Orthodoxy Is At War

by Tatiana Senina, St. Petersburg, Russia
Original Translation by Vladimir Moss, U.K.
Edited by Father John Bockman

The following is the second of two articles by the above author, translator, and editor.
The first article: "In What Do Contemporary "Orthodox" Believers Believe?"
also appears in this issue of
The Struggler.

Article 2

We live in a time of "war" for the Orthodox Church. And the criteria for a time of war are always harder than for a time of peace. The Church needs first of all that believers become warriors; they must become warriors for the Church of ChristChrist — that is, to offer themselves in an active way on behalf of the Church, capable of recognizing the teaching of Orthodoxy and of putting it into practice, and not simply seeking external adornment and a peacefully ritual life, occupying the role of passive observers, of sheep who always go behind the leader of the flock and are not capable of taking a step on their own.

In our time there are few pastors, and the flock must learn to do without them in case of necessity. So as to be warriors and soldiers of True orthodoxy, which is now surrounded on all sides by the hostile sea of the world, the Orthodox must learn independently to think, to pray, and to organize services and the communal life. They must not simply take part in enterprises already organized by someone else, basically living with normal secular interests and always expecting instructions on everything "from the bosses." If there be fewer believers than one would like, so be it, but they must be able to stand for their faith and the Church.

"Desire not a multitude of unprofitable children" (Sirach 16:1), says St. John Chrysostom.

"Such bring more occasion for blasphemy against God than if they were Christians. What need have I of a multitude? It is only more food for the fire. . . . This too one may see in war: that better are ten expert and brave men than ten thousand of no experience. These latter, besides that they do no work, hinder also those that do work. . . . Let us not make this our study, that (the people) may be many, but rather that they may be excellent; when this shall have been effected, then will that other follow also" (Chrysostom Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 24, pp. 159–160, N&PNF;, vol. 11).

Often an Orthodox community collapses because the priest who spiritually fed them moves somewhere or simply runs away; it also happens that the priest serving in the community is often away, and then all Divine Services cease. People wander off in different directions or sit at home instead of trying by their efforts to support at any rate some kind of services. No small part in this situation is played by priests who insinuate to their flock that serving according to a "priestless" rite is "uncanonical" and even "invalid." Such words are comprehensible when they come from the mouths of clergy of the "official churches" — they have to keep their flock in a condition of blind obedience and not allow competition in the market of "ritual services." But it would be good never to hear such insinuations from priests of the True Church, who must care, not for their own authority, but for their flock and its salvation.

But if you really want to have a community and Church life, begin now, yourselves, as you can, even if you make some mistakes in the Typikon, the reading, and the chanting.

(But, of course, one must strive to avoid such mistakes in accordance with one's strength and understanding.) The Lord, seeing your ardor and desire, will send people who will teach you how to serve correctly, and with time will also send His pastor. But if you sit crossing your arms and waiting until a well-ordered church life "falls from heaven," it may be that you will waste your whole life in this way — while boasting that "we are suffering deprivations and sorrows for the sake of the True Church!" Are not stories of departures of priests and the collapse of communities a result of the fulfillment of the words of the Lord: "For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken away that which he hath" (Mark 4:25)?

Not having a correct idea of Church life, the community was held together, not by its inner links — the common interests and strivings of the parishioners and their love for the Divine services — but by an external attachment to a concrete priest, and as a result remained with nothing. There are, by contrast, examples of communities that have remained without a pastor, but which have continued in spite of all obstacles and trials to keep together and to carry out Divine services — and in time the Lord sends them good pastors, nor are they "hirelings that care not for the sheep" (John 10:11–12).

Those who passively wait for "manna from heaven" are threatened with that about which
St. Isaac the Syrian wrote:

"The beginning of the darkening of the mind (where its signs begin to appear in the soul) can be discerned first of all in laziness with regard to the service of God and prayer. For if the soul does not first fall away from prayer, there is no other way a person can be deceived in soul; but when he is deprived of God's help, he easily falls into the hands of his enemies. And also, immediately the soul becomes careless with regard to the works of virtue, he is unfailingly drawn to their opposite."

Often, too, believers of the "official church," coming to some sort of consciousness of the destructiveness of remaining in it, do not hurry to leave it — either because there are no parishes of the True Church in the vicinity, or because life in these parishes is "not organized" — there is no church or permanent priest, etc., while they themselves are not able to organize anything, to get together and serve. Moreover they do not think it is necessary.

