Monthly Archives: May 2021

A Reply to the Enemies of the Church

 

Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.

Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.

 Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.

 Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.

 Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the Lord chase them.

Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the Lord persecute them.

 For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have dug for my soul.

Let destruction come upon him unawares; and let his net that he has hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.

And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation.

All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee, who deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoils him?

False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.

They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into my own bosom.

 I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourns for his mother.

 But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the wretches gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not:

With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.

Lord, how long wilt thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.

I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.

 Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.

For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.

Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye has seen it.

This thou hast seen, O Lord: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.

Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.

Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me.

 Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up.

Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.

 Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.

And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.

On the Role of Pastors

In the age of the internet, when there is a temptation in all jurisdictions to follow the ways of the world and turn the Church into some kind of money-making corporation or institution, where all is just a façade for websites, a piece of theatre for show, as among the Uniats, it is good to recall the following:

‘All power in the Church belongs to the Risen Christ: ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me…I am with you always until the end of the age’. It is as though he had told the apostles: ‘Power does not belong to you, and, I will be with you always to direct you: ‘Go and teach all peoples’…’Thus, the apostles were not the creators of ‘the new life’, but co-workers of God…Christ did not say to them either: ‘You will proclaim the truth from this moment on’, but ‘the Comforter, the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you’…Thus, it is Christ Who directs the Church by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the apostles are only His co-workers. ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God made grow in such a way that it is not he who plants who is something (underlined by the Archbishop), nor he who waters, but God who makes grow’. Thus, the bishop must know that HE IS NOTHING…The apostles did not think of their personal glory, but only of the glory of God and of the Truth, recalling that they themselves are nothing’.

Speech at his consecration of the Ever-Memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, disciple of St John of Shanghai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of a Parish

ST JOHN’S ORTHODOX CHURCH

Military Road, Colchester, Essex CO1 2AN, England

 www.facebook.com/stjohnsorthodoxcolchester

 The Church of St John of Shanghai, built in 1855 for the British Army, is today the largest Russian Orthodox church building and the largest wooden church in the British Isles and possibly in Western Europe. It is situated in eastern England, in Colchester, the Roman capital of Britain before London, which is located 80 kilometres to the south-west of Colchester.

The church was bought by Orthodox through an internet appeal on the Orthodox England website in 2008. It was at once converted to Russian Orthodox use in a town where there had never been any Russian Orthodox presence before. It is therefore a completely new parish. It is attended by 4,000 Orthodox of 24 nationalities, with 200-300 parishioners who attend every Sunday and some 120 baptisms per year. The vast majority of parishioners are aged under 40 and there is a very large number of children. The church and all its buildings belong to the ROCOR East of England Orthodox Church Trust (Charity No. 1081707), which cares for grassroots Orthodox all over the East of England. The Trust has set up two other churches in East Anglia over the last six years, one in Norwich and another just outside Cambridge.

It has three priests, the rector, Archpriest Andrew Phillips, who was born in Colchester and has served as a clergyman for nearly 37 years, including in Meudon outside Paris and in Lisbon in Portugal. There are also Fr Ioan Iana, who is Romanian and married to a Russian, and Fr George Petrovsky, who is from Latvia. Sunday communions are from three chalices. We at last have two deacons to help us. The parish runs a talk and discussion circle about the Faith, and for children, a Sunday school, a Russian school, a construction club and a sewing club. It also publishes many unique booklets in English, issues a quarterly youth magazine called Searchlight and a monthly newsletter called The Eastern Orthodox.

Apart from the main church, measuring 650 square metres, and two halls, there is also a small church dedicated to All the Saints of the British Isles and Ireland.

This veneration of the local saints was in part inspired by St John of Shanghai, who promoted the veneration of Western saints. Indeed, Fr Andrew was ordained by a spiritual son of St John, the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva (1910-1993). This Archpastor’s very rare values coincide with our own and inspire us. They are:

– To unite all Orthodox, whatever their nationality, into the One Russian Orthodox Church in these islands according to the Orthodox calendar under Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All the Russias.

– To keep the purity of Holy Orthodoxy free from political meddling from whatever great power and from bureaucracy, from both the left (modernists) and from the right (sectarians), keeping to the royal path of the unity of Truth and Mercy.

