Tag Archives: faith

Faith or Hysteria? The Spiritual Meaning of Covid-19

The human world can be divided into those who strongly believe in God, those who only weakly believe and those who do not believe.

Those who do not believe are very few in number and generally they are those who in childhood had some form of an absurd manmade religion rammed down their throats. Without any spiritual experience, they therefore, quite naturally after such an experience, insist that they do not believe in the God they were forced to believe in. Their only sad belief is in fallible and mortal man. Their only (tragic) hope is this life, this world, and the possibility that they may have long lives.

Those who strongly believe in God are also a minority, though a far larger minority than those who do not believe. This is because they believe because of a positive spiritual experience. Indeed, it is not so much that they believe in God, but that they know God. They are those who are conscious that God is and that without Him, we cannot exist. They do not believe in man (especially after the mass inhumanity towards man shown by the militant atheist ideologies of the twentieth century), they believe in infallible and immortal God. They know that they will die and they know that death will come when God wills (which is why we do not seek death of our own will).

The middle group are the majority. They are those who believe only weakly. We see them at church every Sunday. They are the ones who reappear after a year or two or more of absence because they have had some problem and need help. These are people who may live quite sinfully but when a difficulty appears, they turn back to God, Who, as they know, underpins reality and is always here, despite their sinful ways. Such people are often superstitious, they may believe in God as in a sort of magic, a kind of primitive animism. ‘Make the sign of the cross for good luck’. ‘Drink some holy water and the cancer will go away’.

On the negative side, such people often use God to justify any sort of evil and personal sin. (Obviously you would not use a base cause to justify base acts – use something noble, the noblest cause of all – God). For example in the First World War German soldiers wore a belt with the inscription ‘Gott mit uns’, ‘God is with us’, though they at the same time sang ‘Deutschland ueber alles’, ‘Germany above everything’, i. e, Germany is above God. And the English boasted that ‘God is an Englishman’. (Lately a Georgian priest told me that God only speaks Georgian, though I have heard similar nonsense from weak-faithed, flag-waving Greeks and Russians). This is just like contemporary Ukrainian fanatics, for whom ‘Ukraine is above all’. Such people can also use the concept of God to justify their personal fanatical beliefs or psychological perversions. Such was George Bush whom ‘God told’ to invade Iraq, leading to the deaths and mutilations of hundreds of thousands. Such also are Muslim terrorists. The concept of God is always used by sinners to justify their sins. This is, of course, not the work of God, but the work of man. Never believe those who claim that, ‘God told me’.

On the positive side, those who only weakly believe are also those whose lives may be changed by the present crisis. Bullied and intimidated by the atheist media, they have fallen into hysteria and panic as a result of a weak faith. This is the opportunity for them to pray and repent, as it is for all. This is the spiritual meaning of the present crisis.

Sadly, it now seems that there will be no public services at Easter. At best services will be livestreamed. This will be like Easter in the Soviet Union. With nearly all churches closed, people prayed at home.

At present this tragic epidemic has killed nearly 50,000 people worldwide (95% of them aged over 70). This is about 10% of the death toll caused by swine flu eleven years ago. However, this time it is Western countries which have been the most affected for the time being. Nobody knows what the coming weeks and months will bring. All we know is that this will end and that all is in God’s hands. Have faith.

 

 

Faith and Responsibility

The present coronavirus crisis has divided opinion. There is a minority who say that they do not fear anything and we should continue as usual. They look on those who follow government instructions to the letter as blind zombies, victims of government and media propaganda, who lack faith and believe too much in their own reason. For the majority, however, such people are just crazy and irresponsible conspiracy theorists who should be locked away, as dangerous to the public.

It seems to me that, as Christians, we should not fear. Faith does not fear. We do not fear death. We are not cowards. We have courage. However, on the other hand, all wise and reasonable precautions must be taken. To disobey the law is wrong. Irresponsibility must be condemned. And there is no contradiction between faith and responsibility. Over 90% of the victims of the virus are aged over 70. We may not feel that we are going to suffer. But this is pure selfishness. We can spread it! Think of others.

