29 November 2012
excerpt from an essay by Steven Kovacevich
1. What is meant by the expression the Church has come a full circle?
The full circle concept in the question refers to the complete cycle that the Orthodox Church has gone through over the course of two thousand years. True to Christ's words that His followers would be hated by the world (cf. Jn 15:18-20, Mk 13:13, Mt 5:11, Lk 6:22-23, Mt 24:9-13), virtually all major persecutions for the Christian faith have fallen upon ancient Orthodox Christianity.
Many in Israel chose not to follow Christ, and as a result, the torch of faithfulness to Christ largely passed to the Gentiles, former pagans, as the Prophet Isaiah had foretold some seven hundred years earlier (Is 2:2, 60:3,5). Christianity then began to spread with miraculous speed from Jerusalem, through the Levant and the Roman Empire and beyond, and it continued to make inroads among the pagans.
As the prince of this world, Satan, reigned in paganism, which was a kingdom of sin, he inevitably sensed a destructive force for him in Christianity. Having at his disposal the full political force of the pagan world, his immediate reaction was to promote a bloody and total annihilation of the Church. For three centuries, Christian blood was spilt throughout the lands of the entire Roman Empire, although the remarkable steadfastness and self-sacrifice of the Christian martyrs proved to be the best witness of their faith. The pagans were awestruck by this witness, and they themselves converted and began to fill the ranks of the martyrs of the persecuted faith. Thus, the blood of the Christian martyrs became the seeds or Christianity, and persecution could not halt its spread.
Although [some say] that the Roman Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity brought an end to the age of martyrs, this assertion is not in fact so ... Constantine’s conversion did end the initial age of the catacombs and produced the Christian Roman Empire (or Byzantine Empire, as Western historians named it), during which time the Orthodox Church produced the Liturgy, the Creed, the Bible, monasticism, and the whole Christian lifestyle with its elevated ideals and holiness that are totally alien to the corrupt world.
Even so, the age of martyrs continued. As Archpriest Alexey Young notes in this regard, Orthodox Christianity has lived for two thousand years on the edge of eternity. It has been faced time and again with virtual extermination by different conquerors, persecutors and heretical movements, nourished even in our times by the blood of countless martyrs. Orthodoxy has always passed through the ages persecuted, wounded and bloody, like its Divine Founder. The same writer continues, noting that true to Christ's promise, however, the gates of hell never prevailed against His Church (Mt 16:18). Despite all possible persecution by the mighty of this world, Orthodoxy has not been vanquished, but it has always survived victorious. To this day it still survives intact and gloriously pure, its gaze steadily focused on the end of the ages and the Second Coming of Christ.
Beginning in the seventh century, the rise of Islam came about with astonishing speed, taking Syria, Palestine, Egypt and northern Africa, and Spain. Later, starting in the fourteenth century, the Ottoman Turkish Sultanate began to conquer the Balkans, anterior Asia and northern Africa, beginning a domination that would continue until the early part of the twentieth century.
A Greek hierarch explains that in essence, Islam is a Christian heresy, having its historical roots in the very areas inhabited and sanctified by the ancient Desert Fathers. He mentions that it took from Christianity not only the dress of its clergy, but the model for the minaret (the towers on top of which the stylites lived and practiced their ascesis), the practice of making full prostrations during prayer, and other things as well. (Even the practice of removing their shoes in prayer when entering a mosque is of Christian origin. In early times, this practice was observed in Christianity, just as priests removed their shoes when entering the altar). It is also a well-known fact that Mohammed was educated by a Jewish relative Varakh, who taught him the Old Testament and instilled in him a hatred of Christianity — a hatred that was transmitted straight into the Koran.
It is the duty of Islam and of each individual Moslem to convert every person to the Islamic religion, and by whatever means necessary, including swordpoint. This policy is fundamental for Islam's teaching (and it was likewise adopted by Roman Catholicism after its apostasy and schism in 1054, in complete contradiction to the teaching of the Gospel). Moreover, in the event attempts at conversion fail, the ultimate aim of Islam is the extermination of every "infidel" from the face of the earth.
Under the Moslems, Christians were once again forced to enter the catacombs, as it were, to live in constant expectation of violence, horrendous torture and death (things the West is only beginning to understand in light of the recent growth of Islamic fundamentalism and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States). For 400 years in Greece and 500 years in Serbia and other parts of the Balkans, entire villages of Christians — men, women and children — were impaled on thousands of stakes planted along the sides of roads. This situation of living in a sea of violence continues unabated even to this day among those Christians witnessing a recrudescence of warlike fanaticism on the part of the Moslems.
