Author Archives: Father Andrew

How Will a Church of the Isles Be Created?

Introduction

So far there have been, or there are under way, four attempts to create a semi-autonomous, autonomous or even autocephalous Local Orthodox Church in the British Isles and Ireland. These attempts have been or are, for various reasons which we shall look at below, doomed to failure. This is why these attempts have never advanced further than fantasies. For example, there has even been basic ignorance of the name for such a future Church by foreign bishops. Some of them do not understand that the term ‘Great Britain and Ireland’ excludes the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands etc. Others even refuse to understand that the term ‘the British Isles’ excludes Ireland. Yet others have no concept of the countries which make up Western Europe. Basic geographical and historical ignorance appear to be commonplace. How will a semi-autonomous Church of the Isles (a possible reality, but only as part of a future Autocephalous Church of Western Europe) NOT be created? Let us look at the four tried and failed models.

  1. The Elitist Model

Already in the 1970s, as I remember well, there was an attempt to create an independent, in fact, semi-Orthodox, Church. This was a Parisian model, as its origin was among Saint Petersburg aristocrats in exile there. It was supported, at most, by a few hundred generally rather effete, upper-class and disincarnate intellectuals, who followed almost Buddhist or Hindu guru personality cults and pursued a pseudo-mystical, esoteric ‘Way’. The ethos was clearly ecumenical and modernistic, without roots in the Christian Tradition. This was not surprising as the original Saint Petersburg aristocrats had lived far from the Church, being more interested in philosophy than in Christ. This attempt failed because it was personality-driven, so disincarnate and abstract that it even dismissed ordinary people. Indeed, in 1975, one of its leading ideologues actually told me that ‘there is no such thing as ordinary people’!

  1. The Establishment Model

This model was put forward in the 1990s by Anglicans and ex-Anglicans, who were nostalgic for the Anglican Establishment. Only formally Orthodox, as they had been received into Orthodox Christianity without training or preparation, they wanted a clericalist ‘British Orthodox Church’, that is, an imitation of State-run Anglicanism. This ignored the reality that the mass of Orthodox Christians in the British Isles and Ireland are Eastern European immigrants who have nothing in common with the British and Anglican Establishment, as nor for that matter do most native Orthodox. This attempt failed because it was not interested in Holiness, but in the British State and the worldly advantages which that State could offer. It was a top-down project of the clericalist few over the people.

  1. The Ethnic Model

This is the present Phanariot model, with bishops in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff. This model is intent on becoming a racially exclusive sub-department of the Vatican, designed only for Greeks and people who want to be ‘Greeks’. Lacking an Orthodox Christian and so multinational ethos, it is based on compromises which reduce the Christian Faith to a nationalist project.

  1. The Psychological Model

This refers to escapist forms of Christianity from somewhere else and from sometime else. It appeals to those who from insecurity or an inferiority complex need to cling to and act out something different, making it into an exclusive and self-justifying ideology. It seems to forget that Orthodox Christianity was never exclusive, but the faith of illiterate Galilean fishermen, who became the apostles through the Holy Spirit, not through illusions. The psychological model is intensely delusional, narrow, rigid, arrogant, pharisaical, bureaucratic and psychological, if not psychopathological. It can attract extremists attached to ultra-conservative ideologies, even, as recently, two Nazis, who were received into the Church through extreme naivety. This model is anti-local, anti-now, anti-missionary and anti-Holy Spirit.

All these attempts have failed or will fail. Why?

The Elitist Model failed because it proclaims that the Church is not One, but is esoteric.

The Establishment Model failed because it denies Holiness, replacing it with a version of the purely manmade British Establishment.

The Ethnic Model will fail because it denies the Catholicity of the Church, limiting Her to one ethnic group.

The Psychological Model will fail because it denies the Apostolicity of the Church, limiting Her to one type of unhealthy human psychology.

Conclusion

What are the criteria for a Local Church? Any new Local Church must be:

One – united, not divisive.

Holy – putting the Kingdom of God above all the kingdoms of men.

Catholic – part of the universal Church.

Apostolic – faithful to the Apostolic Tradition.

Any Local Church must keep the Faith, but also be open, as She is both Local and Universal.

President Biden and Organised Western Violence

Eighteen months ago I had a conversation with a retired British ambassador who speaks fluent Russian and had at the start of his career many years ago been a diplomat at the British Embassy in Moscow. He asked me why I thought it was that Western relations with Russia, which had been so excellent after the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, then deteriorated so rapidly that many now speak of a new Cold War. What had gone wrong? I answered him in the following way:

We have to understand this degeneration of relations in the context of continuing Western banditry, such as in the past the Crusades and later Western colonisation. Thus, Russia was invaded by the ever-aggressive West five times within the last two centuries or so. Napoleon invaded in 1812, France, Britain and Turkey in 1854, British-backed Japan in 1904 and Germany in 1914 and 1941. Five times in five generations, in 130 years. Two of these invasions, in 1812 and 1941, became disasters for the Western invading forces, and the three others were only Pyrrhic victories, which had disastrous consequences for the West in the longer term.

What of Western aggression and banditry since 1991? Since then Russia has been ringed by US bases and missiles and NATO constantly sends its warships into the Black Sea. It then complains that Russian forces inside Russia are too close to NATO military, which are many thousands of miles from their home countries! The West has thrown Russia into the arms of China. The latest round of American bullying and illegal sanctions by Biden pushes further towards two expectations:

Expect the possibilities that Taiwan, artificially separated from China by the West, to be absorbed back into China and the four fifths of Russian Ukraine, artificially separated from Russia by the West, to be liberated from their oppressors in American-governed Kiev by Russia and to be renamed Malorossiya, as it really is. There will remain a ferociously nationalistic but desperately poor Ukrainian State, in fact Galicia, along the Polish border, as is only right. That is the only real Ukraine. So much for the achievements of Western aggression.

 

 

On the Late Prince Philip and the Orthodox Church

The late Prince Philip, God rest him, had no Greek blood. He was rather a typical representative of the descendants of Germanic princes who were sent, mainly by Great Britain, to be constitutional monarchs in Eastern Europe in the 19th century. This was in order to spread British Imperial control and prevent Russian princes taking their places in newly freed countries there. As his family had been sent from what is now Germany to Greece, he therefore nominally became Greek Orthodox.

However, Philip never seems to have practised this Faith at any point and when he married Princess Elizabeth, he nominally became a member of the Church of England. In reality, this did not mean anything as the Church of England has no method for receiving Greek Orthodox. Many children of nominal Greek Orthodox parents who immigrated here after 1945, having lost their knowledge of the Greek language and Greek ghetto culture and been assimilated, have done the same thing. Indeed, I can number twelve Anglican ministers who are of Greek and Cypriot origin in just this part of England.

Technically, therefore the late Prince Philip was an apostate. However, since he never practised Greek Orthodoxy, does this mean anything? True, in 1992 he did talk about religion to some Orthodox bishops, including the late Parisian Metropolitan Antony Bloom and he is alleged by some to have received communion from him. However, the religious views expressed by the late Prince both before and since then appear to have nothing Orthodox about them at all. They express rather the apostate views of those who believe in some vague Deity and the universality of religion. Certainly he was not a practising Orthodox Christian, but a syncretist who thought that all that religion could tell us is that there is some ‘Divine force’ in the Universe.

Questions and Answers from Correspondence (January-March 2021)

Faith or Works?

Q: What is more important for salvation in the view of Orthodox, Faith or Works?

A: Neither. This is an internal Protestant-Catholic debate.

Without faith, there will be no authentic works, as the Apostle says, ‘Faith without works is dead’. In other words, real Faith always transforms our attitudes to others, where there is faith, there are works. However, just as there are those who claim to have faith and have none and therefore have no works, there are those who claim to have works, but in fact their works are insincere. This emphasis on works is what lies behind the Protestant work ethic and workaholicism, which destroys and deforms the lives of both individuals and whole societies. This stress on works at any cost has given rise to the English saying, ‘as cold as charity’, for many works (of charity) are insincere, the product of those who do them, but they are done for their own ideology, glory and vanity. Not all that is done in the Name of God is actually done in His Name, as is well known and as Christ says in the Gospels.

As for Christians (= Orthodox), we believe that we are saved neither by faith, nor by works, but by Divine Mercy. The post-Schism Western debate is all about humanism, the adoration of the individual, which presupposes that human-beings can attain salvation without God. We Christians say that we are dependent on God’s Mercy for salvation, not on ourselves. Otherwise Christ’s Incarnation and Crucifixion are meaningless and lead directly to atheism, which is exactly what happened in the Western and then in the Westernised world.

Covid Vaccines

Q: Why do so many Eastern Europeans refuse to have an anti-covid-19 vaccine?

