In His earthly life Christ suffered not only from the cowardly Paganism of the Romans (and Hellenes), but also from the errors of two Jewish sects. These were the deceitful Pharisees, who rejected the possibility of repentance, that is, they rejected the Cross, and the treacherous Saducees, who rejected the Resurrection. Under different names these three errors, Paganism, Saduceeism and Phariseeism, which like all errors separate us from Christ, are still with us today. Human nature has not changed and it is still besieged by pride of mind, which is the origin of all errors.
Time and again we can notice how we make mistakes by pride of mind, lack of humility in our minds. The only guarantee that we are near to the God of Love, to Christ and therefore His Body, the Church, is when we are humble-minded. Pride of mind always results in spiritual catastrophe, separation from Christ and so the inevitable self-imposed obligation to think according to the ways of the world and so follow them. And prince of this world is the cunning devil, who is called Satan, the slanderer. Let us take three examples, one general and two specific to contemporary Russian Orthodox life.
Many assert that they cannot believe in a God of Love, Who wants suffering, wars, earthquakes, cancer etc. As a Russian Orthodox priest, I agree with them. For I believe in the God of Love, Who does not want suffering, which is why He became man and was crucified by those who do want suffering. However, unlike these modern pagans, or secularists, whose beliefs are entirely patterned by this world, I believe in the God of Love, Who because He is Love allows freedom of choice. It is not from choice, but from wrong choices that all human suffering stems. It is Satan’s greatest slander that God is responsible for suffering. In reality, it is pride of mind to blame God for suffering and Satan is the source of all pride. It is the refusal to recognize the Fall and so human sin and the sin of our own minds that is to blame for suffering.
Those who reject the God of Love because suffering exists are those who do not believe in the reality of sin, the human capacity for evil. They blame God for everything. They claim personal sinlessness and then make excuses to disguise their actual laziness by asserting that they cannot believe in a God Who allows suffering. For belief in God would entail responsibility, action for self-improvement and love of our fellow human-beings. And they are too lazy for that. So they reject God. This is why their atheism has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions in the 19th and 20th centuries alone, slaughtered by Nazism, Communism and in the abortion holocaust. The rejection of the God of Love because of the Satanic illusion that God creates suffering creates yet more suffering. This Paganism, today known as Secularism, is the rejection of Jerusalem, of both the Cross and the Resurrection.
I know a very elderly Russian. He is honest, sincere and a model of integrity. But he belongs to a tiny sect. Why? Because he cannot accept the Russian Orthodox Church as She is, given that the pre-Revolutionary Russian State has not been restored. Only when everything associated with Soviet Communism is removed from Russia will he accept the Russian Church, for he confuses Church and State. He wants perfect restoration of the State now. He does not have the patience to wait for the gradual restoration of an Orthodox Christian State and Empire, for which we are all ardently working, and, worse still, he does not understand that we do not want a restoration of what existed before. We want a restoration to something better than there was before, not to those decadent aristocrats (including most Romanovs who were, to the despair of Tsar Nicholas, vain wastrels) and bishop-apostates who welcomed the Revolution and then later went on to become renovationists.
If what existed before were restored, then there would simply be another Revolution. This elderly man does not want to be with the Russian Church today. Why? Because not all Her members are as demanding as he is. And yet the very Church that he rejects is not only the Church of a great many nominal Orthodox, She is also the Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors. Here there is pride of mind. He wants a Church that is not made up of sinners who want to become saints, of penitents who are following the Cross, as the Church always has been made up of, but a Church of the pure, of ready-made saints. Here we see the pride of perfectionist idealism. He refuses to recognize that the direction we are going in is right, even though we have to allow for the weaknesses of the people we meet on the way, whose repentance is in progress. Sadly, this is the pride of Phariseeism, which joins up with the pride of Saduceeism, for extremes always meet through their mutual rejection of Christ.
If we come now to an example of pride of mind, specific in both time and place, we can see the same error in the Paris School of Philosophy (or ‘Theology’ as they self-flatteringly call it). Here a group of Russian revolutionary aristocrats and intellectuals, who rejected their oath of allegiance to the Lord’s Anointed in Russia, and overthrew the legitimate government in order to create a Protestant-type secular State in which they would have all the power. Failures, they were then exiled to Paris by the Bolsheviks and there they applied their liberal, modernist, pro-Protestant politics to Church life. The result was a liberal, modernist, pro-Protestant ‘theology’, that is, the basically secularist philosophy of the Paris School, of which the chief representative was the fantasist and heretic Fr Sergius Bulgakov, a Marxist who never cleansed himself from his Marxism, who continued to think that the only resurrection was a this-worldly resurrection, political, economic and social.
Unlike their renovationist cousins in Russia who, despite the support of the Bolshevik atheists, died out because the people would not follow their fantasies, the Paris renovationists did not die out. By cutting themselves off from the people and abandoning the episcopal and liturgical disciplines of the Russian Church, the Paris renovationists were able to survive and develop their peculiar sectarian philosophy. They and their descendants even infected individuals in the then Soviet-run Moscow Patriarchate in Western Europe (which is how it became so impoverished at that time), across the ocean and elsewhere and still practise their errors today. Beneath a mask of outward piety, they show themselves to be pro-Revolutionary and anti-Orthodox, anti-the People and anti-Russian. Little wonder that Western secularists admire them, for, like them, they too reject the possibility of the Resurrection and the importance of the preparation for it here and now. Sadly, their pride of mind is stronger than their nostalgia for inherited childhood memories of piety, which they have since deformed and distorted. This is the pride of Saduceeism.
Modern Secularism, like Paganism of old, rejects the Cross and the Resurrection. However, there are those who, though outwardly confessing Christ, in some way reject the Cross or the Resurrection through their pride of mind. The lack of humble-mindedness always detaches us from the Church and so from Christ and so from Love. Every heresy and every sect, every ‘ism’, from Gnosticism to Roman Catholicism, from Protestantism to Bulgakovism, is always based on human pride. It is visible in Syria today, where the Pharisaic Islamists reject the Cross and the Saducean Zionist West rejects the Resurrection. And, as usual, these two extremes meet and support one another in their hatred for Christ.
Human pride means the rejection of Christ, whatever the outward piety it may be disguised in. Modern Secularism, like Roman Paganism which it imitates, rejects the Jerusalem of the Cross and the Resurrection on account of its pride. Modern Sectarianism, like the Phariseeism of old, rejects the Cross and so crucifies Christ in His Body, the Church, on account of its pride. Modern Renovationism, like the Saduceeism of old, rejects the Resurrection, conforming itself to this world, so denying the power of the Church to prepare us for the life to come on account of its pride. Humility of mind, obedience to the Church of the Cross and the Resurrection, is the only highway, all other ways are byways, where we are no longer in communion with Christ and the Jerusalem on high.