Orthodox Survival Course: Class 1

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/orthodox-survival-course-class-1

Class 1 – A.D. 33 – A.D 313, The Early Church, The Era of the Catacombs

Evening worship do we offer Thee, the Unwaning Light, Who in the end of the ages, through the flesh as in a mirror, hast shined upon the world; and hast descended even unto Hades, and dispelled the darkness there, and hast shown the light of the Resurrection unto the nations. O Giver of light, Lord, glory be to Thee. – The Octoechos, Plagal of the First Tone, Great Vespers of Saturday (the vigil of the Resurrection)

Preface – Where to begin?

To summarize what we discussed last week: Our “Orthodox Survival Course” will be primarily a study of an Orthodox understanding of history, how God has acted upon man in history, and especially the history of the Church as being, after God, the most important agent in human history.

But when did the Church begin? We could have begun our course before the beginning of the world, or with the beginning of the world, or with Adam and Eve in Paradise, or the formation of the Old Israel. We have chosen to begun with the New Testament Church for the sake of keeping our course a manageable size. But let us say a few words in preface, concerning what came before the New Testament Church.

A. When did the Church begin?

The Synaxarion for Pentecost in the English language Horologion from Holy Transfiguration Monastery, on p. 633, contains an important paragraph on the nature and origin of the Church. In a sense, the Church was created before the visible universe, because the angels have always been part of the Church. The Church existed in Paradise, her members being Adam and Eve. She always existed among the remnant who believed in the true God, and most clearly in the Israel of the Old Covenant, a “priestly people” set apart by God through the Law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. So we can speak of the Angelic Church, the Paradisical Church, the Church of the Patriarchs, and the Church of Old Israel, as well as the Church of Jesus Christ, of the New Testament. The reality is one and the same, but it reaches its fulfilment in Christ.

B. History as preparation for the Messiah: The entire Old Testament is a record of history as a preparation for the coming of the Savior. This is true in the historical process itself, in the words of the Prophets, and in the types of the New Testament figures and events which occur throughout the Old Testament. Even before the history of the visible creation, there are the endless aeons of angelic “time.” These are followed by the thousands of years of human history, from Creation until the Incarnation.

C. The Kingdom of Satan, the Kingdom of God: After the Fall of our First Parents, all of the visible creation comes under the dominion of Satan and his fallen angels. This world becomes their “territory,” their “kingdom.” History, before Christ, is the progress of the ages towards their consummation, which will be the Coming of the Kingdom, the breaking in of God’s Kingdom into the world, and the destruction of the devil, death, and hell.

I. The Kingdom of God

The first words we hear the Lord Jesus Christ say in the Gospels as He begins His ministry after His Baptism and Temptation in the desert are, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).” The Lord has come to end the dominion of Satan and to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. Before, the Old Testament Church was on the defensive, doing a “holding action” on the territory of Satan as they awaited their deliverance. Now the Deliverer has come, and, especially after the Resurrection of Christ, His Ascension, and the Giving of the Holy Spirit, the Church goes on the offensive: She is to go forth and “…make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28: 19).”

II. The End of the Ages

Why, in the hymn we read at the beginning of the class, does St. John of Damascus write that the Lord shone upon the world “…at the end of the ages”? This world is obviously still here; in what sense did Christ come “at the end of the ages?” What this means is that mere time, time that marks the degeneration and corruption of creation, time “winding down” to the end, the old time of corruption and death, is over. The time we live in now, the time inaugurated by the Lord’s Resurrection, is not “mere time” but time redeemed by the Lord. In a sense, the New Testament Church has always lived after the end of the world. We are simply waiting for the Lord to return. In a sense, then, our Orthodox understanding of the entire history of the Christian era is an understanding that the Lord has already taken care of “history,” and we are living betwixt and between time and eternity. We live in time, but already, in virtue of our Baptism, we are living outside of time; we are not determined by time. This gives us great spiritual security and freedom.

The early Church had an intense awareness of this, and therefore we can characterize her life as intensely eschatological, bound up with the acute sense of being at the very edge of eternity. Being eschatological, the Early Church set the “tone” for the entire life of the Orthodox Church until now, which is characterized by four related traits: The life of the Church is eschatological, other-worldly, martyric, and ascetical.

The early Christians expected the Lord to return any minute. The fact that He did not return in their lifetimes, or the lives between them and us, does not dim the reality that He could return at any minute.

Thus the entire life of the Church is characterized by an other-worldly attitude. Our life is not “here” but “there.” St. Paul says that our life is “hid with Christ in God.” Since it’s not “here” but “there,” the Christian is therefore not afraid to be a martyr, to die for his faith. And while he is waiting to die, either by martyrdom or otherwise, or to “meet the Lord in the air” at the Second Coming, he lives an ascetic life, denying the flesh in order to keep vigil for the Second Coming, to live according to the laws of the Heavenly Kingdom which is not of this world, and to be prepared for martyrdom.

III. The Catacomb Church and Us

Though we lament the destruction of Christian, especially, Orthodox, nations and cultures, we must realize that a. This is allowed by God, and He places us in this position for our salvation. b. That the Church was born in the catacombs and that She knows how to survive in the catacombs. c. Ultimately, Orthodoxy is not about anything in this world, which is passing away, but about the Kingdom which has come, comes now among us, and will come.

All of our study of history must have this as its background and foundation. What we see as historical processes, no matter how vast or grand, are really just the tiny tips of the unseen mountains of spiritual processes, of the spiritual warfare that will end only with the Second Coming.

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Orthodox Survival Course: Class 4

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/survivalcourse-4_1

Class 4 – A.D. 313 – 1054, The Church of the Romans: Topic 2, Theology

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. – the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 10:32-33

As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles taught, as the Church received, as the Teachers dogmatized, as the Oikoumene agreed, as Grace illumined, as the Truth revealed, as falsehood passed away, as Wisdom presented, as Christ awarded: Thus we declare, Thus we assert, Thus we proclaim Christ our true God and honor His saints…This is the Faith of the Apostles. This is the Faith of the Fathers. This is the Faith of the Orthodox.This is the Faith which has established the Oikoumene. – The Synodikon of Orthodoxy (A.D. 843)

The editor, however, ventures to call the attention of the reader to the fact that in this, as in every other of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the question the Fathers considered was not what they supposed Holy Scripture might mean, nor what they, from à priori arguments, thought would be consistent with the mind of God, but something entirely different, to wit, what they had received. They understood their position to be that of witnesses, not that of exegetes. They recognized but one duty resting upon them in this respect–to hand down to other faithful men that good thing the Church had received according to the command of God. The first requirement was not learning, but honesty. The question they were called upon to answer was not, What do I think probable, or even certain, from Holy Scripture? but, What have I been taught, what has been intrusted to me to hand down to others? When the time came, in the Fourth Council, to examine the Tome of Pope 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, “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” Second Series, Volume XIV, The Seven Ecumenical Councils (T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 1892; Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1961).


  In our last class, we discussed the nature of genuine, undeceived spiritual life, as taught by the Orthodox Church. This week, we will try to summarize the fundamental characteristics of genuine, undeceived teaching, called, loosely speaking, “theology.” Strictly speaking, the word “theology” refers only to the teaching about God in Himself, the inner life of the Most Holy Trinity. Over the centuries, however, the term, more loosely applied, has come to signify also all of the sacred truths about God’s acts ad extra, towards His creation, which the Holy Fathers call not “theology” but “economy.” For the sake of convenience, we will follow this less formal convention. But let us keep this distinction in mind.

Remember, in our course we are attempting to recapture and to interiorize the way that our Fathers in the Faith saw, or, rather, see, everything, to acquire their mindset, their phronema. This is not an idle academic exercise, not an “objective” examination of one view among many, but rather a process of conversion of mind, will, and feeling. We come to the Church not merely for information but for catechesis and metanoia, to become that new man that God wishes us to be. To acquire the “filter,” the “prism” through which to view history, the “meta-historical” outlook peculiar to the Church, we have to think as Her Saints and Fathers think, reason as they reason, and have the same instinctive responses they have. Our minds must be transformed.   

I. What true theology is not

To begin, we can examine what true theology is not, so as to illumine what it is. The only serious rival to Orthodox theology is the philosophia perennis, which counts among its various permutations the “high” or “classical” versions of the great world religions or philosophical systems, including Platonism, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, and pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. It is a waste of our time, at this point in our course, to compare Orthodoxy to contemporary pseudo-philosophy and pop religion, which are simply incoherent, debased, immoral, and corrupt, and, for the most part, are merely fabricated – or at least funded – cynically by those who know better, simply to manipulate weaker people. We will examine these later on, toward the end of our course, when describing the present state of society.

