Category Archives: Pastoral Matters

Faith or Hysteria? The Spiritual Meaning of Covid-19

The human world can be divided into those who strongly believe in God, those who only weakly believe and those who do not believe.

Those who do not believe are very few in number and generally they are those who in childhood had some form of an absurd manmade religion rammed down their throats. Without any spiritual experience, they therefore, quite naturally after such an experience, insist that they do not believe in the God they were forced to believe in. Their only sad belief is in fallible and mortal man. Their only (tragic) hope is this life, this world, and the possibility that they may have long lives.

Those who strongly believe in God are also a minority, though a far larger minority than those who do not believe. This is because they believe because of a positive spiritual experience. Indeed, it is not so much that they believe in God, but that they know God. They are those who are conscious that God is and that without Him, we cannot exist. They do not believe in man (especially after the mass inhumanity towards man shown by the militant atheist ideologies of the twentieth century), they believe in infallible and immortal God. They know that they will die and they know that death will come when God wills (which is why we do not seek death of our own will).

The middle group are the majority. They are those who believe only weakly. We see them at church every Sunday. They are the ones who reappear after a year or two or more of absence because they have had some problem and need help. These are people who may live quite sinfully but when a difficulty appears, they turn back to God, Who, as they know, underpins reality and is always here, despite their sinful ways. Such people are often superstitious, they may believe in God as in a sort of magic, a kind of primitive animism. ‘Make the sign of the cross for good luck’. ‘Drink some holy water and the cancer will go away’.

On the negative side, such people often use God to justify any sort of evil and personal sin. (Obviously you would not use a base cause to justify base acts – use something noble, the noblest cause of all – God). For example in the First World War German soldiers wore a belt with the inscription ‘Gott mit uns’, ‘God is with us’, though they at the same time sang ‘Deutschland ueber alles’, ‘Germany above everything’, i. e, Germany is above God. And the English boasted that ‘God is an Englishman’. (Lately a Georgian priest told me that God only speaks Georgian, though I have heard similar nonsense from weak-faithed, flag-waving Greeks and Russians). This is just like contemporary Ukrainian fanatics, for whom ‘Ukraine is above all’. Such people can also use the concept of God to justify their personal fanatical beliefs or psychological perversions. Such was George Bush whom ‘God told’ to invade Iraq, leading to the deaths and mutilations of hundreds of thousands. Such also are Muslim terrorists. The concept of God is always used by sinners to justify their sins. This is, of course, not the work of God, but the work of man. Never believe those who claim that, ‘God told me’.

On the positive side, those who only weakly believe are also those whose lives may be changed by the present crisis. Bullied and intimidated by the atheist media, they have fallen into hysteria and panic as a result of a weak faith. This is the opportunity for them to pray and repent, as it is for all. This is the spiritual meaning of the present crisis.

Sadly, it now seems that there will be no public services at Easter. At best services will be livestreamed. This will be like Easter in the Soviet Union. With nearly all churches closed, people prayed at home.

At present this tragic epidemic has killed nearly 50,000 people worldwide (95% of them aged over 70). This is about 10% of the death toll caused by swine flu eleven years ago. However, this time it is Western countries which have been the most affected for the time being. Nobody knows what the coming weeks and months will bring. All we know is that this will end and that all is in God’s hands. Have faith.

 

 

St John of the Ladder and the Virus

Some are talking about the virus to the exclusion of everything else – and of far more important things. There is an obsession of depression and anxiety. If this is the case, turn off the so-called ‘news’. Let this not become a drug! The internet abounds with theories, no doubt because States have often lied to people throughout history with their ‘fake news’. Distrust is the normal attitude among many. Hence, social media are awash with conspiracy theories: that the origin of the virus was with the USA, China, Russia, the Rothschilds, Rockefeller, Gates, Soros, is a move to world government of oligarchs, or is some government conspiracy to kill off all elderly people because governments want to save money. Each theory grows more absurd and more paranoid than the next. In fact it is a waste of time speculating on its origin. That a Chinese man ate bat soup and the bat was infected, may be the best one. However, let us turn to facts.

There are at least 30,000 abortions throughout the world every day. This means every a million every month, twelve million every year, 120 million every decade….. The media do not even mention this. The virus is nothing like as bad as this.

Eight days ago we were one of only seven churches open in the whole of the UK. Now, with the ban on assemblies of people, the clergy and a singer celebrate the Divine Liturgy once a week behind closed doors and prepare the Holy Gifts, so that we can give communion and prepare communion for all those who wish to partake individually, whether in the church or at home.

Let us think of St John of the Ladder. In the Gospel we read for his feast yesterday, we read the story of how ‘this kind (of demon) can only be cast out by fasting and prayer’. Now no-one has forbidden us to fast and to pray. Why do some complain?!

St John wrote his book ‘The Ladder’ and explained that we can climb up to God step by step. And so it is. We do not enter Heaven suddenly within a few weeks or months, as some neophytes assert. All takes time and patience is the mother of virtues. And this virus will disappear, just as it appeared, step by step.

All Orthodox Christians can take communion by contacting our priests for confession and communion. And so individually we can proclaim Christ’s Resurrection, as St Basil the Great says in his canon at the Liturgy.

If Christ returns tomorrow, will we be ready for Him? Here is the real question, what we should be talking about. Let us battle to free ourselves from the virus of sin. Here is the one thing needful.

 

An Important Message from Athos

Святые отцы горы Афон призывают сегодня всех православных христиан сделать Крест на обратной стороне дверей домов. Если у Вас нет Креста, то можете его сделать пальцем, окнув его в оливковое масло. Это серьёзно, так как вчера был отслужен Параклис Божией Матери и эти указание были даны (открыты) самой Богородицей монахам на Святой Горе. 

The Fathers of Mt Athos call on all Orthodox Christians to make the Cross on the inside of the doors of their homes today. If you do not have a Cross, then you can make it with your finger dipped into (olive) oil. This is serious. Yesterday a service to the Mother of God was celebrated and this instruction was given/revealed by the Mother of God herself to monks on Mt Athos.

