As of Monday 23rd August the UK Deanery of the Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe has welcomed nine new parishes and communities with their clergy. The parishes have all voted according to Archdiocese tradition and petitioned to become member parishes of the Archdiocese. Their clergy also unanimously agreed and have been received by His Eminence Metropolitan Jean. It is canonical practice for clergy transferring from one diocese to another to be given papers of release and these have been requested by His Eminence. The clergy involved have all been received with the usual careful consideration. Nevertheless, there is an erroneous announcement circulating that one Archpriest Andrew Phillips has been suspended. This is not the case because he had already been received into the Archdiocese, so the said suspension is null and void. More details will follow in due course.
Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.
Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.
Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.
Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.
Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the Lord chase them.
Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the Lord persecute them.
For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have dug for my soul.
Let destruction come upon him unawares; and let his net that he has hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.
And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation.
All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee, who deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoils him?
False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.
They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into my own bosom.
I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourns for his mother.
But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the wretches gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not:
With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.
Lord, how long wilt thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.
I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.
Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.
For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.
Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye has seen it.
This thou hast seen, O Lord: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.
Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.
Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me.
Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up.
Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.
Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.
And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.
In the age of the internet, when there is a temptation in all jurisdictions to follow the ways of the world and turn the Church into some kind of money-making corporation or institution, where all is just a façade for websites, a piece of theatre for show, as among the Uniats, it is good to recall the following:
‘All power in the Church belongs to the Risen Christ: ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me…I am with you always until the end of the age’. It is as though he had told the apostles: ‘Power does not belong to you, and, I will be with you always to direct you: ‘Go and teach all peoples’…’Thus, the apostles were not the creators of ‘the new life’, but co-workers of God…Christ did not say to them either: ‘You will proclaim the truth from this moment on’, but ‘the Comforter, the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you’…Thus, it is Christ Who directs the Church by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the apostles are only His co-workers. ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God made grow in such a way that it is not he who plants who is something (underlined by the Archbishop), nor he who waters, but God who makes grow’. Thus, the bishop must know that HE IS NOTHING…The apostles did not think of their personal glory, but only of the glory of God and of the Truth, recalling that they themselves are nothing’.
Speech at his consecration of the Ever-Memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, disciple of St John of Shanghai.
Q: Is there now any real difference between the ROCOR Churches and the Patriarchal Churches outside Russia? You are under the same Patriarch and all Russian Orthodox? What difference can there be?
A: Although the dividing lines are sometimes rather blurred today, especially in the capitals, generally we in ROCOR are the People’s Church. With other Churches, including Moscow Patriarchal parishes, you always have the impression that the priests are looking over their shoulders at foreign states and embassies, expecting financial or other help. We do not, we cannot, we are local. We have to be self-supporting. The priests survive, the choirs are unpaid. Without the support of the people, we will not exist. This makes us freer, though of course our life can also be incredibly difficult and poor. But who needs marble and gold in their churches? Despite everything they throw at us, all the hatred, jealousy and persecution, we are here and now.
Q: What would you say has been the result of the establishment of a group in the Ukraine under the Patriarchate of Constantinople?
A: The result has been the spread of the tiny, localised and highly nationalistic Ukrainian schism to the small Patriarchates of Constantinople and Alexandria and to the Churches of Greece and Cyprus. All those four Churches are now completely split. Fortunately, the other ten Local Orthodox Churches have remained faithful and not put local nationalism, whether Greek or Ukrainian, above Christ. We are now seeing who is actually Orthodox Christian and who is a mere chauvinist and can be bought to crucify the Body of Christ with thirty pieces of American silver.
Q: Archbishop Job of Telmissos of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has said that Orthodox must accept the Roman Catholic Easter. Could this happen?
A: Archbishop Job is the disgraced bishop of the former Rue Daru Constantinople group. His semi-Uniat, schismatic and tiny Patriarchate is out of communion with the vast majority of the Orthodox Church. I think the less said about any of his strange ideas, the better.
Q: What in the simplest and shortest terms possible is the difference between the Orthodox Church and the Non-Orthodox?
A: My grandson, aged three, recently went inside an Anglican church to see some stained-glass. When he came out, he was asked what he thought. He answered: ‘Huh, well, that’s a pretend church. There were no icons and no candles and they had beds for people to sleep on’ (he meant pews).
I will say no more.
Q: What are the essential qualities to be a priest?
A: There are two: Piety and Intelligence. However, these two qualities need defining:
Piety is not just faith in the heart that God exists, but actual knowledge of God through spiritual experience and therefore love of His Creation. This is very different from pietism, which is emotionalism and sentimentality.
Intelligence does not mean the excellent memory of academic intelligence, intellectualism, which is often very stupid and impious. Intelligence means intuition and experience of human psychology, emotional intelligence, the ability to understand where other people are coming from and how they suffer.
Q: Which is the biggest Orthodox jurisdiction in this country?
A: This is the jurisdiction of lapsed Orthodox, those of all nationalities who are baptised, but who never come to church. It certainly numbers hundreds of thousands.
Q: Why are many Orthodox people passive? Is this a form of clericalism?
A: Sometimes I have the impression that many Orthodox people are like very small children: they will not do anything for themselves or for the Church, unless instructed specifically to do so. This does not only concern big questions, it concerns petty things like blowing out candles, turning a light on or the heating down, shutting a door etc. I think this comes from the State religion mentality: ‘The clergy will do it’. That mentality is fatally wrong.
Q: Priests should have no right to prevent people taking communion through confession. What do you say to that?
A: I absolutely agree with you. The aim of confession is precisely to help people take communion, not to prevent them. If you were a member of the Orthodox Church and had confession, I think you would know this.
Q: If the Orthodox Church is opposed to contraception, why do virtually all Orthodox couples use it? (As far as I can see they do, since families with two or even only one child appear to be the norm). What exactly is the Orthodox teaching?
