Redeeming the Time
An Orthodox Christian
Journal
St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Home Page St Nicholas the Wonderworker Go to the bottom of the page
Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
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Redeeming the Time
Oct 11/24 1999
Vol. 03.19

21st Sunday After Pentecost
The Parable of the Sower
The Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
redeeming the time, because the days are evil.


Spiritual Things

*Redeeming the Time

*Questions and Answers about Orthodox Doctrine

*Thoughts on the Sunday Gospels

*Articles on various things

*Confession

*An Exact Exposition of The Orthodox Faith

*Services

*Prayers

*Trebnic Prayers

*The Orthodox Typicon

*A Recent Miracle of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker

With a WONDERFUL icon!

Reference

*Calendar for the Current Month

ROCOR Directories
*Worldwide Parishes
*Clergy E-mail
*All Clergy

*Many Orthodox Links

*FAQS

*Fasting Typicon


About Us

*Contact Information

*Directions to our church

*Regular Services Schedule

*St Nicholas Family Album

*Who may receive the Holy Mysteries at St. Nicholas?

*New Valaam Trading Company

Pastoral Directive *

News and Announcements *

Developments at New Valaam Trading Company *

From the Bookstore Manager, Peter Johnson *

The Parable of the Sower *

What are the goals of ecumenism? *

THE UNNOTICED ANNIVERSARY *

Gleanings from the Holy Fathers *

The present life is the time for sowing *

The thorns of life *

Weed out from your soul Ö *

If prayer is cold, it does not mean that it is unpleasing to God *

Pastoral Directive

Beloved in Christ:

It is not spiritually profitable to any person to confess irregularly and only attend the full services a few times a year in order to commune the Holy Mysteries. The early Christians communed the Holy Mysteries every day! We are much more unworthy than they because we are not often in a prayerful state and we let things of the world distract us. We are not able to commune every day, and some of us may not be able to commune frequently, but we must do everything in our power to keep ourselves "in Christ". With this in mind, I am giving this pastoral directive.

Unless you have another confessor, please make plans to confess your sins at least monthly. If you are spiritually prepared, you may also commune monthly. Spiritual preparation also involves frequent church attendance, including the vigils, fasting according to the typicon of the church, a struggle to say daily prayers, the reading of the Scriptures and other holy things, and struggling against our sins.

I am asking everyone to be spiritually responsible about this, just as they must be responsible when they have a requirement pressed upon them in their job. You must make plans to confess, and order your priorities so you are able to call me to make an appointment, and be present when the appointment time comes.

As always, I invite anyone who has any questions to contact me privately. There are individual situations which some people have that are always taken into account, such as extreme distance from church, the necessity of working on a day or evening when services are normally held, and other things.

The task of being a Christian becomes harder every day. Outwardly, it is still quite easy, but inwardly lies the struggle, and the society in which we live, and the very air we breathe seems to constantly entice us to be easy on ourselves, and make worldly decisions, much to our spiritual detriment. It is my task as a pastor to try to inspire everyone to struggle in every way to gain their salvation.

God bless you and help you in all things.

In Christ,

one who prays for you,

unworthy Priest Seraphim

News and Announcements

Developments at New Valaam Trading Company

From the Bookstore Manager, Peter Johnson

See: http://www.orthodox.net/nvtc

Ever since the week of November 18th, 1998 (when I first started managing the bookstore), NVTC has had an average of about a $350.00 deposit per week. I added up all of the deposits in the checkbook registry and then divided them by the number of weeks since then to get a weekly average. I have noticed that the deposits have a slight decreasing pattern since this spring. Lots of items were purchased then. So, taking that pattern into consideration, I would guess that NVTC has a prospective annual income of about $17,000 since November 18, 1998. ($350/wk. multiplied by 52 weeks in a year taking in account the decreasing income pattern).

Once we get the online ordering system in perfect working order with the shipping costs all worked out, then that weekly/annual income figure should increase, God willing.

Peter Johnson

The Parable of the Sower

Luke 8:5-15

A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. {6} And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. {7} And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. {8} And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. {9} And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? {10} And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. {11} Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. {12} Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. {13} They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. {14} And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. {15} But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today is the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, and it is also the day that we remember the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. This council established permanently what the Church had always known concerning the holy icons.

Today, we read the parable of the Sower, which is a very familiar parable, known even to people that are not Christians. So many of these parables are really part and parcel of our culture. People even use biblical terminology and donít even know that they are using it.

