Category Archives: Pastoral Matters

Why is he more successful than me?

Here is a question that we sometimes hear. Immediately, it suggests jealousy. Why else would someone ask such a question, if they were not jealous of someone else? Jealousy is a terrible thing because it if you are jealous, it not only makes others feel bad, but it also makes you feel bad. But, if we think about it, what a strange question it is.

Whatever do we mean by success? Does it mean having a lot of money, a big house and a fancy car? If it does, I am not interested. After all, Christ did not have any of those things. As a matter of fact, he did not have any money, or a house or a car.

I think that a much more interesting question is: Why is he happier than me? I find this question interesting because it seems to me that happiness is much more important than success. Why?

Well, first of all, only a few people are ever going to be rich and have big houses and fancy cars. That is just a fact of life. Secondly, I have met such people and none of them seemed particularly happy to me. For example, I know a lady who is a millionaire. She is miserable. And I will tell you an English saying: she is so miserable that she is ‘as miserable as sin’. That’s a saying that we should think about. Oh, I’m sure that there are some people who are rich and ‘successful’ who are also happy. It is just that I have never met any of them.

On the other hand, I know a lot of people who are happy, but they are not rich and successful. They have very ordinary jobs, most of them rent a house or a flat, some of them don’t even have a car. So they are not really ‘successful’. So what makes them happy? It can’t be their age, because they are all ages, between 9 months and 90 years, it can’t be that they are men or women because they are both, it can’t be their nationality because they come from many different countries and it can’t be because they are married or single because they are both. So what is happiness?

Well, I’ve thought a lot about it and I have come to this conclusion. It seems to me that they are happy because they are content with what they have. They are content with it because they say to themselves: ‘This is what I have and I am going to make the best of it’.

For instance, I often visit people in prison. Now that is not a place where you want to be. I say this to the prisoners: ‘You are in a bad place. So how are you going to survive? You’re going to survive by making the best of it, by using prison as an opportunity to find good and do good. Prison’s your opportunity to prepare the rest of your life for after you get out. It’s a university of life’.

Life is what we make of it. We all know that there are good things and bad things in life. All we have to do to be happy is to look for the good things. We should not even make success into our aim. We should make being contented with what we have inside us and what we can do with it into our aim. Then we shall be happy. But if we spend our lives wanting more things, more money, bigger houses, fancier cars, bigger TVs, newer smartphones and tablets so that we can be happy, then all that will happen is that we will never be happy, because we will always be wanting more money, a bigger house, a fancier car, a bigger TV, a newer smartphone and tablet and so we shall never be satisfied, never content.

One of the worst things for this nowadays is the way that some people use Facebook. Because a lot of people use it to show off and bully others, to show how popular it seems that they are, how many likes they have, how many friends they have, how many holidays they have etc. For them, all of life is a competition and they are the winners. That makes others jealous or even depressed.

I will tell you something about Facebook:

Most, and probably all the people, who show off on Facebook are not happy. They are not ‘winners’, they are what is called ‘losers’. If you are happy, content, you do not need to show off or bully. You keep yourself to yourself, living your life (and not someone else’s) from day to day. And that for me is success.

The Sins of the Fathers: On the Coming Russian Orthodox Church Administrative Unity in Western Europe

 

The Russian Orthodox Church exists in two separate administrations in Western Europe. Although both have the same Patriarch in Moscow, one is directly dependent on Moscow, the other only indirectly on him, as it is primarily dependent on a Metropolitan in New York. The Moscow group numbers some 210 parishes in several dioceses, the New York group some 70 parishes in three dioceses, one third of that under Moscow, though in some local regions it is still a majority. On the other hand Moscow has more or less complete control in Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

As we slowly move towards future administrative unity in a single Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Europe (ROME), all over Western Europe a choice will have to be made: Which administration do parishes wish to belong to? In other words, ultimately, which group is to be absorbed by the other? And will that absorption take place all over Western Europe, or only in some areas? This is not a simple matter because this implies that each administration is going to have to answer for the very saddening errors of the past.  And there were many of these and their consequences have been postponed for a generation and more.

These include political and moral compromises, which, even if forgiven, are not forgotten, incompetence in failing to build up infrastructure, obtaining and building churches and encouraging and training local clergy, refusal to look after local people and locally-born children and grandchildren and general lack of pastoral and missionary effort. Refusal to take responsibility and ask for forgiveness with repentance will be dismissed. Childish phrases like ‘We’re right because we’re bigger than you…’, or ‘We were here first’, or ‘We’ve got more money than you’, do not wash with people made distrustful by past sins and errors.

The people, and ultimately the clergy with them, will not choose a cold manager or bureaucrat, but the pastoral bishop who shows genuine love for them and does not neglect, ignore and insult them. However, the lack of love of the past is about to receive its just rewards. The people will choose genuine communities. Parishes where people know one another and to which people feel a sense of belonging will win the day. People will not choose parishes which they pass through like railway stations, which are money-making machines, or are centres of cold and formal ritualism in foreign and unknown languages.

There is a moment of danger here, for Western Europe is already littered with the wreckage of small ex-Russian Orthodox communities, alienated by the heavy-handedness of both administrations. These include the tiny marginal communities of the ‘Paris Jurisdiction’ on the one hand, which on paper are canonical, as well as the tiny fringe communities of various ‘Pure’ or ’True’ sectarian jurisdictions, which even on paper are not canonical. For those who suffered under both administrations and never received an apology, we leave the choice to Divine guidance. The chickens come home to roost; the sins of the fathers have a price.

In 2003 the Paris Jurisdiction, then under Archbishop Sergiy, was negotiating its return to the Russian Orthodox Church. It would have become the local element in hopes for a future Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, the foundation of a new Local Orthodox Church. It was not to be. Archbishop Sergiy died, and his successors took a virulent anti-Russian line. Now it is on the way to becoming a deanery of the Greek Orthodox Church in Paris. However, together with the 70 parishes established in Western Europe for up to 100 years, Moscow can still establish a joint Metropolia. This can heal both past injustices and avoid future injustices.

From Recent Correspondence (October 2017)

Pastoral Questions and Current Affairs

Q: There exist authentic Orthodox spiritual fathers whose disciples group around them. How can you tell the difference between them and cults?

