Ancestors Of ‘Issa – Meaning Of History, Meaning Of Suffering

The Koran speaks of Moses (Moussa), and the Bible specifies his role in history. When Israel escaped from Pharaoh and left Egypt, God revealed Himself as the One who sees misery and who descends to deliver from the oppressor (Exodus 3, 7-8). He also summons to leave the idols produced by man and to leave occult systems that end up hiding the true God and enslaving people.

On Mount Sinai, Israel said, “Yes” (Exodus 19), and the people progressively came out of injustices, but also from magic (Exodus 22, 17-26). They stopped the sacrifices of infants and the prostitution linked to the magical rites of the Baals that the prophet Baruch qualified as a demonic cult (Baruch 4, 7). This new life was progressively organized in a kingdom, notably with King David (Daoud).

The Koran cites several biblical prophets, such as Nahum, Malachy, Jeremiah, Isaiah. Their era knew grave tribulations. The kingdom of Samaria fell in the hands of the Assyrians in the year 721 BC. There were to be no more victories to comfort believers; only interior signs henceforth were to guide man in his discernment of good and evil.

Jerusalem was burned in the year 598 BC. And God seemed to be silent. The prophets prayed. Were the people or their ancestors obliged to expiate a sin? This was the time to become more humble, infinitely more humble.

Maybe also the people had to live in exile to discover that God was greater than what they had understood up to now. Cyrus, the Persian, believed in one single and unique divinity, Ahura-Mazda, permitting him to peacefully centralize his empire and to unite philosophers and beliefs. But this was an abstract, impersonal divinity. The prophet Isaiah wasn’t impressed; rather, he acknowledged the idea of a unique God. But this God is the personal God revealed on Mount Sinai (Isaiah 44, 6).

One day the exiles came back to the land. The Temple was rebuilt. Some thought humbly that no one could pretend to understand the celestial light, not even the Sanhedrin, for sin too much clouded their hearts. There had to be a Temple for God not made by human hands, a celestial Temple, a new pardon, and then there would be light. “O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence” (Isaiah 64, 1).

The prophet Daniel announces the coming of Al-Massih, a Messiah “Holy of Holies,” who resides where God resides. He is also “Prince-Messiah;” hence king, but a “massacred Messiah” (Dn 9, 24-26). His prophecy counts seventy weeks which are read according to the numerical customs of the ancient Orient. Thus, very probably, the weeks are counted as years (Dn 9, 24-25), then counted as months (Dn 9, 26), then as days (Dn 9, 27), with a sum of 70 years; that is to say, for a period that covers the life of Maryam and her son Al-Massih.

The sage reflects on the error of the impious who say: “For if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected” (Wisdom 2, 18-20).

And the sage observes: “Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, or hope for the wages of holiness, nor discern the prize for blameless souls /…/ but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wisdom 2, 21-24).


Francoise Breynaert is a secular oblate of the Fraternity of Our Lady of the Desert (Belgium). A doctor of theology, she has published foundational works (biblical, Christological) and also Marian and spiritual works. She has also done theological research on the salvation of non-Christians and the Good News for the deceased, and on the Coming of Christ, which the West often confounds, unhappily, with the end of the world, and finally on the exegesis of orality in connection with the Christians of the East. Her works are recognized (imprimatur, episcopal prefaces) in France and abroad. Her research has interested Islamologists who, in turn, have made her part of their studies.


The featured image shows the Virgin and Child, Mughal, circa 1580.

What A Piece Of Work Is A Man: Dostoevsky And Humanity

Your meeting with a book that became one of the most important books in life remains forever in your memory. And the writer who created that book becomes close to you, like family. Of course, this is not immediately understood, but only after the years go by. You return again and again in your memory to that day and hour when that cherished meeting took place. This happened with me when, as a student of the Urals University, I left the reading room all shaken after reading the novel, The Idiot. It seemed to me that my hair was standing on end, that my soul was as if struck, and it shook from the blow.

And so, from that same university winter, from age nineteen and for the rest of my life, the characters of Prince Myshkin, Nastasia Philippovna, Parfen Rogozhin, and others in that immortal novel entered into the very center of my heart. And later, throughout the course of my life did this novel and Dostoevsky’s fate call back to me, often determining turns in that course—at times even sharp turns.

This is what I want to tell you about today. Especially since we are in the “Year of Dostoevsky.”

Dostoevsky As A Herald Of Christ

After the second year of university, we students of the journalism school were sent for internships to the regional newspaper. I ended up in the town of Bogdanovich in Sverdlovsk province, at the newspaper called, “Flag of Victory”. I was supposed to write about the harvest, and how things stood with dairy yields. And after my ridiculous forays into the fields and dairy farms, my searches for people who were supposed to tell about the business (I could have gotten all this information over the telephone but I was “studying life”), barely alive because I either hitchhiked or used my own two feet, I flopped down on the dormitory bed to have at least a tiny rest. Then I rose early to write my reportage on the zealous work in the fields and farms.

And so, in the morning as I walked past the movie theater to the office, I saw an announcement for the film, “The Idiot”. I was stunned. All that day I only thought about getting to the theater as soon as possible to watch that film.

I watched it. And that same evening I set about writing my first review. I really regret that I didn’t save it. The editor stripped down my “creative torments” to mere notes. His conclusion was that it was “too long”. The newspaper was of a small format—culture and sports, weather, and all the rest that allowed it to pay for itself left but a small spot on the fourth column. Into that spot did they squeeze my ecstatic notes on the film. I’m sure that it must have looked crazy in that newspaper.

It was 1958; after all, the “thaw” had begun, and our dreams were swirling around something as yet unrecognized but definitely significant, and human—something pertaining not to the number of hectares of harvested wheat and rye, but to the life of the human soul.

I recall those notes because when I returned to Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg), I had something to talk with my brother about. At the time, Anatoly was studying in the acting studio at the drama theater. Of course he had read The Idiot, and we watched the film together, then discussed it vigorously. In the theater, the excellent theatrical production of The Insulted and Humiliated was on, with Boris Feodorovich Iyin, a “people’s artist of the USSR”, brilliantly playing the role of Prince Valkovsky. And the young hero, the writer Vanya, was played by our favorite actor Constantine Petrovich Maximov, Anatoly’s teacher. He knew about my brother’s passion (besides Dostoevsky, we were voraciously reading the poetry of the “Silver Age” and had even organized an “Evening of forgotten poets”).

That is why he confirmed in the role of Andrei Rublev the totally unknown provincial actor, Anatoly Solonytsin, against the opinion of the entire artistic council.

But why does Prince Myshkin touch us so deeply, even stun us with his character, his fate? Why does Feodor Dostoevsky’s hero so stir us, despite the eccentricity of his actions? One critic has aptly compared Dostoevsky’s prose with “congealed lava”. Yes, he writes in such a way that his words as if erupt from the crater of a volcano, flow rapidly down the slope, wiping out everything on their path, and then congeal before our eyes, in our souls. The “golden pens” of the Russian literati, such as Turgenev and Bunin, even accused Feodor Mikhailovich of chaotic and sloppy writing.

Yes, Dostoevsky’s prose really was “unpolished”, as the author himself has said. But that is what makes it so remarkable and unique—its force and impetus. His characters are taken into “borderline” situations, when the “major” issues of life, as the author put it, are in the balance—into man’s existence in general.

Can a person in such moments of life talk without “choking on his own words”, in separate phrases? Moreover his heroes get entangled, and the entanglement comes from the fact that Dostoevsky is not afraid to show man’s “duplicity”, digging down at times to the most hidden depths of the soul. That is why his heroes say one thing but mean something entirely different, twist their way out of it and lie, while Prince Myshkin’s openness and childlike ingenuousness exposes them.

Just as do the exceedingly bold and “reckless” acts of Nastasya Filippovna.

Recall how she throws the bundle of 100,000 rubles Rogozhin brought into burning fireplace. One researcher of Dostoevsky’s works figured out that 100,000 rubles in Dostoevsky’s time would equal over a million USD today.

In the 1960s, out of romanticism I left for Kaliningrad to get a job on the whaling ship, the “Yuri Dolgoruki”. Because I was considered “unreliable” and therefore not someone who could be let out of the country, they didn’t take me out to sea. But I wrote my first stories about sailors “ashore”, and published my first book, with which I was accepted into the Soviet Writers’ Union. This took place at a meeting of young authors of the Northwest in Leningrad. There I saw the famous stage presentation of “The Idiot” with Innokenty Smoktunovsky in the main role.

I am not the only one who was stunned by the show. All who saw how Smoktunovsky played his role understood that a miracle was happening before their eyes. His Myshkin was naïve like a child, open, defenseless—and at the same time protected by the truth of Christ the Savior. It could even be that the actor did not understand that he was embodying on the stage a blessed one, whom everyone around him took for an idiot. Nor did the theater understand this. Years later, just before his death, on a lengthy television program the actor related that he roused the entire theater against himself because he continued to shape the role differently from how everyone—from the chief director down—was telling him to do it. He did it according to his heart’s urgings. The show’s premier was scheduled for December 31. It was four hours long. G. Tovstonogov was prepared for a failure, and that is why the premier was scheduled for New Year’s Eve.

For the first time in many years, the theater was half empty. But on January 1, news spread throughout Leningrad that in the Great Drama Theater a miracle had taken place. Then it became simply impossible to get a ticket. Because on that stage, for the first time in nearly century of godless rule, people saw authenticity of feeling, not human but divine truth, which shown in the actor’s eyes, in his inimitable intonation as he pronounced words about faith, love, and God. And the souls of all present in the theater opened up, empathized, wept, and laughed together with him.

Here is what Prince Myshkin says when Parfen Rogozhin asks him whether or not he believes in God:

“An hour ago, as I was returning to the hotel, I ran into peasant woman with her infant. The woman was still young, and the babe would have been about six weeks old. The child smiled at her, as she observed, for the first time since she was born. I looked, and the woman very, very piously, suddenly crossed herself. “What’s that, young lass?” I said (for I asked her about everything then). Well, she said it’s maternal joy for seeing her infant smile at her for the first time; for God has the same joy when He sees from heaven how a sinner starts praying to him with his whole heart for the first time. That is what the woman said to me in almost those exact words; and such a profound, such a subtle and truly religious thought, a thought in which the whole essence of Christianity is expressed in a moment; that is, the whole understanding of God as our own father… It’s a most important thought about Christ! A simple peasant woman!.. Listen, Parfen, you asked me just now and here is my answer: The essence of religious feeling doesn’t fit into any sort of discussion, any actions or crimes, any kind of atheism. Something is amiss there, and it will be that way for eternity. There is something on which atheism will forever slip up and miss the point. But the main thing is that you’ll most probably and clearly notice this “something” in the Russian heart—and that is my conclusion!”

When the show was over, for two or three minutes there was a sepulchral silence. Then the auditorium exploded in applause, shouts, and in such a pervading stormy ecstasy that’s hard to describe. This went on for twenty to thirty minutes. I was told that there were times when it lasted even longer. As the years passed, critics both in Russia and abroad (the presentation played also in London) understood that an event had taken place that was so huge, on a scale so significant that it’s hard to express in words. Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky stood before the people—alive, authentic, the man who is rightfully called a Russian genius.

The role of Prince Myshkin, I think, was the one for which actor Innokenty Mikhailovich Smoktunovsky was born. He played about a hundred roles in the movies. He acted in many good, even excellent theater productions. But none of them reached the heights of Prince Myshkin. The actor did not act, but lived on the stage the life, I repeat, of a man of God. He was also like that in real life—strange, and unfathomable for many. And in his best roles in both theater and film are heard those familiar intonations of Prince Myshkin—pauses, expressions of the eyes, gestures—of a man who is not of this world.

The [communist] party leadership also felt this, and that is why the performance was never videotaped. Only small snippets were saved for programs. Thank God, it was at least preserved on vinyl record disks, and a three-volume album was made available.

I still have my old “music center”, and favorite records. From time to time I listen to the recording of that amazing show, which during atheistic times told of a man who sacrificed his own life for the sake of his love of God and people.

What did Feodor Dostoevsky write about in his immortal novel?

To Guess At The Mystery

In a letter to his brother Mikhail, the seventeen-year-old Dostoevsky wrote:

“Man is a mystery. It must be unraveled, and even if you’ve spent you whole life unraveling it, you can’t say that you’ve wasted time. I am occupied with this mystery, for I want to be a man.”

That is how the young Feodor determined the purposed of his life even before he’d written his first short story, Poor Folk, which Belinsky read and then exclaimed ecstatically, “A new Gogol has appeared!”

