Neither Fish nor Fowl: Some Thoughts on the Unia

I could have just as easily titled this essay “Why the Ukraine has no future” but that would have been too clever by half. For one thing, I’m no prophet. For another, it’s not for me to decide the borders of any nation other than my own. If the Ukraine wants to be independent of Russia, fine by me. But as I’ve remarked in other blog posts, I don’t see that poor country becoming viable anytime in the near (or distant) future.

Having said all that, I begin to see the wisdom of the Old Testament and its insistence on ritual purity as given by God to Moses. A huge part of which was the abolition of chimeras. According to the Rabbinic sages (as well as the Church Fathers), God’s destruction of humanity (save for Noah’s family) was necessary to preserve the purity of His creation. Likewise His injunctions to the Israelites in Leviticus. Joshua’s subsequent rampages across Canaan reiterated that point. Israel is called to preserve purity at all costs.

In my opinion, the Unia violates all proper ecclesiastical norms. And despite all the window-dressing and platitudes that those who practice the Byzantine Rite are “Orthodox in communion with the Pope in Rome”, the reality is that they are despite all the finery and liturgy, they are not really “Orthodox”. And make no mistake, the Roman Church –even in its post-Vatican II, Novus Ordo form–has little use for those “Orthodox” who continue to worship in their ancestral manner.

One reason of course is that the Eastern Rite churches never underwent the tumult of the clown-and-banjo masses unleashed by the Novus Ordo. There is (how shall I put it delicately?) more than a little jealousy involved here on the part of the Latins. As to whether these rites are efficacious I leave for the Lord to decide. What I can say is that if one is interested in finding an across-the-board liturgical consistency and elegance within the Church of Rome, one has to go to a Uniate parish.

I saw this first-hand with my own eyes when several years ago, I attended an Eastern Rite liturgy once or twice a year. Since both my sons attended Catholic schools, I was subjected to dozens of uneven Masses over a large part of my life. I saw the difference. It was stark.

Anyway, the priest (Fr Gary Sherman) and I had become very good friends. And then there was the fact that I had been bitten by the Ruthenian plainchant bug. This was because I had attended the consecration of St Seraphim’s in Dallas back in 2000, which ultimately led to the establishment of our mission here in northeastern Oklahoma. The purity of plainchant, the absence of pews and overall reverence enchanted me. The local Roman bishop had allowed a tiny community of Ukrainians to worship in the basement of a larger Catholic parish in a predominantly African-American area of town.

Fr Gary was a first-rate liturgist as well as a skilled craftsman and had erected an elegant ikonostasis. Compared to the two long-established two Orthodox parishes in Tulsa, it was far superior. (Both have since been upgraded.) To be sure, icons of uneven quality lined the walls and because we worshiped in the basement with no windows, the atmosphere was rather dank. Still, he had a good cantor and the responses were all chanted heartily by the tiny congregation. I would not receive Communion but at the end would receive a blessing from him as well as antidoro.

So why did I go? I went because –as mentioned above–I was seduced by the beauty and majesty of the Ruthenian Rite, which as far as I was concerned was superior to the Byzantinish, quasi-operatic performances that I had grown up with. And, truth be told, more than a few converts to Orthodoxy had first passed through that tiny mission on the north side of Tulsa. Fr Gary, a former Lutheran pastor, was very pro-Orthodox and didn’t discourage anybody from “swimming the Bosporus” as he put it. As for myself, I accepted these people on their own terms and wasn’t in the process of recruiting anybody there. As long as they were happy, I was happy.

I really liked Fr Gary (who has since reposed) and the people who worshiped there. They were very respectful towards me and I appreciated that. In any event, there was no effort by the local diocese to house them in more salubrious circumstances and since Fr Gary’s death some five or so years ago, the little Uniate mission has closed.

I suppose there’s a broader lesson here that can be extrapolated from my own very limited experience. And that is this: to my Ukrainian brothers and sisters, you have a choice to make, one can only be a fish or a fowl but not both. An autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church will never happen unless and until the ecclesiastical situation in the Ukraine is resolved in a canonical and hopefully peaceful manner.

