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.


“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.


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?”



“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?”


“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.




January 26, 2009

Chilean Catholic converted to Orthodoxy

Opening a Door for the Lord in People’s Hearts

Father Alexy Aedo

Father Alexy Aedo

Father Alexy Aedo, Chilean native and archpriest with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, is the pastor in Chile of two Orthodox communities—that of St Silouan of Mount Athos in the city of Conception[1], and that of St Nectarios of Aegina in the city of Santiago[2]. While still a youth, being Chilean and Catholic, he converted to Orthodoxy. Father Alexy, a well-known missionary in his country, has devoted a lot of time and energy to preaching Christianity and Orthodoxy among the Chileans.

– Father Alexy, tell us how you became an Orthodox priest and missionary.

– I had wanted to become a priest from childhood. But I was born in southern Chile, and there it was possible to become a priest only with the Catholic Church. I began to study theology and entered a Catholic seminary. Then I became acquainted with some Orthodox families from Palestine. I saw how people in the Orthodox Church live, how they think. When I would start a conversation on some theological topic, they would tell me what the Orthodox Church teaches about it. So I converted to Orthodoxy and was received into the Antiochian Church. While still a layman, I came here, to Santiago, the capital, to complete my theological education. Once, walking home from the university, I found myself near a Russian church. I entered it, heard the Russian choir, looked at old Russian photographs….All this made a deep, deep impression on me. After that, more than once, the thought entered my mind, “O God, how good it would be if I also could someday serve Liturgy in such a wonderful church!” Later, when I was already ordained a priest, the Russian missionary-bishop Vladyka Alexander Meliant—may God rest his soul—invited me to transfer to the Russian Church. While still carrying on my missionary work in Santiago, I also took the first steps in building a church in the southern part of the country, in the city of Conception. I would like very much for a beautiful Russian church to be there, where my children and other young Chileans could go. And I ask God not to take me to Himself until there is a Russian Orthodox Church in the south.

– In addition to Conception, are there any other Orthodox parishes in southern Chile?

– In the city of Valdivia, there are Russians and Palestinians who would like to form a parish. There are also Chileans, not only in Valdivia but also in other cities, who want to convert to Orthodoxy. We hope that God gives us the opportunity to build here also, in Santiago, a large church.

– You are doing a great deal of missionary work now. Was your acquaintance with Vladyka Alexander a stimulus for this?

– Yes. Vladyka Alexander trusted and loved me as a priest. That is the best thing that can happen to a priest—when a bishop trusts him and loves him. For me, it was a gift from God.

– In Russia, many people know of Vladyka Alexander through his website and are familiar with the “Missionary Pages” which Vladyka put out.

– Both the site and the brochures which Vladyka Alexander published were extremely important and needed by us. They help us understand what Orthodoxy is. Thanks to Vladyka Alexander, we have come to understand that it is both possible and desirable to preach the Gospel through the internet: people hear us better, find out about us, get to know us; through the web, we can keep knocking patiently until the people hear us.

– In the main building of Santiago University, you have now built a movable church. Tell us, besides spiritually feeding those students who are your parishioners, do you have any success in reaching other students with the Gospel message?

– We carry on missionary work with the students, but, figuratively speaking, not “through an open door” but “through a window.” Formally, we do not have the right to preach in a secular educational institution, because the students don’t come to the university in order to be “missionized”. The founders and professors of this university are laypersons, secular people. But each time an opportunity presents itself, without pressuring or imposing on anyone, we remind them about God … and talk about the faith. Later, students will come and approach me as someone older, as to a father, in order to ask advice or to share their joys and sorrows.

– And what is the most important thing for preaching Orthodoxy among specifically Latin American youth?

– My feeling is that youth here are seeking religion, seeking the Church, but they can’t find genuine faith. Unfortunately, many join Protestants, or sects, sometimes even non-Christian sects. Young people need people to listen to them, to understand them.

We live in a time when people are weighed down by many sorrows: they are hit by economic difficulties, by war, at times by serious problems with their health. It seems to many people that their whole life is falling apart. People don’t know what they can hold onto for support, what represents authentic values, true moral guidance. Therefore, work with young people should begin with friendship. A person needs to be able to simply listen to them. And when you listen to them, they, without noticing it, begin to hear about Orthodoxy.

– Do literature, the arts, and philosophy help to find a common language with youth?

– Yes, through philosophy and ethics it’s easier for me to find a common language with youth. Young Chileans are inclined to relate critically to the way things are in their homeland, and indeed, to the world in general. And they want something they can grab hold of, like the tiller on a boat or the helm on a ship, that can help them steer their way through the surrounding world. Through this desire for a true moral compass, it is easy to move the conversation to the plane of philosophy and ethics. The next step up is religion.

– After the restoration of canonical relations between the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, several parishes in Chile split off from the Mother Church. What do you think, is this a temporary phenomenon? And what, in your opinion, needs to be done to heal the schism?

– This is a very sorrowful, contradictory phenomenon. The deep, painful wounds of the past have still not healed. Many of those who have gone into schism still do not understand that over the course of time, the situation in Russia has changed. However, those dear old priests who have preserved the traditions and cherish tradition have, together with us, embraced reunification, but some young priests have left. It may be that the latter are guided by personal motives—material interests, ambition—in a word, private interests. And at times they forget about obedience to the Church.

One Russian batiushka, a monk, lives on a mountain and abides in silence. Talking with him is like talking with a saint. He also didn’t accept the reunification. But I would prefer that he were a little less saintly and stayed with us.

– Tell us, what to you is the most interesting thing that is happening today in the Russian Orthodox Church?

– Between the West and the East exists a colossal difference in world view. Here in the West, Church and culture are separated. In the Orthodox East, they [Church and culture] represent a single, united whole. Matushka[3] and I were in Greece. In Athens we asked a Greek, “What is more important to you, to be Greek or to be Orthodox?” He answered that they were one and the same thing. Russians think the same way. And I must explain to the Chilians that I am not Greek, not Russian—I am Orthodox. The Russian Church is a kind of model for us, integrating spiritual life with national culture. And I very much wish that the Chilean people would perceive and assimilate the Gospel of Christ in the way that the Russian people embraced the Gospel and integrated it with their own traditions and culture. O Russia! Help us find the path of how to be faithful to our national culture in the light of the Gospel teaching!

– Father Alexy, in Latin America, [the project of] the “Days of Russian spiritual culture”[4] has just been completed. What kind of mark have these days left in the souls of those Chileans who are still not in the Church, who consider themselves to be secular people? From your point of view, could it happen that, after visiting the concerts of Sretensky Monastery’s choir, the exhibition “Holy Russia, Orthodox Russia [‘Rus’[5]]”, and the cinematic festival of Russian films, there will be awakened in them an interest in spirituality, and in true Russian culture, which is closely bound up with the idea of Orthodoxy?

– Of course. I think this [project] will also help them draw closer to the Orthodox faith because during this period of the Days of Russian culture, Chileans have had the chance to converse with clergy—with priests and hierarchs. After 20 years in the priesthood, I have come to the following conclusion: people may be very far from the Church, perhaps not even believe in God … until they become acquainted with a priest. The Lord God literally opens for them a little door, tiny and unnoticeable; and—lo!—faith appears. Such a person suddenly turns to us with a request to bless his home, to bless his children. Then he learns about the heights of monastic life, and is beside himself with joy and wonder about it. He starts reading the lives of saints—Seraphim of Sarov, Silouan of Mount Athos, Herman of Alaska, and other ascetics of piety. He learns about fools-for-Christ and begins to study the holy fathers. For confirmation in the faith, people often don’t need concepts and theories, but simply to see the way which God Himself trod. By God’s grace, a person talks with a priest and finds the footsteps of the Lord.

interview by Hieromonk Paul Scherbachev

Source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/28636.htm

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.

On the Western Confessions of Faith

Alexey KhomyakovOn the Western Confessions of Faith

by Alexei Khomiakov

The present text is translated and abridged from the text printed in Yu F. Samarin, ed., Polnoe sobranie sochinenii Alekseya Stepanovicha Khomyakova (Moscow, 1900), Vol. II

Every Christian, when faced with an attack on the faith he confesses, is obliged to defend it to the extent of his intellectual ability, not waiting for any special authorization, since the Church has no official advocates. In the light of this observation I am taking up my pen to answer certain unjust accusations brought against the Ecumenical and Orthodox Church, writing in a language which is not my own, for the benefit of foreign readers. Khomyakov’s article was first written and printed in French, and was later (1864) translated and published in Russian.

In an article printed in La Revue des Deux Mondes and apparently written by the Russian diplomat Mr. Tyuchev, mention was made of the supremacy of Rome, and in particular of the confusion of spiritual and worldly interests in the figure of a bishop-sovereign as being the chief reason for the delay in the solution of the religious question in the West. In 1852 this article was answered by Mr. Laurency, and it is this response which calls for a refutation.

I leave aside the question whether Mr. Tyuchev succeeded in expressing his thought in all its breadth (the merits of his article, incidentally, are not even questioned by his opponent), and whether he did not to some extent confuse the reasons for the sickness with its external symptoms.

I shall begin neither by defending my countryman nor by criticizing him. My one purpose is to clear the Church of the strange charges brought against her by Mr. Laurency, and so I shall not go beyond the limits of the religious question. I would also wish to avoid countercharges, but am not able to do so. My travels in foreign lands and conversations with cultured and learned people of all the religious confessions of Europe have convinced me that Russia is still alien and virtually unknown to the Western world; and even more of a mystery to Christians following the Roman banner or the flag of the Reform is the religious thought of the Church’s sons. Therefore, in order to give my readers an opportunity to understand our faith and the logic of its inner life, it will be necessary for me to show them, at least in part, how we regard those questions which Rome and the various German confessions are disputing. I am not even able to promise that I shall avoid unfriendliness in the expression of my thoughts. But I shall try to be just and to refrain from making any charges that are either slanderous or ill-founded. In any case, I am by no means seeking the honor of being known as one who is indifferent to what he regards as falsehood.

Mr. Laurency brings two basic charges against the Church. The first is this: that she supposedly acknowledges the supremacy of temporal power. On these grounds a comparison is drawn between the Roman confession and the Orthodox Church, which naturally does not turn out to our advantage. “The Pope,” says the author, “is indeed a temporal sovereign, but not because he is a high priest; while the ruler of your Church is a high priest because he is a temporal sovereign. On whose side is the truth?” I shall not quote the actual and rather verbose language of the author, but I am sure I am giving its sense. First of all let me mention in passing that the word “high priest” (pontifex) is a most remarkable word, which the Latinists would be wise to stop using. It points all too clearly to a whole family of concepts whose Christian origins are more than doubtful. Even Tertullian noted this and used the expression “Pontifex Maximus” in an ironical sense. However, to the first charge leveled by Mr. Laurency I reply in few words: it is a downright lie; we acknowledge no head of the Church, either clerical or temporal. Christ is her head and she knows no other. I hasten to add that I certainly do not accuse Mr. Laurency of a deliberate slander. In all probability he has fallen into error unwittingly, and I am all the more ready to believe this in view of the fact that many times in my presence foreigners have made the same error; and yet it would seem that only the slightest reflection would be required to clear it up.

Head of the Church! But allow me to ask, if only in the name of common sense, head of precisely what church? Can it be of the Orthodox Church, of which we constitute only a part? In that case, the Russian Emperor would be the head of the churches which are governed by the patriarchs, of the church governed by the Greek Synod, and of the Orthodox churches in the regions of Austria. Even the most extreme ignorance, of course, does not permit such an absurd conclusion. Or perhaps he is the head of the Russian Church alone? But the Russian Church does not represent a distinct Church: she is no more than one of the eparchies of the Ecumenical Church. From this it would be necessary to conclude that what is being assigned to the Emperor is the title of head of his own eparchy, subject to the jurisdiction of general Church councils. There is no middle position here. Whoever insists on fixing upon us a head of the Church in the person of a visible sovereign must make a choice between two absurdities.

Temporal head of the Church! But does this head have the rights of the priesthood? Does he lay claim — I say nothing yet of infallibility (although it is precisely this that constitutes the distinctive mark of supremacy in the Church) — to some kind of authority in questions of faith? Does he at least have the right, by virtue of his office, to decide questions of general church order (discipline)? If it is impossible to give an affirmative answer to these questions, then one can only be amazed at the complete absence of good judgment which alone could persuade a writer to hurl such an ill-founded accusation against us, and at the complete ignorance which let this accusation stand and did not expose it to the ridicule it deserves. Of course there is not a merchant, tradesman, or peasant in the whole Russian Empire who would not, if he heard such an opinion about our Church, take it as a malicious taunt.

It is true that the expression “head of the territorial Church” The Russian adjective here is mestny, which has the sense of “belonging to or occupying a certain definite region or locality.” I have used the word “territorial” to render this idea rather than the word “local,” which is often used in modem English in a very restricted sense which would distort the meaning of mestny as it occurs in this essay. (Trans.) is used in the laws of the Empire; but not at all in the sense in which it is used in other lands; and in this case the difference is so essential that one must not turn this expression into a weapon against us without first attempting to understand its meaning. Justice and scrupulousness require this.

When, after many afflictions and setbacks, the Russian people in a general assembly elected Mikhail Romanov as their hereditary sovereign (such is the high origin of imperial power in Russia today), the people entrusted to their chosen one all the power with which they themselves had been invested, in all its forms. By right of this election the sovereign became the head of the people in ecclesiastical matters as well as in matters of civic government, I repeat — became head of the people in ecclesiastical matters, and only in this sense head of the territorial Church. The people did not and were not able to transfer to the sovereign a right which they did not possess, and hardly anyone will suggest that the Russian people once considered themselves called to govern the Church. They had, from the beginning, as was the case with all the peoples which make up the Orthodox Church, a voice in the election of their bishops, and this voice they could transfer to their representative. They had the right, or rather the obligation, to see that the decisions of their pastors and councils were carried out in full; this right they could entrust to their chosen one and his successors. They had the right to defend their faith against any hostile or violent attack; this right also they could transfer to their sovereign. But the people had no power whatever in questions of conscience, of general church order, of dogma, of church government, and therefore could not transfer such power to their Tsar. This is fully substantiated by all subsequent events. The patriarchate was abolished; The Russian patriarchate was. abolished, or, rather, allowed to lapse toward the end of the reign of Peter I, and was not re-established until 1917. (Trans.) this was accomplished not by the will of the sovereign but by the decree of the Eastern patriarchs and the native bishops. Later the synod was established in place of the patriarchate; and this change was brought about not by the sovereign’s power but by those same Eastern bishops who had, in an agreement with temporal power, established the patriarchate in Russia in the first place. These facts are sufficient to show that the title “head of the Church” signifies “head of the people in ecclesiastical matters”; in fact it neither has nor could have any other meaning. And once this meaning is admitted, all the accusations based on confusion come to nothing.

