3 July OS 2020 – Thursday of the Sixth Week of St. Matthew; St. Hyacinth, Martyr
You can listen to an audio podcast of this commentary at
In today’s Gospel reading, the Lord Jesus teaches the disciples that He permits the existence and intermingling of both the good and the evil during our earthly life, and how this relates to the Dread Judgment:
At that time, Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. – Matthew 13:36-43
St. Theophan the Recluse takes this occasion to explain the role of evil in the spiritual life of the faithful:
…Thus will be carried out the division of good and evil, light and darkness. Now is the period of time in which they are mixed. It pleased the Lord to arrange that the freedom of creatures should grow and be strengthened in good through the struggle against evil. Evil is allowed, both in connection with inward freedom and outside of a person. It does not determine anything, it only tempts. One who feels a temptation must not fall, but enter into battle. He who conquers is freed from one temptation, and advances forward and upward to find a new temptation there – and so on, until the end of his life. Oh, when will we comprehend the significance of the evil which tempts us, so that we might arrange our lives according to this understanding? The strugglers are finally crowned, and pass on to the next life, where there are neither sicknesses nor sorrows, and where they become inwardly pure like angels of God, free from the sting of tempting inclinations and thoughts. This is how the triumph of light and good is being prepared, and it will be revealed in all of its glory on the last day of the world. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 145
One of the stock arguments of atheists is the so-called problem of evil: “How can a good and all-powerful God allow evil? Either He is good but not all-powerful and therefore cannot prevent evil, or He is all-powerful but evil, since He causes or allows evil to exist.” There are several things wrong with this argument, but let us make one thing clear: Only the Christian understanding of evil allows for man’s moral freedom, for man to be a spiritual and free being capable of loving God. No other explanation makes room for this. God does not will evil, but He allows it, so that man may choose freely to obey Him or not, and so that the existence of evil may provide the arena for man’s spiritual struggle; truly do the Fathers say that without temptations no one would be saved. Anyone who has engaged in conscious spiritual life in an Orthodox setting understands this immediately.
Our intellects say, “Yes, now that someone has explained this to us, it is quite reasonable,” but we initially received this lofty understanding of man’s vocation through divine revelation, by grace, not by our own mental efforts. We realize that, being of divine origin, this truth is of course incomparably superior to the explanations that the fallen mind of man has created. We perceive that it gives us both peace of soul and the incentive to fight evil and to do good, and therefore not only is it intellectually satisfying but of the highest therapeutic and moral value. Experiencing this, we ask, “Why would anyone not want to believe in the Faith?”
The answer, of course, is pride of mind, pride of will, and pride of sensuality: Fallen man wants to create his own reality, fallen man wants to disobey God’s law, and fallen man wants to indulge his passions. Even so, man has always wanted to explain evil, and therefore the finite and fallen intellect of man has constructed three basic explanations of evil: either good and evil are illusions because all distinctions are illusions, or all outcomes are determined and you have no freedom, or everything is matter, and so God, soul, mind, and will do not exist.
The Eastern religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, and their variants – say that this world is an illusion, that evil is being trapped in the illusory, material world due to some cosmic accident no one can explain, and that you need to go through various incarnations to get rid of your materiality, in order to realize that even your personal existence and the existence of a personal God are illusions (or, conversely, that you are God, which amounts to the same thing), and that once you get rid of all mental distinctions, you will be absorbed into the World Soul, totally lose your individual existence, and feel no pain. One is eerily reminded of the epitaph of the apostate Greek novelist, Nikos Kazantzakis, who claimed to have no religion at all: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”
Islam – and, to the extent that they are infected by determinism, schools of Roman Catholic and Protestant thought – say that only God’s will is operative in the universe, that He is not interested in explaining anything to us, that what constitutes good and evil is not even a question open to rational discourse, and that your job is to submit without question or thought to the great Divine Steamroller, Allah, or whatever you want to call it. Admit His total sovereignty, do not question anything, and jump onto this cosmic juggernaut before it runs over you. On Judgment Day, all you can do is hope for the best, because you have no idea whatsoever if you have pleased the GUI (the Great Ultimate It) or not.
Materialism says that everything we experience is an accidental concourse of material stuff, and therefore nothing means anything. Eat, drink, and be merry, or seek total power over others for the thrill of it, or commit suicide, or whatever. Since mind does not exist, who cares what good or evil are, anyway, or who could offer a meaningful definition, since what the neurons in your brain invent is an accident, and what the neurons in my brain invent is another accident, and the two do not have anything to do with each other, do they?
What all three explanations have in common, ultimately, is nihilism, “nothing-ism.” At root, all three deny Who God is, deny who man is, and deny the love of God for man. All three, at root, are the fruit of pride, of Satan’s rebellion against the All-Good and All-Loving God Who created him, the fruit of Satan’s choice to “reign in hell rather than to serve in heaven.” To adopt any of these three views and really live by it is to consign oneself to hell in this life, much less the next. Yet people fall very easily into these views, and only with great difficulty, and by God’s grace, do they accept the Truth. Without the miracle of grace, humankind cannot bear too much reality.
The Orthodox Church teaches us the truth, which is that God created man out of love and for love, so that man could freely choose to love God and do His holy will. Advancing step by step from the fear of punishment to the desire for heavenly rewards to the love of God for His own sake, and thereby attaining the freedom of divine friendship, a man becomes a “god by grace,” and in the process, far from being absorbed into the Cosmic One, and far from being the helpless pawn of an inscrutable fate, he becomes more, and more truly, himself. To accomplish this, however, we must be courageous and full of hope in God’s mercy; we must open our hearts and throw ourselves into the abyss of His love, trusting Him to catch us. We have to look evil square in the face and bravely hope in the all-loving and all-wise God, Who cares for us, Who became a man and died for us, and Who rose from the dead, giving us the hope of an everlasting life.
Kazantzakis claimed that he had no fear because he had no hope. This is not courage but the very essence of cowardice. We can choose this way – the way of nihilism – or we can go the path of the saints. Increasingly it becomes clear, from all that is happening around us, that there is no other choice.
In today’s Gospel reading, the Lord Jesus tells the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Leaven:
The Lord spake this parable: The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house. – St. Matthew 13:31-36
St. Theophan the Recluse, commenting on Our Lord’s words, explains how we can apply the images of the mustard seed and the leaven both to the Church and to our own spiritual lives:
The Kingdom is like a grain of mustard seed and leaven. A small grain of mustard seed grows up into a large bush; leaven penetrates a whole lump of dough and makes it leavened. Here, on the one hand, is an image of the Church, which in the beginning consisted only of the Apostles and a few other people. It then spread and became more numerous, penetrating all of humanity. On the other hand, it is an image of the spiritual life revealed in every person. Its first seed is the intention and determination to be saved through pleasing God in accordance with faith in the Lord and Savior. This determination, no matter how firm, is like a tiny speck. Its movement and strength multiply and mature within its own self, and it begins to penetrate all the powers of the soul – the mind, will, and feelings – then fills them with itself, leavens them according to its spirit, and penetrates the entire constitution of the human nature – body, soul, and spirit – in which it was engendered. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 144
The seed, then, of spiritual life, is the “intention and determination to be saved through pleasing God in accordance with faith in the Lord and Savior.” There are three elements to this: Intention and determination to be saved, pleasing God, and faith.
We can check ourselves every day, and ask ourselves, “Do I intend to be saved, am I determined to be saved?” It cannot be a vague wish, as we would vaguely wish for someone to hand us a million dollars, though we neither think it likely nor make any efforts towards obtaining our wish. We have to intend it, choose it, set out decisively to get it, with determination. When our intention becomes unsteady or our determination weakens, we must ask the Lord to clarify our minds and strengthen our wills.
