The Miami Herald Gets It Right About Honduras

I’ve had very few nice things to say over the years about the Miami Herald (the paper I grew up on) but this time Glenn Garvin nails it, on the subject of Honduras:

Here’s a question for all these new-found defenders of Honduran democracy: Where were you last week? Perhaps if some of these warnings about sticking to the constitution had been addressed to President Zelaya, the Honduran army would still be in the barracks where it belongs.

A naked power grab

For weeks, Zelaya — an erratic leftist who styles himself after his good pal Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — has been engaged in a naked and illegal power grab, trying to rewrite the Honduran constitution to allow him to run for reelection in November.

First Zelaya scheduled a national vote on a constitutional convention. After the Honduran supreme court ruled that only the country’s congress could call such an election, Zelaya ordered the army to help him stage it anyway. (It would be ”non-binding,” he said.) When the head of the armed forces, acting on orders from the supreme court, refused, Zelaya fired him, then led a mob to break into a military base where the ballots were stored.

His actions have been repudiated by the country’s supreme court, its congress, its attorney-general, its chief human-rights advocate, all its major churches, its main business association, his own political party (which recently began debating an inquiry into Zelaya’s sanity) and most Hondurans: Recent polls have shown his approval rating down below 30 percent.

I’ve become rather fatalistic since the Elitist Snob/Imitation European assumed power, but there’s hope yet…

Triumph of Democracy in Honduras: Statement from Rev. Miguel Alvarez

I wanted an insider’s view of this situation.  I got one: this from Rev. Miguel Alvarez, a native of Honduras and the current Administrative Bishop of the Northeastern Hispanic Region of the Church of God.  (He’s also a good friend and a great guy.)  From his Facebook note:

Beloved friends,

I write this note from the airport.

Triumph of Democracy in Honduras

President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales of Honduras was replaced by the National Congress of the Republic of Honduras. In his place, the Congress appointed the President of the Congress, Micheletti Robert. The same was sworn in as a new President, to complete the present constitutional period that concludes 27 January 2010.

Ex-president Zelaya had polarized the country in order to prepare the way for the establishment in Honduras of the model of Hugo Chavez. He had broken the constitutional and institutional laws of the country. The Public Ministry, the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Congress and the Armed Forces had condemned the plebiscite that tried to recognise ex-president Zelaya. Nevertheless he defied all the organizations and democratic institutions and continued with the plebiscite that had been prohibited by the corresponding authorities. Ex-president Zelaya was moving himself to the margin of the Law.

Nobody is above the law. The Congress and the Supreme Court of Justice acted according to the law. Zelaya polarized the country to the brink of political and social chaos, following the instructions of Hugo Chavez, the true gorilla of Latin America. The ballots for the plebiscite were sent from Venezuela and he was following the same model adopted by Chávez to be perpetuated in the power.

The situation is delicate because the international community has been misled and has aligned itself with ex-president Zelaya . International political pressure against the new government is unjust. The international community has fallen under the manipulation of information generated by Hugo Chavez and the countries of the Bolivarian Alternative (ALBA.) This could create international isolation of Honduras that could be very devastating for a poor country.

Nevertheless, the Hondurans are happy with the decision taken and support President Micheletti. The democratic institutions have shown themselves just and acted according to the law.

Gildas: On the Ruin of Britain, Part II

This is a continuation of Part I.

II. THE HISTORY

3. The island of Britain, situated on almost the utmost border of the earth, towards the south and west, and poised in the divine balance, as it is said, which supports the whole world, stretches out from the south-west towards the north pole, and is eight hundred miles long and two hundred broad, except where the headlands of sundry promontories stretch farther into the sea. It is surrounded by the ocean, which forms winding bays, and is strongly defended by this ample, and, if I may so call it, impassable barrier, save on the south side, where the narrow sea affords a passage to Baltic Gaul. It is enriched by the mouths of two noble rivers, the Thames and the Severn, as it were two arms, by which foreign luxuries were of old imported, and by other streams of less importance. It is famous for eight and twenty cities, and is embellished by certain castles, with walls, towers, well barred gates, and houses with threatening battlements built on high, and provided with all requisite instruments of defence. Its plains are spacious, its hills are pleasantly situated, adapted for superior tillage, and its mountains are admirably calculated for the alternate pasturage of cattle, where flowers of various colours, trodden by the feet of man, give it the appearance of a lovely picture. It is decked, like a man’s chosen bride, with divers jewels, with lucid fountains and abundant brooks wandering over the snow white sands; with transparent rivers, flowing in gentle murmurs, and offering a sweet pledge of slumber to those who recline upon their banks, whilst it is irrigated by abundant lakes, which pour forth cool torrents of refreshing water.

4. This island, stiff-necked and stubborn-minded, from the time of its being first inhabited, ungratefully rebels, sometimes against God, sometimes against her own citizens, and frequently, also, against foreign kings and their subjects. For what can there either be, or be committed, more disgraceful or more unrighteous in human affairs, than to refuse to show fear to God or affection to one’s own countrymen, and (without detriment to one’s faith) to refuse due honour to those of higher dignity, to cast off all regard to reason, human and divine, and, in contempt of heaven and earth, to be guided by one’s own sensual inventions? I shall, therefore, omit those ancient errors common to all the nations of the earth, in which, before Christ came in the flesh, all mankind were bound; nor shall I enumerate those diabolical idols of my country, which almost surpassed in number those of Egypt, and of which we still see some mouldering away within or without the deserted temples, with stiff and deformed features as was customary. Nor will I call out upon the mountains, fountains, or hills, or upon the rivers, which now are subservient to the use of men, but once were an abomination and destruction to them, and to which the blind people paid divine honour. I shall also pass over the bygone times of our cruel tyrants, whose notoriety was spread over to far distant countries; so that Porphyry, that dog who in the east was always so fierce against the church in his mad and vain style added this also, that “Britain is a land fertile in tyrants.” I will only endeavour to relate the evils which Britain suffered in the times of the Roman emperors, and also those which she caused to distant states; but so far as lies in my power, I shall not follow the writings and records of my own country, which (if there ever were any of them) have been consumed in the fires of the enemy, or have accompanied my exiled countrymen into distant lands, but be guided by the relations of foreign writers, which, being broken and interrupted in many places, are therefore by no means clear.

5. For when the rulers of Rome had obtained the empire of the world, subdued all the neighbouring nations and islands towards the east, and strengthened their renown by the first peace which they made with the Parthians, who border on India, there was a general cessation from war “throughout the whole world; the fierce flame which they kindled could not be extinguished or checked by the Western Ocean, but passing beyond the sea, imposed submission upon our island without resistance, and entirely reduced to obedience its unwarlike but faithless people, not so much by fire, and sword and warlike engines, like other nations, but threats alone, and menaces of judgments frowning on their countenance, whilst terror penetrated to their hearts.

6. When afterwards they returned to Rome, for want of pay, as is said, and had no suspicion of an approaching rebellion, that deceitful lioness (Boadicea) put to death the rulers who had been left among them, to unfold more fully and to confirm the enterprises of the Romans When the report of these things reached the senate, and they with a speedy army made haste to take vengeance on the crafty foxes, as they called them, there was no bold navy on the sea to fight bravely for the country; by land there was no marshalled army, no right wing of battle, nor other preparation for resistance; but their backs were their shields against their vanquishers, and they presented their necks to their swords, whilst chill terror ran through every limb, and they stretched out their hands to be bound, like women; so that it has become a proverb far and wide, that the Britons are neither brave in war nor faithful in time of peace.

7. The Romans, therefore, having slain many of the rebels, and reserved others for slaves, that the land might not be entirely reduced to desolation, left the island, destitute as it was of wine and oil, and returned to Italy, leaving behind them taskmasters, to scourge the shoulders of the natives, to reduce their necks to the yoke, and their soil to the vassalage of a Roman province; to chastise the crafty race, not with warlike weapons, but with rods, and if necessary to gird upon their sides the naked sword, so that it was no longer thought to be Britain, but a Roman island; and all their money, whether of copper, gold, or silver, was stamped with Caesar’s image.

8. Meanwhile these islands, stiff with cold and frost, and in a distant region of the world, remote from the visible sun, received the beams of light, that is, the holy precepts of Christ, the true Sun, showing to the whole world his splendour, not only from the temporal firmament, but from the height of heaven, which surpasses every thing temporal, at the latter part, as we know, of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, by whom his religion was propagated without impediment, and death threatened to those who interfered with Its professors.

9. These rays of light were received with lukewarm minds by the inhabitants, but they nevertheless took root among some of them in a greater or less degree, until nine years’ persecution of the tyrant Diocletian, when the churches throughout the whole world were overthrown, al1 the copies of the Holy Scriptures which could be found burned in the streets, and the chosen pastors of God’s flock butchered, together with their innocent sheep, in order that not a vestige, if possible, might remain in some provinces of Christ’s religion. What disgraceful flights then took place -what slaughter and death inflicted by way of punishment in divers shapes, -what dreadful apostacies from religion; and on the contrary, what glorious crowns of martyrdom then were won, -what raving fury was displayed by the persecutors, and patience on the part of the suffering saints, ecclesiastical history informs us; for the whole church were crowding in a body, to leave behind them the dark things of this world, and to make the best of their way to the happy mansions of heaven, as if to their proper home.

10. God, therefore, who wishes all men to be saved, and who calls sinners no less than those who think themselves righteous, magnified his mercy towards us, and, as we know, during the above-named persecution, that Britain might not totally be enveloped in the dark shades of night, he, of his own free gift, kindled up among us bright luminaries of holy martyrs, whose places of burial and of martyrdom, had they not for our manifold crimes been interfered with and destroyed by the barbarians, would have still kindled in the minds of the beholders no small fire of divine charity. Such were St. Alban of Verulam, Aaron and Julius, citizens of Carlisle, and the rest, of both sexes, who in different places stood their ground in the Christian contest.

11. The first of these martyrs, St. Alban, for charity’s sake saved another confessor who was pursued by his persecutors, and was on the point of being seized, by hiding him in his house, and then by changing clothes with him, imitating in this the example of Christ, who laid down his life for his sheep, and exposing himself in the other’s clothes to be pursued in his stead. So pleasing to God was this conduct, that between his confession and martyrdom, he was honoured with the performance of wonderful miracles in presence of the impious blasphemers who were carrying the Roman standards, and like the Israelites of old, who trod dry-foot an unfrequented path whilst the ark of the covenant stood some time on the sands in the midst of Jordan; so also the martyr, with a thousand others, opened a path across the noble river Thames, whose waters stood abrupt like precipices on either side; and seeing this, the first of his executors was stricken with awe, and from a wolf became a lamb; so that he thirsted for martyrdom, and boldly underwent that for which he thirsted. The other holy martyrs were tormented with divers sufferings, and their limbs were racked in such unheard of ways, that they, without delay, erected the trophies of their glorious martyrdom even in the gates of the city of Jerusalem. For those who survived, hid themselves in woods and deserts, and secret caves, waiting until God, who is the righteous judge of all, should reward their persecutors with judgment, and themselves with protection of their lives.

12. In less than ten years, therefore, of the above named persecution, and when these bloody decrees began to fail in consequence of the death of their authors, all Christ s young disciples, after so long and wintry a night, begin to behold the genial light of heaven. They rebuild the churches, which had been levelled to the ground; they found, erect, and finish churches to the holy martyrs, and everywhere show their ensigns as token of their victory; festivals are celebrated and sacraments received with clean hearts and lips, and all the church’s sons rejoice as it were in the fostering bosom of a mother. For this holy union remained between Christ their head and the members of his church, until the Arian treason, fatal as a serpent, and vomiting its poison from beyond the sea, caused deadly dissension between brothers inhabiting the same house, and thus, as if a road were made across the sea, like wild beasts of all descriptions, and darting the poison of every heresy from their Jaws, they inflicted dreadful wounds upon their country, which is ever desirous to hear something new, and remains constant long to nothing.

13. At length also, new races of tyrants sprang up, in terrific numbers, and the island, still bearing its Roman name, but casting off her institutes and laws, sent forth among the Gauls that bitter scion of her own planting Maximus, with a great number of followers, and the ensigns of royalty, which he bore without decency and without lawful right, but in a tyrannical manner, and amid the disturbances of the seditious soldiery. He, by cunning arts rather than by valour, attaching to his rule, by perjury and false hood, all the neighbouring towns and provinces, against the Roman state, extended one of his wings to Spain, the other to Italy, fixed the seat of his unholy government at Treves, and so furiously pushed his rebellion against his lawful emperors that he drove one of them out of Rome, and caused the others to terminate his holy life. Trusting to these successful attempts, he not long after lost his accursed head before the walls of Aquileia, whereas he had before cut off the crowned heads of almost all the world.

14. After this, Britain is left deprived of all her soldiery and armed bands, of her cruel governors, and of the flower of her youth, who went with Maximus, but never again returned; and utterly ignorant as she was of the art of war, groaned in amazement for many years under the cruelty of two foreign nations-the Scots from the north-west, and the Picts from the north.

15. The Britons, impatient at the assaults of the Scots and Picts, their hostilities and dreadful oppressions, send ambassadors to Rome with letters, entreating in piteous terms the assistance of an armed band to protect them, and offering loyal and ready submission to the authority of Rome, if they only would expel their invading foes. A legion is immediately sent, forgetting their past rebellion, and provided sufficiently with arms. When they had crossed over the sea and landed, they came at once to close conflict with their cruel enemies, and slew great numbers of them. All of them were driven beyond the borders, and the humiliated natives rescued from the bloody slavery which awaited them. By the advice of their protectors, they now built a wall across the island from one sea to the other, which being manned with a proper force, might be a terror to the foes whom it was intended to repel, and a protection to their friends whom it covered. But this wall, being made of turf instead of stone, was of no use to that foolish people, who had no head to guide them.

16. The Roman legion had no sooner returned home in joy and triumph, than their former foes, like hungry and ravening wolves, rushing with greedy jaws upon the fold which is left without a shepherd, and wafted both by the strength of oarsmen and the blowing wind, break through the boundaries, and spread slaughter on every side, and like mowers cutting down the ripe corn, they cut up, tread under foot, and overrun the whole country.

17. And now again they send suppliant ambassadors, with their garments rent and their heads covered with ashes, imploring assistance from the Romans, and like timorous chickens, crowding under the protecting wings of their parents, that their wretched country might not altogether be destroyed, and that the Roman name, which now was but an empty sound to fill the ear, might not become a reproach even to distant nations. Upon this, the Romans, moved with compassion, as far as human nature can be, at the relations of such horrors, send forward, like eagles in their flight, their unexpected bands of cavalry by land and mariners by sea, and planting their terrible swords upon the shoulders of their enemies, they mow them down like leaves which fall at the destined period; and as a mountain-torrent swelled with numerous streams, and bursting its banks with roaring noise, with foaming crest and yeasty wave rising to the stars, by whose eddying currents our eyes are as it were dazzled, does with one of its billows overwhelm every obstacle in its way, so did our illustrious defenders vigorously drive our enemies’ band beyond the sea, if any could so escape them; for it was beyond those same seas that they transported, year after year, the plunder which they had gained, no one daring to resist them.

18. The Romans, therefore, left the country, giving notice that they could no longer be harassed by such laborious expeditions, nor suffer the Roman standards, with so large and brave an army, to be worn out by sea and land by fighting against these unwarlike, plundering vagabonds; but that the islanders, inuring themselves to warlike weapons, and bravely fighting, should valiantly protect their country, their property, wives and children, and, what is dearer than these, their liberty and lives; that they should not suffer their hands to be tied behind their backs by a nation which, unless they were enervated by idleness and sloth, was not more powerful than themselves, but that they should arm those hands with buckler, sword, and spear, ready for the field of battle; and, because they thought this also of advantage to the people they were about to leave, they, with the help of the miserable natives, built a wall different from the former, by public and private contributions, and of the same structure as walls generally, extending in a straight line from sea to sea, between some cities, which, from fear of their enemies, had there by chance been built. They then give energetic counsel to the timorous native, and leave them patterns by which to manufacture arms Moreover, on the south coast where their vessels lay, as there was some apprehension lest the barbarians might land, they erected towers at stated intervals, commanding a prospect of the sea; and then left the island never to return.

19. No sooner were they gone, than the Picts and Scots, like worms which in the heat of mid-day come forth from their holes, hastily land again from their canoes, in which they had been carried beyond the Cichican valley, differing one from another in manners, but inspired with the same avidity for blood, and all more eager to shroud their villainous faces in bushy hair than to cover with decent clothing those parts of their body which required it. Moreover, having heard of the departure of our friends, and their resolution never to return, they seized with greater boldness than before on all the country towards the extreme north as far as the wall. To oppose them there was placed on the heights a garrison equally slow to fight and ill adapted to run away, a useless and panic-struck company, who clambered away days and nights on their unprofitable watch. Meanwhile the hooked weapons of their enemies were not idle, and our wretched countrymen were dragged from the wall and dashed against the ground. Such premature death, however, painful as it was, saved them from seeing the miserable sufferings of their brothers and children. But why should I say more? they left their cities, abandoned the protection of the wall and dispersed themselves in flight more desperately than before. The enemy, on the other hand, pursued them with more unrelenting cruelty than before, and butchered our countrymen like sheep, so that their habitations were like those of savage beasts; for they turned their arms upon each other, and for the sake of a little sustenance, imbrued their hands in the blood of their fellow countrymen. Thus foreign calamities were augmented by domestic feuds; so that the whole country was entirely destitute of provisions, save such as could be procured in the chase.

20. Again, therefore, the wretched remnant, sending to AEtius, a powerful Roman citizen, address him as follows:-“To AEtius, now consul for the third time: the groans of the Britons.” And again a little further thus:-“The barbarians drive us to the sea; the sea throws us back on the barbarians: thus two modes of death await us, we are either slain or drowned.” The Romans, however, could not assist them, and in the meantime the discomfited people, wandering in the woods, began to feel the effects of a severe famine, which compelled many of them without delay to yield themselves up to their cruel persecutors, to obtain subsistence: others of them, however, lying hid in mountains, caves, and woods, continually sallied out from thence to renew the war. And then it was, for the first time, that they overthrew their enemies, who had for so many years been living in their country; for their trust was not in man, but in God; according to the maxim of Philo, “We must have divine assistance, when that of man fails.” The boldness of the enemy was for a while checked, but not the wickedness of our countrymen: the enemy left our people, but the people did not leave their sins.

