(In decent English): Interview with Icon Painter Fr. Monk, Theophanes (Jensen) at our ROCA Mt. View, New York, Church Center
Note: This is a humanly smoothed-out, careful rendition, rather than an exact literal translation, and slightly amplified for clarity of meaning in spoken English, from the very rough machine-English translation, of the original Russian language interview:...found on:< http://internetsobor.org>
What a treasure of Orthodoxy and of our ROCA is Fr. Theophanes! (Jensen),
and his mentor, fellow icon painter, Hegumin Fr. Andrei (Erastov)!
May God Grant Them Both, Many Years!
*May God grant Fr. Theophanes a long life! and Fr. Andrei also!, They are precious treasures of Orthodoxy and of our ROCA church.
Russian original interview:
rptcz/tcerkovnye-novosti/ rptcz/monakh-feofan-iensen-ia- reshil-vo-chto-by-to-ni-stalo- naiti-dlia-sebia-peshcheru-v- pustyne-i-poselitsia-v-nei
Monk Theophane (Jensen): "I had decided, in that whatever place I was, I needed to find myself a desert cave and settle in it ..."Author: Dmitry Vasilevsky incl. December 14, 2014. Published in the ROCA (Views: 39)
Resident icon painter Father Theophanes (Jensen) was born in Denmark in 1967, he was baptized in the Lutheran Church. At the age of 23, he converted to Russian Orthodoxy, He finished the Jordanville seminary and became a monk. Currently Father Theophane is engaged in painting at the temple of the spiritual and educational center of t ROCA, at 'Mountain View' in upstate New York, USA. We are deeply grateful to Father Theophanes that he has kindly agreed to answer our questions and tell us a little about his life.
- Father Theophane, can you remember the time when you first came into contact with the Orthodox Church?
- It is said that when a person reaches a certain age, he becomes his true self, whether that measure of self-consciousness comes from him hearing a kind of inner voice or from his desire for God. In me the voice was when I was 15-16 years old. But I did not know anything about Orthodoxy, absolutely nothing. I grew up in a family that was not Orthodox, it was a Lutheran family. However, our family as much as possible and as most of the families in Denmark, had not been knowledgeable in strictly religious terms, that is, we had not cared about ecclesiastical interests, formal church life. However, in our everyday life, we tried to act morally, honestly, to help each other ...
- Interesting ...
- Yes, I can say that in my family they were all very honest people. My mother was a nurse and my father was a baker on ships, he baked bread. After my parents were married, my father began working then only on land, in urban bakeries. But what I actually wanted to say is that my parents were very good people indeed, and they did not spare themselves. I have three brothers, very kind people. And none of us brothers could never recall a single case in which our father and mother quarreled. So we grew up, my brothers and I, in a very good positive atmosphere. Always and everywhere there reigned love. Our parents tried to spend more time at home with us kids. Anyway, in the evening after work, our parents always spent time with us. I grew up in a very nice family ... We were always taught to help each other and this leaven we have retained in us so far: if one of the brothers is in trouble, the other comes to the rescue. Thus we were brought up. The love that I saw as a child, and that education, which gave me all this has become for me the solid foundation on which I further built my relationship upon, to the world and to people. Although my parents were not practicing or church people, they grew up in a country whose culture and roots are based on Christianity, and it was obvious from my parents ... .and now that all disappears gradually, unfortunately, that is the Christian culture ... it's all the same end effect, even if the person does not go to church. When I heard a calling me, to know God's voice, I did not realize where He was and what He is was calling me to do. I do not remember anyone telling me where to direct my search. I do not remember, that there was anyone who influenced me in my religious choice. I still do not understand how it was that I came to know God, that is, all that I did have, was a great desire to know Him and to seek union with Him. But my searches were not always going in the right direction. For a time, I spent in search of false spirituality, I studied the teachings of the various sects, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists. I just read about them, but I did not practice them.. Soon, however, I felt that there was something wrong. The Lord led me.
It's amazing how God provides for all of us, as He is always ready to support the person, if he sees that he is looking for Him, although he is himself often completely unaware that he is hungry for God.
In the city where I was born ... a small town near Copenhagen, we had a library ...
- And the name of the town where you were born?
- This is Glostrop. There I went to the city library and searched all that was related to the topic of religion. Of course, most of these were Protestant books, but then I chose a book, a little one, in Danish, which marked the beginning of my acquaintance with the Orthodox Church, that is, in general - with the truth. I took with me that book and began to read it carefully. Everything in it for me was very interesting. It tells about a man who lived in Russia, somewhere in the 19th century, and who was looking for an answer to the question of how we can learn to pray without ceasing, in the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 5, 17). As I later learned, this book is very well-known in the Orthodox world.
- I guess you're talking about the book "of a Pilgrim to his spiritual father"? [ or, 'The Way of A Pilgrim'}.