The philosophia perennis is, simply put, what the greatest minds have taught about the meaning of it all, apart from revelation and grace. Of course, we know that even the best and highest of these insights are limited by the limitations of the human intellect, and, moreover, subject to demonic influence. Recall, however, that the entire human race, even outside the Church, still retains, to a greater or lesser extent, an ancestral memory of the true worship of God and the true life in Paradise, and that though man’s mind – perception, imagination, and, most important to note, reason – is fallen (contrary to Aquinas), it is not utterly corrupt or depraved (contrary to Calvin); it still apprehends fragments of truth accurately. The philosophia perennis is what the greatest minds have been able to construct from these fragments.

Fundamental assumptions of this perennial philosophy include these three “legs of the stool”: 1. All human beings have a religious instinct, which includes an instinctive yearning for ultimate meaning, for God in some sense, and for an ultimate, immortal meaning to their own lives, for some kind of overcoming of death. 2. Reality is knowable, and the human mind can know it. 3. This knowable reality and this capacity for knowing it are universally the same for all men. Thus the true philosophy is not only perennial but universal. This latter point is demonstrated by the appeal of the “classical” literature and art of all nations to members of all the other nations. What makes them “classical” is precisely that they reveal accurately and to a high degree what all men can agree to be True, Good, and Beautiful.

The perennialist approach includes also the assumption that all of the varied versions of perennialist thought have more or less equal validity; the difference in their levels of validity is a difference in degree not kind. None is radically or essentially “truer” than the others. Due to historical and cultural circumstances, the great minds of history have come up with varied versions of the perennial tradition, but these are accidental not essential. “Classical Christianity,” considered on this basis, has Jesus of Nazareth as its only or chief “avatar,” and, perhaps, will claim that He is the highest or best, incarnation of God or representative of God. But it cannot claim that He is the only and unique Incarnation of God. It can claim that its “Creation story” from Genesis is the best of various creation stories, but not the only true one. It can claim that its saints are the highest or best of saints, but not the only real saints. And so forth.

In the perennialist approach, history is necessarily cyclical, and the world has always been here and always will be here. The ascent to knowledge is the ascent to the undifferentiated One, as taught in Neo-Platonism or Brahmanism or medieval Western Christian mysticism, ultimate reality is strictly Monadic, and all distinctions, no matter how powerful, universal, and valid from a temporal point of view, are ultimately discovered to be relative and temporary, to be in fact human mental distinctions, including dialectically proposed relations of opposition, not absolute and eternal verities. The distinction between the I and Not-I is discovered to be an illusion, and salvation is absorption into the One.

Though all of this is incomparably better than modernism and post-modernism, it is still not the Truth. It is what man can perceive of truth apart from the real God telling him directly what the Truth really is.

II. What true theology is

Orthodox theology is revealed and empirical, confessional and martyric, pastoral and soteriological, traditional and non-dialectical. Its claim to be the only Truth is radical and absolute.

A. Revealed and empirical: The living and only God, the Holy Trinity, spoke to man and revealed Himself in theophanies in the Old Testament, and in His Incarnate Word in the New Testament. The saints experienced (thus had “empirical” knowledge of) the uncreated energies of God in these theophanies and this Incarnation and, guided by the Spirit of God, spoke and wrote of what they experienced.

B. Confessional and martyric: The saints confess the Faith. They are witnesses (martyrs) to a Truth they have already been given, accurately and completely, not thinkers trying to arrive at a truth they do not yet know.

C . Traditional and non-dialectical: The teachers of the Church are simply handing on that which they have received. “Handing over,” “handing on” is the literal meaning of παράδοσις, traditio. “Tradition” does not mean something old or something done out of habit. It certainly does not mean something that is merely reflexive or irrational or unconscious or believed in ignorance, lacking understanding. It means simply that which is handed on rather than something newly invented or something arrived at gradually through a creative process. The saints were given, handed, the whole Truth by God, and thus they did not have to arrive at it or grab it. It arrived on Its own and It grabbed them.

D. Radical and absolute: The Orthodox Faith claims to be the only absolute and ultimate truth, not one plausible variant articulation of truth relative to other plausible explanations. Jesus Christ is the only Incarnation of God, the Orthodox Faith is the only True Faith, the Orthodox Church is the only true Church, and salvation is not found outside the Church.

III. Theology and prayer

It is a patristic maxim that only those who believe the true theology can pray truly and only those who pray truly – that is, without deception – can theologize. Thus God made men saints by His grace and revealed to their pure minds and hearts His truth, and they pass on this truth to others, calling them to Faith and to the life of prayer. The confession of the True Faith ontologically changes man, and this New Man prays, constantly growing in the reception of the living Truth, of the living God, in the depths of his being, and, in the case of some men, also receives the charisma of articulating this living Truth to others, so that they can be saved and made holy.

Conclusion: This understanding of the nature and place of authentic theological articulation within the Church was common to the Church of the Greek East and the Latin West in the first millennium. We shall see later how the transformation in understanding the nature of theology, wrought by scholasticism, in tandem with the changing concepts of sanctity and spiritual method, divided the Latin West from Orthodoxy in the 11th to the 14th centuries, making the attempt at union in the 15th century a doomed effort.

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Orthodox Survival Course: Class 3

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/survivalcourse-c3

Class 3 – A.D. 313 – 1054, The Church of the Romans: Topic 1, Prayer and the Spiritual Life

Adam sat before Paradise and, lamenting his nakedness, he wept: ‘Woe is me! By evil persuasion I have been deceived and led astray, and am now exiled from glory. Woe is me! lacking noetic acuity I am now naked, and in need. O Paradise, no more shall I take pleasure in thy joys; no more shall I look upon the Lord my God and Maker, for I shall return to the earth from whence I was taken. O merciful and compassionate Lord, I cry unto Thee: Have mercy upon me who hath fallen.’ – Lenten Triodion (Rev. S. Boulter trans.), Vespers of Cheesefare Sunday, Doxastikon of “Lord I have cried…”

So then the end indeed which we have set before us is, as the Apostle says, eternal life, as he declares, having indeed your fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life; (Romans 6:22), but the immediate goal is purity of heart, which he not unfairly terms sanctification, without which the afore-mentioned end cannot be gained; as if he had said in other words, having your immediate goal in purity of heart, but the end life eternal. – S. John Cassian, Conferences, 1st Conference of Abba Moses, Chapter 5, from “The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” (Schaff ed., Eerdmans) Series Two, Volume XI.

He who was born blind does not see the light of the sun; so he who does not live in sobriety will not see in its richness the brightness of grace which comes from above. Neither will he be freed from evil deeds and words and thoughts which are hateful to God; and not being freed from them, when he departs, he will not pass unhindered by the rulers of Hell (whom he must meet). – S. Hesychius of Jerusalem (+432), FourthText on Sobriety and Prayer, p. 280, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart (Kadloubovsky and Palmer trans., Faber and Faber 1951)

These holy Fathers were of the Christian Church of the first millennium, and their teachings, instructions, and help are accessible only in the light of genuine, primordial Christianity, devoid of any human considerations, additions, and alternations, in its integrity and purity of the times of the holy Apostles. – A monk of Mt. Athos, Foreward to Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, (Kadloubovsky and Palmer trans., Faber and Faber 1951)

Introduction: Our goal tonight is to summarize briefly the fundamentals of prayer and the spiritual life as taught by the Fathers of the first millennium, which, as we will see later on is exactly the same teaching as the Orthodox Fathers of the second millennium, but which were distorted by the teachers of the Western confessions after the time of the schism, when there arose countless competing “spiritualities.” This fragmentation of spiritual life led to fragmentation of every aspect of life, culminating in the spiritual, intellectual, and civilizational chaos we see today.

One question a secular student might ask is, “Why are you talking about prayer and spiritual life? That is a matter of individual choice. I thought this was a history course?” Our answer is that this question reveals a bias, that history is merely an external process unrelated to the interior life. One of the basic principles of our Orthodox philosophy of history, however, of our “meta-history,” is that the externals of life, of culture, of civilization, flow from the spiritual life. They are by-products of spiritual processes which did not have them as their primary or final aim. Even a purely materialistic civilization is realizing the outcome of its spiritual assumptions.

I. The Peace of the Church and the Rise of Monasticism

With the Triumph of Christianity, the Peace of the Church, came a great opportunity but also a great temptation. The great opportunity was to convert the masses, and the great temptation was to convert the Apostolic Faith – which, as we said in our Class 1, is fundamentally eschatological, other-worldly, martyric, and ascetic – into a just another mass religion to satisfy worldly aspirations, just another cultic system to placate the gods to guarantee earthly prosperity.

The Holy Fathers of this time – as we see notably expressed in the catechetical writings of St. John Chrysostom and St. Cyril of Jerusalem – expended enormous efforts in developing the catechumenate and teaching the faithful constantly about the meaning of their baptism, but inevitably fallen human considerations – economic, political, social, etc. – crept in and dulled the edge of the zeal which had so characterized the early Church. So while the Church’s outward splendor and organization grew, the spiritual zeal of the Christians was threatened. This gave rise to the great anachoresis of the ascetics during the late Antique and early Byzantine/Medieval periods, which we will date conventionally from the life of S. Antony the Great, +350.

