Friday, November 30, 2018


Through Western lands in days of old
Rivers clear and sparkling flowed
Through channels dug by Apostles and Disciples bold,
And their head was found at God’s own throne.

Along these streams Christian kingdoms sprang,
And for many years bore good fruit.
But through carelessness of soul
And craftiness of Foe
Guilefully working through bishops, princes, monks,
The bright waters were darkened and defiled
And in time ceased to flow at all.
The lovely Tree o’ the Cross by Apostles planted
Was either hewed or left untended,
But the new shrines of Mammon
Could in no wise be offended.

Yet as lands of Occident have grown parched
And insanity has descended on their folk,
Having made their home in concrete Babylons,
Th’ old channels are slowly ope’d again by men of Orient.
But has Western man become too proud to kneel,
Too rational and hygienic
To let his body touch the dirt of ground
To reach that blessèd drink?


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

Anathema to the Union!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

There Is Only One Christian Europe

The South has always been a people very mindful of tradition.  One tradition of the Orthodox Church which colonial Southrons brought with them from Europe was the veneration of saints, as may be seen, for ensample, in the dedication of their early churches to various saints, such as St Anne, St Stephen, etc. (D. H. Fischer, Albion’s Seed, 1989, p. 235, note 10).  One of the unfortunate effects of the Great Revival in the South which established Evangelical Protestantism as the dominant form of Christianity in Dixie was its antagonism toward the honoring of the saints.

Thus, as she strives to revive the good old ways of Southern life, one of the best areas where she could focus her attention and efforts to her great benefit is the cultivation within her borders of the Church’s tradition of honoring the saints.  Priest-monk Damascene goes into detail on why this is so important for Christians:

St. Justin [Popovich of Serbia, +1979] wrote: "What are Christians? Christians are Christ-bearers, and, by virtue of this, they are bearers and possessors of eternal life.... The Saints are the most perfect Christians, for they have been sanctified to the highest degree with the podvigs of holy faith in the risen and eternally living Christ, and no death has power over them. Their life is entirely Christ's life; and their thought is entirely Christ's thought; and their perception is Christ's perception. All that they have is first Christ's and then theirs.... In them is nothing of themselves but rather wholly and in everything the Lord Christ." [1]

The Saints live in Christ, but Christ also lives in them through His Divine Energies, His Grace. And where Christ is, there is the Father and the Holy Spirit also. Christ says, Abide in Me, and I in you; and elsewhere He says, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him (John 15:4; 14:23).

Thus, St. Justin makes bold to say that the Lives of the Saints not only bear witness to the Life in Christ: they may even be said to be the continuation of the Life of Christ on earth. "The Lives of the Saints," says St. Justin, "are nothing else but the life of the Lord Christ, repeated in every Saint to a greater or lesser degree in this or that form. More precisely, it is the life of the Lord Christ continued through the Saints, the life of the incarnate God the Logos, the God-man Jesus Christ Who became man." [2]

This is an amazing thing that St. Justin is saying: when we read the Lives of the Saints, we are reading the Life of our Lord Jesus Christ. This in itself should be enough to convince us of the importance of filling our souls with the Lives of the Saints.

St. Justin also says that the Lives of the Saints are a continuation of the Acts of the Apostles. "What are the 'Acts of the Apostles'?" he asks. "They are the acts of Christ, which the Holy Apostles do by the power of Christ, or better still: they do them by Christ Who is in them and acts through them. "And what are the 'Lives of the Saints'? They are nothing else but a certain kind of continuation of the 'Acts of the Apostles.' In them is found the same Gospel, the same life, the same truth, the same righteousness, the same love, the same faith, the same eternity, the same 'power from on high,' the same God and Lord. For the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever (Heb. 13:8): the same for all peoples of all times, distributing the same gifts and the same Divine Energies to all who believe in Him." [3]

With these words of St. Justin before us, we might well ask ourselves if Orthodox spiritual life is even possible without the testimony of the Lives of the Saints. The answer to this, I believe, must be "no." True spiritual life begins when we live in Christ and Christ lives in us, right here on this earth. And the Lives of the Saints bear witness to us that the Life of Christ on earth did not end with His Ascension into Heaven, nor with the martyrdom of His Apostles. His Life continues to this day in His Church, and is seen most brilliantly in His Saints. And we, too, in our own spiritual lives, are to enter into that continuing, never-ending Life.

