Life Without a Conscience
Life Without a Conscience
Life Without a Conscience
by Archbishop Averky of Jordanville
This is what, in all honesty, one might call the life of the great majority of modern people who have suffered "dehumanization" from those who have seized into their own hands authority over the world – the servants of the enemy of Christ, the Antichrist, who is going to come. And it is very characteristic and should be very instructive that in this regard exactly the same thing is being done both in those countries where open and obvious enemies of God are ruling and int e countries of the supposed "free" world, which is only nominally free!
When the Lord created man, He endowed him with great gifts: He gave him a free will and, so that he might use it correctly, a conscience, which is not in vain called "the voice of God" in man's soul.
But then the first man used this great gift from God for evil: he misused the free will given, misfortune for unhappy man, far gone in his pride, who fell away from God, his Creator, Benefactor, and Father, and entered into a union with the enemy of God, the devil. The whole further history of mankind bears the mark of this dismal, ominous apostasy from God and serving of the devil instead of God. This is the source of disdain for the spiritual side of life and of total immersion in the life of the body, the life of irrational creatures, a bestial life; this is the source of forgetting limits and natural humility; the source of diabolic pride which brings with it putting one's self first, contempt for others, condemnation of others, hatred, enmity, and jealousy. This is the source of robberies, murders, civil disturbances, and wars. And human life here on earth became like an inferno, preparing senseless people for hell in the future, eternal life too...
The Lord did everything for men's salvation without infringing on the free will He granted man. Since men did not obey the voice of their consciences, the Lord gave them His law in written form and sent them God-inspired men – His prophets, who tried to awaken their slumbering consciences and who taught them the Law of God... And at last He sent them His Only-Begotten Son, Who gave them the New Covenant, sealed them with His Own Blood shed for the salvation of the world, and sent down upon them the Holy Spirit, Whose grace had the power to restore to new life people who had fallen into sin, making them new creatures and bringing them to an eternal, incorruptible life without infringing on their own free will.
The rapid and successful spread of Christianity in the first centuries after the birth of Christ was a clear indication of the unusual fruitfulness of God's providential acts. But the enemy of God, the devil, who had tempted the first people, was not sleeping; he continued to conduct a stubborn and insistent struggle to possess men for his own, not, of course, without the permission of God, the judgments of Whose Providence are inscrutable and inaccessible to our limited minds. We know only one thing for sure – that having given rational creatures free will, the Lord will not take it away and thus will not draw anyone to Himself by force; if a person is perishing despite everything which God has done for our salvation, then he ought to blame only himself for this, for having chosen the way of his own evil will instead of following the saving was of the Law of God.
And now the twentieth century of the Christian era is marked not only by men's complete flouting of the voice of their consciences and their denial oft he Law of God, but also by bold rebellion against God and His Christ – by in some places hidden, in some places open warfare against God and hatred for Christ.
We live in a terrible epoch, such as the world has never before experienced, for never before have people so openly, so boldly and impudently opposed the demands of their consciences and of the Law of God in such huge numbers and on such an almost worldwide scale, embracing all aspects of human life everywhere on earth. Truly Satan has now been loosed and freed from his prison, as was revealed in the vision of St. John the author of the Apocalypse, and he has come forth to "deceive the nations" (Apoc. 20:7). And our only comfort is that Satan's triumph will not last too long – "for a short time" (Apoc. 20:3), for the "King of Kings and the Lord of Lords" will appear, will defeat the "beast" (antichrist) and with him the "false prophet," who will have deceived with his false miracles those who received the "mark of the beast" and worshipped his image; and they will all be "cast into a lake of fire, burning with brimstone" (Apoc. 19:20). And immediately afterwards the devil himself who had deceived them, will be cast into the same place, into this lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are, and "they shall be tormented day and night forever" (Apoc. 20:10). Into the same place, into this lake of fire, will be cast all "who were not written in the book of life" (Apoc. 20:14-15), that is, those who gave in to the devil's deceptions and served the devil instead of God, – all "dogs and sorcerers, whoremongers, and murderers, and idolators, and whosoever loved and made a lie" (Apoc. 22:15) – all who impudently flouted their consciences and rose up against the righteous Law of God, blasphemed God's name, and did not repent so they could give Him glory (Apoc. 16:9).
This is what the end of the world will be like, although all those modern people who are far gone in their service of the devil and are themselves in the grip of diabolic pride do not want to believe it. All of us must know this well and keep it in mind sot hat we may find the right course in life, leading to the "new Jerusalem" which was shown to the author of the Apocalypse (Apoc. ch 21) and not become exceedingly discouraged and fall into hopelessness and despair because of all the things now happening before our eyes.
But also we must not in anything follow the examples oft hose whom an evil fate awaits int e "lake of fire" together with the enemy of God and the enemy of human salvation, the devil and all his ministers and agents.
However, does everyone in our times pay attention to the warnings of the Word of God and follow the voice of conscience?
Alas! What do we see at present in reality?
Life without conscience!