Feodor Mikhailovich felt with his heart his purpose in life. It is important to determine this purpose, or it would be better to say, calling, which is the meaning of your life. It is important not to betray it, but to walk what is often a thorny path, but a path that calls to you to follow the call of your soul. I don’t in any way want to compare the scope of the great writer’s gifts with those directors and actors who had the fortitude to play and produce the author’s works in theater and film. But the yearning to express in their creative work the hidden mystery that is embedded in his great novels, remains the cherished dream of many. This would include such film producers as Andrei Arsenievich Tarkovsky. After his films, “Ivan’s Childhood” and “Andrei Rublev”, which brought him international fame, he wrote an expansive proposal for the screening of “The Idiot.” An anniversary date was approaching—in 1981 it was proposed to have a grand celebration of the one hundred years since Dostoevsky’s death, and 160 years since his birth. Tarkovsky had the idea of filming a television series. In his diaries he wrote, “Solonitsyn would be ideal for the role of Dostoevsky.” In his proposal he determined that the author of the novel, i.e., Dostoevsky, should play the role of the narrator. This actor, Anatoly, was entrusted with the role of Lebedev—that very liar who swears his love for the “excellent prince” but at the same time writes an “exposé” about him. Myshkin was to be played by Alexander Kaidanovsky, and Nastasia Filipovna by Margarita Terekhova. My brother and I were transported when talked about the work ahead. Anatoly was even ready to have plastic surgery in order to look more like his favorite author.

“How are you going to play other roles if you undergo such surgery?” Tarkovsky asked him.

“Why would I need any other roles, if I’ve played Dostoevsky?” my brother answered.

The surgery never happened, because Tarkovsky’s proposal was rejected. But Anatoly would yet experience the happiness of embodying the great writer’s image on screen—albeit in a film of a completely different scale.

The film was called, “26 Days in the Life of Dostoevky”.

I’ll tell you in a little more detail why in that memorable time an amazing “coincidence”, as it would seem at first glance, took place.

Anatoly was forty-five years old—just like his hero when in 1866 he dictated the novel, The Gambler (to a stenographer). Like his hero, after a family catastrophe Anatoly had proposed to a girl who was half his age. Like his hero, Anatoly’s love was requited—and she transformed the entire rest of his life.

And hadn’t Anatoly also worked under similar circumstances?

“Well, the novel will have to be rushed by post-horses”, Feodor Mikhailovich said to Anna Grigorievna [his stenographer and future wife].

And the film was also shot as if by “post-horse”. Anatoly was under pressure to make a down payment on a cooperative apartment, and he was in debt up to his ears.

When I arrived in Moscow and met with my brother, I read the scenario and told him about all this.

He smiled, “Do you think they know about this? They hired me as a serious and reliable professional, and that’s all.”

But in fact they didn’t just “hire” him so simply. N. T. Sizov, director of Mosfilm at the time, summoned Anatoly and asked him to help the group of “26 Days in the Life of Dostoevsky”. “People’s Artist of the USSR” Oleg Borisov, who was playing the leading role, had just left the group. Half of the film had already been shot, but the creative formats of the director and the actor, different from the very beginning, had now irreversibly diverged. My brother could not bring himself to refuse the requests of the general director, who had shown both attention and care towards the actor, and of the producer, who had produced Anatoly’s favorite films from childhood on. Anatoly knew that the picture would be filmed under tough deadlines—a plan is a plan, and cinema is also a production line. But as an actor, Anatoly always needed time to “rev up”, time to take on his role. Anatoly was also dissatisfied with much of the screenplay. But after all, we’re talking about Dostoevsky!

“I don’t have enough time… You see, I’m living in a hotel across the street from Mosfilm. We’re punching two shifts in a row… It’s an endless race… You know, the only thing that seems not so bad to me so far … One scene… Where he’s with students, where Anna has taken him. He talks about hard labor in prison, and argues with the youths… And then he has an epileptic fit… Only don’t tell anyone this, understand? (He always began with these words whenever he wanted to tell me something important.) Do you understand, they started applauding. The entire group… That’s not acceptable in filmmaking, it’s sort of against the rules of decency. But they applauded, and Zarkhi didn’t criticize anyone for it. Then another double, and again applause. It’s stupid of course. The guys explained that they couldn’t help it. Well, there you are, I’m boasting… But even without the applause I feel that the scene was successful.”

But that very episode was cut from the film—it supposedly “didn’t reflect the writer’s character.”

Our bureaucrats “of art”, as if they had a mine detector in their hands, always find the very best scenes or pages in books, which they simply must “delete as extraneous”. And this applies not only to the past—even today these “mine detectors” are still in their hands for some reason.

Nevertheless, the film was successful not only in our own country but also on the international level. It represented our film industry at the thirty-first International Film Festival in Western Berlin. Here is what the papers wrote:

“Outstanding in the film was the role by Anatoly Solonitsyn. In conjunction with the sincere ingenuousness of Evgenia Simonova, it all together gives us a glimpse into the creative mystery of those literary works of genius, and into the character of a great man who inspired the whole world’s admiration… (Die Welt).

There is no point in comparing the performances of actors in films and plays in which they played the same roles. Different times determine differently both the position of the producers and, correspondingly, the role of the actors. But there are “breakthroughs”, when the performer of the leading role refuses to conform himself to the will of circumstances, producers, or even collective opinion, and does not waiver from the path leading to understanding a man’s mystery.

So it was with Innokenty Smoktunovsky, who wouldn’t heed the “vulgar” advice of famous actors and a no less famous director, as he expressed it in the foregoing story I’ve told you concerning the play, “The Idiot”. He walked a torturous path to the hidden mystery of the man whom Dostoevsky named, Prince Myshkin.

So also was it with Anatoly Solonitsyn, who against all circumstances, both mundane and creative, was able by force of his God-given talent to break through to the secret of that author, who lived and created to the glory of God.


Alexei Solonitsyn is a prominent Russian actor and film script-writer. This article appears courtesy of Pravoslavie.


The featured image shows a portrait of Fyodor Dostoevsky, by Ilya Glazunov; painted in 1968.

Europe… Trampled To Death

More than forty years ago, historian Pierre Chaunu published a collection of articles written between 1983 and 1985, which recast a history of history. Half of it was religious history: “At the religious heart of Europe” is a book which first of all recalls the essentials – that there can be no theology of final ends without a philosophical introduction; that nothing is lost of our ancient knowledge; that it is prudent to introduce scientific data; and that the Christian tradition has no more to dread the exploration of the soul than that of the atom and the stars. And above all, that the Meaning of life is linked to life itself. The idea of a collapse of our industrial societies is from Pierre Chaunu. Collapse comes from biology; it is the sudden drop in strength with the slowing down of vital functions, causing an intermediate state between syncope and adynamia because of a decrease in the excitability of the brain. The collapse of Europe is now overwhelming. Almost half a century ago it was still prophetic.

Our flagging demographics is a work of demolition, undertaken more than fifty years ago, pursued hypocritically, and which today no longer bothers to hide itself. If you want to survive, you need children. However, the free assassination of fragile life beneath the veil of maternal flesh, organized by active minority interests, has only accelerated its pace and firmly taken the keys of the earthly kingdom: the media. The fertility of a billion men has fallen by half in twenty years. This should rejoice all those who today recite the catechism of the new ecology; that which wants to save the planet by sterilizing part of humanity and by manufacturing sterile transgender people and depravity. If everything stops at death, what is the use of transmitting culture and life: The demographic collapse finds its source in another collapse, which takes place between 65 and 69, when there no longer courses any hope beyond death nor the will to transmit life with reasons for living it… Those who then still profess a hope no longer know how to formulate it. The 1968 crisis was but one symptom of a crisis that affects life first and foremost.

Until the 1960s, the ultimate meaning of life was given by the Church. The sundering immediately followed the Second Vatican Council. The “collapse” was dizzying. The tumbling of empty boxes (Sunday obligation, confession, extreme unction) was nothing; the very content had vanished. We look for meaning in vain today in the mush of Sunday homilies. The concrete reality of the paschal message is no longer the “truly resurrected,” but the entry into politics, or officialized humanitarianism whose diaconia convey the sickly message of charity.

The current poverty of the conclusions proposed at the end of the meetings of the CEF (Conference of Bishops of France) was inaugurated during this period, with the comical thought of making the Industrial Revolution a success at the Ecumenical Council of Churches and at the Council – to advance the Popularum Progressio when the ship had already sailed for the churches. The elementary course in worker sociology, silent on the objective horrors of the Gulags, purred in place of the resounding announcement of the words of Eternal Life. Today, the elementary course focuses on the sociology of Islam. There were two paths, two revelations: The rejection of Apologetics and the betrayal of exegesis. Renouncing the making straight of the paths of the Lord is today’s apostasy, of which Pope Francis’ Laudato Si reflects the total flattening of Bereshit bara elohim, (In the Beginning, God created). For half a century, the so-called religious press has been indifferent to religious content – the magazines, la Croix, la Vie, le Pèlerin have only disseminated the washed-out salt of the new Church that Pope Francis wants to promote with the insipid message that says nothing we do not already know. The desire to believe in survival is powerful; today the belief in another life is reborn under the Eastern model of transmigration.

And Islam offers disoriented women a spiritual incarceration that seems preferable to the perverse, perverted and perverting ethical model of Europe, drunk on its own pseudo-values. The fall in fertility has been accompanied by a breakdown of our education systems. With half the number of children, we want to educate them better – we do not educate them at all. In its broad sense, culture includes everything that is not genetic. Pierre-Paul Grassé liked to recall that we have two memories – a genetic engineering which builds our biological being in an environment, and a cultural memory; and a culture that had to be reprogrammed with each generation, in a variable social environment, organized by a cultural base in which the great founding texts of Europe still played their role. The Koran was not yet part of it.

In 1983, the figures were already known, and appeared in the book by Jean Stoetzel, Les valeurs du temps présent (The Values of Present Times). It was a Europe-wide survey – 300 elegant pages of an illustrated essay, with 63 summary tables and 70 graphs. In this book (the forgetting of which makes the neglect of a Parisian and Salonarde intellectual even more disconcerting) the age variable was underlined. Barring a miracle, said Pierre Chaunu, who had read a lot, and good books at that, in 1986, “the industrial world, in fifty years, will simply be trampled to death.” And here we are. All the ingredients were already there; and he listed them without pity: “Electoral cuisine buttered with pardons, socialism adorning its dear petty criminals, abortions and sterilizations in place of nurseries are nothing but erysipelas, pustules and the insensible plaques of a new leprosy.”

Since 1944, polls have shown that intolerance is politically on the left, and that it is spiritually detached from any positive religious tradition. Until 1965, strong pressure from communist ideas, the sexual revolution, the contraceptive crusade and Third World pacifism crippled American resistance in Vietnam and paved the way for the Khmer genocide. Cambodia still has not recovered from this horror. China is now turning Cambodia into a Las Vegas for its greedy, money-obsessed rich elite. NGOs, especially Anglo-Saxon, abound, more numerous than the mosques in Wahhabi-land.

To have large numbers of children, you need a certain generosity; you have to consider that the child is an asset, and not an element in a program between the car and the house. French socialism nurtures a conception of small civil servants, that of National Education in particular. The anti-natalist ideology is linked to this conception of the world, seen by these small, secure officials who emphasize this security and who are afraid of everything; of risk, of initiative, of free decision, and therefore of life. And for some, more and more numerous, the hatred of this Love took on the face of God on the cross, and which is liberating. The brutal refusal of marriage came from the flattened, foggy and boring societies of the North. Sweden was the first to no longer replace its population. Everyone recently praised its policy of welcoming immigrants… It has just brought that to a screeching halt.

In the 1980s, the best among us were silent – Jean Carmignac, Rémy Chauvin, Claude Tresmontant. We managed to make believe that Jérôme Lejeune, the greatest French geneticist of the time, was nothing but a vulgar doctor who defended the freedom of women to dispose of their wombs. If he had not had the insolence to break the taboo of denouncing premeditated infanticide in utero and the compulsory contribution of all of us in the financing of our self-genocide, a Nobel Prize would have been his reward. We are thinking of canonizing him, if the thugs in cassocks, who rule inside the Church itself, do not stand in the way.

The great asylum of old people, of the non-retransmission of life, is not the asylum of quiet death. Rather, this is where we are at: “Even before eliciting a penetration, invoking an alien invasion, aging creates from within a pretty little hell of Intolerance, resentment and bitterness.” For once, the historian was almost wrong. Almost. This little hell is not that of old age, too tired to hate, but that of youth, that of immigration, and that other, that which only knows how to pour out its shamelessness and its vulgarity, both ordinary and extraordinary, that which has been deprived of culture, which hardly knows how to present itself and which will soon have for language only a dialect of brutes. To communicate, you have to have something to say and to share.

