About Holy Zeal
SPIRITUAL LINKS WITH THE HOLY
Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose)
In our confused days, when a hundred conflicting voices claim to
for Orthodoxy, it is essential to know whom one can trust as spokesmen
true Orthodoxy. It is not enough to claim to speak for Patristic
one must be in the genuine tradition of the Holy Fathers, not merely
"rediscovering" them in a modern academy or seminary, but actually
receiving their tradition from one's own fathers. A merely clever
of the Patristic doctrine is not in this tradition, but only one who,
trusting his own judgment or that of his peers, is constantly asking of
own fathers what is the proper approach to and understanding of the
Archbishop Averky was in this genuine Patristic tradition as few
Orthodox fathers. A disciple of the great 20th-century theologian and
hierarch, Archbishop Theophan of Poltava (+1940), Archbishop Averky
and through his writings is, ! a bearer and transmitter, in a direct
unbroken line of Orthodox theologians, of the genuine Patristic
which is in danger of being eclipsed by today's generation of
Western-educated proud "young theologians." In his lifetime Archbishop
Averky's voice resounded and thundered as he strove to give the true
Orthodox teaching to Orthodox Christians who were rapidly losing the
of Orthodoxy. His excellent article on "Christianity" and "Orthodoxy,"
showing the solidarity of True Orthodox Christians today in Russia,
and the Diaspora, has already been printed in English. In the article
follows he gives the authentic Orthodox teaching on holy zeal, as
those who fall short of it and make senseless compromises with the
of this world, as well as against those who err on the "right",
"canonical" and "this worldly" side, by inexperience or immaturity, and
quote canons and Fathers without understanding the spirit behind them.
by Archbishop Averky (Taushev)
I am come to send fire on the
and what will I, but that it be already
The chief thing in Christianity, according to the clear teaching of
Word of God, is the fire of Divine zeal, zeal for God and His glory ?
holy zeal which alone is able to inspire man in labors and struggles
pleasing to God, and without which there is no authentic spiritual life
there is not and cannot be any true Christianity. Without this holy
Christians are "Christians" in name only: they only "have a name that
live," but in reality "they are dead," as was said to the holy Seer of
Mysteries John (Apocalypse 3:1). True spiritual zeal is expressed,
all, in zeal for God's glory, which is taught us in the words of the
Prayer which stand at its very beginning: Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy
come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9).
Those who are zealous for God's glory themselves glorify God with
whole heart ? both in thought and feeli! ng, both by words and deeds
with their whole life ? and naturally desire that all other people
glorify God also in the same way, and therefore they cannot, of course,
endure with indifference when in their presence, in some way or other,
name of God is blasphemed or holy things are mocked. Being zealous for
they sincerely strive to please God themselves and serve Him alone with
the power of their being, and they are ready to forget themselves all
way to sacrificing their very life in order to bring all men to the
pleasing and the service of God. They cannot calmly listen to
and therefore they cannot support communion with and have friendship
blasphemers and mockers of the Name of God and despisers of holy
A striking and extremely clear example of such fiery zeal for God's
glory comes to us from the depths of antiquity of the Old Testament in
great Prophet of God, the flaming Elias, who grieved in soul ! when he
the apostasy from God of his people, led by the impious King Ahab, who
introduced into Israel the pagan worship of Baal in the place of the
I have been very jealous for the Lord God Almighty ? thus did he
exclaim many times, expressing his grief ? because the children of
have forsaken Thee: they have dug down Thine altars, and have slain Thy
prophets with the sword, and I only am left, and they seek my life to
it (3 Kings 19:10 LXX - 1 Kings KJV).
And behold, this holy zeal aroused him, by the power of the grace
God which reposed on him, as a chastisement of Israel which had
from God, to "close heaven" (3 Kings 17:1; 18:42-45 LXX - 2 Kings KJV),
that there was neither rain nor dew for three years and six months.
This same zeal later aroused Elias to slay the false prophets and
priests of Baal, after the miraculous descent of the fire from heaven
Mt. Carmel, ! so that these deceivers might no longer turn the sons of
Israel away from the true worship of God (3 Kings 18:40 LXX - 2 Kings
By the power of the same Divine zeal, St. Elias brought down fire
heaven, which burned the captains and their fifties which had been sent
the king to seize him (4 Kings 1:9-14 LXX).