The Pope himself has a choice to make. But so does the Ecumenical Patriarch. I have no say in the former as I’m not Catholic but I believe that we do have a say in the latter. A good first step would be for the Ecumenical Patriarch to make his own preferences known. That would mean that Constantinople would have to take a stand and cease its own interference in the Ukraine. That of course would entail one of two things: either recognize the schismatic “autocephalous” church centered around the pseudo-patriarch Filaret or recognize the Unia as legitimate. One or the other. Regardless, both options are equally scandalous in my opinion.

To be sure, a third option exists. Constantinople could recognize the historic writ of the Russian patriarchate, which has the lion’s share of believers in that land. To say nothing of the fact that Kiev is the font of Holy Rus, but that would be too easy. Perhaps I’m too jaded.

And therein lies the rub. A lot to chew on here. Regardless, that is why I believe the long-term prospects of an independent Ukraine are untenable.

In any event, I pray that everyone is having a spiritually profitable Great Lent.

(Courtesy of Gail Sheppard):


  1. Johann Sebastian says

    I wonder if there is a protocol by which the Moscow Patriarchate could be relocated to Kiev. Isn’t the metropolia of Moscow technically the old Kievan metropolia in exile anyway?

    What no one needs is a uniate “Patriarch” of Kiev and all Rus’.

  2. George Michalopulos says

    This is an example of what I mean (courtesy: Byzantine, Texas):

  3. Jim Fenetalos says

    Just as Francesco Moraglia is the Patriarch of Venice, Bart will be the Eastern Rite Patriarch of Kiev and Thessalonia. The Ukranians have long begged the Holy Father for their own Patriarch. Moscow Patriarchate is uncanonical as it was granted autocephaly under duress and it recognizes the schismatics of FYROM. Come to Pope now, listen to Bart.

  4. Monk James says
  5. Uniatism is a disgrace and beyond the grace of the mysteries of the Church. It is outside the Church, not merely schismatic, but heretical and heterodox. It is heterodox because it intercommunes with those who profess heresy and because Uniates, in submitting themselves to a heresiarch, destroy all ties to the Church. Their liturgies are not the Body and Blood of Christ and their purported mysteries convey no grace whatsoever.

    They are a living, though dying, lie.

    Uniatism is one of the most insidious forms of the Roman Catholic heresy. Truthfully, we should have the opposite attitude toward them that we do in the Church. The Church has been far, far too indulgent of those who mock God in this way.

    Every purported celebration of the Divine Liturgy in a Unite church is a witness to their common faith with Rome in the imperial papacy, papal infallibility, the filioque (even if they are not forced to recite it), created grace, the Immaculate Conception and a host of other satanic heresies propagated by Rome and endorsed by these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Have nothing whatsoever to do with them. They are the very definition of evil.

  6. Helen Terry says

    George, thanks for finding the opportunity to point out that God’s judgment upon nations comes up from time to time, regardless of anyone’s agreeing with Him during the ordeal (pain and suffering when city walls are being demolished, raping and pillaging, etc. as is customary in OT scenarios…). Can’t remember where I read that high-level angels are in charge of each country and city’s outcomes…some spirits being far less than desirable…

  7. About a year ago I read a book, by a prominent Bishop in world Orthodoxy, that was purported to be an accurate exposition of the Orthodox Faith. Sadly, it seemed to be nothing more than his attempt to justify Orthodoxy’s involvement in ecumenical activities. Out of this disappointment of mine came the following short essays, which I think are appropriate to share here:

    (note: I’m personally not the kind to say for sure that Roman Catholicism etc. are definitely without grace. As George said earlier, this is up to God. One thing I’m quite definite about, however, is retaining the purity of Orthodoxy – the complete ‘organisation’, to which nothing needs to be added or taken away)

    1). Truth is superior to opinion. The former is impersonal (or objective), while the latter is merely personal (or subjective). In order to know and speak about truth we must have gone beyond self. Part of the way Orthodox Christianity does this is to come to believe that one is deserving of hell. Unless one has reached this state, they are still too in love with themselves to give anything but their own opinion on matters.