There is no conspiracy. There is only a slow infiltration, the effects of which accumulate and which a combination of circumstances transmutes into a critical mass of transformation. The foreign invasion is here today. And their Tradition, to these men of Islam, is but an inconsistent counterfeit of the Old Testament. The Koran is just a jumble where, here and there, the distorted but still recognizable remains of figures from the Bible float like the wreckage of a ship, with one end of the mast still visible – the figure of Abraham.

Demography is a science whose origins are lost in the mists of time, but it is a science that has long been French and one of the few that continues to speak and write in French. Counting men and counting the things men need is a political act. We must count the living, and we must also count the dead. For the living and the dead will be resurrected in the promised great day of the Resurrection. Demography is a simple science which requires a triple culture: You have to be a good mathematician, doctor, sociologist-psychologist. Alfred Sauvy embraced all three. But who still knows his name? For millennia, until the 18th century, the variable was mortality.

Then the variable became fertility. Statistics was the complementary science. Today it is no more than an instrument of propaganda, in the hands of a power which organized infamy, the collective murder of life under the veil of maternal flesh, and which now organizes the placing under the veil of maternal flesh, the guardianship of populations. The concrete wall around living and free human speech is reinforced. The new watchdogs are increasingly violent, and it is they who hate – they hate the woman who bears the child, born from an act of communication and a promise of fidelity; they hate intelligence supported by the courage of truth; and finally, they hate life and the culture that bore it, along with Tradition gathered in writing.

Fifty years ago, we had three blocks: The rich and creative part of the industrial world in full collapse, and the disorderly and chaotic ebb of third world countries. There was only one bulwark of resistance: The still controlled bloc of Islam. It was already enough to figiure things out in 1984. Around the Mediterranean, with the Latin group (France, Italy, Federal Republic of Germany, Portugal and Greece) we reached 169 million. On the orher, 167 million. But more than 40% under twenty. Which meant that in 2020, the number of young people on the southern slope was five times higher than on the north. And that the reduced and old population would be 30% on-assimilated population of foreign, Muslim origin. The Marangé report already pointed out the refusal to assimilate and integrate these new immigrants.

Those who still arrive are simply not assimilable. They come from archaic, violent societies that are not equipped to understand our structures, not even our structures of receptivity. This anomic violence, sociology had already analyzed thirty years ago.

In 1984, the number one demographic problem was suicide in the industrialized world. But then we got new information: The resurgence of mortality in Third World countries – from illness; not from hunger. One reason for this redeployment of disease – the sanitary systems, that aging indigenous infrastructure in the former metropolises. Prophylactic systems collapsed in entire sections. It was then that the sterilization process was launched for Third World countries – a rocket launched by interventionist technocrats and their vision of little retirees. It was the fear of others that secretly guided the contraceptive revolution. We were afraid of the demographic explosion in the Third World; so, we made a magnificent machine to counter it. That machine has now reached the West. We could have corrected things with a third child policy. We did not. The socialist system continues to pay 20% for the child who lives and gives 80% to kill him, with the encouragement of all the press, under orders.

The threat is not covid 19 – it is senility in the West, and major epidemics in the Third World. The current pseudo-pandemic is just a tree that hides the forest of the West’s doom and devastating diseases, because colonization happened too quickly and badly. Where we die of hunger, it is because there is no civil peace with its benefits. And you only have to open a map of the world to see that more often than not, these are wars waged by the new Islamic order that claims to impose Muhammad’s law on the whole planet. Howl, fir-trees. Cry, fountains. Weep too, women who will bear children, alienated girls in a world without pity for them and which destines them to be but wombs.

Sad observation of the collapse, which we could foresee for more than thirty years. Perhaps it will be useful to wake up a few of the dying, just in time for them to ask forgiveness for the genocide of Europe, in which they were complicit through their denial of reality and their proud “conservative” or “progressive foolishness.” But there will be a small remnant who will learn French as we learned Latin or Greek. There will also be a little remnant to understand and put into practice the teaching of Jesus. We are going to experience the sadness of barbaric violence, the horror of a robotic humanity, the mass murders. In the midst of this near future of the victories of hell, the light of Easter will shine invincibly, because barbarians or artificial intelligence will neither see nor suspect its existence, so much is it of a different nature than their darkness.

The Christian is an agnostic who has been taken by the hand – this is called Grace. The Church still needs to rediscover the memory of her true vocation – to raise up men and women capable of taking by the hand those who no longer see anything but the funereal horizon that they have been designated as their only future, and a future without a future – and to show them the sky. An open sky where angels ascend and descend.

Yes, the angels ascend and descend above the sleeping Jacob. He is offered his Creator to embrace. Let us in our turn opt for the One who said, “I, I am the light of the world” – אנא אנא נוהרה דעלמא.


Marion Duvauchel is a historian of religions and holds a PhD in philosophy. She has published widely, and has taught in various places, including France, Morocco, Qatar, and Cambodia. [Translated from the French by N. Dass.].


The featured image shows, “Zola leaving the courtroom,” by Henry de Groux; painted 1898.

Saint Aebba Of Coldingham

It is regrettable that only a few facts about the life of this great abbess who was venerated all over Scotland and northern England and esteemed by the Venerable Bede are known. Now that the interest in this holy woman is increasing among the Orthodox, let us recall her biography.

St. Aebba, also known as “Ebba the Elder,” was born in about 615, in the royal family of the Kingdom of Bernicia, in northern England. Her father was King Aethelfrith, who ruled Bernicia from 593, as well as Deira (from 604) until his death in 616 (the amalgamation of these two kingdoms was later to be called Northumbria).

Among her brothers were St. Oswald the martyr, and Oswiu, kings of Northumbria. After her father had been killed at the Battle of Bawtry, St. Aebba’s mother Acha took her children to the kingdom of Dalriada, situated in the north-west of Scotland and founded by Irish Gaelic settlers. Princess Aebba was a little girl then. Meanwhile, Edwin, St. Aebba’s maternal uncle, who converted to the faith much later, assumed the Northumbrian throne. At that time, Dalriada was a stronghold of Christianity (by contrast to the largely pagan Pictland in the rest of Scotland and Northumbria in England) – and numerous spiritual and monastic centers sprang up there, the most famous being the Monastery of Iona founded by the Irish St. Columba in 563.

Under the protection of Dalriadan kings, having absorbed the Irish spiritual tradition, St. Aebba and her kinsmen were converted to Christ and baptized.

In the 630s, when her brother St. Oswald became the king of Northumbria and a champion of the Orthodox faith, St. Aebba decided to return to her homeland and help him evangelize the Northumbrians, most of whom were still pagan. In 635, on St. Oswald’s initiative the Irish St. Aidan, a former student of Iona, was sent to Northumbria and founded Lindisfarne Monastery, which became a beacon of Orthodox monasticism, culture and learning.

St. Aebba was beautiful and had suitors, but the princess chose to become the bride of Christ and took the veil in about 640. According to late tradition, she was tonsured on Lindisfarne by St. Finan, who later became the successor of St. Aidan as its abbot and bishop. No doubt, St. Aidan himself was among St. Aebba’s spiritual mentors and friends.

Well instructed in monastic life, and with the assistance of her brothers St. Oswald and Oswiu, the maiden of God in due course established her famous double monastery in Coldingham (its original name, according to St. Bede, was urbs Coludi, meaning “Colud’s fort,” and later became known as Colodaesburg), with two communities of monks and nuns who lived separately and prayed in the same church. At that time, Coldingham was part of Northumbria in England; now it is in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland.

Alas, we know little about the activity of St. Aebba as abbess, but she was noted for her wisdom, exemplary holy life and preaching that contributed to the conversion to Orthodoxy of many pagans. It is likely that in governing Coldingham, St. Aebba imitated her celebrated contemporary St. Hilda, who was abbess of Whitby in Northumbria at the same time.

Aebba’s monastery was situated some twenty-five miles north of Lindisfarne in a very austere place: Coldingham sits on the North Sea coast off south-eastern Scotland, with cold weather, heavy storms and large waves. Until recently, historians argued as to where exactly St. Aebba’s monastery was located. Some maintained that it was in what is now the village of Coldingham, and others—that it was at the Kirkhill overlooking the rocky promontory of St. Abb’s Head (named after St. Aebba) in St. Abbs village with cliffs right by the sea. The archeological excavations led by DigVentures, and carried out from 2017 to 2019, proved that her monastery was in Coldingham—exactly where the present-day Coldingham Priory stands.

This royal establishment enjoyed the influence that may be compared with Lindisfarne. Alas, that prosperity did not last long after St. Aebbe’s death.

Some monks and nuns of Coldingham neglected vigils and prayers and towards the end of her abbacy it was hard for St. Aebba to keep discipline at the monastery. That is why she would ask the great ascetic St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, an illustrious pastor and wonderworker, to visit Coldingham and instruct its inhabitants. It was during one of those visits by St. Cuthbert that his famous miracle with the otters occurred. Let us cite from Bede’s Life of St. Cuthbert:

“When this holy man was acquiring renown by his virtues and miracles, Ebbe, a pious woman and handmaid of Christ, was the head of a monastery at a place called the city of Coludi, remarkable both for piety and noble birth, for she was sister of King Oswiu. She sent messengers to the man of God, entreating him to come and visit her monastery. This loving message from the handmaid of his Lord he could not treat with neglect, but, coming to the place and stopping several days there, he confirmed, by his life and conversation, the way of truth which he taught. Here, as elsewhere, he would go forth, when others were asleep, and having spent the night in watchfulness return home at the hour of morning prayer. One night, a brother of the monastery, seeing him go out alone followed him privately to see what he should do. But he when he left the monastery, went down to the sea, which flows beneath, and going into it, until the water reached his neck and arms, spent the night in praising God. When the dawn of day approached, he came out of the water, and, falling on his knees, began to pray again. Whilst he was doing this, two quadrupeds, called otters, came up from the sea, and, lying down before him on the sand, breathed upon his feet, and wiped them with their hair after which, having received his blessing, they returned to their native element. Cuthbert returned home in time to join in the accustomed hymns with the other brethren. The brother, who waited for him on the heights, was so terrified that he could hardly reach home; and early in the morning he came and fell at his feet, asking his pardon, for he did not doubt that Cuthbert was fully acquainted with all that had taken place. To whom Cuthbert replied, ‘What is the matter, my brother? What have you done? Did you follow me to see what I was about to do? I forgive you on one condition,—that you tell it to nobody before my death.’ In this he followed the example of our Lord, who, when He showed his glory to his disciples on the mountain, said, ‘See that you tell no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead.’ When the brother had assented to this condition, he gave him his blessing, and released him from all his trouble. The man concealed this miracle during St. Cuthbert’s life; but, after his death, took care to tell it to as many persons as he was able.

From the 660s on St. Aebba had considerable influence on St. Etheldreda (Audrey), the future foundress and abbess of Ely Monastery in what is now Cambridgeshire. In 672, St. Etheldreda was separated from her nominal husband, King Ecgfrith of Northumbria (670—685; Aebba’s nephew), took the veil and for some time lived at Coldingham under St. Aebba’s guidance before travelling south to the Isle of Ely.

St. Aebba communicated with other contemporary saints too. She interceded for the great missionary, bishop and builder of churches St. Wilfrid of York, who more than once was treated unfairly by royalty. In 681 the same King Ecgfrith visited St. Aebba’s Monastery with his second spouse, Ermenburga, who was struck down by an illness after the unjust imprisonment of St. Wilfrid and the theft of the holy relics brought by Wilfrid. This episode is narrated in the earliest Life of St. Wilfrid by Stephen of Ripon, an extract from which we quote below:

“In the meantime the king and queen were making their progress through the cities, fortresses, and villages with worldly pomp and daily feasts and rejoicings, in the course of which they came to the nunnery of Coldingham. The abbess, King Oswiu’s sister Aebbe, was a very wise and holy woman. At this same place the queen was possessed by a devil during the night and, as in the case of Pilate’s wife, the attacks were so severe that she was hardly expected to last till day. As dawn was breaking the abbess came to the queen and found her lying with the muscles of her limbs all contracted and screwed up. Obviously she was dying. Off went Abbess Aebbe to the king and with tears in her eyes gave her opinion of the cause of the calamity. Indeed she rounded on him. ‘I know for a fact that you ejected Wilfrid from his see for no reason. He was driven into exile and went to Rome to seek redress. Now he has returned from that see that has the same power as St Peter himself in loosing and binding. And what have you done but despised its injunctions and despoiled the bishop? Then to pile injury on injury you have had him locked away in jail. Listen, my son, to your mother’s advice. Loosen his bonds. Restore the relics your queen has taken from his neck and carried round from city to city like the ark of the Lord to her own doom. Send a messenger with them. The best plan would be to reinstate him as bishop, but if you cannot bring yourself to do this, at least let him and his friends leave the kingdom and go where they will. Do this and you will live and your queen will recover. Disobey and, as God is my witness, you shall not escape punishment.’ The king obeyed the holy matron, freed our bishop, and let him depart with his relics and friends. And the queen recovered.”

