Global Messianism or Provincial Nationalism:
The Church, the Body of Christ, is never divided, but many who are called Christians are separated from Her. In other words, although the Church, understood in Her essence as the One Divino-human organism, cannot be divided, today She encompasses only a minority, scarcely 220 million, of those in the human ‘churches’, those who call themselves Christians. The reason for this is nationalism, in other words, the attachment to the world, or more simply, worldliness.
Old Rome fell first to the worldliness or nationalism of the Latin and Germanic peoples settled in the western corner of Europe. Ominously looming on the horizon for some centuries before, the storm of this nationalism finally broke in the eleventh century to form the schismatic ‘West’, separated from the Church. This schism was based on the revival of the emperor worship and so empire worship of pagan Rome. Five centuries later, in the sixteenth century, Germanic nationalism separated from Latin nationalism, eventually to form the modern, post-Protestant and atheist secular West. This Germanic nationalism built on the basis of the Roman Catholic period that had gone before, but with even more of the remaining restraints inherited from the common Orthodox past removed. From this time on, both halves of the divided West fell further into its superiority complex. Made up of proud nationalism, this was born of the illusory pride in the ‘superior’ ‘European’ race and its politics, economics, technology and surrogate ‘Churches’. Today, this has made most of the Western world almost impermeable to the humility of Christ, Who was not a European but a Middle Easterner, and so impermeable to the vision and mission of His Orthodox Church.
Meanwhile, New Rome also suffered from nationalism. In the sixth century and after, it had already failed to keep the Copts, many of the Syrians and the Armenians inside the Church. In reality, their Monophysite and Nestorian schisms were to a considerable extent formed by the battle between Egyptian, Semitic and Armenian nationalism and Greek nationalism. By the fifteenth century the failure of New Rome to convert the Islamised Turkic and Arabic peoples to the Universal Gospel of Christ and the Universal Orthodox Church and Faith had led to its fall.
The Third Rome
The heavy responsibility for enabling the Church to carry out Her messianic mission passed in turn to Moscow the Third Rome, the Rome which was to become that of the Romanovs, Roma Nova, New Rome. Although the Third Rome expanded across Siberia and even across the Pacific with success, the worldliness of nationalism also worked its evil here. By the twentieth century Russian nationalist tendencies had been drastically deformed into Soviet chauvinism, distorting the Messianism of the Third Rome into the Third International, which enthroned Satan as its god. Since the recent fall of the Third International, we in the Russian Orthodox world have been granted a short time in which to renew and restore the universal vision and mission of Russian Orthodoxy. There are three parts to this process of renewal and restoration and we must be bold and not timid in fulfilling this vision and mission.
The Three Tasks of the Third Rome
Firstly, the Russian Orthodox Church must be rebuilt and built. We speak not only of rebuilding and building tens and hundreds of thousands of physical churches, but above all of rebuilding and building churches in souls. This means baptising and then making nominal Orthodox into active Orthodox, avoiding the temptations of both the left and the right sides. This means defeating the old Soviet reflexes, alcoholism, abortion and corruption (ABC). This means renewing the Orthodox family and changing the course of the present fatal demographics of the once fertile Orthodox world. This means avoiding the temptations of compromises with the powers of this world, both political and pseudo-ecclesiastical.
Secondly, the diverse family of the smaller and so weaker Local Orthodox Churches and the ancient but tiny, backward-looking and inward-looking, sometimes family-run Patriarchates must be united. Since 1917 they have been prey to the world and its forces, to the nationalist provincialism and folkloric narrowness of petty States. They have been prey to freemasonry and uncanonical practices (even communion with Monophysites), prey to modernist new calendarism, and so to sectarian old calendarism. Those who are visionless and missionless in this, and actually justify such nationalist secularity, will die if they do not renew life according to the Orthodox Tradition. They must return to the fullness of living Orthodoxy and Her calendar, at the same time remaining faithful to their local traditions.
Thirdly, missions must be sent to where the double-headed eagle of Orthodoxy looks, to east and west. To the south-east of the Russian heartland, a self-governing Metropolia for Kazakhstan has recently been created. To the south-west of the Russian heartland, in the spiritually provincial corner of the Eurasian landmass which is Western Europe (an area similar in size to Kazakhstan), a Cathedral, seminary and spiritual centre for all Western Europe will soon be built in Paris, the historic centre of Russian Orthodoxy in Western Europe. Here there will also soon be a Metropolia, the foundation-stone of a new Local Church, which must faithful to the vision of his Holiness Patriarch Alexis II and to the uncompromised Orthodox Tradition.
Further to the east of Kazakhstan lies China, with its rich but largely destroyed heritage of Orthodoxy and immense possibilities (www.orthodox.cn). To the west of Western Europe lies North America, where Russian Orthodoxy is being rebuilt and reunited after the tragic and catastrophic years when the Centre of Russian Orthodoxy in Moscow lay ruined, its representatives abroad largely unworthy and decadent, and, as in Western Europe also, the Russian emigration split into factions centred around marginal personalities. In the southern hemisphere lies Orthodox Australasia and missions in Thailand and Indonesia, perhaps soon in the Philippines, then there is India and Pakistan, where so much is to be done, then Africa, with the rich possibilities of building churches through a denationalised and so revitalised Patriarchate of Alexandria, and finally South and Central America, with their immense possibilities which are only just beginning to bear fruit.
The messianic vision and mission of the Church, of the Global Orthodox Church, composed of Local Orthodox Churches, has been presented. Only petty and provincial nationalism and compromise with secular, political or pseudo-ecclesiastical, powers can prevent Her from fulfilling Her responsibilities. Huge responsibility lies in particular with us in the Russian Orthodox Church, there-quarters of the whole Orthodox Church, whose faithful make up one in forty of the world population. May Thy will be done, O Lord!
Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
St Mary the Egyptian