How do these parables affect us? There is an inner meaning and an outer meaning to these parables. Why did our Lord speak in parables? He certainly said quite a few of them , didnít He? Why did He say things with a hidden meaning? The Fathers explain to us that when you look into something deeply and carefully, when it takes effort to look into it, then you develop more of an understanding. If something is handed to you and there is no effort involved in learning it, then you develop very little understanding. We can see this principle even in secular life. Look at how young people can barely even read and write now, because of this television age that we are in. Information is given to them so freely it takes very little effort to find it out. Also, the parables are given because God does not want those who are not worthy to be told things that they will be judged for. A man must do some investigation if he is to learn the deep meaning of these things, and God will judge us for what we know. God will also judge us for what we donít know, remember, if we CHOOSE not to know things. God will judge us the same if we know something and donít do it or we choose to be ignorant in the ways of piety. If we are willfully ignorant, and this occurs whenever we do not try to seek out the knowledge of Godís commandments and exercise them in our life, God will then judge us in the Judgment, even if we try to say we do not know something.

What is the inner and outer meaning of this parable? There is a lot of explanation given for this parable, even in the very text of scripture itself. It is very rare in scripture where our Lord actually explains the deeper meaning of some dark saying of His. The Apostles came to Him, and they must have also come to Him many other times, and they said, we donít understand this at all. He explained this to them, because its meaning is so important.

"A sower went out to sow his seed". Who is the sower? None other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Be careful when you read scripture -- every word has meaning. The Sower went OUT to sow his seed. He did not go "out" from the farmhouse and start to work; this "going out" is the incarnation of the Son of God. The seed is the word of God, those words that He spoke.

As he sowed, some seed fell by various places -- the wayside, the rock, among the thorns and on good ground. It "fell". It was not thrown. It fell everywhere equally, and these places are the souls of men. The preexisting one, Jesus Christ, thought it not robbery to be equal to us, and became a man. And He sowed his teaching to the entire universe, equally and freely to all men. It is available to everyone.

There are four kinds of men described in this parable, and I tell you, three of those kinds perished. Three out of the four kinds of men will perish. The majority will perish. This is true in our age, and has been true in every age. The majority of people will not inherit the Kingdom of God, because they are not the good ground. And yet our Lord and Savior still sows His seed, and still gives a man the opportunity to accept Him and to follow His commandments.

Remember the story of the talents? The man with the one talent -- our Lord knew that He was not going to use this talent. Remember what a talent is? It is the grace of God, which enables us to do good works, to do His commandments, and to learn more of Him. The man with the one talent is like the ground by the wayside. The fowls of the air immediately snatch away the word from his heart, and he never really believes at all. I am sure we have know people like that, who really have no belief whatsoever. The wayside is hard, and packed down. No seed can penetrate into it, and the seed is washed away, or sits there, prey for the birds of the air. The birds are the demons, which snatch away the word from a manís heart, but only because a man leaves it out there, unprotected, and does not cherish it. The demons cannot take away the word from your heart if you hold it close to yourself. Only if you care nothing for it, then indeed the demons will take it away from your heart.

So these men by the wayside, they have no part in salvation whatsoever, they never even bothered to believe. Some of the seed fell upon the rock, and when it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. Have you every been to a glade? This is an area where there is a thin layer of soil over limestone bluffs, and only certain kinds of plants can grow. When there is a drought, everything dies, except for a few very hardy trees. There is a little bit of soil, a very small amount, but there is not enough soil to retain any moisture, which is the essence of Christ. There is just a small amount of knowledge, and not much struggle or desire, and at the merest, smallest trial, such a person falls away, and he perishes.

Some people are thorny ground. The thorns spring up with the good wheat, the Word of God. These thorns choke out the following of the commandments. They choke out the knowledge of God, because we turn away from God, to our thorns, whatever they are, whether they be riches, cares of this world, sensual pleasures, our pride, our fear, ambition. There are hundreds of ways that a man can turn away from Christ, even though he appears to be a Christian.

Remember the parable about the wheat and the tares? These tares are the same as thorns. The tares are growing up right by the wheat, and except to a man who has extreme discretion and knowledge, and of course, to the God-man, Jesus Christ, such people are sometimes indistinguishable to true Christians. They go to church, they have families, they may give alms, and they do everything externally just like everybody else, except they donít have any life within them. Where their treasure is, so their heart is, and their treasure is not Christ, so Christ is not with them. Those people who are amidst the thorns have not Christ, even though they would call themselves Christians.

