Thursday, February 2, 2017
The lives of saints provide lessons for all aspects of our lives. Therefore we should be reading them daily. Not only do we learn what kinds of trials face Orthodox Christians on their path through life, but we are also educated in the nature and practice of love, and are given examples of how to pray, be obedient, discern falsehood or demonic activity, how to be humble, forgiving, and patient, while strictly maintaining the Orthodox faith in all fullness.
After the 2007 union with Moscow, people of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, due to understandable and profound disappointment, have become cautious in trusting clergy. It has been a difficult time for us all. However, it is important for us to continue to learn traditional Orthodoxy, and direct our lives accordingly. A “modern approach” will eventually will lead us away from the Church. For example, we should be aware that the valuable accounts from the lives of saints in fact give hundreds, if not thousands of examples of what kinds of clergymen (and lay people!) not to trust.
For example, in the life of St Athanasius the Great, archbishop of Alexandria (296-373), we read about the heretic Arius:
…spurred on by ambition, he sided at first with Meletios, a schismatic, and then with Archbishop Peter of Alexandria, who ordained him a deacon. He was reconciled with another schismatic, Achillas, who raised him to the presbyterate…
Today, the Church unfortunately sees many “adventurers” among the clergy, who will join one jurisdiction after the other, often due to ambition. This kind of personal-ecclesiastical history is a ‘warning flag’ for us.
At the same time, there exist many laymen and clergy who have turned away from the falsehood of ‘world orthodoxy’ or heterodox faith, and embraced true Orthodoxy. These are distinguished by their humble and consistent work for the Church of Christ, which is often not very spectacular. Arius, on the other hand:
…was not so well versed in understanding Scripture as he was crafty and a vessel of the devil, skilled at instigating scandals…a popular teacher…his teachings began to incite controversy…he made many disciples…his beliefs circulated in the mouths of many….he filled Egypt with tumult and confusion…his ideas we widely accepted…
Moreover, Arius and his followers were great publicists:
…they did not cease, on a daily basis, creating stumbling blocks, with the intention of not only having the saint exiled from his throne, but also from the city, and if possible even to deprive him of life itself…they enlisted whomever they could in Alexandria to defame the bishop…
The righteous very often endure unjust and false slanders. This is a sign to take note of:
…they accused him of crimes…compelling the bishops and priests to hand over a tax…plotting treachery against the Emperor…that Athanasius was avaricious…against the holy archbishop every charge that could be contrived was laid at his door…primarily harshness and violence in dealing with those who took up Ischyras’ case (a man who posed as a priest without ordination, who vacillated between two schismatic groups and the Orthodox church)…reports circulated that Athanasius contracted to have killed [Arsenios, Bishop of Hypsele, who had been bribed to go along with the following plot]…it was alleged that one of the victim’s hands was severed for use in magic ceremonies…this ridiculous rumour was bruited about…threatening, insulting and reviling him, saying, “Magician, swindler, charlatan, hypocrite, mischief-maker!”
The Church of Christ has lived through many confusing moments, when people were unsure what to believe and whom to trust. Let us make these vital decisions with sobriety, based on Scripture, the writings of the Holy Fathers, and the history of the Church, including the lives of the Saints.
Evsevios of Nikomedia and Theognos of Nicaea, filled with notions of their own importance, used all their influence against the advocates of homoousion. On account of the maneuvering and sophistry of Evsevios of Caesarea, many were swayed who went on thinking that they were in accord with the Orthodox view and the Nicene Creed. The substance of the mischievous controversy was, to many, misrepresented and never fully explained.
St Athanasius governed the Church of Alexandria for 46 years. Seventeen of these years, he was exiled from the city, and most his reign passed under the shadow of continuous troubles. But the Church recognises him as one of the greatest saints and confessors of Orthodoxy in Her history.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
In connection with the recent illegal meeting in New York state in January 2017, the following decrees banning clergy associated with Australia (Archbishop Andronik and Hegumen Andrei) have been issued.
These decrees emphasise the extreme seriousness of the situation, and the dire consequences of disobedience, both for the clergy themselves, and for those lay people who attend the services of the banned clergy.
Unity in the Orthodox Church is based on our practice of love, which we show through obedience. This duty is given to all Church members, from the first to the last.
The surest and safest path for parishioners in this confusing matter is to show obedience to the Sobor of Bishops, and concentrate maximally on prayer and good works, for their own salvation, and for the salvation of us all.
In our modern time, with its modern, distorted understanding of ‘love’ it may be difficult for some to understand traditional Church practice. However, our Orthodox Church practice is not something that can ‘change with the times’. Neither is the Church truly a ‘democratic organisation’ in the modern understanding of that term.
The government of the Church is entrusted to the Bishops.
The Sobor of Bishops, consisting of 12 hierarchs, has discussed the matters troubling our ROCA presently, and has arrived at the decision to ban certain clergy, out of love for these persons, and the hope for their repentance, as well as for the love and safeguarding of all the people.
The surest and safest path for parishioners in this confusing matter is to show obedience to the Sobor of Bishops, and concentrate maximally on prayer and good works for their own salvation, and for the salvation of us all.
It is necessary for Orthodox Christians to exercise great patience and faith in our evil days. Do not allow the evil one to lead you astray, away from the Church of Christ, which He founded and governed through the Holy Apostles, leading Her to this day through their successors, the Bishops of the Church
With love in Christ,
(Bishop of Melbourne)
Friday, October 28, 2016
ROCA will not divide into two or more pieces. ROCA will remain ROCA; and a Parasinagogue will remain a Parasinagogue
A Letter to Victoria Sherba , parish choir director and lawyer in combination, from Sergei Savchenko parish warden and a lawyer , on her letter “Some thoughts of a parish choir director and a lawyer “, distributed on the internet.
“This know also, that perilous times shall come in the last days. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, more lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying its power. From such turn away ” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
“Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it…from that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with him” John 6:60 -66
ROCA will not divide into two or more parts. ROCA is one, and will remain one. From Her may leave 2 bishops, 10 priests, and 200 lay people; but ROCA will remain one.
Whilst the departed leaders of this schism will answer before Christ: what weighty blessed reasons they had for this step. Similarly those involved in their sin will answer before God for their immortal soul.
Now let us consider the “severity of punishment.” (I am going on the content of your letter).
Obviously the condemned bishops expressed unchristian non-humility, from the loss of 4 dioceses (by one three at once, by the other only one). Even so no one banned bishops Andronik and Sofrony from serving, nor expel led them from their rank, and so on. They were left with the right to serve only in their own parish and monastery respectively. Neither of them came to the Synod nor to the ecclesiastical court, which is in itself a call to ones’ brother colleagues.
Furthermore, the opinion of Metropolitan Agafangel in this situation: punishment of leaving them in their ministry. The opinion of the members of the Synod is stricter: to ban, to expel.
Mercy was victorious, it triumphs over judgment, and the Synod decided to leave them in their ministry, with a view to allow the peaceful resolution of further misunderstandings. However it seems the leaders of the schism specifically exacerbate the conflict.