Every day we should ask ourselves, “Do I desire to please God?” and we should ask the Lord to strengthen this desire in us. It is impossible to overestimate the power of the desire to please God, to do His holy will. Once someone is irrevocably committed to the doing of God’s will, he will receive very great power from God to do so. The Lord will strengthen his will, and he will experience the truth of the words that with God nothing is impossible.
“Very well,” you may say, “I do intend and I do will, but weakly, and sometimes it seems like such a dry experience. Often I approach it as though it were a Stoic self-improvement program.” At this point we must recall the third element in the “program” St. Theophan outlines: Faith. We must beg with tears for Faith, which, in addition to being the voluntary assent of the mind to divine Truth, is also – and more importantly – a free gift of God’s grace. When our will grows weak and the clarity of our intention grows blurry, let us open the Holy Gospel and start reading slowly aloud. Let us read the Life of a saint. Let us kneel before the holy icons and carefully, slowly, read the Akathist to Our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ or His Most Pure Mother. Let us confess and prepare for Holy Communion. The sweetness of His love, the vision of His divine beauty, will once again captivate our hearts, and we will remember why we have made our act of will, and that will shall grow strong again. We will remember the end of Faith, which is Charity – Divine Love – and, unable to forget the Beauty of that Divine Love, we will open our hearts to Faith, and the Hope born of courage will be not barren but a fruitful act of the will.
O Lord, Who desires our salvation, make to grow the seed of Faith in our hearts!
In today’s Gospel, the Lord instructs the disciples on two levels: How to understand heresies and schisms in the Church, and how to understand the warfare between good and evil in the heart.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. – Matthew 13: 24-30
St. Theophan the Recluse guides us into an understanding of the Lord’s words as relating to the Church and as relating to our inner life:
The good seed was sown, but the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. The tares in the Church are heresies and schisms, while in each of us they are bad thoughts, feelings, desires, and passions. A person accepts the good seed of the word of God, decides to live in a holy way, and begins to live in this way. When such a person falls asleep, that is, when his attention toward himself weakens, then the enemy of salvation comes and places evil ideas in him which, if not rejected at the start, ripen into desires and dispositions, introducing their own spheres of activity, which mix themselves in with good works, feelings, and thoughts. In this way, both remain together until the harvest. This harvest is repentance. The Lord sends His angels – a feeling of contrition and the fear of God – and they come in like a sickle, then burn up all the tares in the fire of painful self-condemnation. Pure wheat remains in the granary of the heart, to the joy of man, the angels, and the Most Good God worshiped in Trinity. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 143-144.
In the Church, the “tares” (weeds) are heresies and schisms. Today clever people have fabricated a novel teaching that the Lord’s command not to tear up the weeds means that we are not allowed to separate from the heretics, and therefore the orthodox who separate from bishops because they are heretics thereby become schismatics, because (according to this interpretation) the orthodox must remain together with the heretics in the Church, like the wheat among the weeds, until the Dread Judgment. Therefore (according to this idea), to remain in the Church, one must continue indefinitely in communion with heretics, commemorating unrepentant heretical bishops, obeying them and receiving what purport to be sacraments from them, perhaps until the end of time. In addition to the abundant historical evidence that contradicts this idea, however, St. John Chrysostom also corrects this error in his 46th Homily on Matthew, which you can read online here, http://newadvent.org/fathers/200146.htm, and which you can listen to here, https://archive.org/details/parables_jesus_christ_commentary_gospel_matthew_1511_librivox/parables_03_chrysostom_128kb.mp3
The great Chrysostom here relates not only his own teaching but also the consensus of the Fathers: The Lord in this passage is not forbidding us to separate from the heretics; He is not forbidding us even from actively opposing them with non-lethal, legal methods of coercion if necessary (and if possible – not likely nowadays!). He is simply saying, “Do not shed their blood; do not slay them.”
St. Theophan, in his commentary on this passage, however, spends only one sentence – less than one sentence, only one clause – on this ecclesiological theme, which he mentions in passing. His chief topic, as usual, is the spiritual life of the Christian soul. The wheat consists of our good works, feelings, and thoughts, and the tares are our bad thoughts, feelings, desires, and passions. Just as, at the end of the world, the Lord will send His angels to gather His enemies and burn them, so now, in this life, He sends His messengers – contrition and the fear of God – to burn up our evil inclinations and gather our spiritual goods – our good thoughts and habits of mind and action, our virtues – into the barn of the heart, where they are kept safe by grace and induct us into the Heavenly Kingdom, which we begin to experience by anticipation even here on earth.
St. Isaac the Syrian also connects our salvation today, in the heart, with our eternal salvation in the Kingdom that Is To Come:
…Be a persecutor of yourself, and your enemy will be driven from your proximity. Be peaceful within yourself, and heaven and earth will be at peace with you. Be diligent to enter into the treasury that is within you, and you will see the treasury of Heaven: for these are one and the same, and with one entry you will behold them both.The ladder of the Kingdom is within you, hidden in your soul. Plunge deeply within yourself, away from sin, and there you will find steps by which you will be able to ascend. – The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 2
Paradise and hell, then, both begin in this life. Let us beg the Lord for His good messengers – contrition and the fear of God – to burn up our sins and passions, and to collect our scattered thoughts into one thought – the Name of Jesus – concentrated in the granary of the heart. There we will have Paradise, both in this life and in the Age to Come.
Again, thanks to our donors. May the Lord reward your love with His grace! To our other listeners: please consider a gift to help me out. If you have PayPal, you can send a gift to my account at email@example.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.
Let’s Take a Break
We have been talking about sad things for so long that I think we need a break. We cannot speak only of what is evil, but must also – and more importantly – speak of what is good, because only good can preserve us from the evil. Today I want to talk about two related things, memory and eternity. Memory is one of the essential weapons for fighting off our would-be jailers and staying free from the mental prison of the new normal they are working so hard to create in our minds, and memory, ultimately, is the gateway to eternity, something I’ll explain later.
But I’ll start by sharing some memories of my own. They are not just things that happened in my life, but also memories passed on to me by others.
– Methodist Sunday school
– The parish coroner
– A monastic vocation under the Habsburgs
– A childhood memory of the Russian Royal Martyrs
Write Your Autobiography
I offered these snippets from my life not because my life is more important or interesting than other people’s, but because it’s what I know. (Every writer ends up writing about what he knows best, of course.) But my purpose is to show you how your memory, or your memory of other people’s memories, your version of the story they passed on to you, is a door to the world of meaning, the meaning that is inside of you. It is so critical, right now, this moment, today, to sit down and go over our whole life, and write it down, if we have never done that, and all along the tale we tell, to relate how God was working in our life, to put our story into the Great Story of how God made us and saved us and is coming again to bring us to His heavenly kingdom. Before you write, ask the Lord to enlighten you to remember everything that’s happened and also, most importantly, to see it all in the light of His providence over you. Your own history under His providence is a microcosm of the history of all men under that same providence. He has done and will do everything for our salvation. Always remember that, and always be grateful. Remembrance and gratitude are the way out of sadness and a great strength in times of trouble. Writing about the sad things and the bad things is cathartic – it cleanses us. Writing about the good things is uplifting. The beautiful and the ugly things, the good and the bad, the false paths we trod and the delusions we finally shucked, and the truth we finally, painfully obtained by the power of God’s merciful love for us – it’s all there. Just try it – you’ll see.
