Category Archives: Pastoral Matters

More on the Present Pastoral Crisis

Introduction

Apparently, according to one reader, a naïve convert recently accused me of romanticism!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. This much amused me. Of all my many faults, that is not one, as you can tell from the number of exclamation marks. I think one of my main faults is rather being the opposite of romantic, a wet blanket, pouring cold war on such fantasies as an imminent English Orthodox Church (a perennial favourite of the ex-vicar in question over the last 20 years). Let us be constructive and look at three traits required in dealing with the real pastoral crisis in this country, which must be resolved before we can even start dreaming about building a new Local Church here, which can only be built on the firm rock of faith – and not on the shifting sands of fantasy.

1. Patience with Outrageous and Monstrous Injustices

No Local Church can exist without bishops. But they must be the right bishops. Over the last forty odd years I have met scores of bishops. Among them I have met a pedophile (an Anglican convert), several homosexuals, one of whom used to ordain his boyfriends with disastrous consequences, two womanizers, two narcissists with strong personality cults, many corrupt and simoniac bureaucrats and empire-builders, but above all several righteous men and at least two saints. These latter do not pose any problems, as they work towards the formation of authentic Local Churches, However, the former do pose problems. So how do we deal with them?

First of all, you only leave a bishop if he publicly preaches heresy or asks you to do something immoral, to give concrete examples, if he asks to sleep with your wife in exchange for ordination or asks you to become a freemason. What of opinions? Now, among the saintly bishops that I have met there was one who believed in Atlantis. This was a private opinion and in no way contradicted the teachings of the Church. Similarly, some people, usually over-strict converts, get all het up when their bishops expresses a liberal opinion about Non-Orthodox. Again, this is a private opinion and no more. You do not leave a bishop for that. With all bishops, apart from those who publicly preach heresy or ask you to do what is immoral, we are called on to be patient and pray for them. Any other attitude and impatience smacks of pride.

2. Inclusive Churches

Any Church life must be inclusive of all Orthodox. No Local Church can be built on exclusivity – which, sadly, has been the pattern here for generations. The Church is not built on exclusive clubs, cliques and sects. This is a particular problem in England, where middle-class clubbiness and cliqueiness are very strong. This is why there are already two exclusive groups of Orthodox, which resemble ex-Anglican clubs (though, inward-looking and so unconscious, they would claim otherwise). Similarly, there are three small groups which seem to be clubs for intellectuals, which automatically repel ordinary Orthodox and their children. The discussion of doctorates and cultish esoteric interests do not attract ordinary Orthodox, who naturally feel excluded, as indeed they are. There is definitely a lack of a missionary outlook among such groups.

Other exclusive groups that repel rather than attract are sectarian groups. Fortunately, these are usually by definition tiny, based either around personality cults or else around new or old calendarism. Tiny old calendarist sects are strange since the members seem to be at each others’ throats. One can clearly see that the problem here is psychological (when not psychopathological), as most old calendarist groups are composed of ex-Protestants (Anglicans again). Similarly, there is little attraction to new calendarist sects, which are often highly intellectual, as with many churches in Finland and Paris. Someone also once said that old calendarist/traditionalist sects are replete with repressed homosexuals, whereas new calendarist/modernist (false style) sects are replete with practising homosexuals. Sadly, 43 years of seeing the world tells me that there is truth in this.

3. Wood not Gold

The enormous pastoral crisis in this country is characterized by the immigration of large numbers of often unChurched Eastern European refugees fleeing the economic ruination of their homelands by the EU, for whom there are neither enough priests who understand them, nor churches nor church choirs. If this had happened last year, we could make excuses. However, it has been happening for the last fifteen years and hardly anything has been done about the situation. Indeed, the clergy of fifteen years ago have aged and have less energy now than then. In general, the average age of the clergy is very advanced. Huge efforts now have to be made to make up for the errors of the last fifteen years. Extremely common attitudes such as, ‘We will not busy ourselves with X or Y, because they are a different nationality to us’, are simply unacceptable. A Local Church is for all local Orthodox.

