A LETTER TO THE ORTHODOX FAITHFUL
by priestmonk Kallistos
To the Glory of the Most Holy Life-Giving and Undivided Trinity. Amen.
I dedicate this small and unpretentious work to Orthodox believers in the Americas – that they might have a fundamental understanding of the events that have both taken place in the Holy Orthodox Church and that are still occurring each day in the Twentieth Century. I hope to dispel wrong ideas, suspicions, and fears caused by ignorance of true facts in the course of the history of Holy Orthodoxy.
May the Lord, Whom we strive to serve and love in Orthodoxy grant abundant blessings to all who read this letter. May He open their hearts and minds to understand, discern, gain wisdom, and with love to preserve our Holy Faith and Tradition.
BASIS OF OUR FAITH
I would like to quote from the Introductory Chapter of the booklet “The Holy Orthodox Church”, written by the late Rev. Sebastian Dabovich:
“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. ‘ (I John 5:9) Thus you see the Holy Scriptures corroborate the well-known fact – that we do receive the witness of men (for the Apostles tell us the works of God through the Gospels and Epistles). It follows, then, that we should receive the witness of God. And, more – we should be in possession of, or at least enjoy the benefit of such an authority, which is able to interpret for us that same witness of God received by us. But where are we to look for the holy and awful “witness of Him, Who is infallible? To God Himself – made accessible to us in the person of the meek and humble shepherd of souls – Jesus Christ. His apostles went forth teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, at the same time ‘teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Jesus Christ commanded them’. And there were so many things which ‘Jesus taught and did while He was upon the earth, the which – according to St. John’s testimony – ‘if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.’ (John 21:25)
“Now, if these things, these observances, these regulations, these beliefs did not exist today, there would no longer be any organization of Jesus Christ. If such were the case, the death on the Cross of the Son of God had no meaning for us. Then our existence would be a live dying. But our hearts and our eyes tell us differently; and, thank God, our hope in Salvation is firm!
“It is the church of God, then, which keeps us and prepares us for a salvation in eternity. Consequently, we have in the Church, together with Holy Scripture, also Holy Tradition. And it is from these two sources of Divine Truth that we have taken the following facts, quotations, and examples, which we propose to set forth, as an interpretation of the outward, visible life of the Orthodox Church.”
SOURCE OF HOLY ORTHODOX FAITH
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (II Thessalonians 2:15)
In order to understand the dilemma of the Orthodox Church in the world today, we have to study and compare some known facts. Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture are the two basic sources for our Faith. Holy Tradition is the living aspect of our Faith – part of which is unwritten. It includes: the making of the Sign of the Cross, that is, the form and manner in which we make the Cross; the reverencing of Holy and Sacred Icons; and, the many, many other aspects of Christian worship and life – which are too numerous to mention in this letter.
Holy Scripture itself is a product of Holy Tradition. For, there were many false gospels and epistles in the early church. Local church councils, held in AD 58-65, 364 and 419, helped to decide, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which books were Canonical.
“Nevertheless, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself, but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come.” (John 16:13)
The Holy Canons are rules, ordinances, and traditions that guide, preserve, and protect the life of the Church and of each Orthodox Christian. There are four types of Holy Canons:
2) Those given in the Seven Ecumenical Councils;
3) Those given by local or regional Synods;
4) Those written by individuals – that is, by the Holy Fathers and Saints of the Church.
The Book of the Sacred Canons of the Orthodox Faith is called in Greek the Pedalion, or The Rudder. For the Church is often symbolically called “The Ark of Christ”, and is depicted as floating in the sea of this life – a world that is tormented by the attacks of the devil and the demons. So, the Church, being that kind of ark or ship, needs like every good ship, a rudder to guide it and to keep it on course. The rudder of the Holy Orthodox Church is the Holy Canons. For without the Canons, we would be like a ship without its rudder – blown by each prevailing wind, and taken off course by varied currents in the sea. He who willfully disobeys or neglects the Holy Canons, places the salvation of his soul in jeopardy.
