In Light of the Scriptures
A True Document
Why I Left
The Sacred Liturgy
Commemoration of the Living (For Health) Commemoration of the Dead (For Rest in Peace) Various Consecrations
Prayers to the Saints
Reading of the Holy Scriptures Rite of Baptism
Patron Saint Festivals Religiosity and Piety
Titles and Ranks
Objects of the Religious Cult Icons – Sacred Images
Blind Faith and Conviction Temptations and Hesitations Conclusion
I. A True Document
This book is a true document, a personal testimony of a former Orthodox priest who today is a pastor of a church of Evangelical Christian Baptists.
G. Dobrovolskiy, a priest, seriously and of his own free will studied the Gospel by comparing the teachings of Christ with the practice of the Orthodox Church. He saw the flagrant distortion of the Gospel’s teaching that is simple and easily comprehended by anyone regarding the issues of repentance, being born again, and the salvation of sinners. He realized the apostasy of the Orthodox Church and could no longer remain within its confines. Having been born again, he departed Orthodoxy.
With all sincerity and simplicity residing within him, the author offers an analysis of the salient features of the Orthodox catechism, and he examines it in the unblinking light of the Holy Scriptures. Having done this by revelation from on high, the author regards with great sympathy the people who are involved in Orthodoxy. He does not criticize them personally, but he does show the way of salvation according to the Gospel, which is unified and unclouded with man-made church doctrines.
I deeply believe that this book will be a great blessing for every person who ponders the issues seriously and will bring many people to Christ as their personal Savior.
II. Why I Left
This question bothers many of my friends and acquaintances who were used to seeing me as a priest of the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church.
For many people, it was normal to see me as a priest, but now when I ceased being a priest, almost everyone abandoned me in breaking off relations, running away from any meetings with me, and even refusing to answer my letters. They condemn me as a traitor to God and to the Ukraine. Several even posed the question, “Will I be moving to Moscow?”1
I do not view this as a tragedy, though I feel badly for these naïve people, who have a poor opinion about me. They express condolences for me as a “sheep gone astray” who will “someday return to the flock”.
These people simply do not realize what they ought to know. If they only had the correct understanding, instead of condemning me, they would rejoice and follow my example.
I do not intend to condemn them for doing evil. Judgment belongs to God alone. I only take the charge upon myself to assert the fact that they are wrong in their attitudes about spiritual matters. I do this task with a great pain in my heart.
My prayer to God Almighty is that He opens their spiritual eyes and allows them to see His truth as it really is: pure, holy, unchanging, free from human invention and distortions. My prayer is that they would see and know it, and by this to know the True and Living God, Creator of Heaven and Earth and all things visible and invisible. Also that they would know God does not require the ministry of human hands, as if He had any need for it, for He Himself possesses all things and gives us everything necessary for life.
The Lord gave us His truths through His chosen prophets in the Old Testament, and later through His One and Only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and His holy apostles. Today He proclaims it to us through His Holy Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and useful for us to study, so that we might follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul and say, “And we have the mind of Christ.” God desires that we have in our hearts the love of Christ for Him and for our neighbor. He wants a love that is holy, not hypocritical, unbroken, and warmed by the rays of the Sun of truth.
What a blessing it could be for our Ukrainian nation if our leaders would sanctify themselves and possessed these qualities by God’s grace! With these qualities, they would show the people a good example and through them, God would pour out abundant blessings with graceful rain on the whole world.
I have a sincere desire with God’s help in this work to shed light on several questions regarding Orthodox ministry, about which the average layperson has no understanding. The layperson does not know whether one aspect of his worship or another pleases God. Could it be that God turns His face away in order to avoid looking at or listening to that which in reality blasphemes His Name?
1 The Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church split from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1920 when Ukraine attempted to cede from the Russian Empire after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Dobrovolskiy’s comment refers to the accusation that he was returning to the Russian Orthodox Church (which was obviously not the case!). Tensions between the Ukrainian Autonomous and Russian Orthodox Churches remain to this day.
Let not the reader be frightened. It will be better for him if he reads this book to the end with patience and seriousness and prayerfully meditates on what he reads and takes appropriate action.
According to the Holy Scriptures, worship of God must begin with paying attention to God and obeying His teachings. Only after this can one come to worship Him, according to His will.
But in the Orthodox Church, this is far from reality.
In order to shed light on the teachings of the Orthodox Church that conflict with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, we will attempt to examine several aspects of the Orthodox service, of which there are many. The most important of these is the worship service, also called the Liturgy. Its importance exceeds that of others, such as Communion and the Morning Prayers.
These two services combined with some shorter versions are called “Vespers” that are conducted in the evening. We will let them rest for now and will examine in order, starting with the Liturgy, then the Commemoration of the Living, Commemoration of the Dead, Prayers to Saints, Various Purifications, Reading of the Holy Scriptures, Baptisms, and finally some additional rites and traditions.
III. The Sacred Liturgy
The Sacred Liturgy in the Orthodox Church is the most important ministry. Its name is of Greek origin and means “The Administration of Communal Worship to God.” The climactic point of this service is the sacrament of the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, as it is typically named in Protestant churches.
According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the Liturgy was established by the Apostles and passed on by them to the churches, with all of its external rites and majesty, especially in the reverence of the Eucharist, which we can observe today. According to this teaching, Apostle James was the author of the first Liturgy, later to be refined by Basil the Great and later by John the Golden Lips.
Has anyone ever seen the text of the Liturgy from the Apostle James? No one has ever been able to confirm this, even though they taught us that October 23 is the day of commemoration of the Liturgy in the churches in Jerusalem and Cyprus. We will not delve into this issue further, but let us examine other questions connected to the Liturgy.
Let us remember that three different people called James existed in the New Testament: James, son of Zebedee, James, son of Alpheus, and James, the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. A logical question arises: which James wrote the Liturgy? For it is known that during the Last Supper, only the 12 Apostles who walked with Christ constantly were present. Among these 12 were James, son of Zebedee, and James, son of Alpheus. It is difficult to say whether James, the brother of the Lord, was present.
The first 2 James present at the Lord’s Supper were eyewitnesses of all that Jesus did. They had to follow carefully every movement and every word of Jesus. Therefore, we cannot admit that they could either forget so soon or transmit or even write something foreign to the teaching of Jesus.
If we admit that the third James, the Lord’s brother, wrote the Liturgy, then we can admit the probability of 2 events: (1) if he were present at the Lord’s Supper, just as the disciples were, he could not alter by his own whim whatever he would pass on regarding Christ’s commands, and (2) even if he were not present, but learned from other disciples who were past eyewitnesses, then he would have heard nothing apart from that which Christ actually commanded.
As an example of this, we take the Apostle Paul, who at that time was not a follower of Jesus, but, just the opposite, he was His bitter enemy. Later Paul was called by Christ to become His apostle. The Apostle Paul correctly understood what Christ commanded - to conduct the “breaking of bread in His remembrance” – and taught the Corinthian church completely and accurately by exhorting it to obey the truth. (I Cor. 11)
What exactly did Christ command at the Last Supper?
He took the bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and distributed it to His disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is My Body broken for you.” Then He took the cup of wine, also gave thanks for it, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink all of you from it, for this is My Blood of the New Covenant...” as well as “Do these things in remembrance of Me.”
The disciples understood very well Christ’s intention and the meaning of the words spoken to them, and in turn they taught their followers, which is evident from the accounts of the Book of Acts and their epistles. There is no way for us to consider the idea that even one of the apostles, in this case James, could teach and even write something contrary.
The first Christians, namely Christ’s church, followed the teaching and the Covenant of Christ and the apostles by giving thanks and breaking bread, as well as giving thanks and drinking the cup. “One bread, one body!” says the Apostle Paul. The taking of bread and wine in remembrance of the sufferings and crucifixion of Christ was called the Lord’s Supper. As a rule, all members of the Church, with rare exception, took part every time. Each church member was a disciple of Christ in conjunction with the words said to them by the chosen Apostles: “Therefore, go, teach all the peoples...” Other translations render: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (English, Ukrainian, and Polish translations of the New Testament, and others. Matthew 28:19) Therefore, the words of Christ also applied to them: “Do these things in remembrance of Me.”
Did the apostle James or any other apostle at that time actually teach “Transubstantiation”? “Transubstantiation” is the literal transformation of the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ. We will not analyze this issue for now.
The commandment of Christ “Do these things in remembrance of Me”, simple and comprehensible to everyone, has become so confused and complicated by the Orthodox Church by symbols and various ritual that, in the absence of special theological training, would be incomprehensible to anyone. Yet, at the same time, the teachings and exhortations of the Apostle Paul about Communion are so clear that every Christian is able to understand them after reading them for the first time.
In the Orthodox Church, they do not give out the bread to believers separately the bread, “the Body”, and the wine, “the Blood”. Instead, they dip the “Body” into the “Blood”, stir it with a spoon, and put it into the mouths of those participating in Communion.
What is left over and not dispersed is carried over to a table on the side and remains there through the end of the Liturgy. After this, the frequency of which depends on the number of relatives both dead and living in the family that donated the bread, the priest tears off other pieces of bread and proclaims, “Lord have mercy!”
Along with these pieces of bread, the priest takes out a little book, or a list with the names of those being remembered. All the pieces of bread are considered a sacrifice of mercy for the sins of those whose names were read off. All these pieces are put onto a plate and by the administration of the Communion and the Eucharist are dipped into the cup for the washing of “the blood of Christ” from the sins of those who were remembered.
In this act, something is not right, for the wine according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church was “transformed” into “the Blood”, but the pieces of the bread dipped on behalf of the living did not have such “transformation”. The logical conclusion means the pieces of bread, but not the sinners, were washed of their sins by the “Blood”.
