© Vladimir Moss
1. Where is the Moscow Patriarchate Going?…………………………………………5
2. The Significance of the Catacomb Church in Contemporary Russia……….…15
3. The Free Russian Orthodox Church: A Short History (1982-1998)……………..28
4. The Sergianist Conquest of Jerusalem………………………………………..…...69
5. The Right Way to Resist Apostasy……………………………………….….……..82
6. The Church that Stalin Built………………………………………………………...87
7. The MP’s Canonisation of the New Martyrs of Russia…………………...……..91
8. When did the MP Apostasise?…………………………………………………….106
9. Empire or Antichrist? Or: On Ecclesiastical Stalinism…………………………118
10. Two Robber Councils: A Short Analysis……………………………………….129
11. The Tragedy of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad…...….………………140
12. Orthodoxy, the State and Russian Statehood…………………………………..150
13. In Search of Never-Lost Russia…………………………………………………..188
14. Can the Leopard Change his Spots?……………………………………….…….215
15. Lazarus Saturday, the Chicago Diocese and the Moscow Patriarchate……..227
2. Comrade Drozdov – the Thief of Hebron (Eugene Sokolov)……………….241
3. Patriarch Alexis II as a Church Figure (Hierodeacon Theophan)…………..245
4. The Angel of the Philadelphian Church (Tatiana Senina)…………………255
5. Open Letter to the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (Vladimir Moss)……………………………………………………………….……..286
This book is a collection of articles written during the last fifteen years on the crisis enveloping the Russian Orthodox Church.
As the Soviet Union began to collapse in 1989-1990, its faithful ecclesiastical slave, the Sovietised Moscow Patriarchate, also began to break up. The Catacomb or True Orthodox Church, which had always refused to recognise Soviet power or its “Soviet church”, emerged from the underground, and the Russian Church Abroad created parishes on Russian soil into which both “catacombniks” and former members of the patriarchate entered. It was a time of great hope for the resurrection of Russian Orthodoxy.
Tragically, those hopes have not been fulfilled. From the mid-1990s, and especially since KGB colonel Putin’s rise to power in 2000, the MP has recovered its position in society while its opponents have warred amongst themselves and fragmented. Most recently, the Russian Church Abroad led by Metropolitan Lavr has started negotiations for entering into union with the MP, thereby reversing the ecclesiastical course of his predecessors, Metropolitans Philaret and Vitaly. These essays reflect that process by one who participated in it both inside and outside Russia.
Since writing these essays, I have changed my attitude towards some of the church figures mentioned in them. However, I have decided to make only minor editorial changes to the texts, insofar as I believe the arguments set out in them remain valid.
Although the picture here drawn may be depressing, the purpose of this book is constructive. It is hoped and believed that by studying the history of the last 15 years, we, the True Orthodox Christians of Russia may repent of our sins and learn from our mistakes and unite again on a firm basis of faith and love. Then, through the prayers of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors, Holy Russia will rise again from the ashes of the present neo-Soviet catastrophe, to the glory of Christ and the salvation of very many throughout the world!
East House, Beech Hill, Mayford, Woking, Surrey, England.
May 31 / June 13, 2004.
Sunday of All Saints of Russia.
1. WHERE IS THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE GOING?
Can two walk together if they are not in agreement with each other?
Forty years ago, the well-known scientist and theologian, Professor Ivan Andreyev, who had been a confessor of the faith in the Solovki camps, posed the question: does the Moscow Patriarchate have grace – that is, the grace of true and valid sacraments? After a thorough examination of the question from a dogmatical and canonical point of view, he gave a clear and categorical reply: no. It goes without saying that the majority of Russian Orthodox Christians today do not agree with this judgement. However, many believers, especially from the intelligentsia, now agree that during the Stalin period the Moscow Patriarchate underwent a very serious fall, a sickness close to death, from which it must recover if the Russian Church is destined to survive. The aim of this article is to pose the question: has anything changed in the last 40 years that would force us to return again to the question of the status of the Moscow Patriarchate. In other words: has the Moscow Patriarchate recovered from its fall, is it beginning to get better, or is this sickness incurable?
Let us look at Andreyev’s main argument. In 1927 the Moscow Patriarchate under the leadership of Metropolitan Sergius declared that the joys of the Soviet government are the joys of the Church, and its failures – the failures of the Church, and entered into a pact with the government, condemning and persecuting all those who refused to recognize Sergius and his declaration. In the opinion of Andreyev, this was the sin of Judas who betrayed Christ, in the given instance the betrayal of His Body on earth, the Church, into the hands of His worst enemies. This sin, in the words of Hieromartyr Victor, Bishop of Glazo, was “worse than heresy”; it was complete apostasy. Moreover, sin his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon had anathematised the Soviet government in 1918, the Moscow Patriarchate was now bound by this anathema; for the text of the anathema clearly forbade the children of the Church from having anything to do with the condemned government.
It is necessary to emphasise that this opinion was shared by almost all the leaders of the Russian Church who rejected the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius. Thus on July 22, 1928 (Old Calendar), Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev declared that the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate were apostates and had to be submitted to the same canonical punishments as the apostates of ancient times, the libellatici – that is, fifteen years’ deprivation of communion after their repentance and return to the Church. Within Russia, one of the leaders of the Catacomb Church who admitted that the sergianist church might still have grace was Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan: “The sacraments performed by the sergianists who have been correctly ordained are undoubtedly saving sacraments for those who receive them with faith and simplicity, without reasonings and doubts about their validity, and who even do not suspect anything wrong in the sergianist organization of the Church.” But at the same time Cyril pointed out that “they serve for the condemnation of those who perform them and of those who approach them well understanding the unrighteousness existing in sergianism and who by their non-resistance to it reveal a criminal indifference to the mocking of the Church. That is why it is necessary for an Orthodox bishop or priest to refrain from communion with the sergianists in prayer. The same necessity exists for those laymen who have a conscious attitude towards all the details of Church life.”
Four main changes have taken place since that time. First, the attitude of most of the foreign Orthodox Churches has changed towards the Moscow Patriarchate. This was noticeable already in 1945, when representatives of other foreign Churches were present at the enthronement of Patriarch Alexis.
The question is: did these foreign hierarchs sanctify the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate by their presence, or, on the contrary, were they defiled by it? The Apostle Paul says: “Do not become a participant in the sins of others; keep yourself in purity” (I Timothy 5.22). In 1945 the other foreign Churches became participants in the sins of the Moscow Patriarchate. One should not forget that in 1923 the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate entered into communion with the “Living Church”, which had been anathematised by Patriarch Tikhon. This communion did not sanctify the “Living Church”, but only condemned the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate.
One must also not forget how Stalin rewarded the patriarchs who supported the Moscow Patriarchate in 1945. As V. Alexeyev informs us on the pages of the journal of the Central Committee of the CPSS, Agitator (¹ 10, 1989): ”The order was given to hand over 42 objects from the vaults of the Moscow museums and 28 from the Zagorsk state museum, mainly objects of Orthodox worship, which were used as gifts to the Eastern Patriarchs… Thus, for example, Patriarch Christopher of Alexandria was given a golden panagia with precious stones, a gold cross with precious stones, a full set of hierarchical vestments of gold brocade, a mitre with precious stones… Naturally, a response was expected from the patriarchs, and they did not tarry to express the main thing – eulogies… Patriarch Christopher of Alexandria said: ‘Marshall Stalin… under whose leadership military operations are being conducted on an unprecedented scale, is aided in his task by an abundance of Divine grace and blessing…’
Secondly, the Catacomb Church, which was flourishing during the 1930s and during the war, has suffered serious losses. Catacomb bishops in the camps had to choose: either accept Patriarch Alexis or be executed. Unfortunately, some of them chose the easier path. Since then, although the Catacomb Church has continued to exist, her influence on the broad masses of people has been limited.
Of course, this is does not justify the Moscow Patriarchate. Even if every single true bishop in the Soviet Union with to die or be killed, this would not make apostates into Orthodox. St. Seraphim of Sarov prophesied that the bishops of the Russian Church would depart from the true faith; he said that he had prayed fervently for them for several days, but the Lord had refused to have mercy on them. This prophecy is printed in the Divine service books of the Moscow Patriarchate like the writing on the wall of the palace o the Babylonian King Balthasar (Daniel 5). Before the revolution St. John of Kronstadt said that it was quite possible that the whole of the Russian Church would fall away from the truth. This had happened to such famous Churches as the Roman and Carthaginian, and it could happen again in Russia. The Lord said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (Matt. 16.18). But He did not say where, or in what country. “The Spirit breathes were It wants, and you hear Its voice, and do not know where it is coming from or where it is going” (John 3.8). Grace can leave us easily and very quickly. In the early Church a bishop was thought to lose grace if he simply handed over the books of the Church to the persecutors of the Church. And in the Greek Church under the Turkish yoke many Christians sought martyrdom in order to wipe out the sin of their youth, when they had been forced to accept Islam and thereby fell away from the faith.
Thirdly, since 1960 the Moscow Patriarchate has joined the ecumenical movement and now de facto recognizes the mysteries of all the heretical churches that are living parts of the ecumenical movement and the World Council of Churches: that is, the Monophysite churches in the East, and the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. True, the Moscow Patriarchate sometimes criticizes the Protestant formulations of the WCC; but this does not prevent her representatives from praying with Protestants, and the Protestant Pastor Billy Graham was invited to preach in an Orthodox cathedral in Moscow. The Moscow Patriarchate has deliberately not followed the recent decision of the Jerusalem Patriarchate to stop these ecumenical activities.
Recently the ecumenical movement entered a new phase of “super-ecumenism”, in which it seeks closer links with non-Christian religions. And the Moscow Patriarchate had accepted this form of ecumenism also. Thus Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev was present at the “prayers for peace” in Assisi, Italy in 1986 at which were present not only the Pope of Rome and the Anglican Primate, but also the Dalai Lama (who considers himself a god) and North American worshippers of the snake. Again, Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk, the head of the publications department of the Moscow Patriarchate, has recently made the following sensational declaration on Soviet television: “When I shall have my own publishing press, I shall publish the Koran according to the most ancient manuscripts belonging to the disciples of the Prophet Mohammed, and I shall give it to the Soviet Muslims.” One should note that the publications department of the Moscow Patriarchate has not published a single Orthodox catechism or theological textbook for mass consumption in the whole history of its existence.
The apostolic canons threaten a bishop or priest who prays with heretics or who recognizes their sacraments (not to speak of the ‘sacred writings’ of the non-Christian religions) with defrockment. Moreover, ecumenism has been condemned by the Fathers of Holy Athos, the True Orthodox Church of Greece and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. This means that if until 1960 the Moscow Patriarchate was a schismatic and apostate organization, now it is also heretical.
Fourthly, the Soviet government has changed its position of open hatred for the Church for a neutral position – although, in the opinion of many, this change is temporary and superficial. However, the question arises: how can a political change influence the status of a Church in the eyes of God? If the Moscow Patriarchate before Gorbachev was an apostate and heretical organization, then the coming to power of such a liberal as Gorbachev has changed the situation only in one respect: for the apostate organization it has become easier and less dangerous to repent. If, however, repentance is not forthcoming, this deprives the Moscow Patriarchate of its last possible excuse. For in essence political changes have nothing to do with Church matters; they only change the external framework within which the living, internal battle between truth and falsehood, righteousness and sin, is carried on.
But the patriarchate, someone may object, is not made up only of hierarchs. There are also the priests and laity, who are against the cowardly politics of the bishops, who have expressed themselves against the subjection of the Church to the God-fighting state, and who have been imprisoned for their faith – for example, Fr. Gleb Yakunin and the philosopher Boris Talantov, who called the patriarchate “an agent of worldwide antichristianity”. Can one condemn the patriarchate as a whole if amongst its members there are such undoubtedly courageous people?
It is not our business to condemn persons. Our business is only to determine where the True Church is. And in order to answer this question, we have to ask: can a priest or layman be Orthodox while his bishop is a heretic? The unambiguous reply of Church consciousness is: no. We Christians are rational sheep, and our duty is to use our reason in order to determine whether our pastor is a true pastor or a hireling, or something still worse – a wolf in a shepherd’s clothing. In the words of the Lord, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow after Me” (John 10.37). But those who follow after apostates will be devoured by wolves.
The Church is the Body of Christ, and the eyes of the body, according to St. Gregory the Theologian, are the bishops. If the eyes are in darkness, as the Lord says, “then the whole body will be in darkness” (Matt. 6.23; Luke 11.34). Therefore if, in the words of the Lord, “thine eye offends thee”, - that is, if your bishop is a heretic, “pull it out and cast it away” (Matt. 18.9).
St. Basil the Great says that it is better not to have a bishop than to have a false one. Why? Because, as St. John Chrysostom says, he who communes with one who has been excommunicated from the Church is himself excommunicated; and as Saints John of Damascus and Theodore the Studite say, those in communion with heretics are themselves heretics, even they personally do not agree with their heretical leaders. This follows from the integral character of the Church in which we all – bishops, priests and laity – have the right and duty to check out the genuineness of our bishops’ confession of faith.
This was the teaching of the Eastern Patriarchs in their Epistle of 1848, which was directly mainly against the Roman Catholic teaching. For according to Catholicism, all power and responsibility rests only on the Pope, who must therefore be infallible, otherwise the whole Church would fall together with him. But in Orthodoxy there are no infallible bishops, just as there are no irresponsible priests or laity.
It follows that Zoya Krakhmalnikova is wrong when she writes: “We are not responsible for Sergius’ declaration, for there is no collective guarantee in the Church”. There is a collective guarantee in the Church, which is called love. Love is the blood of the Body of Christ which circulates throughout the body “that there should be no divisions in the body, but that all the members of it should have the same care for each other. Therefore if one members suffers, all the members suffer with him: if one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with him. And you are the Body of Christ and members in particular” (I Cor. 12.25-27).
Therefore if a bishop is a heretic, the priest who represents him during the Divine Liturgy confesses heresy, and the laity who commune enter into communion with heresy. In such a situation the Canons of the Church say that every Christian can break communion with the heretic even before a Synod of bishops has condemned him (15th Canon of the First-and-Second Council of Constantinople, 861). For the Lord says: “If the blind lead the blind, they both fall into a pit” (Matt. 15.14). And St. John the Apostle writes in his second Epistle (2.20): “You have an anointing from the Holy One and you all have knowledge.” If we all have knowledge, we all bear responsibility, and will answer for how we have used that knowledge at the Terrible Judgement.
But the Moscow Patriarchate has replaced this teaching on the Church with a purely Roman Catholic teaching. As Sergius Ventsel writes: “If Metropolitan Sergius was ruled, not by personal avarice, but by a mistaken understanding of what was for the benefit of the Church, then it was evident that the theological foundation of such an understanding was mistaken, and even constituted a heresy concerning the Church herself and her activity in the world. We may suppose that these ideas were very close to the idea of the Filioque: since the Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son, that means that the vicar of the Son… can dispose of the Spirit, so that the Spirit acts through Him ex opere operato.. It follows necessarily that he who performs the sacraments of the Church, ‘the minister of the sacrament’, must automatically be ‘infallible’, for it is the infallible Spirit of God Who works through him and is inseparable from him… However, this Latin schema of the Church is significantly inferior to the schema and structure created by Metropolitan Sergius. In his schema there is no Council, or it is replaced by a formal assembly for the confirmation of decisions that have already been taken – on the model of the congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
“The place of the Council in his structure of the Church is taken by something lacking in the Latins’ scheme – Soviet power, loyalty to which becomes in the nature of a dogma… This scheme became possible because it was prepared by Russian history. But if the Orthodox tsar and the Orthodox procurator to some extent constituted a ‘small Council’, which in its general direction did not contradict… the mind-set of the majority of believers, with the change in world-view of those came to the helm of Soviet power this scheme acquired a heretical character, since the decisions of the central ecclesiastical authorities, which were associated in the minds of the people with the will of the Spirit of God, came to be determined neither by a large nor by a small Council, but by the will of those who wanted to annihilate the very idea of God (the official aim of the second ‘godless’ five-year-plan was to make the people forget even the word ‘God’). Thus at the source of the Truth, instead of the revelation of the will of the Holy Spirit, a deadly poison was substituted… The Moscow Patriarchate, in entrusting itself to the evil, God-fighting will of the Bolsheviks instead of the conciliar will of the Spirit, showed itself to be an image of the terrible deception of unbelief in the omnipotence and Divinity of Christ, Who alone can save and preserve the Church and Who gave the unlying promise that ‘the gates of hell will not overcome her’… The substitution of this faith by vain hope in one’s own human powers as being able to save the Church in that the Spirit works through them, is not in accord with the canons and Tradition of the Church, but ex opere operato proceeds from the ‘infallible’ top of the hierarchical structure.”
One can often hear another argument. Let us concede that our hierarchs are apostates. Nevertheless, we must not break communion with them for the sake of the unity of the Church and the unity of the Russian land. But we must remember that the unity of the Russian Church was destroyed already in 1927 by Metropolitan Sergius and his Moscow Patriarchate, which strengthened this satanic deed by betrayal and the shedding of the blood of the best representatives of the Russian land. For, as Sergius Ventsel writes, “by the hands of the same Metropolitan Sergius the truly free and canonical Catacomb Church, which was close to victory over the beast, was almost destroyed and deprived of the possibility of witnessing.” Therefore we have to ask ourselves the question: is it possible to preserve the unity of the Church through unity with the destroyers of that unity? What kind of unity would that be?
Not any kind of unity, says St. Gregory the Theologian, is a good unity. There is the unity of thieves and murderers. And the Synod of the Russian Church Abroad recently declared that the strength of the Church does not consist in it’s the integrity of its external organization, but in the unity in faith and love of her devoted children.
So what does the unity of the Moscow Patriarchate mean, and on what is it based? This false unity is based on a lie – the most terrible lie about the good of communism, on the non-existence of persecutions, on the so-called political crimes of the martyrs of Christ, and on fear – that is, the fear to remain alone, in the desert, without support from the authorities of this world. But the Apostle says: “God has not given us a spirit of fear” (II Tim. 1.7). And now in the Ukraine, the former bastion of the Moscow Patriarchate, this false unity, strengthened not be the grace of God but by the weapons of the antichristian government, is falling apart with amazing swiftness. For, as the Lord says, “every city or house that is divided within itself will not stand” (Matt. 12.25).
Let us return to the words of the Apostle: God gave us “the spirit not of fear, but of strength, of love and of chastity”. In fact, the strength of one man in the truth is very great. St. Maximus the Confessor was a simple monk, but he said: “Even if the whole world enters into communion with the heretical patriarch, I will never do so.” And several years later, the Orthodox world, which almost completely fallen into the heresy of Monothelitism, recognized that St. Maximus had been right. One more example: in 1439 all the Orthodox hierarchs signed a unia with Rome at the false council of Florence – except for one, St. Mark, Metropolitan of Ephesus. When the Pope heard that St. Mark had not signed the unia, he said: “In that case we have achieved nothing.” And indeed, when the apostate hierarchs returned home, the people rejected them, so great was the authority of St. Mark. The Russian people also rejected the leader of their Church and their representative at the false council, Metropolitan Isidore, who later became a cardinal in Rome. For “there is no insufficiency in the guard of the Lord, and with it there is no need to seek help” (Sirach 40.27).
God has given us “the spirit of love”. But what does true love mean? Love, according to the word of God, signifies the keeping and carrying out of the commandments of Christ (Wisdom 6.17; John 14.23; II John 6). St. Photius the Great says that the greatest act of love is the confession of the truth. Only he loves who is in the truth.
But love which consists in hiding the truth from each other is not love, but in the best case sentimentality, and in the worst – cowardice and cruelty. St. Paul says that even if we give all our property to the poor and our bodies to be burned, but do not have true love, then all our efforts are in vain (I Cor. 13). For an external act of self-sacrifice and heroism can conceal an inner lie. St. John Chrysostom says that even the blood of martyrdom cannot wash out the sin of schism from the True Church, which is the sin against love. The Moscow Patriarchate is in schism. Her hierarchs have broken all ties of love with their brothers who departed into the catacombs, with their brothers who were forced to emigrate, with Saints Vladimir and Olga and Sergius of Radonezh, who created the unity of the Russian land, with Saints Alexander Nevsky, Jonah and Hermogen, who defended the Russian land against heresy, and with Saints Seraphim of Sarov, John of Kronstadt and Tikhon of Moscow, who clearly called the Soviet government antichristian.
The Holy Scriptures teach us that we are saved through faith, but that “faith without works is dead” (James 2.17). What is the first, most basic work of faith? Let Abraham, “the father of the faithful”, show us: “And the Lord said to Abraham: Depart from thy land, and thy kindred and the house of thy father, and to the land which I will show thee… And Abraham went, as the Lord told him” (Gen. 12.1, 4). In other words, the first work of faith is obedience to the command of God to leave one’s country, Babylon, the community of the apostates. Abraham was not shown where he had to go. But God had prepared for him not only the promised land, but also a priest, Melchizedek, who was higher than all the priests of the Old Testament, and descendants who would number Christ Himself, the incarnate Son of God.
God calls us, too, to leave the “spiritual Babylon”, the community of the apostates, leave the whore, that is, the false church, who sits on the red beast, that is, communism, drinking “the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (Rev. 17.6). Then God will receive us. For “come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you” (II Cor. 6.17). And again: “Come out from her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins” (Rev. 18.4). “Let us go forth therefore unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come” (Heb. 13.13, 14).
January 22 / February 4, 1990.
Sunday of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
(First published in Russian in Vestnik Khristianskago Informatsionnago Tsentra, ¹ 19, March 6, 1990, pp. 9-14, and reprinted in Pravoslavnaia Rus’, ¹ 8, 1990, pp. 9-12)
2. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CATACOMB CHURCH IN CONTEMPORARY RUSSIA
Elder Ambrose of Optina once wrote that when the Russian Empire fell the world would enter the last period of human history, the period described in symbolic form in the Apocalypse (Revelation) of St. John the Theologian. This was the period when the Church, like the woman clothed in the sun in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, would flee into the wilderness, away from public view, and when the faithful Christians would pray in caves and dens of the earth, like the Catacomb Christians of Ancient Rome. This picture came true after the revolution of 1917.
As the Russian Church in Exile said in its Second Pan-Diaspora Council in Karlovtsy in 1938: “Since the epoch we have lived through was without doubt an epoch of apostasy, it goes without saying that for the true Church of Christ a period of life in the wilderness, of which the twelfth chapter of the Revelation of St. John speaks, is not, as some may believe, an episode connected exclusively with the last period in the history of mankind. History show us that the Orthodox Church has withdrawn into the wilderness repeatedly, from whence the will of God called her back to the stage of history, where she once again assumed her role under more favourable circumstances. At the end of history the Church of God will go into the wilderness for the last time to receive Him, Who comes to judge the quick and the dead. Thus the twelfth chapter of Revelation must be understood not only in an eschatological sense, but in a historical and educational sense as well: it shows up the general and typical forms of Church life. If the Church of God is destined to live in the wilderness through the Providence of the Almighty Creator, the judgement of history, and the legislation of the proletarian state, it follows clearly that she must forego all attempts to reach a legalization, for every attempt to arrive at a legalization during the epoch of apostasy inescapably turns the Church into the great Babylonian whore of blasphemous atheism. The near future will confirm our opinion and prove that the time has come in which the welfare of the Church demands giving up all legalizations, even those of the parishes. We must follow the example of the Church prior to the Council of Nicaea, when the Christian communities were united not on the basis of the administrative institutions of the State, but through the Holy Spirit alone.”
Today, in 1996, we might be tempted to think that the catacomb phase of Church history is over. The Soviet Union has fallen, freedom and democracy reign, and the Catacomb Church herself is a small, divided remnant that must soon be swallowed up – so human wisdom tells us – in one or another above-ground jurisdiction. I believe that this judgement is wrong for two main reasons, one obvious and the other more profound.
The obvious reason is that militant anti-theism may return at any moment. It may come as a sudden, savage onslaught similar to that of 1917. Or it may come like the creeping bureaucratism of the European Union. But in any case, as long as atheist, western modes of thought continue to dominate the world, the tendency for a secular state to take control of an ever-increasing proportion of our lives will remain. And for that reason the model of catacomb, anti-state Church life will remain relevant.
But there is another, still more important reason why we must study the experience and confession of the Catacomb Church, not as an historical relic, nor even as a mode of life which we may be forced to undertake again in the future, but as a matter of the greatest contemporary significance. And that is that the whole tragedy of Russian Church life since the Civil War has consisted either in the tardy and reluctant acceptance of the necessity for a descent into the catacombs, or in the outright refusal to contemplate such a path. It follows that if Russia is ever to recover from her present terrible spiritual and moral humiliation, the nature of this tragedy must be thoroughly understood and repented of.
The necessity for the Russian Church to enter into a totally uncompromising struggle with the new state order (more precisely: anarchy), and therefore to descend into the catacombs if that state order did not yield its position, was proclaimed and commanded at the very highest level, by the Local Council of the Russian Church held in Moscow in 1917-18.
Thus on January 19, 1918, his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon issued his famous anathema against the Bolsheviks, in which he said: “I adjure all of you who are faithful children of the Orthodox Church of Christ not to commune with such outcasts of the human race in any way whatsoever; ‘cast out the wicked from among you’ (I Cor. 5.13).”
There has been much argument over the true significance of this anathema. Thus it has been argued that this decree did not anathematise Soviet power as such, but only those people who were creating disturbances and committing sacrilege against the Church in various parts of the country. However, this argument fails to take into account several facts. First, the patriarch himself, in his declarations of June 3/16 and June 18 / July 1, 1923, repented precisely of his “anathematisation of Soviet power”. Secondly, even if the decree had not formally anathematised Soviet power as such, since Soviet power sanctioned and initiated the acts of violence and sacrilege, the faithful were in effect being exhorted to have nothing to do with it. And thirdly, when the decree came to be read out at the Council three days later, it was enthusiastically endorsed by it in terms which leave no doubt but that the Council understood the Patriarch to have anathematised precisely Soviet power.
This endorsement by the Council had even more authority than the Patriarch’s anathema, and quite clearly ordered the faithful to take the most hostile attitude possible to the Bolsheviks: “The Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia in his epistle to the beloved in the Lord archpastors, pastors and all faithful children of the Orthodox Church of Christ has drawn the spiritual sword against the outcasts of the human race – the Bolsheviks, and anathematised them. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church adjures all her faithful children not to enter into any communion with these outcasts. For their satanic deeds they are cursed in this life and in the life to come. Orthodox! His Holiness the Patriarch has been given the right to bind and to loose according to the word of the Saviour… Do not destroy your souls, cease communion with the servants of Satan – the Bolsheviks. Parents, if your children are Bolsheviks, demand authoritatively that they renounce their errors, that they bring forth repentance for their eternal sin, and if they do not obey you, renounce them. Wives, if your husbands are Bolsheviks and stubbornly continue to serve Satan, leave your husbands, save yourselves and your children from the soul-destroying infection. An Orthodox Christian cannot have communion with the servants of the devil… Repent, and with burning prayer call for help from the Lord of Hosts and thrust away from yourselves ‘the hand of strangers’ – the age-old enemies of the Christian faith, who have declared themselves in self-appointed fashion ‘the people’s power’… If you do not obey the Church, you will not be her sons, but participants in the cruel and satanic deeds wrought by the open and secret enemies of Christian truth… Dare! Do not delay! Do not destroy your soul and hand it over to the devil and his stooges.”
Now although it was unprecedented for a Local Church to anathematise and in effect declare war against a government in this way, there have been occasions in the history of the Church when individual hierarchs have not only refused to obey or pray for a political leader, but have actually prayed against him. Thus in the fourth century St. Basil the Great prayed for the defeat of Julian the Apostate, and it was through his prayers that the apostate was killed, as was revealed by God to the holy hermit Julian of Mesopotamia. This and other examples show that, while the principle of authority as such is from God (Rom. 13.1), individual authorities are sometimes not from God, but are only allowed by Him, in which case the Church must offer resistance to them out of loyalty to God Himself.
The Council’s completely uncompromising attitude towards Soviet power was again revealed on January 20, the day after the patriarch’s anathema, when the Bolsheviks issued their “Decree on the Freedom of Conscience”. This was the Bolsheviks’ fiercest attack yet on the integrity of the Church; for it forbade religious bodies from owning property, from levying dues, from organizing into hierarchical organizations, and from teaching religion to persons under 18 years of age. Thus, far from being a measure for freedom of conscience, it was, as the Council said, a decree on freedom from conscience, and an excuse for large-scale pillaging of churches and murders, often in the most bestial manner. Thus “under the guise of taking over the Church’s property,” declared the Council, the decree “aims to destroy the very possibility of Divine worship and ministration.” Therefore “all participation, either in the publication of the law so injurious to the Church, or in attempts to put it into practice, is not reconcilable with membership of the Orthodox Church.”
Now it is a striking fact that these powerful and authoritative words, pronounced at the highest level of Church government, were never repeated or echoed in official Russian Church life again – although, as we all know, the savagery of the Soviets not only did not decrease but reached unheard-of proportions. The only significant exception to this statement must be considered the Council of the Russian Church in Exile in Karlovtsy, Serbia, in 1921, which, following the defeat of the Whites in the Civil War, called for an armed crusade against Soviet Russia. The decisions of this Karlovtsy Council have often been reviled by the Moscow Patriarchate as irresponsible politicising; but it must be admitted that they were closer to both the letter and the spirit of the January, 1918 decisions of the Moscow Council than those of any subsequent above-ground Council in Russia.
For the bitter fact is that, from about the beginning of 1922, the Church inside Russia began to negotiate with Soviet power, attempting to win concessions from the anathematised authorities on the basis of precisely that decree on freedom of conscience whose application the Council of 1917-18 had declared to be irreconcilable with membership of the Orthodox Church! In fact, the concessions won by the Church were negligible, while the concessions she made to the Bolsheviks were, as we shall see, major and very damaging. They delayed but did not prevent the Church’s eventual descent into the catacombs after Metropolitan Sergius’ notorious declaration of 1927; and they made that descent more difficult and more costly than it would otherwise have been.
It is necessary at this point to reject the possible charge that, by accusing the Church of having made harmful concessions even before 1927, we are in effect casting stones at the radiant image of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa and the other Church leaders who supported their general church policy. However, this is not the case at all. First, whatever harmful concessions Patriarch Tikhon, for example, may have made, no one has ever doubted that he made them, not out of motives of personal fear or gain, but in great torment of spirit and for the sake of what he perceived to be the interest of the Church as a whole. Moreover, the fact that he had a martyric end – he was poisoned, according to the witness of his cell-attendant - shows that the Lord counted him worthy of glory, whatever his mistakes. Secondly, while all concessions which bring damage to the Church must be condemned, they are not all of the same order or magnitude. Although Patriarch Tikhon negotiated with Soviet power and made damaging concessions to it, he never, unlike Metropolitan Sergius, denounced his fellow Christians as “counter-revolutionaries”, thereby sending them to certain death; nor did he commemorate Soviet power at the Divine Liturgy, as Sergius did. And thirdly, we must take note of the attitude of those members of the Church hierarchy, such as the future Catacomb Hieromartyrs Archbishop Theodore (Pozdeyevsky) of Volokolamsk and Bishop Mark (Novoselov) of Sergiev Posad, who, while criticising and opposing the Patriarch’s concessions, did not break communion with him – but did break communion with Metropolitan Sergius.
Archbishop Theodore’s position was expressed by the future Archbishop Leontius of Chile as follows: “The whole Orthodox episcopate and people venerated him [Vladyka Theodore] for his principled, uncompromising and straight position in relation to Soviet power. He considered that until the Orthodox Church received the right to a truly free existence, there could be no negotiations with the Bolsheviks. The authorities were only deceiving them, they would fulfil none of their promises, but would, on the contrary, turn everything to the harm of the Church. Therefore it would be better for his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon to sit in prison and die there, than to conduct negotiations with the Bolsheviks, because concessions could lead, eventually, to the gradual liquidation of the Orthodox Church and would disturb everyone, both in Russia and, especially, abroad. [He said this] at a time when his Holiness the Patriarch had been released from prison. Archbishop Theodore honoured and pities his Holiness, but was in opposition to him. In spite of the persistent request of his Holiness that he take part in the administration of the patriarchate, he refused.”
Let us turn to one very instructive example of how damaging disobedience to the January, 1918 decisions of the Moscow Council could be – the famous affair of the requisitioning of church valuables by the Bolsheviks in 1922.
When the Bolsheviks demanded that the Church give up her valuables to a State commission so that they could be sold and the proceeds given to the starving in the Volga region, the Patriarch agreed on condition that those valuable did not include the most sacred vessels used in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Most commentators have interpreted this as a wise compromise on the part of the Patriarch. However, this was not the opinion of no less an authority than the holy Elder Nectarius of Optina, who said: “You see now, the patriarch gave the order to give up all valuables from the churches, but they belonged to the Church!”
It is easy to see why the elder was right and the patriarch wrong in this matter. First, the money gained from the sale of the valuables did not go to feed the poor, but to promote the socialist revolution worldwide. Secondly, the patriarch’s decision placed the parish priests in the very difficult situation of having to choose between disobedience to the patriarch and cooperating in what many of them must have considered to be a near-sacrilegious stripping of the churches for the benefit of the Antichrist. And thirdly, the patriarch’s decision did not in any case prevent bloodshed, as he had hoped. Thus according to one estimate, 2,691 married priests, 1,962 monks, 3,447 nuns and an unknown number of laymen were killed on the pretext of resistance to the seizure of church valuables in the country as a whole. In fact, the patriarch’s decision fell between two stools. It neither saved the lives of the starving, on the one hand, nor protected the churches from attack, on the other.
Soon after this, the patriarch made another disastrous concession: on April 22 / May 5, 1922, at the insistence of the Bolsheviks, he convened a meeting o the Holy Synod and the Higher Church Council, at which he declared (decree ¹ 342) that “neither the epistle, nor the address of the Karlovtsy Synod [to the Genoa conference] express the voice of the Russian Church.” He ordered the dissolution of the Church in Exile’s Higher Church Administration and the transfer of all power over the Russian refugees in Europe to Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris. Although all the émigré hierarchs (including Metropolitan Eulogius) agreed that the decree was issued under duress and was therefore not binding, it was later used by pro-Soviet hierarchs to cause serious divisions in the Russian Church in Exile.
Neither did the Bolsheviks show gratitude to the patriarch. Only a few days later, he was place under house arrest, which gave the renovationist heretics the chance to seize control of the administrative machinery of the Church!
It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the Russian Church’s annus horribilis of 1922 was the result of the Church leadership’s decision to abandon the no-compromise position adopted at the 1917-18 Council and negotiate with the Soviets. Nothing was gained by it, and a great deal was lost. Moreover, once the renovationist schism came into being, the patriarch felt compelled to make even more compromises with the Soviets in order to defeat what he considered to be the more immediate threat of the Living Church. It all went to show that, as the English proverb puts it, “when you sup with the devil, you must use a very long spoon…”
So what was the alternative? Outright rejection of the Bolsheviks’ demands, leading to a descent of the Russian Church into the catacombs as early as 1922? Was such an alternative practical?
Open opposition, to the extent of war, against the powers that be is not unheard of in Russian Church history. St. Sergius of Radonezh blessed a war of liberation against the Tatars in the fourteenth century, and St. Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow, called for another such war against the Polish occupiers of Moscow in 1611. And it was precisely to St. Hermogenes’ example that Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), first hierarch of the Russian Church in Exile, had appealed at the Karlovtsky Council of 1921.
However, “Patriarch” Alexis II of Moscow is not inspired by such examples. As he said in an interview, although Patriarch Tikhon “did not hide his sharply negative attitude towards the Bolshevik order,” - unlike Alexis himself, who never hid his glowingly positive attitude towards it, declaring as late as July 17, 1990 that he was praying for the preservation of the Communist Party! – “he did not consider it possible to lead a ‘crusade against communism’. Of the two evils – to declare war against the ‘reds’ and thereby submit the whole Orthodox flock to unavoidable devastation, or by the expression of formal loyalty to the State while preserving the purity of the faith to save that which still could be saved – he chose the lesser, that is, the second. The Church could not, did not have the right to, depart into the catacombs. She remained together with the people and drank the cup of suffering which fell to her lot to the dregs.”
These words astound by their falsehood and hypocritical self-righteousness. Patriarch Tikhon did indeed choose what he saw as the lesser of two evils – a wrong choice, as is argued here, but one made from honourable motives, for the sake of his flock. And out of compassion and respect for him, who truly “drank the cup of suffering to the dregs”, most of the people stayed with him – even those who, like Archbishop Theodore, disagreed with him.
But would the Patriarch have agreed that “the Church could not, did not have the right to, depart into the catacombs”? Certainly not! Indeed, in his Life of one of the first catacomb bishops, Hieromartyr Maximus of Serpukhov, Protopresbyter Michael Polsky writes: “His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon expressed to Vladyka Maximus (who was at that time simply a doctor) his tormented doubts about the benefit of further concessions to Soviet power. In making these concessions, he had with horror become more and more convinced that the limits of the ‘political’ demands of Soviet power lay beyond the bounds of faithfulness to Christ and the Church. Not long before his death, his Holiness the Patriarch expressed the thought that apparently the only way out for the Russian Orthodox Church to preserve her faithfulness to Christ would be to depart into the catacombs in the very near future…”
So “Patriarch” Alexis is contradicted by Patriarch Tikhon himself! Far from not having the “right” to depart into the catacombs, the patriarch considered that it would one day be the duty of the Church to do so. The only question was: when?
Moreover, it was precisely to “remain together with the people” who themselves remained together with Christ, that it was necessary to depart into the catacombs. For when Metropolitan Sergius issued his notorious declaration in 1927, the people rejected it in droves. Thus 90% of the Urals parishes sent it back without an answer; and it is calculated that more than fifty bishops inside Russia, and thirty bishops abroad, refused to support Metropolitan Sergius.
And did the Soviet bishops “remain with the people”? Not at all! In relation to that large part of the people who remained faithful to the truth they acted as spies and informers. And in relation even to their own flock, they can hardly be said to have shared their sorrows to any significant extent – at least in the post-war period. Rather they lived with all the perks of Soviet functionaries – dachas, limousines, access to special stores obtained by their secret party cards – in a word, like those “princes” of which it is written: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men, in whom is no salvation” (Psalm 145.3).
This complete lack not only of solidarity (solidarnost’), but also of Orthodox Catholic conciliarity (sobornost’) with the believing people is witnessed even from patriarchal sources. Thus according to Archimandrite Polycarp (Grishin), all the delegates of the Orel-Briansk diocese to the 1988 local council were imposed by the local bishop obedient to a list put forward by the Bolsheviks. And at the same council Archbishop Chrysostom of Irkutsk said: “We hierarchs are perhaps the most rightless people in the Russian Orthodox Church. When they transfer us, no one asks us, Why and what for? But we act in the same way with our clergy. We are rightless before the Patriarch and the Holy Synod; they take no notice of us, and we act in the same way.”
Of course, we can only speculate what would have happened if the Russian Church had chosen to refuse any compromise with the Bolsheviks in 1922. Undoubtedly there would have been great suffering and many martyrdoms – which is what happened, in any case, and has not really ended even now. Quite possibly, a large proportion of the Church population would have fallen away – which is what happened, in any case, by falling into the renovationist and sergianist schisms. But it is also possible that the Bolsheviks, faced with a vast and determined church population united by a holy zeal behind their lawful patriarch, would have backed away from direct confrontation – and made concessions themselves, resulting eventually in the crumbling of their power. And even if the Bolsheviks had not backed down, we know that by the power of faith the people of God have often “become mighty in war and put foreign armies to flight” (Heb. 11.34). There is no reason why this could not have happened in the 1920s. And then how different would have been the history of the twentieth century!
However, God’s Providence uses even our sins and falls to accomplish His mysterious and perfect will. “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (Prov. 16.4). Evidently it was pleasing to Him to humble the Russian people still more for their sinfulness and lack of faith. And perhaps it was not the Lord’s will, as Catacomb Hieromartyr Bishop Damascene of Glukhov said in the 1930s, “that the Church should stand as an intermediary between Himself and the believers,” but that everyone should “stand directly for himself as it was with the forefathers”! For this is the specific nature of Christian confession in the time of the Antichrist. And perhaps it is His will that now again, when the Russian Church and nation is incomparably weaker in human terms that it was in 1927 or 1922, now is the time to demonstrate that “some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 19.7). For His strength is made perfect in weakness (II Cor. 12.9).
But confession must be preceded by understanding; and if we are to make a good confession now, we must apply our understanding to the very beginning of the decline of the Russian Church from the glorious martyrdom of the Civil War years when the Church was united and defiant – that is, to the year 1922. That this year was indeed critical in the destinies of the Russian Church is indicated by a vision granted to a pious girl in 1917 and recounted by Elder Nectarius of Optina. In this vision the Apostle Peter asked the Lord Jesus Christ: “When will these torments end, O Lord?” And the Lord replied: “I will give the people until 1922: if they do not repent and come to their sense, then everyone will perish.” 1922 did not mark the end of the Russian people’s sufferings, but rather of their intensification, being the year in which the first major schisms arose and the very name of Russia was swallowed up in that of the Soviet Union. And now, with a few exceptions, everyone is perishing….
The beginning of recovery, therefore, must consist in repentance for that failure to obey the commands of the Moscow Council of 1917-18, that failure to reject any communion whatsoever with the Soviet Antichrist, which began to show its disastrous fruits in 1922. For it was not only the Patriarch and the Church administration that failed then. If the people had resisted the patriarch as they had resisted his attempt to introduce the new calendar later, the disaster could have been avoided and the slide that ended with the sergianist apostasy could have been checked.
For if, as the True Church always believed, the Soviet regime was established, not by God, but by the devil (Rev. 13.2), then only outright condemnation of, and refusal to work with, the satanic regime could draw upon the people the blessing of God. For “what accord hath Christ with Belial? Or what hath a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (II Cor. 6.15). Therefore, says the Apostle, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them…” (Eph. 5.11).
Thus the significance of the Catacomb Church for Russia and the world consists the fact that she shows to us the normal, and perhaps the only spiritually safe mode of existence for the Church in our apocalyptic times in which there are no more God-established Orthodox autocracies. Perhaps, through the prayers of the new martyrs of Russia, a God-protected Orthodox autocracy may one day be established again, as the prophecies indicate. But this can only be an exception to the basic trend, a brief oasis of calm in the swirling maelstrom of apostasy. In general, in the apocalyptic era we have entered since 1917, the Christian can expect no support from the powers that be, but must rather expect snares and temptations. And so, learning from the example of Patriarch Tikhon and the other Church leaders who had to encounter the first blast of the Antichrist’s assault, we must “flee to the mountains” and “not go down to take what is in the house” of what used to be our earthly homeland (Matt. 24.16-17). Confessing openly that we are “strangers and pilgrims” on this earth, we must “go forth to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach…” (Heb. 13.13).
March 16/29, 1996.
(First published in Living Orthodoxy, no. 130, vol. XXII, no. 4, July-August, 2001, pp. 8-15)
3. THE FREE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH:
A SHORT HISTORY (1982-1998)
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the “second administration” of the Soviet government, the Soviet Moscow Patriarchate, continued to exist virtually unchanged, only changing its political orientation from pro-communist to pro-democratic. At this time the leadership of the healthy ecclesiastical forces opposed to the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) inside Russia was assumed by the Free Russian Orthodox Church (FROC). This article consists of a short history of the FROC and a canonical justification of its independent existence.
The origins of the FROC go back to January 5/18, 1981, when a priest of the Russian Catacomb Church, Fr. Lazarus (Zhurbenko), was secretly received into the West European diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) by Archbishop Anthony of Geneva and Western Europe (ukaz no. 648/818/2). Shortly after this, in 1982, another cleric of the West European diocese, Fr. Barnabas (Prokofiev), was secretly consecrated as Bishop of Cannes and sent to Moscow, where he consecrated Fr. Lazarus to the episcopate. The candidacy of Fr. Lazarus had been put forward by the dissident MP priest, Fr. Demetrius Dudko, with whom Archbishop Anthony had entered into correspondence.
On August 1/14, 1990, the Chancellery of the ROCA decided to throw some light on this secret consecration by issuing the following statement: “In 1982 his Eminence Anthony, Archbishop of Geneva and Western Europe, together with his Eminence Mark, Bishop of Berlin and Germany, on the orders of the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, secretly performed an episcopal consecration on Hieromonk Barnabas (Prokofiev), so that through the cooperation of these archpastors the Church life of the Catacomb Orthodox Church in Russia might be regulated. Since external circumstances no longer compel either his Eminence Bishop Lazarus in Russia, or his Eminence Bishop Barnabas in France to remain as secret Hierarchs of our Russian Church Abroad, the Hierarchical Synod is now officially declaring this fact.”
This was an ominous phrase: “so that... the Church life of the Catacomb Orthodox Church in Russia might be regulated”. No indication was given as to why the life of the Catacomb Church needed regulating from abroad, nor how it was proposed that this regulation should be accomplished (apart from the consecration of a hierarch), nor whether the consent of the Catacomb Church to such a regulation had been sought or received, nor what canonical right the ROCA had to regulate the life of the Catacomb Church.
In actual fact the consent of the Catacomb Church, was neither asked nor given.….
Be that as it may, the ROCA now had the beginnings of a secret hierarchy in the Soviet Union. This hierarchy began to act in the spring of 1990, when the first substantial signs of the collapse of Communism and a measure of ecclesiastical freedom were becoming evident. Thus Bishop Lazarus flew to New York, where his consecration was confirmed by the Synod of the ROCA; and believers throughout Russia became aware that the ROCA had entered into combat with the Moscow Patriarchate on Russian soil.
The first parish to leave the Moscow Patriarchate and officially join the ROCA was that of St. Constantine the Great in Suzdal, Vladimir province, whose pastor was Archimandrite Valentine (Rusantsov). As Fr. Valentine told the story: “In the Vladimir diocese I served as dean. I was a member of the diocesan administration, was for a time diocesan secretary and had responsibility for receiving guests in this diocese. And then I began to notice that I was being gradually, quietly removed. Perhaps this happened because I very much disliked prayers with people of other faiths. It’s one thing to drink tea with guests, and quite another.. to pray together with them, while the guests, it has to be said, were of all kinds: both Buddhists, and Muslims, and Satanists. I did not like these ecumenical prayers, and I did not hide this dislike of mine.
“And so at first they removed me from working with the guests, and then deprived me of the post of secretary, and then excluded me from the diocesan council. Once after my return from a trip abroad, the local hierarch Valentine (Mishchuk) summoned me and said: ‘Sit down and write a report for the whole year about what foreigners were with you, what you talked about with them, what questions they asked you and what answers you gave them.’ ‘Why is this necessary?’ ‘It’s just necessary,’ replied the bishop. ‘I don’t understand where I am, Vladyko – in the study of a hierarch or in the study of a KGB operative? No, I’ve never done this and never will do it. And remember that I am a priest and not a “stooge”.’ ‘Well if you’re not going to do it, I will transfer you to another parish.’
“And so the next day came the ukaz concerning my transfer to the out-of-the-way place Pokrov. I was upset, but after all I had to obey, it was a hierarch’s ukaz. But suddenly something unexpected happened – my parishioners rebelled against this decision, people began to send letters to the representatives of the authorities expressing their dissatisfaction with my transfer: our parishioners even hired buses to go to the capital and protest.
“The patriarchate began to admonish them, suggested ‘a good batyushka’, Demetrius Nyetsvetayev, who was constantly on trips abroad, in exchange. ‘We don’t need your batyushka,’ said the parishioners, ‘we know this kind, today he’ll spy on foreigners, tomorrow on the unbelievers of Suzdal, and then he’ll begin to reveal the secret of parishioners’ confessions.’ In general, our parishioners just didn’t accept Nyetsvetayev. They didn’t even let him into the church. The whole town was aroused, and the parishioners came to me: ‘Fr. Valentine, what shall we do?’ At that point I told them that I had passed my childhood among the ‘Tikhonites’ [Catacomb Christians], and that there is a ‘Tikhonite Church’ existing in exile. If we write to their first-hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly, and he accepts us – will you agree to be under his omophorion? The church people declared their agreement. However, this attempt to remove me did not pass without a trace, I was in hospital as a result of an attack of nerves. And so, at the Annunciation, I receive the news that our parish had been received into the ROCA.”
On June 8/21, 1990, the feast of St. Theodore, the enlightener of Suzdal, the ROCA hierarchs Mark of Berlin, Hilarion of Manhattan and Lazarus of Tambov celebrated the first hierarchical liturgy in the St. Constantine parish. Then, in February, 1991 Archimandrite Valentine was consecrated as Bishop of Suzdal and Vladimir in Brussels by hierarchs of the ROCA. There now began a rapid growth in the number of parishes joining the ROCA on Russian soil, including many communities of the Catacomb Church. Most of these joined the Suzdal diocese under Bishop Valentine, but many also joined the Tambov diocese of Bishop Lazarus and the Kuban diocese of Bishop Benjamin. The ROCA inside Russia was now called the Free Russian Orthodox Church (FROC).
2. First Signs of Division
Now where truth and Christian piety flourishes the devil is sure to interfere. And at this point he inspired certain hierarchs of the ROCA to hinder the work of the FROC hierarchs by a series of anti-canonical actions.
In 1991 the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA decided to organize church life in Russia on the principle of non-territoriality. As Archbishop Lazarus explained: “The Hierarchical Synod decreed equal rights for us three Russian hierarchs. If someone from the patriarchate wants to join Vladyka Valentine – please. If he wants to join Vladyka Benjamin or me – please. So far the division [of dioceses] is only conditional – more exactly, Russia is in the position of a missionary region. Each of us can receive parishes in any part of the country. For the time being it is difficult to define the boundaries of dioceses.”
This decision led to some conflicts between the FROC bishops, but not serious ones. However, it was a different matter when bishops from abroad began to interfere. As early as July, 1990 Archbishop Lazarus told the present writer that if Archbishop Mark of Germany continued to interfere in Russia he might be compelled to form an autonomous Church. And in the same month Archbishop Mark wrote a letter to Metropolitan Vitaly full of innuendos against Archimandrite Valentine Nor did not stop there. He ordained a priest for St. Petersburg, a “Special German deanery” under the Monk Ambrose (von Sievers), who later founded his own Synod, and in general acted as if Russia were an extension of the German diocese.
In November, 1991 a correspondent of a church bulletin asked Bishop Valentine about Archbishop Mark’s role. The reply was carefully weighed: “When the situation in Russia was still in an embryonic stage, Archbishop Mark with the agreement of the first-hierarch of the ROCA made various attempts to build church life in Russia. One of Archbishop Mark’s experiments was the ‘special German deanery’ headed by Fr. Ambrose (Sievers). Now this is changing, insofar as the situation in the FROC has been sufficiently normalized. From now on not one hierarch will interfere in Russian affairs – except, it goes without saying, the three hierarchs of the FROC.”
In 1992, however, Archbishop Mark’s interference did not only not cease, but became more intense, and was now directed particularly against the most successful and prominent of the FROC hierarchs, Bishop Valentine. Thus while calling for official negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate, Mark called on believers in a publicly distributed letter “to distance yourselves from Bishop Valentine of the Suzdal and Vladimir diocese of the Free Russian Orthodox Church”, described the clergy in obedience to Bishop Valentine as “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, and told them to turn instead to Fr. Sergius Perekrestov (a priest who was later defrocked for adultery before leaving the FROC). A priest of the Moscow Patriarchate interpreted this letter to mean that the ROCA had “turned its back on the Suzdal diocese of the FROC”.