I would like to mention that Holy Canons govern every aspect of Christian life – from how Orthodox bishops are elected and consecrated, to rules concerning fasting, marriage, baptism, Holy Icons, construction of Orthodox temples, celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and, so on and so forth.
Now I would like to discuss as briefly as possible the problem at hand – that is, the confusion, the distortion of facts, and the total ignorance that many Orthodox clergy and laypeople in the Americas live in – regarding certain aspects of our Holy Orthodox Faith, and of the situation of the Orthodox Church in this country.
First, it is necessary to review basic teachings regarding Church hierarchs – that is, our bishops. According to the Canons of the Holy and Renown Apostles, two bishops cannot coexist in one region. Each Orthodox bishop has his own diocese, with established geographic boundaries, made up of parishes which are governed under his authority and care. We recall from the Acts of the Holy Apostles that after the Resurrection of our Saviour, the Apostles cast lots and divided up the then known world.
All Orthodox bishops are equal. A patriarch does not possess a greater degree of grace or authority than just a bishop. The titles of “patriarch”. “metropolitan”, or “archbishop” are honorary titles given to bishops who govern ancient cities, capital cities, or have been given. a particular honor or distinction by their brother bishops.
There are many Orthodox persons who have been taught to believe that an archbishop is higher than a bishop; that a metropolitan is higher than an archbishop; and, that a patriarch is higher than all bishops. This teaching is not Orthodox, and is in contradiction to the Apostolic teaching that all bishops are equal. Thus, we reject the blasphemous and sinful teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, which is in heresy, that the Pope is above every bishop.
ESTABLISHMENT OF ORTHODOXY IN NORTH AMERICA
How did Orthodoxy come to America?
The Holy Orthodox Faith first came top North America in the year 1794, when monks from Russia established a small mission in Alaska. By the mid-1800s, the Russian Orthodox Church had established its first diocese, which was formed in Sitka, Alaska. The diocese was later moved to San Francisco, and then on to New York City.
According to the teaching and practice of the Holy Orthodox Faith, since the Orthodox Church of Russia was the first to colonize and organize church settlements in this country, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they alone should have sole authority to care for, and minister to Orthodox churches and peoples in America. This situation was acknowledged by the other Orthodox Patriarchates (Greek, Serbian, etc.) during the early years of the Church on this continent. Therefore, they did not see the necessity of establishing any diocese, or to send their own bishops to America.
I am witness to this fact, since I served as pastor in one of the oldest Orthodox communities in the lower 48 states – the parish of Saints Constantine and Helen, located in Galveston, Texas, which was established in 1894. Its congregation, although predominantly Greek-speaking, also consisted of Russian, Serbian, and Syrian Orthodox Christians. The first pastor of the parish was Rev. Archimandrite Theoklitos Triantafilides, who was born in Greece, but schooled in Russia. This attests to the fact that even though the congregation and priest were predominantly Greek-speaking, the parish was under the protection of the Holy Russian Orthodox Church.
This is not the only instance of a non-Russian speaking parish in the United States being established under the spiritual guidance of the Russian Orthodox Synod of Bishops. Other such parishes include:
- Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Serbian Orthodox Parish in Jackson, California;
- [St George Syrian Orthodox Church, Michigan City, Indiana]
- Some of the Syrian Orthodox Parishes in the United States;
- Some of the Serbian Orthodox parishes in the United States.
So, we have established that the Orthodox Faith was first brought to America by the Synod of Bishops of the Holy Russian Orthodox Church. In fact, in 1970, the Russian Orthodox Church glorified the memory of a simple monk, named Herman, who came to Alaska with several brother monks and began to teach the Holy Orthodox Faith to the Eskimos. St. Herman was a great light of Christ to America and is our first local saint. Other local saints who have since been glorified include: the Priest-Martyr Juvenal, and the Child-Martyr Peter the Aleut.