A: Every community, not just Eastern European immigrants, has people who will never accept any vaccine, let alone a completely new one, which naturally creates suspicion. However, there are specifics:

For example, in France, which has a very weak democracy, the State has tried to discredit any vaccine other than the French national one, yet even to be produced by Sanofi!, so creating a great deal of scepticism towards any vaccine. On top of that, French national statistics are distorted since those who die with covid in care homes are not counted in the figures for victims of covid (the situation of statistical manipulation and downright falsification is even more distorted in Germany). Worse still, the French State forces people to take the vaccine. This immediately produces massive resistance to it and public protests. There is no understanding by the French State of reverse psychology or representation of the people, just brute force. That is why there are so many violent street protests there.

In Russia and Eastern Europe, where Communist States blatantly and unashamedly lied to their people for 45 or even 75 years, the instinctive attitude towards anything the State proclaims is that it is a lie (which, true, it sometimes is). In other words, the problem here is a total lack of trust in the corrupt governments and in anything they recommend or, worse still, enforce.

Conspiracy Theories

Q: Do Orthodox accept any conspiracy theories?

A: No doubt there are such theorists among fringe and nationalist Orthodox, just as there are in every human group. However, conspiracy theories belong to and come from the atheist world. Christians (= Orthodox) believe and know that there is only one conspiracy against us, that of Satan. Satan of course may and does at various times use various ideological or ethnic groups against us, but Christians know that the world is not ruled by such groups (Bilderbergers, Nazis, Communists, the Vatican, the Franks, the Trilateral, international bankers, BigPharma, Zionists, the Illuminati, the Freemasons and all the other bogeymen). Members of such groups may imagine that they are all-powerful, but this is an illusion and the flattery of the demons, they are all merely puppets manipulated by Satan.

In the same way, every personal sin that we commit is not an expression of our freedom, but of our slavery to Satan. But even Satan does not rule the world – that is his illusion, which comes from his self-flattery. We Christians know that in fact the world is ruled by Christ, for He long ago defeated Satan, together with his death and suffering, through the Resurrection. This is why we Christians have hope, this is why we are fundamentally optimists, this is why we do not fear death, unlike the world and all its conspiracy theorist-manipulated and covid-manipulated zombies.

Q: Does the Orthodox Church believe that Jews murder Christian children ritually?

A: Of course not. This is a purely Roman Catholic invention, beginning in the late 11th century and ending as late as the 1960s. It began in England, spread to France, Germany, Italy, Spain and then, Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland, Bessarabia and the western Ukraine (the Beilis case in 1913). In origin it is linked to the First Crusade which murdered hundreds of Jews in the Rhineland at the end of the 11th century, though essentially it is all about Capitalist greed and jealousy of Jewish mercantile success.

The only Orthodox who support such dangerous nonsense are nominal Orthodox who are in fact anti-Semitic nationalists, rather than Orthodox. They love money and are jealous of rich Jews (strangely, they do not seem to resent so much rich people of their own nationality).

Blood libel first came to the surface in the Orthodox world in what is now Poland (a fundamentally Catholic country) with the case of St Gabriel of Bialystok at the end of the 17th century, a child-martyr, for whom was written a falsified legend, charging ‘the Jews’ with his death. The problem was not with the saint, a real martyr, but with the Polish legend written in his name. More recently the blood libel myth has resurfaced in Russia among a few post-Communist nationalists, like the sectarian, right-wing politico Mikhail Nazarov.

In self-justification such people have even started spreading the incredible (Communist) libel that Tsar Nicholas II was anti-Semitic! In fact, the latter did his best to protect ordinary believing Jews from the exploited and disgruntled citizens of other nationalities and built several large synagogues for them. His problem was with Jews who had lost their faith and renounced their traditions, worshipping money and power (in Marxism, for example) and ready to lie and kill at every opportunity, just as the atheist representatives of other ethnic groups, Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian, Latvian etc.

Today accusations of Jewish ritual murder of Christian children are much more common among Arab nationalists, who hate the Israeli persecutors. The only people today who actually murder Christian children are abortionists, few of whom are Jews and not a single one of whom is a believing Jew. Millions of future Christian children are murdered in Europe every year in this bloody ritual, performed on the altar of Satan.

Liturgical Notes

Q: Do we say Great Lent or the Great Fast?

A: We say either ‘Lent’ or else ‘The Great Fast’. Great Lent does not exist. It is a linguistic mistake introduced by the late Fr Alexander Schmemann, for whom English was a third language. Unfortunately, it was then adopted by American converts, who did not know the origins of English either. In English we say ‘Lent’, the Old English word for ‘spring’, so called precisely because it is the period when the days are ‘lengthening’. There is no such thing as ‘Great Lent’. Days lengthen, they do not great lengthen. The fast does not lengthen, it is fixed. If you do wish to translate, you can say ‘The Great Fast’, just as you can use the translations ‘Pascha’, ‘The Nativity’ and ‘Altar Feast’, or else use the English ‘Orthodox Easter’, ‘Orthodox Christmas’ and ‘Patronal Feast’. We Orthodox are different from Non-Orthodox, but we do not need to distort the local language in order to prove this, we need to respect it. As one kind reader has pointed out, this is mentioned in the early Orthodox Christian writing, The Epistle to Diognetus:

“For the Christians are distinguished from other people neither by country, nor by language, nor by the customs they observe. They do not inhabit cities of their own, or employ a peculiar form of speech, or lead a life in any way different from that of others …”

Q: Which colour of vestments is correct in Lent, purple or black?

A: I am not sure that we should use the word ‘correct’ in such matters. There are a hundred ways of doing the same thing. This is not a dogmatic question. Having said that, here is an answer: Although black is commonly used in Moscow and other parts of Russia as a liturgical colour in Lent, it was introduced there by the German Tsarina Catherine II who brought it in from Catholic Poland, where black in Lent was normal. Purple, not black, is the traditional Orthodox colour on weekdays in Lent. On Saturdays and Sundays in Lent some continue to wear purple, though others, perhaps ‘more correctly’ wear red.

Q: Why does the Moscow Patriarchate wear red as the colour of vestments at Pascha?

A: There are many different liturgical practices in the Russian Church, both inside Russia and also outside Russia (ROCOR dioceses are very, very different from one another, especially outside the USA), depending on the diocese. The Church is nowhere a monolith. True, red is worn in the Moscow Diocese at Easter. But the Church is much bigger than the Moscow Diocese! There are hundreds of dioceses. The red at Easter in the Moscow Diocese and elsewhere appears to come from the confusion between the Russian word for ‘red’, which in Slavonic means ‘beautiful’.

Thus, in the canon of Easter matins we have the expression in Slavonic ‘Paskha krasna’, which means in English ‘the Passover of beauty’. In modern Russian this sounds literally like ‘red Paskha’. Similarly in Moscow there is the central area called ‘Red Square’. This is a mistranslation caused by ignorance of Slavonic. Its Slavonic name actually means ‘Beautiful Square’. In the Church Outside Russia, which preserves pre-Revolutionary liturgical traditions general to the Church and not one particular Diocese, however central that is, only white is worn at Easter.

Q: As you know, I go to different parishes in and outside London. Even in the same jurisdiction, different English translations are used for the Liturgy. Why can there not be uniformity?

A: Why do you want uniformity? In the early Orthodox Church, long before printing, there was great variety. Indeed, many of the services were conducted without the written word and all was done and had to be done from memory. What piety! I think we only need letter for letter uniformity in ‘Our Father’, ‘Mother of God, Rejoice’, ‘O Heavenly King’ and the Creed.

Q: Why are Orthodox services so long?

A: Why are Non-Orthodox services so short?

Fr Sophrony Sakharov and Metr Antony Bloom

Q: When and why did Fr Sophrony Sakharov leave the Russian Church? Who was right?

A: In 1965, after his dispute with the then local Moscow bishop, Metropolitan Antony Bloom. Who was right? Read below:

I first met both of these personalities nearly fifty years ago. One was the ex-Hindu former librarian of St Panteleimon’s monastery, whose mother had been involved in pseudo-mystical movements like astrology, the other was the son of the famous hypnotist Boris Bloom and the nephew of the occultist composer Scriabin. I knew them both many, many times, before I left their philosophical and personal orbits to find bread and drink for my soul. Fr Sophrony Sakharov, the Parisian artist and philosopher, had had to leave Mt Athos in 1947 together with the future Archbishop Basil (Krivoshein) and Fr Silouan (surely a saint and a disciple of St Silouan) of Ste Genevieve. This was because they had fallen into disfavour with the Greek authorities for what they saw as their co-operation with the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War. Fr Sophrony’s knowledge of languages had put him into direct contact with the Germans. Going back to Paris, he left the Constantinople jurisdiction to go to the Moscow jurisdiction.

At that time, 99% of the Russian emigration, in Paris mainly under Constantinople, saw his move to Moscow from Constantinople as treason, and virtually accused him of becoming a Communist. Given Fr Sophrony’s writings in the 1950s about Church life in which he was militantly pro-Moscow and anti-Constantinople, he became even more unpopular with the mass of émigrés there. Even in the 1970s he was still accusing Russian emigres not in the Moscow Patriarchate of ‘lacking love’. This upset the vast majority as it was clearly untrue. In Paris Fr Sophrony also tried to set up a convent in Paris with three women. This was a well-known disaster and further scandalised.

