Ijov’s Blog

March 26, 2011

Prophetic Vision of Hell of St. John Bosco

The Holy Saint John Bosco had a Prophetic Vision of Hell in 1868 A.D., (*which is recorded in its entirety below.)

Many of the dreams of St. John Bosco could more properly be called visions, for God used this means to reveal His will for the Saint and for the boys of the Oratory, as well as the future of the Salesian Congregation. Not only did his dreams lead and direct the Saint, they also gave him wisdom and guidance by which he was able to help and guide others upon their ways. He was just nine years of age when he had his first dream that laid out his life mission. It was this dream that impressed Pope Pius IX so much that he ordered St. John Bosco to write down his dreams for the encouragement of his Congregation and the rest of us. Through dreams God allowed him to know the future of each of the boys of his Oratory. Through dreams God let him know the boys’ state of their souls. On February 1, 1865 St. John Bosco announced that one of the boys will die soon. He knew the boy through the dream the night before. On March 16, 1865, Anthony Ferraris passed away after receiving the Last Sacraments. John Bisio, who helped Anthony and his mother during the former’s last hour, confirmed the story of his part in this episode by a formal oath, concluding as foIlows: “Don Bosco told us many other dreams concerning Oratory boys’ deaths. We believed them to be true prophecies. We still do, because unfailingly they came true. During the seven years I lived at the Oratory, not a boy died without Don Bosco predicting his death. We were also convinced that whoever died there under his care and assistance surely went to heaven.”

St John Bosco and his oratory

St John Bosco and his oratory

*The Road to Hell
(Prophetic Dream of St. John Bosco 1868 A.D.)

On Sunday night, May 3 [1868], the feast of Saint Joseph’s patronage, Don Bosco resumed the narration of his dreams:

I have another dream to tell you, a sort of aftermath of those I told you last Thursday and Friday which totally exhausted me. Call them dreams or whatever you like. Always, as you know, on the night of April 17 a frightful toad seemed bent on devouring me. When it finally vanished, a voice said to me: “Why don’t you tell them?” I turned in that direction and saw a distinguished person standing by my bed. Feeling guilty about my silence, I asked: “What should I tell my boys?”

“What you have seen and heard in your last dreams and what you have wanted to know and shall have revealed to you tomorrow night!” He then vanished.

I spent the whole next day worrying about the miserable night in store for me, and when evening came, loath to go to bed, I sat at my desk browsing through books until midnight. The mere thought of having more nightmares thoroughly scare me. However, with great effort, I finally went to bed.
“Get up and follow me!” he said.

“For Heaven’s sake,” I protested, “leave me alone. I am exhausted! I’ve been tormented by a toothache for several days now and need rest. Besides, nightmares have completely worn me out.” I said this because this man’s apparition always means trouble, fatigue, and terror for me.

“Get up,” he repeated. “You have no time to lose.”

I complied and followed him. “Where are you taking me?” I asked.

“Never mind. You’ll see.” He led me to a vast, boundless plain, veritably a lifeless desert, with not a soul in sight or a tree or brook. Yellowed, dried-up vegetation added to the desolation I had no idea where I was or what was I to do. For a moment I even lost sight of my guide and feared that I was lost, utterly alone. Father Rua, Father Francesia, nowhere to be seen. When I finally saw my friend coming toward me, I sighed in relief.

“Where am I?” I asked.

“Come with me and you will find out!”

“All right. I’ll go with you.”

He led the way and I followed in silence, but after a long, dismal trudge, I began worrying whether I would ever be able to cross that vast expanse, what with my toothache and swollen legs. Suddenly I saw a road ahead.

“Where to now?” I asked my guide.

“This way,” he replied.

We took the road. It was beautiful, wide, and neatly paved. “The way of sinners is made plain with stones, and in their end is hell, and darkness, and pains. ” (Ecclesiasticus 21: 11, stones: broad and easy.) Both sides were lined with magnificent verdant hedges dotted with gorgeous flowers. Roses, especially, peeped everywhere through the leaves. At first glance, the road was level and comfortable, and so I ventured upon it without the least suspicion, but soon I noticed that it insensibly kept sloping downward. Though it did not look steep at all, I found myself moving so swiftly that I felt I was effortlessly gliding through the air. Really, I was gliding and hardly using my feet. Then the thought struck me that the return trip would be very long and arduous.

“How shall we get back to the Oratory?” I asked worriedly.

“Do not worry,” he answered. “The Almighty wants you to go. He who leads you on will also know how to lead you back.”

The road is sloping downward. As we were continuing on our way, flanked by banks of roses and other flowers, I became aware that the Oratory boys and very many others whom I did not know were following me. Somehow I found myself in their midst. As I was looking at them, I noticed now one, now another fall to the ground and instantly be dragged by an unseen force toward a frightful drop, distantly visible, which sloped into a furnace. “What makes these boys fall?” I asked my companion. “The proud have hidden a net for me. And they have stretched out cords for a snare: they have laid for me a stumbling-block by the wayside.” (Psalms 139: 6)

“Take a closer look,” he replied.

I did. Traps were everywhere, some close to the ground, others at eye level, but all well concealed. Unaware of their danger, many boys got caught, and they tripped, they would sprawl to the ground, legs in the air. Then, when they managed to get back on their feet, they would run headlong down the road toward the abyss. Some got trapped by the head, others by the neck, hand, arms, legs, or sides, and were pulled down instantly. The ground traps, fine as spiders’ webs and hardly visible, seemed very flimsy and harmless; yet, to my surprise, every boy they snared fell to the ground.

Noticing my astonishment, the guide remarked, “Do you know what this is?”

“Just some filmy fiber,” I answered.

“A mere nothing,” he said, “just plain human respect.”,

Seeing that many boys were being caught in those straps. I asked, “Why do so many get caught? Who pulls them down?”

“Go nearer and you will see!” he told me.

I followed his advice but saw nothing peculiar.

“Look closer,” he insisted.

I picked up one of the traps and tugged. I immediately felt some resistance. I pulled harder, only to feel that, instead of drawing the thread closer, I was being pulled down myself. I did not resist and soon found myself at the mouth of a frightful cave. I halted, unwilling to venture into that deep cavern, and again started pulling the thread toward me. It gave a little, but only through great effort on my part. I kept tugging, and after a long while a huge, hideous monster emerged, clutching a rope to which all those traps were tied together. He was the one who instantly dragged down anyone who got caught in them. It won’t do to match my strength with his, I said to myself. I’ll certainly lose. I’d better fight him with the Sign of the Cross and with short invocations.

Then I went back to my guide. “Now you know who he is,” he said to me.

“I surely do! It is the devil himself!”

Carefully examining many of the traps, I saw that each bore an inscription: Pride, Disobedience, Envy, Sixth Commandment, Theft, Gluttony, Sloth, Anger and so on. Stepping back a bit to see which ones trapped the greater number of boys, I discovered that the most dangerous were those of impurity, disobedience, and pride. In fact, these three were linked to together. Many other traps also did great harm, but not as much as the first two. Still watching, I noticed many boys running faster than others. “Why such haste?” I asked.

“Because they are dragged by the snare of human respect.”

Looking even more closely, I spotted knives among the traps. A providential hand had put them there for cutting oneself free. The bigger ones, symbolizing meditation, were for use against the trap of pride; others, not quite as big, symbolized spiritual reading well made. There were also two swords representing devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, especially through frequent Holy Communion, and to the Blessed Virgin. There was also a hammer symbolizing confession, and other knives signifying devotion to Saint Joseph, to Saint Aloysius, and to other Saints. By these means quite a few boys were able to free themselves or evade capture.

Indeed I saw some lads walking safely through all those traps, either by good timing before the trap sprung on them or by making it slip off them if they got caught.

When my guide was satisfied that I had observed everything, he made me continue along that rose-hedged road, but the farther we went the scarcer the roses became. Long thorns began to show up, and soon the roses were no more. The hedges became sun-scorched, leafless, and thorn-studded. Withered branches torn from the bushes lay criss-crossed along the roadbed, littering it with thorns and making it impassable. We had come now to a gulch whose steep sides hid what lay beyond. The road, still sloping downward, was becoming ever more horrid, rutted, guttered, and bristling with rocks and boulders. I lost track of all my boys, most of whom had left this treacherous road for other paths.

I kept going, but the farther I advanced, the more arduous and steep became the descent, so that I tumbled and fell several times, lying prostrate until I could catch my breath. Now and then my guide supported me or helped me to rise. At every step my joints seemed to give way, and I thought my shinbones would snap. Panting, I said to my guide, “My good fellow, my legs won’t carry me another step. I just can’t go any farther.” He did not answer but continued walking. Taking heart, I followed until, seeing me soaked in perspiration and thoroughly exhausted, he led me to a little clearing alongside the road. I sat down, took a deep breath, and felt a little better. From my resting place, the road I had already traveled looked very steep, jagged, and strewn with loose stones, but what lay ahead seemed so much worse that I closed my eyes in horror.

“Let’s go back,” I pleaded. “If we go any farther, how shall we ever get back to the Oratory? I will never make it up this slope.”

“Now that we have come so far, do you want me to leave you here?” my guide sternly asked.

At this threat, I wailed, “How can I survive without your help?”

“Then follow me.”

We continued our descent, the road now becoming so frightfully steep that it was almost impossible to stand erect. And then, at the bottom of this precipice, at the entrance of a dark valley, an enormous building loomed into sight, its towering portal, tightly locked, facing our road. When I finally got to the bottom, I became smothered by a suffocating heat, while a greasy, green-tinted smoke lit by flashes of scarlet flames rose from behind those enormous walls which loomed higher than mountains.

“Where are we? What is this?” I asked my guide.

“Read the inscription on that portal and you will know.”

I looked up and read these words: “The place of no reprieve.” I realized that we were at the gates of Hell. The guide led me all around this horrible place. At regular distance bronze portals like the first overlooked precipitous descents; on each was an inscription, such as: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25: 41) “Every tree that yielded not good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the the fire.” (Matthew 7: 19)

I tried to copy them into my notebook, but my guide restrained me: “There is no need. You have them all in Holy Scripture. You even have some of them inscribed in your porticoes.”

At such a sight I wanted to turn back and return to the Oratory. As a matter of fact, I did start back, but my guide ignored my attempt. After trudging through a steep, never-ending ravine, we again came to the foot of the precipice facing the first portal. Suddenly the guide turned to me. Upset and startled, he motioned to me to step aside. “Look!” he said.

I looked up in terror and saw in the distance someone racing down the path at an uncontrollable speed. I kept my eyes on him, trying to identify him, and as he got closer, I recognized him as one of my boys. His disheveled hair was partly standing upright on his head and partly tossed back by the wind. His arms were outstretched as though he were thrashing the water in an attempt to stay afloat. He wanted to stop, but could not. Tripping on the protruding stones, he kept falling even faster. “Let’s help him, let’s stop him,” I shouted, holding out my hands in a vain effort to restrain him.

“Leave him alone,” the guide replied.

“Why?”

“Don’t you know how terrible God’s vengeance is? Do you think you can restrain one who is fleeing from His just wrath?”

Meanwhile the youth had turned his fiery gaze backward in an attempt to see if God’s wrath were still pursuing him. The next moment he fell tumbling to the bottom of the ravine and crashed against the bronze portal as though he could find no better refuge in his flight.

“Why was he looking backward in terror?” I asked.

“Because God’s wrath will pierce Hell’s gates to reach and torment him even in the midst of fire!”

As the boy crashed into the portal, it sprang open with a roar, and instantly a thousand inner portals opened with a deafening clamor as if struck by a body that had been propelled by an invisible, most violent, irresistible gale. As these bronze doors — one behind the other, though at a considerable distance from each other — remained momentarily open, I saw far into the distance something like furnace jaws sprouting fiery balls the moment the youth hurtled into it. As swiftly as they had opened, the portals then clanged shut again. For a third time I tried to jot down the name of that unfortunate lad, but the guide again restrained me. “Wait,” he ordered.

“Watch!”

Three other boys of ours, screaming in terror and with arms outstretched, were rolling down one behind the other like massive rocks, I recognized them as they too crashed against the portal. In that split second, it sprang open and so did the other thousand. The three lads were sucked into that endless corridor amid a long-drawn, fading, infernal echo, and then the portals clanged shut again. At intervals, many other lads came tumbling down after them. I saw one unlucky boy being pushed down the slope by an evil companion. Others fell singly or with others, arm in arm or side by side. Each of them bore the name of his sin on his forehead. I kept calling to them as they hurtled down, but they did not hear me. Again the portals would open thunderously and slam shut with a rumble. Then, dead silence!

“Bad companions, bad books, and bad habits,” my guide exclaimed, “are mainly responsible for so many eternally lost.”

The traps I had seen earlier were indeed dragging the boys to ruin. Seeing so many going to perdition, I cried out disconsolately, “If so many of our boys end up this way, we are working in vain. How can we prevent such tragedies?”

“This is their present state,” my guide replied, “and that is where they would go if they were to die now.”

“Then let me jot down their names so that I may warn them and put them back on the path to Heaven.”

“Do you really believe that some of them would reform if you were to warn them? Then and there your warning might impress them, but soon they will forget it, saying, ‘It was just a dream,’ and they will do worse than before. Others, realizing they have been unmasked, receive the sacraments, but this will be neither spontaneous nor meritorious; others will go to confession because of a momentary fear of Hell but will still be attached to sin.”

“Then is there no way to save these unfortunate lads? Please, tell me what I can do for them.”

“They have superiors; let them obey them. They have rules; let them observe them. They have the sacraments; let them receive them.”

St John Bosco and his boys

St John Bosco and his boys

Just then a new group of boys came hurtling down and the portals momentarily opened. “Let’s go in,” the guide said to me.

I pulled back in horror. I could not wait to rush back to the Oratory to warn the boys lest others might be lost as well.

“Come,” my guide insisted. “You’ll learn much. But first tell me: Do you wish to go alone or with me?” He asked this to make me realize that I was not brave enough and therefore needed his friendly assistance.

“Alone inside that horrible place?” I replied. “How will I ever be able to find my way out without your help?” Then a thought came to my mind and aroused my courage. Before one is condemned to Hell, I said to myself, he must be judged. And I haven’t been judged yet!

