Wednesday, December 15, 2010

St. Mark of Ephesus: A True Ecumenist by by Fr. Alexey Young

Ecumenical means "belonging to or accepted by the Christian Church throughout the word; as such, this term reflects the rule of faith given by St. Vincent of Lerins: Christian truth is that "which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all ." Thus is the correct dictionary definition of the word and the only patristic definition of it. Unfortunately, 'ecumenical" has come to mean something quite different in the latter part of the 20th cen tury. Under the influence of the World Council of Churches and the policy of aggioramento in the Church of Rome. "ecumenical" has come to mean the following: the unity of Christ's Church has been shattered through the centuries; all Christian Churches are pretty much equal, and each has a "share" of the truth; therefore, all denominations must be united in order to recapture the "whole- ness" that once existed. This is modern-day ecumenism.



A superb example of the first and original kind of ecumenist is St. Mark of Ephesus, a 15th century champion of orthodoxy, sometimes called "The conscience of Orthodoxy." The following information is condensed from a series of three articles in "The Orthodox Word" (1967), written by Archimandrite Amvrossy Pogodin:


When the foundations of Byzantium were crumbling, diplomats redoubled their efforts to find a possibility of union with Western powers for a battle against the common adversary of Christianity, Islam. Attempts were made to conclude treaties with the Turks, but these were unsuccessful. The only hope lay in the West. For this it was necessary above all to make peace with the Vatican.


A Council was convened in 1437, which established a committee of Latin and Greek theologians with the Pope and the Byzantine Emperor acting as heads. The Pope, Eugenius IV, had a very exalted idea of the papacy and aimed at subjecting the Orthodox Church to himself. Prompted by the straitened circumstances of Byzantium, the Emperor pursued his aim: to conclude an agreement profitable for his country. Few gave thought to the spiritual consequences of such a union. Only one delegate, the Metropolitan of Ephesus, St. Mark, stood in firm opposition.


In his address to the Pope at the opening of the Council, St. Mark explained how ardently he desired this union with the Latins- but a genuine union, he explained, based upon unity of faith and ancient Liturgical practice. He also informed the Pope that he and the other Orthodox bishops had come to the Council not to sign a capitulation, and not to sell Orthodoxy for the benefit of their government, but in order to confirm true and pure doctrine.


Many of the Greek delegates, however, thought that the salvation of Byzantium could be attained only through union with Rome. More and more became willing to compromise the eternal Truth for the sake of preserving a temporal kingdom. Furthermore, the negotiations were of such unexpectedly long duration that the Greek delegates no longer had means to support themselves; they began to suffer from hunger and were anxious to return home. The Pope, however, refused to give them any support until a "Union" had been concluded. Taking advantage of the Situation and realizing the futility of further debates, the Latins used their economic and political advantage to bring pressure on the Orthodox delegation, demanding that they capitulate to the Roman Church and accept all her doctrines and administrative control.


St. Mark stood alone against the rising tide which threatened to overturn the ark of the true Church. He was pressured on all sides, not only by the Latins, but by his fellow Greeks and the Patriarch of Constantinople himself. Seeing his persistent and stouthearted refusal to sign any kind of accord with Rome under the given conditions, the Emperor dismissed him from all further debates with the Latins and placed him under house arrest. By this time St. Mark had fallen very ill (apparently suffering from cancer of the intestine). But this exhausted, fatally ill man, who found himself persecuted and in disgrace, represented in his per son the Orthodox Church; he was a spiritual giant with whom there is none to compare.


Events followed in rapid succession. The aged Patriarch Joseph of Constantinople died; a forged document of submission to Rome was produced; Emperor John Paleologos took the direction of the Church into his own hands, and the Orthodox were obliged. to renounce their Orthodoxy and to accept all of the Latin errors, novelties, and innovations on all counts, including complete acceptance of the Pope as having "a primacy over the whole earth." During a triumphant service following the signing of the Union on July 5, 1439, the Greek delegates solemnly kissed the Pope's knee. Orthodoxy had been sold, and not merely betrayed, for in return for submission, the Pope agreed to provide money and soldiers for the defense of Constantinople against the Turks. But one bishop still had not signed. When Pope Eugenius saw that St. Mark's signature was not on the Act of Union, he exclaimed, "And so, we have accomplished nothing!"


The delegates returned home ashamed of their submission to Rome. They admitted to the people: "We sold our faith; we bartered piety for impiety!" As St. Mark wrote: "The night of Union encompassed the Church." He alone was accorded respect by the people who greeted him with universal enthusiasm when he was finally allowed to return to Constantinople in 1440. But even then the authorities continued to persecute him. At length he was arrested and imprisoned. But whatever his condition a n d circum stances, he continued to burn in spirit and to battle for the Church.


Finally he was liberated and, following his example, the Eastern Patriarchs condemned the False Union and refused to recognize it. The triumph of the Church was accomplished-through a man exhausted bydisease and harrassed by the wiles ofmen, but strong in the knowledge of our Saviour's promise: "...I will Build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18)

St. Mark died on June 23, 1444, at the age of 52. This great pillar of the Church was a true ecumenist, for he did not fear to journey to Italy to talk with the Roman Catholics, but more importantly, neither did he fear to confess the fullness of the truth when the time came.

The following is the concluding section of the Saint's encyclical letter on the subject of the false union. It is as meaningful and vital today as it was 500 years ago: "Therefore," St. Mark writes, "in so far as this is what has been commanded you by the Holy Apostles,-stand aright, hold firmly to the traditions which you have received, both written and by word of mouth, that you be not deprived of your firmness if you become led away by the delusions of the lawless. May God, Who is All-powerful, make them also to know their delusion; and having delivered us from them as from evil tares, may He gather us into His granaries like pure and useful wheat, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom belongs all glory, honor, and worship, with His Father Who is without beginning, and His All-holy and Good and Life- giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen."


By the prayers of St. Mark, O Christ our God, and all Thy Holy Fathers, Teachers and Theologians, preserve Thy Church in Orthodox confession and lead many into a knowledge of the Truth, unto the ages!

Source: http://www.roca.org/OA/26/26f.htm

Basil the Great and Disfigured Christianity by Photios Kontoglou (From the book "Humble Giants")

I want to speak on Saint Basil, but I don't want to say what is commonly told by those who write about this truly "Great" saint. Especially some theologians who are educated by the Franks, who don't care at all about his holiness or his wisdom according to God, but rather his "classical" wisdom, his knowledge of Greek letters, of rhetoric, and the other ephemeral and outward ornaments of his deep soul, forgetting what the Apostle Paul writes about worldly wisdom, which he calls "foolish according to God".

For these people, philosophy is revered, even more so than religion, as much as they would like to hide this; education is more persuasive than faith, the ancients a more important coat of arms than Christianity. For this reason, they measure everything by these standards. The worth of the Holy Fathers isn't in their holiness, but about how much they were strong speakers, strong communicators, strong in mind, in one short word, how they had that which was and is honored by a sinful world and all that is considered superfluous by the Christian, or even harmful, according to the Gospels.

I dare say the Gospels! These teachers of the people don't ask anything, but they go to the tune of their own melody. Paul, who said a thousand times in a thousand ways how language skills, that is rhetoric, is fake and Christ does not want it, these same, suffice it to say, with force, proclaim him "great orator", he who said: "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied" (1 Cor. 1:17); and who said to the Colossians: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (2:8). Those however who explain to the laity the Holy Scriptures are deaf and blind, and they pretend that they don't hear and don't see; even he who said that philosophy is "vain deceit" they proclaim a great philosopher, thinker, a clever brain "after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ". They want to make him "a rival of the ancient philosophers which glorified mankind", in order for Christianity to have great temples and not only the poor in spirit, the impoverished, the unlearned Apostles, the simple ascetics, and the easy-believing martyrs and saints. These pseudo-christians are eaten by pride, worldly vainglory, because they are those whom the same Paul says are "vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind" (Col. 2:18), and are "of the flesh", and honor the flesh, wanting to "please God" (Rom. 8:8).

The Paul who spoke these fearful words, "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23), with their unreasonable minds, they brought him down to their level, making him a verbose orator, philosopher, sociologist, politician, organizer, psychologist, educator, opportunist, because this is what they understand, and these are the greatest titles which they can imagine. No voice could have said these things with stronger, clearer, livelier and more jarring words, except that of Paul, and still the new Scribes did not take notice. May his words be as hammers which pound on their hard skulls, they are: mortar and pestle[1].


Listen to how Paul speaks about ancient wisdom: "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness..." (1 Cor. 1:21-23). Therefore, behold what Paul says and [to the contrary] what the exegetes of the Gospels and of the same Paul teach, that is the wisdom of fools, which regards the teaching of Christ as foolishness.

I have shown great perseverance in this matter, because those who want to debase the pristine waters of the Gospel, "the living water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:14), with the marshy waters of knowledge and ancient philosophy which the wretched drank in those days, "as those without hope" (1 Thess. 4:13), without being quenched, these therefore are blind guides who twist the world, and with their theories become responsible for many youth falling into unbelief, because souls that thrive off of "vain deceit", will fall into the plight of atheism, confessed or unconfessed.


All this comes from disfigured Christianity which is taught to all those who are educated in the universities of the West, which is the homeland of rationalism and humanism, and then they bring this rationalistic Christianity to us. Why are we cursed to learn all that is ours from foreigners, even the ancient language?


I turn again to Paul, to take from him other God-inspired words which are removed by the deceivers, the Frankish-educated humanistic pseudo-christians. I take all the words of Paul, for to this saint they reveal their greatest honor, because, by the measure which they judge him, they find in him greater worldly knowledge, sociological activity, rhetorical skill, methodology, psychological sharpness, and a whole bunch of other such things with which many honor him, without the God-blinded being able to see how Paul is the greatest and most vehement enemy and critic of their twisted perceptions they have of the christian religion.


The God-tongued Paul therefore writes and asks: "Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor. 1:20). It's as if he is saying: "Which of the wise of this world, among the philosophers and clever debaters, with their dialectic, will be able to discuss, or even understand the things we the foolish say, we who do not recognize the masterful turns of dialectics, we the uneducated easterners, and not us deep down, but those things which the Holy Spirit says with our mouths?"


Further down he writes: "We speak wisdom among those who are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing" (1 Cor. 2:6). Who are the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing, as well as the philosophers and orators and other so-called masters of worldly literature, which their darkened lights the christian needs, so say the blind teachers of the people, as if the light of the Gospel is not enough, which says: "If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt. 6:23).

Therefore, according to the spirit of this age which is "coming to nothing", they are also celebrating and glorifying Saint Basil, not as a saint and struggler of the true religion, but as an author of "elegant writings", "a wise moralist and educator, adorer of Greek wisdom".


But how consistent is the Saint with those who glorify his Greek-learning and the honor he had for ancient wisdom, is revealed in the words below which he wrote to Eustathius the bishop of Sebastea:


"Much time had I spent in vanity, and had wasted nearly all my youth in the vain labor which I underwent in acquiring the wisdom made foolish by God. Then once upon a time, like a man roused from deep sleep, I turned my eyes to the marvellous light of the truth of the Gospel, and I perceived the uselessness of 'the wisdom of the rulers of this world, that come to nothing.' I wept many tears over my miserable life and I prayed that guidance might be vouchsafed me to admit me to the doctrines of true religion. First of all was I minded to make some mending of my ways, long perverted as they were by my intimacy with wicked men. Then I read the Gospel, and I saw there that a great means of reaching perfection was the selling of one’s goods, the sharing of them with the poor, the giving up of all care for this life, and the refusal to allow the soul to be turned by any sympathy to things of earth. And I prayed that I might find some one of the brethren who had chosen this way of life, that with him I might cross life’s deep and troubled strait" [Letter 223].


But who gives importance to what Saint Basil says? We have made our own Christianity, a convenient, humane and reasonable Christianity, as the Grand Inquisitor of Dostoevsky says, because the Christianity which Christ taught is inapplicable, inhumane. We, instead of ascending towards Christ, Who says: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself" (Jn. 12:32), have pulled Him down to our level in which we are found, and have made a Christianity which is in agreement with our weaknesses, with our passions, with our secular ambitions, and have given the saints the skills our materialism honors and admires, making them philosophers, orators, politicians, psychologists, sociologists, educators, etc. The Grand Inquisitor, as Christ was going before him (he had commanded that Christ be caught, because He returned to the earth and the people followed Him), told Him: "The time You came into the world You brought to the people a harsh religion, impractical and inhumane. We made it convenient and humane. Why did You return to the earth again? To ruin it for us once we have put it in place? For this reason we order You to be burned in Your name, as a heretic!"
A convenient and humane Christianity, this human construct, is the present deformation that has happened to the Gospel by the cunning materialism of our flesh.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thank you T&G!

Many thanks to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette for the nice article on my screenplay.
Here is the article in its entirety:
http://www.telegram.com/article/20101209/FLASH/12090574

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Assault on Patristic Ecclesiology: A Personal Reflection of the Branch Theory: Part 1

I hope this blog post does not come across as bold, hateful or full of contempt because it is not. It is not meant to be exhaustive, absolute, or a complete defense or position paper either. It is a small compilation of thoughts of a simple clergyman who sees something which is a threat. It is not unique as it has been addressed before and by those much more competent than I.