I regret to mention that between 1900 and 1918 the Church of Greece uncanonically tried to establish parishes through out the United States. This was the beginning of our problem – the establishment of multiple jurisdictions within this
CHAOS IN ORTHODOX CHURCH RESULTING FROM BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION
One should know and recognize that the last blessed Tzars of Russia – Alexander III and Nicholas II – financially supported the establishment of the Orthodox Church in the United States. During this time also, Russia was a great world power and a protector of the Orthodox Faith, Orthodox lands, and of Orthodox peoples.
But this peace and tranquility was not to last long. for Holy Russia fell in 1917, in the atheistic Bolshevik Revolution. The Bolsheviks put out a great light of the Orthodox Faith when they brutally murdered Tzar Nicholas II his wife and children, and countless pious and true-believing Orthodox bishops, priests and laypeople. These are new martyrs for Christ. Additional discussion of this event will be given later.
With the fall of Russia, all financial support from Russia to its parishes here in America stopped. Thus, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was a turning point in the history of Holy Orthodoxy in America. Here begins the chaos and disorganization of the Church, which has continued to plague it to the present day.
The last true-believing Patriarch of Russia – Patriarch Tikhon – issued an Episcopal Tomos (order) that all Russian Orthodox bishops who lived outside of Russia should organize themselves into a separate synod, since the Patriarch could see that the Communists had set out to destroy the Orthodox Faith in Russia. These bishops first gathered together in Yugoslavia in 1921, at the invitation of the late Patriarch Varnava. There was unity among these bishops. But the Devil, seeking to use the weakness of man’s nature – which is pride – enticed one Russian bishop (Evloghy) to break away from the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. In his disobedience, he was accepted by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and thus caused a schism (break) in the harmony of the Synod of Bishops.
ADOPTION OF “NEW” CHURCH CALENDAR
It was at this same time that another evil and schism was being formed – the adoption, or change, from the Church (Julian) Calendar to the “new” (Gregorian) Calendar. This dilemma that befell the Church was unknown ever before in the history of the Church. The Church of Greece was the first to uncanonically – that is, against the teachings and Traditions of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church – to adopt the new calendar.
A brief explanation: The heretical Pope Gregory XIII of Rome, in 1582, authorized the change of the Julian Calendar. At that time, the Orthodox bishops were asked to change and adopt the “new” calendar. The Fathers of the Orthodox Church condemned the innovations and heresies of the Pope in three Synods that were convened in years 1583, 1587, and 1593. The Holy Orthodox Church not only rejected the Gregorian Calendar introduced by the Pope, but also anathematized all who would adopt it, since it is in conflict with the Canons of the First Ecumenical Council; Apostolic Canons 10, 45, 65; Canons of Laodicea 32, 33, 37.
But knowledge of these facts did not hinder Patriarch Meletius of Constantinople, nor the bishops of the Church of Greece, from adopting the new calendar. For it was in March of 1924 that these ancient and Holy Orthodox Churches accepted the heretical new calendar.
However, not all of the Orthodox peoples were fooled into accepting this strange and new tradition – for the calendar is part of Holy Tradition. Rather, they refused to listen to those patriarchs, bishops and other clergy who tried to convince them to give up their Orthodox Heritage, and to move one step closer to becoming Protestant and Roman Catholic in faith.
It would be lengthy to mention the struggle of the “Old Calendarists”. But I will note the churches to date, that is, in 1988, which have never left the Canonical and Traditional Orthodox “Julian” Calendar. These churches include:
- The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia,
- The Church of Russia,
- Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem,
- Holy Mount Athos,
- Patriarchate of Serbia (Yugoslavia),
- Millions of Orthodox Christians in Greece and Romania.
The reality of the fact is – that the majority of Orthodox Christians in the world today still adhere to the Traditional “Old” or Orthodox Calendar. They have not broken the Holy Canons, nor rejected the Tradition of our Fathers that we have inherited from generation to generation.
One may ask: Why is the calendar change such an issue? The issue is not the astronomical correctness of the calendar – because the Julian Calendar is 13 days behind the world calendar. Rather, it is the question of “how?” and “why’ the calendar change took place.