I shall explain to you why I and many others in ROCA, since the mid 90’s, supported, support, and will support Metropolitan Agafangel, the Synod, and the Bishop’s Council. The34rd apostolic canon defines:
“For bishops of every nation it is befitting to know the senior among them, and recognize him as the head, and do nothing exceeding their authority without his consideration: for each to do just what concerns his own diocese and to places belonging to it. However let the senior bishop not do anything without the consideration of all the bishops. In this way there will be unity of thought, and God will be glorified in the Lord in the Holy Spirit, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “
In this case, Metropolitan Agafangel is accused of intervening in “another’s” diocese of Archbishops Andronik and Sofrony. What about the insolentintervention of archbishops Andronik and Sofrony in the Diocese of New York and the East-America? Has Archbishop Andronik so little to do in the dioceses of Syracuse and St. Nicholas, Ottawa and North America, Australia and New Zealand? Or bishop Sofrony, being in the USA, having flown across the ocean, is deciding questions of the St. Petersburg and North-Russian diocese?
Archbishops Sofrony and Andronik sin against the 34th apostolic canon, because they do not recognize the authority of the senior bishop, who they themselves have elected.
Will the apostles really show favoritism at the Last Judgment, and approve the actions of the leaders of the schism Andronik and Sofrony, contrary to their rules, those established by the Holy Spirit? Then the holy apostles lied to the entire Orthodox Church for two thousand years, if their rules mean nothing for everlasting life. I think that the conscious violators of the holy God-inspired Canons, hope in vain for this.
If the church rejects the apostolic canons, it is then not the Church of the Apostles.
Victoria, if you sing the symbol of faith at each liturgy, then you know, that by their actions, archbishops Andronik and Sofrony reject the church dogma: “I believe … in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Pay attention to the doctrine of the unity of the Church. With whom are Christ and the apostles? With those who deliberately, persistently, cynically violate the canons; or with those who observe the canons, meekly bear their obedience, suffer slander, contempt, ridicule? I think neither you, nor I, have in the past year undergone so much blasphemy as our Metropolitan.
Victoria, you write that at least two of our bishops may have possibly not been properly ordained and do not have apostolic succession. But did you know that since 2008 the apostolic succession of bishops Athanasius and John is from bishops Andronik and Sofrony, who read all the required prayers at the consecration of bishops at the cheirothesia of these individuals? Or do you question the sacraments performed by bishops Andronik and Sofrony in 2008!
Victoria, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven Andronik and Sofrony. Do not participate in their sin.
It may seem strange to you, but I am one of the few, who believe that there is grace in the Moscow Patriarchate as well! Since August 1995 however, I have never taken communion in the patriarchate, though I live in Ukraine next to their churches, I was forced to independently purchase premises, and arrange regular services. Happily the Lord has granted our true pastors to serve 58 Divine Liturgies, in the 16 years of existence of our house church.
Why did I come from the MP to the ROCA? Due to violations by Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky, and automatically without exception by all his successors, of the 30th apostolic canon (If any bishop, or secular head, having used and through them, will receive episcopal authority in the Church, let him be deposed and excommunicated, and all those in communication with him, including lay people). This prohibition applies to all members of the Moscow Patriarchate, from the Patriarch to the layman. That is what is said there: “all communicating”. All these people are under judgment. All of them will be judged by Christ and the apostles: why did they not follow the new martyrs to the catacomb churches and to the cross, that which they took at the beginning of their ministry as Christians, clergy and arch pastors.
At present, they are in canonical sin, and subject to judgment. Judgment is inevitable. Their judgment will occur after their death, or if it be pleasing to God - at the upcoming Council of the Russian Church, at which Sergianism must be condemned as a pre-antichristian phenomenon of apostasy, which is detestable to God. The grace of the Holy Spirit will be to their condemnation. As the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.
So by your logic, your future schism is a direct road to the Moscow Patriarchate, where most likely they are already awaiting you.
The postulate of grace is in solidarity with the postulate of truth.
Victoria, consider the words of Christ, said by Him to the Samaritan woman:
“You do not know what we worship and we know what we worship, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is a Spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. ” (John 4:22-24)
When you will worship God in the churches of the schismatics Andronik and Sofrony, will it truly be in Truth, or only in Spirit?
Or are there two Truths in Christ? Perhaps nevertheless someone is wrong?
Do not be fooled. You know that Metropolitan Agafangel and the ROCOR Synod is in the right. I think the next Council of Bishops will confirm this as well: whilst a bunch of detached people from the Church, who have organized a parasinagogue, are in the wrong. You write that not one of them preaches heresy or non-traditional teaching. Is not sin against the dogma of the unity of the Church not heresy for you? Or is violation of Apostolic Canons a tradition that was established in the church immediately after the Apostolic Council in the year of 51?
By definition, this group will not be canonical.
Is this ministry according to God’s will, being contrary to the canons of the apostles?
Victoria, tell me the rules of canon law, which allows a few dioceses of the Church to dissociate themselves from Church fellowship with the other dioceses of the Church.
Victoria, tell me the norm of canon law, according to which the role of the first bishop is reduced to the role of chairman at the councils?
I think that it will be better for Catholics and Sergianists at the Day of Judgment, than for these people, who do not accept, rather banish their archbishop, do not listen to his words, but listen to false voices of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The ROCA is higher than the parasinagogue of bishops Andronik and Sofrony, like heaven is above hell.
In a spiritual sense, the bishops, clergy and laity of the Moscow Patriarchate will be higher than all of you who will follow the leaders Andronik and Sofrony into schism. Because the blind patriarchal sergianists follow their leaders, who have not yet been condemned by the future Council of the Russian Church (the probability of which was believed by the pillars of ROCOR); whilst you are following those who have been condemned already! The Moscow Patriarchate leaders are under judgment by the Canons and dogma of the Church; but this judgment is not presently expressed individually to each sergianist, as almost none of them were judged as bishops Andronik and Sofrony. Your sin is even greater, by the fact that you have freedom of choice.
Victoria, who is ridiculing who? On yourself and your brothers and sisters - can you wear all the mud and humiliation, which is spewed out of your group of activists? Who is ridiculing who? The victim here is the Church! She is being mocked by bishops Andronik, Sofrony and associates. Do you know that it all started by Metropolitan Agafangel interceding for the widow Dutikova, to whom was pointed the door? I personally corresponded on this subject with V.Yarmolinets. He acknowledged that the Astoria church council decided that 1 year after the death of Archpriest Vsevolod, Dutikova his widow, was to vacate the apartment (which will subsequently be rented out) and go to live with her children. They do not see any other way to improve the financial problems of the parish. It seems they have decided to sell the apartment. Since they do not hide on’ facebook ‘ that the profitability of this action would be counted in the hundreds of thousands of dollars ( pieces of silver). The spiritual atmosphere that has arisen in the church parish in Astoria, after the death of Father Vsevolod, can be clearly illustrated to you by the facebook page of the church council member Vadim Yarmolynts. I will tell you the basic principle of this page – not a word about God (except perhaps in swearing). Therefore I consider his ecclesiastical prohibition a logical consequence of his lack of proper spiritual Christian life.