But does not Byzantine history provide our accusers with supporting evidence not given to them by the history of Russia? Do they not imagine that they see in Byzantium, with its state seal and the imperial title, a belief in a temporal head of the Church? May it not be supposed that this belief is attested by reference to the Paleologue who was precipitated into apostasy by despair and the desire to purchase help from the West? At the time of the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453.(Trans.) Or by reference to the Isaurians,A dynasty of Byzantine emperors in the eighth century. (Trans.) who by their exploits restored the military glory of the Empire but were drawn into heresy by their misguided zeal and blind self-assurance (for which the Protestant historians of our time have not ceased to praise them)? Or to Iraclius, who saved the state but openly embraced Monothelitism? Or finally to Constantine’s own son, Constantius, who crushed Pope Liberius and was himself troubled by the holy fearlessness of the Bishop of Alexandria? But the history of the Eastern Empire refutes the charge directed against the Church — concerning a supposed subordination to the Emperor — even more clearly than the history of Russia, so that we have no reason to deny the inheritance of Byzantine thought. Even now we think, as do the Greeks, that the sovereign, as head of the people in many matters touching the Church, has the right (along with all his subjects) of freedom of conscience in faith and of the freedom of human reason; but we do not consider him an oracle moved by some unseen power, as the Roman bishop represents himself to the Latinists. We think that the sovereign, being free and a man like any other man, can fall into error and that if, God forbid, such a misfortune should happen in spite of the constant prayers of the Church, then the Emperor does not lose his right to the obedience of his subjects in temporal matters; nor does the Church sustain any injury whatever to her glory and fullness, since her Head never changes. In a case like this the only thing that would happen is that there would be one less Christian in her bosom.

The Church permits no other interpretation. But is the slander silenced? I am afraid not. Ill will may countercharge by referring to the imperial signature attached to the synod’s pronouncements, as if the right of publication of laws and putting them into effect was identical with the legislative power itself. Again, it may refer to the influence of the sovereign in the appointment of bishops and members of the synod which has replaced the patriarchate, as if, in ancient times, the election of bishops and members of the synod (not even excluding those of Rome) did not depend on temporal power (either of the people or of the sovereign), and as if, finally, even today, in many countries of the Roman confession, such a dependency were not quite common. I am speaking only about the principle, from the Church’s standpoint, and not about its application, which, like everything in the world, is often unsatisfactory and subject to abuse. It is difficult to imagine what other false conclusions might be drawn by malevolence and ill will; but after what I have said conscientious people (and I am sure Mr. Laurency is such a man) will not allow themselves to repeat accusations which lack foundation and are ridiculous in the eyes of any dispassionate and enlightened person.

It is not so easy to refute the second charge brought against the Church by Mr. Laurency, since it is based not on fact but on a supposed tendency. We are accused of Protestant leanings. I leave to one side the question whether this second accusation does not contradict the first. Since the insolvency of the first has now been proved, its contradiction of the second cannot serve as an argument on our behalf. I will attack the question directly. But first I must raise a question which is apparently new, or at least, so far as I know, not yet fully examined. For what reason has Protestantism, which has carried away almost half the followers of papism, stopped short at the borders of the Orthodox world? It is impossible to explain this fact by ethnic characteristics, since Calvinism has gained remarkable strength in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary, and has stopped suddenly, not before another ethnic group but before another faith. Thinkers ought to consider this question carefully.

The alleged tendency toward Protestantism can be examined only in the area of principles; but before I begin the survey of the inner logic of the Orthodox faith, and before I show its complete incompatibility with the charge made by Mr. Laurency (and by a great number of other Roman Catholic writers before him), I consider it desirable to review a historical fact.

The Western Schism (my readers will permit me to use this term, since my conscience permits no other) has been in existence now for more than a thousand years. Although the rupture between the Eastern and Western Church was formalized in 1054, controversy and strained relations had existed between Rome and Constantinople since the ninth century. (Trans.) How is it that during this time the Church governed by the patriarchs has not given birth to its own brand of Protestantism? How is it that it has not revealed, at least by now, a definite impulse toward reform of some kind? In the West things developed very rapidly. Scarcely three centuries passed before Luther and Calvin came forward with uplifted heads, strong words, definite principles, and fixed doctrines. A serious polemic will not begin to object by pointing to the heresies and schisms arising in Russia in the seventeenth century and later. Of course we bitterly mourn these spiritual sores; but it would be utterly ridiculous to compare some pitiful children of ignorance, or still more, the unreasonable zeal for the preservation of old ceremonies, with the Protestantism of the learned precursors of the Reform; since I am not speaking here of the Catharists or the Waldensians who appeared in the south, but about people who, like Ockham or Wycliffe or the immortal Hus, stood in the front rank of contemporary learning and could courageously enter into controversy with the whole theological armament of Rome, fearing no blows other than those which might be inflicted upon them by the arm of temporal power. I am speaking of people who, dying no less gloriously than the Christians of the first centuries, from the height of their victorious funeral pyres, turned to their executioners with words saturated with holy and tender love: “Sancta simplicitas,” and by these words proclaimed that they had not chosen their weapons from ignorance, nor was it upon ignorance that they had erected the building of their faith. How could it have happened that the East, with its alleged tendency toward Protestantism, did not produce similar people or similar religious movements? Do they ascribe this to the unfortunate destiny of the Eastern Empire? If I am not mistaken, such an explanation has already been proposed by Comte de Maistre, but of course it satisfies nobody, with the exception of the most superficial minds.

However that may be, in the sphere of religious ideas the absence of this or that phenomenon, even if extended over a period of several centuries, only supports the more or less plausible argument that the tendency toward such a phenomenon does not yet exist. By no means does it prove the impossibility of the phenomenon appearing in the future. To be finally convinced of this impossibility, to raise a historical probability to the level of logical certainty, we must deduce this impossibility from the religious principle itself.

What is Protestantism? Does its distinctiveness lie, as some say, in the very act of protest made on behalf of faith? But if this were so then the apostles and martyrs who protested against the errors of Judaism and against the falsehood of idolatry would be Protestants; all the fathers of the Church would be Protestants, since they too protested against heresy; the whole Church would be constantly Protestant, since she has constantly and in all ages protested against the errors of the times. Clearly the word “Protestant” defines nothing if used in this way. Where then are we to seek a definition? Does the essence of Protestantism consist in “freedom of investigation”? But the apostles permitted free investigation, even made it an obligation; and the holy fathers defended the truth of the faith by their free investigations (cf. the great Athanasius in his heroic struggle against Arianism); and free investigation, understood in one way or another, constitutes the sole basis of true faith. Certainly the Roman confession seems to condemn free investigation; but here is a man who, having freely investigated all the authorities of Scripture and reason, has come to an acceptance of the whole teaching of the Latinists. Will they regard him as a Protestant? Another man, using the same freedom of investigation, has become convinced that the pope’s dogmatic definitions are infallible, and that the only thing for him to do is to submit. Will they condemn him as a Protestant? Yet in the meantime, was it not by way of free investigation that he came to this conviction which compelled him to accept the whole doctrine? Finally, every belief, every discerning faith, is an act of freedom and must stem from previous free investigation, to which a man has submitted the phenomena of the external world or the inner phenomena of his soul, the events of transitory time or the testimonies of his contemporaries. I dare to go further. Even in those cases when the voice of God Himself has spoken immediately and raised a fallen or misguided soul, that soul has bowed down and worshiped only after having recognized the Divine voice. The act of free investigation is the beginning of conversion. In this connection, the Christian confessions differ from one another only in that some permit the investigation of all data, while others limit the number of subjects open to investigation. To ascribe the right of investigation to Protestantism alone would be to raise it to the level of the only discerning faith; but of course this would not be to the taste of its opponents; and all thinkers — even those who are not very serious — will reject such a proposition. One may ask, finally, if it is not in “reform,” if it is not in the act of reformation itself that one must seek the essence of Protestantism? Certainly, in the first period of its development, Protestantism hoped to claim this meaning. But then the Church too has constantly been reforming her rites and regulations, and no one has thought to call her Protestant for this reason. Protestantism and reform in general are therefore not one and the same thing.

Protestantism means the expression of doubt in essential dogma. In other words, the denial of dogma as a living tradition; in short, a denial of the Church.

Now I ask every scrupulous person: Is this the Church which is being accused of Protestant tendencies, the Church which has always remained faithful to her tradition, never allowing herself to add anything to this tradition or subtract anything from it, the Church which indeed looks upon the Roman confession as a schism due to innovations? Is it not absolute nonsense to bring such a charge against such a Church?

The Protestant world is by no means the world of free investigation. Freedom of investigation belongs to all people. Protestantism is one world simply negating another. Take away this other world which it is negating and Protestantism will die, since its whole life consists in negation. The body of doctrines it still holds, the work undertaken by the enterprise of a few scholars and later received by the apathetic credulity of several million uneducated people, is surviving only because the need is felt to oppose the Roman confession. As soon as this feeling disappears, Protestantism at once breaks down into private opinion with no common bonds whatever. Could this be the goal of that Church whose whole concern for other confessions, throughout eighteen centuries, has been inspired by the desire to witness the return of all people to the truth? To put the question is to answer it.

But this is not all. I hope to prove that if, in the future, the spirit of falsehood should ever give rise to some new heresy or schism in the bosom of the Church, her subsequent revival could not appear with the character of Protestantism at first; it could acquire such a character only later on, and then only after having passed through a whole series of transformations, precisely as it has happened in the West.

To begin with we must note that the Protestant world falls into two parts, far from equal in the number of their adherents and in their significance. These parts must not be confused. One has its own logical tradition, even though it denies a more ancient tradition. The other is satisfied with an illogical tradition. The first is composed of the Quakers, the Anabaptists, and other sects of that sort. The second includes all other so-called Reformation sects.

Both halves of Protestantism have one thing in common: their point of departure. Both acknowledge an interruption in the ecclesiastical tradition lasting for several centuries. From this point on they move apart in their principles. The first half, having broken almost all ties with Christianity, admits a new revelation, an immediate descent of the Holy Spirit, and on this foundation seeks to build one Church or many Churches, claiming for themselves an unquestionable tradition and constant inspiration. The basic datum may be false, but its application and development are completely reasonable: a tradition which is acknowledged as a fact receives also a logical justification. It is quite different with the other half of the Protestant world. There they accept a tradition, and at the same time deny the principle by which tradition is justified.

This contradiction may be clarified by an example. In 1847, traveling down the Rhine by steamer, I entered into conversation with a worthy pastor, a serious and educated man. Little by little our conversation shifted round to matters of faith, and in particular to the question of dogmatic tradition, the legitimacy of which the pastor did not accept. I asked him what confession he belonged to. It turned out that he was a Lutheran. On what grounds, I asked, did he give preference to Luther over Calvin? He presented me with exceedingly learned arguments. At this point his servant, who was accompanying him, offered him a glass of lemonade. I asked the pastor to tell me what confession his servant belonged to. He, too, was a Lutheran. “On what grounds,” I asked, “does he give preference to Luther over Calvin?” The pastor remained silent and his face expressed displeasure. I hastened to assure him that I certainly had not intended to offend him, but had only wished to show him that even in Protestantism there is a tradition. Somewhat disconcerted, but good-natured as always, the pastor, in answer to my words, expressed the hope that with time the lack of education on which traditions depend would melt away before the light of knowledge. “But the people with limited abilities?” I asked. “And the majority of women; and the unskilled laborers who scarcely succeed in earning their daily bread; and children; and, finally, young people hardly more able than children to judge the learned questions over which the followers of the Reform have become separated?” The pastor was silent and, after a few moments of reflection, said: “Yes. Yes, of course, the question still stands. … I am thinking about it.” We parted. I do not know if he is still thinking, but I do know that tradition as a fact undoubtedly exists among the Reformers, although they deny its principle and legitimacy with all their strength; I know, too, that they cannot behave otherwise, nor can they extricate themselves from this contradiction. Indeed, there is nothing contrary to logic in the fact that those religious societies which acknowledge all their scholars to be divinely inspired, and ascribe divine inspiration to the founders with whom they are connected by ties of unbroken succession, at the same time also acknowledge tradition — either secretly or openly. But by what right can those who base their beliefs on the learned propositions of their forefathers begin to use tradition as a means of support? There are people who believe that the papacy receives inspiration from heaven; that Fawkes or Johann of Leyden Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), Roman Catholic zealot and leading figure in the so-called Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up the English Houses of Parliament in 1605. Johann Leyden (1508-1536) was a Dutch Anabaptist fanatic, leader of a theocratic sect in Münster which revolted against the city’s prince-bishop in 1535. (Trans.) were true organs of the Divine Spirit. Perhaps these people are in error; nonetheless one can understand that everything defined by these persons chosen from above is obligatory for those who believe in them. But to believe in the infallibility of learning, moreover of a learning which works out its propositions dialectically, is against common sense. Thus, while denying tradition as an uninterrupted revelation, all the scholars of the Reformation are inevitably obliged to regard all their less learned brothers as people utterly deprived of true belief. If they were to be consistent they would say to them: “Friends and brothers, you do not have right faith and you will never have it until you become theologians like us. In the meantime, you’ll just have to get along somehow without it!” Such a speech is unheard-of, naturally, but it certainly would be an act of sincerity. It is evident that the larger half of the Protestant world is quite satisfied with tradition, as understood in its own illegitimate way; the other, more consistent half has departed so far from Christianity that under the circumstances it is pointless to remain within it. Thus the distinctive characteristic of the Reform consists in the absence of legitimate tradition. What follows from this? It follows that Protestantism has by no means extended the rights of free investigation, but has only reduced the number of reliable data subject to the free investigation of its believers (by leaving them only the Scriptures), as Rome has reduced this number for most of its laity, too (by depriving them of the Scriptures).

Clearly Protestantism, as a Church, does not have the power to check itself, and having rejected legitimate tradition, it has deprived itself of every right to condemn a man who, while acknowledging the divinity of the Holy Scriptures, might not find in them the refutation of the error of Arius or Nestorius — since such a man would be wrong in the eyes of learning, but not in the eyes of faith. However, I am not attacking the Reformers here; what is important is to make clear the necessity which compels them to stand on the ground they now occupy, to trace the logical process which has forced them to this, and to show that within the Church such a necessity and process are impossible.

Since the time of her foundation by the apostles, the Church has been one. Embracing the whole world as it was then known, connecting the British Isles and Spain with Egypt and Syria, this unity was never violated. When a heresy arose, the whole Christian world dispatched its representatives and highest dignitaries to solemn assemblies known as councils. By their world-wide character, because of the importance of the questions submitted for their decision, and in spite of the disorder and even violence which sometimes marred their purity, these councils stand out in the history of mankind as the noblest of all its undertakings. The whole Church accepted or rejected the decisions of the councils depending on whether she found them compatible or incompatible with her faith and tradition, and she gave the name of Ecumenical to those councils whose determinations she acknowledged as the expression of her inner thought. To their temporary authority in questions of discipline, this further significance was added: they became certain and unalterable witnesses in questions of faith. The Ecumenical Council became the voice of the Church. Even heresies did not violate this divine unity; they bore the character of private errors and not of schisms of whole regions or eparchies. Such was the structure of that ecclesiastical life the inner meaning of which has long been completely incomprehensible to the whole West.

