Stand On The Rock

There have been few, if any, more striking images this year from a Christian perspective than the spectacle of Orthodox monks standing between police and protesters in the streets of Kiev.

On January 21, Fr. Gabriel, Fr. Melchisedek, and Fr. Ephraim from the Kiev-Caves Lavra (monastery), walked onto Kiev’s Grushevsky Street and placed themselves in the middle of violent street fighting. They were armed with a cross bearing the image of the crucified Christ, an icon of the crucifixion and a thurible. The monks proceeded to call on both sides of the fighting to repent, while praying and singing the Paschal troparion: 

“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” 

Their prayer was answered and the fighting ceased.

Western Christians, with more than a little justice, have long said that the church must be “counter cultural” and that’s exactly what the Kiev monks bravely put into action, the counterculture of repentance and the Incarnate, Crucified and Risen Lord. Their appearance belies the truth; looking like men from another age, the monks put themselves in the line of fire and brought peace. Consider the contrast between the images of rioters, armored police and monks; the priests on Gruschevsky Street not only appear radically different, they are. They come from a different culture than the fighters, the culture of the Gospel. 

What a contrast! The monks, rioters and police. The one standing for violent conflict, the other for something different, for holiness and the sacrificial peace of Christ. It’s a powerful image, if only for its contrasts and the bravery of the priests, but more than that, it’s an unashamed witness to catholic Christianity. No doubt about it, Fr. Gabriel, Fr. Melchisedek and Fr. Ephraim are the real deal, witnessing, no-holds-barred, to the Apostolic Faith.

It is this that Forward in Faith stands for and proclaims, however imperfectly and against all the odds, the fullness of Christianity as founded by Christ, for Christianity that, in a word, is catholic. Part of this means believing in certain things, such as the teaching of the undivided church as expressed in Scripture, the Creeds, the Sacraments and all seven of the Ecumenical Councils.

This magazine exists to proclaim that Faith and to call all others, especially Anglicans, to believe the same and where lacking, to repent of the deficiency. Nothing less, we believe, will be able to hold against the rising tide of aggressive secularism in the West and, ultimately, to reclaim our culture for Christ and the redemptive truth of the Gospel. For that reason, as part of our mission to uphold the faith of the undivided catholic church, this issue of Forward in Christ focuses on the 7th Ecumenical Council. (Nicea II, 787 A.D.) 

Some Anglicans, in a spirit of iconoclasm, denigrate this council of the church as “idolatrous.” Why? Because it endorses the use of relics and images of the saints in worship. These, they feel, count as idols which detract from the true worship of Christ.

Before making this accusation, they would do well to consider the men on Grushevsky Street, who are holding up icons of our crucified Savior, images of Jesus which are endorsed by the 7th Council. And with that in mind, they might picture themselves walking up to the monks in Kiev and explaining to them that they’re idolaters, fake Christians who are really pagan worshippers of a false god.

It is a remarkable claim and one which, if you were on the spot in Kiev, would doubtless be a foolish one to make. It’s hard to picture the men of the Lavra taking such absurd criticism lightly. Idolaters? On the contrary, the men holding the sacred images stand resolutely for Christ and the Gospel, the whole Gospel, not some fraction of it, but the whole thing as handed down by the Apostles themselves.

Anglicans of whatever brand, and in the end all persons, are faced with a decision, illustrated in part by recent events in the Ukraine. 

Are we, or do we even want to be, a constituent part of the whole church catholic? Will we give ourselves to our Lord in the fullness of His Body, the church, or will we opt for some other thing? We’re free to go down either path, but the choice gets narrower by the day; as hatred and oppression of the Faith grows, only that which stands upon the rock which is Christ and the faith of the Apostles will stand. All else will be washed away.

I pray that we stand on that rock and do so with the courage of the monastic priests in Kiev.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.