This is a privately owned blog. It is not and has never been an official organ of any ecclesiastical organization.
"No one man, or group of men, can himself speak for the Church of Christ. It is nonetheless possible to speak from within the Church, in conformity with Orthodox tradition; and it is this that we shall attempt to do." Fr. Seraphim Rose Orthodox Word #1 Jan-Feb 1965 p. 17
Sorrowful Epistle of Abp. Tikhon (2006)
Sorrowful Epistle of Tikhon, Archbishop of Omsk and Siberia and the Chairman of the Synod of the RTOC, to the clergy and laity of the suffering Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Скорбное Послание Архиепископа Тихона Омского и Сибирского, Председателя Синода РИПЦ, духовенству и пастве страждущей Русской Православной Зарубежной Церкви (на английском языке)
To the Clergy and Laity of
the suffering Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord;
and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”
(Psalm 1: 1,2)
In God’s Name, dear Fathers, brothers, sisters, and faithful of the suffering Russian Church Outside of Russia!
Can the heart of an Orthodox believer remain indifferent and not shudder in pain at the betrayal perpetrated by Met. Laurus and his Synod? Can we keep silent and not remark upon this religious event, which has deep eschatological meaning not only for the fate of the Russian Church and the Russian people, but also for the world as a whole?
Summing up the events of the past year, 2006, we can say with great sadness: the year will be forever remembered as a tragic chapter in the life of ROCOR, whose history was once so glorious. The year was filled with events which cannot be passed over in silence, for, as Saint Gregory the Theologian has said, ”God is betrayed by silence.”
First of all, it is necessary to discuss the IVth All-Diaspora Council, which took place in 2006, and its real consequences, which no one wants to discuss. One of the most significant achievements of the Council, as its participants themselves will admit, was the ratification of a Resolution, which set a new course for the establishment of Eucharistic communion between ROCOR and the MP and declared conciliarly: “to serve together and to receive communion from one Chalice”. The Resolution opened the way to union with the MP, though not everyone understood that right away.
Another crucial decision was allowing the ROCOR Council of the Bishops to consider the “Act of Canonical Communion” with the MP. Though the IVth All-Diaspora Council did not reject the “Act” in principle, did not reject the possibility of union with the Soviet Patriarchy, in the end, it jointly approved the completely new direction for ROCOR. For the first time since the founding of ROCOR, a representative body of the Church Abroad did not even consider the question of sergianism.
Somebody hastened to call the decisions of the Council a “victory,” perhaps on purpose. But this victory turned out to be a Pyrrhic one. Therefore, the attempts of some of the more “temperate opponents of union” to grasp at straws and try to explain the contradictory and flowery words of the Resolution of the IVth All-Diaspora Council were doomed from the start. The results of the Council were indeed a victory, but by no means for the opponents of union between ROCOR and the MP. By now it is apparent to everyone that to ignore this or not understand it, is to be in a state of willful spiritual blindness.
Shortly after the All-Diaspora Council, in May, 2006, the planned ROCOR Bishops Synod took place. On the basis of the determinations of the IVth All-Diaspora Council, it considered and “approved in principle” the “Act of Canonical Communion” with the MP. The fact itself that the ROCOR Bishops Synod approved the “Act,” reveals the deep spiritual decline and apostasy of those bishops.
Nevertheless, the hope that Met. Laurus and his Synod would come to their senses, repent of their decision, and not push the Church Abroad into union with the sergianist Patriarchy flickered in the hearts of the Orthodox faithful until the last minute. Alas, their hopes were not realized.
On August 24/September 6, 2006, the ROCOR Synod officially approved the final version of the “Act” and began preparations for the ceremonial signing by Met. Laurus and the Patriarch of the Soviet Church, Alexy. At the expanded meeting of the Synod, occurring on December 7-10, 2006, in New York, the final date for “the time, place, and protocol of the ceremonial signing of the ‘Act of Canonical Communion’ ” was determined. It will occur in the “Christ the Savior Cathedral” in Moscow on May 17, 2007, on the feast day of the Ascension of Our Lord. The Hierarch and several bishops of ROCOR will celebrate Divine Liturgy with the Patriarch and bishops of the MP at that time.
As a result of these decisions of the ROCOR Synod (which are historic in their relation to global apostasy), a Russian Church Abroad that is free spiritually, no longer exists. What does exist, is a “ROCOR-MP” completely dependent on the Kremlin.
Allow us to repeat again and again; the union of the Church Abroad with the Soviet Patriarchy has already de facto occurred. It is unlikely that anyone would dare to insist glibly that the Synod in New York would consider this duplicitous “Act” to be a harmless document with little meaning. No, this “Act” will go down in the history of the Universal Church as a statement of spiritual blindness and a great fall from Grace of once-Orthodox bishops. In its significance and possible future consequences, it will eclipse the Brest Union of 1596 and even the Union established by Met. Sergius with the godless government in 1927.
