The paths of glory lead but to the grave
Gray, Elegy in a Country Churchyard
Brought up in a village, I have only ever lived in one European city. That was Paris, where I lived for fifteen years. Outside the well-known tourist areas, there were still secret places, little courtyards, where the medieval atmosphere was reminiscent of that in what is perhaps Zola’s only readable novel, ‘Le Rêve’. I remember one such courtyard where there lived artisans, among them a maker of liturgical untensils, who was able to reproduce in precious metals any ancient chalice from any museum catalogue.
On the other hand, the vast majority of Paris outside the centre, never seen by tourists, consisted of depressing suburbs, the worst of which were interminable Communist-controlled ghettos. A close friend, a policeman in the vice squad, told us of this other side of Parisian life. It was not difficult to see it for myself, for at that time, a Russian Orthodox priest, I worked at the European Business School. This was located not far from the infamous Pigalle area, with its sad-eyed prostitutes and immigrant drug dealers, who lined the streets, allowed to deal there by corrupt police detectives who took commissions from them.
Already by 1974, when I first visited Paris, Russian Paris with its Russian shops was dying out. Later, in 1992 I think it was, I would have the privilege of burying the last White officer in Paris, Vladimir Ivanovich Labounsky. It was also about that time that I accompanied the late Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles to the street near the Rue de Rivoli, where there lived the Grand Duke Vladimir, with whose daughter, the Grand Duchess Maria, I had mutual acquaintances in Oxford. Archbishop Antony had private reasons to see the Grand Duke, wishing to dissuade him from returning to Russia, since the Archbishop mistakenly believed that Russia was not yet free.
In the eighties, then serving as a deacon, I had been shocked by the indifference of most Parisian Orthodox leaders to the visit of the Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He had been invited by one of the very few French politicians of integrity and faith, Philippe de Villiers, to his region of la Vendée in the west of France. He had been invited to remember the barbaric genocide committed there over 200 years before by French Republican revolutionaries. True, the 300,000 Catholic and Royalist peasant, noble and clerical victims of the Vendée massacres could not compare in number to the tens of millions of victims of the Soviet Republican genocide of all the peoples of the former Russian Empire, which Solzhenitsyn had catalogued. Nevertheless, the demonic principle of the two Revolutions was the same.
Sadly, most émigrés refused to see the similarity between the two genocides and the official Paris Archdiocese (Patriarchate of Constantinople) line was not to get involved in politics. Of course, their much-vaunted, so-called ‘apolitical’ indifference was based on their superiority complex - pride. And pride is the sure sign of Paris Russian disincarnate gnostic philosophising, merely the fruit of a state of spiritual delusion, ‘prelest’. This ‘apoliticism’ was only a thin disguise for the anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian motives of those in charge of that Archdiocese.
However, this was only to be expected of the descendants of those who had first planned and then welcomed the masonic coup d’etat of March 1917 in Russia. The jealous elite had actually sought the overthrow of the Russian Orthodox Monarchy and then in the emigration treacherously refused the canonical authority of the Russian Church. ‘Treason, cowardice and deceit all around’, in the words of the Tsar-Martyr. Little wonder that the leaders of the Paris emigration sharply criticised and even openly mocked the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors in 1981. Little wonder that their Archbishop used the ‘Pravoslavnaya Rus’ (‘Orthodox Russia’) journal with its images of the new saints as a bin-liner. Little wonder that Solzhenitsyn found the Paris emigration decadent. But enough of memories.
Still today most people would affirm that Paris is Europe’s most beautiful Capital. But one hundred years ago, in 1908, Paris was considered not only to be Europe’s most beautiful Capital, but Europe’s Capital full stop.
True, in 1908 London was Europe’s financial and trading Capital, Berlin the military and economic Capital, Vienna the musical and psychological Capital, but Paris stole the show with its boastful artistic and technological self-confidence. Thus, the Official Guide to the Paris Exhibition of 1900 had asserted the ‘sovereign might’ of man’s ‘infinite powers’, transferred from God to ‘human genius’. Everything was possible for European man and his technology. They ruled the world. In 1908 Europe was the centre of the world and Paris was the centre of Europe.
The paths of Parisian glory had been long. After the Western Renaissance, which came to fruition in Italy in the 15th century, the Reformation, which broke out in Germany in the 16th century, and the decline of Spain and Portugal in the 17th century, it was only in the 18th century that France came definitively to the fore. France, where absolutist, that is totalitarian, ‘Sun-kings’ had deified themselves at the expense of the people, finally became the unchallenged political and cultural Great Power. France and its Parisian Capital became the centre of the Western Age of the Enlightenment, ‘le Siècle des Lumières’. This was indeed the Age of the Bringer of Light, Lucifer, for it brought the darkness of revolutionary self-destruction to France. For Paris was the Capital where in 1789 the French Revolution took place with regicide, genocide and suicide.