Store Up the Right Books
Memory writ large is what we call “history.” It is our corporate memory, the shared memory of the Church, of a nation, of a people, of a civilization. The funny thing is that as the vandals are destroying the monuments and the schools are refusing to tell the truth, the old books are still there, actually more available than ever. The bad guys think they don’t need to destroy them, because they’ve made everyone so stupid that they don’t want to read or don’t know how. Well, we don’t have to prove them right. Let’s prove them wrong and do some reading. Let me give some examples of books you ought to have:
1. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica – Remember that all hell breaks loose in 1914. We are living after the end of the world. This 1911 Britannica is a concise written record of how Western man viewed himself at the height of his achievement. Of course, we have to filter it all through our Orthodox viewpoint, but so much of the data, unimpaired by marxist deconstruction, is there. You can still buy it, I think – the real books I mean – but here is a link to where you can read it online:
2. The Library of Universal History Moses Coit Tyler and Israel Smith Clare. Another massive, all-encompassing record of how Western man – and in particular Anglo-American man – viewed himself before the cataclysm of the 20th century. Again, filter it through your Orthodox lens (you could go back and review our Survival Course talks and read Fr. Seraphim’s Survival Course lectures to interpret what these men are saying from the Orthodox point of view). I can’t find the whole thing online, but you can still buy reproductions of it in hard copy.
4. Church history (of course): Make sure you have Eusebius’s history of the early Church through the reign of St. Constantine. Get as many collections of the Lives of the Saints as you can.
5. The Fathers and the Councils through the 8th century: There are inexpensive copies of the classic Eerdmans series available. Everyone should have it! Also, look for the Catholic University of America’s Fathers of the Church series and Ancient Christian Writers series.
6. Memoria Press: Go to their website and get all you can on history and literature. It’s great. Their Famous Men of Greece and Famous Men of Rome are classics. https://www.memoriapress.com/
A plea: I need recommendations for church and world histories from Orthodox authors that have been translated into English, so we’re not stuck with only these Western sources that we have to re-interpret.
That’s enough for now.
The Door to Eternity
By living within the true story of our history, we break out of the fake eternity of a delusional present (as in shamanism or marxism), we live as pilgrims and strangers on the active journey of this life, and we arrive at the heavenly kingdom, which is also breaking in on us all along. The Divine Liturgy itself, the highest and greatest experience of God by man on earth, is centered on anamnesis, on memory.
Remember the vital importance of memorization! Memorize Scripture, the Psalms, prayers, poems, passages from literature. Memorize, memorize. You are storing up a treasury within your soul against the day when the books and computers will be taken away.
Living Well is the Best Revenge
God loves us and wants to be happy. Be cheerful. Say your prayers, tell stories, sing songs, and smile for your children. We belong to the Lord.
A Time for Song
Let’s do something different today. I’m going to close with three songs; well, two songs and a hymn.
Two Early American religious songs. You can find them on the album “Rose of Sharon” by the vocal group Western Wind.
Death, like an overflowing stream, sweeps us away: Our life’s but a dream, an empty tale, a morning’s flower, cut down and withered in an hour.
Father, I long, I faint to see the place of Thine abode. I’d leave Thine earthly courts and flee up to Thy seat, my God. Here I behold Thy distant face and ’tis a pleasing sight. But to abide in Thine embrace is infinite delight.
19 June OS 2020 – Thursday of the Fourth Week of Matthew; St. Jude the Apostle, Brother of the Lord; St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Wonderworker
Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 11:27-30) is our gracious Lord’s invitation to be freed of the burden of sin by taking on the light yoke of His commandments:
The Lord said to His disciples, All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
St. Theophan the Recluse explains the process by which this transformation takes place:
O Divine, O dear, O sweetest voice of Thine! Let us all follow the Lord, Who calls us! But first we must experience something difficult and burdensome for us. We must experience that we have many sins, and that these sins are grave. From this is born the need to seek relief. Faith will then show us that our only refuge is in the Lord and Savior, and our steps will direct themselves toward Him. A soul desiring to be saved from sins knows what to say to the Lord: “Take my heavy, sinful burden from me, and I will take Thine easy yoke.” And this is how it happens: the Lord forgives one’s sins, and his soul begins to walk in His commandments. The commandments are the yoke, and sins are the burden. But comparing the two, the soul finds that the yoke of the commandments is as light as a feather, while the burden of sins is as heavy as a mountain. Let us not fear readily accepting the Lord’s easy yoke and His light burden. In no other way can we find rest unto our souls. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 135
Here is how it happens, then:
Step One: We must experience that we have many sins, and that they are grave. St. Isaac the Syrian says that it is a greater miracle to see one’s sins than to raise the dead. Why? Because of the incomprehensible blindness of fallen human nature, which does not understand itself. We all have it. We must pray to see ourselves as we really are, so that we can really feel the burden of sin and the need to seek relief. We must realize with the entire consent of our being that we need a Savior.
Step Two: Faith shows us that our only refuge is our Savior and that He does forgive our sins. We are Orthodox Christians, and we accept the teachings of the Church, but often we do not feel them, do not have strong Faith welling up from the depths of our being with absolute conviction. This is not mere emotion, but a set of the soul, an experiential knowledge in the center of our being that God is, that God is indeed the Holy Trinity of Orthodoxy, and that Christ our Savior has indeed saved us. To acquire this set of soul, one near-infallible method is the frequent practice of slow, forcefully concentrated prayer. Open the prayer book, or take the Psalter, or take your prayer rope, and, in a quiet place, kneeling before the holy icons, force yourself to say the words a bit more slowly than usual, and forcefully struggle for attention, ruthlessly casting out every distracting thought. Set a timer for, say, ten or fifteen minutes, and do not let up until the alarm rings. If you feel the desire to continue, continue for as long as you like. Go on praying in this way until the light dawns in your heart. Do this frequently…daily. You shall see. The Lord promised to give us good things, and by praying in this way you are asking for the best things, including profound faith with the constant, abiding presence of God in the heart. He is faithful to His word, and He will give according to His promise.
Step Three: We must promise the Lord that we will live according to His holy commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous (I John 5:3).” Yet we must be honest with ourselves and realize what the standard for loving God really is: “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin (Hebrews 12:4).” This struggle unto blood, which ensues upon our promising to keep the commandments, feels perfectly natural, however, to those who have gone through Steps One and Two, and who keep repeating them when faith grows weak. And not only does it begin to come naturally, but it also engenders ineffable relief and inner happiness, often in inverse proportion to the difficulties of our outward life.
Let us, then, struggle earnestly in prayer, that the Lord may energize the potential of the baptismal grace already within us, and then being transformed strive zealously for God’s commandments, for His glory and for our salvation. May we by grace know through experience that the yoke of Christ is easy and His burden light.
Again, thanks to our donors. May the Lord reward your love with His grace! To our other listeners: please consider a gift to help me out. If you have PayPal, you can send a gift to my account at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Today we are going to talk first about Marxist/Bolshevik revolution in itself, which is not something limited to Russia nor a thing of the past, but rather international and currently going on; and then we will discuss pre-Revolutionary Russia and its strengths and weaknesses. In conclusion today, we will discuss the apocalyptic, eschatological significance of Russia and her relationship to Orthodoxy.
Introduction – Bolshevik Revolution and the Orthodox Philosophy of History
A. Review of last class’s introduction:
1. You need the big picture. Teleology of history.
2. The big picture is knowable.
3. Two reductionisms: “leave it to the experts” vs. arrogant ignorance
4. Ahistorical false spirituality
5. The right approach: Acquire the big picture, practice discernment
B. Christian Order vs. Anti-Christ Disorder
1. There is such a thing as Christian order of society. That’s the whole lesson from the 1600 year history of the Constantinian period of history. There are more perfect, more Orthodox examples, but even the RC and Prot examples participate to a greater or lesser degree in the reality of Christian order. The age of revolution since 1789 is the open revolt against this order to replace it with Anti-Christ disorder.
