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ROCOR: Metropolitan Agafangel will visit the United States
from March 29 to April 7
Author: Metropolitan Agafangel. Publication date: March 08, 2019 . Category: ROCOR .
On Saturday, March 30, Vladyka Agafangel will serve the All-Night Vigil at the Ascension Parish in Fair Fax, near Washington (rector Priest Andrei Frick), and on Sunday, March 31, the 3rd Lent Week, will lead the Divine Liturgy.
On the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation, on Saturday, April 6, Metropolitan Agafangel will serve the evening services at the Church of the Myrrh-bearers in the Synodal House in Valley Cottage (65 Lake Rd. Valley Cottage , NY 10989, USA), and on the Day of the Feast, April 7, will serve the Divine Liturgy .
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Dear fellow archpastors and pastors, monastics and laity!
Entering the days of the Holy Forty-day of the Forty-day fasting before the Passion Week, I would like to wish all the spiritual forces and firm faith in the Resurrection of Christ.
Lent is a preparation for the Lord's Easter and consists, in fact, of three parts. First, there are three preparatory weeks, starting Sunday about the publican and the Pharisee, then about the prodigal son, the Last Judgment, and ending with the Holy Week and Sunday, which recalls the expulsion from Paradise. These days, the Church recalls the need for repentance, reads the Holy Scripture, which speaks of repentance, the Lenten Triodion, and the Lenten songs are sung "Repentance opening the doors, Life-giving ..." and "On the rivers of Babylon ...". The first three weeks are the beginning of our spiritual fasting. Immediately after Sunday, in which Adam's exile is recalled, the corporal post, Holy Forty-Lent, the forty-day strict fast, joins the spiritual post. The Lent ends with Passion Week, in which we, having completed our path of the cross, contemplate the path of the Savior to us.
Our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned and were expelled from Paradise, because sin has no place in eternal life. Therefore, we, their offspring, are born in a foreign land and die in earthly exile, outside our first and foremost fatherland - the Kingdom of Heaven. But if earlier the souls of the Old Testament righteous, awaiting the coming of Christ, rested in the bosom of Abraham, now, with the onset of the New Testament, the souls of the righteous rest in the Bosom of Christ - in the love of Christ, the light of which the Lord revealed to the disciples. The Heavenly Kingdom, which was rewarded for contemplating His disciples on Mount Tabor, is the ultimate goal of our earthly journey, to which everyone who this Kingdom is prepared for strives.
Today, together with the whole earthly Church, we have effectively entered the way of the cross to return to our Father’s house. Today we are in exile, today the Lord is still waiting for our repentance to save us from the power of sin, because of which Heavenly Fatherland is not available to us. Father waits patiently for the return of his lost children.
The Lord strengthens us and sends His grace, with the help of which we are able to change ourselves, and turn to the love of virtue from dependence on sin. We need sincere repentance in order to qualify for eternal life, but it is very difficult to commit it, being shackled by the bonds of sin! Let us pray to God to help him free himself from this disgraceful slavery and to the end of his earthly journey of the cross, so that with our Lord we die at Calvary, and with Him rise into eternal life!
May the Lord strengthen us all in the days of earthly exile on the way to Heavenly fatherland!
+ Metropolitan Agafangel
# RE: Metropolitan Agafangel: Lenten Message 2019 - Metropolitan Agafangel 03/11/2019 13:21
# RE: Metropolitan Agafangel: Lenten Message 2019 - Vadim Vadimovich 03/11/2019 00:10
May, congratulate on the beginning of the post in other senses - on the feast followed by the Lord into the desert, for strengthening and healing of body and soul, left by the peacemaker etc., to return from the “wilderness” to spiritual strength.
