The Birth of Christ Celebrates the End of the Sickness of Religion

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The feast of the Birth of Christ cannot be confined to a few sentimental situations: festive decorations, an intellectual and rationalistic interpretation of events, a moralistic framework; rather it has a very profound meaning and existential significance. If one remains at an external level, then they are leaving themselves hungry and thirsty, deprived of a life of meaning and existential freedom.

The incarnation of Christ was considered and was celebrated by the Fathers of the Church and the worshipping ecclesiastical community as the abolishing of religion and its transformation into a Church. In fact, the ever-memorable Father John Romanides had said in the most categorical way that Christ became human, in order to free us of the sickness of religion.

The word ‘religion’ is mentioned in Homer’s epics; it is also used by Herodotus to express the worship and the honor that a person has to offer God. Etymologically, the (Greek) word for ‘religion’ (θρησκεία) is derived from the ancient word that implies ‘ascend’ (αναβαίνω), and therefore, with the term ‘religion’, the ascent of man towards God is implied. But even

1/4 the (Greek) word for “human” (άνθρωπος) is etymologically derived from the expression “upwards looking” (άνω θρώσκω), again implying an ascent.

But, as it appears at a first glance, an ascent presupposes the acceptance of the essence of metaphysics, according to which a person’s soul that has fallen from the immortal and impersonal world of ideas and is encased in a body, has to rid itself of the body [the prison of the soul] and return to the world of ideas. But even the Latin word religio – which is used to denote the word religion – signifies, according to dictionaries, the bond-unity-union of man with God; that is, it denotes the same fact of the essence and the content of metaphysics. In fact, it also presupposes – if we seek it in eastern religions – a faceless expression of mankind, since man has to disappear like a drop of water in the ocean of the Supreme Being, and thus eliminating the persona.

As the late Father John Romanides had taught, the term ‘religion’ implies the relating of the uncreated to the created, and actually the relating of the representations of the uncreated with the notions and the words of human thought, and this kind of relating is of course the foundation of the religion and the worship of idols. Therefore, in this case, the personhood of God is lost, and so is the person’s personhood; man becomes gravely ill, since his vices and his imagination are cultivated even more; and more than this, we can say that the so-called irreproachable-natural vices (hunger, thirst, etc.) become reproachable-unnatural vices; causes of social anomalies because of unlimited ambition, unjust craving for acquisition and unleashed debauchery.

It is well-known that Feuerbach at first, then Marx, had said that “religion was the opium of the people”. We can accept this viewpoint, that religion – as we see it in the Orient and in the religionized views of western Christianity – is the opium of the people, since it benumbs the people, it mortifies societies and leads them to such a degree of deactivation, that it becomes exploitable material for the institution of a tyranny that deprives mankind of his unalienable right to freedom.

I would like to submit two characteristic examples of religious expression here below.

The first example comes from the Buddhist religion. We know that according to Buddhism, that which preoccupies mankind is the problem of the pain that originates from the desire to live. Hence, the ultimate goal of the “enlightened” one is the discarding of this passion to live. The mortifying of the desire for life is achieved through a special method called Yoga with its different variations, such as Hatha Yoga (uniting with the Brahma through physical exercises), Karma Yoga (uniting with the Brahma through deeds and ritual acts), Mantra Yoga (uniting with the Brahma through chants and magic syllables), Bhakti Yoga (uniting with the Brahma through the absolute worship of one deity or the Guru himself), Jnana Yoga (uniting with the Brahma through mystical knowledge), Kundalini Yoga (uniting with the Brahma through “demonic” activities), Tantra Yoga (uniting with the Brahma through unbridled sexual acts). With these methods, man is supposed to attain absolute Nirvana, which is the extinguishing of his existence and the riddance of one’ desire for life, the ultimate purpose being the avoidance of Samsara – the recycling of life, or, reincarnation. Thus, the personal Atman is united to the overall Brahma, just like a drop entering the

2/4 ocean.

It is obvious that in a religious life such as this, there is no personality; man is merely considered a unit, as there is also no such thing as society; no social life is encouraged, since every lifetime is considered a beginning of grief.

The second example originates from the theories of Anselm of Canterbury, a scholastic theologian, who founded a Christian system that prevailed in the West, having in mind the (Frankish) feudal system of organizing society. But the feudal lord had absolute value and honor that could not be violated, because every violation of his honor and every disturbance of the feudal system that was considered a work of God, entailed the punishment of the violator; thus God is the highest form of justice, He has honor, and has instituted order within creation, therefore, the violator must either satisfy God’s sense of justice or be punished. Thus, Anselm interpreted the crucifixion sacrifice of Christ, not as an expression of love for mankind, but as the atonement of justice by God the Father. This system, with the assistance of the absolute destination, led to enormous problems in the western world; problems both personal and social, as analyzed by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

These two examples, one from the orient and the other from the west, indicate how Feuerbach arrived at his motto “religion is the opium of the people”. Naturally, we Orthodox also believe that if we give religion this definition, the metaphysical definition, then it can indeed become the opium of the people, because it will destroy every personal life, eliminate personal freedom, and even disintegrate social life, and turn man from a person into a unit.

Christianity however appeared in the history of mankind as the end of religion, and the experience of the Church. The term “Church” is an ancient Greek term and indicates a community, the congregation of the populace – the municipality – that would solve its problems. Naturally, with the term ‘Church’ we do not imply something external; we are implying the personal communion of mankind with God and its fellow-man, as seen in the Prophets of the Old Testament, in the Apostles of the New Testament, in the Acts of the Apostles, where “all those who believed were of one mind, and had everything common to all; they sold their lands and their belongings and shared them amongst everyone, as they had need. (Acts 2:44-45). We see it in the communities of monks, in the teaching of the major Fathers of the Church, and it extends into our time, as seen in the ecclesiastical communities narrated by Papadiamantis and the Memoirs of Makriyannis. And we know full well, from various studies, that both Papadiamantis and Makriyannis were not religious people; they were ecclesiastical, not inspired by western Puritanism, but by the hesychastic-neptic Orthodox tradition.

The greatest problem of western Christianity, and many Orthodox, is that – according to Christos Yannaras – they have religionized Christianity, and transformed the Church into a religion. In this way, they cultivated fundamentalisms, hatreds, divisions, a magical perception and relationship with God, also a competitive disposition of one towards another, a self-centered view of life, a utilitarian and self-benefiting perception of society, an

3/4 imaginary interpretation of everything, the sentimental approach to living and generally the opinion that the others comprise – and are – a threat to our existence.

Thus, in these circumstances, the brightly-lit Christmas trees, the sentimental melodies, the moral-building analyses, all criminally conceal existential nakedness and make man a tragic being.

If contemporary, speculating people looked for a meaning behind the Birth of Christ, it would be that with His Birth, Christ abolished the sickness of religion and transformed it into a living Church – with whatever its authentic meaning entails. This is the need of contemporary man who is suffering from the tragic trinity, as Victor Frankl would have said, which are: suffering, guilt and death, inasmuch as he feels his life is a pre-death experience, an existential and eternal death, and not only seeks the experience of pleasure, but perhaps through pleasure, is seeking the survival of existence.

Source: Newspaper “Eleftherotypia” December 23, 2001. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Saint Hilarion Troitsky(1886-1929) Glorified 1999


One of the most eminent figures of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1920s was Archbishop Hilarion of Verey, an outstanding theologian and extremely talented individual. Throughout his life he burned with great love for the Church of Christ, right up to his martyric death for her sake.

His literary works are distinguished by their strictly ecclesiastical content and his tireless struggle against scholasticism, specifically Latinism, which had been influencing the Russian Church from the time of Metropolitan Peter Moghila [of Kiev].

His ideal was ecclesiastical purity for theological schools and theological studies.

His continual reminder was: There is no salvation outside the Church, and there are no Sacraments outside the Church.

Archbishop Hilarion (Vladimir Alexeyevich Troitsky in the world) was born on September 13, 1886, to a priest’s family in the village of Lipitsa, in the Kashira district of Tula Province.

A longing to learn was awakened in him at an early age. When he was only five years old, he took his three-year-old brother by the hand and left his native village for Moscow to go to school. When his little brother began to cry from fatigue, Vladimir said to him, “Well, then, remain uneducated.” Their parents realized in time that their children had disappeared, and quickly brought them home. Vladimir was soon sent to theology school, and then to seminary. After completing the full seminary course, he entered the Moscow Theological Academy, and graduated with honors in 1910 with a Candidate degree in Theology. He remained at the Academy with a professorial scholarship.

It is worth noting that Vladimir was an excellent student from the beginning of theology school to the completion of the Theological Academy. He always earned the highest marks in all subjects.

In 1913 Vladimir received his master’s degree in theology for his fundamental work, “An Overview of the History of the Dogma of the Church.”

His heart burned with the desire to serve God as a monastic. On March 28, 1913, in the Skete of the Paraclete of the Holy Trinity–St. Sergius Lavra, he received the monastic tonsure with the name Hilarion (in honor of St. Hilarion the New, Abbot and Confessor of Pelecete, commemorated March 28). About two months later, on June 2, he was ordained a hieromonk, and on July 5 of the same year, raised to the rank of Archimandrite.

On May 30, 1913, Fr. Hilarion was appointed Inspector of the Moscow Theological Academy. In December of 1913 Archimandrite Hilarion was confirmed as Professor of Holy Scripture, in the New Testament.

Archimandrite Hilarion gained great authority both as an educator of those studying in the theological school and as a professor of theology, and his sermons earned him great renown.

His dogmatic theological works came out one after another, enriching ecclesiastical scholarship. His sermons sounded from church ambos like the ringing of bells, calling God’s people to faith and moral renewal.

When the question arose as to whether the Russian Church should restore the Patriarchate, as a member of the All-Russian Local Council of 1917–1918[1] he made an inspired stand in favor of the Patriarchate. He said:

The Russian Church has never been without a chief hierarch. Our Patriarchate was destroyed by Peter I. With whom did it interfere? With the conciliarity of the Church? But wasn’t it during the time of the Patriarchs that there were especially many councils? No, the Patriarchate interfered neither with conciliarity nor with the Church. Then with whom? Here before me are two great friends, two adornments of the seventeenth century—Patriarch Nikon and Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. In order to sow disagreement between these two friends, evil boyars whispered to the Tsar, “Because of the Patriarch, you, the Sovereign, have become invisible.” When Nikon left the Moscow throne, he wrote, “Let the sovereign have more space without me.” Peter gave flesh to this thought of Nikon’s when he destroyed the Patriarchate. “Let me, the Sovereign, have more space without the Patriarch …”

But Church consciousness, in the thirty-fourth Apostolic Canon, as well as in the Local Council held in Moscow in 1917, says one irrevocable thing: ‘The bishops of any nation, including the Russian nation, must know who is the first among them, and acknowledge him as their head.’

And I would like to address all those who for some reason still consider it necessary to protest against the Patriarchate. Fathers and brothers! Do not disrupt the joy of our oneness of mind! Why do you take this thankless task upon yourselves? Why do you make hopeless speeches? You are fighting againstthe Church’s consciousness. Have some fear, lest haply you begin to fight against God (cf. Acts 5:39)! We have already sinned— sinned in that we didn’t restore the Patriarchate two months ago, when we all came to Moscow and met with each other for the first time in the great Dormition Cathedral. Was it not it painful to the point of tears to see the empty Patriarchal seat?… And when we venerated the holy relics of the wonderworkers of Moscow and chief hierarchs of Russia, did we not hear their reproach, that for two hundred years their chief hierarchical throne has remained desolate?”

Immediately after the Bolsheviks came to power, they began to persecute the Church, and by March of 1919 Archimandrite Hilarion had already been arrested. His first imprisonment lasted three months.

On May 11/24, 1920, Archimandrite Hilarion was elected, and on the next day, consecrated as Bishop of Verey, a vicariate of the Moscow diocese.

His contemporaries painted a colorful picture of him: young, full of cheerfulness, well-educated, an excellent preacher, orator, singer, and a brilliant polemicist—always natural, sincere, and open. He was physically very strong, tall, and broad-shouldered, with thick reddish hair and a clear, bright face. He was the people’s favorite.… Bishop Hilarion enjoyed great authority among the clergy and his fellow bishops, who called him “Hilarion the Great” for his mind and steadfastness in the Faith.

His episcopal service was a path of the cross. Two years had not passed since the day of his consecration before he was already in exile in Archangelsk. Bishop Hilarion was away from Church life for a whole year. He continued his activity upon his return from exile. His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon took a close interest in him, and made him, along with Archbishop Seraphim (Alexandrov),[2] his closest like-minded advisor.

The Patriarch raised Bishop Hilarion to the rank of Archbishopimmediately upon his return from exile. His ecclesiastical activities began to broaden. He carried on serious talks with Tuchkov[3] on the need to order life in the Russian Orthodox Church on the basis of canonical law, amidst the conditions present under the Soviet government; and he labored to restore ecclesiastical organization, composing a number of Patriarchal epistles.

He became a threat to the renovationists,[4] and was inseparable from Patriarch Tikhon in their eyes. On the evening of June 22/July 5, 1923, Vladyka Hilarion served an All-night Vigil for the feast of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God at the Sretensky Monastery, which had been taken over by the renovationists. Vladyka threw out the renovationists and re-consecrated the cathedral with the full rite of consecration, and thus returned the monastery to the Church. The next day, Patriarch Tikhon served in the monastery. The Divine Services lasted all day, not ending until 6:00 pm. Patriarch Tikhon appointed Archbishop Hilarion as Superior of Sretensky Monastery. The renovationist leader, Metropolitan Antonin (Granovsky), wrote against the Patriarch and Archbishop Hilarion with inexpressible hatred, accusing them unceremoniously as counter-revolutionaries. “Tikhonand Hilarion,” he wrote, “have produced ‘grace-filled,’ suffocating gases against the revolution, and the revolution has armed itself not only against the Tikhonites, but against the whole Church, as against a band of conspirators. Hilarion goes around sprinkling churches after the renovationists. He walks brazenly into these churches…. Tikhon and Hilarion are guilty before the revolution, vexers of the Church of God, and can offer no good deeds to excuse themselves.”[5]

Archbishop Hilarion clearly understood the renovationists’ lawlessness, and he conducted heated debates in Moscow with Alexander Vvedensky.[6] As Archbishop Hilarion himself expressed it, he had Vvedensky “up against the wall” at these debates, and exposed all his cunning and lies.

The renovationist bosses sensed that Archbishop Hilarion interfered with their doings, and they therefore exerted all efforts to deprive him of his freedom. In December 1923 Archbishop Hilarion was sentenced to three years in prison. He was taken to the prison camp in Kem,[7] and then to Solovki.[8]

When the archbishop saw the horrific conditions in the barracks and the camp food, he said, “We won’t get out of here alive.” Archbishop Hilarion had embarked upon the path of the cross, which culminated in his blessed repose.

Archbishop Hilarion’s path of the cross is of great interest to us, for in it is revealed the full magnificence of spirit of this martyr for Christ; therefore we will allow ourselves to take a more detailed look at this period in his life.

Living in Solovki, Archbishop Hilarion preserved all those good qualities of soul that he had gained through his ascetic labors, both before and during his monastic life and as a priest and hierarch. Those who lived with him during those years were witnesses to his total monastic non-acquisitiveness, deep simplicity, true humility, and childlike meekness. He simply gave away everything he had when asked.

He took no interest in his own things. That is why he needed someone to watch after his suitcase, out of mercy for him. He did have such an assistant at Solovki. Archbishop Hilarion could be insulted but he would never answer back; he might not even notice the attempt to insult him. He was always cheerful, and even if he was worried or distressed, he always tried to cover it up quickly with his cheerfulness. He looked at everything with spiritual eyes, and everything served for his spiritual profit.

“At the Philemonov fishery,” one eyewitness related, “four and a half miles from the Solovki kremlin and main camp, on the shores of the small White Sea bay, Archbishop Hilarion and I, along with two other bishops and a few priests (all prisoners), were net-makers and fishermen. Archbishop Hilarion loved to talk about this work of ours using a rearrangement of the words of the sticheron for Pentecost: ‘All things aregiven by the Holy Spirit: before, fishermen became theologians, and now it’s the opposite—theologians have become fishermen.’” Thus did he humble himself before his new lot.

His good spirits extended also to the Soviet authorities themselves, and he was able to view even them with guileless eyes.

Once, a young hieromonk was brought to Solovki from Kazan. He had been sentenced to three years of exile for removing the orarion[9] from a renovationist deacon, and not allowing the deacon to celebrate with him. The Archbishop approved of the hieromonk’s action, and joked about the various prison terms given to one or another person, having nothing to do with the seriousness of their “crime.” “For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first,” he said in the words of St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal homily. “He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.” These words may have sounded ironic, but they imparted a feeling of peace, and made the hieromonk accept the trial as from God’s hands.