- Yes, yes, a Pilgrim, who for a long time was looking for someone who could interpret for him a command of the Apostle Paul to pray without ceasing. Finally, by Divine Providence, the traveler found one old man, who explains to him these mysterious words and gives him a book called "The Philokalia".['Dobotolubiyeh' in Slavonic], At first, as I said, I read these stories about this stranger, not knowing at all, that they are somehow connected with Orthodoxy. I knew only that it was a translation from a Russian book. The word "Orthodoxy" it was then unknown to me. Here in Denmark, of course, there is a [ small] presence of the Orthodox Church, but it is among the [ foreign][ diaspora, so proper to himself, for the Danish, virtually nothing has been translated. There's no perceived need. And it was a miracle that someone else in the 60s decided to make a translation of this amazing book to my native Danish language (laughs) .
- It is also surprising how the book made it to a little provincial town library ...
- Even more surprising is how it was able to get into my hands, among all the abundance of the Danish Protestant literature on the library shelves. I still wonder at God's Providence. Obviously, this is a rare book among spiritual literature about Orthodoxy, and I read it again, not knowing that it is the story of an Orthodox person.
This stranger was in a similar situation as myself - I was looking for God, he was looking for the Jesus Prayer, but both of us were looking for the truth.
Perhaps that is why this book has so strongly influenced me with this same spirit, that I also wanted to lead an ascetic life, and I also wanted to find a place where I could pray without ceasing. But I was just thinking about it. I went traveling, looking for a place suitable for myself to be a devotee. This, however, was so long ago that I, unfortunately, can not remember exactly the whole order of events. I traveled a lot, as I was young. It somehow became known to me that in Egypt there are ancient monasteries, particularly in the capital Cairo, Egypt, there are several monasteries. Not exactly in the city of Cairo, but somewhere about 70 miles away. There is the monastery of St. Anthony the Great, and of St. Macarius the Great. I read about them, while still in Denmark. In short, my spirit had decided to make such a journey, and I decided that whatever happened, I needed to find himself a desert cave and live in it. I went to Egypt ...
- Excuse me, but how old are you then?
- I guess I was 21-22 years old, I do not remember exactly, to be honest. That is, since I became interested in religious issues and to the point, when I took the first step towards a decisive change in my life, it took about seven years. But the most interesting, you know what? The fact that, even by my going to the Egyptian desert, I still did not know anything about Orthodoxy. Imagine how difficult it is to access clean sources of spiritual knowledge in a rapidly de-Christianizing Europe! Before leaving for Egypt, I asked a professional translator to translate for me into Arabic a couple of sentences, that explains, that 'I'm from Denmark, I want to become a hermit and to pray without ceasing in a cave and that I need assistance in finding a place' (laughs) . I felt that this was exactly what I needed. This translated text I put in an envelope and it went with me on that long journey. Yes I Am ...
- What happened?
And then it happened that that letter I did not need.. At first I thought that I would give this letter to the Coptic monks. Some people even told me before the trip that, if I come into such and such a church in Cairo, the Coptic monks of good will, certainly would help me. They always help pilgrims find accommodations, they help anyone who has any need. Well, well. I went and found the temple. I was met in a very friendly manner, and they asked me to wait a little bit in a small room, when a man would come who could take me to the ancient monastery outside the city and arrange everything as I needed.
I still remember that moment: it included short stature man in a cassock, with a beard and a calotte. It was a Russian Orthodox monk, or rather, as I learned later, a ryassoforny monk. We talked in English. It turned out that he wanted to go to the same place as me, and probably Coptic monks decided that we could create a great company with each other. And more. If I'm going to tell you that this was a monk from Jordanville, then you probably guessed how people from distant Denmark, that is, I could not, in the end, could become have ended up later, a monk in a small corner of Russian America.[Jordanville].
But the miracles were just beginning. You know what I mean? The fact that this monk for seven years had asked his bishop to let him go on a pilgrimage to the holy places of the Egyptian desert. And at the very moment when I myself was in that temple that day, there too, was a monk there and we met. God provides everything. God knew that if the monk went there a little earlier or a little later, I would have never met him, most likely. Of course, I'm talking in a sense as a man, God can arrange everything.. Until now, I believe that it was not just a coincidence, but the action of Divine Providence. Exactly. For seven years his bishop refused to give his blessing, and he only gave it to him the same year, when I decided to go there too, but somewhere in the seventh year of his search for God, I traveled from Denmark to Egypt to seek a solitary life. I think that God waited until I did not go, so that we could meet. In a cave, I am certainly not settled (laughs) , but I received Holy Baptism in the monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
- It was in Egypt?
- No, it was on Mount Athos, which compared with Egypt, I knew as much about Orthodoxy.[i.e. very little].
- That is, nothing?
- Exactly! I'll tell you everything in order. The monk from Jordanville was called Father Oleg, from him I learned about Orthodoxy for the first time and I owe it to him that I became Orthodox. From Cairo we went together to the Coptic monastery, which was located in the desert. During our short trip, he not only told me about Orthodoxy, but also convinced me that this faith is the only true one. All he told me I totally accepted. He saw that I had no internal resistance to him and that I was inwardly receptive.
- And how did he react to your desire that you both strive together in a cave in the desert?