This message turned out to be not true, even though I had cross-checked it because I did think at the time that it seemed strange. But that is irrelevant. The message could do no harm (otherwise I would not have passed it on), but the message gave consolation and all who made the sign of the cross showed faith and hope. These are virtues. And God rewards those and He makes good out of fake messages from strange individuals.

Faith and Responsibility

The present coronavirus crisis has divided opinion. There is a minority who say that they do not fear anything and we should continue as usual. They look on those who follow government instructions to the letter as blind zombies, victims of government and media propaganda, who lack faith and believe too much in their own reason. For the majority, however, such people are just crazy and irresponsible conspiracy theorists who should be locked away, as dangerous to the public.

It seems to me that, as Christians, we should not fear. Faith does not fear. We do not fear death. We are not cowards. We have courage. However, on the other hand, all wise and reasonable precautions must be taken. To disobey the law is wrong. Irresponsibility must be condemned. And there is no contradiction between faith and responsibility. Over 90% of the victims of the virus are aged over 70. We may not feel that we are going to suffer. But this is pure selfishness. We can spread it! Think of others.

We should be praying especially for the elderly and the sick. Thus, for the moment there are hardly any victims in Africa, where there are few old people, but in Italy at present over 90% of victims are over 70 and there are hardly any victims under the age of 50. But also we should pray for those who are depressed and anxious, for those in big cities like London, where the situation is disturbing, unlike in the countryside and in small towns, where all is quiet. And also we should pray for the self-employed and disabled, who lack money, and those with children who live in flats. And also for the USA, where there is no health system for tens of millions and much homelessness and other diseases, and there may, God forbid, yet be large numbers of victims.

There is now a Facebook fashion of applauding heath workers at 8.00 pm. It would be better to pray. And on Mt Athos this evening (Friday 27 March) (beginning at 5.00 English time) begins an All-Night Vigil to the Mother of God and St Haralampius, whose relics have often delivered from epidemics. This is the evening is when at any time we should all pray, perhaps reading an akathist to the Mother of God. The world has forgotten that miracles can, depending in our faith, happen. We have not.

Akathists in Slavonic:

https://akafistnik.ru/god/akafist-pokrovu-presvyatoj-bogoroditsy/

http://akafistnik.ru/akafisty-svyatym/akafist-svyaschennomucheniku-kharlampiyu/

 

Akathists in English (We have substituted the akathist to St Panteleimon since, as far as we know, there is no translation as yet into English of the akathist to St Haralampy)

Akathist to the Protection of the Theotokos

https://www.akathists.com/saint-panteleimon/akathist/

Article Number 1200 on this Blog: Thanksgiving for April 2019 to April 2020

The Truth will set you free (John 8, 32)

A year ago, in 2019, there came to us revelation upon revelation amid the visit of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God. The rest of that year followed the same course, with great events, both in Church life and in personal life. The schism created by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Ukraine had become worldwide and that Patriarchate, with its adoption of many secular values, fell out of communion with the Russian Church. The positive result was the miraculous and long-awaited return of the Orthodox half (58% to be precise) of the Rue Daru Archdiocese from Constantinople to the Russian Church. This followed less than a year after the establishment of the Exarchate for the new Russian-speaking emigration to Western Europe, centred in Paris.

Another miracle took place when in July 2019, after more or less fifty years without a resident bishop in good health, our Diocese of the Church Outside Russia was at last received a resident Bishop Irenei, moreover with the title ‘of London’, which I had much encouraged, and ‘of Western Europe’, for which I had also been pleading for very many years. On the 35th anniversary of my ordination to serve at the altar, I gave thanks for this to the parish in front of Bishop Irenei when he visited us.

At this point, in early 2020, I had seen my many hopes of nearly half a century realised: The Saints of the Isles and other Western European Saints had been recognised by the Church and some included in the official calendar (despite the hostility of some); the Russian Church was One, as the Moscow Patriarchate was slowly becoming deMoscowised, that is de-Sovietised, which had allowed ROCOR to be in communion with the Patriarchate and the Rue Daru Archdiocese to return from schism to the Patriarchate; the Church had effectively been cleansed by the Phanariot schism; there was a Moscow-run Exarchate for the new generation in Western Europe and for the native Orthodox in the Isles and those who wished to integrate Western Europe but remain truly Orthodox; there was our own Bishop, whom I had had petitioned to be sent to us from the USA.; in Moscow an Orthodox missionary society dedicated to our very own St Felix of Felixstowe, Apostle of East Anglia, had been founded. On top of this, on 1 February 2020 the UK had refound its freedom, by leaving the insular EU straitjacket after 47 years.

Then my eldest son found a little church in Little Abington, between Cambridge and Haverhill, for sale. That was on Thursday 13 February 2020. I managed to view it inside the following Sunday afternoon and the day after that, 17 February, I received a loan to buy it. Two days before the Triumph of Orthodoxy, on 6 March, we heard that we had obtained it after an auction process. This was a miracle. Little Abington is seven miles to the south-east of Cambridge, where we had first searched for a church forty years before, in 1980, but had been let down by the powers that then were. This place was where three counties, Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, joined. It was the third church I had founded. (As someone said Colchester, Norwich and Cambridge made a triangle). The three churches were to represent unity in diversity. It was also near Cambridge, that centre of anti-Trinitarian theology, which we thus challenged.

On a personal level, I had known Little Abington almost all my life – it was on the very edge of all those villages, where for centuries my ancestors had been born, lived, worked and died. And all those villages, the Abingtons, Ridgwell, Hadstock, Bartlow, West Wratting, Shudy Camps, Castle Camps, Great Chesterford, Steeple Bumpstead, Helions Bumsptead, Sturmer, Kedington, Withersfield, Stambourne, Baythorn End, Hundon, their names poetry and music to me, were all haunted not by the cold conceits of atheist Cambridge, but by the humble martyr St Edmund. Clearly, there would have to be an icon of him on the iconostasis as THE local saint. Moreover, the church here was a church that had belonged for 100 years, since it had been built, to waht is now called the Non-Conformist ‘United Reformed Church’. This was a Protestant group to which many of my local forbears had belonged.