We see that the ROCOR episcopate has repudiated the teachings, ideals and heritage of the Russian Church Abroad not only within the Church, but publicly, and openly, for all time; turning their back on the examples of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian and Catacomb Churches, and from True Orthodoxy itself. From a religious/canonical point of view, this is a complete schism.
It is namely the ROCOR (L) bishops that have perpetrated this schism, not the clergy and laity. It is well known that the majority of clergy and ROCOR laity are against union with the MP. Therefore the hierarchy has had to almost literally force the union by any means possible; not shying away from deceit, slander, intimidation and even worse. Methods which are wholly inappropriate for Orthodox bishops. This has led to a schism between the apostate hierarchy of Met. Laurus’ Synod and the Orthodox laity of the Church Abroad. This has already occurred and a Christian can ignore this only at the peril of the subsequent, spiritual consequences for one’s own eternal soul. The ROCOR (L) hierarchy has knowingly entered into schism, when it changed the historic course of the Church Abroad, acting in defiance of the will of its flock, ignoring its pleas, its wants and needs. The signing of the “Act of Canonical Communion” with the MP is just the legal confirmation of the schism and the union which has occurred.
What can the present spiritual state of the clergy and laity of ROCOR (L) be compared to?
It can be compared to being caught in a snake’s mouth; as a snake does not swallow its victim at once, but does so gradually. At first, it waits out its prey, allowing the prey to become accustomed to it being “harmlessly” near by, then it hypnotizes its prey, breaking down the prey’s defenses. Finally, it suffocates the prey and begins to consume it, piece by piece. This analogy to nature may seem curious, but this is exactly the spiritual state all of ROCOR(L) finds itself in, as if under deep hypnosis and “willingly” being swallowed by the “red dragon” and its “temptress church” the Soviet Patriarchy.
Is saving oneself from the mouth of the snake possible? No, having been caught in its jaws, it is impossible to survive. It is a firm rule of spiritual life, a principle of human nature. For with every day, every step, every subsequent false promise by the apostate bishops and their followers, one’s conscience becomes dulled, one’s will is weakened, and one loses the ability to actively battle for one’s soul, to stand fast in Truth and Faith. Inertia and indifference appear, leading to the apathy of which the Lord warned us of. After that, even the thought of standing up for Truth seems to be unnecessary, inconvenient and even pointless.
That is why it is necessary to flee from the dragon while it is not too late, while the soul is still alive and one’s will is still strong and capable of resisting falsehoods. One should not bide his or her time, hoping that “this too may pass,” comforting oneself, lulling the conscience to sleep with the mistaken idea that you will flee only then, when they begin to “commemorate the Red Patriarch.” Once the dragon has swallowed you whole, it will be too late to run. No one has escaped from the jaws of the “deadly snake, desiring to consume you and drag you alive to the nether world.”
Why is this occurring and what is actually happening in ROCOR?
The ROCOR faithful have knowingly, and for some time now, been led astray regarding the union with the MP. Those who are for union have played with words, drawn out the process, reassured you, while paralyzing the will to spiritual resistance. They lie constantly, making promises that union with the MP will not occur, while tirelessly and dispassionately doing their dirty deeds, leading the faithful abroad into the jaws of the monstrous snake. They say one thing, while doing another, and are probably thinking something else completely. To be honest, if union with the unrepentant MP was indeed the right thing to do, something pleasing to God, and the pro-union individuals in good conscience were certain in the rightness of their cause and its truthfulness, would they have to twist themselves inside out and constantly lie cynically and underhandedly? It would have been more honorable to simply announce at the Council in 2006 – “Yes, we intend to join with the MP.” Unfortunately, it is enough to read all their conciliar and synodal documents for the past six years, along with all their articles and interviews, to know it is just the opposite: they lie while doing their evil deeds. They lie like this because they themselves do not believe in the truthfulness of their villainous path.
A glaring example of such duplicity, or even triplicity, is the behavior of one of the more active bishops of ROCOR(L), who initiated the whole process of union. At first, he convinced everyone that union would not occur. Then he suddenly received a “divine revelation” that the “union of the two parts of the Russian Church is pleasing to God.” He followed that with a letter to Alexy II (see «the Journal of the Holy Synod of the MP, # 119») in which he, “stated his sincere repentance of the deeds which caused the ‘harmful schism’ ”, while insinuating this was on behalf of the ROCOR dioceses and parishes in Russia. Truly, the consciences of such people has been destroyed!
