“A teaching that pleases the ears, calms the conscience, and makes people happy creating the impression that everything is wonderful is most likely counterfeit” Elder Athanasios (Mitilianos).
Today there is a war being waged for the souls of mankind. It is an ancient war. Yet, for those of us today, the current battles being fought are of the utmost importance. They are the battles for which we were ordained. As ever, there is a demonic strategy for the reconstructing – or deconstructing – of true Christianity. Numerous times has this been implemented in history. Yet, the Truth of Orthodox Christianity cannot be reconstructed. It is an eternal Truth. Nevertheless, pseudo-christianities may be constructed. The goal of which is the deceive the elect, if possible (cf. Matt. 24:24).
Bl. Seraphim (Rose) spoke prophetically on this matter, “The success of counterfeit spirituality even among Orthodox Christians today reveals how much they have also lost the savor of Christianity and so can no longer distinguish between true Christianity and pseudo-Christianity. For too long have Orthodox Christians taken for granted the precious treasure of their Faith and neglected to put into use the pure gold of its teachings.”
This loss of the savor of true Christianity is terrible. As the Scriptures testify, “If the salt should become insipid, with what shall it be salted? For it is no longer good for anything, except to be cast out and to be trampled underfoot by men” (Matt. 5:13). Truly, insipid Christianity is good for nothing at all. It becomes pathetic and spineless, but the playhouse of corrupt men who grovel before the spirit of this age.
This insipid “Christianity” is presented as if it were authentic. Bl. Seraphim observes, “It is of the very nature of antichrist to present the kingdom of the devil as if it were of Christ.”
The alterations are usually subtle, even slight. The reasons are usually of a “reasonable” nature. It is much easier for people to swallow small and seemingly reasonable changes.
Let us remember the words of the Holy Patriarch Tarasios as recorded in the acts of the 7th Ecumenical Council, “ When it comes to doctrine, to err on the small or large points is the same, for both of these reject the law of God.”
The best way to undermine the true Gospel is to bring forth “another gospel” – an anti-gospel (cf. Gal 1: 6ff). In our times, it seems clear, that this anti-gospel will exploit Christian trappings while delivering a “new” message.
This new anti-gospel is worldly in its orientation. Its primary concern is the preservation of this mortal existence, for in this it betrays that it lacks faith in eternal Life. The call is and will be to trust in earthly salvation almost entirely. Hope will be in the things of this world alone. In consideration of earthly “revelations” this anti-gospel will “humbly” change the heavenly eternal Revelation; for love of neighbor of course!
Those who resist will be painted as unloving and backward. In our times, in this battle, the goal is to alter the interior life of the Orthodox Christian. Physical happenings are used as a mode and excuse to modify true Christian living. The faithful are told, for example, of course we don’t believe that Holy Communion conveys illness, but just in case you may want to use multiple spoons! The faithful are told, holy things may communicate sickness, don’t kiss them! But wear a mask to stop a virus! More faith is put in masks than in the holy things.
It may be that these things have come upon us because we have “taken for granted the precious treasure of our faith.” May we offer heartfelt repentance to our Sweetest Lord Jesus.
Yet it becomes ever more clear that a modification is taking place, not only exteriorly but also interiorly. This is made manifest in statements such as this from those who should be guides, The pandemic changed our social life, our daily life, our participation in the life of the Church. Ah, so in short the goal is to change every aspect of life for a Chrisitan – social, daily, and Church.
The faithful are bidden to accept in obedience the “new normal” of “participation in the life of the Church.”
And yet, as the wonderful saint of the 20th century, Nikolai Velimirovich, said, “Either we are fools to the world because of Christ or we are fools to Christ because of the world.”
“True Orthodoxy by its very nature must seem totally out of place in these demonic times, a dwindling minority of the despised and ‘foolish’ …” as Bl. Seraphim (Rose) reminds us.
Let us, my brothers and sisters, cling steadfast to the “foolishness” of the Gospel. “Because God’s ‘foolishness’ is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:25). “There is salvation in no one else, and there is no other Name under heaven that is given among mortals by which we should be saved!” (Acts 4:12).
Let us not forget that our Lord Himself taught us, “You will be hated by all for my Name’s sake but the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22). It is a spiritual reality that holding to the Name of our Lord – which encompasses the full Revelation of Christian Truth – will incur hatred from the world. That is, those of a worldly mind will consider it a hate filled state to hold to the Truth of Jesus Christ. They will call upon Christians to “lovingly” lay aside the Name of Jesus Christ.
True love of neighbor, for a Christian, is to love God above all else – to hold that which is God’s in the highest honor. For in truly loving God we then may in truth love the brethren. Yet, if we sacrifice the holy things of God, the revelation of Truth, to placate our neighbor we become more his enemy than benefactor. What good will it be if we save the physical body at the expense of our souls and the heavenly things? “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and lose his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). The greatest act of love for our neighbor is to hold fast to the holy things which will save the soul. For only through the Name, the Revelation, of Christ Jesus will persons be saved.
“Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body” – is not sickness of “those” who can kill the body? – “but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28).
Elder Athanasios teaches us, “In the course of Christian development, Christians will encounter martyrdom. If they truly desire to lift the banner of Christ, to bear the cross, the symbol of Christ, they will face martyrdom by a world that idolizes rest, comfort, and carnal pleasure.”
Martyrdom is the willingness to stand fast in and to suffer, even unto death if so called, for the Truth of the Revelation of the Name of Jesus Christ.
Elder Ephraim speaks these sobering and yet encouraging words, “in the latest years, in these last years we see that the world is full of the worshipers of Satan and heretics and apostates from God. Therefore those who will give the testimony of our Christ will become awesome martyrs, awesome Saints in the other world. Today we see souls being saved, and we feel that these simple saved people are very great, and have much glory in Heaven near God.”
To strive, even if ever so weakly, to love our Lord Jesus and to live for Him, holding fast to the Gospel in true humility of love, in these times of great upheaval, is an act of true Christian sacrificial love – a martyrdom. I cannot move the ancient landmarks which the fathers have set (cf. Prov. 22:28). To do so would truly damage my neighbor.
Truly there is a battle for the souls of mankind. Mine and my neighbors. The only way to victory is through the steadfast upholding of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This Revelation does not change to satisfy the spirit of the times. For to do so would be a betrayal of true love.
“Let all Orthodox Christians strengthen themselves for the battle ahead, never forgetting that in Christ the victory is already ours. He has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18), and that for the sake of the elect He will cut short the days of the last great tribulation (Matt. 24:22) And in truth, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Rom. 8:31). Even in the midst of the cruelest temptations, we are commanded to ‘be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (Jn. 16:33) Let us live, even as true Christians of all times have lived, in expectation of the end of all things and the coming of our dear Savior; for ‘He that giveth testimony of these things saith: Surely I come quickly. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus’ (Apoc. 22:20)” – Bl. Seraphim (Rose).