When, by the grace of God, we obtained the church, someone said that ‘at last Fr Andrew has been unleashed’. I had been frustrated for over thirty years before Colchester had come in 2008, Norwich in 2015 and now Little Abington in 2020. The three churches were all very different, but united in our One Faith. There is justice; we had overcome our anti-missionary enemies, and there were so many of them who had not wanted a church here, through forty years of patience.

Glory to God for all things!

 

The Churched, The unChurched, Consumerism and Holy Communion

The Church has always been composed of the Churched and the unChurched, those who fear nothing and those who are fair-weather Christians only. However, these two groups, the former always being smaller than the latter, are not two separate groups, with no passages from one to the other. We are saved together. For all those who are Churched were once unChurched, as there is no such thing as ‘a cradle Orthodox’, though some persist in saying such falsity. And all who are unChurched may one day become Churched. Thus, I can say as a parish priest that most of my Churched parishioners were relatively recently unChurched and have been Churched only over the last twelve years.

This is why we reject any form of censorious and condemning phariseeism on the part of the Churched, a kind of Protestant ‘I have already been saved and you have not’ attitude. Similarly, we also reject both the excesses of over the top ‘neophytism’ and lax, anything-goes liberalism on the part of the unChurched. The Churched and the unChurched together combination is spiritually beneficial. On the one hand, the unChurched help prevent temptations of phariseeism and ‘ghettoism’ among the Churched. On the other hand, the Churched protect the unChurched from the twofold temptations of ‘convertitis’, zeal not according to knowledge, or a falling back into the worldly baggage with which the unChurched first came.

Much has been written for the unChurched, especially by authors of the Russian Diaspora. Surrounded by Non-Orthodox and Orthodox who knew very little, as intellectuals, philosophers and artists, they wrote for the educated in order to explain themselves. Such, for example, were the interesting books by Metr Antony (Bloom), Metr Kallistos (Ware), Fr Alexander Schmemann, Fr John Meyendorff and Fr Sophrony Sakharov, among many others. They were good at doing this because most of them came themselves from unChurched, though highly intellectual, rationalistic and wealthy, even aristocratic, backgrounds, with hardly any real experience of the inner Church.

Thus Metr Antony had been an atheist, Metr Kallistos an Anglican, Fr Sophrony had lapsed as a young man into Hinduism with its ashrams and mantras, and, by their bourgeois pianos, Fr Alexander and Fr John had little concept of ascetic and monastic life. Such writers give a very introduction to the Church for the University-educated. Once the contents of their books have been understood, however, we can move on from the ‘starters’ which they provide to the main course, the serious food, the food for the soul, not for the brain, the food of the saints and  the martyrs.

Today the secular baggage which the unChurched of all nationalities (we live in a globalised world) bring often contains a magical attitude towards the Church, that of consumerism. For them what the Church provides can be selected, just as people selects products from supermarket shelves. Of course, this is wrong: the Church comes as a whole package; you cannot choose one thing against another. When we go into the forest, we do not look just at one tree in isolation, we look at the whole forest. This consumerist attitude also implies a magical attitude towards holy communion. Holy communion is not a panacea, which automatically cleanses. It is effective only if we prepare for it, confess for it, dress properly and modestly in church, and live in the Church, live in Christ. The Church is a whole, it is Life, not a hobby or an ‘add-on’, it is everything.

 

 

Coronavirus Again

Today, like every day, some 350,000 children will be born into the world and 150,000 people will die, among them some hundreds, mainly elderly or already seriously ill, from coronavirus. Whatever happens in the coming months, whether, despite all the media hype, the virus soon peaks as in China, though leaving tragically many thousands with their lives shortened, or if it does indeed become a worldwide tragedy in which several million will die, three things may happen.

Economic

Economically, this could be the beginning of the end of consumerism, that is, the worship or idolatry of things (materialism). This would mean the start of a new way of life of self-limitation, as the Russian writer Solzhenitsyn, horrified by Western consumerism, called for nearly fifty years ago. Certainly, such a new moderation of consumption will be welcomed by all who put the spirit above matter.

Political

Some politicians, seeing how they can control the masses with the help of manipulative media may be tempted to curtail freedoms more permanently. This is already clear in Western European countries of Roman Catholic culture with their dictatorial states. A global concentration camp may be possible – what a temptation for some – control, mass hysteria induced by the thought police media.

Spiritual

Some are already suffering from paranoia and depression as a result of hysteria and panic created in all the Western and Westernised countries of the world. Why should this tragic virus not be a call to repentance? Could it develop into the end of the Western illusion of consumerism in post-Soviet Russia? Even before the Revolution the prophets foretold that salvation would come from China.

What can we say, except that all is possible and that any more speculation is a waste of precious time? Much depends on us being responsible, but all is in God’s hands.

Questions and Answers from Correspondence (December 2019 – February 2020)

The Church and the Outside World

Q: Do we need a Westless world?

A: That is both meaningless and impossible. What we need is a world in which the Western world has been restored to Orthodoxy through repentance and so to spiritual purity. What we need is a sinless world.

Q: I feel scandalised by the kow-towing of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the US State Department and its introduction of more meddling politics into Orthodox Church life, causing schism. I am so upset that I feel like abandoning the Church.

A: The Church, starting with its hierarchy, has always been the victim of politicians, who often appointed their friends and cronies as bishops – quite uncanonically. First it was pagan Roman Emperors with their allies, anti-Christian Jews, then it was pagan Persians, then pseudo-Christian Popes of Rome, then pseudo-Christian Emperors, then the Ottomans, then pseudo-Christian Russo-German rulers, then the Western Colonial Powers, then nationalism, Western materialists, Capitalist or Marxist, and today the politico-financial elite based in the USA, who persecute the Church.

