Monday, December 28, 2009

St. Mary Skobtsova on Ritualism

The next type of religious life, that of the strict ritualist, bears traces of an entirely different origin. Compared to the synodal type it is archaic, but it has never died out. It intertwined itself with the synodal piety, standing over against it, but never struggles with it. Synodal piety encountered strict ritualism in the Church from the moment of its own origin, since the whole of Muscovite Rus’ was permeated with its spirit. The Old Believer Schism grew out of it and absorbed its strengths into itself. By modifying itself and becoming more complex, it has endured even down to our time. It is, perhaps, the most frightening and inert remnant inherited from Muscovite Rus’.

There is no doubt that the creative and theological level of Muscovite piety was extremely weak. Moscow adopted many things from Byzantium, but somehow managed to miss its creative intensity. Moscow reforged all the turbulent and antinomian vibrancy of the Byzantine genius into an immovable form, a cult of the letter, a cult of tradition, a repetitious rhythmical gesture. Moscow was able not only to freeze its Byzantine heritage, but even managed to dry up its Biblical heritage, ossifying it and depriving it of its grace-filled, living spirit. In the words of an ancient prophet, it started to pile up “commandment upon commandment, rule upon rule.” It perceived the splendid flow of Byzantine rhetoric as something that should not be touched, introducing it into its own obligatory order of service, ritualizing every impulse, enveloping every religious lyric with the form of law.

The extreme expression of this stagnant, splendid, immovable, protective spirit was the Old Believer Schism. In a sense it has great merits: it has preserved for us examples of ancient icon painting, it has preserved the ancient chant, it has kept in a safe place, away from the flow of life, one moment in the development of piety and fixed it once and for all. But with all this it confused the hierarchy of values of the Christian way of life, preferring torture and even death not only in defense of the two-fingered sign of the cross, but for the right to write “Isus” instead of “Iisus.”

Here it is not a question simply of illiteracy. The issue is much more serious, as became obvious in the following period. We are dealing here with belief in a particular kind of magic, not just of a word, a name, but of each letter which makes up the name [i.e. Isus]. A frightful retribution has been visited upon the Old Believers for their treatment of Christ’s truth. Go inside an Old Believer meeting house. It contains everything which they have held dear throughout their whole history. It has priceless icons in the ancient style; it has ancient books; it resounds to a special chant sung according to the old kriuk or “hook” notation — all those things for which they struggled and endured martyrdom. It lacks only one thing: its magnificent iconostasis, completely covered with icons in massive metalwork covers, shelters nothing, it preserves nothing. For behind the iconostasis is a blank wall, to which the iconostasis is fixed. There is no sanctuary, no altar table, no table of oblation, since there is no Mystery, no Sacrament.

Everything has been preserved except the living spirit of the Church, its theanthropic, deifying sacramental life. Only the splendid form remains.

One must give some thought to this phenomenon. Here people have received a punishment for their victory, for having attained their aims. Having once distorted Christ’s truth, they were left with its empty shell. One should think about this every time we are tempted to replace spirit with form, love with ritual. In this temptation the same danger lies in wait for us: to be left with form and ritual, but to forfeit spirit and love. It is very likely that this symbol of a Church without a sanctuary is often reflected in human souls.

While losing the living spirit of Christianity, the Church of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has not been able to extirpate within itself that Moscow spirit of ritual correctness: what is prescribed, what is permitted, what is to be preserved. Moreover, the human soul, frequently stifled in the official, cold, State-sanctioned Synodal Church and not finding any way to some kind of living source of faith, would flee from the Synodal understanding of piety into the arms of ritual correctness, placing this in opposition to official conventionality. Ritual correctness has something in common with ecclesiastical aesthetics and asceticism, but in its essence it is something different. It is simply that the stress is not placed there.

What is the moral temper of the strict ritualist? What is his spiritual make-up? His greatest desire is for absolute spiritual order, the complete subordination of the inner life to an external rhythm which has been elaborately worked out in the minutest detail. This external rhythm encompasses everything within itself. Outside the Church he knows the spiritual significance of every detail of life. He keeps the fast. He lives day in and day out following the Church’s cycle of services. He lights vigil lamps at prescribed times. He makes the sign of the Cross correctly. In Church he likewise stifles any impulse, permits no deviation from the established gestures. He kneels at the proper moment during services, he bows and crosses himself at the proper time. He knows for certain that it is a crime to kneel from Pascha to Pentecost, he knows how many times he will go to Confession during the year and, above all, he has mastered the Order of Services to the minutest detail. He is angry and indignant if anything is omitted during Church services, because that is not to be done. Yet at the same time he is completely indifferent when what is being read is incomprehensible or when it is being read too rapidly. This is not the person who prefers memorial services, services of intercession and akathists over others. No, his most loved services are the rarest ones, above all those of Great Lent. He especially delights in the complexity of services when a fixed feast coincides with a movable one; for example, when the Annunciation falls during the last days of Holy Week.

For him the form and structure of the service frequently overshadows the inner content of individual prayers. He most certainly is a fanatical champion of Church Slavonic. For him the use of Russian in Church is almost blasphemy. He loves Slavonic because he is used to it, and does not want to change even the obviously unsatisfactory, ungrammatical and inaccurate translations from the Greek. The lengthy readings by the psalomshchik immerse him in a particular atmosphere of piety, giving a specific rhythm to his spiritual life. This is what is important, what he really wants. The content does not really interest him. His prayers are lengthy, and he has an established and unchanging ‘rule’ for them. This rule frequently requires the repetition of the same prayers, and always in the same place.

The Gospel and the Lord’s Prayer are not singled out within the general structure of his rule: they are merely a part of a harmonious whole established once and for all.

If you tell him that you don’t understand something, either in essence or because the psalomshchik is reading too rapidly, he will answer that it isn’t necessary to understand, it is only necessary to achieve a particular atmosphere of piety during which occasional words come through clearly which are understandable and necessary for you.

Such a person’s spiritual life is worked out in the smallest detail. He knows the special technique for bringing oneself to a particular spiritual state. He is able to teach you how to breathe, in what position to maintain your body during prayer, and whether the legs should be near a warm or near a cool place.

If one analyzes this special phenomenon, it becomes clear that basically it does not depend on Eastern Christianity, for one senses here the distinctive forms of Dervishism and echoes of Hinduism and, more significantly, a passionate belief in the magic of the word and of combinations of words, of gestures and sequences of gestures. There is no doubt but that this belief in magic has beneath it very real roots. Much can be achieved with this method: a very great degree of self-discipline, a large measure of control over oneself and over all the chaos of the human soul, even control over others, a complete structuring of one’s inner and outer life — even a certain kind of inspiration under the law.

But one thing which this way of life does not achieve is, of course, love. One can “speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love” (1 Cor. 13:1). To be sure, acts of love and benevolence enter into the rhythm of the strict ritualist’s life. The strict ritualist knows that he must help the poor, especially during Great Lent. In his time he has sent kalachi [wheatmeal loaves] to those confined in prison. He might even organize a benefit, build almshouses and put on dinners for his poorer brethren. But the basic motive for such activity is that it is prescribed, that it enters into the general rhythm of his life, that it has become part of his ritualist concept of things. In this sense he has a greatly developed feeling of obligation and obedience. Thus his relationship to others is determined by a self-imposed obligation and not on a spontaneous feeling of love toward them.

At the present time this type of piety has rather a tendency to grow and spread. This expansion can easily be explained if we take into account all the misfortune, abandonment, neglect and exhaustion of the contemporary human soul. This soul is not looking for a challenge: it is afraid any challenge will be a burden beyond its strength; it can no longer either seek for anything or accept the possibility of being disenchanted. The austere and rarefied air of sacrificial love is beyond its strength. If life has passed it by and given it no external well-being, no external stability, then it turns with special zeal toward internal well-being, toward the utter determinacy and legitimacy of its inner world. It throws over the chaos a solid cover of what is prescribed, what is permitted, and the chaos ceases to torment it. It knows the effectiveness of magical incantations, often expressed in incomprehensible syllables. Like the dervish, it knows the power of a gesture or a pose. It feels protected and tranquil. All these particularities of the strict ritualist path determine its growth in our times. In all likelihood a long period of development awaits it.

