The Best Time for the Church is the Time of Persecution

A word from His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Photo: unian.net Photo: unian.net
    

A time of calm in the Church is, if you will, the worst possible time for it. What we are experiencing right now is in fact a process of growth and maturity.

The ground under a Christian’s feet can be compared to a swamp. We have to continually labor, and move forward, because after all, if we stand in one place then we are guaranteed to sink. Without even noticing it, the Christian will sink lower and lower, until he drowns in his own stony insensibility. That is the nature of times of calm. This applies to the laity as well as the clergy. Everything inside him unnoticeably goes sour. He squeaks like an old floorboard, and reads his morning and evening prayers without any feeling. The soul unoiled with grace squeaks, and then dies, like a consumptive old hag.

After all, it is no accident that monasticism began to flourish at the time when the Orthodox faith became not only allowed but also desirable. When instead of the roaring of wild animals in the Roman theaters and the blood of martyrs there came the clinking of gold in bishops’ pockets, and a good salary for the clergy began to attract people to ecclesiastical service who were eager to run jumping after Christ, but not entirely for the sake of Christ. Then the blood of real Christians began pouring bloodlessly in the deserts of Egypt and Syria, and the podvig of the crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and lusts replaced the podvig of martyrdom and confession of the faith. The marriage of Church and State always produces ugly, bastard children—that is a law of all times. But when the temperature created in society of antireligious hysteria rises, only those who place their faith in God higher than any other life priorities can remain in the Church. Church opportunists and careerists are those who seek advantages, money, fame, and honor in the Church, who love to “preside at assemblies”, that “people would speak well of them,” and they eventually go to the places where they can reach these goals. In other words, in such times the Church is cleansed of everything fake. And that is very good.

Christ clearly outlined the paradigm of the relationship between the world and the Church: “They persecuted Me and they’ll persecute you, too,” “Those who kill you will think that they are doing God’s service.” As soon as the world begins to love us we cease to be servants of Christ and become slaves to the world; and this is the most terrible falsification there can be in life. Looking at my home iconostasis, I don’t see there a single person who lived a stagnant pious life and yet entered the world of Light. Looking at me from every icon is either a martyr’s blood, or bloodless martyrdom. The algorithm of the devil’s “work” with the Church is something we well know. It is simple to the point of naiveté and therefore extremely effective. In the early days of Christianity, satan shouted in the “media” of those days that “Christians are depraved and cannibals,” that “they slaughter infants at meetings, drink their blood, and then have orgies.” Of course, how could they not give the Christians over to be eaten by lions in the coliseum? A hundred years ago, satan also taught that Christians are “reactionary clergy”, “abettors of imperialism,” and “enemies of the revolution”. According to his contemporaries, Lenin literally quaked at the mere mention of the Church and of Christ. Within a couple of decades they were shooting the clergy “for connections with counterrevolutionaries,” for “working for foreign spies,” for “organizing conspiracies with the aim of overthrowing the Soviet government” and for “abetting Western special services”. It’s the twenty-first century now, and satan’s arguments are the same: “agents of the Kremlin”, “working for the FSB [Russian special services],” “abettors of the aggressor”. It’s the same old broken record, and we can recognize the handwriting.

But true Christians have lived, live, and will live by only Christ and the Gospels. Of course you can slander them, kill them, and put them in prison, as has happened many times in history, but they will continue to love God, the Church, and their Motherland. This is because we have only one God. The time of persecution is the best time for the Church. In such times we only have to do one thing to be saved—to be faithful to God and our Mother Church. In fact, everything in this world is very, very simple. This is because God Himself is simple. In the world there is Good and Evil. There is Universal Love, and there universal hate. The Savior gave us the commandment of love. Everything that bears in itself love, light, goodness, mercy, and compassion one way or another has its source in God. This is because He is Good. Everything that bears hatred, destruction, war, calls for murder, and the thirst for murder has its source in hell, regardless of what clothing of motivation or intentions satan dresses his evil in.

Our true citizenship is in the Kingdom of God, and we have to exert much effort in order to receive our eternal registration there. What we are living through now is, in fact, a process of growth and maturity. A comfort zone never gives dynamic growth. This applies to any system, no matter what kind. Growth is only possible in labor and difficult circumstances, in the most adverse conditions. Then our inner reserves come to the fore, and we gain new experience: To perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.… For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness… Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble (2 Pet. 1:6–10).

Comments
Anton11/16/2018 1:57 pm
May God fortify the persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Christians, bring poor misguided Patriarch Bartholomew back to his senses and heal the new horrible schism of His Holy Church.
Matthew Panchisin11/16/2018 5:48 am
Well His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry's words most certainly articulate Orthodox Christianity, thanks be to God.

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin
Karen11/15/2018 4:01 pm
O Lord, save Thy people
And bless Thine inheritance.
Grant victory to all Orthodox Christians
Over their adversaries.
And by virtue of Thy Cross
Preserve Thy habitation.
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