24 March 2013
Excerpts from Fr. Nikolai Deputatov writings
Translated by Barbara Koudrin / Natalia Semyanko
From the Spiritual Treasure Trove of Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov.
The Self-Abatement of the Son of God.
The Gospel. Salvation.
A New Life. The subject of Prayer.
On the Liturgy.
The Gift of Grace.
The Way of Christ.
The Light of Christ. Covetousness.
Knowledge of God.
The Gospel Ideal.
Church and “organization.”
Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov was a profoundly thinking theologian and one of the leading ecclesiastical writers of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, having written mainly, on aspects of Christian life and piety. He served in the Russian Imperial Army. After the Revolution he emigrated to the eastern borders of Russia. In 1938 he completed his theological studies in Harbin. He was a great admirer and was well versed in the writings of the holy fathers, in particular Saint Theophan the Recluse, upon whose writings he based his Candidate’s Thesis for his theological degree (Published in 1971 Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y. U.S.A). He was in the Australian — New Zealand Archdiocese.
The Self-Abatement of the Son of God.
God, Who loves us more than we love ourselves, is prepared to do and give us anything. God, having prepared a blessed existence in the Heavens, and is leading us there by mysterious ways unknown in this life, came to us as a humble servant. The Lord came to correct the fall of Adam, brought about by his collusion with the devil. “By” Correcting this, God destroys this connection and offers His Kingdom. While still in the pre-eternal Council of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God expressed His willingness to save humanity: “Behold I come to do Your will Lord…” (Psalm 39).
The beginning of the self-sacrifice self-abatement of the Son of God is evidenced in the Incarnation. He wanted to hide the glory of His divinity under the mantle of humanity. Remaining under this mantle could have been glorious, but it was not what the Lord wanted. He wanted to lead a life of the most humble existence. Humankind cannot endure the occurrence of God. Nature itself cannot sustain the presence of God. Therefore, because of His great love of humankind, God extended the heavens like a veil of divinity, so that we would not perish. Just as God conceals Himself by the heavens that act as a veil, so the Son of God, having come to earth, hid His divinity under a mantle of human flesh, so that seeing God, we would remain living…
The Lord was born in ‘a manger’ and grew up in poverty and toil. He lived in deprivation, not knowing where to find a place to rest. Thus He humbled Himself willingly, choosing this kind of life, with all its uncertainties. He showed no resistance to whatever had come His way, but accepted everything as it came. As God, He was in control over all, and Himself could control the direction of His life, but He renounced His power, humbly accepting everything that happened to Him and was submissive to this. Only once did He interrupt this practice with the words “I am” as if to show He was impregnable to the approaching evil. But this was momentary, and only to show that He gave Himself willingly into the hands of His enemies. This was predetermined in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The Lord Himself called it obedience to the will of His Heavenly Father.
The Lord did not resist when death came, a degrading and fearful death at that. Submission to such a death is the utmost self-abasement. Death came like a clear realization of evil designs and volition of His adversaries. He knew all this beforehand in every detail, but did not resist anything and He willingly went to His death, a death contrived by envy and lies. His submission was not to people’s malice, but to God’s determination, worshipped in the Holy Trinity and expressed in the will of the Heavenly Father. The eminence that He attained as the Son, was proportionate to the depth of His self-humbling. Because He is omnipotent and unequalled, so in honoring the Father, He surpassed all, and not by coercion, but of His own free will. For humbling Himself so, even to death on the cross, God the Father so exalted Him that it would be impossible to surpass. He is exalted, not as God, but as Man.
This means that the human nature of Jesus Christ was introduced into the glory and power of the Divine Nature. Having humbled Himself, He not only did not forfeit what He had as God, but continued to exercise it as Man, showing us extreme humility and immeasurable love. “The Lord became Man with the purpose of having the opportunity to be in communion with humankind. His human body served as the instrument for this communion. The infinite and inaccessible God, by His goodness, having taken on human flesh, derogated Himself in unapproachable glory. He did this so that it would be possible for Him to unify with His visible creatures, and through this, the creatures in turn, could become partakers of the life of the divinity of God.” … St. Macarius of Egypt. The most perfect self-revelation of God to humanity is revealed in Christ, accessible to the consciousness and is very close, dear and comprehensible to the human heart. “He is the true God and eternal life” (1John 5:20), Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15) so full and complete that “whoever has seen Him, has seen the Father” (John 16:9). Also complete and perfect is the Revelation in Christ of the divine Truth and the Father’s will for His people. The Savior had told the people “all that He heard from His Father” (John 15:15). He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).
For us to be Christ-like is not a external duty, or the performance of a coercive demand and it does not consist of external repetitions of His actions and deeds. Before us is a free, living example of a religious and moral life in Christ, with the power of love for Him, as our Ideal, Redeemer and Savior. Without Christ, and outside communion with Him, we cannot do anything truly good (John 15:3). To love Christ, we are called to travel the inescapable path of self-denial. Through self-denial we inevitably come to terms with all adversity, sorrows, illnesses and misfortunes. And not only do we come to terms with these, but wholeheartedly and with gratitude, incessantly call upon the sweetest name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. With the name of Christ Jesus, spiritual beauty, joy and calmness enter our soul. In Him is God’s Kingdom.
Let us not forget that we must incessantly turn to our Savior for guidance, support and help. He is the sole Teacher and Life Source. His influence extends to us, not only through learning but also through His meek and humble Being. The branch can only be fruitful, because of the vine from which it, itself, feeds. Human beings searching for spiritual fruits must live in Christ and be in constant communion with Him.
Knowledge of God is only possible through experience of Him. But there is no necessity to prove that the sun shines and the stars twinkle at night. So it is with God — His being and perfection is felt by all, except those who are spiritually blind. It is a great joy to the whole world that “the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
The Gospel contains the joyous news of the coming into the world of God the Word, Jesus Christ, for the salvation of all, even the most ingrained sinners. Apostle Paul called his preaching “the Gospel” because it promises to give many blessings, reconciliation with God, defeat of the devil, forgiveness of sins, resurrection from the dead, eternal life and the attainment of the Kingdom of Heaven (St. Theodorite).
There have been many religious and philosophical teachings, but not a single one of them could have been called ‘the Gospel’ because it did not renew human life, it did not give healing to humbled hearts and it did not create a true freedom — freedom from sin. In the wider understanding, the name ‘Gospel’ can be used for all the books of the New Testament. Clement of Rome calls Apostle Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians a Gospel. Apostle Paul writes: “according to my gospel.” If the letters of Apostle Paul are gospels, then the same could be said of the letters of Apostle Peter. Origen clearly explains why all the books of the New Testament can be called gospels.
“The gospel is that which confirms and strengthens faith in the coming of Christ and His second coming and brings Him into our souls, that desire to accept the divine Word of God, Which is before the doors, knocking and wanting to come in” (exegesis on the Gospel of John).
The Gospel of Christ (Rom1:16), the Gospel of God (2 Cor. 9:7; Thess. 2:2-9) the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14) salvation (Ephes. 6:15) or reconciliation with God, the Gospel of God’s blessing (Acts 20:24). Whoever rejects the authenticity of the Gospels openly rejects the evident truth and does not give credence to the historical Church Tradition which attests to their apostolic origin. With regard to the heralds of the Gospel, the faithful are not slaves: “We” says the Apostle- “do not have your faith” (2 Cor. 1:24). Faith is a matter of free will, if you want to believe, do so, if not, then one is free to disbelieve (Bishop Theophan). The heralds of the Gospel are only partakers of the joy of believers. Their task is to maintain steadfastness of the faith and in this way, contribute to the joy that faith brings.
Christ’s teaching is straightforward and clear to all. It is only hidden from those who are blinded by their own wisdom and have become spiritually dead (2 Corinth 3:4). Similar to a fragrance, Christ’s teaching spreads everywhere. To some it gives life, others it mortifies as it reveals their inner decay, their total religious and moral perversion (2 Cor. 2:15-16). “The doors to God’s mysteries do not open to non-believers, and their light does not illuminate them. It keeps them in darkness, ‘the god of this age’ (the devil) does not allow God’s light to shine within them” (Bishop Theophan).
The Gospel is only a part of the wider oral apostolic tradition. Misled are those who regard the Holy Scriptures as the only source of the Christian faith and reject the Tradition of the Church. The Church, under the grace of the Holy Spirit, primarily and unfalteringly preserves even the apostolic tradition that did not become part of the Holy Scriptures. The purpose of the Gospel is not to present the Lord’s life and works in complete entirety and in a strict chronological order, as is the function of historical works. “It is written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing, you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). The purpose of the Gospels is not so much a historical one, but rather a salvific one — to show that Christ is the Son of God, Savior and Redeemer of the world. In keeping with this purpose, the Gospel writers, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, relate only those aspects of the Lord’s life that are most revealing of Him as the Savior, Who reconciles us with God.
Christianity gave new meaning to our being and radically changed our relationship with God, gave us a new blessed life, and has led us into the Church — into this paradise and heavenly realm on earth. The Law did not renew or give rebirth to man, although it in itself was holy and just (Rom 7:12) but it revives the grace in him. Nothing can be more comforting than the words: “You are no longer a slave, but a son, and since you are a son, you are God’s heir in Jesus Christ” (Gal 4:7). Being adopted by God to sonship is the highest blessing bestowed by Christianity. We are led by Christ into a new blessed life and have become with Him, newly created creatures (2 Corinth 5:17).
