“For us modern Christians faith, for the most part, is being divorced from life.” Vladika Averki is most sober in his asessment of contemporary Christianity, and calls us away from “dancing on the grave of Russia” to true repentance and a fundamental reformation of our lives to the Christian ideal. This is a piercing article that can be difficult to read without crying, for Vladika’s words strike at a reality almost all of us have experienced – that is, the decline of true, vibrant, spiritual Christian life and the eclipse of the truth with a lie.
We are living in a strange time, when all the true and healthy Christian concepts are being replaced by false and deceitful concepts, discovered often with an evil intention with the undoubted intention, naturally, of drawing people away from the right path of a truly Christian life. In all of this there can be discerned some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all.
We must be clearly aware of the kind of time in which we live. Indeed, only a spiritually blind roan, or one who had already sold his soul to the enemies of our holy faith and Church, could fail to sense the spirit of the approaching Antichrist in every thing which is now happening in the world. Of what sort of genuine union of all Christians in the spirit of Christian love can one speak now when the Truth is denied by almost everyone, when deceit is in control almost everywhere, when a genuinely spiritual life among people who call themselves Christians has dried up and been replaced by a carnal life, an animal life which has nonetheless been placed on a pedestal and concealed by the idea of pretended charity which hypocritically justifies any sort of spiritual excess, any sort of moral anarchy. Indeed it is from this that are derived all these numberless “balls,” various kinds of “games,” “dances” and amusements toward which, despite their immoral, anti-Christian nature, even my modern clergymen have a tolerant attitude, sometimes even organizing diem themselves and participating in them.
A terrible, unrelieved, hopeless unscrupulousness has taken possession of many people. The true doctrine of the faith and the Church for which the first Christians died in such tortures has become a hollow sound for the majority of modern “Christians.” They neither know this doctrine, nor do they desire to know it, for they are indifferent to it. Dull, cold indifference to almost anything which bears the imprint of ideological content and seeking in every thing only one’s own personal advantage this is the character of our time. This lack of ideological content, this unscrupulousness accompanied by departure from the true faith and the Church and by indifference to them is the basic, fundamental sin of which we, Russian Orthodox Christians, must repent. It is not for us to enjoy ourselves, to amuse ourselves, to dance on the grave of Russia, brought down to its deathbed by us, but rather to repent in tears, really to repent, as the Holy Church teaches us, with a firm intention to change our life radically, to renew our spirit.
As salt preserves food from decay and makes it healthful and pleasant to the taste, so too true Christians preserve the world from moral decay and facilitate its return to health.
But if the salt “loses its savor,” as the Gospel says, i.e. “loses its strength” (in the East there actually is a kind of salt which can lose its taste), then it becomes good for nothing except to be “thrown out to be trodden under foot of men” (cf. the Gospel reading for the third day of the feast of Pentecost Matt. 5:313).
How terrible this is! And we find ourselves living in such times when the tendency dominating the world is directed toward making all Christians such “salt which ha
s lost its savor,” once it has abolished the true Church of Christ derived from the Holy Apostles and thus has deprived Christians of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
This is the so very fashionable, so-called “ecumenical movement,” which is based tin the position that supposedly the true Church of Christ does not presently exist on earth and it is necessary to create it anew…through the unification of all Christians belonging to various “churches” and confessional associations and organizations; this will be done by various mutual concessions in matters of doctrine and the development of a new, common system of doctrine acceptable to all and, along with it, of course, a new world view.
And the opinion, extremely popular in our times, that “it’s all the same which church you go to; after all, God is one” is in agreement with this tendency.
Yes! God is one, but, you know, He also gave us one faith; He created one Church for us, not many different faiths and “churches.” This is confirmed by the holy Apostle Paul when he says, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,” and so we Christians should form “one body and one spirit,” as we are called to “in one hope of our calling” (Eph. 4:4-6).
If there is only one true faith and only one true Church, then as a consequence all other faiths and “churches” are false, not true.
How then can anyone say that all faiths and “churches” are of equal value and that “it is all the same which church you go to.”
Therefore one can and must speak not of the ecumenical unification of everyone for the creation of some new Church, but only of the restoration of union between all who have fallen away and the one true Church of Christ to which Christ the Savior Himself gave the great and sure promise that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
Oh, how great now is the dulling of conscience even of those people who consider themselves believers the clouding of their minds and hearts, so that seeing, they do not see, and hearing, they do not hear, neither do they understand with their heart, as the holy prophet said (Isaiah 9:10). This is the “hardening of hearts” of which he spoke. But there is in our days an even more terrible phenomenon, encountered more and more often: a more or less conscious decision, for the sake of earthly goods and advantages, to serve the coming Antichrist. This is the most extreme degree of falling away, from which it is very difficult to arise.
The fundamental task of the servants of the coming Antichrist is to destroy the old worldwith all its former concepts and “prejudices” in order to built in its place a new world suitable for receiving its approaching “new owner” who will take the place of Christ for people and give them on earth that which Christ did not give them …. One must be completely blind spiritually, completely alien to true Christianity not to understand all this!
