THE RIGHT TIME
Homily for the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos
In the service for the feast of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos there are the following words: “In the sorrow of their barrenness, the wise parents of the Mother of God cried out unto the Lord, and they gave birth to Her unto all generations, for universal salvation and glory.”
Let us ponder this moment, my dear brethren. We see before us the righteous Joachim and Anna – venerable and pious, faithful spouses, issuing from an ancestry of kings and priests, God-fearing, keeping all God’s commandments, known for their humility and charity. And yet this model couple is the object of scorn and humiliation on the part of their neighbors! How can that be? It is because the years go by and by, and they have already reached old age, and still the Lord has not given them any children.
In those times every Jew hoped, through his descendants, to participate in the kingdom of the Messiah. Therefore, every Jew who was childless was scorned by others, because barrenness was considered to be God’s great punishment for sins. This was especially hard for Joachim to endure, being a descendant of King David and knowing that Christ the Saviour was to be born of his ancestry. And so what do the righteous Joachim and Anna do? Despite being mocked by others for so many years, they do not grumble against the Lord, they do not abandon their virtuous life, but humbly continue to endure, to endure and hope, to hope and - despite their very old age – to have faith in God’s mercy. As the church hymn tells us, in the sorrow of their barrenness they cry out unto the Lord, i.e. they tearfully pray to him.
And what is the result of this humility, patience, faith, hope and prayer? Once again we receive the answer in the church hymn: they, the wise parents, receive a heavenly gift from God – the One Who is higher than the cherubim, Who is birth-giver to God the Word, – and they give birth to Her unto all generations, for universal salvation and glory.
Such is the extraordinary gift earned by the righteous Joachim and Anna – they give birth to the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin Mary, and in Her nativity they themselves are glorified for all ages!
But why did they have to wait so long? The Lord was not punishing them for their sins – they were already righteous and pure; the Lord was not testing their patience and humility – they had already exhibited these virtues abundantly. No, dear brethren, they had to wait for so long until the time was right. Herein lies the key – they had to wait until the time was right.
The Holy Virgin, as the future Mother of God, had to be the purest vessel possible in humanity. Because of this She had to come from the purest parents possible: for this reason the righteous Joachim and Anna had to wait until they were purified of all human passions by means of humility, patience and old age. And then, when the right time came, they – who had so meekly accepted God’s will and the fate which the Lord had meted out to them – now received such wondrous comfort.
Does not the same happen in our lives, dear brethren? We often find ourselves in a state of spiritual barrenness: we are subjected to sorrows and hardships, and we pray to God without apparently receiving any comfort, or we ask for the fulfillment of some spiritually-beneficial wish – and it is not fulfilled. And so we begin to think that this is punishment for our sins – and we fall into despair, we begin to lose hope, we even begin to grumble against the Lord.
No, dear brethren! The Lord often tarries with the fulfillment of our wishes not because He does not hear our prayers or punishes us for our sins, but because the right time has not yet come. We do not know God’s will for us, while the Lord sees our entire life, knows what we need and when we need it, knows what is best for us and when.
Therefore, let us follow the example of the righteous Joachim and Anna: let us patiently wait and patiently pray, let us meekly accept the will of God, let us have absolute hope of God’s mercy and absolute faith in His providence, let us have faith in that the Lord hears all our prayers, all our cries, sees all our sorrows, knows all our needs, and that He will send us what we need when we need it. Amen.
ON THE THREE COMPONENTS OF THE LIFE-GIVING CROSS
AND OUR OWN CROSS
We are now glorifying the Life-giving Cross of our Lord. On this occasion it would be quite fitting, dear brethren, to remember how the Church and the Holy Fathers and spiritual instructors teach us to look upon the Life-giving Cross and the bearing of our own cross.
The great spiritual instructor in faith, Saint Theophanus the Recluse, said that the Cross of Christ was threefold. The cross which each Christian must bear in his life is also threefold, similar to the Life-giving Cross which, according to prophecy, was composed of three tree varieties (cypress, pine and cedar). Thus, in bearing our own cross, we see three sides to it, three crosses which merge into one.
