On Islam and Salvation

iconof_stignatiusbrianchaninovSt. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

Vainly and erroneously you think and say that virtuous… Muslims will be saved, that is they will join intercourse with God! Vainly you consider the contrary notion a novelty, a brief error! No! Such is the eternal teaching of the true Church, both Old Testament and New. The Church has always confessed that there exists one means of salvation: the Redeemer! She has confessed that the most virtuous of the fallen really do descend to Hell. Did the righteous of the True Church, the illumined from whom shone the Holy Spirit, the prophets and wonderworkers, believers in the Redeemer’s coming but with the demise of the anticipated coming of the Redeemer, descend to Hell so that, as you wish, the Muslims who neither recognize nor believe in the Redeemer receive, because they seem to you good people, that salvation which is delivered solely– solely, I repeat to you, by means of — belief in the Redeemer? — Christians! Know Christ! — Witness that you don’t know Him, that you denied him in claiming the possibility of salvation without Him for some kind of virtue! Claiming the possibility of salvation without belief in Christ denies Him and, maybe not consciously, falls into the grave sin of blasphemy. “Therefore we conclude,” says the Holy Apostle Paul, “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28) “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-4). You will object: “The Holy Apostle James requires without fail good works; he teaches that ‘faith, if it hath not works, is dead’ (James 2:17).” Look again at what the Holy Apostle James requires. You will see that he, just like all God-inspired writers of Holy Scripture, requires the works of faith, and not the virtues of our fallen state! He requires living faith, confirmed by the deeds of the new man, and not the virtues of the fallen state, which are repugnant to faith. He cites the deeds of Patriarch Abraham, the work from which appeared the faith of a righteous man: this work consisted of offering as a sacrifice to God his only begotten son. To offer one’s son as a sacrifice– this is totally not a virtue according to human nature: it is a virtue as the fulfilment of the command of God, as a work of faith. Take a good look at the New Testament and in general all of Holy Scripture: you will find that it demands fulfilment of the commandments of God, that this fulfilment is called works, that from this fulfilment of God’s commandments faith in God comes to life, as functioning; without works faith is dead, lacking any movement. And contrary to this, you will find that virtuous works of the fallen state, done out of feeling, blood, impulses or tenderheartedness– are prohibited, repudiated! And namely for these virtues you like… the Muslims! To them, though it were repudiation of Christ, you want to give salvation. (Letter 203)

Turkey Pope Demo 01

You are blessed if you recognize the difference between the virtuous of the spirit and of the heart, between the virtuous peculiar solely to the New Adam, and virtuous which the old Adam is capable of joining: between the virtuous of the Gospel and the virtuous of our fallen state, the virtuous to whom are not strange idolaters, Muslims and all such people who shun the following of sacred Truth. (Letter 234)

Faith is sacred and true only when it is faith in the sacred Truth, when it is faith which yields on the earth the human form of divine Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ. Any other faith, except faith in the sacred Truth, is superstition. The fruits of superstition are ruin. Such faith is condemned by God: it is the faith of idolators in their idols, Muslims in their false prophet Mohammed and in the Qu’ran, heretics in their blasphemous dogmas and in their hereseiarchs, and rationalists in their fallen human intellect. With this faith will the Antichrist be believed by his followers. (Letter 236)

On Praying Before Icons

Icon of the Mother of God “The Unexpected Joy” from oca.org

St. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

The Holy Icons are accepted by the Holy Church for the purpose of arousing pious memories and feelings, but not all for arousing imagination. Standing before an icon of the Savior, stand as if before the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who is invisibly everywhere present and by His icon in that place, where the icon is. Standing before an icon of the Mother of God, stand as if before the Most-Holy Virgin herself; but keep your mind without images: there is a great difference between being in the presence of the Lord or standing before the Lord and imagining the Lord. (Sobraniye 2004, 1:76. excerpted from Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov, Imagine That…)

On the Mortal Sin of Heresy

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov 1807-1867

You say, ‘heretics are Christians just the same.’ Where did you take that from? Perhaps someone or other calling himself a Christian while knowing nothing of Christ, may in his extreme ignorance decide to acknowledge himself as the same kind of Christian as heretics, and fail to distinguish the holy Christian faith from those offspring of the curse, blasphemous heresies. Quite otherwise, however, do true Christians reason about this. A whole multitude of saints has received a martyr’s crown, has preferred the most cruel and prolonged tortures, prison, exile, rather than agree to take part with heretics in their blasphemous teaching.