Is not the development of the image of the enemy (Satan) and the accompanying hate - a method of the Soviets ? Have you not read in the Gospel, that in the days of Christ many people left Him? Perhaps Christ should have adjusted His doctrine, so that no one would leave Him?
Victoria, with whom are you?
At the beginning of creation, God separated light from darkness (Gen. 1.4). In Hebrew it sounds literally as follows: “And God divided the sons of light and sons of darkness”. God acted like a tyrant? That there are children of darkness - who is guilty in your opinion? Perhaps it is not God, but rather the free will of those who choose against Him?
“But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with Him. Then Jesus said unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? “. John 6.64-66.
“So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, send us into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told everything, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts”. Matthew 8. 31-34
Also the rich young man who loved Christ, parted from Christ, etc. etc.
There are numerous examples of disciples departing from the apostles.
How can Christ and the apostles be blamed?
However you dare to blame the Metropolitan - that he acted strictly, in relation to other members of the Church.
Do all those who have departed from the Church to their own place, have the gift of the Holy Spirit in the fear of God?
Victoria, for the sake of the salvation of your own soul, do not participate in the sin of destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church.
You write that you have tried all options in avoiding a schism.
It is surprising - do you yourself believe in what you write? From the side it looks quite the opposite.
It is not BA/BS, as you call them, that travel to the Metropolitan for a resolution of the conflict, but on the contrary, the Metropolitan travels to the USA, personally recalls all his signatures from the prohibitions of Archbishop Andronik, but that one…changes his mind! Bishop Sofrony says to the Metropolitan that he needs to consult with someone to remain in the One Church. Consult with whom? We can only guess who those advisers (from the word soviet) are, and what cash money and certificates are in their pockets. Money, in denominations enough for the Archbishop of Northern Russia to leave the diocese in the Russian Federation, and live for months in the Americas. In addition, Archbishop Sofrony denounces himself, in confessing that he does not have his own opinion, and is subject to the opinions of other unknown persons. So this is your candidate for the future false-metropolitan!
BA/BS preach heresy, because they teach that the Church can divide. This is a heresy – one type of ecumenism. It is simple. Will the church services of those who have been banned and stripped of their rank retain the sacrament of grace of the Holy Spirit? The answer is obvious - no, of course.
The Lord said, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt.18: 18).You have equated the services of the catacomb new-martyrs with the services of justly punished proud people. It is a comical situation, when residing in the USA amid western standard of living, you equate yourself with people of the catacomb Church, who
“suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment: They were stoned, asunder, were tempted, died by the sword: they wandered about in the mantle and goat skins , destitute, afflicted, tormented; those whom the world was not worthy, wandering in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth “(Hebrews 11. 36 -38).
This is obviously similar to the spiritual state of delusion. The state of delusion, first of all, gives its victim insolence. And from insolence comes blasphemy and slander.
Examine the book of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov “Ascetic experiences” in two volumes and “Otechnik”. They disclosed the spiritual state of BA / BS and those with them.
Peace to you.
The group of supporters of Archbishops Andronik and Sophrony (which calls itself “the Pre-Council Committee”) has placed the following assertion on the internet:
“In our day….what we consider the universal Church is made up of divided “fragments,” which do not associate with each other”,
meaning that the Catholic Church, allegedly, does not exist in visible form, and that She is divided into fragments.
In response to this claim, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad hereby announces that the Council of Bishops does not believe that in our days the Local Russian Church does not exist visibly, and is made up of fragments that do not have Eucharistic communion with each other. On the contrary, such a statement is condemned as heretical by us and by the entire Orthodox Church in the anathema to ecumenism:
“To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ’s Church is divided into so-called “branches” (…), or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all “branches” (…) will be united into one body; (…) Anathema!”
We believe that our Council of Bishops, chaired by Metropolitan Agafangel, as well as the dioceses, missions, monasteries and parishes subordinate to them, constitute a visible and “an inseparable part of the Local Russian Orthodox Church, temporarily self-governing on conciliar principles”.
We conclude that to date there exist no objective physical obstacles to the canonical life of the unified Russian Church (the presence of a front line, closed state borders, open persecution of Orthodox Christians, etc.) and it is not “impossible to establish relations with the bishops of neighboring dioceses” (Decree №362, p.4).
We also note that in our days, despite repeated appeals, the bishops and priests who were formerly in the ROCA, but now calling themselves “fragments”, deliberately do not fulfill paragraph 2 of Decree №362:
“the diocesan bishop immediately enters into relations with the bishops neighbouring dioceses for the organization of higher instance of ecclesiastical authority for several dioceses in similar conditions”.
The current situation is provided by paragraph 9 of Decree №362:
“In the case of extreme disorganization of ecclesiastical life, when certain persons and parishes cease to recognize the authority of the diocesan bishop, the latter being in the position shown in Paragraph no.2 and no.6, do not resign from their hierarchical authority, but organizing of persons remaining faithful to him, congregations and parishes of - deanery and diocese, providing where necessary to conduct services even in private homes and other premises made suitable for this, and breaking communion with the disobedient.”
Since “ecclesiastical communion with the disobedient” (i.e, the “fragments”), is absent, we are with regret forced to state that the situation between us and the currently existing “fragments” is a state of schism. We, like the rest of the Church believe that the schismatics do not remain in the Church, but rather are parts now fallen away part of Her.
At the same time, our Council of Bishops has always called, and continues to call everyone who previously was in the ROCA to lay aside attempts to justify divisions, which as we see, extend even to destructive and heretical false teachings. Rather, trusting in God, we call to restoration of our common unity.
Let us arise in unity to do Thy work, O Lord, and faithfully serve Thee! May it be so!
Chairman of the Council: Metropolitan Agafangel
Council members: Archbishop George (Secretary), Bishops Gregory (Vice President), Athanassy, Nikon, Nicholas, Anastassy, Roman and Anthim. Archbishop John and Bishop Kyrill (participated in the work of the Council over Skype)
Members of the Temporary Higher Church Authority: Abbott John (Smelic) and Archpriest Leonid Plyats
Friday, September 2, 2016
A new wave of disorders has befallen our Church. Two of the Bishops have declared that they are departing from obedience to the First Hierarch, the Synod of Bishops and the Council of Bishops - that is, from the conciliar life of our Church.
They declare that they are speaking out for conciliarity (sobornost), and allege that there is no conciliarity (sobornost) in our Church. Meanwhile, they do not cite even one actual fact of violation or distortion of the conciliar order of our Church, inasmuch as the very existence of the God-established ecclesiastical order, the very fact that the Hierarchal Synods and Councils issue decrees and enactments, in their understanding constitutes a violation of conciliarity.
