The Church is One and Christ is the Head of the Church. It is a logical and ontological impossibility that there should be several “Churches”. In that case, Christ would be divided.
The Serbian theologian St Justin Popovic (1894-1979) wrote about the Orthodox Church :
”Just as the Lord Christ cannot have several bodies, so He cannot have several Churches. According to her theanthropic nature, the Church is one and unique, just as Christ the God-man is one and unique.
Hence, a division, a splitting up of the Church is ontologically and essentially impossible. A division within the Church has never occurred, nor indeed can one take place, while apostasy from the Church has and will continue to occur after the manner of those voluntarily fruitless branches which, having withered, fall away from the eternally living theanthropic Vine—the Lord Christ (Jn. 15:1-6). From time to time, heretics and schismatics have cut themselves off and have fallen away from the one and indivisible Church of Christ, whereby they ceased to be members of the Church and parts of her theanthropic body. The first to fall away thus were the gnostics, then the Arians, then the Macedonians, then the Monophysites, then the Iconoclasts, then the Roman Catholics, then the Protestants, then the Uniatenn—all the other members of the legion of heretics and schismatics.”
From ”The Attributes of the Church” by St Justin Popovic.
So from the start in Jerusalem the Church had to deal with different heresies and schismatics .
When St Paul in his ”farewell” speech to the Church in Ephesus warns them for the trials which is to come, he say; ”For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock . Also from among yourselves men will rise up , speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves .Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears . So now brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”(Acts 20:29-32)
And St John the Evangelist says : ”They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us .” (1 John 2:19)
I don’t know if you’ve heard anything about the current goings-on in Montenegro since the corrupt, NATO-supported mafia regime there adopted a law which aims to confiscate the property of the canonical Orthodox Church. Naturally, the law has a ridiculous Orwellian name (something like “the law on freedom of religion”), and is presented as an honest attempt on the part of the Montenegrin government to regulate State-Church relations in the country. In fact, however, the law was clearly created to confiscate the property (including churches and monasteries) belonging to the Orthodox Church in Montenegro which, unlike other major religious denominations in the country, was never invited to any kind of official discussion or dialogue with relevant government institutions etc responsible for creating this law. The most controversial part of the law states (in essence) that all property belonging to the Church since before 1918 for which there is no adequate evidence that it belonged to the Church and not the State will be confiscated by the State. The false premise here is that the State then supposedly owned all Church land, which by the way is completely false. Government functionaries have obviously denied this, but it is the logical consequence of the law. Several members of the leading party (i.e. members of the Montenegrin mafia) have made pronunciations about the Serbian Orthodox Church being a “relic of the past” which needs to “die out”, and have said that perhaps some churches could, in the future, be used for whatever the government finds useful, such as cafés, pastry shops or casinos (!).The current president (read: dictator) of Montenegro, who has been in power for around thirty years, and who is himself unbaptized and an atheist, has recently declared that it is his intention to “recreate” the “autocephalous” (sic) “Montenegrin Orthodox Church”. This is obvious historical revisionism and political manipulation (which is I’m sure you understand very well), the same kind that we’ve already seen in the Ukraine and other places. This fake “Church” has no members (other than perhaps a handful of government bureaucrats) and is led by a former priest (defrocked and excommunicated by the Patriarch of Constantinople) named Miraš Dedeić.Naturally, the faithful have been protesting this whole development for years (the first draft of the law was finished in 2015) and since the law was passed about a week ago there have been huge gatherings – prayer services, processions and demonstrations all across Montenegro. Over 100,000 are believed to have participated the day before yesterday alone, and more still during the previous week. Despite these massive protests (in a country, by the way, which has a population of only around 600,000) and a large gathering on December 21 in Nikšić where tens of thousands gathered despite the bad weather and the fact that the government blocked the roads to Republika Srpska and Serbia, hardly any attention has been paid to this anywhere. Obviously the media in Serbia, Montenegro and the surrounding countries have reported all this, along with some alternative media outlets, but hardly a word from foreign media. If one sixth of the population of, say, the United Kingdom, protested against something – don’t you think that might be mentioned in the news? Perhaps more than a few times