I personally love and respect all, understanding that we are all in different stages of life, have been reared in different faiths, exposed to different historical circumstances and the like, knowing full well that not everyone has been exposed to Orthodoxy or has made a conscious decision to reject it. Adherents to Orthodoxy are not guaranteed salvation and those outside of her fold are not automatically condemned. That would be insane fundamentalism. Actually just about all of my outreach ministry in the area of nursing home and hospice work and past efforts with the homeless were with non-Orthodox, so, I am not some hateful bigot, I just love Truth. This post is written more for Orthodox people who read my blog and it serves as an airing of thoughts as I continue to witness the “fruits” of the so-called branch theory.

One must not under any circumstance harbor anger, hatred or malice towards a person or group that is hostile toward those who are faithful, period. On the contrary Christ tells us that, one must love him or them unceasingly and do as much good as humanly possible towards him, despite the error, arrogance, violence or hatred. Following the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you" (Mt. 5:44).

Also, I understand and support that on the basis of morality, societal issues, humanitarian causes and so forth, we can have a common witness with those outside the Church in standing against such frightening issues as violence, greed, genocide, so-called same sex marriages, human starvation and a plethora of issues which afflict all humanity and are a common concern to all who label themselves as Christians. My own patriarch, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russia in recent times stated that: “Together with Roman Catholics, we stand together in facing aggressive secular liberalism, in defence of the traditional Christian understanding of family values and human life. We present a united front against certain sorts of medical-biological experimentation, as so much of it isn’t compatible with a proper respect for human dignity.” This is completely different than accepting false the eccliesology of those outside the Church. It is a heathly balancing act of love, but without compromise. It does not mean “union”, it means agreeing on issues that afflict all human beings and taking a stand. However, even in joint efforts standing against the kingdom of this world we need to be careful. This is one problem I had with the “Manhatten Declaration”. Although I agree with its premise and what it supports, at its heart was that all differing confessions somehow constitute the “global church”.


Archbishop Averky of our Holy Russian Church of blessed memory stated the following: “We are living in a strange time, when all the true and healthy Christian concepts are being replaced by false and deceitful concepts, discovered often with an evil intention with the undoubted intention, naturally, of drawing people away from the right path of a truly Christian life.”

As time, as we humans perceive it, goes on I am exposed more and more too Orthodox clergymen who believe in the branch theory. In good conscience I cannot accept this error. Arguing over truly semantic points, topics where liberty and opinion can be taken is often a waste of time and is not the problem. However there is no doubt in my mind that the branch theory is a direct assault on the nature of the Church, it is not backed up in our tradition and is a battle the Church has waged against constantly. Unfortunately many believe the modern fallacy that the branch theory is orthodox.

We know that compromise with error is falsehood indeed and guideposts from the holy ones before us have always been means of dealing with heretical innovations, various errors and issues which at first may seem like semantically orientated arguments, but in reality are a cancer which seek to enter the body of Christ in an attempt to whither her and ensnare her faithful. One thing is sure though, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18) We must remember what saints before us have proclaimed and even been persecuted for. St. Mark of Ephesus proclaimed "In matters of the Faith, there must be no concessions and no wavering...There exists no little or worthless word in matters of the Faith; and that which appears insignificant contains the most important meaning."


The Problem:

What is the branch theory? As with all errors which seek to ensnare the faithful it is rather ambiguous. It ranges from accepting other sacramental churches with some semblance of apostolic succession which is only mechanical in nature (Augustinian view), to a more brazen acceptance of many or all Christian churches as valid to even the insanity that all religions are sufficient and vehicles to salvation.

Is the Church divided? Does the Church embrace all forms of heresy, promotes schism, violate its own synodal decisions, violate its own canons, and spit in the face of its saints and martyrs? Of course not. Whether a moderate or extreme branch theorist, as opinions in its application vary, one thing is clear. It is not patristic.

The branch theory promotes that the Church differs in life, varying doctrines being acceptable or even in the extreme case of its proponents that the Church is not one as required by the very Creed and despite canons and patristic testimony. Canon 1 of the second ecumenical council and other guideposts are set aside brazenly as outdated or not applicable. In the Nicene Creed itself all Christians confess their belief in the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Oneness is essential and is a characteristic of Christ's Holy Church. The Church is not a set of different opinions and practices resulting in denominations having a common claim to follow Christ despite their contradictory life and belief. The Church, which is the Body of Christ, can never be divided, separated or exist in opposition to itself. It is one as the Holy Trinity is one. Christ is not schizophrenic having manifestations which contradict, this is just insane.


The sacred canons and professions must be upheld. It is essential that the true unity of the Holy Orthodox Church exists in the unblemished expression of the total harmony of her bishops who hold to these guiding canons, by a common undivided and apostolic faith and a common, pure and holy spiritual life rooted in her Holy tradition. Church's canons are a direct reflection of the essential and unchanging faith and doctrine it so proclaims universally throughout all of time. Renovation to the practice of the internal, spiritual life of the Church will certainly cause disarray, confusion and the possibility of error. As taken from Canon I of the Second Ecumenical Synod, "Let not the Symbol of Faith be set aside…but let it remain unchanged: and let every heresy be given over to anathema.” Or let us look at the eighth proceeding of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod. “If anyone breaks any ecclesiastical tradition, written or unwritten, let him be anathema. We are obligated, despite the times which change as the seasons, to maintain the Truth of the gospel message undefiled and without addition, subtraction or innovation. A bishop has a most difficult task in preserving apostolic truth without alteration or corruption. I am not talking about semantic points, matters of discipline but of the very underlying uniqueness of our holy church.


The branch theorists instead feel when the branches come back together, the fullness of the Church will be enacted. Under the branch theory those in schism and heresy are often embraced as co-equal to the faith delivered unto us by the saints. Under the branch theory the faith and life of an outside body, their “sacraments”, and witness are often misconstrued as no different than that of the mystical body of Christ.

Canon XLVI of the holy apostles states: We order any Bishop, or Presbyter, that has accepted any heretics' Baptism, or sacrifice, to be deposed; for "what consonancy hath Christ with Beliar? or what part hath the believer with an infidel?" Further St. Ignatius of Antioch in the third chapter of his Epistle to the Philadelphians states: “If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

We have Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council and also St. Basil the Great’s first canon and the testimony of St. Cyprian of Carthage that with apparent schism those who depart from the Church no longer possess the grace of the Holy Spirit, the priestly gift of grace is discontinued and void, and the transmission of the priesthood is obstructed. Without the transmission of the true priesthood, apostolic succession, those baptized by them are considered to be baptized by laymen at best. Consequently both argue that, “they have neither authority to baptize nor to ordain.”

Saint Cyprian of Carthage continues: “For if they shall see that it is determined and decreed by our judgment and sentence, that the baptism wherewith they are there baptized is considered just and legitimately in possession of the Church also, and the other gifts of the Church; nor will there be any reason for their coming to us, when, as they have baptism, they seem also to have the rest. But further, when they know that there is no baptism without, and that no remission of sins can be given outside of the Church, they more eagerly and readily hasten to us, and implore the gifts and benefits of the Church, our Mother, assured that they can in no wise attain to the true promise of divine grace unless they first come to the Truth of the Church.”

St. Mark of Ephesus in Florence, who spoke frankly as follows: "We have split ourselves off from the Latins for no other reason than the fact that they are not only schismatics but also heretics." He continues, "The synods condemn those who will not obey the Church and maintain opinions contrary to what she teaches. I neither preach to my own glory, nor have I said anything new or unknown to the Church. I keep intact the pure and unadulterated teachings with the Church has received and preserved, and continues to preserve, from Christ our Savior...Therefore, if I remain steadfast in this teaching and do not desire to deviate from it, how is it possible to judge me as a heretic? First, one must judge the teaching which I believe, and then judge me. If, however, the confession is holy and Orthodox, how can I justifiably be judged?"

St. John Chrysostom states;"Let not the systems of the heretics fool you, my dear listener: for they have a baptism, but no illumination; accordingly, they are baptized, it is true, with respect to the body, but as respects the soul they are not illumined."

A good modern evaluation by Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos is: “The Church can receive this or that heretic by the principle of economy, without any implication that She recognizes as a Church the community that previously baptized him.” Ekklesiastike Parembase, No. 71 (December 2001) [In Greek]. Translated by and printed from Orthodox Tradition, Vol XX, No 2, pp. 40-43.

This is why I find the branch theory so repulsive, it undermines the ecclesiology of the church, uniting Truth with falsehood ambiguity and confusion, promotes or rather allows schism and heresy, and ultimately sees nothing wrong with it. St. Symeon the New Theologian says: "A lamp, even if it is filled with oil and possesses a wick, remains totally dark if it is not lighted with fire. So it is with the soul in appearance adorned with all virtues, if it does not have a light and the Grace of the Holy Spirit, it is extinguished and dark" (Homily 59).

A Personal Reflection of the Branch Theory Part 2

What adds to the confusion is the often contradictory statements and actions of those who are publicly visible in the Church and hold high positions of authority. But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, nor by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and [your] nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. (James 5:12)


Recently in an interview Patriarch Bartholomew stated:


“As I said earlier, all issues are intertwined with each other – socially, economically, and ideologically. Young people feel unsafe. The Orthodox Church has to offer the original faith as it existed during the first ten centuries of our common road with the West. That is to say, the faith and the Church as the true body of Christ. Before the Great Schism of 1054, all of Europe was Orthodox. Therefore, what the Church is called to offer is the simplicity and authenticity of the christian faith. We teach authenticity, ascetic morality and spirituality. All these are missing from the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.”


"The West was cut off from these values, and this is precisely what justifies the nostalgia that is manifested today. In recent years, more and more liturgical books of the Orthodox Church have been translated and published in foreign countries. Apart from the theological books, one may find spiritual guides in such books as the Philokalia, which is of great interest also to non-Orthodox people." (Source: Cafebabel.com)


On the contrary he has previously stated:


“Our Churches are recognized mutually as Sister Churches, responsible together for the preservation of the One Church of God...We exhort our faithful, Catholic and Orthodox, to strengthen the spirit of brotherhood, which derives from a single Baptism and participation in the sacramental life." (Episkepsis, No. 520, July 31, 1995, p.19)

And, further:

“We remind all that every form of proselytism... is absolutely condemned by the Orthodox. Proselytism, practiced in nations already Christian, and in many cases even Orthodox, poisons the relations among Christians and destroys the road to their unity. “(Summit Message of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, given at the Phanar, Constantinople, on March 15, 1992; cited in The Struggle Against Ecumenism, Boston, 1998)


In reflection this is nothing but confusing and problematic but we must understand something. With all due respect Patriarch Bartholomew is not "Pope of the East" nor any kind of universal bishop, and certainly not infallible, so he does not speak for the entire Orthodox world. Citing such opinions as “sister church” even though they come from such a source do not necessarily mean they are Truth. Considering there is One Lord, one faith” (Ephesians 4:5) and we are to“Be ye all of one mind” (1 Peter 3:8) I find such overt contradictions disturbing. This is only one example of the many statements and actions of hierarchs who contradict the previous decisions and stand of those who have defended and died for the faith.


There are literally hundreds of phrases and actions we can be confused by, the playing of both sides of the fence. Here in the US for instance we have recent, lesser known documents/statements such as “Steps Towards A Reunited Church: A Sketch Of An Orthodox-Catholic Vision For The Future” and “Celebrating Easter/Pascha Together”. Contrast these statements with that of the “The Basic Principles of Attitude to the Non-Orthodox” issued by the Moscow Patriarchate or “The Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism” and we must ask; who is right? Is Orthodoxy divided, being of two mindsets?


The warming of relationships and mutual respect is a great accomplishment, but sentimentality and false assumptions which are completely blind to Orthodox decisions and patristic views of the past are a smokescreen more in line with the ecclesiology of the World Council of Churches than our holy fathers. It is interesting in all the ecumania how quick the branch theorists forget official statements such as those issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, for instance the Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895 which states: “But, as has been said before, the Western Church, from the tenth century downwards, has privily brought into herself through the papacy various and strange and heretical doctrines and innovations, and so she has been torn away and removed far from the true and orthodox Church of Christ.” In addition, there are the Encyclicals of the Eastern Patriarchs in 1848 regarding Papism and the Jerusalem Council of 1671 under Patriarch Dositheus of Jerusalem which dealt with Protestantism.

Personal statements of scholastics that are often falsely deemed “theologians” if not re-iterating of bearing witness to the faith should be discarded. If the teachings do not echo what the Church has already held, died for and defended, they are not friends of God but workers of iniquity and deception, for they mix truths with unrighteousness (Romans 1.18) They deceive many who listen to their satanic diatribe. Instead of being “scholarly” they fall into the vanity of their own minds, complete with utter delusion, poor scholarship and complete disregard for the faith. We need to shed our emotion, personal will and just be honest. We do not hold the same faith as other confessions. It is just a sad fact and I pray many will be brought to the Truth. Compromising in essential areas will not bring others to the faith, but keep them from it, the blood on our own hands.

