From Crucifixion to Resurrection and Ascension to Pentecost:
A new Rus…strong in her faith in Christ God and in the Holy Trinity,
St John of Kronstadt
Introduction: Crucifixion: 1975-2000
By 1972 it was clear to me that my destiny was with the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite appearances, I had come to the firm conclusion that She was the only way out of Western, Soviet and world disorder. My life task was, together with so many others, to witness to the hope and faith that one day the messianic calling and destiny of the Russian Orthodox Church would be realised. And then could come a halt to atheist obscenities in both the Soviet and then the Western worlds.
But which part of the Russian Church should I approach – the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) or the Moscow Patriarchate (MP)? The question was decided by two representatives of ROCOR, who told me that English people were not welcome there, since their Church was only for Russians. My decision to join the MP was later confirmed by a ROCOR priest and many others, who repeated the same unwelcoming and exclusivist message. In this way, in the 1970s and early 1980s the policies of ROCOR in the UK chased away their younger generation and many others, probably losing it many potential clergy. Thus, it made itself into one of the smallest Orthodox jurisdictions in the country.
In 1975, I was at last able to join what I thought was the Russian Orthodox Church. However, what I had joined turned out to be captive, both to Soviet politics and to modernist renovationism. I found that imposters had taken over in their attempt to forge a degutted Orthodoxy, an Orthodoxy that rejected saints, both the New Russian Martyrs and the Old English Confessors. I added the names of these saints to a copy of the calendar and venerated them secretly.
I gradually discovered that modernist renovationism was largely dead in Russia, thanks especially to the efforts of a champion of Orthodoxy, His Holiness Patriarch Alexis I. However, this was not at all the case in the foreign dioceses of the MP. Many of these were dominated by scandalous situations, shocking to anyone who had any idea of basic Christian morality.
It was only in 1978 when I went to Mt Athos that I found an Orthodoxy which was neither right-wing nationalist, nor left-wing modernist. Then I decided to pay to study at what I thought was an Orthodox seminary. Later returning to England from the St Sergius Institute in Paris, we found once more renovationism even more in control of the Patriarchate. As for ROCOR we found not only the old racial nationalism, but now also the infiltration of Greek old calendarism with all its peculiarities, including the nationalism of converts. So caught, we returned to France and what we thought would be permanent emigration. But here too we came up against a new and ever more complete captivity to renovationism in the Paris jurisdiction. We found that as the older generation of authentic Russian Orthodox died out, the battle for Orthodoxy was being lost. The Paris administration and whole churches had already been infiltrated and taken over by the Brotherhood. We were knocking our heads against a brick wall.
Fortunately, we met Archbishop Antony of Geneva of the Western European Diocese of ROCOR. He was neither renovationist, nor nationalist, nor old calendarist. Here there were no scandals. Here was an authentic Churchman, a real Orthodox bishop and not a charlatan, ignoring new and harmful tendencies which had been infiltrating ROCOR in the USA. He worked together with the benign influences of the Serbian Church and Mt Athos.
However, in the 1990s we in the Western European Diocese were to be upset by Metropolitan Vitaly’s decision to accept small communities inside Russia into ROCOR. We felt that this action was uncanonical, for ROCOR had no jurisdiction on Russian territory. The original decree of Patriarch Tikhon which had founded ROCOR had given permission for the Church to organise itself outside Russia – hence the name of the Church administration.
We felt that a few individuals in ROCOR had been the victims of disinformation, whether CIA or KGB was irrelevant. We felt that that any move to operate outside the canonical territory of ROCOR would result only in the formation of tiny sects and cults. Nevertheless, we remained quietly obedient to our bishops, taking no part in what we considered to be uncanonical activities in Russia, patiently awaiting Divine Providence to act. As Archbishop Antony rightly said: ‘There is nowhere else to go’.
The Jubilee Council: Resurrection: 2000
In your patience possess ye your souls (Lk 21, 19)
In August 2000 the patience of all was rewarded by the miracle of the Jubilee Council in Moscow. This brought the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors inside Russia and the concurrent Patriarchal rejections of sergianism and ecumenism. Here was everything that ROCOR had always asked for and, moreover, many scandalous elements in the Patriarchate, like the former Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev, had by then been defrocked. Here was Resurrection.