2. Christian order is based on obedience to God. Human law reflects the divine law to a significant extent. God’s rights are primary, human rights are derivative.
3. Anti-Christ order – or, rather, disorder – is based on disobedience to God. It is the rejection of the Logos. The motto of Lucifer is “I will not serve.” The clenched fist salute symbolizes this. Since God’s rights are not primary, or the source of human rights, the appeal to human rights is completely deceptive, because the only principle of action is the will to power, and therefore the entire system is inherently criminal.
4. There are both diabolical and human agencies at work. Defect of secular anti-communism is to look only for earthly explanations. Defect of falsely-spiritual approach is to say only demons are our enemies, and you should not try to comprehend the human aspect of the situation. This latter is not really pious, but is both childish and morally irresponsible, being an extreme of imprudence. We always pray to be delivered from enemies both visible and invisible. Prudence demands that we identify the visible enemies.
I. Marxism as a Philosophy vs. Marxist Action
A. Remember that all Antichrist ideology is a cover for demonic criminality.
1. Marxism as philosophy is junk, yet it has demonic power (like Darwinism and Freudianism). There is an invisible power at work that appeals to the demonic love of power in the unregenerate soul. Remember that apart from Faith and Baptism, man is born in a state of enmity with God. Marxism appeals to this enmity, characterized by envy: envy of God, envy of all that is good, noble, beautiful, and true. It is simply nihilism – worship of destruction, of the endless descent into nothingness.
2. Marx (Mordechai) was simply a satanist. Some say his work was dictated directly by demons while he was in a trance-like state. But it is not necessary to prove this in order to perceive that his writings have demonic false wisdom and demonic power.
B. Therefore to spend thousands of pages analyzing Marxism as a historical or economic theory is a waste of time. It does not deserve analysis, because it is trash. More importantly, to spend one’s time doing this, besides being a degradation of the mind, is a distraction from the real task, which is organized, active, militant, and intransigent opposition to a gang of criminals and devil worshippers who hate the Church, and who have murdered millions and intend to murderfurther millions of people.
1. No one is really a philosophical materialist; everyone has some kind of mystical or metaphysical assumptions and some kind of inner, mystical life. E.g, Richard Dawkins, the great supposed atheist, believes in “aliens.” Either there is the personal God of the Bible or there is just “stuff,” but those who claim to believe in “stuff” have some occult (i.e. hidden) spirituality involving self-worship or aliens or science fiction or direct devil worship.
2. The “march of history” in Marxist thought is just a disguise for the demonic will to power, the program of Anti-Christ. There is no impersonal “force” or “material dialectic.” That’s all nonsense designed to destroy the will of the good to resist.
C. So what we are concerned with is not Marxist “thought,” but Marxist action; what they do as they try to gain power and what they do once they are in power. While they are trying to gain power, they have to act covertly, disguising themselves as something either invisible or as benevolent. Once they are in power, they ruthlessly murder their opposition and install a reign of terror over the bodies and minds of those left alive. Remember, their only justification is their own will to power. This is why a liberal, “fair-minded” or “balanced” approach to dealing with them is useless and suicidal. You don’t negotiate with someone whom you find in the act of killing your family: you shoot him.
D. So-called Marxist revolution is not something only in Russia or Eastern Europe or China. It is the systematic overthrow of traditional society in every part of the world since 1789. It covers every inhabited continent, it uses the same methods everywhere, and it is about to move to a new and possibly final stage here in the United States.
E. Remember the two methods: Violent action and Gramscian march through the institutions. Recall last week’s link to Fr. Peter Heers’s talk: Method of creating a false crisis and offering a false solution to the crisis. Samuel Francis’s concept of “anarcho-tyranny” and current examples:
– Anarcho: Flu hysteria and mob violence
– Tyranny: “Lockdowns,” compulsory vaccination and microchip in response to the manufactured flu crisis; destruction of local police authority and replacement with national (or global!) police in response to the manufactured mob crisis.
II. Marxism as the Inversion of Value
A. In the demonic order of disorder, everything is upside down. Evil is good, war is peace, etc. (cf. Newspeak in Orwell’s 1984).
B. Primary goods are overthrown in the name of secondary goods, which themselves are actually never realized. The sins of those who uphold the primary good of order are blown out of proportion, while the crimes of those who impose diabolical disorder are called virtues.
C. There are pseudo-saints and a pseudo-piety. E.g., the pseudo-relic of Lenin, the “icons” of Che Guevara, cult of Nelson Mandela, or, in recent American society, the “martyrs” Trayvon Martin and George Floyd. Demonic idol worship, e.g., current bizarre ritual of bowing down to anarchists and the clenched fist.
D. Everything good and holy is criminalized, and criminality is normalized. Orderly opposition to tyranny is demonized and anarchical destruction is glorified as “freedom fighting.”
E. An anti-hierarchy is created, in which the lower is placed over the higher: e.g., feminism, permissive child-rearing, homosexualism, exaltation of savagery over culture, modern, senseless “art” over traditional art, etc.
To the extent one participates in or condones or refuses to oppose all this, one becomes an accomplice of the Anti-Christ revolt against God.
III. Russia as the Katehon
A. Russia’ s strengths – Orthodox Russia was the main target, because Russia was holding back the tide of revolution. It was the great Christian power that had several strengths inimical to Revolution:
1. It was the representative of the Christian autocratic authority: Pravoslavie, samoderzhavie, narodnost.
b. autocratic authority
c. “nativeness,” – love of one’s own native (birth) people and native soil, and the culture that springs from this
2. Combined with vast geopolitical power.
3. Financial independence.
4. Agrarian virtue combined with modern industrial and military might.
Note: Supposed weaknesses of the tsarist system itself are exaggerated. They were real but fixable. All of the great reforms that led to elevating peasant life and the plight of industrial workers were not the result of democratization but the prudent wielding of autocratic authority. Autocracy is the bulwark of the people against oligarchy – see Matthew Raphael Johnson at rusjournal.org. (Also, see Michael Hudson’s studies on the ancient Near Eastern kingdoms and the debt jubilees enforced by the kings to protect the peasantry from usurers.)
5. Greatest strength of Russia was, of course, Orthodoxy itself. The 19th century saw a tremendous spiritual rebirth in Russia, as we have discussed in early OSC classes (see OSC 24, in particular). Yet it only reached a portion of the society – it was not a comprehensive national repentance. Today we see something similar: There has been no rebirth of Holy Russia, because there is not a comprehensive national repentance, especially for the sins of regicide, apostasy, and complicity in mass murder of the Orthodox people.
B. Real Weaknesses: The bifurcation of Russian society
1. Apostasy of the aristocracy, the intelligentsia, and the liberal clergy.
Lack of repentance of the elite leadership class for Western-inspired secularization and outright persecution of the pious segments of society which began with Peter I.
2. Humanistic, liberal tendency even of the pious royal family due to English influence. Contrast of Alexander III with Alexander II and Nicholas II. The fatal flaws of Victorianism: humanistic softness, “progressive” Christianity of “social reform,” the “white man’s burden” instead of prudent and realistic white self-interest.
C. The Future of Russia is the Future of the World
Because of the peculiar place Russia has held in the world in the second millennium, the repentance and rebirth of Russia is key to what is to transpire here on earth in the near future. The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia under St. Philaret of New York, had this to say in 1981:
“The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, after hearing and taking note of the material presented to it by the Synod of Bishops on the development of the ecumenical movement and the wide participation in it of the Moscow Patriarchate, which completely submits to atheistic anti-christ authority, as well as the report on the growth of anti-christ principles in the world, defines:
“1. In accordance with the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures and the interpretation of the Holy Fathers of the Church, it is certain that we are entering one of the apocalyptic periods of human history. In it, the forces of evil threaten to seize leadership around the world. Only repentance and the rebirth of the Orthodox Church in Russia can stop this process. The true Church is already in an undoubted minority, becoming the “little flock” predicted by the Savior. However, He also told Christians not to lose heart even when they survive to the last years of the existence of the world.”