A: Authentic spiritual fathers and their disciples are always diverse, everyone is different and free. However, cults produce clones, the members are all the same, with the same hairstyle, the same beards, the same clothes, the same glasses, like an army. Everything down to the smallest detail is identical, for their personalities are always suppressed and repressed. The spiritual children of real spiritual fathers are always diverse, alive and lively, the clones, zombies and robots of frauds are always the same, spiritually repressed and dying. This is because where there is love, there is freedom and self-expression, but where there is no love, so there is no freedom and no self-expression.

Q: How do you see the late Fr John Romanides?

A: I only met Fr John once, in 1981, and read his translated works about the same time. I was impressed by his knowledge of Western history and original approach. To my mind he was easily the finest and most Orthodox of the academic theologians of his generation. It is significant that Roman Catholics detest him and Protestants have no understanding of his Biblical basis because they do not understand the Bible. Unlike Metr John Zisioulas, he was fiercely but understandably opposed to ecumenistic Parisian Russian intellectuals, because of his bad experiences with them in the Church in the USA in the 1950s. As a result of them, Fr John did not always appreciate the real Russian Orthodox Church.

On the downside, some have accused him of a certain racism in his black and white approach to Franks and Greeks (Romans), where to some he gives the impression that the first are always bad because of their ethnicity and the latter are always good because of their ethnicity. That is very regrettable because Fr John did not have a racist bone in his body.

Q: In order to justify making sex change legal, the atheist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that ‘we (= Greece) belong to Europe’ and ‘nothing, no religion, can stand higher than human rights’. What does this mean, in your view?

A: It means that his religion is in fact the god of human rightism. This is a strange god because according to it unborn children have no rights and can be destroyed in the greatest holocaust of world history. This is because in this neo-pagan religion (reminiscent of the paganism of the Ancient Greeks), it is human sin that is worshipped.

Q: Roman Catholics often have a picture of the Pope in their homes and some Anglicans have a photo of Canterbury Cathedral. What do Orthodox have, as you are divided into different nationalities and have different patriarchs and styles of architecture?

A: We all have an icon corner, with an icon of Christ, and probably also icons of the Mother of God and close saints. This is because Christ, and no human being or church-building, is the Head of our Church.

Q: Is missionary work to be encouraged?

A: Only if it is Orthodox. All Orthodox parishes are missions in this sense. Sadly, all kinds of compromises get justified by the term ‘missionary work’, including the heresy of ecumenism. We have a huge amount of real missionary work to do with our own Orthodox people and those Non-Orthodox whom they choose to marry or befriend. I think it is especially pointless to talk to heterodox with the idea of converting them. Heterodox rarely convert to authentic Orthodoxy (of the few who do, most lapse or bring their heterodox baggage, including divisiveness, into the Church with them and then create problems and schisms for the rest of us). If we are to convert the world round us, it is much better to talk to the masses who have no religion at all. Heterodox form a small minority which is dying out anyway. We should leave the dead to bury the dead. We have too much else to do.

Q: St Ephraim the Syrian says that the Six Days of Creation were precisely that, six twenty-four hour periods. What do you say to that?

A: Like most Fathers of his era, he interpreted in that way, according to the scientific knowledge of the time. However, the Church does not dogmatize these views. What we should listen to is Church Councils and even then, only provided that they are real Councils, that is, inspired by the Holy Spirit. (We are against any kind of ‘Councilism’ or worship of meetings called Councils, for without the Holy Spirit any so-called ‘Council’ is only a conference, as we saw in Crete last year). And that is only revealed after the Councils have taken place and their teachings have been received by the faithful.

This is the meaning of the words ‘catholicity’ and ‘conciliarity’, groups of Church people inspired by the Holy Spirit throughout history and in all places creating spiritual consensus. I am sure you can find many personal opinions on secondary matters (= the matters that do not affect our salvation) of many Church Fathers that have been proved to be wrong. What do you not find is the dogmas of Church Councils, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that are wrong. Do not dogmatize or absolutize opinions. Only the Holy Spirit is infallible.

The History of the Western World:

Q: Is it true that there were no Jews in England until 1066? And if so, how did they get to Western Europe anyway?

A: Yes, that is so. As for your second question, the answer is that in the late eighth century, Charlemagne (c. 742 – 814), brought in Jews from Spain together with Jewish-trained advisors from Spain, including those who introduced the filioque, like the heretic Theodulf of Orleans. These Jews protected and helped develop commerce in his tiny ‘empire’. He saw the Jews as an economic asset and protected them. He realized the advantages and business abilities of the Jews and gave them complete freedom with regard to their commercial transactions.

Charlemagne was a gluttonous and superstitious illiterate, who was notorious for the murderous ruthlessness with which he treated his opponents. Moreover, his son, Louis (814–833), was faithful to the same lack of principles and also granted protection to Jews, to whom he gave special attention in their position as merchants. Spreading through the commercial centres of northern France, the Jews finally arrived in England from Rouen after the occupation under the heir to Charlemagne, William the Bastard, in 1066.

Q: What view does the Church have of feudalism?

A: Founded on the filioque, feudalism with its system of vassals is unique to the post-Schism medieval West, appearing in primitive and potential forms in the year 1000, or slightly before, and becoming full-blown after about 1050, when the Pope himself became just a feudal lord. The inward sign of feudalism is the filioque, but the outward sign of the presence of feudalism (and therefore of the absence of Orthodoxy) is in castles, what historians call ‘encastellation’. This is quite clear in Eastern Europe, where castles peter out along the Croat, Polish and Slovak borders. Orthodox do not have castles. In the Church we do not have feudalism, but independence and sovereignty, as expressed by the Greek word ‘avtokratia’, which does not at all mean ‘autocracy’. ‘Autocracy’ in English means tyranny and absolutism, which is very different from the people’s monarchy, the ‘autocracy’ of Orthodox Christianity.

Q: 100 years ago there were 100 million Orthodox, today there are just over 200 million. However, if you look at Catholics and Protestants they have probably quadrupled in numbers, if not more. Why has the Orthodox Church not grown as much?

