Category Archives: Pastoral Matters

Homosexuality and the Problem of the Orthodox Episcopate

The scandal caused by the recent article of Metr Kallistos Ware on homosexuality has been well answered by a US convert in a typically Biblical way (1). Like the previous scandal on Metr Kalllistos’ views concerning the possible ordination of priestesses, it reveals the inherent Anglicanism of His Grace, which is why one of his Phanariot fellow-bishops calls him ‘o anglikanos’. This ingrained Anglicanism was already clearly visible in the very first edition of his book ‘The Orthodox Church’, which expressed the views of a young and idealistic Anglican scholastic looking in on the Church from the outside. Written for those outside the Church in an almost British public school civil service report style, the book was largely ignored by Orthodox on the inside.

It is doubtful if the ivory tower views expressed above really affect anyone in the Church outside the convert fringes and the academic ghetto. I do not think that any of my 600 parishioners have even heard of Metr Kallistos. Everything is simple for Orthodox who live outside the academic world, with its often refined and indeed rather effeminate ways: there is inside the Tradition and there is outside the Tradition. We are inside; what goes on outside is really not our concern. May God guide such people away from bookish secularism and flawed compromises towards the Church and Her inner and mystical understanding and age-old wisdom. This is sent down to the repentant by the Holy Spirit, is so lovingly cherished inside the monasteries and the parishes and is utterly different from mere academic understanding.

However, this issue does raise the problem of the Orthodox episcopate in the Western world and its frequent isolation from the parishes and the monasteries. This isolation, together with the frequent political captivity of the episcopate, are responsible for the lack of leadership it has often displayed over recent decades. True, a few Orthodox bishops come from widowed priests and even from priests whose wives have entered convents. However, the vast majority of bishops have always come and always will come from the monasteries. This is fine, providing that we understand that although bishops should be monks, only a few monks are suitable to become bishops.

The problem, especially in the Diaspora in Western Europe, the Americas and Australia, is that for decades most of the bishops have never been monks, but have simply been unmarried. This is not at all the same thing, for, inevitably, some of these bishops have been homosexuals and in some places and in some jurisdictions this, notoriously, has been and is the prevalent practice. I could draw up a list of several dozen such bishops, whom I have met over the last 45 years. The result has been that these bishops have in turn ordained homosexuals and some married clergy have endured persecution from their bishops and their ordinees, with their homosexual backbiting and narcissism. Thus, the episcopate of one group in North America used to be known as ‘a gay mafia’. And this is not just a problem among new calendarists and others on the liberal fringes. Notorious too are the episcopates of some uncanonical old calendarist groups.

Here we must be honest. If the episcopate has often been tainted, it is surely the fault of all of us. Monks, and therefore monasteries, and therefore bishops, do not grow on trees. They come from devout families and from parishes. The extraordinary decadence of Church life, especially over the last 100 years, is responsible for the weak episcopate. What we do not want is married bishops (the error of the schismatic renovationists in Soviet Russia), what we want is the restoration of monastic life, which is virtually non-existent in some Local Churches, resulting in all these scandals, which are, sadly, so well-known. What we need is genuine monastic bishops, continent heterosexuals, real men with vigour and energy, who are close to the parishes and our spades are spades language, who can understand ordinary Orthodox, without academic theorizing and head in the clouds language. However, the Church is not a welfare State where such bishops magically appear from above. They are created by us: we get the episcopate that we deserve.

 

Note 1:

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2018/06/kallistos-ware-comes-out-for-homosexual-marriage/

Metropolitan Kallistos and The Wheel Fr. Lawrence Farley Metropolitan Kallistos and The Wheel Fr. Lawrence Farley If a respected author writes for a publication whose known purpose is the promotion of a particular agenda, then by that very act he lends credence and credibility to that agenda.

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2018/06/met-kallistos-clearly-implies-that-the-church-should-bless-committed-same-sex-

https://orthodoxlife.org/contemporary-issues/kallistos-ware-homosexuality-humphrey/

On War and Military Saints

At first sight it may seem strange that there are military saints, soldiers who became holy martyrs. But we can think of many examples from many countries: St Sabbas the Commander (+ 272), St George (+ 303), St Dimitry (+ 304), St Alban (+ 305), St Theodore the Recruit (+ 306), St Theodore the Commander (+ 319), St Alfred the Great (+ 899), St Alexander Nevsky (+ 1263) and more recently the admiral, St Thedore (Ushakov) (+ 1817).

True, in paradise there will be no armies, because there will be no war, just as in paradise there will be no police and no prisons because there will be no crime. But we live in the real world as it is and anyone from any background can become a saint. Indeed, in the Gospels, there is no condemnation of the soldiers who appear there and, one of them, the centurion, is praised and another, Longinus, who stood at the foot of the cross and confessed that Christ is indeed the Son of God, became a saint.

And yet in the Book of Exodus the sixth commandment states: ‘Thou shalt not kill’. However, from the same chapter and the following chapters, it is clear that this means that we must not murder out of hatred or for some other evil reason, for instance, because we want to get someone else’s money or property, or out of love of glory. But does this mean that we could kill someone for another reason? For example, if we saw someone in the street trying to kill someone to get their money, does this mean that we should defend that person?

