Thursday, January 28, 2010

Capitalism’s Ideology: By Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios

Nowadays, two prominent ways of life prevail in mankind, which have been transformed into two ideologies respectively; that is, Western individualism and Eastern collectivism. In Western individualism, characterized by liberalism, an unbridled freedom of the individual prevails, along with competition which is a detrimental factor to society overall. In Eastern collectivism state dominance prevails, which undermines people’s freedom. In both instances, man is overlooked as a persona, just as human society is not regarded as a society of human personae.

These two systems of living and ideological models are both made manifest in societal reality. Liberalism prevails in the West and its “headquarters” are the United States of America – the “Mecca” of globalization, while collectivism appeared in countries of the former Soviet Union, but also in countries of the Far East generally.

In both cases capital has a prominent place, except it is differentiated in who possesses it and who manages it. In liberalism, capital ends up among the few and it moves, mostly unrestrained, along the principle of market self-adjustment. In collectivism-communism, capital is state-controlled. In both cases the average person is victimized, the difference being that he is victimized either by the oligarchy of a handful of wealthy tycoons or by an insatiable State. Capitalism thus has only a callous face to show.

The view has been expressed that capitalism is the creation of Western individualism and especially of Protestant morality, as indicated by Max Weber, and that it aspires to the accumulation of wealth by a few, while Marxism, which originated from Marx’s views, is only a reaction to capitalism and is concerned with the whole of society. Deep down however, both these systems are the offspring of the same, Western metaphysics - given that Marx was a German Jew raised in the West - however his theories, which were born in the Western “sphere”, were transfused to the East, because that was where the practice of Orthodox Christianity existed, with its principles of common ownership and communal use and could therefore be implemented.

In our day, we have become witnesses to the crumbling of both these two systems, but equally of their ideologies. In the period between 1989 and 1991, collectivism-Communism collapsed in the countries of the former Soviet Union where State power dominated over people’s social and financial lives, while in our day, we are witnessing the collapse of liberalism with its mentality of “free markets” and the market’s “self-adjustment”, which functions to the detriment of society overall. Of course it should be noted that the bankruptcy of Communism cannot be regarded as a vindication of Capitalism, just as the collapse of Capitalism cannot be ascribed to Communism. It is the failure of capital’s ideology, which is totally disrespectful of people’s poverty.

At any rate, both these systems are contrary to the Orthodox teaching in its perfect form, since neither liberalism nor Marxism – as ideologies and world theories – can be accepted by Orthodox Tradition, in which extensive mention is made to avoid the passion of avarice, but also about the experiencing of love towards fellow-man, especially those who are suffering. This combination of love and freedom solves the problem altogether, given that the freedom of the individual/persona without the element of love will lead to unbridled liberalism, and the love of the whole minus the freedom of the individual will result in unbridled collectivism.

To anticipate a possible objection to the above, I will admit that unfortunately, the ideology behind the capitalist system with its two forms – the individualist and the state-controlled – has In certain cases influenced and continues to influence the lives of certain Orthodox communities. This can be discerned in several contemporary monasteries also, which, instead of being examples of coenobitic living and the revival of the original community of Jerusalem, are nevertheless operating along the contemporary capitalist system’s model, in which case, we could aptly label this phenomenon “Orthodox Capitalism”.

Whereas monks proclaim and basically adhere to the virtue of non-possessing and communal possession, still, they continue to amass – for better or for worse – both lands and funds for the monasteries and take risks by playing with that property, utilizing every capitalistic-liberalistic means to increment it. In other words, monks are striving to live with indigence inside wealthy monasteries and they develop both social and political power.

This situation reminds me of certain Eastern European countries – Romania for example – where the people went hungry and were in fact non-possessors (albeit involuntarily) and yet its leaders amassed wealth and built majestic mansions-palaces (for example Nicolae Ceausescu). However, this mentality is not favoured by the teaching of the Church and Orthodox monasticism, which asks of the monk to lack any personal possessions and the monasteries to be places of philanthropy, love and multi-faceted healing. In the Orthodox Tradition, Sacred Monasteries are spiritual infirmaries.