The message of the Gospel attracts everyone with its divine power and simplicity. Correct understanding of the Gospel, universal and of pan-ecclesiastical oneness, is imperative and deviating from this understanding, inevitably goes hand-in-hand with illogical reasoning. In the Gospel we can find answers to all the questions of our spiritual nature. It is the beginning that transforms our life, transforms our innermost being, gradually, without catastrophes or breaks. It gives a true freedom — freedom of the spirit. It gives a true wealth — spiritual wealth. It lifts our thoughts and feelings to the eternal, the heavenly, the divine and teaches us how to act, so that God’s heavenly Kingdom can descend upon us. Life according to the Gospel, is life in Christ, full of the joy of the Holy Spirit. This joy, is a joy that calls us to do good works, to toil and labor and accept a spiritual challenge. This is unceasing service to God and one’s fellow human beings in the Church. As a reward, the Gospel promises that we shall be eternally with Christ God our Savior in His eternal Kingdom.
The soul needs spiritual food and only the Word of God and the writings of the Holy Church Fathers can nourish it. Worldly knowledge dulls the mind and creates instability of thought. There is no restraining of the searching thoughts.
We are in our right to regard the works of Bishop Theophan the Recluse as being close to those of the Holy Fathers. He draws the reader to himself with sincere exposition, clarity and heavenly simplicity. From his writings, as from a deep spring we draw sweet and living water, flowing into eternal life. He spent his whole life examining the question of salvation and for us he is a unique teacher on the subject at hand. May he help us, to expound, if but briefly, this major theme troubling humanity….
For the Christian salvation presupposes an active life, in constant communion with God and with the help of His grace, fulfillment of His will. The zeal to please God is very similar to fire. During a fire, the flames engulf the whole building, so the flames of zeal fill the whole being of a person. Salt preserves food from spoiling and the zeal permeates our whole being, drives out sin, which corrupts the body and soul and in this way saves people from moral and spiritual decay. Martyrs eagerly went to their death because an inner fire was burning within them. Pleasing God is a joyous procession to God, giving wings to the spirit. Everything should be done to the glory of God, contrary to the sin living in us. Without zeal, a Christian is a bad Christian, impoverished, wilting, weak, lifeless, neither warm nor cold. Such a life, is not a life. A Godly life awakens, when the Holy Spirit enters the heart and initiates life in the Spirit; cleans and gathers into one, the darkened and broken features of the image of God. The fire of zeal — is God’s grace. God’s Spirit descending into the heart begins to work as zeal. The power of God’s grace penetrates the inner being and restores order in all its beauty.
Those who turn away from God put themselves as a foundation of their life and work. Recoiling from God and the fullness of His Grace, they hasten to fill the created void. The falling away from God evokes in them an unquenchable thirst, undefinable, but never-ending. In a word, they become a bottomless pit. They spend a whole life in sweat and toil and great tribulations. From this we understand that a person can never be in himself, but always outside himself in worldly, troubling things. He has fallen away from God Who is the plenitude of all. He is empty in himself and immerses himself in various interests and lives for them. This is how a sinner constantly thirsts, and is concerned about things outside himself, outside God.
Thus, a characteristic feature of the sinful life is undue worries without concern for salvation (Luke 10:41).
Differences and distinctions of tribulations depend on the type of emptiness that has formed in the soul. The vacuous state of the mind, which has forgotten the One, Who is all, gives rise to searching concerns of the heart, to increasing knowledge, probing. The lack of direction of the will creates many desires, a striving towards ownership of material possessions, so that everything is done according to our will and is within our power: that is indulgence in worldly pleasures. The emptiness of the heart creates a craving for worldly pleasures, searching for innumerable things in which he wants to satisfy both, his inner and outer self. Thus a sinner is constantly concerned about increasing his knowledge and possessions, and indulging in worldly pleasures. This is the cycle in which one’s whole life is spent — in constant agitation. Satan has only one concern, and that is, whatever a person does, wherever his heart, consciousness and attention are, that they do not come from God, but are attached somehow, outside God. Here, not only the passions, but education, artistic creativity and social activity could serve as ways by which Satan holds the blinded sinners in his power, not giving any opportunity to recover one’s senses…
The soul knows how powerless it is on its own. Let it prostrate itself in its own heart before God and change into naught. Then the all-powerful grace will transform the “naught” into “All.” Whoever in the ultimate self-humbling gives oneself into God’s hands, draws Him Who is benevolent and by His strength becomes strong himself. Expecting everything to come from God and nothing from the self, one has to force oneself to effect change and act within one’s capabilities, so that the divine assistance has something to relate itself to, and bless with Its power. The spiritual life is a prudent life. It consists of a transition from an intellectual state of communication with God to a realistic, living, tangible and visible one. In the mystery of Confession, grace descends and is perceived by the Spirit, and then vanishes from consciousness. “It settles in the depths of the mind. Initially, grace illuminates the soul with its light, so that it can fully feel it” (St. Diodoh). Then grace hides itself from the one being saved, and though it is still in him and is still dynamic, it hides in such a way that one does not notice it, and a person quite often feels abandoned by God and that he is perishing. That is why God conceals the preciousness of this vivifying gift for a prolonged period of time so that we, even if we fulfill all the virtues, that we consider ourselves totally worthless, while we still have not accepted sacred love as a permanent disposition.
“Even though grace conceals its presence from the soul, yet helps it in a secret way to show adversaries, that victory belongs only to the soul. That is why, then, the soul is despondent in sorrow, in shame and even in moderate despair” (St. Diodoh). The work of grace after many trials is to show its presence, and thereafter, the soul is joyfully adopted by the Spirit. God commits Himself to the heart and a person becomes worthy to be one in spirit with the Lord. “Whoever has been tested, becomes a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Grace illuminates one’s whole being in some sort of state of deep emotion” (St. Diodoh). The Kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Spirit. “The light shining in the person, so pierces the inner being, that, one becomes immersed in this bliss, finding experiences outside of oneself because of the abundant love and mysteries that one is able to contemplate” (St. Macarius).
God is drawn near either by toil and deeds or by the calling upon the name of Jesus Christ. Among the greatest feats, pre-eminence was given to the Jesus prayer. It enlightens, strengthens, vivifies and conquers all visible and invisible adversaries and lifts one to God. It is all-powerful and all-enacting. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ is a treasury of goodness and life in the Spirit. This is a living union, life in God, affirmation in Him with one’s whole being: thought, heart and will… Like one who is tied up. I will go where you lead me. This is the action of being resolutely faithful to God. The Lord can see what troubles our heart and feels (speaking in human terms) this pain, but what needs to be done about this pain, only He knows. Hasten Lord, show us Your help. Grant us salvation, for the soul is becoming weary. You alone I seek. Do not deprive me of Your grace, Beloved of my soul.
A New Life.
Without faith in Christ we cannot even come close to the threshold of a new life. Faith is rooted in the heart, not from the words of human wisdom, but from the Word of God. (Rom.10:17) In the beginning, the will of the Creator was revealed through the patriarchs and the prophets, and then through the Son of God.
Now we must look for the source of the true faith in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. With His own words, it was Christ Himself who revealed the will of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit (John14:26) He put it in the minds and hearts of His apostles whom He sent to preach the Gospel (Mark16:15). Those who listen to them, listen to Christ, Himself (Luke 10:16).
The main purpose of the Savior’s coming on Earth, however, was not to teach, but to redeem. Humankind could not have been saved by teaching alone. Teaching in itself does not deliver from sins and to radically change anyone’s life. Changing their life was necessary for those people in whom sin had become deep rooted. Christ is the Savior of mankind. Through His incarnation He brought to human existence the beginning of a new, blessed life. Christianity is not a teaching, but a new life. One can study and become an expert in the Holy Scriptures, but not be a Christian. This blessed life, in accordance with the Savior’s promise, is found in the Church, which is vivified by the Holy Spirit. The Church of Christ predates the Sacred Scriptures. The Scriptures are not independent, but are only a stream in the current of the blessed church life. “We would not need the help of the Holy Scriptures, if we led a life so pure, that instead of books, the grace of the Holy Spirit would serve us instead” (St. John Chrysostom).
The fact that we rely on the guidance of the Scriptures is indicative of our imperfection. “When the power of the Holy Spirit enters a person’s soul, then instead of the law of the Scriptures, the commandments of the Holy Spirit take hold, and he who achieves perfection learns in secret from the Holy Spirit, and has no need of help from things of feeling” (St. Isaac Syrian).
The teachings of St. John Chrysostom and St. Isaac Syrian are understood by those who have gained correct understanding of the fact that the strength of the Church is not in teaching, but in a new blessed life.
Protestantism, having rejected the authority of the Church, has made the Bible a sort of fetish. Outside the Church there are only books, but there is no true Word of God. All heretics (and even Satan — Matt 4:6) found their basis from Biblical texts, because isolated excerpts can have different and even contradictory interpretations and misinterpretations. The true interpretation of the Bible is only found in the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit Who is the source of both the Church and the Holy Scriptures. Heretics, when interpreting the Holy Scriptures, want to replace the authority of the Church with logical reasoning, but reasoning can only be objective in mathematics. The actual structure of the Bible is determined by the Church. It is inconceivable to consider the teachings of the Holy Scriptures outside the Church. Any rationalistic criticisms of the origins and contents of the Holy Books unequivocally lead to contradictory conclusions.
