The world has gone mad with dreams of material development. The modern West led the way with her Industrial Revolution, with its monomaniacal obsession with creating new, bigger, more powerful machines, weapons, etc. – steam engines, hydrocarbon combustion, nuclear explosions.
But now the Global South is catching this terrible fever. The BRICS bloc of countries promises a more equitable economic development model for the countries historically exploited by the Western countries for their own selfish gain.
To a degree this is admirable; justice (giving to each what is proper) is a cardinal virtue, after all. But will they be able to stop the downward cycle into hedonism and decadence that prosperity brings, the downward cycle from which the West has been unable to break free for centuries now? We have some doubts about that, because, as we said at the outset, everyone in the world seems overly focused simply on material development, and not spiritual development. And according to the words of the ever-memorable Archbishop Averky Taushev of Jordanville, New York (+1976), this bodes ill for everyone:
‘What to say about those who not only do not think about the possible proximity of the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ, as many signs indicate to us, but believe in some doubtful progress of mankind in the coming of general welfare and prosperity, although all modern life with its complete decay of true faith and morality, with terrible destructive, murderous inventions for man, simply cries against it – such are alien to true Christianity, even though they wear high titles and titles of Christian clergy.
‘We must know and remember that this earthly “progress”, this imaginary welfare and prosperity of people on earth, promises to give people the enemy of Christ, the Antichrist. These are his servants, preparing his enthronement in the world, and are trying beforehand to confuse people accordingly, shouting and preaching everywhere about this supposedly awaiting people “paradise on earth.”
‘And all those who strive for this earthly “progress” forgetting the words of Christ: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33), who run away from carrying their cross, according to the commandment of Christ, and think only about how to get along better and more comfortable, richer and more comfortable on earth, enjoying all the earthly blessings and pleasures, are in one camp with the servants of the coming Antichrist, working consciously or unconsciously for his soonest appearance and enthronement in the world.
‘Such are not Christ’s, but anti-Christ’s!
‘And we, if we are only true Christians, and not just falsely and hypocritically bearing the name of Christians, must constantly look to the Cross of Christ, this saving sign of God’s love for us, the sign of our salvation, and draw from it inexhaustible graces, “for life and godliness;” to bear our cross, as the Lord has commanded us, and to look upon this temporary life on earth only as a sojourn in the hospice, from which we must return home – to those “heavenly abodes” which the Lord has prepared for us by His suffering on the cross (Jn. 14:2-3).’
The world does not exist that we may satisfy our material desires alone. The world exists so we may encounter God through it, particularly through the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church. The Holy Martyr-Bishop Seraphim Zvezdenski (+1937) gives a particularly beautiful explanation of this truth in one of his homilies:
‘This moment of the Divine Liturgy is the very foundation of all life on earth, it is the axis upon which the wheel of life turns. As a wheel cannot effectively move and will eventually fall over without an axis, so it is with our world – passion filled, sinful, all rotten from impurity and lawlessness – it would perish, disintegrate, and be destroyed if the great, mystical, and dread revelation of the Divine Redeemer was not consecrated in the temple on the altar. In that moment5 the altar is sanctified, and the temple, and the worshippers, and the grounds around the church, and all the homes of this parish and those living in them together with all their belongings, labors, and the fruit of their labors; the earth is sanctified and gives bread and wine for the Divine Sacrifice, and even the very air is sanctified. Nature serves a person and gives what is needed for living only because for him the Holy Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, is present on the diskos and in the chalice under the form of bread and wine.
‘How fearful is this moment – the whole existence of a person, all his feelings, thoughts, and all his being must prostrate before this manifestation of the Redeemer’s love and mercy for mankind. And our sinful and lawless world will continue to exist, and the earth will bring forth harvests of food for both people and animals, and the sun, moon, and stars will give light as long as the Divine Liturgy is offered on the face of the earth. But when, with the coming of the Antichrist, believers will be forced to go underground – there to offer the Divine Liturgy, there to lift up the Bloodless Sacrifice – at that time our world will perish; the heavenly lights will fade and fall, the springs of water will dry up, the the earth will wither and cease giving forth its fruit. Then that terrible time will come of which it is said that people will cry out for the mountains and hills to “fall on them.”6 But as long as the Most Pure Body is present in the temple, as long as people worship Him, let us not fear any woe or any adversity of this life. Death is not fearful because gazing on Jesus Christ present (on the altar) we may boldly hope for deliverance. The Lord, Who gives His very Self cannot but hear us when we cry to Him at the moment of His manifestation on the Holy Altar.’
Likewise, the renowned priest-abbot Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios (+2006) helps us understand that the earthly bread that everyone is scrambling for (and which is making so many obese because they are trying to satisfy an infinite spiritual hunger with the pleasures of food) is merely a symbol that points us to Christ, the true Bread of Life:
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Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!
Anathema to the Union!