A: In answer I will tell you a true story.
Some thirty years ago I met a young Russian émigré woman who thought she was ‘very Orthodox’. She got married to an Orthodox with the blessing of her ‘spiritual father’ and started having children. She had five altogether, even though her marriage was more or less collapsing. Finally, she divorced and became so mentally ill that she had to be taken to a mental hospital and the children were taken into care. In the meantime her ‘spiritual father’,a bishop!!, had been arrested by the police for pedophilia and was duly sitting in a police cell.
She had had five children, not because she loved them, but because in her pride she wanted to be ‘more Orthodox than the Orthodox’, a ‘super-Orthodox’, like her ‘spiritual father’. In other words, the motivation for her life had been sheer pride.
Tell me, what would have been the lesser evil? What would have been better than five unloved, unwanted, unhappy and rejected children, who all now have psychological problems.
The Orthodox teaching on this issue, as on all issues, is love.
Q: Why do temptations happen to us even though we pray ‘And lead us not into temptation’?
A: Temptations are allowed to happen to us in order to make us humble. The sad fact is that in general when there are no temptations, there is no humility. The devil does not know it, but when he tempts us, as allowed by God, he is in fact working for God, he is working to make us humble.
Q: What makes art?
A: Suffering. All great art comes from suffering. Suffering is redemptive for all, believers and unbelievers alike.
Q: What is the difference between a ghost and a poltergeist, if any?
A: A ghost is the souls of a departed human-being which cannot for some reason find rest. A poltergeist is a violent demon.
Q: I recently met an Orthodox woman who continually spoke about demons. I presume this is not typical?
A: Of course not. She is ill. There are people who for psychological, or rather psychopathological, reasons appear to believe more in the devil than Christ. They are profoundly depressed and depressing. These pessimists await the coming of Antichrist, whereas we await the coming of Christ, Who overcame the devil and death.
Q: Why are Orthodox services rather chaotic compared to Catholic and Protestant churches? Everyone seems to be doing different things at the same time.
A: What could be more chaotic than the Holy Spirit?
Q: Do parishes ever need three deacons?
A: I would say no, because there is nothing for a third deacon to do. The only solution would be to have a rota, with the third deacon taking turns to celebrate as the first or second deacon. Even when there are two priests or two deacons, they can do the same.
Q: I recently attended an Unction service and the seven anointings were done altogether at the end, not seven times separately? Is that normal?
A: It is normal in small churches with large numbers of people. Rather than have people milling around seven times and bumping into each other, the anointings are all done at the end. However, in large churches where there is plenty of room and people are disciplined and know how to queue up, the seven anointings can be done separately after each Epistle, Gospel, litany and prayer, as is presupposed. This is a purely practical, not liturgical, question.
Q: Why are Liturgies of the Presanctified so poorly attended, when they do take place? And why not have them in the evening?
A: You mean Vespers with Presanctified Communion, as there is no eucharistic liturgy at these services.
First of all, these are monastic offices. In parishes the only people who can attend are paid clergy, a paid choir and retired people. In our context where we have no paid clergy and no paid choirs and we only have young people and they all work and their older children are at school, there is no possibility to attend them. The only people who might come are mothers with small children. But of course why would they come, when small children are unable to take communion at them because there is no Blood of Christ, only the Body. As I said at the beginning, these are services for monasteries or cathedrals, where there are priests, choirs and at least one reader (essential if these services are to be done properly).
Secondly, they are designed for those who are unable to wait until the next Saturday and Sunday to take communion, in other words they presuppose very frequent communion: that also is very rare. At all the Presanctified services I have been to or celebrated, there were never more than three communions (all of old people).
Very sadly, presanctified services can become a badge of pharisaical pietism.
If they were held in the evening (which is actually uncanonical), when would the fast before communion begin? After breakfast? Personally, I cannot take communion after a day at work. Holy communion needs to be the first thing we do in the day, not the last. Can we really be prepared to take communion after the stress of a day at work? Our thoughts are elsewhere. We need to prepare for holy communion.
Eighteen months ago I had a conversation with a retired British ambassador who speaks fluent Russian and had at the start of his career many years ago been a diplomat at the British Embassy in Moscow. He asked me why I thought it was that Western relations with Russia, which had been so excellent after the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, then deteriorated so rapidly that many now speak of a new Cold War. What had gone wrong? I answered him in the following way:
We have to understand this degeneration of relations in the context of continuing Western banditry, such as in the past the Crusades and later Western colonisation. Thus, Russia was invaded by the ever-aggressive West five times within the last two centuries or so. Napoleon invaded in 1812, France, Britain and Turkey in 1854, British-backed Japan in 1904 and Germany in 1914 and 1941. Five times in five generations, in 130 years. Two of these invasions, in 1812 and 1941, became disasters for the Western invading forces, and the three others were only Pyrrhic victories, which had disastrous consequences for the West in the longer term.
What of Western aggression and banditry since 1991? Since then Russia has been ringed by US bases and missiles and NATO constantly sends its warships into the Black Sea. It then complains that Russian forces inside Russia are too close to NATO military, which are many thousands of miles from their home countries! The West has thrown Russia into the arms of China. The latest round of American bullying and illegal sanctions by Biden pushes further towards two expectations:
Expect the possibilities that Taiwan, artificially separated from China by the West, to be absorbed back into China and the four fifths of Russian Ukraine, artificially separated from Russia by the West, to be liberated from their oppressors in American-governed Kiev by Russia and to be renamed Malorossiya, as it really is. There will remain a ferociously nationalistic but desperately poor Ukrainian State, in fact Galicia, along the Polish border, as is only right. That is the only real Ukraine. So much for the achievements of Western aggression.
Faith or Works?
Q: What is more important for salvation in the view of Orthodox, Faith or Works?
A: Neither. This is an internal Protestant-Catholic debate.
