Archive for the ‘Discussioni sull’Ortodossia’ Category

INFORMATION FOR NON-CHRISTIANS WHO SPEAK OF CHRISTIANITY

October 22, 2018

There is a certain Sandra Veinberga who is spreading false and misleading information, with the aim to ignite the same chaos of Ukraine in Latvia. In short, for an eversive agenda.

She is a perfect ignoramus in matters of Christianity and the Church, yet she pretends to teach the world about them. It would be just ludicrous, if not for the danger that she may fool other ignoramus.

In order to testify the truth, here I provide some of the facts she (and many others) are faking with their babbling.

LINK

The threatened invasion of Russian Orthodox canonical territory by the US-controlled Phanar (Patriarchate of Constantinople) is, as one would expect, being misrepresented by the anti-Orthodox, US-controlled Western media. What is the truth?

Incorrect: The secular media present the Orthodox Church as an exotic branch of the Vatican, controlled by its ‘head’, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and with 300 million faithful.

Correct: The Orthodox Church is a family or confederation of 14 Local and independent Churches, numbering 218 million, of whom three-quarters, 164 million, belong to the multinational Russian Orthodox Church, whose canonical territory is over one fifth of the world. The Orthodox Church has nothing to do with the Vatican and its grave errors, about which the whole world now knows.

Incorrect: The Orthodox Church is divided, half against half, Russian versus Greek.

Correct: It is thirteen Local Churches against the Phanar, 215 million for canonicity (and so for Russia) and 3 million for the Phanar (but, in reality, many of those three million also support Russia).

Incorrect: The Ukrainian Orthodox people are pleading with the Phanar to grant their Church independence from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Correct: Such a plea does not come from the Ukrainian peoples (more than one people lives in the artificially-constituted ‘Ukraine’). They already have their own autonomous and universally-recognized canonical Church, which actually has a quarter (not a half) of the churches of the whole Russian Orthodox Church. It comes from a regional, anti-Orthodox, US-backed clique of corrupt oligarchs. They came to power through a violent, illegitimate and foreign-backed coup d’etat against the democratically-elected Ukrainian government. Fighting an interminable civil war and committing atrocities against its own peoples, of whom it has already massacred 10,000, this junta is supported by only 8% of Ukrainians.

Incorrect: The Phanar is fighting for the national rights of the Ukraine.

Correct: The Phanar is guilty of the heresy of phyletism (racist nationalism), creating a schism in the Church.

Incorrect: The Phanar is acting in an Orthodox manner.

Correct: The Phanar is disobeying the fundamental canons of the Church, which maintain that no Church has the right to interfere in the affairs of another Church. The Phanar has over the last 100 years sown division all around the world, stealing the flocks (in the absence of its own and its refusal to do missionary work) of the Greek, Cypriot and Russian Churches, so interfering in other Churches’ affairs, even backing schismatic modernists in the 1920s in Russia against the persecuted Patriarch, St Tikhon. It has changed the Orthodox calendar, deformed the liturgy, collaborated anti-canonically with the Pope of Rome (who has just visited the Baltic States in a two-pronged Russophobic attack against the Russian Church), set itself up as an ‘Orthodox Papacy’ (a contradiction in terms), even trying to force through an ‘Orthodox Vatican Two’ in Crete in 2016, against the will of the Churches, even forging signatures on documents.

Incorrect: The Russian Church behaved no better because nearly fifty years ago it set up an autocephalous Church in North America, called the OCA. This is only what the Phanar is now doing in the Ukraine.

Correct: The situation in the USA has never been the same as in the Ukraine. For over 325 years the Ukraine has been the unchallenged canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, as no other Orthodox lived there except for Russian Orthodox. As regards North America, the first Orthodox there were Russian Orthodox, since part of North America, Alaska, was part of the Russian Empire, which spanned three continents. Moreover, until 1918 all Orthodox of all nationalities, native Inuit, Carpathians, Greeks, Syrians and Serbs, were all part of the Russian Orthodox Church and North America was considered to be part of the canonical territory of the Russian Church.

If then you want to elaborate further on the political background, you are welcome.

If you want more, just ask for it: we have plenty of facts (not the fantasies of Sandra in the Wonderland) to share with you.

In any case, remember this: the Church in Ukraine has not regained any indipendence. The Church in the Ukraine has never asked for any indipendence, for the very simple reason that She has already a FULLY autonomous Metropolia there, just like in Latvia.

What has happened in Ukraine is that a bunch of deluded people outside the Church has asked for something that NOBODY ON EARTH can deliver: to become the Church without joining the Church. They will stay outside the Church, no matter what level of shame those in Istambul are willing to reach. You do not need the buffoon at the Phanar to get that: just convene a meeting in your kitchen and found your “church”. Then go ahead swimming in a ludicrous satanic delusion until the time you will drown in a gigantic cosmic laughter: there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Cristo Pantocratore

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HYEROMARTYR DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS

October 22, 2018

Saint Denis (a westernization of the the Greek Dionysius, was one of seven bishops sent to Gaul by the Bishop of Rome during the reign of the Emperor Decius. Their mission was to extend the spread of the Gospel in that mostly-pagan land. While most of the bishops were sent to major settlements, St Denis was assigned to the small, remote pagan town of Lutetia — which later grew to become the city of Paris. He and his companions settled outside the town in a house given to him by a convert, where the few Christians could meet in secret. Soon, through the holy bishop’s grace-filled preaching and his many miracles, Christianity grew rapidly.

Soon a fierce persecution of Christians swept through Gaul, and many of the faithful were abused, tortured or put to death. Saint Denis, fearless of danger and heedless of his own old age, travelled among the Christians, visiting the prisoners and exhorting all to remain firm in their confession of Christ. Soon he himself was arrested along with several companions, and was tortured without pity. When was publicly hung on a cross, he preached to the onlookers of the mystery of Christ’s Passion. Taken back to prison, he celebrated the holy Eucharist for the last time, enveloped in a heavenly light. He and a host of other Martyrs were then beheaded on a hill, now called Montmartre in their memory (AD 258).

There is a tradition that at his beheading he rose up, took his own head in his hands, and walked for several miles to a place that later became the Basilica of St Denis in the town named after him. Before the French Revolution, the Kings and Queens of France were buried in this church.

01

CONFESSION OF FAITH

September 8, 2018

WE   BELIEVE   IN   THE   CHURCH

The apostates of Istambul continue to honor their masonic pledge to sow unceasingly scandals and confusion in the Church of Christ, as they have done since 1920, when Meletios broke the liturgical unity of the Christians forcing the adoption of the Papist calendar, in exchange for 100,000 pounds from the British secret service.

Today the dark forces behind the schismatics in the Ukraine have given 25 millions dollars to Bartholomew. He has acted only after receiving the money to the last cent.

They have now completed the journey from the City of Constantine to Istambul, well guided from Langley, Virginia.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, I testify before God and men that I am not in Communion with Bartholomew, a second order employee of the prince of this world, and with whoever agree and support this satanic move, which has the potential to ignite a full conflagration in the Ukraine.

May the Lord reward them all according to their deeds. May He impute to them all the schisms and the lost souls which can come out from what they have just done.

To my hierarchies, in full humility a plea: get out of that damned World Council of churches!

The only good thing of this shameless decision is that now the enemies of Christ inside the Church should have to declare themselves openly, and anathemize themselves.

May this adulterous generation in the Ukraine remember that nobody and nothing, not even the blood of martyrdom, can heal a schism, but repentance and renouncing the errors. The habit is necessary for all things, and sufficient for nothing. The only thing which suffices is the Grace of the Lord they have betrayed, and it’s perfect in weakness.

May they remember that the hour of the Lord comes as a thief in the night.

For the prayers of all the saints who have shone forth in Kiev and its lands, o Lord, have mercy and protect Your people in the Ukraine.

4

THE WESTERN RITE AND THE EASTERN FOOLS IN ORTHODOXY

September 5, 2018
The Western Rite Communities of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia

For over a century, the question of the Western Rite within the canonical Orthodox Church has been one of tremendous debate. Many Orthodox Christians of Western ancestry find within it a home, an answer to their deepest longings for a “rebaptism” of Western Christianity, and an opportunity to draw Western Christians back into the fold of the True Church. Others see the Western Rite as something foreign, misleading, and dangerous. These see the Western Rite as an innovation, and even (possibly) heretical.

What, though, are we Orthodox, to think of the Western Rite? Is it dangerous and wrong, or is it holy and good? What is the substance of the objections which well-intentioned Orthodox people have, clergy and laity alike? In what follows, I will look at several frequent arguments which are utilized in the opposition to the use of the Western Rite. I will examine them, and will answer them, not only from a Western Orthodox perspective, but also with honest evaluation from Eastern positions.

Saint John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai celebrating the Western Rite with Western Rite Orthodox in Paris.

Saint John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai celebrating the Western Rite with Western Rite Orthodox in Paris.

I will apologize here at the outset for the blunt, and possibly even polemical nature of much of what is said here. However, as our culture quickly descends into a politically correct world, where no one says what he or she actually means, bluntness is sometimes needed to make a firm point. Forgive me, a sinner, for the sake of Christ.

The Western Rite is Simply Reverse Uniatism

Perhaps the most frequent objection to the Western Rite movement is that it is simply “reverse Uniatism.” Of course, as many of us know, the Unia, or the Eastern Catholics, are those groups of people in historically Orthodox lands who, under political pressure, came under the Roman Pope, while retaining their Orthodox liturgical rites.

The claim that the Western Rite Churches are simply Orthodox Uniates is not only untrue, it shows something of a problematic ignorance of what the Unia actually is. First, Uniate Churches are former Orthodox bodies, which came under Rome for reasons which were mainly political, not religious in the least, and most of the time this union was forced by political leaders.

Further, the Uniate Churches (i.e.; the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, Melkites, Ruthenians, etc…) do not hold the same theological views as the Roman Church on many issues. Most notably, Uniates are not required to say the “filioque” in the Nicene Creed, and do not hold to Papal Supremacy in the same way that their Roman counterparts do. Rather, they hold to a view of the papacy that we Orthodox would, most likely, agree with, that does not coincide with the theology of their Roman brethren. Further, their theological views on the Sacraments are also completely different, such as the differences in theology and practice around Baptism, Chrismation/Confirmation, and first Communion.

Indeed, another great difference between the Unia and the Western Rite communities is the issue of saint veneration. One can find Eastern Catholics that venerate St. Mark of Ephesus, who stood against the formulas of reunion with the Roman Church, and declared the Roman Church to be in heresy. For the Western Rite Churches to be on the same level here, they would have to commemorate Roman saints like Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, and Anselm of Canterbury, which, of course, they do not do.From viewing only these basic issues, it is fairly obvious that, even though they may be under the same papal umbrella, the Roman Church and the Eastern Catholics do not hold the same faith. The Western Rite, however, cannot fall under the indictment of being called “reverse” Uniates. In order for this to be true, the Western Rite groups would have to enter under the care of Orthodox Bishops, while maintaining not only their liturgical rites, but also their own heterodox theology, while claiming that only submission to an Orthodox Bishop is necessary for being part of the Church.

The Western Rites, however, are required to embrace, hold, and proclaim the same faith, the same theological positions, and the same sacramental theology, as the rest of the Orthodox world. In reality, the Western Rite is, simply put, Western Orthodoxy. This Western Orthodoxy is not opposed to Eastern Orthodoxy, but, rather, in harmony with it.