“Let’s go,” I exclaimed resolutely. We entered that narrow, horrible corridor and whizzed through it with lightning speed. Threatening inscriptions shone eerily over all the inner gateways. The last one opened into a vast, grim courtyard with a large, unbelievably forbidding entrance at the far end. Above it stood this inscription:

“These shall go into everlasting punishment.” (Matthew 25: 46) The walls all about were similarly inscribed. I asked my guide if I could read them, and he consented. These were the inscriptions:

“He will give fire, and worms into their flesh, and they may burn and may feel forever.” (Judith 16: 21)

“The pool of fire where both the beast and the false prophet shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Apocalypse 20: 9-10)

“And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up forever and ever.” (Apocalypse 14: 11)

“A land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and no order, but everlasting horror dwelleth.” (Job 10: 22)

“There is no peace to the wicked.” (Isaias 47: 22)

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12)

While I moved from one inscription to another, my guide, who had stood in the center of the courtyard, came up to me.

“From here on,” he said, “no one may have a helpful companion, a comforting friend, a loving heart, a compassionate glance, or a benevolent word. All this is gone forever. Do you just want to see or would you rather experience these things yourself?”

“I only want to see!” I answered.

“Then come with me,” my friend added, and, taking me in tow, he stepped through that gate into a corridor at whose far end stood an observation platform, closed by a huge, single crystal pane reaching from the pavement to the ceiling. As soon as I crossed its threshold, I felt an indescribable terror and dared not take another step. Ahead of me I could see something like an immense cave which gradually disappeared into recesses sunk far into the bowels of the mountains. They were all ablaze, but theirs was not an earthly fire with leaping tongues of flames. The entire cave –walls, ceiling, floor, iron, stones, wood, and coal — everything was a glowing white at temperatures of thousands of degrees. Yet the fire did not incinerate, did not consume. I simply can’t find words to describe the cavern’s horror. “The nourishment thereof is fire and much wood: the breath of the Lord as a torrent of brimstone kindling it.” (Isaias 30: 33)

I was staring in bewilderment about me when a lad dashed out of a gate. Seemingly unaware of anything else, he emitted a most shrilling scream, like one who is about to fall into a cauldron of liquid bronze, and plummeted into the center of the cave. Instantly he too became incandescent and perfectly motionless, while the echo of his dying wail lingered for an instant more.

Terribly frightened, I stared briefly at him for a while. He seemed to be one of my Oratory boys. “Isn’t he so and so?” I asked my guide.

“Yes,” was the answer.

“Why is he so still, so incandescent?”

“You chose to see,” he replied. “Be satisfied with that. Just keep looking. Besides, “Everyone shall be salted with fire.” (Mark 9: 48)

As I looked again, another boy came hurtling down into the cave at breakneck speed. He too was from the Oratory. As he fell, so he remained. He too emitted one single heart-rending shriek that blended with the last echo of the scream that came from the youth who had preceded him. Other boys kept hurtling in the same way in increasing numbers, all screaming the same way and then all becoming equally motionless and incandescent. I noticed that the first seemed frozen to the spot, one hand and one foot raised into the air; the second boy seemed bent almost double to the floor. Others stood or hung in various other positions, balancing themselves on one foot or hand, sitting or lying on their backs or on their sides, standing or kneeling, hands clutching their hair. Briefly, the scene resembled a large statuary group of youngsters cast into ever more painful postures. Other lads hurtled into that same furnace. Some I knew; others were strangers to me. I then recalled what is written in the Bible to the effect that as one falls into Hell, so he shall forever remain. “. . . in what place soever it shall fall, there shall it be.” (Ecclesiastes 11:3)

More frightened than ever, I asked my guide, “When these boys come dashing into this cave, don’t they know where they are going?”

“They surely do. They have been warned a thousand times, but they still choose to rush into the fire because they do not detest sin and are loath to forsake it. Furthermore, they despise and reject God’s incessant, merciful invitations to do penance. Thus provoked, Divine Justice harries them, hounds them, and goads them on so that they cannot halt until they reach this place.”

“Oh, how miserable these unfortunate boys must feel in knowing they no longer have any hope,” I exclaimed. “If you really want to know their innermost frenzy and fury, go a little closer,” my guide remarked.

I took a few steps forward and saw that many of those poor wretches were savagely striking at each other like mad dogs. Others were clawing their own faces and hands, tearing their own flesh and spitefully throwing it about. Just then the entire ceiling of the cave became as transparent as crystal and revealed a patch of Heaven and their radiant companions safe for all eternity.

The poor wretches, fuming and panting with envy, burned with rage because they had once ridiculed the just. “The wicked shall see, and be angry, he shall gnash with his teeth, and pine away. . . ” (Psalms 111: 10) “Why do hear no sound?” I asked my guide,

“Go closer!” he advised.

Pressing my ear to the crystal window, I heard screams and sobs, blasphemies and imprecations against the Saints. It was a tumult of voices and cries, shrill and confused.

“When they recall the happy lot of their good companions,” he replied, “they are obliged to admit: “We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints. Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us, and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us.” (Wisdom 5:4-6) “We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways, but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us ? or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us ? All those things are passed away like a shadow.” (Wisdom 5: 7-9)

“Here time is no more. Here is only eternity.”

While I viewed the condition of many of my boys in utter terror, a thought suddenly struck me. “How can these boys be damned?” I asked. “Last night they were still alive at the Oratory!”

“The boys you see here,” he answered, “are all dead to God’s grace. Were they to die now or persist in their evil ways, they would be damned. But we are wasting time. Let us go on.”

He led me away and we went down through a corridor into a lower cavern, at whose entrance I read: “Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched.” (Isaias 66: 24) “He will give fire, and worms into their flesh, and they may burn and may feel forever.” (Judith 16: 21)

Here one could see how atrocious was the remorse of those who had been pupils in our schools. What a torment was their, to remember each unforgiven sin and its just punishment, the countless, even extraordinary means they had had to mend their ways, persevere in virtue, and earn paradise, and their lack of response to the many favors promised and bestowed by the Virgin Mary. What a torture to think that they couId have been saved so easily, yet now are irredeemably lost, and to remember the many good resolutions made and never kept. Hell is indeed paved with good intentions!

In this lower cavern I again saw those Oratory boys who had fallen into the fiery furnace. Some are listening to me right now; others are former pupils or even strangers to me. I drew closer to them and noticed that they were all covered with worms and vermin which gnawed at their vitals, hearts, eyes, hands, legs, and entire bodies so ferociously as to defy description. Helpless and motionless, they were a prey to every kind of torment. Hoping I might be able to speak with them or to hear something from them, I drew even closer but no one spoke or even looked at me. I then asked my guide why, and he explained that the damned are totally deprived of freedom. Each must fully endure his own punishment, with absolutely no reprieve whatever. “And now,” he added, “you too must enter that cavern.”

“Oh, no!” I objected in terror. “Before going to Hell, one has to be judged. I have not been judged yet, and so I will not go to Hell!”

“Listen,” he said, “what would you rather do: visit Hell and save your boys, or stay outside and leave them in agony?”

For a moment I was struck speechless. “Of course I love my boys and wish to save them all,” I replied, “but isn’t there some other way out?”

“Yes, there is a way,” he went on, “provided you do all you can.”

I breathed more easily and instantly said to myself, I don’t mind slaving if I can rescue these beloved sons of mine from such torments.

“Come inside then,” my friend went on, “and see how our good, almighty God lovingly provides a thousand means for guiding your boys to penance and saving them from everlasting death.”

Taking my hand, he led me into the cave. As I stepped in, I found myself suddenly transported into a magnificent hall whose curtained glass doors concealed more entrances.

Above one of them I read this inscription: The Sixth Commandment. Pointing to it, my guide exclaimed, “Transgressions of this commandment caused the eternal ruin of many boys.”

“Didn’t they go to confession?”

“They did, but they either omitted or insufficiently confessed the sins against the beautiful virtue of purity, saying for instance that they had committed such sins two or three times when it was four or five. Other boys may have fallen into that sin but once in their childhood, and, through shame, never confessed it or did so insufficiently. Others were not truly sorry or sincere in their resolve to avoid it in the future. There were even some who, rather than examine their conscience, spent their time trying to figure out how best to deceive their confessor. Anyone dying in this frame of mind chooses to be among the damned, and so he is doomed for all eternity. Only those who die truly repentant shall be eternally happy. Now do you want to see why our merciful God brought you here?” He lifted the curtain and I saw a group of Oratory boys — all known to me — who were there because of this sin. Among them were some whose conduct seems to be good.

“Now you will surely let me take down their names so that I may warn them individually,” I exclaimed. “Then what do you suggest I tell them?”

“Always preach against immodesty. A generic warning will suffice. Bear in mind that even if you did admonish them individually, they would promise, but not always in earnest. For a firm resolution, one needs God’s grace which will not be denied to your boys if they pray. God manifests His power especially by being merciful and forgiving. On your part, pray and make sacrifices. As for the boys, let them listen to your admonitions and consult their conscience. It will tell them what to do.”

We spent the next half hour discussing the requisites of a good confession. Afterward, my guide several times exclaimed in a loud voice, “Avertere! Avertere!”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Change life! ”

Perplexed, I bowed my head and made as if to withdraw, but he held me back.

“You haven’t seen everything yet,” he explained.

He turned and lifted another curtain bearing this inscription: “They who would become rich, fall into temptation, and to the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 6: 9) (Note: would become rich: wish to become rich, seek riches, set their heart and affections toward riches.)

“This does not apply to my boys! I countered, “because they are as poor as I am. We are not rich and do not want to be. We give it no thought.”

As the curtain was lifted, however, I saw a group of boys, all known to me. They were in pain, like those I had seen before. Pointing to them, my guide remarked, “As you see, the inscription does apply to your boys.”

“But how?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “some boys are so attached to material possessions that their love of God is lessened. Thus they sin against charity, piety, and meekness. Even the mere desire of riches can corrupt the heart, especially if such a desire leads to injustice. Your boys are poor, but remember that greed and idleness are bad counselors. One of your boys committed substantial thefts in his native town, and though he could make restitution, he gives it not a thought. There are others who try to break into the pantry or the prefect’s or economer’s office; those who rummage in their companions’ trunks for food, money, or possessions; those who steal stationery and books….”

After naming these boys and others as well, he continued, “Some are here for having stolen clothes, linen, blankets, and coats from the Oratory wardrobe in order to send them home to their families; others for willful, serious damage; others, yet, for not having given back what they had borrowed or for having kept sums of money they were supposed to hand over to the superior. Now that you know who these boys are,” he concluded, “admonish them. Tell them to curb all vain, harmful desires, to obey God’s law and to safeguard their reputation jealously lest greed lead them to greater excesses and plunge them into sorrow, death, and damnation.”

I couldn’t understand why such dreadful punishments should be meted out for infractions that boys thought so little of, but my guide shook me out of my thoughts by saying: “Recall what you were told when you saw those spoiled grapes on the wine.” With these words he lifted another curtain which hid many of our Oratory boys, all of whom I recognized instantly. The inscription on the curtain read: The root of all evils.

“Do you know what that means?” he asked me immediately.

“What sin does that refer to?”

“Pride?”

“No!”

“And yet I have always heard that pride is the root of all evil.”

“It is, generally speaking, but, specifically, do you know what led Adam and Eve to commit the first sin for which they were driven away from their earthly paradise?”

“Disobedience?”

“Exactly! Disobedience is the root of all evil.”

“What shall I tell my boys about it?”

“Listen carefully: the boys you see here are those who prepare such a tragic end for themselves by being disobedient. So-and-so and so-and-so, who you think went to bed, leave the dormitory later in the night to roam about the playground, and, contrary to orders, they stray into dangerous areas and up scaffolds, endangering even their lives. Others go to church, but, ignoring recommendations, they misbehave; instead of praying, they daydream or cause a disturbance. There are also those who make themselves comfortable so as to doze off during church services, and those who only make believe they are going to church. Woe to those who neglect prayer! He who does not pray dooms himself to perdition. Some are here because, instead of singing hymns or saying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, they read frivolous or — worse yet — forbidden books.” He then went on mentioning other serious breaches of discipline.

When he was done, I was deeply moved.

“May I mention all these things to my boys?” I asked, looking at him straight in the eye.

“Yes, you may tell them whatever you remember.”

“What advice shall I give them to safeguard them from such a tragedy?”

“Keep telling them that by obeying God, the Church, their parents, and their superiors, even in little things, they will be saved.”

“Anything else?”

“Warn them against idleness. Because of idleness David fell into sin. Tell them to keep busy at all times, because the devil will not then have a chance to tempt them.”

I bowed my head and promised. Faint with dismay, I could only mutter, “Thanks for having been so good to me. Now, please lead me out of here.”

Fires of Hell

Fires of Hell

“All right, then, come with me.” Encouragingly he took my hand and held me up because I could hardly stand on my feet. Leaving that hall, in no time at all we retraced our steps through that horrible courtyard and the long corridor. But as soon as we stepped across the last bronze portal, he turned to me and said, “Now that you have seen what others suffer, you too must experience a touch of Hell.”

“No, no!” I cried in terror.

He insisted, but I kept refusing.

“Do not be afraid,” he told me; “just try it. Touch this wall.”

I could not muster enough courage and tried to get away, but he held me back. “Try it,” he insisted. Gripping my arm firmly, he pulled me to the wall. “Only one touch,” he cornmanded, “so that you may say you have both seen and touched the walls of eternal suffering and that you may understand what the last wall must be like if the first is so unendurable. Look at this wall!” I did intently. It seemed incredibly thick. “There are a thousand walls between this and the real fire of Hell,” my guide continued. “A thousand walls encompass it, each a thousand measures thick and equally distant from the next one. Each measure is a thousand miles. This wall therefore is millions and millions of miles from Hell’s real fire. It is just a remote rim of Hell itself.”

When he said this, I instinctively pulled back, but he seized my hand, forced it open, and pressed it against the first of the thousand walls. The sensation was so utterly excruciating that I leaped back with a scream and found myself sitting up in bed. My hand was stinging and I kept rubbing it to ease the pain. When I got up this morning I noticed that it was swollen. Having my hand pressed against the wall, though only in a dream, felt so real that, later, the skin of my palm peeled off.