Without faith, there will be no authentic works, as the Apostle says, ‘Faith without works is dead’. In other words, real Faith always transforms our attitudes to others, where there is faith, there are works. However, just as there are those who claim to have faith and have none and therefore have no works, there are those who claim to have works, but in fact their works are insincere. This emphasis on works is what lies behind the Protestant work ethic and workaholicism, which destroys and deforms the lives of both individuals and whole societies. This stress on works at any cost has given rise to the English saying, ‘as cold as charity’, for many works (of charity) are insincere, the product of those who do them, but they are done for their own ideology, glory and vanity. Not all that is done in the Name of God is actually done in His Name, as is well known and as Christ says in the Gospels.
As for Christians (= Orthodox), we believe that we are saved neither by faith, nor by works, but by Divine Mercy. The post-Schism Western debate is all about humanism, the adoration of the individual, which presupposes that human-beings can attain salvation without God. We Christians say that we are dependent on God’s Mercy for salvation, not on ourselves. Otherwise Christ’s Incarnation and Crucifixion are meaningless and lead directly to atheism, which is exactly what happened in the Western and then in the Westernised world.
Q: Why do so many Eastern Europeans refuse to have an anti-covid-19 vaccine?
A: Every community, not just Eastern European immigrants, has people who will never accept any vaccine, let alone a completely new one, which naturally creates suspicion. However, there are specifics:
For example, in France, which has a very weak democracy, the State has tried to discredit any vaccine other than the French national one, yet even to be produced by Sanofi!, so creating a great deal of scepticism towards any vaccine. On top of that, French national statistics are distorted since those who die with covid in care homes are not counted in the figures for victims of covid (the situation of statistical manipulation and downright falsification is even more distorted in Germany). Worse still, the French State forces people to take the vaccine. This immediately produces massive resistance to it and public protests. There is no understanding by the French State of reverse psychology or representation of the people, just brute force. That is why there are so many violent street protests there.
In Russia and Eastern Europe, where Communist States blatantly and unashamedly lied to their people for 45 or even 75 years, the instinctive attitude towards anything the State proclaims is that it is a lie (which, true, it sometimes is). In other words, the problem here is a total lack of trust in the corrupt governments and in anything they recommend or, worse still, enforce.
Q: Do Orthodox accept any conspiracy theories?
A: No doubt there are such theorists among fringe and nationalist Orthodox, just as there are in every human group. However, conspiracy theories belong to and come from the atheist world. Christians (= Orthodox) believe and know that there is only one conspiracy against us, that of Satan. Satan of course may and does at various times use various ideological or ethnic groups against us, but Christians know that the world is not ruled by such groups (Bilderbergers, Nazis, Communists, the Vatican, the Franks, the Trilateral, international bankers, BigPharma, Zionists, the Illuminati, the Freemasons and all the other bogeymen). Members of such groups may imagine that they are all-powerful, but this is an illusion and the flattery of the demons, they are all merely puppets manipulated by Satan.
In the same way, every personal sin that we commit is not an expression of our freedom, but of our slavery to Satan. But even Satan does not rule the world – that is his illusion, which comes from his self-flattery. We Christians know that in fact the world is ruled by Christ, for He long ago defeated Satan, together with his death and suffering, through the Resurrection. This is why we Christians have hope, this is why we are fundamentally optimists, this is why we do not fear death, unlike the world and all its conspiracy theorist-manipulated and covid-manipulated zombies.
Q: Does the Orthodox Church believe that Jews murder Christian children ritually?
A: Of course not. This is a purely Roman Catholic invention, beginning in the late 11th century and ending as late as the 1960s. It began in England, spread to France, Germany, Italy, Spain and then, Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland, Bessarabia and the western Ukraine (the Beilis case in 1913). In origin it is linked to the First Crusade which murdered hundreds of Jews in the Rhineland at the end of the 11th century, though essentially it is all about Capitalist greed and jealousy of Jewish mercantile success.
The only Orthodox who support such dangerous nonsense are nominal Orthodox who are in fact anti-Semitic nationalists, rather than Orthodox. They love money and are jealous of rich Jews (strangely, they do not seem to resent so much rich people of their own nationality).
Blood libel first came to the surface in the Orthodox world in what is now Poland (a fundamentally Catholic country) with the case of St Gabriel of Bialystok at the end of the 17th century, a child-martyr, for whom was written a falsified legend, charging ‘the Jews’ with his death. The problem was not with the saint, a real martyr, but with the Polish legend written in his name. More recently the blood libel myth has resurfaced in Russia among a few post-Communist nationalists, like the sectarian, right-wing politico Mikhail Nazarov.
In self-justification such people have even started spreading the incredible (Communist) libel that Tsar Nicholas II was anti-Semitic! In fact, the latter did his best to protect ordinary believing Jews from the exploited and disgruntled citizens of other nationalities and built several large synagogues for them. His problem was with Jews who had lost their faith and renounced their traditions, worshipping money and power (in Marxism, for example) and ready to lie and kill at every opportunity, just as the atheist representatives of other ethnic groups, Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian, Latvian etc.
Today accusations of Jewish ritual murder of Christian children are much more common among Arab nationalists, who hate the Israeli persecutors. The only people today who actually murder Christian children are abortionists, few of whom are Jews and not a single one of whom is a believing Jew. Millions of future Christian children are murdered in Europe every year in this bloody ritual, performed on the altar of Satan.
Q: Do we say Great Lent or the Great Fast?
