Tag Archives: The Future

Questions and Answers (December 2021)

Covid

Q: Is covid mentioned in the Gospels?

A: Our whole present situation is clearly prophesied: ‘For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted’ (Matt. 24, 7-9). However, Christ tells us a little later: ‘But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved’ (verse 13). This is exactly what we are doing and shall continue to do. Only the last one standing wins. Others can come and do, falling into one extreme or another, as they have done over the last 50 years. We shall not, but keep to the middle ground, whatever the persecutions from either extreme.

The Creed

Q: What is the ‘Orthodox filioque’?

A: This refers to the temporal procession of the Holy Spirit through the Son of God. This is quite unlike the Roman Catholic/Protestant filioque, which asserts that the Holy Spirit proceeds in eternity from the Father ‘and from the Son’ (‘Filioque’). This heretical filioque was only first clearly expressed, defended and developed in all its ramifications in the work ‘Contra Graecos’ / ‘Against the Greeks’ in 1093 by the Norman-imposed, Lombard Archbishop of Canterbury Anselm. This was just as St Photius of Constantinople had prophetically warned was possible well over 200 years before.

This ‘Orthodox filioque’ is explained by St Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662). One of his friends, St Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury (602-690), is recorded by St Bede the Venerable at the Council of Hatfield in 680 as expressing the Orthodox filioque, that is, the procession of the Spirit ‘from the Father and ineffably from the Son’ (‘et Filio inerranibiliter’). The near-contemporary academic theologian, Vladimir Lossky, also clearly explained ‘the Orthodox filioque’ in his essay ‘On the Procession of the Holy Spirit’.

Q: Is it possible for those who have already joined the Orthodox Church by chrismation and taken communion to be baptised?

A: No. The Creed states specifically ‘I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins’. The Guildford Schism, as long ago as 1976, was an example of this. I still remember it! This was when an uncanonically ordained, though trained in Jordanville, ROCOR priest in London (later defrocked) rebaptised a group of Orthodox ‘converts’, baptised as Anglicans. They had previously been received by chrismation into the Moscow Patriarchate and for months or even years had been taking communion there. This rebaptism created, understandably, a huge scandal: naïve or sometimes proud idealists (idealism is sometimes proud) had been manipulated into believing that this rebaptism was necessary for them to become ‘spiritually pure’ and ‘true Orthodox’ by a guru-like figure, who was in a state of delusion. Once more, it all finished in schism and tears. There is nothing new under the sun. Some people never learn from the experiences of the past.

Such rebaptised generally do not want rebaptism for spiritual reasons, but for psychological reasons of insecurity, which is actually a subtle form of pride, now, they say, ‘we are more Orthodox than the Orthodox’. After rebaptism, they virtually all lapse from the Faith because they do not repent, but rather justify their error.

Church Life

Q: Why are so many Orthodox bishops so distant from their flocks? Why don’t Orthodox usually respect and like their bishops as pastors, but mistrust them and just shrug their shoulders and put up with them?

A: Orthodox love real bishops. Two of the most popular and universal Orthodox saints of all time, St Nicholas and St Spyridon, are both bishops. The persecuted Sts Nectarius of Egina and John of Shanghai were also bishops, though much persecuted by their brother-bishops.

I must have met well over 100 Orthodox bishops, 10% of the present total, in my time. The problem is that virtually all men marry, but bishops must be unmarried. So the pool of talent that bishops come from is very small and actually nowadays sometimes tainted. This corruption comes from the fact that not all bishops are real monks and who also have the skill set to be bishops. Many are simply celibates, which of course is no criterion at all and may sometimes even be a criterion of abnormality. The late Fr Alexander Schmemann pointed this out in his Diaries and he knew exactly what he was talking about from his experience in the USA.

I think there are four different categories of bishops, of whom only the first category is episcopally and ecclesially valid:

  1. The Real Thing: He who loves God and loves his neighbour

Many bishops are righteous and even saintly. They could have married, but God has called them to do even higher things. St John of Shanghai, Archbp George (Tarasov), Archbp Antony of Geneva, Metr Laurus and many others I have known, and know, figure in this category. There are some wonderful bishops in the Churches of Serbia, Greece and Cyprus like this at present.

