Questions and Answers (November 2021)

The Persecution

Q: I had not been following your situation for months. This news has come as a total surprise to me, though I am not sure why, as politics posing as Orthodoxy has seriously damaged my trust. I am lost to the Church.

A: If we had been put off by bishops playing politics, we would have left the Church 47 years ago, let alone during this particular nightmare of the last two years. We go to Church to worship Christ. The devil goes to Church to destroy Christ. Are you seriously saying that you are lost to Christ? If so, you are, ultimately, siding with the devil.

The full story of the Persecution will be told in due course. But that is not the main thing. The main thing is that questions will be asked about the Persecution and all will have to answer one question both in the very near future and again at the Last Judgement: Whose side were you on? On the side of the persecuted or on the side of the persecutors? The sectarians are the persecutors, together with those who love power and money more than Christ’s Church, together with the mercenaries, those who are ‘sergianists’, who have no principles and sign away their souls for a mess of pottage. Fortunately, repentance for all of them is still possible.

In September 2020 I went to Mt Athos and saw Elder Evthimios. He is the closest disciple of St Paisios the Athonite and in his skete he built the first church in the world dedicated to the saint. I asked him what to do. Only on 9 May this year I received his answer, in the most shocking words of all about this whole affair: ‘Do not worry. This matter will be judged in the highest of courts’. These words inspire dread and trembling.

Negativity

Q: Why is it that some converts attack Non-Orthodox, rather than see potential Orthodox in them?

A: Sadly, there is a certain type of convert from Protestantism who never becomes Orthodox, but is stuck as just anti-Protestant and the sort of convert from Catholicism who never becomes Orthodox, but is stuck as just anti-Catholic. None of this has anything to do with Orthodoxy and theology, but only with psychology and pathology.

We are told that the best way to catch a fly is with honey rather than vinegar. Sadly, there are those who are addicted to vinegar. Of course, we do not overlook reality and see only the good in others. We see the bad as well, with love pointing out errors, but still appreciating the positive, which may well be much greater than the bad. And we should always see the bad in ourselves first of all. We do not begin destruction, before we begin construction.

There is a similar situation with those who trawl the internet, searching for ‘prophecies’ regarding the coming of Antichrist. We should rather be looking forward to the Coming of Christ, which is what the first Orthodox did, for it will be glorious.

The Toll-Houses

Q: Why is this Orthodox doctrine of toll-houses after death controversial? And do the toll-houses go in order from the least serious to the most serious?

A: The ‘aerial toll-houses’ are images of what our soul will undergo after it is freed from the body at death and is examined at them for its sins during the forty days, in earthly time, between death and the particular judgement. I would not call this an Orthodox ‘doctrine’, rather part of the Orthodox Tradition of piety.

As far as I can see, the only controversy has been in the USA. The controversy there seems to me be a result of American literalism. If we are less literal-minded and take the toll-houses as images of spiritual truth, then I can see no controversy. Unfortunately, some people are very literal. Just as they imagine the Last Judgement as some kind of court-room with lawyers dressed in wigs etc, so they imagine the toll-houses to be some sort of buildings with customs-officers and bureaucratic forms to fill in (more an image of hell, I think). Such literalism, especially among those from a Calvinist or Lutheran convert background, is really not helpful, as it presents salvation as impossible and it creates despair. They forget the revelation that salvation comes from Divine Mercy, not from acts.

The order in which the twenty toll-houses is presented is interesting. For example the first three are listed as examining sins of the tongue, lieing and slander. These are all close to one another, though slander is a terrible sin. The twentieth toll-house examines the sin of the lack of mercy, which is surely the most serious and the one which can indeed prevent us from entering Heaven. On the other hand, pride only comes in eleventh place and murder in fourteenth place. I don’t think that the list goes from the least to the most serious. The order has a spiritual meaning.

The Sacraments

Q: Should a baby be baptised exactly on the fortieth day? When should the priest place the cross on the newly-baptised baby after baptism?

A: The fortieth day only has a symbolic importance (Christ’s Entrance into the Temple on the fortieth day). In fact I think the fortieth day should be considered as the maximum delay. Sadly, I baptise so many three month-old, six month-old, year-old children. It is cruel to make the children wait so long for the grace of baptism, chrismation and communion. The Russian Royal Family baptised their children well within forty days, the Tsarevich after twenty days for example. The only problem with early baptism is that some babies have very short hair and the tonsuring is difficult. But that can be true after six months!

You have answered your own second question! After the baby has come out of the water after the threefold immersion and the baby is clothed in the new clothes/christening gown, then the cross can be placed on the baby. In other words, place the cross on the baby after baptism. However, it is true that some priests do not give the cross until after the chrismation or else after whole baptism/chrismation and Many Years is sung. But such things have no dogmatic importance. You will find various practices.

Q: Can small children take part in the service of unction?

A: They must take part. Why should we deprive children of the sacrament of unction? We do not deprive them of the sacrament of communion. The only thing is that up until about the age of seven, children should be anointed simply with a cross on their forehead. This is to avoid children wiping the myrrh onto clothes etc.