The Life of Antony by St. Athanasius the Great was the first great vita of an ascetic saint who was not a martyr. Its publication and enormous circulation coincided with the explosion of organized monastic life in the fourth century. There had always been virgins and ascetics in the Church – because, after all, the Church is fundamentally ascetic – but the Peace of the Church gave both the impetus and the means to organize monastic life on a vast scale and to produce an enormous monastic literature.

This flowering of monastic literature coincided with the flowering of patristic theology which was the result of the confessional struggles of the period of the Ecumenical Councils. Whereas a “modern” or “Western” scholar sees these two type of literature as separate, having separate interests, the Orthodox Fathers did not separate theology from spiritual life. A true confession of faith is the necessary foundation of spiritual life, and undeceived prayer – the authentic encounter with God – is the fountainhead of undeceived theology.

The entire culture that came to be called “Byzantine” (or more accurately, simply integral Christian culture properly speaking), had its creative source in every aspect – both ecclesiastical and secular – in this specific type of spiritual life and its concomitant theology. When you read the “information,” the “data” about this period, in order to understand the people who formed this society and culture, you have to keep this in mind. They experienced it and saw it no other way.

The so-called “monastic” literature and “monastic” outlook, then, is none other than the expression of the primordial Faith of the early Church. It is agreed by most observers, including the non-Orthodox and non-Christian, that the first millennium Church was dominated by this outlook. But seen from the Orthodox point of view, this is not a “stage” in the “evolutionary development” of the Church, but simply the way the Church is.

II. Spiritual Life and the Drama of History

So this great drama of history we spoke of in our Intro Class and Class One, continues in the life of the Church. Though in a sense history “ended” with the Resurrection, which inaugurates the Kingdom of God, yet in a sense it continues in this “now but not yet,” “betwixt and between” period when we are waiting for the Lord to return. Though Satan is defeated, yet he can still capture souls until he is finally cast into hell at the end of the world. The spiritual life is the inner process by which baptized souls defeat Satan and re-attain the Paradise lost by our First Parents.

So in examining the spiritual life, we go back to the beginning of earthly history, Paradise, and the Fall of our First Parents. To understand our soul’s functioning, we re-learn the meaning of the Fall and the origin of the passions, which separate us from God and from our own spiritual health, from life itself. By Baptism, we receive the power of the Resurrection to overcome sin, death, the devil, and hell, by Chrismation we receive the power of the Spirit to overcome the consequences of our passions and sins and grow in holiness, and in the Divine Eucharist we receive the indwelling presence of the Eternal King and a foretaste of the Eternal Kingdom. Our mysteriological and spiritual journey, then, recapitulates the drama of salvation history – we advance from the Fall to the hope of eternal life, to the final triumph of Christ at the hour of our death and the hour of His Second Coming and Dread Judgement. Thus the Orthodox Christian views his spiritual life in the framework of history, and he views history through the prism of his own spiritual life. This perfectly integrated view of our outward and inner life avoids the materialist determination of evolutionism on the one hand and the morally void escapism of a falsely “spiritual” gnosticism on the other hand.

[One example of this connection between our inner and outer history is the apolytikion of the Holy Cross, which we are chanting daily now (September 2017) during the Afterfeast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The original, of course, says, “…grant victories to the kings over the barbarians…” The original in the Russian Church, before the Bolshevik Revolution, read “…grant victories to our sovereign (name) over his adversaries…” Unfortunately, this has been altered in some modern translations to the more generic “…grant victories to the Orthodox Christians (or Orthodox hierarchs)…etc.” But this practice ignores the patristic view that the “king” and the “barbarians” also have a mystical meaning: the “king” is our spiritual intellect, the nous, purified and reigning over our organism, and the “barbarians” or “adversaries” are the passions and demons. (It also eliminates the effect of the troparion as a reminder of our actual history and a prayer for the restoration of the Orthodox monarchy). ]

III. The Foundations of Authentic Spiritual Striving

This, of course, is a vast subject. Here we can only summarize:

A. Man: Man is fallen in all of his faculties, including both the dianetic and noetic intellect. Apart from the grace that comes from Faith and Baptism, he cannot overcome his fallenness and be saved and sanctified. Upon receiving grace, he must struggle by the power of grace to overcome his sins and passions, and re-attain Paradise. Before baptism, demons dwell in men and God knocks on the outside of their hearts; after baptism, God dwells within and the demons attack from the outside. Man is constituted of body and soul, and the highest faculty of the soul is the nous, or spiritual intellect, which was mortified by sin but is resurrected in baptism.

B. God: God is the Holy Trinity, Who is experienced directly in His uncreated energies through faith, the Holy Mysteries, and prayer. He “knocks on the door” of man’s heart before Baptism, and He comes to dwell in the heart after Baptism. The entire struggle of spiritual life, then, can be said to attain purity of heart, through which God continues to dwell in the soul and the baptismal grace remains energized rather than dormant, and the demons remain outside. This purity of heart is gained through the struggle for noetic attention.

C. The Life of Prayer: Spiritual life may be called also the life of prayer. As St. Theophan the Recluse famously says, “When prayer is right, everything goes right, for prayer will let nothing go wrong.” The entire struggle against sin, and therefore the main arena of the drama of history, is the struggle to destroy sinful thoughts in their first appearance (prosvoli or prilog), or, as often as necessary, to fight against sins of thought committed when this first provocation is not resisted. The inner man, then, is the chief arena of historical processes, the Orthodox Church is where victorious struggle can take place, and the monastery is the citadel of the Orthodox Church, in which the ultimate citadel of the heart is protected most strongly.

D. Delusion: Delusion occurs either through ignorance and heresy, which are forms of outward delusion, or through a person with Orthodox belief accepting false thoughts from within – inner delusion. Delusion occurs when movements of the blood – emotional excitement – accompanied by the misuse of the imagination and intellect – lead to accepting the suggestions of demons or fallen nature or the world (usually some mixture of the three). Either inner or outer delusion, if uncorrected, lead to perdition.

E. The Method of Prayer: The un-deluded method of prayer is the simply struggle for attention to the words of Scripture, the Church services, or “private” prayer. The best method to avoid delusion is to repeat a short verse or prayer constantly, with a struggle for attention. The most popular form of this prayer is the Jesus Prayer. Outside of this method, various uses of the imagination and discursive intellect almost invariably lead to delusion. Delusion leads to fragmentation of soul, then outward fragmentation of life. Thus the origin of our present civilizational crisis can be traced to spiritual delusion, both in the form of heresy and in the form of incorrect spiritual life. 

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Orthodox Survival Course: Class 2

Listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/survivalcourse-2_1

Class 2 – A.D. 313 – 1054, The Church of the Romans: Overview

the whole world is like one well-ordered and united family. For our Emperor, invested as he is with the semblance of heavenly sovereignty, directs his gaze above and frames his earthly government according to the pattern of the divine original, finding strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God.”Eusebius of Caesaria, Oration in Praise of Constantine (English translation, 1845, p. 303), quoted by Christopher Dawson, The Formation of Christendom (Ignatius Press reprint 2008, p. 140)

A [Western]Christian of the fourth or fifth century would have felt less bewildered by the forms of piety current in the 11th century than his counterpart of the 11th century in the forms of the 12th. The great break occurred in the transition period from the one to the other century. This change took place only in the West where, sometime between the end of the 11th and the end of the 12th century, everything was somehow transformed. This profound alteration of view did not take place in the East, where, in some respects, Christian matters are still today what they were then – and what they were in the West before the end of the 11th century.-Yves Congar, O.P., After Nine Hundred Years (Fordham University Press, 1959, p. 39), quoted by Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), in the introduction to his translation of the Vita Patrum of St. Gregory of Tours (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1988, p. 70)

Introduction: The two quotes above refer to the beginning and the end, respectively, of the period we will now study, the seven hundred years from the Triumph of the Church under St. Constantine to the eleventh century. This is sometimes called the time of the “Undivided Church,” not that the Church Herself can actually be divided, but because this was the period prior to the great schism when the entire Western Church fell away from Orthodoxy. Of course, even during this period, there were heresies and schisms, but they were always caused by very specific doctrinal disagreements or power struggles.

The significance of the West’s departure from Orthodoxy in the “middle ages” is much greater and deeper than any specific dogmatic disagreement – it was caused by the West’s abandoning the unified vision they shared with the East for the first thousand years and adopting an entirely different approach to understanding and experiencing Who God is, what spiritual life is, what sanctity is, and what the Church is. This fundamental shift in spiritual matters, in turn, created a new, distinctly non-Orthodox culture and civilization, which is the direct predecessor of the present “world culture,” to which we all now belong, to a greater or lesser extent, whether we like it or not, though we are Orthodox Christians. Thus to understand how we got to where we are today, we need to understand what Orthodoxy is, how the West fell away from Orthodoxy and created this new civilization based on non-Orthodox principles, and how this led directly to modern and post-modern society.

