“THE LENGTH AND HEIGHT OF THE CROSS IS EQUAL TO HEAVEN”
“O glorious wonder! The length and height of the cross is equal to heaven!” (3rd stichera for end of matins). In lauding the Life-giving Cross of the Lord with these words from one of its hymns for the feast of the Elevation of the Cross, the Holy Church presents to us one of the aspects of its teaching on the Cross, namely: that the length and the height of the cross are equal to heaven; in other words, that the cross covers the entire universe, all of creation, the entire physical and metaphysical world.
We find a unique exposition of this teaching in a wonderful book by the prominent Russian religious philosopher Prince Yevgeniy Trubetskoy, which deals with the issue that is reflected in its title – “The Meaning of Life.” The book was written in 1918, precisely at a time when the old Christian world was being demolished, and a post-Christian, apostate, apocalyptic era – the so-called New Age – was being established on earth.
In examining the deep and complex issue of the meaning of life, particularly against the background of the surrounding chaos and obvious senselessness of those times, Prince Trubetskoy analyzes in a wonderfully spiritual manner the fundamental structure of life, explaining its horizontal line (length) and vertical line (height), and shows that only in the intersection of these two lines (a cross) is the true meaning of life revealed to us. Here is what this great spiritual writer says (excerpted from the book “The Meaning of Life,” pp.53-65):
“An eternal argument of two opposing concepts of life rages around the question of the purpose and meaning of life – a naturalistic concept, which looks for real life and its meaning in the plane of this world, and a supernatural concept, which asserts that true life and its meaning is concentrated on a different, higher, otherworldly plane of existence. An examination of these two resolutions leads us to conclude that both of them are equally one-sided and thus equally invalid.
For naturalism – both religious and philosophical – real life is precisely this life, which unfolds on this particular plane of existence; the real world is the one which revolves before us here on this plane, periodically dying and being reborn. A vivid example of such a concept of life are the ancient Greeks with their cult of nature and its sunny gods – the Olympians. All these gods of thunder and lightning, sea waves, moonlight, and the blinding light of the noonday sky are human-like personifications of the joy of life on earth. Greek religion also knows the hereafter, but it is not so much the other world as the underworld, where everything is gloomy and barren; Achilles’ shadow speaks of it to Odysseus, saying that it is better to be a slave on earth than to reign over the dead in the kingdom of shadows.
Speaking of the other world, let us look at those religions which represent a direct antithesis to the buoyant worldview of the ancient Greeks. I am speaking of those religions of India which not only do not believe in the genuineness of this world, but partially even reject its reality. The depth of India’s religious quest is expressed in the fact that it transforms all the judgments of common sense into their opposite. What we call reality is actually a dream, while that which we call a dream is genuine reality and truly valuable – so we are taught by the ascetic wisdom of Brahmanism and Buddhism. The word “Buddha” even literally means “the awakened one.” Thus the entire teaching of both these world religions is nothing more than an attempt to achieve this awakening, to rise above the bustle that is called reality; for Buddhism, as well as for Brahmanism, the true expression of real life is not this reality, but the wings that can lift us and carry us away from it…
The pathos of Brahmanism is also tied in with the practical requirement that a person reject all individuality, all egoistic desires, all striving for a reward either here or in the beyond. This entire world is a lie – therefore, the meaning of life is attained only in a total disassociation from the world. For Brahmanism the ideal of life is a complete dissolution of all that is individual and concrete within the impersonal unity of a universal spirit.
This ascetic disassociation from everything is crystallized in Buddhism, whose ideal consists of rising not only above a finite individual life, but above all life in general, above all striving towards life, above all desire for immortality. Buddhism leaves without reply the very issue of an individual’s eternal life, in order not to awaken in man that vain desire for life which lies at the root of all suffering on earth. A peaceful immersion into the “nirvana” preached by Buddhism is achieved through complete disassociation from life.
In the final analysis, however, the religious quest here also remains unresolved. India’s ascetic self-abnegation turns out to be a half-truth just like the religious worldview of the ancient Greeks. We see here two opposing aspirations to life, two intersecting lines of life. One establishes itself here on earth, has both ends firmly entrenched in this world. The other, on the contrary, yearns away from the earth, aspires upward. But in a fatal manner both these lines lead to one and the same. Both the Olympians’ transient exhilaration with life and the lofty flight of Hindu asceticism end in death. For that which is deemed to be bliss in Brahmanism and Buddhism is, in reality, not the victory of life but just the opposite – victory over life and, consequently, the victory of death.
Hindu religiousness essentially believes not in the meaning but in the meaninglessness of life. The Hindus engage in a spiritual ascent, but it ends in fatal failure, for in their religion the spirit does not animate the world, does not transform it from within, does not vanquish the force of evil in it, but only delivers its own self from this force. The Hindu spirit’s attitude towards earth is exclusively negative: it disassociates itself from earth forever and thus gives up the earth and all the living beings on it into the power of suffering, evil, and futility. The suffering of all living creation is futile and its hopes are in vain, for it has no place in the salvation proclaimed by the ascetics of India: their “salvation” is not the salvation of life, but rather salvation from life; the ascetics’ “salvation” lies precisely in the destruction of all concrete forms, all variety of creation… Thereby the ascent into the beyond, which constitutes the essence of India’s religious aspiration, turns into nothingness, for this ascent does not lead to its goal, and heaven itself remains forever closed to them, forever beyond their reach.
Both the Hindu and the Greek solutions to the question of the meaning of life turn out to be equally invalid. In affirming the world Greek religiousness finds chaos instead of the cosmos, finds a multitude of forces battling each other, not joined by the unity of a common meaning, while Hindu religiousness completely rejects the world as nonexistent and nonsensical, i.e. finds meaning only in its destruction. Thus, whether man seeks the meaning of life in the horizontal earthly plane or in the vertical ascent onto a different plane of existence, the result of these two movements is the same: suffering over unattained meaning and the return of the circle of life back to earth, to futility.
Both these lines, which express the two basic directions of life’s aspiration – the flat or horizontal line and the ascending or vertical line – cross each other. And in view of the fact that these two lines represent a comprehensive depiction of all possible directions of life, their intersection – the forming of a cross – is the most universal and exact schematic depiction of the path of life. In every form of life there is an inevitable intersection of these two paths and directions – the upward movement and the forward movement.
In this sense the cross lies at the base of all life. The outline of life itself is cruciform in nature, and there is a cosmic cross, which expresses the architectural foundation of the entire universe.