21. For it has always been a custom with our nation, it is at present, to be impotent in repelling foreign foes, but bold and invincible in raising civil war, and bearing the burdens of their offences they are impotent, I say, in following the standard of peace and truth, but bold in wickedness and falsehood. The audacious invaders therefore return to their winter quarters, determined before long again to return and plunder. And then, too, the Picts for the first time seated themselves at the extremity of the island where they afterwards continued, occasionally plundering an wasting the country. During these truces, the wounds of the distressed people are healed, but another sore, still more venomous, broke out. No sooner were the ravages of the enemy checked, than the island was deluged with a most extraordinary plenty of all things, greater than was before known, and with it grew up every kind of luxury and licentiousness. It grew with so firm a root, that one might truly say of it, “Such fornication is heard of among you, as never was known the like among the Gentiles.” But besides this vice, there arose also every other, to which human nature is liable, and in particular that hatred of truth, together wit her supporters, which still at present destroys every thing good in the island; the love of falsehood, together with its inventors, the reception of crime in the place of virtue, the respect shown to wickedness rather than goodness, the love of darkness instead of the sun, the admission of Satan as an angel of light. Kings were anointed, not according to God’s ordinance, but such as showed themselves more cruel than the rest; and soon after, they were put to death by those who had elected them, without any inquiry into their merits, but because others still more cruel were chosen to succeed them. If any one of these was of a milder nature than the rest, or in any way more regardful of the truth, he was looked upon as the ruiner of the country, every body cast a dart at him, and they valued things alike whether pleasing or displeasing to God, unless it so happened that what displeased him was pleasing to themselves. So that the words of the prophet, addressed to the people of old, might well be applied to our own countrymen: “Children without a law, have ye left God and provoked to anger the holy one of Israel? Why will ye still inquire, adding iniquity? Every head is languid and every heart is sad; from the sole of the foot to the crown, there is no health in him.” And thus they did all things contrary to their salvation, as if no remedy could be applied to the world by the true physician of all men. And not only the laity did so, but our Lord’s own flock and its shepherds, who ought to have been an example to the people, slumbered away their time in drunkenness, as if they had been dipped in wine; whilst the swellings of pride, the jar of strife, the griping talons of envy, and the confused estimate of right and wrong, got such entire possession of them, that there seemed to be poured out (and the same still continueth) contempt upon princes, and to be made by their vanities to wander astray and not in the way.

22. Meanwhile, God being willing to purify his family who were infected by so deep a stain of woe, and at the hearing only of their calamities to amend them; a vague rumour suddenly as if on wings reaches the ears of all, that their inveterate foes were rapidly approaching to destroy the whole country, and to take possession of it, as of old, from one end to the other. But yet they derived no advantage from this intelligence; for, like frantic beasts, taking the bit of reason between their teeth, they abandoned the safe and narrow road, and rushed forward upon the broad downward path of vice, which leads to death. Whilst, therefore, as Solomon says, the stubborn servant is not cured by words, the fool is scourged and feels it not: a pestilential disease mortally affected the foolish people, which, without the I sword, cut off so large a number of persons, that the living were not able to bury them. But even this was no warning to them, that in them also might be fulfilled the words of Isaiah the prophet, “And God hath called his people to lamentation, to baldness, and to the girdle of sackcloth; behold they begin to kill calves, and to slay rams, to eat, to drink, and to say, ‘We will eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.”‘ For the time was approaching, when all their iniquities, as formerly those of the Amorrhaeans, should be fulfilled. For a council was called to settle what was best and most expedient to be done, in order to repel such frequent and fatal irruptions and plunderings of the above-named nations.

23. Then all the councillors, together with that proud tyrant Gurthrigern [Vortigern], the British king, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheep-fold), the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men, to repel the invasions of the northern nations. Nothing was ever so pernicious to our country, nothing was ever so unlucky. What palpable darkness must have enveloped their minds-darkness desperate and cruel! Those very people whom, when absent, they dreaded more than death itself, were invited to reside, as one may say, under the selfsame roof. Foolish are the princes, as it is said, of Thafneos, giving counsel to unwise Pharaoh. A multitude of whelps came forth from the lair of this barbaric lioness, in three cyuls, as they call them, that is, in three ships of war, with their sails wafted by the wind and with omens and prophecies favourable, for it was foretold by a certain soothsayer among them, that they should occupy the country to which they were sailing three hundred years, and half of that time, a hundred and fifty years, should plunder and despoil the same. They first landed on the eastern side of the island, by the invitation of the unlucky king, and there fixed their sharp talons, apparently to fight in favour of the island, but alas! more truly against it. Their mother-land, finding her first brood thus successful, sends forth a larger company of her wolfish offspring, which sailing over, join themselves to their bastard-born comrades. From that time the germ of iniquity and the root of contention planted their poison amongst us, as we deserved, and shot forth into leaves and branches. The barbarians being thus introduced as soldiers into the island, to encounter, as they falsely said, any dangers in defence of their hospitable entertainers, obtain an allowance of provisions, which, for some time being plentifully bestowed, stopped their doggish mouths. Yet they complain that their monthly supplies are not furnished in sufficient abundance, and they industriously aggravate each occasion of quarrel, saying that unless more liberality is shown them, they will break the treaty and plunder the whole island. In a short time, they follow up their threats with deeds.

24. For the fire of vengeance, justly kindled by former crimes, spread from sea to sea, fed by the hands of our foes in the east, and did not cease, until, destroying the neighbouring towns and lands, it reached the other side of the island, and dipped its red and savage tongue in the western ocean. In these assaults, therefore, not unlike that of the Assyrian upon Judea, was fulfilled in our case what the prophet describes in words of lamentation: “They have burned with fire the sanctuary; they have polluted on earth the tabernacle of thy name.” And again, “O God, the gentiles have come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled,” &c. So that all the columns were levelled with the ground by the frequent strokes of the battering-ram, all the husbandmen routed, together with their bishops, priests, and people, whilst the sword gleamed, and the flames crackled around them on every side. Lamentable to behold, in the midst of the streets lay the tops of lofty towers, tumbled to the ground, stones of high walls, holy altars, fragments of human bodies, covered with livid clots of coagulated blood, looking as if they had been squeezed together in a press; and with no chance of being buried, save in the ruins of the houses, or in the ravening bellies of wild beasts and birds; with reverence be it spoken for their blessed souls, if, indeed, there were many found who were carried, at that time, into the high heaven by the holy angels. So entirely had the vintage, once so fine, degenerated and become bitter, that, in the words of the prophet, there was hardly a grape or ear of corn to be seen where the husbandman had turned his back.

25. Some, therefore, of the miserable remnant, being taken in the mountains, were murdered in great numbers; others, constrained by famine, came and yielded themselves to be slaves for ever to their foes, running the risk of being instantly slain, which truly was the greatest favour that could be offered them: some others passed beyond the seas with loud lamentations instead of the voice of exhortation. “Thou hast given us as sheep to be slaughtered, and among the Gentiles hast thou dispersed us.” Others, committing the safeguard of their lives, which were in continual jeopardy, to the mountains, precipices, thickly wooded forests, and to the rocks of the seas (albeit with trembling hearts), remained still in their country. But in the meanwhile, an opportunity happening, when these most cruel robbers were returned home, the poor remnants of our nation (to whom flocked from divers places round about our miserable countrymen as fast as bees to their hives, for fear of an ensuing storm), being strengthened by God, calling upon him with all their hearts, as the poet says,-

“With their unnumbered vows they burden heaven,”

that they might not be brought to utter destruction, took arms under the conduct of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a modest man, who of all the Roman nation was then alone in the confusion of this troubled period by chance left alive. His parents, who for their merit were adorned with the purple, kind been slain in these same broils, and now his progeny in these our days, although shamefully degenerated from the worthiness of their ancestors, provoke to battle their cruel conquerors, and by the goodness of our Lord obtain the victory.

26. After this, sometimes our countrymen, sometimes the enemy, won the field, to the end that our Lord might this land try after his accustomed manner these his Israelites, whether they loved him or not, until the year of the siege of Bath-hill, when took place also the last almost, though not the least slaughter of our cruel foes, which was (as I am sure) forty-four years and one month after the landing of the Saxons, and also the time of my own nativity. And yet neither to this day are the cities of our country inhabited as before, but being forsaken and overthrown, still lie desolate; our foreign wars having ceased, but our civil troubles still remaining. For as well the remembrance of such a terrible desolation of the island, as also of the unexpected recovery of the same, remained in the minds of those who were eyewitnesses of the wonderful events of both, and in regard thereof, kings, public magistrates, and private persons, with priests and clergymen, did all and every one of them live orderly according to their several vocations. But when these had departed out of this world, and a new race succeeded, who were ignorant of this troublesome time, and had only experience of the present prosperity, all the laws of truth and justice were so shaken and subverted, that not so much as a vestige or remembrance of these virtues remained among the above-named orders of men, except among a very few who, compared with the great multitude which were daily rushing headlong down to hell, are accounted so small a number, that our reverend mother, the church, scarcely beholds them, her only true children, reposing in her bosom; whose worthy lives, being a pattern to all men, and beloved of God, inasmuch as by their holy prayers, as by certain pillars and most profitable supporters, our infirmity is sustained up, that it may not utterly be broken down, I would have no one suppose I intended to reprove, if forced by the increasing multitude of offences, I have freely, aye, with anguish, not so much declared as bewailed the wickedness of those who are become servants, not only to their bellies, but also to the devil rather than to Christ, who is our blessed God, world without end.

For why shall their countrymen conceal what foreign nations round about now not only know, but also continually are casting in their teeth?

III. THE EPISTLE.

27. BRITAIN has kings, but they are tyrants; she has judges, but unrighteous ones; generally engaged in plunder and rapine, but always preying on the innocent; whenever they exert themselves to avenge or protect, it is sure to be in favour of robbers and criminals; they have an abundance of wives, yet are they addicted to fornication and adultery; they are ever ready to take oaths, and as often perjure themselves; they make a vow and almost immediately act falsely; they make war, but their wars are against their countrymen, and are unjust ones; they rigorously prosecute thieves throughout their country, but those who sit at table with them are robbers, and they not only cherish but reward them; they give alms plentifully, but in contrast to this is a whole pile of crimes which they have committed; they sit on the seat of justice, but rarely seek for the rule of right judgment; they despise the innocent and the humble, but seize every occasion of exalting to the utmost the bloody-minded; the proud, murderers, the combined and adulterers, enemies of God, who ought to be utterly destroyed and their names forgotten.

They have many prisoners in their gaols, loaded with chains, but this is done in treachery rather than in just punishment for crimes; and when they have stood before the altar, swearing by the name of God, they go away and think no more of the holy altar than if it were a mere heap of dirty stones.

28. Of this horrid abomination, Constantine, the tyrannical whelp of the unclean lioness of Damnonia, is not ignorant.

This same year, after taking a dreadful oath (whereby he bound himself first before God, by a solemn protestation, and then called all the saints, and Mother of God, to witness, that he would not contrive any deceit against his countrymen), he nevertheless, in the habit of a holy abbat amid the sacred altars, did with sword and javelin, as if with teeth, wound and tear, even in the bosoms of their temporal mother, and of the church their spiritual mother, two royal youths, with their two attendants, whose arms, although not eased in armour, were yet boldly used, and, stretched out towards God and his altar, will hang up at the gates of thy city, O Christ, the venerable ensigns of their faith and patience; and when he had done it, the cloaks, red with coagulated blood, did touch the place of the heavenly sacrifice. And not one worthy act could he boast of previous to this cruel deed; for many years before he had stained himself with the abomination of many adulteries, having put away his wife contrary to the command of Christ, the teacher of the world, who hath said: “What God hath joined together, let not man separate,” and again: “Husbands, love your wives.” For he had planted in the ground of his heart (an unfruitful soil for any good seed) a bitter scion of incredulity and folly, taken from the vine of Sodom, which being watered with his vulgar and domestic impieties, like poisonous showers, and afterwards audaciously springing up to the offence of God, brought forth into the world the sin of horrible murder and sacrilege; and not yet discharged from the entangling nets of his former offences, he added new wickedness to the former.

29. Go to now, I reprove thee as present, whom I know as yet to be in this life extant. Why standest thou astonished, O thou butcher of shine own soul? Why cost thou wilfully kindle against thyself the eternal fires of hell? Why cost thou, in place of enemies, desperately stab thyself with shine own sword, with shine own javelin? Cannot those same poisonous cups of offences yet satisfy thy stomach? I look back (I beseech thee) and come to Christ (for thou labourest, and art pressed down to the earth with this huge burden), and he himself, as he said, will give thee rest. Come to him who wisheth not the death of a sinner, but that he should be rather converted and live. Unloose (according to the prophet) the bands of thy neck, O thou son of Sion. Return (I pray thee), although from the far remote regions of sins, unto the most holy Father, who, for his son that will despise the filthy food of swine, and fear a death of cruel famine, and so come back to him again, hath with great joy been accustomed to kill his fatted calf, and bring forth for the wanderer, the first robe and royal ring, and then taking as it were a taste of the heavenly hope, thou shalt perceive how sweet our Lord is. For if thou cost contemn these, be thou assured, thou shalt almost instantly be tossed and tormented in the inevitable and dark floods of endless fire.

30. What cost thou also, thou lion’s whelp (as the prophet saith), Aurelius Conanus? Art not thou as the former (if not far more foul) to thy utter destruction, swallowed up in the filthiness of horrible murders, fornications, and adulteries, as by an overwhelming flood of the sea? Hast not thou by hating, as a deadly serpent, the peace of thy country, and thirsting unjustly after civil wars and frequent spoil, shut the gates of heavenly peace and repose against thine own soul? Being now left alone as a withering tree in the midst of a field, remember (I beseech thee) the vain and idle fancies of thy parents and brethren, together with the untimely death that befell them in the prime of their youth; and shalt thou, for thy religious deserts, be reserved out of all thy family to live a hundred years, or to attain to the age of a Methusalem? No, surely, but unless (as the psalmist saith) thou shalt be speedily converted unto our Lord, that King will shortly brandish his sword against thee, who hath said by his prophet, “I will kill, and I will cause to live; I will strike, and I will heal; and there is no one who can deliver out of my hand.” Be thou therefore shaken out of thy filthy dust, and with all thy heart converted to Him who hath created thee, that “when his wrath shall shortly burn out, thou mayst be blessed by fixing thy hopes on him.” But if otherwise, eternal pains will be heaped up for thee, where thou shalt be ever tormented and never consumed in the cruel jaws of hell.

31. Thou also, who like to the spotted leopard, art diverse in manners and in mischief, whose head now is growing grey, who art seated on a throne full of deceits, and from the bottom even to the top art stained with murder and adulteries, thou naughty son of a good king, like Manasses sprung from Ezechiah, Vortipore, thou foolish tyrant of the Demetians, why art thou so stiff? What! do not such violent gulfs of sin (which thou dost swallow up like pleasant wine, nay rather which swallow thee up), as yet satisfy thee, especially since the end of thy life is daily now approaching? Why cost thou heavily clog thy miserable soul with the sin of lust, which is fouler than any other, by putting away thy wife, and after her honourable death, by the base practices of thy shameless daughter? Waste not (I beseech thee) the residue of thy life in offending God, because as yet an acceptable time and day of salvation shines on the faces of the penitent, wherein thou mayest take care that thy flight may not be in the winter, or on the sabbath day. “Turn away (according to the psalmist) from evil, and do good, seek peace and ensue it,” because the eyes of our Lord will be cast upon thee, when thou doest righteousness, and his ears will be then open unto thy prayers, and he will not destroy thy memory out of the land of the living; thou shalt cry, and he will hear thee, and out of thy tribulations deliver thee; for Christ cloth never despise a heart that is contrite and humbled with fear of him. Otherwise, the worm of thy torture shall not die, and the fire of thy burning shall never be extinguished.

32 And thou too, Cuneglasse, why art thou fallen into the filth of thy former naughtiness, yea, since the very first spring of thy tender youth, thou bear, thou rider and ruler of many, and guider of the chariot which is the receptacle of the bear, thou contemner of God, and vilifier of his order, thou tawny butcher, as in the Latin tongue thy name signifies. Why dost thou raise so great a war as well against men as also against God himself, against men, yea, thy own countrymen, with thy deadly weapons, and against God with thine infinite offences? Why, besides thine other innumerable backslidings, having thrown out of doors thy wife, dost thou, in the lust, or rather stupidity of thy mind, against the apostle’s express prohibition, denouncing that no adulterers can be partakers of the kingdom of heaven, esteem her detestable sister, who had vowed unto God the everlasting contineney, as the very dower (in the language of the poet) of the celestial nymphs? Why cost thou provoke with thy frequent injuries the lamentations and sighs of saints, by thy means corporally afflicted, which will in time to come, like a fierce lioness, break thy bones in pieces? Desist, I beseech thee (as the prophet saith) from wrath, and leave off thy deadly fury, which thou breathest out against heaven and earth, against God and his flock, and which in time wil1 be thy own torment; rather with altered mind obtain the prayers of those who possess a power of binding over this world, when in this world they bind the guilty, and of loosing when they loose the penitent. Be not (as the apostle saith) proudly wise, nor hope thou in the uncertainty of riches, but in God who giveth thee many things abundantly, and by the amendment of thy manners purchase unto thyself a good foundation for hereafter, and seek to enter into that real and true state of existence which will be not transitory but everlasting. Otherwise, thou shalt know and see, yea, in this very world, how bad and bitter a thing it is for thee to leave the Lord thy God, and not have his fear before shine eyes, and in the next, how thou shalt be burned in the foul encompassing flames of endless fire, nor yet by any manner of means shalt ever die. For the souls of the sinful are as eternal in perpetual fire, as the souls of the just in perpetual joy and gladness.

33. And likewise, O thou dragon of the island, who hast deprived many tyrants, as well of their kingdoms as of their lives, and though the last-mentioned in my writing, the first in mischief, exceeding many in power, and also in malice, more liberal than others in giving, more licentious in sinning, strong in arms, but stronger in working thine own soul’s destruction, Maglocune, why art thou (as if soaked in the wine of the Sodomitical grape) foolishly rolling in that black pool of shine offences? Why dost thou wilfully heap like a mountain, upon thy kingly shoulders, such a load of sins? Why dost thou show thyself unto the King of kings who hath made thee as well in kingdom as in stature of body higher than almost all the other chiefs of Britain) not better likewise in virtues than the rest; but on the contrary for thy sins much worse? Listen then awhile and hear patiently the following enumeration of thy deeds, wherein I will not touch any domestic and light offences (if yet any of them are light) but only those open ones which are spread far and wide in the knowledge of all men. Didst not thou, in the very beginning of thy youth, terribly oppress with sword, spear, and fire, the king shine uncle, together with his courageous bands of soldiers, whose countenances in battle were not unlike those of young lions? Not regarding the words of the prophet, who says, “The blood-thirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days,” and even if the sequel of thy sins were not such as ensued, yet what retribution couldst thou expect for this offence only at the hands of the just Judge, who hath said by his prophet: “Woe be to thee who spoilest, and shalt not thou thyself be spoiled? and thou who killest, shalt not thyself be killed? and when thou shalt make an end of thy spoiling, then shalt thou thyself fall.”

Is the Republican List of Presidential Candidates Really Shrinking, and Do They All Have to Go to Old Ivy?

Fox News thinks so:

The Grand Old Party’s 2012 presidential pool isn’t looking so grand these days.

Add Nevada Sen. John Ensign’s and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s extramarital affairs to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s unconvincing TV speech and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s family dramas, and the Republican presidential herd is thinning fast — leaving many to wonder who will lead the party in its attempt to reclaim the White House.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels are the names now being whispered in Republican circles as potential winners — although observers admit political speculations can change overnight.

I think this process is easier to understand if the list be shortened by eliminating the non-Ivy Leaguers from the list.  I’ve gone through the rationale behind this before, as you can see here.  But in case you’re not up to speed, I’m reproducing my original September 2005 posting on this below.

That being the case, we can eliminate the following from further consideration:

  • Sarah Palin (sad, but true)
  • Mark Sanford (wasn’t in the running but didn’t know it, knows it now)
  • Haley Barbour
  • Tim Pawlenty (that was pretty clever what he did to his DFL legislature re the budget, but reality is what it is)
  • John Ensign

So Fox could have saved us all a lot of trouble by not touting these people to start with.

Let’s look at the rest.

