Orthodox Survival Course, Class 44: Faith Comes First, Session 3. 20th Century Apostasy, Part I

Listen to the podcast of this talk at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/osc-44

Request for Donations

Thanks to donors. To our other listeners: please consider a gift to help me out. If you have PayPal, you can send a one-time gift, or a recurring gift of x amount per month to my account at frstevenallen@gmail.com. If you want to receive a receipt for a tax deduction, contact me at that email, and I can tell you how to donate to our parish, who in turn will pass the donation on to me and send you a receipt.

I. Introductory Remarks

Remember, I am only giving you a general introduction to all of this. You have to do your homework!

A. Background: Faith comes first. To deal with the Culture War, first we have to be in the Church, and that starts with confession of Faith. Love has to be based on truth and the struggle for the good. See Excursus B below for the connection of the powers of the soul to the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love.

B. Summary of our last class. Ecclesiological principles.

1. Making the true confession of faith ontologically changes people. Denying the confession of faith also ontologically changes people.

2. One must have the correct and saving confession of Faith to be in the Church.

3. People who deny the confession of Faith and are therefore not in the Church cannot be bishops or priests.

4. To be in the Church one must be united in the Holy Mysteries to a bishop and his clergy who themselves have the saving confession of Faith and are in the Church.

II. History of the Apostasy of Ecumenism in the 20th Century and Up till Now

Let’s start with situation now and then go back to see how we got here. This will give us a framework within which to understand the details/data of the history starting in the early 20th century. So important to have the framework, because otherwise the data can confuse you, and there are ill-intentioned people who want to confuse you.

A. Current Situation: Atlanticist Establishment/Anglo-Zionist cabal vs. “Russia” or “Eurasia.” Cold Warriors’ delusions: “West” are the good guys. “Holy Russia” groupie delusions: “East” are the good guys.” My experience of watching that YouTube of the MP consecration of that church and then Putin’s talk to the ROCOR-MP hierarchs. Two great pincers of the same monster. Take your pick: Satan or Antichrist. Illustrated in the Ukraine imbroglio. Is the opposition real or faked? Doesn’t matter: The demons in hell fight each other.

Summary:

1. All the big players are in the WCC or in communion with those in WCC.

2. All the big players have some kind of deal with the pope. Lifting of the Anathemas, Balamand Agreement, the EP’s constant prayers with popes, Kyrill’s Havana Statement.

The WCC is obviously in the service of Antichrist. The pope is obviously in the service of Antichrist (or just out and out Satan – cf. the Amazonia Synod going on now in the fall of 2019). So where does that leave the “Orthodox” who cooperate with them? They steadfastly refuse to leave the WCC and steadfastly refuse to denounce the pope and have nothing to do with him. St. Cosmas Aitolos says, “Curse the Pope!”

If you are in a WO group, ask your priest, “Why is our jurisdiction in the WCC?” See what he says. Ask yourself if the answer is one that an intelligent adult with a conscience would swallow.

B. The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ecumenism

Intro: To organize our discussion, we’ll use the headings “Ecumenism” and “Sergianism.” Again, see The True Orthodox Church and Heresy of Ecumenism – http://hotca.org/pdf/TrueOrthodoxOppositionEcumenism.pdf for a concise explanation of these two terms. The two “big boys” are the EP and the MP. Both are ecumenist and sergianist, but the former is more obviously ecumenist and the latter is more obviously sergianist. Today we’ll talk about the EP.

1. The EP does not really have a flock any more. So it had to position itself as some kind of global papacy for the Orthodoxy. Read St. John Maximovich on this problem at http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/decline.aspx

2. It is well-known that the leadership of the EP has been involved in Freemasonry at least since the patriarchate of Meletios Metaxakis in the 1920’s. Patriarch Athenagoras and Harry Truman, etc, etc. So the EP is an instrument of Anglo-Zionist, Atlanticist global strategy. I don’t think I need to explain to our audience that you can’t be a Christian and a Freemason at the same time. And it is not that the EP leadership is only covertly Masonic. Rather their aggressive leadership of ecumenism puts the Freemasonic philosophy – “brotherhood of man,” etc. – into action. The latest manifestation of this is Pat. B’s obsession with being the “Green Patriarch.”

3. Timeline: Reminder – Read the book by St. Edward Brotherhood, Christian Union? An Orthodox Christian’s Guide to Ecumenism: Past, Present and Future by the St. Edward Brotherhood

https://www.saintedwardbrotherhood.org/christian-union

1920 – Letter “To the Churches of Christ everywhere…”

1924 – Change of the calendar

1948 – Formation of the WCC – as time goes on, they become “organic” members” going to meetings with pagan ceremonies, etc.

1964 – Athenagoras meets with Paul VI

1965 – Lifting of the anathemas

1975 – Thyateira Confession – puts the lifting of anathemas into action by proposing intercommunion with RC’s and Anglicans.

See the Three Sorrowful Epistles by St. Philaret of New York: First two: http://www.st-sergius.org/Bio/Metp/sorrow.html and the third:

https://blessedphilaret.blogspot.com/2008/09/third-sorrowful-epistle.html

1990 – Chambesy Agreement – denies the 4th Ecumenical Council and approves monophysitism – on the basis of this there is practically sacramental intercommunion nearly everywhere with the monophysites, and officially with the Antiochians.

1993 – Balamand Agreement – O and RC “sister churches” with ontologically identical sacraments

See the Excursus below on “Joint Statements”. Boiling the frog slowly: Say they are only “study documents” to give plausible deniability.

Since then Patriarchs Demetrios and then Bartholomew have stayed on the same path. No repentance whatsoever, and, moreover, punishing or threatening those who oppose them. The commemorators of Mt. Athos and those like them are controlled opposition and their witness is, well, not a witness.

More recent years: Open liturgical commemoration of Pope Benedict at the Phanar, staying buddies with Francis the Satanic apostate, ascendancy of Zizioulas, “First Without Equals” ecclesiology. 2016 Council of Crete. It’s really getting crazy.

C. How to Respond? One’s practical situation: Discernment

As we go along, the question one should ask is “How do I respond to all this?” To give a head start on your study of this question I suggest some further reading:

Further Reading:

Two essays by Hiermonk (now Bishop) Maximus, “Why the True Orthodox are Truly Orthodox” and “The Problem of the Conservative New Calendarism”

http://hotca.org/orthodoxy/orthodox-awareness/236-why-the-true-orthodox-are-truly-orthodox and http://hotca.org/orthodoxy/orthodox-awareness/78-the-problem-of-conservative-new-calendarism

So…

1. A World Orthodox believer has this realization: I’ve gotta get outta here! But to where?

2. Be patient, investigate, pray. God wants your salvation more than you do.

3. Fr. Anthony Gavalas story. My practical conclusions – Bishop must be O, not in communion with non-O, have apostolic succession, trying not to be a schismatic, and not crazy. And you have to be able to work with him, and he has to be someone who won’t destroy your family or your parish.

In closing: Let us have the good zeal and love one another. Discerning good zeal vs. bitter zeal or zeal “not according to understanding.” i. Always confess vanity. ii. Ask forgiveness if you go over the line. iii. But you can’t wait till your perfect before you fight for the Faith.

Let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ; and may He bring us all together to life eternal. Amen. (cf. Rule of St. Benedict, end of Chapter 72).

Excursus A: On the Powers of the Soul; the True, the Good, and the Beautiful; and the Cardinal and Theological Virtues

Hippy dippy Orthodox who don’t want to deal with tough questions about confession of faith quote Dostoevsky and say that “Beauty will save the world,” by which they (not Dostoevsky) mean that Orthodoxy is all about aesthetics and emotions, while to be concerned about the dogmas, the canons, etc is “unloving” or “Latin” or “legalistic” and so forth. As long as we have icons, beautiful services, etc, all is well. But of course this isn’t true. The contemplation of the Divine Beauty, and its concomitant virtue, which is Love, are the consummation of our spiritual journey, but they are not the foundation. Let’s do a review to set this straight.

Following Plato (in The Republic) and the Fathers, we understand there are three powers of the soul, that these three powers of the soul each have their respective objects and the cardinal virtues corresponding to these objects (see Wisdom 8:7) , and that three of these cardinal virtues correspond to the three theological virtues of I Corinthians 13:13). The chart below shows how they relate to each other:

Power of the Soul—>Object——>Cardinal Virtue——>Theological Virtue

Logos (reason, mind)——->Truth– > Wisdom/Prudence———–> Faith

Thymos (drive, will)——–>the Good–> Courage/Fortitude—-> Hope

Epithymia (desire)———–>the Beautiful–> Temperance———> Love

The vision of divine beauty is the highest state, the goal, but you have to start with the knowledge of the truth, which motivates your courageous fight for the good, which leads upwards to the vision of the divine beauty. Yes, beauty can motivate the beginning of your struggle (as with the emissaries of St. Vladimir at Hagia Sophia), but you cannot attain the ultimate vision of beauty without the previous steps.