Biased study of the Holy Scriptures outside the guidance of the Church, results in a single disputable choice of only one teaching, even to the rejection of all others. Thus from arbitrary interpretations of the Holy Scriptures many heresies arise. Such exponents of the Scriptures, consider themselves intelligent only because they do not believe and doubt many things. They are prepared to consider themselves “the chosen,” only because they do not take part in the lives of ordinary parishioners and critically look at their lives. Conceit, envy, vanity, an improper heart — this is a well trodden path to any heresy…
The Orthodox Church is called to preserve and bring into life untainted, the teaching of the Gospel. We are the remnant, and the treasure of the Truth is guarded by our Church. Woe to the one, and God’s wrath upon anyone, who betrays the beloved Holy Tradition and joins those with emptiness of faith for the sake of self-gain. In his own folly a person scorns the inherited treasure delivered from the Heavens. St. Irinaeus exhorted: “Truth, which is only found in the holy Orthodox Church, should not be sought from others.” St. John of Kronstadt wrote: “Christ came to renew the fallen nature of humanity, which fell through sin. The Holy Spirit, having come into the world and acting in the Church through the clergy, divine church services, sermons, the mysteries, still unceasingly continues this renewal. This renewing power remains only in the Church; it cannot be found outside the Church and it can never exist outside the Church.” St. Nil of Sorsk expounds similar notions, saying that “the success of a person’s inner growth is the fruit of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which lives in the Church.”
Joyous is the person who embraced the spirit of the church, a spirit of sacredness and theology. This person is in a state of bliss. With all his heart he yearns for the Church, to this source of living water, flowing into eternal life. Here one finds great joy, joy in a new life in Jesus Christ. This joy is real, being the foretaste of the eternal bliss. And no-one can deprive one of this joy, as long as one is in the Church.
The subject of Prayer.
Philosophizing is by far easier than praying. Satan is self — opinionated and encourages those who rely on their own wisdom. On self-willed theorizing and the grasping of “the great mysteries” he traps, confuses and destroys human souls. The greatest advantage of prayer is that it replaces all that we have. This is the most profound content that is hidden in prayer: faith, devotion, salvation. Whoever strives to pray with one’s whole heart is already saved. Prayer — is a half-way to God. Through prayer, a blessed power by way of a harmony of sacred words, pours into our hearts. Prayer brings divine joy.
If philosophers, rationalists and materialists do not believe and do not pray, this does not mean that they have advanced very far, or soared very high, “but it means they have stepped away from human nature, distorted and disfigured themselves, as though they have gouged their eyes out or cut off their noses” (Bishop Theophan). The Apostles regarded prayer, together with the teaching of the word of God, their main concern. “Prayer is the highest of virtues, the root and foundation of a life striving for salvation” (St. John Chrysostom).
Christians, in prayer, find solace and help in all difficulties of life, in every need and misfortune. And thus-perish self pity! Let us compel ourselves to prayer. If we continue to pray, even under duress, then idleness and our negative attitude to prayer will begin to dissipate and with God’s help, will completely disappear and could be replaced by a strong spiritual inspiration. “One monk was constantly overcome by the devil before prayer. He would feel hot and cold, begin to feel ill — he was ready to die. What did he do? Well, my soul, he said! The time has come to die. Let us pray for the last time, and shed our tears before God.’ Forcing himself, he stood to pray. His head was aching, but he continued… He finished reading the typica, and the pain disappeared… The next day, the same happened. Then he understood from where the temptation comes, and from then on he never left the reading of prayers — no matter what the distraction was” (Bishop Theophan).
The soul, just like the weather, experiences sunny days and dull days. It is within our power to attune our soul so that unceasingly, the sweetest heavenly melodies will be heard. Unconsciously the words of the poet come to mind: “The sounds of the heavens could not be replaced by the sorrowful songs of earth.” True prayer cannot exist without the assistance of the Holy Spirit. The impact of the Spirit, the Comforter on the heart — therein creates touching sighs, sacred strivings and desired prayer. This kind of birth process of prayer, heartfelt and sweet, is a unique, heavenly joy… If fervent intercessors cease to exist, then the world will perish through great disasters. “The world is upheld by the prayers of holy people,” attests starets (spiritual elder) Siluan, “from the time I came to know God, my soul longs for Him, and nothing makes me more joyous on earth than this. There is only one joy for me — God. He — is my joy, my strength; He is my wisdom, my wealth... From the sweetness of God’s love, the soul forgets all earthly things, regarding these as debris and ash…”
The Jesus prayer holds a pre-eminent place... It is directed to place us into God’s presence without any thoughts, only the understanding of that miracle that we are here and God is present with us. With the Jesus prayer there is nothing and no-one, except God and us. It is a good companion, friendly, always close and totally personal, in spite of the seeming monotony when repeated. In joy or in sorrow, when it becomes habitual, the Jesus prayer becomes a strength, revitalizing the soul, always a ready answer to any call from God. Without prayers and hope, the world will suffocate in its own hatred and will become weary from suffering. In vain the voices cry out, the weeping eyes await the light. The night grows darker… And without Christ, the day will not come to replace the night…
One Athonite starets pleaded the Theotokos for two years to grant him a prayerful flame in his heart, and this was granted. Starets Ambrose of Optina was transfigured during noetic prayer. His face lit up and it gave out an unusual radiance. From the writings of St. Isaac Syrian, one starets was only conscious of himself at prayer, up to the first Glory (of the 3rd psalm), and then immersed himself in the contemplation of God, and very noetically, in silence, prayed to God at some length, standing motionless and not feeling any drudgery. This blessed gift the starets received after 30 years of feats, sorrows and deprivations. In this way the feats of martyrs, saints and the righteous with the help of the grace of God, are higher than exceed the natural powers of people.
A fellow countryman, visiting St. Seraphim asked if he wanted to send anything to his family. St. Seraphim answered, pointing to the icons of the Savior and the Virgin Mary: “This is my family.” True prayer filled with humility and love of God and other people, together with the partaking of the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist, makes the communicant a dweller of the spiritual, heavenly world. True, heartfelt prayer banishes in us loneliness, despondency, hopelessness. It invigorates our spirit, arouses energy, makes us forget insults and disappointments, even in great misfortunes. It develops patience, endurance and consoles with hope in God. The devout are always full of vitality and are cheerful. There is no sorrow that prayer cannot allay. Prayer — is a key that opens the doors to God’s mercy, and is a proven means of obtaining temporary and eternal joy.
When God is in our hearts, then within us, we have the Kingdom of God and there is joy and peace. Prayer not only brings joy and serenity, but even changes misfortunes to good and brings salvation of our soul. “All who call upon the name of Jesus Christ will be saved” (Rom.10:13). God fulfills our requests, if they come from the heart. He bestows on us His blessed help.
A young boy wants to draw a picture and give it to his father on his Name Day, but he cannot draw it by himself, and the father with all his love helps him, putting his hand over his son’s and makes correct outlines. And when the picture is ready the son presents it to his father with great delight, who accepts it, even though, in reality, it was drawn by the father who was guiding the son’s hand. This is analogous to how our Heavenly Father helps us, who pray to Him. We are weak, but the Almighty Lord, not only helps, but gives strength to strive towards good. At certain times, the Lord gives the opportunity to experience the joy of being with Him and the enjoyment of life. “Wherever Christ the Lord may be, there you will find the Kingdom of God and His divine blessedness” (St. Tihon of Zadonsk). “O Jesus, joy and sweetness of angels and all the saints! Draw me to follow You! — By what means? By Your beautiful and salvific way which You have followed from birth to death, for my sake, an unworthy being. Where did You go? To Your eternal Kingdom. That is where we will hasten and here, on earth, and there, in Your Kingdom, we will live in Your likeness (St. Tihon of Zadonsk).
Choose a concise prayer with forceful words. Repeating it often and over a period of time, you will find in it a great strength. There is no need for wordiness, but with a short prayer pound out of the heart, as if out of flint, blessed sparks. This comes from personal experience. The Church also has lengthy services and prayers. They are all according to the Order (Typica). However, even lengthy services become short through heartfelt, concentrated prayer. The Kingdom of God is there, Paradise is there. There is no concept of time or measuring in Paradise. Our goal is to stand before God, to attend to His presence, to open up our heart and accept from Him, strength and power, so that His will can be effected in us. This is the purpose and object of prayer. When God is central, everything else pales in comparison. Everything that is outside God, has no value or meaning…
A priest was serving in the church. Before Him was a very old icon. Suddenly he felt as if the Virgin Mary on the icon was drawing him to prayer, acting upon his mind and heart. He experienced a real power emanating from the icon. This power filled the whole church with prayer; gathered scattered thoughts, as if the Virgin Mary was physical present. She stands with authority, demanding a response… Thus grows and invisibly comes to fruition, love and closeness to the living God and to the Queen of the Heavens. Therein lies our work of salvation. And in the work of salvation the content of prayer is formed.
On the Liturgy.
“Without prayer the key to the golden letters of the Holy Scriptures is lost” (St. John Chrysostom).
The purpose of life is not to enjoy its worldly pleasures, but to attain holiness. Its most important source is the liturgy, and especially the partaking of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
“The liturgy — is all our strength. I die when I do not serve the liturgy” avowed St. John of Kronstadt. “Search for the Liturgy — this Singular and Unique Sacrifice. Otherwise you cannot find salvation from anywhere.” “Do not even think of saving yourself on your own!… One is not a Christian, if having the opportunity to pray at a liturgy one does not want to partake in it with one’s prayers. And the thought of remaining willingly without church prayer on a feast day — is temptation of the devil.”