The need for a far greater number of churches is obvious. Due to the refusal and lack of vision of several hierarchs of the time to provide adequate infrastructure in the last quarter of the 20th century, when it was both cheap and available, we are now in crisis. We at the grassroots are having to appeal for funds, scraping together money to buy premises to set up chapels and churches in buildings that are not ideal. The greatest scandal here is when money is available and it is spent on unnecessary luxuries. We have no time for ignoble gold, we need noble wood. After all, that was what the cross, on which the victory over death took place, was made of.

Confession and Communion: A False Problem

Is it that confession is obligatory before every communion or is that you take communion whenever you want and have confession whenever you want?

Such is the false question which I first heard over forty years ago, to which any answer must also be false, for false questions can only have false answers. What is the reality?

Confession and communion are two different sacraments. Thus, you can have confession and not take communion and you can, in some circumstances, take communion without confession. In other words, you can have confession very often and take communion less often. This is the opposite of the modernism’s apparent hatred of confession and love of obligatory communion – which is not part of the Church. The impression given is that modernism does not believe that its adherents any sins and that therefore they have nothing to repent of. If this is so, then it is spiritual pride. Of course, this impression may be quite wrong, but it is the one made. After all, a doctor does not prescribe medicine, if he cannot first make a diagnosis, and confession is precisely diagnosis.

If we are talking about nominal Orthodox who take communion only occasionally, perhaps once or twice a year or once or twice every ten or twenty years, then confession before every communion is the rule.

What about communion whenever you want and confession whenever you want? This statement is a piece of consumerism that treats the Church as a supermarket and has its roots in the anti-sacramental and therefore anti-priestly Protestant mentality that lies behind consumerism: ‘Do whatever you want whenever you want’. Little wonder that this mentality is that of certain unChurched converts, precisely of Protestant origin, who always take communion without confession and even scorn cradle Orthodox who do not take communion at every Liturgy. The result is that cradle Orthodox no longer attend convert services, feeling hostility. And that is a pity because it means that unChurched converts can no longer meet anyone they can learn from, with the result that convert ghettos are only reinforced.

What then is the ideal? It is to take communion, voluntarily, according to personal spiritual needs, when you spiritually need it (not when you want it – ‘want’ is the word of consumerists) and to have confession beforehand because we should need confession before communion. If we do not feel the need for confession, it suggests that we do not need communion. Put simply, if a full dustbin does not know that it needs emptying (confession), then it does not need filling (communion).

There are exceptions to this. Firstly, in parish life, for example during Passion Week or Bright Week or at other times as before the Nativity or Theophany, when there may be liturgies on several consecutive days and simply we may feel no need for confession two or more days running because the faithful are striving to live a quiet and devout life ‘in all godliness and honesty’. The second exception is in monastic life or among those who are living a monastic-style life in the world and may take communion more regularly but only have confession every few days or even every few weeks, according to their spiritual father’s directions.

Preparation before communion assumes not only confession, but also that the fast days in the week before communion and due abstinence are observed, together with the fast from midnight, that the faithful attend the vigil service (or vespers and matins) before the Liturgy and that they also read the rule before communion.

Modernism which has more or less abandoned the sacrament of confession (if it ever knew it) will say that it does not need confession frequently because the ‘early Christians’ took communion every day. This is dangerous spiritual pride. Are modernists seriously claiming that they live on the spiritual level of Orthodox in the first centuries who faced possible martyrdom every single day? Let us face reality. Those in modernist groups who want weekly or even daily communion (impossible for menstruating girls and women) are simply copying heterodox, for whom, in any case, there is no Body and Blood of Christ, but just biscuit wafers with or without some wine. And what is unconsumed among them, they throw away. Such modernism is not Orthodox and should learn what the Apostle Paul says and tremble:

Wherefore whoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep. (I Cor 11, 27-30).