    Nevertheless, the Bishop devotes a number of pages at the end of his book to why salvation and not damnation for everyone is probably more likely. Is this truth or opinion speaking? Despite this, the bishop talk,s rather at length, of the hope there is that not only Orthodox Christians will be saved, but almost anyone else, no matter what. While this, in itself, isn’t a sentiment that I’d wish to challenge, what I do take exception to is the bishop’s overemphasis of it, to the point that he has clearly lost focus of giving a precise exposition of Orthodox Christianity, deviating towards what seems to be the ulterior motive of aligning it with Western churches.

    As I said above, the depths of Orthodox Christianity have it that in order to overcome (sufficiently enough) the retarded part in ourselves that sees only its subjective views, an assault against its stubborn pride must have taken effect. When this assault is more or less successful, a person really starts to see that they’re in trouble, owing to the lack of nobility in their soul. Given that this perspective is so much more than just words, the natural consequence is to find others worthier than ourselves, which is to say that the egos way of operating has been replaced, and the person begins to love God and neighbour as they should.

    From here, if despair over anyone’s salvation should arise, it’s not so much in regard to others as it is for the person who has become honest with them self. Such understanding, in addition to the love of God and neighbour that it provides, admits also to hope in a merciful God; for if it were otherwise then we could not find the goodness in others. What happens next (in terms of everyone’s salvation) is a question best left only to God, for reasons I need not even explain. But the bishop’s approach to this matter is out of order.

    Appearing rather comforted in the assurance of his own salvation, he’s now taken to worrying unproductively about that of others, which takes his rendition of Christian hope outside the limits of Orthodox Christianity; for what is this hope if not something only properly applied alongside legitimate faith (and love)? And yet the bishop all but scorns this faith by calling something else by its name. Faith in Christ is complete trust in the Church, and what follows is the ‘method’ of self-reproach, which provides nobody with enough time to change Her.

    Certainly, the soul of a Christian won’t hope for, let alone seek the damnation of others, but for this to come truly from the heart, they ought to have followed the Orthodox Christian way. Anything else gives room for vanity to play its part, and while the latter always appeals to a certain level of understanding, its essence never fails to offend. In treating the matter of hope and salvation as he’s done, the bishop has sadly crossed over into condescension; and it couldn’t be otherwise when the tone of all his theories amounts to him having secured a ticket to heaven, but not others. If this were not true, then from where does all his worry about others originate? And such is the delicate nature of Orthodox Christianity, whereby a person not on top of it can mistake a plank in their eye for a crossing; but to be sure, an unbridgeable gap exists between really caring for others and only thinking this is done by using it to mix the Orthodox Church with others.

    No doubt, many fine Christians have gone to lengths to bring others into the Church, but this is far from ‘caring’ so much as to abandon her. For one, no condescension can be found in this activity when it’s understood that it takes its lead from submitting to God, and not the restless schemes of imagination. In the former, the Christian applies their religion in toto, whereby faith, hope and love effect an actual transformation of the person, while respecting the tradition of the Church that made this possible, whereas the latter ignores the intricacy of all this, and blows one thing or another out of proportion. Truly, a body with everything in its place, and running smoothly, has something that deformation can never have; and although the question of everyone’s salvation still lingers, we can be sure that this is ultimately out of our control, putting ideas of substantially altering Orthodox Christianity right out of contention, regardless of how others might play down the extent of these changes.

    2). What is multiculturalism if not a disregard, dissatisfaction or even a loathing for one’s own culture? Is not Christian ecumenism not merely an offshoot of the modern frenzy for multiculturalism? Anybody who cannot see that the modern world and everything that it calls good – even if that good comes in the form of talk about peace and unity – is only superficial and deceptive is liable to be sucked into thinking multiculturalism is good and that Christianity should be part of it. This won’t do, however.

