OUR VOTE ACCORDING TO ST. NEKTARIOS
THE SEARCH FOR THE TRUE CHURCH IS INVALUABLE
St. Nektarios said to us a hundred years ago: “Cowardice is a passion of a sickly soul which is overdome by fear. It is spineless, faintheartedness, a lack of the fighting spirit, an instability of the soul that is in turmoil because of coming trials. It makes those bound to it traitors to their country. It is timidity in the face of danger, a lack of moral fiber, a weakness of the mind and consent to fowl deeds.”
Since we are on the verge of voting in one of the most important elections in the history of the USA, I believe that these two articles are very important for all Orthodox Christians in America to read. The words that follow do not need any commentary for they powerfully speak for themselves. I thank Fr. Demetrius Carellas from Saxonburg, for expressing his innermost Orthodox Christian feelings on the eve of this most important election on Tues. Nov. 8, 2016. He posted this article Nov. 3, 2016 and he has given us the permission to share it with America.
We also thank the authors of the web site “Journey to Orthodoxy” for the inspiring article about the importance of Christians throughout the world discovering the True Church. A Fr. John posted this article and we thank him for having the courage for posting such an important interview. This interview with an America Orthodox priest, Fr. Seraphim Bell was conducted during a trip to Russia. The interviewer is Elena Khomullo. I pray that these articles will be an inspiration to each and every one of you.
Offered for the spiritual edification of all people by:
+Fr. Constantine J. Simones, November 5, 2016, Waterford, CT, USA, 860-460-9089, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Spirit-filled words of St. Nektarios that we posted at the beginning of this article were offered to his flock, and to anyone “who has ears to hear”, over 100 year ago. And they convicted my passion-loving soul when I read them a few days ago. The Saint’s love-based admonishments have compelled me to ask myself one question, with several profound parts. Perhaps you may wish to ask yourself the same or similar questions. During my 55 years of legal adulthood and 42 years of being blessed with the Grace of the Holy Priesthood:
1. Have I demonstrated “cowardice” by remaining silent when ungodly programs of the US Government are established, with or without the will of the people, or when the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) declares satanic, immoral actions—like abortion—to be constitutional?”
2. Have I been showing a “lack of fighting spirit” in both defending and proclaiming my Church’s teachings on paramount moral issues—like abortion, euthanasia, same-sex relationships and pre-marital sex?
3. Has the politically correct ego-centered and carnal-worshipping spirit, which pervades the very air we breathe, enslaved me within its corrupt embrace, so that I have abandoned my true freedom that Christ alone can provide?
If the answer to the any of those three parts of that question is a “yes”, even a “maybe”, then I have within myself—to some extent, as St. Nektarios states—“a timidity in the face of danger, a lack of moral fiber, a weakness of the mind and a consent to fowl deeds.”
My beloved strugglers in this fetid sea of our temporal life, I cannot do anything about that which I failed to do in the past—other than to beg God’s forgiveness, and entreat Him to grant me blessed tears of repentance. Because I chose to remain either indifferent or politically correct, while my country—so blessed by God since its inception over 240 years ago—continued to fall deeper into the black hole of Christ-abandonment.
A person would have to be “deaf, dumb and blind,” or demonically possessed, if he/she does not see how the evil one’s multi-directional attack on the God-established traditional family unit is destroying the soul of our nation, as well as the souls of tens of millions of its citizens. As Orthodox Christians, it is imperative that we are on the front lines in the spiritual battle to restore—with God’s Grace—the Christian values that have been, at best, abandoned by the overwhelming majority of the political, legal, medical, educational, informational and entertainment professions (and, I pain to say, not a few religious leaders). Unfortunately, this has not been the case, especially within my own jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, where we give honors to powerful political and nationally renowned Greek Orthodox people, when we should be—out of love for their souls—be excommunicating them, until they come to themselves and repent.
In just 3 days, we will be electing and new president, who in addition to the obvious presidential powers, will provide us with over 7,000 appointees that will run the many boards, agencies, commissions, programs and departments, whose rulings will impact our lives in a number of areas. He/she may also appoint over 300 judges, including as many as 5 to the SCOTUS.
