Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Church Which Might Have Been

It is a matter of speculation as to what today’s Orthodox Church would have looked like, had secularism not been spread from the West by the uprooted aristocracy and intelligentsia. Having abandoned Orthodox civilizational values, that is, lost the Christian Faith, they used this alien secularism to justify their overthrow of the Russian Empire in 1917. This disaster left the smaller and weaker Local Churches Emperorless and in disarray, victims of a foreign calendar and political interference, and unable to conduct missionary work.

The division of the Church into today’s fourteen mainly national Local Churches, many very small, seems unlikely. Surely Church structures would have become denationalized and so far bigger, possibly with one billion Orthodox, perhaps in Five Patriarchates. These would have taken turns to govern Mt Athos, which would have become far bigger and the true international monastic centre of the Church, where ten-yearly administrative Patriarchal Councils could have been held. The Five Patriarchates might have been:

Patriarchate of Rus (in Moscow, 750 million?), covering the Russian Empire, with the Autocephalous Catholicosate of Georgia,  plus Ten Autonomous Churches, some of which, with several million members, would by now be close to Autocephaly and Patriarchal status. With five in Asia and five in Europe and its Diasporas, these would cover: China and Tibet; Korea; Japan; the Isles of Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines); South East Asia (Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam); Europe (covering independent Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, as well as the Czech Lands, Slovakia, Hungary and the sixteen ex-Catholic and ex-Protestant countries in Western Europe); the 13 countries of South America; Mexico, the seven countries of Central America and the Caribbean; Anglo-America with Alaska and Greenland; Australasia.

Patriarchate of Alexandria (in Nairobi, 120 million?): All Africa.

Patriarchate of Antioch (in New Delhi, 60 million?): Covering the Asian Arab World, Iran, Afghanistan and the Indian Subcontinent.

 Patriarchate of Constantinople (in Bucharest, Athens, Belgrade, Sofia and Nicosia, 50 million?), made up of the Five Autocephalous Balkan Union Churches, the nationality of the Patriarch alternating, covering: Greece, with two Autonomous Metropolias for Albania and Turkey; Romania; Serbia, with four Autonomous Metropolias for Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia/Slovenia; Bulgaria; Cyprus.

 Patriarchate of Jerusalem (5 million?): Covering Palestine on both sides of the Jordan and the Holy Places.

 

 

Questions From Correspondence and Conversations – August 2018

Love and Forgiveness

Q: The Church says that Love can change the world, so why do things seem to be getting worse?

A: Love can change the world but on condition that the world accepts to be changed. This is the whole point: Love is conditional on freedom – you cannot force people to love, you cannot force people to change. All depends on whether we can influence their will to change.

Things seem to be getting worse, but nobody would say that this process of loss of faith is inevitable. At any moment the present process can be halted and even turn back towards Christ. This has happened in history several times. It is called repentance.

Q: In the Gospels it says that we should love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. What is the difference between this sort of love for ourselves and mere selfishness and vanity? How can they be opposites?

A: They can be opposite very simply: Selfishness and vanity come from love for our fallen selves, for our false selves, for our sins, but God’s command to us to love ourselves means to love ourselves as God intended us to be, to become as we were before we fell into sin, to love our true selves. For this we have to know our true selves and to understand what God’s will is for us.

In today’s world, people are taught to hate their true selves. As a result we see suicide, self-mutilation, self-harming, plastic surgery, people who put pieces of metal into their bodies, cover themselves with tattoos or wear heavy make-up, like primitive peoples who deform parts of their bodies (especially necks, lips, ears in Africa and Asia), tattoo themselves (Celts, Polynesians) or wear war-paint, masking their true selves. The cultivation of selfishness and vanity has hit new depths of narcissism, with the abuse of Facebook, the ‘Me World’, ‘Me Time’ ‘likes’ and ‘I love me’.

Q: Aren’t Christians weak because all they do is forgive?

A: No. Forgiveness is dependent on repentance, which does not mean simply saying sorry, like politicians do, but actually means making amends, actually doing something about what you have done wrong. If there is no repentance, there is no forgiveness. Thus, the Christian path begins with repentance (St John the Baptist’s call to actions, not words), passes to forgiveness (like the Prodigal Son who received forgiveness after he had first repented) and only then does salvation begin. Salvation itself is not simply the acceptance in words that we believe in Christ (as in the lazy Protestant myth of salvation), but the confession of the faith in a Christian way of life until our dying day.

Angels, Demons and God’s Will

Q: Do you believe in extraterrestrials?