# RE: Metropolitan Agafangel: Lenten Message 2019 - Metropolitan Agafangel 03/13/2019 04:08
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:14–15). What a simple and handy means of salvation! Your trespasses are forgiven under the condition that you forgive the trespasses of your neighbour against you. This means that you are in your own hands. Force yourself to pass from agitated feelings toward your brother to truly peaceful feelings—and that is all. Forgiveness day—what a great heavenly day of God this is! If all of us used it as we ought, this day would make Christian societies into heavenly societies, and the earth would merge with heaven" (St. Theophan the Recluse, "Thoughts for Each Day of the Year")
Sermon by Father Macarius († 3Aug2014)
Of all the lenten hymns and prayers, one short prayer could be termed the Lenten Prayer. It is traditional, and probably one of the great teachers of spiritual life is Saint Ephraim the Syrian. Here is the text:
“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faint heartedness, and lust for power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; for Thou art blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
This prayer is read twice at the end of each Lenten service Monday through Friday, not on Saturdays and Sundays because on these days on Sundays we celebrate the Resurrection and Saturdays the Sabbath and the fast is restricted. At first reading of this, a prostration follows each petition and at the end we bow also 12 times and say, “O God, cleanse me a sinner.” And the entire prayer is repeated with one final prostration at the end.
And why does this short prayer occupy such an important position in the entire Lenten worship? Because it enumerates, in a unique way, all the negative and positive elements of repentance and constitutes, so to say, a checklist for the individual Lenten effort. This effort is aimed first at our liberation from such fundamental spiritual diseases which shape our life and make it virtually impossible for us to even to start turning ourselves to God.
Getting back to the word prostration, in the Greek, metania, means to change one’s mind. So by passing from an erect position to one bowing you are changing your mind also with your body. The basic disease of speaking of √sloth which is a strange combination of laziness and passivity and our entire being which always pushes us down rather than up which constantly convinces us no change is possible, and therefore desirable. It is a fact that deeply-rooted cynicism which to every spiritual challenge responds, “What for?” and makes our lives difficult at its very source. The result of sloth is √faint-heartedness – this is a state of despondency which all spiritual fathers consider the greatest danger for the soul.
Despondency is the impossibility for man to see anything good or positive. It is a reduction of everything to negativism and pessimism. It is truly a demonic power in us because the devil is fundamentally a liar. He lies to man about God and about the world. He fills life with darkness and negation. Despondency is a suicide of the soul because when man is possessed by it, he is unable to see the light or desire it. Also it matches his √lust for power. Strange as it may seem, it is precisely sloth and despondency that fill our life with lust for power by vitiating the entire attitude to our life and making it meaningless and empty, they force us to seek compensation and a radically wrong attitude towards other persons.
If my life is not oriented to God nor aimed at eternal values, it will inevitably become selfish, self-centered and this means that all things become means of my own self-satisfaction. If God is not the Lord and Master of my life, then I become my own lord and master, the absolute center of my own world and I begin to evaluate everything in terms of my needs, my ideas, my desires and my judgment. The lust for power is thus a fundamental depravity in my relationship to other beings, a search for their subordination to me. It does not necessarily express the actual urge to co-manage others and may result as well in indifference, contempt, lack of interest and respect. It is indeed sloth and despondency directed this time at others that it completes spiritual suicide with spiritual murder.
Finally √idle talk - of all created beings, man alone has been endowed with the gift of speech. All the Fathers see it as the very seal of the divine image in man because God himself has revealed his Word as in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. But being the supreme gift, it is by the same token the supreme danger being the very expression of man. The means of his fulfillment is for this very reason the means of his fall and self-destruction of a trail of sins - the word saves and the word kills, the word inspires and the word poisons, the Word is the means of Truth and is the means of demonic lie. Having ultimate positive power is, therefore, tremendous negative power. It creates negatively when it deviates from its divine origin and purpose. The word becomes idle and forces sloth and despondency, and lust for power, and transforms life into the very power of sin. These four are thus the negative objects of repentance; they are the obstacles to be removed but God alone can remove them.
Hence the first part of the Lenten prayer described from the bottom of human helplessness, then the prayer moves to the positive aims of repentance which also are four.
√Chastity - if one does not reduce this term as often and as erroneously done only to sexual connotation, it is understood as the positive counterpart of sloth. Exact and full translations of the Greek sofrosini and the Russian tselomoodrie ought to be whole-mindedness. Sloth is the first of all dissipation, the brokenness of our vision and energy, the inability to see the whole its opposite then, is precisely wholeness. If we use to mean by chastity the virtue opposed to sexual depravities, it is because the broken character of our existence is nowhere better manifested than in sexual lust, the alienation of the body from the light that controls the spirit.