In a letter to Metropolitan Vitaly dated December 25, 1992, Bishop Valentine complained that Archbishop Mark’s attacks against him had been distributed, not only to members of the Synod, but also to laypeople and even in churches of the Moscow Patriarchate. And he went on: “On the basis of the above positions I have the right to confirm that after my consecration to the episcopate his Eminence Vladyka Mark did everything to cause a quarrel between me and their Eminences Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin…
“It is interesting that when their Eminences Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin, by virtue of the Apostolic canons and their pastoral conscience, adopted, with me, a principled position on the question of his Eminence Archbishop Mark’s claims to administer Russian parishes, the latter simply dismissed the two hierarchs as being incapable of administration… Then Archbishop Mark began to accuse me of ‘lifting everything under myself like a bulldozer’. Therefore his Eminence Mark chose a different tactic. He wrote a letter to Kaliningrad, calling me ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’, and this letter was read out from the ambon in the churches of the Moscow patriarchate.
“Yesterday I was told that his Eminence Archbishop Mark sent a fax to the Synod insistently recommending that his Eminence Barnabas not be recalled from Moscow until a church trial had been carried out on Valentine. What trial, for what? For everything that I have done, for all my labours? Does not putting me on trial mean they want to put you, too, on trial? Does this not mean that it striking me with their fist they get at you with their elbow?”
The reference to Bishop Barnabas is explained as follows. In February, 1992 he had been sent to Moscow as superior of the community of SS. Martha and Mary in Moscow, which was designated the Synodal podvorye. Then, on August 3, he organized “a conference of the clergy with the aim of organizing the Moscow diocesan organization of our Church. The conference was attended by more than ten clergy from Moscow and other parts of Russia. In his speech before the participants Vladyka pointed out the necessity of creating a diocesan administration which would unite all the parishes of the FROC in Moscow and Moscow region, and also those parishes in other regions of Russia which wanted to unite with this diocesan administration.” “At the diocesan conference… a diocesan council was elected, containing three members of the National Patriotic Front, Pamyat’, as representatives of the laity.”
This was a double blow to the FROC. First, the appointment of a foreign bishop with almost unlimited powers in Russia was a direct affront to the attempts of the Russian bishops to prevent foreign interference in their dioceses. The encroachment of the foreign bishops on the canonical rights of the Russian bishops was becoming increasingly scandalous. (According to the holy canons (8th of the 3rd Ecumenical Council, 9th of Antioch, 64th and 67th of Carthage) no bishop can encroach on the territory of another bishop or perform any sacramental action in it without his permission.) Secondly, Bishop Barnabas’ open endorsement of the fascist organization Pamyat’, which organized provocative demonstrations and even an attack on the offices of Moskovskij Komsomolets, scandalized church opinion both in Russia and outside.
On October 25 / November 7, 1992, Metropolitan Vitaly and the Synod of the ROCA acted to distance themselves from the activities of Bishop Barnabas, sending Bishop Hilarion and Fr. Victor Potapov to Moscow to express the official position of the ROCA at a press conference; which duly took place on November 13. However, in February, 1993, at a meeting of the Synod in New York, it was decided to reject this press-conference as “provocative” and to praise one of the pro-fascist priests, Fr. Alexis Averyanov, for his “fruitful work with Pamyat’”, bestowing on him an award for his “stand for righteousness”. Moreover, no action was taken against Bishop Barnabas, while Fr. Victor was forbidden to undertake any ecclesiastical or public activity in Russia.
The year 1993 brought no relief for the beleagured FROC bishops from their foreign brothers. Thus when the large and prosperous parish of the MP in Naginsk under its very popular pastor, Archimandrite Adrian, applied to come under the omophorion of Bishop Valentine, and was accepted by him on January 18, Bishop Barnabas interfered and suggested they come under his omophorion – which offer was politely but firmly turned down. At the same time the MP circulated an accusation - signed by a woman but with no other indication of time, place or names of witnesses of the supposed crime - that Archimandrite Adrian had raped one altar boy and had had improper relations with another. This accusation turned out to be completely fabricated – the “raped” altar boy wrote a letter of apology to Fr. Adrian and the letter was accepted by the prosecutor in the criminal court. Both youngsters were then sued for stealing icons…
In spite of this, Bishop Barnabas, without any kind of investigation or trial, suspended the archimandrite and wanted to depose Bishop Valentine for accepting such a pervert into his diocese. The Russian newspapers pointed out that Bishop Barnabas seemed to be partially supporting the patriarchate in the struggle for this parish – in which, as Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) pointed out, the KGB appeared also to be operating. Nevertheless, several ROCA bishops wanted to proceed with defrocking Bishop Valentine; but the decision was made to retire him instead on grounds of his ill-health – a completely uncanonical decision since neither had Bishop Valentine petitioned for his retirement nor had the ROCA bishops investigated his state of health.
But worse was to come. Bishop Barnabas wrote to Metropolitan Vladimir (Romanyuk) of the uncanonical Ukrainian Autocephalous Church seeking to enter into communion with him, and followed this up by visiting him in Kiev. The Moscow Patriarchate gleefully displayed this letter as proof of the ROCA’s incompetence, and it was only with the greatest difficulty (and delay) that the Synod, spurred on by Fr. Victor and Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) outside Russia, and by Bishop Valentine inside Russia, began to extricate themselves from this scandal.
A recent publication summed up Bishop Barnabas’ contribution to Russian Church life in this year: “In the shortest time [he] introduced the completest chaos into the life of the Free Church, which was beginning to be reborn. This representative of the Synod began, above the heads of the Diocesan Bishops of the Free Church in Russia, and in violation of the basic canonical rules, to receive into his jurisdiction clerics who had been banned from serving by them, to carry out ordinations in their dioceses without their knowledge, and finally was not ashamed to demand, at the Council in 1993, that he should be given rights to administer all the parishes of the Free Church in Russia! This request was not granted by the Council, the more so in that it learned that ‘the empowered representative of the Synod of the Russian Church Abroad in Moscow’, on writing-paper of the Hierarchical Synod, wrote a petition to ‘the Locum Tenens of the Kievan Patriarchal Throne’, Metropolitan Vladimir (Romanyuk), in which it said that ‘the traitrous Muscovite scribblers hired by the Moscow Patriarchate are trying to trample into the mud the authority of the Russian Church Abroad. In this connection: we beseech you, Your Eminence, through the Kievan Patriarchate headed by you, to give our ecclesiastical activity a juridical base and receive us into brotherly communion.’ Extraordinary as it may seem, the Council did not consider it necessary to defrock its representative, and it was put to him that he should set off for the Holy Land for a mere three months without right of serving – which, however, he did not carry out. This shameful letter was widely distributed by the Moscow Patriarchate, while the ‘Patriarchal Locum Tenens’, delighted by this prospect, invited the First-Hierarch of the Church Abroad to visit Kiev in written form. This letter was also widely distributed.”
This was clear evidence, if further evidence were needed, that the interference of foreign bishops in the affairs of the Free Russian Orthodox Church had to be drastically curbed, and that the canonical rights of the FROC bishops to rule their own dioceses without inteference from the “centre” (several thousand miles away from Russia!) had to be unequivocally strengthened and protected.
However, a letter dated October 2, 1992 from Archbishop Mark to Protopriest Michael Artsumovich of Meudon gave equally clear evidence, if further evidence was needed, that this ROCA hierarch at any rate neither intended to protect the rights of the Russian bishops nor in any way respected either them or their flock: “We are receiving [from the MP] by no means the best representatives of the Russian Church. Basically, these are people who know little or nothing about the Church Abroad. And in those cases in which someone possesses some information, it must be doubtful that he is in general in a condition to understand it in view of his own mendacity and the mendacity of his own situation. In receiving priests from the Patriarchate, we receive with them a whole series of inadequacies and vices of the MP itself… The real Catacomb Church no longer exists. It in fact disappeared in the 1940s or the beginning of the 1950s… Only individual people have been preserved from it, and in essence everything that has arisen since is only pitiful reflections, and people take their desires for reality. Those who poured into this stream in the 1950s and later were themselves infected with Soviet falsehood, and they partly – and involuntarily - participate in it themselves, that is, they enter the category of what we call ‘homo sovieticus’… In Russia, consequently, there cannot be a Russian Church because it is all based on Soviet man… I think it is more expedient to seek allies for ourselves among those elements that are pure or striving for canonical purity both in the depths of the Moscow Patriarchate and in the other Local Churches – especially in Serbia or even Greece…We will yet be able to deliver ourselves from that impurity which we have now received from the Moscow Patriarchate, and again start on the path of pure Orthodoxy… It is evident that we must… try and undertake the russification of Soviet man and the Soviet church…”
Archbishop Mark gave himself away in this shocking and insulting letter: disdain for the “pitiful” and supposedly long-dead Catacomb Church, disgust with the “impure”, “Soviet” Free Russian Church, admiration for the “purity” of the apostate churches of “World Orthodoxy” with their Masonic and KGB-agent “hierarchs”. As for the remark – by an ethnic German - about the “russification” of the Russian Church, the reaction in the heart of Holy Russia was one of understandable dismay...
3. The First Separation
Archbishop Mark wanted to rid himself of the “impurity” of the Free Russian Church; he was soon to achieve his aim. On April 14/27, 1993 Archbishop Lazarus sent an “explanatory report” to the Synod detailed the many serious canonical violations committed against the Russian bishops, and in particular against himself, to which the leadership of the ROCA had not reacted in spite of many appeals. He then declared his “temporary administrative separation” from the Synod until the Synod restored canonical order. But, he insisted, he was not breaking communion with the ROCA. As a result of this, without consulting either him or his diocese, the ROCA meeting in Cleveland, Ohio retired him, and the administration of his parishes was transferred to Metropolitan Vitaly.
In May, during its Council in Lesna, the Synod effectively retired Bishop Valentine also – it goes without saying, against his will and without canonical justification. As Metropolitan Vitaly wrote to him: “The Hierarchical Council has become acquainted with your administrative successes. However, your health in such a difficult situation makes it necessary for us to retire you because of illness until your full recovery. This means that if you are physically able, you can serve, since you are in now way banned from church serving, but you are simply freed from administrative cares”.
At this point the first signs of serious dissent with the ROCA’s politics in Russia in the ranks of the ROCA’s episcopate appeared in the person of Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), the foremost canonist of the ROCA and a man of enormous experience in church matters, having been at the very heart of the ROCA’s administration from 1931 until his forced retirement by Metropolitan Vitaly in 1986. In an emergency report to the Synod dated May 16/29, after sharply criticizing the unjust and uncanonical actions of the Synod, he said: “Our responsibility before God demands from us the annulment of this conciliar resolution, and if there are accusers who have material which has not yet been shown us in documentary form, then Bishop Valentine must be returned to his see and the affair must be either cut short or again reviewed by the Council, but now in agreement with the canons that we have in the Church. For this would clearly be necessary to convene a Council, and for a start a judgement must be made about it in the Synod…
“As a consequence of this Archbishop Lazarus has already left us. And Bishop Valentine’s patience is already being tried. If he, too, will not bear the temptation, what will we be left with? Will his flock in such a situation want to leave with him? Will not it also rebel?
“For clarity’s sake I must begin with an examination of certain matters brought up at the expanded session of the Synod which took place in Munich.
“A certain tension was noticeable there in spite of the external calmness. It turned out that behind the scenes a suspicious attitude towards Bishop Valentine had arisen. Already after the closing of the Synod I learned that several members of the Synod had been shown a document containing accusations of transgressions of the laws of morality against Bishop Valentine. The President of the Synod did not have this document during the sessions but only at the end. It was then that I, too, received a copy of the denunciation from Archbishop Mark, who was given it by Bishop Barnabas, who evidently did not know how to deal with such objects according to the Church canons. I involuntarily ascribed the unexpected appearance of such a document amidst the members of the Synod to the action of some communist secret agents and to the inexperience of Bishop Barnabas in such matters.
“The caution of the Church authorities in relation to similar accusations in the time of troubles after the persecutions was ascribed to the 74th Apostolic canon, the 2nd canon of the 1st Ecumenical Council and especially to the 6th canon of the 2nd Ecumenical Council. At that time the heretics were multiplying their intrigues against the Orthodox hierarchs. The above-mentioned canons indicate that accusations hurled by less than two or three witnesses – who were, besides, faithful children of the Church and accusers worthy of trust – were in no way to be accepted…
“Did they apply such justice and caution when they judged Bishop Valentine, and were ready without any investigation to ... defrock him for receiving Archimandrite Adrian? And were the accusations hurled at the latter really seriously examined?
“Beginning with the processing, contrary to the canons, of the accusations against Bishop Valentine on the basis of the single complaint of a person known to none of us, the Sobor was already planning to defrock him without any kind of due process, until the argument of his illness turned up. But here, too, they failed to consider that this required his own petition and a check to ascertain the seriousness of his illness. The intention was very simple: just get rid of a too active Bishop. They didn’t think of the fate of his parishes, which exist on his registration. Without him they would lose it.
“While we, in the absence of the accused and, contrary to the canons, without his knowledge, were deciding the fate of the Suzdal diocese, Vladyka Valentine received three more parishes. Now he has 63. Taking into account Archimandrite Adrian with his almost 10,000 people, we are talking about approximately twenty thousand souls.
“The question arises: in whose interests is it to destroy what the papers there call the centre of the Church Abroad in Russia?
“The success of Bishop Valentine’s mission has brought thousands of those being saved into our Church, but now this flock is condemned to widowhood and the temptation of having no head only because he turned out not to be suitable to some of our Bishops…”
It was in this highly charged atmosphere, with their bishop forcibly and uncanonically retired and the registration of all their parishes hanging by a thread, that the annual diocesan conference of the Suzdal diocese took place from June 9/22 to 11/24. It was also attended by priests representing Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin. Hieromonk Agathangelus read out a letter from Archbishop Lazarus in which he declared that although he had considered the actions of the ROCA in Russia to be uncanonical, he had tolerated them out of brotherly love, but was now forced to speak out against them, for they were inflicting harm on the Church. First, the ROCA did not have the right to form its own parishes in Russia insofar as the Catacomb Church, which had preserved the succession of grace of the Mother Church, continued to exist on her territory. Therefore it was necessary only to strengthen the catacomb communities and expand them through an influx of new believers. Secondly, the hierarchs of the ROCA had been acting in a spirit far from brotherly love, for they had been treating their brothers, the hierarchs of the FROC, as second-class Vladykas: they received clergy who had been banned by the Russian Vladykas, brought clergy of other dioceses to trial, removed bans placed by the Russian hierarchs without their knowledge or agreement, and annulled other decisions of theirs (for example, Metropolitan Vitaly forbade an inspection to be carried out in the parish of Fr. Sergius Perekrestov of St. Petersburg). Thirdly, the ROCA hierarchs were far from Russia and did not understand the situation, so they could not rightly administer the Russian parishes. Thus the Synod removed the title ‘Administering the affairs of the FROC’ from all the hierarchs except Bishop Barnabas, which forced the dioceses to re-register with the authorities - although, while a new registration was being carried out, the parishes could lose their right to ownership of the churches and other property. Moreover re-registration was almost impossible, insofar as it required the agreement of an expert consultative committee attached to the Supreme Soviet, which contained hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate. Fourthly, the ROCA hierarchs had been inconsistent in their actions, which aroused the suspicion that their actions were directed, not by the Holy Spirit, but by forces foreign to the Church. Archbishop Lazarus concluded by calling for the formation of a True Orthodox Catacomb Church that was administratively separate from, but in communion with, the ROCA, on the basis of Patriarch Tikhon’s ukaz no. 362, which had never been annulled.
At the end of the conference it was decided that the Suzdal diocese would follow Archbishop Lazarus’ example in separating administratively from the ROCA while retaining communion in prayer with it. Bishop Valentine expressed the hope that this would be only a temporary measure, and he called on Metropolitan Vitaly to convene an extraordinary Council to remove the anticanonical resolutions of the Council in Lesna and the Synod meeting in Cleveland…
meeting of the clergy Archbishop Lazarus’ diocese in Odessa on July 4/17
confirmed that their separation from the ROCA was conditional, “on the verge of
a break”. They reiterated their belief that the bans on Archbishop Lazarus were
uncanonical and called on the hierarchs of the ROCA to review them
in a spirit of brotherly love and mutual understanding”.
Some FROC priests – notably Protopriest Lev Lebedev of Kursk – while fully agreeing that the ROCA bishops had committed uncanonical acts on Russian soil, nevertheless began to express the view that the actions of the FROC bishops had been hasty and were justified only in the case that the ROCA had fallen away from Orthodoxy, which, as everyone agreed, had not yet taken place. However, Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) adopted a quite different position. He pointed out that the claims of the ROCA to rule as opposed to help the Church in Russia contradicted the ROCA’s own fundamental Statute:-
“For decades we living abroad have commemorated ‘the Orthodox Episcopate of the Persecuted Church of Russia’. But in our last Sobor we removed from the litanies and the prayer for the salvation of Russia the word ‘persecuted’, witnessing thereby that we already officially consider that the persecutions on the Russian Church have ceased.
“And indeed, our parishes in Russia are now harried in places, but basically they have complete freedom of action, in particular if they do not lay claim to receive any old church, which the Moscow Patriarchate then tries to snatch. However it does not always succeed in this. Thus the huge Theophany cathedral in Noginsk (with all the buildings attached to it) according to the court’s decision remain with our diocese…
“In other words, we can say that if there is willingness on our side we now have every opportunity of setting in order the complete regeneration of the Russian Orthodox Church in our Fatherland.
“The very first paragraph of the ‘Statute on the Russian Church Abroad’ says:
“’The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is an indivisible part of the Russian Local Church temporarily self-governing on conciliar principles until the removal of the atheist power in Russia in accordance with the resolution of the holy Patriarch Tikhon, the Holy Synod and the Higher Ecclesiastical Council of the Russian Church of November 7/20, 1920 ¹ 362 (emphasis mine, B. G.).
“If we now lead the Russian Hierarch to want to break their administrative links with the Church Abroad, then will not our flock abroad finally ask us: what ‘Episcopate of the Russian Church’ are we still praying for in our churches? But if we took these words out of the litanies, them we would only be officially declaring that we are no longer a part of the Russian Church.
“Will we not then enter upon a very dubious canonical path of autonomous existence, but now without a Patriarchal blessing and outside the Russian Church, a part of which we have always confessed ourselves to be? Will not such a step lead us to a condition of schism in the Church Abroad itself, and, God forbid, to the danger of becoming a sect?..
“It is necessary for us to pay very careful attention to and get to know the mood revealed in our clergy in the Suzdal diocese, so as on our part to evaluate the mood in which our decisions about the Church in Russia could be received by them.
“But will we not see then that it is one thing when the Church Abroad gives help to the Russian Church through the restoration in it of a canonical hierarchy, but something else entirely when we lay claims to rule the WHOLE of Russia from abroad, which was in no way envisaged by even one paragraph of the ‘Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad’, nor by one of our later resolutions?”
On October 20 / November 2 (i.e. over eighteen months since the scandals erupted), the Synod decided to withdraw Bishop Barnabas from Russia and to place all his parishes in the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Vitaly (who, throughout the 1990s, has not set foot once on Russian soil, in spite of numerous invitations). All the parishes of the ROCA in Siberia, Ukraine and Belarus were to be entrusted to Bishop Benjamin.
By the beginning of 1994 the Russian bishops had received no reaction whatsoever from the Synod to any of their letters and requests. On March 8/21, 1994, in a conference taking place in Suzdal, Bishop Valentine said: “On June 10/23, 1993 in Suzdal there took place a diocesan congress in which resolutions were taken and an Address was sent to the Synod indicating the transgressions, by the above-mentioned Hierarchs, of the Apostolic Canons and decrees of the Fathers of the Church, of the Ecumenical and Local Councils. At the same time they asked that his Grace Bishop Barnabas be recalled, and that Archbishop Mark should ask forgiveness of the clergy and the Russian people for his humiliation of their honour and dignity. If our request were ignored, the whole weight of responsibility would lie on the transgressors of the Church canons. But so far there has been no reply.
“We sent the Resolution of the clergy, monastics and laypeople warning that if there continued to be transgressions of the Apostolic Canons and Conciliar Resolutions on the part of the Hierarchs, with the connivance of the Hierarchical Synod, the whole responsibility would lie as a heavy burden on the transgressors. The Synod did not reply.
“Together with his Eminence Archbishop Lazarus and the members of the Diocesan Councils I sent an address to the Synod in which their attention was drawn to the wily intrigues on the part of those who wished us ill, and asked that the situation be somehow corrected, placing our hopes on Christian love and unity of mind, which help to overcome human infirmities. But in the same address we laid out in very clear fashion our determination that if the Hierarchical Synod did not put an end to the deliberate transgressions, we would be forced to exist independently, in accordance with the holy Patriarch Tikhon’s ukaz no. 362 of November 7/20, 1920, in the interests of the purity of Orthodoxy and the salvation of our Russian flock. The reply consisted in Vladyka Metropolitan threatening a ban.
“I sent a letter to Metropolitan Vitaly in which I besought him earnestly to confirm my status before the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, so that the Suzdal Diocesan Administration should not lose its registration. This time the reply was swift, only not to the Diocesan Administration, but to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation under the signature of Bishop Barnabas, saying that the Russian Hierarchs were no longer Administering the affairs of the FROC, and that this duty was laid upon him. As a result I and the member of my Diocesan Council began visiting office after office, a process that lasted many months.
“It is difficult for you to imagine how much labour we had to expend, how many written bureaucratic demands we had to fulfil, in order to get our Regulations re-registered. If I had not undertaken this, all the churches would automatically have been taken out of registration and then, believe me, the Moscow Patriarchate would not have let go such a ‘juicy morsel’.”
After hearing more speeches in the same vein, including one from Archbishop Lazarus, the Congress made the following decisions: 1. To form a Temporary Higher Church Administration (THCA) of the Russian Orthodox Church, which, without claiming to be the highest Church authority in Russia, would have as its final aim the convening of a Free All-Russian Local Council that would have such authority. 2. To elect and consecrate new bishops. 3. To declare their gratitude to the ROCA and Metropolitan Vitaly, whose name would continue to be commemorated in Divine services, since they wished to remain in communion of prayer with them. 4. To express the hope that the Hierarchical Synod would recognize the THCA and the consecrations performed by it.
One of the members of the Congress, Elena Fateyevna Shipunova, declared: “It is now completely obvious that the subjection of the Russian dioceses to the Synod Abroad contradicts the second point of Ukaz no. 362. The Russian Church is faced directly with the necessity of moving to independent administration in accordance with this Ukaz. After the sergianist schism Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan called for such a move, considering Ukaz no. 362 as the only possible basis of Church organization. Incidentally, Metropolitan Cyril also indicated to Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky that he had to follow Ukaz no. 362 instead of usurping ecclesiastical power. Metropolitan Cyril and the other bishop-confessors tried to organize the administration of the Russian Church on the basis of this Ukaz, but they couldn’t do this openly. Now for the first time the Russian Church has the opportunity to do this. We could say that this is an historical moment. The Temporary Higher Church Administration that has been created is the first legal one in Russia since the time of the sergianist schism. The Centre of Church power ceased its existence after the death of Metropolitan Peter more than half a century ago, but we have not yet arrived at the Second All-Russian Council which has the power to re-establish Central Church power.”
On March 9/22 the THCA, which now contained three new bishops: Theodore of Borisovsk, Seraphim of Sukhumi and Agathangelus of Simferopol, together with many clergy, monastics and laity, informed Metropolitan Vitaly and the Synod of the ROCA of their decision.
On March 23 / April 5 the Synod of the ROCA rejected this declaration and the new consecrations, and decided to break communion in prayer with the newly formed Autonomous Church, but without imposing any bans. In this decision the ROCA Synod called itself the “Central Church authority” of the Russian Church, which contradicted both its own Fundamental Statute and the simple historical fact that, as the FROC bishops pointed out, since the death of Metropolitan Peter in 1937 the Russian Church has had no “Central Church authority”.
Then, in order to strengthen the ROCA’s hand in the coming struggle with the FROC, Archimandrite Eutyches (Kurochkin) was consecrated Bishop of Ishim and Siberia on July 11/24.
Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), however, who had not been admitted to the sessions of the ROCA Synod, fully approved of the actions of the Russian Hierarchs in a letter to Bishop Valentine dated March 24 / April 6. And on the same day he wrote the following to Metropolitan Vitaly: “We have brought the goal of the possible regeneration of the Church in Russia to the most undesirable possible end. Tormented by envy and malice, certain of our bishops have influenced the whole course of our church politics in Russia. As a consequence of this, our Synod has not understood the meaning of the mission of our existence abroad.
“As I warned the Synod in my last report, we have done absolutely everything possible to force the Russian bishops to separate from us administratively. They have had to proceed from Resolution no. 362 of Patriarch Tikhon of November 7/20, 1920 in order to avoid the final destruction of the just-begun regeneration of our Church in our Fatherland. But our Synod, having nothing before its eyes except punitive tactics, proceeds only on the basis of a normalized church life. Whereas the Patriarch’s Resolution had in mind the preservation of the Church’s structure in completely unprecedented historical and ecclesiastical circumstances.
“The ukaz was composed for various cases, including means for the re-establishment of the Church’s Administration even in conditions of its abolition (see article 9) and ‘the extreme disorganization of Church life’. This task is placed before every surviving hierarch, on condition that he is truly Orthodox.
“The Russian Hierarchs felt themselves to be in this position when, for two years running, their inquiries and requests to provide support against the oppression of the Moscow Patriarchate were met with complete silence on the part of our Synod.
“Seeing the canonical chaos produced in their dioceses by Bishop Barnabas, and the Synod’s silent collusion with him, the Russian Hierarchs came to the conclusion that there was no other way of avoiding the complete destruction of the whole enterprise but their being led by the Patriarch’s Resolution no. 362.
“Our Synod unlawfully retired Bishop Valentine for his reception of a huge parish in Noginsk,.. but did not react to the fact that Bishop Barnabas had in a treacherous manner disgraced the Synod, in whose name he petitioned to be received into communion with the Ukrainian self-consecrators!
“I don’t know whether the full text of Resolution no. 362 has been read at the Synod. I myself formerly paid little attention to it, but now, having read it, I see that the Russian Hierarchs have every right to cite it, and this fact will come to the surface in the polemic that will inevitably take place now. I fear that by its decisions the Synod has already opened the path to this undesirable polemic, and it threatens to create a schism not only in Russia, but also with us here…
“There are things which it is impossible to stop, and it is also impossible to escape the accomplished fact. If our Synod does not now correctly evaluate the historical moment that has taken place, then its already profoundly undermined prestige (especially in Russia) will be finally and ingloriously destroyed.
“All the years of the existence of the Church Abroad we have enjoyed respect for nothing else than our uncompromising faithfulness to the canons. They hated us, but they did not dare not to respect us. But now we have shown the whole Orthodox world that the canons are for us an empty sound, and we have become a laughing-stock in the eyes of all those who have even the least relationship to Church affairs.
“You yourself, at the Synod in Lesna, allowed yourself to say that for us, the participants in it, it was now not the time to examine the canons, but we had to act quickly. You, who are at the helm of the ship of the Church, triumphantly, before the whole Sobor, declared to us that we should now hasten to sail without a rudder and without sails. At that time your words greatly disturbed me, but I, knowing your irritability with me for insisting on the necessity of living according to the canons, nevertheless hoped that all was not lost yet and that our Bishops would somehow shake off the whole of this nightmare of recent years.
“Think, Vladyko, of the tens of thousands of Orthodox people both abroad and in Russia who have been deceived by us. Do not calm yourself with the thought that if guilt lies somewhere, then it lies equally on all of our hierarchs. The main guilt will lie on you as the leader of our Sobor…”
Unfortunately, however, Metropolitan Vitaly was beginning to show the same kind of condescending and contemptuous attitude to the Russian flock which had suffered so much in its struggle for the faith, as Archbishop Mark had been demonstrating for some time. Thus in one letter to Bishop Valentine, after rebuking him for receiving the supposedly homosexual Archimandrite Adrian, he wrote: “We understand that, living in the Soviet Union for these 70 years of atheist rule, such a deep seal of Sovietism and of departure from right thinking has penetrated into the world-view of the Russian people that you, too, were involuntarily caught up by the spirit of this wave…” Perhaps this was the reason why he and his Synod now proceeded to dispense with the Russian bishops without even the semblance of canonical order as if they were so much “Soviet filth”, and attempted to rule the flock they so distrusted in the most “hands off” manner possible - from several thousand miles away, declaring that the Centre of Ecclesiastical Administration for the whole of the vast Russian Church resided in an old man in New York who had never set foot on Russian soil!
4. The Second Separation.
In spite of receiving no reply to their repeated requests that the ROCA Synod re-establish canonical order in Russia, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Valentine accepted an invitation from Abbess Macrina of Lesna monastery – not, significantly, from the Synod or any individual hierarch – to go to the Lesna Sobor of the ROCA in November, 1994. Here, on November 10/23, in spite of a very cold reception, - “both of us,” as Bishop Valentine later wrote, “were in fact isolated from the Hierarchical Sobor and its acts” - they asked forgiveness and were again received into communion, according to the official minutes of the ROCA. It should be noted, however, that in the “Act” later signed by all the bishops but not published in the official minutes, the forgiveness was asked from both sides.
On the same day the Sobor resolved: “1. The Council of Bishops considers the normalization of interrelations with the Most Reverend Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Valentine to be possible on the condition that the THEA be abolished without measures of interdiction against its organizers. 2. It is possible to recognize the three hierarchical ordinations performed by Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Valentine as lawful if, permeated by a feeling of repentance and humility, the newly-ordained hierarchs will renounce the text previously signed by them and will take an oath in accordance with the text established by our higher ecclesiastical authority, which will be issued to them from the Chancery of the Synod of Bishops. 3. The Most Reverend Russian [hierarchs] are responsible for organizing a hierarchical conference to make decisions on local questions. Moreover, one of the Most Reverend Russian [hierarchs] [this was later decreed to be Archbishop Lazarus] will be a member of the Synod of Bishops.”
None of the outstanding issues dividing the two sides were discussed at that time, but the Russian bishops did manage to ask Bishop Hilarion for explanations of two things that worried them: the ROCA’s entering into communion with the Greek Old Calendarist Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili (which Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) had strongly protested against), and its forthcoming negotiations (at Archbishop Mark’s insistence) with members of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Then they were invited to join the Sobor. However, as they crossed the threshold of the monastery church where the Sobor was in session, the Russian bishops were handed an “Act” – Bishop Valentine later called it an “Act of capitulation” – which had already been signed by all the ROCA bishops and which the two Russian bishops were now told to sign. “When we had cursorily looked through this Act,” writes Bishop Valentine, “I began to protest, to which Archbishop Mark said that if we didn’t want peace and did not want to sign, we could leave the hall.” Vladyka Valentine said that both sides had to participate in drawing up such an act, after which Bishop Hilarion, deputy secretary of the Synod, promised “that they would edit the act, taking into account our remarks and suggestions”. Then Archbishop Lazarus agreed to sign. Bishop Valentine, though unwilling to sign, did not want to create a schism from Archbishop Lazarus. So he, too, signed. Two hours later, overcome by the extreme tension of the occasion, Bishop Valentine suffered a heart attack and was rushed to a hospital in Paris, where he was placed in intensive care.
While Vladyka Valentine was still in hospital and in a very weak condition, two ROCA bishops came to him, gave him communion and asked him to sign two more documents (he does not remember what was in those documents). On returning to Lesna, Vladyka offered a second variant of the Act to Vladyka Lazarus. Lazarus did not want to sign this second variant, but he suggested to Vladyka Valentine that he sign in the capacity of his deputy. So Valentine signed his own variant of the Act and gave copies of it to both Vladyka Lazarus and the ROCA Synod. Bishop Eutyches later witnessed that Bishop Valentine’s proposed changes to the original Act were not accepted by the other bishops at the Sobor.
It is not know precisely on which day these events took place. However, we do know that on November 17/30 it was resolved: “1. To survey all the Most Reverend members of the Council after receipt by the Synodal Chancery of all data on he bishops ordained in Russia: Theodore, Seraphim and Agathangel. 2. To invite these three bishops to the city of Munich (if possible, for the altar feast of the Holy New-martyrs), for carrying out the nomination and confession of faith and concelebrations with the Most Reverend members of the Council. 3. To approve the proposed borders of the Russian dioceses.”
This latter decision, which involved the division of the parishes of the ROCA-FROC in Russia into six dioceses with newly-defined boundaries was to elicit, as we shall see, was to elicit serious discontent among the Russian clergy because of the threat it posed to the registration of their churches. Bishop Valentine did not sign it – probably because he was already in hospital.
On the same day, still more seriously, the Synod published an epistle declaring that “the time has come to seek living communion with all the parts of the One Russian Orthodox Church, scattered by dint of historical circumstances”. This serious compromise in the confessing stance of the ROCA vis-à-vis the Moscow Patriarchate, with which it quite clearly said that it wanted “better relations”, was signed by Archbishop Lazarus – but, again, not by Bishop Valentine. It was later to be used by Archbishop Mark as an excuse for his treacherous relations with the patriarchate.
The next day, in two special ukazes, the ROCA confirmed Bishop Valentine as ruling hierarch of the Suzdal diocese and recognized that the accusations of immorality which had been hurled at him two years before, and which Archbishop Mark had insisted on bringing before the Synod, although the canons forbade it, were completely unfounded.
On November 22 / December 5, having returned from hospital in Paris to the Lesna monastery, Bishop Valentine wrote a letter to the Sobor once again explaining the serious problems caused to the FROC by the canonical transgressions of the ROCA. And he appealed to the ROCA bishops to relate to the FROC bishops in the same way that the famous ROCA theologian Archbishop Averky had once (in 1971) recommended that they relate to the Old Calendarist Greeks: “Our interference must be limited to giving the Greeks grace-filled bishops, and then we must leave them to live independently.” It was evident that, in spite of the restoration of communion with the ROCA, Vladyka was still deeply worried by the intentions of the ROCA with regard to the Russian dioceses – a fear that was to prove to be more than justified…
On January 12/25, 1995 there was a meeting of the bishops and clergy of the FROC in Suzdal to discuss the results of the Lesna Sobor. Besides the Act, of particular concern to many of the clergy was the fact that the redefining of the diocesan boundaries proposed at the Sobor would involve the necessity of re-registration for very many parishes. Since they had achieved registration only with the greatest difficulty in the first place, they did not of course welcome this prospect. But more importantly, it would very probably mean that they would be refused any registration, since the Moscow Patriarchate representatives would insist that changing names and diocesan boundaries was unacceptable. This in turn would very likely mean that their churches would be handed over to the patriarchate.
Thus the Moscow Protopriest Michael Ardov said: “Concerning the church building which I occupy, I must say that if I transfer to Vladyka Eutyches [to whom the ROCA had given the Moscow and St. Petersburg dioceses], what will happen? The building is registered with the Suzdal diocese. They tell us that we are in this building unlawfully, and that we still have to secure its transfer to us. It is well know that [Moscow Mayor] Luzhkov is categorically against our parish. They forced us to change our parish rules sixteen times before registering it. Of course, I submit to the Ukaz of the Hierarchical Synod, but I have a request for our bishops: they must take into account that this is not Canada and not America, but a different state, and we have different perspectives.”
Several other priests spoke against re-registration for similar reasons.
Towards the end of the meeting, Protopriest Andrew Osetrov posed the following question to Bishop Eutyches: “Which do you consider preferable for Russian believers – the Resolutions of the Hierarchical Synod and Sobor of the ROCA and its First-Hierarch, or the Resolutions of the All-Russian Sobor of 1917-18 and the holy Patriarch Tikhon?”
Bishop Eutyches replied: “Preferable are the Resolutions of living hierarchs, and not dead ones. Even if the Resolutions of the Synod of the ROCA will be uncanonical, for me this has no significance, I must fulfil them.”
This summed up the difference between the two sides. For the ROCA (and the Russian Bishops Benjamin and Eutyches) obedience to the Synod was the ultimate value, more important even than the holy canons which every bishops swears to uphold at his consecration. For the FROC bishops, on the other hand, the authority of the ROCA could not be placed higher than the objective good of their own flock, which could be preserved only by faithfulness to the canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the highest authorities in the post-revolutionary Russian Church – the decisions of Patriarch Tikhon and the 1917-18 Council.
The next day, January 13/26, the seven FROC bishops met and decided to put off a final decision on the thorny question of the territorial division of dioceses. When discussion passed to the Act, Bishop Eutyches said that the Act had not been fulfilled by the Russian bishops and refused to take any further part in the Conference. Later, in a letter to Metropolitan Vitaly dated January 17/30, he wrote that “Bishop Benjamin, convinced that the meeting completely supported Bishop Valentine and was hostile to the Church Abroad and himself personally, left the meeting [on January 12/25]. I participated in the meeting to the end and was struck by the general anti-ROCA mood of the hierarchs, priests, nuns and laymen.”
On January 14/27 the Hierarchical Conference (excluding Bishops Eutyches and Benjamin) approved a letter to the ROCA Synod, in which they wrote that the Act approved by the Lesna Sobor “was in extreme need of a series of substantial changes to the points, and additions”. Below we quote the Act, together with the comments of the FROC bishops (in italics):
“‘We, the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA, under the presidency of the First-Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Vitaly of Eastern America and New York, and the Most Reverend Hierarchs: Archbishop Lazarus of Odessa and Tambov and Bishop Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir, taking upon ourselves full responsibility before God and the All-Russian flock, and following the commandments of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, in the name of peace and love, for the sake of the salvation of our souls and the souls of our flock, declare the following:
‘1. We recognize our mutual responsibility for the disturbances that have arisen in the Russian [Rossijskoj] Church, but we consider that certain hasty actions of the Hierarchical Synod cannot serve as justification for a schism in the Russian Church and the establishment of the Temporary Higher Church Administration.’
Comment by the FROC bishops: We definitely do not agree with the definition of the actions of the Russian hierarchs as a schism, for these actions were a forced measure aimed at guarding the canonical rights of the Bishop in his diocese, and the created Temporary Higher Church Administration was formed, not in spite of, but in accordance with the will and ukaz no. 362 of the holy Patriarch Tikhon, at a time when the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA left the Russian hierarchs without any communications, directives, holy Antimins or holy Chrismation.
If we recognize our mutual responsibility for the disturbances that have arisen in the Russian Church, then it is our right to recognize certain hasty actions of the Hierarchical Sobor and Synod as uncanonical and as inflicting direct harm on the work of restoring true Orthodoxy in Russia, which has served as the terminus a quo for [our] conditional administrative separation and the formation of the Temporary Higher Church Administration.
The concrete intra-ecclesiastical situation has dictated such a course of action on our part, but at the same time we have admitted that administrative independence must in no way automatically lead to canonical and eucharistic independence. Such communion has not been broken by us, in spite of the one-sided decision of the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA.
‘2. We ask each other’s forgiveness, so that from now on we should not reproach anybody for the actions which lead to the division and the founding of the THCA.’
Comment of the FROC bishops: It is not a matter of reproaches but of the essence of the actions of both sides, which have led to administrative division and the founding of the THCA. By examining each concrete action, we would be able mutually to understand the depth of the causes, and proceeding from that, calmly and without detriment, remove their consequences in the present.
‘3. We consider the organization of the THCA to be an unlawful act and abolish it.’
Comment of the FROC bishops: The very formulation of this point seems to us to be faulty in view of the final aim of our joint efforts.
‘4. We consider the consecration of the three hierarchs: Theodore, Seraphim and Agathangelus, which was carried out by their Graces Lazarus and Valentine, to be unlawful. Their candidacies should be presented in the order that is obligatory for all candidates for hierarchical rank accepted in the ROCA, and, if they turn out to be worthy, then, after their confession of faith and acceptance of the hierarchical oath, they will be confirmed in the hierarchical rank.’
Comment of the FROC bishops: We do not agree at all that the episcopal consecrations performed by us were not lawful. The obligatory order for all candidates for hierarchical rank accepted in the ROCA could not be a guide for us in our actions since at that time we were administratively independent of the ROCA. If we approach this demand from a strictly formal point of view, then the Hierarchical Synod should have asked us concerning our agreement or disagreement with the new consecrations, especially the consecration of his Grace Bishop Eutyches – which was not done. In spite of your limitation of our rights, we have recognized these consecrations and are far from the thought of demanding a confession of faith and acceptance of the hierarchical oath a second time, specially for us.
‘5. In the same way, all the other actions carried out by Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Valentine and the THCA organized by them which exceeded the authority of the diocesan bishops, but belonged only to the province of the Hierarchical Sobor and Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA, are to be considered to be invalid.’
Comment of the FROC bishops: Until the moment that we ceased to be members of the ROCA, and the THCA was formed, all our actions and suggestions were presented for discussion and confirmation by these higher church instances. Having conditionally separated from the ROCA in administrative matters, we were entitled to carry out these actions.
‘6. Archbishop Lazarus is reinstated in the rights of a ruling hierarch with the title “Archbishop of Odessa and Tambov”.’
Comment of the FROC bishops: The formulation of this point admits of an ambiguous interpretation and is therefore on principle unacceptable for us. Judging objectively, his Grace Archbishop Lazarus did not lose his rights as a ruling bishop, in spite of the ukaz of the Hierarchical Synod concerning his retirement. The ukaz seems to us to be canonically ill-founded, and therefore lacking force and unrealized. We suggest the formulation: ‘In view of the erroneous actions of the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA, Archbishop Lazarus is not to be considered as having been retired and is recognized as having the rights of the ruling hierarch of his diocese with the title (Archbishop of Tambov and Odessa).
‘7. Bishop Valentine will be restored to his rights as the ruling hierarch of Suzdal and Vladimir after the removal of the accusations against him on the basis of an investigation by a Spiritual Court appointed by the present Hierarchical Sobor.’
Comment of the FROC bishops: The given point is excluded, in agreement with the Ukaz of the Hierarchical Synod.
‘8. To bring order into ecclesiastical matters on the territory of Russia a Hierarchical Conference of the Russian Hierarchs is to be organized which does not encroach on the fullness of ecclesiastical power, but which is in unquestioning submission to the Hierarchical Sobor and the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA. One of the member of the Hierarchical Conference will be a member of the Synod, in accordance with the decision of the Hierarchical Sobor.’
Comment of the FROC bishops: It is suggested that this formulation be changed, and consequently also the meaning of the eighth point: ‘The THCA does not encroach on the fullness of ecclesiastical power. In certain exceptional situations it recognizes its spiritual and administrative submission to the Hierarchical Sobor of the ROCA. One of the members of the Hierarchical Conference will be a temporary, regular member of the Synod, in accordance with the decision of the Hierarchical Sobor of the ROCA and the Hierarchical Conference of the Russian Bishops.
‘9. After the signing of the Act it will be published in all the organs of the church press, and in particular in those publications in which their Graces Lazarus and Valentine published material against the Hierarchical Sobor and Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA.’
Comment of the FROC bishops: The formulation should be changed as follows: After the signing of the Act it will be published in all the organs of the church press, and in particular in those publications in which their Graces Lazarus and Valentine published material explaining certain hasty actions of the Hierarchical Synod and Sobor of the ROCA.”
Now on January 3, Bishop Hilarion on behalf of the ROCA Synod had sent a respectfully worded invitation to Bishops Theodore, Agathangelus and Seraphim to come to New York for the February 9/22 session of the Synod and “for the formalities of re-establishing concelebration”. It is significant that the Synod had also invited Bishop Eutyches, who was not a member of the Synod – but not Archbishop Lazarus, who was a member of the Synod, as agreed at the Lesna Sobor.
When Bishops Theodore and Agathangelus arrived in New York, they were listened to and on the next day, in Bishop Agathangelus’ words, “we were handed a ‘Decree of the Hierarchical Synod of the Synod of the ROCA’, in which their Graces Lazarus and Valentine, and also Bishops Theodore, Seraphim and I, were declared to be banned from serving. For Vladyka Theodore and me this was like a bolt from the blue… We were told that the reason for this decision was our supposed non-fulfilment of the conciliar Act, which had been signed by, among the other Hierarchs, their Graces Lazarus and Valentine. The point was that the conference of Russian Bishops which had been formed in agreement with this same Act had asked for several formulations in the Act to be changed, so as not to introduce disturbance into the ranks of the believers by the categorical nature of certain points. This was a request, not a demand. But, however hard we tried, we could not convince the Synod that none of the Russian Bishops was insisting and that we were all ready to accept the Act in the form in which it had been composed. We met with no understanding on the part of the members of the Synod. Vladyka Theodore and I affirmed in writing that we accepted the text of the Act in the form in which it had been composed and asked for a postponement in the carrying out of the ‘Decree’ until the position of all the absent Russian Bishops on this question could be clarified. In general we agreed to make any compromises if only the ‘Decree’ were not put into effect, because in essence it meant only one thing – the final break between the Russian parishes and the ROCA.
“We gradually came to understand that it was not any canonical transgression of the Russian Bishops (there was none), nor any disagreement with the text of the conciliar Act, nor, still less, any mythical ‘avaricious aims’ that was the reason for the composition of this document, which, without any trial or investigation, banned the five Hierarchs from serving. It was the Hierarchical Conference of the Russian Bishops, which had been established by the Council that took place in Lesna monastery, that was the real reason giving birth to the ‘Decree’. The Sobor of Hierarchs, moved in those days by ‘Paschal joy’ (as Metropolitan Vitaly repeated several times), finally came to create an organ of administration in Russia which, if not independent, but subject to the Synod, was nevertheless an organ of administration. When the ‘Paschal joy’ had passed, the Synodal Bishops suddenly realized: they had themselves reduced their own power, insofar as, with their agreement, Hierarchs could meet in vast Russia and discuss vital problems. Before that, the Church Abroad had not allowed itself to behave like that. And it was this, unfortunately, that the foreign Archpastors could not bear. On receiving for confirmation the protocols of the first session of the Hierarchical Conference with concrete proposals to improve Church life in Russia, the foreign Bishops were completely nonplussed. Therefore a reason that did not in fact exist was thought up – the supposed non-fulfilment of the Act.
“The members of the Synod, exceeding their authority, since such decisions are in the competence of the Sobor, decided, by means of canonical bans, to confirm their sole authority over the whole of Russia – both historical Russia and Russia abroad. The very foundations of the Church Abroad as a part of the Russian Church living abroad were trampled on, and the Synod on its own initiative ascribed to itself the rights and prerogatives of the Local Russian Church.
“It did not even ponder the fact that, in banning at one time five Hierarchs, it was depriving more than 150 parishes – that is many thousands of Orthodox people – of archpastoral care. Cancelling the labour of many years of Hierarchs, priests and conscious, pious laymen in our Fatherland.
“In Russia a very real war is now being waged for human souls; every day is full of work. Depriving Orthodox Christians of their pastors without any objective reason witnesses to the haughtiness and lack of love towards our country and its people on the part of the members of the Synod Abroad. We, the Orthodox from Russia, are called ‘common people’ by Metropolitan Vitaly (thank you, Vladyko Metropolitan!).
“Vladyka Theodore and I were promised that, in exchange for our treachery, we would be confirmed in our hierarchical rank. And it was even proclaimed that we would be appointed to foreign sees. For us personally, who were born and brought up in Russia, this was very painful to hear…”
This act of blackmail – we recognize you if you accept a foreign see, but do not recognize you if you stay in Russia – exposed the complete lack of canonical justification in the acts of the ROCA Synod. Let us recall that: (a) Bishops Theodore and Agathangelus had just been formally recognized as canonical bishops, (b) they had agreed in writing to fulfil all of the ROCA Synod’s conditions, including the signing of the Act without any alterations, (c) they had not been accused of any canonical transgressions, and (d) they had not been subjected to any investigation or trial, as the canons demanded. Their only crime, it would appear, was that they lived in Russia – a novel charge against a bishop of the Russian Church!
On February 11/24 the ROCA Synod issued an epistle which for the first time contained a semblance of canonical justification in the form of a list of canons supposedly transgressed by the five Russian bishops. Unfortunately, they clearly had no relevance to the matter in hand. Thus what relevance could the 57th Canon of the Council of Carthage – “On the Donatists and the children baptized by the Donatists” – have to the bishops of the Free Russian Orthodox Church?!
On February 15/28, Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) wrote to Bishop Valentine: “I cannot fail to express my great sorrow with regard to the recent Church events. Moreover, I wish to say to you that I was glad to get to know Vladykas Theodore and Agathangelus better. They think well and in an Orthodox manner. It is amazing that our foreign Bishops should not have valued them and should have treated them so crudely in spite of all the acts and the whole unifying tendency which was just expressed by Metropolitan Vitaly at the last Sobor. The whole tragedy lies in the fact that even the latter wanted to construct everything solely on foreign forces that do not have the information necessary to decide problems which are strange and unfamiliar to them. Therefore they do not want to offer this [task] to the new forces that have arisen in Russia.
“As a result, we are presented with the complete liquidation of these healthy forces. This is a great victory of the dark forces of our Soviet enemies of Orthodoxy in the persons of the Moscow Patriarchate.
“I am glad that you will not give in to them, and I pray God that He help you to carry on the Orthodox cause, apparently without the apostate forces of Orthodox Abroad…”
The next month Archbishop Valentine recounted these events in a Lenten letter to his flock, and continued: “This second instance of administrative pressure on the Russian Hierarchs, and, moreover, in such an undisguisedly cunning form, when flattering mentions and assurances of friendship and invitations came in the name of the Synod of the ROCA, while in fact another attempt to usurp power over the Russian flock was taking place, forces me to make certain clarifications.
“On November 7/20, 1920 the holy Patriarch Tikhon together with the Sacred Synod and the Higher Ecclesiastical Council of the Russian Church passed the exceptionally important Resolution no. 362 concerning the self-governing of Dioceses in the case of the absence of a canonical Higher Church Administration or the impossibility of communicating with it. On the basis of this Ukaz, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) organized the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. In Russia on the basis of this Ukaz there was organized the Catacomb or “Tikhonite” Church under the leadership of its inspirer, the holy New Martyr Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd. In its time the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad helped in the establishment of a lawful hierarchy in Russia, consecrating to the Episcopate their Graces Lazarus, Valentine and Benjamin. Instead of expanding the Church in the Homeland, there appeared the temptation of ruling it from abroad, declaring itself the ‘Central Church Authority’, which is what the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA did in practice in April, 1994 (cf. Suzdal’skij Palomnik, special issue, ¹¹ 18,19,20). But then a declaration was made concerning the supposedly ‘unlawful’ creation by the Russian Hierarchs, on the basis of Ukaz no. 362, of a Temporary Higher Church Administration, whereas the Ukaz no. 362 of Patriarch Tikhon of November 7/20 said directly: ‘The care for the organization of a Higher Church authority… is the unfailing duty of the eldest according to rank of the Hierarchs in the indicated group.’
“Intra-ecclesiastical freedom and the dignities of the Bishops based on the Holy Canons do not permit administrative arbitrariness and do not give the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA the right to the supreme administration of the Church. And our following of the Canons and Ukaz no. 362, which was specially written for the Russian Dioceses existing in identical conditions, cannot give an excuse to whoever it may be to declare the Russian Hierarchs to be in some kind of ‘schism’. Having neither reasons, nor lawful authority or canonical rights to ‘ban’ the Russian Hierarchs, the Chancellery of the Synod of the ROCA is only witnessing, in the latest incident, to a deep crisis in the administration of the ROCA itself, when the President of the Hierarchical Synod Metropolitan Vitaly is not able to control the resolutions and ukazes issuing from the Chancellery of the Synod. It is impossible to take the documents signed by Vladyka Metropolitan Vitaly seriously when in the course of less than a year their meaning has several times changed to the complete opposite. It is impossible to believe that in the ‘punitive actions’ of the Russian Hierarchs that have now become quite usual there is contained love for Russia, about which the hierarchs of the ROCA speak so eloquently. It is impossible to look on with indifference as, instead of building up the Church in the much-suffering Homeland, they incessantly ‘divide territory’, as a result of which churches of the FROC fall into the hands of the Moscow Patriarchate.”