The answer of “how the calendar change took place?” is this: It was done by bishops who trampled upon the Holy Canons – which require that only an Ecumenical Council (that is, a gathering of all Orthodox bishops in the world, or their representatives) may decide to change the Church’s calendar. One should stop and ask this question: Since the patriarchs of the Holy Orthodox Church knew of the change of the calendar by the heretical Pope Gregory in 1582, and rejected the change then – why change it now?
The answer of “why the calendar change took place in 1924?” is most frightening and sad. Those bishops at the time desired to change our Faith! They realized that this betrayal of Holy Orthodoxy had to be accomplished slowly, and under the pretense that the Orthodox Church had to “fit in” with other religions and “Christian denominations”. But it is the absolute teaching that there is only one true Church and that the Orthodox Church is not just one of many faiths that confess, believe, and worship the True God – but that Orthodoxy is the only Truth. For if Christ our Blessed Saviour is one person, and we know that He is the Church, then the Church must be one in Her spiritual self.
After the over 60 years since some Orthodox churches adopted the new calendar, we can see clearly the terrible and soul-corrupting effect it has had on those Faithful, have blindly and unknowingly accepted the “New Calendar Orthodoxy.”
In order to “fit in” with other religions and Christian denominations”, some Orthodox Churches have now entered into the Ecumenical movement. This movement, headed by various Protestant denominations, says that there is no true church on Earth, but that all “Christian” denominations make up the church. If one were to adopt this belief, then one would be content with madness and insanity. For to date, there are over 300 Christian denominations in the world, and none of them can agree on one belief or faith, or on one form of worship. Only the Holy Orthodox Church, from the beginning, received from the Apostles – who were taught by the Lord and guided by the Holy Spirit – the one saving truth, our Creed. The Creed, or what we believe, was not created by man, but was revealed by God to His Church, through the Holy Councils. Thus, what we believe, how we worship, the opinions we hold about the world – all have been handed down to us from generation to generation unchanged, not anything being added or taken away – the SAME SAVING TRADITION!
HOLY MARTYRS FOR THE FAITH
Can we forget the death of countless Orthodox men, women, and children, who have given their lives for Orthodox Christianity? We call them Holy Martyrs. These Holy Martyrs, from throughout the history of the Church, suffered terrible
tortures from the hands of pagans and heretics.
We call to mind the Christians of the first 300 years following the death of Christ, who had to worship secretly in catacombs. The first martyr Stephen, the young deacon, was stoned to death by the Jews for his faith in Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of the Church.
And then, there were many saintly Fathers who died in exile. They chose persecution and exile rather than to deny even one Tradition, Dogma, etc. of the True Faith. St John Chrysostom, for example, died in exile because of a wicked empress and heretical bishops.
And what about the Martyrs for the Holy Icons, who lived during the time when it was forbidden to venerate or possess Holy Icons? The right hand of St. John Damascus was cut off because of his writing in defense of Holy Icons (7th Century).
Durign the 14th and 15th Centuries, there was persecution by false “Orthodox bishops” and by the emperor of Byzantium, who wanted union with the Pope. Again, there were many martyrs. And, because of apostasy (renunciation or abandonment of religious beliefs and loyalties) of these bishops, God and the Most Holy Theotokos permitted Constantinople to be conquered and enslaved by the Moslem infidels, as it is even until this day.
And, what about the pagan Turkish enslavement of the Greeks (for 400 years) and of the Serbs (for 500 years)? Again, there were countless martyrs for our Holy Orthodox Faith during these centuries. To name a few – St. Cosmas Aitolos; and St. Gregory V of Constantinople, who was hanged.
And then in our own day, millions of Orthodox Christians died during, and in the post years, of the Bolshevik Revolution – whom our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia have glorified as New Martyrs Under the Communist Yoke. Every day the ranks of Holy Martyrs increase in Heaven, due to the persecution of Orthodox in the Soviet Union – those who perish in prisons, insane asylums, gulags, and such. Shall we forget these, our brother Orthodox, in our own day?