But then we have to ask ourselves the penetrating question: do we want to be in the Orthodox Church, or do we want a peaceful,
well-organized life with people whom we find pleasant?

If we have a consciousness that the Moscow Patriarchate and those churches similar to it are not the Church, why stay in it? It is better to leave and go, at least temporarily, nowhere, than to remain in communion of prayer with heretics and in the "red" church subject our souls to dangerous spiritual experiments. It is better to sit at home for a while and serve oneself somehow (be it only one Vespers or the Hours), look around, have a bit of a think, and work out where to go next, what to do, on what to orient oneself. To sit and wait for someone to "make" the True Church and present it to us at home seems at first glance a more peaceful course, but who knows whether the Lord will suffer us for long and lengthen the days of our life? What if we should end our life in communion with heretics, and then — "as I find you, so will I judge you"?

". . . In all ages the true zealots for the faith have struggled with heretics, paying attention neither to their lofty rank, nor to the secular authorities, nor to their fewness of numbers or external insignificance." The truly pious always gathered together and prayed, whether with a priest or without one. (In the ancient monasteries there was often no permanent priest, and all the services were carried out without priests; a priest was invited only to serve the Liturgy.) The holy fathers always called the believers to spiritual sobriety and renunciation of worldly interests and attachments, to the narrow path of prayer, spiritual exploits and struggles — and we absolutely must follow this path if we really want to be saved.

St. John of the Ladder gives all those who wish to live in a Christian manner this advice: "Do not wait for world-loving souls, because the thief comes unexpectedly.

In trying to save the careless and indolent along with themselves, many people perish with them, because in the course of time the fire goes out.

In trying to save the careless and indolent along with themselves, many people perish with them, because in the course of time the fire goes out. As soon as the flame is burning within you, run; for you do not know when it will go out and leave you in darkness" (Ladder 3:4). This can be understood in the sense that it is dangerous to wait when this or that Christian understands the destructiveness of ecumenism or modernism, of "everyday" orthodoxy, of lukewarmness, and of the blind "obedience" to the hierarchs now in power, and not to the holy fathers. While waiting for the conversion of such people, and hesitating to break communion with members of organizations that have deviated into heresy, we ourselves risk being condemned with them, not only because we checked the flame of the true and uncompromising confession of the faith, and preferred the dying embers of useless "humanism," but also because we gave to those seeking the truth, instead of patristic Orthodoxy, a spoiled and lukewarm humanistic Christianity oriented toward this world, which so fears to "offend" or "condemn" anyone that in the end offends and condemns God Himself and His Church.

"‘I have not come,' says the Lord, ‘to send peace on earth' (Matt. 10:34) . . . but battle and a sword, so as to separate those who love God from those who love the world, the material from the immaterial, the carnal from the spiritual, those who love glory from those who are wise in humility. For strife and separation delight the Lord when they spring from love for Himself" (Ladder 3:15).

Tatiana Senina, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Holy Fathers Speak

. . . . We set aside and withdraw from all those whom the decrees of the holy fathers in times past and times future alike anathematize. Accordingly the believing ought always to be kept distinct from the unbelieving, and the righteous from the unrighteous; since the unbelieving and evil-minded, by every means in their power, are always troubling the believing, and striving to undo them; and consequently they are not to be received, but rejected and kept entirely at a distance, lest they may undo or defame the believing.

For this reason, dearly beloved, beware of the pit of such persons, into which we know many have fallen. Beware of the snares (or darts) of such persons, and of the efforts of the ancient enemy, by which we have seen even those closely connected with us fall wounded before us. Watch the nooses of the liers in wait, by which they are wont to strangle associates and comrades. Follow not such, but keep them far off from you. Be ye, according to the voice of Truth, wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16).

See to it that ye neither run nor labor in vain; but, sustained by each other's prayers and supplications, strive ye to do the will of God; and from those persons whom I have mentioned, if they show themselves incorrigible, keep yourselves separate in all things. In like manner keep yourselves separate from all those of whom the apostle makes mention when he says, "with such persons, no, not to eat" (I Cor. 5:11); since these latter, as well as the former, are to be rejected, and are not to be admitted before they have given satisfaction to the Church. For those with whom it is not lawful to eat are manifestly separated from all social interchange with the rest of the brethren until such satisfaction is given. . . .

Anonymous Epistle attributed to Pope Fabian,
Bishop of Rome from 236 to 250 A.D.

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