A: We say either ‘Lent’ or else ‘The Great Fast’. Great Lent does not exist. It is a linguistic mistake introduced by the late Fr Alexander Schmemann, for whom English was a third language. Unfortunately, it was then adopted by American converts, who did not know the origins of English either. In English we say ‘Lent’, the Old English word for ‘spring’, so called precisely because it is the period when the days are ‘lengthening’. There is no such thing as ‘Great Lent’. Days lengthen, they do not great lengthen. The fast does not lengthen, it is fixed. If you do wish to translate, you can say ‘The Great Fast’, just as you can use the translations ‘Pascha’, ‘The Nativity’ and ‘Altar Feast’, or else use the English ‘Orthodox Easter’, ‘Orthodox Christmas’ and ‘Patronal Feast’. We Orthodox are different from Non-Orthodox, but we do not need to distort the local language in order to prove this, we need to respect it. As one kind reader has pointed out, this is mentioned in the early Orthodox Christian writing, The Epistle to Diognetus:
Q: Which colour of vestments is correct in Lent, purple or black?
A: I am not sure that we should use the word ‘correct’ in such matters. There are a hundred ways of doing the same thing. This is not a dogmatic question. Having said that, here is an answer: Although black is commonly used in Moscow and other parts of Russia as a liturgical colour in Lent, it was introduced there by the German Tsarina Catherine II who brought it in from Catholic Poland, where black in Lent was normal. Purple, not black, is the traditional Orthodox colour on weekdays in Lent. On Saturdays and Sundays in Lent some continue to wear purple, though others, perhaps ‘more correctly’ wear red.
Q: Why does the Moscow Patriarchate wear red as the colour of vestments at Pascha?
A: There are many different liturgical practices in the Russian Church, both inside Russia and also outside Russia (ROCOR dioceses are very, very different from one another, especially outside the USA), depending on the diocese. The Church is nowhere a monolith. True, red is worn in the Moscow Diocese at Easter. But the Church is much bigger than the Moscow Diocese! There are hundreds of dioceses. The red at Easter in the Moscow Diocese and elsewhere appears to come from the confusion between the Russian word for ‘red’, which in Slavonic means ‘beautiful’.
Thus, in the canon of Easter matins we have the expression in Slavonic ‘Paskha krasna’, which means in English ‘the Passover of beauty’. In modern Russian this sounds literally like ‘red Paskha’. Similarly in Moscow there is the central area called ‘Red Square’. This is a mistranslation caused by ignorance of Slavonic. Its Slavonic name actually means ‘Beautiful Square’. In the Church Outside Russia, which preserves pre-Revolutionary liturgical traditions general to the Church and not one particular Diocese, however central that is, only white is worn at Easter.
Q: As you know, I go to different parishes in and outside London. Even in the same jurisdiction, different English translations are used for the Liturgy. Why can there not be uniformity?
A: Why do you want uniformity? In the early Orthodox Church, long before printing, there was great variety. Indeed, many of the services were conducted without the written word and all was done and had to be done from memory. What piety! I think we only need letter for letter uniformity in ‘Our Father’, ‘Mother of God, Rejoice’, ‘O Heavenly King’ and the Creed.
Q: Why are Orthodox services so long?
A: Why are Non-Orthodox services so short?
Fr Sophrony Sakharov and Metr Antony Bloom
Q: When and why did Fr Sophrony Sakharov leave the Russian Church? Who was right?
A: In 1965, after his dispute with the then local Moscow bishop, Metropolitan Antony Bloom. Who was right? Read below:
I first met both of these personalities nearly fifty years ago. One was the ex-Hindu former librarian of St Panteleimon’s monastery, whose mother had been involved in pseudo-mystical movements like astrology, the other was the son of the famous hypnotist Boris Bloom and the nephew of the occultist composer Scriabin. I knew them both many, many times, before I left their philosophical and personal orbits to find bread and drink for my soul. Fr Sophrony Sakharov, the Parisian artist and philosopher, had had to leave Mt Athos in 1947 together with the future Archbishop Basil (Krivoshein) and Fr Silouan (surely a saint and a disciple of St Silouan) of Ste Genevieve. This was because they had fallen into disfavour with the Greek authorities for what they saw as their co-operation with the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War. Fr Sophrony’s knowledge of languages had put him into direct contact with the Germans. Going back to Paris, he left the Constantinople jurisdiction to go to the Moscow jurisdiction.
At that time, 99% of the Russian emigration, in Paris mainly under Constantinople, saw his move to Moscow from Constantinople as treason, and virtually accused him of becoming a Communist. Given Fr Sophrony’s writings in the 1950s about Church life in which he was militantly pro-Moscow and anti-Constantinople, he became even more unpopular with the mass of émigrés there. Even in the 1970s he was still accusing Russian emigres not in the Moscow Patriarchate of ‘lacking love’. This upset the vast majority as it was clearly untrue. In Paris Fr Sophrony also tried to set up a convent in Paris with three women. This was a well-known disaster and further scandalised.
When the Church of England offered Fr Sophrony as an ecumenical gesture a redundant village church and rectory in England for free, he saw this as an escape route, even though he would be forever ecumenically tied. (This is why the now more or less Convent at Tolleshunt Knights can never receive Anglicans into the Church). However, having arrived in England in 1959 with three followers he had found, a Swiss, a German and a Russian, he had not reckoned with Metr Antony Bloom. This local Moscow bishop was also a Paris intellectual from a very similar upper middle-class Russian convert background to Fr Sophrony.
In England Metr Antony had a tiny jurisdiction and only one priest with him, since the vast majority of the small Russian emigration in England belonged to ROCOR and saw representatives of Moscow as Stalinists, especially after one clergyman in Moscow had scandalously served a memorial service for Stalin on his death. However, Metr Antony was desperate to set up a diocese to justify his newly-acquired title as ‘Metropolitan of the Diocese of Sourozh’. This title was pure fiction and he knew it. In order to justify it, he needed to recruit Anglicans as people and recruit priests. A monastery was the easy source for priests. So instead of letting Fr Sophrony’s monks follow their ‘less practical’ pursuits, the typically Parisian anti-monastic Metr Antony tried to push them harder and use them as priests.
