes at a time when Poroshenko is under extreme pressure from his US paymasters to get the situation in his wartorn and bankrupt country under control; elections are coming next year. Washington has sent its Kiev ambassador to Istanbul to lobby the same Greek Patriarch and another US diplomat has been sent to Mt Athos to persuade the abbots of the Greek monasteries there to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics. This comes at a time when the main source of funding for the Patriarchate in Istanbul, the Greek-American Archdiocese, has gone bankrupt, with tens of millions of its dollars ‘disappeared’.

However, in Turkey the bankrupt US-appointed Patriarch Bartholomew knows that if he recognized the Ukrainian regional schismatics (under the pressure of US bribes), it would be the end of the road for him, his authority was already torn to shreds at his Crete meeting in 2016. Claiming to promote Orthodox unity, he in fact has already undermined it. If next he accepted the schismatics in the Ukraine (as he has already done in the Diaspora), he would destroy unity and would himself fall into schism. Then his only alternative would be to become a sub-department of the Vatican, just like his predecessors before 1453.

But the Ukrainian affair is just a drop in the ocean. The real business lies just two countries away from the Ukraine, across Patriarch Bartholomew’s Turkey, in Syria. And that story goes back over a generation.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union from 1989 on through Communist incompetence, corruption and treachery, the neocon Anglo-Zionist elite of the one remaining world Superpower, the USA, wasted no time in destroying Eastern Europe and then dealing with its next ‘enemy’, Islam. So it set itself up in the Middle East and the Islamic world, invading Iraq twice, and set about creating chaos in Afghanistan and North Africa, destroying Kosovo, Libya and then Syria and threatening the nuclear annihilation of Iran. At the behest of its strange bedfellow-allies of Israel and Saudi Arabia/Qatar, it wanted to destroy the power of Islam.

However, in the case of Syria, lying literally just beyond Armageddon, it had not foreseen Russian intervention in support of the local Christians, some still Aramaic-speaking, and the pro-Christian Muslims. In revenge, in 2014 the USA overthrew the democratic government of the Ukraine and tried to set up bases on Russian borders there, having invested five billion dollars to do so and put its snipers on the roof of the US Embassy in Kiev. Its agents then shot down a civilian airliner to try and pin the blame on ‘the evil Putin’.  Its colonial vassal governments in Poland, the Baltics, Romania, Scandinavia, France (1), and above all in the UK, began their campaign against Russia too.

Thu, we read absurd stories of Russian submarines off the coast of Sweden, Russia election meddling in the US and computer hacking everywhere. More recently, there has been the ridiculous false flag affair in Salisbury, presented by UK State mouthpiece media propaganda, which some (admittedly mainly pensioners) actually swallowed (as they did the absurd story of Litvinenko)! The Salisbury affair (its three victims temporarily poisoned by a NATO toxin from the evil chemical weapons base at Porton Down just outside Salisbury, now all abducted by the UK secret services) has been compared to Sarajevo. After all, having lost two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, but with 40% and more of world armaments spending (against Russia’s four per cent), the US elite wants to use its arms and the military-industrial complex, and the banks that finance it, need war.

This has brought talk of World War III. Is this really a possibility? Are we really on the verge of Armageddon? The pessimistic (and sensationalist) scenario is indeed World War Three, Salisbury is indeed Sarajevo. True, on the hundredth anniversary of the Anglo-Zionist backed overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II and his martyrdom with his noble family, three generations after the Yalta-Potsdam settlement, we are reaching ‘a tide in the affairs of men’. But the pessimists’ scenario is not the only one. There is a neutral scenario, that despite all the changes and reshapings, the world will continue without much more violence and disruption than now. But thirdly, there is the optimists’ scenario.