Let us be honest in evaluating the beliefs of other denominations and religions. Do we share the same fullness as those who do not believe in Christ? Do we share the same faith of those whose faith is based solely on rationalism, humanism and pride? Do we declare with one mind the same Truths of those who reject the salvific continual process of purification, illumination and glorification? With those whose sole faith is only the bible or with those who vehemently reject the holy mysteries, abhor the saints, decry icons as idolatry and who incorporate paganism and every other falsehood into their beliefs? Does one who does not work out their salvation with fear and trembling because of the false notion of being born again with the falsehood of once saved always saved, being saved by faith alone (despite biblical truth to the contrary …1st John 1:6 …Romans 11:22 …1 Cor. 9:26-27 …1 Cor. 10:12… Hebrews 10:26-29… Romans 8:7-8, etc.) hold the same faith? I can go on and on.

However, saying the above, declaring everyone who does not agree with us as heretics is rather uncharitable and should not be the ammunition we use. We must use love, honesty and be a living example. Saint Seraphim tells us that if we acquire the Holy Spirit thousands around us will be saved. Metropolitan Philaret, former First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, expressed sober views. He wrote: It is self-evident... that sincere Christians, who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics — that is, those who knowingly pervert the truth.... They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, “Who will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4) and “Who enlightens every man born into the world” (Jn 1:9), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation in His own way [From the pamphlet “Will the Heterodox Be Saved?” (Leaflet #213 published by the St. John of Kronstadt Press)].


The Spirit blows where He will (John 3:8), but it is not up to us to lay aside Truth to dwell with error. Jesus certainly exalted the faith of the centurion whose servant was healed: 'Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.' (Matthew 8:10), but we cannot assume that all, including ourselves if we stray from Truth will be included. The point is that we adhere to the unadulterated, divinely revealed faith, not the opinions of men who distort the faith delivered once and all unto the saints. It is obvious that those outside of the Church are led to her experience grace. This is not to be confused with so-called sacramental grace. They are indeed being led to the fullness of Truth where they may communicate with the salvific energies of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They who are outside of the church are best termed heterodox and not heretics unless they do subscribe to the unadulterated teaching of the church or unless they embrace heresy. Further we must remember that “all things are possible to him who believes.”(Mk. 9:23)

A Personal Reflection of the Branch Theory Part 3

The Church:


The church is a microcosm of the Holy Trinity and cannot be divided into branches which are at odds, lest the Holy Trinity be considered schizophrenic. St. Maximus the Confessor tells us that:"An Icon of the Triadic God is the Holy Church, as she operates the very union among the faithful to God, albeit to those who happen to be of different speech and from different places and customs, according to which [union], by the faith, are made one." (Patrologia Graeca, vol. 91 “Mystagogy,” ch. i, p. 668 B)

St. Photius the Great further states: "Wherefore, on the one hand, the unity of the Trinity towards itself, it is lawful to say, FORMED A CHURCH [Greek: ἐκκλησιάσασα, i.e. “was congregated”], while on the other hand, it is lawful to say, that, at the moment of the creation of mankind, the term “let us make man in our image and after our likeness,” was bestowed upon created man in oneness of opinion, and thereby the creation of mankind from shattered creation was prepared..." (Homily 9:9)

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.”

St. John Chrysostom tells us, “Nothing is more abiding than the Church: she is your salvation; she is your refuge. She is more lofty than the heavens; she is more far-reaching than the earth. She never grows old; she always stays in bloom. And so Scripture indicates her permanence and stability by calling her a virgin; her magnificence by calling her a queen; her closeness to God by calling her a daughter; her barrenness turned to fecundity by calling her 'the mother of seven'. A thousand names try to spell out her nobility. Just as the Lord is called by many names - Father, Way, Life, Light, Arm, Propitiation, Foundation, Gate, Sinless One, Treasure, Lord, God, Son, Only-Begotten, Form of God, Image of God, - since one name could not hope to describe the Omnipotent, and many names give us some small insight into His nature, so the Church goes by many names.”


The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, 1983, signed by all the Bishops, to be permanently added at the end of the Anathemas listed in the "Rite of Orthodoxy," celebrated on the First Sunday of the Great Fast, the Sunday of Orthodoxy is sobering indeed for the Russian Orthodox faithful for whose protection it was enacted:


"To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches" which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the Priesthood and Mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and Eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their heresy of ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!"

The so-called “lifting of anathemas” even though the differences have grown consistently since the Great Schism. More recent events like forbidden concelebrations and joint prayers with known heretics, various “statements” such as the Chambesy Agreement, Balamand, Canberra, the agreement in New York, and the Toronto statement continue to confuse and blur the lines between Truth and falsehood.


The Moscow Patriarchate in recent years has made much clear for the Orthodox faithful under her care. In the profound document entitled, “The Basic Principles of Attitude to the Non-Orthodox”, we have the following:

2.4. The Orthodox Church cannot accept the assumption that despite the historical divisions, the fundamental and profound unity of Christians has not been broken and that the Church should be understood as coextensive with the entire “Christian world”, that Christian unity exists across denominational barriers and that the disunity of the churches belongs exclusively to the imperfect level of human relations. According to this conception, the Church remains one, but this oneness is not, as it were, sufficiently manifest in visible form. In this model of unity, the task of Christians is understood not as the restoration of a lost unity but as the manifestation of an existing unity. This model repeats the teaching on “the invisible Church” which appeared during the Reformation.


2.5. The so-called “branch theory”, which is connected with the conception referred to above and asserts the normal and even providential nature of Christianity existing in the form of particular “branches”, is also totally unacceptable.

2.6. Orthodoxy cannot accept that Christian divisions are caused by the inevitable imperfections of Christian history and that they exist only on the historical surface and can be healed or overcome by compromises between denominations.


2.7. The Orthodox Church cannot recognize “the equality of the denominations”. Those who have fallen away from the Church cannot re-unite with her in their present state. The existing dogmatic differences should be overcome, not simply bypassed, and this means that the way to unity lies through repentance, conversion and renewal.

A Personal Reflection of the Branch Theory Part 4

Overt Ecumenism:
Saint Cyprian tells us: “Not only must we beware of what is open and manifest, but also what deceives by the craft of subtle fraud. And what can be more crafty, or what more subtle, than for this enemy...to devise a new fraud, and under the very title of the Christian name to deceive the incautious.”

Ecumenism is a deceitful, syncretistic movement seeking false intercommunion between all Christian denominations and eventually all religions. Despite doctrinal differences, heretical innovations and scandal, ecumenism tries to unite Truth with falsehoods. It exploits man’s need for acceptance and worldly peace and recognition under the pretenses of "love" and "peace," to slowly and ambiguously nullify the teachings of Christ into a one world religion created by the minds of men.

Under the false pretenses of "love" and "peace," the Ecumenists even promote the union of Christianity with non-Christian religions. As a gesture of "love" the Ecumenists have forsaken the truth of Christ, forgetting that love without truth is false love. The fundamental belief of Ecumenism is that the whole truth does not exist in any single denomination or religion, but that all sects and cults contain a portion of the truth, and that the whole truth can only be found when all denominations, cults, sects and even religions unite. Since external unity cannot be achieved due to the sense of power each religion desires to retain, the Ecumenists have sought to form a union of all religions through compromising matters of the faith. Thereby all religions may keep their individual doctrines and traditions, but all should unite under the banner of a common belief in a divine power, whether this be God, Buddha or the numerous deities of Hinduism and other pagan faiths.

Many ecumenists promote the union of Christianity with non-Christian religions, recognizing false gods as equal to Christ. This so-called "love" the Ecumenists have forsaken the truth of Christ, forgetting that love without truth is false love indeed. The philosophy of Ecumenism is that there is no whole truth and the whole truth does not exist in any single visible denomination or any religion, but that all sects can contain a portion of the truth, even if their beliefs differ considerably. A false union of all religions through compromising matters of the faith is a disgrace to the cross of Christ. Ecumenism allows all religions to keep their individual doctrines, traditions, and teachings, forcing a sort of pseudo-unity unite under the banner of a common “god”. God can be “mother earth, Buddha or the numerous deities of Hinduism and other pagan beliefs in stark contrast to our knowledge of the Holy Trinity.

It is only in Christ and in His Church that I will be redeemed and experience the fullness of His abiding grace. 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).

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.

The Holy Spirit directs the Church and accomplishes that incomprehensible identification in which our incarnate Lord Jesus, and the Holy Eucharist, and the assembly of the Church are one and the same and are called the Body of Christ. To use a quote that I seem to use constantly due to its effectiveness from the mouth of the great exiled and persecuted Saint Athanasius, “You are the ones who are happy; you who remain within the Church by your Faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the Faith which has come down to you from Apostolic Tradition. And if an execrable jealousy has tried to shake it on a number of occasions, it has not succeeded. They are the ones who have broken away from it in the present crisis. No one, ever, will prevail against your Faith, beloved Brothers. And we believe that God will give us our churches back some day. Thus, the more violently they try to occupy the places of worship, the more they separate themselves from the Church. They claim that they represent the Church; but in reality, they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray. Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ.”

The ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret in his First Sorrowful Epistle stated unto the Church, "Can any one of us be silent if he sees that many of his brethren simultaneously are walking along a path that leads them and their flock to a disastrous precipice through their unwitting loss of Orthodoxy?"…of course not. “For there must be also heresies among you” (I Cor. 11:19). This is true to distinguish the authentic followers of Christ from those heretics who attempt to deceive the elect with their satanic entrapments.

St. Nektarios of Aegina said the following:“Neither the Papist nor the Protestant church can be considered the True church of Christ. The first was altered by a number of innovations and the accursed despotism (Primacy) due to which resulted the schism from the Orthodox. The same goes for the Protestants whose innumerable innovations lead to total anarchy and chaos. Only the Orthodox Church maintained the teaching of Christ flawlessly without a single innovation. Only in the Orthodox Church does unity exist. The unity which the Savior was petitioning from the Father saying, ‘Holy Father keep them in your Name those that you gave me so they can be one just like we are one. (John 17:11…)”

“In the last days all will claim to be Orthodox Christians, and that Orthodoxy is as they understand it to be. But in spite of all this, those who have a pure heart and a mind enlightened by divine grace will recognize the Orthodox Church despite the apparent divisions and utter lack of external splendor. They will gather around the true priests, and they will become the pillars of the Church. Let the people of the world do whatever they will. Let there be ecumenical conferences; let the churches be united; let Christianity be adulterated; let the Tradition and life be changed; let the religions be united. The Church of Christ will remain unaltered, as Chrysostom says, because if even one of her pillars remains standing, the Church will not fall. "Nothing is stronger than the Church. She is higher than the heavens and broader than the earth. She never grows old; she always flourishes." - Against False Union, by Dr. Alexander Kalomiros (Seattle, WA: St. Nectarios Press, 1990 [1967]),

So what are we to do?

Saint Basil the Great instructs us: “Be attentive to yourself (Deut. 15:9). That is, observe yourself carefully from every side. Let the eye of your soul be sleepless to guard you. You walk in the midst of snares (cf. Sirach 9:13). Hidden traps have been set by the enemy in many places. therefore observe everything, that you may be saved like a gazelle from traps and like a bird from snares (Prov. 6:5)”

Let us take heed to the following: For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate. – Didiche 16:3 (The Teachings of the Apostles)

The erection of parasynogogues, extreme zealotry, hatred, overt personal opinions will not suffice. Love, truth and humility are needed in such a discussion and in preserving and battling for truth. We must fight the good fight and refute any and all nonsense, not losing sight of our goal; the Truth of Christ. Saint John Damascene tells us, “If someone is teaching you outside of the things which the holy Catholic Church received from the Holy Apostles, Fathers and Synods and preserved up till now, do not listen to him..., close your ears."

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. It may take a lifetime. 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)

Fr. Seraphim Rose promoted the acquisition of the mind of the fathers. Not mere academic theology, a superficial pondering of the fathers, but understanding them and the salvation in the faith they acquired. This is the mindset we need to acquire to fight temptation in these dark days. Further St. Theodore Studite states: "The Church of Christ is not comprised of the many, but of those who keep the correct and saving confession of faith, even if they are few." How true and sober this is! All who appear in the “physical” boundaries of the Church do not always have the mind of the fathers. We are forewarned. "Even if we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:8) If they do not teach what has been taught by the Holy Church then we know they cannot be of God. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Matthew 7:15-20.

St. John of Kronstadt – “Outside of Orthodoxy there is no other confession which can lead man to the fullness of the Christian life, to sanctification, to the cleansing from sin or to eternity, because the other ones, the non-Orthodox confessions, suppress ‘the truth in wickedness’ (Rom 1:18). They confuse the truth with sophistries and lies and in this way they don’t maintain the means of Grace necessary for man’s renewal. These only belong to the Orthodox Church the only ‘Holy and Spotless’.”(Eph 5:27)

Saint John of Shanghai and San-Francisco once stated, "There will be a mass falling away from faith, moreover many bishops will betray faith justifying themselves by pointing at the splendid state of the Church. People will be disposed to search for compromise. A forthright confession of faith will disappear. People will excel in justifying their fall, and tender evil will contribute to such general disposition, and people will become accustomed to apostasy and to sweetness of compromise and sin."

As I stated earlier this is not an attack on anyone, but this is an airing of some real concerns in the confusing times we live in. The point is we cannot compromise in matters of truth, but need not be filled with animosity. We all have a God that wills our salvation and our God is ultimate love and knows our hearts. Let us hold on to the faith of our fathers, which was given unto us preserved in its fullness. May we safeguard the Truth even unto death since we know this is where our hearts true home is.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Politics

Here are some good podcasts, short too, about politics from an Orthodox perspective. Considering all the hoopla this week I would suggest taking a half hour to listen to all three.