A: Apart from the fact that Catholicism (1.3 billion) and the myriad of Protestant sects claim to have far higher numbers than they really have, I think there are several reasons:

  1. As the last representatives of the Church of Christ, Orthodox have in the last 100 years been subject to the greatest persecution known in world history. Carried out by the dual Western ideologies of Marxism and Nazism (both born in Germanic Western Europe), tens of millions died in their infernal invasions and persecutions and tens of millions more were aborted under the infernal Marxist ideology and then under the Western Capitalist ideology. If it had not been for this, the Orthodox population would easily have quadrupled in Russia alone.
  2. The vast majority of the growth of Catholicism and Protestantism has come about in former Western colonies in Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia. Orthodoxy does not have colonies, since they are founded on genocide.
  3. The Church is not a business with plans for expansion. Such businesses come and go, expand and contract, relying on superficial attraction. The Church is a tree and trees grow slowly, but organically.

Q: Recently a senior female cleric of the US Presbyterian Church said that God is not a Christian, meaning that anyone can be saved. What is your reaction?

A: Such Protestant clerics and laypeople do say things like this. I have also read them saying that ‘The Church needs to learn about Christianity’. It proves that words like ‘God’, ‘Christ’, ‘Church’, ‘Christian’, ‘salvation’, ‘priest’ etc have a completely different meaning for Non-Orthodox than for Orthodox. For them ‘the Church’ means ‘Protestant clergy’, many of whom are open atheists.

For Orthodox, all these words mean the same thing: God is the Holy Trinity, Christ is the Church, Christians follow the Church, salvation (from evil) is through Christ, priests belong to the Church etc. Christ is God and the Church is the Body of Christ and therefore Christians are people who try and follow Christ, belonging to Him. To say that Christ is not God or not a Christian simply makes no sense to an (Orthodox) Christian. Of course, it is true that there are plenty of people who call themselves Christians but who do not believe that Christ is the Son of God. However, they are not Orthodox Christians. Clearly, this female cleric is one of those. She condemns herself out of her own mouth.

As regards salvation, all we know is that inside the (Orthodox) Church, this is possible because billions have been saved, but that all who have been saved and will be saved have achieved this and will achieve this through the mercy of Christ, Who alone is the Just Judge.

Q: What is your view of Catalonian independence?

A: Free and unintimidated Catalans said yes to independence, the Western oligarchs said no. The Western ruling élites are heirs of the barbarians; when bandits in Kosovo proclaim independence, they call it good, but when Catalonia proclaims the same thing, they call it bad. Of course, that does not in any way mean that we support the Catalonian independence party and its leader. Like the Scottish nationalists, they are pro-EU, globalist and socialist. However, we support independence and freedom from centralist states for every viable historic people, like the Scottish and the Catalonian, who have in history been independent nations.

Russia

Q: Why did the Russian Revolution happen?

A: The Imperial Family lost their lives because the upper class elite, jealous of their power, turned against them in the 19th century and finally overthrew them in February 1917. If that had not occurred, Russia would have been victorious in the First European War. If you want to find the culprits who laid the groundwork for October and the murder of the Romanovs (recall who imprisoned the Romanovs in the first place), look among the families of the upper class.

Q: Why did former Russian Orthodox become Communists 100 years ago? Marx thought that Germans would become Communists and not Russians.

A: It all depends on the previous cultural values. As one elderly Romanian put it to me, ‘Communism is Christianity without Christ’, by which she meant that Communism has no love or freedom. It can be said that lapsed Orthodoxy = Communism, lapsed Roman Catholicism = Fascism and lapsed Protestantism = Capitalism. This is borne out by the last 100 years of history.

Q: Does Russia have a future in a globalized world?

A: Through its NATO and EU aggressiveness in Eastern Europe and especially the Ukraine, Washington and Brussels have thrown Russia into alliance with China. It has thus created the union of the most populous country in the world with the greatest manufacturing ability and the world’s highest GNP, with the largest country in the world and the centre of civilian and military technology, endowed with the greatest natural resources in the world. More than this, the Russian Federation is also the centre of the global Christian Tradition. Together, technology with the Tradition provide the alternative to the globalist ‘New World Order’ project of the Western elite. Tradition represents the opposition of all those who do not want to be enslaved to their modernist New World Order.

As the universal keeper and defender of Holy Orthodoxy, the Russia of Christ the Saviour is hated by Satan and his demons. That is why they carried out the Russian Revolution in order to efface the word Russia from the face of the earth, blew up the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, built to commemorate the defeat of the antichrist Napoleon, and were so bitterly angry at the rebuilding of that Cathedral after the fall of their Soviet Union. Russia is home to the Church, which is opposed to Trotskyite/Ukrainian Jewish, permanent chaos. This has again been implemented by the neocons as the New World Order.

How they hate us! They write to me and accuse faithful Orthodox of being ‘worse than the Nazis’!! The word ‘devil’ does after all mean ‘slanderer’ in Greek. We prevent them from doing the will of Satan, so they hate us. The place of confrontation of these two visions of globalism, the Western and the Russo-Chinese, is in, of all places, North Korea, where the Chinese and Russian borders meet. That is where we shall see the pattern of the future.

Q: There seem to be quite a number of scandals in the Russian Church inside Russia at present. Is there a serious problem?

A: I think there is – that you read the internet too much! On the internet, with its forums and blogs, you only get scandals. If you go to Russia and meet some of the bishops, follow the priests who do the baptisms, weddings and funerals, who confess and celebrate the liturgy every day, who visit the hospitals and bless the homes, meet the nearly 6,000 who are at present studying in seminaries, and if you take part in the massive Church processions and pilgrimages of the ordinary faithful, you will get a quite different impression. The Church is alive; the internet only reflects the exceptions, the bad news. All the mass of good news goes, as usual, unreported because people who have time to waste only want the scandals and sensations, as it makes them feel self-important, which they, and the devil, like. Avoid scandal-mongering, it is bad for your soul.

General

Q: Are young people less mature than they used to be? Or am I just getting old?