It must be noted here that from another point of view also our era may expect to see the further development of strict ritualism. We can see today an almost universal thirst for definite, concrete directives of some kind: how to believe, what to fight for, how to behave oneself, how to speak, how to think. We see that the world has a thirst for authoritative leaders who can lead a blind and loyal mass behind them.

We know of the existence of the most frightful dictatorship that ever existed, a tyranny over ideas. The infallible center — the Party, for example, or the Leader, the Führer — wills that we think and act in one way, and the individual, who believes in the infallibility of the directive, easily, with astounding and incomprehensible ease, restructures his inner world to correspond with this directive. We know of the presence of State-imposed philosophies and world-views. If we grant that somewhere the Church might become, if not supportive then at least tolerant of this, it will then be inundated with new cadres of people who have been brought up on mandatory directives, and strict ritualism will immediately teach them which path they must follow, where there is less doubt, where the directives are more precise and better regulate one’s whole life, where finally, the entire chaos of the human soul is tamed and driven into the allotted cages. Here the success of ritualism is absolutely foreordained.

But at the same time it is impossible to speak of its creative possibilities. Its very principle, a constant repetition of rules, words and gestures, excludes any possibility of creative tension. From ancient times strict ritualism has been opposed to prophesy and creativity. Its task was to preserve and to repeat, and not to tear down and rebuild. If it does, in fact, come out on top, then this will mean the extinction of the creative spirit and freedom in the Church for many decades.

The main question, however, which should be addressed to strict ritualism is this: how does it respond to Christ’s commandments concerning love for God and love for other people. Does it have a place for them? Where within it is the person to whom Christ came down? If it can be granted that very often there is expressed in it its own kind of love for God, it is difficult to see in what way it expresses itself in love for people.

Christ, who turned away from scribes and Pharisees, Christ, who approached prostitutes, publicans and sinners, can hardly be the Teacher of those who are afraid to soil their pristine garments, who are completely devoted to the letter, who live only by the rules, and who govern their whole life according to the rules. Such people consider themselves in good spiritual health because they observe everything that is prescribed by spiritual hygiene. But Christ told us, it is not the healthy who are in need of a physician, but the sick. In fact, we have today two citadels of such an Orthodoxy — traditional, canon-based, patristic and paternal Orthodoxy: Athos and Valaam. A world of people far removed from our bustle and our sins, a world of faithful servants of Christ, a world of knowledge of God and contemplation.

And what do you suppose most upsets this world of sanctity? How does it regard the present calamities which are tearing us apart, the new teachings, heresies perhaps, the destitution, the destruction and the persecution of the Church, the martyrs in Russia, the trampling down of belief throughout the whole world, the lack of love? Is this what most alarms these islands of the elect, these pinnacles of the Orthodox spirit? Not at all. What strikes them as the most important, the most vital, the most burning issue of the day, is the question of the use of the Old or New Style Calendar in divine services. It is this that splits them into factions, this that leads them to condemn those who think other than they do, this that defines their measure of things.

It is difficult to speak about love against this background, since love somehow falls outside both the New and the Old Style. We can, of course, state that the Son of Man was Lord of the Sabbath, and that he violated that Sabbath precisely in the name of love. But where they do not violate it, where they cannot violate it, this is because there is no “in the name” nor is there love. Strict ritualism reveals itself here to be a slave of the Sabbath and not the way of the Son of Man. And truly there is something threatening and ominous here, precisely because in Athos and Valaam, the ancient centers of traditional Orthodox spirituality, a person can find an answer to only one question out of all those which are raised by life: whether the Church must live according to the Old Style or the New. Instead of the Living God, instead of Christ crucified and risen, do we not have to do here with a new idol, a new form of paganism, which is manifested in arguments over calendars, rubrics, rules and prohibitions — a Sabbath which triumphs over the Son of Man? Idolatry in the world is frightening when it betrays Christ in the name of the State, the nation, a social idea, or petty bourgeois comfort and well-being. Still more frightening, however, is idolatry within the Church, when it replaces Christ’s love with the preservation of the Sabbath.

Taken From:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On Glossologia

On Glossologia: From Chapter 18 of “The Truth of Our Faith”, Teachings of True Christianity, By Elder Cleopa of Romania

Inquirer: What is glossologia or “speaking in tongues”?

Elder Cleopa: Glossologia, or “speaking in tongues,” as a gift of the Holy Spirit, is the ability to speak a foreign language without having to be taught it or knowing it beforehand. This is clear from the Holy Scriptures in which the events of Pentecost are described, and at which time this divine gift first appeared. The text is unabbreviated and unambiguous and recounts for us an actual event. Consequently, the text itself cannot be explained with some particular mystical or spiritual meaning alone, omitting the literal meaning. Let’s allow the passage from the Acts of the Apostles itself to explain what the text means and what comprises the speaking of foreign tongues by the Grace of the Holy Spirit: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:1-13).

From an examination of these thirteen verses that contain the key to the solution of the problem, we can educe the following conclusions:
A. The speaking of foreign tongues or languages, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, manifested itself, as a miracle, for the first time in history. For this reason the reader is provided with an extensive description, that he may be able to learn what this miracle is and in what it consists.
B. With this powerful gift of the Holy Spirit the Apostles began to preach in other languages, even 15 different local languages of other tribes and nations that had converged there for the feast of Pentecost.
C.The Jews of other nations, who had as their mother tongue the language of the nation in which they lived, marvelled when they heard the Apostles preach in their own language, for the Apostles were simple men of Galilee and it was impossible for them to know another language except the Aramaic they had learned at home.
- The Jews of other nations understood everything from the divine preaching of the Apostles. They spoke to them with precision in their own language concerning the greatness of God, without needing a translator, and it is in exactly this that the miracle rests. The visitors to Jerusalem were unable to explain what they witnessed and were full of wonder.
- Among the listeners of the preaching there were also some that did not understand anything that the Apostles said and subsequently mocked the Apostles, thinking that they were drunk. This group can be none other than the residents of Jerusalem, and perhaps those of nearby Palestine, who didn’t know other languages except their mother tongue, Aramaic. For these men the preaching of the Apostles was completely unintelligible and they considered it simply sputtering.
Thus, the residents didn’t understand anything from the preaching, unless someone translated it for them. For just as there is the gift of speaking in tongues or foreign languages, there also exists the gift of translation. This was given, as is apparent below, when those listening were only locals ignorant of other languages, as was, for example, the case in Corinth (1 Cor. 14). In Jerusalem, however, during this period there was not felt this deficiency. The gift of translation was itself also miraculous, just as was that of glossologia, on which it was directly dependent. Not having this gift the residents who were listening judged the work of the Apostles according to their personal determination and perception alone. Glossologia was a sign of the power of God and, as a decisive means of proselytism, was manifested among men who ignored the Faith (1 Cor. 14:21-25). For, apart from this, what meaning does it have for someone to speak about Christ in a foreign language if he was taught, believed and lived his faith in Christ from his childhood years?
If there are those who speak foreign languages and they are not understood by anyone, how do they build up the Church or benefit it? For the purpose of glossologia was for the Apostles to be able to spread, via the transmission of the kerygma (preaching) in foreign languages, the Faith of Christians to all people and to make the Gospel known throughout the world, as it is written: “Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world” (Ps. 18:4).
If someone had this gift, we must not think that it was the greatest among the gifts of God. The Apostle Paul says that there are other, greater gifts of the Holy Spirit than that of glossologia. “I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edification” (1 Cor. 14:5). And elsewhere he also says, “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” (1 Cor. 14:23).
Consequently, the gifts of prophecy, of preaching and of interpretation of Scripture are much higher than the gift of glossologia, for with these the Church of Christ is built up and benefited much more than with the gift of linguistics or speaking different languages (1 Cor. 14: 2-4). More sublime and higher than all the gifts is love, about which listen to what the Apostle Paul has to say: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).

Inq.: It is claimed by certain people that when the grace of the Holy Spirit comes to them and they begin to speak in tongues, they find themselves in a state of ecstasy. It is only at this time that they are able to speak certain inarticulate and incomprehensible human sounds, to have certain internal impulses or exclamations of joy, or to voice a certain remorse for their sins, as well as other movements of the body which are made by the action of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Saul had a similar spiritual manifestation when following David and going to Ramah. He was overcome by the prophetic spirit and with a flurry he prophesied, ripped his clothes off and went naked all day and all night (1 Sam. 19:22-24).