Christ restores wholeness in us and He does so by restoring to us the true scale of values by leading us back to God. The first and wonderful fruit of this wholeness or chastity is √humility. We already spoke of it - it is above everything else the victory of truth in us, the elimination of all lies in which we usually live. Humility alone is capable of truth, of seeing and accepting things as they are and therefore seeing God’s majesty and goodness in love and everything. That’s why we are told that God gives grace to the humble and resists the proud.
Chastity and humility are naturally followed by √patience. The natural or fallen man is impatient for being blind to himself, he is quick to judge and condemn others. Having but a broken, incomplete and distorted knowledge of everything, he measures all things by his tastes and ideas, being indifferent to everyone except himself, he wants life to be successful right here and now. Patience, however, is a truly divine virtue. God is patient not because he is indulgent, but because he sees the depth of all that exists and the inner reality of things which in our blindness we do not see, is open to Him. The closer we come to God, the more patient we grow and the more we reflect that infinite respect for all beings which is a proper quality of God.
Finally, the crown of all virtues, all of growth and effort is √Love. That love, as we have already said, can be given by God alone - the gift which is the goal of all spiritual preparation and practice. All this is summarized and brought together to the concluding petition of the Lenten prayer in which we ask to see our own errors and not to judge my brother.
But, ultimately, there is but one danger – pride. Pride is the source of evil and all evil is pride. It is not enough for me to see my own errors, for even this apparent virtue can be turned into pride. Spiritual writings are full of warnings against the subtle forms of pseudo piety which, in reality, are the cover of humility and self-accusation and can lead to a truly demonic pride. When we see our own errors and do not judge our brothers, when in other terms chastity, humility, patience and love are but one in us, then and only then the ultimate enemy pride will be destroyed in us.
After each petition, we make a prostration. As I said, prostrations are not limited to the prayer of Saint Ephraim, but can consequently be the distinctive characteristic of the entire length of worship. Here, however, their meaning is disclosed best of all. In the long and difficult effort of spiritual recovery, the Church does not separate the soul from the body. The whole man has fallen away from God, the whole man is to be restored, the whole man is to return. The catastrophe of sin lies precisely in the victory of the flesh, the animal, the irrational, the lust in us, of the spiritual and the divine. But the body is glorious, the body is holy. So holy that God himself became flesh. Salvation and repentance then are not contempt for the body or neglect of it, but restoration of the body to its real function as an expression and light of spirit. As a temple, the price is the human soul. To be a Christian, in a sense, is a fight not against but for the body. For this reason the whole man, soul and body repents. The body participates in the prayer of the soul just as the soul prays through and in the body. Prostration is a sign of repentance and humility, of adoration and obedience are thus a lenten rite of par excellence. And in the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy a hymn reads: “Let us abstain from sin as we abstain from food.” Amen.
"SEE THEN THAT YE WALK CIRCUMSPECTLY!"
by Archbishop Averky (Taushev)
In more modern language these words of the Apostles are translated "See that you behave carefully!…" This does not sound as strong or as expressive, but for some it might be easier to understand.
In the first century of our era St. Paul the Apostle wrote this to the inhabitants of Ephesus, the ancient capitol city of Asia Minor, who had been converted to faith in Christ. But of course this most important caution of the great "Apostle of the Gentiles," like all the Apostolic writings in general, also applies to us, to the Christians of all times and nations.
It is especially important for us "last Christians" living all over the whole world in the present twentieth century to remember this warning. At this time anyone who wishes to remain faithful to Christ the Saviour and be a true Christian is surrounded on all sides by an infinite multitude of all possible sorts of temptations and trials, ranging from the very crudest all the way to the most refined ones, which are at times hard to discern, but which are especially dangerous and destructive.