There is nothing new here. One of the Twelve was called Judas and there will always be judases amongst us. Remember the famous response of St Basil the Great to the Emperor Valens in Caesarea in 371, who had demanded the theological submission of St Basil, who flatly refused. The imperial prefect expressed astonishment at Basil’s defiance, to which Basil replied, ‘Perhaps you have never met a real bishop before.’

Thus, only recently the Church Outside Russia had to be completely independent of the Church inside Russia, so as to remain free of bishops there who were subjugated to the KGB. Now – and actually for many decades – we have Greek bishops subjugated to the CIA. So what? We will continue to operate independently of all those who have sold their souls for a mess of pottage. The Church lives thanks to the Saints and the prophetic voices of those who actually believe and implement their Faith, who remain independent of their ‘diplomatic’ compromises and their anti-Gospel and anti-missionary ‘protocols’.

Yes, you would be quite wrong to abandon the Church. You do not abandon Christ. That would be to do exactly what the apostate bishops do. And you can always tell who they are by their refusal to venerate the saints. Just as they despised St Seraphim of Sarov, ‘a dirty peasant’, and persecuted and exiled St Nectarios of Egina (so loved by St John of Shanghai), who should have been Patriarch of Alexandria but consorted with Non-Greek ‘blacks’ whom he wanted to bring to Christ, so in the old Soviet Union they refused to canonise the New Martyrs and Confessors. And so it is today. The compromised hate the saints because the saints are not of this world – whereas they are of this world. The world hates the spiritual. Our Lord told the disciples this: as it hated Him, so it would hate them too. Our attitude to the saints is the touchstone of whether we belong to the Church or not.

Beware of bishops who are ideology-driven, head-driven, and not love-driven, heart-driven. Ideologies come not only from outside, from the State (money and power), but also from inside, from the passions and delusions that in turn come from the passions, or from both.

Q: How do you recognise someone who had been KGB-trained? Someone told me that a person who tried to become a parishioner in our parish in the USA told me that he could recognise KGB training in her.

A: There were three stages to their training. In the first stage they try and bribe you with presents to get you on side. If this does not work, they go on to the next stage, which is flattery: ‘everyone has his price’, as they say. They find someone’s weak spot and flatter it. If these two stages do not work, then they turn to the third stage, which means turning nasty. This involves slandering their victims and then denouncing them.

Sadly, some of our bishops have fallen to these tactics through naivety. However, I have been told that Western spy services use the same techniques. The KGB had no monopoly on cunning and nastiness. I am sure that it was the same in Ancient Rome.

Q: A friend told me the following: ‘Protestants follow the Bible; Roman Catholics follow the Pope of Rome; Orthodox follow the Holy Spirit’. What do you think of this definition?

A: Well, Protestants do not follow the Bible. If they did, they would be Orthodox. As regards the Roman Catholics, I think I would agree with you. As for the Orthodox, I think this is very idealistic. It would be more exact to say ‘Orthodox should follow the Holy Spirit’. There are an awful lot of Orthodox who do not, including time-serving clergy and a number among the episcopate who are fonder of money and power than of Christ. The proof? If all Orthodox did follow the Holy Spirit, there would be no Protestants or Roman Catholics; all would be Orthodox.

Q: Why are Evangelicals so moralistic and violently anti-LGBT? And why do they seem to give unconditional support to Zionist Jews and yet are very anti-Muslim?

A: They are moralistic because moralism is all that is left once spirituality has been removed and been lost. This is how Puritanism began in the sixteenth century. Today, among Protestants this has created a world where everything is geared to ‘fun and comfort’, to Disney life, and not to ascetic life. As for their support for Zionist Jews and hatred for the Zionists’ enemies, the Muslims, we should remember that Evangelicals, despite their name, are very much concentrated on the Old Testament. For instance, it was Jewish bankers in the Netherlands who financed the very expensive Civil Wars of Cromwell. Jews have always supported Protestants against Catholics and Orthodox. ‘Divide and rule’. The Pharisees were after all also moralists.

Wherever there is liberalism, modernism and atheism, you will also find moralism. This because wherever there is no spirituality, moralism rules. As a result, this moralism is always hypocritical because you cannot be moral if you do not have any spirituality. There was nothing so moralistic as Soviet Communism. You find the same hypocritical moralism in Socialist parties (e. g. the Labour Party in Britain) or among modernist ‘Orthodox’.

Q: What spiritual dangers do you think are the worst in today’s world?

A: It seems to me that there are three principal dangers: phariseeism, modernism and fatalism. The first means the spirit of ritualism, formalism, nominalism, in other words, of idolatry. The second is the spirit of aping the Western secularist world in its modernist and ‘liberal’ renunciation of Christ, in other words, the loss of the sense of the sacred due to materialism. The third is the spirit which says, let us abandon everything, there is nothing more we can do, there is no hope, the end is coming anyway, in other words, the abandonment of responsibility. All three dangers are in fact inspired by Satan, as they all play into his hands.

Inside the Church

Q: Why is safeguarding so little talked about in Orthodox churches?

A: Simply because pedophilia is extremely rare in the Orthodox Civilisation of the Church; it nearly always comes from the outside Western world, from Western culture. In Orthodoxy, in principle, we have married clergy in the parishes. (There are exceptions, but they are abnormal). Pedophilia among so-called Christians comes from the craze for clerical celibacy, which attracts perverts to paid jobs. I have in the last fifty years heard of only seven cases in the Orthodox Church worldwide, two in the USA, one in Australia, two in the old Soviet Union, and one in France and one in Canada (both by former Anglicans).

Having said that, in our diocese we do have an up-to-date safeguarding policy. In any public institution we have to protect our children from outsiders who may want to prey on them.

Q: Why do Orthodox insist on kneeling on Sundays despite the canon against it?

