The following is the English translation of the statement we made at the Conference on ‘The Orthodox Teaching on the Church and Contemporary Challenges’, which was held in Moscow on 26 October and organized by the Analytical Centre of St Basil the Great.
The Russian Orthodox Church suspended Eucharistic communion with Constantinople because of its politically-backed and therefore uncanonical support of schism in the Ukraine. The Russian Church has the canonical authority to do so, for by supporting schism Constantinople entered into dialogue with the anathematized, and so fell under anathema itself. But is this event a disaster or an opportunity?
We believe that this is an opportune time for the Russian Orthodox Church to re-emerge as the Church of the Third Rome. As before 1917, it can now assume leadership of Orthodox Christendom by agreement with the other twelve Local Churches. All of these are very small, but some are very ancient. This is unlike Constantinople, which only had a political claim to leadership, as the former capital of the Empire.
The ancient Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch go back to the apostles and their voices in particular must be heeded. As Patriarch John of Antioch has said, we need a Council where all Orthodox can meet. We would say, as we have been saying for the past eleven years, that such a Council can take place outside Moscow, on the Istra: this will be the long-awaited New Jerusalem Council.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous
The truth will out
This proverb recalls the Old Testament ‘Your sin will find you out’ (Num. 32, 33) and the New Testament, ‘For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid that shall not be known’ (Lk 12, 2). Sooner or later your sins will be known. These are terrifying words for all of us sinners.
The chickens come home to roost
This recalls that actions always have consequences, that if you commit or allow injustices, you will have to pay for them sooner or later.
It is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted
When you let a situation degenerate for a few years, let alone for two or three decades, any action you take is too little, too late. You will have to pay for your negligence and lack of love.
Fine words butter no parsnips
This rather old-fashioned proverb is similar in meaning to ’Actions speak louder than words’. No number of words about ‘love’ etc will help, if your actions do not match up to your words and repair the damage done.
Q: What is the Russian Orthodox view of patriotism?
A: As President Putin has put it: ‘For Russians […] patriotic sentiment, the sense of national belonging that is now, to their sorrow, being eroded in certain European countries, is very important’. In today’s Europe, the attention of those who seek to preserve their national identity, those who are patriots and nationalists in the best sense of the word, is fixed on Moscow. Conversely, those who yell the loudest about a ‘Russian threat’ and ‘European unity in the face of Russian aggression’ are precisely those who want to destroy European faces and borders and reviving identities, like that of Catalonia, as they are oriented towards the EU headquarters in Brussels and the White House.
Russia is the Motherland of patriotism in Europe and in defiance of the artificial denationalisation imposed by Western-imposed Soviet Communism, it is returning to the old mission of keeping the flame of national identity in Europe alight, preserving it as a Europe of homelands and not a public thoroughfare. Although the State-run media like the BBC try to slander all moderate patriots as ‘Neo-Nazis’ and ‘the far right’, in reality there are very few ‘Neo-Nazis’ and ordinary people, both on the normal right and the normal left, are patriots. 52% of British people voted for Brexit, surely even more would vote for Brexit today, given Juncker’s recent speech on the abolition of Europe (‘Eurofederalism’) in Brussels.
Q: Why is the West so aggressive?
A: The West is far more aggressive than many people even realize. Its wars of aggression are always camouflaged by code-names. For example, the multinational Western invasions and Western wars of aggression against Russia are variously known as ‘The Teutonic Crusades’, ‘The Napoleonic Campaign’, ‘The Crimean War’, ‘World War One’, ‘World War Two’ etc. In the same way, today the USA has a ‘Department of Defense’, and yet no-one has ever tried to invade the USA and that Department is notorious for its Offense.
Britain’s ‘Ministry of Defence’ has similarly always spent its time invading and bombing countries far away, all in the name of ‘national security’. Apparently Britain has invaded some 150 foreign countries in its history! This British Establishment aggressiveness goes back to its founders, in their so-called ‘Battle of Hastings’, which did not take place in Hastings and should actually be called ‘The Norman Invasion and Occupation’ or ‘The Defeat and Rape of England’.
