Category Archives: Orthodoxy

The Main Problem of the Contemporary Orthodox World

Introduction

From time to time over the decades I have heard conversations among Orthodox about ‘What the problem with the Orthodox world is’. Some I have heard say: ‘The episcopate’. Others say: ‘Lack of leadership’. Others: ‘Lack of pastors’. Others: ‘Uneducated clergy’. Others: ‘Infrequent communion’. Others: ‘There are not enough churches’. Others: ‘Politics’. Others: ‘There’s not enough money’. Others: ‘Too much money’. Others: ‘Ecumenism’ (how old-fashioned that word sounds now). Listening to such conversations among those older than myself, many years ago I came to my own much more radical, but perhaps also much more obvious, conclusion which I present below. Let me give some examples.

The Problem of the Episcopate

Here one of the great problems is that, with very weak monastic life, Orthodox bishops are drawn from a very small pool of candidates. Here we must also recall that, even if there were strong monastic life, most monks are in any case not at all suitable to become bishops: the very ‘monastic’ monk makes a disastrous bishop, as he has no concept of family life and the general realities of life in the world. If they do become bishops they make the most crass decisions out of naivety, ordaining bandits and perverts and not ordaining the suitable.

Indeed, real monks flee even the possibility of the episcopate and have to be taken kicking and screaming for consecration. In some Local Churches, the situation is so dire that just any celibate can become a bishop, especially if he belongs to the right local wealthy family (one of four?). His faith is not very important, but being celibate and being from the right local wealthy family are. As a result, there are a lot of bishops who are bureaucrats, diplomats or just academics. Faith in Christ really does not count very much with them at all.

The main aim of the bishop-bureaucrat, ‘administrator’ or ‘effective manager’ (the Russian jargon) is to collect money and property, so gathering power into his hands. After all, marble, gold and flashy vestments, flats and cars need hard cash. How else can you show off how prestigious and powerful you are? A few years ago we saw one who had been appointed to another diocese. His first act was to buy himself a very fancy car.

That was him finished. Half the flock turned away at once and never returned. And frankly, why should they have? The previous bishop had travelled by public transport and had been respected for that, though admittedly he had travelled very little. The new bishop still could not understand how he had alienated half his flock in his first week (he only realised this about a year afterwards). Some years later he was removed after a large amount of money had disappeared……Another failure in a long line in that particular diocese, which appears to have a suicide wish, ordaining the incompetent and banishing the competent.

But why does a bishop need a chauffeur or a cook or a chancellery and to issue decrees (which are usually ignored anyway)? Ordinary people do not have a chauffeur or a cook or a chancellery and does not issue decrees. If they did, they too would soon find themselves as despised and ignored as their bishops.

Bishops are given power, which some of them think means suspending, depriving of living and home or defrocking righteous priests (and others) and ordaining their corrupt yes-men favourites in their place. Some cultivate this power into a kind of feudal arbitrary rule, the ability to strike terror and intimidate. It is impossible to pray with such bishops because they are bullies who simply traumatise. Little wonder that in one Local Church there is actually a trade-union for priests to defend themselves against such bullies.

The fear of some Synods of bishops to stand up to such bullies whom they themselves appointed discredits the episcopate because there are whole Synods which fall into cowardice and let the corrupt go on for years. There has to be another way, the way of justice. Let us make clear that we are not talking about those who deserve suspension and defrocking according to the canons. The very real fear of priests of being utterly unjustly suspended and defrocked is not their fault. It is the fault of tyrannical and unChristian bishops, who do not know the word Love. Trauma reigns. As for trust, that went out of the window decades ago.

Then there are the bishops who are mere diplomats or book-lovers, who hide in their cathedrals, never visiting their crumbling dioceses, and remain unknown to their flocks. They prefer speaking at conferences for intellectuals.

We have witnessed the disgraceful conduct of certain bishops in the last year in relation to covid. Terrorised by the vague possibility of death with covid, they have closed themselves down and closed down their dioceses, threatening their priests with suspension and defrocking, if they so much as serve the liturgy or visit the sick, as in one group in one Diaspora country.  These conformists are those who, wishing to swim with the atheist State tide, go over and above even the demands of the atheist State in closing down their churches. The concept of churches in the catacombs is totally alien to such bishops, as they are totally integrated into the local Establishment (and local masonic lodge). I have had people asking if such bishops have any faith at all. In answer, I shrug my shoulders and look to the heavens. The fact is, I just don’t know.

On ordination 36 years ago I was told by an elderly Russian priest that ‘whatever you do, don’t contact the bishop unless it’s an emergency, you will annoy him’. Indeed, there are bishops I have heard of who actually forbid their clergy to contact them or make contact impossible because they refuse to answer any form of communication. They don’t want problems, and yet they are happy to interfere in the details of pastoral life and upset clergy and people alike, thus creating problems. Their heavy-handedness defies definition. One new and power-crazy bishop we know managed to alienate his whole diocese in just nine months. A quite remarkable feat. Surely a record? Unless you know better….

The Problem of the Priesthood

There are priest-careerists. You can tell them a mile off. Even the most unchurched person knows them. It is as though they carry an odour about them. And the odour is not that of eau-de-cologne, but the foul stench of money.

On the other hand, if you allow a married priesthood, as Christ did, it is only natural that the priest should earn enough money to look after his family. There are Orthodox bishops who condemn the cash-saving Roman Catholic solution, that is, imposing celibates only (sometimes homosexuals, sometimes worse). And that is exactly what some bishops do: ordain a 22-year-old, make him archimandrite and there you have it: a cheap parish priest.

Only, as happens quite often (I have known many examples), by the time they are 30 they want to get married. And they do. Not so far from here, we know a married archimandrite with two children, though his bishop left him priest. And actually I don’t blame him for doing so, but the bishop who ordained the married archimandrite at an uncanonical age. Another bishop we met, in the then Rue Daru group, would only ordain priests with two children or fewer. Those who did not use contraception could not be ordained: they were too expensive. The hypocrisy.

The problem is that such events do nothing to create respect for the clergy and parish life. The simple solution: in a small parish with 100 wage-earners, ask them to contribute 1% of their salary to the priest’s salary. This would mean that the priest would earn exactly the average salary of all his parishioners. If it is a medium-sized parish with 200 wage-earners, they will contribute 0.5% of their salary. Etc.

This brings us to the next and massive problem.

That is the lack of parishes. There are quite a few (though probably only a fifth of the number required) church buildings, but a parish is a different matter. A church is a building you ‘go to’ as often or as rarely as you want, for five minutes once a year (like the thousands who, I am told, ‘go to…’ (a church where there are never more than 200 present at any one time). There are others who attend a church at least three times a week and come before the start and leave after the end. Only they are parishioners. A parish is a community to which you belong, of which you are a member. And parishioners are people who socialise and help each other outside Sundays.

In Russia and most of ex-Communist Eastern Europe, parish life was almost completely destroyed by the Communists. Though, in truth, often parish life was very often very weak even before the Communists came. Which is precisely why the Communists came…..

To create a Church family, which is what a parish is, is not easy. It takes years. There are different nationalities, different ages, people live in different places, often far apart. And this brings us to our next section.

The Problem of the People

Most Orthodox Christians the world over are only nominal. This nominalism is the ‘hatch, match, dispatch’ variety. In other words, they go (at best) to church three times in a lifetime, for baptism, wedding and funeral. They are not Churched Orthodox, who belonged to the Church, whose priority is the Church. Some people ask why a Revolution in ‘Orthodox Russia’ took place. It was because of nominalism. When there is an attack on the Faith, the first people to lapse and even overnight become enemies of the Church are the nominal. Thus, in Soviet Russia, most of the militant Communists, from Stalin downwards, were baptised Orthodox. They were obviously not Churched Orthodox. Thus, we can see the fragility of ‘Orthodox countries’, where the majority are only nominal Orthodox. We can see the same fragility today in Greece and Romania, where the clergy are State-paid. A fragility which worries. Those countries hang by a thread.

Nominalism is precisely why confession and communion are infrequent. Confession and communion, though two separate sacraments, together form a statement that we are Christians, that we repent and that we partake of Christ, the Head of the Church. Both are equally important, which is why they are so frequent and so closely linked. Some common questions of the baptised but unChurched are: What is confession? What is communion? I have never had them. Why can’t you give communion to my (unbaptised) baby? We now have the extraordinary Roman Catholic practice in the Greek Churches of communion always, but confession never. And they actually justify that as normal! What is this world that we live in?