A: Your refer to Canon XX of the First Universal Council, repeated elsewhere. Many kneel because we are Orthodox, that is, because we are often unworthy to stand before God. Let us not be attached to convert pride.

Q: Should we read the so-called ‘secret prayers’ aloud?

A: Rationalists (Schmemannites, Archbp Paul of Finland and the whole semi-Protestant Parisian School from where they come, with its lack of sense of the sacred, which is both its essence and its bane), will tell you that they must be read aloud so that ‘the people can understand’. This is a classic piece of clericalism! Do they really think that they, with their ‘superior education’, or anyone else, can understand how bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ?! However, for us, the most important thing is the mystical aspect of the ‘sacramental prayers’ (‘secret prayers’ is really a mistranslation). The way clergy read these prayers must inspire prayerfulness, the mystical sense. Shouting them out like some sort of academic text is totally inappropriate.

Q: What is most necessary for converts?

A: I think it is spiritual sensitivity. This is the only way of being able to distinguish between fraud and authenticity.

Q: How do we approach our patron saints?

A: We should live their lives insofar as it is possible. It is interesting that Nicholas and Maria are probably the most popular names for Orthodox and it is the spirit of St Nicholas that exists strongly among many Orthodox men and the spirit of the Mother of God among many Orthodox women.

Q: What do you think of the books ‘The Way of a Pilgrim’ and ‘The Pilgrim Continues His Way’?

A: I think like a lot of literature read almost only by neophytes, they can be dangerous. They fill the head with fantasies, instead of with sobriety. Convert literature belongs to the ‘Symeon-Silouan-Seraphim’ (favourite convert names) school of convertitis and makes the naïve and inexperienced think they are already saints and know better than those with decades of experience in reality.

Q: Why are spires not used in Orthodox architecture?

A: Because we believe in the Incarnation. Spires point skywards to a lost God. God is not lost among us, but is incarnate. Orthodox architecture says that heaven is on earth, inside the church, which contains heaven (inside the iconostasis) and earth (in the nave). This is why domes, cupolas and caps are used – they point to God inside the church building, present in the sacraments.

Q: Should we keep Valentine’s Day? He was after all an Orthodox martyr.

A: St Valentine of Terni is commemorated on 14/27 February. Hs association with love etc is simply because of the pagan Italian custom of keeping that day as the first day of spring, when the birds and the bees begin. The commemoration of St Valentine with this day is thus completely coincidental. So this custom is extra-liturgical, though it goes back a long way, probably over 2,000 years, and in this country both Chaucer and Shakespeare mention it, so it is not a piece of modern commercialism like so much else.

Should we keep it? I think this is a purely personal matter, like keeping New Year’s Eve or Boxing Day, or any other secular, but not spiritually negative (unlike Hallowe’en), celebration. I am sure that the average Orthodox woman would be glad of some extra attention on this day, but there is no obligation at all from the Church.

Q: Do we bless candles at the Feast of the Presentation, the Meeting of the Lord, on 2/15 February?

A: This is a purely Roman Catholic custom, adopted in Belarus and the Western Ukraine under Roman Catholic influence, but there is a prayer on the Great Book of Needs for blessing candles on this day. Personally, I can see no need for it, unless the faithful ask for it. It is unknown to the older and more Eastern Orthodox world, though it is harmless in itself.

Q: Is the story that St Simon the Zealot came to Britain true? This is what it says: ‘He arrived in Britain in 60 AD and was crucified on 10 May the next year by the Roman Catus Decianus in Caistor, now in Lincolnshire’.

A: People sometimes ask me for the map reference to St Simon’s holy well near the River Cover in Yorkshire. This is in Coverdale between the villages of West Scrafton and Caldbergh, near where he is supposed to have lived (grid reference SE 086 849, Ordnance Survey sheet 99). However, Orthodox Tradition proclaims unanimously that St Simon was martyred in Abkhazia by the Black Sea. So possibly he visited Britain (as also to many other places), but he was not martyred here. The problem is also that the British tradition of his martyrdom here is very late, I think thirteenth century. I think it is more likely that crusader-pillagers brought back a small relic of him and left it in Caistor and perhaps, north of it, in Coverdale. This is similar to the case of St Joseph of Arimathea and Glastonbury.

Q: What Orthodox name would you give to someone called Lynn?

A: Angelina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q and A from Correspondence in November 2019

The Orthodox Church

Q: Two questions:

1. The Orthodox world has been in crisis since Crete. A schism now separates the Russian Orthodox Church and others from the Greek Churches, which are one by one falling away. What do you think is the answer?

2. Constantinople has been canonizing a number of elders on Mt Athos. What should our attitude be when we know that Patriarch Bartholomew is schismatic?

A: Two answers:

1. As the Phanariot schism spreads from the Ukraine to the Diaspora, Greece, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Czech Republic and Latvia, recruiting the marginal semi-Orthodox liberals, modernists and homosexuals on the way, the quick answer is to say: ‘Stand firm!’, and to those who have fallen away: ‘Repent!’. But this repentance and standing firm also concerns parts of the Russian Church.

I think the Russian Church must show that it is not in any way compromised or practises double standards. It can do this by proving in theology and in practice that it wholeheartedly rejects the three heretical isms which have so troubled the peace of the Church for over a century: modernism and ecumenism (adopted from the Protestant world) and Eastern Papism (adopted from the Vatican). It cannot reject any of these without first renouncing its membership of the Protestant World Council of Churches and renouncing what some see as the hypocritical diplomatic compromises it has made with the Vatican – Western Papism.

In renouncing modernism, ecumenism and Eastern Papism, the Russian Church can consequently support the Orthodox calendar and offer its services in mediating between Local Churches which use the Papal (so-called ‘new’) calendar and those who wish to return to the Orthodox calendar, including old calendarist groups, so helping to heal needless schisms. In this way it can show that it is at the centre of healthy forces in the wider Orthodox Church, that it fights for the piety and purity of Holy Orthodoxy.