Let us shift now to the last years of the eighth, or the beginning of the ninth century, and let us imagine a traveler, who has come from the East to one of the cities of Italy or France. Filled with the consciousness of this ancient unity, fully assured that he will find himself among brothers, he enters a church to sanctify the first day of the week. Moved by reverent motives and full of love, he follows the service and listens carefully to the wonderful prayers which have been dear to his heart from early childhood. The words reach him: “Let us love one another, and with one mind confess the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” He listens. Now, in the church the Symbol of the Catholic and Christian faith is pronounced, that Creed which every Christian must serve all his life and for which he is obliged to sacrifice his life if the occasion should arise. He listens carefully. But it is a corrupted Creed he hears; this is some new and unknown Creed! Has he really heard it, or is he perhaps the victim of some nightmare? He does not believe his ears; he begins to doubt his senses. He makes inquiries, begs for explanations. He thinks that perhaps he has entered the gathering of some schismatics who are denying the territorial Church. But alas no! He is hearing the voice of that territorial Church herself. The entire patriarchate, the whole vast world itself has lost its unity. The afflicted traveler laments; they console him. “But we have only added a trifle,” they say to him, just as the Latinists say to us now. “If it’s a trifle, then why was it added?” “But it is a purely abstract matter.” “How then can you be sure that you have understood it?” “Well, it’s just our local tradition.” “But how could it have found a place in the Ecumenical Creed, contrary to the written decree of an Ecumenical Council forbidding any such change?” “Well, this is a Church-wide tradition, the meaning of which we have put into words, guided by local opinion.” “But we do not know such a tradition; and in any case, how can a local opinion find a place in an Ecumenical Creed? Is not the explanation of divine truths given to the whole Church together? Or have we somehow deserved excommunication from the Church? Not only have you not thought of turning to us for counsel, you have not even taken the trouble of notifying us of the change. Or have we already fallen so low? And yet not more than one century ago the East produced the greatest of Christian poets and perhaps the most glorious of her theologians: John of Damascus. And even now there are reckoned among us, confessors, martyrs for the faith, learned philosophers full of Christian understanding, ascetics whose whole lives are an uninterrupted prayer. Why, then, have you renounced us?” But no matter what the poor traveler may say, the deed is done, the breach confirmed. By this very act (i.e., the arbitrary changing of the Creed) the Roman world clearly declared that in its eyes the East was nothing more than a world of helots in questions of faith and doctrine. For one entire half of the Church, ecclesiastical life was at an end.

I am not touching the heart of the question, but let the believers in the sacredness of dogma and in the divine spirit of brotherhood which was bestowed by the Saviour on the apostles and on all Christians, let them ask if clarity of understanding and the divine grace which reveals the meaning of sanctity are to be obtained by neglect of one’s brothers and by disowning the innocent. My task is simply to indicate the origin of the Protestant principle.

It is impossible to ascribe this modification to papism alone. This would be to render it too high an honor, or, from another viewpoint, too great an insult. Although the See of Rome apparently became wedded to its unique opinions, along with the territorial Churches under its care, still it firmly clung to the memory of unity. It persisted for some time; but then it was threatened by schisms, and temporal power began to press upon it with insistent demands. And so finally it yielded, perhaps rejoicing inwardly that it was now delivered from future obstructionism on the part of the independent Churches of the East. However that may be, the change was the deed not of one pope but of the whole Roman world, and this deed was justified not at all by belief in the infallibility of the Roman Bishop, but by the feeling of territorial pride. The belief in infallibility came later on; at the time when the rupture was accomplished, Pope Nicholas I was still writing to Photius that in questions of faith the least of Christians had the same voice as the first among bishops. Let those who are unacquainted with the documents of this great litigation consult a biography of Photius, if only the one prepared by the Jesuit Jaeger. This work is not notable for its scrupulousness, but it contains important documents. Let me add: The legality of a case in no way depends on the scrupulousness of its advocates; moreover, in the present situation, the conscience of the Pope — as a fabricator of false documents — was hardly clearer than the conscience of the Patriarch — a usurper of the episcopal throne. (Photius became Patriarch of Constantinople in 858, following the illegal deposition of Ignatius. [Webmaster note: this is factually incorrect.] Nicholas supported Ignatius, and the dispute led to an exchange of mutual excommunications and the subsequent reinstatement of Ignatius in 867. After Ignatius’ death in 878, Photius became Patriarch legally and held office until 886. Through all this he was regarded as the champion of the Eastern Church against the claims of papal supremacy. [Trans.] ) But the consequences of this change were not long in revealing themselves, and the Western world was carried away on a new path.

Having appropriated the right of independently deciding a dogmatic question within the area of the Ecumenical Church, private opinion carried within itself the seed of the growth and legitimation of Protestantism, that is, of free investigation torn from the living tradition of unity based on mutual love. Thus at the moment of its origin, Romanism manifested itself as Protestantism. I hope that conscientious people will be convinced of this, and that the following conclusions will make it even more clear.

It was as if the right of deciding dogmatic questions were suddenly altered. Previously this right had belonged to the whole Ecumenical Church; now it was assigned to a regional Church. For a regional Church, the right could be affirmed on two grounds: by virtue of a freedom of inquiry which had abandoned the living tradition; or by virtue of the claim of an exclusive inspiration by the Holy Spirit for a certain geographically defined territory. Actually, the first of these principles was accepted, but it was too soon to proclaim it as a right. The former order of ecclesiastical life was still too well remembered, and the first principle was too indefinite and therefore too contrary to common sense to permit an open affirmation.

So the thought naturally arose of associating the monopoly of divine inspiration with one See, and Western Protestantism was hidden beneath external authority. Such things are not uncommon in the political world. It could not be otherwise, since a kingdom of purely rationalistic logic had been set up in place of the Divine Spirit, who had withdrawn. The newly created despotism restrained the chaos which had been introduced into the Church by the original novelty, that is, by the independence of regional or local opinion.

The pope’s authority was substituted for ecumenical infallibility, and his authority was external. Once a member of the Church, once a responsible participant in her decisions, the Christian man had now become a subject of the Church. She and he had ceased to be one, he was outside her, although he remained in her bosom. The gift of infallibility assigned to the pope was placed beyond the influence of ethical conditions, so that neither the corruption of the whole Christian world nor even the personal corruption of the pope himself could have any effect on this infallibility. The pope became a kind of oracle deprived of all freedom, a kind of statue made of flesh and bones, put into motion by hidden springs. For the Christian, this oracle fell into the category of things of a material nature, of things whose laws can and must be subjected to the investigation of reason alone. A purely external and consequently rational law had replaced the living, ethical law which alone does not fear rationalism, since it embraces not only man’s reason but also the whole of his being. Some people assert that papal infallibility is given to the Church as a kind of reward for her moral unity. In what way, then, could she be rewarded for the insult borne by the whole Eastern Church? Others say that infallibility lies in the agreement between the pope’s decision and that of the whole Church convoked in council, or even if not actually gathered in council. How then was it possible to accept a dogma not subjected to prior examination and not even communicated to one entire half of the Christian world? None of these shifts stands up under serious investigation.

A this-worldly State took the place of the Christian Church. The single living law of unity in God was displaced by private laws, bearing in themselves the imprint of utilitarianism and juridical concerns. Rationalism grew up in the form of arbitrary definitions: it invented purgatory in order to explain prayers for the dead; it placed between God and man a balance of obligations and merits, weighing sins against prayers, crimes against meritorious exploits; it set up transferences from one man to another, legitimized the barter of illusory merits; in short, it brought the whole machinery of the banking house into the treasury of faith. At the same time, the Church-State introduced a state language: Latin. Then it appropriated to itself the judgment of worldly affairs; then it took up arm: and began to equip, first, informal bands of crusaders, and later, organized armies (the orders of knights-religious); and, finally, when the sword was torn from its hand, it moved into position the highly trained corps of the Jesuits. It is not now a matter of criticism. Seeking the sources of Protestant rationalism, I find it disguised in the form of Roman rationalism and I cannot avoid tracing its development. Without dwelling on abuses, I am concentrating on the principle. The Church inspired by God became, for the Western Christian, something external, a kind of negative authority, a kind of material authority. It turned man into its slave, and as a result acquired, in him, a judge.

“The Church is an authority,” said Guizot in one of his remarkable works, while one of his adversaries, attacking him, simply repeated these words. Speaking in this way neither one suspected how much untruth and blasphemy lay in the statement. Poor Romanist! Poor Protestant! No — the Church is not an authority, just as God is not an authority and Christ is not an authority, since authority is something external to us. The Church is not an authority, I say, but the truth — and at the same time the inner life of the Christian, since God, Christ, the Church, live in him with a life more real than the heart which is beating in his breast or the blood flowing in his veins. But they are alive in him only insofar as he himself is living by the ecumenical life of love and unity, i.e., by the life of the Church. Such is the blindness of the Western sects that, up to now, not one of them has understood how radically the ground on which they stand differs from that on which the original Church has been standing from earliest times, and on which she will stand eternally.

In this the Latinists are completely wrong. They themselves are rationalists, and yet they accuse others of rationalism; they themselves were Protestants from the first moment of their falling away, and yet they condemn the spontaneous rebellion of their rebellious brothers. On the other hand, while they have every right to return the accusation, the Protestants are unable to do so because they themselves are no more than developers of the Roman teaching. The only difference is that they have adapted it to suit themselves. No sooner did authority become external power, and no sooner was knowledge of religious truths cut off from religious life, than the relationship among people was altered too. Within the Church the people constituted a single whole; one spirit was alive in all. Now this bond disappeared, another replaced it: the common, subject-like dependence of all the people on the supreme power of Rome. No sooner did the first doubt of the legitimacy of this power arise than unity was destroyed, since the doctrine of papal infallibility was not founded on the holiness of the Ecumenical Church; nor did the Western world lay claim to a relatively higher level of moral purity at the moment when it arrogated to itself the right to change (or, as the Romanists say, to expound) the Creed and disregard the opinion of its Eastern brothers. No, it simply cited the accidental circumstance of episcopal succession, as if the other bishops established by the apostle Peter, regardless of their location, were not just as much his successors as the Bishop of Rome! Rome never said to the people: “Only the perfectly holy man can judge me, but such a man will always think as I do.” On the contrary, Rome destroyed every bond between knowledge and inner perfection of soul; it gave free reign to reason while at the same time obviously trampling it under foot.

It would not be difficult to show in the doctrine of the Reformers the indelible mark of Rome and the same spirit of utilitarian rationalism which characterizes papism. Their conclusions are not the same; but the premises and the definitions assumed and contained in these conclusions are always identical. The Papacy says: “The Church has always prayed for the dead, but this prayer would be useless if there were not an intermediate state between heaven and hell; therefore there is a purgatory.” The Reform answers: “There is not a trace of purgatory either in Holy Scripture or in the early Church; therefore it is useless to pray for the dead and I will not pray for them.” The Papacy says: “The Church appeals to the intercession of the saints, therefore this is useful, therefore this completes the merits of prayer and works of satisfaction.” The Reform answers: “The satisfaction for sins made by the blood of Christ and appropriated by faith in baptism and in prayer is sufficient for the redemption not only of man but also of all creation, therefore the saints’ intercession for us is useless, and there is no reason to appeal to them in prayer.” Clearly the sacred Communion of Saints is equally incomprehensible to both sides. The Papacy says: “According to the witness of the apostle James faith is insufficient, It is hardly necessary to prove that the apostle James is misinterpreted in this citation. He is obviously ascribing the name “faith” to knowledge, but this certainly does not mean that he is identifying the one with the other; he wishes to show in this way the complete illegitimacy of any claim knowledge might have to the name “faith” when it does not in fact have faith’s distinctive marks. therefore we cannot be saved by faith, and therefore works are useful and constitute merit.” Protestantism answers: “Faith alone saves, according to the witness of the apostle Paul, and works do not constitute merit, therefore they are useless.” And so on, and so on.

In this way the warring parties have gone back and forth at each other with syllogisms through the centuries, and are still going back and forth at each other, but always over the same ground, the ground of rationalism; and neither side can choose any other. Even Rome’s division of the Church into the teaching and the learning Church has been transmitted to the Reform; the only difference is that in the Roman confession it exists by right, by virtue of acknowledged law, while in Protestantism it exists only as a fact; and a scholar has taken the place of the priest.

I have tried to prove that Protestantism is impossible for us and that we can have nothing in common with the Reform, since we stand on completely different soil. But in order to make this conclusion quite plain I will present one more explanation of a more positive nature. Speaking through Holy Scripture, teaching and sanctifying through the sacred tradition of the Ecumenical Church, the Divine Spirit cannot be apprehended by reason alone. He is accessible only to the whole human spirit under the influence of grace. The attempt to penetrate into the realm of faith and its mystery by the light of reason alone is a presumption in the eyes of the Christian, a criminal and stupid presumption. Only the light which comes down from heaven and which penetrates the whole spirit of man can show him the way; only the power given by the Divine Spirit can raise him to those unapproachable heights where Divinity is revealed. “Only he can understand a prophet who is a prophet himself,” says St. Gregory the Wonder-worker. Only Divinity can comprehend God and His everlasting wisdom. Only he who bears within himself the living Christ can approach His throne without being annihilated by that glory before which the purest spiritual powers prostrate themselves in joyful trembling. The right and the power to contemplate the grandeur of heaven and penetrate its mystery are given only to the Church, holy and eternal; to the living ark of the Divine Spirit which bears Christ, her Lord and Saviour; to her alone, bound to Him by a close and inner unity which neither human thought can grasp nor human words express. I speak of the Church in her wholeness, of which the Church on earth is an inseparable part; since what we call the visible Church and the invisible Church are not two Churches, but one, under two different aspects. The Church in her fullness, as a spiritual organism, is neither a collective nor an abstract entity; she is the Divine Spirit, who knows Himself and is unable not to know. The whole Church wrote the Holy Scriptures and then gave life to them in Tradition. To put it more accurately, Scripture and Tradition, as two manifestations of one and the same Spirit, are a single manifestation. Scripture is nothing but written Tradition, and Tradition is nothing but living Scripture. Such is the mystery of this harmonious unity; it is formed by the fusion of the purest holiness with the highest reason, and only by way of this fusion does reason acquire the ability to comprehend things in that realm where reason alone, separated from holiness, is as blind as matter itself.

Will Protestantism rise on this soil? Will a man stand on this ground who thinks of himself as a judge of the Church and thus makes the claim to perfect holiness and perfection of reason? I doubt if such a man would be received as a welcome guest by that Church which has as its first principle the doctrine that ignorance and sin are the inevitable result of isolation, while fullness of understanding and incorruptible holiness belong only to the unity of all the members of the Church together.

Such is the teaching of the Ecumenical Orthodox Church, and I say boldly that no one will find in it the seeds of rationalism.

But, we are asked, whence comes the power to preserve a teaching so pure and exalted? Whence the weapons for its defense? The power is found in mutual love, the weapons in the communion of prayer; and divine help does not betray love and prayer, since God Himself inspires both.