Suppose we were an armed policeman and we saw a terrorist with a gun or bomb and he was threatening to kill lots of people, elderly people, women and children among them, and he could not see us and we had the chance to stop him and that resulted in killing him, would that be forbidden? Of course not, it would be irresponsible of us not to act in defence of others. In such situations where we are able to defend others, not to defend would simply be cowardice on our part.

The fact is that in this world we are often faced by choices and the choice we have to make is what we call ‘the lesser evil’. However, we must be very careful here: such a choice applies only in the case of defending others. So in every country armed forces are controlled by something called ‘The Ministry of Defence’. But do the armed forces really defend? Sadly, they often seem to do the opposite and attack, to offend.

It is the same with us. If we are aggressive and attack others, even killing them, that is wrong. Indeed, priests and monks are forbidden from taking up weapons to defend themselves. But if we are defending those who are weaker than ourselves, that can be justified. Here there is no hatred for an individual, just the responsible desire to protect others. Here there is no selfishness, we are not defending ourselves or our property or money or showing off our strength, we are protecting others, perhaps people we do not even know.

Yes, as Christians we are called on to love our enemies, but that means not to feel no personal hatred for them. Why? Because they are victims of their bad passions, the victims of evil. So to love our enemies does not mean that we should not defend others. War in defence of the weak is a lesser evil than declining war and surrendering to the power of barbaric terrorists. A soldier for us is not some self-satisfied murderer, but a noble hero who sacrifices himself by defending the weak.

 

(First Published in the Youth Magazine of the Colchester Orthodox Parish, Searchlight, Issue 5, June 2018)

Questions and Answers: Early June 2018

Q: How can you speak of a ROCOR Diocese in this country? It is so small it does not exist. So what can it contribute?

A: You would have been quite right at any time between the mid-eighties and until recently. I remember coming here on loan from Paris in 1994 because the London convent did not have a priest or any services, such was the catastrophic situation! However, before that period you are quite wrong and you are wrong again today, ever since the start of the restoration of our Diocese under Metr Hilarion and Bishop Irenei. It is now bigger than it was in the fifties and sixties and may grow a great deal more yet, as we are freed to expand, using all our energy and enterprise that had been bottled up for so many decades. The Patriarchal Diocese here, laboured with a ‘foreign’ name with a compromising history, called a ‘potemkin diocese’ by one its own priests, also has its difficulties.

Therefore, it is clear that ROCOR, with about 600 parishes outside the Russian Lands and the Patriarchate, with about 300 parishes outside the Russian Lands, mainly in Western Europe, need one another. They are like two pieces of a puzzle, each with its limitations, each with its strengths. For example, ROCOR has little money and few bishops, the Patriarchate has money, political help from embassies and an almost limitless supply of potential bishops (2,000 at the last count). However, generally ROCOR has local knowledge, not just languages, but knowledge of local mentalities and culture and pastoral ability. The average ROCOR priest in Europe speaks three or four languages: the average Patriarchate priest just one.

Unlike ROCOR, the Patriarchate is politically well-connected; however, ROCOR is free, as we saw in the recent Skripal case, and unburdened by the bureaucracy and centralization in the Patriarchate. It was from such formalist pre-Revolutionary bureaucracy that ROCOR has had such difficulty escaping right up until the present day and which, sadly, is reviving in Russia. Bureaucracy is not part of Church Tradition, but is alien to the Holy Spirit, being of the things of men. It belongs to religion, not to faith, to institutions, not to God.

Our Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland can be a useful, perhaps even an essential, part of the future Local Metropolia and then Local Church.

Q: How can we define our Orthodox identity as compared to Non-Orthodox?

A: I expect there are a thousand good ways of expressing answers to this question, but I think I can give you an example of an answer.

Recently, I was in conversation with a fairly senior Anglican priest and I asked him what he thought was the priority to save the Church of England, given that the Archbishop of Canterbury said in 2014 that it could virtually die out by 2050.

He answered that there are currently two trends inside his Church, one was to ‘make disciples’ and the other was ‘to create the kingdom of God’. In his view the first is wrong and the second is right. I (politely) asked him to translate this (for me incomprehensible jargon) into English and he explained that ‘making disciples’ means what we would call ‘proselytism’ or ‘making converts’ (which is alien to the Church), and that ‘creating the kingdom of God’ means trying to act socially or even politically, setting up clubs and groups, taking part in social life, standing for election, appearing in the media, lobbying politicians, holding concerts inside church-buildings etc. (This too is alien to the Church).

I thought that both these options are purely humanistic, turned towards people, not towards God. Our God is Holy and our aim is holiness, ‘acquiring the Holy Spirit’. In his two options there was nothing about holiness. Holiness attracts people long-term because our God works miracles. Everything that he mentioned is purely secondary to us, we transform individuals and society around us through repentance that brings personal holiness; everything else takes second place. We seek the kingdom of God first, then ‘thousands around us will be saved’. And that is the difference between us and Non-Orthodox.

Q: Was Fr George Gapon who led the demonstration against the Tsar in 1905 really Orthodox?

