Q; How can we know God? Surely those with education are at an advantage here?
A: We must distinguish between knowledge and understanding, which is real intelligence, the ability to make sense of things, not simply the remembrance of facts. Knowledge is open to all who have a good memory, as also are academic careers. However, having a good memory does not mean understanding. We do not understand with our brains, but with our hearts. And though not all have good memories, all have hearts. Unfortunately, most people do not use their hearts.
Sometimes hearts lie fallow like fields because their owners live only a physical life, using only, and often abusing, their bodies. Sometimes hearts are quite unused, lying like stony ground because of the overuse of the brain and priority given to knowledge, to mere facts. Sometimes hearts are so full of superficial and deluding emotions, at best ‘emotional intelligence’, that they have no depth – thus they are choked with weeds.
To cleanse our hearts, thus sowing faith and gaining humility, is to take the first step towards knowing God, that is, towards understanding, towards spiritual intelligence, what is called the ‘nous’ in Greek. Knowledge is an illusion; we must know how to interpret knowledge, factual information, before it can be of any use in the main task, which is spiritual advancement. Like the illiterate fishermen of Galilee, the martyrs did not have university degrees and we do not need them in order to become martyrs; in order to become a saint the first thing we need is humility, not education.
Q: Where does Orthodoxy stand in the Creationism/Evolution debate?
A: Creationism is basically Protestant in its rationalist word-for-word literalism, because it lacks any understanding of the beyond, of the sacramental and mystical reality of life, whereas Evolutionism is basically Roman Catholic, since it is an intellectual, not to say, Jesuitical, rationalization. In other words, both secular isms attempt rationalistically and humanistically to limit our understanding of the acts of God to the size of our tiny human reason.
The Orthodox understanding is the sacramental understanding of life, which understands the significance of outward details in their relation to the inward facts of God and salvation. Everything in visible Creation represents the heavenly. St Nicholas (Velimirovich) wrote of this especially clearly in his ‘Signs and Symbols’, as he was profoundly Apostolic and therefore Patristic in his thought. Orthodoxy is the way of the Holy Spirit, of grace, of the ascetic, of the Tradition. We should not make isms. Thus, God created all things, man lived and fell, and so man must repent. That is all we need to know. Everything else is just rationalistic speculation, intellectual games. Let the impenetrable mysteries of God the Creator, how and when He created, remain. We can never know these mysteries, we can only catch glimpses of what is beyond the veil. God is infinitely greater than man.
Q: Many non-believers say that God is a crutch, invented by and for weak-minded and weak-willed people to get them through life. What would you reply?
A: Although God made man in His own image, fallen man continually attempts to make God in his own image. Thus, God is a crutch only if you make Him into a crutch for yourself, which is what Voltaire (‘if God did not exist, man would have to invent Him’) and later the proto-Fascist and also madman Nietzsche proposed. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries especially, ideologues tried to use the idea of God to justify this ‘crutchism’, not to mention Fascism, Communism, racism, capitalism and consumerism (‘riches are God’s blessing to those who believe in Him’ – one of the recent American exports to China).
However, to make God in your own image is called idolatry, as it makes the Living God into a manmade idol. Idolatry is continually denounced in the Old Testament, to which most of the world now seems to have returned. Why? Because the world has largely abandoned the New Testament because of its laziness and deluded lack of faith, summed up in the words: ‘Christianity is too hard’. This has been the slogan of the West for a thousand years and has justified all of its falls from Orthodoxy. As Chesterton truly said of the West: ‘It is not that Christianity has failed, it is rather that Christianity has never been tried’.
Q: What is the difference between secular unity (of the US and EU type) and Church unity?
A: Secular unity is always of the ‘one size fits all’ sort, as practised by the pagan Roman, British, European and any other secular Empire, including the Papal and the Phanariot. Church unity is always unity in diversity. It does not impose one language or one approach, but says there are ‘many mansions in the Father’s Kingdom’.
Q: Why does Catholicism place such emphasis on suffering for redemption and what they call ‘atonement’ or ‘reparation’?