Having partaken of the Eucharist, one is overcome with a feeling of lightness, radiance and joy: you are renewed in spirit. The soul purifies, the mind enlightens and the body gains vigor. “Nothing helps to calm the passions and drive out the demons as much as heartfelt, as frequent as possible and earnest partaking of the sacred and life-giving Mysteries (St. Kallist). The Eucharist is the mystery of mysteries, even greater than the creation of the world, and the mind need only to humble itself and accept all with faith. But to reject the mystery is injudicious, even folly. A mystery— is higher than the laws of nature, higher than the intellect.”
The righteous Father John called the liturgy “paradise” and “heaven on earth.” Justly it is the center of our life, and there is nothing more precious. Upon evidence of erudite scholars of liturgics, the best teaching on the spirit and meaning of the liturgy is given in the works of St. John of Kronstadt. There is nothing comparable in the literature of the west. Through St. John, like lightning in a thick, sinful haze, the Divine Liturgy gives light. He focuses our attention mainly on it: “And on the altar God appears in the flesh. There is nobody who is closer or dearer to us than the Lord our God… Through divine services we resign ourselves to Him. And during the Proskomedia, ‘to take out a portion’ is more precious than hierarchical prayers.”
“The liturgy — is a shortened version of the whole Gospel. It is the sun in its fullness. It is the greatest of Mysteries… Unceasing sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and the pouring of His sacred blood for the renewal of the world. The liturgy is a mystery of Divine love, deification of one who is lowly, one who is perishing in the sins of humanity. It is a heavenly service… bliss, peace and joy to the soul! It nourishes the mind; brings joy to the heart; evokes tears of compunction, reverence, gratitude, self-sacrificing in feats of love and brings joy in the hope of the resurrection and immortality. The liturgy is our weapon against powerful enemies, and victory over them, light and purification of the soul, the holiest of holies, our glory, hope and affirmation.”
“Be it fire and light unto me, Savior, partaking of Your Sacred Mysteries and let it enlighten me to true knowledge of God” (sessional hymn tone 8). This is what the Church teaches. And all its teachings are God-inspired. Each word of the prayers of the Church — is a gift of God’s grace, pouring out onto souls. Christ in all His fullness is before us, living and giving life to all.”
“Christian Orthodox Faith! A plenitude of indescribable goodness is open within you! How you renew, cleanse, sanctify faith, hope, through penitence, prayer and especially through the life-giving Mystery of the Eucharist! What a divine life! What wondrous acts of the life-giving Spirit!…What wondrous salt of the earth You are for us, earthly dwellers, who are plagued by the decay of sin, right to the marrow of our bones and our intellect.”
The Gift of Grace.
Only through the action of the Holy Spirit the inner person grows stronger and renews each day, but the outer, physical person, i.e. the human flesh, the sensual, does the opposite. It decays and falls away (2 Cor. 4:16). How can the strengthening by the Holy Spirit of the inner person be observed? By the entering of Christ in the heart, by the establishing of Him in the inner person — preparing the person as a dwelling for Christ. Christians have received the Holy Spirit and have received Christ into their hearts (Heb.1:13). It is not thought or motive, demanded by Christ, which penetrates us, but Christ Himself, like a Living Entity, enters us. How Christ dwells in the human heart, listen to what He Himself says: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John14:23). Christ enters the heart in the presence of grace found in the Holy Spirit, through faith. And the more our faith grows and strengthens, the more concentrated, more profound, more life-involving our communion with the Lord is. Christians become stronger in their inner being through the power of the Holy Spirit, and this is the preparation of the dwelling place for Christ in us. With the unfailing presence of Christ in our hearts, we will be powerful in the foundations and strong in our love, like a plant that has firmly rooted itself in the ground or a building with a sound foundation. These comparisons exemplify the stability, steadfastness and affirmation of Christian love. Christian understandings are supported by a Christian life. The strengthening of the inner person, receiving Christ into our hearts and having love abide in us-these are the necessary prerequisites for Christ’s indwelling. This is not an abstract concept, but a concept based on Christian experience. Having received the power, we become competent to comprehend the truth of Christianity. To comprehend the truth is to master it, to acquire it. It is essential to understand the truth of Christianity in accordance with all the saints. The comprehension of Christianity is acquired not “in some unusual way, set apart from others, but it matures and becomes absolute under the conditions of communion with all other Christians” (Bishop Theophan). An immeasurable element of understanding Christianity is Christ’s love, shown on the Cross, and consequently the love of God, Who sent His Son for the salvation of the world (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8).
Christ’s love surpasses the ordinary mind, the ordinary rational reasoning. But that, which is hidden from the natural human understanding, is revealed to the Christian, not fully though, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the indwelling of Christ, and through a true life in Christ’s love. That which cannot be comprehended in the normal way, is understood by the inner being, through life in the spirit. “Even though Christ’s love is above all human understanding, you will understand it through the indwelling of Christ in you” (St. John Chrysostom).
Perfection is infinite, but its ultimate limit and highest goal for Christians is the fullness of God’s blessings or blessed strengths from God, given to us in Christ. The highest virtue is humility — a modest perception of oneself, admitting one’s weakness, feebleness, poverty of spirit, meekness in thoughts and feelings. Christian humility rests on a most living understanding that everything a Christian has, he received through grace. The humble person recognizes his great Christian, spiritual treasure, but knows that he did not earn it, for it is given to him by the grace of God, because he, on his own, is powerless and weak. In the words of St. John Chrysostom: “Humility is seen when whoever is great, humbles himself; in recognizing his greatness he does not become vain.” Humility is bound with wisdom, for whoever admits his own weakness, will then relate to others without anger and annoyance. After humility and meekness comes patience. On the one hand there is firmness, steadfastness and on the other generosity, patience, no harboring of ill feeling and the absence of revenge. Christian patience is not cold and heartless, but is full of love. If you do not have patience with your fellow human beings, how then is God going to show you patience? Where there is love, all can be endured. That is why the Holy Spirit is given, to reconcile people who differ in many ways. Just as there is our spirit within us, working in all parts of the body and is all unifying, so the Holy Spirit is given to us, the children of the Church, binding and forming us into one body, even though we are different in numerous ways. This unity is expressed in one common hope, emanating from the very calling of Christians. All are enlivened with the one hope, to be eternally in Christ’s Kingdom.
Those who have received the one Spirit and drink from the one source should not be divided. God enters and lives in us through the Holy Spirit, but works in us, reconciles and saves us through the Son. Christ the Savior gives to the faithful blessed gifts of the Holy Spirit by His own measure, so that they do not remain infants in faith, inexperienced youth, wavering and capable of digressing into all kinds of non-Christian ways, where Satan’s deceit entices the inexperienced by various means of guile and perfidy. All believers should be permeated by Christ, by His Spirit and be constantly striving towards Him and be enlivened by Him. Christ is the unchangeable goal in growth and maturity of all that is good within us. Everything is directed towards Him, as all emanates from Him and is perfected by Him…
How sweet it is to be with Christ and how unbearable is life without Him. He is our joy and comfort.
The Way of Christ.
The teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ is the true light of life, the promise of a life most perfect, joyous and free. The Savior came to awaken the spiritual strengths of humankind and to see that the given gifts are not buried and that humans will not be cowardly and meek slaves, but with the freedom of sonship would work in the field and vineyard of his Father. God wants a love from people that is not coerced, but one that is free, the most profound and sincere communion with Him. He is our way, truth and life. A Christian lives by His love, is nourished by His blessings and in His light sees the light of life. To Him he brings his joys and sorrows, troubles and doubts, his delights and his fears…
The way of Christ can never be easy and free like other ways that lead to destruction. The way of Christ, to this very day, remains narrow and the gates to Christ’s Kingdom are hard to see. It is imperative for a Christian to renounce himself, to leave everything behind, without looking back in order to do work for the sake of the Lord. The purpose of a Christian life is to work with God in the task of establishing the Kingdom of God. It is to live in this world by God’s truth, in word and deed and to be its heralds and to courageously fight off the temptations of the world, placing all sorrows and worries into God’s hands, purifying weaknesses and sins by His holiness, His love…
Christ — “is not of this world.” That is why the world hates Him, and with Him, all His disciples (John 15:18-19). The Lord foretold His Apostles banishment, suffering and martyrdom — and all this was fulfilled. “All those desirous of living devout lives in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted. But malicious people will prosper,” foretells Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 4:12).
A proud and conceited person is not capable of accepting Christ’s teaching. Only he who subjugates and humbles himself, like a child, is capable of accommodating it. “To humble oneself “means to become meek, forgiving, devoid of any kind of violence and pride. And “the world” in every way will abuse and persecute this voluntary child.
Christ brought the world life and joy, but the adversary brought — suffering and sorrow. While there is sorrow and suffering in the world, they will be the lot of every unhypocritical servant of Christ. A Christian cannot be fully happy in this world, because every fault in a loved one becomes the source of sorrow.
In every age there have been people, who during their lifetime, and quite often after death, were recognized as being righteous. And when one examines the heartfelt confessions of these bearers of the light of Christ, one is astounded at their sincere, profound admission of their own sinful state, their powerlessness and impoverished spirit. If the saints openly admitted their powerlessness and impoverishment and in this state went to meet God, so then, for our spiritual growth, we must refrain from all kinds of evil, by exercising goodwill, by fasting, by prayer and recognizing our own insignificance.
