Sermon on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy
By His Eminence, Archbishop Tikhon
First Hierarch of the Russian True Orthodox Church
2021, Omsk, Siberia
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Today we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy, a spiritual triumph, which was for many of us, by the grace of God, the fruit of this first week of fasting. It is especially joyful because it is backed up by some small victories on the personal front of the struggle against the devil. This triumph is the triumph of true faith, victory over false teachings, victory over heresies, and its institution is associated with one of these victories – the victory over iconoclasm.
It is worthy and righteous to give thanks to the Lord that we belong to that saving Orthodox Church, which has kept and now keeps pure and intact the truth of the Holy Orthodox Faith as Christ the Savior brought it to earth, as it was proclaimed to the world by the Holy Apostles, as it was interpreted and preserved for all ages by the God-bearing Fathers and Teachers of the Church in their Holy Councils. The Triumph of Orthodoxy was established in 842 under the pious Queen Theodora in Constantinople by His Holiness Patriarch Methodius to commemorate the overthrow of the last terrible heresy that had shaken the Church of Christ – the heresy of iconoclasm. With this triumph is joined another triumph of the Holy Orthodox Faith – Her victory over all heresies, false teachings, and schisms. Since then, the true Orthodox Church has contained and confessed all the dogmas of Orthodoxy, in all their fullness and intactness, the basis of which is the dogmatic definitions of the Apostles, the Ecumenical Councils, and the writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church. And, obviously, without such a confession there is no Orthodoxy itself.
For us, children of the Orthodox Church, truth and the path to truth are already determined once and for all, in contrast to human teachings, which are in search of truth, because they do not have it. We possess the truth, and all our labor must be directed to assimilating it, not to discovering it. In doing so, we must learn as much as we can about our faith, for ignorance in matters of faith is no small sin. Therefore, it is worth saying a few words about what the dogmas of our faith are: Dogmas are the unquestionable truths of the Orthodox faith, given through Divine Revelation, defined and formulated by the Church at the Ecumenical Councils. The main properties of dogmas are that they are doctrinal, divinely revealed, ecclesiastical and universal, they have an immutable, absolute authority. A concise and precise statement of all the dogmas of the Christian faith is contained in the Creed, which is familiar to us all. Using the dogmas of faith, the Church sets the human mind in the true knowledge of God and limits it from possible errors. This summarizes what can be said briefly on this subject.
Speaking of the time we are experiencing now, its characteristic feature, which has never been seen in the history of Christianity before, is an almost universal apostasy, a universal vacillation. And if we want to remain faithful to Orthodoxy, faithful to the teaching of Christ, we must protect ourselves from the world, of course, first of all spiritually, by remaining where the Orthodox faith is kept pure and undefiled – in the bosom of the True Church of Christ, which alone in the entire Christian world keeps the right faith. In our time, we will only be able to remain faithful to Christ’s teaching when we learn to reject with determination all teachings devised and invented by rejected spirits and fallen men, which are hostile to Christ’s teaching and attack its purity, integrity, and inviolability.
Continuing the theme of universal apostasy, or universal apostasy from Christ, it is impossible not to say that currently in the leadership of almost all official churches are conscious apostates, who in cooperation with the secret world government are completing the construction of the New World Order, bringing the coming of the Antichrist. Being in essence werewolves, they, without formally changing the Orthodox dogmatic teaching, kill living faith in the hearts of their flock, accustoming them to lies and hypocrisy.
The broad and expansive path to perdition that official orthodoxy is demonstratively pursuing under the leadership of these werewolves brings a whole host of pernicious passions to the souls of its supporters: above all – a strong attachment to the world and its blessings, money-grubbing and avarice, and as a result – man-pleasing before the powerful of this world, hypocrisy, careerism and opportunism, constant acting, even before oneself, inconsistency in friendship up to the betrayal of brothers, constant compromises with lies, the habit to defend untruth.
We, as children of the Church of Christ, unquestioningly reject this broad path, in spite of all its temptations, but adhere to the true path of the Church, though it is a narrow and thorny one, for it leads to the kingdom of God. This path is known by the spiritual fruits of true Orthodox confession; such as the gift of discernment, spiritual vigilance, discerning the spirit, and discerning the signs of the times. Every moment we must be ready to meet the Savior and answer the judgment of God, for the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. This is the whole eschatology on a personal level for a true Orthodox Christian, for each of us. Otherwise, we may become like foolish virgins and hear from the Lord: “Verily I say unto you, I know you not” (Matthew 25:12).
At the same time, we must not neglect an important part of the modern Orthodox worldview, which is the proper assessment of the present age. Our focus should not be on the dogmatic disputes of the past, which were mostly completed in the era of the Ecumenical Councils, but rather on questions of eschatology, but no longer in a personal but rather in an ecumenical sense – the issues of globalization, the building of a new world order, and the coming Antichrist. It is the attitude toward these eschatological problems that now divides the Orthodox world into zealots and apostates. The apostates are recognized on the basis that they have firmly merged with the modern authorities, joined the new world order and in fact contribute to the globalization of the world and the construction of the kingdom of Antichrist, although at the same time they are trying to formally, apparently, preserve the dogmatic, canonical and liturgical part of the Orthodox confession, which in part prevents the flock from recognizing the deviation of the hierarchy.
In the writings of Russian thinkers of the past, particularly Lev Tikhomirov and others, the Church of the Last Times, which opposes the Antichrist, is presented as a small but spiritually and morally strong Church of faithful true Orthodox Christians, who have forsaken all earthly concerns for the sake of Christ; distinguished by unity, brotherly love, mutual prayer, selfless assistance to one another, and the constant preaching of true Orthodoxy to unbelievers and even to one’s enemies.
