Category Archives: Pastoral Matters

Love, Infatuation, Marriage, Sexual Relations, Contraception and Divorce

These are all topics that are essential, and yet few seem to write about them. These brief notes are presented in the above order because if they were presented in any other order, it would mean that there are problems. This is the logical order.

Love

What is love? What is falling in love? And what is falling out of love?

The human heart can be compared to a radio station. Each radio station works on a certain frequency and is picked up only by a radio that works on the same frequency. With human-beings there are millions of frequencies. Falling in love simply means being on the same frequency. What then is falling out of love? It happens when one or the other of the couple changes frequencies. And that happens when we are first immature and then become mature. Hence the importance of marrying when we are mature. And maturity is often, but not always, a question of age. Some people are mature at 16, others still not mature at 50. Yes, there is such a thing as ‘love at first sight’. But be careful because there is also such a thing as ‘infatuation at first sight’.

Infatuation

Infatuation, ‘having a crush on someone’ in American, is to confuse love with mere feelings, emotions, sentimentalism, what is called ‘puppy love’. Thus, the teenage boy says after five minutes of meeting her: ‘I love her’. But a week later he feels the same about another girl. How do you know the difference? Love lasts and is prepared to make real and long-term sacrifices. At the end of romantic films, they put the words ‘The End’. They should not. They should put the words: ‘The Beginning’.

How do you know the difference between love and infatuation? Two things: Firstly, love is happy to sacrifice. Secondly, love loves even the faults of the other. If you cannot stand the faults of the other, do not marry them. And if you do not know that the other has faults, it is time to get real. As another old proverb says: ‘Love is blind, but marriage is sighted’. Solution: Get sight before you get married.

Marriage

There is another English proverb which says that ‘Marriage is made in heaven’. True, but ‘Marriage is built on earth’. It is amazing how many couples do not discuss essentials before they get married. In any marriage, someone must provide money, buy furniture, do the shopping, cook, clean, spend spare time etc. This must be discussed before you get married. Moreover, in most marriages, there will sooner or later be children. Who is going to pay for them, look after them, feed them, bring them up, take them to school? This must be discussed before ever you get married. This way you will soon find out if you love each other or are merely infatuated with each other.

Marriage is made of compromises. In English this is called ‘give and take’. The French have an even better expression: ‘give and give’. That is how marriage works. Selfish people MUST not get married. They are unfit for marriage and even more unfit to have children. Some people ask who is the boss in a married couple? The answer is in yet another old proverb: ‘The husband is the head, but the wife is the neck’. And that is how it works. Anything else does not work! I can assure you.

Sexual Relations

If you love each other, you will desire each other physically. Now, the sex drive of most men is much higher than in most women (though there are exceptions). Here there is danger. It is one of the oldest stories in the world for a man to lie and say ‘I love you’, when all he wants is sex. Having got her pregnant, he then disappears. Of course, there are also young women who get pregnant, thinking that they have trapped a man. They also end up as single mothers. To be a single mother is no joke. It generally means to be poor. Be warned.

The old way was to catch your man first and then get pregnant. It makes sense because a child (and that is sooner or later the result of sex) needs two parents, male and female, as everybody used to know before common sense was abandoned. Not just for male and female role models, but because money is needed for children and someone must be a provider and someone must be a carer. Whatever the situation, there will be a period, however short, when a mother cannot work and get income because the baby needs intense care.

Some young couples ask: How often can we have sexual relations? The answer is always different. Some new young couples initially have and want relations several times a day. That soon changes into several times a week, then it becomes several times a month and, with age, that can change into several times a year. This is a matter for the couple. But the wife should know that her husband generally needs relations more often than her and it is her duty to provide them. A wife who refuses her husband constantly can lose him. There are always other women out there. But the husband must also know that sometimes his wife cannot have or else does not want relations. He must be reasonable. Biological need should never decide the frequency of relations. It is love that should decide that.

Contraception

The ideal of the Church is that we do not use contraception. The ideal of the Church is that we abstain from marital relations on fast days (Wednesdays, Fridays, during the four fasts and on the eve of communion, for example, on a Saturday evening, if we are taking communion on a Sunday morning). However, in reality, apart from the abstention from relations before communion which is absolute, it does not work like that.

The fact is that 99.9% of Orthodox couples do use some form of non-abortive contraception (abortion is an absolute no) at some point in their marriage. And the Church turns a blind eye to this use of contraception because we know that this is a lesser evil. A lesser evil? Yes, because most couples cannot have and bring up 20 children in modern conditions. And some women will die if they have more than a certain number of children. And some men will abandon their wives and some women will abandon their children, if they have more children than can cope with. We have seen it. It is a reality. Contraception nowadays is a lesser evil. Not the ideal, but real. It is generally not so hard to have children, but to bring them up….

