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The Gathering Before the Storm:
Recent Events in the Light of the Orthodox Faith

Beloved Land, soon to be made fragrant and all-holy, shone through and warmed by the love of so many martyrs' blood, there is an unknown redolence and effulgent light in thy still brightening churches; we neither ask why nor question how, but we know and feel and have faith.

From 'Premonition', April 1974, in Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition

A survey of events of the last few weeks is enough to give some indication of the tendencies of the contemporary world.

In Iraq-Babylon the violence of the civil war has now reached a point where even Shia Muslims are crying for the return of Saddam Hussein. In Mosul in the north, a Nestorian priest is beheaded and a fourteen year-old boy is crucified, though the Western media are not bothered to report it. Two recent reports have estimated the total number of dead caused by the Bush-Blair invasion as between 63,000 and 630,000. That does not include the maimed and mentally traumatized, the widows and the orphans, the refugees and the despairing. The Western Powers responsible, or rather irresponsible, for the catastrophe, plan their 'exit strategy' (code for escape-route), in order to save at least their own hapless and misused troops from further barbaric deaths.

The situation in Afghanistan is little better. As soon as Western soldiers appear, so 'insurgents' appear, fighting, as they believe, for their land and liberty, against the troops of secular Mammon. According to the Times of London of Saturday 21 October, numerous atrocities have taken place, with NATO soldiers massacring women and children, whom they afterwards dub as 'insurgents' who have been 'cleared'. For every such 'insurgent' killed, another ten fanatics appear waiting to avenge their deaths. (Islam is not a religion of forgiveness). We are reminded of the chaos caused by the same Western meddling in Serbia, only a few years earlier, and which still echoes across much of the old Yugoslavia.

In the UK, as in other Western and Westernized countries, the satanic festival of Halloween is 'celebrated', and politicians threaten to ban Muslims from wearing traditional dress and Christians from wearing crosses (though, apparently, Jews will be allowed to wear skullcaps, because politicians must not be 'antisemitic' (sic)). Today, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, has been forbidden from speaking in Bangor Cathedral, for fear that he might say something against homosexuality. Two surveys state that British teenagers are the worst behaved in Europe and that the UK is the most surveyed, or 'Sovietized', society in Europe, with 4.2 million surveillance cameras now in operation, watching our every move. Even so, however, the prisons are full to overflowing, with 80,000 criminals inside them and thousands more who roam the streets, having been released 'early'.

A survey in the USA asserts that only 40% of Americans now believe in God. Another says that 80% of Swedes do not believe in God and only 40% of the Dutch believe in life after death.

So the storm gathers in the Godless West.

But so also the faithful of the Orthodox Church gather in unity. For, outside the Western-Muslim world and its conflicts, in Russia, a survey, carried out in 248 towns throughout the Russian Federation, says that 83% of the population call themselves Christians. Only 10% are atheists, while the remainder belong to other religions.

Today it has been announced that the Life of St Silvanus the Athonite and the book 'The Ways of Russian Theology', by Fr George Florovsky, have been translated into Chinese. In Africa, the Patriarchate of Alexandria has elected six new bishops and created two new dioceses, one for Mozambique, the other for the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Russian film director, Nikita Mikhalkov, declares that the Orthodox Church is the only link between East and West. And the Serbian film director of Muslim background, Emir Kusturica, is baptized and builds an Orthodox church. Thus, those who once were secular sceptics enter the Orthodox Church.

Finally, twenty-five years after the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in New York, the Act of Canonical Communion between the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, inside and outside Russia, is published. It contains no surprises, saying substantially the same as the version virtually unanimously accepted by the Fourth All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Church in San Francisco in May 2006. It is said by most sources that the Act will be signed in early 2007, ninety years after the catastrophic atheist Revolution in Russia, which had such dire consequences for the whole Orthodox world. Then, in Moscow, the capital of the Orthodox world, His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II from Moscow and the Most Reverend Metropolitan Laurus from New York, will concelebrate together, with a host of other bishops and clergy from both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Eighteen years ago we wrote:

Is then the seventy-year Babylonian captivity of the Russian Church now coming to an end? As yet we cannot know for sure. We shall be certain only when all those many Martyrs and Confessors are venerated without exception, openly, officially and universally in the Russian land, when the work begun in New York is brought to its fullness in Moscow; this will be the true Pascha of which St Seraphim prophetically spoke.

'Who is Rebuilding Russia', June 1988, in Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition

And we note today the talk in Moscow of at last removing the corpse of Lenin from its black and evil-looking temple and taking down the last red stars from the towers of the Kremlin:

And even in our own days, it seems that we may live to see a miracle, the day when the red stars on the Kremlin towers will come crashing down to the ground. Crosses will go up again as living symbols of the reality of the victory of those who were neither humiliated nor fanatical. They are those who stand firm for the Faith, threatening and hating none, but loving all, because their hearts are aflame with the love of Christ; they are those who speak bold words with a clean soul. And this miracle, if God wills, will be worked when the Communists say, as Julian the Apostate 1600 years before them, 'Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!' And this miracle will be worked by the prayers of the martyrs, of those who spoke with peace in their minds and souls, with humility and love - in fearless defence of the Truth.

Fanaticism or Martyrdom, May 1989, in Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition

Though the storm is now gathering in the Christless Atheist West, provoking the fanaticism of the Christless Muslim East, light rises in the Orthodox Commonwealth. Yes, the last word in history does indeed belong to Christ.

Priest Andrew Phillips
East Anglia

20 October/2 November 2006
Great-Martyr Artemius

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