I would like to think that the vast majority of bishops fit into this above category. The three categories below are therefore exceptions, but, however few in number, they still exist. They represent the three main passions, love of money (‘the root of all evil’), love of power and love of the flesh, in Church Russian, srebroljubie, vlastoljubie and slastoljubie. These are all passions which should be knocked out of men if they become novices and then live as monks in a monastery for, say, ten years.

  1. The Careerist – Love of Money

Some bishops are simply too selfish to marry – no woman would have them. These are generally secular failures, political appointees, cowardly diplomats, State worshippers, nationalists, over-ambitious and spineless careerists, and pompous bureaucrats. They can be good at obtaining and organising infrastructure, but not at much else and they are easily corrupted by prestige, greed, ambition, power and money. In times of persecution, they betray the Church, as they swim with the tide, for they have no principles at all. This we can see very clearly today, as also throughout history, as recently in the Soviet period and today.

  1. The Pathological – Love of Power

Some bishops are incapable of marrying (and often of forming any normal human relationship). These are men with psychological problems, pathological cases, mummy’s boys from dysfunctional families, gaslighting narcissists, the jealous, the autistic, dry monks who hate people (which is why they became monks, so that they do not have to have any relations with others), fraudulent charlatans, fakes and manipulators who turn the charm off (for those who see through them) and on (for the naïve neophytes), as it suits them. They are characterised by the total absence of empathy, mercy, love and compassion. Incapable of dialogue, they can only monologue in their grasp for money and power to feed their naked ambition. All is justified by them by the word obedience, that is, to themselves!

As they are incapable of normal relationships, they are often ‘zealots’, that is, pharisaic sectarians and extremists, and in extreme cases they are pathological, sociopaths or even psychopaths. This is why this type of people-hater can be found among certain very strict and conservative bishops, with a punishing and tyrannical streak, indeed, some are old calendarist bishops. Though they disguise their hatred beneath zeal, they are soon found out. (There is an excellent and accurate portrait of such a misanthropic Russian emigre bishop in the Paul Chavchavadze novel, ‘Father Vikenty’).

  1. The Sexually Problematic – Love of the Flesh

Some have sexual problems. Some are homosexuals (though some of the non-practising ones in this group are rather nice people and sometimes even quite good bishops), but also there are those who form ‘gay mafias’ which persecute the married clergy. Several Local Churches suffer and have always suffered from these mafias. Or else there are bishops who should have married and then get a mistress (or a few mistresses, as in several cases I have known). Some of these (the ones with one mistress/wife) are not too bad, but others are atrocious (see below). These bishops are generally liberals, sometimes extreme liberals, clearly for self-justifying, psychological reasons.

Of course, there are, quite commonly, those who combine Type 2 with 3 or 4. They are the ultimate nightmares. However, they are never combined with Type 1.

I can see only three ways out of this crisis, two are idealistic, one is realistic.

The first and most idealistic solution is to have a monastic revival. This would eliminate the last three categories of bishops, who are just celibates (and you can elect to be a celibate for all sorts of bad reasons – see above) and not real monks. Those individuals in the last three categories would then be sifted out by monastic life, which destroys the love of power and the love of money. Then we would have bishops who are all real monks. But this is idealism, not realism. You cannot order a monastic revival. It is organic and takes at least a generation to develop. Then there is no guarantee that the bishops in power will select suitable candidates.

The second solution is that a Council agrees to reinstate married bishops. The trouble here is that married bishops were abolished during the first millennium, sometimes for very good reasons. We only have to think of the married bishops of the Soviet period, like ‘Metr Filaret’ Denisenko of Kiev. He is still alive, one of the most corrupt individuals in the Ukraine. His wife would decide whom he ordained, mainly depending on the size of the bribe the candidates gave her. Do we want that? In any case, realistically, I cannot see any such change being approved by any Council for generations to come.

However, while we are waiting for a monastic revival inspired by the Holy Spirit or a Council, let us have the third and only realistic solution, the only one for the time being. This is to have fewer bishops, those only from the first category, who will then have to delegate much to a robust structure of married and experienced older priests as deans, since the few bishops will be too busy to do much more than ordain, give out myrrh and guide.

Q: Are the canons enforceable? They were all written down so long ago.

