We live in special times, beloved brethren! They are special because when you compare today to how it was in Mother Russia before, we see the almost complete opposite. For example, we now embark on SS Peter and Paul Lent. But many of today’s Orthodox Christians don’t even know it. Before, in old Russia, Russian Orthodox Christians well knew Church laws and regulations and established their lives on how the Church teaches us to live on this earth, this temporal life. But today, I repeat, some don’t know Church laws. This is not only ignorance, but an inadmissible laxity of the Christian, and even a neglectful attitude of the Christian towards the old, good traditions of the Church.
Our Lord Jesus Christ once said: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18), that is, everything that we are taught by our Orthodox law, everything in the Holy Gospel, all is fulfilled, and those who do not fulfill it will be disobedient to the Law of God.
Святой Дух. Фреска монастыря Гелати, Грузия.
Metropolitan Antony wrote this article in the 1920’s, shortly after he left the Crimea and joined the Russian emigration. Religious feelings and strivings were coming to life again among Russians at that time under the influence of the afflictions they had undergone. At this time Vladika Antony considered it essential to elucidate the Church’s teaching about the Holy Spirit. This article was originally published by the American YMCA Press in Paris [in 1927 as "Tserkovnoye ucheniye o Svyatom Dukhe"], but the edition is now extremely rare1. The workings of the Holy Spirit, as described here by this twentieth century Church Father in accordance with the true, traditional Orthodox teaching, will be seen to be very different from the delusions of the contemporary “charismatic movement”.
At the present time many completely untrained writers and thinkers have acquired an itch for theologizing about the most abstruse and abstract questions. They all want to say something new and profound, and, in addition to that, to hint at how unsatisfactory the Church’s teaching is, although they simply do not know it, or, at any rate, do not understand it.
Letter from Jan. 28/Feb. 10, 1976.
I’ve written and talked to L about this hothouse approach to Orthodoxy – filled with gossip, knowing “what’s going on,” having the “right answer” to everything according to what the “experts” say. I begin to think that this is really her basic problem, and not Fr. Panteleimon directly.
An example: she is horrified that T was received into the Church [from Roman Catholicism] without baptism or chrismation. “That’s wrong,” she says. But we see nothing particularly wrong with it; that is for the priest and bishop to decide, and it is not our (or even more, her) business. The rite by which he was received has long been approved by the Church out of economy, and probably in this case it was the best way, because T might have hesitated much more at being baptized. The Church’s condescension here was wise. But L would like someone “to read Vladika Anthony the decree of the Sobor” [on this subject]. My dear, he was there, composing the decree, which explicitly gives the bishop permission to use economy when he wishes! We don’t like this attitude at all, because it introduces totally unnecessary disturbance into the church atmosphere. And if she is going to tell T now that he is not “really” a member of the Orthodox Church, she could do untold harm to a soul.
Symbol of the Orthodox Faith. Icon of the XIX century. The State Museum of the History of Religion. St. Petersburg.
The attributes of the Church are innumerable because her attributes are actually the attributes of the Lord Christ, the God-man, and, through Him, those of the Triune Godhead. However, the holy and divinely wise fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council, guided and instructed by the Holy Spirit, reduced them in the ninth article of the Symbol of Faith to four — I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. These attributes of the Church — unity, holiness, catholicity (sobornost), and apostolicity—are derived from the very nature of the Church and of her purpose. They clearly and accurately define the character of the Orthodox Church of Christ whereby, as a theanthropic institution and community, she is distinguishable from any institution or community of the human sort.
Vladyka Anthony at the divine service.
Father and friend! I should have answered you long about the growing winter of faith and prayer and the means of struggle against this. But the same vanity which, as you acknowledge, disperses reverent feelings, has also deprived me of the opportunity to write to you for a month and a half. Today is the first Monday of Great Lent; I have just returned from the cathedral, where I read the Great Canon and, praying with the whole congregation, showered the reproaches of St. Andrew upon myself for my neglect of the eternal and my preference for the temporary. True, our hierarchical vanity is more involuntary than voluntary: There is the incessant reception of petitioners, clergy requesting transfer, those involved in legal cases, those applying for the front or wishing to take an examination; and papers upon papers without end. With all of this, however, I have still been able to make notes from memory for a major public lecture on a philosophical question and to write two long articles on contemporary church topics, but for that “one thing which is needful,” I have not found time until today. Our misguided education is the cause of this. I am not an enemy of what is called science, but it is personally annoying when I catch myself giving precedence to topics, even though they deal with theology, before those concerning the study of the spiritual life, which contemporary theologians view with a certain disdain, partly because very few understand these matters, but partly because these are better and more deeply spoken of by self-taught theologians, or even by those who are academic theologians, but who have, by their lives and their confession, renounced the theological “school.” There should be no such divisions and preferences; good Christians live according to the words of the Apostle, “Let each esteem others better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3), but competition and envy are particularly inappropriate where the heritage which we have received, i.e. the heritage of experience and study, is not the property of the author alone, but of all the readers as well, that is, a universal possession.