Many people like to blame ‘the Church’ for everything. This sounds like a blasphemy, as the Church is Christ’s, His Mother’s (Who is the Mother of the Church), His saints’ and His angels’. However, by ‘the Church’, they do not actually mean Christ (which is what ‘Church’ means), but the clergy.

Yes, we are aware of the faults of the clergy (see the extensive lists above), but what about the faults of the people? The people statistically make up 2,444 out of every 2,445 Orthodox (90,000 bishops, priests and deacons out of 220 million), 99.945% of the Church. Where is the responsibility for the Faith of the people, their consciousness of belonging to ‘the royal priesthood’? Why this passive, consumerist attitude? This is not the attitude of Church people.

Some people blame the clergy for the obvious lack of missionary work. But it is much more their responsibility, as they are the vast majority. If nothing is done inside parishes, in internal missionary work, nothing can be done outside parishes, in external missionary work. Why is that we have to wait for bishops and priests to set up parishes, buy church buildings, do missionary work? All should start at the grassroots. And where do the clergy come from? They come from the people. Clergy are not born clergy! Is there truth in the old and harsh saying that: ‘The people get the clergy they deserve?’ The lack of zeal among the people for upright bishops surely results in what we have. We should not complain about our situation when it is our own fault.

Conclusion

What is the main problem of the Orthodox world? In my view, it is undoubtedly its sheer lack of Orthodoxy. At all three levels, as described above. This means the lack of dogmatic understanding and the lack of works of love, in other words, the lack of love, which in fact are the result of each other. For if you do not love God, you will not love your neighbour or yourself. Put simply: No respect for God = no respect for others = no self-respect.

Whenever in Church history the faithful people, most parish priests and monastics and the freely-appointed bishops have combined to defend the Faith against tyrants and monsters, they have created an unstoppable force, a force which radically changes the course of history. Why? Because they realise that they, only together, are the Church.

 

Convergence through Purification: The Future of Post-Soviet and Post-Émigré Russian Orthodoxy

Introduction

Following the 2007 reconciliation of 90% of the Russian Orthodox world outside Russia and the much larger Russian Orthodox world inside Russia, some wondered how the two parts would converge. After all, the two parts had distinctive identities, and little wonder, given the ninety years of mutual separation. That separation had been forced on the faithful by the 1917 overthrow of the old, Faith-based, Imperial Orthodox Civilisation by power-seeking Westernised aristocrats and money-loving bourgeois. The main part of the Church inside the Soviet Union had been cruelly persecuted and its organisation taken hostage by the atheist State for three generations of captivity. As for the much smaller part in exile, it had suffered from those who had little interest in the Gospel of Christ, of Orthodox Civilisation, but much interest in the Gospel of Mammon, of the unprincipled Capitalist West.

The Two Sides of the Past

Both parts shared in ideologies which at times were totally irrational, and dominated by reflexes which were certainly not theological, but emotional, folkloric, psychological and even, in some cases, pathological.

On the one hand, the post-Soviet part could display immense nationalism – to the incredible point of admiring its persecutor, Stalin – and had a centralised and bureaucratic State mentality, reflected in the indifferent attitudes of some careerist paid clergy who perhaps did not even believe in God. Certainly these showed little visible signs of faith. This went hand in hand with the attitudes of secularist Westernisers who admired the power and wealth of the Vatican (another State-Church, or rather Church-State). Among the post-Soviet people, deprived of Church education for 75 years, could be found an incredible range of absurd extremes and phariseeism, superstitions based on extraordinary ignorance, resulting in misunderstandings and false problems, which had long ago been solved by Orthodox living in the Western world, from whom they refused to learn, blinkered by their nationalism.

On the other hand, the émigré part could also display immense nationalism, only an anti-Soviet nationalism, with a cultural nostalgia for a disappeared past and phariseeism. It refused to understand mass Orthodoxy, rejecting it, isolating itself in the cosy, inward-looking clubbiness of tiny ghettos. It would refuse any non-Russians, making absurd demands of them. To quote many real examples, there were those who preferred to see their church close rather than see non-Russians there. ‘After us, the deluge’. Others said: Let the church close, we will be dead soon and no-one will need it’. One elderly priest told his parishioners that there was no point in his baptising their children, as soon he would be dead and no-one would replace him. Indeed, he soon died and no-one did replace him. I also heard 35 years ago: ‘I would sooner see our church close than hear a word that is not Russian inside it’.

In the Here and Now

Today we live in a world which is both post-Soviet and post-émigré. Both died out and are buried. Those aged under thirty scarcely understand what the words Soviet and émigré mean. They live in the real world.

In the real Orthodox world we see small, provincial, Balkanised churches, in other words, mere nationalist clubs. In the words of members of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (including priests): ‘You cannot join us, you are not dark enough to be Orthodox’ (= Greek). Or: ‘Romanians only’. Or, in one Ukrainian church: ‘If you are not Ukrainian, go away’. Or in one Serbian church: ‘If you are not Serb, you may come in, but you may not kiss the icon of St Sava, as you are not Serb’. Or, as one Georgian priest told me: ‘God only speaks Georgian’. And an elderly Russian woman, sunk in her dark and unrebuked ignorance, told me that ‘God only understands Slavonic’. Such churches have no spiritual relevance and will, as they deserve, die out as most of them already have. Their disappearance is no loss, as their museum existence has no spiritual significance or justification.

The only Local Orthodox Church which is large enough and has the spiritual and intellectual breadth to overcome such petty and divisive nationalism, the curse of the small Local Churches, is the Russian Church. Three-quarters of the whole Church of God, the multinational Russian Church alone has the potential to overcome such provincial narrowness. Its imperial past, its double-headed eagle looking and uniting east and west, is the point around which both groups, inside Russia and outside Russia, and other Local Churches, can converge. For the Soviet period is just as much in the past as is that of the Russian emigration. We do not live in history books, we read them. We live, and are saved, in the here and now. Today, as never before, the Church faces a global challenge and it can only meet this by showing Her catholicity, Her unity in diversity, Her unity of faith at all times and in all places.

Conclusion

In order to overcome the nationalism, provincialism and parochial narrowness of many and to be relevant in today’s global world, the Russian Orthodox Church has to show Her multinationalism. In order to overcome Her former division, She has to show that She is above all provincial variations. The convergence of all requires the courage of purification. And there is no greater example of this than the courage and purification of the one figure who unites us unanimously, the Emperor and Saint, Tsar Nicholas II. He was of international origin, his mother Danish, he spoke five languages and intended to build a church in every European capital and translate the service books into the European languages. And his Tsarina was an Anglo-German convert. They, their five children and their servants, are saints. We need no greater example of multinational Churchliness for our future.

 

 

On Fake Orthodoxy

At last a Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church Is in agreement, word for word, with what so many of us have been saying for decades!

   A CHEAP IMITATION OF WORLD ORTHODOXY IS BEING BUILT BEFORE OUR EYES

Recent events in Cyprus bear witness to a fact that is unfortunately no longer in doubt: Pan-Orthodox unity no longer exists. Moreover, the Orthodox world is facing a new and very dangerous schism. Its basis is the thirst for individual power, and its main tool is the willingness to ignore the canons, the truth, and the conscience in the process of achieving this goal.

A defective and malicious copy of world Orthodoxy is now being built before our eyes. In this parallel system, such aspects as the perversion of the canons, the legalization of schismatics, concelebration with people who have no valid ordination, and the trampling of the conciliar format of Church governance are considered natural and normal.

That is, everything that until only recently seemed unthinkable and impossible.

But behind this reality, new landmarks are already looming. We are talking about the further erosion of Orthodox ecclesiology, open concelebration with representatives of other confessions, agreement with the imposition of LGBT culture, and so on.

Do the leaders who are guiding their Churches into this cheap imitation of world Orthodoxy understand that it will be simply impossible to avoid further decline? After all, if you’re already jumping into the abyss, you certainly won’t be able to stop on the way down.