Vladyka Hilarion was greatly cheered by the thought that Solovki was a school of the virtues—non-acquisitiveness, meekness, humility, temperance, patience, and love of labor. One day a group of clergy was robbed upon arrival, and the fathers were very upset. One of the prisoners said to them in jest that this is how they were being taught non-acquisitiveness. Vladyka was elated by that remark. One exile lost his boots twice in a row, and walked around the camp in torn galoshes. Archbishop Hilarion was brought to unfeigned merriness looking at him, and that is how he encouraged good humor in the other prisoners. His love for every person, his attention to each one, and his sociability were simply amazing. He was the most popular individual in the camp, among all of its societal classes. We are saying not only that the general, the officer, the student, and the professor knew him and talked withhim (in spite of the fact that there were many bishops there, even older, and no less educated than he), but also the rabble, the criminal society of thieves and bandits, knew him as a good, respected person, whom it was impossible not to love. Whether during work-breaks or during his free time, he could be seen walking around arm in arm with one or another “example” of this crowd. This was not just condescension toward a “younger brother” or a fallen man—no. Vladyka spoke with each one as an equal, taking an interest in, for example, the “profession,” or favorite activity of each of them. The criminal element is very proud and sensitively conceited. They cannot be slighted with impunity. Therefore, Vladyka’s manner overcame everything. Like a friend to them, he ennobled them by his presence and attention. It was exceptionally interesting to observe him in that crowd, talking things over with them.

He was accessible to all; he was just like everyone, and it was easy to be around him, to meet with him and talk. The most ordinary, simple, and “non-saintly” exterior—that was Vladyka. However, behind this ordinary exterior of joy and seeming worldliness, one could gradually begin to see childlike purity, vast spiritual experience, kindness and mercy, his sweet indifference to material goods, his true faith, authentic piety, and lofty moral perfection—not to mention intellectual strength combined with strength and clarity of conviction. This appearance of ordinary sinfulness, foolishness-for-Christ, and a mask of worldliness hid his inner activity from people, and preserved him from hypocrisy and conceit. He was the sworn enemy of hypocrisy and all manner of “pious appearance,” and was absolutely conscious and direct. In the “Troitsky crew” (that is what they called Archbishop Hilarion’s work group) the clergy received a good education on Solovki. Everyone understood that there was no point in just calling yourself a sinner, carrying on long, pious conversations, or showing how austerely you lived. It was especially useless to think more highly of yourself than was actually the case.

Vladyka would ask every arriving priest in detail about the events leading up to his imprisonment. One day, a certain abbot was brought to Solovki. The Archbishop asked him, “What did they arrest you for?”

“Oh, I served molebens at home after they closed the monastery,” the abbot replied. “Well, people would gather, and there were even some healings …”

“Ah, well—even healings … How much Solovki did they give you?”

“Three years.”

“Well,” said Vladyka, “that’s not much; for healings they should have given you more. The Soviet government made an oversight …”

It goes without saying that it was more than immodest to speak about healings coming through one’s own prayers.

In mid summer of 1925, Archbishop Hilarion was sent to the prison in Yaroslavl. There it was very different from Solovki. He had special privileges there. He was allowed to receive spiritual books. Taking advantage of these privileges, Archbishop Hilarion read a great deal of patristic literature and kept notes, which resulted in many thick notebooks of patristic instruction. He was able to send these notebooks to his friends for safekeeping after passing the prison censor. The hierarch would secretly visit the prison warden, who was a kind man, and as a result he made an underground collection of religious manuscripts and Soviet literature, as well as copies of various Church-administrative documents and correspondence with bishops.

During that time, Archbishop Hilarion also courageously bore a slew of troubles. When he was in Yaroslavl prison, the Gregorian schism[10] was occurring within the Russian Church’s bosom. An agent from the GPU came to him since he was a popular bishop, and tried to persuade him to join the new schism. “Moscow loves you—Moscow is waiting for you,” the agent said to him. But Archbishop Hilarion remained steadfast. He couldsee what the GPU was trying to do, and he courageously rejected the sweet freedom offered him in exchange for his betrayal. The agent was amazed at his courage and said, “It’s nice to speak with such an intelligent man.” Then he added, “How long is your term on Solovki? Three years?! For Hilarion—only three years?! So little?” It is not surprising that three more years were added to Archbishop Hilarion’s sentence after this. The statement “for spreading government secrets” was also added; that is—for talking about his conversation with the agent in the Yaroslavl prison.

In the spring of 1926, Archbishop Hilarion was sent back to Solovki. His way of the cross continued. The Gregorians did not leave him in peace. They did not lose hope that they might be able to win such an eminent hierarch as Archbishop Hilarion over to their side, and thus strengthen their position.

In early June of 1927, when the White Sea had only just become passable, Archbishop Hilarion was transferred to Moscow for discussions with Archbishop Gregory. In the presence of various secular personages, the latter insistently requested Archbishop Hilarion to “gather courage” and head the Gregorian “Supreme Church Council,” which was rapidly losing its significance. Archbishop Hilarion categorically refused, explaining that the actions of this council were unjust and a waste oftime, contrived by people who knew neither Church life nor canons, and therefore the Council was doomed to failure. Moreover, Archbishop Hilarion counseled Archbishop Gregory as a brother to abandon his plans, which were unnecessary and even harmful to the Church.

Such meetings were repeated several times. They begged Vladyka Hilarion, promised him total freedom of action and a white klobuk,[11] but he firmly held to his convictions. There are even rumors that he said to someone at one of these meetings, “Although I’m an archpastor, I’m a hot-tempered man, and I urge you to leave. After all, I might lose my self-control.”

“I would sooner rot in prison than change my position,” he said once to Bishop Gervasius.[12] He stuck to this position on the Gregorians to the end of his life.

During the troubled times when, after the renovationist schism, disagreements had penetrated into the midst of the exiled bishops on Solovki, Archbishop Hilarion was a true peacemaker among them. He was able to unify them on the basis of Orthodox principles. Archbishop Hilarion was one of the bishops who worked on the Church declaration of 1926, which determined the position of the Orthodox Church under the new historical conditions. This declaration played an enormous role in the struggle with emerging divisions.[13]

In November 1927, certain of the Solovki bishops began to waiver over the Josephite schism.[14] Archbishop Hilarion was able to gather up to fifteen bishops in the cell of Archimandrite Theophan, where all unanimously resolved to preserve faithfulness to the Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Sergius.

“No schisms!” Archbishop Hilarion proclaimed. “No matter what they say to us, we will look at it as a provocation!”

On June 28, 1928, Vladyka Hilarion wrote to his close friends that he was unsympathetic in the extreme with those who had broken off, and considered their actions unfounded, foolish, and extremely harmful. He considered such separation to be an “ecclesiastical crime,” quite serious under the current conditions. “I see absolutely nothing in the actions of Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod that would exceed a measure of condescension and patience,” he said.

Archbishop Hilarion worked very hard to convince Bishop Victor (Ostrovidov) of Glazov,[15] who was very closely aligned with the Josephites. He finally did manage to convince Bishop Victor, and not only did the latter recognize that he was wrong—he even wrote a letter to his flock enjoining them to cease their separations.

Although Archbishop Hilarion was unable to know everything about the life in the Church of that time, he nevertheless was not an indifferent observer of the various ecclesiastical disturbances and catastrophes that were crashing down upon the Orthodox people. People came to him for advice and asked him what they should do to attain peace in the Church under the new conditions of political life. This was a very complicated question, and Archbishop Hilarion provided an exceedingly deep and well analyzed answer, based upon Orthodox canons and ecclesiastical practice.

Here is what he wrote about this in a letter dated December 10, 1927:

I have not participated for the last two years in Church life; I have only periodic and, perhaps, inexact information. Therefore, it is difficult for me to judge about the particulars and details of that life; but I think that the general line of Church life and its inadequacies and illnesses are known to me. The main inadequacy, one which I felt even earlier, is the lack of Church Councils since 1917—that is, during the very time when they have been most needed, because the Russian Church has entered into entirely new historical conditions, not without God’s will. These conditions are unusual, and significantly different from its earlier conditions. Ecclesiastical practice, including the formation of the Councils of 1917–1918, is not suited to these new conditions. The situation has become significantly morecomplicated since the death of Patriarch Tikhon. The question of the Locum Tenens, as far as I know, is also very confused, and ecclesiastical governance is in a state of total disarray. I do not know if there is anyone among our hierarchy, or even among conscious members of the Church in general, who are so naïve or near-sighted as to entertain the absurd illusion that the Soviet government will soon be overthrown and [the old order] restored, etc. But I think that all who desire the good of the Church recognize the need for the Russian Church to make a place for itself under the new historical conditions.

Thus, a Council is needed; and first of all we need to ask the governmental authorities to allow us to call a Council. However, someone needs to gather the Council, make the necessary preparations—in a word, lead the Church up to a Council. Therefore, right now, before the Council, an ecclesiastical body is needed. I have a series of requirements for the organization and the activity of this body which, I think, are common to everyone who wants good ecclesiastical order rather than disturbance of peace or some new confusion. I will point out a few of these requirements.

1. A temporary ecclesiastical body should not be essentially self-willed; that is, it should have the agreement of the Locum Tenens from the start.

2. As much as possible, the temporary ecclesiastical body should include those who have been delegated by the Locum Tenens, Metropolitan Peter (Polyansky) or the Holy Patriarch.

3. The temporary ecclesiastical body should unite and not separate the episcopate. It is not a judge, and not a punisher of dissenters—that is what the Council will be.

4. The temporary ecclesiastical body should see its task as modest and practical: the creation of a Council.

The last two points require particular explanation. The repulsive ghost of the 1922 VTsU (Supreme ChurchAdministration)[16] still hovers over the hierarchy and ecclesiastical personages. Church people have become suspicious. The temporary ecclesiastical body should fear like fire the least resemblance in activity to the criminal activity of the VTsU. Otherwise, there will only be new confusion. The VTsU was begun with lies and deceit. Everything should be founded upon the truth. The VTsU, an entirely self-appointed body, proclaimed itself as the supreme master of the destiny of the Russian Church—a master to whom ecclesiastical laws, and even common Divine and human laws, do not necessarily apply. Our ecclesiastical body will only be temporary, with the sole task of calling a Council. The VTsU persecuted all who would not submit to it—that is, all decent hierarchs and other ecclesiastical workers. Threatening punishments left and right, and promising mercy to the submissive, the VTsU evoked the censure of the government—censure that the government itself hardly found desirable. This repugnant side of the criminal activities of the VTsU and its successor, the socalled “Synod,” with its councils of 1923–1925, earned them deserved contempt, caused great woe and suffering for innocent people, brought only evil, and had only the result that a part of the hierarchy and some irresponsible Church people left the Church and formed schismatic groups. Nothing of the kind, not even the slightest hint, should be present in the activities of the temporary ecclesiastical body. I emphasize this thought especially, because I see a very great danger in precisely this. Our ecclesiastical body should convoke a Council. With respect to this Council, the following requirements are necessary.

5. The temporary ecclesiastical organ should convoke, but not select the members of the Council, as was done by the VTsUof woeful memory in 1923. A selected Council will not have any authority and will bring not calm, but only new confusion to the Church. There is scant need to enlarge the list of “robber councils” in history—three are enough: Ephesus in 449, and two in Moscow, between 1923 and 1925. My first wish for the future Council is that it would prove its total non-participation and non-solidarity with all politically suspect movements, to disperse the fog of unconscionable and foul-smelling slander which has shrouded the Russian Church through the criminal efforts of evil doers (of renovation). Only a true Council can have authority, bring calm into Church life, and give peace to the tormented hearts of Church people. I believe that at the Council, the whole importance of this ecclesiastical moment will come to the surface, and it will order Church life in a way that corresponds to the new conditions.

As Archbishop Hilarion thought and confirmed, only if there was Church sobornost [conciliarity] could there be pacification, and could the Russian Orthodox Church conduct its normal activities within the new conditions of the Soviet state.

His way of the cross was coming to its completion. In December 1929 Archbishop Hilarion was sent to live in Alma-Ata in Central Asia for a term of three years. He traveled under guard from one prison to another. He was robbed along the way, and when he arrived in Leningrad he was in a long shirt, swarming with parasites, and was already sick. He wrote from the Leningrad prison where he had been placed, “I am seriously ill with louse-borne typhus, and am lying in a prison hospital. I was most likely infected on the road; on Saturday, December 28, my fate will be decided (the crisis of the illness). I am unlikely to survive.”

In the hospital he was told that he needed to be shaved, to which His Eminence replied, “Do what you want with me.” In his delirium he said, “Now I’m completely free; no one can take me.”

The angel of death already stood by the head of the sufferer. A fewminutes before he died, a doctor came up to him and said that the crisis was over and he might recover. Archbishop Hilarion said, in a barely audible whisper, “How good! Now we’re far from…” With these words, the confessor of Christ died. This was on December 15/28, 1929.

Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov), who occupied the Leningrad see at the time, obtained permission to take his body for burial. They brought white hierarchical vestments and a white miter to the hospital. They vested him and took him to the church of the Novodevichy Monastery in Leningrad. Vladyka had changed terribly. In the coffin lay a pitiful, shaven, gray old man. When one of his relatives saw him in the coffin, she fainted—he was so unlike the former Hilarion.

He was buried in the Novodevichy Monastery cemetery, not far from the graves of the relatives of then Archbishop, later Patriarch, Alexei (Simansky).[17]

Besides Metropolitan Seraphim and Archbishop Alexei, Bishop Ambrose (Libin) of Luga, Bishop Sergius (Zenkevich) of Lodeinoe Polye, and three other bishops participated in the burial.

Thus this spiritual and physical giant departed to eternity—a man of wondrous soul, gifted by the Lord with outstanding theological talents, who laid down his life for the Church. His death was an enormous loss for the Russian Orthodox Church.

May your memory be eternal, holy Hierarch Hilarion!

Translated by Nun Cornelia.

Editor’s Note

On April 27/May 10, 1999, Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion, Archbishop of Verey, was glorified as a saint by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

On the eve of his canonization, the Holy Hieromartyr’s relics were translated from St. Petersburg to Moscow and placed in the church ofthe Sretensky Monastery. At the solemn service, which drew a multitude of pilgrims to the monastery, His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II read the resolution on his glorification, and lit a perpetual lamp over the shrine containing his holy relics.

St. Hilarion is commemorated twice a year: on December 15/28, the day of his martyric repose, and on April 27/May 10, the day of his glorification.

St. Hilarion left a large body of homilies and apologetical writings, many of which can be found in Russian on the web site of Sretensky Monastery,, and a few of which have been published in English. Here are the titles of some of them:

• Christianity and Socialism[18]

• Christianity or the Church?[19]

• Holy Scripture and the Church[20]

• Holy Scripture, the Church, and Science

• The Incarnation and the Church

• On Entertainment for Charity

• From the Academy to Mount Athos: In the East and the West

• The Incarnation and Humility

• The Incarnation

• Prophetic Schools of the Old Testament

• Pascha of Incorruption

• Letters about the West

• Progress and Transfiguration

• Sin against the Church: Thoughts on the Russian Intelligentsia

• Why Is It Necessary to Restore the Patriarchate?

• The Restoration of the Patriarchate and the Election of the Patriarch ofAll Russia

• There Is No Christianity without the Church

Metropolitan John (Snychev) of St. Petersburg and Ladoga (†1995)

Orthodox Word


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[1] The All-Russian Local Council was the first Church Council in Russia since the abolition of the Patriarchate at the Council of 1681–1682. Its sessions lasted from August 1917 to September 1918.—Ed.

[2] Later Metropolitan of Kazan and Sviyazhsk, he was shot by the Bolsheviks in 1937.—Ed.

[3] Yevgeny Alexandrovich Tuchkov was the plenipotentiary for Church affairs of the GPU, the forerunner of the KGB. He was responsible for disrupting the Russian Church in every possible way, including the use of mass arrests and the execution of clergy, as well as open support for the “Living Church” (see note 4 below).—Ed.

[4] That is, members of the “Living Church,” an organization that attempted to supplant the Russian Orthodox Church while reforming Orthodox teachings, traditions and practices according to modern liberal ideas.

[5] Izvestia, September 23, 1923.—Ed.

[6] Alexander Vvedensky was a liberal priest who, from 1923 until his death in 1946, was one of the leaders of the “Living Church.”—Ed.

[7] Kem, a city in Karelia, had a prison camp that was used from 1926 to 1939 as a departure point for political prisoners who were being sent to Solovki.—Ed.

[8] The Monastery of Solovki, located on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, was turned into a labor camp after the Bolshevik revolution. In 1926 it became a prison camp, and remained so until its closure in 1939. It was reopened as a monastery in 1990.—Ed.

[9] Orarion: a narrow stole worn by Orthodox deacons over the left shoulder.

[10] The Gregorian schism, so-called after its founding bishop, Gregory (Yakovetsky), was a new schism fostered by the Soviet authorities after the obvious failure of the renovationists. It was essentially a council of bishops, submissive to and therefore legalized by the Soviet authorities. These bishops claimed to govern the Church after the death of Patriarch Tikhon, since the Locum Tenens, Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, was imprisoned. They differed from the renovationists in that they recognized both the reposed

Patriarch Tikhon and the Locum Tenens (since he was in prison, and therefore could not interfere), and were overtly traditionalist.—Trans.

[11] Klobuk: a type of monastic head covering. A white klobuk, instead of a black one, is given to a hierarch in the rank of metropolitan.—Trans.

