The Period of Decline (conclusion)

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.

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The Period of Decline

The Period of Decline by Archimandrite Dimitri (Egoroff)

About Archimandrite Dimitri

A little over 25 years ago (June 29, 1992), at the age of 84, Archimandrite Dimitri (Egoroff) reposed at the Our Lady of Kazan Skete in Santa Rosa. He was the last monk tonsured at the old Valaamo Monastery before it was closed during the Soviet period in Russia. Previous to this he was a secular student in the University of Moscow, however, his habit of reading a Bible became a pretext for his arrest and confinement in a prison camp. He suffered much there, yet having escaped he made his way to Finland and afterwards to the Monastery of Valaamo where he was received. Wishing to study theology he went to the St. Sergius Institute in Paris and later immigrated to America. It was during his stay in Paris that he was ordained to the holy priesthood. Having arrived in America he was called upon to serve in several areas north of San Francisco and settled in Santa Rosa where he founded a small monastic community for women, the Our Lady of Kazan Skete. According to those who knew him, he could be described as a tempered ascetic and something of a fool for Christ’s sake. So now we continue with a word from Fr. Dimitri:

The Period of Decline*

Humanity has entered a new epoch, that of decline and decadence. And although various movements of social and religious life loudly proclaim their striving for truth and the universal good, in actuality none of this is to be seen. The concerns of people are directed to the earth and to success in everything earthly. But the higher truth ordained by God has been almost abandoned.

The first step in humanities striving for everything earthly was made by the Renaissance . It revealed to people the alluring, captivating beauty of everything earthly. And people set out on this path, in the beginning in the West, while later Russia, also, entered onto this path. Purely earthly accomplishment and development of earthly culture became for Russia, too, the primary goal.

Our holy hierarch, Bishop Ignaty Brianchaninov, who lived over a hundred years ago, with his prophetic gaze beheld the sad picture of the universal decline and depicted it in his works. He saw the sources of this fatal occurrence and explained the deep causes of such a grievous situation. He understood that people had begun to be occupied primarily with the concerns of earthly happiness. And when a person is occupied primarily with the concerns of his earthly prosperity, he notes, then the soul grows coarse and from something immaterial becomes, as it were, material.

We have seen the fruits of such a false activity in the form of the wars and revolutions of this century. When monstrous cruelty has been revealed to the world. And we must realize, wars were wage by Christian people. Not only has life changed, but also people’s thinking. The pilgrims and first founders of the American state wanted life to be based on the principles of faith and piety. The Constitution was composed to preserve that life. But the present-day sages claim that faith and piety conflict with the Constitution , and for this reason abolished prayer in school, while all anti-Christian movements have support and great influence.

All this is accompanied by intensification of all possible enticing temptations, especially through the press; and all other means of influencing people are employed. The temptations conceal in themselves great danger. From the temptations millions of people are being harmed, especially from among the young generation.

“Woe unto the world because of temptations! For it must needs be that temptations come,” the Lord foretold. “The life according to God will become very difficult. It will become thus because it is impossible for a person living amidst and in the face of temptations not to be subjected to the influence of the temptations. As ice at the effect of heat on it loses its hardness and is transformed into the softest water, so also the heart full of good will, when subjected to the influence, especially the constant influence of enticing temptations, becomes weak and is changed.” “’Woe unto the world because of temptations! For it must needs be that temptations come.’ (Matt. 18:7) Both the coming of temptations is permitted by God, and the moral impoverishment because of temptations is permitted by God. Towards the end of the life of the world, temptations must intensify and multiply so much that ‘because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall dry up.’ (Matt. 24:12) ‘When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on earth?’” (Lk. 18:8) The general breakdown and collapse has touched the Church’s sphere, also. First of all we see the disappearance of true guides of religious life and, at the same time, the increase of all kinds of false teachers. And further we should cite St. Ignaty wise in God. “Our time resembles the last time,” he writes. “The salt is losing its savor—among the highest pastors of the Church there remains a weak, dark confused, wrong understanding according to the letter, the letter which kills the spiritual life in Christian society, destroys Christianity, which is deed and not the letter. It is sorrowful to see whom the sheep of Christ have been entrusted, or into whose hands they have fallen, to whom their guidance and salvation has been left. Wolves clothed in sheep’s skin have appeared and will be known by their works and fruits. But this is something permitted by God. Let those in Judea (i. e., the Church) flee to the mountains.” ** (to be continued)

*Originally published in the former newspaper of the Diocese of the West (OCA), “The Orthodox West”, Summer 1992, pp. 10-11, (no longer in publication). This is reprinted with the blessing of his Eminence Archbishop BENJAMIN

**This, which appears to very dark, perhaps needs some clarification. It was written in mid 19th century Russia. Although there was much good and a spiritual revival occurring, as the late Bishop Basil Rodzianko expressed it: “This was a reaction to the evil that was growing.” St. Ignaty was also aware of the persecution of the Optina Elders as the spiritual children of the Elder Leonid has written and asked for his intercession with Church authorities. So, although this writing still teaches us something today, it must first be understood in the original historical context in which it was written.
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