Do the leaders of these Churches understand that taking part in big geopolitical and political games has its price? For example, will they be able to refuse certain external forces if they demand that they guarantee Church support for the promotion of LGBT interests? Will they have enough courage to say “no?” I doubt it very much, given how some primates have already caved on the question of recognizing the schism.

Therefore, we must speak of the crisis taking place in world Orthodoxy not as some kind of confrontation between the “Greek” and “Slavic” worlds, or as a battle for ecclesiastical administrative boundaries.

Everything is much more complicated and more acute. In fact, a great schism is taking place, which is dragging more and more Local Churches into the funnel of this system that runs parallel to the real Orthodox world.

That is why the essence of the current crisis can be reduced to the struggle of those who want to create their own comfortable version of Orthodoxy that corresponds to their own interests with those who want to remain faithful to Orthodoxy.

This should be understood by every cleric and every believer in any Orthodox Church, and on the basis of this understanding they must make their choice—to remain among those faithful to God or to compromise with their conscience and become a member of the imitation of Orthodoxy.

Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanich) of Boryspol and Brovary
Translation by Jesse Dominick

Vesti.ua

12/1/2020

How Will the Church in the Diaspora Survive Covid?

Introduction: The Orthodox Diaspora

Although the Orthodox Diaspora in Western Europe, the Americas and Australia has existed for well over a century, it represented little more than embassy churches until 1917. Then, after the overthrow of the Russian Empire by Westernised aristocratic atheists and then Westernised middle-class atheists, it grew enormously. Without the Russian Empire to protect them, there followed the political and economic collapse of Greece, Cyprus, Orthodox communities under the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem and more immigration, especially after 1945.

More recently the Diaspora greatly expanded after the fall of  the post-1945 Stalinist Empire all over Eastern Europe and, in 1991, the Soviet Union. This collapse has especially affected now EU countries, with Orthodox populations, like Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltics. But what spiritual, and therefore real, identity and significance does the Diaspora have? Does it have any long-term future or will it inevitably disappear into the Western atheist melting-pot of assimilation? What identity can the Orthodox Diaspora have in a spiritually alien and hostile environment?

Two Negative Identities

On the one hand, some look on the Diaspora as merely nationalistic entities. They see it as a mere conduit for cultural nostalgia for a distant and long-abandoned ‘old country’, for flag-waving. But those who hold processions headed by flags, and not by the Cross, are doomed to die out. It comes as no surprise that, generally, the more nationalistic the community, the more its churches closed during covid. After all, one can wave flags at home; why take risks by going to church? Only those who live by faith do not fear death and take communion. The rest, who live by nationalism, disappeared ‘for fear of the Jews’. Moreover, many of them may never return.

On the other hand, some look on the Diaspora as a set of groups which will be assimilated – inevitably. Diaspora-born children and succeeding generations lose their parents’ language and culture; what possible interest can they have in the cultures of countries which they do not know and whose languages they can barely speak? Either the children and grandchildren have adopted another language and another flag, or else they are indifferent to any language except the one they use at school and to all flags. Covid will hardly bring them back to church. If they have been given no spiritual identity, they assimilate.

Conclusion: A Positive Identity

The Church in the Diaspora can only survive, especially after covid, if it is a Local Church. This means a Church which brings together all the Orthodox of whatever nationality and language in the local area and gives them the Orthodox Christian spiritual  and therefore cultural – not nationalistic – identity. Moreover, such ‘local’ Orthodox can only be brought together on the basis of real Faith, on the basis of uncompromised Orthodoxy, and not on the basis of the lowest common denominators of a hotchpotch of folklore. That only produces the escapism of fakery, the irrelevant fairy-tale pretence of being something you are not.

If any jurisdiction is to survive in the post-covid Diaspora (and many are already dying out or have died out), it will be the one which by origin is multinational and also uses the local language – though not exclusively. Such a jurisdiction will give a spiritual identity to its people as the exclusive bearers of local and universal real Christianity, not of folklore or a foreign language – though many may speak one – but of the unique Christian Civilisation, of the unique Christian values which only Orthodox who go to Church hold and live by. Our Orthodox Christianity is a way of life, not an exotic hobby.

 

 

 

From Recent Correspondence (September 2020)

Q: Very recently you returned to Mt Athos for the first time in many years. What changes have you noticed since you last went?

A: I went to Athos twice in 1979 and spent time there. Now again I have been there. There have been enormous changes.

I think it was better before because it was poor then and there were virtually no roads, no vehicles, no electricity, no telephones and of course no internet. Today there is all this. There are roads everywhere, new road-building is very noisy and disturbs both the holy silence and unspoilt nature, and there must be some 1,000 vehicles on the mountain now. All of this has been done with EU money. Each monastery, much refurnished and repainted, now has a shop and, ominously, a museum (always a sign of the end, because it shows that it is dead, not living). It is clear that the Greek government, whose flag flies everywhere on the mountain, even on monasteries (you will not find a single Russian flag at St Panteleimon’s) is preparing to open the mountain up to mass tourism some time in the future. Greek nationalism and money are killing the mountain. Instead of being a multinational Orthodox centre, it is slowly becoming a department of the atheistic Greek State.

Q: Is it likely that one day there will be new monasteries on Mt Athos for, say, English, French, German, Italian etc monks?

A: As long as Greek nationalism rules on Mt Athos, that is unthinkable. Out of some 2,000 monks today, 1800 are Greek. It is forbidden by the nationalists to have more than 20 monasteries, which is why the Romanians, say, only have a skete, though with more monks than a couple of the smaller Greek monasteries, why the Georgians lost Iviron to the Greeks and the Russians lost the huge so-called sketes of the Prophet Elijah and St Andrew to the Greeks. Then, there is also the fact that anyone who becomes a monk on Mt Athos must become a Greek citizen! For the moment Mt Athos is a fragment, albeit with some holy people, of the Second Rome, it still has to enter post-1453 reality.

Although I have met, seen or heard of two English monks, two French monks, two Finnish monks and two black African monks on Mt Athos, two is hardly enough to open a monastery. In any case, what we first need to do is to have authentic monasteries in Western countries, using the native language. So far this exists only in France and the USA. The number of vocations is tiny at present.

Q: Should people not leave the Patriarchate of Constantinople because their Patriarch acts heretically?

A: I think it is far more likely that the very elderly Patriarch Bartholomew will soon die. So he will be leaving, not his three million-strong flock.

Q: Recently the Greek Archbishop of America, Elpidiforos, stated to Roman Catholics that the unity of Orthodox and Roman Catholics is not a question of if, but when. What do you answer?

A: He was talking only about himself. His Uniatism is already well-known. In his personal case it is indeed just a matter of when and not if.

Q: Is the Russian Church the centre of the Orthodox world?

A: Like it or not, Russia is the centre of Orthodox Civilisation, even secular historians like Toynbee and Huntington recognised it. How blindly nationalistic do you have to be not to see this? On the other hand, the Russian Church must behave responsibly. It has often failed to do, treating Non-Russians as second-class citizens. Leadership simply because you are nearly ten times bigger than any other Local Church is not automatic, you have to earn leadership and deserve it. As I said – like it or not. The Russian Church still has to overcome suicidal Soviet tendencies and become the Third Rome again. The dead hand of the Soviet Union with its bureaucracy and centralisation is still too close.

Q: Is it true that the Russian Orthodox Church is heretical because it blesses icons and even crosses with holy water?

A: This is an old chestnut that comes up every decade, usually written by a crazy literalist convert or a polemical Greek, together with the accusation that the Russian Church is heretical because we bless icons and crosses!

Of course, it is not heretical. But of course it is not strictly necessary to bless icons and crosses, we do it out of piety. We do all sorts of things that are not strictly necessary – for example drinking a little wine after communion in the Russian Church, blessing kolyva at memorials, especially in the Greek Church, and kneeling on Sundays, especially in the Romanian Church. Such an accusation of heresy because of piety is all on the same level as the ‘no kneeling on Sundays’ convert pride syndrome. We are not supposed to do it, but we do it for piety’s sake. Let the semi-intellectuals, aggressive fault-finders and proud self-justifiers fall silent, also for piety’s sake!

Q: What is needed for unity in the Diaspora?

A: Trust in one bishop by members of every jurisdiction. At present the bishops of most jurisdictions are not even trusted by their own members, let alone by members of other jurisdictions. Trust will bring the leadership and authority essential for unity. A bishop who is subject to some nationalistic group, financial interest or political party earns no trust. Ultimately trust means holiness.