Whatever individual parishes might hold or practice that may be in error (which, of course should be dealt with by their respective bishops), the movement as a whole, and all the Western Rite Vicariates in the Canonical Church are required to hold the Orthodox Catholic Faith. Thus, the charge of “reverse Uniatism” falls flat, and is completely false.

The Western Rite is not part of our tradition/it’s not a living tradition

Another very frequently utilized argument against the Western Rite is that it is not a part of the living tradition of the Orthodox Church. The argument usually goes something like this: The Western Church left the historical Christian faith at the time of the Great Schism, and her liturgical rites, which have changed over time, have lost their Orthodox context. Thus, they have not been celebrated within the Orthodox context for a period of time deemed long enough to exclude their Orthodoxy. Therefore, so the argument goes, the Western Rite is not a “living” tradition.

However, this argument raises, by necessity, an essential question, which must be answered. This question is: what is a “living” tradition? For Orthodox opponents of the Western Rite, a liturgical rite must be continually celebrated and, relatively, unaltered for most (or all) of Christian history to be considered “living.”

However, this is not a Christian definition of anything being “alive.” What makes something alive is the presence of Christ, the working activity of the Holy Spirit. If something exists within the Church, and is blessed by the hierarchy, and celebrated by the faithful, in accordance with the True Faith, then it is alive.

Would any of us argue that the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts, or St. Basil’s Liturgy, are not part of the “living” tradition of the Church during the periods of the year when they are not in use? And further still, the Western Rite liturgies have a wider modern use than the Liturgy of St. James, but those who would discredit the Western Rite see no problem with the idea that this liturgy is “alive.”

What makes a liturgical form or rite “alive” is that it is celebrated, that it is used in the Church for the worship of God, and the feeding of His people with the sacraments of the Church. Whether or not something has had continuous use since the time of the Apostles to the present is not a measure of life, because we need only look at some of our own Orthodox parishes and see that though the correct “rite” and theology may be present in an exterior manner, while the parish itself is dead or dying because those rites have not become an interior reality. This is possible in the East or West. There is no distinction here. If the celebration of these liturgical rites brings about a true experience of God, this is the true mark of their validity.

We must remember that we worship the God Who is invested in giving life to the dead. Why would we say that He cannot and would not breathe new life into an ancient Liturgy again? Rather than making some historical or philosophical argument about “living tradition,” we need only to look with our eyes (both physical and spiritual), and see if something is alive.

Further, to say that the Western Liturgies are not “our” tradition (meaning, of course, Orthodox Tradition) is to say that the liturgical rites celebrated by the Western saints of the first thousand years of Christianity were invalid. The great champion of the Western Rite of the twentieth-century, St. John the Wonderworker, of Shanghai and San Francisco, has told us clearly:

Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must be Eastern. The west was fully Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies.

This great saint saw the Orthodoxy in these rites, and he saw past the coating of heretical doctrines that have become associated with them since the Schism. He proclaimed that, though the churches may have fallen into error, the liturgy is sound. Therefore, if the liturgy is sound and true, then it is Orthodox.

Are there “orthodox” Traditional Catholics, Anglicans, or Lutherans left?

One frequent question that is raised is the issue of Traditional Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans who are conservative in their theology, but still remaining in their respective confessions. The issue usually is phrased something like this; “I could understand the Western Rite if there was a large group of Irish Catholics in the 1950’s that wanted to become Orthodox. But nowadays, those that are still Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran don’t remember those rites. So they should just come into the Byzantine Rite if they want to become Orthodox.”

The first point that needs to be raised is in terms of Anglicans and Lutherans. Generally speaking, those that leave these confessions to become Orthodox are coming from very “High Church” backgrounds to begin with. We must remember, that while certainly having “low Church” groups within these confessions, Anglicans and Lutherans are the most liturgical of all Protestant groups, and generally take their liturgy very seriously.

The Anglicans, in particular, have an incredibly deep sense of liturgy that is far more ancient in practice and origin, and deeper in reverence, than the modern Roman Catholic Rite, and is, in fact, quite beautiful. So in terms of “remembering the rite,” Lutherans and Anglicans don’t really need to remember it, they live it every time they step into a church.

Some would also say that the conservatives in the Lutheran and Anglican Communions are all now either Roman Catholic or Orthodox, and would ask of any remaining in these groups, “why would you come to Orthodoxy now, and not ten or twenty years ago.” The answer to this is clear: faithfulness. Many Anglicans, Lutherans, or even Presbyterians or Methodists, having been raised in these confessions, remain faithful to their churches, even though these churches are no longer faithful to them.

When these people decide to leave, regardless of the timing, to come to Orthodoxy, it isn’t for us to ask “why now?” It is for us to say, “thank God.” Further, if these people were that faithful to confessions which were running away from their historical faith, how faithful, then, will they be to Holy Orthodoxy when they find it! These are the people that we want in our parishes! These faithful give up so much to leave all they know, and it is possible for the Orthodox to bring them home, and embrace them, while giving them their liturgical forms that they know.

While it must certainly be conceded that the modern Roman Catholic liturgy is a far cry from the beauty and splendor of their former Mass (the liturgy normally used in Western Rite Orthodox parishes), we must also note the tremendous growth in Traditional Catholic parishes across the U.S. especially. Indeed, in the last 20 years, the parishes in the American Roman Catholic Church that have seen the most consistent growth have been those that celebrate the Latin Tridentine Mass daily. This growth has not been older people coming for nostalgia, as one might expect. Rather, these parishes are filled with twenty and thirty-somethings, who are longing for their roots.

What makes the Western Rite so necessary are exactly these facts. There are many High Church Protestants and Traditional Catholics who are searching for their Orthodox Christian heritage, and their own confessions are leaving them behind. In the case of the Traditional Catholics, in many cases they are actually treated like second class, with the new Charismatic-driven Novus Ordo parishes receiving favor.

It is precisely these people, these traditional conservative members of these liturgical bodies, that we must show the light of Orthodoxy to. Indeed, we can offer them something incredible: their deepest longing for participation in the form worship that their Western ancestors used, within the context of the True Faith of Jesus Christ. This is a tremendous gift, and we would be foolish not to use it, because it could, theoretically, change the world, and, for many Christians, heal the Schism, one Baptism at a time.

 

The Western Rite Liturgies are too Patri-centric

A very common objection that is used by Western Rite detractors is the idea that the Western Rite Mass is too “Patri-centric.” To put this another way, it is said that the prayers of the Western Liturgies are almost entirely directed at the Father, at the expense and negation of the Son. While this may or may not be true, the idea behind it is an interesting one.

It is often said by Eastern Rite objectors, “we pray ‘to Christ our God,’ they [the Western Rite] pray, ‘through Christ our Lord.’” In saying this, they are making the claim that Western Rite prayers are somehow deficient, and that God will not answer them, or some other such nonsense.

What we often forget in this line of argument is that we Byzantine Rite Christians do not pray exclusively to Christ in our Liturgies either, and there are even Patri-centric prayers in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The most obvious example is actually in the most solemn moment of our Liturgy: the Anaphora.

As we progress through the Liturgy, and approach the Mystery of mysteries, the prayer that is utilized is not a Christo-centric one, but rather, Patri-centric;

It is meet and right to sing of Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion. For Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same, Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit. Thou it was who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away, didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until Thou hadst brought us up to heaven and hadst endowed us with ‘Thy Kingdom which is to come. For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thine only-begotten Son and to Thy Holy Spirit; for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether manifest or unseen; and we thank Thee for this liturgy which Thou hast found worthy to accept at our hands, though there stand by Thee thousands of archangels and hosts of angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six-winged, many eyed, who soar aloft, borne on their pinions, singing the triumphant hymn, shouting, proclaiming and saying: Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

Further, as our Liturgy is beginning, the very first prayer of the priest before the Altar is not a prayer to Christ, but a prayer to the Holy Spirit, the “O, Heavenly King.”

Now, one might bring forth an objection here saying, “we concede that some prayers in the Eastern Liturgy are not Christo-centric, but in the Western Church, all the prayers are Patri-centric.” Even this, though, isn’t true. While the great majority of Western Rite prayers are, indeed, directed to the Father, there are many exceptions.

First, one of the first moments of the Mass in the Western Rite is the “Kyrie,” in which the Priest and people antiphonally chant together, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” Indeed, further, in the prayers just before Communion, the Western Liturgy gives us three beautiful prayers to Christ, the first of which says:

O Lord, Jesus Christ, Who didst say to Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you: look not upon my sins, but upon the faith of Thy Church; and deign to give Her that peace and unity which is agreeable to Thy will: One God, Who livest and reignest unto ages of ages. Amen.

Finally, it is simply a fact that, in the Western Church, the formula for prayer has always been Patri-centric. It is curious that this was not a problem for the Eastern Christians when they were in communion with Rome before the Schism, but that some Orthodox Christians would use this as an objection to the Western Rite now.

NdM – Those eastern fools (it is a great act of charity calling them Orthodox Christians) are actually saying that our Lord was not Orthodox: ALL of Christ’s prayers were Patri- centric!

Modern Orthodox Theologians Oppose the Western Rite

A further argument used against the Western Rite is that modern Orthodox “theologians” and scholars argue against its use. Among these are names such as Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Metropolitan Kallistos [Ware], and others. These scholars will make varied claims to historicity, Roman Catholic innovations, post-Schism devotions, and many other objections from an academic position.

This argument, though, can be easily deflected, however, in answering the following question; do academics determine Orthodoxy, or do the saints? The answer, of course, is the saints, or more specifically, the living activity of the Holy Spirit working within the saints of God in His Church, in accordance with Sacred Tradition.

We can plainly see that no matter how many “academics” may argue against the use of the Western Rite, they must stand up against the saints who supported it, including St. John Maximovitch, St. Tikhon of MoscowSt. Nicholas of Japan, and St. Raphael of Brooklyn, among others. There are also many other Orthodox academics, scholars, and leaders in the Church that support the Western Rite, men such as Vladimir Lossky, Patriarch Sergius I of Moscow,[1] Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom)Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), and Bishop Basil (Essey) of Wichita.

Will we, embrace the same scholastic mindset that we criticize in the Western Churches, and allow our faith and practice to be determined by academics? Or will we follow the testimony and lived experience of the saints? The answer is clear; if the saints of God and various Orthodox Synods have accepted something, there ends the matter. There is no more room for discussion on the acceptance of the Western Rite as something Orthodox. It has been proclaimed so, and has been accepted, and must be given every chance to grow and succeed.

The Western Rite incorporates non-Orthodox elements into the life of the Church

Another frequent argument is that the Western Rite brings into Orthodoxy elements of Church life that are not Orthodox in their origin. This can range from liturgical practices, paraliturgical devotions, and even vestments or clergy attire. This accusation is very often flung at Western Rite Orthodox by, especially, more “hardcore” or traditionalist Orthodox Christians. They argue that the introduction of certain Western elements into Orthodoxy pollutes the purity of Orthodoxy, and should be avoided by the suppression of the Western Rite.

One can only comment that these detractors are several centuries too late to make this argument. There are, indeed, many elements that exist within Orthodoxy that are not only of non-Orthodox, but even non-Christian origin. Aside from our theological language, with terms like hypostasis, which come from pagan Greek philosophy and are decidedly non-Christian, the average Orthodox parish, in America and elsewhere, has countless Western elements, whether they are aware of them or not.

Whenever we walk into a church and hear four-part music, see pictorial stained glass windows, meet a priest in a clergy collar or vestments that are in a particular “seasonal” color, these are western influences. These elements are now commonplace in our Orthodox Churches, and we don’t even consider that they are of Roman Catholic origin. We take for granted that they are Orthodox, and that they are a part of the worship of the Church.

