45: Faith Comes First, Session 4.
20th Century Apostasy, Part II. A Third Rome Has Arisen, and a
Fourth Shall Not Be. Russia and the End of the World, Part A
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– The Russian Church, Big Subject!
more I’ve tried to prepare this talk, the more I realized that we
have to take a long time with it, and therefore this section is going
to consist of several talks. It’s just too big a subject! The
title of this section refers to the famous expression of Monk
Philothei of Pskov in a letter to Ivan III early in the 16th century:
know, pious king, that all the Christian kingdoms came to an end and
came together in a single kingdom of yours, two
Romes have fallen, the third stands, and there will be no fourth.
No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom …”
to Russian history: Need a good book in English! Need for Dr.
Talberg’s book to be translated. His papers are archived at
Jordanville and on microfilm at the Hoover Institute at Stanford:
books: James Billington, The
Icon and the Axe (read
for data, not for interpretation). Suzanne Massie, Land
of the Firebird (sympathetic
intro to Russian culture by a sincere Russophil.) But remember,
these are neither Orthodox nor culturally traditional sources. Read
only to start your study…much will have to be corrected.
outline of Russian history:
Kievan Rus’ – Primary
Chronicle – Pagan
pre-history; conversion, early centuries
of northern city-states – Novgorod, etc.
of Muscovy – St. Sergius and monastic colonization
of Troubles, emergence of the Romanov dynasty
century, early Romanovs, Patriarch Nikon and the schism
Peter, the 18th century Westernization, bifurcation of Russia
century renewal, but bifurcation intensifies; revolutionary activity
The 1905 and 1917 revolutions, civil war >> Soviet Union
1990’s – Yeltsin, Post Soviet Russia 1.0
2000’s – Putin, Post Soviet Russia 2.0
Place of Russia in Sacred History
We are part of the sacred history begun in the Old Testament and
extending through the New Testament and in the history of the Church
until now. A fundamental principle of our Orthodox Survival Course
is that we have to understand all history through this lens.
Whatever have been the failings of the related Russian peoples in
general and the Muscovite state in particular, the big picture is
that, after the fall of Constantinople, Moscow really did function as
the Third Rome, the center of the Orthodox Empire. This does not mean
that the Russians are the holiest or best Orthodox people in some
absolute sense – there are saints in every nation, and every nation
has its faults. But it does mean that providentially Russia
functioned as the great temporal power in the Orthodox world. We
did not emphasize this in our earlier survey of the second
millennium, because our main concern from the High Middle Ages to the
Enlightenment period was with developments in the West. As we
arrived at the 19th century, however, we returned to the East and
discussed, in particular, the spiritual renewal of Russia that began
with St. Paissy Velichkovsky and his disciples in the 18th century,
and the dramatic bifurcation between the Petrine secularized society
and Holy Russia.
The fall of Orthodox Russia ended the Constantinian period of world
history, in which the Christian Church was the dominant influence in
European society. Many holy men, both before and after the
Bolshevik revolution, saw this as a prelude to the reign of
Antichrist. We do not know
that the Antichrist and
the Second Coming are imminent. We are
commanded by the Lord to
read the signs of the times, and it is obvious that whether or not
the world is going to end in the near future, the dispensation of the
“Reign of the Saints” has at least been decisively
interrupted and given way to a period of history dominated by a
Luciferian elite. Russia’s past, present, and future are
providentially at the center of this great drama, and we would do
well to discern what is going on in the Church of Russia, both in the
Russian land and in the diaspora.
The Hidden History of the True Russia – The Life of the Soul
know that our warfare is not against flesh and blood, as St. Paul
writes, but against the fallen angels. So the more important part
of the history of the Church, of the world, of every Christian
nation, and every soul is actually the invisible history of spiritual
life. As a background to understanding the significance of
Muscovite Russia in history, then, we have to see its outward history
in light of its spiritual history, which is the history of its
saints. I recommend that you do a course of reading on this
spiritual history of Russia that consists of these books, which cover
that history in chronological order:
Northern Thebaid – translations
by Fr. Seraphim Rose of lives of northern Russian ascetic saints.
