Orthodox America

  East of Eden

  As we approach the end of the twentieth century and the second millennium we are being entertained with talk of a New World Order and a New Age. Along with the New Deal and New Frontier this is a further variation on a recurrent theme of the New World which is succinctly expressed on the Great Seal of the United States of America, as displayed on the back side of a dollar bill, for instance.

        Novus ordo saeculorum is one of the Latin mottos featured there, which rather immodestly perhaps proclaims a 'New order of the ages'. The political slogans of the current administration are a new expression of this underlying dream of "a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal", to quote the memorable words of one of our greater presidents.

       As children of the New Israel seeking to be recreated in the image and likeness of the New Adam, Jesus Christ, how are we to fit into this New World Order and the New Age that is being proclaimed around us?

       As Christians we pray "for the peace of the Whole world and the salvation of all." As members of society and citizens of our country we endeavor insofar as we are capable to contribute to the general welfare, as we understand it. In practical terms, this often means trying to decide which of a host of evils appears to be the least pernicious.

       The Apostle writes: Fear God; honor the King (I Peter 2:17). We are citizens of heaven first, and honor and serve earthly rulers and governments "for the Lord's sake", keeping our conscience clean before Christ our God.

       Our national anthem hymns "the land of the free and the home of the brave"--words which have well been interpreted to mean "you can be free if yoga are brave enough". And so let us take courage and brave our freedom.

       Our freedom is in Christ, for it is in Him and His Church alone that we find liberation from the tyranny of sin and death. But who is interested in that kind of freedom? How eager to attain it are we ourselves?

       Saint Paul writes: Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world [age] according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Gal. 1:3-5).

       The Greek word aeon is translated into English both as "age" and "world". Curiously enough the contemporary slogans speak of both a New Age and a New World Order. Yet Saint Paul points up a conflict between this present and evil world [age] and Christ.

       In explaining the parable of the sower, our Lord says: He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world [age], and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful, or that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection (Matt. 13:22; Luke 8:14).

      For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world [age]; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:11-14).

      The Lord and His mighty trumpet, the Apostle Paul, call us to be flee from this world [age], avoiding its distractions so as not to be deterred from serving and being united with Christ. We must not be cheated out of our genuine freedom in Christ by the tyranny of enslaving passions veiled in libertine license.

      Moreover, he writes: we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world [age], nor of the princes of this world [age], that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world [age] knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (I Cor. 2:6-8).

       The ignorance of this world [age] and its rulers results in crucifying Christ, whether it be the actual historical deed of historical persons or an equally ignorant and inimical attitude towards Christ and His Church at any time or place, including here and now.

       How can such ignorance and animosity be explained? If our gospel be hid, the Apostle tells us, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world [age] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them (II Cor. 4:34).

       For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, the Apostle warns, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world [age], against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).

       In other words there are fallen spiritual powers which blind men and keep them ignorant and deceive them. And lest we puff ourselves up in false confidence that we are immune to this danger, hear the Apostle bewail how Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world [age]... (II Tim. 4:10) in addition to the warning of the Saviour about the seed that fell among thorns.

       Our freedom, our deliverance, our salvation are in the Church, the mystical body of Christ who rose from the dead and ascended from this world to be seated at the right hand of the Father, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world [age], but also in that which is to come: and He hath put ail things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over ail things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:21-22).

       After His Ascension into heaven, angels told the apostles: This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).

       The beloved disciple John described a heavenly revelation of this second coming in glory: And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them...And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband... (Rev. 20:11; 21:1-2).

      Here is the Christian revelation concerning the New World Order, the New Age. But when the disciples came to Christ privately and inquired, When shall these things be? our Lord replied: Take heed that no man deceive you (Matt. 24:3-4).

      The staggering contrast between the Christian revelation and the "new" orders and ages in the news today is self-evident. This is the first point we must make perfectly clear to ourselves to avoid being deceived by other men.

      But the Saviour warns us that there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24). Having found Christ in the Church, we are warned not to go off looking for Him anywhere else under any circumstances. This means we must cast a cold eye on such slogans as "New World Order" and "New Age".

      The true New Age and New World Order will be revealed by God Himself when this present age and world pass away, transfigured in the trial of divine fire and light. But the new ages and world orders of human concoction, not without some admixture of demonic delusion, are in need of advertisement, propaganda and all the arts of tender or not so tender persuasion.

       The New World Order is still a very fuzzy shape shrouded in the future as the media declare the end of the Cold War. It may turn out to be little more than another bird in the bush. The New Age movement draws on deeper and more sinister currents. Recalling the shattered hopes of those who greeted the twentieth century, scarcely a hundred years ago, may help sober exalted souls.

       We live in a land and era that champion freedom and human rights. Are we not therefore called to be brave in bearing witness to genuine freedom and righteousness? Would not any other treatment of these opportunities be an abuse? After all, we find ourselves in this land and era through God's redeeming Providence.

      The Apostle Peter exhorts us: Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the wilt of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God (I Peter 2:13-16).

      There was a time, now called the Constantinian era, when many of the great rulers in this world submitted to Christ and sought guidance from His Church. They called the Christians out of the catacombs to be the conscience of the society they labored to build. Now the roles have been reversed. Now the Church and Christians are being summoned to build a society, world order and age the mighty rulers of the world have themselves envisioned. This vision of theirs may not be so clear as yet, but it clearly is not the New Creation of the Christian revelation.

      There is such a thing as a timely warning, a word to the wise. Charge them that are rich in this world [age], that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (I Tim 6:17-19).

      We may also learn and find inspiration to spur us in our own spiritual struggles, for the children of this world [age] are in their generation wiser than the children of light (Luke 16:8) and if we had but a small share of their devotion and zeal we would be very different persons. We would not be so indifferent to the peddling of cheap and poisonous imitations with Christian labels, for instance.

      And if the catacombs is a far too glorious name for our role in the society now taking form in our country and contemporary world, let us gratefully and humbly take our place in the margin, among the footnotes, for the sake of those who still have eyes to see.

      We must treasure our freedom from this world and its establishment, lest its thorns choke out the spiritual life that Christ has awakened within us, lest we evoke the righteous indignation of the world [age] around us. Here are the timely words of Archpriest Mitrofan Buchnev, who died under Stalin's persecution of the Church:

      "A Christian is salt for the earth and light for the world. He preserves this world, which lives in evil, from corruption. If the salt loses its savor, the world has the right to demand vengeance from the Righteous Judge. All creation is making an appeal against us, because it expects to behold sons of God. If a Christian does not edify others, he is guilty of the death of others" [Pravoslavny Put ', 1984, p 95].

      People search for a New World Order and a New Age because they are dissatisfied with the present. Fallen man is exiled from Paradise and yearns to return. A thief dying on a cross was the first to break in.


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