During the Second World War, in ‘Yugoslavia, more than 800,000 Serbs we e martyred by the Roman Catholic Ustashi. Why? Because they would not deny the Orthodox Christian Faith and become Roman Catholic.
But there have been other martyrs. There both has been, and even still is, persecution of those who want to adhere to the Orthodox (“Old”) Calendar in the country of Greece. In the post years of the calendar change in Greece, which occurred in 1924, there have been terrible persecutions of Orthodox clergy and laypeople by new-calendarist hierarchs. In the early years following the calendar change, priests who opposed the change were thrown in jail and their beards shaved off. Monasteries and convents, which resisted the calendar change, were closed, their monastics chased out, beaten and dishonored. Why? Only because these Orthodox were afraid that they would betray Christ by accepting the changes that resulted from the adoption of the New Calendar
The death of Martyrs for Christ – their blood cries out from the earth! We remember their witness by placing their precious relics in the Holy Altar Tables of our Churches.
As we clearly see the many changes occurring in the Orthodox Church today, we are frightened. For, millions of Orthodox Christians in this advanced sophisticated technological society live in either total ignorance or indifference to their heritage, that is, to their roots.
Allow me to make some simple but shocking external observations. For some, these externals only represent jus that. But for some Orthodox Christians, who go beyond the externals, and see the mystical hidden and deep spiritual meaning behind these external grace-filled aspects of the Church, they will be on guard.
QUESTION: Why is it that pews (or benches) are permitted to be in the nave of an Orthodox Church, when this was unheard of and unknown throughout the long history of the Church – but suddenly they appeared in the New-Calendarist Orthoodox Churches in America in the 1930s?
Why is it that in the “Old Country” Orthodox churches never had pews or benches?
ANSWER: Certainly, one would not be so naive as to think that our Orthodox ancesters did not know of pews or benches. Rather, they are a product of Protestantism and a serious breach of the Order, Canons, and Traditions of God’s Holy Orthodox Church. They inhibit us from worshipping God in the manner He desires. It is not necessary to elaborate on this point, for it is enough to know that they are foreign to our Holy and Sacred Traditions.
QUESTION: What has happened to the pious Traditional garb for Orthodox bishops and priests in America?
Since the new calendar reform, many, if not all, new-calendarist Orthodox priests and bishops garb themselves in the clothes of Protestant and/or Roman Catholic clergy. Thus, in the eyes of the world, they appear indistinguishable from them. In many new-calendarist jurisdictions, one cannot tell their clergymen from non-Orthodox clergymen – as they all dress alike. The Orthodox Church teaches that its clergy should not conform to the world, but be set apart from it. Bishops and priests today, when able to grow a beard, shamelessly reject to be in the likeness of our Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, the Apostles, and all the saintly Fathers, by being clean shaven. For a priest or monk, wearing a beard is more than vanity or fashion – it is Sacred Tradition.
QUESTION: The Fasts of the Church – why have Orthodox people not been informed concerning the Holy Tradition of keeping the Fasts? And – why have many, who know the Teachings of the Church, chosen to forsake the Holy and God-pleasing Fasts?
ANSWER / TEACHING OF THE CHURCH:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the God-Man, admonished His disciples when they asked Him why they could not cast out a demon. He said to them:
“Howbeit, this kind goeth not out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)
Jesus Himself fasted for 40 days in the desert, where He was tempted and suffered hunger pains. But He conquered the Devil through His abstinence. By fasting, all the Saints of the Church conquered passions and temptations brought on by the demons. St. John of the Ladder (Climacus) tells us: “a man who does not fast is not a’ Christian”.
Christ, the Church, has set down seasons and rules for a God-pleasing way of life.
- 40 days during Great Lent, before Pascha;
Before the Feast of the Apostles (June 29) – the
- length of this Fast is governed by the date of Pentecost;
- For two weeks before the Dormition of the Mother of God (August 15);
- On the days of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29), and of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14);
Six weeks before the Nativity of Christ
- (December 25);
- On the day preceding Epiphany;
- Every Wednesday and Friday, except during Fast-free periods;
- Other special times, according to the need of the Church.