­- To be faithful to the best of Imperial Russia and the spirit of the Imperial Family, who stood above factions, confessing the Faith as protectors of the unique Christian Civilisation of the Orthodox world and confessing the Faith, ready to be persecuted and martyred when required.

– To remain multinational, inevitable in the Western European context, carrying out the missionary task of the Russian emigration assigned to us by Providence among the peoples of the world, in faithfulness to the words of Christ (Matt, 28, 19-20).

This multinational aspect is reflected by the 24 nationalities which make up the flock here and our three main liturgical languages, Slavonic, English and Romanian, although the choir director is French and the deacons are Moldovan and English. But you will find Australian, Turkish, Maltese, Greek, Estonian and Chinese among the parishioners. The parish has set up several parishes and communities elsewhere in the region, notably those mentioned above in Norwich and Cambridgeshire, but also in Suffolk and beyond. The parish is characterised by the family and community spirit of the parishioners, despite national differences and various languages, and the willingness of all to learn about the Faith with humility and to help one another, both in prayer and also materially. This deep unity comes from our common faith, prayer, fasting and frequent confession and communion.

To commemorate the centenary of ROCOR in 2020, the parish commissioned an Icon of the three ROCOR saints, the Saints of the Russian Emigration, the Three New Hierarchs, the Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy. These are: St Jonah of Hankou (+ 1925), St Seraphim of Boguchar (+ 1950) and our former Archbishop, St John of Shanghai and San Francisco (+ 1966). In this Icon of this global age, we see all six inhabited continents of the planet beneath the Protecting Veil of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, blessed by the Three New Hierarchs, St Jonah, St Seraphim and St John, who lived on different continents. Together they represent the essential identity, unique service, planetary mission and future of our whole Russian Orthodox Church, come forth from the past of Imperial Russia, now living in the present and worldwide.

May the Lord help us and bring us all to salvation!

Archpriest Andrew Phillips,

Colchester, Essex

13 May 2021

Does Anyone Believe Western Lies Any More?

The meeting on Bright Monday of the anti-Christian Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, and the anti-Christian Dominic Raab, the UK foreign secretary, affirmed their commitment to Western imperialism, threats and meddling against the peoples of Russia, China, Iran and anyone else who is willing to stand up to their asset-stripping aggression and powermongering.

Searching desperately for support, both foreign politicians of their much-weakened countries called on other G7 countries (all financially and morally bankrupt like themselves) to attack those who do not share Western atheist values and its imperialism. Notably, they also want Australia, South Korea, India and South Africa to join their tiny and elitist G7 club in order to threaten and bully sovereign states. Western brinkmanship and sabre-rattling on the borders of Russia and warships sent into the Black Sea and the South China Sea, CIA and GCHQ cyber-attacks and mass misinformation on the part of the venal Western media, such as the notorious British State BBC propaganda mouthpiece, and the multiple assassinations of black people and civil disorder in the USA, were all justified.

The usual ritual threats were also made against China, accusing it of repression at home and aggression abroad. Clearly, the two anti-Christians were talking about themselves, since both their countries are notorious for invading other lands and committing genocides in countries like Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, and this only in the last thirty years! The US and the UK have for generations told the world that they are beacons of ‘freedom and democracy’. This is clearly untrue.

This lie has never stopped them from invading and overthrowing sovereign states around the world, assassinating democratically-elected leaders and attempting to wipe out their peoples, like the Nazis. (Most recently, they tried to overthrow and assassinate the Belarussian leader, Lukashenko). As a result, over the generations, vassal gangsters in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, including the Ukraine, who swore feudal fidelity to their US lords, or else fanatical Islamists, have taken over countries, which had been ruined and impoverished by Western aggression.

However, even Blinken said that the USA would not start a war with China. This is because it is too bankrupt and too frightened. As Blinken said, diplomatically, ‘a military conflict between the world’s two biggest economies does not serve either of their interests’. The notorious warmonger Raab added that London and Washington see “eye-to-eye” on China’s resistance to their imperialism and aggression and would try to get China to bankrupt itself through issues such as climate change, even though China’s pollution problem is caused by its manufacture of goods for the Western world.