A: This is not only true of Catholicism, but also of Protestantism, which inherited it from Catholicism. It originates in the Catholic (Anselmian / late 11th century) cult and doctrine of the Redemption. This asserts that we were saved by Christ’s suffering on the Cross before the punishing feudal God the Father who demanded His Son’s death as a propitiatory sacrifice and demands human suffering. This is to confuse cause and effect.
For Orthodox we were saved by the Resurrection (the Crucifixion was of course the necessary path to the Resurrection). Christ freed the captives from hell through his Resurrection, which came about after His Crucifixion, when His soul went down to Hell and defeated the devil, who alone is the author of suffering. This is why heterodox celebrate Good Friday and not Easter Sunday. This is why piety among them is seen as suffering and even false suffering, pretending to suffer, seeking suffering, when in fact they make others, not least Orthodox, suffer.
Q: An American from St Vladimir’s has tried to persuade me that Judas repented, because that is what it says in the King James Gospel before it says that he ‘went and hanged himself’. How do I answer this?
A: St Vladimir’s has often been a hotbed of American Protestantism.
It is true that Judas did regret what he did (‘he repented himself’ in early 17th century English in Matt 27), but this is not repentance. We can imagine that almost all suicides regret what they have done in their lives (Hitler must have regretted many tactical mistakes, such as invading Russia, before he died), but regret is not at all the same as repentance. When people throw themselves under trains, and it often happens, they die full of regret. But there is no repentance. Otherwise they would not commit suicide so selfishly (and create inconvenience to the lives of tens of thousands and mental breakdown to train drivers) and would have made up for their feelings of regret, which wipe away the feeling of regret. Ask the Apostles Peter and Paul in prayer and they will tell you what repentance is.
Q: What is the difference between piety and pietism?
A: Piety is the natural effect on human behaviour after the human heart has been touched by the Holy Spirit. Pietism is a disease, an artificial affectation, the self-willed effects of an intellectual and pathological decision to pretend to be pious. It can easily be diagnosed because it is always coloured by priggish, self-righteous pride, aggressiveness and vanity, a lack of humility and love for one’s neighbour.
Q: What do you make of the Pope’s decision to change the wording of the Lord’s Prayer in Italian from ‘Lead us not into temptation’ to something like ‘Avoid putting us to the test’, because otherwise some might think that God tempts us?
A: There is nothing new in this change. The Anglicans did the same some fifty years ago and the change seems to be yet another example of the Protestantization of Catholicism. True, the rewording is something of an explanation of the original words. However, temptations inevitably happen to us in the fallen world (they happened to Christ, for example, in the wilderness) and they are very positive if they are resisted, as they build us up, making us stronger and mature. (There is no maturity without undergoing temptations). Even ignoring this, the ‘rewording does seem very strange: by what authority does the Pope ‘correct’ the Saviour’s wording? And why does he think that believers can be so infantile as to think that God deliberately leads us into sin? Is he the Pope of doubters and sceptics?
Q: What do you think of Vladimir Lossky’s ‘The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church’?
A: I think it is an excellent academic overview of the Church’s theology, written by an Orthodox if Paris-trained intellectual. My only regret is the title, which is clearly aimed at Non-Orthodox. First of all, ‘Eastern Orthodox’ means in reality only Orthodox who live in the Middle East – Russians, for example, never call themselves ‘Eastern Orthodox’. I am not Eastern Orthodox. And then, why ‘mystical’? All theology is mystical, i.e. meta-rational, above the reason. Otherwise it is not theology, merely philosophy. A better title would be: ‘An Academic View of Authentic Christian Theology’.
Q: How do you keep faith alive today in such conditions of cynicism, of what they call post-modernism?
A: Cynicism is by definition the lack of faith. Post-modernism is the lack of any ideals caused by the lack of faith. For us there is only one ideal – Christ (and therefore all those who tried to follow Christ in and through the Church, the saints and the righteous. This excludes a lot of the people who claim to be in the Church, especially those among the senior clergy, for as the proverb says, ‘A fish rots from the head’). St Seraphim of Sarov did not live in Saint Petersburg (true St Xenia did, but as a tramp or drop-out), Elder Nikolai Guryanov lived on an isolated island in a lake and his teachings are still mocked by know-it-all-and-understand-nothing ‘Orthodox’ intellectuals in Moscow today. There is no surprise here, for Christ Himself did not live in Jerusalem (where they killed Him), but in the ‘backward’ province of Galilee. Thus, my answer is simple: Have faith in Christ, and if you do not have that, seek faith in Christ – and you will find faith. Then you will have an ideal and the cynicism that sinful men create will not vanquish you.
