Voices from Russia

Friday, 1 June 2018

On Injustices in Church Life

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The Church, the Incarnate Body of Christ, has always been the central battlefield between God and the world, whose prince is Satan. For this reason, the world constantly tries to destroy and corrupt the Church, infiltrating it with those who foolishly and blindly do Satan’s will. History is full of notorious examples of internal enemies and traitors in Church life. Indeed, this was the foundation of monastic life in the fourth century. All this is because the presence of Christ is abhorrent to Satan, who wants the world for himself, as we see in the temptations of Christ, related in the Gospel of Matthew 4. Satan has always tried to make the Church into the world, to make Faith into a mere State or institutional “religion”. He makes bishops and priests into anti-pastors, into scribes (vain and pompous intellectuals like Arius and so many pompous academics who, puffed up with futile knowledge as the Apostle Paul describes (2 Timothy 3.4), think that they know everything) and Pharisees (ritualists), not to mention persecutors and bureaucrats. Thus, in Church history, every heresy and every schism was an attempt, usually unconscious because of the spiritual delusion of those who led heresy and schism, to compromise the Church with the world.

Thus, in the seventh century in these Isles, organised but cold Roman religion bewildered disorganised but holy Irish monks; during the later first millennium, iconoclast emperors and empresses with their pro-Islamic political projects cruelly persecuted zealous monks of New Rome (Constantinople); in the eleventh century, Old Rome fell into the temptation of making its bishop into a universal emperor who commanded armies and torturers, replaced God and from whom, they said, proceeded the Holy Spirit and so all truth and authority; a few centuries ago in Russia, a great debate arose between non-possessing hermits and those who ran monasteries as economic units with farmlands and peasants; a little over a century ago, the Russian Church, though with great institutions, was compromised as part of State machinery and the people flocked not to wealthy bishop-bureaucrats, city career priests, and professional Italianate opera choirs in stone city churches, but to poor spirit-bearing elders in wooden chapels in provincial monasteries; and in our own times the greatest saint of the Diaspora, St John of Shanghai, was put on trial by bishops who backed secular-minded people who had money and power, and not the faithful and the true.

What are we to do in the face of injustices in Church life?

Firstly, we may be wrong… we can only know that we are right if we face persecution. Christ tells us so (Luke 21 and John 16). So, let us accept persecution if it doesn’t force us into breaking the commandments. If it does mean compromising the commandments, we must leave for another canonical, and not uncanonical, diocese. Persecution is no self-justifying excuse for falling away into schism. The Church is everywhere littered with little groups, or rather sects of extremists, for instance of New Calendarists and Old Calendarists, who were often initially victims of episcopal injustices, but who now have no canonical status and so discredited themselves. Conversely, the Church calendar is also everywhere littered with those who bore injustices, only recently St Nektarios of Aegina and St John of Shanghai, and so became saints. They didn’t take off their crowns.

Secondly, while you stay in the Church with those who cause injustice, don’t participate in that injustice, side with the victims of the injustice. They’re anti-pastors, but you must remain pastors, your conscience clean. The bullies, narcissists, and manipulators of the naive, with their “gaslighting” lies, hypocrisy, and attempts to discredit, won’t win. They don’t think of the Last Judgement and tremble at it, but you do think of it and tremble at it.

Thirdly, we must know that, as they say, what goes round comes round. Our persecutors should tremble… in any case, they soon will be. I’ve seen so many who have persecuted Church people, terrible things happened to them all sooner or later, without exception. Over the last forty years and more, I’ve seen them, bishops and priests dying suddenly after acting outrageously. They thought they could get away with it…they couldn’t. Be patient… the Truth will out. God is always on the side of the good and the faithful. Be patient, justice is always done, for man proposes, but God disposes. Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6.7).

28 May 2018

Fr Andrew Phillips

Orthodox England

http://www.events.orthodoxengland.org.uk/on-injustices-in-church-life/

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