STAND FAST IN THE TRUTH
FROM THE TEACHINGS OF
ON THE APOSTOLIC WORK OF PRINCE ST. VLADIMIR
Why is St. Vladimir eternally dear to us?
Because he brought us into communion with faith in Christ and gave us, Russians, the true Church of Christ.
What is this faith in Christ and true Church and what is its significance for us?
This is clearly revealed to us in the touching prayer offered by St. Vladimir at the sacred moment when the Mystery of Baptism was performed for the Russian people, when, in the words of the pious chronicler, truly heaven and earth rejoiced at such a great number being saved.
"O Great God, Creator of heaven and earth!" cried out our godfather and enlightener, "Look down upon this new people, and grant them, Lord, to know Thee, the true God, as the Christian countries have known Thee; and confirm them in the true and uncorrupted faith; and aid me, Lord, against the hostile enemy, so that, trusting in Thee and in Thy power, I may defeat his intrigues."
Here everything is stated and there is an explanation of why, faith in Christ and the true Church are given to us.
Faith in Christ and the true Church as the repository and disseminator of that faith are given to us so that we might know the true God and, knowing Him, learn to believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him.
Faith in God must be "true" and "uncorrupted," that is, not
just any sort of faith thought up by people themselves according to their own taste, but correct, or orthodox, as that true Christian faith, pure and uncorrupted, undistorted by human sophistry, preached by the holy Apostles and preserved without change by the true Church, has always been called. The criterion for this faith is this: "That is true which has been believed everywhere,. at all times, by all people" (St.' Vincent of Lerins). And that faith must be "uncorrupted" in us, that is, we must preserve it so steadfastly, firmly, uncompromisingly that no one will be able to seduce us or draw us away from it.
And, finally, in St. Vladimir's prayer there is an indication of the personal aim of this faith for each of us and, consequently, of the great significance of belonging to the true Church which preserves this faith. We have a "hostile enemy who arranges "intrigues" against us and wants to destroy us. This is the enemy of God and the enemy of human salvation, the devil, with whom we must carry on an unceasing struggle, since otherwise eternal destruction awaits us. It is only through "hoping in God and in His power," that is, with the assistance of the true faith and Church, that we can carry on this struggle with the enemy of human salvation, the devil, with whom we must carry on an unceasing struggle, since otherwise eternal destruction awaits us. It is only through "hoping in God and in His power," that is, with the assistance of the true faith and Church, that we can carry on this struggle with the enemy of human salvation, the devil, until we are completely victorious.
It is from this viewpoint that one must consider everything which is happening in the world at the present time.
ON THE CHURCH
Christ our Savior said clearly, "I will establish my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt., 16:18). Consequently, He created one Church, not many different churches, for in that case He would have spoken in the plural ¾ "churches." This is why it is odd to hear the speeches, which claim to be authoritative, of some modern leaders of the [ecumenical] movement who call themselves "Christians" to the effect that the existence within Christianity of various "churches" (the Roman Catholic, the Protestant ones, etc.) is a positive phenomenon, since each person can select his own ".`church" according to his own taste, selecting whichever one he likes best, whichever one suits him best. It was even stranger for us to hear the words of a certain liberal, progressive professor who eloquently developed the idea that Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism are all the same Christianity, just from "different viewpoints." "It is as if," he continued in this comparison, "an airplane is flying over a city ¾ from various points during its flight it sees the city in its various parts, and therefore the city seems different to it, depending on the point from which one is looking at it."
Of course, such an idea is fundamentally opposed to the Word of God, which clearly teaches: "That they may be one" (John 17:11); "One Lord, one faith" (Eph. 4:5); "Be like-minded one toward another" (Rom. 15:5); "Be of one accord, of one mind" (Phil. 2:2); "Be ye all of one mind" (I Peter 3:8); "Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things... Be not wise in your own conceits" (Rom. 12:16).
Wherever the inherited spiritual link of grace going back to the holy Apostles and their successors the Apostolic Men and Holy Fathers has been broken, wherever various innovations have been introduced in faith and morals with the aim of "keeping in step with the times," of "progressing," of not getting out of date and of adapting to the demands and fashions of this world lying in evil ¾ there can be no talk of the true Church.
Where one finds the dogmas shaken and the moral teachings of the Gospel and the canonical structure of the Church founded on them undermined, this is clearly the work of servants of the coming Antichrist, no matter what they might call themselves and no matter how they are dressed.
