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The need for “holy zeal”

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  • Basil Yakimov
    The need for “holy zeal”! But to this concept of asceticism must be added one other element, which we call “holy zeal.” Here is what the late
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2007
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      The need for “holy zeal”!

      But to this concept of asceticism must be added one other element, which we call “holy zeal.” Here is what the late Archbishop Averky of Jordanville had to say about this:

      Archbishop Averky “The chief thing in Christianity, according to the clear teaching of the word of God, is the fire of divine zeal, zeal for God and His glory – the holy zeal which alone is able to inspire man in labors and struggles pleasing to God and without which there is no authentic spiritual life and there is not and cannot be any true Christianity. Without this holy zeal Christians are Christians in name only… Meekness and humility do not mean spinelessness and should not yield before manifest evil… a true Christian should be far from sugar-sweet sentimentality…” (The Orthodox Word, 1975).

      But this does not mean that we should be rigid and uncharitable towards others, or that we should have no discernment. Archbishop Averky himself pointed out that we must avoid what Scripture calls “zeal without understanding.” Especially, he said, we must avoid what he called a “false, lying zeal, behind the mask of which is concealed the foaming of ordinary human passions – most frequently pride, love of power and honor, and the interests of a party politics… for which there can be no place in spiritual life.” (The Orthodox Word, 1975). True Orthodoxy walks a thin line between fanaticism and looseness, between self-righteousness and “spinelessness.”

      Orthodoxy in the West today

      Concerning the extremes of the “right” and the “left,” Fr. Seraphim (Rose) said that “zeal not according to knowledge” was simply “an excuse for pharisaic self-satisfaction, exclusivity, and distrust” of others – something to be avoided at all costs, and it is the exact opposite of what Archbishop Averky called “being in step with the times.” The future of Orthodoxy should belong to neither of these two extremes, neither of the right nor the left, for “holy zeal” is not extremism, it is simply true and authentic Orthodoxy.

      Therefore, in order to see the future and its possibilities, we must know something about what’s going on with Orthodox Christianity in both the East – in the historic countries of our origin such as Greece and especially Russia, – and we must be fully aware of what’s going on in the apostate West, too. Shortly I will speak in some detail about Orthodoxy in Russia, but first we should look briefly at what is going on with Orthodoxy in the West today.

      In the United States, in particular, there is a kind of broad “spectrum,” from left to right. On the extreme right we have a relatively small number of Greek Old Calendarist groups. Many of these otherwise very sincere and pious believers often squabble among themselves, sometimes for good reason, sometimes not. Fr. Seraphim (Rose) called the extremist Greek Old Calendarists “exclusivists.” Partly because of this, and partly because of the disagreements among themselves, in America they have been relatively ineffective at reaching the Western mind and soul, often presenting (perhaps without intending to do so) a very rigid and even haughty face to prospective inquirers into the Faith. In my opinion, these groups are not the future of Orthodoxy.

      On the “left” we have several groups that follow the New Calendar, and they have quite consciously accepted the principles of liturgical reform, innovationism, and modernism. One of these groups, in particular, is anti-monastic, which means that it vigorously opposes traditional Orthodox spirituality; repeatedly there is a call for what is called “American Orthodoxy.” Just exactly what this means, however, is difficult to say, but it is a contradiction in terms. America and her culture are by definition liberal, constantly changing, and unstable, interested in keeping her citizens comfortable and entertained and distracted from spiritual realities and needs. America also embraces everything that is modern and fashionable. True Orthodoxy, on the other hand, is by nature conservative, stable, and unchanging, even reactionary, and concerned with eternal verities, focused not on what is comfortable and perishable, but on the carrying of crosses as
      the only way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Some of these Orthodox groups are very open to missionary opportunities – and in this sense they can be very creative – but what are they bringing new converts to? Authentic Orthodoxy or some kind of “Eastern Rite Protestantism”? In other words, a church which more and more resembles the culture of the Anglican or Episcopal Church and is no longer Orthodox but something that is attractive on the outside, looking and smelling and sounding like the “real thing,” but inside it is an empty shell, incapable of giving the abundant life our Saviour promised in the Gospels.

      The very fact that these modernist Orthodox are involved in liturgical reform and modernization – which often means drastically shortening or even completely eliminating some of the services, (and it also now means abolishing fasts and the churching of women after childbirth, it means the use of girl acolytes, and the tonsuring of female readers) – all of this is already a very serious and dangerous attack on our holy Faith, and virtually no one is objecting, no one is criticizing, and no one has the courage to stand up and cry out, “The Emperor has no clothes!” Our Blessed Metropolitan Philaret of holy memory would speak out, were he with us today, just as he spoke out courageously in his famous “Sorrowing Epistles” in the late 1960s. And our Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco would have spoken up, too. Decades ago he reminded us that we cannot and must not tamper with the Divine services because these “church services contain in
      themselves the fullness of the Church’s dogmatic teachings and expound the path to salvation. They embody a priceless spiritual wealth. The more fully and properly they are done, the greater the benefit received by those who participate in them. Those clergymen who perform the services negligently and abbreviate them out of laziness are robbing their flock, denying it vital bread, and abducting from it a valuable treasure…”

      It is true that in some of these New Calendar Churches there was an initial burst of missionary growth, some of it healthy, some not. But that time is now passing as many of their new faithful discover the lives of the saints, the traditional spirituality of the Church, and other things that they had not been given when they first converted to Orthodoxy. They now want something deeper, something capable of sustaining and nurturing a profound and lasting spiritual life. Many of these seekers find their way to us, to the Church Abroad. So, clearly, the future of Orthodoxy – in spite of appearances just a few years ago – does not lie with the modernists. History shows that those who are too far to the right or to the left do not, in the end, carry the day either and, ultimately, will not even survive. Is there another way, another – “middle” – path to the future of Orthodoxy? I believe that there is.

      “The Royal Path”

      Between these two extremes of right and left is the “balance point,” or what the Fathers of the Church themselves called “the Royal Path.” As Fr. Seraphim (Rose) wrote: “This true Orthodox moderation is not to be confused with mere lukewarmness or indifference, or with any kind of compromise between political extremes… Its emphasis is constantly on the spiritual side of true Orthodoxy,” which neither the extremists of the left or the right know or completely understand. As Fr. Seraphim wrote unequivocally: “The Russian Church Outside of Russia has been placed, by God’s Providence, in a very favorable position for preserving the ‘royal path’.” He continued:

      “Living in exile and poverty in a world that has not understood the suffering of her people, she [the Church Abroad] has focused her attention on preserving unchanged the faith which unites her people… Today, – Fr. Seraphim continues, – more than at any other time, we must struggle to preserve Orthodox tradition in an age of apostasy, so that the voice of true and uncompromising Orthodoxy could be heard throughout the world and have a profound effect on the future course of the Orthodox Churches… It is of critical importance, therefore, that this voice be actually one of true, that is, patristic Orthodoxy.” (The Orthodox Word, 1976).

      Father Seraphim Rose Fr. Seraphim also observed – and this is very important – that “the ‘royal path’ of true Orthodoxy today is a mean that lies between the extremes of ecumenism and reformism on the one side, and a zeal not according to knowledge on the other.” (The Orthodox Word, 1976).
      Father Alexey Youn

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