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/carlton/my_two_cents_on_capitalism
http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/carlton/liberty_and_property_part_1
http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/carlton/liberty_and_property_-_part_2

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ghost hunting and Christianity; Are they Compatible?

Although more a post than a complete article, I hope that at least some of what I have concluded will permeate. I am going to take a different twist in this post. I started writing and compiling a post for Halloween but now have to say it has been done before and better than I could anyways. So I am going to address one of the more popular aspects of modern day spooky pop culture; ghost hunting.
This is not just a criticism or ideological difference sparking this short article, but comes from direct experience. I am not trying to offend or attack, trying to argue, but instead have a genuine concern for the mental and spiritual well being of those who partake in paranormal investigations.

In my late teens and into my early to mid-twenties I had the opportunity to investigate well over 125 legitimate cases, historical sites and even was present for exorcisms conducted in the Roman Catholic, traditionalist catholic and Old Catholic faiths. I worked with or for John Zaffis and Ed and Lorraine Warren (most notably associated with the Amityville Horror case) during this time. I was, plain and simple, interested and intrigued, even thinking that such endeavors could solidify my faith. As a nominal Roman Catholic, at that time, even many of my priest friends even embraced such efforts as a sort of ministry. I also wrote a book on the subject entitled Shadows of the Dark.

So what is my take on investigating the realm of ghosts? The answer is simple; don’t. Now in my thirties, Orthodox, a priest and more critical in my thinking, I feel that this specialized field is dangerous spiritually and psychologically and promotes false belief systems, fantasy and can be classified as spiritual delusion (plani or prelest). Although I studied this field very seriously and made it a priority to work on cases where people were genuinely scared (especially children), I have put it behind me as almost of an embarrassment due to the craziness that has occurred in the field.

During my years, there was, but not the extreme of most recent years, all of the hoopla that exists now with all the paranormal reality shows that pepper the spectrum of our television dials. Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures, just to name a few, were not the household names they are today. I had a chance to meet or work with some of such recognized folks, many of which were sincere, good people looking for answers or investigating after experiencing something that happened to them personally.

Thoughts on the subject range dramatically with various theories such as ghosts being:
-Spirits of the dead
-Projections of the mind (subconscious)
-Historical recording in the environment, a moment in time
-A parallel existence or multiple existences in the Multiverse
-a product of mental illness
-Misinterpretation of the senses
-Demons

Communicating with the dead:
Otherworldly communication using devices such Ouija boards, tarot cards, pendulums and so forth is something many indeed do perform. I would like to state that EVP (electronic voice phenomena), basically attempting to record the voices of the dead, is no different. It is just a modern means of attempting to communicate. The intent is there to communicate; the means is just a little different. …"There shall not be found among you any one that useth divination, one that practiseth augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a necromancer. For whosoever doeth these things is an abomination unto the Lord" (Deut. 18:10-12; see also Lev. 20:6). With that being said one cannot be a practicing Christian and ghost hunter, in my opinion. It resonates the same cafeteria pick and choose nonsense we see in American pop-Christianity.

Another trick being employed is provoking where the ghost hunter tries to anger or appeal to the spirits as a means to make them manifest. One, if they actually make contact with the spirit realm, cannot guarantee its origin (demonic, hallucinatory, etc.) Spirits do not submit to man, man instead becomes the pawn in a game of lies and deceit with the soul being the ransom. Experiences can be produced by spiritual deception wishful thinking, by those eager for power and by truly believing yet disillusioned people and of course dark spirits in opposition to God masking themselves from what they really are. "They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They have perverted the words of the living God." Jeremiah 23:16, 36
Also much of it, the results are open to speculation on to what their origin actually is, the philosophical lens of the researcher ultimately dictating the results. For instance, there may be auditory hallucinatory experiences, visions and the like produced by the psyche, induced by stress, organic illness or an inherent psychological desire to experience an altered state or some otherworldly experience. There may also be misinterpreted natural sound data, totally natural and explainable, but mistaken for the mystical. There are the hoaxers and those craving power, monetary gain and attention and of course an experience of true supernatural or preternatural metaphysical experiences.

Psychics, New age thought, pop-paganism and other experiences:
There certainly are groups that employ so-called scientific means to investigate paranormal claims. However it appears most of what passes for ghost hunting is instead a blending off all sorts of new age practices. The use of psychic mediums, the taboo has instead become the norm, accepted and promoted without question. One may find it strange to profess Christ publicly while spirit communication, paganism and the use of so-called psychics is just another part of popular culture. Fringe elements of the mysterious such as the famous Foxx sisters, Jeane Dixon’s newspaper columns, ghost stories and horoscopes take a back seat to outright devil worship and praise of demonic beliefs. Such beliefs are made evident in Amanda Byrne’s book “The Secret”, Shirley Maclaine’s writings, the popular work “A Course in Miracles” , publication of psychic development texts and sprit communication guides and endless other resources. The Satanic Bible, the Necromonicon, guides to invocation rituals and magic books are best sellers, never going out of print. Just peruse the new age section of your local book retailer as viewing the metaphysical texts, philosophical tomes and even the “Christian” section such as the Ennegram.

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 not 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.

We must remember that dabbling in the occult is expressively a damnable practice, but it is accepted among society in its many deceptive forms. All paganism really does is systematically exalt one’s self to a seemingly god-like status. It is the original goal of the devil; to attempt to be like God. In their quest for so-called power they traffic with spirits, perform blasphemous pseudo-sacraments with crystals, incense, herbs and offerings which are geared towards union with the earth, with nature, with elemental energy. This supposed empowerment is deceptive. There will be no powers gained and any favors granted through suggestion or the actual assistance of fallen spirits will need to be paid for in full, the price one’s own soul. Curiosity will only open the doors to hellish perdition.

Deliverance and Exorcism:
In regards to deliverance and exorcism, there can be a real danger in western understanding which may lead one to not take responsibility for their actions and not work to shedding the passions and receiving proper help to cope with mental illness, human passions and recurrent sin. Instead the exorcist becomes an exterminator of sorts with the client not taking any responsibility for their faults and inherent human nature which needs restoration and healing. Exorcism does exist in the Holy Orthodox Church but does not entertain much of the views and hype which we see in the west with the exorcist being seen as a romantic character or superhero. It is obvious that the popular movie “The Exorcist” and recent films such as “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” have distorted the notion of what exorcism really is. All those who are properly baptized are exorcized and baptism by three immersions by a valid clergyman will remove Satanic influence from the inner recesses of the heart as evident in the teachings of the fathers.

What I find almost insane is that a ghost hunting group will use psychics, conjuring and means that are quite sketchy to attempt to receive perceivable results or evidence, then bring in a minister of some denomination to rid the premises, person, object or family of the problem like an exterminator. Archbishop Averky of blessed memory, a hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad once taught: “We are living in a strange time, when all the true and healthy Christian concepts are being replaced by false and deceitful concepts, discovered often with an evil intention with the undoubted intention, naturally, of drawing people away from the right path of a truly Christian life. In all of this there can be discerned some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all.”

A brief conclusion:
Saint Basil the Great warns us as follows: Be attentive to yourself (Deut. 15:9). That is, observe yourself carefully from every side. Let the eye of your soul be sleepless to guard you. You walk in the midst of snares (cSirach 9:13). Hidden traps have been set by the enemy in many places. Therefore observe everything that you may be saved like a gazelle from traps and like a bird from snares (Prov. 6:5)

The “ghost experience” is right from the annals of time and it is evident that the ghost experience transcends almost all boundaries, exists in the anthropological mind of all cultures and religions for the entirety of human existence. We are all looking for answers, and here is where human weakness can certainly kick in. We crave answers and will often go to great lengths to get them. By ghost hunting we instead, in my humble opinion, delve into a realm we are not equipped for and what for?

Man’s attempt at defining the meaning of the reality and cosmos is futile when separated from the Creator which we understand to be the Triune God. Trying to prove something spiritually, like many practices involved in pop ghost hunting are deceptive entrapments to further separate man from God…. “Unless I see…I will not believe” (John 20:25).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Great Podcast Series

Although a priest I do work a secular job. Being an office position I am confined to a cage(cubicle). I am so thankful for podcasts! This is my friend Fr. Anthony Perkin's blog/podcast site. I would suggest checking it out.  http://www.orthoanalytika.org/Welcome.html

Do Christians have the same God as Muslims, Pagans and other non-Christian Groups?

I recieve interesting questions from time to time. One that comes to mind is the following. Do Christians have the same God as non christians?  As God is the Creator of all technically yes, but we do not worship the same God by any means. We, as Orthodox Christians worship the Holy Trinity. Not being harsh, just honest. The answer is ultimately "no". Here is some more specific information:
http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/readings/future/

Monday, October 4, 2010

Consider voting for my screenplay

Well I wrote a screenplay entitled "Lords of Glory". It is in a prestigious competition and made it through to the general public voting stage. The competition is much like American Idol and now is the part that really counts. I made it this far, help me to get this film optioned! Please consider voting for it at the following link:


http://www.moviehatch.com/index.php?option=com_moviehatch&task=detail&movie=524

The link has the visual component and also the synopsis. There is a 1-5 star voting scale at the bottom of the page. Also I believe it will make you sign in as they do not allow ballot box stuffing, only one vote per person.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Oasis


I recieved a few inquiries lately through the web and from meeting people in person from volunteer hospice work I am participating in. The inquirers were very interested in church services and if I was the rector of a local church in Worcester, MA.

Currently for the most part I am serving as a concelebrant at Saint John the Russian in Ipswich, MA.  Check out the webpage for schedule, info and directions: http://www.stjohntherussian.com/
Of course it may seem as if I am biased, but this community of the faithful is absolutely incredible. I would suggest checking it out.

Per Metropolitan Hilarion's blessing, he would like me to cultivate a mission parish, which if it is God's plan will occur. We had 5 including Matushka and myself this past Sunday which was exciting to me. For the time being liturgy is once a month as there is little participation.

Back to Saint John the Russian.....why is this parish so incredible?...for one there are services everyday. The rector Father Spyridon, assistant priest Father Innokenty and monk Herman keep a constant vigil at the church which is very comforting to me. Prayer is essential to the spiritual life, the frequency of the various divine services is a rarity considering many clergy, including myself, work full time jobs. The fact that the rector and small monastic brotherhood(monasticism is almost non-existent in New England) can do something so rare is uplifting. Take this point with the warmness of the clergy and laity and you have a great foundation.

Another aspect I find to be excellent is the diversity. I personally could care less when it comes to the ethnic makeup of the parish as what is important is our faith, but the parish is diverse. As I try to expose people to Holy Orthodoxy there is the presumption that one has to be Russian or Greek, etc. Well considering my last name is "McIntyre", unless thats short for "McIntyreopoulos", which it is obviously not, such a thought should not even be a concern. Saint John's in my experience is made up of Greeks, ethnically diverse Americans and Russians among other creeds.

Although an external aspect, the temple is nothing short of beautiful. I would worship with this community in a garage if need be, but the temple with its iconography is indeed a treat for the avid worshipper or a visitor. When I serve as first priest at the parish and I am before the holy altar table, I am always taken back by the icon of Christ which resides in the high place. It is downright incredible. Looking up and seeing the ancient depiction of our Lord is downright humbling.

In our Holy Orthodox Church, the local church certainly constitutes the fullness of the Catholic Church. If it a legitimate assembly possessing the necessary apostolic heritage, faith and worship, gathered around a legitimate bishop rightly imparting the word of truth, this assembly fully constitutes the Catholic Church, not a mere part of it, but the fullness, united to Christ and all others through time and history who have proclaimed the truth. This local assembly would then be partakers of Christ in the Eucharist, united to Christ. It would be of one mind with the saints, martyrs and the angelic hosts, the prophets, all who live in Christ. Nursing home outreach, hospice and the like can be full of trials for me, but I know liturgy is near and Saint John the Russian welcomes me with open arms. It is my oasis in a world plagued by deception and distraction.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Saint Maximos the Confessor

A quote I found today that is absolutely amazing. Clear, concise, truthful and enlightening."God made us so that we might become 'partakers of the divine nature' (2 Pet. 1:4) and sharers in His eternity, and so that we might come to be like Him (cf. 1 John 3:2) through deification by grace. It is through deification that all things are reconstituted and achieve their permanence; and it is for its sake that what is not is brought into being and given existence." (From "On Deification, from Volume II of the PHILOKALIA as translated and edited by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware and published by Faber and Faber, p.173)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism

Today I sent my petition to sign the "Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism." In some circles this document is deemed "controversial", quite honestly not sure why. It is just an affirmation of orthodox ecclesiology as evidenced by the church fathers, the ecumenical councils, local councils and continual witness of the faith.