This made way for France’s arch-rival, Great Britain, with its ruthless imperialism, to become the Great Power of the 19th century after its religious, political and then industrial revolutions of the three previous centuries. In the masonic French Revolution the catechism of arrogant ethnocentric Westernisation that had first been prepared over seven centuries before, was updated once more, making Paris into the Capital of anti-Christian humanist secularism. As a result, the whole of Europe was to be convulsed by the Napoleonic Wars until 1815. Amazingly, over two centuries on, there has still not been any national repentance either for Napoleon or for the Revolution, which is still celebrated and declared to be a ‘national holiday’ in France. As a result, a way of life based on spiritual and moral principles has not yet been re-established there. It exists perhaps only among provincials, readers of the novels of ‘Delly’, who keep faith with the values of ‘la Vieille France’, ‘Old France’, all those who hold dear ‘White France’, like those who hold dear ‘White Russia’.
Despite the bloodshed of the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, French remained the language of culture throughout Europe throughout the nineteenth century. Not surprisingly, in 1918, after the martyrdom of the Russian Imperial Family, now ninety years ago, it was Paris which the secular-minded St Petersburg elite chose as their Capital. The decadent who had desired and created a Russian Revolution out of spite for the Monarchy, whose subjects they exploited, whose power they envied and whose spiritual and moral representatives they delighted in slandering, loved Paris. They had always preferred high culture to high faith, false physical glory to true spiritual glory, the glory of the elite to the glory of the Cross.
Still renegade today, in Paris there are descendants and adepts of that elite who maintain power in churches which they did not build by not allowing Russian Orthodox born in Russia to vote in their councils. To this day the Russian Church is often despised there. Among them not a single church has yet been dedicated to the New Martyrs or Royal Martyrs of Soviet Communism, which was brought into being by members of the elite which was later to emigrate to Paris. The Elder Nikolai Gurianov (+ 2002) asked all Orthodox: ‘Have you repented for murdering millions, for destroying churches, for martyring the Tsar?’ He still awaits an answer from Paris. Spiritually, we are reminded that Paris was the city where in the Year 360 Julian the Apostate was proclaimed Emperor of the Roman Empire by his soldiery.
But to blame Paris for all this would be absurd. Paris is merely a symbol of a spiritual decadence that began elsewhere in the Western world and will end elsewhere in the Western world. Paris is a symbol of today’s spiritually degutted Western world, a symbol of the acid bath of secularist brainwashing. Paris is a symbol of the whole Western world, which has replaced the Religion of Effort with the Religion of Comfort, the Religion of Ascetics with the Religion of Aesthetics. It is a symbol of the Western world that has technical sophistication and therefore outward beauty, but from which all moral sophistication and therefore all inward beauty have fled away. It is a symbol of the Western world that is a technological giant, but a spiritual pygmy, because it has made fallen human nature into its religion.
In 2007 a Papuan Christian called Polobi Palia, visited Paris and asked the question: ‘It’s strange, the Whites gave us their religion, but they have forgotten it. Your God is really very powerful. But why have you forgotten Him?’ His question could have been asked in any Western Capital. The vacuum left by the twentieth-century Western apostasy from faith in the Resurrection was filled by the wasteland of Death. Apostasy from Christianity was filled by the demons of suicidal ideologies, that of Pilate, that of Judas and that of Herod.
First, came the demons of Imperialist ideology, whose paths of glory led to the graveyards of the First European Suicide of 1914-1918, carried out while the rich like Pilate washed their hands and looked on. Then came the demons of Judas’ Communist and Fascist ideology, whose paths of glory led to the graveyards of the Second European Suicide of 1939-1945. Today, the Western world is haunted by the demons of another ideology, that of Herod, whose name means ‘the glory of the skin’. Herod’s Secularism is indeed ‘the glory of the skin’, the worship of the sinful human-being, of mere body and mind, of human material wants, of consumerism. Its paths of glory lead to the hidden but real graveyards of the Third European Suicide of the abortion holocaust, the new Massacre of the Innocents.
Today, the Capital of Europe is not Paris or London, Berlin or Vienna, Rome or Madrid, let alone Brussels. The Capital of Europe is Europe’s graveyards with their hundreds of millions of victims of the three European Suicides, for which secularist Europe has not yet repented. Having rejected the Cross of Repentance in the twentieth century, the Western world still does not know in the twenty-first century that the antidote to its deathly graveyards is in the Glorious Resurrection. Even today, Paris, Europe and the rest of the Western world are still not ready to hear these words. Truth is exactly what they do not want.
If the Capital of the Europe is today in its silent graveyards, what then is the destiny of individual Western Capitals?
Perhaps their destiny can be likened to that of the ancient Capital of an ancient Kingdom, now in the Sudan, called Dongola. Situated beneath the third falls on the Nile, Dongola, the Capital of Makuria, the Christian Kingdom of Nubia, existed from the 6th to 14th centuries. Today, with its ruined, sand-blown churches and saints’ faces, whose large and wistful eyes stare out from millennial frescoes, Dongola is in every sense a desert, having succumbed to both Islam and the Sahara. And that, Islam and the spiritual desert, is the destiny of Western Capitals, if they do not accept the path of Repentance that leads from the false glory of the grave to the true glory of the Resurrection.
22 July/4 August 2008
Holy, Equal to the Apostles Mary Magdalene