Seek first the kingdom of heaven and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt, 6, 33)
Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (Matt 22, 21)
In the World
The genocide that is going on at this very moment by the graveyards of children in Palestinian Gaza can rightly be called a holocaust, a whole burnt offering on the altar of hatred. ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’, they say, but the occupying Israelis are taking ten eyes for every eye and ten teeth for every tooth the Palestinians have taken. However, what we outside observers see happening there is actually much less tragic than in the Ukraine, where some 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been dying for NATO’s war every single day for over 500 days, making well over 500,000 dead so far. Euroatlantic NATO, called North America and Western Europe, and Middle Eastern NATO, called Israel, are at work. Such are the aggressive ways of the world, following the rejection of diplomacy. Atheists fighting atheists, but also brothers fighting brothers. It is deeply tragic and no Christian agrees to war. We defend, but we do not offend, others. Such is the Law of Love.
In the Russian Orthodox Church
The saddest thing is that all this time certain bishops of the once multinational and once non-sectarian Russian Orthodox Church have also been warring for nationalism, but not for Christ. Thus, most Orthodox churches in the Ukraine no longer want to commemorate the Russian Patriarch. This is understandable, as he appears to be in favour of war and not of peace. And yet, as a result of the refusal to commemorate him, there are those who condemn the heroic and State-persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev as ‘schismatic’. Should we not rather support those persecuted by the corrupt and anti-democratic Kiev government? For the pharisees who love the word ‘schismatic’, the fact that Orthodox churches in Latvia, whose Faith is no way altered, are now not allowed to commemorate the name of the Russian Patriarch means that those churches too are ‘schismatic’! But surely the only important thing is that churches commemorate Christ? Patriarchs come and go. They are hardly the main point. Faith comes before Nation and the Orthodox Faith is everywhere the same, Russia, the Ukraine, Latvia. Sadly, there are some Russians who love to use the word ‘schismatic’, when what they really mean is ‘Non-Russian’.
Now we have a similar situation in Moldova, where Orthodox are leaving the Russian Church to join the neutral Romanian Orthodox Church for exactly the same reason – they seek spiritual freedom, not the captivity of Russian nationalism. In any case, the Russian Orthodox Church is the only one of the sixteen Local Orthodox Churches where all should commemorate its leading bishop (patriarch) (as in Roman Catholicism). In all other Churches they commemorate only their local bishop, as is ancient tradition. Sadly, all too many Orthodox seem not to want to follow Christ. Instead, they want to follow the spirit of this world, either of ritualist nationalism, or else of pharisaic conservatism, or else of liberal secularism. As a result, they at once introduce division into the Church. This we saw most clearly in the highly politicised Russian Orthodox Church Diaspora after 1917. It quickly split into three warring parts. The first and by far the smallest part, was so nationalistically loyal that it remained with atheist Soviet Moscow and neither sought the freedom or desired the freedom to tell the truth about the persecution there. Even though its adherents lived in political freedom outside the USSR, they preferred loyalty to the Soviet Caesar in Moscow.
Others, Francophile aristocrats and bourgeois liberals, who had actually greeted their first 1917 Revolution, founded a separate grouping. This was under the Anglo-American controlled Patriarchate of Constantinople, which sadly veered and veers towards the Caesar of Western secularism. However, the majority of Russian emigres preferred conservative politics, shaped by their visceral anti-Communism. However, in recent years its newly-enriched bishops have been shaped by a visceral centralising Russian nationalism, which excludes all others unless they pretend to be more Russian than Russians, even though they speak Russian badly. They did not have to choose this latter path, as they are numerous enough to have a supposedly independent Synod outside Russia. However, purely voluntarily, they chose political subservience to Moscow and so showed that they have no reason to exist separately from it. Their whole structure should be absorbed into Moscow, as they are not local and have plainly rejected any contribution towards the Incarnation and building Local Churches. This rejection of the local is why after a generation or two their flock disappears and they have to rely on the ex-Soviet Union to restock their empty churches with people.
Tragically, none of these three movements put Christ first. The result was division, not least among the increasingly pharisaic conservative group. Today this group is enforcing schism from its own brothers and sisters and now even wants to rebaptise other Russian Orthodox, let alone Non-Russians. Their lack of love is such that none is good enough for them. Although there were those who without reward toiled for decades for unity against these Russian divisions of nationalism, phariseeism and liberalism, and despite being viciously persecuted and slandered, these three worldly failings of ritualist nationalism, pharisaic conservatism and liberal secularism were all greater than the love of Christ. As a result, all three groups are now dying out because of a false spirituality which confounds Caesar with Christ and idolatrously renders to Ceasar what is Christ’s. All such false spiritualities are fake, emphasising only the outward, nationalism, ritualism, secularism, power, gold and the world, and do not possess inward spiritual content. Those who preach the false Christ, who is called Caesar, preach spiritual impurity. Thus, they are marked by the sinister sign of Death, the spirit of this world, whose prince is satan and whose minions are the Nations of this world.
The task of seeking to return Church structures, and so the world, to their proper order falls to all who seek the spiritual. The world will be saved by the spiritual, which is why Christ the Saviour will return at the end of it. For now we may seek and find the spiritual on Mt Athos, in the Carpathians, in the forests of Sarov and Optino, in the Hebrides, in secret and little-known places, in woods and mountains and on islands, but also in great cities and pious families, wherever the Word of God is kept. Sadly, we are unlikely to find the spiritual among bishops who view their passports issued by earthly States as far more important than their passports to Heaven, which have yet to be issued at all. They have yet to put Christ first and that is why they, with their politics, bureaucracy and ‘protocols’, seek spiritual Death. And as their churches empty, it is Death they are finding, for ‘they hold the form of religion, but deny the power of it. Avoid such people’ (2 Tim. 3, 5).