As regards marital abstention during the fasts, this is such a delicate matter that it can even become dangerous. Younger coupled should not try it. In any case, as the Apostle Paul says, it is always a voluntary matter and by mutual consent. We know one case of a woman who imposed it on her husband. The result was that she destroyed her marriage. If in doubt, the couple should speak to their priest.

Divorce

Church divorce, or rather annulment, exists. And it happens. There are men who turn to drink. There are men who are violent and beat their wives or else are abusive. There are men and women who are unfaithful to each other. Every case is different. The fact is that there are cases where it is better for a couple to divorce than to continue in a relationship than brings more bad than good. If only for the children’s sake.

The Battle Against Intellectualism

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.

Ten Points for the Agenda of a 21st Century Church Council

In the light of events in the Church over the last 100 years, it is clear that a Council of all the approximately 800 Orthodox bishops of the Church worldwide will need to meet in order to reverse the spiritual decadence of the period since the overthrow of the Orthodox Emperor in 1917. The approximately 80,000 Orthodox priests and the near 220 million flock of the Orthodox Church worldwide need light and direction from their bishops in order to counter contemporary militant secularism. Notably, ecclesiological and canonical errors have to be rejected, systemic administrative disorder overcome and Church life renewed. Below are ten points under these three headings, which we suggest might appear on the agenda of such a future Council.

Dogmatic and Canonical Measures

1. The whole Church hierarchy is to affirm the foundation stone of the dogmatic definitions of the Seven Universal Councils, as expressed in the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed, anathematizing especially anti-Incarnational trends which contradict it. This will obviously mean clearly condemning the incredibly old-fashioned, 1960s-style ecumenistic ‘branch-theory’ heresy implicit (when not explicit) in documents released for example by the 2016 meeting of a few Orthodox bishops in Crete and voted for by approximately 1.1% of Orthodox bishops. Those who signed those documents, which contradict the clear dogmatic teachings of Church Tradition and Teaching in general and notably the dogmatic ecclesiological definitions of St Justin of Chelije and other 20th century saints, should either take back their signatures or else face trial by Church courts.

2. The deposition of all ‘Orthodox’ patriarchs and bishops appointed by the US State Department. (In accordance with Canon XXX of the Apostolic Canons, Canon II of the Fourth Universal Council, Canons III and V of the Seventh Universal Council and Canon XIII of Laodicea). Similarly the deposition of all simoniacs. (Canon XXIX of the Apostolic Canons and subsequent anti-simoniac Canons).

3. The canonization of the last canonical Patriarch of Constantinople, Maximos V (+ 1972), unlawfully deposed by the CIA in 1948, who cried ‘The City is lost’, as he was taken at gunpoint to the airliner of the mass-murdering, atomic bomb president to be flown into exile.

Administrative Measures

4. The transfer of the title ‘Ecumenical’ (meaning of course, ‘of the Imperial Capital’, and neither ‘Universal’, nor ‘Ecumenist’!) from the Patriarchs of Constantinople to the Patriarchs of Moscow. This is already 564 years overdue at the time of writing.

5. The title ‘Patriarch of Constantinople’ to be transferred from Turkish citizens in Istanbul to Archbishops of Athens, who are the real Greek ethnarchs.

6. Admit the failure of the ‘Pan-Orthodox Assemblies’ in the Diaspora. The Orthodox presence outside Orthodox canonical territories, in the Americas, Western Europe, Southern Asia and Australasia, needs to be reorganized under the leadership and delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the only multinational Local Church. In other words, the uncanonical ‘jurisdictions’ invented since 1917 by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and imitated by five other Local Churches, need to be abolished, so that we can return to our previous administrative unity, though retaining full ethnic and linguistic diversity within emryonic new Local Churches, which unity was lost to divisive, Balkan-style phyletism introduced after 1917.

Pastoral Measures

7. All Orthodox are to return to observing the Orthodox calendar, abandoning the heterodox calendar which, incredibly, is still observed by some spiritually weak minorities.

8. Consequent to this return, to renew liturgical life, including restoring the integrity of the Divine Liturgy and services such as Vespers and Matins, virtually unknown in the parishes of some Local Churches.

9. Consequent to this renewal, renew sacramental life, especially the sacraments of confession and unction, which are virtually unknown in the parishes of some Local Churches.

10. Consequent to this renewal, renew the consciousness of the importance of ascetic and monastic life, prayer, fasting, the reading of the Holy Scriptures and missionary work to the Non-Orthodox world, which have been nearly abandoned by the parishes and dioceses of some Local Churches.

More Historic Developments in the ROCOR Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland

At the Clergy Meeting and first ever meeting of the Diocesan Council of the ROCOR Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland, presided over by the Diocesan Administrator, Bishop Irenei, on Saturday 2 September, it was resolved to hold a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Alban every year. Also, in another historic event, all parishes were blessed by Vladyka to keep the third Sunday after Pentecost as the Sunday of All Saints of the British Isles and Ireland, using the service composed by Archpriest Andrew Phillips fifteen years ago.