This says that the anti-Christian Western world has reached the limits of its decadence and can go no further. The 90% of the world that is not subjugated to being a vassal of transgender Washington (that is, everywhere except the USA, the Anglosphere, most of the EU, the Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Japan, South Korea) rejects ceaseless US wars and meddling. Russia, attacked and surrounded by the aggressive NATO forces, has been allied to China. Moldova and Serbia still have not joined either the EU or NATO, whose headquarters are almost side by side in Brussels. The present US attempt to overthrow the government in Armenia has not so far been successful, like its attempts to seize power in Moscow, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Moreover, the key NATO country, Turkey, has been so disgusted at the US attempt to assassinate its popular nationalist President Erdogan and replace him with the CIA-puppet Gulen, that it is allying itself with Russia. Together, and with Iran, they are destroying the barbaric Western-backed and armed terrorists in Syria. And Turkey is precisely the country where Patriarch Bartholomew lives. In Russia, President Putin is not getting any younger and has no obvious successor. Why should his successor not be the long-awaited coming Tsar? This would end the mess that the world has been in ever since 1917 and also put an end to the Balkan nationalist decadence in the Church of God, with its pseudo-calendar, pseudo-councils and Ukrainian schismatics who mascarade as Christians.

We can only pray for the optimistic scenario. Otherwise we shall see ourselves slipping even further towards the reign of Antichrist. Important days lie ahead.

 

Note:

  1. Its President, Macron, is a Rothschild protégé just like his friend Trump, who defeated the Rockefeller protégé, Clinton. The ‘Western’ world after all is only an invention of these financial clans, which in their time financed both the Soviet Union and Hitler.

Fr Sophrony (Sakharov) and the Orthodox Understanding of the Redemption

Fr Sophrony (Sakharov) was born into a bourgeois Moscow family in 1896, was an intellectual to the core, coming in his youth under Hindu influence, then becoming an Art Nouveau painter, emigrating to Paris, later becoming the librarian (1) at St Panteleimon’s Monastery on Athos and a religious philosopher. However, he also clearly learned wisdom from simple monks during his two decades spent on Mt Athos. My first meeting with him took place ten years after he had left the Russian Church in 1965, an event which followed his dispute with the local Russian bishop (like himself also a Parisian from a wealthy Russian family). Thus, I first met Fr Sophrony in 1975 (he was never called Elder in his lifetime and the misnomer ‘of Essex’ (2) came from his foreign admirers afterwards). I often encountered him over the next eight years until 1983. He died in 1993, by which time his priests and the convent that he had founded had become a magnet for intellectual converts.

One of the first things I realized was how much Fr Sophrony was under the influence of the great reviver of Patristic (i. e. Biblical/Orthodox/Christian) theology, Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev (1864-1936), who was also the first Senior Hierarch of the Church Outside Russia. It was notably Metr Antony who had opposed Roman Catholic Scholasticism which infested the four Academies of Theology in pre-Revolutionary Russia (‘the graves of Orthodoxy’, as they were then called (3)). Divorced from monasticism and popular piety, Latin philosophy had taken them over from the start (4). Its graduates did not even know what peasant Orthodox knew and could express in simple words. Thus, even such figures as the scholastically-trained Bishop (later Archbishop) Theophan of Kursk could not understand the Patristic teaching on the Redemption (5).

Not only did Fr Sophrony openly speak of and admire the moral dimension of Metr Antony’s explanation of the Dogmas of Orthodoxy (‘dogmas’ of course in the Orthodox sense of ‘revelations of the Holy Spirit’) (6), but also the spiritual dimension. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Patristic understanding of the Redemption, revived by Metr Antony in his work ‘The Dogma of Redemption’ (7), and which spread to his disciples, the future saints like St Hilarion (Troitsky + 1926), St Alexis of Carpatho-Russia (+ 1947), St Nikolai (Velimirovich) (+ 1956), St John of Shanghai (+ 1966) (8) and St Justin (Popovich) (+ 1979). This understanding was also the near-bimillennial understanding of semi-literate peasant monastics like St Silouan the Athonite (+ 1938), one of whose disciples Fr Sophrony had become before he was expelled from Mt Athos after World War II.