And although this is far from the picture that we see in front of us today, we must focus on just such a Church – the Church of the faithful to Christ, and strive to imitate such a church life. For only such – the True Orthodox Church – has the promise from the Lord to remain insuperable to the gates of hell until the end of the age.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us carefully preserve in the depths of our loving hearts, as our dearest treasure, all the truths of the Orthodox faith handed down to us by the holy Church; let us grow spiritually under Her shadow, as under the roof of our own home; let us maintain our devotion to Her by thanking God always for being born and living under the shadow of the true Church of Christ, confirming it with words: “We have seen the True Light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the True Faith, we worship the indivisible Trinity: For He hath saved us!”
A word before the reading of the Synodicon:
I must say a few words about what this touching, majestic and solemn Rite of Orthodoxy is, which will now be performed in our church. There were heretics already in apostolic times, as can be seen in the Acts of the Apostles, where the apostle Paul, in his conversation with the Ephesian elders, said that people who spoke falsely had begun to rebel. He called them “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29). At the commandment of St. Paul, that great “apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), heretics were excommunicated and anathematized from the Church. His words on this are: “But even if we, or an angel from out of heaven, should preach a gospel to you besides what Gospel we preached to you, let such a one be anathema,” and elsewhere he has said so: “If anyone love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema. The Lord hath come,” i.e., let him be excommunicated until the coming of the Lord. This is when the origins of this rite of Orthodoxy took place. In the first half of it, the Church prays for all those who have gone astray and fallen away from the true Orthodox faith, and in the second half, the Church proclaims a dire anathema to all the stubbornly evil heretics and schismatics who fight against Her. Then eternal memory is proclaimed to all the reposed champions of Holy Orthodoxy, and many more years to all the living defenders of the Holy Orthodox Faith and the Church of Christ.
Many people who do not understand the essence of this celebration of the Holy Church are confused, thinking that it breathes irreconcilable hatred for the enemies whom Christ has commanded us to love – this is how spiritually immature people judge the holy Church’s defense of its dogmas and especially the excommunication and anathematization of those who reject them. We should not give the word “Anathema” an emotional connotation, as if it is some kind of curse, no. Love presupposes exposing heretics in their delusions, and not hushing up, for without exposing, without enlightening them, we will contribute to their destruction, and this is no longer love, but treachery.
The word anathema signifies excommunication, rejection. When a teaching is anathematized by the Church, this means that the teaching contains blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and for the salvation of the children of the Church it must be rejected and eliminated, like poison is removed from food. When a person is anathematized, it means that that person has assimilated a blasphemous teaching, thereby depriving himself of salvation and those neighbors to whom he communicates his way of thinking. That is why any fellowship with heretics is dangerous, for this fellowship is fraught with the infection of heresy, which leads to eternal destruction. When a person intends to abandon the blasphemous teaching and accept the teaching of the Orthodox Church, he is obliged, according to the rules of the Orthodox Church, to anathematize the false teaching that he has hitherto held and which has destroyed him, alienating him from God.
The significance of the anathema is that it represents spiritual ecclesiastical medicine for illness in the human spirit which causes eternal death. Human reasoning, drawn from carnal wisdom, introduced into the doctrine of the Christian faith, is called heresy. Heresies, being the work of the flesh, the fruit of carnal wisdom, were invented by fallen spirits, for in fallen spirits only evil reigns and works. Carnal wisdom in the realm of the spirits has received the most complete development that it can achieve. The main sin of the spirits of malice in the aerial kingdom is a frenzied hatred of God, expressed in terrible, incessant blasphemy.
A few more words about heresies, I will say briefly.
The poison of heresy is not so dangerous when the preaching of heresy comes from behind the outer fence of the Church. Many times more dangerous is the poison, which is gradually introduced into the church organism, into the parish, into the community in larger and larger doses by those who, according to their position, should not be poisoners, but spiritual doctors. We must not remain indifferent to this danger – will it not be too late to protect our rational sheep, when the wolves will devour them before our eyes? At the right moment for them, at the signal of the leader, these wolves begin to persecute the sheep of Christ’s flock, destroying the sheepfold itself, first of all, destroying good shepherds. The ringleaders, as always, are in the shadows, their countenances not always recognizable, but there’s no mystery, whatever becomes revealed. Everything has its time.
Let me remind you that the original tradition and teaching of the Holy Catholic Church determines:
To be non-canonical, as schismatics are – means to be without grace, outside the Church, outside the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Heresy and schism are without grace. This is what the Holy Church has always taught, and it is Her teaching that is the same throughout the universe and at all times. The universal character of this teaching proves its truth. What despair, what shame and fear await all these heretics, schismatics, apostates, modern traitors, and Judases at the Last Judgment, and nothing will soften this shame and humiliation.
So, heresy is a terrible weapon in the hands of fallen spirits! By means of heresy, they destroyed entire nations, stealing from them, unnoticed by them, Christianity, replacing it with blasphemous teaching, calling their deadly teaching purified, true, restored Christianity. Often among the sages of this world, the opinion is expressed that the truth of life is more important than the dogmas of faith, its purity. But just as one cannot live without being born, so one cannot have the truth of life without the truth of faith. The history of past centuries shows that true faith is inseparably linked to real life. As the truth of faith increases or decreases, the truth of life increases or decreases accordingly. All Christian communities that strayed from the unity and purity of the faith into various heresies were impoverished in spirit and soon presented the sad spectacle of moral decay and decadence that we are witnessing now in the so-called civilized Western world. Let us remember that the truth of the faith, its purity, and integrity are observed in the Orthodox Church. She alone in the entire Christian world keeps the right faith. Only he who remains faithful to the teaching of Christ will decisively and continually reject all teachings invented and made up by outcast spirits and fallen men who are hostile to the doctrine of Christ and infringe upon its integrity and sanctity.