Blinken even insisted, quite ridiculously, that the US was not cutting and running in Afghanistan, saying: “We have made it absolutely clear that as we withdraw our forces from Afghanistan we will protect them and take decisive action in response to any attacks. We have also been clear our forces are drawing down (= running away), but we are not disengaging. We intend to be very active diplomatically in trying to advance a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.” This is clearly a lie, as everybody knows that the US lost the war it began there twenty years ago, even though it has tried for years to negotiate with Afghan patriots, just as it lost the wars it started in Vietnam, Iraq and the Ukraine and had to run away.

All these lost wars have killed millions of innocent people, cost the USA trillions of dollars and led to it being hated around the world. Equally hypocritically, Blinken said: “We have to take a stand on the arbitrary detention for political purposes. I would hope that with time and effort countries should establish a norm that this practice is unacceptable.” Was he talking about the notorious US torture camp in Guantanamo Bay or CIA torture facilities in Lithuania and its other Eastern European colonies?

The hypocrisy of Blinken and Raab reminds us of the hypocrisy 500 years ago, when the Russian leader, Ivan IV, a man under whose rule between 2,000 and 4,000 Western-supported traitors to Russia died, was dubbed ‘The Terrible’ by Western leaders of the time and still today. Yet the same Western leaders, like the monstrous Henry VIII and later Elizabeth I in England, were murdering hundreds of thousands, as prescribed by the Italian strategist Macchiavelli. Then Western European society was patterned by one long series of ‘religious wars’, massacres, inquisitions, torture, hanging, drawing and quartering, witch-hunts and later monstrous ‘colonial’ genocides. The greatest of these genocides was the blood-soaked founding of the USA, still today notorious for its cowboy violence.

Why have Western leaders always slandered Ivan IV? Simply because he protected his people from organised Western violence and asserted Christian values as far as he could despite the traitors. Today, the USA, the UK and the EU persecute and blacken all who resist its ‘Western values’ of immorality and murder and tell lies about other countries in exactly the same way as 500 years ago. Does anyone still believe them? Or are they, like Dr Goebbels in 1945, just talking to themselves? Berlin is about to fall. Have they not noticed?

 

 

 

 

Notes of an Antediluvian Priest

In the Russian emigration, whatever our origin and generation, we are antediluvian, for the simple reason that our traditions go back before 1917. They are our lodestar, even today when the old pre-1917 emigration have long since died out and the majority of my 600 parishioners were born in ex-Communist Eastern Europe and their children in contemporary England. After over forty years since I was tonsured reader and nearly thirty-seven since I was ordained, I have to give my conclusion: there is nothing new under the sun. Here are some notes.

Some years ago I remember reading an article on a well-known Russian-language Orthodox website. It related the story of a young Russian man who had visited a certain Russian bishop in London, not long after the fall of the Soviet Union. He had met the bishop while the latter was sweeping the floor of his church. On seeing this, the naïve young man had concluded that the bishop in question was a saint! We fell about laughing for weeks. We knew both the bishop and the situation very well. The story said nothing about the bishop in question, but said lots about the inexperience of the gullible young Soviet man. The reality is that if you are a clergyman in the Diaspora and you do not sweep and wash the floor of your church regularly, you will be considered some sort of atheist. Washing the floor for a bishop is not some photo opportunity, this is just normal practice. We are far too poor to pay people to do such work. We all do it ourselves. Bishop or priest, we would never dream of not doing it.

Another example: a certain bishop was sent to Western Europe from post-Soviet Russia. The first thing he did was buy himself a rather luxurious black car. His reputation was finished in one day. The flock would never trust him again and indeed eventually he had to be replaced.

Some years ago, a young priest here made up the following advertisement:

‘Wanted: Married men with stable paid employment who are prepared to become Russian Orthodox priests. Training: Pay for it yourself. Salary: Nothing, though you will be treated by your bishop as though he pays you large sums of money for full-time work for him. He will also demand money from you, send you unjust, feudal decrees which are impossible to fulfil and punish and shout at you for doing missionary work on behalf of the people. Gratitude: Non-existent.  By the way, you will have to set up and pay for your own church and create a parish community. And your wife and children will have to agree to these terms. Any takers?’

Naturally, there are few people who come here from the countries of the ex-Soviet Union or anywhere else in traditionally Orthodox countries to become clergy. Not everyone is as crazy as we are. Our life here is not better than in such countries. In the Russian Church here we used to have a special word to describe our poverty. This word was ‘emigrantshchina’.