The roots of this Westernwide aggression go back even further than 1066, to the anti-Christian Charlemagne, who revived the dead pagan Roman Empire – the model for all aggressive, asset-stripping and war-based systems – under the code-name of a ‘classical revival’. He told his people that they were superior to Christians (‘Greeks’) and also to anyone else, because the Holy Spirit came from their leader, the Pope of Rome, whom Charlemagne had made infallible with his filioque ideology. Later this mythical superiority was spread downwards to anyone who agreed with the Western Establishment and anyone who was ‘Western’ was thus considered superior. ‘Black, brown, red and yellow peoples’ were inferior and therefore could be enslaved and massacred by ‘White’ Western people. Here is the fruit of the filioque, from the Crusades to Iraq.
Yet another example: On 25 September the BBC programme ‘Beyond Belief’ (Radio 4, 4.30), the programme I spoke on twice after the Pussy Riot blasphemy, the subject was ‘The Persecution of Atheism in Russia’! I could hardly believe what the BBC has come to. It really is Beyond Belief! Not content with supporting the US installation of lesbian politicians and Zionist atheists as leaders in Eastern Europe, from Serbia to the Baltics and the Ukraine, the BBC are now directly plugging Western atheism in Russia, where a few decades ago Western Marxist atheists martyred 600 bishops and 120,000 clergy, under the pretext of ‘freedom of speech’.
Q: What worries you most about the situation of the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church? Ecumenism?
A: Definitely not ecumenism. That is a bedtime fairy-tale for old people. It was abandoned as a failure long ago. No, it is something else. Let us try and understand the context in which we live.
We live in the fourth century. We in the Russian Church have come out of persecution and are being recognized, moving forward into the rest of the fourth century. (Unlike the West, where the heterodox have been in the fourth century and are now heading backwards towards the third century and persecution by various atheist emperors). What was the problem in the fourth century? There were no outward enemies, but there were inward enemies, all those who swam with the tide, the ‘fairweather Christians’ who joined the Church for their careers, for worldly advantage. Martyrdom is largely over for us: the ‘easy way’ to salvation has gone: all we had to do was to be killed. For a believing Orthodox that is not a problem. This is why in the fourth century, there was a huge growth in monasticism. Opportunities for martyrdom were mainly over, but the faithful still needed the real thing.
In times of peace we face not outward enemies, but inward enemies, as we in the Church Outside Russia, know only too well. We in our part of the Russian Church did not face martyrdom, what we have faced for nearly 100 years is inward enemies. We faced multiple schisms, by modernists (in the Paris Jurisdiction and in the USA), then by old calendarists (in the USA, France, South America and Great Britain), we faced racism and nationalism (the policy of excluding certain people from the Church because they had ‘the wrong blood’), we faced careerism, false brethren and slanders, backed by certain bishops. This type of persecution is insidious and calls on us to be confessors and not martyrs. That is much more subtle.
We have a great example in St John of Shanghai, who was put on trial in a secular court by so-called ‘ROCOR’ bishops, clergy and people. Shame on them! But who came out of this affair a saint? It is the insignificant and derided little man on the court bench who prayed: the others are, at best, forgotten. Something similar happened to Fr Seraphim (Rose), who faced persecution from inside. Our greatest enemies have always come from inside the Church. Our enemies confess not the Orthodox Faith, they confess ‘religion’, the outward ritualistic system of phariseeism, spiritual dryness and literalism, together with a systemic personality cult and academicism, sometimes homosexual, all of which persecute, mock and despise any authentic, living spiritual experience.
The souls of these go dry at Pentecost, they feel nothing, not the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit, not new green life, but they rattle off the prayers to the Holy Spirit without feeling, looking at their watches. These people have no Love, no Theology, no Knowledge of the Living God (St Alban), no compassion, all they have is their ill psychology, which they use for self-justification and persecution of the righteous.
Today we can see such tendencies inside Russia (and among some of its representatives outside Russia). Careerism, the interest in ‘awards’, rationalism, knowledge only of the outward, Spirit-free academicism, the rush for ‘degrees’, the salt that has lost its savour. It does not matter whether the tendency is new calendarist and modernist or old calendarist and traditionalist, it is the same anti-spiritual tendency.
Q: Was the Russian emigration a good thing?
