The battle for Salvation. Fr Arsenie Boca.

This is an amateur translation of a chapter from a book written by Fr Arsenie Boca, “The Royal Path.”

“On such a glorious path no one can walk all by himself, unless he joins first the community of the Church in order to be guided by the invisible Hand of the Redeemer through His visible disciples, the priests, sent by Him generation after generation. For the Forefathers uttered this word: whoever seeks salvation, has to journey questioning; question shall be man’s companion, because whoever decides to leave the way of sin or of the feud of transgressions, will suddenly find himself confronted by three succeeding enemies. (“Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” Tim 3:12.). The enemies of salvation are the following: the world, the flesh and the devil, as described by the Holy Fathers of the Church.

By the “world” we mean a category of sin, namely the flock of unbelievers (“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him” John 1:10), those who willingly commune in the counsel of the devils (“Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8). It is not for that world that the Savior has prayed for (“I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. “John 17: 9). It’s the world of gossip, the neighbor’s gossip and many times, the gossip and deeds of one’s own household (“and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”Mt 10:36). These people, or the world, are ready to forgive you any vile action, regardless of how much ruin it inflicts upon your soul, but they will never forgive you if you make a step forward in the right direction and you’re becoming a better man. The people of this world suffer from a strange shame about being good. One’s goodness burns them and they try hard to attack it with all kinds of insults, offenses and mockeries. “The world” is “the present evil age” (“who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” Gal 1: 4), the “men pleasers” (“not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” Eph 6:6). “The whole world lies under the power of the wicked one” (1 John 5, 19). For that reason we have the commandment: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world glory, for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world.”  (1 John 2:15-16).

Whosoever wants to overcome that first barrier on the path of salvation, has the following three tools at hand: patience, forgiveness and prayer. Our first duty is to display patience because, before we came back to God or to the efforts and pains of salvation, we also did the things of the world, making all kinds of iniquities and causing suffering to others and therefore, we’ve accumulated a big debt. Now we have to pay for what we have done then, in order to earn God’s Redemption by practicing patience. Whatever evil we’ve enjoyed doing in the past, we have to pay back with sorrow. It is true and just.

St. Maxim the Confessor, describes the virtue of patience: “To stand stock-still during hard times and to endure the wrongdoing; to wait till the temptation is over without letting the anger loose; neither to talk unwisely, nor to allow a thought that is not well-pleasing to God”. For the Scripture says: “Unjust anger cannot be justified, for anger tips the scale to one’s ruin.hose who are patient stay calm until the right moment, and then cheerfulness comes back to them.” (The Wisdom of Jesus the Syrah 1:22-23). These are the signs of patience, but above all it is to regard oneself as the source of temptation, because most of what’s happening to us is for our own guidance or for the erasing of our past sins, or for the correction of inattention we’re in now, or for the prevention of future sins. Thus, whosoever accepts the occurring trials as being sent because of one of the above mentioned reasons, he does not rebel when sorrows arrive– especially if one has an awareness of his sins – neither does he accuse anyone by whom the trial came upon him, because either through this person or another, the cup of the divine judgment has to be drunk. The fool though is imploring for God’s mercy and, when the mercy comes, he does not accept it, because it did not come in the form he expected, but rather as the Doctor of souls considered beneficial or useful to him. For that reason, he becomes insensitive and confuses himself and at times, he is at war with the devils and at other times he blasphemes God; therefore, finding himself unsatisfied, he doesn’t receive but beatings”. (St. Maxim the Confessor, The ascetic word, Philokalia).

Whosoever wants to be triumphant over the world, his duty is to pick up the rarely used weapon of forgiveness, no matter how many hardships one has to endure from the people of this world, but as one who sees his brothers enslaved in a foreign land, in the darkness of not knowing God and themselves.

Whosoever wants to triumph over the world, prays to the Father for any son of God, in secret or in thought, regardless of the evildoings received from him . The patient endurance of evil, the forgiveness of brothers and the prayer in secret are in themselves very powerful before God and for that, God Himself triumphs instead of men, turning into good any wickedness coming from the world. Showing perseverance in these things, you’re becoming the base of the salvation of your brothers in the world.

Prayer does not judge, but humbles itself, focusing on our own iniquities and not those of the world. The request of true prayer is for the world to be forgiven, not condemned. The enemy can do nothing against meekness, humility or piety. Doing it in this way with every occasion- helped by God, you overcome the first obstacle raised before you by the enemy through your worldly weak-willed brothers (1Thessalonians  5, 14).

At the time of war whosoever has the gift of love, of patience and of pious thought, (as long as he fights according to the law (2 Timothy 2, 5), and the law is love) can see marvelous things, unexpected comebacks to God.

We don’t know the mysteries of God: who will be saved or condemned. If someone will behave wildly towards you because of his own darkness – but God knows that he could still be saved – his salvation can be achieved with your help s well, through the God-given gifts of patience, forgiveness from the heart (Matthew 18, 35) and prayer. Then, through your meekness, God will triumph and chase away the evil spirit from that brother. But, on the other hand, if that brother still has to suffer in foreign slavery, or will even loose his soul, his wretchedness will grow seeing your godly behavior and he will become even wilder, turning with his whole being against men and provoking God.

Therefore, do not forget that we are enlisted as soldiers (2 Timothy 2, 3) of God. And my soul, be worthy, remembering in Whom you believe (2 Cor 10, 4), with Whose weapons you’re fighting this war, Who is your Helper – so that God may not lose anyone because of your own lack of skillfulness; for the Holy Fathers said that the basis of salvation is your neighbor. Those who overcome the world (1 John 5, 4) are not a helpless army, a gathering of idle people, regardless of how much the enduring of evil may appear as weakness of good, but they are rather the Kings’ soldiers, who by enduring the Cross not only triumphed over the world, but over the power of death itself. Salvation is the crown of this victory. The endurance of hardships, which proved the patience and faith of the saints (Revelation 13, 10), is the only permitted way to consume the power of evil and make it meaningless and powerless in this world.”

Only 37.9% of the places of worship built in Romania after 1989 belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church

The Romanian State Secretariat for Religious Affairs has recently published a centralized analysis regarding the number of places of worship in Romania, as at 31 December 2015. These statistics offer the possibility of a quantitative comparison between religious denominations and have the advantage of clarifying an aspect that has been more and more invoked as problematic: building churches.

Taking into account that the communist regime hindered the construction of places of worship and as a consequence of the demographic increase after the year 1989 building new churches became a necessity. These churches have been built at the initiative of communities of believers. After 26 years, only the Romanian Orthodox Church has become the target of criticism related to this subject.

The information published by the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs shows a surprising, still real, situation, which should be acknowledged in any honest analysis.

Thus, the Orthodox faithful, representing 86.45% of the Romanian population according to the latest census (2011), have 59.9% of the total number of places of worship, while the other officially recognised religious denominations own 40.1%.

Furthermore, according to the situation presented by the State Secretariat, the Romanian Orthodox Church represents by far the religious denomination with the fewest churches related to the number of believers, with an average of 994 Orthodox faithful allotted to each place of worship. If we take into account the fact that out of the 16,403 Orthodox places of worship referred to in the report, according to the records of the Romanian Patriarchate, only 13,511 are parochial (parish churches and affiliated churches, the other being cemetery chapels, monastic churches and chapels), thus there is a church for every 1,200 Orthodox faithful.

On the other hand, it is important to notice that during the last 26 years, after 1989, the Romanian Orthodox Church (representing 86.45% of the population) completed the construction of 3,191 churches, while the other officially recognised religious denominations (representing 13.55% of the population) have built 5,222 places of worship. Therefore, one can remark that only 37.9% of the total number of places of worship, built after 1989 (in Romania), are Orthodox.

The Romanian Orthodox Church is not, as reasonably expected, on top of the list of percentage increase in the number of churches after 1989 (including those under construction). It is only the seventh, with a percentage increase of 35.1% during 1989-2015. For the same period, Pentecostals had an increase of 268.8%; Seventh-day Adventists, 199.2%; Christians according to the Gospel, 170%; Baptists, 113.7%; Old Rite Russian Orthodox Church, 45.6%; and the Reformed Church, an increase of 35.47%.

Pentecostals have an average of 122 faithful assigned to each place of worship; Seventh-day Adventists – 64 faithful to each place of worship; Christians according to the Gospel – 93 faithful to each place of worship; while the Baptists – 72 faithful to each place of worship.

Referring to the religion with the highest percentage increase (Pentecostals – 268.8%), it can be noticed that for its 356,314 members, 1,950 places of worship have been built after 1989, while for the 16,307,004 Orthodox believers 3,191 churches have been built.

In Bucharest, if we compare to the national Orthodox average, the number of churches is also under-represented. For a resident population of 1,587,951 inhabitants, there are 260 Orthodox churches (parochial churches, monastery churches and chapels), i.e. each place of worship is assigned to 6,108 inhabitants.

In conclusion, the centralized analysis presented by the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs clearly shows that the Romanian Orthodox Church remains the denomination with the fewest churches related to the number of faithful, having a problematic situation in Bucharest, where each of the existing churches serves more than 6,000 people.

 

Only 37.9% of the places of worship built in Romania after 1989 belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church