The first of these crosses is the cross of fallen mankind. This cross was described briefly but accurately and powerfully by the Apostle Paul, who said of himself: “I know not what I do: the good which I wish to do – I do not; the evil which I do not wish to do – I do.” And man is a captive of his sin; this is the sin of fallen mankind from which no one can escape, and of which the same Saint Theophanus said: “Imagine a man who has a rotting and foul-smelling corpse firmly attached to his back: wherever he goes, wherever he runs, he is unable to escape from this horrible foul decay. It follows him persistently, pursues him relentlessly.”
The second cross is the one which we usually understand as being our own cross: this is the combination of all the sorrows, all the misfortunes, all the difficulties of which our lives are composed. This, precisely, is what is meant by bearing one’s cross. But that is not yet all.
The holy fathers say: here is a man surrounded by affliction, illness, misfortune. As soon as he gives himself up completely into the will of God, saying that the Lord does everything well and, therefore, whatever may be sent to him on this path of the cross, he accepts it all as being good – as soon as he says this in his heart (says Saint Theophanus) – everything will disappear as if by magic. Everything around him remains the same: the same afflictions, the same worries, but it is he who has changed and sees everything differently. Thus must a man have the firm conviction that the Heavenly Father will not give him a stone in place of bread.
If God sends us difficulties, that means they are needed and are for our benefit. The elder Ambrose of Optina said: “Whatever will be, will be, and what will be, will be whatever God gives us, and God gives us everything for our good.”
The last component of our cross is such that Saint Theophanus spoke of it with his usual deep humility. He said: “That cross is known only to those who have attained a high spiritual level. Such a person has already overcome all temptations, has easily overcome all difficulties. But there are higher temptations – the temptations of pride, the temptations of vainglory, the temptation to consider oneself, through one’s spiritual labors, as being better and higher than others. This cross is the heaviest to bear and is known only to those who, albeit with great difficulty, have overcome it.”
Saint Theophanus says that each Christian must be a cross-bearer. The life of each Christian begins with a cross: he is baptized and a cross is placed around his neck at the very moment of his entering the bright sacrament of baptism. When he is buried, the cross remains with him, and a cross is also placed over his grave, indicating that a faithful Christian is buried there.
Let us keep that in mind, my beloved, and let us always wear a cross, which strengthens us and saves us in difficult circumstances. Do not forget, Christian soul, of the strength of the cross, and that with the power of His Cross the Lord will always save you from all possible misfortune. Amen.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE RIGHT HAND OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
After the beheading of St. John the Baptist by the iniquitous Herod, the Forerunner’s precious body was buried by his disciples near the grave of the Prophet Elisha in the famous Samarian city of Sebaste. When the holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, in the course of preaching Christ and going through many countries and cities came to Sebaste, having in mind to return from there to his homeland – Antioch, he entertained the idea of taking back with him to Antioch the body of St. John the Baptist. It was whole and incorruptible, but it was impossible to take it, because the inhabitants of Sebaste greatly venerated the relics of the Baptist and guarded them carefully. The holy Evangelist Luke was able, therefore, to detach from the Baptist’s precious body only his right hand, which had baptized our Lord Jesus Christ; but he brought it with him to Antioch as some precious treasure with which he wished to thank his city for the upbringing it had given him. From that time the Baptist’s holy hand was preserved with great piety by the Christians of Antioch, since it worked quite a number of miracles.
After the passage of a long period of time, the throne was taken over by Julian the Apostate (reigned A.D. 361-363), who openly renounced Christ and worshipped the idols. He began to persecute the Church of Christ just as had the Roman emperors, who had persecuted Christians before him, and he not only put live Christians to death, but also furiously rose against the dead: he took the remains of holy martyrs who had suffered for the faith out of their graves and burned them, and he destroyed God’s churches and numerous holy relics. At one point he also came to Antioch, partly to persecute Christians there and burn those of their relics which he could find. The Antiochian Christians, hearing of his imminent arrival, hurriedly hid the Baptist’s hand in one of the city towers, so that the persecutor could not commit sacrilege and burn it. After arriving in Antioch and inflicting great harm upon the local Christians, Julian began to search for the Baptist’s hand, and when his search turned out to be in vain, he sent an order to the Palestinian city of Sebaste to have the body of the Baptist that was kept there except for the head and the right hand, as well as the Baptist’s church and sarcophagus, destroyed and burned, which was done, according to the historians Nicephorus and George Kedrin. However, the blessed Simeon Metaphrastes reports that it was not the Baptist’s body that was burned, but another, for the Patriarch of Jerusalem, learning of Julian’s order in advance, secretly took the holy relics of the Baptist out of the sarcophagus and sent them for safekeeping to Alexandria; in their stead he placed the bones of a dead man, and it was these latter which, according to Metaphrastes, were burned instead of the Baptist’s relics, together with his sarcophagus and church.