A: If by that you mean life on other planets similar to the earth, all that I, or anyone else, can answer is no. This is because nobody has discovered such life so far, its existence is mere speculation. On the other hand, we cannot answer an absolute no, because we know so little about our universe. Here we can speculate without proof that somewhere in some of the billions of galaxies there could be a planet capable of supporting life similar to that on ours. On the other hand, there is no reason to think that such life may have developed further than oxygen or water, plant life or insects. All depends on what God’s Will is for the universe that He created.

On the other hand, that there are places inhabited by extraterrestrial life – the angelic realm of heaven and the demonic realm of hell. That there is angelic life, fallen and not fallen, is the experience of the Church, expressed in the Scriptures and Tradition. We know that there is life outside our planet Earth because we confess it every time we say that we believe in God, Who made heaven and earth, that is Who made angelkind and mankind.

The sightings of extraterrestrials and flying saucers seem to have started just after the Second World War, when, in the absence of repentance for the crimes of two World Wars, the earth became receptive to the permanent presence of demons, who had come up from hell to inhabit places and people, impervious to repentance, where they were welcome.

Q: Why can demons not repent?

A: Demons are bodiless, spiritual beings. They were given a choice of good or evil only once, at their creation. Thus, either these spiritual beings remained angels or else they became demons. This is unlike human-beings, who have bodies. Being incarnate, with bodies, gives us the chance to choose good or evil constantly, until our death-beds. However, after our deaths, once we have separated from our bodies, we cannot make such choices, which is why we are dependent on the prayers of others to rise towards God after death.

Q: Three questions: Are there people who have a destiny? And if so, doesn’t that mean that we believe in fatalism? And if everything is according to God’s Will, why does evil exist?

A:  Everybody has a destiny, as understood in the Christian sense of God’s Will. But that is not the same as fatalism, because we have the freedom to choose to follow God’s Will or not, whereas fatalism implies that we do not have such freedom. Everything is according to God’s Will, only if we pray for God’s Will to be done (for example, in the prayer ‘Our Father’). If we do not pray for this, then everything will be according to the will of the demons. This is because nature abhors a vacuum and if God is absent because of our rejection of Him, the demons rush in, in order to take His place. Demons are parasites and in order to live on earth, they must have willing bodies to live in. From the Scriptures we recall that even pigs could not bear their presence and preferred suicide. Only the wills of those who resist demons ally themselves with God.

Orthodox Christianity and Deviations from it

Q: Why are Christians of all denominations not united in One Church?

A: Firstly, there are those intellectuals who place their proud minds, sullied by their impure hearts, above the all-pure mind of Christ. Such, like Arius, Nestorius, Pope Hildebrand, Luther etc, can never accept the Church of Christ because through pride they think that they are above Her. They say, I am of Apollos, Cephas etc, and not of Christ. They will never unite with the Church because they lack the humility to do so.

Secondly, there are those who sully themselves with nationalist politics and put their nationality, Coptic, Armenian, Western European, Greek or whatever, above Christ. They will actually tell you that you cannot join the Church because you are not the right nationality or ‘blood’ and so not the right mentality.

As a result, there are always those who put themselves outside the Church, even though they still maintain that they are Christians. Thus, they create disunity.

Q: Why is the existence of religious values even in personal life under threat today?

A: This is the last stage of the series of attacks on faith which began 1,000 years ago, with the attempt to remove religion from political life (called papism), and so desacralize it. Some 500 years ago, with the Protestant Reformation, there began the attempt to desacralize economic life, enslaving it to bankers, then some 250 years ago the attempt to desacralize social life (the American and then French Revolutions), making religion a purely private affair. Now has come the attempt to desacralize even personal life, from the 1960s on, for example, making abortion legal, confusing sexual identity and sexualizing children, ultimately enslaving each person digitally. How long before each one of us is given a 12-digit personal number, which will identify each individual, subjugating everyone to the World State?

Q: Why don’t Orthodox ally themselves with Traditionalist Catholics?

A: Perhaps you mean: Why don’t Traditionalist Catholics ally themselves with the Church of God?

I understand that there are some things in common but there are reasons why such an alliance has never happened. Firstly, because Traditionalists tend to believe that Orthodox are schismatics, so, with this illusion, they remain outside the Church. Secondly, because many of them seem to believe that liturgical life can be expressed only through Latin, a view which is not ours. Thirdly, because Traditionalists sometimes have very right-wing, almost racist, White Supremacist inclinations which look down on, among others, Eastern Slavs, Greeks, Arabs and Georgians, as inferior races. Fourthly, because they are generally subject to their love of suffering in their mournful and constipated, ‘crucifixionist’ pietism, which is a result of their filioquism, that is, of their secularism, and so lack of faith in the Resurrection. Finally, because they are papists without a Pope and Orthodox do not have Popes.

Tsar Nicholas II

Q: On pilgrimage in Russia we saw a very large icon of the Tsar-Redeemer. Surely this is a heresy? Only Christ is the Redeemer?

A: You are quite right, though I think the word ‘heresy’ is too strong, I think it is just theological illiteracy, the ignorance of the simple. The error comes from the fact that all suffering is redemptive and also from the Tsar’s own words who, seeing the apostasy of Russia’s intellectually educated, but spiritually uneducated (‘the intelligentsia’), said that ‘perhaps a redemptive sacrifice is necessary and perhaps that is me’. Both Metr Anastasy (Gribanovsky) and St John of Shanghai referred to his redemptive qualities. So an icon with the inscription saying, ‘Tsar Nicholas, the Redemptive Sacrifice’, would be quite correct. However, as you say, there is only one Redeemer, far above all saints, but all saints live in Christ, in an inward way imitating His Redemption on their modest level.

Q: Why was Tsar Nicholas II not canonized as a Great-martyr?

A: I had this conversation with the late Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles in 1992. In answer to this question, he told me that he had been in favour at the Synod meeting leading up to 1981, as had Metr Anastasy before him, but he had been a minority voice in the Synod.

I think in general that ‘Great-martyrs’ only earn that title through the veneration of the people. This is what is happening among sections of the Orthodox people in Russia today, who sing of the Tsar as a Great-martyr. His title will officially change only once popular veneration demands it.

Modern Music

Q: What is spiritually wrong with modern music?

A: There are many sorts of modern music, but I suppose you mean the worst sort? In that case you probably find that it has no soul, it is like a TV soap, in that it is artificially manufactured for the tastes of the lowest, it is ‘fake music’, just noise to fill the vacuum in people’s lives. In this way it is quite unlike classical music, which is a poem about the composer’s soul, whereas, at worst, such modern music is a yell about debauchery.

Our Church

Q: Can you tell us something edifying about your Church in England?

A: I can only tell you one thing, that we have survived, we are still here. Despite what everything that Satan has thrown against us over fifty years, we are still here. Despite the pharisees, who like parasites have tried to use the Church to spread their political or pathological illnesses and persecuted us, despite the modernists who have tried to use the Church as a vehicle for their rationalistic reformist fantasies and persecuted us, despite the loveless bureaucrats who practised their hard-hearted ritualism and persecuted us, and above all, despite our own sins, we are still here, hell has not destroyed us. And that is not just edifying, but a miracle because, humanly speaking, there is absolutely no reason why we should still be here and still waging our war for survival, we should have been destroyed years ago.

The Turning Point for the Phanar?

The Patriarchate of Constantinople has called a meeting of all 120 of its bishops for the beginning of September, after its Patriarch Bartholomew has consulted with Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow at the end of August. All of its bishops, including those elderly, ill, retired and titular (about half of them), are being summoned. It is clear that this is an important meeting, being called with the full backing of the US Secretary of State and his ambassador in Turkey.

After the disaster of the inter-Orthodox meeting which it organized in Crete two years ago, boycotted by representatives of 80% of the Orthodox world and rejected by many who did attend it, it is time for the Phanar to reconsider its policy of ecclesiastical imperialism and to start to listen. It is, however, doubtful that it will have the humility to accept its position in the real world as a tiny ethnic grouping, which has discredited itself with the USA that finances it, the Vatican that supports it and, above all, with Orthodox who are faithful to the Tradition. It would be better if the Archbishop of Athens simply assumed the title of Patriarch of Constantinople, so that the reality that this Patriarchate is in fact just an anachronistic, small Local Church takes hold. Then it will stop meddling in the affairs of other Local Churches.

There are those who fear that such realism is quite beyond the grasp of the present Phanariot episcopate, who are blinded by theory and fantasy, by what their forbears represented a millennium ago. Some repeat the dark rumour that the meeting in September will result in the Phanar setting up an uncanonical jurisdiction in the US-run Ukraine. This would lead to Constantinople’s excommunication from the Orthodox Church, which has condemned any such moves. Others believe that the meeting will simply appoint a new Archbishop for the corrupt and bankrupt Greek Archdiocese in the USA and Canada, which has become very turbulent because of its general apostasy from Orthodoxy and so protestantization by the dominant local culture in North America.

Whatever the case, Orthodox must pray that the episcopate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople will this time at last listen to the Holy Spirit. This is surely make or break time for it and its faltering octogenarian Patriarch.

A Week in the Life of a Priest

It is only thanks to an annual break in a remote place in France, without the internet, that I have time to write up a week’s diary. In this place, called ‘Daybreak’ in French, that you will not find on any map, where the old people speak ‘gallo’ and not French, there is still a sense of the old saints, one of whom lived here as a hermit over a millennium ago. Since, in modern France, Catholicism has been dead once the 1960s and the country is wholly given over to the new consumerist paganism from the USA that has replaced it, the sense of the old saints is the only alternative.

Here is one week in my life, not typical in its details, because every week is different and unexpected, but typical in terms of its fullness.

Saturday 1st

A new month begins and I reflect that today is the 25th anniversary of the death of a man who lived under the pseudonym of Mavr Stepanich. He was a Red Army soldier, who in 1944 was trapped by the Germans in the western Ukraine. Facing certain death in capture (there was no mercy on the Eastern Front), he rook the identity papers from a dead body, that of a soldier called Mavr Stepanovich, who was a Polish Ukrainian fighting on the German side, and dressed himself in his uniform. When he got captured by the Germans, they sent him to Germany as a Ukrainian slave-worker.

After the War, pretending to be a Polish citizen who had been sent to Germany, he managed to get sent to France as a Polish refugee. Here he worked as a nightwatchman until his retirement in 1980. He told me his story in 1993, more or less as a deathbed confession and told me his real name. Most of his life he had lived under a dead man’s name, frightened that he would be found out. His gravestone bore his assumed name, not his real one: even in death he bore another man’s name. So were people caught up in the cruel history of the twentieth century.

There are only two baptisms this afternoon, Moldovan and Latvian. At the Latvian baptism, the young godfather’s wife is Peruvian. Quite the most striking woman I have ever seen, like some Inca princess, certainly not of European blood. The fall of the Soviet Union meant that this Latvian Russian had met her in England and married her. What a destiny…..From Peru to Latvia…What will their children look like?

Latvia was ravaged by the EU. Their factories closed, two thirds of Lithuanians and one half of Latvians have to live abroad. They have been cut off from their parents, except by skype (symbolically for the Baltics, an Estonian invention) and their children grow up speaking German, English, Spanish, French or Italian, relatively ignorant of their parents’ culture and language. The minority cultures and languages that the Soviet Union failed to extinguish are being extinguished by the European Union’s MacDonaldization. I have one Latvian parishioner, whose six children live in six different EU countries. Her family has been broken and scattered by history, her grandchildren scarcely know one another. Little wonder that she reckons that she was better off under the Soviet Union.

Two confessions. One enquiry. Two men lighting candles – they are working tomorrow. The Vigil service.

Sunday 2nd

I arrive at church at 8.00, there are things to get ready and a proskomidia that would take all night, if I had the time. There are about forty people for confession, some come to me, some, mainly Romanians, go to the second priest, who arrives a little after me. There is a huge crisis in Romania, as in the Baltics: 3.8 million, mainly the young people, have left Romania since the country was forced to join the EU just a few years ago. They do not want to be here, but there is no alternative: starve or emigrate. Here is the wonderful European Union.

At church there used to be a prostitute. She has been radiantly happy ever since I married her to her husband and had children. She was deeply ashamed of what she fell into in the past. I am the only person in the world who knows her secret. Now she lives in X. in her new life, but has come today.

A man I have never seen before comes to confession with a secret that he has kept for ten years. He cries as he confesses. He is thankful for confession. At last he has said what he had to repent for.

There are only about 130 at church today. As usual a good twenty are people I have never seen before. As there are so many children and about half the adults take communion, we use two chalices. After the liturgy I have the usual queue of people. Two want a moleben, others want to make appointments for baptisms and house blessings, one wants me to fill in a form, one is asking about weddings. About average.

Monday 3rd

In the morning I catch up with e-mails after the weekend. I get about fifteen a day which need answering. Another fifteen are spam or can be deleted. Most are from England, but a good minority come from Russia, the USA or elsewhere. The phone does not stop ringing.

In the afternoon I have a funeral in an east Norfolk village. The countryside is lovely. What a good place to die. Aged 89, the woman I am burying was born on the other side of the world in Sakhalin, by the Sea of Japan. The village Church of England church is opened to me by the churchwarden. He is well into his sixties, but he tells me that he is the youngest member of the congregation.