A: Well, of course you are getting old! We all are. I am not sure, every generation of older people for thousands of years has been complaining about young people. And then the young people get older and complain about young people in their turn. The only thing is that many young people now live in the virtual world of the internet and that does hold them back. Only reality makes mature. Smartphones do not.

Q: Would you say that night clubs are hellish?

A: I have never been to one, but I have seen photos. I would call them advertising agencies for hell.

Q: What were your best years of being an Orthodox clergyman?

A: Without the slightest doubt the last nine, of which the best was 2017: the first twenty-five before these last nine were despairingly hard.

Q: Why the change in 2017?

A: Because after 30 years we have at last gained a bishop. ROCOR lost its South American Diocese because it did not have a bishop for only 20 years, but we here survived for 30 years without a bishop. I think we hold a record, if only for stubbornness.

Q: What words would you like to have on your grave?

A: Well, that is a very surprising question! I have never thought about it. I don’t have time. A grave near my parent’s grave says: ‘I told you I was ill’. That is English humour. Many Orthodox graves have ‘Eternal Memory’ on them.

After several days’ thought about an answer to this question, I thought I would like: ‘The truth will set you free’. I have always valued the Truth and Freedom and have fought for both of them all my life. Both are hated by Satan and his servants. Over a thousand years ago the early English preacher Aelfric wrote in his Colloquy: ‘It is most disgraceful and shameful when a man does not want to be what he is and what he has to be’. At least that particular sin is not mine.

 

 

 

 

 

How Do We Deal with Injustices?

Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices (Proverbs 1, 31)

The wages of sin are death (Romans 6, 23)

Injustice is inevitable. The past and present are littered with injustices – and the future will be as well. Injustices have happened as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve and their foolish pride. We can think of Cain who killed Abel, an immediate consequence. But injustices can be national, social and personal. We in England can think of the fateful injustice of 1066, from which we still suffer, in Greece they think of 1204 and 1453, and in Russia, and throughout the Church and the world as a whole, no-one has ever recovered from the fateful injustice of 1917. Some people fight against injustices with wars and revolutions. These always seem to do more harm. So how should we deal with injustices, so we do not become obsessive and have ‘bees in our bonnets’?

First of all, we know that God is the only Just Judge, as He is the only Knower of the human heart. We know nothing, for we see only the outside, we are poor judges. And we know that God will judge all at the Last Judgement, all without exception. And we know that we already have a foretaste of His Judgement now. Just as the foretaste of heaven and hell begins now, as people choose and create their own little heaven or hell, so His Judgement begins now. Wars are His judgement of the nations. For evil is always punished – sometimes sooner, sometimes later. God’s Judgement alone is just, because all our human judgements are tinged with vengeful pride and vanity; only His Judgement is objective because it alone is the pure judgement of humility.

We can see this clearly in the Life of St Job the Much-Suffering in the Book about him, in which only his humility was justified. We can see this clearly in the Life of St John Chrysostom, who died in cruel exile from an evil empress, uttering the words: ‘Glory to God for all things’, words which the vengeful world does not understand. We can see this clearly in the Life of the much-slandered and Job-like St Nicholas the Tsar-Martyr (still slandered today), who in cruel exile wrote before his martyrdom that ‘it is not evil that will conquer evil, but only love’. A few years after that we can see this clearly in the Life of the much-slandered St Nectarios who died in cruel exile (when he would have been the Patriarch of Alexandria who had at last baptised Black Africa).

But what about when injustices happen to us personally, at work, in the family and especially in Church life? How do we deal with them? Ascetically, injustices are very dangerous because they can make the hearts of the victims hard, vengeful, bitter, cynical, full of negativity and sarcasm, thus poisoning the victims of injustice, making them into ‘damaged goods’. We must protect ourselves from such sinful feelings. We should know that we have survived not because of those who call themselves Christians but are not, but in spite of them. We follow Christ, His Holy Mother and the Saints, not corrupt men who have no love, whatever clerical rank they may have. We do not deal with such people: God deals with them. He always does. Be patient, you will see.

I have in over forty years of Church life suffered four cases of injustice in Church life. One ROCOR archbishop told me that if he had suffered what I had had to, he would have left the Church and never returned. However, I do not leave, but tremble when the perpetrators are unjust to me. And I do not tremble for myself, I tremble for them, because I know that they will suffer, for they are bringing awful punishment on themselves, as they always end up badly, sooner or later. I fear for them. I do nothing against their injustice, that is, I only pray for those who do me injustice, because they will suffer the most horrible punishment, they always do. They burn themselves, for they put their hands into the all-consuming fire of God (Hebrews 12, 29).

In the first case of these four people, the perpetrator died, his vainglorious personality, which he had made all-important, is discredited and now they are attempting to erase it from history. Seeking popularity and fame, he found unpopularity and infamy. The second one, who was so weak that he stood by no principles and so despite himself betrayed the Faith, died soon after his injustice and is now forgotten, destroyed by his very weakness. The third, who wanted to gain everything, has put himself in self-imposed isolation, having lost everything. And the fourth was dismissed for his support of the powerful and evil and rejection of the good and faithful. Seeking prestige and power, he lost prestige and power, never listening to others, now he is not listened to.

As the Book of Proverbs says above, people are always punished by what they sin with. Their lack of love, their chosen instrument of hatred, becomes their own punishment. I have seen God’s Judgement and it is a terrible thing because those who put the things of men above the things of God and so, consciously or unconsciously, become evildoers, always die: ‘All who hate me love death’ (Proverbs 8, 36). True, the evil that men do lives on after them, but I tremble for them all, as I do for myself, when God judges, as He surely will, each one of us for our lack of love. ‘Be ye faithful, not faithless’. As we said at the start, injustice is inevitable, but inevitable also is the Judgement of God. ‘The paths of glory lead but to the grave’. I tremble.

On the Identity of ROCOR as a Self-Governing Part of the Russian Orthodox Church and On What We Can Offer the Church Inside Russia

‘We must fight for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy’.