Bear in mind that I have tried not to frighten you very much, and so I have not described these things in all their horror as I saw them and as they impressed me. We know that Our Lord always portrayed Hell in symbols because, had He described it as it really is, we would not have understood Him. No mortal can comprehend these things. The Lord knows them and He reveals them to whomever He wills.

Source:  TODAY’S CATHOLIC WORLD:  ST. JOHN BOSCO’S DREAM (VISION) OF HELL:

http://www.todayscatholicworld.com/bosco_hell.htm

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March 11, 2011

Wonders of Saint Takla Haymonot of Ethiopia

The great saint, Abba Takla Haymanot has a very prominent position in the Coptic Orthodox Church. The church celebrates an annual feast to commemorate the greatness of this Ethiopian saint – August 31.

Saint Takla Haymanot of Ethiopia

Saint Takla Haymanot of Ethiopia

Life, ministry and miracles

His father was an Ethiopian priest who loved Archangel Michael and his mother was a rich and righteous woman who also loved Archangel Michael. Together, they always celebrated the archangel’s feast on the twelfth of each month. After many years of prayer and supplications a son, “Feseha Zion” (the joy of Zion) was born into this family, for St. Takla’s mother was barren until his birth.

The tidings of Archangel Michael were fulfilled when he said to Tsega Ze-Ab, Feseha Zion’s father, “You will be the father of a child who will be an apostle in Ethiopia.” His parents were overjoyed with his birth and celebrated by having a feast inviting the poor. Three days after his birth, the Holy Spirit descended upon Fesha Zion and the infant opened his mouth and said, “One is the Holy Father. One is the Holy Son. One is the Holy Spirit.”

Since childhood, Feseha Zion performed many miracles. One such famous miracle occurred at the age of eighteen months. A famine had spread throughout the land of his family. As a result of the famine, Tsega Ze-Ab and his wife had nothing to celebrate the feast of their beloved Archangel Michael.

One day while Fesha Zion was being nursed he pointed to the flour basket, which was completely empty. His devout mother brought it to him and immediately when he touched the basket it became filled with flour. Basket after basket was placed before him until twelve overflowed with flour. She then decided to bring the oil jar to him. Fesha Zion placed his hand inside the jar and made the sign of the cross. Oil began to fill the jar. From this jar the mother poured oil into other jars until there was plenty for their monthly agape for the needy in honor of Archangel Michael.

St. Takla Haymanot

When he was fifteen years old his reverent father took him to the Bishop of Amhara, Bishop Kyrillos, who saw a vision from God to ordain Feseha Zion a deacon. As a deacon he continued to perform miracles and began to heal the sick. Many confessed him to be a god, but he told them that only the One True God is worthy of honor, praise and worship.

One day while hunting with friends, Archangel Michael appeared unto deacon Feseha Zion and told him to dedicate the rest of his life to saving people’s souls. The Archangel further told him that God would bestow upon him the ability to cure many illnesses, raise the dead, and cast out evil spirits in His Holy Name. It was then that Archangel Michael changed his name to Takla Haymanot, which means, “Paradise of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

St. Takla returned home and distributed all his money among the poor. Soon thereafter, Bishop Cyril ordained him the priest of Shewa (Shoa). St. Takla focused his attention on the spiritual welfare of those around him. He preached the Holy Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins. He continually cured the sick and performed many miracles. As a result of the holiness of this man many were converted to Christianity.

He drove out evil spirits, cast our demons, he converted kings. St. Takla was bestowed with many gifts from the Lord. He raised the dead and could foretell events and quietly tell true prophecies. He labored among the hardest of tasks in the monasteries he dwelt with thanksgiving. He escaped from all praise. He continually led a life of devoutness-fasting, praying, chanting and kneeling before the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why St. Takla’s icon depicts him with six wings

One of the most famous of stories related to this saint is of his abiding in the Monastery of Abba Aragawi at the top of a very high, steep mountain. After living some time at this remote monastery, an angel of the Lord appeared to St. Takla and told him to go down to the base of the mountain and dwell in a cave to be found there. He bid the abbot of the monastery and the monks’ farewell, requesting their prayers and began his descent from the top of the towering mountain. As was the custom, the monks tied the saint with a rope to aid in his descent from the peak of the mountaintop. The rope broke suddenly and the monks feared the worst. Instantly and miraculously, six wings appeared from the saint and flew him safely and swiftly to the base of the mountain. Due to this miracle St. Takla’s icon features him with six beautiful white wings like the Cherubim.

Frightening funeral of dr. Raymond Diocres

Raymond Diocres, a professor at the Sorbonne, and a man with a universal reputation for learning and apparent virtue, died in Paris. Three days later, his coffin, beautifully adorned with the symbols of his profession, was brought into the cathedral with solemnity, accompanied by his fellow professors, by a large group of students and many priests.

Hundreds attended the funeral service; innumerable candles were lit and prayers were offered for him by those who had admired the great knowledge and virtues of the illustrious deceased. But when the choir came to the passage in the Office of the Dead: ‘What are my faults and my sins? My misdeeds and my sins make known to me!’ which Holy Job asks in Scripture, suddenly the corpse, which was lying exposed on its bier, moved before their eyes, sat up, and cried out in accents of desperation which matched the despair in his eyes: ‘By the judgement of God, I have been accused, judged and condemned’.

Having said this, he fell back, never to move again. Thus the world- renowned professor had hidden vice under the appearance of virtue. But God, who scrutinizes hearts, knew his sins and punished him for them.

Dead Raymond Diocres speaks after death

It was because of this event that St. Bruno of Cologne (1030-1101) went to great extremes in rejecting the pleasures of this world by founding a monastery in the Chartreuse Mountains, a home for the Carthusian Order. The Carthusians are, to this day, renowned for being the most rigorous and ascetic of all the cloistered orders.

February 20, 2011

Apparitions of Archangel Michael

Various apparitions of this powerful Angel have proved the protection of Saint Michael over the Church. We may mention his apparition in Rome, where Saint Gregory the Great saw him in the air sheathing his sword, to signal the cessation of a pestilence and the appeasement of God’s wrath.

Mon Saint Michel, France

Another apparition to Saint Ausbert, bishop of Avranches in France, led to the construction of Mont-Saint-Michel in the sea, a famous pilgrimage site. May 8th, however, is destined to recall another no less marvelous apparition, occurring near Monte Gargano in the Kingdom of Naples.

Apparition of Archangel Miachel at Gargano, Italy

In the year 492 a man named Gargan was pasturing his large herds in the countryside. One day a bull fled to the mountain, where at first it could not be found. When its refuge in a cave was discovered, an arrow was shot into the cave, but the arrow returned to wound the one who had sent it. Faced with so mysterious an occurrence, the persons concerned decided to consult the bishop of the region. He ordered three days of fasting and prayers. After three days, the Archangel Saint Michael appeared to the bishop and declared that the cavern where the bull had taken refuge was under his protection, and that God wanted it to be consecrated under his name and in honor of all the Holy Angels.

Accompanied by his clergy and people, the pontiff went to that cavern, which he found already disposed in the form of a church. The divine mysteries were celebrated there, and there arose in this same place a magnificent temple where the divine Power has wrought great miracles. To thank God’s adorable goodness for the protection of the holy Archangel, the effect of His merciful Providence, this feast day was instituted by the Church in his honor.

It is said of this special guardian and protector of the Church that, during the final persecution of Antichrist, he will powerfully defend it: “At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince who protects the children of thy people.” (Dan. 12:1)

Video about Archangels:

January 27, 2011

Saint Cuthbert’s body remained incorrupt for over 850 years!

The Miraculous Relics of Saint Cuthbert the Great of England

Saint Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, the miracle-working Saint of the Orthodox and Catholic English par excellence.

The relics of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne have a particularly colorful and well-documented history beginning with the story of the initial discovery of the saint’s incorrupt remains as related by the Venerable Bede:

CHAPTER XLII

HOW HIS BODY AFTER NINE YEARS WAS FOUND UNDECAYED

Now Divine Providence, wishing to show to what glory this holy man was exalted after death, who even before death had been distinguished by so many signs and miracles, inspired the minds of the brethren with a wish to remove his bones, which they expected to find dry and free from his decayed flesh, and to put them in a small coffer, on the same spot, above the ground, as objects of veneration to the people. This wish they communicated to the holy Bishop Eadbert about the middle of Quadragesima; and he ordered them to execute this on the 20th of April, which was the anniversary of the day of his burial. They accordingly did so; and opening the tomb, found his body entire, as if he were still alive, and his joints were still flexible, as if he were not dead, but sleeping. His clothes, also, were still undecayed, and seemed to retain their original freshness and colour. When the brethren saw this, they were so astonished, that they could scarcely speak, or look on the miracle which lay before them, and they hardly knew what they were doing. As a proof of the uncorrupted state of the clothes, they took a portion of them from one of the extremities,-for they did not dare to take any from the body itself,-and hastened to tell what they had found to the bishop, who was then walking alone at a spot remote from the monastery, and closed in by the flowing waves of the sea. Here it was his custom to pass the Quadragesima; and here he occupied himself forty days before the birthday of our Lord in the utmost devotion, accompanied with abstinence, prayer, and tears. Here, also, his venerable predecessor, Cuthbert, before he went to Farne, as we have related, Spent a portion of his spiritual warfare in the service of the Lord. The brethren brought with them, also, the piece of cloth in which the body of the saint had been wrapped. The bishop thanked them for the gift, and heard their report with eagerness, and with great earnestness kissed the cloth as if it were still on the saint’s body. “Fold up the body,” said he, ” in new cloth instead of this, and place it in the chest which you have prepared. But I know of a certainty that the place which has been consecrated by the virtue of this heavenly miracle will not long remain empty; and happy is he to whom the Lord, who is the giver of true happiness, shall grant to rest therein.” To these words he added what I have elsewhere expressed in verse, and said,

” What man the wondrous gifts of God shall tell?
What ear the joys of paradise shall hear?
Triumphant o’er the gates of death and hell,
The just shall live amid the starry sphere,” &c.

When the bishop had said much more to this effect, with many tears and much contrition, the brethren did as he ordered them; and having folded up the body in some new cloth, and placed it in a chest, laid it on the pavement of the sanctuary.

Saint Cuthbert´s chapel on Inner Farne

In 875, after the second Viking raid on Lindisfarne, the monks fled, carrying with them the relics of St. Cuthbert. His body was carried to several places, including Melrose Abbey, until after seven years’ wandering, it came to rest at Chester-le-Street where it (and the seat of the itinerant Diocese of Lindisfarne) remained until 995, when another Danish invasion necessitated its evacuation to Ripon. According to local legend, the monks followed two milk maids who were searching for a dun cow and were led into a peninsula formed by a loop in the River Wear. At this point St. Cuthbert’s coffin became immovable and this was taken as sign that the new shrine should be built here. After being housed in a succession of ever-sturdier structures, a stone building — the so-called White Church — was built to contain the relics and they were enshrined there on September 4, 999. King Canute was an early pilgrim. King William the Conqueror also visited St. Cuthbert’s shrine in 1069. Ultimately, St. Cuthbert’s body was enshrined in Durham Cathedral, which was designed and built under William of Calais, who was appointed the first prince-bishop by William the Conqueror. In 1104, after St. Cuthbert had been dead for 418 years, his casket was opened and the body was found to be incorrupt and possessed of a sweet odor; it was translated to a new shrine positioned in the eastern apse of the new Cathedral, behind the High Altar. When the casket was opened, a small (3 1/2″ x 5″) pocket book of the Gospel of St. John, now known as the Stonyhurst Gospel, was found. St. Cuthbert’s vestment was crafted from fine Byzantine silk (pointing to Anglo-Saxon England’s connections to the wider world). An unknown monk wrote of this shrine in 1593:

[The shrine] was estimated to be one of the most sumptuous in all England, so great were the offerings and jewells bestowed upon it, and endless the miracles that were wrought at it, even in these last days. —Rites of Durham

At the Dissolution, the commissioners of King Henry VIII violated the relics of St. Cuthbert and despoiled his shrine. At this time (1537 according to Archdeacon Harpsfield), the saint’s body “was found whole, sound, sweet, odoriferous, and flexible.” From the Rites of Durham, from MS. Hunter, No. 44, copied about 1650 from the original of A.D. 1593, p. 85:

The sacred shrine of holy St. Cuthbert, before mentioned, was defaced in the visitation that Dr. Ley (Lee H. 45), Dr. Henley, and Mr. Blythman, held at Durham, for the subverting of such monuments, in the time of King Henry VIII., in his suppression of the abbeys, where they found many worthy and goodly jewels; but especially one precious stone (belonging to the said shrine, H. 45), which, by the estimate of those three visitors and other skilful lapidaries, was of value sufficient to redeem a prince.

” After the spoil of his ornaments and jewels, coming nearer to his sacred body, thinking to have found nothing but dust and bones, and finding the chest that he did lie in very strongly bound with iron, then the goldsmith did take a great fore-hammer of a smith, and did break the said chest; and when they had opened the chest, they found him lying whole, uncorrupt, with his face bare, and his beard as if it had been a fortnight’s growth, and all his vestments upon him, as he was accustomed to say Mass, and his met-wand of gold lying beside him. Then when the goldsmith did perceive that he had broken one of his legs, when he did break open the chest, he was very sorry for it, and did cry, ‘Alas, I have broken one of his legs!’ Then Dr. Henley, hearing him say so, did call upon him, and did bid him cast down his bones. Then he made him answer again, that he could not get it (them, H. 45) asunder, for the sinews and skin held it that it would not come asunder. Then Dr. Ley did step up, to see if it were so or not, and did turn himself about, and did speak Latin to Dr. Henley, that he was lying whole. Yet Dr. Henley would give no credit to his words, but still did cry, ‘Cast down his bones’. Then Dr. Ley made answer, ‘If you will not believe me, come up yourself and see him’. Then did Dr. Henley step up to him and did handle him, and did see that he laid whole (was whole and uncorrupt, H. 45). Then he did command them to take him down: and so it happened, contrary to their expectation, that not only his body was whole and incorrupted, but the vestments wherein his body lay, and in which he was accustomed to say Mass, were fresh, safe, and not consumed. Whereupon the visitors commanded that he should be carried into the vestry, where he was close and safely kept in the inner part of the vestry till such time as they did further know the king’s pleasure what to do with him; and upon notice of the king’s pleasure therein (and after, H. 45), the prior and the monks buried him in the ground, under the same place where his shrine was exalted (under a fair marble stone, which remains to this day, where his shrine was exalted, H. 45).

