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106. June 13/26,1972. Martyr Aquilina

Dear Brother in Christ, Daniel,

Many thanks for your letter and the Xerox of St. Nil. The Christian “magic” booklet is also interesting and typical of the whole tone of this kind of “Christianity,” which I think differs from the charismatic movement only quantitively, not qualitatively. Many of the “signs of the end” which he and others give are not really very convincing — for example, the earthquakes, famines, signs in the sky, etc., will surely be much more spectacular than they’ve been up until now. It would seem that we are now still in a “preparatory” time — i.e., a time when for the first time many of the signs of the end become conceivable and possible, but have not yet been fully revealed. And of course, these people miss one of the biggest signs of all: themselves and their apostasy, which also leads them to completely misinterpret Antichrist, seeing him as a dictator with magical powers rather than a true spiritual tempter who could deceive even the elect.

The editor of The Celtic Cross visited us on Memorial Day weekend (for the second time and we tried to give him what advice we could. Fr. Neketas also advises him. Melchisedek is a zealous young (23 years old) convert, received by Fr. Neketas several years ago from the Latins. He’s married with a child (Adam Melchisedekovitch!) and seems aware of many of the problems in such a project. Of course, without Vladika John such a project wouldn’t really have been possible, or would have ended up being just another fancy of some crazy convert. But at least now the principle of Western pre-schism saints is accepted by the Synod, one list of them exists as a beginning, and two seemingly solid mission Churches (Dutch and French) continue to grow, so the whole thing is not academic. Of course, there are many possible pitfalls ahead. We hear that the St. George Information Service is compiling some kind of list of English saints — but alas, they’re doubtful of St. Augustine of Canterbury (apparently because he came from Rome), and they reject St. Cuthbert of Lindesfarne because he was a “turncoat and a traitor to the Celtic cause”! If ever there was a trap for converts, it’s the “Celtic cause,” which seems perilously close to a kind of Old Believerism (although I don’t think it ever caused a schism). In the central issue (the date of Pascha) Rome was on the Orthodox side, besides which the whole dispute never involved any dogmatic or really substantial issue. Also, the St. Seraphim Brotherhood (or at least Father Mark [Wakingham], who perhaps is the only brother left?!) has proclaimed the Sunday after All Saints the “Sunday of All Saints of Britain” — a good idea, but it would seem to be quite premature, especially if one doesn’t know which saints are to be included! Hopefully The Celtic Cross will not be leaping on to these bandwagons.

As regards the “millennium,” unfortunately Vladika Averky does not give specific references in the Fathers. Perhaps some of these can be found in the indexes to English editions of some of these Fathers; besides the ones mentioned in our footnote, Vladika Averky mentions as anti-chiliasts Dionysius of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea (Church History), Epiphanius, Jerome. One definite reference is the Second Ecumenical Council, which specifically condemned the chiliast Apolonarius and introduced into the Creed the phrase “and of His Kingdom there shall be no end” specifically to combat the idea of the millennium. Also, Blessed Augustine has a good account of the Orthodox view in the City of God, Book XX, 7-9 (Modern Library edition, pp. 718-728). The Protestant view, which is based upon a literal, “common sense” reading of the Apocalypse involves one in so much confusion that it becomes ridiculous: there is not one Last Judgment, but two: one for believers, and the “White Throne Judgment” exclusively for unbelievers; the devil is let loose not once but twice (first the apostasy and Antichrist come, then the millennium, which is a strange half-way state where death still exists and everything becomes only “almost” perfect; then the devil is let loose again; but there is only one binding of the devil, which is the same as John 12:31: “now shall the Prince of this world be cast out” — i.e., at the time when the Church was established; and there are not two but three comings of Christ according to the chiliastic view. (The Second Coming of Christ is supposedly in the clouds, all believers being “zipped” up into the sky (we have a picture in a Protestant booklet showing this!) from where they watch the “tribulation” period and Antichrist below, and then apparently everyone comes down to earth for the millennium. And then, “Christ” apparently is not strong enough to prevent the whole millennium dissolving in the final war with the devil, after which the scene is changed and everybody tries all over again in a new kingdom.)

Laurence knows the whole story of the Jordanville tragedy. Apparently it was more in the nature of a tragic accident rather than any outright murder. Fr. Neketas Palassis expects many worse things to come in the days ahead to tempt us, and indeed both the world and Church situation do not give many grounds for optimism. Of course, the saddest thing is when an attitude of pessimism and discouragement begins to creep into the Church — making it all the more important for those who can to preserve centers and islands of true spiritual striving and inspiration.

We attended the Liturgy at Vladika John’s Sepulchre last Friday, which was well attended. Unfortunately, I think the lack of Liturgy on July 2 is a subtle revelation that the veneration of Vladika John is not going to be encouraged among Russians — he’s too “controversial” and our booklet on him was not well received in some places. Apparently he is to be a prophet more for those without — the converts, who have spontaneously taken to him and are already glorifying God in him in many languages.

The True Vine seems satisfactory as far as it goes (except for a few things like the illustrations!) — but we’re still waiting for a certain “spark” to shine through, so we’ll know that Orthodoxy is not just “correctness” but something more.

Fr. Herman’s goddaughter’s brother, a 17-year-old boy [Gregory Petrochko] from New York (3rd generation and speaks little Russian, but has gone to Jordanville for years) — is now here to spend part of the summer with us, so hopefully we’ll get some building done.

We look forward to your visit and help on the calendar — we already have 101 orders (100 from Fr. Neketas). We hope to receive soon from Boston the additional Greek saints for each day, which may complicate things; and the whole list of saints has to be checked more closely, as there are a number of mistakes. About the left side of the calendar: perhaps in your spare time (?!) you could put it together (perhaps with scissors and paste?) in a form from which the type could be set up? We have the lead now, and I also discovered the principle by which multiple castings can be made (a very simply principle which only a dunce could miss!), so things should be much simpler this year, and even easy next year, God willing.

By the way, concerning one point on the millennium: I believe Augustine mentions that the millennium lasts through the reign of Antichrist, for the Church does not cease to exist even then; and thus the unloosing of the devil occurs during the last years of the millennium, and not after its end.

Pray for us.

With love in Christ,
Seraphim, monk

P.s. “Afosya” still eats from our hands, and now she has twin sisters, born a week ago right in front of our church.

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