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.