- I do not remember exactly. But we talked a lot about monasticism. Fr. Oleg, I think, had a selfless dispensation and it seems to me that he was sympathetic to my perhaps, naive then, aspirations to severe feats. But what is most interesting ... that monasticism in Denmark there is none.. So for us, as monks, well, as you say ...[I,e. Denmark was not an option].
- It is not clear ...
- Not only was it is not clear, [ in Denmark] but also very strange. To see a man in a black cassock - this is strange ... (laughs) . Monasticism in fact ceased to exist in Denmark, starting from the 16th century. Is it any wonder that to modern Danes, it is quite baffling?
- What do you mean?
- Now I will try to explain. Denmark was Christianized in the 9th-10th centuries... Her evangelizer was Saint Ansgar Equal-to-the-Apostles, a canonized Orthodox saint, which we know through the works of St. John of Shanghai. Vladyka John, as you know, was very fond of Western saints. So, in the 9th.-10th. centuries, Denmark became Christian, in fact, it was an Orthodox Christian country. But, after the falling away of Western Christians from the Orthodox faith,[ The Great Latin Schism of 1054AD], it was not any longer Orthodox. The Danish church was still united, up to that point. But the fact was that Denmark had become Christian in such a short time period, almost ...on the very eve of this great schism. And before Denmark could even gain a foothold in the Orthodox faith, she, along with all of the West in 1054 AD were no longer in that particular [ Latin Schism] split. Because, in the 16th century, Denmark, had already separated itself from the Catholic Church, and it became a totally Protestant country. And the Protestants abolished monasticism....
- Can we see in the split of 1054, the beginning of secularization in Western Christianity?
- I think so. Because Protestantism did not arise by itself. It was a natural response to Roman Catholicism as such.
However, instead of returning to their Orthodox roots, to the Church of Christ ... and really to remedy the situation, the [Protestant] reformers have gone fatally otherwise direction, by further internal and external negations of Christian orthodoxy.
They rejected monasticism, sacraments, rites, the Jesus Prayer, fasting in its true sense, icons, veneration of saints and so on.
- It turns out that Protestantism proved to be a time bomb for religious people as such ...?
- I think it is likely that mine, that deep pit, was the very Catholicism. I would like to say that after splitting off from the western church, Orthodoxy in the 11th century monastic tradition itself, of course, existed in Denmark. Another thing is that it existed within the boundaries of the Catholic religion. However, after five centuries, when in the era of the Reformation, the monasteries for in a very short time, disappeared from the face of the Danish land. This happened in the 16th century. From that time to this day, (you know, as it takes time to grow and mature, , in fact dozens of generations for which a local solid monastic life, and not only it, but the whole philosophy of Christian asceticism or self-restraint -which then became, under Protestantism, absolutely incomprehensible, alien ...
- Well, at least in the form of attractions, Catholic monasteries was preserved?
- Even in a dilapidated relics and ruins, they did preserve [ for a time] their small number. You may not believe it, but in Denmark there were so many monasteries before the Reformation, that one could leisurely walk from one to the other and so on. The fact is that since the adoption of Christianity in Denmark in the 9th century monasticism began to spread quite quickly. And over the next century, until the beginning of the Reformation, Denmark was covered with monasteries as fish swim in the sea. Now, however, we have what we have.
- It's Nothing ...
- I have always believed that Catholicism and the Reformation were more to Denmark an even greater tragedy than the Bolshevik Revolution to Russia.
- In what sense?
- Still, Russia has not entirely lost roots, has not lost the feeling that she was an Orthodox country. And Denmark, the Danish people have completely lost here this connection to its roots, with the Orthodox faith. They look at it as someone else's, not as their national cultural inheritance.
And this, of course, is a tragedy, because for a Dane to become Orthodox, is a miracle to happen.
Very few people know about Orthodoxy in Denmark, it all seems so strange. Just everything, about it. Even in the blood there is no sense that Orthodoxy - is our Danish roots.
- It is sad ... let's all just go back to the Egyptian events. How did your baptism occur?
- Actually, now I remember, Father Oleg was not just my only Orthodox influence. Still, I'm a man brought up in the Protestant spirit ... So at first I had some small protestations (laughs) . He said that no matter who you are: Orthodox, Protestant or Catholic, Baptist, or somebody else. The main thing is just to believe in God. But then everything would changed. He began to tell me about this amazing place ... on the Mount Athos. And, perhaps, a miracle happened. In me, something changed. I was stunned by his description of the life of the monks of Mount Athos. And, you probably guessed it, -that I immediately wanted to go there. Honestly, I was blown away by the idea that there exists such a wonderful place in a crowded Europe, where there are only monks. I could not even imagine such a thing, in Europe ... I knew Greece, but did not know that there is a place in Greece, where only monks live.
- And you went out of Egypt to Mount Athos ...
- No, only Fr. Oleg went there at that time. Good Coptic monks arrived to take us out of the wilderness and brought us back to Cairo. For a short time I returned to Denmark, and he went on to Mount Athos and we agreed that I later would come to Athos, and there we would again meet up. I returned to Denmark, but in the same year I did travel to Mount Athos, and there I was later baptized.