The entire question of the meaning of life boils down to the issue of the cross, since outside of these two intersecting lines of life there can be no other lines or paths. However, for each person the meaning of the cross may be different, depending on whether these paths of life bring one to the requisite goal or not. If one believes that the final result of all life is death, then the crossing of the lines of life represents only an extreme expression of sorrow, suffering, humiliation, – and in such a case the cross is simply a symbol of universal torment: it this manner it was known to pre-Christian mankind. It is a totally different matter if in the intersection of the two lines life achieves its fullness, its eternal, beautiful, and immortal meaning. Then the cross becomes the symbol of this lofty victory, the cross becomes life-giving, which constitutes the only correct formulation of the question concerning the meaning of life…
Neither the self-affirmation of worldliness, personified by the Greek Olympians, nor ancient India’s direct asceticism and flight from the world have led to success. This double failure shows that both paths of life which intersect in the world are invalid by themselves; thus man is led to a new revelation of the mystery of the world. If neither earth, nor heaven, nor high, nor low by themselves comprise the revelation of the meaning of life, this means that the meaning lies somewhere deeper. It is not only larger than earth, but also larger than heaven and, therefore, all attempts to find it only on earth or only in heaven are equally doomed to failure. It cannot be contained within any finite plane of existence, for it encompasses all planes, the entire world in general, while it itself is above the world…
In other words, we must seek the meaning of life not in a horizontal or vertical direction taken separately, but in the unification of these two lines of life, in the place where they intersect. In the true meaning of life all suffering must be vanquished and transformed into joy – both the physical suffering of earthly creation and the spiritual suffering of an unsuccessful ascent into heaven. The meaning of life is tested by the cross, because, in the final analysis, the question of life’s meaning is the question of whether the cross – a symbol of death – can become the source and symbol of life?
Of all religions only Christianity provides and affirms a positive resolution of this issue, for it preaches the abolition of death, preaches the transformation of the cross itself from a path leading to death into a path leading to life. Moreover, this is the only possible positive resolution, for in Christianity the world has been shown total victory on the cross, and in the belief in Christ as perfect God and at the same time perfect man the world has been shown the indivisible and unmerged unity of the divine and the human… The voluntary passion of the Son of God and the resurrection as its consequence – such is the only revelation of meaning in the world by which this meaning may be realized and confirmed.”
HOMILY FOR THE NATIVITY OF THE HOLY THEOTOKOS
When a king plans to live in a certain city or settlement, an appropriate dwelling is prepared for him there in advance; in like manner the Heavenly King, before coming down to earth, prepared for Himself a wondrous palace, not made by hands, in the person of the Most-immaculate Virgin Mary. And if we, when looking at notable sights, focus our attention on the beautiful architecture of palaces and various monuments, then with how great a piety and awe should we not bow down before the living House of God?
Today the Church prayerfully commemorates the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, the most blessed among women, Who has so wondrously served the mystery of the incarnation of God the Word. Her parents, the righteous Joachim and Anna, came from families of kings and high priests, but lived in obscurity. Being distinguished by high morality, they were at the same deeply unhappy, since they had lived until a very old age without having children, which at that time was regarded as severe punishment from God. This was because every Jew of those times ardently wished for the awaited Christ to come from his family or at least from his descendants. This meant that whoever had no children was deprived of such a hope. Joachim and Anna often earnestly prayed to God to remove from them such a disgrace in the eyes of the Jews, but the Lord tarried in fulfilling their request because the time was not yet ripe. It seemed to them that all hope was already lost, but what is impossible for man is possible for God. God’s Providence once again raised their hopes especially strongly. During the feast of the renewal of the temple, St. Joachim came to Jerusalem with his servants and wished to offer a rich sacrifice, but the priest did not accept it, indicating that Joachim was unworthy because of his childlessness, while another Jew expressed his contempt for Joachim in front of everyone. The childless father’s cup of sorrow overflowed. He let his servants go back home, while he himself went off into the desert and spent 40 days there in fasting and prayer. “Lord, – he cried out, shedding copious and bitter tears, – deliver me from the disgrace of childlessness, and if by Thy blessing my wife should give birth to a child, I will dedicate it to Thy service.” At the same time St. Anna, having learned from the servants of what had happened to her husband in Jerusalem, refused to be comforted and tearfully increased her prayers, acknowledging herself to be a sinner and unworthy of God’s mercy. Being unable to find peace anywhere, she went out into her garden and in one of the trees saw a nest with fledglings. “My God, my God! – she said tearfully and sorrowfully, – even the birds of heaven are more fortunate than I, for they have offspring, while I am lower than dumb creatures…” At this her trial ended. An angel suddenly appeared to her and said: “Anna, fear not, thy supplication has been heard, thou shalt conceive and give birth to a Daughter Who shall be the most blessed of all.” Who can describe the joy of the previously unfortunate woman? She immediately hurried off to Jerusalem, in order to give praise and thanks to God in the temple. The same angel also appeared to righteous Joachim and announced to him that a Daughter, Whom he should call Mary, would be born to him, and in confirmation of the truth of his words the angel said: “Hurry to Jerusalem and there thou wilt meet thy wife Anna at the city gates.” In truth, everything came to pass as was foretold. The overjoyed couple offered a sacrifice to God, which the priest accepted very readily this time, and afterwards returned home, where a Daughter was born to them and was called Mary.
So you see, dear brethren, that even people who are righteous from childhood do not always get what they ask for right away. Sometimes many years pass before the Lord responds to the supplication of His servants. One thing remains without doubt – that never does our sincere supplication slip by the All-seeing God. For this reason Christ teaches us: ask and ye shall receive. He did not mean “ask once,” but rather “keep on asking,” perhaps for a long time, persistently, earnestly, and above all – with faith in God’s mercy. However, it is not forbidden to ask for an acceleration of celestial help, but we should always remember that the Lord governs His own paths and, if necessary, fulfills our entreaties in their own good time, as occurred with the nativity of the Most-immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen.
THE OPTINA HERMITAGE
On the shores of the fast-running Zhizdra River, surrounded by a virgin forest, stood the Optina Hermitage, just several miles from the city of Kozelsk in the Kaluga province. It consisted of a majestic white Kremlin with 4 churches, fortress walls, and turrets. Optina’s lofty spiritual life was in complete harmony with its external beauty. After visiting Optina, the Russian writer Gogol described it as possessing exclusive spirituality and having a beneficial influence on all its surroundings.
The exact time of Optina’s appearance is unknown. According to tradition, it was founded in ancient times by the penitent brigand Optin. The city of Kozelsk is mentioned in the chronicles for the year 1146. In 1238, after a heroic defense, the city was captured by the Tatars, and all the inhabitants were killed. In the early 15th century Kozelsk came under the rule of Lithuania, then changed hands for half-a-century before ending up firmly with Moscow.
It is known that in 1625 the abbot of Optina was a certain Sergius. In 1630 the hermitage comprised a wooden church, six monastic cells, and 12 monks, and was administered by hieromonk Theodore. Thus Optina is one of Russia’s most ancient monasteries.
Growth, decline, and revival
Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich and the local boyars donated lands to Optina and it began to flourish, but during the reforms of Peter the Great its lands were taken away, the monastery became impoverished, and finally was completely closed down in 1724; however, already by 1726 it was reopened upon the petition of the courtier Andrey Shepelev. After having been completely destroyed, the monastery slowly began to revive.
Optina’s full revival was accomplished only in 1795, when it came to the attention of Metropolitan Plato of Moscow. A certain Father Avraamius was appointed abbot of the hermitage, and 12 monks were transferred there. Father Avraamius, though of a sickly constitution, did a great deal for the monastery: he put its economy in order, built a wall around the hermitage, settled court affairs in favor of the monastery, built a bell tower, a hospital church, and monastic cells for the brothers, and planted spacious gardens.