[12] Bishop of Rostov and Uglich, he joined the “Living Church” in 1925 and eventually even renounced God.—Ed.

[13] The author is referring to Archbishop Hilarion’s initiative in the memorandum composed by a council of bishops on Solovki on the separation of Church and State, and the possibility of the Church’s existence under a regime that was ideologically diametrically opposed to the Orthodox Church and everything it believes in and stands for. It took the stance that the Church should not involve itself in politics, but by the same token, the State should not interfere with the regular life of the Church. “The memorandum concludes that if the Soviet government accepts these conditions of coexistence, then the Church ‘will rejoice in the justice of those on whom such policies depend. If … not, she is ready to go on suffering, and will respond calmly, remembering that her power is not in the wholeness of her external administration, but in the unity of faith and love of her children; but most of all she lays her hopes upon the unconquerable power of her divine Founder’” (Dimitry Pospielovsky, The Russian Church Underthe Soviet Regime 1917–1982 [Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984],

vol. 1, pp. 142–46).—Trans.

[14] Named for Metropolitan Joseph (Petrovykh) of Petrograd, who separated from Metropolitan Sergius over the latter’s declaration of loyalty to the Soviet regime and was one of the leaders of the early underground Church in Russia. The present article was written in the 1960s, during a period of “standoff ” between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia over the relative correctness of Metropolitan Sergius’ actions and those of the hierarchs who disagreed with and separated from him. Arguments of the supporters and detractors of the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, such as those presented in this article, were purposely set aside in 2007, with the reunion of the two parts of the Russian Church.

In 1981 Metropolitan Joseph was canonized among the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and he continues to be held in high esteem by Russian believers both within and outside their motherland. When the Moscow Patriarchate canonized the New Martyrs and Confessors in 2000, among the newly canonized saints were hierarchs and clergymen who had supported and commemorated Metropolitan Sergius, as well as those who had opposed his policies and had not commemorated him as chief hierarch. By this the Patriarchate “legitimatized” a plurality of views concerning the complex and extremely difficult period of the Russian Orthodox Church under the Soviet regime.—Ed.

[15] New Hiero-confessor Victor (†1934) was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 1981, and by the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000. He is commemorated on April 19 and June 18.—Ed.

[16] In May 1922, members of the “Living Church” schism illegally took over administration of the Church, taking advantage of the fact that Patriarch Tikhon was then under house arrest.—Trans.

[17] Patriarch Alexei I of Moscow and All Russia.

[18] Published in English in Orthodox Life, May–June 1998, pp. 35–44.

[19] Published in English by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y., 1985.

[20] Published in this issue of The Orthodox Word.


Christianity or the Church? St Hilarion Troitsky (1886-1929)


or the Church?

Archbishop Ilarion (Troitsky).

Content: Introduction. The Church was designed to reflect the perfect unity of the Three-One God. To be Christian means to belong to the Church. The Falsification of the Church with Christianity. Conclusion.


Usually, people prefer to remain silent concerning a matter which they know nothing about and do not understand. This, of course, is completely sensible. Let us imagine, for example, a person who knows nothing about chemistry but who, nevertheless, constantly insists upon interfering in the affairs of chemists. He corrects their scientific formulae which have been obtained with great difficulty, changing their order or replacing one with another. We would agree that such a person is acting with the highest degree of imprudence and that we can only have pity for him.

There is one field, however, in which too many people consider themselves to be complete masters, in fact, almost legislators; that is the area concerning the Christian faith and the Church. In this field also, clear and definite formulae have been established with a great effort of theological thought, spiritual guidance, faith, and piety. These formulae are established and must be accepted on faith. Regardless of this fact, a great many people enter into the questions of faith and the Church solely as bold and decisive reformers who want to remake everything according to their own personal desires. In cases where such people have insufficient knowledge or understanding, they are especially averse to remaining silent. To the contrary they begin not only to speak, but to shout. Such shouting on the questions of faith and the Church usually finds the columns of newspapers and the ordinary conversations of people who, in general, very seldom think of faith and the Church at all. If they do think of such things, they prefer to voice themselves exclusively in an authoritative and accusatory tone.

In such an atmosphere a great multitude of various perverse opinions are born which then become fashionable because no one will trouble himself to consider and examine them. In the prevalence of such opinions it can easily occur that they are unconsciously assimilated even by people who are dedicated in their souls to the faith and the Church.

One of the greatest of these prevalent and “accepted” opinions is what we would call “the separation of Christianity from the Church.” We would like to examine it with the help of the word of God and the writings of the holy fathers.

The Church was designed to reflect the

perfect unity of the Three-One God

The life of Christ the Savior presents the reader of the Holy Gospels with numerous great moments which fill the soul with some special sense of grandeur. But perhaps the greatest moment in the life of all mankind was that occasion when, in the darkness of a southern night, under the hanging arches of trees just turning green, through which heaven itself seemed to be looking at the sinful earth with twinkling stars, the Lord Jesus Christ, in His High Priestly prayer, proclaimed:

“Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are . . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us” (John 17:11; 20-21).

Special attention must be focused upon these words of Christ, for in them the essence of all Christianity is clearly defined. Christianity is not some sort of abstract teaching which is accepted by the mind and found by each person separately. To the contrary, Christianity is a life in which separate persons are so united among themselves that their unity can be likened to the unity of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. Christ did not pray only that His teaching be preserved so that it would spread throughout all the universe. He prayed for the unification of all those believing in Him. Christ prayed to His heavenly Father for the establishment, more correctly, for the restoration, on earth of the natural unity of all mankind. Mankind was created from one common origin and of one source (cf. Acts 17:26).

According to the words of Saint Basil the Great, “Mankind would not have had divisions, nor discord, nor wars if sin had not divided its nature”; and, “this is the main point of God’s saving economy of His incarnation – to bring human nature into unity with Himself and with the Savior. Then, having destroyed the evil part, to re-establish the original unity as the finest physician, through curative treatment, again mends the body which had been cut up in pieces.” The Church is formed of this unification of individuals; not of the apostles only, but of all those who believe in Christ according to their words. No earthly thing has ever been found which could be compared to the new community of saved people. There is no form of unity on earth with which one could compare the unity that is the Church. Such unity was found only in heaven. In heaven, the incomparable love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit unites three Persons into one Being so that there are not three Beings, but One God living a triune life. Those people about whom Christ prayed to the heavenly Father: “that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26) are also called to such a love which could fuse many into a state of oneness.

In the aforementioned words of Christ, the truth of the Church is placed into the tightest union with the mystery of the All-holy Trinity. People who enter the Church and love Her become like the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, whose love unites them into one being. The Church is like a one-essence of many persons, created by the moral beginning of love. This is precisely the theme which is perceived in the first sacred prayer of Christ the Savior by very many of the eminent fathers and teachers of the Church – Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Ambrose of Milan, Saint Hilary of Poitiers, Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint John Cassian. I have allowed myself to introduce short excerpts on this subject from the writings of some of this great and renowned assembly of fathers.

Saint Cyprian of Carthage, in his letter to Magnus, says: “The Lord, teaching us that unity comes from divine authority, affirms and says: “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30). In his composition “The Lord’s Prayer,” Cyprian also says: “Not being satisfied that He expiated us by His blood, He also interceded for us. While interceding for us, here is what He desired: that we will live in the very same state of unity in which the Father and the Son are one.”

Here is what Saint Cyril of Alexandria writes: “Christ, having taken as an example and image of that indivisible love, accord and unity which is conceivable only in unanimity, the unity of essence which the Father has with Him and which He, in turn, has with His Father, desires that we too should unite with each other; evidently in the same way as the consubstantial, Holy Trinity is united so that the whole body of the Church is conceived of as one, ascending in Christ through the fusion and union of two people into the composition of the new perfect whole. The image of Divine unity and the consubstantial nature of the Holy Trinity as a most perfect interpenetration must be reflected in the unity of the believers who are of one heart and mind.” Saint Cyril also points out “the natural unity by which we are all bound together, and all of us to God, cannot exist without bodily unity.”

All the earthly works of Christ, therefore, must not be thought of as teaching alone. Christ did not come to earth to announce some novel theoretical propositions to mankind. No! He came in order to create a completely new life for mankind, that is, the Church. Christ Himself said that He would build the Church (cf. Matt. 16:18).

This new human community, according to the conception of the Creator Himself, differs vitally from all other associations of people into various societies. Christ Himself often referred to His Church as the Kingdom of God and said that this Kingdom is not of the world, that is, its nature is not of the world, not temporal; it is not comparable with earthly kingdoms (cf. John 14:27; 15:19; 17:14-16; 18:36).

The idea of the Church as a new, perfect community as distinct from a community of the state organization is profoundly and beautifully expressed in the kontakion for the feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, when the Church recalls and celebrates its beginning. “When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations, but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all into unity. Therefore, with one accord we glorify the All-holy Spirit.” Here the creation of the Church is placed into opposition to the Tower of Babel and the “confusing of tongues,” at which time God, the Most High, came down, confused the tongues and divided the nations.

The biblical narrative of the Tower of Babel has an extremely profound meaning. It is just before this event that the Bible relates the first successes of sinful mankind in the areas of culture and society. It was at this time that man began to build stone cities. At this point the Lord confused the languages of those living on earth so that they stopped understanding each other and were scattered over the entire earth (cf. Gen. 11:4, 7-8). In this “Babylonian tower building” we are presented with a certain general type of civil or state society based on an externally legal norm.

The Russian philosopher V. S. Soloviev defined law thus: “Law is a compulsory demand for the realization of a certain minimum of good or order which does not allow certain manifestations of evil.” Even if we accepted this definition of law, it is evident that it would never correspond to Christian morals. Law touches the external aspect and by-passes the essence of man. A society created on a legal basis can never merge people into unity. Unity is destroyed through self-love and egoism, for law does not destroy egoism. On the contrary, law only affirms it, guarding it from an encroachment on the part of the egoism of others. The purpose of a state based on law consists of creating, as far as possible, such an order in which the egoism of each member can find satisfaction for itself without violating the interests of others. The only path to the creation of such an order can be to place a certain limitation on the egoism of individual members. In this we have the unsolvable contradiction of law: it affirms egoism, yet it imposes limitations upon it. Therefore, a society formed on a legal basis always carries within itself the seeds of its own decay, for it guards egoism which constantly corrodes all unity. The fate of the tower of Babylon is the fate of legal society. In such a society there must frequently occur a “confusion of tongues” when people stop understanding each other even though they speak the same language. Legal order often gives place to terrible disorder.

The Christian society – the Church – is in direct contrast to such a legal, purely temporal society. “But when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity.” Christ did not create the Church as a means of guarding human egoism, but as a means of its complete destruction.

The basis of Church unity does not consist of legal principles, which guard personal egoism, but love, which is the opposite of personal egoism. In His parting conversation, Christ said to His disciples: “A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).

It is this “new beginning” of Church unity which creates an organic unity rather than a mechanical unification of internally divided persons. Christ Himself likened Church unity to the organic unity of a tree with its branches (cf. Rom. 11:17,24).

The Apostle Paul spoke in great detail concerning the organic unity of the Church. He also compared the Church to a tree, but more often, the Apostle Paul refers to the Church as a “body” – soma. Referring to the Church as a “body” immediately implies its unity, for two bodies cannot be organically joined to one another. This term also indicates the special character of the unification of the members who enter into the composition of the Church. The image of the “body” in application to the Church is beautifully revealed by the Apostle Paul. All who enter in the Church are members separately, but together comprise one body in Christ (cf. Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:20). The body is one, but it has many members and all are members of one body; although they be many, they compose one body. The body is not composed of one member, but of many. If the leg says, “I do not belong to the body because I am not an arm,” does it then in actual fact not belong to the body? And if the ear will say, “I do not belong to the body because I am not an eye,” does it then not belong to the body?

God arranged each of the members of the body as it was pleasing to Him (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12; 12:16-18) just as we have many members in one body, not all members have the same function (cf. Rom. 12:4). The eye cannot say to the arm, “you are not necessary to me,” nor can the head say such a thing to the legs. God proportioned the body of mutually interdependent parts, but all members are equally responsive to one another. Thus, if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one of the members becomes great, all the members rejoice with it (1 Cor. 12:21, 24-26, 27; cf. Rom. 12:6, 9).

But how is it possible to implement such a unity of people in a Church community? The natural state of man corresponds more to the creation of a merely legal society, for sin is the self-assertion and self-love which is guarded by civil law. Indeed, as long as man guards his sinful state, complete unity will be an empty dream which cannot be brought to reality.

Such an implementation is, however, made possible by the concept of the Church. Christ gave the commandment to love one another, but the commandment alone is insufficient. Like every theoretical proposition, it can create nothing if the power for the fulfillment is not provided. If Christianity limited itself to the theoretical teaching of love, it would be of no use because the power for the realization of this teaching is not available in human nature, which is distorted by sin. Reason confesses that this commandment about love is good, but man constantly meets a different law within himself which struggles against the law of the mind and which makes him captive to the sinful law (Rom. 7:22-23). The work of Christ, however, is not limited to theoretical propositions and it is in this that the strength and significance of His work rests.

Mankind is given new strength and so the new unity of the Church is possible for him. There is a new beginning, a new source of life – the Holy Spirit. Christ Himself said that he who is not born of water and of the Spirit cannot enter into the Kingdom of God (cf. John 3:3). It is necessary to be “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6, 8). When the Apostle Paul speaks about the unity of people in the Church, he always speaks of the Holy Spirit as the source of this unity.

For the Apostle, the Church is not only “a single body,” but also a “single Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:11, 13; Eph. 4:3-4, 7). Here we understand, not a conformity of ideas or a unity of religious convictions, as certain Western thinkers wish to believe, but a single Spirit of God which penetrates the entire body of the Church, as the holy fathers and teachers of the Church testify.

“What is the unity of the Spirit?” asks Saint John Chrysostom, and he answers, “Just as the spirit, in the body, controls all and communicates some sort of unity to the diversity which arises from the various bodily members, so it is here. But the Spirit is also given in order to unite people who are diverse among themselves in descent and in their way of thinking.” “With these words (A single spirit) he (the Apostle) desired to implant in them a mutual accord, as if saying: since you received one Spirit and drank from one Source, then there must be no discord among you.”

Blessed Theodoret says, “You are all considered worthy of a common Spirit; you compose one body.” Blessed Jerome describes: “One body in the sense of the body of Christ, which is the Church; and one Holy Spirit, one single dispenser and sanctifier of all.” Blessed Theophylact the Bulgarian wrote: “Just as the spirit in the body is the foundation which binds and unites all, though the members are diverse, so the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believers unites all even though they differ from one another by birth, temperament, and pursuits.”

According to the teaching of the Apostle, all Church life is a manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit; each manifestation of love, each virtue is the action of a gift of the Spirit. According to the words of the Apostle Peter, people are but “stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10). The Spirit of God has, by Its own power, penetrated the entire body of the Church and given various spiritual gifts to each of its members, making possible a new life for mankind. It unites all into one body, unifying in such a way as to instill a kind of love in the hearts of men which, in their natural state, cannot be a principle of their lives and relationships with other people.

Love is of God – this dictum of the Apostle John can be termed as the general theme of a whole series of apostolic discourses. Love is given the title “of God.” The love of Christ constrains the members of the Church (2 Cor. 5:14). Love is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). God’s love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given to us (Rom. 5:5). God saved us by means of the renewing action of the Holy Spirit which He shed freely upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior (Tit. 3:5-6).

Thus, the Holy Spirit which dwells in the Church gives each member of the Church strength to become a new creature whose life is guided by love. The teaching of the Apostle Paul concerning the Church is inseparably linked with his teaching of love as the fundamental principle of Christian life. This connection is little noticed by contemporary scholarly commentators, but the holy fathers of the Church point it out. Concerning this apostolic comparison of the Church with the body, Blessed Theodoret says, “this comparison is appropriate in the teaching of love.” Saint John Chrysostom, interpreting the words, a single body, says, “Paul demands from us a love that would bind us together, making us inseparable one from another, and of such complete unity that we seem to be members of one body. Only such a love as this produces great good.”

In reading the epistles of the Apostle Paul, one may note that he usually speaks about the Church and about love side by side. This, of course, is because both of these ideas are inseparably linked together in the very system of the Apostle. All of his Christian ethics are based upon the dogmatic teaching about the Church. Thus, in the last chapters of his epistle to the Romans, the Apostle speaks in detail about Christian morals. This discourse begins with the ninth verse of the twelfth chapter, and in the five preceding verses (4-8), the Apostle briefly sets forth the teaching of the Church as a body. In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, after the teaching about the Church in the twelfth chapter, the “New Testament song of love” directly follows (12:31-13:13). Something similar to this can also be noted in the epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians.

What follows from all that has been said? The teaching of Christ is a teaching not only about the re-creation of a separate moral person, but also about the re-creation of a perfect society, i.e., about the Church. God’s Spirit, living in the Church, gives strength for the realization of Christian teaching in life. Since this teaching is a teaching about love, then its realization again creates a community because love is a foundation which binds and does not divide.