A: He was ordained canonically, but he was very much an extreme left-winger. He belonged to the Social Revolutionary Party and lived with a woman, which was allowed by the Protestant-minded Metr Antony (Vadkovsky) of Saint Petersburg, who was and is very controversial. (Some have suspected that Metr Antony was a freemason, like Protopresbyter George Shavelsky). Fr George Gapon finished very badly, being hanged in 1906 by the violent revolutionary Ruthenberg who had led the 1905 demonstration and terrorist attack on the forces of law and order. I think we can say that Gapon was not only uncanonical but not Orthodox at all. In this he is like Ilya Fundaminsky, who came from one of the richest Jewish families in Russia, became a terrorist, emigrated to France, where he was baptised under Rue Daru, and a few years ago was canonized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople for having been murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.

Q: What do you think of the decision by a British school that boys must not wear shorts, but skirts, because shorts are gender-specific?

A: Here is the result of what became common here over 50 years ago (in the USA long before) and is now nearly universal – the wearing of trousers by females. The mixing of the sexes causes spiritual confusion. Here is the result. The word ‘sex’ means ‘cut’, in other words men are men and women are women. But we are now in the era of transgenderism and so spiritual catastrophe.

Q: How do we answer critics who say that the Orthodox Church is so old-fashioned that it is antediluvian? I mean we have no women-priests and will never have any, we do not have same-sex marriages, we do not even have pews or organs, which the Non-Orthodox started having already 200-400 years ago. To them we are primitive.

A: What a curious, but also very eloquent viewpoint – antediluvian! I think that people who say such things are themselves ‘diluvian’, that is to say, they have been submerged beneath the Flood of secularism. In that sense we are ‘anti-diluvian’, but not antediluvian! I would answer them that and say that we, on the contrary, are ‘post-diluvian’, that is to say, we are looking forward to what is coming after the present Flood of secularism, to the Kingdom of God, which is coming, one way or the other, and quite soon. They are spiritually primitive – we are not.

Q: Is perfectionism a virtue or a vice?

A: A vice, even, indeed, a spiritual curse. There is an old story of a monk who was a brilliant icon-painter who was praised for his painting. From that moment on he began putting a small mistake into everything he did. Perfectionism is pride, we even say ‘take pride in what you do’. Yes, of course, bodging, Coggeshall jobs and second-rate work is bad, to be avoided, but we should do things as well as we can, but we should know that perfection is beyond us human-beings.

Q: What do you think of the decision by two-thirds of Irish people to legalize child-murder?

A: Once Ireland had agreed to enter the secularist EU, this was inevitable. The same will happen in Poland in a few years time. If you sell your soul to the devil for an EU mess of pottage, here are the consequences.

Q: What do you think are the weaknesses of the European peoples?

A: Any such generalization is bound to have a thousand exceptions and can only be vague. And it would be more pleasant to talk about strengths than weaknesses. But if you insist: Today (I am not talking about Western culture 1,000 years ago or even 500 years ago, which was different) I think all the Western peoples suffer from an almost uncontrollable desire to tell the rest of the world how to live and to meddle in their civilizations. (Why else does the LGBT flag fly over the British Embassy in Minsk?).

More specifically, I think with the Protestant British (and to a large extent the Protestant Dutch and the Swiss Germans), it is a slavish love of money, a real obsession (why else do British media obsessively report Stock Exchange rates and currency values and encourage people to save as soon as they are born?). This enslavement was taken by the British to North America, hence their enslavement to the dollar. With the Germans it is the need to give orders and create order, as we see from their history. With the French it is hedonism, the obsession with the aesthetic, with ‘look’ and ‘image’. With the Italians it is their obsession with all forms of art, as everywhere, for example, in Venice and Florence and as in opera. With the Spanish it is an obsession with blood and cruelty, as we see in the Inquisition, in Goya and in bullfighting. With the Portuguese it is their melancholy regret for what they have lost, as in the fado With the Scandinavians it is obsession with impossible thisworldly justice, which comes from their narrow and worldly Lutheran culture. With the Russians it is the obsessive need to be accepted (which comes from the national inferiority complex, which began with their apostasy from Orthodoxy in the late 17th century and their superficial adoption of Western values). With the Jews it is (not money – which is a nasty anti-Jewish myth), but the obsession with acquiring power, which goes back to the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem after the glory days under David and Solomon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Injustices in Church Life

The Church, the Incarnate Body of Christ, has always been the central battlefield between God and the world, whose prince is Satan. It is for this reason that the world constantly tries to destroy and corrupt the Church, infiltrating it with those who foolishly and blindly do Satan’s will. History is full of notorious examples of internal enemies and traitors in Church life. Indeed this was the foundation of monastic life in the fourth century. All this is because the presence of Christ is abhorrent to Satan, who wants the world for himself, as we see in the temptations of Christ, related in the Gospel of Matthew 4. Satan has always tried to make the Church into the world, to make Faith into a mere State or institutional ‘religion’. He makes bishops and priests into anti-pastors, into scribes (vain and pompous intellectuals like Arius and so many pompous academics who, puffed up with futile knowledge as the Apostle Paul describes (2 Tim 3, 4), think that they know everything) and pharisees (ritualists), not to mention persecutors and bureaucrats. Thus, in Church history, every heresy and every schism has been an attempt, usually unconscious because of the spiritual delusion of those who lead heresy and schism, to compromise the Church with the world.