even?Today the looming war with Iran has naturally crowded out all other news, but even before that there was hardly any mention of these recent developments in Montenegro. I suppose the diabolical mainstream media only report the things that serve their agenda, and spin everything to suit their narrative.Anyway, I just thought I’d send you this message and a few links to some relevant articles and videos. I didn’t even get into the unbelievably condescending interview given to the Serbian media outlet Kurir by Patriarch Bartholomew where he inferred that some of the Serbian bishops are “ungrateful children” whom the “Mother Church” (i.e. Constantinople) nevertheless “loves”. Can you imagine? He also went on to bash the Russian Orthodox Church for its supposedly terrible actions in the Ukraine etc. The article in Serbian is linked below, Google Translate usually does an okay job translating from Serbian to English.In any case, what can I say? Please pray for me and for us all, for the Church and all the faithful who are suffering across the world. Times are clearly not that good right now.And have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas!Filiphttps://orthochristian.com/126743.html – Police in Podgorica beat up a bishop and faithful protesting against the lawhttps://orthochristian.com/126889.html – Politicians who voted for the law are excommunicated, the faithful protest all over Montenegrohttps://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r1PzVnqLqjc – Yesterday’s prayer and protest in Podgoricahttps://mitropolija.com/2020/01/02/istinska-crna-gora-2-januara-2020-godine-uvece-video-foto/ – Images and videos from protests in cities and towns across Montenegrohttps://www.kurir.rs/vesti/drustvo/3384687/prvi-intervju-vaseljenskog-patrijarha-vartolomeja-za-srpske-medije-crna-goranikada-nece-dobiti-autokefalnu-crkvu – Interview with Patriarch Bartholomew
By Fr Andrew
Copyright Fr Andrew and Filip.
‼️УЖИВО! НА ПУТУ ЗА НИКШИЋ: СВИ КАО ЈЕДНО‼️
— Read on m.facebook.com/markomilacic1985/videos/512925089310575/
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fulness of God the Father, and predestinated before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory, being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God: Abundant happiness through Jesus Christ, and His undefiled grace.
CHAPTER I.–PRAISE OF THE EPHESIANS
I have become acquainted with your name, much-beloved in God, which ye have acquired by the habit of righteousness, according to the faith and love in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Being the followers of God, and stirring up yourselves by the blood of God, ye have perfectly accomplished the work which was beseeming to you. For, on hearing that I came bound from Syria for the common name and hope, trusting through your prayers to be permitted to fight with beasts at Rome, that so by martyrdom I may indeed become the disciple of Him “who gave Himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God,”[ye hastened to see me]. I received, therefore, your whole multitude in the name of God, through Onesimus, a man of inexpressible love, and your bishop in the flesh, whom I pray you by Jesus Christ to love, and that you would all seek to be like him. And blessed be He who has granted unto you, being worthy, to obtain such an excellent bishop.
CHAPTER II.–CONGRATULATIONS AND ENTREATIES
As to my fellow-servant Burrhus, your deacon in regard to God and blessed in all things, I beg that he may continue longer, both for your honour and that of your bishop. And Crocus also, worthy both of God and you, whom I have received as the manifestation of your love, hath in all things refreshed me, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ shall also refresh him; together with Onesimus, and Burrhus, and Euplus, and Fronto, by means of whom, I have, as to love, beheld all of you. May I always have joy of you, if indeed I be worthy of it. It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who hath glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience “ye may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing,” and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, ye may in all respects be sanctified.
CHAPTER III.–EXHORTATIONS TO UNITY
I do not issue orders to you, as if I were some great person. For though I am bound for the name [of Christ], I am not yet perfect in Jesus Christ. For now I begin to be a disciple, and I speak to you as fellow-disciples with me. For it was needful for me to have been stirred up by you in faith, exhortation, patience, and long-suffering. But inasmuch as love suffers me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken upon me first to exhort you that ye would all run together in accordance with the will of God. For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the[manifested] will of the Father; as also bishops, settled everywhere to the utmost bounds[of the earth], are so by the will of Jesus Christ.
CHAPTER IV.–THE SAME CONTINUED
Wherefore it is fitting that ye should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also ye do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And do ye, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, ye may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that ye are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus ye may always enjoy communion with God.