This covers the 14th century, beginning with St. Sergius of Radonezh,
to the mid-17th century. These lives demonstrate in action what
Kontzevitch was describing in theory. Also, introduction by Fr.
Seraphim is a short substitute for Kontzevich’s book, if you can’t
get a copy. Available from St. Herman Press.
Life of St. Paissy Velichkovsky – Another
out of print book from St. Herman Press. Find one wherever you can.
I cannot find an online version. St. Paissy in the 18th century
was the key figure in reviving the hesychastic tradition that brought
about the 19th century spiritual flowering in Russia. Also see the
teachings of Elder Basil, who was St. Paissy’s starets
from St. John of Kronstadt Press.
of Elder Zosima of Siberia – out
of print, copies available for sale online. Valuable not only for
the witness of Elder Zosima, but also for portrait of his family.
Conversation of St. Seraphim with Motovilov on the Aim of the
Christian Life http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/wonderful.aspxHere
St. Seraphim, who reposed in 1833, restates the fundamental wisdom
described by Kontzevich, lived by the lives of the Northern Thebaid
saints, and recovered by St. Paissy. Various versions of the life
of St. Seraphim, including a good short and readable version in Dr.
Cavarnos’s series on modern saints and a collection of his sayings
published by St. Herman Press in their Little
Russian Philokalia series,
are readily available.
the Optina Elders – Mostly available from St. Herman Press. Lives
of Elder Joseph and Elder Moses from Holy Transfiguration Monastery.
Optina was not the only center of holiness in 19th century Russia,
but it is the best known and most influential, and what happened at
and because of Optina is a microcosm of what is best in the entire
period. The latest elders – Sts. Nectary and Nikon – were holy
confessors and martyrs of the Bolshevik period.
recall that we recommended A
Man Is His Faith, the
book by Fr. Alexey Young about Ivan Kireyevsky, the 19th century
Slavophil philosopher who worked closely with St. Makary of Optina to
publish Orthodox spiritual literature. Available from St. John of
Love of God – Life
of Elder Gabriel – St. Herman Press. A novice from Optina whose
monastic life goes on to illustrate a great deal that was right and
wrong with the 19th century Russian Church. An amazing book. He
reposes in 1915, which brings our historical path right up to the era
of the revolution.
writings of Sts. Ignaty Brianchaninov (new series now being published
by Holy Trinity at Jordanville) and Theophan the Recluse. They are
an epitome of the spiritual and theological achievement of the 19th
century Russian Church.
John of Kronstadt – My
Life in Christ. Life
of St. John by Sursky, available from HTM in Boston. Study by
Nadieszda Kitsenko, A
Prodigal Saint. St.
John of Kronstadt is an apocalypse – a revelation – in himself. The
“last and greatest prophet” to warn of the revolution.
Combined strict spiritual life with apostolic mission and
miracle-working. Was a completely consistent monarchist and “far
right” nationalist, member of the Union of the Russian Nation
He was also a confessor, having been tortured by revolutionaries,
in an episode revealed in Sursky’s book.
have to immerse
yourself thoroughly in
the lives and teachings of these saints in order to have the right
lens through which to view Russian history in general and the events
of the revolution and the 20th century and 21st century Russian
Church divisions and controversies. If you really acquire their
mindset, it will be obvious to you that only a thoroughgoing
monarchist, nationalist, and patriarchal political, social, and
family philosophy, combined with uncompromising traditional
Orthodoxy, expresses a comprehensive vision of the true Holy Russia.
(Holy New Hieromartyr Vladimir of Kiev said that all the good clergy
were monarchists and that a republican could not be a good priest.)
Any other synthesis is a distortion created by a pick-and-choose
approach of modernists and secularists who serve the spirit of
Understanding the Bolshevik Revolution
Recall that in our Survival Course, we have characterized the entire
period from 1789 and the beginning of the French Revolution, until
now, as the Age of Revolution. You could also call it the Age of the
Spirit of Antichrist, which followed the Age of Constantine. Fr.
