By Archbishop Averky
The Lord said: “Whosoever will come after
Me, let him deny himself, and take up
his cross, and follow Me” (St. Mark 8:34)
THE GREAT FAST is a season of repentance; and repentance is that struggle to contend
against sinful passions and lusts which is so difficult for man that the Lord, the Judge of the
contest Himself, likened it to the bearing of a cross. We are vividly reminded of this at the
very midpoint of the Great Fast, on the Sunday of the Adoration of the Cross. Just as the
Lord bore the Cross for the sake of our salvation, so each of us must “bear his cross” is
order to attain the salvation prepared for us by the Lord.
Without the cross, without struggle, there can be no salvation! This is what true Christianity
teaches. The teaching on struggle, on the bearing of the cross, runs like a scarlet thread
through all the Sacred Scriptures and all of the history of the Church; and the lives of those
holy ones who were pleasing unto God, the spiritual athletes of Christian piety, clearly bear
witness to this. The Great Fast is merely an annually repeated exercise in the bearing of one’s
cross in this life, an exercise in spiritual struggle inseparably bound up with the entire life of
the true Christian.
But now, in the twentieth century of the Christian era, “wise men” have appeared-“neo-
Christians,” as some of them refer to themselves-who do not wish to hear of this. They
preach a new sort of saccharine, sentimental, rosy-hued neo-Christianity devoid of all labor
and struggle, an imaginary, all-encompassing pseudo-Christian love and the unrestricted
enjoyment of all the delights of this transitory earthly life. They totally ignore the
innumerable passages in Holy Writ which forcefully and eloquently speak of spiritual
struggles, of emulating Christ the Saviour in crucifying oneself, of the many sorrows which
await the Christian in this life, beginning with words which Christ the Saviour Himself
addressed to His disciples at the Mystical Supper: In the world ye shall have tribulation (John
16:33). And this is because, as the Lord Himself explained, true Christians are not of the
world (John 15:19), since the whole world lieth in wickedness (I John 5:19). This is why
Christians must not love this world and the things that are in the world (I John 2:15); the
friendship of the world is enmity with God, and whosoever therefore will be a friend of the
world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).
These modern “wise men” somehow fail to see that the Word of God nowhere definitely
promises Christians full spiritual satisfaction and paradisiacal blessedness in this earthly life
but, quite the contrary, emphasizes that life on earth will fall lower; further and further away
from the Law of God; that, in respect to morality, men will fall lower and lower (see II Tim.
3:1-5); that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and
seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (II Tim. 3: 12-13); and
that, finally, the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up (II Peter 3: 10). But
there will appear new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (II Peter 3:
13)-a wondrous new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven (Apoc. 21:2), which
was shown to John, the beholder of mysteries, during the revelation accorded him.
All of this is not to the liking of the “neo-Christians.” They want blessedness here in this
world, burdened with its multitude of sins and iniquities; and they await this blessedness with
impatience. They consider one of the surest ways of attaining it to be the “ecumenical
movement,” the union and unification of all peoples in one new “church” which will
comprise not only Roman Catholics and Protestants, but also Jews, Moslems and pagans,
each retaining his own convictions and errors. This imaginary “Christian” love, in the name
of the future blessedness of men on earth, cannot but trample upon the Truth.
The destruction of this earth with everything on it, although clearly foretold by the Word of
God, is considered by them to be something indescribably horrible, as though It were not
consistent with the omnipotence of God and, apparently, quite undesirable. They reluctantly
admit the destruction of the earth (for how can one not accept something prophesied in the
Word of God?), but with the condition that it will take place in the far, far distant, mist-
enshrouded future; not centuries, bur millions of years from now.
What is the reason for this? One might say, because they are weak of faith, or lacking entirely
in faith in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come. For them everything
is in this earthly life, and when it ends for them, everything does.
In a few of its points–especially in the expectation of the blessed life in this world–such a
frame of mind closely resembles the widespread heresy of the first centuries of Christianity
called chiliasm. This is the expectation of a thousand-year (this worldly) reign of Christ on
earth; therefore the modern manifestation of this heresy may be termed “neo-chiliasm.”
One should be aware and keep in mind that chiliasm was condemned by the Second
Ecumenical Council in the year 381; and therefore to believe in it now in the twentieth
century, even in part, is quite unforgivable. Besides which, this contemporary “neo-chiliasm”
is far worse than the ancient chiliastic heresy in that at its basis indubitably lies a disbelief in
the life of the age to come … and the passionate desire to attain blessedness here on earth,
using all the improvements and achievements of the material progress of our times. This
false teaching wreaks terrible harm, lulling to sleep the spiritual vigilance of the faithful and
suggesting to them that the end of the world is far away (if in fact there will be an end), and
therefore there is no particular need to watch and pray, to which Christ the Saviour
constantly called His followers (cf. Matt. 26:41), since everything in the world is gradually
getting better and better, spiritual progress keeping step with materialism. And the terrible
phenomena which we observe at the present time are all temporary; all has happened before,
and all will ultimately pass away, and an extraordinary flourishing of Christianity will replace
it, in which, of course, the ecumenists will occupy the principal and most honored places.
Thus, everything is fine! It is not necessary to labor over oneself, and no spiritual struggle is
required; the fasts may be abolished. Everything will get better all by itself until the
‘Kingdom’ (vasileia) of God is finally established on earth with universal earthly satisfaction
Brethren! Is it not clear where the ultimate source of this alluring false teaching is to be
found? Who suggests all these thoughts to contemporary Christians with the purpose of
overthrowing all of Christianity? As an infectious plague, as fire, must we fear this “neo-
chiliasm” which is so profoundly contrary to the teaching of the Word of God, the teaching
of the Holy Fathers, and all of the centuries-old teachings of our Holy Church, by which
many, many thousands of the righteous have been saved.
Without spiritual struggle there is not, and cannot be, true Christianity! Therefore, our path
does not lie with all the modern movements, nor with ecumenists, nor with the “neo-
Our faith is the faith of the holy ascetics, the apostolic faith, the faith of the Fathers, the
Orthodox Faith which hath made the whole world steadfast. This faith and only this faith
will we firmly adhere to in these evil days in which we now live. Amen.
Sermons and Speeches, vol. III pp. 259-265, and appeared in Orthodox Life, vol. 31, No.2, pp. 23-25