The Church and the Outside World
Q: Do we need a Westless world?
A: That is both meaningless and impossible. What we need is a world in which the Western world has been restored to Orthodoxy through repentance and so to spiritual purity. What we need is a sinless world.
Q: I feel scandalised by the kow-towing of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the US State Department and its introduction of more meddling politics into Orthodox Church life, causing schism. I am so upset that I feel like abandoning the Church.
A: The Church, starting with its hierarchy, has always been the victim of politicians, who often appointed their friends and cronies as bishops – quite uncanonically. First it was pagan Roman Emperors with their allies, anti-Christian Jews, then it was pagan Persians, then pseudo-Christian Popes of Rome, then pseudo-Christian Emperors, then the Ottomans, then pseudo-Christian Russo-German rulers, then the Western Colonial Powers, then nationalism, Western materialists, Capitalist or Marxist, and today the politico-financial elite based in the USA, who persecute the Church.
There is nothing new here. One of the Twelve was called Judas and there will always be judases amongst us. Remember the famous response of St Basil the Great to the Emperor Valens in Caesarea in 371, who had demanded the theological submission of St Basil, who flatly refused. The imperial prefect expressed astonishment at Basil’s defiance, to which Basil replied, ‘Perhaps you have never met a real bishop before.’
Thus, only recently the Church Outside Russia had to be completely independent of the Church inside Russia, so as to remain free of bishops there who were subjugated to the KGB. Now – and actually for many decades – we have Greek bishops subjugated to the CIA. So what? We will continue to operate independently of all those who have sold their souls for a mess of pottage. The Church lives thanks to the Saints and the prophetic voices of those who actually believe and implement their Faith, who remain independent of their ‘diplomatic’ compromises and their anti-Gospel and anti-missionary ‘protocols’.
Yes, you would be quite wrong to abandon the Church. You do not abandon Christ. That would be to do exactly what the apostate bishops do. And you can always tell who they are by their refusal to venerate the saints. Just as they despised St Seraphim of Sarov, ‘a dirty peasant’, and persecuted and exiled St Nectarios of Egina (so loved by St John of Shanghai), who should have been Patriarch of Alexandria but consorted with Non-Greek ‘blacks’ whom he wanted to bring to Christ, so in the old Soviet Union they refused to canonise the New Martyrs and Confessors. And so it is today. The compromised hate the saints because the saints are not of this world – whereas they are of this world. The world hates the spiritual. Our Lord told the disciples this: as it hated Him, so it would hate them too. Our attitude to the saints is the touchstone of whether we belong to the Church or not.
Beware of bishops who are ideology-driven, head-driven, and not love-driven, heart-driven. Ideologies come not only from outside, from the State (money and power), but also from inside, from the passions and delusions that in turn come from the passions, or from both.
Q: How do you recognise someone who had been KGB-trained? Someone told me that a person who tried to become a parishioner in our parish in the USA told me that he could recognise KGB training in her.
A: There were three stages to their training. In the first stage they try and bribe you with presents to get you on side. If this does not work, they go on to the next stage, which is flattery: ‘everyone has his price’, as they say. They find someone’s weak spot and flatter it. If these two stages do not work, then they turn to the third stage, which means turning nasty. This involves slandering their victims and then denouncing them.
Sadly, some of our bishops have fallen to these tactics through naivety. However, I have been told that Western spy services use the same techniques. The KGB had no monopoly on cunning and nastiness. I am sure that it was the same in Ancient Rome.
Q: A friend told me the following: ‘Protestants follow the Bible; Roman Catholics follow the Pope of Rome; Orthodox follow the Holy Spirit’. What do you think of this definition?
A: Well, Protestants do not follow the Bible. If they did, they would be Orthodox. As regards the Roman Catholics, I think I would agree with you. As for the Orthodox, I think this is very idealistic. It would be more exact to say ‘Orthodox should follow the Holy Spirit’. There are an awful lot of Orthodox who do not, including time-serving clergy and a number among the episcopate who are fonder of money and power than of Christ. The proof? If all Orthodox did follow the Holy Spirit, there would be no Protestants or Roman Catholics; all would be Orthodox.
Q: Why are Evangelicals so moralistic and violently anti-LGBT? And why do they seem to give unconditional support to Zionist Jews and yet are very anti-Muslim?
A: They are moralistic because moralism is all that is left once spirituality has been removed and been lost. This is how Puritanism began in the sixteenth century. Today, among Protestants this has created a world where everything is geared to ‘fun and comfort’, to Disney life, and not to ascetic life. As for their support for Zionist Jews and hatred for the Zionists’ enemies, the Muslims, we should remember that Evangelicals, despite their name, are very much concentrated on the Old Testament. For instance, it was Jewish bankers in the Netherlands who financed the very expensive Civil Wars of Cromwell. Jews have always supported Protestants against Catholics and Orthodox. ‘Divide and rule’. The Pharisees were after all also moralists.
Wherever there is liberalism, modernism and atheism, you will also find moralism. This because wherever there is no spirituality, moralism rules. As a result, this moralism is always hypocritical because you cannot be moral if you do not have any spirituality. There was nothing so moralistic as Soviet Communism. You find the same hypocritical moralism in Socialist parties (e. g. the Labour Party in Britain) or among modernist ‘Orthodox’.
Q: What spiritual dangers do you think are the worst in today’s world?