We should be praying especially for the elderly and the sick. Thus, for the moment there are hardly any victims in Africa, where there are few old people, but in Italy at present over 90% of victims are over 70 and there are hardly any victims under the age of 50. But also we should pray for those who are depressed and anxious, for those in big cities like London, where the situation is disturbing, unlike in the countryside and in small towns, where all is quiet. And also we should pray for the self-employed and disabled, who lack money, and those with children who live in flats. And also for the USA, where there is no health system for tens of millions and much homelessness and other diseases, and there may, God forbid, yet be large numbers of victims.

There is now a Facebook fashion of applauding heath workers at 8.00 pm. It would be better to pray. And on Mt Athos this evening (Friday 27 March) (beginning at 5.00 English time) begins an All-Night Vigil to the Mother of God and St Haralampius, whose relics have often delivered from epidemics. This is the evening is when at any time we should all pray, perhaps reading an akathist to the Mother of God. The world has forgotten that miracles can, depending in our faith, happen. We have not.

Akathists in Slavonic:

https://akafistnik.ru/god/akafist-pokrovu-presvyatoj-bogoroditsy/

http://akafistnik.ru/akafisty-svyatym/akafist-svyaschennomucheniku-kharlampiyu/

 

Akathists in English (We have substituted the akathist to St Panteleimon since, as far as we know, there is no translation as yet into English of the akathist to St Haralampy)

Akathist to the Protection of the Theotokos

https://www.akathists.com/saint-panteleimon/akathist/

Why I Love My Parishioners

My three parishes in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk cover an area of over 5,000 square miles (13,000 square kilometres). That is why we have long needed and, at last have, two assistant priests. How big is my main parish in my native town of Colchester, in the biggest Russian Orthodox church building in the British Isles and Ireland? Well, there are about 100 people I can depend on to be there almost always. Then there are about another 400 parishioners, whom I know I will see within the space of a month. So there are 500 parishioners, of 25 different nationalities, born on four continents.

However, in addition to these 500 there are about another 4,500 people, scattered all over this region and up to 60 miles (100 kilometres) outside it, occasionally attending one or other of the three parishes. I may see them only once or twice a year, and some even less often than that. Many of them only come to church for baptisms and weddings, but when they do come, they come to us. Many of them I hardly know. So, not parishioners as such, but they are still in my mind and heart. There are all sorts of reasons why I see them only rarely, and it is not just a matter of distance. But I will not go into that here.

I want to tell you about two of them. With a title like ‘Why I love my parishioners’, you may think that I want to tell you about two of the 500 regulars. Since I do not want to embarrass anyone, I do not. I want to tell you about two of the other 4,500. They are of two different nationalities.

The first one is a real Orthodox man. In his forties, he is married with two lovely children. He has a business with employees. I first met him when he was in prison. Yes, in prison. Unfortunately, he had criminal competitors who tried to attack him and were jealous of him and his family. They threatened to throw acid in his wife’s face, if he did not take the blame for a crime of fraud which they had committed. He had no doubt that their threat was real. They were capable of it and had already done it to another. So, in order to protect his beloved wife, he went straight to the police and told them a lot of lies about himself. He went on trial and was sentenced. His only ‘crime’ was to lie in court in order to protect his wife. He had to go to prison for one year, but his wife was protected. There was such happiness and rejoicing in his house when he came home.

What a man. No, he has never studied theology, he has never heard of any modern ‘theologians’ (though he does know something of the Lives of the Saints), he cannot tell you about the history and structure of the services, has never met a bishop, does not know the Bible backwards, will not give you lots of pious talk about prayer and fasting, has never heard of ‘the Council of Crete’ and knows nothing about Catholicism and Protestantism. As a real Orthodox, he does not believe in God, he knows Him. So he has humility and there is no self-loving question of proud people about ‘Why has God allowed this to happen to me?’ Just acceptance of God’s will. He has protected and defended what is most precious to him. An example. He sacrificed himself, but has one of the best families in the world. They love each other. That is God’s reward to him. A real Orthodox man.

The second one is a real Orthodox woman, a lady with dignity and self-respect, which has become so rare these days. I first met her when I was making a pastoral visit far away. She married in her early 20s and had two children. But then her husband began drinking. And beating her. She was patient. They only divorced when he began harming the children. (He has since died). So she, then aged 34, brought up two children alone, struggling to pay her bills. She has made a good job of it too. The first went to University and now has a good career. A lovely person. The second, a girl, is finishing school. She has a very noble and idealistic disposition and is not afraid to stand up for the truth. She stands out from the others of her generation. (She has had her mother’s example). A year ago this Orthodox woman, who had shed so many tears for her broken dreams and broken heart these last 25 years, quite downhearted, came to church and there she met a man. The man. Within a week they had fallen in love. It was her dream, the one which she had wanted as a romantic teenager. She had been waiting all those years and then it all came true. Out of the blue.

