“In the life of the Church, the best times are the times of persecution”
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Orthomonde.fr posted the French translation of an interview with Bishop Onufriy published by the Ukrainian site Fraza.ua.
Please find here the English translation:

“The most terrible times for the Church are the times of peace. We are currently experiencing a period of growth towards a more mature age.

For us Christians, the ground beneath our feet looks like a swamp. We have to strive to move forward, because if we remain in the same place, we will certainly sink in. Without him noticing, the Christian who remains motionless will go down ever lower, until he chokes on his own insensitivity. This is characteristic of peacetime. This applies both to the clergy and the laity. One gets bitter without knowing it. The morning and evening prayer creak like an old floor. Without the oil of grace, the soul creaks, then dies, like a coughing old lady.

After all, monasticism developed at a time when the Orthodox faith ceased to be forbidden. At that time, instead of the roaring wild beasts in Roman theaters and the blood of martyrs, you could hear the clinking of gold in the purse of bishops. The tempting salary of clerics attracted men ready to follow Christ, in order to have an ecclesiastical career rather than for love for Him. Then the blood of the true Christians began to flow silently into the deserts of Egypt and Syria. The exploit of martyrdom was replaced by that of the crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and desires. Marriage between the Church and the State always produces deformed children: it is a valid law for all times.

That is another thing when the degree of anticlericalism created by society reaches such heights, that only those who place faith in God above all the other priorities of life can remain in the Church. Those who try to make a career in the Church, those who seek only profit, notoriety, or self-veneration in the Church, those love to “preside over meetings” and want “people to speak highly of them”, all these people end up leaving to go somewhere else. Thus, the Church gets purified of all that it not genuine in it.

And that is great. Christ has precisely determined the paradigm of the relationship between the Church and the world: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also,” “the world hated me and will hate you too”, and even ” the one who kills you will think he is serving God.” As soon as the world begins to love us, we cease to be servants of Christ and become slaves of the world. That is the most terrible thing that can happen to us.

When I look at the iconostasis in my home, I do not see a single man who would have entered the Kingdom of Light after a pious “stagnant” life. On each icon, a martyr is looking at me, whether they shed their blood or not. We are familiar with the algorithm of the devil’s “work” against the Church. It is simple to the point of naivety, and therefore extremely effective. In the early days of Christianity, satan shouted in the media of the time, that “Christians are perverts and cannibals,” that “during their assemblies, they sacrifice young children, drink their blood and then commit lust”.

Surely, after that, how not to throw the Christians to the lions in the amphitheater? One hundred years ago, satan taught again that Christians have “a reactionary clergy”, that they are “accomplices of imperialism” and “enemies of the revolution”. According to the testimony of his contemporaries, the mere mention of the Church and of Christ made Lenin furious. Twenty years later, the clergy were shot for the following reasons: “links with the counter-revolutionaries”, “collaboration with foreign spies”, “organization of meetings aimed at overthrowing the Soviet power”, “complicity with Western special services”. On the threshold of the 21st century, satan’s arguments are still the same: “Kremlin agents”, “KGB members”, “accomplices of the aggressor”. The record has not changed and we recognize the same writing.

Yet true Christians lived, are living and will live by one thing alone: Christ and the Gospel. They can certainly be slandered, killed, put in prison, as it happened more than once in history, but they will continue to love God, the Church, and their country. Because, like God, the Church is one with us.

Periods of persecution are the most profitable for the Church. In those times, one thing is enough: to remain faithful to God and to our mother the Church. In fact, everything in this world is very simple. Because God himself is simple. In the world, there is good and bad. There is Universal Love and Hatred. The Savior gave us His commandment of love. Everything that comes with love, light, kindness, mercy or compassion, has its source in God, one way or another. Because He is good. Everything that comes with hate, destruction, war, call to murder, thirst for death, has its origin in hell, regardless of the motives and intentions, the evil of which is disguised by satan. Our true homeland is the Kingdom of God, and we must strive in order to obtain our passport for eternity.

In reality, what we are experiencing right now is just a process of growth towards a more mature age. You never find growth dynamics in a comfort zone. This applies to any system. Growth is only possible through effort and a difficult environment, in the least favorable circumstances. Then our inner resources are revealed, and we receive a new experience, “add to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love… He who lacks these is shortsighted… Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble (2 Peter 1: 6-10).”

Source in French and Ukrainian

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne was born and raised in France. She taught English before entering the Cistercian Order. She translated and published articles relevant to her interest in Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She moved to the United States in 2001, converted to Orthodoxy in 2008, and married. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. She continued to publish articles, a Cistercian texts anthology, then finally launched her career in literary translation, while teaching French. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here https://wordsandpeace.com/contact-me/

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