For several months now, various and inconsistent restrictions that violate Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been imposed upon churches. Whether or not these restrictions violate the legal rights of what the Orthodox officially refer to as extra-ecclesial communities is not something I am competent to comment on, so I will only concern myself with the practices and beliefs of the Orthodox.
The most concerning restrictions in question regard the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ from a common cup and spoon, the venerations of the holy icons with a kiss, the kissing of the hands of clergy, “greet[ing] one another with a holy kiss,” and the welcoming of all who enter the holy temple with “faith, reverence, and with the fear of God.” As well, the wearing of face masks and face coverings, distancing single persons and families from one another, and other such precautions are unnecessary in the holy temples of the Orthodox. It is also improper to record the names of those attending services for civil authorities to later use.
Perhaps the easiest of these Orthodox beliefs to understand is that the Body and Blood of Christ is “the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death,” as described by Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Obviously, one could not die from the antidote against death. However, it may not be as obvious how this also applies to the common cup and spoon, as well as all of the other practices mentioned above, including merely entering an Orthodox temple.
The Body and Blood of Christ is “the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death” by the grace of God. While the uncreated grace of God is communicated via the Holy Mysteries contained within the common cup, it is also communicated via the holy objects of the common cup and spoon, the holy icons, the hands of Christ’s holy clergy, the greetings with a holy kiss, and the holy temple itself, which has been blessed and consecrated. To deny that the uncreated grace of God is communicated in these ways is to deny the True Faith. It is a denial of God’s grace, a denial of His uncreated energies, and, therefore, apostasy from the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
Saint Gregory Palamas points out that without the distinction between the uncreated energies of God and His uncreated essence, one falls into either atheism or polytheism. In viewing the above mentioned communications of God’s grace from merely a material perspective (i.e. the perspective of empirical observation), one must view them as an atheist. Regardless of intention, the above mentioned restrictions are an attempted imposition of atheism upon the Orthodox faithful.
It can even be argued that any suggestion that the life-giving graces of God can communicate death and illness is blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, which Christ says “will not be forgiven,” “either in this age or in the age to come,” “but is subject to eternal condemnation.” (See Luke 12:10, Matthew 12:31–32, and Mark 3:28–29.) While this cannot be applied to those who do not truly know the Holy Spirit, the above mentioned restrictions tempt the Orthodox faithful into committing what Christ describes as unforgivable sin. Fortunately, as Blessed Augustine of Hippo says, “It is not that this was a blasphemy which under no circumstances could be forgiven, for even this shall be forgiven if right repentance follows it.” And as Saint John Chrysostom says, “For even this was forgiven upon repentance. Many at least of those who said these words believed afterwards, and all was forgiven them.” Nonetheless, it is far better to resist the temptation of such grave blasphemy rather than attempt to repent of it afterwards, especially since true knowledge that it is blasphemy would make repentance impossible (i.e. such a person will have no desire to even try).
As for the requirement to record the names of those attending services to ensure compliance with the limit imposed on the number of persons allowed in churches and potentially for so-called “contract tracing,” pastors would not err in recording the names of all the angels and saints in heaven, who are present at every Liturgy. If an objection is made because those listed are not materially present, pastors would not err in recording the names of all the angels and saints whose icons are in that temple. Any objection to this would contradict the Second Council of Nicaea and, therefore, ultimately deny the incarnation of Christ.
Admittedly, from the perspective of mere empirical science, these beliefs may seem like foolishness and even madness, but no more so than believing that a virgin gave birth “in [a] manner transcending discourse and nature” and that “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by Death, and upon those in the tomb, bestowing Life.” However, the belief that nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses (nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu) does not just seem like foolishness and madness, it is foolishness and madness.