The whole history of mankind for the last 20 centuries since the day the Saviour of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in the world is nothing but the devil's intense struggle, through people who have willingly or unwillingly submitted themselves to him, against true faith in Christ and the saving fruits of the Lord's Redemptive Sacrifice offered by Him for us on the Cross of Golgotha — a struggle to bring about the reign in the world of the enemy of Christ, the Antichrist, as soon as possible.
From this point of view all the events in the world history of mankind, all the twists of so-called "politics" become much clearer and more comprehensible. To be sure, much of it is cleverly concealed, "black" is called "white" and "white — black," but the Apostle warned us about that when he wrote that "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light; therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness" (II Corinthians 11:14-15). We have constantly seen this throughout all of the past history of mankind and are especially frequently and clearly observing it today. However, if we are not spiritually blinded by these "ministers of Satan" and do not ourselves wittingly or unwittingly serve Satan, then by knowing this essential fact of the history of the world we can with relative ease make sense of what is currently happening and not be drawn into that terrible struggle "to the death" which is is being carried on in our times with special intensity and bitterness against our Lord and Saviour and all His faithful servants and sincere followers.
But woe to those who remain blind and do not see anything or who, blinded by serving their own sinful passions, are so distracted by them that they simply do not want to see anything!
But the "ministers of Satan," or, which is the same thing, the servants of the coming Antichrist, make use of this spiritual blindness of the majority of modern people and stubbornly and insistently do their work with genuinely satanic energy. With special efforts and with all available means, with the aid of all the resources under their control, they bind forcibly to themselves adepts who are wittingly or unwittingly, willingly, or unwillingly, cooperating with them in creating in the world circumstances and conditions appropriate for the very near appearance of the Antichrist as the ruler of the whole world and the master of all mankind.
How is this being done?
Here is how! Through schools, the press, and spoken propaganda they are spreading skepticism and atheism among people, in every way drawing them away from faith in Christ and from the true Church, even replacing, where this is necessary and useful for them, the true Church with just the appearance of it, i.e. a "pseudo-church." They are undermining all the supports of moral living, ridiculing and denying the concepts of conscience, of good and evil. They are systematically instilling and encouraging dissipation, especially among the younger generation; they are destroying the family by permitting easy divorces and legalizing abortions; they are declaring unnatural sexual tendencies, including even homosexuality, legal and permissible; they are spreading sorts of pornography. Under the pretext of "freedom" and "democracy" they are weakening firm governments everywhere where they are founded on the strong and healthy bases of faith and morality, undermining their authority by spreading all sorts of slander and insinuations. They are organizing direct or at least covert persecution of the faith and the Church, harassing and oppressing believers, who at times are subjected to very cruel persecution. They are encouraging the growth of crime by neither condemning nor punishing criminals. Finally, they are trying to undermine the foundations even of people's material welfare and prosperity by creating disruptions in the national economies, inflation and depression, in order to bring people to total despair and a condition of general anarchy, etc., etc
But for what reason are they doing all this?
So that the people brought to hopeless despair will seize on the Antichrist when he appears as their saviour from all these ills and troubles, will worship him and entrust him with the fullness of power over all mankind as a dictator, an unchecked commander and master, with power to direct their life and death and their very souls.
In what way are the servants of Antichrist attaining their goals?
— by seizing governmental power, capital, and the press in all countries.
In what way are the servants of Antichrist attaining their goals?
By taking into their own hands, into their complete and exclusive possession the chief shapers of modern human life and of that which is spreading its influence everywhere and is capable of holding people firmly — by seizing governmental power, capital, and the press in all countries.
And recently, when they have been forced to admit that faith in God and in Christ is still strong in people and cannot so simply be rooted out and destroyed, they have not unsuccessfully been taking control of the Church into their own hands, trying to become the complete and unchecked directors and controllers of people's religious and church lives and even applying ecclesiastical discipline to those who refuse to obey them so they can keep everyone in their power without opposition or rebellion.
We are observing in the modern world all the things set out so far.
This is why what is so clearly and obviously happening now gives us the undoubted and complete right to speak, write and preach about the approach of the time of the Antichrist's rule. Yet, to tell the truth, the Antichrist is already ruling in the modern world and is fighting cruelly against Christ and His true followers for his own influence and power over people.