Q: A certain priest recently told me that anyone who chooses to belong to ROCOR is nuts. What would you answer?

A: The priest in question has clearly met such a person who is nuts. However, he has made the mistake of generalising. It is as if I said that you must not join, for example, the Patriarchate of Antioch because all its priests are heretics, when in fact only one is. It would be just as silly.

Q: What are the origins of the Greek priest’s chimney pot hat, the Greek monk’s headware and the Russian skufia?

A: The Balkan chimney pot hat for priests is simply the old Turkish top hat but black, the low cylindrical hat worn by Balkan monks is simply the Turkish fez but black, and the Russian skoufia is simply to keep you warm in the Russian winter.

Q: Where does the Roman Catholic anti-woman spirit come from?

A: It comes right from the beginning, in the second half of the 11th century, when the German Popes forbade married priests. Married men are not anti-woman; bachelors often are. This same innovation introduced institutional clericalism and also, incidentally, led to the disappearance of monks who were not priests and also of deacons; everyone had to be a priest – ‘a mini-pope’.

 

 

 

From Correspondence – July-August 2020

Modernism

Q: There are those who assert that we can catch covid from communion? Is this your view?

A: Most certainly not. I would say that such a view is actually a modernist heresy, a form of Arianism, because it asserts that Christ is not Divine, but only a human being. We can be contaminated by other human-beings or things that they have touched, but not by holiness. Indeed, we never hear in the Gospels that at any point Christ was ill or made anyone ill. Our God is an all-consuming fire, as the Apostle Paul wrote. He burns away all sins, including illnesses and viruses. We have not had a single case of covid in our church, but have about 200 communions every single Sunday. If this were true, then all priests and deacons, who consume the remaining gifts at the end of the Liturgy, would long ago have died. St John of Shanghai gave communion to someone with rabies – he caught nothing.

Q: Why is there still a fascination among some inside Russia with the ideas of Fr Alexander Schmemann and others of his school?

A: Russia never went through the 60s and 70s of the last century and some there are still going through it now, rather late in the day. Hence the fascination with what for us here is old hat Paris School philosophy and the fascination with such old-fashioned modernism among semi-intellectuals, who have little or no experience of monastic or ascetic or family life. Here we have the attitude towards it of ‘been there, done that’. We quickly got over it, we are not stuck in the 1960s and 1970s, we are in a post-modernist age here. Those in Russia who have any spiritual sensitivity will also get over this crazy fashion and quickly. Many already have. The Kochetkov school of modernism is now dying out as the old-fashioned aberration it is.

Pastoral Matters

Q: I have read that there are some in the Church of Greece who consider that everyone in the Russian Church is in a state of phyletism, as they have refused to obey Constantinople. Do you think this is true?

A: This attitude comes from the nationalistic phyletists in the Greek Church. Jealous of the greater numbers in the Russian Church, which has given the Greek Church an inferiority complex, they are trying to justify their own racism. When they accuse others of phyletism, they are in fact talking about themselves. If they believed in their own words, they should start by themselves joining the Patriarchate of Constantinople, instead of maintaining their nationalist independence. We must obey Christ, not the US State Department. Tell that to the Phanar.

Q: Is the Church a source of sorrow or of joy?

A: It is both, but never a source of depression and mournfulness. Thus, repentance for the Crucifixion – the reason why monastics dress in black, is a source of sorrow, but the Resurrection is a source of joy.

Q: Why do many bishops fall ill and why do many die relatively young?

A: There are those who are frightened to die, who are cowardly, not brave, and who persecute the Church, but God is not mocked.

Q: How can you be a Christian but not support pacifism, I mean, support armies etc instead of pacifism? Russia has a strong military history – how can you justify that?

A: The key to this is whether your armed forces are used to defend or to offend. For example, if you saw children being attacked and murdered, surely you would defend them? On the other hand to go and invade someone else’s country, perhaps overseas, to occupy it and exploit it, stealing its oil, gas, diamonds and gold ‘in your national interest’, for example, is not defence, but offence. It is our duty to defend others, not to offend others.

As for Russian military history, it was spent defending, unlike the far stronger and much more aggressive military history of Western countries which was spent offending. Remember that Russia saved Western Europe from itself twice, defending itself and others against the atheist Western dictator Napoleon and, 130 years later, defending itself and others against the atheist Western dictator Hitler. Both of them had aggressively invaded Russia, having already invaded and occupied most of Western and Eastern Europe. And on both occasions Russian forces saved Britain, which was too weak to defend itself alone.

Western History

Q: Is it true that Gothic Architecture is Muslim in origin, as has recently been stated?

A: Yes, but this fact has been well established for at least a century, notably the arched Gothic window and the flying buttress come from Islamic architecture. They were stolen by the crusaders from Muslim architecture in Spain and the Holy Land. There is nothing new here, this has been known for a very long time.

Q: Did the first organ to be used in a Western church come from Constantinople?

A: Yes. In 757 the Emperor Constantine V sent an organ as a gift to the Germanic kinglet Pepin the Short to use for his amusement and for State ceremonies, as they already did at the Imperial court. Foolishly, in 812 Pepin’s son Karl, called Charlemagne, began using a second such organ inside a church! In the tenth century there were at least two organs in England, one in Winchester Cathedral. This too was used for State ceremonies. It was only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that organs became the norm in Catholic and Protestant churches.

Q: Why do the German Protestant and Roman Catholic historians claim that the Greek Fathers were Platonists?

A: Because they are talking about themselves. Writers like Harnack were rationalists, Aristotelians. Therefore, for them anyone with any sort of spiritual sense was automatically a Platonist.

Q: Why are Protestants usually fundamentalist Creationists and Roman Catholics usually scientific Evolutionists? And what is the Orthodox viewpoint?

A: A lot of Protestants are literalists and have little spiritual understanding, for example, the fact that the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the revelation of the Holy Spirit did not stop after inspiring the Scriptures and its outpouring is continuous, is alien to most of them. On the other hand, modern science was born from the Roman Catholic rationalism of the Middle Ages (e.g. Roger Bacon) and the scientism of, say, the Jesuits, comes directly from this.

The Orthodox view is one of spiritual interpretation and understanding, neither unspiritual literalism, nor secular scientism, knowing that the Bible is merely a part of the revelation of the Holy Spirit. We worship the Holy Spirit, not the Bible, the Creator, not creation. We are neither Bible-worshippers, nor are we Pope-worshippers, we are worshippers of the Holy Trinity. That is mystical.

Q: You assert that we are faced with only two choices, Christianity (for you = Orthodoxy) and Secularism (for you = the Modern West). But surely it is not so black and white?

A: I never said it was so black and white, even if that simple choice is what it boils down to. It is true that the Modern West still has cultural fragments (sometimes important) of its Orthodox heritage and that most of the Orthodox world suffered 75 years of enforced Western atheism. Here there is of course an overlap, but nevertheless, the choice is clear.

Russian Church Matters

Q: The recent August Synod in Moscow made some very important administrative changes. Were these, especially the removal of Metropolitan Paul in Minsk, political?

A: Well, who knows? As I understand it, several bishops were removed because of their moral deficiencies (there are always one or two rotten apples in every basket of apples). As for Metr Paul, who is Russian, he was removed because it was felt that a local Belarussian, Metr Benjamin, was needed at this time of crisis in Belarus. Overall, we Orthodox are satisfied, especially by the changes in Moscow itself.

Q: Quite a lot of Russians inside Russia today consider that religion is just a business, a matter of making as much money as possible, and therefore has no importance or role. Do you have an answer to this?

A: Religion is always a business. My interest is not in religion, but in faith, the living experience of spiritual reality which comes only with repentance and the desire for purity.