Where, then, will we find a guarantee against error in the future? There is only one answer to this question: Whoever seeks beyond hope and faith for any guarantee of the spirit of love is already a rationalist. For him the Church, too, is unthinkable, since he is already, in his whole spirit, plunged in doubt.

I do not know if I have succeeded in making my thought clear, so that my readers will really see the difference between the basic principles of the Church and those of the Western confessions. The difference is so great that it is hardly possible to find one point on which they might agree. It even happens that, the more similar in appearance are the expressions or external forms, the more essential is the difference in their significance.

So many of the questions which have been argued for so many centuries in the religious polemic of Europe find a simple resolution within the Church; or, to speak more accurately, for her they do not even exist as questions. Thus, taking it as a first principle that the life of the spiritual world is nothing but love and communion in prayer, she prays for the dead, even though she rejects the fable of purgatory invented by rationalism; she asks for the intercession of the saints, not ascribing to them, however, the merits contrived by the utilitarian school, and not acknowledging the necessity for any intercession other than that of our Divine Mediator. Thus, aware of her living unity, she cannot even understand the question whether salvation lies in faith alone or in faith and works together. In her eyes life and truth are one, and works are nothing but the manifestation of a faith which, without this manifestation, would not be faith but logical knowledge. Thus also, feeling her inner union with the Holy Spirit, she offers thanks to the One Who is Good for every good thing, ascribing nothing to herself and to man except the evil which, in him, resists the work of God. Man must be helpless if the power of God is to be perfected in his soul.

Here I must fix the reader’s attention on a phenomenon which is especially significant. The bifurcation of the Church into the Teaching Church and the Church of Pupils (this name really ought to be given to the lower division), while acknowledged as a basic principle in Romanism (conditioned as it is by the structural properties of a Church-State with its division into clergy and laity), has passed into the Reform and is preserved in it as a result of the abrogation of legitimate tradition or the encroachment of knowledge on faith. Here then is the common feature of both Western confessions. Its absence in the Orthodox Church defines her character in the most decisive way.

In saying this I am not proposing a hypothesis, not even a logical conclusion from a combination of other principles in Orthodoxy (I drew such a conclusion and put it into writing many years ago). Khomyakov is probably referring here to his article, “The Church Is One,” first published in 1864 but written much earlier, perhaps in the forties. (Trans.) I am saying much more. The feature which I have pointed out is an indisputable dogmatic fact. The Eastern patriarchs, having assembled in council with their bishops, solemnly pronounced in their reply to the Encyclical Letter of Pius IX that “infallibility resides solely in the ecumenicity of the Church bound together by mutual love, and that the unchangeableness of dogma as well as the purity of rite are entrusted to the care not of one hierarchy but of all the people of the Church, who are the Body of Christ.” Encyclical dated May 6, 1848. This formal declaration of all the Eastern clergy, which was received by the territorial Russian Church with respectful and brotherly gratitude, has acquired the moral authority of an ecumenical sanction. This is unquestionably the most significant event in Church history over many centuries.

In the True Church there is no Teaching Church.

Does this mean that there is no edification in the Church? There is not only edification, but more edification there than anywhere else. Every word inspired by the feeling of truly Christian love, and living faith, and hope, is edification. Every deed carrying the imprint of the Spirit of God is a lesson. Every Christian life is a pattern and example. The martyr who dies for the truth, the judge who judges righteously (not as pleasing men, but God), the farmer in his humble labor continually being lifted in thought to his Creator — all such men live and die for the edification of their brothers; and not without reason, for the Spirit of God puts words of wisdom on their lips such as the scholar and theologian will never find. “The bishop is at the same time both the teacher and disciple of his flock,” said the modern apostle to the Aleutian Islands, Bishop Innokenti. Every man, no matter how high he is placed in the hierarchy, or conversely, no matter how hidden from view he may be in the shadow of humble circumstance, both edifies and is edified, for God clothes whom He wills with the gifts of His infinite wisdom, without regard to person or calling. It is not just the word that edifies, but a man’s whole life.

The question of edification brings us again to the question of investigation, since the one presupposes the other. Faith is always the consequence of revelation recognized as revelation; it is the perceiving of an invisible fact manifested in some visible fact; faith is not belief or logical conviction based on conclusions, but much more. It is not the act of one perceptive faculty separated from others, but the act of all the powers of reason grasped and captivated in all its depth by the living truth of the revealed fact. Faith is not known only or sensed only, but is known and sensed together, so to speak; in a word, it is not knowledge alone but knowledge and life. So, then, the process of investigation in matters of faith borrows from faith the essential nature of faith, and differs completely from investigation in the usual meaning of the word. First, in the area of faith, the world which is under investigation is not a world external to man, since man himself, and the whole man, with all his fullness of reason and will, belongs to this world and is an essential part of it. Second, investigation in the area of faith presupposes certain basic data, moral or rational, which, for the soul, stand above all doubt. Actually, investigation in the area of faith is nothing but the process of the reasonable unveiling of these data; since full doubt, knowing no limits (if such a thing could really exist), would not only exclude all possibility of faith but also any thought of serious investigation. Once admitted by an absolutely pure soul, the least of these data would give it all the other data by virtue of an unbreakable although perhaps unrecognized sequence of deductions. For the Orthodox Christian the sum of these data includes the whole universe, with all the phenomena of human life and the whole word of God, both written and expressed in the dogmatic ecumenical tradition.

Thus investigation itself in the area of faith, both by the variety of data subject to study and by the fact that its goal lies in living and not merely in abstract truth, demands the use of all intellectual powers in the will and reason, and beyond that also the inner investigation of these powers themselves. It is necessary to take into account not only the world that is seen, as object, but also the power and purity of the organ of sight.

The initial principle of such investigation is the humble acknowledgment of one’s own frailty. It cannot be otherwise; since the shadow of sin already contains the possibility of error, and the possibility turns into inevitability when a man unconditionally relies on his own powers or the gifts of grace bestowed on him as an individual. One would have to claim perfection of the perceptive faculty as well as moral perfection in order to be in a position to make a truly independent investigation of the subjects of faith. It would take more than just satanic pride to make such a claim; one would have to be quite mad. The truth exists only where there is pure holiness, that is, in the wholeness of the Ecumenical Church, which is the manifestation of the Spirit of God in mankind.

Edification, then, is accomplished, not by Scripture alone, as the Protestants think (nevertheless we thank them with all our heart for increasing the number of copies of the Bible); nor by verbal interpretation; nor by the Creed (the necessity of which, however, we by no means deny); nor by preaching; nor by the study of theology; nor by works of love; but by all these things together.

Of course Christianity is expressed in logical form in the Creed; but this expression is not separated from its other manifestations. Christianity is taught as a learned discipline under the title of theology; but this is no more than a branch of the teaching as a whole. Whoever truncates the teaching, that is, whoever separates teaching in the narrow sense of lecturing and interpreting from its other forms, errs grievously; whoever turns teaching into an exclusive privilege descends into foolishness; whoever makes of teaching a kind of official function, supposing that the divine gift of teaching is inseparably connected with this official function, falls into heresy, since in this very way a new, unheard-of sacrament is created: the sacrament of rationalism or logical knowledge. The whole Church teaches — the Church in all her fullness. The Church does not acknowledge a Teaching Church in any other sense.

I hope that I have said enough to prove that the second charge brought against us by Mr. Laurency, the Comte de Maistre, and by many others, is just as ill-founded as the first, and that Protestantism could arise in the Church only by way of the Roman schism, out of which it inevitably flows.

However, an objection may perhaps be raised on the strength of my own words. It could be said that in tracing the genealogy of Protestantism through Romanism I have proved that the rationalistic soil of the Reform was created first by the Roman schism; but since this schism (at the moment of its appearance) was an act of Protestantism, surely it must follow that Protestantism can arise directly within the Church. I hope, however, that my answer will justify me. Certainly, by its falling away from the Church, Rome performed an act of Protestantism; but in those times the ecclesiological spirit, even in the West, was still so strong and so opposed to the spirit of the later Reform that Romanism was compelled to hide its character from the sight of Christians and from itself too, masking the principle of rationalistic anarchy it had brought into the midst of the Church by a despotism in matters of faith. Even if it could be demonstrated, however, that in former times Protestantism or the Protestant principle could be generated in the bosom of the Church, it is nevertheless clear now that this possibility no longer exists.

From the very beginning of the Christian world, no small number of heresies have arisen to disturb its harmony. Even before the apostles had finished their earthly task, many of their pupils were seduced by falsehood. Later on, with each succeeding century, heresies multiplied. Many of the faithful were torn away from the Church by Nestorianism and Eutychianism, with all their ramifications, and especially by Arianism, which provided, incidentally, the occasion for the Roman schism. The question is raised: Can these heresies be revived? No! At the time when they arose, the dogmas which they opposed were not yet clothed in the form of clear definitions, even though they were included implicitly in the Church’s tradition. Thus it was possible for a frail, personal faith to fall into error. Later, by Divine Providence, by the grace of His eternal Word and the inspiration of the Spirit of truth and life, dogma received a precise definition at the councils — and from then on error (in its old form) became impossible even as a result of personal frailty. Unbelief is still possible, but not Arianism. The same is true with the other heresies; they too are no longer possible. They involved misconceptions concerning the revealed dogma of the inner being of God, or of God’s relationship to human nature; distorting the dogmatic tradition, they claimed to be the true tradition. These were more or less culpable errors, but they did not infringe upon the dogma of ecclesiastical ecumenicity; on the contrary, all the above-mentioned heresies tried to prove the truth of their teachings by referring to their supposed acceptance by all Christians. Romanism began at the moment it placed the independence of individual or regional opinion above the ecumenical unity of faith; it was the first to create a heresy of a new type, a heresy against the dogma of the nature of the Church, against her own faith in herself. The Reform was only the continuation of this same heresy under another name.

All the Western sects may be defined in this way; but an error once defined is no longer possible for members of the Church. Does this mean that members of the Church are immune to error? By no means. Just as it would be unreasonable to assert that they are immune to sin. Such perfection belongs only to the Church in her living wholeness, and cannot be ascribed to anyone individually.

Only the person able to call himself a living organ of the Spirit of God would have the right to claim infallibility. But does it follow from this that the faith of an Orthodox Christian is open to error? No. Since the Christian, by the very fact that he believes in the Ecumenical Church, lowers his belief (in questions that have not yet been clearly defined) to the level of a personal opinion, or to that of a regional opinion if the doctrine has been accepted by a whole eparchy. However, although an error in opinion holds no danger for the Church, it cannot be considered harmless for the individual Christian. It is always a sign and consequence of moral error or weakness, making a man to some extent unworthy of heavenly light, and, like every sin, it can be wiped out only by divine mercy. A Christian’s faith must overflow with joy and gratitude, but also with fear. Let him pray! Let him beg for the light he lacks! If only he will not lull his conscience to sleep, like the Reformer who says: “Of course I may be mistaken, but my intentions are pure and God will take them into account, as He does my weakness.” Or like the Romanist, who says: “Let us suppose then that I’m mistaken — so what? The pope knows the truth for me, and I submit in advance to his decision!”

I have clarified as well as I could the difference in character between the Church and the Western confessions. I have stated plainly the heresy against the dogma concerning the ecumenicity and holiness of the Church contained in both Latinist and Protestant rationalism. Now I must say a few words about our relations with these two confessions, their relations with each other, and their contemporary position.

Since the Reform is nothing but a continuation and development of Romanism, I must first speak about our relations with the latter. Is a rapprochement possible? One can only answer this question with a decisive “No.” Truth does not permit compromises. It is understandable why the papacy has devised the Greek Uniat Church. The Church-State can, if it sees fit, bestow certain rights of citizenship upon its former Eastern brothers, as helots in the realm of faith. It can give these rights to them as a reward for their humble submission to the authority of the pope, without demanding from them the oneness of faith expressed in the Creed. Of course, for the true Latinist such half-citizens can only arouse pity and contempt. They are far from being real Roman citizens, and not one theologian, not one teacher would undertake to prove the logic of their religion. It is an absurdity which is being tolerated — and nothing more. In the eyes of the Church such a union is unthinkable, but it is in complete harmony with the principles of Romanism. The Church admits no compromises in dogma or faith. She requires full unity, nothing less; on the other hand, she gives full equality, since she recognizes the spirit of brotherliness and not subjection. Thus a rapprochement is impossible without the full renunciation by the Romanists of an error which is now more than a thousand years old.

But would not a council bridge the chasm separating the Roman schism from the Church? No — since a council can be called only after the chasm has been bridged. It is true that people intoxicated by false opinions participated in the Ecumenical Councils; some of them returned to the truth, others were stubborn in their errors and as a result were finally separated from the Church. But the point is that these people, in spite of their errors, did not deny the divine principle of ecumenicity in the most fundamental dogmas of the faith. They held, or at least declared the hope of defining in clear terms, the dogma confessed by the Church, and also hoped to be worthy of the grace of testifying to the faith of their brothers. Such was the aim of the councils, such was their significance, such was the concept implied in the usual introductory formula to all their decisions: “It has pleased the Holy Spirit….” These words do not express a haughty claim, but a humble hope, justified or repudiated later by the acceptance or nonacceptance of the decisions by the whole people of the Church or, as the Eastern patriarchs put it, by the whole Body of Christ. There were, from time to time, heretical councils. Why were these councils rejected, when outwardly they did not differ from the Ecumenical Councils? Solely because their decisions were not acknowledged as the voice of the Church by the whole people of the Church, by that people and within that world where, in questions of faith, there is no difference between a scholar and an untutored person, between cleric and layman, between man and woman, king and subject, slaveowner and slave, and where, if in God’s judgment it is needed, a youth receives the gift of knowledge, a word of infinite wisdom is given to a child, and the heresy of a learned bishop is confuted by an illiterate cowherd, so that all might be joined in that free unity of living faith which is the manifestation of the Spirit of God. Such is the dogma lying beneath the idea of the council. Now then, why have a council if the Western world has been deemed worthy of such a clear revelation of divine truth that it has considered itself empowered to insert its revelation into the Symbol of Faith without waiting for confirmation from the East? What might a wretched Greek or Russian helot do at a council seated alongside these chosen vessels, these representatives of people who have anointed themselves with the chrism of infallibility? A council is impossible until the Western world returns to the idea of the council and condemns its own infringement of the council principle and all the consequences stemming from this infringement. Or, to put it another way, until it returns to the original Creed and submits its opinion, by which the Creed was impaired, to the judgment of the Ecumenical Faith. In a word, when rationalism is clearly understood and condemned, then and only then will a council be possible. So it is not a council which will bridge the chasm; the chasm must first be bridged before the council can assemble. This was the conviction of the great Mark of Ephesus who, at the Florentine Council, demanded that the Creed be restored to its original purity and the insertion be declared an opinion standing outside its formula. Excluded from the list of dogmas, the error would become harmless. This was what Mark wanted, leaving the actual correction of the error to God’s providence. Thus the heresy would have been removed and the possibility of communion restored. But the pride of rationalism has not yet permitted Rome to go this far.