But where is he, you ask.
Antichrist is carrying on his satanic work by means of his many servants
We do not yet see him incarnate in a single, definite person, but he is already carrying on his satanic work by means of his many servants. And such people already began appearing in Apostolic times. Let us recall how Christ's beloved disciple, St. John the Theologian, wrote of this in his first epistle: "As ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists…" (I John 2:18).
How is it possible unfailingly to discern these "antichrists" who represent themselves as the "forerunner" as it were of the Antichrist who is going to be incarnate at the end of the ages in a single, definite person?
St. John the Theologian gives us an indication of this too, cautioning all of us: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the World" (I John 4:1-3). Of course one must remember that in the person of his "forerunner" there are those "many antichrists" of whom the Apostle spoke above in the second chapter of his epistle (verse 18).
the whole press is seized by antichrist
Today we are seeing an extremely clear — much more so than ever before! — realization of all that of which the holy Apostle wrote in the first century! Since that time how many "antichrists" have appeared who "did not confess Jesus Christ come in the flesh" or confessed Him falsely, deceitfully, leading people into error and fighting in actuality against true faith in Christ — or denying it altogether, or distorting and corrupting it. But an especially large number of such "antichrists" have appeared in this truly wicked time when these "antichrists," open and hidden, have in fact completely or almost completely seized all civil and ecclesiastical power, all capital, and the whole press into their own hands while decisively eliminating, and sometimes even physically destroying, everyone who stood in their way, who hindered them in the realization of their intentions and desires.
And they are moving quite intently and decisively toward everything which they have not yet accomplished, not hesitating at any degree of cruelty, deceit, and violence, just as long as they reach their goal.
These "antichrists" and their supporters, aided by governmental power, capital, and the press, are subjecting to themselves and to their influence everyone who is spiritually blind or is enslaved by his own passions. Such people think only of the unhindered satisfaction of their own passions, close their eyes to Christ's pure, unadulterated truth, and do not want to read or hear the cautions and warnings of the word of God and of the holy, God-bearing men and instructors in the faith — they are no longer free spiritually, but one way or another have been enslaved by these "antichrists" whom they serve and please, employing for this purpose those earthly goods which they desire so much: power, honor, money, luxury, and dishonorable carnal pleasures and satisfactions, in which they find no boundaries or limits for themselves.
None of the people of this sort like to hear or read about the Antichrist; they laugh, curse, and spit at you when you remind them of him, for in their hearts they have already accepted the Antichrist as their guide and benefactor, even though some of them have even been priests and bishops of the Church. In the Apostle's words, "They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them" (I John 4:5).
Meanwhile all true Christians, and especially true ministers of the Church, are "not of the world," as the Lord Jesus Christ emphasized in His farewell talk with His disciples at the Las Supper. Here are His actual words which anyone who would be a true Christian must know and remember well: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (St. John 15:18-19).
Thus the hatred of the world lying in evil is the chief indication that we are on the right course — that we are true followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. And vice versa: "The friendship of the world is enmity with God" (St. James 4:4).
This is why any effort on our part to befriend those "holding authority" at the present time when the "many antichrists" who are openly or secretly fighting against Christ and His true Church are so obviously in control, any effort slavishly to please them, flatter them, and do what they want, even to try for some degree of "legalization" from them is a betrayal of Christ our Saviour and enmity towards Him, even if those who act this way are wearing the dress of a clergymen.
In actuality, could anyone imagine Christ's Apostles, or even ordinary Christian believers, feasting at the same table with Annas and Caiaphas or Judas Iscariot after the crucifixion? But what do we frequently see now?
It was not in vain that the Holy Apostle Paul cautioned us in the person of the Ephesians: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16), i.e. "Behave carefully, not as unwise men, but as wise, making good use of the time, for the days are evil."
It seems since the appearance of Christianity on earth there have never been more "evil days" than those we are now experiencing. "Now everything everywhere is penetrated and filled through and through with evil" — insincerity, deceit, craftiness, and betrayal, even from people whom, judging by the position they hold and the calling they bear, one would not expect it.