Some of the seed, a small amount of the seed, by the way, fell on good ground. And it sprang up and bear fruit. St. Luke says a hundred fold, and St. Matthew also recounts this story and shows that the Lord gave other information. Some sprang up thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold, because not all the Saints are the same. Not everyone follows the Word of God to the same degree, or the same amount. I guess that is good news to me, because I donít at this moment think that I can become like the Saints. I shouldnít think this way, because God can change a man, if he only gives himself to Him. However, if none of us lives with the LOFTY righteousness of the Saints, God has a place for us in His mansion, since there are many rooms, if we make an effort to live according to His commandments. I have said this many times before; success is not as important as your effort. If you make an effort, then in the end, paradoxically, you will be successful, because God will receive your repentance, and reward you, for some thirty, some sixty, some one hundred. May it be that we all receive a hundred fold. May we all be like the man who had five talents, and labored and increased it to ten, and then our Lord gave him an infinite amount of grace.

Now, how is it that we can be good ground? Isnít that really what we should try to learn from this parable? What is good ground? Good ground has been tilled carefully, and dug, and the clods of dirt have been broken up, and it has been finely sifted, and fertilizer has been added to it, and it has been watered, and hedged round about so that animals can not get in. It has been guarded, so not one can steal the fruits it will produce. There is effort involved in having good ground. It does not just "happen".

Last year, I tilled a part of my property in order to plant. I did not take care of it this year, and did not plant, and you can not even TELL that it was good ground, and it was VERY good ground after I had finished with it, but I didnít take care of it, and so, it reverted back. The same thing will happen to us. If we do not take care of the seed that is planted within us, we will revert back to the type of man we previously were, and we will allow the tares to grow in us. They will choke us out. Even if there are not tares to begin with Ė the seeds of tares fly through the air, donít they? So do the demons. The tares can come into good ground at any time, and they constantly must be plucked out and uprooted with great care. It is very painful to tear out many tares, by the way, especially thorns and thistles, because they are sharp and they cut, and make us bleed. Regardless, we must do this work, and tear out these thorns and thistles if we are to be good ground; if indeed, we have even begun to be good ground!

Our Savior says about those on the good ground, "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." There are those words that we have trouble with (I have trouble with them sometimes): "Having heard the word, KEEP it and bring forth fruit with PATIENCE." Patience is the most difficult word in our language. The Christian life is patience, endurance. He who endures to the end will be saved. We are just beginning, you know. And if indeed there is some part of our soul that is good ground, let us make the rest of it good ground, by careful labor, by backbreaking labor. And, while we are cleaning out those parts of our souls, let us at the same time pay attention to the places we have cleared, so the tares do not come in, and choke us.

How are we to do this? This is a task beyond our abilities! The Apostle tells us, in a marvelous way. He says, "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Marvelous, magnificent words! May they be true in our lives. May we say that we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. May we live by faith, since this is the only way to accomplish our task. And what is our task? It is to know Christ, isnít it? Isnít that what it said in the other gospel today? Our Savior was praying to His Heavenly Father, shortly before He was going to go to His great Passion for our salvation, and He said, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."

What is knowledge? Knowledge is intimacy. Knowledge is love. To know God is to love Him, and to give everything to Him. We see evidence of this kind of love even in our own relationships. The love of a husband for a wife, or a child for his mother or father, and especially the love of an infant, such perfect love. But just like a child who is not so intimate with his parents after he has done something wrong -- he doesnít show up in the same room for a while, he doesnít want to talk to them, he hangs his head, he has broken communion with them because of guilt -- so it is with us, if we do not follow the Lordís commandments. Then, we will not be able to cry "Abba, Father", because we will be hanging our head in shame. Or worse, I say most people donít do that, because they cannot bear that kind of shame. Instead, they just leave God. They become choked with cares, or lusts or passions, with misplaced priorities, or they become even worse than that, and they wither away, and have no faith whatsoever. Thatís what happens to most people.

