The Future of Orthodoxy:
The Church has always lived in a state of tension. On the one hand, She is in the world; on the other hand, She witnesses to that which is not of this world. She incarnates the values which are not of this world in this world, for the Church is the Body of Christ, the space and time of the spaceless and timeless God of Love, Who became man.
Any compromises of this incarnational mission of the Church inevitably lead to spiritual decadence inside the Church. In case of such compromises, this decadence either turns into secular humanism or else into disincarnate spiritualism. Such compromises in turn lead to splits away from the Church, away from Love. These splits are either of the nestorian type or else of the monophysite type. All such splits mean life outside the Church, where the demons roam unchecked.
A Brief History of Decadence
In history many nominal Orthodox have been persuaded to abandon the unworldly in favour of the worldly, institutionalising the Church, making of limitless spiritual faith into a mere institutional religion. This is called spiritual decadence. Thus, even within the Church, we can find nominal Orthodox reducing the Orthodox Faith into a national rite, mere local folklore. Although they do not actually forsake the Church, meaning that repentance is still possible for them, they still forget that nationalism is by definition only another term for worldliness, that is, secularism.
We can also find, in a second stage, whole groups of Orthodox who have been led to abandon the Church. Outside the Church they have developed whole confessions, where worldliness, attachment to a particular nationality, is actually integrated into the teachings and structures of those confessions. There, worldliness has become institutionalised.
Thus, some 1500 years ago, in the fifth century, Copts (Egyptians) and Armenians broke away from the Church. There, they began to develop their own slightly different national religious teachings as a result of nationalism, provoked, it is true, by nationalism within the Church. Later, some 1,000 years ago, in the eleventh century, Roman Catholicism developed as a form of Western European nationalism, combating the world by taking on the methods of the world. It inserted the dogma of worldliness, the filioque, which states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from human nature. Having accomplished this as self- justification, it then made Christ spiritually absent and replaced Him with a mere man, a pope, a substitute or vicar. He was an absolute head of state, controlling alike the Holy Spirit and vassal-kings (like the mass-murderer William of Normandy), kingdoms, territories, armies, persecutions, crusades, inquisitions, finances and all manner of worldly institutions. These vicars, ersatz Christs, were thus responsible for huge bloodshed and continual crimes against humanity. Later, some 500 years ago, in the sixteenth century, hundreds of protesting offshoots, mainly in the anti-Latin, Germanic north of Western Europe, subjected themselves to various Germanic kings, queens, princes and national interests in preference to Latin popes. Many of these rulers were mass murderers, instituting persecutions and ‘wars of religion’, for example in England under Henry VIII. Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, his coming to power 500 years ago is now being celebrated by the British Establishment. And the image of this syphilitic, wife-killing thug, the destroyer of monasteries throughout England, can be seen everywhere on tourist souvenirs and national institutions (1).
The Contemporary Situation inside the Church: Decadence
Inside the Church, the tension between being in the world and not being of it, continues today. Thus, the most westernised parts of the Orthodox world are subject to pressures from their governments to conform to the global secularist agenda. Thus, in the twentieth century, those Local Orthodox Churches which were not isolated from the West by Communist persecution, were forced by masonic governments with Western encouragement to abandon the Orthodox calendar for the Western calendar. At the same time they were forced into entering ecumenistic compromises with confessions outside the Church.
As a result, in recent years in Western countries at least, some Orthodox churches have been built which in no way resemble Orthodox churches. Especially in the USA, one well-known case in the UK and elsewhere, one can find so-called ‘Orthodox’ churches, which resembles deltas, octagons or wigwams, often containing pews and organs, usually with fully carpeted, modernist interiors. These strange architectural errors were accompanied by liturgical ‘reforms’, debasing the Orthodox services.
More recently still, especially in the USA and Western Europe, we can find communities of newcomers to the Church, presenting themselves as ‘the Orthodox Church’, yet having no idea of the Orthodox Tradition or the services. Sometimes they entertain the ‘charismatic’ movement, are full of talk of ‘deification’ and ‘transfiguration’, abolishing confession and yet forcing everyone to take communion, deriding the ascetic fundamentals of Orthodox Christianity, running before they can walk. Sometimes they consider that they have been saved and forcefully tell naïve but unknowing faithful not to attend normal Orthodox churches, because ‘they are not Orthodox’, or that they are ‘ethnic’. Here are clear examples of spiritual illusion (prelest/plani). These always end in spiritual disaster.