Confession and communion form a virtuous circle, for the benefits of communion depend directly on our preparation for it. Modernism which superstitiously misbelieves that communion is a sort of magic, which confers its benefits (listed in the prayers before and after communion) automatically, without any effort on our part, is sadly and dangerously mistaken. I have often seen the sorrowful consequences of this mistake in the past decades and they always lead to lapsing from the Faith, which is the only thing that Satan wants us to do.

Some Constructive Suggestions Towards Overcoming the Chronic Pastoral Crisis in Both Dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church in the British Isles and Ireland

Introduction: The Russian Orthodox Presence in the British Isles and Ireland

There has been a Russian Orthodox presence in England for 300 years. And yet, incredibly, both dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church in our countries (that of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and that of the Church based inside Russia (the Diocese of Sourozh)) have faced battles to get even the name of their diocese right! Although it is thirty years since the late Fr Mark (Meyrick) of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) painted his Icon of All the Saints Who Have Shone Forth in the British Isles and Ireland with the correct title, we recently had a battle at the Theological Commission of the Inter-Orthodox Committee of Bishops even to establish this title, since most of the foreign bishops had no concept that there was a difference between Great Britain, the United Kingdom and the British Isles and whether any of these names included Ireland!

The Present Crisis

Both Russian Orthodox dioceses here have been in crisis in recent decades, facing three problems.

The first problem faced by the small Diocese of Sourozh, directly under Moscow, has been a mixture of modernism, liturgical renovationism and a personality cult characteristic of small organizations, all problems inherited from the Paris School of modernist Orthodoxy. This battle for the integrity of the Faith against what was in reality Protestantization resulted in the 2006 Sourozh schism, when the Diocese lost over half its mainly convert clergy and 300 people, also mainly converts. Though this is all in the past, there is still a hangover from that period. The second problem faced by that Diocese is its chronic lack of properties because of its defective ecclesiology in the past. This entailed dependence on Church of England for borrowing properties and so a lack of independence and freedom to preach the Gospel in the Orthodox way. All that the Diocese possesses is a smallish Cathedral in west London and tiny chapels in Oxford, Manchester and Nottingham. The third problem is its chronic lack of (overworked) clergy, whose average age is about 65 and few of whom speak the language of the masses of the Russian-speaking people, whose average age is about 35 (excluding children)!

The first problem faced by the even smaller ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland, has been a narrow nationalism mixed on the fringes with old-fashioned Anglo-Catholicism, which in the past created a dead end of insularity. This battle for the integrity of the Faith against such Sectarianism, mixed with personality conflicts characteristic of small organizations, resulted in the 2007 ROCOR schism, when the Diocese lost its only monastery and convent. Though this is all exactly ten years in the past, there is still a hangover from that period. The second problem faced by the Diocese is its chronic lack of properties because of its over-strict narrowness and rejection of any form of mission (there was even a missionary tax!) in the past. This entailed total exhaustion and demoralization of the clergy and so a lack of any encouragement to preach the Gospel in the Orthodox way. With one exception, the Diocese largely only exists in London (and missions dependent on London) and in East Anglia. All that the Diocese possesses is a very small Cathedral in a sidestreet in west London, the largest Russian Orthodox church in the British Isles and Ireland in Colchester (not London) and tiny chapels in a house in Essex, in a private garden in a Suffolk village, in Norwich in Norfolk and near a village in central Ireland, far from where Orthodox live. The third problem is its chronic lack of overworked clergy, whose average age is about 65 and few of whom speak the language of the masses of the Russian-speaking people, whose average age is about 35 (excluding children)!

A Future Solution?

As can be seen, the common crisis is today purely pastoral in nature. Given that two of the three problems of both dioceses, lack of church buildings and lack of clergy, who are elderly, overworked and exhausted, are identical, there should be some common solution. One shrewd commentator has said that the Diocese that will dominate will be the one that sets up proper, large churches in London to provide proper pastoral care for the tens of thousands of faithful there. Notably, churches are required in the south of London, around, Croydon, in the east, around Stratford and in the north, around St Albans. The scandal is that there is only one permanent Russian-speaking priest to cover the country to the east and south of London – one third of the whole country!