Is this not evidence that the acceptance of the “Act of Canonical Communion” with the MP by the Synod and Council of ROCOR(L) is the natural result of ROCOR’s change in course in the last six years in professing the faith? Concelebrating and commemorating the Soviet Patriarch will be simply the victory wreath of this six-year-long divergence from the right path, to a path that will lead only into an abyss.
At this point, it is not important exactly when this “Act” will be enacted; whether in May, or Ocotober or even in three years. It is only important that the question of union with the unrepentant MP was submitted for consideration by the ROCOR Council and was approved in principle by the Council. The formal execution of it, is just « a matter of technicalities and time».
Would something like this be possible in ROCOR in the time of Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasiy or Philaret? Definitely - not. For the saintly, founding Hierarchs, just the possible thought of considering such an Act by a Council or the Synod would seem like blasphemy and an insult to Orthodoxy. This shows how much the ROCOR(L) bishops have lost their spiritual orientation, how they have lost the meaning of ROCOR and its religious heritage and ideology. Which means then, they have fallen away from the True ROCOR and entered into schism.
A falsehood cannot be the foundation for the True Church of Christ, to which the real ROCOR belonged and still does today.
The Church of Christ was always built and continues to be built on sacrificial love. There is no place for cowardice in the foundation of the Church. It is erected on the basis of bold confession, courage, and truth. The Church is permeated with the love of Christ, not of the fleeting riches of this world.
The Holy Orthodox Church was never built on falsehood. No “grace of the church” ever resulted from hypocrisy, was never bought by betrayal of Christ or by divergence from the confessor’s way, or avoiding sacrifices and martyrdom. The Church was never built on lack of faith. It was always the Church of martyrs and lovers of Truth. That is why the Holy Church was created and such a miraculous thing appeared in the world. That is why the Church has great meaning in the world as the “Sun of Truth.” And the true ROCOR was always so and should remain so.
In light of that, we can say that it is apparent by all the unjust deeds of the ROCOR (L) hierarchy that they no longer belong to the Russian Church Abroad, that pure and luminous Bride of Christ.
The heart fills with sorrow and pain seeing the debasement, which ROCOR never knew during the history of its faithful service to the Truth. This anguish compels us to not stand by idly, but to raise our voices in defense of the defiled Truth.
It is impossible to keep silent and not cry out: come to your senses! Look at what kind of abyss you have flung yourself and your laity into! What answer will you give to Christ our God on Judgment Day? The Lord warns us, “but whosoever shall offend even one of these little ones, it would be better for him to not have been born at all”. Consider how grave the sin is that you have taken upon yourselves, what temptation, what confusion you have sown among the “little ones” of your many faithful! And not just among them.
“It is frightening to think how much you have shockingly undermined the authority of the Church Hierarchy by your Declaration; what a rich harvest our enemies are gathering in these circumstances; how many believers, not seeing a good example for themselves in their pastors, have doubted their belief in the Eternal Truth; and how many of them have fallen away from the Church and are perishing in the swamps of apostasy and streams of sectarianism! The enemies skillfully take advantage of the confusion you have created in the Church and increase their impudence tenfold as they carry out their godless plans… In Christ’s Name, consider it, think about what is occurring in the Church, and the results of the course you have selected! Pay heed to the cries and prayers heard from all sides! If not, it will be too late to correct your mistakes and too late to repent of them.”
Holy Martyr Damaskin (Bishop of Chernigov and Glukhov and one of the founding clerics of the Catacomb Church) wrote these words to Met. Sergius in a letter from March 29, 1929, and they apply equally to the ROCOR (L) hierarchy from this time forward, as they have entered into union with the sergianist schism. No matter how they try to slyly vindicate themselves, how they try to bargain over their “autonomy” and other worldly privileges, they will still have to answer one day for this sin, one that is akin to that of Judas. Only then, no justifications will help them, for it is impossible for anyone to deceive God. Sooner or later, He will call all of us to account: one should never forget that.
Alas, the instigators of this union have fallen to such depths to justify their betrayal. How they have filled themselves with lies! We know from the Holy Scriptures that the father of all lies is the Devil, and if so, perhaps they have gone too far? It was not so long ago, that Met. Laurus and the other ROCOR(L) bishops assured everyone that union with the MP would not occur until the MP repents of sergianism and ecumenism.
What do we see now? The MP has not repudiated either sergianism or ecumenism, while the “Act of Canonical Communion” and the canonical subordination of the Church Abroad to the malevolent “Patriarchy” has been officially accepted and ratified. In fact, accepted to such a degree that nothing remains of the ROCOR ideology in Met. Laurus’ church. Just the opposite, the Soviet Patriarchy, established by Stalin in 1943, has been recognized by them as the “Mother Church,” the legitimate Local (Pomestniy) Russian Church. In effect, ROCOR is no more. All that remains is an overseas diocese of the MP. Now, instead of the MP atoning before God and the members of the church for their violations of principles and the canons, we see ROCOR, as represented by Met. Laurus and his Synod, asking for forgiveness before the MP. And for what? That the Fathers of the Church Abroad, the venerable Hierarchs Anthony, Anastasy, Philaret and the recently reposed Met. Vitaly, along with the saints of the church and its clergy and laity preserved the inviolate state of Orthodoxy, kept God’s Truth for all these years without concern for their isolation or the contempt of the world afflicted by apostasy?