EC: It is incomprehensible for a healthy, clear and well-balanced intellect to reveal the great mysteries of God with inarticulate exclamations. Such a thing is not at all the same, as we know from that which was revealed through glossologia as a divine gift (1 Cor. 14: 2-4).
The Greek idol-worshipers of antiquity had similar exhibitions when they prayed to their gods Dionysus, Zeus and the others. When they were found before a diabolic idol they would fall into ecstasy or a trance, shaking and making rhythmic movements with their body, and tumble on the ground, with a few even foaming at the mouth like the demon-possessed of olden times. Next they would get up and sing rhapsodic melodies and make exclamations with demonic delight. The same happened with the Montanists, heretics of the first and second centuries after Christ, the Gnostics, and later the Methodists, the Quakers, the Pentecostals and others. These groups took to making uncanny and strange turns and movements of the body, had hallucinations and were in delusion, and thought that all of this came from God, when in actuality it comes from theologians of darkness who are familiar with Holy Scripture and who lead into delusion the unsuspecting, cheating them with words taken even from Holy Scripture.

Inq.: These people also say that with the charisma of glossologia that they possess, they maintain unbroken the work of the Holy Spirit among men and within the Church of Christ as it existed in the beginning of Christianity. For, they claim, today, as also in the beginning, with this perceptible sign of the gift of grace, the Holy Spirit stirs wonder and amazement in those who as yet are not Christians. Furthermore, with this visible sign of the gift of speaking in tongues, it becomes known to the faithful that there still exists a work of the Holy Spirit in the Church as in the first period of Christians in Jerusalem.

EC: The gift of speaking in foreign tongues or glossologia was not given by God for all time, until the end of the world. It was a sign given to the Church only for a time, with the aim of making it easier for those of other religions to convert to Christianity. We see, in this respect, that the Jews of Jerusalem, who did not understand the preaching of the Apostles - kerygma given by divine grace - did not, in fact, believe but rather said that the Apostles were drunk. The Prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning their disbelief before this great gift of grace, saying, “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear” (Isa. 28: 11-12). Indeed, in Jerusalem they spoke to them with lips of strangers, for the foreign Jews, or Jews of the Diaspora, heard about the wondrous works of God in their own languages and believed (Acts 2:11). And thus it is that the Apostle Paul prophesied that the gift of speaking in foreign tongues would cease (1 Cor. 13:8 , 1 Cor. 14:22-28).
The people of that time were spiritually in the age of infancy, for only just before had they left the worship of idols and their intellects were blurred, confused and insensible. They were still captives to the enjoyment of the fleshly pleasures and did not have knowledge of the divine gifts that one enjoys only on account of faith. It is for this reason that signs and wonders were then showered upon them.
Some spiritual gifts are invisible and become accessible to man via faith. Others, however, are visible on account of the unbelief of men. Here is an example: The forgiveness of sins is an invisible spiritual work. We do not see with our sensible eyes how we are purified of our sins. Why? Because neither is the soul that is purified visible to the eyes of our body. Speaking in different tongues or languages is also a work of the Holy Spirit, but it is a visible sign and more easily persuades those of other religions. Hence, the reason Saint Paul says the following: “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe” (1 Cor. 14:22). He who believes doesn’t have need of guarantees and signs. The first Christians would not have believed if they had not received signs.

Inq.: From those who I spoke to I learned that besides the gift of speaking in tongues, they have also the gift of the baptism of “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk. 3:16) which is totally different from baptism with water. This baptism showers upon them various miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially that of glossologia and the interpretation of Scripture, as happened also at Pentecost with the Apostles.

EC: Is it possible that there are two Christian baptisms? Doesn’t it say in Holy Scripture that there is one and only one? St. Paul tells us there is but “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all . . .” (Eph. 4:5; See also:1 Cor. 12:13). The baptism of “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk. 3:16) of Pentecost is none other than the Christian baptism which was pre-announced by both Saint John the Baptist and the Saviour Himself (Mt. 3:11, Acts 1:5) and which He said would happen by “water and the Spirit” - baptism neither by water alone, as with the baptism of John, nor only by the Spirit (Jn. 3:5). These two elements, the one visible and the other invisible, constitute the two most necessary prerequisites for the one and only Christian baptism. If, with respect to the practice of this mystery, some still speak only of water or only of the Spirit as constituting the main element of this Mystery, let them know that the Mystery is one and only one and its two elements are inseparable.

Inq.: Each Christian should have within him the Holy Spirit. The members of a certain Christian brotherhood say that while they can give evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit within them through the practice of speaking in foreign speech, the Orthodox are not able to show this by any means. Consequently, they say that the Orthodox are not true Christians due to the absence of this work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

EC: It is true that each Christian should have consciously within himself the Holy Spirit. Yet, the presence of the Holy Spirit is not only made manifest via glossologia. The Apostle Paul tells us that “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance . . .” (Gal. 5: 22-23). Do you see, therefore, that among the fruits of the Holy Spirit the practice of speaking in foreign languages is not referred to anywhere? This is the case because it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that was given for a certain period of time in the Church, while the gifts referred to here by the Apostle, all Christians, of every epoch, must have throughout their life. Whoever has the fruits of the Spirit has also the Holy Spirit within him. The gift of glossologia is not a common gift of grace but something special and not given to everyone (1 Cor. 12:10). How, then, can we consider it a precondition of salvation and a prerequisite for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life when it is not given to everyone? The Apostle Paul says, “Do all speak in tongues?” (1 Cor. 12:30). Consequently, then, those who do not speak in tongues can also be good Christians. In the community of true Christians everyone does not have the same gifts. The Apostles did not require this gift from all the Christians, and indeed, in quite a few it was revealed that this talent was profitless. The Apostles themselves did not use this gift, apart from exceptional cases when they had a certain aim, as on the day of Pentecost. So, therefore, it should be clear that they did not call upon every Christian to have this gift as a means of salvation.

Inq.: I would like, after all that we have said concerning glossologia, for you to summarize exactly the main points of our discussion.

EC: Listen, brother, and guard well within your mind: True glossologia as a gift of the Holy Spirit can be recognized only when it is combined with the following presuppositions.
1) If someone, by inspiration [of the Holy Spirit], speaks a language, it should be understood by all those who stand nearby, as happened in the case that we cited from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-13).
2) When someone speaks a language among the residents [of Jerusalem, Corinth etc.] that they do not understand, then another gift, the gift of translation of this language into the language of the people is necessary. Without this translation the foreign language is babbling and lunacy (1 Cor. 14:23).
3) Glossologia was not given to the Church forever, but only in the beginning of Christianity in order to awaken the idol-worshippers and Jews to belief in Christ. This is why the Apostle Paul said that the gift of glossologia would at some point cease to exist in the Church (1 Cor. 13:8).
4) Since we believe that Christ is our true God we no longer have need of glossologia, given the fact that the knowledge of foreign languages by inspiration [of the Holy Spirit] is a sign (miracle) necessary only for the unbelieving and not for the faithful (1 Cor. 14:22).
5) From the beginning of Christianity the gift of glossologia was one among the lesser in the Church of Christ, while the others, such as that of prophecy, interpretation of Scripture, of love and the rest, were much greater.
6) It is totally out of the question for speaking in tongues, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, to mean a delirium in a non-existent and incomprehensible language, for then it wouldn’t be speaking in languages, but our own [exclusive] language (Mk. 16:17). Moreover, it comes into clear contradiction with chapter two of the Acts of the Apostles.
7) The inarticulate voices, lunacies and incoherent utterances which we often hear from the self-proclaimed speakers of tongues very much resembles the scenes the idol-worshippers would make before their idols of Dionysus, as well as with quite a few of the Montanists, Gnostics, Quakers, and later Pentecostals, all of whom the true Church of Christ anathematizes (See the first and second Canons of the Sixth Oecumenical Council).
Thus, brother, foreign to the Spirit of God is the speaking in tongues of those who think they are grace-bearers and make bold to misconstrue the true glossologia, a gift of the Holy Spirit which existed at the outset of Christianity.

