EPISTLE OF THE BISHOPS COUNCIL OF THE DIASPORA DISTRICT OF ROCA
Beloved children of our Church,
We regard it our pastoral duty to turn to you with this epistle, which expounds our mutual view on what’s currently happening in the world.
More than 19 centuries ago, Holy Apostle John the Theologian wrote to his disciples: “Children, it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). Today, it’s all the more appropriate for us to repeat these words: Children, it is the last time. The Lord didn’t reveal the time of His Second Coming and the end of the world to His disciples, but indicated to them the signs by which they will be able to know the time of His arrival.
In observing what is happening in the world today, we have come to a conclusion that Christ’s arrival is nearing. Some 102 years have passed since the day when “the restrainer”– Tsar Martyr Nicholas II – has been taken out of the way, and the “mystery of lawlessness” began to act unhindered (2 Thess. 2:7).
Whereas in past times in preparing for the arrival of antichrist, the “mystery of lawlessness” – the evil power operated clandestinely, subtly. Now, under the guise of the coronavirus epidemic, these anti-Christian powers have begun to act openly, authoritatively and cruelly.
Because of the upsurge of godlessness and all types of lawlessness in the world, the spirit of antichrist is strengthening. His aim is to turn people away from Christ and enslave them. The methods through which his servants are attempting to enchain them is through fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). Fear takes away God’s granted freedom in a person and converts him into a pliant slave. But Christ has liberated us from any fears (Rom. 8:15). Fear of death is not inherent to Christians because Christ trampled down death.
It’s becoming apparent that the current coronavirus crisis has been artificially inflated out of all proportion throughout the world to subjugate people. Antichrist’s servants are attempting to frighten people, utilising deceit and exaggerating its dangers. Throughout the entire world, the media – in one voice – keep harping that it’s absolutely necessary to listen to the authorities who, apparently, are conducting a massive experiment on the control of the populace. The unheard of punitive measures applied to dissidents are not compatible with the real dangers of the virus. This brute force over a person’s free will was only made possible because people have been seriously frightened.
This unprecedented, unceasing, worldwide propaganda is imposing upon us a narrative, which is nothing but lies and trickery with the aim of instilling fear and subjugate.
God created the human free and the devil has no power to submit anyone to his will. The devil achieves control over people with the help of deceit, allurement and temptation. According to the teachings of the Holy Scripture, deception will be the most characteristic element in the last days. “For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mat. 24:24).
The characteristics of antichrist’s reign will be: unbelief, overall corruption of morals, deception, fear and coercion. While the kingdom of antichrist has not yet arrived, but the establishment of a “New World Order” is already occurring: the enforced destruction of the world economy, abolition of elementary rights and freedoms e.g. freedom of assembly or travel. Free countries began to resemble police states. The anti-Christian spirit is starting to manifest itself in the open persecution of religion.
Christ’s Church has been established by God Himself, and therefore serves God only. One of the main obligations of civil authorities is to preserve the Church’s freedom and provide Her the opportunity to serve God as God Himself had decreed. As long as the civil authorities discharge this obligation, Christ’s Church will pray for them and according to its capabilities, abide by their lawful demands. It’s necessary for us to abide by Christ’s words in the Gospel: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God that are God’s” (Mat. 22:21).
However, if the civil authorities begin to impose demands on Christ’s Church that are contrary to the commandments or teachings of Christ, then the Church cannot obey such a demand that is opposing God. According to the well-known words of the confessor and last Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Tikhon: when the demands of loyalty to the civil authorities transcend the boundaries of fidelity to Christ, then the Church cannot obey them. To obey the authorities in that which is contrary to our conscience and God’s commandments – this is Sergianism.
Recently, in the State of Ontario (Canada), the authorities issued a law that forbids Holy Communion; as well, singing in church is banned: the use of Holy water: communal meals etc…
Christ God bid us to partake of His Most Pure Body and Blood for healing the soul and body, and for eternal life. Having Communion of Christ’s Most Pure Body and Blood is the most powerful means against any sicknesses – spiritual or physical. It’s impossible to acquire any sickness through coming into contact with the live Body of God Himself, or to intake Him.
When the civil authorities forbid the Communion of Christ’s Body and Blood – this is totally unacceptable to the Church. But when these authorities forbid not only Holy Communion, but singing in church: the use of Holy water: communal meals etc… then this becomes an open and complete persecution of the Church. We cannot and we must not comply with such directives, aimed against Christ’s Church and contradicting Christ’s commandments.
The true Church of Christ has always been persecuted by the prince of this world. But Christ promised His Church: “Do not fear, little flock…I have overcome the world” (Luke 12:32; John 16:33). By Christ’s words, nobody can serve two masters. While we are faithful to Christ and not act contrary to our fidelity to Him, then He Himself will guard us, no matter what we have to endure in the future.
Today’s temptations are only the beginning, because undoubtedly there will be others, more trying. All of us have to implant in our hearts that we will be faithful to Christ, and follow Him only. All of these events have been foretold by Christ, and He added: “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mat. 10:22).
In November of this year, it will be 100 years since ROCA’s formation. This glorious jubilee reminds us of the great responsibility that lies on our shoulders – to be faithful to that path which our holy hierarchs followed. This path is encompassed in that we should always – under any circumstances – remain faithful to the dogmatic, canonical and moral Truth.
We also have before us the example of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, who boldly withstood the godless, antichrist authorities. Their struggle is especially important to us, because it’s possible that what is facing us is that we will be performing our service under similar conditions.
Through the prayers of the New Martyrs and the Hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad, may the Lord grant us courage and understanding in these difficult times.
“O ye new passion-bearers of Russia, … beseech Christ Who strengthened you that, whenever the hour of trial find us, we also may receive the gift of courage from God. For ye are a model for us who venerate your struggle, for neither tribulation, prison, nor death could separate you from the love of God”.
(Service of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia. Kontakion).
Mitred Protopriest Gregory Kotliarov
Hegumen Ignatiy (Krutkov)
Protopriest Sergiy Klestov
Protopriest Nikita Grigoriev
Protopriest Oleg Gritsenko
Priest John Trepatchko
Priest Dimitry Dobronravov
Priest Chad Arneson
Protodeacon Nicholas Trepatchko
Deacon Timothy Clader
Reader Alexey Klestov