Likewise, the Roman Catholic Church, ever since its departure from the ancient Apostolic Church in 1054, has acted with all possible malice in its attempts to destroy Christ's Church. Writing of the Latin Church's numerous inquisitions and mass murders of the Orthodox (something that continues to these times), St. John of Kronstadt (+1908), a contemporary of the last Russian Tsar, stated:
The Roman Church is not only the mother of countless offenses perpetrated against God and His Holy Scriptures, and against Tradition, but of gruesome and bloody atrocities against Orthodox Christians on the part of Rome's pope, its bishops and its clergy.
Prior to the year 1054, the Roman Church was united to the Eastern Orthodox Church; both were a part of the ancient Apostolic Church of Christ. Orthodox Christianity is indigenous to all the West, as well as the East, having come to Italy, Gaul, Scandinavia, Ireland and the entire West long before the East-West schism of 1054. There was only one Christendom (something which has survived down to our own days in the form of the Orthodox Church, which is the only true continuation of the early undivided Church). For one thousand years, the Christian Church — both East and West — lived together in harmony and essential oneness, and its bishops governed the Church as equals. In addition, the bishop of Rome held a position as patriarch of the West, whose authority consisted of jurisdiction over all the bishops in his metropolitan see, just as the patriarchs of Jerusalem, Constantinople, and elsewhere, oversaw the bishops of their respective sees. (A see is the territory of a bishop's jurisdiction). All bishops in Christendom were regarded as equal, and none was seen as an episcopus episcoporum, a "bishop of bishops." This same understanding has been maintained to this day in Orthodoxy. Certain of its bishops — patriarchs, metropolitans, archbishops — enjoy special status among other bishops, but they are not above them.
Beginning in the ninth century, East and West began to drift apart when the bishop of Rome, or pope, began to introduce new and foreign ideas into the faith. (The words pope and patriarch were commonly used in the early Church to refer to the bishops of important historical sees. Pope was not a designation reserved only for Rome's bishop... ). One of the false ideas was that of the supremacy of the bishop of Rome over the bishops of Jerusalem, Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch, and over all other bishops, of whom there were hundreds by that time. ... The idea of unlimited supremacy in one person over the whole world became an ecclesiastical idea in the West, and it came to be transferred from the emperor to the Roman pope. Even the title Pontifex Maximus that the Roman emperors bore was taken over by the popes. ... "The division between the Eastern and Western Churches was not the result of Orthodoxy's stubborn refusal to recognize papal authority, but of Roman Catholicism's unjustifiable claims." [Orthodoxy and Catholicism: What are the Differences? pp. 8-9].
The notion of papal primacy is ludicrous to Eastern Christians, for Christian primacy rests squarely on the Divinity of Christ. As Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky explains:
The Orthodox Church of Christ refuses to recognize yet another head of the Church in the form of a Vicar of Christ on Earth, a title given in the Roman Catholic Church to the bishop of Rome. Such a title does not correspond either to the word of God or to the universal Church consciousness and tradition; it tears away the Church on earth from immediate unity with the heavenly Church. A vicar is assigned during the absence of the one replaced; but Christ is invisibly present in His Church always.
St. Cyprian of Carthage (+258), himself a bishop and one of the most authoritative of the early Church Fathers — and also regarded as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church — spoke about the authority of bishops in the following way:
Let each one give his opinion without judging anyone and without separating from the communion of those who are not of his opinion; for none of us sets himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor compels his brethren to obey him by means of tyrannical terror, every bishop having full liberty and complete power; as he cannot be judged by another, neither can he judge another. Let us all wait the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone has the power to appoint us to the government of His Church and to judge our conduct [Quoted in Abbé Guetée, The Papacy: Its Historic Origins and Primitive Relations with the Eastern Churches, 1866].
Knowing that Rome's novel teaching of a supreme ruler with primacy of jurisdiction would divide and corrupt the Church, the Eastern patriarchs pleaded with the Roman patriarch not to introduce this false teaching. ... In 1054, the Roman Church officially severed itself from the ancient sees of the Christian Church, ... the Great Schism of 1054...
