From the Teachings of
On the Apostolic Work of Prince St. Vladimir
Why is St. Vladimir eternally dear to us?
Because he brought us into communion with faith in Christ and gave us, Russians, the true Church of Christ.
What is this faith in Christ and true Church and what is its significance for us?
This is clearly revealed to us in the touching prayer offered by St. Vladimir at the sacred moment when the Mystery of Baptism was performed for the Russian people, when, in the words of the pious chronicler, truly heaven and earth rejoiced at such a great number being saved.
"O Great God, Creator of heaven and earth!" cried out our godfather and enlightener, "Look down upon this new people, and grant them, Lord, to know Thee, the true God, as the Christian countries have known Thee; and confirm them in the true and uncorrupted faith; and aid me, Lord, against the hostile enemy, so that, trusting in Thee and in Thy power, I may defeat his intrigues."
Here everything is stated and there is an explanation of why, faith in Christ and the true Church are given to us.
Faith in Christ and the true Church as the repository and disseminator of that faith are given to us so that we might know the true God and, knowing Him, learn to believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him.
Faith in God must be "true" and "uncorrupted," that is, not just any sort of faith thought up by people themselves according to their own taste, but correct, or orthodox, as that true Christian faith, pure and uncorrupted, undistorted by human sophistry, preached by the holy Apostles and preserved without change by the true Church, has always been called. The criterion for this faith is this: "That is true which has been believed everywhere, at all times, by all people" (St. Vincent of Lerins). And that faith must be "uncorrupted" in us, that is, we must preserve it so steadfastly, firmly, uncompromisingly that no one will be able to seduce us or draw us away from it.
And, finally, in St. Vladimir's prayer there is an indication of the personal aim of this faith for each of us and, consequently, of the great significance of belonging to the true Church which preserves this faith. We have a "hostile enemy who arranges "intrigues" against us and wants to destroy us. This is the enemy of God and the enemy of human salvation, the devil, with whom we must carry on an unceasing struggle, since otherwise eternal destruction awaits us. It is only through "hoping in God and in His power," that is, with the assistance of the true faith and Church, that we can carry on this struggle with the enemy of human salvation, the devil, with whom we must carry on an unceasing struggle, since otherwise eternal destruction awaits us. It is only through "hoping in God and in His power," that is, with the assistance of the true faith and Church, that we can carry on this struggle with the enemy of human salvation, the devil, until we are completely victorious.
It is from this viewpoint that one must consider everything which is happening in the world at the present time.
On The Church
Christ our Savior said clearly, "I will establish my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). Consequently, He created one Church, not many different churches, for in that case He would have spoken in the plural – "churches." This is why it is odd to hear the speeches, which claim to be authoritative, of some modern leaders of the ecumenical movement who call themselves "Christians" to the effect that the existence within Christianity of various "churches" (the Roman Catholic, the Protestant ones, etc.) is a positive phenomenon, since each person can select his own "church" according to his own taste, selecting whichever one he likes best, whichever one suits him best. It was even stranger for us to hear the words of a certain liberal, progressive professor who eloquently developed the idea that Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism are all the same Christianity, just from "different viewpoints". "It is as if," he continued in this comparison, "an airplane is flying over a city – from various points during its flight it sees the city in its various parts, and therefore the city seems different to it, depending on the point from which one is looking at it."
Of course, such an idea is fundamentally opposed to the Word of God, which clearly teaches: "That they may be one" (John 17:11); "One Lord, one faith" (Eph. 4:5); "Be like-minded one toward another" (Rom. 15:5); "Be of one accord, of one mind" (Phil. 2:2); "Be ye all of one mind" (I Peter 3:8); "Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things... Be not wise in your own conceits" (Rom. 12:16).
Wherever the inherited spiritual link of grace going back to the holy Apostles and their successors the Apostolic Men and Holy Fathers has been broken, wherever various innovations have been introduced in faith and morals with the aim of "keeping in step with the times", of "progressing", of not getting out of date and of adapting to the demands and fashions of this world lying in evil – there can be no talk of the true Church.