Words said to me by the Ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus at the Fourth All-Diaspora Church Council in San Francisco, May 2006

 Introduction

Orthodox from Russia very often ask us what the difference is between the very large Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia (35,000 churches, often called the Moscow Patriarchate, which paradoxically includes some parishes which are geographically outside the ex-Soviet Union) and the very small Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR with 500 churches), whose administrative centre is in New York and whose territory covers the Western world. ROCOR only came into existence by Patriarchal decree in 1920, but today, as then, both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church have the same Patriarch Kyrill. To most of us who live outside Russia, the difference and our identity are clear, even obvious, and they cover six different areas, both dogmatic and pastoral.

Political Independence

First of all, ROCOR has complete political independence from the Russian Federation. It particular, we thoroughly reject that form of political dependence known as Sergianism, which refers to Patriarch Sergius who died in 1944 and whom a great many Russian Orthodox, not only in ROCOR, consider compromised the Church with the Soviet State. Thus, inside Russia it is actually possible to meet Orthodox who admire Stalin! Such Soviet nationalism is unthinkable for us. Such Sergianism has led to careerism, papalistic authoritarianism and an admiration for Roman Catholicism among a few senior clerics inside Russia, such as the late Metropolitan Nikodim and his followers. Why? Because of their admiration for a all State institutions, which is what the Vatican is. Such a mentality is quite alien to ROCOR.

Keeping the Tradition

ROCOR has always remained faithful to the pre-revolutionary Church Tradition. It has not suffered Soviet-period alterations to the Tradition and relics, however liturgically minor, such as using different Paschal liturgical colours, and in particular it does not suffer from the form-filling bureaucracy, centralization and almost superstitious Soviet ritualism which can often be found in the Church inside Russia. On a more important level, ROCOR does not therefore suffer from the spiritual disease of ecumenism, which affects certain individuals in the Church inside Russia and which distresses many there and in ROCOR. In the same way, ROCOR has always looked forward to the restoration of the Monarchy inside Russia. This view is shared by many in the Church inside Russia, our allies, though not by all.

Veneration of the Saints

ROCOR has a strong love of the Saints, especially of the New Martyrs and Confessors, but also of the Local Saints, the ancient saints of Western Europe, few of whom were until recently included in the Russian Church calendar. ROCOR canonized the Royal Martyrs and some 8,000 New Martyrs and Confessors 19 years before the Church inside Russia. Indeed, many in ROCOR had very much wanted these canonizations decades before even this. These canonizations included some (but still not all) of the servants of the Imperial Family. Interestingly, two of these servants were not members of the Orthodox Church. For ROCOR this presents no problem at all. For us, they were simply baptised in their blood, like many ancient martyrs. This thought seems to be alien to some in the Church inside Russia.

Financial independence

I remember how someone from Russia came here and saw a bishop sweeping the floor of his Cathedral. He was astonished and at once thought he was a saint! How absurd! Bishops and priests cleaning their churches is perfectly normal for us, though, sadly, we are not saints. For us it is the opposite that is abnormal. For instance, I can recall a few years ago how a bishop from Russia was appointed to a church that was geographically outside Russia. The first thing he did was to buy himself a luxurious black car. Automatically, he had lost all respect, he was finished and should have returned to Russia there and then. Clerical opulence with meaningless, militaristic pomp and ceremony are not for us. Our priests usually work in secular employment, even if only part-time, and choirs are hardly ever paid anything.

Closeness to the People

Just as in ROCOR we sing out of love for the church, we have no scandalizing price lists for baptisms, weddings etc. People simply donate whatever they can. Thus, simply by virtue of being in the Non-Orthodox world, ROCOR is adaptable, less insular, more multinational (just look at the nationalities of our bishops), much more even than the Church inside Russia. ROCOR adapts to local people, uses local languages and has a far more open and missionary outlook. In this way, although ROCOR keeps the Tradition, we are actually more ‘liberal’ in some ways because of the realities of life. For instance, as a small minority in Non-Orthodox countries, we pray for Non-Orthodox and welcome them to our churches, but we would not dream of making dogmatic compromises of the ecumenistic sort, such as intercommunion.

Real Parishes

One Russian from Russia told me: Our churches are like railway stations, people coming and going, staying for a few minutes and leaving, nobody knows anyone, people never belong. The fact is that parish life was destroyed in Russia by the Soviet period, whereas in ROCOR we have real parishes, communities to which people belong. Our parishes are smaller, our parishioners know one another, they receive personal attention, our churches do not operate like factories, we baptise individually, not en masse. Almost every week I do two or three baptisms, which are done properly and individually. We understand our parishioners, we accept prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs, we baptise babies in warm water, after the service parishioners sit down and socialize, drink and eat something together.

Conclusion

Members of ROCOR sometimes visit cathedrals and large monasteries in Russia or large churches in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Although we appreciate what we see, admiring the infrastructure and organization, wondering at the gold, marble, general ornateness, ritual and the singing, we tend to come back with the words: ‘It was good to be away, but it is better to be at home’. The words ‘Home Sweet Home’ are how we feel about ROCOR. We are a family to which we belong. Our churches may be small and modest, wooden and plain, our choirs amateur, our theology unsophisticated, but we belong to our Church, as did the simple fisherman of Galilee. Here we are at home and no-one can take that away from us. Here is something that the Church inside Russia can learn from us.

 

 

 

The Fringes and the Church

Introduction

There are isolated individuals on the fringes of Church life. These marginal figures are either on the left side – the illusory optimists, the absurdly unrealistic, the deluded and exalted, who believe in Origen’s heretical salvation for all, for everything is wonderful and Christ is All-Merciful only – or on the right side – the merciless pessimists, the depressed despairers, the doom-laden and gloom-mongering, who seem to believe in the Apocalypse more than in the Second Coming of Christ, as salvation according to them is virtually impossible, for Christ is a strict and ruthless Judge only.

The Left

On the left side we find three interlinked groups:

1. The Careerists and Corrupt (in the Russian Church these are usually called Sergianists)

These dangerous people are obsessed with money, luxury, papal-like power (that makes them pro-Catholic), prestige and their own personal appearance. In the Russian Church, they can be recognized because they often have a cult of the late Patriarch Sergius. Their scandals involve money and/or sex (usually not the heterosexual sort, though the defrocked Metr Filaret of Kiev is an exception to this). Thus, simony and/or perversion are their chief domains.

