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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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

22 May 2018. A Good Word on “Converts”

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I recently visited a “convert church”’ which had a notice by the entrance with the words: “Warning: This Church May Contain Nuts”.

We’re talking now about a small minority, an eccentric fringe, so we shouldn’t get things out of proportion. I think that those who consider that they’re “converts” aren’t Orthodox; those for whom Orthodoxy is a way of life, who’ve forgotten a time when they weren’t in the Church, are simply Orthodox. Orthodoxy is second nature to us. However, “converts” (that is, a minority of converts) seem to cultivate exotic eccentricity, especially strange dress and hairstyles. Yet, the Mother of God was a “convert”, as were all the apostles. Nevertheless, they never spoke of themselves as “converts” and we never think of them as “converts”. Of course not… because they were converted… i.e. finished products.

Here we come to the essence of the matter… there are “converts” and there are the converted. The difference is that “converts” are people who want to remain in a stew for beginners, forever and ever, and there are people who’ve been converted and are trying to improve themselves. In other words, quite simply, there are neophytes and there are Christians.

Those who are neophytes want to remain at the Church doors, forever ranting against their former beliefs (there is nothing so anti-Anglican as an ex-Anglican) and there are those who have entered the Church and really can’t be bothered by what goes on at the Church doors. Those who remain at the doors forever read books for converts (Bloom, Ware, Schmemann, The Way of a Pilgrim, Kalomiros, etc) and cultivate eccentricity and exoticism in dress, hairstyle, or speech, sometimes for some pathological reason (to look different from others); they are “converts”. It’s time for them to move on and become normal Christians, which is what the word Orthodox actually means.

The word “eccentric” is another word for vanity, the desire to be different, to be attention-seeking. Such “converts” need to move on from the first course to the main course with its meat, which has the promise of the sweet dessert to come. Those who remain converts need to be converted. However, they must first want to be converted and not remain “converts”.

Personally, I’m against religion, that is, the artificial invention by States of religious establishments to repress people. However, I’m for faith, that is, for spiritual experience, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is the foundation of the Orthodox Church.

17 May 2018

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

Editor:

I’ve seen that many converts, especially, convert clergy, adopt a “hyperdox” attitude. That’s something that I’ve noticed in a young convert priest. Everything has to be “correct”, to hell with what the parish customs are… can you believe, he’s even invented “traditions!” Before communion, at every liturgy, he makes a bombastic announcement that communion is only for Orthodox Christians who’ve prepared themselves, but then communes all and sundry! I’ve never seen the like… never. I’ve been at liturgies served by famous hierarchs, esteemed elders, and seasoned archpriests… none of them ever made such an announcement, ever. God willing, he’ll grow out of such fanciful juvenile notions and come to realise that the Church’s tradition is best… we don’t make such announcements, for we assume that Christian people know that… that one doesn’t come forward unless one has prepared (it doesn’t mean that one must attend the evening service beforehand, that’s a monastic practice, best kept in the monastic milieu, where it belongs, and where it’s salutary).

Such immaturity is irritating, but it isn’t a deal-breaker. It simply means that someone got ordained before they were truly ready for ordination. You pray for them and hope that they’ll grow up… God willing, they will.

BMD

Friday, 12 January 2018

12 January 2018. Is the ROCOR in Europe a Dead Letter?

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Rumour says that the ROCOR is collapsing in Europe. Since the 2007 reconciliation, some wonder why it still exists. In Europe, the MP now is far bigger than the ROCOR is, as the ROCOR shows ineptitude in managing its parishes. Sources say that the main problem is Archbishop Mark Arndt, who moved against the very popular Archbishop Michael of Geneva. The same sources say that Mark had help from the main ROCOR apparat in New York in sending Michael into exile in France. Interestingly, the buzz has it that if Mark were to show his face in the UK again, they’d throw eggs at him. I’d say that it’s difficult to understand what’s truly going on, but it seems the MP has to clear up yet another ROCOR mess. Is the ROCOR simply dying out in Europe? It lacks an effective episcopate there, so some say that the only solution is a takeover by the New York apparat. However, is that what the Centre wants? Watch this… time will tell us…

My gut feeling is that the people will resolve this. If the ROCOR doesn’t act responsibly, they may very well opt to go directly under the Centre. In the present climate of Russian-baiting and Russophobic hysteria (some of it even coming from senior ROCOR figures based in the USA), the Centre might consent to that in order to counteract what it sees as infiltration by the American special services in the Church (do recall Pashkovsky in Odessa… those suspicions aren’t groundless). We shall see…

BMD

Friday, 10 November 2017

10 November 2017. Whither Thou Goest, ROCOR?

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I wrote the following to a clergyman I consider a friend:

However, [the ROCOR Synod] dances to Potapov’s tune because he has money. Apparently, Langley wants to revive the old CIA-ROCOR alliance. This time, the people won’t have it. There’ll be those who’ll remain loyal to Ilarion and his Synod (I don’t see him losing Australia), but that won’t be due to Langley money, most will simply be Brother Junipers. However, most of our people are post-Sov emigres, not anti-Red DPs or ex-White elements (most of those are gone outside the Golden 400). Indeed, both the KPRF and CPUSA not only allow believers, they DEFEND them (one of the critics of Matilda was from the Moscow KPRF Gorkom… she said that no one has the right to offend believers).

We live in a new world where the verities of the 60s, 70s, and 80s are gone forever. We live on the “new shore”… where Reds and believers not only coexist but are one and the same… the old shibboleths are gone… for good. Remember… Nikodim Rotov was once a demonic figure to most of us, but most of us now know that he did his best to preserve the Church under harsh conditions. We have a seemingly-new Church that’s really the old Church. We find that all our Russian legacies… Old Russia, Moskovy, Imperial Russia, and the USSR… must live together or we have no legacy at all. If we try to cut anything off, we’d do what Stolypin warned us against (“If you cut off one of our Russian eagle’s heads, it’ll only make him bleed to death”). It may sound odd, but Marxism, tsarism, and Christianity are converging. I know that you may not agree with me totally, but I know that you are a fellow traveller of good heart, and that suffices for me. Have patience and keep good cheer. You do have a friend, here…

I removed all tell-tales that might hint at the identity of my interlocutor. The ROCOR is in serious straits indeed. The episcopate is isolated from the people and doesn’t seem to realise that times have changed and that the old ways and old expressions no longer work. The people are post-Soviet, so they ignore all diatribes against I V Stalin. The ROCOR is now mostly former-Sov émigrés, so the former anti-communist shibboleths no longer have traction. If the ROCOR Holy Synod continues on its present course, it’ll lose many parishes to the direct jurisdiction of Moscow. In fact, in Geneva, elements in the ROCOR Synod threatened to boot out clergy unless they signed a questionable document expelling a pious couple. Some feel that Metropolitan Ilarion Kapral is too lenient and not up to it. If things continue as they are, much of the present ROCOR may go under Moscow because of sheer incompetence. By the way, Paffhausen now weighs about 400 pounds (@180 kilos)… he’s ballooned since the OCA got rid of him. It’s ultra-obesity… a real tragedy.

No one knows how this play will end. However, it’ll be “interesting”, and we all know what that Chinese idiom really means…

BMD

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