Our first step, then, must be to study the Orthodox life and vision that both the Greek and the Latin halves of the Roman Empire had in common, until the Latin West developed a radically different religious and philosophical outlook. Our next several classes, then, will be about the fundamental features of this life and this vision. Tonight’s class is an overview of what we will be discussing in this section of our course.

In the doxastikon for Vespers of the Nativity, the hymnographer (St. Kassiane) writes of the providence of God in bringing “all the nations” under the rule of Caesar precisely in time for the birth of the Lord. All of the Fathers agree that the Lord worked in history (our theme again!) to bring this about, in order to facilitate the spread of the Gospel and to create a society prepared for unity in Christ. Then, with the Triumph of the Church under St. Constantine and his successors, not only did the unity of the Roman state and civilization facilitate the spread of the Gospel, but actually gave protection to the Church and proactively advanced her interests. Without deifying or idolizing Greco-Roman civilization, we have to recognize that the synthesis of Biblical Faith, Hellenic culture, and Roman rule was the will of God, and that this synthesis became the standard for all time.

It was precisely when the West began to depart from this fully formed synthesis to create radically (that is, “at root”) new expressions of Church life that the schism occurred. Then, in the centuries following the schism, adrift from its moorings in the authentically Catholic and authentically Roman Church and culture, the West fell into an endless process of creating new thought forms, cultural expressions, and modes of life farther and farther away from the authentic Faith and God-grounded philosophical outlook, and, moreover, following the “Reformation,” not in a united fashion, but with rapid and constantly increasing fragmentation.

The great era which followed the Triumph of the Church, the age of the Ecumenical Councils, was the period in which the Church and the culture it created became fully developed and articulated. This is not to say that this period was holier or “better” than the Early Church, but rather that the features of Orthodoxy can be more easily studied in this period, because the expressions of the Faith – liturgical, theological, artistic, administrative, etc. – matured and became fully developed, and we have a clear record of them. It is like the life of a tree – It grows for a time and then becomes mature, and after that there is little significant change. By the end of the ninth century, the expressions of Orthodox Faith and culture were comprehensively, intensively, and completely developed, and since then there has been little or no significant change, and there cannot be, because to make significant changes would be to derogate from organic perfection for the sake of a superfluous, spurious – and therefore pernicious – “creativity”

The aspects under which we will study this fully articulated Orthodoxy are 1. Spiritual life and sanctity, 2. The method of theology and the place of philosophy, 3. Sacred art, 4. Ecclesiology, and 5. Church and State.

  1. Spiritual Life and Sanctity: Orthodox culture, Orthodox civilization was created by Orthodox saints. Every culture ultimately has religious roots – people shape the world around them according to their concept of the meaning and purpose of life. In the case of Orthodoxy, God’s grace, working through the saints, formed every aspect of culture: family life, social mores, the life of the state, art, architecture, etc. What authentic spiritual life, or, to put it another way, the process of becoming a saint, is, is at the very root of culture itself. We will review, briefly, the Orthodox teaching on how man is constituted to relate to God, how this happens authentically, and therefore what sanctity is.
  2. The method of theology and the place of philosophy: How did the great Fathers theologize? This flows naturally from the topic of spiritual life, because Orthodox theology is the articulation of the experience of the saints. What does it mean to have an “empirical” or “experiential” theology as opposed to an “academic” or “scholastic” theology, or, to put it another way, what does it mean to have an undeceived spiritual life that enables one to have undeceived theology? What does theology become apart from authentic experience?
  3. Sacred art: This is one of the most powerful aspects under which to study what Orthodoxy is, for the art and architecture of the Church reveal Her life in a non-verbal, direct way that has an instant impact on the whole person. We will discuss what sacred art is and what secular art is, and look at examples of the exemplary sacred art of the Church and, later, at the gradually more and more secular religious art of the post-Orthodox Western Christianity.
  4. Ecclesiology: What, after all, is the Church? Is She primarily an organism or an organization? Are these two aspects of the Church distinct? How does the vision of what the Church is affect one’s vision of what society is? This last questions leads us to the topic of Church and state.

In our next class, we will discuss topic #1, the spiritual life and the concept of sanctity.

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Orthodox Survival Course: Introductory Class

Listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/orthodox-survival-course-introductory-cl

Introductory Class

I. The Purpose of Our Course

Our title, “Orthodox Survival Course” does not refer to physical survival, at least not directly, though sometimes physical survival is the outcome of spiritual and intellectual survival, as sometimes it is not, as in the case of the martyrs. The “survival” we are referring to is precisely survival as Orthodox Christians. Our purpose is to acquire an Orthodox philosophy of history, in order to understand our current situation in light of the Church’s teaching, and thereby be better equipped to discern falsehood and avoid deceptive interpretations of what is going on around us, and to remain in the Church until death, to survive spiritually and to help those we are responsible for to do the same.

Our acquiring and interiorizing the Church’s view of history is critical, because only those who understand the past can understand the present and deal with it effectively. Their destruction or re-writing of history enables evil people to deceive and control us. Also, by understanding our current situation better, we can acquire interior peace and form firm resolutions for our own future course of behavior.

Another reason we must think with the mind of the Church to understand our place in history is that alone of all “world religions,” the Christian revelation declares that the true God acts in history and makes Himself known through history. Only the Church teaches that God became a particular man at a particular time in a particular place. Christians live from prior events in history of the Creation and the Incarnation, and towards the Second Coming, the End of the World, and the Dread Judgment. Our faith is uniquely tied to history, and it was, in fact, the Christian Faith that gave birth to historical consciousness and the academic study of history.

II. A Follow-Up to Ideas Have Consequences

A few years ago, we read Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, which masterfully traces the degeneration of Western thought and culture since the rise of Nominalism in the 14th century. Weaver, however, does not go back far enough. The real “beginning of the end” was not in the rejection of Scholastic theology and the High Medieval Western European church and culture, which began in the 14th century, but rather the the Western Church’s departure from Orthodoxy in the 9th to the 11th centuries, a process finalized in the course of the “Palamite” controversies in the 14th century and “sealed” officially, so to speak, by the 15th century Council of Florence and its aftermath.

I have often thought that “someone” should write a companion book to Ideas Have Consequences from the Orthodox perspective, or at least an Orthodox introduction to the book. This set of notes and our little course are a step towards fulfilling this idea.

III. Fr. Seraphim Rose’s “Orthodox Survival Course”

To a great extent, a series of thirteen lectures Fr. Seraphim Rose delivered in the 1970’s at St. Herman Monastery in Platina, California, inspired me to conduct this course, and I have, gratefully and giving him due credit, given it the name he gave his lectures, “Orthodox Survival Course.” I am going to draw copiously from Fr. Seraphim’s unpublished notes and refer to the sources he quotes. A major difference between Fr. Seraphim’s lectures and our classes will be this: He assumes that the listener understands more or less what Orthodoxy and Orthodox culture are, and his sole concern is to describe the loss of Orthodoxy and its consequences in the West of the second millennium. So he begins at the time of the schism between the papist West and the Orthodox East in the Middle Ages, and then traces the degeneration of Western Christianity and the decline of Christian society in the West from that point. In our course, however, we will begin with the early Church and spend some time on what Orthodoxy and Orthodox culture are, before we go on to describe what they are not.

IV. Not a History Survey but Rather a “Meta-history”

Our goal is to focus on the meaning and overall character of each period we examine. Thus our course is not a survey in which we are going to cover a lot of bits of data, but rather a meta-history in which we are elucidating the meaning of what was said and done, and tying this all together into one coherent tapestry of understanding, an integrated Orthodox interpretation of our civilization’s history and our present situation. We have the rest of our lives to read various books and other sources to find facts and figures. Our precious course time will be spent in deepening our understanding from an Orthodox point of view and learning a coherent framework which will give us the ability to understand what we are reading about and applying that to our lives.

V. Motivation to Act

Ultimately what we learn here should inspire us to take action, to live in a certain way based on the understanding we acquire. It is the eleventh hour, it is “later than we think,” as Fr. Seraphim used to say. We have to examine our priorities and spend the time of our lives fruitfully, for our salvation and that of those whom we love. This course is directed to this end.

Online Resources:

Fr. Seraphim’s “Orthodox Survival Course” notes can be found at https://www.scribd.com/doc/144178465/Survival-Course

Ideas Have Consequences https://portalconservador.com/livros/Richard-Weaver-Ideas-Have-Consequences.pdf

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Be Part of Our Effort!

For the very first time in one year and a half, a listener to my Orthodox Survival Course proactively, without my asking for anything, sent me a donation to help keep the effort going. May the Lord bless him! I appreciate it, and I need it. I also needed the wakeup call. Read on:

Our few and valiant parishioners at St. Irene with a few faithful benefactors from the GOC in America sacrifice month after month in order to free me to do this work of the Church that is now affecting the lives of hundreds around the world, but we are indeed few, it is actually not enough for my family to live on, and we need reinforcements. If you value what I am doing, you want to be a part of it, and you can help, may the Lord bless you! I’ve waited this long to start asking for help, but I cannot wait any more, out of fairness to my parishioners and my family. They are making all the sacrifices, while many others are reaping the fruits.