* Translator’s note: Literally, the Greek word translates as “linguistics.” Due to a popular misconception among English speaking people, the translation of γλωσσολογία is troublesome. In this chapter the word has been rendered variously as “glossologia,” “speaking a foreign language,” “speaking a foreign tongue,” “linguistics,” and “speaking in tongues.” The English dictionary gives for glossology: “The science of language; linguistics.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Politics of Anti-Christ

I forgot about this particular podcast, it is from a few years back. I find it absolutely remarkable and suggest you listen to it. It is only about 10 minutes long.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holidays got you down? Come Find Out the Reason for the Season

Greetings! This Sunday, December 13 @ 6PM at the Lifecare Center in Auburn, MA I will be giving a worshop on depression from a spiritual angle in regards to the Christmas season. Join us! Give me a call @ 508-641-5672 for more info or just show up!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

THE ASCETIC PODVIG OF LIVING IN THE WORLD: A Lecture Given by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus

The situation of an Orthodox person, an Orthodox Christian who lives in the contemporary world, may be described, without any exaggeration, as extremely difficult. The whole of present-day life, in all its tendencies, in one way or another is directed against a person who is trying to live according to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. In life around us, in our environment, in our heterodox surroundings, everything is essentially a total denial of Christianity. If, in the beginning of the Christian era, Christ's beloved disciple, St. John the Theologian, could write, "... the whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19), then how much more justified we are in speaking thus of our times.

Being a true Orthodox Christian, prepared to preserve unto death one's faith in Christ our Saviour, is much more difficult in our day than it was in the first centuries of Christianity. It's true there were persecutions then and Christians were tormented, but the Christians well remembered the Saviour's words, " ... fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul" (Matt. 11:28). Being fortified by God's grace, they joyfully went to their martyrdom and gave up their lives for Christ. This was also the case in Russia during the torture and persecutions. Now nobody threatens us, living here in freedom, with persecution and torture, but in spite of this, a persecution in its most diverse forms is being carried on against Christianity and against the Christian way of life. Today we see that everything connected with faith in God, with the teaching of God's Word, with Christ's teachings and the teachings of the Orthodox Church, in one way or another is being driven out of a person's life. This process that is taking place in the contemporary world is a process of apostasy, and it can be detected in every aspect of life.
The Old Testament says, "God, to be sure, framed man for an immortal destiny, the created image of His own endless being; but, since the devil's envy brought death into the world, they make him their model that take him for their master" (Wisdom 2:23-25).

We have been given our holy Christian faith so that we might obtain eternal life in blessedness. But to conform perfectly with the spirit of the Founder of our faith, Christ our Saviour, and with His teaching, to really cleanse ourselves morally, to increase in virtue, to become acquainted with spiritual perfection, all this demands special, grace-filled cooperation from above, in addition to an Orthodox person's own efforts. This grace-filled cooperation is called sanctification and is given to us by the Lord. It is achieved by the Holy Spirit in the holy Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ for our sanctification and salvation.

You and I are children of the Russian Orthodox Church. The question arises, do we live as Orthodox Christians are supposed to live? No, we are far from living in the way we should.
At our holy baptism we gave vows (if we were baptized as infants, our sponsors gave them on our behalf), we made a contract with Christ and in this way we became His children, His servants, the children of God. At baptism the holy Church sings, "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia."

Therefore, since we belong to God, we must live in accordance with God's commandments, in accordance with Christ's teachings and the laws of the Church. We are baptized, we are Orthodox Christians but we don't know very much about our Orthodox Faith.

All who are born in the bosom of the holy Church through holy baptism are born into a new life. They grow and are brought up in the Spirit of Truth and receive in the spiritual life grace-filled gifts for life on earth, with the promise of eternal gifts for the future life. Thus, to live in the Church is an essential condition for a Christian's moral development.

The Church of Christ was founded by our Lord the Saviour and He showed us the path by which we must go to Him, and He showed us how to follow His teaching. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Consequently, we must go by this path, pointed out to us by our Saviour.

Every path and every action demands a podvig—that is, an ascetic struggle. Therefore, our holy Orthodox Faith is an ascetic faith demanding ascetic labor in the struggle with our sinful passions and lusts.

How must we live and struggle? Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself shows an example: "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15). The saints also provide us with an example.

In His Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the whole essence of Evangelical teaching. This is found in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the Gospel of St. Matthew. In the Beatitudes the Lord teaches us that we must be born again spiritually and thus prepare ourselves for the beatitude of eternal life in the heavenly man signs. The first step towards this is to recognize one's spiritual emptiness, one's sinfulness and worthlessness, to become humble. This is why "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3). But only those who observe all the commandments will achieve this. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).

In order to go by the path that our Lord pointed out in the holy Gospel, we have to take ourselves under control, we must check and test ourselves. Bishop Theophan the Recluse says:The true Christian tests himself every day. Daily testing to see whether we have become better or worse, is so essential for us that without it we cannot be called Christians. Constantly and persistently we must take ourselves in hand. Do this: from the morning establish thoughts about the Lord firmly in your mind and then during the whole day resist any deviation from these thoughts. Whatever you are doing, with whomever you are speaking, whether you are going somewhere or sitting, let your mind be with the Lord. You will forget yourself, and stray from this path; but again turn to the Lord and rebuke yourself with sorrow. This is the podvig of spiritual attentiveness.

St. John of Kronstadt says: Every day, hour, and minute, keep a strict watch and consider every thought, desire, and movement of the heart, every word and deed, and do not let yourself be defiled by one sinful thought, desire, or movement of the imagination, in word or deed, knowing that the Lord is the Righteous Judge Who is judging you every instant and is evaluating the inner man. Continually keep yourself pure for God.

Now the question will arise—how do you definitely find out exactly what is sinful and to what degree, so as to know clearly and distinctly if one has sinned, and how frequently, and to critically examine one's life like a strict and unhypocritical judge?

Bishop Theophan advises as follows:To do this, put the law of God on one side and your own life on the other, and see where they are similar and where there is no resemblance. Take your deeds and subject them to the law to see if they are permissible, or take the law and see if it is applied in your life. So as not to omit anything in this important matter, you have to have an orderly system. Sit down and call to mind all your duties towards God, your neighbors, and yourself, and then go through your life in relation to all these. Or you may go through the ten commandments and the beatitudes, one after the other, and see if your life accords with them. Or read those parts of the Gospel of St. Matthew where the Saviour sets out the strictly Christian law, and also the epistles of St. James and the epistles of St. Paul, especially to the Romans and Ephesians.

Read all this and then check your own life, how it conforms. Or, finally, take the rite of Confession and check your own behavior against it. The result of such an examination of one's life is to reveal a vast number of deeds, words, thoughts, feelings and desires that were against the law but were permitted, even though they should not have been; a vast number that should have been done but were not, and many that were done in accordance with the law but turned out to be defiled by an impure motive. From all this you will gather a vast number, and even your whole life, perhaps, will be made up only of bad deeds.

Perhaps someone will say that all this is not necessary for all Christians, but only for the monastics. But no, this is for everyone! A person is a Christian not by calling, but by his way of life. All of us, not just monastics, have to think about and be concerned for our salvation. The law of the Gospel is given for everyone.

In answer to the question, how must a Christian live, how must we act and behave? the Apostle Paul shows us. His words, directed to the Ephesians, are also addressed to us:Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient [not proper, according to the Slavonic—editorial note]: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolator, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever cloth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:1-21).

We have to become interested in the holy Orthodox Faith, we must study it and live in accordance with it. We must take care concerning our salvation. We will do this if we read holy Scripture, if we study the law of God, if we pray morning and evening and at all times, if we fast, if we carry out God's commandments and the Church's commandments.

In addition to this, we have to acquire Christian virtues—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, generosity, mercy, faith, meekness, abstinence, etc. We have to go to church, attend divine services, be cleansed of our sins and be sanctified through the holy Mysteries which are given by the holy Church for our salvation.

We can find out from the holy fathers what significance prayer should have for us. The saints, who, in fact, tested the significance of prayer, wrote about this from experience. Therefore we must read what they wrote and learn from them.

This is what St. John Chrysostom writes about prayer:Prayer is a refuge for those who are shaken, an anchor for those tossed by waves, a walking stick for the infirm, a treasure house for the poor, a stronghold for the rich, a destroyer of sicknesses, a preserver of health. Prayer keeps our virtues intact and quickly removes all evil. If temptation overtakes us, it easily drives it away; if we lose some property or something else, which causes our soul grief, it removes it. Prayer banishes every sorrow, causes good humor, facilitates constant well-being. It is the mother of the love of wisdom. He who can sincerely pray is richer than everyone else, even though he is the poorest of all. On the contrary, he who does not have recourse to prayer, even though he sit on a king's throne, is the poorest of all....