  • Bobby Jindal: his weak speech is a problem, but at least he did it at the top of the election cycle
  • Jon Hunstman: probably the biggest loss to the “A” list, as Barack Obama got him shipped off to China
  • Mitt Romney: still definitely a contender, somehow he has to convince more of us he’s not made of suburban plastic
  • Eric Cantor: still in the running, still a real estate man
  • Mitch Daniels: IMHO, the strongest of the “A” list, like me thinks the Boomers are profligate

Let’s live in present reality, people.  Until this Republic collapses…

Blast from the Past: Do They All Have to Go to Old Ivy?

Originally posted 5 September 2005.

The sad events of Hurricane Katrina have overshadowed to some extent the drama about to begin in Washington this week—the nomination of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States. We know we call these “games” sometimes, but in many ways Supreme Court nominations will be the most important legacy of this or any other administration, given the way our entire system has abrogated its authority to the judiciary.

One of the Bush Administration’s goals is to portray John Roberts as “mainstream.” Part of this is to emphasise the fact that he went to Harvard law school. This is supposed to reassure us that he is not one of the unwashed hordes from the hinterland. It is also supposed to put the left wingers in Washington who likewise went to an Ivy League school on the defensive. But what does this say about our country?

We have not had a President since Ronald Reagan who didn’t go to an Ivy League school. No major party has nominated a non-Ivy Leaguer this millennium. Even in a nation as deeply divided about values and purpose as we are, in 2004 we had the spectacle of both sides of this division being represented by two Skull and Bones Yalies.

This isn’t the whining of a high school dropout, coming from a long line of same. For example, my grandfather, an achiever in his own right if not a scholar, was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. In 1911—the year before he graduated from Lehigh—there were four members of this fraternity sitting on the Supreme Court, none of whom were Ivy Leaguers. The fraternity rightly refers to these years as their “glory years.” So what’s going on?

To put things in perspective, let’s look at a country like France, which has been ruled by an educational elite for a long time. In France, things traditionally are simple: if you go to either Polytechnique or ENA, you have a chance of getting to the top, otherwise you’re stuck in the “provinces,” either literally or in a career sense. In the UK, you have Oxford and Cambridge to perform the same function. In all of these cases, surely these institutions of higher learning are not large enough to matriculate all of the capable people in these countries. So how is it possible for the Ivy League to perform the same function for the US, a country much larger than either of these?

Although the influence of the Ivy League has been disproportionate for a long time, the present trend began with the GI Bill after World War II, which gave Americans access to education in an unprecedented way. Education, rather than hard work and enterprise, has come to be seen as the way to the top in the US for far too many people. The idiotic Baby Boomers, never ones to do anything half way except what they should, have pursued this with a vengeance, driving their children like maniacs into the “best” primary and secondary schools so they can go to the “best” colleges and universities, which generally mean the Ivy League.

I cannot believe that the only people capable of directing our affairs as a nation are those who went to a small set of schools, liberal ones at that. I do believe that one reason why the general populace is enamoured with these people is because a) the whole political dialectic has been set up by these people for so long that everyone has become conditioned to it and b) they reflect their own aspirations, which have shifted from “traditional” American methods of personal advancement.

The casualty of all this is real diversity. Liberals ball and squall about the need for racial and gender diversity, all the while desiring to concentrate the real power holders as products of a small group of educational institutions where these people can be moulded after their own image and likeness. Such will destroy diversity of thought and perpetuate geographical, values and class divisions in this country.

In my years in the construction industry, I used to regularly read the magazine Engineering News-Record. In the back, where the bid offerings were published, they always put the slogan, “When you seal the envelope, you seal the verdict.” Today success in a broader sense is won or lost when the Ivy League school you have applied to, having gone through a process with a fair degree of subjectivity, seals the envelope. It’s time to start sealing our own envelopes again. Herodotus tells the story about the Persian King Cyrus, who turned down the suggestion to leave what is modern Iran and resettle in what is modern Iraq. He goes on to comment that the Persians agreed and “chose rather to live in a rugged land and rule than to cultivate rich plains and be subject to others.” This is true both literally and figuratively. If we don’t stop taking the easy way out and allowing an elite created by education to rule, then we will indeed no longer be the masters of our own destiny.

Gildas: On the Ruin of Britain, Part I

Introduction

Gildas (c. 504-570) Sapiens (“the wise”) was a British monk who chronicled one of the strangest–and for subsequent history one of the most important–sequence of events in the fall of the Roman Empire: the separation of Britain from Rome and the subsequent disintegration of “post-Roman Britain” at the hands of the Saxons. The story is interesting because it shows that history isn’t just a succession of impersonal “forces” at work, but the product of human decisions, good and bad.

Britain was first brought under Roman rule during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. Once the last serious attempt to break Roman rule (led by Boadicea) was suppressed, Britain went on to become perhaps the most successful of Rome’s western provinces. Although it was a victim of both barbarian invasions and power challenging usurpers (sometimes a participant with the latter,) Britain’s geography insulated it (literally) from a good deal of the third century chaos that devastated places like Gaul. This enabled Britain to do reasonably well.

The vagaries of fourth century Rome, with its combination of increasing centralisation and taxation and the progressive unravelling of Roman power with the barbarian invasions, fell hard on Britain, with characters like Paul the Chain making life for the local notables difficult. Around the sack of Rome in 410, Britain’s power holders, believing that the obligations of Roman rule outweighed the unavailable benefits, simply threw off Roman rule and went to a form of self-government. It is not clear how they organised themselves in the wake of this but there is no evidence of a strong central authority figure.

This independence did not end the problem of the barbarian invasions. At this point the British chief Vortigern got the bright idea of inviting the Saxons into the eastern extremities of England–the usual jumping-off point for barbarian invasions from the Continent, as Hitler planned in 1940–to defend the island. Vortigern’s colleagues went along with the plan, the Saxons were invited, and when they came they became part of the problem rather than part of the solution, eventually destroying Roman Britain and driving its survivors into Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.

Gildas is probably the best single British chronicler of this entire account. As Gildas himself points out, Roman Britain was primarily documented by outsiders, a lacuna only filled in recent times by archaeology. His account is especially instructive to Anglicans and other Christians for two reasons.

The first is his admission that Christianity in Roman and post-Roman Britain left a lot to be desired of. Much of the mystique of British and American Christianity, especially starting with John Foxe, is a product of myth-making. Britain was one of the least Christianised provinces of Rome; it remained for both the Irish and the Continentals to actually put the faith on a sound footing in England and Wales after the end of Roman Britain. Britain is certainly capable of being a “pagan province” again as it was under Rome. Gildas also points out that this was a result of ineffectual leadership on the part of the British church, something which the Church of England needs to consider in its present predicament.

The second is that effective Christian leadership is a combination of righteousness and courage. Gildas is the first author I know of to refer to people without courage as “chickens.” Today too much criticism of those in power by Christians centres on their lack of righteousness rather than their lack of ability; many of our so-called leaders are lacking in both, and there is a connection. This is true both of our secular and our ecclesiastical rulers. This is a Biblical concept, but one that is forgotten, especially by ministers.

The Current Text

The edition used here is that of John Allen Giles (1804-1884), Six old English chronicles, of which two are now first translated from the monkish Latin originals, published in 1891 by G. Bell & Sons. In addition to Gildas’ work, the other authors included were Nennius (fl. 796), Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bishop of St. Asaph (1100?-1154), Ethelwerd (d. 998?), and John Asser (d. 909). The work was translated by William Gunn (1750-1841) and Charles Bertram (1723-1765). This text was transcribed by Janice Reilly and placed on her web site at the University of Tennessee, and was then moved to the Internet Medieval Source Book.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright© 1999 Paul Halsall. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use. This does not apply to the introduction, which is copyrighted in the same manner as the rest of the website.


I. THE PREFACE

1. WHATEVER in this my epistle I may write in my humble but well-meaning manner, rather by way of lamentation than for display, let no one suppose that it springs from contempt of others, or that I foolishly esteem myself as better than they; -for, alas! the subject of my complaint is the general destruction of every thing that is good, and the general growth of evil throughout the land;- but that I would condole with my country in her distress and rejoice to see her revive therefrom: for it is my present purpose to relate the deeds of an indolent and slothful race, rather than the exploits of those who have been valiant in the field. I have kept silence, I confess, with much mental anguish, compunction of feeling and contrition of heart, whilst I revolved all these things within myself; and, as God the searcher of the reins is witness, for the space of even ten years or more, my inexperience, as at present also, and my unworthiness preventing me from taking upon myself the character of a censor. But I read how the illustrious lawgiver, for one word’s doubting, was not allowed to enter the desired land; that the sons of the high-priest, for placing strange fire upon God’s altar, were cut off by a speedy death; that God’s people, for breaking the law of God, save two only, were slain by wild beasts, by fire and sword in the deserts of Arabia, though God had so loved them that he had made a way for them through the Red Sea, had fed them with bread from heaven, and water from the rock, and by the lifting up of a hand merely had made their armies invincible; and then, when they had crossed the Jordan and entered the unknown land, and the walls of the city had fallen down flat at the sound only of a trumpet, the taking of a cloak and a little gold from the accursed things caused the deaths of many: and again the breach of their treaty with the Gibeonites, though that treaty had been obtained by fraud, brought destruction upon many, and I took warning from the sins of the people which called down upon then the reprehensions of the prophets and also of Jeremiah, with his fourfold Lamentations written in alphabetic order. I saw moreover in my own time, as that prophet also had complained, that the city had sat down lone and widowed, which before was full of people; that the queen of nations and the princess of provinces (i. e. the church), had been made tributary; that the gold was obscured, and the most excellent colour (which is the brightness of God’s word) changed; that the sons of Sion (i. e. of holy mother church), once famous and clothed in the finest gold, grovelled in dung; and what added intolerably to the weight of grief of that illustrious man, and to mine, though but an abject whilst he had thus mourned them in their happy and prosperous condition, “Her Nazarites were fairer than snow, more ruddy than old ivory, more beautiful than the sapphire.” These and many other passages in the ancient Scriptures I regarded as a kind of mirror of human life, and I turned also to the New, wherein I read more clearly what perhaps to me before was dark, for the darkness deaf, and truth shed her steady light -I read therein that the Lord had said, “I came not but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” and on the other hand, “But the children of this kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shal1 be weeping and gnashing of teeth:” and again, “It is not good to take the children’s meat and to give it to dogs:” also, “Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites!” I heard how “many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven:” and on the contrary, “I will then say to them, ‘Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity!'” I read, “Blessed are the barren, and the teats which have not given suck;” and on the contrary, “Those, who were ready, entered with him to the wedding; afterwards came the other virgins also, saying ‘Lord, Lord, open to us:’ to whom it was answered, ‘I do not know you.'” I heard, forsooth, “Whoever shall believe and be baptized, shall be saved, but whoever shall not believe shall be damned.” I read in the words of the apostle that the branch of the wild olive was grafted upon the good olive, but should nevertheless be cut off from the communion of the root of its fatness, if it did not hold itself in fear, but entertained lofty thoughts. I knew the mercy of the Lord, but I also feared his judgment: I praised his grace, but I feared the rendering to every man according to his works: perceiving the sheep of the same fold to be different, I deservedly commended Peter for his entire confession of Christ, but called Judas most wretched, for his love of covetousness: I thought Stephen most glorious on account of the palm of martyrdom, but Nicholas wretched for his mark of unclean heresy: I read assuredly, “They had all things common:” but likewise also, as it is written, “Why have ye conspired to tempt the Spirit of God ?” I saw, on the other hand, how much security had grown upon the men of our time, as if there were nothing to cause them fear. These things, therefore, and many more which for brevity’s sake we have determined to omit, I revolved again and again in my amazed mind with compunction in my heart, and I thought to myself, “If God’s peculiar people, chosen from all the people of the world, the royal seed, and holy nation, to whom he had said, ‘My first begotten Israel,’ its priests, prophets, and kings, throughout many ages, his servant and apostle, and the members of his primitive church, were not spared when they deviated from the right path, what will he do to the darkness of this our age, in which, besides all the huge and heinous sins, which it has in common with all the wicked of the world committed, is found an innate, indelible, and irremediable load of folly and inconstancy ?” “What, wretched man (I say to myself) is it given to you, as if you were an illustrious and learned teacher, to oppose the force of so violent a torrent, and keep the charge committed to you against such a series of inveterate crimes which has spread far and wide, without interruption, for so many years. Hold thy peace: to do otherwise, is to tell the foot to see, and the hand to speak. Britain has rulers, and she has watchmen: why dost thou incline thyself thus uselessly to prate?” She has such, I say, not too many, perhaps, but surely not too few: but because they are bent down and pressed beneath so heavy a burden, they have not time allowed them to take breath. My senses, therefore, as if feeling a portion of my debt and obligation, preoccupied themselves with such objections and with others yet more strong. They struggled, as I said, no short time, in a fearful strait, whilst I read, “There is a time for speaking, and a time for keeping silence. At length, the creditor’s side prevailed and bore off the victory: if (said he) thou art not bold enough to be marked with the comely mark of golden liberty among the prophetic creatures, who enjoy the rank as reasoning beings next to the angels, refuse not the inspiration of the understanding ass, to that day dumb, which would not carry forward the tiara’d magician who was going to curse God’s people, but in the narrow pass of the vineyard crushed his loosened foot, and thereby felt the lash; and though he was, with his ungrateful and furious hand, against right justice, beating her innocent sides, she pointed out to him the heavenly messenger behold the naked sword, and standing in his way, though he had not seen him.

Wherefore in zeal for the house of God and for his holy law, constrained either by the reasonings of my own thoughts or by the pious entreaties of my brethren, I now discharge the debt so long exacted of me; humble, indeed, in style but faithful, as I think, and friendly to all Christ’s youthful soldiers, but severe and insupportable to foolish apostates; the former of whom, if I am not deceived, will receive the same with tears flowing from God’s love; but the others will sorrow, such as is extorted from the indignation and pusillanimity of a convicted conscience.

2. I will, therefore, if God be willing, endeavour to say a few words about the situation of Britain, her disobedience and subjection, her rebellion, second subjection and dreadful slavery-of her religion persecution, holy martyrs, heresies of different kinds-of her tyrants, her two hostile and ravaging nations-of her first devastation, her defence, her second devastation and second taking vengeance-of her third devastation, of her famine, and the letters to Agitius-of her victory and her crimes-of the sudden rumour of enemies-of her famous pestilence-of her counsels-of her last enemy, far more cruel than the first-of the subversion of her cities, and of the remnant that escaped; and finally, of the peace which, by the will of God, has been granted her in these our times.

The Life of the Archpriest Avvakum by Himself

Preface

In the spring of 2005, our city received a visit from Frederica Matthewes-Green, the once-Episcopalian now-Orthodox Christian writer. I went to hear her in a not very impressive Orthodox church (after Russia, I’m spoilt, I suppose.) In the wake of this I sent her an inquiry as follows:

I find your position on the Charismatic Renewal rather difficult to accept. In trolling the web, I find myself one of the few that has anything nice to say about it! Having been involved in it as a Roman Catholic, it is my conclusion that the Renewal failed in churches such as the Episcopal for two basic reasons:

  • It did not have the support of the hierarchy of the church, especially the hierarchy on the left. The left saw a mortal enemy in the Renewal and had more to do than the traditionalists in beating it down. Without support from the upper reaches of the church the Renewal was fighting a losing battle from the start, especially in Roman Catholicism.
  • The leadership of the Renewal lacked the experience and leadership skills to deal with the pastoral problems that arise with the exercise the spiritual gifts and manifestations. This could have been remedied with assistance from those who did have that experience–the classical Pentecostals–but they refused to help for a combination of cultural, theological and practical reasons.

Her response was as follows:

Thanks, Don. I am grateful for the Pentecostal / charismatic experience, which meant so much to me when I was first a Christian. My husband says that he thinks Pentecostals/ Charismatics are the largest group to convert to Orthodoxy among lay people (Episcopalians among clergy). It makes sense; Orthodoxy has the same vibrant belief in miracles and healings and the presence of God among us. It just also has the groundedness, wisdom, and heritage that helps keep those gifts from being out of control, as you note.

A friend of mine who is a reporter says that when he covers ecumenical events, the Catholics and Presbyterians are in one corner arguing about theology; the Pentecostals and Orthodox are in another corner talking about worship.

My response to that was as follows:

“groundedness, wisdom and heritage” Is this what happened to the Archpriest Avvakum and the Boyarina Morozova (whose arrest is portrayed by the Russian painter Surikov above)?

Needless to say, that ended the exchange. But the subject of the Archpriest Avvakum is too important (and fascinating) to ignore. To understand it we need to know a little background.

Avvakum (the Russian rendition for Habbakuk) was born in 1621. Becoming a Russian Orthodox priest at the age of twenty, he became involved in a renewal movement called the Bogoliubtsy (literally, the Lovers of God.) As with many renewal movements, things went well at first, but in 1652 Nikon became Patriarch. Nikon decided that the Russians were backward in their practice of religion relative to the Greeks, so he altered the ritual and liturgy to conform with that of the Greeks. Today we may find issues such as crossing oneself with two fingers vs. three as trivial, but Orthodoxy lives and dies on the purity and changelessness of their worship. The Lovers of God suddenly found themselves hated by the Patriarch (and later losing the support of Tsar Alexis) and persecuted with every means–many of which barbaric, such as burying people alive and cutting out their tongues–that could be mustered. Avvakum himself, after many exiles and imprisonments (many of which are described below) was burned at the stake in 1682.

Avvakum was a single-minded man whose love of God–which endured the relentless persecution by the church he loved–makes him an inspiration to Christians who do not share his Orthodox Christianity. His prose is exceptional too: he wrote in a vigourous style that raised vernacular Russian to the heights of great literature. Like Blaise Pascal, who did the same service for French in another struggle against change imposed from top (by the Jesuits,) he showed that those who are focused on the highest and best point (God Himself) can have clarity of prose driven by clarity of message.

But Avvakum’s story–and that of the Old Believers in general–puts much of what many claim for Orthodoxy today into question. To their credit, Orthodox churches are beginning to realise the mistake they made in the suppression of the Old Believers. Today we see many show Eastern Orthodoxy as the alternative to the chaos that many churches find themselves in. They do this based on an absolute continuity of Orthodoxy with the faith that Our Lord laid down, both in practice and in worship. We see from Avvakum’s experience that this claim cannot stand from a historical standpoint. We also see that Orthodox churches have been traditionally closely married to the state, and willing to use the state’s power to enforce their religion (as is still the case in Russia today.)

The translation we present below is that of G.P. Fedotov, and is taken from the Holy Trinity Orthodox School.


The Life of Archpriest Avvakum by Himself1

I was born in the region of Nizhny-Novgorod, 2 beyond the river Kudna, in the village of Grigorovo. My father, Peter by name, was a priest. My mother, Maria, took the veil under the name of Martha. My father was given to drink, but my mother practised prayer and fasting and constantly taught me the fear of God. One day I saw a neighbor’s ox fall dead, and that night I arose and wept before the holy icon, sorrowing for my soul and meditating upon death, since I likewise should die. From that time on it became my custom to pray each night. Then my mother was widowed and I became an orphan in my early days, and we were exiled by our kin. My mother decided that I should marry. I besought the Mother of God to give me a wife who would help me to attain salvation. In that same village there was a maiden, also an orphan, who was wont to go frequently to church, and whose name was Anastasia. Her father was the blacksmith, Marco, a rich man; but after his death his whole substance was wasted. The maiden lived in poverty, and she prayed to God that she might be united to me in marriage; and it was God’s will that this should come about. Then my mother returned to God after a life of great piety, and as for me, being turned out, I went to live in another place. I was ordained deacon at the age of twenty and priest two years later. I exercised the functions of ordinary priesthood for eight years and was then made archpriest by the Orthodox bishops, and that was twenty years ago; and I have now been in holy orders for thirty years.