Thus, in the seventh century in these Isles, disorganized but holy Irish monks were bewildered by organized but cold Roman religion; during the later first millennium the zealous monks of New Rome (Constantinople) were cruelly persecuted by iconoclast emperors and empresses with their pro-Islamic political projects; in the eleventh century Old Rome fell into the temptation of making its bishop into a universal emperor who commanded armies and tortureers, replaced God and from whom, they said, proceeded the Holy Spirit and so all truth and authority; a few centuries ago in Russia a great debate arose between non-possessing hermits and those who ran monasteries as economic units with farmlands and peasants; a little over a century ago the Russian Church, though with great institutions, was compromised as part of State machinery and the people flocked not to wealthy bishop-bureaucrats, city career priests and professional Italianate opera choirs in stone city churches, but to poor spirit-bearing elders in wooden chapels in provincial monasteries; and in our own times the greatest saint of the Diaspora, St John of Shanghai, was put on trial by bishops who backed secular-minded people who had money and power, and not the faithful and the true.

What are we to do in the face of injustices in Church life?

Firstly, we may be wrong: we can only know that we are right, if we are persecuted. Christ tells us so (Lk 21 and Jn. 16). So let us accept persecution provided that it does not force us into breaking the commandments. If it does mean compromising the commandments, we must leave for another canonical, and not uncanonical, diocese. For persecution is no self-justifying excuse for falling away into schism. The Church is everywhere littered with little groups, or rather sects of extreme, for instance of new calendarists and old calendarists, who were often initially victims of episcopal injustices, but who now have no canonical status and so have discredited themselves. But the Church calendar is also everywhere littered with those who bore injustices, only recently St Nectarius of Egina and St John of Shanghai, and so became saints. They did not take off their crowns.

Secondly, while you stay in the Church with those who cause injustice, do not participate in that injustice, side with the victims of the injustice. They are anti-pastors, but you must remain pastors, your conscience clean. The bullies, narcissists and manipulators of the naive, with their ‘gaslighting’ lies, hypocrisy and attempts to discredit, will not win. They do not think of the Last Judgement and tremble at it, but you do think of it and tremble at it.

Thirdly, we must know that, as they say, what goes round, comes round. Our persecutors should be trembling – in any case, they soon will be. I have seen so many who have persecuted Church people, terrible things have happened to them all sooner or later, without exception. Over the last forty years and more, I have seen them, bishops and priests dying suddenly after acting outrageously. They thought they could get away with it: they could not. Be patient: the Truth will out. God is always on the side of the good and the faithful. Be patient, justice is always done, for man proposes, but God disposes: Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6, 7).

 

 

 

Pastoral Questions

 

Q: How can you belong to ROCOR, a Church that in the 1990s uncanonically opened parishes inside Russia and entered into communion with schismatic Greek Old Calendarists?

A: I could not and did not. I am afraid you have your facts wrong. Two (but possibly more) ROCOR bishops did what you describe. And in the Western European Diocese of ROCOR, to which I then belonged, we categorically refused to engage in either of the above because both these actions were and are uncanonical.

Q: Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross backwards?

A: Christ sits on the right hand of the Father. The Tradition has always been to start with the right – right foot first. Thus, just like Orthodox, even Catholics make the sign of the cross with the right hand and not the left. Priests turn to their right to say to the people ‘Peace be unto all’, we cross our hands left over right before communion, priests (as did laity once) receive communion with their right hand cupped in the left, which is how laypeople cup their hands to take a priest’s blessing.

The fact is that in the West people used to make the sign of the cross as Orthodox still do, from right to left. Thus, in the 1713 French ‘Simple, Literal and Historical Explanations of the Ceremonies of the Church’ by Dom Claude de Vert, Page 6, Rubric 1, we read: ‘The priest makes the sign of the cross with his five fingers (and not with the first three only according to the old practice – as some bishops, the Chartreuses and the Jacobins still do, being careful to extend only the thumb and the next two fingers, as in times past).

And if the priest touches the left shoulder before the right, it is not a matter of indifference, as we can see from a letter of Pope Leo IV (790-855) that formerly the right shoulder was indeed touched before the left’.

The question as to why Catholics changed from the Orthodox practice (after all, they keep Orthodox practices in many other domains) is unanswerable. However, the most likely suggestion is that Catholic laity wanted to do what they saw the Catholic priests doing when they face the people and bless them, that is, when they cross the people from left to right (which appears to laity as right to left, as they face the clergy). In other words, the change was caused by clericalism, by wanting to imitate the clergy.

Q: Why in the British Isles do you say ‘He is risen indeed’ in answer to ‘Christ is risen’? Elsewhere the response is ‘Truly He is risen’, which, after all, is the literal translation.

A: This relates to the King James translation of the words of Luke and Cleopas to the other disciples in Luke 24, 34, after they had come back from Emmaus and talked to Christ: ‘Saying, the Lord is risen indeed’. (In the Greek, ‘ondos’ – really, in the Russian ‘istinno’ – truly). This translation simply relates to the emphatic British English usage of the word ‘indeed’ (for example, the phrase, ‘Did he indeed?’), whereas other English-speaking peoples would use ‘truly’ or ‘really’. The merit of the translation ‘indeed’ is that it implies ‘in action’, not just ‘in theory’.

Q: Why are some converts eccentric?

A: I recently visited a ‘convert church’ which had a notice by the entrance with the words: ‘Warning: This Church May Contain Nuts’.

