Since this sensitive soul could not accept the lie of Uniatism, in 1905 and 1906 Alexander visited the Lavras in Kiev and Pochaiev, where he met both the elderly Metropolitan of Kiev, Flavian, and the dynamic Archbishop Antony (Khrapovitsky), who was to play a vital role in Fr. Alexis’ later life.
No, he has never studied theology, he has never heard of any modern ‘theologians’ (though he does know something of the Lives of the Saints), he cannot tell you about the history and structure of the services, has never met a bishop, does not know the Bible backwards, will not give you lots of pious talk about prayer and fasting, has never heard of ‘the Council of Crete’ and knows nothing about Catholicism and Protestantism.
Sadly, the phrase ‘Pan-Orthodox’ really means ‘only for selected Orthodox’. In fact, it means ‘for new calendarists only’ (thus, excluding 85% of Orthodox), and for ecumenists, modernists, freemasons and liberal intellectuals (thus, excluding 99.9% of the rest). How has this distortion of meaning come about?
Our future place and role in these islands is precisely to continue to expand and witness to the Orthodox Tradition and Faith, not just for our own people, whose children and descendants are English-speaking and locally educated, but for those who seek – and find – spiritual comfort in partaking of the roots and origins of Christianity in the Faith and Tradition of our worldwide, multinational and multilingual Russian Orthodox Church.
A host of silent questions arose in my mind. Why did they, such humble representatives of the people show such respect here? Who was this St. Edmund, that this town had been named after 1,000 years before? What was a saint? How did you become a saint? Why were there only ruins here now? And why were there no longer any saints? So many questions, so few answers and none able to answer them.
"Rasputin? A horse thief, a mad monk, a fraud with hypnotic powers, a priest-charlatan who manipulated stupid, hysterical women, a flagellant sectarian and pervert, a criminal who ruled the Russian Empire, dictating all policies and making all political appointments through bribery, a debauchee who organized orgies, a drunkard (like all Russians), a primitive barbarian, a satanist, a German spy, the reason for the downfall of Russia, even his name means ‘depraved’. I know, I have read the book and seen the film."
On August 21, 2007, the Holy Synod of the Russian Church officially approved the veneration of all the saints who shone forth in the lands of Britain and Ireland, blessing the annual celebration of their memory on the third Sunday after Pentecost. This feast is in honor of all the saints who lived in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland until 1054, when most of Western Europe tragically broke away from the One Church.
The other question that I asked myself was why there were no longer any saints, no new saints, only these ancient ones. The source of holiness had clearly dried up. No-one was interested in holiness any more. We now lived in a different Civilization, with different values, alien to me. Why?
We can define art in its broadest sense by its etymology: art means something artificial, that is, manmade. However, anyone can see that there are great differences between manmade things, as manmade things fit into different levels. Thus, there is a great difference between a spade and an antique vase, or a 1960s block of flats and a palace, a Picasso and a Rembrandt, or heavy rock music and a Strauss waltz. All are manmade, but the former examples reflect a lack of inspiration as compared to the latter. What then is inspiration?
The psychology of neophytes (recent or old) is universal because human nature is universal. To quote some real life examples, regardless of whether we are talking about a Protestant who has become a Roman Catholic, a Roman Catholic who has become a Protestant, a Frenchman who has become a Buddhist, an Englishman who has become a Muslim, or a German who has joined the Orthodox Church, neophyte idealism remains the same.
It is interesting to recall to Non-Believers the words of the Gospel regarding this Flight into Egypt, and how Joseph was commanded to 'take the young child and his mother into Egypt'. We note how the Scriptures clearly do not call Christ, 'Joseph's son', or his mother, 'your wife'. Again the Scriptures say that all this was to fulfil the words of the Scriptures: 'Out of Egypt have I called my son', and not, 'out of Egypt have I called Joseph's son'.
It can be concluded without hesitation that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is looking increasingly isolated from mainstream of the Orthodox Church and its Council project, at least in its old form, is looking increasingly in doubt. As has been said throughout Christian history: man proposes, but God disposes.
All the fragments of Holy Rus, ‘the footstool of the Kingdom of Heaven’, in the words of St John of Kronstadt, are to be guarded, propagated and gathered together before the end. All Orthodox of all nationalities who know what is prophesied in the holy book of Esdras, the enthronement of the last Christian Emperor before the end, are to repent and show the way.
Today's Gospel concerns the resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain. We recall that this miracle occurred just after the healing of the servant of the centurion, a healing which had taken place at a distance.We can notice how this miracle of resurrection, like all the Lord's miracles, happened for two reasons.