On February 27 / March 12, 1995 Archbishops Lazarus and Valentine and Bishops Theodore, Seraphim and Agathangelus met in Suzdal and re-established the THCA which had been created on March 5/18, 1994. Then they decided: “To qualify the Decree of the Hierarchical Sobor [sic – Synod would have been more accurate] of the ROCA of February 9/22 and the claims contained in it to leadership of the whole Russian Church by the Hierarchical Synod and the First-Hierarch of the ROCA as exceeding their authority and a transgression of the Holy Canons and the Statute of the ROCA. In particular, the 8th Canon of the Third Ecumenical Council has been transgressed, which declares: ‘May the haughtiness of secular power not creep in under the guise of sacred acts; and may we not lose, little by little and without it being noticed, the freedom which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Liberator of all men, has given us through His Blood. And so it is pleasing to the Holy and Ecumenical Council that every Diocese should preserve in purity and without oppression the rights that belonged to it from the beginning… And if anyone should propose any resolution contrary to this, let it be invalid.’”
It is significant that it was precisely this Canon that was quoted by Hieromartyr Joseph, Metropolitan of Petrograd, when he laid the foundations for the Catacomb Church in January, 1928. And indeed, the arguments between the ROCA and the FROC increasingly came to resemble the arguments between Metropolitan Sergius and the Catacomb Church, on the one hand, and Sergius and the foreign bishops who separated from him, on the other. The issue in 1928-30, as in 1995, was the question: who, if anyone, had the power to create a central organ of Church administration having full patriarchal power to rule over all the bishops of the Russian Church? Metropolitan Sergius then, like Metropolitan Vitaly today, claimed that he had such power, and proceeded to act with greater fierceness and disregard for the canons than any real pope or patriarch. But the Catacomb bishops then, like the FROC bishops today, claimed that since the death of the last canonical Patriarch and the imprisonment of his locum tenens, Metropolitan Peter, there was no alternative but to return to the decentralized form of Church administration prescribed by the never-repealed Patriarchal ukaz no. 362.
According to the ukaz, neighbouring bishops in identical circumstances could voluntarily unite into TCHAs and govern themselves as autonomous Churches until the convening of the next canonical Sobor of the whole Russian Church. But (a) bishops living in different States and separated by thousands of miles of ocean obviously do not live in identical circumstances, and (b) no group of bishops or TCHA has power over any other TCHA, nor can it claim to have rule over the whole Russian Church, so that (c) full patriarchal power can belong only to the future Local Council of the All-Russian Church and the organs elected by it. To these restrictions must be added, for hierarchs of the ROCA, those detailed in its still-unrepealed Statute, that is: (a) the ROCA is only a part of the Russian Church, like any other TCHA or autonomous group of bishops, and certainly not its real centre, as it has recently claimed; (b) its administrative powers extend only over the Church Abroad, outside Russia; (c) it must continue to commemorate “the Episcopate of the Russian Church” – that is, of the Church inside Russia; and (d) even its powers over the Church Abroad are valid only until the fall of the atheist power, when power returns to the Church inside Russia…
Today, three and a half years since the second schism between the ROCA and the FROC, the situation has not changed in essence. Almost immediately after the events of February, 1995, frightened by the threat of defrocking by the ROCA Synod, Archbishop Lazarus and his vicar, Bishop Agathangelus, left the FROC and returned, “repenting”, to the ROCA. But what has always, since 1990, been the core of the ROCA-FROC inside Russia, the Suzdal diocese, has remained firm, and has in fact increased in strength.
In accordance with a resolution of the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA in 1996, the Hierarchical Conference of the Russian Bishops was stripped of what little power it had: its representation in the ROCA was annulled, and not one of the Russian bishops entered into the ROCA Synod. At the same Council meeting Bishop Valentine was defrocked. The FROC, naturally, refused to recognize this decision.
The desertion of Archbishop Lazarus requires some comment. The secret consecration of Fr. Lazarus (Zhurbenko) was the first major mistake of the ROCA inside Russia. It was surprising in that the ROCA might have been expected to consecrate, not the newly appeared Lazarus, but one of the fourteen hieromonks who had been received under the omophorion of Metropolitan Philaret on November 26 / December 7, 1977, after the death of their Catacomb archpastor, Archbishop Anthony Galynsky-Mikhailovsky, in 1976. Moreover, there were other distinguished Catacomb pastors with links to the ROCA, such as Fr. Michael Rozhdestvensky (+1988), who would have been eminently suitable candidates for the episcopate.
Besides, the career of Fr. Lazarus himself had not been without controversy. Although he had been reared in the Catacomb Church, and had been in the camps, he had been refused ordination to the priesthood by three Catacomb hierarchs, including Archbishop Anthony Galynsky-Mikhailovsky – all of whom he later accused, by a strange coincidence, of being uncanonical. He then joined the Moscow Patriarchate and received ordination there from a certain Bishop Benjamin of Irkutsk. Only a year later, he returned to the Catacomb Church in Siberia, and was instrumental, according to some catacomb sources, in sowing such suspicion against the Catacomb Bishop Theodosius Bahmetev (+1986) that almost the whole of his flock deserted him. Some even accuse him of having betrayed Catacomb Christians to the KGB. Be that as it may – and such accusations are easily made, but much less easily proved – there can be no doubt that a large part of the Catacomb Church distrusted Lazarus and refused to have anything to do with him. This was true both of the “moderates” and the “extremists” in the Catacomb Church, both of the “Seraphimo-Gennadiite” branch, led by Metropolitan Epiphany (Kaminsky), of the “Matthewites” led by Schema-Monk Epiphany (Chernov), and of the “passportless” branch represented by the Catacomb Archimandrite Gury (Pavlov), who, when about to be consecrated to the episcopate in New York in 1990 by the ROCA, categorically refused when he heard that Lazarus was going to be a co-consecrator.
It was true also of Fr. Michael Rozhdestvensky. He was “the initiator of the complete rejection of the then priest Lazarus Zhurbenko because of the latter’s departing to the MP for his ordination. At a meeting of catacomb clergy in the city of Tambov in 1978, in the presence of the still-flourishing Abbot P, Fr. Vissarion and others, Fr. Michael confirmed this position. This decision was supported in those years by all without exception of the catacomb clergy. But later, when Vladyka Barnabas was searching for a worthy candidate for consecration to the rank of Bishop of the Catacomb Church, Fr. Lazarus (then already a hieromonk) craftily suggested the widowed Fr. Michael and himself was called to invite him to be consecrated to the episcopate. On receiving the invitation with the signature of Hieromonk Lazarus (Zhurbenko), Fr. Michael Rozhdestvensky, naturally, did not go. Vladyka Barnabas was left with neither a choice nor time, and he was forced to consecrate Hieromonk Lazarus to the episcopate. Fr. Michael’s position in relation to Vladyka Lazarus remained unchanging to the very end of his life [in 1988].”
But not only did the ROCA consecrate Fr. Lazarus instead of eminently more suitable candidates such as Fr. Michael: they used his testimony as their sole guide to the canonicity or otherwise of the other Catacomb bishops in Russia. Thus on May 5/18, 1990 the ROCA Synod reversed the previous decision of the Synod under Metropolitan Philaret to recognize Archbishop Anthony-Mikhailovsky and his ordinations, and told the priests ordained by him “to regulate their canonical position by turning towards his Grace Bishop Lazarus of Tambov and Morshansk”. Again, on August 2/15, 1990 another Ukaz was distributed (but not published in the Church press) which rejected the canonicity both of the “Seraphimo-Gennadiite” and the “Galynskyite” branches of the Catacomb Church, causing widespread havoc in both. Thus one “Seraphimo-Gennadiite” priest from Moscow took off his cross, saying that he was not a priest according to the ROCA and went to Bishop Lazarus to be reordained. His flock, suddenly abandoned, scattered in different directions.
The main accusation against the hierarchs of these branches was that they could not prove their apostolic succession by producing ordination certificates, as required by the 33rd Apostolic Canon. This was, of course, a serious deficiency; but in view of both groups’ favourable attitude towards the ROCA, it would seem to have been more reasonable and charitable to have talked with them directly, learned their history and their point of view on the problem, and discussed with them some way of correcting this deficiency without resorting to the punitive measures of a papal curia. And such a charitable, unifying attitude to the various Catacomb groups had been urged – alas, without success - by Bishop Gregory (Grabbe).
As Archbishop Hilarion has recently admitted to the present writer: “The statement which I signed as Deputy Secretary of the Synod was based entirely on the information given to us by Archbishop Lazarus. He reported to the Synod on the different groups of the Catacombs and convinced the members of the Synod (or the Council – I don’t recall offhand which) that their canonicity was questionable and in some instances – their purity of doctrine as well (e.g. imyabozhniki). The Synod members hoped (naively) that this would convince the catacomb groups to rethink their position and seek from the Russian Church Abroad correction of their orders to guarantee apostolic succession. We now see that it was a mistake to issue the statement and to have based our understanding of the catacomb situation wholly on the information provided by Vl. Lazarus. I personally regret this whole matter very much and seek to have a better understanding of and a sincere openness towards the long-suffering confessors of the Russian Catacombs.”
So Bishop Lazarus used the authority of the ROCA to take his revenge on Catacomb bishops who had displeased him and to have himself exalted above the Russian flock in their place. He was therefore the first instrument - and the first beneficiary - of the ROCA’s policy of “divide and rule” towards the Catacomb Church. As such, he could not afford to break his links with the Synod that had promoted him, and ran back to it with his tail between his legs.
But his return to the ROCA has not meant better times for his flock in the Ukraine. Thus Hieromonk Hilarion (Goncharenko), in a petition for transfer from the ROCA to the FROC, wrote: “Vladyka Lazarus together with the Synod Abroad has cunningly and finally destroyed the whole Church in the Ukraine. My former friends and brothers in the Lord have.. turned to me with tearful sobs and the painful question: 'What are we to do now in the stormy and destructive situation that has been created?’”
Similar disturbances have taken place in other dioceses of the ROCA inside Russia. Thus Bishop Eutyches has been accused of serious dogmatical errors related to ecumenism.
Thus the ROCA, which had a golden opportunity to gather all the anti-MP Catacomb Church forces under its wing in the early 1990s, only succeeded in creating further divisions and weakening the witness of the True Church. The good it did by consecrating such good pastors as Bishop Valentine was almost outweighed by the harm it did by undermining Bishop Valentine and the Suzdal diocese, by consecrating hirelings and wolves who only brought division to the flock of Christ, and by in general acting like foreign dictators reminiscent of the MP hierarchs. Experienced Catacomb Christians soon discerned the signs, and fled from the spirit of sergianism (and ecumenism) in the ROCA as they had fled from it in the MP.
It has been left to the FROC to take up the burden which the ROCA has failed to carry. Thus it is she, rather than the ROCA, which is now gathering the Catacomb Christians under her wing - but without issuing bans against those groups which do not recognize her authority. In accordance with the Patriarchal Ukaz, she has sought friendly relations with, but not administrative rule over, the other truly Orthodox groups in Russia in the spirit of love that must characterize all relationships within the Church. She claims neither to be the one and only Russian Church, nor to be the administrative centre of the Russian Church. But she has pledged to work towards the convening of that future canonical Local Council of the Russian Church which she, like the ROCA in previous decades, recognizes to be the highest authority in the Church and the only competent judge of the actions of all her constituent parts.
What are the prospects of reunion between the FROC and the ROCA? In the present writer’s opinion, this can only take place under one or other of two possible conditions:-
1. A complete change of heart in the ROCA Synod towards the FROC and repentance for its past canonical transgressions, involving: (a) fitting punishment of those who have wrought such havoc in Russia in recent years, especially Archbishop Mark of Berlin; (b) the removal of all bans on the FROC bishops; (c) the recognition of the FROC’s autonomy in accordance with the Patriarchal Ukaz.
Such a change of heart looks unlikely in view of the events of recent years, when the ascendancy of Archbishop Mark over the ROCA Synod has become more and more marked. His shameful negotiations with KGB Agent “Drozdov”, i.e. “Patriarch” Alexis Ridiger, in December, 1996, and his part in forcing Metropolitan Vitaly to expel the confessors of Hebron and Jerusalem and apologize before the PLO President Arafat in July, 1997, have shocked the Orthodox world. In the Sobor of May, 1998, after Mark had been removed from the Synod by the First-Hierarch, a golden opportunity presented itself to have this evil genius of the Russian Church finally removed from power; but the opportunity was lost.
And so the ROCA’s drift towards unity with the MP continues unabated; having rid itself of the “Soviet filth” of the FROC, the majority of its bishops are now hypocritically ready to unite with the “Mother Church” of the Soviet MP. Indeed, having renounced the great majority of the truly confessing Christians in Russia, it is only logical that the ROCA should seek an alliance with the other side, perhaps on the basis of an autonomous status for the ROCA within the Moscow Patriarchate. After all, Church life does not stand still, but continually moves between the poles of good and evil, life and death; so that a movement away from one pole inevitably involves a movement closer to the other pole…
In view of this there remains the other possibility: 2. A schism in the ROCA allowing the right-thinking Christians in it both inside Russia and abroad, to separate from their Sovietizing hierarchs and be reunited with the confessing Christians of other Russian Church jurisdictions. Already there are many members of the ROCA inside Russia who sympathize with, and by no means reject, their brothers in the FROC. Both they and the FROC are suffering persecution from the MP; both they and the FROC have suffered the effects of the ROCA’s maladministration and (in the case of certain hierarchs) outright treachery. It is only logical, therefore, that these two groups, having an identical faith and being “in identical conditions” (to use the language of the Patriarchal Ukaz), should reunite when the time is right – that is, when the complete failure of the ROCA’s mission inside Russia becomes evident to all.
But there must be no forcing, no exertion of power at the expense of love. That is the primary lesson of these tragic years since the fall of Soviet power. “Lest little by little and without it being noticed, we lose the freedom which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Liberator of all men, has given us through His Blood…”
September 26 / October 9, 1998.
Repose of St. John the Theologian.
in Russian in Suzdal'skie Eparkhial'nie Vedomosti, ¹ 8, June-September, 1999, pp.
7-18 (in Russian). And in English in Vertograd, ¹¹ 16-17, February-March, 2000, pp.
4. THE SERGIANIST CONQUEST OF JERUSALEM
The Moscow Patriarchate’s forcible seizure of the Hebron monastery in July this year, and its winning de facto, if not yet de jure control of the convents of the Russian Church Abroad in Jerusalem, has delivered a serious blow to the forces of True Orthodoxy. The seriousness of the blow resides not so much in the material loss of the monasteries, important thought that is, as in the spiritual humiliation of the Russian Church Abroad, and in her perceived weakness in the face of external pressure. Those confessors of the truth who resisted that pressure - Bishop Barnabas, Archimandrite Bartholomew, Abbess Juliana - have been publicly humiliated and banished by their own first-hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly. The main traitor and appeaser - Archbishop Mark - has been placed in charge of the ROCA’s Mission to the Holy Land only months after the first-hierarch severely rebuked him for his treacherous fraternization with Alexis of Moscow (alias KGB agent “Drozdov”), saying that he had “lost the gift of discernment”. As a result of the abject apology of the first-hierarch of the ROCA to the Muslim Arafat and Patriarch Diodorus of Jerusalem on July 13, and the expulsion of the confessors on July 29-30, the last remnants of True Orthodoxy must be deemed to have surrendered to an unholy alliance of “World Orthodoxy”, Islam and Communism in the land of the God-Man’s Death and Resurrection - and even the tacit support of the Jews has not encouraged the ROCA to undertake a more determined defence of her heritage.
How did this shameful surrender take place? And what are the lessons for the rest of the ROCA that still remains in freedom?
1. On Obedience to the ROCA Synod.
The main argument of the appeasers in their shameless attack on Abbess Juliana has been “obedience”. How often has this argument been used in the history of twentieth-century Orthodoxy as a pious-seeming cloak to justify precisely disobedience to the sacred canons of the Church and surrender to the enemies of Holy Orthodoxy! Was this not the main weapon used by Metropolitan Sergius to crush the opposition of the Catacomb Church? We shall return to the comparison with Metropolitan Sergius later. In the meantime let us enquire whether Abbess Juliana was really disobedient.
It must be emphasized, first, that abbots, abbesses and elders have considerable authority in the Orthodox Church to decide what is permitted and what is not permitted in their monasteries and in relation to their own spiritual children. As Sister Marina (Chertkova), Abbess Juliana’s assistant, rightly says: “Abbesses are the mistresses in their communities.” It is known, for example, that St. Ambrose of Optina defied his local bishop with regard to the Shamordino nuns whose spiritual father he was, saying: “There is a Vladyka higher than all vladykas”. Bishops can overrule abbots and abbesses in the running of their monasteries only in extreme cases, when the abbot or abbess is clearly sinning against the dogmatic or moral tradition of the Church. It is obvious that Abbess Juliana was defending, rather than sinning against, the tradition of the Church.
In fact, when the Synod of Bishops ordered, in its meeting in New York on May 13, that the chief heresiarch of modern times should be allowed into the holy places under the ROCA’s jurisdiction and treated “with honour and respect”, it was clearly they who were disobeying both the canons of the Church and a whole series of earlier unrepealed orders and testaments of the ROCA’s Synod and first hierarchs. The canons do not permit heretics to perform services in the churches of the Orthodox (“Patriarch” Alexis wanted to serve at the tomb of Archimandrite Antonin). And the ROCA Synod’s ukaz of April 19, 1994 was clearly in accordance with the canons when it declared: “The clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate are not allowed to carry out any kind of Divine services (that is: put on an epitrachelion, perform a litiya or prayer service, etc.) on the territory of our monasteries.”
So Abbess Juliana was clearly acting in obedience both to the canons and to the whole tradition of the ROCA in the Holy Land, as well as in complete agreement with the ROCA’s own highest authorities in the Holy Land at the time (Bishop Barnabas and Archimandrite Bartholomew), when she refused admittance to KGB Agent Drozdov and his suite. The Synod’s ukaz of May 13, 1997 contradicted both the sacred canons, which every clergyman swears to uphold, and the tradition of their own Church. Therefore Abbess Juliana was quite justified in refusing to obey disobedience.
2. On Free Access to the Holy Places.
The critics of Abbess Juliana point to the fact that access to the Holy Places is guaranteed by law for all pilgrims. Actually, while the Oak of Abraham, situated on the grounds of the Hebron monastery, is clearly a Holy Place, the Eleon and Gethsemane monasteries are situated close to, but not precisely on, the sites of the Lord’s Ascension, Agony in the Garden and Betrayal by Judas. However, assuming that the monasteries were situated on a Holy Place, let us consider the force of this argument.
Protopriest Benjamin Zhukov writes: “Such a law exists in Israel. But nobody can say with certainty that such a law is also in force on the territory of the Palestinian Autonomy. And even if it is, in view of the special military situation there (as far as Hebron is concerned, the conflicts between the Palestinians and the Jews have led, in the last two months, to tens of deaths and hundreds of people wounded), one can say that the functioning of the law is not the norm in the Palestinian Autonomy. The best proof of this is the fact that there are differences between the various Palestinian levels of authority in evaluating the lawless actions of the Palestinian police in Hebron...
“If such a law exists in the Palestinian Autonomy, then in Hebron, in the given instance, it became quite inapplicable for us. Arafat considers that we occupy the territory unlawfully. How can we act in accordance with the law concerning the reception of visitors if we are not considered to be the owners of this place? Thus Arafat himself removes from us the basis for fulfilling the law. But we become still less responsible before this law (I repeat, if this law is in force) if the visitor who is planning to come is in the eyes of the authorities the lawful owner. Consequently, the first violators of the law are the authorities themselves, who are placing us in a position outside the law. But what fulfilment of the law is required of us here? The concept of hospitality has very little to do with this...
“As regards the attitude of the Jews to this law in the given case, it is known that, not long before the projected visit to the Holy Land of Alexis II, one of the important officials of the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs, Uri Mor, visited our monastery on Eleon with the aim of finding out what the attitude to the visit of the Moscow Patriarch was there. Our nuns replied that the arrival of the Patriarch, supposedly for the 150th anniversary of the Mission, was nothing other than a Soviet show; the 150th anniversary was an excuse, since the 100th anniversary of the Mission was celebrated triumphantly in Jerusalem in 1958 under the leadership of Archbishop Alexander of Berlin, in the presence of officials of the Jordanian state and, of course, of representatives of the Greek Patriarchate (officially the Mission goes back to its establishment by the Turkish government in 1858). To this Uri Mor replied: ‘You can protest as you like.’ And then he said: ‘I see that your approach is difference from that in Gethsemane... If you don’t want to receive him, that is your business!’ And he added: ‘Israel will never change the status quo on its territories.’
“Patriarch Diodorus’ attitude to this question is also characteristic. When his emissary accompanying Alexis II was rejected, Patriarch Diodorus received the nuns of the Eleon monastery and expressed to them his principled censure. And, demonstrating his power, he said that he could enter Eleon, if he wanted, with the help of the Jewish police, but he would not do this. And he dismissed them in peace, after asking: ‘Whose side is Hebron on?’
“Let us add that the Catholic monastery of the Carmelites admits nobody, and nobody has laid claims against it. As S. Chertok, a journalist living in Jerusalem, has clearly written (Russkaia Mysl’, ¹ 4179, 19-25 June, 1997): ‘In Israel access to the holy places is truly free. However, in closed institutions this is done at established or agreed hours, and, of course, without resorting to force. This rule particularly applies to monasteries where order is defined by a strict rule.’” (Letter of July 19, 1997 to Alexander Ivanovich Musatov).
Even if the law concerning the free access of pilgrims to the holy places were clearer and more strictly applied, it could still not apply to Patriarch Alexis for the simple reason that he was not a pilgrim. Having announced publicly before his visit that he was going to the Holy Land to take possession of the properties of the ROCA, he took the Hebron monastery by force in an operation that was reminiscent of the similar operations carried out by him with the aid of OMON troops in Vladivostok, Ryazan and other places. In other words, he acted like a thief - and no law, secular or sacred, can compel one to accept a self-declared thief onto one’s property.
But even if such an impious law existed, it would be necessary to ignore it for the sake of piety, of the Law of God. Would the great confessors of the faith in the Holy Land - Saints Theodosius the Great, Euthymius the Great and Sabbas the Sanctified - have allowed the heresiarchs of their time to carry out services in their monasteries? It is inconceivable. The heresy that preaches that one must sacrifice the Law of God in favour of obedience to unbelieving secular authorities is known as Sergianism from the name of “Patriarch” Alexis’ predecessor in impiety, “Patriarch” Sergius of Moscow. And it is surely no coincidence that the ROCA Synod’s punishment of those who so bravely struggled to defend her interests was meted out 70 years to the day from Sergius’s notorious declaration of July 16/29, 1927...
3. On Obedience to Patriarch Diodorus.
What at first sight appears to be the strongest argument advanced by the critics of Abbess Juliana is the fact that the ROCA in the Holy Land commemorates Patriarch Diodorus of Jerusalem, and was therefore bound to receive his friends and guests. Thus according to Protopriest George Larin, who is now Archbishop Mark’s deputy in the Holy Land, “we do not even have the right to perform Divine services in our churches in the Holy Land without the blessing of his Beatitude Diodorus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and.. we perform the Divine Liturgy on antimens sanctified by his Beatitude, .. we pray for him and commemorate him in the litanies before our First-Hierarch... When hierarchs and priests and deacons arrive on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, they do not have the right (according to the canons of the Orthodox Church) to perform Divine services even in our churches without the Patriarch of Jerusalem’s special permission, which is why we go from the airport first to his Beatitude for a blessing!” (Letter of August 18/31, 1997 to Fr. Stefan Krasovitsky).
At the same time Fr. George admits that Patriarch Diodorus “concelebrates with the Patriarch of Moscow and does not wish to concelebrate with our hierarchs”. A strange and clearly uncanonical situation, in which the ROCA monastics in the Holy Land already have their own first-hierarch, but are forced to have another one - who serves with their chief enemy but not with them! Who was it Who said that one cannot serve two masters?...
Now Patriarch Diodorus of Jerusalem is not a heretic in the way Alexis of Moscow is. He has criticized the ecumenical movement, and in 1989 left the World Council of Churches, although it appears that he has not broken off all contact with the ecumenical organizations. But his opposition to ecumenism lacks the principled character of that of the ROCA; for he remains in full communion with all the ecumenist Orthodox. In so doing he places himself in an uncanonical situation and compels all true zealots of Orthodoxy to break communion with him. For, as St. John Chrysostom says, “he who communicates with an excommunicate is himself excommunicated”.
Some people - notably, Archbishop Mark - think we should continue to have close relations with the Jerusalem Patriarchate because, like the Serbian Patriarchate, it was in communion with the ROCA in earlier decades of this century and offered it hospitality. In answer to this argument we may quote the words of the ROCA Hieromonk Joseph of Moscow in a letter to Metropolitan Vitaly about the Serbian Patriarchate which could apply, without major changes, to the Jerusalem Patriarchate:
“Now I would like to return to the last telephone conversation I had with you. This concerns Vladyka Mark's serving with the Serbs. At that time you said that some hierarchs of the ROCA, such as Archbishop John (Maximovich) and Archbishop Nicon (Rklitsky) allowed this. That is understandable. You know, they were raised and looked after by pastors of the Serbian Church. We, too, love the Serbian Church and the Serbian people - the Serbian Church in the person of Patriarch Barnabas once sheltered the persecuted Russian emigre hierarchs. But times change and life does not stand still. It is already 30 years since Vladyka John died, and almost 20 since Vladyka Nicon. The Serbian Patriarch Barnabas and those Serbian hierarchs who feared nobody and offered hospitality to the persecuted Russian Church died a long time ago. The contemporary Serbian episcopate is very far from what it was in the 1930s. You know, almost the same thing has happened with the Serbian Church as happened with the Russian Church. Their episcopate has also been appointed by communist authorities, and they have also gradually departed from the purity of Orthodoxy. This is what the well-known Serbian theologian, Archimandrite Justin (Popovich), who could in no way be accused of not loving his own Serbian Church or of not being Orthodox, wrote about this: ‘... The atheist dictatorship has so far elected two patriarchs... And in this way it has cynically trampled on the holy rights of the Church, and thereby also on the holy dogmas.’ I think that Fr. Justin had a better view of the negative processes taking place in the Serbian Church than Vladyka Mark. The first-hierarchs of the Serbian Church take an active part in the WCC; they pray with all kinds of heretics and people of other religions; they support the anti-Orthodox initiatives of the Patriarch of Constantinople. And must we close our eyes to all this just because in the 1930s Patriarch Barnabas helped our Russian hierarchs - or because Vladyka Mark studied in the Serbian Theological University? This is simply not serious. If we're going to reason like that, and take our memories of the past as our guiding principle in our present actions, without taking into account present realities, then we can come to sheer absurdity and will not avoid serious mistakes. In that case we must have eucharistic communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople because ten centuries ago Rus' received Orthodoxy from Byzantium.
“If our relationship to the Serbian Church and people is one of unhypocritical love and gratitude, then especially now, in this difficult time for Serbia, we must help them to come to understand and see those departures from Orthodoxy which are being carried out by the Serbian hierarchy, and for which, perhaps, the Right Hand of God is sending them these horrific military trials which are taking place there. This will be the gratitude of the Russian Church to the Serbian people for the hospitality they received from it in the 1930s.”
The present writer remembers how, in the 1970s, the superior of the Hebron monastery, Igumen Ignaty, neither allowed members of the Moscow Patriarchate on the territory of the monastery (he drove them away with a stick!) nor commemorated the Patriarch of Jerusalem (although he had friendly relations with some members of that patriarchate). A former member of the Catacomb Church and a close friend of St. John Maximovich, Fr. Ignaty had the gifts of tears and prophecy and was revered as a saint even by the Muslims. He feared God alone, and therefore even the enemies of the faith, sensing his spiritual power, sought to kiss the hem of his garment as he walked the streets of Jerusalem. His example shows how the ROCA could have acted, relying on the power of faith alone.
The whole tone of Fr. George Larin’s letter, quoted above, is that of course the ROCA should even now remain in communion with the Patriarch of Jerusalem. It doesn’t seem to disturb him that that the Patriarch is in communion with the whole of ecumenist “World Orthodoxy”, including Alexis of Moscow, that in a recent confrontation with Constantinople over its parishes in Australia Jerusalem was forced to submit to the uniate Patriarch Bartholomew, and that the secretary-general of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Metropolitan Timothy of Lydda, has declared: “The Russian monastery of Hebron has been returned to its legal owner [i.e. Alexis of Moscow]”, emphasizing that “the time has come to overcome the divisions now that the Church in Russia is free. There is only one Russian Orthodox Church and one cannot recognize as such the tiny grouping which separated from it a long time ago for whatever reasons” (Service Orthodoxe de Presse, 221, September-October, 1997, p. 16).
True, Patriarch Diodorus is reported to have distanced himself from that remark. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the ROCA has gained precious little by its fawning apology to the Patriarch, and that it is quite possible that she will lose even the limited recognition she now has from the patriarchate.
So what is the point of the ROCA’s presence in Jerusalem? To have a quiet life undisturbed by any conflicts with her neighbours? In that case, she would do best to give up her ineffectual pose of pseudo-independence and join either the Patriarchate of Jerusalem or the Moscow Patriarchate’s Mission in Jerusalem. Or to inherit the Kingdom of heaven through a good confession of faith, even to the shedding of blood if necessary? In that case, she should break communion with the Patriarch of Jerusalem and firmly resist all attempts of KGB agents in cassocks to “have cups of tea” and “serve Divine services” in her monasteries.
This would undoubtedly lead to confrontation, but with God’s help she would undoubtedly succeed - and encourage many other covert opponents of ecumenism in the Holy Land and elsewhere. After all, “the Truth plus one is a majority”. Or, as the Apostle Paul put it: “If God is with us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8.31).
One bishop critical of Abbess Juliana has written: “Obviously, it was a question of drawing a line at some point: Alexey evidently could not be received as though he were a patriarch, but the other extreme, closing the gates in the face of the delegation is another extreme, which, elsewhere might indeed be appropriate, but in the context was provocative to the local authorities, both civil and ecclesiastical. Diplomacy has little place in matters of principle, but neither, I feel, does provocation...”
These comments betray a lack of understanding of the situation in which Abbess Juliana and her fellow zealots were placed.
First, she had been ordered to receive him “with honour and respect”, which precluded treating him as though he were not a patriarch. True, the synod had given her a speech to the patriarch in which it was written: “We welcome you not as the Patriarch of all Russia, but as a guest of Patriarch Diodorus of Jerusalem”. But, as Abbess Juliana has written, “standing in front of the television cameras I would have been shamed in front of the whole world!!!... This seemed to me absurd. Every welcome is already a welcome, and holding in my hands the paper, the reporters could have put into my mouth completely different words. And in essence I would have had to go up to receive his blessing.”
Again, a highly respected protopriest from Russia, while criticizing the Synod for going too far in one direction, criticizes Abbess Juliana for going too far in the other, saying that she should have let Alexis in, but “drily, officially”. However, even if she had received him “drily” and “officially”, could she, a frail woman who did not have the support even of all her nuns, have prevented him from serving at the tomb of Archimandrite Antonin once he and his vast entourage had crossed the threshold of the convent? If she had tried to do so, the scandal may have been even greater, and she might well have been simply pushed aside, just as she was pushed aside at Hebron.
In any case, if the KGB Agent “Patriarch” had been allowed into the citadel of the ROCA in Jerusalem, the real relationship of the ROCA to him and his patriarchate would have been completely misrepresented and the whole world would have known who the real master, not only on Eleon, but in the Russian Church as a whole, was.
The fact is that the provocation was not on the part of Abbess Juliana, but of KGB Agent Drozdov supported by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. And since this was a matter of principle - a matter of presenting a true confession of faith before the world’s media and the world’s chief “Orthodox” heresiarch - there could be no place for diplomacy here. For if diplomacy involves giving the impression of a false confession of faith for the sake of property or the friendship of the world, a true Christian can come to no other conclusion than that it is from the evil one. As the Apostle James says: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4.4).
4. Quo Vadis, Russian Church Abroad?
Let us turn now from the defence of Abbess Juliana to the truly most shocking aspect of this whole affair - the letter of apology to the Muslims.
There can be no doubt that Metropolitan Vitaly was forced to do this by the same man who has already defied his authority in so many ways - Archbishop Mark. In fact, Mark himself admitted to Sister Marina that he had to shout at the metropolitan to make him write the letter. This is the same Archbishop Mark who, in December of last year, without the blessing of the metropolitan, met the false patriarch in Moscow, and was severely rebuked for that. Nor was he sent to the Holy Land in July at the bidding of the Synod - he came of his own will, having supposedly heard about the events “from the newspapers”. Many suspect - and there is certainly much evidence pointing in that direction - that the events in Hebron and Jerusalem were actually planned by the Moscow Patriarch with Archbishop Mark at that December meeting.
Archbishop Mark’s position in relation to Moscow is set out in a recent article in Vestnik Germanskoj Eparkhii (no. 4, 1997). He begins by affirming that the events in the Holy Land should not stop attempts to overcome the schism with the Moscow Patriarchate - which, however, he says is a “division”, not a “schism”. Then he reviews the main obstacles to union in a perfunctory and misleading way. Finally, he calls for an All-Emigration Council to review relations with the patriarchate and to consider the question: “Is eucharistic communion possible with complete autonomy?” This shows where his thought is moving - towards making the ROCA a “completely autonomous” Church in communion with the patriarchate, like the Orthodox Church of America!
The failure to be accepted at Eleon was a setback for the patriarchate, as was the initial failure to take over the Hebron monastery. The fact that the Hebron monastery was eventually taken over only by naked force was more that a setback - it was a public relations disaster, which threatened to become an international crisis as American senators, who included several Jews, prepared to berate the Russians for their collaboration with Arafat in the forcible seizure of property belonging to an American-registered Church. However, the Moscow Patriarch’s potentially disastrous defeat was deftly turned into a stunning victory through the good services of Archbishop Mark, who forced the metropolitan to apologize, and put the blame for the loss of the Hebron monastery, not on the communists or Muslims, but on - Abbess Juliana, without whose vigilance the monastery would almost certainly have been taken over long before, and who shed her blood in the defence of it!
Protopriest Benjamin makes some illuminating comments on the diplomatic significance of the metropolitan’s letter to Arafat: “In the letter to Arafat there is not a word about the unlawful seizure of property, about the inhumane beating of the monastics, about the crying violation of international law, as was expressed by Archbishop Laurus in his protest. Nothing of the kind! In this address, eight days after the lawless actions of the Moscow Patriarchate with the help of the Palestinian OMON, under the guise of a ‘diplomatic note’ with the aim of receiving Hebron back again, there took place a complete ‘whitewash’ and ‘justification’ of all the criminals in the affair of the seizure of Hebron. Perhaps, in fact, in such circumstances Hebron will be returned to our Church: the Moscow Patriarchate would make off, as Khrushchev once made off in Cuba, having got a long way in ! Perhaps... but would it not be better to sacrifice Hebron (we may even say that we do not have the strength to keep it), rather than to sacrifice our faithful monks, whose exploit we did not defend in this lamentable letter. We have similarly failed to value the exploit of those who trusted us and who have been beaten up by the OMON in our homeland... This was a diplomatic failure for the whole world to see!”
Actually, there is no hope of the ROCA getting Hebron back again. This is clear from the following report (Church News, August, 1997, pp. 1-2): “When two monks from the Holy Trinity Monastery in Hebron (Fathers Elias and Vladislav) expressed a desire to accompany Abbess Juliana to Chile, Archbishop Mark permitted them only to help with transporting her luggage, and then with a definite order that they return within no more than three weeks because he had assigned them to Hebron as soon as the monastery is returned to the Church Abroad! He threatened them that the responsibility for the Church Abroad not receiving back the monastery would be upon their consciences [!!!] precisely because he has no one else to send there. Both of these monks have only Russian passports and Abbess Juliana became very concerned that they might be deported from Israel by force. Therefore she applied to the Director of the Department of the Minstry for Christian Denominations, Mr. Uri Mor, asking him to suggest to Archbishop Mark that he not send those monks to Hebron. he promised this and at the same time expressed his astonishment that the Church Abroad would believe in the highly improbably possibility of Abraham’s Oak being returned to her. Mor was also astonished that Archbishop Mark would appoint two monks with only Russian passports and who, therefore, might be very easily deported to Russia due to her friendly relations with the Palestinians.
“Archbishop Mark is not ashamed to be cunning: on the one hand, he fosters among the trusting members of the Church Abroad the unrealizable hope of the return of Abraham’s Oak seized by the Moscow Patriarchate and, on the other, he is not afraid to send off to the punishment of the Moscow Patriarchate two monks who happened to oppose it. It seems that he ‘falls between two stools’, having the intention of delivering to the Moscow Patriarchate all the properties of the Church Abroad, and at the same time he is trying to avoid being called simply a traitor!”
If the idea that Archbishop Mark might actually be planning to hand over the remaining properties of the Church Abroad to the Moscow Patriarchate seems far-fetched, the following remark by his close assistant in this affair, Protopriest Victor Potapov, should convince people that such a betrayal is by no means out of the question. “We declare outright,” he said in an interview with Nezavisimaia Gazeta - Religii, July 24, 1997), “that we consider the Church Abroad to be an inalienable part of Russian Orthodoxy and that we would like to give over to Russia everything that we have available, and in particular also here in the Holy Land.”
Further confirmation of this very real possibility is provided by the news that highly compromised and/or Soviet personnel are being moved into Jerusalem to take the place of the confessors Archimandrite Bartholomew and Abbess Juliana. Thus Archimandrite Bartholomew’s position as Head of the Mission is to be taken by Archimandrite Alexis (Rosenthal), of whom Sister Marina (Chertkova) has written (with Abbess Juliana’s approval) that he is “a most crude and insolent man.. who is no worse at administering hidings than the Palestinian police”. And Abbess Juliana’s place as abbess of the Eleon monastery is to be taken, according to unconfirmed reports, by Mother Moisea, of whom a former Head of the Jerusalem Mission has written: “She was often in the USSR on secular business. On leaving France she settled in Gethsemane. In his time Archimandrite Anthony (Grabbe) was warned by the Israeli police that Sister Nonna [now Mother Moisea] was known to them as a Soviet agent...” (Church News, June, 1997, p. 1)
Where, then, is the Russian Church Abroad going? On the evidence of the events in Hebron and Jerusalem, the answer must be: straight into the coils of the Soviet Moscow Patriarchate. Last December, when Metropolitan Vitaly vigorously rebuked Archbishop Mark for his betrayal, saying that he had “lost the gift of discernment” and that the Moscow Patriarchate was “the Church of the Antichrist”, the zealots of True Orthodoxy took heart, thinking that in the person of the first-hierarch of the ROCA, at any rate, there was a man who would withstand the antichristian onslaught coming from the KGB- and Mafia-controlled Moscow Patriarchate. However, the situation has now been entirely reversed, the metropolitan has publicly disgraced his most faithful followers, and Archbishop Mark has become the de facto ruler of the ROCA, giving him a very powerful position from which to negotiate his openly declared desire to enter into communion with the false patriarchate while retaining “complete autonomy” for the Russian Church Abroad.
In July, 1927, a physical earthquake shook Jerusalem, as if heralding the spiritual earthquakes that were to come in the Heavenly Jerusalem, the Church of Christ, through the notorious declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, which placed the Russian Church in de facto submission to the communists. 70 years later, the contemporary leader of the sergianist heresy has come to Jerusalem, and by a naked display of brute violence has obtained from the contemporary leaders of the anti-Sergianists, the Synod of the Russian Church Abroad, another submission to the antitheist powers, another sergianist declaration (on the precise day that the first sergianist declaration was made!) - and another condemnation of the confessors of the truth. The fact that the confessors have not suffered imprisonment or torture, but “only” a physical beating, public humiliation and exile, should not hide from us the fact that the sergianist heresy has now occupied the last bastions of the truly Orthodox Church in her heartland, Jerusalem.
Of course, with God all things are possible, and a resurrection of the ROCA is possible even now. But it will be possible only if the ROCA, on her part, outrightly rejects Archbishop Mark and his Judas-like, neosergianist betrayal of the Church into the hands of her worst enemies. It will be possible only when a return is made to obedience to the testaments of the first three first-hierarchs of the ROCA, Metropolitan Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret, to the apostolic canons of the Church which forbid praying with heretics or recognizing their sacraments, and to the command of the Apostle of truth and love, who said: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; for he that biddeth him God speed is a partaker of his evil deeds” (II John 10,11).
October 2/15, 1997.
Saints Cyprian and Justina.
5. THE RIGHT WAY OF RESISTING APOSTASY: A REPLY
In the August, 1999 issue of Uspenskij Listok, Hieromonk Dionysius (Alferov) offers a tribute to St. John Maximovich with most of which the venerators of St. John can be in full agreement. St. John was indeed one of the miracles of twentieth-century Orthodoxy, a saint and wonderworker to be compared with the greatest hierarchs of antiquity. However, after a few paragraphs it becomes clear that the main reason why Fr. Dionysius wrote this article was not to glorify St. John, but to use St. John as a weapon with which to beat what he calls the “ultra-rightists” in the contemporary Russian Church – that is, those who consider the Moscow Patriarchate to be a graceless organisation. The purpose of this article is to consider what relationship the supposed views of St. John have to the contemporary debate on the status of the MP.
First, what do we know about St. John’s views on the MP? The answer, surprisingly, is: very little. As far as the present writer knows, he never expressed himself in public on the presence or absence of grace in the MP. What we do know is that once, in Shanghai shortly after the last war, St. John commemorated Metropolitan Anastasy of the ROCA together with Patriarch Alexis of the MP. What we also know is that in a letter to Metropolitan Anastasy St. John later very humbly repented of this act (the letter was seen by Anastasia Georgievna Shatilova in the archives of the ROCA Synod).
Some have pointed to a certain “liberalism” practised by St. John in relation to “World Orthodoxy” in general. There seems to be some foundation for believing that St. John was a “liberal”, not so much in his evaluation of the errors of “World Orthodoxy” (in relation to which he could be strict, - cf. his article on the decline of the Ecumenical Patriarchate), as in the method of his reception of people from World Orthodoxy. Thus it is known that he admitted the fledgling Dutch Orthodox Church into communion from the MP without insisting that they immediately change from the new to the old calendar – although he was so attached to the Old Calendar that even in civil letters he always used only the Old Calendar date. Again, Metropolitan Philaret of Blessed Memory recounts in one of his letters that he was forced to rebuke St. John once for making hardly any distinction, in the matter of eucharistic communion, between the flock of the ROCA and that of the Evlogians in Paris – although St. John had strongly condemned the Eulogian heresy of Sophianism.
What conclusion are we to draw from this “liberalism”? I believe that we cannot draw any clear conclusion about St. John’s views on the ecclesiological status of the MP or “World Orthodoxy” in his time. The most we can conclude, it seems to me, is that: (a) he once made a serious error in commemorating the Soviet patriarch, of which he immediately and sincerely repented, and (b) in regard to the laypeople of other jurisdictions he practised the maximum degree of “economy” or condescension, judging that in our extremely difficult and confusing times such loving condescension was indeed the most appropriate way of building up the Church of Christ.
But let us suppose for a moment that Fr. Dionysius is right, and that St. John was a “liberal”, not only in his method of receiving people from the jurisdictions of “World Orthodoxy”, but also in his estimate of those jurisdictions’ ecclesiastical status. What follows from this in regard to the contemporary debate on the status of the MP?
Again the answer is: very little.
First, let us bear in mind that St. John died in 1966, a full generation ago, when the pan-heresy of ecumenism was only just beginning to penetrate the Slavic Churches (the MP joined the World Council of Churches in 1961, and the Serbian Patriarch became president of the WCC in 1965). It was still some years to the ROCA’s definitive condemnation of ecumenism in 1983. Even if St. John had been a “liberal” in his lifetime, there is no reason at all to believe that he would have dissociated himself from his Synod’s anathema against ecumenism if he had lived to 1983, still less if he had lived to 1999. The heresy and apostasy of the MP, like all apostatical movements in history, developed and deepened over time. What reason can there be for believing that the thinking of such a holy man as St. John would not also have developed in response to the changing situation?
Secondly, the infallible voice of the Church is not to be identified with the voice of any individual father of the Church, however holy, but only with the consensus of the Fathers. There are many cases of individual fathers making pronouncements which have not been accepted by the Church as a whole. As Fr. Basil Lurye writes, commenting on the 15th canon of the First-and-Second Council of Constantinople: ‘“The fathers” are accepted only as the consensus patrum (“the agreement of the fathers”, “the council of the fathers”), that is, those patristic judgements which were not contested in council by other fathers.’
If we make the mistake of identifying the opinion of this or that individual father or saint on this question with the infallible voice of the Church, we may find ourselves labelling undoubted saints of the Church as either “ultra-rightists” or “ultra-leftists”, to use Fr. Dionysius’ terminology. For example, let us take the case of holy Hieroconfessor Victor, Bishop of Vyatka, who was recently recommended for canonisation by a commission of the MP on the basis of the incorruption of his relics and the many miracles that have been wrought at his shrine. He was perhaps the very first hierarch to separate from Metropoltian Sergius in 1927, and his condemnation of Sergius was about as “extreme” as it was possible to be. Thus he called Sergianism “worse than heresy”, and in his last known letter, of unknown date, he wrote: "In his destructive and treacherous actions against the Church, Metropolitan Sergius has also committed a terrible blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which according to the unlying word of Christ will never be forgiven him, neither in this life, nor in the life to come.
"'He who does not gather with Me,' says the Lord, 'scatters.' 'Either recognize the tree (the Church) as good and its fruit as good, or recognize the tree as bad and its fruit as bad' (Matt. 12.33). 'Therefore I say unto you, every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto me, but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven unto me' (Matt. 12.31). 'Fulfilling the measure of his sin,' Metropolitan Sergius together with his Synod,, by his ukaz of October 8/21, 1927, is introducing a new formula of commemoration.
"Mixing together into one, despite the word of God, the 'faithful with the unfaithful' (II Cor. 6.14-18), the Holy Church and those fighting to the death against her, in the great and most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the metropolitan by this blasphemy of his destroys the prayerful meaning of the great sacrament and its grace-filled significance for the eternal salvation of the souls of Orthodox believers. Hence the service becomes not only graceless because of the gracelessness of the celebrant, but an abomination in the eyes of God, and for that reason both the celebrant and he who participates in it subject themselves to severe condemnation.
"Being in all his activity an anti-church heretic, as transforming the Holy Orthodox Church from the house of the grace-filled salvation of believers into a graceless, carnal organization deprived of the spirit of life, Metropolitan Sergius has at the same time, through his conscious renunciation of the truth and in his mindless betrayal of Christ, become an open apostate from God the Truth.
"Without a formal external trial by the Church (which cannot be carried out on him), he 'is self-condemned' (Titus 3.10-11); he has ceased to be what he was - a 'server of the truth', according to the word: 'Let his habitation be desolate, and let no one live in it; and his office let another take' (Acts 1.20).”
Now according to Fr. Dionysius’ criterion, St. Victor must surely be considered an “ultra-rightist”, because, in spite of his living right at the beginning of the Sergianist schism and a full generation before the MP’s acceptance of the heresy of ecumenism., he nevertheless has the audacity to call the MP “graceless”. But Fr. Dionysius does not call St. Victor an “ultra-rightist”, nor the very many new Russian martyrs and confessors who shared his opinion, nor Metropolitan Philaret of Blessed Memory who likewise declared the MP to be graceless. And yet if he is not prepared to call these holy fathers “ultra-rightist”, he should withdraw that label from the contemporary zealots of Orthodoxy who assert the same thing, but on even stronger and more extensive evidence than was available to St. Victor or Metropolitan Philaret!
And yet our aim is not to establish the opinion of St. Victor or Metropolitan Philaret as expressing the infallible voice of the Church in opposition to the supposed opinion of St. John Maximovich. The essential point is that it is not the opinion of this or that father that must be accepted by all Orthodox Christians, but only the consensus of the fathers. Fr. Dionysius offers no compelling reason to believe that the consensus of the fathers is to be identified with his “moderate” opinion on the status of the MP, even if he could convincingly enlist St. John in his support.
So what is the consensus of the fathers on this matter? That is another question which is too large to be broached within the limits of this small article. What we can assert, however, is that God has both accepted and glorified men and women holding different opinions on the status of the MP but having in common their refusal to have any communion with the traitors who have rent apart the seamless coat of the Russian Church. There may come a time – it may have come already – when such diversity of opinion is no longer permissible. One thing is certain: labelling as “ultra rightists” the zealots of Orthodoxy in a cause for which thousands if not millions of True Orthodox Christians have already given their lives is not the right way to resist apostasy.
October 25 / November 7, 1999.
in Russian in Vertograd-Inform, ¹ 1(58), January, 2000, pp. 40-42 )
6. THE CHURCH THAT STALIN BUILT
The Church of the living God is founded upon a most solid Rock – and that Rock is Christ (Matt. 16.18; I Cor. 10.4). The churches of dead gods – that is, of mortals who have been raised to the status of gods by their deluded followers – are founded upon less solid and attractive materials. Thus the Roman Catholic church is founded upon the pride of the eleventh-century Pope Gregory VII, who declared that he could judge all bishops and kings, that he himself was above all judgement, and that all popes were saints by the virtue of St. Peter. The Lutheran church is founded upon the folly of the German monk Martin Luther, who married a nun and declared (very conveniently in his particular case) that good works are not necessary for salvation. The Anglican church is founded upon the lust of the English King Henry VIII, who created his own church in order to grant himself a divorce from his first wife (he married five more and killed several of them). The contemporary Ecumenical Patriarchate is founded upon the ambition of the Greek patriarch Meletius Metaxakis, a Freemason who introduced the new calendar, “deposed” Patriarch Tikhon and died, screaming that he had destroyed Orthodoxy. The contemporary Moscow Patriarchate is founded upon the cruelty and the cunning of Joseph Stalin, “the most wise generalissimo and leader of all the peoples”, but also the greatest persecutor of the Church in the history of Christianity….
Just as the True Church is created in the image and likeness of its Founder, and displays His virtues in its members, so false churches are made in the image and the likeness of those who created them, and display the characteristic vices of their founders. Thus the Moscow Patriarchate is particularly distinguished by its cruelty and its cunning. It cruelty was particularly evident in the first decades of its existence, when the deaths of many True Orthodox Christians were caused by the denunciations of their pseudo-Orthodox “fathers” and “brothers”. Its cunning has been particularly evident in recent, post-Soviet times, when, not being able to rely on the power of the State to eliminate its rivals as “counter-revolutionaries”, it has come to rely more on clever admixtures of truth and falsehood in order to deceive the believing population. A good example of such cunning is to be found in the article, “A Church for Valentine (Rusantsov)”, by MP Priest Alexander Bragar.
Bragar’s target is, of course, Archbishop Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir, first-hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) and the leader of the True Orthodox, anti-patriarchal forces in Russia. However, rather than attempting to answer any of the very serious and weighty accusations that the ROAC has made against the MP, or draw a comparison between Archbishop Valentine and his main ideological opponent, Patriarch Alexis (Ridiger), which could only turn out to the disadvantage of Ridiger and the “church of the evil-doers”, Bragar adopts the indirect route and methods of the serpent.