CHAPTER V.–THE PRAISE OF UNITY
For if I in this brief space of time, have enjoyed such fellowship with your bishop–I mean not of a mere human, but of a spiritual nature–how much more do I reckon you happy who are so joined to him as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father, that so all things may agree in unity! Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole Church ! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, “God resisteth the proud.” Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God.
CHAPTER VI.–HAVE RESPECT TO THE BISHOP AS TO CHRIST HIMSELF
Now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself. And indeed Onesimus himself greatly commends your good order in God, that ye all live according to the truth, and that no sect has any dwelling-place among you. Nor, indeed, do ye hearken to any one rather than to Jesus Christ speaking in truth.
CHAPTER VII.–BEWARE OF FALSE TEACHERS
For some are in the habit of carrying about the name[of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, whom ye must flee as ye would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom ye must be on your guard, inasmuch as they are men who can scarcely be cured. There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
CHAPTER VIII.–RENEWED PRAISE OF THE EPHESIANS
Let not then any one deceive you, as indeed ye are not deceived, inasmuch as ye are wholly devoted to God. For since there is no strife raging among you which might distress you, ye are certainly living in accordance with God’s will. I am far inferior to you, and require to be sanctified by your Church of Ephesus, so renowned throughout the world. They that are carnal cannot do those things which are spiritual, nor they that are spiritual the things which are carnal; even as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. But even those things which ye do according to the flesh are spiritual; for ye do all things in Jesus Christ.
CHAPTER IX.–YE HAVE GIVEN NO HEED TO FALSE TEACHERS
Nevertheless, I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom ye did not suffer to sow among you, but stopped your ears, that ye might not receive those things which were sown by them, as being stones of the temple of the Father, prepared for the building of God the Father, and drawn up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while your faith was the means by which you ascended, and your love the way which led up to God. Ye, therefore, as well as all your fellowtravellers, are God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holiness, adorned in all respects with the commandments of Jesus Christ, in whom also I exult that I have been thought worthy, by means of this Epistle, to converse and rejoice with you, because with respect to your Christian life ye love nothing but God only.
CHAPTER X.–EXHORTATIONS TO PRAYER, HUMILITY, ETC
And pray ye without ceasing in behalf of other men. For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be ye meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be ye stedfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness. While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found their brethren in all true kindness; and let us seek to be followers of the Lord(who ever more unjustly treated, more destitute, more condemned?), that so no plant of the devil may be found in you, but ye may remain in all holiness and sobriety in Jesus Christ, both with respect to the flesh and spirit.
CHAPTER XI.–AN EXHORTATION TO FEAR GOD, ETC
The last times are come upon us. Let us therefore be of a reverent spirit, and fear the long-suffering of God, that it tend not to our condemnation. For let us either stand in awe of the wrath to come, or show regard for the grace which is at present displayed–one of two things. Only[in one way or another] let us be found in Christ Jesus unto the true life. Apart from Him, let nothing attract you, for whom I bear about these bonds, these spiritual jewels, by which may I arise through your prayers, of which I entreat I may always be a partaker, that I may be found in the lot of the Christians of Ephesus, who have always been of the same mind with the apostles through the power of Jesus Christ.
CHAPTER XII.–PRAISE OF THE EPHESIANS
I know both who I am, and to whom I write. I am a condemned man, ye have been the objects of mercy; I am subject to danger, ye are established in safety. Ye are the persons through whom those pass that are cut off for the sake of God. Ye are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, the deservedly most happy, at whose feet may I be found, when I shall attain to God; who in all his Epistles makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.
CHAPTER XIII.–EXHORTATION TO MEET TOGETHER FREQUENTLY FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD
Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.
CHAPTER XIV.–EXHORTATIONS TO FAITH AND LOVE
None of these things is hid from you, if ye perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus which are the beginning and the end of life. For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two. being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them. No man [truly] making a profession of faith sinneth; nor does he that possesses love hate any one. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end.
CHAPTER XV.–EXHORTATION TO CONFESS CHRIST BY SILENCE AS WELL AS SPEECH
It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. There is then one Teacher, who spake and it was done; while even those things which He did in silence are worthy of the Father. He who possesses the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear even His very silence, that he may be perfect, and may both act as he speaks, and be recognised by his silence. There is nothing which is hid from God, but our very secrets are near to Him. Let us therefore do all things as those who have Him dwelling in us, that we may be His temples, and He may be in us as our God, which indeed He is, and will manifest Himself before our faces. Wherefore we justly love Him.