For Communism was the very essence of Western materialism and its downfall was therefore the triumph of Christ and the Cross over the West. Therefore only the heroic effort of Orthodoxy that conquered the Soviet Empire can now save the West. Yes, Europe has the pieces to its puzzle, but it is unable to stick them together. For that it needs Orthodoxy. Only Christ and true Christianity, which is what Orthodoxy means, can help it.
It is no good us Russian Orthodox saying, “It cannot happen here.” Remember the Tower in Siloam. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13, 4-5). If we do not go to Church, at least attempt to live a Church life, the same thing will happen to us, our children and grandchildren.
Today's Gospel concerns two miracles, one the healing of an illness and the other the overcoming of death. These two miracles are closely linked, for both illness and death have the same origin, the same cause, they are both the result of sin, both entered the world as a result of the sin of Adam. As the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Orthodox Christians in Rome, 'the wages of sin are death'.
Our Lord Himself said that St. John was the greatest prophet “among those born of women” (Luke 7, 28). Some hearing these words are surprised. They ask: Surely, Christ Himself is the greatest man born of women? However, Christ was not born of a woman (i.e. a married female), he was born of a Virgin. Therefore, in obedience to our Lords words, that St. John is the greatest born of women, the Church duly honors him.
We sometimes see the term ‘the Russian Saints’, only to find that these saints include St.Olga and St.Vladimir and many others who lived long before Moscow became established as a small town, let alone as the capital of a country now called ‘Russia’ The problem is that English has no translation for the word ‘Rus’.
But He ascends not as He came down. He ascends taking with Himself a human body, a human soul, a human mind, a human will, all the attributes of human nature, except of course for sin, for Christ's human nature is human nature as it was first intended to be, not fallen human nature, but human nature redeemed and made all comely.
Firstly, let us be clear as to whom this Gospel concerns. The word “publican” does not have the modern meaning of someone who keeps a pub: in older English it simply means a tax collector. As we recall from last Sunday's Gospel concerning another tax collector, Zacchaeus, tax-collectors among the Jews were the lowest of the low, thieves, corrupt to the core.
The hiatus between the early and undeveloped culture of Christian Rome and the growth of a new Western Christian culture, between, in other words, the fifth and the eleventh centuries, signified the formation of a different cultural ambience in the West from that in the East. The Christian West did not have the time to Christianize the pagan, classical culture of Rome, whereas the East made a new start.
Who are the great historical figures of Western Europe who define its identity? The answers of the secular world to this question are quite different from those of the Church. The Western secular world exalts secular figures like Charlemagne, Charles V, or Napoleon as “great Europeans”. But all three of these left Europe full of graves. Indeed, Charlemagne and Charles V were renowned for their massacres and, as for Napoleon, he declared that he would have had Christ hanged as a fanatic.
Live selfishly, and you will lose everything, your life will be lost in lonely boredom and you will die selfishly. On the other hand, the history of the Church teaches us that the saints, who lived for Christ, were neither lonely nor bored, neither futile nor lost. By living for the Cross of Christ, not only do they not taste of death at the Last Judgement, but even more, they do not taste of the spiritual death and loss of lonely and selfish pride.
Today, however, I would like to point out an aspect of this Feast which is often overlooked: Mt Tabor, the 'mountain' where the Transfiguration occurred. This Mt Tabor is for us a figure of repentance. We note that, like the disciples, in order for us to see the transfiguration or to hope to be transfigured ourselves, we will first have to climb up, to mount, from our present condition. Otherwise any transfiguration or change for the better in our lives is impossible.
In the case of the man born blind, all his life had been but a preparation for his meeting with Christ. Not only was his soul pure enough, refined by his lifelong handicap, to receive healing from the Lord, but also he confessed Him as the Son of God, thus making the works of God manifest in himself.
However, there is one vital difference between Judas and the other disciples. The other disciples repented; Judas did not. Indeed, he went out and hanged himself. The other disciples repented of their own free will. Nobody forced them too. Judas, however, decided not to repent. He did not believe in God's mercy, fell into despair and destroyed himself. This he did of his own free will. Nobody forced him to act in this way. This is the sin of Judas, whom our Lord Himself calls 'the son of perdition'.
If we take a human lifetime as the Biblical threescore years and ten, only fourteen lifetimes ago the English Church was an integral part of the Orthodox family, belonging to the Universal Church of Christ. For nearly five centuries the English were in communion with the rest of Christendom. There were close contacts with Eastern Christendom. One of England's sainted Archbishops, Theodore of Tarsus, was a Greek; Greek monks and a bishop lived in England at the end of the 10th century, and Gytha, the daughter of the Old English King, Harold II, married in Kiev. It is clear that during such a long period, a half-millennium, the Christian faith impregnated the way of life of the people and the Old English monarchy. It is clear that traces of the Faith of the first five centuries of English Christianity, a Faith that was Orthodox though not Byzantine, must have remained after the 11th century.
