“This is not a change simply of thoughts . But it’s a change of stands of the whole being , it’s a ontolgical change . It’s a change of perspective , a change of the entire positioning of the soul before God .
Change your way of being the Lord is saying , change your way of thinking , but in the sense of: about God , and about this world and about salvation , these higher things .
He is not asking us to change the way we think about this life . But about the way we are relating to God . Change , and this kind of change is not happen simply because we will it , but because God wills it and we say “yes”.
So this ground in which the spiritual life is going to take root and flourish is Repentance ,it’s a lifelong state of being , it’s not a momentary feeling of remorse . We see in other part of scripture , a great injustice to the text is done when there speaking of Judas , and they say in English : “ He repented of what he did “. No he did not ! For if he had repented he would have followed the later example of Peter , who once again joined the choir of the apostles . He did not repent, he had remorse . Remorse : feeling bad about yourself about the things you’ve done is not salvific , does not save , does not transfigure ,does not restore one to the communion with God . One has to change the way they think and live and stand , all our thought’s come from our stands before God .”
From the homily ” The meaning of Repentance and the Reign of God within us .”
Copyright : Peter Heers .
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: 18 February/2 March 2000
A Statement of the ROCOR Bishops Concerning the Moscow Patriarchate.
The leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate has now officially declared that it looks upon the property of the Russian Church Abroad as its own, for only it, and no other, is the “sole legal heir to the property of the pre- Revolutionary Church,” which, consequently, “is being held by the schismatics abroad -illegally,” and that such a decision “is accepted by the Orthodox believing people of Russia with joy and profound gratitude.”
This statement compels us, the hierarchs abroad, to address the Russian Orthodox people directly. It is essential that we clarify the essential question which has emerged over the last decade-the question of succession with regard to the Russian Orthodox Church and historical Russia.
I. On the eve of the fall of the Communist regime it seemed possible that the previous cause of the ecclesiastical division-the atheistic government-was already falling away, and that the rest of our problems would be resolved in a fraternal dialogue. The Council of Bishops repeatedly referred to this idea in its epistles, and in actual fact strove to open paths to this fellowship. In this, however, great difficulties were encountered, and later-as far as we are able to judge, due to the active interference of the authorities in Russia early in 1997-our attempts at clarification were broken off (the seizure of the monastery in Hebron). Difficulties manifested themselves, firstly, in a totally different attitude toward questions essential to the Church, and our differences in this regard have not been resolved to the present day. A) The question of the sainthood of the new martyrs and the Tsar-Martyr, the anointed of God, who were slain by the atheistic authorities. From our point of view, they fulfilled the principal mission of the Church of Russia in the 20th century.
B) The policy of collaboration with the atheistic authorities begun by Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) against that part of the Church “disloyal” to the Communist overlords, which brought about the destruction of the former. From our point of view, to defend this policy is to demean the struggle of the New Martyrs.
C) The ecumenical activity of the Orthodox in the World Council of Churches. From our point of view, this crosses the boundaries set by the holy canons and the Tradition of the holy fathers, infringing upon the very truth of Orthodoxy.
D) Relations toward the post-Communist leadership of the Russian Federation. From our point of view, they are introducing a non-Christian policy designed to break down the Russian people and destroy Russia. And this false spirit is in nowise offset by the gilding of domes and the restoration of church buildings in which these very leaders are praised Attempts at “dialogue” on these differences on various levels did not lead to the hoped- for results. We acknowledge that in this certain of our representatives are partly to blame, for in their haste to make the Truth clear they insufficiently understood the complex conditions of the turmoil in Russia. In the tumultuous sea of the last decade in Russia it was incredibly difficult to make our Russian brethren hear the Truth of the Russian Church by which we live-in unbroken succession and without the intrusion of malicious powers into our ecclesiastical life. We were mistaken in our response to the situation in Russia and in our search for reliable allies, being somewhat lacking in patience and love for those opposed to us-which soon even became viewed as arrogance in the eyes of the Russian people. Yet what we wished for was something quite different.
II. Over all the preceding decades, we had preserved spiritual fellowship with those who did not submit to militant atheism, preserving Orthodoxy; and our hearts were open to them, in whatever part of the Church of Russia they were to he found. This fellowship was in part also in accordance with the canons of the Church, so that when times of greater liberty came, these ties, this presence in Russia, were also revealed. This happened because there was preserved, and continued secretly to live, that part of the Church of Russia which did not .accept the “Declaration of Loyalty” (1927) imposed by the militant atheists, wherewith Metropolitan Sergius tried to bind both the conscience of all Orthodox people in Russia as well as our conscience (demanding that each clergyman abroad personally sign an oath of “loyalty to the Soviet authorities”).
As the years passed, the word “schism” began to be applied to us and others who were viewed as “disloyal”; this term continues to distort the eccelesial crux of the question to this day. We have never accepted this term, and we do not wish to apply it to others. This question is extremely painful, and must, from our point of view, be resolved in some other way.
As early as 1923, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad resolved: “Having as our immediate objective the nurturing of the Russian Orthodox flock abroad, the Council of Bishops, the Synod, the hierarchs and priests, within the limitations of their powers, must show all possible cooperation in meeting various spiritual needs when asked to do so by the ecclesiastical organizations which remain in Russia or by individual Christians.” In particular, it was stipulated: “Representatives of the dioceses located outside the boundaries of Russia, acting together, express the voice of the free Russian Church abroad; but no individual person, nor even the Council of the bishops of these dioceses, represents itself as an authority which has the rights which the whole Church of Russia possesses in all its fullness, in the person of its lawful hierarchy.”
The concept of the whole Church of Russia and a lawful hierarchy, according to canon law, does not exclude the diaspora, but naturally embraces the totality of the Church of Russia in the light of the Pan-Russia Council of i917-1918. It is impossible to restore this integrity by a process of rejection and exclusion which have their origin with the militant atheists, who tried to set the Orthodox people against one another, and for this purpose concocted the “Living Church” and other obstacles. We consider that the interpretation of historical and ecclesiastical judgment must be a joint task over which the Russian people-all of us-must labor with great patience, first of all with love for the Truth. Otherwise, there is the danger that we will fall to disentangle ourselves from the snares, or may fall into them again.
We reject the word “schism,” not only as one which distorts the crux of the problem, but also, as a lie against the whole Church of Russia concocted by the enemies of Christ during the most terrible period of persecutions. We have never accepted this lie concerning the Church just as we have not accepted the lie concerning the Church contained in the “Declaration,” in which, to please the regime of that time, patristic doctrine and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures were trampled underfoot. For this reason, our fathers declared in 1927: “The portion of the Church of Russia abroad considers itself an inseparable, spiritually united branch of the great Church of Russia. It does not separate itself from its Mother Church, and does not consider itself autocephalous. As before, it considers its head to be the patriarchal locum tenens Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, and commemorates him [as such] during the divine services.” At that time, we discovered that the lawful first hierarch of the Church of Russia had rebuked his deputy, Metropolitan Sergius, from exile, for “exceeding his authority”, and commanded him to “return” to the correct ecclesiastical path; but he was not obeyed. In fact, even while Metropolitan Peter was alive, Metropolitan Sergius usurped, first his diocese (which, according to the canons, is strictly forbidden), and later his very position as locum tenens. These actions constituted not only a personal catastrophe, but also a universal catastrophe for our Church.
We never left the Church, even though there have been those who began to separate and drive us out with the word “schism” from those most terrible of days even to the present-failing to grasp the main point, and still not being aware of it. It is impossible to resolve contemporary ecclesiastical questions by simply usurping the title “sole lawful ecclesiastical leadership,” trampling the tragic truth of the Church in Russia underfoot. Our readiness, even over the last decades, to help the believing people in Russia (as far as our weak powers permitted) in various ways (literature, bearing witness concerning the persecution of the Church, protests) has not changed. It has led to our receiving believers under our omophorion, and, for various reasons, a small number of clergymen in addition to those who already had had a secret existence for some time. In addition to the above- mentioned reasons, others were added which entailed at the time intolerable violations of the canons of the Church, and these were still uncorrected in 1989-1991. Then a tempest arose over the “opening” of parishes of the Church Abroad in Russia. We did not try actively to open parishes and foist ourselves on them from abroad, but merely “accepted” those Russian people who had learned more about the history of the Church and its life and yearned for ecclesial communion with us, despite the barriers of a propaganda inherited from past times. This little portion, for which our shortcomings did not overshadow the Truth and which, for this reason, decided to unite themselves in Russia to our prayers, has been subjected to persecutions, while our Church is slandered in all the official church publications.
Yet the same leadership: of the Moscow Patriarchate, which on the new stage of gradual liberation has exacerbated the situation by its own interpretation of events and has so bitterly fought against the “parallel structure,” has itself, since the end of World War II, continuing to carry out the demands of the authorities then in power, created its own structures where its was only possible in the diaspora, and in Israel, in 1948, totally drove away our monastics when establishing itself. At that time this was, for us, although grievous, at least understandable-we saw the Church’s lack of freedom and the enslavement of officially sanctioned ecclesiastical structures in Russia, which were fettered by the authorities and chained to the authorities.
These latter years have witnessed a new wave of forcible seizures by the Moscow Patriarchate of churches and monasteries from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in various countries, or attempts to seize them- with the help of the secular authorities (foreign and Russian), wherever such is possible-in Italy, Israel, Germany, Denmark, Canada. Now it is finally confirmed, even by the mouth of the primate of the Moscow Patriarchate, Alexis II, and representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Affairs, that they have no desire for unification with us on the proposed position of Truth. They prefer to resolve the indicated points of disagreement and the question of the history of the Church of Russia simply by eliminating the Church Abroad, by crushing it. In other words, the present leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate prefers to continue the policies of Metropolitan Sergius–only in a new form, at a new level.
III. Thus, when we pose the question of succession, we have in mind not only property title to the churches abroad. Regarding this question, it is well known that the Soviet regime refused them, as it did “ecclesial obscurantism” in general, when in the 1930’s it announced its “five-year plan for atheism.” It is precisely the Russian emigration which was able to save these churches from confiscation by foreign states and from destruction, carefully restoring them with its own means as Russia Abroad, which is open with all its heart both l to the Russian past (tsarist Russia) and a Russia of the future. Therefore, this is in actuality our joint heritage-the heritage of the whole Russian people, and without fail it will be such as a result of the restoration of the one Church of Russia, which stands in the Truth. However, to our distress, the past decade has shown that the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate are avoiding true union, are not ready for it, for this would mean that they would have to give an honest account to the people and listen to its voice. This is also the reason why they are violently seizing churches which have not been preserved by their efforts, taking no account of the outlay of expenses, even though in Russia itself thousands of desolate churches need to be saved.
It is obvious that the principal objective of this is the smothering of our Church, and not they nurturing of the flock abroad, for here they do not in the least fear the terrible scandalizing of that flock. Who among the emigrants will enter those churches which have been wrested away by violence and wickedness? One cannot fail to see that they are attempting to eliminate us as a vexing and incorruptible witness to the loth century history of Russia. The main succession which we preserve and which our “opponents” in the Moscow Patriarchate are trying to uproot in our person, is historical and spiritual. After the militantly atheist Revolution, it was our Russian Church Abroad which became the linchpin of that small portion of the Russian nation which did not recognize the Revolution and chose as its path the preservation of loyalty to our Orthodox state. This stubborn stand for the Truth, despite its apparent “unreality,” pressure from the Bolsheviks, from pro-Soviet hierarchs, and the surrounding democratic world, was realized among us as a “struggle for Russianism in the midst of universal apostasy”-in the hope that for this God would have mercy on Russia and give our people a last chance to restore its historic aspect. This was the primary purpose of the Russian diaspora. It is for this that we have been praying in our churches for eighty years: “For the suffering land of Russia” and “That He may deliver its people from the bitter tyranny of the atheist authorities. “This refers also to the post-Communist regime of the Russian Federation, which considers itself the successor not so much of historical Russia (this is declared only rarely, and in words only) as the successor of the Bolshevik regime. The entire legal system of the Russian Federation is founded on the Soviet legal system, and not on the pre- Revolutionary laws.* The present democratically elected officials in Russia have preserved the majority of Bolshevism’s atheistic symbols (the five- pointed star, etc..), monuments, street and city names, ignoring the people’s original intent: that the Communist heritage be overturned, that the national tragedy of Russia in the loth century be reassessed, that there be repentance. At the same time, a new, anti-Christian ideology has taken root in the Russian land. And so as to weaken the people’s opposition to this, there is being waged an intentional, conscious, calculated demoralization of the people themselves by cutting them off from their true, historic and spiritual roots. And all of this is going on with the permission, consent and even blessing of the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate which, in order to preserve its own power structures, is prepared to collaborate with any regime whatever, and to participate actively in ecumenism, not only with non-Orthodox Christians, but even with non-Christian political powers. “By our joint efforts we will build a new, democratic society,” declared the head of the Moscow Patriarchate, Alexis II, in 1991, in an address made to rabbis in New York, where he preached peace for all “in an atmosphere of friendship, creative cooperation and the brotherhood of the children of the One God, the Father of all, the God of your fathers and ours.” How a similar irenic activity answers to our fate is evident in the fact that not long ago, while in Israel for the feast of the Nativity of Christ, the primate of the Moscow Patriarchate performed three morally incompatible activities: he prayed to the God we have in common, Christ the incarnate Son of God, then reached an agreement with the Moslems concerning the seizure of one of our monasteries, and finally praised the destroyer Yeltsin for “laboring for the good of Russia” and for his “efforts in restoring the morality of our people.”