2. The Modernists and Ecumenists (in the Russian Church these are usually called Renovationists)

These are obsessed with being as Western, and therefore as Russophobic, as possible. They hate Tsar Nicholas II and also Vladimir Putin and admire the EU and the US. Westernization used to mean protestantizing themselves, but now it means adopting politically correct secularism, including LGBT, an aping of the West, which is the result of their primitive, Third World inferiority complex, which in turn is the result of their lack of the independent Orthodox Faith.

3. The Intellectuals

With an over-developed intellect, but undeveloped faith, these are often so cynical that they run the risk of losing their already weak faith altogether. They may also suffer from sexual obsessions, as several of them are homosexuals. Some are involved with gossip and scandal-mongering on blogs and fora, which further develops their cynical attitudes and weakens their faith. They stain their own souls and the souls of others through their spiritual impurity.

The Right

On the right side we also find three interlinked groups:

1. The Pharisees

These include loveless monastics, or rather pseudo-monastics, whose religion is not Love, but that of the typicon, canons and ceaseless and needless rules that make the Faith into a mere religion. They call themselves traditionalists, but in fact they do not follow the Tradition because the Tradition is the continual inspiration of the Holy Spirit all down the centuries. These suffer from the temptations of sectarianism and judgementalism. This is pride.

2. The Nationalists

These follow an ideology which reduces the Faith to mere provincial folklore, with no international relevance. In Russia such nationalists can even defend Stalin. They are marked by profound theological and historical ignorance and narrow-minded bigotry, which means that they revert to a Protestant-like fundamentalism and literalism in their views. They have no real interest in Church culture or Church services and are very insecure and anti-intellectual.

3. The Pietists

These are sentimentalists, disincarnate and impractical dreamers, philosophers but also often strict moralizers. They like to group around gurus, mistakenly calling them ‘spiritual fathers’, ‘startsy’ and even ‘saints’, aping them like clones and condemning all others outside their cult. Like the Pharisees, their temptation is sectarian. Their spiritual disease is ‘prelest’, that is, spiritual delusion, which is merely vulgar pride in an elegant, philosophers’  envelope.

Conclusion

These six fringe groups, careerists, modernists, intellectuals, and their parallels, pharisees, nationalists and pietists, are those who make of Faith and the Church of God a mere religion, a mere manmade institution, a cult. They confuse the means and externals, services, canons, rituals, church buildings, knowledge, with the ends and internals, which is salvation, meaning the salvation of the human soul from evil, from all that is not Love. Such groups have always existed, under different names and under different guises, they are all part of fallen human nature.

The balance between all these fringes is among the masses, in the mainstream of the Church, which by definition is not to be found on the fringes and margins, but in the Church. This balance is to be found in traditional monasteries and good parishes, founded on loving and solid families. Good and true, loyal and faithful to Christ through the Tradition, those in the mainstream include bishops and monastics, pastors and people. All for them is built on love. For if a patriarch lacks love for his bishops, the bishops will lack love for their priests and the priests will lack love for the people.

 

Why We Are Not Scandalized

I know two or three people who can only gossip about marginal individuals and events in Church life, the more scandalous the better, as far as they are concerned. I try to avoid them because their conversations and even, in one case, blog, are so negative. They therefore accuse me of being naïve. I could in fact tell them far more scandals than they are aware of. I do not tell them and indeed I try to forget what I do know and the scandals that I have personally been a victim of. Why?

Firstly, I believe in being edifying as far as possible. Dung exists, but I prefer to spend time with the bees which gather nectar from the flowers rather than go with the flies. If we repeat negative stories, we will only stain our own souls and the souls of others.

Secondly, suppose some of these stories are just slanders? By repeating slanders, we will only stain our own souls and the souls of others.

Thirdly, such stories fail to keep reality in proportion. In every basket of apples there will always be a bad one, but scandal-mongers and muckrakers give the impression that all the apples in the basket are bad. That is why scandal-mongers are so depressing. They are so intent on looking at the darkness that they cannot see the light. Despair is their lot.

And fourthly, those who engage in scandal-mongering are suffering from spiritual and psychological illness, a sickness of the soul, in which I do not share and do not wish to share. If they wish to show off their knowledge, then they are suffering from vanity.  If their revelations make them feel superior, then they are suffering from pride. In any case they are suffering from a love of dirt which makes their souls cynical, hard, dry and judgemental. They will ultimately lose their already weak faith. This is not the path to salvation.

We are not scandalized because we are Orthodox Christians. We go to Church not for the sake of a bishop or a priest, but for the sake of Christ. We follow not the concerns of men, but the teachings of Christ, His Holy Mother and His Saints.

 

From Recent Correspondence (September 2017)

Q: What is the Russian Orthodox view of patriotism?

A: As President Putin has put it: ‘For Russians […] patriotic sentiment, the sense of national belonging that is now, to their sorrow, being eroded in certain European countries, is very important’. In today’s Europe, the attention of those who seek to preserve their national identity, those who are patriots and nationalists in the best sense of the word, is fixed on Moscow. Conversely, those who yell the loudest about a ‘Russian threat’ and ‘European unity in the face of Russian aggression’ are precisely those who want to destroy European faces and borders and reviving identities, like that of Catalonia, as they are oriented towards the EU headquarters in Brussels and the White House.

Russia is the Motherland of patriotism in Europe and in defiance of the artificial denationalisation imposed by Western-imposed Soviet Communism, it is returning to the old mission of keeping the flame of national identity in Europe alight, preserving it as a Europe of homelands and not a public thoroughfare. Although the State-run media like the BBC try to slander all moderate patriots as ‘Neo-Nazis’ and ‘the far right’, in reality there are very few ‘Neo-Nazis’ and ordinary people, both on the normal right and the normal left, are patriots. 52% of British people voted for Brexit, surely even more would vote for Brexit today, given Juncker’s recent speech on the abolition of Europe (‘Eurofederalism’) in Brussels.

Q: Why is the West so aggressive?