Q: When the clergy wear red in honour of the feasts of the martyrs, there is often so much gold colour in the red that it is more gold than red. Why?
A: To represent the glory of the martyrs. Martyrdom is not a defeat for us, but a victory. Red leads to gold; the blood of martyrdom to heavenly crowns.
Russian History and the Russian Church
Q: Was it only the Bolsheviks who destroyed Imperial Russia? What part did other countries in the First World War play in its destruction?
A: The only Christian Empire, Imperial Russia, was primarily betrayed by the loss of faith and so apostasy of its own leaders of the left and the right. And this long before the Bolsheviks came to power. Indeed, it can be said that the Bolsheviks were only latecomers, the opportunist flotsam and jetsam of history, a band of ruthless terrorists and thieves, the lowest of the low. They were led for the most part by apostate Jews and many of their victims were pious Jews. The Bolsheviks did not lead or start the so-called ‘Russian Revolution’ in any way, they were just parasites on the back of history. They never admitted this, because lying was inherent to their nature, as Solzhenitsyn later pointed out in his ‘Do not live according to lies’.
All the forces that destroyed Imperial Russia can be seen in the murder of the healer and prophet Gregory Rasputin, who is venerated by some pious Orthodox, especially inside Russia, as the first martyr of the Revolution three months before the others. His depraved murderers were: the liberal Anglophile/Francophile and transvestite aristocrat Yusupov; the right-wing Germanophile politican and so-called ‘monarchist’ Purishkevich; and two British spies, one an Odessa Jew under the alias of Sidney (Solomon) Reilly.
In this we see all the enemies of Christianity; the liberal modernist ecumenistic pro-British and pro-French traitors (later of the Paris School, whose sorry liberal influence parts of the OCA is still trying to cleanse itself of; it even denounces normal, middle-of-the-road Orthodox as ‘conservative’!); equally treacherous, pro-German (and later pro-Nazi), nationalistic, moralistic and pharisaical narrow-minded right-wingers; the apostate West, of Britain, France and Germany (later of the USA); Zionism.
However, it is Russian people themselves, both the elite and all who passively followed them, who are primarily responsible. They did not have to listen to any of the siren voices coming from the West and the West cannot be blamed for any of the primary responsibility. Maturity is the taking on of responsibility for the consequences of one’s own sins, as the New Martyrs did. Immaturity is blaming others: typically, children do that all the time – adults should not.
Q: When will unity between the various groups in the Russian Church come in North America and Western Europe? And what about the calendar question? Surely ROCOR would never agree to take on parishes, like the OCA ones, which use the new calendar for the fixed feasts?
A: There are at present three groups in North America (ROCOR, OCA – which are probably about the same size, even if the OCA has hundreds of tiny groups – and some 40 MP parishes) and two groups in Western Europe (about 70 ROCOR parishes and 200 MP parishes). They are all basically parts of the Russian Church, even though the OCA has a piece of paper granting it ‘autocephaly’ – though everyone knows that that independence is more or less a myth.
Unity will come with time. Both ROCOR and the OCA (and to some extent the MP parishes) were at daggers drawn during the Cold War because of their inherent political secularism and lack of spirituality. The OCA suffered from extreme Paris liberalism and the disease of ‘autocephalism’, uncanonical actions and downright episcopal immorality, the persecution of married clergy (not unknown elsewhere), with the result that it is still controlled by prematurely-appointed protopresbyters (the norm is 55 years of priesthood), like a Presbyterian Protestant group.
ROCOR suffered from what can be called in one nightmarish word ‘Grabbe’ (= narrow-minded phariseeism, inward persecution by the spiritually proud, loveless, racist, ritualist, exclusivist ghettoism and right-wing sectarianism of the ‘One True Church’ variety). However, now that the political extremists everywhere have either died, left, or else are at last starting to die out from old age, having inflicted intense suffering on others almost all their lives, there is hope for the future.