As a priest, I must express to all of you that an Orthodox Christian will put his soul in grave danger by voting for any candidate—local, state, or national—that advocates the murder of the child in the womb. One of the presidential candidates has been outspoken in support of abortion on demand, and has publically stated that the person, while in the womb, has no constitutional right. I wonder if God made the candidate use that term, instead of the usual euphemisms that are given to the life in the womb. Never have I heard a pro-abortionist use the word, person, to describe the fetus. And I saw the individual say it on national TV. Does this mean, down the road, our laws may soon justify killing other persons who happen to be, too severely handicapped, too old, or unable to live productive lives?
That same candidate is an adamant supporter and friend of Planned Parenthood, and has vowed to guarantee that this corporation will continue to release federal funds. This organization is a tool of the devil, in that it kills the most innocent of God’s children (over 320,000 were slaughtered by them in 2015) and even sells the babies’ body parts for experimentation. And Planned Parenthood has given tens of millions of dollars to this candidate’s campaign. If you vote for that candidate knowing the candidate’s position on the God-created human life from the moment of conception is totally opposite that of your Church, then I advise you not to take Holy Communion until you repent. For if that individual is elected the blood of the aborted children will be upon your soul as well.
A renowned journalist recently said: “We must weigh the policy consequences of both administrations. Which administration will cause more abortions, greater harm to religious liberty and Christian education, etc? Please do not compare the life of an innocent pre-born child with such things as: poverty, national security, poor economy, immigration, jobs, education or climate change. If we do not defend the child in the womb from legal infanticide, then nothing else has any meaning or value –nothing. And if we choose either not to vote, or vote for an unelectable candidate, then we become passive supporters of the candidate who will not even condemn partial birth abortion.
This time I am not going to ask for forgiveness if I have offended any of you by my comments. As a priest, I am compelled to take a stand against those who would continue this infanticide—this demonic slaughter of God’s innocent ones, who cannot speak for themselves. Therefore, God willing, on Nov. 8th, I will cast my vote in behalf of the voiceless ones.
I have one final plea: on Nov. 8th, I plan to fast until the polls close in my time zone from all food and drink, except for some water. At 3 pm, the time when Christ gave up His spirit upon the Cross for our salvation, I will offer a Paraklesis, (Small Supplicatory Prayer to the Theotokos, our Most Beloved Panagia, in behalf of the voiceless ones and our nation in general. If you are able to join me in this small offering to God, I would be most grateful. Even if you are unable to do the fast, please offer the Parackesis. Throughout our history, Panagia has been God’s instrument to save millions of souls from being destroyed, and even entire cities from destruction. I will beg our Most Blessed Panagia to intercede for us, so that—if her Son so wills—those who support the right to life of the voiceless ones will be elected at all levels of government. And if the Lord chooses not to answer that prayer may our Panagia keep us under her holy protection. May she entreat our Lord Jesus to give us all the courage and bravery we will need to be the willing instruments of His Truth, His Faith, and His Love— even unto death.
Your useless servant in Christ Jesus,
Sinful priest, +Demetrius
THE INTERVIEW WITH FR. SERAPHIM BELL
ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF HOLY ORTHODOXY
Fr. Seraphim, tell us about your path to God, how you came to Orthodox Christianity living in a country so far away, America, where the majority of the population are Protestants or Roman Catholics.
Let me start from the beginning. My ancestors on both sides of my family hailed from Scotland. Mama grew up in Oklahoma, the home of the Cherokee Indians, and some of our relatives still live there as part of that community. I grew up in California in the family of Scottish Presbyterians. Studying in university, I turned to Christ and began to study the history of Christianity and theology. My wife and I traveled to our ancient homeland, Scotland, where I got my Doctor of Sciences degree in dogmatics. While we lived there, I became a pastor in a local Church. When I returned to America, I served several years at a Presbyterian Church in California, but ultimately left the community.
What caused you to leave?