Indeed, the primary victory achieved by the atheistic Soviet regime over the White émigrés and the Church Abroad is that the “duplicitous church,” which was created by the Red Bolshevik regime and is a part of it, has been accepted as the “Mother Church” by the Church Abroad, which sprang from the White Movement. The Church Abroad undertakes this union without the MP repenting of the sin of sergianism. Instead of examining this central matter of principle, which already split the Russian Church in 1927, all attention is focused on the secondary questions; such as administrative arrangements, the so-called “autonomy” of ROCOR inside the sergianist MP structure, etc.
They assure us that “the schism in the Russian Church has been overcome,” and that simply “two parts of the one Russian Church” have joined together again. If that was really the case, it would truly be a great joy for the Church here on Earth and in Heaven. But is it?
The pro-union forces accuse us that in resisting union with the MP, we oppose the unity of the Church. My, how everything is backwards in their world! All that is precious to the heart of an Orthodox person is turned into lies and perverted. The unity of the Church has never been achieved by secular and devious means, as it cannot have falsehoods as its origin. The unity of the Church has never been achieved by the suppression of one’s conscience, which is the living voice of God in every person’s soul. As Bp. Averky taught tirelessly, “That is because true unity in the Church is unity in Truth, not in lies.” This is an axiom of Orthodox asceticism! All the Holy Fathers spoke and wrote about this. The Christian Church has always been, and always will be, based on this; its wholeness championed and redeemed by Christ Himself.
Is there an example in the history of the Church, when unity in the Church was predicated on people lying and speaking falsely? Did Saint Maxim the Confessor violate the unity of the Church when he said, “If the entire Universe takes communion with a heretical patriarch, I will not”? Much blood of the martyrs has been shed for unity in the Church, but has there been a single example of the Holy Church requiring, for the sake of unity, that people act against their consciences, to do what they consider is wrong? If a great number of clergy and laity of ROCOR are against union with the MP and if such a “unity” troubles their Orthodox conscience to such an extent that their bishops must use treachery and deceit, then it is direct evidence that such “unity” will not only bring nothing worthwhile, but will sow even greater harm.
There are examples in the history of the Church of unity not based on conscience, such as the Florence and Brest unions, but what are the spiritual fruits of these unions? No, this is not true unity in the Church, if based on hypocrisy and falsehood!
What did ROCOR represent for people all over the world who are true to Orthodoxy, even the sincere and honest souls within the MP? It was a lighthouse amid the turbulent sea of worldwide apostasy, a reliable beacon illuminating the right way to salvation for all Orthodox people. The True Church was easily discovered by a sincere and honest soul: it was enough just to look toward ROCOR. As an evangelic light on the top of a mountain, it stood and shone for all. But that is not all.
In a certain sense, the Church Abroad, as represented by its bishops and clergy and laity who were dedicated to God, was the defender for all those decades. It was a force that held back the insolent and public defaming of the holiness and Truth of Christ by hierarchs of the so-called “official Orthodoxy”. This does not mean, of course, that it was free of betrayals and deviations, but the fact that the true Russian Church existed openly, as the chaste Bride of Christ, forced the apostates to hide their many crimes from the Church faithful, and while taking note of ROCOR, it stopped them from going too far. The fear of “schism” and the departure of true and honorable priests and parishes to the Church Abroad hung over the MP hierarchy all the time like the sword of Damocles.
Now the MP is truly free, because with ROCOR having entered into the structure of the Soviet church while asking forgiveness for “the mistakes it made,” ROCOR has confirmed that all these years it was they that were deluded and in schism, not the MP. The high-ranking members at the top of the MP, as well as its “lower ranking” clergy and faithful, are already saying as much openly and in print. For them, the “Act,” uniting the Church Abroad with the MP, is clearly perceived as an admission by ROCOR of how wrong the path was that they followed for over 80 years. The “New York” bishops have negated all the ideological inheritance passed on by the Fathers of the Church Abroad with one stroke of a pen. After this, where and in whom can an ordinary believer of the MP church find Truth, if even ROCOR has turned its back on this Truth? Now, thousands of poor souls will suffer the lawlessness of their hierarchy and bear it “humbly,” hoping that this is true Orthodoxy and humility. Yet still, this is not all.