Outside the Church and without the Church, Christian life is impossible. Without the Church, the Christian teaching alone remains as an empty sound, for Christian life is Church life. Only in the life of the Church can a person live and develop. In a bodily organism, separate members never grow or develop independently of one another, but always and only in connection with the whole organism. The same applies to the Church. For the growth of the Church is at the same time the growth of its members.

In the New Testament writings, the purpose of the existence of the Church is revealed as the moral perfection of human nature. According to Saint Paul, spiritual gifts and all services in general exist in the Church for the fulfillment of the saints, i.e., for the moral re-birth of Christians until we are all come to oneness in our faith and in our comprehension of the knowledge of the Son of God, becoming the perfect man, mature with the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13).

That is why the Apostle depicts that process by which the reborn mankind reaches the full maturity of Christ. Without entering into a detailed analysis of the Greek text of Eph 4:16, we will confine ourselves to explaining the thought which the Apostle is expressing. The whole body of the Church is united in a steadily increasing harmony by means of the perception of the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit which act in each member in a special way. Thus the body of the Church reaches perfection in all its members. All the growth of the entire Church organism depends on each separate member sacredly observing the law of love. The perception of the gift of the Spirit is possible only through love and in union with the Church.

This is the way the aforementioned words of the holy Apostle are understood by Saint John Chrysostom, Blessed Theodoret, Saint John of Damascus, and Blessed Theophylact. Their thoughts are brought together by Bishop Theophan the Recluse whose words we will cite. “Christian faith joins the faithful with Christ and thus it composes one harmonious body from separate individuals. Christ fashions this body by communicating Himself to each member and by supplying to them the Spirit of Grace in an effectual, tangible manner. Thus, the Spirit of Grace descending on each makes him what he ought to be in the body of Christ’s Church. Christ’s body being harmoniously fit together through this gift of the Spirit, builds itself up in proportion to the measure in which each member answers his purpose or acts for the welfare of the Church in all the fullness of the gift of Grace received.”

From this teaching of the Apostle Paul and the interpretation of it by the holy fathers quoted above, it is evident that, according to the New Testament, the perfection of the human personality depends upon its belonging to the Church as a living organism, undergoing growth through the beneficial and abundant influence of the Holy Spirit. If the bond with the body of the Church becomes severed then the personality which is thereby isolated and enclosed in its own egoism will be deprived of the beneficial and abundant influence of the Holy Spirit which dwells in the Church.

“As a matter of fact, if it happened that the hand became separated from the body, the spirit coming from the brain, seeking continuation and not finding it there, would not break loose from the body and pass over into the severed hand. If the hand is not there, it no longer receives any communication. The same applies here if we are no longer bound together by love.” “All that has separated from the vital source cannot, with the loss of the saving essence, live and breathe with a special life. ” “Take the sun’s ray away from its source – its unity will not permit it to exist as a separate light: break off a branch from a tree – the broken part will lose the ability to grow; separate a stream from its source – the separated part will dry up. Likewise, the Church, illuminated by the Lord’s light, spreads its rays over all the world; but the light which pours out everywhere is one, and the unity of the body remains undivided. It extends its boughs, heavy with fruit, over all the earth; its abundant streams flow far; and always, the Head remains One. One beginning, one mother, rich with ripening fruitfulness.”

In these animated and poetic words, the idea is clearly conveyed that a separate individual or even a separate Christian community is alive only insofar as it lives Christ’s life, insofar as it is unified with the Universal Church. To remain aloof or to be locked up in one’s self places the individual or even the local church in the same position as a ray separated from the sun, a stream from the source, or a branch from the trunk of the tree. Spiritual life can exist only in an organic unity with the Universal Church; if this unity is broken, then Christian life will dry up.

We hope that it has been made sufficiently clear that the concept of the Church has a paramount significance in the teaching of the New Testament.

Christianity is not concerned with the interests of reason; but only with those of the salvation of man. In Christianity, therefore, there are no purely theoretical tenets. Dogmatic truths have moral significance, and Christian morals are founded on dogma. Included in the concept of the Church is this: the Church is that point at which dogma becomes moral teaching and Christian dogmatics become Christian life. The Church thus comprehended gives life to and provides for the implementation of Christian teaching. Without the Church there is no Christianity; there is only the Christian teaching which, by itself, cannot “renew the fallen Adam.”

If we now turn from the doctrine of the Church as revealed in the New Testament to the facts of the history of Christianity, we shall see that this is precisely the concept which was fundamental to the Christian view and which had been shaping its reality. Before anything else, the Christians became conscious of themselves as members of the Church. The Christian community referred to itself as a “Church” in preference to all other names. The word “Church” (ekklisia) appears one hundred and ten times in the New Testament, while such words as “Christianity” and similar words are completely unknown in the New Testament. After the descent of the Holy Spirit on Christ’s disciples and apostles, the Church came into being as a visible community with a spiritual interrelation among its members.

At first there was no comprehensive system of teaching. The faith of Christ was set down in a few of the general dogmas. There was nothing to be learned in Christianity and little common accord called for in any abstract propositions. What did it mean at that time to be a Christian?

In our times we hear many various answers such as: “To be a Christian means to recognize Christ’s teaching, to try to fulfill His commandments.” This, of course, is the best of such answers. The first Christians, however, answered the question in a completely different way. From the very first pages of its history, Christianity appears before us in the form of a harmonious and unanimous community. Outside of this community there were no Christians. To come to believe in Christ, to become a Christian – this meant uniting with the Church. This is repeatedly expressed in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, where we read that the Lord daily added the saved to the Church (cf. Acts 2:47; 5:13-14). Each new believer was like a branch grafted to the tree of Church life.

Here is a more distinctive example, an illustration of precisely this joining to the Church. The persecutor Saul who had breathed threatening and murderous desires against the Lord’s disciples, underwent a miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus, and became a follower of Christ. Here before us is a special revelation of God to man. In Damascus, the Lord sent Ananias to baptize Saul. Saul then travelled to Jerusalem in order to join himself to the disciples there. After Barnabas had informed the Apostles about him, “he abode as one among them.” Thus, even the future great Apostle whom, in the vision of Ananias, the Lord calls a chosen instrument (Acts 9:15), immediately after conversion became united with the Church which was a visible community. Here is graphic evidence that the Lord does not want to know His servants outside of the Church.

It is easy to understand why the holy Apostle Paul speaks so persistently about the Church in his epistles: he is not creating a teaching about the Church, for during his very conversion Paul knew precisely this Church and not something else, for he recalls subsequently: “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jew’s religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it” (Gal. 1:13). Saul did not persecute followers of some kind of teaching, but, specifically, the Church, as a defined value, perceivable even to “outsiders.”

According to the witness of the compiler of the Acts, the first Christian community was the almost complete realization of this concept of the Church. The company of the faithful, we read in the Acts of the Apostles were “of one heart and of one soul” (Acts 4:32). It is remarkable that during the fourth century, while the dogma concerning the Holy Trinity was being explained, certain of the holy fathers used the analogy of the early Christians to describe the unity of the Holy Trinity.

How sharply the first Christian community was defined is beautifully demonstrated in one verse from Acts which has somehow been passed over unnoticed. “And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them” (Acts 5:13).

Thus, on the one hand, conversion to Christianity is conceived of as uniting with the Church, and on the other hand, “none of those who were not of their number dared join them.” Is it not clear, then, that from the very beginning when the direct disciples of Christ were still alive, Christianity was a visible society – the Church, because it was not then a theory; it was life itself.

Yes, in the first centuries the Church was already opposed to the school. The school was almost a curse word to the ancient Christians. “School” was the name of the heretical communities which separated from the Church, as can be seen from the works of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon and Hippolytus of Rome. Using this name, they emphasized their own view that outside the Church there is no Christian life, there is room only for a school of rationalism, for scholastic philosophy.

It is even possible to introduce evidence from outside the Church. It is well known how the Protestants have distorted the idea of the Church, preaching some kind of teaching about an “invisible” Church. This teaching is so vague, obscure and indefinite, that a Lutheran theologian, in an official report at the Diet of Speyer in 1875, declared: “Our Protestant teaching about the Church still distinguishes itself with such vagueness and inconsistency, that it can be called the Achilles’ heel of Protestantism.” Nevertheless, Protestants sometimes attempt to attribute their teaching about the Church to early Christianity. Some of the Protestant scholars resolutely declare that the foundations of the visible Church contradicts evangelical Christianity and has distorted it. Such, for example, was the point of view of Rudolf Sohm.

Lately, however, even in Protestant studies, no such decisive voices are heard concerning the Church of the first centuries. Scholarship alien to the Church is slowly arriving at the realization of the truth that the Church and Christianity were identical concepts and completely inseparable from one another from the very beginning.

Finally, we would make a big omission if we did not cite a few judgments of ancient Church writers on the question interesting us. We shall dwell on the views of only two writers who had labored much on the understanding of the dogma of the Church – Saint Cyprian and Blessed Augustine.

To be Christian means

to belong to the Church

According to the words of Saint Cyprian, to be a Christian means to belong to the visible Church and to submit to the hierarchy which God has placed in it. The Church is the realization of Christ’s love and any separation from the Church is a violation of this love, in which both heretics and schismatics sin equally. This is the basic thought of his treatise “On the Unity of the Catholic Church.”

This same idea is constantly repeated in the letters of the same holy father. “Christ granted us peace; He commanded us to be in harmony and unanimity; He commanded that we preserve, inviolably and firmly, the bond of affection and love. Whoever violates the love of Christ by faithless dissent will no longer belong to Christ: he who does not possess this love does not possess God either. Those who do not desire to be unanimous, in God’s Church cannot abide with God.

Heretics and schismatics do not have this love, i.e., the basic Christian virtue and, thus, they are Christian in name only. “Heretics and schismatics preserve neither the unity of the Church nor brotherly love.” “They act against the love of Christ.” “Marcian who joined with Novatian, became an enemy of charity and love.” “It is well known that the heretics have deviated from the love and unity of the universal Church.” “What unity is observed, what love is preserved or what love is dreamt about by one who, having given himself up to fits of dissension, cleaves the Church, destroys faith, troubles the peace, eradicates love and profanes the sacraments?”

Saint Cyprian even expressed the decisive thought that, not only can there be no Christian life outside the Church, but there can be no Christian teaching either. The pure faith exists only in the Church. Saint Cyprian also calls the Church by the name “Truth,” and teaches that the unity of the faith cannot be separated from the unity of the Church, for truth is one even as the Church is one.

He who does not adhere to the unity of the Church cannot think that he is preserving the faith. Any separation from the Church is, without fail, connected with the distortion of the faith. “The enemy has contrived heresies and schisms in order to overthrow the faith, distort the truth, and dissolve unity. His servants proclaim the treachery under the pretense of faith, herald the antichrist in the name of Christ and, concealing the lie by means of imitation righteousness, subtly and guilefully destroy the truth.”

“Just as Satan is not Christ although he deceives in His name, so one cannot be a Christian if he does not abide in the truth of His gospel and faith.” “A heretic cleaves the Church and destroys faith . . . he arms himself against the Church. In relation to the faith, he is a traitor; in relation to piety, he is a defiler, a recalcitrant servant, a lawless son, a hostile brother.”

If one examines the faith of those who believe outside the Church, it would be found that all heretics have a completely different faith; as a matter of fact they have only a wild fanaticism, blasphemy, and a decay which is fighting against holiness and truth.” According to Saint Cyprian, to be outside the Church and yet remain a Christian is impossible, for to be outside the Church is to be outside Christ’s camp.

Those who separate themselves from the Church and those who act against the Church are antichrists and heathens. Here, for example, is what Saint Cyprian writes to Antonius concerning Novatian: “You have desired, most beloved brother, that I write you concerning Novatian, what heresy he has introduced. Know that, first of all, we must not be curious about what he teaches when he is teaching outside the Church. “No matter who or what he is, he is not a Christian as soon as he is not in the Church of Christ.” “How can anyone be with Christ if he does not dwell within the Bride of Christ, if he is not found in His Church?”

Finally, in the treatise, “On the Unity of the Catholic Church,” we read the famous words, “He who does not have the Church as his mother cannot have God as his Father.” Saint Cyprian completely refuses the name “Christian” to all those who stand outside the Church, as if repeating the decisive exclamation of his teacher Tertullian: “haeretici christiani esse non possunt!” – heretics cannot be Christians!

Thus we can understand Saint Cyprian’s demand that even Novatians, who were only schismatics, should be re-baptized when being received into the Church. For Saint Cyprian, the baptism of schismatics upon being received into the Church was not re-baptism at all, but precisely baptism. “We maintain,” he wrote to Quintus, “that we do not rebaptize those who come from there, but we baptize; for they have received nothing there where there is nothing.” He adds that baptism outside the Church is only “an empty and impure immersion.” “There, people are not washed, but are only profaned more; sins are not cleansed, but are only redoubled. Such a birth promotes children to the devil and not to God.”

Saint Cyprian’s conviction about the invalidity of any baptism outside the Church, and about the necessity of once again baptizing converts to the Church, was confirmed by a local council of the Church which met at Carthage in 256 A.D. with Cyprian himself presiding. In his closing address, summing up the council’s decisions, the Saint says: “Heretics must be baptized by a baptism solely of the Church so that they can change from enemies to friends and from antichrists to Christians.”

The above-stated views of Saint Cyprian which, evidently, the entire Carthagenian Council shared, clearly and profoundly witness how totally fused the Church was with Christianity and vice versa, in the third century.

Not all the views of Saint Cyprian were completely accepted by the Church. In particular, his teaching about the necessity to re-baptize even schismatics upon their conversion to the Church was modified. On this point, the views of Blessed Augustine differ somewhat, although his view of the relationship of Christianity to the Church remains exactly the same.

Blessed Augustine held that the Christian teaching, understood theoretically, can be preserved outside the Church. Truth remains truth even though an evil person might express it. For even the demons confessed Christ just as did the Apostle Peter. Gold is doubtlessly good and it remains gold even when taken by a thief, even though it serves different aims for him. Christ once said to his disciples, “he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50). From this it is concluded that one who stands outside the Church on some things is not against the Church and has something of the Church’s wealth. Athenians, however, “honored the Unknown God” (Acts 17:23) and the Apostle James testified that even the demons believe (James 2:19), and they, of course, are outside of the Church. In his works against the Donatists, Blessed Augustine argues in detail for the validity of schismatic baptism. If, however, it is possible to preserve true teaching outside the Church and if even the sacraments performed in schism from the Church are valid, then is the Church really necessary? Is salvation not possible outside the Church? Does not Blessed Augustine make a distinction between Christianity and the Church? To all these questions a negative reply is given in the system of Blessed Augustine. He ascribes Christian life, which leads to salvation, only to the Church. Outside the Church this life cannot exist.

All the wealth of the Church which is possessed by those who have separated themselves from the Church brings them absolutely no benefit, but only harm. Why is this so? Because, answers Blessed Augustine, all those who have separated from the Church do not possess love. Christ gave a sign by which it is possible to recognize His disciples. This sign is not Christian teaching, not even the sacraments, but only love. Thus, He told His followers, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). The Mysteries will not save if the one receiving them has no love. The Apostle says: “If I know all the mysteries (sacraments) and do not possess love, I am nothing.” Even Caiaphas prophesied, but he was condemned. The act of separation from the Church is itself the greatest sin, which proves that schismatics do not have love. One who is reborn in baptism, but does not unite with the Church receives no benefit from baptism because he possesses no love; baptism can be beneficial for him only when he unites with the Church. The Grace of baptism cannot cleanse from sin one who does not belong to the Church; its actions are as if paralyzed by the obstinacy of a schismatic heart in the evil of schism. Since one who is baptized outside the Church displays his sinfulness and the absence of love in him immediately after baptism by entering into the darkness of schism, the sins quickly return upon him. The fact that forgiven sins return if there is no brotherly love is clearly pointed out by the Lord when He spoke of the servant whom the master forgave ten thousand talents. When this same servant did not take pity upon his fellow who owed him only one hundred dinars, the master demanded the payment of all that was owed him. Just as this servant had received forgiveness of the debt for a time, so one who is baptized outside the Church is also freed from his sins for a time. Since, however, he remains outside the Church even after baptism, all the sins which he committed before being baptized are again imposed upon him. His sins are forgiven only when he, through love, unites with the Church.

Schismatics are deprived of the hope of salvation not only because their baptism is invalid, but also because they are outside the Church and in enmity with it. The Grace of the Holy Spirit can be received and preserved only by one who is united in love with the Church. He who has separated from the Church does not have love. He who does not love the unity of the Church does not have God’s love, it is in vain that he declares that he has the love of Christ. Love can be preserved only in the presence of unity with the Church, because the Holy Spirit revives only the body of the Church. There can be no lawful and sufficient reason to separate from the Church; he who separates from the Church does not possess the Holy Spirit, just as a severed member of the body does not possess the spirit of life, even though it preserves its former identity for some time. Thus, while all those who have separated from the Church oppose it, they cannot be good; although their behavior might appear to be praiseworthy – the very fact of their separation from the Church makes them evil.

Thus, according to the teaching of Blessed Augustine, the Church is a concept narrower than Christianity which is understood only in the sense of abstract theses. It is possible to be in accord with these abstract theses while still remaining outside the Church; but for unity with the Church, the accord of will is indispensible (consensio voluntatum). It is evident that without this latter, abstract accord with Christian teaching alone is completely useless and that there is no salvation outside the Church.