Complacency and self-assurance are not indicative of holiness and perfection, but of pride, short sightedness and spiritual limitations. The beginning of humility, in the words of the Savior, which likens the believer to the Teacher, is an endless source of the realization of the inter-relationship of the sin and suffering in this world. In one’s spiritual life, a Christian should be childlike, not wondering about his own growth; a lily of the field, not admiring its own beauty or a bird, not worrying about tomorrow.
A believer always humbles himself because he does not consider anyone lower than himself, always repents because he distinctly sees the splendor of God’s way and is conscious of his distance from God. The believer constantly sheds tears because he recognizes his powerlessness….And in knowing his own weakness, he constantly purifies himself and strives for perfection. Nor a Christian can be revengeful because revenge tears a person away from the all-merciful and meek Savior.
The Light of Christ.
“In Your light we shall see light.”
Man thirsts for enlivenment, inspiration… For a lamp to shine, the presence of transparent glass is not enough, there must be a candle burning within there is a need for a candle to burn within him. This is what the Lord did with His apostles: first, having purified them with truth, He enlivened them with the Holy Spirit, and only then did they become a light for the world.
This process is inevitable for every Christian. First, a cleansing by Truth and then enlightenment by the Spirit. Truth repudiates the inborn inspiration as something ludicrous; it deadens it so that the Spirit, having come, will resurrect him in a renewed form. If a person, before he is cleansed by truth, begins to be guided by his own inspiration, will begin to emit, not a pure light, but one that is tainted and polarized by a filter of his own damaged heart, where good is interspersed with evil.
The soul is lonely in this world and seeks the source of true, meaningful life and renewal outside it. At times the soul locks itself in, becomes introverted, lives inside its own world, and there, finds light.
The fundamental characteristic of the inner world or the emotional life is a troubled soul, an unceasing search for light and joy. A constant ebbing and flowing of the tide, striving, lifting up and being dropped to the ground, — calling like shadows of a spring dawn, and without hope, like the twilight. Flashes of lightning of partially solved mysteries and a bitter feeling of futility of all efforts…
“The beloved pierces the mind with a ray of his own light, and instantly flees from the fast traveling mind. The more it becomes aware, the more it distances itself, wrenching itself from the hands, beckons and draws the soul to follow” (Gregory the Theologian).
“All sensations of my mind and soul concentrated on the indescribable pleasure seeking and joy from that ebullient light. But when that immeasurable light appeared before me and then diminished little by little, and finally became invisible, I then came to my senses and found out what wonders the power of this light had suddenly created in me…. That light when it comes, brings joy and when it disappears, leaves a wound and an ache in the heart” (St. Simeon the New Theologian 86th sermon).
“When I see the increasing malady of the tongue nowadays, fast evolving sages, newly created theologians, for whom it is sufficient to only want to become wise: then I feel a need for wisdom from above and I search with Jeremiah “a lodging place for travelers “ (Jeremiah 9.2) and I want to be alone, by myself… Denying the flesh and turning back on the world, and only in dire need succumbing to anything human, communing with God and oneself, to live above the visible; always to have divine images in the mind, pure ones that are not jumbled with distant and deceptive impressions; to be and unceasingly become an untainted mirror of God and of the divine; to accumulate more light to an existing light, to a light less clear, a beaming one, until we ascend to the Source of that radiance and reach a blessed end…” (Gregory the Theologian, pt. 2).
Perception of light, in the experience of visions of an “inner light” are as real as perceptions of physical light. In the written works of the saints quite often we read that they perceived this immaterial, Divine light. At times it appears so powerful, that it emits light to the outside and is perceived as physical light, making the body of the ascetic radiant. Spiritual beauty is a blinding beauty of a radiant, light bearing image, incomprehensible to mortal beings.
The face of abba (=father) Pamvo shone like lightning, and he was like a king, sitting upon his throne…” Before the repose in the Lord of abba Sisoi, when the holy fathers were gathered around him, his face shone like the sun…. A passerby encountered abba Siluan and seeing that his face and body shone like an angel, fell on his face… One brother having come to a monastery, looked through the door of abba Arseny’s cell and saw that the starets was, as if ablaze. Motovilov said to Saint Seraphim: “Father I cannot look, because flashes of light are gushing out from your eyes. Your face has become brighter than the sun, and my eyes are aching with pain…”
The wondrous Fire that was burning inside St. Sergius attracted those people who had seen him, at least once. During the singing of “To Thee we sing,” the fire came down “as if from the sky, and moved on the altar engulfing the whole altar and surrounded St Sergius as he was serving the liturgy. While he was partaking of the Holy Sacrament, the divine light descended into this chalice. Something similar had also occurred in the life of the starets (elder) hieromonk Ambrosy. To some extent there was an illumining in the face of Bishop Theophan the Recluse and the righteous St. John of Kronstadt. Father John stood before the Lord as if before the sun and feeling an ineffable brilliance of the divine light, closed his eyes, and clearly felt himself to be in the rays of this light and from them he felt warmth, joy and closeness to Christ the Savior… From the grace of God his face was beautiful, like that of an angel, and one wanted to gaze at him… Sin perverts man but grace luminously adorns him… The Holy Spirit lives in us and makes us resemble the Lord Jesus Christ, just like children resemble their father.
There had been many emissions of inner light of ascetics of the 6th century and recorded in “The Spiritual Field” and in the lives of the saints. The heritage of the holy fathers on the divine light is enormous. This amazes us and unspeakably gives us joy. In it, is Christ’s concerned love for helpless people… However, there is no Mt Tabor without suffering, and there is no support for one’s spirit, outside contemplation of Christ.
Know the Lord and His likeness will reflect in you and it will not allow darkness to overpower you, to bind you like a sinner until eternity, deprived of the ability to do good. Let deathly horror and sanguine sweat and the Lord’s suffering pass before your eyes. When you look at Him, He who endures suffering, will look at you and will do with you, what He did, at one time, with Peter, you will “go and begin to cry bitterly…”
The Gospel is the fullness of the Revelation. It is — the sun, in comparison with which, other holy books are only planets, that shine with reflected light. There, God prophesied with the mouths of prophets. Here, the Son of God, Himself, converses with us — God-man, whose whole life was the revelation of light. “I am the light of the world” (Jn.8:12).
He is not just a bearer of light, but is Himself — Light, incarnate, light of the Hypostases. Whoever believes in Him, knows through experience, that he owes his inner enlightenment to this universal light, as much as in the physical world, he owes it to the sun. Christianity is not only a religion of love, but also of light. Christ taught the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, teaching about the laws of an eternal, divine life, of the “inner light” as a spiritual life, of one being God-man. In so much as the soul is more precious than the body, the inner or spiritual life is more important than the outer, physical life. Conversely, the inner, spiritual darkness is more dangerous, more perilous, more horrific than the black of the night, or blindness. Whoever loses the inner sight, forfeits with it the eternal, divine life, to which light belongs, just as it is in the physical life (Jn.1:4).
Enlightenment of both the body and soul is only necessary within the parameters of space and time. Meanwhile, what is the point of examining infusorians under the microscope and not even once glancing into one’s own soul? What joy is there in using electricity and never seeing the sun’s rays during the day? Inner, spiritual light, not only enlightens, but it also enlivens. The quantity of inner light will always be proportionate to the level of our spiritual growth. Abundance of spiritual light is conditional upon some great feat. We are convinced of this because of the examples and teachings of the saints, who embodied these, together with spiritual excellence and a vivid brilliance reaching an outer radiance, the brilliance of the “inner light.”
Mysterious is the nature of spiritual light. The essence of this light is divinely incomprehensible. In its ultimate revelations, the inner light is Divine Light. It reveals the mysteries of the past and the future. It brings one to an understanding of religious truths, speculations, ideas… In its unfathomable essence, the Divine Light is superior to any soul. It is inherent in the spiritual world, as a whole. A pure heart, a brilliant mind, a sensitive conscience- are only ways to contemplating it. In its own right, it is “a great mystery of godliness” (1Tim.3:16).
You, O Lord are all sweetness, all light and life. Enlighten us with the light of Your Divine wisdom. Glorify us with Your Divine power and abandon us not, we who depend on You.
As a moral feat, Christianity places importance on one’s inner disposition. It looks at actions as consequences of this disposition. The inner disposition serves as an indicator of the spiritual level of attainment of the will. An action is an expression of this disposition. If for some reason the disposition is not realized in actions, its value does not diminish. “We know that without love for those close to you, the mind cannot be enlightened by divine discourse and love… And where there is no opportunity to show love to others around you in visible actions, then our intentions of showing love are sufficient before God (St.Isaac the Syrian). However, the zealots had the means to show love in deeds. These deeds manifested themselves in incessant prayer for all those in peril and in great need.
Unfortunately, a great obstacle to love is people’s predilection for acquisition of material things. The zealots understood love of God in the sense of being constantly in spiritual communion with Him, being in constant thought of Him, together with feelings of love, reverence and gratitude. For this to happen, it is essential to be free of any worldly burdens. One can be with God, when there are no worries and nothing distracts from Him. But for the majority of people, practically their whole life is spent in securing possessions. And whoever succumbs to this, is a slave to his own passion, and is completely engulfed by this anxiety. Ownership demands concerns and the expending of energy not only in gaining possessions, but also in maintaining them. In this, the zealots saw the greatest obstacle for the development in the soul of a constant yearning of love for God.