When that iniquitous emperor perished and true faith shone forth in the world, then the hand of the holy Baptist was removed from the tower in which it had been concealed. Once again Christians began to venerate it, and once again it began to work miracles as before. Of these miracles let us describe the following.Within the bounds of Antioch there nested a great and fearsome serpent, whom the pagans deified and to whom they made an annual sacrifice as to a god. For this sacrifice there was usually assigned a specially chosen chaste maiden, who was given to the serpent to be devoured in the presence of all the people, who watched this spectacle from special platforms built near the cave where the serpent lived. The serpent slithered out of the cave and frightened everyone terribly with his fearsome appearance, hissing, and widely open jaws, and then he grabbed the maiden presented to him, and tearing her to pieces, devoured her. For such a sacrifice the daughters of Antiochian citizens were chosen by lot. One year this lot fell upon the daughter of an Antiochian Christian. This Christian tearfully prayed to God and His holy Baptist to deliver his daughter from a cruel death. When the day of that abominable feast approached, the father entreated God with tears and laments, and appealed to Saint John the Baptist for help. At that time he came to the church of the Baptist, where the precious hand was kept, and asked the sacristan to unlock the doors of the church for him and let him in to venerate the holy hand. This he did with a secret purpose, to achieve which he hid several gold coins in his back pocket. As he began to kneel before the chest in which the holy hand was kept, he let some of the gold coins fall out of his pocket, as though inadvertently. The sacristan, who loved money, rushed to pick up the coins, while at that same time the Christian, in kissing the holy hand of the Baptist, secretly bit off one of the joints of the little finger, hid it, and walked off praying and carrying with him the finger joint. When the day arrived in which the innocent maiden was due to be subjected to death, and when all the people gathered together at midnight for the spectacle, the father also came there, leading his daughter to be devoured by the serpent and in his heart offering prayers to God for deliverance. Then the terrible serpent slithered out of his cave, hissing with his open jaws, and began crawling towards the victim that was prepared for him – the maiden, – in order to devour her. But the father did not step away from his daughter, appealing to Christ and His Baptist for help. When the serpent crawled up very close and opened his jaws even wider, the father threw the joint of the Baptist’s holy finger right into the serpent’s open throat, and the serpent immediately expired. Thus the maiden was delivered from death, while her father, with tears of joy, loudly expressed his gratitude to Christ and His Baptist, describing to all the people the great miracle which the Lord God had performed. The people who attended the spectacle, seeing the serpent dead and the maiden alive and lauding God with her father, were at first greatly amazed and fearful of such a glorious miracle, but afterwards they rejoiced and began to glorify the One True God. And a great feast and celebration began in Antioch, for many pagans converted to Christianity, coming to believe in Christ. Later a great and beautiful church in honor of Saint John the Baptist was built at the site where the great miracle had occurred. It is said that in that church, on the day of the feast of the Elevation of the Cross, the bishop also elevated the precious hand of the Baptist; furthermore, sometimes this hand stood up straight, and at other times it was bent: the former foretold an abundant harvest of bread and all kinds of fruits and vegetables, while the latter portended a crop failure and famine.
In one of the Sunday Gospel readings we hear of how the Lord healed a blind man in the city of Jericho. This blind man had such strong faith in that the Son of David, as he called Jesus Christ, would heal him of his blindness, that when in response to his cry: Son of David, have mercy on me! – those who were passing by told him to keep quiet, he started crying even more loudly: Son of David, have mercy on me! But he cried loudly because the Lord was at some distance away from him. The Lord stood and commanded that the blind man be brought to Him, and when the latter was near He asked him: what do you want from Me? The blind man said: Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said: Receive thy sight, thy faith hath saved thee. And the blind man immediately received his sight and followed Him, glorifying God.
This blind man, dear brethren, serves as a bright example for us. He never saw anything around him, just sat each day by the road and begged for alms, thus being occupied solely with the worldly concern of making a living. And we, too, spend each day like the blind man, in worldly concerns and vanity; we, too, are spiritually blind, we do not see the world of God around us, full of daily miracles. And our sins keep us at a great distance from God. So how can we approach the Lord, how can we receive His bounty?
