уторак, 7. април 2020.

COVID-19 and the Persecution of the Church

The Serbian True Orthodox Church
Hierarchical Council
COVID-19 and the Persecution of the Church
Instructions for the Clergy and Believers

Fifth Sunday of Great Lent
Uteshiteljevo, March 23/April 5 2020

“Lawlessness is everything that is against God, without God, outside of God.
A lawless man is he who declares this lawlessness to be his law.”
-Archimandrite Justin Popovich, Dogmatics, III Volume

About the COVID-19 virus

The COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the usual seasonal epidemics that our nation and the rest of the world have been dealing with for years, from which larger or smaller numbers of people have been getting sick and dying. The declaration of COVID-19 as a deadly pandemic which demands strict quarantine is nothing more than the Antichrist’s enslaving all of mankind through a web of manipulated statistics and programmed (always positive) tests creating an intentionally exaggerated picture orchestrated by the WHO, corrupted politicians, and mainstream mass media.

At the moment of writing these lines, nearly half of the entire world population is being forcibly kept in isolation. What is more, the global economy has been brought to a stop, as the majority of governments have ordered the closing of nearly all businesses. These measures mean that millions of people have lost their jobs.  In all of history we have never seen such far-reaching, all-encompassing measures which have affected all of mankind. In a matter of only a few weeks,  people’s ability to move freely, earn a living, and enjoy the freedom to live by their faith has completely disappeared.

COVID-19 has made possible the testing of various dictatorial measures which perfectly correspond to long-term plans to simultaneously frighten, isolate, subjugate, impoverish, demoralize -  and above all, separate from the Church – society on a global level. These measures create a perfect foundation to reshape society to conform to the already-long-ago- drafted plans of the Antichrist’s shadow government.  Of course, these plans have been being realized for decades, step by step, with the help of the rigorous indoctrination of the world population through mass media. Meanwhile, covered by the excuse of the battle against terrorism, the surveillance of a high-tech police state is quietly being established all over the world.

If this global imprisonment lasts several weeks, the world might be able to recover and return to some sort of normality. However, if it lasts for months, as the WHO and politicians all over the world are predicting, the blow to humanity will take on biblical proportions.

Global mass media is certainly the key weapon for the realization of the COVID-19 agenda. All mass media outlets, 24/7, report only about the corona virus and nothing else. Any other news or themes have simply been erased from public discourse.

Every evening, people all over the world wait for the grim news of the number of dead and infected, news which is custom-made to create fear. Every day, mankind follows these reports with anxiously, knowing that their freedom and life depend exclusively on these numbers which governments report every evening in news conferences. If the numbers grow, the period of imprisonment will continue, and the repressive machine will only tighten its grip.

As the quarantined population is constantly exposed to frightening news, the level of fear is growing in order to create an ideal basis for the complete acceptance of draconian police measures, even to the extent that passionate conformists demand that governments harshly deal with any “disobedient elements” of society. Often the church and clergy are targets.

The threat of a deadly pandemic is a perfect excuse for the introduction of draconian measures by the state. Borders are closed. International, inter-city and city transportation has been stopped. Gatherings are forbidden, while people over 65 have been restricted to complete home internment. Curfews have been set, with constant threats of home lockdown lasting 24 hours for days on end.

These measures of forbidding assembly, requiring partial or complete home lockdown, with constant threats of even more aggressive measures, extravagant fines, imprisonment, concentration camps, graves, Italian scenarios of massive casualties, have created an atmosphere of unbelievable fear and paranoia.

COVID-19  has opened the doors wide for high-tech surveillance to a level never before seen. Credit card transactions and smart phones are being tracked. Complete video surveillance systems are being put in place, along with the recording of communication between people in order to make a system which tracks people who have tested positive.  With this data maps have been made which show people if they have been in the vicinity of the infected. In the streets, drones film people and remind them to wear masks. Digital bar codes in mobile phones track movement and show the health status of individuals. With the help of cell phones and special bracelets the discipline of those who have been assigned home quarantine can be checked, as well as their contact with others.

All of these measures are alarming in that they could be easily put into place again in such “emergency” conditions by the government, even after this “pandemic” ends. It is hard to believe that the shadow government, which longs to extend its power and control over mankind for the sake of achieving its Antichrist agenda, will be willing to let the world go back to normal. The period after the corona virus is leading mankind to nothing less than a disturbing reality: a global recession and economic crisis of never-before-seen dimensions, which will certainly be useful to those who wish to bring about the Antichrist’s new world order.

Emergency conditions as an excuse to begin persecution of the church

We, the hierarchs of the Serbian True Orthodox Church, sharply condemn the suspension of the freedom of assembly for the free participation in religious rites under the pretense of emergency measures brought into place by the government of the Republic of Serbia for the control of the supposedly deadly epidemic.