While the canonical ROCOR existed, the MP hierarchs understood that they were only an uncanonical, newly-emerged body, which was created in 1943 by order of the atheist, Stalin. Even though they publicly hailed themselves as the “one Russian Church” and ridiculed the Church Abroad as the “karlovtsy schismatics,” still the existence of ROCOR gave them no peace. This lie was eventually understood by many clergy and laypeople in the MP who still had a conscience, though their numbers were dwindling.
With the joining of ROCOR – and let us be clear this is the joining of ROCOR to the MP, and not the other way around – the MP episcopate feels a new-found freedom, since ideologically, and in regards to the canons, there are no obstacles now to their continued existence. This “union” created the impression for thousands and thousands of the faithful that the Soviet church is lawful and canonical, in fact the one Russian Church as represented by the MP. ROCOR has immediately lost not only its moral and spiritual freedom, but its lawful, canonical status as well. It is frightening to consider that with the fall of ROCOR, thousands of Christian souls now accept the uncanonical and sergianist “Patriarchate” for all time as the legitimate and only Russian Orthodox Church which existed for centuries! Who will recognize the True Orthodox Church, which has been slandered and defamed (even by ROCOR-MP now)?
Met. Laurus’ Synod perpetrated yet another betrayal – the betrayal of the Catacomb, True Russian Church in the homeland, with whom ROCOR was united not only ideologically, but in terms of the canons and Eucharistic communion.
The Holy Elder, St. Seraphim of Sarov, the mourner of the Russian land, having divined the great Mystery of the Russian Church of the end times, prophesied: “The Lord has revealed to me, unworthy Seraphim, that terrible misfortunes will befall the Russian land. The Orthodox faith will be trampled underfoot, the bishops of the Church of God and the other clergy will turn away from the purity of Orthodoxy, and for this, the Lord will punish them mightily. I, unworthy Seraphim, entreated the Lord for three days and three nights that it would be better for me to be deprived of the Kingdom of Heaven, whilst they be forgiven. But the Lord answered: ‘I will not forgive them, for they teach using the teachings of this world and revere Me by words, but their hearts are distant from Me.’ ’’. (The Life of Saint Seraphim of Sarov – The Handbook of Clergymen. Moscow: Moscow Patriarchate, vol. 3, 1979, p.p. 601-602).
This prophecy of St. Seraphim, included by the MP in “The Handbook of Clergymen” in 1979, serves as a self-indictment for the unlawful sergianist-ecumenical hierarchy of the “Soviet church.” It is like the menacing writing on the wall of the Babylon palace of King Valtasarus (Dan. Ch. 5), which served as an indictment of the impudent and proud king.
It is painful and frightening that this prophecy of the great Elder applies to the ROCOR bishops from this day forth!
In describing the religious impact of sergianism, Archbishop Vitaly (Maksimenko) wrote, “It is not a personal sin of one or another bishop, but a fundamental sin of the Moscow Patriarchy; approved by them, declared by them, and tied in to their promise to the entire world to raise apostasy to the level of dogma.”
By the ROCOR(L) Synod officially approving the “Act” of canonical and Eucharistic communion with the sergianist patriarchy, their action is no longer only a personal sin of their bishops, but a fundamental sin of the entire ROCOR(L), “approved by them, declared by them, and tied in to their promise to the entire world.” An Orthodox person cannot fail to understand this.
It is not surprising then, that as a result, there are those in ROCOR (L) who are deliberately trying to reduce the importance of the holy battle against union with the un-Orthodox MP; making it simply a matter of establishing “administrative independence,” preserving their clerical office, property, and other various benefits.
Few notice, what a frightening spiritual deceit is occurring. The meaning and purpose of the True Church’s existence is not in church property or “administrative independence.” To reduce the significance of the very being of the Russian Church, its mission in this era of apostasy, to this level is evidence of an incredible, spiritual deterioration. This is an attempt to distract attention away from what is most important. The questions of legal status and especially those of property carry no deciding weight in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. To repeat what the Abbe of the Church Abroad, Archbishop Averky, said, “In the Church, unity in Truth is paramount, and any deviation from it, is unity in falsehood, and then it is not the Church of Christ.” Such unity can be achieved without obvious forms of administrative-legal union. It is achieved through statements of faith and the unity resulting from prayer and the Eucharist. That is what is most important in the Church.
That is why union with the MP, or any union for that matter, does not require the complete merging into one administrative body. Unity in prayer is enough. Therefore union with the MP already occurred in Moscow on May 15, 2004, during the concelebration of the ROCOR Hierarch Met. Laurus and the Soviet Patriarch-Ecumenist Alexy Riediger. Now, this union has been approved on the council level.
Only a minor detail remains; to begin openly commemorating the Soviet Patriarch in ROCOR parishes. It is but a formality, as this is the public confirmation of an arrangement which has, in practical terms, become the legal norm for some time now, unhindered. It is a pity that faithful opponents of union do not understand this.