Thus, they themselves strive for an imaginary “conciliarity” by unconciliar methods: by ignoring the opinion of other hierarchs and the opinion of their own flock, by pushing aside those who displease them and by uncanonically convening diocesan meetings (without elections of representatives from parishes at parish meetings), at which declarations are adopted ostensibly in the name of the whole diocese. Along with all this they organise a boycot of the plea of the First Hierarch and the Secretary of the Synod to meet and discuss the prevailing situation.
By his declaration of non-subordination to the Hierarchal Council and the Synod, contrary to the agreement reached in the presence of representatives of the TOC [True Orthodox Church] of Greece, and likewise by his announcement concerning the convening of an unauthorized assembly (under the name of an “All-Diaspora Council”), Archbishop Andronik, together with those not desiring to be subordinate to the ecclesiastical canons and the traditions of the Russian Church Abroad, has in fact, according to the definition of st. Basil the Great, announced the creation of a parasynagogue under his leadership.* According to the instructions of the Holy Fathers, an unauthorized assembly, standing a step away from schism, is just the same as a schism, a falling away from the Church and her saving grace.
Moreover, a parasynagogue cannot convene an All-Diaspora Council since, in accordance with Paragraph 12 of the Regulations of the ROCA, “In case of special need, the First Hierarch, together with the Hierarchal Synod, may convene an All-Diaspora Church Council, consisting of bishops and representatives of the clergy and laity. The enactments of such All-Diaspora Councils take legal effect and are carried out only upon their ratification by the Council of Bishops under the presidency of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which takes place at the same time or immediately after the conclusion of the All-Diaspora Church Council.” By no other way may an All-Diaspora Council be convened and its decisions take effect.
The question remains open as to what exactly is guiding the new schismatics: the realization of their lust for power by any means, or only the coercion of other hierarchs with the aim of obtaining their agreement for the formation of a new “schism” under their leadership? Most likely both – whichever succeeds.
There is no doubt that the work of destroying the Russian Church Abroad continues without interruption for even a minute. This work began at the moment of Her foundation in 1920, the main stages of which were the Platonite (1926), Eulogian (1927) and Sergian (2007) schisms, as well as a multitude of petty – if one may speak thus – individual schisms. That which is occurring today before our eyes is, without a doubt, the ongoing warfare of the devil with the Church of Christ.
Therefore, I would like for the clergy and parishioners whom they are now attempting by falsehood to lead into schism, to hear me.
Stop! Do not participate in a schism of the Russian Church! Our confession and the faithfulness of each one of us to Christ now consists exactly in this. If you do not see heresy – then do not follow the schismatics who are drawing your souls away into perdition!
My duty, as First Hierarch, is to warn the flock of danger. “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:43).
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
+ Metropolitan Agafangel
17/30 August 2016, Martyr Myron the Presbyter
* A parasynagogue (Greek, παρασυναγωγή – an unauthorized assembly) is a form of deviation from Orthodoxy, differing from schism and heresy in that it does not touch on matters of doctrine, but is the result of a violation of ecclesiastical and hierarchal discipline – disobedience to the God-established hierarchy. “The ancients…called unauthorized assemblies those meetings consisting of insubordinate presbyters or bishops and uneducated laity. For example, someone who, having been accused of a sin and having been removed from the sacred ministry, did not submit to the canons, but himself held on to his position and the sacred ministry, and certain others who deviated with him” (First Canonical Epistle of St. Basil the Great to Amphilochius of Iconium).
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Taken from Letters of Bishop Ignaty Branchianinnov, Volume 7, Moscow, 1993. Letter 57, page 78.
To a hieromonk of the St Sergius Hermitage, who had denounced [the Holy Hierarch] Archimandrite Ignaty in writing, for his variable disposition to those around him, and to himself in particular.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Placing my hope on the help of God and His strength, which acts through feeble people, I have decide to answer your letter, similarly with a letter. And this is more so in order that my mind not become distracted in a personal conversation, and not exhaust itself in noisy words, but rather in the quiet solitude of my kelia maintain a peaceful state, which is the condition for seeing Truth. Now I stand before Her, and illuminated by Her light, I look at my soul and check with what I see in your accusation. What then do I see? I see wounds in my soul, I see the multitude of her illnesses, I see weaknesses, of which some are natural to it, and others a result of injuries and diseases, past and present. I turn my attention to my life so far: I see that it is a chain of sins, a chain of falls; almost at every step I was mocked and insulted by the devil due to my lack of spiritual wisdom, due to an excess of pride, my unwillingness to ask advice from my neighbour. Such is the state of my soul, now when my life’s journey has reached more than half my days. Meanwhile my body has become weak; It is pierced and cut to pieces by various ailments. They are messengers; they proclaim the approach of the separation of the soul from the body. Soon, soon I will lie down on the bed, not in order to give my overworked body temporary rest, but to shed it off myself in the ark of the coffin, in the bowels of the earth, from which I was taken, until the future general resurrection. Remember me o Lord in Thy Kingdom: for my soul is sick, and the body is imprinted with sin. In my state, it would be more seemly for me to leave everything, and without hindrance, surrender oneself to inconsolable weeping; when all is lost, at least not to lose repentance.
But to achieve this state, which I recognize as the most decent for myself, I do not use any means other than my feeble prayer, in which I ask for the fulfillment of God’s will in me. This petition for of the will of God is instilled by fear of asking for something that exceeds my strength. This fear is suggested by experience itself: because in all experiences where my strength was tested, my weakness was revealed; Wherever the demons depicted before my mind a picture of the brilliant successes, there, in fact, turned out to be damage, there arose a disaster, there a fatal abyss was covered with flowers. I realized the deceit after committing to the deception; I learned of the prelest, having already been seduced and corrupted by it. Now I am afraid to begin anything by self-will, even such things as I consider edifying. The Holy Fathers say - it is better to do combat with faeces, ie, with fornication and gluttony, than with self-opinionated logical thinking, high mindedness, pride and contempt. For these last passions are subtle, they imperceptibly creep into ones mind, take the form of sound and righteous thoughts, and cannot be detected other than by the light of grace. I stand before the Providence of God with my mind, putting aside at this moment worldly wisdom and its righteousness. God created me without me desiring or asking for it: because how could “nothing” wish for, or even more so - ask for anything? God redeemed me – who was fallen and lost; the cost of this redemption was Himself.
Meanwhile, as although He is the Redeemer, clothed in humility, He is not recognized by carnal minds, despite His obviousness. They are left to wonder at things spiritually akin to themselves, chasing after things foreign to themselves, liable to decay.
To me, the wretched one, He has granted to know Himself. When my eyes were closed, clay mixed with spittle coming out of His mouth were healing them. The Cross of Christ opens the eyes of the mind; the Cross of Christ maintains health, heals diseases of the eyes. Separate from the Cross of Christ there is no truth of Christ. Peace and truth will destroy those that are of the devil. I stand before my Lord and I see His Holy Providence, and I wonder at His long-suffering patience, how merciful He is to those sinful errors into which I fell due to my self-will and self-willed logical thinking. I commit my soul into the hands of God; that which He grants me, that I will accept. He knows my strength, because He gave it to me. If I am given one talent corresponding to my strength, I do not search for five, so as not to fail under the weight of them; so that the gift which is meant to serve for benefit, does not serve for condemnation.