IV. We are convinced that the intensifying persecution against the Russian Church Abroad throughout the world is one of the steps being taken toward the establishment of a new world order. Furthermore, peoples deprived of them own spiritual and cultural originality, and Christian principles are being perverted and undermined. Anti-Christian powers are achieving their objectives by employing various methods, among which is the inciting of certain nations and confessions against others, and often of a certain part of a nation against another, always encouraging within the local Orthodox Churches those groups which are deemed useful at a given moment, and denigrating those who oppose them. Is this not what is taking place right now in the midst of Russian Orthodoxy? Is it not obvious that there are powers which are striving to reduce the Church of Russia to an ideological instrument-both the authorities of the Russian Confederation and the “mighty of this world” who Stand behind them-for the control of the Russian people’? How can we fail to remember the image of the harlot church seated upon the beast, which is described in the Book of Revelation? And if the Book of Revelation tells us: “Power was given him over all kindred, and tongues, and nations. And all who dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear” (Rev. 13: 7-9), then it would seem that over the past decade it has been entirely possible to discuss and clarify in a “dialogue” in what way one ought to understand, following a true, patristic interpretation of the Sacred Scripture (which every consecrated bishop is obligated by oath to keep holy), that “there is no power but of God” (Rom. 13:1-5). By this it may be possible to set aright the perversion of the Orthodox Faith, terrible in its consequences, which is to be found in documents being published in the name of the Moscow Patriarchate as in the name of the Church of Russia itself. Encroachment upon the sense of Holy Tradition hinders spiritual healing. Our appeal
continues to be ignored… the Truth of the Church is not being proclaimed; false teaching is not being condemned.
We know that a significant part of the people and clergy of Russia are aware of the danger of the situation, which is being manifested in many different forms. Still, the neo-Renovationists, the ecumenists, and their opponents within the “right-leaning” circles of the Moscow Patriarchate, who call themselves “true catacomb Christians” despite all their irreconcilable differences, not to mention the very leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate, are united in spreading the selfsame slander against our Church. We know that our being situated outside Russia can seem “unpatriotic” to some-as is proclaimed in the publications of the Moscow Patriarchate. Yet those who attack us for this should read St. Athanasius the Great’s “Apology for My Flight,” and the canons of St. Peter of Alexandria, to avoid unchurchly, secular reasoning and to understand how the Holy Church has actually treated similar questions. We see in this fate of part of the Russian people, sent into the West by the Providence of God, a call to understand the universal scale of the impending apocalyptic period. We do not place our hope in foreign authorities when we appeal to them, pointing out the principles of Justice (as the holy Apostle Paul once appealed to his Roman citizenship so as to avoid violence united with iniquity) when we demand the cessation of the iniquity inflicted upon the “little flock” of Christ, our little Church. Justice is appealed to-as we avail ourselves of a traffic light on a road-so as to insure elementary order for all, among whom one may also consider the émigrés who once saved themselves from annihilation. We place our trust in the One Holy Trinity, Whom we confess, and on the wisdom of our people, who for a thousand years have confessed the unity of the Trinity amid all the vicissitudes of history. We hope that, taught by its new bitter experience, it will have learned a lesson from the 20th century through which it has has just lived. The fate of Russia is in the hands of God and the hands of the Russian people, if they desire to remain the people of God.
We, descendants of the various generations of émigrés, who find ourselves exiles in a foreign land by dint of the bitter dregs which our people drained in the beginning, as well as many of the other peoples of the world (whose children have since come to us for the salvation of Christ), hope to hold out until that day when, through the supplications of our holy new-martyrs, Russia will be moved by prayer to carry out its final mission-to bear witness before the world concerning the Truth of ‘Orthodoxy and the Orthodox form of government. As far as our scant powers permit, we will always bear witness to this for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Our goal, however modest, is not to allow anyone to drown this Truth in the ocean of impending apostasy.
Forgive us, compatriots who are dear to us in Christ, for our mistakes. And do not discard the Truth itself with our shortcomings and weaknesses. We call upon you to be aware of the universal scale of the
present Church problems, to reunite with us in common prayer, and to deepen in our native land the struggle of being Russian amid the conditions of apostasy-despite the policies of those worldly and ecclesiastical authorities who do not value Russia’s universal spiritual vocation. Why is our existence disturbing to those who call us “a tiny handful of schismatics?” Saint Mark of Ephesus demonstrated that the Truth is not measured by the number of ruling hierarchs. All of Orthodoxy can be defended by a single, solitary “schismatic.” The holy apostles, the holy fathers and teachers of the Church, the holy martyrs, call upon us, for the sake of Truth, to withdraw from falsehood, from the imminent kingdom of the Antichrist, and to struggle in love for Christ, that we may be written “in the Book of Life of the Lamb, Who was slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear.”
+Metropolitan Vitaly +Archbishop Lavr +Archbishop Mark +Archbishop Hilarion +Bishop Kirill +Bishop Mitrofan +Bishop Ambrosy +Bishop Gavrill +Bishop Mikhail
18 February/2 March 2000.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I was assigned the task of amassing materials on Sergianism in order to present a report to the Sobor in November of this year. Some of us have a cynical attitude toward this issue and consider this issue to be overly complex to warrant examination; furthermore given that the Church Abroad did not come to a final determination on this matter over the course of eighty years, given the brevity of the Sobor it would be impossible to resolve it now. Therefore it should not even be raised.
But for many of us this seems erroneous. Sergianism split the Russian Church, and this schism, to the great tragedy of Russia, persists to this very day. Sergianism is not merely a false teaching concerning the relations between the Church and the civil regime. In fact it is multi-tiered. Contemporary Sergianism in general is an entire system of false notions regarding the Church implying that it is a corporeal and earthly political organization on which an earthly, political and not spiritual church is based.
Sergianism basically began with a false understanding of the relation of the Church to persecution. Thank God, at this time the fierce persecution against the Church has temporarily ceased, but from prophesies we know that more persecution is to come, and that it will be even more ferocious than under the Bolsheviks. If those days are not cut short by God, no one shall be saved.
Therefore it is imperative while we have this precious opportunity, to confirm in a conciliar manner, what is acceptable according to the teaching of the Church, during times of persecution and condemn those things which are impermissible and unacceptable for the Church and alienate the individual from Her.
It is imperative that this be done not to save the Church from annihilation, but to save the souls of its members from perdition, for this is the sole responsibility of the Church; secondly it must be done so that by having clearly exposed the falsehood of Sergianism, we may help those who remain in it to reject it. This is the only means by which one may help in abolishing the Sergianist schism in the Russian Church, which greatly impedes the spiritual rebirth and re-establishment of a Russian Orthodox state.
After the revolution in Russia a brutal persecution against the Church was launched. This persecution was unprecedented in the history of the Church not only in scale and intensity, but mainly because the theomachistic state set its goal as the complete and unconditional annihilation of the Church, and not only the Church, but in general all faith in God. This objective was pursued relentlessly without regard for even any accords reached with the Church. This is clearly evident in Lenin’s wording of his letter to “Members of the Politburo strictly confidential”, March 19, 1922. “The confiscation of valuables, particularly from the wealthiest lavra’s, monasteries and churches, must be conducted with ruthless resoluteness, unconditionally without hesitation for any reason and within the shortest time possible. The larger the number of reactionary bourgeoisie and reactionary clergy we manage to execute in this operation, the better.” (Kremlin Archives in two books: Book 1 – The Politburo and the Church 1992-1925, M. Novosibirsk; “The Siberian Chronograph”, 1997, p.143).
Throughout almost Her entire history, beginning with Christ and His Apostles, the Church was subjected to persecutions. Following the teaching and example of Christ, the Apostles and countless martyrs and confessors, the Church always recognized only two standards of behavior toward the persecutors – either martyrdom or flight from the persecutors.
Christ Himself, starting from the first days of His earthly life, fled from persecution to Egypt. And so, it would not be the only occasion when He fled from persecutors until finally His time had come for death on the Cross. Christ taught us also likewise: “When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another; for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.“ (Matt. 10:23). And so, martyrdom for Christ is glorious and valorous, but not all Christians are worthy of it.
The second alternative while facing persecution is to flee from the persecutors into the catacombs or to another city, in other words out of the country and this is completely permissible and acceptable for the Church, according to the guidance of Christ Himself.
But Christ never taught that in time of persecution we must join up with the persecutors in order to save our lives or save the Church from annihilation. Such “behavior” (as it was termed by a certain Church Abroad bishop at a sobor in Nayak) was always categorically and firmly condemned by the Church as a denial of Christ. Such “conduct”can be understood and empathized with, but it can not be justified or even extolled as being wise – this is completely impossible.
Such “conduct” absolutely excommunicates the individual from the Church of Christ and such a person may only be received back into the fold of the Church through a specially instituted order of repentance. Even after repenting, such a person is only permitted to commune of the Holy Mysteries only on his death bed.
The Soviet regime consistently demanded that Patriarch Tikhon not only recognize it but declare complete and unconditional loyalty on behalf of the Church. Having realized the nature of this satanic regime, the Patriarch once stated: “I have come to the conclusion that the limits of loyalty which the soviet regime demands of me, lie beyond the limits of loyalty to Christ.” And therefore the Patriarch signed nothing of this sort. Two hours prior to his blessed repose, Metropolitan Peter brought him a declaration composed by Tuchkov for signature. From the neighboring room in the hospital where the patriarch lay, Patriarch Tikhon’s distraught voice was heard repeating, “I cannot do this, I cannot do this”. Shortly thereafter the patriarch reposed.
Metropolitan Peter assumed the position of locum tenens of the Patriarch immediately after the funeral of Patriarch Tikhon, since the other two locum tenens appointed by Patriarch Tikhon, Metropolitans Agafangel and Kyrill, were in exile at the time.
Metropolitan Peter also demonstrated firmness and refused to sign the “declaration”. Fewer than nine months later, Metropolitan Peter was arrested and twelve years later (after eight years in solitary confinement) he was executed.
Soon after the arrest of Metropolitan Peter, the deputy locum tenens, Metropolitan Sergius assumed office. Shortly afterwards, Metropolitan Kyrill, who was one of the three locum tenens appointed by Patriarch Tikhon himself, returned from exile. When Metropolitan Kyrill requested that Sergius yield to him his lawful position as head of the Russian Church, Metropolitan Sergius refused to do so. In this fashion, Metropolitan Sergius unlawfully retained power. But this was to be only the beginning of Metropolitan Sergius’ lawlessness.
In 1927, a schism occurred within the Russian Church. The cause of this schism was the “Declaration” of Metropolitan Sergius. In essence this was the same Declaration which Patriarch Tikhon and the locum tenens of the Patriarch, Metropolitan Peter had refused to sign, but which Metropolitan Sergius signed in its new and much embellished form.
At this point it must be noted that ten year prior, just after the February Revolution, Metropolitan Sergius spoke favorably in reference to it and expressed his hope that in the near future something similar would occur in the church. One must also not overlook the fact that Metropolitan Sergius had for an extensive period of time been head of the Renovationist Church which was strongly supported by the Soviet regime if only for the purpose of causing a split in the Church. It was only after it became obvious that the people did not follow the renovationists, Metropolitan Sergius returned to the Orthodox Church through a public repentance.
In his “Declaration” Metropolitan Sergius stepped over precisely those limits of loyalty to Christ of which Patriarch Tikhon had spoken not long before. M. Sergius declared and announced on the Church’s behalf, complete and unconditional loyalty to the Soviet theomachistic regime.
In general, the entire “Declaration” is replete with falsehood and connivance. Starting with the appeal, “let us express on the part of all the people our gratitude to the Soviet Government for such attention to the spiritual needs of the Orthodox population”, the declaration continues to call everyone “not in words but by deed to demonstrate themselves to be loyal to the Soviet authority, and yet they may remain zealous adherents (of Orthodoxy)” and later completely identifies the interests of the Church with the interests of the Soviet Union, as the homeland. Near the end, the declaration states “Now, when our patriarchate, in carrying out the will of our reposed Patriarch (a blatant lie), decisively and irreversibly embarks on the path of loyalty, those persons of an indicated mindset will have to either overcome their convictions… or not impede us…”.
Having betrayed the Church, the leadership of which he had usurped, thereby subjecting it to the complete control of the Bolsheviks, Metropolitan Sergius made the Church a tool in the hands of the theomachistic regime, whose goal at the time was the complete extermination of that very Church. At the time, the Soviet regime did not yet realize that a church under the complete control of Soviet rule could be very useful and began to annihilate the Church with even greater force, with the aid of that same Declaration.
Metropolitan Sergius assembled a small group of bishops (including some former enovationists) and created his Synod which adopted and ratified his Declaration. The Soviet regime supported this Synod.
The majority of bishops did not support and did not accept the Declaration of Met. Sergius. Given the circumstances at the time, they had not the ability to convene a Sobor and condemn the Declaration in a conciliar fashion, but each one individually condemned it in personal statements and letters to Met. Sergius. They called the Declaration of Met. Sergius a betrayal of the Church, a denial of Christ, heresy and a continuation of the renovationist schism which Patriarch Tikhon had anathematized in 1922.