There are three ways you can help:

Send a direct gift via PayPal to my account at frstevenallen@gmail.com

If you want to receive a receipt at the end of the year for your taxes, send a check to St. Irene of Chrysovalantou Church, 745 Barclay Circle, Suite 355, Rochester Hills, MI 48307 USA, and earmark it “for Fr. Steven.”

Buy my new book, *The Eternal Sacrifice* at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen. It is available both as a paperback and an ebook. If you have already purchased a copy, buy a few for gifts for your Orthodox friends or those interested in Orthodoxy. And pass the word on through your own social media. Those of you who know a pastor or church bookstore manager – give them a gift copy and encourage them to stock it! Just write me at frstevenallen@gmail.com to learn how.

I plan, God willing, to start a SubscribeStar page, which will enable those who want to support my work to easily make a donation each month. SubscribeStar works like Patreon, except that, unlike Patreon, they are not shutting down the accounts of those who voice opinions outside the ever-narrowing mainstream. I’ll let everyone know when that is up and running.

May the Lord abundantly reward all of our benefactors! Those who sow abundantly shall reap abundantly.
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New Book in Time for Lent

Readers of “Orthodox Truth” may remember my commentaries on the Genesis readings for Great Lent, which were posted in 2017 and, with revisions, in 2018. I’ve collected all of these essays, put them together with the assigned Genesis readings, and organized them for daily reading during Great Lent in the form of a book named The Eternal Sacrifice.

You can order The Eternal Sacrifice both in paperback and ebook formats at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen.

Here is the Preface, in which I explain the content and purpose of the book:

To the Pious Reader

I like short lists. When you have a short list, you actually get things done. This is supremely true in spiritual life, where we tend to overburden ourselves with impossible goals and end up doing nothing. “The better is the enemy of the good.”

To perform all the spiritual exercises of the Orthodox Great Lent is simply impossible. The Holy Fathers designed it this way, so that we would fall flat on our faces and realize that we are unspiritual people, which is the first step on the path to sanity (much less salvation). But to perform some of the Lenten exercises is certainly possible and, indeed, obligatory. If you cannot rouse yourself to do something – anything – beyond your usual devotions (or lack thereof) during the solemn Paschal Fast, you may as well stop calling yourself a Christian.

I offer you this little book as an aid to enjoying one of the treasures of Great Lent, the passages from the Book of Genesis read every weekday at Vespers during Lent, from Clean Monday through the eve of Lazarus Saturday. With few exceptions, most parish churches do not offer weekday services every day of Lent, though most try at least to open their doors on Wednesdays and Fridays. And even if one’s parish church is blessed to perform the daily sacrifice of praise, very few of her parishioners can simply stroll down the street and pop in to hear the service at leisure, because of the unChristian – not to say inhuman – demands of contemporary life. But one can take a little book to work or school and read a portion of the service for a few minutes during a break, or keep it by one’s favorite place to read at home. This is one such little book.

I call the book The Eternal Sacrifice to highlight one aspect of the typology of Genesis that speaks directly to the Paschal Mystery, that is, the types (foreshadowings, prophecies-in-action) of Our Lord’s supreme priestly Holocaust for us, the bloody Sacrifice of Himself on the altar of the Cross, which in turn became the basis for the Church’s daily mystical sacrifice of the Lamb of God forever slain for us, in the Divine Liturgy. When we participate attentively at the Divine Liturgy, and, supremely, when we receive His sacrificed, living, and true Body and Blood in Holy Communion, we step from this passing world into the eternal moment before the world, when the Lamb of God was already mystically slain in the Holy Trinity’s pre-eternal counsel for our salvation; we enter the in-time yet out-of-time moment of Our Lord’s Passover through death to life in His death on the Cross and rising from the Tomb; and we enter the eternal Kingdom, where we shall sit down and feast forever at the Banquet of the Lamb, and He Who Is, Who Was, and Who Ever Shall Be will give us Himself without end and without stint, always more and more, and more wondrously, forever.

So that you do not have to go back and forth from your Bible to this volume, I have incorporated the daily selections from Genesis into the book, followed each day by some pious thoughts which I hope will help you penetrate the sacred text for spiritual benefit. If only a few of these words do indeed spur you to greater love for Our Lord in His Sacrifice for us and thereby increase the grace you receive at your Paschal communion, please do think of their author on the Bright Night, and offer a prayer for

your servant in Christ,

Steven Allen, Priest

Great Lent, 2019

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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 33

The podcast of Class 33 of our Orthodox Survival Course is now available at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/orthodox-survival-course-class-33 .

In the podcast I announce the publication of my book The Eternal Sacrifice, designed to help the reader benefit from the readings from Genesis we hear during Great Lent. It should be available later this week at lulu.com. Just go to the Lulu bookstore and search The Eternal Sacrifice by Fr. Steven Allen.

Here are the notes for Class 33:

Orthodox Survival Course – St. Irene Orthodox Church – Rochester Hills, Michigan, Spring-Fall, 2019

Part II: Understanding the 20th Century, Dealing With the 21st

Class 33: Who are the people studying this question? Understanding ourselves and how we have been damaged.

Introduction: Before beginning our study of our current situation, let us step back and ask, “Who are the people doing this study (i.e. ourselves!)? What are their limitations? What damage has been done to them that will hinder their understanding properly what they are studying?” It is like doing scientific investigation: We ascertain first if the instruments we are using to collect and analyze the data are accurate or if, perhaps, through being damaged or contaminated, they might give false readings. The instrument in this study we are currently doing is ourselves – our minds, our souls, our perceptions and feelings and thoughts. We need to examine this “instrument,” understand how it has been damaged and contaminated, and clean it up and “recalibrate” it through greater self-understanding both through being informed – which is our job here, in our course – but also through being formed through ongoing spiritual work on ourselves. Our learning in this course will bear fruit only if we are always repenting and asking the Lord for accurate self-knowledge, for humility.

Quite often, when people first hear some of the information I am going to present, they get angry or at least uncomfortable, for two reasons: One, they have been conditioned to dislike certain truths and prefer certain falsehoods, though these falsehoods damage them, and, moreover, to react immediately without rational thought – a “knee-jerk reaction.” Two, these falsehoods have become precious to them because they gratify their passions, which is how the “bad guys” got them “hooked” on the falsehoods to begin with. The truth hurts, and they prefer to “shoot the messenger” rather than examine the message objectively for the sake of knowing the truth. (If I have to get “shot” a few times, that’s all right – it comes with the territory!).

As it turns out, we shall find that by examining ourselves, in order to understand how our “instruments” have been damaged and contaminated, we shall “kill two birds with one stone,” for we will come to better self-understanding and therefore be better able to conduct our study, and at the same time, we shall actually begin right away studying one of our historical topics, perhaps the most central and important topic, which is the Antichrist project to create a “new kind of human being.” This remaking (or rather, mutilation) of people’s minds (and their bodies!) is both the central project of the forces of Antichrist, and it is also the project that enables them to carry out all of their other projects. It is both the goal and the master plan, as well as the primary means to achieve the plan. The more mutilated and weak and powerless people become, the less they can process what is going on, and the less will they have to resist – therefore they more and more feebly they resist the “progress” that is being planned for them.

A. The Project: Redefining What It Means to Be Human

A few years back, the American politician Hillary Clinton gave a commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College, in which she announced that “our” project in the 21st century is to “redefine what it means to be human.” The fact that such a Satanic boast would not only be accepted calmly, but be applauded, shows how far gone the American and “Western” elites were by the end of the 20th century. They openly preach that human nature is this totally malleable thing they can shape for their own purposes – that they are, for all practical purposes, God! – and thus those who cooperate with them are “good” and those who resist them are “bad.” It is the old “Frankenstein” project, of course, but today it is no longer the secret plan of the elites but rather their openly stated program.

Hillary Clinton is a 20th-21st century figure. Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, is a 19th century writer. But if we carefully recall what we have already learned in our course, going way back to the 14th century and Nominalism, then these frightful ideas, this Satanic project, would actually not surprise us. It is in a direct line from, it is the logical outcome of, the entire development of the dominant philosophy of the Western elites since the end of the Middle Ages.

