Tag Archives: Apologetics

On War and Military Saints

At first sight it may seem strange that there are military saints, soldiers who became holy martyrs. But we can think of many examples from many countries: St Sabbas the Commander (+ 272), St George (+ 303), St Dimitry (+ 304), St Alban (+ 305), St Theodore the Recruit (+ 306), St Theodore the Commander (+ 319), St Alfred the Great (+ 899), St Alexander Nevsky (+ 1263) and more recently the admiral, St Thedore (Ushakov) (+ 1817).

True, in paradise there will be no armies, because there will be no war, just as in paradise there will be no police and no prisons because there will be no crime. But we live in the real world as it is and anyone from any background can become a saint. Indeed, in the Gospels, there is no condemnation of the soldiers who appear there and, one of them, the centurion, is praised and another, Longinus, who stood at the foot of the cross and confessed that Christ is indeed the Son of God, became a saint.

And yet in the Book of Exodus the sixth commandment states: ‘Thou shalt not kill’. However, from the same chapter and the following chapters, it is clear that this means that we must not murder out of hatred or for some other evil reason, for instance, because we want to get someone else’s money or property, or out of love of glory. But does this mean that we could kill someone for another reason? For example, if we saw someone in the street trying to kill someone to get their money, does this mean that we should defend that person?

Suppose we were an armed policeman and we saw a terrorist with a gun or bomb and he was threatening to kill lots of people, elderly people, women and children among them, and he could not see us and we had the chance to stop him and that resulted in killing him, would that be forbidden? Of course not, it would be irresponsible of us not to act in defence of others. In such situations where we are able to defend others, not to defend would simply be cowardice on our part.

The fact is that in this world we are often faced by choices and the choice we have to make is what we call ‘the lesser evil’. However, we must be very careful here: such a choice applies only in the case of defending others. So in every country armed forces are controlled by something called ‘The Ministry of Defence’. But do the armed forces really defend? Sadly, they often seem to do the opposite and attack, to offend.

It is the same with us. If we are aggressive and attack others, even killing them, that is wrong. Indeed, priests and monks are forbidden from taking up weapons to defend themselves. But if we are defending those who are weaker than ourselves, that can be justified. Here there is no hatred for an individual, just the responsible desire to protect others. Here there is no selfishness, we are not defending ourselves or our property or money or showing off our strength, we are protecting others, perhaps people we do not even know.

Yes, as Christians we are called on to love our enemies, but that means not to feel no personal hatred for them. Why? Because they are victims of their bad passions, the victims of evil. So to love our enemies does not mean that we should not defend others. War in defence of the weak is a lesser evil than declining war and surrendering to the power of barbaric terrorists. A soldier for us is not some self-satisfied murderer, but a noble hero who sacrifices himself by defending the weak.

 

(First Published in the Youth Magazine of the Colchester Orthodox Parish, Searchlight, Issue 5, June 2018)

Questions and Answers: Early June 2018

Q: How can you speak of a ROCOR Diocese in this country? It is so small it does not exist. So what can it contribute?

A: You would have been quite right at any time between the mid-eighties and until recently. I remember coming here on loan from Paris in 1994 because the London convent did not have a priest or any services, such was the catastrophic situation! However, before that period you are quite wrong and you are wrong again today, ever since the start of the restoration of our Diocese under Metr Hilarion and Bishop Irenei. It is now bigger than it was in the fifties and sixties and may grow a great deal more yet, as we are freed to expand, using all our energy and enterprise that had been bottled up for so many decades. The Patriarchal Diocese here, laboured with a ‘foreign’ name with a compromising history, called a ‘potemkin diocese’ by one its own priests, also has its difficulties.

Therefore, it is clear that ROCOR, with about 600 parishes outside the Russian Lands and the Patriarchate, with about 300 parishes outside the Russian Lands, mainly in Western Europe, need one another. They are like two pieces of a puzzle, each with its limitations, each with its strengths. For example, ROCOR has little money and few bishops, the Patriarchate has money, political help from embassies and an almost limitless supply of potential bishops (2,000 at the last count). However, generally ROCOR has local knowledge, not just languages, but knowledge of local mentalities and culture and pastoral ability. The average ROCOR priest in Europe speaks three or four languages: the average Patriarchate priest just one.

Unlike ROCOR, the Patriarchate is politically well-connected; however, ROCOR is free, as we saw in the recent Skripal case, and unburdened by the bureaucracy and centralization in the Patriarchate. It was from such formalist pre-Revolutionary bureaucracy that ROCOR has had such difficulty escaping right up until the present day and which, sadly, is reviving in Russia. Bureaucracy is not part of Church Tradition, but is alien to the Holy Spirit, being of the things of men. It belongs to religion, not to faith, to institutions, not to God.