This Council sounded the death-knell for renovationism in affected Patriarchal dioceses and parishes outside Russia. Indeed, there the canonisation of the New Martyrs caused visible consternation and panic. The only excuse left, as was said in the old Sourozh Diocese in London at the time, was that there was ‘no room on the walls’ to put up icons of the New Martyrs. Therefore, they implied, the saints of God and spiritual heroes could be ignored – they had no room for the saints. This was the very attitude which I had already discovered there in the 1970s, only then it had been towards the early saints of the West.
Of course, it is true that such an act of repentance as that of the Jubilee Council also caused consternation among another minority. This was the minority of nationalist and old calendarist, politically and secularly-minded elements, which had infiltrated ROCOR over the years. In reality, they did not want repentance from the Patriarchate, which was now possible for it in its new-found freedom. They had enjoyed the ‘comfort’ of the Cold War and well-paid, apparently anti-Soviet but in fact Russophobic jobs in Western security services.
Therefore, they denied that the Patriarchal Church was now free and denied that repentance there for the forced compromises of the past were sincere. Rather than admit that the Patriarchal representatives had been hostages with guns in our backs and that most of us would have done the same as the captives in Russia, they preferred to condemn them. Like the disciples they did not believe the news of the Resurrection as it was brought to them by the myrrh-bearing women.
Hiding behind denial of reality, ignorance, prejudice, excuses and self-justification, they found fault with the events inside Russia of August 2000. Again, those of us who wanted to enter into talks with the Patriarchate at once, even despite the renovationism still present within the foreign dioceses of the Patriarchate, had to be obedient and patient. However, very soon, in 2001, came the resignation of the ill Metropolitan Vitaly, who had been so hostile to the use of native languages in the Church. Now came the opportunity for ROCOR to move ahead and fulfil its destiny as the worldwide and multinational branch of Russian Orthodoxy, but only once reconciliation had come with the Patriarchate, renewed by the prayers of the New Martyrs and Confessors.
As we know, renovationism in the Patriarchal parishes was largely overcome in 2006, when the tiny groups of renovationists began to leave the Russian Orthodox Church, in whose spirit they had in fact never shared. In a similar way, the tiny minority of nationalist and politically-minded elements of ROCOR also began to leave the Russian Orthodox Church for various sects and cults, with or without priests, leaving the two parts of the Russian Church to join together in the strength of unity. Thus, the two elements which had always persecuted us over the last 25 years were gone and we could at last move ahead, having been frustrated for a generation.
The Reconciliation: Ascension: 2007
It is impossible to establish Holy Rus, either by decree, or by resolution, or at a conference, nor at a congress. She can only be wrung out by prayer – with repentance and humility.
Metropolitan John of St Petersburg (+ 1995) in ‘The Mystery of Iniquity’ (10/10/92)
Repentance always brings victory. Resurrection always leads to Ascension. Nobody has the slightest regret about the inevitable unity of the Russian Orthodox Church, the drawing together in 2007 of the two parts of Russian Orthodoxy, so long administratively separated by the vicissitudes of history. The mutual benefits are enormous, but also necessary. Now, together, we must meet the challenges of spiritual decadence in Western countries, which have penetrated to the fringes of the Orthodox world. Like those had suffered Soviet persecution, we in the West had also been persecuted. We had sat in a corner without support, in internal exile. We had been attacked from all sides for attempting to burst the twin bubbles of renovationist and sectarian and nationalist self-importance. Now they could no longer reasonably slander us by saying that we in ROCOR were ‘uncanonical’ and so refusing to concelebrate with us (though of course the enemies of the Church always invent new slanders and have done so).
Now all is possible. Thus, over the last twelve months, the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church in England have obtained four new permanent churches and an appeal is being made for a fifth. Moreover, in both parts of the Church new communities are opening. These exist to meet the spiritual needs of Russian Orthodox of all nationalities, which simply cannot be met by renovationist groupings and their compromises of the Faith.