“If the mind does not free itself from the worries of worldly concerns, then it will never penetrate the innermost. For the humble, the most desirous in the lowliest state, are charity, wanting, poverty. The humble person prefers to remain free, not to have any worries, not to be perturbed by the earthly, the here and now…” (St. Isaac the Syrian).
Life experience convinces us, that the addiction to the pursuit of possessions, is one of the powerful motives of breaking the commandment of love and relationships with others. “If you are not going to be overly tied to your possessions, then it will be easy for you to perform any good deed” (Abba Zosima)… “The ancient adversary disposes our soul to the love of ephemeral things, arouses those close us to be against us, who plots to take away that, which is most precious to us. The ancient adversary does not attempt to destroy the earthly, but to destroy in us love. For we suddenly flare up in hatred, and not wanting to be beaten from the outside, we agonize on the inside. But defending the miniscule on the outside, we lose so much on the inside, because losing a temporary possession, we forgo genuine love, for whoever destroys our possessions is our enemy. For if we bear hatred toward our enemy we lose the inner” (St. Gregory the Dialogist).
To avoid dissension and enmity with those around us, one should free oneself from the addiction of ownership. “Love is a squanderer of not only money, but it also does not even spare earthly life itself” (St. Evagrius). “Even if you found yourself in most dire poverty, but truly not as poor as that widow, who brought all her possessions as a gift (Luke 21:2-4) and not poorer than the widow of Sydon (1 Kings 17), who only had a handful of flour, and did not refuse to feed the prophet! She could see that there were children around her who faced hunger and that she had no more supplies, but nonetheless, she received the prophet with great zeal” (St. John Chrysostom).
To have the opportunity to help the poor, fasting is recommended. “We exhort you to keep the fast every Wednesday and Friday, and that which is left from your fasting, to distribute to the needy (Acts of the Apostles).
True love in itself brings one to impoverishment. Wealth demands constant concern and does not allow the opportunity to concentrate one’s thoughts and feelings exclusively on God. It creates many temptations to break the commandments of love to those around you, causing arguments, hostility and envy. In this way, every possession is an obstacle to fulfilling the commandments of love to God and your near ones. Followers of Christ cannot be rich in the world, while want and poverty reign. A Christian cannot be carefree and happy while there is weeping and affliction. Love towards your near ones, like love of self, though it leads to impoverishment, frees one from many dangerous temptations and unwanted worries and opens up a pathway to a spiritual life and self searching. Searching the self, without fail, leads to a highly intense, supersensitive contact with the Divine.
Abandoning oneself to the love of God, desiring to reach a passionless state and holiness, serenity, humility and the joy and happiness they give rise to, the non-avaricious person tries to keep his thoughts as far away as possible from any material and bodily passions, that stir the soul and do not permit the soul with a pure eye to comprehend the Divine and enjoy the light that is found there (St. Basil the Great).
One must not think that this serves as the ideal only for special people with an inclination towards monasticism. No, — this ideal is pan-Christian. There cannot be any other ideal. There exists only one ideal — that of Christ, unchangeable and eternal for all believing humanity.
Knowledge of God.
This is what our devout ancestors were vigilant of, and to this, they impel us, from times long ago.
The Lord is invisible by His essence and grace, and is visible to those who have come to resemble Him. The self-revelation of God is given in its most perfect form in Christ, the most accessible understanding, intimate and akin, understood by the heart. No one knows the Father, except the Son and those, to whom the Son wants to reveal Him (Matt. 9:27). Christ is the perfect “image of the invisible” Father (Coloss.1:15). Christ demands that the Father be loved in Him. The Holy Spirit, the Continuer and Perfecter of Christ’s redemptive work, testifies of Christ and glorifies Him (John 15:26;16:14). We love the Tri-hypostatical God in Christ. Our salvation is inseparably linked with the knowledge of the Son of God, accepted with the whole mind and heart. Revelation is given for the acquisition of the knowledge of God. However, the Son reveals Himself, not by secondary means, but through the Spirit of Truth, Who teaches all things and guides in all truth (John 14:26, 16:13). The higher sphere of divine knowledge is revealed exclusively by the Holy Spirit. Knowledge of God, without keeping the commandments is a lie (1 John 2:3-4).
In the works of St. Isaac the Syrian there is an acknowledgement of an unusual sweetness found in the knowledge of God, but St. Maximus the Confessor regards wisdom as the beginning and end of salvation, which in the beginning, manifests itself as fear, and in the end, as love. The Fathers are in agreement on the necessity of acquiring the knowledge of God, and in general, spiritual knowledge which is living, bright and blessed. Of course God cannot be the object of thought. Thought in itself presupposes division and by its nature, is mutual activity of “one who thinks” and “that which is thought.” Whoever draws into himself renouncing the outside world will unfailingly rise to the heavenly. This kind of self-denial of the outside world is the direct contact with the Divine. So there is no movement or activity in the soul, no thinking, and it rises above all external, worldly knowledge… For the contemplation and beholding of God, one must decisively renounce the very process of thinking. St. Isaac truly states that one does not attain the Heavenly Kingdom by erudition, it can only be given by grace. Spiritual knowledge is not acquired by external means, by outward means of the soul. No one can have this spiritual knowledge if one does not become and will not be like a child, having a child-like mindset.
St. Simeon the New Theologian: “A Christian is called faithful, for he is entrusted by God with the mysteries, that even the Angels did not know before us…” “Christians learn from the Holy Spirit all understanding and cognizance and each word of the mysterious edification. That which the unbelievers do not know, we who have been considered worthy to have become believers, can know, philosophize about it, and discuss, having been exhorted by the Holy Spirit. In truth, the key to understanding, is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given because of faith. The grace of the Holy Spirit opens our darkened mind, and conveys to it, the true knowledge and understanding of the divine enlightenment.” “God is known by us, by as much as one can see the limitless ocean, standing at its edge at night, holding a small, lit candle. Could we see very much? Of course, only the minutest part or practically nothing at all. With this in mind, one can see the water perfectly and know that this is the immense ocean and that it is impossible to encompass it with one’s eyes. This is also the case in regard to knowing God. Neither vigils nor seclusion, neither fasting nor non-possession, nor physical work nor any kind of other good deed can give us knowledge or reasoning without the Holy Spirit, because this is the way leading to the Light, but not Light itself. Without the Spirit, no one can learn or teach others. For how can He, Who is greater than any mind or thought, be known to our mind, which was created by Him, if it is not enlightened by Him and is not joined to Him?”
The mysteries of our faith are unknown and unfathomable to the unrepentant. They cannot be seen by unbelievers or those of little faith. Therefore, let no one: “ever entice you with trivial or deceptive words, saying that the divine mysteries of our faith can be known without enlightenment by the Holy Spirit.” The great Christian philosopher Isaac the Syrian, with his vast, blessed spiritual experience, has depicted the mystical procession and lifting of the soul that seeks God: “Whatever happens to a fish out of water, the same happens to the mind which has lost cognizance of God, and is only concerned about earthly things. However much a person avoids talking with people, so in the same measure, he communicates with God in his mind, and the degree to which one estranges from worldly comforts, in the same measure makes oneself worthy of divine joy of the Holy Spirit… And just as fish die from lack of water, so wise movements of the mind arising from God, disappear from the heart” in those who have strongly entrenched themselves into the earthly life.
“No one can compare with the sweet thoughts and glorification of God” (Bishop Theophan). Here, a heart that loves God, finds only joy and peace. It is paradise for the heart, because one has only the Lord as his God. Help us, O Lord! “You, Yourself answer the supplication of Your people to do good in all things, giving us in this present age knowledge of You and of Your truth, and eternal life in the next age (3rd Antiphon Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). Warm our hearts and turn them to You, so that in the search for the knowledge of God we shall unceasingly draw from ineffable joy and peace.
In as much as we have gained understanding and mastering of the teachings of the Church Fathers on love of God and those around us, so it brings us to joy, happiness and blessedness. Love, as an action of the Holy Spirit in us, allures us, it cannot free itself from the will of the loved one. The first epistle of St. John calls us to this. Good is life, and evil is darkness. Communion with God makes us co-workers with Him. When there is light in the heart everything around brings joy to us. Ridding the heart of darkness, we become the heavenly light of the Holy Spirit. Every thought of God is an action of the Holy Spirit within us. Walking in the light necessarily brings forth love to those around us (1 John 2:9). One who hates his fellow human beings is in darkness, for it rules over all his actions, and he stumbles on his way through life, not knowing its purpose (2:11). Do not love the world which lies in evil, exhorts the Apostle, and do not love that which is of this world i.e. false, worldly pleasures (2:15). Love of God is incompatible with love of the world. The inner essence of the world is pride and passion, both are abomination to God. Love of the world cannot give us that constant, unchanging blessedness to which we strive. Christ came to free us from sin. But for those, for whom sin has become the epitome of life are not children of God, but children of the evil one. Children of God differ from the children of the devil. Although, at times, sin can lead them astray, but it will never possess them, because the seed of God is within them (3:9-10). Every Christian, at times, falls into sin, but he should not be of the sinful nature. Christian life and constant sinfulness are absolute opposites. Just as a river on its course, in spite of the bends and even turnabouts always flows to the sea, so the main course of true Christian life is always directed towards God, in spite of the power of sin, which impedes its course and harms its gradual perfection.
Our love towards those around us serves as a sign of our sonship with God. He who does not love his “brother” i.e. those around him, is not of God (3:10). The Apostle warns about hatred, as being the beginning that leads to death (3:12-15). Cain symbolizes the world, Abel- the sons of God, hated by the world. It is not surprising that the world hates the children of God.