Where one finds the dogmas shaken and the moral teachings of the Gospel and the canonical structure of the Church founded on them undermined, this is clearly the work of servants of the coming Antichrist, no matter what they might call themselves and no matter how they are dressed.
The "gates of hell" will not prevail against the Church, but they have and certainly can prevail against many who consider themselves pillars of the Church, as is shown by Church history; this happens when they are full of their own conceits, abandon the one mind and one spirit of the whole One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and rely on their own conjectures and imaginings which contradict the teachings of the Gospel, the Holy Apostles, and the Fathers of the Church.
On the Russian Church Abroad
For us Russian Orthodox our membership in the Russian Church Abroad is a vivid symbol of our penitential turning to God and to the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, for only that church can now provide the grace to give us strength for such a penitential approach and for its reinforcement.
This is why we must take such care to preserve our Russian Church Abroad and not permit it to be weakened or to turn aside to "other ways".
Unfortunately not everyone understands this sufficiently clearly and not everyone properly and completely values the whole great meaning of the existence of our Russian Church Abroad, even among those who belong to it.
Why does our Russian Church Abroad exist, so alone spiritually in the modern world? What is the ideology which makes it so alone?
The essence of the ideology of the Russian Church Abroad consists of its complete and uncompromising refusal to accept that worldwide Evil which has spread widely over the face of the whole earth and which has subjugated to its control, to a greater or lesser degree, all aspects of human life, not excepting religious and church life.
Atheistic Marxism-Communism, or Bolshevism, the struggle with which is the chief task of all national-minded Russian patriots, is just one of the offspring, one evil result of this "worldwide evil". To struggle only against it means just to cut off the branches without noticing the trunk and roots which gave birth to them and nourished them.
Unfortunately, many of us: see only these branches, paying no attention to the trunk and roots. Even more: this root source of the "worldwide evil" seems to some quite inoffensive, even favorably inclined toward us and our church, and many of us are ready to look to it for aid for, ourselves and for support in the struggle against Communism.
What pathetic naïveté! ... if only it is not conscious betrayal!
It is long since time to understand and recognize all of this!
This necessary vision and clear recognition is prevented most of all by material dependence and the loss, for this or other reasons, of spiritual freedom.
This is why our Russian Church Abroad must value above all its spiritual freedom, that freedom which was given to the faithful by the Church's Founder – Christ.
More than anything on earth we value our church's freedom. This is not at all because we do not have "love", as we are so superficially accused by the "ecumenists", who are themselves too full of "love" for the enemies of the pure and unadulterated Truth of Christ and, sometimes, even for open enemies of our holy faith (only for us, their brothers by blood and faith, have they no love!). Rather, it is because we have a love of the Truth; because we firmly believe (having none of the doubts the ecumenists obviously have) that our Holy Orthodox Church is, as the Word of God teaches, the "pillar and ground of the Truth" (I Tim. 3:15); and because we desire, as commanded by the holy Apostle, to "walk in that Truth" (II John 4) and, following the warning of the great Father of the Church, St. Gregory the Theologian, we do not want "to become betrayers of the teaching of the faith and of the Truth ... communing of the leaven of the Evil One and joining ourselves to the plague-ridden ... apostates from the Truth" (Works of St. Gregory, Part I, p. 192).
At the root of the ideology of the Russian Church Abroad is a fervent and sincere intention – whatever might happen, regardless of any contemporary evil influences and tendencies – to remain faithful to God's truth; to remain totally devoted to the Founder of the Church, Christ the Savior, and to the teaching of the Gospel on faith and piety which He brought to earth without any human corruptions or distortions; and to preserve the full spiritual freedom which Christ gave to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which He founded on earth for men's salvation.
The Russian Church Abroad is dear to us beyond any price, but only insofar as it actually remains the lawful heir of the previous Russian Orthodox Church – the unswerving and faithful preserver of the God-given Apostolic teaching on faith and piety, a zealous follower of the traditions of the Fathers, the Sacred Canons, and all the pious ordinances and traditions of Holy Russia.
The sacred motto of our Church is that of the great confessor of Orthodoxy, St. Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria: "We must not serve time, but God."