I hope that in our church, if you forgive the expression, we beat the "odds". I hope that all of us will be good ground, but I know that the only way that this can be possibly true is if we struggle -- apart and together. We must pray for one another, help one another, and then, in our corner, in our closet, cry out to God each day, asking Him to help us with whatever passions we have, with whatever sins we commit. Even if we have poor attitudes, and we desire to change our attitudes.

Do you know that all sin, and even all action proceeds from thought? Everything we do proceeds from thought. We decide to do something, and then we do it, whether it is good or bad. So we must amend our thoughts. That is why the Apostle Paul says, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Train yourself! So now, if you want to be good ground, you must not add any trash to this ground. You must not add such things as impure thoughts, gossip, judging others. You can surely think of many other things that are within your heart that you do and that are affecting your ground. And if ground is left alone, and just walked over, and not cared for, it becomes the wayside. It becomes hard and the seed can no longer penetrate, and that which is in it dies, or never germinates. So we have a great labor to do, my brothers and sisters. We must continue to care for our ground carefully. And we must have patience.

There are two sides to patience. One is that we must be patient with our position in life, with our status, with the amount of money we make, with the difficulties we encounter. We must not curse God or say that we should have this or we should have that. This is one kind of patience.

There is another kind Ė a very important kind of patience. Allow God to work! It takes time for Him to work. We do not know how much time we have, but the time we have is what God has allotted to us. He is going to use every moment of that time to perfect us. So, if we have trouble with our sins, if there is something that we fall into every day, then EVERY day repent of it, and be patient! Be manly in spirit, and do not be like a child and run away from that sin, or rather, run away from the knowledge of that sin, since it will always be with you until you conquer it. Confront it! Confront it with sword and with shield, and with buckler, and with faith. Eventually, God will deliver you. It will happen. It is guaranteed. If a man struggles to know to know Godís commandments, He will reveal them. This is absolutely certain, because in your struggling, you will be doing His commandments.

So, be patient, and cultivate your ground every day, every moment. However, be careful not to judge yourself. This is a hard lesson, that takes us a long time to learn Ė to not judge ourselves, and look at the sins we are doing and to say we can never do better. Well, in some things we do better, and in some things, God help us and forgive us, we have done worse, but the demons cannot take away from us that we are children of the Most High. We are able to cry "Abba Father", only if we are struggling to live in Christ. God lives within us. He enlightens us, He helps us, even though we are sinners. So, if He has come to us and has offered us FREELY His grace and mercy, who are we, in our pride and arrogance, to say, "That is not enough mercy or enough grace. I canít change"? Every man can change. Everyone can change magnificently if he only allows God to change him, but this takes time, a lot of time. I am sure, you are like me, and are very tired of your sins. They weigh us down, they are like an anchor, and they cut and they hurt. And yet, in some weird and perverted way, they are dear to us. They must be dear to us in some way, but God understands, and will help us if we make an effort, and if we are patient.

None of us right now are the wayside because we are at least trying to be Christians. Some of us may be the rock, some may be thorns. God knows, and this will be all revealed in the end. Even if you have very little soil right now, and even if you are choked with thorns and cares, God will help you to become good soil. He will help any man to become good soil. He is no respecter of persons. Any man that desires will be given, freely, Godís mercy. So take Godís mercy and clasp it to your hearts. Hold in to it and cultivate it, and be good soil, and God will save you.

Amen.

What are the goals of ecumenism?

by Hieromonk Savva (of Serbia)

The fundamental goal and the primary task of the ecumenical movement is to re-interpret Christianity -- or, in other words, to annihilate Orthodoxy completely. The dialogue between various Christian confessions -- as, also, the dialogue between Christianity and Islam and Judaism (and other religions, as well) -- is one of the tasks that is a part of an over-all plan for unifying the sum-total of humanity. The only thing that is necessary to achieve this aim is the convocation of a new "Ecumenical Council" -- one that would be truly universal (oikumenikos), because those councils which have been convened are not deemed to be councils by the ecumenists; otherwise, they would respect the decisions and rulings of said councils. This new "Ecumenical Council" will need to declare "new truths" to all the world. To date, we could show how, by a simple, one-sided act, the anathemas against Papism have been annulled; how Monophysites are declared to be "Oriental Orthodox"; how the "holy mysteries" of the heretics are recognized openly as being valid. Much of this would be officially adopted by the [projected] "Ecumenical Council," and would be enforced by way of a conciliar decision. It is at such a council, for the convocation of which the Patriarchate of Constantinople is striving, and for which it has been preparing itself in the course of many decades -- no later than the end of this century, according to Patriarch Bartholomew -- that the worldwide union of Christianity would be declared.