Let us look at the blind man: in his heart he kindled a strong flame of faith. With this faith he began to cry out to the Lord, not paying any attention to impediments from those around him. And behold – what a great miracle! With the words: receive thy sight, the Lord delivered him from blindness, made his eyes totally clear. The blind man is happy now; he who was unable to see yet believed is blessed now, for his faith has saved him. The Gospel reading indicates to us that this blind man regained sight not only physically, but also spiritually. After being healed, he immediately followed Christ, glorifying God. Thus the first path which his own eyes showed him was to follow in the wake of Jesus Christ. The first use of the bounty which he had received was to offer it to the One Who had granted him this bounty.So will it be for us, dear brethren, if we fill our hearts with strong faith, if we turn to God with fervent prayer, not paying any attention to impediments from people or circumstances surrounding us, and the Lord will not tarry in granting us His bounty. Whosoever is sick, call upon the Lord, and you shall be healed; whosoever has fallen into misfortune, turn to the Lord, and you shall be saved; whosoever is in grief, fall down before the Lord, and you shall be delivered. We must only turn to God with faith and with hope, we must walk in the way of the Lord, and we must not forget to thank God for all His blessings. For the Lord says to us through the psalms of King David: “Because you have set your hope upon Me, I will deliver you; I will protect you, because you have known My name. You will call upon Me, and I will hear you; I will be with you in time of trouble, I will deliver you and honor you.” Amen.
WHAT IS AN ORTHODOX MAN
Happy is the man who becomes wise – who comes to have understanding (Proverbs 3:13).
We live today in a society where husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, have been torn from their roots, ripped from time-honored and theologically-sanctioned values about what it is to be a man, a woman, a family. The old values and roles, so easily nurtured in a largely agrarian and patriarchal society, now seem almost impossible to live in our industrialized cities. The healthy psychological bonding that used to occur naturally between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, is now a rare experience.
As if this were not a difficult enough burden for the spiritually-minded to bear, we are also now inundated by strange and sometimes aberrant notions about sexuality and role models. We live in a culture of increasing “unisex,” perversion, and immorality – on the job, at home, and sometimes even in the church.
The “women’s liberation movement” was originally an understandable reaction to irresponsible, heavy-handed, arrogant and insensitive men; but instead of raising the conscience and morality of men to the traditional nurturing and moral level of women, it had the effect of bringing women down to the more animal level of men’s behavior, while at the same time shattering the “male myth” without giving in its place a proper sense of what it is to be a man – or, for our purposes, what it is to be an Orthodox Christian man.
An extraordinarily relevant model for the Orthodox man today is the Holy Prophet Job in the Old Testament. Indeed, here was a man “after God’s own heart.” His life gives evidence of certain manly characteristics by which the Orthodox man can, and should, measure himself today – providing a program of spiritual growth and struggle that is without equal.
We think of St. Job primarily in the context of his trial of faith and the afflictions of his life, for which reason the Orthodox call him “The Much-suffering.” We forget that he persevered to the end and found victory over his troubles. We seldom realize that in order to obtain this victory, he needed certain qualities of character and soul – the qualities of a true and godly man.
What are those qualities?
He was a man who did not forget God and God’s loving care for him, no matter how terrible the present affliction: God was always with me and the friendship of God protected my home (Job 29:3-4).
The Orthodox man strives never to forget God and His blessings whether in the past or in the present, and he gives this same example to his wife and children, especially in times of trial.
The Prophet loved his children and missed them sorely when he was in exile. He did not see them as an irritating intrusion into his own “lifestyle.” He rose early to pray and make sacrifice for them, in order to purify them in case they had sinned. The Orthodox man prays ardently for his children – both for wisdom in guiding them aright, and for God’s blessing and grace on them. This is also a model for a priest, who has many spiritual children.
St. Job was just and fair, both with his children and with those for whom he had responsibility outside his family. In the same way, an Orthodox man is a model of justice and even-handedness for his own children, tempering justice with mercy.
The Prophet Job received respect from old and young. Orthodox men show respect to their elders, both in the family and at work, but especially in the Church, and they earn the respect of their wives and children, doing nothing to kill this respect or to scandalize them.