In another case, it would be necessary that the pieces of bread would also have to be “transformed” into the bodies of those whose names were being remembered. Then, it would indeed have been the case that “the true Blood of Christ washes the real sinner”, and the proclamation of the priest to “Wash, oh Lord, the sins of those whom we give remembrance” might not be so useless.
Here arises a question: how much does all this correspond to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles?
Was it even possible for the apostle James to bring to the sacrament of Liturgy such recollections, about which he could never have spoken at that time in history?
Here is even this remembrance: “In memory and absolution of the sins of the most holy Orthodox Patriarchs.” But in the time of the Apostle James, they did not even exist!
Secondly, how can we remember “the forgiveness of sins of the most saintly”? We know that saints already enjoy the forgiveness of their sins. Well, that is why they are saints, for their sins are forgiven. But how are we to understand the term “the most saintly of sinners”, of which absolution is lifted up – to forgive their sins?
Is it in any way possible that the apostle James could admit such heresy? No. This is impossible! And serious sincere followers of the Scriptures will never ever believe in this nonsense.
But then, what right do they have to justify that the Apostle James wrote the text of the Liturgy in which there are places that contradict the Word of God? Could it be possible for another apostle to write anything similar? Absolutely not!
Could any one of the 12 apostles bring the rite of conducting the Liturgy with 5 loaves of bread rather than 1?
It is interesting that not every Orthodox Church uses 5 loaves of bread for the Liturgy. For example, the Greeks use only 1 loaf.
It is also interesting that to partake of “the Body and the Blood”, that is to “take Communion”, can occur only with the act of “Confession”, that means “Repentance”. And even between “Confession” and “Repentance”, there is a major difference. No matter, we will use this term, according to the tradition of the Orthodox Church.
So in order to have the right to “take the Body and Blood of Christ”, that is “to take Communion”, one needs from the beginning to fulfill the required “Confession”.
One can do this before the Liturgy or before the “Communion” itself, or even the night before. Without this “confession”, the attendee cannot “take Communion”. But even “confession” without “communion” is also not completed. It is all the same as if he had never made confession.
Is such “confession” possible for every person every time when the Liturgy is held? If one counts the average church attendance is, say, 200 people, then such a possibility is excluded. To carry out “confession” with such a large number of people, it would demand a lot of time. Not only would the priest refuse to do it, but neither would the attendees spend so much time every Saturday and Sunday in order to wait their turn to “confess”. Therefore, those who did not participate in “confession” could not partake of “Communion” – that is, they could not partake of the Lord’s Supper.
At this point, the priest only formally cries out, “With the fear of God and faith, come forward!” Otherwise, no one would ever come forward.
It is true on occasion that someone considered it necessary to “confess” at some point during the year. But usually, no partaker of “Communion” is ever there, and the priest himself eats the whole “Body” and drinks all the “Blood of Christ”. After this, without any justification, he also sounds out these prayers: “We saw the true Light”, “Let our lips be full”, and also the Ektenia:1 “We arise straight up, having partaken...” However, during that time, no one else partook of anything!
It comes out that the choir, or the attendees, when they sing songs of thanksgiving for the “Communion” – they speak a lie, and in truth by doing this, they commit sin. They sing only because it is a form, even though that it is dead in this situation. This does not
1 “Ektenia” is a prayerful petition of the Orthodox church, often done in form of a dialog between a church official and the choir. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ektenia)
concern them. They do not realize this. The only thing they consider important is to sing.
Thus concludes the Liturgy, in which the attendees participate as mute spectators, but not actual participants. And the attendees depart just as they arrived beforehand, spiritually empty. They are unable to receive neither something useful nor encouragement from such a particularly formal and dogmatic “worship service”. Not even a piece of bread, which the priest partakes for the Liturgy. Their entire participation consisted of “what they saw and understood”, what and why it is done. Also in that, they placed candles before the icons and kissed the cross at the exit of the church.
IV. Commemoration of the Living (For Health)
The preparation for the ministry of the Liturgy is called the “Proskomidia.”2 The church officials prepare the “Prosphora”3 which along with the little books of remembrance were donated by those to attend the service. The officiating priest tears off pieces of bread for each of the names written in the little books.
The names of all relatives distant and near are written in the books of remembrance. Petitions for the living (health) and the dead (eternal rest in peace) are kept in separate lists.
For each name in the book, a piece of bread is taken out from the “Prosphora” and placed on the plate with the proclamation “Lord have mercy.”
This ceremony is called the “sacrifices” of mercy. The purpose is that the Lord would have mercy on those whose names are read aloud and on whose behalf the pieces of bread are torn off by absolving them of their sins washed in His Blood.
These same names are read through once again on the so-called “Specific Litany”. It is called this because during every time of absolution as proclaimed by the priest, the choir answers three times, “God have mercy.”
But we already know that during the laying of the Lamb on the plate and before it is cut up into pieces before the cross, these words are pronounced: “The Lamb of God is brought for sacrifice, Who takes away the sins of the world for life and salvation.”
This means that this Lamb took the sins of the entire world. It is true that Christ did not forget about those whose names the priest read from the little book and for whom he tore up the pieces of bread as a sacrifice. How much this conflicts with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures is obvious in and of itself.
It is difficult for us to establish what use this brings to those for the salvation of those commemorated, but without doubt it is useful to those who commemorate the names, for with every little book they receive a monetary donation. The greater the little books, the bigger the donations they receive; for this reason often the size of the donation is predetermined.
2 “Proskomidia” is what the Roman Catholic Church would call the “Offertory”, a set of preparations made before holding Communion. “During this Office following the Sacred Tradition from the Mystical Lord's Supper, Bread and Wine is prepared for the Divine Liturgy and Prayers are offered up for the intentions and commemorations of the faithful, living and reposed, glorified and yet-to-be-glorified.” (http://www.saintelias.com/ca/liturgy/proskomidia.php)
3 “Prosphora” refers to the loaves of bread (5 in most Orthodox Churches) to be offered up for Communion. (http://www.saintelias.com/ca/liturgy/proskomidia.php)
In this sense, all prayers and commemorations are purchased, similar to indulgences.
Therefore, the Orthodox believer truly can have pretense both to the priest and to God, for he paid in cash. He gave the “Prosphora”, he paid up, his name is read out, his piece of bread was torn off, they prayed, then they dipped it in the “Blood of Christ”, in order to wash away his sins; and everything will be all right – that is how Orthodox believers typically think.
But if he did not even go to confession and partake of Communion, then what else can one demand from the attendee? He fulfilled everything that he was supposed to do, and now he can go and peacefully commit sin once again, in order for there to be a reason to come back another time.
And before death, he calls the priest, who will perform for him confession and Communion, and then he is ready to go to Heaven.
But in order to be more certain in his hope, then there are also various wakes, services for the dead, and “parastasi”4, which will help him someday to “rest in peace where all the righteous dead sleep”.
V. Commemoration of the Dead (For Rest in Peace)
Just like for the health of the living, pieces of bread from the “prosphora” are torn up during the time of “Proskomidia” in the same way on behalf of the dead for them to rest in peace. The only difference is that the dead have additional “memorials” carried out during the time of the Great Fast before Easter.
According to the tradition of the Orthodox Church, such memorials take place every Saturday during the feast, hence the name “Memorial Saturdays”. During this time, all Orthodox believers attempt to fulfill this duty.
Now these memorials have taken on a somewhat different form. But if we return to the time before the Russian Revolution, we will see a very interesting phenomenon.
For such memorials, they needed to have “prosphora”, a little memorial book, and also a defined amount of money and other loaves of bread. These other loaves of bread were usually white, weighed several kilograms, usually about 3. To this they added a head of sugar usually weighing several pounds or else a jar of honey.
If the village had several hundred or even a thousand farms, and each family brought 3 loaves of bread and sugar or a jar of honey for each person, then one can imagine how much food was gathered during the course of Easter. Add to this money.
All these things were split up among the Church clergy, consisting of the Priest who took two-thirds and the Deacon who took one-third. That is, if there were a Deacon, they would set aside a share for him. For that reason, the incumbent Priests often did not want to have a Deacon, so that they could keep the spoils to themselves.
What would they do with such a large quantity of bread and sugar?
They fed the bread to their cattle, pigs, and domestic birds during a time when many of the donors did not have enough food to feed their own families.
But how could this situation have existed in the first place? This indeed was the way things were at that time. Otherwise, there would have been no memorial service on behalf of the dead. Whoever wanted to have his departed relatives rest in the Kingdom of Heaven had to pay with money and nature.
4 “Parastas” refers to another form of Orthodox funeral rite.
Interesting, so how did they carry out these “sacrifices” for the peaceful rest of the spiritual slaves of God?
Consistent with the book of prayer, on the “Proskomidia”, they also ripped off the pieces of bread with each name and the words “Lord have mercy.” If, taken from our previous example, there could be 1,000 families, dividing that by 5 Saturdays during the fast before Easter would yield 200 families to be remembered on each Saturday. Assume in each memorial book there are 30 names on average. Therefore, the priest would have to call out around 6,000 names with the words “Lord have mercy” and tear up just as many pieces of bread.
Such a procedure could take up several hours. But, surprisingly, priests could complete this procedure together with the goal of fulfilling the “Proskomidia” in under 30 minutes. How did they do it?
I asked several old priests. They explained to me that they never ever did it, as it was written in the official book, for it was impossible to fulfill. They divided the names to be commemorated into two and sometimes four parts.
If he were to perform the ministry by himself, he divided it into two parts. From one part he read off the names, if there were not too many, and then tore off the pieces of bread and pronounced these words: “Lord have mercy on those whose names are written in the book, the names whom You, Lord, know.” And then he read straight through the names and put them to the side. He read off the second group of those to be commemorated during the Litany for the Dead, and everything was fine. If they only had a deacon, then it would be even better, for they would have read only one-quarter of the names. This is how the priests simplified their work with these commemorations on which naïve people placed a lot of hope.
Did they know about this? Of course not!
