Does that mean one should abandon the Church altogether? This is one of the consequences of globalism: one reads of theology and the Church (usually on the internet) and wants to join this church, but there is isn’t one around for hundreds of miles. What do you do? This is becoming more and more a reality.
To make the problem even worse, what if you want to join this church but find out the Bishop is either Novus Ordo, communing with Freemasons, or participates in the World Council of Churches? If you are not aware of that–particularly freemasonry or ecumenism–it’s not so big a deal. But if you are aware of that, it is tough to knowingly commune with those who are communing with Masons.
I say all of this to acknowledge the painful reality of my Talmudic acquaintance’s problem. It’s not fun to “be the only one left in Israel who has not bowed the knee” and then to drive several hundred miles on a Sunday. He has a point which should not be casually dismissed. The logical structure of his arguments he has given on this point are not very impressive, to be sure, but he has touched on something that has kept me awake for many nights.
Turning to the Fathers
I am not entirely certain I am comfortable with the True Orthodox Church. I agree with their arguments on the Old Calendar (and for what it’s worth, courtesy of St Herman’s Press, I use an Old Calendar). That said, I think they are correct on Ecumenism, freemasonry (which as a former Southern Baptist, I fought that battle even then), and modernism. Their inability to communicate the gospel with love and gentleness, as a general rule, will likely keep more from joining their ranks.
In any case I asked a True Orthodox priest what I should do. He said keep the church cycle as best one could and make pilgrimages to a Church on feast days, citing Blessed Seraphim Rose as an example.
Interestingly, St Basil, in a slightly different context, sheds some light on this point. In times of persecution, it is doubtful there will be any churches around, good or not. And as America is moving more and more to this situation per FEMA and the PATRIOT ACT, this will be a very real problem. How should we commune, then?
St Basil writes (p. 179 in the NPNF II series, volume 8):
It is needless to point out that for anyone in times of persecution to be compelled to take communion in his own hand without the presence of a priest or minister is not a serious offence, as long as custom sanctions this practice from the facts themselves. All the solitaries in the desert, where there is no priest, take the communion themselves, keeping communion at home. And at Alexandria and Egypt, each one of the laity, for the most part, keeps the communion at his own house, and participates in it when he likes.
I am definitely not saying one should do house communion or even worse, house church like the Reconstructionists do! Heaven forbid! I am pointing out that the Holy Fathers didn’t get hung up on this point. They realized the fact of unusual situations, and recognizing that these situations are not normative, nor will they become normative in the future, they allowed them. The point is there are ways to keep the faith, resist modernism, and resist freemasonry without saying all the churches are hereby defunct.