The Church instructs us to try, if health and age permit, to keep the Fasts according to its Teachings – to abstain from meat, fish, dairy products, and olive oil. These rules vary somewhat according to which Fast it is, and for certain days of the week. One who does not try to fast as the Church instructs is not Orthodox! The Church only lessens the Fast for those who are sick, the aged, and, for children.
An Orthodox bishop or bishops can never lessen or abolish the fasting periods and rules that apply to the healthy and strong. It is sad to note that, a few years ago, the new calendarist bishops of Cyprus issued a directive that the Orthodox people of Cyprus need fast from meat only during Great Lent. This is a scandal! It is Unorthodox and a breaking of the Holy Canons!
QUESTION: Why is it that the Holy Services of the Church have been distorted from their ancient and original form, being chopped up and shortened for the sake of convenience in many of the new-calendarist Orthodox Churches?
In the previous question we discussed the need for keeping the Fasts. Our Lord instructed us to both FAST AND PRAY! There are two kinds of prayer in the Church public and private. The public prayer of the Church is preserved in Sacred Rites, Rituals and Services of Holy Orthodoxy. Private prayer is just that – prayers that we recite in our homes daily, upon rising from sleep, before and after all meals, and before going to sleep.
In the public worship of the Church, that is in Her Services, no bishop or priest has the authority to take away from, or to add to, the Holy and ancient worship of Christ’s Church. Yet, this frequently occurs in new-calendarist churches. For example, Vespers are required to be served – at least on Saturday evenings and before every Great Feast, along with Orthros (Matins). For, how do Christians prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Day or a Feast if not by preparing the night before in the prayers of a Vesper or Vigil Service? In many instances, these Divine Services have fallen into disuse.
In some parishes, when a “type” of Orthros or Matins Service is performed, it lasts from 30 minutes to an hour This is IMPOSSIBLE to do, unless the priest or bishop abbreviates the service. Thus, they willfully DISTORT one aspect of the life of the Church – the richness and beauty of Her Worship!
Another problem the Orthodox Church is faced with here in America, is the language used for Her worship services. This is a serious sin! For, the worship of the Church must be in the language of the people and country wherein the church is located. Thus, English translation of services, and the execution of our Church hymnology in English, are necessary for the survival of the Church in the United States. Being an Orthodox Christian is not limited to a sentimental attachment to a particular language – for example Greek, Slavonic, or Arabic. But we must worship God with our minds and hearts – in Truth and in Spirit, with understanding. This is not accomplished when we reduce our Faith in Christ to sentiment alone. Rather, that is betrayal of the Faith!
Another distortion of Church Worship, which I have witnessed, is the use of heretical and non-Canonical hymns in Orthodox Worship Services. This is just another way of “conditioning” people, that is making them think, that all so-called Christian or Religious beliefs and hymns are good, or equal to that of the ONE AND TRUE SAVING FAITH of the Orthodox.
QUESTION: Why is Monasticism (that is, becoming a monk or nun) not encouraged in the new-calendarist churches?
ANSWER: I have encountered a great deal of ignorance, among many new-calendarist Orthodox people, concerning monastic life. First, to note, is that there are virtually no monasteries or convents flourishing in America under the new-calendarist jurisdictions. The ones that do exist, follow the new calendar and are shepherded by bishops who are supposed to be monks, but despise true Orthodox Monasticism – as is evidenced by their outward appearance and behavior. All Orthodox bishops are required by the Holy Canons to be “Schema monks”, that is, to be true monks.
The Church has given explicit guidelines on how monks and nuns must live. These include: monks and nuns are forbidden to eat meat and poultry; monks and nuns can never cut their hair, and monks are not to cut their beards; monks and nuns cannot live in the same compound together; it is not in keeping with the spirit of the great Monastic Fathers and Saintly Women, for monastics to have as their handiwork or source of income – the breeding of dogs, computer programming, or any other such worldly and silly occupation (yet, there is one new-calendarist Orthodox jurisdiction that has this very type of “monastic community”).
