Q: Is it true that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Communism was replaced by Orthodoxy?
A: If only it were so! The rotten fruit of Communism (in which probably no-one any longer believed, except for old people and some in a few remote provinces), was 95% replaced by Mammonism, what is called Western consumerism, and 5% by living (and not nominal) Orthodoxy. This is no surprise, since it took Communism three generations to destroy 95% of Orthodoxy. As I have said many times over the last 27 years since the fall of Communism, it will take three generations to restore Orthodoxy there even to the very low pre-Revolutionary level (unless there is a sudden miracle, which we are all praying for). And we do not want the level of before the Revolution, because that is precisely what caused the Revolution.
Orthodoxy then was marked by the betrayal of the aristocratic elite, whether liberal or conservative, who exploited the poor masses, and by mass nominalism, by Theological Academies which the ever-memorable Metr Antony of Kiev (himself slandered as a heretic by some of today’s ‘Orthodox’ academics!) called ‘the graves of Orthodoxy’, by seminaries with thieves like Stalin in them, by simony, ambition, careerism and by priests who were not priests but ‘popy’. (418 such ‘priests’ actually defrocked themselves immediately after the Revolution, proving that they had no faith, but were just State civil servants, ritualists making money from the naïve). Mass Orthodoxy has not been restored in Russia because there has not yet been mass repentance. The Tsar and his followers are still slandered in the mass media and not least by notorious, pseudo-Orthodox academics in today’s Academies of Theology and seminaries. Careerism (often taking the form of ecumenism) and love of money have revived. Even the monastic revival only concerns only some 10,000.
There is very far to go. The spiritual disease of nominalism is rampant in today’s Russian Church. Only when another 100,000 churches have been built, superstition and ritualism are overcome, shopping malls are no longer built, people dress decently in the streets, abortion is outlawed, the education and health systems and the media reflect Orthodoxy, the State has returned to the Orthodox calendar and such righteous people as St Maria (Vyrubova) of Helsinki and Elder Nikolai (Guryanov) have been canonized, will we be able to say that ‘Communism was replaced by Orthodoxy’.
Q: Why are so many Eastern Europeans so passive as regards Church activities?
A: This is the fruit of Communism, State control, among many people. Many do not think that they are the Church – which they are. They expect everything to be done for them, by ‘professionals’, from clergy to paid choirs. Such nominal Orthodox think of the Church as a ‘show’, a piece of ‘theatre’, just like the aristocrats from before the Revolution.
Q: Do you agree that the main problem of Orthodox life in the Diaspora is the jurisdictions?
A: No, definitely not. Jurisdictions are just an effect, not the cause. The cause is the mentality of what I would call ‘clubbism’, which is the bane of the Church in the Diaspora. Yes, it is nice to be with the like-minded, but that is not what the Church is about. It is about the salvation of the soul from evil. Yes, I agree, in so-called Orthodox countries (they do not exist any more), you will find different sorts of parish in the same town and those parishes are sociologically defined, but in the Diaspora it is much worse. Thus in this country you can find parishes which are in fact Greek clubs (usually subdivided into Cypriot clubs, Cretan clubs and mainland Greek clubs), Romanian clubs, Russian clubs, Serbian clubs, ex-Anglican clubs, ex-Anglo-Catholic clubs, ex-sectarian clubs, liberal Anglican clubs, upper-middle class intellectual clubs etc. This bane of the Diaspora comes from the fact that people do not seek the Kingdom of God first, but put their own interests above it.
Q: Why did Christ say the words: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me’?
A: Until the time of Christ all human souls went down to Hades in death. Here they were held captive in torment. Thus, at death Christ in His human nature felt forsaken by God, for Hades is the place where God is not because He is rejected there. Thanks to Christ, Who, as sinless, the devil could not hold captive, all in Hades who accepted Christ’s message were freed. This is what we can see on icons of the Resurrection, Christ freeing humanity through Adam and Eve. This is what we mean by the harrowing of hell.
Q: What is the origin of the word Lent?
A: It is the Old English word for spring (‘lenctan’) and it means the period when the days lengthen – Lent and lengthen are the same word. However, already in ancient time it came to mean the spring fast. Lent therefore is the English for ‘the Great Fast’. This is why it is absurd to talk about ‘the Great Fast’, like Fr Alexander Schmemann did (English was his third language).
Q: Why is sitting with crossed legs or standing with your arms behind your back not acceptable in Orthodox churches?
A: Quite simply because such an attitude does not denote a prayerful attitude. We should stand with our arms by our sides.
Q: Can you see a visible difference between Patriarchal and ROCOR priests?
A: Yes, you often can, quite literally. The Patriarchate (like the Rue Daru jurisdiction also) hands out awards like confetti! It is a standing joke in Moscow about how grey-haired ROCOR priests have almost no awards, while Patriarchal priests, twenty years younger, are covered with them! Such are ROCOR bishops!
Q: What words would you like on your gravestone, apart from your name and date?
A: What an unusual question, though I think I was asked the same thing before. I would like the words: ‘The truth will set you free’.
Q: What is the first thing you have on Easter Night, once Lent is over?
A: A mug of milky tea.