As an example, I will cite only one excerpt from a letter by Bishop Viktor Ostrovidov of Izhesk, which reflects the typical opinion of many others to the “appeal” of Met. Sergius ie., his Declaration. Bishop Viktor writes: “..from beginning to end it is filled with egregious lies and it is for the faithful a soul-disturbing mockery of the Holy Orthodox Church and our witness-bearing for the Truth of God. Furthermore, through the betrayal of the Church of Christ so it can be abused by “outsiders”, it is the most sorrowful renunciation of the Lord Savior Himself. This sin, to which the word of God attests, is no less than any heresy or schism, but incomparably greater for it casts man directly into the abyss of perdition…. As much as was within our power we preserved both ourselves and our flock so as not to be participants in this sin, and for this reason we returned the “appeal” (declaration) to you. For acceptance of the “appeal” (declaration) would have been evidence before God of our indifference and complacency toward the Most Sacred Church of God – the Bride of Christ.”
Almost 90% of all parishes rejected the Declaration and sent it back unsigned. Metropolitan Peter (to whom Met. Sergius should have been subordinate according to Church canons) forbade Met. Sergius from proclaiming it on behalf of the Church. Many others (including Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, Metropolitan Kyrill of Kazan and many others attempted to bring him to his senses by sending him letters begging him to reject it. But Met. Sergius did not respond to the letters and stubbornly persisted, as a result of which the majority of clerics of the ROC ceased to commemorate him and rejected him from Eucharistic union.
Based on all this, one may assume that ROC had immediately already condemned the Declaration of Met. Sergius and the “sergianism” as it began to be called at the time, which followed after the Declaration. A conciliar condemnation of the Declaration and Sergianism, given the circumstances at the time was practically impossible in the Soviet Union. The Declaration and Sergianism in the USSR were condemned by the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, for which they were arrested, exiled, shot and tortured to death. They attested to the falsity and unacceptability of the Declaration and Sergianism by their martyrdom for Christ. There can not be a stronger or clearer condemnation than this, for it immediately resulted in martyrdom. We can now adopt this condemnation of the Declaration and Sergianism by the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia on a conciliar level and we must declare it on a conciliar level.
Those who signed the Declaration and joined with Met Sergius temporarily saved their lives, for at the time the Soviet regime strongly supported them. But I emphasize temporarily because during Stalin’s purges in the late 1930’s, all were systematically killed, “loyal” and “unloyal”, church and secular people, and even almost all the Bolsheviks by whose own hands the revolution and subsequent crimes were carried out. “He who takes up the sword shall perish by the sword.” teaches Christ, as well as that which directly relates to those who followed after Met. Sergius: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:25). By the beginning of WWII, in the USSR there remained only four bishops and very few open churches.
God will judge Met. Sergius, not we. But we are responsible to expose and condemn the sin which Met. Sergius committed. The Declaration is first and foremost the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This lie before God and before the Church constituted the foundation of the entire construction of the Sergianist church and became the guiding principle in all its future development and in all its future affairs. Conceived from falsehood, lies and sinister cunning became absolutely natural for it. To rid itself of cunning or to separate truth from lies is inexpressibly difficult for it, for it is organically tied with falsehood.
Here is an amazing parallel with the Old Testament Church during the time of Christ. Having stated at Pilate’s judgment seat that “we have no king save Caesar” the Jewish high-priests renounced Christ and doomed themselves for ever to be in service to the prince of this world in the face of a perpetually foreign, pagan King. Nevertheless, through this they had achieved finally from the civil authorities a death sentence for Christ and His followers, so that the high-priests could maintain their power over the Church and, hence, over their people.
Likewise, Met. Sergius and his collaborators, the new high-priests, renounced Christ by declaring their complete loyalty to not only a pagan government, but one which was plainly theomachistic, and thereby achieved a death sentence for the followers of Christ who did not wish to “break” their consciences, as well as to hold on to their newly acquired power over the Church. By disdaining the Church’s (and therefore God’s) power, the new high-priests of the Russian Church proclaimed their unconditional loyalty to the Soviet regime and thereby also they doomed themselves and the misfortunate people who followed them to eternal subservience to the prince of this world personified by the Soviet regime and any subsequent reincarnation of this godless authority.
Just like the Jewish people, the Russian nation will not be able to cast off this “yoke of all yokes” and return peace and prosperity to their country until it repents sincerely and strongly “not in word but in deed” for the renunciation of Christ, the murder of the anointed one of God and for the betrayal of Christ’s Church into the hands of the godless authorities. This means there must be an immediate renunciation of Met. Sergius’ Declaration which specifically and visibly contains all these sins, and clearly and unconditionally condemns it as being unacceptable neither for the Church nor for the Russian people.
Before concluding, it is necessary to touch upon the topic of ecumenism, since it is now inexorably linked with contemporary sergianism. In order to justify their emergence, contemporary sergianists (resorting to the typical cunning in the spirit of the scribes) offer a purely ecumenical “branch theory”.First and foremost, they needed to substitute the idea of a “schism” with the notion of “separation”. According to a prominent contemporary apologeticist of Sergianism, “In order to achieve this substitution, not only was an enormous psychological change required… In essence Church canons have no experience of the practice where two church groups coexist without Eucharistic union, yet are equally bona fide. This desired substitution not only requires that a definition be found which would satisfy all, but also it requires some boldness in the area of canons and church history. All previous severances of Eucharistic union had always implied the existence of a correct and incorrect (guilty) side.” It simply seems unbelievable how renovationism attempts to cover up its tracks with even greater renovationism in order to justify itself. The text continues: “We still face the task of finetuning this definition (separation), of comprehending it, and if possible finding a more suitable term. This was the manner of existence of several parts of the Church which developed along parallel paths without the presence of outwardly expressed Eucharistic union, yet still managing to wholly preserve the inner unity of the Church”. The foregoing quotation is precisely an exact exegesis of the “branch theory” on which the contemporary ecumenical movement is based.
This lie, that supposedly inner unity as a whole among those who remained faithful to the Orthodox Church and those who followed Met. Sergius was preserved is clearly refuted by the New Martyrs who had rejected the Declaration and for precisely that reason they went to their death. But those who signed the Declaration in 1927 were not arrested, but on the contrary, enjoyed the support of the regime even though that support would be short-lived. As was already stated above, in the late 1930’s during Stalin’s purges, everyone was arrested and executed indiscriminately including even those Sergianists who were “loyal” to the Soviet state.
Even Met. Kyrill who at the outset of the sergianist period (immediately after the release of the Declaration) was more circumspect and mild in his expressions regarding Met. Sergius. But in March of 1937 he wrote that now it had become clear that Met. Sergius is departing from the Orthodox Church and, therefore, the Orthodox must not have any interaction with him.
The idea of “inner unity in the absence of Eucharistic union” was concocted only recently when the decision was made to unite ROCOR to the MP. In order to accept such a purely ecumenical idea, “an enormous psychological transformation” was required. In order to absorb such an enormous transformation in the people’s psychology, it was imperative to somehow erase the difference between the Orthodox and the Sergianists from a historical perspective, that is, the difference between those who did not accept the Declaration and those who did (the followers of Met. Sergius).
The glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia by the MP was an enormously helpful tool in this regard. Many people were overjoyed by this glorification, perceiving in it a major step in the right direction by the MP, despite the supposed contradictions, or one might say “conflict of interest” between the New Martyrs and sergianism. But apparently there are no conflicts here. According to the Sergianist glorification, among the new martyrs are included even those who signed the treacherous and blasphemous Declaration of Met. Sergius. And these are not isolated individual cases, but on the contrary, an overwhelming majority (more than 80%) as stated by the MP protopriest in charge of this matter.
Certain complaints are in vain, that currently within the MP there is almost no reverence for the Holy New Martyrs. This action (glorification) had been taken not so much to satisfy a correspondinge level of spiritual demands within their church, but more likely to facilitate this needed “enormous transformation” in the psychology of the Church Abroad toward the MP. According to the words of the same MP apologeticist quoted above, during the signing of the Declaration “an individual could either accept or not accept the path of compromise proposed by Met. Sergius, but we equally revere the new martyrs and HIS supporters (Met. Sergius), as well as the non-commemorators or followers of Met. Joseph (Petrovikh)”
That says it all. What is all the preoccupation with schisms? Apparently those abroad who are the enemies of the people need the idea of schisms. It is they who do not wish to recognize their own Mother Church. And thus the ideology was launched and proceeded step by step. It is not by coincidence that Russians are such chess masters. Sentimental patriotism played its role, as usual, and suddenly all former obstacles to unification seemed to melt away. Here one must not forget in connection with this “patriotism for the homeland”, the words of the Savior, Christ God Himself “he who loves mother or father more than me is not worthy of me”. Undoubtedly one must also remember that “he who loves his fatherland more than me is not worthy of me”.
In conclusion I would like to touch upon what occurred before our very eyes within the Church Abroad. This was nothing more, nothing less than an enamoration and fall directly into sergianism. Great means and effort were applied in order to on one hand entice the “abroadniks” with illusions of the spiritual rebirth of the “mother church”, sentimental patriotism, money where it was required, and even ecumenism specially baked according the “abroadniks” taste: “we have not nor have we ever had any schism, but simply, you see, a temporary parting of the ways due to historic circumstances.”
But simultaneously, on the other hand, there was pressure and threats of a total obliteration of the Karlovatsky, schismatic, Church Abroad. Along the lines of this approach there were aggressive seizures of monasteries, endless lawsuits in order to gain possession of Church Abroad parishes, and the flooding of Abroad parishes and monasteries by employees of the MP. But the naïve “abroadniks” couldn’t quite realize this somehow.
The episcopate of ROCOR, however, knew everything quite well. During litigation in court over the property of a certain Abroad parish, an attorney asked Met. Laurus “and what would happen if you did not join the MP?” to which Met. Laurus responded: “they would kill us”.
Here you have it – Sergianism not in words but precisely in deed. In conclusion I repeat that the basic, perhaps unverbalized idea of sergianism: “when the Church is threatened by the danger of annihilation, it is permissible and acceptable to submit to any compromise with falsehood, even to the point of joining up with the persecutors for the sake of preserving the Church and saving it from annihilation.” Dear fathers and brothers, participants of the Sobor, for the sake of the salvation of the souls of the flock entrusted to us for which we will answer to Christ at the coming Judgment, and for the sake of averting the current and coming temptation from our flock, let us adopt and confirm the witnessing to the truth of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia and let us declare from the Sobor that the Declaration of Met. Sergius and sergianism which followed it are a lie and apostasy from Orthodoxy, and therefore is condemned and rejected by the Church of Christ.
Priest Nikita Grigoriev
Interestingly, this attitude in our society towards Church issues is a repeat of our fellow-countrymen’s sentiments of more than 100 years ago. It means that the environment in which new martyrs’ worldview concerning the Christian faith was formed is very similar to that of our times. And in many aspects, that formation developed not because of the surrounding reality, but in spite of it.
The Russian tsar Peter the Great and his entourage openly apostatized from the Church during that era, and by the beginning of the twentieth century this apostasy reached the lower class, the most conservative strata of society. The people’s alienation from the Church was often reinforced by the apostasy of the clergy themselves. This is why the new martyrs are truly the salt of the Russian land—the people who were able to remain faithful to Christ and the Church during the period of countrywide religious confusion.
It would seem that the canonization of a host of Russian saints in the post-Soviet period would contradict the above. About 1,500 new martyrs have been canonized; that is an enormous number for the Russian Church. But if we take into consideration that 130,000 representatives of the clergy alone were executed by firing squad in the Soviet period before 1943, then this number is no longer so imposing. The emergence of a militant atheistic state on the ruins of the former Russia is indicative of the nearly total falling away of the Russian people from God and the Church of Christ. The Lord allowed this to happen because He obviously could not find ten righteous people per each Russian “Sodom”. Beyond all doubt, rudiments of religious life tend to continue in people’s everyday life, but a living and conscious faith becomes a great rarity.
The faith of some turned into unbelief, and the faith of others turned to ritualism. Some even managed to combine both. For example, Sergei Iosifovich Fudel [1900-1977, a Russian theologian and memoirist] mentioned a former senior conductor who weekly attended church services and regularly fasted but in reality turned out to be a full-fledged atheist: “Our conversation was gradually switched over to a more serious topic—the death of our loved ones. And as soon as I said that the day would come when we would see all of them again, the old man instantly raised his bushy eyebrows in sincere amazement. ‘Are you serious? Do you really mean it? Those are all priests’ tales! We will die and everything will stop! There will be nothing there’.”
Today many speak of the revival of the Orthodox faith in Russia. If we measure it only by the number of churches and monasteries that have been built or restored over the past twenty-five years, then the revival is obvious. But if we take into account that the overwhelming majority of our fellow-countrymen who identify themselves as Orthodox (between seventy and eighty per cent of Russia’s population) have a very vague idea of church life and go to church only on the days of their personal sorrow, then we see that the picture is not optimistic at all. And if we add that one third of these “statistically Orthodox” people say that they do not believe in God, then we will have to admit that the ideological heirs of the aforementioned senior conductor are spreading across the Russian land and gradually filling it with themselves.