In the most important matter, faith, the community was becoming more and more liberal. I founded a new Church in San Jose, CA. It quickly grew to over 300 members. A few years went by and doubts continued to grow: I didn’t have a good idea of which direction to lead my flock, and what our mission was who we were as a Church. I kept repeating to my parishioners: “Our goal is to become the Church of the New Testament.” In conclusion, I always said: “We are not now the Church of the New Testament, but by Divine Grace we could be someday.”
I hadn’t the slightest idea how this could take place. Finally, I gathered all the parishioners and called upon them to join me in 40 days of fasting and prayer, and to ask the Lord to reveal His will. The very first evening, at prayer time, one person in my flock introduced me to Frank Shaeffer. Frank is a writer and activist, the son of a renowned Protestant theologian. After our meeting, a few of my parishioners learned more about him. How amazed I was when they told me that Frank converted to Orthodoxy. I remember my reaction: There is no need to even entertain this notion.
A little time went by, and I found out that one of my closest friends was studying Orthodoxy. For several reasons, I became enraged, and I decided that I needed to examine Orthodoxy more closely in order to prove that it was a false teaching, and save my friends from a serious mistake. That’s what I thought at the time, but now, as I look back through the years, I understand how condescending and ignorant I was. When I remember that period of my life, it makes me laugh how stupid I was, how far from reality I was, and I blush to remember.
And yet, that lay the foundation of your conversion to Orthodoxy.
Yes, that was the beginning of my path to the Lord. In my case, as paradoxical as it seems, what helped was my lack of faith and my heartfelt desire to help my friends, to save them. I won’t go into detail. I will only say that I came to the firm determination that Orthodoxy is the true faith, though at the time I wasn’t ready for Holy Baptism, but I listened to my inner voice and sensed that I have to be honest with myself and follow the faith one recognizes as being true.
After I shared this with my parishioners (I spent months studying the foundations of Orthodoxy, the teachings of the Holy Church), some 120 people joined me in converting to Orthodoxy. We founded a Church of Holy Archdeacon Stephan, the very first martyr. Over the course of two years, over 150 people received Holy Baptism and joined our parish, which quickly grew to 300 people. The search for the True Faith, the True Church is invaluable, and whoever receives it obtains a treasured jewel.
The process of leaving Protestantism and joining the Orthodox Faith was very painful for me. I was attacked, criticized by my family, the bitter loss of friends, the loss of financial support etc. Still, in the end we gained much more that we lost.
What problems did you have when you became an Orthodox priest, living in America?
There were many problems, in fact. Over many years I had been a pastor. I had a theological degree, over 120 people converted to Orthodoxy with me, and on that basis, the bishop decided to ordain me to the priesthood right away. In my opinion, this wasn’t quite right, but the Lord allowed it by His Providence, so it was to be. The most difficult thing for me was to be ordained.
It became apparently almost immediately that although I could preach, based on my readings about Orthodoxy, but becoming a spiritual father, a guide, and exceeded my abilities, since I had little experience. The Orthodox world view accumulates slowly and not on the basis of reading books but from the long-time effect of truly living the tradition, complete immersion. So I tried to seek out spiritual guidance. Soon I was directed to the writings of Elder Sophrony of Essex and the teachings of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos. After reading the Life of St. Silouan, I visited Elder Sophrony’s Monastery in England. I spent several months there. This was a turning point in my life, the beginning of my spiritual edification.
I also decided to move to Greece with my family, and we lived in Thessaloniki for a year. Living there, we were immersed in the living treasure of Orthodoxy, we attended divine services, we read the Lives of the Saints, venerated relics, received valuable advice from wise Elders, in short, we were under great influence. We visited many Monasteries then, and I made about 12 trips to Mt. Athos. As I was preparing to leave Greece, Abbot George Kapsanis gave me icons, incense; he made the sign of the Cross over me and said: “You received the rare honor of spending time here, serving in the Monastery and learning the tradition in direct proximity of holy relics. Now you must return to America and pass along what you received.” These words electrified me. After we returned to America, over the next ten years, or maybe more, I returned to Greece every year and spent a few months on Mt. Athos or near Thessaloniki.