One of these methods is the misleading association of names. For example, Bragar at one point links Archbishop Valentine with “odious personalities like Michael Ardov and Gleb Yakunin”. The highly-respected Moscow Protopriest Michael Ardov is indeed under the omophorion of Archbishop Valentine, and his frequent and impressive appearances on television and radio have evidently been a thorn in the side of the MP’s propaganda bosses. But what has he to do with Gleb Yakunin? Nothing at all. Not only does Fr. Gleb not belong to the ROAC, but rather to the schismatic “Kievan Patriarchate” of Philaret Denisenko, which the ROAC does not recognize: his views are quite different from Fr. Michael’s. Yakunin is a democrat: Ardov is a monarchist. Yakunin is an ecumenist: Ardov is an anti-ecumenist. So what is the purpose of linking two such different men, and both with Archbishop Valentine? To smear Archbishop Valentine by association with the unpopular democrat and ecumenist Yakunin. Both are opponents of the patriarchate: but there the resemblance ends. One opposes the patriarchate for one set of reasons: the other for a different set of reasons. But only a few readers will be expected to know these differences. The association has been planted in the readers’ minds, and there, it is hoped, it will fester and bring forth evil fruit...
Another well-tried method of the evil one is: divide and conquer. Thus the recent (1995) schism between the ROAC and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) is exploited for all its worth by Bragar. His history of the schism is confused and confusing – whether deliberately or not, it is difficult to tell. However, his purpose is clear: to represent Archbishop Valentine as a power-loving schismatic, whose ambition is to prevent the reunion of the ROCA with the “mother church” of the Moscow Patriarchate. As he writes: “His purpose is by all means to hinder this rapprochement, to deepen the schism in the relations between the two parts of the one Russian Orthodox Church” (p. 9).
What a revealing admission! So Archbishop Valentine and the ROAC are seen by the Moscow Patriarchate as the main stumbling-block to the final apostasy of the ROCA through its union with the false church! So Archbishop Valentine stands like a contemporary St. Mark of Ephesus, whose decisive “nyet” to the unia with the contemporary eastern pope of sergianist-ecumenist papism, Alexis Ridiger, is so worrying to the latter that he must first, through his fifth columnists in the ROCA such as Archbishop Mark of Germany and Great Britain (Bragar’s praise of Mark is embarrassingly oleaginous), engineer his expulsion from the ROCA, and then, when the ROCA has been effectively neutralized and the remaining opponents of the unia have regrouped under the banner of the ROAC, portray him as a traitor to the glorious traditions of the ROCA!
There are many ironies here. The ROCA, which once was “bad”, is now “good” – because its foreign hierarchs have now all adopted positions of greater or lesser compromise in relation to the MP, and, above all, because they have fulfilled the task given them by Moscow of expelling Moscow’s most dangerous enemy from their midst. The ROCA is now “good” for another important reason: in the person of Archbishop Mark it has renounced the Catacomb Church, loyalty to which was the ROCA’s raison d’être for so many years. Thus he quotes with approval Mark’s unbelievable slander: “The real Catacomb Church no longer exists. It in effect disappeared in the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s… Only individuals have been preserved from it, and in essence everything that arose after it is only pitiful reflections, and people who take what they desire for what is real.”
Even while trying to “whiten” the ROCA and “blacken” the ROAC, Bragar makes some very important admissions. Thus he admits that Archbishop Mark, though a foreign bishop, created two deaneries on the territory of Russian bishops inside Russia, and that “the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA did not object” to this flagrantly uncanonical action (p. 8). Again, he admits that Bishop Barnabas of Cannes, another foreign bishop with no right to interfere in the dioceses of the Russian bishops, “considered himself the first arrival on the Russian land and decided that he had the complete right to subject to his administration all the catacombniks and the newly formed parishes on the territory of the former USSR” (p. 8). Archbishop Mark and Bishop Barnabas were Archbishop Valentine’s chief enemies and slanderers….
Again, Bragar admits that Archbishop Valentine “smelt a rat” in the “Act” that the Lesna Sobor forced him to sign in December, 1994 – and he explains why there was indeed a rat at the bottom of that barrel: “It was proposed that the parishes of the ROCA on the territory of Russia be divided into 6 dioceses, and that at the head of three of them should be placed [the newly ordained] Bishop Eutyches” (p. 9) – which meant a further invasion into the dioceses of the existing Russian bishops and the threat that all the parishes would be forced to re-register with the authorities, which in turn meant that the MP would be able to stop the re-registration and even demand that the parish churches be handed over to it!
An intelligent person, even one not well acquainted with the history of these events, might well draw the conclusion – the correct conclusion - from Bragar’s account that Archbishop Valentine was under concerted attack from the foreign bishops, that this attack was orchestrated by Archbishop Mark, and that his expulsion from the ROCA was perfectly in the interests of the MP. So thank you, Fr. Alexander! Unwittingly and unwillingly, you have been a witness to the truth!
And indeed the truth is more powerful than any slander or cunning. Even while under fierce attack from both the MP and the ROCA, the ROAC under Archbishop Valentine continues to grow in strength. A steady stream of catacomb and former ROCA parishes continues to join it. Many now see that the ROAC is the true heir of the traditions both of the Catacomb Church inside Russia and of the true ROCA – the ROCA of Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret – outside Russia. The church built by Stalin can never prevail against the Church built by God Himself, Whose “strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12.9).
June 30 / July 13, 2000.
Holy Twelve Apostles.
7. THE MP’S CANONISATION OF THE HOLY NEW MARTYRS OF RUSSIA
The 20th canon of the Local Council of Gangra declares: “If anyone shall, from a presumptuous disposition, condemn and abhor the assembly [in honour of] the martyrs, or the services performed there, and the commemoration of them, let them be anathema….” For many years the Moscow Patriarchate fell under this anathema, ignoring the decree of the Council of 1917-18 on the commemoration of the holy new martyrs, rejecting and viciously slandering them as “political criminals” and denying the very existence of a persecution against Orthodoxy in the Soviet Union. Now, in the “Jubilee” Hierarchical Sobor that took place in August, 2000, it has have attempted, it would seem, to rectify this disastrous error. To what extent has it succeeded?
1. The Royal Martyrs.
The Sobor canonised 860 people. Undoubtedly the most significant of these were the Royal Martyrs, Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and his family. Let us now look more closely at the MP’s text glorifying the Royal New Martyrs, and compare it with that of the ROCA’s glorification in 1981.
One major difference is that in his report to the Sobor, Metropolitan Juvenal of Krutitsa and Kolomna, President of the Synodal Commission for the Canonisation of the Saints, calls the Royal New Martyrs, not “martyrs”, but “passion-bearers”. He justifies the use of the latter title on the following grounds: “One of the main reasons put forward by the opponents of the canonisation of the Royal Family is the assertion that the death of Emperor Nicholas II and the members of the Royal Family cannot be recognised as martyrdom for Christ. The Commission, on the basis of a careful examination of the circumstances of the death of the Royal Family, suggests that they be canonised in the rank of the holy passion-bearers. In the liturgical literature and the lives of the saints of the Russian Orthodox Church, the word ‘passion-bearer’ began to be used in relation to those Russian saints who, imitating Christ, patiently bore physical and moral sufferings and death from the hands of political opponents…”
This is not crystal clear, but further evidence for the MP’s real motivation is provided by another passage in the report: “Evaluations of Nicholas II as a statesman have been extremely contradictory. When speaking about this, we should never forget that, in conceptualising state actions from a Christian point of view, we must evaluate, not this or that form of state construction, but the place which the concrete person occupies in the state mechanism…
“In summarising its study of the state and church activity of the last Russian Emperor, the Commission did not find in this activity alone sufficient grounds for his canonisation…
“Their true greatness proceeded, not from their royal dignity, but from the wonderful moral height to which they gradually ascended…”
Of course, there is some truth in these words. The Royal Family did not become saints simply because of their royal blood; and no saint is a saint purely by virtue of his position in the Church, independently of his moral qualities. But the attempt by the MP to emphasise that the royal martyrs’ exploit had nothing to do with their royal dignity, goes too far, and betrays an attempt to downgrade, if not the Tsar, at any rate the Tsardom and Tsarism.
This point will become clearer if we now turn to the ROCA’s canonisation of the Tsar, in which the Tsar’s feat is linked closely and explicitly with the position he occupied in the Christian State: “… The criminal murder of the Imperial Family was not merely an act of malice and falsehood, not merely an act of political reprisal directed against enemies, but was precisely an act principally of the spiritual annihilation of Russian Orthodoxy… The last tsar was murdered with his family precisely because he was a crowned ruler, the upholder of the splendid concept of the Orthodox state; he was murdered simply because he was an Orthodox tsar; he was murdered for his Orthodoxy!”
Again, as Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles wrote in 1979: "We will speak to the point, in a way that befits an honest, believing Christian. The Tsar-Martyr, and his family as well, suffered for Christian piety. He was opposed to the amorality and godlessness of the communists, both on principle and by virtue of his position - on principle, because he was a deeply believing Orthodox Christian; by virtue of his position, because he was a staunch Orthodox Monarch. For this he was killed. To ask him anything concerning the faith was unnecessary, because he gave witness before the tormentors to his steadfastness in Christian principles by his entire previous life and works, and especially by his profoundly Christian endurance of the moral torments of his imprisonment. He was a staunch defender and protector of the Christian faith, preventing the God-haters from beginning a vicious persecution against believers in Christ and against the whole Orthodox Church. For this reason he was removed and slain...
"It is also known from witnesses still alive that prior to the Revolution it was proposed that the Tsar repeal the strictures against anti-Christian secret societies, and it was threatened that if he refused he would lose his throne and his life. The sovereign firmly refused this proposal. Therefore, they deprived him of his throne and killed him. Thus, he suffered precisely for the faith."
Protopriest Michael Ardov, superior of the Parish of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in Moscow (Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church) has further illuminated this difference, citing another part of Metropolitan Juvenal’s report: “’In its approach to this subject, the Commission has striven that the glorification of the Royal Martyrs should be free from every political and other kind of time-serving. In connection with this it is necessary to stress that the canonisation of the Monarch can in no way be linked with monarchical ideology, and, moreover, does not signify the ‘canonisation’ of the monarchical form of government, in relation to which people’s attitudes may, of course, differ.’
“These are the kind of evasive passages we find – so as not to call things by their own names. It is shameful to read that, I quote, the Tsar-Martyr ‘continued to be the Anointed of God in the people’s consciousness.’ He was the Anointed of God not only ‘in the people’s consciousness’ but in actual fact! And the sacrament of Holy Anointing was carried out on his Majesty in the Dormition cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, in the main church of that very same Russian Orthodox Church in the name of which the ‘sergianists’ dare to speak. And how was it possible to be silent about the fact that on March 2, 1917, at the moment of the abdication of the Tsar, the many-centuries period of universal history that began with the Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine the Great, came to an end? From that day the Orthodox Empire ceased to exist on earth, that is, ‘he that restrains’ was taken from the midst (II Thess. 2.7).
“After all, it is well-known that the ‘ideology’ of the Bolsheviks anti-theists was satanic, and therefore, in doing away with the Orthodox Tsar, they not only destroyed a certain symbol, but killed him who was called, besides other titles, ‘the Preserver of the Faith’.
“Naïve supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate are in no way able to understand why the long-awaited glorification of his Majesty was carried out in such an unintelligible manner. I can suggest to those who are perplexed a completely satisfying explanation. In 1993, the superior of church ‘Nikola v Pyzhakh’, Protopriest Alexander Shargunov, placed a large icon of the Tsar Martyr in his church. Two days later he was phoned from the patriarchate and told to remove it, while the superior himself had to go to Chisty Pereulok [the headquarters of the MP] to sort out the question. There the secretary of the so-called Patriarch, the so-called Bishop Arsenius, had a talk with Shargunov. In a burst of sincerity the former declared: ‘We all, including the Patriarch, venerate Tsar Nicholas as a saint. But we cannot glorify him – both the communists and the democrats will rise up against us…’
“This phrase explains all the following events. Being in fear of the communists and the democrats, the ‘sergianists’ have for years dragged out the matter of the glorification of the Royal Martyrs. And the canonisation took place only now, in the year 2000, after the election of President Putin, when the chances of the communists returning to power have become zero – it is finally possible to stop fearing them. But the Patriarchate’s fear of the ‘democrats’ has remained, and has perhaps got even stronger. That is why, in the ‘Acts of the Jubilee Council’, they speak about the crime that took place in Ekaterinburg in 1918, but there is not a word about what took place in March, 1917. But we know: the Tsar-Martyr was forced to abdicate from the Throne, not by the Bolsheviks, not by Lenin and Sverdlov, but by the traitor-generals Alexeyev and Rutsky, by the conspirator-parliamentarians Rodzyanko and Guchkov that is, but the ‘democrats’ of that time. And for fear of their last-born children, not at word was spoken about the ‘February revolution’ at the ‘Jubilee Council’.
“In his report, the ‘president of the synodal commission for the canonisation of the saints’, the so-called Metropolitan Juvenal said: ‘We have striven also to take into account the fact of the canonisation of the Royal Family by the Russian Church Abroad in 1981, which elicited a not unambiguous reaction both in the midst of the Russian emigration, some representatives of which did not see sufficient bases for it at that time, and in Russia herself…’
“Again a hiatus. In fact in the Patriarchate itself the glorification of the Royal Martyrs and the whole host of Russian New Martyrs and Confessors elicited a completely unambiguous reaction: they decisively condemned the act of the Council of the Church Abroad and declared it to be a purely political act.”
2. The Non-Royal Martyrs.
Many of these were undoubtedly true martyrs and confessors, including many of the great figures of the Catacomb Church, such as Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, Archbishop Victor of Vyatka, and others. However, many of them were committed sergianists – that is, they supported the traitrous church policy of Metropolitan Sergius and remained in communion with him or his successors in the Moscow Patriarchate to the end of their days. As the ROCA Bishop Agathangelus has pointed out, there is a manifest contradiction here.
How does the MP attempt to get round this contradiction? Metropolitan Juvenal rejects the possibility that renovationists, Grigorians or Ukrainian “autocephalists” who died at the hands of the Bolsheviks can be counted as martyrs. But he makes an exception for what he calls “the rightist opposition” – that is, the Catacomb Church martyrs and confessors: “It is wrong to place in one row the renovationist schism, which acquired the character of an open schism in 1922, on the one hand, and “the rightist opposition”, that is, those who for one or another reason did not agree with the ecclesiastical politics of Metropolitan Sergius, on the other…
“In its disciplinary practice the Orthodox Church has adopted a different attitude to those being united [with the MP] from the so-called “rightist” schisms and to the renovationists, the Grigorians and the autocephalists: they [the “rightists”] were received by repentance in their existing rank – in that rank which they may have received during their separation from the lawful Hierarchy.
“In the actions of the “rightist” oppositionists, who are often called “non-commemorators”, one cannot find malicious, exclusively personal motives. Their actions were conditioned by their idiosyncratically understood care for the good of the Church. As is well known, the “rightist” groups consisted of those bishops and their supporters amidst the clergy and laity who, not agreeing with the ecclesiastical-political line laid down by Metropolitan Peter and Metropolitan (later Patriarch) Sergius, the deputy of the patriarchal locum tenens, ceased to commemorate the name of the deputy in the Divine services and thereby broke canonical communion with him. But in breaking with the deputy of the locum tenens, they, like Metropolitan Sergius himself, recognised Metropolitan Peter, the locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, as the head of the Church.
“Therefore “rightist” opponents, such as Metropolitan Cyril (Smirnov) of Kazan (1863-1937) and Bishop Victor (Ostrovidov) of Glazov (1875-1934) have been added to the list of those canonised.”
There is much deception in these apparently conciliatory words. First, the MP has by no means always received former members of the “rightist” opposition – that is, the True Orthodox Christians of the Catacomb Church – “in their existing rank”. Metropolitan Sergius, for example, treated the ROCA, which was at one with the Catacomb Church, more strictly than the Catholics, and decreed that they should be received by chrismation. Again, the MP has by no means always received renovationists strictly. In the years 1943-45, the depleted ranks of the MP’s hierarchy was filled up almost entirely by renovationists, who were received with an absolute minimum of formality.
Thus the Catacomb Bishop “A.” (probably Anthony Galynsky-Mikhailovsky) wrote: “Very little time passed between September, 1943 and January, 1945. Therefore it is difficult to understand where 41 bishops came from instead of 19. In this respect our curiosity is satisfied by the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate for 1944. Looking through it, we see that the 19 bishops who existed in 1943, in 1944 rapidly gave birth to the rest, who became the members of the 1945 council.
“From the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate we learn that these hasty consecrations were carried out, in the overwhelming majority of cases, on renovationist protopriests.
“From September, 1943 to January, 1945, with a wave of a magic wand, all the renovationists suddenly repented before Metropolitan Sergius. The penitence was simplified, without the imposition of any demands on those who caused so much evil to the Holy Church. And in the shortest time the ‘penitent renovationists’ received a lofty dignity, places and ranks, in spite of the church canons and the decree about the reception of renovationists imposed [by Patriarch Tikhon] in 1925…
“As the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate informs us, the ‘episcopal’ consecrations before the ‘council’ of 1945 took place thus: the protopriest who had been recommended (undoubtedly by the civil authorities), and who was almost always from the ‘reunited’ renovationists or Grigorians, was immediately tonsured into monasticism with a change in name and then, two or three days later, made a ‘hierarch of the Russian Church’.”
Metropolitan Juvenal also overlooks the fact that Metropolitan Sergius’ calling the Catacomb confessors “political criminals” was like a death-warrant: armed with this quasi-ecclesiastical justification, the authorities could send the confessors to the camps and to execution “with the blessing of Metropolitan Sergius”. Some of the martyrs, such as Hieromartyr Sergius Mechev of Moscow, were sent to their deaths on the denunciation of MP hierarchs in court. And many have been the instances when MP priests posing as confessors have infiltrated True Orthodox communities, and then betrayed them to the authorities. For as the prophet says of the Christians in the last times: “Many shall join them by intrigue” (Dan. 11.34).
Metropolitan Juvenal points out that the sergianists and the Catacomb confessors were linked by the fact that they both commemorated the lawful head of the Church, Metropolitan Peter. However, this link lasted only until 1936, when Metropolitan Sergius, falsely asserting that Metropolitan Peter had died, uncanonically assumed his title of Metropolitan of Krutitsa and Kolomna and Patriarchal locum tenens. So from that time there was not even this formal link between the True Church and “the church of the evil doers”.
In any case, what benefit did the sergianists gain from commemorating Metropolitan Peter if he himself did not recognise them? Metropolitan Peter was in prison throughout the critical period 1927-37, so reliable reports of his attitude to Sergius were hard to attain – a fact which Sergius made great use of. Nevertheless, this much is known.
First, Hieromartyr Bishop Damascene (Tsedrik) claimed to have made contact with him through his cell-attendant, who reported that Metropolitan Peter expressed disapproval of Sergius’ policies. Secondly, on September 17, 1929, the priest Gregory Seletsky wrote to Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd on behalf of Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov): “I am fulfilling the request of his Eminence Archbishop Demetrius and set out before you in written form that information which the exiled Bishop Damascene has communicated to me. He succeeded in making contact with Metropolitan Peter, and in sending him, via a trusted person, full information about everything that has been taking place in the Russian Church. Through this emissary Metropolitan Peter orally conveyed the following: ’1. You Bishops must yourselves remove Metropolitan Sergius. 2. I do not bless you to commemorate Metropolitan Sergius during Divine services…’”
Again, in December, 1929 Metropolitan Peter wrote to Metropolitan Sergius accusing him of “going beyond the limits of the ecclesiastical authority entrusted to you” and reminding him that “I did not give you any institutional rights”. He accused him of removing, rather than deputizing for, the central office of Church administration, the locum tenancy, and said that “Church consciousness cannot, of course, approve of such big changes [in Church administration]”. He said that it was hard for him to number “all the details of the negative attitude expressed towards your administration” by hierarchs and laity. The picture of Church life he had received was “shocking”. Finally he asked him to correct the mistakes he had made, which had caused such damage to the Church. Two months later, the metropolitan repeated his plea in still stronger language.
Moreover, Protopresbyter Michael Polsky reported that Metropolitan Peter had written to Sergius: “If you yourself do not have the strength to protect the Church, you should step down and hand over your office to a stronger person.”
There can be little doubt that if Metropolitan Peter had been released from prison, he would immediately have renounced Metropolitan Sergius – which is precisely why he was kept in prison, in almost complete isolation, until the very day of his martyric death.
The fact is that, contrary to Metropolitan Juvenal’s assertions, the gulf between the sergianists and the Catacomb confessors was much greater than that between the sergianists, the renovationists and the Grigorians. The renovationists, the Grigorians and the sergianists were three attempts of the authorities to create a “Soviet Orthodox Church”. When the first, renovationist attempt failed, they tried a second, more subtle one – that of the Grigorians. But then they switched their allegiance to Sergius, whose organisation became “The Soviet Orthodox Church, Mark III”, sealed with the approval and legalisation of the authorities, the seal of the collective Antichrist . Since all three movements were united in their main aim – to make a pact with the authorities that guaranteed their material security – it is not surprising that the great majority of them ended up, after the Second World War, in the same organisation – the MP. The Catacomb Church, on the other hand, rejected in principle the idea of making peace with the God-hating power; for “what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (II Cor. 6.16). For “do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? “(James 4.4).
Why, then, does Metropolitan Juvenal and the MP cover up this vast chasm separating the True Church of the Catacombs from the false church of the sergianists – a chasm that was made wider, not only by the profound differences in principle and in theology between the two sides, but also by the active persecution waged against the one by the other?
One reason is undoubtedly that the holiness of the Catacomb martyrs and confessors cannot be hidden. Recently, the incorrupt and wonderworking relics of Archbishop Victor of Glazov and Vyatka were discovered. What was the MP to do but accept this, the very first and fiercest of the Catacomb confessors, as one of their own? But of course history had to be rewritten. So Protopriest Vladislav Tsypin was entrusted with the task of telling the educated church people the shameless lie that Hieroconfessor Victor had “been reconciled with the deputy of the locum tenens” before his death.
The MP has become quite skilled in this rewriting of history in recent years: Hieroconfessor Basil of Kineshma (+1945), Hieroconfessor Theodosius of Minvody (+1948) and Blessed Matrona of Moscow are only a few of the faithful Catacomb Christians who have been “reinterpreted” – more precisely: slandered - as belonging to the sergianist false church. In a sense, of course, this represents a great victory for the True Church. If they recognise our saints, then in their hearts they recognise the rightness of our cause. But here we come up against the conscious hypocrisy of the sergianists: they know we are right, but will not admit it, rather stealing our clothes – the exploits of our martyrs - and dressing up in them so as to hide their own nakedness.
And yet their nakedness cannot be concealed. And it is most clearly revealed in the fact that, together with the true martyrs, they canonise the false ones, too. That the patriarchate would canonise both the true martyrs of the Catacomb Church and the false martyrs of the sergianist church, thereby subtly downgrading the exploit of the Catacomb Church without denying it completely, was predicted several years ago by Fr. Oleg Oreshkin: "I think that some of those glorified will be from the sergianists so as to deceive the believers. 'Look,' they will say, 'he is a saint, a martyr, in the Heavenly Kingdom, and he recognized the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, so you must be reconciled with it and its fruits.' This will be done not in order to glorify martyrdom for Christ's sake, but in order to confirm the sergianist politics."
The patriarch's lack of principle in this question was pointed out by Fr. Peter Perekrestov: "In the introduction to one article ("In the Catacombs", Sovershenno Sekretno, ¹ 7, 1991) Patriarch Alexis wrote the following: 'I believe that our martyrs and righteous ones, regardless of whether they followed Metropolitan Sergius or did not agree with his position, pray together for us.' At the same time, in the weekly, Nedelia, ¹ 2, 1/92, the same Patriarch Alexis states that the Russian Church Abroad is a schismatic church, and adds: 'Equally uncanonical is the so-called "Catacomb" Church.' In other words, he recognizes the martyrs of the Catacomb Church, many of whom were betrayed to the godless authorities by Metropolitan Sergius' church organization.., and at the same time declares that these martyrs are schismatic and uncanonical!"
This act of canonising both the true and the false martyrs has further consequences. First, it means that, if any one was still tempted to consider that the official acts of the MP had any validity at all, he can now be assured that even the MP itself does not believe in them. For consider: Archbishop Victor, Metropolitan Cyril and the whole host of Catacomb confessors were defrocked, excommunicated and cast out of the community of the “faithful” by official acts of Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod. But if these “defrocked” and “excommunicated” people are now saints in the Heavenly Kingdom, this only goes to show, as the MP now implicitly admits, that the actions of Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod were completely uncanonical and invalid!
Secondly, it also shows that the MP does not know what martyrdom is, and looks upon it in an essentially ecumenist spirit which deprives it of all meaning. Some years ago, a writer for the Anglican “Church Times” was reviewing a book on the “martyrs” of the Anglican Reformation. In the spirit of that ecumenism that has been at the root of Anglicanism for centuries, this reviewer claimed that both the Catholics who died for their faith at the hands of the Anglicans and the Anglicans who died for their faith died at the hands of the Catholics died for the truth as they saw it and so were martyrs! For it was not important, wrote the reviewer, who was right in this conflict: the only thing that matters is that they were sincere in their beliefs. And he went on to deny that heresy in general even exists: the only real heresy, he said, is the belief that there is such a thing as heresy!!
The present act of the MP presupposes a very similar philosophy. It presupposes that you can be a martyr whether you oppose the Antichrist or submit to him, whether you confess the truth or lie through your teeth, whether you imitate the love of Christ or the avarice of Judas. The perfect philosophy for our lukewarm times, which have no zeal, either for or against the truth!
Now lukewarmness is achieved when hot and cold are mixed together, so that that which is “hot”, zeal for the faith, is deprived of its essential quality, while that which is “cold”, hatred for the faith, is masked by an appearance of tolerance. But the Lord abominates this attitude even more than the “cold” hatred of the truth: “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth” (Rev. 3.16). This lukewarmness is identified, by Archbishop Theophanes of Poltava, with “the religious-moral fall of bishops, [which is] ….. one of the most characteristic signs of the last times. Especially terrible is the fall of bishops when they fall away from the dogmas of the faith, or, as the apostle puts it, they want to pervert the Gospel of Christ (Gal. 1.7). To such the apostle orders that we say anathema: Whoever will preach to you a Gospel other than that which we preached to you, he writes, let him be anathema (Gal. 1.9). And one must not linger here, he says: A heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that such a one is perverted, condemning himself (Titus 3.10-11). Otherwise, that is, for indifference to apostasy from the truth, you may be struck by the wrath of God: because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth."
If the Lord Himself spews such lukewarmness out of His mouth, then so should we. And this is what the Kaliningrad parish of the ROCA commendably does in its epistle to the ROCA hierarchs of November 1/14, 2000: “What throng of new martyrs was canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate if, in that multitude, there are ‘saints’ who fought against the Church, and who later suffered at the hands of their masters - but not for Christ, having become, rather, victims who were offered up upon the altar of the revolution, just as were thousands of other bolsheviks and liberal dreamers? A throng of new martyrs where victims and executioners, holy martyrs and "christians" (at whose orders these new martyrs were shot and sent to prisons and labour-camps), find themselves side by side?”
3. The MP’s Canonisation and the ROCA
Apart from its own lukewarmness, and its desire to sweep the whole issue of martyrdom and confession of the faith under the carpet, there is another reason why the MP has canonised both the true and the false martyrs: its desire to smooth the way for its union with the ROCA. That this is indeed a, perhaps the major motive for this act is indicated by the omission, from the MP’s list of true and false martyrs and confessors, of the leading protagonists on both sides: on the side of the True Church – Hieromartyr Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, and on the side of the false church – Metropolitan Sergius himself. Let us look carefully at these significant omissions.
Hieromonk Vladimir and Protopriest Sergius Petrov of the Holy Transfiguration Skete, Mansonville, Canada (ROCA) have written: “It is impossible (both by virtue of the canons, and by virtue of a lack of desire to do so on the part of the Patriarchate) for the MP to glorify New Martyr Joseph, the Metropolitan of Petrograd, who excommunicated the ‘sergianists’ from the Church, and who considered them to be devoid of grace.” But is it? Archbishop Victor (and many other hierarch-confessors) also excommunicated the sergianists from the Church, and declared them to be void of grace. But the MP has condescended to “glorify” even these completely intransigeant warriors for the truth. So why make an exception in the case of Metropolitan Joseph?
Before answering this question, let us consider the other, still more surprising omission: that of Metropolitan Sergius. If so many leading sergianists were “glorified”, why not their leader, who suffered so much, as the sergianists are constantly telling us, in his efforts to “save the Church”? Let us recall that the leading sergianist of today, “Patriarch” Alexis, has not hidden his belief that Sergius is indeed a confessor. Thus in 1997, on the eightieth anniversary of the restoration of the Patriarchate, the patriarch said: “Through the host of martyrs of the Church of Russia bore witness to her faith and sowed the seed of her future rebirth. Among the confessors of Christ we can in full measure name… his Holiness Patriarch Sergius.”
We believe that there is in fact no fundamental reason, from the point of view of the MP’s contemporary ideology, why either Metropolitan Joseph’s or Metropolitan Sergius’ names should have been withheld from the list, and that the real reason for their non-appearance lies in the realm of Church politics rather than in any question of principle. The point is that in every diplomatic marriage gifts are exchanged by the two parties in order to seal their bargain. The “gift” that the MP can offer the ROCA is the glorification of Metropolitan Joseph, who was glorified by the ROCA in 1981 and cannot, as the MP perfectly well understands, be omitted from any list of the new martyrs. But the MP, being a political organisation in origin and in essence, never bestows gifts without demanding something in return. And the gift that it is demanding in return is the recognition that Metropolitan Sergius, too, was, in his own way, a “martyr” (his sufferings being, presumably, the torments of his uneasy conscience, although neither the torments nor the conscience were clearly visible).
But at this stage, of course, the ROCA would never accept Sergius as a martyr. Such a humiliating, utterly shameful concession could only be made at the very end, when the rings are being exchanged and the marriage is already “in the bag”. For it would not only be an admission that sergianism is not apostasy: it would be an assertion that sergianism is right and proper, that it is a possible path to glory, to holiness, fully equal to the traditional path – that of confessing the truth.
And yet there are indications that the ROCA is preparing the way for such a concession. For in its Epistle of October 14/27, 2000, the ROCA Bishops claim to see significant progress on the part of the MP in at least two of the three issues that separate the parties: sergianism, the canonisation of the new martyrs and ecumenism. Thus with regard to sergianism, the ROCA Bishops claim that the social document accepted by the MP at its August Sobor “blots out… the essence” of Metropolitan Sergius’ 1927 declaration: “For the first time ever, the MP has attempted to defend the independence of the Church”.
However, since our theme is not sergianism as such, we shall overlook this astounding statement, and pass to the second issue on which the ROCA Bishops claim to see progress: that of the new martyrs, and in particular the canonisation of the royal new martyrs. Thus it is asserted by the ROCA that the glorification of the royal new martyrs by the MP “is an initial act of repentance; hence, one of the reasons for the division [between the ROCOR and the MP] has been eliminated, for the most part.”
The problem is: an act of repentance must employ at least a few words expressing repentance – and there is not one such word in the MP’s statements. As Hieromonk Vladimir and Protopriest Sergius write: “Has such a thing ever been seen, that the bishops of God would anticipate and justify heretics and schismatics in that of which the latter do not only not think to repent, but which they even exalt to the rank and honour of ‘saving the Church’? Throughout all history, the Church has not known examples of impenitent behaviour being covered over by ‘love.’ On the contrary, the Holy Church has always condemned any acts of ‘glorification’ by heretics - especially those in which true martyrs for Christ are commingled into a single whole with pseudo-martyrs (e.g. Canons 9 and 34 of the Council of Laodicea; Canon 63 of the VIth Ecumenical Council). At the same time, there is no doubt of the legitimacy of the question: do heretics have a moral and legal right, without bringing forth repentance in the True Church, to glorify those very ones whom they had betrayed? If a murderer glorifies his victim; a robber and thief of what is sacred -- the one robbed; and a blasphemer -- God, without repenting of the given sin, then this act of ‘glorification’ is not simply an ‘atonement’ and a setting-forth upon the way of the Lord, but an even greater blasphemy, a more refined sacrilege. For ‘the virtue of heretics,’ says St. John Chrysostom, ‘is worse than any debauchery.’ ‘Not to confess one's transgressions means to increase them... Sin places upon us a blot which it is impossible to wash away with a thousand well-springs; only by tears and repentance can this be done,’ says that selfsame Bishop. ‘None is so good, and none so merciful of heart, as the Lord; but even He does not forgive those who do not repent.’ (St. Mark the Ascetic). Hence, is not this ‘glorification’ by the MP comparable to that when the Roman soldiers, having put a scarlet robe upon Christ, ‘glorified’ Him, saying: ‘Hail, King of the Jew!’?! Here we have in view not the entire Russian nation, but the very system of the MP.”
In conclusion, the MP has not only not delivered itself from the burden of its past apostasy by its decision on the new martyrs: it has significantly increased that burden. The early sergianists renounced the path of confession and martyrdom and condemned those who embarked upon it – but at least they did not change the concept of martyrdom itself. The later sergianists, while continuing to confess heresy and persecute the Orthodox, have added a further sin: by placing, in the spirit of ecumenism, an equality sign between martyrdom and apostasy, they have degraded the exploits of the true saints and presented false models for emulation. Thus they fall under the anathema of Canon 34 of the Council of Laodicea: “No Christian shall forsake the martyrs of Christ, and turn to false martyrs, that is, to those of the heretics, or those who formerly were heretics; for they are aliens from God. Let those, therefore, who go after them, be anathema.”
November 8/21, 2000.
Synaxis of the Holy Archangels and Angels and all the Bodily Hosts.
8. WHEN DID THE MP APOSTASISE?
(A Report prepared at the Request of the First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church for the Church Sobor scheduled for October, 2001 in Suzdal)
Your Eminence, Your Graces, President and Members of the Holy Council of the Russian Orthodox Church!
Give the blessing!
With your permission, I would like to express my opinion with regard to the question of the gracelessness of the Moscow Patriarchate, and on the closely related question of how people seeking to join our Church from the MP should be received.
I have no doubt that the Holy Synod will declare that the MP is graceless, because to say otherwise would be to contradict the anathema against the Sergianists proclaimed by our own Church in 1999, and would mean to step on that broad path which is leading the Church Abroad into the abyss of Church’s condemnation. But to raise the question: is the MP graceless?, and to reply simply: yes – is of course insufficient. If we reply to the one question, we must immediately reply to another: When approximately did the MP fall away from the True Church? I would like to discuss three possible answers to this latter question: 1. The period 1938-45, corresponding to the triumph of sergianism and the organisation of the sergianist Moscow Patriarchate, 2. The period 1961-71, corresponding to the fall of the MP into the heresy of ecumenism, and 3. the period 1990-2000, corresponding to the fall of Soviet power until the anathematisation of the sergianist ecumenists by our Church.
In my view, if our Church seriously considers herself to be the successor of the Catacomb Church, the largest and most authoritative branch of which was the Josephite, then we must accept this Josephite anathema as valid and as expressing the authentic tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It follows that from the date of this anathema we must consider the schismatic and heretical MP to have been graceless. But since we do not know the exact date of this anathema, we must content ourselves with saying: not later than 1943. Why? Because the anathema refers to the three bishops Sergius, Nicholas and Alexis, who from the beginning of the Second World War and until 1943 constituted three quarters of the episcopate of the MP that was in freedom. However, in September, 1943 these three bishops entered into a pact with Stalin, as a result of which Sergius was made “patriarch” and the ranks of the MP’s episcopate was filled up with new bishops, mainly ex-renovationists, who transformed the character of the MP in a radical way. It is therefore almost certain that the Èîñèôëÿíñêàÿ anathema dates to the period before September, 1943.
In any case, there are other reasons for considering the year 1943 to have been a fateful watershed in the history of the Russian Church. Before 1943 the MP could consider itself to possess at least formal, external succession from the Church of Patriarch Tikhon and hence the pre-revolutionary Church of Russia. However, from 1943 the MP recreated itself on a new foundation, that foundation being, not Ñhrist and the traditions of the pre-revolutionary Church, but Stalin and the traditions of the communist áîãîáîð÷åñêîé revolution. For it was in this very year that the MP received a new, official status from Stalin himself within the God-fighting state of the USSR. Hence in 1943 the MP became not simply the official church in the Soviet Union, but the official church of the Soviet Union – “the Soviet church”, in a precise sense.
The new status of the Soviet church manifested itself in many ways. Â 1944 it received a “patriarch”. In 1945 it stepped onto the international arena, persecuting the True Christians everywhere. For example, during the civil war between the Orthodox and the communists in Greece, “Patriarch” Alexis publicly, on Greek radio, call on the Greeks to fight on the side of the communists – that is, kill True Christians in the name of the communist revolution. As regards the situation inside Russia, the Josephite theologian and confessor I.M. Andreyevsky wrote: “The Underground or Catacomb Church in Soviet Russia suffered its heaviest tribulations after February 4, 1945, that is, after the enthronement of the Soviet patriarch Alexis. Those who did not recognise him were condemned to new terms of imprisonment and were sometimes shot. Those who did recognise him and gave their signatures to that effect were often released before the end of their terms, and were given appointments. All the secret priests discovered in the Soviet zone of Germany, and who did not recognise Patriarch Alexis, were also shot...”
Can we really admit that this completely schismatical and heretical, openly pro-communist and bloodily anti-Orthodox organism was a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church even in the post-war period?
Before considering other possible dates for the fall of the MP, I should like to consider some common objections to the above-expressed position.
The first relates to the fact that not all the holy new hieromartyrs and confessors of Russia expressed themselves categorically with regard to the gracelessness of the MP. In this connection particular attention is paid, especially by such pro-patriarchal hierarchs as Archbishop Mark of Germany, to the position of Hieromartyr Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, who in the early 1930s expressed the view that the sergianist sacraments were valid, but that those who received them knowing of the sin of Sergius received them to their condemnation. However, this is what Hieromartyr Cyril wrote in a letter dated February 23 / March 8, 1937: «...“With regard to your perplexities concerning Sergianism, I can say that the very same questions in almost the same form were addressed to me from Kazan ten years ago, and then I replied affirmatively to them, because I considered everything that Metropolitan Sergius had done as a mistake which he himself was conscious of and wished to correct. Moreover, among our ordinary flock there were many people who had not investigated what had happened, and it was impossible to demand from them a decisive and active condemnation of the events. Since then much water has flowed under the bridge. The expectations that Metropolitan Sergius would correct himself have not been justified, but there has been enough time for the formerly ignorant members of the Church, enough incentive and enough opportunity to investigate what has happened; and very many have both investigated and understood that Metropolitan Sergius is departing from that Orthodox Church which the Holy Patriarch Tikhon entrusted to us to guard, and consequently there can be no part or lot with him for the Orthodox. The recent events have finally made clear the renovationist nature of Sergianism. We cannot know whether those believers who remain in Sergianism will be saved, because the work of eternal Salvation is a work of the mercy and grace of God. But for those who see and feel the unrighteousness of Sergianism (those are your questions) it would be unforgiveable craftiness to close one’s eyes to this unrighteousness and seek there for the satisfaction of one’s spiritual needs when one’s conscience doubts in the possibility of receiving such satisfaction. Everything which is not of faith is sin…”
Several points need to be emphasised here. First, St. Cyril rejects “the argument from ignorance” as an excuse for remaining a sergianist, considering that by the time of writing, 1937, “much water has flowed under the bridge”, “there has been enough time for the formerly ignorant members of the Church, enough incentive and enough opportunity to investigate what has happened”. Secondly, he considers Sergianism to have have been renovationist in nature. Now renovationism was an already condemned heresy; Patriarch Tikhon declared in 1923 that the renovationists were outside the Church and deprived of the grace of sacraments. So if Sergianism is a form of renovationism, it, too, is outside the Church and deprived of the grace of sacraments. And thirdly, St. Cyril unites himself unreservedly with St. Joseph, the leader of the Catacomb Church, whose rejection of grace among the sergianists is well-known. Therefore it seems clear that by the end of his life St. Cyril had united himself to the opinion of the Josephites and the consensus of the hieromartyrs of the Catacomb Church, which consensus must represent for us the criterion of Orthodoxy.
A second argument sometimes produced in favour of the present of grace in the MP is the fact that the Russian Church Abroad, from which our Church derives her hierarchy and apostolic succession, has never made a formal, unambiguous and universally binding statement concerning the gracelessness of the MP. This is true, but cannot be considered a powerful argument for several reasons.
First, three out of the four first-hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) – Metropolitans Anthony, Philaret and Vitaly – have at different times expressed the opinion that the MP is graceless. Especially authoritative in this respect is the encyclical of Metropolitan Anthony dated 22 July, 1928, which declared that the sergianist Moscow Synod was not recognised as having any ecclesiastical authority whatsoever because it had entered into union with the enemies of God, and called it an unlawful organisation of apostates from the faith, similar to the ancient libellatici, who, while refusing openly to blaspheme against Christ or perform sacrifices to the idols, nevertheless obtained certificates from the pagan priests witnessing to their full agreement with them.” This encyclical is especially significant in view of the fact that it expressed, not simply the personal opinion of Metropolitan Anthony, but also “the completely definitive declaration of our Hierarchical Synod”.
Other distinguished hierarchs of the ROCA echoed this judgement. Thus in 1955 Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) of Jordanville, who had already been in prison for the faith in Bolshevik Russia, declared: “The patriarchate has violated the essential dogma of the Church of Christ and rejected its essential mission – to serve the regeneration of men, putting in its place the service of the atheist ends of communism, which is unnatural for the Church. This apostasy is bitterer than all the previous Arianisms, Nestorianisms, Iconoclasms, etc. And this is not the personal sin of one or another hierarch, but the root sin of the Moscow patriarchate, confirmed, proclaimed and sealed by an oath in front of the whole world. It is, so to speak, dogmatised apostasy...”
Secondly, if the ROCA later showed some hesitation in relation to the gracelessness of the MP, it never showed hesitation about the unlawfulness of the MP, declaring the elections of all four Soviet “patriarchs” – Sergius, Alexis I, Pimen and Alexis II – to be uncanonical. It is very doubtful whether a Church organisation that is uncanonical over such a long period, and makes no attempt to return to canonicity, but on the contrary plunges ever deeper into sin, can be said to have the grace of sacraments.
Thirdly, it is precisely the hesitation that the ROCA showed, and the compromises it made with its pro-patriarchal members, that has led to its present catastrophic situation, in which it is not only the grace-filled nature of the MP that is being recognised, but its canonicity and the necessity of joining it! This should warn us that what seem like small compromises at the beginning can, in a comparatively short period of time, lead to spiritual death if not corrected. There can be little doubt that if we, the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC), make such compromises, the punishment will be no less and probably much quicker in coming.
Let us turn now to the other dates that have been proposed:-
Some believe that the falling away of the MP must be dated from this time, when its official confession of the ecumenist heresy was confirmed by ever-increasing numbers of concelebrations and inter-communion with Roman Catholics and Protestants. Certainly, there can be no question that the MP cannot be considered a true Church from the time it began to confess «the heresy of heresies». Òhus Archbishop Averky (Taushev) of Jordanville commented as follows on the 1969 decision of the MP to allow Orthodox clergy to give the sacramånts to Roman Catholics: «If anyone had any doubts about how we should relate to the contemporary Moscow patriarchate, whether it was possible to consider her as Orthodox in consequence of her close union with the God-fighters and persecutors of the faith and Church of Christ, these doubts must finally fall away now that they have entered into communion with the papists. The Moscow patriarchate has hereby fallen away from Orthodoxy, and can no longer be considered to be Orthodox...»
However, ecumenism was imposed on the MP by the head of the Council for religious affairs of the Soviet Union. According to the words of Metropolitan Vladimir (Kotlyarov) of St. Petersburg, who was present at the Assembly in New Delhi, all the representatives of the Russian clergy who came there “were agents of the KGB”. Thus the MP’s ecumenism was simply the most terrible fruit of the earlier illness of sergianism. For apostates do not have their own will. Having given their will into the hands of the antichrist, they will say and do everything that is demanded of them, up to and including the most disgusting blasphemy. So the real fall of the MP must be dated, not to the date of its entrance into the WCC, but to the time when it lost its free will and became a slave of atheism.
At this point, the argument that the MP was not truly apostate, only weak, and that with the fall of Soviet power it would naturally reveal again its true, Orthodox self collapsed completely. It became clear that the MP was not only apostate “for fear of the Jews” (although this, of course, is still apostasy), but even when it had nothing to fear from the Jews. From this is evident the power of the lie, which is first accepted against one’s will but then becomes natural for the liar. Having convinced himself that it is right to lie for the sake of saving his life, the liar then begins to believe his own lie, even to love it. It becomes a “holy lie”, even more noble than the truth, and elicited by the purest, most self-sacrificing of all possible motives.
And yet there are many, especially in the contemporary Russian Church Abroad, who believe that the MP miraculously recovered grace immediately Soviet power fell, as if the truth and grace of a confession depends, not on the faith and works of the members of the confession, but on external political events. As if the sin of Judas could be removed simply with the death of Annas and Caiaphas and without the necessity of any repentance on the part of Judas himself! Moreover, it must be remembered that Judas did repent, but not before Christ, not before Him Whom he had betrayed – and so his “repentance” proved to be empty and fruitless.
There can be no question, alas, that in the decade since the fall of communism in Russia, the MP has not only not repented of its sins, but has plunged ever deeper into apostasy and corruption of all kinds. Ecumenism, in particular, has taken giant strides forward. In 1990 there was the Chambesy accord, whereby the anathemas on the so-called “Oriental Orthodox” – that is, the Monophysite heretics – were removed. Then in 1991 came the “patriarch’s” shameful speech to the Jewish rabbis of New York. Then, in 1992, in Constantinople, the MP, together with all the Local Orthodox Churches, officially renounced missionary work among the Western heretics. Then, in 1994, came the Balamand agreement, whereby the Orthodox and the Catholics recognised each other to be the “two lungs” of the single Body of Christ. Ecumenism has also continued with the Protestants, with the Muslims, and even with the Buddhists…
However, let us remind ourselves once again, that however terrible the ecumenist excesses of the MP, its root sin, the sin which tore it away from unity with the True Church, was sergianism. And in this connection we must examine the claims made by certain pro-patriarchal members of the ROCA that the MP, in its Sobor in August, 2000, somehow repented of sergianism through its acceptance of the document entitled “The bases of the social doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church”.
Attention has been drawn in particular to the following passages in the document: «The Christian must openly speak out in a lawful manner against an undoubted violation, by society or the state, of the decrees and commandments of God, ànd if this lawful speaking out is impossible or illegal or ineffective, take up the position of civil disobedience». And again: «The Church must point to the inadmissibility of spreading convictions or actions that lead to the establishment of complete control over the life of a person, his convictions and relationships with other people».
Fine words! But has the MP ever in her existence carried them out? And if not, do not such statements merely deepen her guilt and hypocrisy? Moreover, while the statements may be correct, there is not a hint of repentance for the sergianism of the past. On the contrary, the same Council canonised several sergianist pseudo-martyrs, together with some true martyrs of the Catacomb Church, thereby expressing her incapacity to discern between good and evil, truth and heresy, martyrs and apostates. Even Sergius himself has been proposed for canonisation. Thus in 1993, on the eightieth anniversary of the “restoration” of the Patriarchate, when the “patriarch” said: “Through the host of martyrs of the Church of Russia bore witness to her faith and sowed the seed of her future rebirth. Among the confessors of Christ we can in full measure name… his Holiness Patriarch Sergius.”
My conclusion, therefore, is that the MP fell away from the True Church of Christ and lost the grace of sacraments in the period 1938-45, when its root heresy of sergianism reached its mature and fixed form.
One or two qualifications should be made this conclusion. First, although, as I have stated, I believe that we have the full canonical right to declare the MP graceless since 1945, this does not mean that God in His mercy may not have preserved some “islands of Orthodoxy” in the prevailing sea of apostasy for some time after that. However, if there were such islands, they are known to God alone; and the Church on earth, in the absence of a Divine revelation, must draw the conclusion which follows inexorably from the holy canons. God, as the Supreme Lawgiver, can make exceptions to His own laws. But we, as fully subject to His Law, cannot presume to know what those exceptions, if they exist, are. We will not be condemned for following the Law of God: we may well be condemned for having the pride to think that we know better than the Law.
Secondly, the judgement that the MP has been graceless for this last half-century is not the same as the judgement that everyone who died in the MP in that period is lost for eternity. Certainly, we cannot be confident of the salvation of someone who has died outside the True Church. But neither can we categorically deny the possibility, but must content ourselves with the words of the Apostle Peter: “It is time for the judgement to begin from the house of God; but if first from us, what shall be the end of those who disobey the Gospel of God. And if the righteous one scarcely is saved, where shall the ungodly one and sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4.17-18). As Hieromartyr Cyril of Kazan wrote: “We cannot know whether those believers who remain in Sergianism will be saved, because the work of eternal Salvation is a work of the mercy and grace of God. But for those who see and feel the unrighteousness of Sergianism (those are your questions) it would be unforgiveable craftiness to close one’s eyes to this unrighteousness and seek there for the satisfaction of one’s spiritual needs when one’s conscience doubts in the possibility of receiving such satisfaction. Everything which is not of faith is sin…”
Let us now turn to the question of how people coming to our Church from the MP should be received. The normal way of accepting heretics and schismatics into the Church is by baptism (if they have not received even the correct external form of baptism) or chrismation (if they have received the correct external form of baptism). The Third Rite, reception by repentance only, is also sometimes used.
Up to now, if I am not mistaken, our Church has followed the practice of the ROCA in receiving people in most cases by the Third Rite. This has facilitated the reception of larger numbers of people into our Church. However, it has some serious disadvantages, which I should like to outline now, basing my observations mainly on my experience in the ROCA:-
First, many of those received into the Church from the MP do not fully realise that they are coming from darkness into light, from heresy into truth, from the world that lies under the condemnation of God into the Church that is the only Ark of salvation. They think they are coming from a “worse” Church into a “better” Church, no more. Some of them later come to realise the real nature of what they have been rescued from; others never come to realise this, but instead become propagandists for the view that the MP is “the Mother Church”, that it has grace, that we should return to it, etc. In my view, one of the major reasons for this is the relative ease with which they can enter the True Church. In the ROCA the almost universal application of the Third Rite, and the reception of clergy with the minimum of formality and examination, has led over the years to a dilution of its witness and nothing less than the corruption of its confession of faith. A somewhat stricter approach, with the use of the Second Rite as the norm rather than the exception, would help to correct such a tendency from developing in our Church.
Secondly, in other True Orthodox Churches, a stricter practice has prevailed in the reception of heretics for a long time now. Thus the Romanian Old Calendarists – by far the largest jurisdiction of the True Orthodox in the world – and all the major branches of the Greek Old Calendarist Church except the Cyprianites receive new calendarists by chrismation. Or, if they have not received a proper immersion baptism in the new calendarist church, by baptism. Now it may be argued that the Russian Church is not obliged to follow the practice of the Greek and Romanian Churches, and that is true. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that uniformity of practice among the True Orthodox would greatly strengthen our witness to the world. As it is, the Greek Old Calendarists often do not fully trust us because we receive people from the MP in a way which they think is illegitimate. “Why do you not receive them by chrismation?” they ask. “Does this not mean that you accept the heretics as Orthodox?”
Thirdly, many people have not received even the correct external form of baptism in the MP. Such people, if they have been received into the True Church by the Second or Third Rite, often begin to have doubts about the validity of their reception, or simply long for a proper baptism. The former head of the Seraphimo-Gennadiite branch of the Catacomb Church, Metropolitan Epiphany (Kaminsky), regularly baptised converts from the MP who had not received an immersion baptism in the MP. In this he claimed that he was following the practice of his spiritual father, the great confessor Archbishop Anthony Galynsky-Mikhailovsky. Again, St. Philaret of New York regularly blessed baptisms of people who had already been received into the ROCA, but then asked for baptism because they had never received an immersion baptism. Again, four members of our own parish, including myself, were received into the MP by the Second Rite. We were then received into the ROCA by the Third Rite. However, when we petitioned to be baptised, since we had never had an Orthodox baptism, Archbishop Nikodim of Great Britain agreed – as did St. Philaret.