One can see how compromise and worldliness erode away the very spiritual foundation of the Church. It does not take one long to start to question what kind of future bishops the Orthodox Church will have, when her jurisdictions allow a mockery to be made of monasticism.
A pious custom, which is falling into disuse, is for elderly Orthodox couples or widowed ones, before their death to take the monastic tonsure. For, the monastic tonsure is like a second baptism – according to the teachings of the Church. How comforting and honorable it would be if elderly Orthodox Christians would know this, and could retire to a monastery or convent instead of being placed in the stale confines of a nursing home; residenced in a low-income Federal housing project; pushed to live with relatives; or (which is the saddest of all), to be left home-bound, unable to leave and left desolate in the lonely confines of a home or apartment. But, what alternatives have there been? As is again seen: ignorance prevails; piety is scoffed at; and the Holy Orthodox Faith is battered and compromised by bishops and priests, who long ago rejected these pious Traditions and way of life.
What can we say about our youth’ – the future “Saints”, “Miracle Workers”, bishops, and priests? What can we say, when they too have this Holy Calling – that is, monasticism? For Christ, Himself was not given or taken in marriage, but remained alone.
I remember a young woman (new-calendarist Orthodox) who came to me quite angry, and complained that her parish priest had given a retreat for the youth of the parish, in which her son was a participant. The young priest had related to them the life of St. Symeon the Stylite, who stood on a pillar praying to God for 40 years. The Saint suffered from all the elements of nature, but was strengthened by his Orthodoxy, and thus persevered. The boy thought it would be wonderful to become like St. Symeon – a monk – and told his mother about it. This upset her very much. Her reaction and statement were: “If my son ever tried to do anything like that, I would have him deprogrammed immediately.” I tried to explain to this young woman that monasticism was a most blessed way of life, if one had a true desire or calling for it. Her comment was: “What do we need monks and nuns for?” I guess that question is being asked by many Orthodox people. And, in the same spirit, they say: “What do I need the Church for?” If they do not know the answer to the second question, they will not know the answer to the first question.
It is prudent to say one more thing about monasticism. Our holy great father of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, who was a monastic, and later became a bishop, said: “One can judge the Church by its monastics.” Monasticism is the barometer of the Church. When a local Orthodox Church – that is, its bishops and people – live by faith, Traditions and Canons, monasticism flourishes. When they reject the same, the Church is desolate. Monasticism can never take root in a church where secularism and religious pluralism (the belief that all religions are equally true) flourish, and where the Holy Canons are trampled under foot!
PIETY AND PIOUS CUSTOMS
The next points I want to touch upon concern piety and pious customs.
WOMEN TO HAVE HEADS COVERED IN CHURCH.
It is common practice among most new-calendarist Orthodox churches for women to not have their heads covered in church. This is against Apostolic teaching. Up to a few years ago, this practice was unheard of!
Even women in Protestant and Roman Catholic churches (who do not have True worship and belief), until a few decades ago, always covered their heads when in church. When this practice changed in those churches, many Orthodox were not surprised, for it is the nature and habit of the Roman and Protestant churches to pick and choose what to believe.
However, we who are Orthodox never have to worry if our Faith is true – for we only practice what Orthodox Christians throughout the centuries have practiced. Thus, we have an unbroken link back to the Holy Apostles themselves.
Now, one might ask: “What is the faith of my bishop or priest if he permits women to come into God’s House with their heads uncovered, even when the Holy Apostle Paul forbade it?” How can I say “I am Orthodox” and yet discard such a simple and uncomplicated practice? For, if a bishop is willing to disregard Holy Scripture – the Word of God on this custom, what other things of God will he be willing to compromise, to distort,’ or to corrupt?