Excursus B: On “Joint Statements”

The patristic attitude towards meetings to clarify doctrine is summarized accurately in these remarks by the Anglican editor of the NPNF series II, volume XIV, on the Seven Ecumenical Councils:

The editor, however, ventures to call the attention of the reader to the fact that in this, as in every other of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the question the Fathers considered was not what they supposed Holy Scripture might mean, nor what they, from à priori arguments, thought would be consistent with the mind of God, but something entirely different, to wit, what they had received. They understood their position to be that of witnesses, not that of exegetes. They recognized but one duty resting upon them in this respect – to hand down to other faithful men that good thing the Church had received according to the command of God. The first requirement was not learning, but honesty. The question they were called upon to answer was not, What do I think probable, or even certain, from Holy Scripture? but, What have I been taught, what has been entrusted to me to hand down to others? When the time came, in the Fourth Council, to examine the Tome of St. Leo, the question was not whether it could be proved to the satisfaction of the assembled Fathers from Holy Scripture, but whether it was the traditional faith of the Church. It was not the doctrine of Leo in the fifth century, but the doctrine of Peter in the first, and of the Church since then, that they desired to believe and to teach, and so, when they had studied the Tome, they cried out: “This is the faith of the Fathers! This is the Faith of the Apostles!…Peter hath thus spoken by Leo! The Apostles thus taught!…” Henry R. Percival, M.A., D.D., editor’s introduction to the Acts of the First Ecumenical Council, “Nice and Post-Nicene Fathers,” Second Series, Volume XIV

So… why do the ecumenists have these academic discussions and joint statements?

It re-opens closed questions and reframes the questions with innovative, tendentious terminology that determines the outcome.

It changes the Church’s method from confession to “scientific exploration,” which means accepting constantly changing, new conclusions.

Dialogue with error means that error has something good that truth does not have.

It gives the impression that we know something the Fathers did not.

It advances the One World Religion Agenda while at the same time providing plausible deniability.

And the reality is that all of these men involved in these dialogues really hate each other.

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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 43: Faith Comes First, Session 2

Class 43: Faith Comes First, Session 2. Ecclesiology

Listen to the podcast of this talk at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/osc-43

Introductory Remarks

1. Thanks to donors. To our other listeners: please consider a gift to help me out. If you have PayPal, you can send a one-time gift, or a recurring gift of x amount per month to my account at frstevenallen@gmail.com. If you want to receive a receipt for a tax deduction, contact me at that email, and I can tell you how to donate to our parish, who in turn will pass the donation on to me and send you a receipt.

2. Response to Class 42. Style: It will probably vary. Reminder: the notes are just an outline. You have to listen to the talk.

3. A happy moment that illustrates an important truth: Our unity in the Church is diachronic – it is unity not only with those of our time but of all times and in eternity.

4. Review: Surviving the Great Apostasy. Church, Family, Society. Faith (the Church) comes first. Goals for this section:

A. Give enough background on ecclesiology and Church history to make the present situation if not clear, then at least somewhat comprehensible to everyone.

B. Give an apologia for where I am.

C. Confirm my fellow True Orthodox in their convictions.

D. Get the “World” Orthodox and inquirers thinking about these things, while providing resources for them to learn more.

Topics for this class: Ecclesiology – study of the Church. Also, some reflections on discernment.

I. Ecclesiology: The Church, the Saving Confession of Faith, Union with the Bishop

A. You are here because, probably, you have already thought through a lot of this. I am going to summarize some main points from Scripture and Holy Tradition, try to offer some insight based on these, and refer you to some reading.

B. My goal is not to cover every aspect of ecclesiology, but to make four main points related to the Church and our theme of Faith Comes First:

1. Making the true confession of faith ontologically changes people. Denying the confession of faith also ontologically changes people.

2. One must have the correct and saving confession of Faith to be in the Church.

3. People who deny the confession of Faith and are therefore not in the Church cannot be bishops or priests.

4. To be in the Church one must be united in the Holy Mysteries to a bishop and his clergy who themselves have the saving confession of Faith and are in the Church.

Confession of Faith and ontological status

A handy saying: Homology (homologia) begets ontology (ontologia). Your confession of faith changes you into something new. Denying your confession of faith changes you back into what you used to be (or something worse!) What you are depends on what you publicly confess to believe.

Mark 16, Matthew 28: The great commission. Make disciples —-> baptize (Matt 28). Those who believe —> and are baptized —> will be saved; those who do not believe will be damned. (Mark 16).

To be Orthodox with a big O unto salvation, you have to be orthodox with a little o. That doesn’t mean that every single layman has to understand all of the Church’s theology intellectually, but it certainly means that he cannot stubbornly deny Her doctrine. This applies, obviously, even more strictly to a bishop or a priest.

To be in the Church, you have to have the true confession of Faith.

Matthew 16: The Lord builds His Church on Peter’s confession of faith.

St. Maximus the Confessor: The primary criterion for the status of membership in the Church is the “correct and saving confession of the Faith” (see On the Life and Contest of Our Holy Father Maximos the Confessor, section 24, Patrologia Graeca, volume 90, column 93D, quoted in The True Orthodox Church and Heresy of Ecumenism – http://hotca.org/pdf/TrueOrthodoxOppositionEcumenism.pdf

People who deny the confession of Faith and are therefore not in the Church cannot be bishops or priests.

This should be self-evident, but apparently some people have such a mechanical or superficial idea of the Church’s hierarchy that it is not self-evident to everyone. So, let us turn to St. Gregory Palamas: “Those who do not belong to the Truth do not belong to the Church of Christ either; and the more so if they speak falsely of themselves by calling themselves, or calling each other, holy pastors and hierarchs; [for it has been instilled in us that] Christianity is not characterized by persons, but by the truth and exactitude of Faith.” (see “Refutation of the Letter of Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch,” section 3, in Panagiotes K. Chrestou [ed.] The Works of St. Gregory Palamas, Volume II., quoted in The True Orthodox Church and the Heresy of Ecumenism). The entire history of the Church testifies to this. This is not rocket science.

To be in the Church one must be united in the Holy Mysteries to a bishop and his clergy who themselves have the saving confession of Faith and are in the Church.

Nearly anyone listening to this talk probably already believes this. If you are not convinced of this, go to the sources: Check out Bishop Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers for the testimony of the very earliest successors of the Holy Apostles as to the existence of the threefold priesthood of bishop, presbyter, and deacon, the necessity of being in union with the bishop, that unity is in the Holy Mysteries, etc. Read especially St. Ignatius of Antioch’s letters and St. Clement of Rome. Go to the third century and read St. Cyprian of Carthage “On the Unity of the Church.” You will get the picture!

Regarding schism: The terms “heresy” and “schism.” Orthodoxy of faith is is not enough; you must also be in the unity of the Church. Some remarks on this:

i. Distinction between the organism and the organization: though not separate, they are distinct. Prots say they are separate, RC’s say they are the same. O: not separate but distinct. See OSC Class

ii. Main charge today against the True Orthodox is that they are schismatics. A brief response – more detailed response will be in later talks.

II. Reflections on Discernment

As we go along, we have to remember that logic is not enough. You have to pray for discernment, and you have to use some common sense. Don’t get weird.

a. Spectrum: The World <———–The Church———>Sects and Cults

b. The “fragrance of Orthodoxy” – You have to be praying and leading the Orthodox life, so that both your discursive intellect and spiritual intellect are functioning properly, and so that your heart has the right sentiments and your will the strength to do what mind and heart say.

c. Don’t get frantic. The Lord wants your salvation more than you do.

Some Reading:

To read the Holy Fathers online, you can go to newadvent.org: http://newadvent.org/fathers/ Also, for the Apostolic Fathers in particular, Bishop Lightfoot’s translation is a classic. Of course, there are also the three famous ANF and NPNF series from Eerdmans.

To do a quick primer on ecclesiology: Go to Fr. Michael Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, chapter 7, “The Church of Christ.” Available from St. Herman Press. Also online at http://www.intratext.com/X/ENG0824.HTM

“Christianity or the Church” by New Hieromartyr Hilarion Troitsky: http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/sthilarion_church.aspx

In closing: Let us have the good zeal and love one another. Discerning good zeal vs. bitter zeal or zeal “not according to understanding.” i. Always confess vanity. ii. Ask forgiveness if you go over the line. iii. But you can’t wait till your perfect before you fight for the Faith.

Let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ; and may He bring us all together to life eternal. Amen. (cf. Rule of St. Benedict, end of Chapter 72).

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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 42 – Faith Comes First, Session 1

Class 42: Faith Comes First, Session 1. A New Approach. Preliminary Remarks

Listen to the podcast of this talk at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/osc-42

A New Approach:

Forgive me for taking so long to record our next session. I’ve realized I have to take a different approach in order to do our Orthodox Survival Course regularly. If I continue to insist on writing formal, 3,000 word essays, our sessions will come less and less frequently, as I have taken on further responsibilities within our Church in North America. So I have to go to a different approach: We are going to treat our class as a class, in which the teacher has a few notes in front of him and then just talks based on what he knows. I shall henceforward publish my notes in outline form, with main points, reading suggestions, and links to online resources, rather than write finished essays and record them. The drawback is that, speaking off the cuff, I perhaps shall make mistakes in fact or be too rough in my style. Also, to really benefit, you’ll have to listen to the audio recording, because the notes are just that – notes, not a complete essay. The advantages will lie in being able to talk to you more frequently and at greater length, and in our enjoying the more lively style of the classroom or a radio show.

