Letter from a Catacomb Bishop circa 1948
Provided by Brother Michael
… Blessed are they who thirst and hunger after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
…The truth is to be found only in Christ’s holy Church.
In today’s evil age many people, especially the so-called “educated”, have altogether lost the taste for truth. Who is searching for truth nowadays? Who lives according to truth?
… Today, people study and acquire knowledge only in order to secure for themselves a more comfortable, more carefree, animal-like existence.
Many are only concerned with what they eat, what they drink, and how they clothe themselves; they don’t trouble themselves over their conscience.
…Never before have people served the world and their flesh as they do now. Never has man so brazenly rebelled against God and His law for the sake of the fleeting sweetness of sin, as he does today.
Never before has man been such a slave of the devil’s lie! This is why the search for Divine truth in these dark days is so praiseworthy.
You write: “People go today to a church that’s functioning and they don’t care whether or not that church contains Christ’s truth. And they don’t think about their actions-are they serving truth or its enemies.” Here you are quite right. This type of lamentable attitude is widespread.
… We have a senseless, pagan intelligentsia, some of whom nourish themselves solely on demonic pride and their so-called “erudition”.
…faith in Christ’s truth, is preserved only in His Church…
… Today we are being inundated with a flood of godless propaganda, borrowed from wicked and cunning enemies of Christ from all nations, all times…
…Christ said, I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness (John 8:12). And we firmly believe and know that it is only from His Church that the light of Christ shines brightly and illumines all. Only the children of the Church see the light of truth, they alone have “received the Heavenly Spirit, acquired the true faith.”
…”Outside communion with the Church,” writes St. Cyprian of Carthage, “even deeds which appear good, even such important works as prayer, have no meaning, no power”…
You write, “..But where, then, is Christ’s Church? Where today is one to find her holy abode of the Most High?”
…In order to know where the Church is to be found, and not to depart from her, one must first of all be her faithful son to the last of one’s days. The Church is visible only to those who believe and reverently honor all her precepts. Then, too, one must remember the history of the Church.
From the very day of her founding by our Lord Jesus Christ, a war has been waged against the aims of the holy Church, and today this war is being waged with increased persistence and cruelty.
The fierce enemies of the Church are Satan and his minions. For his attacks on the Church, Satan mobilizes the entire world, defiled by transgressions, and clothes himself as an Angel of Light (II Cor. 11:14), in the garments of a feigned righteousness.
Throughout the history of the Church one finds traces of the devil’s attempts-the cruelest, the most varied in their cunning methods and vain in their results-to destroy and annihilate Christ’s inheritance, His Church. So, too, the history of the Church contains an endless and glorious record of victories over her enemies. If the history of the world is, as
Dostoevsky wrote, a battle between God and the devil, in the Church this uprising of all the powers of hell against Her is characterized by particularly demonic malice, cunning ruses and cruel deceptions. The center of this great, undescribable war was and always will be the Church of Christ, for she alone destroys the might of hell and overthrows the pride of the devil and his angels.
… The cruelty of the enemy’s war against Christ’s Church here in our Orthodox country, before our very eyes, has been hitherto inconceivable.
… in attacking the Church the enemy is using a combination strategy. On the one hand the enemy is persecuting the Church today using ancient methods from the first centuries of Christianity, when the Church was incriminated as being an anti-government institution and everything belonging to it was destroyed by outright, external force. In our own day this method has been applied to the destruction and defilement of countless churches; to the physical extermination of a canonical hierarchy, monastics and clergy faithful to the Church, by means of exile, prisons, and execution. Using such means the enemy wants to rapidly extirpate the truth.
…The enemy also attacks the Church using more subtle methods-by sowing disorders in the Church through numerous schisms, heresies, artificially created with the help of “clergy” who are servants of satan. By means of such schisms the enemy strives to lead astray those seeking for the truth, and through his many false teachers to pass off to the unwary his falsehood as the Christian truth. For those lacking strong faith, this method is ruinous.