A: It is true that many of them are no longer practised or indeed no longer relevant. As many churchmen have said, the canons are guidelines. After all, the word ‘canon’ means ‘an example’. They should not be compared to State laws.

What concerns me is that some converts from Protestantism pick and choose in their application of the canons, just as they pick and choose chapter and verse quotations from the Scripture, failing to read the context, taking quotations and canons out of context. Then they apply them literally like laws.

For example, there is the well-known Canon XX of the First Universal Council which bans kneeling on Sundays, which certain converts love to quote. It would mean that the whole Romanian Church is uncanonical, not to mention millions of other pious Orthodox.

Another case is Canon LXX of the Sixth Council (Quinisext), which states that ‘women may not talk during the Liturgy’. This refers of course to chatting during the service (which at the time was done by certain women in some places). Now misogynists like Makrakis (and some other Greeks especially) have taken this up and interpreted it as if women were not allowed to sing in church! It would be funny, if it were not sad. In any case, if followed, it would mean that the whole of the Russian Church is also uncanonical.

On the other hand, there is Canon XXI of Antioch which say that bishops must stay in the diocese originally appointed for them, ‘even though he is forced to do so by coercion on the part of bishops’. Yet virtually every Orthodox bishop in the contemporary Orthodox world has changed dioceses, if not once, then again and again. For example, our own St John of Shanghai/Paris/Brussels/San Francisco. There are many other examples of canons simply not being applied, and for good reasons.

Then there is Canon LXXX of the (Quinisext) Sixth Universal Council which excommunicates anyone ‘living in the City’ who does not attend church for three consecutive Sundays. Does this mean that virtually all urban Orthodox are excommunicated?

Canon CI of the same Council says that laypeople must take communion in their hands. Again, does this mean that all laypeople are now excommunicated, since none does this today?

There are many, many other examples. Literalism is not helpful: context, interpretation and discernment are all-important with the canons.

Q: What is the most difficult thing for you in the priesthood?

A: I think it is to combine softness with hardness. This is a problem of discernment, especially important at confession. You have to know when to follow the strict rule and when to be indulgent. This does not come from me, for Christ already spoke to the disciples about it: ‘Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore as wise as serpents and harmless as doves’ (Matt. 10.16-17). The weak and cowardly should not be ordained. St Paisios said that the present generation is incapable of struggling. This is a real problem.

Q: To what extent can there be variations in Church life? I see also sorts of people, anti-vaxxers, pro-vaxxers, traditionalist, modernists. Is that all legitimate?

A: There has always been room for variation inside the Church, for ‘left’ and ‘right’. In Constantinople itself there were always two parties, ‘the Blues’ and the Greens’. Let people be anti-vaxxers or pro-vaxxers, but they should not try and impose their views of whatever side on others as some sort of dogma or as a reason to break off communion with those who disagree with them. Let us have more tolerance!

All Orthodox agree about what is in the Creed (that is why we are not Roman Catholics or Protestants), but there is room for different views about what is not in the Creed, which is left for intelligent and humble debate. Without that, the Church is a dead ghetto, not living at all, but paralysed and dies out. On the other hand, to fall out of communion with one another, just because you do not have identical views about secondary matters, is wrong.

For example, in the emigration, there were highly-westernised Saint Petersburg aristocrats (some of them already had property in France before the Revolution), freemasons and philosophers, who had helped overthrow the Tsar. Their freemason descendants in the emigration stayed under Constantinople even after reunion with the Mother-Church in 2019 (and because there was reunion: we fought for 30 years for that reunion).

On the other hand, there were extreme right-wingers (let us not forget that Gregory Rasputin was murdered by one of them, Purishkevich, also said to have been a freemason). After one of them, Fr George Grabbe, helped to put St John of Shanghai on trial in 1963, had married ‘the Tsarevich’ in New York on 30 September 1964, the Grabbe family tried to take over North American ROCOR for nearly three decades, until they left the Church. According to several writers, including the Church historian Sergei Fomin, Fr George (later Bp Gregory) was also a freemason (The Lafayette-Astoria Lodge).