    As was said above, multiculturalism is at least dissatisfaction with one’s rich culture, and this is never a good place for someone to be, for it ultimately betrays their distance from that which marvels in the life that already is, and the culture which is supposed to reflect this. This is why boredom is a sin: because it basically admits to the miracle of life in and around oneself not being enough. This is ingratitude and blasphemy edging towards the highest; this is the same spirit or mentality that drives multiculturalism; and this is also what’s behind Christian ecumenism.

    I don’t say that we should all now turn our backs on refugees etc. This all simply goes to show that the ideal would be monoculture. If this were heaven and one monoculture got along famously with all other monocultures, then that would be all the better, but failing this, we have to accept that a fallible monoculture, based on infallible or heavenly ideals, is next in line, if true meaning and integrity are important. And, in fact, this precise model did have its day, but now appears to be entirely unsustainable. As various pressures within certain pockets of the globe make mass migrations unavoidable, we’re now stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, it’s truly unthinkable that we could say no to people looking to flee from abject poverty or war, and on the other, we can see that this mixing of cultures can lead us no place good. Well may the ‘euphamists’ label it multi-culture, but for it to ‘succeed’ it must eventually become no-culture. This would be disastrous for human beings. Now, although the Orthodox Church isn’t in a position to alter this trend in any significant way, it’s still rather in the driver’s seat when deciding whether or not she’ll be influenced by it in her own sphere.

    3). One of the characteristic features of secular thinking is relativism, which has it that no absolute right or wrong exists, and that every man can more or less choose for himself. The problem with such thinking, of course, is that it falls back on itself, for if relativity is true then it is only relative itself, holding no absolute basis to start from. “A house divided against itself cannot stand” holds true in this instance, and gives us warning against relativity’s connection to the devil.

    Nevertheless, the bishop’s thinking is influenced by it, for if it wasn’t, he could have no accord with a movement at (………….) University, for one, whose basic end will unavoidably see the Orthodox Church in bed with Western churches. Absolute truth, which Orthodox Christianity not only teaches to exist but also possesses, means wholeness or completeness, and this admits to no extravagant additions or subtractions, allowing for the wisdom of the ages to remain unchecked, across all time.

    If the Orthodox Church, in seeing and knowing this, saw fit to stringently hold its bounds all these centuries, despite the occasional sayings of her children, which might be able to be construed differently, then what business is it of ours, in the midst of these truly decadent times, to change anything substantial?

    The point is that absolute truth makes a stand. Where everything caught up in time is swept along with the tide of relativity and destruction, the truth holds tight in the face of it, remaining what it is, regardless. Thus, as modern science, technology, fashion and whatever else changes its form to meet only the burning question of the day, Orthodox Christianity sees the folly in all this, because it knows man’s true meaning and purpose to love God, and to conquer what’s inside him that prevents this love.

    In view of all this, it becomes impossible to understand the compatibility between unchanging truth, and its unswerving stance against place and time, and a bishop who’d bring down the Church Militant’s necessary borders. Where almost everything and everyone today is being herded towards standing only for self-defeating compromise (or rigidity), the real and living wisdom of the Church is aware that nothing of this sort belongs to her.

    For instance, if I know that taking poison will kill me, then I have both a right and a duty to abstain, even if everyone around me thinks and does differently. This is a stance of truth before falsehood, and no legitimate accusation can be brought against it. Even so, the bishop, in his book, attempts to explain the need for such compromise along the lines of the Church being a living (and therefore dynamic) organism. While he’s quite right about the living organism part, he falls into a ditch for having mistaken dynamism or activity for appearances – another modern dilemma, if I can say so.