Since the early days of my priesthood I have had many spiritual children, until now, some five or six hundred. I, miserable sinner, labored without rest, in churches and in houses, at the crossroads, in villages and towns, and also in the capital of the Tsar and in the Siberian land, preaching and teaching the word of God for some twenty-five years.

During the time when I was a priest, a young woman came to me for confession, burdened with many sins, having committed fornication and all kinds of sins against purity, and she began to tell them to me in detail, weeping in the church before the holy Gospels. But I, thrice-accursed physician, fell sick myself and burned inwardly with lecherous fire; it was a bitter hour for me. I lighted three candles and fixed them on the lectern, and placed my right hand over the flame and held it there until the lust was extinguished in me. Letting the young woman go, I removed my vestments, and having prayed, I returned to my home in great sorrow and distress. It was about midnight, and entering my house, I wept before the icon of Our Lord until my eyes were swollen; and I prayed fervently that God should separate me from my spiritual children, for the burden was too heavy for me and too difficult to carry. And I fell with my face to the earth, weeping bitterly. Then I slumbered, not knowing how I was weeping, and the eyes of my heart looked upon the Volga. I saw two golden ships sailing majestically; they had golden oars and masts, all was of gold. And each was manned only by a helmsman. I asked “To whom do these ships belong?” And they answered: “To Luke and to Lawrence.” These were two of my spiritual children who had led me and my household on the path of salvation and had died in God’s favor. Then I saw a third ship, and it was not adorned with gold but painted many hues: red and white and blue and black and ashen, of a beauty and excellence which the mind of man could not conceive. A radiant youth sat at the helm, and I cried: “Whose ship is this?” And he who sat at the helm answered: “‘Tis your ship; you may sail on it with your wife and children if such is your prayer.” I awoke all atremble, and sitting up I asked myself, “What does this vision mean, and whither will this voyage bear us?”

After a short time, as it has been written, “the sorrows of death compassed me, and the perils of hell found me. I met with trouble and sorrow.” An officer took away a maid, the daughter of a widow, and I implored him to give the orphan back to her mother. But he disdained our importunities and raised a storm against me. His men came to the church and crushed the life out of me; I lay senseless on the ground for half an hour or more. I came back to life by the will of God, and he, seized with fear, gave up the maid to me. Then the devil prompted him and he came to the church and beat me, and dragged me, in my vestments, on the ground, and I recited a prayer all the while.

Afterwards another officer found occasion to be moved with fury against me; he came running to my house, beat me, and buried his teeth in my finger like a dog. And when his throat was filled with gore, he released my hand from the clutch of his teeth and, leaving me, went home. As for me, I thanked God, bandaged my hand with a piece of linen, and betook myself to Vespers. As I was on my way that same man attacked me once more, with two small pistols. Standing close to me, he fired one of them. By the will of God, although the powder exploded in the pan, the pistol did not go off. He flung it on the ground and fired the other pistol, and the will of God was exercised once more and the pistol did not go off. I continued on my way praying fervently, and raised my hand to bless the officer and bowed to him. He cursed me, and I said to him: “Let grace be on your lips, Ivan Rodionovich.” He was enraged with me because of the chanting in church; he wanted it to be done with dispatch, and I sang the office according to the rule, without haste. Then he deprived me of my house and drove me out onto the road, plundering everything and giving me no bread for the journey.

At that time my son Procopy was born, the one who is now imprisoned underground with his mother. 3 I took my staff, and she the unbaptized child, and we went wherever God should speed us; on our way we baptized the child as, of old, Philip had baptized the eunuch. 4 When I arrived at Moscow and went to the Tsar’s confessor, Archpriest Stephen, and to Archpriest John Neronov, they both told the Tsar about me, and from that time on the Tsar knew me. The Fathers sent me back with a certificate of safe-conduct, and I dragged myself home; but the very walls of my house were destroyed, and I began to establish myself afresh, and again the devil raised a storm against me.

To my village came dancing bears with tambourines and lutes, and I, miserable sinner, full of zeal for Christ, drove them out. I broke the tambourines and lutes and smashed the clowns’ masks out in the field, I alone, against a great number. I took from them two great bears; one I struck senseless, but he revived, and I set the other loose in the fields. Because of this Vasily Petrovich Sheremetev, who was sailing down the Volga to Kazan, to assume the office of governor, summoned me aboard his ship. He upbraided me and ordered me to bless his son Matthew, whose face was shaven. But I did not bless him and reprimanded him from the Scriptures when I looked upon his lewd countenance. In great wrath the nobleman commanded that I should be thrown into the Volga. After I had been dealt many injuries, they cast me out. But afterwards they were good to me; we were reconciled in the Tsar’s antechamber, and Vasily’s wife became my younger brother’s spiritual daughter. Thus God leads his own. 5

But let me resume my narrative. Later on, another officer was infuriated against me. He came with his attendants to my yard and laid siege with arrows and pistol-shots. Meanwhile I cried out to God, “O Lord, do Thou tame and appease him, through what means Thou knowest best.” And he fled from the yard, driven by the Holy Ghost.

That night he sent his men to fetch me, and they cried out, weeping bitterly, “Father, Yefimy Stepanovich is close to death, and he is crying and moaning and beating his breast, saying, “I want Father Avvakum. God is punishing me on his account.” Thinking that this was a trap, I was seized with fear and prayed to God thus: “O Lord Who hast taken me from my mother’s womb, Who has brought me from nothingness into being! If I am strangled, do Thou sanctify me with Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow; 6 if they stab me, do Thou sanctify me with the prophet Zacharias; if they drown me, do Thou save me as Thou didst Stephen of Perm.” 7 Praying in this manner, I went to Yefimy’s house. As I was conducted into his yard, his wife Neonila came running out to meet me and seized my hand and cried, “Come, Father, my lord; come, our dear provider!” I answered, “‘Tis strange indeed! Yesterday I was ‘son of a harlot,’ and now I am ‘Father.’ Biting, in truth, must be the scourge of Christ! Your husband is quick to repent!”

She took me into his chamber. Yefimy leaped out of his feather bed and cast himself down at my feet, crying and muttering, “My lord, forgive me. I have sinned before God and before you!” And he was trembling all over. I said to him, “Do you want to recover your health?” He, lying at my feet, exclaimed, “Aye, my good lord.” I said, “Arise, God has forgiven you.” He was so badly stricken that he could not rise by himself. I lifted him and laid him on his bed, and confessed and anointed him with holy oil, and he was healed. Thus did Christ will it. In the morning he let me go with all civility, and he and his wife became my spiritual children, faithful servants of God. Thus does God scorn the scorners: and to the meek he will give grace.

Soon after this, others drove me out for the second time from this place. I dragged myself to Moscow, and by the will of God the Tsar ordered that I should be installed as Archpriest at Yurievets on the Volga. There too I remained but a short time, only eight weeks. The devil inspired the priests, the peasant folk and their women; so they came to the Patriarchal Chancery, where I was attending to ecclesiastical affairs, and they dragged me out of the chancery (they were about fifteen hundred strong); they beat me with rods in the middle of the street and trampled me on the ground, and the women beat me with oven-forks; for my sins I was beaten almost to death, and they threw me against the corner of the house. The governor came rushing up with his cannoneers and, seizing me, carried me off on horseback to my poor home; and he placed his men around the yard. Meanwhile the mob marched to the house, and they raised a great tumult in town; especially did the priests and the women whom I had warned against fornication shout, “Kill this thief and son of a harlot, and throw his body to the dogs in the ditch!”

As to me, having rested a while, I left my wife and children on the third day and fled by night up the Volga to Moscow with two companions. I should have liked to stop at Kostroma, but there too they had driven out Archpriest Daniel. Ah me, the devil stirs up trouble everywhere.

I got to Moscow, and went to Stephen, the Tsar’s confessor: he too made a wry face, saying, “Why have you abandoned your church?” So there was more trouble at hand. Then, in the middle of the night, the Tsar came to visit his spiritual father and to receive his nightly blessing, and he found me there, and there was more woe, since he asked, “Why have you left your city?” My wife and children and some twenty retainers had remained in Yurievets; I knew not whether they were alive or dead, and that was another calamity.

Soon after this Nikon, our friend, brought the relics of Metropolitan Philip from the Solovki Monastery to Moscow. Before he arrived, Stephen, the Tsar’s confessor, spent a week in prayer and fasting with the brethren on behalf of the patriarch (and I was with them), that God should grant us a pastor for the salvation of our souls. 8 Together with the Metropolitan of Kazan, we wrote, and signed with our own hand, a petition which we presented to the Tsar and Tsarina in favor of Stephen, that he should be made Patriarch. But Stephen would not have it so, and suggested Metropolitan Nikon. The Tsar followed his advice. He sent a letter, to be delivered on his way to Moscow: “To Nikon, the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Novgorod and Velikia Luki and of all Russia, greetings,” and so on. And once he was there, he was all bows and compliments with us, like a fox. He knew that he was going to be Patriarch and feared lest some obstacle should arise. There would be much to tell about these wily dealings. And when he was installed patriarch, he would not even let his friends enter his chapel, and soon he spewed forth all his poison.

During Lent 9 he sent a letter to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, 10 addressed to John Neronov. The latter was my spiritual father; I lived at his church and took charge of it when he was absent. It was said that I should have been appointed to the post of the late Silas at the Savior’s Church in the palace, but God had not willed it, and I myself had no great desire to be sent there. I loved the church of Our Lady of Kazan and was content to serve in it. I read holy books to the faithful, who came in great numbers. In his letter (dated such and such a year and month), Nikon wrote: “According to the tradition of the holy apostles and fathers, it is not fitting to make genuflections; suffice it to bow from the waist; and the sign of the cross must be made with three fingers.” 11 We assembled and reflected upon this. We saw that winter was near; our hearts were frozen, and our limbs shaking. Neronov entrusted the church to me and hid himself in the Chudov Monastery, where, in a cell, he spent a week in prayer. As he prayed, a voice came from the icon: “This is the time of tribulation: you must suffer without weakening.” He related this to me, weeping, also to Bishop Paul of Kolomna, whom Nikon afterwards had burned at the stake at Kostroma; then he likewise told all the brethren about it. With Daniel, I copied excerpts from the Holy Fathers concerning the fingers used in the sign of the cross and the bows to be made during prayer, and these were submitted to the Tsar. There were a great many of these excerpts, but I know not where the Tsar hid them; I believe he gave them to Nikon.

Soon after this Nikon ordered Daniel to be seized and had his head shorn 12 in the Monastery at the Tver Gates, in the Tsar’s presence. They tore his cassock from his back, and, heaping insults on him, took him to the Chudov Monastery and locked him in the bakery. After many torments had been inflicted on him, he was banished to Astrakhan; there he was crowned with a wreath of thorns, and they let him die in a dungeon.

After Daniel was shorn, they seized another Daniel, Archpriest of Temnikov; he was locked up at the New Convent of Saint Savior. Likewise, Nikon himself tore the biretta off Archpriest Neronov’s head and imprisoned him at the Simonov Monastery. Later on, he sent him to Vologda, to the Monastery of Saint Savior on the Rock, and then to Fort Kola. Because of the many sufferings he had endured, the poor man’s strength failed him, so he accepted the sign of the cross with three fingers and died in this state. Oh, woe and misfortune. Let him who thinks himself strong fear lest he stumble. These are the evil days when in accordance with our Lord’s words, even the elect shall be led astray by the Antichrist. We must pray to God most fervently that He may save us and forgive us, for He is full of mercy and loves mankind.

I too was arrested at Vespers by Boris Neledinsky and his musketeers. About sixty persons were arrested with me and taken to prison. As for me, I was put in chains and taken for the night to the Patriarch’s Court. And on Sunday, as soon as it was day, I was placed in a cart with my arms outstretched and driven from the Patriarch’s Court to the Monastery of Saint Andronicus. And I was thrown in chains into an underground cell. I spent three days in the dark, without food or drink, and in my chains I bowed in prayer, but whether to the west or to the east, I know not. Nobody came to my cell, only mice and cockroaches and chirping crickets and hordes of fleas. On the third day I was moved by the desire to eat-in other words, I was hungry – and, after Vespers, I saw someone standing before me; but whether it was man or angel I could not say, and cannot say even to this day, save that he uttered a prayer in the dark, and laying his hand on my shoulder, led me on my chains to a bench. He had me sit down and placed a spoon in my hand, and he gave me a little bread and some cabbage soup to eat, and it tasted good. Then, saying to me: “Enough. This will suffice for thy sustenance,” he vanished: though the door did not open, he was no longer there. This would have been a strange thing, had it been a man, but for an angel ’tis no wonder, since he can be stopped by no barrier.

In the morning the Archimandrite and the brethren came to fetch me and led me out of the cell; they chided me for refusing obedience to the patriarch, and I condemned him and inveighed against him from the Scriptures. They removed the heavy chain and put a lighter one on me, and gave me into the custody of a monk, with orders that I should be dragged to the church. Close by the church, they pulled my hair and poked me in the ribs and jerked me around on my chain and spat in my eyes. May God forgive them in this world and the next. This was none of their doing, but the work of Satan, the malicious one. I spent four weeks in that place.

After me, they seized Longin, Archpriest of Murom; he was shorn at Mass in the cathedral, in the Tsar’s presence. During the procession of oblation, the Patriarch took the paten with Christ’s body from the archdeacon’s hand and placed it on the altar; meanwhile Therapon, Archimandrite of Chudov, was standing with the chalice outside the altar, near the royal doors. Alas, such a division of Christ’s body was worse than the doing of the Jews! 13 Having shorn him, they tore his cassock and his kaftan off his back. But Longin was incensed with the fire of holy wrath; reproving Nikon, he spat into his eyes across the threshold of the sanctuary; undoing his girdle, he tore off his shirt and hurled it into Nikon’s face. O wonder! The shirt spread and covered the paten on the altar like a corporal. The Tsarina also was in the Cathedral at the time. Longin was put into chains, dragged outside the church and beaten with brooms and whips all the way to the Monastery of the Epiphany. And he was thrown into a cell and musketeers were set to guard him. But during the night, God gave him a new fur coat and a hat. In the morning Nikon was informed of this happening and laughingly exclaimed: “I know these would-be saints!” He took the hat away from him but left him the fur coat.

Afterward I was taken from the monastery and led on foot, arms outstretched, to the Patriarch’s Court. After a great deal of heckling, I was returned to my cell in similar fashion. On St. Nicetas’ day there was a procession, and I was taken out in a cart to meet it; and I was brought to the cathedral to be shorn, and during Mass, they kept me for a long time on the parvis. The Tsar left his throne and, going up to the Patriarch, asked him not to have me shorn. I was taken to the Siberia Office, where I was placed in the custody of the secretary, Tretiak Bashmakov (now Father Savvaty), who today is also suffering for Christ’s sake, imprisoned in an underground cell at the New Monastery of Saint Savior, may God save him. Even at that time he did me a kindness.

I was sent to Siberia with my wife and children. It would be a long tale, if I related all the tribulations we endured on our way; suffice it to say a little about them. During the journey Dame Avvakum gave birth to a child, and she was driven, sick, in a cart to Tobolsk. We travelled three thousand versts in thirteen weeks or so; we were dragged by cart, by boat or, half of the way, by sleigh.

In Tobolsk the Archbishop appointed me to a church, 14 and there I suffered great trials. In a year and a half, I was accused five times of treason against the Tsar. A certain Ivan Struna, secretary of the Archbishop’s Chancery, persecuted me; while the Archbishop was away in Moscow, Struna was inspired by the devil to fall on me. Without cause he tormented Deacon Anthony, and the latter ran away from him and came to my church. Ivan Struna called his attendants and also came to the church on another day. I was singing Vespers, and he rushed into the choir and clutched Anthony by the beard, while I closed the church doors and let no one in. Struna was alone in there, carrying on like the devil. And I, interrupting the office, seated Struna in the middle of the church with the help of Anthony and thrashed him with a leather strap for disturbance in church. And the others, about twenty strong, fled, driven by the Holy Ghost. Having received Struna’s repentance. I sent him home.

But Struna’s kinsmen, monks and priests, set the whole city astir in order to bring about my undoing. At midnight they came in a sleigh to my door and tried to break in and seize me, in order to have me drowned; but the fear of God dispersed them and made them turn back. For a month I suffered, having to hide myself; I would sleep one night at the church and another night at the governor’s house. I even begged to be locked in prison but was not admitted.

There came an ukase ordering that I should be taken away from Tobolsk, because I had condemned Nikon for his heresy, speaking from the Scriptures. At that time I received a letter from Moscow, informing me that two of my brothers, who lived in the palace in the Tsarina’s apartments, 15 had died of the plague, with their wives and children; and many others among my kinsmen and friends had also died. God had let flow on the Kingdom the vial of His wrath, and the wretched ones did not repent; they continue to cause trouble in the Church. Neronov had often warned the Tsar: There will be three visitations resulting from the schism in the Church: plague, the sword, division. And this is what has happened today.

But the Lord is merciful; having punished us, so that we may repent, He forgives us; having cured the ills of our souls and bodies, He will give us peace. I hope and trust in Christ, I await His mercy and expect the resuirection of the dead.

Once more I sailed in my ship, as had been shown to me in the vision already described. I made my way to the Lena River. When we reached Yeniseisk there came another ukase ordering me to Dauria, 16 twenty thousand versts and more from Moscow; I was to be given over to Afanasy Pashkov and his regiment. He had six hundred men under his command. He was a rough man, for my sins, and he burned, flogged and tortured people unceasingly. I had often tried to stay him, but finally I had fallen into his hands. From Moscow he had received Nikon’s orders to torment me.

After we left Yeniseisk, as we reached the great Tunguzka River, a storm almost wrecked my barge; it floated in midstream and filled with water, and its sails were torn. All but the deck was submerged. My wife, bareheaded, 17 pulled the children out of the water, and I, lifting my eyes to heaven, cried: “Lord, help us and save us!” By the will of God we were blown toward the shore. ‘Tis a long story to tell. Two men in another barge were pitched overboard and drowned. And we, having regained our composure on shore, resumed our journey.

As we came to the Shaman rapids, we met other folk sailing on the river; among them were two widows, one about sixty and the other even more advanced in age; they were on their way to a convent to take the veil. And Pashkov wanted them to turn back and be compelled to marry. I said to him: “According to the law of the Church, it is not fitting to have them married.” But instead of heeding my words, he became enraged and began to torture me. When we reached the Long Rapids, he started to push me out of the barge, saying: “Tis because of you that the barge makes such slow progress, you are a heretic. Go into the mountains, your place is not among Cossacks.”

Ah, poor me! the mountains were high, the forest dense; the cliffs stood like a wall, one could break one’s neck looking up at them. In these mountains live great snakes, and geese and ducks with red feathers fly overhead, black crows and grey jackdaws. In these mountains there are also eagles and hawks and gerfalcons and guinea-fowl, pelicans and swans, and other wild birds of different kinds in great numbers. And many beasts roam likewise in these mountains: wild bucks and deer, aurochs, elks, boars, wolves, wild sheep, which are plainly to be seen but cannot be captured.