The text of the document can be found here:
 http://www.impantokratoros.gr/confession_of_faith-against_ecumensim.en.aspx

It is refreshing to see such a large movement of people from all walks of life join together to take a stand against the blatant abuses of many hierarchs of all levels, various theological delegations, clergy, laity and so forth. I see it as another witness which occurs time and time again throughout all of history to keep the ark on track. The assault on the faith is continual and while ecumenism when performed properly is a good thing, much of what passes for ecumenism is just heretical.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Man in the Face of Apostasy

From the Orthodox Word:

One of the Last Pillars of Orthodoxy endowed with genuine spiritual authority of the Spirit of God in our fallen and spiritually destitute times.

Evermemorable Holy Hirearch ARCHBISHOP AVERKY (+) of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery

"For the answers on all theological questions which may appear ,ask for instruction Vladyka Averki, with Him I have complete spiritual unity."  -Saint John the Wonderworker of Shangai and San Francisco
__________________________________________________________________________
Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works?

It is the "accepted" ones who will speak these words—those who will have "paid their dues" and built up their reputations as servants of Christ, doing impressive things ostensibly for Him. And the Lord will reply: I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:23-24)

In what will they have failed, warranting this harsh rebuke from the Lord? In Christ's name they will have performed their works, but not in the spirit of Christ, and thus they will not have truly lived according to His commandments. Their deeds, in being done for this world, will perish in this world. They will have outwardly conformed to all the dictums of the Faith, but inwardly they will not have directed their lives to heaven. And they will find themselves before the Judge with their hands empty.

This is an image of what will occur at the culmination of the world's apostasy, or "falling away"from Christ: the Last Judgment. And it reflects precisely the message of a Holy Father of these last times, Archbishop Averky Taushev of Jordanville. Through Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, he was directly linked to the unbroken line of Orthodox theologians who have handed down the living spirit of their tradition as from father to son. A sign of his being a genuine transmitter of patristic tradition is seen in the fact that he never thought of calling himself a "theologian" or "patristic scholar," much less being recognized as that which he actually was: a prophet of the apostasy. It was only because of his love for the life-giving Truth of Orthodoxy and for the flock entrusted him by Christ that he spoke out. He felt it his duty to warn people of the more subtle effects of the apostasy, which spread ever faster as our world approaches its dissolution. The apostasy, he knew, was more than just something that has externally manifested itself "out there"—in the self-blinded, godless secular world or in the apostate Christian bodies which have become almost entirely centered in this world. No, the roots of apostasy went far deeper. They could penetrate into the very heart of man...

Archbishop Averky understood that, like the deeds of the false servants whom Christ rebuked in the above passage, the outward form of the Church and even of "true," "traditional" Orthodoxy could be imitated so cleverly, so exactly, as to be capable of "deceiving the very elect" (Matt. 24:24). This thought was a tremendous weight on him. He had been given, directly from genuine Orthodox Fathers, the essence of Orthodoxy. In order to successfully transmit this essence to the next generation, he had to distinguish it from surrogates which were now growing ever more subtle. Spoken and written words seemed inadequate to the task. He often took refuge in Bishop Theophan the Recluse's poignant phrase: "Orthodox Christianity is losing its salt" (cf. Matt. 5:13). But could it be that the only ones who could detect this loss were those who had already tasted the authentic "savour" of Orthodoxy? Someone who has never tasted salt would not know the difference if he was presented with some other new flavor and was told it was salt.

Archbishop Averky also quoted often the words of Bishop Ignatius Brianchininov: "Do not dare to raise your weak hand to stop the elemental tide of apostasy. Avoid it, protect yourself from it, and that is enough for you. Get to know the spirit of the times, study it so you can avoid its influence whenever possible.'' [1]

Of course, Archbishop Averky's students and monks at Holy Trinity Seminary/Monastery appreciated the timeliness of his warnings. But still it was difficult for many to fathom the reason for his constant dwelling and harping on so negative a theme. Once, when the archbishop was as usual discussing the signs of the falling away from Christ, one student posed a question: "Of course the apostasy is terrible and we have to hear about it, but why so much? After all, we are sheltered from its influences by being Orthodox, by adhering to the traditions. We're in the Russian Church Abroad—we aren't ecumenists, we have nothing to do with the betrayal of Orthodoxy that is being carried on by other jurisdictions. We are in the true Church—the Orthodox Church. Aren't we safe? Christ said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church."

Looking piercingly at his questioner, Archbishop Averky asked in turn, "But what will determine whether or not you are in that Church?" He used the Russian singular form of the word "you" for he meant to address his listeners as individuals.

All of the students present were baptized Orthodox Christians; the man who had asked this unexpected question was their own hierarch, their own link to the apostles. They were not only in his same Church, but also in his same "jurisdiction." How, then, could he question their membership in the true Church without questioning his own?

Archbishop Averky's question had been loaded with meaning. He had often told his students that the Antichrist would "recognize," "legitimatize" and thus possess the outward semblance of the Orthodox Church—with its traditions, arts, dogmas, canonical validity, liturgical purity and apostolic succession. Therefore, external membership in the Church and adherence to the traditions—though necessary steps for those who know the Truth of Orthodoxy and wish to share in the fullness of its grace—offer, as he said, "no guarantees." By asking his students what determined whether they were members of the true Church, he was stressing the need for them to individually develop within themselves a feeling for genuineness that would enable them to identify the spirit of basic Orthodox Christianity and its cunning imitations.

WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

Archbishop Averky observed that Orthodoxy's ecclesiology was, more than any of its other dimensions, in danger of being distorted in modern times. As Christendom was losing the last traces of the savour of its underlying Faith, Orthodox Christians too—unwittingly influenced by the spirit of the times—were losing the right conception of what the Church actually was. Their perspective was, like that of the society in which they lived, turned outward, and thus they were looking at the Church more and more as an institution. Feeling the pressing need to respond to this tendency, Archbishop Averky wrote:

Orthodoxy is not merely some type of purely earthly organization which is headed by patriarchs, bishops and priests who hold the ministry in the Church which officially is called "Orthodox." Orthodoxy is the mystical "Body of Christ," the Head of which is Christ Himself (see Eph. 1:22-23 and Col. 1:18, 24 et seq. ), and its composition includes not only priests but all who truly believe in Christ, who have entered in a lawful way through Holy Baptism into the Church He founded, those living upon the earth and those who have died in the Faith and piety. [2]

Archbishop Averky feared that the spirit of Orthodox ecclesiology would be replaced by a papistic conception of the Church, and that Orthodox leaders would, in the consciousness of the faithful, be seen as "mini-popes" and eclipse Christ as the Head of the Church. When the Church will become identified first of all with a temporal administration, the archbishop realized, then the Antichrist will have an open door to the hearts of men and will with little effort make them his obedient servants. With their wrong understanding of the Church, they will do—"for the good of the Church"—things manifestly opposed to the commandments and will of Christ.

Again turning our attention from the earthly to the spiritual in his definition of the Church, he stated:

The Orthodox Church is not any kind of "monopoly" or "business" of the clergy, as think the ignorant and those alien to the spirit of the Church. It is not the patrimony of this or that hierarch or priest. It is the close-knit spiritual union of all who truly believe in Christ, who strive in a holy manner to keep the commandments of Christ, with the sole aim of inheriting that eternal blessedness which Christ the Saviour has prepared for us, and if they sin out of weakness, they sincerely repent and strive "to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3: 8) . [3]

Those whose foremost concern is the consolidation of the Church's temporal power may feel threatened by Archbishop Averky's definition of the Church (which, it should be noted, is identical to Blessed Archbishop John's definition, showing that these two hierarchs were of one mind and spoke from the same tradition). "Yes," it is sometimes heard, "the Church is mystical. But you must take into consideration the earthly aspect of the Church, no matter how prosaic it may be." While Archbishop Averky's answer to this did in fact make room for such considerations, it completely swept them away as justifications for worldliness in the Church:

The Church, it is true, may not be removed completely from the world, for people enter her who are still living on the earth, and therefore the "earthly" element in her composition and external organization is unavoidable; yet the less of this "earthly" element there is, the better it will be for her eternal goals. In any case, this "earthly" element should not obscure or suppress the purely spiritual element—the matter of salvation of the soul unto eternal life—for the sake of which the Church was both founded and exists. [4]

As Archbishop Averky perceived, the overshadowing of the spiritual by the earthly in church life led to the loss of something necessary for all Christians: an awareness of the distinction between what is official and what is right. In turning his attention to the outer world, man seeks the "accepted position"—what is right and good in the eyes of others—rather than to be inwardly right with God and his own conscience. To idealize and conform oneself to something because it is officially "right" or "recognized," is to ask to be deceived, for Satan can easily especially in our times—make outward "officialness" coexist with inward falsity. For this reason Archbishop Averky emphasized:

One must realize and remember that Orthodoxy is not only and always that which is officially called "Orthodox," for in our false and evil times the appearance everywhere of pseudo- Orthodoxy which raises its head and is established in the world is an extremely grievous but, regrettably, an already unquestioned fact. This false Orthodoxy strives fiercely to substitute itself for true Orthodoxy, as in his time Antichrist will strive to supplant and replace Christ with himself. [5]

WHAT IS MEANT BY "ANTICHRIST"?

A word should be said here about what Archbishop Averky meant when he spoke of the "Antichrist, " for he viewed the Antichrist in a spiritual way, without any "doomsday" sensationalism. In order to recognize the Antichrist and that which even now prepares his coming, one must look beyond what appears to be good and evil, just and unjust. [6] One must understand the principle behind the Antichrist, which is the principle of imitation of all that is Christ's. Since his very name means the one who is "in place of Christ" or looks like Christ, [7] the Antichrist will be the final, most deceptive embodiment of Satan's age-old attempt to "copy" Christianity, to make a new, this-worldly form of it. "The Antichrist will appear," writes I. M. Kontzevitch,"...not as an absolute atheist or as a follower of that which is connected with it, Bolshevism, since the latter has shown to the world every horror which results from atheism." [8] Rather, as St. Ephraim the Syrian states, he "will come as a robber, in a manner such as to deceive all: he will be as one humble, meek, a hater (as he will say of himself) of unrighteousness, despising idols, giving preference to piety, good, lover of the poor, beautiful to an extreme degree, constant, gracious to all. He will especially esteem the Jewish race, since the Jews will await his coming. But together with all this he will work signs and miracles and dreadful spectacles with great authority; and he will use sly means to please all, so that people will quickly fall in love with him. He will not accept bribes, speak with anger, show a gloomy countenance, but with a decorous exterior he will take to deceiving the world, until he has become king." [9]

With his philosophical, patristic understanding of the reality of Antichrist, Archbishop Averky understood that one need not live during his actual reign to be—in a figurative yet very real sense—his follower. One may be drawn to that which the Antichrist represents—the counterfeit of Christianity—by that which one has in common with him: an inward absence of Christ.

The purpose of all that Christ gives is to prepare people for His Heavenly Kingdom, while the motive of Antichrist is to bind people in every way possible to this earth. This distinction, though simple and clear-cut, may not be so easily seen since Antichrist himself—like many of his predecessors—will in fact be very "spiritual," binding people to earth even with the external manifestation of things which are intended to lead them to heaven. The imitation of Christianity will only be discerned by those who have preserved a "feel" for what is intrinsically earthly and corruptible and what is heavenly and eternal. The "apostasy" of which Archbishop Averky spoke is precisely the loss of this discernment and this desire. Again, St. Ephraim the Syrian writes that, when the Antichrist actually comes, he will not be seen for what he actually is by "him who has his mind on the affairs of this life and loves the earthly. . . for he who is always tied to the matters of this life, although he even hear, he will not believe, and will despise him who says these things. But the saints will be strengthened, because they scorned every care for this life. [10]

A Christianity without "savour" is filled with worldliness that masquerades itself as spirituality. And to "worldlify" Christianity is to make it vulnerable to the temptations of Antichrist.

THREE LEVELS OF APOSTASY

In studying Archbishop Averky's writings on the apostasy, one can discern three levels of which he spoke, these levels progressing from the most obvious to the most difficult to detect.