This is the first statement in a longer conciliar resolution whose entire text you can read at https://remnantrocor.blogspot.com/2020/05/sobor-1981-resolution.html Note that the (old/true) ROCOR bishops here were concerned not only for Russia, but for the entire world. They clearly saw that the Antichrist revolt against God is open and proceeding throughout the world, and that only the restoration of a true Orthodox Russia as the katehon could stop this process.
Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, pray to God for us!
Today I posted this Rector’s Message for June at our parish website, saint-irene.com
O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things. Treasury of good things and Giver of life, come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One. – The Prayer to the Holy Spirit
On the night before He died, Our Lord at the Mystical Supper gave His last teaching and testimony to His disciples. Among other great and precious promises, He told them the following: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26). A few minutes later, after finishing His discourse to the disciples, the Lord lifted His eyes to heaven and prayed to the Father, and when He asked the Father to sanctify the disciples, these were His words: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”
Truth, then, is an inseparable attribute of the Holy Spirit Whom the disciples received at Pentecost, when ten days after the Lord’s Ascension He fulfilled His promise to send them the Comforter, and truth is inseparable from the sanctification (being made holy) of those who believe in Christ, which is the purpose of Christ’s Sacrifice – He “sanctified Himself” (i.e., He offered Himself to the Father in the Sacrifice of the Cross) that we might be “sanctified through the truth.”
Today it is popular to say that truth is relative or perhaps unknowable. This deceptive teaching is attractive to two kinds of people: 1. The broad masses who voluntarily enslave themselves to desires, fears, and irrational habits, and resist objective standards of belief and morality as an assault on the “freedom” to sin, and 2. The global power elite who hate the objective, God-given truths that reveal and denounce their demonic pursuit of arbitrary domination over the rest of the human race. These two groups of people are made for each other – the sheep and the butchers, as it were, and the sheep, sadly, are probably going to get what they are asking for.
We need not, however, fall into the temporal insanity and eternal horror which are the fruits of relativism. On the great Sunday of Pentecost, we will once again, at the Vespers of Holy Spirit Monday, say the Kneeling Prayers for the reception of the Holy Spirit, Who, as Christ said, is the Spirit of truth. As we read these awesome and sacred prayers, let us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and make our hearts firm as rock in the truth of Christ, and to enable us to resist, to the death if necessary, the seductive snare of the illusions preached by the powers of this world. Standing firmly on the revealed Truth of Christ, in the Church, we can by His grace resist all the tricks and threats of the Enemy. Without the Truth, we cannot receive grace, we cannot be in the Church. When we distort or resist or compromise the Truth, we cut ourselves off from the Church and lose the grace of God. May this not be our fate, but rather may we stand firmly in the Truth of Christ – unto eternal life.
Cooperating with GraceThe grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts within him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more firewood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines, and deifies him. – St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, Christian Morality
The Dignity and Proper Use of the Human MindSince according to the holy theologians, the mind is an image of God, the more the loving mind ascends to its beloved God through the contemplation of His Divine perfections, the more God Who is loved condescends from His height towards the loving mind, and becomes united with it, deifies it, and fills it with gifts. And thus through the ascent to God is achieved the blessed and marvelous union and contact of God with the mind, of the beloved with the lover, of the archetype with the image. – St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, Handbook of Counsel
15/28 May 2020 – Thursday of the Sixth Week of Pascha, The Ascension of the Lord
After the high point of Holy Week and Pascha, a lot of Orthodox slack off and start focusing on their worldly plans for the summer, and one does not see much of them until (one hopes) the Dormition of the Theotokos in August, which takes place when the secular school vacation period has ended and people are feeling that “church season,” along with the “school year,” has arrived again. One of the casualties of this unfortunate habit is a profitable celebration of the Ascension of the Lord, a sublime mystery that reveals the true purpose of life and puts everything into perspective.
When Christ ascended in His resurrected human flesh into the heavens, He glorified our humanity by seating it at the right hand of God the Father, and then He sent the Holy Spirit to us so that we can join Him there. What could be better than that? It should make one happy to be alive.
St. Theophan the Recluse says the following:
St. Paul expresses the power of the Lord’s Ascension in this manner: “When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men (Ephesians 4:8 [quoting Psalm 67]).” Having satisfied God’s righteousness, the Lord opened for us all the treasures of God’s goodness. This is indeed a capturing or taking of spoils after victory. The beginning of the distribution of these spoils to people is the descent of the Holy Spirit, Who, having descended, always abides in the Church and gives everyone what he needs, receiving all from that captive captivity. Let everyone come and take. But prepare for yourself a repository for that treasure, which is a pure heart; have hands with which to take it, that is, unreflecting faith. Then step forth, searching hopefully and praying relentlessly. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 112.
The Redeemer’s sacrifice on the Cross, in which He offered His Precious Blood to the Most Holy Trinity and satisfied all righteousness, took away our sins. By His Resurrection, He saved us from the power of death. These mighty deeds, however, as infinitely great as they are, were only the beginning. Not content with saving us, the Lord also glorified to the utmost the humanity He shares with us, ascending beyond every visible and invisible creature and placing our human nature, in His Person, in the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity. Having glorified our nature thus, He then sent the Holy Spirit to enable each of us personally to attain this glory. Knowing this, what steps should we take to get there too and be with Him?
The first step is to understand, accept, and internalize the meaning of our Baptism. St. Paul says in Romans 6, the reading we hear at every baptism, that we have died in Baptism. He says in Colossians 3:3, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” So, to begin with, let us remember that, for all ultimate purposes, in relation to anything that really counts, we are already dead. Once we have put everything in this perspective, we can actually get started. Knowing that we are dead, we have nothing to lose, and we can with absolute freedom and perfect faith do what St. Theophan says: “…step forth, searching hopefully and praying relentlessly” for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Today, after you read this, tell yourself that in fact you are already dead, and therefore all the things you worry about do not matter that much. Then pray earnestly for the Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance, and Justice. Then pray for the Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love. Make a strong act of will to put absolute trust in the Lord, that He will bestow these seven gifts. Do it again tomorrow and every day.
You will realize that, indeed, your life is “hid with Christ in God,” and that, far from being dead, you really have begun to live.
Again, thanks to our donors. May the Lord reward your love with His grace! To our other listeners: please consider a gift to help me out. If you have PayPal, you can send a gift to my account at email@example.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.
Last time I said that I was going to go back to writing finished essays. Well, I am going to stop announcing new directions like this, because I realize that my pastoral and family duties present such different challenges every week, every day, that I cannot predict how much time I will have for preparing the lecture. And, it seems, the present crisis calls for more frequent instruction, though we must always be measured and not in so much of a hurry that we are just reacting to every new thing. Our mission is to step back and look at the big picture.
So every lecture will simply be what it’s going to be: Sometimes there will be finished essays, sometimes just outline notes, sometimes something in-between. Today it will be a hybrid – I’ve written a rough essay, but I may probably go off-script more than last time. I also hope at some point to get back to real in-person classes at St. Irene, at least on occasion if not every week. But definitely I plan to make no more definitive statements that we’re going to do it this way or that way. This is just a work in progress, and I have to beg you to put up with the roughness of the whole thing. By the way, if anyone wants to volunteer to start listening to the lectures and transcribing them, or to pay someone to do it – given the current economic situation, perhaps we have brethren who need the income! – that would be great. That’s what the text of the Fr. Seraphim lectures is – which I can provide upon request – a transcription of his oral delivery. It is not polished, but it has the advantage of greater liveliness, and reflects the insight of the moment.