We have all suffered enough; when the last vestiges of these trends have gone, the Church will be free at last to move forward: I just hope we will not all be too old ourselves after over forty years, so far, of unnecessary delay and frustration.
For only when both groups have freed themselves from this extremist past can unity take place. There is already hope. Metr Jonah, once of the OCA, is now a retired Metropolitan in ROCOR, as is Bishop Nikolai (formerly of Alaska). And both current Metropolitans are well-disposed to one another. But both have to drag their groups behind them and in ROCOR we have certainly suffered from much extremist aggressiveness from the OCA in the past, but that was sometimes mutual. This process could take another generation and there must be progress on both sides. In Western Europe, hope for progress is also there, but ROCOR has suffered so much in the past from immorality or incompetence on the part of bishops of the MP. Trust has to be built. And that will take time.
The new calendar? A problem? How short are memories! Until 1991 ROCOR had several new calendar Romanian and Bulgarian parishes. There was no problem with that. If people are so weak that they need to have the fixed feasts on the new calendar, ROCOR can accept them by economy.
Q: Why does the Russian Church not hand back the Moldovan Orthodox Church back to Romania?
A: The simple answer to this is that only the Moldovan Orthodox themselves can decide which Patriarchate they want to be under; it is not for the Russian Church to do anything. You cannot ‘hand back’ what does not belong to you. The Moldovan Church is part of the Russian Church of its own freewill. The days of dictatorship in Eastern Europe are over, sadly the Romanian Church does not seem to realize this: if Moldovan Orthodox themselves, after nearly 200 years, with one short gap, within the Russian Church, wish to go under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Church (which, like Romania itself, did not even exist 200 years ago), they will do so.
What must be avoided is any kind of uncanonical, political and imperialist interference, including force and bribery, on Moldovan territory by the Romanian Church to make the Moldovan Orthodox change jurisdictions. This would be the same basic lack of canonicity and US-backed ecclesiastical imperialism as recently exercised by Constantinople in the Ukraine with such disastrous results, resulting in the Constantinople schism and its fall from grace. Moldovans have all told me that they don’t want to join the Romanian Church, as it is corrupted by simony. If the Romanian Church first sorts out its own house, perhaps the Moldovans would like to join it, providing they do not have to use the Roman Catholic calendar. That is up to them.
Q: Why does the Russian Church insist that bishops be monks? The Greek Church does not.
A: The answer is in the words of the ever-memorable Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky): ‘A scholarly monk who has been removed from his monastic setting and who is unable to form an attachment to another Church institution is liable to be tempted to love nothing but himself’. Of course, in the Russian Church too anyone can formally become a monk, without actually being so. So there is no guarantee that a Russian bishop is better than a Greek bishop because he is formally a monk. He can be exactly as narcissistic despite outward resemblances.
In fact, it is not the lack of nominal monasticism, but the lack of genuine monastic life among the Orthodox Christian episcopate, Greek or Russian, which is its bane. However, something similar can be said of those in the married state: he who is not obedient to marriage and does not love his spouse and children can also end up ‘liable to be tempted to love nothing but himself’. This is the danger of the refusal to marry or to become monastics, that is, the danger of celibacy without monasticism. Both the bachelor and the spinster, or for that matter, Roman Catholic priests, suffer terribly from the temptations of selfishness. All the best Roman Catholic priests I have met have been married with children (behind the backs of their bishops).
Q: Some people think that we will one day have a Tsar in Russia?
A: Of course, we will. That is exactly what we in England, and elsewhere, have been praying and working for over the last 100 years. He will not only be a Tsar in Russia, but a Tsar for all Orthodox everywhere. Our task now is to be like so many St John the Baptists, preparing the way, forerunning.
Q: When in history does the mentality ‘the West is better than the rest’ originate?
A: This mentality can first be found in the racist cruelty of the pagan Roman Empire, with its barbaric invasions, plundering and asset-stripping of other countries and endemic slavery. However, after the invasion of the West by the Germanic barbarians, the West was humbled and this proud and self-adoring mentality largely disappeared under the influence of the Christian enlightenment provided by humble Orthodox saints.
