01 November 2017

Vladyka Rastislav speaks

Metropolitan Rastislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia has spoken on a wide array of topics recently, which I was delighted to see. Vladyka Rastislav was speaking nothing but the plain truth on most points, and the truth has its own power. He understands, and indeed sympathises, with the impulses that attracted so many Eastern Europeans to Communism in the first place. He does not condemn the people of the Balkans for their hopes for a better future. He does not condemn them for political leftism. He chastises them when it comes to their optimism, putting ‘trust in princes and sons of men, in whom there is no salvation’. Read it all the way to the end, gentle readers; it is quite good. But here are some of the most relevant and powerful pieces of his talk in Romania:
Before the revolution overthrew the old regime and Lenin became Russia’s new ruler, he tactically wrote that even the faithful might be the members of the Communist Party. However, as soon as they were able to seize the power in October 1917, the Bolsheviks issued a series of anti-church decrees in the spirit of wartime atheism. Patriarch Tikhon’s reaction was the anathema declaration over the Communist government. The local council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which took place in 1917, confirmed this anathema on Soviet power and government.

The Communists’ response was uncompromising and cruel. In one of the letters of the world proletariat leader, as Lenin was called, addressed to Felix Dzerzhinsky on May 1, 1919, we can read that it is necessary to “get done with the
pops (priests) and religion as soon as possible. The pops, as counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs, they must be arrested and shot with no mercy. The churches must be taken or changed into warehouses …” So, the “red terror” that had not been experienced by Christianity since the era of pagan Roman Emperors, was resurrected.

This other face of a progressive ideology that, for effect, had been striving for a just society and social equality, should have remained hidden from the eyes of the trustful people in the Red Army-liberated countries until the Communists get into power. That was exactly the case when Communism spread like plague to the countries of South Eastern and Central Europe, including Czechoslovakia.

The Red Army’s victory over another ideology of evil – Nazism – brought optimism to those who above all saw Communism as more just society and social equality.
Also, this. He pulls no punches with regard to the falsity of the Unia and their longstanding collaboration with oppressive right-wing dictatorial states, but he decries (as well he should) the unjust and counterproductive Soviet methods for coercing them back into the Orthodox fold:
Already in the times of Austro-Hungarian domination, national awakeners in Bohemia and Slovakia increasingly looked towards Russia and the Slavic part of the Balkans, especially to Serbia and Montenegro, where they sought the roots of their own identity. This fact led the Austro-Hungarian authorities to intensify the fight against Pan-Slavism, which de facto, meant against the Orthodox Church. Beginning with Ľudovít Štúr and Václav Hanka to Adolf Dobriansk and with the Marmaros-Sighet process to the execution of the priest-martyr Maxim Sandowicz, there has been only one way of cross – the path of desire for its own identity and the authentic Church.

The year 1918 and the constitution of Czechoslovakia brought much greater religious freedom, which helped consolidate Orthodoxy in Czechoslovakia. Already existing process of returning back to Orthodoxy, intensified by the movement in the United States and Canada among emigration, almost exclusively the former Uniates from the poorest regions of Eastern Slovakia, who began to return to the Orthodox Church, together with the return of the Orthodox Czechs from Volyn province and numerous Russian migrants after the Bolshevik Revolution greatly strengthened the position of Orthodoxy in Central Europe.

If we add to this a national revivalism among the Roman Catholics in Bohemia, which led to the creation of a so-called Czechoslovak Church, the part of the faithful of which later accepted the Orthodoxy, the prognosis of the development of the Orthodox Church in Bohemia and Slovakia were more than favourable. However, the Second World War came to an end, and the Orthodox Church in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was outlawed. Execution of St. Bishop-martyr Gorazd and his closest associates greatly weakened the position of Orthodoxy in Bohemia.

In Slovakia, where until 1948 the return of entire church parishes from the Union to the Orthodox Church in a natural and nonviolent manner, the communist state power in 1950 produced a so-called Presov´s Council, which “abolished” the Greek-Catholic Church and the former Uniates, regardless of their opinion, became “Orthodox” “during the night”. This irreparably damaged and stopped the naturally ongoing process and, at the same time, the firm foundations of the “feeling of injustice” and of the mutual hostility between the Greek Catholics and the Orthodox in the near future have been laid.
And, on the fact that communism is not the biggest problem or greatest spiritual hurdle facing Eastern European Orthodox Christians today. Instead, that stumbling-block is consumer capitalism and sæcular-democratic understandings of ‘freedom’:
Although the state secretaries disappeared from a church life, the new challenges and problems appeared with the restoration of freedom, for which were not ready, in particular, those born earlier. The doors of the schools and institutions, prisons and barracks, hospitals, and other institutions were reopened for the Church and the priests. It seemed that the newly acquired freedom was a cure-all for all the difficulties and problems. It turned out, however, that a more responsible challenge and a more complex test than persecution was presented into the church life.

Nowadays, many people understand the freedom of man absolutely differently from the Christian understanding. It is no longer the moral choice freedom and the ideal that lies in the keeping of the clear and unambiguous moral standards. Falsely understood freedom – liberalism, in which all is allowed now, I dare to say, is a greater challenge for Christianity than Communism was.

Consumerism – this is the reality of today. And only God knows what regulations will be set in some decades by the children who grow up today in incomplete or broken families and whose conscience is shaped by very individual, if any, moral principles.

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