What a woman. No, she has never studied theology, she has never heard of any modern ‘theologians’ (though she does know something of the Lives of the Saints), she cannot tell you about the history and structure of the services, has never met a bishop, does not know the Bible backwards, will not give you lots of pious talk about prayer and fasting, has never heard of ‘the Council of Crete’ and knows nothing about Catholicism and Protestantism. As a real Orthodox, she does not believe in God, she knows Him. So she has humility and there is no self-loving question of proud people about ‘Why has God allowed this to happen to me?’ Just acceptance of God’s will. She has protected and defended what is most precious to her. An example. She sacrificed himself, but has one of the best families in the world. They love each other. Her new husband adores her – as she deserves. That is God’s reward to her. A real Orthodox woman.

Now you know why I love my parishioners.

The Sad Case of Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry, a Briton of Jewish origin, is an actor, TV celebrity, darling of the BBC, Cambridge intellectual, manic-depressive who has attempted suicide several times, well-known homosexual ‘married’ to a man half his age and also a passionate atheist.

What does his atheism show? First of all, his recent diatribe showing his hatred for all faith, that is, for awareness of spiritual reality, shows that he has no concept of God. He may be an intellectual with a vast knowledge of abstract facts, but he certainly has no experience of spiritual reality. In a word his heart is, it seems, dead. His notion that if there is a God, He is responsible for all the appalling suffering of humanity, is as primitive a concept of faith as is possible. It reminds us of the spiritual level of the brutal peasant Khrushchev. He, on Gagarin’s return from space, declared that clearly God did not exist, since Gagarin had been into space and not seen Him!

However, God saw Gagarin and soon after He received both Khrushchev’s and Gagarin’s souls.

Essentially, the deformation here is that of the humanist and rationalist brainwashing of modern Western ‘culture’ that Fry has undergone.

Firstly, he has been conditioned to think that humanity is never responsible for evil and even apparently incapable of evil. He ignores the fact that all wars are caused by human beings who have fallen into atheism (however they may cloak their atheism), most obviously the Second World War, and that faith (or rather manmade ‘religion’) is only ever used as an excuse to justify wars, which are in fact all motivated by human greed for territory and power, however motives are camouflaged. Evil motives always cloak themselves in what is good and noble.

Secondly, he has been conditioned to think that humanity can understand everything. What he has failed to understand here is that we can know very little in general and nothing at all about faith with our brains. Faith (unlike manmade ‘religion’) depends on the spiritual experience of a different organ, not on the intellectual experience of our brain, but on the spiritual experience of our heart, and if our heart is not working, then our brains are blinded, disfunctional. Either our hearts are alive and have that experience, we have met God, or else they are not alive and we have not had that experience and not met God. Clearly, he has not.

Therefore it would be better if Stephen Fry kept his silence until he has had some experience in the deeper realm beyond the superficial, beyond the mere brain and the mere emotions, in the realm of the Spirit, sensed by the living heart which then inspires faith which then inspires the brain. However, Stephen Fry, created by God, first needs to know that this is not possible until he has purified his heart of his passions, and so cultivated his inner sight and met God. And only he can begin to purify and cultivate his heart. It is a process called repentance.

Modernism, Post-Modernism and Post-Postmodernism

Modernism is a very old-fashioned concept, dating back to the nineteenth century. The concept passed through artists like Matisse, Gauguin and then Picasso and a whole school of thinkers. However, its culminating point – and also death – came only some fifty years ago in the 1960s, which itself culminated in the youth revolutions of 1968. ‘Modern’ meant anti-Victorian, the rejection of any kind of ‘old’ value, of anything ‘old-fashioned’, regardless of whether it was worthwhile or not. Typical of this culmination of Modernism were the Second Vatican Council, liberalism, feminism, divorce, drug-taking, alcoholism, pornography, abortion, and the collapse of marriage and stable family life. Most of its revolutionary and rebellious advocates have died from a way of life that was full of vice.