The split was inevitable and, despite his previous pro-Moscow writings, in 1965 Fr Sophrony walked out of Moscow for Constantinople and the new calendar. This caused such a scandal in the Moscow Patriarchate that even today there are virtually no Russians at Tolleshunt Knights. Personally, having seen some of the pre-1965 correspondence between Fr Sophrony and Metr Antony, I think it was all six of one and half a dozen of the other. As both characters are long gone, it is largely irrelevant, even though Patriarch Bartholomew has recently ‘weaponised’ Fr Sophrony against the Russian Church by unilaterally declaring that he is a local saint. That was with no investigation of his earthly remains, life, art nouveau painting and almost unreadable philosophical writings.
I am afraid I knew both personalities much too well to have time for 20th century émigré personality disputes. We long ago moved on to the future, which consists of helping to set up Local Churches in Western Europe, North America, Latin America and Oceania on a practical level, and not getting sidetracked into and bogged down in the fruitless byways of the personal philosophical quarrels of the past. Let us leave all these Russian émigré intellectual personalities and futile cults and manipulations, the Berdyayevs, Bulgakovs, Schmemanns, Zernovs, Struves et al and their abstract internal quarrels and ideologies, and their rights and their wrongs, and there were both, to the history books. They are the past.
We look to our future and the mainstream of the Church, the universal and the ancient local saints, to the New Martyrs and Confessors and to the Three Pillars of Orthodoxy outside Russia, St John of Shanghai, St Jonah of Hankou and St Seraphim of Boguchar. Let the past remain in the past, bygones are bygones. Our task and our relevance are to follow the principle of the Incarnation and to build and open new churches in the here and now, despite everything that the self-apppointed authorities, ideologists and dreamers have ruthlessly thrown and continue to throw at us in order to destroy us. All the worst enemies of the Church are nominally Orthodox, but they block out the light of Christ with the very long shadows cast by their own personalities and personal foibles.
A Local Church
Q: Why have all attempts to found a new Local Orthodox Church in the British Isles and Ireland/Western Europe so far failed?
A: The short answer is because no such attempt has ever taken place, for so far there have only been the dreams of individual intellectuals with their cults and often charlatanism.
The reality is that Orthodox life both here as elsewhere in Western Europe has been dominated either by administrative personalities who catered for immigrant communities/nationalist ghettos, or else by intellectual personalities who wanted to adapt Orthodoxy to their notions of Western culture, regardless of Dogma and the Tradition.
The flag-waving nationalist/immigrant communities, like the old nationalist ROCOR Church which completely died out but has been ‘restocked’ from the ex-Soviet Union, like all the other post-1917 Russian organisations, or like the Greek Church in England today, die. Once assimilation takes effect, the children of immigrants no longer wants to belong to a nationalist ghetto, which is foreign to them. Death is the result.
As regards the ‘adaptationists’, they too lose the way, making it up as they go along, and die out because they have neither the Tradition, nor a spiritual purpose, only the psychological one of making themselves feel at home in what was for their parents a foreign country. Often highly intellectual, even the titles, let alone the contents, of their books are incomprehensible. Unlike the apostles, they are unable to express the Tradition in the language of ordinary people.
A Local Church can only come into being, provided that it is faithful to real, and not a watered down version of, Orthodox Christianity and that it also uses the natural local language, and not a foreign language or some intense convert literalist translation into the local language. This golden mean has not existed – so far. But we are working on it.
Freed from the EU nationalist straitjacket and ghetto after 47 years of slavery and despair, as a result of the treason of ‘Norman’ (= Establishment) politicians, the UK looks forward. No longer tied by the past in which it became disastrously entangled through two suicidal Continental European Wars and then a Continental European enslavement, we have now returned to our global future.
However, there can be no going back to the Imperialist past. We must rid ourselves of Britain and British. That has been discredited. It has been suggested that the four countries of the North Atlantic could be renamed IONA, the Isles Of the North Atlantic. If there were an Ionan Confederation of Great Britain and Ireland, there would at last be freedom for the long-oppressed peoples of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales from British oppression and hypocrisy. Independence, but also co-operation in a Confederation. If we can start at home, that in turn would create a Global Iona.
Firstly, as our historic and cultural links are with the Commonwealth, those links must be renewed. This would not at all mean a re-establishment of the old Empire, with its injustices and exploitation, but justice and prosperity for all. Here there is a chance for IONA to make up for the old British exploitation of the Indian Subcontinent, of Africa, for the racism towards native peoples everywhere, including in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Secondly, an Ionan Confederation should help Eastern Europe, which has been sold out by EU Western Europe. Its factories have been closed, its economies ravished and millions and millions of its young people have been forced into leaving their ancestral homes and families for work in the factories, hospitals, care homes, building sites and farms of Western Europe, where they often face exploitation, poverty and racism. Ionan aid would help to make up for the dastardly British betrayal of Czechoslovakia, Poland and Serbia, in particular during the Second World War.
Thirdly, as a direct consequence of resetting relations with Eastern Europe, an Ionan Confederation should reset its relations with the Russian Federation and its people, so cruelly and unjustly separated from their Russian Federation homeland after the collapse of the old Soviet Union. However, just as the Ionan Confederation has to divorce itself from associations with the elitist and discredited British Empire, its Britishness, so the Russian Federation has to divorce itself from associations with the elitist and discredited Soviet Empire, its Sovietness. Away with the mummies, statues and names of Bolshevik oppressors and murderers! Thus, Iona would have a chance to make up for its old racism, including the genocidal invasion by Britain of the Russian Empire in the mid-nineteenth century in the Crimea and the British orchestration of Russian aristocratic traitors leading to the 1917 overthrow of Tsar Nicolas II, which ensured the incalculable bloodbath of the Soviet period.