As I ask your forgiveness for your hearing from me less frequently, I must nonetheless humbly once again ask for your support. As I’ve said quietly in the past, my little parish of St. Irene Chrysovalantou in Rochester Hills, Michigan lovingly supports my family as much as they can – I would say their level of giving per household is far above that in average Orthodox parishes – but they cannot support us full-time, and basically they and two other donors within our Church in a North America underwrite everything I do for you, my Internet audience, even though so much of my time is given to these efforts to help those outside our parish. In fairness to them, and so that I can go on doing this, please consider a gift to help me out. If you have PayPal, you can send a one-time gift, or a recurring gift of x amount per month to my account at frstevenallen@gmail.com. If you want to send a relatively large amount for which you would like to receive a receipt for a tax deduction, contact me at that email, and I can tell you how to donate to our parish, who in turn will pass the donation on to me and send you a receipt.

Today’s Class – Faith Comes First, Session 1 – The Need for Preliminary Remarks

In our last class we made the point that Faith Comes First. All the other problems we have and will talk about must be put aside for moment, and we have to focus on Orthodoxy itself, which, after all, is what is most important: What is the connection between our confession of Faith and being in the Church? This is life or death, for extra ecclesiam nulla salus – outside the Church there is no salvation. The big picture is that we cannot combat all the woes of the nihilistic culture till we deal with this fundamental problem of the leadership of the historical institutions of the Church turning traitor and collaborating with the Anti-Christ Revolution. The Church is the answer, and so we have to put the Church first.

Last time I concluded saying that the big question revolves around the apostasy of the official Orthodox hierarchies in the 20th century, and that in this class I’d give you a rundown of the history of Ecumenism in the 20th century and where each jurisdiction stands now vis-a-vis Ecumenism. But later I realized that I need to do some preliminary teaching first, so that we can approach this history lesson and this evaluation of our contemporary situation with greater understanding. As we go along, I plan to keep referring you to books and articles to read, both in hardcopy and online. I think one of my main goals is to get you reading about these things, so that you can make informed decisions about where you belong.

Preliminary Remarks: Topic 1 – Who is listening to this? And who is doing the talking? From what I can deduce, y’all (my audience out there) are people in my own jurisdiction, the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece under Archbishop Kallinikos, those in other True Orthodox (TO) jurisdictions, those in “World” or “official” Orthodox jurisdictions, and those not yet Orthodox who are seeking to learn more about Orthodoxy. So I need to accomplish several goals:

A. Give enough background on ecclesiology and Church history to make this comprehensible to everyone.

B. Give an apologia for where I am.

C. Confirm my fellow True Orthodox in their convictions.

D. Get the “World” Orthodox and inquirers thinking about these things, while providing resources for them to learn more.

Preliminary Remarks: Topic 2 – “Don’t take this personally…” We cannot help but take all this personally – it’s the most personal thing of all, our eternal destiny! In particular, “World” Orthodox might get upset about what I say about their bishops, which by extension is also about their priests, whom they may be fond of and regard as model clergymen, some of whom I myself know personally and have positive regard. It’s all right to get upset about the things that matter. That’s the way life is. If you get upset with me, I don’t blame you!

Preliminary Remarks, Topic 3 – Don’t get sidetracked: Keep your eye on the ball

A. “Grace/no grace”

B. The calendar is “not a dogmatic issue” – read The Calendar Question by Fr. Basile Sakkas – http://hotca.org/orthodoxy/orthodox-awareness/203-the-calendar-question

C. Crude understanding of “canonical”

D. Procedural issues

E. World Orthodox “saints” and “good priests”

F. Visions

Preliminary Remarks, Topic 4 – Don’t fall for logical fallacies

A. ad hominems

B. straw men

C. begging the question

D. appeal to authority

Reading Suggestions:

To get started, do read these four things:

Christian Union? An Orthodox Christian’s Guide to Ecumenism: Past, Present, and Future

saintedwardbrotherhood.org/christian-union

Against False Union by Alexandre Kalomiros

Ecumenism – The Path to Perdition by Liudmila Perepiolkina http://ecumenizm.tripod.com/

The True Orthodox Church and Heresy of Ecumenism – http://hotca.org/pdf/TrueOrthodoxOppositionEcumenism.pdf

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Flee the praise of men

7 September OS 2019 – Friday of the 14th week of Matthew; Holy Martyr Sozon; S. Cassiane the Hymnographer; S. Chrysostomos the New Confessor of Florina

In today’s Gospel, the Lord commands the disciples to be silent about the most astounding miracle: the raising of the dead.

And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him. While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.

And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat. And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.Mark 5:22-24, 5:35 – 6:1

“And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.”   You can imagine the scene when that young woman stood up and walked out of the room.  Here is the crowded home of a great personage in a Middle Eastern village, packed with emotional relatives, friends, and dependents, many of them no doubt women. The formerly dead girl walks out the door of the death chamber into this crowd. In the middle of the indescribable hubbub that must have ensued, only the Lord Himself retains complete composure.   He thinks of the child’s simple needs: give her something to eat!   He commands it, just as He commanded her soul to return to her body.   For Him, both are equally easy.

Why did He tell the disciples to tell no one what had happened? Obviously the word would get out: First century Galilee must have been a very small world, indeed. No doubt even the bigwigs down in Jerusalem must have gotten word through the invisible telegraph of gossip within the week. Of course, the Lord had His reasons: He always did and always does. One of them was to give us an example of humility, that we should not seek the praise of men.

St. Theophan the Recluse comments as follows:

Having resurrected the daughter of Jairus, the Lord commanded her parents strictly, that no man should know it. Thus are we commanded: do not seek glory, and do not train your ear for human praise, even if your deeds are of such a nature that it is impossible to hide them. Do what the fear of God and your conscience urge you to do, and as to what people say, act as though it had never been said.Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 187

We may often ask ourselves why we do not feel more peaceful, why we feel agitated or anxious so much of the time.   One reason is that we are always unsure of the approval of other people: “What do they think about me? Do they really love me? Do they think well of me? Are they saying bad things about me?” and so forth.   Because of our vanity – our false image of ourselves based on our own delusions and the opinions of other people – we have a restless, ceaseless hunger for praise, for approval, for the pat on the back, for the assurance that “I’m OK, You’re OK.”   Life turns into the endless search for that perfect mutual admiration society of “friends” who approve of each other and look down on those outside the group.

Peace comes only when we put aside all such concerns and follow those two completely reliable guides to action mentioned by St. Theophan: the fear of God and conscience.   One of the Desert Fathers said that one will have no peace until one realizes that in all the universe there is only one’s soul standing before God.   If we walk always in His presence, what need have we of the praise of men?   If we were really conscious of His presence, and really understood Who He is, and who we are, we would flee praise like fire.

Let us then, daily and frequently, beg the Lord, “Deliver me from vanity! Let me seek Thine approval alone!”   The generous Lord, Who is waiting to give the truly good things to those who ask Him, will no doubt hear our prayer in good time, and He will deliver us from this passion of vanity.   The world will look much different then, and we will begin to understand things as they really are. Losing one’s illusions is like pulling out a rotten tooth: it hurts while it is going on, but there is great relief afterwards.

O Lord, deliver us from vanity and all delusion! Grant us to know ourselves as we really are, to be grateful to Thee, and desire to please Thee alone! Give us the peace which Thou alone can give, and which the world cannot take away! Amen.

raising-daughter-jairus-12c-byzantine-mosaic_large
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Renouncing Satan

6 September OS 2019 – Thursday of the 14th week of Matthew; Miracle of St. Michael at Chonae

In the Gospel passage assigned for the daily cycle today, the Lord Jesus Christ casts a legion of demons out of the Gadarene demoniac. This providentially coincides well with the reading assigned today for the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, in which the Lord recalls that, before the beginning of time, as the Pre-Incarnate Logos, He beheld Satan fall like lightning from heaven (see Luke 10:16-21).

And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.  And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel. – Mark 5: 1-20

A Roman legion at full strength was 6,000 men. How could 6,000 demons live inside this one poor man? St. Theophan the Recluse explains it thus?