Hatred is a sign of death, but Christians with their love for those around them, prove that they have passed from death to life (3:13-14).
Hatred is on a level equal to murder. Whoever takes the life of another is subject to the most horrific moral death (3:15). Christ’s love is revealed in the fact that He lay down His life for us. We, for the sake of those close around us, should sacrifice our life (3:16). Only through genuine love, knowing that we are coming from truth, we find a calming of our heart and a joyous confidence before God every moment of our life (3:21). With genuine love, our prayers are heard by God, for in love is the perfect keeping of the commandments and actions that are pleasing to God (3:22). To those who love, God has revealed Himself, and consequently, they know God. Knowledge of the divine presupposes propriety of the divine. The absence of love is indicative of the absence of the knowledge of God, for God is love (4:8). Love which comprises the essence of the divine life, came into being in us through the coming into the world of the only begotten Son of God. This is where the true essence of love was found! Love, in its unique essence, comes from God, our love to those near us, is a reflection of the divine love, the source of which is in the Holy Spirit. If we are in God, and God is in us, then God’s love reaches its fullest perfection among us (4:17). Through this perfect love, we already, in this life, become Christ-like, and that is why it carries with it boldness on the day of judgment (4:17). Where there is love, there is no fear, but boldness. A lack of love to those around you is an obvious indication of the lack of love for God. Where there is love for God, there cannot be an absence of love to those around you (4:21).
Love of God, having borne us, is inseparable from the love of those born of God (5:1). The very act of keeping the commandments, cannot be a heavy burden for the believer. The difficulty in keeping them, lies in the malevolent power of darkness, and this difficulty, the believer, like the one born of God, conquers with faith in the Son of God. It was exactly this very faith that conquered the world (5:4-5). Christ, having come into the world, gave the occasion to know the true God, and we are in communion with the true God, Who is in communion with His Son. Christ is the true God and eternal life (5:20). We honor love. God’s love for His Son is the measure of the Son’s love for the disciples, and the latter is the measure of all perfect love between human beings. It is absolutely impossible that whoever stoops to hate his “brother” can be capable of a higher love for the unseen God. If we love one another, then the invisible God is close to us, and is in us, and becomes the soul of our life. We have an inner treasure, one that we have in the name of the Son of God.
We stand before God in a child-like trusting relationship, and we can call upon Him like a Father, bringing forth to Him everything that lies in our heart. True Christianity lies in this constant living communion with God, like a life-act, and not only theoretical discourse. Our relationship with God, is like that of a loving child to a loving Father; the child cherishes this love like some valued treasure, like the core of the heart, like heavenly music of the soul, like the greatest power and height of all. “You, O Lord, are a wonder, peace, hope, love, sweetness, joy, liberation from worries, happiness, sole glory, dominion, wisdom and strength… In You is found the wondrous peace for those who can fathom You, in union with the Holy Spirit… You are the ultimate joy, the perfect desire, the object of holy striving, ineffable love.”
The Gospel Ideal.
The Lord commanded unconditional forgiveness and love of enemies; to those who curse and hate you, to evildoers, and those who persecute. Undoubtedly this is difficult to do, but with God’s help, this kind of love is always possible. The Lord gave a law of forgiveness, not limiting it in number or in any measure. He showed this in His own words and example, when on the cross He prayed for His enemies.
There are personal enemies and there are enemies of God. The Sadducees and Pharisees perceived in Christ a personal adversary, with His sermons and miracles He won over the people to His side. With time their envy grew to a murderous wrath, to the point of deciding to kill Him… Their personal animosity turned into God hating. The enemies of God are our enemies, whom we have not been given the authority to forgive, for it is not before us that they are guilty. David, the psalmist, exclaims: “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against You? I have nothing but hatred for them: I count them my enemies” (Psalm138). From here we have “anathema” to the God-haters and not forgiveness, until they repent their foolishness… Between light and darkness, Christ and Belial and his adherents, there is no peace, and none there should be…
The mission of a Christian is to create divine life on earth. The Savior came in the flesh to sanctify the earth, so that people can witness and know the divine life through Christ’s — His life, suffering on the cross, death and resurrection. This is not a theoretical ideal, but a practical requirement. God offers His love, desiring to save us. With sin, the beauty of the first created image is dulled and lost, darkness encompasses the soul. This darkness hides us from each other, and we cease to see our original state. The icon of God in us has been covered by soot, and we cannot see, neither in ourselves, nor in others, the image of God.
Just as an aged icon can renew itself, so a soul is capable of renewing-enlightening itself through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. For those whose heart is ready, there is nothing strange in a miracle, but a miracle is an act of God with the power of His omnipotence. God is known through holiness. The ultimate goal is to have communion with God, but the way to this goal is holiness. With Christ reigning in our heart, it becomes a receptacle of the Holy Spirit, and the Kingdom of God becomes embedded within us. God is the sun, and how wonderful it would be if it could have an effect upon the whole of humanity. But in essence, the ultimate goal of the world is to attain the glory of God, and to each individual person-salvation or deification, which is one and the same.
The teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ is the key to the true happiness of life. His commandments are life-centered and joyous…
Even if little by little, we should reflect upon the Gospel ideal of the ancient Church, when the Christians made earth heaven and the heathens exclaimed about them: “If Christians have become angels here, what will they then become when they depart this life?” Their law is so high and perfect, that even their enemies are amazed. Wealth, earthly joys, worldly fame, do not hold any value for them. They prefer poverty, vilification and ignominy. The way of persecution and suffering is for them a way of joy and triumph. Meek and humble, devoid of hatred and covetousness, they love each other like brothers and eagerly help their enemies, both heathens and Jews. Living on earth in the flesh, but in spirit they abide in the heavens. Some marveled at the unattainable height of the Christian life, others cast jests and insults at them… Christians did not like to spread the faith in words only: an exalted and holy life was their best form of preaching. “Christians,” writes Celsus, “despise the pleasures of this life and believe that it is better not to have them, and do not repay insults with revenge…”
What the first Christians said of themselves — is a golden personal existence. They told about what they had, and had seen themselves for what they were. And that is why their words gain great strength and authority. They remain as permanent and lasting examples of a great feat, purity, depth and strength of the religious will…
The best means of arousing love in others — is to show them love and mercy. By forgiving an enemy, you can change one into a friend. Self-oblivion is a mighty force, before which, all succumb and which triumphs even over the most brutal oppression. The power that was victorious over the gentile world, was the power of the Gospel of self-denial, enlivened by love and light-bearing truth. The mystery of life is that the concerns of salvation should not be put off into the future, but that now, each step be illumined with the light of Truth and God’s will. It should be remembered that we are standing on the edge of a precipice of perishing, into which we are led by sin. Have you been tempted and you are ready to fall? Then call out from the depths of your soul: “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me” and you are freed. God’s mercy has been returned upon you, and once again you are ready to work and serve Him…
The Gospel ideal is not only to become higher than life’s interests, but to always be ready to die for Christ. Help us, O Lord!
Church and “organization.”
We cherish the words of St. Basil the Great, who said that grace is lost outside the Church, succession is unlawful, because there, layman lays hands on layman, without imparting any grace, of which there is none and cannot be outside the one Church, outside the oneness of the body of Christ.
Truth stood before Pilate in Its entirety. So do the Church dogmas draw Truth that is accessible to us. The dogmas of the Church are as high above human teachings, carrying the names of their discoverers, as the Godly is above the human. Because we are human, we are limited. The Godly cannot be compared with what we can think of or imagine. Eternal life reveals to us knowledge, from which must issue activity, not the other way around. The teachings of the Church are true and sensible. They operate not through arbitrary human reasoning, but through reason which is subjugated to obedience to Christ, i.e. by the Spirit of God…
Observing “purity of life” is a foundation on which different shortcomings can take hold, having their origin from “acts of law.” A law of piety can thus be confirmed, but the “law of grace” is rejected. This will occur in all teachings except those of the Church. For the Church, “purity of life” is not a foundation, but a result, and this is the essence. “Purity of life” cannot be a foundation, because the foundation cannot be anything human, like acts of law or anything similar. The foundation can only be something Godly. Only the teaching of the Church is coordinated with Evangelism and draws on it.
There may be many “confessors,” but only the teaching of the Church gave people saints. Outside the Church there may be wise men, moralists, but not saints. The Church was able to give us Athanasius the Great, Sergius, Phillip, Seraphim, John. But Protestantism was only able to give Luther, Calvin, and others like them. The image of a saint – is the image of someone humble, not putting oneself forward. The image of a Protestant is of one asserting oneself. This is why Protestants have eternally progressive divisions. Sects continually fragment, carrying one or another human name on their banner. Jesus Christ is consigned to oblivion and is replaced by one or another “teacher.” The Church struggles against such teachings, asserting the Only and Eternal Teacher, the God-person Jesus Christ.
Mystical sects replace Jesus Christ in His Most Godly Wisdom and end up deifying one or another human-sinner. According to such interpretation, Jesus Christ is only one of the Godly wise men. According their understanding, God’s wisdom rested on the person Christ, and He became a “Humangod.” In this interpretation, Christianity is a religion of a humangod, not of a God-person. Tolstoy said, that Christianity is so simple and clear, that if there had been no Christ, he would have been able to think up “Christianity” by himself. At the same time, Tolstoy forgot that from the beginning of time there have been wise men and founders of religions, asserting that they know the truth and the true way of life. But not one of them could assert, that He “is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Such “theologians” brought not evangelism, but offered people their own teachings, not having anything in common with the Gospel. The teachings of some Garnak is only his teaching, having nothing to do with Christianity. The same can be said of the teaching of sects. If they do not “gather with Christ,” then they “squander,” or otherwise lose their life outside Christ. Only those, who lose their life in Christ (in His Church) – gain life.