The points of view of Saint Cyprian and Blessed Augustine can be seen to differ somewhat, but they both arrive at exactly the same conclusion: outside the Church there is no salvation! People are saved by their love which is the Grace of the New Testament. Outside the Church it is impossible to preserve love, because it is impossible to receive the Holy Spirit.

What have we discovered in these representative examples of Church thought from the third to the fifth centuries? We have found that they coincide with the conclusions we reached earlier while examining the New Testament teaching about the Church, and the facts of early Christianity. Christianity and the Church are the same thing only when we do not regard Christianity as the sum of a sort of abstract thesis, not obliging anyone to anything. Such an understanding of Christianity can only be called demonic.

It would follow that such Christians also acknowledge in the way of demons who also believe and tremble. Does to know the system really mean to be a true Christian? A servant who knows the will of the master and who does not fulfill it, will be dismissed and rejected and, of course, justly so.

“Christianity is not in the silent conviction, but in the grandeur of the deed,” says Saint Ignatius.

No, Christ is not only a great teacher; He is the Savior of the world, Who gave mankind new strength, Who renewed mankind. It is not a teaching only that we have received from our Christ the Savior, but life. If one is to understand Christianity as a new life, not according to the elements of the world which knows only the principles of egoism and self-love, but according to Christ with His teaching and model of self-denial and love, then Christianity will necessarily coincide completely with the Church. To be a Christian means to belong to the Church, for Christianity is precisely the Church. Outside the Church there is no life and there cannot be.

Finally, in order to understand how important the concept of the Church is, it is sufficient to look attentively at the Symbol of Faith (the Creed), for the various articles were introduced into the Symbol of Faith after the appearance of various heretics who distorted one or another truth. Thus the whole Symbol of Faith can be called polemical. Its history reveals that its contents were enlarged as the result of the struggle with one heresy or another.

Such is not the case, however, with the ninth article, which concerns the Church. This article was found in the Symbol of Faith from the very beginning. It was introduced independently of the appearance of any sort of false doctrine. At that time there were still no Protestants who dreamt of some sort of churchless Christianity.

It is clear that, from the very beginning, the concept of the Church lay at the head of Christian beliefs and that this truth, that Christianity is specifically the Church, can be considered to have been given from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Having risen to this height of Church consciousness, it will be of great benefit to look at contemporary life, at the trends and opinions which are widespread in it and to give them an appraisal from the point of view of the Church.

The falsification of the

Church with Christianity

I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Thus every Orthodox Christian confesses his faith in the great truth of the Church. But it is hardly possible to point out any other article of the Symbol of Faith which is less understood by the heart of man who has read it with his lips than is the ninth article wherein the truth of the Church is expressed. This is, in part, understandable: for in the ninth article of the Symbol of Faith, man confesses his bond with the visible community of the followers of Christ. By this, in these short words of confession, he agrees with all the truths taught by the Church, which is acknowledged as the custodian of Christ’s teaching. From the practical side, the agreement is given, once and for all, to be submissive to all those laws by which the Church reaches the aims of its existence, and according to which it is governed as a society living on earth. Thus it seems that we will not err if we express the thought that the truth of the Church, above all other truths, touches the very life of each Christian, defining not only his beliefs, but also his life. To acknowledge the Church means more than just dreaming about Christ. It means living in a Christian manner and following the path of love and self-denial. The truth of the Church, therefore, is contrary to those principles of life which have slowly crept into the consciousness and attitude even of the Russian religious community, though for the most part, of course, among the so-called intellectual society.

During the sorrowful times for the Church in the course of the reign of Peter I, the upper strata of Russian society drew away from the Church life of the people and began to live a life in common with all the other European peoples rather than with the Russians. While submitting to Western influence in all spheres of life, Russian society could not avoid the influence of Western confessions upon the formation of its religious attitudes. These confessions were referred to, with good reason, as “heresies against the dogma and essence of the Church and against its faith in itself,” by a true son of the Orthodox Church and fatherland, A. S. Khomiakov. It was not in error that he considered the denial of the Church the most characteristic feature of both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.

The truth of the Church was greatly distorted in the West after Rome had fallen away from the Church. In the West, God’s kingdom began to be viewed more as an earthly kingdom. Latinism obscured the Christian concept of the Church in the consciousness of its members with its legalistic account of good deeds, its mercenary relationship to God and its falsification of salvation.

Latinism gave birth to a legitimate, although very insubordinate, offspring in the form of Protestantism. Protestantism was created from the soil of humanism which was not a religious phenomenon; on the contrary, all its leading ideas are purely earthly, human. It created respect for man in his natural condition. Protestantism, having carried over the basis of humanism into the religious field, was not a protest of genuine ancient Church Christian consciousness against those forms and norms which were created by medieval Papism, as Protestant theologians are often inclined to claim. Far from it; Protestantism was a protest on the very same plane. It did not re-establish ancient Christianity, it only replaced one distortion of Christianity with another, and the new falsehood was much worse than the first. Protestantism became the last word in Papism, and brought it to its logical conclusion.

Truth and salvation are bestowed upon love, i.e., the Church – such is Church consciousness. Latinism, having fallen away from the Church, changed this consciousness and proclaimed: truth is given to the separate person of the Pope, and the Pope manages the salvation of all. Protestantism only objected: Why is truth given to the Pope alone? – and added: truth and salvation are open to each separate individual, independently of the Church. Every individual was thus promoted to the rank of infallible Pope. Protestantism placed a papal tiara on every German professor and, with its countless number of popes, completely destroyed the concept of the Church, substituting faith with the reason of each separate personality. It substituted salvation in the Church with a dreamy confidence in salvation through Christ in egoistic isolation from the Church. In practice, of course, Protestants departed from the very beginning and by roundabout ways, by contraband, so to speak, introduced some of the elements of the dogma about the Church, having recognized some authorities, although only in the area of dogma. Being a religious anarchy, pure Protestantism, like all anarchies, turned out to be completely impossible, and by that, testified before us to the indisputable truth that the human soul is Church-prone by nature.

Still, the theoretical side of Protestantism appealed to human self-love and self-will of all varieties, for self-love and self-will received a sort of sanctification and blessing from Protestantism. This fact is revealed today in the endless dividing and factionalism of Protestantism itself. It is Protestantism that openly proclaimed the greatest lie of all: that one can be a Christian while denying the Church. Nevertheless, by tying its members by some obligatory authorities and church laws, Protestantism entangles itself in a hopeless contradiction: having itself separated the individual from the Church, it nevertheless places limits on that freedom. From this stems the constant mutiny of Protestants against those few and pitiful remnants of Church consciousness which are still preserved by the official representatives of their denominations.

It is easy to understand that Protestantism corresponds to the almost completely pagan outlook generally approved in the West. There, where the cult of individualism blossoms luxuriantly, finding prophets in fashionable philosophy and singers in the belles-lettres, Christ’s ideal of the Church can, of course have no place; for it negates self-love and self-will in people and demands love from them all.

There is a direct influence of Protestantism in our contemporary Russian society. All of our Russian rationalistic sectarianism has its ideological roots in Protestantism, from which it descends directly. After all, where do all the sectarian missionaries come from if not from the Protestant countries? All the points of discord between these sectarians and the Orthodox Church come from the denial of the Church in the name of an imaginary “Evangelical Christianity.”

Even independently of Protestantism, however, many now come to the denial of the Church, assimilating, in general, the western European attitude which developed outside the Church and which is completely alien and even hostile to the spirit of the Church.

More and more of that haughty western European ideology of self-love penetrates into our community. Russian literature which formerly taught love and moral rebirth, especially in the works of the great Dostoevsky, has, in recent years, in the persons of, for example, Gorky, Andreyev, and others like them, begun to bow to the western European Ball of proud individualism. When, in our Orthodox society, love is forced out by pride and self-love (which is called “noble” – although the holy fathers of the Church speak of self-love and pride only in connection with the devil), when self-denial is substituted by self-assertion and meek obedience is replaced by proud self-will, then a dense fog shrouds the truth of the Church, which is inseparably linked with directly opposite ideals.

During the course of many years, Russian people have gotten out of the habit of being Church-minded, and have begun to lose the knowledge of the Church as a new life of Christ. There was a better time when I. T. Pososhkov bequeathed to his son this charge: I, my son, strongly bequeath and adjure you, with all your strength, to adhere to the Holy Eastern Church as the mother who has given you birth . . . and tear yourself from all who are enemies of the Holy Church and do not have any friendly relations with them since they are the enemies of God.” According to the mind of Pososhkov, an enemy of the Church is, without fail, an enemy of God. Many people have already lost such clearness of thought and, little by little, “the most terrible forgery of Christ’s faith has been formed in our days.” They have looked upon the faith from a purely abstract point of view as a collection of teachings upon which it is possible to carry out various experiments. Christianity, in the sense of Church life and of mankind re-born through Christ the Savior is almost forgotten. Christ Himself said that He was creating the Church; but does one now speak of this Church? No; now they prefer to speak of Christianity; moreover they consider Christianity to be some kind of philosophical or moral teaching. Christianity – it sounds like neo-Kantianism or Nietzchianism! This substitution of the Church with Christianity, like a subtle venom, penetrates into the consciousness of even the Church community. It is a subtle poison because it is hidden under a flowery covering of loud speeches about the defects of “historical Christianity” (i.e., the Church), about its not seeming to correspond with some sort of “pure,” “evangelical” Christianity. The Gospel and Christ are contrasted with the Church, which, for some reason, is called “historical” as if there is or ever was a different “non-historical” Church. The truth is, however, that Satan has taken on the image of an angel of light. He gives the appearance that he is concerned about the well-being of Christ’s truth, as if he wants to cleanse Christ’s truth from the untruth of mankind. One automatically recalls the wise dictum of the venerable Vincent of Lerins: “When we hear some persons cite the apostolic or prophetic sayings in refutation of the Catholic faith, we must not doubt that the devil is speaking through their lips; and in order to creep undetected among the open-hearted sheep they hide their wolves’ appearance, not abandoning their wolves’ ferocity. They clothe themselves with sayings from the divine Scriptures, like the fleece of sheep, so that, feeling the softness of the wool, no one will fear their sharp teeth.”

In actual fact, these attempts to set the Gospel into opposition with the Church and substitute the Church with an uncertain concept of Christianity have produced many lamentable results: Christian life is drying up. It appears as only one more teaching in the endless series of ancient and new teachings; and a very indefinite teaching at that, for without the Church the possibility is open for an innumerable quantity of the most arbitrary and mutually contradictory understandings. In this respect, Christianity stands incomparably lower than many philosophical schools. In actual fact, the founders of philosophical schools have left whole volumes of their compositions behind. They have left more or less clear expositions of their systems, they have more or less fully expressed themselves so that there is no limitless space for various arbitrary interpretations of their teaching. The Lord Jesus Christ did not leave His system. He wrote nothing. Only once is it said of Him that He wrote with His finger, and even that time He wrote only on the ground (cf. John 8:6).

Thus there is nothing easier than to re-interpret Christ’s teaching according to one’s personal taste and to invent “Christianity,” passing off, under this name, the dreams of one’s heart and the images of one’s own idle fantasy. The sacred books of the New Testament were written by practical, unscholarly apostles. Throughout the centuries there have been “correctors of the Apostles,” as Saint Irenaeus of Lyons calls them, ones who considered themselves higher than the Apostles, those “Galilean fishermen.” Does it become a highly educated European of the twentieth century to accept on faith all that is said by some “fishermen”? So many free themselves from the authority of the Apostles and desire to interpret Christ’s teaching while being guided only by their personal whims. Leo Tolstoy, for example, bluntly declared that the Apostle Paul did not properly understand Christ’s teaching; it follows that Tolstoy considered himself to be higher than the Apostle Paul. One can marvel greatly at how far people go in their “interpretation” of Christianity. Whatever they might desire, they immediately find in the Gospel. It would appear that it is possible to cover one’s every idle dream and even ill-intentioned thought by means of the Gospel’s authority.

No, the faith of Christ becomes clear and definite for man only when he unhypocritically believes in the Church; only then are the pearls of this faith clear, only then does the faith remain free from the pile of dirty rubbish of all possible, self-willed opinions and judgments. The Apostle Paul had already spoken of this when he called the Church of the living God the pillar and ground of the truth (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15).

In the state of separation from the Church, even the Christian teaching appears to be something very indefinite, illusive, and constantly changing according to desires.

The falsification of the Church with Christianity leads to one other falsification – “the falsification of Christ the God-man with the man Jesus of Nazareth.” Just as the faith in the Church is inseparably linked with the acknowledgement of the divinity of Christ the Savior, so the denial of the Church unfailingly leads ultimately to the denial of the incarnation of the Son of God, the denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ. It is not at all necessary for Him to be a God-man in order to give some kind of teaching. Christ’s state of being God-man is necessary only when He is seen as the Savior, Who poured out strength into human nature and Who founded the Church. In actual fact, is this inseparable tie between the truth of the Church and the truth of His being the Son of God not seen from the words of Jesus Christ Himself? Simon Peter said: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Jesus said to him: thou art Peter, and upon this rock” (i.e., on the truth of the God-incarnation which Peter confessed). “I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:16, 18). The ancient Church, in a special effort, with all its strength, defined this truth of the one-essence of the incarnate Son of God with God the Father, because it thirsted for a real renewal of human nature, for the re-creation of the “new creature,” i.e., of the Church. The internal motivating force of all the dogmatic movements of the fourth century was the unshakable belief in the fact that the Son of God is the second person of the Holy Trinity, Who came down to earth, became man, revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, founded His Church on earth, suffered for the sins of mankind and, having conquered death, arose from the dead, opening the path for the deification of man, not only in soul, but in body. Why was the battle with Arianism so strenuous? Why did the Arians meet with such a repulse that Saint Athanasius the Great, that pillar of Christ’s Church, refused them the name of “Christian”?

To the irreligious contemporary man, all the dogmatic arguments of the fourth century seem incomprehensible and senseless. This was, nevertheless, a struggle between two extremely contradictory views of Christ – the mystical-religious view in which He is the source of life, salvation, immortality, and the deification of man, as opposed to the rationalistic view in which Christ is represented only as an idolized teacher and a model example for his followers. The center of the issue was: in the future, will Christianity remain a religion with all the totality of its pure beliefs and hopes, or will it be reduced to a simple philosophy with religious nuances, of which there were not a few at that time? These questions concerning the divinity of the Son of God, which affected the most intimate side of the believing soul, were discussed in the squares and the market place. 0ne can say that even then the Church defended the truth that its Founder is of one essence with God the Father. The Arians, people of a rationalistic mentality, denied the one-essence of the incarnated Son of God, looking upon Him as the founder of some school, who, therefore, does not necessarily have to be perfect God. The desire to be a “new creature,” a “renewed nature,” that is to say, a Church of the living God, demands the recognition of that full divinity of Christ. “God became man so that man may become god.” “The Son of God became a human son so that human sons can become the sons of God.” Thus did Saint Irenaeus of Lyons and Saint Athanasius the Great define the concept of the incarnation of God. The theology of our Orthodox Church is filled with such definitions. Here are examples from the service of the Nativity of Christ: “Today hath God come upon earth, and man gone up to heaven” (Litia, Second Stichera); “Beholding him that was in God’s image and likeness become corrupted through the transgression, Jesus bowed the heavens and came down, and without changing dwelt in a Virgin womb: that thereby He might fashion corrupt Adam anew” (Litia, Fourth Stichera); “Let all creation exult and leap for joy, for Christ hath come to renew it and to save our souls” (The stichera of “Glory” at the Aposticha); “Him that fell through transgression, him who was made in God’s image, and became corruption’s own, who was fallen from the divine, better life, the wise Maker doth restore again, for He is glorified” (Canon, Ode 1, Troparion 1). The Orthodox Church is the bearer of the concept of the actual, true salvation of man, of his full re-birth, renewal, re-creation, and deification, which man cannot attain by his own strength no matter how much he might philosophize.

The incarnation of the Son of God is absolutely essential for the Church in order for it to be the Church, a society of renewed humanity. Thus for the people of the Church, who have perceived the whole height of the religious ideal of the Holy Church, Jesus Christ always was and is the Son of God, of one essence with God the Father.

“Others,” writes Saint Irenaeus, “attribute no significance to the descent of the Son of God, and to the economy of His incarnation, which the Apostles proclaimed and the prophets foretold, and through which the perfection of mankind must be fulfilled. Such persons must be added to the number of the irreligious.”

At the time of Saint Irenaeus, some false teachers were asserting that the entire matter of Christ consisted only in that He gave a new law in place of the ancient, which He abolished. Saint Irenaeus, on the other hand, asserted that neither the new law nor the new teaching was the aim of Christ’s advent, but its aim was the re-creation of the fallen human nature.

“If,” he writes, “there arises within you such a thought: ‘what new thing did the Lord bring with His advent?’ then know that He brought everything new; He brought Himself and thus renewed and gave life to mankind.”