2. I fear that as long as only a schismatic, and now a heretic (as his publicly-expressed opinions about Catholicism which brought Athonite monks to tears are heretical), has canonized them, I do not think we can accept them as saints. Whatever our feelings of veneration for them, a schismatic, with whose views these elders would never have agreed, cannot canonize. A decision will be taken once he has gone and a canonical Patriarch has taken over.

Q: What do you think is the most important task for the Orthodox episcopate today?

A: The episcopate must learn to love, care for and show understanding of priests and deacons, avoiding causing injustices.

Q: What do you consider to be the most important question for any Orthodox in the Diaspora?

A: I believe that this question is: Does my Faith export? In other words, is my Faith accessible to those who are not of my national background? If the answer to this question is ‘No’, then you can be sure that your Faith will die out. This is because if it is not accessible to those who are not of your national background, then it will also be inaccessible to your Diaspora-born children and grandchildren.

Orthodox Teaching

Q: Why do Orthodox refuse to allow cremations?

A: The central belief of the Orthodox Church is in the Resurrection of Christ, as is expressed in the Church Year and in the words of the funeral service itself. So, for us, to deliberately burn up someone’s body is to deny the Resurrection. Therefore, for us, someone who wants their body to be cremated is saying that they have lapsed from the Church. They are no longer Orthodox.

Q:  I have a problem with the so-called Mowgli question. If little children have grown up in total isolation or even were nursed by wild animals they can’t integrate human life at all, they behave like animals and can’t learn any human skills etc. What is with their souls then? Where is this ‘spark’ of God and the image of God in them?

A: Just as a baby’s body is primitive compared to an adult’s body, so is its soul, undeveloped, inexperienced, untrained. Thus, on the one hand, it has innocence and purity, on the other hand, no experience of reality and is totally unable to survive without interaction with adults, firstly, primarily, its mother.

This is why small children are so attracted to animals, especially young ones, kittens, puppies etc. They have no immortal souls, but they do have innocence and instincts.

Feral children, adopted by wolves and others, do not get this attention, and often remain with untrained souls, almost, we could say, feral souls. Like animals, they often have only instincts to guide them.

The soul has to be trained and educated. This is true also for adults. It is why we have spiritual fathers, monasteries etc.

Russia and the Russian Church

Q: Two questions: First: Why did Patriarch Kyrill call President Putin a miracle? After all, Putin called the fall of the Soviet Union a catastrophe, which it surely was not. Second: Are you an optimist or a pessimist regarding the future of the Russian Church?

A: President Putin is indeed a miracle, but only relatively, in comparison with the monsters who went before him since 1917. That is the context in which Patriarch Kyrill was talking. And in that context you cannot but agree. Clearly, however, President Putin has many failings. He has failed to root out corruption and to remove the many relics of evil Communism. He can therefore only be a transitory figure. His long reign has only come about because so far the country has not been worthy of finding anyone better. He will be followed either by better or by worse. I do not know which, but I hope for the best.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was indeed a geopolitical catastrophe – millions died as a result from becoming refugees from unjust borders, from the collapse of industry, the closure of factories and mass unemployment leading to starvation, the collapse of the medical system, from despair and suicide, often a slow suicide through alcoholism, as alcohol had become the only consolation for tens of millions after the Soviet system. All this went unreported in the West because the West was partly responsible for it.

Yes, of course this does not mean that we do not rejoice that the evil tyranny of the Soviet Union is over, but its collapse was still a geopolitical catastrophe because of the totally unjust way in which it collapsed, the absurd borders of various Republics, the civil wars that followed and are still going on nearly 30 years later and the massive organized theft of public assets by so-called ‘oligarchs’, which followed the collapse.

There was one incredibly grave error made by the Soviet Union, for whose Stalinist tyranny many older Russian people are actually nostalgic, such is their nationalism but also the unpleasantness of many present-day aspects of life in Russia. This grave error of the Soviet Union was that it thought, like Stalin (and like all imperialists throughout history), that a great empire is not spiritual, but geographical. (Stalin had no concept of the spiritual). And until the Church has been rebuilt inside Russia, there can be no spiritual empire of Russia. So, what can we say about the Russian Orthodox Church today?

First of all, the Russian Church is fully independent of the Russian State, despite the ridiculous propaganda claims of Western politicians and journalists. But that does not mean that the Church does not suffer from the human failings of members of the clergy who put their own careers and personalities above Christ, just as they did in the times of the Soviet Union. This hangover from the past, ‘a Soviet reflex’, is a great problem.

Firstly, what is desperately needed by the Russian Church is the restoration of parish life, which was wiped out by atheism after 1917 (and it was already often weak before the Revolution). This restoration must be led by real pastors, not money-money careerists. The parish is a family, if it is anything at all. Here the experience of the Russian emigration can be helpful. The financial affairs of parishes must be transparent – and they are not at all at present inside Russia.

Secondly, as for the monasteries and the episcopate, they require real monks, neither mere intellectuals and wishy-washy diplomats with meaningless doctorates, nor the feudal and the jealous, who persecute zealous and happily-married clergy. Only reforms here will put an end to Church bureaucracy, to ‘managers’ and ‘administrators’ in the place of loving pastor-bishops.

So I am neither a pessimist nor an optimist. Let us wait and see.

The Ukraine

Q: Why should the Ukraine not have its own national Church? Russia, Romania, Greece and others do, even a little country like Albania does.

A: The short answer is because the vast majority of Ukrainian Orthodox do not want one!

On another level, there are two reasons why not, one is theological-ecclesiological, the other is political.

1. As we have said in a previous answer elsewhere, there are two alien trends in the Church – neither is Orthodox, but have been imposed from outside or by traitors from inside. The first is the centralist concept of one Universal Church, with its deified leader placed above all others, in fact replacing Christ. This is Papist Catholicism and among Orthodox this mentality has been absorbed and adopted from the fallen First Rome only by today’s Constantinople. The second centrifugal trend comes from Protestant nationalism, according to which every national ruler must have and control his own erastian national and nationalist Church (as in England, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark etc).