When the Church of England offered Fr Sophrony as an ecumenical gesture a redundant village church and rectory in England for free, he saw this as an escape route, even though he would be forever ecumenically tied. (This is why the now more or less Convent at Tolleshunt Knights can never receive Anglicans into the Church). However, having arrived in England in 1959 with three followers he had found, a Swiss, a German and a Russian, he had not reckoned with Metr Antony Bloom. This local Moscow bishop was also a Paris intellectual from a very similar upper middle-class Russian convert background to Fr Sophrony.

In England Metr Antony had a tiny jurisdiction and only one priest with him, since the vast majority of the small Russian emigration in England belonged to ROCOR and saw representatives of Moscow as Stalinists, especially after one clergyman in Moscow had scandalously served a memorial service for Stalin on his death. However, Metr Antony was desperate to set up a diocese to justify his newly-acquired title as ‘Metropolitan of the Diocese of Sourozh’. This title was pure fiction and he knew it. In order to justify it, he needed to recruit Anglicans as people and recruit priests. A monastery was the easy source for priests. So instead of letting Fr Sophrony’s monks follow their ‘less practical’ pursuits, the typically Parisian anti-monastic Metr Antony tried to push them harder and use them as priests.

The split was inevitable and, despite his previous pro-Moscow writings, in 1965 Fr Sophrony walked out of Moscow for Constantinople and the new calendar. This caused such a scandal in the Moscow Patriarchate that even today there are virtually no Russians at Tolleshunt Knights. Personally, having seen some of the pre-1965 correspondence between Fr Sophrony and Metr Antony, I think it was all six of one and half a dozen of the other. As both characters are long gone, it is largely irrelevant, even though Patriarch Bartholomew has recently ‘weaponised’ Fr Sophrony against the Russian Church by unilaterally declaring that he is a local saint. That was with no investigation of his earthly remains, life, art nouveau painting and almost unreadable philosophical writings.

I am afraid I knew both personalities much too well to have time for 20th century émigré personality disputes. We long ago moved on to the future, which consists of helping to set up Local Churches in Western Europe, North America, Latin America and Oceania on a practical level, and not getting sidetracked into and bogged down in the fruitless byways of the personal philosophical quarrels of the past. Let us leave all these Russian émigré intellectual personalities and futile cults and manipulations, the Berdyayevs, Bulgakovs, Schmemanns, Zernovs, Struves et al and their abstract internal quarrels and ideologies, and their rights and their wrongs, and there were both, to the history books. They are the past.

We look to our future and the mainstream of the Church, the universal and the ancient local saints, to the New Martyrs and Confessors and to the Three Pillars of Orthodoxy outside Russia, St John of Shanghai, St Jonah of Hankou and St Seraphim of Boguchar. Let the past remain in the past, bygones are bygones. Our task and our relevance are to follow the principle of the Incarnation and to build and open new churches in the here and now, despite everything that the self-apppointed authorities, ideologists and dreamers have ruthlessly thrown and continue to throw at us in order to destroy us. All the worst enemies of the Church are nominally Orthodox, but they block out the light of Christ with the very long shadows cast by their own personalities and personal foibles.

A Local Church

Q: Why have all attempts to found a new Local Orthodox Church in the British Isles and Ireland/Western Europe so far failed?

A: The short answer is because no such attempt has ever taken place, for so far there have only been the dreams of individual intellectuals with their cults and often charlatanism.

The reality is that Orthodox life both here as elsewhere in Western Europe has been dominated either by administrative personalities who catered for immigrant communities/nationalist ghettos, or else by intellectual personalities who wanted to adapt Orthodoxy to their notions of Western culture, regardless of Dogma and the Tradition.

The flag-waving nationalist/immigrant communities, like the old nationalist ROCOR Church which completely died out but has been ‘restocked’ from the ex-Soviet Union, like all the other post-1917 Russian organisations, or like the Greek Church in England today, die. Once assimilation takes effect, the children of immigrants no longer wants to belong to a nationalist ghetto, which is foreign to them. Death is the result.

As regards the ‘adaptationists’, they too lose the way, making it up as they go along, and die out because they have neither the Tradition, nor a spiritual purpose, only the psychological one of making themselves feel at home in what was for their parents a foreign country. Often highly intellectual, even the titles, let alone the contents, of their books are incomprehensible. Unlike the apostles, they are unable to express the Tradition in the language of ordinary people.

A Local Church can only come into being, provided that it is faithful to real, and not a watered down version of, Orthodox Christianity and that it also uses the natural local language, and not a foreign language or some intense convert literalist translation into the local language. This golden mean has not existed – so far. But we are working on it.

 

Akathist to the Venerable Gabriel of Samtavro, Confessor and Fool-for-Christ

Troparion, Tone 2

Receptacle of the Holy Spirit, confessor of the faith of Christ who shone forth in Iberia, O Venerable Father Gabriel! Thou who wast rejected by the world, glorified by thy foolishness for Christ and burning with the love of Christ, hearken to us thy people, that the Lord may forgive our transgressions.

Kontakion, Tone 5

Fruitful vine of the garden of Paradise, valiant soldier of Christ, O venerable Father Gabriel and Wonderworker of Samtavro! Thou who didst ascend to the heights of virtue and surpassed the wise by thy wisdom, O most wondrous fool for Christ, beseech the Master and Almighty that He may deliver us from bondage to sin, the violence of the adversary and great hardships.

Kontakion 1

Chosen vessel of the grace of God, fragrant source of miracles, boast of Iberia, O most wondrous Father Gabriel! Now do we offer thee a song of praise, and since thou hast great boldness towards the Lord, deliver us from all misfortunes, that we may cry to thee with love: Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Ikos 1

Imitating the angelic life, thou didst please God with thy purity and humility, O most blessed Father Gabriel, and thou wast found worthy of acquiring the great gifts of the Holy Spirit! Marvelling at the greatness of thy feat, we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, well of the wisdom of God;

Rejoice, spring of the living faith.

Rejoice, heart that contained Christ;

Rejoice, tree who has brought forth spiritual fruit.

Rejoice, thou who wast chosen by God from birth;

Rejoice, thou who wast called to serve Him;

Rejoice, thou who didst enlighten the Iberian land by thy miracles;

Rejoice, thou who didst shine forth by thy God-pleasing life.

Rejoice, thou who wast affirmed by God on the rock of faith;

Rejoice, thou who didst preach the Name of Christ with love.

Rejoice, thou who didst endure many sorrows in thy life;

Rejoice, thou who didst enter the Kingdom of Heaven thereby.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 2

Seeing the abundant outpouring of miracles from thy shrine, O Venerable Father Gabriel, we are confirmed in faith and piety. Revering thee as a wondrous pleaser of God, with thankful lips we cry to the Lord, the Giver of good things: Alleluia.

Ikos 2

Beseech the Lord to enlighten our reason, O pleaser of God Gabriel, that, shaking off earthly passions and vain cares, we may ascend with our hearts and minds to the heavenly abodes, wherein thou dwellest, and call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, fragrance of the Paradise of Christ;

Rejoice, radiance of the grace of God.

Rejoice, boast and adornment of the garden of the Mother of God;

Rejoice, thou who didst strike terror into the insolent who did sacrilege.

Rejoice, thou who didst strive for monastic solitude from thy youth;

Rejoice, thou who didst call out to God for help.

Rejoice, thou who didst heed the Word of God;

Rejoice, thou who didst obey His commandments.

Rejoice, thou who didst bear the chains of feigned foolishness;

Rejoice, thou who didst put to shame the delusions of this world.

Rejoice, thou who didst love poverty and humiliations;

Rejoice, thou who didst glorify the Name of God.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 3

Strengthened by the power of the love of Christ, bestowed on thee from above, O Venerable Father Gabriel, thou wast zealous in acquiring feats like the Fathers of the Ancient Church.  Growing in humility and meekness, thou didst pray for heavenly help, crying out to the Lord: Alleluia.

Ikos 3

Having great faith and firm trust in the Lord, thou didst choose the path of foolishness, O most wondrous Father Gabriel. Singing with love and glorifying God, wondrous in His saints, we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, ray of the Sun of truth;

Rejoice, thou who wast illumined by the light of Christ.

Rejoice, adamant of the Orthodox faith;

Rejoice, glory and praise of fasters.

Rejoice, thou who dost brighten our hearts with the light of faith;

Rejoice, thou who dost teach us awe.

Rejoice, zealot of piety;

Rejoice, zealous builder of a church of God.

Rejoice, thou who didst save profaned holy places from desecration;

Rejoice, thou who didst reject the threats of persecutors.