Essentially, the ecumenists envision the universal union of "churches," which will serve as the leaven for the entire oecumene in its turning of the world into the Kingdom of God on earth. Inasmuch as the consummate aim of ecumenism is to unite all religions, it is entirely logical to conclude that that is why, today, it is evermore underscored that not only do individual [Christian] churches, as such, not possess the fullness of truth, but that even Christianity itself does not possess it. In other words, the truth concerning God the Creator (according to the ecumenists) surpasses all individually existent religious forms, finding its perfect expression only in the vast multiplicity of world religions and traditions. For an explication of this, ecumenists resort to the example of an extremely high mountain, the pinnacle of which can be reached from all sides. It is possible (according to them) to reach God by way of Christianity, as well as by way of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, etc.; hence, there is no need to convert the adherents of one religion to another, because the "inspiration of the Holy Spirit" is ostensibly present in all of these religions. Such thoughts, in essence, have already been spread throughout Europe and America, in the course of decades, by a multitude of Hindu gurus. It should be noted that the ecumenical movement, which [ostensibly] began for the sake of unifying all Christians, has ever more intensely expanded its dialogue and contacts with non-Christians ( for example, in Canberra, in Assisi, in Milan, etc.).

It can be seen, from this, that the goals of ecumenism are not exhausted by the unification of Christian confessions. But it is specifically in relation to this plan that the task appears to be particularly difficult, because true Christianity -- which is possessed only by the Orthodox Church -- poses the chief peril to this entire idea.

It is for this reason that such great efforts are being expended to water-down Orthodoxy by way of uniting it with various heresies. Then, the realization of the remainder of this plan will in no way appear difficult, as most of the other religions do not absolutize their teaching as concerns its being the only true and correct doctrine. Consequently, unity in diversity becomes essential. In other words, the task consists not of creating a single new religion with a unified cultus and doctrine; far better is it to declare that all religions are but manifestations of a single spiritual reality.

These concepts are also being developed flagrantly by the freemasons who, in the opinion of many spiritual authorities, are the foremost motive force behind the entire [ecumenical] movement, which can be divided into two parts: firstly, the political and economic, and secondly, the spiritual unification of the world. Hence, the majority of the movers and shakers behind the secular, worldwide ecumenical movement, if they are not directly involved in, then they are, at the very least, found to be influenced by world masonry.

The question is posed: is it possible to be both a mason and a Christian, at one and the same time? For inveterate ecumenists, there is no dilemma here. They perceive Christianity as being one of the most powerful and most authoritative expressions of Divine Truth -- although, of course, not the ONLY expression... In accordance with their doctrinal stance, Divine Truth finds expression through all religions, but on various levels. On the lower-most level one finds the totemic and animistic religions, which express the idea of God on a quite primitive plane. At the very pinnacle are the great religions of the world, among which one also finds Christianity. Those initiated into the mysteries of this gnosis perceive the very greatest religions as being various "folkloric and cultural models" of one and the same content. It is for this reason that there is much feverish striving among ecumenists to uplift the so-called "common folk" to the level of a single neo-Christianity -- a Christianity purged of all historic and cultural anachronisms, such as church canons, which are viewed by present-day ecumenists as being merely surviving remnants of the historic past.

Perhaps this is that "Christianity" which is being sought after by Archbishop Iakovos of America -- a "Christianity" free of "disquieting" patristic terminology and of truths that can now be accepted only with extreme difficulty. These "obsolete archaisms" are the foremost obstacle to ecumenism; therefore, the response is clear to the question: why do ecumenists so openly trample upon the canons and traditions of the [Orthodox] Church? It is because, for them, these possess only museum-piece and archaeological value. If the ecumenists' way of thinking is clear to us, we should not find it difficult to understand how the Patriarch [of Constantinople] (and not he alone) can extend felicitations to Muslims on their festival of "'Bayram" and pray in a mosque, alongside an imam. The leaders of the ecumenical movement believe that all religions serve a single, common God, and that Divine inspiration is present in each and every one of them -- attired, of course, in a local cultural and civic form.

