Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Orthodox China

Judging by some of her actions (cloning, face scanning, total surveillance, social credit system, etc.), China is under evil influences right now:

And yet, part of her has been baptized into the Body of Christ, the Holy Orthodox Church.  The land of China has even been sanctified by the blood of holy Chinese martyrs, shed during the Boxer Rebellion:

It is not techne, trade, etc. that will bring the fulness of China’s inner being to fruition and make her a lasting blessing to all the world, but union with Logos, with Christ the Word (Who is only present undistorted and undiminished in the Orthodox Church, His one true Body, which neither the Roman Catholic nor the Protestant sects can claim to be, since both never quite know when to stop with their ‘reforming’ of the Church; e.g., ordaining women to the priesthood, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2018/march/christian-china-bible-women.html).  Everything has its beginning in the words (logoi) spoken by Him, which remain as the root of their being, and everything realizes its end in Him.  Sundering ourselves from Christ, whether as individuals or as nations, brings ghostly (spiritual) death and creates a pseudo-reality where there can be great activity but no real advancement in knowledge of or in union with God, man, and the creation.  However, though China may be straying from her Master at the present moment, He is always drawing her, and the rest of creation, to Himself.  St Maximos the Confessor says,

Thus to be and to appear as one body formed of different members is really worthy of Christ Himself our true head… It is He who encloses in Himself all beings by His unique, simple, and infinitely wise power of His goodness. As the center of straight lines that radiate from Him He does not allow by His unique, simple, and single cause and power that the principles of beings be disjoined at the periphery but rather He circumscribes their extension in a circle and brings back to Himself the distinctive elements of beings which He Himself brought into existence.

One can see God bringing China ‘back to Himself’, for instance, through St Nicholas the Wonderworker:

 . . .

The Russians like to call Saint Nicholas “Nikola the Merciful” because his miracles are as numerous as the stars of heaven. I would like to remind you of one touching miracle that shows his mercy. This did not happen once upon a time, long ago; it happened in our time, in the city of Harbin [China], where I lived for over 40 years. At the train station in Harbin there was a large icon of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, and it was especially venerated by all the travelers. Hundreds of candles were always burning in front of it. People departing by train and the people who came to see them off would light candles, and prayers were constantly going up to the great hierarch for his protection during trips. There was always a crowd in the station because the rail traffic was very heavy.

One day the people who happened to be there (they related this themselves, this is their own story; it was early spring, when the ice breaks up on the Sungari, on which Harbin is located) they saw a Chinese man rush in, soaked from head to toe. He ran up to the icon, threw himself down in front of it, and stretched out his arms to it, saying something in Chinese. The people who knew Chinese said he was thanking the saint for saving him from death.

Here’s what happened: for some reason he was in a terrible hurry to cross the river. But the river is wide, and the ice was flowing along it. He decided to take a chance. As he ran across the ice, jumping from one floe to another, he slipped, lost his balance, and fell under the ice. He was drowning, dying, when he remembered the wonderworking icon. His pagan countrymen revered it too, just as the Russian Orthodox did. As he was drowning, he cried out in despair, “Old man from the train station, help me!” He lost consciousness and went under completely; and he was about to perish…when all of a sudden he was on the riverbank, soaked but alive and unharmed! So he took off and ran — the train station was far away — and he rushed in to the icon and thanked the great hierarch for this evident and amazing miracle of his mercy and love.

The entire Far East, the entire land of China, has a great veneration for Saint Nicholas, you know. Once a Russian hunter had wandered far, far, into the taiga or steppe, and there he came upon a Chinese farmstead where he asked shelter. The friendly master and mistress of the house invited him in, and over their door he saw an icon of Saint Nicholas. He thought to himself, “What can these heathen be doing with it? What do they need it for?” And he wanted to take it. His host was offended and said, “Why do you want to take the Old Man away from us? He’s so kind, he helps us so much. We won’t give him up for anything!”