Further, to answer those who are of a more “traditionalist” bent, we should point out that there are elements that are considered “traditionally” Orthodox that are not even Christian in origin. Some of these elements are very interesting in this regard, because some argue that they are the very markers which determine how an Orthodox priest should look, in terms of appearance.

Take for example, the riassa, and the wearing of long hair and unkempt beards, especially by non-monastic clergy. These are often considered the foundation of how an Orthodox clergyman should appear in public. There is a huge problem with this, however, as they are not Christian, but Islamic in origin. These were the markers of government officials during the Muslim Ottoman Turkish Empire, a period of time in which we, as Orthodox Christians, were subjugated under Islamic rule.

The same is true of the kamalavkion, or klobuk, as it was a Turkish judicial hat, as well as the sakkos and mitre, worn by bishops in the Liturgy, which were clothes worn by the Byzantine Emperors, and not historically by bishops until the Ottoman conquest. These items, worn today by all Orthodox clergy everywhere, bishops and priests, are not even Christian in origin, and, in terms of the riassa, long hair, and the kamalavkion, are even signs of Muslim domination over the Church, and yet we continue to wear them, and call them signs of the Orthodox priesthood, because they have been blessed by their use in the Church.

The traditional attire of an Orthodox priest is a simple cassock, black for monastics, and in various colors for married clergy, a beard, which is neatly trimmed if he lives in a city or town, and short hair, which is the Byzantine clerical tonsure. This is our true Orthodox heritage, but we ignore it in favor of Islamic norms. It is a strange curiosity that those who would argue against the introduction of Western Rite elements in the Church are the same people who embrace Western Christian, and even Islamic elements to their Liturgy and Church life.

Further, wherever the Orthodox Church has found Herself, She has embraced pieces of the local culture, and “baptized” them. Here in America, in Alaska, the Church came to the natives and permitted them to hold to certain rites and ceremonies (i.e.; spirit houses, smudging ceremonies) which are of animistic tribal pagan origin, but were baptized, and are now considered fully Orthodox. This practice is not limited to native Alaska, but can be found all over the Orthodox world. Finally, the Julian calendar, which is a sticking point of discussion to so many in the Orthodox Church, is not of Christian origin, but of pagan beginnings. Will we continue argue along these lines, splitting hairs, and making nonsensical arguments? Or, will we be truthful with ourselves, and look at the origins of what we do, and simply acknowledge the truth, that we have taken what is good in the world around us, and baptized it, to the glory of Almighty God.

Only the Byzantine Rite is acceptable for use in the Orthodox Church

An absolutely ludicrous and absurd claim, made by detractors of the Orthodox Western Rite, is that only the St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. James, and Pre-Sanctified Liturgies are acceptable for use in the Orthodox Church. This idea is a complete innovation, and one cannot even be claim to see its origin in the Great Schism, but rather long after.

In actuality, the Orthodox Church had its own local liturgical rites in various geographical regions throughout the East. These included a distinctive Antiochian Rite, and Alexandrian Rite which were ultimately suppressed in favor of the Constantinopolitan Rite. This plurality of rites existed long after the Schism with Rome, and elements of these historically Orthodox rites can be seen in various liturgical variations throughout the Church.

There is no argument for the Byzantine liturgical primacy other than a pride, and historical ignorance, either innocent or deliberate. What is essentially being said by this argument is that God Himself only honors that Liturgy that is celebrated by the Byzantine Church in the modern era. This is an argument that negates not only the liturgical validity of every Western saint that the Orthodox commemorate, but also the saints of ancient Antioch, Syria, Alexandria, and others.

Is this what we really believe? Of course it isn’t. Every Orthodox Christian acknowledges the Orthodoxy of St. Gregory the Great, St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Moses the Ethiopian, and all the other non-Byzantine saints. Why on earth, then, do we venerate their sainthood, but dismiss the Liturgies that formed them into saints?

Another factor here is a denial that the liturgical expression of the Byzantine Rite has changed, believing that it has been static since its beginning. This is, of course, ridiculous. Liturgical formation and evolution over time is simply a documented fact. Let us note an extremely early example; the difference between epicleses in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and that of the Didache, or that used by the most ancient Church. They are very different, and are examples of liturgical development within the Orthodox Church. We could also point to doxologies and liturgical prayers in the Holy Scriptures, in the letters of St. Paul and elsewhere, that were used in the early Church and are no longer in use by the Orthodox Church. There is nothing wrong with this. Rather, it shows the maturing of the Church.

Finally, we should also look back to our not-so-distant past, to the post-Revolution Russians living in the diaspora. Specifically we should look to France, where the Russian Church, under the leadership of St. John Maximovitch, saw it as part of their duty to restore the Gallican Rite Liturgy, which is the indigenous Orthodox Liturgical rite in France (Gaul). St. John and his followers obviously did not cling to any notion that only the Byzantine Rite liturgies were suitable for Orthodox worship. Let us call a spade a spade, and simply answer this criticism for what it is: ridiculous. This kind of argument, one that dwells on a static exterior, is what led to the Old Believer schism in the Russian Church, and there is not a single one of us that does not lament what a horrible tragedy that was. We must remember our brothers and sisters in Christ, honor their cultural differences in which truth can be found, as Orthodoxy has historically been wont to do. In doing this, let us see true Orthodox diversity as a blessing from God, as a mark of His Creative energies working through men in different places and in different times.

The Western Rite is Divisive

There are those that argue that the existence of the Western Rite within Orthodoxy is, by its nature, divisive. They argue that the liturgical variation brought about by the Western Orthodoxy causes an undue separation between the Western Rite Orthodox and their Eastern Rite brethren, driving a wedge in Orthodox Unity.

This argument could conceivably have some traction, because it has been manifestly true. However, the divisive attitudes that have emerged have not been a result of the Western Rite itself, nor have they usually been manifested in Western Orthodox Christians themselves. Rather, these attitudes are generally the result of a lack of any attempt to truly understand the Western Rite at all.

Western Orthodox Christians are our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox faith, not our enemies or competitors. What we see in this line of argument is, indeed, nothing less than the rampant phyletism that exists within the Orthodox world. This divisive attitude does not exist only between Eastern Rite and Western Rite Orthodox, but between Greek and Russian, cradle and convert, and the many “warring” jurisdictions in the diaspora which shamefully allow a non-canonical Church structure to continue because of pride and power.

Let us, again, be honest with ourselves. If the Western Rite is divisive, it is so because we have not yet obtained a heart that is formed in Christian love and charity. Differences in liturgical ceremony do not cause this kind of division of themselves. What does cause divisiveness is pride, and believing that what we are doing is the only “right” way. In being truly honest with ourselves, we must admit that the notion that there is liturgical uniformity, even within a single national Church or jurisdiction, and even from parish to parish in a single diocese, is complete fiction. Saying otherwise is simply not honest.

A celebration in the 1940's in the church of the Holy Trinity at the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra with Hieromonk Denis (Chambault) of the Western Rite community in Paris A celebration in the 1940’s in the church of the Holy Trinity at the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra with Hieromonk Denis (Chambault) of the Western Rite community in Paris

What does the Western Rite have that the Eastern Rite doesn’t?

This question, which also has been asked often, I have intentionally placed at the end of my discussion. This is a difficult question to answer due to the fact that it is usually framed in such a way so that however the person may answer, they can be accused of saying that Orthodoxy is lacking in some way.

I think, rather than thinking in terms of one liturgical expression lacking in something, that it would be better to point out the strength that the Western Liturgy brings to Orthodoxy. Simply put, this strength is one thing: the presence of silence.

The Byzantine Liturgies are beautiful, moving, majestic, and they draw us into the eternal now, there is no question about it. But when we examine the liturgy of the West, we find that the strength which it brings, besides being equally beautiful and majestic, is the role that silence plays in the Liturgy.

We cannot over-emphasize the role that silence (hesychia) plays in Orthodox spirituality, and we have saints who are hesychasts who devote their entire life to seeking and experiencing God in cultivation interior silence. What the Western Rite offers us is a change, during the Holy Liturgy, to focus on exterior and interior silence. Indeed, there are entire sections of the Mass that are celebrated in complete, or nearly complete silence.

For example, during the preparation of the Holy Gifts, which we in the East call Proskimedia, and which happens during the Liturgy in the West, is done in silence. Also, during the consecration of the Mystery, the only sound is the low voice of the priest, praying over the gifts before their elevation. This allows the people to silence themselves, and to focus on the coming of Christ in the Eucharist, bringing about the possibility for a preparation of the heart which is without distraction.

It would be a mistake to allow this focus, which is so central to our faith as Orthodox, to fade away, and worse yet, to ignore it.

Conclusions

We, as Orthodox, must examine ourselves deeply, and gauge whether our objection to the Western Rite, based on any of these arguments (or others), is based on actual fact, or on our own pride. This is a hard truth to consider, but we must consider it. If we are not willing to set aside our own pride and our own preferences for what we think is correct in this regard, then we will not even be able to flee from divisiveness in our relationships with other Eastern Rite Orthodox faithful. How sad this is. We must, as Christians, be better than this. We must examine anything that comes to us on its own merits, on its fidelity to the Apostolic Faith, and not hold our own opinion up as a measure against it.

At the end of the day, the Holy Church has granted the celebration of the Western Liturgies, and has proclaimed them Orthodox. These Liturgies have been celebrated by modern saints of God, who encouraged their use and growth. The Orthodox Western Liturgies encouraged all the Western saints of the first millennium, and fed the faithful with the Bread of Life. Thus, the weight of their merits is incalculable, because they hold, in truth, the experience of Christ of one thousand years, and beyond, into Eternity.

The many Eastern Rite Orthodox Christians who have a tendency to criticize, demean, or even openly persecute the Western Rite usage must re-examine their motives for doing so. If the Western Rite is examined anew and found lacking in Orthodoxy, then let it fall from use. However, if it be sound in doctrine, in practice, and be present in the acclamation and testimony of the saints, then let it not only stand, but also be encouraged, and given means to grow and flourish, that the West may once again stand beside the East in united proclamation of Holy Orthodoxy.

May it be so, for the sake of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom all glory and honor is due, with His Father Who is without beginning, and His All-Holy, Good, and Life-Creating Spirit, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

A Deacon of the Orthodox Church

THE LEGENDS OF THE MIND

September 3, 2018

This article begs some reflections and a few modest warnings.

If you do not have a single holy Father in support of what you are claiming, prudence requires that you question attentively yourself in order to exclude that you are simply wandering through the vanities of your mind.

If then the holy Fathers quite conspicuosly have a different say in the matter than your thoughts, well, it’s time to conclude that you are a legend in your own mind.

Orthodoxy works this way.

The devil did sin from the beginning. Thus says the Lord, thus says the divine Theologian. In the beginning God created the heaven and earth, man was not there yet. From the beginning the devil was a murderer and a liar; his words unto Eve were lies since the very start.

The fallen angels cannot repent because they know the Truth, they were face to face with Him; they cannot repent because sin aroused inside themselves, it was and it is not insinuated in them by external lies, as it was and it is with men; they cannot repent because they have not the heavy ballast and burden of the manifold weakness of the flesh. Their sin is obscenely pure, it is blasphemously perfect, a satanic perfection which only the blasphemers against the Holy Spirit are able to imitate among men.

The Holy Wisdom is not a Person. It’s necessary not only to avoid saying it is a Person, but above all to STOP talking about it like a Person. It’s heresy to identify it with the Son. The Logos is generated before all the centuries to express the Wisdom of God through the procession of the Holy Spirit. It is the loving work of God for His creation since the pre- eternal Trinitarian council, carried on in perfect unity by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and manifested unto us.