On prayer in church and on attending church services, St. John Chrysostom says the following:The right confession of dogmas should be combined with righteousness of life and deeds so that we do not achieve our salvation only by halves. Nothing can so facilitate righteousness of conduct and purity of life as being here, in church, and sincere attentiveness. As the body needs food, so the soul needs the study of divine Scriptures, for "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). For this reason those who do not participate in this meal (liturgy) usually suffer hunger. Hear how God threatens such hunger and places it alongside punishment and torture: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send forth a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord..." (Amos 8:11). Is it not madness to do everything and take all measures to avoid bodily hunger but willingly to incur spiritual hunger? No, I beg and entreat you, let us not be so badly disposed toward ourselves....

Further, St. John Chrysostom continues:To be here in church is the source of all blessings. When they leave here, it seems that a husband is more respectful to his wife and a wife is more kind to her husband, since it is not the physical beauty of the body that makes a wife loving, but the virtue of the soul, not cosmetics and beauty aids, not gold and rich clothing, but chastity, meekness, and constant fear of God. This spiritual beauty nowhere develops to such an extent as in this wonderful and divine place (church), where the apostles and prophets wash away, reform, and cleanse old sin and bring forth the brightness of youth; where they extinguish every stain, every blemish, every defilement of our soul .... Let us try, husbands and wives, to rejoice in our inner beauty.

We give very little attention to fasting, considering this to be something that the Church has laid down which is of no importance. But it is divinely established. The commandment to fast is as old as the world. It was the first commandment given by God to man. Because we did not fast, we have been banished from Paradise. Therefore we must fast in order to gain entrance again to Paradise (St. Basil the Great). Not to fast is to be like animals to which such a thing is unknown. Abstinence for the body is food for the soul (St. John Chrysostom). We do not live in order to eat, but we eat in order to live and fulfill our duties. Our Lord Himself fasted, as recounted in the Gospel. Often you and I see someone in need but go past without responding and without helping as we consider that there are no really poor people and no one who has genuine need. But according to the Lord's commandments, we have to help, we are obliged to show mercy.

St. John Chrysostom says this about mercifulness:
Consider mercifulness not for what you give but for what you get, not as a loss but a gain, because through it you receive more than you give. If you give bread, you will receive eternal life. You give clothing and receive the robe of immortality; you give shelter under your roof and you receive the heavenly kingdom. You give perishable joys and receive eternal blessings.
Thus we see that in accordance with Scripture, in accordance with the teachings of the Church and the holy fathers, we must struggle in order to go by the Orthodox path to salvation. The holy apostles taught their disciples and instruct us as well: "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). The Lord also says to us: "Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat" (Matt. 7:13,14).

No doubt many of you will say or think: "There they go, they want us to live like monks or hermits. But look at our friends and acquaintances, and everyone around us, they live for their own pleasure, do what they want, and none of them ever think about what is being said here. They do not think about the heavenly kingdom, the future life; they do not spoil their mood by such considerations."

Yes, it's true—they live and pay no attention to the spiritual life. They do not believe in that or in the future life. Therefore there is nothing spiritual in them, they have no peace of soul, or spiritual joy. So they have no restraining center, nothing has any moral or spiritual value for which they might restrain themselves, or for which they might strive. Therefore they are connected with debauchery and lasciviousness, crime, spiritual suicide, and spiritual bankruptcy.
We children of the Orthodox Church have to beware of this and be careful and run away from all this as though from fire.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anthony, the founder and first head of our Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, in his wonderful article entitled "How Does Orthodoxy Differ from the Western Denominations?" wrote of the profound difference between our Faith and heterodoxy. He sees this profound difference in the fact that the Orthodox Faith teaches how to arrange one’s life according to the requirements of Christian perfection, while heterodoxy takes from Christianity only that which coincides with the conditions of contemporary cultural life.

Orthodoxy views Christianity as an eternal foundation of true life and demands that each break himself and his life until such time as it agrees with that norm, but the heterodox looks on the bases of contemporary cultured life as on an unshakable fact, and only in areas of its existing private options does he indicate which of them are most approved from the Christian viewpoint. Orthodoxy demands moral heroism—podvig; heterodoxy considers what elements of Christianity would be suited to us in our current way of life. For the Orthodox, a man called to life after death in which true life will begin, the historically-shaped mechanism of contemporary life is an insignificant illusion, but for the heterodox the teaching about the future life is an elevated, ennobling idea, an idea which helps to arrange our real life here better and better.These remarkable words of Metropolitan Anthony clearly and distinctly point out that bottomless abyss which separates the true Christian Faith—Orthodoxy—from its distortion—heterodoxy.Orthodoxy is a podvig, a striving for eternity, while in heterodoxy we see a strong attachment to the earth, to faith in human progress.

Vladyka Anthony points out further that the Orthodox Faith is an ascetic faith, that:The Golden Age which the worshippers of the 'superstition of progress' await on earth is promised by the Saviour in the life to come, but neither the Latins nor the Protestants want to accept this for the simple reason that (speaking openly) they believe feebly in the resurrection and believe strongly in the happiness of the present life, which, on the contrary, the apostles call a vanishing vapor (James 4:14). This is why the pseudo-Christian West does not want to and cannot understand the negation of this life by Christianity, which commands us to struggle, having put off the old man with his deeds and having put on the new, which is renewed after the image of Him that created him' (Col. 3:9-10).If we were to follow up all the errors of the West, both those which entered into its teaching of the faith as well as those inherent in its morals ... we would see that they all are rooted in a misunderstanding of Christianity as the podvig of the gradual self-perfection of the individual.Christianity is an ascetic religion, Christianity is a teaching about the gradual extirpation of the passions, about the means and conditions of the gradual acquisition of virtues; these conditions are internal, consisting of podvig, and given from without, consisting of our dogmatic beliefs and grace-giving sacraments which have only one purpose: to heal human sinfulness and lead us to perfection.This is what we must remember, and hold fast to the Holy Orthodox Church and her teachings. In doing so we shall not be far from the path of salvation!

This lecture was given at the Eighth Annual St. Herman Pilgrimage at Holy Trinity Monastery, December 25, 1985 (n.s.). Printed in Orthodox Life, vol. 36, no. 1 (Jan.-Feb., 1986), pp. 40-47.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Some thoughts for today...and any day

"The life of self-centeredness and self-satisfaction lived by most of today's "Christians" is so all-pervading that it effectively seals them off from any understanding at all of spiritual life; and when such people do undertake "spiritual life," it is only as another form of self-satisfaction. This can be seen quite clearly in the totally false religious ideal both of the "charismatic" movement and the various forms of "Christian meditation": all of them promise (and give very quickly) an experience of "contentment" and "peace." But this is not the Christian ideal at all, which if anything may be summed up as a fierce battle and struggle. The "contentment" and "peace" described in these contemporary "spiritual" movements are quite manifestly the product of spiritual deception, of spiritual self-satisfaction––which is the absolute death of the God-oriented spiritual life. All these forms of "Christian meditation" operate solely on the psychic level and have nothing whatever in common with Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality is formed in the arduous struggle to acquire the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, which fully begins only with the dissolution of this temporal world, and the true Christian struggler never finds repose even in the foretastes of eternal blessedness which might be vouchsafed to him in this life; but the Eastern religions, to which the Kingdom of Heaven has not been revealed, strive only to acquire psychic states which begin and end in this life." ----From Orthodoxy and the Future by Seraphim Rose, pp 187-188

Friday, December 4, 2009

Keeping Faith in Christ in an Age of Turmoil - Fr. Maximos McIntyre

*Sorry, I know this post is wordy and a culmination of many posts into one, but think it will show the mentality of what we are trying to start in Millbury, a truly Orthodox mission dedicated to Christ, kind and compassionate but not willing to go with the times. It does not matter if there are 2-3 of us or 200-300. We need to remain faithful to Christ and His Church in these turbulent times. -Fr. Maximos

I write this out of love and concern for my fellow humans seeking Christ in an age of apostasy. We live in spiritually turbulent times. Today, perhaps more than ever, we are continually assaulted by various means from the evil one.

The word “church” often synonymous with faith and spirituality is often inaccurate in our times. Today many “churches” are nothing more than politically influenced organizations run like a business. Instead of ensuring the salvation of souls it ensures the financial security of itself. Churches are often the puppet of political regimes, greedy human beings and demonic pseudo-organizations bent on hellish agendas. They add and subtract from the apostolic message and distort Christ to the point where they indeed preach a doctrine of antichrist and not the fullness of the Christ which is life-saving Truth.