Cross of Saint Cuthbert

King Henry VIII allowed the monks to reinter St. Cuthbert’s remains under a plain stone slab, beneath the very spot over which the former shrine had been elevated. This was opened again on May 17, 1827 (though there is evidence that the grave was disturbed between 1542 and 1827), at which time, the body had been reduced to a skeleton swathed in decayed vestments. The designs of the robes matched those described in the accounts of his translation in 1104. A Saxon square cross of gold embellished with garnets was found with the body. This cross, with its characteristic splayed ends, has come to be used as an heraldic device representing St. Cuthbert. According to one tradition, however, the bones unearthed in 1827 were not those of St. Cuthbert, his actual remains having been hidden elsewhere in the Cathedral between 1542 and 1558.

It should be reminded that Elizabeth Barton “the Nun of Kent” claimed that the Virgin Mary spoke to her during her numerous trances; she predicted that Henry VIII would die a miserable death if he persisted in his attempts to divorce Katherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn (what he did and what resulted in the persecution of the Catholicism in England as for such a divorce he had to separate from Rome). Very soon Henry got tired of Anne and she was accused of adultery being executed. Henry himself died at the age of 55 in 1547 due to the breathing problems and an infected leg. His coffin, lying at Syon on its way to Windsor for burial, burst open during the night and in the morning dogs were found licking up the remains. This was regarded as a divine judgement.

(more…)

January 20, 2009

Theologian not sure Hadron Collider will bring happiness to people

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Theologian not sure Hadron Collider will bring happiness to people

Moscow, September 25, Interfax – The well-known theologian, professor of the Moscow Theological Academy Alexey Osipov suggests that scientists are insufficiently responsible in realizing the project of the Hadron Collider’s launch.

“I cannot estimate all the goals of making this giant machine, but it’s at least announced that it has been done, in particular, to learn how the Universe happened. Oh well, we learned it. What’s next? I never heard the answer to this question,” Osipov said to Interfax-Religion.

He also said that he hadn’t heard a clear answer to the question, “would the launch of the Collider lead to scale negative consequences.”

“Without answering these two questions the assessment changes immediately: we can neither reject nor cheer this experiment,” Osipov said.

The professor noted that “every time when something similar is created we’d most like if scientists to foresee at first all the possible consequences and to answer above all a question – what will the creation give the man as a creature looking for good, advantage, happiness.”

According to the Church point of view, he said, “we should know something, but exactly what is needed for our mortal life, just even biological existence.”

“But when it extends beyond the boundaries of solutions of this kind of issues, this is already a big issue, because an empty curiosity is not a virtue from the Christian point of view – when there is no enough arguments indicating that this study is really necessary for us,” Osipov said.

He noted that human progress has some driving forces, and “one of them is curiosity.” “Though there are things of quite a different order in the scientific and technological progress which are quite positive in terms of enabling a person to have more prosperous existence and a possibility to supply needs – necessary needs, as I can note,” the professor said.

He recalled the rule “which is wonderfully expressed in the Hippocratic Oath: do no harm.”

Osipov also pointed that “when we find ourselves in the face of unknown, we always accept risk. And the more major the experiment is, the more backgrounds of existence, even material, it touches, the more risk we have.”

“That’s why it’s always necessary to model the result we’ll get it the case of resolving the scientific problem,” he added.

According to the professor, even in terms of philosophy, not only Christian, “we can never prove that our mind can adequately comprehend all the things it investigates. We try to prove our mind’s ability with it’s own help, so there’s a vicious circle.”

Source: http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=5195

January 18, 2009

Faith and Works

The following article was written by the accomplished theologian Alexei Stepanovitch Khomiakov.

A. Khomyakov

A. Khomyakov

Khomiakov (1804 – 1860) was a solid, brilliant thinker of great originality, and multifaceted talents and interests. He was a poet, a dramatist, and a publicist. Khomiakov had an exceptional education, and was a knowledgeable person of enormous erudition in an extremely wide range of fields. As a theologian, he was extremely well read in the works of the Holy Fathers and in the History of the Church. As a philosopher, he knew the contemporary thinkers. As a historian (who left us his interesting 3-volume work, Notes on World History), he was, one may state, universally well read.

Is one saved by faith alone, or by faith and works?

This argument, an argument that in the light of Apostolic Tradition is so obviously pointless, has never troubled the Church, and in fact could never trouble It. In fact, faith is not an operation merely of comprehension, but an operation of the entire intellect and reason; i.e. of internally united comprehension and will. Faith is at the same time both life and truth; it is an operation by which man, condemning his own imperfect and evil character, seeks to unite with a moral being, with the righteous Jesus, with God Incarnate, with God-Man. Faith, in its very essence, is a moral imperative; a moral imperative that would not also entail a striving for discovery would thereby condemn its own impotence, or, more precisely, its nothingness, its non-being. Discovery of faith is precisely the matter, for a prayerful sigh, just barely conceived in the depths of a grieving heart is a matter like unto martyrdom. They are distinguished from one another only in the times and situations through which God deigns to allow a person to utilize the gifts of grace.

What work could the thief, nailed to the Cross, have performed? Or was his work, his simultaneous repentance and confession insufficient? Or does God show mercy by removing [him]? Thus, both those who say that faith alone is not a saving faith, that works are also needed, and those who say that faith without works is salvific are foolish: without works, faith is dead, is not true faith, for in true faith Christ is truth and life; if it is not true, then it is but false and external knowledge. And can falsehood save? If [faith] is true, it is alive, i.e. performing works, and if it is performing works, then what other works are needed? The God-inspired Apostle stated, “Shew me thy faith [of which thou boastest] without thy works, [as] I will shew thee my faith by my works.” Does he recognize two different faiths? No, he condemns foolish boasting. “Thou believest that there is one God; the devils also believe, and tremble.” Does he then recognize the faith [held by] devils? No, he proves the lie in boasting of a quality even demons possess. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Is he comparing faith with body and works with spirit? No, for that would be a false analogy. However, the meaning of his words is clear. As a soul-less body is no longer a person and cannot be called a person, but rather a corpse, so faith without works cannot be called true faith, but only false faith, i.e. external knowledge, knowledge that is fruitless, and is attainable even by demons. What is written plainly must also be read plainly. Thus, those who cite the Apostle as proof that there is dead faith and live faith, that there are two distinct types of faith, do not grasp the meaning of the Apostle’s words; they in fact oppose, rather than support [those conclusions]. Likewise, when the great Apostle to the nations says, “[what use is it without love, even] though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains…” he does not affirm that without love such faith is possible; rather, in that assumption, he states that [such faith] would be useless. The Sacred Scriptures should not be read with a spirit of secular wisdom, debating over terms, but with the spirit of Sophia, God’s Wisdom, and candor and simplicity of soul. In delineating faith, the Apostle states, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” (not only that which is expected in the future); if we have sure hope, then we wish for; if we wish for, we love: for it is impossible to wish for what we do not love. Or do demons also possess such sure hope? — Hence there is but one faith, and when we ask “Can true faith save without works?” we are posing a foolish question, or to put it another way, no question at all, for true faith is a living faith that performs works: it is faith in Christ and Christ in faith.

Masons behind drive around Da Vinci Code

Filed under: Uncategorized — ijov @ 3:51 am
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Interview with professor Andrey Kurayev

A. Kurayev

A. Kurayev

Standing behind the stormy campaign around the Da Vinci Code are Masons whose aim is to marginalize the Christian Church

Deacon Andrey Kurayev, professor at Moscow Theological Academy and well-known Orthodox theologian, sought to dispel some of the myths underlying and referred to in the Da Vinci Code novel, in an interview to Interfax-Religion.

– The stormy campaign around the Da Vinci Code, unexpected but also intriguing for many, has unwittingly put in one’s head the thought about its possible instigators. Simply speaking, qui prodest – who benefits from it?

– The Da Vinci Code is a typical conspiracy work with the principal aim to say that the world is ruled by secret lodges. There is too much fantasy in Brown’s novel. But the very story of its promotion proves the truth of its principal affirmation. Indeed, artistically Mr. Brown’s novel is a clear nil: the cartoon-like protagonists lacking any inner depth and credibility unfold through the plot to fit ultimately in a put-up puzzle. Every action is a cliché adapted to a certain super-goal of propaganda nature. The more so as the book has no academic value.

However, the campaign that advertised first the book and then the film points to very serious funds and resources invested in this project.

The development around the novel can be described as nothing else than another volley fired in ages-old cold war between the Masons and the Catholic Church. It was a real Masonic structure acting in our world that revealed itself in the advertising campaign around Mr. Brown’s book.

I am not one of those who maintain that all that happens around us is linked with the Masons, but I believe it idiotism to ignore the presence of these closed elite structures in the fabric of society beginning from the 18th century to this day. There are open Masonic editions in which they commend themselves and there are openly existing recruit club such as Rotary Club and Lyons Club.

And now we see the ways in which one of the Masonic main goals is realized, and they do not conceal it. It is marginalization of the traditional Christian Church. The apologists of the Da Vinci Code have used all possible places including the Cannes Film Festival stair carpet to try to assure everyone that the book is a mere light fiction.

If it is a fiction, everyone is free to fantasize at will. But the Da Vinci Code commends itself from the first page as a research work. Already the third paragraph on the first page maintains that ‘all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate’.

But opening the page with a description of Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks, we read: ‘Mary was holding one hand high above the head of infant John and making a decidedly threatening gesture – her fingers looking like eagle’s talons…’ How can it be an objective and credible description of Leonardo’s painting? It is enough to look at the bright Image of Mary on this canvas to realize she was not going to ‘threaten’ anybody with ‘talons’.

By the way, Brown (perhaps following the tradition of Mexican soup-operas) confused the babies: Mary’s hand is hanging in a protective gesture over the head of Jesus. This baby is clearly smaller than the one embraced by Mary, as Jesus was junior to John by half a year, and the London’s version of the same painting features a tall cross-like staff in the hand of the Precursor, pointing clearly who is where. Langdon therefore is wrong to wonder why Da Vinci’s ‘baby John was blessing Jesus… and Jesus was submitting to his authority’.

Equally biased is the description of the Last Supper. In the original, Peter’s hand simply lies on John’s shoulder in an encouraging gesture. In the Code, John is identified with Mary Magdalene.

– And what about the description of documents?

– The ‘Grail’ of the novel represents ‘thousands of ancient documents as scientific evidence that the New Testament is false testimony’. We read on, ‘the Bible represents a fundamental guidepost for millions of people on the planet, in much the same way the Koran, Torah, and Pali Canon offer guidance to people of other religions’. Let us forgive him a popular amateurish mistake of opposing the Bible and the Torah. But what is this holy Pali Canon? Pali is the language in which some of the Buddhist texts are written. Brown’s protagonists are skilled in identifying and interpreting allegories. But in spite of their Gnostic statement that ‘religious allegory has become a part of the fabric of reality’, they are inclined to understand ‘Jesus’ kisses’ more than literally.

The funniest thing in Brown’s book from the point of view of a religious researcher is an attempt to present early Christian heretics (Gnostics), who wrote the ‘Gospels’ he refers to as those who look benevolently at the world, flesh, marriage, sex, woman. In reality the Gnostics just as neo-Platonic heathens were ashamed of their corporal nature. The key affirmation of the ‘Gospel of Judas’ so much boosted by the ‘Priory of Sion’ is that ‘cosmos is hell’. We read in the ‘Gospel of Thomas’: ‘He who has found the world has found a corpse’.

A similar garbling is used by this author when he alleges that Gnostics and their apocrypha asserted the human nature of Christ, contrary to the orthodox who deified Christ. Quite the contrary, the Gnostic ‘Gospels’ say almost nothing about the earthly life of Christ (not all the apocrypha are written by Gnostics; some, exactly those which give more biographical details, have their origin in folklore). The principal affirmation made by the Da Vinci Code in religious research is that Christianity has borrowed all its ideas and symbols from heathenism. This idea was very much in fashion in the 19th century, but modern religious research, including secular studies, no longer believes that. The principal idea of Christianity is that the One Pre-Eternal God, the Creator of the Universe, became Man precisely freely, for His love of human beings, not for the sake of solving some inner problems and intrigues, and He sacrificed Himself for the sake of human beings.

Another typical educational Masonic idea, which was long rejected even by atheistic religious studies, is that the entire evolution of religion is realization of the will to power, and that the clergy elaborate a doctrine in their own self-interest. Here again we arrive at a contradiction. If everything in Christianity has been borrowed from heathenism so bright and feministic, why then Christianity has come out so ‘dark’? Is it possible that heathen sages and priests pursued their own self-interests when they created their ‘symbols of the feminine principle’?

A lot of affirmations in the Da Vinci Code are easily refuted by an address to primary sources and academic publications.

Brown maintains that for the three centuries of hunting witches the Inquisition burnt five millions women, including midwives. With these quantities it is strange that there is anybody at all remaining in Western Europe.

Another Brown’s ‘credible’ allegation is that the First Ecumenical Council decided which Gospels were to be considered authentic and which imaginary. But no sources of the 4th century mentioned anything to this effect. Nor any of the 5th century sources mentioned that.

The version that it was the Council of Nicea that established the biblical canon was first voiced in Lebellus synodicus published in 1601 by John Pappus, a theologian in Strasbourg. It is evident from this that he was in no way a contemporary of the 325 Council. The work of Mr. Brown abounds with strained arguments of this kind – the fact that does not allow of taking it as scientifically correct in the least. But the publicity around the Code is built on the kaleidoscope of mutually exclusive assurances. Thus, at one point it is said all of a sudden that the book is ‘a pure fiction, so do not scold us’, but a moment later the same advertising agents begin to pontificate that Brown has finally established the great truth and we now know the truth about Christianity.

– Your greatest surprise when reading the novel?

– The absence of the Masonic fable about a Church council that was allegedly held in antiquity to discuss with all the seriousness whether woman should be considered to be human being or not and to adopt by a one-vote majority the presence of soul in ‘old women’ as well. It is the favorite Masonic feministic fable. Strangely, Brown did not play with it. Perhaps he is yet an apprentice. He is lacking erudition or saving this trump card for his next novel.