The Three Twenty-First Century Challenges for the Whole Orthodox Church

Introduction

The fourteen Local Churches, many of them recent foundations, which at present make up the Orthodox Church face many different challenges according to their local conditions. Basically, however, all these challenges can be grouped into three categories. These are:

Living in the Past

Here, we are talking, to put it crudely, about a sort of old fogeyism. At the extreme, for example, there are those in the Phanar in Istanbul, who still think that 1453 has not yet taken place – they are well over 550 years behind reality. Constantinople no longer exists and its flock is well under 1,000 people. Another Patriarchate, which only in the 20th century began to claim Africa and not just Egypt as its territory, is still stuck in Alexandria, where it has virtually no flock. Another Syrian group calls itself ‘of Antioch’, another place that no longer exists by that name and today is in Turkey. Another is run from the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens and the local Palestinian people, who do not speak Greek, have no say over the foreigners who are set over them and cannot speak their language. However, all the Local Churches can provide example of this backwards-looking mentality.

Equally, in all the Local Churches there are clerics and even a few laypeople who are so stuck in their youths in the 1960s and 1970s that they actually still believe in ecumenism, modernism and new calendarism! This is incredible; those absurd movements, in which we never believed in any case, died out in the last millennium. How can you possibly be a modernist in a post-modernist world?! How can you possibly be a syncretist when the whole world glorifies diversity?! How can you possibly claim to be Orthodox and yet live on the papal calendar – Muslims and Jews do not?! However, as the gerontocrats, often in their eighties and nineties, die out and are replaced by the new, forwards-looking generation, these movements will be forgotten, locked away in cobwebbed museums and the dustbins of history.

Centralisation

Here is a more serious problem, as it concerns everyone, but especially the larger Local Churches. This is in fact the problem of power and money. The bureaucratisation of the Church through power structures and the taxing of parishes as a result to support these superstructures, whose very existence seems to many to be quite unnecessary, is a severe problem. Thus, during the covid crisis, many parishes received virtually no income, but in some places ‘Church’ bureaucrats still demanded large sums to run their palaces from clergy who already had to find secular work in order to sustain their families. There is now a great deal of discontent at the grassroots, all the more so, as many see such bureaucracy as parasitic in any case. There could soon be a revolt at this level. Reform here is beginning, as it must.

Moral Decadence

Here again is a very serious problem which, moreover, is structural and in fact institutional. This moral decadence means the dual problems of simony and sodomy. The former problem is a massive problem in several Local Churches, not least the Russian, the Constantinopolitan and the Romanian. Needless to say this practice is totally uncanonical, the canons on simony are very strict. The second problem has developed as a result of the lack of monastic life, and even worse, the refusal to consecrate good monks as bishops, even where there is monastic life, and instead to consecrate celibates of any stripe.

In one Local Church, one Metropolitan is only such because he and his parents belonged to the ‘right’ political party (they had the right surname) and he did not marry. Is that enough? Of course not. The emigrations have for decades been plagued by notorious gay mafias of bishops, who persecute married clergy, probably through jealousy. The scandals are endless. All we can say is, thank God, that, unlike in Roman Catholicism, most Orthodox priests are married and at least there are no scandals of that sort here.

Conclusions: Three Solutions to Three Challenges

The shape of the future seems clear. By the end of this century, if not by the middle of this century, three great changes will have taken place, because they have to take place, within the Orthodox Church. These will recognise that we now live in a global world and that the time of absurd anachronisms and petty and silly nationalisms is long past.

Firstly, in response to moral decadence, there is going to be, once more, a married episcopate, whether we like it or not. This will mean that, as before, dioceses will be much smaller, with only perhaps twelve parishes in each. The new bishops may, as before, have secular jobs and a simplification of their role will ensue. Thus, the dioceses of Local Churches will, as before, become truly local again. This means that there will at last be the leadership which we have so utterly lacked in the last centuries, when bishops acted as mere State functionaries.

Secondly, in response to centralisation, there must appear four new Local Churches, one for Western Europe and three for the New World: one for Western Europe (WEOC); one for North America (NAOC), one for Latin America (IOAL) and one for Oceania (OOC).

Thirdly, in response to living in the past, a number of very small, very fragile and therefore very dependent and very nationalistic Local Churches, some invented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for purely political reasons, others mere anachronisms, may well have merged. Thus, we may end up with only Twelve Patriarchates, Twelve Local Churches. Perhaps, as follows:

The Russian (of New Jerusalem and All Rus).

The Eastern European (of Bucharest and All Eastern Europe).

The African (of Nairobi and All Africa).

The Middle Eastern (of Jerusalem and All the (ex-Muslim) East).

The Japanese (of Tokyo and All Japan).

The Chinese (of Beijing and All China).

The South-East Asian (of Hanoi and All South-East Asia).

The Indian (of Delhi and All India).

The Western European (of Paris and All (ex-Roman Catholic and ex-Protestant) Western Europe).

The North American (of Chicago and All North America).

The Latin American (of Caracas and All Latin America).

The Oceanian (of Sydney and All Oceania).

 

On the Contemporary Challenges Faced by the Russian Orthodox Church

Introduction: Excesses and Extremes on the Margins

After the fall of the militantly atheist Soviet Union nearly thirty years ago, the Russian Orthodox Church appears to have gone from strength to strength, both inside and outside Russia. In some respects this is clearly true, but in others it is not the case, as a whole set of enormous challenges remains. The Church suffers from the presence of many marginal individuals, including some clergy, and trends which are outside the mainstream of the Orthodox Tradition and so have little to do with Christianity. As a current example we have the case of Schema-abbot Sergei Romanov, whom I met in 2018 when I visited the Urals.

After meeting him, I was left with a whole set of questions: Why was such a man from a recent, violent criminal background ordained? Why did he have no qualifications? Where did all his great deal of money come from? Why was he left to conduct spurious exorcisms, humiliating his victims, creating obvious psychological damage and dependency? Why was he left in authority when he clearly set himself against Orthodox teachings? Why had he been allowed to set up a cult? Why did his bishop not act? Here are questions that are only now, two years on, being answered, only after much harm has already been caused.

  1. Organisational Temptations

Scandals

Like the case of Romanov, over the last thirty years many mistakes have been made. Desperate to cater to the spiritual needs of the scores of millions of newly baptised, the wrong people were sometimes ordained and consecrated. This is not an opinion, but a fact, as we can see from the number of defrockings and exiles of careerist bishops now in disgrace. There have been too many ‘young elders’, pseudo-elders, charlatans, money-extorters, perverts, careerists, obscurantists and also cultish sects, such as the neo-renovationist Kochetkovtsy. We cannot help thinking that at least some of these scandals are linked to money or else are sexual in nature.

Bureaucracy

The pre-Revolutionary Church already suffered from profound careerism and  bureaucratic centralisation, from the use of decrees and protocols – words that cannot be found in the Gospels. Today’s Soviet-style centralisation is even worse. Paperwork is one of the main complaints of parish priests in Russia. They are being made into administrators, ‘effective managers’, businessmen. This all means money: money-grasping bureaucrats have to be paid. The Apostle Paul did not suffer either from bureaucracy or money; he worked as a tent-maker, not as a careerist. Do we not confess the Apostolic Church? Should we not venerate the saints like him in deed, as well as in word? Why kiss the Gospels, if we are not going to live by them?

Money

This brings us to money problems. Some bishops and priests appear to be extremely rich and many think that all clergy live in their way, with 4 x 4s, Mercedes, yachts and villas. In reality, many clergy are poor. Here there is a total lack of transparency and also a poor distribution of resources. Partly this is to do with the post-Soviet nouveau riche class. They like to donate money to the Church – which is good – but why this obsession with gold, marble and luxury in church? They should first read the Gospels and find out about mammon, as their money so often acts as a source of temptation. For every ‘monumental church’ with its kilos of gold, ten plain but community/ congregational churches could have been built. Money is the rot in the Church today, an infectious disease that spreads everywhere.

  1. Internal Temptations

Churching Society

Three generations of militant atheism and violent persecution left Soviet society completely spiritually ignorant, ready to believe everything and anything, extraordinarily superstitious, with at one time almost African levels of animism at the extremes. In a society of converts, often ritualistic, and with very few experienced clergy and people, all kind of primitive errors still abound. The task of baptising society was not so difficult, but to change the faith of the people from nominal-instinctive to active-conscious is far more difficult. All the more so today when some representatives of the Church have discredited themselves through their careerist love of money and luxury and so made most indifferent.