For this reason the idea that it is necessary to study the history of early twentieth century Russia looks very natural. Most precious for us is the evidence of Russian saints of that era who repeatedly warned Russian society of fatal effects of abandoning God and falling away from the Church.
In this sense, the life of Hieromartyr Hilarion (Troitsky; 1886-1929) is very interesting, because the falling away of the Russian people from the Church was one of the main subjects he studied during his days as a student.
By the time Vladimir Troitsky (the secular name of St. Hilarion) studied at the seminary and academy (1900-1910), a considerable part of Russian society had been carried away by revolutionary ideas. And it was the theological schools that often became hotbeds of these ideas. The winds of revolution did not pass by the Moscow Theological Academy either. “Vladimir Alexeyevich joined the academy in 1906, when the fumes of the revolution that had infiltrated into the academy were just beginning to clear away but without disappearing completely. Vladimir Alexeyevich had to endure much. He used to say, ‘Shame on the academy that has changed the white robes of sober and pure science for the bright but dirty multi-colored rags of street politics.’ Shame upon the academy, which he loved ‘as a beloved bride’… But the terror did not disappear without leaving a mark on Vladimir Alexeyevich: His thoroughly analytical mind could not settle down until it determined why that terrible storm had captivated such broad circles. One of the key factors that determined the movement’s large scale was the secular nature of our society, which for the most part had lost its ties with the Church and had forsaken its age-old traditions… As soon as it became clear enough… he devoted his compulsory essays and his spare time to developing the question of the Church and ecclesiasticism.”
In 1909, in his fourth year at the Moscow Theological Academy, Vladimir Troitsky delivered a speech during the celebration of the academy’s ninety-fifth anniversary, which was later published in the Theological Bulletin journal under the heading: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
The young theologian saw the meaning, purpose and justification of life in the Church. Apostasy from the Church cannot remain unpunished and is already a punishment in itself. Worship and service of the true God in Christ are possible only in the Church, and those who drift away from the Church actually abandon God together with Her. As the saying goes: “A holy place is never empty.” A false concept of God comes to replace the real God—which, as a matter of fact, is an idol. “Life is full of idols. We encounter idols and idolaters at every step. True, you will not be able to see idols of stone, gold and silver. But the subtle and often unconscious idolatry, which uses service of the true God as a cover and is therefore more dangerous, has spread over the face of Earth like a dirty wave.”
Idolatry of this kind comes into a Christian’s life unnoticed and by degrees takes control of his heart. “Ask one of our contemporaries: What does he live for? What is the most important thing for him? He will say: family, a position, public activities, or commerce. Very few will mention science and some will state pleasures and personal welfare. But will anybody say that the things he holds dear to his heart are God, the Church, the salvation of soul, and eternal life? No, hardly anyone will ever remember this, the ‘one thing needful’. Christ is totally removed from human life, though many dare not openly drive Him away. People do not want to abandon Christ completely, but they do not love Him enough to prefer Him to all other ‘gods’. And so all efforts are exerted to ensure that all the idols of the world are preserved so that they could worship both Christ and belial simultaneously. People have divided their lives among many gods. The larger part of one’s life is devoted to the service of idols of all sorts, and only an infinitesimal bit of life is devoted to a quick and hasty worship of the true God.”
Church life, which sanctifies human life and gives it purpose, is replaced with religiosity that becomes only an insignificant part of life and serves mainly practical needs. “Now we hear only of the ‘satisfaction of religious needs’ or ‘performance of religious duties’; and both the needs and duties are surprisingly scanty in comparison with other requirements and obligations of various kinds.”
The conciliar character of church life is lost. Idols of non-Church forms of “Christianity” come up to take the Church’s place. “Idols are more and more supplanting Christ in human life… In our days Christianity manifests itself only as a private, hidden piety, while Christian life has completely fallen into decline. Christian life is possible only in the Church; only the Church does the life of Christ live.”
The twenty-three-year-old man became convinced of the truths that were to become the unfailing guiding star in his life: Without the Church there is no life, no salvation, no knowledge of God; that is, no theology, which is inseparable from piety, according to the tradition of the Church and, above all, to the writings of the Holy Fathers, those “spirit-bearing theologians.” And the future hierarch referred only to the Orthodox Church as to the Church with a capital C.
Despite his very young age, as early as 1909 Vladimir Troitsky perfectly understood not only the main trouble of Russia (which later led to a catastrophe) but also the sole way out of this trouble: “Clouds without water, carried about of winds, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever (see Jude 12, 13) have come to our Russian plain from all sides. Their mouths are uttering pompous words… The gates of hell have accumulated all their strength and rushed towards the Holy Church… We believe, firmly believe that no winds, no tempests are capable of drowning the ship of Christ!… To count the empty and dead idols of the vain world but loss, to count all of them but dung (cf. Phil. 3:8) and to serve God alone and His Holy Church—there is not and cannot be anything higher than this!”
And it is not only worldliness, the secular mind, but it is also false ideas of God and the paths of salvation, the distortion and disregard of the truths of faith that tempt man and lead him astray. And it is difficult to say what is worse. “If you flee from a wolf you will run into a bear,” Elder Ambrose of Optina used to say.During the VII Ecumenical Council, Epiphanius, a learned deacon from Catana in Sicily, approached St. Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, with a question on the heresy of iconoclasm. He asked, “Is this heresy more pernicious or less pernicious than those that existed before?” And His Holiness Patriarch Tarasius answered, “Evil is always evil, especially in the Church matters; as for the tenets of faith, either you transgress against a minor one or against a basic one—it makes no difference; because in both cases the law of God has been violated.”
This is precisely how Father Hilarion (in 1913 he became a monk and from 1913 till 1920 was archimandrite and inspector of the Moscow Theological Academy) perceived heterodox denominations. In his view, they are ontologically so alien to Orthodoxy that he did not consider it possible to call them Churches.
“Several Churches have appeared,” he used to say with perplexity. “The Orthodox, Catholic and even Protestant and Anglican Churches and so on, though it should be clear that one Head can have only one body.” For him the antonym to the word “Catholic” was not the word “Orthodox” but “the Church”; thus he stressed “the essential difference between Catholic life and Church life,” since for him there is only one theanthropic community whose proper name is “the Church”.
For Hieromartyr Hilarion, ecclesiology (study of the Church) was not so much a branch of theology as a basic principle, quintessence, the prime pre-requisite of theology, since the Church is a theanthropic organism in which man, who was created in God’s image and likeness, restores his natural integrity, acquires the likeness of the Holy Trinity and becomes God by grace. The Church as “the fullness… that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23), reveals Herself not only as the keeper of the Revelation, the Holy Tradition, but also as the Holy Tradition itself, because She was founded and handed over to us by the Son of God, and as the Revelation itself, because God is revealed to us in His energies only in Her and through Her.
The realization of this meaning of ecclesiology for St. Hilarion was the foundation of his unshakeable steadfastness in the “raging sea” of schisms during the Bolshevist persecutions of the Church.
Archimandrite Hilarion devoted special attention to refuting the errors of Catholicism, Protestantism and humanism—those three rationalist tendencies of religious life outside the Church that had the greatest influence on his contemporaries’ views.
But, in spite of all the efforts of Archimandrite Hilarion and others like him, who called on the Russian people to come to their senses, to return to their roots, to the faith of their fathers, which had once united the scattered tribes into one nation; that is, simply to return to the Church in mind as well as in practice, these appeals were heard only by few people and could not stop the general apostasy.
And in 1914 the premonitions began to come true. War broke out. Archimandrite Hilarion regarded it as a lesson to the straying Russian society, an opportunity for atonement for falling away from the Church through sins and heresies. His sermons became more powerful and inspired. “Russian Orthodox people!… The formidable hour of judgment of the Russian land has come. All of us have sinned very much over the past ten years. We, Russian people, allowed unbelief to spread across our land. We have unprecedented corruption. We, the Russian people, have sinned against our noble history. We have sinned against the memory and precepts of our forefathers. We are sinners before our own shrines. We have begun to lose the fear of God. We have forgotten how to love the tsar and our motherland. We have already grown accustomed to abusing and defaming all that is native to us, and praising and extoling all that is foreign. The hour has come when we must redeem our people’s sins and faults before God.”
As the war went on, the primary hopes for the return of the Russian people (especially of educated people) to the mother Church gave place to disappointment. The majority of Russian people were more interested in the external political structure than in the inner spiritual order, in secular rights rather than Christian duties, benefit rather than the truth. If spiritual things were not exchanged for material ones, then they were definitely exchanged for emotional ones, poetical dreaminess and a revolutionary revolt (sometimes they were combined in a fantastic way, as is seen from the life and works of Alexander Blok). Human will prevailed over divine will, and temporal interests overshadowed eternal ones. There was no mass return of the intelligentsia from the Babylonian captivity of Western culture to the Jerusalem of the Church.
The future hieromartyr’s opening academy lecture, read on August 26, 1916, was the last call to the Russian intelligentsia and the last warning. Its name finely illustrates its main idea: “Sin against the Church.”
Young students from Leonid Andreyev’s novel, The Days of Our Life, who admire the ringing of Moscow bells that call the faithful to the Sunday Vigil, but who instead of going to the service continue their picnic with beer on a precipice of Vorobyevy Hills, are, according to the lecturer, the brightest illustration of the rejection by the Russian intelligentsia of the Church and therefore their national roots. After all, the words “Russian”, “Orthodox” and “of the Church” are almost synonyms. “The Russian people’s character was nurtured for whole centuries under the direction of the Church, and apostasy from the Church for a Russian is equal to rejection of Russia. We can imagine Russia without the Parliament, without universities, but it is impossible to imagine Russia without the Church .”
The disregard of this will inevitably lead to deplorable results for Russia. For someone who renounces the Church “renounces Russia also, loses touch with the Russian soil, becomes a cosmopolite… A Jew… who forsakes the law of Moses is an absolute nihilist who is detrimental to his home country along with any country he lives in. And it is the Russian intelligentsia that imported radical sceptics, nihilists and anarchists to European life. Tolstoy and Bakunin are ours. Russian revolutionaries are being driven from one place to another in Western Europe as well. Perhaps no other people has ever gazed into the abyss of denial more than the Russian people.”
In 1917, two revolutions shook the foundations of the Russian state, after which Russian society was plunged into the abyss of revolutionary changes, the lamentable consequences of which have not yet been overcome.
Holy Hierarch Hilarion did not lose himself in the whirlwind of revolutionary perturbations. His love for the Church and submergence into Church Tradition enabled him to retain firm guidelines, to find the right way to relate to the atheist authorities and numerous schisms, and to perform his podvig as a confessor in the appropriate manner. He managed to find the strength not to lose heart under the most hopeless circumstances of life—both in exile and the concentration camp. And the saintly bishop did not separate himself from the Russian people. But his view of the correlation between the Russian man’s attitude towards the Church and our state’s prosperity remained unchanged until his martyrdom. “And do we say that the Soviet authority is not from God?” he answered the sly question of People’s Commissar Anatoly Lunacharsky. “Yes, it is certainly from God! As a punishment for our sins…”
As they say: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Then how can someone who learns neither from his own nor from others’ mistakes be characterized? Let us hope that we will be able to learn at least from our own mistakes.
Orthochristian.com. Andrei Gorbachev . Translation by Dimitry Lapa
28 декабря 2016 г.
Beacon Of Light
History of the MP and the ROCA
by Archpriest Nikita Grigoriev Rector, Parish of St. Nikita The Confessor, Richfield Springs NY
Instructor of Apologetics, Holy Trinity Seminary, Jordanville, NY 1986-2006
Oct. 25 / Nov. 7 2006. The day of the October Revolution in Russia.
The day that plunged Russia and the rest of the world into darkness.
Some of the faithful are being confused by assertions that the ROCA must necessarily unite with the MP at this time or face dire consequences. These consequences include losing ROCA’s canonical foundation, creating a schism in the Church, becoming a sect, losing respect in the eyes of the world, partaking in the heresy of Donatism, etc. The positive reasons for immediate union are usually given as the claim that Communism has fallen in Russia, the MP has completely renounced “Sergianism” as well as Ecumenism and above all, that Russia, the long suffering Russian people and the MP need the ROCA now. In other words, the best way for ROCA to help the Russian people is to unite with the MP now. If they don’t do it now, ROCA will not get another chance, and will become a sect and earn the contempt of the world.
It is worthwhile at this time to sort out some of these assertions in the light of historical fact and to focus clearly on the real issues at hand.
Donatism has nothing to do with why the Russian Orthodox Church, whether abroad or in catacombs cannot join the organization that calls itself the ROC, MP. Donatism was a heresy that taught that the sacraments performed by a priest or bishop of low moral character, or who had fallen into grievous personal sin were not valid. This was, of course condemned by the Church because we’re all sinners and none of us would then be worthy to perform them, not to say that we shouldn’t strive with all our strength to attain to the high calling.
The fact that many of the MP hierarchy are apparently of questionable moral character is certainly not the actual reason why the Russian Church abroad cannot unite with them. This is a misleading teaching that seems to be generated to deflect the focus to a false issue that can then be handled through accusations of Donatism etc… Our differences with the MP had never been a matter of personal sins or moral character and people should take care not to allow them to be reduced to that.
