ROCOR and Old Calendarism
Even though there now approaches a Local Council of the Russian Church, at which the bishops and delegates of ROCOR dioceses will take a historic part in electing a new Patriarch, some voices still criticise ROCOR. These voices are those of dissidents who are backed by old calendarist movements in the Balkans or else by the politicised who are keen to make out that the Russian Church is still not free. What can be said in reply to these critics?
As we know, the new calendar was introduced into the Church by freemasons (and those who stand behind them). Their aim was to divide the Church. This move was highly successful and every time there is a calendar schism, the freemasons rejoice. The old calendarists with their traditionalism become, despite themselves, the tragic tools of freemasons. For example, after the Second World War some Romanian old calendarists were used by the Secret Police (Securitate) in the same way as freemasons used the calendar to divide there before the Second World War. In other words, their aim was to weaken the new calendar Romanian Church.
Who are the old calendarists? There are many different people, from the utterly sincere, zealous and well-intentioned, especially perhaps in troubled Bulgaria, to ruthless manipulators and cultish exploiters. At the beginning there were heroes among them (I myself have an icon of the Romanian Metr Glicherie – whose relics are incorrupt - and of St Catherine the Greek New Martyr for the calendar, both of whom I venerate). These were saintly people who suffered for the Faith. But today old calendarist elites (unlike the simple faithful) seem to be falling under the control of empire-makers and dividers - schismatics - unlike in the beginning. Indeed, as time goes on, the schismatic nature of old calendarism is becoming clearer. To St John of Shanghai it was clear in the 1950s and he refused to help the old calendarists. But St John was an utterly spiritual man. To the not so spiritual, the nature of old calendarism often did not become obvious until later.
Old calendarists attempt to justify themselves. For example, they quote that Elder Philotheos Zervakos was for them. But which Church did the Elder Philotheos belong to? The Church of Greece (new calendar). All this is self-justification for disobedience. The Romanian Elders Cleopa and Arsenie (Boca) and many others expressed the Orthodox understanding - as did other Elders in other countries. This understanding is that clearly the old calendar is the Orthodox calendar, but schism and disobedience are even more dangerous than having the fixed feasts on the wrong calendar.
Another example of self-justification is in the welcome given to a small Greek old calendarist delegation in Romania. Just because they welcomed a delegation of Greek old calendarists in the new calendar monasteries of Romania, it does not mean that they agree with them. This is used as propaganda. We welcome contacts with old calendarists, as with others, because we hope and pray for their repentance. We all support the old calendar - but we do not support old calendarism. That is totally different. Every ism contains a sin against the Church.
Some people try and make out that ROCOR as a Church was old calendarist. That is not true, but it is true that some individuals in ROCOR were very tempted by it. We should not confuse individuals with the Church and her catholic (soborny) conscience. Such people refer to the generation between the 60s and the early 90s, when the Secretary of the ROCOR Synod in New York and his family came to power and tried to impose extreme views on ROCOR. Notably, great power was amassed during the time of Metropolitan Philaret, a saintly monk but weak administrator, who in his innocence consecrated the Secretary bishop.
The Secretary’s end was tragic indeed, for, like his son, he died outside the Church. He himself forbade anyone from ROCOR to attend his funeral. Most ROCOR people and clergy (centred at the true heart of ROCOR in Jordanville) patiently defied him, his politicking and his encouragement of old calendarism. Indeed, the error of consecration by ROCOR bishops of an old calendarist to the episcopate had already before the time of the Secretary been condemned as uncanonical by the Synod itself, without whose canonical authority it had taken place. The bishops concerned had been severely censured.
It is true that some old calendarists had other admirers in ROCOR, but they were few. In the Western European Diocese we were prohibited from having anything to do with any old calendarists – not that the prohibition was necessary, we had no desire to do so. Thus, when some Romanian old calendarists tried to interrupt the glorification of St John in San Francisco in 1994, they were not allowed to concelebrate. As one ROCOR bishop present said at the time: ‘If they are allowed to concelebrate, then I shall not’. These Romanian old calendarists are today among one of three small warring groups to have canonised Metr Philaret in an attempt to justify themselves and give themselves authority. His relics of course remain with ROCOR. Indeed, his possible canonisation has, if anything, been delayed by his ideological promotion by groups with which he had nothing to do and one of which did not even exist until two years ago.
It is very interesting to note that virtually all those who left ROCOR at the time of the reconciliation between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate were products of the Secretary. He ordained them personally or had them ordained. The departure of these elements has been a relief to many. Some of those who left ROCOR in the USA were retired CIA agents, as the Secretary was himself rumoured to be. They put anti-Communist politics first, the Church second. Many people were persecuted by them, like St John (put on trial by them), Fr Seraphim Rose, Bp Mitrophan of Boston, Metropolitan Laurus and many, many others. The full story of the persecution of ROCOR by Russian and Non-Russian sectarianism alike will one day be written.
Dissidents will tell you that Metr Philaret was against the Moscow Patriarchate in 1985, but that was because the then MP had not repented and glorified the New Martyrs. As a matter of fact we were all against the Moscow Patriarchate in 1985. There is no doubt, as the late Fr Roman Lukianov pointed out two years ago, that Metr Philaret would have been for the reconciliation today. Just because someone was against this 25 years ago, does not mean that they would be against it today. Personally, I was also against the reconciliation even 10 years ago. This was simply because the main representatives of the MP had not then repented.
It is this present refusal/inablity to recognise the repentance, not only in the words, but also in the actions of representatives of the MP, on the part of the dissidents, which is the most disturbing thing here. Metr Philaret himself acknowledged such a refusal to recognise repentance to be Donatism. In ROCOR we never had any problem with the Moscow Patriarchate itself, providing that it could be freed of Communist control inside Russia and freed of renovationism outside Russia (‘the Sourozh syndrome’). Once the New Martyrs and Confessors had been canonised inside Russia (in 2000) and renovationism defeated outside Russia (the May 2006 defection of 300 members of Sourozh to Constantinople), there were no longer any difficulties for ordinary ROCOR believers. Thus ROCOR and the MP were reconciled, as Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky) said we would be, as integral parts of the whole and freed Russian Church.
It is true that dissidents have noted that the Moscow Patriarchate has still not canonised St Joseph of Petrograd. This is largely irrelevant, because ROCOR has canonised St Joseph and his icon can be found all over Russia and inside churches of the Patriarchate. St Joseph of Petrograd is a saint. However, it is true that there were former disciples of St Joseph who are not saints, but embarked on a schismatic course. They claim the authority of St Joseph, but do not have it. This is precisely why the MP has not yet officially canonised St Joseph, because of those sectarian elements inside Russia who use his good name to justify their actions. Sadly, this is an exact parallel to the situation in ROCOR, which has not yet canonised Metr Philaret – because such a canonisation now would be exploited by sectarian elements.
The problem is not the calendar, it is all about humility, obedience and love. It is the problem of the Jews who condemned Christ for healing on the Sabbath. They made an idol out of the Sabbath. Today's old calendarists are tending to do the same. They are losing sight of the most important thing, because they are attached to the details. The proof that they have a problem is in their divisions, the countless, bickering, ‘old calendarist’, ‘True Orthodox’, ‘catacomb’ sects. The Church does not divide, it unites. This is not at all because there are no sinful people in the Church, but because the Holy Spirit is in the Church. We are not saved because of our sinful selves, but in spite of our sinful selves, saved by the mercy of God. However, outside the Church, outside the Holy Spirit, you will not find unity, only sinful people and where there are only sinful people, there is only division.
May God save us all!
Archpriest Andrew Phillips, Colchester, England
17/30 December 2008 Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths