The Apocalypse of Our Day
A speech given by Archbishop Vitaly [Metropolitan] to a gathering of bishops at the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration in Mansonville, Canada, 1983.
Our pastors and their flocks currently live under unique conditions, which, without the slightest exaggeration or mystical passion, can be referred to as pre-apocalyptic. Already, throughout the world, there is not a single leader or government that leads its people with any reference to God's mercy or the grace of the Holy Spirit. The anointed of God has been taken from the world. The epoch of Constantine, of government by God's grace has come to an end. The last book of Scriptures has opened, that of St. John the Theologian. The power of Orthodox Russia, the heiress of the Byzantine empire, no longer exists. Two forces have divided the world between them: on one side, the militant, godless communist, on the other, the so-called democratic, western world, in which the flame of freedom continues to flicker. The latter, for the casual observer, is divided into countless Christian and non-Christian religions and sects, which inwardly are cemented together by an anti-Christian spirit.
We were given rulers and governments graced by God's providence, in order that we could peacefully and responsibly pursue the salvation of our souls. The Anointed One protected us from powerful, fiery temptations, which descended upon us in the form of Communism and Freemasonry. We, in our sinfulness, were taken in: each one of us, involved in our own professions and crafts, doctors, lawyers, engineers, masters of all trades made their work their religion; devoting to it all of their time, strength, and heart. For all of these people, there is little if any room left for their Orthodox Faith. Often it takes the shape of "going through the motions," doing what is formally prescribed; for no one wants to go against "the norm."
Almighty God became man in order that He may deify us. Countless men of righteousness, prophets and wonderworkers passed through our great land of Russia. The Lord sent us charismatic preachers; the works of all the Holy Fathers have been pubLished, the Gospel has been printed from small pocket sized volumes to beautifully ornate liturgical volumes. Millions of brochures, leaflets, prayer books have been given out or sold for a small sum to our people. All sorts of magazines and missionary tracts have been printed within our diocese and all this [true to the prophesies of old] , has become immersed in the limitless bustle and vanity which our people have embraced. Our Russian literature, in the apt words of Professor Andreev, being a kind of pulpit for our faith, has reflected the gradual spiritual decline of our people. What can we do? In our own [perhaps] bold opinion, it seems that our Lord, in order to lift our people out of [spiritual] emptiness, which has led us to the very depths of hell, has commanded His angelic warriors to break open the gates of hell and release the demons to sting first our people and then the whole world [for the judgment of the Lord begins in His own house] in order to awaken them from their sinful sleep.
With the last desperate effort the Lord wants to bring us to our senses, to drive His people out into His light. All careless and carefree people will sooner or later be faced with the question: who are you with? Christ or the devil? The question will not be posed by the clergy, from whom we are used to hearing these questions and to whom we no longer listen, but by the devil and his emissaries, from whom proceed all the successes in life, the wealth, and the earthly glory of the masses of people who occupy themselves in such trivia.
What a shock it will be to them! We exclaim, "You have created all in Your wisdom, Lord," and continue to do so. The Lord has willed the demons to bring out the [true] spiritual essence of this egotistical world. The essence is that there is an all powerful God, as well as demons, the kingdom of heaven, as well as hell and that this earth will pass, like fog. And when those fateful questions are posed, every human soul will tremble. No longer will it be possible to be neutral, noncommittal. There will be no more avoiding the question, no more hiding, no more spiritual diplomacy. Each will be found and asked a simple question: light or darkness? Christ or Satan?
Most reverend Bishops! We have already entered into the era of the great question! Right from underneath our pulpits, we are being robbed of souls, they are being eaten away from the inside, leaving only empty, fruitless shells! We must be aware of the actuality of this problem in our day. The temptation is fiery, burning. It is directly in front of us. We must accept God's will. Allowed by Him, we will witness tremendous changes in people. People that we know this very day to be God-fearing and righteous will suddenly become traitors, they will totally transform their spiritual face; others as though awakened from a sleep will become champions of piety and spirituality, even to the death. Those who choose Christ will be the ones to whom Christ the Savior is [truly] their personal provider, in all ways, day and night.
The Lord has allowed all the forces of evil to attain such power, almost omnipotent, that though temporary, the situation demands of us bishops, that we put to use a tried and true eternal means, that of bringing our flock to the Grace of God's all-powerful Holy Spirit. No longer do we have helpers in this effort, no longer do we have a genuine Christian society or schools, no longer is there a withholding power [an anointed ruler] to restrain evil. Even governments which were formerly Christian oriented are changing or being replaced.
We are alone. Before the archangels' trumpets declare "Vonmem!" [Attention!], before the frightful coming of our Lord, we have yet to declare to our flocks our own "Vonmem!" We must reveal to them a picture not just of the future but of a temptation already at work, that choice which will not change. Let us not fool ourselves, or create any illusions. A great many of Orthodox will not withstand such a burning ordeal, and will experience a cataclysmic fall. Before the earth and all human deeds burn, firstly, all that is superficial, empty, dependent on earthly riches will go up in flames. All that will remain will be those who genuinely love Christ, are devoted to Him even to the death... loving only Him, their Savior, and no other.
In the face of such a terrible and menacing scenario of evil currently at work, we Archbishops are required not only to strongly admonish our flock but to put into action all the riches and strengths of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which abide in the Church of Christ. All the Mysteries. It is incumbent upon us to re-ignite that flame of righteousness, to do everything within our power according to the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, "To be all to all," to at least save some. As a baseline to our task, it is imperative that we prevail upon all the of the faithful to abandon the old practice of receiving communion but once yearly; if there are any that yet adhere to that unpraiseworthy custom.
Also, we must entreat our priests to pray prior to administering the Sacrament of Confession that the Lord will grant them love, wisdom, compassion and mercy. We must point out to our flock the necessity to likewise pray before going to confession, that the Lord will grant them the gifts of the Holy Spirit for true repentance, for the gift of true feeling, grief for one's sins, the gift of tears, washing our souls with the water of second baptism, which is what our confession must be and not a superficial confession of our sins. It would be good for all our publications to print only the best, most thought provoking works about Confession and Communion so that they can be instrumental in the rebirth and renewal of every Christian soul.
We must speak of this in sermons before every Lenten period, give talks, arrange small and large conferences, and not only for the young but for all, big and small, young and old. It is also important, not to mechanically read a lecture, which might be interesting only to the speaker, but to call the attention of the listeners to the spiritual significance of the gathering. We must also devote several days to answering those questions that people carry within themselves for many years without getting any real, Orthodox answers. In this way a lively exchange will develop between the souls of the attendees and the clergy, the gathering will become more prayerful, more and more participants will prepare for Communion, and with each days divine services, it will resemble a pilgrimage rather than a gathering or convention.
The aforementioned burning temptation is already in progress and is presently knocking at the door of every member of the clergy and their flock. For this reason the clergy must be vigilant and at every opportunity must call on those of their flock that stand at the steps of material success and wealth, for they are the ones that will first be confronted by this spiritual ultimatum. We must indicate, to those we visit, that during their progress from one success t another, they will discover their own watershed, and in doing so will confront the ultimate choice. They will find themselves balancing on a razors edge. Most reverend Bishops, let us not deceive ourselves; all of our foreknowledge of evil, its convolutions, the corridors of hell, none of it will save us as will a living, personal burning love for Our Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ. We have seen before how meticulous investigators of the forces of darkness have pitifully finished their earthly journey in the grips of these forces.
Such are the conditions under which our pastors and flock live in today's modern world.
Translated by Michael Mogilev
Orthodox Life January-February 1991