We clergymen and monks need to understand that everything legal is not necessarily ethical, but also that everything ethical – according to the rules of social ethics – is not necessarily Orthodox, from the aspect that Orthodox, Gospel ethics differs from secular ethics and is in reality ascetic by nature. We should not only condemn the amassing of material wealth by specific individuals; we also need to condemn the amassing of material wealth by “ecclesiastic communities” for display, as well as stigmatize the participation of ecclesiastic personages and communities in the games of the capitalist system and the liberal or neo-liberal market.

We Christians, especially the clergy and monks, must display in practice that which we believe in and preach, otherwise we will be dishonest and hypocrites. We must fend off the temptation to be possessed by a particular, “Christian capitalist” ideology.

Written by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios titled "Capitalism's Ideology" and published by the newspaper BHMA (10/19/2008).

Capitalism as the offspring of Western Metaphysics

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

From Elder Philotheos Zervakos, Paternal Counsels, volume 2

Thanks to my good friend from Philly for sending this to me, it is rather edifying.

From Elder Philotheos Zervakos, Paternal Counsels, volume 2
On the Calendar (pp.30-31)

"Now if you don’t feel comfortable with the calendar, follow the old…However don’t let the enemy deceive you that you will be saved since now you are an old calendarist. Christ, when He sent His disciples into the world told them: Preach the gospel to all the world, and he who believes and is baptized will be saved. He did not say preach the old calendar and he who believes and is baptized will be saved in it.

The Lord commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for those who trouble, hate and treat us unjustly. The old calendarists are divided and one portion hates, criticizes and curses the other as heretical. They scorn the words of the Lord, who says that we should have love for one another, that we should love our enemies. And after so much hate, criticisms, anathemas, they self-title themselves as genuine Orthodox! But since the one portion considers the other as heretical, which portion is the genuine Orthodox one? Since they don’t have love, none of them is Orthodox, and since they do not keep the commandment of love nor shall they be saved, because whoever does not have love no matter how many virtues he has, even if he has prophetical gifts, apostolic gifts, and even martyrdom, without love does not save us. One cause which the paternal calendar does not return is the divisions and the lack of love in the old calendarists. If they repent, make up, and become peaceful with one another, and pray in humility and contrition of heart both for themselves and for the new calendarists, God shall hear their prayer and the old calendar shall return. …May the most merciful God who does not want the death of sinners grant repentance and return and not allow us to be lost but save us according to His great and rich mercy."

Week for Christian Unity...or Syncretism?

*Please forgive my reduncy from past posts, some unedited new comments, etc. I was asked about this topic and whipped up my thoughts ratherly quickly.

This week in honor of Christian unity there are many prayer services where Christians of various denominations will come together to pray with one another in an attempt to bear witness in some form or another. In my own area of central Massachusetts there will be an ecumenical prayer service hosted at Assumption College in Worcester, MA by its Ecumenical Institute.

Bearing witness to the Truth of Christ is a duty of every Orthodox Christian, of this there is no compromise. This is true ecumenism, to preach the gospel and to baptize all nations, bearing witness to the Truth of Christ. I take the high road on such matters agreeing with Metropolitan Philaret, former First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, who expressed sober views on those outside of Orthodoxy.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)].

Today, however, we have many “churches” claiming to be the one, true Church. Only the Holy Orthodox Church can legitimately claim this title. Some possess “mechanical” apostolic succession, but succession in this form, removed from adhering to the true faith is deficient and viewed as null and void, being outside the boundaries of the Holy Orthodox Church. The Church has always existed and is traceable by the apostolic succession of a valid bishop who teaches apostolic truth. This is essential for the spiritual and historic continuity of the true apostolic church. Paul urges us in Holy Writ: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2. 5). The Church is not just a human organization of brick and mortar and the material world, but the holy and blessed mystical Body and cosmic reality of Christ Jesus, the Logos.