Pashkov wanted to cast me out into these mountains, to live among the birds and beasts. So I wrote him a short letter, and it started thus: “Man, fear God, Who sits on the Cherubim and Who watches over the abyss, before Whom tremble the heavenly powers and all creatures, including man. You alone despise Him and cause disturbance,” and so on. There was much I wrote in that letter, and I had it taken to him. About fifty men came running, and they took my barge and towed it to where he was, about three versts away. I cooked some porridge for the Cossacks and fed them, poor souls; they were eating and trembling at the same time, and some of them wept out of pity for me.

When the barge was towed ashore, the executioners seized me and led me before him. He stood, sword in hand, and shaking. First he asked me: “Are you a true pope 18 or an unfrocked one?” I answered: “I am Avvakum, Archpriest. Speak, what is it you want of me?” He roared like a wild beast and struck me on one check and then on the other, and beat me on the head, and knocked me down, and seizing his battle-axe, he struck me three times on the back, as I lay there. Then, tearing off my garment, he applied seventy-two strokes of the whip on that very same back of mine. And I cried: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, help me!” And I repeated these words unceasingly, and he was sorely vexed, because I did not say: “Have mercy.” At each stroke of the whip, I recited the prayer; then, in the middle of the thrashing, I cried out: “Enough of this beating,” and he ordered the thrashing to be stopped. I asked him: “Do you know why you beat me? Why?” And once more he ordered that I should be struck in the ribs, and then they let me go, I trembled and fell. And he had me placed in the ammunition-boat; they fettered me hand and foot and threw me onto a beam. It was autumn, and rain beat on me all night. I lay under the downpour. While they had been flogging me, I had felt no pain, thanks to my prayer, but now, as I lay there, a thought crossed my mind: “Son of God, why didst Thou permit such a hard beating? Did I not defend Thy widows? Who shall be the judge between Thee and me? When I was committing evil Thou didst not afflict me so cruelly. And now, I know not in what way I have sinned.” Ah, what virtue I displayed! I, another dung-faced pharisee, dared to take issue concerning the Lord’s justice! If Job could speak thus, it is because he was just and sinless; moreover, he did not know the Scriptures, for he lived outside the Law in the land of barbarians, and knew God through the creation. As to myself, I am first of all a sinner; and secondly, I am supported by the Law, fortified in all things by the Scriptures, “We must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God.” And I had committed such folly. Woe to me! How was it that the boat did not sink with me?

Then it was that my bones began to ache, and my veins grew taut, and my heart failed me and I was near death. They blew water in my mouth, and I breathed again and repented before the Lord. The sweet Lord is merciful; he forgets our former transgressions in view of our repentance. And once more nothing pained me.

In the morning they threw me into a small boat and towed it along. We reached the great Padun Rapids, where the river is one verst wide. There are three steep reefs stretching across the river. If you do not sail through the channel, your craft will be smashed into splinters. I was brought to the rapids; it was raining and snowing, and I had on nothing but a thin kaftan. The water splashed over my back and belly. Great was my distress! They took me out of the boat and dragged me in chains over the rocks round the rapids. It was painful, but good for the soul, and this time I did not murmur against God. I recalled the words of the prophets and apostles: “Whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth: and He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth … For what son is there whom the father doth not correct?” And with these words I was comforted.

Then I was taken to Fort Bratsky and thrown into jail, and given a little straw. I remained there till St. Philip’s fast, 19 in a frozen tower; it is already winter at that time in this land, but God warmed me in want of clothing. I lay like a little dog on the straw; some days they would feed me and some days not; there were a great many mice, and I hit them with my biretta -the fools would not even give me a stick. I lay all the time on my belly: my back was sore, and there were many fleas and lice. I wanted to cry out to Pashkov: “Pardon!” but God’s will forbade it and ordered me to be patient. Later I was transferred to a warm house, and there I spent the winter in chains with the hostages 20 and the dogs. My wife and children had been sent far from me, some twenty versts away. And all that winter she was plagued and rebuked by her servant Xenia. My son Ivan, a small lad, came to stay with me for a while after Christmas. Pashkov had him thrown into the cold cell where I had lain. He spent the night there, poor dear lad, and almost froze to death. In the morning, he was sent back to his mother. He reached home with his hands and feet frozen.

In spring we went once more on our way. There was not much left of our supplies; all had been pilfered; even books and clothing and utensils had been stolen. On Lake Baikal again I came close to drowning. Pashkov made me pull the towing-rope on the Khilok River; it was a hard run, and no time for eating or sleeping. All summer I was tormented by this towing in the water. The men died, and my feet and belly were swollen. Two summers we towed in the water, and in winter we had to haul on dry land. It was on that river Khilok that, for the third time, I was nearly drowned. The boat was carried away; the other boats remained near the shore, but mine was seized and drawn by the current. My wife and children had remained on shore, but I was carried away with the helmsman. The stream was swift, it turned the boat upside down, and I crawled onto it, crying: “Our Lady, help! Our Hope, do not drown us!” Now my feet would be under water, and then again I would scramble onto the boat; we drifted a verst or so, and then the men caught us. Everything was soaked through and through. But what is to be done if such is the will of the Mother of God? I came out of the water laughing, but the men heaved many sighs and spread my clothing on the bushes: coats of satin and taffeta and some other trifles which still filled the chests and sacks. From that day on everything went to rot. We were without clothing. Pashkov wanted to give me another beating: “You have made yourself a laughing-stock!” But I once more entreated the good Mother: “Gracious Queen, stop that fool.” And she, Our Hope, appeased him, and he took pity on me.

That spring we began to sail on rafts down the Ingoda River. This was my fourth year of navigation since I had left Tobolsk.

We floated lumber for the building of houses and forts. There was nothing to eat; men died of hunger, and from working in the water. Shallow was the river and the rafts heavy, the taskmasters pitiless, the sticks hard, the cudgels knotty, the whips cutting, our sufferings cruel: fire and rack and people starving! One more stroke and a man would fall dead. Alas, what times were these! I know not how he could lose his mind in this way.

My wife had only one cloak left that had not rotted. It would have been worth twenty-five rubles in Russia, and more over here, but he gave four sacks of rye for it, and they lasted one or two years, while we lived on the river Nercha, eating mostly grass. He let all his men die of hunger; there remained a small troop, roaming through the steppes, digging for roots and grass, and we did as the others. In winter we fed on pine-bark, and sometimes, by luck, on horse flesh and the carcasses of beasts killed by wolves. What the wolves did not devour, we ate. And some would feed on frozen wolves and foxes and every other kind of filthy beast they could find. If a mare foaled, the foal was devoured in secret, together with the caul. When Pashkov heard about it, he would have them flogged to death. 21 Sometimes the mare would die because she had not been allowed to foal naturally: they tore the foal out as soon as the head appeared, and they drank the foul blood. Ah, what sad times were these!

I also lost two small sons in those hard days. They roamed the hills with the others, naked and barefoot on the sharp stones, feeding on grass and roots as best they could. I myself, miserable sinner, had to eat that horse-flesh and the foul carcasses of bird and beast. Alas for my sinful soul! Who shall freshen my eyes with the source of tears, that I may weep over my poor soul, for having lost itself to the delectations of the world!

But we were helped in Christ by the lady Eudokia Kirillovna, daughter-in-law of Afanasy, the governor, also by his wife, Fekla Semenovna. They preserved us secretly from starvation and death by sending us, without his knowing anything about it, now a piece of meat, now a loaf of bread, sometimes a little flour and oats, whatever she could gather, ten pounds, and some money, and even sometimes as much as twenty pounds. Or else she would scrape up some food from the chickens’ trough.

My daughter, the poor maid Agrippina, would secretly go up to her window. It made us feel like weeping and laughing at the same time. Sometimes they would drive her away, without the lady being warned, but sometimes she would come home with an armload. She was then but a small child; she is twenty-seven today and still a maid, living in Mezen with her two younger sisters, in grief and uncertainty. Her mother and brother are imprisoned underground. But what can be done about it? Let them all suffer bitterly for Christ’s sake. So be it, with God’s help. It is fitting to suffer for the Christian faith. This Archpriest formerly enjoyed intercourse with the great, and now, poor wretch, let him delight in suffering to the end; for it has been written: Blessed is not he who begins, but he who perseveres to the end. But enough on that subject. Let us resume our previous topic.

These great calamities lasted six or seven years in the land of Dauria, but sometimes there was a respite. Yet he, Afanasy, unceasingly sought to bring about my death, upon all kinds of charges. During this time of calamity he sent me two widows, Mary and Sophia, two women-servants of his, who were possessed by the devil. He had tried sorcery and spells of all kinds on them, but saw it was of no avail, that rather, a tumult was arising. They would shriek and writhe in convulsions. So he called me and, bowing to me, said: “Take these two and doctor them by prayers.” I answered: “My lord, this is above my strength. But through the prayers of the holy fathers, everything is possible to God.” So I took the poor women home, may it be forgiven me! I have had some experience of these matters in Russia, where three or four possessed would sometimes be brought to me, and through the prayers of the holy fathers, the devils would be cast out by the command and through the action of the loving God and our sweet Lord Jesus Christ: I would sprinkle them with tears and water and would anoint them with holy oil, and would chant some prayers in Christ’s name, and the divine power would cast out the evil spirit, and the man would be healed, not through my own or any other person’s merits, but because of these men’s faith.

So the possessed women were brought to me. According to custom, I fasted and made them fast; I prayed and anointed them, and performed all that I saw fit. And the women were cured and became sound of mind. I confessed them and gave them Communion. They lived under my roof and prayed, and they loved me and did not go home. He learned that I had acquired two spiritual daughters, and was again greatly enraged against me; and, more than ever, he wanted to burn me alive: “You have extorted my secrets from them!” he cried. Now how could I have given them Communion without confession? And without Communion the evil one cannot be entirely cast out. The devil is not a poltroon; he does not fear the cudgel: he fears the Cross of Christ, holy water and holy oil, but he is completely routed before the body of Christ. I know not how to heal otherwise than by these sacraments.

In our Orthodox faith, Communion cannot be given without confession; it is done in the Roman faith, where confession is neglected, but for us who practise Orthodoxy, it is not fitting; in any case we must seek penance.

Pashkov took the two widows away from me. Instead of thanks, all I received was abuse. He thought that Christ’s work had been perfected, but the women carried on more evilly than before. He locked them up in an empty house, letting no one go near them, and summoned a monk to attend them, but they threw logs at him, so he dragged himself away. In my home, I wept, knowing not what I should do. I dared not go to his house, for his animosity towards me was very great. I sent them holy water in private, telling them to wash in it and drink it: so they, poor things, were somewhat relieved. Then they visited me secretly, and I anointed them in the name of Christ, and once more, thank God, they were healed, and they returned to their home; but they would come running to me under cover of darkness to pray to God. They became good spiritual children; all derangement left them, and afterwards they went to live with their lady at the Voznesensky Monastery. Glory be to God for them.

From the Nercha River we turned back once more to Russia. For five weeks we drove on icy roads in our sleighs. They gave me two nags to draw the children and the baggage. Dame Avvakum and myself journeyed on foot, stumbling on the ice. We travelled through a barbarous land, the natives were hostile; we dared not lag behind and could not keep up with the horses. We were hungry and weary. Dame Avvakum, poor thing, tramped on and on, and then she would fall. It was exceedingly slippery, and once another man, no less weary, stumbled over her and fell too. Both cried out and could not get to their feet again. The man cried: “Oh, good mother, dear lady, pardon me!” And she: “Do you want to crush me?” I came up to her, and she, poor lady, put all the blame on me: “How long, Archpriest, are we to suffer thus?” I answered: “Until our very death, Markovna!” And she replied, with a sigh: “So be it, Petrovich, let us plod on.”

We had a little black hen that would lay two eggs a day for the feeding of our children, by the will of God, helping us in our need. Thus had the Lord ordained. But during our journey by sleigh, the little hen was crushed to death, for our sins, and even today I am sorry for that fowl, every time I think of her. ‘Twas no ordinary hen, but a real miracle-worker; she laid her eggs all the year round and every day; a hundred roubles for her? – spittle and trash! That little bird, a creature of God, fed us, and would peck in the pan where our broth of pine was cooking; or else, if we had fish, she would peck at it too, and she would give us two eggs a day. Glory to God, who has ordered all things well!

The way we got that little hen was extraordinary too. All our lady’s hens had become blind and were dying; she placed them in a basket and sent them to me: “Let Father come and pray for the hens.” And I said to myself, she is our provider and has small children, she needs these chickens. I chanted prayers, blessed the water, and sprinkled the hens with it and incensed them. Then I went into the woods and made them a trough to feed in, and sprinkled it and sent it to her. The fowl recovered and grew strong, by the hand of God and thanks to the lady’s faith. Our hen was of that brood. But enough of this; ’tis nothing new, that Christ does these things. Cosmas and Damian in their day blessed and healed both man and beast in the name of Christ. All things are good in the eyes of God. Cattle and fowl have been made for the glory of the great undefiled Lord, and also for the good of man.

Then we journeyed back to the Lake Irgen. My lady took pity on us, and sent us a pan of wheat, and we had pudding to eat. Eudokia Kirillovna was out true provider, but with her too the devil prompted me to quarrel, and this is how it happened. She had a son, Simeon, who was born in that land. I had churched the mother and baptized the child, and each day she sent her son to me, that I should bless him; I would bless him with the cross and sprinkle him with holy water, and kiss him and let him go. The child was healthy and strong, but one day, when I was away, he became sick. The lady, angry with me and faint of heart, sent the baby to a witch-doctor. When I was informed of this, I was angry with her in turn, and so there was a bitter quarrel between us. The child grew worse, his right arm and leg became like sticks. Seized with remorse, she knew not what to do, and God struck even more heavily. The child was well-nigh dead, and the nurses came to me weeping, and I said: “Since she’s a wicked woman, leave her alone!” And I waited for her repentance. I saw that the devil had hardened her heart, and I prayed for her, asking the Lord to bring her back to reason. And the Lord, God of mercy, freshened the arid fields of her heart; in the morning, she sent me her second son, John. Weeping, he begged my forgiveness for his mother, bowing low by my stove. I was lying on the stove, naked under some birch-bark; Dame Avvakum was in the stove, and the children lying about here and there. It was raining, and we had nothing to cover ourselves with, and water was leaking through the roof into our shack. We were managing as well as we could. In order to mortify the lady, I sent this message to her: “Tell your mother to beg Aretha, the witch-doctor, for this grace.” Then they brought the child to me; she ordered him to be laid before me. They were all weeping and bowing. I rose, picked up my stole from the mud, and found the holy oil; having prayed and incensed the child, I anointed him and blessed him with the cross. And he – it was God’s action – was healed, and his hand and leg became sound. I gave him holy water to drink and sent him back to his mother. Observe, you who listen to me, how great a virtue there is in a mother’s contrition; she healed her own heart and restored her child’s health. But what of that? ‘Tis not only from this day that there is a God for penitents.

In the morning, she sent some fish and pies for us, who were starving; indeed it was a timely gift. From that day on, I made my peace with her. After she came back from Dauria, she died in Moscow, dear little lady, and I buried her in the Assumption Monastery.

Pashkov had heard the story of the child; she had told him about it. Then I went to him and he said, bowing low: “God save you, you have been a father to us, you have forgotten our evil doings.” It was his favorite grandson; he had baptized the child and had been deeply grieved on his account. And at that time he sent us much food.

But soon he wanted to put me to torture once more; listen to the reason for this: He had sent his son Jeremy on a military expedition to the kingdom of the Mongols. There were seventytwo Cossacks and twenty native soldiers with him. And he ordered one of the natives to act as “shaman” – that is, a soothsayer: Would the campaign be successful and would they return victorious? Now one night this magician brought a live ram close to my but and started to work his spell over it; he spun the ram round and round, twisted its neck off, and cast away its head. Then he started jumping and dancing and invoking the devils; with loud shouts, he flung himself on the ground, foaming at the mouth. The devils pressed upon him, and he asked them: “Will the campaign be successful?” And the devils answered: “You will return with great fame and much booty.” The captains were delighted and they all joyfully declared: “We shall come back rich!”

Oh, my heart was bitter, and it has not yet softened! Bad shepherd that I was, I lost my sheep. In my grief I forgot what is said in the Gospels when the sons of Zebedee questioned Our Lord about the stubborn townsmen: “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them? And turning, He rebuked them, saying: You know not of what spirit you are. The son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save. And they went into another town.” But I, accursed one, did not do this! In my sheepfold, I cried out to God: “Hear me, Lord, hear me, radiant King of Heaven, let not one of them return! Prepare a grave for them all in that land. Visit evil upon them, visit them, O Lord; let them perish, so that the diabolical prophecy may not be fulfilled.” And I uttered many other words to that effect, and in secret I prayed to God silently in like manner. They told him about these prayers I had said, but he was content with reproving me. He sent his son with the soldiers. They left by night, under the stars. Then I began to pity them; in a vision I saw, with the eyes of my soul, their defeat and massacre – and I had called down this disaster upon them! Some of them came to bid me farewell, and I said to them: “You shall perish in that land.”

As they departed, their horses began to neigh and the cows to low, the sheep and goats to bleat, the dogs to howl, and the natives likewise began to howl like dogs. Panic had gripped them all. Jeremy sent me an urgent message – “Lord Father, pray for me” – and I was full of pity for him. He was my friend in secret and had suffered for me. When his father beat me, he had tried to stay his hand, and Pashkov had pursued his son with his sword.

And so they rode away to war. I had pity on Jeremy and began to solicit God most urgently to spare him. They were expected home, but on the appointed day they did not return. Pashkov would not let me come near him. He had a torture-chamber made ready and a fire lighted; he intended to torture me. I recited the prayer of the dying, for I knew his kind of cooking, and that few survived his fire. I waited for them to come and seize me; and sitting there, I said to my wife and children: “Let God’s will be done. ‘For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord.'” Marvellous are the works of God, and ineffable the ways of the Lord! For at that very moment Jeremy, wounded and accompanied by another horseman, rode past my house and yard. He beckoned to the executioners and led them away. Pashkov came out of the torture-chamber and went to meet his son like a man drunk with grief. Then, having exchanged greetings with his father, Jeremy related to him everything in detail: how his troops had been massacred to the last man and a native had helped him escape through desert country; how he had roamed for seven days over rocky hills and in the forests, without food (he had eaten one squirrel); and how in his sleep there had appeared to him a man resembling me, who had shown him the way and had blessed him; and joyfully springing to his feet, he had found the right way. As Jeremy was telling his story to his father, I came in to greet them both. And Pashkov, lifting his eyes to me – the very image of a white sea-bear he was – was ready to devour me alive, but the Lord would not deliver me to him.

He only heaved a sigh and said: “So that’s what you’ve been doing! How many men have you destroyed?” But Jeremy said to me: “My lord Father, pray you, go home and say nothing.” And I went away.

For ten years he torrhented me-or I him, I know not which! God will decide on the day of judgment. Then he was appointed to a new post, and I received a letter; I was to return to Moscow. Pashkov left but did not take me with him. He said to himself: “If he journeys alone, the natives will kill him.” He sailed in boats with men and weapons, and I learned from the natives that he was shaking with fear. One month after his departure, I gathered the old, the sick and the wounded, who were of no use over there, about ten men – with my wife and children, seventeen persons in all – and we got on a boat; trusting in Christ and with a cross on our prow, we sailed by the grace of God, afraid of nothing.