Those who have reached such a level of convergence in the unity of all religions perceive the God to whom they pray in their own way. There are no essential differences. But, in order that there might be an opportunity for the broad masses of humanity to sense this truth, it is necessary to free Christianity (and all religions) of all those elements peculiar to them, which encourage proselytism, an aggressive spirit, and the conviction that "my religion alone is correct, and all others are in error" -- in other words, to develop a spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding.

As a result of such understanding, people will begin to recognize their brother in every man, and their own faith and God in every other faith. The problem, it appears, is an hermeneutical one; i.e., one of interpretation. It is necessary to understand what lies concealed behind the signs and symbols of the various religious traditions of the "inspired books." The ecumenists re-interpret in their own fashion the fundamental evangelic idea of the churching of all men into a single Church of God -- into a single faith (that which is the Kingdom of Heaven in its fullness); likewise, the Second Coming of the Lord, and the general resurrection. Fundamentally, whether consciously or unconsciously so, they preach the chiliastic idea of an historic "Kingdom of God" here on earth. We all know well from Holy Writ and from patristic literature that such an idea is not realizable. All men are called to salvation, but not all men respond to this call.

Christ manifested the name of God to such men as were given to Him by His Heavenly Father before the creation of the world (John 17, 6): "It is for them that I pray..." (John 17, 9). The Lord came not to save the world, which lieth in evil, but to save men from the world and from the prince of this world, because the world is his weapon in his battle against the Lord and His Church. It is for this reason that the Church and the world are on a collision-course, the one with the other. The Church and Christians are not of this world (comp. John 17, 16). They dwell in the world temporarily, as strangers, because their [true] fatherland is in the heavens. The Lord teaches us: "Were ye of the world, the world would love its own; but, as ye are not of the world, but I chose you from out of the world, therefore doth the world hate you." (John 15, 19) "Love not the world; neither that which is in the world: for whosoever loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (I John 2, 15) It is possible to see clearly in all of Holy Writ that a clear distinction must be made between the members of the Church and the rest of mankind, which is outside the Church.

There exists no evidence capable of showing that the entire world will accept the Gospel prior to the end of this age. There is not a single word concerning the transformation of the entire world into the Church during this period of time -- as the zealots of ecumenism believe. On the contrary: Holy Writ teaches us that the number of true Christians will diminish, because the Lord asks whether He will find faith in men when He returns again to earth. The Lord teaches us that Christians will needs be given over to torments; that many will be destroyed; and that all nations will hate them, for His name's sake. There will appear many false prophets and shall deceive many... (Matt. 24: 9-12) He openly says to heretics and to all those who have fallen away from truth: "Many will say to Me in that day: Lord! Lord! was it not in Thine name that we preached? And was it not by Thine name that we cast out devils? And was it not through Thine name that we wrought many miracles? And then will I declare unto them: I never knew you; depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity!" (Matt. 7: 22-23)

These clear witnesses of Holy Writ show that ecumenism, in its essence, is a chiliastic heresy -- a heresy which reveals itself through its insistence upon the realization of unity through a compromise between truth and falsehood -- between good and evil, between Christ and Belial -- so that a single "new Church" might be created thereby, and a "new world" therewith, as well.

The ecumenists seemingly forget that "The Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; then shall the heavens pass away with a great noise; the elements, kindled with a great heat, shall be destroyed; and the earth and all the works upon it shall be consumed by fire." (II Peter 3, 10) They forget that it is only at the conclusion of this age that new heavens and a new earth will appear; and that it is along with them that all of the Lord's faithful will be united in that unity which is not the fruit of human effort, but of the creative power of God.

The history of the Church teaches us that Christianity never spread abroad by means of dialogue and compromise with the godless, but rather by means of a living witness to the truth and of its conflict with every falsehood and error.

Did the Apostles attend the temples of the godless in order that they might there entreat God for the world alongside pagan priests? and did they offer up incense to Him there? The ecumenists, meanwhile, triumphantly declare that the times of "intolerance and disaccord" have become a thing of the past. They proclaim a false peace: not that [peace] which comes from Christ ("My peace I give unto you!"), but the peace which is a result of false compromise.

From all of this, it is clear that ecumenism represents an important feature of that entire multitude of attempts by European Man to replace God with Man; to replace truth with falsehood; and to replace the heavens with a putrid world. We recognize in ecumenism those selfsame elements which can be seen in papism, humanism, communism, and in the many other "-isms" of fallen European Man. And, as the counterfeit of all this, are the intentions of the "prince of this world," the devil, to establish on earth his kingdom, his pseudo-church, and to place at her head his chosen one, the false Christ -- Antichrist. This is the fundamental goal and direction of the ecumenical heresy.