Rejoice, thou who didst bear the yoke of Christ with love;

Rejoice, thou who didst serve God diligently.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 4

Shunning the storms of the sea of life and seeking solitude and prayer, thou didst come to Betania Monastery, O most Blessed Father Gabriel! Instructed by spirit-bearing fathers, praising Almighty God, thou didst cry out to Him with tenderness of heart: Alleluia.

Ikos 4

When the inhabitants of Iberia heard of thy boldness in glorifying the name of Christ out loud, they marvelled at thy feat. Having put to shame the worship of an idol, thou didst ascend to the cross of sufferings. Singing of thy feat, O Venerable Father Gabriel, we proclaim to thee:

Rejoice, spirit-bearing child of the fathers of Betania;

Rejoice, zealot of monastic feats.

Rejoice, bright adornment of the Church of Christ;

Rejoice, illumination of the Iberian land.

Rejoice, thou who didst enrich thyself by poverty and reason;

Rejoice, thou who partookest of heavenly glory.

Rejoice, thou who didst capture the devil by thy exploits;

Rejoice, thou who didst commit an image of the Godless leader to fire.

Rejoice, thou who didst preach the faith of Christ while in bonds;

Rejoice, thou who didst bring sinners to repentance.

Rejoice, thou who wast confined to a home for the insane;

Rejoice, thou who wast glorified by Divine miracles.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 5

Thou wast a star guided by God shining in the firmament of Iberia, O wondrous Father Gabriel. Enduring suffering and reviling for Christ and reckoned among the outcast, now thou dost glorify Him with the saints, crying out to the Lord: Alleluia.

Ikos 5

Seeing thy zeal for God, O venerable one, the enemy of our salvation poured out his fury on thee through the Godless authorities. And thy lot, O Holy Father, was sorrows and persecutions. Singing of thy feats, which astonished the angels, we fall down to thee with love:

Rejoice, fountain of Divine miracles;

Rejoice, heart full of love.

Rejoice, thou who didst endure slander with gracious soul;

Rejoice, thou who didst conquer enemies with love.

Rejoice, thou who didst choose grave slabs for thy bed;

Rejoice, thou who didst shine forth in the abodes of heaven.

Rejoice, thou who didst humbly beg for alms;

Rejoice, thou who didst receive a reward in heaven.

Rejoice, thou who didst touch the tears of the Lord on the Cross;

Rejoice, thou who wast found worthy to hear His voice.

Rejoice, thou who wast freed from prison by the Zealous Intercessor;

Rejoice, thou who wast consoled by the Mother of God.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 6

The land of Iberia preaches thee, O wondrous Father Gabriel, swift intercessor in misfortunes and ardent petitioner for the salvation of our souls. Thou didst humbly wear the cross of holy foolishness and thank the Lord in sorrows, and now thou dost teach us to glorify Christ, prayerfully singing to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 6

Thou hast shone forth with grace, like the brightest beacon, like the radiant dawn, O Venerable Father Gabriel. Singing of thy great feat and labours, with love we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, abode of the Holy Spirit;

Rejoice, receptacle of great gifts.

Rejoice, adornment of Samtavro Convent;

Rejoice, wondrous multiplication of the glory of the saints.

Rejoice, thou who didst subdue the fleshly mind to the spirit;

Rejoice, thou who didst put the cunning of the enemy to shame.

Rejoice, thou who didst conceal the gracious gifts of God behind feigned intoxication;

Rejoice, thou who didst heal those suffering from the disease of addiction to drink.

Rejoice, thou who wast compassionate to sinners;

Rejoice, thou who didst wish salvation for all.

Rejoice, thou who didst despise the intimidations of the enemy;

Rejoice, thou who didst boldly preach Orthodoxy.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 7

Wishing to serve the Lord, O Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, thou didst shun all the fleeting and vain things of this world. Following Christ on the path of suffering, with a simple heart thou didst cry out to Him with love: Alleluia.

Ikos 7

The Lord raised thee up, a new and venerable monk, O most praised Father Gabriel, in the hour of the harsh persecution of the Church of Christ. Singing of thy great feat, O most wondrous one, we cry to thee thus:

Rejoice, pillar of Orthodoxy;

Rejoice, sincere friend of Christ.

Rejoice, thou who wast warmed by the grace of God in sorrow;

Rejoice, holy heir of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rejoice, thou who art filled with Divine love;

Rejoice, thou who didst live an angelic life on earth.

Rejoice, thou who wast persecuted in thy life;

Rejoice, thou who now dost glorify Christ with the saints.

Rejoice, thou who dost call down the mercy of God on sinners;

Rejoice, thou who dost bring those gone astray to their senses.

Rejoice, thou who didst heal a family from barrenness by thy prayers;

Rejoice, thou who didst tell them of the birth of their daughter.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 8

Thou wast a stranger and passing visitor in this world, O most worthy of praise Father Gabriel. Seeking the City of Heaven, thou didst choose the thorny path of salvation, thanking the merciful Lord for all things and singing to Him: Alleluia.

Ikos 8

All filled with the grace of God and strengthened in arduous labour by the Lord, thou didst call out to Him: ‘He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust!’ And thou dost teach us to abide with Christ, all calling out to thee:

Rejoice, leader of those seeking salvation;

Rejoice, heavenly seed of the land of Iberia.

Rejoice, champion of the Orthodox faith;

Rejoice, wondrous converser with the saints.

Rejoice, defender of the offended;

Rejoice, comforter of the afflicted.

Rejoice, thou who dost show us speedy help;

Rejoice, thou who dost call us to repentance.

Rejoice, thou who dost drive away the darkness of despair;

Rejoice, thou who dost fill our hearts with hope.

Rejoice, thou who dost rescue us from sudden death by prayer;

Rejoice, thou who dost deliver us from disasters and misfortunes.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 9

All the saints and the heavenly hosts received thee with joy, O Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, when the path of thy earthly wanderings ended and thou wast taken up to the heavenly Jerusalem. And marvelling at what a wonderworker and man of prayer the Lord has given us, with thankful hearts we cry to Him thus: Alleluia.

Ikos 9

Orators with their fleshly wisdom are not able to grasp the height of thy exploit, O venerable one. Concealing the great gifts of the Holy Spirit beneath the veil of foolishness for Christ, shining forth in the purity of thy life, reckoned among the insane, thou didst put to shame the wisdom of this world, O most wondrous Father Gabriel. For this reason we praise thee thus:

Rejoice, fragrant flower of Paradise;

Rejoice, thou who wast exiled for the sake of truth.

Rejoice, thou who didst flourish like a palm in thine immaculate life;

Rejoice, most zealous pleaser of God.

Rejoice, thou who didst warm hearts by the radiance of thy holiness;

Rejoice, thou who didst have invincible wealth of the soul.

Rejoice, thou who didst gain the Heavenly Kingdom by thy humility of spirit;

Rejoice, thou who didst inherit the promised land for thy meekness.

Rejoice, thou who didst burn with prayer to God;

Rejoice, thou who didst endure torment for the sake of Christ.

Rejoice, thou who wast strengthened by the grace of God;

Rejoice, thou who wast instructed by the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 10

Walking the saving path towards the heavenly Jerusalem, thou didst acquire the spirit of peace, O Venerable Father Gabriel. Putting all thy trust in the Lord, now thou dost teach us to follow in the footsteps of Christ and commend ourselves to His good will, singing to Him with love: Alleluia.

Ikos 10

Unbreachable wall of prayer, shield protecting the faithful, warrior of Christ rescuing sinners from the abyss of perdition, we beseech thee, O Venerable Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, forsake not us who are besieged by the storm of passions without thy help, that we may call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, mirror of Divine love;

Rejoice, praise of the meek.

Rejoice, strengthening of the weak in faith;

Rejoice, intercession for the suffering.

Rejoice, instructor of those who seek salvation;

Rejoice, admonition of the proud.

Rejoice, fountain of Divine healings;

Rejoice, heir of the abodes of heaven.

Rejoice, ray who shone forth in the gloom of Godlessness;

Rejoice, preacher who didst denounce heresy.

Rejoice, thou who didst cast down the power of the enemy by fasting and prayer;

Rejoice, thou who wast victorious over evil spirits by humility.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 11

We offer thee songs of praise, O most wondrous Father Gabriel. Iberia rejoices, and Samtavro Convent exults, glorifying the merciful Lord Who has given us His saint, with love proclaiming to Him: Alleluia.

Ikos 11

O wonderful light, O guiding star to those living in the darkness of sin, O Venerable Father Gabriel. Vouchsafed the formidable appearance of the Queen of Heaven, thou didst beseech mothers not to destroy their children in the womb. Therefore, as to a zealous intercessor for us we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, glorious chosen one of God;

Rejoice, thou who didst please Him from thy youth.

Rejoice, thou who didst conquer enemies with the Name of Jesus;

Rejoice, thou who didst call on the Chosen Leader of the hosts for help.

Rejoice, thou who didst seek the Heavenly Kingdom;

Rejoice, thou who didst acquire treasures of the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice, thou who didst loud thunder out the Word of God;

Rejoice, thou who didst put unbelief to shame.

