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St. Ignatius Brianchaninov: “Do not read books on Christianity that were written by heretics”

“Keep your mind and heart from false teaching. Do not even speak about Christianity with people who have been infected by false thoughts; do not read books on Christianity that were written by heretics.”

“He who reads the books of a heretic immediately communes with an evil, dark spirit of falsehood. This should not seem strange or incredible to you – this is the unanimous opinion of the Holy Fathers.”

“Only those religious books that are written by the Holy Fathers of the Universal Orthodox Church are acceptable to be read. The Orthodox Church requires this of her children. If you think otherwise, or find this command of the Church less authoritative than your own opinions or the opinions of other who agree with you, then you are no longer a child of the Church, but a critic of the Church.”

“The Holy Church allows the books of heretics to be read only by those who thoughts and hearts have been healed and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, for such persons can always distinguish between true good and evil, which pretends to be good and wears a mask of good.”

“The great righteous ones of God … fled from conversations with people who were infected by false teachings and the reading of heretical books … the Fathers sought salvation, and found it in the flight from false teaching, in total obedience to the Church.”

“Spirit-bearing Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church read the writings of the blasphemous heretics only because they were forced to do so by the need of the entire Christian world … they denounced the delusions of heresies … and revealed their hidden danger to all the children of the Church.”

“Anyone who does not belong to the one Holy Orthodox Church, but dares to write about Christ and the Christian Faith and morality, is a false teacher.”

“Many different opinions can be found among the children of the Orthodox Church, many of which are incoherent, incorrect and contrary to the teaching of the Church, even antagonistic to this teaching! All this is the result of reading heretical books!”

Comments by Fr Basil Willow:

We are incredibly blessed to have flesh relics of St Ignatius in our little chapel. He together with St Theophan the Recluse, are essential reading and study for today’s Christians.

Although they wrote in the nineteenth century, their works, on account of their prophetic gifts and writing talents, are as if written for Christians today. Their works are mainly directed at lay people and St Theophan especially “systematised”, much of his writing to allow the fallen logic of modern man to follow it more easily.

These are not bedtime reading books, but serious “text books” on how to conduct spiritual life. To obtain maximum benefit you should study them with your journal next to you, as they will inspire you with numerous insights which should be recorded or they will be forgotten.

The Platina Fathers, Abbott Hieromonk Herman and bl Fr Seraphim Rose, leaned heavily on these two nineteenth century Saints. Persecution is the common thread of those living a spiritual life from the guidance of these two Saints. The reason? Because right spiritual life pulls you out of this world. The bourgeois Orthodox, not steeped in such practice are the main persecutors. St Theophan became a recluse to minimise the attacks he had to endure.

When Fr Herman and Fr Seraphim set up the Platina monastery they were made to look like lunatics, running into the Californian wilds and practicing a monastic life. This persecution only intensified after Fr Seraphim’s repose as the entire English Mission at Platina fell on Abbott Herman’s shoulders. He no longer had a brother of like mind to carry some of this burden.

The saintly Metropolitan Philaret to whom I was a cell attendant in the early 1980s, carried St Theophan’s writings and delved into them whenever possible. Often during long inter- parish drives. He often quoted St Theophan and St Ignatius in his sermons.

Today the works of these two spiritual heroes of our time are available in many languages. Do they occupy a prime space at your study table? If not, you may be in danger of falling into the warnings that St Ignatius writes about above. Fill your mind and heart with trash, and your spiritual life will become trashy. I have witnessed highly “qualified” modern “theologians”, who occupy prime academic and ecclesiastical positions, have little respect for these humble saints, in effect, Orthodoxy revolves around their hearts, but never penetrates the depths that their soul yearns for secretly. It views Christ from afar, but does not make friends with Him.

God bless you all for this glorious feast time of the year, where Christ’s Nativity and Baptism fill the Christian struggler with salvific hope, manifest in love and with strong faith.

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