“My name is Legion: for we are many (Mark 5:9).”  Spirits are bodiless, and therefore they do not fill or take up space like bodies.  This explains why it is physically possible for many spirits to reside in one person.  That it is possible morally for spirits to do this is understandable from their amorality or their absence of all moral principles.  That it is possible for people is understandable from their many-sided contact with the dark realm of the unclean powers, due to the way people’s souls are ordered.  But this only explains what is possible; the reality of demonic possession is subject to conditions which we do not have the ability to determine.  We can only say that spirits do not always enter in a visible way, and possession is not always demonstrated through the possessed person’s actions.  There is an unseen, hidden demonic possession.  There is also a power of spirits over minds, apart from the body, when the demons lead them wherever they wish, through the passions working in them.  People think that they are acting themselves, but they are actually the laughingstocks of unclean powers.  What can we do?  Be a true Christian, and no enemy power shall overcome you.   –  Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 186-187

On a regular basis now, acts of demonic evil invade our minds through the news media:  mass shootings, family members murdering each other and committing suicide, bizarre ritual murders of celebrities, etc., not to mention the ho-hum, everyday, “legal” demonic rituals of abortion, sodomy, euthanasia, and human vivisection (aka “vital organ transplants”).    Apart from the power of true Faith and Baptism, man has always been prey to his passions and to demonic influence working through his passions and sometimes even possessing him bodily.    During the long period of the Church’s direct or indirect influence on society, however, the demonic influence was kept in check.   Now, at the end of over 200 years of open apostasy by the formerly Christian nations, all the world is engulfed in a tide of demonism, and, humanly speaking, there is no end in sight.   We need not fear it, for we belong to Christ.  But we need to be vigilant and to take action.   We do not throw ourselves off a cliff and ask angels to catch us.

It is critical, indeed a matter of spiritual (and perhaps physical) life and death, to cut out demonic influences in our lives and the lives of those for whom we are responsible, chiefly our children.   It is not an exaggeration to say that demonic mental programming, either overt or hidden, pervades contemporary movies, television (including what is called “the news,” which in fact is simply the propaganda of the anti-Christian elite), and video games in the form of hypnotically powerful imagery, words, and ritual actions.  That there may be “innocent” productions coming out today is a possibility – I hope a probability – but sifting through the pile of toxic waste to find something that will not kill you is a time-consuming and risky process.   Are there not better things to do with our time? If something is not obviously helpful or at least harmless, then just cut it out.

And what about the Internet?  Here I am, using it, to get this message across.  The answer is simple – use it as a tool, for a limited time each day, but do not live in it as an alternate universe.  If it gives you access to good things – good books, good articles, good videos – great!   Thank God we now have such access to many good things that were previously unavailable. But, as we all know, one has to practice enormous discipline and discernment.   Keep track of your time on the Internet for a few days:  How many hours did you spend on useless activity, when you could have been doing something else?   How many temptations arose?   If there were x number of obvious temptations, how many subliminal or unnoticed ones also entered your mind?   Who knows?  Be careful.  I suggest keeping an icon right there in front of you while you are on your “device” (of whatever kind), and always saying a prayer before you turn it on.   I have not yet seen an Euchologion prayer for blessing computers, but we certainly should have one which includes an overt exorcism.   I shall ask the bishop about it.

As for children:  Children do not need and most often will be harmed by video games, television, the computer, and smart phones.   Be strict.  You will save their minds.  They will probably have to use computers when they grow older, of course.   They can learn what they need to know to get started when they are teenagers, in about fifteen minutes.  If your children go to public or private schools that are giving the students IPads instead of books, take them out.   They are being programmed, not educated. If you are using online resources to homeschool your children, always insist on their still having to use books – keep in mind that online schooling is a necessary evil, not a preferred way of doing things.

As for living inside one’s smart phone all day – this is psychic, not to mention spiritual, suicide.

The good news is that, apart from what our job or schooling forces us to, we simply do not need all this stuff.   There are precious and few hours in the day.   The time we do not have to spend at income-producing work should be spent in wholesome activity:  prayer with the family, reading good books both spiritual and secular, singing good songs both spiritual and secular, taking walks, growing vegetables and taking care of animals, working around the house, and on and on.   There was a long list of good things our very recent ancestors spent their time on, that had nothing whatsoever to do with television, radio, video games, professional sports, or the popular music industry.  Nearly all of these “old” activities, in some form, are still available to us.   As they say, “Just do it.”

The further and ultimate Good News is that we are not the hopeless, helpless slaves of this dystopian anti-Paradise, this prison of the mind, this mindless hive of contented monkey-descended sensualists, being put into place before our very eyes at this very moment in history by the visible and invisible rulers of the satanic world-state.   We are children of God, citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem, and members of the Body of Christ.   By Faith and Baptism, we have been freed forever from service to Satan, whom we renounced at Holy Baptism, along with “…all his works, all his service, and all his pride.”

“Alright, Father Steven, I agree with you,” you might be thinking.  “But what can I do?  I am already enmeshed in x, y, or z you have just described.”

I shall respond with what St. Theophan says above: “What can we do?  Be a true Christian, and no enemy power can overcome you.”  If we are really orthodox Christians (and not just “Orthodox Christians” as a brand name), and we are living our Faith, we will spend a lot of time in prayer, in good works for others, and useful occupations.    We will prefer to use our leisure time in wholesome reading and wholesome hobbies, or driving old ladies to the grocery store, or teaching a child to read, or visiting the sick, or helping a priest start a new mission, or teaching catechism at our parish, or starting a spiritual book discussion group for our friends…or…or – you know the list is endless.  If you do not have the strength to give up this or that, or to re-order your priorities, confess it with tears and do not justify it, and keep praying for the strength to change.  The Lord desires our conversion and salvation more than we do.

Just do it.  Make the Sign of the Cross and charge ahead.

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Island of saints

3 September OS 2019 – Monday of the Fourteenth Week of St. Matthew Holy Hieromartyr Anthimus of Nicomedia, Holy Righteous Theoctistus, the Translation of the Relics of the Holy Passion Bearer Edward King of England

You can listen to an audio podcast of this blog post at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/september-3

The Holy Orthodox Church is not the property of this or that group of people. It is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, into which Jesus Christ calls men of every nation, race, and tongue, unto their salvation. In recent centuries, however, Orthodoxy has been relegated – even, or rather especially, by many of its supposed adherents – to the mere status of this or that tribal religious tradition, a view eagerly agreed with by secular anthropologists and other, less savory, people.  But the truth is otherwise.

epitaphios

We know from Holy Tradition that the isle of Britain received the Gospel in the Apostolic generation, from no less a missionary than St. Joseph of Arimathea, along with St. Aristobulus the Apostle.   In other words, the Orthodox Church in Britain, though its existence was interrupted for a millennium, is as old as the great Orthodox Churches of the various Greek-speaking peoples, and far older than important national churches such as the Russian and Serbian. At the time of its founding, its people were Britons, Celts related to today’s Irish and highland Scots, but they were in the process of being Romanized. Today their descendants live in Wales and in Brittany on the coast of France. Who drove them into the little corner of Britain we call Wales, and who chased them across the Channel to Gaul? Why, the English, of course.

During the fifth and sixth centuries, barbarians from the north of Germany – the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians – sailed over to Britain and gradually conquered most of what we call England, driving the provincial Roman Christians (for that is what the Britons had become) into the borderlands and setting up their own pagan societies. One of these groups, the Angles, eventually gave their name to them all, thus “England” and “the English.” Now and then a Roman nobleman (like King Arthur, if he really existed) would give them a beating and win the Christians a breathing space, but by the year 600 AD these pagan Germanic people had thoroughly taken over. They called the Roman provincials they had conquered wealas – “foreigners” – and thus our modern words “Wales” and “Welsh.” (Thus also, strangely enough, “Wallachia” and “Vlach,” because the Slavs who conquered the Romans in the eastern half of the Danube region had borrowed the same word from the Germans. Now, I am descended from Welsh people, and therefore my Romanian friends will be happy to know that I am a Vlach too!).

Icon-St.-Bede

Anyway, why did God let this happen? An Orthodox saint, Bede the Venerable, in his great Ecclesiatical History of the English People, says that it is because the Roman Christians in Britain 1. Were morally corrupt, and 2. Did not love the pagan invaders, but only dealt with them on the fallen human level, as enemies, and made no efforts to convert them to the Faith.   We Orthodox of the 21st century should ponder their fate and why it came upon them.

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Who, then, made the English into Christians?   Other Romans did it, Romans from Old Rome herself, directed by no less a person than St. Gregory the Great (whom we Easterners call “the Dialogist”), Pope of Rome, another Orthodox saint, who reposed in the year 604 AD.   One day in the 590’s, walking through the slave market in Rome, St. Gregory saw some handsome Old English youths up for sale.   He asked his companion, “Of what race are these men?” Upon hearing that they were Angli (Angles, i.e., English), the saint, struck by their innocent faces and noble bearing, replied, “Call them, rather, angeli (angels),” and he resolved to send missionaries to (what had become) England to convert their nation.   Not one to waste time (St. Gregory is one of those great “action men” of history), he sent one of his hieromonks, Augustine, to England with a group of priests and monks, to carry out this resolve.   They landed at Canterbury in Kent on the east coast of Britain and converted the local king, Ethelbert. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, and thus began a new Orthodox local Church, which lasted until 1066, when Normans from France, carrying an authorization in writing from the by-then-heretical-and-schismatic pope of Rome, conquered the English and made them into what people today would call “Roman Catholics” (though Eastern Orthodox polemicists have usually preferred less polite, albeit more accurate terms like “filioquists, papists, rantizmates, azymites, etc.” It is actually we who function as the Catholics and the Romans when we are behaving ourselves, but that is another story).   Around 500 years after that, an evil king destroyed all the monasteries, desecrated the relics of the saints, and made the English into Protestants. Today, it seems, his successors, directed by the same spirit or spirits, wish to see them made into Mohammedans. But let us return to the Old English.