Seraphim explores the roots of the revolution especially in his
Lecture Six, on the French Revolution. He does not shy away from the
role of the secret societies, etc. The Bolshevik revolution is the
pivotal moment in the ongoing revolution (the pivot from the end of
the Constantinian era to the beginning of the unfettered rule of the
globalist Luciferian elite), because it removed the greatest Orthodox
power, the katechon
– that/he which restraineth (II Thessalonians 2: 6-7).
Right now, in our Faith Comes First section, we are focusing on the
Church. Later we will return to Bolshevism when discussing Family
and Society. Now we are trying to discern “Where is the
Church,” and therefore our focus will be not on Russia as a
whole but specifically on the Moscow Patriarchate/ Church Abroad (MP
and anti-MP)/ Catacomb Church, etc. But to discern “Where is
the Church?”, to understand the divisions in the Russian
Orthodox ecclesiastical sphere, we do have to have a basic
understanding of the Russian – or, rather, anti-Russian – revolution
and its spiritual significance.
As a general principle of discernment, we can adopt this approach:
To discern where the true Church of Russia is, you have to discern
which hierarchy or hierarchies most thoroughly reject the Revolution
whole and entire without compromise, in all of its manifestations and
throughout all of its history until now.What
is going on now in mainstream Russian conservatism is not a thorough
rejection of the Soviet period in all of its manifestations but a
synthesis of Orthodoxy with Sovietism. This is shown in the
ecclesiastical realm by the supposed reconciliation of the Sergianist
approach with the confessional approach to the Soviet power, and in
the political reading of 20th century history dominated by the Great
Patriotic War ideology. I am not talking here about judging anyone
Who knows how each of us would have responded to the pressures of
Soviet life? God alone judges. (Critics of the uncompromising
anti-Sergianist position try to disable discussion by saying, “Who
are you to judge? You would have compromised also.”) I am
talking about our forming intellectual, moral, and theological
the basis of which to make informed choices. For example, you can
say, “Metropolitan Sergius’s statement on 16/29 July 1927 that
the joys and sorrows of the Soviet power are the joys and sorrows of
the Orthodox Church” is a profound error without saying, “I
know that Sergius was condemned by God to eternal punishment for
making this statement.”
Reading List on the Church and the Revolution: Above we gave a
course of reading about the Russian Church leading up to the
Revolution. To read about the Church and its response to the
Revolution, the first must-read book is Russia’s
Catacomb Saints by
I.M. Andreyev and Fr. Seraphim Rose. This book was published by St.
Herman Press in the early 1980’s and has never been reprinted. The
present management at St. Herman has to re-write the book to justify
their belonging to World Orthodoxy, and therefore they have not
re-issued it. When it does come out in a new edition, expect them to
omit or distort a lot of the authors’ original statements about the
Catacomb Church vs. the Soviet Patriarchate. It’s hard to find
actual copies of the book, but you can find links to downloading it
online from two different sites at
continue our reading list during our next class! But do get started
Next time we will discuss Dr. Matthew Raphael Johnson and Dr. Vladimir Moss’s contributions. Their role in giving English speakers access to Russian sources.
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
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I am only giving you a general introduction to all of this. You have
to do your homework!
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.
Summary of our last class. Ecclesiological principles.
Making the true confession of faith ontologically changes people.
Denying the confession of faith also ontologically changes people.
must have the correct and saving confession of Faith to be in the
People who deny the confession of Faith and are therefore not in the
Church cannot be bishops or priests.
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.
History of the Apostasy of Ecumenism in the 20th Century and Up till
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.
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.
the big players are in the WCC or in communion with those in WCC.
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.
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!”
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.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ecumenism
To organize our discussion, we’ll use the headings “Ecumenism”
and “Sergianism.” Again, see The
True Orthodox Church and Heresy of Ecumenism –
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.
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
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
– 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.
Balamand Agreement – O and RC “sister churches” with
ontologically identical sacraments
the Excursus below on “Joint Statements”. Boiling the frog
slowly: Say they are only “study documents” to give
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.
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.