For if they knew, then they probably would not have been silent about it. If the village knew about this, then they probably would have gone to the bishop with a complaint about the priest.
But the bishop probably also knew about it, for he also did the same thing.
Such commemorations were mandatory during the Fast, but during the year, except this, they were done for those that were considered necessary in order to help relatives enter Heaven. In this situation, more loaves of bread were not obligatory, but all the same they brought them in order for the requiem to be “more effective”.
There are various kinds of requiems.
For those who died recently, they hold them on the day of the burial, the sixth day afterwards, the fortieth day, half year, and beyond depending on the wish of the surviving family members.
This was all done with the hope that such a method would obtain by prayer the forgiveness of sins for the dead person and he will settle in the place “where all the righteous ones sleep”.
Here it is critical to pay attention to one important detail.
It can happen that before the death of one or another “servant of God”, they call in the priest, and the dying person manages to “confess” and partake of “Communion”, that is “to unite with Christ”.
In such a manner, when a person united with Christ, and Christ forgave him of his sins, and logically he transferred to “eternal life”, then, it seems, everything should be in order, and with a sincere heart we can wish everyone such a blessed ending to life.
But in Orthodoxy, this is way off the mark.
Officially it is said and written that such a “servant of God” united with Christ, but in reality they do not believe this position, for during the funeral they do not thank God for forgiving the sins of the dying one during his confession nor that He accepted the one who died and partook of His Body and Blood into God’s eternal presence. Instead, they ask for “the forgiveness of his voluntary and involuntary sins”. And this goes on without end.
Such behavior turns out to be either a lack of trust in Christ or else false teaching – more exactly, both.
Over the grave it is said that such and such a person departed to the Lord, but in reality it comes out that this is a lie, for even now after this they lift up prayers for the forgiveness of his sins, and the surviving family members of the dead person, as far as possible, will hire the priest to perform the requiem for the rest of their lives, that is, that he would petition the Lord for the same forgiveness of sins and rest with the other righteous ones.
We recall the truth which Christ said in the parable of the rich noble and Lazarus. He clearly taught that there is no transfer whatsoever from Heaven to Hell, or vice versa.
Let us assume (though this contradicts the teaching of Christ) that some possibility to transfer existed, if they will pay well and pray fervently for the departed person. But then what will come of those for whom no one will pay nor pray?
But this is only when the dying one had no possibility to call the priest for confession and Communion. But if he fulfilled everything with a sincere heart, then why would he not simply trust Christ?
From another side, there are some situations when the dying person does not want to hear about repentance and forgiveness, for he neither believes in it nor wants to hear about God. But just after he closes his eyes and dies, the family hires a priest and he fulfills for them the funeral rite, consistent with the Orthodox rite book, to send off the departed one in the usual way: “Give him rest, Lord, the sleeping spirit as Your servant”. “With holy rest....” He also asks “to allow him to rest with all the righteous ones” and also “to create for him an eternal memory.”
Can one allow for any greater humiliation of God than this? Is this not witchcraft? And yet this happens so often!
The question itself thrusts itself before us: does this façade not reveal itself as simply comedy, bringing to itself terrible consequences? Deceived millions of sinners leave this life in the hope that someone will petition for the forgiveness of their sins. Neither they themselves nor the ones who “petition” on their behalf know the Truth revealed to them by the Holy Scripture: “Forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, and they are cut off from your hand.” (Ps. 88:5) About them the Lord remembers only when the trumpet of the Archangel will sound, and they will arise in order to stand at the Last Day of God’s Judgment, and then they are already cut off from His hand and He will not remember them. And if anyone tries to remind God about them, then He will not listen and will turn His face away from such prayers.
About this Truth every person should know, whoever takes up courage to name himself a “Christian”.
VI. Various Consecrations
The Orthodox Christian, consistent with the teaching of his church, believes that he should consecrate everything. Therefore he consecrates his home during its construction, consecrates it upon completion, consecrates the water in order to consecrate everything else with it; he consecrates the Easter food (Easter cake, eggs, Easter cheese), consecrates the food in the church before Christmas, the house, the yard, he consecrates the agricultural constructions, the fruits for the holiday of the Transfiguration of the Lord, consecrates herbs and poppies for the memorial day of the Maccabee brothers, as if the name “Maccabee” derived from the word “poppy”.
They do not know that “Maccabee” in Russian means “hammers”. They do not know that it was not seven brothers with their mother who were called “Maccabee” who were tortured for faith in the One God, but entirely different people. There were only five brothers, of whom only one named Judas was called “Maccabee”.
Very possible that all these types of consecrations could have been of use to God, if they did not depart from the limits set by the Holy Scriptures and if only many of these consecrated things were not made into idols, that in the eyes of God is an abomination.
For example, this is how superstition sunk its roots into holy water which is purported to scare away the Devil. Sprinkle the water, and he runs away... Burn some incense and the unclean spirit will disappear; burn a consecrated candle and some incense, and the storm will stop immediately.
It is very interesting to see the consecration of a peasant’s hut after the holidays of Baptisms. This is called “walking around and sprinkling holy water”.
The priest and the deacon walk around the village from hut to hut and with the troparion1 of “When you were in the Jordan River, You, Lord, were baptized...”, they sprinkle the hut with holy water in order to drive away the evil spirit. Often the owners would ask them to sprinkle holy water in the storeroom so that no unclean spirit could live within the grain located there.
Sometimes they would sprinkle holy water on the whole yard in search of an unclean spirit, totally unsuspecting that the evil spirit sits not in the corners of homes but within the heart of the owner and quietly laughs. No one ever bothers him there.
How sad that the priest does not know this simple truth! If he were to know it, then he would not bother sprinkling drops of holy water in the hut, but rather he would search for a way to purify the hearts of the owners and to free them from the power of Satan. From experience I know that the priest does not think of this. He thinks about how much the owners will pay him for sprinkling their home with holy water.
I remember well that after the priest traveled with holy water around the village, the wagon came to collect wheat, eggs, chicken, flax, and everything, including money, that the owners would give for the holy water.
Here arises a question: of what use for people was the sprinkling of holy water? With certainty, one can say that for the priest, its usefulness was great. Except that Orthodox believers consecrate everything, ascribing to it magical power, they do not reject pagan superstitions and in fact all the more reinforced them with their religious rites. They say
1 “Troparion” refers to a short hymn of one or more stanzas often chanted and signifying the theme of the particular day in Orthodox liturgy. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troparion)
that without such things, Orthodoxy would not be Orthodoxy. Such things are asserted not only by simple, ignorant laypeople, but even intelligentsia and clergy. What an unsurprising, but unfortunately, sad and outrageous fact!
VII. Prayers to the Saints
The Orthodox Church does not satisfy itself only with worship service and prayers to God, for it does not believe that God listens to these prayers and therefore searches other ways to bring its prayers to God’s attention. For this purpose, it found many “Mediators” and “Defenders” and “Intercessors” before the mercy of God, these very entities begging for His mercy.
This reveals itself as an act of lack of trust in God’s love, thanks to which He hears the prayer of the sinner with He Himself giving him forgiveness of sins to the repentant one and washing him with Christ’s blood.
The truth written in the Holy Scriptures states: “But God demonstrates His own love for us that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.” (Rom. 5:8) “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10) “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father: Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
About this not only do the Apostles speak, but also Christ Himself, who calls: “Come to me, all you are laboring and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28) “But you do not want to come to me in order to have life.” (John 5:10)
“Whoever comes to me, I will not drive away.” (John 6:37) “Here I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20)
These calls of Christ to come to Him personally and without mediation are incomprehensible to the Orthodox believer. They are not really that difficult or complicated, are they? Why do they offend God? Why do they show such lack of faith to Christ, Who Himself seeks those who need His help? Why do they seek “intercessors” in front of Christ? Why do they think and teach others that Christ is overly harsh, or inaccessible, or unloving and unwilling to listen to us, when we sincerely and humbly address ourselves to Him? Why do they teach that we need someone to pray on our behalf? What do we do then with the love and mercy of God, if He became inaccessible to us simple people?
It is true that God appreciates it when someone close prays for us, but only if this comes from someone who is alive, not someone who is dead.
If we still think that we are communicating with the saints, and the saints are not dead in the eyes of God, therefore after physical death they are alive in Christ in God’s sight, how then can we still ascribe to the dead saints a God’s attribute of being able to hear all things in order that they would listen to us? God will hear our prayers even more quickly than could ever the saints, for they are merely His creation. These saints do not have God’s miraculous god-like quality of omnipresence, perfect and all-present vision and hearing, for they are not “Gods”. They do not have attributes equivalent to God, and
therefore, to give them these attributes that only belong to God – this is pagan witchcraft of the highest degree!
Truly what the Apostle John teaches suffices for us, does it not? “I fell at his feet in order to worship him (the angel), but he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant to you and to your brothers who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God alone!” (Rev. 22:8-9)
What does God Himself say about worship? “I will not give my glory to another.” (Is. 48:11) And in another place He says, “I am the Lord, this is My Name, and I will not give My glory to another nor My praises to idols.” (Is. 42:8)
The Lord always called and now still does call us, “Come to Me!”... TO ME!
From the Scriptures we know what Christ Himself said: He came to call to repentance not the righteous, but sinners. He came to seek the perishing, that is, sinners. We know that He forgave the repentant prostitute, the thief on the cross, Zaccheus, Matthew, and many other sinners. He never denied nor turned anyone away. He never sent some away to somebody else that they could receive forgiveness from another. He did everything and now still works: “For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)
If anyone teaches otherwise, as the Scriptures say, then he teaches a lie.
Such prayers for intercession have no meaning for people. Before God, these prayers are an insult. If we pay attention to the methods of these prayers, then we are forced to be stunned at how such things could ever have been allowed in the first place.