It was notable that the Clergy Meeting was for the first time ever attended by representatives from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as from England. Both meetings were informed that the finally magnificently frescoed London church (with images of the local saints) will be consecrated on Friday 21st September 2018 and that the church in Colchester will at last be consecrated, probably in 2019, on its eleventh anniversary. There were also lengthy discussions about new missions, among several other places, including in Kent and Cambridgeshire, the need to found a monastery, about publications, websites and the involvement of the young people of the Diocese and the need to nurture their faith, as with the new Searchlight youth magazine.

The Diocese now has thirteen priests, a number never exceeded even in the 1950s. Moreover, they are multinational in background and ROCOR seems to becoming the only multi-ethnic Orthodox Diocese in these lands. Bishop Irenei’s visit to the reborn Diocese is the fourth episcopal visit this year, and not the last. Other candidates for ordination are coming forward, encouraged by Bishop Irenei who will not reject worthy candidates. One parish which had only had two episcopal visits in nineteen years has now had four episcopal visits in eight months.

It is remarkable what an episcopal presence can do, just as we had always thought, and all look forward to Bishop Irenei’s permanent return to this country in the near future. All are grateful to him and especially to the Most Reverened Metropolitan Hilarion and the Very Reverend Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco, without whom none of this would ever have been possible. It has taken a great deal of effort over the last nine years to arrange all this after a long and dark period in our 300-year history.

Questions and Answers from Recent Correspondence (August 2017)

Q: It is now the centenary of the 1917-18 Moscow Local Church Council. What are your thoughts?

A: This was an important event because that Council at last restored the Patriarchate. (This happened twelve years after Tsar Nicholas II had already offered to restore it, but certain bishops had at the time shown themselves unready for the restoration and had openly rejected his offer. They had become State-dependent. That was a tragedy). However, having been prepared for years under the Tsar, it is sad that this Council finally took place not under his reign, but under the ‘democratic’ tyranny of the traitor Kerensky, who had deposed both the Metropolitans of Saint Petersburg and Moscow and whose minions interfered in the Council. Any view of the Council must be mixed because of the political interference and pressures on it, but among those who took part, there were saints, future martyrs. These we revere, especially St Tikhon the Patriarch.

Q: In your writings you call for the restoration of the Orthodox Empire and yet you dislike imperialism, for example, British imperialism. Surely this is a contradiction?

A: I have made it clear that I strongly dislike and totally reject Western-style/Soviet-style (it is the same thing; Marxism was a Western ideology) centralist imperialism. However, the restoration of the Orthodox Empire is not about some crude Western-style imperialism, but about the fulfilment of Russia’s Christian duty. This is Russia’s God-given duty only because no other Orthodox people is large enough or strong enough to do this. God gave Russians such a huge part of the world with so many resources so that they could defend Christianity, obviously not for some narrow racist glory. As the Beatitudes say: Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. The Russians lost the Christian Empire in 1917, precisely because they had lost their meekness.

If the Romanians or the Serbs or any other Orthodox people were strong enough, then I would support them. But they are obviously not strong enough and multinational enough, concentrating instead on building the highest church in the Balkans and playing up to the Americans. This is provincialism and primitive nationalism. Only the Russian episcopate, whatever its faults, is multinational. Take for example the Patriarchate of Antioch: every single bishop in it is an Arab and it cannot be otherwise. Other Local Churches are the same, from Georgia to Greece.

The all-inclusive, multinational, multilingual Orthodox Empire, that of worldwide Rus (or Romaiosini), has to be restored because only it can counter the Anti-Christian Empire which is today centred in Washington (before in London). Only the Orthodox Empire can hold back Antichrist.

All Orthodox should support it, rather than sidelining themselves in marginal and fringe groups with their narrow, ethnic, Balkanized politics or policies dictated and bishops appointed by the US State Department. This includes some people on the spiritual fringes of the Russian Church, which has two sets of enemies and traitors: modernist liberals and narrow Russian nationalists. Both of them equally reject the multinational and imperial (‘ecumenical in the Orthodox sense) calling of the Russian Church, each in their own provincial way.

Q: Is such a view important to Russians as well as to Non-Russians?

A: It is vital. For instance, most Russians in this country do not come from Russia itself, but are Russian-speakers from the Baltic States, the Ukraine and Moldova, in other words, from fragments of the Russian Empire. One of their greatest difficulties is their search for an identity. The Soviet identity has long since gone, they have no identity with the Russian Federation, as they generally do not have Russian nationality. As for the new countries where they were born, they do not belong to them, finding them provincial, narrow and basically dependent American colonies and in any case they have been rejected and made into second-class citizens by their chauvinistic, Russophobic, US puppet governments. They belong to something much greater, this is to Rus’, to the multinational Christian Empire. Our nationality is Russian Orthodox, whatever our passports may say. Passports are merely State documents. They will not get us into heaven, the only place we need to go. We have a spiritual passport, which says ‘Orthodox’ on it. And that is far more important.