You did missionary work in various countries. Tell us about that. How did people of different cultures, with their own social environments and traditions, receive the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Without a doubt, this was a miracle and I sensed special grace to do missionary work in various countries: Guatemala, Nepal and the Philippines. In each of these countries I found that people have a genuine interest in studying Orthodox Christianity. When I would be in these countries, dressed as a priest in a cassock and a Cross around my neck, people would approach me and ask who I was and which faith I confess.
In each of these places I found the fields were ripe for harvest, yet very few Orthodox Christians are willing to serve as missionaries, so there are many missed opportunities. I spent most of my time in Nepal, and I had I not fallen ill and been sent to Katmandu, I would be there today. Nepal is a remarkable country. The people are very gregarious and openly listen to the preaching of the Faith. Most are Hindu, but more in a cultural rather than spiritual sense.
But in general, you might say that the country is on the dark side. People worship many idols and gods. Demonic possession is a common occurrence. Since I had no other Orthodox Christians with me, it was spiritually inhibited. That is why it is not right to do missionary work alone over a long period of time. Even now, every month I receive e-mails from people in Nepal. I very much hope that they will be given the opportunity to attend divine services in a Church, but there isn’t a single Orthodox Church in that country today. What we need is a team of Orthodox faithful who would live there, perform everyday services and try it and see.
As far as I know, you also visit Russia and you know how they live. I’d like to know: in your opinion, how are young Russians different from young Americans? Is it hard to find a common language with them? In our nano-tech world, when the computer became every kid’s best friend and companion, how can parents protect their children from the lethal effect of gadgets and destructive games like Pokemon Go, which has even led to death? How can we make children live with God, and not in virtual reality?
I got a blessing to visit Russia many times. I made a total of 8 visits. My first was in October, 1993, the day after Moscow’s White House was shot up. I lived in Moscow from September 2009 to March 2010 and spent most of 2015 in Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra.
What amazed me most of all during my trips was not the difference but the similarities between the youth of both countries. In some respect, this is very good. This is an outstanding example of the fact that despite the cultural differences and enormous distances that separate us, we are all humans who have similar desires and similar habits. In Russia, I mostly met Orthodox youth, and maybe that’s why I see similarities between them and our youth. Still, I was discouraged when I saw how eagerly lay society, at least in Moscow; absorb the worst aspects of Western culture. Russian youth, just like American youth, try to master all the attributes of the toys of the world. This means, in particular, that kids in both worlds share a passion for technology.
Unlimited access to the internet has drawn many people to dependency on pornography and computer games. Some young people can’t live without their smart phones. In fact many kids prefer to send each other electronic messages than to sit face to face and talk. If a parent doesn’t pay attention and allows his child unlimited access to the internet when they are still young, then the likelihood is great that as young people, they will be lost to this world, and the parents will be helpless to do anything.
The destructive effect usually begins at an early age, so parental attentiveness is very important. Computers and mobile phones have an overbearing effect on impressionable minds. That is why many tech leaders don’t allow their own children access to gadgets. They have heard how damaging they can be when too much time is spent on them. This alone should serve as a warning and spur us to protect our young children from the effects of the computer and other electronic dependencies.
Fr. Seraphim, thank you for your important advice to parents. We hope they realize this in time and take whatever steps necessary to save their children. Our readers also want to know more about the life of the Orthodox Church in the United States. Do you see cases where people who are ardent Catholics genuinely convert to Orthodoxy and remain adherents? Can you give us examples?
This is a very broad question, and it’s not easy to answer. Every parish has their own character, their own life. Some have the blessing of conducting daily divine services, like we did at St. Stephan Church when I served there, as we did when I was rector at St. Silouan Church. Unfortunately, this is not a widespread practice, and not easy to organize. As a result, people often move from one Church to another. Some are so drawn into Church life that they arrange their lives according to the Church calendar of services and holidays. They regularly make confession and often partake of Holy Communion, they make pilgrimages to Monasteries. Still, the fact remains, these are the minority. The majority is devoted to this world, and their devotion to the Church is secondary.