Fourthly, an Ionan Confederation should reset its relations with China. After the disgraceful and genocidal British opium wars of the nineteenth century and British racism towards China which lasts until this day, here there are opportunities for Iona to do good instead of the bad the British Empire did in the past.
Fifthly, there is the question of resetting relations with Iran. The British exploitation of its natural resources since the early 1900s and then the betrayal and overthrow of its legitimate government scarcely seventy years ago has rightly caused its people to dislike Britain and fall into the Islamist trap. It is time to put this right.
Repentance is needed for the sake of justice, for justice and for the prosperity for all. Repentance is needed on behalf of the dead traitors who betrayed us the native people and all other peoples who fell under their tyrannical sway.
With apologies to ‘Wonderings’ by John Masefield, to whom any credit belongs.
Two different types long have trod our God’s earth:
The proud Norman lord and the English serf.
Though below hell, above stupidity,
We serfs look to the England still to be,
Some have hearts that glow with a star Divine,
Which no clouds dim and cannot cease to shine.
I think of the best of these lowly poor,
Who England built and will build once more,
Who built the churches in the long ago
And more will build when greed and folly go,
When the Spirit gleams through mere blood and bone
And men again will bring the Spirit home.
When death comes near, then England lets all see
Brave and patient souls changing destiny.
When death seems winning and disaster shows,
Then England lights and shows her sign’s the rose.
The rose that winter only makes more fair
Is the nature true of the sign they bear.
Not lucre, power, lies, deceit and marts
Create a nation’s wealth, but noble hearts.
Though not yet morning, the night is breaking,
The blackness weakens, England is awaking.
We want an England better than the last,
No longer the dead England of the past.
Christianity has always been spread by monastics and monasteries. This is universal. In normal conditions, what happens is that after their mission has been completed, monastics (some of whom are bishops – real bishops are always monastics) delegate the everyday running of churches to married clergy. These either run the local parishes founded from monasteries or else, in the absence of any support from monasteries or bishops, found parishes themselves.
For centuries and centuries this is how it worked, whether with St Nina in Georgia, St Martin of Tours in Gaul, St Patrick in Ireland, St Augustine in England, St Boniface in the German Lands, St Cyril and Methodius in Moravia, St Stefan of Perm, St Job of Pochaev in what is now the western Ukraine, St Cosmas of Aitolia in Greece or St Herman and St Innocent in Alaska. Today, this age-old system is in crisis everywhere, perhaps especially in the Russian Orthodox Church.
There are not only the massive dysfunctions of episcopal, monastic and parish life, mainly caused by 75 years of vicious Soviet persecution inside the ex-Soviet Union. Outside the ex-Soviet Union the situation is not much better in many places. The decadence in parts of the Russian Church before the Revolution, the chaos of emigration, the scattering of the flock, and the catastrophic lack of finance and infrastructure, have caused enormous problems. Thus, I can remember over 40 years ago the then rector of the Rue Daru Cathedral in Paris, where thousands would gather at Easter, telling me that they had only 25 registered parishioners. The number of people who took communion on Easter Night was similar – 25.
Many, though not all, Russian churches inside Russia and in capital cities outside Russia resemble little more than railway stations. Orthodox Russians call the passers-by who you may never see again ‘prokhozhane’ (as opposed to ‘prikhozhane’, the word for parishioners). Then there are the people who call in from time to time – ‘zakhozhane’. These people you may see only half a dozen times a year. An example: as a parish we have some 4,000 people who are attached to us, but our list of parishioners is just under than 600 and that includes children. And yet all 4,000 would claim to be parishioners!
Another problem, worse in some countries than others, but still common in Russia and the Ukraine, despite recent welcome changes, is the massive imbalance in age and gender. For every 100 women standing in church, there may only be 15 men (at most) and two children. I can remember at the old ROCOR Cathedral in London 40 years ago, there would perhaps be 400 people (average age 75) at the Sunday Liturgy, out of whom three-quarters were elderly women and the only children our own. Where are the men? Where are the young people? Why have the grandparents not passed on the Faith to their children and grandchildren? The situation of the Greek Church in this country today is very similar and very critical. Expect many of their churches to close over the next 20 years.
In the old ROCOR of the time, I can remember one elderly and prominent woman parishioner boasting that the children in their church never made a noise. I politely pointed out that there were no children in her church (and also no baptisms). She then boasted that they never had any divorces in her church. Again I politely pointed out there were no weddings either (the last had been thirty years ago) and that the average age of the parishioners was about 75. She then boasted that they had never had any problem with their clergy. Once more I politely pointed out that that must be because they had no clergy….The last one had died a decade or so before.
As one relatively young archbishop said to me in the 1980s: the fewer parishes we have, the better it is, because the fewer the parishes, the fewer the problems. He died soon afterwards.
Why is it that there are still many churches (especially in Russia and Eastern Europe) which it is impossible to enter with a pram or a pushchair (let alone a wheelchair)? Is it because children (and young people in general) are not welcome and not wanted? (As also in so many churches outside Russia?).
Why are there no contemporary toilets (for children) and no changing facilities, attached to the majority of churches?
Why are there so few meeting places for parishioners to get to know each other and support each other, where children can play together and make friends, and where young people can meet (and perhaps marry)? Or do you want to die out?
Children are our future. That statement is neither new nor original, but blatantly obvious, and yet many people still do not understand it.
A parish is not a cow to be milked for money. A parish is a local community to which people have a sense of belonging, to which they want to belong, so important for a flock which is scattered.
A parish is a community (not a racist ghetto, as in the old emigration), where all are welcome and a community which will stand up to the frequent injustices, persecution, meddling and bullying from outside, and support its clergy both morally and financially. Where does that exist?
Until we have many more parishes, we will not make progress.
Now that the covid epidemic, with perhaps finally three million victims worldwide, is beginning to come to an end, we can see certain consequences. For example, we have seen a huge acceleration in the inevitable growth of online sales and the use of plastic money. What perhaps would have happened over the next ten years in any case, will have happened in only one year.