The reason why we can’t “join the MP” is very simple. They are a schismatic group that separated from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1927 under Metropolitan Sergius and to this day remains in that schism. The fact that they have become very powerful, with the help and support of the atheistic government, is entirely irrelevant. They are, from their origin and to this day, a schismatic group that separated from the Church.
It is extremely important to understand what a schism is. A schism is not a division of the Church into two valid parts that are no longer in communion with each other. Perish that thought! That kind of teaching is the foundation of the heresy of ecumenism.
The Church is one. We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. By its own self-definition, in the Nicean creed, the Church is first of all One.
The unity of the Church is likened to the indivisible unity of the Holy Trinity by Christ Himself in his prayer to His Father, just before His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. The Church is a living, breathing organism, not just a social, political or even religious human organization. It cannot be contained, prohibited or even destroyed. It is eternal and immortal because it is a body that is imbued with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God Himself. It is the body of Christ and as such, it is indivisible, in as much as the body of Christ is indivisible. The living body of the Church is united and vivified by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, that organically unites all the members of the Church into one, indivisible body, united in the Spirit of Truth, in God Himself.
A schism occurs when a group of people leaves the Church and consequently, breaks communion with the Church. This occurs, as a result of a falsehood or a false doctrine, which is obstinately maintained by the schismatics in opposition to the Spirit of Truth, Who is the very essence of the Church. If the schismatics repent of the falsehood that separated them from the Spirit of Truth, The Holy Spirit of the Church, then they may be received back into the Church through a special rite of confession and absolution and by the reinstatement of The Holy Spirit in them by the Church. If they persist in their position that is in opposition to the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit of the Church, they remain outside of the Church. They certainly can never be considered as “another part” of the One Church that happens to be not in communion with the “other part” of the Church. No matter how big or how powerful they become in the eyes of the world, they will always remain outside the Church until they repent and are received back into the Church through the mystery of absolution.
The following is a brief synopsis of the actual historical events that led to the schism in the Russian Church in 1927, that resulted in Met. Sergius and his followers, who eventually became known as the Moscow Patriarchate, to be outside the Russian Church.
From his youth, Met.Sergius was an extremely ambitious man who was obsessed with power. When the February, 1917 revolution occurred in Russia, he was quoted as saying that he hopes that perhaps now something of the sort may also take place in the Church. He didn’t have to wait very long for his opportunity.
In the years of turmoil following the revolution, he tried to seize power in the Church in 1922 by heading a radical renovationist group calling itself the “living church”. This was a group that sympathized with the Bolshevik revolution and broke away from the Church under the leadership of Met. Sergius and so it was, of course, in schism with the Church. But it did not get much support from the faithful and soon petered out despite the great efforts on the part of the godless government to arrest or shoot all who opposed it. The “living church” bishops were trying to take advantage of the time when Patriarch Tikhon was under arrest to usurp power in the Church with the help of the godless regime. Patriarch Tikhon had staunchly opposed all attempts by the Bolsheviks to gain control of the Church and boldly spoke out against the godless atrocities and brazen lies of the Bolshevik government.
Because of the enormous authority that Patriarch Tikhon wielded not only in Russia but even with foreign governments, the Bolsheviks were forced to release him, still keeping him under very close observation and persecution. The release of Patriarch Tikhon served to quell the “living church” revolution and Met. Sergius then asked to be taken back into the Church, which he was, unfortunately in the same rank, after a clear public confession and a renunciation of the “living church”. But he kept his eyes open for another opportunity.
The new Bolshevik government had a stated agenda to destroy all faith in God. At first it began to physically exterminate many of the faithful, starting with the bishops and priests, and to demolish most of the churches. Soon they realized, just like the Roman Empire did in the first three centuries, that it was hopeless and that they were bound to lose. The Church, which comprised most of the country, was only becoming stronger and increasingly more resolute. Large crowds were following priests who had been arrested, encouraging them to stand fast and ripping off pieces of their cassocks to keep as relics from the martyrs on their way to certain death for Christ and His Church.
The Bolsheviks realized that they needed a new plan.
Comrade Tuchkov had been selected for the job of destroying the Church. On Dec. 13, 1926 Met. Sergius was arrested and brought for a chat with comrade Tuchkov. When Tuchkov met with Met. Sergius it was like a match made in hell. Met. Sergius saw a great career opportunity and Tuchkov saw a chance to create a schism in the Church: Exactly what they were both looking for.
Met. Sergius emerged from jail on March 30, 1927 and was then free to live in Moscow with privileges that he did not enjoy even before his arrest at a time when almost all the bishops were being arrested and retained in jail. He began to be suspected of having struck a deal with Tuchkov. It’s not clear which one of them was the actual author of that hideous document that entered history under the infamous name of “Declaration of Met. Sergius”. Most likely it was a joint effort, with comrade Tuchkov dictating and Met. Sergius obliging. The end result was that on July 29, 1927 Met. Sergius signed the infamous “Declaration of Met. Sergius”. This document not only created schism in the Church and precipitated the most vicious persecution of the Church in history, where millions upon millions of Christians were butchered for their Faith in the most horrendous ways imaginable (I personally heard some of the details from witnesses such as the new confessor Bishop Leonty of Chile, for instance), but most importantly it lay the foundation for the creation of nothing less than what may be rightfully called the Antichrist Orthodox Church.
Consider the third temptation that Satan presented to Christ in the desert. Satan took Christ atop a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the earth in all their glory. And Satan said to Christ, “all this I will give to you if you bow down before me”. What did Satan want from Christ? Only one thing: that Christ recognize Satan’s authority and submit to it. What did Satan promise Christ in return? Permission to operate freely in the world, subject only to Satan’s approval, of course. What would have occurred if Christ had agreed to Satan’s proposal? There would have been many glorious churches built but they would all have been subject to Satan and would therefore be incapable of providing salvation. That church would have been founded and built not on the Spirit of Truth but on falsehood and belong to the father of lies, Satan.
When the Bolshevik government realized it cannot annihilate the Church they decided to make it theirs, to own it. In corporate business it’s a well known principle that if you can’t beat your competition, you buy it, so that it works for you. The God-fighting Satanic Bolsheviks demanded then that the Russian Church recognize their authority and totally submit to them, just as Satan had done with Christ in the desert. In exchange they also promised to grant the Church permission to operate, entirely subject to their approval and direction. What would have occurred if the Church had agreed to the satanic government’s proposal? Exactly what would have occurred with Christ in the desert: some churches would be permitted to operate on a limited basis but they would be headed by Satan, not by Christ, and would therefore be incapable of providing salvation.
This point is so crucial that it cannot be over emphasized: If a church receives its authority from Satan or through Satan’s servants, then that church is Satan’s church and not Christ’s. It may look like Christ’s Church, even try to act like Christ’s Church in order to deceive, but the real, living person of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with it. Such a church is totally the church of Antichrist and subject only to Satan.
Naturally the Russian Church could not possibly accept any such offer from the godless authority. Not only did the Russian Church flatly reject this proposal from the Bolsheviks but, in the person of Patriarch Tikhon, who had that authority, it anathematized the Bolshevik government and all those who collaborate with it in their attempt to destroy the Church of Christ. Anathematized means they were declared to be outside the Church and no longer members of it.
But Tuchkov found one bishop in the Russian Church who was quite ready, on his own, to accept just such a proposal. That was, of course, Met. Sergius Stragorodsky. What Met. Sergius agreed to and signed was the document that he produced during those days in collaboration with Tuchkov in 1927, and this is what became known as the “Declaration of Met. Sergius”.
In that declaration Met. Sergius claims that he not only recognizes the godless authority as legitimate and God given and totally submits to it, he joins it in essence and in spirit to the point of completely identifying with it. He then proceeds in the spirit of Satan, the father of lies, to declare that there is no, and never had been, any persecution of the Church by the Bolsheviks, and that the Bolshevik government is only exterminating the enemies of the state. To further demonstrate his oneness with the godless authority he then proceeded to fully collaborate with them in identifying and condemning to death all the bishops, clergy and faithful that had not submitted to him and to the godless government.
Now, if Met. Sergius had made such a declaration on his own behalf, it would have been bad enough, but it would have been useless to the God-fighting Bolsheviks, who were intent on destroying the whole Church. As such, it would have been of no further consequence.
But although he had no right and no authority to do so, Met. Sergius tried to make that declaration on behalf of the entire Russian Church. And this was the crux of it. The Bolsheviks thought that if they could have that declaration signed by the highest-ranking bishop in the Church, they could insist that it was binding for the entire Church. But they were mistaken on both counts. First, Met. Sergius was not the highest-ranking bishop in the Church. Met. Kyril, who had just been released, and Met. Peter, who was in jail at the time, were superior to him. And second, even the highest ranking bishop in the Church does not have the authority, on his own, to commit the Church to any new course, especially one that is completely unacceptable to the Church as a whole.
And so, Met. Peter of Krutitsk, who was the locum tenens of Patriarch Tikhon, and definitely the superior authority of Met. Sergius, distinctly forbade the latter to sign any such declaration on behalf of the Church. This fully legitimate order was sent to Met. Sergius in a letter, which he did not respond to. Then Met. Peter sent a second letter to Met. Sergius, which was delivered to him by hand courier. Met. Sergius also ignored that letter and did not respond to it. This was because he saw an opportunity to seize power in the Church and, with the help of the ruthless Bolshevik government, to extend and consolidate that power over the entire Russian Church.
When the Bolsheviks realized that Met. Peter was a superior of their Met. Sergius, they kept him in jail and eventually shot Met. Peter. Then they proceeded to vigorously support Met. Sergius by ruthlessly liquidating any and all who refused to sign the Declaration of Met. Sergius.
Some of the bishops did join Met. Sergius and signed his Declaration of oneness with the God-fighting government. They formed their own synod, that by no coincidence consisted of many of the old “living church” group, and declared themselves to be the supreme authority of the Russian Church.
But here’s the very crux of the whole thing. The Russian Church, as headed by its legitimate leader, Met. Peter of Krutitsk, Met Kyril of Khazan, Met Joseph of Petrograd and scores of other high ranking bishops rejected the Declaration of Met. Sergius and emphatically did not join itself to the God-fighting Bolshevik government. The Russian Church, represented by its leader Met. Peter, strictly forbade Met. Sergius to sign the declaration that joined him and his followers to the godless authority. When Met. Sergius ignored this directive from his legitimate Church authority and did join himself and his followers to the godless authority, the Church broke communion with him. Met. Sergius and his followers then fell under the anathema of Patriarch Tikhon that applied to all those who collaborate with the God-fighting Bolsheviks. They became an entity outside the Church and no longer part of the Church. In other words, they were then in schism from the Church.
The teaching that the infamous Declaration of Met. Sergius was a tragedy because it created a schism in the Russian Church is right. But who was the Church and who was in schism from The Church? Clearly, the group that was led by Met. Sergius were the ones that left the Church to unite themselves with the godless Bolshevik government, in direct disobedience to their superior, Met. Peter and many other bishops and in complete contradiction to all Church principles.
Two parts of the Church, not in communion with each other on a matter of principle, and yet both valid, but neither comprising the fullness of the Church is the very definition of the heresy of ecumenism. Such a view has never been considered in the Church to have any validity. Schismatics have always been considered by the Church to be worse even than heretics, because they rend the very body of Christ. They may only be received back into the Church after they repent of the cause of their schism and are absolved by the Church of the sin of schism.
Met. Sergius never did repent of his sin of schism and never was received back into the Church again, as he had been the previous time. Not only did he remain outside of the Church, in schism, but also he helped to precipitate a totally ruthless persecution of the Church in order to wipe out any possible competition and to consolidate his supreme position in this, his new Soviet church.
This total persecution, unprecedented in history in terms of scope and ferociousness, was carried out by the secret police of the Bolshevik government, the NKVD, with the help of Met. Sergius and his schismatic church. NKVD agents would arrive at the residence or jail cell of a bishop or priest, frequently pointed out to them by Met. Sergius himself or by one of his accomplices. They would thrust a copy of the Declaration of Met. Sergius at them to sign. When the faithful would refuse, the agents would often shoot them in the head right on their doorstep. Some of the bishops were dragged out into the street and impaled on a sharpened stake. Others were taken away and sliced slowly on a meat slicer.
All the while the Bolshevik government and Met. Sergius kept insisting that there is no persecution of the Church in Soviet Russia and that they are only exterminating the political enemies of the state and of the people.
Their blasphemy against the Spirit of Truth, The Holy Spirit of God could not have been more obvious. It would be worthwhile to recall that it was Christ who said that every sin a man commits may be forgiven him, but the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven neither in this life nor in the life to come. This is because when a man, through his own volition, becomes totally committed to falsehood, then truth becomes inaccessible to him, and repentance becomes impossible through his own determination to cling to falsehood.
This great persecution, carried out by the godless Communist government and aided by Met. Sergius and his followers, did succeed in killing or imprisoning most of the people of the Russian Church. A considerable portion of the Church went underground and became the ultra secret Catacomb Church. The other portion of the Church was forced to emigrate and organize itself into the Russian Church Abroad by the order of Patriarch Tikhon, which he issued on Nov. 7 / 20, 1920 as Ukase No. 362. The Catacomb Church and the Church abroad was all that remained of the Russian Church.
This remnant of the Russian Church was then physically separated into two parts, remaining completely in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit of God, as the One, indivisible Church of Christ and separated only physically by the godless regime but certainly not divided in Spirit.