Q: Would you say that you see Western Europe through Russian eyes?

A: Only inasmuch as Russian eyes are Christian eyes. It is interesting that you suggest this, but it does suggest that you misunderstand the word Russian. I have no interest whatsoever in Non-Christian Russia and Non-Christian Russians (as an Orthodox, naturally I use the word Christian in its real sense, i.e. its sense as Orthodox). That is why I never visited Russia between 1976 and 2007.

About three years ago a certain elderly member of the Paris Jurisdiction in this country accused me of failing to respect the British Establishment and put it first in my views. This made me laugh, but it was also very sad because it meant that he was disobeying the Gospel and failing to put the Kingdom of God first (he should have read the Sermon on the Mount). Such liberals are always erastians, putting the anti-Orthodox State first, as did the ‘Liberal Democrat’ Kerensky in 1917.

I look at Western Europe, including the British Isles and Ireland, through Christian (= Orthodox) eyes. Read St Bede the Venerable – he does the same, dating his writing according to the reign of the Christian Emperor in New Rome. I do the same: I live in the Suffolk district of the East Anglian province of the Kingdom of England of the Christian Empire of New Rome. The fact that New Rome is now in Moscow and no longer in Constantinople is not the point. The point is that we must be consistent and real Orthodox, refusing to reduce the Church of God to some exotic, liberal, disincarnate fantasy spirituality, the path of spiritual delusion, or else to some racist nationalism (phyletism), but being faithful to the Incarnation of the Church’s teaching. Otherwise we are not faithful to the prayer ‘Our Father’: ‘May Thy will be done on earth, as in Heaven’. Either we are Christians or else we are not.

Q: Is it true that globalization is controlled by Jews? And how do we counter it?

A: No, it is not true. That is racist. Many people are in charge of globalization and the New World Disorder, though I doubt if they number more than a million worldwide and perhaps far, far less. Certainly, globalization (which used to be called Americanization) is pro-Israel and many of its leaders are atheist Jews (Zionists) and globalization is essentially a codeword for Zionism, but the majority of people involved are not Jewish and certainly not believing Jews. The point is that most Zionists in the world are not Jewish at all, but simply people who have fallen into Satan’s invention of One World Government.

We counter globalization by building up the Church, which is at once multinational (interpatriotic) and local (patriotic), unity in diversity. This is the spiritual meaning of our lives.

Q: I have been shocked by certain words and acts of your Patriarch Kyrill, who met the Pope in Cuba last year. Surely that is indefensible?

A: Any Patriarch is here today, gone tomorrow. The Head of the Church is Christ, not any Patriarch, whoever he may be. I have to say that I have always failed to understand a mentality which says that personal opinions must always coincide. I may have personal opinions that differ from those of my Patriarch. So what? In such a large Church as ours, differences of opinions are inevitable. We do not belong to a tiny sect, in which all personal opinions have to and can coincide. This is pure Protestantism, Convertism, Sectarianism. This says: ‘You do not agree with me, therefore I am leaving you and will go off and found my own Church’. There has to be tolerance on inessentials. What are the essentials? They are all listed in the Creed. That is what we believe; the rest is opinion, inessentials.

There is in such a view which demands absolute agreement in everything a certain pride: ‘He does not agree with me, therefore I don’t like him’. This suggests that the speaker actually believes that others must agree with him because he is always right! That is not how Christianity works. For example, I do not write because I want people to agree with me. I know that that is impossible because I am so often wrong. I write only in order to provoke thought and prayer. If I cannot do that, then I will cease writing for others.

Patriarch Kyrill met the Pope once. The Patriarch of Constantinople meets him constantly. So what? I shop in a supermarket where one of the cashiers is Roman Catholic and I talk to her. Does that make me a heretic?

In any case those in the Russian Church who have a somewhat 60s mentality are dying out. Read Metr Benjamin of Vladivostok, Metr Vincent (Morar) of Tashkent, Metr Agathangel of Odessa: these are Orthodox hierarchs, loved by all.

Q: Is Ecumenism not a threat to the Church?

A: Ecumenism is dead here, laughably old-fashioned; it seems to be just alive only in less Westernized places, in Greece, Romania, Serbia. Here it lives, but only among old people, very old people. I never hear the word nowadays, it was alive in the 60s, 70s and 80s. That’s not where things are at nowadays.

Q: As a Russian living in England, I recently visited some Anglican churches and I had to keep stepping around stone and metal slabs with graves under them. But English people told me I could walk on them. I was horrified. Why do Anglicans walk on their dead?