After its separation from Orthodoxy, the Latin Church promoted countless murderous inquisitions in Eastern Europe. As a Greek monk notes, Rome conducted these genocides through the same Unia, the papacy's most effective siege engine, which operates as the janissaries of the papacy, with all the fanaticism of the janissaries, against Orthodoxy. Among the many inquisitions in the twentieth century, one took place in World War II Poland, where the Latins murdered 800,000 Orthodox. At the same time and at the direction of the same black hand, in Croatia, Catholic killer clergy (most notably the Franciscans) and killer police massacred 750,000 Orthodox for their refusal to renounce Orthodoxy and embrace Roman Catholicism, although not before submitting them to infinitely gruesome tortures, no doubt the worst recorded in the annals of history. One of the members of the evil coven of sadistic clergy assassins openly boasted that he alone had killed 40,000 of the Orthodox. As Alexei Khomiakov perceptibly noted, the ancestors of Roman Catholics who long ago committed moral fratricide by unilaterally changing the Church's Creed invariably would resort to physical fratricide. Such they did, and well did St. Nikolai Velimirovich (+1956) call the Latin Church a semi-military organization that has used all means to gain world domination.
– – – ∞ – – –
By far the most virulent and deadly form of anti-Christianity the world has so far witnessed is the end-times phenomenon of Communism, an outburst of primordial satanism that was created and financed in the West, and that was unleashed upon Russia by Western capitalism as an experiment for the one-world government of the antichrist. Because of that great cataclysm, far more Christians have lost their lives for their Orthodox faith in the tragic, pre-apocalyptic twentieth century than in the three hundred years following Christ's Crucifixion.
Communism is part of the "mystery of iniquity" (2 Thes 2:7, Apoc 17:5), that is, Satan's plan of battle with Christ's Church. Archpriest Boris Molchanoff explains that this process has been in motion for ages and that it will reach its culmination at the appearance of the antichrist (2 Thes 2:8).
Writing of a "force that withholdeth" the mystery of iniquity (2 Thes 2:6), the Apostle Paul states that this force will be "taken out of the way" (2 Thes 2:7). As the meaning of the withholding power in this passage is not obvious, Fr. Paul Volmensky provides the following explanation:
In seeing the everlasting battle of Satan for supremacy over the entire world, God gave a restraining power which does not let the devil deploy his various means. Limiting the power of the devil so that he could not destroy us, God does not deprive us of the freedom to choose to serve Him. Digression from God denotes an increase of iniquity. When almost all of mankind of its own will shall be immersed in evil, not seeking communion with God and eternal life, then the restraining power of God will withdraw, antichrist will appear, and the end shall come to all....
The appearance of the antichrist shall not take place until divine providence determines the time at which moment the "withholder" will be taken away. According to the Holy Fathers, what withholdeth is the Holy Spirit and Roman authority ["In Memory of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II," Orthodox Life, vol. 43, no. 4, 1993, pp. 2-4; emphasis added].
Concerning these two parts of the withholding force — the role of the Holy Spirit and that of Roman authority, comment is needed on both. The same Fr. Paul explains the Holy Spirit's role by noting:
Some Fathers explain that antichrist shall not come while the Holy Spirit abides in people, while people possess an intimate, grace-filled union with the Lord through the fulfillment of God's commandments. When evil shall be multiplied among people and no longer shall there be men seeking eternal life, then the Holy Spirit will withdraw from the world. If there is no one on earth being saved, then there is no further need for its existence. People darkened by sin, in whom the Holy Spirit is absent, will accelerate the end of the world. They themselves shall rise up against lawful government authority and deprive themselves of that restraining power which would have hindered the appearance and activities of the antichrist [Ibid., p. 4].