The First Level

At the first level is the loss of Christianity's "savour" by Christendom in general. The roots of this are found in the schism of East and West and in the medieval West's gradual formation of a "new Christianity," in which man's fallen reason—rather than divinely revealed tradition—became the criterion of truth. In essence, it was this change in perspective from the spiritual to the natural that led, through the Renaissance and "Enlightenment," to the blatant materialism of our own times—a materialism that has spiritually blinded modern man. [11] "There can be discerned," wrote Archbishop Averky, "some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all." [12]

Materialism, Archbishop Averky understood, corrupts the faith of Christians without their even knowing it. Even their ostensible stand "against worldliness" or their talk of heaven may be filled with worldly conceptions if they have lost the right understanding of the "world" that is opposed by basic Christianity. [13] Moreover, that which would, from an Orthodox viewpoint, be considered immoral, becomes permissible to a Christianity infected with worldliness. Wrote Archbishop Averky:

Of what sort of genuine union of all Christians in the spirit of Christian love can we speak now when the Truth is denied by almost everyone, when deceit is in control almost everywhere, when a genuinely spiritual life among people who call themselves Christians has dried up and been replaced by a carnal life, an animal life which has nonetheless been placed on a pedestal and concealed by the idea of pretended charity which hypocritically justifies any sort of spiritual excess, any sort of moral anarchy. Indeed, it is from this that are derived all these numberless "balls," various kinds of "games," "dances" and amusements, toward which, despite their immoral and anti-Christian nature, even many modern clergymen have a tolerant attitude, sometimes even organizing them themselves and participating in them. [14]

In losing touch with the essence of its faith—which is, in a word, otherworldliness—, Christendom deprives believers of living contact with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Christians must therefore find substitutes for this grace by inducing, through self-persuasion, "spiritual experiences." At the same time they seek a substitute, in this world, for the other world that is no longer tangible to them. Of these "neo-Christians, " Archbishop Averky wrote:

They want blessedness here in this world, burdened with its multitude of sins and iniquities; and they await this blessedness with impatience. They consider one of the surest ways to attaining it to be the "ecumenical movement," the union and unification of all peoples in one new "church" which will comprise not only Roman Catholics and Protestants, but also Jews, Moslems and pagans, each retaining its own convictions and errors. This imaginary "Christian" love, in the name of the future blessedness of men on earth, cannot but trample upon the Truth. [15]

Archbishop Averky termed the belief in future blessedness on earth "neo-chiliasm"—chiliasm being the ancient heretical belief in a thousand-year reign of Christ as an earthly king. He foresaw that the outward "ecumenical unity" sought by the "neochiliasts" would be nothing else than than an official unity supported and approved of by Antichrist. [16]

For Archbishop Averky, the modern "ecumenical movement" was indicative of something else: the widespread disbelief in absolute Truth. Through this comes an unwillingness to take a stand for anything and a weak-willed acceptance or even justification of evil, all in the name of the most superficial ideas of "Christian love" and "peace. " Archbishop Averky expressed it thus:

In our times, when there are such strong doubts about even the existence of Truth, when every "truth" is considered relative and it is considered legal for each person to hold to "his own truth," the struggle for the Truth acquires a particularly important meaning. And the person who does not sympathize with this struggle, who sees in it only a manifestation of "phariseeism" and suggests "humbling oneself" before falsehood by falling away from the Truth, should naturally be recognized as a betrayer of the the Truth, whoever he might be, whatever he might call or consider himself. [17]

Those who place all their hope in this world must of necessity either give into despair or blind themselves to the rising degeneracy in all forms of public life. Their relativistic and irresolute attitude only helps to unleash the forces of Satan in the last times. As Archbishop Averky pointed out:

The "ministers of Satan," or, which is the same thing, the servants of the coming Antichrist, make use of this spiritual blindness of the majority of modern people and stubbornly and insistently do their work with genuinely satanic energy. With special efforts and with all available means, with the aid of all the resources under their control, they bind forcibly to themselves adepts who are wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly, cooperating with them in creating in the world circumstances and conditions appropriate for the very near appearance of the Antichrist as the ruler of the whole world and the master of all mankind. [18]

In another place, Archbishop Averky wrote more on this same theme:

The fundamental task of the servants of the coming Antichrist is to destroy the old world with all its former concepts and "prejudices," in order to build in its place a new world suitable for receiving its approaching "new owner" who will take the place of Christ for people and give them on earth that which Christ did not give them... One must be completely blind spiritually, completely alien to true Christianity, not to understand all this! [19]

The Second Level

At the second level of the apostasy described by Archbishop Averky, the Orthodox churches—in "keeping in step with the times"—leave behind some of the Church's traditional forms and ecclesiological positions which they consider "outdated, " and thus they too cut themselves off from the tradition that retains the "savour" of basic Christianity. This is one of the ways in which Orthodoxy becomes a worldly "pseudo-Orthodoxy. " The essence of Orthodoxy cannot be transmitted when the very context of receiving it is all but gone.

Archbishop Averky explained why the Orthodox Church, as St. Athanasius the Great once said, "must not serve the times." [20]

The Church never conforms to the world. Indeed not, for the Lord said to His disciples at the Last Supper, "You are not of this world." We must hold to these words if we are to remain faithful to true Christianity—the true Church of Christ has always been, is and will always be a stranger to this world. Separated from it, she is able to transmit the divine teachings of the Lord unchanged, because that separation has kept her unchanged, that is, like the immutable God Himself. [21]

Once in the early 1960's, a seminarian heard Archbishop Averky pacing for a long time in the monastery corridor. Finally he went up to the bishop and asked him what was wrong. "Brother," replied the righteous hierarch, contemplating, "the term 'Orthodoxy' has become meaningless because unorthodoxy is disguising itself behind the external mask of Orthodoxy. Thus there is a need to coin a new phrase for that which we call Orthodoxy, just as there once had been a need to coin the term 'Orthodox.'—And that is not so easy."

Archbishop Averky perceived that, for whatever reason, Orthodox churches and church leaders have not treasured the otherworldly basis of Orthodox tradition as passed on from father to son uninterruptedly through the centuries. About this he wrote:

Wherever the inherited spiritual link of grace going back to the Holy Apostles and their successors the Apostolic Men and Holy Fathers has been broken, wherever various innovations have been introduced in faith and morals with the aim of "keeping step with the times," of "progressing," of not getting out-of-date and of adapting to the demands and fashions of this world lying in evil—there can be no talk of the true Church. [22]

These "innovations" [23] are sometimes introduced in order to make Orthodox life less of a struggle or to make it appear less "odd" in the eyes of the world. Archbishop Averky wrote that the very concept of doing this is heterodox, since "the Orthodox Faith teaches how to construct life according to the demands of Christian perfection, whereas heterodoxy takes from Christianity only those things which are, and to the degree to which they are, compatible with the conditions of contemporary cultural life." To lower Orthodoxy's standard of ascetic struggle is to deny Christians a means of self-purification, to deny them even the chance of soul-saving repentance when they fall short of this standard—in spirit if not in letter. It is to weaken the very foundation of Orthodoxy, which, as Archbishop Averky stated, "is an ascetic faith that calls to ascetic labor in the name of the uprooting of sinful passions and the implanting of Christian virtues." [24]

In other cases, traditions are dissected and changed in order to feed the pride of contemporary "theologians" who, cut off from the direct, living transmission of tradition, strive to find "new ways of Orthodox theology," to intellectually "master history" and "restore" Orthodox practice to some kind of artificial purism. They clamor, Archbishop Averky wrote, "about how essential it is to 'renew the Orthodox Church,' about some sort of 'reforms in Orthodoxy,' which allegedly has become 'set in its ways' and 'moribund' [25] . . . This new breed of 'Orthodox' are really no more than modern 'scholastics.’" [26] They "theologize" without the proper "feel" for the traditional church atmosphere in which saints have been raised. By their fruits ye shall know them (Matt. 7:20): Traditional Orthodoxy, with all its alleged "cultural accretions" and "impurities," has nurtured saints even in our own times; "restored" or "rediscovered" Orthodoxy, with all its claims of being more pure and better informed, has produced, at best, clever men. The spiritual impotence of the latter is the result of its "theologians" "knowing better" than the modern, living repositories of Orthodox sanctity.

Churches, in "keeping step with the times," can also lose the savour of Orthodoxy by being caught up in the spirit of the fashionable "ecumenical movement" which, as we have seen, is a manifestation of the process of world apostasy. Thus, Archbishop Averky stated in different places:

The destructive spirit of Apostasy has already penetrated even our Orthodox Church, extremely prominent hierarchs of which openly are proclaiming the approach of some sort of "new era" and cynically are proposing being done with all the past as they assemble to create some kind of completely "new Church" in close "ecumenical" contact and unanimity with all apostates from the true faith and Church [27]. . . For a long time we have heard that they [Orthodox clergy] belong to this movement in order "to witness to the peoples of other confessions the truth of holy Orthodoxy," but it is difficult for us to believe that this statement is anything more than "throwing powder in our eyes." Their frequent theological declarations in the international press can lead us to no other conclusion than that they are traitors to the holy Truth. [28]

The Third Level

Finally, the third level of the apostasy that Archbishop Averky warned about is reached when Orthodox churches, even while preserving all the traditions of what they call "true Orthodoxy," also lose the precious savour of their faith and become infected with a worldly spirit disguised as spirituality. This occurs through (1) the loss of basic Christian love, without which all the traditions become condemning rather than gracebearing, and (2) the use of outward forms and supports of faith (which are intended to evoke remembrance of the other world) for worldly ends. Through these factors arises another form of "pseudo-Orthodoxy, " this time more subtle because it may be cloaked in all the right externals. Some of its symptoms, which may also be found in the "pseudo-Orthodoxy" of the apostasy's second level, will be described below .

PARTY POLITICS

Archbishop Averky saw that, once the the savour of Orthodoxy is lost and the Church comes to be regarded first of all as an earthly organization, membership in the Mystical Body of Christ becomes confused with membership in one or another administrative church party. People's lives may then be ruined under the pretext of "cleaning up the Church" if these people do not seem advantageous to the organization. Clergy, laypeople and monastics are pitted against and made to distrust each other in order to protect the worldly interests of their respective parties. One church group may split off from another and seek to legitimatize its position with any number of legal and canonical formulas. Various church parties may join to form "super-parties" in order to make themselves feel more legitimate; they may speak of their outward unity as if this represents the true spiritual unity of the Church, but they betray how merely political this unity actually is when they dismiss or use polemics against those Orthodox groups which have not joined their organizations. Those with a "party mentality" may lose the very idea of sanctity, glorifying church figures primarily because they are "recognized" by their particular party or are its most prominent spokesmen. "Canonicity," a major weapon in party polemics, comes to be manipulated quite arbitrarily and becomes wrongly confused with one party's "recognition" by other parties. Accordingly, one appears to become "canonical" when one uses the most effective propaganda.

Archbishop Averky was repulsed by this realm of what he called "party politics," seeing that it had nothing to do with basic Christianity.

Although party politics have indeed reached an extreme in these last times when the love of many grows cold (Matt. 24:12), the "party mentality" is not, of course, new to the modern age: it is a common tendency of the fallen, carnal side of humanity. Even St. Paul had to deal with it when writing to the church at Corinth: Every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? While one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal? (I Cor. 1:12-13; 3:4).

To make the Church a tool of political intrigues, Archbishop Averky said, is "to subject the eternal to the temporal, the heavenly to the earthly, the holy to the sinful." [29] In his article Holy Zeal, he stated further:

And there is likewise a false, lying zeal, behind the mask of which is concealed the foaming of ordinary human passions—most frequently pride, love of power and honor, and the interests of a party politics like that which plays the leading role in political struggles, and for which there can be no place in spiritual life, in public church life, but which unfortunately is often to be encountered in our time and is a chief instigator of every imaginable quarrel and disturbance in the Church, the managers and instigators of which often hide themselves behind some kind of supposed idealism but in reality pursue only their own personal aims, striving to please not God but their own self-concern, and being zealous not for God's glory but for their own glory and the glory of the colleagues and partisans of their party. All of this, it goes without saying, is profoundly foreign to true holy zeal, hostile to it, is sinful and criminal, for it only compromises our Holy Faith and Church! [30]

"The Church," emphasized Archbishop Averky in another place, "was given to us for the salvation of our souls and for nothing else! We cannot make it a tool or an arena for the play of our passions and for the settling of our personal accounts." [31]

As far as Archbishop Averky was concerned, party politics were boring no matter what party was involved. They were hardly worth giving one's life for—giving up the chance for a wife and family as he had done when becoming a monk. Ironically, it was precisely his lack of unanimity with those of a "party mentality" that made him the victim of their politics. He was dismissed as a permanent member of his council of bishops because he refused to be guided by a "party-line" rather than by his own conscience. Seeing that party politics had infiltrated not only other groups but his own as well, he once told one of his former seminarians, "Does it not follow from this that the grace of the Holy Spirit is leaving our synod?"

Still, it may be wondered why Archbishop Averky spoke so openly about the "uninspiring" phenomenon of party politics. Would it not have been better just to pretend that all the other Orthodox groups did not exist and to confine one's attention to one's own circle? No, for Archbishop Averky, this would have been a shirking of his responsibility as an Apostle of Christ. Party politics were poisoning the mission of Orthodoxy in the Free World, turning converts away and making believers listen to the whispers of the devil rather than to the words of Life. To keep silent would have been a crime, since if this issue was not addressed openly, how else would spiritual seekers find the true essence of Orthodoxy, which is inherently above party politics? How would they experience the living reality of the true Church, which, as Archbishop Averky said, is "the close-knit spiritual union of all who truly believe in Christ"?

"ONLY HOLY ZEAL FOR GOD, FOR CHRIST, " wrote the archbishop, "without any admixture of any kind of slyness or ambiguous cunning POLITICS, must guide us in all deeds and actions." [32]

ROLE-PLAYING

Archbishop Averky detected another sign that Orthodox churches, even when they adhered to all the outward forms, were losing Orthodoxy's savour. This was the fact that Orthodox leaders and spokesmen were having to play "roles." Role-playing occurs when small men, out of worldly ambition, want to take on positions which have been instituted in the Church for men of higher spiritual caliber. In most cases, those playing roles, having no real spiritual authority themselves, have to acquire this authority outwardly by resorting to what Archbishop Averky called "man-pleasing." This was spoken of by St. Paul, who in the first years of Christianity had to point out the distinction between the true representatives of Christ and the "man-pleasers": If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal. 1 :10). But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, Who trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness. Nor of men sought we glory. . . (I Thes. 2: 4-6).