We are talking now about a small minority, an eccentric fringe, so we should not get things out of proportion. I think that those who consider that they are ‘converts’ are not Orthodox; those for whom Orthodoxy is a way of life and have forgotten a time when they were not in the Church are simply Orthodox. Orthodoxy is second nature to us. But ‘converts’ (that is, a minority of converts) seem to cultivate exotic eccentricity, especially strange dress and hairstyles. And yet the Mother of God was a ‘convert’, as were all the apostles. But they never spoke of themselves as ‘converts’ and we never think of them as ‘converts’. Of course not – because they were converted – i.e. finished products.

Here we come to the essence of the matter: there are ‘converts’ and there are the converted. The difference is that ‘converts’ are people who want to remain in a stew for beginners, for ever and ever, and there are people who have been converted and are trying to improve themselves. In other words, quite simply, there are neophytes and there are Christians.

Those who are neophytes want to remain at the Church doors, for ever ranting against their former beliefs (there is nothing so anti-Anglican as an ex-Anglican) and there are those who have entered the Church and really cannot be bothered by what goes on at the Church doors. Those who remain at the doors for ever read books for converts (Bloom, Ware, Schmemann, The Way of a Pilgrim, Kalomiros etc) and cultivate eccentricity and exoticism in dress, hairstyle or speech, sometimes for some pathological reason (to look different from others); they are ‘converts’. It is time for them to move on and become normal Christians, which is what the word Orthodox actually means.

The word ‘eccentric’ is another word for vanity, the desire to be different, to be attention-seeking. Such ‘converts’ need to move on from the first course to the main course, with its meat, which has the promise of the sweet dessert to come. Those who remain converts need to be converted. But they must first want to be converted and not remain ‘converts’.

Q: What do you think of the opinion ‘Religion is the opium of the people’?

A: Personally, I am against religion, that is, the artificial invention by States of religious establishments in order to repress people. However, I am for faith, that is, for spiritual experience, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is the foundation of the Orthodox Church. To Marx, whose birth was 200 years ago and who wrote this opinion 175 years ago, I would say: ‘And atheism is the opium of the intellectuals’.

Q: Are some people chosen by God to carry out some special task, to fulfil some special destiny in this world? Are you such a person?

A: All of us without exception have been chosen by God for some special task, it is just that only some are aware of it. As for myself, I have been aware for over four decades that I have to preach Orthodoxy in Western Europe. This is in order to gather the lost sheep together, that is, to reintegrate at least a small number of Western Europeans and our saints back into the Church. This is to make ready for the restoration of the Christian Empire in Russia to resist Antichrist, whose coming the globalists are preparing.

 

 

On Church Life: Questions and Answers from Early May 2018

Q: Why did you end up in ROCOR (the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) and not in the Sourozh Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is now bigger?

A: As regards size, that is not the main thing, it is quality that counts. There were only 12 apostles, not 12,000.

The short answer is because the Church Outside Russia had a saint, St John of Shanghai, the Sourozh Diocese did not. Instead, it was renowned for intolerant renovationism that persecuted the faithful Orthodox minority, the real core of the Church. 25 years later, when there were more Orthodox faithful, this led directly and inevitably to an anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian schism from it by the new minority (which had been the persecuting majority earlier). And that led directly to the entry of the Sourozh Diocese into communion with ROCOR. There is nothing so intolerant as liberalism.

However, there were also all the usual reasons: For example, how could we outside Russia face lies about the nature of the Soviet regime in the Soviet-controlled Patriarchate? For example, the Church Outside Russian canonized the saints, St John of Kronstadt, St Xenia of Saint Petersburg, the New Martyrs and Confessors, which the enslaved Patriarchate could not, so who wanted to be subject to an enslaved Church, which was so weak that it could not even recognize its own saints? For example, quite a few of the senior clergy of the Patriarchate outside Russia were renovationists or in other ways corrupt.

Beyond all this, however, there is yet another reason, which is in the very names: ‘The Sourozh Diocese’. Or ‘The Russian Orthodox Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland’ (And our first bishop carried the title: ‘Bishop of London’). Obviously, for anyone born in this country, the second option is the clear winner. It is time that the name ‘Sourozh’ be dropped. Either we are the foundation of a new Local Church or else we are just another immigrant group with the name of an unknown place in a foreign country destined to be assimilated and so die out, like all those in the past. I do not wish to belong to such a group.

Q: Who are the renovationists inside Russia today?

A: There are the ageing ultra-modernists and ecumenists Fr George Kochetkov and his handful of followers, the anti-Russian academic Fr George Mitrofanov, other superficial academics like ‘I. V. Smyslov’ and D. Anashkin and the scandalous gossip and sacked Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev. But there are few of them, despite their noisy blogs, and they are discredited by real theology (which they condemn as ‘revisionism’ (sic!). Real theology lives in the monasteries, among the parish priests and the faithful, who are the real backbone of the Church and are ready to die for the authentic Faith – unlike the renovationists. They are here today, gone tomorrow. Nothing to worry about.

Q: What are the two most dangerous temptations for Orthodox today?

A: From the left side, there is so-called spirituality and from the right side there is so-called zeal.

Spirituality because it is most dangerous (the demons are spiritual beings and have spirituality). Only recently I heard of a woman who had interested herself in Hinduism and started meditation and yoga. Within two weeks she was hearing a voice and had become mentally fragile. Meditation of such a sort is infinitely harmful since it sets the imagination (the haunt of the demons) to work. There is something anti-Incarnational and therefore anti-Christian in this ‘spirituality’. It always ends up badly.