Among many well-meaning émigré pastors there rests the conviction that if they will not commemorate the Patriarch-Heretic and only Met. Laurus instead (who has joined with the Patriarch), the apostasy of the Moscow Patriarchy will not affect them and they will remain in ROCOR and not find themselves in the MP. A naive delusion. The most important principle of the Church is “unity at the Chalice.” For the millionth time, that means union in prayer and the Eucharist. This is the most important point! It is on this basis that canonical unity in the Church is established. A well-respected Uniate priest once asked Met. Anthony (Khrapovitsky), “Vladyka, why are we not Orthodox, if we have the same rites and the same dogma as you?” In response, Vladyka asked a question, “Whom do you commemorate in the Divine Liturgy?” “His Eminence, Pope Pius.” “Therefore, you are Catholics.” answered Met. Anthony. That is why it is not important if they commemorate the Soviet Patriarch or not. They will commemorate Met. Laurus and their ruling bishop, who, in turn, having become one with the MP, will commemorate not only the sergianist Patriarch, but will remove a portion from the prosphora during the Proskomedia in his honor as their Primate. That is why they are sergianists.
It was not an accident that the following decision was made at the last meeting of the ROCOR(L) Synod of Bishops: clergy not desiring to commemorate the “Moscow Patriarch” will be allowed to commemorate Met. Laurus and their ruling bishop as before. As the official ROCOR(L) website tries to explain in a grandiloquent manner, “This is consistent with enactment of a transitional phase, where necessary, for parishes of the Russian Church Abroad with special needs as regards liturgical commemoration, for the sake of oikonomia and by approval of the ruling bishop.” Further on, the reason for this duplicity is made clear, “It is our bishops’ wish that such a transitional phase will help everyone to gradually come together into one Russian Orthodox Church.” That is, into the MP.
Such blunders come from not understanding the actual nature of the Church.
The Church is not an administrative institution, not a social organization, or a political party in which numerous different factions can coexist. This is not a club based on common interests, or a “society of adherents of the teachings of Jesus Christ.” It is not even the churches or monasteries. The Church is a living thing combining God and Man, as the Church Fathers liked to say. It is the Mystical Body of Christ in which, through confession of the Truth (Faith) and the Sacraments, the unity of the complete Church is maintained. The tragedy of the situation is that all who remain in ROCOR(L), even well-meaning pastors, are a part, whether consciously or not, of their bishops’ deviation. They do so through the Sacrament, as they commemorate their ruling bishop at the Holy Chalice during the Consecration of the Gifts, or remove the portion of the prosphora during the Proskomedia in his name. Many take this vital matter lightly, considering it to be secondary in importance. No, spiritually, all is one in the Church through the Sacraments.
Through this sacred, mystical element, all the members of the church, from the Patriarch and the bishops to the clergy and laity, are connected, and if the spirit is not True, not Orthodox, then they are all tied to a heretical condition. That is why ROCOR pastors who refuse to commemorate the “Patriarch,” but commemorate Met. Laurus, are abettors, whether they want to be or not, of their bishops’ straying. These bishops have voluntarily accepted union with the heretical Moscow Patriarchy, and through it, with all the ecumenical and modernist churches of the so-called “official orthodoxy” and with Catholics, Protestants, and even pagan non-Christians. We cannot diminish this, as our own personal salvation and that of our flock depends on it. We will have to answer for every soul before the Altar of God. This Truth is inviolable, no matter if somebody likes it or not.
Please excuse me for returning again and again to the detailed explanation of this teaching, which is so important for every Orthodox person, regarding the nature of the Church of Christ.
What can I do, when it is clear that the ROCOR(L) bishops do not intend to return to the right path, and my conscience troubles my heart and does not allow me to sleep? That is why the Church Fathers gave us the Holy Canons. We need only to use them to assess the current situation in our Church, and then, in good conscience, act in accordance with the Church canons. It is not so difficult, as long as one’s conscience is still alive.
Rules No. 45 and No. 46 of the Holy Apostles warn that any bishop, priest or deacon who even only pray with heretics, or who enter into a synagogue or a “heretical” temple for prayer, be defrocked or excommunicated from the Church. Further, and “all those who have dealings with excommunicated people” (meaning joint prayer) should also be excommunicated (Apost. 10. Antiokh. 2. Basil the Great 88).
Laws 6 & 33 of the Council of Laodikeia forbid heretics to be present at divine services in the Church and to even enter into the buildings. There should be no religious contact or “unity” with heretics, though we should remain well-disposed to them in the hope of converting them to Orthodoxy – this is the intent of many canon laws in regard to heresies.
