The above warning was given to me when I first met Orthodoxy in 1986. Today [2009] it is even more perilous, even more difficult to find the Royal Path. For one thing there is a far greater abundance of misinformation. And many materials are missing, and other materials are being rapidly rewritten. For another thing there are fewer than ever guides remaining on the Royal Path, especially who speak English. Hopefully this website will be a place where Newcomers to the Faith can keep at least one foot on solid ground, while they are "exploring."

blog owner: Joanna Higginbotham


jurisdiction: ROCA under Vladyka Agafangel

who did not submit to the RocorMP union in 2007


24 January 2013

Where is the Church?

from Joanna's notepad

Yesterday my friend, Reader Daniel –who converted 50 years ago– expressed a thought that today the apostasy [falling away] is so great that these must be the end times.  He noted that in world-orthodoxy eschatology is suppressed – they want to think that Orthodoxy is going forward and growing into a big beautiful Orthodox world.

This is an excellent observation.  We tend to think that the world apostasizes and WE Orthodox - the tiny ship compared to the world population - are the elect.  But the elect is much smaller than that.

We need to see the huge size the apostasy really is.  And that this apostasy is INSIDE our Church, not outside of it.

Apostasy is a "falling away".  People who were never Orthodox Christian in the first place can not fall away from the Church that they were never in.  They are not apostates: they are heterodox and pagans. 

We say the Roman Church apostasized because it "fell away" from the Orthodox Church.  We don't say that Luther apostasized when he left the Roman Church – he was already in apostasy.

The Great Falling Away is going to be from the Orthodox Church.  If you are part of the majority of people calling themselves Orthodox, then you can be assured that you are in the apostate part, because most of the Orthodox world will fall away.

Read the signs: new calendar, WCC, EP, EP communing with heretics, new-age ideas and positivism being taught in world-orthodox churches, ...

We are truly in the last times, and not in some chiliastic flowering.  This is why world-orthodoxy hides eschatological teachings, because the wolves don't want the sheep to be aware we are in the end times.  But Christ taught us to watch for the signs...

Fr. Seraphim Rose reminds us that the gates of hell will not not prevail against the Church.  The Church will always exist.  The last 3½ years before Christ's 2nd Coming on the clouds the Church is the woman who hides in the wilderness.  Whether She exists is not the question.  The question is, rather, will we be able to find Her. •


Christianity or the Church?
by the Holy New Martyr
Archbishop Ilarion (Troitsky)

excerpt from the Conclusion:
. . . Sometimes it seems as if our whole Church is in dispersion, in disorder.  One cannot tell who is ours and who is the enemy.  Some sort of anarchy is ruling in the minds (of many).  Too many "teachers" have appeared and a "dividing of the body" (cf. 1 Cor. 12:25) of the Church has occurred.  Ancient Church bishops taught from the "high place."  Now, one who says of himself that he is only "at the porch" or even only "near the church walls," nevertheless considers himself entitled to teach the entire Church, including the hierarchy.  These people gather and compose all their opinions about Church questions from various "public sheets" (as Metropolitan Philaret used to call newspapers), where items on Church matters are written by defrocked priests and Church renegades of all sorts, or embittered and insolent scoffers (as foretold in 2 Peter 3:3), or people who have no connection with the Church and who feel nothing toward it but animosity, for example, the Jews.

In such a mass of confusion, many are already asking with concern: "Where is the Church?"

That is why in our time there are many varied and fantastic "searchings."  In the apostolic age, those who sought the salvation of their souls headed for the Church, and the outsiders did not dare trouble them (Acts 5:13).  Then there was no possibility for the question, "where is the Church?"  It was a clear and definite value, sharply separated from everything not of the Church.  Now there stands some sort of intermediate stage between the Church and the "world" and there is no longer that clear separation: the Church and that which is outside the Church.

There is also some sort of indefinite Christianity and even something else which is not Christianity, but a general abstract religion. These vague concepts of Christianity and religion have darkened the light of the Church so that it is poorly seen by those who seek, which is why "searching" so often now goes over into "wandering."