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This Old English Orthodox Church produced many saints in its nearly 500 year history, one of whom we celebrate today, which is, to cut to the chase, why I have given this little history lesson: the young King Edward, the Passion-Bearer, a pious and Orthodox king who encouraged monastic reform and general spiritual renewal among his people. He was foully murdered by courtiers who hated his spiritual direction and wanted a king they could corrupt for their own ends, and so Holy Church regards him as a “Passion-Bearer,” a holy man who suffered in the Christian manner for the sake of piety. In other words, non-Christians did not kill him for being a Christian; bad Christians killed him for acting like a Christian.   He entered the heavenly kingdom in the year 979, and immediately he began to perform miracles for those who prayed to him and venerated his holy relics. Today, believe it or not, in the 21st century, these same relics, through an amazingly providential history, lie enshrined in the beautiful little church of a monastic brotherhood that belongs to our True Orthodox Church of Greece, in Brookwood, Surrey, England.   You can read more about St. Edward at their website, at http://www.saintedwardbrotherhood.org/edward2.html.

God is wondrous in His saints, of every nation, race, and tongue. As we witness the building of a new global Tower of Babel by those who hate Christ, we who love Him will not defeat them by rejecting the true, Pentecostal, global unity with our Orthodox brethren of every nation, race, and tongue, but by loving them, and by loving, yes, even our enemies, and desiring their salvation.   Our God, the true God, is He “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4).” It is a curious turn of God’s providence that the global language of the new Babel descends from the tongue spoken by those angelic invaders from north Germany.   There is no “chance” in life; there is only the working out of God’s plan in history.   Without putting aside the rich languages of our various national heritages, we must perforce use this English tongue to convert the nations. We have no choice, and let us therefore use it well.

Once, when He descended and confounded the tongues, the Most High divided the nations; but when He divided the tongues of fire, He called all men into unity; and with one accord we glorify the All-Holy Spirit.   

– The Kontakion of Pentecost, by St. Romanus the Melodist

B085JB mosaic of the Pentecost, Katholikon church, Hosios Loukas monastery Greece
B085JB mosaic of the Pentecost, Katholikon church, Hosios Loukas monastery Greece
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Beside ourselves

28 August OS 2019: Tuesday of the 13th Week of Matthew; St. Moses the Ethiopian

You can listen to an audio recording of this blog post at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/13-matt-tu

In today’s Gospel passage from St. Mark, Our Lord’s own friends and relatives say something rather shocking: they believe He is possessed.

At that time, Jesus goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.Mark 3: 13-21

This reference to His “friends” in contradistinction to the Holy Apostles reveals that during His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ had friends who were not His disciples.   They were simply His friends, the relatives and neighbors among whom He had lived during the time before His three-year mission for the salvation of the human race. Perhaps these friends were among the people who, in another place, the Gospel records as saying, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” or, in other words, “Is this not just another ordinary fellow like ourselves?” Their saying that “he is beside himself” means, according to St. Theophylact of Ochrid, that they believed He was possessed with a demon.   Being His friends, though uncomprehending ones, they say this out of concern for His welfare. They think Him a victim of evil. Being His enemies, the scribes from Jerusalem, in the passage we shall read tomorrow, will say the same thing out of malice. They call Him a servant of evil.

Does not the same thing occur to us Orthodox Christians?   We have friends and relatives, both non-Orthodox and nominal Orthodox (or even those who claim to be pious!), who try to dissuade us from a Gospel mindset, an otherworldly life, because they believe that it is bad for us, something evil.   It interferes with having a “good life,” and being our friends they want us to have a “good life.”   They think that we are victims of evil. We also have enemies, those who hate the Faith and claim that we are not mere victims but active servants of evil.   Which kind of person, one wonders, does us greater harm? Often, perhaps, it is the former kind, because we are more inclined to listen to them.

Here is a rule of thumb you can count on: Most human beings – the overwhelming majority (99%?), including the overwhelming majority of baptized Orthodox – are, to a greater or lesser extent, in delusion (plani in Greek, prelest in Slavonic). Most are not seeing strange visions or doing obviously crazy things. Most have garden-variety prelest; that is, they are fundamentally mistaken most of the time about what is really going on outside of them and inside of them.   This includes us. The difference between them and us, if there is a difference, is that we know we are mistaken but are working on it. We are crying out day and night, “O Lord, deliver me from delusion!”

If we, who are Orthodox and moreover trying to do something about it (however feebly), are frequently in delusion, what about all the other people out there? In other words, why should we listen to them?   I do not mean that they cannot teach us how to grow vegetables or drive a car or do algebra. I mean that they cannot give us our life orientation. They cannot advise us as to “what it is all about.” Let us not be swayed when they claim that we are out of our minds.   Of course we are, but we know the way back into our minds, and we are trying to go there.   They too are out of their minds, but they do not know the way, and they cannot show it to us.

O Lord, only Truth and only Way, deliver us from delusion, heal our fragmented minds and divided wills, and keep us on the straight path to Thee our Life! Amen.

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Repent ye, and believe the gospel

20 August OS 2019: Monday of the Twelfth Week of St. Matthew; Holy Prophet Samuel

You can listen to an audio podcast of this blog post at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/12-matt-mon-2019

In today’s Gospel reading, the Lord is baptized, defeats temptation, dwells in the desert with the angels and wild animals, and begins to preach the Gospel of repentance – all in six verses.

And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.Mark 1: 9-15

Today we begin reading from the Gospel According to St. Mark, the shortest and most direct of the four Gospels. St. Mark, the disciple of St. Peter, wrote his Gospel for the Church at Rome, and the terse and concise character of the Gospel corresponds to the old Roman character: sober, no-nonsense, and to the point. In today’s reading, St. Mark recounts in six pithy verses the Lord’s baptism, temptation in the wilderness, and the beginning of His preaching.

St. Mark’s brevity brings into relief a fact about all the Gospels: They are not biographies of Jesus Christ, but rather a proclamation of Who He is. They contain only what we need to know, to believe, and to do in order to find salvation. We must read and hear these words – literally, physically read and hear them – make an act of faith in their truth, pray for understanding, and resolve to live according to their demands. This must happen day after day, or we forget what a Christian is.

If we have been slack in reading the Gospel lately, this new beginning, with the shortest Gospel, is a good place to start again. We need to open the Gospel, stand or kneel in front of our icons, and read aloud the daily assigned passage or perhaps a whole chapter, going chapter by chapter day by day. Read aloud, at a moderate pace. Struggle for attention. The words of the Gospel are infused with the infinite divine power of the Holy Spirit, and they are self-acting. If we read them with the struggle for attention, they will bring about spiritual fruits.

This actual reading of the Gospel is the most important, first step, and the Holy Spirit will grant us understanding, if we ask for it. If we desire to take another step and study the Gospels as well as read them, we should use a patristic or patristically inspired commentary. Though the commentaries of the ancient Fathers, pre-eminently St. John Chrysostom, are the most complete, most of us (99% of us?) need something shorter: the normative short commentary is the explanation of the Gospels by St. Theophylact of Ochrid. This essential Orthodox reading was made available in English, in four volumes, from Chrysostom Presss in House Springs, Missouri, some time ago. Unfortunately Chrysostom Press is temporarily inactive and not fulfilling orders, but if one hunts about for copies of the commentaries for sale, one can find them. Besides, or after, St. Theophylact, the best guide to the Gospels for our time is the commentary by Archbishop Averky, available from Holy Trinity Monastery at http://bookstore.jordanville.org/9781942699002. Just reading a page every day from one or both of these commentaries will change us greatly for the good.

Today marks the 37th anniversary of the repose of Fr. Seraphim Rose, one of whose several trenchant “quotable quotes” was, famously, “We know we are Orthodox, but are we Christians?” Of course, he did not mean that being Orthodox and being Christian are really two separate things: being Orthodox assumes being a Christian, and to be a Christian in the most accurate sense, to be in the Church, one must be Orthodox. He was using irony to make a point, that one can be taken up with the various aspects of Faith that manifest the Gospel and forget the Gospel itself. If one’s mind is not immersed in the Gospels, and if one is not submitted in obedience to the commandments of the Gospels, then the canons, hierarchical structures, church buildings, liturgical services, liturgical arts, domestic customs – the various manifestations of Church life – easily become idols, ends in themselves. Our understanding of them becomes fragmented, alienated from their true meaning and their coherence in the light of the Gospel, and instead of using them as instruments for our salvation, we misunderstand and misuse them in such a way that their power – which is indeed great, whether to salvation or damnation – transforms us into Sadducees and Pharisees. Sadducees worship the liturgical cult and the church organization. Pharisees worship rules and outward piety. Christians worship the Holy Trinity.