However, there have been other consequences. These include the bankruptcy and unemployment caused by government deprivation of liberty (so-called ‘lockdowns’, in fact lock-ups). In order to protect the 5% of the vulnerable, the other 95% have had their lives upset or even ruined. And then there has been the psychological damage and distress caused by these lock-ups. Their extremity has given rise to countless paranoid conspiracy theories, which confuse cause and effect and attribute to panicky and hysterical governments and media an intelligence and competence which they clearly lack. These theories have been fatal to the mental health of those who have no faith and believe that sinister men successfully rule the world, and not the Divinity, as is the true case.
Another phenomenon has been vaccine nationalism. The ultra-nationalistic EU has tried to deride and deny the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine, with dire consequences for its peoples. And Western countries have derided the Russian and Chinese vaccines, which, if anything, seem to be superior to and have been produced faster than Western vaccines and will save the Third World from covid. Certainly, they must be superior to the only Western vaccine that has been associated with the cells of aborted babies, that of Johnson and Johnson in the USA. That vaccine is to be avoided at all costs.
However, another consequence of covid has been the accelerated and permanent closure of churches. For instance, the Church of England is preparing to close 20% of its churches, some 3,000 altogether. Having closed its churches and deprived its people of services during covid, many there have now become accustomed to ‘zoom services’. After the lock-ups are over, many will not bother to go back to real services. Why bother? It is much more comfortable to sit in your armchair and watch others. And having seen the clergy, especially the episcopate, so frightened of possible death, many, very many, have concluded that their clergy are mainly atheists anyway. And they are probably right. We fear God, not death. If, that is, we actually believe.
These scandalous deviations have also affected fringe Orthodox dioceses. Priests in one group in the USA have attacked their bishops who forbade them from giving the faithful communion. One bishop in Great Britain actually banned his priests from giving confession! And, again in the USA, one church in Chicago is up for sale, as the local bishop so upset his flock with his covid hysteria that they stopped going. After all, if a church is merely an ethnic club or an empty ritual, it may as well close down and cease existing. Its closure is no loss.
As for zoom services and zoom confessions, I have told everyone that there is no such thing. Physical contact is necessary for sacraments to take place. We are not Protestants. Zoom services are fit only for a consumer society, not for an Orthodox Christian society. The Church is not virtual, but real.
Q: Why is the ‘Orthodox England’ site called that? Since you were born with British nationality and must have a British passport, why is it not called ‘Orthodox Britain’? And why are you, a Russophile, in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and not directly under the Patriarchal Church in Moscow?
A: Here there are actually four different questions. Let me answer each of them in turn.
- Initially, ‘Orthodox England’ was a quarterly journal, first published on 1 September 1997, after some 25 years of wonderings. The actual website was launched over three years later in the first year of the new 21st century. Although the journal continued for twenty years, appearing every quarter without fail until 2017 when the website took over altogether, today it is the website which is much better known.
When the journal was launched in 1997, interest in the Orthodox Church and Faith among the native peoples of these Islands, as indeed ever since the first real interest appeared in the 1960s, was still often, though not always, coloured by two small groups. Unfortunately, these groups were encouraged by some of the local Orthodox episcopate. Hampered by the inferiority complex of the immigrant and refugee, they wanted to be more Establishment than the Establishment and forgot the people.
On the one hand, there was a conservative faction, sometimes quite wealthy, who at times imitated false ideas of Russianness or Greekness. In extreme cases, some of them even dressed like Russian peasants with huge beards (the last Russian peasants had stopped doing that 100 years ago and real Russians were naturally astonished at such eccentric behaviour, as were we). They spoke English, scattered with mispronounced and misunderstood Russian words. Or else there were those who bought second homes in Greece and mixed in a few words of Greek with upper-class accents and thought they were Greek Orthodox. I saw all this and wondered at the strangeness of it all.
I think such people mainly saw Orthodoxy as oriental exotica, perhaps useful to bolster souls that had been hurt and wanted to be different. Some, bored with financially secure and humdrum lives, gave an impression of Orthodoxy as though it were not actually Christianity, but some escapist and esoteric cult. They certainly did not want the riff-raff joining them, but wanted tiny, exclusive, private chapels. Some were in love with an idea and were looking for an intellectual plaything, a cult with a ‘mystical’ guru or ‘starets’, an ashram and a mantra for those with more money and philosophical books than common sense. And they soon found the pseudo-mystical Russians to exploit their romantic fantasies and take their money. This was certainly easier than living a Church Christian way of life, that is, loving the Cross of the Orthodox way of life.
On the other hand, there was a liberal faction, also sometimes quite wealthy, who appeared to want a kind of Anglican Orthodoxy, the ‘Byzantine Liturgy’ (whatever that is) with a Protestant mentality and hymns and, obviously, the Roman Catholic (so-called ‘new’) calendar. Some of these basically wanted to remain Anglican, but to have more exclusivity than wishy-washy, ‘make it up as you go’, ‘believe whatever you want’, State-invented Anglicanism could ever provide. This could be called ‘Anglican vicar syndrome’, and at times it seemed indeed to be about a misogynistic rejection of lady vicars, without love for the real Church and Her sufferings.
A very strange reason for joining the Orthodox Church. Such were often especially devoted either to Constantinople Orthodoxy (much more acceptable to the British Establishment, which had already vetted Prince Philip and loved that freemasonry), or else to the curious liberal and aristocratic deviations from Russian Orthodoxy within the Church of Constantinople (which was already then controlled by the CIA and before that had been controlled by MI6). Such people had little time for real, down-to-earth and martyred Russian Orthodoxy. Today the few such people still like this still tend to be Russophobes and also Liberal Democrat Remoaners.