In the midst of the general, mass, already self-perpetuating movement "Forward! Forward! To the Antichrist!" (although it might not be expressed so openly) for us members of the Russian Church Abroad the age-old motto of the true Church of Christ remains in full force: "stand fast ... remain unmoved!" (Bishop Theophan, On Orthodoxy with Warnings about Errors Against It, p. 7).
Why is this so?
"Human teachings," writes this same Bishop Theophan, "are always reaching out to what is new, growing, developing; and this is natural, for they do not have the truth, but are just seeking it. And let them seek it, as long as they find something stable. For us both the truth and the way to the truth have been defined once and for all. We possess the truth, and all our efforts are directed toward its assimilation, not its discovery" (Ibid.).
This is why we are not going in the same direction at all as any "modernists" and "ecumenists". Our gaze should not be directed "ahead", but "backwards" – to the earthly life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to the Divine teaching He preached on earth 19 centuries ago, to His act of redemption, His glorious Army of Martyrs, to the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church, to the establishers of the true faith, to the righteous ascetics, those "angels in the flesh", and, for us Russians, to the ideals of Holy Russia ...
For us "forward" is only the constantly spreading "Apostasy" predicted by the Word of God and the Holy Fathers of the Church, and its crown – the Antichrist, of whose near arrival so many already are so openly speaking; but after that will come the shining triumph of our Faith: the Last Judgment, the eternal torment of sinners and the eternal blessedness of the righteous.
This is our ideology; this is the genuine (without evil or deceit) Orthodox view of the world to which our whole Russian Church Abroad should hold in order to justify its existence on earth, not to become the "salt which has lost its savor".
Whoever thinks otherwise, whoever is inclined to "march in step with the times", consequently, has already entered into some sort of compromise with the "evil of this world", leading to the Antichrist, and is not really a member of our Russian Church Abroad, even though he formally continues to belong to it.
We have neither the strength nor the authority to stop Apostasy, as Bishop Ignatius stresses: "Do not attempt to stop it with your weak hand..."
But what then should we do?
"Avoid it, protect yourself from it, and that is enough for you. Get to know the spirit of the times, study it so that you can avoid its influence whenever possible" – this is what the same Bishop Ignatius teaches us.
And do not his words, written more than 100 years ago and so obviously related to our time, exude genuine prophetic inspiration and undoubted enlightenment from on high: "Judging by the spirit of the age and the intellectual ferment, one must suppose that the structure of the Church, which has long been wavering, will collapse terribly and quickly. There is no one to stop or oppose this. The means adopted to support it are borrowed from the elements of the world which are hostile to the Church and will hasten its fall rather than prevent it. May the merciful Lord defend the remnant of those who believe in Him. But this remnant is tiny, and it becomes more and more so."
Thus we evidently have lived to see this "terrible and quick collapse of the structure of the Church"!
The enemy of the human race is employing all his efforts and all his means to pull it down, and he is widely supported in this by open and secret apostates from the true faith and Church, including even those who have betrayed their high vocations and oaths as clergymen and even as hierarchs heading certain individual churches.
In truth, we are experiencing a terrible time – a time such as has never before been seen in the history of Christianity, in the history of mankind! A time of almost total instability!
And insofar as we wish to remain faithful to true Orthodoxy, many obligations are placed upon us.
We must, as Bishop Ignatius instructs us, avoid and protect ourselves from the Apostasy which is growing so rapidly in the world. We must defend ourselves against the corrupting spirit of the times to avoid its influence.
And to this end we must first of all understand and never forget:
–that at the present time not everything that bears the most holy and most dear name of Orthodoxy really is Orthodoxy – there now also exists pseudo-Orthodoxy, which we must fear and from which we must flee as from fire;
–that true Orthodoxy is only that which does not accept and does not permit in anything, either in teaching or in church practices, any sort of innovations opposed to the Word of God and the decrees of the Universal Church;
–that true Orthodoxy does not bless and does not indulge modern fashion – the morality and customs of the modern, corrupt world, which, even more than in Apostolic times, is lying in evil, for it is a world which has abandoned God;
–that true Orthodoxy considers only pleasing God and saving souls, not arrangements for temporary, earthly happiness, a career, and earthly advantages and possessions;
–that true Orthodoxy is spiritual, not natural and carnal, not attached to the earth – to earthly feelings and experiences.