I run from my sinful falls - not into reclusion, not into the desert - but to self-reproach, to confession of my sins, to repentance.
My bewilderment, my rational judgements and my will, I cast into the depths of the mercy and providence of God.
Such is the spectacle with which my soul confronts me when I look at her with my mind, in the light of the teaching of the Gospel. Now I will turn to the words of reproof found in your letter. The actual nature of the case shows, that you, looking at the externals of my behavior, have noticed far fewer flaws than actually are found in my soul. Conscious of my great debt, I must acknowledge the smaller one, which I concede to even in the case that I would not like to confess. For this it remains for me to tearfully ask your forgiveness and holy prayers for my correction. If, according to the words of Saint Isaac (the Syrian),
justification by word does not belong to Christian life and is not prescribed anywhere in the teaching of Christ.
If the Lord Himself, standing before worldly authority, while exalting the Truth of the Cross before the gaze of the universe, did not give any attention to external truth, not one word, like dust and ashes, if He met their accusations with silence, then who, looking at the depths of his heart, and seeing accurately, dare oppose his accuser? Such a person will tell the sword waving at him: strike, because you were not raised in vain. He will say to the disasters: Attack me and dispirit me, because I deserve it. He will say to the body, exhausted by disease and sent into exile: Go, for you have sinned. He will say to his brethren, pray for me the defiled one, you angels of God. He will fall to the feet of adulterers and murderers and say unto them: pray for me, for you are more righteous than me. Such is my state, when the [spiritual] eyes of my mind are open; but when they close, then my condition becomes far worse: for the wounds naturally remain the same; but to the diseases of my heart is added the blindness of my mind.
From blindness is born insensitivity, loss of love for our neighbor, and the loss of compunction and comforting mourning, the amassing wounds to wounds and diseases to diseases.
In short - whether I see or am blinded - my condition is extremely disastrous, worthy of the tears and sobs of all who know and love me. Such is my answer to everyone who criticizes, and to you. If I answer otherwise – I sin.
I would have had to be satisfied with this if I were not speaking to my spiritual son, who, while uttering accusations against me as his heart dictates, nevertheless does not claim that they are the absolute truth, but rather, he offers them to me for judgement. Therefore I feel obliged to continue my conversation, and despite the fact that I am feeble, borrowing light from the True Light - the Word of God, I feel obliged to satisfy the demands of your letter. Not so much by paying attention to the specific thoughts contained in this letter, as by uncovering, in the light of the Gospel teachings, those secret motives of the heart of which these ideas are the fruit. According to the Fathers,
those people who require a complete elimination of flaws from their close ones, hold a false notion of this matter.
We find this opinion of the Fathers also among the Apostles: one of them (John the Evangelist), says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John. 1, 8. Another says (St. Paul): “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Gal. 6, 2. What can give rise to the reproaching of our neighbour’s weakness, is shown in Scriptures in men of the highest virtue. Who is holier than the Apostles? However in the Acts we read that between the Apostles Barnabas and Paul there arose a dissension, and after the dissension - a separation. Beyond doubt we are told of this circumstance by Scripture with the aim that we, infirm as we are,
be careful and not get carried away by imaginary zeal, but carry one another’s burdens. In this way fulfilling the law of Christ! Carry my weaknesses, then; and I will try to bear yours, as I have tried to do hitherto.
Obviously it is impossible for you to say that you have no weaknesses.
My weaknesses are heavier more so for you than for me: and yours are perceptible more for me than for you.
If the weight was not burdensome, then carrying it would have no value, and there would not be any reason to give this commandment.
But the value of reciprocally bearing weaknesses is so great that Scripture has concluded that in this lies the fulfillment of the law of Christ, Who bore upon Himself the sins of the whole world.
I will say a few words about inconstancy. Inconstancy, or changeableness, according to the holy Fathers, is the constant and inevitable weakness of humans, as long as a person is found in this country of his exile, that is, on this earth. Perfect constancy is a property of the future order of things. Variableness is not only characteristic to us who are infirm, as even the greatest Saints acknowledged this in themselves. Tolerate the inconstancy in me, and I will tolerate it in you. My inconstancy is more palpable for you, and yours – for me. Let us bear our mutual weaknesses that we may know that the yoke of Christ is good: if we throw off the yoke of Christ, then which yoke shall we subordinate ourselves to? Excellently the holy Elijah Ekdik said:
“The house of the soul - is patience, for it lives in it; and its food – is humility, for it is fed by this.” Exactly so - thoughts with humility of wisdom keep the soul in patience. If this is so, then this follows: there is nothing that banishes the soul from patience, as much as prideful thoughts.
Repeatedly I have told you and many others, to whom I thought to impart soul-profiting knowledge: When I check my disposition and behaviour against the writings of the holy Fathers, I find that I would have to be found among the beginners in ancient monasticism. However in contemporary monasticism, where the knowledge of the Fathers and the way of thinking only somewhat imprinted by such knowledge, is so rare, that one who teaches his listeners the teaching of the Fathers, is a greatest rarity. It is with this condition that I govern you all and have you as my spiritual children, so as to teach all of you the Gospel way of thinking, which is the way of thinking of the Fathers.
Truly, truly, I say to you: these days, when there are no works of the spirit, and spiritual wisdom is an extreme rarity, the devil so hates this wisdom that he would like to destroy it from the face of the earth.
In this way the Gospel would remain only for our condemnation, and not edification; for we shall be judged according to the Gospel, as foretold to us by the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 42, 40).
The devil is ready to give us ten times the common sense, and multiply our practical skills a thousandfold, if he can only steal from us the knowledge of the Cross, by which we can come to stand at the right hand of God
. One who ascribes to himself intelligence and good sense, likens himself to the devil, who wanted to be acknowledged as the source of enlightenment. He actually is the source of imitated light – fleshly wisdom, which does not submit to God’s reason, bears upon itself the stamp of pride and contains in itself the precondition of all sinful falls.
“Have you seen someone who has fallen? Know, that he followed his own will”, says Abba Dorotheus.
This holy one said concerning himself; that it would be better for him to sin by external act, following the advice of his neighbor; than to act without a blessing. And I, in my small experience, whenever I fail, I have consolation from the fact that the deed has been done or started not without a blessing.
Therefore, unworthy as I am, it would be befitting to attend to one’s own shortcomings. However
in my responsibilities of Superior and spiritual father, I must tell you what I see with my sinful eyes: your warfare is caused by the passion of pride.
The feeling that one possesses practical intelligence and understanding is a justification of pride, in which the pride is hidden. When the feeling towards myself and to those surrounding me grows cold, this are the fruits of pride, because after disparaging ones neighbour there follows a drying up of love. And the disappearance of love is an indication of that demonic thoughts have been accepted, just as the growth of love for one’s neighbour is a sign of accepting the seeds of grace.