For Metr Antony, the presentation of Christ’s suffering on the Cross is Roman Catholic, with its judaizing, legalistic understanding of a feudal wrathful God the Father demanding a blood sacrifice and its humanistic and morbid cult of bodily suffering and blood. Thus, he engaged in his energetic combat against what he called ‘the moral monism’ of the juridical theory of the Redemption, explaining the salvation that comes from Christ’s co-suffering love. What is important in the history of the Redemption is Christ’s sacrifice of love, which preceded the Cross all through Christ’s life, culminating in Gethsemane (9) and then the Cross and the blinding light of the Resurrection. This explains the huge difference in the understanding of the Cross between the Church and Roman Catholicism. For Orthodox at all times the Cross has always been the radiant symbol of victory over death, whereas for Roman Catholics it is the morbid symbol of death and suffering, which is why Protestants, like the Jews of old, rejected it.

In the highly intellectual book about Fr Sophrony’s understanding of Orthodox theology, compiled by his great-nephew (10), it is explained that for Fr Sophrony ‘the Gethsemane event is no less than the event of the cross in the redemptive moment’ (10).  The author even explains that for Fr Sophrony Gethsemane was an internal sacrifice and Golgotha was an external one (10). This takes Metr Antony’s teaching even further. Fr Sophrony found confirmation of Metr Antony’s expression of the Orthodox Dogma of the Redemption in St Silouan: ‘St Silouan suggested that the prayer of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane included the whole human race from Adam to the last child born of woman’ (11). Also Fr Sophrony wrote: ‘Christ lived the tragedy of all mankind…before his redemptive prayer for all mankind in the Garden’ (12). And again: ‘Christ’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is the noblest of all prayers by its virtue and power to atone for the sins of the world’ (12).

Here it is clear that Fr Sophrony had been illumined by St Silouan, but then later found the understanding of his illumination in the works of Metr Antony, who had himself already been illumined some two generations before Fr Sophrony through the monastic tradition inside Russia. The source of the illumination of them all was one and the same: Church Tradition, that is, the Holy Spirit (13). Christ is Gethsemane was indeed ‘sorrowful unto death’ (Matt. 26, 38), for there He took on Himself morally all the sufferings of the 100 billion members of mankind from Adam to the last person in history, and so ‘sweated clots of blood’ (Luke 22, 44) (14). This redemption was then completed when Christ nailed our sins to the Cross, where terrible physical sufferings were added to the immense moral suffering, such that death came quickly, to the astonishment of Pilate (Mk 15, 44). Our mind cannot even begin to encompass this.

Notes:

  1. In 1979 the late Abbot Misail of St Panteleimon’s offered me the post of librarian there, as no-one had yet filled the place vacated by Fr Sophrony over thirty years before.
  2. Intellectuals from abroad regularly come to St John’s Church in Colchester, Essex, looking for ‘Essex’, as if it were not an area of 1,300 square miles, but some tiny village! It is doubtful if more than a few hundred of the 1.3 million people in Essex have ever heard of ‘Fr Sophrony’.
  3. For this quotation and the decadence of the age, see S. A. Nilus, Collected Works, Moscow 2002, Vol 4, Pp. 811-812.
  4. In Paris in the 1970s I was told how in the 1930s there were Russian ‘theologians’ at the St Sergius Institute who would debate theology in Latin. This was considered to be a compliment! The St Sergius Institute did unfortunately inherit the philosophical and theoretical decadence of the pre-Revolutionary Academies, which, sadly, is now reviving both inside and outside Russia. See my article on ‘Shanghai Theology’: http://www.events. orthodoxengland.org.uk/?s=shanghai+theology
  5. Archbishop Theophan finished his life in 1940 in repentance in a cave in France for having naively slandered Gregory Rasputin, which slander had led to his sadistic murder by British spies in 1916 and then the palace coup known as ‘the Russian Revolution’; his repentance was related to me in France in the 1970s by those who had known him.
  6. English Translation, ‘The Moral Idea of the Main Dogmas of the Faith’, Synaxis Press, Canada, 1984
  7. English translation, Monastery Press, Montreal 1979
  8. See especially St John’s ‘What did Christ pray for in the Garden of Gethsemane (in Russian in Church Life, No 4, 1938), which fully endorses the teaching on the Redemption of his great abba Metr Antony.
  9. See P. 113 of ‘The Moral Idea of the Main Dogmas of the Faith’, Synaxis Press, Canada, Second Edition, 2015.
  10. ‘I love therefore I am’, St Vladimir’s Press, Crestwood, 2002, Pp. 176-77. Alarmingly, the back cover of this very inaccessible academic study (which owes its title to a heterodox French philosopher!), claims that ‘the theology of Fr Sophrony (sic!) conveys the message that Christianity is not just an academic discipline’!! Does this mean that there are actually people who imagine that Christianity is an academic discipline?!
  11. johnsanidopoulos.com/2015/10/an-interview-with-elder-sophrony-about_ 8.html
  12. ‘His Life is Mine’, P. 39 and P.91, Reprint, Crestwood.
  13. Obviously, here we ignore the near-contemporary Californian polemical misunderstandings (notably of the then recent convert, Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) in ‘Orthodox Life’ in 1973, ‘On the New Interpretation of the Dogma of the Redemption’, edited by the late Gleb Podmoshensky). This new interpretation was not that of Metr Antony, but that of Fr Seraphim himself, who had somehow imagined that Metr Antony rejected the Cross. This was then repeated by some in Crestwood, where the book on Fr Sophrony’s understanding of the Orthodox Tradition was published (!), stating that Metr Antony was a ‘stavroclast’(!), that is, that he rejected the Cross. If true, then Fr Sophrony was also ‘a stavroclast’! Anyone who saw Metr Antony humbly bowing down in front of the Cross on the Third Sunday of Lent or at the Exaltation of the Cross in the Russian church in Belgrade at the end of his life (and I knew people who saw this), will know that this misunderstanding can soon become slander for the self-justification of personal passions. If Metr Antony was a stavroclast, then so were St Nicholas of Zhicha (who well knew St Silouan the Athonite)  and his friends St John of Shanghai and St Justin of Chelije, Fr Sophrony (Sakharov) and, for that matter, all the Church Fathers! The origin of such misunderstanding is in the Roman Catholic conditioning inherent in scholastic or academic ‘theology’ and the (sadly, sometimes deliberate) misreading of Metr Antony’s writings.
  14. See especially St Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book X, Section 36 on and Pp. 49, 113-114, 171, 174, 206 and 266 of the above-quoted ‘The Moral Idea of the Main Dogmas of the Faith’, Synaxis Press, Canada, Second Edition, 2015.

Ashford, Kent: A New Community is Born

With the two parishes in Colchester and Norwich, both with weekly services and served by three priests, communities in Bury St Edmunds and Wisbech and hopes for new communities elsewhere, the presence of the Church Outside Russia in the eastern half of England has much increased since the episcopal changes and long-awaited ordinations after January 2017. With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Irenei, now a new community has been launched for the many Orthodox in Kent, whom we have been visiting for years, giving communion and baptising in people’s houses for lack of a church.

The new community is using a former farmhouse, now St Christopher’s Church, opposite the village green in Boughton Lees on the edge of Ashford (TN25 4HP – parking is in Lees Road, opposite the church, which has all facilities). Ashford is in a central position, with excellent national and international transport links, near Canterbury, Faversham, Maidstone, Rochester, Gillingham, Dover, Folkestone and Hastings. The community is dedicated to the Royal Martyrs, significant because the church is on the edge of Eastwell Manor, with its connections with the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna Romanova and her daughter, the future Queen Maria of Romania, who was born there in 1875.

This is even more significant because the community is being founded on the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Russian Orthodox Royal Family. The church was first visited on 15th March, the feast of the Sovereign Icon of the Mother of God, which miraculously appeared after Tsar Nicholas was overthrown by treasonous aristocrats and apostate generals in 1917. The first liturgy took place on Saturday 21 April, the next will be on Saturday 19 May, the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas.

On Saturday 21 April, the five visits of the martyred Tsar to England were mentioned, including his visit to Gravesend in Kent. As the liturgy ended, a cricket match began on the green outside the church and the sounds of Orthodox singing were replaced by the sound of cricket ball against willow. We await the Orthodox of Kent at our next service.