On the Causes of the Russian Catastrophe
A great many different, more or less weighty and plausible, ideas have been and continue to be expressed on the causes of the terrible, bloody catastrophe which befell our motherland Russia in 1917. Usually and most frequently causes of an economic and political nature are presented for consideration, and people think, that it all is satisfactorily and completely explained by them. But for us, Russian believers, there cannot be the slightest doubt that these causes, if they in fact existed, were only secondary, derivative, attendant causes, but certainly not the chief, the fundamental, or the basic ones.
The chief cause of all the woes which befall a man and deprive him of peace and prosperity is his departure from the Single Source of life and well-being, our Creator, Provider, and Savior, God, and his flouting of the Divine laws and rules which are man's only salvation.
This is what was written by the great teacher of all Christian Russia, Bishop Theophan, in the 60's of the last century:
"Do you know how gloomy my thoughts are? And not without good reason. I meet people who call themselves Orthodox, but who in spirit are followers of Voltaire, naturalists, Lutherans, and all sorts of freethinkers. They are neither stupid nor evil, but in regard to the faith and the Church they are worthless. Their fathers and mothers were pious; the damage was done during the time of their education outside their parents' homes. The memory of their childhood and of the spirit of their parents still keeps them within certain bounds. What will their children be like? And what will keep them within the proper bounds? I conclude from this that in one, at the most two, generations our Orthodoxy will wither." (Letters on the Christian Life, p. 78).
"We must be punished," he wrote in another letter, "God and His manifest works have been blasphemed. Someone wrote me that in some newspaper Light, No. 88, blasphemies against the Mother of God were printed. The Mother of God has turned away from us; because of Her, so has the Son of God; and because of Him, so have God the Father and the Spirit of God. Who is for us when God is against us?! Alas!" (Collected Letters, Vol. 7, p. 206).
We can only dare to think completely seriously about the salvation of Russia when we have become different. We must force ourselves to change in the most fundamental way – to cease being what we were when we, willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or in ignorance, by our own hands or just by indifference, cast Russia into that terrifying, bloody abyss in which it remains even until now.
Constantly forming new political parties and organizations with platforms full of high-sounding promises and with constant quarrels and mutual attacks on each other unworthy of the name of Russian; organizing "days" and "evenings of Russian culture"; "charity" balls, theatrical performances and concerts, especially on the eves of Sundays and feasts; anniversary celebrations, especially in the spirit of the one now being prepared to honor Leo Tolstoy, who was excommunicated from the Church for his unbelievably blasphemous and vicious outbursts; banquets with very patriotic speeches; assemblies for "days of irreconcilability" with fierce anti-Communist statements; even formal attendance at official prayer and requiem services on days of special commemoration – none of this will ever be able to save Russia.
"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" and then everything else "shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
It was precisely this course of seeking above all the Kingdom of God and His righteousness that our Orthodox Russian nation followed throughout the whole course of its history – it was precisely in this way that Great Russia was built in which the faith and the Church were always in the first place.
But when the Russian nation, under the influence of atheistic agitators who came to us from the apostate West, began to turn away from this, its true historical course, then that terrible, bloody catastrophe broke over us; as a result of it we ended up in exile, and the rest of the Russian nation is under the yoke of a horrible, unparalleled slavery.
For this reason it is so sad to see how Russian Orthodox people who have endured so much and even lost their homeland and who now are themselves here in exile do not give any thought at all to their spiritual renewal, but rather continue to live with the same godless and anti-Church views, interests and attitudes that led to such terrible misfortunes for our unfortunate homeland Russia. And they naively think that Russia can be saved without their full and total return to God, without their bringing their lives under the genuine spirit of the Church, but that it can be done by means of nothing but political activity. And they even want to subjugate our Church itself to their politics and make it a tool of their political intrigues, a toy of their political passions.
They want to subject the eternal to the temporal, the heavenly to the earthly, the holy to the sinful ...
What could be more awful, more hopeless, more criminal than such spiritual blindness, such extreme lack of understanding, which is only, one step removed from the very depths of hell?