This non-Orthodox belief, referred to as the peripatetic axiom or intellectus agens and upon which any and all arguments against the above mentioned Orthodox beliefs would rely, is logically self-contradictory because this belief itself can only be in the intellect, having never been and can never be in the senses. Thus, no rational and sane person could suggest empirical science has any jurisdiction whatsoever over Orthodoxy and, therefore, would not impose any of the above mentioned restrictions upon the Orthodox.
It is for this reason that I am bringing these beliefs of the Orthodox to your attention as it appears you were not aware of them. If any authority forcibly imposes the above mentioned atheistic and blasphemous beliefs upon the Orthodox, however, the only response we can give is one like that of Holy Great-martyr Euphemia of Chalcedon: “Both the emperor’s and your command should be obeyed, if they are not contrary to the God of heaven; but if they are contrary to God, they should not only be disobeyed, but should also be opposed.”
The way the Orthodox oppose such atheistic and blasphemous commands can only be peacefully. However, there are a growing number of people who may not be Orthodox and who are opposing these commands for reasons of empirical science. Since many of these people are not Orthodox, I fear that violence may erupt on account of their opposition to restrictions that not only have no basis in empirical science, but actually contradict science.
Just as political debate more often than not appears to be won via argumentum ad hominem and other logical fallacies, so it seems public debate is over science. Thus, it would be futile for a clergyman, such as myself, to argue any scientific point that would easily be refuted via argumentum ab auctoritate. Nonetheless, not everyone is deceived by this fallaciousness, so I will mention some scientific information of which a growing number of the general public is becoming aware.
While great effort was made to disseminate the frightening predictions regarding foot and mouth disease in 2001, mad cow disease in 2002, bird flu in 2005, and swine flu in 2009, the same effort was not made to informing the public of the results. Those familiar with the scientific literature and statistics relevant to these prophecies would describe them as nothing other than false prophecies. Given this history of pseudo-science, many aware of the actual science were sceptical, to say the least, when a similar prophecy regarding a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was propagated among the population.
Many have also noticed that the statistical data available in some countries for this year is vastly different from previous years and contains a very odd coincidence. While the number of deaths are lower this year for a number of issues such as influenza and pneumonia, heart and respiratory conditions, and dementia, adding up the deficits of these predictable yearly deaths results in a total that is very similar to the reported number of deaths for COVID-19. While some may admit that this is a very odd coincidence, the Orthodox do not believe in coincidences. Like many others, they also believe it is morally inexcusable for some regions to have refused hospital admission to elderly persons suffering from flu symptoms and admit them into nursing homes that are not equipped for such admissions. There are demands that those responsible for the purposeful spreading of illness among the weak and vulnerable should be held accountable for this crime.
We are continually told that this will all end once a vaccine has been developed, but those aware of the science behind vaccinations and its history are not convinced. Those familiar with the repeatedly verified research on flu vaccines from 1972 to 2005 know that the health risks of such vaccinations negate any possible benefit. The large scale vaccination programs that began being launched in 2009 were done so without any scientific support and this is apparent in the increased number of confirmed cases of influenza, in some regions quadrupling the number of cases recorded before 2009. The scientists suggest this is due to flu vaccinations increasing the rate of infection with other pathogens and not because the vaccines themselves are directly infecting people with a flu virus.
Despite the health risks negating any possible benefit, it is commendable that some vaccine manufactures are developing “ethical” vaccines that do not rely upon fetal cells obtained from procured abortions. The research into vaccines that modify a person’s DNA, however, raise ethical questions far beyond the imagination of most, which is why the Orthodox refrain from exercising the imagination. Setting aside the questions of safety and effectiveness, the reality that such a vaccination would transform a person into a genetically modified organism (GMO) is very concerning given the legal precedents already firmly established in law. These legal precedents would assure the patent holder of such vaccines legal rights over the reproduction of any person genetically modified by their patent. This may seem unthinkable, but such legal rights would have been happily welcomed by some in Alberta before the Alberta Eugenics Board was dissolved in 1972.
