Q: What are we to make of the fire?
A: In my view this is a judgement on the atheist government and people of France. Beware: here may be next.
The Heterodox Easter
Q: Why is there a difference of one week between our Easter and the Catholic and Protestant Easter this year? And why does their Easter often fall one week or more too early?
A: Sometimes there is a difference of several weeks between the Orthodox Christian Easter and the secular one; this is because the Catholic-Protestant world takes the wrong full moon and so is a month or more too early. This year the difference is only one week. This is because the Catholic-Protestant world has its Easter at the same time as the Jews have their Passover. For the Jews this year’s Passover begins on the evening of Friday 19 April and, as usual, will last one week until the dawn of Friday 26 April. Our Easter is therefore on the 28 after their Passover has finished
All this is because in the 16th century the then Pope of Rome, Gregory XIII, decided to ignore the canon of the Holy Apostles which says that the Christian Easter must not coincide with the Jewish Passover, since the Resurrection of Christ took place the day after that year’s Jewish Passover, on Sunday, which became the Lord’s Day. As Christians, and so not putting ourselves above the apostles and the Church, the Orthodox Church adheres to this canon.
Q: Many people seem to say that Western Christianity is dead among native Western Europeans. Would you agree with that?
A: I can give an illustration from the town where I live. From a population of 25,000, this year about 200 nearly all elderly people gathered for a happy-clappy/pop-music Good Friday ‘service’, which was supposed to unite all Western Christians in the town. This is less than 1% of the population gathering for what for them is the key moment. For in their religion they do not cry ‘Christ is Risen’, but ‘Jesus is dead’. We can see that within 20 years no-one will be left. True, some Catholic churches live on thanks to Poles and other Catholic immigrants, including Polish priests, mainly from Eastern Europe, Portugal or Malabar India. True, some Protestant churches survive thanks to Afro-Caribbeans. True, there are patches of piety left, mainly in the south of Western Europe. But, on the whole, the game is over. Yes, I agree.
Q: Do you think the new schismatic church in the Ukraine has a future?
A: It does, but only as long as people continue to put their (fictitious or non-fictitious) country in place of Christ – just like any other political, nationalist and xenophobic organization. So many individual churches and parishes of every single diocese have died out in the Diaspora for exactly this reason, that they put their nationality first – and many of them were not even schismatic but, on paper, canonical! It is not just in places like the Ukraine. Both Macedonia and Montenegro also have such nationalist myths which replace Christ with their provincial ‘nations’.
However, in this country too there are ungrounded converts who put forward a ‘British (i.e. an adjective describing a fictitious and politically constructed country, just like the Ukraine) Orthodoxy’. American nationalism also figures highly among some convert groups there and in France the French nationalism of some in the old Rue Daru group, which is now crumbling and will soon disappear as such, also plays a significant role. If it is Glory to your nation first, then spiritual death awaits you, inevitably. I saw this in the old ROCOR diocese in this country which completely died out as a result of its nationalist racism and Cold War politics. Let the dead bury the dead. This is the spiritual law of the withered branch.
The Contemporary Church
Q: One experienced archimandrite told me that in his view the greatest weakness in our Orthodox Church is the lack of leadership on the part of the episcopate. Would you agree with that?
A: I agree that this is a problem, but I think that the real problem is more radical than that. I think that the chronic lack of leadership is a result rather than the cause. In reality, the lack of leadership is caused by the lack of love (sometimes even outright contempt and hatred) of many bishops for the clergy and the people. Hence all the injustices, favouritism and the fact that so many leave the Church in disgust or else join old calendarist schisms: Why stay in the Church when bishops behave in such a worldly and unloving way? Make up your own Church instead – just like the Protestants.
This lack of love is itself caused precisely by the worldliness of many bishops, their view of the Church, its ‘bureacratization’, seeing it as a mere personality cult (like the old Sourozh diocese which disappeared into schism after the death of its worshipped personality), as a mere institution for paperwork (the temptation of contemporary and pre-Revolutionary Moscow) or as a personal empire of a network of spiritually empty buildings (the temptation of contemporary Constantinople and in the schismatic Ukraine). All these examples trample on the reality of the Church as a Divino-human organism and the spiritual needs of the clergy and their flock. This worldliness, seen for example in ethnic narrowness, is the denial of the Oneness, Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity of the Church. What we need is an episcopate which is Churchly, not worldly. All our problems are caused by the lack of the Church, the real Church, which means Love.
For instance, in ROCOR we will never forget (though foolish triumphalists, sectarian bigots and pharisaical self-justifiers do forget it) how it was politically-minded ROCOR bishops who put St John of Shanghai on trial. This was an event from which, 55 years later, ROCOR is still recovering and by which it was almost spiritually destroyed. In the Greek Church you have the similar example of St Nectarios of Pentapolis (+ 1920), dismissed by his own Patriarchate and the scheming ambitions of its pseudo-Christian bishops. His Patriarchate of Alexandria only started spiritually recovering from this scandal after the canonization of St Nectarios, 41 years after his repose in 1961, when the schemers had died and at once missions to native Africans at last started, some thirteen hundred years late! This situation is exactly parallel to that of St John: ROCOR and the Church inside Russia were reunited in 2007, exactly 41 years after St John’s repose in 1966. This is spiritually significant.
We are always persecuted by false brethren, who are false precisely because they have no love. However, it must be added that the lack of love is displayed by everyone at times. We are all sinful, not just bishops, and we are all crucified for our sins and those of others. But this crucifixion is called salvation.
The Head and the Centre of the Church
Q: Where is the centre of the Church, Constantinople or Moscow? And who therefore is its Head?
A: The administrative centre of the Church changes over time. However, the spiritual centre of the Church is for all time Jerusalem, the place of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, and nowhere else. Her Head is Christ, the Risen God, and no-one else. Any other opinions are theological, historical and racist nonsense.
Q: People talk about ‘Orthodox Christian Civilization or Western Secularist Civilization’. But what practically is the difference?
A: (Orthodox) Christian Civilization proclaims the Gospel words, that we must ‘seek first the kingdom of heaven’ because that is our destiny after our inevitable death. In other words, we put God first. As a result the lives of men and women must be dedicated to churches and monasteries and bringing up in family life children, the rising generation, to fill them. Men are programmed to be providers, to sacrifice themselves to care for wives and children (this is called being husbands and fathers), mothers are programmed to sacrifice themselves to bring children into the world and bring them up.
Western Secularist (anti-Christian) Civilization is an Anti-Civilization because it alone is not based on spiritual values. It puts money (mammon in the form of the dollar or capital, worshipped in the idolatry and ideology of Capitalism) and material well-being first. The result is that it destroys and pollutes the planet through raping its natural resources with incessant wars for the sake of capitalist consumerism. As regards the lives of men and women, they are subject to individualism, another word for narcissistic egoism, which is the curse of modern Western society, with its indulgences and permissiveness, which result in sexual debauchery and disease and very common mental and physical illnesses, resulting from the consumption of drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, anti-depressants and narcotics. To hell with bringing up children; the vanity of narcissism has no place for them – hence abortion. This is why Western (and Westernized) societies are literally dying out, with populations shrinking and female fertility and sperm counts rapidly falling.
Q: Why does such a high proportion of converts lapse?
A: Simply because many embrace Orthodoxy only with their heads and not with their hearts. To embrace the Church with your head, intellectually, means that as soon as a problem appears, you lapse. To embrace the Church with your heart means that you overcome problems because you are there for Christ, not for simple ideas or mere personalities.
Q: Should laypeople take monastic names when being received into the Church?
A: I am against this. Over the last 45 years, I have noticed time and time again that those who take monastic names, like Seraphim or Silouana, often later lapse. This is because to take a monastic name without the humility that comes from monastic discipline and obedience is always a sign of spiritual illusion (‘prelest’). The same people tend also to dress as monks and nuns, pretending that they are what they are not; they usually lapse relatively quickly because they have made the mistake of associating the outward with the inward; they have built their house on sand and it falls when the storm comes. As the French say: ‘The habit does not make the monk’.
Q: Is personal happiness possible in this world or is it a sin?
A: Of course it is possible – and desirable – but you have to fight for it. You will not obtain anything through passive fatalism. It is passive fatalism that is the sin. Satan wants you to be unhappy, God does not. To believe otherwise is to believe like the Jews in God, Who was misunderstood by them in the Old Testament and Who is misunderstood by those other fatalists, the Muslims. (Indeed, the very word ‘Islam’ means ‘submission’). Life is too short not to fight for even the relative happiness which we can have in this life. Don’t give up in despair and fight for happiness even here below!