The "gates of hell" will riot prevail against the Church, but they have and certainly can prevail against many who consider themselves pillars of the Church, as is shown by Church history; this happens when they are full of their own conceits, abandon the one mind and one spirit of the whole One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and rely on their own conjectures and imaginings which contradict the teachings of the Gospel, the Holy Apostles, and the Fathers of the Church.
ON THE RUSSIAN CHURCH ABROAD
For us Russian Orthodox our membership in the Russian Church Abroad is a vivid symbol of our penitential turning to God and to the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, for only that church can now provide the grace to give us strength for such a penitential approach and far its reinforcement.
This is why we must take such care to preserve our Russian Church Abroad and not permit it to be weakened or to turn aside to "other ways."
Unfortunately not everyone understands this sufficiently clearly and not everyone properly and completely values the whole great meaning of the existence of our Russian Church Abroad, even among those who belong to it.
Why does our Russian Church Abroad exist, so alone spiritually in the modern world? What is the ideology which makes it so alone?
The essence of the ideology of the Russian Church Abroad consists of its complete and uncompromising refusal to accept that worldwide Evil which has spread widely over the face of the whole earth and which has subjugated to its control, to a greater or lesser degree, all aspects of human life, not excepting religious and church life.
Atheistic Marxism-Communism, or Bolshevism, the struggle with which is the chief task of all national-minded Russian patriots, is just one of the offspring, one evil result of this "worldwide evil." To struggle only against it means just to cut off the branches without noticing the trunk and roots which gave birth to them and nourished them.
Unfortunately, many of us: see only these branches, paying no attention to the trunk and roots. Even mare: this root source of the "worldwide evil" seems to some quite inoffensive, even favorably inclined toward us and our church, and many of us are ready to look to it for aid for, ourselves and for support in the struggle against Communism.
What pathetic naïveté only it is not conscious betrayal! It is long since time to understand and recognize all of this!
This necessary vision and clear recognition is prevented most of all by material dependence and the loss, for this or other reasons, of spiritual freedom.
This is why our Russian Church Abroad must value above all its spiritual freedom, that freedom which was given to the faithful by the Church's Founder ¾ Christ.
More than anything on earth we value our church's freedom. This is not at all because we do not have "love," as we are so superficially accused by the "ecumenists," who are themselves too full of "love" for the enemies of the pure and unadulterated Truth of Christ and, sometimes, even for open enemies of our holy faith (only for us, their brothers by blood and faith, have they no love!). Rather, it is because we have a love of the Truth; because we firmly believe (having none of the doubts the ecumenists obviously have) that our Holy Orthodox Church is, as the Word of God teaches, the "pillar and ground of the Truth" (I Tim. 3:15); and because we desire, as commanded by the holy Apostle, to "walk in that Truth" (II John 4) and, following the warning of the great Father of the Church, St. Gregory the Theologian, we do not want "to become betrayers of the teaching of the faith and of the Truth," "communing of the leaven of the Evil One and joining ourselves to the plague-ridden...apostates from the Truth" (cf. Works of St. Gregory, Part I, p. 192 [in Russian]).
At the root of the ideology of the Russian Church Abroad is a fervent and sincere intention ¾ whatever might happen, regardless of any contemporary evil influences and tendencies ¾ to remain faithful to God's truth; to remain totally devoted to the Founder of the Church, Christ the Savior, and to the teaching of the Gospel on faith and piety which He brought to earth without any human corruptions or distortions; and to preserve the full spiritual freedom which Christ gave to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which He founded on earth for men's salvation.
The Russian Church Abroad is dear to us beyond any price, but only insofar as it actually remains the lawful heir of the previous Russian Orthodox Church ¾ the unswerving and faithful preserver of the God-given Apostolic teaching on faith and piety, a zealous follower of the traditions of the Fathers, the Sacred Canons, and all the pious ordinances and traditions of Holy Russia.
The sacred motto of our Church is that of the great confessor of Orthodoxy, St. Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria: "We must not serve time, but God."
In the midst of the general, mass, already self-perpetuating movement "Forward! Forward! To the Antichrist!" (although it might not be expressed so openly) for us members of the Russian Church Abroad the age-old motto of the true Church of Christ remains in full force: "stand fast...remain unmoved!" (cf. the words of Bishop Theophan in On Orthodoxy with Warnings about Errors Against It [in Russian], p. 7).