We believe in God the Father Almighty. God created man in His image and likeness. Then He took a man’s bone and formed the woman. The feminine is entirely contained in man, it’s not a distinct or autonomous principle. Its ontological basis is in man, as the Son and the Holy Spirit have their cause and unity in the Father. Man lives in two hypostasis, as God lives in Three Persons perfectly united, with no separation nor confusion. In man both the non-hypostatic union of his will, logos and spirit (the image of God) and the hypostatic union of man and woman was shattered with the fall.

Finally, a little gloss about Archimandrite Sophrony. I don’t know if he has the authority of the holy Fathers; God knows His saints, and reveals them in His Church. I know that not a few who consider him a saint suffer from strong delusions, like that Romanian priest who had the effrontery to claim that the Papist are in the Church because they feel it that way. This kind of delusion has regrettably infected also a large part of the work of father Dumitru Staniloae, a work that has yet a great value in many of its other parts.

We must be sober, brethren, we must be vigilant!

One does tire of the various accusations of heresy from across the Ortho-internet, all of them contradictory, each of them basing themselves on an unsupported series of assertions of how “Orthodoxy works.” No, it doesn’t work like that, and that is evident in the fact that one has to exclude a priori certain theologians (Staniloae and Sophrony among them) who are almost universally regarded as reliable witnesses to the mind of the Church, because they don’t support the artificially narrow construction of Orthodoxy being advocated, a construction which is little more than a few decades old.

The idea that it is “heresy” to identify Christ with Divine Wisdom is particularly galling, given that it’s something the Fathers do not infrequently. It’s also a little ironic, given that one more often finds the accusation of heresy being leveled at those who don’t exclusively identify it with the person of the Son. Wisdom is a way of referring to Christ as Logos. Christ is called Logos because the logoi are those energies which are principles of created natures, and the Father always energizes in the Son. If you raise objections I’ll find plenty of direct quotations on Christ as Eternal Wisdom (for which there is a feast day and iconography, FYI), but it should be easy enough to find those on your own given their abundance.

But perhaps one should simply be silent if such nonsense is what emerges when the mouth is opened, nonsense which accuses a whole choir of Fathers of heretical teaching.

A Knowledgeable One

I have not accused you of any heresy, I’ve just reminded you of St. Peter warning.

I have said that to identify the Holy Wisdom of God with Christ is heresy, as much as speaking of it as of a Person. If that’s not your case, then rejoice!

Indeed, it should not be so difficult to understand that if you IDENTIFY the Holy Wisdom with the Son, you RESERVE that Wisdom to the Word, and I am pretty sure that none of the holy Fathers was that stupid. What the Fathers said is that the Son does MANIFEST that Wisdom unto us, as the only relation of God with His creation, through Whom proceeds the Holy Spirit from the Father. There is nothing which has not its cause in the Father, He Who Is, and is not shared by the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God, the Living Triune God of Christianity.

The Father always energizes in the Son, but always through the procession of the Holy Spirit. Never forget that!

The Apostle testifies this in 1 Cor 18, 24. The fool will understand there that Christ IS the power of God, and the wisdom of God. In fact, St. Paul is saying that in Christ and with Christ and through Christ the Holy Spirit proceeds and the wonderful work (the power, and the wisdom) of God are done.

God’s work, the power and wisdom of God, is always shared and carried on by the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our God is ONE!

It may seem that it’s a nuance, a very subtle objection, and it’s true: it is like that small difference between omousia and omoiusia. A little difference which is able to destroy the Orthodox dogma of the Holy Trinity.

For your information, then, the Church knows only three theologian; none of them have the name Sophrony or Dumitru.

Archimandrite Sophrony has written to us the wonderful life of St. Silouan, and we all are very grateful to him for this.

Father Dumitru Staniloae has written ponderous tomes of doctrine, many valuable, many less so. We are very grateful to him for this. If he had the delusion to consider valid the ordinations of the Papists, I am pretty sure you will be able to find how many holy Fathers have spoken against that: hint, all of them!

It should be clear the reason why it would be pure silliness to have such a convinction, above all thinking what it would mean in relation to all the other Sacraments, but it may escape the attention of people puffed-up by the vanities of their mind.

Silence is indeed a golden advice, above all for a man whose internet logorrhea has become proverbial in Orthodoxy. Do not forget fast and prayers.

Your objection to identifying Wisdom with Christ equally applies to the name “Logos”, because the logoi are divine energies common to the three divine Persons. But as St. Basil tells us, the Names belong to the energies. In essence God is above all names. Because all the energies are summed up in the Son, the Son is signified by the names “Logos” and “Wisdom”, though word and wisdom belongs in common to the three divine Persons. This is really about a broader point, which is that all sorts of statements can be construed in a heretical manner. Doing theology well requires reading other statements with charity, seeking to read them, if possible, in a non-heretical fashion.

As far as theology goes, liturgically there are three saints who bear the title “theologian”, but that’s not the only way the word is used. I don’t know why you brought up whether or not Rome has a valid priesthood, but it’s wrong to say that all the holy Fathers spoke against it. In fact, St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite himself forbade rebaptism at first, before the Ecumenical Patriarchate refused to publish the Rudder unless it was altered to conform to the decrees of the 1755 Council of Constantinople, a decree which was protested by most of the rest of the Orthodox world and never received in Moscow, which continued to adhere to the decrees of the 1667 Council. St. Mark of Ephesus himself forbade rebaptism and apparently considered Rome to have a valid priesthood (many of his statements at Florence making no sense if he thought otherwise). My own view is that of Fr. Florovsky, who is nigh universally considered to be a reliable witness to the mind of the Church, or at least not a heretical one. Anyway, that’s my only comment on that subject, since it’s off topic.

As for your final comment- that is something I will indeed pass over in silence. This is my final comment here. Remember me in your prayers.

That was the reason why in my first comment I spoke of warnings,  warnings I hope that have been received now.

All the energies are manifested in the Son. The Logos is with God and the Logos IS GOD. The Son identifies with the Son, and no act of God is carried on and signified by only One of the Three divine Persons. Through the Son the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, always in the formal boundaries of the Logos unto the Creation, manifesting unto us the holy wisdom and the power of God. Even in the energies the Holy Three Persons are never confused and never separated, just like the divine and human nature and will of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The valid priesthood of the Papists is what apparently spoils the works of father Dumitru Staniloae and shakes the foundation of his ecclesiology. The problem of rebaptism or not in receiving heretics in the Church is totally unrelated to that, as I have tried to explain here.

Outside the Church there are ecclesial forms and sacramental forms, but the Spirit works in the Body of Christ, though the Lord’s sovereignty is not bound, not even by His Statutes. Yet, even if the Spirit is not bound by the Body, we know He’s the Spirit of the Body of Christ. Outside the Church, the Holy Spirit works in charity, but the Grace is in the Body of Christ.

That’s the reason why the priesthood of the heretics, all of them, is just a form, like everything else in their organizations. There are no valid Sacraments outside the Church. If someone preaches and teaches otherwise, he is under anathema.

We BELIEVE in the Church, and we confess that the Church is ONE!

Prudence is a great Christian virtue, and St. Mark of Ephesus had plenty of it. At Florence that virtue was very required, because there was the need to understand if the august Patriarchate of Rome was still in the Church (the same prudence which is required now to understand if the Phanar is still in the Church, after a century of scandals and fancy doctrines).

The conclusions of St. Mark are well-known!

May the Lord have mercy on us.

“Everyone who does not have a contrite spirit, who recognizes any kind of merit and worth in himself; everyone who does not hold unwaveringly the teaching of the Orthodox Church, but on some tradition or other has thought out his own arbitrary judgment or followed a non-Orthodox teaching – is in this state of prelest. The degree of prelest is determined by the degree of deviation and obstinacy in deviation”

St. Ignaty (Brianchaninov)

PRIMA LETTERA DI SAN PIETRO

August 28, 2018

Pietro, un apostolo di Gesu’ Cristo, agli stranieri sparsi attraverso il Ponto, la Galazia, la Cappadocia, la provincia d’Asia, e la Bitinia, eletti in accordo all’onniscienza di Dio Padre, attraverso la santificazione dello Spirito, nell’obbedienza e versamento del sangue di Gesu’ Cristo: sia Grazia a voi, e pace, siano moltiplicate.

Sia benedetto il Dio e Padre di nostro Signore Gesū Cristo, che secondo la sua abbondante misericordia ci ha generati di nuovo in una speranza di vita con la resurrezione di Gesū Cristo dai morti, verso una ereditā incorruttibile, ed incontaminata, e che non si dissolve, riservata in cielo per voi, che siete mantenuti dal potere di Dio attraverso la fede nella salvezza pronta per essere rivelata alla fine del tempo.

Per la qual cosa voi gioite grandemente, sebbene ora per una stagione, se necessario, voi siate oppressi attraverso molteplici tentazioni: che la prova della vostra fede, essendo molto piū preziosa dell’oro che perisce sebbene sia stato temprato dal fuoco, possa essere trovata nella lode ed onore e gloria al manifestarsi di Gesū Cristo: che voi amate non avendolo visto; nel quale, sebbene adesso non lo vediate, eppure credendo, voi gioite di letizia indicibile e piena di gloria: ricevendo lo scopo della vostra fede, proprio la salvezza delle vostre anime.

Della qual salvezza hanno domandato e ricercato diligentemente i profeti, che testimoniarono della grazia che doveva venire a voi: cercando cosa, o che modo di tempo lo Spirito di Cristo che era in loro intendeva, quando testimoniava in anticipo le sofferenze di Cristo, e la gloria che doveva seguire.

Ai quali fu rivelato, che non per loro stessi, ma per noi essi provvedevano le cose, che vi sono adesso riportate da coloro che vi hanno annunciato il vangelo con lo Spirito Santo venuto giū dal cielo, cose nelle quali gli stessi angeli desiderano guardare.

Pertanto cingete i lombi della vostra mente, siate sobri, e sperate fino alla fine per la grazia che deve esservi portata alla rivelazione di Gesū Cristo; come bambini obbedienti, non foggiando voi stessi secondo le passate brame nella vostra ignoranza: ma poichē Colui che vi chiama ē Santo, cosī voi siate santi in ogni tipo di conversazione; perchē sta scritto, Siate santi, poichē Io sono Santo.

E se vi rivolgete al Padre, che senza riguardo per le persone giudica secondo le opere di ogni uomo, trascorrete il tempo del vostro soggiorno qui nel timore: in quanto che voi sapete che non foste riscattati con cose corruttibili, come oro ed argento, dai vani discorsi ricevuti per tradizione dai vostri padri; ma con il prezioso sangue di Cristo, come di un agnello senza macchia e senza imperfezioni: che invero fu preordinato prima della fondazione del mondo, ma fu manifesto in questi ultimi tempi per voi, che per Lui credete in Dio, che lo rialzō dai morti, e gli diede gloria, che la vostra fede e speranza possa risiedere in Dio.

Vedendo che voi avete purificato le vostre anime in obbedienza alla Veritā per mezzo dello Spirito verso un amore sincero per i confratelli, assicuratevi che vi amiate ferventemente l’un l’altro; essendo nati di nuovo, non di seme corruttibile, ma incorruttibile, dalla Parola di Dio, che vive e rimane per sempre.