- Where were you baptized?
- In the monastery of St. Elijah. Once it was a monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, but then the Greeks in 1992, kicked out our monks, because the latter refused to commemorate the Patriarch of Constantinople, the ecumenist. So, I was baptized and lived there for six months. A wonderful time it was. I honestly do not even remember why I went back to Denmark. Actually, the story of how I came to Athos, too, was the work of God's providence. When I came to the holy mountain, somewhere two or three days I had been looking in vain for Father Oleg and his hermitage. In the end, I gave up and returned to the nearest port where you can embark from the peninsula. This is Ouranoupoli and here I was waiting for a bus to Thessaloniki, where one receives a passport for a stay on Mount Athos. And here I was standing at the bus stop, and as the bus approaches, but I have no money. I asked the driver if I could go free. The driver did not understand in English, and then we were approached by some monk of Athos, who was also waiting for the bus and to ride to Thessaloniki. This monk translated my question to the driver and he said, of course, no problem. On the way we got to talking, the monk and I. And now imagine! I asked him: Do you happen to know of such a Father Oleg? He asked, again, and what is his name? I said the name. Then the monk says, I know him, he lives in my monastery, where I am the abbot. So ... it was Abbot Seraphim [born family name, Bobich, born in Pennsylvania], an abbot of our Church Abroad. But imagine how God arranged everything: how many monasteries, hermitages as much as monks live on Mount Athos! But God has arranged things so that I was sitting next to the abbot, one of which was the spiritual director of same monk, whom I unsuccessfully had sought on Mount Athos for a few days. Then I was baptized by Abbot Seraphim. But I did not come back to Mount Athos at that time, and only gave a note to Father Oleg. And I went back to Denmark.
- For A Long Time?
- No. Soon I again went to Mount Athos, where, as I have already said, I had been baptized, and while I lived there. Then I went back to Denmark and lived there for seven years. I worked in a factory. I wanted to earn money to study at the seminary in Jordanville, where I was called to come by Father Oleg. But, you know, the devil does not sleep. I did not want to learn for free, but to defer money to study I still was not able to do, . It was a temptation. In the end, I gave up on the money and went to Jordanville anyway. I as a Dane felt uncomfortable at the thought that I will study but not paying for it, so I was not used, to it not being considered necessary that I pay.. Maybe it was the devil that inspired me that I should delay and wait, until I had earned the money. And you know very well that in the world, one day passes, then the next day, and that money comes and goes. So, I was constantly saving money, but I did not have enough at any one time.
- So, you went to America ...
- No. First I went to the monastery in Munich to Bishop Mark and I lived there for four years as a novice. And from there I went to the United States. I entered the seminary, I became a monk and in a short time I become a rassophore monk.
- What was the reason that you did not want to stay in the Munich monastery?
- It was the desire to study in Jordanville.
- How old were you at the time of your admission to the seminary?
- It was in 2001, so when I was 34 years old, and at 38 I graduated from seminary.
- This is where you learned iconography?
- Yes I have. I studied iconography in Jordanville, under Father Andrew Erastov. But it did not conduct 'master' classes in the usual sense ... In Jordanville every seminarian or novice needed to bear with certain duties or routine obediences. I had an obedience to work on the icon work..
- But never before had you had any experience with iconography or with painting ? Did you ever try to learn how to draw?
- No. Such a desire appeared only when I was in the seminary. Father Andrew took several students under his obedience, and they studied icon-painting work, each just doing some specific tasks. They were just sitting in the studio and working, and Father Andrew from time to time came and watched what they did. If it was necessary, he corrected the error and showed us how to do it. And so, there were no classes or lessons, the ... work itself taught us... ...
- The work itself?
- Well, not by itself. I watched how Father Andrew looked at his work and just repeated what he did. Of course, the main thing is that I worked with him ... I also gained a lot of experience during a joint effort with him, working on the wall iconographic murals in the church in Rochester ... a church he painted. Then he went to live in Australia, where he wrote the icon canvas for this temple. When the next part of the material was ready, he flew back to Rochester and pasted these canvases on the walls, and then flew back to Australia. During these visits, I have always worked with him and thus gained practical experience. Well, until his departure from America, we were together in the same town painting temples. The icons were painted in Jordanville, then transporting them, to the churches were they were destined for, in the course of the year there were a couple of trips.
- How many years have you spent on this practical training before you yourself were able to begin to work independently?
- Probably about five years. But you see, all that I have done has been with Father Andrew, it was just a relief, in the truest sense. I myself did not draw anything, did not create. I helped hang the canvas and I could draw simple ornaments [ non-iconic wall decorations, as under or around the icons], or so ... you know ... medallions. And nothing else! And that is all that you see here in this church, I had never done this before. This is my first project. It is all new to me, because you have to think about where and how to draw the icon ... and in general, it should be drawn.[ the outlines] ... ornaments as well.
- How many years do my need to complete this church's iconography [ Mt. View's Church], as your first project? The temple does not seem such a big ...