Archimandrite Panteleimon (+1984), a co-founder of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, provides a well developed and detailed analysis of the other factor that withholds — that is, the Roman authority. He writes:
What are the means for restraining the antichrist so that the elect may be brought to salvation? Our Fathers considered the withholding power of the antichrist to be the Roman Empire. In their time the Roman Empire still existed and it was possible to support this interpretation based on the prophecy of the Prophet Daniel. In our times, the only significance we can give to such an idea is within the context of understanding the Roman Empire to mean imperial (monarchical) power in general. Concerning such power, we should understand it to be a monarchy which has the ability to control social movement, and at the same time adhere to Christian principles. It does not allow the people to stray from these principles; it contains the people. Since the antichrist will have as his main task the goal of attracting the people away from Christ, he therefore will not arrive if monarchy is still in control. This power will not allow him to appear; it impedes his negating spiritual activity. This is the withholding power. When the monarchy fails, and everywhere nations institute self-government (republics, democracies), then the antichrist will be able to act freely. It will not be difficult for Satan to prepare voters to renounce Christ, as experience taught us during the French Revolution. There will be no one to veto the movement. A humble declaration of faith will not be heard. Thus, when such a social order is instituted everywhere, making it easy for anti-Christian movements to appear, then the antichrist will come forth. St. John Chrysostom's words lead us to this thought when in his time monarchy was understood to mean the Roman Empire. "When it is said that the Roman government has ceased to be, then the antichrist will appear. Until that time the government [monarchy] will be feared. No one will easily follow the antichrist. After this time, when such control will be liquidated, anarchy will triumph, and the antichrist will try to capture all human and divine power." [A Ray of Light: Instructions in Piety and the State of the World at the End of Time, p. 38; emphasis added].
Analyzing further the term what withholdeth, Fr. Paul adds that:
The Russian Fathers of the Church ascribed particular significance to the Russian Orthodox sovereign, the only protector of Orthodoxy in the whole world. For example, this is what the holy righteous John of Kronstadt taught about royal authority: "By means of sovereigns the Lord watches over the good of earthly kingdoms, especially the good of the peace of His Church. Through them He does not allow godless teaching, heresies and schisms to overwhelm her. And the greatest villain of the world, the antichrist, cannot appear in our midst, because of autocratic authority (that is, the benevolent Orthodox sovereignty), deterring the lawless reeling and absurd teaching of the ungodly. The Apostle says that antichrist shall not appear on earth as long as autocratic authority shall exist" [Op. cit., p. 4].
In these pre-apocalyptic times, the significance of the removal of the withholding power cannot be overemphasized. It is therefore important to examine this matter even further, and Fr. Michael Azkoul does so with careful and elaborate detail. In his booklet Sacred Monarchy and the Modern Secular State, Fr. Michael explains that Communism put an end to the four great empires that were to rule upon earth, as foretold by the Prophet Daniel. According to this prophecy, these four empires were the Egyptian, the Persian, the Greek and the Roman, after which would come the end times.
The same writer goes on to note that the Roman Empire was both pagan (inaugurated by Augustus Caesar) and Christian (inaugurated by Constantine the Great). The Christian Roman Empire had two phases as well: the Byzantine Greek and the Russian. As Schema-Archimandrite Damian of the Ascension Monastery in Resaca, Georgia adds, from Constantine to the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the mantle of "Protector of the Church" fell upon the shoulders of the Roman authority, then resident in Constantinople, the Second Rome. With the fall of Constantinople, this mantle fell to the lineage of the Russian Tsars to protect and preserve the well-being of the Church. Thus, Tsar Nicholas II and his predecessors, having received autocratic authority from Byzantium, were successors to Constantine and those Greek (or Byzantine) emperors who followed him. Such was God's providential means of establishing the Orthodox Christian Church in the world.
Continuing, Fr. Michael explains that the Russian Empire, the last phase of the Roman Imperium, successor to Byzantium or Christian Rome, was the last Christian society, and Tsar Nicholas II was the last Christian emperor, as true kingship depends upon the true faith. Thus, none of the heretical societies of the post-Orthodox West can be spoken of as a societas Christiana. Fr. Michael also states that there has never been a monarch in the post-schism West "by the grace of God." (One can observe a striking example of this principle in the so-called Holy Roman Empire. Historians note that this empire was not holy but was very secular. As an Orthodox historian notes in this regard, the Holy Roman Empire was conceived in heresy, born in schism, and maintained in existence in order to bolster the power of the heretical popes against the Orthodox Church). Unlike the monarchies and kingdoms of apostate Western Europe, the Russian monarchy maintained the true faith as given by the Holy Apostles and kept in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Russian Tsar played a decisive role in restraining the approach of the satanic powers. Western Europe was well aware of the might of its Orthodox Christian neighbor in maintaining peace, and the title the Peacemaker was ascribed to Tsar Alexander III not by the Russians, but by the West. Likewise, after the destruction of Russia by Communism, one authoritative Western historian, Professor G. Ferrero of the Roman National University, wrote that:
Europe urgently needs peace. Innumerable misfortunes are threatening us from all sides. Why? Because Imperial Russia is no more. And without her, there is no more peace, which she alone brought to the world. After the victory over Napoleon, Russia completely gave herself over to the cult of peace. Russia's amazing aspiration to maintain and protect peace at any cost and simultaneously with absolute selflessness, must be acknowledged as a deep mystery. Balance in the world shall not ensure and we shall not avoid crises until Russia will arise in all of her glory [Quoted in Fr. Paul Volmensky, op. cit., pp. 4-5].