In "man-pleasing," one must flatter the right people and, conversely, destroy potential opponents at the right junctures; one must "take into consideration" influential people, regardless of whether this accords with one's conscience. Finally, one must give out awards and ranks and publicize this, thereby binding oneself to allies by mutual "recognition" rather than by heartfelt love." How many, "wrote Archbishop Averky," give their hearts to the distraction of exalted callings, ranks, orders and awards, being ready to acquire them by any means at all, even by trampling down their consciences." [33]

Archbishop Averky indicated that role-playing may also bring about hostility and divisions the Church:

To start the cruel hostility and dissension which cut off at the root the peaceful course of parish life and break up and destroy the parish it is sufficient for just one such person to appear in a parish—a person who imagines that he is the "hub of the universe," that everyone should take account only of him and obey him in everything, that all his judgments and evaluations are infallible and without error. . . For people of this sort it is as if the voice of conscience does not exist and they do not recognize the Law of God: they are capable of every sort of tendentious distortion of the truth, of any sort of lie and malicious slander against those people who do not agree with their conceited inclinations, who do not approve of their attitude of self-satisfaction and their unrestrained desire to play the leading role everywhere, even if those people be lawfully appointed and truly good pastors and men of prayer, of whom there are fewer and fewer nowadays, and who ought to be valued, not persecuted with lies and slander for purely personal, conceited reasons, which is a foul and repulsive sin in the eyes of God.

It is just such people, possessed by the mad passion of self-love, who are being used by the powers of darkness, the servants of the coming Antichrist, to disrupt and destroy the Church, starting with its individual parishes. . . They are genuinely living without a conscience! [34]

In role-playing, a person acts in the way the world expects one in his "respected" position to act. This is the opposite of that which characterizes the authentic modern "links" with Orthodox tradition: a complete naturalness, lack of pretense, and freedom of spirit, with no attempt to fit into some prescribed category.

Of one role-playing church leader, Archbishop Averky said that he wore a "mask." "There are such hypocrites," he wrote, "who like to appear saintly and pious, when, in fact, they are not at all that way, but they will have to answer to God for they attempt to deceive the trusting, and they do so for personal gain." [35]

Role-playing may take many forms. One may take on the role of an authority on spiritual life or even of a "Holy Elder," misapplying lofty standards to the low spiritual caliber of modern times. [36] Using St. Paul's phrase, Archbishop Averky identified this as "zeal without understanding—zeal which loses its value because of the absence in it of a most important Christian virtue: discernment, and therefore, in place of profit can bring harm." [37]

Another kind of role-playing is to be found in false spokesmen of Orthodoxy. We have already discussed the "theologians" of a "restored," innovative Orthodoxy. Such false teachers are to be found, however, not only in the more "liberal" circles, but also among the "patristic experts" and "scholars" of the "conservatives" and "traditionalists." False Orthodox spokesmen may make one feel that one has finally "figured out" Orthodoxy, but most often they leave one's soul unmoved and unchanged. Of them, Archbishop Averky remarked:

Alas! How few people there are in our times, even among the educated, and at times even among contemporary "theologians" and those in the ranks of clergy, who understand correctly what Orthodoxy is and wherein its essence lies. They approach this question in an utterly external, formal manner and resolve it too primitively, even naively, overlooking its depths completely and not at all seeing the fullness of its spiritual contents. [38]

Once, when some clergymen were attacking the memory of a 14th-century saint because he did not fit in with their concept of "traditionalism, " Archbishop Averky called them "puppy theologians." They were followers (to borrow a term coined by Fr. Seraphim Rose) of "external wisdom." The so-called "liberal" and false "traditionalist" Orthodox teachers were, in Archbishop Averky's view, but two sides of the same coin. They both had a touch of modern criticism, a love of glitter and an attitude of "knowing better," having received Orthodoxy by doing research and forming "reasonable" conclusions rather than by learning from its living vessels. Outward contact with a genuine bearer of tradition is not enough; there must be a loving kinship and "oneness of soul" with that bearer. [39] The presence or lack of this kinship, it is true, may be hard to discern from the outside, especially when one is not aware of the world of piety in which a true carrier of tradition has been born. For example, one might at first think that Archbishop Averky, from the bold, unequivocal tone of his writings, had the attitude of "knowing better." However, when one comes to understand the spirit of his first and second generation spiritual fathers, Theophan of Poltava and Theophan the Recluse, then one will see that he was entirely in their tradition, that he received everything from them. Like all true Fathers of the Church, Archbishop Averky taught others not because he had an inflated view of his own knowledge or significance, but because he felt personally responsible for the priceless treasure that had been passed on to him from holy teachers.

INIQUITY FROM ABOVE

The last form of role-playing that Archbishop Averky talks about is done by those in clerical authority. This form is perhaps the most influential in creating a pseudo-Orthodoxy, since it is the church leaders who are supposed to set the "tone" for church life.

Authorities who lack true apostolic zeal may still work zealously for personal ends or for the benefit of their parties. Archbishop Averky wrote that, for them, "the Church is nothing more than one of the ordinary human organizations where they wish to play some sort of leading role. . ." [40] In another place he stated:

They have not unsuccessfully been taking control of the Church into their own hands, trying to become the complete and unchecked directors of people's religious and church lives and even applying ecclesiastical discipline for those who refuse to obey them so they can keep everyone in their power without opposition or rebellion. [41]

Having a worldly concept of authority, they think that their first responsibility is the smooth running of their church's external apparatus rather than the salvation of souls. Since the practice of loving, fatherly pastorship is beyond them, they view obedience to them as a soulless fulfilling of a standard code of behavior necessary for the functioning of the organization. Because they are objectively endowed with clerical rank, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5), they can quote many canons to affirm their absolute control. These canons are, of course, meaningful only if they are applied in the right spirit, with pastoral discernment and according to the conscience of the Church. [42] Many innocent believers, having outward standards imposed on them from above in an artificial context, feel they have to conform themselves to it at all costs. In the words of Archbishop Averky, they "fall under the influence" of unspiritual leaders, "and in their naive thoughtlessness support them in their conceited undertakings as some sort of 'maintainers of law and order!’" [43] Thus, to the extent that the church leader tries to play a role, his flock is expected to go along with his worldly idea of authority and play the role of unthinking cattle. The authorities set the false example and the people, who may never have been given the "real thing," have nothing to contrast it with. They cannot distinguish between official and genuine, soul-saving Orthodox pastorship; and therefore they seek out pastors not for spiritual reasons, but to be first of all "legitimate" members of the right church party. (It should also be said that if for some reason this search ends in naught, there is seen another negative result of placing too much value on officialness: bitterness at not being considered "legitimate.")

Under unspiritual guides, a kind of paralysis can set in among the faithful. A symptom of this is seen when people become afraid to take any initiative according to the dictates of individual conscience, having been led to believe that anyone who disturbs the status quo has no right to exist. They become ashamed to show through their actions that they love God with all their hearts or that they love those saints of God who might not yet be "official."

The use of authority for worldly ends is especially wrong for hierarchs since, as monastic pastors of laymen, they are supposed to provide the leaven of otherworldliness for those living in the world. Their function is to inspire, guide and encourage all the pious attempts of believers at bringing some goodness to this fallen earth, rather than to seize control of these attempts, to standardize and take all the "risk" out of them until there is no fresh inspiration left.

One of Archbishop Averky's phrases was "iniquity from above," iniquity that comes from the "lawful authorities" and is therefore not questioned. In calling attention to this manner of wrongdoing, he was not advocating people to wage war on authorities or to be immediately suspicious of someone just because he is in a respected position. Rather, he was exhorting people not to unreflectively conform themselves to the "letter of the law" without knowing whether the law is being used for a godly purpose or being manipulated for personal gain. In one place he wrote:

True Orthodoxy is alien to every dead formalism. In it there is no blind adherence to the "letter of the law, " for it is spirit and life (John 6:63). Where, from an external and purely formal point of view, everything seems quite correct and strictly legal, this does not mean that it is so in reality. . . Orthodoxy is the one and only Truth, the pure Truth, without any admixture or the least shadow of falsehood, lie, evil or fraud. [44]

Anything that stands in the way of Christ's Truth is an idol. Therefore, if one follows the decrees of a church leader when they are opposed to the commands of Christ, then one is making an idol of "officialness." This idolizing leads to the idea that "if the leaders are wrong, there is no hope!" As Archbishop Averky made clear, however, one will never be without hope as an Orthodox Christian as long as one preserves a spiritual understanding of the Church. "The 'gates of hell,’" he wrote, "will not prevail against the Church, but they have and certainly can prevail against many who consider themselves pillars of the Church, as is shown by Church history." [45]

There can be no question of Archbishop Averky's stance. If something is done on false principles, we should not accept or keep silent about it because it is performed in an official capacity, because it is "iniquity from above":

Meekness and humility do not mean spinelessness, and should not yield before manifest evil. A true Christian. . . should always be uncompromising towards evil, fighting with it by all measures and means available to him, in order decisively to cut off the spread and strengthening of evil among men. [46]

Again, Archbishop Averky stressed the dangers of self-effacingly seeking acceptance or recognition from any kind of authorities simply because of their "legal" status:

Any effort on our part to befriend those "holding authority" at the present time when the "many antichrists" who are openly or secretly fighting against Christ and His Church are so obviously in control, any effort slavishly to please them, flatter them, and do what they want, even to try for some degree of "legalization" from them is a betrayal of Christ our Saviour and enmity towards Him, even if those who act in this way are wearing the dress of clergymen. [47]

In this statement, Archbishop Averky gives a good explanation of the principle of Sergianism. This principle, by which Metropolitan Sergius capitulated to the godless Soviet authority in order to remain "legal" and preserve the functioning of the church institution, [48] is not merely something that is somewhere else, in Soviet Russia. It is a universal category of the human soul which only happened to take a dramatic form in the person of Metropolitan Sergius: it is the doing of something wrong or the acceptance of a lie in order to obtain the temporal advantage of being "official," albeit "for the good of the Church."

"Thus," wrote Fr. Seraphim Rose in the spirit of Archbishop Averky, "some people can find themselves in a position that may be 'legally correct' but is at the same time profoundly un-Christian—as if the Christian conscience is compelled to obey any command of the church authorities, as long as these authorities are properly 'canonical.' This blind concept of obedience for its own sake is one of the chief causes for the success of Sergianism in our century—both within and outside the Moscow Patriarchate." [49]

The final manifestation of the Sergianist principle will be the submission of even the most "traditional" Christians to the Antichrist himself. They will not be forced to agree with the Antichrist's ideas and methods. All that will be required of them is their recognition of his authority, which they will give in order to preserve the hierarchy, the church organization, the church services, and the possibility of openly receiving the Sacraments. Their betrayal will not consist of their clinging to canonical forms, hut rather in their placing these forms above faithfulness to Christ, which is the first responsibility of the Church.

The Holy Fathers have a very definite teaching on this, based on the Apocalypse of St. John the Theologian. They comment on the fact that the seal of the Antichrist will not be placed on the forehead and the hand simultaneously, but on the forehead or the hand (Apoc. 13:16). According to St. Andrew of Caesarea, those who receive it on their foreheads will share the Antichrist's way of thinking, while those who receive it on their right hands will only recognize his authority, saying that it is permissible to do this "if only one remains a Christian in one's soul... The banishing of the grace of the Holy Spirit through the mark of the beast fills the heart of all such ones with the first sign—fearfulness—which will bring them to an easy destruction ." [50]

In view of this patristic teaching, Archbishop Averky could readily foresee how all ecclesiastical organizations—ecumenical and anti-ecumenical, innovative and traditional—would one day bow down before Antichrist. Those whose fear of temporal authority overrides their fear of God will rely on their fallen minds to justify this submission, for their hearts and consciences can never justify it. They will try to sustain their church institutions by relinquishing the spiritual freedom and heroic confession which, as Archbishop Averky reiterated, will alone sustain the invincible Body of Christ. Thus will come to pass the prediction of Bishop Ignatius Brianchininov quoted by Archbishop Averky:

One can suppose, too, that the institution of the Church which has been tottering for so long will fall terribly and suddenly. Indeed, no one is able to stop or prevent it. The present means to sustain the institutional Church are borrowed from the elements of this world, things inimical to the Church, and the consequence will be only to accelerate its fall... May the merciful Lord defend the remnant who believe in Him. But this remnant is meager, and it becomes more and more so. [51]

THE END

So that we may remain true to Christ, Archbishop Averky warned us not to trust that which may seem "reasonable" or which accords with the "opinions" of our fallen minds. Instead, we are to follow our consciences and our Lord's commandments, and thereby expect to be hated by those—whether in the secular or ecclesiastical spheres—who are guided by the spirit of this world. He wrote:

In our time, truth is formally and solemnly declared falsehood and falsehood truth. And every person, whether he wishes to or not, must believe this, against all reason and rationale. Or else—alas! The one who follows the voice of his own conscience and of the teachings of the Lord, may end up paying dearly. And this is true in all aspects of modern life at times even in the areas of religion and church...