Introduction – We Are Part of the Great Story; the Teleology of History
A. You Need the Big Picture: People cannot understand the current situation in the spring of 2020 – they are confused and panicky – because they do not see the big picture, how this fits into the entire story of the human race and God’s plan for us. They are obsessed with the details of the moment, see things in a fragmentary fashion, and get sidetracked and neutralized by endless debate over endless bits and pieces of data. False teachers – whether malicious or simply misguided – can use this fragmentation to mislead them by encouraging them to obsess on the fragments and just argue endlessly, so that their attention is taken away from who the real bad guys are and how we are supposed to resist them.
It is inherent in the teachings of Holy Scripture and the Church that there is a teleology of history – we are part of a Big Story, and that story has a beginning, middle, and end, and it has a purpose, and we understand our relationship to God through understanding our part in that story. No one is exempt from the struggle to acquire this understanding; no one is allowed to disobey the command of Christ to read the signs of the times.
B. The Big Picture is Knowable: We’ve said many times in our course that the Christian Faith is unique, in that it reveals that there is such a thing as history: That things had a beginning, have a middle, and will have an end. Reality is not circular but directional, and the forces directing history are not impersonal but personal, and not only personal but knowable, identifiable. Pointing out who did what and why in the past, who is doing what and why today, and who will probably do what and why tomorrow, is not impossible. Quite to the contrary: under the right guidance and with the right sources it is certainly possible. Moreover, it is morally imperative, for we are required to discern good from evil and to read the signs of the times, in order to make moral decisions. False teachers will barrage you with a lot of disconnected facts and confusing academic jargon, in order to brainwash you to accept the idea that history is so complicated that you cannot discern its main movements and main actors, and you just need to trust the people in power. But this is just to blow smoke in your eyes, so that you will not practice discernment and take action, so that you will be passive and give up. They are not telling you the truth.
C. Two reductionistic approaches to history and current events
1. The reductionism of “leave it to the experts”. According to this idea, history is so complicated as to be, in effect, impersonal and unknowable. You can only compile details not discern patterns. An overall philosophy of history is impossible. “Leave history to the experts.” But actually those who say this do have their own philosophy, either unconsciously, if they are innocent, or consciously, if they are malicious, and they are trying to push it on you. And they claim that they can decide who the experts are! By “experts” they mean their anointed experts, the anti-Christian establishment academia, whose motives and outlook are well-known. With academia and science, you have the same situation as with the Old Testament prophets and the Church’s clergy: Just as there were the court prophets of the Old Testament, and the sell-out, careerist bishops and clergy of the Church, who lie to the people so as to lead comfortable lives, so there are the prostituted professors and scientists of the establishment, who are heavily funded and heavily promoted, who live cushy lives in return for lying to people. Just as there were true prophets in the Old Testament, and there are the God-pleasing and therefore marginalized honest bishops and clergy, so there are the marginalized and suffering truth-speakers in academia and science, who suffer loss of income, position, and reputation, and even risk being assassinated – the ultimate form of “de-platforming”!- in order to bring the truth to their fellow man. If someone’s social acceptability, power, and comfort are being increased – not threatened – by the position he takes, don’t trust him. There are real experts, both in the spiritual and the secular realms, and we must humbly seek them out. But we must also use our own minds! Real experts will encourage you to think for yourself!
2. The reductionism of ignorant self-confidence: “Everything is so simple, and I am so smart, that I can correctly interpret every detail.” This is the reductionism of the self-appointed expert, of the ignoramus. It is obviously extremely foolish. You do need to study expert research, at least to some extent, to acquire the details of history, which the specialization of the scholar enables him to master, and you need to be humble – don’t think you know everything. You do need to study the Scriptures and Holy Fathers under reliable guidance, not trusting in yourself – and the same is true of good secular learning – to acquire the ability to discern the patterns of history, to have a true philosophy of history. There are real experts, not just establishment prostitutes, and you need to seek them out and learn from them. If you think and speak ignorantly and foolishly, you become a “poster child” for the establishment claim that everyone who opposes their “experts” is ignorant and foolish.
Those who promote Reductionism #1 create the straw man argument that the crudeness of Reductionism # 2 discredits everyone (except themselves of course!) who tries to discern the patterns of history and current events. E.g., “If you Orthodox say that this is a period of demonic rule, possibly leading to the reign of Antichrist, you are no different from a radio preacher who tells us that he knows for sure that Russia is Gog and China is Magog, and that Christ will return on January 1st 2021.” Obviously this is a straw man: You don’t have to correctly read every single player and every single detail in a situation to understand the overall picture. Above all, we have to discern the spirit of the age, in order to discern when falsehood and evil are being presented as truth and goodness. We acquire discernment through sharpening the instruments of discernment – the mind and heart – through the active Orthodox spiritual life. But we must also point these instruments at the world around us and use them to discern both what has transpired in history and what is going on now. Discernment is not only an instrument to understand what is going on inside of you – the spiritual life – but also what is going on outside of you – life in this world, life shared with others. We are not exempt from the struggle to distinguish between good and evil in the world, to make moral choices in response to the society we live in, and to live by these choices – and to suffer for them.
D. Ahistorical False Spirituality and Falsely Pious Passivity: In situations like today, with the Corona Chaos, people get overwhelmed and begin to – at least unconsciously – accept the #1 idea above. They give up and go along to get along. But if you just give up and say, “Well, it’s too complicated; I’m just going to sit in my house and pray,” you are throwing yourself off the parapet of the Temple and expecting God to catch you. You are tempting God, and you are not doing your job. Of course we have to pray, but we also have to think, to discern, to work, and to fight. We are beings in motion, active, conscious, sensitive, thinking, and feeling beings; our goal is to heal and re-direct the passions, not destroy them; we are to become even more ourselves – living, acting, feeling, and thinking, not to become insensible lumps zoning out into some kind of passive, pacifistic, pseudo-hesychastic nirvana. Apatheia, freedom from the passions, is not becoming insensible but rather acquiring accurate and appropriate sensibilities; not becoming thoughtless but rather acquiring wise thoughts. Love for brother requires us to defend and provide for others. We cannot sit back and watch the beast devour those we love. We are not allowed to refuse the duties of intelligent thought and of active and intransigent militancy in the face of evil. One corollary of these duties is that we must all become historians.
E. The Right Approach – Acquiring the Big Picture and Practicing Discernment
Just as every man is a philosopher – whether he knows it or not – every Christian is a historian – whether he knows it or not. Every man is required to ask and answer the question “What does life mean?” and furthermore every Christian is required to ask and answer the question, “Where am I in history, and how does that govern my choices?” This is knowable, and, moreover, obligatory. It is not a hobby but a moral obligation. We are not required to be experts, but we are required to acquire the big picture and to practice discernment.