Bishop Ignaty Brianchaninov writes in The Arena that we will be judged, both at the particular judgment following death and at the general judgment at the Second Coming, according to the commandments of the Gospel. This judgment determines our fate for all eternity. Let each of us hasten to make himself most intimate with the book by which he will be judged, and compare to it daily and continually that book which shall be opened at the Judgment, the book of his heart.

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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 41: Situation Report. Faith Comes First

For a thousand years in Thine eyes, O Lord, are as but as yesterday that is past, and as a watch in the night. Psalm 89

When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay? But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. – II Cor. 1: 17-20

You can listen to a podcast of this lecture at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/osc-41

Introduction:

The two Scripture passages above were not chosen by me but rather chose themselves, for Psalm 89 struck me this morning as I routinely read the First Hour, of which it is the second psalm, and the verses from St. Paul are from the Apostle reading assigned for today, the Friday of the Tenth Week after Pentecost, which in this year of Our Lord 2019 falls on the 10th of August OS, the feast of St. Lawrence the Martyr, Archdeacon of Rome. Today’s talk will therefore begin with a summary of the past thousand years and of our situation today, and will end with plain talk – yea, yea, Amen – about what we need to do about it. The first part is titled “Situation Report,” and the second part’s title is “Faith Comes First.”

Before going on, I’d like to introduce everyone to an essential work newly begun here in our Church in North America, the St. John of Damascus Orthodox Education Initiative, which starting next month will conduct online classes for adults and middle and high school students in Orthodox apologetics, logic, Ecclesiastical Greek and Latin, classical composition, life sciences, and algebra. Here is the link: https://orthodoxlearninggoc.com/ Look into it; I think you’ll like it. (I’ll be teaching Latin, by the way.)

I ask everyone’s forgiveness for it’s being so long between these lectures in our Survival Course. It takes me all or most of one working day to write one of these talks, record it, and publish it, and necessarily this takes a back seat to my prior commitments to being a parish priest, the head of a family, a senior clergyman involved with the affairs of our Church at large, and, most recently, an advisor, willy-nilly, to a growing diaspora of isolated laity who contact me through this absurd, terrifying, and yet apparently indispensable gadget of the Internet. But on the other hand, this thing we are doing with the Survival Course is important – as they say, scripta manent, “that which is written endures.” I’ll try to do a better job in the weeks ahead.

Furthermore, I got stuck and did not do the next class till now not only due to my other responsibilities, but also because I did not know what to talk about next. There is too much to talk about, and too many directions in which one could go. We had just concluded Class 40, a significant number in Scriptural, mystical, and liturgical symbolism, as we all know, and a good round number at which simply to call it quits – “All right, y’all, that’s enough.” The encouragement and thanks of so many people, however, for what we’ve done so far, won’t let me quit, and therefore I determined to keep going. I would feel terrible if I did not respond generously in turn to such a response. So, now, what next?

With Class 40, you could say that we came to a symbolic stopping point, a point at which one should pause and take stock of what we’ve learned so far, what our current situation is, and in brief what we need to do about it. So that’s what we’ll do today. We’ll have a brief summary of the course so far, a portrait of the times we now live in, and then a brief statement of the one sure thing that needs to be done first amid the myriad things that we do need to be doing.

I. Situation Report: A Summary of Where We Have Been and Where We Are

Back in Class 26, before we began the section on nihilism and the twentieth century, I summarized our story up to that point. Let’s go back and review this review, and then bring it up to where we stand today. I don’t think any of us entirely remember all of it, and I don’t think we’ll be bored with it. Also, if anyone is jumping into our course at this point, this will be a good introduction for them. And, after all, repetitio est mater studiorum. Rather than send you back to the notes of Class 26, I’ll just reproduce the pertinent section below:

The Church of the First Millennium (Classes 1 through 9) – in the First Christian Millennium, East and West share the same understanding of how one knows what is true, good, and beautiful, which is the revealed theology correctly understood by the deified mind of the saint. Thus man has access to direct contact with the logoi, the divine ideas in the realm of the uncreated energies, which are the patterns for created things. The monastic and ecclesiastical culture based on this fundamental grasp of reality becomes the basis for culture at large. It is unified on every level – spiritual, intellectual, psychic, and material. Each life of a saint, and each life of a local community and Christian nation at large becomes a means of transparent access to the eternal life of the Kingdom to come. Though within this life, creativity – true creativity – takes place, it is within strict boundaries. Life as a whole is characterized not by passion, by change – which is corruptibility made manifest – but by stasis, by the divine immutability manifesting itself in the stability of the life of soul, the community, and the nation.

The High Middle Ages, the First Departure (Classes 10 through 13) by departing from the Church, the Western church and nations lost the uncreated grace of God, though it afterwards took many centuries to use up the spiritual capital of the first millennium. Besides the loss of grace, or, rather, concomitant with it, was the loss of the understanding of true spiritual life and true theology. Spiritual experience is lost and replaced by delusion. The true theology based on tradition, liturgical life, and ascetical experience, is put aside, and a new direction arises: Theology as an activity of the fallen reason using syllogistic methods. Theological writers use the old vocabulary of the Bible and the Fathers, but now they use it differently, as “grist” for the “mill” of their fallen reason, and thus they make the gradual deformation of theology inevitable.

The 14th Century, Anti-Hesychasm, and Nominalism (Class 14) – The turmoil of the 14th century – the Plague, the Avignon Papacy, etc. – shakes the confidence of Western Christendom in the magnificent structure it had achieved in the 13th century.

But more important than these outward problems is that in the 14th century, the East and West definitively part ways over the question of the distinction between the essence and energies of God. The Orthodox Church, in the course of the so-called Palamite controversies, defines dogmatically what the Fathers always taught, which is that God in His essence is unknowable and unattainable, and that what we experience of God is His energies, but also that His energies, His operations, are uncreated, not merely created effects. Thus grace is uncreated, a real participation in the divine. The Western church rejects this revealed reality in favor of a rational, philosophical basis for “natural” theology, the concept of Absolute Divine Simplicity, that God’s essence and energies are the same. Thus grace is a created effect, not an actual indwelling of God Himself. Obviously this causes a large difference in how the two “sides” view the question of sanctification. The Latins’ faulty theology of grace and sanctification, coupled with the ever-fragmenting and multiplying of differing schools of “spirituality” with their loss of discernment of what constitutes genuine spiritual experience, means that they can no longer produce real saints. This is the greatest disaster of all, of course.

But another effect of this problem – and the one that starts the whole unraveling of Western philosophy as we have examined it historically – is that it undercuts a coherent theory of knowledge. This brings us to the problem of the universals, and how the Greek Fathers’ understanding of the uncreated logoi in the one Logos of God as the archetypes for the created universals gives us the basis for a coherent theory of knowledge. Recall that the Fathers accept Aristotle’s epistemological theory of “moderate realism”: Essences of things – what we call the “universals” – do exist, but only instantiated in individuals (there really is such a thing as “humanness,” but “humanness” is not off in a cloud somewhere as a separate thing; it only exists as experienced in Peter and Paul). All Christians, East and West, believe the universals are created by God, and also, that they correspond to ideas in the mind of God. But because of Absolute Divine Simplicity, which denies all real distinctions in God, the Western teachers must maintain that these archetypes are in the divine essence, and therefore they must be merely notional not real, for otherwise you would posit a multiplicity within the One essence of God. The Greek Fathers, most notably S. Maximos the Confessor, solve this problem by teaching that the uncreated archetypes, the logoi, are real distinctions that exist in the realm of the divine energies, and their unity in the one Logos of God, One of the Holy Trinity, does not destroy their distinctions. Our minds, created according to the image of the Logos, can perceive the universals on the created level and, when purified through grace, also begin to perceive the eternal meaning of things according to the uncreated logoi. Thus all knowledge is unified and real, coming from God.

By definitively rejecting the essence/energy distinction, then, the Western scholastics not only create problems in soteriology, but they also undercut the possibility of a coherent theory of being and of knowledge. But at least they do insist that the created universals do exist, and that we can know them. In the 14th century, however, the new teaching of William of Ockham and his followers – nominalism – appears and gains a following. Nominalism teaches that the universals arepurely conventional, tags we place on things that seem alike but are not necessarily truly alike. Thus a unified theory of ontology and epistemology becomes impossible. Religious faith, ultimately, must be fideistic – “Ah believes it cuz the Bahble (or the pope or Martin Luther or whoever) says so!” and scientific knowledge is not directed to a knowledge of things as they are but degenerates into the unceasing exploration of the phenomenal world for the sake of manipulating these phenomena for pragmatic ends.