The third-and more modern-form of attack on the Church is especially important for us to be aware of. Here the enemy, having destroyed the lawful and canonical hierarchy, plants his own false hierarchy to govern the Church, and creates a clergy which is only externally churchly, being wholly obedient to its evil designs. Operating in this way, the enemy fashions the most cunning forgery of the truth; he makes every effort to govern the Church himself and laughs fiendishly at those souls he deceives.
This method is a current favorite of the enemy. It is frightful to speak of all his schemes. Instead of the holy Orthodox Church, he has built his own, outwardly resembling the Church in every respect, even, as he says, “improved”. Today the enemy is making a special concerted effort to rapidly establish his own in place of Christ’s Church, utilizing for this purpose people who have become his obedient tools.
…schism is the first attempt by the devil to forge a substitute for Christ’s Church then satan acting with still greater cunning, causes apostasy from the Church.
The enemy has made still more refined moves to subvert the Church, moves barely noticeable to those indifferent to the truth.
Not long ago one of our Orthodox bishop-ascetics said that in our day the enemy would make several attempts to ruin the Church through schisms. The first schism, said this bishop, everyone will perceive, but subsequent surrogates will be more difficult to recognize, and few will understand the truth. Then the enemy will try to seduce, if possible, even the elect (Mark 13:22).
Here one must add that besides the various attempts at fashioning surrogates of the Church, Satan has stirred up a fierce persecution against all those who discern and are unmasking his frightful activity. In punishing them the enemy has tried to organize the cruelest tortures and punishments. All truthful, genuine archpastors, pastors, and devout laymen, particularly those who have made others aware of the demonic stratagems, now find themselves captive in prisons and forced labor.
We have experienced years of nightmarish cruelty. How many soldiers of Christ have fallen! How much the enemy has destroyed!
…the truth lies only in Christ’s Church, you must understand clearly and thoroughly, that Christ’s Church is engaged in a constant, unrelenting warfare.
All the powers of hell and of this world are directed against her. Likewise, you must be aware of the enemy’s persistent attempts to destroy her, to disfigure her, to create a counterfeit, to turn her to his service.
If you are a Christian, if you sincerely love your Mother the Church, think about this warfare and put your life on the line of battle. If in addition you are attentive to the Holy Scripture, to the teachings of the Holy Fathers concerning the Church, to the precepts of the holy Apostles and church councils, then you will always clearly distinguish the holy Church-the Body of Christ, and satan’s masquerading falsehood.
Then you will know that the power of the Church is always greater than all the power of hell and that the truth of the Lord abideth forever (Ps. 116:2).
This letter had but one aim: to point out to you the unrelenting warfare of the devil and his servants against Christ’s holy Church, and to say that whoever is attentive to this warfare will always know where to find the true Church.
But to know is not enough. We have lost the feeling of “churchliness” because we don’t come to the defense of our Mother, the Church; we don’t stand up against the enemies of the Church with firm faith and unequivocal love.
St. Cyprian of Carthage writes that he who acts against Christ’s ministers cannot be with Christ.
Already back in his day and age, Dostoevsky spoke about the emergence of fake clerics (Diary of a Writer). Don’t be amazed if, in the functioning churches, you see dressed up in vestments members of the Komsomol performing “divine services”, and priests and “bishops” who at one time denied Christ. One shouldn’t get depressed by all this. One must simply bear in mind the devil’s persistent warfare against the Church.
… In closing I’d like to cite the words of the Golden-mouthed teacher [St. John Chrysostom]: “Boisterous are the waves and violent the storm, but we do not fear being drowned because we stand on the Rock. Let the waters rage, they cannot destroy the Rock. Let the waves rise up; they have no power to overturn the ship of Christ. There is nothing, O man, more powerful than the Church. If you do not believe words, believe the deeds. How many tyrants have there been who wanted to defeat the Church! How many burning cauldrons, blazing furnaces, beasts’ jaws, sharp swords! And they failed. Where are all these antagonists? Dead and buried in oblivion! And where is the Church? She shines more brightly than the sun. Their deeds have vanished, but the deeds of the Church are immortal.”
(Translated and excerpted from Russkiy Pastyr #12, pp. 42-51; San Francisco, 1992)