During hat time there lived a holy recluse called Adomnan (Adam) in the Coldingham community of monks under St. Ebbe (feast: January 31). He was born in Ireland, ordained hieromonk, and during his pilgrimage to Scotland remained at Coldingham. (He shouldn’t be confused with his great namesake, St. Adomnan of Iona, the author of the Life of St. Columba).

Adomnan excelled in the ascetic life, the strict observance of all monastic rules and denounced those members of the community who behaved in a disorderly way. In a vision it was revealed to him that in the future the monastery would be destroyed by fire because of “the frequent gossip and frivolity” of some of its monks and nuns. Hearing this prophecy, the negligent monastics mended their ways, but not for long. After the deaths of St. Adomnan (c. 680) and St. Aebba a disaster befell the monastery – it was destroyed by fire in 686, though rebuilt soon afterwards.

After 870, monastic life was not resumed at Coldingham for a long time. Little by little the waves washed away the original beauty of Coldingham, St. Abb’s Head and Ebchester, but no waves could ever erase the memory of the virtues of their foundress, Aebba, in people’s hearts.

In the late eleventh century, after the Norman Conquest, the relics of St. Aebba were rediscovered and in 1098 King Edgar I of Scotland (1097–1107) endowed lands for the new Roman Catholic Benedictine Coldingham Priory in honor of the Virgin Mary, St. Cuthbert and St. Aebba (later often referred to as the Priory of the Virgin Mary). Its church was consecrated in 1100, but the priory was officially established under King David I of Scotland (1124–1153). The Priory brethren consisted of monks who came from Durham. It grew into one of the largest and most flourishing in Scotland and a center of the wool trade.

Thus the veneration of St. Aebba was revived all over Scotland and across northern England. Part of St. Aebba’s relics was kept at Coldingham, and another part in Durham. Among medieval figures associated with Coldingham, let us mention Monk Reginald of Durham († c. 1190), who composed his version of the lives of St. Godric of Finchale, St. Oswald of Northumbria, and wrote an account of St. Cuthbert’s miracles and preserved a sermon of St. Aebba of Coldingham, where he may have lived for some time. The Priory also produced Geoffrey of Coldingham (+ c. 1215), its sacristan and a chronicler, who recorded the history of Durham between the 1150s and 1215 and probably composed the lives of St. Bartholomew of Farne and St. Godric of Finchale.

A true gem is kept at the British Library in London. It is the Coldingham Breviary, created in the late thirteenth century, by a monk of Durham (Coldingham Priory was a cell of Durham Monastery and later of Dunfermline Abbey) for Coldingham Priory. This beautiful manuscript in Latin and French contains the calendar of local feasts and commemorations (such as the dedication of the altars of the Archangel Michael and St. Aebba at Coldingham Priory, the consecration of the church in Coldingham, etc.), along with the texts for the feasts read during the year, and hymns and psalms to be read weekly, complete with illuminations. Among the relics once kept by the priory were a tiny piece of the True Cross and a nail with which the Savior was bound to the Cross. However, the Priory was almost wiped off the face of the earth several times over its history—for example, by King John of England in 1216, during his punitive expedition to the north after signing the Magna Carta.

Coldingham Priory was of such great renown that King James IV of Scotland included revenues from this monastery among the gifts to his wife, Queen Mary Tudor, for their wedding in 1503.

In 1560, during the Scottish Reformation, Coldingham Priory was dissolved, the relics of St. Aebba and other holy objects destroyed, and its lands passed to a local landowner. The Priory’s demolition was completed in 1650, when Oliver Cromwell besieged it and drove out some Royalists who had taken refuge inside it. Later it was extensively used as a quarry by locals. In 1852 a splendid new church was constructed in Coldingham using the materials from the Coldingham Priory ruins. This church is open to this day. It belongs to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and is called “Coldingham Priory”. Although the current church is huge, it comprises materials from only one section of the former monastery’s choir. Recently work to improve the state of the Priory ruins was carried out and theme gardens dedicated to its history were added. The remains of the original monastery of St. Aebba were unearthed beside this church in 2019. The radiocarbon analysis results showed that the fabric, materials and butchered animal bones are from the Anglo-Saxon period—between 660 and 860 A.D. Among the most impressive finds was the original ditch, or vallum, that surrounded St. Aebba’s Monastery.

Today only remains of the wall foundations, chapel ruins and a well survive from the supposed community of St. Aebba at St. Abb’s Head near Coldingham. Interestingly, no finds of any significance were made during excavations at St. Abb’s Head, as opposed to a wealth of discoveries at the Coldingham site. This indicates that there was no permanent community at St. Abb’s Head throughout its history, apart from the buildings whose ruins are mentioned in the article. Coldingham is slightly further inland, and it was logical if St. Aebba set up her main community there. As for St. Abb’s Head, the saint may have used it for quiet prayer and retreats.

The remains are concentrated on the headland called Kirkhill close to the lighthouse at St. Abb’s Head, a local landmark. The chapel was built in the Middle Ages by the neighboring Coldingham Priory to perpetuate the memory of their pre-Norman predecessors. This place was visited by many pilgrims in the late Middle Ages and miracles were worked. Thus, a girl who was blind in one eye and deaf in one ear was healed after praying at the chapel for fifteen nights.

In his work, Britain’s Holiest Places, Nick Mayhew-Smith mentions two small coves beside St. Abb’s Head; one of them was certainly used by St. Cuthbert for nocturnal prayer in the waters (the Horse Castle Bay). The other cove preserves a well chamber, which was popular among pilgrims in earlier days who came here to commemorate the local saints; another well which reportedly has water in it is close by and is dedicated to St. Aebba (this second bay is called the Well Mouth). This area offers spectacular views of the seashore, with recurring howling gales and waves crashing beneath, as in the time of St. Aebba.

The village of Ebchester in County Durham stands on the site of the Roman fort of Vindomora. It was believed that St. Aebba founded one of her monasteries here, but it was subsequently plundered by pirates and never restored. The village church is dedicated to St. Aebba and dates back to the eleventh or twelfth century, its foundations being pre-Norman. However, no traces of an earlier monastery have been found so far. In the Middle Ages this isolated and rural spot attracted many hermits and it was known as a haven for anchorites.

There is St. Aebba’s Church in Beadnell village in Northumberland, which has a stained glass window depicting Sts. Aebba and Oswald. The village sits on the North Sea coast not far from Bamburgh. The church was built as a chapel in the eighteenth century and rebuilt in the following century. Apart from this there is a narrow promontory called Ebb’s Nook on the edge of the village, where in 1853 a very ancient stone chapel was dug up. The chapel was dedicated to St. Ebba and dated back to the thirteenth century. During the latest excavations in 2012 many burials, much earlier remains and a series of earthworks were found around it, presumably of the seventh century, enabling historians to suggest that St. Ebba may have founded a hermitage/skete here and the later chapel was erected to commemorate her. Now the site is carefully preserved.

There is the Episcopalian St. Ebba’s Church in the fishing town of Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders of the Diocese of Edinburgh, built in 1887. There used to be a St. Abb’s holy well beside the famous Ayton Castle at Ayton village in the Scottish Borders.

Finally, a district, a street and a parish church in the city of Oxford are named after St. Aebba (“St. Ebbes”). Historically, it may have been the oldest parish church in this university city. Though its origins are unknown, it formed part of Eynsham Abbey in Oxfordshire in 1005, and even then it was referred to as “a very ancient church.” St. Aebba is depicted in it on an old stained glass window. According to one version, the presence of a St. Aebba’s Church so far in the south is explained by the fact that she may have accompanied her brother St. Oswald to the nearby Dorchester-on-Thames to attend the baptism of King Cynegils of Wessex by St. Birinus, the enlightener of this region. Thus this church may have been built to commemorate the holy maiden’s visit to the area. The present church was almost wholly rebuilt and enlarged in the nineteenth century, while retaining some medieval monuments, stained glass and communion plates; over its history it was connected with some outstanding figures.

Perhaps this holy princess, one of numerous seventh-century powerful early English women, should be revered on a par with her brother St. Oswald, who founded Lindisfarne Monastery, making history and enlightening the north-eastern England. Likewise, his sister, St. Aebba founded Coldingham, made history and contributed to the enlightenment of south-eastern Scotland. They truly are two stars—two of a large number—shining in the firmament of seventh-century Britain.

Holy Mother Aebba, pray to God for us!


Dmitry Lapa writes for Pravoslavie on Church history.


The featured image shows, St. Ebba in stained glass from St Ebba’s Church Beadnell, Northumberland.

Hellenism: Past, Present, Future

When we commemorate the Metropolitan in the Liturgy, we do so out of submission to his authority. The commemoration of the local Metropolitan does not necessarily signify our prayers for his health or longevity, rather it is a token of our canonical subordination as a parish and Eucharistic community to a certain bishop. Greek Orthodox Christians must reflect carefully on this fact. Will they continue to subordinate themselves to shepherds whose only interest is the dissolution of Hellenism and Orthodoxy with the substitution of what St. Kosmas termed the “ψευτο ρωμαϊκό” that is, a false Orthodoxy, a false Christianity, a false Hellenism?

Now, two hundred years after the glorious Greek Revolution, again, we are called to muster our defense of everything sacred: Our Christianity, our Hellenism. We do this by arming ourselves with the weapons of faith. Unlike in 1821, these are not literal weapons. They are the weapons of piety, of conviction, of knowledge, of evangelical truth. We have allowed the Constantinople Patriarchate to create a false “Orthodoxy” in Ukraine to the detriment of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church led by the saintly Metropolitan Onouphry. One of the false “bishops” acknowledged by Constantinople recently declared that the faithful of the canonical church should be “marked on the ear” as we “mark stray dogs.”

This “bishop”, Adrian (Kulik) of Shepitivsky, who made this statement on Facebook, had a rather circuitous path to the OCU. He was born March 25, 1972 in Kkmelnitsky province. He studied for two years in the Moscow theological seminary, from 1991 to 1993, but continued his studies in the Lvov theological seminary of the Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox church—a self-consecrated schismatic organization. He served in Kiev as a deacon, and then in 1993 moved to the US, where he was received into the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), in which jurisdiction he was ordained a priest. In 2001 he officially left the OCA by reason of his return to the Ukraine. In 2002, he joined the Ukrainian autocephalous church of North and South America and the diaspora, where after his tonsure as a ryassaphore monk with the name Bogdan, he was consecrated a bishop in New York by bishops of the Ukrainian autocephalous church of North and South America. In 2004 he returned to the schismatic Ukrainian autocephalous church, and was received into that church in Kiev, then appointed bishop of the Cherkassy and Kirovograd diocese. He continued to serve as bishop in that church in other dioceses. Due to a conflict of opinions between two lines of the Ukrainian autocephalous church, he was tonsured a stavrophore monk, which he received with the name Adrian, and re-consecrated bishop on the same day. In 2913 he switched churches again, this time to the Kiev Patriarchate, and was assigned as rector of the church of St. George in the city of Khmelnitsky.

The glorious generation of 1821 such as Kolokotronis, such as Makriyiannis, such as Papaflessas would in no way tolerate such ridicule and stain as a matter of principal. We have allowed the Constantinople Patriarchy and its affiliates to subsist off of our work and labors and to create a plutocracy off of the labors of our fathers and grandfathers which has not benefited Hellenism in the least. It is my sincere conviction that now, Greek Orthodox Christians must vote with their feet. Complacency with the agenda of the Patriarchare at Constantinople means one thing only: Hellenic Orthodoxy won’t live to see a 300th year anniversary of the Greek Revolution.

In essence, the patriarchate of Constantinople, despite its claims at persecution by the Turkish state authorities, has enjoyed the relative tolerance of Turkey as of late. In fact it praises the Turkish government often and is often used by the Turkish government as a propaganda platform. The vast majority of the Patriarchate’s flock (and thus income) are Greeks of the USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, and the UK (Greek Cypriots in the case of the later). In the last one hundred years, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has, in general, aided western allied (American, British) interests—since the Allied Occupation of Constantinople until our present day. In return, the Patriarchate is “guaranteed” its existence in Turkey i.e. the western powers apply the proper pressure on the Turkish authorities which do not do what they did in 1955 (search for “Istanbul pogroms” on Wikipedia) to the rest of Constantinople’s Hellenism, to the 2000 or so remaining Romoioi of the City: decimate and expel them.