This infection can be found in every Local Church, though in the small, new calendarist groups it is much stronger than in others. Moreover, in general, the Local Orthodox Churches which lived behind the Iron Curtain, were so persecuted and had so many new martyrs and confessors that they were protected from such decadence. On the other hand, it is true that some in such groups were not protected from the decadence of lying and compromising themselves with hostile Communist regimes, playing the nationalist card, in order to make for themselves careers and money. This we see most obviously with the elderly head of the so-called ‘Kiev Patriarchate’ in the Ukraine, who is a ‘married monk’, or the tiny nationalist and highly politicised ‘Orthodox’ groupings which have emerged in the Balkans, for example in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Montenegro. Worse still has been the deliberate Western interference in the weaker and smaller Local Churches, for example in the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Over the decades the administration of this Patriarchate has been encouraged to interfere in Russian Church affairs in Finland, France and England, at one time in Poland and the then Czechoslovakia. Above all it has been led to develop an ideology which states that all Orthodox churches in the Diaspora must belong to its ‘jurisdiction’. Apart from a few small politicised and nationalist groupings, whether Ukrainian, Finnish, Parisian or Anglican nationalists, this quite novel claim has been totally ignored by all the Local Orthodox Churches.
Towards the Restoration of Spiritual Identity
As we have said, the administrations of those Local Orthodox Churches which have been subject to Western political and financial pressure to conform to the West’s masonic and liberal-humanistic ethos, have had to compromise ecumenically. However, two recent clear declarations from the Russian Church have made the Orthodox position clear.
Bishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the newly-appointed Chairman of the External Relations Department of the Russian Orthodox Church, recently made two statements. He spoke on behalf of the Russian Church, but also in fact very much represented Serbian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Polish, Czechoslovak, Japanese Church positions and those of conventional Orthodox elsewhere, for example in Romania and Greece, that is, over 95% of all Orthodox. His statements clearly express the normal Orthodox position and sweep aside the pretensions of decadent ‘Orthodoxy’. The first concerns the novel claims of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the second Orthodox relations with the Vatican.
Speaking to the Interfax News Agency on 10 April, Bishop Hilarion said of the claims of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to worldwide supremacy over all the Orthodox Churches:
‘Essentially, this is all about the fact that they want to foist the model which exists in the Catholic Church onto the Orthodox Church. This is a maximally centralised ecclesiastical power, led by one bishop as head of the Universal Church…In the Orthodox Tradition such a model has never existed’. The bishop added that such questions will be discussed at the Inter-Orthodox Conference in June, which will discuss the Diaspora question.
Speaking at the same time of the second issue, Bishop Hilarion said that no meeting can take place between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow, representing some 75% of all Orthodox Christians, until Uniatism has been condemned by Rome. He mentioned that the other stumbling block was the aggressive Roman Catholic proselytism that is being carried out among traditionally Orthodox populations (2). He explained that until these hostile actions cease, any meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope would be a mere PR stunt, no more than a photo-opportunity.
As we have already said, the Church has always lived in tension with this world, its prince and its kingdoms. Thus, since the betrayals by the disciples Judas and then Peter, spiritual decadence has always existed in the Church. And it has always led, as in the case of Judas (and all later heretics) to life outside the Church and so spiritual suicide. However, we also know, as in the case of Peter, that betrayal can be repented for: Three times Peter denied Christ (Jn 18, 17-27) and three times Christ asked Peter after the Resurrection ‘Lovest thou me?’ (Jn 21, 15-17), in other words, to affirm his faith in Christ.
Let those decadent elements in the Orthodox Churches, who have since 1917 been swimming with the tide of global secularism, cease their slanders. Let them repent, answering positively Christ’s questions to Peter, ‘Lovest thou me?’ And let them know that the alternative to this is spiritual suicide. Let the full spiritual identity of Orthodoxy now be restored, that we may together sincerely and wholeheartedly cry ‘Christ is risen’ on the Paschal night which now draws near, amid the deep sobriety of Holy Week.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
Great Monday 2009
1.In much the same way, in England the statue of the mass murderer and regicide Cromwell, responsible for the genocide of hundreds of thousands, actually stands outside the Houses of Parliament in London. In Germany and Austria statues or commemorative mugs and tea-towels of Hitler would be unthinkable. Although the present dictatorship in Georgia still commemorates Stalin and in Russia itself the last statues of Lenin are only slowly being removed, it seems extraordinary that the British government can object to the images of such tyrants in other countries, when it itself commemorates its own.
2.Some may speak of Orthodox proselytism among Roman Catholic populations and falsely accuse Orthodox of hypocrisy. Let it be said now that the Orthodox Church does not proselytise, using Protestant-style sales techniques, bribery and intimidation, it simply celebrates the services. If individual Roman Catholics, become aware of their spiritual deprivation and their true spiritual roots, come to the Church and ask to be received into Her as matter of conscience, this is not proselytism.