Poichē ogni carne ē come erba, e tutta la gloria dell’uomo come i fiori di campo. L’erba si secca, ed i suoi fiori cadono via: ma la parola del Signore dura per sempre. E questa ē la parola che attraverso il vangelo vi ē annunciata.

Per questo motivo mettendo da parte ogni malizia, ed ogni inganno, e le ipocrisie, e invidie, ed ogni parola malvagia, come infanti appena nati, desiderate il latte sincero della Parola, che possiate crescer per suo mezzo: se cosī ē voi avete avuto sapore che il Signore ē misericordioso. Venendo al quale, come ad una pietra vivente, scartata invero dagli uomini, ma scelta da Dio, e preziosa, voi anche, come pietre vive, siete eretti in una casa spirituale, un santo sacerdozio, per offrire sacrifici in spirito, accettabili a Dio per mezzo di Gesū Cristo.

Per tal motivo ē anche contenuto nella Scrittura, Ecco, Io pongo in Sion una prima pietra d’angolo, eletta, preziosa: e colui che crede in Lui non sarā confuso. Per voi pertanto che credete Lui ē prezioso: ma per coloro che son disobbedienti, la pietra che i costruttori hanno scartato, la stessa ē fatta capo d’angolo, e pietra di inciampo, una roccia che offende, proprio a coloro che inciampano nella Scrittura, essendo disobbedienti, alla quale eppure erano designati.

Ma voi siete una generazione scelta, un sacerdozio reale, una nazione santa, un popolo distinto; che possiate mostrare le lodi di Colui che vi ha chiamato fuori dalle tenebre nella sua meravigliosa luce; voi che in passato non eravate un popolo, ma siete adesso il popolo di Dio: che non avevate ottenuto misericordia, ma adesso l’avete ottenuta.

Grandemente diletti, io vi supplico come stranieri e pellegrini, astenetevi dalle brame della carne, che fanno guerra all’anima; avendo un onesto contegno tra i Gentili: che, mentre loro vi parlano contro come malfattori, essi possano dalle vostre buone opere, che loro osservano, glorificare Dio nel giorno di visitazione.

Sottomettetevi ad ogni ordinanza dell’uomo per amore del Signore: sia ciō al re, come supremo; oppure ai governatori, come a coloro che sono dal re mandati per la punizione dei malfattori, e per lodare coloro che fanno bene. Poichē cosī  ē il volere di Dio, che facendo bene voi possiate mettere a tacere l’ignoranza di uomini sciocchi; come liberi, e non usando la vostra libertā come una cappa di malizia, ma come servi di Dio.

Onorate tutti gli uomini. Amate la fratellanza. Temete Dio. Onorate il re.

Servitori, siate sottomessi ai vostri padroni con ogni timore, non solo al buono e gentile, ma anche al testardo. Poichē questo ē degno di grazie, se un uomo per coscienza verso Dio sopporta ingiustamente afflizione, sofferenza. Poichē quale gloria vi ē se, quando siete colpiti per vostre mancanze, voi le sopportate pazientemente? Ma se, quando voi fate bene, e soffrite per questo, voi lo sopportate con pazienza, questo ē accettabile a Dio.

Poichē proprio a questo voi foste chiamati: perchē anche Cristo ha sofferto per noi, lasciandoci un esempio, che voi dobbiate seguire i suoi passi: che non commise peccato, neppure fu trovato inganno dalla sua bocca: che, quando fu insultato, non insultō di contro; quando ebbe a soffrire, non minacciō; ma rimise se stesso a Colui che giudica giustamente: che Egli stesso sopportō i nostri peccati nel suo proprio corpo sulla croce, cosī che noi, essendo morti ai peccati, dovessimo vivere in giustizia: dalle cui ferite voi foste resi sani. Poichē voi eravate come pecore andando allo sbando, ma siete ora restituiti al Pastore e supervisore delle vostre anime.

Nello stesso modo, voi mogli, siate sottomesse ai vostri propri mariti; che, se non obbediscano alla parola, essi anche possano essere vinti senza la parola dal contegno delle mogli; osservando il vostro casto comportamento unito a timor reverenziale. L’ornamento delle quali non lasciate che sia quello esteriore dell’acconciatura dei capelli, e dello sfoggio di oro, o dell’indossare un vestito; ma che sia l’uomo nascosto del cuore, in quello che non ē corruttibile, proprio l’ornamento di uno spirito quieto e mansueto, che ē di gran prezzo agli occhi di Dio.

Poichē proprio in questa maniera nei tempi antichi le donne sante, che avevano fede in Dio, adornavano se stesse, ponendosi in soggezione ai propri mariti: proprio come Sara obbediva Abramo, chiamandolo signore: le cui figlie voi siete, fintanto che fate bene, e non siete spaventate da alcun stupore. Nello stesso modo, voi mariti, dimorate con loro secondo conoscenza, dando onore alla moglie, come al recipiente piū debole, e come eredi comuni della grazia della vita; che le vostre preghiere non siano compromesse.

Infine, siate tutti voi di una sola mente, avendo compassione l’un dell’altro, amate come confratelli, siate pietosi, siate gentili; non restituendo male al male, o invettive alle invettive, ma al contrario benedicendo; sapendo che voi siete a questo chiamati, che possiate ereditare una benedizione.

Poiche colui che amerā la vita, e vedrā giorni buoni, che egli freni la sua lingua dal male, e che le sue labbra non pronuncino inganno: che si astenga dal male, e faccia bene; che cerchi pace, e la consegua. Poichē gli occhi del Signore sono sopra i giusti, e le sue orecchie sono aperte alle loro preghiere: ma il volto del Signore ē contro coloro che operano il male. E chi ē che vi farā danno, se voi siete seguaci di ciō che ē buono?

Ma se voi soffrite per amore di giustizia, felici voi siete: e non siate spaventati del loro terrore, neppure siate preoccupati; ma santificate il Signore Dio nel vostro cuore: e siate sempre pronti a dare una risposta ad ogni uomo che vi chieda la ragione della speranza che ē in voi con timore e mansuetudine: avendo una buona coscienza; che, mentre parlano male di voi, come di malfattori, possano coloro che accusano falsamente la vostra buona condotta in Cristo essere svergognati.

Poichē ē meglio, se cosī ē volontā di Dio, che voi soffriate per fare del bene, piuttosto che per opere malvagie. Poichē anche Cristo ha una volta sofferto per i peccati, il giusto per l’ingiusto, ch’Egli potesse portarci a Dio, venendo messo a morte nella carne, ma resuscitato dallo Spirito: per mezzo del quale Egli anche andō e predicō agli spiriti in prigione; che un tempo furono disobbedienti, quella volta che la pazienza di Dio aspettō nei giorni di Noē, quando l’arca era in preparazione, nella quale pochi, ossia, otto anime furono salvate dall’acqua. La stessa figura nella quale proprio il battesimo salva adesso anche noi (non il mettere via lo sporco della carne, ma la risposta di una buona coscienza verso Dio), per la risurrezione di Gesū Cristo: che ē andato in Cielo, ed ē alla destra di Dio; angeli ed autoritā e potenze essendo rese soggette a Lui.

Pertanto che allora Cristo ha sofferto per noi nella carne, armate voi stessi similmente con la stessa mente: poichē colui che ha sofferto nella carne ha smesso di peccare; che egli non piū debba vivere il resto della sua vita nella carne secondo le brame degli uomini, ma secondo il volere di Dio. Poichē il tempo passato delle nostre vite puō a noi bastare di aver forgiato il volere dei Gentili, quando noi camminavano nella lascivia, nella smodatezza, nell’eccesso di vino, in baldoria, bagordi e abominevoli idolatrie; onde loro ritengono strano che voi non corriate piū con loro verso lo stesso eccesso di rivolta, parlando male di voi: i quali dovranno dar conto a Colui che ē pronto a giudicare i vivi ed i morti.

Poichē per questo motivo il vangelo fu annunciato anche a coloro che son morti, che essi potessero essere giudicati secondo gli uomini nella carne, ma vivere piacendo a Dio nello spirito. Ma la fine di ogni cosa ē vicina: siate quindi sobri, e vigili in preghiera. E sopra ogni cosa abbiate fervente caritā tra voi stessi: poichē la caritā coprirā la moltitudine dei peccati.

Siate ospitali l’uno verso l’altro senza malincuore. Come ogni uomo abbia ricevuto il dono, cosī anche lo serva ad un altro, come buoni dispensieri della molteplice grazia di Dio. Se un uomo parla, che parli come gli oracoli di Dio; se un uomo assiste, che lo faccia come da abilitā che Dio dā: che Dio possa essere glorificato in ogni cosa attraverso Gesū Cristo, al quale sia gloria e dominio per sempre. Amen.

Diletti, non ritenete sia una stranezza quella che riguarda la tremenda sofferenza che sta per mettervi alla prova, come se qualche cosa insolita vi  accadesse: ma gioite, in quanto che voi siete partecipi delle sofferenze di Cristo; che, quando la Sua gloria sarā rivelata, voi anche possiate esser lieti di gioia suprema. Se voi siete disonorati per il nome di Cristo, felici voi siete; poichē lo spirito di gloria e di Dio dimora su di voi: loro ne parlano male, ma da parte vostra Egli ē glorificato. Ma che nessuno di voi soffra come assassino, o come ladro, o come un malfattore, o come un intrigante negli affari di altri uomini.

Ma se un uomo soffre come Cristiano, che non se ne vergogni; ma dia gloria a Dio per questo motivo. Poichē ē venuto il tempo che il giudizio debba cominciare alla casa del Signore: e se esso comincia prima con noi, quale sarā la fine di coloro che non obbediscono al vangelo di Dio? E se il giusto a stento sarā salvato, dove l’empio ed il peccatore compariranno? Pertanto, che coloro che soffrono in accordo con il volere di Dio affidino ben facendo a Lui la custodia delle loro anime, come ad un Creatore degno di fede.

Esorto gli anziani che sono fra voi, io che anche sono un anziano, ed un testimone delle sofferenze di Cristo, ed anche partecipe della gloria che sarā rivelata: nutrite il gregge di Dio che ē tra di voi, curandone la sorveglianza, non per costrizione, ma volenterosamente; non per sporco lucro, ma di una mente pronta; neppure come signori sull’ereditā di Dio, ma come esempi per il gregge. E quando il Pastore supremo apparirā, voi riceverete una corona di gloria che non svanisce.

Nello stesso modo, voi giovani, siate sottomessi agli anziani. Sī, tutti voi siate sottomessi l’uno all’altro, e siate rivestiti di umiltā: poichē Dio resiste al superbo, e dā grazia all’umile. Siate umili dunque sotto la potente mano di Dio, che Egli possa esaltarvi nel tempo stabilito; lasciando ogni preoccupazione a Lui; poichē Egli si cura di voi.

Siate sobri, siate vigili, poichē il vostro avversario, il diavolo, come leone ruggente, va in giro, cercando chi possa divorare: resistetegli risolutamente nella fede, sapendo che le stesse afflizioni sono compiute nei vostri confratelli che sono nel mondo. Ma il Dio di ogni grazia, che ci ha chiamati nella sua gloria eterna attraverso Gesū Cristo, dopo che voi abbiate sofferto per un po’, vi rende perfetti, vi fonda, rafforza e definisce. A Lui sia gloria e dominio per sempre. Amen.

Per mezzo di Silvano, un vostro fedele fratello, come ritengo, ho scritto brevemente, esortando, e testimoniando che questa ē la vera grazia di Dio dove voi state. La Chiesa che ē in Babilonia, eletta insieme con voi, vi saluta; e cosī fā Marco mio figlio. Salutatevi l’un l’altro con un bacio di amore. La pace sia con tutti voi che siete in Cristo Gesū. Amen.