Zeal is also most dangerous because if it is not according to knowledge, as the apostle Paul says, it can cause great harm. For example, Muslim suicide-bombers are zealous and look where it leads them. All sects began with zeal. Most recently we can see it with old calendarists of various nationalities. Such zeal, not according to knowledge, however much it may be based on book knowledge, is always emotional and so leads to pride and division; authentic zeal, according to knowledge, is always sober and so leads to humility and unity.

Q: Why are Eastern European Orthodox countries so corrupt?

A: I think your question should be why are all countries so corrupt. Thus, the UK is run by freemasons (if not the Rotary Club or the golf club) and instead of bribes you constantly have to pay fines. France and Italy are mafia-run. Yes, Eastern Europe is also corrupt (Catholic or Orthodox). For example, in Lithuania (a Catholic country), they say that ‘Lithuania is the second most corrupt country in the world, but only because it bribed the actual second most corrupt country in the world to take its place as the most corrupt country in the world’. The reason for this corruption is two or three generations of atheism. You can have no morality under amoral atheism with its persecution of all spiritual values. Until these countries return from post-Communist money-grubbing Capitalism, they will remain utterly corrupt.

Q: What is essential before a Church can become Autonomous?

A: Apart from the request from a local Metropolia on a specific territory which wants Autonomy and the consent of the Mother-Church, which presupposes a certain maturity of infrastructure in the Metropolia – such as numbers of Orthodox bishops, priests, churches and faithful – there must be monastic life, a monastery and a convent, both with numbers of monks and nuns. That is essential.

Q: What are the political tendencies of the Diaspora?

A: In the USA we can see clearly how poor immigrants (Greeks, but not only) vote Democrat, the OCA is Democrat (in the UK they would be centre-left Liberal Democrats), whereas many White Russians are vaguely or clearly Republicans. Some are extremists, thus in academic theology there are two tendencies, to be moralisingly Evangelical-fundamentalist (Antiochians) or liberal-modernist (the Greeks outside Fr Ephraim) and the OCA. It is all wrong. We should be above politics and worldly academic theology, in the realm of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

In the UK we can see this in the fact that disused Protestant churches often either become mosques or else night clubs. It is the same anti-spiritual fundamentalist/liberal modernist divide.

Q: What is the origin of St Silouan the Athonite’s saying: ‘Keep your mind in hell and do not despair’?

A: There is nothing new here, it is simply the New Testament. There comes to mind the Apostle Peter’s saying: ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist, steadfast in the faith (I Peter 5, 8-9). In I Peter 5, 12 the apostle actually refers to Silvanus (Silouan in Russian!).

Q: Why do we wear our neck cross inside our clothes and not outside?

A: Because our Faith is not about showy externals, like that of the pharisees. Our cross remains next to our heart, on the inside. True, priests wear an external cross, but only doing the services and at formal occasions with a bishop etc. Otherwise they take it off. If we want to witness to our faith, it is not about wearing T-shirts with silly slogans, growing long beards, wearing crosses on the outside, it is about living a Christian way of life, loving our neighbours, whoever they are. This is what we shall be judged by, as Our Lord tells us quite clearly in the Gospels.

Q: Why are there different traditions in the Church regarding confession and communion?

A: There are not! The Tradition is confession before communion – unless you have a blessing from the priest not to come to confession every single time before communion (in the case of children, for example, or with several liturgies in the same week). Any other custom is pure decadence, usually a recent custom adopted from heterodoxy (as adopted in many Constantinople churches in recent decades).

Q: What is the origin of the Russian triple kiss?

A: The Russian triple kiss was universal among peasants (not among aristocrats) before the Revolution. Today it is common among family members and close friends, but you rarely see it in churches in Russia, where the sense of the parish was all but destroyed by the Soviets. This is ironic because its origin is purely Christian, it is the liturgical kiss of peace.

Q: If a miracle happened and the Russian Empire were restored – an impossible daydream as far as I am concerned – what sort of political union could be formed?

A: Who knows? Clearly, a restored Russian Empire would certainly have to cultivate good relations with China, with which it would have a huge border. But I could also suggest a global Northern Alliance between the lands of a restored Russian Empire, reunited with Alaska, together with Scandinavia (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark), the British Isles and Ireland, Greenland and Canada. This northern quarter of the planet forms just over 25% of the world’s land surface, 37.7 million square kilometres out of the total of 149.6 million, but less than 6% of the world population.

Q: Is having a tattoo sinful?

A: I would say that it is a sign of suffering. The Gospel tells us that the whole of our faith consists in ‘loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves’. Eight words. Do we really need a doctoral thesis to understand that? The modern world has ceased to love God (atheism), ceased to love its neighbour (genocide) and now hates itself – suicide and self-mutilation (that includes tattoos). Those who tattoo themselves are dissatisfied with themselves, they have a psychological problem, a ‘complex’, as they say. In other words, they are not simple, but complicated – like sin itself.

Q: Would you take part in an anti-abortion march or demonstration?