For this reason there is, in our days, such an abundance of those who are "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7).  A new sport has been created, if we may call it that, a sport of "god-seeking."  "God-seeking" has become the goal in itself and if their efforts were ever crowned with success, they would feel themselves highly unfortunate and immediately turn, with their former zeal, from "god-seeking" to "god-fighting" (i.e., theomachism).

Many people frankly build a name for themselves in (the sport of) "god-seeking."  One recalls the stern condemnation of Bishop Michael (Gribanovsky) against all such "seeking."  "They seek," he said, "because they have lost all principles; and while they look for better ones (principles), poorer ones take advantage of the confusion and cheat without any twinge of conscience: for what kind of conscience is there when no one knows what is true, what is good, what is evil."

Intermediate understandings of religion and Christianity only estrange many people from the truth because, for one who sincerely seeks God, they become like "toll-houses."  Many join the path of these arduous seekings, but very many do not complete it with success.  A significant proportion remain "travelling from ordeal to ordeal," not finding blessed peace. 

Finally, in this realm of half-light, half truth, in this realm of the lack of understanding and of the indefinite, in this "vague unsettled world," the very soul degenerates, becomes weak, and is poorly receptive to Grace-given inspiration.

Such a soul will continue to seek even after it finds what it is looking for.  Then there is created a pitiful type of "religious idler," as F. M. Dostoevsky called them.

The above mentioned state of affairs imposes a special responsibility on all Church members in our time.  Members of the Church are very guilty in that they fail to point the way clearly and they poorly illuminate with their examples the final point of arrival for those who are seeking.  This point is not the abstract understanding of Christianity, but precisely the Church of the living God.

According to the example of many people who have followed the agonizing path of seeking to its completion, it is possible to discern that a lasting peace draws near only when man comes to believe in the Church; when he accepts, with all his being, the idea of the Church in such a way that, for him, the separation of Christianity from the Church is inconceivable.  Then begins the real quickening of Church life.  Man feels that he is a branch of a great, ever-budding tree of the Church.  He is conscious of himself not as a follower of some kind of school, but as a member of the body of Christ with Whom he has a common life and from Whom he receives this life.

Only one who has come to believe in the Church, who is guided by the concept of the Church in the appraisal of the phenomena of life and the direction of his personal life, one who has felt a Church life within himself, he and only he is on the correct path.  Much that earlier seemed indefinite and vague will become obvious and clear.  It is especially precious that in times of general vacillation, of wandering from side to side, from the right to the left and from the left to the right, every Church-conscious person feels himself standing on a steadfast, centuries-old rock; how firm it feels under his feet.

The Spirit of God lives in the Church.  This is not a dry and dogmatic thesis, preserved only through respect for what is old.  No, this is truth; truth which can be experienced and known by everyone who has been penetrated by Church consciousness.  This Grace-filled Church life cannot be the subject of dry scholastic research, for it is accessible for study only through experience.  Human language is capable of speaking only vaguely and unclearly about this Grace-filled life.

Saint Hilary of Poitiers spoke correctly when he said, "This is the characteristic virtue of the Church - that it becomes comprehensible when you adopt it."

Only he who has Church life knows about Church life, he requires no proofs; but for one who does not have it, it is something which cannot be proved.

For a member of the Church the object of all his life must be constantly to unite more and more with the life of the Church, and, at the same time, preach to others about the Church, not substituting it with Christianity, not substituting life with dry and abstract teaching.

Now, there is too often talk about the insufficiency of life in the Church, about the "reviving" of the Church. All such talk is difficult to understand and we are very much inclined to acknowledge it as completely senseless. Life in the Church can never run low, for the Holy Spirit abides in it until the end of time (cf. John 14:16).

There is life in the Church and only churchless people do not notice this life.  The life of the Spirit of God is incomprehensible to a person who perceives solely with his mind; it may even seem foolish to him, for it is accessible only to a person who perceives with his spirit.  People who are of an emotional mode of thinking seldom receive a feeling of the Church-conscious life; yet even now there are people, simple in heart and pious in life, who constantly live by this feeling of the abundant, Grace-filled life in the Church.  This atmosphere of Church life and Church inspiration can especially be felt in monasteries.