Brothers! Let us not, even in the smallest degree, fall into the spirit of this world; we know so well, from the Word of God, that this world is governed by the king of darkness, who abides in cruelty—our fierce enemy, evil doer, liar and murderer from the beginning (St. John 8:44)—the devil. Let us not fear mockery and division, oppression and persecution by his faithful servants. . . [52]

With spiritual eyes, Archbishop Averky could see around him the undermining by Satan of the smallest pious intentions on the part of Orthodox Christians. Those whose hearts yearn for love are not given it by Christians who should be known for their love (cf. John 13: 35)—and thus their hearts dry up and they become as bitter as those around them. As this Christian love "evaporates," [53] it becomes replaced by substitutes which strive to unify the Church only outwardly—officialness, prescribed modes of behavior, role-playing, man-pleasing, political concordats—substitutes which merely unify a false Church, a vacuum waiting to be filled by Antichrist. In this process, there occurs what Archbishop Averky called a "winnowing": a separation of the wise and prudent of this world (Luke 10:21) from those who pay no attention to the world's "opinions" and simply want to be with Christ in His Kingdom. This winnowing of the false and the genuine, stated Archbishop Averky, creates a burden for God-loving pastors, since fundamental distinctions are being blurred through the deceptions of Satan:

The Christian life now becomes more difficult than ever before, for the snares to man's salvation have been greatly multiplied and highly refined. The labor of being a pastor becomes many times harder and more responsible... Before our very eyes the prophetic words of Bishop Theophan the Recluse about the last times are beginning to be fulfilled: "At that time, though the name of the Christian will be heard everywhere and churches and church services will be seen everywhere, all of this will be only an appearance, while inside there will be true apostasy." Besides the always primary and essential example of a personally high spiritual and moral life, for the modern pastor there flows from this the extremely responsible and important task of teaching the faithful to recognize the true Church amidst the multitude of false churches and by his words, filled with spiritual power and wisdom, keeping them in its bosom, while attracting those in error. [54]

Archbishop Averky felt the burden of this responsibility perhaps more than any other of the great Orthodox pastors of our times. Like his beloved St. John of Kronstadt in the generation before his, he found that the most difficult thing to reconcile with his pastoral goals was the unmistakable triumph of evil in the world.

" Suffering Orthodoxy"—a phrase of St. Gregory the Theologian—was often on the lips of Archbishop Averky. This refers to two things: the sufferings that Orthodox Christians endure in this "vale of tears" on their way to their heavenly homeland, and also the persecution that the eternal Truth endures in this fallen world, whose prince is the devil.

Archbishop Averky knew what "suffering Orthodoxy" was from experience. Not long before his repose, ailing in body and suffering along with the Church Militant, he was asked about his condition by one of his friends. "How can I feel," he replied, "when the glory of Orthodoxy is diminishing, evil is triumphing, Christians are becoming so hateful and spiteful, and Orthodox Christians are no better—perhaps worse because they have been given more. And who will stand up in these terrible last times for poor SUFFERING ORTHODOXY?"

In his last book, Archbishop Averky mentioned how his pastoral concern for the "spiritual devastation" of his times contributed to his prolonged and final illness:

As a result of all the emotional stress I endured over all that is taking place nowadays, I was beset (at least, that is what the doctors say) by several serious illnesses which almost took me away from this temporary earthly life, because I could not come to terms with everything happening around me and approach it indifferently. [55]

Freed of his terrible pastoral burden at last, Archbishop Averky reposed in 1976. From an earthly point of view he died in defeat. The war of Satan with all forms of righteousness goes on, and will end in a reign of evil. But in heaven, Archbishop Averky was a victor. He had lived a godly life, preparing himself to be among the saints. His words, written only a year before his death, inspire us to follow him:

Let devoutness and piety be the only torches which we hold in our arms, as did the elder Simeon—then in a more mysterious way, in the depth of our hearts and souls. Then we will from our hearts be able to proclaim, upon departing this life, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation! . . ." [56]

Despair—the belief in the absence of Truth and love—was not in Archbishop Averky's heart when he reposed. He had lived in the presence of this Truth and love, and he knew that it would someday defeat the Antichrist after he had reigned for a short time (Apoc. 12:12 and 17:10).

In the end times, the true apostles of Christ will die or be killed off, as happened in the early years of Christianity: the sunset resembles the sunrise. And yet the flaming words of Archbishop Averky, one of the last true apostles, can still protect us from the subtle deceptions which are already upon us. He stood directly in the face of the onrush of world apostasy, and did not move. He uncovered the most cleverly hidden snares of the evil one, showing them to all who have eyes to see. His message was not to lose eternal hope, but rather not to pin this hope to external things which can be counterfeited. With courage and fortitude, he fulfilled his duty not with eyeservice, as menpleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God (Col. 3:22). Thus, before departing to the Lord, he wrote these undoubting words: "I will be judged, as we all will be, by the impartial God. But I can say one thing: I did everything honestly, according to my conscience, and without regard for personalities." [57]

HEAVENLY TRIUMPH

On April 1/14, 1976, Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote in his Chronicle, "Today we were informed of the death of our spiritual and theological guide, Archbishop Averky, leaving us now truly orphans. . . "

It was not many many months after this, on October 22/ November 4, that Fr. Seraphim came to church for the morning services and told one of his brothers of a wonderful dream he had had the night before. He had seen his beloved Archbishop Averky standing on some green grassy steps which led upwards. There were huge crowds of people as if at an outdoor gathering, and Fr. Seraphim was with them. Archbishop Averky looked radiant. He was vested all in dazzling white as was everyone, including a nearby deacon and Fr. Seraphim himself, who stood a little lower but right in front of Archbishop Averky. Some kind of solemn celebration was taking place. The deacon was supposed to announce the prokeimenon, but suddenly the words would not come out of his mouth and he hesitated in trying to remember them. Fr. Seraphim knew them, however, and looked up at Archbishop Averky—meaning to say that he had the right words. Then the archbishop hinted to him that he should say the prokeimenon aloud for the deacon.

"Let God arise," Fr. Seraphim loudly intoned, "and let His enemies be scattered! Let Russia arise! Alleluia!" [58] As soon as he said this, it was caught up by the huge chews all over; it thundered, rolling like billows far and wide. At this moment Archbishop Averky smiled in deep gratification. He began slowly to ascend while swinging a smoking censer. And as the magnificent thousand-voiced choruses continued, Fr. Seraphim knew that this grand, solemn, unheard-of occasion was the celebration of the Resurrection of Russia. Then he woke up.

Fr. Seraphim's understated tone in relating the dream convinced his brother that it had been a genuine visitation from Archbishop Averky. In concluding his account, he asked, "I wonder what it meant?"

"Don't you know what day it is today?" his brother said. "It's the commemoration day of St. Averky, Equal-to-the-Apostles: the first nameday of Archbishop Averky in heaven! Also, the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus ( whose lives prefigure the General Resurrection) and the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God—which saved Russia in the past—are celebrated on this day. Your dream is not a simple one; it must have significance."

Thus was Fr. Seraphim vouchsafed to share in the heavenly triumph that Archbishop Averky was already experiencing .

CONCLUSION

The story of Archbishop Averky's hard-fought battle against falseness of all kinds and his final triumph tell us an important thing: we must look for the apostasy not only somewhere outside our own sphere of activity—in the secular world, the proliferation of pagan religions, the other Christian confessions, the other Orthodox "jurisdictions," the "converts," the "ethnics," etc.. The spirit of apostasy—the spirit of imitation of what is Christ's—is everywhere, attacking all churches and thus all who would remain true to Christ.

We are convicted and called to repentance and struggle by Archbishop Averky's unforgettable question, asked of one who had done everything outwardly possible to be in the true Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church:

"But what will determine whether or not you are in that Church?"

What but a feeling for genuineness and a stand against the most refined falsehoods, will enable us to be in that "close-knit spiritual union of all who truly believe in Christ," that Church against

the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matt. 16:18) and in which Archbishop Averky even now serves the Divine Liturgy upon God's altar?







ENDNOTES

1. Archbishop Averky, Stand Fast in the Truth, compiled by Fr. Demetrios Serfes (Pillars of Orthodoxy Parish House, Mt. Holly Springs, PA), p. 5.

2. "What is Orthodoxy," by Archbishop Averky, Orthodox Life (Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N. Y . ) May-June, 1976, p. 2.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid. p. 3.

5. Ibid. p. 2.

6. Judge not according to appearances, but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24).

7. See "Raising the Mind, Warming the Heart," by Fr. Seraphim Rose in The Orthodox Word, No. 126, p. 30.

8. "Antichrist and the Present Times," by I. M. Kontzevitch, Orthodox Life, Jan.-Feb., 1976, pp. 8-9.

9. "Concerning the Coming of the Lord. . . " by St. Ephraim the Syrian, Orthodox Life, May-June, 1970, pp. 23-4.

10. Ibid. pp. 26-7.

11. See True Orthodoxy and the Contemporary World, by Archbishop Averky, in Russian (Holy Trinity Monastery, 1971), pp. 18-21.

12. Stand Fast in the Truth, p. 8.

13. Bishop Ignatius Brianchininov explains that the "world" of which Christ speaks is made up of the majority of people "who live for time and not for eternity." See his book The Arena (Holy Trinity Monastery, 1982), pp. 166-77.

14. Stand Fast in the Truth, pp. 8-9.

15. "A Reminder to Us That True Christianity Is a Struggle," by Archbishop Averky, Orthodox Life, March-April, 1981, p. 24.

16. The Life and Works of Archbishop Averky (Pillars of Orthodoxy Parish House, Mt. Holly Springs, PA), p. 32.

17. Stand Fast in the Truth, p. 11.

18. Archbishop Averky, The Just Shine Like the Stars (West Coast Orthodox Supply, Etna, CA, 1983), p. 16.

19. Stand Fast in the Truth, p. 10.

20. His full quote is: "Know that we must serve, not the times, but God." ( From the letter of St. Athanasius to Dracontius. )

21. "True Orthodoxy," by Archbishop Averky, Orthodox Christian Witness (Seattle, WA), Jan. 10/23, 1983, pp. 2-3.

22. Stand Fast in the Truth, p. 2.

23. Eg., liturgical and calendar reforms, changes in fasting guidelines, infrequent Confession, pews and organs in church, beardless clergy, the tonsuring and ruling of monastics by married priests, etc. . Regarding such innovations, Fr. Seraphim Rose once stated: "The followers of unenlightened custom are themselves innocent; they merely accept what has been 'handed down' to them. But not seeing the meaning and not knowing the sources of what has been handed down, they are easily led into error, accepting customs which the Church has allowed only out of her condescension or economy as if they were the best of Orthodoxy, and also improper customs of recent heterodox origin and inspiration, together with the pure and meaningful Orthodox customs handed down from the Holy Fathers." See Paisius Velichkovsky ( St. Herman Brotherhood, 1976), p. 14.

24. "Should the Church Be 'In Step With the Times?’" by Archbishop Averky, The Orthodox Word, Nos. 16-17, pp. 184 and 186.

25. The Life and Works of Archbishop Averky, p. 25.

26. "True Orthodoxy," p. 5.

27. Stand Fast in the Truth, p. 7.

28. "True Orthodoxy," p. 3.

29. Stand Fast in the Truth, p. 7.

30. "Holy Zeal," by Archbishop Averky, The Orthodox Word, No. 62, pp. 130-1.

31. The Just Shine Like the Stars, pp. 51-2.

32. "Holy Zeal," p. 131.

33. The Just Shine Like the Stars, p. 35.

34. Ibid. pp. 50-1.

35. Ibid. p. 54.

36. For a discussion of contemporary false spiritual guides who demand total submission to their wills without first having conquered their passions, see The Arena, pp. 43-47.

37. "Holy Zeal," p. 130.

38. "What is Orthodoxy?" p. 1.

39. See Paisius Velichkovksy, p. 288.

40. The Just Shine Like the Stars, pp. 50-1.

41. Ibid. pp. 16-7.

42. The New Russian Martyr Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan wrote in 1929: "Church discipline is capable of preserving its efficacy only as long as it is an actual reflection of the hierarchical conscience of the Catholic Church; and discipline itself can never replace this conscience... The Catholic-hierarchical principle of the Church's existence is not at all the same thing as outward unity at any cost." In Russia's Catacomb Saints (St. Herman Brotherhood, 1982), pp. 246-7.

43. The Just Shine Like the Stars, p. 51.

44. "What is Orthodoxy?" pp. 3-4.

45. Stand Fast in the Truth, p. 2.

46. "Holy Zeal," p. 98.

47. The Just Shine Like the Stars, p. 18.

48. In his infamous declaration of 1927, where he stated that the Soviet Union's "joy's and successes are our joys and successes." See Russia's Catacomb Saints, p. 45.

49. Russia's Catacomb Saints, p. 257.

50. Ibid. p. 222.

51. "True Orthodoxy," p. 4; and Stand Fast in the Truth, p. 5.

52. The Just Shine Like the Stars, pp. 54-5.

53. This was the word used by the great 20th-century ascetic and confessor, Archimandrite Gerasim of Spruce Island, who said: "Christian love is evaporating from the face of the earth."

54. The Just Shine Like the Stars, p. 25.

55. The Life of Archbishop Averky, by Priestmonk Ignatius, Orthodox Life, May-June, 1976, p. 30.

56. The Just Shine Like the Stars, p. 55.

57. The Life of Archbishop Averky, p. 25.

58. From the service of Holy Pascha, the Resurrection of the Lord. The words "let Russia arise!" were added for the heavenly celebration of Russia's Resurrection.