by Hieromonk Auxentios
"The devil has accomplished his greatest feat in these last days-that of convincing us that he does not exist." With these sobering words, Archpriest Roman Lukianov (pastor of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Epiphany in Boston, Massachusetts) began an impromptu lecture for a sizable group of the faithful, who remained at the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery the day after Hieromonk Seraphim's burial (Sept. 4, 1982, n.s.). After pointing out how thoroughly duped the West has shown itself to be, by not recognizing what evil has been at work in the Soviet Union, Father Roman proceeded to discuss the Soviet regime's tireless efforts to blot out the very thought of God from the minds of its people. Not only did we hear of the more familiar means of intimidation and religious persecution-the registration of those receiving the Mysteries of marriage and baptism, surveillance, the loss of a chance for promotion of one's job itself, but we also learned that the massive and widespread efforts of the state to suppress religious activities have been psychologically "internalized" by many people.
In the Soviet Union, the very thought, "I believe in God," has become, in the minds of the people, an "illegal act," for they are haunted by the possibility of such a thought being Inadvertently blurted out. Multitudes have now been mentally trained to shy a w a y from anything even remotely related to religion, and that is indeed, the desired result of the Soviet anti-religious campaign. In the striking words of Father Roman, "multitudes now die without even the words, 'Lord have mercy,' on their lips And where the thought of God is vanquished, so is the healthy fear of him who "as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" ( Peter 5:8).
Another important part of the Soviet effort to eradicate belief is the denial of one's right to relocate, a very basic human activity that is seldom properly appreciated in the West. The very simple process of picking up and moving, should one lose his job or in some other manner suffer persecution for his religious beliefs, is neither simple nor easy in the Soviet Union. In fact, it is in many in stances forbidden The multiple identification cards that a working adult must carry assure the state that he will go nowhere without its sanction.... In short, the man who chooses to believe not only knows that he will be persecuted (in proportion to the strength of his choice), but that there will be no escaping that persecution!
The consequences of such cleverly levied persecution are phenomenal. In countless individuals, the most vital organ of the spirit, the will, has-through the relentless incisions of inescapable persecution-been surgically removed and replaced by a mechanical will that, in the words of Father Roman, "beats according to the atheistic dictates of the Soviet state." The pulse is still there: the people thoughtlessly vouch for their freedom, mimicking the philosophy of the state, and are satisfied to exercise their "wills" in shallow and meaningless choices. But this organ is entirely counterfeit, soulless, perishable, and of this world. And where there is no longer a will that can respond to the conscience, and further activate it, true religion suffers and dies. Thus it is that the Soviets have diabolically set their sights on the root of the religious "problem," not being content simply to curtail religious behavior.
The means that the Soviet state has been willing to employ to accomplish its aims are, perhaps, the best pieces of evidence that we can offer to the skeptical West that the forces at work in the Soviet world are not merely human, but satanic. Thus Father Roman noted in his lecture how we are constantly reminded of the six million Jews who perished under Hitler's tyranny. And we should rightly be disgusted and revolted at the thought of this horror. But, as Father Roman rejoined, we rarely hear of the far greater horror accomplished in Russia. Since the Revolution in 1917, some 120 million lives have been taken by Communism'. These causalities number some twenty times the number of Jews who died in Hitler's death camps. If the suffering of the Jews is to be called the "holocaust," why has not the land of Russia been proclaimed Armageddon? If we do not open our eyes and awaken our own souls to the dread demonism of the world-view offered by the Soviets, we will find our lot among those who "having ears to hear, do not hear," among those voiceless millions who fell to the communist sword.
The situation within the Soviet Union, however, is by no means hopeless. This, too, we should understand. In spite of the massive government network of spies and the diabolically cunning methods employed by the state, there are many who do not relent, who courageously speak out for their beliefs, regardless of the consequences. And there are far more, following in their wake, who in some lesser way, act in ways contrary to the desires of the state, perhaps simply by attending church, reading religious materials, or seeing to it that their children and grandchildren are baptized. In the face of persecution, these lesser, seemingly insignificant, acts have far greater importance for these people than the same acts would have for us. In the words of Solzhenitsyn, those who dare to think and act, and consequently to suffer, have received "a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience." And indeed, strengthened by such training, the process of rebirth has begun.
What can we learn from this, and what can we do? First of all we must understand what forces are at work in the Soviet Union and in the modern world in general. If the holy Apostle Paul wrote in his time that, "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12), how much more should we, much nearer (and perhaps in) the last days, know that our adversary is the Evil One, Lucifer. Taking Father Roman's insightful warning to heart, we must not let the devil accomplish his "greatest feat," by thinking that what we witness in our times is simple political confusion and turmoil, new ideas, secular trends, or a variation on the theme of turbulent human development. Communism is clearly the vanguard of the devils current, and perhaps final and triumphant, assault on this world.
This assault is many-pronged. Looking from the outside, with some effort, we are able to see the spiritual toll taken in the Soviet Union. It is obvious, after some study,
that what is happening there staggers the human imagination. But what about here in America? Why are we not astounded, in these frightful and tumultuous days, by, not our susceptibility, but our disposition towards a casual, passive, unalarmed world- view? Solzhenitsyn seems to have no trouble observing that, in our society "the forces of evil have begun their decisive offensive... You can feel their pressure, and yet your screens are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses." We must sensitize ourselves to these deliberate at tempts to desensitize us.
Secondly, we can learn to fight against the forgetfulness of God, an other prong of the devil's attack. This fight will be easier when we waken to the nature of our adversary. But this is not enough in and of itself. We must exercise our wills, just as one would exercise a weak and atrophied muscle. And this will must concentrate on matters of religious conscience. This includes prayer, attending services, reading, speaking openly of spiritual matters, and even such things of pilgrimages.
Finally, we must learn to fear attacks from the right, fleeing judgmentalism and extremism, wherein the devil also secures us in his grasp. We are called to love, to godliness, and this should make us look upon those in the Soviet Union (and those elsewhere enslaved) with compassion and prayer. If any among them has succumbed, would not we, weakened by our Western blindness, have done much worse in the same situation? If the actions of some suffering in the Soviet Union at times seem to us weak and pitiful, we must remind ourselves that one of the frightened recollections of the name of God~ is worth a thousand of our complacent prayers, as Father Roman so beautifully put it.
Let us, then, beware the times! We are, if we will be, witnesses to some of the greatest victories of the adversary. Yet these victories are strictly of this world. If we wish to take part in the heavenly triumph, we must , within our very limited abilities, constantly turn ourselves towards God and humbly seek the manifestation of His Holy Will.
St. Gregory Palamas Monastery[../../_private/oabot.htm]