Those who speak about the insufficiency of life in the Church usually refer to the insufficiencies of church administration, the thousands of consistory papers and so on.  For all those who genuinely understand Church life, however, it is as clear as God's day that all these consistories with their ukases do not affect the depth of Church life at all.  The deep river of abundant, Grace-filled life flows increasingly and gives drink to everyone who wishes to quench his spiritual thirst.  This river cannot be dammed up with "paper."

No, it is not the insufficiency of life in the Church which must be spoken of, but of the insufficiency of Church consciousness in us.  Many live a Churchly life, not even clearly realizing the fact.  Even if we consciously live a Churchly life we preach little about the blessings of this life.  With outsiders we usually only debate about Christian truths, forgetting about Church life.  We also are sometimes capable of substituting the Church with Christianity, life with abstract theory.

Unfortunately, we ourselves do not value our Church and the great blessing of Church life enough.  We do not confess our faith in the Church bravely, clearly, and definitely.  While believing in the Church, we constantly seem to pardon ourselves for the fact that we still believe in it. We read the ninth article of the Creed without any special joy or even with a feeling of guilt.

A Church-conscious person is now often confronted with the exclamation of Turgenev's poetry in prose: "You still believe? But you are altogether a backward person!"  And how many have so much courage as to bravely confess: "Yes, I believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, I belong to the Holy Orthodox Church and thus I am the most advanced person, for only in the Church is it possible to have that new life, for the sake of which the Son of God came to the sinful earth; only in the Church can one come to a measure of full growth in Christ - consequently, only in the Church is genuine progress possible!"

More often inclined to reply to the question: "Are you not one of Christ's disciples?" with the answer: "I do not know Him."


Thus it must be considered as the most vital necessity of the present time to confess openly that indisputable truth that Christ created precisely the Church and that it is absurd to separate Christianity from the Church and to speak of some sort of Christianity apart from the Holy Orthodox Church of Christ.

This truth, we believe, will illuminate, for many, the final goal in their wearisome journey of seeking; it will show them, not in lifeless teaching, but in Church life, where they can truly "recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will" (2 Tim. 2:26).  This truth will also help us to identify Church life and to "gather the separated" children of the Church, so that all may be one, as the Lord Jesus Christ prayed before His sufferings.

We shall end our discourse with one parable of the type used by the holy fathers. 

The Church is like a strong oak, and a man outside the Church is like a flying bird.  See how the unfortunate bird struggles in a strong wind.  How uneven is its flight!  It either flies upward, or else it is overturned by the wind, or it moves slightly forward, and then it is again pushed backward.  That is how a person is carried by the winds of false teaching.  But just as the bird is calmed in the dense branches of the tree and peacefully looks out of its refuge on the storm raging past, so a man finds peace when he runs to the Church.  From his calm refuge he looks out at the ferocious storm "near the Church walls" and he sorrows for the unfortunate people who are overtaken by this tempest outside the Church and who delay in seeking shelter under its abundant Grace, and he prays to the Lord: "Unite them to Thy Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church... that they also may glorify with us the most honorable and majestic name of God praised in the Holy Trinity."


from Joanna's notepad
Where is ROCOR today? 

There are basically 3 parts to the ROCOR today:

1. About 1/3 went into various schisms trying to avoid the MP (1994 – 2001)
2. About 1/3 joined the MP (2007)
3. About 1/3 remained in the original ROCOR under Vl. Agafangel
    A. about 1/2 of this 3rd went into schism under Bp. Andronik
    B. about 1/2 of this third remains loyal to Metr. Agafangel

Every group claims to be the true ROCOR.  There is no legalistic way
to judge unless you are a canon expert.   You have to ask God to show
you.  Ask Him.  He will show you.  He does not give a
stone to His child who asks for bread.

The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.   Fr. Seraphim said there is no doubt that the Church will always be in existence.   Instead the question is, will we always be able to find Her? •


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