Let us take any prayer to a saint. It begins with common prayers to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, the Heavenly Father, and then in singing a “troparion”, that is, a hymn of praise to a saint, and finishes with a doxology to God and a benediction proclaimed not from God, but in the name of the saint.
Therefore it begs the question once again: to whom specifically does this prayer bring worship? Is it to God, or to a saint, or to both simultaneously? More likely, it will turn out to be, if we have to say, “NO ONE!” For the saint not possessing the ability to hear all things will not hear the prayer, and God does not listen, for such prayers do not please him.
There is absolutely no way to justify such prayers. In the Scriptures there is not even the slightest hint that we should seek “mediators” or “intercessors” before God, except for Jesus Christ, “for there is no name below Heaven, given to people, by whom we can be saved.” (Acts 4:12) So says the Apostle Peter about Christ.
How can this not be authoritative? Why do they refuse to trust God, Who by the Holy Spirit taught us His teaching and wrote them down with the Apostles in His Book called the Bible?
Let it be that whoever will read these verses will seriously ponder them and may the Lord help him who seeks God’s truth to find it, and that God will open his spiritual eyes to be able to perceive spiritual truths, and his heart to accept it in love and thanksgiving to the Lord.
About this topic I could have written so much more and bring out many more supporting verses from the Holy Scriptures. However, we will restrict ourselves to those which were posted above, for it was said beforehand in hope that he who THIRSTS will understand God’s Truth.
“This is a true and worthy saying: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst,” said Apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy. And every person could repeat these words, whoever thirsts for salvation. Jesus Christ saves. Therefore, hurry up and come, only to Christ and only to Him!
VIII. Reading of the Holy Scriptures
Sending His disciples off to preach, Jesus Christ said, “Therefore, go and teach all peoples...” (Mt. 28:19)
Mark the Evangelist wrote, “Go out unto the whole world and preach the Gospel to all creation.” (Mk. 16:15) And so, the apostles had to go throughout the world and teach to all peoples the Gospel, that is, the Good News about the Kingdom of Heaven.
They carried this out sincerely and faithfully, which we learn from the Book of Acts and the Epistles to the Churches.
Christ’s teaching was and still is completely obligatory for every member of His Church. Every member of the Church must know the Scriptures in which the teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles are written.
The member of the Church must know not only about this teaching, but also must constantly read this teaching itself, so that he does not forget and that he can constantly increase his knowledge and understanding of the Scripture as well as grow in the knowledge of the wisdom of God, for the teaching of the Holy Scriptures are fulfilled in the wisdom of God.
The member of the Church must have the courage following the steps of Apostle Paul to say, “And we have the mind of Christ... and we preach the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor, 2:16, 7)
What does this practice look like in the Orthodox Church? Can we say that its members are such disciples of Christ that they should be? Do they learn that which Christ commanded, consistent with that written by the Apostle Matthew? (Mt. 28:20) Do they preserve His words just as He taught? Can they answer these questions if they accept the conditions that Christ Himself commanded: “But everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”? (Jn. 13:35) Also, “you will know them by their fruits.” (Mt. 7:20)
Do we need more conditions in order to know how much the members of the Orthodox Church remain disciples of Christ, and how much these who brag about their direct succession from Christ and the Apostles could be accepted by them in light of the proofs of the Gospel?
We could have written a lot about how they make the disciples of the Orthodox Church into Christ’s disciples, how much knowledge they have of the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, if only it were not so clearly visible from their lives and behaviors.
We know that the members of the Orthodox Church, those that are not part of the clergy, used to be forbidden from reading the Holy Scriptures on the pretense that they would avoid falling into “heresy” from the incorrect understanding of some truth or another. But Christ said, “You are lost for you do not know the Scriptures.” The reading of the Scriptures was restricted, and is still restricted, to the reading of specific passages during the worship service in the Church. There are 11 such readings. To these are added readings on the theme of various holidays.
These readings are chosen from the Gospels and Epistles of the Apostles and mostly from the epistles of the Apostle Paul. It is very rare to hear readings from Peter or John, and other epistles are never read, as if they never existed.
It is interesting to recollect that the Acts of the Apostles are read at the shroud of Christ, which symbolizes the laying of Christ’s body into the grave. These are read all evening. A logical question arises: for whom are the Acts of the Apostles read? Typically, at night no one comes to Church.
Finally, what relationship do the events written in Acts have with the moment when Christ’s body was buried and kept three days in the grave?
For the Easter services, chapters from the Book of Acts are also read from the first day of Easter until the Day of Pentecost. After this, the reading of Acts is finished, despite the fact that in actuality, all the events written down in Acts took place after the Day of Pentecost.
It is interesting to recall one other event from the reading of the parts of the Holy Scriptures, mainly the Psalms. It is true that several Psalms are read during various services: “Hours”, “Sixth Psalm”, and others. But these are only selected psalms, and always the same. The other psalms remain unknown to church members. However, when someone dies, they call in someone to read the entire Book of Psalms on behalf of the dead person all night.
What use does the dead person have for the Book of Psalms?
In the former times in Ukraine, there were special readings for this purpose. Of what use were these readings for the dead person? NONE AT ALL.
It is more difficult to answer the question: why did they not read them when the person was still alive, so he could learn truth and wisdom that are described in the Psalms? Then they could have served him of great use for salvation and eternal life.
But how well is the folk proverb justified: “This will help, just like incense helps a dead person.”
Can a priest in the Orthodox Church say in a loud voice to all his parishioners, “Read the Holy Scriptures and learn from them, for in them there is eternal life, as Christ said”?
Someone now will say not very courageously that nothing of the sort ever took place in the past. Therefore, even though someone says it, but no one would ever take it seriously. And how can they accept some innovation, when their ancestors have taught them that they are the best Christians and the most faithful followers of the Apostles and Christ? They teach them that they are “the most righteous, “the most godly and Christ- loving”!
I remember very well how a rumor went among the people that whoever reads the Bible will lose his mind. Whoever put out this rumor among the people, it is not difficult to guess, but it is difficult to understand, why it was not negated by those who had an obligation to do so?
Now they say that to read the Holy Scriptures and to teach it is a religious right and matter for the clergy, not for the laypeople. The priests must read and teach in sermons, but it is not worth it for laypeople to read, for they could not understand it. Therefore, so the logic goes, it is better for them not to read the Scriptures at all.
In current times with regard to this question, it is no better. Therefore it is not surprising that because they do not read the Scriptures nor know the Truth, people do not know that about God which they ought to know.
Ignorant of who God really is, how can people be true Christians and members of the Church of Christ? They hardly know anything about Christ, but they do not know Christ Himself. They do not obey His teachings, therefore they are not disciples of Christ. To the extent they are not His disciples, they do not belong to Christ at all. Therefore, they have no right to be called “Christians”. And it is not surprising at all that such people do not know about the precious gift which is given to us by Christ through His sacrifice on Calvary. They know neither about the gift of redemption by Christ’s blood nor about salvation for eternal life. Therefore, if you ask the first Orthodox you meet about salvation for eternal life, then as a rule, he will answer, “And how can I know about it? Only God knows whether I have salvation or not. It will be made clear on the Day of Judgment.”
But then why do their clergy teach, “Pray and do good works, and the Lord might have mercy on you”?
It turns out that the Orthodox Christian lives his whole life in utter uncertainty and blindness about his future, that is, where he will be spending eternity – with God or with the Evil One? What utter blindness, despite the whole mass of various “mediators and intercessors” before God, before whom he offered up prayers and petitions for mediation! It turns out that all these mediators and intercessors are just one big deception of the Evil One in order to obfuscate the sole way to Salvation through Christ as written in the Scriptures.
IX. The Rite of Baptism
Having sent His disciples off to preach after His resurrection, Christ said, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the Gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; and whoever does not believe will be condemned...” (Mk. 16:15-6)
It is very important to pay attention to the order of the actions that Christ Himself instituted: first – BELIEF, second – BAPTISM.
The Acts of the Apostles also relate an interesting event which teaches us in what order the actions follow when someone puts his faith in the Lord. The Apostle Peter answered such people who heard his sermon and asked him, “What should we do, brothers?” “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-8)
And so first, repentance must come first, then belief and faith in God’s Truth, which must have been taught to the peoples per the commandment of Christ.
Apostle Matthew wrote about this theme: “So go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I commanded you...” (Mt. 28:19-20)
If you compare both versions (Matthew and Mark), a surface glance suggests that a difference exists between them, but if we look at the essence, then we will see that they say the same thing. They tell us about that which Christ entrusted to His disciples to go to people to preach and teach them in order to bring them to an awareness of their sinfulness, call within them a desire to repent, bring them to repentance and faith in the forgiveness of sins, and the acceptance of salvation for eternal life. The confirmation of this is fulfilled in the sacrament of BAPTISM.
Baptism is performed only according to faith, and faith comes from hearing the Word of God, as Apostle Paul explains in Romans 10:7.
Who can listen and learn, understand and repent, and after all that to be baptized? ONLY HE WHO HAS FULL CONSCIOUSNESS! Without full consciousness of his sinful state, he is unable to fulfill any of this! A baby is unable to fulfill any of this, if he does not already have full awareness of his sinful state and need for salvation.
In hearing the Word, repentance, and baptism, a person must take full responsibility himself. NO ONE ELSE can replace him in this matter! No one else is able to repent for my sins before the Lord, if I myself do not repent. Also no one else can give the Lord on my behalf the promise of a good conscience that is fulfilled during baptism, consistent with the teaching of the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:21.
In the Holy Scriptures, we find more than 50 references teaching us how we should understand the sacrament of baptism before its application. In the Acts of the Apostles are written several examples of baptism of masses as well as individuals, but nowhere does it show that babies were baptized.
Was there some rite even in the least extent similar to the rite of baptism in the Orthodox Church? We find nothing obvious in the Scriptures.