However, we should also take into account the wider Russian Orthodox world in continental Western Europe and beyond. The Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) dominates the Russian Orthodox presence in the English-speaking world, in North America and Australasia. However, the Russian Orthodox Church based inside Russia, dominates elsewhere, notably in South America and above all in Western Europe. Here, where 25 years ago ROCOR was dominant and representatives of the Church inside Russia hardly existed, today ROCOR hardly exists. Just the Diocese of the Church inside Russia in Italy is larger than all of ROCOR in Western Europe. This has only eight parishes outside its parishes in western Germany and the few in Switzerland. Surely it is the Russian Orthodox presence in continental Western Europe will one day come under representatives of the Church inside Russia, with its new Cathedral and seminary in Paris and active young bishops, large flocks and newly-built churches in Rome, Madrid and many other places?

On the other hand, perhaps at this point we should consider what can be called ‘the Brexit Factor’. With the United Kingdom, at least, leaving the European Union, it is inevitably returning to closer relations with the rest of the English-speaking world, former colonies, especially in North America and Australasia. Surely, ecclesiastically, this means the Russian Orthodox presence in the British Isles and Ireland one day coming under ROCOR? Rather than the canonically absurd arrangement of two dioceses of the same Local Church on the same territory, there should surely be some rearrangement, at least in the British Isles and Ireland. It may seem premature to talk of this to some, but, after all, the two parts of the Russian Church have been united for ten years now, since 2007. The only delay on such matters can be because of pastoral considerations, in the interests of economy, that the people may not be upset.

Conclusion: Divine not Human

Of course, none of this can take place without the right leader, that is, without the right bishop, one acceptable to both sides, and this must be a bishop who speaks English and understands English people. A pastor. It is no wish of ours to hurt anyone’s feelings with the above considerations. The above is all written in the spirit of throwing a stone into a pond and seeing what ripples there may be. In other words, surely it is time at least to begin discussing such possibilities as we have outlined above in the spirit of pastoral love and unity. Let us remember: All crises are man-made and all solutions are God-made. Let us all strive to discern and do God’s Will.

Which Jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church Should I Join?

Although fourteen Local Orthodox Churches make up the whole Orthodox Church of 216 million, only seven of them are represented by their jurisdictions outside the Local Orthodox Church homelands in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. However, since the Churches of Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Georgia generally care only for their own nationals, only three of these jurisdictions are open to Non-Orthodox. These three depend on the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch and Moscow.

However, in Western Europe and North America there at present exist two groups in the Russian Church – that directly under Moscow and that under the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and so indirectly under Moscow. In North America, there is actually a third group, known as the OCA (Orthodox Church in America), originally largely Carpatho-Russian but now basically English-language, which was founded by Moscow. Anyone wishing to join the Orthodox Church may therefore have a choice to make.

Generally speaking, in Western countries, where Orthodox Christians are only a small minority and Orthodox churches are few and far between, this choice will be decided geographically. If you only have one Orthodox church geographically near you, then that is the church to join. However, if you live in or near the capital of a Western country or in or near a large city or town, there may well be a choice to make between the various jurisdictions. What needs to be known in order to choose?

1. The Patriarchate of Constantinople

This jurisdiction is dominated by Greek nationalism (the Greek flag) and generally sends away any Non-Greeks who knock at its door. It should also be known that this Patriarchate is both heavily involved with the Vatican and is run by the US political elite. For it, Washington is the ‘Second Rome’ and therefore the official ethos is modernistic, ecumenistic and generally liberal Protestant, according to the anti-Russian, Anglo-Saxon Establishment model. This is true even of Non-Greek parts of it, even though they try and imitate a few selected Russian customs. Having said this, there are exceptions, with some excellent pastors and pious people, so that any generalizations can be disproved by exceptions to the rule. If you are fortunate, you may live near a church of this jurisdiction that is not nationalistic and so is interested in missions to the Non-Greek world and has spiritual depth and content.