That all this was in reality holy zeal which was pleasing to God is
testified to by the fact that the Holy Prophet Elias did not die the
death of all men, but was miraculously raised up to heaven in a chariot
fire, as if signifying his authentically fiery zeal for God (4 Kings
But even then, in the severe Old Testament, the Lord Himself showed
His true servant that one can have recourse to such severe measures
extreme cases, for the Lord was not in the great and strong wind
the mountains and crushing the rocks, and not in the earthquake, and
the ! fire, but in the voice of a gentle breeze (3 Kings 19:11-12 LXX).
This is why, when James and John, who were especially fervent in
zeal for the glory of their Divine Teacher, wished to bring down fire
heaven, imitating the Holy Prophet Elias, so as to punish the
who did not desire to receive Him when He was walking through the
village to Jerusalem, the Lord forbade them to do this, saying: Ye know
of what spirit ye are, for the Son of Man came not to destroy the souls
men, but to save (Luke 9:51 - 56).
And nevertheless (let immoderate lovers of peace pay heed!), the
Jesus Christ Himself, Who said, Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble
heart (Matthew 11:29), found it sometimes necessary to manifest great
strictness and have recourse to severe measures, teaching us also by
very fact, that meekness and humility do not mean spinelessness and
not yield before manifest evil, and t! hat a true Christian should be
from sugar-sweet sentimentality and should not step away in the face of
evil which presumptuously raises its head, but should always be
uncompromising towards evil, fighting with it by all measures and means
available to him, in order decisively to cut off the spread and
strengthening of evil among men.
Let us recall with what harsh accusatory words the Lord addressed
spiritual leaders of the Hebrew people, the scribes and Pharisees,
condemning them for hypocrisy and lawlessness: Woe to you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! and threatening them with God's judgment
And when words turned out to be insufficient, He applied action
the lawless ones in very deed.. Thus, finding that in the Temple they
selling oxen and sheep and doves, and money-changers were sitting, when
had made as it were a scourge of little cords, He drove them all out of
Temple, the sheep a! lso and the oxen, and the money of the changers He
poured out, and the tables He overthrew (John 2:14-15; Matthew
And we know many other examples from sacred and Church history when
mere words of persuasion turned out to be insufficient, and in order to
off evil it was necessary to have recourse to more severe measures and
But it is essential that in such cases there should really be in a
person only pure and holy zeal for God's glory, without any admixture
self-love or any other strivings of human passions which only hide
themselves behind a supposedly holy zeal for God!
In the history of the Church, the great hierarch of Christ,
the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, whose memory we
December 6th according to our Orthodox calendar, has become glorious by
just such an authentically holy zeal, with a decisive irreconcilability
towards evil. Who does not know this wondrous hierarch of Christ?
The most characteristic feature of St. Nicholas, which has given
such glory, is his extraordinary Christian mercy: the simple Russian
usually calls him "Nicholas the Merciful," a title based on the facts
his life and the numberless cases of his help to men.
But once this great hierarch, so glorious for his mercy toward his
neighbor, performed an act which disturbed many and continues to
them even now, even though its authenticity is witnessed by the Church
tradition contained in our iconography and Divine services.
According to tradition, St. Nicholas took part in the First
Council in Nicaea, which brought forth a condemnation of the heretic
who denied the Divinity of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the
of God. During the disputes which occurred in connection with this, St.
Nichol! as could not listen with indifference to the blasphemous
of the arrogant heretic Arius, possessed by pride, who demeaned the
divinity of the Son of God, and before the whole Council he struck him
the face with his hand. This evoked such a general consternation that
Fathers of the Council decreed that the bold hierarch be deprived of
hierarchal rank. But in that very night they were made to understand by
wondrous vision: they saw how the Lord Jesus Christ gave St. Nicholas
Holy Gospel, and the Most Pure Mother of God placed upon his shoulders
episcopal omophorion. And then they understood that St. Nicholas was
in his act not by any evil, passionately sinful motives, but solely by
pure, holy zeal for God's glory. And they forgave the hierarch,
their sentence against him.
By citing such a picturesque example, we do not in the least wish
say that one of us can or should follow this example literally: for this
one must be himself just as great a holy hierarch as St. Nicholas. But
should absolutely convince us that we do not dare to remain indifferent
be unconcerned about the manifestations of evil in the world,
when the matter is one of God's glory, of our Holy Faith and church.
we must show ourselves to be completely uncompromising, and we do not
enter into any sort of cunning compromises or any reconciliation, even
purely outward, or into any kind whatever of agreement with evil. To
personal enemies, according to Christ's commandment, we must forgive
everything, but with the enemies of God we cannot have peace!
with the enemies of God makes us ourselves the enemies of God: this is
betrayal and treason towards God, under whatever well-seeming pretexts
might be done, and here no kind of cunning or skillful
can help us!