How many times did the Most Holy Theotokos save Her faithful Byzantium with its imperial city of Constantinople by Her all-powerful protection until it was overcome by the spirit of materialism and apostasy from the faith which appeared so clearly at the Council of Florence in 1439. And then Byzantium, which had betrayed the true faith, was handed over to its downfall, falling finally under the blows of the Mohammedan Turks in 1453.
Like Byzantium the New Rome, our homeland Moscow, the Third Rome; experienced the miraculous protection of the Fervent Intercessor for the Christian race an uncounted number of times. But our unfortunate Russian nation also did not remain firm on the heights of its calling, and the same spirit of materialism and apostasy led it to its terrible, bloody downfall.
And now the whole world is gripped not just by the spirit of materialism and apostasy, but of cruel enmity to God, a terrible and rash challenge to God; and it is on the edge of destruction in its senseless blindness, a destruction prepared by its own hands. This destructive spirit of Apostasy has already penetrated even our Orthodox Church, extremely prominent hierarchs of which openly are proclaiming the approach of some sort of "new era" and cynically are proposing being done with all the past as they assemble to create some kind of completely "new Church" in close "ecumenical" contact and unanimity with all apostates from the true faith and Church.
The idea of monarchy itself, in the return to which as the historic and immemorial form for governing Russia many rightly see salvation, is holy and dear to us not for itself, but only insofar as it is supported by our Orthodox faith and Church – insofar as our czar is an "Orthodox Czar", as we sing in our old national anthem; insofar as he is not just formally and officially, but in actual fact the first son and also the exalted Protector and Defender of the Orthodox Faith and Church; insofar as he is really the "Anointed of God" who has received special gifts of grace in the Mystery of anointing performed over him by the Church to be the "King and Judge of the People of God", as he himself confesses in the prayer he reads before everyone in the church during his sacred coronation. Therefore he enters the altar through the royal doors and receives Holy Communion before the holy throne of God as an equal of the other sacred ministers, which, of course, could not be done by any other monarch who was not orthodox and who did not respond to the demands of the Church, who was not sanctified with grace by the Church.
This is decisively confirmed for us by the ever-memorable Fr. John of Kronstadt, who said, "Who places earthly kings on their thrones? He Who alone sits on the throne of fire from eternity, and alone, in the true sense, rules over all creation – heaven and earth with all the creatures which inhabit them. From Him alone is royal power given to the kings of the earth; He crowns them with the royal diadem ... Be silent, dreaming constitutionalists and parliamentarians! `Depart from me, Satan! Thou art an offense unto Me, for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men' (Matt. 16:23), said the Lord to Peter who denied Him. Depart also, you who oppose God's command. It is not your task to order the thrones of earthly kings. Away, bold ones who do not know how to govern yourselves, but are always quarreling with each other ... Authority, power, courage, and wisdom is given the Czar from the Lord to govern his subjects" (Sermon, 1907).
On the Modern World
We are living in a strange time, when all the true and healthy Christian concepts are being replaced by false and deceitful concepts, discovered often with an evil intention with the undoubted intention, naturally, of drawing people away from the right path of a truly Christian life. In all of this there can be discerned some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all.
We must be clearly aware of the kind of time in which we live. Indeed, only a spiritually blind man, or one who had already sold his soul to the enemies of our holy faith and Church, could fail to sense the spirit of the approaching Antichrist in everything which is now happening in the world. Of what sort of genuine union of all Christians in the spirit of Christian love can one speak now when the Truth is denied by almost everyone, when deceit is in control almost everywhere, when a genuinely spiritual life among people who call themselves Christians has dried up and been replaced by a carnal life, an animal life which has nonetheless been placed on a pedestal and concealed by the idea of pretended charity which hypocritically justifies any sort of spiritual excess, any sort of moral anarchy. Indeed it is from this that are derived all these numberless "balls", various kinds of "games", "dances" and amusements toward which, despite their immoral, anti-Christian nature, even my modern clergymen have a tolerant attitude, sometimes even organizing them themselves and participating in them.
A terrible, unrelieved, hopeless unscrupulousness has taken possession of many people.