The bishops that were forced to emigrate were unable to maintain contact with the Higher Church Administration in Russia and were required to form an independent synod with Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky, the senior bishop, as head of the Russian Church Abroad, in accordance with Ukase 362.
Patriarch Tikhon died on March 25 / April 7, 1925. The episcopate of the Russian Church Abroad issued encyclicals to all its parishes worldwide to continue commemorating Met. Peter and not to commemorate Met. Sergius. When Met. Peter was killed in prison, the Russian Church abroad commemorated Met. Kyril, the other locum tenens chosen by Patriarch Tikhon. Met. Sergius and his followers were never commemorated by the Russian Church neither in catacombs nor abroad because he was regarded as a schismatic who joined the enemies of the Church and collaborated with them in the persecution of the Church.
When it became known that Met. Kyril was also killed, The Russian Church abroad continued to commemorate “the Orthodox episcopate of the persecuted Russian Church”. This clearly did not mean Met. Sergius and his followers and successors, who had actually joined the persecutors and were even assisting in the persecution of the Church. It referred to the Orthodox episcopate of the persecuted Russian Church, the Catacomb Church. This was always completely clear in the Russian Church abroad and the fact of it was never in doubt until very recently, when an order was issued in the Church abroad to drop the word “persecuted” from the traditional phrase in litanies, etc… and to begin commemorating only “the Orthodox episcopate of the Russian Church” instead.
The Soviet government succeeded in slaughtering most of the visible Church that remained in Russia. But it was not satisfied with this. It also killed many of its own hierarchy, the followers of Met. Sergius that had joined them, who were no longer useful to them.
Met. Sergius and his followers joined the godless government that was persecuting the Church in an effort to save their own lives.
They claimed that by joining with the God-fighting government they could remain alive and out of prison, thereby saving the Church from being wiped out. This idea of saving the Church by actually joining with its persecutors, whose ultimate aim was the complete eradication of all faith in God, was not only absurd but completely foreign to Church teaching and practice during its entire history.
This is truly Satan’s idea as can be clearly seen from the words of Christ to apostle Peter when the latter begged Christ to not go to the Cross and Christ rebuked him sharply saying, “get thee behind me Satan”. Christ created the Church precisely by going to the Cross, not by joining with his enemies. This is why the sign of Christ and of His Church is the Holy and life-giving Cross and not a negotiating table. His apostles, with the exception of St. John, all died a martyr’s death for Christ and His Church. If there was ever a time when the Church would seem to be totally dependent on the apostles, it was in those first few years of its young life. But the Apostles certainly did not join the pagan Roman government or the God-fighting Pharisees saying that they could not afford to die or go to prison then because they need to remain free and thereby save the Church.
The Church always grows and is strengthened by its martyrs who confess their faith in Christ fearlessly before Satan and his world and triumphantly go to their death, only to live forever in Christ. The blood of the martyrs has always been called “the seed of the Church”. To this day the Divine Liturgy can only be performed on the relics of martyrs who died for Christ and His Church.
So Met. Sergius certainly did not save the Church by recognizing and submitting to the Bolshevik government, but very likely he did help save that satanic godless government from collapsing. This became even clearer during World War Two, under Stalin’s regime. Stalin unleashed such a reign of terror in Soviet Russia that he succeeded in liquidating practically all of the remaining communists that had actually committed the revolution in the first place. Ironically, communist Russia under Stalin had practically none of the communists left who were actually involved in the communist revolution. This also extended to many of their collaborators, among them the group under Met. Sergius, because the godless Soviet government had no particular interest in preserving even their own collaborators after they were of no further use to them. Such is the nature of the satanic beast. By the time WW2 broke out very little remained even of the schismatic group under Met. Sergius that the Soviet government called Church. The Soviet government had used them to help them annihilate the visible part of the Russian Church that remained in Russia, and were coming close to liquidating them as well.
They had considerable difficulty in dealing with the catacomb part of the Russian Church because the latter was not centralized, not organized and extremely difficult to infiltrate. The part of the Church that was outside the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was easy to infiltrate, very difficult to influence (at that time) and impossible to control, because its bishops remained steadfast in their refusal to recognize the legitimacy and authority of the Soviet pseudo-church, as they called it.
Then something unexpected happened that fundamentally changed the attitude of the Soviet government towards the Church.
As the German army began to advance into Russia, the Russians refused to fight for the Soviet government and, without firing a shot, began to give themselves up by entire divisions. The Germans were overwhelmed by the countless thousands of prisoners they had to deal with unexpectedly.
But if the Nazis were bewildered, Stalin was absolutely shocked and terrified. He clearly understood that his goose was definitely cooked, unless he came up with some amazing new idea to motivate the Russian soldiers to fight. And that’s exactly what he did. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And Stalin was definitely in a tight spot.
Stalin had been at one time a seminarian of sorts, and he remembered how near and dear was the Church to the Russian heart. So he went on nationally broadcast radio with a heartfelt appeal to all Russians to defend their Church and their fatherland. To make his appeal seem all the more convincing, he began to open churches that had not yet been completely destroyed. Stalin and his “communist” party even began to select suitable individuals to be made into bishops and priests under Met. Sergius. The Russian people were so desperate that even this pathetic ruse worked. The Russians began to fight and despite the phenomenal Soviet inefficiency and staggering loss of life and resources, they were eventually able to beat the Nazis back.
But a very important change had occurred.
The godless Soviet government realized that the Church could be very useful to them, as long as it was their Church and they controlled it completely. Stalin then even went as far as to make his Met. Sergius into a patriarch. A year later Met. Sergius died.
But the “Moscow Patriarchate” was born.
The Soviet government organization, that is still now called the MP, originated from a schismatic group of bishops that joined themselves to the godless Soviet government and were eventually made into a patriarchate by the Soviet government and subsequently greatly expanded by the Soviet government strictly for their own nefarious purposes.
Clearly the present day “Moscow Patriarchate” is not at all the Russian Church but rather a spiritual monster that was created by the God-fighting Soviet government by taking advantage of the ambitions and weaknesses of certain individuals in schism from the Church for their own monstrous Soviet purposes.
This fact had always been perfectly clear to the Russian Church in the catacombs in Russia and, until very recently, to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in exile and in the Diaspora.
Soon the MP became an extremely useful tool for public control in domestic affairs and a potentially invaluable asset for Soviet influence in the international arena. The MP not only joined the ecumenical organization called the World Council of Churches, they presently became members of its ruling body. But to realize its potential for international influence the MP really needed to first acquire the ROCA. There was one rather large problem though.
The Russian Church, whether in the catacombs or abroad, never recognized the MP patriarch as a legitimate patriarch and, until very recently, the MP as a legitimate Church. Even though the other Local Orthodox Churches of the world, as they began to be increasingly more corrupt in the twentieth century, began to recognize and accept the MP as the legitimate Russian Church, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) was still holding out and was confessing to the world the illegitimacy and the spiritual invalidity of the MP. This was, of course more than a little awkward for the MP. It was completely unacceptable.
Immediately following WW2 the iron curtain was erected and the cold war era began. The Russian Church Abroad expanded hugely due to the large numbers of Russian refugees from the Soviet Union. Most of these people knew next to nothing about the Church except that the MP was definitely not the Church but rather a department of the godless Soviet government. They integrated immediately, almost seamlessly with the ROCA, because of their common aversion for godless communism, and zealously set about buying or building new churches and establishing vibrant parishes.
The Soviet government continued to infiltrate the parishes of the Church Abroad and made many attempts to get them to accept and submit to their own “Moscow Patriarchate”. Practically all of these attempts resulted in nothing more than scandals and remained fruitless. The vast majority of these “second wave” immigrants remained very resistant to Soviet propaganda, having experienced the fruits of it first hand. The isolation of the Soviet Union and its MP during the cold war years helped to preserve the ROCA for two generations. Eventually, the Soviet Union was exhausted by its own absurdity and collapsed. Ironically, the MP stayed totally intact as the only remaining thoroughly Soviet institution.
As the iron curtain was lifted, a vast number of new immigrants, refered to as the “third wave”, began flooding into the ROCA parishes from the Soviet Union. Naturally, they knew nothing about the Church, having grown up as the third and fourth generation in the USSR where no Orthodox literature had ever been available and even MP church attendance had still been vigorously discouraged. But tragically, and this was of crucial importance, they were completely ignorant of the origin and true nature of the MP. Naturally, they assumed that the MP was the actual Russian Orthodox Church, as it was presented by the Soviet government, and that the ROCA was simply the extension of the MP abroad.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Most of them had no idea that the Russian Orthodox Church, whether Abroad or in Catacombs, was not in communion with the MP group. Most of them had never even heard of the Catacomb Church. Unfortunately very few of them, and by then, few even of the ROCA knew that the MP was not the Russian Orthodox Church but a department of the Soviet government that originated from a schismatic group of bishops that joined themselves to the godless Soviet government and were eventually made into a Patriarchate by the Soviet government and subsequently greatly expanded and groomed by the Soviet government for their own ends.
But nonetheless, due in part to the sheer numbers of these new immigrants in ROCA parishes, but mostly because of the spirit of worldliness and spiritual laxness in many, a new kind of thinking began to take root in many ROCA members and parishes. This was accompanied and supported by an enormous propaganda effort on the part of the MP. The result was that a new and erroneous concept of the Church began to appear in the ROCA. The spirit of worldliness began to prevail among many in the ROCA, regardless of their rank or position in the Church.
The Church began to be viewed much more as a worldly political organization rather than the mystical Body of Christ and the indivisible vessel of the Holy Spirit. Forgotten were the words of Christ to His followers when he said, “You are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I have chosen you out of the world. The world will hate you as it hated Me. But be brave, little flock, for I have vanquished the world”.
As the worldly spirit, the spirit of the Antichrist, began to creep into to hearts and minds of the members of ROCA including some of the clergy and hierarchs, they began to view the Church more and more as a corporation engaged in the business of building churches, ordaining priests and “servicing the religious needs of the people”, as the MP actually put it. This corporation could now enter into negotiations and consider mergers with other such corporations. As a worldly corporation, the church now derived its validity from its acceptance and endorsement by the world, not so much by unbroken Apostolic succession or adherence to traditional pure Orthodox Christian doctrine and practice. Any corporation aquires respect and validity in the eyes of the world, based mostly on how large it is and how long it’s been in business.
But the actual Church of Christ is not a worldly corporation. The Church is very special, unique, otherworldly, absolutely precious and very exclusive. It is exclusive because it is very different from the world and its members, albeit in the world, are not of the world. The Church is spiritually invincible, no matter how small the Church becomes by the time of the Antichrist. This invincibility was promised to it by Christ Himself when He said, “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”. And membership in the Church is extremely precious. It’s compared by Christ to the pearl of great price that the merchant found in the field and then sold everything he had so that he could buy that field. But that membership can be very fragile and can be lost very easily.
When Christ was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, apostle Peter followed Him into the property of Kaifa, the high priest, to see how it would turn out. One of the servants thought she recognized Peter as one of the followers of Christ and she said to him, “aren’t you one of them?” Apostle Peter swore that he wasn’t and that he doesn’t even know Christ. At that moment Peter lost his rank of Apostle and ceased even to belong to Christ (he wasn’t exactly a member of the Church yet because the Church only came into existence fifty-three days later). On two more occasions that night, when she questioned him, he denied being “one of them”.
After His Resurrection, Jesus needed to reinstate Peter three times, once for each of Peter’s denials that he was “one of them”.
Similarly, the Soviet government demanded from all the bishops and clergy of the Russian Church, “Are you with us or are you with them?” The bishops that signed the Declaration of Met. Sergius declared that they were with the godless government and not “with them”, not with the Church that was under arrest and was being crucified.
To this day they have not been reinstated into the Church to say nothing of their rank of bishop, successor of the apostles. Naturally, the Apostolic succession in the group of bishops that followed Met. Sergius into schism with the Russian Church was severed at the time of their schism from the Russian Church in 1927. The fact that many of them were also killed by the godless government that they had joined, does not make them martyrs for Christ. They had already denied Christ and His Church and joined with the godless government to save their lives and, ostensibly to “save the Church”. When they were of no more use to the godless government, they killed many of them, as they killed all their collaborators who had outlived their usefulness.
Now the MP is teaching that over eighty percent of those who they call the new martyrs belonged to the group that followed Met. Sergius and joined the godless government. They’re still denying the martyrdom of most of the real martyrs who were put to death (with their help) because the martyrs did not deny Christ and remained faithful to His Church. They are replacing them with their own martyrs, individuals who denied Christ and His Church to join the godless government only to become victims of that same government. This is all to further create the impression that they really are the Russian Church that emerged from the persecutions with their own host of martyrs.
This is a total falsehood. The MP is not the real Russian Orthodox Church. This is, as it always was, only propaganda and disinformation propagated by the godless Soviet government. They are an uncanonical, schismatic group founded on falsehoods and deception that usurped power in the Russian Church and consolidated and developed that power only by force and by brutal repression. The Russian Church Abroad was always well aware of this and so every effort to get the ROCA to “join the MP” remained unsuccessful. The phrase “join the MP” was dropped and in its place new language began to be introduced to help the deception become accepted.