With all of this in mind, let us return to the Age of Revolution:
I. The Age of Revolution – Review
Go back to Fr. Seraphim’s OSC Lecture Six on the French Revolution and my OSC classes 20 through 23 – the French Revolution and Napoleon. Go back to the sources I mention: Abbe Barruel, Nesta Webster, and Fr. Luke’s article on the French Revolution. There are several facts about the French Revolution that help us understand our present situation:
A. Secret societies were and are real, and it was they who engineered the French Revolution. They formed a network of anti-Christian revolution intended to be permanent, and there is indeed a continuity of this network up to and including the present time. Fr. Seraphim, in his approach to the 18th and 19th century revolutions, as well as the Russian revolution, in agreement with all of our recent holy fathers and teachers, clearly teaches this. These societies, this network, created an underground anti-government to overthrow the Christian governments of Europe. Now this network – through a series of violent revolutions as well as the Gramscian “march through the institutions” (see OSC 53) is no longer underground; it is no longer a conspiracy, but rather it has become the establishment. Thus the governments of today are morphing from national governments into a form of government condemned by God since the Tower of Babel: a global super-government. To the extent that any of our authorities become part of the global super-government, they thereby become to that extent “bezbozhnie vlasti,” “godless authorities,” as the term is used in the litanies of the true Orthodox Russian Church – the Catacomb Church and non-MP Russian Church Abroad. Since all of the great national governments are in some stage of this process, the legitimacy of them all has become extremely tenuous, and the principle of our obligation to obey them must be applied with great caution. We must proceed on the working hypothesis that the people at the top are acting in accordance with the spirit of Antichrist and are in obedience to demonic powers, not to “the people,” and certainly not to God.
It is critical, then, to learn from the French Revolution, that the methods used by the criminals then are the same methods used now. They tell lies, create a fake crisis, and they take advantage of the fake crisis to cause catastrophic overturn of the existing order. Recently a priest of the state church of Greece, Fr. Peter Heers, has made a podcast lecture in which he clearly explains how these revolutionary criminals are using these methods right now to overturn what is left of the old order of Christian society and usher in the open reign of some kind of demonic global totalitarian super-state. I don’t agree with Fr. Peter about the New Calendar or how we must respond to ecumenism – he’s butted heads directly with some of us GOC people before, and we all know where we stand on those issues. But in this talk he is totally, exactly spot on, about what is going on today, and you need to accept the truth when you hear it. To say, “Well, he is a New Calendarist and so he must be wrong about this current events issue” is a crude ad hominem, not a legitimate argument. Listen to his talk, and then compare it to Fr. Seraphim’s and my lectures on the French Revolution and to my talk today. Here is the link: https://orthodoxethos.com/post/the-coronavirus-narrative-and-its-demonic-methodology
B. The French Revolution was not a spontaneous rising of the masses but a coup d’etat engineered by criminals.
i. The evils of the Ancien Regime were real, but they did not justify complete overthrow of the existing order: Recall Fr. Seraphim’s important teaching in Russia’s Catacomb Saints and in these lectures, on the difference between primary evils and secondary evils. E.g., that there are abusive husbands, fathers, and male authorities in general is the result of sin, and it must be corrected, but it does not justify overthrowing patriarchy in favor of matriarchy, which is an entire system inimical to Christian life.
ii. Abbe Barruel’s book on Jacobinism and Robinson’s Proofs of a Conspiracy demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that this was a criminal conspiracy. The behavior of the revolutionaries confirms this beyond all doubt.
iii. The “mainstream” view was created by Carlyle and Dickens, and is perpetuated mindlessly until today. “Yes, the revolution went to evil excesses, but the king was bad and had to be overthrown.” The people who don’t want you to understand the French Revolution try to get you to believe that it was some random event when a bunch of starving peasants played Robin Hood and fought the bad king. This is also what the “mainstream” teaches about Russia and the Tsar. This is obviously as false as it is crude and unintelligent.
C. The French Revolution was not an isolated event but Step 1 of a plan to reshape the whole world. This is made clear by the pseudo-messianism of Napoleon – see OSC #23. Everyone, I mean everyone, at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 – Tsar Alexander I, Metternich, Lord Castlereagh, EVERYONE – understood that the enemy they were dealing with meant to erect an entirely new global order of governance on the ruins of Church and State. This was crystal clear 200 years ago, a working assumption accepted by the greatest statesmen in Europe. How can anyone say that this is an obscure “conspiracy theory”?
D. The 19th century conservative reaction to the French Revolution and Napoleon slowed down the Revolution but did not stop it.
1. The revolutions of 1848
2. Assassinations, anarchism, etc.
3. The new nation states of Europe were controlled chiefly by Masons.
– mixed nature of the new Balkan states
4. Proliferation of both pagan and nihilistic ideologies.
– pagan nationalism vs. pagan nihilism
– disappearance of catholic Orthodox true universalism and true localism
5. Inherent weakness of liberalism in the fact of nihilism. Liberalism in essence is a negation and has no power in the face of paganism and nihilism. See T.S. Eliot “The Idea of a Christian Society,” Lecture I.
E. The great triumph of European material civilization inthe 19th century, the “Proud Tower,” was bound to fall, because it was based on hubris. Man had forgotten God. See Fr. Justin Popovich’s essays on the difference between Orthodox and European civilization, and Fr. Alexey Young’s A Man Is His Faith on the Kireyevsky brothers and Optina. (The Kireyevskys, Khomiakov, and the Slavophils in general, living in the security of 19th century upper class life, were not as savage as Fr. Justin! They appreciated what was good about Europe but wanted to correct it with Orthodoxy. Fr. Justin, a Serb living under Communism, was “done” with Europe, and his views are radicalized by suffering).
F. The bifurcation in Russian life in the 19th century opened the door to revolution. There was a wonderful flourishing of Orthodox life in Russia in the 19th century, inspired by the 18th century work of St. Paissy Velichkovsky and his disciples, and marked by the repentance of the tsars and their return to piety, but Russian society was still bifurcated, and the upper classes, intelligentsia, and even many clergy were dominated either by Masonic and liberal ideology or openly nihilistic, Marxist ideology. Dostoevesky portrays this masterfully.
Thus the conditions for revolution were present.
II. The Bolshevik Revolution – Preliminary Remarks
Today is just our introductory session to the topic of the Bolshevik revolution; we’ll make some preliminary remarks today in preparation for our next lecture. I want to cover some of the lies that establishment academia and media tell about the Bolshevik revolution, as well as two reductionistic theories about who is to blame for the revolution.
A. Lies: Just as the “mainstream” has perpetuated lies about the Ancien Regime in France and the nature of the French Revolution, so the “mainstream” perpetuates lies about Tsarist Russia and the Russian Revolution.
Lie #1. “Revolution was inevitable” – This is one of the Big Lies of Marxist historical thought, that historical events are pre-determined by the “march of history,” some kind of blind juggernaut that just runs over people. As Christians, we believe that men make moral and wise choices, and immoral and unwise choices, and that they make history by acting on their choices. We are free beings with conscience and will, and we are expected to fight evil, not to say, “It is inevitable” and give ourselves over to a pseudo-pious passivity while we watch our brothers suffer.
Lie #2. “The Russian people were oppressed and impoverished.” This is a huge lie. I encourage you to get Fr. Michael Polsky’s The New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, a very important companion volume to Andreyev and Rose’s Russia’s Catacomb Saints. At the end of the most recent edition of the English translation of the book, as most recently published by Monastery Press in Alberta, there is an appendix giving the real economic data from the reign of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II. It is abundantly clear that private ownership of land was more widely distributed in Russia than in any of the other modern European states, that industrial productivity and the standard of living grew exponentially, and that Russia simultaneously had the most comprehensive social services combined with the lowest taxes in Europe. All of this, combined with the fact that the Russian population was skyrocketing (estimates are that if the revolution had not occurred, the Russian Empire would have attained a population of 600,000,000 by the 1960’s), made Russia the great power for the international Antichrist cabal to reckon with. It was the great Christian power, the katehon. The revolutionaries had to overthrow the Tsar, not because the people were unhappy, but precisely the opposite: Russia was a successful Christian state, a gigantic proof that the lies of the revolution are lies. It was the great bulwark against Revolution.