God has been banished from our schools, the public square and ultimately our lives under the guise of atheism. To speak of Christ is weird, unacceptable to society and utterly taboo. When Christ is preached it is often distorted, laced with messages of prosperity, worldly acceptance and comfort instead of humility, repentance and bearing one’s cross. God have mercy on us in these dark days as false preachers run amuck sowing seeds of discord. The fastest growing “faiths” are pagan religions. False faiths, the resurrection of pagan mystery cults are flourishing. People are looking for meaning and seek taboo areas to fulfill their spiritual voids and search for meaning. It is only in the Orthodox teaching on the essential purification of the heart, the true enlightenment of the nous and participation via grace, in the Divine Energy of God is essential to the soul. No other “religion” can claim this except the faith which teaches Christ as Lord and Savior of humankind. All other philosophies, no matter how sincere are still devoid of the power of the life-giving cross.

We are inundated in this age with materialism, nihilism, atheism, Satanism, new age thought, Gnosticism, theosophy, pantheism, religious pluralism, ecumenism, goddess worship, intellectualism, agnosticism, worship of self, luciferianism, humanism, occult experimentation, disease, delusion, selfishness, deception and every other type of spiritual, psychological and physical malady. All these exist for one purpose; to distract us, derail, mislead us from our ultimate destiny; holiness; to partake of the divine nature, totally redeemed and sanctified, cleansed, purified and made whole again. To experience what it is to be truly human and to “live”, to experience fullness and be restored unto life, eternal life. To have the soul healed and to be able to flourish in Truth in light, purged of darkness and stain and clothed in the white wedding garment unto the feast. We are destined to experience deliverance from captivity, true restoration unto true human existence in the image and likeness of God, the first and the last and the Father and Creator of all. God is of course distinct from us, whose essence is unknown to us, but yet whose energy we may experience in grace.

The Church is often referred to as the hospital for souls. It is through this mystical body that we receive the nourishment of Christ through her teachings, sacramental reality, prayer, fasting and ascetic struggle. In searching for restoration of the soul I intend to the best of my ability to exemplify the apostolic tradition laid down by Christ, exemplified by the Church and her saints and martyrs and carried on by Apostolic successors, the bishops, who maintain the faith delivered one and to all unto the saints (Jude 3). It is in the Orthodox Church we are revealed as what it means to be truly human, participating in the reality Christ calls each one of us to participate in, restoring the soul to the pre-fallen state where it may know Christ by turning one’s soul from the earthly to the divine realm.

The Holy Scriptures, the testimony of the fathers of the holy faith, their eye witness to Christ and the wisdom they have received right from the successors of Christ is our focus here. This work is not to demean other belief systems or even other Christians, but in all honestly I believe that the fullness of Truth exists only in the Holy Orthodox faith, others having glimpses and not the entire unblemished faith.

I am not worthy as a worthless sinner to even begin to crack such a topic, especially where I have failed. I realize however, as humans, we are all in this predicament. We all are with sin and possess a fallen nature which needs to be restored unto its Creator. There are many paths on this journey but I am convinced there is only one true path. This is not something new nor is it my mere opinion; it is instead new spin on ancient spiritual data. It only scratches the surface of true healing of the noetic factor in the Orthodox tradition. I have experienced sickness, true organic problems. I have suffered in spirit, desolation, attack, aridity, and all maladies which can ensue. I write this small work to raise awareness. I pray it will point other souls towards true fulfillment in Christ, A Christ eternal and not of this world. I am attempting to pull spiritual wisdom from the Orthodox Church via scripture, the ancient canons, its saints and fathers and confessors to show where true healing and restoration take place. They take place in Christ through His spiritual hospital He left us, the church. It is only in the person of Christ that we see that these mere passions are traps in themselves and He is not just a mere archetype we should exemplify in dealing with these spiritual plagues, but it is in He that we too can be cleansed from these ravenous maladies of the soul.

Christ healed those afflicted by sin, sickness, physical maladies, possession by darkness, lunacy and mental illness and raised the dead because he came to undo the results of sin which are reflective in all of these maladies which humans experience. Christ did not come unto humanity to explain or define the cosmic problem of human suffering, sin or death, but to fill our tangible existence with His Divine healing and restorative presence. Since Christ came to defeat sin and its consequence and final symptom death, we can certainly see that healing was essential since the other byproduct of sin was sickness of body, mind and soul. Remember there is a link between the soul and the body. When our very soul is sick, the body will likewise suffer and be in disharmony. The Church always asks her followers to repent from their sins, their transgressions so that the Holy Spirit will have access to one’s essence. Remember, sickness and death entered the world due to sin, so if we work on eliminating sin, we will be made whole not only in soul, where true spiritual healing is our return to God in humility and obediance.

I wish not to sound polemical by any means, but I am convinced that the fullness of the church resides in the Holy Orthodox Church. If I was to embark on a journey across the country, I would want a means of getting to my destination, the proper vehicle to get me safely and effectively to my destination. The same is true of the salvific reality in Christ. The church is the safest, most efficient and most beneficial way of working towards salvation and most important of all it was initiated by Christ. It has all that we need, we however need to cooperate with God’s abundant grace and willfully participate to get to the Truth.

Personally I have no doubt that I am a weak man, a sinner, a Christian reaching to my Lord for help. I cannot forsake my Lord for comfort. I make mistakes, I am not a theologian and far from being a saint, but I love Christ. I am not here to change what He truly is, I am here to defend Him, carry His cross and assist my brethren so they to may know who He really is. Remember, the true Christian renounces the world for love of Christ, submitting their self to the Blessed Trinity and to the service of fellow man. Saint Theophan the Recluse stated, “Be encouraged! Take up prayer more readily and continue without interruptions—and you will soon achieve your desired goal. Soon a reverent attention to the One God will be established, and with it, inner peace. I say soon, not now, or in a day or two. Months may be required, sometimes, even years. Ask the Lord and He will help.” "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life." (John 6:27)

The Holy Orthodox Church is relatively unknown in North America yet it is the original Christian Church. Roman Catholicism can claim the same faith for hundreds of years after Pentecost and even historical continuity since the apostles, but the truth has been preserved undefiled in Holy Orthodoxy,undefiled by innovation and subtraction. Protestant Christianity, on the other hand, was a reaction to further innovations and abuses of Roman Catholicism and broke from Rome starting another “church”.

The Orthodox Church of today can trace its history back to the New Testament Church in unbroken continuity. The Apostles, as per our Lord's command, preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ and founded churches in Europe, Asia and Africa. Under the direction of the Apostles and their successors, whom they appointed to carry on their mission, the Orthodox Church began to thrive. At each city and town that the Apostles traveled they would appoint a bishop to continue to minister to the faithful, before leaving on their missionary journeys. As the Church grew, the bishops in turn had to appoint priests and deacons to help them with their flock. The early church maintained truth by the oral testimony, faith and example of the apostles and their appointed successors who maintained the Truth of Christ undefiled. This is what is referred to as apostolic succession. Also early Christian writings, the formulation of canons and of course the holy results of the seven ecumenical councils kept the true faith intact and defined it to contrast the teachings of heretics who sought to preach a different version of Christ. Often based on secret knowledge, Roman paganism, semi-rationalism and Greek philosophy.

It was in the early centuries of the Church's existence, while fighting to safeguard the true doctrines of Christ that the Christian Church officially took on the name "Orthodox." The word Orthodox literally means "straight teaching" or "straight worship," being derived from two Greek words: orthos, "straight," and doxa, "teaching" or "worship." Right, correct, the true saving confession of faith without distortion.

The Bible, western denominations and the confusion we are in:
Today we have many “churches” claiming to be the one, true Church. Only the Holy Orthodox Church can legitimately claim this title. Some possess “mechanical” apostolic succession, but succession in this form, removed from adhering to the faith is deficient and viewed as null and void outside the boundaries of the Holy Orthodox Church. There are various faiths based on Christianity or variants of, but not rooted in the apostolic era. Many have stripped out essential teachings or added erroneous doctrines to the faith.