As is well documented—and has been generously commented on as of late—the Patriarchate of Constantinople mistakes its interests with those of the West. Certainly, western powers such as America have declared common cause with Constantinople and the evidence of their co operation, especially as concerns the birth of the schismatic false “church” in Ukraine is ample. In fact, this information is confirmed by the western powers themselves. One need look not further than the former Secretary of State’s (Pompeo’s) statement: “Took action on lots of fronts with Russia, including religious freedom. I made sure the U.S. supported international recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, helped the Metropolitan escape Russian influence,” which was posted on Twitter.

Western powers historically attempted a “containment” of Russia, using every means possible to this achievement. Napoleon did so and Hitler did so. Communism is no doubt a supreme evil and ought to have been contained and stopped. Yet, for the duration of my lifetime Communism has ceased to exist in Russia. The USSR collapsed some 31 years ago. The world should understand the first victims of Communism were the Russian people themselves, and the Russian church itself. Communism: the supreme evil to which the Russian Church fell victim as is testified by the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia whose memory we recently celebrated. The Russian Church and the Russian Orthodox faithful earned “top of the list priority” in the persecutions driven by the Soviet regime. As the West continues its traditional assault on Russia, it seems the Constantinople Patriarchy has confused its interests both political and ecclesiastical with those of the Western powers, and thus its “war” on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the establishment of a false “autocephalous” “church” in Ukraine.

What does the survival of Orthodoxy and Hellenism, in particular, Hellenic or Greek Orthodoxy have to do with these events? It is clear that the shepherds of Hellenic Orthodoxy and the political authorities that rule Greece—i.e. the Mitsotákis government—are taking us for a shipwreck of the finest caliber. This is quite fitting, it is quite “Byzantine” of them. Similar courses of action were followed in other times by the Patriarchate of Constantinople co-operating with the Byzantine empire—read the life of St. Simeon the New Theologian and find out how the illustrious ecclesiastical authorities of the time buried icons of St. Simeon’s spiritual father to extinguish his veneration which they considered blasphemy. St. Simeon was finally exiled for speaking eternal truths to the Constantinople Patriarchy.

Prior to this, many know well that St. John Chrysostom himself died as a disgraced former bishop of what is today the Greek Orthodox Church, which promogulated his exile, ultimately causing his death. Thus, St. Simeon the New Theologian wrote of the bishops of the Constantinople Patriarchate (as if Christ was speaking to them): They (the bishops) unworthily handle My Body and seek avidly to dominate the masses… They are seen to appear as brilliant and pure, but their souls are worse than mud and dirt, worse even than any kind of deadly poison, these evil and perverse men! (Hymn 58)

How is the Russian Patriarchy different, you ask? Never did the Russian Patriarchy claim any rights and prerogatives not its own. Never did it begin teaching that it is “first among unequals” – Constantinople has done so. Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church freely has apologized for its historic errors. The persecution of Old Believers, the imprisonment of St. Maxim the Greek are examples. The Russian Church historically has also stood up to the Russian state. The death (execution) of Metropolitan Philip II of Moscow is a testimony to this. The suspicious death (likely poisoning) of Patriarch Tikhon is also testimony of this. And what has Constantinople ever apologized for? How has Constantinople or the Church of Greece ever stood up to the State’s interests when their end result is the destruction of Christianity and the family unit? Archbishops Seraphim and Christodoulos of Athens are exceptions. The later resisted the intrigues of the Constantinople Patriarchy to the point where they struck his (Christodoulos’) name from the diptychs.

Since Constantinople is leading Hellenic Orthodoxy, I as a Greek Orthodox priest -though now under from within the Russian Orthodox Church—will never stop proclaiming that it is leading Orthodoxy and Hellenism to a cliff and to destruction and to ultimate demise. There is certainly no contempt within me for the See itself. There is only righteous disdain for the decisions of the men who occupy the See. Invoking the intercession of such Fathers, such as, St. John Chrysostom and St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Symeon the New Theologian I bring to mind the ancestors of today’s Greeks who fought their way out of Turkish slavery and into the light of freedom. Look around yourselves and at least in the secrecy of your own interior thoughts and life be honest with yourselves: is this the Hellenism and Orthodoxy they were shot, burned alive, or roasted over open, coal-fires for?


The word “Hellenism” conveyed different concepts at different times throughout Christian history. Consistently in the first millennium it meant “paganism.” St. Basil uses the word “Hellenic” meaning “idolater.” This was a time when identity was based primarily on faith. As the Eastern Roman Empire disintegrated, the final Emperors added to their title the phrase “of the Hellenes”—in addition to “of the Romans.” Gemistus Pletho, a late Byzantine (pagan) philosopher who died around 1453, was among the first to “revive” the idea of a modern Greek cultural group/nation as we would come to understand the Greeks today. Yet, he rejected Christianity by adopting a neo-pagan identity; prior to this, to be Greek (as we understand Hellenic identity) meant to be: a Roman citizen, an Orthodox Christian, and one who spoke Greek, in addition to one’s native language (Armenian, Turkic, Bulgarian, etc.).

With the advent of the Ottoman Empire, the Emperors of which retained within their title the phrase “of the Romans”, the “millet” system—the classification of society into various religious groups that constituted the pillar of their identity—was established. In the Orthodox Christian part of the “Roman” millet were Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians etc., and they referred to themselves and were in turn referred to by the Turks as “Romans”. Conversion from Orthodox Christianity to Islam meant adoption of a Turkish identity and—for our modern intents and purposes—amalgamation into the Turkish nation. This is exactly why today, in Western Turkey, most Turks look (and act) European, i.e. Greek, as they descend from Greeks who at various historical stages adopted Islam. There were also “middle” groups, such as the “Crypto Christians”, who outwardly practiced Islam yet maintained an “underground” Orthodox Christianity in secret churches with secret clergy. Other “millets” were the Jewish Millet, and the Armenian Millet—for Armenian Monophysite Christians.

Language, in this religious context, was secondary. There existed Turkish speaking Greek Orthodox villages in Anatolia well into the 20th century wherein Turkish was written in Greek characters and scripture readings at the services were read in their dialect of Turkish, Karamalídika. And later, there existed Greek-speaking Muslims in places like Thrace and Crete. These were formerly Greek Orthodox Christians who embraced Islam for the status, wealth, and influence that came with conversion. The fact that language did not immediately translate into national identity is not an Eastern phenomenon: the French of Lorraine spoke German, and the Irish to this day speak English. In Asia, Japanese is written in Chinese characters. We will return to the issue of language as one of the primary sources of identity (the other being Faith) below.

During the nationalist movements beginning in the eighteenth century, the various Balkan ethnic groups conspired against the Ottoman Empire. Revolutionaries, such as, Rigas Ferraios envisioned a “re-birth” of the Roman Empire: an Orthodox Christian Federation stretching from Moldova across to the Dalmatian Coast and down the Balkan Peninsula to Greece and east to Anatolia, including Syria, Egypt and the Holy Land—the capital of which would be Constantinople. This would be a “multi-cultural” and “multi-ethnic” empire wherein many would co-exist as they did in Byzantium, with the common factors of faith, citizenship, and language.

Various uprisings had occurred against the Turks, such as the Orlov Revolt and the First Serbian Uprising. Success came when nationalistic tendencies were left aside. Though what we term today as the “Greek Revolution of 1821” began in Iasi, Romania, as the “start” of a pan-Balkan revolt, the end result was that only those living in what became modern Greece revolted. When falling back on their insular tendencies, on jealousy, intrigue and selfishness, the Greeks quickly descended into factions and proceeded to a series of civil wars that were fought consecutively in the decade after the Revolution of 1821 and before Greece became a sovereign entity in 1831. Consequently, only the intervention of the Great Powers, in the end, enabled the establishment of a Greek Kingdom, and its freedom and protection against the Ottoman Empire was guaranteed. Guaranteed by who? By the great Christian Monarchies of the time: Russia, the United Kingdom, Austria, and France.

Not all the Greek revolutionaries spoke Greek; many spoke Arvanítika—such as, Markos Botsaris—or Vlach, or even Turkish. Knowledge of Greek or lack thereof did not imply non-inclusion into the body of those we know today as the Greeks. The Greek government in the early twentieth century engaged in a massive “re-education” campaign that resulted in the near extinction of Arvanítika in places like Kranidi (where I was ordained), Hydra, Aegina, and Thebes.

The end result of this campaign, however, was a uniformity in terms of identity according to the nationalistic European model, which is: To be x means to speak x. This concept that identity flows solely from language, naturally, is foreign to the Eastern Roman (and later Ottoman) concept of identity wherein identity is based primarily on common faith.

Aléxandros Papadiamántis, “the saint of Greek letters”, within his short stories, records the last vestiges of such a society. Evidence of this is, within the predominantly Greek context, the appearance of Arvanites, or converted Turks or Slavs, who with their dialects, sayings, and customs enrich the Hellenic world. Such influence, which runs multiple ways, is seen in persons such as the philhellene Bavarian Doctor, Wilhelm Wild (†1899), who “adopted” the “strange ways of the Greeks,” living amongst them on Skiathos for over fifty years, having come from the Kingdom of Bavaria to Greece as a young man to fight in the later phase of the Revolutionary War.

The Eastern Roman concept of identity passed well on to the Russians who, during the time of the Russian Empire, converted and amalgamated many tribes and peoples—Finnic, Turkic and others—into the Russian Empire through missionary activity. Besides the adoption and perseverance of Byzantine state symbols (doubled headed eagle) and titles (Tsar) this effort to unite an empire on the basis of faith is the Eastern Roman legacy that lived on within the Russian Empire. It was for this reason that Patriarch Nikon of Moscow said, “Though I am a Russian and son of a Russian, my faith and my religion are Greek.”

Hellenism is Ecumenicity in the sense that many peoples can be grafted onto the body. This is the Roman identity, the Orthodox identity, which we find alive and exemplified in such authors such as the above-mentioned Papadiamantis. And yet Papadiamántis stands firmly within what may be termed the “European Christian tradition” along with other writers such as Chekhov, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, and Chesterton. In its originality, therefore, Hellenism is not insular, it is outward looking, and confident in its contact with other cultures and civilizations. And yet, it preserves and maintains Tradition as it has been transmitted through the generations.

We conclude our present thoughts ahead of a series of questions, however, which inevitably arise: In what condition is Hellenism today? What is the supposed “guardian” of the Hellenic Christian identity (i.e. the Greek Orthodox Church, the Constantinople Patriarchate) doing to preserve and transmit the Eastern Roman legacy? And, is it the proper vehicle to conduct this transmittance? What has it truly given the Greeks in the past one hundred years? These questions will be answered shortly…


“Two Hundred Years After the Greek Revolution”: We arrive at the topic of Hellenism today, Hellenism in the modern world and specifically, Hellenism outside the modern day nation-state of Greece. What is the state of Hellenism and Orthodoxy amidst the Hellenism of the diaspora?

During the Turkish oppression of 400 years, the Church was the guardian of what might be termed, “the Eastern Roman conscious identity” of the Greeks. Later, after the Revolution of 1821, the state naturally participated in this effort of ethnic cohesion. Greeks were travelers and explorers from the times of the ancients to our own era. The urge to go forth and explore, colonize, and create new worlds is hymned and lauded in Greek literature from the sixteenth-century Erotokritos to the works of Papadiamántis in the nineteenth century to the songs of our own modern Savvópoulos. Exile. Colonization. These are among the defining characteristics of Hellenism’s essence. Until the time of Nasar and the nationalists in Egypt, Alexandria had a thriving Greek community. My own great-great grandfather made a fortune laying marble in Alexandria. One of my distant ancestors, Photius, became Patriarch of Alexandria in the early twentieth century (where, by the way, he opposed the introduction of the new calendar), and until 1955, when perhaps one in four citizens of Constantinople were Greeks.

Segments of the Greeks began to immigrate abroad—at first to far-off America, Australia and Panama (to build the canal)—but also to places like Italian Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda and the Congo in Africa at the turn of the twentieth century. During these decades, a Greek family on average had one quarter of its relations abroad. After the Second World War, the Greeks immigrated to Western Europe—mainly Germany, the Cypriots, to the UK—and Canada, and (once again) to the USA, and yet other far-off places. After the economic crisis of the 2000’s, an unexpected wave of immigration, helped by common EU citizenship, made its way to places—some of them quite unexpected—like Hungary, Czechia, and Poland—countries whose citizens themselves had, during the Communist era, immigrated to Greece as a stepping-stone leading to the wealthier European nations. Now roles were reversed, and, once again, Germany and Austria saw an influx of new Greeks.

