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A terrible beauty ...
Now do I tell a young man – serious and a university graduate – that the statement by certain startsi ("the startsi tell us") that ‘in the last days’ the number of faithful will reduce does not justify his view that it will be only rigidly-observing Orthodox, who reject the possibility of Christ’s presence outside of Orthodoxy, and who ‘endure to the end” (Matt. 23:13) who will be saved?

My knowledge of the ‘startsi’ universe is limited, but somehow I suspect that much of the responsibility for this sort of attitude lies with a sort of ‘second-tier starchestvo’, living totally in its own self-referential world, already with limited contact with ‘normal’ people in their own countries and with no contact at all with other Christian cultures and confessions.

The people these startsi attract are often young men, and perhaps women, who, with a different background and creed, could have become jihadi fighters. Yes, there is a terrible attraction in the type of Christianity they offer: it is the ‘terrible beauty’ of which Yeats spoke in his ‘Easter 1916’. It is this attraction which keeps these startsi in bread and computers. But unless the ascetic rigidity which their systems entail can burst out of its enclosedness into love and prayer for the whole of mankind, and express the love of the Father who ‘makes his sun to shine on good and bad alike’, it is ultimately sterile, reducing rather than increasing the Christian population.

We are going to dedicate an altar to St John of Shanghai and San Francisco in our Antwerp church. St John seems to have got the balance right  - an asceticism which is beyond nearly all of us, a strictness that frightens, but under it an overwhelming love – the love of God - for everyone.

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From the very limited glimpse that I tried to get into the Orthodox Christianity during our two year stay in Moldova, I got the impression that most of this stuff is coming not even from the "second-tier startsi" but from "pseudo-startsi" these days.

The classical answer to this is Matt 24:11 'And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.'

I feel that this refers to something more sinister and much more clearly intentional than most of the "pseudo-startsi".

Maybe. Though the effect is basically the same: running a person into a spiritual dead-end street. The evil one may well prefer using 'unintential' means.

The intention still matters I think, with pseudo startsi it is usually still good even if it is misguided but I feel that to qualify as a false prophet one must not simply get lost but make a choice to be "on the dark side", which is a deeper fall. One can also make an argument that the latter might be more effective at pushing people "off the cliff". This however opens up the question of whether humans can choose to be "on the dark side" without being lost, which is a separate can of worms.

I'm not sure you haven't got 'former' and 'latter' mixed up. I suspect that we are starting to get a bit speculative here and opening up a line of discussion that the posting was not aimed at.

No, I don't have it mixed up. I think that an argument can be made that people who made an informed choice to join "the dark side" might be more effective at pushing their victims "off the cliff" than those who are simply lost themselves.

Ты бы ему "Путешествие с макаронами" дал почитать :-)).

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