    Genuine or living dynamism is nothing other than the conscious effort made by someone to not be taken up internally with fleeting thoughts, feelings and events. The more conscious a person is with doing this, the more dynamic, stable and unchanging he is; yet should he neglect this genuine activity, he’s rendered passive no matter what appears on the surface. Clearly, the modern world is all but hopelessly passive, given its addiction to the pain and pleasure of the tides; but far from seeing this for what it really is, it believes itself to be productive in the extreme. I ask you, then, is this what is meant by the living, dynamic and incorruptible organism of the Church? That which withers into decrepitude like ordinary men’s bodies? For my part, I can only strongly disagree, for I’ve been taught that the body of Christ is incorruptible, meaning that its dynamism is not what the bishop calls it. To be sure, parts of the Church have and still will fall victim to false dynamism or activity (a topic I continue to treat below), and yet “the gates of Hades will not prevail” .

    4). The book in focus here is presumably an exposition of the Orthodox Faith, and yet one wonders if it isn’t more of an attempt to justify the involvement of some Orthodox in the ecumenical movement. In some cases the bishop, instead of giving the tried and tested position of the Church, goes to lengths to ensure the reader that the exclusive and scary parts of orthodoxy can really be explained in more open and comforting ways, making this the focus of his message, rather than orthodoxy good and proper. That his attempts at this are quite closely followed by an invitation to the ecumenical activities at (……….) University can be no coincidence. Thus, if this was the bishop’s intent, then he’d have done well to make that clear from the start. Failing to do so, however, removes him from the straightforwardness of Christian Tradition, placing his character and motives under suspicion. Men (and let’s be clear about this, Christianity is patriarchal) are upfront, whereas women are generally more cagey, owing to their increased sense of timidity. For anyone paying attention, there can be no doubt that the modern society in general is more feminine, placing the bishop’s predilection within that scheme, and thus more removed from the masculine confrontation between Christianity or truth (no matter how unpleasant) and falsehood.

    5). The bishop invokes the word love a lot. In doing so it becomes easy (whether he intends it or not) to label anyone who disagrees with him as hateful. The same phenomenon (again, whether conscious or not) exists in the modern, secular world, whereby increasing numbers of people talk about love, charity and equality etc. without really knowing the first thing about them. The end result is hypocrisy, for having imagined that we’re connected with even those across the straits, while being entirely indifferent to those in front of us. For this reason, Christianity, while absolutely being the religion of love, fills its teachings with as many warnings as blessings. If it were otherwise, the Christian might miss the terrible state he’s in, mistaking his soul for something more.

    Tears and a broken heart (more or less) about one’s soul condition is the gateway to overcoming the tendencies of luciferic pride, hence the tough love meted out by God’s message. This assault on pride however is little to be found through a bishop (and his ecumenical movement) who abuse the word love to meet their ends; but almost anybody can see that the possibility of hell fire is unpleasant and not wishing it upon others isn’t profound. Doubtless, some people struggle to see things in this way, and yet they’re not the measure, so tailoring a message about love to their level of comprehension is unproductive, particularly when the future organisation of the Church is at stake.

    To make the realisation of salvation sound easy is therefore not Christianity, but speaks more of the expedient spirit of this age with its focus on convenience stores, fast food outlets, and warp speed Internet connections. Does real Christianity actually have so much in common with non-religious attitudes or interests? Does saying no to this question nullify the mercy of what truly belongs to the Christian God?

    6). In another place, the bishop’s book quotes someone (I forget his name) who has also done his part to challenge pedagogy and fear in Orthodox Christianity. This gentleman suggests that the unparalleled tumult of the 20th century has left people too weary to be further scandalised by a religion that would strike the fear of God into them. This, again, however is nothing more than evidence of someone seeing only what they want to see.

    While I’m far from denying the tragedy of the 20th century, I hardly see it fit for use in dismantling Christian Tradition. What ultimately traumatises people is identification with passing thoughts, feelings and events, at the expense of that which is spiritual, lasting and stable. This identification causes many problems for us, ranging from general anxiety to world wars, and so if humanity has had to suffer the ill effects of identification with change, far be it for the Church (THE antidote to change) to be among that which aggravates the situation.