2. The Patriarchate of Antioch

Part of this jurisdiction is dominated by Arab nationalism, but the other part, mainly in Western countries, is dominated by a spirit of mission with a conservative-evangelical Protestant style, with a certain, rather peculiar and amateurish imitation of a few selected Russian customs. The ethos of this part, largely run by ex-Evangelicals, is to proselytize, that is, its ethos is to recruit as many like-minded converts as possible to itself. Some criticize it for this because as a result it cuts corners, fails to observe the canons and has a Protestant feel to it that attracts few cradle Orthodox (and it is not even very interested in this), certainly none who are anchored in the Tradition. Having said this, no-one would criticize this part of Antioch for its lack of zeal, only for its lack of depth and of knowledge of the Tradition. If you are fortunate, you may live near a church of this jurisdiction that has spiritual depth and content.

3. The Patriarchate of Moscow

A criticism of this jurisdiction is that its Patriarch and hierarchy are corrupt. Those who make such assertions never have any proof of them and are engaged in Western-sponsored, anti-Russian politics. However, even if, for the sake of argument, we agree that they were true, we would answer: So what? The Patriarch is not the Head of the Church, for Christ is the Head of the Church and the Patriarch does not run the Church, for the Holy Spirit runs the Church. Such political criticisms show a Papist way of thinking. The parishes of the Patriarchate of Moscow outside the former Soviet Union, mainly in Western Europe and South America, display several tendencies. Some are nationalistic and, Soviet-style, arrogantly imperialistic, some are modernistic, others follow the Tradition and accept Non-Russians. If you are fortunate, you may live near a church of this jurisdiction that has spiritual depth and content.

4. ROCOR

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) exists mainly in North America, Australasia and Western Europe. As such it has been responsible for much missionary and translation work. It has in its near-100 year history also been subject to many sufferings and persecution, as it has been without the political protection of a powerful State. Thus, the best of ROCOR has been a Church of Confessors and Missionaries, as in its saints like St John of Shanghai. However, other parts of it have been involved in nationalism, excessive strictness to the point of phariseeism and depressing right-wing politics. Today, as part of the Russian Orthodox Church, it has sometimes given the impression of drifting and having lost its identity. This drift has come about whenever its faithfulness to the Tradition has been in doubt. If you are fortunate, you may live near a church of this jurisdiction that has spiritual depth and content.

At Last a Real Cathedral for all Orthodox in London?

One of the greatest pastoral problems in London is the chronic lack of Orthodox churches. For example, St Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow Road is very small, hardly a Cathedral at all, and the medium-sized Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Knightsbridge is smaller than St John’s Russian Orthodox church in provincial Colchester. Of course, there is one church building that would suit Orthodox in London, providing it was frescoed and fitted with iconostases and other Church furnishings. One person who works there would be glad to help us use it.

St Paul’s Cathedral is located on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London. Its dedication to the holy apostle Paul dates back to the original church on the site, founded in 604, though unproven stories assert that this was because St Paul actually preached here. The present Cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was until 1967 the tallest building in London.

The first recorded Orthodox Bishop of London was called either Restitutus or Adelphius and attended the Council of Arles in 314. However, the location of his Cathedral is unknown. St Bede recorded that in 604 St Augustine consecrated Mellitus as the first Bishop of the East Saxons, whose territory covered London, and their King, Sabert. Sabert’s uncle and overlord, Ethelbert, King of Kent, built a church dedicated to St Paul in London, as the seat of the new bishop. It is assumed that this first Cathedral stood on the same site as the present one.

On the death of Sabert in about 616, his pagan sons expelled Bishop Mellitus from London and the East Saxons reverted to paganism. Christianity was restored later in the seventh century and it is presumed that either the Cathedral was restored or else a new one was built as the seat of seventh-century bishops like St Cedd and St Erconwald, ‘The Light of London’, who was buried in the Cathedral in 693. This building, or a successor, was destroyed by fire in 962 but rebuilt in the same year.

In 1016 King Ethelred the Unready was buried in the Cathedral. This was burned down with much of the city in a fire in 1087. The Norman occupiers then built a new Cathedral, known to history as ‘Old St Paul’s’. This Gothic building was in turn gutted by the Great Fire of London of 1666. While it might have been possible to rebuild it, a decision was taken to build a new Cathedral. The task of designing it was assigned to Sir Christopher Wren in 1669.