It is this very recent 19th and 20th century trend that has led to small minorities of Orthodox in Poland and Czechoslovakia, Albania, Greece, and also countries like Romania and Bulgaria, having their own national Churches, which is not necessarily normal. The trend is now being spread and propagandized by local xenophobes in Macedonia, Montenegro and the Ukraine, funded by the US State Department whose slogan is ‘Divide and Rule’, just like the old pagan Roman Empire, on which the US administration is closely modelled. This is a rejection of the Christian (= Orthodox) Theology of the Holy Trinity, which says ‘unity in diversity’ and is confederative in style.

2. The second reason is that only a real country could have its own Church in any case. The Ukraine, like for example Belgium (invented by Great Britain after the Napoleonic Wars), is not a real country, having been thought up by the Hapsburgs at the end of the 19th century. Their fantasy was then implemented by four of the most monstrous and genocidal atheist dictators in history, Communist and Fascist: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Khrushchov.

If the Ukraine wants its own Church, it must first of all carry out referenda all over the Ukraine to determine whether the peoples who live there (only about 20% speak various dialects of ‘Ukrainian’ or rather Galician) actually want to belong to the Ukraine. Probably 50% + would vote to join Russia, which they belonged to until 1922 and others would join Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland. Then you could ask the remainder whether they wanted their own Church. Perhaps they would want a Uniat one anyway – though the centralist Vatican would never grant it independence because Roman Catholics, like the centralist Phanariots, do not do independence.

In general, the mere concept that each country must have its own national Church comes from petty nationalist provincialism and isolationist xenophobia. Nationalism is anyway simply an attachment to this world, worldliness. It merely provides ammunition for those who want to exploit in order to divide and rule, as today in the Ukraine, which is a puppet of the US State Department. The First Rome fell to Catholicism (Latin nationalism) and later to Protestantism (Germanic nationalism). The Second Rome fell to Greek nationalism, which had already helped cause Egypt and Syria to fall away from the Church into their national heresies. Will the Third Rome fall to Russian nationalism? We hope not, because a Fourth Rome there will not be.

As we have said elsewhere, our Orthodox ecclesiological model is the Holy Trinity, Unity in Diversity, the Family, the Multinational Confederation. I can see no reason why, rather as in the old Pentarchy of the first millennium (covering the three Continents of Asia, Africa and Europe), we should not have Continental or, in the case of Eurasia which is Multi-Civilizational, Regional Local Churches. For example, we could end up with thirteen Local Churches, presided over by Jerusalem. As we have said elsewhere, these could be:

For Eurasia: the Jerusalem, the Russian (including the present Polish and Czechoslovak Churches, which were artificially hived off from the then captive Russian Church by Constantinople in order to weaken it, as it is also doing in Estonia and the Ukraine today), the Antiochian (covering the territory of the Asian Muslim world), the South-East European or Constantinopolitan (including the Romanian, Serbian, Greek, Bulgarian, Cypriot, Albanian and Constantinopolitan), the Western European, the Chinese, the Indian, the South-East Asian and the Japanese. The Continental Churches would be: The African (the Alexandrian), the North American, the Latin American and the Oceanian.

Moldova

Q: Why does Russia not return Moldova to Romania?

A: As we have already replied in an earlier such question, it cannot, because Moldova does not belong to Russia!

As you know, for most of the last 200 years Moldova (Bessarabia) has been part of the Russian Empire and then of the Soviet Union. It belonged to the Russian Empire because it was the Russian Empire, which freed it from the Turks before Romania ever existed. As you will also know ‘Romania’, even the very word, is an invention of a German Saxon. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova has been an independent country and has not wished to become part of Romania. Moldovans – and I have been to Moldova – tell me that there are three reasons for this.

Firstly, they say that their grandparents told them the horror stories of the interwar period when Moldova was a province of Romania, especially about the Romanian Fascist treatment of minorities. The experience was not good. Secondly, they tell me that although Moldova is corrupt, Romania is far more corrupt, as we can see from the recent mass demonstrations in Bucharest against corruption in the Romanian government. Thirdly, Church Moldovans are horrified by the simony, new calendar, ecumenism and general decadence which have penetrated parts of the Romanian Church.

This question is of course in any case one for Moldovans and has nothing to do with Russia. If Moldovans want to become part of Romania, they can. But I suspect that this will not happen until Romania has become democratic, prosperous and not corrupt. At present Romania is shrinking fast, as the young move abroad for work and choose to live in countries where corruption is not the norm. I think the ball is in Romania’s court. If it wants to attract Moldova, it must present a different and attractive face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions and Answers (October 2019)

Q: How should we react to the many stories throughout history, but especially today, of clerical corruption, for example, of priests stealing money, committing crimes and bishops who are morally corrupt or perverts etc?

A: Firstly, many of these stories may well be slanders. How do we know that they are true? Where is the proof? A lot of people (especially atheistic journalists) invent such stories in order to justify their own corruption and laziness, saying: ‘If priests and bishops do it, then I can too’. It is so often just self-justification and it is very easy to slander. Such slanders do great harm. Let us not forget how St Nectarios of Aegina was slandered and how St John was slandered by his fellow-bishops who put him on trial. The righteous need the patience of Job.

But even if all such stories were true, so what? Corruption is the problem of those who are corrupt. Tomorrow they will die and their bodies will rot in their graves and their souls will go down to hell. Let them do their worst – they will suffer terribly for it and their names will go down in history as the monsters they are. They will have to answer for their corruption at the Last Judgement.

God only wants one thing from us, to save our own souls, not to save the world or to save corrupt bishops and priests, but just to save ourselves. Let us do simply that and leave the others in their self-made mess. They will either repent or else will have to face God, Who is not mocked. I tremble for them.

Let us interest ourselves not in scandalous stories, but in real stories, in the Lives of the Saints.