A: Only if I thought it would achieve something. I fear that in present-day post-Christian and anti-Christian society such outward displays of convert zeal might even be negative. Let us look to ourselves first. Only if inward mentalities change and a majority turns against abortion, should we hold processions behind the Cross held high.

Q: Who are the Jehovah’s witnesses?

A: They are Jews who venerate the prophet Jesus, never having accepted the New Testament, neither the Holy Trinity (which they regard as paganism), nor the God-man Christ.

Q: Why do so many Anglican churches fly the LGBT rainbow flag?

A: The Church of England is a State Church and was founded as such. It therefore does whatever the State orders it to do. Thus, now that the State, under Cameron and May, has approved LGBT, it flies their flag. What I have always wanted to know is why it is so strict on divorce when it was founded by Henry VIII, so that he could give himself a divorce.

Three Types of Clergy and Their Temptations

Introduction

As the decades roll by, we realize that we have in our lifetimes met several dozen Orthodox bishops and many hundreds of Orthodox priests, of different generations and different nationalities. Among them we can begin to see three different typologies, three tendencies. All of these are in themselves good, but all of them have their temptations. What are they?

The Administrator

Every bishop and every priest has, among other things, to be an administrator. If we take the finest saint of the Diaspora, St John of Shanghai, as an example, we know that he was a fine administrator (not at all a fool-for-Christ, as some have imagined), spending much of his time almost every day answering letters, dealing with financial and other difficulties, not least at his cathedrals in Shanghai and San Francisco, and pastoral questions, administrating. But he never confined himself to administration, becoming a bureaucrat, forgetting human-beings, leaving aside other necessary qualities, making it an end in itself. The description of a bishop or priest as ‘just an administrator’ or, in today’s jargon’, ‘an effective manager’, can be one of the worst insults. Why?

It is because such fall inevitably into the double temptation of money and power. They become civil servants, like so many State appointees before the Revolution in Russia and in State Churches today, in Greece and Romania. Their allegiance is therefore more with the State than the Church, with this world, not the other world. At worst, those who love money more than God become simoniacs and those who love power more than God ally themselves with the local national State apparatus – like the notorious defrocked ‘Patriarch of Kiev’, Filaret, who as a Communist spy built himself a palace and today calls for the genocide of the Ukrainian people. Such mercenary people end up losing their faith, believing in nothing at all – if they ever did.

The Intellectual

Every bishop and every priest has to be educated. The Church Fathers were highly educated. Indeed, they could in one sense be called intellectuals. If we take the finest saint of the Diaspora, St John of Shanghai, as an example, we know that he was well-educated and wrote several theological works. However, his theology, like that of the Fathers, was inspired by his prayer, not by his brain. In the Church, the brain is just a tool used to express the Holy Spirit, it is not an end in itself. It is embarrassing to meet a bishop or priest who lacks basic knowledge of the Church, the services, the lives of the saints, the Fathers and the Holy Scriptures. However, the description of a bishop or priest as ‘just an intellectual’ can be one of the worst insults. Why?

It is because those who confine themselves to intellectualism, making it an end in itself, are inevitably bad pastors, better with books than with people. If bishops, they dislike their priests and flocks and insult and condemn them, refusing to spend time with them; if priests, they dislike their flock, mock them and flee them. If bishops, they can wreck the Church, if allowed to do so, treating their flock like a mob. They dislike listening to confessions because they dislike people. Many such proud intellectuals, usually very vain to the point of narcissisism, are driven by some private ideology or pathology or both; to make of the Church an ideology or pathology is always fatal because it is to cease being a pastor, to cease loving others. That is spiritual death.

The Unworldly

Every bishop and every priest has to be unworldly. If we take the finest saint of the Diaspora, St John of Shanghai, as an example, we know that he was unworldly, without any attachment to the things of this world. Such unworldliness may mean that they are impractical or incompetent – which is why most monks make neither parish priests nor bishops. However, this is not necessarily always so. This is because the unworldly can delegate – to the right people, which is vital. If they are married priests, they can be supported by the right wife. Many an unworldly married priest depends on his wife in this way. Unworldliness seems therefore to be essential and yet the description of a bishop or priest as ‘unworldly’ can be one of the worst insults. Why?

It is because there are the false unworldly, those who pretend to be unworldly, the frauds. They make themselves into gurus, imitating real pastors with long hair and long beards. We have seen their affectations, which deceive only the new or the naïve. In fact, such are not unworldly at all, but are attached to their own persons. Their desire and ability are not in gaining money or power, in the sense of obtaining power the Church, but in gaining power over human souls. Sometimes using the power of hypnotism to create dependency on themselves, such frauds are known as false elders. Lacking spiritual experience and so discernment, they want to control and, deluded themselves, they give deluded advice, which leads to catastrophe, loss of faith or even suicide.

Conclusion

Of course, the separation of the above tendencies is very rare. In reality, the best clergy have mixtures of all three of these qualities, being good administrators, educated and unworldly, like St John. Only a few fall into the temptations which exclude the qualities. Nevertheless, the temptations have to be resisted. We have seen too many falls.

 

A Question on ‘Pan-Orthodoxy’

There is a custom in the capitals of certain countries of the Orthodox Diaspora of holding a service called ‘Pan-Orthodox Vespers’ on the evening of the Sunday of Orthodoxy. I first attended such an event in 1975 at the Serbian Church in Birmingham, when the then Fr Vladimir Rodzianko preached against ‘jurisdictions’. I am sure that most of the people present had no idea what he was talking about. Apparently the custom continues, over 40 years later, though few Orthodox know about it or are interested in it. We know who we are, we confess the same Faith, and we have no need of political demonstrations, which change nothing for the rest of the year.