CHAPTER XVI.–THE FATE OF FALSE TEACHERS
Do not err, my brethren. Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him.
CHAPTER XVII.–BEWARE OF FALSE DOCTRINES For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head, that He might breathe immortality into His Church. Be not ye anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you. And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?
CHAPTER XVIII.–THE GLORY OF THE CROSS
Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumblingblock to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal. “Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.
CHAPTER XIX.–THREE CELEBRATED MYSTERIES
Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of Which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.
CHAPTER XX.–PROMISE OF ANOTHER LETTER
If Jesus Christ shall graciously permit me through your prayers, and if it be His will, I shall, in a second little work which I will write to you, make further manifest to you [the nature of] the dispensation of which I have begun [to treat], with respect to the new man, Jesus Christ, in His faith and in His love, in His suffering and in His resurrection. Especially [will I do this if the Lord make known to me that ye come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God, so that ye obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.
My soul be for yours and theirs whom, for the honour of God, ye have sent to Smyrna; whence also I write to you, giving thanks unto the Lord, and loving Polycarp even as I do you. Remember me, as Jesus Christ also remembered you. Pray ye for the Church which is in Syria, whence I am led bound to Rome, being the last of the faithful who are there, even as I have been thought worthy to be chosen to show forth the honour of God. Farewell in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, our common hope.
Shorter version. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson.
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnaeans, or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: [wishes] abundance of happiness.
Chapter I.-Commendation and Exhortation.
Having obtained good proof that thy mind is fixed in God as upon an immoveable rock, I loudly glorify [His name] that I have been thought worthy [to behold] thy blameless face, which may I ever enjoy in God! I entreat thee, by the grace with which thou art clothed, to press forward in thy course, and to exhort all that they may be saved. Maintain thy position with all care, both in the flesh and spirit. Have a regard to preserve unity, than which nothing is better. Bear with all, even as the Lord does with thee. Support all in love, as also thou doest. Give thyself to prayer without ceasing. Implore additional understanding to what thou already hast. Be watchful, possessing a sleepless spirit. Speak to every man separately, as God enables thee. Bear the infirmities of all, as being a perfect athlete [in the Christian life]: where the labour is great, the gain is all the more.
If thou lovest the good disciples, no thanks are due to thee on that account; but rather seek by meekness to subdue the more troublesome. Every kind of wound is not healed with the same plaster. Mitigate violent attacks [of disease] by gentle applications. Be in all things “wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove.” For this purpose thou art composed of both flesh and spirit, that thou mayest deal tenderly with those [evils] that present themselves visibly before thee. And as respects those that are not seen, pray that [God] would reveal them unto thee, in order that thou mayest be wanting in nothing, but mayest abound in every gift. The times call for thee, as pilots do for the winds, and as one tossed with tempest seeks for the haven, so that both thou [and those under thy care] may attain to God. Be sober as an athlete of God: the prize set before thee is immortality and eternal life, of which thou art also persuaded. In all things may my soul be for thing, and my bonds also, which thou hast loved.
Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill thee with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all
things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what thou art. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.
Let not widows be neglected. Be thou, after the Lord, their protector and friend. Let nothing be done without thy consent; neither do thou anything without the approval of God, which indeed thou dost not, inasmuch as thou art stedfast. Let your assembling together be of frequent occurrence: seek after all by name. Do not despise either male or female slaves, yet neither let them be puffed up with conceit, but rather let them submit themselves the more, for the glory of God, that they may obtain from God a better liberty. Let them not long to be set free [from slavery] at the public expense, that they be not found slaves to their own desires.
Chapter V.-The Duties of Husbands and Wives.
Flee evil arts; but all the more discourse in public regarding them. Speak to my sisters, that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands both in the flesh and spirit. In like manner also, exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, even as the Lord the Church. If any one can continue in a state of purity, to the honour of Him who is Lord of the flesh, let him so remain without boasting. If he begins to boast, he is undone; and if he reckon himself greater than the bishop, he is ruined. But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honour of God.