The direction taken by the Greek ecclesiastical authorities—the guardians of Hellenic identity in the lands abroad among the diaspora—historically, in the new world, sought maintenance of an ethnic ghetto. There is nothing inherently negative about self-preservation… except to say that, historically, Hellenism has sought to “conquer by influence”. Contact with other civilizations is a sought-after affair, and exchange is encouraged. Hellenism seeks to “graft” others to its world by conversion to Orthodoxy and adoption of its habits, its thinking, and its world-view by other civilizations.

Yet preservation of our faith and culture—while influencing the surrounding culture—were never hallmarks of Constantinopolitan policy. The end results of the policy promoted by the Greek ecclesiastical authorities under Constantinople are: decades of food festivals and dance associations, which promoted what may be termed a “distorted” Hellenism. These have nearly ensured the extinction of Hellenism proper in the New World. The focus on Orthodox Christianity was absent; “Americanization” in such a context was the key. How can we look and act more “normal”? How can we rid our church of things like Byzantine music, vigils, and monasticism and cassock-wearing priests, and fill in with European-style choirs with organs, beardless priests in suits, pews, and hymnals? And today, how exactly do we become more “woke” so as not to offend the militant left? How do we promote moral inclusivity and neo-Marxist movements? How do we dilute everything sacred in our worship—even the age-old practices concerning the Holy Mysteries? Admittedly, certain elements of traditionalism—such as the clergy wearing cassocks and beards—made a comeback. These cannot save the irreparable damage done. These are just musicians playing as the Titanic sinks.

Undoubtedly, the fault also lies with our parents and grandparents, many of whom silently allowed this corruption to occur, and others who even affirmed and promoted it for their own gain and for their own purposes (“respected” positions on parish councils, etc.). While I grew up, for example, traditional Greek Christmas carols were ignored; instead, Christmas carols translated into Greek from English (most of which are originally German) were sung. There’s nothing inherently wrong with western Christian carols. But western messages and values permeated my young being, not the messages and eternal truths of our Orthodoxy heralded in the eternal Byzantine carols of the Greeks. The question became: Why this mania of forsaking anything that strikes as Byzantine? Papadiamantis, Seferis, Elytis—these authors—perhaps the most profound Greeks of the past one hundred years—were never mentioned to us as children. No one ever told us of the Erotokritos or Diogenis Akritas.

I had a question as a child that nagged internally at me: each Saturday I was dragged by my blessed mother to Greek School where I was absolutely forbidden to speak English in class. Yet, on Sunday, perhaps half the Liturgy was celebrated in English. Our priest dressed like a Roman Catholic in a suit. Any sense of traditionalism was scoffed at. My young mind did not understand the contradiction, and, without perhaps the proper articulation on an internal or external level, I asked myself a basic question: “Why is our Greek Orthodox Church not really Greek and not really Orthodox?”

As more information on Orthodoxy in the traditional Orthodox nations readily became available with the advent of the internet in my early teens, this question only deepened. This question would lead me, at around fifteen years or age, to the respected and ever-memorable Fr. Mikhail Lubochinsky—a man who became a formative father in Christ. He introduced me to authentic Orthodoxy. Later in my life, as I read and translated Papadiamántis many years after Fr. Mikhail’s unexpected repose in 2014, I began to see in this simple Russian priest living in twentieth century Canada an example of a nineteenth-century Greek priest.

What does this mean? Elegant and yet simple, charitable and sacrificial to all his parishioners, faithful in his celebration of the Divine services and the Holy Liturgy, with an unwavering, other-worldly purpose, the ever memorable Fr. Mikhail sought to initiate his spiritual children into the inner mystery which is the true Christian life. Irrespective of their particular background or ethnic identity, all—Poles, Georgians, Greeks and average Canadians alike—were made to feel as equal children under his pastoral care, with no distinctions, no exceptions. Would our ancestors account such a man as not being a Greek? Fr. Georges Florovsky, the eminent theologian (and by coincidence godfather of the aforementioned Fr. Mikhail from whom I was told stories of Fr. Georges’ little-known asceticism and fasting) said: “If a theologian starts thinking that ‘the Greek categories’ are archaic, he automatically will lose the rhythm of Catholicity. We must be more Greek to be truly Catholic, to be truly Orthodox.” Broadly speaking, the “Greek” referenced by Fr. Georges is defined as the Hellenism born from the early Church Fathers, such as the Cappadocians, who reconciled Ancient Greek philosophy with Christianity. This has nothing to do with genetics and DNA and who is descended from who—these categories are absolutely irrelevant. As a flower, one could say, or as an organism, Hellenism blossomed then, and is growing still.

Would our ancestors account the modern day Greek bishops as true Greeks? The question—“What would the ancestors say?”—is the fundamental question. Recently, Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto stated: “Let us work together for the glory of God and for our Holy Orthodox Faith in Christ! Only then will we live in peace, unity and love. In doing so, Greeks in Canada will accomplish even greater things! This is what we deserve! This is what we need. Let us all advance as one. Let no one remain behind or forgotten.” And yet, the policy of assimilation within the West promoted by the official Greek Orthodox Church in the past fifty years has failed the Greeks. This policy has ensured that scores—that thousands of Greeks—have become totally Anglicized, and finally, foreigners to the Orthodox Church.

Those who have a conscience know and understand that the official Greek Orthodox Church has absolutely nothing to offer them. It is void of any spirituality, any authenticity, any hint of originality. It has become a parody wherein once a year a food festival occurs, the main goal and focus being the collection of funds—with no absolute existential goal, no ultimate purpose or end beyond the exchange of funds, soulless numbers within a system. We could say it has morphed into a bank with the guise of faith. And reading these words, the Greeks know this message to be true as they see their children apostatizing from Orthodoxy and not speaking Greek, not feeling any particular “tie” to their ancestral homeland—the same homeland Metropolitan Sotirios appeals to to provide Hellenism with “ethical” support. This is not to say anything of the ties the Greeks no longer have with their Byzantine ancestors and the Eastern Roman legacy of Byzantium championed by Fr. Georges Florovsky!

Here is a fact we must all reckon with: The fact that ninety percent of those who identify as Greek Americans are not Orthodox Christians—a fact that the Greek Archdiocese of America ignores. It’s time that we find a new mode of ecclesial existence in order to preserve our faith and identity as Greeks.

Adherence to the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the New World has seen a ninety percent apostasy.2 I ask: why should the Greeks continue to adhere to Constantinople? Since when was adherence to the Greek Archdiocese of America or Constantinople the defining characteristic of Hellenism? Are the Greeks who adhere to the other Patriarchates, such as Alexandria or Jerusalem, any less Greek? Are the Antiocheans, who still term themselves and their Patriarchate, “Greek Orthodox”, though today they are all Arabic-speaking, less Greek? If so, then Kottas Hrístou who died for Greece while screaming “Long live Greece!” in Bulgarian as he was hung by the Ottoman authorities also isn’t Greek. When nineteenth-century Orthodox Slavic immigrants to the new world termed their parishes “Greek Catholic”, what did they reference? The Unia? Obviously not.

They were referencing the Ecumenical Hellenism we mentioned, the distinct combination of Orthodoxy and Hellenism on which our common ancestors, the Eastern Romans, built a mighty empire. Whether we are Greeks or Serbs or Romanians or Russians, this legacy is our legacy. We are all co-inheritors of this legacy. We all share in the common duty of preserving it and influencing modern culture with it. In these uncertain times we live in, in this truly “novel” age of history that has dawned, little stability is left in western society. We must look into the past, to the Faith of our ancestors who intercede on our behalf, and we must seek new historical (though not physical) destinations and solutions to the seemingly insolvable problems we face. Despite the fallen men and women of Byzantium, it was a society wherein Christianity and Christ came first. This is what the common goal should be: that the Kingdom of God is reflected within our own earthly kingdom. Do all men and women not share in this goal as common children of the Father? Is our Eastern Orthodox Christianity not the basis of unity for all?

Here in the West, since the Russian Church has given us the opportunity to live the faith purely, there is no “loss of Hellenism” in doing so from within the Russian Church. After all, what is the difference in being a Greek under the Russian Church or a Greek under the Patriarchate of Jerusalem? How does an Orthodox jurisdiction—a representative of the Eastern Roman Church—“prove” its Hellenism? Were the Greek Bishops who served the Russian Church historically, such as, Evgenios Voulgaris and Nikephoros Theotokis, both of Kerkyra, not Greeks?

Here, in the New World, for us Greeks, the preservation of our language, our customs, and our traditions—but primarily our Orthodox Christianity—can only occur under the freedom provided by the Russian Orthodox Church, since the Greek Archdioceses long ago rejected their true vocation. The Greek Archdiocese claimed that Russians can live their faith within it in the so-called “Slavic” Vicariate, composed of defrocked and disgraced Russian clergy who were unfaithful sons. History will prove that I, and those who follow this example, are the faithful children of the Eastern Roman legacy. We invite those who care about the preservation of Orthodoxy and Hellenism—while ensuring their transmittance to the peoples of this land—to come and work with us.


Father Ioannis Fortomas, originally from Canada, now serves as Orthodox priest in the Peloponnese (Greece). His work is regularly fearured in Pravoslavie.


The featured image shows Christ as Pantocrator, a mosaic from the Pammakaristos Church, Constantinople (Turkey), 11th-12th century.

St. Joan Of Arc And The Feminists

One can only be surprised, at first glance, that feminists have not adopted the figure of Joan of Arc as the standard of their cause. A strong woman if there ever was one, despite her five feet height; the great general of the armies of Charles VII, with a frank tongue, especially in front of those men in gowns, with such virile courage that it never ceases to amaze us. Joan still disturbs the self-righteous of today, as she disturbed those of old. If Christine de Pisan, whom hysterical women would forcibly enthroned as the first feminist, recognized in the Maid the instrument of God, the feminists for their part have abandoned Joan who nevertheless still succeeds in rallying under her banner royalists and republicans, believers and atheists.

Indeed, Joan, well-ensconced in the cohort of saints, is an anomaly, a real-to-goodness head-scratcher. On closer inspection, as the Church did when she canonized her a hundred years ago, Joan is a woman from the soil, attached to a homeland, Catholic by faith and morals. A woman submissive to Her Lord God, Whom she first served.

For France

For Free France, such a charming pleonasm, Joan gave up her life. It does not have to be shown that feminism is a current that sprang from the anti-patriotic, internationalist and communist Left, the one that claimed ninety million lives in the past century. For these universalist ideologues who ape the Catholic Church, it would have been blessed to show Joan as a victim of the Church, burned because of witchcraft, witchcraft put forward today as the emancipation of women. But such an image of the region of Épinal does not stand up to examination of the facts. This good Lorraine girl was burned alive by the English, said Villon. The English – invaders, for centuries eyeing our beautiful country. Foreigners in short, supported by traitors to the country, including Cauchon the bishop. We saw others such, in other times. Nothing new under Satan’s sun.

The saints all promoted universal equality and dignity of the human race; none of them encouraged the dissolution of nations and identities in a babelized sabayon enslaved to a supranational entity. Joan is no exception to the rule.

From the steps of the Kingdom, in Lorraine, God made a saint germinate, to offer her to France. Joan herself says that she “came” to France, guided by her voices. She left her land to save one that was obviously not hers. She has acquired, if it is possible to afford this anachronism, our nationality by the law of spilled blood, like the legionaries. To drive the English out of France was the mission to which she was employed, and we know by heart her famous word, that are difficult today to repeat without attracting the wrath of the Left in the first row of feminists (the violence against the Nemesis collective on March 8, 2020 in Paris): “Whether God loves the English, I don’t know. But He does want them at home.” In these few words, Joan reaffirms that God, Creator of the Earth, has also delimited its territories, assigned to each people, and that it is His will that each one remains in his place. As to whether God loves the English, doubt is always in order…

And then there is that sword that Joan unearthed from behind an altar in Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois, guided by her voices. Charles Martel’s sword, which repelled the Arabs, waited there for seven centuries for Joan to repel the English. God’s plan for France spans thousands of years before our eyes, which never ceases to leave disbelievers of all persuasions skeptical.

For Purity

Virginity also irritates the said feminists. Behind “my body, my choice” is the demand to do anything with your body and to make others and society pay the price. How to associate the one who insisted on having “never killed anybody” with the right to kill children in the womb of their mothers?