Q: Some people say that all the problems of Orthodox come from others, for example, from Communists, Catholics or Jews. Do you agree?

A: No, this is complete nonsense. The problems of Orthodox come from Orthodox, from ourselves. The grave error of all conspiracy theories is that they blame others for our own failures. They reject the concept and reality of personal sin. This is anti-Christian. Yes, there are many siren voices who urge us to shipwreck. True, they are all enemies of Christ (whom, by the way, we are called on to love, not to hate), but there is no need to listen to such voices. If we do listen to them and obey them, then we become the enemies of Christ, we are entirely to blame, responsible for rejecting Christ, instead of rejecting the siren voices. We do not blame others, we blame ourselves. That is called Christianity. Self-reproach is the beginning of salvation.

Q: Why after 1917 did the White Movement fail and not defeat Communism, the Reds?

A: Simply because there was no such thing as the ‘White Movement’. Most so-called Whites were merely anti-Bolsheviks, not White at all, but February revolutionaries, Kerenskyites. Just because they were against Communism, it does not at all mean they were ‘White’. Many, perhaps most, so-called ‘White’ anti-Communists, were crude nationalists and atheists, so in fact traitors to the real Whites. Many were no better than the Reds and indeed committed the same atrocities. This is an excellent example of ‘the enemies of my enemies are not necessarily my friends’. It has been estimated that only 10% of the so-called Whites were actually White, that is, actually Orthodox, fighting for the restoration of Orthodox government. Yudenich, Kornilov, Kolchak, Denikin and so many well-known generals were not White – after all, the Tsar was brought down by the treason of generals. The only well-known Generals who were White were Diterichs and, to a lesser extent, Wrangel.

Q: Is today’s Russia close to being Orthodox?

A: No, it still has very far to go. For example, there is always the danger both from Western-style ‘liberals’ (militant atheists) as well as from unChurched nationalists. It is because of them all that Lenin’s mummy still lies in its stew in the centre of Moscow. Statues to him still stand in provincial Russian towns. (Just like the statues of the equally evil Cromwell and Napoleon, which defile England and France). You cannot glorify the New Martyrs and the new torturers, God and the devil. Many such unChurched nationalist ‘Orthodox’ also still admire the Georgian bandit and mass-murderer Stalin. Why?

This is simply because he was on the winning side in World War II. In reality, that war was won by the generals and above all the sacrifices of the people, not by the disastrous Communists, who shot brave soldiers in the back and in 1945 sent millions of freed Russians, who had been captured by the Nazis, to Siberia, to perish there. Stalin was a disastrous and incompetent leader who allowed the enemy to get to the gates of Moscow and Saint Petersburg within six months. Thus, nearly 30 million citizens of the USSR were slaughtered in World War II under Stalin, whereas under Tsar Nicholas II in World War I just over one million died and the Germans had only conquered Russian Poland and a small part of Lithuania after three years of huge losses for them. As for the Austro-Hungarians and Turks in World War I, they were defeated by Russia.

And then there are still many place names of those like Lenin, Stalin, Sverdlov and others who committed the obscenities of the USSR. President Putin has been unable to undo all this and that is clearly his greatest failure.

Q: What does the Church say about racism?

A: The Pharisees said that too many ‘foreign’ Greeks had become Christians and this was one of the reasons they refused to become Christians. Thus they lost the Church which passed into the hands of others. All nationalities have committed the same error and so lost the Church, in 1453 and most recently in 1917. There is no place for racism in the Church.

Those who were racist to me in my youth are all dead now. Let that be a warning.

Q: Are some nationalities privileged in the Church?

A: Sadly, often yes. But this always ends up badly, as we can see in ROCOR in Miami today, not to mention several other places.

Q: How do we avoid negativity?

A: By focusing on Christ and the saints. However, this does not mean that we should be dreamers and live in the clouds, like those who do not want to know about the real world. Such people call those who tell them the truth ‘negative’. Such dreamers never achieve anything, however much money they are given by the deluded, as they are disincarnate.

Q: Can ordinary Greeks take communion in our Russian churches?

A: Yes, of course, I give them communion every Sunday. Ordinary members of the Patriarchate of Constantinople are not directly concerned by the actions of their treasonous elite. But I now make a habit of asking Greeks who are unknown to me whether they are actually Orthodox or Eastern Catholics (‘Eastern Papists’) at the confession which is obligatory for adults before communion. As the Ukrainian Archbishop Theodosy of Boyarka has said:

‘Orthodoxy versus ‘Phanarodoxy’ runs as a line not just between Churches, but within the Local Churches themselves; that is, between the ascetics of faith and zealots of the canons of Orthodoxy on the one hand, and ecumenists, religious liberals and Greek ethnophyletists on the other hand. And if, by God’s intervention and admonition, the Phanariots – the new Papists – do not come to understand the Truth and come to repentance, then such a global division between Orthodoxy and ‘Phanarodoxy’ is wholly possible and not far off. But in that case, the Orthodox Church will only be cleansed of a foreign element, of new heresies.

If we are speaking about a schism between individual Local Orthodox Churches within their borders as a consequence of the current inter-Orthodox situation, then theoretically, unfortunately, even this is possible. And by human reasoning, everything is leading to this. But I hope the Lord will not allow this, otherwise, the prophecies of the saints, including of recent times, would have said a lot about it. But they did not. On the contrary, they spoke otherwise, saying a lot that inspires optimism. I believe the Lord will correct the situation with such circumstances so that over time, Orthodox will only remember with a smile the miniscule but proud heresy of Eastern Papism, which will by then have sunk into oblivion’.

Q: What is the most urgent need for Orthodox in Western Europe?

A: I can tell you now that it is NOT writing books about ‘Orthodox’ philosophical theories of ‘spirituality’ and academic theology, where the authors describe what they do not do and cannot provide. Our most urgent need is premises, parish churches. The RCs and C of E have them and they are fully equipped, with Church halls and clergy houses. Why can’t Orthodox do that? Shame on us.