As for us plebs, we were harshly persecuted and slandered by both the above conservative and liberal factions. And factions they were, as can be seen by their ever-continuing factionalism, with tiny schisms and continual infighting, all about nothing really. These splits of the ‘three men and a dog’ type were about divisive backbiting. This was brought as baggage into their fringes of the Church from the infighting of Protestantism, which mentality they did not exchange for Christianity.
Unlike them, I wanted to make clear that Orthodoxy and England can and must go together. If Christ had come for everyone, then it meant that He had come for us too. Orthodoxy and England need not be separate and disincarnate. Just as Christ has a Divine and a human nature in One Person, so there is Orthodox Russia, Orthodox Romania, Orthodox Greece, and so too there can be Orthodox England (as also Orthodox Ireland, Orthodox Scotland and Orthodox Wales), something really English and also Orthodox (and not half-Orthodox, Anglican and Non-Orthodox). For no Church can be founded on the basis of the psychological factionalism of the bruised ego, but only on the basis of the theological Tradition of the Holy Spirit.
- As regards Britain, it does not exist – it is a purely political construct. True, the Romans had governed ‘Britain’, but that was before the English arrived. The Normans wanted to recreate pagan Roman Britain, but they failed to reconstruct what had by then already become a myth. After all, the vast majority of the population were by then English, the best of whose elite the Normans exiled and the rest of whose population they decimated. Similarly, in order to subdue the Celtic ‘Welsh’, who had arrived here over 500 years before even the Romans and joined the original inhabitants, the Normans had to massacre and oppress them too with their giant castles.
It was only in the eighteenth century, on the basis of Protestant Tudor imperialism and piracy and afterwards of the appalling genocide of the Leninist monster Cromwell, that the idea of Britain was reborn. First, in 1707 corrupted and bribed Scots voted for union with (i.e. repression by) the slave-trading, ‘Rule Britannia’, John Bull merchants who had beheaded the King, seized control of Parliament and dubbed themselves ‘British’. Corrupted and bribed Irish followed into ‘union’ in 1801.
Today, many English people themselves want freedom from British (= Norman/Establishment/ London) oppression, let alone the Irish (true, they partly obtained it 100 years ago), the Scots and the Welsh. There is no such thing as Britain, let alone ‘British’ saints or ‘British Orthodoxy’, indeed there has never been a ‘British Church’. Like ‘Britishness’ itself, this is all an Establishment myth. The only fully Christian project on the cards today or tomorrow is to be part of the Russian Orthodox Church and its newly-founded Patriarchal Exarchate of Western Europe, at present under Metropolitan Antony.
There is no doubt that this is the foundational structure of the future Western European Orthodox Church, of which all full-hearted and politically free Orthodox will in due course become part. Together, whatever our present diocese, we can build this new Church on the firm rock of real Orthodoxy. We cannot build it on the shifting sand of some CIA-controlled political compromise with politically-appointed bishops and immensely provincial nationalism, including English nationalism. That puts a mere language and a mere culture above Christ. Nationalism is always at heart pagan, because it reveres part of Creation, not the Creator. Christ is spiritually and morally irrelevant to nationalism, as we saw with Hitler’s nationalism.
- I am no more Russophile than I am Greekophile, Romaniaophile, Moldovaophile (though I do have a soft spot for Moldovans!) or Anglophile. I am an Orthodoxophile, that is, a Christophile. And you?
- In the early sixties there began a period of spectacular injustices in the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), which opened with certain loveless bishops putting our saint, John of Shanghai and Western Europe, on trial in the USA. Such a thing was another act of the Pharisees and Pilate. It continued with the ordinations of bad men to the priesthood and the suspensions of good priests. This tried the long-suffering of us all. We sighed in resignation and put all our hope in God, not in men, and waited for better times. These aberrations were all due to a powerful minority in ROCOR who had lost their roots and wandered off into a US-financed nationalist darkness.
This was the dark night of the narrow and censorious ritualism of the political pharisees. They had quite cast aside compassionate love, the very chiefest idea of the founding First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Antony of Kiev, and the only idea which bestows spiritual, moral and canonical authority and meaning on the Church organisation. Battling us and persecuting us, those elements received their first major defeat only in 2007, when at long last ROCOR managed to begin its long return to its historic and missionary destiny. That destiny was and is to remain faithful to the Orthodox Christianity of Holy Rus, but with one vital difference – to be local at the same time. This is possible (and necessary) precisely because we are ‘outside Russia’ and not in Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church, centred in Moscow, cannot found new Local Churches in Western Europe and the New World (North America, Latin America and Oceania) without us (and of course without others). Yes, they have administrative abilities, central infrastructure and, at least sometimes, the necessary missionary vision, but we have the local knowledge, the languages, the translations and the cultural references of the people. The people are with us. These are what is needed to gather the people together around Christ and establish new Local Churches which are to become part of the restored Orthodox Commonwealth.
Without us at the grassroots, all that exists is a hollow structure, diplomatic links with elites and, less attractively, the sad consequences of the errors of the Soviet past, from which I and many others have so much suffered. Once Moscow is fully freed of the bad habits dating back to Peter I, so disastrously multiplied by the Soviet period (centralisation, bureaucracy, temptations of power and money and false ‘spiritual fathers’), we will be able to found the new Local Churches which are our inevitable future. In the meantime, we have to continue to serve the people whom God sends us every day from everywhere.
I may not live to be a priest of the coming Western European Orthodox Church. I may not live to see an England liberated from the British myth and so obtain an English passport. I may not live to see the dream of an IONAn (Isles of the North Atlantic) Confederation of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with a Confederal Assembly on the Isle of Man, looking out on the four nations. Nevertheless, I still believe that my direct descendants will see at least much of this. We work for a much greater idea than a bishop or patriarch or jurisdiction, we work for our common future, for the One Eternal Idea and Reality, for the Kingdom of God.