A historic year for Europe must be a historic year for the whole world. For Europe is, as it has been for centuries, at the centre of the world. Its influence has spread westwards to North America, eastwards to the Communist bloc, the Second World, and southwards to Africa, Asia and South America, the Third World. And the year of grace 1989 is indeed a historic year.
It is 75 years since the outbreak of what we call the Kaiser's War, the Great War, which started as a European War but then became a World War. In 1914 in Sarajevo, Archduke Franz-Ferdinand was assassinated in a masonic plot. Heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire whose powerful Roman Catholic Church was persecuting the Orthodox in what we now call Yugoslavia, his assassination sparked off war between the powder keg of European Empires by a complex chain of alliances. This war would lead to the fall of all those Empires. It would lead in 1917 to the Russian Revolution, the enslavement of the Orthodox Church authorities in Russia to the Communist State. And with the fall of the Russia of the Tsars, protectors of the Orthodox Church everywhere, it would lead to the enslavement of the Church of Constantinople and the rest of the Greek Orthodox world to the new Greek State and the forces of this world.
It is 50 years since 1939, the outbreak of Hitler's War, the Second World War. National Socialists (Nazis), greedy for Jewish money and Slavic territory, split Poland with State Socialists (Communists) under Stalin. There began a series of terrible genocides, leaving some 54 million dead worldwide.
It is 25 years since 1964, that period which saw the acceleration of a technological revolution, with all its dangers, the collapse of Western religious institutions and a revolution of morals that has all but destroyed the family and brought disease, drugs and terrorism in its wake. At the same time in Russia the tyrant Khrushchev launched a vicious and brutal persecution designed to completely eliminate the Church within a few years. It comes as no surprise that the Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, called this period the Third World War, which, according to him, the West lost.
And as regards 1989 itself, we see that Europe is still at the forefront. Only a few days ago there was a historic meeting at Windsor Castle. The ex-head of the KGB, M. Gorbachev, sat down to lunch with the great-niece of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, H. M. Queen Elizabeth II. We do not know of what they spoke, but the favourite theme of the Soviet leader is at present 'our common European home'. Whether this is merely a political ploy to divide Western Europe from the United States, or a sincere ideal, it is not for us to say. But can we in fact, who live in this 'common European home', in 1989 be optimistic about the future, or are we in reality on the brink of a 'Fourth World War', a new and final one? If we look at Europe today, it seems difficult to be optimistic. In Western European circles, the only movement is towards a vulgar commercial union. It appears to mark the end of the few remaining traditions and values of Western Christianity, whose two main branches have long since tended towards secularisation. Since the eleventh century Roman Catholicism has put the Pope at the head of the Church. Since the 16th century the Church of England, like other Protestant groups, has confessed its secular ruler as its head. In Western Europe today the pervading philosophy is not Christ, but 'market forces', in other words, the freedom to make money at all costs.
(Matt. 6, 21)
(Matt 6, 24)
Eastern Europe, on the other hand, has lived through another diabolical illusion of totalitarianism, the idea that through State intervention, a paradise can be built on Earth. This paradise, in reality a hell on Earth, has cost the Russian people over 70 million lives so far.
Meanwhile in the South, the Third World, people die wretched and starving. Apocalyptic pictures of corrupt and wicked governments, debt-ridden in fratricidal wars, abound. The Book of Revelation, which has been unfolding itself throughout our century, speaks to the rich:
(Rev. 3, 17)
(Rev. 6, 6)
(Rev. 18, 2)
In our twentieth century we have received three great lessons, three opportunities which should have brought us to repentance. Is this fourth lesson, the year 1989, to be lost too? Are we now going on to nuclear and ecological catastrophe? We have already received the warning of Chernobyl, which in Ukrainian means 'Wormwood'.
(Rev. 8, 11)
But we have also heard the voices of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia:
(Rev. 7, 13-17)
Has perhaps the whole of this century not been a kind of Lent, which is to end, yet, in a great Paschal celebration, the return of man to God through repentance?
(Rev. 3, 19)
The question in fact is if this fourth generation of the twentieth century is going to see the cleansing of our hearts, a great unsullying of the dirt we have heaped on ourselves. Ultimately, is this last generation of the second millennium to be the last generation in history - or not?
More details of the book "Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition" and where to buy it, can be found on
The English Orthodox Trust page of this site.