But it is to its next abbot, the Archimadrite Moses, that the Optina Hermitage owes its flourishing and its glory. Major construction jobs were undertaken in his time, extensive fruit orchards and vegetable gardens were planted, land estates increased twofold… The flow of funds came from pilgrims who were attracted to the Optina Hermitage with its unique spirit reminiscent of ancient asceticism. Father Moses’ two brothers were also abbots of monasteries, and all of them were great ascetics and spiritually supported each other. Father Moses himself came to a realization of the essence and depth of spiritual life in his early youth. Afterwards he visited the clairvoyant eldress Dosithea in Moscow, who directed him towards the Sarov monastery, where he was instructed by St. Seraphim himself. Subsequently Father Moses spiritually labored among the hermits of the Roslavl forests in a manner similar to the ancient Egyptian desert-dwellers, spending 6 days in solitude, reading the entire daily cycle of services and engaging in the Jesus prayer, and on Sundays joining the other elders in communal prayer. The French invasion of 1812 interrupted Father Moses’ hermetic life, and he moved to the Beloberezhskaya Hermitage, where he met three prominent ascetics: Fathers Theodore and Cleopas (disciples of St. Paisius Velichkovskiy) and their brother in fasting, Father Leonid, the future famous Optina elder.
In 1821 Bishop Philaret of Kaluga talked Father Moses into moving to Optina and taking on the construction of a skete near the monastery. Together with Father Moses, his younger brother, Father Anatoly, and two other monks, Hilarion and Sabbatius, also came to Optina.
Thus was founded the Optina skete, in which flourished the Optina eldership and which spread the glory of the Optina Hermitage not only throughout its environs, but throughout all of Russia.
Eldership in general
Grace-filled eldership is one of the highest achievements of the spiritual life of the Church, it is its cream, its crown of spiritual labors, the fruit of solitude and divine contemplation. It is organically related to inner monastic asceticism, which has as its purpose the achievement of a dispassionate state, and so it appeared together with monasticism at the dawn of Christianity. It also emerged in Russia with the arrival of Christianity there and became widespread, but in time it faded away and by the end of the 17th century disappeared and was forgotten, so that when it was revived in the early 18th century by Paisius Velichkovsky, it seemed to be something new and extraordinary. For this reason the church hierarchy often felt at a loss before this manifestation, which led to the frequent persecutions to which elders such as St. Seraphim of Sarov, several of the Optina elders, and others were subjected. However, not all hierarchs persecuted eldership of course; on the contrary, many sponsored it and even venerated it.
The Optina eldership
But the eldership of which we will speak, to wit, the Optina eldership, has its unique characteristics that distinguish it from the general concept of eldership. Although throughout the entire history of Christianity allelders were considered to be experienced monks who were not only entrusted with the spiritual care of young novices, but were also assigned to take care of the spiritual life of laymen, – the Optina elders were distinguished by an exclusive profundity of spiritual life, personal holiness, and the gift of clairvoyance, and although they were primarily concerned with the spiritual purification and salvation of all those who came to them, nevertheless they also consistently aided people in their worldly affairs and troubles, and by virtue of clairvoyance were able to help people find a way out of their most hopeless situations; moreover, the elders also possessed the gifts of healing and miracle-working.
A strict keeper of the fast and ascetic himself, Father Moses was full of the most tender love for people and commiserated with their frailties and sins. His art of talking with each person in the latter’s own manner was incomparable: with educated people he spoke on an intellectual level, while with simple folk he spoke in accordance with their understanding of things and their manner of speech. He understood full well the needs of each person, and he had infinite compassion for the poor.
He was also distinguished by extraordinary humility. “I am worse than all others,” – Father Moses would often say. “Other perhaps only think they are the worst, but I know for sure that I am worse than others.” Thus the elder spoke humbly of himself, but it was obvious to those who were close to him and knew his life that he possessed many spiritual gifts, including the gift of contemplative prayer. In 1825 Father Moses was appointed abbot of the Optina monastery, while his brother, Father Anatoly, became the abbot of the skete. Having gone through the same school of asceticism in the Roslavl forests as his brother, he, too, was distinguished by extreme humility and obedience. He did not make any decisions without the blessing of his elder and brother, Father Moses. Due to the heavy physical work he personally had to do in helping his brother build the skete, already at the age of 40 he had open wounds on his legs, which did not heal to the end of his life and caused him great suffering. At the same time he had to do many things himself, because many of the monks, especially those who served, were quite elderly. But under his administration there was amazing order and beauty in the skete, which greatly impressed all visitors.
However, neither Father Anatoly, nor Father Moses took upon themselves the direct responsibility of spiritual leadership of the monastery brotherhood. Yet, being great elders themselves, they understood the importance of eldership and provided the great elders whom they attracted to the Optina skete with a wide scope of activity. Thus the planting and flourishing of eldership in the Optina Hermitage was due to the efforts of these two elders. Unfortunately, Bishop Nikolay of Kaluga did not understand eldership, and he brought great woe to the elders and would have harmed their efforts even more, had it not been for the intercession of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, who profoundly understood and appreciated the significance of eldership.
(To be continued)
On using time wisely
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”
The holy apostle Paul, warning us not to spend time in vain, instructs us to use each minute of our life wisely: “See then, – he says, – that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” In talking about “redeeming the time” the apostle makes us aware that time is used to purchase true blessings, just as money is used to acquire all that we need for physical life, and, consequently, the proper use of time is very similar to the use of money in good hands. A wise master does not spend foolishly, totals up his assets properly, and assigns a special purpose to each sum of money. We should handle time in a like manner: assign hours and minutes for one good purpose or another; redeem each day by doing good deeds for ourselves or others; each year pass as many steps on the way to spiritual perfection as there are days in a year, and not waste a single hour needlessly, doing nothing, and least of all in using it for sinful deeds.
The day usually begins with our awakening from sleep. How should we look upon the moment of awakening? Just as we would look upon the moment of being born into the world or upon resurrection from the dead, because there is a great similarity between awakening from sleep and being born. When we are asleep, it is as though we do not exist. When we wake up from sleep, it is as though we are being born anew, we are coming alive, we are being resurrected.
The time immediately following sleep should, first of all, be spent in prayer. Each morning brings us the pious joy of glorifying God for the Creator’s having allowed us yet again to see His world, so beautifully designed for us. In beginning the day we are beginning a new life, and in life there are so many grounds for temptation and sin that a weak person absolutely cannot do without the help of God, which is acquired only through prayer. And secondly, time should be spent in reading the word of God: it is the book of life, it contains everything we need to know, to do, to hope for. In the words of St. John Chrysostome, it is God’s letter or message to mankind. Whoever does not nourish his soul with this celestial gift – starves his soul.
Afterwards comes the time for activity, time for work. Everyone has his own duties, his own affairs, his own job, his own diverse needs. But whatever they may be, there is one cardinal rule for all of them: “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what is the will of the Lord,” i.e. at the beginning of each deed ask yourself whether or not it conforms to the will of God.
How should we spend the time of leisure or rest? In fulfilling the following words of the apostle’s instruction: “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” That is, if you like to read in your free time – read that which reveals to you the wisdom of God. Do you like to go out in society? Do so, but keep to pious discussions, wise conversation, good counsels and discourses. Do you like singing and music? Do sing, but particularly those songs which contain the outpourings of pure and lofty souls. Worldly songs can sometimes corrupt the soul by glorifying passions, vices, and human folly.