Joan may be a virgin; but she is nonetheless aware of the dangers that threaten women, as evidenced by her insistence on keeping her men’s clothes in English jails so as not to be raped. Likewise, the day she jumped from a Beaurevoir tower, preferring to risk her life rather than her marriage. Yet there are other saints who were not spared the infamy of rape. Joan’s virginity bothered her accusers, as it bothers feminists today. What slanderous and scabrous comments has she endured? Joan was truly pure according to her companions in arms, alongside whom she slept in the straw during the campaign. In the midst of the soldiers, like the other men, Joan undressed every evening to heal her wounds. “I would not have dared to approach Joan because of all the kindness that I saw in her,” said Bertrand de Poulengy. And Jean de Metz goes further: “I was inflamed with the words of the Maid and with a love for her, divine, I believe.” So, it was with them, as with other soldiers. Radiant with purity in the midst of filth, by the grace of God, Joan made men better.

This purity, which she treasured, she demanded of her men and also of women. The only time Joan struck with the flat of her sword, it was a whore who violated by her morals the holy war she was waging.

The state of virginity corresponded to her state in life. We must devote ourselves entirely, man or woman, to our state of duty, and the service of God demands an even greater sacrifice. Thus, Joan advised a pseudo-clairvoyant “to return to her husband, to do the work of his house, his household and to feed his children” (During the interview with Catherine de La Rochelle in the winter of 1430.). Hard to swallow for feminists.

We must believe that virginity takes on a special character in the eyes of God because the order of virgins has at least two generals for the armies: Saint Mary at the head of the celestial legions; Saint Joan of Arc at the head of the French armies. The Middle Ages had seen other women lead armies; Blanche of Castille, Joan of Brittany, etc. But they were noble, married and none entered the fray. While the humble laborer’s daughter, Martel’s sword in its scabbard at her side and the banner with the arms of Christ in hand, led the attack, always the first to cry, “Forward,” exposing herself to the thrusts of spears and darts.

For God

What cannot fail to bother feminists more than anything else is that Joan only has “the will of God” on her lips and not her own. Joan’s faith contradicts their rewriting of history. It was Christ who freed women from the bondage in which religions had locked them in antiquity. Just as He freed men. What Christine de Pisan had already said, what Régine Pernoud brilliantly noted. The status of women in the Christian Kingdom was quite different from this perpetual minority to which the Republic forced her in the 19th century. Dignitas auctoritas et potestas enjoyed by women were by God and for God. There is then no need to claim rights against men, in the first place, presented as eternal oppressors of women by feminists.

Far from the bloodthirsty fury fantasized by the bourgeois of Paris, Joan wept loudly for the English dead on the battlefield, not because they were dead; she had kindly asked them to leave France, too bad for them; but because they died deprived of the sacrament of confession.

“Jesus, Mary, God served first.” It is self-forgetfulness that is disturbing in our hours of individualism. No ego in Joan, just the notion of service. With exemplary piety, Joan had prayed every day since childhood, all the time; going to confession before each battle. She demanded the same of her soldiers – the state of grace. Every Sunday, Joan traded in her war clothes for her best dress before going to Mass. Joan received Communion as soon as she could, something unusual at that time. Even excommunicated at the end of her sentencing trial, her despicable jailers could refuse her the Holy Communion which she received a few moments before going up to the stake. “I will not last a year,” the Maid had predicted. And the nineteen-year-old martyr was never been seen prophesying her death in this way and extinguishing herself in the midst of the flames, repeating the sweet name of “Jesus.”

“In effeminate times,” in the words of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, God arouses women to put men back in their place as men, as if to make fun of them. And that, ultimately, feminism cannot accept.


Élodie Perolini is a writer, editor and mother, who loves writing about France and God. (This article appears through the gracious courtesy of La Nef).


The featured image shows, “Entry of Joan of Arc into Orléans, May 8, 1429,” by Henry Scheffer; painted in 1843.

Curing The Real Disease

It was in the years following the Civil War, America was hard on the path to “becoming great.” The industrial revolution had moved into full swing, railroads criss-crossed the country, immigration was gaining speed, and wealth was accumulating at a rate never seen before. We were slowly moving from our original agrarian economy towards life as an industrial nation. The middle-class was growing, education was increasing, and the life of management was the aspiration of many. We were also getting sick in new ways.

In 1868, the first article on the term neurasthenia was published. Though the word had been around some thirty years, it was making its debut as a more wide-spread diagnosis. The symptoms associated with it were: fatigue, anxiety, headache, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, neuralgia, and depressed mood. If all of that sounds familiar, it’s because it never went away. We simply call it by different names now. And, speaking of names, William James (Varieties of Religious Experience), called it “Americanitis.”

This “disease” was blamed on a variety of causes. Many of them had to do with the modern lifestyle and more generalized circumstances of our existence. America, in the late 1800’s was already “losing its religion.” There was some vague sense that the religious ideas of earlier times (America’s earlier times) were inadequate. There were many new denominations (results of the various revivals of the 19th century). There were also a large wave of cult-like movements (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Science, etc.). Pentecostalism had much of its birth during this same period. Of little note to some was the rise of Anglo-Catholicism in this period, a movement within mainline Anglican thought that looked back to times prior to the Reformation for its inspiration. A number of leading figures in things like the Arts and Crafts Movement came from this religious background. They were looking for an older spiritual model (and an economic model) to treat the disease that modernity had unleashed.

It has to be acknowledged, I think, that many of us today are inheritors of the same interior sense that “something is wrong.” Early in the 20th century, writers such as GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc offered crititicisms of “modernity” drawn from a traditional, Catholic worldview. Serious thinkers have continued that same narrative (not all of them Christian) ever since. And so we have Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Jung, 1933), Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl, 1946), and other such major works, decade by decade, fumbling towards a way of speaking about the emptiness of modern life. The modern liberation movements, as well as the youth movements of the 60’s should be read in this same light even though their critiques, in time, were themselves to become symptomatic of modernity.

A tragic attempt to address the malaise of modern neurasthenia was a sense that American men were growing too soft and unmanly towards the end of the 19th century. There were conversations that spoke of the need for a “good war” and of a “great cause” to regenerate what had become lacking. Such sentiments certainly played a large role in the Spanish-American War, the unabashed launch of America’s soft colonialism. The themes of that time have been replayed in every subsequent conflict. Whether we have been “making the world safe for democracy” or simply uninstalling various hostile regimes, variations of the same explanations and marketing have accompanied our efforts. Such explanations were plausible in World War II, but have rung increasingly hollow ever since.

Having largely lost our religion(s), modernity has seen fit to create new ones. If we wonder what constitutes a modern religion (or efforts to create one) we need look no further than our public liturgies. Various months of the year are now designated as holy seasons set-aside to honor various oppressed groups or causes. It is an effort to liturgize the nation as the bringer and guardian of justice in the world, an effort that seeks to renew our sense of mission and to portray our nation as something that we believe in. It must be noted that as a nation, we have not been content to be one among many. We have found it necessary to “believe” in our country. It is a symptom of religious bankruptcy. As often as not, major sports events (Super Bowls) are pressed into duty as bearers of significance and meaning. The pious liturgies that surround them have become pathetic as they try ever-harder to say things that simply are not true or do not matter. This game is not important – it’s just a game.

The difficulty with engineered religions, or causes that serve as substitutes, is that they fail to transcend. Regardless of how great many moments or ideas might be, they easily die a thousand deaths as their many non-transcendent failures come to mind. In the late 1960’s, the singer Peggy Lee registered a hit single, “Is that all there is?” It is a song with the lilt of a French chanson, à la Edith Piaf. It moves through the great moments of life, including love and even death itself, but offers its sad refrain:

Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

This is our context, the world of modernity. It is also our sickness, an empty lassitude whose hunger invites never-ending experiments of conferring meaning on our world. The “better world” that modernity pursues shifts relentlessly and changes as though it were directed by Paris fashionistas. At the same time, it is met with increasing anger and frustration, a predictable response to what are essentially imposed religious views.

William James offered the interesting observation that war is a “sacrament” of the nation state. He had in mind the larger conflicts of his time. War grants a unity and a sense of purpose and participation to the country that is almost unrivaled. In our time, the response to the attack of 911 comes the closest to that sacramental purpose. However, with conflicts that dragged on for two decades, it began to wane in its effectiveness. It remains a touchstone at present, an event to which others are compared in efforts to foster another occasion of sacramental war. All of these sacramental efforts and the public liturgies that surround them, however, fail to serve any transcendent purpose. The nation state and modernity itself (which is primarily a form of economic activity) simply do not and cannot rise to the level of eternal significance. Indeed, their ultimate banality mocks us.

I am often asked, when writing on this topic, what response Christians should make. What do we do about the state? How do we respond to modernity? For the state – quit “believing” in it. We are commanded in Scripture to pray for those in authority. We are not commanded to make the state better or participate in its projects. We are commanded to serve our neighbors as we fulfill the law of God. However, I think it is important to work at “clearing the fog” of modern propaganda regarding the place of the nation state in the scheme of things. I would frame a response to modernity in this manner: we are not responsible for foreign religions. Though Christian language and carefully selected ideas are often employed in the selling of modernity’s many projects, it is a mistake to honor its false claims. Make no mistake, modernity will offer no credit, in the end, to Christ, the Church, or to people of faith. Its interests lie elsewhere.

The proper response to these things will seem modest. Live the life of the Church. The cure of modernity’s neurasthenia is found not in yet one more successful project, but in the long work of salvation set in our midst in Christ’s death and resurrection. Our faith is not a chaplaincy to the culture, or a mere artifact of an older world. The Church is the Body of Christ into which all things will be gathered, both in heaven and on earth. It is the Way of Life as well as a way of life. It is not given to us to control how we are seen by the world, or whether the world thinks us useful. It is for us to be swallowed up by Christ and to manifest His salvation to the world. We were told from the very beginning that would should be patient, just as we were promised from the beginning that we would suffer with Christ.

I think the sickness that haunts our culture is that we fail to know and see what is good and to give thanks for the grace that permeates all things. When that is forgotten, nothing will satisfy, nothing will transcend. There is no better world to be built, nor great wars to be won. There is today, and that is enough.


Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


The featured image shows the progress of cholera; watercolor, dated 1831.

Saint Bernard, On Freedom

Over eight centuries before Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated his “Four Freedoms,” a shorter and much better list of freedoms was elucidated by the young abbot of the new monastery of Clairvaux, one Bernard by name.

In his work, On Grace and Free Choice (De Gratia et libero arbitrio), Saint Bernard (1090-1153) distinguished three kinds of freedom: of nature, of grace, and of glory. The first is freedom from necessity; the second, from sin; and the third, from suffering. All three concern man’s inner life, where all true freedom resides, rather than extrinsic factors. (For a timely example of what I mean by “extrinsic factors,” we might consider freedom from external compulsion to receive an unethically sourced, unnecessary, and ineffective vaccine against an illness that 99.7% of people who contract it survive.) For us moderns, like Roosevelt, the tendency is to locate freedom outside of ourselves, but that is not what Saint Bernard had in mind. Real freedom, I repeat, is an interior reality, and all three of these freedoms are interior.

The Calvinists and Lutherans, who exaggerated the effects of the Fall, denied that man’s will is free. They would have done well to read Saint Bernard, who based his argumentation solidly on Holy Scripture. So, too, do modern schools of psychological determinism deny — or at least detract from — the freedom of the will. But Saint Bernard, writing with great philosophical certitude and liberty, shows that the will by its very nature is free.

This innate freedom of the will, in addition to our intellect, is what makes us in the image and likeness of God, and the Master of Clairvaux notes that this first freedom has nothing to do with whether we are good or bad: “Freedom from necessity belongs alike to God and to every rational creature, good or bad.” This freedom, which makes our actions “voluntary,” is contrasted with that necessity of which brute beasts are possessed in all their actions. In dogs and cats, and all the rest of non-rational animals, there are no voluntary or free acts. They act by an interior compulsion to do what they do. Without having an intellect and a will, non-rational animals live exclusively on the level of the senses and the irascible and concupisciple appetites. We, too, have those faculties, but our intellect and will tower over them and make our acts human acts and therefore voluntary and free acts. As the Cistercian Doctor puts it negatively, “What is done by necessity does not derive from the will and vice versa.”

For clarity, I should note here that there are acts that men do that are not voluntary and therefore not free. These are things we have in common with the beasts, like respiration, digestion, and the myriad other activities our bodies perform every moment to keep us alive and functioning at the level of mere sentient activity. Philosophers call such acts “actus hominis” (acts of a man) as distinguished from “actus humanus” (human acts). “Human” here means rational and volitional.