I spoke recently to an Orthodox priest who had converted to Orthodoxy from Protestantism. He told me that, when he was received into the Church, the officiating priest told him: "You will never be truly Orthodox without reading the Lives of the Saints." Later, when he himself became a priest, he found that the most pious people in the churches are those who read the Lives of the Saints, and that those who make the most progress in the spiritual life are those who read the Saints' Lives.

The Orthodox Faith is not, first of all, of the head. First of all, it is of the heart: it is felt and believed by the heart. Through the Lives of the Saints, we develop an Orthodox heart. Our monastery's co-founder, Fr. Seraphim Rose, emphasized constantly this "Orthodoxy of the heart," especially in his writings and talks at the end of his life; and he frequently referred to Lives of the Saints as a means of developing this.

2. How to Make Use of the Lives of the Saints

Having looked at the importance and meaning of the Lives of the Saints, let us look now at the various ways we can make use of them in our spiritual lives.

First, we look to the Saints as our examples. Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ (I Cor. 11:1), the Saints say to us along with the Holy Apostle Paul. As Christians, we want to grow in the likeness of Christ, to have that likeness shine in us. For this to occur, we need to look often to the Saints to see that shining likeness: we must look to them for real, practical examples of how to live. St. Basil the Great gives this analogy:

"Just as painters, in working from models, constantly gaze at their exemplar and thus strive to transfer the expression of the original to their own artistry, so too he who is eager to make himself perfect in all kinds of virtue must gaze upon the Lives of the Saints as upon statues, so to speak, that move and act, and must make their excellence his own by imitation." [4]

Secondly, we must look to the Saints as our heavenly friends, as our brothers and sisters in the Faith, and as our preceptors. We read about them not as people who are dead, but as people who are living. And this is even more immediate than just reading a biography about someone who is still alive. Let's say we are reading the biography of some famous living person. As we read it, we may dream of perhaps one day meeting this person, or perhaps of writing him a letter and having it actually reach him, and even of receiving a reply from him, despite the fact that he is so famous that thousands of people are probably writing to him. Reading the Lives of the Saints offers us much more than this, because the Saints are alive in God, and are not bound by time and space in the same way we are. We can address them in prayer immediately and at any time, even right in the middle of reading their Lives. And they will hear us. Besides our private prayers to them, the Church offers us many other ways of communing with them as our friends and honoring them as our preceptors. We sing their troparia, we venerate their icons, we perform services to them, and with a blessing from our Bishop we can even compose services in their honor.

As we read the Lives of the Saints each day, we will discover little by little those Saints whom our hearts go out to. They will become our close friends, those whom we pray to most of all, those in whom we confide our joys and sorrows. As Archimandrite Aimilianos, the present Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Simonos Petras on Mount Athos, writes: "These close friends will be the guides of our choice and a great comfort to us along the strait and narrow way that leads to Christ. We are not alone on the road or in the struggle. We have with us our Mother, the All-Holy Mother of God, our Guardian Angel, the Saint whose name we bear, and those close friends we have chosen out of the Great Multitude of Saints who stand before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9). When we stumble through sin, they will raise us up again; when we are tempted to give up hope, they will remind us that they have suffered for Christ before us, and more than us; and that they are now the possessors of unending joy. So, upon the stony road of the present life, these holy companions will enable us to glimpse the light of the Resurrection. Let us search, then, in the Lives of the Saints, for these close friends, and with all the Saints let us make our way to Christ." [5]

St. Justin Popovich, as we have said, called the Lives of the Saints "applied dogmatic theology." The Saints are proofs and illustrations of the reality of Christ, of His saving work of redemption. The Saints are transformed human beings, proof positive that people are redeemed, purified, illumined, transformed and recreated by Jesus Christ.