To summarise: I believe that all those who entered the MP since 1945 and now seek to be joined to our Church should be treated as entering the True Church for the first time, and therefore should either be baptised (if they have not received even the correct form of threefold immersion in the MP) or chrismated (if they have received immersion baptism). Of course, such a practice should in no way be seen as casting doubt on the validity of those many people who have already been received into our Church by the Third Rite. Nor does it impair the right of bishops to use economy (i.e. the Third Rite) in individual cases if they think fit. But in my opinion these cases of economy should become the exception rather than the rule. For it is right and proper that, as the apostates body of the MP falls ever further away from True Orthodoxy, the practice of the True Church should become stricter in order to reflect this fact, in order to raise the ecclesiological consciousness of her members, and in order to prevent the infiltration of spies and covert heretics into our midst.
September 9/22, 2001.
9. EMPIRE OR ANTICHRIST?
1. The Soviet Antichrist
According to the Holy Fathers, the Orthodox Christian Empire is a weapon of God defending the people of God from the Antichrist. The fall of the Christian Empire inevitably leads to the appearance of the anti-empire of the Antichrist. And so the fall of the Russian Empire and the enthronement of Soviet power in 1917 was seen by the believing Russian people as the beginning of the end of history, the enthronement of precisely – the Antichrist.
However, the renovationists and sergianists had a different point of view. The renovationists welcomed Soviet power as rescuing them from the “curse” of Tsarism and enthusiastically offered their services to it in building the “brave new world” of the socialist paradise. Consequently, they quickly fell away from the paradise of the Church and under the Church’s anathema of January, 1918 condemning all those who cooperated with Soviet power.
The sergianists did not so enthusiastically welcome Soviet power. However, they did not refuse to cooperate with it, and emphatically refused to see it as the Antichrist. This is clear from the famous interview between Metropolitan Sergius and the delegation from Petrograd led by Hieromartyr Demetrius, Archbishop of Gdov in December, 1927:
Àrchbishop Demetrius. Soviet power is in its basis antichristian. Is it then possible for the Orthodox Church to be in union with an antichristian state power, and pray for its successes and participate in its joys?
Ìetropolitan Sergius. But where do you see the Antichrist here?
Many of the more “moderate” sergianists agreed that Soviet power was an evil regime, but they refused to see in this evil anything deeper or different in principle from the evil of so many other tyrannical regimes in history. According to them, Soviet power was established by God, for “all power is from God” (Rom. 13.1); it was Caesar, and the Lord said: “give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”. And so the suffering that came from it was to be endured patiently as a purification from sin.
There was an element of truth in this attitude which obscured a very dangerous lie. The truth consisted in the recognition that we are sinners, so that the suffering that comes to us in the course of our lives, whatever its source from a human point of view, is ultimately sent to us from God, in order that by enduring it patiently we may receive the forgiveness of our sins. Consequently, we cannot deny deny that Soviet power was a kind of punishment from God on the sinning Russian people.
But to believe that the suffering caused by Soviet power was a punishment from God is not the same as to believe that Soviet power was established by God and hence to be obeyed as “the servant of God” (Rom. 13.3). On the contrary: Soviet power was established by the devil (albeit with God’s permission), and it was not to be obeyed, because it was the servant of the devil. There is a fundamental difference between living under a regime which is evil, but which has a certain, albeit low-level legitimacy and can be said to have been established by God, and living under a regime which is the (collective) Antichrist, having no legitimacy at all because it has been established by the devil. In the former case, it is possible, though difficult, to live a Christian life while remaining loyal to the regime: in the latter case, it is simply not possible. To survive as a true Christian under the regime of the Antichrist it is necessary to reject the Antichrist precisely as the Antichrist, and, in the words of Patriarch Tikhon’s famous anathema, “not to enter into any kind of communion with these outcasts of the human race”.
This difference can be better understood by comparing Soviet power with the regime of the Ottoman Turks. In 1453 the Turks came to wield power over the Christians through the destruction of the New Rome of the Byzantine Empire. As such, there was a certain logic in considering their state to be the Antichrist. However, the Orthodox Empire did not die: it was translated north to Russia, the Third Rome. Moreover, the Turks, while “antichrists” in the sense that they denied the Divinity of the Son of God, did not try and impose this antichristian faith on their Christian subjects. Even when they interfered in the elections of the Ecumenical Patriarchs, they demanded only money, not the confession of heresy. Therefore it was possible to live a fully Christian life while remaining a loyal subject of the Sultan.
However, it was a very different story in 1917. The fall of the Third Rome was not mitigated by the translation of the Empire to a fourth kingdom, and the last remnants of Orthodox monarchical statehood, in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, were overwhelmed by the Red Army. From the very beginning war was declared on Orthodox Christianity, and the whole military, political, economic, juridical and cultural apparatus of the new state was directed at forcing the Christians to accept the new faith of communism. From the time of Sergius’ declaration in 1927 nobody was allowed to exert authority in the Church unless he confessed that he identified his joys with the regime’s joys and his sorrows with the regime’s sorrows, which presupposed acceptance, not only of the Soviet state, but also the aims of the Soviet state.
The Bolsheviks, while paying lip-service to the separation of Church and State, in fact sought to abolish the line between them. For them, everything was ideological, everything had to be in accordance with their anti-theist religion, there could be no room for disagreement, no private spheres into which the state and its ideology did not pry. Most of the Roman emperors allowed the Christians to order their own lives in their own way so long as they showed loyalty to the state (which the Christians were very eager to do). However, the Bolsheviks insisted in imposing their own ways upon the Christians in every sphere.
Thus in family life they imposed civil marriage only, divorce on demand, children spying on parents; in education - compulsory Marxism; in economics – dekulakization and collectivisation; in military service - the oath of allegiance to Lenin; in science – Darwinism and Lysenkoism; in art - socialist realism; and in religion - the ban on religious education, the closing of churches and requisitioning of valuables, the registration of parishes with the atheist authorities, the commemoration of the authorities at the Liturgy, and the reporting of confessions by the priests. Resistance to any one of these demands was counted as "anti-Soviet behaviour", i.e. political disloyalty. Therefore it was no use protesting one's political loyalty to the regime if one refused to accept just one of these demands. According to the Soviet interpretation of the word: "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one has become guilty of all of it" (James 2.10), such a person was an enemy of the people.
For the true Christian, therefore, there was no alternative except to reject the State that rejected him and everything that he valued. He was forced either to accept martyrdom or flee into the catacombs. The attempt to find a “third way” in practice always involved compromises unacceptable to the Christian conscience.
2. The Second World War
Principled rejection of a State logically leads either to war against that State or to passive disobedience. The Whites in the Civil War had fought against the Soviet State because of their principled rejection of it; and the Russian Church in Exile led by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev blessed their attempt. But the attempt failed, and after the consolidation of Soviet power in the 1920s rejection of the Soviet State expressed itself, not so much in the call to arms, as in passive disobedience and non-cooperation, or, as Hieromartyr Archbishop Barlaam of Perm put it, in spiritual as opposed to physical resistance.
In this connection the words of Hieromartyr Bishop Mark (Novoselov) at his interrogation are noteworthy: “... I was not a friend of Soviet power because of my religious convictions. Insofar as Soviet power is an atheist power and even anti-theist, I consider that as a true Christian I cannot strengthen this power by any means... To it there applies a prayer which the Church has commanded us to use every day in certain conditions… The purpose of this formula is to ask God to overthrow an infidel power... But this formula does not call believers to active measures, but to pray for the overthrow of the apostate power... Churchmen are being repressed not because of their political counter-revolutionary activity, but as bearers of the wrong ideology... The only way out for the Chruch in this conditions is passive resistance and martyrdom, but in no way active resistance to Soviet power”.
This criterion allowed Christians quite sincerely to reject the charge of "counter-revolution" - if "counter-revolution" were understood to mean physical rebellion. The problem was, as we have seen, that the Bolsheviks understood "counter-revolution" in a much wider sense…
In 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and once again the prospect of the overthrow of the power that had fallen away from God beckoned. Millions of people in the western borderlands welcomed the invaders; and there can be little doubt that from a purely religious point of view the new authority was more attractive than the Soviets. For it not only offered freedom of religion to all, including the True Orthodox Christians: it also promised the final overthrow of the hated Soviet power.
In the East, where Soviet power still ruled, the situation was more complicated. Refusal to fight “for the achievements of October” meant certain death. Some were prepared to pay that price, and they are counted among the martyrs of the Church. The great majority, however, were prepared to fight, with a greater or lesser degree of enthusiasm, for Stalin and Soviet power. They justified this decision, in most cases, on the grounds of patriotism. Soviet power, however evil, was still “Russian”, still “ours”. And the enemy, as became clearer with the passing of time, was cruel and anti-Russian.
The theme of patriotism was emphasised both by the State and by the State Church of the Soviet Union, the Moscow Patriarchate. The State began to tone down its earlier rabidly anti-Russian and cosmopolitan propaganda. It was again permitted publicly to mention certain names of Russian cultural figures and even figures of religious-political history, such as Pushkin, Suvorov and St. Alexander Nevsky. In 1943 the Church, with its strong associations with Russian history and national feeling, was given a limited legitimacy in exchange for unqualified support for the State in its external and internal struggles. Metropolitan (later “Patriarch”) Sergius seized upon this opportunity with enthusiasm. He issued several patriotic broadcasts on Soviet radio. And he announced a collection for the creation of a special tank column in the name of Demetrius Donskoj.
Later propagandists – even Orthodox propagandists - built on this foundation to weave a fantastic myth about the “Great Patriotic War”. It became a glorious war waged, not only for Russia, but also for Orthodoxy, a holy war that witnessed the resurrection of Holy Russia. The heroic exploit of the Russian people in this war, according to some, even wiped out the sin of its earlier support of the revolution! Stalin himself was no longer the greatest persecutor of the Church in history, but some kind of saviour, a new Constantine the Great!
The falseness of this myth is easily exposed. For the first two years of the war, before Hitler’s invasion of Russia in 1941, the Soviet Union was actually fighting on Hitler’s side, sharing in the division of Poland and the Baltic States. And if Hitler had not chosen to turn against his ally, there can be little doubt that Stalin would have continued to support him.
The State’s exploitation of Russian national feeling was cynical in the extreme. Its continued hatred for everything truly Russian and holy was evident both during the war and immediately after it: in the killing of all prisoners in Soviet jails as the front approached, in the continued persecution of True Orthodox Christians both at home and abroad, in the imprisonment of millions of soldiers who had been prisoners-of-war under the Germans on their return home, in the imposition of communist regimes and pro-communist churches on the East European countries of Romania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Only extreme naivety – or a willing refusal to see the truth – could see in the imposition of militant atheism with renewed strength over a quarter of the world’s surface from Berlin to Beijing as in any sense a triumph of Orthodoxy. Rather it was the fulfilment of the prophecy: "I looked and behold, a pale horse, and a rider on it whose name was death; and hell followed after it, and power was given to it over a quarter of the earth – to kill with sword and hunger, with plague and with beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6.8).
Of course, even in what seem to be the greatest triumphs of Satan the providential hand of God is to be seen; for “we know that all things work for the good for those who love God” (Rom. 8.28). And there can be no doubt that the Soviet triumph had its good effects: most obviously in the destruction of Fascism and in the punishment of the Soviet regime for its unprecedented crimes of the previous decades, less obviously but even more importantly in the protection it afforded Soviet citizens for the next 45 years or so from some of the corrupting influences of western civilisation. But the recognition that God can bring good out of evil, even the greatest evil, should not lead us to praise the evil as if it were good. Thus God used the betrayal of Judas to work the salvation of the world on the Cross of Christ. But, as St. John Chrysostom explained in his homily on this event, this in no way justified Judas or saved him from eternal condemnation.
A particularly cynical attempt to justify the evil of the Soviet victory in the Second World War can be seen in the recent article entitled “Two Victories” by Egor Kholmogorov, in which the antichristian empire of the Soviet Union is raised to quasi-Christian status.
The aim of Kholmogorov’s article is to contrast the celebration of the victory over Nazism in 1945 in the West and in Russia. “For the West,” he writes, “it was a civil war, already not the first battle in the history of western civilization between two forces presenting their expression of the western expansionist spirit. The European democracies under the patronage of the American super-democracy tried to force Nazism, the offspring of the same western civilized subconscious, back like a genie into its bottle. The basis of the western world-view is ‘the survival of the fittest races in the struggle for existence’, as Darwin, the spiritual father of western civilization, called his treatise. The market democracies prefer ‘social’ mechanisms of competitive struggle, Nazism decided to stake all on arms. It was a difference in tactics, but both tactics had been described by Machiavelli as the behaviour of the ‘lion’ and the ‘fox’: that is why May 8 is celebrated in most European capitals bashfully; they honour it somehow unwillingly."
On the other hand: "For Russia this ‘feast with tears in the eyes’ is above all a festival of life that had been all but completely stamped out by Hitler’s jackbook on the whole expanse of Russia, and a festival of Russian destiny, from which there we can in no way escape. Confined in the chains of the ideology of ‘world revolution’ the Russian knight, so it would seem, would never have to act in accordance with his nature. But Hitler’s sword without wishing it itself destroyed these chains to its own destruction – the Russian soldier stood out in his customary imperial role of saviour of the peoples from enraged bandits. It is not by chance that during the war the Red army both psychologically and in fact was to a large extent turned into an imperial army, with lofty self-consciousness, with an officer corps knowing the value of honour and duty, with marshal-strategists of genius. Whether Stalin wanted it or not, under his leadership Russia did not allow the West to give birth to that spectre with which it had been pregnant already for more than a thousand years, since the time of Charlemagne – the Western Empire, the Anti-empire. In the 9th century, on the initiative of the Frankish emperors, Roman Catholicism broke away from Orthodoxy for the first time in order to sanctify a usurpation – the assumption by one of the German kings of the title of Roman Emperor and universal autocrat. It took several centuries to form a schism of faiths, of civilizations and of empires: more precisely, a schism from the Empire, for however hard the West tried, it did not succeed in creating a real Empire, they just couldn’t pull off the theft. And then again, twice in the 20th century, in two world wars, Russia, the heir of Rome and Byzantium, had to crush new pretenders to the creation of an anti-Roman Empire – first Kaiser Wilhelm, and then the “Third Reich” of the Nazi Führer. But since the Empire is one, and since the West just could not create anything more closely resembling the ideal than the unrestrainedly self-satisfied cowboy America, there is a hope that the Russian Idea will not remain simply a Russian idea, but a hope that it will also become English, and Spanish, and Syrian, and Mozambiquean or Chilean."
Nobody denies that the Second World War was in a certain sense a war between two opposing tendencies inherent in the post-Orthodox civilization of the West: universalism and nationalism. No Orthodox Christian will quarrel with the thesis that insofar as the democratic states were fighting, not for Orthodoxy, their struggle did not have tht sacred character which the wars of the Orthodox emperors had against their enemies, the pagans and heretics. But was not the Soviet Union also a product of western (and Jewish) civilization? Were its doctrines not worked out in the reading room of the British museum with the use of western sources and on the basis of almost exclusively western experience? Truly, the Second World War was a civil war, but between three tendencies in western civilization, not two. And each of these three tendencies was rooted in the enlightenment and anti-enlightenment ideologies of the 18th and early 19th centuries: totalitarian nationalism (or fascism), liberal universalism (or democracy), and totalitarian universalism (or communism).
True Orthodoxy played no role in this war, and the true Orthodox Christian cannot rejoice in the spread of false “Orthodoxy” by means of Soviet tanks throughout Eastern Europe, nor at the further spread of militant atheism throughout the whole expanse of Eurasia from Berlin to Peking. Many Orthodox belonging to the Catacomb Church refused to fight on the side of one demon against another, on the side of Babylon against Egypt or of Egypt against Babylon, rejecting citizenship in any earthly state and preferring to fight only for “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6.6), the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. For they knew that Russia without her head, the God-anointed Tsar, would not be Russia, but, as St. John of Kronstadt said, “a stinking corpse”, and they were not so naïve as to believe, with the Moscow Patriarchate, that Stalin was “the new Constantine”.
Khomogorov’s thesis is analogous to that of the Cretan historian, George Trapezuntios, who in 1466 told the Ottoman Sultan and conqueror of Constantinople, Mehmet II: “No one doubts that you are the Emperor of the Romans. Whoever is legally master of the capital of the Empire is the Emperor and Constantinople is the capital of the Roman Empire… And he who is and remains Emperor of the Romans is also Emperor of the whole earth.” However, just as Greek Orthodoxy has rejected this thesis with horror, so, and with still stronger reason, does Russian Orthodoxy reject the idea that the Soviet Union was in any way and at any time a lawful successor of the Russian Empire.
Khomogorov’s thesis is thoroughly sergianist and blasphemous. Are we to suppose that God needed the devil in order to realise His Providence! As if the most impious regime in human history – and the only one anathematized by the Orthodox Church – could lead to the Triumph of Orthodoxy! Of course, as we have already noted, Divine Providence can turn evil to good, as he turned the betrayal of Judas to the salvation of mankind. But the good here does not arise “thanks to” the evil, but in spite of it, and we are in no way permitted to thank or praise the evil because God used it for the good. And so just as we cannot rejoice at the betrayal of Judas, still less thank him for his unintended services to mankind, similarly we cannot rejoice at the victory of the Soviet Union in the Second World War (which was the “Great Patriotic” war only for those whose homeland was not Holy Russia), still less give thanks to that state which the Church of God has cursed and anathematized as being an anti-authority and anti-empire.
St. John Chrysostom used to say: “Glory to God for all things”. Therefore it is not only possible, but even essential, to thank God both for those temporal goods that the Soviet victory provided – for the saving of some people from death, for the preservation of the Russian language and to some degree Russian culture, - and for those longer-term benefits which are not so immediately obvious but which will become clearer as the mystery of Divine Providence reveals itself. But only God must be thanked, and only in giving thanks to God is there virtue and blessedness. This blessedness is immediately lost, however, when gratitude is offered to the Party and Stalin or the USSR. It is lost even if it is offered to “the Russian Liberator-People”.
Does it follow from this that it was possible to fight in the Red Army with a good conscience, without betraying Christ and His Holy Church? The answer to this question depends on the answer to the further question: is it possible to confess one’s faith in Christ while fighting for the Antichrist? It should be pointed out here it is not only the individual soldier’s private motivation which is relevant here, but also his public allegiance. In his heart the individual may believe that he is fighting, not for communism, but for Russia, or for his loved ones who are in danger of physical extermination. But to what extent can this private motivation justify him if in his public behaviour he gives every impression of fighting for Stalin and the Communist Party?
We shall not attempt to answer this question in a general sense, but shall confine ourselves to recalling the words Hieromartyr Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, in 1918: “I adjure all you, faithful children of the Orthodox Church of Christ, not to enter into any kind of communion with these outcasts of the human race”, and of Hieromartyr Bishop Mark (Novoselov): “By virtue of my religious convictions, insofar as Soviet power is an atheist, and even an antitheist power, I consider that as a true Christian I cannot strengthen it in any way”...
Before leaving this theme, it is worth noting that even non-Russians and non-Orthodox Christians understood the evil of fighting on the side of the Soviet Antichrist. An Anglican priest (now an Orthodox Christian) was on a British cruiser on the Mediterranean Sea when the news came that Britain had acquired a new ally in her struggle with Nazi Germany - the Soviet Union. There was a short pause while the priest digested this news. Then he turned to his friend and said: “Until now, I thought we were fighting for God, King and Country. Now I know that we are fighting for King and Country…”
3. Repentance and the Triumph of Orthodoxy
It is an axiom of Orthodox spirituality that the only path from evil to good is through repentance. Works without repentance cannot save; faith without repentance cannot save. For repentance is the first fruit of faith, the first work of the truly Christian conscience. This truth is more or less understood in relation to the individual Christian. But in relation to Christian or formerly Christian societies it is often forgotten. Few Orthodox Christians would argue that the fall of the Orthodox Empire in 1917 and its replacement by the anti-empire of the Soviets was not a terrible tragedy, a terrible sin on the collective conscience of the people. And yet many would argue that this sin can be – or already has been – washed away, not by repentance, but by patriotism, or by suffering, or simply by the passage of time. But time destroys only material, not spiritual realities; and patriotism that is not informed by, and subject to, the higher Patriotism of the Heavenly Kingdom is simply another form of fallenness. As for suffering, if accompanied by faith and repentance, as in the case of the wise thief, this does indeed wipe out sin. But if accompanied only by cursing and swearing, as in the case of the bad thief, it only leads further into hell.
The sin that has to be repented of here is the sin of actively supporting, or passively tolerating, the imposition of a power established by Satan in place of a power established by God. Today, more than 80 years since the tragedy, the Russian people as a whole – with the important and significant exception of the Catacomb, or True Orthodox Church - has not repented of this sin. Neither the persecutions of the 20s and 30s, nor the hot wars of the 40s, nor the cold war of the 50s to 80s, nor even the relative freedom of the 90s, has brought the people to a consciousness of what they have done. That is why its sufferings continue with no clear sign of relief on the horizon. For “If My people had heard Me, if Israel had walked in My ways, quickly would I have humbled their enemies, and upon their oppressors would I have laid My hand” (Psalm 80.12-13). Hence the words of the All-Russian Sobor on November 11, 1917 are as applicable now as they were then: “To our great misfortune, there has not so far been born a power that is truly of the people, and worthy of receiving the blessing of the Orthodox Church. And it will not appear in the Russian land until with sorrowful prayer and tears of repentance we turn to Him without Whom those who build the city labour in vain.”
Regeneration is still possible, the rebirth of the Orthodox Empire is still possible. But only if the lessons of the past 80 years are learned, and the mirage of an “Orthodox Empire” that is based, not on true faith and repentance, but on pride and self-deception, is rejected finally and completely. Concerning such pseudo-empires and anti-empires we must pray to the Lord with fervour: “Let not the throne of iniquity have fellowship with Thee, which maketh mischief in the name of the law” (Psalm 93.20).
In August, 2000 the MP held a Hierarchical Council which seemed to be at least partly aimed at removing some of the last obstacles towards the ROCA’s unification with it. These obstacles, as formulated by the ROCA during the previous ten years, were: 1. Ecumenism, 2. Sergianism, and 3. The Glorification of the New Martyrs, especially the Royal New Martyrs.
1. Ecumenism. In the document on relations with the heterodox, few concessions were made on the issue of ecumenism, apart from the ritual declarations that “the Orthodox Church is the true Church of Christ, created by our Lord and Saviour Himself; it is the Church established by, and filled with, the Holy Spirit…” “The Church of Christ is one and unique…” “The so-called ‘branch theory’, which affirms the normality and even the providentiality of the existence of Christianity in the form of separate ‘branches’… is completely unacceptable.”
But, wrote Protopriest Michael Ardov (ROAC, Moscow), “the ‘patriarchal liberals’ will also not be upset, insofar as the heretics in the cited document are called ‘heterodox’, while the Monophysite communities are called the ‘Eastern Orthodox Churches’. And the ‘dialogues with the heterodox’ will be continued, and it is suggested that the World Council of Churches be not abandoned, but reformed…” Moreover, immediately after the Council, on August 18, “Patriarch” Alexis prayed together with the Armenian “Patriarch”.
Although there has been much talk about anti-ecumenism in the MP, as in the Serbian Church, it is significant that only one bishop, Barsonuphius of Vladivostok, voted against the document on relations with the heterodox (six Ukrainian bishops abstained).
2. Sergianism. In its council the MP approved a “social document” which, among other things, recognised that “the Church must refuse to obey the State” “if the authorities force the Orthodox believers to renounce Christ and His Church”. As we shall see, enormous significance was attached to this phrase by the ROCA Council. However, on the very same page we find: “But even the persecuted Church is called to bear the persecutions patiently, not refusing loyalty to the State that persecutes it”. If we relate this phrase to the immediately preceding Soviet phase of Russian Church history, then we come to the conclusion that for the MP it remains the case that loyalty to the Soviet State was right and the resistance to it shown by the Catacomb Church was wrong. So, contrary to first appearances, the MP remained mired in sergianism.
Moreover, sergianism as such was not mentioned, much less repented of. This is consistent with the fact that the MP has never in its entire history since 1943 shown anything other than a determination to serve whatever appears to be the strongest forces in the contemporary world. Until the fall of communism, that meant the Communist Party of the USSR. With the fall of communism, the MP was not at first sure whom she had to obey, but gradually assumed the character of a “populist” church, trying to satisfy the various factions within it (including nominally Orthodox political leaders) while preserving an appearance of unity. The consequent lack of a clear, single policy is especially evident in the decisions of the Jubilee council.
In this connection Protopriest Vladimir Savitsky, Hieromonk Valentine (Salomakh) and Deacon Nicholas Savchenko write: “The politics of ‘populism’ which the MP is conducting today is a new distortion of true Christianity. Today this politics (and the ideology standing behind it) is a continuation and development of ‘sergianism’, a metamorphosis of the very same disease. Today it seems to us that we have to speak about this at the top of our voices. Other problems, such as the heresy of ecumenism and ‘sergianism’ in the strict sense, while undoubtedly important, are of secondary importance by comparison with the main aim of the MP, which is to be an ‘all-people’ Church, In fact, in the ‘people’ (understood in a broad sense, including unbelievers and ‘eclectics’) there always have been those who are for ecumenism and those who are against. Therefore we see that the MP is ready at the same time to participate in the disgusting sin of ecumenism and to renounce it and even condemn it. It is exactly the same with ‘sergianism’ (understood as the dependence of the Church on the secular authorities). The MP will at the same time in words affirm its independence (insofar as there are those who are for this independence) and listen to every word of the authorities and go behind them (not only because that is convenient, but also because it thus accepted in the ‘people’, and the authorities are ‘elected by the people’). In a word, it is necessary to condemn the very practice and ideology of the transformation of the MP into a Church ‘of all the people’.”
This analysis has been confirmed by events since the former KGB chief Putin came to power in January, 2000. The MP has appeared to be reverting to its submissive role in relation to an ever more Soviet-looking government, not protesting against the restoration of the red flag to the armed forces and approving the retention of the music of the Soviet national anthem. This has also meant a reversion to the doctrine of sergianism. Thus on July 18, 2002, the Moscow Synod ratified a document entitled “The relationships between the Russian Orthodox Church and the authorities in the 20s and 30s”, which justified sergianism as follows: “The aim of normalising the relationship with the authorities cannot be interpreted as a betrayal of Church interests. It was adopted by the holy Patriarch Tikhon, and was also expressed in the so-called ‘Epistle of the Solovki Bishops’ in 1926, that is, one year before the publication of ‘The Epistle of the deputy patriarchal locum tenens and temporary patriarchal Synod’. The essence of the changes in the position of the hierarchy consisted in the fact that the Church, having refused to recognise the legitimacy of the new power established after the October revolution in 1917, as the power became stronger later, had to recognise it as a state power and establish bilateral relations with it. This position is not blameworthy; historically, the Church has more than once found herself in a situation in which it has had to cooperate with non-orthodox rulers (for instance, in the period of the Golden Horde or the Muslim Ottoman Empire).”
However, Soviet power was very different from the Golden Horde or the Ottoman empire, and “bilateral relations” with it, unlike with those powers, involved the betrayal of the Orthodox Faith and falling under the anathema of the Church. Moreover, if the Church at first refused to recognise Soviet power, but then (in 1927) began to recognise it, the question arises: which position was the correct one? There can be no question but that the position endorsed by the Russian Council of 1917-18 was the correct one, and that the sergianist Moscow Patriarchate, by renouncing that position, betrayed the truth – and continues to betray it to the present day.
3. The New Martyrs. After nearly a decade of temporising, the MP finally, under pressure from its flock, glorified the Royal New Martyrs, together with many other martyrs of the Soviet yoke. This was a compromise decision, reflecting the very different attitudes towards them in the patriarchate. The Royal Martyrs were called “passion-bearers” rather than “martyrs”, and it was made clear that they were being glorified, not for the way in which they lived their lives, but for the meekness with which they faced their deaths. This allowed the anti-monarchists to feel that Nicholas was still the “bloody Nicholas” of Soviet mythology, and that it was “Citizen Romanov” rather than “Tsar Nicholas” who had been glorified - the ordinary layman stripped of his anointing rather than the Anointed of God fulfilling the fearsomely difficult and responsible role of “him who restrains” the coming of the Antichrist. Of course, even if the Tsar had committed the terrible sins he was accused of (nobody denies that he made certain political mistakes), this would in no way affect his status if he was truly, as all the Orthodox believe, martyred for the sake of the truth. After all, many of the martyrs lived sinful lives, and some even temporarily fell away from the truth. But their sins were wiped out in the blood of their martyrdom. However, this elementary dogma was ignored by the MP, which wished, even while glorifying the Tsar, in a subtle way to humiliate him at the same time.
As regards the other martyrs, the ROCA activist Sergei Kanaev writes: “In the report of the President of the Synodal Commission for the canonisation of the saints, Metropolitan Juvenaly (Poiarkov), the criterion of holiness adopted… for Orthodox Christians who had suffered during the savage persecutions was clearly and unambiguously declared to be submission ‘to the lawful leadership of the Church’, which was Metropolitan Sergius and his hierarchy. With such an approach, the holiness of the ‘sergianist martyrs’ was incontestable. The others were glorified or not glorified depending on the degree to which they ‘were in separation from the lawful leadership of the Church’. Concerning those who were not in agreement with the politics of Metropolitan Sergius, the following was said in the report: ‘In the actions of the “right” oppositionists, who are often called the “non-commemorators”, one cannot find evil-intentioned, exclusively personal motives. Their actions were conditioned by their understanding of what was care for the good of the Church’. In my view, this is nothing other than blasphemy against the New Martyrs and a straight apology for sergianism. With such an approach the conscious sergianist Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov), for example, becomes a ‘saint’, while his ideological opponent Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, who was canonized by our Church, is not glorified. For us another fact is also important, that Metropolitan Seraphim was appointed by Sergius (Stragorodsky) in the place of Metropolitan Joseph, who had been ‘banned’ by him.”
Other Catacomb martyrs were “glorified” by the patriarchate because their holiness was impossible to hide. Thus the relics of Archbishop Victor of Vyatka have recently been found to be incorrupt and reside in a patriarchal cathedral – in spite of the fact that he was the very first bishop officially to break with Sergius and called him and his church organization graceless! Again, the reputation of Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan was too great to be ignored, in spite of the fact that by the end of his life his position differed in no way from that of St. Victor or St. Joseph.
Some, seeing the glorification of the Catacomb martyrs by the successors of those who had persecuted them, remembered the words of the Lord: “Ye build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets’. Therefore ye bear witness against yourselves that ye are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up the measure of your fathers!” (Matt. 23.29-32). This blasphemous canonisation of both the true and the false martyrs, thereby subtly downgrading the exploit of the true martyrs without denying it completely, had been predicted by the ROCA priest Fr. Oleg Oreshkin: "I think that some of those glorified will be from the sergianists so as to deceive the believers. 'Look,' they will say, 'he is a saint, a martyr, in the Heavenly Kingdom, and he recognized the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, so you must be reconciled with it and its fruits.' This will be done not in order to glorify martyrdom for Christ's sake, but in order to confirm the sergianist politics."
The essential thing from the patriarchate’s point of view was that their own founder, Metropolitan Sergius, should be given equal status with the catacomb martyrs whom he persecuted. A significant step in this direction had been taken in 1993, when the patriarch said: “Through the host of martyrs the Church of Russia bore witness to her faith and sowed the seed of her future rebirth. Among the confessors of Christ we can in full measure name… his Holiness Patriarch Sergius.” By the time of the council in 2000, the patriarchate still did not feel able to canonise Sergius – probably because it fears that it would prevent a union with the ROCA. But neither did it canonise the leader of the Catacomb Church, Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd – which suggested that a canonisation of the two leaders was in the offing, but depended on the success of the negotiations between the MP and the ROCA.
The patriarch's lack of ecclesiastical principle and ecclesiological consistency in this question was pointed out by Fr. Peter Perekrestov: "In the introduction to one article ("In the Catacombs", Sovershenno Sekretno, No. 7, 1991) Patriarch Alexis wrote the following: 'I believe that our martyrs and righteous ones, regardless of whether they followed Metropolitan Sergius or did not agree with his position, pray together for us.' At the same time, in the weekly, Nedelya, No. 2, 1/92, the same Patriarch Alexis states that the Russian Church Abroad is a schismatic church, and adds: 'Equally uncanonical is the so-called "Catacomb" Church.' In other words, he recognizes the martyrs of the Catacomb Church, many of whom were betrayed to the godless authorities by Metropolitan Sergius's church organization…, and at the same time declares that these martyrs are schismatic and uncanonical!"
For in the last resort, as Fr. Peter points out, for the Moscow Patriarchate this whole matter is not one of truth or falsehood, sanctity or impiety, but of power: "It is not important to them whether a priest is involved in shady business dealings or purely church activities; whether he is a democrat or a monarchist; whether an ecumenist or a zealot; whether he wants to serve Vigil for six hours or one; whether the priest serves a panikhida for the victims who defended the White House or a moleben for those who sided with Yeltsin; whether the priest wants to baptize by immersion or by sprinkling; whether he serves in the catacombs or openly; whether he venerates the Royal Martyrs or not; whether he serves according to the New or Orthodox Calendar - it really doesn't matter. The main thing is to commemorate Patriarch Alexis. Let the Church Abroad have its autonomy, let it even speak out, express itself as in the past, but only under one condition: commemorate Patriarch Alexis. This is a form of Papism - let the priests be married, let them serve according to the Eastern rite - it makes no difference, what is important is that they commemorate the Pope of Rome."
The documents of the Jubilee council were well summarised by the ROCA clergy of Kursk as follows: “Everywhere there is the same well-known style: pleasing the ‘right’ and the ‘left’, the Orthodox and the ecumenists, ‘yours’ and ‘ours’, without the slightest attempt at definiteness, but with, on the other hand, a careful preservation of the whole weight of the sins of the past and of the present”.
Two months later, in October, 2000, the Hierarchical Council of the ROCA took place in New York. In almost all its acts it represented a reaction to, and to a very large extent an approval of, the acts of the Moscow council. Its most important acts were three conciliar epistles addressed: the first to the Serbian Patriarch Paul, the second “To the Beloved Children of the Church in the Homeland and in the Diaspora” and the third “To the Supporters of the Old Rites”.
The first of these epistles, dated October 13/26, contained the amazing statement that the ROCA and the Serbs were “brothers by blood and by faith” and that “we have always valued the eucharistic communion between our sister-Churches and the desire to preserve the consolation of this communion to the end of time”. And towards the end of the Epistle we read: “We beseech your Holiness not to estrange us from liturgical communion with you”.
It should be remembered that this was written only two years after the ROCA had officially reissued its anathema on ecumenism and the ecumenists, and only a few months after the Serbian Patriarch himself had said that there was no communion between his Church and the ROCA, calling the ROCA a “church” only in inverted commas! Moreover, as recently as September, 2000, the official publication of the Serbian Church, Pravoslav’e, had reported that, at the invitation of the patriarchate there had arrived in Belgrade a Catholic delegation, which had made a joint declaration witnessing to the fact that Serbian hierarchs had been praying together with the Catholics for the last three weeks! So, having justly anathematised the Serbs as heretics, and having witnessed the continuation of their heretical activity, the ROCA was now begging to be brought back into communion with the heretics!
Why? The reason became clear later in the Epistle: “A miracle has taken place, the prayers of the host of Russian New Martyrs has been heard: the atheist power that threatened the whole world has unexpectedly, before our eyes, fallen! Now we observe with joy and hope how the process of spiritual regeneration foretold by our saints has begun, and in parallel with it the gradual return to health of the Church administration in Russia. This process is difficult and is not being carried forward without opposition. Nevertheless, a radiant indicator of it is the recent glorification of the New Martyrs of Russia headed by the slaughtered Royal Family and the condemnation of the politics of cooperation with the godless authorities which took place at the last Council of the Russian Church in Moscow.
“There still remain other serious wounds in the leadership of the Russian Church which hinder our spiritual rapprochement. Nevertheless, we pray God that He may heal them, too, by the all-powerful grace of the Holy Spirit. Then there must take place the longed-for rapprochement and, God willing, the spiritual union between the two torn-apart parts of the Russian Church – that which is in the Homeland, and that which has gone abroad. We pray your Holiness to grant your assistance in this.”
So the ROCA bishops – this letter was signed by all of them without exception - were asking a heretic anathematised for ecumenist to help them to enter into communion with other anathematised ecumenists – their old enemies in Moscow, whom they now characterised in glowing and completely false terms as if they had already returned to Orthodoxy! Why, then, should the ROCA bishops continue to speak of ecumenism as an obstacle to union with the MP? As the Kursk clergy pointed out: “It is not clear how long, in view of the declared unity with the Serbian patriarchate, this last obstacle [ecumenism] to union with the MP will be seen as vital”.
The second of the epistles, dated October 14/27, made several very surprising statements. First, it again spoke of “the beginning of a real spiritual awakening” in Russia. Considering that less than 1% of the Russian population goes to the MP, then, even if the spiritual state of the MP were brilliant, this would hardly constitute “awakening” on any significant scale. However, as Dmitri Kapustin pointed out, the supposed signs of this awakening – the greater reading of spiritual books, the greater discussion of canonical and historical questions in the MP – are not good indicators of real spiritual progress: “It is evident that the reading of Church books can bring a person great benefit. However, a necessary condition for this is love for the truth. The Jews also saw Christ, and spoke with Him, but they did not want humbly to receive the true teaching, and not only were they not saved, but also took part in the persecutions and destroyed their own souls. It is the same with many parishioners of the MP. On reading books on the contemporary Church situation, many of them come to the conclusion that sergianism and ecumenism are soul-destroying. However, these doubts of theirs are often drowned out by the affirmations of their false teachers, who dare to place themselves above the patristic tradition. Satisfying themselves with a false understanding of love (substituting adultery with heretics and law-breakers for love for God, which requires chastity and keeping the truth) and obedience (substituting following the teaching of false elders for obedience to God and the humble acceptance of the patristic teaching, and not recognizing their personal responsibility for their own Church state), they often take part in the persecutions and slander against the True Orthodox. In a word, even such good works as the veneration of the Royal Martyrs are often expressed in a distorted form (by, for example, mixing it with Stalinism, as with the ‘fighter from within’ Dushenov)”. Kapustin then makes the important point that “an enormous number of people… have not come to Orthodoxy precisely because they have not seen true Christianity in the MP (alas, in the consciousness of many people in Russia the Orthodox Church is associated with the MP). In my opinion, the MP rather hinders than assists the spiritual awakening of the Russian people (if we can talk at all about any awakening in the present exceptionally wretched spiritual condition of Russia).”
Secondly, the ROCA’s epistle welcomed the MP’s glorification of the New Martyrs, since “the turning of the whole Russian people in prayer to all the holy New Martyrs of Russia and especially the Royal new martyrs… had become possible now thanks to the recognition of their holiness by the Hierarchical Council of the Moscow Patriarchate”. As if the Russian people had not already been praying to the Holy New Martyrs in front of icons made in the ROCA for the past twenty years! Moreover, as Protopriests Konstantin Fyodorov and Benjamin Zhukov wrote, “the possibility of turning in prayer to the Russian New Martyrs was opened to the people not by the Moscow Patriarchate (as is written in our Hierarchical Council’s Epistle), but by the martyric exploit of these saints themselves, who were glorified by our Church in 1981. The prayer of the Russian people to these saints never ceased from the very first day of their martyric exploit, but was strengthened and spread precisely by the canonization of the Church Abroad.”
Thirdly: “We are encouraged by the acceptance of the new social conception by this council, which in essence blots out the ‘Declaration’ of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927”. As if one vague phrase about the necessity of the Church disobeying the State in certain exceptional cases (which was contradicted on the same page, as we have seen) could blot out a Declaration which caused the greatest schism in Orthodox Church history in 900 years and incalculable sufferings and death – without even mentioning that Declaration or its author by name! In any case, as we have seen, the Moscow Synod in July, 2002 declared that Sergius’ relationship to the Soviet authorities was “not blameworthy”, so not only has the MP not repented for sergianism, but it has continued to justify it, contradicting the position of the Catacomb new martyrs whom it has just glorified and who gave their lives because of their opposition to sergianism.
The epistle – which was signed by all the bishops except Barnabas of Cannes - obliquely recognised this when it later declared: “We have not seen a just evaluation by the Moscow Patriarchate of the anti-ecclesiastical actions of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) and his Synod and their successors”. If so, then how can we talk about Sergius’ Declaration being blotted out?!
The third epistle, addressed to the Old Believers without distinguishing between those with “bishops” and “priests” (the Popovtsi) and those without (the Bespopovtsi), was similarly ecumenist in tone, beginning with the words: “To the Believing children of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Homeland and in the diaspora, who hold to the old rite, the Council of bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad sends greetings! Beloved brothers and sisters in our holy Orthodox faith: may the grace and peace of the Man-loving Saviour be with you to the ages!”
It was one thing to remove the bans on the old rites, as the ROCA had done in its Council in 1974: it was quite another to recognise the schismatics as Orthodox. And in such terms! For later in the epistle the ROCA compares the persecutions of the Old Believers to the persecutions of St. John Chrysostom, and begs forgiveness of the Old Believers as the Emperor Theodosius the Younger had begged it of the holy hierarch! But, as Bishop Gregory Grabbe pointed out after the 1974 Council, the sins of the Russian State in persecuting the Old Believers in the 17th century should not all be laid on the Church of the time, which primarily condemned the Old Believers not for their adherence to the Old Rites (which even Patriarch Nicon recognised to be salutary), but for their disobedience to the Church. To lay all the blame for the schism, not on the Old Believers but on the Orthodox, even after the Old Believers had proudly refused to take advantage of the many major concessions made by the Orthodox (for example, the edinoverie) while stubbornly continuing to call the Orthodox themselves schismatics, was to invert the truth and logically led to the conclusion that the Orthodox Church was not the True Church!
As clergy of the Kursk diocese pointed out: “The conciliar epistle to the Old Believers, in our opinion, is not only an extremely humiliating document for the Orthodox Church, but also contains signs of a heterodox ecclesiology. Effectively equating the Old Believers with the confessors of Orthodoxy, the Hierarchical Council, first, leaves them with their convictions, thereby blocking the path to repentance, and secondly, either teaches that outside the Orthodox Church there can exist true confession, or considers that the Church can be divided into parts which for centuries have not had any eucharistic communion between themselves. Both in form and in spirit the epistle in question represents a complete break with the patristic tradition of the Orthodox Church…. It seems that all that remains to be added is the request: ‘We humbly beseech you to receive us into your communion and be united to the Holy Church… Alas, [it] is composed in such a way that it is not actually clear who has really fallen into schism from the Church: we or our errant Old Believer brothers!”.
The October Council elicited a storm of protest from both inside and outside Russia. The feelings of the protestors were summed by Fr. Stefan Krasovitsky and Roman Vershillo, who said that a “revolution” had taken place, and that “if we are to express the meaning of the coup shortly, then there took place, first, a moral disarmament, and secondly, the self-abolition of the ROCA as a separate part of the Russian Local Church…”
January 30 / February 12, 2003.
11. THE TRAGEDY OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD
Save thyself, O Sion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
In 1990 communism began to collapse in Russia. The communist party gave up the monopoly position it had previously enjoyed in political life, and in March the party candidates in the main cities were routed in the first genuinely free elections in Soviet history. Still more important, a law on freedom of conscience was passed, and believers of all religions were allowed to confess their faith without hindrance.
It was as if the clock had been turned back to the period just before October, 1917, when a large measure of freedom existed under the Provisional Government. Of course, this was not the Holy Russia of the right-believing Tsars; and if the October revolution had been reversed to some degree, the same could not be said of the February revolution. But there were grounds for believing that the restoration of Holy Russia was not “beyond the mountains”.
In many respects, as we shall see, these were de jure rather than de facto changes; and it must be admitted that the spirit and power of communism was far from dead when the red flag was pulled down from over the Kremlin on December 25, 1991. Nevertheless, the changes were significant enough to indicate the beginning of a new era in Church history. If we seek for historical parallels, then perhaps the closest is that presented by the Edict of Milan in 313, when the Emperor St. Constantine the Great came to an agreement with the pagan emperor Licinius whereby the persecution of the Christians in the Roman empire was brought to an end.
Russian Orthodox Christians reacted to these changes in three different ways. The True Orthodox Christians of the Catacomb Church were cautious, fearing a deception, and in general remained in the underground, not seeking to register their communities or acquire above-ground churches in which to worship. The Moscow Patriarchate (MP) – or “Soviet church”, as it was known among True Orthodox Christians - was fearful that its monopoly position in church life under the Soviets would be lost in the new democracy. Nevertheless, it took the opportunity presented by the new legislation to open many churches (1830 were opened in the first nine months of 1990 alone) and to receive all the money budgeted for church restoration by the Russian parliament. The third force in Russian Orthodox life, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA), which throughout the Soviet period had taken a public position against the MP and in support of the True Orthodox Church, decided to open parishes on Russian soil and thereby provide an alternative for believers who on the one hand did not want to join the MP, but on the other hand were not prepared for the rigours of catacomb life.
In this article, the roots of the eventual failure of the ROAC’s mission will be examined, with suggestions as to how a similar failure can be avoided by her successor-church on Russian soil, the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church.
The return of the ROCA to Russia was undoubtedly one of the most significant and necessary events in Church history, comparable to the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after the seventy-year exile in Babylon. And yet this momentous step was taken almost casually, without sufficient forethought and without a clearly defined strategy. Hence difficult problems arose, problems that the ROCA in the end found insuperable.
These problems can be divided into three categories: (A) The ROCA in relation to her own flock at home and abroad, (B) the ROCA in relation to the Catacomb Church, and (C) the ROCA in relation to the MP and the post-Soviet Russian State.
A. The ROCA in relation to herself. The problem here is easily stated: how could the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad continue to call herself the Church Abroad if she now had parishes inside Russia? After all, her Founding Statute or Polozhenie stated that the ROCA was an autonomous part of the Autocephalous Russian Church, that part which existed (i) outside the bounds of Russia on the basis of Ukaz no. 362 of November 7/20, 1920 of Patriarch Tikhon and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, and (ii) temporarily until the fall of communism in Russia. With the fall of communism and the creation of ROCA parishes inside Russia in 1990, it would seem that these limitations in space and time no longer applied, and that the ROCA had ceased to exist as a canonical organisation in accordance with her own definition of herself in the Polozhenie.
The solution to this problem would appear to have been obvious: change the Polozhenie! And this was in fact the solution put forward by the ROCA’s leading canonist, Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), who possessed unparalleled experience of ROCA life since his appointment as Chancellor of the Synod by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev in 1931. However, the ROCA episcopate declined that suggestion, and the Polozhenie, astonishing as it may seem, remains unchanged to this day.
Why? Although we have no direct evidence on which to base an answer to this question, the following would appear to be a reasonable conclusion from the events as they unfolded in the early 1990s. A change in the Polozhenie that removed the spatial and temporal limitations of the ROCA’s self-definition would have had the consequence of forcing the ROCA episcopate to: (i) remove the centre of her Church administration from America to Russia, (ii) proclaim herself (alongside any Catacomb Church groups that she might recognise) as part of the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia and distinguished from the other parts only by its possessing dioceses and parishes abroad, and (iii) enter into a life-and-death struggle with the MP for the minds and hearts of the Russian people.
However, the ROCA bishops were not prepared to accept these consequences. After all, they were well-established abroad, increasingly dependent economically on contributions from foreign converts to Orthodoxy, and with few exceptions were not prepared to exchange the comforts and relative security of life in the West for the uncertainty and privations of life in Russia (to this day the ROCA’s first-hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly, has not set foot on Russian soil since the fall of communism, in spite of numerous invitations from believers). Of course, the whole raison d’etre of the ROCA was to return to her homeland in Russia (she was previously called the Russian Church in Exile, and exiles by definition want to return to their homeland); and it was in anticipation of such a return that she had steadfastly refused to endanger her Russian identity by merging with other Local Orthodox Churches or by forming local jurisdictions identified with specific western countries (like the formerly Russian schism from the ROCA calling itself the Orthodox Church of America). But generations had passed since the first emigration, the descendants of that first emigration had settled in western countries, learned their languages, adopted their ways, put down roots in foreign soil. The exiles were no longer exiles from, but strangers to, their native land…
Òhus saith the Lord of hosts: this people saith: the time hath not come, it is not time to build the house of the Lord. And the word of the Lord came through the Prophet Haggai: But is it time for you to live in your decorated house when this House is lying waste? ( Haggai 1.2-4)
B. The ROCA in relation to the Catacomb Church. Since 1927, when the ROCA had broken communion simultaneously with the Catacomb Church from Metropolitan Sergius’ MP, she had looked upon the Catacomb Church as the True Church inside Russia with which she remained in mystical communion of prayer and sacraments, even if such communion could not be realised in face-to-face meeting and concelebration. Indeed, after the death of Metropolitan Peter, the last universally recognised leader of the Russian Church, in 1937, the ROCA commemorated “the episcopate of the persecuted Russian Church”, by which was undoubtedly meant the episcopate of the Catacomb Church. After the war, however, a change began to creep in, at first almost imperceptibly, but then more and more noticeably. On the one hand, news of Catacomb bishops and communities became more and more scarce, and some even began to doubt that the Catacomb Church existed any longer (Archbishop Mark of Berlin declared in the 1990s, when catacombniks were pouring into the ROCA, that the Catacomb Church had died out in the 1950s!). On the other hand, some Catacomb priests inside Russia, having lost contact with, and knowledge of, any canonical bishops there might still be inside Russia, began commemorating Metropolitan Anastasy, first-hierarch of the ROCA.
These tendencies gave rise to the not unnatural perception that the leadership of True Russian Orthodoxy had now passed from inside Russia to outside Russia, to the ROCA. Moreover, the significance of the Catacomb Church began to be lost, as the struggle was increasingly seen to be between the “red church” inside Russia (the MP) and the “white church” outside Russia (the ROCA). This condescending attitude towards the Catacomb Church was reinforced by the negative attitude taken towards most of the Catacomb clergy still alive in 1990 by Bishop Lazarus of Tambov, the bishop secretly consecrated by the ROCA in 1982 as her representative in Russia. In particular, Bishop Lazarus rejected the canonicity of the groups of Catacomb clergy deriving their apostolic succession from Bishop Seraphim (Pozdeyev), Schema-Metropolitan Gennady (Sekach) and Archbishop Anthony (Galynsky-Mikhailovsky). Basing themselves on this information, on August 2/15, 1990 the ROCA Synod issued an ukaz, signed by Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan, rejecting the canonicity of these groups (although St. Philaret, had recognised the clergy of Archbishop Anthony in 1977 and taken several of them under his omophorion!), and declaring that they would have to seek reordination from Bishop Lazarus if they wished to be recognised by the ROCA.
In evaluating this statement, it should be pointed out that all the Catacomb groups here excommunicated at the stroke of a pen were venerators of the ROCA, even considering her to be in some sense their “Mother Church”. Of course, it was perfectly reasonable and correct that the ROCA should first seek to check their canonical status before entering into communion with them. However, even assuming that the main canonical charge brought against them was valid (that they did not have ordination certificates, in violation of Apostolic Canon 33), the way in which they were rejected without the slightest consultation or attempt to come to some kind of agreement was harmful in the extreme.
First, the possibility of correcting the canonical anomalies of these groups in a peaceful manner and with their complete cooperation was lost.