Rejoice, thou who didst wear a diadem in holy foolishness;

Rejoice, thou who didst receive a crown of glory.

Rejoice, thou who didst devote thy life to God;

Rejoice, thou who didst preserve the precious gift of faith from thy youth.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 12

Acquiring the grace of God and reaching the City of Heaven by the path of the commandments of Christ, O Venerable Father Gabriel, now in the Church Triumphant with the saints and heavenly hosts, with loud voice thou dost hymn the King of kings and offer Him the song of praise: Alleluia.

Ikos 12

Singing of thy most glorious feats and miracles, we marvel at thy angelic life, O Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, and offer thee our prayers of praise, crying out to thee with love thus:

Rejoice, thou who art clothed in the robe of humility;

Rejoice, thou who wast borne up to the heights of heaven.

Rejoice, fragrant oil of the grace of God;

Rejoice, chosen confessor of Christ.

Rejoice, thou who didst perform the Jesus Prayer;

Rejoice, thou who didst beat adversaries with the Name of Christ.

Rejoice, thou who didst denounce the powers that be;

Rejoice, thou who didst put worldly wisdom to shame.

Rejoice, thou who didst heal a heterodox from grievous illness;

Rejoice, thou who didst enlighten his soul with the light of the faith of Christ.

Rejoice, healer from cancer and manifold ailments;

Rejoice, liberator of those possessed with demons.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 13

O wondrous Father Gabriel most worthy of praise, our swift comforter and intercessor! Accept this song of praise from us, beseech the Almighty Lord that we may be saved from everlasting condemnation and torment and be found worthy to sing to Him with thee: Alleluia.

This kontakion is read three times, then Ikos 1 and Kontakion 1.

Ikos 1

Imitating the angelic life, thou didst please God with thy purity and humility, O most blessed Father Gabriel, and thou wast found worthy of acquiring the great gifts of the Holy Spirit! Marvelling at the greatness of thy feat, we call out to thee thus:

Rejoice, well of the wisdom of God;

Rejoice, spring of the living faith.

Rejoice, heart that contained Christ;

Rejoice, tree who has brought forth spiritual fruit.

Rejoice, thou who wast chosen by God from birth;

Rejoice, thou who wast called to serve Him;

Rejoice, thou who didst enlighten the Iberian land by thy miracles;

Rejoice, thou who didst shine forth by thy God-pleasing life.

Rejoice, thou who wast affirmed by God on the rock of faith;

Rejoice, thou who didst preach the Name of Christ with love.

Rejoice, thou who didst endure many sorrows in thy life;

Rejoice, thou who didst enter the Kingdom of Heaven thereby.

Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Kontakion 1

Chosen vessel of the grace of God, fragrant source of miracles, boast of Iberia, O most wondrous Father Gabriel! Now do we offer thee a song of praise, and since thou hast great boldness towards the Lord, deliver us from all misfortunes, that we may cry to thee with love: Rejoice, O venerable confessor Gabriel, fool for Christ and wonderworker!

Prayer

O Venerable Father Gabriel, wonderworker of Samtavro, thou who didst shine forth in the feat of foolishness for the sake of Christ! Offer up thy prayers for us to the Lord like fragrant incense, Deliver us, O most wondrous father, by thy intercession from every misfortune and disaster, destroy the snares of the demons, quench enmity and heal the sick. The stream of miracles of God from thy holy shrine, O venerable one, does not become shallow, nor does the stream of His mercy to us sinners, who pray to thee, dry up.

Thou who wast vouchsafed the gift of great love from the Lord, who didst bear the burdens of thy neighbours and shed tears for sinners and the suffering, take our prayers and weeping of repentance to the throne of God. May we be vouchsafed by thy help, O father most worthy of praise, to pass through the tollhouses without hindrance and reach the Heavenly Homeland, where the unceasing voice of those who celebrate glorifies the Most Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

The Akathist to the Venerable Gabriel of Samtavro, Confessor and Fool-for-Christ was composed in Church Slavonic by Maria Alexandrovna Pukhova of Moscow and first published with the blessing of Archbishop Ephraim (Gamrekelidze) of Bolnisi (Georgian Orthodox Church) in 2018

Translated into English by  Dmitry Lapa and Archpriest Andrew Phillips

 

A Short Life of St Gabriel of Samtavro

The Venerable Confessor Gabriel of Samtavro, ‘Fool-for-Christ’ (secular name: Goderdzi Vasilyevich Urgebadze), was born in Tiflis (now Tbilisi) on 26 August 1929. The family called him Vasiko after his Communist father who had been murdered in unclear circumstances when the future saint was a little child. He had a brother, Mikhail, and two sisters named Emma and Juliet.

From childhood Vasiko was endowed with Divine grace. He would build little churches from pebbles and light matches inside them. The boy avoided noisy games with his peers, preferring loneliness and silence. Sometimes he would run down the street with a long stick. At those moments birds would flock around him with his stick and accompany him with their chirping.

Vasiko first heard about Christ when he was seven. Having come to the church of the Great-Martyr Barbara and seen the crucifix, he burst out crying: ‘Why were you crucified?’ The church caretaker, who heard his words, advised Vasiko to buy a book about the life of Jesus Christ. When Vasiko acquired the Gospel (which he soon learned by heart), it was the beginning of his new life. From that day until his death, his mind was filled with only one thought and the desire to live for Christ alone.

Once Vasiko was standing on a balcony in thought. Looking up, in the crystal clear sky he saw a large shining cross, cutting through the firmament right to the horizon. At that moment the boy was very surprised, but he later came to understand that it was his cross that he was to carry to his Golgotha.

His family did not understand Vasiko and so he tried to read the Gospel without their knowledge. But when his mother – though a honest, hard-working and not irreligious woman – found out about this, she threw out the Holy Scriptures in a fit of anger. After her act Vasiko left home. Frozen and hungry, the youth completely relied on the will of God. He wandered from monastery to monastery, from church to church because the authorities forbade monks to admit minors. The boy did not return home until the spring. Now the family resigned themselves to his choice and no longer hindered him.

During the Second World War, when Vasiko was twelve, people learned about his extraordinary gifts and flocked to him. The boy would tell them whether their loved ones were to return from the front or not, console them, give them wise advice and even preach Christ, often saying, ‘Go to church, don’t renounce Christ and don’t abandon spiritual life.’ The young saint saw through people and would often stop and say to strangers who, fearing the Soviet government, hid their icons in attics or other places, ‘Give the veneration due to your icons! If you don’t need them, give them to me – I will keep them and you can take them back any time if you decide to give them due veneration.’ Despite his strange behaviour, many people saw boundless love in the boy and loved him; though many laughed at him and mocked him, persecuting and humiliating him as a madman throughout his life.

The efforts of Vasiko bore fruit: little by little people began to return to the faith. He would always humble himself in different ways. Thus, Vasiko could sit by a heap of rubbish in a very conspicuous place for hours and repeat loudly, ‘Don’t forget, Vasiko, you are rubbish and don’t think highly of yourself.’ According to tradition, when the teenager ran away from home for a time, a kind woman who was a fortune-teller gave him refuge. The saint was full of pity for people who wallowed greatly in sin and wanted to save her. When the woman fell ill, he said he would receive people in her place. But instead of ‘fortune-telling’ Vasiko preached the Gospel to her visitors, telling them to mend their ways, repent and take Communion and revealed their forgotten sins. Inspired by him, the woman later abandoned fortune-telling and began to go to church.

Years later Vasiko built a church with seven cupolas in the courtyard of his house in Tbilisi to pray – the Soviet regime repeatedly destroyed it but he rebuilt it each time. This church – now with one big cupola – still exists. He dug a grave-like hole in one of the rooms of his house. It served him as a bed.

The young saint did his two-year military service in Batumi: despite the very strict regime, he kept all the fasts and went to church secretly. After the army he worked as a caretaker and singer at the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi.

In 1955, at the age of twenty-six, Vasiko became a monk with the name Gabriel in honour of the Venerable Gabriel the Athonite. Three days later, at the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul in Kutaisi Bishop Gabriel (Chachanidze) ordained him hieromonk. Later the elder used to say: ‘There is no greater heroism than monastic life.’ Enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Father Gabriel fearlessly preached the Orthodox faith during the years of persecution. He first served at Sioni Cathedral, and between 1960 and 1962 – at Betania Monastery of the Nativity of the Mother of God, where he became close to some holy ascetics of Betania. When the monastery was closed by the atheist authorities, the saint moved back to Tbilisi where he served at the Holy Trinity Cathedral for a few years.