Liberals

The educated extremes of Russian society (the masses are indifferent and look only to survival) have long been divided into Westernisers and Slavophiles. The very small but very active minority of extreme Westernisers are often highly-educated, with doctorates, and are liberal, modernistic, ecumenist. They condemn the Church, hate piety and support LGBT (they are often themselves homosexuals). As regards coronavirus, they are faithless and so wear masks at every opportunity. Clearly, they have no interest in missionary work, converting others to Christ, as they long ago rejected Christ in favour of the Secular West.

Conservatives

The conservatives are also very small in number but narrow and nationalistic. The extremists among them still think that Lenin and Stalin were wonderful. They rarely attend Church, which is just a nationalistic banner or flag for them to hide behind, so that can like the pharisees condemn others, in self-justification. Often Third Romists, they can often be paranoid in relation to the Western world, confess anti-Semitism, indeed, anti-everythingism, and love conspiracy theories. They would certainly never wear a mask, probably not even believing in the existence of coronavirus. Clearly, they have no interest in missionary work, converting others to Christ, as they consider that Christianity is purely nationalistic and probably think that God is Russian anyway.

  1. External Temptations

Dealing with the Post-Soviet State

The main problem here is the refusal of the State to change, to give up its Sovietism. There is post-Soviet, but there is also outright Soviet too. Thus, in Moscow still lie the remains of that revolting mass-murderer Lenin and in Ekaterinburg, where the Royal Martyrs were massacred 102 years ago, as everywhere, there are street names and statues of the murderers and the whole region is still named after one of them. The media and the education and health sectors (after all there is an abortion industry to support) are full of those opposed to the Church. The State still has little practical concern about the chronically low birth-rate, the chronically high divorce rate and does little to further the cause of ecology.

Relations with the Other Local Churches

Half of the Orthodox Local Churches basically support the Russian Church, but the other half, undermined by petty nationalism, has been bought out by US aggression. This is clear with regard to obvious US imperialism in the Ukraine, the Baltics and the Balkans, where its ambassadors, like pagan Roman governors, new Pilates, have bribed and blackmailed the tiny Greek Orthodox world into the crudest infringements of Canon Law and simple human justice. That world, only a few million in number, has thus discredited itself and it remains a mystery as to why anyone voluntarily belongs to it any more. This is the final Greek tragedy.

Relations with the Non-Orthodox World

Here too the tensions are purely political. The Protestant world, consciously and unconsciously, has long been instrumentalised by the Western secret services to destroy the Orthodox world, in order to divide it and rule it. Since its 1960s protestantisation, much the same has happened in the Roman Catholic world, most obviously under the CIA-appointed Polish Pope. However, it was already opposed to Christ anyway and prepared to invade and destroy the Orthodox world at the drop of a hat, as can be seen in the history of the Crusades, in Uniatism and then in co-operation with the Bolsheviks. All this provokes Russian nationalism and makes many unable to appreciate the remnants of Orthodoxy in the Western world.

Conclusion: Towards the New Jerusalem (1) through Churching the Masses

The Russian Orthodox Church is three-quarters of the whole Church. Thus, its main challenge is that of responsibility. How can the mainstream, often paralysed by such excesses and extremes among certain bishops, priests and people, bring the world’s seven and a half billion people to Christ and His New Jerusalem without compromise? The answer is the same as that when the Twelve Apostles, opposed by all and compromised by Judas, also set out to do the impossible. The few must first Church the masses, the 2% of the Churched setting the example by converting the 98% of the unChurched and showing them that the Church is not about the money-grubbing of the new Judases. And how is that possible? Only by the Holy Spirit.

Feast of the Royal Martyrs, 4/17 July 2020

Note:

  1. The Cathedral of the Wisdom of God in Istanbul was long ago made into a mosque, then a museum and now is to become a mosque once more. Why? Because the local Orthodox have for 567 years failed to convert the local people to Christ. Failing to love their enemies, they have hated them and so made enemies for themselves. What are we to do? We are called on to create a new Church of the Wisdom of God, a New Jerusalem.

 

 

Questions and Answers from Correspondence (March-April 2020)

Falling in Love

Q: Do you believe that there is only one man for each woman and vice versa, that it is impossible to fall in love and find a new spouse again after widowhood or divorce, that we only have one chance of falling in love and finding happiness?

A: I think that there is only one ideal man for each woman and only one ideal woman for each man – though, of course, here the word ‘ideal’ is relative in our imperfect world. In this fallen world, the real and deep, and not silly and romantic, meaning of ‘to fall in love’ includes loving the imperfections of the other, without illusions. This is ‘ideal’. This does not mean the sort of falling in love repeatedly which teenagers with ‘crushes’ imagine is happening to them.

However, there are cases where widows or widowers remarry and do find a second happiness, perhaps not quite the same as the first, but still great happiness. But this is only because they have found someone very similar to the first, whom they are willing to die for – which is what real falling in love means. On the other hand, there are those who choose badly the first time (usually because they were too young or wanted to escape from parents), divorce but do find happiness the second time. I know of one case where happiness, true love, was found – the third time round.

Pastoral Matters

Q: How do converts stop being converts?

A: Virtually all Orthodox today are converts. After the fall of Communism, tens and tens of millions of people converted to Christ and were baptised in the faith of their ancestors because they were at last free to do so. In Greece too, many people fell away from the Church after the 1960s, but some of them have returned from very far, discovering Orthodoxy for the first time, despite their nationality and presupposed Orthodoxy. All these examples are proof of the obvious truth that ethnicity has nothing whatsoever to do with being Christian, a weird idea that would never have occurred to the apostles, martyrs, saints and Church Fathers.

Converts have to go from neophyte Orthodoxy, a fascination with, what seems to them in their estrangement from normality, to be esoteric or exotic (it is not at all esoteric or exotic for us who live it daily). This involves coming to the realisation that real Orthodoxy is simply the Christian way of life, real Christianity, and that what they may previously have thought was Christianity (Protestantism/ Catholicism) never was. That is a shock to them – yet it is the truth, as many will confirm. And all have to discover that Orthodoxy is not about crosses of gold and hearts of wood, but about hearts of gold and crosses of wood.

Converts may start as Orthodox with flames of zeal, but these flames will sooner or later die down. They will turn to ashes in the face of the difficulties that come to us through reality – unless the converts have the fuel that feeds the heart. And that fuel comes from liturgical life, standing at services, prayer (standing at services forces you to pray, otherwise you will be bored), fasting, the sacraments and loving our neighbour. (Books and theories, obviously, do not feed the heart, they feed only the brain, which just causes headaches, literally, mental constipation).

However, it is precisely the difficulties of life which destroy illusions. Thus, to lose illusions does not mean to become disillusioned or cynical, it means to become realistic. For we owe our faithfulness not to illusions, but to Christ. Our Faith is simply the Christian way of life, the Christian values, the Christian culture, the Christian Civilisation – there is no other.

Q: There seem to be so many rules to Orthodoxy. What is the difference between Orthodoxy and Phariseeism?

A: You are a beginner. Do not let the old Pharisees – who claim to be the only true Orthodox in the world! – make Christianity into rule-bound Phariseeism for you, as it is for them. Do not let them make the Church into a stick for your back. Take things gradually. True, Orthodoxy is strictness with yourself, whereas Phariseeism is strictness with others.

However, as you learn Orthodox life, you will learn that there are two Books. One is the written Book of the Rules, which is made up of many books, such as the Bible, the Canons, the Typikon etc, and the other is the unwritten Book of Exceptions. Just as the first Book is not a Book of harsh punishment which brings black despair, the second Book is not a Book of lax liberalism, which brings cynical indifference. The first is our ideal, the second is our reality. You need to know and have both Books because together they form the One Great Book of Orthodoxy, known as the Book of the Wisdom and of the Love of God. This Book is not available in any bookshop, only time will teach you it, if you have the patience and the humility to learn from experience.

Q: Should Christians be optimists?

A: Of course we should. Christ defeated death. Our faith is built on the positive. However, that does not mean we should be unrealistic or live in our imaginations, we must know our enemies: be as gentle as doves and as wise as serpents. The whole point of our faith is the struggle against death – that makes us realistic – but because Christ was victorious, we too will be victorious, as long as we remain faithful to Christ.

Western European History

Q: If the Schism did not really occur in 1054, which is only a symbolic date, when did it occur?