In other words, do what you always do, but in reverse: exchange the sensual for the spiritual, the body for the soul, the secular for the religious.
A WORLD LYING IN INIQUITY
Looking around us at the surrounding environment, it is not difficult for an Orthodox Christian to see that the modern world is literally lying in iniquity, and that in its sinfulness mankind has not only caught up with and surpassed Sodom and Gomorrah, but also the antediluvian mankind that was destroyed by the Lord by means of the Flood. And if current mankind has not yet been destroyed by fire, as had been foretold, it is only because it still contains the requisite number of righteous ones for which the patriarch Abraham tried to bargain with God in order to save Sodom and Gomorrah (and could not), and because the Lord continues to show everlasting mercy to mankind and is granting a chance for salvation to all who can still be saved.
It is extremely difficult for an Orthodox Christian to live in a world where the sins of sodomy exceed the original ones a hundredfold. Not only the souls of righteous ones, but also the souls of all the faithful languish and suffocate in these hellish fumes… However, by his very nature an Orthodox Christian should not despair, but should rely on God’s Providence in all things, should continue to live and work for the salvation of his soul. At the same time it may be worthwhile to attain a deeper understanding of the situation in which we find ourselves. With this in mind we offer you a series of articles dealing with this issue.
Discourse on the meaning of evil
The thought of universal evil lies like a heavy burden of doubt in the hearts of many of the faithful. It seems incomprehensible to them that God allows the existence of evil, since in His omnipotence He could easily eliminate this evil… How can the infinitely merciful God tolerate a situation wherein the evil actions of a single scoundrel can doom thousands, and sometimes millions, and even up to half of mankind to misery, woe, misfortune?
Wherein lays the meaning of evil? In God’s world there is nothing meaningless.
In order to reply to these questions, we must understand the precise nature of evil. Evil does not mean suffering, misery, or poverty, but sins and moral guilt. God does not want evil. The Omnipotent God cannot approve of evil. Moreover, God forbids evil. God punishes evil. Evil or sin are a contradiction or opposition to the will of God.
The foundation of evil, as we know, was laid by the supreme angel created by God, who came out from under obedience to God’s benevolent will and became the devil. The devil is the cause of evil, and he either inspires or influences the engendering of sin in man.
It is not man’s body, as many people think, that is the source of evil. No, the body becomes the instrument of either sin or virtue not of its own accord, but by man’s will.
The true faith of Christ indicates the following two reasons for the existence of evil in the world:
(1) The first and primary reason lies in the freedom of man’s will.
(2) The second reason for the existence of evil is that bearing in mind its inevitability in order to accommodate free will, God directs even this evil towards man’s good.
Our free will is the reflection of our likeness to God. This gift from God raises man above all the other creatures in the world…
In freely choosing good and rejecting evil man magnifies God and perfects himself.
In the book of Ecclesiastes there are the following words: “He (God) created man in the beginning and left him in the hands of his own will,” i.e. God originally created man and left him with free choice.
In this manner God gives people with good will the opportunity to earn heaven for themselves, and those with evil will – to merit hell. However, both one and the other are arrived at only by means of man’s free will.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem says: “If you were to do good by nature and not by choice, why would God then prepare incomparable crowns? The sheep are meek, but they will never be crowned for their meekness, because their meekness comes not from choice, but from nature.”
St. Basil the Great says: “Why have we not been fashioned sinless, so that we would not be able to sin even if we so desired? For the same reason that you yourself would not consider your servants to be efficient if you kept them con strained, but only if you saw them fulfilling their duties before you voluntarily. Thus God, too, is pleased not by what is forced, but by what is done voluntarily; virtue comes from will and not from necessity, while our will depends on what is within us, and what is within us is free. Therefore, whoever criticizes the Creator for not having fashioned us sinless shows that he prefers a nature that is unfeeling, immovable, and without any aspirations to a nature that is gifted with free will and independence.” In other words, such a person prefers a machine (robot) to a sentient being.
Under no circumstance does God wish for evil. However, since evil of necessity penetrated into the world through the fault of creation, God makes even this evil serve to the good in His universal plan.
For example: the sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph into bondage. They did an evil deed. But God turned evil into good: Joseph achieved high standing in Egypt and thus had the opportunity to save his family, from which the Messiah was due to come, from famine. When several years later Joseph saw his brothers, he said to them: “You planned evil against me, but God turned it into good!”
In the apostles’ times the Jews persecuted the Christians in Palestine. And so the Christians were forced to flee from Judea, which was sanctified by the life and blood of the Saviour. However, wherever they went, they propagated the word of the Gospel. The sins of the persecutors were directed by the Divine hand towards the spreading of Christianity.
The pagan Roman emperors persecuted the young Christian Church. Tens of thousands of martyrs shed their blood for Christ in those times. And this blood of martyrs became the seed for millions of new Christians. Thus here, too, the persecutors’ fury and the sins of hate and murder were channeled by God into building up the Church. The persecutors planned and committed evil, while God turned all their deeds into good.
The entire history of mankind, up to our own times, confirms the truth of these words. The greatest catastrophes for people were at the same time the greatest triumphs for religion and served to turn people to God.
We only need to have patience and to wait, for with God one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day. Moreover, this intertwining of evil into God’s plan for administering the world was not some belated adjustment or a correction of creation, but a conscious act of God’s pre-eternal will.
Fornication and adultery
The demons controlling the aerial “tollhouses” dealing with fornication brag that few individuals can pass through these tollhouses, because all people experience desire, all are inclined towards sins of the flesh, but very few repent of them: the devil lulls people into a false sense of shame. One must repent boldly, but be ashamed to sin, and one must always remember that on the day of the Last Judgment we will see all of our unrepented sins as in a mirror, they will all be presented openly, and we will be shamed before the entire world and all the angels. And if we consciously conceal even a single sin during confession, our confession will not lead to salvation, but to condemnation.
Sins of the flesh are particularly widespread in our time, when a dirty stream of pornographic literature and films is flowing towards us from the West. People have become used to living in lewdness and do not count it as a sin.
But the Lord has given us the following commandment: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time – thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whoever looketh on a woman to lust after her committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28). Such is the degree of purity and holiness that Christ demands from us!
The sins of fornication and adultery are terrible, mortal sins. If a person does not repent of them, they will close the doors to paradise, for nothing unclean can enter there. They destroy family hearths, corrupt unspoiled and pure youth, deprive men of the power to reason, blunt the mind, fill the memory with filthy remembrances.
Sensuality, say the Holy Fathers, is an abyss in which a great multitude of souls have perished. The pleasure received from satisfying the lusts of the flesh passes quickly, while its dirty trace remains in the soul forever.
The Lord will judge us not only for our actions, but also for our thoughts: chastity is not only purity of the body, but also purity of the mind. Therefore, we must first of all learn to struggle against unclean thoughts, because without such a struggle it is impossible to nurture virtues, to attain spiritual perfection.
For those who delight in lewd thoughts there is no salvation; those, however, who do not accept such thoughts, who overcome them by means of prayer, receive crowns from God.