This situation lasted until the eleventh century – with the notable exception of Charlemagne’s massacre of the Saxons in the late eighth century, which happened precisely because he was trying to revive the pagan Roman Empire and so created what later came to be called Roman Catholicism. Thus, after the Year 1000, we can see this mentality very clearly in the Norman massacres in England after 1066 and in Jerusalem under the barbarian Crusaders in the late eleventh century, and again in the plundering of the Christian capital of New Rome in 1204 by other Roman Catholics. ‘Kill them all, God will recognize His own’, shouted the murderous Roman Catholic Dominicans in 13th century France – that too was the same mentality. All those who did not accept this mentality of the New West had to be terrorized and massacred into submission.
The Spanish and Portuguese Conquest of the Americas, annihilating the advanced civilizations there and so creating in their places the jungles of Guatemala and the Amazon, was the same. So were the massacres of Polish-led Uniatism in the 17th century. Other Western European countries simply followed this mentality in developing the slave trade and Empire-building, The war-crime massacres of the Carpatho-Russians by the Austro-Hungarians in the First World War and the German massacre of 30 million Slavs in their holocaust in the Second World War was only what the Spanish and the Portuguese, the British and the French, the Belgians, the Dutch and the Italians had already done to the Native Americans, Africans and Asians. And as for that notorious American general who some sixty years ago more or less said, ‘Bomb them back to the Stone Age’, he only repeated a tradition that was already 900 years old.
Q: What do the terms ‘Anglo-Saxon’ and ‘Byzantine’ mean?
A: Non-Christians and non-conscious (= Non-Orthodox) Christians use these terms to mean Orthodox English and Orthodox Roman. In the same way Non-Christians and non-conscious Christians call the late medieval revival of paganism ‘The Renaissance’ and also almost everywhere use the term ‘Christian’ to mean Non-Orthodox Christian, i. e. heretical. (For instance, they write: ‘Christians sacked Byzantium’, when what they mean is ‘barbaric anti-Christian heretics plundered the Christian Capital’). When secularist historians write of ‘Normans versus Saxons’, or ‘Franks versus Gallo-Romans’, they mean heretics versus English Christians or versus Western European Christians. Today, they say ‘modern versus traditional’ – it still means heretics versus Orthodox Christians.
Men and Women
Q: Why are there more women than men in churches?
A: Women are generally more sensitive and emotionally open than rationalizing men, who get blocked from faith by their brains, and so women access faith more easily, instinctively, by feeling and intuition. This is very positive. On top of this, every woman who has given birth has been through an experience that can only be likened to a near-death experience. Rare is the woman who does not admit the existence of God after giving birth. However, the downside of this is that women’s religious practice can be less sober and is more often coloured by sentimentalism and emotionalism, which in turn can lead to superstition, the disease of seeing ‘coincidences’ everywhere and misinterpreting them, fetishism or ‘lucky charmism’ and, in extreme cases, hysteria. Pathology always seeks to justify itself through religion.
Q: Should women stay at home and look after their children?
A: Please do not generalize! Every woman is different and free to choose what is right for her. Just like every man.
Q: What is the ideal age gap between a husband and wife?
A: I don’t think there is any such thing. True, very, very often in couples the husband is slightly older than his wife, but there are no rules here, as human psychology and experience are so varied. There are always the rare exceptions, even of very happy marriages where the age gap is 20 years and more, either cases where the husband wants to be mothered, which the wife in question is happy to do, or cases where the wife wants to be ‘daughtered’, which the husband in question is happy to do.
Q: What did you think of the recent Women’s Football World Cup?
A: As I have little interest in sport, I was only dimly aware of it until the last matches. However, I thought it was very typical that the four semi-finalist teams turned out to be from the four ex-Protestant countries, Great Britain, the USA, Sweden and the Netherlands. Clearly, this phenomenon of women playing traditionally male sports is not about equality before the law (of which everyone is naturally in favour). It is about women renouncing being women and everything that is distinctive about women: womanhood, femininity, motherliness, about becoming like men, and at that, often becoming like the worst and most vulgar of men.