    What I have said here is that change essentially created the horrors of the 20th century, and change is essentially the reason for people’s continued trauma, whether it’s because of the massive changes to life that followed the events of this violent era, or whether it’s simply because this is how fallen humanity ‘lives’. What people need, then, more than anything in the world, is an anchor or something which gives them stability. The pace of life today truly is soul destroying, and to top it all off, not only do the ecumenists not fully appreciate the cause of our dilemma, but they add to it by joining the revolution against everything. ‘Is nothing sacred’ is the question asked when the wrecking ball of ‘progress’ makes its presence felt in the realm of some tradition or custom, and it never took on so much meaning as now and at a time when the titans have well and truly got a grip upon the ark.

    Note well, I’m not opposed to all change, but I do insist on it being intelligent – i.e. something which comes from within a given phenomenon, and not from without. What this means is that change must meet with the essence and purpose of that which it seeks to alter; failure to do so can only result in the destruction of the original purpose

    7). Observably, the motives of the bishop are only a continuation of modern ‘tolerance’. While the essence of tolerance is admirable, its poor cousin in the realm of modern thinking is actually anything but. In the modern sense just given, tolerance is little more than an indifference to truth, whereby anybody conceding to its doctrine must erase the line that divides truth from error, for the purpose of creating the illusion of peace. Let’s make no mistake, however: once the subtle war of tolerance against Tolerance has been won, there’s nothing left for it to fight against but itself. This means, that if appearances lead one to suspect that the bishop and his friends are peaceful fellows, then a deeper perspective will only show up their violence, as their war against the truth makes quite clear.

    Christians are, of course, instructed to ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘judge not’, but it would be a grave mistake to start to believe that this is an indictment to be ‘tolerant’ (accept everything, always and everywhere); for what would happen if the one hit on the cheek, accepted the impulse to strike back? Clearly, then, Christian tolerance is that which says yes to some things and no to others, lest the violence of reaction – one side against the other, ad infinitum – gets out of hand. This represents the STARK differences between the peaceful war of truth against falsehood, and the destructive fight of falsehood against truth. Where the bishop and the ecumenists (i.e. those who would try and stuff the square peg of the Orthodox Church into the round whole of its unity with Western churches) fit the mould of the destructive fight is that they cannot accept what’s already there. Accepting existence is the depth of Christ’s wisdom, and allows anyone who would listen to judge not, in fact. Yet, as we have seen, the individuals in question here cannot even accept the beauty of the Church, let alone withstand the trials of an attacker. This is the violent, destructive war: that which rages against all existence, and would destroy life (and its symbols) if it could; this, then, is tolerance, for you: the swan song of those who hate religion, who think they can be good without it, and who ultimately come to tolerate everything but the truth; and this is the bishop and his (…………..) Univeristy establishment: those who see eye-to-eye with the above, but are spurred on nonetheless because they don’t see it.

    8). The bishop says in his book, more than once, that it’s good for Orthodox Christians to meet with others in order to learn some lessons. While such statements appear good to the eye, they serve as an attack of false humility against the heart. Which good monk, we might ask, ignores the profundity of silence in deep prayer in order to listen to the ‘lessons’ of voices that come to distract him? In fact, he doesn’t, and so submits totally to God in what can only be described as true humility. Taking this as our basis for ultimate goodness or virtue, we can see that anything seeking to take the monk’s attention away, no matter how intriguing it may present itself to be, is to be likened to the destructive influence of liberalism. Where the silence in deep prayer is the height of conservatism – i.e. that which conserves the integrity of the soul par excellence – anything which comes to disrupt this conservation brings the soul down into the mud.