This history and future possibilities regarding vaccines seem to confirm the warning of Saint Paisios of Mount Athos found in the book Spiritual Counsels II: Spiritual Awakening: “And now a vaccine has been developed to combat a new disease, which will be obligatory and those taking it will be marked.” It also brings to mind the words of Christ found in chapter 24 of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!”
The subject of face masks is of particular concern because those who work with this technology, such as in the medical field and various industries, are well aware of what they are for, what they are not for, and the possible harm that can result if they are misused or overused. While their misuse, which is commonly observed among the general public now wearing them, increases risk of bacterial and viral infection, even correct use is dangerous if they are overused. The physical dangers of overuse also includes increased risk of bacterial and viral infection, though to a lesser degree, as well as negatively affecting ventilatory function, reducing blood oxygen levels. The latter has even been studied among religious groups who employ facial coverings (e.g. niqāb). These studies have found a significant negative correlation between ventilatory function and the use of facial coverings. There is also no scientific evidence to suggest that face masks do much of anything to reduce viral infection, so there are no positive benefits to even weigh against the known negative physical effects of wearing face masks for anything other than for what they were originally designed.
In addition to the known physical harm that can result from face masks and coverings, the psychological harm resulting from facial coverings has been known for over two and a half millennia. It was discovered that when a person’s face is covered, the person begins to lose faith in his or her own self-worth as a person, making it easier to oppress and subjugate such persons. This is very much connected to the Christian understanding of the person and even the etymology of the word person itself. As well, a teaching from Saint Macarius the Great describes hell as not being possible to see anyone face to face.
It has become very obvious to a growing number of people that logically conflicting information is being broadcast to the general population from the same organizations and even from the same individual persons. Information on face masks is but one of a number of examples. Various organizations and individual persons have publicly affirmed the above scientific information about the potential physical harm from face masks with no actual protection against viruses and yet these same organizations and persons insist that face masks should be worn to protect our health and/or the health of others. This does not seem to bother many people, but most who see the lack of rational coherence in this find it very distressing and confusing.
There is no mystery as to why this does not bother some people or why some people can present such incoherent information as if it were coherent. As Lord Bertrand Russell explains in his book The Impact of Science on Society, “education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished.” Among the various methods of accomplishing this, one is “to make children believe that snow is black,” that is to say, to produce citizens who can hold logically contradictory beliefs at the same time as if they were not logically contradictory.
Saint Amphilochius of Pochaev addresses the education system that the above mentioned British Nobel laureate describes as a “politician’s paradise” in these terms: “The main reason for people’s illnesses lies in the spirit of atheism, the planting of which begins at school. Students are not allowed to attend church, they study ideologies and humiliate human dignity. A person who does not attend church, does not confess, does not receive the Eucharist, is deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which leads to the fact that the majority of the population is mentally ill. It is necessary to pray for the illness of this century [i.e. the 20th century].”
All of the above could give rise to many conspiracy theories, but I prefer to leave such work to professionals, such as those in law enforcement and news reporting. A description of who is behind all of this is adequately summarized in the hospital chart of Saint Gabriel of Georgia: “The patient claims that everything bad that is taking place in this country and in the world is due to the evil one.” This is why the Orthodox call upon God as our Father and pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
From my youth, I have sung with true patriot love, “God keep our land glorious and free,” and, “God save the Queen!” Now, as an Orthodox deacon, I lead the faithful in praying, “For Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, for the Canadian Government, for this country and its people, let us pray to the Lord.” And the faithful respond, “Lord, have mercy.”
Does this offend you? Surely many will say, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” The example of many communities could be used to attempt to convince the Orthodox to do likewise. However, concerning what others do, Christ says to us: “What is that to you? You follow Me.”
The restrictions that the rulers of this world are imposing upon their citizens, which violate Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are attempting to force the Orthodox away from Christ. Nobody is forcing us to oppose your commands and even Christ says to us, “Do you also want to go away?” All we can answer is: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Commemorated on September 26: Repose of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian