The crisis of our day is not essentially a political one, nor is it fundamentally about a virus and its effects on the human person and surrounding society, nor the environment, or whatever else we could add to the current list. These events, or crises within the crisis, are but the outward and material manifestations and aspects – symptoms – of primary underlying ailments.
The great sage, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, rightly proclaimed decades ago, “We are witnesses to the devastation of the world, be it imposed or voluntarily undergone. The entire 20th century is being sucked into the vortex of atheism and self-destruction. This plunge into the abyss has aspects that are unquestionably global, dependent neither on political systems, nor on levels of economic and cultural development, nor yet on national peculiarities … Different parts of the world have followed different paths, but today they are all approaching the threshold of a common ruin.”
At current, the 21st century seems to be determined to dive deeper into the maddening vortex of atheism and self-destruction embarked upon by the 20th. We are so dull and slow-witted that the terrible lessons of the 20th century have left no lasting wisdom in our minds or hearts. If anything, it seems that we are set upon reaping a double harvest of its insanity. Modern man has learned to love lies. When we reject the Truth we are left with only lies; lies can only thrive in the darkness. “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn. 3:20-21).
As Christians, it seems we have lost our minds. Have we so easily forgotten that in the 20th century more Christians were martyred and suffered under various socialist-communist, atheist, godless, governments than in any other century? Yet, today we are sure that the current godless atheist powers have the best intentions of humanity at heart! Alas, maybe we fully deserve the storm that is raging all around us. Has Christianity become so cowed and emasculated that it no longer has a spine to stand up for Truth? Not so, in Her essential reality, She is forever courageous.
First and foremost, we as Christians should turn for guidance to the testimony of those who suffered under the godless governments of the 20th century. Their testimonies should be of utmost importance to us today. Our century is but continuing on the tracks laid down by the last. The expert voices of the saints should be our guiding stars. They already encountered and conquered – in themselves – the earlier manifestations of the same spirit of this age which we face, and it would seem is more advanced.
Thus, in this article, I turn to the testimony of the new-martyr Valeriu Gafencu. He suffered under the godless communist regime in Romania. All quotes are from the book on his life, “The Saint of the Prisons.,” pg. 249-252, and will be italicized. (If the reader is unfamiliar with the New-martyr Valeriu, you may read a brief account of his life here.)
His words of testimony about the times, I would venture to say, are just as, if not even more, pertinent for us now as they were when he spoke them many decades ago in the mid 20th century. The essential ailment is the rejection of God, not “God” in a vague sense but in extremely concrete reality – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: the Holy Trinity. Atheism is not so much a rejection of the idea of God, for we live in times striving to be “spiritual.” It is more fundamentally the ultimate rejection of the true revelation of God found in the fullness of true Christianity. Atheism, of course, has a coarse and rudimentary expression to it, yet it is not that which is of the greatest danger. The greatest danger is the rejection of the True God while still professing a belief in the “divine,” which is more seductive and even destructive.
It is very important to note that the martyr tells us the present crisis (his in the past, ours at current) is not from God, nor faith, but rather the freedom of human conscience. That is it is the result of humanity rejecting God. God grants us the freedom to reject Him, although we cannot escape the consequences. Ultimately, God allows the harsh fruits of rebellion in hope that men will repent and come to their senses in tasting thereof. The martyr Valeriu says, “This seems to be the reason for the crisis that the 20th century has experienced: the purification necessary for a higher level of spirituality and existence.” Indeed, it is also the reason for the crisis of the 21st century. We as Christians must take soberly to heart these words, “Much suffering will be necessary to re-orient the world.”
The reader will encounter the term “Christian elite” in the martyr’s writing. By this phrase, he means dedicated serious Christians who are steadfast and serious about living the faith.
Thus, the cure is simple – return to Christ Jesus the Lord. Only in Him is there true salvation. I will end here and simply offer the profound words of this beautiful martyr, spoken while suffering in prison, to speak for themselves. May we take them deeply to heart.
Q: Valeriu, what is the essence of today’s crisis?
Q: What do you see in today’s world?
A: I see internal chaos, a decomposition that is leading toward nihilism, because people are obsessed with the nothingness of matter, with the fiction of forms, with sensual exhaustion, with historicism without transcendence, with ceremonialism without God, with consumerism without spirituality, by the falseness that conceals itself within the self-deification of man. Disaster is unfolding on all planes of fortitude of human life. Much suffering will be necessary in order to re-orient the world spirituality and to change its way of life.
Q: Why did God allow the world to sink into this present crisis, after 2000 years of Christianity?
A: This crisis is not from God, nor is it from faith, but rather from the freedom of the human conscience. In the past few centuries, man has profaned the world, devastated souls, encouraged sensuality, and has fallen prey to the pride of materialism and atheism. At the same time, satanic forces are more refined and better organized in the 20th century than in the first Christian age. The way in which saints are killed by the beast and perish in the 20th century is much more diabolical, more perverse, more complete, better studied, more horrible than the way in which the martyrs were killed during the age of the catacombs. Millions of Christians today are not at the spiritual level of the catacombs, but in this century, sainthood and martyrdom are greater than ever in intensity and manifestation. The enemies of Christianity, those who brought about this martyrdom, want to conceal it and make the world forget about Christ, but they are deceiving themselves and prove to be powerless. They have succeeded in ruling the world, but in doing so have created saints and martyrs. They have succeeded in closing the mouths of men, but they have not been able to conceal the light of the saints. God works in the world even through those who do not believe. This seems to be the reason for the crisis that the 20th century has experienced: the purification necessary for a higher level of spirituality and existence.
Q: What methods might there be to escape from this crisis?
A: Returning to Christ. A Christian elite is necessary, one that will not abandon the people but will struggle boldly against all forms of oppression and slavery. The people cannot be defended only through prayers and almsgiving, through dry formalism, but through struggle, boldness, and power. The world is under the dominion of Christ and Christians do not have the right to abandon it. There is no accusation graver than to say that the Church has abandoned the people, because then it has abandoned Christ, no matter how many dogmas it might establish and observe.
Q: Why is faith necessary in the world?
A: Because of the wisdom with which God made the world. The world is imperfect; so imperfect, in fact, that nothing perfect exists within it. Neither its social-political and social and economic order, nor culture, the arts, the sciences, the philosophies, of the religions. People, who are created free and conscious, no matter how [much] dominion they may have over the world, cannot achieve perfection except through union with God. If this connection with the divine is taken from him, man declines into bestiality and non-being. Belief is therefore a necessity.
Q: Christianity is often discredited by materialists as backward, obscure, medieval, inquisitional, Jesuit, deceptive. How can we respond?
A: The materialism that denigrates Christianity today has science as its theoretical basis. It is exactly science that is anti-materialist and reveals that materialism as tyrannical, limited, mechanistic, nihilistic, and disastrous. The light of materialism is darkness; the orientation of progressivism is contrary to nature; the sensuality of materialism has dissolved the world. The laws of materialism are fictitious, and therefore for a time they imprisoned human thought. Science has reached the limits of material knowledge and it too anchors the world in the transcendental.
Q: How is it possible to escape from the crisis of materialism?
A: Through Christ, but He is not accepted by today’s world. No one nowadays is willing to modify his outlook and lifestyle, even though it leads him to disaster. Events have taken their own course and can no longer be stopped even by Christians. Nevertheless, we have the duty of crying out to mankind, ‘Put an end to debauchery, renounce tyranny, put your lives in order, set limits to your greed, return to nature, give up pride, destroy atomic weapons. If you are rationalistic, give up rationalism. If you are realistic, see spiritual reality. If you have knowledge, anchor yourself in the transcendent! Give your soul holiness from on high, for only in this way will you be saved. Repent! Call upon God to put order in you and your world, on your earth and in your heaven!’ But may all of this be not only abstract, moralizing advice. Christians are called upon to be vigilant. The world needs Christ, faith, and genuine Christianity.