Secondly, the news that the ROCA had rejected them produced catastrophic effects in these Catacomb groups. Thus the present writer remembers coming to a catacomb gathering in Moscow on the eve of the Feast of the Dormition, 1990. The priest entered, and instead of vesting himself for the vigil service, took off his cross in the presence of all the people, declaring: “According to the ROCA I am not a priest.” Then he immediately went to Bishop Lazarus and was reordained. Meanwhile, his flock, abandoned by their shepherd and deprived of any pastoral guidance, scattered in different directions…
Thirdly, the impression was created that the ROCA had come into Russia, not in order to unite with the Catacomb Church and work with her for the triumph of True Orthodoxy in Russia, but in order to replace her, or at most to gather the remnants of the catacombs under her sole authority. And indeed, in one declaration explaining the reasons for the consecration of Bishop Lazarus, the ROCA stated that it was in order “to regulate the church life of the Catacomb Church”. Moreover, in the years to come the ROCA Synod did sometimes describe herself as the central authority of the True Russian Church – in spite of the fact that this “central authority” was based, not in Russia, but thousands of miles away in New York!
The ROCA later came to believe that she had made a mistake. Thus Archbishop Hilarion wrote to the present writer: “The statement which I signed as Deputy Secretary of the Synod was based entirely on the information given to us by Archbishop Lazarus. He reported to the Synod on the different groups of the Catacombs and convinced the members of the Synod (or the Council – I don’t recall offhand which) that their canonicity was questionable and in some instances – their purity of doctrine as well (e.g. imyabozhniki). The Synod members hoped (naively) that this would convince the catacomb groups to rethink their position and seek from the Russian Church Abroad correction of their orders to guarantee apostolic succession. We now see that it was a mistake to issue the statement and to have based our understanding of the catacomb situation wholly on the information provided by Vl. Lazarus. I personally regret this whole matter very much and seek to have a better understanding of and a sincere openness towards the long-suffering confessors of the Russian Catacombs.”
Such repentance was admirable, but unfortunately the fruits of it have yet to be seen. The ROCA continued to look on the humble catacombniks, serving, not in the splendid cathedrals of the emigration, but in poor, dingy flats, if not as contemptible, at any rate as unimportant. How could the Russian Church, so splendid in its pre-revolutionary glory, be resurrected on the basis of such poverty?
Who hath remained among you that has seen this House in its former glory, and how do you see it now? Is it not in your eyes as it were nothing? But take heart now… (Haggai 2.3-4)
C. The ROCA in relation to the MP. The Catacomb Church might have forgiven such arrogance if the ROCA had shown herself capable of fighting resolutely against the MP. But here the compromising tendencies developed abroad and noted above bore bitter fruit that was to lead to schism and the collapse of the ROCA’s mission inside Russia. For the ROCA bishops proved themselves incapable of making up their minds whether the MP was their bitterest enemy or their most beloved mother, whether it was necessary to fight her or help her! 
The roots of this indecisiveness go back to the post-war period, when large numbers of Christians fleeing towards Western Europe from Soviet Russia were joined to the ROCA. In receiving these Christians, little difference was made between those who had belonged to the Catacomb Church, and those who had belonged to the MP. Some, even including bishops, turned out to be KGB agents, and either returned to the MP or remained as “moles” to undermine the ROCA. Others, while sincerely anti-Soviet, were not sufficiently «îöåðêîâëåíû» to see the fundamental ecclesiological significance of the schism in the Russian Church. Thus a certain “dilution” in the quality of those joining the ROCA in the second emigration by comparison with the first – and the problem was to get worse with the third and fourth emigrations of the 70s, 80s and 90s – began to affect the confessing stance of the Church as a whole. Even members of the first emigration were proving susceptible to deception: over half of the Church in America and all except one diocese in China (that of Shanghai, led by St. John Maximovich) were lured back into the arms of the Soviet “Fatherland” and its Soviet “Church”.
Another reason for this diminution in zeal proceeded from the fact that the ROCA did not break communion with the Local Orthodox Churches of “World Orthodoxy” even after all of these (except Jerusalem) sent representatives to the local Councils of the MP in 1945 and 1948. The reasons for this depended on the Church in question. Thus communion continued with the Serbian Church because of the debt of gratitude owed to the hospitality shown by the Serbian Church to the ROCA in the inter-war years. Communion continued with the Jerusalem Patriarchate because all churches in the Holy Land, including the ROCA monasteries, were required, under threat of closure, to commemorate the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Communion also continued, albeit intermittently, with the Greek new calendarist churches, because the Patriarchate of Constantinople was powerful in the United States, the country to which the ROCA moved its headquarters after the war.
This ambiguous relationship towards “World Orthodoxy” in general inevitably began to affect the ROCA’s zeal in relation to the MP in particular. For if the MP was recognised by Serbia and Jerusalem, and Serbia and Jerusalem were recognised by the ROCA, the conclusion was drawn that the MP, while bad, was still a Church. And this attitude in turn affected the ROCA’s attitude towards the Catacomb Church, which was no longer seen by many, including several of the bishops, as the only true Church in Russia, but rather as a brave, but not entirely canonical organisation or collection of groupings which needed to be “rescued” by the ROCA before it descended into a form of sectarianism similar to that of the Old Believers.
As the ROCA began to lose confidence in herself and the Catacomb Church as the only bearers of true Russian Orthodoxy, the accent began to shift towards the preservation, not of Orthodoxy as such, but of Russianness. This was bound to fail as a weapon against the MP. For for a foreign Church, however Russian in spirit, to claim to be more Russian than the Russians inside Russia was bound to be perceived as arrogant and humiliating (especially in the mouth of an ethnic German such as Archbishop Mark of Berlin!). And so, after the need to display a specifically Soviet patriotism fell away in the early 90s, the MP was able to mount a successful counter-attack, claiming for itself the mantle of “Russianness” as against the “American” church of the ROCA.
As a result of all this, at the very moment that the ROCA was called by God to enter into an open war with the MP for the souls of the Russian people on Russian soil, she found herself tactically unprepared, hesitant, unsure of her ability to fight this great enemy, unsure even whether this enemy was in fact an enemy and not a potential friend, sister or even “mother”. And this attitude guaranteed the collapse of the mission. For “if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will rise up and prepare for battle?” (1 Cor. 14.8). Looking more at her enemies than at the Lord, she began, like the Apostle Peter, to sink beneath the waves. And the MP which, at the beginning of the 90s had been seriously rattled, recovered her confidence and by the middle of the 90s had recovered her position in public opinion.
Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who are thou, O great mountain, before Zerubbabel? You shall become a plain... (Zachariah 4.6-7).
The problems began on May 3/16, 1990, when the ROCA Synod issued a statement that was in general strongly anti-MP, but which contained the qualification that there might be true priests dispensing valid sacraments in the patriarchate nevertheless. The idea that there can be true priests in a heretical church is canonical nonsense (Apostolic Canon 46), and Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) immediately obtained the removal of the offending phrase. But the damage had been done.
Worse was to follow. Bishops and priests visiting Russia from abroad often showed an extraordinary inability to distinguish between the true Church and the false. Thus Archbishop Lavr, on visiting a village in which there existed a ROCA priest, chose instead to stay with the local MP priest! Another bishop proposed entering into union with the Ukrainian samosvyaty and the fascist organization “Pamyat’”! A third shared some holy relics with – the MP Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk (KGB agent “Ostrovsky”)!
The veneration shown by some foreign ROCA clergy for the MP was very difficult to understand for Russian believers, for whom the ROCA represented purity and light in the surrounding darkness, and who thought that the ROCA’s mission in Russia was to rescue them from the MP.
Still more shocking was the way in which visiting ROCA bishops publicly slandered their colleagues in Russia. Thus Archbishop Mark of Germany publicly called Bishop Valentine (Rusantsov) of Suzdal, the most active and successful of the newly ordained Russian bishops, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Then, - together with Bishop Barnabas of Cannes, who in 1992 had been appointed, completely uncanonically, as the Synod’s representative in Russia with authority over all its parishes there, - Mark proceeded to do everything in his power to undermine the very constructive work of Vladyka Valentine.
Later it became clear who was the wolf. In 1997 Archbishop Mark had a secret meeting with “Patriarch” Alexis. Soon after, with the very active support of Mark, the “patriarch” took over the ROCA’s monastery in Hebron, Israel. Could all this be linked, wondered believers, with the fact that in 1979 Mark was detained at Leningrad airport for more than 24 hours for the possession of anti-Soviet literature, and was then released unharmed, claiming that “nothing had happened”?
The destructive work of Archbishop Mark and Bishop Barnabas elicited a series of protests from the episcopate within Russia. But no reply came. Eventually, in order to protect their own flocks from this invasion by supposed “friends” and “colleagues” from abroad, the Russian bishops were forced to form their own autonomous Higher Church Administration, on the basis of the same patriarchal ukaz no. 362 which had formed the basis for the ROCA’s formation as an independent Church body in the 1920s. At this point (1994), the writing was already on the wall for the ROCA in Russia. If she repulsed even the most loyal and successful of her leaders on Russian soil, treating them as enemies and traitors, how could she claim to be the leader of True Russian Orthodoxy anywhere in the world?
At the Lesna Sobor in November, 1994, the Russian bishops Lazarus and Valentine made a last despairing effort to restore unity with the bishops abroad. Unity was restored, but only for a short time. In February, 1995, seizing on some false information provided by Bishops Evtikhy and Benjamin, the ROCA Synod banned five of the Russian bishops, expelling them from their midst without even an investigation or trial. The banned bishops had no choice but to resurrect their autonomous administration – but this time not in communion with the ROCA. And so there came into being the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, whose task was to gather together what remained of the ROCA’s mission in Russia and start the rebuilding process, with a clear strategy and a well-defined, strictly canonical attitude towards the MP.
As the Scripture says, pride goes before a fall. The fall of the ROCA’s position in Russia, which was confirmed by the catastrophical Sobor of October, 2000, was the result of pride – pride in her own past virtues, pride in relation to the other bearers of True Russian Orthodoxy, pride in her ability and right to claim the leadership of the whole of Russian Orthodoxy. The tragedy of the ROCA’s failure by no means excludes the possibility of a recovery. But that recovery must now come from within Russia, and not from abroad. And must it come with a full understanding of the causes of the past failures, and a determination not to repeat them.
And the Lord said to satan: the Lord rebuke thee, O satan, the Lord rebuke thee Who hast chosen Jerusalem! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire? (Zachariah 3.2)
Ìîscow, October 9/22, 2001.
12. ORTHODOXY, THE STATE AND RUSSIAN STATEHOOD
My Kingdom is not of this world.
The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
What is the State? What is its origin and purpose? What are the obligations of the Christian to the State? In what circumstances should the Christian disobey the State? Are there any circumstances in which the Christian should rise up in rebellion against the State?
These questions – and especially the last two – have become particularly important for Orthodox Christians in the last two centuries, often dividing them into bitterly opposed camps. Thus in 1821 the Greeks of Europe rebelled against the Ottoman Turkish empire, for which they were anathematised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, leading to a schism between the patriarchate and the newly-formed Church of Greece. Again, in 1918 the Russian Orthodox Church anathematised the Bolsheviks and all those who co-operated with them. But in 1927 Metropolitan Sergius initiated a policy of active co-operation with Soviet power, which led to a schism between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Catacomb Church that has lasted to the present day.
Let us try to establish certain principles to help us to orient ourselves in such conflicts, which are likely to intensify as we approach the time of the Antichrist.
In the beginning of human history – that is, in Paradise, - there was no such thing as political life. Some heterodox thinkers, such as Thomas Aquinas, in their concern to demonstrate the essential goodness of the state have argued that the rudiments of the State already existed in the Garden, with Adam ruling like a king over Eve. But this is an artificial schema. The Church may indeed be said to have existed in Paradise – as we read in The Order of Orthodoxy for the Week of Orthodoxy: “This is our God, providing for and sustaining His beloved inheritance, the Holy Church, comforting the forefathers who had fallen away through sin with His unlying Word, laying the foundation for Her already in Paradise…” But the State, while also from God and therefore good as such, is a product of the Fall and would never have been necessary if Adam had not sinned. As Metropolitan Anastasius (Gribanovsky) of New York writes: “Political power appeared on earth only after the fall of the first people. In Paradise the overseer’s shout was not heard. Man can never forget that he was once royally free, and that political power appeared as the quit-rent of sin.”
The State is necessary to fallen, sinful man because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6.23), and the purpose of the State is, if not to conquer death in man – only Christ in the Church can do that – at any rate to slow down its spread, to enable man to survive, both as an individual and as a species. To survive he needs to unite in communities with other men, forming families, tribes and, eventually, states. This process is aided, of course, by the fact that man is social by nature, and comes into the world already as a member of a family. So, contrary to the teaching of some heterodox thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes, it is not only out of fear that men unite into large groups, but out of the natural bonds of family life. In this sense the state is simply the family writ large.
And since the family naturally has a single head, the father, so the state naturally has a single head, the king. Hieromonk Dionysius writes: “Both the familial and the monarchical systems are established by God for the earthly existence of sinful, fallen man. The first-formed man, abiding in living communion with God, was not subject to anyone except God, and was lord over the irrational creatures. But when man sinned and destroyed the Divine hierarchy of submission, having fallen away from God – he became the slave of sin and the devil, and as a result of this became subject to a man like himself. The sinful will of man demands submission for the limitation of his own destructive activity. This Divine establishment has in mind only the good of man – the limitation of the spread of sin. And history itself confirms that whatever may be the defects of monarchy, they cannot compare with the evil brought upon men by revolution and anarchy.”
Now states issue laws, which determine what is a crime and what is to be the punishment for crime. To the extent that the laws are good, and well executed, the people can live in peace and pursue the aim for which God placed them on the earth – the salvation of their souls for eternity. To the extent that they are bad, and/or badly executed, not only is it much more difficult for men to pursue the supreme aim of their existence: the very existence of future generations is put in jeopardy.
The difference between sin and crime is that whereas sin is transgression of the law of God only, crime is transgression both of the law of God and of the law of man as defined by the State. The first sin, that of Adam and Eve in the garden, was punished by their expulsion from Paradise, or the Church – that is, from communion with God. The second sin, that of Abel’s murder of his brother Cain, was, according to every legal code in every civilised state, a crime as well as a sin. But since there was as yet no state, it was God Himself Who imposed the punishment – expulsion from the society of men (“a fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth” (Gen. 4.12)). The paradox is that Cain was the builder of the first state in recorded history, a city, as he fled from the presence of the Lord (Gen. 4.16,17) …
The fact that the first state was founded by the first murderer has cast a shadow over statehood ever since. On the one hand, the State exists in order to curb sin in its crudest and most destructive aspects, and to that extent it is of Christ, “Who rules in the kingdom of men, [and] gives it to whomever He will” (Dan. 4.17). On the other hand, the greatest and most destructive crimes known to man have been committed precisely by the State, and to that extent it is an evil phenomenon, permitted but not blessed by God – for God sometimes “sets over it the lowest of men” (Dan. 4.17). Moreover, since Cain and at least until Saul and the kings of Israel, all states known to man were not only the main agents both of mass murder and of slavery, but were also worshippers of demons who compelled their citizens to worship demons, too. And if Blessed Augustine, in his famous book, The City of God, could see the Providence and Justice of God working even in the most antichristian states and institutions, this could not prevent him from taking a most pessimistic view of the origin and nature of most states (even the Roman). 
St. Augustine traced the history of two lines of men descending from Seth and Cain respectively - the City of God, or the community of those who are saved, and the City of Man, or the community of those who are damned. The City of God is not to be identified with the Church (because the Church contains both good and bad), nor is the City of Man to be identified with the State (because the State contains both good and bad). Nevertheless, the Church is clearly closer to the first pole as the State is to the second….
This is the reason why the history of Church-State relations until Constantine the Great is a history of almost perpetual conflict. Thus until David and the foundation of the state of Israel, the people of God – that is, the Church – was not associated with any state, but was constantly being persecuted by contemporary rulers, as Moses and the Israelites were by Pharaoh.
And this symbolises a deeper truth: that the people of God, spiritually speaking, have never lived in states, but have always been stateless wanderers, desert people, as it were; “for here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come" (Hebrews 13.14). We seek, that is, the City of God, the new Jerusalem, which is to be fully revealed only in the age to come (Rev. 21-22).
On the other hand, the people who reject God are spiritually speaking citizens of the kingdoms of this earth, rooted in the earth of worldly cares and desires. That is why they like to build huge urban states and civilisations that enable them to satisfy these desires to the maximum extent. It is not by accident, therefore, that Cain and his immediate descendants were the creators not only of cities, but also of all the cultural and technological inventions that make city life so alluring to fallen man.
For, as New Hieroconfessor Barnabas, Bishop of Pechersk, writes: "In its original source culture is the fruit, not of the fallen human spirit in general, but a consequence of its exceptional darkening in one of the primordial branches of the race of Adam... The Cainites have only one aim - the construction of a secure, carnal, material life, whatever the cost. They understood, of course, that the Seed of the Woman, the Promised Deliverer from evil that is coming at the end of the ages, will never appear in their descendants, so, instead of humbling themselves and repenting, the Cainites did the opposite: in blasphemous despair and hatred towards God, they gave themselves over irrevocably to bestial passions and the construction on earth of their kingdom, which is continually fighting against the Kingdom of God."
The Cainites eventually became the overwhelming majority of mankind, corrupting even most of the Sethites. Thus Josephus writes: “This posterity of Seth continued to esteem God as the Lord of the universe, and to have an entire regard to virtue, for seven generations; but in process of time they were perverted…
“But Noah was very uneasy at what they did; and being displeased at their conduct, persuaded them to change their disposition, and their actions for the better: but seeing they did not yield to him, but were slaves to wicked pleasures, he was afraid they would kill him, together with his wife and children, and those they had married; so he departed out of the land.”
He departed, and entered, the Ark. And then God destroyed the whole Cainite civilisation in the Great Flood. So statehood in its first historical examples was demonic and antichristian and was destroyed by the just judgement of God.
Immediately after the Flood God commands Noah to establish a system of justice that is the embryo of statehood as it should be: “The blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man” (Gen. 9.5-6). Commenting on these words, Protopriest Basil Boshchansky writes, that they “give the blessing of God to that institution which appeared in defence of human life” – that is, the State.
As Henry Morris explains: “The word ‘require’ is a judicial term, God appearing as a judge who exacts a strict and severe penalty for infraction of a sacred law. If a beast kills a man, the beast must be put to death (note also Exodus 21.28). If a man kills another man (wilfully and culpably, it is assumed), then he also must be put to death by ‘every man’s brother’. This latter phrase is not intended to initiate family revenge slayings, of course, but rather to stress that all men are responsible to see that this justice is executed. At the time these words were first spoken, all men indeed were blood brothers; for only the three sons of Noah were living at the time, other than Noah himself. Since all future people would be descended from these three men and their wives, in a very real sense all men are brothers, because all were once in the loins of these three brothers. This is in essence a command to establish a formal system of human government, in order to assure that justice is carried out, especially in the case of murder. The authority to execute this judgement of God on a murderer was thus delegated to man.”
But not to every man. The authority to pronounce the judgement of God on a man can only be given to men whom God has appointed to judge – that is, to political rulers. For, as E. Kholmogorov writes, “everywhere in Scripture an opposition is presupposed between the power of the leader and the position of the citizen, of him who is subject to the leader. The work that is done by the leader for the sake of the common good, to preserve order, does not belong to the jurisdiction of the private person, and if it did belong to the private person, there would be no need of leadership…
“What precisely are the obligations laid upon leaders, what constitutes the essence of the power of the leader?
“The first is the power of discernment – the power of the judge. The essence and meaning of the power of leadership consists in distinguishing between what is good and what is bad, and in rewarding each man in accordance with justice. Leadership is first of all the moral, ethical practice of unceasingly distinguishing that which is in agreement with natural virtue and the commandments of God from that which is contrary to them and dangerous for them. Therefore, as the Apostle Paul says: ‘The leaders are terrible not for good works, but for the evil. Do you not want to fear the authorities? Do good and you will receive praise from them…” (Rom. 13.3). The power of the leader is first of all the power of the judge, the right to say: ‘yes’ and ‘no’, so it presupposes a special responsibility and a special weighing of each decision. For this reason alone it cannot belong to everyone. A remarkable witness to this is given in Scripture in the story about Moses: ‘And he went out the second day and behold, two Hebrews were quarrelling; and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?” Then he said, Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”’ (Exodus 2.13-14). And truly – there was nowhere Moses could at that time receive power over the people of Israel, he had no right either to judge or to say with authority: “Why are you doing wrong?” And so the one who was doing wrong rejected his authority, he saw in Moses’ claim to judge only one foundation – the threat of using arms, the notorious “right of the mighty”, but with the aid of this right Moses could neither establish justice nor assume leadership over the people. For that reason he fled into the wilderness, and returned already as one having power, having been established as Leader by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… Only with this establishment did he receive both the power to judge and the power to restrain that proceeds from it…
“The second power belonging to the leader is the power of restraining, the power of the sword, which proceeds from the power to discern, the power of judgement. After good and evil have been distinguished and a verdict has been reached – the punishing sword of the leader must fall on the head of the lawless one and crush it. States without the power of punishment that is in accordance with the Christian principles of power, without a death penalty and without the right to wage war, simply do not exist. A power built without the death penalty and war as weapons against evil would be an unchristian and unevangelical power, it would directly contradict the teaching on the essence of power given by the holy Apostle Paul: ‘If you do evil, fear, for he does not wield the sword in vain: he is a servant of God, an avenger to punish him who does evil’ (Romans 13.4). If the authorities refused to apply the sword given them, if their refusal were not motivated by compassion for a particular penitent evildoer, but were principled, it would be a direct refusal of the service for which they had been established by God. That is why the Old and New Testaments are full of witnesses to the necessity of the power of the sword to restrain moral evil from bursting its limits. Only violence is condemned, that is, the power of the sword without the power of judgement, the sword applied not in accordance with righteousness, not to avenge evil, but to restrict the righteous man.
“We can understand that the power of sword, being bound to the power of judgement, cannot belong to everyone, but only to him who is vested with the power to judge. The power of the sword is placed in the service of judgement and constitutes a special service in society, the service of restraining… The very concept of restraining, of him who restrains [II Thess. 2.7], is imbued with deep meaning. It leads to the idea of the fence, of the special obstacle which stands in the way of the invasion of evil into everyday life, and of the guard who prevents such an invasion… It is precisely this idea that the Orthodox Church puts into her teaching on the Christian Kingdom and on the Tsar who stands at its head – the one who restrains, o katecwn, the one person entitled to bear the power of judging and punishing… The Christian Kingdom constitutes the fence of the Church, the fence of the whole Christian community, the fence whose existence is part of God’s fulfilment of our petition in prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”. Of course, this petition mainly refers to our personal inner spiritual life, to its fencing off from the actions of demons… But it also applies to external life. All states that are well constructed, which are erected in agreement with the given apostolic model, protect each of us from a mass of temptations. The existence of the city watch and our hoping on it guard us from unexpected murders, in which it is sometimes very difficult to draw the line between “necessary defence” and unreasonable “caution” which can cost an innocent his life. Appealing to the authorities makes it possible for us, in hundreds of cases, to avoid defiling our hands with reprisal against one who has done wrong, and not only with reprisal itself, but also with the bad feelings bound up with it – anger, hatred, the temptation to cross the boundary where retribution ends and revenge begins… We who are accustomed to stable state institutions, and who have never really encountered absence of authority and chaos, cannot even imagine the full degree of sinfulness involved in lawlessness and anarchy – an existence defined neither by the law nor by the sword of the leader. Every day the Christian would be forced to encounter a situation in which he would be presented with a choice, not between sin and virtue, but between a greater sin and a lesser sin; he would sin, not through passion, not through arbitrariness, but simply through the necessity of living…
“The reason why the army and police exist, and are separate from us, having a special line and form of being, - and are separate from us, moreover, from ancient times, - is in order to deliver us from the many temptations linked with the application of force, to free us from the very heavy occupation of the soldier and the executioner…
“The very idea of leadership and the judging and punishing functions of this leadership are undoubtedly established by God. And the just fulfilment of these functions is a service rendered to God.”
In the Old Testament the Lord established the sacrament of anointing to the kingdom: “I have found David My servant, with My holy oil have I anointed him” (Psalm 88.19). Even certain pagan kings were given an invisible anointing to rule justly and help the people of God, such as Cyrus of Persia (Isaiah 45.1). This was a foreshadowing of the role to be played by the greatest of the pagan kingdoms, Rome...
2. Orthodoxy and the Roman Empire
When the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of heaven, was born as a man on earth, He was immediately enrolled as a citizen of an earthly kingdom, the Roman Empire. In fact, His birth, which marked the beginning of the Eternal Kingdom of God on earth, coincided almost exactly with the birth of the Roman Empire under its first emperor, Augustus. For several of the Holy Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, this coincidence pointed to a certain special mission of the Roman empire, as if the Empire, being born at the same time as Christ, was Divinely established to be a vehicule for the spreading of the Gospel to all nations. Thus St. Leo the Great, Pope of Rome, wrote: "Divine Providence fashioned the Roman Empire, the growth of which was extended to boundaries so wide that all races everywhere became next-door neighbours. For it was particularly germane to the Divine scheme that many kingdoms should be bound together under a single government, and that the world-wide preaching should have a swift means of access to all people, over whom the rule of a single state held sway."
The empire was to create a political unity that would help and protect the spiritual unity created by the Church; it was to be the Guardian of the Ark. As an epistle accepted by the Seventh Ecumenical Council put it some centuries later, when the empire was already Christian: “The priest is the sanctification and strengthening of the Emperor’s power, and the Emperor’s power is the power and steadfastness of the priesthood.”
On the face of it, this was a very bold and paradoxical teaching. After all, the people of God at the beginning of the Christian era were the Jews, not the Romans. The Romans were pagans; they worshipped demons, not the True God Who had revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In 63 B.C. they had actually conquered the people of God, and their rule was bitterly resented. In 70 A.D. they destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in a campaign of appalling cruelty and scattered the Jews over the face of the earth. How could Old Rome, the Rome of Nero and Titus and Domitian and Diocletian, possibly be construed as working with God rather than against Him?
The solution to this paradox is to be found in an examination of two encounters recounted in the Gospel between Christ and two “rulers of this world” – Satan and Pontius Pilate.
In the first, Satan takes Christ onto a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of this world in a moment of time. “And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will make obeisance before Me, all will be Yours.’ And Jesus answered and said to him: ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, You shall make obeisance to the Lord your God, and Him only will you worship.’” (Luke 4.6-8).
Thus up to that time Satan had control over all the kingdoms of the world – but by might, the might given him by the sins of men, not by right. As St. Cyril of Alexandria exclaims: “How can you promise that which is not yours? Who made you heir of God’s kingdom? Who made you lord of all under heaven? You have seized these things by fraud. Restore them, therefore, to the incarnate Son, the Lord of all…”
And indeed, the Lord accepted neither Satan’s lordship over the world, nor the satanism that was so closely associated with the pagan statehood of the ancient world (insofar as the pagan god-kings often demanded worship of themselves as gods). He came to restore true statehood, which recognises the ultimate supremacy only of the one true God, and which demands veneration of the earthly ruler, but worship only of the Heavenly King. And since, by the time of the Nativity of Christ, all the major pagan kingdoms had been swallowed up in Rome, it was to the transformation of Roman statehood that the Lord came in the first place.
For, as K.V. Glazkov writes: “The good news announced by the Lord Jesus Christ could not leave untransfigured a single one of the spheres of man’s life. One of the acts of our Lord Jesus Christ consisted in bringing the heavenly truths to the earth, in instilling them into the consciousness of mankind with the aim of its spiritual regeneration, in restructuring the laws of communal life on new principles announced by Christ the Saviour, in the creation of a Christian order of this communal life, and, consequently, in a radical change of pagan statehood. Proceeding from here it becomes clear what place the Church must occupy in relation to the state. It is not the place of an opponent from a hostile camp, not the place of a warring party, but the place of a pastor in relation to his flock, the place of a loving father in relation to his lost children. Even in those moments when there was not and could not be any unanimity or union between the Church and the State, Christ the Saviour forbade the Church to stand on one side from the state, still less to break all links with it, saying: ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’ (Luke 20.25).”
Let us now turn to the second time Christ confronted a ruler of this world – His trial before Pilate. While acknowledging that the power of this representative of Caesar was lawful, the Lord at the same time insists that Pilate’s and Caesar’s power derived from God, the true King and Lawgiver For “you could have no power at all against Me,” He says to Pilate, “unless it had been given to you from above” (John 19.11). These words, paradoxically, both limit Caesar’s power, insofar as it is subject to God’s, and strengthen it, by indicating that it has God’s seal and blessing in principle (if not in all its particular manifestations).
And He continues: “Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” The one who delivered Christ to Pilate was Caiaphas, chief priest of the Jews. For, as is well known (to all except contemporary ecumenist Christians), it was the Jews, His own people, who condemned Christ for blasphemy and demanded His execution at the hands of the Roman authorities in the person of Pontius Pilate. Since Pilate was not interested in the charge of blasphemy, the only way in which the Jews could get their way was to accuse Christ of fomenting rebellion against Rome – a hypocritical charge, since it was precisely the Jews, not Christ, who were planning revolution. Not only did Pilate not believe this accusation: he did everything he could to have Christ released, giving in only when he feared that the Jews were about to start a riot and denounce him to the emperor in Rome. Thus it was the Jews, not the Romans, who were primarily responsible for the death of Christ.
This has the consequence that, insofar Pilate could have used his God-given power to save the Lord from an unjust death, Roman state power appears in this situation as the potential, if not yet the actual, protector of Christ from His fiercest enemies. In other words, already during the life of Christ, we see the future role of Rome as “he who restrains” the Antichrist (II Thess. 2.7) and the guardian of the Body of Christ…
In the trial of Christ before Pilate, Roman power, still spiritually weak, did not use its power for the good; but its sympathies were clearly already with Christ, and this sympathy would later, under Constantine the Great, be turned into full and whole-hearted support. In fact, we do not have to wait that long to see Roman power fulfilling the role of protector of the Christians. Thus already in 35, on the basis of a report sent to him by Pilate, the Emperor Tiberius proposed to the senate that Christ should be recognised as a god. The senate refused this request, and declared that Christianity was an “illicit superstition”; but Tiberius ignored this and imposed a veto on any accusations being brought against the Christians in the future. In 36 or 37 the Roman legate to Syria, Vitellius, deposed Caiaphas for his unlawful execution of the Archdeacon and Protomartyr Stephen (in 34), and in 62 the High Priest Ananias was similarly deposed for executing St. James the Just, the first Bishop of Jerusalem. In between these dates the Apostle Paul was saved from a lynching at the hands of the Jews by the Roman authorities (Acts 21, 23.28-29, 25.19).
So for at least a generation after the Death and Resurrection of Christ the Romans, far from being persecutors of the Christians, were their chief protectors against the Jews – the former people of God who had now become the chief enemies of God. It is therefore not surprising that the Apostles, following in the tradition of Christ’s own recognition of the Romans as a lawful power, exhorted the Christians to obey Caesar in everything that did not involve transgressing the law of God. Thus St. Paul commands Christians to give thanks for the emperor "and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty" (I Tim. 2.1-2).
And if it be asked how it was possible for Paul to give thanks for a pagan emperor who sometimes persecuted Christians for their refusal to worship idols, including the idol of the emperor himself, then Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow provides the answer: "The Spirit of God in him foresaw and more or less showed him the future light of Christian kingdoms. His God-inspired vision, piercing through future centuries, encounters Constantine, who brings peace to the Church and sanctifies the kingdom by faith; and Theodosius and Justinian, who defend the Church from the impudence of heresies. Of course, he also goes on to see Vladimir and Alexander Nevsky and many spreaders of the faith, defenders of the Church and guardians of Orthodoxy. After this it is not surprising that St. Paul should write: I beseech you not only to pray, but also to give thanks for the king and all those in authority; because there will be not only such kings and authorities for whom it is necessary to pray with sorrow…., but also those for whom we must thank God with joy for His precious gift."
It is precisely the emperor's ability to maintain law and order, "a quiet and peaceful life", which makes him so important for the Church; for while Christianity can survive under any regime, and, in the persons of the martyrs, triumph over it, it can spread and become consolidated among the masses of the people only if supported by the State. Therefore "Be subject for the Lord's sake," says St. Peter, "to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and praise those who do right... Fear God. Honour the emperor" (I Peter 2.13, 17). The emperor is to be obeyed, says St. Paul, "not only because of wrath, but for conscience's sake" (Rom. 13.5). For he is "the servant of God for good" and "wields not the sword in vain" (Rom. 13.4).
St. Isidore of Pelusium explained the importance of submission to the State as follows. "Anarchy is always the worst of all evils... That is why, although the body is a single whole, not everything in it is of equal honour, but some members rule, while others are in subjection. So we are right to say that the authorities - that is, leadership and royal power - are established by God so that society should not fall into disorder."
At the same time, submission to the emperor was never considered to be unconditional. The Christians, unlike the Jews, were loyal subjects of the Roman emperors, paying their taxes, obeying their laws and serving in their armies; but when asked to worship idols they refused, even at the cost of their lives. One of those who gave his life rather than obey an emperor’s decree was Hieromartyr Hippolytus, Pope of Rome in the third century, who wrote: “Believers in God must not be hypocritical, nor fear people invested in authority, with the exception of those cases when some evil deed is committed [Rom. 13.1-4]. On the contrary, if the leaders, having in mind their faith in God, force them to do something contrary to this faith, then it is better for them to die than to carry out the command of the leaders. After all, when the apostle teaches submission to ‘all the powers that be’ (Rom. 13.1), he was not saying that we should renounce our faith and the Divine commandments, and indifferently carry out everything that people tell us to do; but that we, while fearing the authorities, should do nothing evil and that we should not deserve punishment from them as some evildoers (Rom. 13.4).”
The fruit of the Christians’ patience, their refusal, on the one hand, to place the emperor above God, and, on the other, to succumb to the propaganda of revolution, produced its inestimable fruit in the conversion of the empire to Christianity, as a result of which the empire not only tolerated Christianity, but became its active co-worker in that “symphony of powers” which is the hallmark of Orthodox statehood.
3. Orthodoxy and Heretical Rulers
If the early Christians honoured and (in most cases) obeyed the pagan Roman emperors, we might expect them to have adopted a similarly benevolent attitude towards the heretical Roman emperors. However, the language adopted in relation to the Arian emperor Constantius by the holy Fathers was violent in the extreme: “patron of impiety and Emperor of heresy,… godless, unholy,.. this modern Ahab, this second Belshazzar”, “the abomination of desolation”, like Pharaoh, worse than Pilate and a forerunner of the Antichrist, are just some of the epithets employed by St. Athanasius the Great. In the West, St. Hilary of Poitiers was hardly less violent in his language against the Arian emperor: he called him a forerunner of the Antichrist.
Again, when the Emperor Justinian, a zealot of Orthodoxy, momentarily wavered and tried to force Pope Agapetus to accept a Monophysite Patriarch of Constantinople, the Orthodox pope replied: “I wished to come to the most Christian of all emperors, Justinian, and I have found now a Diocletian. However, I do not fear your threats.”
Evidently a new, higher standard was now required of rulers – or, at any rate, Roman rulers. Since the conversion of Constantine and the Christianisation of the empire, the appearance of a heterodox emperor constituted a retrograde step and extreme danger for the flock of Christ and possibly heralded the coming of the Antichrist. It therefore had to be resisted with the greatest force and boldness.
In general, however, while severely criticising the heretical emperors, the holy Fathers did not call on the faithful to rebel against them. For this would have threatened the institution of the Roman empire itself, which everyone accepted was established by God. However, there are two partial exceptions to this rule which repay further study.
The first took place in the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363). Although the Church did not initiate or bless any armed rebellion against him, St. Basil the Great did actively pray for his defeat in his wars against the Persians - and it was through his prayers that the apostate was in fact killed, as was revealed by God to the holy hermit Julian of Mesopotamia. Not only St. Basil prayed in this way: his friend, St. Gregory the Theologian, who had called Julian not only an “apostate”, but also “universal enemy” and “general murderer”, now, on his death, called the Christians to “spiritual rejoicing”.
This raises the interesting and important question: what was different about Julian the Apostate that made him so much worse than previous persecutors and unworthy even of that honour and obedience that had been given to them? Two possible answers suggest themselves. The first is that Julian was the first – and last – of the Byzantine emperors who openly trampled on the memory and legitimacy of St. Constantine, declaring that he “insolently usurped the throne”. In this way he questioned the legitimacy of the Christian Empire as such – a revolutionary position that we do not come across again in Eastern Orthodox history (if we except the short interlude of the political zealots in Thessalonica in the 1340s) until the fall of the Russian Empire.
A second reason for ascribing to Julian an exceptional place amongst the forerunners of the Antichrist was his reversal of the Emperor Hadrian’s decree of the year 135 forbidding the Jews from returning to Jerusalem and, still worse, his helping the Jews to rebuild the Temple, in defiance of the Lord’s prophecy that “there shall be left not one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13.2). By a miracle from God the rebuilding of the Temple was forcibly stopped. But if Julian had succeeded, then, wondered the Christians, what would have prevented him from sitting in the Temple as God – in other words, taking the place of the Antichrist himself?
Another exception to the rule of submission to heretical rulers was the rebellion of St. Hermegild, prince of Spain, against his Arian father, King Leogivild. Most of Spain was ruled at that time by the Visigoths, a Germanic tribe which had adopted the Arian faith. However, the majority of the Spanish population were Romans by race and Orthodox by religion. Hermenegild was converted by his Frankish Orthodox wife, and by St. Leander, bishop of Seville, who lived in the Byzantine part of Spain. He then rebelled against his father, but in spite of support from the Byzantines his rebellion was crushed, and he himself was imprisoned and then killed at Pascha, 585 for refusing to accept communion from an Arian bishop.
The Spanish Church did not hail Hermenegild as a martyr, because the Orthodox had not been persecuted by their Arian overlords and there was not much support, even in the Orthodox population, for the rebellion of a son against his father. However, he was immediately hailed as a martyr by the holy Pope Gregory the Dialogist, the writer of his Life; and by the Orthodox Church in the East. Moreover, within a very few years, at the great Council of Toledo in 589, the new king, Reccared and the whole of the Gothic nobility accepted Orthodoxy. Arianism never again lifted its head in Spain. Thus, in the words of St. Dmitri of Rostov, “the fruit of the death of this one man was life and Orthodoxy for all the people of Spain”.
The abortive, but nevertheless ultimately successful, rebellion of St. Hermenegild appeared to establish the principle that legitimate political power was either Roman power, or that power which, while independent of the Roman, shared in the faith of the Romans, Orthodoxy. A power that was not Orthodox could legitimately be overthrown from without or rebelled against from within as long as the motive was truly religious – the establishment or re-establishment of Orthodoxy. This did not mean, however, that Christians were obliged in all cases to rebel against pagan or heterodox régimes; for, as Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) points out, civil war is one of the worst of all evils and is to be undertaken only if the alternative is likely to be even worse in terms of the salvation of souls.
When the people of God fall under the power of a pagan or heterodox ruler, the reason is their sinfulness, which makes them unworthy of an Orthodox king and in need rather of the chastisement that the harsher rule of the heterodox brings upon them. For “If My People had heard Me, if Israel had walked in My ways, quickly would I have humbled their enemies, and upon their oppressors would I have laid My hand.” (Psalm 80. 12-13). A believing people will not rebel against this situation, knowing that, in submitting to a pagan or heterodox ruler, they are in fact submitting to the Lord and that He, in Whose hand are the hearts of all kings, and Who rules “over all the kingdoms of the heathen“ (II Chron. 20.6), will protect them from evil.
In such cases, as St. Isidore of Pelusium writes, the ruler “has been allowed to spew out this evil, like Pharaoh, and, in such an instance, to carry out extreme punishment or to chastise those for whom great cruelty is required, as when the king of Babylon chastised the Jews.” Or, as St. Irenaeus of Lyons puts it: “Some rulers are given by God with a view to the improvement and benefit of their subjects and the preservation of justice; others are given with a view to producing fear, punishment and reproof; yet others are given with a view to displaying mockery, insult and pride – in each case in accordance with the deserts of the subjects. Thus… God’s just judgement falls equally on all men.”
However, such submission must never turn into sympathy with the aims or faith of the heterodox ruler, otherwise they will receive the same rebuke that King Jehoshaphat of Judah received from the Prophet Jehu: “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from the Lord” (II Chron. 19.2). Moreover, in certain situations the danger presented by submission to a heterodox ruler may be so great that a certain point God commands His people to rebel.
In practice, rebellion against pagan or heterodox rulers for the sake of Orthodoxy has been very rare in Orthodox history since the time of St. Hermenegild. One example sometimes cited is the rebellion of Moscow under Great Prince Demetrius Donskoj against the Tatar prince Mamai in 1380, which was undertaken with the blessing of St. Sergius of Radonezh. The example is the more striking in that the Tatars had been recognised as the lawful rulers of Russia by the Russian Church for nearly 150 years.
However, it needs to be borne in mind, first, that Mamai was himself a rebel against the Horde, so that in resisting him the Russians were not rebelling against their lawful sovereigns, but rather supporting them. In any case, two years later the lawful khan came and sacked Moscow; so there was not, and could not be, any radical change from the policy of submission to the Tatars (it was not until a century later, in 1480, that the Muscovites refused to pay any further tribute to the khans). Secondly, St. Sergius in fact blessed the Grand-Prince to fight only when all other measures had failed.
Thus, as Kontzevich writes, “the Chronicle of St. Nicon has preserved for posterity the description of Prince Demetrius Donskoy’s visit to St. Sergius before his campaign against the Tatars. In the ensuing conversation with the Grand Prince, the holy Elder first advised him to respect the evil Tatar Mamai with gifts and honor, following the example of St. Basil the Great, whose gifts appeased Julian the Apostate: ‘You, too, my Lord, pay your respects to them, give them gold and silver, and God will not allow them to destroy us: He will elevate you, seeing your humility, and will bring down the pride of the enemy.’ ‘All this I have done already,’ answered Demetrius, ‘but my enemy becomes even more conceited.’ Having heard these words, the Saint of God made the sign of the Cross over him and was inspired to pronounce: ‘Go, my Prince, without fear! The Lord will help you against the godless enemies.’ Then, lowering his voice, he said to the Prince alone to hear: ‘You will conquer your enemy.’”
A clearer example is provided by the refusal of the best of the Russian people to accept a Catholic tsar in the Time of Troubles. Most of the Russian clergy accepted the first false Demetrius, who was anointed and crowned by Patriarch Ignatius. However, writes Fr. Lev Lebedev, “in relation to the second false Demetrius [they] conducted themselves more courageously. Bishops Galacteon of Suzdal and Joseph of Kolomna suffered for their non-acceptance of the usurper. Archbishop Theoctistus of Tver received a martyric death in Tushino. Dressed only in a shirt, the bare-footed Metropolitan Philaret of Rostov, the future patriarch, was brought by the Poles into the camp of the usurper, where he remained in captivity. Seeing such terrible events, Bishop Gennadius of Pskov ‘died of sorrow…’” 
In February, 1610 the protagonists of the second false Demetrius switched their support to the Polish crown. They presented King Sigismund with a set of conditions on which they were prepared to accept his son Vladislav as Tsar. The first was that the Orthodox faith should remain inviolate. The second was that supreme authority in the state should be shared between the tsar and a combined boyar assembly and zemskii sobor. In other words, they were seeking the establishment of a kind of constitutional monarchy in Russia.
However, their plans fell through, for Vladislav did not come to Moscow to claim his throne, and when his father Sigismund declared his intention of taking his place, Patriarch Hermogen issued a stern command that the Russian people were not to “kiss the cross before a Catholic king”. Hermogen was killed by the Poles in the dungeon of the Kremlin. However, his refusal to recognise the legitimacy of a Catholic tsar was decisive in arousing the Russians to expel the Poles and restore Orthodoxy. And his canonisation just before another, still more terrible time of troubles in 1914 would be a sign: now, too, you must reject the State that wars against Christ…
4. Orthodoxy and Nationalism
The lives of the holy martyrs Hermenegild of Spain and Hermogen of Russia show that in extreme cases, when Orthodoxy is at stake, even civil war for the sake of the reestablishment of Orthodoxy is permitted and blessed by God. However, it is essential that the aim should be precisely Orthodoxy and not some secondary value which, while good in itself, cannot justify the destruction of civil peace and the suffering and death, often on a vast scale, that inevitably ensues. Such secondary values include national independence and freedom from tyranny.
National independence was the primary value that motivated the rebellion of the Jews against Roman power in 66-70 A.D. – and they were terribly punished for it. A similar danger threatened the Greek Church and nation at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Influenced by nationalist ideas emanating from the French Revolution, which spread in Greece through the masonic-like organisation called the philiki hetairia, the Greeks of Europe rose up against their Turkish overlords. But the Greeks of Constantinople and Asia Minor remained loyal to the Sultan, whose legitimacy they had recognised since the fall of Constantinople in 1453. At this point the frightened Turks pressurised Patriarch Gregory V and his Synod to anathematize the insurgents.
Some have argued that the patriarch secretly repudiated this anathema and sympathised with the insurgents; which is why the Turks, suspecting him of treachery, hanged him on April 10, 1821. However, the evidence does not support this view. The patriarch had always refused to join the philiki hetairia, to which the leader of the insurgents, Metropolitan Germanos of Old Patras, belonged. Moreover, the righteousness of his character precludes the possibility that he could have been plotting against the Sultan to whom he had sworn allegiance.
The true attitude of the Church to the revolution had been expressed in a work called “Paternal Teaching” published in Constantinople in 1789, and which, according to Charles Frazee, "was signed by Anthimus of Jerusalem but was probably the work of the later Patriarch Gregory V. The document is a polemic against revolutionary ideas, calling on the Christians ‘to note how brilliantly our Lord, infinite in mercy and all-wise, protects intact the holy and Orthodox Faith of the devout, and preserves all things’. It warns that the devil is constantly at work raising up evil plans; among them is the idea of liberty, which appears to be so good, but is only there to deceive the people. The document points out that [the struggle for] political freedom is contrary to the Scriptural command to obey authority, that it results in the impoverishment of the people, in murder and robbery. The sultan is the protector of Christian life in the Ottoman Empire; to oppose him is to oppose God."
Certainly, the Greeks had to pay a heavy price for the political freedom they gained. After the martyrdom of Patriarch Gregory (whose body was washed ashore in Odessa, and given a splendid State funeral by the Russian Church), the Turks ran amok in Constantinople, killing many Greeks and causing heavy damage to the churches; and there were further pogroms in Smyrna, Adrianople, Crete and especially Chios, which had been occupied by the revolutionaries and where in reprisal tens of thousands were killed or sold into slavery. When the new patriarch, Eugenios, again anathematized the insurgents, twenty-eight bishops and almost a thousand priests in free Greece in turn anathematized the patriarch, calling him a Judas and a wolf in sheep's clothing, and ceasing to commemorate him in the Liturgy.
As for the new State of Greece, it "looked to the west," writes Charles Frazee, "the west of the American and French Revolutions, rather than to the old idea of an Orthodox community as it had functioned under the Ottomans. The emotions of the times did not let men see it; Orthodoxy and Greek nationality were still identified, but the winds were blowing against the dominant position of the Church in the life of the individual and the nation..."
Thus, forgetting the lessons of the council of Florence four hundred years earlier, the new State and Church entered into negotiations with the Pope for help against the Turks. Metropolitan Germanus was even empowered to speak concerning the possibility of a reunion of the Churches. However, it was the Pope who drew back at this point, pressurised by the other western States, which considered the sultan to be a legitimate monarch. The western powers helped Greece again when, in 1827, an Allied fleet under a British admiral destroyed the Turkish-Egyptian fleet at Navarino. But after the assassination of the president of Greece, Count Kapodistrias, in 1832, the country descended further into poverty and near civil war.
Then, in 1833, the western powers appointed a Catholic prince, Otto of Bavaria, as king of Greece, with three regents until he came of age, the most important being the Protestant George von Maurer. Maurer proceeded to work out a constitution for the country, which proposed autocephaly for the Church under a Synod of bishops, and the subordination of the Synod to the State on the model of the Bavarian and Russian constitutions, to the extent that "no decision of the Synod could be published or carried into execution without the permission of the government having been obtained". In spite of the protests of the patriarch of Constantinople and the tsar of Russia, and the walk-out of the archbishops of Rethymnon and Adrianople, this constitution was ratified by the signatures of thirty-six bishops on July 26, 1833.
The Greek Church therefore exchanged the admittedly uncanonical position of the patriarchate of Constantinople under Turkish rule for the even less canonical position of a Synod anathematized by the patriarch and under the control of a Catholic king and a Protestant constitution! In addition to this, all monasteries with fewer than six monks were dissolved, and heavy taxes imposed on the remaining monasteries. And very little money was given to a Church which had lost six to seven thousand clergy in the war, and whose remaining clergy had an abysmally low standard of education.
The dangers posed for Orthodoxy by nationalist passions can most clearly be seen in the controversial question of the Bulgarian schism. Already in 1860, before the liberation of their country by the Russian armies in 1877-78, the Bulgars had succeeded in obtaining the status of a millet, or autonomous national-religious community, and therefore the right to have an autocephalous Church independent of the patriarch of Constantinople. However, not content with having an autocephalous Church for the territory of Bulgaria, in 1870 the Bulgars, with the active cooperation of the Turkish government, set up a bishop in Constantinople with the title of Exarch, who was to have jurisdiction over all the Bulgars in Turkey itself. This undoubtedly uncanonical act was resisted with fury by Patriarch Anthimus VI and his Synod, who in 1872 excommunicated the Bulgarian exarch and all those with him, branding them as schismatics and heretics, their heresy being the newly-defined one of "phyletism", that is, nationalism, the invasion of the national principle into the affairs of the Ecumenical Church.
Now such a condemnation of nationalism was certainly timely. For the Bulgarians' attempts to achieve ecclesiastical independence had given rise to another danger - the Vatican's attempt to introduce a uniate movement into Bulgaria. However, for many Orthodox the conciliar condemnation of nationalism carried little weight because it came from the patriarchate which they considered the first sinner in this respect. For, as D.A. Khomyakov wrote: “Is not ‘pride in Orthodoxy’ nothing other than the cultural pride of the ancient Greek? And, of course, the true ‘phyletism’, formulated for the struggle against the Bulgarians, is precisely the characteristic of the Greeks themselves to a much greater extent than the Bulgarians, Serbs, Syrians and others. With them it is only a protest against the basic phyletism of the Greeks. The contemporary Greek considers himself the exclusive bearer of pure Orthodoxy..."
For a brief moment, in 1912, the Greeks joined with the Bulgarians and the Serbs against the Turks in the First Balkan War. But this brief unity among the Orthodox nations was shattered when war broke out between them in 1913 for the control of Macedonia. An attack on Greece and Serbia by Bulgaria was met with firm resistance by the other nations, including Turkey. And the war ended in defeat for Bulgaria - and, still more tragically, for the ideal of Orthodox Catholicism….
Every attempt by an Orthodox or formerly Orthodox nation in modern times to achieve regeneration, not through a return to purity of faith and good works, but through national self-aggrandisement, has been severely punished by the Lord. Thus when Georgia tried to break away from Russia in 1917, she soon found herself, first under a Menshevik, and then under a Bolshevik government. When the Greeks tried to capitalise on the defeat of Turkey in the First World War in 1922, they were defeated and the whole of the Greek population of Asia Minor (and, in 1974, northern Cyprus also) was expelled. When the Serbs tried to achieve a “Greater Serbia” by war against all the other republics of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the result was a lesser Serbia – lesser in size, in economy and, above all, in spiritual stature.
The Jews in the time of Nebuchadnezzar had similar strivings for national independence and greatness, but were met with the words: “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live. Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord hath spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?… I will acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land…” (Jer. 27.12-13, 24.5-6). Thus captivity, national humiliation at the hands even of pagans, is sometimes for the good of the people of God, and should not be resisted. For God’s will is worked even in the pagan kingdoms.