Working in the brilliant light of Paschaltide, the two saintly figures who achieved unity on the Feast of the Ascension, His Holiness Patriarch Alexis and His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus have already left this world, their task completed, their destinies fulfilled. Eternal Memory! Now a new Patriarch and a new Metropolitan, both of the younger generation, are working together to affirm the Russian Orthodox Tradition, as it faces the challenge of the global mission of Russian Orthodoxy and our struggle against globalist secularism.
His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion works towards the worldwide vision and mission of Russian Orthodoxy. Spread across the face of the earth, ROCOR is becoming a global ambassador for the Russian Orthodox Tradition. This was its calling and destiny from the very beginning, as lucidly declared by all its best representatives, like Metropolitans Antony, Anastasius, Philaret and St John of Shanghai. But now it is being revealed ever more clearly.
His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill has taken all the parishes and monasteries of the Patriarchal Church outside Russia under himself, so that they can better work together with ROCOR. He is also working for the restoration of the heritage of the seventeenth-century Patriarch Nikon, the first Russian Patriarch who had a global vision. Soon the New Jerusalem complex near Moscow will be restored, providing an international centre for all the Orthodox Churches. Not in secular Geneva, but in Holy Rus. We wonder if, on its completion, Patriarch Nikon will not at last be canonised together with his disciple, Metropolitan Antony of Kiev, whose earthly relics await in Belgrade translation to their homeland.
The speed of these transformations is only surprising in comparison to the stagnation of the past. Decades have been lost. Moreover, most of the rest of the multinational diaspora of the Russian Orthodox world is now also rallying around. Born out of the old Russian Empire, the Polish and the Czechoslovak Orthodox Churches, the latter also with a new and young leader, are together with us. Most extraordinarily, in North America, the former Metropolia, at present called the OCA, once hostile to the Russian Orthodox Tradition, has also obtained a new and young leader. He appears to think as we have always thought, no longer as the Parisian and other renovationists have always thought.
Only a few days ago, this new, dynamic leader of the OCA, Metropolitan Jonah, spoke refreshingly frankly before Orthodox bishops of other ‘jurisdictions’ in Dallas. He stated that the concept of all Orthodox in the Diaspora coming under the jurisdiction of Istanbul is a non-starter. ‘We Orthodox Americans would be giving up our freedom to a Patriarchate which is under Muslim influence’…‘If we needed a Pope, then we would submit to the real one. But I do not think that any of us needs the Pope’…‘We are Orthodox because we have chosen to be Orthodox…and wish to bring our brothers and sisters to Christ and the Gospel…not to some alien ideology, the nationalistic and imperialistic ideology of some forgotten empire’.
The reunited Russian Church knows that the Serbian, Bulgarian, Japanese and perhaps other Local Churches will support it. The only fragments of the Diaspora which still resist are the centres of old-fashioned renovationism, the few parishes and several dozen tiny communities based around the Paris Exarchate and the twenty or so neo-paschalist parishes in Finland. But these tiny dissenting groups are not relevant to the challenge which now faces us in our new-found strength in unity.
The Inter-Orthodox Conferences: The Fathers of the First Universal Council: 2009
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto nations; and then shall come the end. (Matt 24, 14)
We now know why the above transformations have taken place. These were not the last steps, but the first steps. They have taken place because we now face the greatest of challenges - for the spiritual identity of the Church. These above transformations that have taken place since the Year 2000 are today having to resist this greatest challenge. This is the agenda of the two Inter-Orthodox Conferences which are supposed to prepare a proposed ‘Pan-Orthodox Council’. Taking place in June in Cyprus and in November elsewhere, these Conferences have an agenda, which has already been circulated from the Phanar. Although there are ten issues on the agenda, essentially there are only five to be discussed and even then only briefly. So briefly indeed that it can be wondered whether the November meeting, let alone a future ‘Council’, need take place at all. The issues on the agenda are:
Here there is little need for discussion. The issue of the Orthodox Diaspora, many jurisdictions on the same geographical territory, can easily be solved. Let all those jurisdictions which are ready to do so, return to the situation of North America before 1917, before ethnic and phyletist splintering was instituted from the Phanar and imitated by others. With the guidance of the resurrected, ascended, reunited Russian Church and the vital co-operation and goodwill from other concerned Local Churches, each ethnic group, each nationality, can have its own diocese in single, combined and multinational administrations of three Regional Orthodox Metropolias, in the Americas, in Europe and in Australasia. These can then ready themselves in maturity for eventual autonomy and later autocephaly, as His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II called for in Western Europe in 2003.