I gave the bailiff the Book of the Pilot (of the Canon Law), and he in exchange gave me a pilot to steer our boat. And I ransomed my friend Basil, the same one who, under Pashkov, had denounced his companions and shed their blood, and who had sought my own head. One day, after beating me, he was going to impale me, but once again, God saved me. After Pashkov left, the Cossacks wanted to kill him, but I obtained his pardon in the name of Christ, and I paid the ranson and took him to Russia, out of death to life. Let the poor wretch repent of his sins. And I took with me another lout of the same breed; they would not give him up to me, and he ran away into the woods to escape death; waiting until I should pass by, he threw himself weeping into my boat. They started in pursuit of him, and I knew not where to hide him. Then, may I be pardoned, I committed a sin; as Rahab, the harlot of Jericho, hid the men of Joshuah, the son of Nun, even so did I hide him in the bottom of the boat, and threw our bedding over him and told Dame Avvakum and my daughter to lie down. The men hunted everywhere for him but did not disturb my wife. They only said to her: “Take some rest, mother, you have suffered enough grief.” And I, forgive me for the love of God, lied at that time, saying: “Nay, he is not here.” I did not want to give him up to destruction. So, having looked all around, they went away, and I took him back to Russia.

The bailiff gave me some ten pounds of flour and a cow and six lambs and some dried meat. We lived on that all summer on the river. He was a good man, that bailiff. He had been godfather to my daughter Xenia. She was born in Pashkov’s days, and he would not give me chrism and oil; so she had not been christened for a long time. I baptized her after he was gone. I myself churched my wife and baptized the children, with the bailiff as godfather and my elder daughter as godmother, while I acted as priest for them. In the same way I baptized my son Afanasy, and saying mass on the Mezen, I gave him Communion. I confessed my children and gave them Holy Communion, but could not do so for my wife, it is thus written in the Canon Law, and we must act accordingly.

Thus we left Dauria. Food became scarce, so I prayed to God together with my companions, and Christ sent us a buffalo, a huge beast. Thanks to this we reached Lake Baikal. A number of Russians had come to the shores of this lake, sable-hunters and fishermen. They were glad to welcome us, and they dragged our boat high onto the rocky shore. The good Terenty and his companions wept at the sight of us, and we looked at them. They gave us plenty of food, as much as we needed, about forty fresh sturgeons, saying: “Let this be your share, Father, God put them in our nets, take them all.” I bowed to them, blessed the fish, and told the fishermen to take it back. What should I do with so much food? After we had stayed with them for awhile, I had to accept some of their supplies, and having repaired our boat and rigged up a sail with a woman’s old smock, we started across the lake.

During the crossing the wind fell, and we had to use our oars. In that place the lake is not very wide, only eighty to one hundred versts or so. When we reached the other shore, a storm began to blow up, and we could scarcely land because of the waves. From the shore rose steep hills and sheer cliffs. I have dragged myself twenty thousand versts and more, but never have I seen such high mountains. And their summits are crowned with halls and turrets, pillars and gates, and walls and courts, all made by the hand of God. In those hills grow garlic and onion, the bulbs larger than those of Romanov onions, and very sweet. And there is also hemp, sown by God’s hand, and in the courts, beautiful grass and sweet-smelling flowers. There are wild fowl in great number geese and swans floating on the lake, like snow. And there are also fish: sturgeon and salmontrout, sterlet and omul and white-fish, and many other kinds. This is a fresh-water lake, but great seals and sea-hares live in it. I never saw the like in the great ocean, when I lived on the Mezen River. And the fish is abundant; the sturgeon and salmon-trout are so fleshy, one cannot fry them in a skillet, it would be nothing but fat. And all this has been created by Christ for man, that he should find pleasure in it and praise God. But man, who is enslaved by vanity – his days pass like a shadow; he leaps, like a goat; he puffs himself out, like a bubble; he rages, like the lynx; seeks to devour, like a serpent; at the sight of another’s beauty, he neighs like a foal; is wily, like the devil; having had his fill, he falls asleep without observing the rule of prayer. He puts off repentance until the day when he shall be old, and then he is vanished, I know not where, into the light or into the darkness. It shall be revealed upon the day of Judgment. Pardon me, I have sinned more than any man.

Then we reached the towns of Russia, and I became aware, concerning the Church, that “it prevailed nothing, but rather a tumult was made.” I was saddened, and sitting myself down, I reflected: What am I to do? must I preach the word of Christ or go into hiding? For I was bound to wife and children. Seeing my distress, Dame Avvakum came up to me respectfully and asked: “What troubles you, my lord?” And I told her everything in detail: “Wife, what shall I do? ‘Tis the winter of heresy. Shall I speak or be silent? You have shackled me.” And she replied: “God forgive! What say you, Petrovich? Did you not read the words of the Apostle: ‘Art thou bound to a wife, seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek no wife.’ I and the children bless you. Continue to preach the word of God as fearlessly as before, and be not concerned about us, as long as God shall allow it. If we are separated, then do not forget us in your prayers. Christ is mighty and will not abandon us. Go, go to church, Petrovich, and convict the heretics of their whoredom!”

At these words, I bowed to her, and, having shaken off my grievous blindness, I began once more to preach the word of God and to teach in towns and everywhere, and boldly to condemn Nikon’s heresy.

I spent the winter at Yeniseisk; that summer I sailed once more, and I spent the second winter at Tobolsk. And on my way to Moscow, in all the towns and villages, in churches and in market-places, I cried out, preaching the word of God, teaching, and condemning the godless heresy. Then I arrived in Moscow. It had taken me three years to journey from Dauria; and to reach that land, I had toiled upstream for five years. In those days, I had been taken further and further east, amidst the camps and dwellings of the natives. It would take much telling. Several times I fell into the hands of the natives: on the great river Ob, twenty Christians perished before my eyes, and having taken counsel concerning me, they let me go. Another time, on the Irtish River, they assembled in wait for our men from Berezov and their boat, in order to slay them. Unaware of their designs, I went to them and landed on their shore. They surrounded us, armed with bows, and I went up to them and embraced them as if they were monks, saying: “Christ be with me and with you also.” And their hearts softened toward me, and they brought me their wives. Dame Avvakum played the hypocrite with them, in the flattering way of intercourse in the world. So the women were coaxed into kindliness – and it is well enough known that when women are kind, then all are kind in Christ. So the men put away their bows and arrows. I bought some bear furs from them, and they let me go. When I arrived in Tobolsk, I related what had happened, and everyone marvelled, for throughout Siberia, Bashkirs and Tatars were at war in those days, and I, trusting in Christ, had journeyed among them. When I reached Verkboturie, my friend Ivan Bogdanovich Kaminin was also greatly surprised at seeing me. He asked me: “How did you pass through?” I answered: “God carried me through, and His most Holy Mother guided me. I am afraid of no one. I fear Christ alone.”

Then I arrived in Moscow and the Tsar received me joyfully, as if I were an angel of God. I went to Fedor Rtishchev; 22 he came out of his chamber to meet me, asked for my blessing, and we talked for a long while: he would not let me go for three days and three nights, and then he announced my presence to the Tsar. The Tsar immediately received me in audience and spoke to me kindly: “How fares it with you, Archpriest? God has let us meet once more.” I kissed his hand and pressed it, answering: “God lives and my soul lives, Tsar, my Lord! From now on, It will be as God ordains.” And he, dear soul, sighed and went to attend to some business. We had spoken a few words more, but it is no use recalling them, it all belongs to the past. He ordered that I should be given lodgings in a monastery in the Kremlin; when he passed my house, he would bow to me, saying: “Bless me and pray for me.” One day, as he rode by on horseback, he took off his hat. And when he drove in a carriage, he would lean out of the window to see me. And all the boyars did as much, each one bowing to me: “Archpriest, bless us and pray for us.”

How should one not pity such a Tsar and such boyars? Yes, indeed, they are to be pitied. See how good they were, offering me parishes to choose from, and even suggesting that I should become confessor to the Tsar, if only I would consent to be reunited to them. I counted all this as dung, that I might gain Christ, thinking of death, for all these things pass away.

When I was still in Tobolsk, I had received a warning in a light sleep: “Beware that you be not slit in two by Me.” Seized with great fear, I sprang to my feet and fell before the icon, saying: “Lord, I shall not go there, where they chant the office according to the new way.” I had attended Matins at the Cathedral for the namesday of a princess; I had committed the folly of entering that church in the presence of the governors; and upon my arrival, two or three times I had watched the celebration of the oblation, 23 standing in the sanctuary near the sacrificial table; and I had reproved them for the way they celebrated, but when I grew accustomed to it, I did not scold any more. I was stung by the spirit of the Antichrist. And my dear Lord Christ put fear into my soul: “Do you want to perish after so much suffering? Beware lest I slit you in two.” I did not go to the Mass, but I went to dine with the prince and told them everything. And the good boyar, Prince Ivan Andreievich Khilkov, 24 began to weep. Accursed am I, if I forget God’s mercy.

They saw that I was not going to be reconciled with them. So the Tsar ordered Rodion Streshnev to persuade me to be silent. And I did so, in order to please him. He was the Godestablished Tsar, and good to me. I hoped he would advance little by little. On St. Simeon’s day 25 I was promised an appointment to the Printing Office, to correct the books, and I was extremely pleased; I liked this better than being confessor to the Tsar. He did me a favor, sending me ten rubles, and the Tsarina gave me ten rubles; and Lucas, the Tsar’s confessor, ten; and Rodion Streshnev, ten. As for my old friend Fedor Rtishchev, he told his treasurer to put sixty rubles in my bonnet – to say nothing of the others. Each one brought me something or other.

I spent all my time with my dear Feodosia Prokofievna Morozova, for she was my spiritual daughter; and so was her sister, Princess Eudokia Prokofievna, dear martyrs in Christ! I likewise visited Anna Petrovna Miloslavsky constantly, and I went to Fedor Rtishchev, to have disputes with the apostates. I lived in this manner for about half a year.

Then I saw that “it availed nothing” in the Church, “but that rather a tumult was made,” and so I began once more to grumble. I wrote a long letter to the Tsar, asking him to reestablish the old ways of piety, to defend our common mother, Holy Church, against heresy, and to place on the patriarchal throne an Orthodox pastor instead of the wolf and apostate Nikon, scoundrel and heretic. When I had finished writing, I fell seriously ill; and I sent the letter to be given to the Tsar on his journey by my spiritual son, Theodore, fool in Christ, who was afterwards hanged by the apostates on the Mezen. Theodore boldly approached the Tsar’s carriage, letter in hand, and the Tsar had him arrested and taken under the grand staircase of the palace. He did not know that the letter was from me. Then, taking it from Theodore’s hands, he let him go.

From that time on the Tsar was hostile towards me. He did not like my speaking again. He wanted me to be silent, but this did not suit me. And the bishops sprang on me like goats. They wanted to exile me once more from Moscow, for many came to me in Christ’s name, and, when they had heard the truth, gave up attendng their mendacious services. The Tsar reprimanded me: “The bishops complain of you, they say you have emptied the churches. You shall be exiled once more.” It was Boyar Peter Mikhailovich Saltikov who brought me the message. They took me to Mezen. The good people had given me many things in the name of Christ, but I had to leave everything behind and was accompanied on my journey only by my wife, children and family. And again I taught the people of God in the towns and condemned the piebald beasts. So they brought me to Mezen. 26 After holding me there a year and a half, they took me back to Moscow with two of my sons, Ivan and Procopy. Dame Avvakum and all the others remained at Mezen. Having brought me to Moscow, they first took me to the Monastery of St. Paphnutius. 27 And there they sent me a message, always repeating the same thing: “How long will you torment us? Reunite yourself with us, dear brother Avvakum.” I rejected them like the devils, and they flew into my eyes. And I wrote a long and wrathful declaration and sent it through Cosmas, deacon of Yaroslavl and clerk in the Patriarch’s chancery. This Cosmas was I know not what kind of man. In public he tried to persuade me, and in private he upheld me, saying: “Archpriest, do not renounce the old (way of) piety. You will be a man great in the eyes of God if you suffer to the end. Do not heed us if we perish.” And I said to him that he should return to Christ. He answered: “This I cannot do; Nikon has caught me in his snares.” To say the truth, the poor man had renounced Christ for Nikon and could not get back on his feet. I wept, blessed him, poor wretch; that was all I could do for him. God knows how it will go with him.

Thus, after I had spent ten weeks in chains at the Monastery of St. Paphnutius they took me back to Moscow, an exhausted man on an old nag; a guard behind me, a guard in front of me. Whip your horse and on you ride! At times, the horse would fall into the mud, its four legs in the air, and I tumbling over its head. One day we galloped ninety versts and I was half dead at the end of it. In Moscow, at the Patriarch’s chapel, the bishops held a disputation with me. Then I was led to the cathedral, and after the Great Entry I was shorn, together with Deacon Theodore; they cursed me, and I cursed them. Great indeed was the tumult at that Mass. Having stayed some time at the Patriarch’s Court, I was taken by night to the Chamber of the Palace. There a colonel examined me and sent me to the Secret Gates on the Waterfront. I supposed that they would throw me into the river, but here Dementy Bashmakov, the man of Private Affairs and the agent of Antichrist, awaited me. He said to me: “Archpriest, the Tsar ordered me to tell you: ‘Fear no one; place your trust in me.’ I bowed to him, saying: “My thanks for his favor. What security has he for me? My trust is in Christ.” Then they led me over the bridge to the other bank of the river, and on my way, I said to myself: “Put not your trust in princes, in the children of men in whom there is no salvation.”

Then officer Joseph Salov and his musketeers took me to St. Nicholas’ Monastery at Ugresha. 28 They sheared off my beard, the enemies of God! And why not? They are wolves and have no pity for the sheep. They tore off all my hair – the dogs! – leaving but a forelock, such as the Poles have on their heads. They drove us to the monastery, not along the roads, but through marshes and mire, so that people should not see us. They were well aware of their folly, but were unable to give it up. The devil had clouded their minds. How can we blame them? Were it not they, it would be others. The time is at hand when, according to the Gospels: “It must needs be that scandals come.” And the other evangelists teaches us: “It is impossible that scandals should not come. But woe to him through whom they come.”

Take heed, you who listen to me: Our misfortune is inevitable, we cannot escape it. If God allows scandals, it is that the elect shall be revealed. Let them be burned, let them be purified, let them who have been tried be made manifest among you. Satan has obtained our radiant Russia from God, so that she may become crimson with the blood of martyrs. Well planned, devil! It pleases us, too, to suffer for our dear Christ’s sake.

At St. Nicholas I was locked up in a cold hall above the icecellar for seventeen weeks. There I had a vision sent by God. You may read about it in my letter to the Tsar. 29 And the Tsar came to the monastery and walked around my prison and sighed, but did not come in to see me. They had prepared the road and sprinkled it with sand. He thought and thought, and did not come in. I think he pitied me, but such was the will of God. When I had been shorn, there had been a great dispute at the palace between the Tsar and the late Tsarina. The dear lady was at that time on our side, and she had preserved me from mutilation. 30 There would be much to say about that. May God forgive them. I do not hold them responsible for my sufferings, not even in the other world; it is fitting that I should pray for them, alive or dead. The devil has cleft us in two, but they were always kind to me. Enough of this.

Then they took me once more to the monastery of St. Paphnutius and locked me up in a dark hall and kept me in chains for a little less than a year. Here Nicodemus, the cellarer, was good to me in the beginning, but hater he became cruel, poor wretch. He well-nigh suffocated me, blocking the windows and the door, so that there was no vent for the smoke. The nobleman Ivan Bogdanovich Kaminin, a good man, who provided an endowment for the monastery, came to see me; he reprimanded the cellarer and tore off the shutters of bark and all the rest, and from that day on I had a window and air to breathe. But why be surprised at that cellarer? He had drunk of that tobaccoplant, sixty pounds of which were discovered at the house of the Bishop of Gaza, together with a lute and other objects for merrymaking. 31 I have sinned, forgive me; ’tis none of my business, but his own; let him stand or fall before his Master. I just happened to mention it. Such were the teachers of God’s law most favored among them.

On Easter day I asked this cellarer Nicodemus to let me breathe and sit awhile on the threshold before the open door. But he abused me and cruelly refused my request; such was his whim. Then, when he went to his cell, he was taken mortally sick, so that he was anointed and given Communion, and he could scarcely breathe. This took place on Easter Monday, and on Tuesday night, there came to him a man resembling me, holding a censer in his hand and clad in radiant vestments. Having incensed Nicodemus, he took him by the hand and raised him, and he was healed. That very night Nicodemus came to my dungeon accompanied by his serving-man. On his way, he said: “Blessed is this monastery for containing such a dungeon! Blessed is the dungeon for containing such sufferers! Blessed also are the fetters!” And he fell at my feet, seizing my chain and saying: “Forgive, in the name of the Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned before God and before you. I have offended you, and therefore God has punished me.” I asked him: “Tell me, how did God punish you?” And he: “You, yourself, came, and having incensed me, you did me the favor of raising me. Why do you conceal this?” And the servant who stood at his side added: “Lord Father, I myself led you out of the cell, supporting you and bowing to you. And you came back here.” I ordered that this secret should be revealed to no one. He asked my advice, how he should live from now on for Christ. Should I order him to go and live in the wilderness? I admonished him and bade him not to give up his functions of cellarer, but to observe, at least in secret, the old traditions of the Fathers. He, having bowed to me, retired, and next morning, at the refectory, he related everything to the brethren. Then people came to me boldly and openly, requesting my prayers and my blessing.

And I taught them from the Scriptures and healed them with the word of God. At that time, even such enemies as I had, made peace with me. Alas, when shall I emerge from this time of vanity? It has been said: “Woe to you when men shall bless you.” In truth, I know not how I shall endure to the end. Good deeds there have been none, and yet God glorified me. He knows, ’tis His will!

There also came to me in secret, with my children, the late Theodore, the same that was to be hanged. He consulted me: “Shall I wear my shift, as before, or must I put on other garments? The heretics are after me, seeking to destroy me.” And he said: “I was at Riazan, under penance, in the Archbishop’s court, and he, Hilarion, tormented me cruelly. Few days passed without a thrashing, and he held me in chains, forcing on me the new sacraments of the Antichrist. I was exhausted, and in the night I prayed and wept, saying: ‘Lord, if Thou dost not save me, they will defile me and I shall perish. What then wilt Thou do to me?’ And thus I went on, weeping; and suddenly, Father, my chains fell rattling to the ground, and the door was unlocked and opened of itself. Bowing before God, I went forth; I came to the gates, and they too were open, so I took the Moscow road. At dawn they started in pursuit on horseback. Three men rode past me without seeing me. Trusting in Christ, I went my way. And soon they turned back and passed me once more, complaining: ‘The son of a harlot has escaped us, where shall we find him now?’ And again they rode by and did not see me. And finally I reached Moscow. Now I have come to ask you: Must I go on suffering tortures, or shall I put on garments and live in Moscow?” And I, miserable sinner, ordered him to put on garments and to live in obscurity among men. But I did not save him from the hands of the heretics. They had him strangled on the Mezen, hanging him on the gallows. Eternal remembrance to him and to Luke Lavrentievich. My dear little ones, they suffered for Christ’s sake! Glory be to God for them!

That Theodore had led a life of great austerity. In the daytime he behaved like a fool in Christ, 32 and he spent the night in weeping and praying. I have known many a good man, but never such an ascetic. He stayed with me six months in Moscow; I was still sick at the time. We lived in the back room. He would lie down for not more than an hour or two, and then he would rise and make a thousand prostrations; and at other times he would sit on the floor, or stand, weeping for three hours at a time. Meanwhile, I would lie there, sleeping or restless with pain. And he, having wept his fill, would come up to me, saying: “Look here, Archpriest, how long will you lie there? Only think, you are a priest! Shame upon you!” And he would end by dragging me out of bed; and he made me say my prayers seated there, he doing the prostrations for me. He was my friend true of heart.