As Orthodox life is patterned by prayer, conversation with the Living God, it consists of what the world calls ‘coincidences’, that is, ‘God-incidences’. These are the generous and loving and providential interventions of God in our everyday life, showing to us the presence of saints in our midst.
Secondly, it is clear from the Gospel that devils exist and that they can possess men. All too often we meet naïve people who call themselves Christians but have been so hoodwinked by the Devil that they maintain that devils do not exist and that they most certainly cannot enter into men. Such people have clearly not read the Gospel with understanding and have little experience of life.
Regularly, the secular media report stories about England's current patron-saint. There are those who complain that St George is 'a Turkish saint'; others project the image of a knight in medieval armour; yet others claim him as 'the patron of the English football team'. Where does such nonsense come from and who is the real St George?
The Life of St Mary teaches us many things. Perhaps the first and most obvious lesson we can learn from her is that we should never judge, never pre-judge. Who will be saved? It is impossible to answer this question, for it is never too late to repent, even for us. Humanly speaking, when we consider the life of Mary until her twenty-ninth year, we might think that salvation had become impossible for her. And yet the service to her calls her 'the greatest of saints'.
Perhaps we feel some sympathy with the elder son. After all, he never wasted his substance, he did remain loyal to the Father. The problem is that the elder son's service was a form of slavery, he did not stay with the Father out of love, but out of self-interest, in expectation of a reward. This was not love freely given, but an obligation fulfilled in the hope of the payment of the hireling.
After the martyrdom of his spiritual father the Apostle Paul, Dionysius conceived of the desire to follow in his footsteps. Thus, he left Athens and travelled to Greek settlements in the West. According to tradition, he ended up, not among the many Greeks in Rome, but elsewhere among Greeks in the Roman Empire, in Gaul, in what is today Paris. It was here at the end of the first century that the elderly Dionysius found martyrdom.
Today's feast was instituted in 1918, at a time when the terrible persecution of the Church had begun in Russia. It was considered that the people under the Soviet yoke had, as never before, to turn to the saints for intercession, protection, indeed, mere survival. As we now know, the number of martyrs of the Soviet yoke probably exceeds the number of martyrs throughout the world in the first three centuries of persecution of the Orthodox Christian faith. The whole country became the battleground of good against evil, spiritually, the centre of the world.
This Sunday is known as Forgiveness Sunday, and also Cheesfare Sunday for it is the last day on which we may eat dairy produce. On it we remember the Fall of Adam and Eve and how they lost Paradise by eating 'the forbidden fruit', which is why we fast, eating only 'the permitted fruit'. How exactly did that Fall happen?
Indeed, spiritual progress can only be made through the Cross, through sacrifice. Wherever there is no sacrifice, there the Church becomes a mere institution, a ritual, an empty form. But where there is sacrifice, martyrdom, the Cross, there is spiritual life.
Currently the Church of England is racked by division concerning the ordination of homosexual clergy and female bishops. There are now Anglicans who have already left or who are planning to leave the Church of England because they cannot square such ‘modernisation’ with their consciences.
In an age where unity is so much sought after, it is thus our task to present to the reader some little part of the unity of that Christian Commonwealth, as it can be seen in the history of Anglo-Saxon England, most particularly at its beginning and at its ending. This we do with the wish that one day this former Commonwealth will be spiritually drawn together once more.
It is also claimed that not only did the apostle Peter found the Church of Rome, but that somehow this gives the Church of Rome some special supremacy and superiority over all the other Churches. This is clearly not true, for the Church of Antioch, which was founded by St Peter, has never claimed any superiority. In reality, when our Lord says in the Gospel: ‘Thou art a rock and on this rock I will build my Church’, it refers not to some special authority given to Peter, it concerns all who confess Christ as the Son of the Living God. All who make this confession have authority, all who confess Christ truly are rocks and are granted the keys to the kingdom.
We should in no wise think that this mutual act of unity came from us. It did not. It was and is a miracle of the saints. It came from the New Martyrs and Confessors, it came from St Tikhon of Moscow and from St John of Shanghai. It came from holy elders inside Russia and it came from holy elders in the emigration.
The time of the martyrs has gone, for the moment, now is the time of the confessors. We need the common witness of both St John of Shanghai and St Luke of Simferopol, of St Jonah of Manchuria and St Sebastian of Karaganda, of Abbess Rufina (of Harbin) and the Elder John (Krestiankin), and all the saints and righteous of both sides. The saints unite us; people of this world disunite us. In the face of the threats of the contemporary, post-Christian world, we Orthodox Christians must stand together, sturdy spiritual warriors.