Orthodox America

   An Abomination of Desolation

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...And they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress...and they shall set up the abominatin that maketh desolate...but the people that know their God shall be strong, and perform exploits. And they that are wise among the people shall instruct many; yet they shall fall by the sword and by flame, by captivity. (Dan. 21:31-33)

As we approach the blessed time of Christ's Nativity, let us exercise a joyous sobriety. So often we are so filled by a sense of our own well-being, our own happiness that we lose sight of our less fortunate brethren in Christ. Christ, the King of Glory, was born among dumb animals. How close He is to those who are poor and wretched, the suffering, the lonely, the homeless. And we too must make an effort to open our hearts to those who are suffering, especially to our Orthodox brethren behind the Iron Curtain who endure all manner of tribulation and sorrow for the sake of Christ.

We hear occasionally news concerning the persecution of outspoken priests and various activists. But how many hundreds of thousands of believers are there who also endure daily persecution? The mere effort of going to church is already and ascetic struggle! Deprived of religious literature and surrounded by a society whose very aims are anti-Christian, the "average" believer finds a great consolation in going to church; whether or not the priest is genuine, the service alone can lift him out of his dreary material world-and transport him to paradise. But while believers number in the millions, the communist campaign to destroy religion has reduced the number of churches to an approximate 4,000. The authorities claim that this is "more or less enough" for the faithful!

Despite the overcrowded conditions of "working churches", the authorities continue to find any and all pretext for closing churches. This is a very real form of persecution which haunts every believer - clergy and laity alike. Reports reach the West constantly of believers who petition for years to have a church reopened or to repair an old one which authorities are only too ready to proclaim unsafe" and tear it down to make room for an apartment house. Believers are often willing to sacrifice w ha t meager earnings they have to preserve or repair a church. But very often permission to conduct repairs is denied. It was reported that in Yugoslavia this year the whole Western part of the buildings of the Lepavina Monastery collapsed. "A full restoration project, including work on the collapsed building, has been frustrated because the necessary authorization could not be obtained" (KNS - 125)

How may hundreds of once active churches now stand abandoned, desolated, desecrated? How many thousands have already been alike. destroyed, obliterated from the face of earth? Where are the thousands of churches which were the boast of Holy Russia?

A remarkable book was published by Samizdat and dedicated to Solzhenitsyn on his 60th birthday. [A quality, hardbound edition has since been published by Possev, Frankfurt Main.] It's title, Destroyed and Defiled Churches, speaks for itself. The book is largely a pictorial album showing photographs of churches. Some photographs are old; the churches no longer exist. Many ancient churches have been deliberately allowed to deteriorate. Others have been turned into factories, cattle barns, dance halls, Crosses are bent and removed; cupolas are knocked down; altars are defiled; belfries are torn down. The same fate has struck all but a very insignificant number of monasteries.

When so many churches have been destroyed, where do all the believers go to church? Where will they go on Christmas Eve? For many, the nearest church is literally hundreds of miles away. And the destruction and desolation continue. Should we not remember to pray for the thousands of "homeless" Christians? The "house of the Lord" is again a stable. Let us beg the Chief Shepherd to have mercy on His homeless sheep. Let us pray that He soon bring an end to the desolation of a holy land. 

"Romanian sources, recently c o m e out to the West, report a gross occurrence of church profanation in lasi during the Christmas season 1979. Father Gheorghe Bistriceanu. . has frequently attracted the attention of the authorities because of his appeal among young people. Security officials have told him youth work, organizing choirs, and so forth, is something Baptists do. Two days before Christmas, Father Bistriceanu entered his church Sanctuary to discover that vandals had pulled down icons, broken down the Christmas tree in the church and had left human excretia on the altar itself. One icon was left with an axe still in it. The evidence that a ladder had been needed to pull down the icons and that nothing was missing from the church, has led the, parishioners to suspect that the act of profanation was a sign of the displeasure of the authorities with the priest's activities. (KNS-105)