An example: In 1931 Maria Ivanovna donated a rug to our church. By 1991 it was, to say the least, very worn. But it could not be replaced because ‘it had been prayed on’ (‘namolennyj’).

Another example: One priest, a Belarussian, had taken to making candlesticks from leftover wood in his garden shed. He would then ‘decorate’ them with silver paper (aluminium foil) from bars of chocolate. He was very proud of his work. The diplomats among us simply kept quiet.

A third example: One emigre bishop had to make his own mitre. This involved making colour photocopies of the four icons which are on a mitre and sticking them into tiny plastic frames which he had stuck onto the cardboard mitre he had made for himself. You may laugh, but the intention was sincere. As one Russian archbishop said to me twenty years ago: ‘Yes, we made mistakes, but we were always sincere’. I did not answer, thinking to myself how history is littered with the wrecks of people, kings, presidents, dictators as well as every idealist under the sun, who were all sincere.

Emigrantshchina did indeed have its down sides. One of these was ignorance. A lot of clergy had little theological and liturgical education, and even if they did, it was on a very low level. They would justify the most absurd practices, such as communion once a year, on the grounds that ‘Tak vsegda bylo’, that is, ‘That’s the way it’s always been’. Just because the Russian Church before the Revolution with rare exceptions allowed communion only once a year, was this ‘tradition’ correct? Some émigrés would justify anything because it was ‘traditional’. I remember in a certain convent, they used to read the Lives of the Saints in the refectory in Church Slavonic. Hardly anyone understood anything, but ‘Tak vsegda bylo’. Or else there was a certain elderly Protodeacon in a certain ROCOR Cathedral, who always used to appear from the altar after the Liturgy, drunk. When I asked why the bishop (who admittedly had Alzheimer’s) allowed this, again I got the response ‘Tak vsegda bylo’.

What they meant by this was that the abuse which they both preached and practised was one which their parents and grandparents had also preached and practised. For instance, I well remember how in one parish a new priest was appointed who proceeded to walk around the church for the great censing, as is normal. Complaints went in to the bishop! The thing was that the previous priest, who had been extremely old and came from the Russia of before, had not for two or three decades done the great censing properly because he could not walk properly.

Some rather fanatical anti-diplomats today, both converts and third or fourth generation Russians, are still justifying practices that were never traditional in the Russian Church, but crept in from outside during the 1970s! Those of us who knew the Church before that period are amazed by such ignorance.

Here one of the greatest problems was that the Russian émigrés born here in the 1920s and 1930s were functionally illiterate; certainly they could speak Russian, albeit with an accent and sometimes with grammatical mistakes, but they could neither read nor write. I remember how in the old Western European Diocese there were only two people who had ever read the collected works of Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky), the founder of the Church Outside Russia. These were the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, who had been born before the Revolution, and myself. The significance of this is that Metr Antony had in no uncertain terms denounced in his writings all the many abusive practices of the pre-Revolutionary Church. As a result of their ignorance, most émigrés, born abroad in the 1920s and 1930s, were brought up with the ‘superstition’ (I cannot think of a better word) that everything had been perfect in the pre-Revolutionary Church (and they, pharisee-like, had inherited that perfection). Of course, this begged the eternal question: ‘Why then if it had all been so perfect, had there been a Revolution?’

Some people inside Russia think that the émigré Church is very rich. This also causes us almost hysterical laughter. After all, we are all aristocrats!! Many choir directors and singers came and come to us from the ex-Soviet Union and demand ‘jobs’ in our parishes. They have no concept that all our normal choirs are composed of unpaid amateurs, parishioners who like singing (though they do not always know how to). Like most of the priests, the choirs are nearly always unpaid. The professional choirs in Moscow and Saint Petersburg churches are, if anything, scandalous for us. Are we seriously saying that none of the parishioners there is competent enough to sing or wants to sing in their own churches? There again, as one senior priest in Moscow told me some years ago: ‘Our main problem in Russia is that we do not have any parishes. The concept does not even exist any more’. Indeed most churches in the cities in the ex-Soviet Union are little more than railway stations, full of passers-by, which no-one feels they can belong to. Though, in fairness, the situation is changing for the better in the suburbs.