St. Justin also calls the Lives of the Saints "applied ethics." They are embodiments of the life of Divine virtue that is possible only in Jesus Christ. They are embodiments of the life of Grace in the Church, through the Holy Sacraments, through the life-giving Body and Blood of the Lord.

Learning about the saints also fits well in Southern life in two other ways: 

1.  It was the custom of Southerners to read about the lives of virtuous men and women of classical Greece and Rome (e.g., Plutarch’s Lives) in order to help form the virtues displayed by them in their own lives.  Reading the lives of the saints, as Fr Damascene points out above, allows for the same thing, only to a higher degree, because the saints have purified themselves of all heathen errors and passions.

2.  Reading the lives of the saints is in essence an exercise in story-telling, one of the South’s favorite pastimes.  And what these Christian stories recount is truly worth remembering and passing on to others:  the rise of Christian nations, battles with evil ghostly powers and man’s fallen nature, sin and repentance, the healing of the creation, and so on.

However, as we alluded to in the opening, there has been a rupture in Southern life with the Apostolic Church.  Good traditions like honoring the saints have largely been thrown to the wayside.  This is most unfortunate, for in doing so she has sundered herself all the more from the true Christian civilization of the West which she tries so hard to situate herself within.

There are not three Christian Europes with equal truth claims - Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox.  There can be only one truly Christian Europe, and it is Orthodox Europe.  The ‘Christian Europes’ of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are deceptive simulacrums which grew out of the re-founding of the Church on the Neoplatonism of Origen and St Augustine, first with Charlemagne and his short-lived heretical empire (rejecting the Seventh Ecumenical Council and adding the Filioque to the Nicene Creed), then from 1054 onward with the heretical Popes of Rome and Protestant Reformers.  This is not to say that the later Western confessions have done nothing good in the world, only that they will tend more and more to apostasy as time goes on because of their rejection of the true Apostolic teaching, which we are seeing.

For the South, if she really does wish to stand in the true Christian tradition of the West, must befriend the saints of her forebears of Orthodox Europe (and Orthodox Africa, for the two cultures are interwoven.  See, e.g., the life and writings of St John Cassian,  She must stand and bathe again in the stream of holiness that they made to flow over all the Western lands.  There is no starting anew.  Dixie either returns to the fountainhead of true faith and grace, or the souls of her people and her Christian culture will die.

Prayer to all the Saints that shone forth in the lands of the West

O ye saints of the West, that in times of old confessed the true faith of our Saviour Christ and for it fought even unto death, thus making yourselves worthy of heavenly glory and heirs of everlasting life! Now do we, your unworthy successors, fall to our knees before you, and humbly beg you: as ye have boldly interceded for us before the throne of God unto this day, so from this time on do ye pray, O our beloved saints, for all the lands of the West! Pray that the Merciful and Long-Suffering God grant them forgiveness of sins and correction of life, and turn them, through His judgements, to repentance and the true faith for which ye sacrificed yourselves.

Again we pray unto you, O saints, for all the right believing faithful of the West who have need of your help and mercy: protect us with your prayers from all the temptations that befall us; strengthen us in the true faith and grant us zeal to preach it; guard us from all the wickedness of enemies seen and unseen; and show us victorious before the unfaithful, for the glory of God and for your honour. That through you, O saints of the West, the true faith may once again shine forth in the West with power, as it shone forth in times of old, and that the light of Christ may enlighten all.

And thus, O ye saints, who through Divine Providence have shown yourselves to us in these latter days, receive us also, as the workers of the eleventh hour, for your veneration. And pray for us, who unworthily sing unto you songs of praise, that our God, Who easily forgiveth, make us also partakers of heavenly bliss, granting us salvation, as the God Who is Good and loveth mankind. That thus, together with you, beloved saints of the West, we may sing unto Him and worship Him as the All-Merciful God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

--‘Akathist to all the Saints That Shone Forth in the Lands of the West’,


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

Anathema to the Union!