- In four years, I think. Not any more. Now I have finished painting ornaments and an icon of the Crucifixion at the altar ...
- But you've been here a year ...
- Imagine that it took me a whole year to paint alone, the ornaments! And what helped me a lot was that most of the ornaments I could draw outside of the temple, while sitting at a table ... Although some patterns that you see here, I painted directly on the walls. But they are down low, so that is easy. But already individual icons, including large canvases, I will draw separately, on the broad easels in the room, and then I'll stick them on the wall.
- I've never heard of this style of work ... to stick canvases on the walls ...
- Well, as I said, thus did Father Andrew Erastov, he taught me ...
- It is clear that it is comfortable ... but in terms of quality?[ durability] Is not it better to draw on the walls?
- And in terms of quality it is best to paint on canvas separately, and then stick it onto the wall. The quality of this work -will last for ages ... Also, anything can happen [ to walls and the plaster on the walls], ... flood/water damage walls can dampen and damage them, and especially without timely heating/drying.. And therefore, if the walls are painted with oil paints, then eventually the wall entirely loses the icons, then, we have to restore the icons. You may remember that in earlier centuries, it was common to paint icons directly on to the [ still wet, 'fresh' ] plaster, plaster -which is not always the most reliable material, especially in our time. 'Taping onto the walls', the finished painted icon on canvas, this same canvas is not so easily suffering from damage of the material from which is made the wall.
- But you use [ oil based paints?].
- No, no ... I use only acrylic, it is durable.
- Do I understand correctly that the first designs are drawn and then the actual icons are painted ?
- Yes, I had a task to carry out all the ornaments and then planned three years to devote myself exclusively to the actual icons. In the altar, for example, I plan to write icons of the four prophets who prophesied about the birth of Christ. Next to the icon of the Ascension, which will be shown on top of Christ, and on both sides of six apostles. ... There will be John the Baptist and the Mother of God. That is, I want to show the Old Testament promises, their execution and completion of Christ's feat. Much about this, Father Andrew has told me ...
- ... He came up with this, was this the concept of Father Andrew Erastov?
- No, we are together, because I was there and it was easier to visualize all ... I wrote him a letter, we have discussed this, it is something we have together planned.. Therefore, we think together how best to paint the temple. Well, as with Bishop Andronicus ... He suggested that on the wall in front of the throne [ the altar table], should be the Most Holy Trinity. Although at first we had thought to paint the Mother of God ... as usual ...The Holy Protection icon, . But Bishop Andronicus wanted there an icon of the Holy Trinity and in the end it really is very well fitted into the overall concept of the painting in the altar.
- Probably it is hard to carry out all the work alone? I know that, for example, an old Russian icon painter Dionysius has always worked with his sons and other assistants. They could paint in about a month a cathedral ...
- Yes, when the work is done by only one person, it's hard. So, even if one has one assistant - it means a lot already. For example, ornaments ... they could be written by someone else, and in parallel with that, would be to paint the icons. The completion execution time of the whole project then would be reduced by a year or even a couple of years. Actually, I had a good teacher. Father Andrew Erastov is known throughout the Orthodox Church as a icon painter ...
- I heard that you do a little Danish language translation of the Holy Scriptures. What do you currently have time to translate?
- The Psalms already are fully translated. This is important because we, the Danes, have for the Psalms and the Old Testament only a translation from the Hebrew, [ the Masoretic text][, and not from the Greek Septuagint.
The latter [ i.e. The Greek Septuagint], is the more authoritative and reliable translation, oddly enough, rather than the Hebrew 'origina', which in many places is distorted so that the original meaning of the text is lost. So when I read the Holy Fathers, and they have quoted from the Old Testament and the Psalms, and I compared them with the existing poor Danish translation,- [from the distorted Hebrew], it is quite a different sort of text.
I got sick of it, in the end, I decided to do the translation into Danish from the Greek Septuagint translation from the Hebrew. After all, the apostles themselves, when quoting Scripture, they used the Greek translation. Meanwhile, in Denmark for some reason, it was decided to translate the Old Testament from the [distorted][ Hebrew 'original'.
The Jewish texts are still the most ancient text of the Old Testament and it dates from the 11th century AD. But this is a distorted text. And the Greeks have the oldest manuscript of the Greek text of the Old Testament dating from the 4th century. Then there were found Qumran texts, which are almost 100% in line with the existing Greek originals.
- The meaning of the text is lost in the translation from the original?
- Of Course. Even at the level of letters ... Look. This letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and its first letter. With this letter begins the first book of the Bible - Genesis. So: first, the first book of the Bible, which tells about the first moments of creation of all life, begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Secondly, this letter itself is in its closed form by paragraph. That is, keep in mind that the Hebrew text is always written from right to left. But this is not the main thing. And the main thing is that by this paragraph is a solid line. In the Greek translation of the same it is no longer true, and in Russian [Slavonic?], there is an even greater departure from the opportunity to convey meaning through the letter itself figuration ... meaning the Russian letter "c" in the word "first". The letter "B" is not completely open to the side of the text. That is, it turns out that in the Russian text, the Russian [Slavonic?] translation has a certain loss of meaning in terms of nature, in any case, in the spelling the configuration of the language.