The passion of pride acts differently to the passion of fornication, or of anger. These two passions are obvious, and their justification and the cunning in their excuses is clearer to behold. Pride, on the other hand, creeps in imperceptibly. Pride is sown by abilities, splendor, and even more so by the praise of men. Although, it may seem that we do not accept praises and do not agree inwardly with those that praise us, the secret imprint of praise nevertheless remains in the mind and heart, and when we are disparaged - it is burdensome; and the more burdensome it is for us, the more saturated we are with praise. This is how it is proven that the imprint is present, and the secret implantation of pride. Woe to us! The most grace-filled gifts have been the occasion for pride in people, and the fruits of pride – is a fall! The main symptoms of pride are that one’s feeling towards people around one grows cold, and the abandonment of confession. Now we must show the cause of this vice, and give a proper account of the door by which it enters, or rather, goes out, says St John of the Ladder (Step 11:1)
Make it a rule for yourself to confess your thoughts at least twice weekly. Just as the soul conforms to the body, in the same way express your humility by the bowing of the body. Say and repeat to your thought about your brothers: “These are Christ’s sheep, these are angels of God”, and contempt for them will be destroyed, which is of pride.
Then, trusting in the mercy of God, peace and love will enter your heart, and by the action of grace it will be shown to you that you are in temptation. Your eyes will be opened and you will get to know your real delusion. This case shall enter into the treasury of your spiritual experiences, and will provide you with protection for the future, and nourishment for the brotherhood. For a man who is not tempted, is not skilled, but “in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18), says Scripture.May the Lord grant that you follow this counsel of Saint John of the Ladder:
“When once we have entered the arena of religion and obedience we must no longer judge our good manager in any way at all, even though we may perhaps see in him some slight failings, since he is only human. Otherwise, by sitting in judgment we shall get no profit from our subjection. It is absolutely indispensable for those of us who wish to retain undoubting faith in our superiors to write their good deeds indelibly in our hearts and constantly remember them, so that when the demons sow among us distrust towards them, we may be able to silence them by what is preserved in our memory. For the more faith flourishes in the heart, the more alacrity the body has in service. But he who has stumbled on distrust has already fallen…” (Step 4:6-7).
Likewise, pride often sprouts from exercising spiritual care over those close to us, as a sprout shoots up from a wheat grain. Therefore, Saint Mark the Ascetic, said: “When a man benefits another by word or deed, may the grace of God enlighten the both.” Apostle Paul says: “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake”. (2 Cor 4:5) For the person who cultivates these feelings, partiality for people will be destroyed, and the love of Christ will reign, seeing God’s image in everyone. Then, when the mind delights in this love, a person sees himself as a vessel filled with stench and filth, and marvels at how the rays of Divine teaching pass through him and heal human souls.
It is proper for me here to recall the words of Saint John of the Ladder, which are repeated also by Saint Nilus of Sora: some were mired in the mud, but cautioned others against similar acts, and for helping others, the Lord gave them salvation. (Step 26:14) Therefore, after such serious wounds,
I learned that the signs of pride in a person are humiliation or contempt of his neighbours, and negligence in confessing. In and of itself pride is not noticeable to a person, as it is a most subtle passion, which even deceived the light-bearing Angel and arranged a fall in Heaven. The other passions are dependent on pride, just as a building is connected to a foundation which is hidden under the earth.
Finally I bequeath to you to keep this letter secret until my death. In the meantime, I commend you and myself to the mercy and grace of God, which is able to, if we do not ourselves reject it, to give us salvation, although we are completely unworthy of it. Amen.
November 25, 1842
St. Sergius Hermitage
Friday, January 22, 2016
Fear life, not death!
The Devil is always dressed in the latest fashion.
What is well done is slowly done.
The truth has seven sides.
The Devil’s work is quick, it is bright and flashy.
God works slowly - look at nature.
The stranger’s soul is murky.
To know a man you have to eat sixteen pounds of salt with him.
The past is not a bad witness.
If you don’t oil the wheels, you won’t get there.
From honest toil you don’t build mansions
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Love is the only thing that can not be demanded. You can cry when it is not present, and rejoice when it is. People are mistaken when they demand love.
Saint John of Shanghai
Speaking of Christian love, let us first of all turn to St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, in whose works we find all the priceless teachings the Fathers have left us, who theoretically and and by experience internalised the Gospel teaching.
We know from the Fathers that there are two kinds of love for neighbour: the natural and the evangelical, which is love in Christ. Natural love has been planted in us at creation, and therefore it is certainly present in every human being. It has been damaged, just like the other good human properties, by the fall, or the ancestral sin. Therefore, each person is subject to more or less damage, short or long-lasting changes. Christ heals all our diseases in a marvelous way, also heals our damaged love: He commands people to love Himself - the Lord - in a man. This brings love up to the highest degree of fervour, gives it purity, spirituality, a sanctuary. Likewise, the flame of love in Christ extinguishes the discordant, smoky flame of carnal love - which consists of a mixture of dreamy, non-existent delight and brutal, murderous torment. The feeling of spiritual love guided the pen of St. John of the Ladder, when he said: “Love of God extinguishes our love for our parents. And so he who says that he has both deceives himself.” He also said: “he is pure who expels fleshly love with divine love, who has extinguished the fire of passion by the fire of heaven (i.e. the Holy Spirit)” When we look at ourselves with attention we will see, with God’s help (God’s help is needed for such a vision! This vision is the gift of God!), that we mostly have a natural love, and have yet to acquire the evangelical love .
Give homage to your neighbour as to the image of God - a respect within your soul, which is invisible to others, which is clear only to your conscience. Let your activity be mysteriously conformable to your state of mind.
Give homage to your neighbour, without distinction to age, gender, class - and gradually holy love will be revealed in your heart.
The reason for this holy love is not flesh and blood, not the drive of the senses - but God.
Give homage both to the blind and the leper, and the one with a mental disorder, to infants, and criminals, and pagans show reverence as to the image of God. What are their weaknesses and shortcomings to you! Watch yourself, that you do fall short in love.
In a christian, give reverence to Christ, Who said in His instructions, and also will say when our eternal fate is pronounced: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25.40).
In your relation to your fellow man, keep in mind this saying of the Gospel, and you will be made a confidant of love for neighbor.
The confidant of love of neighbor enters into the love of God by it.
But if you think that you love God, and in your heart there lives an unpleasant attitude to even one person, then you are in grievous self-delusion.
St John the Evangelist says: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar…this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
The Gospel rejects the love that depends on the movement of blood from the feelings of the carnal heart. The fall subjected the heart to the dominion of blood, and by blood, to the sovereignty of the prince of this world. The Gospel frees the heart from this bondage, from this violence, and leads it to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit teaches us to love our neighbor in holiness. Love which is lit and fueled by the Holy Spirit is a fire. This fire extinguishes the fire of natural, carnal love, which is damaged by the Fall.