I was also surprised at the somewhat childish codes. As I was reading the book I found four clues on my own, while Langdon was still toiling over them.

– What reaction to the story of the Da Vinci Code you think would be the most adequate and successful?

– A scientific analysis of some pages from Brown would be quite relevant and it is not difficult to make it. An analysis will show immediately that before us is a poor fiction which set itself the task to insult the faith of millions of people in the world. And this is exactly the falsehood of the so-called fiction. Picket lines at movie theatres will not be helpful. Those who have decided to stand in them will do it anyway. The picket lines will rather attract those who are indifferent. It would be better to commission an analysis of Brown’s book to religious researchers and theologians and to publish a leaflet, or even better a parody, and to distribute their copies at movie theatre entrances. I would suggest this title for the leaflet: ‘Brown-anti-duping Aid’.

– Is it a sin to see the film?

– No, it is not a sin, what is sinful is killing time, like playing cards. One can see a lot of things. The question is how one relates to what one has seen.

Source:
http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=interview&div=30

Letters of Ioann Krestiankin

Ioann Krestiankin

Ioann Krestiankin

On February 5, the day of commemoration of the Synaxis of New-martyrs and Confessors of Russia, Elder Ioann Krestiankin, at age 95 the oldest monastic of the Pskov Caves Monastery, and its spiritual director, an Elder fervently loved by all, reposed. He died several minutes after communing of the Holy Gifts of Christ. We present instructions excerpted from three of Fr. Ioann’s letters to his spiritual children:

On Carrying Life’s Cross

Did you know that you do not get down from the Cross? You are taken down from it. And your Cross, if you courageously carry it to the end, will yield great spiritual fruit, transforming your soul, and nourishing your loved ones as well. The great difficulty is that the enemy of all mankind, who is irritated by your charitable acts of compassion, the beginnings of love, intensely opposes everything [you do]. And recognizing the machinations of the enemy, we do not have the strength or the skill to oppose him. Yet that is what we must do.

No one has ever found it painless to carry and ascend his Cross. Yet without the Cross, we cannot see Christ. We choose the Cross but once, and the rest of life is lived with what opportunity that Cross offers us.

No matter where we might go, our Cross will get no lighter. External sorrows may abate for a time, but it is then that inner ones, even more heavy and profound sorrows pile up on us.

Don’t Waste Time!

Friends, let us wash, let us cleanse ourselves by tears and the confession of our sins while there is time. Let us struggle in our life to acquire the Holy Spirit, Who will open to us the gates of the heavenly mansions. And let us use all of our earthly possessions to obtain heavenly treasures, by giving alms from a merciful and loving heart. Let us use our earthly life to come to know God, to come to know ourselves, and to prepare our eternal inheritance. Let us not waste time.

May God give you wisdom!

Be the salt of the earth

Pray to the Holy Martyr Tryphon, and through his intercessions you will always have work. Go to church to pray, and help whomever you can, but your main work should be your occupation in the world.

Believers should be the salt of the earth, and not close themselves up to people. Preach not so much with words as with your life, your patience and love towards suffering and lost people.

Do not look too far ahead, and if you will live every day with God and with prayer, the Lord will draw your little boat through life and direct it toward salvation.

May the Lord preserve you and make you wise!

Sources:

Letters of John Krestiankin
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/071231000000.htm

Khomyakov´s letters to Palmer

Alexei Khomiakov

First Letter to William Palmer
10 December 1844

Khomyakov

Khomyakov

The sign of the Cross * Communion of prayer between living and dead * Misrepresentations of Khomiakov’s opinions about England * Reunion of Christendom * Different views of Rome and the Orthodox Church * Obstacles to Reunion between Eastern and Western Communities * Palmer’s eyesight * Report of Newman’s secession

Sir, —

The elegant and faithful translation of some stanzas written on the death of my first children, which you have had the goodness to include in your letter to Mr. Redkin, has been received by me with the utmost gratitude and pleasure. Yet give me leave to say, that, highly as I value the honour conferred on my poetry, I rejoice still more in the consciousness that it has been paid rather to the human feeling which has inspired my verses to the merit of the expression. It is indeed a great joy for me to have met with your sympathy, and the more so as I have met with it in the highest of all regions, in the communion of religious sentiments and convictions. In one respect it is even more than I could have anticipated, [inasmuch] as the sign of the Cross and the belief in communion of prayers between living and dead are generally rejected by the over-cautious spirit of the Reformation.

You are, methinks, very right in approving of them. Those who believe that the Holy Cross has been indeed the instrument of our salvation cannot but consider it as the natural symbol of Christian love; and if they reject a most natural and holy sign for fear of idolatry, they seem to be almost as inconsistent as a man who should condemn himself to voluntary dumbness for fear of idle words. In the like manner I think [it] rather reasonable to believe that no bond of Christian love can be rent asunder by death in the spiritual world, whose only law is love. The Episcopal Church of England seems in the last times to have adopted that principle.

Perhaps I should add a few words for my own justification, as some ridiculous calumnies have been circulated in Germany about my having expressed sentiments of hate towards your noble and highly enlightened country, and may have found their way to England. These calumnies originated in the writings of an Oratorian (Theyner), and were repeated by Jesuits and reprinted in some newspapers. It was a strange thing to see England’s cause defended by unlooked-for champions seldom considered as her friends. But a deep and implacable hatred towards Russia and the Eastern Church had inspired them suddenly with a fervent love towards England. Yet, I will not attempt a justification; I am sure that English good sense and justice will always prove a sufficient defence against the brazen-faced hypocrisy of an Oratorian or a Jesuit. Permit me rather to add some few observations on the last passage of your letter to Mr. Redkin, which he has communicated to some of his friends.

You say: Those who desire to be true patriots and true cosmopolites should repeat, not with their lips only, but from their inmost heart, the words “о соединеніи веѣхъ” For the union of all, taken from the third clause of the Great Litany: For the peace of the world, for the welfare of all the holy Churches of God, and for the union of them all, let us pray to the Lord. ℟ – Lord, have mercy. The Great Litany is said at the Divine Liturgy and many other services of the Orthodox Church. whenever they occur in the services of the Church. Indeed, sir, I think that many are the cultivated Russians who repeat that part of the Divine Liturgy not only with their lips and breath, but with their heart and soul. I, for my part, having been educated in a very pious family, and particularly by a pious mother, still living, have been taught to join sincerely in that beautiful prayer of the Church. When very young, almost a child, my imagination was often delighted by a hope of seeing al the Christian world united under one banner of truth. Later, that became less vivid as the obstacles grew more and more visible. At last, I must confess it, what was a hope has dwindled into a desire relieved from despair by nothing but a faint glimmering of a possible success after many and many ages. The South of Europe, in its dark ignorance, is out of the question for a long while. Germany has in reality no religion at all but the idolatry of science; France has no serious longings for truth, and little sincerity. England with its modest science and its serious love of religious truth might give some hopes; but — permit the frank expression of my thoughts — England is held by the iron chain of traditional custom.

You add that most serious people in England think only of union with Rome.

This conclusion seems to me very natural. Union cannot be understood by any Orthodox Christian other than as the consequence of a complete harmony, or of a perfect Unity of Doctrine. (I do not speak of rites, excepting in the case when they are symbols of a dogma.)

The Church in her structure, is not a state, and can admit of nothing like a conditional Union. It is quite a different case with the community of Rome. She is a state. She admits easily of the possibility of an alliance even with a deep discordance of doctrine. Great is the difference between the logical slavery of Ultramontanism and the illogical half-liberty of Gallicanism, and yet they stand both under the same banner and head. This was written before the suppression of Gallicanism by Pope Pius IX. The union of the Nicene Symbol and Roman obedience in the Uniates of Poland was a thing most absurd, and yet those Uniates were admitted by Rome very naturally, because the community of Rome is a state, and has a right to act as a state. The Union with Rome seems to me the more natural for England, [since] England in truth has never rejected the authority of the Latin doctrine. Why should those who admit the validity of the Pope’s decree in the most vital part of Faith — in the Symbol — reject it in secondary questions or in matters of discipline?

Union is possible with Rome. Unity alone is possible with Orthodoxy. It is now more than a thousand years since Spanish bishops invented [the] Inquisition Khomiakov explains this more clearly in his Third Letter to Palmer (in the time of the Goths), and an addition to the Symbol. It is almost as much since the Pope confirmed that addition the Filioque by his own authority and words. Since that time, the Western communities have nurtured a deep enmity and an incurable disdain for the unchanging East. These feelings have become traditional and, as it were, innate, to the Latin-German world, and England has all the time partaken of that spiritual life. Can it tear itself away from the past? There stands, in my opinion, the greatest and invincible obstacle to Unity. There is the reason why so many individual attempts have met with no sympathy and no success at all, and why communications on points of theological science not unknown to many of your divines (as, for example, the Bishop of Paris Bishop Luscombe, consecrated at the request of British residents in France, with the consent of the English hierarchy, by bishops of the Scottish Church. to Dr. Pusey and others), have not even been brought forward to the knowledge of the public. It is an easy thing to say: We have ever been Catholics; but the Church, being sullied by abuses, we have protested against them, and have gone too far in our protest. Now we retrace our steps. This is easy, but to say, We have been schismatic for ages and ages, even since the dawn of our intellectual life, is next to impossible. It would require in a man an almost incredible humility to adopt that declaration.

These, sir, are the reasons why, in Russia, the most ardent wishes for universal unity are so little mixed with hope, or why hope (where it exists) turns itself rather to the Eastern communities, Nestorians, Eutychians, and so forth. They are certainly further from Orthodoxy than the communities of the West, but are not withheld from a return by feelings of proud disdain.

Now, my dear sir, permit me to turn to a question more individual, but extremely interesting for me, as it concerns a man for whom I feel the sincerest esteem, and who has had the goodness to give me a never-to-be-forgotten proof of sympathy and goodwill. You complain of the weakness and irritation of your eyes, a terrible complaint for one who loves study as you do. I am somewhat of a physician (a quack doctor, if you like it), and though I am sure you have had the counsels of men by far more able than I am, I will take the liberty of proposing to you a remedy of which I have made many experiences with the best and most astonishing effects. The remedy is simply a dilution of one part of alum with one hundred and fifty parts of water, to be applied to the eyes on very fine linen three or four times a day. If you find it worth trying, I hope it will do you good; if you do not, I am sure my good intention will excuse the absurdity of the proposition. I forgot to say that the first application is a little irritating, but generally the amelioration is very remarkable in the space of a few days.

I pray you, my dear sir, to excuse the barbarous style of a foreigner and the indiscretion of a man who has taken the liberty of addressing himself to you without having the honour of a personal acquaintance, and to accept the assurance of the most sincere respect and gratitude of, you most humble and obedient servant,

Alexei Khomiakov

P.S. Since this letter was written, I have seen in the newspapers the conversion of Mr. Newman and many others to the Latins, and must confess that I think a critical moment very near at hand for the Church of England. My address is [omitted]. Perhaps the way indicated by yourself, through the medium of Mr. Law, will yet be the surest and best. Knowing the interest you take in Russian literature, I take the liberty to send you a little selection of verses by Yazikov.

10 December 1844

Alexei Khomiakov

Second Letter to William Palmer
18 August 1845

Obstacles to Reunion of Western communities and the Eastern Church, moral even more than doctrinal * Palmer’s strictures upon the Eastern Church partly, but not entirely, fair * Invocation of Saints * Protestant objections to it due to inheritance of Latin traditions * the Procession of the Holy Spirit * Western breach of the Church’s unity * Khomiakov’s opinion of the English Church.

Most Reverend Sir,

Accept my sincerest thanks for your friendly letter and the copies of your short Poems and Hymns, which I have received by post, and the expressions of my gratitude for the Letter Dedicatory which is printed at the head of that instructive and elegant edition. The honour you have conferred on me in affixing my name to your Poems, unforeseen and unmerited as it was, is deeply appreciated, and shall always be cherished by me as a proof of a dear and never-to-be-forgotten sympathy. I should be happy indeed if I could by work or word show myself not unworthy of it.

The reflections you have been pleased to address to me on ecclesiastical matters call for a reply. They have not been inspired by a cold spirit of scholastic dispute, but by a warm and Christian desire of universal unity; and deficient as I think myself in many points of theological knowledge, I feel that I have no right to evade the duty of answering the questions you have proposed and the opinions which you have stated about Church and doctrine.

Both your letters contain some friendly reproaches directed to me personally, and some which seem addressed to all our Eastern churches. There is in them much of truth which I will not attempt to extenuate, but I will take the liberty to say a few words of justification, as I think you are not quite right in the point of view which you have chosen.

In the first place, I readily admit that the hopelessness with which I consider the obstacles that oppose the return of the Western communities to Orthodoxy may prove and proves me indeed but of little faith and of a faintness in my desires for that return. Warmer feelings and a more Christian disposition would probably have shown me things in a different light, or at least would have turned my eyes from the calculations of worldly probabilities to the thoughts of divine Providence and its inscrutable ways. This fact being once admitted, I may be allowed to say that I think myself right in the statement of things as they stand at present (the future being in the hands of the merciful God), and in the opinion that the greatest obstacles to Unity are not in the visible and formal difference of doctrine (as theologians are apt to suppose), but in the spirit which pervades the Western communities, in their customs, prejudices, and passions, but, more than all, in a feeling of pride which hinders a confession of past errors, and a feeling of disdain which would not admit that divine truth has been preserved and guarded for many ages by the long-despised and darkened East. My words have not been, perhaps, quite useless, if they have turned your attention to the latent feelings which widen the chasm between the Eastern and Western communities.