2.The manner of recognising autocephaly.
This needs to be discussed in view of the disputed autocephaly granted to the North American Metropolia, at present called the OCA, during the Soviet period. The complexity here is that this autocephaly was granted despite the existence of many other Orthodox jurisdictions on the same territory.
3. The manner of recognising autonomy.
This needs to be discussed in view of the autonomy granted to the Japanese Orthodox Church during the Soviet period. However, discussions should be short, for unlike in North America (see point 2 above), there are basically no other Orthodox in Japan. (Although, arguably, since the mission to Alaska was always under the Russian Church, North America is also the canonical Church territory of the Russian Church). Japan is clearly the canonical territory of the Russian Church and it is free to grant autonomy and autocephaly there, since the Japanese mission was entirely due to the efforts and sacrifices of the Russian Church.
4.The diptychs, the order of precedence of the Orthodox Churches.
The diptychs, which give the order of precedence of the Orthodox Churches certainly require updating. At present, four ancient but tiny Patriarchates have precedence over much larger Local Churches. It would be logical if changes were made so as to rank the Local Churches in order of size: The Orthodox Churches in order of size would start: Russia, Romania, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia etc
5.Establishing a common calendar for feasts.
The appearance on the agenda of this issue can only be interpreted by Orthodox minds in one way. It means that the administrations of the few Orthodox Churches which were forced by secular politicians into adopting the Roman Catholic calendar for the fixed feasts are at last repenting and are declaring their readiness to return to the Orthodox calendar. If this is the case, this is a cause for rejoicing.
6.Impediments and canonicity of the sacrament of matrimony.
7.The question of fasting in the contemporary world.
8.Relationships with other Christian confessions.
9.The ecumenical movement.
10.The contribution of Orthodox in affirming the Christian ideals of peace, fraternity and freedom.
The above five issues are non-issues - spiritually irrelevant. They relate to the extremely old-fashioned, modernist agenda of the 1920s of the masonic lodge of the then Constantinopolitan Patriarch Meliton Metaksakis. There are plenty of us Orthodox who are ready to suffer martyrdom to witness to the Orthodox Tradition on these five above issues – as also on the issue of the calendar. All we need to do is take the example of the Fathers of the First Universal Council in Nicea in 325, which established both the Creed and the Church calendar. It is they who are commemorated every year on the one Sunday which falls between the Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost. The spirituality identity of the Church is in their Conciliar decisions, not in secular, modern deliberations.
Conclusion: Pentecost: The Future
‘And when he had opened the seventh seal,
It would seem that there is no need for a Church Council. None of the above is a dogmatic issue, the above ten issues are all (the first five) administrative issues, or else (the last five) non-issues.
It seems very likely that this year could be a turning-point in the history of the Orthodox Church. It could finally put to sleep the canonical irregularities which have grown up, especially in the Diaspora, since the fall of the Russian Church into captivity and then paralysis after 1917. As we have written elsewhere, the choice is clear. The Orthodox Churches can choose between continued Decadence, or else Spiritual Restoration. Spiritual Restoration is required, for only upon this can the Orthodox Churches meet our global responsibilities and carry out our Orthodox mission of preaching ‘the Gospel of the Kingdom in all the world’. Spiritual restoration means bringing the Light of Christ, contained only within the Church, to all the peoples of the world, in the Holy Spirit, as granted to us at Pentecost.
For most of the twentieth century, we have been frustrated in our task of preaching Orthodoxy worldwide. Decades have been wasted combating the spiritual irrelevancies of modernist renovationists of all nationalities, and sectarian nationalists of all nationalities, respectively the unChurched and the unChurchly. This time is now over. Now is the time for prophecies to be fulfilled. We have been given a brief time, ‘about the space of half an hour’, before the end to carry out our task. Let us not falter, whatever the attacks and slanders we must suffer:
‘Fear none of those things that thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life’ (Rev 2, 10).
Christ is Risen!
Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
The Feast of the Resurrection 2009