The Saint was stable, like a tree whose roots always have water. An Orthodox man consciously strives to avoid the restlessness of our mobile society, recognizing the need for children to have a secure sense of place and stability in their lives.
St. Job was a seeker after God and wisdom: The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord. An Orthodox man also strives to serenely rest in God’s providence, keeping lively his commitment to the Orthodox Faith, and modeling this for his family according to his strength.
Because of all these spiritual characteristics, St. Job was able to endure terrible suffering and affliction, as a result of which the Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life even more than he had blessed the first. Here, then, is a real example for today’s men, who are often tempted to retreat into passive self-centeredness in the face of difficulty and temptation, who are too ready (and encouraged by society to do so) to jettison job, wife, and children at the slightest whim or difficulty. Here, then, is a Saint who can inspire in contemporary man a real manhood rather than a fake masculinity.
Always obey the Lord and you will be happy. If you are stubborn, you will be ruined (Proverbs 28:14).
LIVES OF THE SAINTS
On September 11th (August 29th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.
Although this is a day of strict fasting (due to the remembrance of the Forerunner's martyrdom), at the same time it is also a great feast day, which commemorates the conclusion of the Forerunner's special and lofty service as the greatest of all people born on earth.
Saint John the Baptist was like a connecting link between the Old and the New Testament. He was the last prophet of God who preached the coming of the Messiah, and not One coming in the future, but One who had arrived in the present. Saint John the Baptist was a forerunner in everything to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was born a little before Him, came out to preach earlier, summoned people earlier to repentance and a search for the Kingdom of God. Thus, having preached the Lord's coming on earth, St. John was due to preach Him to the righteous ones in hell as well, who were languishing as they awaited Messiah the Deliverer and the opening of the gates of heaven. In the kontakion of the holiday, the Church thus explains the essence of the celebration: “The Forerunner's glorious beheading was a certain divine providence, so that even to those in hell he would preach the Saviour's coming.” In other words, the Forerunner's martyric death was the fulfillment of God's Providence, in order to bring comfort to the forefathers in hell with the joyous tidings of their forthcoming deliverance.
St. John the Baptist was martyred because of human passion. At that time, Galilee was ruled by Herod Antipas, one of the sons of the King Herod who had ordered the massacre of the infants of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the newborn Infant Christ. Herod Antipas knew the Forerunner well, honored him greatly, and initially even did a lot of good under the influence of the latter's preaching. But then Herod became bewitched by the beauty of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, and together with her committed a great iniquity: he took Herodias away from his brother while the latter was still alive and married her, banishing his own legitimate wife.
The Forerunner, seeing such flagrant iniquity, did not fear the king's anger and did not keep quiet, but openly denounced Herod before everyone, saying to him: “Thou shouldst not have the wife of Philip, thy brother.” Herod was unable to bear the denunciation and ordered St. John to be thrown into prison and kept in bonds, but at the same time he made an all-out effort to protect him from the machinations of the evil Herodias, who wished for the Baptist's death.
St. John the Baptist stayed in prison for a long time. His disciples often came to him and were instructed by him in the law of God. The Baptist continuously told his disciples about the Messiah Who had come down to earth, and even sent them to Him. The Gospel tells us of how St. John once sent two of his disciples to Christ to ask Him, whether He was the Messiah or were they to wait for another? After baptizing the Saviour and hearing confirmation from the heavens about His Sonship, St. John knew well that Christ was the true Saviour, but sent his disciples in order for them to see for themselves Christ's glorious miracles and believe in Him.
Some time later the day came of Herod's birthday celebration. Assembling a multitude of Galilean princes and military commanders, Herod held a great feast, during which Herodias's daughter Salome danced before the guests, and her dancing greatly delighted Herod, who promised to give her anything she wished, even up to half his kingdom. Prompted by her cruel mother, Salome asked for the head of St. John the Baptist on a tray. Herod was saddened at first, but was afraid to lose face before his guests by not keeping his promise, and so he committed an even more terrible iniquity by ordering the Forerunner to be beheaded. But to the horror of Herod and all his guests, the Baptist's head, brought in on a tray, continued to say the same denunciatory words to Herod: “Thou shouldst not have the wife of Philip, thy brother.”