If anyone denies the Church with its religious ideals, then Christ becomes for him only a teacher-philosopher in the category of Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Lao-Tse and others. Moreover, Christ, as a teacher, appears to be far from original. Compliant scholarship cites a multitude of various sources, including Babylonian myths, from which Christ’s teachings are supposedly borrowed. Christ is likened to a poor scholar who compiles his work by borrowing, not always successfully, from the works of various other people.

The enemies of Christianity glowingly point to the results of scientific research and declare that, in essence, Jesus of Nazareth did not even give a new teaching; He only repeated what had been said even without Him.

For those who believe in Christ, however, all this talk about various “influences” on Christianity is completely senseless. The essence of Christ’s activities, as we have seen, is not at all in teaching, but in salvation. God sent His only-begotten Son so that we could receive life through Him (cf. 1 John 4:9; 5:13).

Even though insights of truth which are close to Christianity can be found in the teachings of earthly philosophers, it was Christ Who renewed human nature, created the Church, sent down the Holy Spirit and thus established the beginning of a new life which no mortal philosopher could do. The descent to earth of the Son of God and His death on the cross were indispensable for the creation of the Church; and all those who separate Christianity sooner or later come to the blasphemy of the denial of Christ the God-man and they come to it because the divinity of Christ becomes unnecessary for them.

There are an increasing number of people among us who dream of some sort of churchless Christianity. These people have a seemingly constant anarchical system of thought. They are either incapable, or more often, are simply too lazy to think through to the end of their thoughts.

Without even speaking of the most evident contradictions of the churchless quasi-Christianity, it is always possible to see that it is completely void of the genuine Grace of Christian life, and the inspiration and quickening of the Spirit.

When people take the Gospel book, forgetting that the Church gave it to them, then it becomes like the Koran, said to have been dropped by Allah from the sky. When they somehow contrive to overlook the teaching about the Church in it, then all that remains of Christianity is the teaching, so powerless to re-create life and man, as is every philosophical system.

Our forebears, Adam and Eve, sought to become “like gods” without God, relying on the magical power of the beautiful “apple.” This is how many of our contemporaries dream of being saved: with the Gospel, but without the Church and without the God-man. They hope on the book of the Gospel exactly as Adam and Eve hope on the paradise apple.

The book, however, does not have the power to give them a new life. People who deny the Church constantly speak about “evangelical principles,” about evangelical teaching; but Christianity as life is completely alien to them.

In the churchless form, Christianity is only a sound, now and then sentimental, but always a caricature and lifeless. It is precisely these people who, while denying the Church, have made Christianity, in the words of V. S. Soloviev, “deathly boring.” As David Strauss observed, “When the edifice of the Church is destroyed and, on the bare, poorly leveled place, there is erected only the edifying sermon, the result is sad and terrible.”

In the past, our most consistent preacher of churchless Christianity was Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy confused many with his preaching, but it is in the example of Tolstoyism that one can clearly observe the insolvency of Christianity without the Church.

The initial point in the false teaching of Tolstoy can be called his sharp separation of Christianity from the Church. Tolstoy had roundly condemned the Church, while at the same time admiring Christianity. For him, however, Christianity immediately became only a teaching, and Christ, only a teacher.

When any kind of teaching is placed before us, it is not that important for us to know whose teaching it is. For Tolstoy, the living person of Christ lost all significance and meaning. Having taken Christ’s teaching, it appeared possible to forget about Him Himself.

He denied the God-man, referring to Him as “a crucified Jew,” and “a dead Jew.” With that, the Gospel is severed from its very beginning where the proclamation is made of the supernatural birth of the Son of God from the Virgin Mary, and it is severed from its end where the resurrection of the Son of God from the dead and His ascension into heaven is recorded.

Tolstoy did not limit himself to this cutting off of the Gospel from its beginning and its end; he also restructured its “middle” according to his own tastes. He thus compelled his Jesus to say only what he, the teacher of Yasnaya Polyana (the name of Leo Tolstoy’s estate), commanded.

Christ Himself promised to send His disciples “another Comforter.” This “Comforter,” the Divine Advocate, is honored by the Church of Christ as the source of the new, abundant Church life which is the gift of Grace. The Apostle Paul, as we have seen, constantly speaks of the Holy Spirit living in the Church.

Nevertheless, Tolstoy denied the Holy Spirit. He called the Orthodox Church not Christ’s but, mockingly, “the Holy Spirit’s.” He then stooped to blaspheming the Holy Mysteries through which the member of the Church receives the Grace of the Holy Spirit for a new life. Baptism is a mystery of rebirth – for Tolstoy it became “the bathing of infants.” The Holy Eucharist, without which, according to the teaching of Christ Himself, one cannot have life within him (cf. John 6:53), became, in the blasphemous terminology of Tolstoy, “soup” which one “swallows from a little spoon.”

One can thank Tolstoy for at least being consistent. Having limited all of Christ’s work to His teaching alone and, having denied the Church, it was a logical necessity for Tolstoy to come to all of his conclusions which destroyed Christianity itself. At least Tolstoy clearly demonstrated for us what results to expect from the absurd separation of Christianity from the Church and the negation of the Church in the name of imaginary Christianity. If one is to separate Christianity from the Church, then there is no need for the divinity of the Savior and the Holy Spirit is unnecessary.

Without the Holy Spirit, however, and without the divinity of the Savior, without the incarnation of the Son of God, the teaching of Jesus the Nazarene becomes of little value for life, just as any other teaching; for it is impossible to share the Socratic optimism, according to which knowledge is virtue.

The insolvency of Tolstoy’s churchless understanding of Christianity is evident from the fact that Tolstoyism created no kind of life. Christianity is possible only in union with the living God-man Christ, and in the Grace-created union of people with the Church. In Tolstoyism there is neither one nor the other.

In place of the enthusiasm of the martyrs and ascetics of the Church, instead of the bond of love which binds the Apostles and believers so strongly that they have “one heart and one soul” – instead of all this, the followers of Tolstoy produced only grotesque and lifeless “Tolstoyite colonies.” “He that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). As V. S. Soloviev said, Tolstoy united around himself only a few dozen stupid people of the sort who are always ready to scatter in various directions. “The Great Teacher” it appears, taught nothing to anyone and the “green staff” saved no one because not a staff but the cross of Christ is necessary for salvation.

Thus, using Tolstoyism as an example, we see that churchless Christianity leads to a terrible distortion and even to the destruction of Christianity itself. It is refuted by its own complete lifelessness.

Protestant false teaching is disgraced by this same lifelessness. What have the Protestants attained, having obscured the concept of the Church with their philosophizing? They have attained only disunity, and most hopeless disunity. Protestantism is constantly breaking down into more sects. There is no Protestant Church life, but some sort of “scarcely living” life of separate sects and communities.

Protestantism has killed the general Church life, about which the Lord Jesus Christ prayed in that first sacred prayer.

In actual fact, the fundamentalist Protestants stand far closer to Orthodox Christians than do the Protestants of extreme rationalistic doctrines who have nothing in common with Christianity, except for the arbitrary and baseless assuming of the name. They do not even seek a blessing for that. What kind of unity is possible between them? What kind of life can they have?

We are not saying all this entirely from ourselves. In some moments of enlightenment Protestants themselves say the very same thing even more sharply. “The country,” writes one of them, “which was the cradle of the Reformation is becoming the grave of the Reformationist faith. The Protestant faith is on the verge of death. All the latest works about Germany, just as all personal observations, agree in this.”

“Is it not noticeable in our contemporary theology that its representatives have lost everything positive?” another of them asks. Still sadder are the words of a third. “The vital strength of Protestantism is being exhausted in a muddle of dogmatic schools, theological discord, church strife . . . the Reformation is forgotten or is held in contempt; God’s word, for which fathers died, is being subjected to doubts; Protestantism is disunited, weak and powerless.”

An Orthodox researcher of Lutheranism ends his work with this dismal conclusion. “Left to their own devices, their own subjective reason and faith, Lutherans courageously went ahead on a false path, and autodidacticly perverted Christianity, perverted the symbolic dogma itself, having placed the Lutheran denomination on the edge of ruin. In Lutheranism, the authority of the first reformers is increasingly denied. More and more the community of the faith is being destroyed and Lutheranism is coming closer to its spiritual death.”

At the present time, Protestants already openly acknowledge that in Germany not more than a third of the pastors recognize the divinity of Christ. What is this if not a spiritual death, for according to the Apostle, “he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).

At one time in Moscow there was a great clamor about the “International Christian Student Union.” In the very center of Russian Orthodox holy places, there arrived a large number of various missionaries of this union, such as John Raleigh Mott and Miss Raus who addressed the Russian students with English preaching.

We also heard a lecture about this overseas union. It was said that the union was non-confessional; in it, freedom was given to every Christian denomination. Denominations unite in the union, according to the terminology of the lecturer, “on a federative basis.” Subsequently a form of Christianity independent of the Church is theorized.

This is precisely the reason that the union is something which was born dead. Is there, or can there be any Christian life in such a “union”? If there is, then it is most pitiful. Imagine a “congress” of Christian student organizations at which there appeared “delegates of federative-united denominational fractions,” a congress with all its “resolutions,” “desires” and so on.

If such a union does take place then how endlessly lower it will be than the genuine Church life of Orthodoxy. Only for a person roaming in some foreign place far from Holy Orthodoxy and from all faith can such a barely living life in union on some sort of “federative basis” seem to be a new revelation, a joy for the empty soul! What kind of blessings are these mere flickers of life in comparison with the fullness of the Orthodox universal life!

While I was listening to the lecture on “The International Christian Student Union,” my heart was filled with sadness and sorrow. How many sincere people who are thirsty for God, thirsty for life, are perishing of hunger and being fed the suckle of some overseas student union. Can it be that they do not know how to make use of the abundant bread in the home of the heavenly Father, in the Orthodox Church? It is necessary only to forget all the “federative bases,” to freely give oneself up to complete obedience to the Orthodox Church and to adhere to the completeness of Church life, to the life of the body of Christ (in order to make use of these abundant breads).

The concept of the Church was wonderfully understood by A. S. Khomiakov, who said that for the Church of Christ unia is impossible, only unity is possible.

There have been occasions when frivolous people thought to create an international religion by way of the study-room. Millions of appeals were sent out with the invitation to unite in this “common religion,” the project which was credited to these appeals.

This scheme, however, was outlined in the most general terminology, under which a Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, or Jew could sign with identical comfort. Of course, if all people would agree to this scheme, it would in no way unite them among each other: general abstract theses would not obligate anyone to anything. People would remain the same; no one would receive salvation. It is complete madness to attempt to unite people on the basis of some teaching. For this a special supernatural power is required, which is possessed only by the One, Holy, Catholic Church of Christ.

It is not at all difficult to answer the question: what do these and other similar phenomena of our contemporary life mean, and on what grounds could they have appeared? The grounds for them is the fact that, for many of our contemporaries, the genuine Orthodox Christian ideal of the Church appeared to be too lofty. People have now become so stagnated and stiffened in their self-love, that the Orthodox concept of the Church seems to them to be some sort of coercion of personality, an incomprehensible and unnecessary despotism. The Orthodox concept of the Church demands from everyone much self-denial, humility, and love. Thus, in the hearts of our contemporaries, which are impoverished of love and for whom the dearest thing is self-love, this ideal is a burden too uncomfortable to carry.

What is to be done? Oh, mankind knows well how to act in such cases. When an ideal seems to be beyond its strength, too heavy, it is substituted by something more suitable. The true ideal is depreciated and its essence is distorted, although, sometimes, the former name is retained. How many have already given up as hopeless this ideal of love? They say that to build a community life on the basis of this love is a vain dream from which it is better to withdraw early in order to escape failure later.

As if this were not enough, they even condemn as unhealthy and harmful any enthusiasm with the ideal of Church or religious life in general, which would somehow hinder the necessary progress of societal life. Not very long ago when the series Vekhi appeared, the most progressive camp of “public-spirited persons” raised a desperate cry: “Reaction! Reaction!” Having set love aside as useless in public life, something reserved only for the personal needs of man, they turned their attention exclusively to law, with which they think to cure all human ailments.

Moreover, virtue in general is substituted with order and external propriety and decency. Gold is expensive and so for its substitution they have invented a gilding just as they have thought up propriety and external decency as a substitute for the missing virtue.

They conduct themselves in exactly this same way with the ideal of the Church, which demands the complete unity of souls and hearts. They substitute the Church with a Christianity having an indefinite value, as we have already said. Their conscience is not troubled by such an act; for all that, it is still “Christianity,” a decent sort of a name.

Without the Church, it is possible to place whatever pleases oneself under this name. In this way you will not completely break with Christ and yet you will not especially inconvenience yourself. In a word, the wolves are fed, but the sheep are not eaten!

The great misfortune of our time lies in the fact that no one wishes to admit frankly their own spiritual poverty and that their hearts have been hardened to such a degree that Christ’s ideal of the Church has become burdensome and even unintelligible. No, having copper instead of gold, they now wish to declare gold valueless. Now they assault the Church with bitterness and deny the very concept of the Church, hypocritically taking refuge in loud and stereotypically beautiful, tedious phrases about “personal freedom” and “individual interpretation” of Christianity and about a religion of freedom and spirit.

Christ’s ideal of a single Church community (“That all may be one, as We are one”) appears to them to be a distortion and a disfigurement and thus it loses its vital meaning.

Churchless Christianity, the so-called “evangelical” Christianity, assorted world Christian student unions – all this is nothing other than a debasement and distortion of Christ’s concept of the Church, killing all genuine Christian, Grace-filled Church life.

Are these things which we have spoken about, however, the only phenomena that testify to the insufficiency in the contemporary understanding of the unbreakable bond of Christianity with the Church? We meet with this lack of comprehension at absolutely every step. Now people who think about God in general, people who are hardly interested in religious questions, who try to establish themselves in life without any living faith, nevertheless consider it a duty of propriety, as it were, to speak out in respect to Christianity. Their words, of course, resound with manifest falseness and hypocrisy.

We have not yet encountered a full and open contempt for Christianity – this limit has been reached by only a few who are “oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38), the “progressives” (if, of course, one considers the direction of hell progress).

The ordinary “man-in-the-street” usually speaks about Christianity with a certain amount of respect. “Christianity, oh! that, of course, is a lofty and great teaching. Who is arguing against that?” This rough approval is how one speaks of Christianity while, at the same time, it is seemingly considered a sign of good form to be in some sort of often unconscious opposition to everything of the Church.

In the souls of many, a respect for Christianity somehow manages to co-exist with a disdain for the Church. Such people are not embarrassed to call themselves Christians at least, but they do not want to hear about the Church and are ashamed to display any Church consciousness in any way. People who, according to their birth certificates are “of the Orthodox Faith,” with a strange malicious delight point to the actual and, more often, imaginary shortcomings in Church life. They do not grieve about these shortcomings, in accordance with the commandment of the Apostle, “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Cor. 12:26), on the contrary, they gloat.

In the so-called “progressive” press, there are many persons who earn their living almost exclusively from slander against the Church institutions and representatives of the Church hierarchy. Slander against everything of the Church has now become, for some, merely a profitable trade. Nevertheless, many hurry to believe these notorious falsehoods without any hesitation. Unkind people, having heard something evil about their enemies, rush to believe all of its evilness, fearing lest its evil be proven untrue.

This is precisely what one must constantly observe among people in their relationship to the Church. Thus, again we see how widely spread is the (notion of) the separation of Christianity from the Church: they consider themselves to be Christians but they want to hear nothing of the Church.

In surroundings far removed from the faith in general, there is an inconceivable confusion of notions. When people who are far from the Church begin to judge it, it can be clearly seen that they have absolutely no understanding of the essence of Christianity and the Church and thus the very virtues of the Church appear to them as its deficiencies.

As an example, how many outbursts of blind enmity towards the Church did the death of Tolstoy (i.e., the refusal of the Church to bury him) provoke? But is the Church guilty of the fact that Tolstoy departed from it, having become its obvious and dangerous enemy?

He, you see, tore himself from the Church, as a visible society, even considering it to be a harmful institution.

If the Church kept such members, however, would this not mean for the Church to deny itself? What, therefore, is the meaning of all these attacks against the Church in the press, at meetings, and in conversations? Reason absolutely refuses to understand all this. It is completely impossible to find even the most remote rationality in the speeches and actions which one had occasion to listen to and read about. Every political party retains the right to excommunicate from itself members who have betrayed the party views and who have begun to act in a manner harmful to the party. Only the Orthodox Church, for some reason, cannot excommunicate one who himself has departed from it and has become its enemy. Yet, who would begin to reproach and abuse any of the social democrats or cadets because they had stopped having intercourse with and had publicly denounced one of their former members after he had gone over to the camp of the monarchists? Yes, we have observed the blind and senseless outbursts of satanic malice against the Holy Church; but saddest of all is the fact that many have abused the Church in the name of Christianity. Thousands of times one has read: “Here they have excommunicated Tolstoy, but was he not a true Christian?” Forgetting all the blasphemy of Tolstoy and his denial of Christ the God-man, such speeches are repeated by people who were evidently sincere and not by professional newspaper liars alone.