The reproach you seem to address to all Eastern churches, and particularly to Russia, for want of Christian zeal and energy, and for evident indifference about the diffusion of true doctrine is a bitter one, and yet I will not deny its justice. Perhaps we could find some excuses in the long sufferings of our country, and of Greece, in the Mahometan yoke, in political causes, and in the spiritual battle which is unceasingly to be fought within the precincts of our own country against errors, schisms, and the continual attacks of modern scepticism; but all such excuses are insufficient. More than half of the world is still in complete darkness; our nearest neighbours in the East live still in utter ignorance of the Word and Doctrine of Christ; and that could not have happened if we had inherited the burning zeal of the Apostles. We have nothing to say against these proofs. We stand convicted, and should be quite unworthy of the grace and mercy that have been shown to us if we did not confess how worthless indeed we are. Humility is a duty not only for individuals, but also for nations and communities. In Christians, it is not even a virtue; it is simply obedience to the voice of reasonable conviction. We can only request and expect that the Faith which we hold may not be judged by our actions. The justice of your reproach being confessed in its full extent, I think I may add that it cannot, at least, be inferred from our seeming indifference for the reconciliation or conversion of our Western brethren. Apostles brought to the world new tidings of joy and truth; our missionaries could do the same in the pagan or Mahometan East; but what can we do in the West? What new tidings have we to bring? What new sources of information can we open to Europe, and particularly to England? Is not the Holy Scripture as well and (to our shame be it said) better known to the majority of your nation than to ours? Is not your clergy, and even a part of your laymen, as conversant with the Fathers and Ecclesiastical history as our most learned divines? Is not Oxford a centre of Science which we cannot rival? What can a missionary bring to you, except unavailing eloquence and, perhaps, some individual errors from which no man is sure to be free, though the Church is? There was a time when Christian society preached by example even more than by word. The individual example of a missionary would prove nothing at all; and as for national example, what shall we say? Our only request should be that your eyes may be turned away from us; for our good qualities are hid, and our vices are audaciously brought to view, particularly in that capital and that part of society which are foremost to meet the observation of a foreigner. The rites and ordinances of our Church are despised and trampled on by those who should set the example of obedience. The only way left for us (though it may subject us to seemingly just accusations), is, perhaps, to wait with anxious expectation for the result of the struggle which is going on everywhere (and in England certainly with more earnestness than anywhere else), and to express our sympathy by prayers to God that He may give victory to the better part of human nature.

Now, to return to your reflections on matters of ecclesiastical doctrine. I am well aware that Luther himself was inclined to re-admit the Sign of the Cross and the communion of prayer between living and dead (which he has attacked many times), and that the Anglican Church has never formally rejected them; but a practical rejection seemed to prove that Anglicans had gone further on in the way of Protestantism than in earlier ages, and I could not but rejoice in seeing signs of return to good and Christian doctrines. Yet, allow me a remark which, though directed to a single point, seems to me extremely important, as it brings on conclusions about the whole spirit of the Western communities.

You say that even those Anglican bishops who are least inclined to favour the spiritual movement called Puseyism, nevertheless do not fail to acknowledge that their community has never, in any way, condemned apostrophes and poetical addresses to saints and angels, but that the real objection of intelligent and well-disposed Anglicans is against prayers in prose seriously addressed to Spirits and Souls not present in the body as a service of homage and devotion. I think the word service, though certainly often used in the acceptation you give you give to it, throws some confusion on the question. The song of triumph which meets the victorious warrior on his return to his native land has never been called a service, though it is assuredly joyful homage and an expression of gratitude and devotion. In the like manner, the homage paid by Christians to the noble warriors who have fought the Spiritual battle of the Lord through ages and ages, and have held aright the tradition of the Church, should perhaps not be called a service, but an expression of joy and humble love. We cannot properly be said to serve our fellow-servants, though their station be infinitely exalted above our own. The objection of Anglicans and other Protestants has truth in it if directed against the word, none if against the thing itself. No enlightened member of the Orthodox Church could indeed understand it unless he was acquainted with the Latin definitions i.e., the word service used with the honour given the Saints as in Servitium beatae Mariae, etc. The Orthodox Church does not use the Western terms dulia or hyperdulia, but retains the ancient terminology of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod that differentiates between λατρεία (the absolute worship due the Holy Trinity alone) and τιμητικὴ προσκύνησις (the secondary honour given to the Saints, the Ikons, the Book of the Gospels, etc. and theories which have in fact given birth to almost all the errors of Protestantism. But another objection remains. We address to created Spirits not only the homage of our praises, but very earnest requests (as this expression would in this case perhaps be more correct than the expression prayers), asking for their intercession and prayers before the Majesty of our Saviour. Where is the use of such requests? Where is our right to them? Do we want any other advocate but Christ our Lord? There can be no serious meaning in our addresses to created beings, and we may as well reject all those useless and idle forms. There is the question. I will answer it with another. Was the Apostle serious when he asked for the prayers of the Church? Are the Protestants serious when they request their brethren (as they often do) to pray for them? Where is, if you please, the logic of the distinction? A doubt about the possibility or reality of a communication between living and dead through Christ and in Christ is too un-Christian to want an answer. To ascribe to the prayers of living Christians a power of intercession which is refused to the Christians admitted into heavenly glory would be a glaring absurdity. If Protestantism were true to logic, as it pretends to be, I may boldly affirm that not only Anglicans, but all Protestant sects (even the worst) would either admit serious and earnest addresses to saints and angels, or reject the mutual prayers of Christians on earth. Why, then, are they rejected, nay, often condemned? Simply because Protestantism is for ever and ever protesting. Because the semi-Pelagianism of Popery and its doctrine about merits and, as it were, self-worthiness of the Saints is ever present to Protestantism. Because Protestantism is not, nor ever can be, free. In short, because of its unceasing cry, No Popery, it stands on Popish ground and lives on Popish definitions, and is as much a slave to the doctrine of utilitarianism (which is the groundwork of Popery) as the most fanatical Ultramontanist. Now we are free, and, though well aware that we want no intercessor but Christ, we give vent to our feelings of love and to our earnest longings for mutual prayer and spiritual communion not only with the living, but with the dead, who have not been saved by their own worthiness (for no one, even of the best, was worthy, save Christ alone), but by the grace and mercy of the Lord which, we hope, will be extended to us likewise.

I readily concur with you in the opinion that if Anglicans would only practically admit and appreciate the beautiful poetry of hymns addressed to saints and angels, there would be no fear of any great difficulty remaining afterwards on this point in the way of peace; nor would I have spoken on the matter if I had not considered it as an example and a proof of the constant subjection of all the Western communities to the doctrines and spirit of Latinism. This subject is as evident in the negation as in the affirmations of Protestants, and the illustration of it which I find in their rejection of prayers addressed to the Church invisible could be corroborated by many other examples; such as the dispute about Faith and Works, about Transubstantiation, abut the number of the Sacraments, or the authority of Holy Scripture and Tradition; and, in short, by every question about ecclesiastical matters and every Protestant decision concerning them. But it is certainly most evident in that all-decisive point which you agreed with me in considering as the greatest obstacle not only to Unity between Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, but even to the thought of Union.

I will not enter upon the question [of the Filioque] itself, nor attempt to defend the Nicene[-Constantinopolitan] Creed in its original form; I will not say that the West has not authorities for it, excepting falsified passages of the Fathers, or texts from them which prove nothing, as regarding only Mission ad extra, or even texts which, rightly understood, would prove the contrary of the Latin doctrine. Such is the passage of St Augustine (if my memory fails me not), where he says, principaliter autem a Patre (that is, quod principium), which if rightly translated means: the Spirit comes (i.e. ad extra) from the Father and Son, but originates from the Father. Khomiakov refers to a passage from On the Trinity, 25:12: Et tamen non frustra in hac Trinitate non dicitur verbum nisi Filius, nec donum Dei nisi Spiritus Sanctus, nec de quo genitum est verbum et de quo procedit principaliter Spiritus Sanctus, nisi Deus Pater. Ideo autem addidi principaliter, quia et de Filio Spiritus Sanctus procedere reperitur. Adam Zernikov proved that the highlighted passages were later interpolations. I will not recall the decisive approval given by an Ecumenical Synod Fifth Ecumenical Synod (Constantinople/New Rome, 553) to the anathema of Theodoretus against the doctrine of Procession from the Father and Son. (The absurd explanation given by Jäger in his life of Photius and by other Latin writers who pretend that the anathema was directed against Monophysite tendencies looks like anything rather than fair and Christian discussion of a theological question.) All this I leave aside. I could add nothing to promote knowledge, or to the strong attacks of the illustrious Zernikov and Theophanes. I will only add an observation of my own. The Protestant world has been torn asunder by all sorts of errors; it has given birth to most strange sects which differ widely the one from the other in almost every point of doctrine. Now this point [the Filioque], every candid Protestant will admit to be at least a doubtful one (though in my opinion there is not even place for a doubt). How does it happen, if you please, that not one of these numerous sects has readmitted the [original] Nicene[-Constantinopolitan] Symbol? How happens it that some of them (evidently feeling doubts) have preferred excluding the words about the Procession altogether to the necessity of using the orthodox form, though it is literally transcribed from the words of our Saviour? Does not that circumstance go far to prove undoubted though unconfessed subjection to Latin precedents, and a deep-rooted feeling of repulsion against anything that could seem to confirm the truth of Orthodoxy? I hope you will not accuse me of judging our ecclesiastical adversaries unfairly.

The matter is most important in two respects, as it is not only a question of doctrine, but a question of morality. Leaving aside the first point, I will consider only the second. Leaving aside the first point, I will consider only the second. In the seventh century, the Catholic Church was one in full communion of love and prayer, from the depths of Syria and Egypt to the distant shores of Britain and Ireland. About the middle of that century (perhaps even at the end of the preceding one) a change was introduced in the Symbol by the Spanish clergy. Khomiakov is mistaken about the date: the change was introduced in the middle of the sixth century. In the first letter I had the honour to address you, I added that this change was made at the same time when the Inquisition was first introduced in its worst forms, Khomiakov explains this more clearly in his Third Letter to Palmer and by the same provincial synods, with the intention to recall to your memory that the first step towards schism was taken by the worst, most corrupted and most un-Christian clergy, swollen with pride of exorbitant political rights. The innovation was left unnoticed, as having been made in a distant country which was soon overrun and conquered by Mohammedans. Still, unnoticed as it was in the East, and even in Italy, the new teaching crept on further and further through the Western communities. About the end of the eighth and beginning of the ninth centuries, the new Symbol was admitted by most of them as a thing of course. We have no right on that occasion to accuse the Roman See. The Popes felt the unlawfulness of the proceeding, they foresaw its dreadful consequences, they tried to stem the flood, but could not. Their only fault (and a great one it was) was to have shown a want of energy in their resistance. The West felt itself of age; it could speak for itself; it had no want of anybody’s opinion or assent in things of faith. The innovation was solemnly adopted, without a general Synod being held, without the Eastern Bishops being invited to give their assent, without even so much as a notice being given to them. The bonds of love were torn, the communion of faith (which cannot exist with different symbols) was rejected in fact. I will not say, Was that lawful? The idea of law and lawfulness may do for casuists and disciples of the jus Romanum, but cannot do for Christians. But I will ask: Was that moral? Was it brotherly? Was it Christian? The rights of the Catholic Church were usurped by a part of it. An unmerited offence was given to unsuspecting brothers, who till that time had fought with the greatest perseverance and certainly the greatest ability for Orthodoxy. This action was certainly a most heinous sin, and a most shocking display of pride and disdain. The bad inheritance has been accepted and held till now. Must it be held for ever?

Let worldly societies deviate from moral law; let them sin and glory in their sins, and in the temporary advantages they have gained by them. I am not, nor can ever be, a political man; therefore, I will not judge political communities, though I do indeed suspect that every bad action of the fathers is or shall be visited on their children by the logic of provident history. But I know for certain that every man must answer for his sins and be punished for them until he confesses and repents. Still more assuredly do I know that there can be no sin in the Church of God, in the holy elect and perfect vessel of His heavenly truth and grace; and that therefore no community which accepts the inheritance of sin can be considered as a real part of it.

You may remark, most Reverend sir, that I have not entered on the dogmatic part of the question, and only considered the moral part of it. I may add that, left alone and rejected as we were by our usurping brethren, we have had a right to decide all sorts of questions by ourselves and by the authority of our own clergy and laymen; yet we have not used that right. We are unchanged; we are still the same as we were in the eighth century, before the West had rudely spurned its Eastern brethren. Let us be brought to the test. Oh that you could only consent to be again what you were at that time when we were united by Unity of Faith and communion of spiritual love and prayer!

Some words more must be said in answer to the last part of your printed letter. You are right in giving the following rule: We should be jealously fair and charitable in ascertaining that we do not misrepresent or calumniate the belief of our separated brethren, and so wilfully make a difference when there would be none, or, when there is one, make the difference greater than it really is. I do not think that we are much inclined to fall into the said error, and, by the knowledge I have of my countrymen, I should rather suppose that they lean to the opposite extreme; yet if the thing be disputed, I will readily admit that no man can be impartial either in his own cause or in the cause of his nation or community. In the present case, I confess that I do not clearly see the possibility of an error. Either the addition has the meaning generally ascribed to it by the Latins as concerning the original Procession of the Spirit, which cannot be considered by us in any other light than as an heretical proposition; or it expresses only the procession ad extra, which no Orthodox Christian can or dare dispute. In the first supposition, the difference is immense, and the question must be solved by scriptural and moral proofs, viz.: by considering whether the Western communities have any authorities for them in the Holy Scriptures, or in their early commentators, or in the decisions of Ecumenical Synods, and whether there is any probability that the grace of the Holy Spirit may have dictated a change, which was accompanied by such an open usurpation of rights, and such an evident and un-Christian disdain shown to a considerable part of the Church. I think that both propositions would easily be proven false. In the second case, there is indeed no difference at all. But the duty of rejecting the addition becomes still more imperative. Who can continue to use equivocal expressions when this double meaning has had, and has even now, such dreadful consequences? Who can hold up the standard of ancient usurpation condemning at the same time in his heart the usurpation itself? The line of moral duty seems, in this case, to be quite evident.

My real opinion of the Anglican Church is, in many respects, very near to your own. I believe seriously, that it contains many orthodox tendencies, perhaps not quite developed, but growing to maturity; that it contains many elements of unity with Orthodoxy, obscured, perhaps, by nothing but unhappy habits of Latin scholasticism, and that the time is at hand when a better understanding will be followed by real union between long separated brethren. The seemingly heretical, or at least equivocal, language should only be explained in an orthodox sense, and the language and spirit of heresy should be formally rejected and disused for the future. These are your own expressions. In the first point, the power usurped in the change of the Symbol should be frankly condemned as offensive to charity and love; but there stands the great moral obstacle; for such a condemnation would seem, and indeed would be, a confession and an act of penitence; and, sweet as penitence is in its consequences, it is at first bitter and repulsive to the pride from which no man is free. And yet, what good can be done without moral renovation, when every good consequence is sure to be derived from it, as it brings with itself the perfect grace of the Father of lights? But, it is indeed no easy thing; and that is the reason why, with so many apparent causes for hope, my hopes are so faint and null. I know I am not right in giving way to my fears, and yet I should be still more wrong if, entertaining such thoughts, I should not express them frankly. Certainly my greatest joy would be to be convicted of error and pusillanimity by the event.