The design process took several years, but the result was the present St Paul’s Cathedral, modelled partly on St Peter’s in the Vatican. St Paul’s is still the second largest church in Britain. The building was financed by a tax on coal and was completed within the architect’s lifetime. It was declared officially complete by Parliament on 25 December 1711, though in fact construction continued for several years after that. In 1716 the total costs amounted to £1,095,556 (£148 million in 2015 money).

Today, though with a small but active Protestant congregation, St Paul’s is largely a tourist monument. With an area of some 6,000 square metres and several altars, it is ideally suited for London’s huge numbers of Orthodox Christians. Consecrated to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, it could become the Cathedral for all Orthodox in London. Fantasy? But our God works miracles.

Archbishop Mark is Relieved as Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland of the Church Outside Russia

On 8 December 2016 the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia finally relieved Archbishop Mark as ruling bishop of the Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland. In his letter, which he asked to be circulated, Archbishop Mark asked forgiveness of all for what he had said and done over the years that had hurt and aggravated his flock. He particularly regretted that his lack of pastoral oversight made two monastic communities in England turn their backs on him.

The First Hierarch of the Church, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Hilarion, is for the moment the new ruling bishop. The Diocese thus becomes stavropegic, as it had requested, and thus begins a new and dynamic period in its life.

The Paris School and the Future

The phrase ‘Paris School’ (of Russian religious philosophy) is a vague phrase because many of its representatives ended up not living in Paris or even France and because it was such a very varied phenomenon. Thus, it included intellectuals mainly of Russian origin (but not all of them), who ended up living as far apart as the USA, England, Finland, Bulgaria (the anti-monarchist plotter, Fr George Shavelsky) and Constantinople (the philosopher Metr John Zisioulas). Some of these were close to Orthodoxy, others were in open heretical revolt against the Church and constructed anti-Church ideologies, others were simply harmless eccentrics who lived in the clouds.

A representative close to the Tradition, for example, was the academic theologian (and not philosopher!) Fr George Florovsky, who was ousted from St Vladimir’s Seminary by another much more Protestant-minded thinker of a Paris-born generation, Fr Alexander Schmemann. However, there were others like the notorious Fr Sergey Bulgakov, who founded a new heresy under the influence of the alcoholic Catholic occultist Vladimir Soloviov. The latter was the real founder of the School, who infected it with all its basic currents of Gnosticism, Origenism, liberalism and ecumenism and had a great influence on the enormous intellect of the polymath, Fr Paul Florensky.

Then in Paris there was also the esoteric philosopher Berdyayev, who was imbued with semi-Catholic mysticism and like Bulgakov never quite shook off his Marxism, but there was also the more Orthodox Fr Basil Zenkovsky who wrote a magisterial ‘History of Russian Philosophy’. Then there were Vladimir Lossky, trained in Scholasticism, but whose views were very close to the Tradition in many respects, but on the other hand, the fantasist Bishop John Kovalevsky or the recently deceased French ecumenists, the ex-pastor Elisabeth Behr-Sigel and Olivier Clement. Their views were respectively as close to Protestantism and Catholicism as is possible without lapsing.

In England there were other representatives of the Paris School. These included the late Metr Antony (Bloom), whose curious, personal views combined a theoretical conservatism with an extraordinary liberalism and influenced several convert followers, like the Jewish Fr Sergei Hackel. Then there was the late ex-Uniat Fr Lev Gillet, who appears to have died either as a Quaker or else a Buddhist (no-one is quite sure), or the Parisian artist and intellectual the late Fr Sophrony Sakharov, whose whole esoteric philosophy of Orthodoxy came to be shaped by the peasant St Silvanus whom he had met on the Holy Mountain, where he had been a librarian.