 . . .

Source:  Metropolitan Philaret, http://orthochristian.com/53683.html, opened 29 April 2018

And soþlice (truly), traditional China already has some practices that are like the Orthodox Church’s:

Much of traditional Chinese culture is quite compatible with the Orthodox Christian worldview, but also there are key underlying differences. First we need to define what is the Orthodox Christian worldview and its basis. Orthodox means right faith and right worship. Here we are introduced with the ability to discern what is right from wrong. This springs from the revelation of an unknowable and transcendent God the Father who out of love reveals Himself by the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit in the Church. Therefore the Orthodox Christian worldview is a Trinitarian one where we deal with our neighbors and surrounding based on love for one another, but grounded in an absolute Truth. This is tempered and humbled by God’s transcendence which Orthodoxy called the apophatic approach.

In traditional Chinese culture, Confucianism penetrated society deeply with a social structure of filial piety. Social harmony is of utmost importance. Likewise, Orthodoxy stressed the submission of the believer to Christ, who is the Head of the Church. Christ in turn gave His apostolic authority to the local bishop and the pastors by extension to tend the flock as a father care for his children. A key difference of traditional Chinese culture is its pragmatic and syncretic approach to truth. It tries to incorporate what is beneficiary from various religions as long as it promotes harmony, and does not acknowledge an absolute nor personal source of Truth. One religion of significant influence is Buddhism. It migrated from India with various cultural adaptations in China. Its founder Gautama Siddhartha, was a prince that abandon his royalty for the ascetic life. His life was also an inspiration in the Orthodox world and was disseminated by St John of Damascus as an edifying story of the famous and blessed Barlaam and Ioasaph where the love of Jesus Christ is credited in allowing St Ioasaph to reach enlightenment. [a]

In recent Chinese history, secularism and the Cultural Revolution have rooted out much of traditional Chinese culture and religions in the name of economic progress and prosperity. Yet, traditional Chinese customs that may have been lost in mainland China can still be seen practiced in Hong Kong, Taiwan and among the oversea Chinese. I personally see traditional Chinese culture filled with symbolism. Chinese people like to use their physical senses to convey an inner true. For example, red means joy and white means death. The dragon and phoenix means royalty. Numbers may sound like other words, such as the number eight sounds like a word meaning prosperity or nine sounds like another word meaning longevity. Respect for ancestors involves the burning of incense and paper with lighting of candles in front of the grave or family altar. This fits well with Orthodoxy which likewise engage all the human senses, whether sight, sound, touch or smell. This is especially true in liturgical practice to help us come to a deeper worship with the Triune God with the use of incense, candles and holy icons. Unlike Protestantism which threw the bathwater out with the baby, Orthodoxy adopts the local culture that gives birth to each person. For example, Orthodoxy initiates an infant with a period of about 40 days for the mother and new born infant to stay at home to recover from labor, and then welcomes both mother and child at church with the rite of Churching, Baptism, Chrismation and the other sacraments in due time, where they are reincorporated back into the spiritual family. In Chinese culture, there is also a period of about a month where the mother and child stays out of sight. After a full month, they participate in a luscious banquet with extended family and friends which celebrates the milestone that the mother and child have survived, which was considered a big deal in the ancient days where advanced medical care was practically non-existent.

The Orthodox priest-monk Fr Damascene goes into more detail about this in his talk on Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, which is available from a couple of different sites (the latter has a transcript as well):

The great Serbian Saint Nikolai Velimirovich also has some thoughts on China and Orthodoxy (written in the 1930s), with which we will close:

The Chinese Martyrs

1. The Crimes of Europe in China

There were times when Europe used to deem herself the most cultured land on the earth. And that wasn't so long ago. It was at the end of the nineteenth century, less than a single human lifetime ago. At that time Europe kept under her dominion all the nations of the globe, with the exception maybe of three or four. Among these few free non-European nations was the Chinese nation too. But, as the wise king Solomon didn't succeed to keep himself on the height to which the mercy of God had brought him, but he fell down into the dust and bowed to the idols, so it also happened with Europe. From the mindboggling height to which she has risen with the allowance of God, so she could serve as light and protection to the smaller and weaker nations, Europe got carried away by the winds of arrogance, and she fell! She has fallen into the dust which was covered with the blood of all the other peoples of God, her brothers. And she still hasn't risen. God knows if she could ever be able to rise from there. In 1897, the German Keiser Wilhelm (who now languishes exiled in a foreign land) alarmed all of Europe with his cry - "Yellow Peril!" It was to mean as if the Chinese were dangerous to the European peoples; consequently, the Chinese should be put under pressure, enslaved and thus made harmless. And to this call of the mighty German Keiser, all of Europe took heed. So, horrific oppression, enslavement and plunder of the Chinese land and the Chinese people were put into motion. The hands of the white men became crimson red from the blood of their yellow brothers. The innocent blood of the Chinese cried out to the Creator of all men, just as in the first days of human history, the blood of Abel cried out to God against Cain the fratricide. And God said to Cain: "What have you done? Your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground!" (Genesis 4:10)

2. The Boxer Rebellion

But the Chinese are also people of flesh and blood; and still not baptized on top of it, lacking the good doctrine of our Savior. In 1900, a group of Chinese had risen in an uprising against the Europeans in their land, whom they called — "the white devils". Those fighters were called - "Boxers", and therefore their uprising is also known as the "Boxer Uprising". The Boxers started to kill the Europeans as intruders, robbers and tyrants. Anything European was detested by them, even the faith which was brought by European heralds. The hatred for white men became also a hatred for Christians. From then on, the anger of the Boxers turned against their own Christians, i.e. the baptized Chinese, who are thus counted martyrs for the faith, or as we Serbs would put it — "for the Honorable Cross". The suffering and death of those Chinese martyrs we shall try to describe in the current issue of "Little Missionary".

3. What Does the Eyewitness Say

At that time, and still till today, there is a Russian Orthodox Mission in Beijing, the capital of the Chinese Empire. The Head of this Russian Mission was Archimandrite Innokenty, who later became a Metropolitan. As an eyewitness, he described those bloody events as follows:

"The main day of martyrdom of Orthodox Chinese in Beijing was June 11, 1900. On the eve of that day, all over the streets proclamations were put calling the heathen to kill the Christians. Furthermore, threatened with death were also all those who would dare to shelter the Christians. During the night between June 10th and 11th, and then again in the night between 11th and 12th, the Boxers showed up en masse in Beijing and started to attack the homes of Christians, seizing those unfortunate Christians, torturing them, forcing them to renounce Christ. In the face of torture and death, many did renounce the Christian faith and offered incense to the idols. But there were others who did not fear sufferings, but heroically confessed their faith in Christ. What then happened to them was gruesome. Some had their bellies sliced open, others were beheaded, some were burnt alive in their own homes. The hunt on Christians and their destruction continued for many more days, as long as the rebellion lasted. After burning down many Christian houses, the Boxers led out the Christians beyond the city walls and brought them before temples with idols. Here they were put to the test, and then burnt alive on stakes.

4. Heroes Put to the Test

- According to the testimony of heathens themselves, who saw everything with their own eyes, some of the Orthodox Chinese accepted death with tremendous courage. Thus:

Paul Wang, catechist, died during torture with prayer on his lips.

Iya Wen, a teacher in the Mission school, was twice put through an ordeal. First time, the Boxers had cut all of her body, and thinking her dead, covered her with earth. But she still managed to survive. Hearing her cries, a guard took her in his tent. When the Boxers came back and saw that she was still alive, they cut her all over again, so this time she died. During both of these trials, Iya Wen boldly and loudly proclaimed her faith in Christ the Savior in the face of her torturers.

