Introduction: On Healing from the Sins of our Ancestors
Sins always have consequences. Thus, once we have realized that we have sinned, attaining the consciousness of our sinfulness, we have to repent for the sins and make up for, that is, to make reparation for, their consequences. Only thus can we be healed. But what can we say of the consequences of the sins of our ancestors? Although we did not commit the sins, we still have to live with their consequences, which have become an inherent part of the reflexes and attitudes of the culture in which we live. Until we have made an act of cultural repentance and reparation for the misdeeds of our ancestors, our repentance and reparation are not complete, we accept a stained, even cursed, culture, agreeing to live amid spiritual impurity, and the impure consequences of the original sins continue. In other words, we must seek cultural repentance and reparation if we are to heal the consequences of ancestral sins.
Let us take one concrete and most tragic example from European life, the centenary of which has just been recalled, the Battle of the Somme, with its one million victims. Why did that War, of which that Battle was one of the bloodiest events, take place in Northern France and Southern Belgium (Flanders)? Why were millions of Belgians, Germans, Frenchmen and British troops sent to their deaths by their political and military elites in such a cruel, futile and utterly inhuman way, so much so that the shattered bodies of hundreds of thousands of them could never even be found? Because those were the very countries were cursed by the most terrible exploitation and massacres of native peoples in colonies. Thus, just tiny Belgium stood accused of maiming and murdering between one million and ten million Africans in the Belgian Congo. Sins carried out far away still lie like a curse close to home.
Let us take more recent examples. Why did the terrorist massacre of innocents of 2001 occur precisely in the USA on 9/11 that year? Because the USA is where modern Islamist terrorism was invented and it has never been repented for and made up for, 9/11 being the feast of the Beheading of the innocent St John the Baptist by the evil Herod. Why did the demonic terrorist atrocity in Nice occur precisely in France on 15 July this year? Because France is where terror was invented, on 14 July 1789, and it has never been repented for and made up for, but tragically it is actually justified and celebrated – in France every 14 July. Why was Patriarch Bartholomew, forewarned by Washington, forced to flee Turkey on the eve of the recent failed US-organized coup? Because he has still not repented for and made up for the heretical meeting he oversaw in Crete last month and so has lost his spiritual protection.
Cultural Repentance and Reparation Among Lapsed Russian Orthodox
Let us take other, longer-lasting examples. ‘Only repentance will save Russia’. Like the call of St John the Baptist, such was the call of St John of Kronstadt and many others before the so-called Russian ‘Revolution’ of 1917. After it, this was also the unanimous call of countless others, both inside and outside the former Russian Empire, not least of St John of Shanghai. Otherwise, they said, the bloodletting would go on. Indeed, it was only 25 years after the Revolution, with the unspeakable suffering of the Second World War and its 27 mainly civilian million dead, that repentance began, but even today reparation for the impurity is not complete there, as we see below. For he who says repentance for sins also means reparation for, that is, making up for, the consequences of the sins, changing the culture in which people live. Until the consequences of sins are made up for in all aspects of life, repentance is not complete.
In the ex-Soviet context of the twentieth and twenty-first century, repentance has precisely meant people stripping themselves of a whole cultural layer of spiritual impurity. This was the layer of atheism imposed by force by the Soviet-style Westernization of Russia since 1917, which assimilated the spiritual impurity that had gone before it. Thus, in the 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union and the coming of religious freedom, we have seen massive numbers of ex-Soviet citizens being baptized, that is, mass repentance. Over 100 million lives have begun to change – but not fully. For the Churching of these masses has been harder and slower, as Soviet cultural reflexes, the ABC of alcoholism (drug-taking), abortion (child murder) and corruption (systematic lying), still like a curse. Though several millions have been Churched in Orthodoxy so far, cultural reparation and so healing is only beginning.
In another Russian context, that of the deep-rooted political prejudices of the anti-Russian emigration, repentance would mean descendants of émigrés stripping themselves of two layers of spiritual impurity. The first is the layer imposed by modern life in the West where they have been born and lived all their lives. The second, much deeper, is the cultural layer of impurity, that of the Russophobic Westernization inherited and continued from their emigre ancestors who absorbed that impurity inside Russia well before the Revolution which they greeted. Two layers makes the task of repentance and reparation twice as hard and this is why the politicized descendants of émigrés have still not returned to the Russian Church. Indeed, there are those among them who actually justify their lack of return to the Church, their lack of cultural repentance and reparation, which lies like a self-imposed curse on them.
Cultural Repentance and Reparation Among Western People
Similarly, for Western people to repent and make reparation for their ancestors’ abandonment of the Orthodox Church means not just words, but reparation, that is, actually returning to their ancestral Faith and cleansing their culture of spiritual impurity. And that means not just repentance for personal sins that have blinded them to the Faith in the past, but also making up for the consequences of those sins which infect the culture that they have inherited. We can sum this up by saying that there must first be personal repentance and reparation and then cultural repentance and reparation. In other words, returning to the Orthodox Faith means forming and obtaining a new view of the world and everything around us and living according to it. Only if enough people follow this path, will a whole culture be purified and healed of its deformations, lies and hypocrisy and will the world be transfigured.
In an English context, returning to the Church means stripping ourselves of no fewer than three layers of impurity. The first is the Secularist culture imposed by the last 50 years of modern life in the West where people have lived all their lives, the second is that imposed by some 475 years of Protestant culture before that, the third that imposed by some 475 years of Roman Catholic culture before that. (In a Roman Catholic context, returning to the Church means losing only two layers, but the second is a double layer – as it is 950 years ‘thick’). Such repentance and reparation mean rejecting the inherent spiritual impurities in English culture, all its alien reflexes and mentalities. Just as someone cannot be baptised if he has not first emptied himself of all that is unworthy of baptism, so also a culture cannot be baptised if it has not first emptied itself of all that is unworthy of baptism.
Let us take concrete examples of the three layers that have overlaid Orthodox culture in England. The first layer is the secularism which says that faith is a barely tolerable private delusion or psychological disease that has no objective reality – modern relativist amoralism. The next layer is the secularism which says that faith is a set of private interpretations and personal moral rules that have no consequences in social, political and economic life, which are ruled only by utilitarian self-interest – ruthless Imperialism, the right to theft because ‘we’ are superior. The final layer is the secularism which says that faith is dependent on external obedience to and dependence on an individual. It is only underneath all these three layers that we can find True Faith, which is made up of the revelations of the Holy Spirit, made continually to the community of all the saints, who together are called the Church.
Conclusion: Consequences in the Last Times
There are no fewer than three levels of cultural repentance and reparation here, three layers of cultural attachment to falsehood which people have to rid themselves off to return to the Church and so be healed. And threefold cultural purification is the only repentance and reparation possible for the thousand year curse, for it is precisely on the basis of these three layers of error that Antichrist will come. Firstly, he will ban all ‘private delusion’ (faith in the real God), secondly, he will enforce consumerist self-interest (the law of the jungle) and thirdly, he will ensure that all are obedient to and dependent on his external authority. In other words, the three layers of impurity that deform modern culture create the conditions for Antichrist to come, frighteningly, the ultimate cultural curse. But we should not despair – he will come only if we do not repent for lapsing from our ancestral Orthodox Faith by returning to it.