The other great difference is of course that Diaspora clergy never give a thought to the State, any State, the post-Soviet Russian or to the State of the country where we live. This does give us freedom. However, it is always amusing to meet newcomers who think we all receive salaries from the Russian Embassy or, for example, from the British State! They therefore treat us like consumers in a supermarket. Priests must be available 24 hours a day, especially they must have their mobile phones on during services. The number of calls I get recorded on Sunday mornings and listen to on Sunday evenings is extraordinary! All of this ignores the fact that the contemporary post-Soviet Church inside Russia, unlike the pre-Revolutionary Russian Orthodox Church, is not a State Church anyway, whatever the mentality of some may be.

To be a State Church or not to be a State Church? The question is irrelevant for us. We do not have any choice in the matter. All of us just have to make the best of our incredibly difficult situations, wherever we are.

Would anybody like to become a Russian Orthodox priest outside Russia? We are very short of candidates….

Questions and Answers from Recent Correspondence (April 2021)

Pastoral Matters

Q: Is there now any real difference between the ROCOR Churches and the Patriarchal Churches outside Russia? You are under the same Patriarch and all Russian Orthodox? What difference can there be?

A: Although the dividing lines are sometimes rather blurred today, especially in the capitals, generally we in ROCOR are the People’s Church. With other Churches, including Moscow Patriarchal parishes, you always have the impression that the priests are looking over their shoulders at foreign states and embassies, expecting financial or other help. We do not, we cannot, we are local. We have to be self-supporting. The priests survive, the choirs are unpaid. Without the support of the people, we will not exist. This makes us freer, though of course our life can also be incredibly difficult and poor. But who needs marble and gold in their churches? Despite everything they throw at us, all the hatred, jealousy and persecution, we are here and now.

Q: What would you say has been the result of the establishment of a group in the Ukraine under the Patriarchate of Constantinople?

A: The result has been the spread of the tiny, localised and highly nationalistic Ukrainian schism to the small Patriarchates of Constantinople and Alexandria and to the Churches of Greece and Cyprus. All those four Churches are now completely split. Fortunately, the other ten Local Orthodox Churches have remained faithful and not put local nationalism, whether Greek or Ukrainian, above Christ. We are now seeing who is actually Orthodox Christian and who is a mere chauvinist and can be bought to crucify the Body of Christ with thirty pieces of American silver.

Q: Archbishop Job of Telmissos of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has said that Orthodox must accept the Roman Catholic Easter. Could this happen?

A: Archbishop Job is the disgraced bishop of the former Rue Daru Constantinople group. His semi-Uniat, schismatic and tiny Patriarchate is out of communion with the vast majority of the Orthodox Church. I think the less said about any of his strange ideas, the better.

Q: What in the simplest and shortest terms possible is the difference between the Orthodox Church and the Non-Orthodox?

A: My grandson, aged three, recently went inside an Anglican church to see some stained-glass. When he came out, he was asked what he thought. He answered: ‘Huh, well, that’s a pretend church. There were no icons and no candles and they had beds for people to sleep on’ (he meant pews).

I will say no more.

Q: What are the essential qualities to be a priest?

A: There are two: Piety and Intelligence. However, these two qualities need defining:

Piety is not just faith in the heart that God exists, but actual knowledge of God through spiritual experience and therefore love of His Creation. This is very different from pietism, which is emotionalism and sentimentality.

Intelligence does not mean the excellent memory of academic intelligence, intellectualism, which is often very stupid and impious. Intelligence means intuition and experience of human psychology, emotional intelligence, the ability to understand where other people are coming from and how they suffer.

Q: Which is the biggest Orthodox jurisdiction in this country?

A: This is the jurisdiction of lapsed Orthodox, those of all nationalities who are baptised, but who never come to church. It certainly numbers hundreds of thousands.

Q: Why are many Orthodox people passive? Is this a form of clericalism?

A: Sometimes I have the impression that many Orthodox people are like very small children: they will not do anything for themselves or for the Church, unless instructed specifically to do so. This does not only concern big questions, it concerns petty things like blowing out candles, turning  a light on or the heating down, shutting a door etc. I think this comes from the State religion mentality: ‘The clergy will do it’. That mentality is fatally wrong.

Q: Priests should have no right to prevent people taking communion through confession. What do you say to that?

A: I absolutely agree with you. The aim of confession is precisely to help people take communion, not to prevent them. If you were a member of the Orthodox Church and had confession, I think you would know this.