The Ecumenical Church has always recognised heresy as a mortal sin; she has always recognised that the man infected with the terrible malady of heresy is spiritually dead, a stranger to grace and salvation, in communion with the devil and the devil’s damnation. Heresy is a sin of the mind; it is more a diabolic than a human sin. It is the devil’s offspring, his invention; it is an impiety that is near idol-worship. Every heresy contains in itself blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, whether against the dogma or the action of the Holy Spirit. (Brianchaninov, Pis’ma, no. 283; translated as “Concerning the Impossibility of Salvation for the Heterodox and Heretics”, The Orthodox Word, March-April, 1965, and Orthodox Life, January-February, 1991)

On the Material Side of Orthodoxy

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

Look, brethren, look what the devil is doing, has done and will do — leading the mind of man from heaven to material things, chaining the heart of man to earth and earthly pursuits and occupations! Look and be alarmed with a healthy fear! Look and be aware with necessary soul-saving caution! …[H]e taught to give special attention to their fasting and other bodily exercises and to attribute special significance to dry bread, mushrooms, cabbage, peas, or beans; and in this way sensible, holy, and spiritual exercises were turned into senseless, carnal and sinful farces. …[H]e inspired to attach an exaggerated importance to the material side of church services, while obscuring the spiritual side of the rites; thus, by hiding the essence of Christianity from these unfortunate people and leaving them only a distorted material wrapper or covering he enticed them to fall away from the Church into the most foolish form of clouded perception, into schism. (The Arena, [kindle version])

On the Judge at the Tollhouses

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

Not only temporal sorrows, but also those that await man at his entry into eternity, beyond the bounds of the grave, are unable to withstand the vision of Divine providence. They are blunted and destroyed by the grace-filled consolation that always descends upon a soul who denies himself in order to be submissive to God. In the face of selflessness, in the face of devotion to God’s will, death itself is not terrible. The true servant of Christ entrusts his soul and his eternal lot into Christ’s hands, entrusting them with firm faith in Christ, with unwavering hope in His goodness and power. When his soul parts from his body, and the rejected angels defiantly and impudently approach him, he strikes the dark and evil angels with his self-renunciation and turns them to flight. “Take me—take me!” he courageously tells them. “Cast me into the abyss of darkness and fire; cast me into the abyss of hell, if it is my God’s will for you to do that, if such a determination has come from Him. It is easier to be deprived of the sweetness of Paradise, it is easier to bear the flames of hell, than to transgress the will and decision of the great God. I have surrendered myself to Him, and still surrender to Him! He is the Judge of my infirmities and sins, not you! You—even in the midst of your insane rebelliousness—are only the fulfillers of His determinations.” The servants of the prince of this world will tremble and become astonished, seeing such courageous selflessness, such meek, total devotion to God’s will! When they spurned that blessed obedience, they went from being radiant and good angels to being dark and utterly malicious demons. They will back away with shame, and that soul, without hindrance, will direct his course to where his treasure is—to God. There he will see, face to face, Him Who is seen here through faith in His providence, and he will eternally exclaim: Glory be to God! (“Glory be to God!” Orthodox Word No. 294-295, 2014)

On the Judgments

St. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

At both judgments God Himself is present and judges. At the private judgment He judges by means of angels of light and fallen angels; at the general judgment He judges by means of His Incarnate Word. (The Arena, An Offering to Contemporary Monasticism, p. 6)

On Knowledge of Christ

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

Here is a spectacle worthy of bitter lamentation: Christians who do not know in what Christianity consists! Yet one encounters this spectacle almost everywhere one looks today; rarely, in the great multitude of those who call themselves Christians, can one find anyone who is a Christian both in name and in deed…

Christians! You reason about salvation, yet you do not know what salvation is, why men are in need of it, and finally, you do not know Christ, the only means of our salvation. Here is the true teaching on this subject, the teaching of the Holy Ecumenical Church.

Salvation consists in the recovery of communion with God. This communion was lost by the whole human race when our ancestors fell into sin. The whole human race belongs too category of doomed creatures. Damnation is the lot of all people, whether virtuous or evil-doers. We are conceived in iniquity and born in sin. “I will go down to my son mourning to hell” (Gen. 37:35), said the holy patriarch Jacob of himself and his holy son Joseph the chaste and fair. It is not only sinners who descended into hell at the end of their earthly pilgrimage, but the righteous men of the Old Testament as well. Such is the power of the good works of men; such is the worth of the virtues of our fallen nature!

In order to restore man’s communion with God, in other words, for salvation, redemption was necessary. The redemption of the human race was accomplished not be an angel, not by an archangel, not by some other of the higher but still limited and created beings, –it was accomplished by the infinite God Himself. Execution was the lot of the human race, commuted by His execution; the insufficiency of human merit was compensated by His endless worth. All feeble works of men, which lead to hell, are compensated by a single powerful good work: faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The Jews asked the Lord: “What must we do, that we may work the works of God?” And the Lord answered them: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent” (St. John 6:29). One good work is necessary to us for salvation: faith; but faith is faith, and by faith alone, may we enter into communion with God, with the aid of the sacraments which He has granted to us.

You are quite wrong, then, if you think and say that good people among pagans and Moslems are saved, that is enter into communion with God… The Church has always acknowledged but one means to salvation: the Redeemer….

Christians! You must know Christ! You must realize that you do not know Him, that you deny Him if you acknowledge salvation possible without Him for any kind of good works. He who acknowledges salvation to be possible without Chris t denies Christ and, perhaps without knowing it, falls into the grave sin of blasphemy. “We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law,” says the holy Apostle Paul (Rom. 3:28). “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:22-24). You reply: “The holy Apostle James without any question asks for good works; he teaches that faith without works is dead.” But consider just what it is that the holy Apostle James asks for.

You will see that he, like all the Divinely-inspired writers of the Holy Scriptures, asks for works of faith, and not the good works of our fallen nature. He asks for living faith, confirmed by the works of the new man, and not the good works of fallen nature, which are repulsive to faith. He cites the conduct of the patriarch Abraham–a work in which the faith of that righteous man was revealed. This work consisted in offering as a sacrifice to God his only-begotten son. To slay one’s son for sacrifice is not by any means a good work according to human nature; it is, rather, a good work insofar as it fulfills a Divine command–it is a work of faith. Look into the New Testament and into the Holy Scriptures in general, and you find that they ask for the fulfillment of God’s commands, that this fulfillment is called works, that from this fulfillment of God’s commands, faith in God becomes living, being active; without it, faith is dead, being deprived of any activity. And on the contrary you will find that the good works of fallen nature, whether from feelings, from blood, from impulse, or from a tender sentiment of heart–are forbidden and rejected ! and these are the same good works that please you in pagans and Moslems: for these, even if they involve the denial of Christ, you want to give them salvation! …

The Gospel teaches us that by the fall we acquired a falsifying reason; that the reason of our fallen nature, no matter what its innate worth, no matter how well sharpened by worldly learning, retains the worth transmitted to it by the fall and remains a falsifying reason. We must reject it and commit ourselves to the guidance of faith; under such guidance, in due time, through much effort in piety, God will give to His true slave a reason of truth, or spiritual reason. This reason we can and must acknowledge as a sound reason; it is an informed faith, as the Apostle Paul excellently described it in the 11th chapter of his epistle to the Hebrews. The foundation of spiritual reasoning is God. Being founded on this hard rock, it does not waver nor fall. What you call sound reason, we Christians take to be a reason so infirm, so darkened and so far gone astray, that there can be no healing for it except by cutting it off, with the sword of faith, and renouncing all the learning that has gone into its formation. If we take it for a sound reason, basing ourselves on a foundation that is uncertain, tottering, indefinite, constantly changing–then it, being sound, will renounce Christ, too. This is proved by experience…

The Gospel–that is, the teaching of Christ, that is, the Holy Scriptures, that is, the Holy Ecumenical Church – has revealed to us all that man may know of the Divine mercy, which surpasses every kind of reasoning and all human apprehension, and is inaccessible to these. Vain is the trifling of the human mind when it seeks to define the indefinable God, when it seeks to explain the inexplicable, to submit to its own calculations.., whom?… God! Such an undertaking is a satanic one.

Oh, these people who call themselves Christians and do not know the teaching of Christ!… Does it follow from this that God is obliged to understand and feel as you understand and feel? Yet this is what you are demanding of God! What a foolish and prideful undertaking. Do not accuse the Church’s judgement of a lack of common sense and humility–it is your own lack. She, the holy Church, merely follows unswervingly the Divine teaching on the acts of God, revealed by God Himself. Her true children follow her obediently, scorning the puffed-reason that rises up against God, We believe that we can know about God only what God deigns to reveal to us. If there had been a different path to the knowledge of God, a path which our mind could have cleared for itself with its own powers, revelation would not have been given us. It was given because it was necessary for us. Vain and deceitful, then, are the personal opinions and wanderings of the human mind.

Do not think that such ignorance is a defect of small importance· It is not. Its consequences can be fatal, especially now when any number of books with a satanic teaching are circulating under a Christian title. In ignorance of true Christian teaching, just like that you can take a false, blasphemous idea for a true one, appropriate it to yourself, and together with it appropriate eternal damnation as well… Do not play with your salvation! Do not play with it, or you will weep forever.

Occupy yourself with the reading of the New Testament and the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church…study in the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church how to understand Scripture aright, study there what kind of living,, what kind of thoughts and feelings are fitting for a Christian. (Christians! You Must Know Christ! The Orthodox Word, March-April, 1965)

On the Orthodox Holy Fathers

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

But where are you hidden, O true and holy Faith? I could not recognize you in fanaticism which was not sealed with the Gospel meekness; it breathed passion and high-mindedness! I could not recognize you in the arbitrary teaching which separated from the Church, making up its own new system, vainly and pridefully proclaiming the discovery of a new, true Christian faith, after a lapse of eighteen centuries from the Incarnation of God the Word!

Oh! In what a heavy perplexity my soul was! How frightfully it was weighed down! What waves of doubt rose up against it, arising from distrust of myself, from distrust of everything that was clamoring, crying out around me because of my lack of knowledge, my ignorance of the truth.

And I began often, with tears, to implore God that He might not give me over as a sacrifice to error, but that He might show me the right path on which I should direct towards Him my invisible journey of mind and heart. And, O wonder! Suddenly a thought stood before me… My heart went out to it as to the embrace of a friend. This thought inspired me to study faith in the sources — in the writings of the Holy Fathers! “Their holiness,” the thought said to me, “vouches for their trustworthiness: choose them for your guides.”

I obeyed. I found the means of obtaining the works of the holy pleasers of God, and with eagerness I began to read them, investigate them deeply. Having read some, I would take up others, read them, re-read them, study them. What was it that above all struck me in the works of the Fathers of the Orthodox Church? It was their harmony, their wondrous, magnificent harmony. Eighteen centuries, through their lips, testified to a single unanimous teaching, a Divine teaching!

When on a clear autumn night I gaze at the clear sky, sown with numberless stars, so diverse in size yet shedding a single light, then I say to myself: such are the writings of the Holy Fathers! When on a summer day I gaze at the vast sea, covered with a multitude of diverse vessels with their unfurled sails like white swans’ wings, vessels racing under a single wind to a single goal, to a single harbor, I say to myself: such are the wrtings of the Fathers! When I hear a harmonious, many-voiced choir, in which diverse voices in elegant harmony sing a single Divine song, then I say to myself: such are the writings of the Holy Fathers!

And what teaching do I find in them? I find a teaching repeated by all the Fathers, namely, that the only path to salvation is the unwavering following of the instructions of the Holy Fathers. “Have you seen,” they say, “anyone deceived by false teaching, perishing from an incorrect choice of ascetic labors? — then know that he followed hmself, his own understanding, his own opinions, and not the teaching of the Holy Fathers,” (Abba Drortheos of Gaza, 5th Instruction) out of which is composed the dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church. With this tradition as a priceless possession, the Church nourishes Her children. This thought [of taking the Holy Fathers as my guide] was sent by God, from Whom every good gift, from Whom every good thought is the beginning of every good thing. (cf. St. John Chrysostom, 7th Prayer Before Sleep, 2nd half, 4th petition) Thus do the Fathers maintain, thus it is made clear from the very essence of the matter.  (My Lamentation, The Orthodox Word Vol. 38, No. 1 [222]2002)

St. Ignaty on the Holy Gospel

St. Ignatius Brianchininov 1807-1867

Never cease studying the Gospel till the end of your life. Do not think you know it enough, even if you know it by heart. The Lord’s commandments are exceedingly broad (Ps. 119:96), even though they are expressed in few words. The Lord’s commandment is infinite, just as the Lord who uttered it is infinite. The practice of the commandments and progress in them is unlimited. The most perfect Christians, brought to a state of perfection by divine grace, remains imperfect in regard to the commandments of the Gospel. (The Arena, Chap. 6)

On Carnal and Spiritual Zeal

Rom. 10:2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

A monk must be extremely cautious of carnal and animal zeal, which outwardly appears pious but in reality is foolish and harmful to the soul.

Worldly people and many living the monastic life, through ignorance and inexperience, often praise such zeal without understanding that it springs from conceit and pride.  They extol this zeal as zeal for the faith, for piety, for the Church, for God.  It consists in a more or less harsh condemnation and criticism of one’s neighbours[…]  Deceived by a wrong conception of zeal, these imprudent zealots think that by yielding themselves to it they are imitating the holy fathers and holy martyrs, forgetting that they – the zealots – are not saints, but sinners.

[…] Divine zeal is a fire, but it does not heat the blood.  It cools it and reduces it to a calm state.  The zeal of the carnal mind is always accompanied by heating of the blood, and by an invasion of swarms of thoughts and fancies.  The consequences of blind and ignorant zeal, if our neighbour opposes it, are usually displeasure with him resentment, or vengeance in various forms; while, if he submits, our heart is filled with vainglorious self-satisfaction, excitement and an increase of our pride and presumption. (The Arena)

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