Having gone thus far, I will take the liberty to observe that, in my opinion, many, even of the best disposed amongst English divines, are apt to fall into a strange and dangerous delusion. This delusion is to suppose that not only every particular church can run into partial errors without ceasing to belong to Catholicity, but that the whole of the Catholic Church can likewise be obscured by temporary errors, either the same in every part of it, or different in the different communities, so that Truth is to be distilled out of the corrupt mass by the rule of quod semper, quod omnes, quod ubique. This is the phrase of Saint Vincent of Lerins: That which is believed everywhere, always and by all, is truly and properly catholic. It is sometimes called the Vincentian Canon. I have lately had the pleasure of reading a book, with which you are probably acquainted, of Mr. Dewar about German Rationalism. Edward H. Dewar: German Protestantism and the right of private judgment in the interpretation of Holy Scripture: A brief history of German theology, from the Reformation to the present time, in a series of letters to a layman, Oxford, 1844. I consider it a masterpiece of fair and sound logic, free from passions and prejudices. The sharp intelligence of the author has not only perfectly found out the reasons of the inevitable development of Rationalism in Protestant Germany, but has found its traces in Latinism, not withstanding its continual pretensions to the contrary. This is certainly a great truth which could be corroborated by many other and even stronger proofs; but, strange to say, Mr. Dewar excepts the Anglican Church from the general accusation, as if a community which confesses to a reform did not stand self-convicted of Rationalism! Indeed, if the totality of the Church could ever have fallen into errors of doctrine, individual criticism would have become not only a right, but an unavoidable necessity; and that is nothing but Rationalism, though it may hide itself behind the well-sounding words of Testimony of the Fathers, whose writings are nothing but heaps of written pages; or, Authority of the Catholic Church, which has no meaning at all if it could not escape error; or, Tradition, which, once interrupted, ceases to exist; or even Inspiration from heaven, which every man can pretend to be favoured with, though no other believes his pretensions. The continual presence of the Holy Spirit is a promise given to us by Truth Itself; and if this promise is believed, the light of pure doctrine must burn and shine brightly, through all ages, seeking our eyes, even when unsought for. If it is once bedimmed, it is obscured for ever, and the Church must become a mere word without a meaning in it, or must be considered, as many German Protestants indeed do consider it, as a society of good men differing in all their opinions, but earnestly seeking for Truth with a total certainty that it has not yet been found, and with no hope at all ever to find it. These consequences are unavoidable, though some of your worthiest divines do not seem to admit them, and this is certainly a dangerous self-delusion.

If you find some expressions of this letter rather harsh, I beg of you not to judge them too severely. It is perhaps in my turn of mind to see obstacles rather than the means by which they may be avoided; and I hope I have been actuated by no desire of giving offence; but by an earnest wish that every difficulty may be rightly understood so as to be the better solved with the help of Him whose blessing is sure to illuminate hearts that are honestly and humbly longing for Truth and moral perfection. Such hearts are certainly no rarity in your country.

Accept, most reverend sir, the assurances of the sincere and perfect esteem with which I have the honour to call myself your most humble and obedient servant,

Alexei Khomiakov

(Smolensk, 18 August 1845)

Alexei Khomiakov

Third Letter to William Palmer
28 November 1846

Moral obstacle to the West accepting Orthodoxy * The Eastern Church defended from the charge of lack of missionary zeal * The Eastern Church defended from charge of inconsistency with regard to Filioque * The Rebaptism of Westerners * Replies to additional remarks of Palmer upon Filioque and the Inquisition * Difficult for Westerners, whether Latin or Protestant, to join Orthodox Church * The Church cannot be a harmony of discords * Latin power and great future of the Orthodox Church

Most Reverend Sir,

Accept my heartiest thanks for your friendly letter, and my excuses for having been rather slow in answering it. I cannot but call your letter a friendly one, though it contains some very severe attacks on us; but a truly friendly disposition lies in my opinion at the bottom of them, and is manifested by the honest frankness of their expression. I think your attacks generally wrong, but they are sincere, and show a serious desire to find out truth, and to come to a satisfactory conclusion in the debated question. Every doubt, every difficulty, and every accusation, let it be ever so hard for the accused party, should be candidly and clearly stated; this is the only way for establishing the difference between right and wrong. Truth must never be evaded; it should not even be veiled in truly serious questions.

Permit me to resume briefly your accusations. First: If we pretend (as indeed we do) to be the only Orthodox or Catholic Church, we should be more zealous for the conversion of erring communities, as the Spirit of apostleship, which is the true spirit of Love, can never be extinct in the true Church; and yet we are manifestly deficient in that respect. Secondly: Our pretensions are evidently contradicted by the admission (proposed by some our most important divines) of a communion with the Latin Community on very easy conditions. Thirdly: Slight errors (proved by a change of rites) have been admitted by our own Church, and therefore we cannot logically uphold the principle that the true Church can never have fallen into a dogmatic error (be it ever so slight), or have undergone any change, be it ever so unimportant.

I have fairly admitted our deficiency in Christian zeal, though at the same time I exculpated our Church from that accusation with respect to the Western communities. You explain that same faintness by a latent conviction of our Church, which, you suppose, feels herself to be no more than a part of the whole Church notwithstanding her pretensions to the contrary. This explanation seems to me quite arbitrary, and has no right to admission till it be proved that no other explains the case quite sufficiently. But the question stands differently. The distinction I made between our relations to the heathen and our relations to Europe you consider rather as an evasion than as a direct answer, yet I think it is easily maintained by a very high authority. I had said, What new tidings can we bring to the Christian West? What new source of information to countries more enlightened than we are? What new and unknown doctrine to men to whom the true Doctrine is known though disregarded? These expressions imply no fear of a contention which indeed would show weakness and doubt, no distrust of the strength of our arguments and authorities, perhaps even no great want of zeal and love. They simply imply a deep conviction that the reluctance of the West to admit the simple truth of the Church arises neither from ignorance nor from rational objections, but from a moral obstacle which no human efforts can conquer, if it is not conquered by the better feelings of the better part of human nature in those who can know the truth but do not wish to confess it. Such a disposition can exist, though the question is whether it exists in the case of which I am speaking. Did not the Father of Light and Source of Love say in the parable by the lips of Abraham: Have they not Moses and the Prophets? If they do not listen to them, they will not listen to Lazarus, even if he was to rise from the dead. Do not, I pray, consider this quotation as being made with an intention of offence. I would not make injurious accusations; and having once confessed a want of zeal in our country and people, I would confess it again; but my conviction is that indeed in the present case the words of Christ may be fairly applied, and that you are separated from us by a moral obstacle, the origin of which I have tried in my former letter to trace to its historical beginning.

But does not this faintness of zeal — which I admit (with regard to the heathen nations) — imply a defect in the Eastern Church herself, and prove her to be no more than a part, perhaps even not so much as a part of the whole true Church? This I cannot admit. It may be considered as a defect of the nations to whom the destiny of the Church is temporarily confided (be they Russians or Greeks), but can nowise be considered as a stain to the Church herself. The ways of God are inscrutable. A few hundreds of disciples in the space of about two centuries brought to the flock of Christ more millions of individuals than there were hundreds in the beginning. If that burning zeal had continued to warm the hearts of the Christians, in how short a space of time must not all the human race have heard and believed the saving Word? Sixteen centuries have elapsed since that epoch; and we are obliged to confess with an unwilling humility that the greater and by far greater majority of mankind is still in the slavery of darkness and ignorance. Where then is the zeal of the Apostle? Where is the Church? That would prove too much if it proved anything at all. Many centuries, particularly in the middle ages, and at the beginning of modern history, have hardly seen some few examples of solitary conversions and not one national, and not one remarkable effort at proselytism. This seems to inculpate the whole Church. The spirit of missions is now most gloriously awakened in England, and I hope that that merit will not be forgotten by the Almighty in the days of trial and danger which England has perhaps to meet; but this noble tendency is a new one, or at least has become apparent only very lately. Is it a sign that the Church of England is now nearer to truth than it was before? Is it a proof of greater energies or purity? No one can admit this. Or let us take the Nestorian community, which you hold out as a parallel to us. I do not consider the parallel as a caricature, though you have added that word, probably with an intention to avoid offence. The Nestorians are generally ignorant, but ignorance (in the point of Arts and Sciences) was our own lot not more than a century ago. The Nestorians are, generally speaking, poor; but that is no great blemish for any man and particularly for a Christian. They are few, but the truth of a doctrine is not to be measured by the number of votaries. The Nestorians have been richer and more learned and more numerous than they are at present. They have had the spirit of proselytism. Their missionaries have extended their activity over all the east as far as the inner India and the centre of China, and that proselytism was not ineffectual. Millions and millions had embraced Nestorianism (Marco Polo’s testimony is not the only one to prove their success). Was Nestorianism nearer to truth in the time of its triumph than in our time? Mohammedanism and Buddhism would give us the same conclusion. Truth and error have had equally their time of ardent zeal or comparative coldness, and the characters of nations may certainly produce the same effects as the characters of epochs. Therefore, I see no reason for accusing the Orthodox Church in herself of a defect or weakness which may, and in my opinion evidently does, belong to the nations that compose her communities.

Having thus distinguished the notes of the Church herself from the national qualities or defects of the Eastern community which alone represents it temporarily, permit me to add that the comparison which you institute between the zeal of the Latins and the seeming indifference of the Eastern World is not quite fair. I do not deny the fact itself, nor do I express any doubt concerning the apparent superiority of the Latins in that respect; but I cannot admit their spirit of proselytism to be anything like a Christian feeling. I think it should be left quite out of the question, as being the necessary result of a particular national or ecclesiastical organisation, nearly akin to the proselytising spirit of Mohammedanism in the days of its pride. I will not condemn the zeal of the Latins; it is in some respects too praiseworthy to be ill or even lightly spoken of; I can neither praise nor envy it. It is in many respects too un-Christian to be admired, as having produced more persecutors than martyrs. It is, in short, a mixed feeling not dishonourable for nations which belong to the Latin Community, but quite unworthy of the Church, and not to be mentioned in questions of ecclesiastical truth. I am, I trust, very far from having the disposition to boast, and yet I cannot but call your attention to a strange and generally unnoticed fact, viz., that notwithstanding the apparent ardour of the Latin Community, and seeming coldness of Orthodoxy as to proselytism, yet that since the time of the Papal Schism (which certainly begins not with the quarrels of Photius and Nicholas, but with the interpolation of the Symbol when the West declared itself de facto sole judge of Christian doctrine) it has been the destiny of Orthodoxy to be happier in its conquests than its rival community. No one will doubt the fact if he considers the numerical superiority of Russian Orthodox Christians over the inhabitants of Scandinavia and about a third part of Germany, which were called to the knowledge of Christ after the time of Charlemagne. To this comparison, you must add that even of that lesser number more, and by far more, than a half was not converted, but driven into the Latin Communion by cudgel, sword, and fire. I repeat that I am rather ashamed of our having done so little, than proud of our success; but in the unaccountable ways of Providence it is perhaps a particular dispensation of the Eternal Goodness to show that the Treasury of Truth must and shall thrive though confided to seemingly careless hands. No Anscar or Wilfried, no Willbrod or Columban came to instruct Russia. We met truth more than half-way, impelled by the grace of God. Since then, we have had our martyrs, we have had and still have our missionaries, whose labour has not been quite fruitless. In fact, Russia spread the Christian Faith across ten time zones and over 180º of longitude, across the Ural Mountains, through Siberia, through Alaska and into present-day California. I admit they are few in numbers; but is not the voice of truth which calls upon you, the voice of the whole Church? You have as yet seen no Russian or Greek missionary. But did Cornelius reject the Angel’s voice and declare that he would not believe till the Apostle came? He believed, and the Apostle came only as a material instrument of Christian confirmation; and shall the message of God, the emanation of the whole Church, the voice of truth, be the less powerful or the less acceptable because no single individual has been found worthy of bringing it to you? The Church may have and has undoubtedly many different forms of preaching.

The second point of accusation concerning the easy conditions on which communion was proposed to the Latin Community may equally be answered without difficulty. First, I readily admit that Mark of Ephesus went too far in his concessions; but in a fair trial of that great man and eminent divine we should, I think, rather admire his undaunted firmness than condemn his moments of human weakness. His was a terrible task. He felt, and could not but feel, that in rejecting the alliance of the mighty West he was literally condemning his country to death. This was more than martyrdom for a noble spirit, and yet he stood the trial. Are we not to be indulgent in our judgment over an unwilling error inspired by the wish of saving his country, and are we not to bless the memory of his glorious opposition? Other divines of a later period [may have] consented to a communion with Latins requiring nothing but a restitution of the Symbol to its ancient form and other less material changes in doctrine. These you consider as too easy conditions. [You ask,] Would Athanasius have admitted Arius to communion, and allowed him the liberty of teaching Arianism everywhere excepting the Symbol? Very certainly he would not; but there is an immense difference between the heresy of Arius and the false doctrine of the Latins. The first rejects the true doctrine; the second admits it, and is only guilty of adding an opinion of its own (certainly a false one) to the holy truth. That opinion in itself has not been condemned by the Church, not being directly contrary to the holy Scriptures, and therefore, does not constitute a heresy. Khomiakov was obviously unaware that the Synod of Blachernae condemned the Filioque as a heresy. The heresy consists in calumniating the Church and in giving out as her tradition a human and arbitrary opinion. Throw the interpolation out of the Symbol, and tradition is vindicated; opinion is separated from Faith; the keystone is torn out of the vault of Latinism, and the whole fabric falls to ruins with all its proud pretensions to infallibility, When this letter was written, papal infallibility was a widespread opinion, but had not been proclaimed by the Latins to be dogma. In fact, many Latin bishops were very vocal in rejecting it as a teaching. as if the Latins were the sole judge of Christian truth; the rebel spirit is hewed down and broken. In short, all is obtained that need be obtained. A deeper insight into the question would show (and that observation did not probably escape our divines) that the [human] opinion which is [merely] added to [the true] dictionary doctrine and implied in the Filioque has indeed no other support but the decision of ignorant Synods, and the declarations of the Roman See. Being once rejected out of the Symbol, and consequently out of Faith and Tradition, it could not stand by itself, and would be sure to fall and be forgotten like many other partial and local errors, such as, for instance, the error of considering Melchizedek as an apparition (though no incarnation) of Christ. The high majesty of the Church, most reverend sir, has nothing to do with individual opinions, though false, when they do not run directly against her own doctrine. They may, and do, constitute a heresy only when they dare to give themselves out as her doctrine, her tradition, and her faith. This seems to me a sufficient justification of the conditions proposed to the Latins and a proof that they did not imply the slightest doubt of the Eastern Orthodoxy and of her doctrine being the only true one.