But here is something strange and sad! Many, very many people, even though they see and know all this, act like the "unwise" rather than like the "wise," destroying both themselves and others attracted by them to the depths of not just temporal and earthly, but eternal destruction.
We shall not fear the world's hatred towards us, being consoled always by the words of Christ mentioned above, but we shall rather fear lest we too might find ourselves on the way of evil and betrayal. For there is an infinite multitude of temptations to this in the modern world. How frequently, literally at every step, may one now encounter people who live only by evil and betrayal in order to obtain for themselves earthly prosperity, all sorts of earthly goods, and a life according to their own wills!
Do they think — these people — of what answer they will have to give at Christ's Dread Judgment Seat, especially if they are in the responsible posts of leaders of Church or governmental life? At least the very fact that they do not like to hear about it or remember it or that they speak of it with some kind of foul ridicule is a testimony to the last thing — to their lack of faith! But not even the most clever and evil "politics" and "diplomacy" will save them there!
But each of us ought to give some very deep and serious thought to everything that has been said in connection with the Holy Apostle Paul's caution, which is appropriate as can be to our time:
"See then that ye walk circumspectly."
Reprinted from The Just Shine Like The Stars,
West Coast Orthodox Supply, 1983
Book available here:
Archbishop Averky warns us about the deceit of mainstream media.
The Just Shine Like the Stars, p. 61
Archbishop Averky telling us of the need to repent of supporting the hidden enemies of the Church.
repost from 2014
A: No conscience.
"It is just such people, possessed by the mad passion of self-love, who are being used by the powers of darkness, the servants of the coming Antichrist, ..."
Life Without a Conscience
by Archbishop Averky of Jordanville
This is what, in all honesty, one might call the life of the great majority of modern people who have suffered "dehumanization" from those who have seized into their own hands authority over the world – the servants of the enemy of Christ, the Antichrist, who is going to come. And it is very characteristic and should be very instructive that in this regard exactly the same thing is being done both in those countries where open and obvious enemies of God are ruling and int e countries of the supposed "free" world, which is only nominally free!
When the Lord created man, He endowed him with great gifts: He gave him a free will and, so that he might use it correctly, a conscience, which is not in vain called "the voice of God" in man's soul.
But then the first man used this great gift from God for evil: he misused the free will given, misfortune for unhappy man, far gone in his pride, who fell away from God, his Creator, Benefactor, and Father, and entered into a union with the enemy of God, the devil. The whole further history of mankind bears the mark of this dismal, ominous apostasy from God and serving of the devil instead of God. This is the source of disdain for the spiritual side of life and of total immersion in the life of the body, the life of irrational creatures, a bestial life; this is the source of forgetting limits and natural humility; the source of diabolic pride which brings with it putting one's self first, contempt for others, condemnation of others, hatred, enmity, and jealousy. This is the source of robberies, murders, civil disturbances, and wars. And human life here on earth became like an inferno, preparing senseless people for hell in the future, eternal life too...
The Lord did everything for men's salvation without infringing on the free will He granted man. Since men did not obey the voice of their consciences, the Lord gave them His law in written form and sent them God-inspired men – His prophets, who tried to awaken their slumbering consciences and who taught them the Law of God... And at last He sent them His Only-Begotten Son, Who gave them the New Covenant, sealed them with His Own Blood shed for the salvation of the world, and sent down upon them the Holy Spirit, Whose grace had the power to restore to new life people who had fallen into sin, making them new creatures and bringing them to an eternal, incorruptible life without infringing on their own free will.
The rapid and successful spread of Christianity in the first centuries after the birth of Christ was a clear indication of the unusual fruitfulness of God's providential acts. But the enemy of God, the devil, who had tempted the first people, was not sleeping; he continued to conduct a stubborn and insistent struggle to possess men for his own, not, of course, without the permission of God, the judgments of Whose Providence are inscrutable and inaccessible to our limited minds. We know only one thing for sure – that having given rational creatures free will, the Lord will not take it away and thus will not draw anyone to Himself by force; if a person is perishing despite everything which God has done for our salvation, then he ought to blame only himself for this, for having chosen the way of his own evil will instead of following the saving was of the Law of God.