In 1966 the Grabbe faction led to old calendarists taking over, which in turn led to a wave of censorious phariseeism and appalling scandals (including those of his son Antony Grabbe in Jerusalem) and schisms, in 1986, 2001, 2007, as extremists who had been taken into ROCOR inevitably left, once more moderate forces came to the fore. Yet there were people like the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva of ROCOR who never broke communion or ceased concelebration with the moderate, non-freemason Parisians, our friends from always. It was the selfsame Parisians who led most (58% – not ‘the brothers’) of the Paris Church back to the Mother-Church in December 2019, to our great joy, and it became the Archdiocese of Western Europe. Our long-held dream had come true. We greeted this at the time in several articles.

Inside contemporary Russia we see the same trends. On the one hand, there is the pro-Protestant wing of Fr George Kochetkov and his neo-renovationism (the words of Patriarch Aleksiy II, not mine), as well as the more moderate Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev, Fr George Mitrofanov, Fr Pavel Velikanov, A. Shishkov, all of the pro-ecumenism and pro-modernism wing.

On the other hand, there you have the Stalinist (yes, Stalinist, incredibly!) right-wing, ultra-nationalist, shamefully anti-Semitic, anti-Protestant, anti-Catholic, pro-canonisation of Ivan IV and even Stalin, with their the stubborn refusal to recognise the authenticity of the relics of the Royal Family found outside Ekaterinburg decades ago, with figures like the now defrocked Sergei Romanov and the late ex-Bishop Diomid. (However, so far only the latter fell out of communion with the Church).

What I am saying is that it is legitimate to be the right of the centre or to the left of the centre, what is not legitimate is to fall into such extremes that you fall out of communion with one another. The important thing is to keep to the unitive mainstream of the Russian Tradition, the heritage of the holy Patriarch Tikhon, missionary, American citizen, Patriarch, Confessor and probably Martyr. Intolerance always leads to schism as we saw with the old Rue Daru jurisdiction before the majority there triumphantly reunited with Moscow in 2019. And as can see today with the old calendarist wing of ROCOR, which considers that others are not ‘pure enough’ for them and that therefore they must ‘wall themselves off’ from the rest of the world, like some Protestant sect, and break communion with other Orthodox.

Q: How can you venerate as a saint Emperor Constantine, who was a pagan till the last few days of his life?

A: We venerate Divine Providence acting through him, rather than all his actions. Thanks to Divine Providence in him the Empire gave the Church huge privileges, resulting in the First Universal Council in 325. This is very important because at the time in the early fourth century only between 10% and 20% of the Imperial population were Christians. This is significant because, unlike what the secularists say, the view of the majority is not important. If the minority is following God’s Will, it will always win. Several other venerated rulers fall into this category of those who fulfilled Divine Providence, which was a triumph.

Q: I find it very difficult to sing in church and pray at the same time. Have you any advice?

A: There used to live in Paris a Russian prince, Alexander Nelidov. As a young man he was a professional dancer. However, later he became a priest. The late Fr Alexander used to say that, ‘to sing in church is to pray twice’. What he meant is that the spiritual reward for singing in church is twice that of the reward for prayer. Only a couple of years ago, I discovered that Fr Alexander, God rest him, was actually quoting Blessed Augustine.

Orthodox England

Q: You often write of pre-Norman England, but it was pretty primitive, wasn’t it?

A: The period of history between the departure of the pagan Romans in 409 and 1066 is sometimes called ‘The Dark Ages’. However, that fairly recent name indicates rather the darkness or ignorance of pro-Norman scholars about the period. (On the misuse of the term ‘The Dark Ages’ see the work by Seb. Falk, ‘The Light Years’, 2020).

Apart from the artistic achievements which began to be appreciated as recently as 1939 with the Sutton Hoo archaeological discoveries (much increased since then), there were the literature, medicine and science (St Bede, St Alfred, St Dunstan, the Winchester School, Abbot Aelfric, Fr Byrthferth, Bishop Wulfstan etc) and the huge engineering works: the five Cambridgeshire Dykes (built c. 600), the 100 miles or so of Offa’s Dyke (c. 780) and the 100-200 miles of canals and drainage ditches in the Fens (between 700 and 1000, including the huge, 100-mile long embankment preventing the sea flooding the land, known as the ‘Roman Bank’.

