Last became first: what patriarchs can learn from UOC parishioners
The crisis in Ukrainian and world Orthodoxy has demonstrated to the world the true self of church apostates and the steadfastness of new confessors – UOC believers.
“But many who are first shall be last, and many who are last shall be first,” (Matt. 19, 30) said Christ. For all time he said. And in relation to our time, this truth works the same as in the 1st century. Because Christ said. So, it will always be so.
The facts are obvious – there is no need to go far. Today common unknown believers of the UOC become confessors and stand firm for Orthodoxy, for the Church. Neither for Moscow nor for the “Russian world” but for the canonical Church. They are insulted, beaten, slandered in the media, deprived of temples – but they pray. They do not respond with aggression to aggression, suffer oppression and ask God for peace in the Church.
These ordinary people are real heroes. Ordinary rural women, pensioners, and children are faithful to their Church in very difficult conditions. And they will go down in church history as defenders of Orthodoxy in Ukrainian lands at the beginning of the 21st century.
Let us now look at the famous hierarchs, theologians, and confessors. What do we see? Fall after fall, betrayal after betrayal.
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Here is the once most respected bishop in his status – Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Who is he now? He betrayed his spiritual brother and a fellow in prayer His Beatitude Onuphry, granted the Tomos of autocephaly to schismatics, brought into the life of Ukraine, already troubled, religious enmity, deliberately disregarding church canons.
In addition to this, lately the patriarch has been making a more and more obvious ecumenical drift towards Catholicism. In fact, he is betraying holy Orthodoxy.
On November 2, Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Catholic community of the Abbey of Notre Dame de Saint-Remy in Rochefort of the monastic order of the Cistercians and participated in the night prayer. He was not the only of the Orthodox clergy. The ecumenical prayer forbidden by canons was attended by the hegumen of the Xenophontos Monastery of Athos, Archimandrite Alexy, and hieromonk Theophilos from the Pantokrator Monastery – monks from that very Athos, which the whole world admires ...
On November 9, 2019, the Patriarch of Constantinople led Vespers at the Greek Cathedral of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Brussels, attended by political figures and Catholic bishops.
During his last visit to Athos, Patriarch Bartholomew stated that there are only historical, not dogmatic, differences between Orthodox Christians and Catholics, and a union with Catholics is inevitable. During the speech of the patriarch, the hegumen of the Pantokrator Monastery, Archimandrite Gabriel, the hegumen of the Xenophontos Monastery, Archimandrite Alexy, the hegumen of the Vatopedi Monastery, Archimandrite Ephraim, monks of several monasteries and guests were present. None of them objected to the patriarch ...
What can all this be called if not a betrayal of faith?
Ordinary rural women, pensioners, and children are faithful to their Church in very difficult conditions. And they will go down in church history as defenders of Orthodoxy in Ukrainian lands at the beginning of the 21st century.
The ecumenical trend of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the church structures dependent on it, and the schismatic OCU is quite obvious today. For example, on November 16, 2019, a memorial service was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York for the victims of the Holodomor in Ukraine. The clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic, and Roman Catholic Churches prayed together.
On November 24, in Brussels, the “bishop" of the OCU Alexander (Drabinko) prayed with Catholics and Uniates on the occasion of the Holodomor anniversary. The service was held at Sts. Michael and Gudula’s Cathedral of Brussels of the RCC.
Obviously, there is no longer any distinction between Orthodoxy and Catholicism for the Phanariots and their followers. Neither are any church canons and, as it seems, common human conscience.
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Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa. Recently, he has visited Odessa, where he concelebrated with Metropolitan Agafangel and urged the parishioners of the UOC to be faithful to their Church and keep hold of His Beatitude Onuphry. And suddenly he recognized the schismatics.
Believers of the UOC were shocked. How can one change a theological opinion to the diametrically opposite in such a short time?
Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece. The most authoritative hierarch with a brilliant theological education. A senior person. Unable to withstand the pressure, he also recognized the self-consecrated schismatics.
Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos). The venerable bishop of the Church of Greece. A talented and hardworking writer: by 2014, he was the author of 82 books. Many of them have been repeatedly republished and translated into Russian, English, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian, French, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Romanian, Georgian, Pakistani, Swahili, Chinese, Arabic and other languages. The book "Man in the Orthodox Tradition" was awarded the first prize of the Athens Academy of Sciences for "the best theological work written in Greece in 1991-1996".
So what? In his Russo-phobic rhetoric, the Metropolitan surpasses Patriarch Bartholomew himself and in speeches and publications of recent years openly incites Russian-Ukrainian enmity. Of all the hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church, he is the most ardent supporter of the recognition of the OCU.
Archpriest Ephraim of Vatopedi, a renowned in the Orthodox world confessor. The elder has been warmly received in Russia, he repeatedly spoke out in support of the UOC and His Beatitude Onuphry. But suddenly his opinion changed, he arrived at the “enthronization” of the schismatic Epiphany. True, for health reasons, he did not participate in the blasphemous ceremony, but a little later in his Vatopedi Monastery on Athos, he cordially welcomed members of the OCU.
Titans are falling. Giants are shattered. The great and famous are made traitors and apostates from Orthodoxy. The small and undistinguished bear the cross of confession and keep Christianity not only in the truth of faith but also in the nobility of conscience and purity of life.
Before our eyes, powerful tectonic shifts are taking place in the Church, when common weak laymen and ordinary rural priests become higher than recognized spiritual authorities. “But many who are first shall be last, and many who are last shall be first...”
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Today, patriarchs, metropolitans, archbishops, archimandrites, famous confessors and theologians devalue the high titles and thrones with their apostasy. Perhaps, God lets them fall to remind us of the common value – a sincere and warm faith in God.
Such faith moves mountains. And if there is no faith, theological diplomas, high-profile titles, world fame, and universal recognition are useless, and sometimes even harmful. God seeks the hearts of man, not intellectuality and noisy earthly success. Therefore, the apostle James says: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism” (James 2, 1).
Titans are falling. Giants are shattered. The great and famous are made traitors and apostates from Orthodoxy. The small and undistinguished bear the cross of confession and keep Christianity not only in the truth of faith, but also in the nobility of conscience and purity of life.
In the midst of church conflicts that shake the body of Christ today, UOC believers preserve a truly Christian face. Today they feel hurt, hard, but their conscience is clean before God. And around them, spiritual giants with clay feet fall and shatter – those that until recently have seemed to us so glorious, intelligent, educated, impeccable ... In the times of trial, they turned out to be beautiful fruit, rotten inside.
Thank God for everything. And the parishioners of the UOC who did not betray their Church deserve great respect. They have already entered the history of the Church as defenders of holy Orthodoxy and will undoubtedly serve a model for future generations of Orthodox Christians.