With such a variety of individuals, some much closer to Orthodox Tradition than others, some more renovationist than others, some more fantasist than others, what do they all have in common? Negatively speaking, it is how far most of them seemed to have stood from the saints of the Church in the emigration like St John of Shanghai (also who also lived for many years in Paris and often came to London) or St Seraphim of Sofia, or from the genuine Orthodox philosopher of the emigration Ivan Ilyin. These followed the wholeness of the ascetic Tradition of the Church, and not selected fragments of it, which is why the Paris School was opposed to authentic monasticism.

However, this was not the essence of the Paris School. Its essence was its intellectual pretentiousness, which contains the pride which is at the heart of all deviations from the Church, without exception. Not understanding that enlightenment comes from the grace of God that alone cleanses the repentant heart, they all mistakenly believed that enlightenment comes from the purification of the intellect and the imagination. This tragic mis-take meant that their views were intellectual, philosophical, more or less renovationist, more or less fantasist, disincarnate from reality and from ordinary Orthodox and Orthodoxy, and so ultimately they became sectarian and cultish.

The proof of this thesis is in the fact that when the time came for the gradual liberation of the Russian Church inside Russia from Sergianism and Renovationism after 1991, they refused to re-enter Her fold and glorify the New Martyrs and Confessors together with Her. They had not been longing to return all along, as had the faithful, but had instead been cultivating their own intellectualist philosophies outside the Orthodox Tradition. Thus, cultivating private, personality-driven sidelines, they failed to see the mainstream of Church catholicity and ended up isolating themselves in the worst sort of isolation – isolation from the real saints, the New Martyrs and Confessors.

This meant that they allied themselves only with the vestigial renovationist and sectarian elements on the fringes of the Russian Church inside Russia. It also meant that they sullied themselves with politics (under the pretence of being apolitical!, which is always political). Thus, they allied themselves with Russophobic elements in the Western world, for example, with the self-justifying neocon hawks and past-worshipping warmongers of NATO, who never wanted the Cold War to end and in their ethnocentricity arrogantly never understand that the vibrant values of Orthodox Christian Civilization are quite different from their dying anti-Christian Western culture.

This is why, when at the end of 2016 the time of generational change had come for renewal in Russia and then, inspired by the Russian example, for the first glimmers of freedom and the hope of repentance in the West, the Paris School and its values stuck to the dead past. These last representatives were now aged, vestigial relics, whose rebellious and often absurd ideologies had been half-baked in the spiritual desert of the 1960s, which had been passed on to a few convert intellectuals in Russia who still had not caught up with the real world. As for the Church, we look as ever towards prophetic holiness and the dynamic restoration of the Tradition in the Holy Spirit that is happening now.

On False Spiritual Fatherhood

Although fortunately rare, false spiritual fatherhood exists. In order to understand this, we must first understand what true spiritual fatherhood is.

True spiritual fatherhood is the guiding of the person towards salvation, away from the sins to which it in particular is prone. It is not the suppression of the person and its replacement by a self-serving personality cult of the false spiritual father. In such cases of personality cult, it will be seen that the victim (‘spiritual child’) will start physically resembling the so-called spiritual father. In other words, clones will be produced. This cloning involves not only external resemblance by wearing the same clothes, having the same hairstyle, cultivating the same walk, gestures or mannerisms, repeating the same words, wearing the same glasses, but also psychic resemblance. In such a case, it will be found that the clone will by mimetism (imitation) start to physically resemble the guru, the physical features changing to those of the cult leader.

Such a cult can very swiftly be identified by the exclusivist attitudes of the cult members or adepts to outsiders. These outsiders will not be recognized by them, for they cannot exist. They cannot exist, because no-one has a right to exist outside the cocoon of the exclusive cult. They have no right to exist because they owe no obedience to the idolatrous cult. In this way the cult takes on a sectarian, esoteric mentality, cutting itself off from the wider Church. Its spiritual pride becomes narcissistic, reflecting the narcissism of its idolized founder, who may have suffered from NPD (narcissistic personality disorder – google for details). Eventually, however, the cult begins to wither and die because of its spiritual pride, becoming irrelevant to the wider world. This is summed up by the Gospel words, ‘By their fruit ye shall know them’.