    As an analogy to this, we find the deep prayer of a monk, which is the apex of the Christian experience, to be like the conservation of the Church. Where the monk unites with God and becomes immortal (unchanging) for doing so, so the Church unites with God by conserving her tradition. Thus, just as the monk forfeits his immortality or conservation by conceding to liberal thoughts, so too does the Church relinquish hers by giving over to unorthodox ideas. And yet, this is what happened when Rome split away from the East, and Protestants and Anglicans split away from Rome. Where the East remained like the monk in deep, conservative silence, Rome, Germany and England were like him who was listening to distractions. What, then, these churches have to offer the East in way of lessons, is not particularly clear. If certain men in the East, over the years, have suggested otherwise, on account of their questionable behaviour, then it’s not the Church that has to answer for this, but the individual himself. Certainly, many interesting ideas – religious or not – can be found almost anywhere, but what better place to go for true understanding than to Christ, the Angels and the Church?; and so if lessons are what the bishop wants, he has only to look more carefully at his religion. Anything other than this would have it that it’s good to talk with demons as we pray.

    And in the event that this analogy needs to be drawn out more, in order to make it complete, I invite the reader to consider this: The modern, irreligious world is doing all it can currently do to undermine religion. For anyone sufficiently alert to social trends, this should only be too clear, the only point of contention resting on whether the individual observer views this as a positive thing or not. For those of us who disagree with the onslaught, we represent the one that is smitten, while those who would see religion abolished yesterday are obviously the attacker. It therefore behoves the smitten one, in obedience to its Master, to at least try and not react, but keep its peace. This, however, isn’t happening with the bishop and the ecumenists. Unduly scandalised by the effects of secularism on traditional values, they’ve jerked at the knee, so to speak, in order that what is more wholesome isn’t lost. But a violent war in the name of what’s good is a violent war nonetheless, and the end result will be disappointing, despite the fact that it may not be readily discernable to some; for how is it that the external body of false ecumenical ‘Christianity’, that these reactionaries would build, could be anything but unstable, once built on shaky ground?

    9). The next thing to consider with regard to the bishop is the chapter he’s written concerning the antichrist. The overall tone of this short chapter is one of: ‘don’t think about this problem too much, lest you be caught up with those past and present who treated the topic as though it were the whole of Christianity itself’. While the point is taken, I should like to add to this statement by saying that one chapter in a whole book on Christianity – even if the chapter was rather long – does not admit to an overemphasis on antichrist, but merely acknowledges its place within the whole. Having established this, I think it prudent to replace the bishop’s laissez faire fair attitude to this topic with one that’s of signal importance.

    Well may it be to suppose that looking for demons here and there amounts to only a distraction from more important things, but then again what is the life of a Christian on the Way if not a never-ending act of discernment? Should this lack of effort be found wanting in the Christian, he will be apt to fall into deception, thus highlighting just how crucial it is to pay the danger of antichrist its dues, thanks to the direct analogy between the life of the Church and the pilgrim. To simply believe that significant concern for what’s prophesied to be the most soul destroying deception of all time is little more than human dramatics gone too far, is itself nothing more than the implication that all is well and will be fine. If this is the case, however, then there was no need for the Church or her devotees, but since we know better, we should stay alert.

    Now, because the Church has been and is still necessary for the salvation of souls, we’d do well to help ensure that she retains her saving Grace. In saying this, it should take no time to realise that where the danger of hell is quite real, an attempt will be made to compromise the salvific refuge of the Church. In fact, nothing could be clearer, and yet the bishop has tried to lead us to believe that we’re all paranoid or neurotic to really think about it. I reject this position and would put in its stead a stern warning that acknowledges the need for an effective Church, along with due concern for whatever might comprise it. While I admit that such a thing as too much fear is possible, I know also that not enough of it can do more harm.

    Unfortunately for the bishop, he’s asleep in this regard, which sees him cavorting with influences that are not Christian. Although he seems to appreciate that Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists are not of Christ, there’s still a blind spot with regard to the other churches. If this were not so serious, there’d be no reason to write what I have, and yet this oversight of his is possibly the worst. After all, should a bishop of Christ show distinct signs of an attraction to Muhammad, for instance, then almost anyone can pull him up before too long; but when lovely sentiments are more or less expressed in favour of over familiarity with Western Christianity, the potential for too many to be seduced becomes great. I repeat: antichrist is an all too real problem, and if a graceful Church in opposition to the torments of hell has ever meant anything, at any time, then it follows that this grace will come under attack, and in a way that will take many unawares. The part of this equation which doesn’t clearly describe the spell the bishop is under is only something others who are with him could fail to see; and it’s for this reason precisely that his attempt to be undramatic in the under-cooked chapter on antichrist is sadly an unconscious betrayal of his guilt.