“Reunite the Russian Orthodox Church” became the new slogan. This had definite advantages over the previous language. First of all, it finally granted the MP, a priori, that elusive status of a legitimate, canonical Church. Second, the MP became de facto the “other part of the Russian Church” separated from the Church Abroad only by “historical circumstances”. Those “historical circumstances” then turned out to be nothing more than the iron curtain, erected by the Soviet regime. When the iron curtain was removed and the Soviet regime was reorganized and renamed, clearly there were no more obstacles to the “reunification” of the Russian Church.
This new deception was not accepted by the majority of the Russian Church Abroad. Many voices rose up in protest demanding that the real reasons and causes of the schism with the MP be addressed. Some of these reasons were dismissed out of hand by the Church administrations as trivial and of no consequence. The issue of “Sergianism” and the MP’s vigorous participation in the World Council of Churches seemed to remain.
The MP then simply declared that Sergianism was irrelevant because it was all in the past and, as far as their participation in the WCC was concerned, well, they really were there only to witness Orthodoxy. This was perfectly clear and acceptable to some in the ROCA but completely unacceptable to many others. The ROCA by then was becoming increasingly polarized into three factions: ones who were in favor of immediate union with the MP, ones who were completely opposed to union, especially under current conditions, and a third group that just wasn’t sure. The pro union group (PU) began to claim that the MP had renounced Sergianism and were obviously not ecumenists but rather witnesses of Orthodoxy. The contra union group (CU) insisted on a clear renunciation of Sergianism by the MP and their complete withdrawal from the WCC.
These objections were not a problem for the Church administrations because they now had a completely new concept of the Church. They would negotiate the differences between the two Churches, make the necessary compromises, which are the essence of any negotiation, and arrive at a new, mutually acceptable truth. That was, at least, the plan. Both sides agreed to form negotiating committees and proceed as soon as possible. To make sure the negotiations proceeded smoothly and successfully, the ROCA team was carefully selected by the instigators of the union to consist mainly of pro union (PU) personnel, with the probable exception of one or two contra members who could be relied on not to create any awkward moments and derail the negotiations.
The rules, under which the negotiations were to proceed, were laid down from the outset by the MP. The past, and nothing in the past was to be discussed. “Sergianism” was off limits and the name of Met. Sergius was not to be mentioned.
Having solved the problem of “Sergianism” in this way, the committees could now proceed to address the real issues of administration that needed to be resolved, or rather, that needed to be explained to the ROCA. The ROCA negotiating team got the gist of it right away but they had considerable difficulty explaining it to the rest of the Church, that couldn’t seem to understand that the MP renounced Sergianism. So much so, in fact, that the MP didn’t even want to talk about it.
The contra union (CU) people still weren’t buying it.
The ROCA team then returned to the negotiating table with much hand wringing and asked the MP if they could possibly state something a little stronger concerning the “S” word. Some of their more challenged brethren weren’t getting it still. The MP commission then demonstrated their great patience and condescension. They conceded that “The state must not interfere in the inner structure, administration or life of the Church”. That would be rather difficult in the case of the MP, considering the state still owns, literally owns the entire MP, body and soul, down to the last brick and kamilavka. The MP also assures us that, “The Church must support all good initiatives of the state, but must resist evil, immorality and harmful social phenomena…” That’s exactly what Met. Sergius did. He completely supported all good initiatives of the state, (as defined by the state, of course), and he vigorously resisted the evil and harmful social phenomena that consisted mainly of all those unrepentant enemies of the state, mostly the bishops and clergy that did not support him.
And finally, to completely assuage the doubts of the most apprehensive, the MP clearly stated that the Church should always firmly confess the Truth, and that, “when persecutions commence, to continue to openly witness the faith and be prepared to follow the path of confessors and martyrs for Christ”. Such beautiful words. Met. Sergius, the founder of the MP, could not have agreed more. He also clearly stated that there was absolutely no persecution of the Church in Russia. Of course if there had commenced persecutions for Christ and His Church, Met. Sergius would undoubtedly have been the first to follow that path of confessors and martyrs for Christ. As it turned out, though, according to Met. Sergius and his MP, there weren’t any persecutions of the Church then and only enemies of the state were being dealt with.
So did the MP renounce Sergianism?
They will not even discuss it or even permit to mention the name of Met. Sergius. Sergianism is buried in the past, they said, and quite irrelevant today.
In a manner of speaking they are right. Sergianism, as understood by most people today is a betrayal of the Church, usurpation of Church authority and a hypocritical subservience to a godless government. That did occur in the past, quite right. That is how the MP was born. But what was born was a spiritual monster, a baby Antichrist church.
Born of the denial of Christ, baptized in the spirit of Satan, this church grew and developed on a steady diet of lies and deceit and has matured into a ravenous spiritual predator with a world-wide appetite. ROCA is not dealing with simply the issues of “Sergianism” or “Ecumenism” in the MP anymore, those are only symptoms of the spiritual condition of the MP. Besides, the MP is right, it really is too late for that now. It was a little naïve of ROCA to think they could “negotiate” with the MP. ROCA is up against a bona fide Antichrist church. In the spirit of Antichrist, it lures its prey with illusions and deceit. It even tries to panic its prey into submission.
These are the three great illusions and deceptions of the MP:
First, the MP is trying to deceive everyone that they really are the Russian Orthodox Church.
Second, that the current MP Patriarch is a bona fide ROC Patriarch and the current MP administration is the bona fide Higher Church Administration of the ROC, continuous with that of Patriarch Tikhon.
And third, they are trying to panic ROCA into believing that ROCA’s canonical foundation is about to “expire” unless the ROCA immediately “reunites” with the MP, or actually, submits to the MP.
The third illusion depends on the second, and the second illusion depends on the first.
Having become aquainted with some well documented historical facts, as outlined above, which the MP understandably refuses to discuss, it’s all too clear that the MP is not the real Russian Orthodox Church and that the MP Patriarch is not the real ROC Patriarch. It is just as clear that the current MP church administration is certainly not the Higher Church Administration mentioned by Patriarch Tikhon in his Ukase No. 362. Where does this amazing notion of ROCA’s canonical foundation “expiring” come from then? Reverse logic confirmation of the MP as the legitimate HCA of the ROC.
Ukase No. 362 of Patriarch Tikhon, which provides the canonical basis for the ROCA, contains 10 paragraphs. Paragraphs 2, 5 and 10 have a direct bearing on this question:
Paragraph 2 essentially states that if a diocese is out of contact with the Higher Church Administration (HCA), or if the HCA, headed by Patriarch Tikhon, for any reason whatsoever ceases its activity, the diocesan bishops should form a temporary Higher Church government.
Paragraph 5 states that if the conditions in par. 2 become protracted or even permanent, the diocesan bishops must institute new episcopal Sees with the rights of semi-independent or independent bishops.
Paragraph 10 states that all measures taken in places in accordance with the present instruction, afterwards, in the event of the restoration of the central ecclesiastical authority, must be subject to the latter.
With regard to par. 2, the ROCA bishops were abroad and definitely out of contact with the HCA of Patriarch Tikhon. The HCA of Pat. Tikhon ceased its activity because Pat. Tikhon died and all the other members of his HCA were arrested or killed. So the ROCA bishops formed a Higher Church government.
With regard to par 5, the conditions above did become protracted and the ROCA bishops did institute new Sees with independent rights.
With regard to par. 10, the central ecclesiastical authority, refered to by Pat. Tikhon, has not been restored to date and consequently the condition refered to in par. 2 has become permanent as has the independent authority and canonical foundation of the ROCA in accordance with par. 5 of the Ukase.
The notion that ROCA’s canonical basis is about to expire is an indirect attempt to establish a priori the MP as the real ROC and its Patriarch as the legitimate ROC Patriarch, just like Patriarch Tikhon was. The underlying false assumption is that the MP Patriarch and his Synod are the same Higher Church Administration that Pat. Tikhon referred to in his Ukase No. 362 and that the Central Ecclesiastical Authority of the genuine Russian Orthodox Church has been somehow restored in the MP and therefore, the ROCA must now submit to this MP.
In reality there is nothing of the sort. This is only an attempt to cloud the issue and create a stampede of the ROCA into the hands of the MP.
Once again, everything depends on whether the MP is regarded as a forgery, created by demonic powers on the basis of deceit and rebellion against the ROC of Pat. Tikhon or as the genuine Russian Orthodox Church, rightful heir to the ROC of Pat. Tikhon. Some people believe the first and see joining in canonical communion with the MP as a betrayal of Christ. Other people believe the second and build their arguments on that belief. Bullion logic excludes the middle position, of the MP as the legitimate ROC but its Higher Church Authority as illegitimate. Either the MP is legitimate or its not. It can’t be both.
What does all this mean?
It means that there are two parallel realities, two worlds co-existing here. One is the Kingdom of Christ, the Prince of Truth. The other is the kingdom of the prince of this world, the father of lies.
Christ has built His Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Satan is busy building his own church of the Antichrist.
When the Apostles asked Christ about the end times, He started by saying, “Do not be deceived, for many shall come in My Name and shall deceive many”. That is exactly the aim of Satan, to deceive as many as possible by building a church that resembles the Church of Christ in every possible way. But Christ said that fortunate are they who received the love of Truth in their hearts and also that His sheep know the sound of His voice and they will not follow a stranger’s voice. This idea of deliberate and intense deception in the Church is very prevalent in the Holy Gospel in connection with the end times before the appearance of the Antichrist.
Why will so many be deceived? Very simply because of their love of this sinful world. Christ warned that a person cannot serve God and Mammon (the world) at the same time.
The world, in this context, does not mean mankind or the beauty of nature. Quite on the contrary, Apostle John wrote that, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.
When Christ warns us about love for the world, He means the fallen world that lies in sin. The corrupt, the ambitious, the greedy, the envious world of pride and lust for power that runs on lies, deceit and flattery belongs to Satan, the prince of this world. The church of the Antichrist uses all that material for its construction. It is being built on a foundation of pride, constructed of lies and deception, cemented by laziness, timidness, carelessness, indifference, love of comfort and convenience and energized by lust for power and hatred for the Church of Christ.
The ROCA has always been as a lighthouse on the shore of a dark and stormy ocean of the world. Its purpose has been, and still is, to be a beacon of light and hope in a world overwhelmed by spiritual darkness and despair. It served as a compass and a direction for a world lost in the fog of compromise.
Its mandate has been to keep inviolate and pure the Holy Orthodox Faith and Tradition, free from any compromise with the spirit of the world. It was faithful to this calling and served it well by remaining separate from the world. You cannot save a man drowning in quicksand by climbing in after him. You must remain on firm ground and extend your hand or a stick out to him. But to save him you must remain on solid ground yourself.
There is no question that the Russian people are in great spiritual need. This is exactly the reason why ROCA needs to exist and cannot afford to self-destruct now. ROCA has not carried the precious pearl of pure, genuine Orthodoxy all these years in very challenging conditions only to throw it away now, when the goal is almost in sight.
Orthodox Russia was built and developed into a great Orthodox empire on the principle that “God is in not in might but in truth”. The Soviet government tried to substitute might for truth, and so its might crumbled. Now it’s more desperate than ever to gain acceptance and respect in the eyes of other nations. They wish to “join the league of civilized nations” as they put it themselves.
That is why now, more than ever, they need to acquire the ROCA by hook or by crook, not only to silence “the witness that got away” but to reinforce the illusion of direct and legitimate historical continuity of the modern day “Russian Federation” with traditional pre-revolutionary Russia that ROCA represents to them. This new self-image and vision of the Soviet government has naturally been extended to its MP department. Once the MP acquires the ROCA, all questions of its legitimacy as the Russian Orthodox Church and the heir to Patriarch Tikhon will finally be put to rest. Unfortunately so will all hopes of a spiritual resurrection in Russia. The MP has never given the Russian people any spiritual nourishment and it never will. Not because it refuses to but because it can’t. The MP is not a spiritual entity but only a political one.
The Russian people are depending on the ROCA to be there when they will be ready for what ROCA has to offer. The Russian people have been under a deluge of lies and propaganda for decades. They are completely drenched. They are now only beginning to dry out. When they dry out, ROCA will need to bring back the little flame of the true Orthodox Church that it carried out at the time of the revolution. That little flame must not be allowed to go out by putting it out into the rain of lies that is the MP. It must be guarded carefully so it can start a proper fire when it’s time. That can only happen when the firewood is sufficiently dry and ready to catch fire. Otherwise, the still wet logs will not catch and the showers will extinguish the little flame.
The godless regime in Russia did not collapse after a few years, as was expected by many, and ROCA found itself dispersed, by the providence of God, throughout most of the world. And so now ROCA’s responsibility is not only to the people of Russia but to all those who seek the Kingdom of Heaven the world over, regardless of race or nationality. Christ has many other sheep in other yards as well, that He needs to bring into His flock.
And that is why now, more than ever, ROCA needs to continue to live and to remain absolutely steadfast in its witness of Holy Orthodoxy and absolutely resist the spirit of this world that is trying to take it over and make it join the church of the Antichrist.
† † †
Nothing written here is really new. It has all been written many times before, and undoubtedly will be written many times again.