Afterwards, in accordance with God's justice, Herod with Herodias and Salome suffered many privations and tribulations, and were subjected to God's fearsome punishment prior to their death. But St. John the Baptist was Christ's forerunner even in hell, and together with all the righteous ones was delivered from hell after Christ's Resurrection and was honored with many crowns in the Heavenly Kingdom: as a celibate, as a desert-dweller, as a teacher and preacher of repentance, as a prophet, as the Forerunner and Baptist, and as a martyr.
THE ORTHODOX VIEW OF EVOLUTION
(see beginning here)
All that I have said in this letter, derived strictly from the holy Fathers, will come as a surprise to many Orthodox Christians. Those who have read some of the holy Fathers will perhaps wonder why they haven’t heard it before. The answer is simple: if they have read many of the holy Fathers, they have encountered the Orthodox doctrine of Adam and the creation; but they have been interpreting the patristic texts hitherto through the eyes of modern science and philosophy, and therefore they have been blinded to the true patristic teaching.
I was very interested to read in your letter that you set forth the correct patristic teaching that “the creation of God, even the angelic nature, has always been, in comparison with God, something material. Angels are incorporeal in comparison with us, biological men. But in comparison with God they are also material and bodily creatures.” This teaching, which is set forth most clearly in the ascetic Fathers such as St. Macarius the Great and St. Gregory the Sinaite, helps us to understand the third state of our body – that which first-created Adam had before his transgression. Likewise, this doctrine is essential in our understanding of the activity of spiritual beings, angels and demons, even in the present corruptible world. The great Russian Orthodox Father of the 19th century, Bishop Ignatius Bryanchaninov, devotes an entire volume of his collected works (volume 3) to this subject, and to comparing the authentic Orthodox patristic doctrine with the modern Roman Catholic doctrine, as set forth in the 19th-century Latin sources. His conclusion is that the Orthodox doctrine on these matters – on angels and demons, heaven and hell, Paradise – even though it is given to us by sacred tradition only in part, nonetheless is quite precise in that part which we can know; but the Roman-Catholic teaching is extremely indefinite and imprecise. The reason for this indefiniteness is not far to seek: from the time papacy began to abandon the patristic teaching, it gradually gave itself over to the influence of worldly knowledge and philosophy, and then of modern science. Even by the 19th century Roman Catholicism no longer had a certain teaching of its own on these subjects, but had grown accustomed to accept whatever “science” and its philosophy say.
Alas, our present-day Orthodox Christians, and not least those who have been educated in “theological academies,” have followed the Roman Catholics in this and have come to a similar state of ignorance of the patristic teaching. This is why even Orthodox priests are extremely vague about the Orthodox teaching of Adam and the first-created world, and blindly accept whatever science says about these things. Professor I.M. Andreyev – a theologian and a Doctor of Medicine and Psychology, – has expressed in print the very idea I have tried to communicate above, and which seems beyond the understanding of those who approach the holy Fathers from the wisdom of this world instead of vice versa. Professor Andreyev writes: “Christianity has always viewed the present state of matter as being the result of a fall into sin. The fall of man changed the whole nature, including the nature of matter itself, which was cursed by God.”
Professor Andreyev finds that Bergson and Poincare have glimpsed this idea in modern times, but of course it is only our Orthodox holy Fathers who have spoken clearly and authoritatively about it.
The vague teaching of Roman Catholicism – and of those Orthodox Christians who are under Western influence in this matter – on Paradise and creation has deep roots in the past of Western Europe. The Roman Catholic scholastic tradition, even at the height of its medieval glory, already taught a false doctrine of man, and one which doubtless paved the way for the later acceptance of evolutionism, first in the apostate West, and then in the minds of Orthodox Christians who are insufficiently aware of their patristic tradition and so have fallen under foreign influence. In fact the teaching of Thomas Aquinas, unlike the Orthodox patristic teaching, in its doctrine of man is quite compatible with the idea of evolution which you advocate.
Thomas Aquinas teaches that: “In the state of innocence, the human body was in itself corruptible, but it could be preserved from corruption by the soul.” Again: “It belongs to man to beget offspring, because of his naturally corrupt body.” And again: “In Paradise man would have been like an angel in his spirituality of mind, yet with an animal life in his body. Man’s body was indissoluble, not by reason of any intrinsic vigor of immortality, but by reason of a supernatural force given by God to the soul, whereby it was enabled to preserve the body from all corruption so long as it itself remained subject to God. This power of preserving the body from corruption was not natural to the soul, but the gift of grace.”