It was noted above that Romanism had been forced to renounce its own nature, so to speak, as long as it bore anarchy within itself as a principle and feared its manifestation in practice. It was compelled to masquerade in its own eyes and transform itself into despotism. This transformation has not failed to bring important consequences. The unity of the Church was free; more precisely, the unity was freedom itself, the harmonious expression of inner agreement. When this living unity was rejected, ecclesiastical freedom was sacrificed for the maintenance of a contrived and arbitrary unity. The spiritual intuition of truth was replaced by an external token or sign.

The Reform followed another path. Remaining steadfast to the principle of rationalistic self-determination which had generated the Roman schism, it demanded its freedom (with every right), and was forced to sacrifice all semblance of unity. As with papism, so also with the Reform: everything leads to externality. Such is the nature of all the children of rationalism. The unity of papism is an external unity, deprived of living content; the freedom of the Protestant mind is also an external freedom, without real content.

The papists, like the Judaizers, base their position on a sign (or token); Protestants, like the Hellenizers, base their position on logic. A true understanding of the Church, as freedom in unity and life in reason, is equally inaccessible to both.

On the other hand, conflict is possible, even inevitable, since they occupy the same ground and have the same rights. Both Romanism and Protestantism have been plunged wholly (without suspecting it) into that logical antinomy into which every living thing falls as long as it sees things only from the logical point of view. But what are the results of the conflict? In all truthfulness, there is nothing comforting here for either side. Both are strong in attack and weak in defense, since both are equally wrong, and equally condemned by reason and the witness of history. At every moment each of the warring parties can pride itself on a spectacular victory; but in the meantime both are constantly defeated, and the field of battle is left to unbelief. If the need for faith had not compelled many people to close their eyes to the inconsistency of a religion accepted only because it was impossible to get along without it, and if the same need had not compelled even those who do not seriously believe in religion to continue to hold on to what they once accepted, unbelief would long ago have conquered the field.

Since the conflict between the Western confessions has been conducted on the soil of rationalism, one cannot even say that faith has been its real subject. Beliefs and convictions, no matter how sincere or passionate, have yet to deserve the name of faith. Nevertheless, as a subject of study this conflict is extraordinarily interesting and profoundly instructive. The characteristics of the parties are defined in it clearly.

A criticism that is serious but dry and imperfect; a learning that is broad but unsubstantial because of its lack of inner unity; an upright and sober morality worthy of the first centuries of the Church, combined with a narrowness of vision set within the limits of individualism; ardent outbursts of feeling in which we seem to hear a confession of their shortcomings and their lack of hope in ever attaining atonement; a constant lack of depth scarcely masked by a fog of arbitrary mysticism; a love of the truth combined with an inability to understand it in its living reality; in a word — rationalism within idealism: such is the fate of the Protestants. A breadth of view that is large enough, yet quite insufficient for true Christianity; an eloquence that is brilliant but too often marred by passion; a bearing that is majestic but always theatrical; a criticism that is almost always superficial, catching at words and not probing far into meaning; an illusory display of unity with an absence of real unity; a certain peculiar poverty of religious need, which never dares to raise its sights to higher levels and is always ready to settle for a cheap satisfaction; a certain uneven depth, hiding its shoals in clouds of sophisms; a hearty and sincere love for external order combined with a disregard for internal order, i.e., truth; in a word — rationalism within materialism: such is the fate of the Latinists. Nor do I mean to accuse all the writers of this party of deliberate falsehood, or to say that none of their opponents deserves the same reproach; but the inclination of the papist party to sophisms, its systematic side-stepping in the face of real objections, its feigned ignorance — which has finally become a regular habit of textual distortions, omissions, and inaccuracies in quotation — all this is so well known that it is beyond dispute. Not wishing, however, in such an important accusation, to limit myself to simple assertions, and having made it a rule for myself never to cite facts which are in any way doubtful, I will remind my readers of the long-drawn-out affair of the False Decretals, upon which the theory of papal supremacy rested until the belief became so entrenched that it was possible to remove the false props; I mention also the false Deeds of Donation which formed the basis for the temporal power of the Roman primate; and the endless series of deliberately mutilated editions of the holy fathers. Close to our own time, I mention the fact that the work of Adam Zernikavius, in which it is demonstrated that all the testimony drawn from the works of the holy fathers in support of the addition to the Creed was intentionally altered or misquoted, still stands unrefuted. Finally, moving into our own time, I point to the writings of the eloquent proto-sophist Comte de Maistre, Cf. the argument in defense of Romanism drawn by de Maistre from the works of St. Athanasius: “The whole world,” says St. Athanasius to the heretics, “calls the true Church the Catholic Church. This alone is enough to prove that you are heretics.” “But which Church is it,” de Maistre asks, “that all Europe calls Catholic? The Church of Rome. Consequently all other Churches are in schism.” But surely St. Athanasius was talking to Greeks, who clearly understood the meaning of the word “catholic” (as “world-wide,” “ecumenical”), so that his argument had full force. But, I ask, what does this prove in the case of modern Europe, where the word has lost all meaning? Let them ask about the world-wide or ecumenical Church in England, or Germany, or especially in Russia, and listen carefully to the answers! and to the remarkable work of Newman (“On the Development of Christian Doctrine”). In this work Newman supplements Moeller’s theory about the gradual perfecting and development of the Church. “All her doctrine,” he says, “was contained implicitly in her primitive teaching, and was gradually developed out of it, or more accurately, gradually acquired a clarity of logical expression. Thus it was with the basic dogma of the Trinity, thus also with the doctrine of papal supremacy in matters of faith, and so on.” And so Newman pretends that he has never heard about the apostasy of Pope Liberius, or about the condemnation of Pope Honorius by an Ecumenical Council and the acceptance of this condemnation by the whole West. What is important here is not the fact that Honorius erred, nor does it matter whether this was proved or not; what is important is that an Ecumenical Council acknowledged the possibility of papal fallibility, something Newman could not help but know. Thus the new doctrine of infallibility was not a development of ecumenical doctrine, but its direct contradiction. The author’s silence and pretended ignorance on this point is nothing more than a barefaced lie. It should be noted that this last writer was scrupulous indeed as long as he confessed Anglicanism, but after converting to Romanism out of scrupulousness (so I assume), there was a sudden loss of scruple. However, in pointing out the falsity which always marks the Roman polemic, I by no means wish to condemn too harshly the writers who have taken part in it, and I will not dwell on the question of the extent of their moral responsibility.

Neither Orthodox writers nor the defenders of Protestantism are above reproach in this matter, although occasions for just complaint are encountered much less frequently with them than with the Latinists; and the degree of personal guilt is far from being the same. A falsehood coming from the pen of an Orthodox writer is an absurd infamy, definitely harming the cause which he is undertaking to defend; in the case of a Protestant, a falsehood is a culpable absurdity and at the same time completely unprofitable; but with the Romanist, falsehood is a necessity, and to a certain extent forgivable. The reason for this difference is clear. Falsehood is essentially opposed to Orthodoxy, as it is to truth. In Protestantism, the realm of searching for truth, falsehood is simply out of place. In Romanism, however, the teaching which denies its own root principle, falsehood is inevitable. Here is the real source of that moral corruption which, in the Roman confession, perverts the brightest minds and discredits the loftiest intellects (we need only recall the remarkable Bossuet).

The moral exhaustion of the two parties becomes more and more apparent every day. A horror in the face of common danger is overwhelming the rationalistic sects of the West: Papism and the Reform. They still go on struggling with one another (they are unable to stop) but they have lost all hope of victory, having more or less clearly recognized their own inner weaknesses. Unbelief rapidly grows up before them, not that unbelief of the powerful, the rich, and the learned which marked the eighteenth century, but the unbelief of the masses, the scepticism of ignorance. Such are the legitimate offspring of the open or hidden rationalism which has passed for faith in the European world for hundreds of years.

I have fulfilled my duty. I have defended the Church against false accusations which I do not consider, however, to be deliberate slanders. In order to make my refutation intelligible I have had to develop the distinctive features both of Orthodoxy and of the Western schism, which is nothing but patched up rationalism, and to present the contemporary religious question in the light in which it appears to us. As I said at the beginning, I have not tried to gloss over my hostility of thought by an affected moderation of terms. I have boldly put forward the Church’s teaching and her attitude toward the different forms of the schism. I have openly expressed my opinion about the conflict between the sects. I dare to hope, however, that no one will accuse me of malice or conscious injustice.

I repeat: I have fulfilled my duty in answering the charges brought against the Church — not only my duty in relation to the Church, but still more in relation to you, my readers and brothers, who have unfortunately been separated from us by an error which arose in ages long passed out of view. No fear of any kind, or any sort of calculation, has constrained my pen, nor have I written out of any hope of profit.

Readers and brothers! A ruinous legacy has come down to you from the ignorance and sinfulness of past age — the embryo of death; and you are suffering punishment for it without being directly responsible, since you have had no definite understanding of the error involved. You have done much for mankind in science and art, in constitutional law and in the civilization of peoples, in the practical realization of the meaning of truth and in the practical application of love. More than that, you have done all you could for man in his relation to God, preaching Christ to people who had never before heard His Divine Name. All honor and thanks to you for your immeasurable labors, the fruits of which mankind is gathering now and will continue to gather in the future. But as long as it still inspires you, this ruinous legacy will kill your spiritual life.

The cure is within your power. Of course, as long as the disease is alive in popular prejudices and in the ignorance of the means to stop its spread (and this will last a long time), it is impossible to expect the healing of the masses; but the cure is accessible now to private individuals. If any one of my readers is convinced of the truth of my words, of the validity of my definition of the origins of the schism and its rationalistic character, then I beg him to consider. If he will make but one acknowledgment of the truth, then he must accept all the practical consequences flowing from it; if he will make but one confession of error, he must then repair it, to the extent that this is possible.

I beg him to undertake a moral exploit — to tear himself away from rationalism, to condemn the excommunication which was once pronounced upon his Eastern brothers, to reject all the later decrees flowing from this falsehood, to accept us once more in his communion with the rights of brotherly equality, and to restore in his soul the unity of the Church, so that by this fact he might have the right to repeat with her: “Let us love one another, and with one mind confess the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

The disease carries death within itself, but the cure is not difficult; it only requires an act of justice. Will people want to undertake this exploit, or will they prefer to perpetuate the reign of falsehood, deluding their own consciences and the minds of their brothers?

My readers, judge for yourselves!

Translated by Asheleigh E. Moorhouse
April, 1964

Source: ArchangelsBooks.com, http://www.archangelsbooks.com/articles/east_west/WesternConfessions_Khomiakov.asp

January 15, 2009

Teachings of St. Seraphim of Sarov

From the Teachings of St. Seraphim of Sarov

About God

God is fire, warming and igniting the heart and inward parts. So, if we feel coldness in our hearts, which is from the devil (for the devil is cold), then let us call the Lord: He, in coming, will warm our heart with perfect love, not only towards Himself, but to our neighbors as well. And the coldness of the despiser of good will run from the face of His warmth.

Where there is God, there is no evil. Everything coming from God is peaceful, healthy and leads a person to the judgment of his own imperfections and humility.

God shows us His love for man not only in those instances when we do good, but also when we affront Him with our sins and anger Him. With what longsuffering he bears our lawlessness! “Do not call God a rightful Judge,” says St. Isaac, “for His rightful judgment is not seen in your deeds. True, David called Him a righteous judge and rightly, but the Son of God has shown us that God is good and merciful even more. Where is His righteous judgment? We were sinners, but Christ died for us” (St. Isaac the Syrian, Word 90).

The Reasons for Christ’s Coming

Christ came because of: (1) God’s love towards the human race: “For so God loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16); (2) the restoration of the image and likeness of God in fallen man; (3) the salvation of human souls: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).

And so, we, following the goals of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, must lead our lives according to His Godly teaching, in order to save our souls by it.


Faith, according to the teachings of St. Antioch, is the beginning of our union with God: the true believers are the stone of the church of God, prepared for the edifice of God the Father, which is raised up to the heights by the power of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Cross and help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The works of faith are love, peace, longsuffering, mercy, humility, bearing one’s cross and life by the spirit. True faith cannot remain without works. One who truly believes will also surely perform good works.


All those having firm hope in God are raised to Him and enlightened with the radiance of eternal light.

If a person does not have superfluous care for himself, out of his love for God and for virtuous deeds, and knows that God will take care of him, then this hope is true and wise. But if a person places all his hope in his works, and turns to God in prayer only when unforeseen misfortunes befall him, then he, seeing that he lacks the means of averting them in his own abilities, begins to hope for help from God — but such a hope is trivial and false. True hope seeks the one Kingdom of God and is sure that everything necessary for this mortal life will surely be given. The heart cannot have peace until it acquires this hope. This hope pacifies it fully and brings joy to it. The most holy lips of the Saviour spoke about this very hope: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

Love for God

He who has acquired perfect love for God goes through this life as if he did not exist. For he considers himself a stranger to all that is visible, and awaits with patience that which is unseen. He is completely transformed into love for God and has abandoned all worldly attachments.

He who truly loves God considers himself a wanderer and newcomer on earth, for in him is a striving towards God in soul and mind, which contemplates Him alone.

As for care of the soul, a person in his body is like a lighted candle. The candle must burn out, and a person must die. But as our soul is immortal, so our cares should be directed more toward the soul than the body: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mt. 16:26)” for which, as is known, nothing in the world can serve as ransom? If the soul alone is worth more than all the world and the worldly kingdom, then the Kingdom of Heaven is incomparably more precious. We consider the soul as most precious for the reason stated by Macarius the Great, that God did not desire to bond and unite His spiritual essence with any visible creation except man, whom He loves more than any of His creations.

Love for Neighbors

One must behave affectionately toward one’s neighbors, not showing even a hint of offense. When we turn away from a person or offend him, it is as if a rock settles on our heart. One must try to cheer the spirit of an embarrassed or dejected person with words of love.

When you see a brother sinning, cover him, as counseled by St. Isaac the Syrian: “Stretch out your vestment over the sinner and cover him.”

In our relations with our neighbors we must be equally pure towards everyone in word as well as in thought; otherwise we will make our life useless. We must love others no less than ourselves, in accordance with the law of the Lord: “Thou shalt love … thy neighbour as thyself” (Lk. 10:27). But not so much that our love for others, by extending past the boundaries of moderation, diverts us from fulfilling the first and main law of love towards God, as our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:37).


It is necessary to be merciful to those wretched and wandering. The great lightgivers and Fathers of the Church took great care concerning this. In relation to this virtue we must try by all means to fulfill the following law of God: “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful,” and, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (Lk. 6:36; Mt. 9:13). The wise heed these saving words, but the foolish do not heed them. For this reason the reward is also different, as is said: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6).

The example of Peter the Breadgiver, who, for a piece of bread given to a beggar, received forgiveness for all his sins (as was revealed to him in a vision) may prompt us to be merciful to our neighbors — for even a small alms may contribute to the obtaining of the Heavenly Kingdom.

Giving alms must be done with a spiritually kind disposition, in agreement with the teachings of St. Isaac the Syrian: “If you give anything to him who asks, may the joy of your face precede your alms, and comfort his sorrow with kind words.”