Chapter VI.-The Duties of the Christian Flock.
Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labour together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please ye Him under whom ye fight, and from whom ye receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that ye may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you for ever!
Chapter VII.-Request that Polycarp Would Send a Messenger to Antioch.
Seeing that the Church which is at Antioch in Syria is, as report has informed me, at peace, through your prayers, I also am the more encouraged, resting without anxiety in God, if indeed by means of suffering I may attain to God, so that, through your prayers, I may be found a disciple [of Christ]. It is fitting, O Polycarp, most blessed in God, to assemble a very solemn council, and to elect one whom you greatly love, and know to be a man of activity, who may be designated the messenger of God; and to bestow on him this honour that he may go into Syria, and glorify your ever active love to the praise of Christ. A Christian has not power over himself, but must always be ready for the service of God. Now, this work is both God’s and yours, when ye shall have completed it to His glory. For I trust that, through grace, ye are prepared for every good work pertaining to God. Knowing, therefore, your energetic love of the truth, I have exhorted you by this brief Epistle.
Chapter VIII.-Let Other Churches Also Send to Antioch.
Inasmuch as I have not been able to write to all the Churches, because I must suddenly sail from Troas to Neapolis, as the will [of the emperor] enjoins, [I beg that] thou, as being acquainted with the purpose of God, wilt write to the adjacent Churches, that they also may act in like manner, such as are able to do so sending messengers, and the others transmitting letters through those persons who are sent by thee, that thou mayest be glorified by a work which shall be remembered for ever, as indeed thou art worthy to be. I salute all by name, and in particular the wife of Epitropus, with all her house and children. I salute Attalus, my beloved. I salute him who shall be deemed worthy to go [from you] into Syria. Grace shall be with him for ever, and with Polycarp that sends him. I pray for your happiness for ever in our God, Jesus Christ, by whom continue ye in the unity and under the protection of God, I salute Alce, my dearly beloved. Fare ye well in the Lord.
Shorter version. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, 1885.
The following article was written, as the title indicates, in response to recent remarks from Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul of the Patriarchate of Constantinople about St. John (Maximovitch), great among the saints. While the Metropolitan refers to the Holy Hierarch as a schismatic, he at least acknowledges his sanctity. On the other hand, in the past few weeks, a very public member of the Archons (the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle)—a group of laymen who act as defenders of the Patriarchate of Constantinople—who uses memes rather than reasoned dialogue to attack anyone who does not wholly follow the Constantinople party line on Ukraine or any other issue, has taken to blaspheming Christ through His saints, attacking the person of St. John and denying his sainthood with language and a spirit inappropriate for any Orthodox Christian. Thus, the present article is doubly relevant.
Much has already been said about the unfortunate events in the Church life of the much-suffering Orthodox people in Ukraine, and it seemed that the Patriarchate of Constantinople had already exhausted all its arguments to justify the unjustifiable. However, the representatives of Constantinople are now trying to prove that the “Russians” did the same thing in the past, they say, as they, Constantinople, are doing now.
What are we referring to? On the occasion of the patronal feast of the Greek cathedral in Paris, the representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the French capital, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul, stated:
The blessed union of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate led to the restoration of this Church and its many souls in the bosom of the canonical Church. For almost a century, this Church was in schism. Schismatic bishops consecrated other bishops over the course of three or four generations. But the time came when the Moscow Patriarchate entered into full communion with them without hesitation in 2007, not questioning the Apostolic Succession of these hierarchs. Indeed, such a holy person as John (Maximovitch), who was born a schismatic, was consecrated to the episcopacy by schismatics, and died a schismatic, was recognized as a saint by the Moscow Patriarchate and is venerated by all of us today.
Having compiled, with God’s help, the biography of St. John, and moreover, having participated in the IV All-Diaspora Council in 2006, which laid the foundation for Eucharistic communion between ROCOR and the MP, I consider it my duty to tell the truth about the saint and about the restoration of Eucharistic communion between the Russian Church Abroad and the Russian Orthodox Church in 2007.
1. Above all, the statement that a schismatic can be numbered among the saints is at least strange, because, according to the Holy Fathers, the sin of schism is not washed away even by martyr’s blood.