- The figure of the letter has the theological significance, in addition to meaning, which is denoted by the word?
- Exactly. Look at the Hebrew letter. See? It is fully open to the continuation of the paragraph and is completely closed to the beginning. Closed to the top - so that what was before "in the beginning God created ..." is completely closed for a man, in fact, and it is not necessary for salvation. In contrast, full disclosure forms that letter to the continuation of a paragraph indicates that everything will continue as the Bible says, will be stated in the order of our salvation, as the word of God ... So, although now the Greek translation of the Hebrew or rather, it does not mean that that the transfer can in principle be exactly original. It is so clear that it can not, be confused. But it does not say and that it is capable of translating, [ between any language to any other language], in principle, to keep all shades of meaning. No matter how we translate, see ... even the letters on her figure are already a bearer of meaning ...
- Texts on which languages you used to transfer?
- In four languages: English, Danish, Church Slavonic, Greek. If specifically, I use the English translation of the Septuagint with interlinear translation of the Greek original, the Danish Bible 19th century Church Bible because it accurately conveys the grammatical structure of the Greek original. So only if Russians knew what riches they have! ...and what we all [ in the west][, have lost ...
- I mean, we have a translation of the holy books in Church?
- Yes, all the books have been translated, including the... legacy... of the Holy Fathers. And we have this wealth. We have no actual translation of the Holy Fathers writings, let alone much about themselves, of the Holy Fathers. In Denmark, there are no such books even in the monasteries where the Holy Fathers should be read! And this trouble, is indeed ta serious trouble ... One can cry, thinking that what a good influence it would be in Denmark if Denmark would leave Protestantism, and return to the Orthodox faith. All the monasteries would not be not be Catholic, but rather Orthodox. But many Western countries have chosen Protestantism. Monasteries were destroyed, Catholic priests were forced to become Protestant parish pastors. Again triumphed the iconoclastic heresy, because Protestants did not recognize icons. In short, all the [Holy] Tradition was rejected. And this situation now it lasts for more than 500 years already.
- Do you believe that Denmark will ever be an Orthodox country? Naive question, of course ...
- I do not know if we can, label Russia, as an Russian Orthodox country. Actually nowadays there are no Orthodox states, there are only Orthodox people. Still, among Catholics they retain of Orthodoxy, very much, but the Protestants do not even have that.
Of course, Russia is much easier to return from atheism to Orthodoxy than Denmark to return to Orthodoxy from Protestantism. In Russia, they feel that Orthodoxy is their native culture, but we have no such feeling as Danes about Orthodoxy and our Danish culture.
Unfortunately, monasticism the veneration of icons and all the Holy Traditions of Orthodox piety are considered unnecessary and even in some ways, harmful. Why are they unnecessary and harmful? Because Protestants saw the Roman Catholic Church as distorting the general concept of monasticism, about [ gaining salvation through] good deeds and through indulgences. Catholics were all confused, so that, when came the Reformation, the Protestants viewed monasticism and all the other essentially parts of Orthodox tradition, as an also... evil.
- Everyone has seen all, of these matters, in a black light. And even the good?
- Just because it was associated with Catholicism?
- Yes, Popery, that the pope and his church, misrepresented the Orthodox faith. For example, I have a knife, a bad example, of course, but now I can not think of another. And at first, this knife someone can use to produce useful things out of wood. But then, when that someone uses that same knife to kill, then this same knife can suddenly begin to be perceived only as evil. We then cannot see the knife, even a bit as of something good. That's the way Protestants began to look at monkhood. Nor as something good that we had at the time when it was Orthodoxy, but namely as evil, because Roman Catholicism is very much a distorted Christianity. That's why
Protestants have categorically rejected all that was in Catholicism, not separating, so to speak, the wheat from the chaff. That is why among the Protestants now, we do not see any trace of the rich heritage of the ancient church.
Going into the typical Protestant church, we often see only white walls, sometimes even no crosses, no icons, no concept of confession, communion. And it's all included in the very flesh and blood of Protestantism and it is so deep that it is difficult to convince the Danes that they should have the right things from the ancient tradition. It is believed that if it was applicable for Catholics, then it is not acceptable to Protestantism a-priori.
- And what is written about the period before the beginning of the Reformation in the Protestant church history books?
- If you open a Danish book on church history, you will not find anywhere any information about that the Catholic Church -that is has disappeared/withdrawn from Orthodoxy. This historic factual point at all, is totally missing. Whence can arise in people's minds the idea that Denmark was once Orthodox ... ?! In general, they have no concept that the Western church fell away from the true faith, but that they.[merely] .. distorted it. And then it's understandable:
if the Danes perceive the ancient church as a 'Roman Catholic', and then what happens, they do not want to come back to such sources?