Our Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland can be a useful, perhaps even an essential, part of the future Local Metropolia and then Local Church.

Q: How can we define our Orthodox identity as compared to Non-Orthodox?

A: I expect there are a thousand good ways of expressing answers to this question, but I think I can give you an example of an answer.

Recently, I was in conversation with a fairly senior Anglican priest and I asked him what he thought was the priority to save the Church of England, given that the Archbishop of Canterbury said in 2014 that it could virtually die out by 2050.

He answered that there are currently two trends inside his Church, one was to ‘make disciples’ and the other was ‘to create the kingdom of God’. In his view the first is wrong and the second is right. I (politely) asked him to translate this (for me incomprehensible jargon) into English and he explained that ‘making disciples’ means what we would call ‘proselytism’ or ‘making converts’ (which is alien to the Church), and that ‘creating the kingdom of God’ means trying to act socially or even politically, setting up clubs and groups, taking part in social life, standing for election, appearing in the media, lobbying politicians, holding concerts inside church-buildings etc. (This too is alien to the Church).

I thought that both these options are purely humanistic, turned towards people, not towards God. Our God is Holy and our aim is holiness, ‘acquiring the Holy Spirit’. In his two options there was nothing about holiness. Holiness attracts people long-term because our God works miracles. Everything that he mentioned is purely secondary to us, we transform individuals and society around us through repentance that brings personal holiness; everything else takes second place. We seek the kingdom of God first, then ‘thousands around us will be saved’. And that is the difference between us and Non-Orthodox.

Q: Was Fr George Gapon who led the demonstration against the Tsar in 1905 really Orthodox?

A: He was ordained canonically, but he was very much an extreme left-winger. He belonged to the Social Revolutionary Party and lived with a woman, which was allowed by the Protestant-minded Metr Antony (Vadkovsky) of Saint Petersburg, who was and is very controversial. (Some have suspected that Metr Antony was a freemason, like Protopresbyter George Shavelsky). Fr George Gapon finished very badly, being hanged in 1906 by the violent revolutionary Ruthenberg who had led the 1905 demonstration and terrorist attack on the forces of law and order. I think we can say that Gapon was not only uncanonical but not Orthodox at all. In this he is like Ilya Fundaminsky, who came from one of the richest Jewish families in Russia, became a terrorist, emigrated to France, where he was baptised under Rue Daru, and a few years ago was canonized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople for having been murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.

Q: What do you think of the decision by a British school that boys must not wear shorts, but skirts, because shorts are gender-specific?

A: Here is the result of what became common here over 50 years ago (in the USA long before) and is now nearly universal – the wearing of trousers by females. The mixing of the sexes causes spiritual confusion. Here is the result. The word ‘sex’ means ‘cut’, in other words men are men and women are women. But we are now in the era of transgenderism and so spiritual catastrophe.

Q: How do we answer critics who say that the Orthodox Church is so old-fashioned that it is antediluvian? I mean we have no women-priests and will never have any, we do not have same-sex marriages, we do not even have pews or organs, which the Non-Orthodox started having already 200-400 years ago. To them we are primitive.

A: What a curious, but also very eloquent viewpoint – antediluvian! I think that people who say such things are themselves ‘diluvian’, that is to say, they have been submerged beneath the Flood of secularism. In that sense we are ‘anti-diluvian’, but not antediluvian! I would answer them that and say that we, on the contrary, are ‘post-diluvian’, that is to say, we are looking forward to what is coming after the present Flood of secularism, to the Kingdom of God, which is coming, one way or the other, and quite soon. They are spiritually primitive – we are not.

Q: Is perfectionism a virtue or a vice?

A: A vice, even, indeed, a spiritual curse. There is an old story of a monk who was a brilliant icon-painter who was praised for his painting. From that moment on he began putting a small mistake into everything he did. Perfectionism is pride, we even say ‘take pride in what you do’. Yes, of course, bodging, Coggeshall jobs and second-rate work is bad, to be avoided, but we should do things as well as we can, but we should know that perfection is beyond us human-beings.

Q: What do you think of the decision by two-thirds of Irish people to legalize child-murder?

A: Once Ireland had agreed to enter the secularist EU, this was inevitable. The same will happen in Poland in a few years time. If you sell your soul to the devil for an EU mess of pottage, here are the consequences.