Has no-one thought that women players can fall over and hurt their breasts or childbearing organs and become infertile? Men should be protecting them from this. This so-called ‘equality’ of the sexes which is preached and propagandized by the post-Protestant world is just more cultural imperialism. The post-Protestant world even when it was still Protestant already had no veneration for the Mother of God, but tended rather to despise her blasphemously. And so it goes on. The phenomenon of women playing man-invented sports is not about equality. It is about the reduction of women to the level of men, about homogeneity and sameness, about the levelling down of womankind to mere economic units, according to which reproductivity is a hindrance.
Q: How do you become a priest? And how did you become a priest personally?
A: You do not become a priest first, you become an active layman first, taking part in parish life, working in the parish, praying, gong to confession, taking communion, lighting the lamps, singing, reading, cleaning, helping, learning the services, reading, asking questions, helping in the altar if invited to. Priesthood is the end point, not the start. After a few years you may then end up as a reader. From there on you pray for God to continue to guide you.
As for me personally, it was a miracle. In my day if you mentioned such a thing as becoming a priest, you got humiliated, bullied, mocked and threatened. And of course there was no internet in those days, so no factual information, just negativity, prejudices and discouragement. I was recently astonished to see a brochure from Jordanville actually encouraging young men to become clergy! Just the opposite of a few decades ago. Young people have it so easy nowadays. In my day, there were two huge impediments to being ordained, one was being young, the other was being educated. So much talent was wasted – little wonder the Church is still desperately short of clergy. I would not want to be a bishop at the Last Judgement.
In my day, most jurisdictions would only ordain you if you belonged to the right ethnicity (or else if you agreed to be morally or financially corrupted by the bishop in question, for example by agreeing to become a freemason). (I remember how in order to become a deacon, I waited for ten years and had to be able to read the Six Psalms fluently in Slavonic, better than Russians could; you were always a third-class citizen; one rule for Russians, another for Non-Russians). One jurisdiction only ordained upper-middle class men – and your social class was decisive for them, so coming from my background I was out. Another jurisdiction, which appeared a couple of decades later, only ordained ex-Anglican vicars. One person there told me that you could only become a priest in that jurisdiction if you first became Anglican and got ordained as a vicar.
Frankly, I don’t know how I became a priest, except that it was a miracle worked through the prayers of St John of Shanghai and through the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, his spiritual son. I certainly received only hindrances and everything that has happened has taken place despite everyone, except Archbishop Antony.
Q: If you had your time again, what mistakes would you have avoided?
A: The question is of course impossible because if I had not made and then learned from my mistakes, I would not know what I know now!
However, I can clearly say that, given the absence of the Russian Orthodox Tradition, as I had already experienced it in Russia, in the Sourozh Diocese of the then enslaved Moscow Patriarchate in England, I would have gone straight to the University of London in 1974 and to the ROCOR Cathedral. On graduation, I would have gone straight to Jordanville.
However, I would always have belonged, as now, to the St John of Shanghai wing of ROCOR and not to the highly conservative, political, secular, old calendarist wing. It was that wing that more and more dominated ROCOR for forty painful years between the 1960s and 2007, when it was finally defeated, though sorry and painful vestiges still survive. The battle against this wing lasted for over four decades and took a great deal of our energy. It was the representatives of that wing who put St John on trial in San Francisco in 1964 and in so doing they put all of us on trial for decades to come. Personally, I was only found innocent and exonerated in December 2016, when the persecution stopped.
St John was the last bishop consecrated by Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky), who said of him, ‘If I do not consecrate him, no-one will’. In turn, St John was the spiritual father of the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, who was converted to monastic life by Metr Antony and by his understanding of the Redemption, as he told me in Paris in 1987. In turn, when I was ordained by Archbishop Antony, I think the last priest he ordained, he said, ‘If I do not ordain you, no-one will’.
This is where I will always belong, to the old traditions of the Western European Diocese of St John and his spiritual son Archbishop Antony, and not to some false and invented set of myths, invented by latecomers to the Church. Archbishop Antony, born in Kiev and living in Western Europe, would today be in the Exarchate, as he was a forerunner, pioneer and prophet of it.