It is interesting to note how displeasing this act of St. Nicholas
to all the contemporary consenters to evil, these propagandists of a
"Christian love" which is prepared to be reconciled not only with
persecutors of the Faith and the Church, but even with the devil
in the name of "universal love" and "the union of all" ? slogans which
become so fashionable in our days. For the sake of this, these
strive even to refute the very fact of the participation of St.
the First Ecumenical Council, even though this fact is accepted by our
Church and therefore must be respected by all of us as reliable.
All of this happens, of course, because among contemporary people,
those who call themselves "Christians," there is no longer an authentic
holy zeal for God and His glory, there is no zeal for Christ our
zeal for the Holy Church and for every holy thing of God. In place of
there prevails a luke-warm indifference, an indifferent attitude to everything
except one's own earthly well-being, with a forgetfulness
the just judgment of God which unfailingly awaits all of us, and of
eternity which will be revealed after death.
And without this holy zeal, as we emphasized at the beginning,
no true Christianity, no authentic spiritual life ? life in Christ.
why this has been replaced now by all kinds of cheap surrogates, at
quite low ones, which however often answer to the tastes and attitudes
contemporary man. And therefore such pseudo-Christians, skillfully
up their spiritual emptiness by hypocrisy, often have great success in
contemporary society, from which authentic spirituality has been rinsed
out; while authentic zealots of God's glory are despised and persecuted
"difficult people," "intolerant fanatics," "people who are behind the
And thus even now before our eyes is occurring the "winnowing:"
will remain with Christ to the end, and! some will easily and naturally
join the camp of His opponent, Antichrist, especially when the hour of
threatening trials will come for our faith, when precisely it will be
necessary to show in all its fullness the whole power of our holy zeal,
which is abhorred by many as "fanaticism."
But at the same time one should not forget that, besides true holy
zeal, there is also a zeal without understanding ? zeal which loses its
value because of the absence in it of a most important Christian
discernment, and therefore, in place of profit can bring harm.
And there is likewise a false, lying zeal, behind the mask of which
concealed the foaming of ordinary human passions ? most frequently
love of power and honor, and the interests of a party politics like
which plays the leading role in political struggles, and for which
can be no place in spiritual life, in public church life, but which
unfortunately is often to! be encountered in our time and is a chief
instigator of every imaginable quarrel and disturbance in the Church,
managers and instigators of which often hide themselves behind some
supposed idealism but in reality pursue only their own personal aims,
striving to please not God but their own self-concern, and being
not for God's glory but their own glory and the glory of the colleagues
partisans of their party (i.e. jurisdiction).
All of this, it goes without saying, is profoundly foreign to true
zeal, hostile to it, is sinful and criminal, for it only compromises
Holy Faith and Church!
And so, the choice is before us: are we with Christ or Antichrist?
The time is near (Apocalypse 22:10) ? thus did even the holy
warn us Christians. And if it was "near" then, in Apostolic times, how
"nearer" has it become now, in our ominous days of manifest apostasy
from Christ and persecution against our Holy Faith and Church?!
And if we firmly resolve in these fateful days to remain with
not in words only but in deeds as well, it is absolutely indispensable
right now, without putting it off, to break off every bond of
every form of communion with the servants of the approaching
who has enlisted so many of them in the contemporary world, under lying
pretexts of "universal peace" and "prosperity;" and especially must one
free oneself unconditionally from every subservience to them and
on them, even if this might be bound up with detriment to our earthly
well-being or even with danger for our early life itself.
Eternity is more important than our brief existence on earth, and
precisely for it that we must prepare ourselves!
And therefore, ONLY HOLY ZEAL FOR GOD, FOR CHRIST, without any
admixture o! f any kind of slyness or ambiguous cunning POLITICS, must
guide us in all deeds and actions.
Otherwise, a stern sentence threatens us: Because thou art neither
nor cold, I will vomit thee out of My mouth (Apocalypse 3:16).
Be zealous, therefore, and repent! (Apocalypse 3:19). Amen.
Translated from Saint Elias Publications
"Faith and Life," No. 10, 1975
Reprinted from The Orthodox Word
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