The teaching of the Church is entirely reasonable. One cannot arbitrarily throw aside one part or another of the Gospel of Christ. One cannot use Scripture alone, rejecting that which was passed on orally. In one’s judgments about Christianity, one must take into consideration how it was understood by all those who accepted it “everywhere” and “always.” And all these undeniable, simple and clear provisions are by-passed with silence and ignored by the enemies of the Church, because they do not have answers to them. They rush to change the discussion to something, by essence completely different. For example, they begin to speak of utilitarian morality, as if the Church is against morality. But everyone knows that the Church alone, through its saints, revealed morality in its entire scope, fullness and meaning. Attacks on the Church are not based on anything serious and cannot stand up to criticism. They are completely “subjective” and devoid of reasonable and objective bases. Only the Church’s understanding of Christianity is reasonable.
When the former follower of Tolstoy and revolutionary prince Khilkov came to this understanding of the source of Truth, then he could convincingly write: “If the teaching of the living Organism of the Body of Christ is rejected, then an “organization” surfaces, i.e. a party, not distinguishable in essence from any other party… While the dogmas of the Church live and give life particularly because they are connected to the living Body – Organism. The rules of religious organizations and parties, as determining the mechanical growth of that which is, in essence, dead – are dead themselves. One cannot speak of the growth of a party. If one fills a bag with grain, one cannot speak of the growth of the bag. In precisely the same manner one cannot speak of the growth of “spiritual life,” if the person, who yesterday fulfilled three laws, today fulfilled a fourth. For this reason I invite you to the Church and take it upon myself to demonstrate to you that there is no freedom outside the Church, and that, which is defended under the name of “freedom” outside the Church, is not freedom, but high-handedness.”
An indication of belonging to the Church – is unity with it in life and humble obedience to it. It alone has the full grace of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit enlivens only the body of the Church, but God’s Spirit cannot be outside this Body, no matter what words are spoken there. Outside the Church there isn’t and cannot be this blessed unity. There, one can only find innumerable divisions. He who has separated from the Church – has died for Church life and for the understanding of Christian faith and morality…
We are consecrated by Christ – the Lamb of God, but consecrated by the Holy Spirit through the hierarchy. Those who reject the priesthood – are church apostates. They are exposed in the Eucharist, “their teaching is not in accordance with the Eucharist” (St. Irinaeus). The Eucharist itself is the “Mystery of Mysteries,” performed by the Lord Himself, through the Eucharistical intercession of the earthly Church. Those who seek salvation in the Church, find it only in the Church established by the Apostles, founded by Christ Himself. This Church, having the Mysteries and hierarchy, is the True Church, while all other religious “organizations” are not churches, but arbitrary gatherings. “The spiritually blind do not see, that they gain trust in themselves, only through the name of Jesus Christ, which they connect with the poison of their own teaching.” (Trallian)
We find the following golden words in the first volume of Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov: “I desire better to be obedient to the Church, than to be smarter than It and to separated from It.” “Outside of obedience to the Church there is no humility, nor spiritual reason…”
Gnostics in principal were religious people, seeking, but poisoned by heathen fables, who sprang up among the Babylonian magi-astrologists long before the Christian era. Gnostics looked at this world as a creation of evil powers, holding people in their power, and for this reason they made it their goal to rid humanity of the shackles of matter and disasters of earthly life. The peak of gnosticism coincided with the spread of the Christian faith in the Greco-Roman world in the first two centuries of our era. Gnostics attempted to fix Christianity in their own way. Using its terminology, they instilled their own ideas. For this reason gnosticism is not a simple and accidental delusion of religious thought, but a deep illness of spirit and warring anti-Christianity.
The famous V. V. Bolotov in his “Church History” studied gnosticism deeply. Lectures on his work were read in Harbin by the theologogical candidate P.A Chistiakov. Some excerpts from his work are included below.
Bolotov writes: “Beside the external battle with heathenism, Christianity in the first centuries of its existence had to work in the field of pure mission, battling with gnosticism, which attracted curious minds. The viewpoints of gnosticism are almost senseless, and appear as a game of fantasy. At the head stood highly educated people with a philosophically inclined mind. Gnosis, speaking from the point of view of science, compared its views with Christianity, clothing them in the form of an epic, which reveals its eastern origin. The more gnosis appeared Eastern, the more authority it had in the eyes of the heathen world. In our times also, in order to make views more attractive, they use the help of fiction, clothe it in the form of fantasy. So gnostics adorned their thoughts in the narrative form of an epic. Gnosis opposed Christianity as a scientific view, but solutions of world problems it offered not only on the basis of scientific-philosophical explorations, but in Godly revelation.
Naturally, in its battle with gnosism, Christians began to stick firmly to the canons of the holy books. The preaching of Christianity did not try to agree with the scientific understandings of those times. Christianity as a religion that is not of this world did not set out to decide questions of a worldly nature.
The fact that this religious philosophy appeared as a philosophy of pessimism was due to the historical circumstances of the time of the development of gnosis. This was evoked by the combined of many conditions. Philosophical thought was in a waning stage. Its illustrious representatives, such as Plato and Aristotle, belonged to time past. In their stead appeared insignificant and unoriginal trends, often unprincipled, such as the then-popular eclecticism. Many occurrences directed thoughts to pessimism. The Greek world was enslaved by Rome and the more cultural center of ancient humanity had to die out. The victor, Rome, set itself the huge goal of world domination. Its motto was “You, Rome, remember, that you must command nations.” And this goal was more or less achieved during the time of the emperors.
But if one poses the question: did these political successes provide any happiness, the answer will be negative. True, the rise of the Principat was preceded by a rather bloody uprising in Rome itself. The times of the triumvirate were often noted by wars among the Roman citizens. The Principat, begun during Augustus, and later, Tiberius, brought improvement in social life. But Republicans noticed that while observing republican form, Rome was still a monarchy, and in the future the Principat gave leaders that were unworthy of the throne: their despotism took on the most hideous forms. Not surprisingly then, that the state of minds in the capital were depressed, and literature began to develop in the form of satirical poetry.
Nevertheless these times of bad Caesars are a fleeting occurrence, efforts are made from all sides to provide humanity with a more secure existence. By the true observation of experts on Roman life, if one judged how the nations of the Empire were controlled at the beginning of the third century AD, under Septimius Severus, in comparison to how they are controlled during all the time following, the decision would come out in favor of the Roman Caesars. And this is because, never – not before, not after – did the government so concern itself in good conscience with controlling these widespread and different territories in the entire empire. Never were the interests of the populace weighed so carefully, never did the government try to satisfy spiritual trends and pure morality, as at this time. Philosophers tried to base morality on humanitarianism. The contemporaries of these philosophers tried to lead very satisfactory lives in the moral sense, which could not be said even of the best examples at the end of the Republic and the beginning of the monarchy. Notwithstanding all the efforts to progress in a moral and political sense, no one was sure that the future did not hold something worse, rather than better. The whole cultural world felt some sort of aging, and it even appeared to them that a physical dying off was occurring. When speaking of the ideal future, it was always understood as a return to the past. Horatio characterized his contemporaries thus: tristis gens mortaliam. When Virgil thought to praise the beginning of the golden age with the beginning of the Principat, he believed, that fairness itself was returning the Saturn’s rule.
In this way, all the better people felt that the better period was already lived, and the future would only get worse and worse. A comparable state of aging is capable of depriving representatives of philosophy of energy to hope for a better future. And for this reason such elements were taken from everything that had accumulated which fit the general state of humanity, letting themselves be felt decidedly in everything…
For the Church, the danger from gnosticism was great, threatening its very existence, and this deadly danger was recognized by those who stood at its head and directed life. Even the damage done to the Church by the bloody persecutions of the Roman leaders did not seem as dangerous as those of gnosticism. If relatively few apologetics spoke out in defense of persecuted Christians, all of them came out to do battle with gnosticism, who more or less could handle a pen…But gnosticism is extremely hardy. Traces of its existence are revealed in the Middle Ages, and in modern times, and in the 19th and 20th centuries.”
Modern occult teachings are ancient gnosticism raised from the dust. Many modern religious-philosophical teachings and cults have their roots in gnosticism, such as: the theosophy of Blavatskaya, the anthroposophy of P. Steiner, the teachings of A. Bailey, the agni-yoga E.I. Rerich, the Mormons, the sect Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, the sect of Moon and all those, who base their teachings on the opening of “spirits.”
Being as if in a pact with evil, the world is moving farther into the labyrinthine workings of gnosticism. Christianity is departing more and more from its unwavering and steadfast stance. Its historical granite foundation is shaking from the pressure of trivial teachings and sinful bents. Only the Lord can stop this process, turbulently rushing humanity into darkness and self-destruction. The voice of Christian wise men, the voice of great hierarchal saints are powerless to stop the general decay. But one cannot remain silent. One must raise up one’s voice, call the cry, to which all the true sons of the Church will answer from all ends of the earth. And the hearts of all Orthodox Christians will join in a universal prayerful hymn, and the Lord will hear them, and He will arrange, renew this world… or cleanse it with flames.
Missionary Leaflet # E97
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)