THE DORMITION OF THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS

August 28, 2018

The Repose of the Mother of God in the Tradition of the Church.

Troparion

In giving birth thou didst preserve thy virginity, and in thy falling asleep thou hast not forsaken the world, O Theotokos. Thou hast been, translated to life, as thou art the Mother of Life. And by thy supplications thou dost deliver our souls from death.

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Kontakion of the feast

The tomb and mortality could not hold the Theotokos, who is untiring in her supplications and our certain hope in her intercessions. For, as the Mother of Life, she hath passed over to the Life Who dwelt within her ever-virgin womb.

GREAT IS THE LORD IN HIS SAINTS

August 6, 2018

Martyr Christina of Tyre

Troparion, in Tone IV

Thy ewe-lamb Christina crieth out to Thee with a loud voice, O Jesus:/ “I love Thee, O my Bridegroom,/ and, seeking Thee, I pass through many strug­gles:/ I am crucified and buried with Thee in Thy baptism,/ and suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee;/ I die for Thee that I might live with Thee./ As an unblemished sacrifice accept me,/ who sacrifice myself with love for Thee// By her supplications save Thou our souls, in that Thou art merciful.

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Kontakion, Tone IV

Thou wast known to be a radiant dove with wings of gold,/ and didst soar aloft to the heights of heaven, O honored Christina./ Wherefore, we celebrate thy glorious festival,/ bowing down before the shrine of thy relics with faith,// from whence divine healing for souls and bodies poureth forth upon all in abundance.

HUMANIST ABSURDITY

July 29, 2018

fr seraphim rose

Absurdism is a profound symptom of the spiritual state of contemporary man, and if we know how to read it correctly we may learn much of that state. But this brings us to the most important of the initial difficulties to be disposed of before we can speak of the absurd. Can it be understood at all?

The absurd is, by its very nature, a subject that lends itself to careless or sophistic treatment; and such treatment has indeed been given it, not only by the artists who are carried away by it, but by the supposedly serious thinkers and critics who attempt to explain or justify it. In most of the works on contemporary “existentialism,” and in the apologies for modern art and drama, it would seem that intelligence has been totally abandoned, and critical standards are replaced by a vague “sympathy” or “involvement,” and by extra-logical if not illogical arguments that cite the “spirit of the age” or some vague “creative” impulse or an indeterminate “awareness”; but these are not arguments, they are at best rationalizations, at worst mere jargon. If we follow that path we may end with a greater “appreciation” of absurdist art, but hardly with any profounder understanding of it.

Absurdism, indeed, may not be understood at all in its own terms; for understanding is coherence, and that is the very opposite of absurdity. If we are to understand the absurd at all, it must be from a standpoint outside absurdity, a standpoint from which a word like “understanding” has a meaning; only thus may we cut through the intellectual fog within which absurdism conceals itself, discouraging coherent and rational attack by its own assault on reason and coherence. We must, in short, take a stand within a faith opposed to the absurdist faith and attack it in the name of a truth of which it denies the existence. In the end we shall find that absurdism, quite against its will, offers its own testimony to this faith and this truth which are — let us state at the outset — Christian.

The philosophy of the absurd is, indeed, nothing original in itself; it is entirely negation, and its character is determined, absolutely and entirely, by that which it attempts to negate. The absurd could not even be conceived except in relation to something considered not to be absurd; the fact that the world fails to make sense could occur only to men who have once believed, and have good reason to believe, that it does not make sense. Absurdism cannot be understood apart from its Christian origins.

Christianity is, supremely, coherence, for the Christian God has ordered everything in the universe, both with regard to everything else and with regard to Himself, Who is the beginning and end of all creation; and the Christian whose faith is genuine finds this divine coherence in every aspect of his life and thought. For the absurdist, everything falls apart, including his own philosophy, which can only be a short-lived phenomenon; for the Christian, everything holds together and is coherent, including those things which in themselves are incoherent. The incoherence of the absurd is, in the end, part of a larger coherence; if it were not, there would be little point in speaking of it at all.

The second of the initial difficulties in approaching the absurd concerns the precise manner of approach. It will not do — if we wish to understand it — to dismiss absurdism as mere error and self-contradiction; it is these, to be sure, but it is also much more. No competent thinker, surely, can be tempted to take seriously any absurdist claim to truth; no matter from which side one approaches it, absurdist philosophy is nothing but self-contradiction. To proclaim ultimate meaninglessness, one must believe that this phrase has a meaning, and thus one denies it in affirming it; to assert that “there is no truth,” one must believe in the truth of this statement, and so again affirm what one denies. Absurdist philosophy, it is clear, is not to be taken seriously as philosophy; all its objective statements must be reinterpreted imaginatively, and often subjectively. Absurdism, in fact — as we shall see — is not a product of the intellect at all, but of the will.

The philosophy of the absurd, while implicit in a large number of contemporary works of art, is fortunately quite explicit — if we know how to interpret it — in the writings of Nietzsche; for his nihilism is precisely the root from which the tree of absurdity has grown. In Nietzsche we may read the philosophy of the absurd; in his older contemporary Dostoevsky we may see described the sinister implications which Nietzsche, blind to the Christian truth which is the only remedy for the absurd view of life, failed to see. In these two writers, living at the dividing point between two worlds, when the world of coherence based on Christian truth was being shattered and the world of the absurd based on its denial was coming into being, we may find almost everything there is of importance to know about the absurd.

The absurdist revelation, after a long period of underground germination, bursts into the open in the two striking phrases of Nietzsche so often quoted: “God is dead” means simply, that faith in God is dead in the hearts of modern men; and “there is no truth” means that men have abandoned the truth revealed by God upon which all European thought and institutions once were based. They have abandoned it because they no longer find it credible. Both statements are indeed true of what has, since Nietzsche’s time, become the vast majority of those who were once Christian. It is true of the atheists and satanists who profess to be content or ecstatic at their own lack of faith and rejection of truth; it is equally true of the less pretentious multitudes in whom the sense of spiritual reality has simply evaporated, whether this event be expressed in indifference to spiritual reality, in that spiritual confusion and unrest so widespread today, or in any of the many forms of pseudo-religion that are but masks for indifference and confusion. And even over that ever-decreasing minority who still believe, inwardly as well as outwardly, for whom the other world is more real than this world — even over these the shadow of the “death of God” has fallen and made the world a different and a strange place.

Nietzsche, in the Will to Power, comments very succinctly on the meaning of nihilism: What does nihilism mean? That the highest values are losing their value. There is no goal. There is no answer to the question: “why?”

Everything, in short, has become questionable. The magnificent certainty we see in the Fathers and Saints of the Church, and in all true believers, that refers everything, whether in thought or life, back to God, seeing everything as beginning and ending in Him, everything as His will — this certainty and faith that once held society and the world and man himself together, are now gone, and the questions for which men once had learned to find the answers in God, now have — for most men — no answers.

There have been, of course, other forms of coherence than Christianity, and forms of incoherence other than modern nihilism and absurdity. In them human life makes sense, or fails to make sense, but only to a limited degree. Men who believe and follow, for example, the traditional Hindu or Chinese view of things, possess a measure of truth and of the peace that comes from truth — but not absolute truth, and not the “peace that passes all understanding” that proceeds only from absolute truth; and those who fall away from this relative truth and peace have lost something real, but they have not lost everything, as has the apostate Christian. Never has such disorder reigned in the heart of man and in the world today; but this is precisely because man has fallen away from a truth and a coherence that have been revealed in their fullness only in Christ.

Only the Christian God is at the same time all power and all love; only the Christian God, through His love has promised men immortality and, through His power to fulfill that promise, has prepared a Kingdom in which men will live in God as gods, having been raised from the dead. This is a God and His promise so incredible to the ordinary human understanding that, once having believed it, men who reject it can never believe anything else to be of any great value. A world from which such a God has been removed, a man in whom such a hope has been extinguished — are, indeed, in the eyes of those who have undergone such disillusionment, “absurd.”

“God is dead,” “there is no truth”: the two phrases have precisely the same meaning; they are alike a revelation of the absolute absurdity of a world whose center is no longer God, but — nothing. But just here at the very heart of absurdism, its dependence upon the Christianity it rejects is most apparent. One of the most difficult of Christian doctrines for the non-Christian and anti-Christian to understand and accept is that of the creatio ex nihilo: God’s creation of the world not out of Himself, not out of some pre-existent matter, but out of nothing.

Yet, without understanding it, the absurdist testifies to its reality by inverting and parodying it, by attempting in effect, a nihilization of creation, a return of the world to that very nothingness out of which God first called it.

This may be seen in the absurdist affirmation of a void at the center of things, and in the implication present in all absurdists to a greater or lesser degree, that it would be better if man and his world did not exist at all. But this attempt at nihilization, this affirmation of the Abyss, that lies at the very heart of absurdism, takes its most concrete form in the atmosphere that pervades absurdist works of art. In the art of those whom one might call commonplace atheists — men like Hemingway, Camus, and the vast numbers of artists whose insight does not go beyond the futility of the human situation as men imagine it today, and whose aspiration does not look beyond a kind of stoicism, a facing of the inevitable — in the art of such men the atmosphere of the void is communicated by boredom, by a despair that is yet tolerable, and in general by the feeling that “nothing ever happens.”

But there is a second, and more revealing, kind of absurdist art, which unites to the mood of futility an element of the unknown, a kind of eerie expectancy, the feeling that in an absurd world, where, generally, “nothing ever happens,” it is also true that “anything is possible.” In this art, reality becomes a nightmare and the world becomes an alien planet wherein men wander not so much in hopelessness as in perplexity, uncertain of where they are, of what they may find, of their own identity — of everything except the absence of God.

This is the strange world of Kafka, of the plays of Ionesco and — less strikingly — of Beckett, of a few avant-garde films like “Last Year at Marienbad,” of electronic and other “experimental” music, of surrealism in all the arts, and of the most recent painting and sculpture — and particularly that with a supposedly “religious” content — in which man is depicted as a subhuman or demonic creature emerging from some unknown depths. It was the world, too, of Hitler, whose reign was the most perfect political incarnation we have yet seen of the philosophy of the absurd.

This strange atmosphere is the “death of God” made tangible. It is significant that Nietzsche, in the very passage (in the Joyful Wisdom) where he first proclaims the “death of God” — a message he puts in the mouth of a madman — describes the very atmosphere of this absurdist art.

We have killed him (God), you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker?

Such, in fact, is the landscape of the absurd, a landscape in which there is neither up nor down, right nor wrong, true nor false, because there is no longer any commonly accepted point of orientation.

Another, more immediately personal, expression of the absurdist revelation is contained in the despairing cry of Ivan Karamazov: “If there is no immortality, everything is permitted.” This, to some, may sound like a cry of liberation; but anyone who has thought deeply about death, or who has encountered, in his own experience, a concrete awareness of his own impending death, knows better that that. The absurdist, though he denies human immortality, at least recognizes that the question is a central one — something most humanists, with their endless evasions and rationalizations, fail to do. It is possible to be indifferent to this question only if one has no love for truth, or if one’s love for truth has been obscured by more deceptive and immediate things, whether pleasure, business, culture, worldly knowledge, or any of the other things the world is content to accept in place of truth. The whole meaning of human life depends on the truth — or falsity — of the doctrine of human immortality.

