‘Russia and its Orthodox Church think they are the holiest and most traditional, but see how they stack up in their corrupt nation! Not only among the world’s highest rates for alcoholism and abortion, they also enter the top fifty countries for rates of homicide, no matter how many bishops or priests they have’.
Opinion seen in social media
I suspect that the writer of these words is a neophyte who has just had his first disillusion. If he has faith he will survive, as he will after all the disillusions to come. If you don’t want to be disillusioned, it is very important to get rid of your illusions as soon as possible. If he is still there in fifty years time, then all is well. After all, Orthodoxy is not about ‘becoming Orthodox’ but about remaining Orthodox.
First of all, his ‘Holy Russia’ is a mistranslation of Holy Rus, Rus meaning all who confess the Russian Orthodox Faith, wherever they may live. Do not confuse it with the Russian State, either before the Revolution, or after the Revolution, or with the post-Soviet State. This young man mentions ‘Holy Rus’. Although I prefer the term ‘Orthodox Rus’, it refers to the ideal of holiness, which is nevertheless a real aim among a few, I would say, among about 1 in a 100.
Thus, there are 200 million nominal Orthodox in the world, of whom about 75% are Russian Orthodox. However, only about 1 in 100 actually belong to Holy Rus, that is believe in and strive for the reality of holiness of Russian Orthodoxy. Similarly of some 20 million Romanian Orthodox (thus Russian and Romanian Orthodox together number 85% of the nominal total), only about 1% belong to Holy Romania, and the same proportions go for Holy Greece, Holy Serbia, Holy Bulgaria, Holy Georgia and all the even smaller Local Churches etc. (However, in my wide travels throughout the Orthodox world, I would make one exception, Moldova, where in my view perhaps as many as 4 in 100 are seeking ‘Holy Moldova’).
We can say then that only about two million Orthodox actively confess and therefore seek the Orthodox Christian ideal of Holiness, that is, they have real faith. In countries of the Diaspora, where even nominal Orthodox rarely make up more than 1% of the population, I would therefore put the number of those who belong to Holy Rus, Holy Romania, Holy Bulgaria etc, or for that matter to Holy England, Holy France, Holy Italy etc, at about 1 in 10,000 of the population.
Here we state that the only Faith that has Holiness as its ideal is Orthodox Christianity. This is because of our confession of the Holy Spirit, which is unique to it, which can change it from a mere State-sponsored or institutional religion to real faith. Thus, the religion of Catholicism has substituted for the Holy Spirit a kind of pious, obligatory moral obedience to its Pope. The Protestant religion has substituted for the Holy Spirit the priggish prudery of a moralising puritanical straitjacket, in which sexual sin is virtually the only type of sin. Other religions have their ideals too. Islam has as its ideal that there is only One Great God, pantheistic Hinduism that there are thousands of gods, Buddhism has as its ideal meditation to reach ‘nirvana’ etc
However, in fairness to Non-Orthodox, the majority of Orthodox Christians, as is especially visible among some senior clergy, have also substituted mere ‘religion’, State-sponsored institutionalism, for the Holy Spirit and faith. There is at times little difference between them. A favourite ‘Orthodox’ substitute is Nationalism. The young man quoted above has clearly seen this substitute among some and now seems to be on his way to denying that Holy Rus even exists! Perhaps he is obsessed with someone else’s nationalism, American nationalism, for instance. Another favourite ‘Orthodox’ substitute for the Holy Spirit is Phariseeism, with its ritual observances and cult of blind obedience to anti-spiritual and anti-Christian sectarian gurus, usually of clerical rank.
The combination of these two deviations, Nationalism and Phariseeism, is the worst of all worlds. I visited the Ukraine many times over the last few years, after I had been appointed ROCOR missionary representative for Europe by the late Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral). (This was in the days of the old, pre-Trump Church). In the Ukraine I saw exactly that Uniat spirit which has long existed there. Basically: As long as the rite is the same, nothing matters. ‘Glory to the Ukraine’ – as for God, he has no importance. Today we pray for Kyrill, tomorrow for Francis, the day after for Filaret, the day after that for Epiphanius and then…for Antichrist. But the rite is the same. Nothing else matters. Here is why there are so many ‘Churches’ in the Ukraine. As for the Holy Spirit, some of them there have clearly not yet heard of Him, which is why those are murdering their own people.