A: It seems to me that there are three principal dangers: phariseeism, modernism and fatalism. The first means the spirit of ritualism, formalism, nominalism, in other words, of idolatry. The second is the spirit of aping the Western secularist world in its modernist and ‘liberal’ renunciation of Christ, in other words, the loss of the sense of the sacred due to materialism. The third is the spirit which says, let us abandon everything, there is nothing more we can do, there is no hope, the end is coming anyway, in other words, the abandonment of responsibility. All three dangers are in fact inspired by Satan, as they all play into his hands.
Inside the Church
Q: Why is safeguarding so little talked about in Orthodox churches?
A: Simply because pedophilia is extremely rare in the Orthodox Civilisation of the Church; it nearly always comes from the outside Western world, from Western culture. In Orthodoxy, in principle, we have married clergy in the parishes. (There are exceptions, but they are abnormal). Pedophilia among so-called Christians comes from the craze for clerical celibacy, which attracts perverts to paid jobs. I have in the last fifty years heard of only seven cases in the Orthodox Church worldwide, two in the USA, one in Australia, two in the old Soviet Union, and one in France and one in Canada (both by former Anglicans).
Having said that, in our diocese we do have an up-to-date safeguarding policy. In any public institution we have to protect our children from outsiders who may want to prey on them.
Q: Why do Orthodox insist on kneeling on Sundays despite the canon against it?
A: Your refer to Canon XX of the First Universal Council, repeated elsewhere. Many kneel because we are Orthodox, that is, because we are often unworthy to stand before God. Let us not be attached to convert pride.
Q: Should we read the so-called ‘secret prayers’ aloud?
A: Rationalists (Schmemannites, Archbp Paul of Finland and the whole semi-Protestant Parisian School from where they come, with its lack of sense of the sacred, which is both its essence and its bane), will tell you that they must be read aloud so that ‘the people can understand’. This is a classic piece of clericalism! Do they really think that they, with their ‘superior education’, or anyone else, can understand how bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ?! However, for us, the most important thing is the mystical aspect of the ‘sacramental prayers’ (‘secret prayers’ is really a mistranslation). The way clergy read these prayers must inspire prayerfulness, the mystical sense. Shouting them out like some sort of academic text is totally inappropriate.
Q: What is most necessary for converts?
A: I think it is spiritual sensitivity. This is the only way of being able to distinguish between fraud and authenticity.
Q: How do we approach our patron saints?
A: We should live their lives insofar as it is possible. It is interesting that Nicholas and Maria are probably the most popular names for Orthodox and it is the spirit of St Nicholas that exists strongly among many Orthodox men and the spirit of the Mother of God among many Orthodox women.
Q: What do you think of the books ‘The Way of a Pilgrim’ and ‘The Pilgrim Continues His Way’?
A: I think like a lot of literature read almost only by neophytes, they can be dangerous. They fill the head with fantasies, instead of with sobriety. Convert literature belongs to the ‘Symeon-Silouan-Seraphim’ (favourite convert names) school of convertitis and makes the naïve and inexperienced think they are already saints and know better than those with decades of experience in reality.
Q: Why are spires not used in Orthodox architecture?
A: Because we believe in the Incarnation. Spires point skywards to a lost God. God is not lost among us, but is incarnate. Orthodox architecture says that heaven is on earth, inside the church, which contains heaven (inside the iconostasis) and earth (in the nave). This is why domes, cupolas and caps are used – they point to God inside the church building, present in the sacraments.
Q: Should we keep Valentine’s Day? He was after all an Orthodox martyr.
A: St Valentine of Terni is commemorated on 14/27 February. Hs association with love etc is simply because of the pagan Italian custom of keeping that day as the first day of spring, when the birds and the bees begin. The commemoration of St Valentine with this day is thus completely coincidental. So this custom is extra-liturgical, though it goes back a long way, probably over 2,000 years, and in this country both Chaucer and Shakespeare mention it, so it is not a piece of modern commercialism like so much else.
Should we keep it? I think this is a purely personal matter, like keeping New Year’s Eve or Boxing Day, or any other secular, but not spiritually negative (unlike Hallowe’en), celebration. I am sure that the average Orthodox woman would be glad of some extra attention on this day, but there is no obligation at all from the Church.
Q: Do we bless candles at the Feast of the Presentation, the Meeting of the Lord, on 2/15 February?
A: This is a purely Roman Catholic custom, adopted in Belarus and the Western Ukraine under Roman Catholic influence, but there is a prayer on the Great Book of Needs for blessing candles on this day. Personally, I can see no need for it, unless the faithful ask for it. It is unknown to the older and more Eastern Orthodox world, though it is harmless in itself.
Q: Is the story that St Simon the Zealot came to Britain true? This is what it says: ‘He arrived in Britain in 60 AD and was crucified on 10 May the next year by the Roman Catus Decianus in Caistor, now in Lincolnshire’.
A: People sometimes ask me for the map reference to St Simon’s holy well near the River Cover in Yorkshire. This is in Coverdale between the villages of West Scrafton and Caldbergh, near where he is supposed to have lived (grid reference SE 086 849, Ordnance Survey sheet 99). However, Orthodox Tradition proclaims unanimously that St Simon was martyred in Abkhazia by the Black Sea. So possibly he visited Britain (as also to many other places), but he was not martyred here. The problem is also that the British tradition of his martyrdom here is very late, I think thirteenth century. I think it is more likely that crusader-pillagers brought back a small relic of him and left it in Caistor and perhaps, north of it, in Coverdale. This is similar to the case of St Joseph of Arimathea and Glastonbury.
Q: What Orthodox name would you give to someone called Lynn?