The true doctrine of the faith and the Church for which the first Christians died in such tortures has become a hollow sound for the majority of modern "Christians". They neither know this doctrine, nor do they desire to know it, for they are indifferent to it.
Dull, cold indifference to almost anything which bears the imprint of ideological content and seeking in everything only one's own personal advantage – this is the character of our time.
This lack of ideological content, this unscrupulousness accompanied by departure from the true faith and the Church and by indifference to them is the basic, fundamental sin of which we, Russian Orthodox Christians, must repent.
It is not for us to enjoy ourselves, to amuse ourselves, to dance on the grave of Russia, brought down to its deathbed by us, but rather to repent in tears, really to repent, as the Holy Church teaches us, with a firm intention to change our life radically, to renew our spirit.
As salt preserves food from decay and makes it healthful and pleasant to the taste, so too true Christians preserve the world from moral decay and facilitate its return to health.
But if the salt "loses its savor", as the Gospel says, i.e., "loses its strength" (in the East there actually is a kind of salt which can lose its taste), then it becomes good for nothing except to be "thrown out to be trodden under foot of men" (Gospel reading for the third day of the feast of Pentecost – Matt. 5:3-13).
How terrible this is! And we find ourselves living in such times when the tendency dominating the world is directed toward making all Christians such "salt which has lost its savor", once it has abolished the true Church of Christ derived from the Holy Apostles and thus has deprived Christians of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
This is the so very fashionable, so-called "ecumenical movement", which is based on the position that supposedly the true Church of Christ does not presently exist on earth and it is necessary to create it anew ... through the unification of all Christians belonging to various "churches" and confessional associations and organizations; this will be done by various mutual concessions in matters of doctrine and the development of a new, common system of doctrine acceptable to all and, along with it, of course, a new world view.
And the opinion, extremely popular in our times, that "it's all the same which church you go to; after all, God is one" is in agreement with this tendency.
Yes! God is one, but, you know, He also gave us one faith; He created one Church for us, not many different faiths and "churches". This is confirmed by the holy Apostle Paul when he says, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all," and so we Christians should form "one body and one spirit," as we are called to "in one hope of our calling" (Eph. 4:4-6).
If there is only one true faith and only one true Church, then as a consequence all other faiths and "churches" are false, not true.
How then can anyone say that all faiths and "churches" are of equal value and that "it is all the same which church you go to".
Therefore one can and must speak not of the ecumenical unification of everyone for the creation of some new Church, but only of the restoration of union between all who have fallen away and the one true Church of Christ to which Christ the Savior Himself gave the great and sure promise that "the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).
Oh, how great now is the dulling of conscience even of those people who consider themselves believers – the clouding of their minds and hearts, so that seeing, they do not see, and hearing, they do not hear, neither do they understand with their heart, as the holy prophet said (Isaiah 9:10).
This is the "hardening of hearts" of which he spoke.
But there is in our days an even more terrible phenomenon, encountered more and more often: a more or less conscious decision, for the sake of earthly goods and advantages, to serve the coming Antichrist.
This is the most extreme degree of falling away, from which it is very difficult to arise.
The fundamental task of the servants of the coming Antichrist is to destroy the old world with all its former concepts and "prejudices" in order to built in its place a new world suitable for receiving its approaching "new owner" who will take the place of Christ for people and give them on earth that which Christ did not give them ....
One must be completely blind spiritually, completely alien to true Christianity not to understand all this!
Zeal for God, zeal for the Truth is not "phariseeism", just as "humility" before the enemies of God, the enemies of the Church, before diabolical Evil, is not the true and saving humility of the Publican, but just destructive self-deception, leading to the depths of hell.
In our times, when there are such strong doubts about even the existence of Truth, when every "truth" is considered relative and it is considered proper for each person to hold to "his own truth", the struggle for the Truth acquires a particularly important meaning. And the person who does not sympathize with this struggle, who sees in it only a manifestation of "phariseeism" and suggests "humbling oneself" before Falsehood by falling away from the Truth, should naturally be recognized as a betrayer of the Truth, whoever he might be, whatever he might call or consider himself.