2. As for St. John (Maximovitch), the future hierarch was born in Adamovka, in the Kharkov Governorate of the Russian Empire, on the territory of modern Ukraine. At that time, there existed only one all-Russian Church: There was no ROCOR, nor even the Patriarchate of Moscow, which was restored, as we know, in 1917. To claim that St. John “was born in schism” is simply absurd.
3. But if St. John was not “born in schism,” then was he “consecrated to the episcopacy by schismatics?” As we know, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), formerly of Kiev and Galicia, the First Hierarch of ROCOR, led the consecration of St. John in Belgrade. Therefore, we need to clarify whether ROCOR was an organization like the “Kiev Patriarchate” or the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” now united, or rather—half-united in the “OCU.”
ROCOR was founded in 1920 on the basis of Decree No. 362 of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, the Holy Synod, and the Supreme Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church—that is, the highest authority of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is the first difference between ROCOR and the Ukrainian schism: All of the ROCOR hierarchs had canonical consecrations and created their ecclesiastical body with the blessing of the Church authorities, while Philaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich did not obey the Church hierarchy and created a schism. Moreover, Makary and those with him have their “succession” from the impostor Vincent Chekalin, so they, and not the bishops of ROCOR, do not have Apostolic Succession. This is the first and most important difference.
However, later, in 1934, the Locum Tenens of the Moscow Patriarchal Throne Sergius (Stragorodsky), under enormous pressure from the godless authorities, suspended Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and seven hierarchs abroad, although, as the famous canonist S. V. Troitsky wrote at the time, “not a single Orthodox Church paid attention to his (Metropolitan Sergius’) prohibition and did not interrupt communion with the Russian hierarchs abroad,” based on the view that this prohibition was not an expression of the free will of Metropolitan Sergius.
It is also interesting how the Moscow Patriarchate itself and the Constantinople Patriarchate treated this suspension. Regarding the MP, it is enough to recall that Patriarch Alexei I himself served a panikhida at the grave of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) in Belgrade in 1957. Would the Patriarch have served a panikhida for a “schismatic?”
And what was Constantinople’s attitude to the foreign “schismatics” until recently? Here are just two examples, although there are many more:
In 1964, Bishop Dionysius (Psiahas) of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Australia took part in the nomination of Archimandrite Philaret (Voznesensky), the future First Hierarch of ROCOR, as Bishop of Brisbane. And in the 1960s, the future Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, then a young deacon and student of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, concelebrated with a ROCOR hierarch in the ROCOR parish in Rome.
And most importantly: From the beginning of the Synod Abroad’s stay in Yugoslavia in 1921 until the canonical act, ROCOR was in Eucharistic communion with the Serbian Orthodox Church, as evidenced by the fact that Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, with the blessing of Patriarch Alexei II, participated in the IV All-Diaspora Council and concelebrated with the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus in San Francisco, a year before the canonical act of 2007. This means ROCOR was always in communion with the Universal Church. Was there anything similar with the Ukrainian schismatics? This is the second difference.
And the third difference: Even if the suspension was canonical, the hierarch remains a hierarch; with a defrocking—as in the case of the former Metropolitan Philaret Denisenko—the hierarch is deprived of Divine grace, as are all his “ordinations.”
There is a fourth difference, no less significant. Metropolitan Emmanuel, as well as the Ecumenical Patriarch, endlessly repeat that their intention was to return the Ukrainian schismatics to communion with the Universal Church, and this would have been laudable. But the question is this: According to the Holy Fathers, even something good done in a not good way is not good. To this St. Justin (Popovic) added: “Not like the Jesuits, for whom the ends justify the means.” In this respect, it is interesting to consider how, on the one hand, the reunion of the MP and ROCOR in 2007 happened, and how, on the other, the so-called “unification council” in Kiev in 2018 happened.