This last quote shows clearly that Thomas Aquinas does not know that man’s nature was changed after the transgression. So far is Thomas Aquinas from the true Orthodox vision of the first-created world that he understands it, as do modern “Christian evolutionists,” solely from the viewpoint of this fallen world; and thus he is forced to believe, against the testimony of Orthodox holy Fathers, that Adam naturally slept in Paradise and that he voided fecal matter, a sign of corruption: “Some say that in the state of innocence man would not have taken more than necessary food, so that there would have been nothing superfluous. This, however, is unreasonable to suppose, as implying that there would have been no fecal matter. Therefore there was need for voiding the surplus, yet so disposed by God as not to be unbefitting.”
How low is the view of those who try to understand God’s creation and Paradise, when their starting point is their everyday observation of this present fallen world!
Thus, in a word: according to Orthodox doctrine, which comes from divine vision, Adam’s nature in Paradise was different from present human nature, both in body and soul, and this exalted nature was perfected by God’s grace; but according to Latin doctrine, which is based on rationalistic deductions from the present fallen creation, man is naturally corruptible and mortal, just as he is now, and his state in Paradise was a special, supernatural gift.
I have quoted all these passages from a heterodox authority, not in order to argue over details of Adam’s life in paradise, but merely to show how far one corrupts the marvelous patristic vision of Adam and the first-created world when one approaches it with the wisdom of this fallen world. Neither science nor logic can tell us a thing about Paradise; and yet many Orthodox Christians are so cowed by modern science and its rationalistic philosophy that they are actually afraid to read seriously the first chapters of Genesis, knowing that modern “wise men” find so many things there that are “dubious” or “confused” or need to be “reinterpreted,” or that one may obtain the reputation of being a “Fundamentalist” if one dares to read the text simply, “as it is written,” as all the holy Fathers read it.
The instinct of the simple Orthodox Christian is sound when he recoils from the “sophisticated” fashionable view that man is descended from an ape or any other lower creature, or even (as you say) that Adam might have had the very body of an ape. Orthodox holiness knows that creation is not as modern wise men describe it by their vain philosophy, but as God revealed it to Moses “not in riddles,” and as the holy Fathers have seen it in vision. Man’s nature is different from ape nature and has never been mixed with it. If God, for the sake of our humility, had wished to make such a mixture, the holy Fathers, who saw the very composition of visible things in divine vision, would have known it.
How long will Orthodox Christians remain in captivity to this vain Western philosophy?
Much has been said about the “Western captivity” of Orthodox theology in recent centuries; when will we realize that it is a far more drastic “Western captivity” in which every Orthodox Christian finds himself today, a helpless prisoner of the “spirit of the times,” of the dominating current of worldly philosophy which is absorbed in the very air we breathe in an apostate, God-hating society?
The sophisticated, worldly-wise laugh at those who call evolution a “heresy.” True, evolution is not strictly speaking a heresy; neither is Hinduism, strictly speaking, a heresy; but like Hinduism, (with which it is indeed related, and which had an influence on its development), evolutionism is an ideology that is profoundly foreign to the teaching of Orthodox Christianity, and it involves one in so many wrong doctrines and attitudes that it would be far better if it were simply a heresy and could thus be easily identified and combatted. Evolutionism is closely bound up with the whole apostate mentality of the rotten “Western Christianity”; it is a vehicle of the whole “new Christianity” in which the devil is now striving to submerge the last true Christians. It offers an alternative explanation of creation to that of the holy Fathers; it allows an Orthodox Christian under its influence to read the Holy Scriptures and not understand them, automatically “adjusting” the text to fit in with “modern wisdom.” Our only wisdom comes from the holy Fathers, and all that contradicts it is a lie, even if it calls itself “science.”
Aflame with love for all around Him,
He taught the people to be humble,
And all Mosaic laws and justice
He made subordinate to love.
He did not tolerate revenge or anger,
He preached forgiveness above all,
And bade that evil be repaid with good.
There was an unearthly power in Him:
He gave back vision to the blind,
He granted utter strength and movement
To those who were both weak and lame.
He did not need their recognition,
To Him all inner thoughts were open,
And no one did as yet endure
His searching, penetrating gaze.
Healing all ills and soothing torment,
He was a Saviour all around,
To all His kind hand He extended,
And no one did He ever condemn.
A. K. Tolstoy
Translated by Natalia Sheniloff