A: I presume it is something to do with the Protestant refusal to pray for the departed, and so their lack of respect for them, and it is this that makes them able to walk on graves.

Q: Do you have any favourite sayings or proverbs?

A: Yes, I do. I have thought about your question for several days. Here is a selection of such favourite sayings, all of which I know to be true from observing life:

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

If you spit in the air, it will fall back on you.

Be nice to people on your way up because you may meet them again on your way down.

No pains, no gains.

The pen is mightier than the sword.

I also have favourite sayings, which, as far as I know, are personal and come from my own experience:

There is only one mistake: not to learn from your mistakes. (From my own life).

Do not destroy something until you have something better to put in its place. (A lesson for those who invade Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya etc etc).

You cannot build spiritual life on fantasy. (This comes from observing intellectuals who join the Church but never become Orthodox).

Why I Love My Parishioners

My three parishes in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk cover an area of over 5,000 square miles (13,000 square kilometres). That is why we have long needed and, at last have, two assistant priests. How big is my main parish in my native town of Colchester, in the biggest Russian Orthodox church building in the British Isles and Ireland? Well, there are about 100 people I can depend on to be there almost always. Then there are about another 400 parishioners, whom I know I will see within the space of a month. So there are 500 parishioners, of 25 different nationalities, born on four continents.

However, in addition to these 500 there are about another 4,500 people, scattered all over this region and up to 60 miles (100 kilometres) outside it, occasionally attending one or other of the three parishes. I may see them only once or twice a year, and some even less often than that. Many of them only come to church for baptisms and weddings, but when they do come, they come to us. Many of them I hardly know. So, not parishioners as such, but they are still in my mind and heart. There are all sorts of reasons why I see them only rarely, and it is not just a matter of distance. But I will not go into that here.

I want to tell you about two of them. With a title like ‘Why I love my parishioners’, you may think that I want to tell you about two of the 500 regulars. Since I do not want to embarrass anyone, I do not. I want to tell you about two of the other 4,500. They are of two different nationalities.

The first one is a real Orthodox man. In his forties, he is married with two lovely children. He has a business with employees. I first met him when he was in prison. Yes, in prison. Unfortunately, he had criminal competitors who tried to attack him and were jealous of him and his family. They threatened to throw acid in his wife’s face, if he did not take the blame for a crime of fraud which they had committed. He had no doubt that their threat was real. They were capable of it and had already done it to another. So, in order to protect his beloved wife, he went straight to the police and told them a lot of lies about himself. He went on trial and was sentenced. His only ‘crime’ was to lie in court in order to protect his wife. He had to go to prison for one year, but his wife was protected. There was such happiness and rejoicing in his house when he came home.

What a man. No, he has never studied theology, he has never heard of any modern ‘theologians’ (though he does know something of the Lives of the Saints), he cannot tell you about the history and structure of the services, has never met a bishop, does not know the Bible backwards, will not give you lots of pious talk about prayer and fasting, has never heard of ‘the Council of Crete’ and knows nothing about Catholicism and Protestantism. As a real Orthodox, he does not believe in God, he knows Him. So he has humility and there is no self-loving question of proud people about ‘Why has God allowed this to happen to me?’ Just acceptance of God’s will. He has protected and defended what is most precious to him. An example. He sacrificed himself, but has one of the best families in the world. They love each other. That is God’s reward to him. A real Orthodox man.

The second one is a real Orthodox woman, a lady with dignity and self-respect, which has become so rare these days. I first met her when I was making a pastoral visit far away. She married in her early 20s and had two children. But then her husband began drinking. And beating her. She was patient. They only divorced when he began harming the children. (He has since died). So she, then aged 34, brought up two children alone, struggling to pay her bills. She has made a good job of it too. The first went to University and now has a good career. A lovely person. The second, a girl, is finishing school. She has a very noble and idealistic disposition and is not afraid to stand up for the truth. She stands out from the others of her generation. (She has had her mother’s example). A year ago this Orthodox woman, who had shed so many tears for her broken dreams and broken heart these last 25 years, quite downhearted, came to church and there she met a man. The man. Within a week they had fallen in love. It was her dream, the one which she had wanted as a romantic teenager. She had been waiting all those years and then it all came true. Out of the blue.

What a woman. No, she has never studied theology, she has never heard of any modern ‘theologians’ (though she does know something of the Lives of the Saints), she cannot tell you about the history and structure of the services, has never met a bishop, does not know the Bible backwards, will not give you lots of pious talk about prayer and fasting, has never heard of ‘the Council of Crete’ and knows nothing about Catholicism and Protestantism. As a real Orthodox, she does not believe in God, she knows Him. So she has humility and there is no self-loving question of proud people about ‘Why has God allowed this to happen to me?’ Just acceptance of God’s will. She has protected and defended what is most precious to her. An example. She sacrificed himself, but has one of the best families in the world. They love each other. Her new husband adores her – as she deserves. That is God’s reward to her. A real Orthodox woman.