In order that all these ecumenical ideas might penetrate into the fabric of society, and in order that they might prove acceptable to the common man, it was necessary to create the necessary corresponding conditions. And what played into the hands of the ecumenists, to a great extent, was the loss, among Orthodox believers, of the awareness that there are not only bishops and clergy in the Church, but believers, as well. And although the pastors of the Church discuss questions of the faith, their decisions have no true worth if they are not adopted by the entire body of the Church, and if these decisions do not find a place in the daily liturgical life of the Church. Throughout Church history there have been many examples of how bishops brought about various unions, introduced heresies, and did other such things; but the people did not accept these and openly withstood their iniquitous decisions, not infrequently also throwing off these false pastors who turned out to be wolves-in-sheep's-clothing. Such, too, was the example of the Florentine union, which was officially concluded.

Today we are witnesses to that complete indifference, on the part of the majority of the faithful, to the most essential and fundamental questions of our faith. There exists a general conviction that these questions must be discussed only by theologians and by hierarchs, and that the people must accept unconditionally that which is offered up to them. There is a great peril concealed in this [viewpoint]. Nevertheless, one of the faithful guardians of the Orthodox Church is monasticism. Throughout its entire history, it was never indifferent to its faith.

The lives of monks consist of a podvig [(spiritual) exploit] of repentance and of withdrawal from the world. They flee from judging their neighbor in his moral falls, considering themselves to be sinners and the worst of all men. But, when it is demanded of monks that they remain humble and indifferent to questions of faith, then do they cast off false humility and false obedience. They always rise up when the truth of Orthodoxy is threatened. They are supported in this by a living conscience and by a sense of responsibility for that faith for which our forebears -- martyrs and confessors alike -- sacrificed everything, even their very lives.

It is possible to come to salvation through repentance after every sin committed, but if we lose the true faith, we lose unity with Christ and fall into unrepentant pride, which is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for which there is no forgiveness. Not, of course, because the Lord will not forgive us [even] this, but because by falling into heresy the Christian loses his living unity with God. Alienating himself from Divine Grace, he becomes an idolater, the worshipper of a false God, of a counterfeit Christ, directly behind whom stands Satan himself, as the creator of all evil and deceit.

There is not, and cannot be, any authentic spiritual experience in heresy; there is no Divine Grace nor sanctity there, nor salvation, but only an ever-greater fall into heresy. Man falls into the realm of prelest [(spiritual) beguilement], of spiritual deception and falsehood, and becomes a communicant of the devil and of his evil energies. It is a great mistake to believe that heretics serve the same God as do right-believers; but this, alas, is an important element of present-day ecumenism, which goes even further and supposes that a genuine spiritual life, holiness, and salvation exist outside of Christian confessions, as well.

Translated by into English by G. Spruksts from the Russian translation of the original Serbian text. English-language translation copyright © 1998 by The St. Stefan Of Perm' Guild and the Translator. All rights reserved.

Published with permission.

THE UNNOTICED ANNIVERSARY

By Rod D. Martin, 22 January 1999

You may not realize it, but today is the twenty-sixth anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

It is certainly understandable if you don't remember. The President is on trial for his life, and millions are busily cheering him on. While Dale Bumpers tells us perjury is less important than a misdemeanor, the President goes on national television to suggest government should invest Social Security funds in the stock market, a back-door plan for government ownership of large chunks of American industry, as well as the institutionalization of the sort of bribery Clinton mastered in Chinagate. Tornadoes ravage, and the Super Bowl is coming up.

It's easy to see why you'd be distracted.

You're not alone, either. Pastors across America remain silent, just as they have from the beginning. It took my own Southern Baptist Convention -- supposedly the epitome of right-wing Christendom -- seven years and a virtual revolution to so much as take a stand on the issue; many of its so-called "moderate" pastors still refuse to speak. How can congregations be expected to remember when alleged men of the cloth refuse?

Yes, it's all very understandable. But that doesn't make it right. Slavery was once very understandable too. So, in some quarters, were concentration camps.