Non-Judgment and the Forgiveness of Offenses

It is not right to judge anyone, even if you have seen someone sinning and wallowing in the violations of God’s laws with your own eyes, as is said in the word of God: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Mt. 7:1). “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4). It is much better always to bring to memory the words of the apostle: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

One must not harbor anger or hatred towards a person that is hostile toward us. On the contrary, one must love him and do as much good as possible towards him, following the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you” (Mt. 5:44). If then we will try to fulfill all this to the extent of our power, we can hope that God’s light will begin to shine in our hearts, lighting our path to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Why do we judge our neighbors? Because we are not trying to get to know ourselves. Someone busy trying to understand himself has no time to notice the shortcomings of others. Judge yourself — and you will stop judging others. Judge a poor deed, but do not judge the doer. It is necessary to consider yourself the most sinful of all, and to forgive your neighbor every poor deed. One must hate only the devil, who tempted him. It can happen that someone might appear to be doing something bad to us, but in reality, because of the doer’s good intentions, it is a good deed. Besides, the door of penitence is always open, and it is not known who will enter it sooner — you, “the judge,” or the one judged by you.


One desiring salvation must always have a heart inclined towards penitence and contrition: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:19). With such a contrite spirit a person can avoid without trouble all the artful tricks of the devil, whose efforts are all directed towards disturbing the spirit of a person. By this disturbance he sows tares (i.e., weeds), according to the words of the Gospel: “Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, ‘An enemy hath done this’” (Mt. 13:27-28). But when a person struggles to have a meek heart and to keep peace in his thoughts, then are all the wiles of the enemy powerless; for, where there is peace of thought, God Himself resides: “In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion” (Ps. 76:2).

We offend the greatness of God with our sinning throughout our entire lives, and so must always humbly ask the Lord forgiveness for our sins.


The leader of feats and our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, before setting out on the feat of redeeming the human race, fortified Himself with a lengthy fast. And all ascetics, proceeding to work for the Lord, armed themselves by fasting and did not set out on the path of the Cross without the feat of fasting. They measured the very success of their ascetism by their success in fasting.

Despite their fasting, and to the surprise of others, the holy fathers did not know weakness but always remained hearty, strong and ready for the task at hand. Illnesses were rare among them and their lives were extraordinarily prolonged.

During the time that the body of one fasting becomes thin and light, the spiritual life attains to perfection and reveals itself through miraculous manifestations. The spirit then performs its actions as if in a bodiless body. External feelings are as shut out, and the mind, renouncing the worldly, ascends to the heavenly and becomes completely immersed in the contemplation of the spiritual world. Yet not everyone can take upon himself strict rules of abstinence from everything, nor deprive himself completely of all that serves to relieve infirmities: “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Mt. 19:12).

One should take enough food everyday to strengthen the body, so that it can be a friend and helper to the soul in accomplishing virtues: otherwise it can happen that through the exhaustion of the body the spirit can weaken. On Wednesdays and Fridays, particularly during the four Lenten periods, follow the example of the Fathers and take food once a day — and the Angel of the Lord will affix himself to you.

Patience and Humility

It is necessary always to be patient and to accept everything that happens, no matter what, with gratitude for God’s sake. Our life — is a minute compared to eternity. And for this reason “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

Bear the insults of your enemy in silence, and open your heart only to the Lord. Try in any way possible to forgive those who humiliate you or take away your honor, by the words of the Gospel: “Of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again” (Lk. 6:30).

When people curse us, we must consider ourselves unworthy of praise, imagining that if we were worthy, everyone would be bowing down to us. We must always, and before everyone, humble ourselves, according to the teachings of St. Isaac the Syrian: “Humble yourself and you will see the glory of God within yourself.”


The body is the handmaid of the soul, and the soul — its queen. Therefore it often happens that by the mercy of God our body is debilitated by illnesses. Passions weaken because of illnesses, and the person becomes well. Sometimes bodily illness itself is born of passions. To bear illness with patience and gratitude is regarded as a feat, and even more than one.

One elder, suffering from dropsy, told this to the brethren who came to him, desiring to heal him: “Fathers, pray, that my inner person is not subjected to a similar illness. But concerning the present illness, I ask God that he not suddenly relieve me of it, “for though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).

The Spiritual World

The spiritual world is gained by sorrows. The scriptures say: “We went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Ps. 66:12). For those who desire to serve God the path lies through many sorrows. How can we praise the holy martyrs for the sufferings which they bore for God, when we cannot even bear a fever?

Nothing so aids the acquiring of internal peace as silence, and as much as is possible, continual discussion with oneself and rarely with others.

A sign of spiritual life is the immersion of a person within himself and the hidden workings within his heart.

This peace, as some priceless treasure, did our Lord Jesus Christ leave his followers before His death, saying, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you” (John 14:27). The apostle also spoke this about it: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7); “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

In this way, we must direct all our thoughts, desires and actions toward obtaining God’s peace, and always cry out with the Church: “Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us” (Is. 26:12).

It is necessary by all means to try to keep one’s spiritual peace, and not to become provoked by insults from others. To do this, it is necessary always to restrain oneself from anger, and by careful watch to guard the mind and heart from unclean waverings.

Insults from others must be borne without disturbance; one must train oneself to be of such a nature, that one can react to insults as if they did not refer to oneself. Such an exercise can bring serenity to our heart and make it a dwelling of God Himself.

We see an example of such a lack of malice in the life of St. Gregory the Miracle-Worker. A certain immoral woman demanded payment from him, purportedly for a sin committed with her. He, not in the least angry with her, humbly said to one of his friends: pay her the price which she demands, quickly. The woman became possessed as soon as she accepted the unrighteous payment. The bishop then prayed and exorcised the evil spirit from her.

If it is impossible not to become indignant, then at least restrain your tongue according to the words of the Psalmist: “I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (Ps. 77:4).

In this instance we can take as examples for ourselves St. Spyridon of Tremifunt and St. Ephraim the Syrian. The first bore an insult when he entered the palace by the demand of the Greek emperor: one of the servants present in the emperor’s chamber, taking him for a beggar, laughed at him, did not allow him to enter the chamber and even struck him on the cheek. St. Spyridon, being without malice, turned the other cheek to him, according the word of the Lord (see Mt. 5:39). The Blessed Ephraim, living in the desert, was once deprived of food in the following fashion. His pupil, carrying the food, accidentally broke the vessel on the way. Blessed Ephraim, seeing the pupil downcast, said to him: “Do not grieve, brother. If the food did not want to come to us, then we will go to it.” And so the monk went, sat next to the broken vessel, and, gathering the food together, ate it. He was thus without malice!

In order to keep spiritual peace, it is necessary to chase dejection away from oneself, and to try to have a joyful spirit, according to the words of the most wise Sirach: “Sorrow has killed many, but there is no good in it” (Sir. 30:25).

In order to keep spiritual peace it is also necessary to avoid judging others in any way. Condescension towards your neighbor and silence protect spiritual peace. When a person is in such an state, then he receives Godly revelations.

In order not to lapse into judgment of others, it is necessary to be mindful of oneself, to refuse to receive any bad information from anyone and to be as if dead to others.

For the protection of spiritual peace it is necessary to enter into oneself more often and ask: Where am I? In addition, it is necessary to watch that the physical senses, especially sight, serve the inner person, not diverting the soul with mortal items, because the gifts of grace are received only by those who have inner workings and keep watch over their souls.


Blessed Seraphim told those followers who strove to take excessive feats upon themselves that not complaining and humbly bearing insults are our “verigi” and our hair shirt. (The word verigi in Russian means iron chains and various weights. A hair shirt is clothing made of thick, very coarse wool; some ascetics wore these things to burden their body.)

It is not necessary to undertake feats beyond one’s strength. Instead, one must try to keep our friend — our body — right and capable of performing virtues. One must follow the middle route, turning neither to the right hand nor the left (Prov. 4:27), giving the spirit the spiritual, and the body the physical things necessary for maintaining temporal life. One should also not refuse that which society legally demands, according to the words of the Gospel: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:21).

One should condescend to one’s soul in its infirmities and imperfections, endure one’s deficiencies as we bear the failings of others, not become lazy, and continually urge oneself to be better.

If you have eaten too much food or done anything else related to human weakness, do not be upset. Do not add injury to injury, but, urging yourself to correction, courageously try to keep spiritual peace according to the words of the Apostle: “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (Rom. 14:22). This same meaning is contained in the words of the Saviour: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3).

Any success in any area we must assign to the Lord and say with the prophet: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory” (Ps. 115:1).

Purity of Heart

We must continually protect our heart from unclean thoughts and impressions, according to the words of the author of the book of Proverbs: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).

Purity is born within the heart from extended safekeeping of it, to which the vision of the Lord has access, according to the assurance of eternal Truth: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).

We should not reveal unnecessarily what is best in the heart, for only then does that which has been accumulated remain in safety from enemies visible and invisible, when it is kept as a treasure in the innermost heart. Do not open the secrets of your heart to everyone.

Identifying Movements of the Heart

When a person accepts anything Godly, then he rejoices in his heart, but when he has accepted anything devilish, then he becomes tormented.

Having accepted anything Godly, the heart of a Christian does not demand outside persuasion that it is from the Lord, but becomes convinced through the act itself that this acceptance is something heavenly, because he feels the spiritual fruits in himself: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23). But if the devil were to transform himself even into an angel of light (see 2 Cor. 11:14), or presented thoughts of the most worthy appearance, the heart still would feel some sort of doubts, trouble in its thoughts and disturbance of feelings.

The devil is like a lion, hiding in ambush (Ps. 9:29). He secretly sets out nets of unclean and unholy thoughts. So, it is necessary to break them off as soon as we notice them, by means of pious reflection and prayer.

During the singing of psalms, feats and great vigilance are demanded for our mind to be in conformity with our heart and lips; for otherwise stench is added to the incense in our prayers. For the Lord disdains a heart with unclean thoughts.

Let us continually, day and night, fall before the face of the goodness of God with tears, that He purify our hearts of any evil thought, so that we might worthily bring Him the gifts of our service. When we do not accept the evil thoughts put in us by the devil, we perform a good deed.

The unclean spirit has a strong influence only on the passionate; but those purified of passions he touches only indirectly and externally. A person in his youth cannot avoid being disturbed by physical thoughts. But he must pray to the Lord God, that the spark of depraved passions dies out at the very beginning. Then the flame within him will not become more intense.

Excessive Care about Worldly Matters

Excessive care about worldly matters is characteristic of an unbelieving and fainthearted person, and woe to us, if, in taking care of ourselves, we do not use as our foundation our faith in God, who cares for us! If we do not attribute visible blessings to Him, which we use in this life, then how can we expect those blessings from Him which are promised in the future? We will not be of such little faith. By the words of our Saviour, it is better first to seek the Kingdom of God, for the rest shall be added unto us (see Mt. 6:33).


When the evil spirit of sorrow seizes the soul, then, by filling it with bitterness and unpleasantness, it does not allow it to pray with necessary diligence; it disrupts the attention necessary for reading spiritual writings, deprives it of humility and good nature in the treatment of others and breeds aversion to any discussion. For the sorrowful soul, by becoming as if insane and frenzied, can neither accept kind advice calmly, nor answer posed questions meekly. It runs from people as if from the perpetrators of its embarrassment, not understanding that the reason for its illness — is within it. Sorrow is the worm of the heart, gnawing at the mother that bore it.

He who has conquered passions has also defeated sorrow. But one overcome by passions will not avoid the shackles of sorrow. As an ill person can be identified by the color of his face, so is one overcome by passions distinguished by sorrow.

It is impossible for one who loves the world not to feel sorrow. But he who despises the world is always cheerful. As fire purifies gold, so sorrow in God — penitence — purifies the sinful heart.

The Active and the Contemplative Life

A person consists of a soul and body, and therefore his life’s path should consist of both physical and spiritual activities — of deeds and contemplation.

The path of an active life consists of fasting, abstinence, vigilance, kneeling, prayer and other physical feats, composing the strait and sorrowful path which, by the word of God, leads to eternal life (Mt. 7:14).

The contemplative life consists in the mind aspiring to the Lord God, in awareness of the heart, focused prayer and in the contemplation of spiritual matters through such exercises.

Anyone desiring to lead a spiritual way of life must begin with the active life, and only later set about the contemplative, for without an active life it is impossible to lead a contemplative one.

An active life serves to purify us of sinful passions and raises us to the level of functioning perfection; at the same time it clears the way to a contemplative life. For only those cleansed of passions and the perfect can set out on that other life, as can be seen from the words of the Holy Scriptures: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8), and from the words of Gregory the Theologian: “Only those who are perfect by their experience can without danger proceed to contemplation.”

If it is impossible to find a mentor who is able to direct us on the path to a contemplative life, then in that instance we must be guided by the Holy Scriptures, for the Lord Himself commands us to learn from it, saying: “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life” (John 5:39). One should not abandon the active life even when a person has so excelled in it that he has reached the contemplative, for the active life assists the contemplative and uplifts it.

The Light of Christ

In order to accept and perceive the light of Christ in one’s heart, it is necessary to divert oneself from the external as much as possible. First, by cleansing the soul with penitence and good deeds with true faith in the Crucified; then, by closing the physical eyes, it is necessary to immerse the mind in the heart and appeal to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ continually. Then, by measure of our zealousness and fervor of spirit for the Beloved (Lk. 3:22), a person with the calling of this name finds delight, which arouses a thirst toward greater enlightenment.

When a person internally contemplates the eternal light, his mind becomes clean and free of any sensory notions. Then, by being completely immersed in the contemplation of uncreated beauty, he forgets everything sensory, does not want to see even himself, but desires to hide in the heart of the earth, if only not to be deprived of this true good — God.

Acquiring the Holy Spirit

(from the Saint’s Conversation with Motovilov)

The true goal of our Christian life consists of acquiring God’s Holy Spirit. Fasting and vigil, prayer, mercy, and every other good deed performed for Christ — are means for acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. Only deeds performed for Christ give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Some say that the foolish virgins lacking enough oil in their lamps is meant to be understood as a lack of good deeds (see Mt. 25:1-12). Such an understanding is not completely correct. How could there have been a lack of good deeds when they, though foolish, are still called virgins? For virginity is the highest virtue, as a state equal to the angels, and could by itself serve in place of all other virtues. I, the wretched, think that they did not have enough of the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God. These virgins, because of their spiritual injudiciousness, supposed in performing good deeds that it is only necessary to do good works to be a Christian: “We performed a good deed and thus did God’s will.” Whether or not they had received the grace of the Holy Spirit, whether they had attained it, they did not even bother to find out … But, this acquiring of the Holy Spirit is in fact that oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They are called foolish because they forgot about the essential fruit of virtue — the grace of the Holy Spirit — without which there is no salvation for anyone and cannot be. For “through the Holy Spirit every soul is quickened, and through its purification, it is exalted and illumined by the Triune Unity in a Holy mystery.” The Holy Spirit Himself settles in our souls, and this occupation of our souls by Him, the All-Ruling, and this coexistence of our spirit with His One Trinity, is granted only through the diligent acquiring, on our part, of the Holy Spirit, which prepares, in our soul and body, the throne for the coexistence of God the All-Creator with our spirit, by the immutable word of God: “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and ye shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12).