The following sentence from On Grace and Free Choice may be long and need to be read two or three times, but it is very illuminating of the truth concerning man’s will being free and the consequent moral responsibility we all shoulder by virtue of our freely chosen acts:

Only the will, then, since, by reason of its innate freedom, it can be compelled by no force or necessity to dissent from itself, or to consent in any matter in spite of itself, makes a creature righteous or unrighteous, capable and deserving of happiness or of sorrow, insofar as it shall have consented to righteousness or unrighteousness. [All excerpts here are from the Cistercian Publications edition of the work, translated by Daniel O’Donolan, OSCO.]

The truth that “sin is in the will,” is an immediate conclusion from what Saint Bernard writes here. While we might be externally influenced, threatened, cajoled, directed, encouraged, etc., in our will we always remain radically free. This is an anthropological or psychological fact that follows from our very nature as it was created by God, prescinding from the Fall. It is the basis of all merit and culpability and, therefore, of the notions of reward and punishment.

Over and above this first freedom, the innate freedom of nature, are the two other freedoms (that from sin, and that from sorrow) which are not natural endowments but supernatural gifts.

Saint Bernard explains that freedom from sin is what Saint Paul described when he wrote, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17). This second freedom is not innate in us, but results from grace, and stands in contrast — so the Abbot of Clairvaux notes — to that slavery to sin that the Holy Apostle describes elsewhere: “For when you were the servants of sin, you were free men to justice. [Saint Paul is ironically contrasting “slavery to sin” and “slavery to God (or justice)”. Being “free men to justice” means being “liberated” from God’s holiness or righteousness. This is a false and damning freedom.] … But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting” (Rom. 6:20, 22).

Citing Our Lord saying, “If therefore the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36), Saint Bernard tells us:

He meant that even free choice stands in need of a liberator, but one, of course, who would set it free, not from necessity which was quite unknown to it since this pertains to the will, but rather from sin, into which it has fallen both freely and willingly, and also from the penalty of sin which it carelessly incurred and has unwillingly borne.

We ought not quickly pass over the profound thought that “even free choice stands in need of a liberator.” The words are beautiful, yes, but there is more than mere aesthetics here. Our free will, after the Fall, contracted the defect Saint Thomas calls “malice,” and needs to be saved from it, or freed. The liberator in question is, of course, that Man who knew no sin, and who always was and always remains absolutely free from sin. Citing Psalm 87:6, Saint Bernard calls Christ, “[He who] alone of all men was made free among the dead; free, that is, from sin in the midst of sinners.”

Concerning this “second freedom” — freedom from sin — the Mellifluous Doctor eloquently addresses the question of good will versus bad will in words that should encourage us:

When a person complains and says: “I wish I could have a good will, but I just can’t manage it,” this in no way argues against the freedom [from necessity, the “first freedom”] of which we have been speaking, as if the will thus suffered violence or were subject to necessity. Rather is he witnessing to the fact that he lacks that freedom which is called freedom from sin. Because, whoever wants to have a good will proves thereby that he has a will, since his desire is aimed at good only through his will. And if he finds himself unable to have a good will whereas he really wants to, then this is because he feels freedom is lacking in him, freedom namely from sin, by which it pains him that his will is oppressed, though not suppressed. Indeed it is more than likely that, since he wants to have a good will, he does, in fact, to some extent, have it. What he wants is good, and he could hardly want good otherwise than by means of good will; just as he could want evil only by a bad will. When we desire good, then our will is good; when evil, evil. In either case, there is will; and everywhere freedom; necessity yields to will. But if we are unable to do what we will, we feel that freedom itself is somehow captive to sin, or that it is unhappy, not that it is lost.

The words here rendered “oppressed, though not suppressed” are premi non perimi, and are difficult to translate, but the sense is that, though the will is in part impaired (by sin), it is not rendered powerless. Moral theologians of later ages would develop in detail the Church’s accepted moral doctrine concerning the diminishing of the freedom of the will by habitual sin, yet the notion is here in seminal form in Saint Bernard. The doctrine here explained is very consoling. If we will the good but yet sin, there is still some good in us. The remedy is grace, the major burden of Saint Bernard’s book, which is there for us if we but ask of it. For that reason and others, in the practical order, prayer is the main point of contact between God’s grace and our free will. It opens us to the remedy our will needs. Without prayer, even the sacraments will avail us but little because we lack the necessary dispositions to receive the remedies they contain.

Concerning the “third freedom,” that from suffering, or, as he also calls it, “the freedom of glory,” the Cistercian abbot is clear that it is not for this life, but the next, for “it is reserved for us in our homeland” of Heaven:

There is also a freedom from sorrow, of which the Apostle again says: “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” [Rom. 8:21]. But would anyone in this mortal condition dare arrogate to himself even this kind of freedom?

He further adds that, by this third freedom,

[W]e are raised up to glory, a perfect creature in the Spirit. [And] … by it, we cast down death itself. … Finally, by the last-named, in our own more perfect submission to ourselves through victory over corruption and death — when, that is, death shall be last of all destroyed [1 Cor. 15:26] — we will pass over into the glorious freedom of the sons of God [Rom. 8:21], the freedom by which Christ will set us free, when he delivers us as a kingdom to God the Father” [Cf. 1 Cor. 15:24].

We are living in a time when our civic freedoms seem imperiled by an emerging biometric security state, an Orwellian oligarchic kleptocracy that demands we give up our freedoms for the lying promises of safety, security, and now health. In the midst of these mendacious statist shenanigans — so obvious to those not drinking the Kool-Aid of mainstream media and Big Tech — let us more and more cherish and cling to our real freedoms which are ours by Baptism and the giving of the Holy Ghost… and which no man can take from us.


Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.


The featured image shows, “Apparition of the Virgin to St Bernard,” by Filippino Lippi, painted in 1486.

A Pastor’s Letter From Prison

Canada has been enforcing draconian lockdown measures against its own citizens, the severest of such measures are in the province of Alberta. A few brave Christians have been defying this tyranny – and paying for their “disobedience” with prison-time. Reverend Tim Stephens is currently in prison for defying the provincial government’s health regulations. Please pray for him and remember others in Canada who are suffering in this way. The letter that follows, addressed to the government of Alberta, explains why, for him, resistance to political oppression is part of his Christian obedience.


Mr. Premier and MLAs,

I write this from my jail cell in the Calgary Remand Centre. The past week I’ve missed my wedding anniversary and Fathers’ Day. My children will remember this Fathers’ Day as a time when they wept over the phone as I did my best to stay composed before other inmates while expressing my love for my children.

Your government has wrongfully put me on the horns of a dilemma. Either I forsake my convictions before God, or I’m imprisoned for some unknown time, taken from my family and the church community I’m entrusted to serve. If I choose the former then I deny God, thus I’m left facing the consequences of the latter. My conscience is captive to the Word of God and shall not be moved.

I realize that you think it’s best to adapt or change religious practices to work within the confines of your overbearing rules, but to adapt or change what I believe God calls me to do is to deny what God has called me to do.

For example, I’m commanded by Jesus, who died to make me his own, to practice hospitality. In fact, as a pastor, this must be a defining mark of my life. Hospitality is the practice of welcoming guests into your home. A practice forbidden by your government for 6 months. When forced to choose between obeying God and obeying men, the choice is clear.

I’ve shared publicly, and on many occasions how our theological convictions, mined from never-changing Scripture, come into conflict with your ever-changing “laws.” AHS continues to make public statements that they tried “working” with us, which is shorthand for them seeking unbending compliance through greater threats of punishment. Not once has anyone in your government shown any interest in actually working with us.

You have said that we have access to our independent judiciary for such discussions. However, our courts continue to refrain from weighing in on the constitutionality of your health orders. AHS lawyers continue to argue that more time is needed to produce the evidence that your office says it is using to make these restrictions. The courts have not proved to be a timely option for us. Your government can get a court order within the week. We are waiting on a hearing set for the end of September that began with lawyers in December of last year. The dates have been pushed back numerous times.

Mr. Premier and elected MLAs, I’m pleading with you to uphold our highest laws to which you are held to account. Temporary public health orders do not supersede our Alberta Bill of Rights, nor our Candian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I know that I am in the minority, but these laws are designed to protect the minority.

Mr. Premier, I know these restrictions will be lifted soon. I ask that you refrain from using imprisonment ever again to seek compliance to health orders. My imprisonment may be applauded by the left, but it has made Alberta the world-wide embarrassment of conservative governments.

As restrictions are lifted, return responsibility to the people of Alberta and return it for good. May this not be a pattern for your government in the future.

Thank you,

Tim Stephens

Pastor of Fairview Baptist Church


The featured image shows, “Saint Paul in prison,” by Rembrandt, painted in 1627.

Bearing Shame

In 401 AD, twenty-nine Saxon “slaves,” strangled each other to death with their bare hands in their prison cells. They chose this death rather than being forced to fight one another in Rome’s arena. Better death than shame. Their “owner,” the Senator Symmachus (famously known as the “Last Pagan”), wrote of them that they were a rebellious “band of slaves, worse than any Spartacus.”1

In the pages of the New Testament we see some interesting public events:

A woman taken in the act of adultery is dragged into the street by her accusers where she is threatened with public stoning.
Jesus is nearly thrown headlong off a cliff after speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth. (Luke 4).
Stephen the Deacon is publicly stoned after preaching about Christ.
King Herod issues orders to arrest more Christians after his execution of James is seen to please the people.
Public life in earlier centuries could be brutal and dangerous. In many locations across the world, little has changed. Recently, there has been a growing problem with spectators at American sporting events, shouting outrageous insults at players and throwing items (beer, bottles, etc.). No doubt, the problem is far more widespread.

But all of these events share something in common: the public use of shame. The language of shame essentially attacks who-a-person-is rather than what-they-have-done. A person who is guilty of murder thus becomes a “murderer.” And though this is technically true, it is also not true. The language of guilt isolates responsibility for a single event; the language of shame assumes that you are now that event waiting to be visited upon all. Guilt suggests punishment or restitution; shame declares that no matter what you might do, you will always be that person.

There is a world of difference, for example, between being wrong about something and being “stupid.” But, as one comedian has it, “There’s no cure for stupid.” Shame labels us as incurable.

The language of shame is far more powerful than the language of guilt. Guilt can be answered and atoned. Shame, however, has no atonement – it is a declaration of “who we are.” There is no atonement for stupid, ugly, incompetent, mean, evil, etc. On occasion, I have been accosted by those who use shame as a verbal weapon. Recently, in an exchange in which I was the object of someone’s labeling, I was told that no apology need be made when speaking the truth – that is, shame is fine so long as it is “true.”

Shame is not only permitted in our culture; it needs no apology.

There is a strange phenomenon about shame, however. I describe this as its “sticky” quality. When we see the shame of someone else, we ourselves experience shame. This can be as innocuous as watching someone’s public embarrassment and sharing the feeling of embarrassment. It is equally and more profoundly true in darker and deeper encounters. We cannot shame others and remain untouched. The very shame we extend reaches within us and takes us with it.

It is there, in its depths, that shame does its most devastating work. It is a primary creator and maintainer of the false self, an identity established largely through the energy of shame that leaves the truth of the soul shrouded in darkness. It becomes the source of acedia, in the words of the Fathers, or anger, anxiety, and depression, in modern parlance.

Unattended shame lives within us like a dybbuk, an angry hurt and hurting soul that breeds death. We ignore the role of shame in our lives to our own spiritual peril. Much that we imagine to be righteousness is only shame in a fancy disguise.

If you have ever engaged in one of the typical shame fights on social media, then think about how you felt when it was over (or even if you only read such a shame fight). There is no inner peace. There can be burning anger and a nattering inner voice of opposition that lingers for days. In terms of shame, it doesn’t matter if you are right. Shame loves the categories of right and wrong. It only matters that your opponent disagreed and that you shamed them. Shame is like the game of global thermonuclear war: the only option is not to play.

Shaming is easily justified by many. Whether it is doctrine, the Church, the state, the culture, whatever institution stands most in danger, shaming, like violence, is considered an effective tool in guarding the fort. However, it remains the case that shame cannot be used without causing damage to the one who uses it. Like the One Ring of Power, shame takes the one who uses it into the darkness and binds them there as well.

The mystery of our salvation cannot be found in living life on its most literal, surface level. Such a life can make no sense of forgiving enemies, doing good to those who hate you, rendering good for evil, being kind to all and sharing your stuff. In short, such a life cannot bear the shame of love. But only such love can know God. We only live by dying. We only heal shame by bearing shame.


Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


The featured image shows, “After the Misdeed,” by Jean Béraud, painted ca. 1885-1890.