How to Respond? One’s practical situation: Discernment
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:
essays by Hiermonk (now Bishop) Maximus, “Why the True Orthodox
are Truly Orthodox” and “The Problem of the Conservative
World Orthodox believer has this realization: I’ve gotta get outta
here! But to where?
patient, investigate, pray. God wants your salvation more than you
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
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.
prefer nothing whatever to Christ; and may He bring us all together
to life eternal. Amen. (cf. Rule of St. Benedict, end of Chapter
A: On the Powers of the Soul; the True, the Good, and the Beautiful;
and the Cardinal and Theological Virtues
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.
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
Epithymia (desire)———–>the Beautiful–> Temperance———> Love
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.
B: On “Joint Statements”
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 theirposition 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.
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
email@example.com. If you want to receive a receipt for a tax
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to our parish, who in turn will pass the donation on to me and send
you a receipt.
Response to Class 42. Style: It will probably vary. Reminder:
the notes are just an outline. You have to listen to the talk.
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
Review: Surviving the Great Apostasy. Church, Family, Society.
Faith (the Church) comes first. Goals for this section:
enough background on ecclesiology and Church history to make the
present situation if not clear, then at least somewhat comprehensible
Give an apologia
where I am.
Confirm my fellow True Orthodox in their convictions.
the “World” Orthodox and inquirers thinking about these
things, while providing resources for them to learn more.
for this class: Ecclesiology – study of the Church. Also, some
reflections on discernment.
Ecclesiology: The Church, the Saving Confession of Faith, Union with
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.
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
Making the true confession of faith ontologically changes people.
Denying the confession of faith also ontologically changes people.
One must have the correct and saving confession of Faith to be in
People who deny the confession of Faith and are therefore not in
the Church cannot be bishops or priests.
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.
of Faith and ontological status
handy saying: Homology (homologia) begets ontology
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
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
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.
in the Church, you have to have the true confession of Faith.
16: The Lord builds His Church on Peter’s confession of faith.
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 –
who deny the confession of Faith and are therefore not in the Church
cannot be bishops or priests.
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
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.
anyone listening to this talk probably already believes this. If
you are not convinced of this, go to the sources: Check out Bishop
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!
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:
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
Main charge today against the True Orthodox is that they are
schismatics. A brief response – more detailed response will be in
Reflections on Discernment
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.
Spectrum: The World <———–The Church———>Sects and
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.
Don’t get frantic. The Lord wants your salvation more than you do.
read the Holy Fathers online, you can go to newadvent.org:
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
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.
us prefer nothing whatever to Christ; and may He bring us all
together to life eternal. Amen. (cf. Rule of St. Benedict, end of
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Class – Faith Comes First, Session 1 – The Need for Preliminary
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
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.
Remarks: Topic 1 – Who is listening to this? And who is doing the
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:
enough background on ecclesiology and Church history to make this
comprehensible to everyone.
Give an apologia
where I am.
Confirm my fellow True Orthodox in their convictions.
the “World” Orthodox and inquirers thinking about these
things, while providing resources for them to learn more.
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!
Remarks, Topic 3 – Don’t get sidetracked: Keep
your eye on the ball
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.
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.
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
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
a thousand years in Thine eyes, O Lord, are as but as yesterday
that is past, and as a watch in the night. –
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
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.”
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
Look into it; I think you’ll like it. (I’ll be teaching Latin, by
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
which is written endures.” I’ll try to do a better job in the
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?
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.
Situation Report: A Summary of Where We Have Been and Where We Are
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:
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.
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
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.
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
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
the one Logos
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 notionalnot
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
God, One of the Holy Trinity, does not destroy their distinctions.
Our minds, created according to the image of the Logos,
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.
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.
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
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
17th-18th Centuries, Rationalism and Empiricism, the Leviathan State
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
man atrophies, greater and greater outward
is needed to prevent chaos).
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
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 airby
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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:
the current global elite does always
back to one thing: the will of Satan to contradict the express will
of God. Everything
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
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.
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?
II: Putting First Things First: Faith Comes First
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.