And this is so not only among open atheists and enemies of God, of whom there are more now than ever before, but also among people who are supposed to be believers and who have not renounced the Church, and they themselves, at least, proclaim. Sometimes they take an active part in the life of the Church and – this is especially terrible – at times also enter the ranks of the clergy without a genuine calling and without the essential inclination toward prayer, not even wanting to know that for a true "good pastor" prayer and the service of God occupy the first place.
Instead of pleasing God and instead of the humility and obedience to the Law of God and the Holy Church commanded by Christ, there now flourishes as never before truly diabolical pride: self-love, conceit, self-glorification, self-exaltation, vanity which oozes out of every pore, and seeking after popularity and earthly glory. This all leads naturally to hatred, envy, malice, and uncontrollable hostility, leading at times to frenzy, instead of to the mutual love and goodwill commanded by the Gospel, instead of to mercy and mutual aid.
Is not this the chief cause of all ecclesiastical quarrels and divisions, of dissension in the general life of the Church and even in each individual parish?
To start the cruel hostility and dissension which cut off at the root the peaceful course of parish life and break up and destroy the parish it is sufficient for just one such person to appear in a parish – a person who imagines that he is the "hub of the universe," that everyone should take account only of him and obey him in everything, that all his judgments and evaluations are infallible and without error, although in reality he himself is an utter intellectual and moral nonentity and is pursuing only the interests of his own sick self-love, to which he is willing to sacrifice everything.
For people of this sort it is as if the voice of conscience does not exist and they do not recognize the Law of God: they are capable of every sort of tendentious distortion of the truth, of any sort of lie and malicious slander against those people who do not agree with their conceited inclination, who do not approve of their attitude of self-satisfaction and their unrestrained desire to play the leading role everywhere, even if those people be lawfully appointed and truly good pastors and men of prayer, of whom there are fewer and fewer nowadays, and who ought to be valued, not persecuted with lies and slander for purely personal, conceited reasons, which is a foul and repulsive sin in the eyes of God.
It is just such people, possessed by by the mad passion of self-love, who are being used by the powers of darkness, the servants of the coming Antichrist, to disrupt and destroy the Church, starting with its individual parishes.
It is amazing only that sometimes some of those who really are believers and are devoted to the Church give in to such trouble-makers, liars, and slanderers, such insolent "scoundrels" to whom the Church as such is neither dear nor of interest, who do not think about the salvation of their souls, and for whom the Church is nothing more than one of the ordinary human organizations where they wish to play some sort of leading role; they fall under their influence and in their naive thoughtlessness support them in their conceited undertakings as some sort of "maintainer of law and order"!
And if we recall the directive of the atheistic authorities instructing their agents to join all our public organizations, including church parishes, in order to conduct work to destroy them by undermining them from within, then it becomes quite ominous! What times we are living in! And how attentive and careful we all must be not thoughtlessly to trust the kind of people who boldly disrupt the peaceful course of the life of our parishes.
It is essential that each and every one of us firmly know and remember that the chief thing in a pastor of the Church of Christ is his sincere prayerfulness, his zealous devotion to the temple of God and to the services performed in it, for the pastor is a representative oft he people before God at God's altar. And all the rest s of little importance, since it does not have much significance in the work of eternal salvation.
And so if there is someone who by his intrigues, slanders, and all kinds of nasty insinuations is undermining the authority of such genuine pastors and men of prayer, then this just exposes that person himself as a conscious or unconscious servant of the powers of darkness warring against the Church and striving to destroy it. Stay away from such people!
Such people show by sowing dissension that they are living without a conscience and are following in the steps of Cain, the original murderer, and Judas, the murderer of God, and are under the domination of their father the devil, although their prideful conceit and self-exaltation prevent them from clearly realizing this.
Outside the true* Church a huge, perhaps overwhelming, majority of people now live without taking any account at all of the voice oft her consciences,which they have put to death in themselves, being guided only by their own egotistical, conceited inclinations and impudently flouting the Law of God.
They are genuinely living without a conscience!
But within our Church this is completely impermissible and intolerable and therefore all the church's truly devoted children must decisively resist them, not permit them to introduce dissension into the life of the Church, and not allow them to have positions of authority in the Church, to which they are in reality, in their spirit and attitude, completely foreign.
The righteous struggle for the Church in the difficult pre-Antichrist time we are experiencing is the unfailing and urgent obligation of every true* Orthodox Christian, so long as it is carried out in a pure manner – without any taint of one's own passion of self-love, in the spirit of Christ's humility and meekness, for the good of the Holy Church and for the salvation of the souls of those who truly believe.
And then the Lord Himself will be with us, for the Church was given to us for the salvation of our souls and for nothing else!
We cannot make it a tool or an arena for the play of our passions and for settling our personal accounts.
Let us also above all remember that the goal of our life is salvation of our souls, and the salvation of our souls is unthinkable without the grace of God offered in the Church.
But the grace of God cannot be received by those who are possessed by the pride of self-exaltation and who put themselves above others, drowning out their consciences and not wanting to humble themselves, for "God resisteth the proud," as the Word of God teaches and only "giveth grace to the humble" (I Peter 5:5).
The Just Shine Like the Stars, translated from Russian by Rev. Seraphim Johnson, Orthodox Russia, 1975