At the May Day parade in 1965 in Tbilisi, he burned down a huge twelve-metre portrait of Lenin hung on the building of the Supreme Soviet of the GSSR, urging people to worship Christ, not an idol. Only thanks to Divine help was he not executed by firing squad, though he was severely beaten and even earlier he had been declared insane – ‘a psychopathic individual who believes in God and angels’. He went through KGB detention centres where he was repeatedly mercilessly beaten, prison and spent seven months in a mental hospital. After he was released, he was suspended (by some Georgian bishops who wanted to please the authorities) from serving in the church for years and even denied him access to church and Holy Communion for some time. Father Gabriel related:

‘I lived under five Patriarchs, slept in cemeteries for twenty-five years and spent fifteen years in poverty. When I froze from the cold in winter, I turned from one side to the other since the stone was warmer. In the cemetery the Lord delivered me from fear, my children.’

After the May Day incident the saint embarked on a very heavy service of ‘foolishness for Christ.’ In his feigned foolishness, he would throw a jug without a bottom over his back, walking barefoot from house to house through the streets, repeating every now and then: ‘A person without love is like this jug without a bottom!’ In his feigned ‘folly’, Fr Gabriel would often wear a diadem on his head, walk barefoot at any weather, and even pretended to be drunk, while boldly and unceasingly preaching Christ in the streets, exposing vice and secretly helping people. Father Gabriel searched for desecrated icons thrown out onto heaps, restored them and emptied ruined churches of rubbish.

The saint spent much of his later years at the Samtavro Convent of St Nino (in the ancient town of Mtskheta which is over 2,500 years old and situated fifteen kilometres north of Tbilisi). The convent was founded in the fourth century. Formerly Mtskheta was the capital of the east Georgian Kingdom of Kartli and it was there that Orthodoxy was proclaimed the national religion of Georgia in 337 A.D. In 1971, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ephraim II of Georgia Fr Gabriel was appointed the spiritual father of Samtavro Convent and a seminary attached to it. There he spiritually supported, gave guidance and instructions to the sisterhood.

The elder often left the convent and wandered, alone or with a few companions, sometimes covering great distances, reaching places in dangerous areas or which were difficult of access, visiting the abandoned and ruined churches and monasteries and predicting that the bloody Red regime would go, all of them would be restored and services would start again. St Gabriel would often say: ‘My cross is the whole of Georgia and half of Russia.’

In the final years of his life Fr Gabriel lived in King Mirian’s round tower at Samtavro Convent where he had a tiny cell. But he would spend most of the time performing incredible spiritual feats, living in a small unused wooden shed with large holes which the convent had previously used as a chicken coop. It is unfathomable how he managed to live in such a tiny space where it was impossible to stand erect and to stand the damp and frosts in winter without heating. First the nuns were surprised by the saint’s ‘eccentricity’: the elder could scold the sisters, make them eat from dirty dishes, demand various ‘strange’ obediences from them, make them do something. He particularly tried to eradicate any signs of pride and arrogance in those in his spiritual care. But soon they understood that it was impossible to take offence at him—his eyes shone with tender love and affection.

A visionary and wonderworker, a healer and instructor, a prophet and consoler, clairvoyant and wise, humble and simple like a child who shed seas of tears for sinners, Fr Gabriel gained the love of many of the faithful in Georgia, Russia and even beyond, who flocked to him in great numbers every day. The extreme self-humiliation of Elder Gabriel was amazing. His sister Emma (+2016) recalled: ‘He was a fragile soul from childhood. Human praise weighed down on him. As a priest he would weep bitterly after coming home from services. Once I heard him weeping loudly alone in church when the door was open. I entered and asked him what the matter was. And he replied, “My sister, Christ was born in a manger, while people show me respect and kiss my hand”.’

Let us mention two remarkable facts from St Gabriel’s life. Firstly, once an angel revealed to him the hidden location of a portion of the Svetitskhoveli (‘life-giving pillar’ in Georgian) cross, after which together with the Samtavro nuns he uncovered it and now the relic is kept at this convent. And, secondly, once St Gabriel was visited by some Hindus who argued that the Orthodox teaching of the Holy Trinity was erroneous. And, though the elder demonstrated his miraculous power only in the most extreme cases, he took bread, put it on a tray and said: ‘You see: the bread is one and undivided!’ Then in the Name of the Trinity he made the sign of the cross over the bread – and water, fire and wheat appeared in its place. ‘Look! Water, fire and wheat have appeared instead of bread. Likewise, the Holy Trinity is divided into Three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ Then he made the sign of the cross over the water, fire and wheat – and they turned into bread again. After that the elder said: ‘The Holy Trinity is One and Undivided just as this bread is one and undivided!’

St Gabriel was planning to move to another monastery and live as a recluse, but in a Divine revelation he was told not to leave Samtavro and serve people wholeheartedly. And the elder received all who came to him, though he knew no ranks and had an individual approach to every person. He knew a ‘remedy’ for each soul: he could denounce and shout at some and be extremely gentle and nice with others. His heart ached because of people’s sins, and he prayed for the salvation of all. He lived by the joys, sorrows and problems of his spiritual children, saving many from spiritual darkness and setting them on the path of righteousness through his gifts of the Holy Spirit. And many felt absolutely transformed in his presence. St Gabriel’s rare gift of love can even be seen in his facial expression and eyes on his photographs, portraits and icons.

St Gabriel foresaw in the spirit the Georgian coup etat, the internal military conflict of 1991-1992. When no one could have imagined this, he would shout: ‘Blood, blood on Rustaveli Avenue! Georgian blood is being spilt!’ He prayed with such a groan, tears and mournful cry to Christ and the Mother of God for the salvation of his motherland. During the conflict he would toll a bell in Samtavro every day and imposed such a strict fast on himself that he barely ate anything over those months.

The saint possessed a great gift of hospitality. At Samtavro he used to welcome and treat absolutely all guests to the food he would cook himself as long as his health allowed. He strove to bring people as close to God as he could. His words had a special power and penetrated directly into the hearts of pilgrims. He taught everybody to cultivate love for God and their neighbour, repentance, humility and generosity.

His half-sister Juliet recalled: ‘I would ask him: “Listen, you attended school for only six years and didn’t want to study any more. How do you know so many things?” It was so interesting to listen to him. No historian related the things he related. No highly intelligent and educated person would have been able to tell the things that he told us about the Lives of saints, the history of Georgia and Russia. He knew everything from somewhere!’ Though St Gabriel’s life was full of privations, poverty, pain, suffering, sorrows and ridicule, the saint who burned with Divine love always radiated joy and inner peace. When before his death his mother asked him why he had chosen such a heavy cross, Fr Gabriel replied: ‘I couldn’t have lived otherwise.’

For the past year and a half of his life the saint was gravely ill with oedema and was practically bedridden due to a leg fracture. Shortly before his repose he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite by the current Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II. Father Gabriel reposed on 2 November 1995, aged sixty-six. He was canonised in an incredibly short time – seventeen years after his death, and two years later his name was added into the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church. On 22 February 2014, Father Gabriel’s incorrupt relics were uncovered and now they lie in the church of the Transfiguration in Samtavro Convent.

After his repose the Lord glorified His saint with the gift of miracles and healing, so the stream of those who are suffering and come to his holy relics never decreases. Miracles occur not only from his relics, but also from his burial board (according to his last will, he was buried without a coffin, just wrapped in a sackcloth shroud and strapped to a board according to an old monastic tradition), vestments, wonderworking and myrrh-streaming icons (in Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries in the former USSR) and holy oil blessed on them. There are numerous reports of his posthumous miracles of healing and appearances all over the world, and by his love, example and prayers he brings people living even in non-Orthodox and non-Christian countries on all continents to Orthodoxy.

His numerous prophecies about the end times, the future of Georgia and Russia are well-known. He used to repeat, ‘In the end times people will only be saved through love, humility and kindness. Kindness will open the gate of Paradise, humility will take them there, and love will make God visible.’ Some call St Gabriel ‘the Georgian Elder Paisios the Athonite.’ There are many books and documentaries dedicated to the holy confessor Gabriel in Georgian, Russian, English and probably other languages.

After St Gabriel’s repose his mother Barbara became a nun in Samtavro with the name Anna and passed away in 2000 at a very advanced age, outliving her holy son by five years. She is buried at Samtavro Convent near him. All believers can experience the power of this wonderworker of our age by praying to him as he is always quick to answer.

Venerable Father Gabriel, pray to God for us!

The Prayer of Elder Gabriel

Lord, I beseech Thee, hear us from Heaven, turn Thy gaze on us and have mercy on us. Let us go with peace to walk Thy path, fulfil Thy commandments and move away from evil. Teach us, O Lord, to pray to Thee and obey Thy holy commandments, so that our hearts may become devoted to Thee and we may follow Thy holy law. Amen.

Some sayings of St Gabriel (Urgebadze):

‘Only he who learns to love will be happy. But do not think that love is an inherent talent. You can and must learn to love.’

‘Without sacrifices for the sake of the Lord and your neighbour you will not succeed in spiritual life at all. Without sacrifice you will not learn to love.’

‘God does not accept empty words. God loves good deeds. Good works – this is precisely what love is.’

‘Live in a way so not only God but people too can love you.’