This includes the work carried out by the five Fenland monasteries between 970 and 1000), excavated by hand, partly in order to facilitate the transport by barge of building stone for new churches. (In some older books you still come across the ignorant myth that pre-Norman or English churches were all small: this is simply because the Normans knocked down nearly all of them, such as the huge Cathedral in the Old English Capital of Winchester, and only the little ones survived). Much of this engineering work was wrongly attributed to the Romans, much of it still exists (‘The Backs’ in Cambridge is the result of Old English hydraulic engineering), much of it was far better and longer-lasting than the 17th century drainage schemes in the Fens, carried out by 10,000 Scottish and Dutch prisoners of war.

In 1066 the Normans took over the best-organised State in Western Europe, as recorded by the Domesday Book. If you google any of these ‘Anglo-Saxon’ themes, you will obtain a wealth of information and also a rich bibliography.

Q: Is the site of St Guthlac’s monastery called Croyland or Crowland?

A: The town of Crowland is in Lincolnshire. The abbey church in Crowland is sometimes still known by its older and now old-fashioned name of Croyland. Crowland is the modern name. There you can venerate the holy relics of St Theodore, Abbot of Peterborough, martyred by the Vikings in 870. The store-room where the skull is kept is to be made available to Orthodox as a chapel, probably in 2022. It is believed that the relics of St Guthlac are buried somewhere in the graveyard. Certainly the remains of the great English hero Hereward (miscalled ‘The Wake’) were buried there. The site of St Guthlac’s hermitage seems to have been identified recently about a mile away on St James’ Road by St James’ Farm. Archaeological excavations are ongoing. Nearby is the site of St Guthlac’s sister’s hermitage. She was St Pega and the site of her hermitage is in Peakirk (‘Pegakirk’). She is still there too.

Q: England is often portrayed as the villain in Russian Orthodox writing. What have we to be proud of, spiritually?

A: I think you have been reading Russian nationalist writing. Just as British nationalists like Boris Johnson, portray Russia as an evil bear, so Russian nationalists portray England (= Britain) as a rapacious lion. Normal Russians do not see it that way, but are more balanced.

We can take joy in our saints, of the sixth and seventh centuries especially, St Alban, St Cuthbert, St Hilda, St Audrey and many others, like our martyrs St Edmund and St Edward, whose names have gone around the world. In general, we rejoice in the great Old English and their resistance to the Normans in and after 1066 – as we still do resist them, for we follow in their footsteps. Then, who defended Constantinople in 1204? It was the English, as described by Villehardouin and Robert de Clari. After all there had been a massive exodus of the English to Constantinople (and later to southern Russia) after 1066. In the twelfth century the Roman Imperial Army was largely composed of Englishmen. In the twentieth century, we have the royal figures of Sts Alexandra and Elizabeth, of Fr Nicholas Gibbes, tutor to the Tsarevich, and many others who loved persecuted Russia.

There is much to love in England, though not, alas!, its Establishment politicians, who become lord and sirs, even though some are considered to be war criminals. They are ‘Normans’ to the core. This is not a racist statement, as few of them have any ‘Norman’ blood. What we are talking about here is the elitist mentality. Anybody opposed to Orthodoxy can in our English context be called a ‘Norman’.

The crimes of ‘the Normans’ include their genocides in England from 1066 on and for hundreds of years afterwards with their barbaric ‘hanging, drawing and quartering’, their genocides in Wales (the castles), Scotland and Ireland (from the 12th century on to the torture-chambers of the Tudors, to the Hitlerian Cromwell, then the Potato Famine and the ethnic cleansing of Highland Scots in the 19th century (sheep were more valuable than human-beings)), then the genocides of native Americans, of Indians (from the salt-hedge to the 1940s Bengal Famine, for example) and Africa (the slave-trade, which made Bristol and Liverpool wealthy). It is the British who invaded 178 countries of the world, not the English (https://ww2answers.com/qa/which-countries-have-the-british-invaded.html).

I have always distinguished carefully between the British and the English. The British are an imperialist concept, invented by the Romans, taken up by the Normans and then developed in the eighteenth century, which promised that ‘’Britons’ never would be slaves’, but everyone else could be enslaved by ‘Britons’. The British have always oppressed the English, ever since 1066. Russians, and others, need to make this distinction!