A: The West is far more aggressive than many people even realize. Its wars of aggression are always camouflaged by code-names. For example, the multinational Western invasions and Western wars of aggression against Russia are variously known as ‘The Teutonic Crusades’, ‘The Napoleonic Campaign’, ‘The Crimean War’, ‘World War One’, ‘World War Two’ etc. In the same way, today the USA has a ‘Department of Defense’, and yet no-one has ever tried to invade the USA and that Department is notorious for its Offense.

Britain’s ‘Ministry of Defence’ has similarly always spent its time invading and bombing countries far away, all in the name of ‘national security’. Apparently Britain has invaded some 150 foreign countries in its history! This British Establishment aggressiveness goes back to its founders, in their so-called ‘Battle of Hastings’, which did not take place in Hastings and should actually be called ‘The Norman Invasion and Occupation’ or ‘The Defeat and Rape of England’.

The roots of this Westernwide aggression go back even further than 1066, to the anti-Christian Charlemagne, who revived the dead pagan Roman Empire – the model for all aggressive, asset-stripping and war-based systems – under the code-name of a ‘classical revival’. He told his people that they were superior to Christians (‘Greeks’) and also to anyone else, because the Holy Spirit came from their leader, the Pope of Rome, whom Charlemagne had made infallible with his filioque ideology. Later this mythical superiority was spread downwards to anyone who agreed with the Western Establishment and anyone who was ‘Western’ was thus considered superior. ‘Black, brown, red and yellow peoples’ were inferior and therefore could be enslaved and massacred by ‘White’ Western people. Here is the fruit of the filioque, from the Crusades to Iraq.

Yet another example: On 25 September the BBC programme ‘Beyond Belief’ (Radio 4, 4.30), the programme I spoke on twice after the Pussy Riot blasphemy, the subject was ‘The Persecution of Atheism in Russia’! I could hardly believe what the BBC has come to. It really is Beyond Belief! Not content with supporting the US installation of lesbian politicians and Zionist atheists as leaders in Eastern Europe, from Serbia to the Baltics and the Ukraine, the BBC are now directly plugging Western atheism in Russia, where a few decades ago Western Marxist atheists martyred 600 bishops and 120,000 clergy, under the pretext of ‘freedom of speech’.

Q: What worries you most about the situation of the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church? Ecumenism?

A: Definitely not ecumenism. That is a bedtime fairy-tale for old people. It was abandoned as a failure long ago. No, it is something else. Let us try and understand the context in which we live.

We live in the fourth century. We in the Russian Church have come out of persecution and are being recognized, moving forward into the rest of the fourth century. (Unlike the West, where the heterodox have been in the fourth century and are now heading backwards towards the third century and persecution by various atheist emperors). What was the problem in the fourth century? There were no outward enemies, but there were inward enemies, all those who swam with the tide, the ‘fairweather Christians’ who joined the Church for their careers, for worldly advantage. Martyrdom is largely over for us: the ‘easy way’ to salvation has gone: all we had to do was to be killed. For a believing Orthodox that is not a problem. This is why in the fourth century, there was a huge growth in monasticism. Opportunities for martyrdom were mainly over, but the faithful still needed the real thing.

In times of peace we face not outward enemies, but inward enemies, as we in the Church Outside Russia, know only too well. We in our part of the Russian Church did not face martyrdom, what we have faced for nearly 100 years is inward enemies. We faced multiple schisms, by modernists (in the Paris Jurisdiction and in the USA), then by old calendarists (in the USA, France, South America and Great Britain), we faced racism and nationalism (the policy of excluding certain people from the Church because they had ‘the wrong blood’), we faced careerism, false brethren and slanders, backed by certain bishops. This type of persecution is insidious and calls on us to be confessors and not martyrs. That is much more subtle.

We have a great example in St John of Shanghai, who was put on trial in a secular court by so-called ‘ROCOR’ bishops, clergy and people. Shame on them! But who came out of this affair a saint? It is the insignificant and derided little man on the court bench who prayed: the others are, at best, forgotten. Something similar happened to Fr Seraphim (Rose), who faced persecution from inside. Our greatest enemies have always come from inside the Church. Our enemies confess not the Orthodox Faith, they confess ‘religion’, the outward ritualistic system of phariseeism, spiritual dryness and literalism, together with a systemic personality cult and academicism, sometimes homosexual, all of which persecute, mock and despise any authentic, living spiritual experience.

The souls of these go dry at Pentecost, they feel nothing, not the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit, not new green life, but they rattle off the prayers to the Holy Spirit without feeling, looking at their watches. These people have no Love, no Theology, no Knowledge of the Living God (St Alban), no compassion, all they have is their ill psychology, which they use for self-justification and persecution of the righteous.

Today we can see such tendencies inside Russia (and among some of its representatives outside Russia). Careerism, the interest in ‘awards’, rationalism, knowledge only of the outward, Spirit-free academicism, the rush for ‘degrees’, the salt that has lost its savour. It does not matter whether the tendency is new calendarist and modernist or old calendarist and traditionalist, it is the same anti-spiritual tendency.

Q: Was the Russian emigration a good thing?

A: Its causes were of course bad and émigrés suffered. But the spiritual life of the emigration itself was very mixed, both pure and impure. In the 1930s St John of Shanghai reckoned that only 10% of the emigration was Churchly. This corresponds to my own experience. Many Russians were ‘White’ only inasmuch as they were greedy for money and property and had no time, either for the Faith or for the Tsar, whom so many of them had actively betrayed. Many were racist and nationalistic, opposed to multinational Rus, so denying the words and commandments of the apostles to go out into all the world and teach and baptise ‘all men’.

There are still parts of the Russian emigration which have not returned to the Russian Church and, incredibly, are still on the Catholic calendar, which was introduced by the masonic Anglicans into Constantinople for a fee of £100,000 in the early 1920s. Still no repentance for such unspeakable spiritual decadence! In years to come we shall be amazed that any of this was possible, let alone justified by ‘theologians’, ‘the great and good!’

And yet the emigration also produced saints. As ever, I will say to you: Follow the Saints! Yes, the rest existed and exists. Ignore them, let the spiritually dead bury the spiritually dead. There can be no nostalgia for them. Follow the Chains of Love and you will set your soul free. The Russian emigration was caused by evil, but God’s Providence can always make good from evil.