However, in fairness to the 1% of ‘Holy Ukrainians’, who face the enmity of the 99%, is it any better in Russia? After all, it was Russian bishops who persecuted St John of Kronstadt, the Eucharist-Giver, who at last changed the very decadent attitude to communion before the Revolution. Those bishops made him rector of the church he had himself founded only after 40 years of his priesthood! Another St John, St John of Shanghai and Western Europe (as we have always called him here), was deprived of his see and put on trial in San Francisco, not by Arians, Iconoclasts, Papists, Turks, Communists, Nazis or Ecumenists, but by his very own fellow ROCOR bishops, some of whom I knew and were still unrepentant in the early 1990s. Their hounding and harassment led to his early death.
But they were both only following in the footsteps of a third St John, St John the Baptist. And we know what happened to him. But we should not despair. Only in the last six weeks, icons of St John of Kronstadt (in St John’s Church, Colchester) and of St John the Baptist (in the Russian Patriarchal Cathedral in Kensington) have given off myrrh. All Orthodox (if only all had seen it) who have seen the excellent film ‘The Man of God’, or before that read Sotos Chrondopoulos’ excellent Life of St Nectarius, will know what I am talking about.
Quite simply: Who demanded the crucifixion of Christ? It was the chief priests, the intellectuals (‘scribes’) and self-appointed righteous (‘pharisees’). Such is the lot of us all, to be put on trial by the same Caiaphas for being real Orthodox. And we recall this today especially, when we remember how the Imperial Martyrs were betrayed precisely by Grand Dukes, famed aristocrats, generals, businessmen…
I remember in 1980 a conversation I had with the late Fr Alexander Schmemann about the episcopate inside the then Soviet Russia. He simply answered my question about them: ‘Half of them are saints and the other half are rogues’. I remember later a young man coming from Eastern Europe. He was quickly made priest, though only because he spoke Russian and knew how to flatter. He openly molested women-parishioners and stole large sums of money from his church, driving all away with his scandalous conduct. For that he was given award after award by his bishop. He should have been defrocked several times over, as also, frankly, his bishop. But, instead, his bishop was also given awards, despite destroying his diocese by ordaining and encouraging such a figure and defrocking others.
The problem today is that because many senior clergy have no authority –because there is no presence of the Holy Spirit among them – they only know harsh and punitive authoritarianism. The search among careerists is not for the Holy Spirit, but for money (corruption), glory (power), and perversion. All of this is vain money, vainglory and depravity – the same as in most contemporary Western political life, which increasingly is entered only by those who have failed in the real world and seek money and power or else are perverts. None of them has yet heard that: ‘Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory’.
Here we cannot fail to mention the elephant in the room, the homosexualisation of the Orthodox episcopate over the last fifty years. Although sad exceptions have always existed, for example in sixteenth-century Russia (when they were called ‘sodomites’) or in nineteenth-century Russia, their numbers now have risen everywhere. Of the 1,000 Orthodox bishops in the world (I must have met about 100 of them over the last fifty years), 20% – 30% of them must be homosexuals. Thus, Greeks speak of ‘the lavender mafia’, Russians of ‘the pale blue mafia’ and Americans simply of ‘the gay mafia’. (Thank God there have so far been only three known examples of pedophile bishops, one in France, one in the UK and one in North America). We know of seminarians of a very conservative jurisdiction who openly displayed themselves and yet years later were ordained and are now consecrated. The problem with such is also their appalling jealousy of and therefore persecution of, married clergy who have children, which they cannot have. The latest scandal in the Greek Church in the USA only confirms this. Such is the danger of being ‘first without equals’.
Yes, the end of the world is coming. There will come a point when none of us will be able to go to church any more and there will be no sacraments. Then the end will come, on account of narcissists, who ‘love their own selves’ and are ‘unholy’ spirits. It was all foretold:
‘This know also, that in the last days times of stress shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, reckless, swollen with deceit, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’.
(2 Timothy 3, 1-5)
‘We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure’.
(2 Thess. 1, 4)
St John’s Church, City of Colchester
The Imperial Martyrs, 2022