This is the very oil in the lamps of the wise virgins, which burned brightly and steadily; the virgins with these burning lamps could await the Groom coming at midnight, and enter the chamber of joy with him. The foolish ones, seeing their lamps going out, though they went to the market to buy oil, did not manage to return in time, for the doors were already locked. The market is our life; the doors of the bridal chamber — locked and not permitting entrance to the Groom — human death, the virgins wise and foolish, Christian souls; the oil, not deeds, but the grace of the All Holy Spirit of God received through them, transforming from decay to incorruption, from emotional death into spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the manger of our existence, where our passions are tied like beasts and animals, into a church of God, into the all-lighted chamber of eternal joy in Jesus Christ.

Source: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/seraphim_e.htm

January 3, 2009

Why Orthodoxy is the True Faith

Lecture “Why Orthodoxy is the True Faith,” delivered on September 13, 2000, at the Meeting of the Sretenskaya Lord’s School in Moscow by Alexei Illich Osipov, a professor of the Moscow Theological Academy.

Professor of Moscow Theological Academy Alexei Osipov

Professor of Moscow Theological Academy Alexei Osipov

In this world of religious pluralism, you encounter such a multitude of preachers, each offering up his own ideals, standards for living, and religious views, that members of past generations, even my own, would probably not envy you. It was easier for us: the principal question for us was religion versus atheism. Something much greater, much worse, looms before you. Resolving whether God exists or not is only the first step. If one should conclude that God exists, what next? Which of the many faiths should he espouse? Christianity? Islam? Why not Buddhism, or Krishna Consciousness? Suppose he negotiates the maze of religions, and realizes that Christianity is the best, the true religion. Which of its many faces should he espouse? Orthodox, Catholic, Pentecostal, Lutheran? Again, a multitude of choices faces youth today. At the same time, heterodox confessions, old and new, usually advertise themselves much more than do the Orthodox, and they possess significantly greater resources for waging propaganda in the mass media than do we Orthodox Christians.

Because the first thing contemporary man stops to consider is this multitude of faiths, religions, and world views, I would like to conduct a brief tour of the succession of rooms which open up before those seeking the truth. I will present a very general and concise survey of the reasons that one should – not only can, but should – become not merely a Christian, but an Orthodox Christian.

The opening question is “Religion or atheism?” At important conferences, one may encounter truly erudite scholars, deep intellects who repeatedly pose the questions: Who is God? Does He exist? Why is He necessary? Or even: If He exists, why doesn’t he appear on the floor of the United Nations and announce Himself? How does one respond to such questions? It seems to me that the answer lies at the core of contemporary philosophical thought, and is most easily expressed in existential terms. What is the purpose of man’s life, what is the essence of his existence? First of all, how could it be anything other than living? What “purpose” do I experience while asleep? Meaning can be experienced only through consciousness, “tasting” the fruits of one’s life, one’s activity. Throughout the ages, no one has ever been able to posit, and no one will ever posit, that the ultimate purpose of man’s life is death. Here is the unbridgeable divide between religion and atheism. Christianity affirms that earthly life is only a beginning, a condition and a means to prepare you for eternity. It tells you to prepare yourself, for eternal life awaits; it tells you what to do, what kind of person you must be, to enter into eternal life. What does atheism tell you? That there is no God, there is no soul, there is no eternity; thus, believe, O Man, that only eternal death awaits! Words of such horror, pessimism, and despair as to make your skin crawl: Man, eternal death awaits you. Without even considering the, to put it gently, strange underpinnings for such a proposition, the proposition is itself enough to cause a shudder in the human soul. No, deliver me from such a faith!

If a person loses his way in the forest, and, looking for the way home, suddenly encounters someone, he will ask, “Is there a way out of here?” If that person answers, “No, none, don’t even look, just settle down here as best you can,” will he take that advice? Will he not continue his search? Finding someone else who tells him, “Yes, there is a way out, and I will show you the signs marking the way,” will he not rely on him? This is what happens when we are choosing a world view, choosing between religion and atheism. As long as man has even a spark, a glimmer of desire to find the truth, to seek for the purpose of life, he will not accept the proposal that only eternal death awaits him and all of mankind. He will not accept the corollary that to “realize” the idea, he should work toward better economic, social, political, and cultural conditions of life, in expectation that farther along, everything will be “OK.” Tomorrow you will die and will be taken to the cemetery. How marvelous.

I have pointed out only one psychologically very significant aspect, one I would think sufficient to make any person with a living soul understand that only a religious outlook which accepts as its foundation the One Whom we call God, enables us to talk about the purpose of life. Now, having passed through that first room, and having come to believe in God, we enter the second. My God, what do we see and hear? It is filled with people, everyone shouting, “Only I possess the truth!” What a challenge… Muslims, Confucians, Buddhists, Jews, all manner of others, including many who now call themselves Christians. Here, a Christian preacher is standing with the others, while I am supposed to sort out just who is right, just whom should I believe?

There are two approaches to this problem; there may be others, but I will identify two. One way to convince a person as to which is the true faith (i.e. one objectively consonant with human nature, human strivings, human understanding of the meaning of life), is the methodology of comparative Theology. It is quite a long path, requiring detailed study of each religion. Few are capable of taking this path, for they must possess the capacity to absorb all of the material, and must expend a great deal of time and effort in a spiritually taxing process… There is another way. Ultimately, each religion addresses people, saying to them, “This, and not something else, is the truth.” In this regard, virtually all world views and religions state one simple thing: that the conditions under which a person now lives, the political, social, economic conditions on the one hand, and the spiritual, moral, cultural, etc. on the other, are abnormal, and cannot be totally satisfying. While a specific individual describes himself as satisfied, the vast majority of people suffer from them to some extent. Humanity remains unsatisfied with the current state of affairs, and, seeking after something greater, some “golden age” strives to advance somewhere into the unknown future.

One can see why the focus of virtually all religions and world views is the study of salvation. It is here that we encounter what it seems to me already affords us the opportunity to make an informed choice from among the multitude of religions. Christianity affirms something the other religions and the non-religious world views simply do not comprehend, something they indignantly reject. This lies in our understanding of so-called original sin. All religions, and I propose, all philosophies of life, all ideologies, talk about sin, albeit in different terms. But not one of them other than Christianity believes that human nature in its current state is ill. Christianity affirms that the condition in which we people are born, exist, grow, are educated, take courage, mature, the state in which we find enjoyment, amusement, learning, make discoveries, etc., is a state of serious illness, bringing us profound harm. We are ill, but not with flu, bronchitis, or psychiatric illness. We are physically and psychologically well, we are capable of solving problems, and can fly into space. Nonetheless, we are gravely ill; in the beginning unified human nature sustained a strange and tragic fracture, dividing into apparently autonomously existing and frequently warring mind, heart, and body. Such a comment evokes universal indignation. “Isn’t Christianity being absurd?” “Me, abnormal? Sorry, others may be, but I am not!” If Christianity is correct, this is the root problem, the reason human life, life of the individual and of all mankind, goes from one tragedy to another. If man is seriously ill but does not try to heal the sickness because he is unaware of it, it will do him harm.

Other religious do not comprehend that man has such an illness. They believe that man is a healthy seed that can develop either normally or abnormally, with development dependent upon his social milieu, economic conditions, psychological factors, and many other things.

Man can be either good or bad, but by nature he is good. In this lies the principle antithesis, the consciousness of the non-Christian. I am not even addressing the non-religious, for whom the term “man” seems like an “exercise in pride.” Only Christianity affirms that our current state is a deeply damaged one, so damaged that no one can by himself repair it.

This is the fundamental truth on which the great Christian dogma of Christ as Savior is built. This idea is the principle watershed between Christianity and the other religions.

Now I will attempt to demonstrate that, in contrast to other religions, Christianity has within it objective confirmation of its assertions. Let us consider mankind’s history and the aspirations by which man has lived throughout known history. Of course, man has striven to create the Kingdom of God on earth. Some have sought to do so with God’s help, while at the same time considering Him not as the ultimate goal of life, but merely a means to achieve good on earth. Others did not consider God at all. However, it is something else that is important. Everyone understands that this Kingdom cannot exist on earth without some basics such as peace, justice, love (what kind of Paradise would be ruled by war, injustice, hatred, etc.?), or, on an even more basic level, respect for one another. Everyone understands perfectly that without establishing and following such fundamental moral values, it is impossible to prosper on earth. Yet, what has mankind been doing throughout its history? Erich Fromme expressed it perfectly when he said “The history of mankind is written in blood. It is a history of never-ending violence.”

I think that historians, especially military historians, can readily illustrate for us what constitutes human history: wars, shedding of blood, violence, cruelty. The 20th Century is thought of as an era of exalted humanism. Yet it has demonstrated its level of “perfection” by exceeding in the amount of bloodshed, all that was shed in the prior centuries of human history combined. If our forefathers could have seen what was to come in the 20th Century, they would have shuddered in horror at the scope of the cruelty, injustice, and deceit. This is a paradox beyond human comprehension: as the history of mankind has unfolded, man has acted in direct opposition to those very guiding principles, goals, and ideals toward which he had initially directed all of his efforts.

I would like to pose a rhetorical question: “Can an intelligent being act in such a manner?” History simply mocks us with its ironic pronouncements: “Man truly is wise and healthy. No, he is not spiritually ill. He simply does a little more, and acts a little less wisely than do those locked up in asylums for the insane.”

Alas, this is an inescapable fact which shows that it is not individuals who have gone astray (in fact it is only individuals who have not gone astray), but, paradoxically, that straying is a characteristic of mankind as a whole.

If we consider the isolated individual, or to be more exact, if an individual has enough moral force to look into himself, he will see a picture no less striking. The Apostle Paul accurately described it: “For the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do…” Truly, anyone who actually considers what is taking place in his soul cannot help but notice how spiritually ill he is, how much he is subject to and enslaved by various passions. It is pointless to ask “Why, poor man, do you engage in gluttony, drunkenness, lying, envy, adultery, etc.? You are killing yourself, destroying your family, crippling your children, poisoning the atmosphere about you. Why are you beating, cutting, and stabbing yourself, why are you doing harm to your nerves, your psyche, your body? Do you understand that this is doing you harm?” Yes, I understand, but I am incapable of not doing so.

As a rule, suffering man is unable to get a grip on himself. It is at this point, in the depths of his soul, each rational person encounters that of which Christianity speaks: “…the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do….” Is this health or illness?

For the sake of comparison, let’s consider how an individual can change by living a proper Christian life. Those who cleanse themselves of the passions, acquire humility, and in the words of St. Seraphim of Sarov, have “acquired the Holy Spirit,” arrive at a state which is extremely fascinating from a psychological point of view: they consider themselves to be the worst of all people. Pimen the Great said: “Believe me, brethren, I shall be cast into the very place into which Satan is cast.” As Sisoe the Great was dying, and his face had become bright as the sun, making it impossible for anyone to look upon him, he implored God to give him a little more time in which to repent. What is this? Some kind of hypocrisy, some false humility? No. Afraid to sin even in thought, they said what they were actually experiencing. We on the other hand do not feel this at all. I am filled to overflowing with all manner of filth, and yet I see myself as a very good person. I am a good person! If I do something bad, well, no one is without sin, others are no better than I, and I am not as guilty as he, she, or they. Because we do not perceive the state of our souls, we see ourselves as so good. How the spiritual vision of the saints differ from ours!

Well, I again state: Christianity affirms that by nature, in his so-called normal state, man is deeply damaged. Unfortunately, we are only very dimly aware of the damage. The most terrible, principal blindness that afflicts us is the inability to see our own sickness. This is what is truly most dangerous, for when a person recognizes that he is sick, he seeks help, he goes to a physician, and he gets treatment for his disease. However, if he sees himself as healthy, he sends away those who tell him he is sick. This is the greatest symptom of the very damage within us. The full weight of history – both the overall history of mankind and the history of each individual, including first and foremost one’s own personal history – bears unambiguous witness to its existence. This is what Christianity shows us.

I will say that objective evidence of the single fact of human nature’s damaged state, that single truth expressed in the Christian Faith, is enough to show me the choice as to what religion to embrace – the one which reveals my sicknesses and shows me the means to heal them, or one which masks my diseases, nourishes human egotism, and says that everything is fine and wonderful, that I do not need to heal myself, but instead that I should heal the world around me, develop, and become more perfect. History teaches us the results of not getting treatment.

Well, we have come to Christianity. Thanks be to Thee, O Lord, I have finally discovered the true faith. I enter the next room: like the others, it is filled with a multitude of people, once again crying: “My Christian faith is the best of all.” Catholics cry out: “Look at how many followers we have – 1 billion 45 million.” Protestants from an extremely wide variety of denominations say that they are 350 million. The Orthodox are fewest in number, a mere 170 million. As has already been correctly suggested, truth is not determined by quantity but quality. Yet the most important question remains: “Where is true Christianity?”

There are a number of possible approaches to the question. In seminary, we were always taught to compare Catholic and Protestant dogmatic systems to that of the Orthodox. This is a method worthy of attention and respect, but it is one which seems to me not comprehensive or good enough, for one who does not have a good education, who is not sufficiently knowledgeable, will hardly find it easy to make sense of the jungle of dogmatic arguments and decide who is right and who is wrong. Moreover, at times such powerful psychological methods are employed, that one can easily be diverted from the substance of the matter. For example, when we take up the question of Papal primacy with the Catholics, they say: “Oh, the Pope! What are you talking about? This primacy and infallibility is such nonsense; it is the same as what is enjoyed by your Patriarch. Papal infallibility and authority is practically indistinguishable from the authoritativeness of pronouncements made by the head of any Local Orthodox Church.” In fact, there is a distinction here between dogma and canons. Thus, the comparative-dogmatics approach is far from simple, especially when you are dealing with those who not only are knowledgeable, but are striving to win you over at any cost.

However, there is another path which clearly shows what Catholicism is and where it leads man. That path is one of comparative investigation and study, but one already in the realm of the spiritual life, visibly manifested in the lives of the saints. It is there that, to use the language of the ascetics, the “vanity” of Catholic spirituality is clearly and powerfully illuminated. It is that vanity, which is fraught with the most grave consequences for the ascetic who sets foot on its way of life. You know, I sometimes give public lectures which are attended by a wide variety of people. Frequently, I hear the following question: “Well, what distinguishes Catholicism from Orthodoxy. How are they in error? Don’t they simply constitute a different path to Christ?” On many occasions, I’ve seen that all I need to do is to bring out examples of a few Catholic mystics, and the inquirer will say, “Thank you, now everything is clear. Nothing else is needed.”

Truly, any Church, Orthodox or heterodox, is known by its saints. Tell me who your saints are, and I will tell you what kind of Church you have. Any Church proclaims as saints only those who embody the Christian ideal as understood by the given Church. For this reason, a saint’s glorification is not the Church’s affirmation that they judge a certain Christian worthy of honor and a fit example for emulation, but also, first and foremost is the Church’s witness as to itself. We can best determine through the saints as to the reality or appearance of holiness of the Church itself.