But why, then, did the Jews resist Antiochus Epiphanes some centuries later, and this time succeed in winning their national independence? Was Nebuchadnezzar any less of a pagan than Antiochus? No, he was not. But God knew that Nebuchadnezzar’s captivity would be for the good of the Jews, whereas Antiochus struck at the very heart of the Jewish faith. Moreover, the motivation of the Jews in the latter case was better and purer in the former: whereas in the time of Nebuchadnezzar they were fighting for national independence and not for the faith, in the time of Antiochus they were fighting for the faith first of all…
5. A Hierarchy of Political Loyalties
The nineteenth century threw up other difficult problems of political loyalty. One of these arose during the Crimean War of 1854-56, when the Russian armies were fighting the Turks and their western allies on Russian soil. The question was: which side were the Orthodox of Greece and the Balkans to support?
The Ecumenical Patriarch ordered all the monasteries on Mount Athos to pray for the triumph of the Turkish armies during the war. On hearing this, the Georgian elder, Hieroschemamonk Hilarion said of the patriarch: "He is not a Christian", and when he heard that the monks of Grigoriou monastery had carried out the patriarch's command, he said: "You have been deprived of the grace of Holy Baptism, and have deprived your monastery of the grace of God." And when the abbot came to the elder to repent, he said to him: "How did you dare, wretched one, to put Mohammed higher than Christ? God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ says to His Son: 'Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet' (Psalm 109.1), but you ask Him to put His son under the feet of His enemies!"
Again, in a letter to the head of chancellery of the Russian Holy Synod, Elder Hilarion wrote: "The other peoples' kings [i.e. not the Russian Tsar] often make themselves out to be something great, but not one of them is a king in reality, but they are only adorned and flatter themselves with a great name, but God is not favourably disposed towards them, and does not abide in them. They reign only in part, by the condescension of God. Therefore he who does not love his God-established tsar is not worthy of being called a Christian..."
A hierarchy of political loyalties appeared to be established here. At the top of the hierarchy was loyalty to the Orthodox Christian Emperor, who, since at least the late sixteenth century, had been the Russian Tsar. The greater authority of the Russian Tsar over all other political authorities did not reside in his purely political power, but in the mystical anointing that he received from the Church. Other authorities might be powers in the Apostles’ understanding of the word, in that they in general punished evildoers and rewarded the good (I Peter 2.14; Rom. 13.3), but the grace to protect the Church of God was given to the Russian Empire alone. That is why it was incumbent upon all Orthodox Christians to pray and give thanks for the Russian Tsar, even if they lived in other States. For, as St. Seraphim said: "After Orthodoxy, zealous devotion to the Tsar is the Russian's first duty and the chief foundation of true Christian piety."
Nor was this only a Russian’s duty. Already in 1562 the Ecumenical Patriarch Joasaph called the Tsar “our Tsar”, applying to him the same epithets, “pious, God-crowned and Christ-loving” as were applied to the Byzantine Emperors., and ascribing to him authority over “Orthodox Christians in the entire universe”. Again, in 1589 the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II confirmed that the Russian Tsardom was "the Third Rome" and declared, addressing the Tsar: "Thou alone under heaven art Christian emperor for all Christians in the world."
Strictly speaking, according to Elder Hilarion, only the Orthodox Christian emperor had full political authority and legitimacy. Other states could be said to share in that gift of the Holy Spirit which is political government (I Cor. 12.27) only relatively, depending on the closeness of their relationship to the Orthodox empire. According to the Byzantine theory of statehood, which the elder inherited, this would include, first of all, other Orthodox Christian rulers who had received the true anointing of the Holy Church, and then allies or friends of the empire. Further down the hierarchy, a certain, though lesser, degree of political legitimacy could also be said to belong to other, non-Christian rulers who maintained the basic principles of law and order against the forces of anarchy and revolution. However, such rulers, being heterodox, could support Orthodoxy only indirectly, while by their confession of heterodoxy they inevitably harmed it to some degree.
The Ottoman empire was a clear example of this kind of power. It aided Orthodoxy indirectly by preserving the Balkan Orthodox peoples in existence and defending them from the incursions of western missionaries and heresies (including nationalism). But by its killing of the new martyrs and restrictions on Orthodox education and church-building it showed itself an enemy of Orthodoxy. Such rulers were to be honoured for the sake of their positive contributions, and even their oppressions could be seen as chastisement for sin; which was why Divine Providence allowed them to rule over the Orthodox. But this fact was not to be allowed to obscure the higher honour in which the Orthodox emperor was to be held by Orthodox Christians – all Orthodox Christians.
How was this higher honour to be expressed by those Orthodox living outside the Orthodox empire, or in states like Turkey that were at times hostile to it? Again, active rebellion in favour of the empire, even if it were a practical possibility, could not be an obligation for citizens of other states. In this sense political allegiance has a much more pragmatic connotation, in the Orthodox understanding, than ecclesiastical allegiance. If one’s ecclesiastical lord is a heretic, one must leave him, according to the Law of God, and find an Orthodox one, whatever the cost. But if one’s political lord is a heretic or a pagan, there is no such obligation – only the obligation to pray and long for “the peace of Jerusalem”, the prosperity and final victory of the Orthodox Christian empire.
Thus the holy martyrs Manuel, Sabel and Ismael, on reaching maturity, enrolled in the armies of the Persian King Alamundar, although he was a pagan and Persia was often at war with the Byzantine empire. Again, during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05, St. Nicholas, archbishop and apostle of Japan, allowed his Japanese Orthodox spiritual children to pray for the victory of the pagan Japanese armies in the war against the Russian empire in 1904-05. But he himself, as an Orthodox Christian and a Russian subject, felt unable to join in those prayers…
The problem is: if we compare these cases with the above-cited judgement of Elder Hilarion, we appear to have two contradictory principles: the principle that loyalty must be demonstrated above all to that State which stands for Christ in the Orthodox Faith, the Orthodox Empire, and the principle that loyalty must be shown to one’s native land, whether or not it is Orthodox, because Christ came, not to destroy the existing worldly structures, but to transfigure them.
Abstract principles cannot always be reconciled, or placed neatly in a hierarchical order. Dilemmas arise in which there is only one solution: to seek the will of God for the individual person in the concrete situation. Let us consider the case of the Russo-Japanese war. Here it was not the will of God that the Orthodox Empire should triumph, in spite of the fact that paganism was seen to triumph over Orthodoxy, and the foundations of the Orthodox Empire were shaken. We can only speculate why – God’s judgements are a great abyss. However, knowing what God’s judgement turned out to be in this particular case, we can see the wisdom of the Russian Orthodox pastor in his care for his Japanese Orthodox flock. He himself could not possibly pray for what was a victory both of paganism over Orthodoxy and of foreigners over his native land. But, perhaps knowing of the eventual outcome, and also perhaps that his flock was not strong enough to defy their own government over what was a matter of politics rather than faith, he allowed them to express their natural patriotic feelings…
6. Orthodoxy and the Soviet Antichrist
So far we have considered only political authorities which, whether Orthodox, heretical or pagan, can all be called “authorities” in St. Paul’s definition of the word – that is, which in general “are not a terror to good works, but to the evil” (Rom. 13.3). As such, and insofar as they are willing and able to maintain a minimum level of law and order, these authorities can be said to be “of God” (Rom. 13.1), even if many of their individual actions are carried out in defiance of God. However, the Holy Scriptures speak of another “authority” that receives its power, not from God, but from “the dragon” – that is, from Satan (Rev. 13.2). This is that lowest level of political authority - if it should not rather be called “anti-authority” - which does not even have the minimal quality of preserving law and order, but actively wars against all that is good and pure and simply normal in human society. This power is the power of the Antichrist.
It fell to the lot of the Russian people in 1917 to be the first nation in history to fall under the yoke of the Antichrist, in that collectivist form which called itself Soviet power. For a long time – at least ten years – the Russian Church wavered in her estimation of this power. At the beginning, in the Church Council of 1917-18, she anathematised it, forbade her children to have any relations whatsoever with it, and in general ignored all its decrees. This first, completely uncompromising, instinct of the Russian Church in the face of Soviet power was never permanently extinguished. It continued to manifest itself both at home and abroad, in both the early and the later decades of Soviet power.
Thus the All-Emigration Council of the Russian Church in Exile, which opened its first session on November 8/21, 1921, called on the Genoa conference to refuse recognition to the Bolshevik regime, to arm its opponents, and restore the Romanov dynasty. In defence of this call, which provoked the frenzy of the Bolsheviks and which many regarded as dangerous dabbling in politics, the First-Hierarch of the Church in Exile, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, said: “If by politics one understands all that touches upon the life of the people, beginning with the rightful position of the Church within the realm, then the ecclesiastical authorities and Church councils must participate in political life, and from this point of view definite demands are made upon it. Thus, the holy hierarch Hermogenes laid his life on the line by first demanding that the people be loyal to Tsar Basil Shuisky, and when the Poles imprisoned him he demanded the election of Tsar Michael Romanov. At the present time, the paths of the political life of the people are diverging in various directions in a far more definite way: some, in a positive sense, for the Faith and the Church, others in an inimical sense; some in support of the army and against socialism and communism, others exactly the opposite. Thus the Karlovtsy Council not only had the right, but was obliged to bless the army for the struggle against the Bolsheviks, and also, following the Great Council of Moscow of 1917-1918, to condemn socialism and communism.”.
However, the sheer weight of the terrorist machine in Russia, and, still more, the lack of unanimity of the Church herself, compelled the Church in the person of the Patriarch to adopt a more neutral, apolitical stance. Therefore from the early 1920s a new attitude towards Soviet power began to evolve among the Tikhonite Christians: loyalty towards it as a political institution ("for all power is from God"), and acceptance of such of its laws as could be interpreted in favour of the Church (for example, the law on the separation of Church and State), combined with rejection of its atheistic world-view (large parts of which the renovationists, by contrast, accepted). In essence, this new attitude involved accepting that the Soviet State was, contrary to what the Local Council of 1917-18 and the Russian Church Abroad had in effect declared, not Antichrist, but Caesar, no worse in principle than the Caesars of Ancient Rome, to whom the things belonging to Caesar were due. This attitude involved the assertion that it was possible, in the Soviet Union as in Ancient Rome, to draw a clear line between politics and religion.
But in practice, even more than in theory, this line proved very hard to draw. For for the early Bolsheviks, at any rate, there was no such dividing line; for them, everything was ideological, everything had to be in accordance with their ideology, there could be no room for disagreement, no private spheres into which the state and its ideology did not pry. Unlike most of the Roman emperors, who allowed the Christians to order their own lives in their own way so long as they showed loyalty to the state (which, as we have seen, the Christians were very eager to do), the Bolsheviks insisted in imposing their own ways upon the Christians in every sphere: in family life (civil marriage only, divorce on demand, children spying on parents), in education (compulsory Marxism), in economics (dekulakization, collectivization), in military service (the oath of allegiance to Lenin), in science (Lysenkoism), in art (socialist realism), and in religion (the requisitioning of valuables, registration, commemoration of the authorities at the Liturgy, reporting of confessions by the priests). Resistance to any one of these demands was counted as "anti-Soviet behaviour", i.e. political disloyalty. Therefore it was no use protesting one's political loyalty to the regime if one refused to accept just one of these demands. According to the Soviet interpretation of the word: "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one has become guilty of all of it" (James 2.10), such a person was an enemy of the people.
The point is that a neat division between politics and religion, which is hard enough to make in a normal state, is out of the question in the state of the Antichrist. For the Antichrist, everything is politics – or religion, whichever way you like to look at it. Everything is assessed in relation to whether it aids or hinders the fundamental aims of the antichristian state. But how can Christianity be neutral with regard to the aims of antichristianity? How can the Church of Christ deny that her fundamental aims, and the whole purpose of her existence and of everything she does, are totally, diametrically opposed to those of “the Church of the evildoers”?
In view of this, it is not surprising that many Christians came to the conclusion that it was less morally debilitating to reject the whole regime that made such impossible demands, since the penalty would be the same whether one asserted one's loyalty to it or not. And if this meant living as an outlaw, so be it.
Nevertheless, the path of total rejection of the Soviet state required enormous courage, strength and self-sacrifice, not only for oneself but also (which was more difficult) for one's family or flock. For the Patriarch, in particular, the dilemma was unbearable. While willing to become a martyr personally, he was not prepared to place this burden on the whole Church, and so began to negotiate with the authorities - with, it must be admitted, only mixed results. Thus his decision to allow some, but not all of the Church's valuables to be requisitioned by the Bolsheviks in 1922 not only did not bring help to the starving of the Volga, as was the intention, but led to many clashes between believers and the authorities and many deaths of believers. For, as the holy Elder Nectarius of Optina said: "You see now, the patriarch gave the order to give up all valuables from the churches, but they belonged to the Church!"
The decision to negotiate and compromise with the Bolsheviks - in transgression of the decrees of the 1917-18 Council - only brought confusion and division to the Church. Thus on the right wing of the Church there were those, like Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk, who thought that the patriarch had already gone too far; while on the left wing there were those, like Archbishop Hilarion of Verey, who wanted to go further. The basic problem was that the compromises were always one-sided; the Bolsheviks always took and never gave; their aim was not peaceful co-existence, but the complete conquest of the Church.
And so, as a "Letter from Russia" put it many years later: "It's no use our manoeuvring: there's nothing for us to preserve except the things that are God's. For the things that are Caesar's (if one should really consider it to be Caesar and not Pharaoh) are always associated with the quenching of the Spirit..."
However, the Patriarchal Church remained Orthodox under Patriarch Tikhon and his successor, Metropolitan Peter, for two major reasons: first, because the leaders of the Church kept their flock, if not themselves, out of the morally debilitating swamp of compromises with the Antichrist; and secondly, because, while the Soviet regime was recognised to be, in effect, Caesar rather than Pharaoh, no further concessions were made with regard to the communist ideology.
Everything changed, however, with Metropolitan Sergius' notorious declaration of 1927. By declaring that the Soviet regime's joys were the Church's joys, and its sorrows the Church's sorrows, Sergius in effect declared an identity of aims between the Church and the State. And this was not just a lie, but a lie against the faith, a concession to the communist ideology. In fact, it implied that communism as such was good, and its victory to be welcomed.
Moreover, Sergius followed this up by committing the sin of Judas; he placed all those who disagreed with him under ban and in effect handed them over to the GPU as "counter-revolutionaries". Far from "saving the Church", as he claimed, he condemned its finest members to torture and death. And then his successors in the present-day Moscow Patriarchate followed this up with the sin of Pilate - the criminal indifference to the truth manifest in their participation in the "heresy of heresies", ecumenism.
In order to protect the flock of Christ from Sergius' apostasy, the leaders of the True Church had to draw once more the line between politics and religion in such a way as to recognise that Soviet “politics” could not but be antireligious in essence. One approach was to distinguish between physical opposition to the regime and spiritual opposition to it. Thus Archbishop Barlaam of Perm wrote that physical opposition was not permitted, but spiritual opposition was obligatory.
Again, Hieromartyr Bishop Mark (Novoselov) wrote: “I am an enemy of Soviet power – and what is more, by dint of my religious convictions, insofar as Soviet power is an atheist power and even anti-theist. I believe that as a true Christian I cannot strengthen this power by any means… [There is] a petition which the Church has commanded to be used everyday in certain well-known conditions… The purpose of this formula is to request the overthrow of the infidel power by God… But this formula does not amount to a summons to believers to take active measures, but only calls them to pray for the overthrow of the power that has fallen away from God.” This criterion allowed Christians quite sincerely to reject the charge of "counter-revolution" - if "counter-revolution" were understood to mean physical rebellion. The problem was, as we have seen, that the Bolsheviks understood "counter-revolution" in a much wider sense…
Another, still more basic problem was that it still left the question whether Soviet power was from God or not unresolved. If Soviet power was from God, it should be counted as Caesar and should be given what was Caesar's. But bitter experience had shown that this "Caesar" wanted to seat himself in the temple as if he were God (II Thess. 2.4). So was he not in fact Antichrist, whose power is not from God, but from Satan (Rev. 13.2), being allowed, but by no means established by God for the punishment of sinners? If so, then there was no alternative but to flee into the catacombs, rejecting totally the government of Satan on earth.
In the early years after Metropolitan Sergius' declaration, many Catacomb Christians, while in practice not surrendering what was God's to the Soviets, in theory could not make up their minds whether the Soviet regime was Caesar or Antichrist. Thus Hieromartyr Joseph (Gavrilov), superior of Raithu Desert (+1930), confessed at his interrogation: "I have never, and do not now, belong to any political parties. I consider Soviet power to be given from God, but a power that is from God must fulfil the will of God, and Soviet power does not fulfil the will of God. Therefore it is not from God, but from Satan. It closes churches, mocks the holy icons, teaches children atheism, etc. That is, it fulfils the will of Satan... It is better to die with faith than without faith. I am a real believer, faith has saved me in battles, and I hope that in the future faith will save me from death. I firmly believe in the Resurrection of Christ and His Second Coming. I have not gone against the taxes, since it says in Scripture: 'To Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.'"
From this confession, impressive though it is, it is not clear whether Hieromartyr Joseph recognised the Soviet regime as Caesar, and therefore from God, or as Antichrist, and therefore from Satan. In the end the Bolsheviks resolved his dilemma for him. They shot him, and therefore showed that they were precisely- Antichrist.
In the Russian Church in Exile, meanwhile, a consensus had emerged that the Soviet regime was not Caesar, but Antichrist. This was the position of, for example, Archbishop Theophanes of Poltava, Metropolitan Innocent of Peking and Archbishop Averky of Jordanville. As Archbishop Theophanes put it in the same critical year of 1927: "The Bolshevik authorities are in essence antichristian, and there is no way in which they can be recognised as being established by God."
The canonist of the Russian Church Abroad, Bishop Gregory Grabbe, pointed out the similarity between Soviet power and that of Julian the Apostate: “With regard to the question of the commemoration of authorities, we must bear in mind that now we are having dealings not simply with a pagan government like Nero’s, but with the apostasy of the last times. Not with a so far unenlightened authority, but with apostasy. The Holy Fathers did not relate to Julian the Apostate in the same way as they did to the other pagan Emperors. And we cannot relate to the antichristian authorities in the same way as to any other, for its nature is purely satanic.”
Protopriest Michael Polsky, who was on Solovki for the faith, but then fled abroad, explains how Metropolitan Sergius’ declaration opened his eyes to the impossibility of the “apolitical” approach in the conditions of the Soviet Union.
“How can I, a believing person,” he asked, “recognise a godless power? What does it mean – not to be its political enemy? In a joint life with pagans I could recognise Caesar, while rejecting Caesar’s gods. But now, being a believer, I inescapably, necessarily fight against the authorities, whether I like it or not – I undermine its foundations, I destroy the spirit of the revolution, I hinder the socialist construction of the state. If religion in its essence is counter-revolutionary, then I am a counter-revolutionary. My counter-revolution is my struggle for the faith. If I am for religion, I am organically already against the Bolshevik power. And how shall I separate godlessness from the Bolshevik power?
“If humanity has in the Bolsheviks a completely godless power for the first time, then is this not the first and only case in history when religion is inseparable from politics for the believer?”
The Catacomb Church was not able, of course, to define her position in an official manner because of the near impossibility of convening a Council representing the whole Church in the catacombs. However, her relationship to the Soviet State was defined in a catacomb document dating from the Brezhnev years as follows:
"Authority is given by God in order to preserve and fulfil the law... But how should one look on the Soviet authority, following the Apostolic teaching on authorities [Rom. 13]? In accordance with the Apostolic teaching which we have set forth, one must acknowledge that the Soviet authority is not an authority. It is an anti-authority. It is not an authority because it is not established by God, but insolently created by an aggregation of the evil actions of men, and it is consolidated and supported by these actions. If the evil actions weaken, the Soviet authority, representing a condensation of evil, likewise weakens... This authority consolidates itself in order to destroy all religions, simply to eradicate faith in God. Its essence is warfare with God, because its root is from satan. The Soviet authority is not authority, because by its nature it cannot fulfil the law, for the essence of its life is evil.
"It may be said that the Soviet authority, in condemning various crimes of men, can still be considered an authority. We do not say that a ruling authority is totally lacking. We only affirm that it is an anti-authority. One must know that the affirmation of real power is bound up with certain actions of men, to whom the instinct of preservation is natural. And they must take into consideration the laws of morality which have been inherent in mankind from ages past. But in essence this authority systematically commits murder physically and spiritually. In reality a hostile power acts, which is called Soviet authority. The enemy strives by cunning to compel humanity to acknowledge this power as an authority. But the Apostolic teaching on authority is inapplicable to it, just as evil is inapplicable to God and the good, because evil is outside God; but the enemies with hypocrisy can take refuge in the well-known saying that everything is from God.
"This Soviet anti-authority is precisely the collective Antichrist, warfare against God..."
Thus we come to the conclusion that the confessing Christians of the Soviet Union suffered and died precisely for Christ and against the Antichrist. This was not a political struggle because the Soviet Antichrist was not a purely political power. It was a power whose raison d’être was war against God, the works of God and the God-established order in every sphere of life. And since, for Soviet power, “he who is not with me is against me”, anyone who was not with Soviet power in its God-fighting ends was also necessarily against it in general. For in the kingdom of the Antichrist there is no sustainable boundary between religion and politics; everything is both religion and politics; for he claims to be both lord (of the bodies) and god (of the souls) of his subjects. This being so, it is impossible to resist the Antichrist in one sphere while co-operating with him in another - the totalitarian man-god must be rejected totally. It is the glory of the holy new Martyrs and Confessors of Russia that, having exhausted all attempts to achieve some kind of honourable modus vivendi with the Antichrist (more often than not, for the sake of others rather than themselves), when they were finally presented with the stark choice between the man-god and the God-Man, they boldly and unswervingly chose the latter, proclaiming: "Thou art my Lord and my God" (John 20.28).
7. Orthodoxy in the Post-Soviet Period
Just as the world was never the same again after the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the world, so it can never the same since the appearance of the Antichrist in the form of Soviet power. Although Soviet power collapsed in 1989-91, this can in no way be considered its final defeat, but rather its temporary wounding, as one horn of the first beast of the Apocalypse was “wounded”, but then recovered and was healed (Rev. 13.3,12). For if one politico-religious institution of the Antichrist has fallen, his spirit continues to live and continues to seek to incarnate itself in political and religious institutions. The Church has been given a temporary “breathing space” in which to gather her forces in preparation for a still more subtle and powerful assault, just as the Christians of the Roman empire were given a breathing space of relative peace before the final persecution of Diocletian.
However, no effective defence of Orthodoxy can be undertaken unless the lessons of the previous era are learned. Unfortunately, these lessons appear to have been learned by very few. Some see in the increased veneration for the Tsar-Martyr, and in the rise of monarchist parties, a sign that the main lesson implicit in the fall of the Orthodox empire is beginning to be learned – the lesson, namely, that the Orthodox empire was a gift from God second in value only to Orthodoxy itself, and therefore needed to be cherished and supported rather than undermined and destroyed.
This is true. And yet the Empire existed for Orthodoxy, and not Orthodoxy for the Empire – but the great majority of contemporary Russian monarchists support the Moscow Patriarchate, which bowed down to the Soviet Antichrist, is still reluctant to recognise the sanctity of the Tsar-Martyr, and has now become in many ways the chief corrupter of the Russian people, both in faith and in morals.
Even some monarchist writers of the Russian Church Abroad appear to have fallen into this trap. A recent unsigned article in a ROCA publication argues that Russia already has a true Empress – Maria Vladimirovna Romanova, the widow of Great-Prince Vladimir Kirillovich, who in 1991 apostasised from the ROCA to the Moscow Patriarchate, dying shortly thereafter. The writer of this article forgets that the very first condition for any candidate to the throne of the Orthodox Empire is true Orthodoxy. Even supposing that Great-Princess Maria Vladimirovna fulfilled every other condition (which is disputable), the single fact that she is a member of the Moscow Patriarchate and is therefore in heresy, disqualifies her.
Let us remember that after, during the Time of Troubles, when the Poles and renegade Russians forced Tsar Basil Shuisky to abdicate and installed a Catholic tsar in the Kremlin, Patriarch Hermogen not only anathematised the new “tsar” and all who followed him, but called on the Orthodox to rise up in armed rebellion against the usurper. Such a step was completely unprecedented in Church history. It signified that, for an Orthodox nation, a ruler who takes the place of a truly anointed ruler – and, moreover, does not confess the Orthodox faith, as all truly anointed rulers must - is not simply a bad ruler, but an “anti-ruler” – an “anti-christ”, since he was “in the place of” the truly anointed one (the Greek word “christ” means “anointed one”).
While the Moscow Patriarchate that was created by Sovietism still lives, Soviet power still lives, and the position of the True Church in the State is likely to be precarious. Therefore those who long for the re-establishment of a true State, a State with which the Church can not only do business but with which it can enter into a true symphony for the sake of the salvation of all, must work in the first place for the triumph of truth over heresy. For only when the Kingdom that is not of this world has taken its residence in our hearts through the sanctification that comes through truth can we realistically hope for that blessed moment when that other-worldly Kingdom will also conquer the kingdom of this world.
March 11/24, 2001.
Martyrdom of Emperor Paul I of Russia.
13. IN SEARCH OF NEVER-LOST RUSSIA
Introduction. In his article, “In Search of Lost Byzantium”, Hieromonk Gregory (Lourié) has argued that “in Synodal Russia a special teaching on the Church was formed that does not conform with the patristic one. This teaching – already to be found in the edition of Theophan Prokopovich or Philaret Drozdov, and not only Sergius Stragorodsky – cannot be theologically qualified in any other way than as ecclesiological heresy. The essence of this heresy does not lie in the idea of submitting the Church to some especially bad secular power, but in the very idea of making the Church administration a part of the State administration. This denies the idea of the Church as an unearthly (precisely a theanthropic) ‘organization’, albeit dwelling on the earth, and in this way we really have in this conception the ecclesiological analogue of Arianism, in the bosom of which this conception was born.”
In this short paragraph Fr. Gregory accuses the whole of the Russian Church since the time of Peter the Great’s Spiritual Regulation (1721) of ecclesiological heresy, the same heresy as that proclaimed by Sergius Stragorodsky and the Sovietised Moscow Patriarchate from 1927 and known by the Orthodox under the name of Sergianism.
“Let us recall,” he writes, “that all the decrees of the Synod, including the ordination of bishops, necessarily began with the formula: ‘By order of His Imperial Majesty the Most Holy Governing Synod has commanded…’ – and compare this formula with the text of the canon (the 30th of the Holy Apostles): ‘If any bishop acquires Episcopal power in the Church by the use of secular bosses, let him be defrocked and excommunicated, and all those who gather together with him’...
“Thus the whole Russian hierarchy, and, through it, all the clergy, was subject to defrocking and complete excommunication from the Church. Of course, ‘is subject to’ defrocking and excommunication and ‘is’ defrocked and excommunicated are not one and the same thing. But it is absolutely clear that the system of ‘ecclesiastical’ administration based on the criminal (from a canonical point of view) principle can in no way put into practice a real Church administration... This means that in Synodal Russia a special teaching on the Church was formed which did not conform with the patristic teaching.”
We shall not dispute the judgement that Peter the Great’s abolition of the patriarchate and introduction of the Regulation was both anti-canonical and deeply harmful to the Church. Instead, the following three questions are posed: (1) Was the theory and practice of the Russian Church as sharply different from the Byzantine theory and practice as Fr. Gregory claims? (2) Did this distortion of Church-State relations produced by the Regulation constitute an ecclesiological heresy or simply a violation of the canons? and (3) Is Fr. Gregory’s own theory of Church-State relations patristic? Since the last question is the most fundamental, we shall begin with it.
1. Fr. Gregory’s Political Manichaeism. Fr. Gregory’s attempt to prove that the Russian Church fell into ecclesiological heresy centuries before the revolution proceeds from his general understanding of the relationship between the Church and the world. Briefly put, his idea amounts to the belief that the Church as such is an exclusively heavenly organism and therefore she must in no way be drawn into earthly politics, nor submit in any way to the influence of earthly rulers. The Church is not of this world whereas the State is of this world, so there can be no real meeting between them even in the best case, that is, in the case of “symphony” with an Orthodox ruler. “At the base of symphony (which literally means ‘agreement’), there lies the idea of the ontological distinction between the Empire and the Church... In the Church as an earthly organization there is really present the Church as the Body of Christ... But in the Empire there is nothing of the sort: it, by contrast with the Church, does not contain within itself the reality of the Heavenly Kingdom.”
We may call this idea political manichaeism. It is closely linked in Fr. Gregory’s writings with sexual manichaeism, the idea that marriage (unless it is virginal) is not part of the reality of the New Testament. Neither marriage nor politics are occupations of the True Christian, who lives, not according to the law, but by grace.
Fr. Gregory’s sexual manichaeism has been discussed by the present writer in other works. Here attention is concentrated on his political manichaeism. And we may agree immediately that earthly politics very often is dirty. In no sphere of human life, perhaps, is it more difficult to avoid serious sin. Therefore the Church jealously guards her independence from earthly rulers, as expressed above all in the famous 30th Apostolic Canon.
However, the Church is both “heavenly” and “earthly”, and the heavenly and earthly aspects of her existence cannot be radically separated, any more than the soul and the body. The very attempt to do this is dangerous. After all, the separation of the soul from the body is the definition of death. Besides, what is politics if not human life on the broadest, most public scale? And who would dare to say that the Church cannot touch this sphere of life also with her grace?
According to Fr. Gregory (at this point he refers to St. Methodius of Olympus, but without any quotations), the relationship of the Church to the world is one of co-existence, no more: ‘The Church of the New Testament wanders in the desert of the world, accomplishing her New Exodus into the promised land – the life of the future age, which is the eighth millennium of years, that is, eternity. The whole history of the world is six thousand years of creation. While this history is continuing, the New Testament church has already departed beyond its borders, and therefore for the Church herself (but not for the world around her!) the seventh millennium has already come – the thousand-year Kingdom about which the Apocalypse speaks (Rev. 20.4); this is also eternity, but it is distinguished from the eighth millennium in that it continues to coexist with the world.”
In fact, however, the relationship of the Church and the world, including politics, was always closer than that, even when the Roman empire was still pagan. Thus as early as the second century, writes Fr. Dionysius Alferov, St. Melito of Sardis, a disciple of St. John the Theologian, “foreseeing the inevitable union of the Church and the empire, turned to the emperor and proved to him all the beneficial effects of Christianity for the State. [Moreover,] we see many Christians among the soldiers, including the most brilliant, who accepted martyrdom for refusing to sacrifice to the idols and renounce the faith, but not at all for desertion, nor for defeatist propaganda, nor for spying, nor for blatant pacifism. Saints George the victory-bearer, Andrew the General, Great-Martyr Procopius, Theodore the General and many others, without doubting served the Roman State and Emperor with their sword.”
If the early Christians served the pagan Emperor with such zeal, it is hardly surprising that the relationship should have become closer when the Emperor became a Christian. And indeed, why should the Church not have cooperated with the Emperor (and not only “co-existed” with him), when the Emperor himself helped the Christians to fulfil the commandments of God? After all, St. Constantine punished the persecutors of Christianity, built churches, convened Christian councils to protect the Church from heresy and schism, raised the status of priests, freed Christians from working on Sundays, equipped and defended Christian missions…
The Protestants, however, declare that the Church “lost her purity” when she entered into union with the Christian Empire. According to them, with the conversion of St. Constantine it was not the Empire that became Christian, but the Church that became pagan. It simply substituted quantity for quality, a large number of mediocre Christians for the little flock of the true Christians.
Fr. Gregory has a similar idea, but in a more Judaising form. The Imperial Church was not a mass of nominal, semi-pagan Christians, but a mixture between the “elite” New Testament Christians and the mass of seeming, Old Testament “Christians”. The grace of the Church is for the elite, and the laws of the State – inescapably Old Testament in form and spirit – for the mass. Thus he writes: “Some complication of the structure was inevitable with any increase in the number of Christians. The question was only: did the given complication correspond to the Christian teaching?
“The ‘pre-imperial’ Christian society was reminiscent of a comet: those who chose the New Testament path of life constituted its fiery core, as it were, and the rest – its comparatively diffusely scattered tail, which sometimes became shorter (in times of persecution), and sometimes longer (in times of peace. In the conditions of the Christian Empire, that which used to be the ‘tail’ was converted into a solid, thick atmosphere…
“The problems of regulating the relations between the elements of this ‘atmospheric layer’ began to be decided in the only possible way – within the bounds of the civil legislation. There arose a new organization, the civil society of Christians, and this organization was not a matter of indifference for the Church. The Church had to guarantee its life in accordance with the life of the Old Testament. But not only that. A new system of legislation was also required, a system that described (albeit partially) the life of the New Testament as a social institution – and this became institutionalized monasticism.
“In the earthly Church there are two paths of life, the Old Testamental and the New Testamental, while the door from the lower to the higher must always be kept open and known to all. For this there was also created that description of the external contours of New Testamental life – it goes without saying, only the contours, and not the life itself, - which turned into the special institution of Christian monasticism, which was taken account of in both the ecclesiastical and the secular legislation…
“And so the two forms of Christian life, lay and monastic, corresponded to the ever-existing, pre-Christian alternatives of the Law and Grace. These alternatives also exist in Christian society, where both possible paths of life need each other: the Old Testamental needs the New Testamental as its aim, without which it would have no meaning, while the New Testamental needs the Old Testamental as its preparation, without which nobody would be able to receive it. If Christian society becomes larger and – the most important thing – not very ‘diffuse’ (that is, if its ‘Old Testamental’ part does not fall away from the Church too often or in too large a proportion; it is precisely those conditions that are provided by the Christian Empire), then the two paths of life need corresponding legislation. With this no antagonism arises between the two parts of Christian society: they need each other as before.”
This teaching is more than “Christian” elitism, which violates, apart from anything else, the spirit and the letter of the canons of the Council of Gangra on marriage. It constitutes ecclesiological heresy. There are not two paths of life in the Church, one New Testamental and the other Old Testamental. There is only one: the path of the New Testament, by which both monastics and married Christians live. The fact that both marriage and the kingdom existed already in the Old Testament does not mean that they must abolish themselves at the appearance of the New. On the contrary: they are filled with a new content, acquire a new aim, become wholly new through the sacraments of the New Testament. The Judaising idea that Christians can continue to live according to the law of the Old Testament was anathematized by the holy Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians: “Ye who seek to justify yourselves by the law are left without Christ, ye have fallen away from grace” (5.4).
As regards Fr. Gregory’s teaching that the Empire as it were helped the “Old Testamental” part of Christian society, “the diffuse tail of the comet”, “not to fall away from the Church too often or in too large a proportion”, there is a certain measure of truth in this. Truly, the Empire gave its subjects the opportunity to learn Christian doctrine and go to church freely, without fear of persecution, which helped the less strong Christians not to fall away from the Church. But this role cannot be called “Old Testamental”, nor can the weaker members of the Church be called “the Old Testamental part of society”. On the contrary, the help which the Christian Empire gave the weaker Christians was in the highest degree “New Testamental”. So not without reason were the true Christian Emperors called “pastors” and even “bishops” (in the sense of overseers of the Christian flock), as, for example, in the epistle of Pope Gregory II to the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian…
But is it true that “the New Testamental part of Christian society”, as being “the fiery core of the comet”, did not need the service of the Christian emperors? Hardly. For if so, why did St. Sabbas the Sanctified appeal for help to the Emperor Justinian? And why did Egyptian monasticism truly flourish only after the Christianization of the Empire? And Russian monasticism reach its apogee only under the Great Princes of Kiev and Moscow? And why did the quenching of monasticism so often coincide with the fall or spiritual weakening of the Orthodox kingdoms: Russian monasticism with the westernizing tsars and tsarinas of the 18th century, Greek monasticism with the heterodox Bavarian kings in the 19th century, and Orthodox monasticism everywhere under the communist and democratic regimes of the 20th century?
The spiritual distance between the desert and the royal palace is less, and their interdependence greater, than one might expect. The emperors often sought the prayers of the monks, and the monks – the support of the emperors. Of course, the best Christians can remain faithful to Christ in conditions of the greatest anarchy and persecution. But all Christians pray “for the kings… that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life” (I Tim. 2.2), which is a priceless gift for all.
Therefore there are no more tragic moments in the history of the Church than the fall of the Three Romes in 476, 1453 and 1917. “It could not be otherwise,” writes St. John Maximovich. “He who united everything, standing on guard for the truth, was overthrown. Sin was accomplished, opening the path for sin…”
Fr. Gregory writes: “There is no difference in principle between the State of the People of God in the form of the Christian Empire and the same State in its Old Testament form – the State whose basic laws were given by Moses long before its own coming into existence... The law of Moses remains the basis also of Christian secular legislation”.
This is not true. The foundation of Christian secular legislation was not the law of Moses, but the Gospel of Christ. If “the list of the basic [Old Testament] laws enters into the Byzantine canonical collections, including the Slavonic Rudder”, as Fr. Gregory says, this unquestionably took second place to the specifically Christian content of those collections – the dogmas and decrees of the Ecumenical and Local Councils of the Orthodox Church. Moreover, significant parts of the Old Testament law – everything that relates to rites, circumcision, animal sacrifices, etc. – found no place in the Christian collections. The Christian Emperor’s first duty was the defence of Christian dogma; and from the time of Justinian it was specifically asserted that no law which contradicted the Holy Dogmas and Canons had any legal force (Novella 131). The best Christian rulers always tried to incarnate the spirit of Christianity through Christian laws. And they succeeded: “Through him we have become deified, we have known the true life,” said Metropolitan Hilarion of Kiev about the holy equal-to-the-apostles Great Prince Vladimir. But how was it possible for the Russians to know the true life in God through St. Vladimir if he stood at the head of an Old Testament institution, distributing only the deadness of the Old Testament law?
Fr. Gregory writes: “According to Byzantine tradition, which was formed already during the course of the fourth century, the power of the Christian Emperor exists temporarily, until the Second Coming of Christ. It was thereby recognized that in the Christian Empire there ruled laws (albeit God-inspired ones) and an Emperor (albeit God-crowned), but not Christ Himself directly. But in this way it turns out that the Christian monarch led the Empire precisely to the New Testament, after the reception of which the monarchy itself would have to abolish itself… As was fitting for an Old Testament institution, the Christian Empire prepared to give way to the life of the New Testament…”
However, the life of the New Testament does not begin with the Second Coming of Christ, but with the First. And the Christian Empire will not give way to the life of the New Testament, but itself participates in it immediately and directly, on this side of the resurrection of the dead. And if the power of the Christian Emperor exists only temporarily, this power is nevertheless sacred and includes in itself the unfading, immortal grace of God, which unites it unto the ages with the power of the King of kings in the heavens… Moreover, it can hardly be coincidental that St. Constantine himself was baptised at the Feast of Pentecost, 337 as if to emphasise that the grace of Pentecost had now finally overcome the last and most stubborn bastion of the pagan world, the institution of the imperator-pontifex maximus, and had enlightened him to become “equal of the apostles”.
2. Fr. Gregory and the Symphony of Powers. In his search for proofs that the Christian Emperor is by his post not inside the Church, but outside her, Fr. Gregory rejects the conception of the Emperor as an earthly icon of the Heavenly King. And he undermines the classical conception of the symphony of powers. Let us study this more closely.
Soon after Pentecost and the founding of the Church, the apostles said: “It is not good for us to abandon the word of God and worry about tables” (Acts 6.2), and ordained seven deacons, so that they should care for the material needs of the Church. Similarly, in the fourth century the Church entrusted the Christian Emperor with “worrying about tables” – that is, the punishment of criminals, the waging of wars against pagans, the collection of taxes, the guaranteeing of a minimal level of material prosperity. In recognition of this, the Byzantine Church gave the Emperor a rank within the Church equivalent to that of deacon.
However, the real power and obligations of the Orthodox Emperor in the Church far exceeded the power and obligations of any deacon. Moreover, they related not only to the material needs of his subjects, but also to their deepest spiritual needs. Thus the Fathers of the First Council welcomed the Emperor as follows: ": "Blessed is God, Who has chosen you as king of the earth, having by your hand destroyed the worship of idols and through you bestowed peace upon the hearts of the faithful... On this teaching of the Trinity, your Majesty, is established the greatness of your piety. Preserve it for us whole and unshaken, so that none of the heretics, having penetrated into the Church, might subject our faith to mockery... Your Majesty, command that Arius should depart from his error and rise no longer against the apostolic teaching. Or if he remains obstinate in his impiety, drive him out of the Orthodox Church." As A. Tuskarev observes, "this is a clear recognition of the divine election of Constantine as the external defender of the Church, who is obliged to work with her in preserving the right faith, and in correspondence with the conciliar sentence is empowered to drive heretics out of the Church”. In recognition of this, the Byzantine Church allowed the Emperor to vest in vestments similar to those of a bishop.
Was the Emperor in fact a “bishop” in some sense? In his Life of Constantine, Eusebius Pamphilus, the arianizing bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, wrote that Constantine, “like a general bishop established by God, united the servants of God in Councils”, and that he called himself “bishop of those outside the Church” while “you are bishops of those inside the Church”. That is, he was not a bishop in the proper, liturgical and sacramental sense, but in the sense that he “oversaw [epeskopei] all the subjects of the Empire” and led them to piety.
In accordance with this conception, Eusebius said of the Christian Emperor that "the kingdom with which he is invested is an image of the heavenly one. He looks up to see the archetypal pattern and guides those whom he rules below in accordance with that pattern.” “The ruler of the whole world is the second Person of the All-Holy Trinity – the Word of God, Who is in everything visible and invisible. From this all-embracing Reason the Emperor is rational, from this Wisdom he is wise, from participation in this Divinity he is good, from communion with this Righteousness he is righteous, in accordance with the idea of this Moderation he is moderate, from the reception of this highest Power he is courageous. In all justice one must call a true Emperor him who has formed his soul with royal virtues, according to the image of the Highest Kingdom”.
Fr. Gregory rejects the teaching of Eusebius as follows: “According to Eusebius both the (Christian) Empire and the Church are ‘icons’ of the Heavenly Kingdom. The head of the Empire is the Emperor, who is himself an ‘icon’ of Christ. Hence it is evident that the Emperor is both the head of the Church on the universal (but not on the local) levelscale. It goes without saying that we are talking about the Church on earth. This is the conception which lay at the base of Byzantine ‘Caesaropapism’”.
“Hence it is evident…” But it is not evident. From the fact that the Emperor is the head of the Empire it does not follow that he is also the head of the Church on the universal level. The Emperor is the head of all Christians in the political sphere, as the episcopate as a whole is the head of all Christians in the spiritual sphere. If the Emperor is more powerful in the State than any individual bishop in the Church, this reflects the different natures of the Church and the State, their asymmetry, but it by no means follows from this that the Emperor must impose both the structure of the State, and himself as the head of the State, on the Church as her head.
Fr. Gregory continues: “It is important to understand what in these theological presuppositions was Arian… Of course, the most important thing was the whole subordinationist perspective created by Arianism: God (the Father) – then (that is, lower down) the Son (considered as a creature) – and still further down, the Church. But secondly, the ontological abysses between all three levels of this hierarchy: between God and the Son, between the Son as the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1.15), and the Church as a creature. Yes, These levels are linked between themselves by projection (the lower here is always an image of the higher), but Eusebius’ teaching on the ‘image’ does not presuppose any ontological communion between that which is different by nature…
“In this situation there can be no teaching about the Church as the Body of Christ in the most literal, physical sense – the Body whose life even on earth takes place in eternity. Correspondingly, the teaching on the Church’s otherworldliness, her ‘wandering’ and Exodus in the wilderness of this world, is also lost. Ontologically the Church is equated (with some qualifications) with another completely earthly organization of Christians – the Empire.”
As so often with Fr. Gregory, here much is asserted with minimal proof. But the most important question for us is not: is his description of Eusebius’ teaching accurate? but: is the conception of the Christian Emperor as an icon of the Heavenly King necessarily linked with Arianism? The answer to this is clear: no. Thus the completely Orthodox St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote to the Emperor Theodosius II (who convened the Third Ecumenical Council): “In truth, you are a certain image and likeness of the Heavenly Kingdom”.
Turning now to the conception of the Symphony of Powers, the Empire and the Priesthood, as classically expressed in Justinian’s Sixth Novella, Fr. Gregory finds himself in agreement with the conception, and recognizes that it contains within itself the idea of the Empire as an image of the Heavenly Kingdom. But he insists that the Empire and the Church are “images” of the Heavenly Kingdom in different senses: “At the base of the symphony (which literally means ‘agreement’) there lies the idea of the ontological difference between the Empire and the Church (albeit taken only within the bounds of the earthly organization). Both the Church and the Empire are ‘images’ of the Heavenly Kingdom (which is why Eusebius never ceases to be topical, but is only reinterpreted), but they are not ‘images’ in one and the same sense. In the Church as an earthly organization there is really present the Church as the Body of Christ – but this is not simply an image, but the very reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. But in the Empire there is nothing of the sort: it, by contrast with the Church, does not contain within itself the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. If we can compare the Empire with an icon of the Heavenly Kingdom painted in oils, then the Church on earth must correspond to the Eucharist. Only on the basis of such a delimitation can the possibility of a symphony between the Church and the Empire arise. Hence the principles of the autonomy of their inner structures, legislation, etc.”
There can be no argument: the Church and the Empire are ontologically different, if only because not all the subjects of the Empire are members of the Church, and not all the members of the Church are subjects of the Empire. But what if the boundaries of the Church (albeit taken only within the bounds of the earthly organization) and the boundaries of the Empire coincided? Would this not be the fulfillment of the prophecy: “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ, and He will reign unto the ages of ages” (Rev. 11.15)? Of course, the difference between the Empire and the Priesthood would remain. But it would be impossible to say then, when God has become “all in all”, that the Empire “by contrast with the Church, does not contain within itself the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven”.
It goes without saying that this vision represents an ideal. But in a theological ideal we contemplate the possibilities of reality, its ontological essence and depth. And it is on the basis of such a possibility of the union of the Church and the Empire, and not – or not only – on the basis of their delimitation, that “the possibility of the symphony of Church and Empire arises”.
Ñîrrespondingly, the Holy Scriptures and Patristic Tradition underline the similarity of the partners in the symphony of powers. Thus the Emperor and the Hierarch are “the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zech. 4.14). They are like “two olive trees” communicating His grace to the Christian people (Zech. 4.3). Of the one it is written: “He shall build the temple of the Lord, and shall bear royal honour, and shall sit upon his throne” (Zech. 6.13). And of the other it is written: “And there shall be a priest by his throne, and peaceful understanding shall be between them both” (Zech. 6.14).
Fr. Gregory still insists on a more radical difference, not two olive trees in the House of the Lord, but one inside and one out: “It is absolutely correct to say that the Emperor is – according to his post, but not as a person – outside the organization of the Church. The classical text is the Sixth Novella of the holy Emperor Justinian, which simultaneously has the significance of ecclesiastical and secular law.” However, Justinian’s Sixth Novella says that the Kingdom and the Priesthood “proceed from one source”, that is, God. And the Seventh Novella declares: “The difference between the priesthood and the Empire is small”. Therefore, as Fr. Alexis Nikolin writes, “The Church and the State constitute as it were one whole, one organism in a single service to the work of God, albeit ‘unconfusedly’, nevertheless ‘inseparably’”.
Another classical text, the Epanagoge of St. Photius the Great, states: “The State is constituted of parts and members like an individual person. The greatest and most necessary parts are the Emperor and the Patriarch. Therefore unanimity in everything and symphony (sumfwnia) between the Kingdom and the Priesthood (ñînstitutes) the spiritual and bodily peace and prosperity of the subjects” (Titulus III, 8). And so, like the soul and body of a man, the Kingdom and the Priesthood are created from different substances and have different functions, but constitute parts of a single organism. And if the Epanogoge calls this organism “the State”, and not “the Church”, this only goes to prove how closely related these concepts were in the consciousness of the Byzantines. For, as Patriarch Anthony IV wrote in 1393: “The Empire and the Church are in a close union and communion between each other, and it is impossible to separate the one from the other.”
As Professor A.V. Kartashev writes: "The hierarchy of the relationships between spirit and flesh, and therefore also of the Church and the State, has its foundation in the creation itself. Just as the body must be the obedient and perfect instrument of the spirit, so the State is ideally thought of as the obedient and perfect instrument of the Church, for it is she that knows and reveals to mankind its higher spiritual aims, pointing the way to the attainment of the Kingdom of God. In this sense the Church is always theocratic, for to her have been opened and handed over the means of the power of God over the hearts of men. She is the ideal active principle, and the role of the State in comparison with her is secondary. The Church leads the State and the people, for she knows where she is going. The Orthodox State freely submits to this leadership. But just as in the individual person the harmony of spirit and flesh has been destroyed by the original sin, so is it in the relationship between the Church and the State. Hence it is practically difficult to carry out the task of Church-State symphony in the sinful world. Just as the individual Christian commits many sins, great and small, on his way to holiness, so the people united in the Christian State suffer many falls on the way to symphony. Deviations from the norm are linked with violations of the hierarchical submission of the flesh to the spirit, the State to the Church. But these sins and failures cannot overthrow the system of the symphony of Church and State in its essence."
3. Church and State in Muscovite Russia. Let us now turn to Fr. Gregory’s theory that “the transfer of the centre of the Christian Empire to Russia, which was completed in the 16th century, was immediately marked by the violation of that ‘dynamic balance’ which had been established in Byzantium. We are talking about that radical disruption of the canonical order of the Russian Church that was elicited by the second marriage of Basil III (1525), and by the substitution for the canonical ecclesiastical administration of a puppet one that turned out to be necessary for this marriage. This quite quickly led to the denial of symphony not only in practice, but also in the theory of state and ecclesiastical law.”
A Byzantine prophecy of the 8th or 9th century from St. Sabba’s monastery in Palestine foretold: "The sceptre of Orthodox statehood will fall out of the weakened hands of the Byzantine emperors, because they will have turned out to be incapable of attaining true symphony of Church and State. Therefore, by the Providence of God a third God-chosen people will be sent to take the place of the chosen, but spiritually weakened Greek people". The third God-chosen people was the Russian; and the natural conclusion from the prophecy contradicts Fr. Gregory’s conclusions: it was not the Russians, but the Byzantines who destroyed the “dynamic balance” between the Empire and the Priesthood.
Fr. Gregory considers that all the Russian hierarchs should have broken communion already from the time of Metropolitan Daniel, since it was he who allowed the unlawful marriage of Basil III. “Why did they not separate from the Synod? Well, in the 19th century it was understandable (in part): by that time things had already gone so far that any movement could have led to catastrophe. In the 20th century they began to separate, but the alternative was the Old Believer Belokrinitsky hierarchy, and this did not elicit great enthusiasm. In the 18th century? Yes, there was the case of St. Arsenius Matseevich (who refused even to make an oath of allegiance to the Empress Elizabeth at his ordination, which that empress completely forgave him). Also, there were cases of savage repressions against the hierarchs in the 1720s. But there was no real separation. The reason is obvious: all those who had enough powder at that time were already Old Believers (by the way, the majority of the Old Believers were a completely canonical formation, albeit without bishops, until the 1740s or thereabouts). It would be better to ask why they did not separate from Metropolitan Daniel in the 16th century. At that time they both could and should have separated. This, in my view, is the key tragedy of Russian Church history.” Since the Russian hierarchs did not separate from heresy, according to Fr. Gregory, Russia, “the Third Rome”, was merely a “crude surrogate” for the New Rome of Byzantium….