The letters of St. Seraphim the Athonite describe an instructive example. A certain abbess was bringing up an orphan girl in her convent. The girl sang and read in the choir, and when she turned 18 – she died. The abbess prayed and fasted for 40 days, asking God to show her the celestial dwelling of her protégé, and on the 40th day she saw the ground open up and the girl thrown out amid fiery flames. “My daughter, you are burning?! – the abbess cried out in horror. – Why did you land in this place?” – “Reverend Mother, pray for me, – said the girl, – I deserve to be punished. A certain young man used to come to church while I sang in the choir, and I loved to look at him, to delight in his presence, and I fornicated with him in my thoughts, but did not repent of this to my father confessor because I was ashamed. And now I am tormented by fire…”
We should also repent when we have unclean dreams, which indicate an unclean soul. “When a soul is seduced by unclean dreams in its sleep, this means that it has not yet attained perfect chastity,” – the Holy Fathers warn us.
What gives rise to passions of the flesh? The basic reason (and not only of bodily passions) is pride and passing judgment. St. John of the Ladder says: If a man falls into fornication, before that he has fallen into pride. If we pass judgment on someone over a sin, if we feel pride that we ourselves are innocent of this sin, then the Lord will allow us to fall into the same sin. Therefore, we should try not to notice the sins of others, not gossip about them everywhere, but only pray for such a person. Saint Anthony the Great used to say: Even if I see a monk sinning with a woman in the town square, I will cover him with my mantle and pass by…
Passions of the flesh often arise from gluttony. “Whoever satisfies his belly and at the same time wishes to overcome the spirit of fornication is like unto a man who wishes to extinguish fire with oil,” – says the venerable John of the Ladder. The more wood we place in a stove, the fiercer will burn the flame; the more food we eat, the stronger burns the flame of our passions.
A certain monk in a monastery was terribly tempted by the demon of fornication. He told his elder about this and asked the latter to pray for him, but still there was no relief, and the passion of fornication continued to torment him more and more. Again he went to his elder, and the latter said in amazement: “But I have been praying for you! It doesn’t help? Well, we will intensify our prayers.” And once again he started to pray, and then the demon of fornication himself appeared to him and said: “You are laboring in vain! I departed from your monk as soon as you started praying, but he has his own personal demon: he loves to sate himself with tasty food and to sleep a lot…”
Abstinence in food is very important, and if passions of the flesh continue to be bothersome, one can abstain from meat, sweets, wine, stimulating drinks. “Eat a measured amount of bread and drink water temperately, and the spirit of fornication will depart from you,” – the Holy Fathers advise us. It is very beneficial to work a lot, avoid eating late at night, take exhausting walks, sleep with an open window, sleep on hard mattresses, avoid covering oneself up too warmly, reduce the hours of sleep, get up immediately upon awakening, and avoid lolling around in bed.
Fornication is also the result of reading obscene literature, looking at seductive pictures and pornographic postcards, being attracted by and going to see erotic shows and dancing, licentious interaction with individuals of the opposite sex, dirty jokes, immodest laughter, improper glances and touches.
Contact with lewd people is very harmful, as are dirty, lecherous conversations, love for luxury, a desire to dress up and use makeup for the purpose of attracting and seducing others. Young girls who like to use makeup should remember the words of Apostle Peter: “Let your adorning not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel, but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (1 Peter 3:3-4).
A woman can fall very low, but can also rise very high, and the example before us should be the Most-holy Theotokos, the Virgin Mary: a Virgin before giving birth, a Virgin while giving birth, and a Virgin after giving birth. She spent Her entire life in holiness and did not have a single unclean thought. Similarly, a maiden who lives chastely and spends her time in prayer is surrounded by a fiery circle of grace, and the demons cannot approach her.
In order for our life to be pure and holy we must guard ourselves, battle and vanquish the enemy, and then the Lord will save us.
Not a single person can escape passionate thoughts: the one who did not experience them in one’s youth will come across them in maturity, and sometimes even in one’s old age, especially those who have been living chastely. The thoughts themselves are not yet a sin, because they arise independently of our will; the main thing is for our soul not to be in agreement with them: even in our thoughts we should bar the way to demons. If a door stand slightly open, a snake can easily slither in; in like manner, if we stop to entertain a thought, it will already take control over us.
Elder Siluan, when he became a novice in a monastery on Mount Athos, struggled against lewd thoughts and desires to such an extent that he even thought of leaving the monastery and getting married. At that time he was inexperienced and did not know how to cope with such spiritual warfare, but later he went to his elder and revealed his state of mind to him. The elder replied: “Never accept even a single lewd thought.” Siluan followed this advice and the demon left him, and throughout the forty years of his life in the monastery he did not allow even a single lewd thought to enter his mind.
If we struggle against sinful thoughts and repel them, this is counted as our having engaged not in sin, but in spiritual labor.
Two monks were once passing through a village, and five times one of them had the sinful thought of committing fornication. He repented of this to his father confessor, and the latter said: “It was revealed to me that five times you have repelled sinful thoughts, and I saw five crowns over your head.”
Thus, of utmost importance is the determination not to succumb to sin or to temptation. Of course we cannot do anything by our own power, and in this warfare we must rely on God’s help and on prayer to the Mother of God and the saints. They are the ones who, according to St. John of the Ladder, “vanquished their body, vanquished their nature, stood above nature, and such a person is slightly, or even not at all, lesser than the angels.”
“If you should burn with the fire of bodily lust, set it against the fire of Gehenna – and the fire of your lust will be immediately extinguished and will disappear,” – says St. John of the Ladder.
Thus, the main thing is the remembrance of death and the terrible torments of hell, as well as pure-hearted repentance, confession of one’s thoughts, frequent communion, and constant Jesus prayer.
We must engage in an implacable battle with the devil who persuades us to sin. The devil abhors chastity and purity, and especially in our times he attempts to brainwash us into believing that man must take all he possibly can from nature, that it is harmful for man to live in purity. Even many physicians insistently advise patients to engage in fornication in order to rid themselves of one or another illness.
In reality fornication not only does not cure illnesses, but increases them, bringing great harm. In the beginning of last century, a survey was made of over 200 major medics of world fame, both in Russia and abroad, and all of them replied that physical abstinence is not only not harmful, but even necessary. In their many years of practice these medics did not meet a single person whose illnesses, including psychological ones, arose as a result of physical abstinence. Young people can and should remain virginal, which will help them to accumulate bodily strength that will benefit their organism throughout their entire life. Usually only those who wish to justify their own licentiousness speak of the supposed harm of chastity.
Chastity is even more necessary to spiritual health. A chaste person is always tranquil, peace reigns in his soul, his thoughts are clear and pure, his eyes are alight with joy, his heart is filled with love for God and others, and he is automatically engaged in constant prayer. On the contrary, a person who does not restrain his flesh suffers a darkening of the mind, his memory and all his abilities become blunted, he becomes hot-tempered, irritable, can no longer control himself, becomes a slave to his passions, hates chaste people, turns away from all that is divine. Why does this happen? Because the grace of God is no longer present in his heart, which has become the receptacle of dark, evil forces.
“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19). We must not forget that we do not belong to ourselves: both our bodies and our souls are not ours, we have been created by God for God and should be pure and chaste in His eyes, and then we will be like angels. We must only apply some effort, and the Lord will generously reward our labor by granting us eternal bliss in His Kingdom.
How I find you, so shall I judge you
The Lord says: “Repent!”
“Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance,” – exhorts us St. John the Baptist.
In the penitent days of the Great Lent the Church cries out: “My soul, arise, whyfore dost thou sleep? The end is approaching…”
The end is approaching… Perhaps today will be your last chance for repentance, so do not delay it, hurry to confession. Remember: the Lord will forgive all sins, except one – that we did not repent, and He will judge us not for our sins, but for our not having repented of them.
Re-examine your entire life, remember all your sins. Do not be afraid of the confessor, reveal to him all that is in your heart, all that burdens your conscience. Millions of people have passed before him, and he knows all human sins, and if he is a genuine pastor, he will rejoice when a soul repents, just as all of heaven rejoices over a single penitent sinner. Do not be afraid, do not hide anything, but only remember what the Lord said: “How I find you, so shall I judge you.”
ON MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE
Excerpts from notes made by the Royal Martyr
Empress Alexandra Fedorovna
Love between the spouses
The main requisite in a family is unselfish love. Each spouse should forget his own ego and dedicate himself to the other person. Each one should blame himself and not the other person when something goes wrong. One needs to possess restraint and patience, since impatience can spoil everything. A harsh word can delay the merging of the spouses’ souls for months. There should be a desire on both sides to make the marriage a happy one and to overcome everything that stands in the way of such a goal. The strongest love has the greatest need of daily fortification. Most unforgivable of all is precisely rudeness in one’s own home, towards those whom we love.
One word envelops everything, and that word is “love.” Within the word “love” there is a whole volume of thoughts on life and responsibility, and when we study this volume thoroughly and attentively, each of these thoughts comes through clearly and distinctly.
Love reveals many things in a woman that cannot be seen by outsiders. It throws a veil over her shortcomings and transforms even the simplest of her traits.
Another important element of family life is the attitude of love towards one another; it is not simply love, but love nurtured within a family’s daily life, love expressed in words and actions. Courtesy in the home should not be formal, but sincere and natural. Children need joy and happiness just as much as plants need air and sunlight.
The spouses’ responsibilities
After the wedding is concluded, a husband’s first and foremost responsibility is to his wife, and the wife’s to her husband. The two of them should live for one another, give up their life for one another. Formerly each one of them was incomplete. Marriage is the joining of two halves into a single whole. Two lives are tied together in such a close union that they are no longer two lives, but one. Each one bears the sacred responsibility for the happiness and greatest good of the other for the rest of his or her life.
Each wife should know that when she finds herself in a state of confusion or difficulty, she will always find a safe and quiet harbor in the love of her husband. She should know that he will always be understanding towards her, will treat her very delicately, will even use force to defend her. She should never doubt the fact that he will empathize with her in all her difficulties. She should never be afraid to be met with coldness or rebuke when she comes to him, seeking his protection.
A husband should ask his wife’s advice concerning all his affairs and all his plans, and should have confidence in her. Perhaps she does not understand business affairs in the same way he does, but she will possibly be able to make valuable suggestions, since a woman’s intuition often works faster than a man’s logic. But even if a wife cannot help her husband in his business, her love for him makes her deeply interested in all his concerns. And she is happy when he asks her for advice, and thus they grow even closer.
A husband’s hands, inspired by love, should be able to do everything. Every loving husband should have a grand heart. Many sufferers should be able to find help in a truly loving family. Every husband of a Christian wife should unite with her in love for Christ. Out of love for her he will pass all trials of faith. In sharing her life, which is filled with faith and prayer, he, too, will unite his life with Heaven. United on earth by a common faith in Christ, re-forging their mutual love into love for God, they will also be eternally united in Heaven.
A loyal wife does not have to be a poet’s dream, nor pretty as a picture, nor a creature of ethereal beauty whom one fears to touch, but should be a healthy, strong, practical, industrious woman, capable of coping with all family duties, and yet marked with a beauty that is granted to a soul that has a lofty and noble goal.
The primary requirement for a wife is faithfulness, faithfulness in the widest possible sense. Her husband’s heart should be able to trust her completely. Absolute trust is the foundation of true love. The shadow of doubt destroys the harmony of family life. A faithful wife proves by her character and conduct that she is worthy of her husband’s trust. He is sure of her love, he knows that her heart is eternally loyal to him. He knows that she is sincerely supportive of his interests. It is highly important for a husband to be able to entrust the handling of all family affairs to his loyal wife, knowing that everything will be in order. The wastefulness and extravagance of some wives have destroyed the happiness of many a couple.
A wife’s main duty is to establish and run her household. She should be magnanimous and kind-hearted. A woman whose heart remains untouched by the sight of misfortune, who does not try to help as much as she can, is deprived of one of the major womanly characteristics that make up the basis of the female nature. A true wife shares with her husband the burden of his cares. Whatever else a man goes through during the day, when he comes home he should find himself in an atmosphere of love. His friends may betray him, but his wife’s loyalty should remain constant. When darkness and misfortune befall a husband, his wife’s loyal eyes look at him like stars of hope shining in this darkness. When he is depressed, her smile helps him find new strength, just as a ray of sunshine straightens out a wilting flower.
Through the fault of those who have become married, either one or both, wedded life can become a misfortune. The possibility of happiness in marriage is great, but one should also not forget about the possibility of its crashing. Only a correct and wise married life can help achieve ideal relations between the spouses.
You should fear the least sign of incipient disobedience or alienation. Instead of acting in a restrained manner, the husband or the wife say an ill-advised or careless word, and suddenly a small crack appears between these two hearts that up to now have been one whole, and this crack widens and widens until the spouses find themselves torn apart forever. Did you say something thoughtless? Ask forgiveness immediately. Did a misunderstanding arise between you? It does not matter whose fault it was, but do not allow it to stand between you even for an hour.
Refrain from quarreling. Do not go to sleep with a feeling of anger in your heart. There should be no place for pride in family life. You should never coddle your feeling of injured pride in scrupulously trying to determine precisely who has to ask forgiveness. Those who love truly never engage in such casuistry, but are always ready to give in and apologize.
When the beauty of the face fades, the shining of the eyes dims, and with age come wrinkles, or when illnesses, sorrows, and cares leave their traces and scars, the love of a faithful husband should remain just as deep and sincere as before. There are no measurements on earth that are capable of measuring the depth of Christ’s love for His Church, and not a single mortal can love with the same depth of feeling, but nevertheless each husband must do it to the extent that such love can be recreated on earth. No sacrifice will appear too great to him for the sake of his beloved.
As the charm of physical beauty disappears with time amid cares and labors, the beauty of the soul should shine forth more and more, replacing the lost attractiveness. The wife should always be concerned above all to be attractive to her husband and not to someone else. When the two of them are alone, she should take even greater care of her appearance and not shrug it off because no one else sees her. Instead of being lively and attractive in company and then falling into melancholy and keeping quiet when left alone, the wife should remain merry and attractive even when she stays alone with her husband in their quiet home. Both the husband and the wife should give to each other the best in each of them. Her fervent interest in all his affairs and her wise advice on all matters fortify him in the accomplishment of his daily duties and give him strength for all battles. At the same time, the wisdom and strength that a woman needs to fulfill her sacred wifely duties are to be found only in appealing to God.
Heavy work, difficulties, cares, self-sacrifice, and even misfortune lose their acuteness, bleakness, and severity when they are softened by tender love, just as cold, bare, and rugged cliffs become beautiful when wild vines entwine them with their green garlands, and exquisite flowers fill all their cracks and crevices.
Each home has its own trials, but peace reigns in a truly loving home and cannot be upset by any worldly tempests. The home is a place of warmth and tenderness. At home one should speak only with love.
Such a house can nurture only beauty and gentleness of character. One of the misfortunes of our times is that quiet family evenings are being pushed out by business, amusements, a whirling social life.
There are sorrows that wound even more than death. However, God’s love can turn any trial into a blessing.
Our love for each other may be sincere and deep on sunny days, but it is never as strong as on days of suffering and sorrow, when all the previously hidden richness of the soul is revealed.
(To be continued)
LIVES OF THE SAINTS
On October 4th (September 21st by the old calendar) the Church commemorates Saint Dimitry, Metropolitan of Rostov.
St. Dimitry, whose secular name was Daniel, was the son of the Cossack commander Tuptalo and was born in 1651 in the city of Makarov in the Kiev province. After graduating from the Mogilev Theological Academy, St. Dimitry became a monk in 1668 in the Kievan St. Cyril Monastery, and in 1675 was ordained a hieromonk. Later he was the abbot and subsequently an archimandrite in various monasteries. In 1701 he was ordained Metropolitan of Tobolsk, but remained in Moscow due to illness and a year later took on the vacant cathedra in Rostov.
St. Dimitry worked hard at establishing church piety and in denouncing heretic sects. He spent his life in the spiritual labors of fasting, prayer, and charity, and for twenty years he labored over the composition of his immortal opus – the Menology (i.e. the lives of the saints for each day of the month, to be read in church and at home), which he began to write in 1684 while staying at the Kiev Caves monastery. The holy hierarch peacefully reposed in the Lord on October 28, 1709 and was buried in the Rostov Cathedral. On September 2, 1752, while the church floor over the hierarch’s grave was being repaired, his relics were found incorruptible.
SIGNS FROM HEAVEN
An Orthodox Christian understanding of unidentified flying objects (UFOs)
The Six Kinds of UFO Encounters
“Close Encounters of the Second Kind” (CE-II) are essentially similar to CE-1 experiences, with the one difference that they leave some striking physical and/or psychological effects of their presence. These effects include marks on the ground, the scorching or blighting of plants and trees, interference with electrical circuits causing radio static and the stoppage of automobile engines, discomfort to animals as evidenced by strange behavior, and effects on humans which include temporary paralysis or numbness, a feeling of heat, nausea, or other discomfort, temporary weightlessness (sometimes causing levitation), sudden healings of sores and pains, and various psychological and physical after-effects, including strange marks on the body. This kind of UFO encounter gives the greatest possibility for scientific investigation, since in addition to human testimony there is physical evidence that can be examined; but little investigation has actually been undertaken, both because most scientists are afraid to get involved in the whole question of UFOs, and because the evidence itself is usually inconclusive or partially subjective. One catalog has been compiled of over 800 cases of this type in 24 countries. No actual “piece” of a UFO has ever been authenticated, however, and the markings left on the ground are often as baffling as the sightings themselves. The most frequent marking left on the ground after a sighting (the UFO itself having been seen either on the ground or just above it) is a burned, dehydrated, or depressed area in the shape of a ring, usually 20 to 30 feet in diameter and 1 to 3 feet thick; these “rings” persist for weeks or months, and the interior of the ring (and sometimes the whole circle) is reported to be barren for a season or two after the sighting. A few chemical analyses of the soil in such rings have produced no definite conclusions as to the possible origin of this condition.
“Close Encounters of the Second Kind” often happen to persons during the night in isolated sections of road. In many similar cases a glowing object lands in a field nearby or on the road in front of an automobile or truck, the engine and headlights on the automobile fail, and the occupants become terrified until the UFO leaves, often shooting suddenly straight up without a sound; the engine of the vehicle then can operate again, and often comes on by itself.
The strangest of all UFO reports are those that deal with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (CE-III) – that is, UFO experiences involving “animated beings” (“occupants” or “humanoids”). The first thought of many people when hearing of such reports is to picture “little green men” and dismiss the whole phenomenon as unbelievable – a hoax or hallucination. However, the success of the recent American science-fiction film named precisely for this category of UFO phenomena, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (for which Dr. Hynek served as technical consultant), together with evidence of the Gallop Poll in 1974 that 54% of those who are aware of UFOs believe that they are real, and 46% of all those interviewed believe in intelligent life on other planets (the percentage today would certainly be greater) – point to the rapidly increasing acceptance by contemporary men of the possibility of actual encounters with “non-human” intelligences. Science fiction has given the images, evolution has produced the philosophy, and the technology of the space age has supplied the plausibility for such encounters.
Astonishingly, these encounters seem actually to be occurring today, as attested to by the evidence of many believable witnesses. Of crucial importance, therefore, is the interpretation that must be made of these occurrences; is the reality behind them an actual contact with “visitors from outer space,” or is this only an explanation provided by the spirit of the times for a contact of a different kind altogether? As we shall see below, today’s scientific investigators of UFOs have already asked these questions.
Dr. Hynek admits his own repugnance to face the possibility of CE-III experiences: “To be frank, I would gladly omit this part if I could without offense to scientific integrity.” However, since his aim is scientific objectivity, he finds it impossible to ignore the well-documented cases, from believable witnesses, of this strange phenomenon. Of nearly 1250 “Close Encounters” reported in a catalog by Dr. Jacques Vallee, 750 report the landing of a craft, and more than 300 of these report “humanoids” in or about the craft; one-third of all these are multiple-witness cases.
In one “humanoid” case, which occurred in November 1961, in one of the northern plains’ states in the USA, four men were returning from a hunting trip late at night, when one of the men noticed a flaming object coming down, as if it were an airplane crashing about half a mile up the road from them. When they reached the site of the “crash,” all four men saw a silo-shaped craft in a field, sticking in the ground at an angle, with four seemingly human figures standing around it (this was at a distance of about 150 yards). They flashed a light on one of the figures, who was about four-and-a-half feet high and wearing what looked like white coveralls; he made a gesture to the men to stay back. After some hesitation (still thinking it was a plane crash), they went to a nearby town for a police officer, and when they returned they saw only some small red lights, something like automobile lights. They drove into the field with the officer and followed the lights, only to discover that they suddenly disappeared, leaving no tracks whatsoever, despite the muddiness of the field. After the puzzled police officer left, the men again saw the “silo” coming down out of the sky with a reddish glow. Instantly after the object landed, two figures were visible next to it; a shot was fired (although none of the men admitted to firing it), and one of the figures was “hit” in the shoulder with a thud and spun around and down to his knees; in panic the men ran to their car and raced off, agreeing among themselves not to mention the incident to anyone. They returned home with a strange feeling that there was some period of time lost during the night. The next day one of the men was visited at his work by several well-groomed official-looking men, who asked him questions about the incident (but without mentioning the shooting) and then took him in their car to his home, where they questioned him about his clothes and boots and then left, telling him not to say anything about the incident to anyone. The hunter assumed these men were United States Air Force investigators trying to conceal some new secret device, but the men never identified themselves and never contacted him again. All four men were extremely shaken up by the incident, and after six years one of them felt compelled to tell the whole story to a U.S. Treasury agent.
The main incidents in this story are typical of many “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” A little different case of this sort is the famous UFO “landing” at Kelly, a small town near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which was investigated extensively by the police, Air Force, and independent researchers. In the evening and night of August 21, 1955, seven adults and four children in one farm household had a prolonged encounter with “humanoids.” The incident began at 7:00, when the teen-aged son of the family saw a flying object land behind the farmhouse. No one believed him, but an hour later a “little man” emitting a strange glow came walking toward the house with his hands raised. Two of the men in the house, out of fear, shot at the creature when it was 20 feet away; it somersaulted and disappeared in the dark. Soon another similar creature appeared at a window; they again fired at it, and again it disappeared. Going outside, the men shot at another creature with a claw-like hand which they saw on the roof; still another on a tree nearby floated to the ground when it was hit. Other creatures also were seen and hit (or perhaps the same creatures reappearing), but the men saw the bullets seem to ricochet off from them and have no real effect; the sound was like shooting into a bucket. After firing four boxes of shells with no effect, all eleven people, thoroughly terrified, drove to the Hopkinsville police station. The police arrived at the farmhouse after midnight and made a thorough search of the premises, finding a few unusual markings and seeing several strange meteors that came in the direction of the farmhouse, but discovering no creatures. After the police left, the creatures reappeared, causing more consternation in the household.
The “humanoids” in this case were described as being about 3-and-a-half to 4 feet tall, with huge hands and eyes (without pupils or eyelids), large pointed ears, and arms that hung to the ground. They seemed to have no clothing but to be nickel-plated. They approached the house always from the darkest side and did not approach when the outside lights were turned one.
Dr. Hynek sharply distinguishes between “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “contactee” cases. “Contactees” have repeated encounters with UFO beings, often bringing pseudo-religious messages from them about highly-evolved beings on other planets who are often connected with UFO religious cults. Ordinary CE-III experiences, on the other hand, are in general very similar to other “Close Encounters”; they occur to people of similar occupation and reliability, are just as unexpected, and produce the same kind of shock at the sight of something so unbelievable. The “occupants” who are seen (usually from a little distance) are often reported as picking up samples of earth and rocks, showing a seeming interest in human installations and vehicles, or “repairing” their own craft. The “humanoids” are described as having large heads with largely non-human features (no eyes or large eyes widely spaced, small or no nose, a bare slit for a mouth), spindly legs, no neck; some are reported to be of human size, other about 3-and-a-half feet high, as in the Kelly-Hopkinsville incident. Recently a new catalog of over 1000 CE-III cases has been compiled.
There have been a number of cases, seriously reported by seemingly reliable people, of “abductions” by UFO occupants, usually for purposes of “testing.” Almost all evidence of these cases (if we exclude “contactees”) has been obtained by regressive hypnosis; the experience is so traumatic to the witnesses that the conscious mind does not remember it, and it is only some time later that such people agree to be hypnotized in order to explain some mysterious time loss in connection with their “Close Encounter” experience – the first part of which they do remember.
One of the best-known “abduction” cases occurred at about midnight on September 19, 1961 near Whitfield, New Hampshire. It was made the subject of a book by John Fuller (The Interrupted Journey). On this night Barney and Betty Hill were returning from a vacation trip when they saw a descending UFO which landed right in front of their car on a side road. Some “humanoids” approached them, and the next thing they remembered, it was two hours later and they were 35 miles farther down the road. This amnesia bothered them, leading to physical and mental disorders, and they finally went to a psychiatrist. Under hypnosis they both independently related what had happened during the missing time. Both stated that they had been taken aboard the craft by the “humanoids” and given physical examinations, with samples taken of fingernails and skin. They were released after being given the hypnotic suggestion that they would remember nothing of the experience. Under hypnosis they related the experience with great emotional disturbance.
In a similar case, at 2:30 A.M. on December 3, 1967, a policeman in Ashland, Nebraska saw an object with a row of flickering lights in the road, which took off into the air when he approached it. He reported a “flying saucer” to his superiors and went home with a strong headache, a buzzing noise in his ears, and a red welt below the left ear. Later, it was discovered that there had been a period of twenty minutes that night of which he remembered nothing; under hypnosis he revealed that he had followed the UFO, which again landed. The occupants flashed a bright light at him, and then took him aboard their craft, where he saw control panels and computer-like machines. (An engineer in France had seen something similar when he was “abducted” for 18 days.) The “humanoids,” wearing coveralls with a winged-serpent emblem, told the policeman that they came from a nearby galaxy, had bases in the United States, and operated their craft by “reverse electromagnetism”; they contact people by chance and “want to puzzle people.” They released the man, telling him “wisely not to speak about this night.”
At first sight such incidents seem simply unbelievable, like some strange cases of hallucination or disordered imagination. But there have been too many of them now to dismiss them quite so easily. As reports of encounters with actual physical aircraft, to be sure, they are not convincing. Furthermore, psychiatrists themselves caution that the results of regressive hypnosis are very uncertain: the person being hypnotized is often not capable of distinguishing between actual experiences and suggestions planted in his mind, whether by the hypnotist or by someone else at the time of the supposed “Close Encounter.” But even if these experiences are not fully real (as objective phenomena in space and time), the very fact that so many of them have been implanted in human minds in recent years is already significant enough. Without doubt there is something behind the “abduction” experiences also, and recently UFO investigators have begun to look in a different direction for an explanation of them.
Such experiences, and especially the “Close Encounters” of the 1970s, are noticeably bound up with paranormal or occult phenomena. People sometimes have strange dreams just before seeing UFOs, or hear knocks on the door when no one is there, or have strange visitors afterwards; some witnesses receive telepathic messages from UFO occupants; UFOs now sometimes simply materialize and de-materialize instead of coming and going at great speeds; sometimes “miraculous healings” occur in their presence or when one is exposed to their light. But “Close Encounters” with UFOs have also resulted in leukemia and radiation sickness; often there are tragic psychological effects: personality deterioration, insanity, suicide.
The increase of the psychic component in UFO sightings has led researchers to seek similarities between UFO experiences and occult phenomena, and to seek the key to understanding the UFOs in the psychic effects they produce. Many researchers note the similarity between UFO phenomena and 19th century spiritism, which also combined psychic phenomena with strange physical effects, but with a more primitive “technology.” In general the 1970s have seen a narrowing of the gap between the normal UFO phenomena of the past and the UFO cults, in accordance with the increased receptivity of mankind in this decade to occult practices.
(To be continued)
(From the book Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future)
Birches and snowbanks,
Rivers and meadows,
The welcoming sun in the skies.
For thousands of miles,
‘Neath myriad starlights,
My Russia rings out like a song.
Plunderers trampled it,
Ravagers strangled it,
Wanting to slay body and soul,
But no one can kill us,
Corrupt us, or buy us,
Or turn us into Europeans.
We threaten no conflicts,
We shake up no purses,
Our smiles and words are not lying.
At the hour of dying
We make no grimaces,
We truly foresee life eternal.
Birches and snowbanks,
Rivers and meadows,
A heavenly coolness and joy.
We sorrow o’er nothing,
We do want for nothing.
God gave Russia all that it needs.
– Yu. Klyuchnikov
Translated by Natalia Sheniloff