Q: What do you think are the weaknesses of the European peoples?

A: Any such generalization is bound to have a thousand exceptions and can only be vague. And it would be more pleasant to talk about strengths than weaknesses. But if you insist: Today (I am not talking about Western culture 1,000 years ago or even 500 years ago, which was different) I think all the Western peoples suffer from an almost uncontrollable desire to tell the rest of the world how to live and to meddle in their civilizations. (Why else does the LGBT flag fly over the British Embassy in Minsk?).

More specifically, I think with the Protestant British (and to a large extent the Protestant Dutch and the Swiss Germans), it is a slavish love of money, a real obsession (why else do British media obsessively report Stock Exchange rates and currency values and encourage people to save as soon as they are born?). This enslavement was taken by the British to North America, hence their enslavement to the dollar. With the Germans it is the need to give orders and create order, as we see from their history. With the French it is hedonism, the obsession with the aesthetic, with ‘look’ and ‘image’. With the Italians it is their obsession with all forms of art, as everywhere, for example, in Venice and Florence and as in opera. With the Spanish it is an obsession with blood and cruelty, as we see in the Inquisition, in Goya and in bullfighting. With the Portuguese it is their melancholy regret for what they have lost, as in the fado With the Scandinavians it is obsession with impossible thisworldly justice, which comes from their narrow and worldly Lutheran culture. With the Russians it is the obsessive need to be accepted (which comes from the national inferiority complex, which began with their apostasy from Orthodoxy in the late 17th century and their superficial adoption of Western values). With the Jews it is (not money – which is a nasty anti-Jewish myth), but the obsession with acquiring power, which goes back to the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem after the glory days under David and Solomon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Questions

 

Q: How can you belong to ROCOR, a Church that in the 1990s uncanonically opened parishes inside Russia and entered into communion with schismatic Greek Old Calendarists?

A: I could not and did not. I am afraid you have your facts wrong. Two (but possibly more) ROCOR bishops did what you describe. And in the Western European Diocese of ROCOR, to which I then belonged, we categorically refused to engage in either of the above because both these actions were and are uncanonical.

Q: Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross backwards?

A: Christ sits on the right hand of the Father. The Tradition has always been to start with the right – right foot first. Thus, just like Orthodox, even Catholics make the sign of the cross with the right hand and not the left. Priests turn to their right to say to the people ‘Peace be unto all’, we cross our hands left over right before communion, priests (as did laity once) receive communion with their right hand cupped in the left, which is how laypeople cup their hands to take a priest’s blessing.

The fact is that in the West people used to make the sign of the cross as Orthodox still do, from right to left. Thus, in the 1713 French ‘Simple, Literal and Historical Explanations of the Ceremonies of the Church’ by Dom Claude de Vert, Page 6, Rubric 1, we read: ‘The priest makes the sign of the cross with his five fingers (and not with the first three only according to the old practice – as some bishops, the Chartreuses and the Jacobins still do, being careful to extend only the thumb and the next two fingers, as in times past).

And if the priest touches the left shoulder before the right, it is not a matter of indifference, as we can see from a letter of Pope Leo IV (790-855) that formerly the right shoulder was indeed touched before the left’.

The question as to why Catholics changed from the Orthodox practice (after all, they keep Orthodox practices in many other domains) is unanswerable. However, the most likely suggestion is that Catholic laity wanted to do what they saw the Catholic priests doing when they face the people and bless them, that is, when they cross the people from left to right (which appears to laity as right to left, as they face the clergy). In other words, the change was caused by clericalism, by wanting to imitate the clergy.

Q: Why in the British Isles do you say ‘He is risen indeed’ in answer to ‘Christ is risen’? Elsewhere the response is ‘Truly He is risen’, which, after all, is the literal translation.

A: This relates to the King James translation of the words of Luke and Cleopas to the other disciples in Luke 24, 34, after they had come back from Emmaus and talked to Christ: ‘Saying, the Lord is risen indeed’. (In the Greek, ‘ondos’ – really, in the Russian ‘istinno’ – truly). This translation simply relates to the emphatic British English usage of the word ‘indeed’ (for example, the phrase, ‘Did he indeed?’), whereas other English-speaking peoples would use ‘truly’ or ‘really’. The merit of the translation ‘indeed’ is that it implies ‘in action’, not just ‘in theory’.

Q: Why are some converts eccentric?

A: I recently visited a ‘convert church’ which had a notice by the entrance with the words: ‘Warning: This Church May Contain Nuts’.