We consider that the state, in emergency situations, may not prevent the holy services and the mystical work of the Church, at least insofar as the state institutions of vital importance also continue to function.  The parliament, government, various ministries, emergency staff, army, police, firemen, rescue units, Red Cross, economic and legal entities and all other associations that are part of the state apparatus continue to function with the goal of getting the populace out of danger. This means the gathering of several hundred people in one place, their incessant and intense work and contact. This being the case, how can they curtail the life of the Church as a vital part of a Christian society?

Even an (unfortunately) secular state such as that of the Republic of Serbia cannot treat in such a mere rationalist way the Church and believing people who are important constitutive factors in the Serbian state, whose roots in Christianity are centuries-deep.  If the state is what takes care of the bodily safety, health and material well-being of the nation, the Church must not be prevented from caring for the nation’s spiritual health.

All of these inappropriate measures -  preventing believers from attending the holy services, sacrilegious pressure that the Church change the rite of communion (as a supposed source of infection), or to completely cancel Holy Communion, and finally, the closing of church doors for the greatest Christian feast-day, the Holy Resurrection of Christ - only reveal the God-fighting nature of the secular government.

For us Christians, secular humanism, with which the godless authorities justify the closing of churches, is a great lie, especially if it is brought into play in concert with persecuting the Church, for true love of mankind cannot exist without being infused with the love of Christ who is the only true lover of mankind. He is the only true source of love for mankind. As we know that God created man in His image and likeness, and as every image must infer similarity with its first image, the presence of the image of God in man witnesses to his primarily spiritual nature. Introducing measures which care for people’s bodily health, while at the same time curtailing the same people’s ability to take care of their spiritual health is demonic hypocrisy.

Therefore, governmental measures which suspend that which has not been stopped in centuries – Church life, the mystical practice of the Church, and Her communal activity – by forcibly separating the believers from the Church, we consider to be the beginning of open persecution. On the basis of all of these matters and many other anti-christian iniquities, such as, for example, the government’s dedication to the sodomite plague, we now openly declare the government of the Republic of Serbia to be anti-Christian. Our Church community until now has simply refrained from commemorating the secular powers in Serbia who succeeded the communists.  From now on, however, we will be adding to our litanies a prayer for deliverance from the rule of open theomachists.

As adherents to Orthodox monarchism, we view the current parliamentarian-constitutional order as an obtrusive, harmful political system that is hostile to our people. Putting this stance aside, we assert our right to appeal to the highest state-law act, the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia. In article 202, paragraph 4, it clearly states that measures which are taken during emergency situations that violate the religious rights guaranteed by the Constitution are not permitted in any case whatsoever, according to the rights guaranteed by Article 43 of the Constitution relating to the freedom of religion.

On the basis of the above statement, if the government attempts to forbid the holy services, we will not submit to such a decision, calling upon Article 202, paragraph 4, along with Article 43, paragraph 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia.

Global ban on Christian church services and surrogate liturgies

It is disturbing that the global anti-clerical hysteria has already succeeded in suspending all church services throughout the world under the pretense that this will control the pandemic.

The banning of the work of the Church in some countries has taken on unbelievable dimensions. Under threat of imprisonment and draconian monetary fines, churches have been commanded to suspend services and lock their churches. In some places it has been ordered that the services can be conducted, but without the attendance of believers. In Greece there has now been introduced a ban even on the internal services within monasteries.

In these kind of situations a new scandal for contemporary Christians has arisen. In a word, churches are trying to overcome the problem of these liturgies which due to governmental pressure are being conducted without the presence of believers, behind locked doors, by providing some kind of surrogate “online” liturgies, which are transmitted through the means of mass communication. Is this the beginning of digital church services?

We sharply condemn this form of profanation of the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist as a modern form of renovationism, and we dissociate our flock from such offenses by the fact that our Holy Liturgies will not be transmitted live.

Besides profaning that which is holy, these digital liturgies also reveal a defeatism that has appeared in what should be the Church Militant.  Instead of warning the faithful that a persecution of the Church has begun, and that they should be prepared to defend what is holy, the church authorities are practicing these “livestreams”, giving their faithful an impression of peace. Some clergy have gone so far in their sermons as to tell their spiritual flock that there will be some kind of spiritual benefit from the populace being locked up, that this will lead to a renewal of a homey atmosphere and family values. All of this is only a pacification of the believing people to peacefully “stay at home” and make no resistance to this unheard-of ban on the holy services.

Separating the faithful from the Holy Liturgy

Even if we are powerless to stop the escalation of the repressive machine which is putting pressure on the church, we firmly raise our voice against the governmental measures which are preventing the faithful to come to their churches and participate in the Holy Liturgy.

These repressive measures do not only destroy religious freedom, but even strike against the very essence of the Holy Liturgy. The Holy Eucharist is the most important Christian Holy Mystery in which bread and wine are transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit into the very Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of which the faithful partake for the closest union with Christ and the acquiring of eternal life. "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:53-54)

The very essence of the service of the Orthodox Liturgy is the communal prayer of Christians, their assembly in Church as the Body of Christ. The Holy Liturgy is the synergy of the clergy and people, in which the people respond “Amen” to the prayerful supplications of the clergy.  The Holy Liturgy is not a personal act, in which the priest with the assistance of a professional chanter or choir, without the presence of the believers, fulfills the form of serving the Liturgy, which the believers will watch on little screens in their homes.

The Orthodox Church clearly confesses that there is no Liturgy without the faithful. That is one of the basic requirements for its realization. The holy fathers emphasize the importance of the people as “the chosen people, royal priesthood, holy people… the people of God.” (1 Peter 2:9-10), and as the “holy fullness,” which cooperates with the clergy, as an indispensable witness to the Mystery of the Church as the Mystery of Community, which in Orthodox teaching can only be realized through the Holy Liturgy.

Ban on Christian Pascha

As local and global media have been announcing, and as the Brnabić-Kon-Vučić triumvirate and the World Health Organization predict, the peak of the epidemic will be at the time of Christian Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ. The Roman Catholic Easter falls on the 12th of April, while the Orthodox Pascha falls on the 19th of April according to the civil calendar.

The question arises: why is the shadow government locking the doors of all Christian churches and preventing Christians all over the world from celebrating their greatest feast-day together in their churches?  Most disturbing is the fact that even the doors of the Lord’s Tomb in Jerusalem have been locked. Never in Christian history has it happened that the Resurrection service was suspended at the Lord’s Tomb while there was a living, healthy and free Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

All of this wakes in us an ominous foreboding that COVID-19 is not just a global, Orwellian social engineering project of the global shadow government, but rather a metaphysical phenomenon which demands an entirely different approach.

The official declaration of the Israeli minister of health Yaakov Litzman especially attracted our attention, in which he announced the arrival of the Jewish Mashiach (or in Christian terms, the Antichrist) during this year’s Passover  (April 8-16 April 2020). He declared this in the context of the question of how Israel was going to celebrate Passover if the country was going to be in lockdown because of COVID-19. The Minister of Health gave an entirely unexpected answer: “God forbid! We hope and pray that the Mashiach will arrive before this year’s Passover, for the time of our redemption has been fulfilled. I am certain that the Maschiach will come during our Passover and save us in the same way that God saved us during the exodus from Egypt when He freed us. The Mashiach will come and save all of us.” (Breaking Israel News, March 21, 2020). 

We would ask several questions: First of all, is COVID-19 only an excuse for a total suspension of all Liturgies connected to the celebration of Christian Pascha, the radiant Resurrection of Christ throughout the world?  Is it possible that the false Messiah cannot gather his full strength while Christians all over the world celebrate the Holy Liturgy? Maybe the Jewish Passover with the Antichrist Mashiach cannot take place if at the same time the Christian Pascha is being celebrated all over the world?

Whether the background of COVID-19 is connected with the supposed arrival of the false Messiah is something we cannot know, but this possibility should not be dismissed a priori.

We should keep in mind that the main goal of the powers of darkness on earth is their fight against the divine Body of Christ, that is, the Church. The demonic powers know that they cannot defeat Our Lord Jesus Christ, but they are allowed to pull people away from Christ’s Church, to block their access to Christ, the Church, and the believers’ closest union with Christ through Holy Communion. They know that the weaker the Church is, the fewer true Christians there are, the more the powers of evil can grown and strengthen.

Instructions to the Clergy and Believers

We instruct our clergy to not cease services according to the Church Typicon. They should, as much as possible considering the emergency situation, continue with the holy services in their parish churches. If this is not possible, they should serve catacomb-style in their homes. What is more, the Holy Liturgy should be served more often, as opposed to less often. The faithful should continue to commune in the traditional way. In a word, the Holy Mysteries should be performed according to church practice without change, while the place and time can be adapted according to the current conditions of persecution of the Church.

We recommend to our faithful not to participate in the general hysteria and not to inform themselves only through mass media. You ought to follow other (alternate) media sources over the Internet where you can access objective and sober information, whether it be connected to the COVID-19 epidemic or about the emergency situation in Serbia and in the world.  Follow the official announcements and the instructions of the STOC on our official sites and on that basis adapt your lives to these difficult days of persecution of the Church of Christ.

If the government lengthens the 24-hour lockdown to be not just on weekends, but for periods of a week or more (during Passion and/or Bright Week), we will inform you of the time, place, and manner that we will celebrate these holy days under persecution conditions.  Some information about the survival of church life during a situation of total persecution will not be published openly, but will be shared internally.

We will end our announcement with a prayer which we will be introducing into our daily cycle of services, in all of our parishes, and we recommend that our spiritual children add it to their daily prayer rule:

                 “Save, O Lord, and have mercy on the suffering Serbian land, and deliver her people from the godless authorities. Establish the throne of pious Serbian kings, and submit under their feet every enemy and opponent, that we may in their peace enjoy a quiet, tranquil life in piety and chastity. Amen.”

The Office of the Hierarchical Council of the STOC

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