A: The Western Schism has been a process and is still continuing. Ecumenists and modernists are still falling into it, preferring the anti-Christian secularist mentality, which is the essence of the Schism, to the Church of God, preferring to believe that man is greater than God, which is what the Schism is about. Thus, the heresies promulgated in Crete in 2016 and the 2019 Constantinople Schism are only continuations of the Schism, the falling into secularism, which was formalised, as you say, in 1054.

Thus, in 1054 there was little realisation that the Schism had happened and even in Constantinople itself there was hardly any realisation that its cause was the Western heresy against the Holy Spirit. The few who were conscious of it at the time thought of it in ritual terms, that it was about the Papacy enforcing the use of unleavened bread, fasting on Saturdays, beardless and celibate clergy etc. Even at the top, the Schism was seen as being about Papal arrogance in attributing to itself an absurd supremacy, the universal jurisdiction of Antichrist, which was in fact only the result, not the spiritual cause, of the Schism. So practical results were visible to those who saw at the time, but not the spiritual roots.

Another error in this field is the vocabulary used. For example, some reduce it to a mere geographical division of ‘East versus West’ or even to a racial or ethnic division of ‘Greeks versus Franks’. In reality, this was a spiritual division between Christians and Non-Christians. Many in the West, in Sicily or in Ireland for instance, long remained Orthodox, but in Constantinople itself there were also ‘humanists’ who fell away, as they have again today.

However, as you say, 1054, is only a symbolic date, very much an end-date of the first part of the process of the Schism. There are other dates which mark the falling away of individuals and small groups in the West. Among many others, there are, for example:

782: The barbarous kinglet Charlemagne commits the genocide of the Saxons at the massacre of Verden: the sword or baptism is what they are offered. 4,500 were slaughtered in the name of ‘the Church’.

794: The iconoclast Charlemagne has the ‘Carolingian Books’ published, rejected the Christian creed by promoting the filioque, which had been invented among the Jews in Spain. He accused the (Orthodox) Christians of being ‘Greeks’ / heretics and calling the barbarians (himself and his ruling clique) Christians!

812: The barbarian Charlemagne had an organ, a purely secular instrument which came out of Greek paganism, installed in his chapel in Aachen. By the eleventh century, there were perhaps six organs in use in Western Europe, including one in England, in Winchester. Slowly their use spread until in the nineteenth century virtually all heterodox churches are fitted with them.

867: St Photius explains the filioque heresy against the Holy Spirit, which was aggressively being promoted by political circles in North-West Europe. He also condemned the ‘novel’ practice of using unleavened bread in the Eucharist, which began among the Franks and spread to Rome in the middle of the eleventh century. This use of unleavened bread was also the beginning of depriving laypeople of the Blood of Christ.

946: The first ever statue of the Mother of God is made for Stephen II, Bishop of Clermont in France. It harks back to local pagan statues of Venus and Diana. It is the start of Roman Catholic statuary.

970: The Gero Crucifix, showing Christ-God not as the Vanquisher of Death but as a dead man is installed in Cologne Cathedral. It is the beginning of pietism.

991: In what is now Northern France the ruthless warlord Fulk the Black wins the battle of Conquereuil and anti-Christian feudalism, with its serfdom, evil castles and knights, becomes exponentially ever more visible.

993: Bishop Ulric of Augsburg was the first person to be canonised by a Pope, John XV, rather than by a regional bishop. Papal canonisation did not become the norm until the 13th century.

1009: Pope Sergius IV confesses the filioque, which had spread to Rome from the Franks.

1014: The filioque is sung in Rome for the first time.

1040: Peter Damian records the first case of stigmata, self-inflicted by an individual called Dominic.

1048: The filioquist heretic and warmonger Bruno of Toul is crowned as Pope Leo IX in Rome.

1061: The Normans invade Orthodox Sicily.

1066: The Normans invade Orthodox England with the blessing of the anti-Christian Pope.

1077: Canossa – Hildebrand, Pope Gregory VII, probably the grandson of a Jew, declares himself more powerful than emperors and kings.

1095: Pope Urban II declares war and sends barbarians and thugs to massacre Jews in the Rhineland and Christians and Muslims in 1099 in Jerusalem in the name of ‘the Church’.

1102: Anselm writes the first defence of the filioque heresy ‘against the Greeks’.

1123: The First Lateran Council forbids clergy to be married. Beardlessness, which came from Roman paganism and homosexuality, is also enforced as a sign of this celibacy.

The above are just a few dates which illustrate the process of the falling away of Orthodox Christians from the Church in parts of Europe between the eighth and twelfth centuries. There are many more, but they would almost all fall within the same 350 years. Other changes, like Purgatory, invented in 1164, came later. For example, it was not until the 13th century that the Popes changed their title from ‘Vicar of St Peter’ to ‘Vicar of Christ’ and in the same century babies began to be deprived of chrismation and so of communion. Another instance is the reversal of the way that Christians have always made the sign of the cross which began after the 12th century, even though Christ sits on the right of the Father, not on the left.

Q: If, as you assert, Western Europe was fundamentally Orthodox in the first millennium, how did it get into a situation of creating colonial genocide and producing world wars?

A: The short answer to this is because anyone can lose their faith and so can go from Christianity to anti-Christianity. (Look at the now suspended Protodeacon Andrei Kurayev – who wants to be taken into the Phanar – or Fr Cyril Hovorun, as contemporary examples and dire warnings). This happened in the Soviet Union – most members of the Red Army (and of the White Army) were composed of baptised, but not practising, Orthodox, and so they killed each other. A non-practising Christian is but an empty shell, a house of cards, always ready to collapse into practical atheism, as we can see in the contemporary civil war between (baptised Orthodox) Ukrainians today.

Here is a more detailed answer as regards Western Europe:

In the first millennium, Western Europe was poised on a knife-edge between its old, native paganism and the new Orthodox Christianity coming from the East. There were three such pagan influences. They were those of the Ancient Greeks like Aristotle, with his profound racism (only Greek speakers are civilised, the rest are ‘barbarians’ – what today’s atheists Greeks or Hellenists confess), sexism and the justification of cruel slavery, the second was that of ruthless pagan Roman imperialism and conquest, and the third was that of Germanic (first Teutonic, later Viking-Norman) heathenism.

After 250 years of martyrdom, there opened a golden age of holiness between the fourth and eighth centuries, ‘The Age of the Saints’. However, then a 250-year-long decline began and in the eleventh century these forms of paganism finally triumphed over Orthodoxy. As the Roman Catholic historian Christopher Dawson wrote in his ‘The Making of Europe’ (P. 284) some ninety years ago: ‘There is no doubt that the eleventh century marls a decisive turning-point in European history – …..the emergence of Western culture’. In other words, this produced something called ‘Catholicism’, which was just a mixture of these three forms of paganism in a vaguely Christian wrapper. Everything in Catholicism, a local claim to universal empire to be enacted by violence (the definition of the post-Schism West), is Orthodoxy paganised.

Thus, Aristotle and what Roman Catholics like to call ‘Byzantine humanism’ (= Hellenist paganism) dominated the intellectuals (scholastics) like Thomas Aquinas, for the West failed to conquer pagan philosophy with Christ. Roman imperialism dominated the papal administration from Rome, for the West failed to conquer Caesar with Christ. The shock-troops or implementers of this pagan mentality were the thuggish Viking-Norman-Teutonic knights, as can be seen in the Crusades, for the West failed to conquer brute-force with Christ.

It was precisely the combination of all these three influences that triumphed over Christianity (Orthodoxy) in the West, whittling it down to the few sad fragments that remain outside the Orthodox Church today.

When you read the accounts of atrocities of the Normans in England (and later in Wales and Ireland), of the Crusaders or the Spanish conquistadors (whose almost total genocide (50 million dead?) of enslaved native Carribeans and natives of what became Latin America gave rise to the need to replace them with African slaves), of the ‘Wars of Religion’ in Europe (Cromwell, ‘God’s Englishman’, who slaughtered one million in Ireland for example), of the British genocides in North America, India and China (the ‘Opium Wars’ = British genocide in China), of the stories of the Belgian and German Empires in Africa, of the First and Second World Wars, of the Atomic Bombs, of the post-War Dutch genocide in Indonesia, of the French genocides in Indo-China and North Africa, it is clear that the second-millennium West was not Christian at all, but thoroughly pagan and barbarian.

