The Period of Decline (conclusion)
Archimandrite Dimitri continues:
Such abnormality can already be seen in the present time. Of course, where such a condition has gotten dominion, there is no true pleasing of God. What then is there? The holy hierarch answers with the words of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk: “There, there is only hypocrisy.” And teaches further, “Fear this hypocrisy, fear hypocrisy, in the first place in yourself, and then, in others: fear it precisely because it is in the character of the times and is able to infect everyone at the smallest deviation into light-minded conduct. Persecute hypocrisy in yourself, drive it out of yourself; avoid the masses who are infected it, who act both intentionally and consciously by its direction, who conceal the serving of the world with service to God, the seeking of temporal good with the seeking of blessings eternal, who conceal with a mask of holiness a depraved life and a soul entirely given up to the passions.” Bishop Ignaty further points out the vanishing of grace-filled guides and the multiplication of false teachers deluded by the dark spirits and drawing all the world to ruin. All this makes difficult the life according to God and serves as a sign of the coming Apostasy.
The Apostasy was foretold still at the dawn of Christianity. The Apostle Paul in the second Epistle to the Thessalonians (2:3) says that it must comes.
All foundations of life have been shaken. Life has taken a false, ruinous direction.
Bishop Ignaty uncovers the roots of this sickness. “The further the times, the more difficult” he says. “Christianity as a spirit….is withdrawing from the midst of humanity, leaving it (the world) to its fall.” This process will develop even further. There are no human means whatsoever for stopping it.
“Judging by the spirit of the times and by the intellectual ferment, one must suppose that the edifice of the Church, which has long been shaking, will shake terribly and quickly. There is no one to stop or oppose it. The measures of support which have been undertaken have been borrowed from the elements of the world, which is hostile to the Church, and will sooner hasten Her fall than stop it.”
“One may recognize the work of the Orthodox faith as approaching its definite conclusion…Only the special mercy of God can stop the all-destroying moral epidemic, stop it for a while…” “Do not expect from anyone the restoration of Christianity. The vessels of the Holy Spirit have definitely dried up everywhere, even in the monasteries, those treasuries of piety and grace, and the Body of the Spirit of God can be maintained and renewed only by His instruments. The merciful long suffering of God extends and delays the final end for the small remnant of those who are being saved, while those who are becoming corrupt of have become corrupt attain the fulness of corruption. Those who are being saved should understand this and make use of the time given for salvation, for the time is short, and for each of us the passage to eternity is not far off.”
In order to give you our own explanation, we should still further bring forth the God-inspired words of the holy hierarch Ignaty. “One must be reconciled to the condition of the Church, although at the same time one must understand it.
‘Elder Isaiah said to me, ‘Understand the time. Do not expect improvement in the general make-up of the Church, but be content with the fact that it is left to those who wish to be saved, to be saved individually.’” He also wrote: “Save thyself! Blessed art thou, if thou findest but one true fellow-laborer in the work of salvation: this in our time is a great and rare gift from God.”
The times are terrible but Christians, being partakers of the kingdom of God, will be able to escape the general ruin. The mercy of God will cover them. And of this Bishop Ignaty speaks. He writes: “He who has received within himself the Kingdom of God is one who can have a clear understanding concerning the second-coming of the God-Man, is one who can recognize and escape the Antichrist or oppose him. He who has not received within himself the kingdom of God cannot recognize the Antichrist; he is absolutely sure to become, in a way incomprehensible to himself, his follower; he does not recognize the end of the world drawing near and the approaching terrible second coming of Christ; it will find him unprepared. No human learning whatsoever, no teaching with a word or words is sufficient for the instruction in that which the instruction in the spiritual closet requires: instruction from God Himself. He who has acquired within himself the kingdom of God has as a guide the holy Spirit, who teaches the person guided by him all truth, does not let him be deceived by a lie which, in order to deceive more easily, is clothed in tokens of truth.”
Bishop Ignaty retired early because of illness. He settled in the Babayevsky St. Nicholas monastery, on the Volga, where in 1867 he reposed. Bishop Ignaty I an outstanding religious writer of the 19th century.