And now the twentieth century of the Christian era is marked not only by men's complete flouting of the voice of their consciences and their denial oft he Law of God, but also by bold rebellion against God and His Christ – by in some places hidden, in some places open warfare against God and hatred for Christ.
We live in a terrible epoch, such as the world has never before experienced, for never before have people so openly, so boldly and impudently opposed the demands of their consciences and of the Law of God in such huge numbers and on such an almost worldwide scale, embracing all aspects of human life everywhere on earth. Truly Satan has now been loosed and freed from his prison, as was revealed in the vision of St. John the author of the Apocalypse, and he has come forth to "deceive the nations" (Apoc. 20:7). And our only comfort is that Satan's triumph will not last too long – "for a short time" (Apoc. 20:3), for the "King of Kings and the Lord of Lords" will appear, will defeat the "beast" (antichrist) and with him the "false prophet," who will have deceived with his false miracles those who received the "mark of the beast" and worshipped his image; and they will all be "cast into a lake of fire, burning with brimstone" (Apoc. 19:20). And immediately afterwards the devil himself who had deceived them, will be cast into the same place, into this lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are, and "they shall be tormented day and night forever" (Apoc. 20:10). Into the same place, into this lake of fire, will be cast all "who were not written in the book of life" (Apoc. 20:14-15), that is, those who gave in to the devil's deceptions and served the devil instead of God, – all "dogs and sorcerers, whoremongers, and murderers, and idolators, and whosoever loved and made a lie" (Apoc. 22:15) – all who impudently flouted their consciences and rose up against the righteous Law of God, blasphemed God's name, and did not repent so they could give Him glory (Apoc. 16:9).
This is what the end of the world will be like, although all those modern people who are far gone in their service of the devil and are themselves in the grip of diabolic pride do not want to believe it. All of us must know this well and keep it in mind sot hat we may find the right course in life, leading to the "new Jerusalem" which was shown to the author of the Apocalypse (Apoc. ch 21) and not become exceedingly discouraged and fall into hopelessness and despair because of all the things now happening before our eyes.
But also we must not in anything follow the examples oft hose whom an evil fate awaits int e "lake of fire" together with the enemy of God and the enemy of human salvation, the devil and all his ministers and agents.
However, does everyone in our times pay attention to the warnings of the Word of God and follow the voice of conscience?
Alas! What do we see at present in reality?
Life without conscience!
And this is so not only among open atheists and enemies of God, of whom there are more now than ever before, but also among people who are supposed to be believers and who have not renounced the Church, and they themselves, at least, proclaim. Sometimes they take an active part in the life of the Church and – this is especially terrible – at times also enter the ranks of the clergy without a genuine calling and without the essential inclination toward prayer, not even wanting to know that for a true "good pastor" prayer and the service of God occupy the first place.
Instead of pleasing God and instead of the humility and obedience to the Law of God and the Holy Church commanded by Christ, there now flourishes as never before truly diabolical pride: self-love, conceit, self-glorification, self-exaltation, vanity which oozes out of every pore, and seeking after popularity and earthly glory. This all leads naturally to hatred, envy, malice, and uncontrollable hostility, leading at times to frenzy, instead of to the mutual love and goodwill commanded by the Gospel, instead of to mercy and mutual aid.
Is not this the chief cause of all ecclesiastical quarrels and divisions, of dissension in the general life of the Church and even in each individual parish?
To start the cruel hostility and dissension which cut off at the root the peaceful course of parish life and break up and destroy the parish it is sufficient for just one such person to appear in a parish – a person who imagines that he is the "hub of the universe," that everyone should take account only of him and obey him in everything, that all his judgments and evaluations are infallible and without error, although in reality he himself is an utter intellectual and moral nonentity and is pursuing only the interests of his own sick self-love, to which he is willing to sacrifice everything.