The Holy Orthodox Church is relatively unknown in North America yet it is the original Christian Church. Roman Catholicism can claim the same faith for hundreds of years after Pentecost and even historical continuity since the apostles, but the truth has been preserved undefiled in Holy Orthodoxy. Protestant Christianity, on the other hand, was a reaction to further innovations and abuses of Roman Catholicism and broke from Rome starting another “church”. From there it has been division after division with all types of varying beliefs in western Christendom. Today we now have by some credible sources over 25,000 different branches of Protestantism! This is diametrically opposed to our Lord’s teaching of one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

False 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", "peace”, “harmony” and acceptance to slowly and ambiguously nullify the teachings of Christ into a one world religion created by the minds of men. This is best reflected in Freemasonry, liberal Protestantism and self-styled evangelists who start new “churches” as if the Church has ceased to exist despite our Lord’s own words, “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).

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.

Now this is ecumenism of the most extreme, usually it is much more subtle that goes undetected or unchallenged. The Protestant theory of fragments (fragmentation meaning pieces of the Truth exist apart from one another and no one has the entire Truth, not one body, but a heresy as the mystical body cannot be divided), that Roman Catholics are the same faith, that denominations which deny the Trinity, the Eucharist, who distort basic Christian principles are somehow of the same yoke.

Although a tome can be written on the subject I think the modern heresy of our times is false ecumenism. I do not criticize dialogue which is good, but bad ecumenism where Truth is reduced to be almost meaninglessness for the sake of superficial outward unity and so-called peace. It is in this heresy of ecumenism that all previous hereises are accepted. Since anything goes so to speak one can have superficial unity externally with Arianists, those who deny the Eucharist, Gnostic tendencies and every other heresy made manifest in history under the guise of love, acceptance and a fraternal embrace. It is through this that I truly feel that our desire for love, unity and brotherhood are exploited, making us like Judas and creating a "Christ" we want and not the One who has been revealed in the flesh.

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.

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.

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 epistlestated 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.

Dr. Alexander Kalomiros wrote, “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]),

Unity is noble task, but if performed under false pretenses for the sake of mere acceptance is nothing but demonic. It must be performed according to the canons of the Church and in the task of correction and spreading the authentic gospel, not mere syncretistic acceptance of all so-called Christian viewpoints and expressions. For what has Christ to do with Belial? Absolutely nothing! Hence we see the problem with modern day ecumenism. We must defend the faith unto death is necessary for the sake of our souls and that of our brethren. We, of course must also remain loving and not arrogant or possessing an unbecoming demeanor. Our Orthodoxy is not an occasion or excuse for arrogance, but instead loving correction, humility and repentance for our own personal shortcomings.

In an age where schism, heresy and misunderstanding appear to reign supreme, we are losing sight of our mission to both live and preserve the authentic faith of Christ personally and communally. The Fullness of the Church is the Assembly of the people, the children of God for the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, the Divine Eucharist, wherein the local Church or Church proper becomes the true Body of Christ. It is in this Theandric organism that we are communally united, in which the Holy Trinity dwells and we participate on earth in the heavenly mysteries entrusted unto the Church of God.

Ultimately the mission of the Church as the continuation of Christ’s work here on earth means working towards the salvation of souls, that of our own souls and those of dear brethren. Yes there are Christians of all yoke among us, but we need to be careful of subtractions and additions to the faith of our Fathers. Protestant minimalism seeks to look for the lowest common denominator in faith pointing to an ecclesiology in which the bare minimum is required, basically Christianity without the cross. Many rooted in medieval, counter-reformation and post-Vatican II ideas introduced into the Roman Church may have many unnecessary additions to the life of the Church or complete innovations and the overstepping of boundaries in regards to formulated principles. This is evident with some Marian devotions, the use of indulgences and many worldly actions of the papacy. There are even other clerics who are fully liberal, calling for the rejection of the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ, seeing Him as simple a cosmic archetype and not the Son of God.

There are certainly many innovations evoking confusion among clergy and laity alike. The true and essential unity of the Holy Orthodox Church is fully expressed by the total harmony of her bishops, by a common undivided and apostolic faith and a common, pure and holy spiritual life. 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. Also the he Church's canons are a direct reflection of the essential and unchanging Faith and Doctrine it so proclaims universally throughout all of time.