St. Basil the Great said, “If one desires to profess the full Orthodox Faith, but has contact with those who contradict it, and though warned, does not break off relations with them, then that person should not even be considered a brother.”
Similarly, St. Theodore Studit writes, “It is forbidden, during a sacred service, for the Orthodox faithful to commemorate those who pretend to be Orthodox, but who have not broken off relations with heretics and heresy. Only if such people repent of their sin, even at the last hour of their lives, and partake of the Holy Mysteries, then the Orthodox faithful may pray for them. Since if such people embrace heresy, how can one accept them into the Orthodox fold? The Gospel teaches, ‘Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10: 16,17)’ Therefore, communion of the heretic’s bread and chalice makes the communicant part of a body in contradiction to Orthodoxy and a group of such communicants constitute one body antithetical to Christ.”
Rule No. 15 from both Constantinople Councils states that every Orthodox believer is required to suspend obedience to a bishop or Patriarch, even before a Council has condemned them, in cases where such clergy openly preach heresy “condemned by the Councils and Church Fathers.” Rule No. 3 commands that Church clergy should “by no means be subordinate to bishops who have deviated or are in the process of deviating (note this specific language!) from Orthodoxy.”
Thus the ROCOR (L) hierarchy, having joined the sergianist, ecumenical Patriarchy, has cut itself and its flock off from unity with the Universal Church of Christ, as it is not possible to be one with the Holy Fathers and at the same time willfully disregard the rules and canons established by these Holy Fathers. It is not possible to be one with the Russian New Holy Martyrs and Confessors, and at the same time, disavow oneself from all for which the Saints accepted a martyr’s death. It is not possible to be in the Church Abroad and openly disrespect the heritage and testaments of its Holy Fathers. On top of all of that, having joined “official orthodoxy,” the ROCOR (L) bishops now fall under the anathema of the Church Abroad, applied to the heresy of ecumenism and ecumenists by the ROCOR Council in 1983.
Consequently, the ones leaving the Church Abroad and entering into schism are not those who sever ecclesiastical relations with the ROCOR (L) hierarchy, which has fallen into apostasy. On the contrary, the clergy and laity who preserve the ideals of the Church Abroad, remain in the Church Abroad. It is Met. Laurus and his Synod, and all the clergy and laity who “submissively” follow them, that have entered into schism.
It may not be too late to bring the words of Holy Martyr Damaskin to the attention of some of them: “Alas, if you insist on the path you have chosen and openly ignore the voices of the Church, then the Church, as it continues its way of the Cross, will reject you, as accomplices of those who choose to crucify the Church.
You have gone far beyond the boundary, which you yourselves set, and your path ahead will lead precipitously outside of the dominion of the Church. This Truth will be revealed eventually to all. We stopped and did not go further with you and continue to plead, to ask you to return and join with us again. But life goes on and we need to proceed along our path. We entreat you and call to you. We remain near you and are prepared to reach out to you. If, nevertheless, you do not heed our call, do not turn back, and continue down your path, you can go, BUT WITHOUT US.”
We entreat you, dear brothers: stop, listen to the voices of your consciences before it is too late, while you have only one foot outside the dominion of the Church. You still have the power to return, you have not left ROCOR completely. We are still near you and offer our hand.
And so? Has the Church Abroad fallen just because the ROCOR (L) bishops have?
No. Just as it did not in the 16th century, after the true Orthodox Church in southern Russia entered into union with Rome, and just as the Russian Church did not perish after Met. Sergius and his bishops entered into union with communist Moscow, the Russian Church Abroad does not have to perish after the ROCOR (L) bishops enter into union with the “church of the duplicitous ones.” That is because its living Body still exists in the tried and true clergy and laity that remain loyal to God, no matter how few of them there still are compared to the large number of apostates.
By God’s mercy, by the unspoken Providence of the Lord for Russia and the Russian Orthodox people, the catacomb, Russian True Orthodox Church has been preserved in the homeland and its bishops have carried on the apostolic succession bequeathed unto them by ROCOR. Through our joint efforts, with God’s help, we will preserve the loyal part of the Russian Church Abroad. You are not alone!
Together, we are but a few, but the Truth of Christ was rarely preserved by a large number of people.
Even now, those who support union with the MP rebuke us that there not many of us, while they are made up of millions. How will we answer them? The fateful decisions of God are inscrutable and we are not aware of all of His ways, but the Word of God speaks clearly of His Church as a Church denigrated on earth, just as Its Divine Founder was disparaged.
All the signs show we are living in the end times. Nowhere in the Word of God is the church of this period depicted as a church of millions. Just the opposite, the Word of God forewarns - will the Savior, at His second coming, even find religious belief on Earth? That is how few of the faithful will remain.
The Holy Church will not be made up of millions, as it goes off to the desert in the end times. It will not be millions that will be trampled upon, into the dust. It will not be millions, but a small number of faithful that will be persecuted, as foretold by the Word of God.