As I go along, I am going to be recommending some outside study, both of books and Internet resources. At this point, it is appropriate to remind everyone of Richard Weaver’s masterpiece, Ideas Have Consequences, published in 1948. As I have pointed out before, Weaver does not go back far enough to locate the beginning of the degeneration of Western thought, the point at which the Church’s ideal synthesis of Biblical and Greek philosophical thought began to be destroyed. He believes that the 13th century Western scholastic achievement is the high point and that things just started going bad after that. He is almost right, but not right enough! If you go back to our Classes 10 through 14, you can review our study of the Latin High Middle Ages as the direct prelude to the Renaissance. Look especially at Class 14 and what I call the three “pancakes,” three errors of Western Scholastic thought about the structure of the human mind, about the Church, and about God, which led logically to Nominalism. Weaver probably had not been exposed to genuine patristic thought – like most Western Christians of his time, he assumed that the Scholastics were the authoritative “last word” on the patristic tradition – and so quite naturally he thought that everything was beautiful in the 13th century, and then those bad Nominalists came along in the 14th century. So read Weaver, but keeping in mind Classes 10 to 14 of our course as a prelude.

I recommend Weaver, because he gives a succinct and clearly written analysis of the whole process from Nominalism through the mid-20th century, and I shall be referring to him now and then throughout our study of the 20th century. You can find Ideas Have Consequences online at Ideas Have Consequences https://portalconservador.com/livros/Richard-Weaver-Ideas-Have-Consequences.pdf, and you can find paperback copies for sale online for under $10.

So what does a dusty old 14th century school of philosophy – Nominalism – have to do with Hillary Clinton’s speech at Wellesley? We can get from Point A to Point B by summarizing quickly the process we’ve outlined in Classes 14 through 31 of our course:

14th century – Nominalism: There is no such thing as a shared knowledge of truly knowable and immutable natures of things. Names are just tags we stick on things that seem alike to each of us. There are no knowable essences of created things.

The Renaissance: Man is the measure of all things – man, not God, is the center of reality and will decide what reality is. The rise of interest in the occult and alchemy (see Michael Hoffman’s The Occult Renaissance Church of Rome – https://truthfulhistory.blogspot.com/2017/05/new-book-occult-renaissance-church-of.html). Francis Bacon and the *New Atlantis* : future development will be controlled by a hidden elite that controls the direction of science to manipulate nature in order to monopolize power by ruling behind the scenes, using government to attain its ends. The goal of science is not religious or philosophical truth, but the domination of nature and control over society. The popes approve usury (see Michael Hoffman’s Usury in Christendom, the Mortal Sin that Was and Now Is Not – https://truthfulhistory.blogspot.com/2016/02/special-offers.html), and the limitless alchemy of usury – making money out of money – funds the Baconian project on the part of the Western elites.

17th and 18th centuries – the “Enlightenment”, Rationalism and Empiricism:

Rationalism – Rene Descartes creates a new philosophy by denying all tradition and all previous wisdom, and says that true knowledge is strictly out of one’s own head. You take cogito ergo sum as the one self-evident truth and use your “brain” to construct a series of theorems to explain reality.

Empiricism – No, say the empiricists: All you know is not out of your own head, but from your senses. All you can know is your sense perceptions. When you think something, you are just thinking about your own ideas, not “real stuff out there” – not actual or shareable knowledge about real things (John Locke – See Mortimer Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes).

The Age of Revolution: So if there is no knowable, shared reality, no Truth that is the same for everyone (and therefore binds everyone to a shared moral code), the only motive left for action is power. There is no room for philosophy, much less theology. There is now only politics, and inevitably, without a religious or moral foundation, even politics do not mean anything real anymore; they simply become a front for predatory behavior, a show for the masses. The elites create phony slogans about equality, liberty, progress, and so forth, and use them to mask a program of complete destruction of the old, Christian order, and create their new “utopia” of technocratic control over the masses. Their “metaphysics” is the utter anti-metaphysic – Nihilism. Of course, the religion associated with Nihilism is, simply put, Satanism.

Thus Hillary Clinton’s Satanic boast being accepted as a perfectly normal expression of the policy of the leadership class. “We are going to destroy everything you thought being human meant – religion, family, morality, community, nation, culture – reduce all of you to little individual atoms with nothing within you sacred or permanent, and shape you the way we want you.” And everyone applauds their own destruction.

B. Getting Us to Go Along – the Century of the Self

So that is The Project of the 20th Century. How did the elites get normal people to go along with their own destruction, and not only to go along but to applaud it? What kind of human being have they “created” (i.e. what kind of mutilation have they performed in order to damage human beings and make them into something horrible, something sub-human?). To what extent are we – you and I – this kind of human being? For this to be a “Survival Course,” we not only have to understand who the “bad guys” are and what they have done to us. We have to understand ourselves. We have to realize to what extent and in what ways we have adopted the thought patterns, unconscious assumptions, language, behavior, criteria for behavior, and instinctive reactions to various stimuli that have been “hard-wired” into us by the “training” that has been going on in the last century. Our “masters” – the people who control the official ideology, who have gained almost complete control of the wealth and coercive power of all public and private institutions, who control the media, education, medicine, food and water supply, and use this power to accomplish their geo-political and social engineering goals – this elite has nearly total control of every aspect of public or even private life, and they have enslaved great numbers of the people around us to their passions and to the grossest error and ignorance, the most fundamental disobedience to the divine plan for human life revealed by God, the most Satanic sins, the most profound unhappiness, and the most profound hopelessness. To what extent are we – you and I – enslaved?

The “zombie” movies are an image of what is going on. One by one, or in whole groups, people around us are being turned into “zombies” – post-human kind of humans who look like Uncle Joe or the girl next door, but on the inside have become something possessed, controlled by demonic powers, something that is part of an unthinking, unfeeling mass of hypnotized, programmed, robotic beings who no longer have real personalities, who are controlled by a central, demonic will or impulse to destroy, and who are bent on turning everyone else into zombies. In the movies, the heroes realize little by little that they are part of a shrinking minority of normal human beings, and the horror of the whole thing is the process of seeing the people closest to them becoming part of the zombie army, and then realizing that perhaps they too are sinking into that state as well. Of course, the people who control movie making are using these films to send us a message – they are revealing what they have done and are doing to us. This is called “predictive programming” – a certain kind of future is predicted for you, and you hear the message so often that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You give up all hope and decide to love “Big Brother” (more on “Big Brother” in later classes).

So to what extent am I still acting like a real human being (much less a Christian, much less Orthodox!), and to what extent have I become a zombie? It will help us to answer this question if we examine the methods that have been used to change us, what those changes are, why they are bad, and what we can do to reverse these changes within ourselves and recover our humanity as understood in the light of Christ. Of course, the Church ultimately has the answers. We are not going to embark on some kind of secular self-improvement or “libertarian” or “survivalist” project to “save ourselves.” Only Christ can save us, in every sense, both in this age and the age to come.

I entitled this section “Century of the Self,” after the title of a four hour documentary you can see on YouTube (thanks to Metropolitan Moses of Toronto for telling me about it). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ3RzGoQC4s The documentary starts with the theories of Sigmund Freud about human behavior, that we are all dominated by the sex drive, and that “happiness” is sought through overcoming “sexual repression,” and then it goes on to explain how Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, pioneered the vast apparatus of advertising, public relations, and propaganda – in short, mass brainwashing – and how this apparatus was used through the 20th century to enslave people to the egotistical pursuit of gratifying their passions by training them to react unconsciously to the stimuli provided by those who control the brainwashing apparatus. But by training people to be obsessed with themselves, paradoxically, they have destroyed the true self, the self made in the image of God, and have created a new, demonic “self” of some kind of sub-human personality.

Now Freud himself said that Christian civilization was built on repressed sexual drive (see his Civilization and Its Discontents). He was a beneficiary of this civilization, being a resident of 19th century Vienna, perhaps one of the most civilized, humane, and pleasant places anyone could ever have lived in all history. He knew and taught that all of this beauty, this order, this aspiration to higher ideals was built on controlling the passions. But, not being a Christian, and in fact hating Christianity and hating Austria and the old Europe formed by the Church, he simultaneously hated and resented this Christian order of life, and he wanted to destroy it. This is the paradox of the 19th and early 20th century revolutionaries – they are the beneficiaries of a vast repository of goodness caused by the Church, they know it, and they hate it. (Who most of these people are, and why they so irrationally hate the Church, is a subject for other talks.) Edward Bernays inherits this program, this agenda, and – with demonic intelligences helping him – he founds the modern technology of mass control through the media.

What kind of “new human being” did Bernays and company want to create, to what extent have they done it? We shall go more deeply into this subject in our next class. And, most importantly: to what extent are you and I now this kind of human being? For we cannot get into the mindset of “they are bad and we are good.” Yes, these enemies of Christ and of the human race are evildoers. But we must remember that in His Divine Providence, God has allowed all of these things for our salvation. So we do not hate Freud and Bernays and all these people, though we must fight their successors with everything we have got, to the point of giving our lives to do so. But in order to fight successfully, we must undo what they have done to us. We must be free of our passions and self-centeredness. This involves accepting some uncomfortable truths about ourselves, overcoming a profound ignorance of the fundamental errors we have to a greater or lesser extent accepted as axiomatic bases for our choices and behavior. We must return to being the kind of people our great or great-great grandparents were before the “end of the world” in 1914-18, the inauguration of the current reign of Satan and the demons. This coming to self-awareness, and finally to repentance, is the first step in our survival program.