A: Its causes were of course bad and émigrés suffered. But the spiritual life of the emigration itself was very mixed, both pure and impure. In the 1930s St John of Shanghai reckoned that only 10% of the emigration was Churchly. This corresponds to my own experience. Many Russians were ‘White’ only inasmuch as they were greedy for money and property and had no time, either for the Faith or for the Tsar, whom so many of them had actively betrayed. Many were racist and nationalistic, opposed to multinational Rus, so denying the words and commandments of the apostles to go out into all the world and teach and baptise ‘all men’.
There are still parts of the Russian emigration which have not returned to the Russian Church and, incredibly, are still on the Catholic calendar, which was introduced by the masonic Anglicans into Constantinople for a fee of £100,000 in the early 1920s. Still no repentance for such unspeakable spiritual decadence! In years to come we shall be amazed that any of this was possible, let alone justified by ‘theologians’, ‘the great and good!’
And yet the emigration also produced saints. As ever, I will say to you: Follow the Saints! Yes, the rest existed and exists. Ignore them, let the spiritually dead bury the spiritually dead. There can be no nostalgia for them. Follow the Chains of Love and you will set your soul free. The Russian emigration was caused by evil, but God’s Providence can always make good from evil.
Q: Is it true that ROCOR has never had a scandal?
A: I do not know who told you such a fairy tale. Sadly, very sadly, just think about the Antony Grabbe scandal in Jerusalem, about the consecration of Valentin of Suzdal (I remember how Archbishop Antony of Geneva prayed for a snowstorm so that his plane could not take off and he would not have to take part in his consecration under obedience), about Grabbe’s bishop-father who ended up in a right-wing sect outside the Church and banned anyone from attending his funeral, about the defrocked….
Q: What would you like to see the Orthodox Church do as a whole?
A: Publish statistics and facts! For example, I reckon that there are about 800 Orthodox bishops, 80,000 priests and 217 million Orthodox. However, these are merely informed guesstimates and I do not know the truth. I have no idea how many deacons, monks and nuns there are in the Church and in each Local Church. I would be very grateful to see some central statistical Orthodox authority issuing such information. (If any readers can correct my estimates, please will they contact me).
Q: In the light of what happened in Crete in 2016, what should be done about the state of the Orthodox episcopate, where there are so many who are clearly unprincipled?
A: That is of course a question for the episcopate, not for me. However, my suggestion would be something like deposing all bishops who do not confess that:
1. The Orthodox Church alone is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
2. The application of the canons which state that if they have been appointed by secular authorities (e. g. the State Department in Washington), they must be deposed.
3. The application of the canons which state that if they practise simony, they must be deposed.
4. The application of the canons which state that if they practise homosexuality, they must be deposed.
5. That if they are freemasons, they must be deposed.
Q: You are educated, how can you believe in heaven and hell?
A: We know from the unique revelation of the New Testament that God is Love. Therefore, it is clear that heaven is the presence of Love and hell is the absence of Love. It is very simple. It is even clear from this that heaven and hell, although in undeveloped forms, already exist on earth. People create their own heaven and hell. Please forget the primitive notions of atheists about heaven and hell that you seem to have. It reminds me of the incredibly primitive peasant Khrushchev who said that Gargarin had proved that God did not exist because he had been in space and had not seen Him! The only thing that this proved was Khrushchev’s own primitive ignorance and spiritual blindness.
Q: Why does the Church have rituals? Surely they are unnecessary?
A: The angels do not have rituals. So why do we? Obviously, because we are not angels, that is, we have bodies, a material nature. All people have rituals. Protestants have rituals (sit down, stand up, prayer, hymn, guilt-making sermon, collection of money to pay for the guilt, which is merely a copy of Catholic indulgences), secularists have rituals, parades, processions, the opening of Parliament, both military and civilian etc. Let us therefore make sure that our Church rituals are beautiful and meaningful.
People will always make rituals to worship something higher and greater than themselves, whether the True God or an invented one – drink, football, the sun on the beach, a human ideology…As we know that we are inferior and need to worship something, so let us worship the True God and not such false gods.
A: What is the situation in the Ukraine now?
A: I have not been there for a year now, but with the persecution of most of the people (‘ethnic minorities, of whom over 50% are Russian’), the continuing civil war, the fleeing of millions abroad (especially to Poland and Russia) and the fact that the government is propped up only by US money and money from US organizations like the IMF, I think the future is grim. It seems probable to me that in a few years from now, the country, which is an artificial conglomerate founded by Lenin and Stalin, will split between Russia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, leaving a possible Little Russian rump around Kiev.