Lie #3. “The Revolution was a spontaneous uprising of the masses.” This is grossly false. Just as with the French Revolution, a relatively small cabal of criminals took advantage of the weaknesses of one, specific moment – in this case the specific situation of January and February 1917 during World War I. If the United States had entered the war a month earlier, March 1st instead of April 2nd 1917, it is certain that the morale of the Russian army and people would have soared immediately, that the Germans would have been forced to divert resources quickly to the West to knock out the British and the French before the Americans could arrive, and that the Russians would probably have won the war in the Eastern Front against the Austrians. Churchill – no friend of Russia or of Orthodoxy – points this out in Volume V of his history of WWI (see The World Crisis, Volume V “The Eastern Front,” chapter 24). With the war going well, it would have been easy to put down the orchestrated unrest in Moscow and St. Petersburg, there would have been no mutiny in the armed services, and the Empire need not at all to have fallen. Also, it was a small coterie of aristocrats and officers – all baptized Orthodox Christians but who were in fact apostates, because they were Masons and liberals – who isolated the Tsar in a train car on that fatal day – 3/16 March 1917 – and pressured him to abdicate. This is well known. The Bolshevik October Revolution was the result of the liberal Masonic coup d’etat in the previous spring that created Kerensky’s hopelessly weak Provisional Government. This is the pattern of all recent history: The unbelief, apostasy, weakness, and venality of the liberals opens the door to the destructive and nihilistic satanic malice of the Marxists.
None of this was “inevitable” due to inherent weaknesses in the Russian state, and none of it was a spontaneous popular movement by the common people, the vast majority of whom were both pious Orthodox and loyal to the Tsar.
Lie #4. “The Revolution was God’s will, and so it must have been good and we should not grieve over it or fight it.” This is a pseudo-piety, a clever, diabolical deception put forth by the devil, a twisting of a holy truth into a half-truth, popular among modernist Orthodox. They weaponize this half-truth to de-activate the proper use of our thymos and cause us to be passive, while God really expects from us intransigent militancy in the face of evil. There are choices of man that are directly willed by God, in accordance with His holy will, and then there are evils allowed by God, after man does not obey Him, evils that are then used by the Lord in His wisdom to bring man to repentance. It is true that the catastrophic evils of the Bolshevik revolution – and all of the 20th century revolutions – were allowed by Providence of God, and that we must bow our heads beneath His righteous judgments and find our salvation in the situation in which we find ourselves. Amen! But we are also required by God to discern where these evils came from, who the perpetrators were and are, and how we Orthodox did not respond at that time as we should have, and correct our mistakes. Why? So that we can discern where it’s coming from now, in our own time, and therefore how we should respond today, so that we will be able to do the good that is willed by God and not just have to endure the evil allowed by God. As in Paradise, so today: There is Plan A and Plan B. Plan A is to do God’s holy will, and that should always be our aim. In Plan B, God saves us from the evil our sin has caused. Just because He is good, does not mean that we are allowed to be irresponsible. Let us strive to discern good and evil, and to do His holy will.
B. Two Reductionistic Theories of Blame: Whodunit?
Whenever a man-made disaster occurs, naturally, to understand it, you want to find out who was responsible. (Of course, in the Marxist view, no one is “to blame, ” because everything is impersonal and determined by material processes. But we are talking about two non-Marxist theories). There are two reductionistic non-Marxist theories of blame for the Russian revolution. The “liberal” or “mainstream” view is that the Russians were almost exclusively to blame, and the “reactionary” or “far-right wing view” is that outsiders – whether living outside or inside Russia – were exclusively to blame. The former view is a dishonest and purposeful misdirection, pointing the finger away from the criminal to the victim, to hide the culprits who instigated and orchestrated the Revolution, who were indeed for the most part not Russians or Orthodox Christians , so that those culprits could go on to new crimes, which they have in fact committed and are continuing to commit up to the present moment. But the latter view – that it is all someone else’s fault – is a serious failure of Orthodox Christians to take responsibility for their own sins, their complicity with evil. The demons are a condition for our victory or defeat, not the determinant of defeat. It is true that the devil is our enemy, but a soul falls from within, and the only real evil is sin. The demons are chained by the sovereign might of God and can do nothing apart from His providential plan for our salvation. The devil does his job, and we must do ours. It is undeniable that international financial interests, dominated by powerful Jewish families, and that the Masons, and that the Vatican, and so forth, are the enemies of the Orthodox nations. They are doing their job, and we must do ours. Their machinations are conditions, mere circumstances, part of the plan, for our victory or defeat, not the determining factor. The determining factor is our moral choice, not in an absolute sense of course, but as considered in light of our choices being under the Providence and Sovereignty of God, in synergy with God.
As we go on in successive classes to give a traditional, Orthodox interpretation of the facts of the Bolshevik revolution, we will strive to bring out the reality of both sets of culprits: those who instigated the revolution, and those who cooperated. All are to blame. This is a microcosm of man’s state in general: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3: 23
We need a Savior. The Good News is that we have One.
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8:40-9:19) is the famous account of one of the most far-reaching events in the Church’s history, the conversion of Saul, who became St. Paul:
In those days: Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
St. Theophan the Recluse goes to the heart of St. Paul’s motivation, which was zeal for doing the will of God:
St. Paul at first defended the Old Testament observances as zealously as he did because he was sincerely certain that it was the unalterable will of God that thse observances remain unchanged. He was not zealous because it was the Faith of his fathers, but because in being zealous he was offering service to God. In this lay the spirit of his life – to devote himself to God and direct all his energy toward things pleasing to Him. Thus, in order to bring about his conversion, or to make him stand for the New Testament order of things rather than that of the Old Testament, it was sufficient to show him tangibly that God no longer wanted the Old Testament but rather the New, and that He transferred all of His goodwill from the former to the latter. The Lord’s appearance to him on the road accomplished this. There it became clear to him that he was not directing his zeal where he ought, that he was not pleasing God by acting as he did, but was acting contrary to His will. This vision of the state of things, with the help of God’s grace, immediately changed his strivings, and he cried out, “Lord what wilt Thou have me to do (Acts 9:6)?” And from that moment he directed all of his zeal toward what was shown to him, and he did not forget this event for his entire life, but thankfully remembering it, stirred up his zeal with it – not sparing anything to work for his Lord and Savior. This is how all people act who have sincerely turned to the Lord. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 97-98.
If we were born into an Orthodox family, we should love Orthodoxy, among other reasons, because it is the Faith of our fathers. Filial piety demands no less. This reason, however, is not enough to enable us to find our salvation through Orthodoxy. To love Orthodoxy only as the tradition of our ancestors, and for no higher reason, puts us on the same spiritual level with the Shintoists of Japan, with the same eternal consequences, or perhaps worse, since more is expected of us than of Shintoists. To be Christians truly, we must love Orthodoxy, because every man, regardless of his birth, must be obedient to this Faith and no other if he desires to conform his will to the will of God.
This was the great driving force, one might say the only driving force, in the life of St. Paul: to do the will of God. With the great Elias, he could honestly say, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts (III Kings 19:10).” To desire to please God, to do His will, to defend His honor, to give Him glory – this was all in all to both of them and those like them. When the Incarnate God, Jesus, revealed Himself to the zealous persecutor Saul, that was all it took for him to make a 180 degree turn and go 100 miles per hour in the other direction. “Done,” as they say.
This kind of person, “the man of divine desires,” may make mistakes, even big ones, but he does not risk hearing those terrible words of the Son of Man to the Laodiceans: “…because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth (Revelation 3:16).” As we increasingly appear to be facing apocalyptic circumstances, it is probably time to get off the Laodicean fence and be the good zealots all Orthodox should be.
The late Archbishop Averky of Jordanville wrote an essay on the virtue of zeal which should be required annual reading for everyone in our generation. You can find it at http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/holyzeal.aspx. Let us all read it (or re-read it), and pray for the determination to put it into practice and the prudence to know how.