And abortion has truly proven to be a holocaust. Over 38 million babies (or "fetuses," a grammatically-incorrect Latin word which means "babies") have been murdered in America alone since 1973. That is more than six times the number of Jews slaughtered by Hitler. And amazingly, as the partial-birth abortion debate has made clear, America's abortuaries have killed their victims, on the whole, in more cruel and painful ways than did most of Hitler's camps.

Yet we consider ourselves "wise", "sophisticated", "civilized".

Germany thought so too.

This is not to say that progress has not been made. AP and USA Today polls taken last year show that 80 percent of us now favor significant restrictions on abortion, and 56 percent of us would never allow a "personal convenience" abortion for any reason, as opposed to just 36 percent who would (the AP headline for this report was, of course, "Poll: Abortion Should Stay Legal"). These are the lowest numbers for the pro-death camp in decades.

Even so, despite the rising tide of pro-life support, an enormous vocal minority sings the same old tune. Like the Supreme Court which handed down Roe, they ignore the absolute unanimity of medical and biochemical testimony that life does begin at conception. They yawn at tales of the high dollar abortion industry, with its clinic owners who spread low-efficiency birth control pills and condoms to teenagers and set goals of three to five abortions per girl between ages 13 and 18 at $250+ a pop (even when such is exposed on 60 Minutes). They are pleased when racketeering laws are used to abrogate the First Amendment rights of abortion protesters. They scream that you better keep your laws off "their" body, as if it were their body at stake.

They are, of course, the same people who think perjury doesn't matter. They are willing to justify anything simply to have their way. And, being largely baby boomers, they will never think of the consequences, because their generational crusade is and has always been the shedding of responsibility and the destruction of authority. Any authority, at least, which they do not control.

It is a joke to think that there can be rights (plural) when the ultimate right -- life -- is denied. It is an authoritarian world these aging anarchists give us, one in which anything goes, except what is inconvenient for them. A child may divorce her parents if her parents hold traditional values, but the same child may be killed if her boomer parent's career gets in the way. A child's self-esteem must supercede his education, but that same child, if a discipline problem, must instantly be labeled a special-ed case or drugged with Ritalin. A parent may be useful for all sorts of purposes, but let him get a little old or sick, and see how fast we warehouse him in a "nursing" home.

And, increasingly, see how fast we kill him -- humanely, of course -- just like the equally vulnerable infant in the womb.

No matter how distracted we are this anniversary, we must never, never forget. The day will come when justice is done, when Roe is a memory and babies are cherished; even then, we must never forget. The line between liberty and tyranny, between good and evil, between God's blessing and His cursing, is all too thin. What has happened in this country can never be erased. But we

can do better. And we can remember.

Copyright: Rod D. Martin, 22 January 1999.

Rod D. Martin is an attorney and serves as Executive Director of Eagle Forum of Arkansas.

Gleanings from the Holy Fathers

The present life is the time for sowing

`While we have time therefore,' as the Apostle says, `let us do that which is good to all men, and especially to them that are of the household of faith.' But let us not be weary in doing good; for in His own time we shall reap. And so the present life is the time for sowing, and the day of retribution is the time of harvest, when every one shall reap in the fruit of his seed according to the amount of his sowing.

Sermons of St. Leo the Great.

The thorns of life

I have covered `the way' a little of the time, he says, not just a single commandment, but all `Thy commandments' while accomplishing by my works and in my deeds those things they ordain. This is why Paul -- who also accomplished the same, said: `I have finished my course, I have kept the faith' (2 Tim.4:7). He covers `the way of Thy commandments,' those which are not straitened by bad thoughts, but which, after a great purification, are enlarged by God. Two conditions are indeed required: that the thorns of life do not choke `the good seed' which is in us and that we be helped by God.

Eusebius of Caesarea, quoted in "Grace for Grace" by Johanna Manley.

Weed out from your soul Ö

Allow the Spirit of God to dwell within you; then in His love He will come and make a habitation with you; He will reside in you and live in you. If your heart is pure you will see Him and He will sow in you the good seed of reflection upon His actions and wonder at His majesty. This will happen if you take the trouble to weed out from your soul the undergrowth of desires, along with the thorns and tares of bad habits.

Evagrius of Pontus in "The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life".

If prayer is cold, it does not mean that it is unpleasing to God

If prayer is cold, it does not mean that it is unpleasing to God. Sometimes such prayer can take the place of struggle if a person humbles himself and condemns himself in everything before God.

St. Joseph of Optina

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