To the absurdist, the doctrine is false. And that is one the reasons why his universe is so strange: there is no hope in it, death is its highest god. Apologists for the absurd, like apologists for humanist stoicism, see nothing but “courage” in this view, the “courage” of men willing to live without the ultimate “consolation” of eternal life; and they look down on those who require the “reward” of Heaven to justify their conduct on earth. It is not necessary, so they think, to believe in Heaven and Hell in order to lead a “good life” in this world. And their argument is a persuasive one even to many who call themselves Christians and are yet quite ready to renounce eternal life for an “existential” view that believes only in the present moment.

Such an argument is the worst of self-deceptions, it is but another of the myriad masks behind which men hide the face of death; for if death were truly the end of men, no man could face the full terror of it. Dostoevsky was quite right in giving to human immortality such central importance in his own Christian world-view. If man is after all to end in nothingness, then in the deepest sense it does not matter what he does in this life, for then nothing he may do is of any ultimate consequence, and all talk of “living this life to the full” is empty and vain. It is absolutely true that if “there is no immortality”, the world is absurd and “everything is permitted” — which is to say, nothing is worth doing, the dust of death smothers every joy and prevents even tears, which would be futile; it would indeed be better if such a world did not exist. Nothing in the world — not love, not goodness, not sanctity — is of any value, or indeed even has any meaning, if man does not survive death. He who thinks to lead a “good life” that ends in death does not know the meaning of his words, they but caricature Christian goodness, which finds its fulfillment in eternity. Only if man is immortal, and only if the next world is as God has revealed it to His chosen people, Christians, is there any value or meaning to what man does in this life; for then every act of man is a seed of good or evil that sprouts, to be sure, in this life, but which is not reaped until the future life. Men who, on the other hand, believe that virtue begins and ends in this life are but one step from those who believe that there is no virtue at all; and this step—a fact of which our century bears eloquent witness — is all too easily taken, for it is, after all, a logical step.

Disillusionment, in a sense, is preferable to self-deception. It may, if taken as an end in itself, lead to suicide or madness; but it may also lead to an awakening. Europe for five centuries and more has been deceiving itself, trying to establish a reign of humanism, liberalism, and supposedly Christian values on the basis of an increasingly sceptical attitude toward Christian truth. Absurdism is the end of that road; it is the logical conclusion of the humanist attempt to soften and compromise Christian truth so as to accommodate new, modern, that is to say, worldly, values. Absurdism is the last proof that Christian truth is absolute and uncompromising, or else it is the same as no truth at all; and if there is no truth, if Christian truth is not to be understood literally and absolutely, if God is dead, if there is no immortality — then this world is all there is, and this world is absurd, this world is Hell.

The absurd view of life, then, does express a partial insight: it draws the conclusions of humanist and liberal thought to which well-meaning humanists themselves have been blind. Absurdism is no merely arbitrary irrationalism, but a part of the harvest European man has been sowing for centuries, by his compromise and betrayal of Christian truth.

It would be unwise, however, to exaggerate in this direction, as apologists for the absurd, and to see in absurdism and its parent nihilism signs of a turn or a return to hitherto neglected truths or to a more profound world-view. The absurdist, to be sure, is more realistic about the negative and evil side of life, as manifest both in the world and in man’s nature; but this is after all very little truth in comparison with the great errors absurdism shares with humanism. Both are equally far from the God in Whom alone the world makes sense; neither consequently has any notion of spiritual life or experience, which are nourished by God alone; both therefore are totally ignorant of the full dimensions of reality and of human experience; and both have thus a radically oversimplified view of the world and especially of human nature.

Humanism and absurdism, in fact, are not as far apart as one might have supposed; absurdism, in the end, is simply disillusioned but unrepentant humanism. It is, one might say, the last stage in the dialectical procession of humanism away from Christian truth, the stage in which humanism, merely by following its internal logic and drawing out the full implications of its original betrayal of Christian truth, arrives at its own negation and ends in a kind of humanist nightmare, a sub-humanism. The subhuman world of the absurdist, though it may at times seem eerie and bewildering, is after all the same one-dimensional world the humanist knows, only rendered “mysterious” by various tricks and self-deceptions; it is a parody of the true world, the world the Christian knows, the world that is truly mysterious because it contains heights and depths of which no absurdist, and surely no humanist, even dreams.

If, intellectually, humanism and absurdism are distinguished as principle and consequence, they are united in a deeper sense, for they share a single will, and that will is the annihilation of the Christian God and the order He has established in the world. These words will seem strange to anyone disposed to take a sympathetic view of the “plight” of contemporary man, and especially to those who listen to the arguments of absurdist apologetics which cite supposed scientific “discoveries” and the all-too-natural disillusionment that has come out of our century of war and revolution: arguments, in short, that rely on the “spirit of the age,” which seem to make any but a philosophy of absurdity next to impossible.

The universe, so this apology runs, has become meaningless, God has died, one knows not quite how or why, and all we can do now is to accept the fact and resign ourselves to it. But the more perceptive absurdists themselves know better. God has not merely died, said Nietzsche, rather men have murdered Him; and Ionesco, in an essay on Kafka, recognizes that “if man no longer has a guiding thread (i.e., in the labyrinth of life), it is because he no longer wanted to have one. Hence his feeling of guilt, of anxiety, of the absurdity of history.” A vague feeling of guilt is indeed, in many cases, the only remaining sign of man’s involvement in bringing about the condition in which he now finds himself. But man is involved, and all fatalism is only rationalization.

Modern science is quite innocent in this respect, for in itself it must be, not merely neutral, but actively hostile to any idea of ultimate absurdity, and those who exploit it for irrationalist ends are not thinking clearly. And as to the fatalism of those who believe that man must be a slave to the “spirit of the age,” it is disproved by the experience of every Christian worthy of the name — for the Christian life is nothing if it is not a struggle against the spirit of every age for the sake of eternity.

Absurdist fatalism is in the end the product, not of knowledge nor of any necessity, but of blind faith. The absurdist, of course, would rather not face too squarely the fact that his disillusionment is an act of faith, for faith is a factor that testifies against determinism. But there is something even deeper than faith which the absurdist has even more reason to avoid, and that is the will; for the direction of a man’s will is what chiefly determines his faith and the whole personal world-view built upon that faith. The Christian, who possesses a coherent doctrine of the nature of man and should have thereby a deep insight into human motives, can see the ultimate responsibility the absurdist prefers to deny in his disillusioned view of the world. The absurdist is not the passive “victim” of his age or its thought, but rather an active — though often confused — collaborator in the great undertaking of the enemies of God.

Absurdism is not primarily a phenomenon of the intellect, not simple atheism nor mere recognition of the fact of an absent God — these are its disguises and rationalizations; it is rather something of the will, an anti-theism (a term applied by Proudhon to his own program, and seen by de Lubac, in The Drama of Atheist Humanism, as a key to understanding other revolutionaries), a fight against God and the Divine order of things. No absurdist, to be sure, can be fully aware of this; he cannot and will not think clearly, he lives on self-delusion. No one (unless it be Satan himself, the first absurdist) can deny God and refuse his own truest happiness in full consciousness of the fact; but somewhere deep within every absurdist, far deeper than he himself usually wishes to look, lies the primordial refusal of God which has been responsible for all the phenomena of absurdism as well as for the incoherence that indeed lies at the very heart of this age.

If it is impossible not to sympathize with some at least of the artists of the absurd, seeing in them an agonized awareness and sincere depiction of a world that is trying to live without God, let us not for all that forget how thoroughly at one these  artists are with the world they depict; let us not lose sight of the fact that their art is so successful in striking a responsive chord in many precisely because they share the errors, the blindness and ignorance, and the perverted will of the age whose emptiness they depict. To transcend the absurdity of the contemporary world requires, unfortunately, a great deal more than even the best intentions, the most agonized suffering, and the greatest artistic “genius”. The way beyond the absurd lies in truth alone; and this is precisely what is lacking as much in the contemporary artist as in his world, it is what is actively rejected as definitely by the self-conscious absurdist as it is by those who live the absurd life without being aware of it.

To sum up, then, our diagnosis of absurdism: it is the life lived, and the view of life expressed, by those who can or will no longer see God as the beginning and end, and the ultimate meaning, of life; those who therefore do not believe His Revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ and do not accept the eternal Kingdom He has prepared for those who do believe and who live this faith; those who, ultimately, can hold no one responsible for their unbelief but themselves. But what is the cause of this disease? What, beyond all historical and psychological causes — which can never be more than relative and contributory — what is its real motivation, its spiritual cause? If absurdism is indeed a great evil, as we believe it to be, it cannot be chosen for its own sake; for evil has no positive existence, and it can only be chosen in the guise of a seeming good. If up to this point we have described the negative side of the philosophy of the absurd, its description of the disordered, disoriented world in which men find themselves today, it is time to turn to its positive side and discover in what it is that absurdists place their faith and hope.

For it is quite clear that absurdists are not happy about the absurdity of the universe; they believe in it, but they cannot reconcile themselves to it, and their art and thought are attempts, after all, to transcend it. As Ionesco has said (and here he speaks, probably, for all absurdists): “To attack absurdity is a way of stating the possibility of non-absurdity,” and he sees himself as engaged in “the constant search for an opening, a revelation.” Thus we return to the sense of expectancy we have already noted in certain absurdist works of art; it is but a reflection of the situation of our times, wherein men, disillusioned and desolate, yet hope in something unknown, uncertain, yet to be revealed, which will somehow restore meaning and purpose to life. Men cannot live without hope, even in the midst of despair, even when all cause for hope has been, supposedly, “disproved.”

But this is only to say that nothingness, the apparent center of the absurdist universe, is not the real heart of the disease, but only its most striking symptom. The real faith of absurdism is in something hoped for but not yet fully manifest, a “Godot” that is the always implicit but not yet defined subject of absurdist art, a mysterious something that, if understood, would give life some kind of meaning once more.

All this, if it seems vague in contemporary absurdist art, is quite clear in the works of the original “prophets” of the age of absurdity, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. In them the revelation of absurdity has a corollary. “Dead are all the gods,” says Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: “Now do we desire the Superman to live.” And Nietzsche’s madman says, of the murder of God: “Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become gods, merely to seem worthy of it?” Kirillov, in Dostoevsky’s Possessed, knows that, “If there is no God, then I am god.”

Man’s first sin, and the ultimate cause of the miserable condition of man in all ages, was in following the temptation of the serpent in Paradise: “Ye shall be as gods.” What Nietzsche calls the Superman, and Dostoevsky the man-god, is in fact the same god of self with which the Devil then, and always, has tempted man; it is the only god, once the true God has been rejected, whom men can worship. Man’s freedom has been given him to choose between the true God and himself, between the true path to deification whereon the self is humbled and crucified in this life to be resurrected and exalted in God in eternity, and the false path of self-deification which promises exaltation in this life but ends in the Abyss.

These are the only two choices, ultimately, open to the freedom of man; and upon them have been founded the two Kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man, which may be discriminated only by the eye of faith in this life, but which shall be separated in the future life as Heaven and Hell. It is clear to which of them modern civilization belongs, with its Promethean effort to build a Kingdom of earth in defiance of God; but what should be clear enough in earlier modern thinkers becomes absolutely explicit in Nietzsche. The old commandment of “Thou shalt,” says Zarathustra, has become outmoded; the new commandment is “I will”. And in Kirillov’s satanic logic, “The attribute of my godhead is self-will.” The new religion, the religion not yet fully revealed that will succeed the old religion of Christianity to which modern man thinks by now to have delivered the final blow — is supremely the religion of self-worship.