A decade later, after the culmination of Modernism, the rejection of any sort of tradition, good or bad, inevitably came the culmination of ‘Post-Modernism’, that is, cynicism, scepticism, disbelief and nihilistic ‘deconstruction’. Although Post-Modernism is also an old concept, its culminating-point could only come after the 1960s in the cynical destructiveness of the period between the 1970s and 1990s. Typical of Post-Modernism are the lack of belief in anything constructive, spiritual emptiness, depression, nothingness, ‘anything goes’, the mocking of heartfelt belief, irony, throwaway products, shallowness, cheapness, passing fads and fashions and superficiality. Most of its faithless and often bitter, disbelieving advocates are now ageing or else are already dead.

The question is, if Post-Modernism comes after Modernism, what comes after Post-Modernism? This is a question that intellectuals have debated for well over a decade and about which they still have not come to any conclusion. This is because of the faithless and spiritually empty nature of Post-Modernism. After a vacuum, anything is possible. And consensus on what makes an epoch cannot be achieved while that epoch is still in its early stages. On the one hand, it is possibly to continue to wallow in the negativism of Post-Modernism and make a cult or delusional consciousness out of it. On the other hand, it is equally possible to reject something as primitive and negative as Post-Modernism with something positive and constructive.

‘Something positive and constructive’. These are words which have little meaning in Western society, which alone has generated both Modernism and Post-Modernism. Interestingly, it may therefore be that the Western world will have to stop being ethnocentric and look outside its self-absorbed culture to find the qualities to regenerate itself. The fact is that ‘something positive and constructive’ can only be built on Faith, which is the very baby that was thrown out together with the bathwater in the Western Modernist 60s and Post-Modernist 70s and after. ‘Post-Postmodernism’ is an awkward name. ‘Metamodernism’ and ‘Trans-Modernism’ have been suggested. They too seem very awkward. Perhaps a single syllable, ‘Faith’, is what is really needed by this disbelieving Western world.

Patriarch Kyrill warns Russian Government against Unpopular Policies

Today, Saturday 3 November, the eve of Russia’s Day of National Unity, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill has urged Russians to keep faith with their own traditions. He cautioned that recipes for so-called ‘modernisation’ (1) and other Western meddling (2) could result in political turmoil.

In a clear warning to the present Putin Government, under which post-Communist corruption has multiplied, Patriarch Kyrill said that blindly following Western models and forgetting the country’s Christian roots could lead to a new ‘Time of Troubles’. This refers to the 400th anniversary of Russia’s liberation from Polish intervention in 1612, the ‘Time of Troubles’, a crisis ended only with the establishment of the Romanov dynasty in 1613.

‘We should first and foremost take care not to allow a ‘Time of Trouble’ in the mind, in the head, because today there are people who, like Moscow’s oligarchs, offer unacceptable recipes to modernise our life and improve living conditions for our people’, said the Patriarch, speaking on the weekly religious programme on the country’s most popular television channel.

The Patriarch did not name any names, but his message shows open hostility to the promotion of Western secular values by the present Government, as also opposed by all of Russia’s three largest Opposition parties (3). He added that Russians should learn from the country’s past and not make the same mistake twice by allowing foreigners to take control of Russia. After the Time of Troubles ended, he said, ‘Russia had a new lease of life, there was a huge, colossal development of national life, the economy, the government and the development of new lands’.

Commentary:

The Patriarch wants an end to the last twenty years of Westernisation that began under Yeltsin after the fall of Communism. This has only brought alcoholism, abortion, corruption, drug-taking, the end to free medical services, affordable accommodation and employment for all and what was probably the best educational system in the world – this latter the heritage of pre-Revolutionary Russia. The Patriarch, like many others, is looking beyond the tired Putin period. Russia can do better than Putin – by returning to Orthodox Christian values.

Notes:
1. = Anti-Christianity.

2. As in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrein, Lybia and Syria.

3. It is notable that this comes on the same day that the British tabloid ‘The Daily Mail’ has reported what many suspected all along. This is that responsibility for the London murder of the Russian secret agent, Litvinenko, in November 2006 may lie with the billionaire, pro-Western oligarch Boris Berezovsky and the British Secret Services.