What a fallen state our nature is in! He who by nature is capable of vehemently loving his neighbour, has to force himself extraordinarily to love his neighbour in the way commanded by the Gospel. The flame of natural love easily turns into disgust, into an implacable hatred.
How plagued our natural love is! What a grievous wound to her is passion! Possessed by passion, the heart is capable of any injustice, any iniquity, just to satisfy its morbid love. Natural love gives his favourite only what is earthly, for it does not think of heaven. It rebels against heaven and the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit calls for the crucifixion of the flesh. It rebels against heaven and the Holy Spirit, because it is under the control of an evil spirit, the unclean spirit of one perishing.[/quote]
For every Christian (and especially for monastics) it is very important to understand what passion is and how it differs from love in Christ. I will bring your attention to a conversation of Bishop Photios of Triaditza with monastics on this topic.
“Often we confuse love with passion, passion for man … In fact, it is not the person it is difficult to leave, abandoning him himself. We could leave him to God, but it is difficult for us to deny ourselves, deny our own desire for a person, our attraction to the person. This is passion.
Passion is a manifestation of our self-love. It is very dangerous and extremely harmful to the spiritual life. Love is pure and disinterested; passion is something quite different. Passion is a morbid fascination, the soul cleaving to a specific person. This is constant thoughts of him, how he sees me; a special excitement and satisfaction, an agreeableness, when that person pays attention to us; and vice versa - unsettledness, depression, moodiness when that person does not have a friendly attitude to us or does not behave as we would like. In all this - God forbid - it is possible to go to the lowest depths. I do not wish to speak about this. We should wage an uncompromising struggle with these things, even fighting unto blood. Otherwise, self-love will remain the guiding principle in our lives, in our existence. The Lord tells us that it is impossible to serve two masters - this we know.
I think that we are afraid; the voice of our self-love does not give us trust in the Lord until the end, trust in the truth that the life of the soul can be purchased in its entirety only in the communion with God. Yes, we do not have any similar experience; we are sinful, unclean creatures. As she moves away from God, the soul is hungry, poor, wandering the world like a stranger, rejected by all. And then the soul begins to become attached to one soul, or the other. This is obviously a terrible self-deception, a serious illness. The soul is trying to find in another soul some kind of a world, in which to find satisfaction, pleasure for her selfishness. Here we must be uncompromising, strict to the end, otherwise we will remain in captivity to our selfishness.
If someone seems nice to you and your heart is drawn towards him, it does not mean that you love him. If this enthusiasm continues, you yourself will soon learn what treacherous, even tyrannical claims your soul presents with respect to this “dear” man. You will see how your soul can not stand that man’s independence from you, she is jealous and demands love for herself, demands that the subject of your love be slavishly devoted to you.
And your soul is ready to retaliate if this affection grows cold! We see that in this case everything rests on self-love, on the expansion of one’s own possessions in this world: “What I like - this is mine. It is in some way belongs to me.” For the most part this “cute” man is a door to a new, interesting and enjoyable small world trust for your heart. At the beginning you just want to enjoy this world as a little garden, and then you wish to put a small house there. When you are strolling through the garden, you no longer admire what is planted in it, but rather, yourself. This is the most disgusting of partiality in false love. Therefore, I repeat that here we really have to be uncompromising.
“True Love - says Saint Paul - seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. 13:5). Pure love is unselfish. It is generally quite alien to be possessive of what you love, because it is love in the Lord. Love in the Lord always respects the freedom of the other, and always loves man in Christ. It is difficult to understand this for us, because we are not committed, there is no trust and openness to the Lord, in order to make an effort in this direction. When a man fights, when he knocks, the Lord eventually opens. And then all these truths become clear to the mind, she knows them in her inner experience. Then the soul rejoices, because the truth has become her own private treasure. She rejoices because in her quest, in her struggle against all that separates her from the Lord, she is seeing a stronger stream of light in the tunnel; She rejoices because this brings her to God, and this joy is natural from her perspective - yet it is supernatural in terms of our fallen state.”
 Meeting of the letters of St. Ignatius, Bishop of the Caucasus. Publication Research Center, the protection and restoration of the heritage of the priest Paul Florensky. M., 1993. p. 153
 St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov). Ascetic experience. T. 1. M., “Rule of Faith”, 1993, p. 125-126
 St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov). Ascetic experience. T. 1. M., “Rule of Faith”, 1993, p. 121-122
Saturday, August 29, 2015
All these years, after entering the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, I both voluntarily and involuntarily observe the events of the religious life of the former Soviet Union. Of course, the reality is such that we can state: The religious organization of the Moscow Patriarchate has rejected the possibility of repentance. The “system”, has been able to repeatedly change its “colour” to adjust to the new political reality, like a chameleon. But this is not surprising, as this organization ever since 1927 lives on the basis of a demonic delusion which is called the Sergianist heresy. By its illness and leprosy of non-repentance, this “organization” has infected and continues to infect a great many people. This has become especially tangible in the present “pro-Putinist” period of modern political reality. At this time, it has became clear that, alas, there has been no true repentance of the people with respect to the bloody, atheistic Soviet past. Saint Philaret Voznesensky wrote:
One remembers father Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev), who spoke much, and persistently, about that the worst of what has been done in Russia by the atheistic power, is the creation of the “soviet church“. The Bolsheviks presented it to the people as the true Church, having driven the Orthodox Church into the catacombs and concentration camps.
(On the Relation of the ROCOR to the Moscow Patriarchate Filaret St Voznesenskiy.http: //catacomb.org.ua/modules.php? Name = Pages & go = print_page & pid = 1335).
But let us come closer to the subject. For an Orthodox Christian, the moral ideal is the Lord Jesus Christ, who calls every sincere believer in Him:
“… Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt 11:29).
This is, so to say the “psychological portrait” which true Orthodox Christians should seek to acquire. Because a Christian knows the teaching of the Church about the likeness of God, and how a person can direct his abilities and strength of soul towards God-likeness - towards perfection in pursuing truth and goodness.
However, when the kind of behaviour described above becomes routine even for crowds of people, having been excited by “priests”, all in the name and outward appearance of Orthodox Christians and the Orthodox Church, and even after “prayers” - one becomes frightened and sad. For all of this has no relation neither to the Church nor to God. Rather, it more closely resembles an organization showing the characteristics of a destructive cult. Truly:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits…
Now, let us note that the process of “deterioration” from a church schism to transforming into a sect can be very long. However, the logic of this process is approximately as follows: Any schism which is not being healed by repentance sooner or later turns into a heresy, and then is transformed into a sect. Of course, one does not want to use this term for the religious organization of the MP by any means. But, alas, the life and the fruits of this “system” unwillingly put one on ones guard..…
For the Orthodox person who knows the true recent history of the Russian Church, who closely observes what is happening today, this is obvious. The process of “deterioration” in this organization has already been crowned, so to speak, by her Sergianist heresy as well as the heresy of ecumenism. It has given birth to a characteristic pseudo-spirituality: False eldership, the concept of the “infallibility” of the top hierarchy instilled into the minds of followers. In other words, an obvious effort to bring up loyal, obedient, servile , unthinking, and equally passionate members of the organization. Candidates are ordained to the priesthood indiscriminately. There is a purposeful and planned transmission to the flock of reinterpreted, false data on the modern history of the Russian Orthodox Church and the state. This is the cult of profit, double standards, corruption, an avalanche of every possible false teaching of an apocalyptic nature; the cult of politically-motivated canonizations; the general exploitation of the people under carefully hidden political, religious, cultural, and other guises - for favors to, or by order of the authorities.