And now I shall tell you again about my tribulations. From St. Paphnutius, they took me back to Moscow and placed me in the court of the Monastery. And they dragged me many times to the Chudov Monastery, before the ecumenical patriarchs; and our bishops all sat there like foxes. 33 I discussed many things with the patriarchs in the words of the Scriptures. God opened my sinful lips and Christ confounded them. Their last words to me were: “Why are you stubborn? All our people of Palestine, and the Serbs, and the Albanians and Valachians and Romans and Poles, all cross themselves with three fingers. You alone in your obstinacy cross yourself with two fingers. This is not fitting.” And I, miserable wretch, how bitter I felt! But I could do nothing. I reproved them as well as I could, and my last word was: “I am uncorrupted, and I shake the dust from my feet, for it is written: ‘better is one that feareth God, than a thousand ungodly.’ ” So they cried out even louder against me: “Take him, take him, he has dishonored us all.” And they began to shove me and beat me. And the patriarchs themselves rushed at me; about forty of them, I believe – ’twas a great army of the Antichrist that had mustered. Ivan Uvarov seized me and dragged me along; and I cried: “Hy, wait, don’t beat me!” They staggered back and I said to the interpreter, an archimandrite: “Tell the patriarchs: Paul the Apostle says: ‘It was fitting that we should have such a high-priest, holy, innocent,’ and so forth. But you, how shall you celebrate Mass after beating a man?” Then they were seated, and I retired to the door and lay down on my side, saying: “Stay seated, and I shall lie down for a while.” They laughed and said: “This Archpriest is a fool, without respect for patriarchs.” I answered: “We are fools for Christ’s sake … we are weak but you are strong, you are honorable, but we are without honor.” Then the bishops returned and began to discuss the Alleluia, and Christ helped me to confound their Roman heresy with the help of Dionysius the Areopagite. And Euthymius, the cellarer of the Chudov Monastery, said to me: “You are right; it is of no use to discuss anything further with you.”

So they put me in chains; the Tsar sent an officer and musketeers, and they led me to the Vorobiev hills. With me were the priest Lazarus and the monk Epiphanius, shorn and abused as if they were village peasants, the dear souls! A man in his senses could only weep at the look of them. But let them suffer, why be troubled on their account? Christ was better than they, and yet – our beloved! – He had to suffer as much from their forefathers, Annas and Caiaphas. Why wonder at the men of today? They imitate their model. It is on their account we should be troubled, the wretches! Alas, poor Niconians! You shall perish of your wicked and stubborn tempers!

Then we were returned to Moscow, to the court of the St. Nicholas Monastery, and again they sought from us a profession of orthodoxy. And the gentlemen of the bedchamber, Artemon and Dementy, were sent to me many a time, and they repeated the Tsar’s words to me: “Archpriest, I know your innocent, spotless, and godly life. I ask your blessing, together with the Tsarina and my children. Pray for us.” Thus spoke the messenger, bowing, and I always wept for the Tsar. I had the greatest pity for him. And he went on: “I pray you, listen to me, reunite yourself with the ecumenical patriarchs, at least in part.” I answered: “Let me die if God wills it so, but I will not be reunited with the apostates. You are my Tsar – but they? – what have they got to do with you? They have lost their own Tsar, and now they drag themselves here to devour you! I will not lower my arms, which are lifted to heaven, until God shall give you back to me!” There were many messages of this kind. One thing and another was discussed. Their last word was: “Wherever you are, do not forget us in your prayers.” Even today, miserable sinner that I am, I pray for him as well as I can.

Then, after mutilating our brothers, but not me, they banished us to Pustozersk. 34 From there I wrote two letters to the Tsar, the first one short, and the second, longer. I told him various things, among them, of certain signs that God had shown me in my prisons. Let him who reads understand. Moreover, I and the brethren sent, as a gift to the followers of the true faith in Moscow, the Deacon’s manuscript entitled Answer of the Orthodox, along with a condemnation of heresy and apostasy. It declared the truth about the dogmas of the Church. And two letters were also sent to the Tsar by the priest Lazarus. And for all this, we too received some gifts in return: in my house on the Mezen they hanged two men, spiritual children of mine, Theodore, the fool in Christ already mentioned, and Luke Lavrentievich, servants of Christ.

At that time came the order that my own two sons, Ivan and Procopy, should be hanged, but they, poor wretches, lost their heads and missed the chance to seize the crown of victory; fearing death, they made submission. So, with their mother, were they imprisoned underground. There you are: death in the absence of death! May you repent in your prison, while the devil thinks of some other device. Death is terrifying? Little wonder! There was a time when Peter, the dear friend of Christ, was a traitor, and went out and wept bitterly, and was forgiven because of his tears! So why should we wonder about these children! ‘Twas because of my sins that their weakness was permitted. Well, so be it. Christ has power over our forgiveness and our salvation!

After that, the same officer Ivan Yelagin who had been with us at Mezen came to Pustozersk, and he received from us a profession which ran thus: “Such and such a year and month. We inalterably observe the traditions of the Holy Fathers, and we anathematize the heretical assembly of Pa•sius, the Patriarch of Palestine, and his followers.” And this profession declared many other things, and Nikon, the maker of heresies, received his share in it. For this we were taken to the scaffold, and the verdict was read to us; I was taken to prison without mutilation. The verdict stated: “Let Avvakum be imprisoned in a wooden framework underground and be given only bread and water. In answer, I spat. I wanted to starve myself to death, and did not eat for eight days and more, until the brethren ordered me to eat again.

They took the priest Lazarus and cut his tongue out of his throat; there was little blood, and soon it stopped flowing. And he went on speaking, without a tongue. Then, placing his right hand on the scaffold, they cut it off at the wrist, and as the severed hand lay on the ground, the fingers disposed themselves for the sign of the Cross according to tradition – and the hand remained thus for a long time for people to see, making its profession of faith, poor thing! I myself marvelled at this; the lifeless condemning the living! On the third day I put my finger in his mouth; it was smooth, tongueless, but he felt no pain. God healed him in no time. In Moscow they had cut part of his tongue, some of it had remained. But this time, they plucked it out entirely. And for two years he could speak as clearly as though he had a tongue. After two years there was another miracle: in three days there grew in his mouth another tongue only a little blunt, but he praised God constantly and condemned the apostates.

Then they took the hermit from Solovki, a monk of strict observance, the elder Epiphany, and also cut out the whole of his tongue and severed four fingers from his hand. And at first he spoke with difficulty. Then he prayed to the immaculate Mother of God, and in a vision two tongues were shown to him: the tongue of Moscow and that of this land, suspended in mid-air. Taking one of them, he placed it in his mouth, and from that day on he could speak clearly and distinctly, and a perfect tongue grew in his mouth. Marvellous are the works of God and ineffable the ways of the Lord. He permits execution, and then again heals and forgives. But why speak of it at length? God is of old a miracle-worker.

Then they covered us with earth. They placed a wooden framework under the earth and another one nearby, and a common enclosure around them with four locks, and guards were placed before the prison doors. And we, imprisoned here and everywhere – sing before our Lord Christ, Son of God, a canticle such as Solomon sang as he looked upon his mother, Bathsheba.

Having first gone from us to Mezen, Pilate 35 journeyed to Moscow. And in Moscow the rest of us were roasted and baked. They burned Isaiah and they burned Abraham, and a great many other champions of the Church were annihilated. God will count their numbers. It is amazing that the Niconians refuse to regain their senses: they propose to establish the faith through fire, whip and gallows. Who were the apostles that taught them these things? I do not know. My Christ did not order His apostles to teach in this way, to lead men to the faith with fire, whip and gallows. He commanded the Apostles: “Go ye into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature.” 36

Now I beg the forgiveness of every true believer: there are things concerning my life of which perhaps I ought not to speak. But I have read the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul: the Apostles said of their deeds, when God was working through them: “Not unto us but to our God be the praise.” And I am nothing. I have said and I repeat: I am a sinner, a fornicator and a ravisher, thief and murderer, friend of publicans and sinners, and to every man a wretched hypocrite. So forgive me and pray for me; and I must pray for you who read me or listen to me. I can do no better, and what I do, I relate to men; let them pray to God for my sake. On the day of judgment they shall know my actions, for good or evil. I am untaught in words, but not in knowledge; I am not learned in dialectic, rhetoric and philosophy, but I have Christ’s wisdom within me. As the Apostle says: “Although I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge.”

Forgive me, and concerning my ignorance, I shall moreover tell you the following: yes, I foolishly transgressed my spiritual Father’s law; and because of this my house was punished. Listen, for the love of God, how this came about: at the time when I was still an ordinary priest, the Tsar’s confessor, Archpriest Stephen Vonifatievich, gave me as a blessing the icon of Metropolitan Philip and the book of St. Ephraem the Syrian, for my own profit and for that of others. But I, wretched one, ignoring the fatherly blessing and instructions, bartered that book against a horse of my cousin’s, because of his insistent demands. At that time my brother Yefimy was staying with me; he was experienced in the reading of books and zealous for the Church. Later he became the chief lector of the elder Princess, but died of the plague along with his wife. This Yefimy fed and watered the horse and cared for it in every way, very often neglecting his prayers on that account. God beheld our unrighteous conduct: I bartering the book and my brother neglecting prayer and giving all his attentions to a beast. And the Lord deigned to punish us in the following manner: devils began to torment the horse day and night; it was continually in a sweat and a state of exhaustion, more dead than alive. I did not as yet understand why the devil was after us. Once on Sunday, after supper, my brother Yefimy was reciting, at Lauds, the 119th psalm. Crying out: “Look down upon me and have mercy on me,” he dropped the book and fell to the ground, struck down by the devil, and he began to shriek and howl in dreadful tones, for the demons were tormenting him cruelly. I had staying with me two other brothers of mine, Cosmas and Gerasim, and although they were larger than he, they could not restrain him. And all those of my household, some thirty persons or so, were holding him and weeping and crying out: “Lord, have mercy upon us, we have sinned before Thee, we have outraged Thy bounty, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners! By the prayers of our Holy Fathers, forgive this youth!”

But he, even more bedevilled, howled and trembled and writhed in convulsions.

But at that moment, with the help of God, I did not let myself be troubled by that diabolical tumult. Having recited my Office, I prayed with tears to Christ and the Mother of God, saying: “Our Lady, most Holy Mother of God! Pray, show me for what sin I have deserved such punishment, so that knowing it, I may repent before your Son and you, and commit this sin no more!” And, weeping, I sent to the church, for the breviary and holy water, my spiritual son Symeon, about the same age as my Yefimy, fourteen years old or so; these two youths, Yefimy and Symeon were friends and associates, sustaining and comforting each other with books and prayer, both living in strict fasting and penance. Symeon wept over his friend, went to the church and brought back the book and the holy water. I started to recite over the bedevilled youth the prayers of Basil the Great, and Symeon assisted me; he tended the censer and the candles, and offered me the holy water; all the others held the possessed. I said the words of the prayer: “In the name of the Lord, I command thee, mute and deaf spirit, go out of this creature, do not reenter into him, but go into the deserts, where man liveth not, and God alone looketh down.” But the devil did not obey and did not go out of my brother. And again I repeated these words, but the devil did not obey, but tormented my brother even more than before. Oh, misfortune upon me! How shall I tell this? I am ashamed and do not dare! But according to the orders of the elder Epiphanius, I shall describe the way in which it occurred.

I took the censer and incensed the icons and the possessed, and then I fell on the bench and wept for a long time. Then, rising, I repeated the prayer of St. Basil and cried to the devil: “Go out of that creature.” The devil twisted my brother into a ring, and, writhing, went out of him and sat on the window; and my brother was like one dead. I sprinkled the window, and the devil came down and hid in the millstone corner; and my brother pointed at him, and again I sprinkled. The devil then climbed onto the stove, and my brother pointed there. Once more I sprinkled the holy water, and my brother pointed under the stove and crossed himself. I did not pursue the devil any further, but I gave my brother holy water to drink in the Lord’s name. And he sighed from the very depths of his heart and spoke to me thus: “God save you, Father, for having freed me from the prince of devils and his two princelings. My brother Avvakum will thank you for your kindness. And God bless that youth who went to fetch the book and the holy water and helped you to fight them. He was in the likeness of my friend Symeon. They brought me to the river Sundovik, and there they beat me, saying: “You have been delivered to us because your brother Avvakum bartered his book against a horse and because you loved that beast. So tell your brother to take the book and pay back the money to his cousin.” I said to him: “I, dear soul, am your brother.” And he answered: “How should you be my brother? You are my Father, you took me away from the prince and the princelings; as for my brother, he lives at Lopatishchi, and he will thank you.” 37 I gave him some more holy water to drink, and he took the vessel from my hands and wanted to drain it, so sweet was that water to him. And when there was no more, I rinsed the vessel and again made him drink, but he rejected it. I spent all that winter night tending him. I lay a while at his side, and then I went to Matins; and in my absence, the devils once more assailed him, but less vigorously.

When I came back from church, I anointed him, and again the devils went out of him and he was sound of mind. But he was weak, broken by the devils; he would glance at the stove and become fearful; when I left, the devils would return. I fought the devils like dogs for three weeks for my sins, until I took the book back and paid for it with money. I went to see my friend, Abbot Hilarion; he offered a particle from the Eucharistic bread for my brother’s recovery; in those days Hilarion led a good life, but since becoming Archbishop of Riazan, he has been a persecutor of the Christians. And I requested the help of other ecclesiastics for my brother; by their prayers they obtained forgiveness for us, miserable sinners, and my brother was freed from the devils. Such was the punishment for transgressing my father’s commandment. How, then, shall we be punished for violating the commandments of the Lord? Ah, we shall deserve but fire and torment! I know not how to pass my days! I am full of weakness and hypocrisy and enmeshed with lies! I am clothed with hatred and self-love! I am lost because I condemn all men; I think of myself as something, whereas I – accursed! – am but excrement and rot, yea, dung! Foul of soul and body. ‘Twould be good if I lived with pigs and dogs in their kennels; they too are evil-smelling, like my soul. Their stench is from nature, but I am evil-smelling because of my sins, like a dead dog left lying in the streets of the city. God bless the bishops who buried me underground; at least, giving out stench to myself for my sins, I offer no scandal to others. Yea, this is good.

And in Moscow also, upon my return from Siberia, I had with me a possessed man, Philip by name. He was chained to the wall in the corner of the house, for the devil in him was harsh and cruel, he beat and fought, and no one in my household could master him. And when I, miserable sinner, came up to him with the cross and holy water, he became obedient, and fell senseless before the cross of Christ and dared do nothing against me. And with the prayers of the Holy Fathers, the devil was cast out of him by the power of God, but his mind was not wholly restored. He was cared for by Theodore, the fool in Christ, who was afterwards hanged on the Mezen by the apostates. He recited the psalms over Philip and taught him the prayer of Jesus. I myself would be absent from my house in the daytime and could tend Philip only at night. One day I returned from Fedor Rtishchev filled with depression, for at this house I had engaged in much noisy quarreling with the heretics concerning the faith and the law. Meanwhile there was disorder in my own house: Dame Avvakum had quarreled with a servant-woman, the widow Fetinia; the devil had precipitated them into unreasoning anger against each other. When I entered the house, I beat them both and gave them great offence, because of my own sour temper: I sinned before God and before them. And then the devil was aroused in Philip and began to break his chain, raging and shrieking horribly. The servants were seized with panic, and there was a great tumult. I, without having repented, went up to him, wanting to tame him, but things did not go as usual. He seized me, and started to beat and thrash me, tearing at me as if I were a cob-web, crying out: “You have fallen into my hands!” I recited a prayer, but prayer without deeds is of no use. The servants could not tear me out of his hands; I gave myself up to him. I knew I had sinned, so let him beat me! But God works miracles: he beat me, but I felt no pain. Then he thrust me away from him, saying: I do not fear you.” And I was much aggrieved, saying to myself: “The devil has the better of me!” I lay down for a while and collected myself. Rising, I went and found my wife, and with tears asked her forgiveness, bowing to the ground before her and saying: “Nastasia Markovna, forgive me, miserable sinner. And she bowed to me in the same way. And I asked likewise Fetinia’s forgiveness. Then I lay down in the middle of the room and ordered each man to beat me with a scourge, each giving me five strokes on my wretched back. There were about twenty people, and my wife and children, and they all lashed me, weeping. I said: “He, who does not beat me, shall have no share with me in the Kingdom of Heaven.” And they beat me unwillingly and with tears, while I recited a prayer with each stroke. When every one of them had scourged me, I rose and asked their forgiveness, and the devil, seeing that it was inevitable, again went out of Philip. And I blessed him with the cross, and he was as before. Later, he wholly recovered, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Glory be to Him!

When I was an ordinary priest and had but begun my striving for perfection, this is the way the devil terrified me. My wife fell sick and her spiritual Father came to visit her. In the dead of night I went to the church to get the book for her confession. As I entered the porch, there was a small table there, which, by the devil’s device, began to jump about where it stood. And I, fearing nothing, prayed before the icon, and going up to the table, I made the sign of the cross and put it back into its place, and it stopped dancing around. As I came to the nave, there was another trick of the demons: a corpse lay in its coffin on the bench, and through a device of the devil, the lid of the coffin was lifted, and the shroud began to wave about, filling me with fear. And I, praying to God, blessed the dead, and everything was as before. As I entered the sanctuary, I saw the chasubles and dalmatics flying around, to frighten me. But I prayed and kissed the altar and blessed the vestments, and going up, touched them, and they hung motionless as before. So I took the book and left the church. Such are the devices of the devil against us. But enough of this! What is the power of the cross and of holy oil unable to perform on the possessed and on the sick, by the grace of God! And we must remember this: not for our sake and because of us, but to His own name doth God add glory. I who am but mud, what could I do, were it not for Christ? It befits me to weep about myself. Judas was a miracle-worker, but because of his greed for money, fell into the devil’s hands. And the devil himself was in heaven, but was cast out because of his pride. Adam was in paradise, but was driven out of it for his gluttony and condemned to hell for 5,500 years. Knowing this, let every man who believes he is able to stand, beware lest he fall. Clasp the feet of Christ and pray to the Mother of God and all the saints, and all will be well.

And so, my Elder, you have heard a great deal of my cackle. In the name of the Lord, I order you to write likewise for the servants of Christ, relating how the Mother of God broke that devil in her arms and gave him over to you, and how the ants devoured the secret part of your body, and how the demon set fire to your wood, and your cell was burned, but everything in it remained intact, and how you cried out to heaven, and what else you may recall for the glory of Christ and the Mother of God. 38 Listen, then, to what I say: If you do not write, I shall be angry. You listened to me with enjoyment – why, then, be ashamed? Relate it, if only a little. At the Council of Jerusalem the Apostles Paul and Barnabas told “what great signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” And the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And we find many instances in the Epistles and the Acts. And so, speak without fear, only keep a firm conscience. Say that you do not seek your own glory, but that of Christ and the Mother of God. Let the servant of Christ rejoice reading this account. When he reads us and we are dead, he will remember us before God. And we shall pray to God for those who read us and listen to us. They shall be our kin, there, at Christ’s side, and we shall be theirs, for ever and ever, Amen.