For us modern Christians faith, for the most part, is being divorced from life: we do not live in full agreement with the teachings and demands of our faith. Our faith so clearly and so definitely teaches us to renounce everything corruptible and earthly and to concentrate with all our thoughts and feelings on the incorruptible eternal life awaiting us. Theoretically, perhaps, we accept this (although of late there has appeared a special current of "neo-Christianity" which does not even want to accept this theoretically, but has thought up a completely new, heretofore unknown pseudo-Christian world view aimed at binding man more firmly to an earth which supposedly has been transfigured and sanctified by Christ's coming into the world), we admit the end of the world, the Second Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, and the future life, but in practice we live and act as if none of this is to be expected and we have only to make ourselves comfortable here on earth by providing for ourselves all sorts of good things and conveniences. We do not really want to think about the death which unavoidably awaits every one of us and we do not prepare ourselves as we ought for the future eternal life before us.
Peace!.. peace!.. peace!.. is heard now from every side: "mutual disarmament!..peaceful coexistence!.. we shall struggle for peace!.. everyone in defense of peace!.."
How wonderful it would be, what a bright and joyful future it would promise for mankind if only these appeals had in mind that peace of which the angels sang on the night of Christ's Birth: "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men!" (Luke 2:14); if only it were that peace which the Savior Christ promised to His disciples at the Last Supper when He said, "My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you" (John 14:27); if only it were that "peace of God which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7) which, at the Lord's command, the Apostles transmitted to the first Christians, which they were taught to seek (I Peter 3:11), and which they were encouraged to have with God and with all people (Rom. 5:1; 12:18). How gratifying it would be to hear them if these appeals came from people of whose sincerity we could not have the slightest doubt, whose words we could trust completely – from people who were really convinced that the highest good in life is precisely that peace – peace with God, peace with one's own conscience, and peace with one's neighbors in the name Of God.
But alas! It is not of such peace that people are talking now.
All these frequently unnatural and pompous speeches and at times hysterical cries for peace for the whole world come at the present time for the most part from people who are either far from true Christianity or are directly opposed to the Church – from people who do not live at peace with God and with their own consciences, but are filled with spite in their relations with their neighbors.
Can we believe in the sincerity of speeches about peace when they are pronounced by people who in principle deny faith in God and love for their neighbors and do not recognize the voice of conscience?
Can we believe that people are really working toward peace when with open and bold blasphemy they have declared war on God Himself and His Holy Church?
When quite recently they did not hide the fact that their aim was to "stir up a worldwide conflagration"? When they openly preach "class hatred" as the basis of their ideology and are not in the least ashamed to pour out whole oceans of blood and to exterminate millions of people just for the suspicion that they disagree with their ideology?
Can we likewise believe in the sincere love for peace of those who in their words unctuously and cloyingly preach "Christian love" and "total forgiveness", while in their actions they sow disturbances and discord and, by spreading lies and slander, create hostility and divisions, stirring people up against their neighbors?
Can one in general believe that any sort of secure and reliable peace can be established on earth with the crude flouting of God's Truth, with the lies and hypocrisy which are so clearly characteristic of the life of modern mankind?
Where the Truth of God is lacking there cannot be genuine peace.
While struggling resolutely against the most minute manifestations of evil and sin in our own souls, let us not fear to uncover and point out evil everywhere where it is to be found in modern life – not from pride and self-love, but only out of love for the truth. Our chief task. in this evil time of lying shamelessness is to remain totally faithful and devoted to the genuine truth of the Gospel and to the author of our salvation, Christ, the Giver of life Who rose on the third day from the tomb, the Conqueror of hell and death.
One must know well and remember that Tolstoy's harmful doctrine of "non-resistance to evil" is completely foreign to true Christianity (by the way, this doctrine destroyed our unfortunate homeland, Russia, and plunged it into the terrible, bloody horrors of Bolshevism): no true Christian can be reconciled to evil, wherever and in whomever he might encounter it.
All true Christians throughout the whole history of the Church have followed the example of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His Holy Apostles and have always condemned evil and struggled against it, even though this might cause them all sorts of severe deprivations and even cost them life itself.