Ivan Ji, was an eight year old boy, son of a murdered Chinese priest. The Boxers mercilessly tortured and disfigured him. His palms were cut off and his chest was covered in wounds. When the torturers asked him does it hurt, this tiny hero of Christ, replied with a smile: "It is not hard to suffer for Christ!" Then the villains had his head cut off, and his body was burnt.

 . . .

8. Repose, O Lord!

In the bloody year of 1900, the Orthodox community of Beijing was quite small. It consisted of only 1000 Orthodox Chinese.

During the persecution and trials imposed by the Boxers, some of them got scared and lapsed from the true faith, offering sacrifices to the idols. But 300 of them were killed. Truly, it was a great loss for such a small community. Almost a third of it! But it was a blessed loss. In fact, it could be counted not as a loss, but rather as a gain. For those who die for Christ become mightier in heaven than they were on earth. They possess great freedom before God to ask anything they want on the behalf of their relatives and compatriots in the Church on earth.

And God answers their implorations and prayers. With the prayers of the Chinese martyrs we could explain the growth and spread of the Orthodox Church in China after 1900. Instead of only one church, now in China there are plenty of Orthodox churches. Instead of a single archimandrite as Head of the Beijing Mission, today there are three Orthodox hierarchs serving on Chinese soil. There are now Orthodox Chinese priests and deacons, teachers and evangelizers. There are several Church-run hospitals, orphanages and schools. Therefore, thanks to the blood of the Chinese martyrs, the faith of Christ grows and prospers in the land of yellow men. In China, as well as in all other lands, the truthfulness of the words — "the blood of the martyrs is seed of the Church" has proven itself. Let us offer our prayers to the Most High for our brothers of same faith, the martyrs of China: Repose, o Lord, Thy servants! And let us exclaim: Glory to those glorified by Christ! Glory to the Orthodox Chinese martyrs for ever and ever! Amen.

 . . .

Prayer for the Chinese People

O, Omniscient God, Sun above the suns, Light above the lights, Who encompassest in Thy sight all the creatures in heaven and on earth; Thou art the Only One Who knowest the number of Angelic hosts, and also of ants upon the sand, birds in the air and fishes in the water — pour down Thy mercy on the Chinese people, the most plentiful among Thy peoples inhabiting the earth, we pray Thee now.

Lord, Thou hast given unto the Chinese people great life wisdom, hence to know how to till the earth, to do commerce in honesty, to obey the government, to show filial piety, to keep the house neat, and to love order and harmony in everything.

But this wisdom can serve man only unto the grave, 'tis only a step away from the cradle of each mortal. The Chinese people so desireth of Thine everlasting Wisdom, O Lord, Who incarnate on earth in Thine Only-begotten Son, which doth carry the soul beyond the grave and lead her into the Kingdom of Heaven.

O Good Creator, O Boundless Love, can it be that Thy love could ever have a limit before the millions in Thy great Chinese nation? No, that cannot be! But Thou, in Thy marvelous providence hast established the time in which the Chinese people will come forth and venerate the Cross of Christ, receiving within themselves the most pure Blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Make that time come sooner, O Abundant in Mercy! Provide help to the missionaries of the Cross and Resurrection in the land of China! Open thou the doors of Thy grace to China, overlooking our iniquities. So the land of the yellow people would also reverberate with songs and exclamations: "Thy Nativity, O Christ, our God" and "Christ is risen from the dead!". O Most Holy Trinity, let it be so through the intercession of all the Apostles and Evangelists.

Let it be so, indeed!


Source:  St Nikolai Velimirovich, http://orthodox.cn/saints/nikolaivelimirovich/1934-38littlemissionary_en.htm, opened 29 April 2018

Picture of St Sophia Orthodox Church in Harbin, China, http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2010/09/orthodoxy-in-china-difficulties-prospects/, 29 April 2018


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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