Footnotes

1 There are three versions of Avvakum’s life, known in Russian scholarly research as A., B., and C. One manuscript of the first version is in Avvakum’s own hand; the others are obviously copies done by Old Believers. In 1927 the three texts were simultaneously published (after a number of earlier editions) by the Leningrad Academy of Science in the series: “The Russian Historical Library” as Volume XXXIX, devoted to the history of the Old Believers in the seventeenth century. The three texts offer several variations, but as I. L. Barskov writes in his introduction, all three present indubitably Avvakum’s own story, and he himself may have introduced the variations while the Life was being copied. Avvakum sent this story to a number of his spiritual children and to groups of Old Believers – wherefor, the copying. But, as Barskov points out, none of his contemporaries would have dared or would have been able to invent new episodes or to add new facts to the Life. It is Avvakum’s own voice we hear in each one of these documents. The translator has mainly used the version A (Avvakum’s autographed text), but has also borrowed from the other texts, episodes and variations which are either particularly characteristic and colorful or which help to clarify the sequence of the events narrated.

2 The city of Nizhny-Novgorod, situated at the middle of the Volga River’s course, is once again called that, being Gorkiy in Soviet times.

3 They were imprisoned in a subterranean dugout.

4 Acts 8: 26-39.

5 Some objects of Avvakum’s zeal for reform: the trained bears, like all kinds of theatrical or musical or jugglers’ entertainments, were prohibited by the Church; the shaving was condemned by the “Stoglav” Council of 1551, yet began to be practised in the seventeenth century under Western influence.

6 St. Philip was deposed and strangled by the order of John IV (called “The Terrible”).

7 St. Stephen, a missionary bishop among the heathen Finnish tribe of Zyrians in Northern Russia (fourteenth century).

8 The patriarchate had just become vacant with the death of Joseph (1652).

9 In 1653.

10 Our Lady of Kazan, now St. Basil’s Cathedral, the famous church on the Red Square in Moscow.

11 The main point of difference between the old and the new rites is the number of fingers used in making the sign of the cross: two for the Old Believers, three for the Established Church.

12 This is part of the rite of the degradation of a priest.

13 With his usual realism regarding ritualistic symbolism, Avvakum sees the sundering of Christ’s body in the obviously new ritual gesture of the Patriarch, who took the paten and the chalice separately from the deacon.

14 Since Avvakum had not been degraded (shorn) like his colleagues, he was accepted in Tobolsk as a parish priest.

15 The Tsarina Mary Miloslavsky, the first wife of Alexis, was in sympathy with the Old Believers.

16 Dauria was the name given in the seventeenth century to the country on the left bank of the Amur River. The Russians had recently undertaken the conquest of this country, and Pashkov was the captain of the expedition.

17 It was considered indecent for a married woman to go bareheaded.

18 Pope means priest in ancient and popular Russian.

19 November 15, in 1656.

20 Hostages from the native tribes (in Bratsky it was the Buriats) were kept in Siberian forts to secure the payment of tribute.

21 The eating of “unclean” food was considered a great sin.

22 Rtishchev was an influential boyar and one of the most cultivated and tolerant statesmen of the seventeenth century.

23 The preparation of bread and wine for the Eucharist which constitutes the first part of the Eastern Mass.

24 An influential boyar and a personal friend of Tsar Alexis.

25 September 1, 1662, the day of New Year in old Russia.

26 The Mezen is a river discharging itself into the White Sea eastward from Arkhangelsk. There, on the sea coast, was a small Russian settlement (now the town of Mezen).

27 St. Paphnutius Monastery at Borovsk, about one hundred miles from Moscow.

28 About ten miles from Moscow, on the Moskva River.

29 In this letter to the Tsar, Avvakum tells that while reading the Gospel, he had a vision of his guardian angel and Christ the Lord, Who said to him: “Have no fear; I am with thee.”

30 The companions of Avvakum had their tongues cut off before they were sent into their place of deportation.

31 Tobacco was prohibited in Muscovy in the seventeenth century and is abhorred by the Old Believers up to the present time. The Metropolitan of Gaza (in Palestine) Pa•sius Ligarides, came to Russia as a theological expert in 1662.

32 Sham madness or folly was the essence of the ascetical form of life called, in Russian, “foolishness for Christ’s sake.” Such sham fools were very popular in Russia, particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and many of them were canonized, although the Church in the seventeenth century began to prohibit such an ostentatious and disorderly way of life.

33 The famous council of 1666-7, in which two Greek patriarchs participated. The council condemned the schism of the Old Believers and deposed the Patriarch Nikon himself.

34 Deacon Theodore was banished to Pustozersk in 1668, some months later than Avvakum and his group (1667).

35 This name is given by Avvakum to the officer who executed his sons and friends in Mezen. He gives, besides, his proper name, Ivan Yelagin.

36 This is the end of the autobiography proper; what follows is the account of miracles wrought through Avvakum’s prayers during his life.

37 This is the delirium of the possessed, failing to recognize the place where he is.

38 All these miraculous events and many others here omitted are, indeed, related in the autobiography of Epiphanius.

Making Capital Flight Harder: The Banana Republic Marches On

Yes, it does:

Section 7874 was enacted to foreclose many tax benefits from the transfer of a U.S. corporate business to a foreign corporation or the insertion of a foreign holding company as owner of U.S. corporations. The rules also apply to similar partnership transfers. Two different sets of rules apply, depending on the percentage ownership in the foreign entity that is acquired by former owners of the U.S. entity. The IRS has now issued additional regulations regarding the application of these rules, which regulations apply to acquisitions completed after June 9, 2009.

The following is a summary of the items covered in the new regulations:

1. The use of two or more entities to acquire the U.S. entity as a method of avoiding the anti-inversion rules is prohibited;

2. Guidance on how the rules apply when the foreign corporation is acquiring more than one U.S. entity is provided;

3. Publicly-traded foreign partnerships may be treated as a foreign corporation under the rules, even if public trading does not being in the two-year period after the acquisition;

4. Treating interests in entities as equity interests under the rules if they are economically equivalent to equity…

You get the idea.

Book Review: Steven Sheeley and Robert Nash’s The Bible in English Translation: An Essential Guide

Until, say, the 1960’s, there was just about only one translation of the Bible into English that most Anglophone Christians used: the King James Bible (more properly referred to as the “Authorised Version.”)  Although newer translations–some derived from the AV, some not, like this one–were out there, it wasn’t until then that lay people in serious numbers began to consider them.

But committees and individual translators were busy, and by 1975, when Sakae Kubo and Walter Specht published their ground breaking study So Many Versions?  Twentieth Century English Versions of the Bible they had a lot of ground to cover and versions to review.  And they did both well, reviewing the translations in detail and fairly.

Time, translators and committees (to say nothing of publishing houses) haven’t stood still since Kubo and Specht, and the need for such a review–for scholars and bewildered Bible purchasers alike–is still there.  The Bible in English Translation: An Essential Guide, written by two professors at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, is an attempt in one sense to carry on that task.  It comes from the “progressive” wing of the Southern Baptist world (as does Bill Leonard, whom the authors cite as an influence) which makes things even more interesting.

The short version of this review?  As Lloyd Bentsen Jr. would say, I know Kubo and Specht, and Sheely and Walsh are no Kubo and Specht.  The earlier book is an oft cited reference (and one can hear echoes in the text) but this book has deficiencies that carefully considering the earlier one could have avoided.

The book begins with one feature that Kubo and Specht did not have: an overview of how the Bible came into existence.  Although it’s not intended as a substitute for a lengthy treatment of the subject, it’s cursory to the point of being inaccurate.  Beyond that, it shows a decidedly myopic view of the ancient world that Evangelicals need to get past, especially if they claim the title “progressive.”  The most egregious example of this is their explanation of why the Catholic canon of the Old Testament is different.  Evidently they are so solicitous to show that only those books in the Jewish canon are inspired that their presentation of Roman Catholicism’s inclusion of the “deuterocanonical” books approaches being intellectually dishonest.  (My discussion of this issue is here.)

Past this, they plough into the English translations.  And this is where the second weakness of the book comes up.  They commendably divide translations into “verbal translations,” “dynamic translations,” and “paraphrases.”  The problem is that they list the translations for each category in separate chapters.  This not only makes clean divisions out of what are degrees of difference, it also forces the authors to split up different versions of translations that have been revised and, in the course of revision, in their opinion switch categories.   This makes for a confusing narrative.  It’s a problem that Kubo and Specht for the most part didn’t have to deal with, but Sheely and Nash’s solution leaves a lot to be desired of.

The reviews themselves vary in quality.  Those for the dynamic translations and paraphrases tend to be more detailed than the verbal ones.  The one review where their professionalism seems to fray at the edge is that of the original Living Bible; evidently the thrill of growing up Baptist in the 1970’s and getting a hold of this is too much to shake off.

At the end some general guidelines for selecting a translation are given.  The one item they left out is the general reading level of the text.  In addition to the issue of Biblical literacy, the issue of general literacy level–a powerful argument against continuing to insist on the KJV–is one that needs for emphasis, especially considering the quality of modern secondary education.

Sheely and Nash have attempted to give a useful guide in The Bible in English Translation: An Essential Guide.  But their subject deserves a better treatment than it gets in this little volume.

When Church Becomes Pointless

First written in 1997; updated 2003. After this was written, we found out that many others felt the same way we did: the New Jersey diocese lost nearly half its membership during Spong’s tenure as Bishop.

A Long Trip

In the course of my work at Church of God Lay Ministries, I was asked to speak at a Lay Coordinators Summit in Lexington, KY.   The plan was for me to ride up with one of my colleagues from our office in Cleveland, TN, to Lexington.  It had been a while since I had made the trip, so I had forgotten how long it took to make the drive.  Just before the trip my wife and I had dinner with our church’s children’s pastor and his wife, who were die-hard University of Tennessee Volunteer fans.  So we asked them how far it was at least from Knoxville to Lexington.

“Not far enough,” was his emphatic reply.  I knew it was going to be a long trip.

John Shelby Spong

With these preliminaries out of the way, I met my Lay Ministries colleague in Cleveland and we drove up to Lexington.  We had a very good meeting and started back home.  On the way we got into a large number of topics, one of which was John Shelby Spong.

For those of you who don’t know, John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal bishop in Newark, NJ.  He has made himself a legend with his liberal theology; he denies every basic tenet of historical Christianity, including the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and just about everything else in between.  Moreover he has worked very hard to be the leading spokesman for his views, cramming his unbelief down everyone’s throat who happens to get in his way.  Having grown up in the Episcopal church of his hero, Bishop James Pike, who wandered into the California desert to meet his eternity, and having left largely because of the liberalism that stalks the church, Spong was more than an object of idle curiosity to me.

My colleague is a lifelong Church of God member, and what’s more his family is very eminent in our denomination; so his point of view is different from mine.  Nevertheless we both agreed on many things, one of which was that, if Spong’s right, we need to chuck all this church thing and go out and live it up, instead of hanging around a church, like Spong and many of his liberal friends.

This point of view will come as a shock to a lot of people, especially people who have grown up in church — of whatever kind — and couldn’t imagine living without the ceremonies and rituals — liturgical and life — that go with church.   If we leave sentimentality behind, however, and consider both the facts and the alternatives, this is the only sensible conclusion that we can come to.

Why do we go to church?

It’s amazing why people do what they do, especially when one actually spells out that motivation.  This is certainly true on the subject of going to church.  Let’s consider some of the reasons why people do this.

Some go to church out of rote or habit; they send up the cry of “We’ve always done it this way!”  This is the bane of business managers, but many churches survive on this.  People get raised in a habit of doing something and they just can’t bring themselves to change.  People who go because of this also hate to see change in the church, irrespective of whether than change is for the better or worse, and will usually fight it when it comes.

Others go for aesthetic reasons, or put more simply for the beauty of it.  They like the stained glass windows and vaulting gothic arches; they feel better when they hear the music or the cadences of the liturgy.  Whatever objective reality behind it is irrelevant; it’s beautiful, so it’s good.  When people in the church question those objective realities, the response of people like this is to go into denial; if whoever ends up on control of things will just keep everything looking the same, they’ll stay.

Still others go because they had a good experience of some kind many years ago and expect this to be replicated in church.  Sunday after Sunday they come to have this great feel-good experience repeated once again.  How long they stick it out depends on how patient they are for that experience to come up again, if it is possible.

All of these things have worked to the advantage of Christian churches over the years; they have served to bond people to the church.  But are they enough?  Can churches survive on them alone?  More importantly, can we survive on them alone?

Preached Everywhere

All of the above reasons are ultimately sentimental in nature.   Sentimentality, however, is not the exclusive property of Christian churches; it is a human emotion that extends to a lot of things.  We can be sentimental about our families, houses, cars, just about anything.  But can we build a life on them?   Or more importantly can be build an eternity on them?

Consider for a minute Jesus’ disciples.  After his crucifixion and burial, they had reason to disappear into the woodwork.  The Jewish and Roman authorities had displayed a serious show of force by putting Jesus to death.  Peter had already figured this out even before the event; he denied Jesus to make sure he wouldn’t share the Master’s fate.  They may have liked to recreate the days by the Sea of Galilee when the fish were abundant and the waves stilled at Jesus’ command, but Jesus was gone and they thought it was over with.

But then they started getting reports that His tomb was empty, guarded as it was by the same authorities that had succeeded in killing him.  They found out that this was true; when Jesus appeared to them, they realized that Jesus was alive, that He had conquered death, that he had the power to make it possible for them to do the same.  The realization of this objective reality — which was literally staring them in the face — was motivation for them to put aside everything and, with the injection of power of Pentecost, to go and preach the Gospel — the good news of Jesus’ resurrection — to the whole world.  The result was, as Origen said:

Now if we consider how in a very few years, although those who profess Christianity are persecuted and some put to death on account of it while others suffer the loss of their possessions, yet the word has been able, in spite of the fewness of teachers, to be ‘preached everywhere in the world,’ so that Greeks and barbarians, wise and foolish have adopted the religion of Jesus, we shall not hesitate to say that this achievement is more than human, remembering that Jesus taught with all authority and convincing power that his word should prevail. (First Principles, IV, 2)

The disciples turned apostles didn’t do this because it made them feel good, or they had always done it this way, but because they know that what they preached and lived was objectively true.  As it turns out, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the best documented event in antiquity.  Yet many such as Spong would like to denigrate the objective value of all this.

A New Agenda —  But Where?

The invasion of liberalism into Christian churches is always a rude awakening to many people, because they are basically told that everything they ever taught and did was completely wrong and that they need to change everything for the “new realities.”  The leaders of this liberalism set themselves up as the vanguard of a new order; they tell their stunned flocks that the church needs this new way of thinking and living to survive.

The thing they don’t tell everyone is this: irrespective of whether the church needs their “new way,” the “new way” doesn’t need the church.

Let’s suppose that you really believe that a) the basic teachings of Christianity are false and b) that you’re idealistic enough to want to “do good” under the new rules.  What’s the quickest way of getting going?  Well, to start with you have the usual plethora of political groups, environmental organizations, the government, the United Nations, and countless other organizations that have nothing to do with the church but which propagate your message.  All your church is succeeding in doing is to add one more organization to the confusion.  It would be simpler to simply dispense with the church and proceed with the secular organizations.

So let’s take this a step further; suppose you are sitting in an Episcopal pew listening to John Shelby Spong go on about why the basic truths of Christianity have no basis in reality and that those who teach them are a bunch of morons.  Suppose that you finally realize that you think that Spong is right; that all that you’ve said when you’re repeated the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed is false and that the life you have is all you’re expected to get.  What should you do?   You should first realize that life is short and that, if you’re going to live you’d better hurry.  So the sensible thing for you to do is to get up, gather your family, walk out of the church, get into your Lexus or Mercedes, and head to Atlantic City or Las Vegas or South Florida or wherever you need to go to live it up while you still can.

This illustration is to demonstrate a simple point.  If Spong and the other liberals are right, they’re wrong, because the church is really unnecessary and the time we spend there is a waste.  If they’re wrong, they’re really wrong, because they’re sending people to an awful eternity by the unbelief they spread.

…of all men most to be pitied.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes this point very clearly:

Now, if it is proclaimed of Christ that he has been raised from the dead, how is it that some of you say that there is no such thing as a resurrection of the dead? But, if there is no such thing as a resurrection of the dead, then even Christ has not been raised; And, if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without meaning, and our faith without meaning also! Yes, and we are being proved to have borne false testimony about God; for we testified of God that he raised the Christ, whom he did not raise, if, indeed, the dead do not rise! For, if the dead do not rise, then even Christ himself has not been raised, And, if Christ has not been raised, your faith is folly-your sins are on you still! Yes, and they, who have passed to their rest in union with Christ, perished! If all that we have done has been to place our hope in Christ for this life, then we of all men are the most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

The church’s job is more than to make people feel good; it is more than to make people do good; it is to preach the good news that Jesus Christ is alive and that we can live forever with Him if we make him our Lord and Saviour.  Feeling good and doing good will certainly come after that but being transformed by Jesus is the most important thing.

When this happens, then we can join with Paul in looking forward to the future.

But, in truth, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who are at rest. For, since through a man there is death, so, too, through a man there is a resurrection of the dead. For, as through union with Adam all men die, so through union with the Christ will all be made to live. But each in his proper order-Christ the first-fruits; afterwards, at his Coming, those who belong to the Christ. Then will come the end-when he surrenders the Kingdom to his God and Father, having overthrown all other rule and all other authority and power. For he must reign until God ‘has put all his enemies under his feet.’ The last enemy to be overthrown is death; For God has placed all things under Christ’s feet. (But, when it is said that all things have been placed under Christ, it is plain that God is excepted who placed everything under him.) And, when everything has been placed under him, the Son will place himself under God who placed everything under him, that God may be all in all!(1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

The Jesus Manifesto is Out. So Now What?

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola lay it on the line:

What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology. Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is the “good news” that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are found in a person. Biblical community is founded and found on the connection to that person. Conversion is more than a change in direction; it’s a change in connection. Jesus’ use of the ancient Hebrew word shubh, or its Aramaic equivalent, to call for “repentance” implies not viewing God from a distance, but entering into a relationship where God is command central of the human connection.

In that regard, we feel a massive disconnection in the church today. Thus this manifesto.

This is great.  But, having worked in a ministry for over a deacade, my next question is, now what?

  • Do we emphasise and insist on “Sermon on the Mount” Christianity, as Michael Babcock advocates in UnChristian America?
  • Do we finally rid ourselves of Gothardian authoritarianism that we never had rights to, as I advocate in Authority and Evangelical Churches?
  • Do we sever the connection between God and country, thus divorcing Christian life from the national one?
  • De we ditch any form of prosperity teaching and the close symbosis that Evangelical Christianity has developed with upward social mobility?
  • Do we at least cut the Gordian knot on the same-sex civil marriage debate by abandoning civil marriage altogether, recognising that marriage is from God and the state has no business in it?

I understand completely that Christianity is centred in a relationship with Jesus Christ, and that it is not merely a set of principles.  But once we acknowledge that, we need to work out the practical implications of a Jesus-centred life.  Evangelical Christianity has, for a long time, boasted that the way it sets forth is the only way to live that kind of life.  (And I’m not referring here simply to the idea that Jesus is the only way to God; Evangelicals, their own propaganda notwithstanding, isn’t alone in affirming this.)

What Sweet and Viola are challenging, whether they realise it or not, is Evangelical Christianity’s triumphalism about themselves and their place in the universe, to say nothing of Christianity.  But a successful challenge to that leads to a thorough review of everything else we’re doing.

Let the games begin!