On Fasting, Prayer and Bearing the Cross
A life of fasting, properly understood as general self-limitation and abstinence, to the annual practice of which the Church always calls us with the Great Lent, is really that bearing of the cross and self-crucifixion which is required of us by our calling as Christians. And anyone who stubbornly resists this, wanting to live a carefree, happy, and free life, is concerned for sensual pleasures and avoids sorrow and suffering – that person is not, a Christian.
Bearing one's cross is the natural way of every true Christian, without which there is no Christianity.
Sincere prayer unites man and God. But nowhere can prayer be as fervent and effective as in God's temple, for there the Awesome Bloodless sacrifice is constantly offered "for all people and all things", there ceaseless prayer is made on behalf of all the faithful, there "the very air is Holy", in the words of one of our devoutly wise bishops.
It was not in vain that our God-bearing Fathers from of old called the temple a "school of virtue".
Money! Money! Power! Honor! – these are the temptations which, unfortunately, many people are unable to resist.
This is the source of all the disputes, disagreements and divisions among Christians.
This is the root of people's forgetting the "one thing needed" which is proposed to us by the true Christian faith and which consists of prayer, acts of repentance, and sincere, unhypocritical charity to our neighbors. The Holy Church always calls us to this, but especially now, during the Great Lent!
What is required of us Christians is not some kind of "exalted politics", not lofty phrases and hazy philosophy, but the most humble prayer of the Publican: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!", acts of repentance, and doing good to our neighbors, which proceeds from a pure heart.
And it is for the practice of all of this that the Church has established the Great Lent!
How powerfully, colorfully, graphically, and convincingly, with what ardent inspiration is all of this spoken of in the divine services of Great Lent!
No one anywhere has such a wealth of edification in this regard as do we Orthodox in our incomparable Lenten services, which, to their shame, the majority of Orthodox in our times do not know at all.
Truly never before has the cross of each person who wants to be a true Christian been as heavy as in this time of the triumph of falsehood which we are experiencing.
Never before on this earth has there been such a huge number of people who freely and easily, without any shame, without any pangs of conscience "call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20).
On the Temple
God's temples and everything which takes place in them – the church's prayers, sacred actions, and grace-giving mysteries – have as their purpose the cleansing of our souls from all sinful filth and uncleanness and their transformation into temples of God, worthy habitations for the Spirit of God.
Thus, God's temple is unconditionally necessary for us so that we can ourselves become spiritual temples of God.
This is why those people act foolishly who scorn God's temples, who are lazy about attending the services held in them, who do not participate in the common prayers of the Church and the mysteries, and who think that they can get along without the Church – that attending church is an unimportant matter, not one of obligation.
Such people can with perfect justice be called spiritual suicides, since they deprive themselves of the very great joy of life in God and surrender themselves into the hands of the enemy of God – the devil, who in such cases unavoidably enters into their souls. Their portion will be eternal death – that "second death" of which Christ's beloved disciple, St. John the Theologian, speaks in his "Revelation" – together with the devil and all his servants they will be cast into the "lake of fire" (Rev. 20:10-15).
The only way of salvation for us is to bring all our life into agreement with the Church.
This is the life in the Church.
But the life of the Church itself is unthinkable without the temple and the services performed in it, without the common prayer of the church and the mysteries. While the Holy Fathers call the private prayer of each individual believer the "breathing of the spirit", the common service performed by the whole assembly of the faithful is, as it were, the breathing of the whole Church organism – the whole Body of the Church. As breathing is essential for all members of an ordinary bodily organism, for it gives them life through the blood which is continually being cleansed by the oxygen it receives from the air, so continual participation in the divine services is absolutely essential for all members of Christ's Body the Church, for it, in precisely the same way, gives them spiritual life through the grace of the Holy Spirit received through the Church's prayers and sacramental actions. Whoever is not participating in the divine services is dying spiritually by falling away from the Church, just as a member dies and is cut off from the bodily organism when the flow of blood ceases in it, as the dried up branch is cut off from the vine in the Lord's graphic comparison (John 15:6).
Texts translated from the Russian by Father Seraphim Johnson, Orthodox Russia, Issue No 7, 1979, pp. 5-7, St. Job of Pochaev Press, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York. Original booklet compiled by Fr. Demetrios Serfes. Recompiled by St. John of Kronstadt Press 1995.