We write the above in order to warn the naïve, often young and intellectual. As we have said above, false spiritual fatherhood is rare – but it does exist.

The Tradition is One

An integral part of the destructive ideology peddled by modernists is to deny the existence of the Tradition. Making out that there is no such thing as the Tradition, they claim that there are therefore only human customs, thus, very typically for them, reducing the Inheritance of the Holy Spirit to relativistic humanism. They are wrong – the Tradition exists and this is precisely the deposit of the Holy Spirit that the Apostle calls us to guard (1 Tim 6, 20).

There is only one Tradition, just as there is only one Church. True, there are local customs, but some of these are bad and come from spiritual decadence. These have come into the Church in recent times through Western influence and can be encountered especially in Greece, Cyprus and in parts of Romania and the Patriarchate of Antioch, which have been exposed for some generations to Western decadence. In their parishes in the USA and elsewhere, some of these groups actually use organs and people sit in pews during Church services! Of course, this is no part of the Tradition and is only justified as a custom because it is what heretics do. Here there are clear cases where the Tradition is being lost. However, modernists justify all this saying that ‘you can have organs or not have organs, you can have pews or not have pews – these are merely differences of custom’. This is a lie.

Such people are simply victims of modernist decadence and have lost the Tradition. Much more seriously, and this is now widespread among those who come from heterodox backgrounds, there is the custom of communion without confession and even persecution of those who do not take communion. This is like saying that communion is medicine which can be administered without a diagnosis. The fact is that if you take the wrong medicine because you do not have a diagnosis, you can die. Though the modernists hate the Scriptures because they are not politically correct, the Apostle Paul wrote about communion for damnation in the first century: ‘For this cause many are weak and sickly among you’ (I Cor 11, 30). Similarly, there is the modernist practice of forcing women to take communion during menstruation, which also goes against the Holy Spirit.

Another widespread modernist practice is to change the services, justifying arbitrary changes contrary to the Tradition. All of this goes hand in hand with the use of the papal calendar instead of the Orthodox calendar. Here too modernists assert that there are two calendars, therefore we can use either. In reality, there is only one Church calendar. The fact that we accept as Orthodox those who use the papal calendar for the fixed services is economy, a dispensation made for the sake of their salvation. Another abuse is celebrating without an iconostasis. This can happen initially in missionary circumstances, but after a few weeks any real Orthodox parish will have an iconostasis. Not to take a blessing on seeing a priest is another abuse – not part of the Tradition. Connected with this is the refusal of women not to cover their heads (I Cor 11, 13) and generally wear improper and immodest dress in church.

It is no good like Anglicans, who do not understand what the Church is, saying that in the Church there are only various human customs and so that we can ignore them or compromise them in amoral ‘pick and mix’ consumerism. In reality, there is right and wrong, good and bad, black and white, and there can be no compromise between right and wrong, just as there can be no concord between Christ and Belial (2 Cor 6, 15). The Tradition is One.

On the Fringes of the Empire

Outside the Lands that were Orthodox Christian, that is, holy, in the second millennium and indeed, sometimes for much of the first millennium also, we in the Isles of the North Atlantic live on the fringes of the Empire. We have our examples of holiness, but they are far in the past. So what happens in the third millennium when the double-headed eagle of the Orthodox Christian Empire once more flies above us, despite a near millennium of apostasy in England?

At first sight it seems that only compromise happens. However, although there may be a need for superficial compromise, for empty platitudes, there are also those who confess the Orthodox Faith despite diplomacy, despite the failure to witness of those who are quoted as witnesses, but who in fact compromised themselves with the Norman Establishment. They may be Jerusalem, but we are Galilee and, without us, they are but stones without living voices.

Who understands us? It is not the personalities who demanded guru-worship, not the philosophers who lived in their intellectual fantasies, not the administrators with piles of gold who have little understanding of pastoral reality. It is the little people in the poor and ignored places who live the Faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our saints St Elizabeth the New Martyr and St John of Shanghai the New Confessor, who give us food for our souls.