They believe that they have the true source from Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and so on. So for them the true Church - is Protestant. Everywhere Western man has been inspired by a false knowledge, that the ancient church is the Catholic Church. I just read two volumes, released here in Denmark. This work is devoted to the history of the Christian Church, written by a Danish professor of theology, 1600 pages. When I received this edition, it was very interesting, I was looking for, leafing through it, what is written about the split in 1054. But I could not find there, not a single word. Finally, I found a place where there were two proposals on the division of the Western and Eastern churches. Casually said, you know? But, interestingly, when the book describes the worship of the ancient church, it was an exact copy of the service that we practice now in our Orthodox churches. It was for me a little funny (laughs) .
- Indeed, if the ancient church is the Church catholic, why does the worship of the ancient church liturgy remind one, of the Orthodox Church ... ?!
- I wanted to write this letter to those professors and remind them that the Roman Catholic Church is not the ancient church. In fact, these professors do not realize that
the order of worship, which they describe, suggests that Orthodoxy is the ancient church.
Most people, especially today, unfortunately, do not know about Orthodoxy ...
- Why people today, are not interested in Orthodoxy?
- I think part of the answer to this question is that we are deeply immersed in the world. We have cars, we have planes, we have washing machines, radios, noise constantly and a lot of variety. Enter a store, and there are whole rows of bread, whole rows of cheese and so on, and even, around our ears, recorded permanently music roars. A lot of diversity, all in all. A person can not or will not find at least one second in order to truly make up your mind. Constantly each person must make a choice, what should I wear as my pants, what kind of shoes, some T-shirt: red or green. Even the speed at which cars drive, is unnatural for humans. Or e-mails ... I remember the former times usual case, write a [ hand written letter], it normally takes one to two weeks to arrive, then at the destination is also going to take a couple of weeks and then to write a reply ...
- It taught patience ...
- Yes, all took a month and a half. Now people send e-mails, and an hour later check whether there is a response. Now they want everything to be quick and direct. But if we take the spiritual life, it all must be done gradually, only after years of struggle and labor can a man change. Everything should be done in due time.
If a man is used to getting it all at once, then, as a Christian, he does not understand why he does not change immediately. He does not understand that it takes time to acquire grace.
But the main reason that people are not interested in Christianity and even less so in the Orthodox Church, is our free will ... doing only what are our own desires, we voluntarily renounce God. It's so easy ... I think. Orthodox life requires a lot of sacrifice to be spiritually healing. This process lasts a lifetime and does not end by just shouting "I believe!".
This was what wrote Father Seraphim (Rose) in his book "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future," where he talks about this concept of "right." Men of our time do not understand that spiritual development takes a whole life. That can be a lifetime to work on yourself and still not reach, and still not obtain the complete liberation from the passions. Now people are not dedicated to make the effort that they should be constantly engaging in, this on-going spiritual [ascetic] work on themselves...
It is also linked to the issue of salvation. The Orthodox Church is always looking for the salvation of man as a process that lasts a lifetime. Salvation is not just a commitment to a one-time [verbal] confession of Christ. It is closely related to active spiritual work on ourselves. And this is expressed in the inner changed man, and then his good works, , which are expressed outwardly. All Scripture testifies to this. However,
if, as taught by Protestants, for salvation it is only necessary to announce one [verbal] profession of faith in Christ and spiritual work is not important, then it is understandable why they are so easily rejecting all tradition, all asceticism, monasticism, icons use, etc.
That is, everything that helps a person in his salvation, is conceived as a process, not as with the Protestants - who seem to believe that they have already reached a state of salvation. I think that today's technology also plays a significant role in the fact that people are now very relaxed spiritually. The 'sound effect' and human vanity, which are generated by these modern technologies must have a negative impact on the human soul. Do not forget that the Fathers left the world and sought solitude. And not without reason in our time we have such saints.... nowhere. Now it's just a miracle if people do believe in the Christian God, not to mention the Orthodox faith.
- Father Theophane, you said that material abundance and comfort choke the spiritual life. What do you say about poor people who do not believe in God or believe that such is a false belief. For example, in the Soviet Union, people were very poor, but professed atheism. Or take Africa, in some countries they are simply living in rampant poverty, as well as in some provinces of China. In this case, poverty does not lead these people to know God. His poor ones do not look for other poor people [ for inspiration] to continue to wallow in their pagan cults or other religions. In wealth there, whether in poverty, we are everywhere, especially today, we see the decline of religiosity. How to explain this?
- Yes, good question. I do not know, I do not know ... The Devil launches different attacks on different people, because people are all different, as is well known. His temptations are in many guises. He tempts some with comfort, wealth, entertainment, noise. But there are other temptations. The Devil is highly experienced as a tempter.
In general, to maintain faith, we need living examples. [ as the saints], You need to have before our eyes the everyday experience of [tangible] holiness and then there, that can be hard to fully accept......
And when Orthodoxy is in shambles and provides no living examples, then the situation is bad. Even in Orthodox countries now, there are no living examples. But it all depends always only on the individual person.
- That is how, both in wealth or in poverty, as we can be either saved, or die?[ i.e. our souls].