I will give you a few illustrations of how the Catholic Church views holiness.

One of those considered by Catholicism to be a great saint is Francis of Assisi (13th C.). The following gives a picture of his spiritual consciousness/self-image. It once happened that Francis was engaged in a lengthy prayer “for two gifts.” The subject of the prayer is telling. “The first is that I… might… experience all of the suffering which You, Sweetest Jesus, experienced during Your tortured passion. The second … is that … I might feel …that limitless love with which You burned, O son of God.” As we can see, Francis was concerned not with his own sinfulness, but with a pretension toward equality to Christ!

During this prayer, Francis “felt himself entirely transformed into Jesus,” Whom he immediately recognized as a six-winged seraph, who struck him with flaming arrows into the hands, feet, and right side, places where Jesus Christ had been wounded, and where, following this vision, bleeding wounds (stigmata – signs of the “sufferings of Jesus”) opened. (M.V. Lodyzhensky, p. 109, The Unseen Light, Petrograd, 1915.)

The phenomenon of such stigmata is a subject quite familiar to the field of psychiatry: Uninterrupted meditation on Christ’s passion on the Cross markedly arouses one’s mental state, and with prolonged exercise of such concentration can bring on such phenomena. There is nothing grace-filled in it, for in such co-suffering (compassio) with Christ there is not that true love whose substance the Lord clearly stated: He that hath My Commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth (John 14: 21). Therefore, substituting meditation on the experience of “co-suffering” for the battle to overcome one’s “old man,” one’s former nature, is one of the gravest errors in spiritual life, one which has led and still leads many spiritual strugglers into egotism, pride, frank spiritual self-delusion, often directly tied to mental illness. (See, for example, Francis’ “homilies” addressed to birds, to the wolf, to doves, to snakes and to the flowers, and his reverence before fire, stones, and worms.)

What Francis set forth for himself as the goal of life is also quite telling: “I have labored and want to labor because this brings honor.” (St. Francis of Assisi; Works; Moscow; Franciscan Publishers; 1995. – p. 145). Francis wishes to suffer for others and to atone for others’ sins (p. 20). Was this not the reason for his flatly stating at the end of his life “I am not aware of any transgressions I have not redeemed through confession and repentance.” (Lodyzhensky. – p. 129). This all bears witness to his failure to see his sins, his fall, his utter spiritual blindness.

For the sake of comparison [between Orthodox and Catholic sanctity – Ed.] consider a vignette from the last moments of Venerable St. Sisoe the Great’s life (5th C.) “In the minutes before his death, as Sisoe appeared to be talking with persons invisible to the brethren surrounding him, he responded to the request: “Father, tell us with whom you are conversing…” by saying “They are the angels who have come to take me, and I am imploring them to leave me [here] for a short time, so that I might repent.” When the brethren, who knew that Sisoe was accomplished in virtues, contradicted him, noting, “But you have no need of repentance, Father,” he answered, “In truth, I do not know whether I have even begun to repent.” (Lodyzhensky, p. 133.) That profound understanding, that recognition of one’s own imperfection, is the principal distinguishing characteristic of all true saints.

Here is an excerpt from the “Blessed Angela”” (†1309), in The Revelations to Blessed Angela, published in Moscow, 1918.

She writes that the Holy Spirit spoke to her, saying “My daughter, my sweet delightful one…I love you very much.” (p. 95). “I was with the apostles, and they saw Me with human eyes, but they did not feel me as you do.” (p. 96). Angela revealed the following about herself: “In the darkness, I see the Holy Trinity, and it seems to me that I am there, at the very center of the Trinity, which I see in the darkness.” (p 117). She provides examples of how she sees her relationship to Jesus Christ: “I was able to put myself entirely inside Jesus Christ.” (p. 176). And: “Because of His sweetness and out of sorrow over his departure I screamed and wanted to die” (p. 101). In her frenzied state, she would begin to beat herself so severely that the nuns were forced to carry her out of the church (p. 83).

A.F. Lossev, one of the most prominent Russian religious writers of the 20th Century, gave the following harsh but accurate criticism of Angela’s “revelations.” He wrote in part: “[Angela’s] is in such a state of temptation and seduction that she even has the Holy Spirit appear to [her] and whisper adoring expressions: “My daughter, my sweet delightful one, My temple, My delight, love me, for I love you very much, much more than you love Me.” The saint sweetly languishes, and is disoriented by love’s sweet exhaustion. And her lover appears more and more often, to inflame still further her body, her heart, her blood. The Cross of Christ appears to her as a nuptial bed. How can anything be more opposite to serious and sober Byzantine-Muscovite asceticism than the following blasphemous pronouncement: “My soul was taken into the uncreated light and ascended.” Such passionate reflections on the Cross of Christ, on the wounds of Christ and on the individual parts of His Body, such forced evocation of bloody marks on one’s own body, etc… In culmination, Christ wraps the arm which had been nailed to the Cross around Angela, and she, totally spent from her languor, torment, and happiness, says “Sometimes, in the closeness of that embrace, it seems to my soul that entered the side of Christ, and the joy and illumination it received there, was inexpressible. For they were so great, that sometimes I was unable to stand on my feet, and lay down, unable to speak… and I lay there, [the use of] my tongue and limbs taken from me.” (A.F. Lossev, Essays on Ancient Symbolism and Mythology, Moscow 1930, Vol. 1, pp. 867-868.).

Catherine of Sienna (+1380), who was elevated by Pope Paul VI to the highest rank of sainthood, i.e. “Doctor of the Church,” provides a clear example of Catholic sanctity. I will quote a few excerpts from the Catholic book Portraits of the Saints by Antonio Siccari, excerpts which I believe need no explication.

Catherine was about 20 years of age. “She sensed that her life was to come to a decisive turning point, and she continued to pray about it to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, repeating the wonderful, extremely tender turn of phrase that was to become her leitmotiv, “Unite Yourself to me in a marriage of faith!” (Antonio Siccari, Portraits of the Saints, Vol. II, Milan, 1991, p. 11.)

“Catherine once had the following vision: her Divine Bridegroom, embracing her, drew her to Himself, but then removed her heart from her chest so that He might give her a new heart, more like His Very Own.”(p. 12).

Once, it was said that she had died: “She later said herself that her heart was torn apart by the power of God’s love, and that she experienced death, “seeing the heavenly gates.” However, the Lord said unto me, “Go back, My child, you must go back… I will bring you before the princes and rulers of the Church.” And the humble girl began to send out her epistles throughout the world, lengthy letters dictated, often three or four at a time on different subjects and without losing the thread, at amazing speed, leaving her secretaries unable to keep up with her. All of these letters concluded with the passionate formula “Sweetest Jesus, Jesus [my] Love.” They often began with the words “I, Catherine, the servant and slave of slaves of Jesus, write to you in His most precious Blood…” (p. 12).

“In Catherine’s letters, one is struck first of all by the frequent and persistent appearance of the repeated words “I want.” (p. 12). (12). Some say that in her ecstasy, she even addressed the demanding words “I want” to Christ.” (p. 13).

From correspondence with Gregory XI, whom she was trying to persuade to return from Avignon to Rome: “I speak to you on behalf of Christ… I speak to you, Father, in Jesus Christ…. Reply to the call of the Holy Spirit which is addressed to you.” (p. 13)

“And to the King of France, she said ‘Do God’s will and mine.’”(p. 14).

No less telling are the “revelations” of Teresa of Avila (16th Century) who was likewise elevated by Pope Paul VI to the status of “Doctor of the Church.” Before her death, she cried out, “O my God, my Husband, at last I will see you!” This strangest of outcries was no accident. It was the natural consequence of all of Theresa’s “spiritual” struggle, whose essence was revealed in the following:

After her many revelations, “Christ” said to Teresa: “From this day forth, you shall be my wife. From henceforth, I am not only your Creator, but your Husband.” (D. S. Merezhkovsky, Spanish Mystics, Brussels, 1988, p. 88.) D. Merezhkovsky wrote that Teresa prayed “Lord, either to suffer with You, or to die for You!” and fell exhausted from these favors. Thus, it is no surprise that Teresa confesses “My Beloved calls my soul with such a piercing whistle, that I cannot help but hear. This call so acts on my soul that it becomes exhausted with desire.” It is no coincidence that in evaluating her mystical experiences, the famous American psychologist William James wrote that “her conception of religion came down, if one may so state, to an endless series of lovers’ flirtations between the worshiper and his” (William James, The Variety of Religious Experience, translated from the English, Moscow, 1910. – p. 337).

Yet another illustration of Catholic sanctity is Therese of Lisieux (Little Therese, or Therese Child of Jesus), who had lived to the age of 23, and whom, in 1997 on the centennial of her repose, Pope John Paul II “infallibly” declared to be yet another Teacher of the Universal Church. The following excerpts from Therese’s spiritual autobiography, The Story of a Soul (Symbol, 1996, No. 36, Paris, p. 151), bear eloquent witness to her spiritual state.

“During the discussion preceding my tonsure, I saw the events that were to take place in Carmel. I came to save souls and first of all, to pray for priests…” (To save not herself, but others!)

Speaking of her unworthiness, she wrote, “I maintain the constant daring hope that I will become a great saint… I thought that I was born for glory and I sought the ways to accomplish it. And lo, the Lord God… revealed to me, that my glory will not be look upon death, and its substance is that I will become a great saint!!!”(Compare this to Makariy the Great, who, known for the exceedingly lofty character of his life, was referred to by his co-strugglers as “God on earth.” He prayed only “O God, cleanse me a sinner, for I have done nothing good before You.”) Later, Therese was to write even more bluntly “In the heart of my Mother-Church, I will be Love…then I will be for everyone… and through this my dream will have come true!!!”

Therese’s teachings about spiritual love were absolutely “remarkable.” She stated “This was the kiss of love. I felt loved, and said “I love Thee and entrust myself to Thee forever.” There were neither petitions, nor struggles, nor sacrifice. Jesus and poor little Therese had long since looked upon one another and had understood everything… That day brought not an exchange of glances, but a merging; there were no longer two of them, and Therese disappeared like a drop of water that is lost in the depths of the sea.” Comments on the fantasy novel by the poor maiden, Teacher of the Catholic Church, are hardly needed.

The mystical experience of Ignatius Loyola (16th Century), founder of the Jesuit Order and one of the pillars of Catholic mysticism is based on systematic development of the imagination.

His book Spiritual Exercise, within Catholicism considered to be quite authoritative, uninterruptedly calls the Christian to imagine, and contemplate the Holy Trinity, Christ, the Mother of God, the Angels, etc. As a matter of principle this all stands in stark contrast to the basis of the spiritual struggles of the saints of the Universal Church, for it leads the believer into total spiritual and emotional disarray.

The Philokalia, an authoritative anthology of the early Church’s ascetic writings strictly forbids participation in such “spiritual exercises.” Here are some excerpts from that anthology:

St. Nilus of Sinai (5th C.) cautions: “Do not desire visions of Angels or Powers or Christ, lest ye lose your minds, take the wolf for the pastor, and worship your demon enemies…” (St. Nilus of Sinai, 153rd chapter on prayer. Philokalia, Chapter 115, Volume 2 of the 5 Volume 2nd Edition, Moscow 1884 p. 237).

Discoursing on those who in prayer “imagine the pleasures of heaven, the ranks of angels, and the dwellings of the saints,” St. Symeon the New Theologian (11th C.) plainly states that “that is a sign of prelest’ [spiritual self-deception]….” “Embarked on such a path, those who see a light with their physical eyes, sense sweet smells with their sense of smell, and hear voices with their ears, etc., are seduced …” (St. Symeon the New Theologian. “On three forms of prayer,” The Philokalia, Vol. 5, pp. 463-464, Moscow 1900.

St. Gregory of Sinai (14th C.) reminds us: “Never welcome anything you see with the senses or the spirit, within or without, whether it be the image of Christ, or of an angel, or of some saint…. Those who do welcome such things… are easily enticed…. God is not indignant at one who, careful and heedful for fear of being deceived, does not welcome someone who is in fact from Him, …rather [God] praises [such a person] as one who is wise….” (St. Gregory of Sinai, “Instructions to those who keep silent,” op. cit., p. 224).

St. Ignatiy Brianchaninov writes about the correctness of the landowner who, on seeing his daughter holding the 15th Century Catholic Thomas A Kempis’ book Imitation of Jesus Christ, wrested it from her hands and said: “Stop your romance with God.” In light of the above-cited examples one cannot doubt the propriety of such words. It is quite unfortunate that the Catholic Church has apparently stopped distinguishing between the spiritual and the emotional, between sanctity and fantasizing, and consequently, between Christianity and paganism.

So much for Catholicism.

When it comes to addressing Protestantism, their stated dogmas alone will suffice. One can grasp their essence by considering but one fundamental Protestant assertion: “Man is saved only by Faith, and not by works; therefore, to a believer, sin is not imputed as sin.” Here is the fundamental question on which Protestants have become confused. They start to build their house of salvation from the 10th story, having forgotten (if they ever had remembered) the teachings of the early Church about what kind of faith saves man. Is it not faith in the fact that 2000 years ago, Christ came and accomplished everything for us?!

How does Orthodox understanding of faith differ from that of the Protestants? Orthodoxy also says that man is saved by faith, but for the believer sin remains sin. What kind of faith is this? According to St. Theophanes, not “intellectual,” i.e. analytical, but rather a state acquired through proper, and I emphasize, proper Christian life. Only through such a life does one grasp the fact that only Christ can save him from bondage and from the torment of passions. How is such a state of faith acquired? Through a compulsion to fulfill the Commandments of the Gospel and through true repentance. St. Symeon the New Theologian states: “Careful fulfillment of Christ’s commandments teaches man his weaknesses.” I.e. it reveals to him that without God’s help, he is powerless and unable to root out his passions. By himself, a single person cannot [do it}. However, with God, with “two working together,” all things become possible. It is the Christian life that shows one first, that his passions are illnesses, second, that the Lord is near each and every one of us, and finally, that at any given moment He is prepared to lend us assistance and save us from sin. However, He does not save us without our participation, effort and struggle. Spiritual struggle renders us capable of accepting Christ. It is essential, for it shows us that without God, we cannot heal ourselves. It is only while I am drowning that I am certain of my need for the Savior. While I am on shore, I need no one. It is only when I see myself drowning in the torment of passions that I call upon Christ. It is then that He comes to my aid, and it is from that point that active, salvific faith begins. Orthodoxy teaches us that man’s freedom and dignity are not, as characterized by Luther, a “pillar of salt” incapable of accomplishing anything, but rather are God’s co-workers in His [accomplishment of our] salvation. This renders comprehensible the meaning of all of Commandments in the Gospel, and makes obvious the truth of Orthodoxy, not simply a faith in the matter of salvation for the Christian.

In this way, not simply Christianity, not simply religion, not simply faith in God, but Orthodoxy begins for man.

Source: http://www.stjohndc.org/Russian/homilies/e_Osipov.htm

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