The Western World

Q: Why are you not a Catholic?

A: First of all, because whenever I have been to a Roman Catholic church, I do not feel anything. It feels empty to me. In an Orthodox church I feel a presence. Secondly, because Roman Catholicism is not historic, it did not exist until the 11th century. Thirdly, because the Papal claims are purely secular and were taken over from the pagan Roman Empire. Fourthly, because to justify their claims, the Popes altered the Creed with their filioque, placing the bishop of Rome above the Universal Councils. Fifthly, because Roman Catholicism invented the Crusades, the Inquisition etc. Sixthly, because their clergy are forced to be celibate, which means that a section of them are perverts. I could continue, but surely that is enough?

Q: When were organs introduced into Western churches?

A: The first organs in the West since the fall of Old Rome were sent from Constantinople to the Carolingian Franks, Pepin the Short and his son Charles the Tall (Charlemagne), in the later eighth century. In Constantinople they were used only at secular events, however the Franks introduced them into church. By 1054 only a few cathedrals had them. During the Middle Ages they became slightly more common.

However, there was still great resistance and the scholastic Thomas Aquinas opposed the organ as a ‘Judaising force’. Here he was referring to the Old Testament use of musical instruments, which he saw as pagan. Indeed, in some more traditional churches organs have never been introduced, for instance, in the Sistine Chapel. In fact it was only in the 18th and 19th centuries that organs became near universal in Non-Orthodox, especially Protestant, churches. As we know, today they are often replaced there by pianos, guitars, drums, keyboards and anything else you can name.

Q: Why does the West put Christmas above Easter?

A: It is more complex than ‘the West’, which in fact is very varied.

Thus, Protestants have long considered that ‘Jesus’ becoming a man is more important than His Resurrection from the dead and our Co-Resurrection with him. However, Roman Catholics are different. They seem to consider that Christ’s Crucifixion is more important than His Resurrection. However, in both cases it is true that there is an emphasis on the human nature of Christ, which we do not have in the Church.

Q: Why do the Old Catholics not join the Orthodox Church?

A: There exists a curious psychological deformation. Roman Catholics who leave their denomination almost always have to become Protestant, missing the Orthodox boat. This is what happened in the Old Catholic movement, which degenerated into a form of Protestantism, missing the Orthodox boat. As was noted in the century before last, Catholicism and Protestantism are the two sides of the same coin, and that coin is not Orthodox. (Incidentally, in a similar way, some Anglicans have to become Roman Catholics, before they can envisage joining the Orthodox Church).

Q: What do you think of Samuel Huntingdon’s book ‘The Clash of Civilizations’?

A: I first came across it in the 90s in a review in ‘The Economist’, which I had to read for my job at the time and I obtained a copy. Occasionally since then I have used it for reference.

Some criticised it even then as the last gasp of a conservative New England WASP professor. In an age of Black Lives Matter it does seem even more old-fashioned. However, Huntingdon does recognise the limitations of the West, unlike US administrations since the 1990s, which have been gripped by the delusion of global hegemony. Had they listened to his warnings about Western interference in the Ukraine, for example, we would not be where we are now, when Russians are petrified by a NATO invasion of Russia from the Ukraine and international tension has been ramped up by Washington’s aggressive threats. Similarly, there are Huntingdon’s warnings about ex-Yugoslavia, which remains a powder-keg, created by Western interference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Press Release on the Joyful Feast of the Dormition 2021

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.

A Reply to the Enemies of the Church

 

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.

On the Role of Pastors

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions and Answers from Recent Correspondence (April 2021)

Pastoral Matters

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.

Liturgical Matters

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.

President Biden and Organised Western Violence

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.

 

 

Questions and Answers from Correspondence (January-March 2021)

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.

Covid Vaccines

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.

Conspiracy Theories

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.

Liturgical Notes

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:

“For the Christians are distinguished from other people neither by country, nor by language, nor by the customs they observe. They do not inhabit cities of their own, or employ a peculiar form of speech, or lead a life in any way different from that of others …”

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.

 

Global Iona

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.

 

The Future

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.

 

The Parish Problem

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.

Consequences of Covid

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.