Your third accusation is not positively stated; it is rather insinuated by a comparison with the sale of Indulgences than directly expressed; but I cannot leave it without an answer. Your own expressions that the re-baptising of Christians was prevalent for many years and even sanctioned by local canons would be sufficient for our justification; for local errors are not errors of the Church, but errors into which individuals can fall by ignorance of the ecclesiastical rule. The blame falls on the individuals (whether they be Bishops or laymen signifies nothing). But the Church herself stands blameless and pure, reforming the local error, but never in need of a reform. I could add that, in my opinion, even in this case the Church has never changed her doctrine, and that there has only been a change of rites without any alteration in their meaning. All Sacraments are fulfilled only in the bosom of the true Church, and it matters not whether they be completed in one form or another. Reconciliation renovates the Sacraments or completes them, giving a full and Orthodox meaning to the rite that was before either insufficient or heterodox, and the repetition of the preceding Sacraments is virtually contained in the rite or fact of reconciliation. Therefore, the visible repetition of Baptism or Confirmation/Chrismation, though unnecessary, cannot be considered as erroneous, and establishes only a ritual difference without any difference of opinion. You will understand my meaning more clearly still by comparison with another fact in ecclesiastical history. The Church considers Marriage as a Sacrament, and yet admits married heathens into her community without re-marrying them. The conversion itself gives the sacramental quality to the preceding union without any repetition of the rite. This you must admit, unless you admit an impossibility, viz., that the Sacrament of Marriage was by itself complete in the lawful union of a heathen pair. The Church does not re-marry heathens or Jews. Now, would it be an error to re-marry them? Certainly not, though the rite would seem altered. This is my view of the question. The re-baptising of Christians did not contain any error, but the admission of the error (if error it be) having been a local one is quite sufficient for the justification of the Eastern Church. The case is quite different with the sale of Indulgences. It was an error of the whole Latin Community, being not only sanctioned by her infallible head, but emanating directly from him. But I will be content to leave that argument aside, decisive though it be for a true Latin, and will admit that the sale of Indulgences was attacked by some divines who were never condemned as heretics. It matters little whether it be so or not. The error remains the same. The sale of Indulgences cannot be condemned from a Latin point of view. As soon as Salvation is considered capable of being obtained by external means, it is evident the community believing thus has a right to choose the means, considering the different circumstances of the community. Charity to the poor may be reasonably changed into charity to the whole body of the visible community or to her head, the See of Rome. The form is rather comical; but the doctrinal error does not lie in the casual form; it lies in the doctrine itself of the Latin Community, a doctrine which is fatal to Christian freedom, and changes the adopted sons of God into hirelings and slaves.

I have thought it necessary to answer the accusation hinted at by the comparison you institute between two errors of the Latin Community and the Orthodox Church, yet I do not much insist on accusing Rome in that particular case. The only thing I wanted to show that we have a right to uphold the doctrine that no error, even the slightest, can ever be detected in the whole Eastern Church (I neither speak of individuals nor of local communities); and permit me to add that without this doctrine the idea itself of a Church becomes an illogical fiction, by the evident reason that, the possibility of an error being once admitted, human reason stands alone as a lawful judge over the holy work of God, and unbounded rationalism undermines the foundations of faith.

I must add some observations concerning the remarks that conclude your letter.

1. I have no doubts about the passage of St Augustine (principaliter, autem, etc.) being an interpolation. The proofs given by Zernikov seem conclusive; but I am inclined to consider it as an ancient interpolation and no wilful falsification, and therefore, thought it not quite useless to show that it contained nothing in favour of the Latin doctrine.

2. I am quite aware that the doctrine attacked by Theodoret was not the Latin one, which was quite unknown at that early period; but the expressions of Theodoret are directly opposed to the addition in the Symbol, and this is quite sufficient to show that such an addition would have been utterly impossible at the time of the Ephesian Synod, and is contrary to the doctrine then admitted as Orthodox.

3. The Inquisition of the Gothic period in Spain is not known under that name, and is not united by any visible historical link with the later one; that is the reason why no historian has ever sought for the origin of that dark institution in those remote centuries; but the bloody and iniquitous laws which were so fiercely urged against Arians and Jews in the time of the predecessors of Roderick have all the character of religious Inquisition in its most abominable form, and originated, as did the later Inquisition, from the will of the clergy. That is the reason why I have given them a well-known name, though that name was not yet used in the Gothic epoch. It is to be remarked that neither the Mohammedan conquest, nor a struggle of seven centuries, nor all the changes of manners, habits, and civilisation which must have taken place during such a long space of time, could alter the national character of the Spanish clergy. No sooner was Spain free and triumphant than it renewed its old institutions, a terrible and [hitherto] unnoticed example of the vitality of errors and passions and of their hereditary transmission to the remotest generations.

4. There is no doubt that, at the end of the eighth, and at the beginning of the ninth century, the Filioque was not yet generally admitted by the Western Communities. Zernikov is right in that respect, and a decisive argument may be derived from Alcuin’s testimony; but the Spanish origin of the addition is an undoubted fact, and I see as yet no conclusive reason to suppose that the Acts of the Spanish Synods have been falsified. The addition itself may be easily explained by the struggle between Arians and Catholics at the time of the Goths, and by a desire of attributing all possible qualifications of the Father to the Son, whose divinity was denied by the Arians. This indeed is, I think, the only reasonable explanation of the arbitrary change in the Western Symbol. After the Arian struggle, and at the time of the Arabs, I can see no reason nor occasion to suggest such a change, and therefore have not the least doubt that the error originated from one of the Gothic Synods, though I am not quite sure whether it was from one of the earliest. At all events, it must have begun no later than the end of the seventh century.

Having thus answered your remarks, I will take the liberty, most reverend sir, to add some observations on the whole tenor of your friendly letter. It is a friendly one, not to me alone, but to all of us children of the Orthodox Church. We could not have asked for larger concessions, nor for a greater agreement in points of doctrine. That yours is not a solitary instance may be inferred not only from your quotations in your most valuable book about the Russian Catechism, but still more from the letters and professions of the Reverend Bishop of [the Scottish Church at] Paris. Believe me, this assurance is a source of great and heartfelt joy for all who feel an interest in truth and unity; and yet, sad to say, what have we gained? Nothing. We have been tried in our doctrine and found blameless; but now we are again tried in our morals (for zeal and love, which are the impelling motives of the Apostle, are nothing but a part of Christian morality), and we are found defective, as indeed we are, and our doctrine is to be condemned for our vices. The conclusion is not fair. You would not admit it if a Mohammedan was to bring it as an objection against Christianity itself, and yet you urge it against Orthodoxy.

Permit me to search into the latent causes of this fact, and excuse me if you find something harsh or seemingly offensive in my words. A very weak conviction in points of doctrine can bring over a Latin to Protestantism, or a Protestant to the Latins. A Frenchman, a German, an Englishman, will go over to Presbyterianism, to Lutheranism, to the Independents, to the Cameronians, and indeed to almost every form of belief or misbelief; he will not go over to Orthodoxy. As long as he does not step out of the circles of doctrines which have taken their origin in the Western world, he feels himself at home; notwithstanding his apparent change, he does not feel that dread of apostasy which renders sometimes the passage from error to faith as difficult as from truth to error. He will be condemned by his former brethren, who will call his action a rash one, perhaps a bad one; but it will not be an utter madness, depriving him, as it were, of his rights of citizenship in the civilised world of the West. And that is natural. All the Western doctrine is born out of the Latins; it feels (though unconsciously) its solidarity with the past; it feels its dependence from one science, from one creed, from one line of life; and that creed, that science, that life was the Latin one. This is what I hinted at, and what you understand very rightly, viz., that all Protestants are Crypto-Papists; and, indeed, it would be a very easy task to show that in their Theology (as well as philosophy) all the definitions of all the objects of creed or understanding are merely taken out of the old Latin System, though often made negative in the application. In short, if it was to be expressed in the concise language of algebra, all the West knows but one datum, a; whether it be preceded by the positive sign +, as with the Latins, or with the negative −, as with the Protestants, the a remains the same. Now, a passage to Orthodoxy seems indeed like an apostasy from the past, from its science, creed, and life. It is rushing into a new and unknown world, a bold step to take, or even to advise.

This, most reverend sir, is the moral obstacle I have been speaking about; this, the pride and disdain which I attribute to all the Western communities. As you see, it is no individual feeling voluntarily bred or consciously held in the heart; it is no vice of the mind, but an involuntary submission to the tendencies and direction of the past. When the Unity of the Church was lawlessly and unlovingly rent by the Western clergy, the more so inasmuch as at the same time the East was continuing its former friendly intercourse, and submitting to the opinion of the Western Synods the Canons of the Second Synod of Nicaea, each half of Christianity began a life apart, becoming from day to day more estranged from the other. There was an evident self-complacent triumph on the side of the Latins; there was sorrow on the side of the East, which had seen the dear ties of Christian brotherhood torn asunder, — which had been spurned and rejected, and felt itself innocent. All these feelings have been transmitted by hereditary succession to our time, and, more or less, either willingly or unwillingly, we are still under their power. Our time has awakened better feelings; in England, perhaps, more than anywhere else, you are seeking for the past brotherhood, for the past sympathy and communion. It would be a shame for us not to answer your proffered friendship, it would be a crime not to cultivate in our hearts an intense desire to renovate the Unity of the Church; but let us consider the question coolly, even when our sympathies are most awakened.

The Church cannot be a harmony of discords; it cannot be a numerical sum of Orthodox, Latins, and Protestants. It is nothing if it is not perfect inward harmony of creed and outward harmony of expression (not withstanding local differences in the rite). The question is, not whether Latins and Protestants have erred so fatally as to deprive individuals of salvation, which seems to be often the subject of debate; — surely a narrow and unworthy one, inasmuch as it throws a suspicion on the mercy of the Almighty. The question is whether they have the truth, and whether they have retained the ecclesiastical tradition unimpaired. If they have not, where is the possibility of unity?

Now permit me to add some observations not only on your letters, but on your book (which I have received with the greatest gratitude and perused with unmixed pleasure), and on all the mode of action of those Anglicans who seem, and are indeed, nearest to us. You would show that all our doctrine is yours, and indeed, at first sight, you seem quite right. Many bishops and divines of your communion are and have been quite orthodox. But what of it? Their opinion is only an individual opinion, it is not the Faith of the Community. Ussher is almost a complete Calvinist; but yet he, no less than those bishops who give expression to Orthodox convictions, belongs to the Anglican Church. We may, and do, sympathise with the individuals; we cannot and dare not sympathise with a community which interpolates the Symbol and doubts her right to that interpolation, or which gives communion to those who declare the Bread and Wine of the High Sacrifice to be mere bread and wine, as well as to those who declare it to be the Body and Blood of Christ. This for an example — and I could find hundreds more — but I go further. Suppose an impossibility — suppose all the Anglicans be quite orthodox; suppose their Creed and Faith quite concordant with ours; the mode and process by which that creed is or has been attained is a Protestant one; a simple logical act of the understanding, by which the tradition and writings of the Fathers have been distilled to something very near Truth. If we admit this, all is lost, and Rationalism is the supreme judge of every question. Protestantism, most reverend sir, is the admission of an unknown [quantity] to be sought by reason; and that unknown [quantity] changes the whole equation to an unknown quantity, even though every other datum be as clear and as positive as possible. Do not, I pray, nourish the hope of finding Christian truth without stepping out of the former Protestant circle. It is an illogical hope; it is a remnant of that pride which thought itself able and wished to judge and decide by itself without the Spiritual Communion of heavenly grace and Christian love. Were you to find all the truth, you would have found nothing; for we alone can give you that without which all would be vain — the assurance of truth.

Do not doubt the energies of Orthodoxy. Young as I am, I have seen the day when it was publicly either scoffed at or at least treated with manifest contempt by [too many in] our [high] society; when [I] myself, who was bred in a religious family and have never been ashamed of adhering strictly to the rites of the Church, was either supposed a sycophant or considered a disguised Latin; for nobody supposed the possibility of civilisation and Orthodoxy being united. I have seen the strength of the Eastern Church rise, notwithstanding temporary aggression, which seemed to be fatal, or temporary protection, which seemed to be debasing. And now it rises and grows stronger and stronger. Latinism, though seemingly active, has received the deadly blow from its own lawful child, Protestantism; and, indeed, I would defy anybody to show me the man with true theological and philosophical learning who is still at heart a pure Latin. Protestantism has heard its knell rung by its most distinguished teachers, by Neander, though unwillingly, in his letters to Mr. Dewar, and consciously by Schelling in his preface to the posthumous works of Steffens. The ark of Orthodoxy alone rides safe and unhurt through storms and billows. The world shall flock to it. Let us say with the beloved Apostle: Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Accept my thanks for your book. I consider it as a very valuable acquisition not only for your countrymen, but for all truly and seriously religious readers. The books contained in the parcel sent to me from Kronstadt, I have forwarded to their respective addresses except the one for C. Potemkin, whose address I have not yet learnt. Pray excuse the length of my letter and the frankness of some expressions which are perhaps too harsh, and believe me, most reverend sir, your most obedient servant,

Alexei Khomiakov

(28 November 1846)

Source: Thomas Ross Valentine website, http://www.geocities.com/trvalentine/orthodox/khomiakov_palmer01.html

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