Why is this so?
"Human teachings," writes this same Bishop Theophan, "are always reaching out to what is new, growing, developing; and this is natural, for they do not have the truth, but are just seeking it. And let them seek it, as long as they find something stable. For us both the truth and the way to the truth have been defined once and for all. We possess the truth, and all our efforts are directed toward its assimilation, not its discovery" (Ibid.).
This is why we are not going in the same direction at all as any "modernists" and "ecumenists." Our gaze should not be directed "ahead," but "backwards" ¾ to the earthly life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to the Divine teaching He preached on earth 19 centuries ago, to His act of redemption, His glorious Army of Martyrs, to the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church, to the establishers of the true faith, to the righteous ascetics, those "angels in the flesh," and, for us Russians, to the ideals of Holy Russia ...
For us "forward" is only the constantly spreading "Apostasy" predicted by the Word of God and the Holy Fathers of the Church, and its crown ¾ the Antichrist, of whose near arrival so many already are so openly speaking; but after that will come the shining triumph of our Faith: the Last Judgment, the eternal torment of sinners and the eternal blessedness of the righteous.
This is our ideology; this is the genuine (without evil or deceit) Orthodox view of the world to which our whole Russian Church Abroad should hold in order to justify its existence on earth, not to become the "salt which has lost its savor."
Whoever thinks otherwise, whoever is inclined to "march in step with the times," consequently, has already entered into some sort of compromise with the "evil of this world," leading to the Antichrist, and is not really a member of our Russian Church Abroad, even though he formally continues to belong to it.
We have neither the strength nor the authority to stop Apostasy, as Bishop Ignatius stresses: "Do not attempt to stop it with your weak hand..."
But what then should we do?
"Avoid it, protect yourself from it, and that is enough for you. Get to know the spirit of the times, study it so that you can avoid its influence whenever possible" ¾ this is what the same Bishop Ignatius teaches us.
And do not his words, written more than 100 years ago and so obviously related to our time, exude genuine prophetic inspiration and undoubted enlightenment from on high: "Judging by the spirit of the age and the intellectual ferment, one must suppose that the structure of the Church, which has long been wavering, will collapse terribly and quickly. There is no one to stop or oppose this. The means adopted to support it are borrowed from the elements of the world which are hostile to the Church and will hasten its fall rather than prevent it. May the merciful Lord defend the remnant of those who believe in Him. But this remnant is tiny, and it becomes more and more so."
Thus we evidently have lived to see this "terrible and quick collapse of the structure of the Church!"
The enemy of the human race is employing all his efforts and all his means to pull it down, and he is widely supported in this by open and secret apostates from the true faith and Church, including even those who have betrayed their high vocations and oaths as clergymen and even as hierarchs heading certain individual churches.
In truth, we are experiencing a terrible time ¾ a time such as has never before been seen in the history of Christianity, in the history of mankind! A time of almost total instability!
And insofar as we wish to remain faithful to true Orthodoxy, many obligations are placed upon us.
We must, as Bishop Ignatius instructs us, avoid and protect ourselves from the Apostasy which is growing so rapidly in the world. We must defend ourselves against the corrupting spirit of the times to avoid its influence.
And to this end we must first of all understand and never forget:
that at the present time not everything that bears the most holy and most dear name of Orthodoxy really is Orthodoxy ¾ there now also exists pseudo-Orthodoxy, which we must fear and from which we must flee as from fire;
that true Orthodoxy is only that which does not accept and does not permit in anything, either in teaching or in church practices, any sort of innovations opposed to the Word of God and the decrees of the Universal Church;
that true Orthodoxy does not bless and does not indulge modern fashion ¾ the morality and customs of the modern, corrupt world, which, even more than in Apostolic times, is lying in evil, for it is a world which has abandoned God;
that true Orthodoxy considers only pleasing God and saving souls, not arrangements for temporary, earthly happiness, a career, and earthly advantages and possessions;
that true Orthodoxy is spiritual, not natural and carnal, not attached to the earth ¾ to earthly feelings and experiences.