When we carefully and honestly examine the rite of baptism in the Orthodox Church according to its prayer book, we are more than a little surprised by what we find in it. What we find has absolutely no support in the Scriptures.
With God’s help, we will attempt to examine the rite of baptism in the Orthodox Church by parts and as a whole in the official prayer book written by Metropolitan Peter Mogila.
We all know that the Orthodox Church practices the baptism of children, in the overwhelming majority of cases, infants nurtured at the breast.
In view of the fact that infants do not have full consciousness and are unable to speak, they need to have the so-called “godparents” or “interpreters”, who also carry the names “kuma and kum”. Their function is to answer all the questions given by the priest according to the prayer book and also to give a vow on behalf of the infant about to be baptized who is unable to do it himself.
And so, the godparents bring the infant to the ceremony of baptism.
The birth parents do not have to be present until the so-called “conclusion”, corresponding to the Israelite rite of circumcision in the Old Testament.
The priest meets the godparents with the infant and reads the first prayer of blessing, and then the second and third prayers of prohibition.
Anyone who has never read these prayers of prohibition himself will not understand what they are talking about and for whom they are intended. But I will tell you in brief that these prayers are addressed to the Devil: “Be afraid, run, and get out of this creation, and never return, you who are hiding down there...” etc.
They are written in the forms of prayer, just like the prayers to the saints, only with the difference that these prayers are addressed to the Devil and curse him in the name of the Lord, and they conclude in proclamations similar to common prayers.
Then two more prayers are read aloud, but these are already directed to the Lord, in which they plead with the Lord that He expelled and forbade the unclean spirits from approaching the baptized infant.
In the fourth prayer there is this proclamation: “Expel from him every devilish and unclean spirit hidden and raging within his heart.” During this time, the priest blows on the lips, forehead, and breast of the infant.
At the end of the prayer, the priest turns the baptized one’s face to the West, lifts his arms upward, and asks him this question, “Do you reject Satan and all his deeds and all his angels and all his ministries and all his pride?”
The infant, naturally, is silent, for he understands nothing. On his behalf, the godfather answers, “I reject.” This event repeats three times.
Then the next question follows: “Do you reject Satan?” “I reject him,” answers the godfather. That happens thrice. After this, the priest says, “Blow and spit on him.” The godfather blows and spits as if it were on Satan. After this, the same question comes: “Do you avow loyalty to Christ?” “I vow loyalty to Christ,” says the godfather. And this repeats three times. Again the question comes: “Do you believe in Him?” Answer: “I believe in Him the King and God.” In confirmation of this the priest pronounces the “Symbol of Faith”1 and the godfather repeats after him.
But this is still not the end.
After this confession through the Symbol of Faith, the question about this vow repeats and the answer of the godfather follows with the repetition of the Symbol of Faith. This takes place three times.
1 “Symbol of Faith” refers to the Nicene Creed (“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty...”). (www.mb-soft.com/believe/txh/nicene.htm)
Then they propose that the baptized infant worship Christ that, of course, the infant is in no condition to do.
After this, the priest still reads a prayer to the Lord that He makes the infant into the likeness of the great grace of the sacrament for union with Christ and would fulfill it through the Holy Spirit.
This is only the preparation for baptism, and as we see, very complex.
How many questions about rejection and how many answers, as if one question and answer were not enough! How many confirmations via the Symbol of Faith, as if one were little and nothing were credible after one declaration!
However there is one interesting moment that is worth heeding, namely this: the baptized infant must deny Satan and all his deeds, servants, ministries, and pride. However, in the view that the infant is unable to understand this, logically only the godfather can do it. But even if he rejects Satan with his tongue, does he actually reject Satan in reality? That is a big question.
Does it not occur that the one taking upon himself the courage to answer on behalf of the infant in reality himself act as a servant of Satan, doing his deeds, and showing his pride? Does it say anything about rejection consciously and fully? Can we with certainty say that there is no full consciousness in the infant, for if he were to have it, then he would never be able to make this sort of decision?
From practice we know and can affirm that almost all godparents do not have any understanding about the essence of the ceremony of baptism, do not understand what they are being asked, and do not even concern themselves with how they answer. They do not understand what sin they take upon their own soul even if such baptism were acceptable to God.
How often those who stand near the baptismal do not believe in the ceremony themselves. They answer everything mechanically just as the priest tells them to do.
Some time ago they more or less knew the Symbol of Faith by memory, though they did not understand its meaning, but that was a long time ago. It is difficult today to find someone who even has memorized the Symbol of Faith.
When the birth parents of the infant invite someone to become his godparent, they have no intention whether or not that person knows the Symbol of Faith. They do not even realize that it will be necessary. Usually, they do not talk about it. The priest himself reads it aloud, and directs the godfather to repeat after him. He repeats it to the extent that he manages to catch some word uttered by the priest.
And this is considered true confession of faith! Is this not just plain comedy?
And so, we only told about a part of the preparation for baptism. We have other ceremonial rites to undergo before reaching the baptism itself.
Then begins the consecration of the water. This ceremony begins with prayers called the Ektenya. They are mentioned in “Peace in the whole world”, “This holy church”, “The holiest Ruling Synod”, “The most righteous government”, and finally, the petition for the consecration of the water, as if without these other petitions, the water would never be made holy.
Such a procedure is typical of any version of consecration.
For the water they ask of the Lord the grace of the Holy Spirit and His strength that the water is enabled to cleanse from all sins, consecrate thoughts, and drive out all kinds of visible and invisible enemies. Later on, they pray prayers for the baptized infant and
also that the water became the font of revival. (“Let everything that the Church knows and preserves about the knowledge of baptism be given, accepted, and applied in this particular baptism rite in this specific person.”)
This Ektenia concludes with a quiet prayer by the priest. He asks on his own behalf the right to complete the rite of baptism, and also about the representation of the likeness of Christ in that which he wants to regenerate using his unworthy servant (the priest).
We highlighted this petition in order to make a point: through whom must the baptized infant be reborn? We will not document how this so rudely contradicts the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, for we hope that everyone acquainted with the teaching of the Scriptures will figure out for himself how much a lie this is.
The priest recites the mentioned prayer on high about himself silently, and then he reads another prayer aloud. That this has important meaning to the consecration of the water, we will permit ourselves to cite a few passages.
In this prayer, we find the following phrases: “...come and now bless this water with your Holy Spirit...”
“And give it the grace of deliverance, blessing of the Jordan; may it create a source of purification, consecration of gifts, absolution of sins, healing of maladies, exorcism of demons, defense against evil powers, an angelic fortress, let those that hate Your creation run away, for Your Name is holy, divine, and praiseworthy, and terrible to contend with...”
Then the priest puts his fingers in the water and makes the sign of the cross three times, saying each time: “May all opposing powers be driven out under the sign of the cross.” “We beg you, O Lord, that all airy and invisible spirits stay away from us, and that the dark demon does not abide in this water, let it chase out anything living inside the baptized child, including evil spirits, dark thoughts, and vengeful ideas, but You Almighty of all, show this water to be a water of salvation, cleansing of flesh and spirit, removal of the past sinful state, consecration of the soul, a bath of purification, renewal of the spirit, gift of adoption, clothing not of decay, source of life...etc.”
We purposely underlined all of the most salient magic properties of the water sanctified by this method.
Is it not true how easy it is, according to this ceremony, for a person to receive all that is necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
He washed himself, or sprinkled himself in holy water, or at least drank up this holy water, and now he is ready for Heaven.
No work, no struggle – everything is easy and cheap.
They make this water even stronger in the act of purification, for they purify it with holy oil even three times.
During the purification of oil, they grant to it the same magical powers that they do to water.
During the purification of oil and water, the priest rubs the baptized child in oil: “Let the servant of God (fill in his name) be dipped in the oil of joy in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
He does it on the forehead. Then he rubs the chest and states: “For the healing of soul and body”, ears: “To listen in faith”, arms: “Your hands formed me and created me”, legs: “In this you will lead on the pillars of Your commands.”
After all this, the baptism finally occurs in the water with the words, “Let God’s servant (name of baptized) be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
This repeats three times: the first time – in the name of the Father, the second time – in the name of the Son, and the third time – in the name of the Holy Spirit. Each time is done as a legal act, after which they say, “Amen”, that is, “So let it be in truth.”
How much of this agrees with the Scriptures, we will see. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, verses 19-20, we read: “And so go, teach all peoples by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
And so we see that Christ did not separate the Holy Trinity, and commanded them to do the same. Not once or twice, but for always did Christ order to preserve His words, teaching, and commands. This must be important and authoritative for followers of Christ during that time and for all generations.
If anyone does not follow these commandments, he neither preserves them nor can assert that he is a disciple and follower of Christ. Therefore, this is falsehood and deception, blinding many people who follow such “teachings”, when they themselves do not hold to words and teachings of Christ.
After the threefold dipping into the water, as the important act of baptism, the priest clothes the baptized infant and states: “(Name of infant) servant of God clothes himself in the garment of truth, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” After this, he reads a prayer about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. At the end of this prayer, he anoints the baptized infant with “holy chrism”: forehead, eyes, nose, lips, ears, chest, arms, and legs. He utters after each anointing: “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” Those in attendance sing: “Be baptized in Christ, in Christ be blessed, Hallelujah.”
And so according to Orthodox teaching, one can give the Holy Spirit to a person in a material way. Therefore, only in the specific moment can one purify the “chrism”, to which is transferred the power and properties of the Holy Spirit. Only senior church clergy can perform this act.
The “chrism” is olive oil. It is cooked during the performance of the ceremony and is anointed at that time.
None of this conforms to the teaching of Jesus Christ about the Holy Spirit.
After the anointing of the “chrism”, the priest reads the Apostle Paul (Romans 6:3-11) and the Gospel (Mt. 28:16-20). Then he recites the Ektenia, in which he lifts up a prayer about the baptized infant and the godparents. But the act of baptism is still not finished.