Q: Where does the tradition of apostle spoons as christening presents come from?

A: Although the internet will tell you that they originate in 16th century England, this is clearly untrue. They certainly existed in 6th century Rome. I suspect that apostle spoons were actually originally communion spoons. This goes back to the time when people brought their own communion spoons to church to partake. The tradition of putting an image of one of the apostles on them goes back to the Last Supper. Each spoon was engraved with the image of one of the apostles who had been with Christ, both physically and by taking communion, at the Last Supper.

Christ

Q: What colour was Christ’s skin? Was He white?

A: Look at an icon! As he was from the Middle East, he had a tanned, pale brown appearance.

Priests’ Clothing

Q: Why do Orthodox priests wear black cassocks? He must have worn some light colour clothing, as traditional Arabs do today.

A: True. Monks wear black cassocks because black is the colour of repentance. However, married priests can wear any colour, though we often wear black. That is under monastic influence.

Terminology

Q: Why are there so many protopresbyters in the Greek Church and so few in the Russian Church?

A: In Greek a ‘protopresbyter’ simply means what the Russians call an ‘archpriest’. That is why it is so common. However, in Russian a protopresbyter is a very, very senior archpriest, in principle one who has been a priest for 55 years – which is why it is so rare, so is in his 80s (although this length of time is not always adhered to in some groups like ROCOR and the OCA).

Q: Why do you avoid the terms ‘Anglo-Saxon’ and ‘Saxon’, in phrases like ‘the Anglo-Saxon Church’ or ‘Saxon England’?

A: This term was never used before 1066. It is therefore unhistoric, anachronistic. Before 1066 people called themselves ‘English’ (spelled Englisc). The Anglo-Saxon or Saxon term was introduced by foreign invaders, the Roman Catholic Normans, as a piece of propaganda to persuade people that the Normans were the English and the English were foreign ‘Saxons’. It is therefore not an Orthodox Christian term. We should use and do use terms like Pre-Schism, Orthodox, Early English or Old English.

History

Q: What is the origin of Western Imperialism?

A: Western Imperialism, or Westernisation, has been headed by various different Western countries in its time: the Franks (1) (who were the first and so gave their name to the rest among many peoples), the Normans, the Crusaders, the Prussians, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the French, the Austro-Hungarians, the British, the Germans, the Americans, is now called Globalism. Its origin lies at the end of the eighth century under a Frankish tribal chieftain, who came to be called Charlemagne, originally ‘Karl the Tall’.

The cruellest of barbarians with burning ambition (which is now he came to power over others), Karl wanted the prestigious leadership of the universalism of the pagan Roman Empire. To justify all the future acts of barbarism he needed to become such a universal leader, he had to invent a new ideology. First, he declared that the real Emperors of Rome, living in New Rome, were not Christians, but ‘Greeks’, ‘Byzantines’, ‘Asiatics’, and ‘despots’. (Interestingly, these words are still used as insults by hypocritical Western racists today to refer to anybody outside their own despotic culture). Then he called himself a Christian (in fact he was some sort of mass-murdering iconoclast Arian, in any case definitely not a Christian), and gave himself the title of Roman Emperor. In time, his new ideology came to be called Roman Catholicism and Papism.

Fortunately, after his death in 814 Karl’s tyrannical power over his small group of countries collapsed, for Orthodox Christianity was still strong enough in Western Europe to resist his pagan ambitions. As we know, however, his barbarian descendants returned to power some two centuries later, at first in the north of Spain, then under the Normans in the south of Italy and in England after 1066. After 1054, the barbarians’ rise to tyranny became inevitable and by the thirteenth century their despotism had spread outwards to the south of Spain, Sicily, Greece, Cyprus and Constantinople, to the west in Ireland, to the north in Scotland, Scandinavia and Finland, and to the east in Lithuania and Poland, and even beyond Europe to the Asian Middle East and ports in North Africa.

Today’s Muslims call Western Imperialism ‘Crusader-Zionism’. This term first of all reflects their personal tragic history and the anti-Jewish racism of the Semitic Arab race. It does, however, sum up the organised barbarian violence (what could be more organised and at the same time more barbarian than the machine gun, poison gas, the Atom Bomb, or the smart missile?) through which the Western world (‘the international community’, as the BBC calls it) has obtained power and cultivates its universal ambition: it will never stop until it has absolute control of the whole world. However, as we know, the only one who will ever obtain almost universal control – and only very briefly – is Antichrist and the only way you can share in his power is by siding with him.

Note

  1. The word ‘frank’ literally means ‘free’, that is, ‘not slaves’. From it we have words like ‘franchise’. Its meaning reminds us of what organisations like the BBC used to call ‘the free world’. What this actually meant was that small part of the world, the West, which had not been enslaved by the West and its ideologies like Marxism. (Here we are reminded of the words of one of the hymns of Western Imperialism, ‘Rule Britannia’: ‘Britons never, never, never will be slaves’. This was written by British slave-owners for British slave-owners. Such words as ‘Human-beings never, never, never will be slaves’ never occurred to them).