These include but are not limited to:
· Lutheranism: Martin Luther founded this movement in 1522.
· King Henry VIII was responsible for the birth of the Anglican Church of England in 1534.
· John Knox founded the Presbyterian Church in 1580.
· The Congregational Church was founded by Robert Brown in Holland about 1582.
· John Smith founded the Baptist Church in 1606.
· The Protestant Episcopal Church is a breakaway movement from of the Church of England initiated by Samuel Seabury in the 18th Century.
· The Methodist Church, was erroneously created by John & Charles Wesley in England in about 1774.
· The Unitarian Church was initiated by Theophilus Lindley in England around 1774.
· The Mormon Church was founded by the delusional Joseph Smith in 1829.
· The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth in London England in 1888.

As you can see these faiths are not rooted in the apostolic era but instead were created by men who began their own religion causing further division in the Western world. Other “Christian” groups are often loosely based on the ancient faith, devoid of apostolic succession and the Holy Mysteries; they preach an in-sufficient Christ, only giving glimpses into the mystical theology rooted in the salvation of the soul. Many offshoots claim that the Bible alone is their source of Truth. The Orthodox Church would certainly agree on the Divinely-inspired scriptures as the Word of God but see the Holy Scriptures as part of the Church, not something separate from her. If the Bible is self-sufficient how come not all people can agree on its message? Perhaps one of the phrases you have heard from Bible believing Christians is, “Well, the Bible says so.” Unfortunately this is the sort of phrase used quite often by anyone who wishes to prove their point and fulfill their own agenda. Also we must note most modern Bible translations are corrupted using ambiguous language, the removal of certain canonical books and erroneous commentary.

Many groups claim to be the sole source of Christ as attempt to use the Bible as their justification for existence. We must remember that the Bible came out of the Church; the canon was formed by the Church. The Bible was formulated by the church, for the Church. It is the Church’s sacred book of God inspired texts. What Bible do you use? What version, is it accurate? The Bible even states, “But if he (thy brother) neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican" (Matt. 18:17). “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all men. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another; but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:1-8)What about the fact that the Bible as we know it is fairly new and did not exist in early Christianity. What about those who cannot read? Instead the Church and her rightful successors taught, baptized and healed as Christ taught them. It is from their testimony that the canon was formulated. Sure erroneous man-made traditions are to be ignored, but apostolic traditions of the church are not man-made. The Church has always existed and is traceable by the apostolic succession of a valid bishop who teaches the apostolic truth. This is essential for the spiritual and historic continuity of the true apostolic church. the best of human ability all sacred canons and professions must be upheld, the true and essential unity of the Holy Orthodox Church is fully expressed by the total harmony of her bishops, by a common undivided and apostolic faith and a common, pure and holy spiritual life. Involvement in the Church is to live the Fullness of the Faith, partaking of her grace and communal support with others.

Christ further told His followers, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20). This promise was made not specifically to the world, but to the Church, the sacrament of His presence. And yet, it is precisely Christ's abiding presence in the Church that is His saving presence in the world. When Christ comes in glory, He will come as a Bridegroom to receive not the kingdoms of this world, but His spotless Bride, the Church (cf. Eph. 5:25-27)…..the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (cf. Matthew 16:18). The Church, therefore, is a divine-human Mystery. But more than that, She is the Mystery of Trinitarian Life: that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee . . . that they may be one, even as We are one (John 17:21-22). Jesus promised His abiding presence to His Body, the Church, which is the fullness of Him Who filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23). He promised to send the Holy Spirit Who would guide the Church into all truth (John 16:13). Remember, the church is of the living God, the pillar and the ground of the truth. (1 Tim 3:15) The nature of the Church instated by Christ and ultimately established at Pentecost is one of love, truth and is directly attached to Christ, its head. The Church is the “Bride of Christ” based on this truth. Christ and His Church are one, Christ as the giver of life to each member. All people are called to be the branches, extending from Christ, the head of the universal Church. The Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It is the only spiritual and true body, divinely initiated, universal and timeless and stems from Christ to His apostles and continues through her bishops. The Church is undoubtedly the living Christ.

Rome and the West:
When we evaluate missionary history throughout the known world, the Roman Catholic Church continued to grow and spread through its missionary efforts. The Orthodox Church, due to its subjugation to the Moslem Turks, was unable to do this, remaining in the eastern hemisphere. This perhaps, from a theological standpoint, was a blessing in disguise; for the Orthodox Christians were quite adamant in
retaining the faith, teachings and traditions of their ancestors who in turn had received them unchanged and in complete harmony with the faith and teachings of the Apostles of our Lord and their successors.

This was not so in the West. The Roman Catholic Church had undergone certain theological changes due to the age of Speculation & Enlightenment, the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation
which eventually led to separations within and from the Roman Catholic Church. These changes in the West as late as the sixteenth century gave birth to the: Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican and other Protestant
churches. These changes in unshakeable church doctrine never affected the Orthodox Church; Orthodoxy maintained its unbroken historical and theological connection to the New Testament Church despite theological and political turmoil in the western world. Where the west often added to, over-defined and adopted philosophical principles from those scholastics such as Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal Newman, the Church of the East maintained its faith as defended by early Church Fathers such
as Saint Maximos the Confessor, Gregory of Palamas, Gregory of Nyssa and many other voices of early Christianity. As a result it is safe to say Eastern and Western Christendom took two divergent paths. Medieval scholasticism, humanistic reason and European philosophy certainly permeated the Roman Catholic Church. Papal innovations, cooperation with worldly kingdoms and politics, various forms of tyranny and the establishment of the Vatican as a world power certainly further separated the Roman church from its ancient apostolic heritage rooted in the mystical theology of the early church.

The New Age, Pop-psychology, self-help movements:
The New Age movement has erupted into an acceptable and penetrating force. A look at the overall atmosphere of New Age philosophy appears to be one of tolerance and even peaceful sincerity, but closer investigation reveals otherwise. It is the systematic weeding out, destruction and intolerance of Christ. With no official epicenter or visible leader the new age movement is a concoction of many ideals, an anything goes philosophy ensues, no rules or moral regulations. Anyone can believe anything they want, true or false and accept any moral precept they may wish, despite its uncertainty, delusion or evil nature. It is simply a modern manifestation of age old heresies, deceit, and spiritual destruction. The new age is essentially a spirit of error and destruction which continually re-invents itself in a loose, but powerful, network of satanic entrapments, deceit and false promises leading the soul away from its only source of redemption and healing and restoration to the pre-fallen state, that of Christ. It substitutes truth for error or ambiguity, blending truth with falsehood in order to ensnare the will in a decision between the Almighty God and the fallen one. It seeks to exploit our inherent weaknesses and our human failure. It is in part the cause of sin, or at least the promotion of it, and therefore the reason for sickness and death of the soul. It tries to extinguish the True Light in a world of darkness.

This spirit is what is called the “new age”. It is simply a modern manifestation of age old heresies, deceit, and spiritual destruction. The new age is essentially a spirit of error and destruction which continually re-invents itself in a loose, but powerful, network of satanic entrapments, deceit and false promises leading the soul away from its only source of redemption and healing and restoration to the pre-fallen state, that of Christ. It substitutes truth for error or ambiguity, blending truth with falsehood in order to ensnare the will in a decision between the Almighty God and the fallen one. It seeks to exploit our inherent weaknesses and our human failure. It is in part the cause of sin, or at least the promotion of it, and therefore the reason for sickness and death of the soul. It tries to extinguish the True Light in a world of darkness. "The True Light that enlightens every man" and "that all who believe in His name may become the children of God" (John 1:9-12). It seeks to pit the created against the Uncreated. They seek the destruction of the essence by sowing seeds of discord. It is a mode of thought and action which is detrimental to the soul. Ambiguous, deceitful, cunning, full of lies and has a goal of having all under its hellish jurisdiction. It seeks the ruin of man and his entrapment either willingly or by trickery and deceit. It does not discriminate for it wants to destroy man who is created in the image and likeness of the One, Eternal God. It seeks to lead away even the elect by creating barriers between man and his redemption.