The first important step towards the reunification of the MP and ROCOR was the convocation of the IV All-Diaspora Council in San Francisco in 2006. At the insistence of the ever-memorable First Hierarch of ROCOR Metropolitan Laurus, all “parties” were to be represented at it, including those opposed to reunion, of which there were not a few. Therefore, after a long discussion at the Council, the sides could not come to an agreed-upon decision. Then suddenly the priests who were members of the editorial board of the Council’s appeal, recalled the miracle of the holy Great Martyr Euphemia, when the Orthodox holy hierarchs and their opponents wrote their confessions of faith on separate scrolls and placed them in the tomb of the holy Great Martyr Euphemia. Three days later, the Patriarch opened the reliquary: St. Euphemia was holding the scroll with the Orthodox confession in her right hand, and the heretical scroll lay at her feet… It was the same at the All-Diaspora Council: The priests laid the draft of the Council’s appeal with a request to the hierarchy of ROCOR to enter into Eucharistic communion with the MP on the holy relics of St. John and served a moleben before his relics with the commemoration by name of every participant in the Council. The next day, to everyone’s surprise, the appeal was unanimously adopted by all.
It is not by human efforts and ideas, but by the grace of God, that the unity of the Church is achieved when it is destroyed by the primordial enemy of the salvation of mankind. The Holy Spirit Himself accomplishes unity, not us. The fruit of the canonical act of 2007 was not just the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church, but the joy of the entire Orthodox world and the unanimity of holy Churches of God on this occasion.
In contrast to the All-Diaspora Council, the “unification council” in Kiev gathered only two canonical hierarchs and all the schismatics, and its final result was simply a fiasco: The situation continues until today in Ukraine. Moreover, the “honorary Patriarch” Philaret restored his “Kiev Patriarchate” with several “hierarchs.” It is clear that the Holy Spirit is absent in all this history, for He “welds together,” not dispersing “the whole institution of the Church.” Unlike the canonical act of 2007, the “tomos” sowed confusion, discord, and schism in the entire Orthodox world, including within the Greek and Alexandrian Churches, which—non-synodally—recognized the “OCU.” Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Mt. 7:16).
One more difference: ROCOR didn’t pursue “with fire and sword” those few communities that didn’t accept the canonical act, although it could have filed civil suits to have the churches taken from it returned. But in Ukraine, everyone knows the nearly daily seizures of churches of the canonical Church (with the complete silence of Constantinople and the Western “democracies”). Thus, their methods are different.
4. Let us return now to St. John, “venerated by all of us,” in the words of Metropolitan Emmanuel. What was his view on the policy of the Ecumenical Throne? In his report at the II All-Diaspora Council in 1938, St. John decisively protested against the neo-papist actions of Constantinople, including in Russia, and said the following as if prophetic words:
The vicar of Metropolitan Evlogy in Paris, who was consecrated with the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarch, has assumed the title of Chersonese, as if Chersonese, which is now in the territory of Russia, is subject to the Ecumenical Patriarch. The next logical step for the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be to declare the whole of Russia as being under the jurisdiction of Constantinople.
To the deep chagrin of all who love the Church, these words came true.
5. From the above, it is clear that the Moscow Patriarchate entered into communion with the hierarchs of ROCOR in 2007 with the consciousness that the latter were canonically consecrated and were not schismatics, and not “with a simple signature,” as, unfortunately, Constantinople acted in regard to the self-consecrated—that is, without Apostolic Succession—and canonically defrocked “hierarchs” in Ukraine.
Instead of all kinds of justifications, “the foremost of the Orthodox Churches,” in the words of St. John (Maximovitch), headed by its Patriarch, “whose belittling can in no way be allowed,” as Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) said about it, could have heard the voice of the numerous archpastors, pastors, and laity of nearly every Local Church and called a true Ecumenical Council with all the canonical hierarchs of the Church of Christ. This Council, as the hierarch of the Church of Constantinople Archbishop George (Wagner) of Evdokias expressed it at one time, could have become a second Council of Trullo, which standardized and supplemented Church norms. In this case, such a Council could not only have resolved the Ukrainian issue in the Holy Spirit, but also synodally clarified the disputed meaning of the 28th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and thus determined what rights the See of Constantinople holds and what it does not. Then, as St. John said, “Such an outward abasement [by the Turks] of the hierarch of the city of St. Constantine, which was once the capital of the ecumene, [would] not [have] caused reverence toward him to be shaken among Orthodox Christians, who revere the See of Sts. Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian.” Otherwise, if the present situation continues, we will fall under the condemnation of the words of the holy apostle Paul: The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you (Rom. 2:24).