MEN AND WOMEN STANDING SEPARATE IN CHURCH DURING DIVINE
We are taught the pious custom of men and women standing separate in church during Divine Services to remind us of what our Lord said in the Holy Scriptures: “For in Heaven there will be neither male or female, neither will any be given in marriage, but all shall be like angels.” Thus, we do not ,stand as families or married couples in church – for the church is Heaven on earth! Some of our mothers, fathers, grandparents, etc., in our new-calendarist churches, can remember this pious custom being practiced in all Orthodox countries, again being handed down from generation to generation.
By what authority was this very important theological symbol removed from new-calendarist churches, and for what reasons?
KNEELING ON SUNDAYS.
Another Tradition and custom of the Church is that Orthodox Christians are forbidden to kneel on Sundays – for Sunday is the day we commemorate Christ’s Resurrection and the Age to Come – that is, Eternity. For we are taught that after death there is no time for repentance. Since Sunday is a type of the World to Come, as was stated earlier, it typifies an age in which there is no need for forgiveness. For, if we inherit eternal life, all things are forgiven – we will be holy.
However, there are two exceptions that should be noted:
- On the Feasts of the Holy Cross (Exaltation of the Holy Cross – September 14; and, Adoration of the Holy Cross – Third Sunday of Great Lent), prostrations are permitted before the Holy Cross.
- At the Kneeling Prayers, said during Vespers of Pentecost, kneeling is permitted.
On all other Sundays, the Canons forbid kneeling. Although kneeling on Sundays is an abuse and a breach of Holy Tradition it is a common practice in many new-calendarist Orthodox churches.
Thus, we can begin to see – after studying these few questions and comments on Orthodox piety, pious Traditions, and pious customs – just how far some Orthodox Christians have deviated from the basic teachings and piety of the Church.
The dilemma and confusion He see in the Church today is not just a result of the change in the Church Calendar by 13 days, etc., but rather it follows from a very carefully organized method to condition or brainwash Orthodox Christians to accept changes in belief, worship and piety. It is truly evil! It is not the work of evil men alone, but rather it results from having weak and compromising “Orthodox” “bishops” and “priests”, who keep their congregations in ignorance of Church history, Tradition, and piety.
What I have tried to communicate, is that a person cannot pick and choose what they want to believe – rather, they must hold fast to the Traditions of the Church, as commanded by the Holy Apostle Paul in II Thessalonians 2;15
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.”
For most Orthodox Christians in America, the only thing Orthodox about their life is the “brand name” they give to their religious denomination; or is just a result of their ethnic background or culture – having been born a “Greek” “Russian”, Serbian”, etc. These same Orthodox know nothing about their Faith – and in some instances, are not interested. Thus, they are easy prey for these ecumenically-minded, worldly, anti-monastic, and anti-Orthodox bishops, to mislead and deceive the people of God.
And so, brothers and sisters, who are these bishops of today? The answer lies before your eyes! Look at the “Orthodox” church to which you belong. Look at your priest. Look at your temple (church building). Do they resemble the abuses and departures from Holy Tradition which have been discussed in this letter? Then you know the answer.
It is never too late to change. And, how long must we endure the poor excuse: “Well, we were never taught by our parents” or, “No one ever told us”. This may be the case. But, what if one is given instruction, and becomes informed? Will their desire be to return to the Faith of our Fathers – to that Faith unchanged from centuries past?
And again the questions are asked: Do I take seriously the Salvation of my soul? Do I desire to be united to Christ? Do I believe that there is a heaven and a hell, resurrection and judgment? Do I even know what Christ taught and how He still speaks perfectly through His Holy Body, the Church? All of these questions need to be answered, and the Lord will judge each of us – if we have followed after Him.
Change is possible – as long as there is life in one’s body and soul. But desire is also necessary. This desire to worship God in Trinity, in Truth and Spirit, is found only in those individuals who are aware – and by their awareness, have become committed. Their commitment is to be Children of God, the New Israel – God’s elect and a “Holy Nation”; to be made perfect in the Faith; to love and serve the Head of the Church, our Holy Lord Jesus Christ.