Again we are presented with the idea, firmly embedded in contemporary minds, of the possibility of some sort of “true Christianity” without the Church or even sharply hostile to it. Could anything like this be possible if the idea of the Church was clear, if it had not been substituted by some other completely unintelligible and indefinite values?

Can anyone imagine that in the apostolic period, the Christian Church would have been subjected to any kind of reproaches on the part of heathens because it excommunicated unfit members, heretics for example, from itself? In the first centuries, nevertheless, excommunication from the Church was the most common measure of Church discipline and everyone considered it to be fully lawful and very useful.

Why was this so? Because then the Church was seen as a clear and definite value, precisely as a Church and not some sort of “Christianity.” At that time there was no room for the absurd thought that Christianity is one thing and the Church another, as if Christianity were possible apart from the Church. In those times (it was realized) that enmity against the Church was also enmity against Christianity. Animosity towards the Church in the name of some sort of supposed Christianity is solely a product of our sorrowful times.

When Christianity appeared before the eyes of the world precisely as a Church, then this “world” itself clearly understood and involuntarily acknowledged that the Church and Christianity are one and the same. Now there is not such a sharp definition sufficient to distinguish the unity of the Church from everyone outside of the Church. Now everyone is held as on an equal plane, we (those in the Church) and even those who themselves ask to be excommunicated. One can truly say that there is no Church discipline: everything has become non-obligatory for the intellectual laity – attendance at divine services, Confession, and Holy Communion. Thus the Church has no clear and definite borders which would separate it from “those outside.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intermediate understandings of religion and Christianity only estrange many people from the truth because, for one who sincerely seeks God, they become like “toll-houses.” Many join the path of these arduous seekings, but very many do not complete it with success. A significant proportion remain “travelling from ordeal to ordeal,” not finding blessed peace. Finally, in this realm of half-light, half truth, in this realm of the lack of understanding and of the indefinite, in this “vague unsettled world,” the very soul degenerates, becomes weak, and is poorly receptive to Grace-given inspiration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we not more often inclined to reply to the question: “Are you not one of Christ’s disciples?” with the answer: “I do not know Him”?


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

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

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

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Missionary Leaflet # E91

Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church

2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068

Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)


Unseen Warfare : Chap 15. War should be waged ceaselessly and courageously.

If you want to gain speedy and easy victory over your enemies, brother, you must wage ceaseless and courageous war against all passions, especially and pre-eminently against self-love, or a foolish attachment to yourself, manifested in self-indulgence and self-pity. For it is the basis and source of all passions and cannot be tamed except by constant voluntary self-inflicted sufferings and by welcoming afflictions, privations, calumnies, persecutions by the world and by men of the world, failure to see the need of this pitiless attitude to yourself has always been, is and will be the cause of our failure to achieve spiritual victories, and of their difficulty, rarity, imperfection and insecurity.

So this spiritual warfare of ours must be constant and never ceasing, and should be conducted with alertness and courage in the soul; they can easily be attained, if you seek these gifts from God. So advance into battle without hesitation. Should you be visited by the troubling thought of the hatred and undying malice, which the enemies harbour against you, and of the innumerable hosts of the demons, think on the other hand of the infinitely greater power of God and of His love for you, as well as of the incomparably greater hosts of heavenly angels and the prayers of saints. They all fight secretly for us and with us against our enemies, as it is written: ‘The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. xvii. 16). How many weak women and small children were incited to fight by the thought of this powerful and ever ready help! And’ they got the upper hand and gained victory over all the wisdom of the world, all the wiles of the devil and all the malice of hell.

So you must never be afraid, if you are troubled by a flood of thoughts, that the enemy is too strong against you, that his attacks are never ending, that the war will last for your lifetime, and that you cannot avoid incessant downfalls of all kinds. Know that our enemies, with all their wiles, are in the hands of our divine Commander, our Lord Jesus Christ, for Whose honour and glory you are waging war. Since He Himself leads you into / battle. He will certainly not suffer your enemies to use violence against you and overcome you, if you do not yourself cross over to their side with your will. He will Himself fight for you and will deliver your enemies into your hands, when He wills and as He wills, as it is written: “The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee ‘(Deut.xxiii. 14).

If the Lord delays granting you full victory over your enemies and puts it off to the last day of your life, you must know that He does this for your own good; so long as you do not retreat or cease to struggle wholeheartedly. Even if you are wounded in battle, do not lay down your arms and turn to flight. Keep only one thing in your mind and intention—to fight with all courage and ardour, since it is unavoidable. No man can escape this warfare, either in life or in death. And he who docs not fight to overcome his passions and his enemies will inevitably be taken prisoner, either here or yonder, and delivered to death.

It is not without profit to bear in mind also the purpose for which God is pleased to leave us in this state of war. This purpose is the following. In the days of old, when God led Israel into the promised land, He did not order them to destroy all the peoples dwelling there, but left five tribes alien and hostile to Israel— first, to prove the chosen people and to see how firmly they believed in Him and faithfully kept His commandments, and secondly, to teach His people the art of warfare (Judges ii. 21-23; iii. 1-2). In the same way, He does not destroy all our passions at once, but leaves them in us, letting them fight against us till our very death, for just the same purpose, namely, to prove our love for Him and our obedience to His will, and to train us in spiritual warfare. The blessed Theodorite speaks of this in greater detail. God, he says, does this for the following ends: (a) to prevent us falling into carelessness and negligence and to make us watchful, diligent and attentive; (b) to remind us that the enemy is ever ready to attack us, lest we unexpectedly find ourselves surrounded by the enemy and overcome by passions; (c) so that we should always have recourse to God, asking and hoping for His help; (d) so that we should not be proud, but should think humbly of ourselves; (e) so that we should learn to hate with our whole heart the passions and enemies, who so tirelessly attack us; to prove whether we keep to the end God’s honour, love and faith; (g) to urge us to a more strict observance of God’s commandments, so that we do not overlook the least of them; (h) to learn from experience the great value of virtue and so never to consent to ‘, abandon it and fall into sin; (i) in order that constant warfare should give us the possibility to gain greater and greater crowns; (j) that we should glorify God and shame the devil by our patience ‘… to the end; (k) that we should get accustomed to warfare during ‘ life and so not fear it in the hour of death, when we are to be subjected to the hardest of all attacks.

Thus, since we are always surrounded by so many enemies, whose hatred of us is so bitter, we can expect no peace or respite from them, no cessation or postponement of attacks, but must be ready for an onslaught at any moment and, when it comes, must immediately engage the enemy with courage. Naturally it would have been better, if we had not originally opened the doors of our being and let enemies and passions enter our heart and soul; but since they have already found their way into us, we cannot afford to be negligent, but must arm ourselves against them to drive them out of us. They are shameless and stubborn and will not leave, unless driven out by force.

From Unseen Warfare by St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and St Theophan the Recluse .

St Nicodemus of the Holy MountainSt Theophan the Recluse .

Copyright St Vladimir Seminary Press.

On Ecumenism

“Elder Justin Popovich, described Ecumenism as a ‘Pan-heresy’, and the ‘summation of all the other heresies’. What is Ecumenism? It is not just one heresy. All of the other heresies are contained within Ecumenism!

How does it contain all the other heresies? We all know that the Monophysites are heretics, and that the Monophysites were condemned by the Ecumenical Councils- the 3rd, 4th, and 7th- and by many of the Holy Fathers. The heresy of Monophysitism is condemned. We all know that Iconoclasm was condemned at the 7th Ecumenical Council. We all know that Papism- the Pope of Rome- was condemned at the councils, and even at Ecumenical Councils; the 8th Ecumenical Council, and the consensus of the Holy Fathers considers Papism to be heresy.

Books by Theologians have been published which show that Papism is a heresy. And a much worse heresy than Papism is its child, Protestantism. If Papism holds twenty heresies, Protestantism holds one hundred heresies, it is deceived about one hundred things.

Now look at this… Ecumenism takes all of these heresies into itself. How? Because Ecumenism teaches that all these heresies are ‘churches’ and not heresies; that they are ‘sister churches’; that we are the same as these; that there is no such thing as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Creed. The Saints at the Ecumenical Councils who condemned Monophysitism were mistaken. Monophysitism is not a heresy; they are Orthodox.

The same goes for the Iconoclasts; the Protestants are Iconoclasts. If you go to a Protestant church you will not see icons. They have gotten rid of them. Papism with the filioque, with Papal primacy, with the Immaculate Conception, with all its other heresies… And Protestantism is worse.

Ecumenism pardons all of these heresies. It says, “It doesn’t matter. It is not a bad thing. Our Fathers made a mistake… the Pope isn’t a heretic, the Monophysites, are not heretics. We are all sister churches. We all belong to the Church. They are also churches.”

Do you see how frightful a thing this is? The Holy Fathers as far back as the era of the Apostles, struggled so manfully… If we look at the New Testament, we will see that the Apostles themselves spoke about false shepherds, of wolves in sheep’s clothing, of heretics even in the New Testament.”

Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis .

A Private Letter Concerning Ecumenism

Blessed Elder Paisios the Athonite

The Holy Mountain, January 23, 1969

Reverend Father Haralambos,

In as much as I see the great uproar which is happening in our Church because of the various movements of groups in favor of unification [of churches], as well as the interaction of the Oecumenical Patriarch with the Pope, I was pained as Her child, and considered it good, besides my prayers, to send a small thread (which I have as a poor monk), that it too may be used as a means of stitching together the multipart garment of our Mother. I know you will show love and share it only with your religious friends. Thank you.

First of all, I would like to ask forgiveness from everyone for being bold to write something when I am neither holy nor a theologian. I trust everyone will understand me, that my writing is nothing more than an expression of my deep pain for the unfortunate stance and worldly love of our father Patriarch Athenagoras.

It appears he loved another modern woman—which is called the Papist Church—because our Orthodox Mother has not made an impression on him at all, for She is so modest. This love, which was heard from Constantinople, caused a sensational impression of sorts among many Orthodox, who nowadays live in an environment of such meaningless love, in cities across the entire world. Moreover, this love is of the spirit of our age: the family will lose its divine meaning from just such kinds of love, which have as their aim breakup and not union.

With just such a worldly love the Patriarch takes us to Rome. While he should have shown love first to us his children and to our Mother Church, he unfortunately sent his love very far away. The result, it’s true, delighted the secular children who love the world—who have this worldly love—, but completely scandalized us, the children of Orthodoxy, young and old, who have fear of God…

With sadness I must write that among all the “unionists” I’ve met, never have I seen them to have either a drop or shred of spirituality. Nevertheless, they know how to speak about love and union while they themselves are not united with God, for they have not loved Him.

I would like tenderly to beseech all our unionist brothers: Since the issue of the union of the Churches is something spiritual, and we have need of spiritual love, let’s leave it to those who greatly love God and are [genuine] theologians, like the Fathers of the Church—not the legalists—who have offered up and continue to give themselves in service to the Church (instead of just buying big candles), and who were and are lit by the fire of love for God rather than by the lighter of the church sacristan…

We should recognize that there exist not only natural but also spiritual laws. Therefore, the future wrath of God is not averted by a convocation of sinners (for then we shall receive double the wrath), but by repentance and adherence to the commandments of the Lord.

Also, we should know well that our Orthodox Church does not have even one shortcoming. The only apparent insufficiency is the shortage of sober Hierarchs and Shepherds with a Patristic foundation. “Few are chosen.” This should not, however be upsetting. The Church is Christ’s Church, and He governs Her. It is not a Temple built by the pious from rocks, sand and mortar, which is then destroyed by the fire of barbarians; the Church is Christ Himself. “And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44-45)

When He must needs, the Lord will bring forth the Mark of Ephesuses and Gregory Palamases, so as to bring together all our scandalized brethren, to confess the Orthodox Faith, to strengthen the Tradition, and to give great joy to our Mother, the Church.

In times past we see that many faithful children of our Church, monastics and laymen, have unfortunately broken away from Her on account of the unionists. In my opinion, separation from the Church each time the Patriarch makes a mistake is not good at all. From within, close to the Mother Church, it is the duty and obligation of each member to struggle in their own way. To cease commemoration of the Patriarch; to break away and create their own Church; and to continue to speak insultingly to the Patriarch: this I think, is senseless.

If, for this or that occasional deviation of the Patriarchs, we separate ourselves and make our own Churches—may God protect us!—we’ll pass up even the Protestants. It is easy for one to separate but difficult to return. Unfortunately we have many “churches” in our times, created either by big groups or even just one person. Because there happened to be a church in their kalyve (I am speaking about things happening on the Holy Mountain), they figured they could create their own independent Church.

If the unionists gave the Church the first wound, the aforementioned give the second.

Let’s pray that God will illumine all of us, including our Patriarch Athenagoras, that union of these “churches” will come about first; that tranquility would be realized within the scandalized Orthodox fold; so that peace and love would exist among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Then let’s think about union with other “Confessions”—and only if they sincerely desire to embrace Orthodox Dogma.

I would further like to say that there does exist another, third group, within our Church. They are the brethren who remain as Her faithful children, but who don’t have spiritual concord between themselves. They spend their time criticizing one another, and not for the general good of the struggle. The one monitors the other (more than himself) to see what he will say or write so as to ruthlessly nail him. However, if this person had said or written the same thing, he’d certainly have supported it with numerous passages from the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers.

Great harm comes of this; for while the one injures his neighbor, the other strikes him back before the eyes of all the faithful. Often times, disbelief is sown in the souls of the weak, because they are scandalized by such people. Unfortunately, some from among us make senseless claims against the others. We want them to conform to our own spiritual character. In other words, when someone else doesn’t harmonize with our own character, or is only mildly tolerant—or even a little sharp—with us, immediately we jump to the conclusion that he is not a spiritual person.

We’re all needed within the Church. All the Fathers, both the mild and the austere, offered their services to Her. Just as the sweet, sour, bitter and even pungent herbs are necessary for a man’s body (each has its own flavor and vitamins), the same is true of the Body of the Church. All are necessary. The one fills up the spiritual character of the other, and all of us are duty bound to endure not only the particular spiritual character, but even the human weaknesses we each have.

Again, I come sincerely asking pardon from all for being so bold to write. I am only a simple monk, and my work is to strive, as much as I am able, to divest myself of the old man, and to help others and the Church, through God, by prayer. But because heart-breaking news regarding our Holy Orthodoxy has reached even my hermitage, I was greatly pained, and thus considered it good to write that which I felt. Let’s all pray that God grants His Grace, and may each of us help in his own way for the glory of our Church.

With much respect to all,

Monk Paisios

This is the last known epistle sent by the Ever-memorable Elder Paisios. Archimandrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos was the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Petraki, Athens, and founder of the Pan-Hellenic Orthodox Union and its organ Orthodoxos Typos. Translated and sent to the OCIC by a Priest who wishes to remain anonymous. The Greek original appeared in the October, 2007 issue of the fine periodical Orthodox Heritage. Posted on 11/12/2007.

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1929

Today we ever more frequently run up against this kind of reasoning: “We read such and such in Holy Scripture. The Church teaches differently. So the Church is wrong.” All kinds of sectarians monotonously chant in this manner ad nauseam. There are even those who echo these ideas while calling themselves Christians, that is, they have adopted incomprehensible arrogance in their attitude toward the Church, placing themselves far above her. Holding the point of view described above regarding the sources of doctrine, it is not easy to respond properly. Let us consider, for example, the issue of the veneration of icons. A sectarian points out the prohibition of images in the Old Testament (cf. Ex. 20:4), or the words of Christ about spiritual worship (cf. Jn. 4:23). For him icons are a contradiction. Do we respond by saying that the veneration of icons is based on Tradition? But Tradition is to be accepted only when it does not contradict Scripture. References, for example, to the Cherubim on the curtain of the Old Testament Temple are not very convincing. Thus, the dispute continues without end and to no avail because the missionaries themselves adopt the sectarian perspective, and that perspective by its very essence leads only to a battle of words, but not to the truth. In contrast, drawing from the idea of the Church, we do not even need to argue on the basis of Scripture; for us, our faith in the Church is enough. The fruitlessness of disputes “from the Scripture” was recognized long ago by Tertullian, who said that such arguments could only make your stomach and brain ill or cause you to lose your voice, falling finally into rabid fury from the blasphemies of heretics (Prescription Against Heretics, 17). He asserts that it is not worth appealing to Scripture, since victory is either unlikely or completely impossible. But a person of the Church can boldly reiterate these words, since to  him “it is quite the same to be taught by Scripture and by the Catholic Church” (The Confession of Dositheus). (Holy Scripture and the Church)

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1926

It is no use quoting from some Russian theologian’s or hierarch’s words to the effect that the partitions separating the Christian churches do not reach the heavens: the fact of the West’s falling away from the Church in 1054 is for the Orthodox believer a present fact of religious experience… [Y]ou adduce the viewpoint of the famous Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, Philaret, who wrote in one of his early treatises: “No church which believes Jesus to be the Christ will I dare call false.” But there are quite a few obstacles to recognizing as valid Metropolitan Philaret’s reasoning that churches can be either pure truth or of impure truth. A church of impure truth seems to me to be evidently a false one, and there cannot be a false church; such a church ceases to be a church, becoming an extra-ecclesial community. For Metropolitan Philaret did not partake of the Eucharist with the Latins; and neither do other theologians of ours, who occasionally show too much zeal in defending the unacceptable doctrine of the unity the Church, according to which the one Church may embrace local churches that have for centuries been out of communion with each other. And this looks inconsistent to me. Why then shouldn’t one celebrate the mass or partake of the eucharist with a priest of the local Roman Church?