Q: What are we to make of the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and the earthquakes in Mexico?
A: There have always been such events. When you hear ‘the most powerful hurricane for 100 years’, it means that there have already been others at least as powerful in recorded history. None of this is the first time, it is just that the media are here to report these events. But the Caribbean and Florida are well known as places of crime, gambling, prostitution, drug-dealing and money-laundering. It is clear that only Faith can avert such catastrophes, not vice. Nearly 70 years ago on Tubabao St John of Shanghai protected that island from a typhoon through his prayers, going around the island with the cross and praying. This is what needs to be done here. But is anyone doing this?
In the USA some fear a great eruption in Yellowstone that could almost wipe out life in North America, or an earthquake in San Francisco. But what do people do in these places? Do they pray, do they repent? Some of course yes, but it seems that most just have more and more hubris. Just like Pompeii of old. Just like the Tower of Siloam. Little wonder that people speak of ‘Eurosodom and Gomorrhica’.
Q: Whose side are you on in the Brexit conflict between the Chancellor Philip Hammond and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson?
A: That is a political question. All I can say is that I support neither of them. The Anglo-Turkish Old Etonian Boris Johnson is, despite his Russian Christian name, a fanatical Russophobe who supports a new Cold War. As regards the multi-millionaire Philip Hammond, I knew him personally, as he was in the same year in the same college in Oxford and also born in Essex (though at the wrong end). Even then, as a teenager, he was quite a ruthless careerist. True, he has done very well for himself in this respect, but has not yet got the top job, which is what he wants. However, regardless of that, both of these politicians are pro-British, i.e., anti-English, which is because they are pro-UK Establishment. The last pro-English politician I can think of is the long ago-retired Sir Richard Body. I am not sure that there is a single pro-English politician left in Parliament today.
Q: Should we be worried about the conflict between the USA and North Korea?
A: For the moment there is no conflict, just mutual insults. What worries me is that both leaders have terrible inferiority complexes that produce paranoia. One wants to be taken seriously as a President, instead of as a horse-trading businessman of limited intelligence, the other is a shy man who is trying to live up to his father and grandfather in cruelty, bluster and everything else. And his country is surrounded by aggressive US ships and planes (the USA is not surrounded by North Korean ships and planes), which only deepens national paranoia.
They both remind me of Kaiser Wilhelm who also had a terrible inferiority complex, caused by his deformed arm and his profound jealousy of Great Britain, and so started the Great War, with all its appalling consequences. ‘Inferiority complexes’ (= the sins of jealousy, vanity, selfishness and pride) cause many problems in world history. They are dangerous. As for these leaders, you should give children toys to play with, not guns, missiles and nuclear bombs. That is worrying.
I can still remember the 1970s when I bought icons (without haloes) from Jordanville, portraying St Elizabeth the New Martyr and St John of Shanghai. They hang in the altar of the Church where I serve to this day. Equally I can remember the abuse hurled at the Church Outside Russia at the long-awaited canonization of the New Martyrs and Confessors in November 1981. Those who hurled the abuse went strangely quiet when what had had to be begun in New York, given the politically enforced paralysis of the Church in Moscow, was confirmed in Moscow in 2000. This merely confirmed the hypocrisy and political prejudice of those who had attacked us.
Thus, I can recall the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva who faced down the proud doubters in the holiness of the Royal Martyrs, including a Roman Catholic baptised in his own blood, among his own ROCOR flock in Brussels and Paris, telling them that they need not venerate the icons of the Royal Martyrs, confident that they would come round in time, as spiritual experience persuaded them that they had been wrong. The same patience was shown in London by Bishop Constantine, a man of holiness himself, towards doubting members of the ROCOR Cathedral there. And in the USA, even the well-known iconographer, Fr Kiprian (Pyzhov) had been opposed to the canonization of the Royal Martyrs, but through prayer, he too came round to the Orthodox view.