Q: If the Orthodox Church is opposed to contraception, why do virtually all Orthodox couples use it? (As far as I can see they do, since families with two or even only one child appear to be the norm). What exactly is the Orthodox teaching?

A: In answer I will tell you a true story.

Some thirty years ago I met a young Russian émigré woman who thought she was ‘very Orthodox’. She got married to an Orthodox with the blessing of her ‘spiritual father’ and started having children. She had five altogether, even though her marriage was more or less collapsing. Finally, she divorced and became so mentally ill that she had to be taken to a mental hospital and the children were taken into care. In the meantime her ‘spiritual father’,a bishop!!, had been arrested by the police for pedophilia and was duly sitting in a police cell.

She had had five children, not because she loved them, but because in her pride she wanted to be ‘more Orthodox than the Orthodox’, a ‘super-Orthodox’, like her ‘spiritual father’. In other words, the motivation for her life had been sheer pride.

Tell me, what would have been the lesser evil? What would have been better than five unloved, unwanted, unhappy and rejected children, who all now have psychological problems.

The Orthodox teaching on this issue, as on all issues, is love.

Q: Why do temptations happen to us even though we pray ‘And lead us not into temptation’?

A: Temptations are allowed to happen to us in order to make us humble. The sad fact is that in general when there are no temptations, there is no humility. The devil does not know it, but when he tempts us, as allowed by God, he is in fact working for God, he is working to make us humble.

Q: What makes art?

A: Suffering. All great art comes from suffering. Suffering is redemptive for all, believers and unbelievers alike.

Q: What is the difference between a ghost and a poltergeist, if any?

A: A ghost is the souls of a departed human-being which cannot for some reason find rest. A poltergeist is a violent demon.

Q: I recently met an Orthodox woman who continually spoke about demons. I presume this is not typical?

A: Of course not. She is ill. There are people who for psychological, or rather psychopathological, reasons appear to believe more in the devil than Christ. They are profoundly depressed and depressing. These pessimists await the coming of Antichrist, whereas we await the coming of Christ, Who overcame the devil and death.

Liturgical Matters

Q: Why are Orthodox services rather chaotic compared to Catholic and Protestant churches? Everyone seems to be doing different things at the same time.

A: What could be more chaotic than the Holy Spirit?

Q: Do parishes ever need three deacons?

A: I would say no, because there is nothing for a third deacon to do. The only solution would be to have a rota, with the third deacon taking turns to celebrate as the first or second deacon. Even when there are two priests or two deacons, they can do the same.

Q: I recently attended an Unction service and the seven anointings were done altogether at the end, not seven times separately? Is that normal?

A: It is normal in small churches with large numbers of people. Rather than have people milling around seven times and bumping into each other, the anointings are all done at the end. However, in large churches where there is plenty of room and people are disciplined and know how to queue up, the seven anointings can be done separately after each Epistle, Gospel, litany and prayer, as is presupposed. This is a purely practical, not liturgical, question.

Q: Why are Liturgies of the Presanctified so poorly attended, when they do take place? And why not have them in the evening?

A: You mean Vespers with Presanctified Communion, as there is no eucharistic liturgy at these services.

First of all, these are monastic offices. In parishes the only people who can attend are paid clergy, a paid choir and retired people. In our context where we have no paid clergy and no paid choirs and we only have young people and they all work and their older children are at school, there is no possibility to attend them. The only people who might come are mothers with small children. But of course why would they come, when small children are unable to take communion at them because there is no Blood of Christ, only the Body. As I said at the beginning, these are services for monasteries or cathedrals, where there are priests, choirs and at least one reader (essential if these services are to be done properly).

Secondly, they are designed for those who are unable to wait until the next Saturday and Sunday to take communion, in other words they presuppose very frequent communion: that also is very rare. At all the Presanctified services I have been to or celebrated, there were never more than three communions (all of old people).

Very sadly, presanctified services can become a badge of pharisaical pietism.

If they were held in the evening (which is actually uncanonical), when would the fast before communion begin? After breakfast? Personally, I cannot take communion after a day at work. Holy communion needs to be the first thing we do in the day, not the last. Can we really be prepared to take communion after the stress of a day at work? Our thoughts are elsewhere. We need to prepare for holy communion.