There is also a difference between those who were born into Orthodox (Orthodox from the cradle) and converts to the faith. Converts are often more zealous, and burn with the desire to improve, follow the Church canons, while cradle Orthodox Christians adhere to the faith as an ethnic thing. So the latter are often involved in cultural activities (such as Greek or Russian festivals, etc), but you won’t find them in Church that often. Of course, the newly-converted are sometimes so zealous yet so inexperienced that they can cause problems for the priest of the parish. Some of the most pious Orthodox Christians whom I know personally are in fact the cradle Orthodox.
As far as the conversion of Roman Catholics to Orthodoxy, this happens, and often. I will bring forth as an example of someone who came to St.Silouan Church. A woman who was preparing to be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church heard that there was an Orthodox Church nearby and decided to visit. Her colleague, a Catholic (who was her sponsor to Catholicism), was very upset and tried to talk her out of visiting the Orthodox Church. Finally she said: “I just want to attend their service.” He responded: “If you see their service and compare it to ours, you will never return.” And he was absolutely right: after she came to our Church service and began reading about Orthodoxy, she quickly decided to abandon her intention to convert to Catholicism and be baptized into the Orthodox Faith. Her friend called me several times to express his dissatisfaction. He said that the Pope announced that Catholics can even take communion in Orthodox Churches. I replied that the Pope has no standing in our Church. Finally, in a fit of rage, he yelled at me saying:
‘Do you know what you are doing? Our Church is against what you are trying to do. Do you understand that?” Wishing to end the conversation, I said calmly yet firmly: “Yes, I know what I am doing. I am snatching a person about to enter heresy and schism and bringing her to the True Faith and the True Church.” He fell silent, and then said quietly: “Well, I’d like for own priests to have your determination and courage.”
Here is another example. I once baptized a young man, a former Catholic. His mother was a devoted Catholic. She attended the baptism and cried throughout the service; she felt unfortunate that her son made this decision. Still, she would come to Church when he was there, hoping that he would return to Catholicism. Gradually, she started reading some Orthodox literature, and finally converted to Holy Orthodoxy together with her husband. From the very start, when she began attending divine services in the Orthodox Church, she admitted that she sensed the spiritual profundity and power of Orthodoxy, which she had thirsted for, with her heart, but could not find in the Roman Catholic Church. The Lord finally filled the void in her heart as she received Holy Baptism and the Eucharist, and she never regretted coming to us.
In concluding our discussion, I can’t help but touch upon a matter that is all over the mass media: it is not secret that there is an information war between America and Russia. What must be done to prevent the deterioration of relations in all facets of life, from the civil sphere to the spiritual?
This is a big question and not easy to answer. I agree that this is sad and painful. Our countries are becoming more and more antagonistic towards each other. I am convinced that this would not have occurred had not some influential people not gotten involved who profit from war. In our country, there is a group called neo-conservatives, adherents to the notion that there should be only one superpower in the world. They see a threat to their hegemony in a renewed Russia and China, which are developing quickly. They are committed to war with Russia and warn of nuclear attacks. This is madness, there is no other word for it, it is demonic behavior. We Orthodox Christians must understand that we must first of all preserve our faith in Christ. It is written in the Scriptures, that “our citizenship is in heaven.” We must fervently pray “O God, save Your people and bless your inheritance.”
Many of us Orthodox Christians in America do everything we can to tell our compatriots the truth that our leadership is doing everything it can to provoke Russia with war. But there are very few of us in relation to the overall population of the United States, who are still inclined to believe what their political leaders are saying. Each one of us must strive to obtain the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit, and then a thousand people around us will be saved. We must pray for peace with all our strength, pray that the forces of darkness recede, that the Lord saves His people and blesses His inheritance. Many saints and holy elders have warned that war has already begun. That is why we must protect our own hearts from hatred and the desire for war, which the devil wants to implant in each of us. St. Seraphim is our guide.
Fr. Seraphim, thank you. We wish you Divine help and hope that you visit our country again.
Thank you for the opportunity to be connected to my brothers and sisters in Christ who live in God-preserved Russia. I hope that I can visit again, and that Divine Grace which has been preserved here will touch me as well. Please remember me in your prayers.
KIEV CAVES, UKRAINE