Present-day Orthodox are hard pressed to respond to [current] issues, because they have become so far removed from this [patristic-hesychastic] tradition today that they no longer think of the Orthodox Christian way of life in the context of sickness and healing. They do not consider Orthodoxy to be a curative course of treatment, even though all the prayers are perfectly clear on this point. After all, Who is Christ for Orthodox Christians? Is He not repeatedly invoked in the prayers and hymns of the Church as “the Physician of our souls and bodies”?
Now if you search through the Roman Catholic or Protestants tradition, you will not find the word ‘doctor’ used for Christ anywhere. Only in the Orthodox tradition is Christ called ‘the doctor.’ But why has this tradition died out among the Roman Catholics and Protestants? Why are they so surprised when we speak to them about a curative course of treatment? The reason is that the need for purification and illumination — the need for an inner change — is no longer a part of these peoples’ theology. For them, the one who changes is not man, but God! For them, man does not change. For them, the only thing man does is that he becomes a ‘good’ boy. And when a ‘bad’ boy becomes a ‘good’ boy, then God loves him. Otherwise, God turns away from him. If man continues to be a ‘bad’ boy or becomes a ‘bad’ boy, then God does not love him! In other words, if man becomes a ‘good’ boy, then God changes and becomes good. And while before God did not love him, now He does! When man becomes a bad’ boy, God gets mad. When man becomes a ‘good’ boy, it makes God happy. This, unfortunately, is the way things are in Europe.
But the bad thing is that this takes place not only in Europe, but also in Greece. This spirit holds sway over many in the Church here. Orthodoxy has sunk to the point of being a ‘religion’ of a moody God! When man is ‘good,’ God loves him, but when he’s ‘bad,’ God does not love him.13 In other words, God punishes and rewards. So, Orthodoxy in Greece today has essentially been reduced to moralism. Isn’t that what they used to teach children in catechism class and in Greece’s independent Orthodox Christian societies, those organizations that look to the West for models and have corrupted the Orthodox spirit?
After all I have said, if you are interested in learning why Orthodoxy has reached such a sorry state, you should read Adamantios Korais. After the Revolution of 1821, his reforms instituted this policy in Greece. He is the one who initiated the persecution of hesychasm, traditional monasticism, Orthodoxy and the only true cure for the human soul of man. But let’s begin our inquiry elsewhere.
Let’s suppose that there is a research scientist who is not affiliated with any religion — he can be an atheist if you like — but one who does research on religious traditions. When he reaches the Orthodox tradition, he starts to dig around, discovers these things, and describes them. Then he says, “Hey, look at this! Here is a tradition that speaks about the soul, about the soul’s noetic energy, and about a specific curative course of treatment.” Later in his research, this scientist comes to the realization that if this curative treatment were implemented in human society, it would have a very beneficial effect on the health of the individual and society as a whole. Afterwards, as he continues searching, he begins to establish when this tradition appeared, what its sources are, how many centuries it has been successfully put into practice, and where this took place. As he persists, he discovers why this tradition no longer exists today among the majority of the Orthodox and why Orthodoxy has undergone this change and become so distorted. And as our researcher continues, he finds out that all this happened because hesychasm or traditional monasticism, the bearer of this tradition, was persecuted.
But why was hesychasm persecuted? It was persecuted because the countries in which it had flourished started to become Westernized politically as was the case in Russia after the reforms of Peter the Great and in Greece after the revolution of 1821. The modern historian Toynbee says that today Orthodox culture is gradually being absorbed by Western culture. He has written an entire book on this phenomenon. Of the twenty-six cultures that existed in the past, he finds only five still in existence today.14 These are the Hindu culture, the culture of the Far East (China and Japan), European culture, Orthodox culture, and the primitive culture that still exists today in some regions of Australia and Africa. And Toynbee’s theory is that today all the cultures of the world are becoming Westernized.
In the past, an effort was made for this Westernization to take place through the work of Western missionaries. In the past, Europeans used to send out armies of missionaries – and they still do so today – whose purpose was not only to convert other nations to Christianity, but also to Westernize them. And that is why all of these heretical groups are present in Greece and still active. Toynbee notes, however, that this missionary activity failed in the idol-worshiping societies of Africa, as elsewhere, because missionaries created divisions among the people. In a single indigenous family, for example, one son would become Lutheran, his brother would become Anglican, a third brother Baptist, their cousin Methodist, another cousin Pentecostal, another cousin Evangelical, and so on, so that they not only shattered the nation into small fragments through religion, but they even shattered families. It has been established, therefore, that this kind of missionary work was a great failure in Westernizing peoples of the third world.
Therefore in 1948, Toynbee suggested a new solution – that Westernization should take place by means of technology and the economy.
—Protopresbyter John S. Romanides
13) Professor George Mantzaridis in his comments related to Archimandrite Zachariah Zacharou’s book entitled Reference to the Theology of Elder Sophrony (Essex: Sacred Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner, 2000), which was printed in the periodical Synaxis (85 Jan-March 2003], 98), mentions the following:
“The unwavering criterion of the truth and the catholicity of the Church consists of love for one’s enemies. In the teaching of St. Silouan and the Elder Sophrony, people are not classified as ‘enemies’ and ‘friends’ [or ‘good people’ and ‘bad people’], but as those ‘who have known’ and those who ‘do not know’ God. Wherever ‘enemies’ are acknowledged, it means that part of the body of humanity is cast aside and universality is restricted. Keeping the commandment of love for one’s enemies means that man embraces all human beings and becomes catholic, universal. And on an ecclesiastical level, love for one’s enemies comprises the criterion that assures catholicity. ‘The true Church is that which maintains alive love for one’s enemies’ [po 350]. It is highly significant and especially appropriate for this point to be stressed in our age.”
14) Fr.John is likely referring to Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889-1975), Civilization on Trial (1948). Toynbee was an English historian best known for his 12-volume A Study of History (1934-61), a monumental synthetic work on civilization, “Unlike Spengler in his The Decline of the West, Toynbee did not regard the death of a civilization as inevitable, for it mayor may not continue to respond to successive challenges. Unlike Karl Marx, he saw history as shaped by spiritual, not economic forces …. Many critics complained that the conclusions he reached were those of a Christian moralist rather than of a historian. His work, however, has been praised as a stimulating answer to the specializing tendency of modern historical research.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica CD) -TRANS