This is what absurdism — and all the vain experimentation of our day — is seeking. Absurdism is the stage at which the modern Promethean effort hesitates, entertains doubts, and has a faint foretaste of the satanic incoherence in which it cannot but end. But if the absurdist is less confident and more fearful than the humanist, he nonetheless shares the humanist faith that the modern path is the right path, and in spite of his doubt he retains the humanist hope — hope not in God and His Kingdom, but in man’s own Tower of Babel.

The modern attempt to establish a kingdom of self-worship reached one extreme in Hitler, who believed in a racial Superman; it reaches another extreme in Communism, whose Superman is the collectivity and whose self-love is disguised as altruism. But both Nazism and Communism are extreme forms — their phenomenal success proves it — of what everyone else today actually believes: everyone, that is, who does not stand explicitly and absolutely with Christ and His Truth.

For what is the meaning of the gigantic effort in which all nations have today joined to transform the face of the earth and conquer the universe, to bring about an entirely new order of things wherein man’s condition since his creation will be radically transformed and this earth, which since man’s fall has been and can be nothing but a place of sorrow and tears, is to become, supposedly, a place of happiness and joy, a veritable heaven on earth with the advent of a “new age”? What does this mean but that man, freed of the burden of a God in Whom he does not believe even when he professes Him with his lips, imagines himself to be God, master of his own destiny and creator of a “new earth,” expressing his faith in a “new religion” of his own devising wherein humility gives way to pride, prayer to worldly knowledge, mastery of the passions to mastery of the world, fasting to abundance and satiety, tears of repentance to worldly joy.

To this religion of the self absurdism points the way. This is not, to be sure, always its explicit intention, but it is its distinct implication. Absurdist art depicts a man imprisoned in his own self, unable to communicate with his fellow man or enter into any relationship with him that is not inhuman; there is no love in absurdist art, there is only hatred, violence, terror, and boredom — because in cutting himself off from God, absurdist man has cut himself off from his own humanity, the image of God. If such a man is awaiting a revelation that will put an end to absurdity, it is surely not the revelation that the Christians know; if there is one point on which all absurdists would agree, it is the absolute rejection of the Christian answer. Any revelation the absurdist, as absurdist, can accept must be “new.”

About Godot, in Beckett’s play, one character says, “I’m anxious to hear what he has to offer. Then we’ll take it or leave it.” In the Christian life everything is referred to Christ, the old self with its constant “I will” must be done away with and a new self, centered in Christ and His will, be born; but in the spiritual universe of “Godot,” everything revolves precisely about the old self, and even a new god must present himself as a kind of spiritual merchandise to be accepted or rejected by a self that will tolerate nothing that is not oriented to itself. Men today “wait for Godot” — who is, perhaps on one level, Antichrist — in the hope that he will bring appeasement of conscience and restore meaning and joy to self-worship, in the hope that is, that he will permit what God has forbidden and provide the ultimate apology for it. Nietzsche’s Superman is absurdist, modern man with his sense of guilt obliterated in a frenzy of enthusiasm generated by a false mysticism of the earth, a worship of this world.

Where will it all end? Nietzsche and the optimists of our day see the dawn of a new age, the beginning of “a higher history than any history hitherto.” Communist doctrine affirms this; but the Communist reorganization of the world will, in the end, prove to be no more than the systematized absurdity of a perfectly efficient machine that has no ultimate purpose.  Dostoevsky, who knew the true God, was more realistic. Kirillov, the maniacal counterpart of Zarathustra, had to kill himself to prove that he was God; Ivan Karamazov, who was tormented by the same ideas, ended in madness, as did Nietzsche himself; Shigalev (in The Possessed), who devised the first perfect social organization of mankind, found it necessary to deliver nine-tenths of mankind to absolute slavery so that one-tenth might enjoy absolute liberty — a plan that Nazi and Communist Supermen have put into practice. Madness, suicide, slavery, murder, and destruction are the ends of the presumptuous philosophy of the death of God and the advent of the Superman; and these are, indeed, prominent themes of absurdist art.

Many feel — with Ionesco — that only out of thorough exploration of the absurd condition in which man now finds himself, and of the new possibilities this has opened up for him, may a way be found beyond absurdity and nihilism into some new realm of coherence: this is the hope of absurdism and humanism, and it will become the hope of Communism when (and if) it enters its period of disillusionment. It is a false hope, but it is a hope that may, for all that, be fulfilled. For Satan is the ape of God, and once divine coherence has been shattered and men no longer hope for the absolute coherence God alone can give to human life, the counterfeit coherence that Satan is able to fabricate may come to seem quite attractive.

It is no accident that in our own day serious attention is being given once more by responsible and sober Christians dissatisfied alike with facile optimism and facile pessimism, to a doctrine that, in Western Europe at least, was almost forgotten for centuries under the influence of the philosophy of enlightenment and progress. (Cf. Josef Pieper, The End of Time; Heinrich Schlier, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament; and before them, Cardinal Newman.)

This is the doctrine, universally held by the Churches of the East and West, of Antichrist, that strange figure who appears at the end of time as a humanitarian world-ruler and seems to turn creation upside-down by making darkness seem light, evil good, slavery freedom, chaos order; he is the ultimate protagonist of the philosophy of the absurd, and the perfect embodiment of the man-god: for he will worship only himself, and will call himself God. This is no place, however, to do more than point out the existence of that doctrine, and to note its intimate connection with the Satanic incoherence of the philosophy of the absurd. But more important even than the historical culmination of absurdism, whether it be the actual reign of Antichrist or merely another of his predecessors, is its supra-historical end: and that is Hell.

For absurdism is, most profoundly, an eruption of Hell into our world; it is thus a warning of a reality men are all too anxious to avoid. But those who avoid it only find themselves the closer to it; our age, the first in Christian times to disbelieve entirely in Hell, itself more thoroughly than any other embodies the spirit of Hell.

Why do men disbelieve in Hell? It is because they do not believe in Heaven, i.e., because they do not believe in life, and in the God of life, because they find God’s creation absurd and wish that it did not exist. The Elder Zosima, in The Brothers Karamazov, speaks of one kind of such men.

There are some who remain proud and fierce even in hell… They have cursed themselves, cursing God and life… They cannot behold the living God without hatred, and they cry out that the God of life should be annihilated, that God should destroy Himself and His own creation. And they will burn in the fire of their own wrath forever and yearn for death and annihilation. But they will not attain to death…

Such men, of course, are extreme nihilists, but they differ in degree only, and not in kind, from those less violent souls who faintly curse this life and find it to be absurd, and even from those who call themselves Christians and do not desire the Kingdom of Heaven with all their hearts, but picture Heaven, if at all, as a shadowy realm of repose or sleep. Hell is the answer and the end of all who believe in death rather than life, in this world rather than in the next world, in themselves rather than in God: all those, in short, who in their deepest heart accept the philosophy of the absurd. For it is the great truth of Christianity — which Dostoevsky saw and Nietzsche did not see — that there is no annihilation, and there is no incoherence, all nihilism and absurdism are in vain.

The flames of Hell are the last and awful proof of this: every creature testifies, with or against his will, to the ultimate coherence of things. For this coherence is the love of God, and this love is found even in the flames of Hell; it is in fact the love of God itself which torments those who refuse it.

So it is too with absurdism; it is the negative side of a positive reality. There is, of course, an element of incoherence in our world, for in his fall from Paradise man brought the world with him; the philosophy of the absurd is not, therefore, founded upon a total lie, but upon a deceptive half-truth. But when Camus defines absurdity as the confrontation of man’s need for reason with the irrationality of the world, when he believes that man is an innocent victim and the world the guilty party, he, like all absurdists, has magnified a very partial insight into a totally distorted view of things, and in his blindness has arrived at the exact inversion of the truth. Absurdism, in the end, is an internal and not an external question; it is not the world that is irrational and incoherent, but man.

If, however, the absurdist is responsible for not seeing things as they are, and not even wishing to see things as they are, the Christian is yet more responsible for failing to give the example of a fully coherent life, a life in Christ. Christian compromise in thought and word and negligence in deed have opened the way to the triumph of the forces of the absurd, of Satan, of Antichrist. The present age of absurdity is the just reward of Christians who have failed to be Christians.

And the only remedy for absurdism lies at this, its source: we must again be Christians. Camus was quite right when he said, “We must choose between miracles and the absurd.” For in this respect Christianity and absurdism are equally opposed to Enlightenment rationalism and humanism, to the view that reality can be reduced to purely rational and human terms. We must indeed choose between the miraculous, the Christian view of things, whose center is God and whose end is the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, and the absurd, the Satanic view of things, whose center is the fallen self and whose end is Hell, in this life and in the life to come.

We must again be Christians. It is futile, in fact it is precisely absurd, to speak of reforming society, of changing the path of history, of emerging into an age beyond absurdity, if we have not Christ in our hearts; and if we do have Christ in our hearts, nothing else matters.

It is of course possible that there may be an age beyond absurdity; it is more likely, perhaps — and Christians must always be prepared for this eventuality — that there will not be, and that the age of absurdity is indeed the last age. It may be that the final testimony Christians may be able to give in this age will be the ultimate testimony, the blood of their martyrdom.

But this is cause for rejoicing and not for despair. For the hope of Christians is not in this world or in any of its kingdoms — that hope, indeed, is the ultimate absurdity; the hope of Christians is in the Kingdom of God which is not of this world.

Father Seraphim Rose

FOR THEIR PRAYERS, O LORD, FORGIVE US!

July 17, 2018

The third and final stage took place in Russia, the seat of the Christian Emperor. In 1917 the patient and meticulous infiltration in the highest ranks of the Empire by the demonocratic agents and means of corruption and their spiritual poison, initiated already at the time of Peter and Catherine, with the abolition of the Patriarchate and the harassment of monastic life, reached its apogee: the great majority of the Russian elites were by then conscious apostates (like 500 years before in Constantinople), with the rest being purely nominal Christians (the lukewarm), and they acted by consequence. They perjured and betrayed the Tsar, took him prisoner and, usurping the power, pursued the mythical chimera called democracy (an elegant way to define the rule of the mob(ster), getting as usual demonocracy. The judgement of the Lord was brought quickly upon those despicable perjurers and traitors of His Anointed and their fatherland.

Less than six months later, these pathetic nonentities were wiped out by the Bolsheviks, open worshipers of the beast (at least, they were honest), they were killed and exiled, meeting the fate of all the useful idiots of this world. All the playthings of the devil are expendable for their master. The Bolsheviks’ takeover was financed by Jewish money from New York, where the Demonocratic Empire had obtained its definitive weapon of mass control, the Federal Reserve, just four years before, and it was lead by Jews (up to 90-95% of Bolsheviks leaders at the beginning). Once they seized the power, they did set off the most horrendous Christians’ mass murder ever recorded, not even under Diocletian, desecrating and destroying hundreds of thousands churches and monasteries as a side dish. In general, in the time between the revolution and the outbreak of the second world war more than one third of all the inhabitants of the former Empire had been either murdered or starved to death or imprisoned or forced to emigrate. All was done for the freedom and prosperity of humanity, of course; all for justice and the pursuing of the earthly paradise of self-governing man. The sick and tragic laugh of a madman…..

A few months after their take over, they carried out an order directly from New York: the brutal assassination of the Imperial Family (the Tsar, his wife and their four children), in a clearly satanic ritual, and the destruction of their relics. After seventeen centuries, Christendom was no longer! He who did restrain the mystery of iniquity had been taken out of the way, and a stupefied humanity was to taste the outcome in the third and final act: the revolution against man!

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.