The Renaissance (Classes 14 through 17) One might say that in the Renaissance, the philosophical project is put aside in favor of the return of the sophistic approach to life first criticized by Socrates. “We don’t care about truth, we care about power and glory and political intrigue and magnificent sensate art and ‘the good life.'” Scholarship is directed, in the humanities, towards a technically brilliant but spiritually empty revival of the classics. In the physical and natural sciences, the occult philosophy expressed in Bacon’s New Atlantis highjacks the scientific project and puts it at the service of a power elite, to be used in order to dominate others. Cut adrift from Orthodoxy now for several centuries, the Western church splits in countless ways – outwardly in the “Reformation’s” endlessly fissiparous sects and inwardly in the proliferation of numerous “spiritualities” under the deceptively unified umbrella of the papal organization. The Counter-Reformation brings tremendous outward order to the papal church but without returning it to Orthodoxy and thereby restoring and unifying the inner life of the spirit. Thus a vast edifice is constructed on fragmented spiritual foundations, and only outward discipline and organization can keep it together. In the Protestant nations, the secular domain becomes completely dominant and church life is reduced to private, subjective experience. The march towards total secularization of life has openly begun.

The 17th-18th Centuries, Rationalism and Empiricism, the Leviathan State (Classes 18 and 19) Descartes restarts the philosophical project, and he is followed by fellow rationalists such as Spinoza and Leibniz. They are seeking a foundation for true knowledge, and they locate it in the mind. Their British counterparts, the empiricists such as Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, locate the foundation for true knowledge in sense experience. Hume demolishes the arguments of previous thinkers, which brings the philosophical effort into the realm of complete skepticism. Kant tries to rescue knowledge from skepticism by positing two separate ontological realms, the noumenal (the really real, which is inaccessible) and the phenomenal (the “stuff” we can perceive and process through categories of understanding built into the mind), but “knowledge” as such remains subjective and there is no effective bar to irrationalism. Hobbes and Locke formulate a basis for an all-powerful state apparatus which will use scientific method to control all aspects of life. (One sees here how, as the inner life of man atrophies, greater and greater outward technique is needed to prevent chaos).

The 18th Century and the French Revolution (Classes 20-22) Ironically, in the same period in which Hume (d. 1776) is demonstrating that autonomous reason, as such, cannot give true knowledge, the French philosophes and Encyclopaedists are preaching the absolute reign of reason, the rejection of the Church and tradition, and the overthrow of the monarchy and traditional authority in favor of republican institutions created out of thin air by the “brains” of the rationalists. But this exaltation of reason – essentially empty, as Hume demonstrates – covers a darker and opposite reality: the power of revolution lies not in “reason” but in the demonic lust for destruction, the reign of the passions, and the will to power. True reason was left behind by the West long before, when it departed from Orthodoxy. The impoverished, graceless, and misled fallen intellects of philosophers and policy-makers cannot hope to guide the irrational tide of revolution, which is instigated by secret societies acting upon demonic instructions using profoundly immoral methods, and which brings about, in less than a decade, the bloody, chaotic destruction of an ancient and renowned Christian society.

Napoleon (Class 23) – Napoleon brings to the table nothing new in religious or philosophical thought. He is a great organizer and military leader who packages the product of Revolution in a usable way and exports it through military conquest. He puts into action the philosophy of the Leviathan State by creating the first openly secular state in the former Christendom. The Roman church in France is tamed and reduced to one among various competing influences on national life. The modern, truly secular age has begun in earnest.

Reaction, the 19th century (Classes 24-25) Though Alexander I and his allies defeat Napoleon, and the Congress of Vienna restores the outward balance of Europe and props up the Christian monarchies, the ideas and the mechanism of Revolution simply go underground – or not so underground – and are bound to resurface. Outwardly Christendom is given a kind of lease on life, and there is a religious revival of sorts in the 19th century, but in the West it is inherently powerless, because it is laid on heretical foundations, and in the East and Russia, though a genuine Orthodox revival is taking place, it is constantly being combatted by Masonic infiltration, and the new Orthodox nations of the Balkans are born with a mixed identity, not entirely Orthodox. In Russia, the fatal split between Holy Russia and post-Petrine modern Russia creates the conditions for the coming revolution.

So by the 19th century, we have a heretical West which, though at the height of its worldly achievement, has run completely out of the inner resources for spiritual renewal. The Orthodox East cannot rescue the West, because it is weak and fighting for its life. Rather than the East being able to help the West, the infection from the West spreads to the East and combats the nascent Orthodox revival we describe in Classes 24-25.

The philosophical project in the West has exhausted itself. If there is no basis for genuine knowledge, then there is no morality and no reason to control one’s sinful desires. Only one force remains to propel human action, which is the will to power, that can take either the form of the unlimited pursuit of the domination of others or suicide (or both). The inner content of this kind of life is demonism, often in the form of direct occult worship. The outward expression is revolution, and the philosophy of revolution is Nihilism.

And Now, the 20th and 21st Centuries: At this point in my Class 26 notes, I write, “In our next few classes, we will try to summarize the main insights Fr. Seraphim Rose offers in his book, Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age.” Of course, that’s what we did, in Classes 27 through 31, and it would be hard to improve upon Fr. Seraphim’s summary of the situation: The present age in which we live, which is a continuation of the revolutionary age begun in the French Revolution and carried forward by the Bolshevik Revolution, is dominated by the demonic spirit of nihilism, in which the only motive for action is the lust for power, the perverse will to contradict the will of God. Let’s be clear: Everything that the current global elite does always gets back to one thing: the will of Satan to contradict the express will of God. Everything in the dominant culture officially approved and disseminated – and, increasingly, coercively enforced – by the dominant power structures, in all of its spheres – geopolitical, economic, social, moral, domestic, artistic, you name it – is done to fulfill the Satanic will to replace what is of God with what is of Satan – to replace truth with falsehood and call it truth, to replace good with evil and call it good, and to replace beauty with ugliness and call it beauty. The world being constructed by the global elite is the Luciferian inversion of reality. We must reject it radically, in toto, entirely, and perform an act of profound repentance in which we hate whatever there is in ourselves which belongs to this Satanic realm and ruthlessly uproot it from our own souls and minds, and, yes, even our bodies. We cannot do it all at once, and we have to use prudence in the ways in which and the speed at which we abjure the dominant culture, but we have to do it somehow – we won’t do it perfectly, but we have to do something, anything! The Lord sees the intention of our hearts, and He will help us.

Of course, this radical vision is nothing new. It is simply the otherworldly, ascetical, martyric, and eschatological vision of the Early Church (see the notes on Class 1!). We have returned to the Age of the Catacombs. Matters have come full circle. We live in a demon infested world, as our Metropolitan Demetrius likes to say; we are pilgrims and strangers; we sojourn in enemy territory. But we are not discouraged, for we do not live for this present age and its corruptible goods – its passions, desires, and obsessions – its delusions. We live for the Age to Come. But while we are still in the flesh, passing through this vale of tears, we need to see things around us as they are and learn how to survive the chaos of the times. That’s we call our little course a “survival course,” after all. Where are we now, and, more to the point, what should we do about it? Which step must be taken first?

Part II: Putting First Things First: Faith Comes First

Actually, up to this point I have said very little about our contemporary situation. So far I have only covered – or, rather, have made a few observations about- just one aspect of our contemporary situation, which we called the Great Stereopticon, that is, the media machine used to brainwash the masses and thereby incite the Gadarene swine of humanity to rush off the cliff and to join their god Satan drowning in the Lake of Fire. I have talked about how “they” have instilled wrong opinions and behaviors into people at large, but I have not, so far, said much about what those wrong opinions and wrong behaviors actually are. What are the delusions and sick behavior of contemporary life in all of its spheres? What are these spheres? One could divide it up in various ways, but let’s try make it simple: Faith, Family, and Society. We shall construct the rest of our course using this threefold structure.

Notice that I put Faith first, because Faith comes first, and that’s because God comes first. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what wonderful work you do to combat evil in Family and Society, if you do not seek to know the Truth about God, to do the Will of God, and to love God as the ultimate Beauty, the Ultimately Lovable One. You can talk all day about Family Values and Traditional Society, and so forth, and, moreover, not only talk but act, but ultimately what matters is the true knowledge, worship, and service of God. The two Great Commandments are to love God and neighbor, and you can’t have one without the other, but the love of God is higher, and if you don’t put God first, you can’t really love your neighbor. Faith comes first.

It is essential to remind ourselves of the primacy of Faith not only in the realm of absolute truth – because it’s true in and of itself – but also in the realm of action – because putting Faith first also gives us the first practical step in our program of action. When one looks at everything going wrong today, one can feel like an isolated swordsman in the middle of a circle of enemy soldiers, all of whom are poking you with their swords and spears. Which enemy do you strike first? How do you break out of the circle? It’s enough to confuse and overwhelm anyone. But if you recognize that all of these enemy soldiers have a commanding officer, and that if you attack him first, the others may very well scatter in fear of your prowess, you suddenly have a good plan, and you have a strong hope of victory. Life is like that, reality is like that – it’s hierarchical. Put first things first, and suddenly everything becomes clear.