Indeed, I can remember one man, now, ironically, a hieromonk ordained by a ROCOR bishop, who on the day of the canonization of the New Martyrs in 1981, vehemently informed me that the Grand Duchess Anastasia had not been martyred because she was identical to a woman known as Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the Grand Duchess. Despite witnesses like the ever-memorable Fr Nicholas Gibbes (The Grand Duchess’ tutor), who had immediately seen that she was a fraud, that man insisted on his opinion. Of course, he came to eat humble pie when DNA tests later proved what the faithful had known all along, that Anna Anderson had indeed been a fraud.
Far more disturbing than the fact that such people attacked us, motivated by secular politics, is the fact that they were attacking the saints. Here great caution is needed. When righteous men and women are venerated among the faithful, when their lives are examined closely and found to contain miracles of healing and prophecies, all of which came true, we should pay attention. Sometimes, their relics are not available because they have been destroyed by infidel liberals like Kerensky or else by Bolsheviks. Such righteous, despite slanders, eventually come to be venerated by many because of the spiritual experience that people have of them in their prayers. Then the hierarchy of the Church investigates and canonizes, always cautiously, always slowly, but the right decision is reached, even though, as in the case of the Royal Martyrs, certain bishops were originally strongly opposed.
The fact that intellectuals do not like the saints is because they do not like holiness, which is what the saints are made of. Why this reaction to the saints? Quite simply because holiness is outside their control, outside the sphere of their purely rationalistic, non-spiritual experience and so they despise it. Such intellectuals study what is called in Russian ‘teologija’ (scientific theology’), not ‘Bogoslovie’ (‘the Word of God’) and come from secular universities and secular-minded institutes, not from monasteries, which are Orthodox universities. It was ever thus. Such was the fate of the Gnostic heretic Origen, so beloved of the Paris-Crestwood School, of the intellectuals Arius, Nestorius and Barlaam, the latter of whom opposed his Western scholasticism to the spiritual experience of St Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica.
This is not to say at all that the use of the intellect (the reason) is bad in itself. Of course not, it is necessary. In the Church we have three great saints who bear the title ‘the Theologian’ – St John, St Gregory and St Symeon. Three – and no more. St Gregory, in particular, was very well educated in the intellect achievements of the day, like indeed, many, many other Church Fathers. Their triumph, however, was not in their use of their intellect, but in the fact of their spiritual experience (holiness), which they expressed with the use of their secularly trained intellect. Intellect is one thing, intellectualism, such as denying the miracle in the life of St John of Damascus and the Three-handed Icon of the Mother of God, is another.
In other words, the Church Fathers did not confuse the means (the intellect, the reason) with the end (holiness), which confusion is called not the use of the intellect, but ‘intellectualism’. Intellectualism is the spiritual disease which makes the reason (rationalism) the be all and the end all. It is not. The Church is not rationalist, which ism is tainted by fallen human pride and arrogance, but neither is She irrationalist. Irrationalism is obscurantist and narrow, the domain of phariseeism and spiritual impurity, just as much as rationalism. The Church is ‘meta-rational’, beyond reason, i.e, She follows the path of Holy Wisdom, ‘Sofia’ in Greek, ‘Premudrost’ in Slavonic.
The Christian goal was very well expressed by St Seraphim of Sarov in the century before last. He defined the aim of our lives, not as the collecting of secular knowledge, idle facts, but as the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. We can see this very clearly in the lives of three saints of the last century, St Silvanus the Athonite, a semi-literate Russian peasant, St Nicholas of Ochrid and St Justin of Chelije, the latter two of whom were very well-educated in Western Universities. The latter two used the intellectual formation which they had received in the West in order to express their spiritual experience, that of St Silvanus. No amount of doctorates, imitations and studies of abstract theories will, however, provide such spiritual experience.
In the Russian Church today, no longer persecuted, we are faced by the challenge of secular-minded intellectuals on the fringes of Church life, often with doctorates and degrees, who call themselves ‘theologians’, but who are not, because they do not have the spiritual experience that comes from suffering. Thus, their writings are superficial and do not provide spiritual food for the Orthodox faithful, but simply act as sleeping pills. The antidote to intellectualism is the living experience of the saints, especially, in the Russian Church, the feats of the New Martyrs and Confessors, who preferred the ‘meta-rational’, Risen Kingdom of God to the rationalist and irrationalist fallen republic of man.