Perhaps one of our biggest largest spiritual problems is that of the neo-paganism that runs rampant and for the most part undetected since there is no official, earthly visible head of this network of harmful, soul-destroying heresies. There is of course an architect behind the movement known as the prince of this world, but this deceitful blanket clause of “new age” seems to cover all of the neo-pagan and Gnostic falsehoods, delusions and blasphemies. Neo-paganism continually grows in worldly stature and acceptance. Today, new age materials are readily available in many print avenues as well as mass market media. The New Age mind-set has touched almost every area of life: education, culture, history, religion, politics, psychology, science and healthcare. A look at the overall atmosphere of New Age philosophy appears to be one of tolerance and even peaceful sincerity, but closer investigation reveals otherwise. It is the systematic weeding out, destruction and intolerance of Christ. Anti-Christ no necessarily obvious by being against Christ but intends to negate the reign of Christ in the hearts of mankind. As the church Fathers indicate this spirit wants to place its self in place of Christ.

Some modern day “fathers” of occult practices and some popular examples of New Age paganism are:

· Aleister Crowley, Edgar Cayce, Gerald Gardner and Sybil Leek
· Popular books such as “The Secret” by Amanda Byrne, books by Sylvia Browne, Uri Gellar and Deepak Chopra
· Any type of spirit communication, popular angelology, tarot readings, visualization techniques
· False faiths and practices such as Santeria, earth-based worship, meditation groups, Jungian self-help pop-psychology and psychotherapy practices

With no official epicenter or visible leader the new age movement is a concoction of many ideals, an anything goes philosophy ensues, no rules or moral regulations. Anyone can believe anything they want, true or false and accept any moral precept they may wish, despite its uncertainty, delusion or evil nature. This syncretism of an “anything goes” philosophy brings about spiritual numbness instead of spiritual liberation in Christ. It is a global advocate of religious syncretism or religious pluralism built upon pride. Man decides his fate and the state of the world, the notion of Divine Providence obsolete.

In regards to moral accountability, truth is absent since it is up to the individual to decide what is truth. It is delusional, deceptive. The “New Age” Promises the so-called Evolution of the human spirit by its own means, devoid of God or with the assistance of pseudo-gods. These “gods” being everything from mere concepts and ideas to actual inhuman deities who relish in mankind’s demise, rather humanity’s separation from the True and Eternal God.

A further aspect of pagan philosophy is the advent of humanism. Humanism is based on the prideful precepts of Luciferianism and further expanded by western rationalism and educational principles which deny the divinity of Christ and the cosmic power of the life giving cross. “We are all gods”, “we create and have control over our destiny”, “we rule the world and have dominion over it”, these are all statements entrenched in the satanic doctrine of humanism. Humanism is nothing else but the sin of the arch-fiend Lucifer, that of pride, repackaged in such a way over and over again in many guises as to recapitulate his fall. Humanism is just modern paganism without the external ritual, but the aim and means are the same. Humanism, new age paganism, outright Satanism and even Americanized pop-Christianity are deceiving many souls in this age of apostasy. Masonic goals are being achieved especially in ecumenical circles and the resurgence of Gnostic teachings are replacing the real spirit of authentic Christianity by a process of syncretistic lies.You have probably heard of such actions and experiences in self-help groups, charismatic circles and the appendages of human potential movement such as being “slain in the spirit”, “speaking in tongues”, “channeling the power of the Holy Spirit”, being “born again once and for all” and other areas of experience such as aspects of inner healing, deliverance, various unconventional forms of exorcism, spirit communication, prophecy, contacting ascended masters, attracting wealth, health and prosperity (the law of attraction). There is a resurgence of interest in new age angelology, the phenomenon of the stigmata, weeping statues, various types of ecstasy and of course prophetic visions, dreams and messages.We are inundated with pastors and so-called clergy who state, “God said to me…” such and such a thing. Many laity claim that they are enlightened or receive messages or commune with those who have passed from this life. Where are we to draw the line? In an age where schism, heresy and misunderstanding appear to reign supreme, we are losing sight of our mission to both live and preserve the authentic faith of Christ personally and communally. The Fullness of the Church is the Assembly of the people, the children of God for the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, the Divine Eucharist, wherein the local Church or Church proper becomes the true Body of Christ. It is in this Theandric organism that we are communally united, in which the Holy Trinity dwells and we participate on earth in the heavenly mysteries entrusted unto the Church of God.The visible center and head of the Eucharistic gathering is the Bishop who rightly imparts the word of truth and maintains unbroken apostolic succession: It is the bishop who leads the Church and preaches the word of God or appoints priests to preside in temples under his lawful jurisdiction; it is the proper bishop who offers the Eucharist and all the priests who commemorate him as the chief as the assembly that we are all united in the true organic unity of the Holy Church; the Eucharistic unity.Being an actual part of the Church, part of Christ Himself is not simply a profession, deed or belief. It is
the absolute and complete participation in the eternal plan established by the Uncreated Trinity, to take full part willingly in the Lord’s blessedness, that of Christ Jesus, to become sons and daughters in His eternal covenant. As Christians we are not to deny the Trinity, for we are created by God, in His image and for Him! “The Lord hath made all things for himself” (Prov16, 4)… We are not our own, independent or self-sufficient. We belong to the Almighty God.

Coming Home to the Church:
Pertaining to the Church, Saint Theophan the Recluse wrote the following: “What is the holy Church? It is a society of believers, united among themselves by a unity of confession of divinely revealed truths, by a unity of sanctification by divinely established Mysteries, and by a unity of government and guidance by God-given shepherds. The oneness of confession, sanctification, and administration constitutes the rule of this society, which is obligatory for anyone who joins it. Membership in this society is contingent upon accepting this rule and agreeing with it; remaining in this society is contingent upon fulfilling it. Let us see how the holy Church grew and how it continues to grow. The preachers preach. Some of the listeners do not accept the preaching and leave; others accept it and as a result of accepting it are sanctified by the holy Mysteries, follow the guidance of the shepherds, and thus are incorporated into the holy Church -- they are churched. That is how all the Church‘s members enter her. In entering her, they are mingled with all her members, they are united with them, and they remain in the Church only as long as they continue to be one with them all.”

24“Therefore everyone who heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him to a prudent man who built his house upon the rock. 25“And the rain came down, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew, and fell upon that house; and yet it fell not, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26“And everyone who heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. 27“And the rain came down, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew, and struck against that house; and it fell. And the fall of it was great.” [Mt. 7:24-27]

Orthodoxy is not “another denomination” but the historical Church of Jesus Christ, undefiled, teaching what the apostles and their successors taught. We acknowledge one head, Christ Jesus, and strive to seek Him, imitate Him and carry out His divine commandments to teach, preach and baptize all nations. “And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matt 28:18-20) Holy Orthodoxy is not rational in the eyes of the world as it is not of this world. It is not a philosophy or mere religious system. It is truth rooted in Christ, a lifestyle of perpetual struggle, participating via the will seeking union and restoration in Christ.

The fullness of the catholic church is present unquestionably in the local church if it possesses the apostolic faith undefiled, surrounded by a right confessing bishop who possesses apostolic succession, in which a presbyter and the people gather to partake of the Holy mysteries...period. There is nothing lacking, it is full, essential, perfect and undoubtedly the church. Not a mere part, but the fullness therein. Christ is in their midst in totality with nothing lacking.

Christ said to those around Him: “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:27-28). Christ also said, “Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14). Though the Sacraments, Holy Scripture, and the spiritual discipline and the ascetic struggle of the Orthodox Church you will find what true prayer, sacrifice and living consists of. True evolution is of the soul when man is redeemed from animalistic corruption to holiness, the supreme destiny of the human. This is exemplified in the process of theosis in which we draw closer to God each and every day fully and willfully participating in Him. 23And He was saying to them all, “If anyone is willing to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and keep on following Me. 24“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose His life on account of Me, this same one shall save it. 25“For what is a man profited, if he gaineth the whole world, but destroyeth or loseth himself? 26“For whosoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of this one the Son of Man shall be ashamed, whenever He should come in His glory, and that of the Father, and of the holy angels. 27“But of a truth I say to you, there are some of those standing here who in no wise shall taste of death, until they see the kingdom of God.” [Lk. 9:23-27] 31Then Jesus was saying to the Jews who had believed Him, “If ye abide in My word, truly ye are My disciples; 32“and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” [Jn. 8:32-33]

True evolution is of the soul when it draws near to is through this process that man is redeemed from animalistic corruption to the path of holiness, the supreme destiny of the human. This struggle is exemplified in the process of theosis in which we draw closer to God each and every day despite the rocky path to salvation. Let us not lose the true savor of Orthodoxy which is Truth in Christ and His saving gifts bestowed upon those who are in Him. If so you will find Him who has been calling you all your life: Christ, the lover and restorer of mankind!