Q: Is it true that ROCOR has never had a scandal?

A: I do not know who told you such a fairy tale. Sadly, very sadly, just think about the Antony Grabbe scandal in Jerusalem, about the consecration of Valentin of Suzdal (I remember how Archbishop Antony of Geneva prayed for a snowstorm so that his plane could not take off and he would not have to take part in his consecration under obedience), about Grabbe’s bishop-father who ended up in a right-wing sect outside the Church and banned anyone from attending his funeral, about the defrocked….

Q: What would you like to see the Orthodox Church do as a whole?

A: Publish statistics and facts! For example, I reckon that there are about 800 Orthodox bishops, 80,000 priests and 217 million Orthodox. However, these are merely informed guesstimates and I do not know the truth. I have no idea how many deacons, monks and nuns there are in the Church and in each Local Church. I would be very grateful to see some central statistical Orthodox authority issuing such information. (If any readers can correct my estimates, please will they contact me).

Q: In the light of what happened in Crete in 2016, what should be done about the state of the Orthodox episcopate, where there are so many who are clearly unprincipled?

A: That is of course a question for the episcopate, not for me. However, my suggestion would be something like deposing all bishops who do not confess that:

1. The Orthodox Church alone is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

2. The application of the canons which state that if they have been appointed by secular authorities (e. g. the State Department in Washington), they must be deposed.

3. The application of the canons which state that if they practise simony, they must be deposed.

4. The application of the canons which state that if they practise homosexuality, they must be deposed.

5. That if they are freemasons, they must be deposed.

Q: You are educated, how can you believe in heaven and hell?

A: We know from the unique revelation of the New Testament that God is Love. Therefore, it is clear that heaven is the presence of Love and hell is the absence of Love. It is very simple. It is even clear from this that heaven and hell, although in undeveloped forms, already exist on earth. People create their own heaven and hell. Please forget the primitive notions of atheists about heaven and hell that you seem to have. It reminds me of the incredibly primitive peasant Khrushchev who said that Gargarin had proved that God did not exist because he had been in space and had not seen Him! The only thing that this proved was Khrushchev’s own primitive ignorance and spiritual blindness.

Q: Why does the Church have rituals? Surely they are unnecessary?

A: The angels do not have rituals. So why do we? Obviously, because we are not angels, that is, we have bodies, a material nature. All people have rituals. Protestants have rituals (sit down, stand up, prayer, hymn, guilt-making sermon, collection of money to pay for the guilt, which is merely a copy of Catholic indulgences), secularists have rituals, parades, processions, the opening of Parliament, both military and civilian etc. Let us therefore make sure that our Church rituals are beautiful and meaningful.

People will always make rituals to worship something higher and greater than themselves, whether the True God or an invented one – drink, football, the sun on the beach, a human ideology…As we know that we are inferior and need to worship something, so let us worship the True God and not such false gods.

A: What is the situation in the Ukraine now?

A: I have not been there for a year now, but with the persecution of most of the people (‘ethnic minorities, of whom over 50% are Russian’), the continuing civil war, the fleeing of millions abroad (especially to Poland and Russia) and the fact that the government is propped up only by US money and money from US organizations like the IMF, I think the future is grim. It seems probable to me that in a few years from now, the country, which is an artificial conglomerate founded by Lenin and Stalin, will split between Russia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, leaving a possible Little Russian rump around Kiev.

Q: What are we to make of the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and the earthquakes in Mexico?

A: There have always been such events. When you hear ‘the most powerful hurricane for 100 years’, it means that there have already been others at least as powerful in recorded history. None of this is the first time, it is just that the media are here to report these events. But the Caribbean and Florida are well known as places of crime, gambling, prostitution, drug-dealing and money-laundering. It is clear that only Faith can avert such catastrophes, not vice. Nearly 70 years ago on Tubabao St John of Shanghai protected that island from a typhoon through his prayers, going around the island with the cross and praying. This is what needs to be done here. But is anyone doing this?

In the USA some fear a great eruption in Yellowstone that could almost wipe out life in North America, or an earthquake in San Francisco. But what do people do in these places? Do they pray, do they repent? Some of course yes, but it seems that most just have more and more hubris. Just like Pompeii of old. Just like the Tower of Siloam. Little wonder that people speak of ‘Eurosodom and Gomorrhica’.

Q: Whose side are you on in the Brexit conflict between the Chancellor Philip Hammond and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson?

A: That is a political question. All I can say is that I support neither of them. The Anglo-Turkish Old Etonian Boris Johnson is, despite his Russian Christian name, a fanatical Russophobe who supports a new Cold War. As regards the multi-millionaire Philip Hammond, I knew him personally, as he was in the same year in the same college in Oxford and also born in Essex (though at the wrong end). Even then, as a teenager, he was quite a ruthless careerist. True, he has done very well for himself in this respect, but has not yet got the top job, which is what he wants. However, regardless of that, both of these politicians are pro-British, i.e., anti-English, which is because they are pro-UK Establishment. The last pro-English politician I can think of is the long ago-retired Sir Richard Body. I am not sure that there is a single pro-English politician left in Parliament today.

Q: Should we be worried about the conflict between the USA and North Korea?

A: For the moment there is no conflict, just mutual insults. What worries me is that both leaders have terrible inferiority complexes that produce paranoia. One wants to be taken seriously as a President, instead of as a horse-trading businessman of limited intelligence, the other is a shy man who is trying to live up to his father and grandfather in cruelty, bluster and everything else. And his country is surrounded by aggressive US ships and planes (the USA is not surrounded by North Korean ships and planes), which only deepens national paranoia.

They both remind me of Kaiser Wilhelm who also had a terrible inferiority complex, caused by his deformed arm and his profound jealousy of Great Britain, and so started the Great War, with all its appalling consequences. ‘Inferiority complexes’ (= the sins of jealousy, vanity, selfishness and pride) cause many problems in world history. They are dangerous. As for these leaders, you should give children toys to play with, not guns, missiles and nuclear bombs. That is worrying.

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

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

Love

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

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

Infatuation

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

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

Marriage

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

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

Sexual Relations

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

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

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

Contraception

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

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

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

Divorce

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