No, the falling away of Rome from the Church (or of the East from Rome) is a fact on hand, which should not be hushed up and reduced to zero. (The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian Communities)


Ecumenism Awareness: Baptism and the Reception of Converts

One of the most obvious manifestations of ecumenism in the Orthodox Church today is the controversy over how heterodox converts to Orthodoxy should be received into the Church. At the heart of this controversy is the so-called “Baptismal ecclesiology” of the Ecumenical Movement, which contradicts traditional Orthodox teaching. The following books and articles will help educate you on these issues.

Important Books

I Confess One Baptism, by Protopresbyter George D. Metallinos, D. Th., Ph. D. Dean of the University of Athens, School of Theology. Subtitled ”Interpretation and Application Of Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council by the Kollyvades and Constantine Oikonomos (A contribution to the historico-canonical evaluation of the problem of the validity of Western baptism)“.

NOTE: The English translation of this book contains a rather important error in the translation of the Greek phrase «ως ετι εκ της εκκλησιας οντων», found in the First Canonical Letter of St. Basil the Great. The translators rendered it “who were still considered to be of the Church” (p. 128). It should instead be translated “as [those] recently being from the Church.” St. Hilarion (Troitsky) discusses this on page 43 of The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian Communities when he writes that «ως ετι εκ της εκκλησιας οντων»

should be translated literally: “as recently being from the Church.” There is no thought here that schismatics presumably still belong to the Church, but the thought that they have recently gone out from the Church. In any case, belonging to the Church can hardly be expressed by the preposition εκ. It is difficult to conceive of belonging to the Church in the form of successive stages: the Church, unlawful assemblies, schism. If the words of St. Basil «ετι εκ της εκκλησιας» designated some sort of membership of schismatics in the Church, then an unlawful assembly must, in his opinion, belong more to the Church. Adherents of an unlawful assembly are received only be repentance. But what does St. Basil say about them: “If someone has been barred from divine services because he has been found guilty of sin and has not submitted to the canons, but has arrogated for himself the right of presidency and the priestly functions, and others, abandoning the Catholic Church (καταλίποντες την καθολικήν εκκλησίαν), have gone along with him…” How can one be in the Church, having left the Oecumenical Church? This would be some sort of incomprehensible self-contradiction to say that schismatics are still in the Church, and to affirm that unlawful assemblies have departed from the Church…

The Rev. Dr. Peter Heers, an American scholar serving as a Priest in the Church of Greece, examined the Greek in question and concluded, in agreement with St. Hilarion, that “St. Basil is therefore not saying they are of the Church, but that they are to be treated as / like those who are of the Church.”

The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian Communities, by Saint Hilarion (Troitsky). Though written in the early part of this century, it anticipates the connection between ecumenism and the recognition of heterodox mysteries per se (i.e., outside of the Church). In this way it is surprisingly up-to-date. At only 72 pages it is easy to read and a very important work.

Excellent Articles

Strictness and Economy, by Protopresbyter Gregory Grabbe. Also contains the 1971 Resolution of the ROCA Synod of Bishops on the Reception of Converts.

The Development of Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia’s Attitude Toward Other Local Orthodox Churches and Non-Orthodox Christians, by Reader Andrei Psarev.

The Non-Orthodox: The Orthodox Teaching on Christians Outside of the Church: by Patrick Barnes. Addresses many of the issues concerning Holy Baptism and the reception of converts.

The Reception of Converts: Reflections on a Letter By Elder Maximos.

Contours of Conversion and the Ecumenical Movement: Some Personal Reflections, by Hieromonk Alexios Karakallinos. A talk delivered at the September, 2004 conference “Ecumenism: Origins, Expectations, Disenchantment”, sponsored by the School of Pastoral Theology, The Aristotelian University, Thessaloniki, Greece.

The Reception of Heretic Laity and Clergy Into the Orthodox Church: A Reply to Bishop Tikhon’s Letter of Instruction #10

A Letter to a Priest Concerning Corrective Baptism, by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna.

BEM and Orthodox Spirituality: by [Arch]bishop Chrysostomos of Etna; an extremely important assessment of the Holy Cross Seminary response to the 1982 Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry Statement (the so-called “Lima Document” or “BEM”). Fr. Daniel Degyansky notes: “The Orthodox Church has always allowed a relaxation of the Canons in individual cases of oikonomia, but never as an excuse for altering ecclesiastical policy. The contemporary practice of receiving converts to Orthodoxy by Chrismation alone, making what is an exceptional practice in individual circumstances a general sacramental policy, is a direct and obvious consequence of the ecclesiastical relativism implicit in the BEM statement.” (Orthodox Christianity and the Spirit of Contemporary Ecumenism, below, 63 fn 96). Fr. Daniel is a priest in the OCA.

Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky: a brief article on this eminent Orthodox scholar, by a former faculty member and friend, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna. I include this article in this category because Fr. George’s famous essay “The Limits of the Church” (Church Quarterly Review, Oct. 1933), written very early in his theological career, argues strongly against the principle of economia.

Baptism and the Reception of Converts: an excerpt from the Q&A section of Orthodox Tradition, XIV, 2-3 (1997) dealing with the position of Fr. Thomas Hopko, Florovsky, et al on this issue.

Further Thoughts on the Ecclesiology of Father George Florovsky, by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna and Father John Abraham.

Ecumenism and the Ecclesiology of St. Cyprian of Carthage: an excerpt from Orthodox Christianity and the Spirit of Contemporary Ecumenism, by Fr. Daniel Degyansky, a Priest of the Orthodox Church in America.

Father Thomas Hopko on BEM: by Archbishop Chrysostomos. BEM stands for the 1982 ecumenical document entitled “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry” (a.k.a, the “Lima Document”).

Common Misunderstandings on the Reception of Converts: A Reply to  Antiochian Priest John Morris.

Some Comments on Officialdom, the Sacred Canons, St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and the Continuity of Byzantine Thought, by Archbishop Chrysostomos.

The Basis on Which Economy May Be Used in the Reception of Converts, by Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky.

The Reception of Converts and Related Matters: by Archbishop Chrysostomos. Contains comments on the views of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), recently used by the OCA to justify an improper use of economia.

Against Baptism By Pouring: An Epistle of Archbishop Nikiphor of Slovania and Kherson, 1754.

Pastoral Direction and Instruction on Orthodox / Episcopal Relations and Ministrations in America: the pastoral writings of Bishop Raphael of Brooklyn concerning the differences between the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion. Includes extensive comments about Anglican Mysteries [Sacraments]. Orthodox Life, Vol. 43, No. 6, 1993.

When Is a Chrismation Not a Chrismation? A Critique of the Recent “Agreed Statement” of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, by Hieromonk Patapios.

A Critique of a Critique: In Response to Professor John Erickson

Baptism and Grace: by Fr. Gregory Telepneff, ThD

The Manner of Reception of Roman Catholic Converts into the Orthodox Church, by Fr. George Dragas.

Open letter to the ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Your Eminence,

We are unworthy and humble members of the Catholic Orthodox Church and you, your Eminence, are the ecumenical Patriarch. You are our spiritual father and we are spiritual sons of your Holiness. As it is not possible for the natural sons of a father to remain indifferent when they see that he is cheating their mother by having extramarital, illegal, relations with other women and that every night he comes back home drunk so it is for us and it is impossible for us to stay indifferent when we see your holiness, as our leader, having illegal and forbidden relations by the Church with all the kinds of heretic reunions, that you pray together with their unrepentant representatives – even with priestesses and bishopesses of the extreme protestant branches who bless marriages between homosexuals and publically support the global homosexual movement – that you despise the divine and Holy Apostolic Canons and the Canons of the Ecumenical Synods, that you threaten with the pan-orthodox abolishment for all the Canons that you consider as a stumbling rock for supporting these illegal relations and that, in general you behave like one who is flustered by the sweet and heavy wine of the high worthiness and hierarchic command you hold, overturning the Holy Canons and traditions, shifting and modifying “eternal boundaries established” by the God inspired Apostles and God bearers Fathers tempting the pious integrity of the Church beyond measure and causing enormous harm to its divine-human Body.

We hope that the rebuking tone of the present letter is not misinterpreted. The rebuke is absolutely necessary within the human society and especially in the Church. The word of God does not only allow the rebuke but it also imposes it (Leviticus 19, 17; Proverbs 9, 8; 10, 10; Ephesians 5, 11; I Timothy 5, 20; II Timothy 4, 2 and others) when it is done with love from pure and honest reasons without malice and temperament and having always the intend to correct the injustice and having as purpose the salvation of souls. God, as you already know, gave a human voice to a donkey to rebuke the prophet Varlaam for his behavior that was standing against the divine will. Our Lord Jesus Christ told to the Pharisees that if people were to keep silent and hide the truth, then “the stones would cry out”. We, you eminence, as faithful members of the Church have the conscience that we are above both the donkey of Varlaam and the breathless rocks and we have the right to speak out this rebuking word even if it is addressed to the ecumenical Patriarch.

We will not refer to your prayers together with the heterodox from Netherlands and Germany that represented, as far as we can see, a “general test” referring to the “mother of all prayers in common” followed by the one together with the pope in Jerusalem. In other words, as things stand, these prayers in common became like an uncured passion and only an action of God may release you from it. The “Pray without ceasing” of the Apostle was changed by your eminence with “Pray without ceasing together with the heretics and those with other religions”. And this you continuously do without let or hindrance. We cannot oversee the joint prayer of your eminence with the pope in Jerusalem, since this overcomes in audacity and challenge any other prayer in common and strongly shook the conscience of orthodox believers all around the world, stronger beyond compare than the earthquake that shook your birthplace one day before the meeting of your eminence with the pope.

In order to prove you the size of your indecent act you fell in, we would like to call you for comparing the act of your eminence with the act of a holy predecessor of your holiness who shined the patriarchal throne in Constantinople through his presence 1679 years ago. We refer to Saint Alexander who left us an eternal example of avoiding the churchly connections with the unrepentant heretics, an example that unfortunately is despised by our nowadays ecumenist and globalizing hierarchs. Let us remember what actually happened in the year 335 in Constantinople.

The heresiarch Arius after cheating the emperor and forswore he had the same Creed with the one of the Church, was wily and impudently ready to join the Orthodox Church and to ministry together with the orthodox people. The pressure and threatens Saint Alexander confronted with in order to accept the heresiarch within the churchly community were suffocating and unbearable. Yet he did not cease.

Saturday evening, in the eve of the day when Arius planned to join the orthodox church, the Patriarch Alexander being full of grief kneeled in front of the Holy Table and prayed God with tears: “If Arius joins tomorrow the Church, dismiss Thy servant and do not join together the pious with the non-believers; if you spare Thy Church (and I know You do) hear the words around Evsevie and do not dishonor and scatter Thy inheritance so that the wrong belief is considered to be the right one.” (Theodoret of Cyrus, The Ecclesiastical History).

The result is well known. The fervent and full of worries prayer of the Patriarch was heard by God and Arius the next day, being in an euphoric mood, suddenly felt an urgent physical need and therefore he needed to go to a toilet where he never came out alive due to an unstoppable bleeding of his bowels. Thus he was dismissed not only of his communion with orthodox but also of his life. In Your Fortress, your Eminence, happened all these miraculous and unheard of events, in a place nearby your Patriarchy. And though you are familiar with the ecclesiastical history, yet you do not learn anything from it. This requires a comparison between those from now and then.

In those days Arius was the heresiarch; today the heresiarch is the pope of Rome. Isn’t the pope heresiarch? Has Rome stopped being heretic so that your holiness and those who have the same opinion as you call it as “sister church?” Have their “Sacraments” become valid in a magical way as the protestant baptismal theology, that you accept, asserts the “catholic” baptism as valid? Could you prove us at least one from the more than 20 deceptions and heresies of papists that he recalled over the period of dialogues with them? You cannot because the West remains satanically stubborn in its heresies; it does not revoke them and does not repent for them. We will go on with the comparison. In those days the emperor and Arians forced the patriarch to receive Arius in the churchly community; today your eminence deliberately (!) were a partaker to the enthronement of the heresiarch pope whom you honor and call him to the historical meeting with your eminence at Jerusalem following the steps of your predecessors, Athenagoras and Paul IV that took place in a very pompous and with “lots of timbers”.

In those days the patriarch kneeled and prayed to God to better dismiss him from this life than be a partaker to the communion with Arius. Today, his successor happily prays together with the heresiarch in the Church of Holy Sepulchre, calling the bitterness as sweetness, the darkness as light and the transgressions of the churchly commandments and the godlessness as “source of spiritual joy”, “divine bless” and a bright “fruit of a evolution full of Grace.” In those days the holy patriarch prayed with tears to God to not allow Arius to enter the Orthodox Church because together with him the heresy would have entered as well. On the 25th of May, following your invitation, the pope did not enter an any orthodox church, not the Church of Saint George from Phanar but the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Holy Sepulchre and together with him entered accompanied by the honors of Orthodox people, the pan-heresy (according to Saint Justin Popovici), the popery together with its disgusting sisters and daughters, the Filioque, the primacy, the papal infallibility, the conceptia immaculata of Theotokos, the azymes, the worthies of Saints, the purgatory and other wanderings and heresies. And this is not all! Your “chosen” escort comprised representatives of other heresies as well, like the monophysitism and other doctrines.

The custody that Pilatus sent protected outside the grave of buried Body of Christ. The pan-heretic custody of your eminence together with tremendous heresies has totally torn apart the divine-human Body and entered, following Your invitation, inside the Holy Sepulchre where unfortunately were present the fathers from the Holy Sepulchre whom of course, were thinking for how long, after this fall, the long-lasting patience of God would allow them to courageously step on those Holy Places.

Eventually, your Eminence, we borrow the word of the grateful criminal from the cross and ask you: Don’t you fear God? Don’t you learn from history? Don’t you have twinges of conscience when you think of the tragic and awkward death of Patriarch Josef in 1439 and his burial far from his flock in a foreign and hostile land of Florence, in the church of Dominican heretics? Doesn’t as well cause you twinges of conscience the tragic and awkward death of filo-papist metropolitan Nicodimus of Leningrad who was only 49 years old and who died on the 5th of September at the feet of the newly chosen pope John Paul I known as well as “the pope of the 33 days”? Doesn’t cause you twinges of conscience the death of metropolitan of Kerkyra, Timothy, happened on 15th of March 2002 few days after his return from Vatican? Eventually, doesn’t cause you twinges of conscience the tragic death of Archbishop of Athens, Hristodul, whom, after (first in history) the visit of pope in Greece and after organizing (for the first time) the meetings for the WCC (World Council of Churches) on Greek land and after (the first time for an archbishop of Athens) the trip to Vatican, without the approve of the Holy Synod, was prematurely called to leave this meaningless world and thus the Church of Greece went without its charismatic leader through all the others? Have you ever wondered yourself if those tragic deaths, that we aforementioned, were divine signs through which God disagreed the hierarchical wanders that stand against His will, “model for those who will commit to indecent acts”? Aren’t you afraid that God will ask your eminence a similar question with the one he address to Pharisees: “You are able to discern the destruction of the natural environment but you are not able to discern the destruction of the spiritual environment by the ecumenism you serve and promote?” A new record number of views was set by a video recording, uploaded a few days ago on internet where a Levite from Athens with white hair and very old who became old over the time he ministered The Holy Altar was crying like a small baby while thinking about the disasters that would come upon us due to the betrayers of Faith and the apostasy of the clergy and nation.

Your eminence, we seal the present letter with a filial and humble request: Abandon the deceiving path of ecumenism and turn back to the undeceiving path of Orthodoxy! An angel, similar to the one who closed the path of Valaam “who had raised the sword in his hand” will also close Your path. Don’t you see him? What are you waiting for in order to change your path? Should the marbles from Saint Sophia cry out with human voice and rebuke you? “It is not possible to serve two masters; it is not possible to serve the Orthodoxy and the pan-heresy of ecumenism as well.” The first one serves Christ and the second one to the antichrist and devil. Stop provoking God and tempt His nation. It should not even cross your mind to change or abolish the Holy Canons of the Holy Apostles and of ecumenical Synods because such type of blatant iniquities, even with “synodic” and “pan-orthodox” approval will not be received and respected by the conscience of the plenitude of Orthodox Church. This conscience that approves or rejects decisions, even those of ecumenical Synods, no matter how much you despise it and how weakened and stagnant might be, you should know that it vigils and it is always ready to stay against any “accomplished acts” that you will decide within the future Synod that will gather in 2016 and that will stay against the Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition and God’s will. We hope that you will not despise the cry of agony we send out from the far Canada.


The Greek-Orthodox missionary brotherhood “Saint Athanasios the Great”, Toronto,

The Greek-Canandian Orthodox missionary brotherhood, “Paul the Apostle”, Toronto,

The Greek-Canandian missionary brotherhood, “Orthodox Voice”, Montreal.