Now you know why I love my parishioners.

Problems in the Contemporary Russian Church in the Russian Lands

Introduction

Difficulties, scandals and compromises in Church life always stem from a lack of spiritual freedom, which come about because the outward Church organization is subjected to secular interests, not to Christ. At the present time, we can perhaps identify the following four areas of concern in the life of the Church inside the former Soviet Union.

1. Paperwork and Statist Bureaucracy.

One thing that most clergy inside Russia complain about today is the mass of paperwork they are faced with. Is it really necessary? Is it the natural result of being a huge Church? I cannot say, but I do wonder. I cannot recall the apostles dealing with paperwork.

2. Simony, Money and Luxury

Simony seems to be rare in Russia, whereas the Constantinople and Romanian Churches are infected with it. In fact, in Russia I have only come across one case (a demand for $10,000 for an appointment to a parish in Moscow 12 years ago), but there may be more. I remember how one of our bishops in the Church Outside Russia once said: ‘We do not have problems of financial corruption in our Church. This is not because we are particularly virtuous, it is simply because we have no money’. He was right of course. Opportunity makes the thief, as the proverb goes.

The vast majority of parish priests (and even some bishops) in Russia are poor. However, a few clergy and monks, in the big cities where there is a lot of money, seem to be very rich. The stories of black 4 x 4s and Mercedes etc are true. I have seen them. He who drives one is not a priest (svjashchennik), but a bad priest (pop). Here there is corruption, and financial corruption quickly leads to other scandals, private flats and ….

And why do churches have to contain marble and gold? Wood and gold paint are fine. Then you can build three churches instead of only one for the same price. There is something wrong here. But then it was also like that among a minority before the Revolution, especially in the capitals. There is indeed nothing new under the sun: but that is no justification.

3. Nationalism and Ritualism/Superstition.

The attitudes of the unChurched masses can be very nationalistic, for example confusing the Church with Stalin, who persecuted the Church. This seems to go hand in hand with a formalistic ritualism to the point of superstition. Holy water does many things, but it will not cure cancer. No educated Orthodox says that a woman cannot pray in church during her monthly period. Patriarch Pavle of Serbia did not. Some clearly believe in a superstitious god of hatred and punishment resembling some sort of crazed dictator, not in the Christian God of Love.

These are the views of non-Churched people, those who say that children are born handicapped because of their parents. Such shocking, pharisaical and totally unChristian views do not come from the Church, they come from a lack of Churching and that is a voluntary matter. Here 75 years of Soviet-imposed ignorance have played a pernicious role; but there is no excuse today. For 25 years there have been plenty of books, now websites. The only reason for ignorance today is that you do not want to learn. And that is serious.

4. Different Attitudes towards Catholicism.

Today’s Russian Church has little time for Protestantism as such. The aggressive activities of mainly US Protestant sectarians (often CIA-funded) in the ex-Soviet Union since the 1990s, together with the complete secularization of most of the Protestant world with its subjection to political correctness, means that it has little attraction for Orthodox. However, attitudes to Roman Catholicism among the educated vary.

At one extreme, there are those who seem to admire modern, liberalized (Protestantized) Neo-Catholicism and the associated ecumenistic Paris /Crestwood philosophy of the liberal, deChurched emigration. However, most of the supporters of this trend are now quite elderly. At the other extreme there are those whose sympathies lie, somewhat naively, with traditionalist Catholicism and idealized concepts of the medieval West.

Of course, the Orthodox Church is neither, nor is it somewhere between the two extremes, but is different again. The Church is inspired and informed by the Eternal and All-Pure Holy Spirit, not by the spiritual impurity of manmade, secular and always political trends, whether liberal or conservative. For the Church and the Churched, Roman Catholicism is irrelevant.

Conclusion

We must distinguish between the Church and the clergy. The Church belongs to Christ, the clergy are human. The Church is perfect, the clergy are not. And we go to Church for Christ, not for the clergy. Definitely not the other way round. The clergy are called on to be mirrors that reflect Christ: sometimes we are, sometimes we are not. May God forgive us.

How to Wreck the Church

1. Ignore the two basic commandments and have neither love for God, nor for man. If you have no love for God, you will fail to do His will and if you have no love for man, then you will successfully hamper all efforts to build the church, being an anti-missionary. Through your lack of faith and compassion, your heart will turn to stone and you will be renowned for your lack of love through cruel acts and words.

2. Associate your church with marginal sects and movements, thus compromising it and separating it from the mainstream. The resulting spiritual isolation will greatly help to discredit your church.