ON THE CAUSES OF THE RUSSIAN CATASTROPHE
A great many different, more or less weighty and plausible, ideas have been and continue to be expressed on the causes of the terrible, bloody catastrophe which befell our motherland Russia in 1917. Usually and most frequently causes of an economic and political nature are presented for consideration, and people think, that it all is satisfactorily and completely explained by them. But for us, Russian believers, there cannot be the slightest doubt that these causes, if they in fact existed, were only secondary, derivative, attendant causes, but certainly not the chief, the fundamental, or the basic ones.
The chief cause of all the woes which befall a man and deprive him of peace and prosperity is his departure from the Single Source of life and well-being, our Creator, Provider, and Savior, God, and his flouting of the Divine laws and rules which are man's only salvation.
This is what was written by the great teacher of all Christian Russia, Bishop Theophan, in the 60's of the last century:
"Do you know how gloomy my thoughts are? And not without good reason. I meet people who call themselves Orthodox, but who in spirit are followers of Voltaire, naturalists, Lutherans, and all sorts of freethinkers. They are neither stupid nor evil, but in regard to the faith and the Church they are worthless. Their fathers and mothers were pious; the damage was done during the time of their education outside their parents' homes. The memory of their childhood and of the spirit of their parents still keeps them within certain bounds. What will their children be like? And what will keep them within the proper bounds? I conclude from this that in one, at the most two, generations our Orthodoxy will wither." (Letters on the Christian Life, p. 78).
"We must be punished," he wrote in another letter, "God and His manifest works have been blasphemed. Someone wrote me that in some newspaper Light, No. 88, blasphemies against the Mother of God were printed. The Mother of God has turned away from us; because of Her, so has the son of God; and because of Him, so have God the Father and the Spirit of God. Who is for us when God is against us?! Alas!" (Collected Letters, Vol. 7, p. 206).
We can only dare to think completely seriously about the salvation of Russia when we have become different. We must force ourselves to change in the most fundamental way ¾ to cease being what we were when we, willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or in ignorance, by our own hands or just by indifference, cast Russia into that terrifying, bloody abyss in which it remains even until now.
Constantly forming new political parties and organizations with platforms full of high-sounding promises and with constant quarrels and mutual attacks on each other unworthy of the name of Russian; organizing "days" and "evenings of Russian culture"; "charity" balls, theatrical performances and concerts, especially on the eves of Sundays and feasts; anniversary celebrations, especially in the spirit of the one now being prepared to honor Leo Tolstoy, who was excommunicated from the Church for his unbelievably blasphemous and vicious outbursts; banquets with very patriotic speeches; assemblies for "days of irreconcilability' with fierce anti-Communist statements; even formal attendance at official prayer and requiem services on days of special commemoration ¾ none of this will ever be able to save Russia.
"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" and then everything else "shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
It was precisely this course of seeking above all the Kingdom of God and His righteousness that our Orthodox Russian nation followed throughout the whole course of its history ¾ it was precisely in this way that Great Russia was built in which the faith and the Church were always in the first place.
But when the Russian nation, under the influence of atheistic agitators who came to us from the apostate West, began to turn away from this, its true historical course, then that terrible, bloody catastrophe broke over us; as a result of it we ended up in exile, and the rest of the Russian nation is under the yoke of a horrible, unparalleled slavery.
For this reason it is so sad to see how Russian Orthodox people who have endured so much and even lost their homeland and who now are themselves here in exile do not give any thought at all to their spiritual renewal, but rather continue to live with the same godless and anti-Church views, interests and attitudes that led to such terrible misfortunes for our unfortunate homeland Russia. And they naively think that Russia can be saved without their full and total return to God, without their bringing their lives under the genuine spirit of the Church, but that it can be done by means of nothing but political activity. And they even want to subjugate our Church itself to their politics and make it a tool of their political intrigues, a toy of their political passions.
They want to subject the eternal to the temporal, the heavenly to the earthly, the holy to the sinful...
What could be more awful, more hopeless, more criminal than such spiritual blindness, such extreme lack of understanding, which is only, one step removed from the very depths of hell?
How many times did the Most Holy Theotokos save Her faithful Byzantium with its imperial city of Constantinople by Her all-powerful protection until it was overcome by the spirit of materialism and apostasy from the faith which appeared so clearly at the Council of Florence in 1439. And then Byzantium, which had betrayed the true faith, was handed over to its downfall, falling finally under the blows of the Mohammedan Turks in 1453.
Like Byzantium the New Rome, our homeland Moscow, the