‘Do not judge. The Judge is God Himself. He who judges is like an empty wheat ear, with his head lifted high he looks down on others. Even if you see a murderer, a harlot or a drunkard lying on the ground, do not judge anyone. God has given them the reins, but He is still holding yours. If he gives you the reins too, you may find yourself in a worse situation by committing the sins you are judging them for and perish.’

‘First God cures, and then the doctor. But he who does not thank the doctor does not thank God either. The labourer is worthy of his wages. The mind and the hands of the doctor do God-pleasing work.’

‘For God it does not matter whether you are a monastic or a lay person. The main thing is to strive for God. But will anyone be able to attain perfection? It is through striving that a person is saved. Monastic things will be required of monastics and lay things of laypeople.’

‘In the end times supporters of the Antichrist will go to church, get baptised and promote the Gospel commandments. But do not believe those who do not have good works. You can know a true Christian only by his deeds.’

‘Hate evil. But love and have pity on those who do evil. Maybe someone who is doing evil today will be cleansed by prayer, fasting, tears and remorse tomorrow and become like an angel. Everything is possible for God. There have been many such examples.’

‘Love is higher than all the canons and rules. If you hate at least one person, you are abominable before God. We must love everybody. But if you cannot, at least wish everybody well.’

‘Keep in mind that God is love. Do good as much as possible so your kindness may save you. Be humble as God blesses the humble. Repent right now so your sins may be forgiven; “tomorrow” is merely Satan’s snare. Love one another, since without love no-one will go to Heaven.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Covid-19 and Covid-19 Vaccines

Ever since covid-19 appeared in 2019, the world seems to have gone mad. For some reason covid seems to have been identified with something like the bubonic plague, which killed between a third and a half of the population of Western Europe alone. To date fewer than three million people worldwide have died with covid. No comparison! Indeed, over the last year, far more than 3 million, some 50 million, have died from all the normal causes, above all, from old age. Death is natural and inevitable for everyone in our fallen world. Some seem not to know this tragic but obvious fact.

Worldwide we have witnessed extraordinary lockdowns, which have bankrupted hundreds of thousands of businesses, indeed whole sectors of  economies, made tens of millions unemployed, brought millions to near-starvation in many poorer countries, caused mass depression, and indebted the public of many countries for generations to come.

Instead of warning the vulnerable (that is, those with very low immunity, that is, the elderly and those suffering from serious underlying diseases, such as cancer, severe diabetes, severe asthma, heavy smoking, obesity etc) to stay at home as much as possible and take special care, governments have disrupted the lives of all. Instead of targeting the vulnerable through urgent advice, governments with their bullying lockdowns have forbidden by diktat the rest of us to get on with our lives, limiting our freedoms, enacting draconian laws, causing panic, depression and even suicide. Were such reactions by governments through panic or incompetence? We do not know. In any case, these government reactions have spawned the most incredible conspiracy theories about plots for social control, including that covid does not even exist!

Let us be frank: many of those who died would have died anyway. Probably many who died lost only a few months off the end of their lives. And even among the over 90s the survival rate of those infected in this country has been 85%. For the under 50s, the survival rate of those infected is incredibly high. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of elderly have died in thousands of care homes. Worse is the fact that some 10,000 deaths have been of much younger people who were perfectly healthy. Perhaps they had some previously unknown genetic immunity deficiency? We just do not know. It is these people, Mr and Mrs Anybody, who have been the real victims.

In this country one previously healthy 26-year old Russian woman died. Three weeks ago, her body was taken back to Latvia where she was buried by her grieving family. In a hospital in East London lay one of my parishioners. Aged under 40, he was on a ventilator for seven weeks, between life and death. Despite the incredible care of hospital staff which I witnessed on my three visits, despite our prayers and those of the many Christian hospital staff, and of his wife and two small children, he lay in a ward with many others of his own age. (On average over a third admitted to intensive care die and 70% of them are men). He passed away; please remember Oleg in your prayers.

Now we come to the question of vaccines. Naturally we ignore EU nationalism and isolationism, apparently provoked by their jealousy of the way in which the UK government has very efficiently protected its population through a vaccination programme. Thus it seems, the UK may avoid a third wave, as has begun in Continental Europe already, causing further strict lockdowns, bankruptcies, mental anguish and deaths.

The Astra Zeneca vaccine has been given at cost (£3 per dose). Clearly, sooner or later, airlines are going to refuse to take passengers who have not been vaccinated. Imagine the liability claims if an unvaccinated passenger gets on a plane and infects others and someone dies. Airlines will go bankrupt. The same is true for many sectors, from health and social care to hotels, even to plumbing companies, who know that people will not accept plumbers into their homes if the plumbers have not already been vaccinated.

Are vaccines made from aborted babies? Please read the following:

https://fullfact.org/online/foetal-cells-covid-vaccine/

https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-ingredients/fetal-tissues#

As we can see, the short answer is no. However, it is also historically more complex than that, as you can read above, because cell strains from two aborted babies are involved.

Why were human embryonic kidney and lung cells from two aborted babies needed to replicate viruses in the 1960s? I discovered that human embryonic cells – fibroblasts – must be obtained from embryos as they only exist in embryos. For example a lung fibroblast is a specialist cell (a stem cell) which has the ability to become lots of different types of lung cell. The cell still has 46 pairs of chromosomes inside it (not 23) so its job is to keep on dividing itself (so it can become lots of other lung cells).  That is why it is so useful if you want to use it to duplicate a virus, you insert the virus and its job is to copy itself lots of times. These cells are only available in the early stages of embryonic development, in a newborn they would have all turned into lung cells with 23 chromosomes. The most important fact, which some overlook, is that the two babies in the 1960s were not aborted in order to make the vaccines. They would, tragically, have been aborted anyway.

However, because of just a small number of cells taken from two embryos decades ago and then replicated artificially, millions of people have been saved from rubella and other diseases from which so many used to suffer and die. For it is not just covid-19 which has been developed from embryonic cell lines. Four such vaccines exist, including that against rubella. This is a fact – just as it is a fact that two aborted babies are at the origin of the cell strains involved.

These babies have saved millions. It is so easy for some to be confused and imagine that babies are being cloned for every batch of vaccine and the cells are directly inside each syringe. It is not at all true. If it were the case, the episcopates of each Local Orthodox Church would long ago have banned vaccinations. They have not. On the contrary, a good many bishops of all Local Churches have encouraged vaccinations against covid. The Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church has stated that all are free to choose. It is in that spirit that this article is written: to present facts and to leave all free to choose.

Everybody should have the choice and nobody should have to have a vaccine (unless it falls under essential for their profession, for example hepatitis vaccines for nurses in the UK). We wonder if people do as much worrying about every food, cosmetic, clothing, or medicine they come into contact with?

Let us not confuse cause and effect, as do the atheist conspiracy theorists. A cause can be bad, but an effect good. For we believe in the God, Who can always make good from bad. For example, many of us ultimately are Orthodox thanks to the Russian Revolution. Does that mean we approve of the genocide of tens of millions of Orthodox by a Marxist State after that Revolution? Of course not! In the same way, the cells of babies who died many years ago have saved millions. From bad, there is good. Now it is for each person to make their own choice about vaccination. This is already the case on Mt Athos, where vaccinations have started for the monks who wish. All must make up their own mind.

 

 

 

Global Iona

Freed from the EU nationalist straitjacket and ghetto after 47 years of slavery and despair, as a result of the treason of ‘Norman’ (= Establishment) politicians, the UK looks forward. No longer tied by the past in which it became disastrously entangled through two suicidal Continental European Wars and then a Continental European enslavement, we have now returned to our global future.

However, there can be no going back to the Imperialist past. We must rid ourselves of Britain and British. That has been discredited. It has been suggested that the four countries of the North Atlantic could be renamed IONA, the Isles Of the North Atlantic. If there were an Ionan Confederation of Great Britain and Ireland, there would at last be freedom for the long-oppressed peoples of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales from British oppression and hypocrisy. Independence, but also co-operation in a Confederation. If we can start at home, that in turn would create a Global Iona.

Firstly, as our historic and cultural links are with the Commonwealth, those links must be renewed. This would not at all mean a re-establishment of the old Empire, with its injustices and exploitation, but justice and prosperity for all. Here there is a chance for IONA to make up for the old British exploitation of the Indian Subcontinent, of Africa, for the racism towards native peoples everywhere, including in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Secondly, an Ionan Confederation should help Eastern Europe, which has been sold out by EU Western Europe. Its factories have been closed, its economies ravished and millions and millions of its young people have been forced into leaving their ancestral homes and families for work in the factories, hospitals, care homes, building sites and farms of Western Europe, where they often face exploitation, poverty and racism. Ionan aid would help to make up for the dastardly British betrayal of Czechoslovakia, Poland and Serbia, in particular during the Second World War.