Well, what if a person is conscientious, thoughtful and sensitive to the truth of Christ, and does not get caught in the psychological traps? In that case, fierce persecution, slander, and even physical violence are guaranteed by the “ system.” Incidentally, this is also a sure sign of a destructive cult.
“St. Theophan the Recluse, (writes Archimandrite Constantine) predicted the last stage of apostasy in the Church: The external semblance of the Church, devoid of grace, with only her deceptively seductive, visible image. The whole atmosphere of apostasy is that nutritious broth in which all the germs of antichrist grow. Eventually it will grow the two-faced image of Antichrist himself, who will simultaneously show himself as a militant fighter for Christ, while at the same time also vested in the deceptive appearance of a betrayer of Christ.
The last words, in my view, exemplify well the religious character of the MP organization and its pseudo-spiritual experience.
The “system of the Patriarchate” has managed to take on the role of an ideological “guide” in the post-Soviet state, all the while itself being a product of the totalitarian Bolshevik power. This has naturally given birth to chauvinism instead of true repentance, to a hybrid Soviet - Orthodox Russian national socialism, and to an aggressive “orthodox Taliban”. This occurs in the post-Soviet society, which is not able to see the difference between ideology and true, sincere faith in Christ. However, this situation and condition is the fruit of pride, self-delusion and lack of repentance. That is why it is desirable for a person who has become aware of the falsehood of the “system” of the MP to leave immediately, without deceiving himself with the false idea of the struggle from within. To remain in a religious organization founded on lies, bears serious danger to the spiritual and mental health of the individual. It endangers the salvation of the soul and the hope of a blessed eternal future.
Therefore, a conscious shift to the ROCA, joining the Church of Christ, is a courageous step. It is often associated with a profound mental and psychological shock. This is not surprising, as the act of giving credence to lies as if to truth, living for many years in such a state, inflicts wounds upon the soul. This has brought an experience that we must critically review with penitential prayer to the Lord and with the help of an experienced spiritual guide, now on the basis of Holy Tradition of the Church of Christ.
But in any case this negative experience should be taken as a lesson given by God in discerning good and evil. It is important not to lose heart, not to accept ungrounded fears, confusion and anxiety, doubts, all of which the enemy of our salvation may inspire. There is a weapon against all this: Confession and counsel with the bishop or an experienced priest. In this difficult time it is necessary to patiently learn not to fear persecution, intimidation, defamation from “misguided” brothers. It is very important in this difficult period not to become embittered against ones persecutors, to endure all for the sake of Christ.
There are a number of priests, monastics and laity of our Church who are people come from the MP. Therefore some issues emerge both in spiritual and parish life. Even after several years, people can carry an “imprint” of their stay in the Patriarchate. We have to always remember these and other hazards, and be watchful. For example, some priests that have come from the MP are drawn just like “magnets”, not to the teaching of Christ, but rather to delusional ideas and false teachings of patriarchate false elders, or the surrogates of various clever people of an apocalyptic character. The organisation of the MP is a real “muddy spring”. Take a gulp from this “source” and you become infected - then trouble follows: For the soul, for the parish, and for our Church - and a headache for the bishop. Therefore the above outlined guidelines, thoughts and cautions are not dry theory, but the living experience of people who have gone through this themselves.
Some may reproach me for this presentation: “Again you’re speaking about the patriarchate …” Therefore, I will finish it by drawing attention to the life of our Church. We all think of ourselves as church people, faithful children of the Russan Orthodox Church Abroad. But do we know what this means for us? Venerable father Justin Popovich taught that the Church is the God-man Jesus Christ. Therefore hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) accurately notes:
“The whole point of the Church is to attain Christ in ones heart. But a person can live all his life associated with the Orthodox Church, and yet have with a heart not awakened.”
So, if we consider ourselves to be church people, we must comprehend with the mind and heart, that the Church makes us partakers of the same nature as Christ, and sets before us the goal of our Christian Church life , which is briefly summarized by apostle Peter in his epistle:
“…that…ye might be partakers of the divine nature… “(2 Peter.1: 3-4).
And if we are the children of Christ, we are called to DEIFICATION [Tr. note: Becoming God-like]. Then how can it be that we have amongst us gossip, feuds, disputes, grievances, misunderstanding of Church catholicity - voluntarily or involuntarily misidentifying it with democracy and anarchy - slander and anger? How is it possible that we, instead of doing the work of penitential prayer, turn all our private Christian life and the church into an arena of verbal battles and politics? Is it not clear that this is the explicit fruit of the devil:
“… A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire…” (Mt 7:16-20).
Do we really love our little Russian Orthodox Church Abroad so poorly that we are not afraid to lose the gift of God - the Church, and thus our salvation!
Archbishop Averky (Taushev) wrote:
“True Christianity is not only a formal recognition, the cold acceptance of the mind of a a certain sum of abstract dogmatic positions - rather, it is spirit and life. In true Orthodoxy - faith and a life in faith, or piety, are inseparable. The great father of the Church, saint Cyril of Jerusalem speaks eloquently about this: “The image of piety consists of two things: of pious dogmas and good works. Dogmas without good works are not pleasing to God, and works performed without pious dogmas will not be accepted by God. What good is to know the tenets of God, yet in folly to commit fornication?“ (Cathecatical Homily IV).[/quote] That is why both the ancient Fathers of the Church, and our Russian fathers (see for example St. Tikhon of Zadonsk and St. Theophan the Recluse), clearly teach that the true Orthodox person is not the one who simply accepts the tenets of Holy Orthodoxy with a cold mind, but rather, the one “who thinks Orthodox, feels Orthodox and lives Orthodox.”
(On the Importance of Episcopal Rank and the Council of Bishops. Archbishop Averky 1956 to the Synod of Bishops).
In the Gospel of St. Matthew we read:
“… what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.“ (Matt 16:26-27).
Therefore, in my opinion, we require consciousness of our sins, knowledge from experience of ones weakness and unworthiness, contrition, humility - from these are born the desire and effort to transform ones private spiritual life to prayerful repentance according to the Commandments of God, the teachings of the Holy Church and the Holy Fathers. Above all this is what is necessary for the transformation of both ones private life, and even more so, church life generally.
After all, prayer is the mother of all virtues, and it is necessary to internalise this. I conclude with the words of the Apostle Peter, which are directed to all Christians, regardless of rank and title, to each one of us:
“…add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity…For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
(2 Pet 1:5-11).
+ Archbishop George (Kravchenko)