On Church Life: Questions and Answers from Early May 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Who are the renovationists inside Russia today?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Why are Eastern European Orthodox countries so corrupt?

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

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

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

Q: What are the political tendencies of the Diaspora?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Is having a tattoo sinful?

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

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

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

Q: Who are the Jehovah’s witnesses?

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

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

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