Many were discouraged that the Lord, Jesus Christ, did not appear all–powerful and exalted outwardly. Similarly, many will be disheartened by the poor condition of the Church in the end times. The faith of many people will be weakened when the true Church will not include a multitude of people, will not be all-mighty, and will not seem grandiose. This is how the Israelites succumbed to temptation and their faith was shaken, when the Savior did not appear as a powerful king over millions.
True believers know this and never forget it. They devote the core of their being instead to the Holy Church. They believe not because millions believe, not because the Church is exalted here on earth, not because it appears mighty and all-powerful. They hold to the joyous belief that the power of the Church is in our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, that it is in the Truth, that it cannot be conquered by earthly, external forces that are temporal, of this world, and instead, is mighty in of itself, containing all that is sacred and eternal.
Let this devotion in our hearts strengthen us on this difficult path, when Truth commands us not to go the way of the majority, but the way pointed to by Christ.
And what does this “majority” mean? There are far fewer Orthodox believers on the earth than Catholics and Protestants, and there are less Christians than Muslims. If we consider Asia and China, we can see there are more non-Christians, who do not know Christ and openly worship dragons, than all the Christians and Muslims put together. Is it worth setting one’s hopes on this questionable “majority” then?
Our Fathers preferred unity with the Truth, with Christ, with the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, with the persecuted and slandered Catacomb Church of the homeland, rather than unity with the world with all its faithlessness, its millions and its majorities.
And now the Lord offers us the same choice He gave our Fathers fifty years ago. It is up to us if we remain as one with them or if we will join those with whom our Fathers refused to have anything to do with. This choice informs our hearts, our thoughts, our decisions, and our actions. This is a choice between loyalty or betrayal; between choosing Truth or falsehood; between choosing Christ or the Antichrist; and ultimately, choosing eternal Life or not. This is no time for duplicity, casuistry and demagoguery, or behind-the-scenes “diplomacy” and negotiations; those are all non-Orthodox methods which the ROCOR (L) bishops have adopted, having joined with the religio-bureaucratic apparatus of the Soviet Patriarchy.
The Orthodox way is the way of the truthful, honest, open and uncompromising Confession of Truth, even to the grave. This is the way of Confession. This is the way of Orthodox believers in the end times. One of the courageous and resolute First Hierarchs of ROCOR, Met. Philaret (Voznesensky), wrote shortly before his death, “Hold on to what you have inherited.” The Lord now calls on all the faithful of the true Russian Church, whether in Russia or Abroad, to follow this path. Only this path can vouchsafe us unity with the Lord and the promise of salvation of our souls.
It is certainly not easy to recognize the Truth by outward appearances! On the other hand, should we become disheartened by the prophecies contained in the Word of God and by the Holy Fathers?
Let us console ourselves with the words of the Lord, that He will grant wisdom to the confessors. If our hope for salvation and our devotion to the Church come from a pure heart and not based on pride; if our devotion does not seek material benefit and is characterized by a sincere, sacrificial love to the Church; if it contains no personal, egoistical, material demands, which typify our aspirations for earthly prosperity; then we will not fear the end times, for at that time, the Lord will be near us and inform and teach every pious soul of His grace.
The voices of the bishops of the Church Abroad have been stilled. Who will raise their voice in defense of the publicly scorned Bride of Christ? Where are the defenders of the Spirit of the Church Abroad? Has the voice of Christian conscience and loyalty been silenced in your hearts for all time by the trappings of comfort and false freedom? Awake and arise, brothers! The Holy New Martyrs themselves call to you!
Above all, remember, you are not alone. We understand our task is not the opening of RTOC parishes outside of Russia, but it is to provide brotherly assistance to the revival of the Church Abroad; just as the Church Abroad helped to increase the ranks of bishops and revive the long-suffering Catacomb Church in Russia during the Soviet era.
Take strength and do not become discouraged! Hold on firmly to what you have inherited! “Woe unto us if the words of the Lord to the Angel of the Church of Laodikeia apply to us, ‘I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth’ (Rev. 3:15,16. KJV).
We send out a warning to our laity and appeal to our brethren, to their faith in the Church, to their understanding of our common responsibility for our laity before the Heavenly Pastor. We ask that they do not dismiss our appeal, that the obvious distortion of Orthodox teaching does not spread without notice or censure. Its wide dissemination has compelled us to witness our sorrow to the entire Church.
We would like to believe, that our cry will be heard» (from the Sorrowful Epistle of Metropolitan Philaret, the third First-Hierarch of ROCOR).
By Mercy of God Archbishop of Omsk and all Siberia,
The Chairman of the Synod of Bishops
of the Russian True Orthodox Church