3. Show no interest in and mock the history, language, psychology and customs of the country where your church is and always actively oppose the veneration of that country’s local saints, publicly mocking people who do so.

4. Show no interest in the life of your church and make it clear that you will spend as little time as possible there, refusing to visit any parishes and leaving as soon as possible after arriving and talking to as few local people as possible, if you have the misfortune of having to visit them.

5. Make clear your feelings that you are superior to everyone else by despising clergy and people alike, publicly making rude and unpleasant comments about them because they are not at your imagined superior level.

6. Since you believe that you are superior in every way to others, behave dictatorially and do not consult local people who have local knowledge, ordain as many dishonest men clergy as possible and appoint as many dishonest laypeople as possible to positions of responsibility. After you have done this, do not defrock the clergy whom you wrongly ordained or sack the laypeople whom you wrongly appointed, against the advice of everyone else, because that would show your incompetence. Make sure that they continue as clergy and persons of responsibility for as long as possible, ignoring any complaints about them for as many years as possible and allowing them to do the maximum amount of damage.

7. Refuse to ordain any good candidates. In this way you can make sure that you will frustrate any missionary work that is being done despite your best efforts to stop it.

8. Insult, bully, discourage, despise and humiliate your clergy as often as possible. Be very demanding with them, categorical in everything, making sure that they are exhausted. Your self-centredness will be very helpful here, as it will make you quite blind to their needs.

9. Try to make sure that any remaining good clergy leave for other dioceses or other countries, especially if they are more popular than you. After all, you must always be Number One. In this way you will automatically become a big fish, simply because your pond is so tiny.

10. Always use reverse psychology, rewarding, promoting and protecting bad clergy and exiling, excluding and ignoring good clergy. Make the bad clergy your favourites, believing their slanders and protecting them from criticism, and always support any troublemakers against the innocent – this will be very effective in creating distrust and division – divide and rule is after all one of your chief aims. This will result in the demoralization and paralysis of the good clergy and empty the parishes – something that you can be proud of. In this way, anything that survives in your church will be in spite of you, not because of you.

11. As you are hypocritical and insincere, you can also be inconsistent, with one rule for some, the opposite for others, being excessively strict when you should be lenient and excessively lenient when you should be strict. In this way you will discourage the good and encourage the bad, which will help enormously in wrecking your church.

12. Through your bullying, intimidation, mean criticisms and cruelty make sure that everyone is wary of you, creating a permanent state of nervous tension and dread of your presence as the playground bully, because nobody knows what or who you will attack next. In this case you will not be invited to your neglected church very often and so you will have even more time for yourself.

13. Whenever possible, take petty revenge on those who dare to tell the truth, contradict you and resist you, destroying and demeaning them and their churches. Ensure that you create the maximum amount of injustices and scandals among the faithful, this will help make your church even smaller and give you even less to do.

14. If you have to admit that you have had ‘difficulties’ (you never admit that you were wrong), always be insincere in your half-apologies and always justify yourself by blaming others for the difficulties. Remember that as they are intellectually and culturally inferior to you they do not understand, whereas you of course do.

15. Never show any appreciation or thank your clergy for anything they do, despite your discouragement, but forget them, find fault with them and discourage them, finally crushing them.

16. Love prestige, honours and flattery, and get as many photographs of yourself taken as possible with the important, rich and famous. These you can admire in your leisure time and they will further boost your ego. On the other hand, do not bother to talk to the ordinary clergy and people who populate your church, they are below you, and make sure that they know that you openly despise them.

17. Never forget that all you have done will leave your church traumatized for decades to come. The damage you have done is lasting and will be spoken about for generations. You can feel proud of yourself. Well done!

18. Never think for one moment that you have been seen through, that everyone knows you, and that is why they avoid you, and that you will be judged, if not in this world, then in the next.

19. Always strive to forget that, despite the damage you have done locally, you will never succeed in destroying the Church as a whole because it belongs to God, not to man, especially not to you.

20. Forget that God can at any moment demand back from you your soul that He has loaned you for a time and never tremble for fear of Him.

Zeal as a Spiritual Illness

Introduction

Some people speak of ‘zealous Christians’, as though this were a good thing to be. However, I am always deeply troubled by that phrase, for the simple reason that zeal is by no means good. In fact, there are two sorts of zeal, one is based on pride, the other on humility. The sad fact is that the former, in my experience, is far more common than the latter. Zeal is often a spiritual illness unless it can be channelled by obedience to experience.

Bad Zeal = Contempt for Others: The Pride-Isolation-Discouragement-Lapse Cycle.