It said: ‘We are the shock-troops of the civilisation of the Vicar (= Replacement) of God, we are God on earth, the Holy Spirit comes from us, all authority flows from us, therefore whatever we do is right, our God is on our side’. It had kidnapped what it imagined to be God, a white European man who sat in the clouds and blessed the genocide of all Non-Western Europeans.

This can also be seen in the later ideologies that justify Western racism, like Puritanism (‘only we are pure, the rest are savages and can be exterminated like wild animals’), Darwinism (‘the survival of the fittest’ = ourselves), Marxism (destroy everyone who does not agree with me) or today political correctness (= persecution and censorship). This is why although the Non-West has always quickly adopted convenient Western technologies, civilisations like the Christian (= Orthodox), the Muslim, the Japanese, the Indian, the Tibetan and the Chinese have never adopted Western religion. It is merely a religion that justifies organised violence. The West never won anything by asserting that it had a superior religion or values – which is why in the end it will fall, just as the other Western ideology of Communism has already fallen.

Q: What makes you show sympathy to Non-Western peoples?

A: Because I am not ‘Western’, that is, because I come from the English countryside, where the ‘Western’ Norman Yoke is still resented as the invention of the aristocracy imposed on us in and after 1066, who made London their capital (our capital, the capital of Alfredian England, will forever be Winchester). The word ‘Western’ is a construct, it is not a geographical term. Therefore I also belong to a Non-‘Western’ people, that is, the Old English people, just like all Non-‘Western’ peoples, Non-’Western’ whether in space or in time.

Russian History

Q: Why did contact with the West lead Russia into Communism?

A: All over the world, from Charlemagne who began the process in the late eighth century (German versus Saxon), to England in the eleventh century (Norman versus English), to the Crusaders in the Middle East (Papist versus Christian, Muslim and Jew), to the Spanish in the Americas, to the colonial scramble for Africa, Westernisation always causes genocide and a profound schizophrenic division in its victim-countries.

Thus, by the late nineteenth century, only six civilisations in the world were resisting Western colonisation and imperialism: the Russian, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Persian, the Ethiopian and the Thai. All were independent Sovereign Empires, centralised monarchies, not controlled by High Finance like the Western and Westernised world – all therefore had to be discredited and slandered as ‘autocratic and tyrannical’ and destroyed by the Mammonist West.

After extensive weakening by native but Westernised traitors, allied with Catholic Poles and then Lutheran Swedes, in the seventeenth century, Russian Christian Civilisation was later attacked successively by Napoleon’s anti-Russian multinational invasion in 1812, by the Franco-Anglo-Turkish invasion of Russia in 1854 in the Crimean War, in 1914 the First ‘World’ (= Western European) War, in 1941 in the Second ‘World’ War and in the Western Cold War after 1945, which finally bankrupted Sovietised Russia.

In the same twentieth century, the other Non-Western Civilisations were also undermined. The Persian Empire began its fall in 1906, the Chinese Empire fell in 1911-12, the Japanese monarchy was finally destroyed by Atomic Bombs (needlessly dropped, in part also to scare the USSR) in 1945, the Thai monarchy was Americanised after 1945, and in the twentieth century the Ethiopian was undermined first by Italian Fascists in 1935 and above all by Marxists in 1974.

In Russia the West first divided society into the pro-Western elite versus the Old Believer people, with whom we cannot but sympathise. In the 19th century this crystallised into the division of Westerners versus Slavophiles, in the 20th century into atheist versus people of faith, in the 21st century into oligarch-thieves and consumerists versus Orthodox. This is the same process as all over the world, where the elite is bribed into submission, its children ‘educated’ (= brainwashed) in Western institutions, and opposed to their own people, whose country and possessions are duly asset-stripped. The booty is shared between this local corrupt English-speaking elite (from Latin American drug barons to Filipino and Ukrainian gangsters – ‘oligarchs’) and Western ‘business’ organisations – which take the lion’s share.

Q: Modern Russia is no doubt a lot better than Russia under the yoke of the Soviet Union, but surely you would admit that it is not an Orthodox country?

A: Of course, it is not an Orthodox country. Since 1917 there has not been a single Orthodox country in the world. Only under the banners of an Orthodox Monarchy will Russia and the surrounding lands, which are dependent on it despite what their petty nationalists claim, rid themselves of the terrible spiritual disease of Western materialism, which has infected the whole world over the last 500 years and more. Regardless of whether it is called Communism or Capitalism, this pestilence says that the only important thing is money – Mammon. Our resistance to this disease, wherever we live and whatever our nationality, is the only seed of tomorrow’s certain Resurrection.

Art

Q: What should our attitude to modern art be?

A: This is a personal question. I am not sure that there is a general answer. I do not want to be moralistic and say that there ‘should be’ any attitude, I can only give a subjective response. This is only how I feel personally:

I really feel deep sympathy with Rachmaninov, who wrote of the post-Revolutionary world: ‘I feel like a ghost wandering in a world grown alien’. That is exactly my feeling too. Already before the First World War in Western Europe, Stravinsky and other modernist musicians had resurrected paganism. Artists had experimented with strange painting techniques, which expressed the disintegration of reality in tiny points, cubes, unnatural colours and jagged, dehumanised forms. All of them were merely expressing the ugly disintegration of their beliefs and values inside their disordered and distressed souls, the ugly disintegration which had come about through their loss of faith. The old Christian-based culture was lost to them and so they had founded the new atheist culture which underlay the ideologies and bloody wars of the twentieth century and all that followed it.

It seems to me that a believer may find ‘modern’ art (now over 100 years old) curious, interesting, even fascinating, but it is not the art which is natural to or expressive of a Christian soul.

 

Apostasy in Istanbul

For nearly one hundred years faithful Orthodox patiently continued to concelebrate with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, awaiting its repentance. This was despite the fact that nearly 100 years ago its leaders broke Church unity in the Diaspora, that they accepted a bribe of £100,000 from the Church of England (an agent of the imperialist British State) to abandon the Orthodox calendar for the fixed feasts, that they supported atheist-sponsored modernist sects in persecuted Russia and worldwide against the Church, and that they took part in ecumenist compromises, besmirching itself in anti-canonical activities. Since in 1948 the US State took over the worldwide meddling carried on for a century before by the British State, the once glorious Patriarchate of Constantinople is becoming an inglorious minor sub-department of the US State Department and the Vatican. And still we wait patiently for their repentance, but now our patience is coming to an end.

The meddling of racist individuals in Turkey among Ukrainian immigrants after World War II, in Estonia since 1996, in the Autocephalous Czechoslovak Orthodox Church in 1998, their recent uncanonical acts against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by sponsoring a nationalist ‘Church’ there, their threats to the Church of Serbia and their sponsoring of fanatical xenophobes in Montenegro and Macedonia, countered by two heroically faithful Orthodox hierarchs, Metropolitan Amfilochie and Metropolitan Onufry, and now new threats of blackmail against the Czechoslovak Church, are too much. They are a disgrace to the word ‘Christian’. We have tolerated them  for a  long time. We are distressed for the fate of its faithful clergy and people. But they would be welcome to join us in our battle against the common enemy of our salvation, militant atheism, and so abandon their US-appointed leaders to their apostasy. Salvation through repentance is still possible.

The isolation of the hundred or so bishops of the US-run Patriarchate of Constantinople, its two agents in Athens and Alexandria and a handful of abbots on Mt Athos, who obey only the local US and Greek ambassadors in preference to the Gospel of Christ, have shocked the Orthodox world with their treachery. They proclaim that Washington, with its pagan temple White House, is the Third Rome. We disagree. It is now up to the rest of the Church to join together against the common secularist enemy apparently supported by this little band of apostates. This is in faithfulness to the Orthodoxy of the Gospel, of the Fathers and of Canon Law, in faithfulness to the Tradition, to the sum total of the inspirations of the Holy Spirit over 2,000 years. Recent events are a wake-up call to repentance to all Orthodox, to shed themselves of petty nationalism, be it Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Georgian. Macedonian, Montenegrin or Arab. Whatever its language, petty nationalism is the same evil attachment to the prince of this world and his minions. Seven and a half billion human-beings are waiting to hear the call of the Gospel of Christ to His Church from the representatives of His Church.

The Triumph of Orthodoxy 2020