As the devil recognized that the Russian monarchy interfered with his attempts to possess the whole world, it was necessary to destroy that authority. Archbishop Averky (+1976) of Jordanville explains that the murder of the Royal House of Russia was not a political act, but rather purely spiritual, one closely bound up with the battle against God and faith. He states:
This murder was thought out and organized by none other than the servants of the approaching antichrist. Those people, who having sold their souls to Satan, are executing the most intense preparation for the hasty reign of the enemy of Christ, antichrist, over the whole world. They understood perfectly well that the main obstacle standing in their way was Orthodox Imperial Russia.... And for the quickest and surest annihilation of Russia, it was necessary to annihilate the one who was its living symbol, the Orthodox Tsar.
It is for the foregoing reasons that the Russian Fathers of the Church view the Russian monarchy as the withholding power. Moreover, as Fr. Michael explains, the murder of the last Tsar brought about the extinction of the Age of Constantine and the end to God's plans concerning world empires. With the disappearance of Christian Rome, that which restrained world revolution, world atheism, anarchy and apostasy is no more, and Satan works unbridled and performs his dark schemes on a world scale. No longer is there any earthly authority to hinder him. 1918, the year Russia's royal family was killed, is a watershed year in human history, for it ushered in the pre-apocalyptic epoch through which we are currently living.
... Hieromonk Sava Yanjíc expends further on this end-times heresy, stating that the worldwide ecumenical apostasy is spreading on all levels. Everything possible is being done, he states, in order to establish an anti-church, a "reborn Christianity." Dogmas are being revised, Church history is being rewritten, and there is an intense secularization and modernization of spiritual life. Fr. Sava goes on to liken today's ecumenism to a Pandora's box from which hundreds of ancient heresies are breaking loose. Archbishop Averky adds:
Ecumenism is the heresy of heresies. Until now, every separate heresy in the history of the Church has striven itself to stand in the place of the true Church, while the ecumenical movement, having united all heresies, invites them all together to honor themselves as the one true Church. Here ancient Arianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Iconoclasm, Pelagianism, and simply every possible superstition of the contemporary sects under completely different names, have united to charge and attack the Church. This phenomenon is undoubtedly of an apocalyptic character.
As the panheresy of ecumenism gains more and more momentum and increased support from world governments, and as it comes to regard itself as an ecumenical "super-church," its infinite hatred of Christ and Orthodox Christianity is becoming increasingly apparent. Once the ecumenical movement's man-made religion (or, more precisely, its devil-made religion) is installed as the official state religion under the antichrist, most established Church institutions will be drawn into this worldwide "church." Orthodox Christianity will then become a religio illicita, even as it was in the days of the pagan Roman Empire. As the same Fr. Sava notes concerning the times that are approaching, Orthodox Christians will once again be persecuted, just as in Roman and Soviet times. He further notes that:
The adherents of the false "Christianity" and other united religions will accuse [the Orthodox] of being intolerant and hateful people, opponents of the new world order and, by extension, of the welfare and happiness of mankind. Many will be imprisoned in special camps for "reeducation, " where they will be severely tortured in an effort to force them to deny the Living God and His Church, and to bow down before the rulers of this world. And thus the Church, like a pure and undefiled virgin, washed in the blood of martyrs... just as in the early years of Christianity, will wait to greet her Bridegroom ["Ecumenism in an Age of Apostasy," Orthodox America, vol. 18, nos. 7-8, 2000, p. 16]. http://www.roca.org/OA/163-164/163h.htm
As Archpriest Boris Molchanoff also notes concerning the final times:
When the day shall come when antichrist, the false messiah, shall enter into Jerusalem, the fate of humanity contemporary to him shall also be decided, irrevocably and forever. Blessed are those who, at that final day given by God for the decisive self-determination of the people, will be able to see the servant of Satan and perceive the inescapable destruction with him of all humanity that acknowledges him [Antichrist, p. 4].