Thirdly, as a direct consequence of resetting relations with Eastern Europe, an Ionan Confederation should reset its relations with the Russian Federation and its people, so cruelly and unjustly separated from their Russian Federation homeland after the collapse of the old Soviet Union. However, just as the Ionan Confederation has to divorce itself from associations with the elitist and discredited British Empire, its Britishness, so the Russian Federation has to divorce itself from associations with the elitist and discredited Soviet Empire, its Sovietness. Away with the mummies, statues and names of Bolshevik oppressors and murderers! Thus, Iona would have a chance to make up for its old racism, including the genocidal invasion by Britain of the Russian Empire in the mid-nineteenth century in the Crimea and the British orchestration of Russian aristocratic traitors leading to the 1917 overthrow of Tsar Nicolas II, which ensured the incalculable bloodbath of the Soviet period.

Fourthly, an Ionan Confederation should reset its relations with China. After the disgraceful and genocidal British opium wars of the nineteenth century and British racism towards China which lasts until this day, here there are opportunities for Iona to do good instead of the bad the British Empire did in the past.

Fifthly, there is the question of resetting relations with Iran. The British exploitation of its natural resources since the early 1900s and then the betrayal and overthrow of its legitimate government scarcely seventy years ago has rightly caused its people to dislike Britain and fall into the Islamist trap. It is time to put this right.

Repentance is needed for the sake of justice, for justice and for the prosperity for all. Repentance is needed on behalf of the dead traitors who betrayed us the native people and all other peoples who fell under their tyrannical sway.

 

The Future

With apologies to ‘Wonderings’ by John Masefield, to whom any credit belongs.

 

Two different types long have trod our God’s earth:

The proud Norman lord and the English serf.

Though below hell, above stupidity,

We serfs look to the England still to be,

Some have hearts that glow with a star Divine,

Which no clouds dim and cannot cease to shine.

 

I think of the best of these lowly poor,

Who England built and will build once more,

Who built the churches in the long ago

And more will build when greed and folly go,

When the Spirit gleams through mere blood and bone

And men again will bring the Spirit home.

 

When death comes near, then England lets all see

Brave and patient souls changing destiny.

When death seems winning and disaster shows,

Then England lights and shows her sign’s the rose.

The rose that winter only makes more fair

Is the nature true of the sign they bear.

 

Not lucre, power, lies, deceit and marts

Create a nation’s wealth, but noble hearts.

Though not yet morning, the night is breaking,

The blackness weakens, England is awaking.

We want an England better than the last,

No longer the dead England of the past.

 

The Parish Problem

Christianity has always been spread by monastics and monasteries. This is universal. In normal conditions, what happens is that after their mission has been completed, monastics (some of whom are bishops – real bishops are always monastics) delegate the everyday running of churches to married clergy. These either run the local parishes founded from monasteries or else, in the absence of any support from monasteries or bishops, found parishes themselves.

For centuries and centuries this is how it worked, whether with St Nina in Georgia, St Martin of Tours in Gaul, St Patrick in Ireland, St Augustine in England, St Boniface in the German Lands, St Cyril and Methodius in Moravia, St Stefan of Perm, St Job of Pochaev in what is now the western Ukraine, St Cosmas of Aitolia in Greece or St Herman and St Innocent in Alaska. Today, this age-old system is in crisis everywhere, perhaps especially in the Russian Orthodox Church.

There are not only the massive dysfunctions of episcopal, monastic and parish life, mainly caused by 75 years of vicious Soviet persecution inside the ex-Soviet Union. Outside the ex-Soviet Union the situation is not much better in many places. The decadence in parts of the Russian Church before the Revolution, the chaos of emigration, the scattering of the flock, and the catastrophic lack of finance and infrastructure, have caused enormous problems. Thus, I can remember over 40 years ago the then rector of the Rue Daru Cathedral in Paris, where thousands would gather at Easter, telling me that they had only 25 registered parishioners. The number of people who took communion on Easter Night was similar – 25.

Many, though not all, Russian churches inside Russia and in capital cities outside Russia resemble little more than railway stations. Orthodox Russians call the passers-by who you may never see again ‘prokhozhane’ (as opposed to ‘prikhozhane’, the word for parishioners). Then there are the people who call in from time to time – ‘zakhozhane’. These people you may see only half a dozen times a year. An example: as a parish we have some 4,000 people who are attached to us, but our list of parishioners is just under than 600 and that includes children. And yet all 4,000 would claim to be parishioners!

Another problem, worse in some countries than others, but still common in Russia and the Ukraine, despite recent welcome changes, is the massive imbalance in age and gender. For every 100 women standing in church, there may only be 15 men (at most) and two children. I can remember at the old ROCOR Cathedral in London 40 years ago, there would perhaps be 400 people (average age 75) at the Sunday Liturgy, out of whom three-quarters were elderly women and the only children our own. Where are the men? Where are the young people? Why have the grandparents not passed on the Faith to their children and grandchildren? The situation of the Greek Church in this country today is very similar and very critical. Expect many of their churches to close over the next 20 years.

In the old ROCOR of the time, I can remember one elderly and prominent woman parishioner boasting that the children in their church never made a noise. I politely pointed out that there were no children in her church (and also no baptisms). She then boasted that they never had any divorces in her church. Again I politely pointed out there were no weddings either (the last had been thirty years ago) and that the average age of the parishioners was about 75. She then boasted that they had never had any problem with their clergy. Once more I politely pointed out that that must be because they had no clergy….The last one had died a decade or so before.

As one relatively young archbishop said to me in the 1980s: the fewer parishes we have, the better it is, because the fewer the parishes, the fewer the problems. He died soon afterwards.

Why is it that there are still  many churches (especially in Russia and Eastern Europe) which it is impossible to enter with a pram or a pushchair (let alone a wheelchair)? Is it because children (and young people in general) are not welcome and not wanted? (As also in so many churches outside Russia?).

Why are there no contemporary toilets (for children) and no changing facilities, attached to the majority of churches?

Why are there so few meeting places for parishioners to get to know each other and support each other, where children can play together and make friends, and where young people can meet (and perhaps marry)? Or do you want to die out?

Children are our future. That statement is neither new nor original, but blatantly obvious, and yet many people still do not understand it.

A parish is not a cow to be milked for money. A parish is a local community to which people have a sense of belonging, to which they want to belong, so important for a flock which is scattered.

A parish is a community (not a racist ghetto, as in the old emigration), where all are welcome and a community which will stand up to the frequent injustices, persecution, meddling and bullying from outside, and support its clergy both morally and financially. Where does that exist?

Until we have many more parishes, we will not make progress.

Consequences of Covid

Now that the covid epidemic, with perhaps finally three million victims worldwide, is beginning to come to an end, we can see certain consequences. For example, we have seen a huge acceleration in the inevitable growth of online sales and the use of plastic money. What perhaps would have happened over the next ten years in any case, will have happened in only one year.

However, there have been other consequences. These include the bankruptcy and unemployment caused by government deprivation of liberty (so-called ‘lockdowns’, in fact lock-ups). In order to protect the 5% of the vulnerable, the other 95% have had their lives upset or even ruined. And then there has been the psychological damage and distress caused by these lock-ups. Their extremity has given rise to countless paranoid conspiracy theories, which confuse cause and effect and attribute to panicky and hysterical governments and media an intelligence and competence which they clearly lack. These theories have been fatal to the mental health of those who have no faith and believe that sinister men successfully rule the world, and not the Divinity, as is the true case.

Another phenomenon has been vaccine nationalism. The ultra-nationalistic EU has tried to deride and deny the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine, with dire consequences for its peoples. And Western countries have derided the Russian and Chinese vaccines, which, if anything, seem to be superior to and have been produced faster than Western vaccines and will save the Third World from covid. Certainly, they must be superior to the only Western vaccine that has been associated with the cells of aborted babies, that of Johnson and Johnson in the USA. That vaccine is to be avoided at all costs.

However, another consequence of covid has been the accelerated and permanent closure of churches. For instance, the Church of England is preparing to close 20% of its churches, some 3,000 altogether. Having closed its churches and deprived its people of services during covid, many there have now become accustomed to ‘zoom services’. After the lock-ups are over, many will not bother to go back to real services. Why bother? It is much more comfortable to sit in your armchair and watch others. And having seen the clergy, especially the episcopate, so frightened of possible death, many, very many, have concluded that their clergy are mainly atheists anyway. And they are probably right. We fear God, not death. If, that is, we actually believe.

These scandalous deviations have also affected fringe Orthodox dioceses. Priests in one group in the USA have attacked their bishops who forbade them from giving the faithful communion. One bishop in Great Britain actually banned his priests from giving confession! And, again in the USA, one church in Chicago is up for sale, as the local bishop so upset his flock with his covid hysteria that they stopped going. After all, if a church is merely an ethnic club or an empty ritual, it may as well close down and cease existing. Its closure is no loss.

As for zoom services and zoom confessions, I have told everyone that there is no such thing. Physical contact is necessary for sacraments to take place. We are not Protestants. Zoom services are fit only for a consumer society, not for an Orthodox Christian society. The Church is not virtual, but real.