So here we are, surrounded by this crowd of enemies – the demonic chaos of the sexual revolution in all of its endlessly ramifying, constantly fragmenting manifestations constantly spinning more out of control and destroying the family and therefore the very possibility of a moral life, or even a human life (abortion, contraception, divorce, pornography addiction feminism, LGBT agenda, transgenderism, etc, etc.); the control of nearly all the earth’s resources by a tiny oligarchy of satan-worshipping nihilists and the resultant powerlessness of poverty on the part of anyone who wants to fight back; endless wars conducted with every increasing technological impersonality against helpless populations; genocide of unwanted demographic groups, most notably our own European race; the destruction of mind itself, of the very possibility of rational thought, of an inner life, by social media and smartphone addiction and virtual reality technology; this list goes on and on, and by now we are all familiar with it. I won’t beat a dead horse. But in the list above, I have not named the commanding officer, I have not yet pointed out which enemy to attack first. The real enemy, the source of all these troubles, is not they, not the outsiders – demons, pagans, Jews, Muslims, leftists, bankers, journalists, movie stars, Big Pharma, the military-industrial complex, abortion doctors, whoever – yes, “they” are doing things to us, but God is allowing them to do it; they are subject to the unbreakable chains of His will; they, even they, are fulfilling His plan for all of history. They are not primary or independent agents in this drama. They are the circumstances in which God has placed us in order to test us, in order to enable us to do His will and be His friends. His focus is not on them; it’s on us. One of the ancient fathers once said that you will not have peace until you realize that in all the universe, there is just your soul standing before God. This is where victory or defeat takes place. Our only enemy, ultimately, is our own sins. Our only task is to do God’s will.

The primary enemy in our day, the problem we have to attack first before being able to deal with any of the others, is the apostasy of the historically Orthodox hierarchies and their being enabled by their followers, who either agree with the apostasy or disagree with it but make excuses for it. In the Apocalypse, it is written that in the last days the stars will fall from the sky. The consensus of the Fathers is that the stars are the bishops of the Church, and their falling from the sky is their apostasy. The primordial, foundational problem of our day is the unrepentant, institutionalized rejection of the Orthodox Faith by the leadership of the historical institutions of the Orthodox Church. In the immortal words of Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Go back again and look at the summary of the last millennium we rehearsed above. The unraveling starts with the apostasy of the Pope and the Western church leadership. Now, in the 20th and 21st centuries, we can say with confidence that we have witnessed the undeniable apostasy of the historical Orthodox patriarchates and synods, by way of their now century-old participation in the pan-heresy of ecumenism in the realm of church life and their servile collaboration with the global elite in the ordering of civil society. It does not matter that individual bishops or priests or elders or theologians have private opinions that differ with their leadership. What matters is that, as a hierarchically constituted body, whose direction – ontologically, by the nature of what a church is – cannot be other than that of its leadership, this or that local church is committed to the apostasy. Directly or indirectly, all of the “official” churches are so committed; they are all committed to the Great Apostasy. That is their direction. That is the big picture. You cannot get around it.

So before we go on to the Family and Society, we have to address this primary topic, which is The Faith. We could also label this topic, The Church, because the True Faith and the True Church are inseparable. Apart from holding the true faith, you cannot be in the true church (much less lead the Church!). Apart from being in the Church, there is no salvation – extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Everything we care about, everything that makes life worthwhile, everything we hope for and fight for – it all gets back to this. Where is the Church? How do I get into it? How do I stay in it? This is the Great Matter of our Time – not Family or Society, but the Church. If we are in the Church, in the Ark of Salvation, we can ride the waves of the Great Deluge of our time and come to our goal, the Heavenly Jerusalem. If we end up outside the Church through this primary rebellion of apostasy, it does not matter how eagerly we identify the secondary revolutions, the conspiracies and evils of our day, or even how much we courageously combat them. We will be lost.

So, yes, finally we have come to this and we must address it, this most agonizing topic of the state of world Orthodoxy and the criteria for attaining a moral certainty that one is really in the Church or just kidding oneself. Before we go on to talk about the sexual revolution and geopolitics and economics and race relations and all of the other “hot button” topics, we have to put first things first: Faith Comes First. If we have moral confidence that we are in the Church, we can approach all these other questions with hope in God’s mercy, in His determined will to save us. If we do not have such confidence, we will build the house of our lives on sand. It’s really that simple.

In our next talk, we will give an overview of the history of ecumenism, an evaluation of the official hierarchies’ current status vis-a-vis ecumenism, and some recommendations as to what you can read about all this.

May the merciful Lord, Who desires our salvation, keep us all in the Ark of Salvation, His Holy Church. May He bring us all together to the Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.

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Life with integrity

7 August OS 2019 – Tuesday of the Tenth Week of St. Matthew; Dormition Fast; Afterfeast of the Transfiguration; S. Dometius, Monk and Martyr

You can listen to a podcast of this blog entry at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/10matttu

In the Gospel today, Our Lord confronts the chief priests and elders with their self-serving hypocrisy:

And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. – Matthew 21: 23-27

St. Theophan the Recluse uses this Gospel passage to describe the mindset of the truth-deniers of every age:

When the Lord asked the question about John the Baptist, the chief priests and the elders thought, “If we answer this way or that, either way is detrimental for us,” and that is why they decided it would be better to use ignorance as a cover. Their self-interest tied their tongue and did not allow them to witness to the truth. If they had loved truth more than themselves, the words would have been different, as would their works. Their interests buried the truth and would not let it reach their hearts. Their interests kept them from forming a sincere conviction, and made their hearts indifferent to the truth. This is how it always is – egotistical strivings are the primordial enemies of truth. All other enemies follow them and act by means of them. If one investigates how all delusions and heresies have arisen, it turns out that this is precisely the source of them all: In words, truth is truth; but in reality, the truth hinders us in one regard or another and must be eliminated, and a lie must be set in its place which is more favorable to us. Why, for example, are there materialists and nihilists? Because the idea of God the Creator, Provider, and Judge, together with the idea of the spirituality of the soul, hinders those people from living in grand style according to their inclinations, and so they push the idea aside. it is clear from the worthlessness of their premises that nihilists are not guided by the truth. They want everything to be just as they think it is, and every phantom that reflects their thoughts is exhibited by them as a witness to the truth. If they would sober up even a little, they would immediately see their lie. But they feel sorry for themselves, and therefore remain as they are. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 164-165

“…egotistical strivings are the primordial enemies of truth.” In the case of both religious and secular power-mongers, this egotism takes the obvious form of the publicly flaunted pursuit of self-interest. But “egotistical strivings” are not the sole property of the rich and powerful. All people, because “…they feel sorry for themselves…” shy away from holding the mirror of truth up to their own lives. Every man has a fallen nature, and therefore every man blinds himself to the truth.   Salvation requires that man assent to the revealed truths of the Faith, receive the grace of faith, and let the light of truth enlighten his darkened mind. The world (society), the flesh (our passions), and the devil fight this every step of the way. But God’s grace is all-conquering, and a man who wills not to feel sorry for himself, who desires to know and to live by the truth at all costs, will receive it in abundance.

Avoiding heresies and delusions, then, is not simply a matter of the mind but also of the will. Someone has to will to know the truth at all costs, no matter what it takes. Then, for that truth to be his glory instead of his shame, he has to live by it, at all costs, no matter what it takes, for to accept the truth in word but deny it by one’s life is the same – or perhaps worse – than never having accepted it at all.

The age we live in, however, in the apt expression of the late Fr. Seraphim Rose, is an age of spiritual fakery par excellence. It is literally a pandemonium, an age in which all the demons of hell have been let loose, for “he that restraineth” (i.e., the divinely anointed Orthodox emperor, and true Christian authority in general) has been removed, evil men rule every nation, and therefore, in the short run, evil seems to have free rein. Every kind of false opinion and phony “goodness” is exalted, and the hard truth of God’s Word is derided, even denounced as evil itself. To fit in, to serve one’s immediate self-interest of societal acceptance and advancement, one must bury the truth and not let it reach one’s heart, or if one does know the truth, one must tie one’s tongue and not witness to it.  The only path open to integrity is therefore not to fit in, to live as Noah before the Flood, Lot in Sodom, Joseph amid the fleshpots of Egypt, and Daniel in the court of Babylon.

Obviously, one can live in this way only by faith, by prayer, and by grace.  Only a “man of divine desires,” like Daniel, can keep the truth firmly fixed in mind and heart – and live by it – while surrounded by the enemies of truth and their witting or unwitting slaves. Only the burning love for Christ can give one the ability to keep going when everything in this world militates against the truth of the Faith.   Therefore conscious, attentive, and heartfelt prayer, on a daily basis, is not an “add-on,” an optional adornment of the obvious saints but not required for salvation. It is the life preserver of every sinner drowning in the sea of life.

The next time, then, you are tempted to skip your prayers, or inattentively to rattle through them, remember that you are, in fact, drowning, but the Lord is holding out His hand. He is saying, “Struggle a bit, pay attention to Me, and I will save you.”

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