Zeal for God, zeal for the Truth is not “phariseeism,” just as “humility” before the enemies. of God, the enemies of the Church, before diabolical Evil, is not the true and saving humility of the Publican, but just destructive self-deception, leading to the depths of hell. In our times, when there are such strong doubts about even the existence of Truth, when every “truth” is considered relative and it is considered proper for each person to hold to “his own truth,” the struggle for the Truth acquires a particularly important meaning. And the person who does not sympathize with this struggle, who sees in it only a manifestation of “phariseeism” and suggests “humbling oneself” before Falsehood by falling away from the Truth, should naturally be recognized as a betrayer of the Truth, whoever he might be, whatever he might call or consider himself.
For us modern Christians faith, for the most part, is being divorced from life: we do not live in full agreement with the teachings an
d demands of our faith. Our faith so clearly and so definitely teaches us to renounce everything corruptible and earthly and to concentrate with all our thoughts and feelings on the incorruptible eternal life awaiting us. Theoretically, perhaps, we accept this (although of late there has appeared a special current of “neo-Christianity” which does not even want to accept this theoretically, but has thought up a completely new, heretofore unknown pseudo-Christian world view aimed at binding man more firmly to an earth which supposedly has been transfigured and sanctified by Christ’s coming into the world), we admit the end of the world, the Second Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, and the future life, but in practice we live and act as if none of this is to be expected and we have only to make ourselves comfortable here on earth by providing for ourselves all sorts of good things and conveniences. We do not really want to think about the death which unavoidably awaits every one of us and we do not prepare ourselves as we ought for the future eternal life before us.
Peace!.. peace!.. peace!.. is heard now from every side: “mutual disarmament!..peaceful coexistence!.. we shall struggle for peace!.. everyone in defense of peace!..”
How wonderful it would be, what a bright and joyful future it would promise for mankind if only these appeals had in mind that peace of which the angels sang on the night of Christ’s Birth: “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men!” (Luke 2:14); if only it were that peace which the Savior Christ promised to His disciples at the Last Supper when He said, “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27); if only it were that “peace of God which passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) which, at the Lord’s command, the Apostles transmitted to the first Christians, which they were taught to seek (I Peter 3:11), and which they were encouraged to have with God and with all people (Rom. 5:1; 12:18). How gratifying it would be to hear them if these appeals came from people of whose sincerity we could not have the slightest doubt, whose words we could trust completely from people who were really convinced that the highest good in life is precisely that peace with God, peace with one’s own conscience, and peace with one’s neighbors in the name Of God.
But alas! It is not of such peace that people are talking now.
All these frequently unnatural and pompous speeches and at times hysterical cries for peace for the whole world come at the present time for the most part from people who are either far from true Christianity or are directly opposed to the Church from people who do not live at peace with God and with their own consciences, but are filled with spite in their relations with their neighbors.
Can we believe in the sincerity of speeches about peace when they are pronounced by people who in principle deny faith in God and love for their neighbors and do not recognize the voice of conscience?
Can we believe that people are really working toward peace when with open and bold blasphemy they have declared war on God Himself and His Holy Church?
When quite recently they did not hide the fact that their aim was to “stir up a worldwide conflagration”? When they openly preach “class hatred” as the basis of their ideology and are not in the least ashamed to pour out whole oceans of blood and to exterminate millions of people just for the suspicion that they disagree with their ideology?
Can we likewise believe in the sincere love for peace of those who in their words unctuously and cloyingly preach “Christian love” and “total forgiveness,” while in their actions they sow disturbances and discord and, by spreading lies and slander, create hostility and divisions, stirring people up against their neighbors?
Can one in general believe that any sort of secure and reliable peace can be established on earth with the crude
flouting of God’s Truth, with the lies and hypocrisy which are so clearly characteristic of the life of modern mankind?
Where the Truth of God is lacking there cannot be genuine peace.
While struggling resolutely against the most minute manifestations of evil and sin in our own souls, let us not fear to uncover and point out evil everywhere where it is to be found in modern life not from pride and self-love, but only out of love for the truth. Our chief task. in this evil time of lying shamelessness is to remain totally faithful and devoted to the genuine truth of the Gospel and to the author of our salvation, Christ, the Giver of life Who rose on the third day from the tomb, the Conqueror of hell and death.
One must know well and remember that Tolstoy’s harmful doctrine of “non-resistance to evil” is completely foreign to true Christianity (by the way, this doctrine destroyed our unfortunate homeland, Russia, and plunged it into the terrible, bloody horrors of Bolshevism): no true Christian can be reconciled to evil, wherever and in whomever he might encounter it.
All true Christians throughout the whole history of the Church have followed the example of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His Holy Apostles and have always condemned evil and struggled against it, even though this might cause them all sorts of severe deprivations and even cost them life itself.