We are talking now about a small minority, an eccentric fringe, so we should not get things out of proportion. I think that those who consider that they are ‘converts’ are not Orthodox; those for whom Orthodoxy is a way of life and have forgotten a time when they were not in the Church are simply Orthodox. Orthodoxy is second nature to us. But ‘converts’ (that is, a minority of converts) seem to cultivate exotic eccentricity, especially strange dress and hairstyles. And yet the Mother of God was a ‘convert’, as were all the apostles. But they never spoke of themselves as ‘converts’ and we never think of them as ‘converts’. Of course not – because they were converted – i.e. finished products.

Here we come to the essence of the matter: there are ‘converts’ and there are the converted. The difference is that ‘converts’ are people who want to remain in a stew for beginners, for ever and ever, and there are people who have been converted and are trying to improve themselves. In other words, quite simply, there are neophytes and there are Christians.

Those who are neophytes want to remain at the Church doors, for ever ranting against their former beliefs (there is nothing so anti-Anglican as an ex-Anglican) and there are those who have entered the Church and really cannot be bothered by what goes on at the Church doors. Those who remain at the doors for ever read books for converts (Bloom, Ware, Schmemann, The Way of a Pilgrim, Kalomiros etc) and cultivate eccentricity and exoticism in dress, hairstyle or speech, sometimes for some pathological reason (to look different from others); they are ‘converts’. It is time for them to move on and become normal Christians, which is what the word Orthodox actually means.

The word ‘eccentric’ is another word for vanity, the desire to be different, to be attention-seeking. Such ‘converts’ need to move on from the first course to the main course, with its meat, which has the promise of the sweet dessert to come. Those who remain converts need to be converted. But they must first want to be converted and not remain ‘converts’.

Q: What do you think of the opinion ‘Religion is the opium of the people’?

A: Personally, I am against religion, that is, the artificial invention by States of religious establishments in order to repress people. However, I am for faith, that is, for spiritual experience, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is the foundation of the Orthodox Church. To Marx, whose birth was 200 years ago and who wrote this opinion 175 years ago, I would say: ‘And atheism is the opium of the intellectuals’.

Q: Are some people chosen by God to carry out some special task, to fulfil some special destiny in this world? Are you such a person?

A: All of us without exception have been chosen by God for some special task, it is just that only some are aware of it. As for myself, I have been aware for over four decades that I have to preach Orthodoxy in Western Europe. This is in order to gather the lost sheep together, that is, to reintegrate at least a small number of Western Europeans and our saints back into the Church. This is to make ready for the restoration of the Christian Empire in Russia to resist Antichrist, whose coming the globalists are preparing.

 

 

Why Does the Bible Not Mention Dinosaurs?

(A question from Vyacheslav, aged 10).

First of all, dinosaurs were only discovered 200 years ago, long after the Bible was written down. On the other hand, since the Bible, right at the beginning, very, very briefly mentions the period when there were dinosaurs, you may ask why it does not mention them. That is simply because when dinosaurs existed, people had not yet been created, so there was no-one to see dinosaurs and describe them.

However, there is a much more important reason why the Bible does not mention dinosaurs. You see, the Bible does not mention giraffe, zebra or kangaroos and lots of other things. But they all existed at the time when the stories in the Bible were written down. This is because the Bible is not interested in them. The Bible is not a handbook on fossils, animals, insects, astronomy, engineering, geography, medicine, laws, business, history, French, maths and all sorts of other things. For example, if I want to know about dinosaur fossils, I will read a book on dinosaur fossils, but I will not expect that book to tell me about God, or what I can do to become a better person and save myself from bad things (salvation), like the Bible.

So, if I want to know how to fix my car, I get a handbook on my car. But if I want to know how I can fix my life, then I read the Bible.

In fact, we can say that there are two types of book. The first type will tell me about all sorts of things that we might see in the world today or might have seen in the world in the past or even what we might see in the future. These books are called fiction and non-fiction. They can be compared to a microscope, which is used for looking in detail at people and the world around us.

Then there are ‘The Books’, what we call in English the Bible, which means precisely ‘The Books’. Now the Bible only mentions people and the world around us in passing. This is because it is not a microscope, but a telescope. And it is a telescope which we use to see beyond the universe, beyond creation, to God. In this way we can understand how our whole life changes because God is here and so we can make sense of our past, present and future and how we can save ourselves from bad and become better.

So, the Bible is a book that is very different from all other books: it is not a microscope to look at life around us, at Creation, but a telescope to look at the source of life, the Creator, so then we can make sense of our life.