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Important Announcement!

The Holy Metropolis of Toronto (GOC) has announced the beginning of a critically needed education initiative for our young people (and eventually for adults as well!).  Below please read the two announcements and appeals from His Eminence Moses, Metropolitan of Toronto. The program he is announcing also has the blessing of Metropolitan Demetrius of America for the benefit of our faithful in the United States.

   Though this is a program of the Metropolis of Toronto, because it will be online all of our English speaking faithful throughout the world will be able to take these courses.   As you will see from His Eminence’s second message, two of the first three courses to be offered this fall are specifically directed at a critical age group,  middle and high school students, who will be able to take logic and Orthodox apologetics, in order to get the mental tools they need to analyze and refute the anti-Christian propaganda all around them, as well as to articulate the Faith to themselves.   The other course this fall will be Introduction to Ecclesiastical Greek.   

I urge everyone to read Metropolitan Moses’ appeals and support the Orthodox Education Initiative, our new online curriculum for Orthodox families. Note that this is not only a religious instruction program, but aims eventually to be a complete curriculum. This is potentially VERY BIG. We need to seize this moment and run with this!

January 19/February 1, 2019

Saint Mark of Ephesus

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As I reflect on our recent celebration of the Feast of Lights, I would like to share a few thoughts with you all concerning our work together for salvation. In the Feast of Lights, that is, Theophany, our Lord immersed Himself in the waters, as a type of His Cross and death and came out of the water as a type and image of His Resurrection. Immediately after this act the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovered over Him and the voice of the Father said, “Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:13)

Thus, from the types shown in this feast and the teachings of the Holy Church, we learn that it is through participating in the Cross of our Savor that we also participate in the light and joy of His Resurrection. The life of a Christian has always included a carrying of the cross through withdrawal from the things of the world in order to constrain ourselves to pray and, at times, to constrain ourselves to fast.

Yet, there is also another way that we must constrain ourselves for the sake of salvation and that is we must take time to read and educate ourselves and our children in the things of God.

We are surrounded by and live and move in a Post-Christian culture that brings with it spiritual darkness and confusion. Speaking of free rational adults, if one is not well versed in the things of our Faith and not vigilant, one can easily be influenced by this spiritual darkness and confusion. When it comes to children, the danger is greater. I have been and continue to be very concerned with our common struggle to protect our children and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We must do everything in our power to inoculate our children from the many spiritual diseases that result from the confusion of this age. With that in mind I wish to share a quote from the book, Father Kosmas, The Apostle of the Poor:

Father [St.] Kosmas asked:

Do you have a school here, here in your village to teach your children?”

We don’t, O saint of God.”

You must all get together and establish a good school. Appoint a committee to govern it, to appoint a teacher to teach all the children, rich and poor. Because it is in school that we learn who God is; who is the Holy Trinity; who are the angels, demons; and what is paradise, hell, virtue, evil; what is the soul, body, etc. Without a school we walk in darkness.The school leads to the monastery. If there were no school, how would I have learned to teach you?

I studied about priests and about unbelievers, heretics, and atheists. I searched the depths of wisdom, but all the faiths are false. I learned this to be true, that only the faith of the Orthodox Christians in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. In conclusion, I tell you this. Rejoice that you are Orthodox Christians and weep for the impious and heretics who walk in darkness.“ (Father Kosmas, The Apostle of the Poor, Nomikos M. Vaporis, p. 33 )

Here Saint Kosmas exhorted his listeners to build a school for their children and explained that it was through being properly educated he came to practical knowledge and, what is higher, a depth of wisdom that discerned the distinction between truth and falsehood. Saint Kosmas’ words apply to our own day. We “must all get together and establish a good school.”

With this letter, I look to establish the Metropolis of Toronto Orthodox Educational Initiative.

To begin with, I wish to acknowledge the wonderful work that Fr. Panagiotes and Fr. George did in the past. For some eight years they organized and ran the Saint John of Kronstadt School at the Saint Nektarios Parish. This is the ideal. The absolute best would be to have a school that students would attend daily and be guided by the clergy and teachers.1

To start such a school is not possible at this time because of the change in demographics and the fact that families live too far from the parish to make it feasible, etc.

I want to offer a practical alternative, that is, a hybrid program. I would like to establish an online school for the Metropolis combined with quarterly workshops hosted in the Metropolis, for those who can attend.

This program would be for everyone. Whether your child attends public or private school or is homeschooled, the program will offer online classes taught by Orthodox teachers.

There are many examples today of successful online schools. This can be done.

There is no school that is ideologically neutral. When anti-Christian schools teach our children their version of morals, culture, history, and literature, they are working to destroy souls. We must fight back. We seek to create a curriculum that teaches the Orthodox catechism effectively and thoroughly, as cannot be accomplished with a mere 20 to 30 minutes at Sunday School. But beyond that, we aim to offer academic classes using the traditional, classical method created in ancient Greece and Rome, and brought to perfection by our own East Roman (Byzantine) forbears. Classical schooling is “all the rage” now in the Christian schooling movement, which is dominated by Protestants. But, ironically, this method of instruction, using the classical grammar of Latin and Greek as its primary vehicle, is pre-eminently our inheritance, the creation of our ancestors. Our children need it and deserve it.

In addition to Classical Greek and Latin, we plan to teach logic, rhetoric (including English composition), history, and literature in the 2019-2020 school year, and later to expand to include mathematics and sciences. The ultimate goal is no less than to offer a comprehensive curriculum approaching every branch of knowledge from the Orthodox viewpoint. Nothing less will be able to counteract the deadly influence of what our children are being taught in secular schools.

We aim to make this program so flexible that any family with school-age children can benefit. If your children are enrolled full-time in a public or private school, you will be able to select and buy only the courses you want to supplement your children’s education. If you are a homeschooling family, or a parents’ co-op beginning a small parish school, you will be able to purchase the entire curriculum. We are determined to help as many of our families as possible with professional and affordable instruction by dedicated Orthodox teachers.

First, we ask your prayers for this effort. We also need your financial support. This is not a business; it is a cause, and it should be the cause of every member of our Church. We intend to establish an online school that can be accessed by all the families in our Church before it is too late – before we lose our children.

This kind of professional program cannot be staffed by volunteers. Volunteers do a great job at individual parish events, but they cannot be expected to provide daily professional services. In order to create and sustain a serious, permanent program, our teachers must be paid. We plan to pay them as contract workers who will be paid according to the number of students in each class.

If we can raise $14,000.00 USD now, we can pay the initial expenses of hiring an educational consultant specializing in instructional technology, equipment, and other developmental costs.

If we meet our financial goals, we can have our first year’s classes planned by June 15, 2019, open enrollment at that point, and begin offering classes this September.

In closing, I appeal to the conscience of every pious member of our Church: On Judgment Day, the Lord will require from us an account of our stewardship of the good things He has given us. Among the greatest of these goods – and possibly the greatest trust, after our own souls – are our precious children. How will we face Him if we have not made every sacrifice for them – not for mere worldly advantage, but for the salvation of their souls? Let us act now, with trust in the All-Merciful Lord, Who loves our children more than we do and will multiply our efforts and our sacrifices ten-thousandfold by His infinite grace.

To Christ our God, Who bade the little children come unto Him, be the glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit unto the ages.

Your suppliant before the Lord,

+Moses, Metropolitan of Toronto

1 They also instructed a much larger number of students in the Greek language and Catechism on Saturday at a local middle school for many years.

Beloved Christians,

Greetings in the Lord.

On February 1, 2019 I sent out a letter describing an Orthodox Educational Initiative that I have begun in the Metropolis of Toronto. I plan on informing you all bi-weekly as this initiative progresses.

This project has been slowly developing in the background for some time. It is only after my return from visiting Greece for the Feast of Theophany that certain things came together and provided an opportunity to begin this initiative in earnest. Last week it became obvious that we needed to move quickly in our efforts in order to reach certain goals by June that will enable us to offer classes in September.

I have chosen Fr. John Somers as the administrator of the Orthodox Christian Education Initiative with the help of Fr. Steven Allen. Fr. Steven is a gifted teacher known to many. Fr. John has a unique combination of academic, technological, and practical skills to oversee this project, having acquired his academic qualifications in the context of supporting a family and as a priest of our church. Fr. John is a popular teacher at the online teaching resource called “Outschool.” I have included his curriculum vitae in this email for your review so that you can be confident that we are building a good foundation for this initiative.

Over a period of years Fr. John, Fr. Steven and I have discussed the advantages of using the Trivium method of teaching children with the added context of a well grounded Orthodox Christian world view in order to better equip our youth to confront our secular world with confidence.

Our plan for what we will offer in September depends on what kind of interest and support we receive from you, our faithful. At bare minimum we will offer three classes:

     1.     Orthodox Apologetics for High School Students

     2.     Logic

     3.     Ecclesiastical Greek

Once again, I remind you all that we should all look upon this as a cause, that is, something to support because it will help the children in our local Church, including your children and grandchildren. A mighty oak from an acorn grows. We are growing a sapling right now, but our hope and dream is to establish a learning institution that will be accessible long after we pass from this earth.