- ... And this shows the freedom of man. - Freedom is one of the essential foundations of Christianity. Now, many are opposed to man's free will. Many lengthy books have been written on this subject and so on. If a man is not free, [ they claim], his actions are caused by: instincts (psychoanalysis), or education (social determinism) or hereditary (genetic determinism) or circumstances and contingencies that shape the emotional state of his mind (psychological determinism). Where does this go? Or from whom? I think these analysis come from those people who hate Christianity ...
- You think so?
- Free will is closely linked with Christianity because Christianity teaches about the Last Judgment, the responsibility even that we shall have to answer for "every idle word" (Matt. 12, 36) . But if there is no responsibility, no court, and if there is no justice, there is no place and Christianity. How can generally be accomplished, The Judgment, if there is no individual responsibility? And, how can we love God and our neighbor, if we do not have free will? Love and Responsibility are closely related and, of course, nowhere but in Christianity, do we find teachings about it.
- Without freedom there is no responsibility and if there is no liability, there is not only not a court, but also no love?
- The non-free creature can not love, yes.
- That is, love always rests on its own impossibility, meaning it is always possible to hate. Or this: love is feasible only in the horizon of its opposite. Love is overcoming the potential inability to himself as ...
- Yes I Am,
if my love for people and God only depends on the circumstances relating to things, but not on the circumstances related to my freedom, while that freedom has zero content.
Freedom then becomes a reality when it passes through the crucible of trial, and the result is the increment of a particular virtue, including love. Otherwise, a person loses his freedom and becomes the slave of the passions ...
- Probably, the one who denies the free choice of the person is he who also denies the person actually ...?
- If a person has not been tested in a variety of circumstances, how can he reveal his love? A man can not love God, in whose image he is created, if he does not choose to love God consciously, and therefore freely. And so when people oppose freedom of the will, it is an attack against Christianity. This is an interesting phenomenon, especially in our time. That's why we praise the Mother of God, we lift her up, why?: because it was her free will to accept God. She could have said "no", but she, like all the Fathers say, chose to obey God. Remember the Gospel? "And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word "(Lk. 1, 38) . She willingly allowed God to come through her into the world and become a man. When the modern world is against free will, this performance is against Christianity. Without Christianity, there is no freedom.
- And without freedom there is no Christianity ...
- You know, it's interesting that the tunnel undermining Christianity is presented as something called 'scientific', unrelated at first glance with religion. But it is not, it is always directed against Christianity.
- ... As, however, and against the theory of or 'natural] law' in defending the idea of social determinism, and so on, is thereby refuted the theory of 'natural' law, because if a man is not free, then he is also not responsible.. This is an elementary lack of common sense among the people of the world, as is often the case ...
- It all depends of course on the individual man and his will to live, or to live with his passions, or to choose to live virtuously. For a man, of his passions, he always can find an excuse ... Yet, when Ven. Seraphim of Sarov was asked why there are no saints in our time, he said, because there is no determination. This is the main problem today. And also the fact that, for example, in the West today people perceive Christianity as 'gospel',[ contained in a dead mere old ....book?]. and how, uh ...
- What theory?
- How is the intervention ... The man is saying, "Why are you disturbing me? To do this, I have no time! I'm busy with my own affairs!" Poverty, probably more than wealth, helps a person to feel the need, to ensure his believe in God. But I'll say this:
for many people living in poverty -they chase after more in being comfortable, than in being a Christian.
How Come? Yes, because in fact it does not prevent anyone from simply because of his poverty, to live by his passions and desires ... That is, the Christian life requires sacrifice while... passion requires self-indulgence ... and poverty is not [in itself, or automatically] a big obstacle to this.
Therefore, Christianity today, is in a general decline, it's true. In Orthodoxy too. living examples of piety there are not enough of. But in our Church Abroad such examples were: Metropolitan. Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Met. Anastasius, St. Philaret (Voznesensky) Archbishop Averky, the founder of the Jordanville monastery monk Panteleimon and many others. I was brought up in their spirit, and I feel this spirit. And in the spirit of our sister churches Old Calendar: Bulgarian, Romanian, Greek.
For me it was always clear that the questions that for many are still a matter for debate, for me, have already been decided once and for all: the church calendar, ecumenism, Sergianism and others.
And I know from personal experience that people who are not educated in the same vein, do not feel the difference, for example, living under the 'new or old style' church calendar, etc. But to be saved, some good works are not enough, we must also have the right faith. Of course, the one who is in the true church, but who commits immoral acts, of course, also runs the risk of his loosing salvation. It is important to observe these two points: the true faith and piety.
- Well, yes, as the Apostle says, "you heard and knew the grace of God in truth" (Col. 1: 6). You can not separate grace from truth, as well as you can not stand in the truth, if your vices permanently banish from yourself, grace. Well, I thank you, Father Theophane, for an interesting and edifying conversation. I hope that we will certainly continue to speak further with you.
- Save, O Lord!
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August 4, 2014
Interviewed and prepared the text for publication Dmitry Vasilevsky.
Spiritual and educational center of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia ( http://www.mvroc.org .), Mountain View, NY, USA