For people of this sort it is as if the voice of conscience does not exist and they do not recognize the Law of God: they are capable of every sort of tendentious distortion of the truth, of any sort of lie and malicious slander against those people who do not agree with their conceited inclination, who do not approve of their attitude of self-satisfaction and their unrestrained desire to play the leading role everywhere, even if those people be lawfully appointed and truly good pastors and men of prayer, of whom there are fewer and fewer nowadays, and who ought to be valued, not persecuted with lies and slander for purely personal, conceited reasons, which is a foul and repulsive sin in the eyes of God.
It is just such people, possessed by by the mad passion of self-love, who are being used by the powers of darkness, the servants of the coming Antichrist, to disrupt and destroy the Church, starting with its individual parishes.
It is amazing only that sometimes some of those who really are believers and are devoted to the Church give in to such trouble-makers, liars, and slanderers, such insolent "scoundrels" to whom the Church as such is neither dear nor of interest, who do not think about the salvation of their souls, and for whom the Church is nothing more than one of the ordinary human organizations where they wish to play some sort of leading role; they fall under their influence and in their naive thoughtlessness support them in their conceited undertakings as some sort of "maintainer of law and order"!
And if we recall the directive of the atheistic authorities instructing their agents to join all our public organizations, including church parishes, in order to conduct work to destroy them by undermining them from within, then it becomes quite ominous! What times we are living in! And how attentive and careful we all must be not thoughtlessly to trust the kind of people who boldly disrupt the peaceful course of the life of our parishes.
It is essential that each and every one of us firmly know and remember that the chief thing in a pastor of the Church of Christ is his sincere prayerfulness, his zealous devotion to the temple of God and to the services performed in it, for the pastor is a representative oft he people before God at God's altar. And all the rest s of little importance, since it does not have much significance in the work of eternal salvation.
And so if there is someone who by his intrigues, slanders, and all kinds of nasty insinuations is undermining the authority of such genuine pastors and men of prayer, then this just exposes that person himself as a conscious or unconscious servant of the powers of darkness warring against the Church and striving to destroy it. Stay away from such people!
Such people show by sowing dissension that they are living without a conscience and are following in the steps of Cain, the original murderer, and Judas, the murderer of God, and are under the domination of their father the devil, although their prideful conceit and self-exaltation prevent them from clearly realizing this.
Outside the true* Church a huge, perhaps overwhelming, majority of people now live without taking any account at all of the voice oft her consciences,which they have put to death in themselves, being guided only by their own egotistical, conceited inclinations and impudently flouting the Law of God.
They are genuinely living without a conscience!
But within our Church this is completely impermissible and intolerable and therefore all the church's truly devoted children must decisively resist them, not permit them to introduce dissension into the life of the Church, and not allow them to have positions of authority in the Church, to which they are in reality, in their spirit and attitude, completely foreign.
The righteous struggle for the Church in the difficult pre-Antichrist time we are experiencing is the unfailing and urgent obligation of every true* Orthodox Christian, so long as it is carried out in a pure manner – without any taint of one's own passion of self-love, in the spirit of Christ's humility and meekness, for the good of the Holy Church and for the salvation of the souls of those who truly believe.
And then the Lord Himself will be with us, for the Church was given to us for the salvation of our souls and for nothing else!
We cannot make it a tool or an arena for the play of our passions and for settling our personal accounts.
Let us also above all remember that the goal of our life is salvation of our souls, and the salvation of our souls is unthinkable without the grace of God offered in the Church.
But the grace of God cannot be received by those who are possessed by the pride of self-exaltation and who put themselves above others, drowning out their consciences and not wanting to humble themselves, for "God resisteth the proud," as the Word of God teaches and only "giveth grace to the humble" (I Peter 5:5).
The Just Shine Like the Stars, translated from Russian by Rev. Seraphim Johnson, Orthodox Russia, 1975
Archbishop Averky used the term "true" Orthodox ("true" Church) to distinguish the Royal Path from world-orthodoxy. Today the fragments (RTOC, ROAC, ROCIE, etc.) refer to themselves as "true". Today we should not refer to ourselves as "true" without clarifying, because we need to distinguish our Royal Path from the fragments.