On the 8th day, per the Orthodox prayer book, the second act of baptism is performed. After the reading of three more prayers, the priest turns the waist of the infant, takes both his arms and legs, dips him in clean water, and sprinkles the infant with holy water and says: “He is justified, sanctified, purified, and washed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit our God.” Then the priest takes a clean lip, moistens it with water, and wipes off the face, head, and chest of the infant and all the places where the “chrism” was placed. Then he utters: “you are baptized, sanctified, anointed, washed, and purified in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
In his understanding, the priest did everything that is supposed to give the infant the right to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven forever. However, nowhere does the Bible say that the Kingdom of Heaven is inherited through baptism.
The Scriptures teach just the opposite about washing, cleaning, and purification of a person. It teaches just the opposite about the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the completion of the act of baptism, there is yet another act of completion with specific prayers. Then another Ektenia. Finally, the act of baptism is completed.
If one were to follow this to the letter, as stated in the Orthodox prayer book, then it would be necessary to spend 90 minutes to complete a baptism.
It often happens that they ask the priest to perform the baptism “in as short a time as possible”. But the priest himself tries to shorten the process of baptism. In the new prayer books, they cut out a lot of prayers which could be omitted.
The important goal of baptism in the understanding of Orthodoxy is the rebirth of the infant and uniting him with the Church of Christ. But does the church itself take any part in this uniting? Absolutely not!
The church often does not even know where or when the child was ever united with the Church.
The attendance of church members never interested anyone. They can only find out on individual cases that some infant was “united” to the Church.
So did the baptized infant truly become “united” to the Church of Christ? No one knows or cares about the answer to this question.
If after such a mechanical “unification”, the “united” one never shows up at the doors of the church, no one neither knows nor cares. The priests themselves can confirm this, even those who fulfilled this “unification” and writing the infant’s name in the books. The godparents can also confirm this fact. It often happens that they never see the baptized infant nor know where or what became of him.
They even forget his name.
Often priests perform infant baptisms and see the parents for both the first and last times in their life.
What sort of Christian will this mechanical and fabricated church member become? This question has an easy answer.
One can judge this issue by recalling the millions of people born and growing up in normal conditions during that, when there was plenty of opportunity to raise children in a religious spirit and no one prohibited it. What sorts of Christians were they?
It was common for us, and still is even today, that the measure of being a Christian was determined by a metric.
It is interesting to note that the question about infant baptism completely depend on the parents. When parents were ready to invite guests, then they determined the date of baptism. For this day, the parents prepared booze so they could drink, eat, and be merry. This was more important than the baptism itself.
So that is how by its own human standards, not by the Scriptures, the great and holy truth of baptism, the commandment left to us by Christ, was and is understood.
Baptism itself became a form and a rite that gives nothing and says nothing to the human soul.
It has turned out thus as if the infant were “joined” to Christ and to the church, though this is simply a naked and blatant lie. I swear that the majority of children, many of them
baptized, just like their parents, that I saw them during the baptismal process for the first and last time. I often heard from other people that these parents and the godparents believed in absolutely nothing. Could I ask them a question about their faith, when they came to me to agree on doing a baptism? Who of the priests could have or should have asked about it? It was not the custom, and it would even have been strange to ask about the faith of that person who in all areas of life lived as a pagan or an atheist. Except that, the father “ordering the baptism” confirmed that he was an Orthodox believer. Even if he never went to church, that would still be a typical example in such situations.
But this is not the bottom line. Who is at fault in the distortion of the commandment about baptism? Of course it is not the fault of the laypeople. God will condemn the perpetrators of the distortion of His command. Even now He judges the retribution for everything for which we are responsible. Such retribution is harsh, but it does not suffice, because neither the people nor the priests repent. Instead, they continue to teach the people with human inventions. There are many extreme man-made fabrications and superstitions in these rites.
At the same time, they bury the “baptized” evildoers, thieves, drunkards, adulterers, blasphemers in the Christian cemetery with all rites and ceremonies, provided they fulfilled before their death the established rite of confession and communion. They bury them “...to rest in peace with the righteous ones.”
The Orthodox Church ascribes some magical properties to oil or “chrism”, proposing that the one anointed by it in different places will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and become “sealed unto the day of redemption.” The Scriptures say this about that: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us in God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Cor. 1:21-2)
The Orthodox Church has distorted this very great truth beyond recognition! It exchanged it for the teaching of men, that anointing and sealing can be placed not by God but by a priest with the help of physical objects, such as “chrism”. The Orthodox Church also teaches that this “seal” will be a sign by which in the future the angel will be able to tell apart the Christian believer in order to tear him out of the hands of an evil spirit.
Surprisingly and regrettably, that with all of this the Orthodox Church sends into exile the words of the apostles Paul and John. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by Which you are sealed on the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30) And also, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know...As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” (1 John 2:20, 27) Here the Orthodox Church cheapens the spiritual anointing and sealing by the Holy Spirit with the anointing of “chrism”.
How much this contradicts the truths of the Holy Scriptures is obvious to everyone who has open spiritual eyes and mind, lit by the light of God’s mediation on His mysteries.
Only people who are spiritually blind cannot see this. Therefore, they follow “fables cleverly invented by men” against which Christ and the apostles warned.
As far as in truth the gift of the Holy Spirit is transferred through anointing by “chrism”, it is visible from the life of millions of baptized people who with their lives not only have grieved the Holy Spirit but also offended God in the worst possible way.
If we examine how our people lived in such pagan and religious superstition in the time past when the Orthodox Church dominated our motherland, then it immediately becomes clear why in Russia, and in no other country, did revolution take place and the victory of atheism was so complete.
It is time for everyone who believes in God to wipe away the drowsiness from himself, open his eyes, and see the terrible danger of eternal damnation, wide open in which will fall the Devil and millions of perishing people, who go the route of human fictions but not the Word of God.
All who name themselves “fathers” and “spiritual teachers” are responsible before God in the first place. They are responsible before God not only for themselves, but also for the large masses of people whom they carry along with themselves into destruction by luring them with false teachings.
But every person separately is not freed from his own accountability before God.
The risen Christ said to His disciples, “Go throughout the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” It is not the case that this commandment is still holy and unchanged for everyone who calls himself a Christian? He commanded His ministers to preach the Gospel, and not human inventions, not dogmas, not catechisms.
It is about time, even needed a long time ago, that everyone understands this.
X. Patron Saint Festivals
The Orthodox Church has the tradition that every congregation and church is dedicated to some saint or important event from the history of the saints.
On the commemorative day for this holy church, they put on a big celebration and invite for this occasion the hierarchy of church leaders as well as a choir to sing celebratory hymns.
The leaders of the congregation on this holiday try to do everything possible that the church service would be celebratory.
Such a day is called “church day” or a festival for the patron saint.
There was one such festival in a small village that people from the surrounding countryside swelled up to two thousand people. It was such that there was not enough physical space in the church to fit all these people. The majority of these people never visited a church, and the crowd spilled out into the church yard. For such patron saint festivals, various “peddlers” with their goods for sale swooped down. They displayed their goods close to the church or even on the church fence. During this time, when the church conducted its service, outside the church yelled out the voices of merchants.
Here they also sold examples for the religious cult: icons, crosses, various pictures, song books, prayer books, and also literature cheap in price and quality – stories such as “The Nightingale Thief”, “Ali Baba”, “The Blue Beard”, and others. Other things for sale included “oracles”, books about dreams, all types of fortune telling in cards “with happiness”, that is, cheap jewelry for young women. They also sold brooches, pins, earrings, and many other things. A little bit further away from the church one could find various carousels and a shooting range where for a successful shot one would win a prize. Sometimes clowns and puppet theaters came to the patron saint festivals in the villages.
Of course, all this attracted a lot of people. People truly did not go for prayer, but went to the “Vanity Fair”. Innkeepers and merchants locally and from out of town earned good money during these festivals.
It was sad that at the very church entrance doors gathered crowds of cripples, blind people, and beggars at large. They did not allow people to enter without stretching out their hands and begging for alms.
Just when the church service neared its conclusion, people hurried to leave the church and overflowed the inns and taverns. All the poor people and cripples also hurried there and drank away all the money they had earned through begging.
It turned out that many of these blind and crippled people were in reality not handicapped. They were merely putting on a show and asked for money just to spend it in bars drinking.
The festival of the patron saint was joyous and noisy in every peasant’s hut.
The local priest invited to his house the clergy coming from out of town. How they passed the time together after the church service, I am reluctant to write about it, but many laypeople knew how the priests “made merry” on the patron saint festivals.
In connection with this, I want us to pay attention to these questions: were these patron saint festivals useful for the spiritual life of those attending? Did God reveal Himself in these festivals, or was He grieved? What did the spiritual pastors think of these festivals?
By the way, I remember a time when many of our people after the war ended up in concentration camps in Germany. Immediately they began to organize church congregations, build churches, and dedicated them to the name of some saint according to the old tradition. They also remembered the festivals of the patron saints. For these festivals they invited the highest church leaders and other priests. After the service, they organized meals for the attendees and their guests.
Of course, this was good, if the attendees like brothers in Christ would have spent a couple hours at the table and shared their ideas and memories that would be useful for the soul.
However, this was not the case. After they drank and smoked up well, even to the point that the smoke became a cloud, at the tables they would start singing songs, but not the type that would praise the Lord. Then arguments would start. Such meals often ended with unpleasant consequences.
It is possible that it would not have been worth recalling such “table festivals”1, but they are characteristic of our people to whom spiritual pastors give special recognition for their religion and piety. The pastors call the people to hold firmly to the traditions of our fathers, conveniently forgetting that our fathers themselves did not know the living God and did not lead their children to the knowledge of the Truth.
1 The expression for “patron saint festivals” in the Russian language also can be translated “table parties”, that is, similar to what Dobrovolskiy described about the “table fellowship” with drinking, smoking, and arguing.