    10). It’s come to mind recently that the following note may not be unnecessary: where deep, silent and conservative prayer is the ultimate Christian experience, even arguments such as those I have provided above, would only serve as a distraction, and would therefore need to be rejected. However, when this kind of prayer isn’t the aim, then these arguments (in support of deep prayer and its consequences for Orthodox Christianity) take their rightful place, in which case anything that would contradict these arguments becomes the object of rejection. This appears to be the correct order of things, and yet the bishop/ecumenists fall foul of this scheme for having failed to discern the significance of deep prayer and how the Church and her conservation is analogous to it. Their arguments, then, are at best a confusion of the appreciation of deep prayer with other things, which ultimately means no real appreciation at all.

  8. Ecumenism, since before Patriarch Meletios IV, really has been a negative development in the Orthodox Church. That being said, things are probably better for the heterodox than some of the most ardent traditionalists would allow. “The Kingdom of Heaven/God”, “the Pearl of Great Price”, “salvation” and a number of other terms very often refer to theosis, not particularly to deliverance from eternal damnation.

    Thus when someone asserts, “There is no salvation outside the Church.”, one is not necessarily saying that all heterodox or pagans will be condemned to hell, but rather that only through the Church may theosis be rightly pursued or attained.

    As to what actually does happen to the heterodox and unrepentant Orthodox, we assume that God makes an effort during the Particular Judgment, immediately after death, to sort out the salvageable souls from the non-salvageable souls in a process often described as the Aerial Toll Houses. The time for repentance is over and the question becomes, “What is the balance of this account?” This is the activity of the angels and demons described in the Fathers that occurs at this time.

    But bear in mind, the toll houses are an analogy or metaphor for something that takes place on the spiritual plane that is beyond our earthly comprehension. We describe it seeing “as if through a glass, darkly.”

    Thus, there is hope for the heterodox and pagans as well, though it appears much more daunting for them than for, example, an Orthodox believer in good faith. As to hell, we are told that it is eternal and that once a person is committed thereto at the Last Judgment, one is eternally lost. However, we are also told that Hell and Death are cast into the Lake of Fire in the eschaton as well and that this is called the Second Death.

    “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” Rev. 20:14

    One may consult the Fathers or speculate as to precisely what that means. Better to keep ones opinions between oneself and ones confessor, though.

    “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink . . . ‘” Matthew 25:41-42

    What one can say is that hell was created for Satan and his minions and that it appears that some number of human souls, despite God’s best efforts, may be condemned to that fate by their own free will and voluntary complicity with the free will of the evil one.

  9. Misha, your very scholastic approach to judgement, grace, salvation and the after life is confusing. You purport to have all the answers in little packages rather than accepting the Orthodox apophatic approach which affirms mystery.

    We do know for certain that heaven will be populated by forgiven people. Essential to salvation is experiencing God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus. The sacraments are affirmations, confirmations and celebrations of God’s forgiveness. We do not earn salvation but rather accept it as a gift freely offered through Jesus. We must continuously seek and receive that forgiveness.

    • johnkal,

      “Essential to salvation is experiencing God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus. The sacraments are affirmations, confirmations and celebrations of God’s forgiveness.”

      You speak as if the Mysteries are merely symbols and sola fides is the main criterion. In this, you are mistaken.

      “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:15-23

      You are a protestant. You write like a protestant from a protestant frame of reference. That’s fine, but do not presume to speak about Orthodoxy, which is not your accepted faith. Someone may have let you in the door, but they did not convert you.

      Those who accuse the Orthodox of works righteousness should be shown the door immediately. Protestantism is a false religious movement in which there is no salvation.