Every one decides for themselves based on what is in their heart. Pray, like you’ve never prayed before, that God grant you the love of nothing but the Truth in your heart, at any cost. If you are fortunate to receive such a love of Truth, then be prepared to pay the price for it. The price is going to be very high, but it will be worth it many, many times over. You will be one of those fortunate few who will escape the delusions of the antichrist and live forever with Christ.
Saint Basil of Kineshma Russian Orthodox Church
The original Russian text of this article first appeared in the magazine
Dr. EL Magerovskogo December 8, 2006 under the number 394
Patriarch Bartholomew and Filaret: a wonderful metamorphosis of relations
Pat. Bartholomew: Sooner or later, the ROC will have to accept our decision
7. Let us not then despair of our safety, but let us pray; let us make invocation; let us supplicate; let us go on embassy to the King that is above with many tears! We have this fast too as an ally, and as an assistant in this good intercession. Therefore, as when the winter is over and the summer is appearing, the sailor draws his vessel to the deep; and the soldier burnishes his arms, and makes ready his steed for the battle; and the husbandman sharpens his sickle; and the traveler boldly undertakes a long journey, and the wrestler strips and bares himself for the contest. So too, when the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons; and as husbandmen let us sharpen our sickle; and as sailors let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; and as travelers let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the believer is at once a husbandman, and a sailor, and a soldier, a wrestler, and a traveler. Hence St. Paul saith, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers. Put on therefore the whole armor of God.” Hast thou observed the wrestler? Hast thou observed the soldier? If thou art a wrestler, it is necessary for thee to engage in the conflict naked. If a soldier, it behooves thee to stand in the battle line armed at all points. How then are both these things possible, to be naked, and yet not naked; to be clothed, and yet not clothed! How? I will tell thee. Divest thyself of worldly business, and thou hast become a wrestler. Put on the spiritual armor, and thou hast become a soldier. Strip thyself of worldly cares, for the season is one of wrestling. Clothe thyself with the spiritual armor, for we have a heavy warfare to wage with demons. Therefore also it is needful we should be naked, so as to offer nothing that the devil may take hold of, while he is wrestling with us; and to be fully armed at all points, so as on no side to receive a deadly blow. Cultivate thy soul. Cut away the thorns. Sow the word of godliness. Propagate and nurse with much care the fair plants of divine wisdom, and thou hast become a husbandman. And Paul will say to thee, “The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits. He too himself practiced this art. Therefore writing to the Corinthians, he said, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Sharpen thy sickle, which thou hast blunted through gluttony — sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on. And how mayest thou be able to do these things? By subduing thy body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance. Keep down the waves of inordinate desires. Repel the tempest of evil thoughts. Preserve the bark; display much skill, and thou hast become a pilot. But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things. 8. I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too. For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law. “For the wrestler,” it is said, “is not crowned unless he strive lawfully.” To the end then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted, but afterwards went down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it. The Ninevites fasted, and won the favor of God. The Jews, fasted too, and profited nothing, nay, they departed with blame. Since then the danger in fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not “run uncertainly,” nor “beat the air,” nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow. Fasting is a medicine; but a medicine, though it be never soprofitable, becomes frequently useless owing to the unskilfulness of him who employs it. For it is necessary to know, moreover, the time when it should be applied, and the requisite quantity of it; and the temperament of body that admits it; and the nature of the country, and the season of the year; and the corresponding diet; as well as various other particulars; any of which, if one overlooks, he will mar all the rest that have been named. Now if, when the body needs healing, such exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy.
9. Let us see then how the Ninevites fasted, and how they were delivered from that wrath — “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything,” saith (the prophet). What sayest thou? Tell me — must even the irrational things fast, and the horses and the mules be covered with sackcloth? “Even so,” he replies. For as when, at the decease of some rich man, the relatives clothe not only the men servants and maid servants, but the horses also with sackcloth, and give orders that they should follow the procession to the sepulcher, led by their grooms; thus signifying the greatness of the calamity, and inviting all to pity; thus also, indeed, when that city was about to be destroyed, even the irrational nature was enveloped in sackcloth, and subjected to the yoke of fasting. “It is not possible,” saith he, “that irrational creatures should learn the wrath of God by means of reason; let them be taught by means of fasting, that this stroke is of divine infliction. For if the city should be overturned, not only would it be one common sepulcher for us, the dwellers therein, but for these likewise. Inasmuch then as these would participate in the punishment, let them also do so in the fast. But there was yet another thing which they aimed at in this act, which the prophets also are wont to do. For these, when they see some dreadful chastisement proceeding from heaven, and those who are to be punished without anything to say for themselves; — laden with shame, — unworthy of the least pardon or excuse: — not knowing what to do, nor from whence they may procure an advocacy for the condemned, they have recourse to the things irrational; and describing their death in tragical fashion, they make intercession by them, putting forward as a plea their pitiable and mournful destruction. When therefore, aforetime, famine had seized upon the Jews, and a great drought oppressed their country, and all things were being consumed, one of the prophets spoke thus, “The young heifers leaped in their stalls; the herds of oxen wept, because there was no pasture; all the cattle of the field looked upward to Thee, because the streams of waters were dried up.” Another prophet bewailing the evils of drought again speaks to this effect: “The hinds calved in the fields and forsook it, because there was no grass. The wild asses did stand in the forests; they snuffed up the wind like a dragon; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.” Moreover, ye have heard Joel saying today, “Let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet; — the infants that suck the breast.” For what reason, I ask, does he call so immature an age to supplication? Is it not plainly for the very same reason? For since all who have arrived at the age of manhood, have inflamed and provoked God’s wrath, let the age, saith he, which is devoid of transgressions supplicate Him who is provoked.
10. But, as I said before, we may see what it was that dissolved such inexorable wrath. Was it, forsooth, fasting only and sackcloth? We say not so; but the change of their whole life. Whence does this appear? From the very language of the prophet. For he who hath discoursed of the wrath of God, and of their fasting, himself too, when speaking of the reconciliation, and teaching us the cause of the reconciliation, speaks to this effect; “And God saw their works.” What kind of works? That they had fasted? That they had put on sackcloth? Nothing of the sort: but passing all these points in silence, he adds, “That they turned every one from their evil ways, and the Lord repented of the evil that He had said He would do unto them.” Seest thou, that fasting did not rescue from this danger, but it was the change of life, which rendered God propitious and kind to these barbarians?
11. I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honor fasting; for the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works! Is it said by what kind of works? If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him! If thou seest in enemy, be reconciled to him! If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties. For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes. Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,” it says.
12. Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbor. Because of this Paul utters the fearful saying, “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Thou hast not fixed thy teeth in the flesh, but thou hast fixed the slander in the soul, and inflicted the wound of evil suspicion; thou hast harmed, in a thousand ways, thyself and him, and many others, for in slandering a neighbor thou hast made him who listens to the slander worse; for should he be a wicked man, he becomes more careless when he finds a partner in his wickedness; and should he be a just man, he is lifted to arrogance, and puffed up; being led on by the sin of others to imagine great things concerning himself. Besides, thou hast struck at the common welfare of the Church; for all those who hear not only accuse the supposed sinner, but the reproach is fastened on the Christian community; neither dost thou hear the unbelievers saying, “Such a person is a fornicator, or a libertine;” but instead of the individual who hath sinned, they accuse all Christians. In addition to this, thou hast caused the glory of God to be blasphemed; for as His Name is glorified when we have good report, so when we sin, it is blasphemed and insulted!
13. A fourth reason is, that thou hast disgraced him who is ill reported; and hast thus rendered him more shameless than he was, by placing him in a state of enmity and hostility. Fifthly, thou hast made thyself liable to chastisement and vengeance; by involving thyself in matters which in no way concerned thee. For let not any one tell me in reply, “Then I am an evil speaker when I speak falsely, but if I speak what is true, I cease to be so.” Although it be with truth thou speakest evil, this also is a crime. For that Pharisee spake evil of the Publican with truth; but nevertheless this availed him not. For was not the latter, I ask, a publican and a sinner? It is manifest to every one that he was a publican. But at the same time inasmuch as the Pharisee spoke ill of him, he departed from the temple with the loss of every advantage. Dost thou wish to correct a brother? Weep; pray unto God; taking him apart, admonish, counsel, entreat him! So also Paul did, “Lest,” saith he, “when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” Show thy charity towards the sinner. Persuade him that it is from care and anxiety for his welfare, and not from a wish to expose him, that thou puttest him in mind of his sin. Take hold of his feet; embrace him; be not ashamed, if thou truly desirest to cure him. Physicians too do things of this sort, oftentimes, when their patients are hard to please; by embraces and entreaties they at length persuade them to take a salutary medicine. Thus also do thou. Show the wound to the priest; that is the part of one who cares for him, and provides for him, and is anxious on his behalf.
14. But not only do I now admonish the evil speakers; but those besides, who hear others ill spoken of, I exhort to stop up their ears, and to imitate the prophet who saith, “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I punish.” Say to thy neighbor, “Hast thou any one to praise or highly to commend? I open my ears, to receive the fragrant oil; but if thou hast any evil to say, I block up the entrance to thy words, — for I am not to admit dung and dirt. What profit doth it afford me to learn that such a one is a bad man? The greatest injury indeed results from this, and the worst loss!” Say to him, “Let us be anxious about our own faults; how we may render up an account of our own transgressions; and exhibit this sort of curiosity and meddlesome activity respecting our own lives. What excuse or pardon shall we find; whilst we never even take into consideration our own affairs, but thus inquisitively pry into those of others!” And as it is mean and extremely disgraceful to peer into a house, and to observe what is within as one passes, so also to make inquisition into another man’s life is the last degree of illiberality. But what is yet more ridiculous is, that those who lead this sort of life, and are neglectful of their own affairs, when they have mentioned any of these secret matters, beseech and adjure him who has heard it, not to mention it more to any other person; thus making it plain that they have done an action which deserves censure. For if thou beseechest him to tell this to no other person, much more did it not become thee to tell these things first to him. The matter was safe while in thy possession; now, after betraying it, thou art grown anxious for its safety. If thou art desirous that it be not carried abroad to another, do not thyself tell it. But when thou hast betrayed the custody of the matter to another, thou doest what is superfluous and useless, in charging him, and putting him on oath for the safety of what has been spoken.
15. “But it is sweet to slander.” Nay, it is sweet not to speak evil. For he that hath spoken evil is henceforth contentious; he is suspicious and he fears, repents, and gnaws his own tongue. Being timorous and trembling, lest at any time, what he said should be carried to others, and bring great peril, and useless and needless enmity, on the sayer. But he who keeps the matter to himself, will spend his days in safety, with much pleasantness. “Thou hast heard a word,” we read, “let it die with thee; and be bold; it will not burst thee.” What is the meaning of this? “let it die with thee?” Extinguish it; bury it; neither permit it to go forth, nor even to move at all; but, as the best course, be careful not to tolerate others in the practice of evil speaking. And should you perchance, at any time receive an impression from it, bury it, destroy what has been uttered, deliver it over to oblivion; in order that you may become like those who have not heard it; and spend the present life with much peace and security. Should the slanderers learn that we abhor them more than those do whom they accuse, they themselves will henceforth abandon this evil habit, and correct the sin; and will afterwards applaud, and proclaim us as those who were their saviors and benefactors. For, as to speak well, and to applaud, is the beginning of friendship, so to speak ill and to calumniate, has been the beginning and foundation of enmity, and hatred, and a thousand quarrels. From nothing else have our own affairs been more neglected, than from the habit of prying into and meddling with the concerns of others; for it is not possible for one who is given to evil speaking, and busying himself with other men’s lives, ever to look after his own life. His whole study being expended upon meddling with other men’s matters, all those which belong to himself must of necessity be left at hazard and neglected. For it is well if one who spends all his leisure on the anxious consideration of his own sins, and the judgment of them, can make any progress. But when thou art always busy about other men’s matters, when wilt thou pay any heed to thy own evils?
16. Let us flee then, beloved, let us flee slander! knowing that it is the very gulf of Satan, and the place where he lurks with his snares. For in order that we may be careless of our own state, and may thus render our account heavier, the devil leads us into this custom. But more than this it is not only a very serious matter, that we shall hereafter have to give account of what we have spoken, but that we shall make our own offenses the heavier by these means; depriving ourselves of all excuse. For he who scans with bitterness the conduct of others, can never obtain pardon for the sins committed by himself. For God will determine the sentence, not only from the nature of our transgressions, but from the judgment which thou hast passed upon others. Therefore He gave the admonition, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” For the sin, of whatever kind, will not there appear any more such as it was when committed, but will receive a great and unpardonable addition from the judgment passed by thee upon thy fellow servants. For as he who is humane, and merciful, and forgiving, cuts away the greater mass of his sins, so he who is bitter, and cruel, and implacable, greatly increases the magnitude of his own offenses. Let us then expel from our mouth all slander, knowing that if we do not abstain from it, though we might feed upon ashes, this austerity would avail us nothing. “For not that which entereth into, but that which cometh out of the mouth defileth the man.” If any one were to stir up a cesspool, when you were passing, say, would you not reproach and rate the man who did it? This then also do with respect to the slanderer. For the stirred cesspool does not so grossly offend the sense of those who smell that ill savor, as the stirring up other men’s sins, and the exposure of an impure life, offends and disturbs the soul of those who hear of it. Therefore let us abstain from evil speaking, from foul language, from blasphemy; and let us not speak ill of our neighbor, nor of God!