Now, as we sing ‘Eternal Memory’, she who is on her last journey is being buried not far from the sound of the waves of the North Sea. She lived through Stalin, the Second World War, the trauma of Gorbachov and then emigration aged 78 to England. She made a deathbed confession to me and I gave her communion two weeks ago. It was a wonderful confession. Another destiny. From the Sea of Japan to the North Sea, half way round the world.

In a melancholy mood, on the way back I think about B., the Russian prince who lived in a council house in C..  He died twenty years ago. He was a brilliant man who came to England in 1946. He had suffered collectivization, seen the deaths of all the members of his family at the hands of Stalin’s thugs and then been kidnapped to Germany by the Nazis. He came to England, worked hard, made all the furniture in his house himself, sang in the Church choir. He was a clean soul.

Then my thoughts shift to my great-aunt Madge, who was a sales girl at Harrod’s who died in the Blitz in October 1940. I never knew her, but have a photo of her. There is no-one to pray for her, except me. What a tragedy. Recently married to my great-uncle, she had hardly lived. Why did she die under a German bomb? Her husband, my great-uncle Albert, died in 1948. They say of a broken heart. He never recovered from losing her.

Tuesday 4th

Fifty miles from home I take communion to L., who is ill and lives here in sheltered accommodation. She is aged 84 and knew Fr Ambrose (Pogodin) in London. He was a wonderful priest, who translated works of the Fathers from Latin. A very gifted man, he went to America, but nothing worked out for him, as he was a man of integrity who found any sort of compromise very difficult. How much talent has been lost to the Church as a result of the politicking and narcissism of some bishops. There is only one person in the diocese for them – themselves. May God rest his gentle soul.

In this town where I am near Cambridge, we need a church. I tried to buy one here three years ago, but could not raise the money. I discover that it is still available. I can see no other suitable premises. We are so desperately short of money to buy suitable premises and provide priests. Now there are at last three of us priests here in the east of England, but I still need another nine.

On the way back, I stop to see the M. family, who are parishioners. We talk. There is much to say.

In the evening there are many phone calls.

Wednesday 5th

Today I leave at 7.00 am to get to O.. It is fifty miles away and I need to see eleven people in all. One of these young men is there because he killed a man in a car accident. The story is sad. He had an argument with his girl-friend, drove away very angry and killed a young pedestrian through dangerous driving and negligence. He admits his guilt and says he deserved a longer sentence. I know that he is haunted by the life that he cut short. And he will be haunted by it for the rest of his life. Can he pray himself out of his fault? What a burden on his conscience.

Afterwards I stop over to talk to F., who has phoned me, saying that she has marital difficulties. Then I call in on T.. She is Russian, aged 28, and has had health problems. I confess her. She lives with a Catholic man, also from Eastern Europe. I meet him. He is a very kind man, who is deeply in love with her, just the right man for her. He is ready to join the Church for her. I encourage them to think about getting married and starting a family.

Thursday 6th

Today I head for Lincolnshire, 100 miles away. Thirty-five years ago I used to live near here. I have two baptisms in the kitchen of a family here. They have two children. They had not had them baptised yet as there was no priest. I bless her house with the baptismal water. Then I meet a woman in a small town. She is from a town on the Volga. Now she works as a cashier in a supermarket in a small town in England. She is Orthodox, but used to go to the local Church of England church, as there is no Orthodox church here, but ‘when they played drums at Easter’, she left and has not returned. She says she wants the real Church. Her 16-year old daughter has conquered cancer, and the mother wants to get married. We fix a date. I bless her house. Nearby is a town with a Methodist church for sale for £250,000. It would be ideal for us. There are a lot of Orthodox here, I could spend a week here.

Friday 7th

I open my e-mails. From my old parish in Portugal, I hear that V. has died. A former KGB operative in Prague, he repented and in 1993 I baptised him and then married him to his Czech wife. He came to church last Sunday in Lisbon and everyone noticed that he looked very pale and very tired, not well at all. He went to sit on a shady bench outside the church. Suddenly he had a heart attack and within seconds he had died. He was aged 68. I will serve a panikhida for him in Colchester today. I already have a moleben to serve today for two people, ordered last Sunday.

In the news I read that a group of Russians have been found in Siberia. Orthodox refugees, they had been living in isolation for decades and had not yet heard that the atheist Soviet Union had fallen. What must their lives have been like?

I go to church. I serve the moleben and panikhida. I help clean the church, with the help of parishioners: they do most of the work. I get ready for a liturgy in Kent tomorrow.

Many phone-calls again.

It has been a full week, with many thoughts about death, which is very unusual, as I have very few funerals. But every week is different, as any priest will tell you.

Why aren’t you a priest? It is the only satisfying job left.