Pride comes before the fall – that is the spiritual law in all situations. And pride is at the root of bad zeal with its pharisaic comparisons with others. Pride says: ‘I am better than they are’; ‘I can do everything better than they can’; ‘as regards the others, who do not come to church all the time, who do not pray like me, who do not cross themselves often and do not keep the fasts as strictly as I do, all they are fit for is criticism from me’. Ironically, pride always boasts: ‘I am sinful and unworthy’. (We already know that you are sinful and unworthy, like the rest of us, it is part of being a human-being. Stop being a pharisee). Be intolerant of others and sectarian – and you are well on your way to your self-imposed exit from the Church. Be literal in everything, never be indulgent and show no pastoral ‘economy’ (dispensations for weaknesses).

Thanks to your mountain of self-admiring pride, you will soon find yourself in a state of self-isolation. You will flee others, but they will also flee you, for your priggish pride and grim-faced airs of superiority will turn them away. And you will have done that to yourself. Isolation is entirely your own fault. The result is discouragement, depression and despair for you, but not for the others. The final stage is when you give up, falling away from the Faith because you cannot go on like that any longer. This is because you have created a devilish brick wall against which you have been knocking your head for so long that the alternative to giving up has for you become insanity. The strange thing is that those whom you criticized so mercilessly and arrogantly as bad Christians at the beginning will still be there. But you will not.

Good Zeal = Love of God: The Humility-Sociability-Encouragement-Discernment Cycle.

Good zeal, that is, the love of God, grows out of humility, the willingness to learn little by little from each and all. For the word humility comes from ‘humus’, the word for ground, for only those who are grounded are realists and you can only build on solid ground – never in the demon-haunted air. In order to learn, you must first admit that you know nothing, that you have come to learn, not to teach and preach, that you have an enormous amount to learn and that it will take a long, long time, that gradualism is vital, that books will help you little here, that you have to learn from other human-beings who have the one thing that you cannot get from books – whoever you are – experience. If you start running without first learning to walk, you will inevitably fall over (see above). So learn to walk before you run.

If you have humility, you will have the willingness to learn. And for that you must be sociable, talking to others, so that you can learn from them, asking them questions, ready to listen to them, obeying them and serving them. If you are sociable, mixing with others, you will not know of isolation and so the discouragement that comes from isolation, for you will find encouragement from others in any simple human contact. That is why monks and nuns live in community, not in isolation. After all, you are new, the others were there long before you and, moreover, they are still there. If you want to be like them, copy them because they have discernment, which is the ability to see the psychology that lies behind what people say and do. It is the opposite of spiritual blindness. And it is the key to survival, your survival.

Conclusion

After over forty years, I can write the above. They can be summed up by the following story that happened six years ago. An ex-Anglican priest in a jurisdiction of converts boasted to me that he had ‘made’ 200 ‘converts’ in 15 years. My reaction was to ask him how many had lapsed. He replied shamefacedly, ‘Nearly all of them’. I do wish that man had become Orthodox before he had been ordained. He was ill.

Some Missionary Notes

After 33 years as an Orthodox clergyman in three different countries, I would like to make the following observations about missionary work. Before anything else, it must be said that missionary work is never done top-down. In other words, it is not a matter of people sitting in offices poring over maps and sticking pins in them. That would be a great mistake. We are not McDonalds. Missionary work begins at the grassroots with the people who are inspired by God. It is therefore down-up. Some 15-20 years ago I wrote an article on what is vital for missionary work. It was entitled something like ‘The Three Ps’. The Three Ps are People, Premises and Priest – in this and no other order. Let me explain.

People

The first P means that all new missions open because there are people who want them. People does not mean self-servers who want to ‘open a mission’ for their own vainglory. Nor does it mean people who have a consumerist mentality towards the Church: ‘We demand a priest who will do everything we want him to do’. People means Orthodox people who want to pray together in an Orthodox church building, worshipping, praying to and thanking God, receiving the sacraments, of whom at least one can read and sing. Their first task is to contact their bishops and ask for his blessing, then decide whom they wish to dedicate their future church to and next look for suitable premises, preparing for financial sacrifices.

Premises

The second P means Premises, suitable for Orthodox services. It does not matter too much what they look like on the outside, at least initially, but on the inside they must be capable of transformation so that they will look like and then feel like an Orthodox church. They must be public-access premises with planning permission, located where Orthodox live, in a town or city, not in the middle of nowhere, still less be part of a private house of property. Ideally, they should be neither too small, nor too big, though with room to expand. If they have a kitchen, meeting-room, toilets, parking and you can have processions around them on Great Friday, Easter Night and on the patronal feast, then they must be near ideal.

Priest

The third and final P is priest. This is the least important issue because if you have people and premises, a priest will appear. However, it is vital that the priest speaks the language of his parishioners – in all senses. This means not only that he speaks and understands at least some of the most common language of his parishioners – which may not be English – but that he understands them and sympathizes with them. It is ideal when a priest is one of the group of people who has made his way through all the stages of priesthood – reader – subdeacon – deacon – priest – and therefore knows what he is talking about and understands.