We ask your continued prayers. If you wish to donate to this project we ask that those within Canada make out your checks to GOC Metropolis of Toronto and earmark the check:  Orthodox Christian Education Initiative.

If you mail the check, send it to: 

Metropolitan Moses Mahany

P.O. Box 64592 Unionville

Markham ON L3R 1M0

Only your donations made out to the GOC Metropolis of Toronto account will be useful for Canadians and their CRA reporting.

Since our activity will mostly be online and our Administrator is in the USA, we will have expenses that originate from there. For that reason we set up a PayPal account in the US.

PayPal donations can be made to : OrthodoxEducationalInitiative@gmail.com

If those of you who read this reside in the USA and you wish make out a check, please address it to “Joy of All Who Sorrow Mission” and earmark it “Orthodox Educational Initiative” and mail it to:

Joy of All Who Sorrow Mission

C/o Fr. John Somers

357 N Rolling Road 

Springfield, PA 19064

For Your Information: The “Joy of All Who Sorrow Mission” is actually a private chapel and not open to the public. The Mission is a non-profit organization recognized by the IRS (it has an EIN number), that exists for teaching purposes. 

If you wish to contact Fr. John, our Administrator email him at:


Thank you and God bless you.

In Christ,

+Moses, of Toronto

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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 32

Welcome back to Orthodox Survival Course!

Orthodox Survival Course

St. Irene Orthodox Church

Rochester Hills, Michigan

Spring-Fall, 2019

Class 32, Introduction to Part II: Understanding the 20th Century, Dealing With the 21st

Listen to our podcast at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/orthodox-survival-course-class-32

Preface: After a break of a few months, we shall now, with God’s help, begin Part II of our course, which I have been putting off for some time, because I knew it would be more difficult than Part I. It is always easy to look back and say, “Aha, that’s the way it was, and this is what happened and that’s what happened,” and so forth. It is much harder to deal with more recent events and with current events, both intellectually, because you are too close to see the whole picture, and emotionally, because you have a real stake in what you and those around you believe is going on right now. So I have to give a caveat, a warning, ahead of time, that some things I may say will be uncomfortable, and there may be more possibility of disagreement among those who hear these talks from here on out. But that is unavoidable if we are going to grow in understanding.

As of our most recent class – Class 31 – we had brought our study of the development of Western European thought and its effects on civilization, including Orthodox civilization, up to the end of the 19th century, with the open proclamation of the philosophy of nihilism. And really, once you realize that What It’s All About going into the 20th century is nihilism, that is, nothingism, right there you have your prism through which to view all the “great events” that people make so much of in the 20th century: They were not really great but simply stupid, evil, and destructive. It was not only the most evil century (so far!) since the coming of Christ into the world, but also the most inane and meaningless. All of the “great” movements and so forth were not great at all, but rather they partook of demonic emptiness, which is what “inane” means – empty. But, then, remember, the rationale behind it all is nihilism, nothing-ism. The thought and spirit behind every “progressive” step of the 20th century is purely parasitical and destructive, a consuming of the spiritual and cultural capital of the past, a tearing down of the old with nothing coherent in its place. It is a completely negative program.

There are bright spots in the 20th century, of course – the heroic rearguard action of saints and heroes struggling for the Faith, for the Church, and for the preservation of the historic Christian nations with their received cultures – but these isolated heroes were all much-hated and much-slandered people who were going against the mainstream, going against the grain. And though their efforts preserved what we have left today, what was passed on to us, and for this we owe them a debt of gratitude that is incalculable, they were not outwardly successful on the grand scale, on the “big stage.” On the grand scale, evil was in the 20th century – and remains in the 21st century – outwardly triumphant, on center stage, so to speak, and the good is marginalized to the corners and the byways, in “the dens and caves of the earth,” to use the poignant image from Hebrews 11.

As I say this, however, it is not in a spirit of gloom, and certainly not hopelessness. We are the children of the Church, and therefore we belong to God, Who is already the Victor in the Great Contest of History. We must not only accept but, what is more, be grateful for the part God has assigned us in history. We must be determined to believe that from all eternity the All-Good God by His sovereign will and in His infinite wisdom has assigned us to live precisely at this time for our salvation. This certainty gives us great joy and courage, and it inspires us to heroism.

It is in the spirit of Christian hope, therefore, the invincible hope in the Risen Lord, and by way of a call to Orthodox heroism, to courageous and prophetic confession and, if need be, martyrdom, that I offer Part II of our course, which proposes to construct an Orthodox filter through which to view the 20th century and, as much as possible, our current situation in the young 21st century. I think that since we began our course last year, most everyone has realized that this study we are doing is serious business. If some have not realized it yet, they will now.

A. The Christian World Prior to August 1914

Despite all of the bad developments we described for so many classes in Part I, beginning with the High Middle Ages and culminating in the onset of the Age of Revolution with the French Revolution and its aftermath, “Christian civilization” – whether Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant – still seemed outwardly like the dominant force on the globe right up to World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution. Recall that with Tsar Alexander I’s defeat of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), the “forces of reaction,” the conservative and monarchical element of European leadership, “put the brakes” on the progress of revolution, and though the 19th century seethed with revolutionary movements – behind the scenes but also breaking out into public sporadically – and a lot of bad art, philosophy, and so forth, in general there was “peace and prosperity” under a nominally Christian banner. A mainstream historian, Barbara Tuchman, paints a vivid picture of the outward peace and confidence of “Christian” Europe at the end of the 19th century in the introduction to her famous work on the beginning of WWI, The Guns of August, and later in an entire book, The Proud Tower.

But from our Orthodox viewpoint, we understand that all this was precisely a “proud tower,” i.e., an repeat of the Tower of Babel scheme. “Christian” civilization of that time was dominated by heretical Christianity, and, above all, by a spirit of worldliness. Most critically, the Orthodox nations, who should have been the preservers of the True Faith, were by this time infected by the worldly spirit whose growth we have traced in Part I of our course, and though, of course, outside forces conspired against them, it was because their “immune system” of pure Orthodoxy had been compromised that they could not fight the infection. The genuine, otherworldly spirit of True Orthodoxy was preserved in isolated places and movements, where the faithful gathered around holy monasteries or outstanding pastoral figures, but the overall “trajectory” of the ruling classes was not good – they were all infiltrated by Freemasonry and, in general, had become complicit in the revolutionary plan of destruction to a greater or lesser degree, either as actual Freemasons and conspirators or – the majority – as “useful idiots”: either liberals who were openly scornful of the Church or political conservatives who were “for the Church,” but viewed Orthodoxy from a secular viewpoint as an “element of national identity,” not the One Truth for all mankind.

So in the summer of 1914, we have an openly prosperous and triumphant “Christian” Europe which is actually standing on a cliff, ready to jump to its destruction.

B. Civilizational Suicide and Living After the End of the World

The two World Wars and the accompanying revolutions that destroyed the historic Christian states, were actually one long action of suicide conducted in several stages by the entire civilization of historically Christian Europe. I often tell people that to understand our situation, we have to realize that we are living after the end of the world,at least after the end of our world: The entire civilization that arose after St. Constantine and the Peace of the Church, and that had endured for 1600 years, “suddenly” collapsed between 1914 and 1945, or so it seemed. In Part I of our course, we learned that this was not sudden at all – the magnificent edifice had become hollow on the inside and was just waiting to be knocked over. In Part II, we propose to examine how the knocking-over happened and what this means for us today.

So, we want to keep on with our project of constructing our Orthodox set of “lenses” to view history, and now we need a lens through which to view these recent events that have created the world we currently live in. This is the goal of Part II of our course.

C. An Image of Our Situation: The Besieged Castle

One way of thinking about our situation is this: Think of our living in a castle besieged by enemies, a castle consisting of concentric ring-walls with the innermost keep in the center. The outermost ring-wall consists of the Christian nations, which were destroyed by the forces of Revolution. The next ring-wall consists of the historic Church institutions, which are by now almost completely destroyed by Ecumenism. Next is the ring of the Family, now being destroyed by what could, for lack of a better term, be called “cultural Marxism.” After the family what we have left to us is the innermost keep of the human organism, with the body being destroyed by drugs, toxic food and water, ambient radiation, etc, etc, and, finally, the mind and the soul, being destroyed by the mental fragmentation of electronic addiction. After this last destruction is accomplished, what will be left?

Our plan for Part II will be to go through the destruction of each of these concentric rings and try to understand it from an Orthodox perspective. At each stage of our study, we need not only to provide understanding, which is the most basic “survival tool,” but also to offer suggestions to action: “This being so, how therefore should one live? ”

May Our All-Provident Lord, the Invincible Victor, Be Our Hope!

The Angel of the Apocalypse
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