“They should have excommunicated – not even Ivan IV [the Terrible], but his father, Basil III, for his adulterous ‘marriage’, which gave Russia Ivan the Terrible. Then we would not have had Peter I. That is how they acted in Byzantium in such situations…”
Is it true that that is how they acted in Byzantium? Sometimes, yes. Thus the holy Patriarchs Tarasius and Nicholas I Mysticus opposed the unlawful marriages of the Emperors Constantine VII and Leo VI respectively. But not always. Thus Patriarch Euthymius did not oppose the fourth marriage of Leo VI, saying: “It is right, your Majesty, to accept your orders and receive your decisions as emanating from the will and Providence of God!”
Moreover, very many Byzantine Emperors literally got away with murder (according to I. Solonevich, “in seventy-four cases out of one hundred and nine, the throne passed to a regicide by right of seizure”) and were not excommunicated for it. St. Photius the Great excommunicated the Emperor Basil I, the murderer of the Emperor Michael III, but this was an exception. K.N. Leontiev tried to soften the significance of this fact, writing: “They expelled the Caesars, changed them, killed them, but nobody touched the holiness of Caesarism. They changed people, but nobody thought of changing the basic organization.” But an organization cannot fail to be weakened by such crimes; and the comparative indifference of the Byzantines to “the holiness of Caesarism” shows that it was not so deeply venerated by them.
St. Nicholas the Mystic said: “He who tries by force to acquire for himself the Imperial dignity is no longer a Christian”. But history shows that the Russians believed more deeply in this truth than the Byzantines. Until the Time of Troubles at the beginning of the 17th century, not one Muscovite Great Prince or Tsar was killed. This fact is not pleasing to Fr. Gregory, and he writes: “By Byzantine standards, such a tsar [Ivan the Terrible] should have been killed like a dog.” It seems that he has forgotten the word of God: “Touch not Mine anointed ones” (Psalm 104.15). And that King David, when he had his enemy King Saul in his power, refused to kill him precisely because he was the anointed of God. Indeed, so great was such a crime in David’s eyes that when Saul was killed, David killed his killer – in spite of the fact that Saul had evidently lost the grace of God by the time of his death…
What was the reason for this lack of respect for the sacred person of the Emperor in Byzantium? L.A. Tikhomirov points to the fact that Byzantine imperial power was based on two distinct and mutually incompatible principles, the Christian and the Old Roman (Republican). According to the Christian principle, supreme power in the State (but not in the Church) rested in the Emperor, not in the People. However, while supreme, his power was not absolute in that it was limited by the Orthodox Faith and Church; for the Emperor, while supreme on earth, was still the servant of the Emperor of Emperors in heaven. According to the Old Roman principle, however, which still retained its place in the Justinian’s legislation alongside the Christian principle, supreme power rested, not in the Emperor, but in the Senate and the People. But since the Senate and the People had, according to the legal fiction, conceded all their power to the Emperor, it was the Emperor who concentrated all executive power in himself, and his will had the full force of law: Quod Principi placuit legis habet vigorem, et in eum solum omne suum imperium et potestatem concessit. 
This pagan-democratic-absolutist concept of royal power was exemplified in several of the emperors before the first fall of Constantinople in 1204. Thus Isaac Angelus deposed several patriarchs and declared: “On earth there is no difference in power between God and the Emperor. The Emperors are allowed to do anything and can use the things of God on a par with their own, since they received the royal dignity itself from God, and there is no distance between themselves and God”.
The Russians, by contrast, had a purely Christian concept of royal power. And none of the Russian tsars, not even Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, ever claimed to be God on earth. As for the last of them, the meek and humble Tsar-Martyr Nicholas, there is simply no comparison…
Of course, Ivan the Terrible was a cruel and unjust tsar in the second half of his reign. But the Orthodox attitude to rulers who are cruel and unjust, but nevertheless do not compel their subjects to heresy or apostasy from God, is one of obedience. As St. Barsanuphius of Optina writes: “Our Tsar is the representative of the will of God, and not of the will of the people. His will is sacred for us, as the will of the Anointed of God; we love him because we love God. If the Tsar gives us glory and prosperity, we receive it from him as a Mercy of God. But if we are overtaken by humiliation and poverty, we bear them with meekness and humility, as a heavenly punishment for our iniquities. And never do we falter in our love for, and devotion to, the Tsar, as long as they proceed from our Orthodox religious convictions, our love and devotion to God.”
This is not to say that there were not times when the leaders of the Russian Church should not have rebuked the tsar, in the manner of the holy prophets. And the Russian hierarchs should probably have resisted Ivan the Terrible more strongly. But the honour of the Russian Church was saved by the holy Hieromartyr Metropolitan Philip of Moscow, who rebuked the tsar as follows: “Sovereign Tsar, you are endowed by God with the highest rank and therefore must honour God above all. But the sceptre of earthly power was given to you so that you should observe justice among men and rule over them lawfully. It is not fitting that you, a mortal, should become arrogant. Nor should you, as the image of God, become angry, for only he who is in control of himself and does not indulge his shameful passions, but conquers them with the aid of his mind, can truly be called a ruler. Has it ever been heard that the pious tsars disturbed their own kingdom? Never has anything of the sort been heard, not only among your ancestors, but even among foreigners… You have been appointed by God to judge the people of God in righteousness, and not to present yourself as a torturer.”
Here there is not a trace of that “Caesaropapism” (or rather: “Sergianism”) which Fr. Gregory accuses the Russian Church of already in the 16th century. And generally speaking, although there were cowardly hierarchs in the 16th century in Russia, there were not heretical ones. In Church-State relations they followed the teaching of St. Joseph of Volokolamsk, who on the one hand ascribed the leading role in the struggle against heresy to the tsar, but on the other hand did not give him the status of an infallible authority: “The holy apostles said concerning the kings and hierarchs who did not care for or worry about their subjects: the king who does not care for his subjects is not a king, but a torturer; and the evil bishop who does not care for his flock is not a shepherd, but a wolf.” Power is given to the king in the Church for the sake of Orthodoxy, and it is precisely for that reason that his power in the Church is conditional on his Orthodoxy. If he falls away from Orthodoxy, his subjects have the right to rebel against him – which is what took place at the beginning of the 17th century, when the holy Patriarch Hermogen called on the Russian people to rebel against the crypto-papist tsar, the false Demetrius.
The tradition of great, independent Patriarchs continued to live in the Russian Church. Not only in St. Hermogen, but also in Patriarch Philaret, the father after the flesh of Tsar Michael, the first of the Romanovs, and especially in Patriarch Nicon, who in a completely unambiguous way defended the freedom and dignity of the Church from Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich. One might have expected that for Fr. Gregory Nicon would be a hero of the faith, but for some reason he refrains from praising him…
In the affair of the unlawful deposition of Patriarch Nicon at the Council of 1666-67, the most zealously disposed against the Patriarch and for the right of the Tsar to rule the Church were not the Russian, but the Greek hierarchs. The Eastern Patriarchs sent their Tomos or Patriarchal Replies to Moscow. According to M.V. Zyzykin, “they said that ‘the Patriarch must be obedient to the Tsar, as having been appointed to the highest place. The Russian hierarchs accepted Nicon’s theory on the spiritual superiority of the priesthood and the juridical equality and parallelism of the royal and ecclesiastical powers, but until the condemnation of Nicon they did not raise this question, since they wished to be rid of him. But when he had been condemned, Metropolitan Paul of Krutitsa and Metropolitan Hilarion of Ryazan obtained a review of the answer to the question of principle concerning the relationships of the royal and patriarchal power, for they were afraid that the Patriarchal Replies would place the hierarchs at the complete disposal of the royal power, and so ‘a Tsar not as pious than Alexis Mikhailovich might turn out to be dangerous for the Church’... The Council came to the unanimous resolution: ‘Let the conclusion be recognized that the Tsar has pre-eminence in civil matters, and the Patriarch in ecclesiastical matters, so that thereby the harmony of the ecclesiastical institution should be kept whole and unshaken.’ This was the triumph in principle of the Niconian idea.”
4. Church and State in Synodal Russia. Unfortunately, the son of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich, Peter, turned out to be that very “not as pious” Tsar, who destroyed the harmony of the ecclesiastical institution, abolishing the patriarchate and by his Spiritual Regulation making the administration of the Church into a department of the State.
As we have already noted, Fr. Gregory lays special emphasis on the fact that all the decrees of the Synod, including those on the ordination of bishops, began with the obligatory formula: “According to the command of His Imperial Majesty the Most Holy Governing Synod has ordered...” However, one must not forget that in the last period of Byzantine history, which for Fr. Gregory is the model of Orthodoxy, patriarchs were appointed with a very similar formula: “Divine grace and my imperial will appoint this most worthy man as patriarch”. Why does Fr. Gregory not see heresy here, but only in the Russian Church?
Few would deny that the Regulation was a serious violation of the “dynamic balance” that was the norm of Church-State relations, not only in Byzantium, but also in Russia until the eighteenth century. However, in order to prove that the Russian Church from that time began to confess a heresy, it is necessary to prove that the Church officially preached that “the Church must be ruled by laymen”, and that the Tsar is her head in questions of the faith. But this cannot be proved except, perhaps, in the case of Theophan Prokopovich. The majority of bishops always remained Orthodox, and they submitted to the Regulation only in order to avoid something worse. As Hieromonk Dionysius (Alferov) writes: “Neither the people nor the Church renounced the very ideal of the Orthodox Kingdom, and, as V. Klyuchevsky noted, continued to consider as the law that which corresponded to the ideal, and not Peter’s decrees. Therefore even during the period of the widowhood of the royal throne because of the absence of a lawful Anointed Tsar during the ‘women’s kingdom’ (18th century), the significance of tsarist power as ‘that which restrains’ was not wholly lost. Even the German in Russian service Minich noted with amazement that ‘Russia is the only state which is ruled directly by God’. Ây dint of this it turned out to be possible, albeit with no little difficulty, to restore a lawful Anointed Tsar with an Orthodox self-consciousness in the person of the Emperor Paul Petrovich and his descendants by the end of the 18th century”.
The Russian hierarchs made several attempts to restore the patriarchate and return the Church-State relationship to the “symphonic” standard. Nor were these attempts wholly unsuccessful. Thus with the coming to the throne of Elizabeth Petrovna (1741-1760), as Nikolin writes, “the administration of Church property was returned to the Synod, for which a Chancellery of Synodal economic administration was established within it”. True, the Empress “did not decide to satisfy the petition of two members of the Holy Synod, Archbshop Ambrose (Yushkevich) and Metropolitan Arsenius (Matseevich) to restore the patriarchate or at least give the Synod a president and decree that the Synod should consist only of hierarchs”. But the important point is that the hierarchs made the attempt, which demonstrates the Orthodoxy of their thinking.
The reign of Paul I witnessed the beginning of a slow but steady return to the Orthodox norm of Church-State relations. During the reign of his son, Alexander I, the Church, under the leadership of Metropolitan Platon of Moscow, rejected ecumenical overtures from Napoleon and the Catholic Church. And in the latter part of the same reign, Metropolitans Michael (Desnitsky) and Seraphim (Glagolevsky), and Archimandrite Photius (Spassky) led the Church’s successful struggle to have the heterodox Minister of Spiritual Affairs and Popular Enlightenment, Prince Golitsyn, removed from his post. De jure the situation remained as before, with the Church in subjection to the State. But de facto the Church had a considerable degree of internal freedom.
According to Fr. Gregory, however, “in the situation of the 19th century a break was inevitable between the real life of the Church (deprived of a correct system of administration) and the chimerical administrative structure ruled by ‘the Most Holy Synod’. Belonging to the chimerical structure could not longer guarantee belonging to the Church.” In other words, according to Fr. Gregory, it was possible to be a member of the administration of the Russian Church in the period 1721-1917 without being a member of that Church!! A strange conclusion, and one that makes us suspect that accusations of “ecclesiological heresy” are more fittingly applied to Fr. Gregory than to the hierarchs of the Synodal Church. For according to the Orthodox teaching on the Church, “the real life of the Church” cannot exist under the omophorion of false, unreal, “chimerical” bishops. Such a disjunction is possible only in Protestantism or among the priestless Old Believers.
Fr. Gregory passes over in silence the fact that the last tsar of the Synodal period, Nicholas II, was a most pious ruler, helped the Church in every way, lightened the State’s pressure on the Church, was for the restoration of the patriarchate and removed the hierarchical oath to the Tsar as “the supreme judge” It is not relevant, in Fr. Gregory’s view. For the 30th apostolic canon, he says, has nothing to say about the quality of the secular rulers, but only about the fact of their interference in the appointment of hierarchs...
Such a point of view is judaizing, Old Testamental. The canons of the New Testament Church should not be viewed only according to the letter, without attention being paid to the spirit, their inner aim. New Hieromartyr Joseph, Metropolitan of Petrograd, replying to a similar attempt to interpret the canons according to the letter, wrote: “You know, there was much that the canons did not foresee”. And New Hieromartyr Cyril, Metropolitan of Kazan, replied to the very founder of the sergianist heresy: “This is an attempt [of mine]… to melt the lead of the dialectical-scribal use of the canons and preserve the holiness of their spirit”. In any case, as we have shown above, the scribal (if not pharisaical) approach of Fr. Gregory to the holy canons, if applied consistently, leads inevitably to the conclusion that almost all the leading hierarchs not only of the Russian Church, but also of the Byzantine, were subject to defrocking for violating the 30th apostolic canon...
It is paradoxical that when, for the first time in the history of Synodal Russia a real heresy, the heresy of name-worshipping, appeared, and the Most Holy Synod, acting completely independently from, and even to some extent against the secular authorities (for the over-procurator Sabler, incited, as it would seem, by Rasputin, was on the side of the name-worshippers), openly condemned the heresy in 1913, 1914, 1916 and 1918, Fr. Gregory’s anger knows no bounds! He accuses the Holy Synod itself of the heresies of “name-fighting”, “Barlaamism”, “magism”, etc., and says that it is “a power not from God”! In essence we are listening here to the voice of a real church revolutionary, who under the pretext of the defence of the liberty and independence of the ecclesiastical administration, is by all means undermining its authority among the Orthodox Christians.
That the Synodal period was in general a period of decline in comparison to the best periods of both the Russian and the Byzantine Churches is indisputable. Westernism and secular humanism were making inroads into the body of the Church through a variety of avenues, including the secular authorities. This was pointed out and lamented by the best churchmen of the time, men such as Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, Bishop Theophan the Recluse, St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Ambrose of Optina and St. John of Kronstadt. But none of these holy men accused the Russian Church of their time of heresy, and none of them either separated from the Church themselves or called on others to separate. On the contrary, they called on the people to display greater loyalty to both the ecclesiastical and secular authorities. We are therefore presented with a clear choice. Do we believe that the Holy Spirit spoke in those holy men, or in Fr. Gregory Lurye? For those who believe in the Church, and in the unbroken life of Holy Tradition, the answer is obvious. Fr. Gregory does not join himself to the unbroken life of Holy Tradition as represented by these holy men, but to that pernicious tradition of rebellion and renovation (albeit with a “right”-leaning, pseudo-conservative pathos) that brought forth such catastrophic fruits in the revolution of 1917…
5. Church and State in the Soviet Period. We can compare the Russian Church of the Synodal period to a wounded man who is forced to walk on crutches. The critics of the Synodal systen and future renovationists said: “The Church should not be using the crutch of State power. It is against the canons!” Yes indeed! But what was the solution? Kick away the crutch? Or wait for the injury to be healed, and only then remove it – gently? God’s Providence preferred the latter approach; the renovationists – the former. And then, paradoxically, they did exactly what they had so bitterly accused the pre-revolutionary Church of doing: they entered into a union with the State. And what a State! A State far worse than any in history! A State which the “tragicomic” (as Fr. Gregory calls it) Local Russian Council of 1917-18 completely justly anathematized! Moreover, in 1922 these same “knights of freedom”, having knocked the “crutches” out of the hands of the pre-revolutionary Church, and accepted them again from the hands of the Soviet authorities, used them to create a new, renovationist false-church and to beat up the prostrate True Church.
Îne of the most fervent critics of the Synodal system was Metropolitan Sergius.  In 1922 and again in 1927, he re-established the Synodal structure, in effect abolished the patriarchate by his usurpation of the patriarchal locum tenancy, Metropolitan Peter, and submitted the Church in an unqualified manner to the Soviet authority that had already been anathematized by Patriarch Tikhon. By 1943, when all the hierarchs who disagreed with him had been liquidated or driven into the catacombs, Sergius, by command of Stalin, founded “the Soviet church”, the present-day Moscow Patriarchate...
Paradoxically, Fr. Gregory considers that it was precisely then, in 1927, that “the reform course triumphed – but with intensive support ‘from outsiders’, which took place after 1917, and only in the confines of the Catacomb Church”. And so “Sergianism” (as Fr. Gregory defines it) was defeated at the appearance of, and with the support of, real Sergianism (in the ranks of its opponents)! In a certain sense he is right, of course: the Catacomb Church not only defeated real Sergianism, but also removed from itself the whole burden of the sin of the compromise that the Synodal Church made with the secular authorities from 1721 – more precisely, from 1667, when the Russian hierarchs followed the Tsar in unjustly condemning Patriarch Nicon. However, it should be pointed out that the Catacomb Church, by contrast with Fr. Gregory, nevertheless venerated the Synodal period of the Russian Church, did not consider the hierarchs of that period to be “heretics”, and accepted the decisions of the Council of 1917-18, especially the anathematisation of Soviet power, as the corner-stone of her own existence. Ñonsequently, they understood the essential difference between the pre- and post-revolutionary periods in the history of the Russian Church, the fact that although the pre-revolutionary Church violated the canons, she did not betray Christ, whereas the post-revolutionary sergianist church not only violated the canons, but also betrayed Christ, immersing herself in the heresy of real Sergianism.
What is the essence of this heresy? A distorted understanding of the relationship between the Church and the world, whereby the Church is to serve the world, not as its conscience, as the salt which preserves it from final corruption and destruction, but by conforming herself to it, by pandering to its fallen desires and antichristian world-views. As such, Sergianism is closely akin to Ecumenism, so that the way in which Sergianism has evolved into Ecumenism in the present-day Moscow Patriarchate should come as no surprise. Both propose a wholesale surrender of the Church’s freedom and dignity to the dominant forces in the contemporary world – political forces in the case of Sergianism, religious forces in the case of Ecumenism (although both kinds of forces are in fact directed towards a single goal: the complete secularization of the human race). Both heresies are movements of apostasy, and both attempt to justify this apostasy, “dogmatize” it, as it were – in the case of Sergianism, by claiming that only such apostasy can “save the Church”, and in the case of Ecumenism by claiming that only such apostasy can “recreate the Church”. Essentially, therefore, they are two aspects of a single ecclesiological heresy, a single assault on the existence and the dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Sergianism was defined as a heresy against the dogma of the Church by several of the Holy New Hieromartyrs, including Fr. Theodore (Andreyev), Archbishop Demetrius of Gdov, and Archbishop Nicholas of Vladimir and Suzdal.
This understanding of Sergianism led to its formal anathematisation by the Josephite Catacomb parishes of Petrograd, as follows: “To those who maintain the mindless renovationist heresy of Sergianism; to those who teach that the earthly existence of the Church of God can be established by denying the truth of Christ; and to those who affirm that serving the God-fighting authorities and fulfilling their godless commands, which trample on the sacred canons, the patristic traditions and the Divine dogmas, and destroy the whole of Christianity, saves the Church of Christ; and to those who venerate the Antichrist and his servants and forerunners, and all his minions, as a lawful power established by God; and to all those… who blaspheme against the new confessors and martyrs… - Anathema.”
Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) of Jordanville adopted the same position: “The patriarchate destroyed the dogma constituting the essence of the Church of Christ, and renounced its essential mission, that of serving the renewal of man, substituting for it its service to the atheist aims of communism, which is unnatural for the Church. This falling away is more bitter than all the previous Arianisms, Nestorianism, Iconoclasms, etc. And this is not the personal sin of one or another hierarch, but the root sin of the Moscow Patriarchate, confirmed, proclaimed and bound by an oath in front of the world. It is, so to speak, dogmatized apostasy…”
Conclusion. It is clear that Sergianism, according to this definition, is not that “Sergianism” which Fr. Gregory claims to find in the Russian Church centuries before the revolution. There was no real Sergianism before Sergius. Therefore the thesis that the Russian Church fell into heresy in 1721 (if not two centuries before that date) is false and must be rejected by all Orthodox Christians.
In fact, Fr. Gregory does not believe in the Russian Church (not to speak of the Empire). For centuries, according to him, the administration of this Church was “chimerical”, that is, essentially non-existent. And at the very moment that it supposedly began to come to life, and became independent of the State, it again fell into heresy – this time the pseudo-heresy of “name-fighting”! And since the Russian Church to this day condemns the real heresy of name-worshipping, we can conclude that for Fr. Gregory the Russian Church is still in the grave of heresy, that is, in spiritual death. With the exception, perhaps, of the “little flock” looked after personally by him…
However, the spiritual illness of Fr. Gregory is still more serious: he thinks in a heretical manner about the Church as a whole. In order to “cleanse” the Church from the “tares” of sexuality and politics, he has divided it into the “clean” and the “unclean”, the monastics and the married, those who need the support of the State and those who do not, the New Testament Christians and the Old Testament Christians. “In the earthly Church,” he writes, “there are two paths of life, the Old Testamental and the New Testamental.”
In this way, as Ilya Grigorenko writes, he “declares the Church not to be one God-established, Theanthropic organism in the New (that is, Christ’s) Testament, but a double organism, in spite of the word “One” in the Symbol of faith… Moreover, he calls a part of the New Testamental Church of Christ “Old Testamental”, thereby denying the possibility of many Christians who have been baptized and who participate in the Church’s one Eucharist abiding in the Grace of the New Testament of Christ.”
Fr. Gregory claims to prove the superiority of the Byzantine Empire over the Russian, and thereby the superiority of the Byzantine Church over the Russian. In fact, by his manicheistic theories, he denies both the Byzantine and the Russian Empires and Churches, and together with them the Orthodox understanding of Church-State relations as a whole. For if the Church cannot sanctify politics and, in a certain sense, include it into her own grace-filled, New Testamental life, then there is nothing to be done, we must “flee to the mountains” and lead a purely monastic life without any kind of politics or family life – and call on the Empire “to abolish itself”.
However, the Church did not accept this eschatologism, and the Christian Empire, fortunately, refused to abolish itself. Thereby it “withheld” the coming of the Antichrist (II Thess. 2.7), and gave new generations of Christians the chance to join the Church and be saved. For the Priesthood in the image of Christ the High Priest cannot live long on earth without the Empire in the image of Christ the King.
And so only the Orthodox Christian Emperor, said Hieroschemamonk Hilarion the Georgian of Mount Athos, “is in the image of Christ the Anointed One, like him by nature and worthy of being called Emperor and the anointed of God… Other kings of the peoples… imagine great things of themselves, but God’s good will does not rest on them; they reign only in part, by the condescension of God. Therefore he who does not love his God-appointed Emperor is not worthy to be called a Christian.”
Unfortunately, Fr. Gregory loves neither the Empire nor the Church of Russia. He does not consider them worthy to be called in full measure Orthodox and grace-filled, but prefers to use the words: “Old Testament”, “chimerical”, “heretical” in relation to them. He is going “in search of lost Byzantium”, but what he is fact doing is slandering Russia, and finds himself outside the saving enclosure of the Greco-Russian Church as a whole.
May 31 / June 13, 2002.
The Ascension of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
14. CAN THE LEOPARD CHANGE HIS SPOTS?
As we witness the sad decline of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia under Metropolitan Lavr (ROCOR) into the embraces of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), it may be worth reviewing some of the arguments that members of the MP (and now even many members of the ROCOR) produce when challenged by members of the True Russian Church. These arguments have varied considerably with time, and even the MP would no doubt be ashamed of some of the arguments used in Soviet times, when respect for both the Church and the State of the Soviet Union was much higher than it is now. We shall not review these “old” arguments that even the MP is now ashamed of, but shall turn to the “new” ones that have appeared since the fall of communism – although sometimes they are simply the “old” ones souped up in a more contemporary, subtler form.
1. The Leopard and his spots.
One argument employed by contemporary advocates of the MP, and even by the MP Patriarch Alexis himself is that since the ROCOR was formed as a temporarily autonomous organization until the fall of communism, it must now dissolve itself insofar as communism fell nearly twelve years ago.
Two questions are immediately elicited by this argument. First, has communism really fallen? And secondly, even if it has fallen, why should the ROCOR dissolve itself by joining the MP?
I think we cannot deny that in 1991 communism fell in the particular statist form that we know as the Soviet Union, or Soviet power. I think it is equally undeniable that, at least since New Year’s Day, 2000, when KGB Colonel Putin came to power, it has been in the process of being reconstructed.
The evidence is manifold. KGB men – and let us recall Putin’s remark that “there is no such thing as an ex-KGB man” - now occupy about 50% of the top governmental posts in the Soviet – sorry, Russian - federation. The Soviet anthem has been re-established as the country’s national anthem; the red flag has been restored to the armed forces. Putin has toasted Stalin, and recently a new monument to Stalin was unveiled before a huge and enthusiastic crowd in Ishim, Siberia (the see of ROCOR Bishop Evtikhy). It goes without saying that Lenin’s mummy remains in its pagan mausoleum in Red Square. The Chechen war continues to be waged in a hideously cruel, typically Soviet manner. The media are once again coming under tight state control (witness the way in which the independent NTV station was simply taken over). Even the fledgling capitalist economy is under threat, and its stock market is plunging, as a result of the recent imprisonment of Khodorkovsky and the State’s seizure of a large part of his company’s shares. So if there was a time for the ROCOR to dissolve itself, it was in 1991, but not now.
In any case, what is the ROCOR to do after its self-dissolution? The Fathers of the ROCOR always spoke of an All-Russian Council assembling after the fall of communism, which would sort out the problems of the Russian Church, elect a canonical patriarch, etc. Obviously by such an All-Russian Council they did not mean a Council just of the MP, but a Council in which the ROCOR and the Catacomb Church would be included. In fact, probably a Council from which the MP would be excluded, but to which individual hierarchs of the MP would come to offer their repentance, on the model of the iconoclasts at the Seventh Ecumenical Council. It is strange how little talk about such a Council there has been since the supposed fall of communism…
Since no one seems to want to talk about an all-Russian Council, let us consider some other alternatives. One is for the ROCOR to proclaim itself the one and only Russian Orthodox Church. This was actually suggested by Protopriest Lev Lebedev in the early 1990s, and appears to have been adopted to some extent by the ROCOR at that time. However, this was never done with much conviction (except when dealing with “dissidents” inside Russia), and by the late 1990s the talk was rather of a “reunification” of the different parts of the Russian Church – by which was meant the reunification only of the ROCOR and the MP.
But on what basis? On an equal basis, as if the ROCOR and the MP were both equally legitimate parts of the Russian Church, two “sisters” of the same mother who had just had a quarrel and were now prepared to forgive and forget? But this “ecumenist” solution was not really acceptable to either side, since the MP resolutely calls itself (and is believed by many even in the ROCOR to be) the sole “Mother Church”, to which the ROCOR must “return” like a naughty child to her parents, while the ROCOR believes that the MP must repent of certain dogmatic and canonical errors – sergianism, ecumenism - before it can be forgiven.
However, it is becoming more and more obvious – if it was ever really in doubt – that the MP, at least in its upper reaches, will not and cannot repent. At most it will bend a little to pressure coming, not from the ROCOR, but from its own people, as in the case of its half-hearted and qualified canonization of the Tsar-Martyr. The MP had a golden opportunity to repent in 1991, when the chains imposed by its Soviet masters fell away, and there was a danger of a large-scale exodus from the patriarchate. But it did not repent. And now, when it is in a much stronger position than in 1991, and the ROCOR is much weaker, it is less likely than ever to repent.
Not only is it not repenting: like the dog of the proverb, it is returning to its own vomit. Thus ecumenism continues unabated since the fall of communism. The patriarch’s incredible speech to the Jewish rabbis in November, 1991 has not been repented of, membership of the WCC continues as before, and while there are complaints about Catholic proselytism it looks as if the Pope is going to visit Russia with the MP’s agreement.
The MP today, amazing to tell, is no less enthusiastically pro-Soviet than the civil government. Priests regularly praise Stalin - and now these panegyrics cannot be excused on the grounds that they are made under duress. The idea that the MP has repented of sergianism is laughable. Consider the patriarch’s latest statement on Metropolitan Sergius’ notorious declaration, on November 9, 2001: “This was a clever step by which Metropolitan Sergius tried to save the church and clergy.”
The ROCOR leadership knows all this perfectly well. But it also knows that it is weak, and has therefore come to the conclusion: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” The leopard, they try and persuade us, has changed its spots; the tree with an evil root is now bringing forth good fruits. But as we know from the Holy Scriptures, a leopard cannot change its spots, and “a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them…” (Matt. 7.17-19).
In order to make sure of this point, let us briefly look at fruits of the six most powerful metropolitans of the MP, one of whom is likely to be the next patriarch:-
(1) Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Kolomna and Krutitsa was described in 1994 by the OCA Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) of Washington as “not only a scoundrel, but, perhaps, something much worse than that” (testimony of Michael Rodzianko). Sergei Bychkov wrote in 1999 that he “has never served a day in a parish. He knows the problems and needs of the clergy only by hearsay. Although he came up through all the ranks, he spent the most difficult years for the Russian church abroad. He served in Berlin, Jerusalem, Prague, and even in Japan. He headed OVTsS [the Department of External Church Relations] for almost ten years. He thought that he would be elected patriarch in 1990 after the death of Patriarch Pimen. But he did not make it even to the second round. This so upset him that he suffered a heart attack. But after recovering, he reconciled himself to the situation and began to support the rise of Master [Cyril] Gundiaev. Metropolitan Yuvenaly is notorious in church circles for his nontraditional sexual orientation. A number of monasteries in the area around Moscow have already been turned into annexes of Sodom.”
(2) Metropolitan Cyril of Smolensk, the friend of Metropolitan Yuvenaly and head of the Department of External Church Relations, is an extreme ecumenist and an importer of tobacco and spirits duty-free. Bychkov writes of him that “until recently he was absolutely certain that after the death of Patriarch Alexis II he would undoubtedly become primate of the Russian church. True, events of this year have shaken Master Gundiaev's assurance…. Metropolitan Kirill's tobacco and alcohol scandals have undermined his authority on the international level. Nevertheless he has held onto his positions in the synod. He knows very well the weaknesses of members of the synod and he skillfully manipulates them. This is the great talent of the metropolitan. His impudence and frankness befuddle weak minds. Synod members who know about his ties with high places are not about to withstand his unbearable pressure. His close friendship with Berezovsky also has brought its fruits; the metropolitan has compromising information not only about all of the episcopacy but even about the patriarch and he occasionally leaks it to the press.” According to the witness of an MP priest, Metropolitan Cyril once came into his church and saw an icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas on the analoy. “Get the Tsar out of here!” he said severely!
(3) Metropolitan Vladimir of St. Petersburg, another extreme ecumenist who is in favour of introducing the new calendar into the Russian Church was, writes Bychkov, “a representative of the Moscow patriarchate at the World Council of Churches in Geneva. At the end of the 1960s he was patriarchal exarch of western Europe and served in Berlin. He is notorious for his aristocratic manners (if he wears cuff links then they must be jeweled). Emulating Catherine II's favorite Grigory Potemkin, he enjoys fresh oysters which are brought to him from Paris and London. But his guests are most affected by his wine cellars. Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan, who replaced him in Rostov on Don, nearly lost consciousness when he caught sight of and tasted the wines from the metropolitan's cellars. In the 1970-1980s his career rise halted and he was shuttled from one episcopal see to another. Patriarch Pimen was not well disposed toward him. Only after his death did Vladimir come into favor again. From 1995 he has ruled the St. Petersburg diocese, thereby becoming a permanent member of the Holy Synod. In Petersburg he began restoring order with an "iron hand," primarily in financial matters, overturning traditions that had arisen over decades (oysters are expensive nowadays). Metropolitan Vladimir's ministry has been constantly accompanied by scandals. Their causes are his inability and lack of desire to get along with clergy. His administrative style is authoritarian.”
(4) Metropolitan Methodius of Voronezh was until recently one of the strongest candidates to succeed the present patriarch. But in 1992 he was described by his colleague, Archbishop Chrysostom of Vilna, as “a KGB officer, an atheist, a liar, who is constantly advised by the KGB”. An atheist for patriarch? All things are possible in the MP!
(5) , (6). Metropolitans Philaret of Minsk and Vladimir of Kiev are both, according to Bychkov, homosexuals who “share one thing in common: under their administrations the largest monasteries--the Kiev caves lavra and the Zhirovitsy monastery--have become examples of Sodom and Gomorra. ‘Gay families’ coexist peacefully in them, concealed by monastic garments.”
Are things any better in the lower ranks?
Well, on July 19, 1999, according to Bychkov, the Synod “devoted much time to the scandals involving the homosexual conduct of two bishops, Nikon Mironov of Ekaterinburg and Gury Shalimov of Korsun. The press devoted so much attention to poor Bishop Nikon that he is notorious throughout Russia. The behaviour of Bishop Gury was just as scandalous. The Holy Synod sent both into retirement, that is, it dismissed them, confirming thereby the justice of the journalistic accusations. But it dismissed them in conditions of strictest secrecy!”
2. The Leopard and his cubs
Ah, but then there are the wonderfully holy village priests and old women that the supporters of the MP like to talk about! Personally, I have not met any holy priests in the MP. And as for the old women, I know of people who were put off Orthodoxy for years by the appallingly boorish behaviour of the old women in MP churches.
Of course, I may be missing something. But even if I am, what does that prove? What does the presence of good, sincere people in the MP (and I have no doubt that there are many) prove about the MP? No more than the presence of good and sincere people among the Roman Catholics or Protestants about their churches. That is to say: nothing. For is the truth and grace of a Church defined by the quality of some of its junior members, or by the confession of faith of its leaders? The latter, of course…
But the supporters of the MP are very fond of this “bottom-up” ecclesiology of theirs. They love to assert that even if the older generation of bishops are all KGB agents (not even the patriarch denies that he is, and has been for a long time!), the next generation are going to be wonderful.
But why? Why should those appointed by KGB agents, ecumenists and homosexuals be anti-sergianists, anti-ecumenists and irreproachable chaste? Is it not much more likely that they will be at least partially tainted by the vices of their teachers, whom they chose to follow knowing their vices? “Know ye not,” says the Apostle Paul, speaking about precisely such vices, “that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (I Cor. 5.6).
According to his brother Michael, the OCA Bishop Basil of Washington said, after a trip to Moscow: “Now I agree with you: amongst the young folks there, there are many wonderful Orthodox people,” and, briefly remaining silent, he added, “but it will require yet another entire generation, or perhaps even longer, before everything gets back to normal”. So, if we accept the testimony even of this pro-Moscow witness, the ROCOR bishops should wait at least another generation before thinking of joining the MP.
And yet even this pessimistic estimate seems to me to be unreasonably optimistic. It depends on several assumptions, viz.: (1) that these “wonderful Orthodox people” will remain in the corrupt MP, and will not feel compelled by their conscience to leave it, (2) that the present leaders of the MP will choose to promote precisely these “wonderful Orthodox people” and not corrupt time-servers like themselves, and (3) that even if, by some extraordinary coincidence, some of these “wonderful Orthodox people” are promoted to positions of power in the church, they will still be wonderful and Orthodox by that time, and will not have been corrupted by the terrible environment they find themselves in.
The fact remains that, while a certain degree of regeneration can take place in a Church from below, that regeneration cannot go far, and will in time peter out, until and unless it is supported and strengthened by regeneration from above. For it is a basic principle of Orthodox ecclesiology that the faith of a Church is defined by the faith of its hierarchs. And if those hierarchs are heretical, then all those in obedience to them share, to a greater or lesser degree, in their heresy. You cannot be an Orthodox Christian while remaining knowingly under the omophorion of a heretical bishop.
“But no,” said one pious MP layman to me recently. “This is the ecclesiological equivalent of the Filioque heresy! Grace does not come from God and the hierarchs. It comes from God alone! It can bypass the heretical hierarchs and go straight to the people!”
Then there is hope for the Roman Catholics, who don’t have to worry about the heresy of their Pope! And hope for the Protestants, who said all along that the hierarchy and the priesthood were unnecessary! And hope for all those “Orthodox” individualists (and there are very many of them) who construct their spiritual lives independently of the church organization to which they belong, justifying themselves on the grounds that they have a direct line to God that does not pass through the hierarch’s office!
Yes, we do have a direct line to God. And God can certainly give grace to a believer directly, independently of any hierarch or priest. But nobody can receive the grace of baptism, or of chrismation, or of the Body and Blood of Christ, without which salvation is impossible, except at the hands of a canonically appointed and rightly believing priest. That is the order God has ordained. And He has also ordained that this channel of sacramental grace does not pass through the hands of heretics or those who represent them…
3. The Leopard and his tamer
Another, not dissimilar argument that is sometimes heard is that the rapid building of churches and monasteries in contemporary Russia shows that, whatever the defects of the leaders, the resurrection of Russia is taking place, and that, this being the case, instead of standing aside and carping, it is necessary to have a more positive attitude, to join in the renewal process. And that involves entering into communion. After all, they assert, perhaps we (the ROCOR hierarchs) can have a good influence on the hierarchy, perhaps we can put a brake on the negative aspects of patriarchal life, perhaps we can help to tame the leopard…
It is difficult to believe that anyone actually believes this argument. As Nicholas Kazantsev has recently pointed out, the ROCOR has acted as a brake on the MP only so long as it has existed outside the MP as a genuinely independent force. Once the tiny ROCOR pond has been poured into the MP ocean, it will cease to have any influence at all.
As it is, such influence as it has had has been rapidly declining in recent years in exact proportion to its rapprochement with the patriarchate. Surveys show that the influence of the ROCOR was at its greatest immediately after the fall of communism, in the early 1990s, when the ROCOR actually fought against the MP and the MP was seriously rattled. But then came the 1994 conciliar decision to enter into negotiations with the MP, the expulsion of the Suzdal dissenters in 1995, and Archbishop Mark’s meeting with the patriarch in 1997, as a direct result of which the MP felt emboldened to seize Hebron and Jericho, and the Oak of Abraham at Hebron died after four thousand years of life…
No, the leopard has not been tamed, and it will not be tamed by the ROCOR, in whatever form it may continue to exist after the unia with the MP…
There are in fact strong grounds for believing in a future resurrection of the Russian Church. These strong grounds consist in the prophecies of the saints, which speak precisely about such a resurrection. But it is important to note that these prophecies do not state that the MP will gradually evolve into the True Church – that is, that good fruit will gradually begin to appear on the corrupt tree, transforming the tree from bad to good, from corrupt to life-giving.
On the contrary, St. Seraphim of Sarov says that at that time “the Russian hierarchs will become so impious that they will not even believe in the most important dogma of the Faith of Christ – the resurrection of Christ and the general resurrection. That is why it will be pleasing to the Lord God to take me from this very temporary life for a time and then, for the establishment of the dogma of the resurrection, to raise me, and my resurrection will be like the resurrection of the seven youths in the cave of Okhlon…”
And then, continues the saint, he will begin the process of world-wide repentance; for the absolutely necessary condition of true resurrection is repentance.
The prophecies speak, not of an evolution of the MP from evil to good, nor of the repentance of the bishops, but of a more or less complete removal of the higher clergy of the Church. The initiative for this will not come from well-known bishops, but from people unknown to the world, according to Elder Porphyrius of Glinsk (+1868): "In due course, faith will collapse in Russia. The brilliance of earthly glory will blind the mind. The word of truth will be defiled, but with regard to the Faith, some from among the people, unknown to the world, will come forward and restore what was scorned."
And the instrument of this restoration will be a True Orthodox Tsar. Thus Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, passing on the tradition of the Valaam elders, wrote: “... The Lord will have mercy on Russia for the sake of the small remnant of true believers. In Russia, the elders said, in accordance with the will of the people, the Monarchy, Autocratic power, will be re-established. The Lord has forechosen the future Tsar. He will be a man of fiery faith, having the mind of a genius and a will of iron. First of all he will introduce order in the Orthodox Church, removing all the untrue, heretical and lukewarm hierarchs. And many, very many - with few exceptions, all - will be deposed, and new, true, unshakeable hierarchs will take their place. He will be of the family of the Romanovs according to the female line. Russia will be a powerful state, but only for 'a short time'... And then the Antichrist will come into the world, with all the horrors of the end as described in the Apocalypse."
As for the lower ranks, Catacomb Eldress Agatha of Belorussia, who was martyred by the Bolsheviks at the age of 119 (!), counselled them not to go to the MP: "This is not a true church. It has signed a contract to serve the Antichrist. Do not go to it. Do not receive any mysteries from its servants. Do not participate in prayer with them.” They were to wait for the triumph of Orthodoxy, when the people will show their true repentance by being baptised by True Orthodox clergy: “There will come a time when churches will be opened in Russia, and the true Orthodox faith will triumph. Then people will become baptized, as at one time they were baptized under St. Vladimir.”
4. The Leopard as a protected species
When Putin met the ROCOR hierarchs in New York, he used the argument that the ROCOR should join with the MP in “serving the homeland”, its culture and traditions. This is a powerful emotional argument for Russians and those who love Russia. After all, who would not want to serve his homeland? Who would want to appear unpatriotic? And especially now that the homeland is beginning to take on the appearance, externally at any rate, of an Orthodox country, and Orthodoxy is being protected by the State as an inalienable part of the national culture of Russia.
But what is the ultimate value here – the State or the Church, the earthly homeland or the Heavenly Homeland, God or Mammon? If Orthodoxy is to be protected because it serves the Homeland, or the State, or culture, or any other value whatsoever apart from eternal salvation with God, then it is no longer Orthodoxy but at best an exhibit in a museum or a zoo, at worst an idol.
In early, Kievan and Muscovite Russia, the Church was protected, not because it helped to support the State (although it did do that), and not because it constituted a part of Russia’s cultural heritage (although it was that), but because the State of Russia and Russia as a whole existed in order to serve the Church, without which neither the State nor the Nation had more than an ephemeral significance. The earthly homeland, in Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow’s phrase, was the “antechamber” of the Heavenly Homeland. Membership of the earthly homeland was treasured and was fought for because it served as a stepping-stone to membership of the Heavenly Homeland, the Kingdom of Heaven – and for no other reason.
Russia was “Holy Russia” precisely because she served something higher than herself, the ideal of holiness, the ideal of union in faith and love with God. And she began to descend to the far lesser ideal of “Great Russia” under Peter the Great only when she began to serve herself rather than God, when the Church became a tool in the hands of the State, serving the State’s this-worldly aims. However, under the later Romanov Tsars the great ship that was Russia began to return to her heavenly calling, to become holy again. This process accelerated under Tsar-Martyr Nicholas, who led Russia into World War I, not for the sake of her and his greater earthly glory, but to save Orthodoxy in her sister-nation of Serbia. And when the Tsar abdicated, dooming himself and his family to ignominy and death, he did so in order that this war-effort should continue – in other words, for the sake of Orthodoxy in the true sense.
But in today’s Russia, as Protopriest Lev Lebedev writes, “the ideological idol under the name of ‘fatherland’ (‘Russia’, ‘the state’) has been completely preserved. We have already many times noted that these concepts are, in essence, pagan ideological idols not because they are in themselves bad, but because they have been torn out from the trinitarian unity of co-subjected concepts: Faith, Tsar, Fatherland (Orthodoxy, Autocracy, People)… Everything that one might wish to be recognized and positive, even the regeneration of the faith, is done under the slogan of ‘the regeneration of the Fatherland (Russia)’! But nothing is being regenerated. Even among the monarchists the regeneration of the Orthodox Autocratic Monarchy is mainly represented as no more than the means for the regeneration of the Fatherland. We may note that if any of the constituent parts of the triad – Orthodoxy, Autocracy, People – is torn away from the others and becomes the only one, it loses its power. Only together and in the indicated hierarchical order did they constitute, and do they constitute now, the spiritual (and all the other) strength and significance of Great Russia. But for the time being it is the ideological idol ‘fatherland’ that holds sway…”
If the ROCOR wishes to serve the Fatherland, she must wait for the true Fatherland to appear above the horizon, like the submerged city of Kitezh. To embrace the semi-Soviet, pseudo-Orthodox Fatherland that is Putin’s Russia would be a betrayal of her calling, a betrayal of the true Russia.
There is still time to draw back!
November 4/17, 2003.
15. LAZARUS SATURDAY, THE CHICAGO DIOCESE AND THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE
Today is Lazarus Saturday. I remember this day especially because on it I was supposed to be baptized in the Russian Church Abroad – and Archbishop Averky reposed in the Lord. Even at that time, nearly 30 years ago now, Archbishop Averky was insisting that the Moscow Patriarchate was a graceless organization, and lamenting the way in which the Russian Church Abroad’s relationship towards it was weakening. Archbishop Averky and his writings have a high reputation both in Russia and abroad. And yet how few people heed his anguished warnings today!
Fortunately at just the time that Archbishop Averky died, another zealot for True Orthodoxy took over as the “watchman of the Lord” (Ezekiel 33), warning the people against the coming of the enemy. This was Metropolitan Philaret. In 1977 he warned me: “Vladimir, I advise you to obey the anathema of the Catacomb Church against the Soviet church.” He was one of the very few who were not taken in by Fr. Dmitri Dudko, the dissident Soviet priest, warning in 1980 that although his courage was to be admired, since he was “confessing” from within a false church, he would fail. And sure enough: Dudko “repented” of his confession, and is now issuing passionate dithyrambs in praise of Stalin! Metropolitan Philaret sealed his righteous confession against both the MP and World Orthodoxy by heading the list of hierarchs that anathematized ecumenism and the ecumenists in 1983, and years later his body was discovered to be incorrupt. Two jurisdictions deriving their orders from the Russian Church Abroad have now glorified him among the saints. But not, alas, the Russian Church Abroad, whose present chief-hierarch buried his relics under concrete…
The next chief-hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly, was not known to be a zealot in the mould of Archbishop Averky and Metropolitan Philaret; and his period as chief hierarch was characterized by uncertainty and wavering and several bad decisions which the consciousness of the True Church has not accepted. Nevertheless, he authorized the founding of parishes of the Russian Church Abroad within Russia in 1990, thus providing a priceless lifeline for thousands of people inside Russia who wished to abandon the falsehood of the MP and confess the True Faith under a true hierarch. Moreover, in recent years he has asserted, in line with his predecessor, that the MP is a graceless organization (he even called it “the church of the Antichrist”), and led the Russian Church Abroad to reaffirm the anathema against ecumenism and the ecumenists in 1998 (it is he who coined the famous and accurate phrase to describe ecumenism: “the heresy of heresies”).
However, things have changed sharply for the worse under his successor, Metropolitan Lavr, the man who buried St. Philaret’s relics under concrete and attempted to drive Metropolitan Vitaly into an early grave through his law-suits. At the robber council of 2000, he and his fellow hierarchs officially applied to enter into communion with the heretical MP, asking the equally heretical Serbian patriarch to intercede for them in this. He has entered into negotiations with and praised KGB agent Putin, who toasts Stalin and says “there are no ex-KGB agents”, and who has turned the clock back to Soviet times. Lavr has buried the confession of the Russian Church Abroad under concrete, attempting to consign it to the tomb as thoroughly and as deeply as Lazarus’ body. He holds his nose at what he considers to be the stinking corpse of the Russian Church Abroad’s previous confession, calling it “pharisaical”.
But Lazarus is not dead: he is only sleeping…
Let us now turn to a recent communiqué of the Chicago and Detroit diocese of the Russian Church Abroad, as published in A.V. Soldatov’s Vertograd for April 1, 2004. This communiqué is moderate in its language, more moderate in its pro-MP pathos than other statements by clergy of the Russian Church Abroad. Nevertheless, an examination of those parts of the communiqué which relate to the MP will reveal just how dangerously the ROCA is walking now, just how blindly it is sleep-walking into the abyss…
“This year,” says the communiqué, “has been a good one. As we noted in our resolution of October 2003, we are comforted by the possibility of reconciliation between the two parts of the one Russian Church.”
Let us pause here. Why only two parts (it is obvious that the ROCA and the MP are meant)? What about the ROCiE, the ROAC, the Lazarites, the Seraphimo-Gennadiites, all of which were at one time in communion with the ROCA? Is no olive branch to be offered to them, but only to the completely apostate, thoroughly heretical MP? Why reconciliation only to the left, and not to the right? The schisms between the ROCA, on the one hand, and the ROCiE, the ROAC, the Lazarites and the Seraphimo-Gennadiites are all comparatively recent (the earliest was in 1990); none of them involve dogmatic issues; all of them involve blatantly uncanonical acts on the part of the ROCA and well-justified and extremely serious grievances on the part of the other jurisdiction; so the ROCA has an extra moral reason to seek reconciliation with them. On the other hand, the schism between the ROCA and the MP is exactly the opposite in nature: it is old (going back to 1927); it involves serious dogmatic issues, Sergianism and Ecumenism in particular, which, in view of Russia’s return to Sovietism and the MP’s stubborn continuance in the WCC and other ecumenical activities, are far from irrelevant today; and it is the MP which committed the serious uncanonical acts, while it is the ROCA which has the well-justified and extremely serious grievances.
To any unprejudiced observer (and I speak as a member of none of these jurisdictions, although I have had contacts with all of them), it is obvious that the schisms between the ROCA and the jurisdictions on its right are more easily resolved than that between the ROCA and the jurisdictions on its left (which includes, of course, not only the MP, but also all those it is in communion with – for example, the new calendarist Greeks, the Monophysite Antiochians, etc.).
“The realization of this possibility has had a positive effect on the life of our parishes.”
But the possibility – of the reconciliation between the ROCA and the MP – has not been realized yet. So how can it have had any effect, whether positive or negative yet? It is still an open question what effect such a reconciliation, when realized, will really have.
“From the time of the October congress, we can note the success of the journey of our delegation of our Church to Russia…”
Is the shameful trip of Archbishop Mark, Archbishop Hilarion and Bishop Kyrill meant?!!! The one in which Archbishop Mark asked forgiveness of the KGB in the person of Agent Drozdov (for let’s not beat about the bush: that’s what the “patriarch” is) on behalf of the ROCA, and then kissed his hand in public?!!! Shame!
“… the broadened pastoral convention in Nayak, the warm response of our Hierarchical Council to the epistle of his Holiness Patriarch Alexis II, and the projected official visit of our First Hierarch, Metropolitan Lavr, to Russia in May.”
“Recently, some believers have expressed perplexity or anxiety with regard to ecclesiastical reconciliation.”
And with reason!
“However, when it was explained to them that what was in mind was not a merging or submission, but precisely a reconciliation and mutual recognition, eucharistic concelebration, then their anxiety was replaced by a calm approach.”
This is naivety at best, casuistic craftiness at worst. The writers of this communiqué consider the MP to be the “other half” of the one Russian Church, with themselves as the other half. But the MP is headed by a Patriarch, who with his Synod considers himself to be the head of the whole of the Russian Church. If the ROCA considers him to be a canonical Patriarch, then if it enters into communion with him as with the head of the Russian Church, it must be in submission to him - and the MP would be completely within its “canonical” rights to demand submission!
Moreover, what about the parishes of the Church Abroad inside Russia? Is there any chance that they will not be placed immediately in complete submission to the patriarchate? None at all. These believers sacrificed much when they left the MP in order to join the Church Abroad. Now they are going to be thrown back to the lions by people who sit safely outside, thinking vainly that they themselves will remain autonomous in some way.
The Catacomb Church used to be betrayed by the MP and informers sent by the MP into their midst. Now they are being betrayed by the ROCA. Not for nothing was, and is, their password: “I will not give Thee a kiss as did Judas…”
“We recognize both the Church Abroad and the Patriarchate to be heirs of the historical Russian Church.”