To reiterate and summarize, the full circle concept refers to the historical development that began with Christ's Church being poor and persecuted, after which it became the religion of the Christian Roman Empire, only to end up once again in its final state in a catacomb existence. It bears repeating that the idea is not entirely accurate inasmuch as there have been constant and dreadful persecutions against the Church throughout the centuries. However, given the apocalyptic nature of Communism and its satanic hatred of Orthodox Christianity, the full circle idea is still significant. Whereas Communism impinged only upon the periphery of the Roman Catholic and Protestant worlds, eighty-five percent of Orthodox Christians came to be enslaved in Communist totalitarian police states that sought the complete destruction of Christ's Church and all Orthodox Christians. Indeed, it was for that very reason Communism was invented and forced upon the Eastern Orthodox Christian world by the totally secularized and apostate West. The West's support of the Soviet revolution is now a well-known fact.
This essay was written in 2003. Up to this point it is very instructive. But the next paragraph harbors a grave error. First is the original paragraph. Second is the same paragraph with my comments interjected.
In the present calm before the storm of the one-world government, even though the atheistic Soviet regime of the past no longer exists, recycled Communist leaders continue to meddle in Church affairs by appointing sycophantic hierarchs (often secret police in cassocks) who traffic in the evil ecumenical movement and who see to the persecution of those Christians who do not go along with their apostasy. It is the intent of these bishops to bring the various local Orthodox Churches over which they preside into the embrace of the one-world "church" of the antichrist. Thus, ecumenism is upheld and is emanating from many of "those who appear to be the protectors and leaders of the Church." With this development, that portion of the Church that has not capitulated to the ecumenist heresy has largely returned to the catacombs, thus presaging the end-times events that are foretold in the Apocalypse, that is, the Revelation of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, whose book concludes the New Testament. As the textbook for this course states, "Christians today stand far closer to the early Church than their grandparents did." It also notes that "Christianity began as a religion of a small minority existing in a predominantly non-Christian society, and such it is becoming once more." In this sense, the Church has indeed come a full circle.
In the present calm before the storm of the one-world government, even though the atheistic Soviet regime of the past no longer exists, Actually the Soviet regime had only retreated and it was pretended that it did not exist. recycled Communist leaders continue to meddle in Church affairs by appointing sycophantic hierarchs (often secret police KGB agents in cassocks) who traffic in the evil ecumenical movement and towards that aim their assignment was to bring about the Rocor/MP union of 2007 and who see to the persecution of those Christians who do not go along with their apostasy. partly by labeling anti-unionites as fanatic schismatics. It is the intent of these bishops to bring the various local Orthodox Churches over which they preside into the embrace of the one-world "church" of the antichrist. This is the eventual goal. Thus, ecumenism is upheld and is emanating from many of "those who appear to be the protectors and leaders of the Church." With this development, that portion of the Church that has not capitulated to the ecumenist heresy has largely returned to the catacombs, thus presaging the end-times events that are foretold in the Apocalypse, that is, the Revelation of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, whose book concludes the New Testament. There were still catacomb Churches in Russia at that time, who identified with the Rocor, [we thought], and maybe that's what he is referring to here. I'm not sure. As the textbook we can't trust any textbook from Jordanville seminary anymore, since Met. Laurus of sorry memory has rewritten them all for this course states, "Christians today stand far closer to the early Church than their grandparents did." This is debatable: our grandparents were tortured in prison camps and executed. It also notes that "Christianity began as a religion of a small minority existing in a predominantly non-Christian society, and such it is becoming once more." In this sense, the Church has indeed come a full circle. Truly many of us, who did not succumb to the Rocor/MP union of 2007, do find ourselves gathering in homes for Church services as did the early Christians.
This final paragraph is sound:
In spite of all the persecution of Christianity (including that which is to come), true to Christ's promise, the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church (Mt 16:18), for "the foundation of God standeth sure" (2 Tim 2:19). As the New-Martyr Tikhon (+1925), Patriarch of All Russia, wrote in this regard, Christ's Church is "a kingdom not of this world, a kingdom that has no worldly means at its disposal, no earthly enticements; a kingdom that is despised, persecuted, powerless." He added that the Church "has not only not perished in this world, but has grown and conquered the world." And he concluded, "In spite of all manner of coercion, attacks and opposition, the Orthodox Church has preserved the faith of Christ as a priceless treasure, in its original purity and entirety, unharmed, so that our faith is the faith of the Apostles, the faith of the Fathers, the Orthodox faith."