Although the custom is not bad in itself, I have always found it very strange. It does not exist in Orthodox countries, where the average town of, say 50,000-100,000 people, will have several Orthodox parishes, each of which lives its own life. Nobody has ever thought of meeting together as parishes on one Sunday evening a year. (True, the parish rector and one lay representative from each parish do meet when their bishop calls them to a yearly Diocesan meeting). And in the town where I serve, where there are several Anglican and Catholic parishes (the Catholic parishes represent different national groups), the local Anglican or Catholic churches would never dream of holding a ‘Pan-Anglican’ or ‘Pan-Catholic’ Vespers once a year.

It is said that ‘Pan-Orthodox Vespers’ promotes Orthodox unity, although I cannot see how. But why is this necessary? The fact is that all the Orthodox churches are already spiritually united. There is simply an administrative and linguistic division, which occurs in any case and always has and will. For example, in Orthodox countries, parishes are divided between dioceses (sometimes using different languages) and the link of unity is provided by meetings and synods of their bishops, who represent each diocese. In the Diaspora, it is the same thing, only the various dioceses are for some reason not called dioceses, but  ‘jurisdictions’, which is a purely secular term.

And there is something very strange here: the term ‘Pan-Orthodox’ has come to be divisive! Even the foreign term ‘Pan’ (as opposed to the English word ‘All’) suggests that there is something narrowly ethnic here. And the minority who promote ‘Pan-Orthodox’ Vespers often represent very divisive trends. For example, many of them do not use the Orthodox calendar for the fixed feasts, as do 80% of Orthodox, but aggressively use the papal calendar and want to impose the papal Paschalia. Surely, if they were concerned by unity, they would return to the majority Orthodox calendar, which 100 years ago was universal, and not try to promote a heterodox calendar and sometimes heterodox values?

Then these promoters of unity engage in such practices as abandoning the sacrament of confession, have no iconostases in their churches, sing Protestant Christmas carols during the Nativity liturgy after the troparia, shout out names for commemoration at the proskomidia during the Divine Liturgy (which they call ‘the holy liturgy’), and ban all languages other than English! One day perhaps someone will explain such things to me. I have been waiting for an answer for 43 years. I have always thought that Orthodox unity can only be based on the Universal Orthodox Faith, not on minority modernist deviations.

Common Sense and Wisdom

It is often said that the modern world lacks common sense. If this is so, it must be because many people are no longer learning from life, because the source of common sense is experience of life. Indeed, this may be true, for people more and more live not in the real world, but in a virtual world, a world of artifice and so lack of experience and so of immaturity. Without experience of life there is no common sense, only ideology, or theory, or naivety, or else just plain stupidity.

Even more seriously, as our knowledge of facts has in recent times hugely increased (partly through the internet), there seems to be less wisdom. Wisdom is being replaced by mere factual knowledge and the latter guarantees no understanding, no ability to interpret facts. For there is no correlation between knowledge of facts, with its mere technological progress, and wisdom, with its spiritual, and so moral and cultural, progress. So what is the source of wisdom?

The answer can be found in two words in Church Slavonic. Firstly, there is the word ‘tselomudrie’. Although this means ‘chastity’, it literally means ‘wisdom from wholeness’. Therefore, in order to understand what chastity means we must go beyond the superficiality of Puritanism which understands chastity only in the outward sense. Thus, in the Orthodox wedding service we pray that the couple to be wed may preserve their chastity. Chastity is not necessarily about virginity.

For from the Gospel (as from life) we know that there are foolish virgins, just as there are wise married couples. In other words, what chastity actually means is integrity, keeping our wholeness with Christ, despite distractions, such as money or, for that matter, unrestrained (= unchaste) sexual activity. This is what we express in Church services by the words ‘let us entrust our whole life to Christ our God’. Chastity means wholeness, the integrity of our devotion to Christ.

Secondly, there is the Slavonic word ‘smirennomudrie’, which means wisdom from humility. This is the wisdom that angelic, pure and innocent children (still uncorrupted and non-sexualized) can have. They too are ‘chaste’, that is, they have wholeness and integrity, that is, they have humility. However, such wisdom from humility can also come from accepting life’s sufferings positively. For example, old soldiers, who have seen suffering and suffered, are often very humble.

We can see this also with academics. Some are humble and have wisdom, others are pompous and only have knowledge. The pompous are mocked openly or behind their backs; their level of wisdom is less than that of many children and they just seem childish and silly. Little wonder that in English the word ‘pompous’ goes with ‘ass’. They suffer from what the apostle Paul calls a ‘puffed up mind’. In fact such people, suffering from intellectual pride, become ‘humility-proof’.

Thus we see children who are wise, but old people who are not wise. In today’s world, the sources of wisdom, outward integrity (chastity), inward integrity, humility and suffering are all derided. Perhaps that is why there is less wisdom today. For wisdom does not come from experience of life, like common sense. Wisdom comes from inner purity. As we say: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’. And Who is God? He is Supreme Wisdom, obtained only through inner purity.