XI. Religiosity and Piety
This is no joke! Our people at every step boast and endow themselves with such values. Religious leaders lullaby our people to preserve this religiosity and piety just like our fathers.
Is this not a mockery of the true condition of our faith?
Religiosity and piety of our people showed themselves well during the Russian Revolution. The qualities of this piety and religiosity were based upon dry, low, and incomprehensible traditions, pagan habits, as it was during the time of worship of the Rain-god, Perun, and other idols.
Taking on the surface the imposed Christian religion with all of the things that existed at that time with distortions, the people never left their pagan traditions, but they brought many of them into Orthodoxy.
The Orthodox clergy of that time was unable to drive it out of the spirit of the people and gradually brought them into Christian religion, giving them a changed external form. With such protocol, they brought in various festivals, consecrations, remembrances, services for the dead, etc.
Assuming this religion without the knowledge of God’s Truth, written in the Holy Scriptures, the people could not be born again by the Holy Spirit, in order to become a totally new creation. The people could not purify its soul and therefore remained the same as it was before, although from that time passed many centuries and generations.
The Orthodox Church did not and does not teach the people, it does not lead them to Truth, but it follows the people, bringing it profit in all things. Therefore, people dwelling in sin will never be excommunicated from the church. Just the opposite, the church clergy for every situation reminds the people about our native religiosity, about the piety of our ancestors, as if they emphasize this that they, the ancestors, correctly applied the teaching of Christ, and therefore we must follow in their footsteps. With this they especially emphasize the loyalty and faithfulness of God as revealed in the fight for the Orthodox faith. From here comes the tradition of naming soldiers of the Orthodox peoples “army endowed with the love of Christ”. This term entered the order of the Orthodox church service and transferred into the Ukrainian translation.
In the Ektenia, there is a special prayer for “our army endowed with the love of Christ”, for which the church asks the Lord to grant victory over its enemy.
In truth this army, as if it never were, was closer in reality to devil-like, not Christ- like, because “the Devil was a murderer from the beginning”. Christ said this.
We could talk a lot about this topic, but I will allow myself to share a few moments. For example, it is no secret that in the Russian Army they practice filthy language and beating of soldiers in the face. This is already one form of evidence that no “love of Christ” exists in this army, even more so in the midst of the elite of the army – the officers. Christ could love only those who know Him in the proper way and obey His commands. And His command is simple and easily understood: “Love your enemy,” do not shoot him.
Regarding “the love of Christ’s” among the soldiers of the Ukrainian Army, in which I had the opportunity to serve, with certainty and full accountability for my words I am able to say that they are even worse in this regard.
With this I do not slander nor scorn my comrades of nationality, former soldiers of our military. I want to say completely, with conscience, and having full responsibility before God the bitter truth about which no one has yet told in the full hearing of everyone and possibly never will say.
It is difficult for me to speak about this reality. In our army during the period 1917- 1920, there was not a single shred of piety or religiosity, but utter atheism bloomed, both among the rank and file soldiers as well as officers, among whom often were people with seminary education.
In the regiment in which I served, 30-40% of the soldiers cussed up to the high heavens. The commanders were no exception.
Such is how “love for Christ” which like a formula they never ceased to reiterate in the Orthodox prayers. For people this was a deception, but for God it is a grave humiliation, for which the people already tolerates punishment. The Lord did not send this punishment, like the priests beat people over the head. The people themselves hammer this punishment on their own heads because they believer not God but rather their own false prophets and false teachers.
The people must learn from this lesson and muster all its strength toward learning the Truth of God, which is revealed in the Gospel.
The time arrived a long time ago for our people to turn away from religious narcotics, dried out its eyes, and understood that our salvation does not come from traditional religiosity, but rather in repentance and the acceptance of Christ as personal Savior.
It has long been time for the people to turn from the way of death and stand on the narrow way, on the way of God, the only way that leads to the Kingdom of God, which must be here within us.
It is time at least to look with humble hearts at Him Who died on the Calvary cross in order to save each repenting sinner.
XII. Vain Invocations
One time Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord!”, but you do not do what I command you?” (Luke 6:46)
These words could apply in totality to Orthodox church services.
So, for example, during only one Liturgy, we hear these expressions repeated 150- 170 times: “Lord have mercy”, and 13-15 times: “Give Lord!”
During each Liturgy, all the prayers about mercy are the same, as are the prayers for blessing which are included in the Suppliant Ektenias.
There are no other prayers.
If one of the attendees wants another prayer, he must order it beforehand. For this “order”, he must pay.
But for what does the attendee typically ask? A prayer to one of the saints for health, or else a requiem for rest in peace for someone who died, and rarely some acathistus.2
They do not personal prayers coming from their own heart, for they pray only composed prayers from the prayer book and they do not think about the words. With this
2 “Acathistus” refers to a hymn honoring Mary in the Orthodox Church. (www.newadvent.org/cathen/01092c.htm)
they pray to God and the saints simultaneously, and therefore people ordinarily do not even know to whom to pray at a given moment!
People do not know, and no one tells them that prayer should only be addressed to God.
This is a terrible tragedy for our people! The guilty parties are those on whom lies the duty to teach people to know the living God and the way of His salvation.
Christ said these words, “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who obeys the will of My Heavenly Father.” (Mt. 7:21)
These words the priests know full well, even by heart, but they do not want to give them important meaning, and thus they repeat, “Lord have mercy!” or “Give Lord!” and teach others to do this.
Regarding obeying the will of God, they prefer not to talk about it with others, because they do not obey God themselves.
XIII. Titles and Ranks
Christ also said these words: “And do not call yourselves teachers, for you have One Teacher – Christ. All of you are brothers. Neither should you name anyone on earth “Father”, for you have one Father, Who is in Heaven. Neither should you call yourselves “Rabbi”, for you have one Rabbi – Christ.” (Mt. 23:8-10)
However these words of Christ are not authoritative for the Orthodox clergy and laity, for beginning from the lowest rank, they name deacons “Father” and bishops even “Lord”.
Christ said that we have one Father Who is in Heaven. He is our spiritual Father. He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, but priests, mortal and sinful people, attribute to themselves these titles and honors.
Moreover, they add defined levels of rank, as if it were in the former Russian Army for officers of all stripes.
So, for example, the priest has the following titles of respect: Upright, Very Upright, All Upright, Most Upright of All, Reverend, and Most Reverend Father.
Bishops have the following titles of respect: Right Reverend, The Highly Right Reverend, Blessed Lord, and even His Most Holy.
All the clergy is divided into holy orders (ranks) and is a special class in the church, a privileged class, like “direct followers and adherents of Christ and the apostles”. At the same time, do they not have even the slightest idea what the Church is?
Reading this definition makes me want to cry.
XIV. Objects of the Religious Cult
There are many of these objects in the Orthodox Church. One could say many things about them, but I will stop only at the most important topics.
Firstly, clothing and the adornment of the priest. There are many objects, but the most important is the epitrakilion. This is a long piece of material worn around the head and buttoned down the front of the priest.
The epitrakilion symbolizes the grace of the Holy Spirit which as “chrism” is poured on the head and flows down the beard of Aaron and the edge of his clothes.
Without the epitrakilion, the priest is unable to preside over any church service. Neither can he wear it over street clothes, but only over the priestly vestment.
Another object, without which the priest is banned from serving the Liturgy, is the Antimension. This four-cornered piece of silk or linen on which is depicted the moment when Christ’s body is put into the grave. It is obligatory to sew into it a small part of the power of some saint recognized by the Orthodox Church.
If these two objects are not present, the priest would not be a priest.
Let us imagine that during the turbulence of the war, when the priest had to flee, having everything he needs, he loses his baggage, and he alone remained with his title. If he is not physically near an Orthodox Church or even just any church, the priest is unable to perform neither the Liturgy nor any other church service.
Of course, the epitrakilion could be sewn from any material, but it needs to be anointed, and this would be impossible to do, since the anointing requires a specific ceremony. Beyond this, he would need to consecrate the water in order then to purify the epitrakilion, but the priest does not have the right to consecrate the water without wearing a consecrated epitrakilion!
In such a manner, the ministry of the priest depends on the availability of material things.
Can we see within all of this the will of God? Clearly not!
What occurs with the Antimension is even worse.
The Scriptures in reality teach that there is no fear or worship of God in this
generation, and there can be no other barrier except sin.
The person who repents is forgiven, and in such manner the saved person has
boldness and the right to stand before His Lord, as he is, for he worships God and ministers to Him in spirit and truth, as Christ said in his encounter with the Samaritan woman.
May they who call themselves God’s ministers ponder this simple truth, and God will bless them for it.
XV. Icons – Sacred Images
One could write a lot about this topic, but other people have already analyzed this topic through the lens of Scripture. However, this still has not affected Orthodox believers.
In no other way today can they imagine another form of worship of God apart from the mediation of icons. Even in the situation when the priest has to perform some church service, he must have even one icon. When the Orthodox believers are forced to worship in a Protestant church, where there are no icons, they bring their own icons and find space for them.
Orthodox believers are unable to pray without icons.
I heard many times how Orthodox priests would say that in the Protestant churches, where there are no icons, they feel as if they were in prison. And when Orthodox theologians, defending the veneration of icons, assert that through icons, the attendees worship the person and not the icon made in their image, they tell a lie.
I had the opportunity to convince myself of this in the years of my ministry in the Orthodox Church, that even those who say that, in reality they do just the opposite.
I became convinced that even priests who stand before the icon of Saint Nicholas end up saying prayers to God the Father, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, and sometimes to other saints.
I was forced to see also that older priests with higher seminary education during common prayer (for example, during congresses, meals, et al) turned their faces to the wall, on which hung the icon of some saint, and prayed “Our Father” or “To the Heavenly King”, “Mother of God, Virgin, Rejoice...”. They did not pay attention to the fact that they stood, for example, before the icon of Saint Vladimir.
Christ clearly said, “Where two or three gather in My Name, there I will be with them.” (Mt. 18:20)
For Orthodox believers, these simple words are beyond understanding. Why is Christ among them and not in the corner on the wall within the frame?
It is useful to remember that when our refugees lived in Germany in the camps and built churches there, they had to decorate them with all kinds of icons. When they started to dismantle the refugee camps, and along with them the churches, then they hauled the icons to where there were still churches. When the final churches were closed down, then they hauled off the icons to a pile and burned them.
At first they made icons, then they consecrated them, showered them with incense, kissed them like saints, and, finally, burned them up as they were no longer needed.
In one German city, in a former bomb shelter, even to this day, there probably lies a whole stack of Orthodox icons hauled off from some closed churches. The rats gnaw at them. What a terrible fate!
XVI. Blind Faith and Conviction
When I was a regular Orthodox Christian, I along with all Orthodox believers took pride in the fact that we had the most ancient faith and the best one received by us “directly from Christ Himself”. So they taught us. And so we taught others.
So how did we conclude that we had the “best”? I did not know this, and neither did millions of other believers like me. I blindly believed what they taught us, tried to persuade others, even thought I myself did not know where to begin and on what basis to form my convictions. I knew the holy history of the Old and New Testaments, the Catechism, though even millions of my fellow brothers in the faith did not know that much. They learned something from their parents or from people at large. Therefore, no surprisingly, what they learned from other people they called “the faith of the fathers”.
Along with others, I also believed that I had “the faith of the fathers”, and it was the best, and for it our fathers and uncles fought and spilled blood.
For the faith we accepted everything: religion, rites, customs, teaching, and anything else, by true knowledge. What was true faith, we did not know.
When I was forced to become acquainted with the teachings of the Protestant churches, within me arose a view that if I could put into the hands of an Orthodox believer the Scriptures and teach him, then he would become the best Christian, which is what God desires. Already at that time I began to realize that the Orthodox believer did not have enough knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scriptures.
This question nagged me increasingly. Especially from the time when at one church conference in Germany, I heard some remarks from the representatives of the German Protestants that Orthodoxy does not give out the necessary knowledge of the Scriptures to its members. It was the truth.
When I was appointed as a priest, one of the elder priests told me, “If you want to be a good priest, then study the Scriptures well. It will help you in a lot of areas and will teach you much...” I took his advice to heart.
I took the ministry seriously and sincerely.
I wanted to be a worthy servant of God. I understood and knew from the experience of others that church ministers often did not live a good example for their church members, but instead tempted them. I feared this. I fervently prayed that the Lord would protect me so I would not be a stumbling block for others. I read more and more the Scriptures and more deeply began to understand the Truth which is written in them. I had to admit that much of what I had learned in Orthodox dogmatic theology contradicted the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.
I shared my observations and revelations with my brother-priests. They agreed on some points, but they confessed their inability to change the situation in the church. Some simply told me, “Mind your own business...”
I still decided to reform some church services and started with the Acathisti. Then I reduced and edited the lines of the baptismal rite and later the Liturgy. I meant to do the same with all the church services and prayers. And I was sure that I did this all for the glory of God.
But then a complete miracle ensued. The Lord saw my desire to labor for the glory of His Name. But He also saw that I was not doing anything that He needed. Therefore He
revealed to me that I should depart from Orthodoxy and stop wasting my time. When I came to perform the Liturgy, inside of me welled up a feeling of fear. Now I felt that I was not doing what pleased God. I groaned during the duration of the whole service, and when I went out to preach, a special power from on high sprouted wings within me and put the Word into my lips, as well as giving me the courage to speak about that which they run away from declaring in Orthodox churches: about reconciliation with God through the acceptance of the Gospel truth through repentance.
For my congregation, it was something completely new. At first they listened with interest and praised my sermons, but then they started to detect in them Protestant tendencies.
And this had to come to a close. And how happy I am that the Lord did an amazing deed for me! He led me to the path of Truth.
XVII. Temptations and Hesitations
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert for your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8) Such wrote the Apostle Peter. How right he was.
The enemy did not pass me by.
When I ministered the way it was practiced in the Orthodox Church, paying special attention to the strict adherence to forms and rituals, then my enemy behaved himself peacefully, left me alone, and even encouraged me. But when I started to go deeper into Scripture, think deeply over the purpose and usefulness of my ministry, the enemy of my soul immediately went on the alert. He started to whisper to me, “Reforming church procedures – that is none of your business. It has been that way for many centuries. Yes, and even just to think about it is sin, as those people who practiced that were those armed with “knowledge and wisdom, the chosen men of God.” And who are you? A mere priest.”
However, an inner voice told me otherwise. Grace was effective and the Holy Spirit continued to reveal to me the Truth of God step by step, revealing to me Jesus Christ and His pure, unscathed teaching as the only way to salvation.
The desire to serve the Lord according to God’s will, and not by the dead letter, grew in me more and more.
My spirit strove to be with the living God, filling the whole universe, and ran away from the god confined in the walls of the church or hung inside a frame on the wall. My spirit longed to tell people the truth of God. I wanted everyone to know the living God, His love and mercy, His presence, His way to salvation, of which Orthodox people had no understanding.
The tempter continued to whisper in my ear: “If you want to proclaim the Truth of God, then you can do it in your own church, where you know those who come to church. They have good relations with you and will listen to your sermons.”
I did not notice that he was telling me this. I though that indeed it would be good to use the church pulpit for preaching about eternal life, about repentance and the acceptance of Christ as one’s personal Savior.
It was difficult for me to serve with such double-mindedness. People listened to my sermons with suspicion, for they knew that the teaching of salvation by grace in Jesus Christ is not taught in Orthodoxy. Instead, one has to earn salvation – so they all thought.
The evil one did not leave me alone. He whispered in my ear another lie: “Thing about it, if you depart from Orthodoxy, what an unpleasant situation it would be for the senior leadership, your congregants, and brothers! You will abandon them without service, for there are very few priests. The congregants will stop attending church and will turn cold. Will you not be committing a greater sin?”
However, the Lord is stronger than the Devil. He attracted me to Himself and showed me through the example of Jesus Christ that I must “depart from that land, bearing disgrace.” Only in such a way I could bravely without hindrance and double- mindedness proclaim to my countrymen the way of salvation according to the Scriptures.
I sincerely have faith in the Lord that just as He saved my soul through His love, He will reveal His salvation to him who does not know Him.
Do this, Lord, for the sake of Your Glory, for the sake of the precious blood of Your Son and My Lord Jesus Christ.
“What I tell you in the night, you will say in the light, and what you hear with the ear, you will preach on the roofs. And do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot destroy the soul; rather, fear more the One Who can destroy both body and soul in Hell.” (Mt. 10:27-8) Jesus said this to His disciples. But these words apply to everyone, whom God has called to the ministry.
I cannot disobey the Lord and feel myself obligated to tell about what the Lord did for me.
There was a time in the past when I, as millions of other Orthodox people still do, could not believe that within Orthodoxy there is not true “orthodoxy” based on the teaching of Christ and therefore there is no salvation. Therefore, I know that not everyone who reads this book will agree with my ideas, observations, and conclusions. Many will give me extreme criticism and accuse me of betraying “the faith of the fathers” and even God Himself.
But I am not afraid of this. He reveals the truth to the true seeker that my testimony is true and from the spirit.
I am not shy and do not fear to confess openly my Lord, to witness of His love, even if it were to cost me my life. My heart overflows with the joy of salvation, which the Lord showed to me. And at the same time, my heart aches when I think of the millions of my former brothers following the way of apostasy.
For them I wrote this book.
May the Lord bless this humble work for His glory.
The beginning of monasticism – 285-360 A.D.
The Elvira Council which banned the veneration of icons – 306 A.D.
Dogma about prayers, services for the dead, and requiems for the dead –
The use of wax candles in the church service for God – 320 A.D.
Worship of dead saints and angels – 375 A.D.
Pilgrimage to holy places – 4th Century A.D.
Baptism of infants becomes mandatory – 416
First idea about the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body
and blood of Christ – 4th Century
The deification and worship of the Virgin Mary – 4th Century
The Ephesian Church Council adopts the veneration of the Virgin Mary
and calls her the Mother of God – 431
Consecration of holy water – 5th Century
Nestorius makes a speech against Mary giving birth to God – 428
Long robes for priests – 500
The doctrine of purgatory – 593
The decree to pray to the Virgin Mary like God – 600
Assumption of the title “Pope of Rome” – 607
Kissing of the feet of the Pope – 709
The pagan temple “Pantheon” is converted into the temple of the Virgin
Mary – 7th Century
Worship of the cross – 688-784
The Second Nicean Council adopts the decree of icon veneration – 787
Veneration of powers – 787
Consecration of water with a pinch of salt – 850
Beginning of the canonization of saints – 880
Baptisms by hand begin – 10th Century
Baptism of the church bells – 965
Baptism of Kievan Rus – 988
Indulgences (absolution of sins in exchange for money) – 1016
Introduction of the rosary – 1079
Beginning of the processions of the cross – 1095
Pope Pascal decrees the separate use of bread and wine during
Communion – 1118
Introduction of the so-called “Holy Inquisition” to fight against “heretics”
(in reality innocent people) – 1184
Decree “On the Seven Sacraments” – 1139
Prayers for the dead become mandatory – 1210
Prohibition for the laity to read the Holy Scriptures (Valencian Council) –
Beginning of the song, “Mother of God, Virgin, rejoice” – 1508
Luther’s Reformation – 1517
37. Recognition of the authority of traditions as equal to that of the canon of the Bible – 1545
38. The inclusion of the Apocrypha in the canon of Scripture – 1546 39. Dogma about the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary - 1854