When at last comes freedom from Godless government, then there will be rejoicing and triumph at the restoration of the Russian Church...We pray to the Lord, that He will hasten the coming of that long-desired and awaited hour, when the First Hierarch of All Russia, going up to his Patriarchal place in the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow, will gather around him all the Russian Archpastors, come from all the Russian and foreign lands.
St John of Shanghai
1. Introduction: Our Identity
Your Eminences, reverend fathers, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I was originally invited here today to repeat to you the address that I made at the Fourth All-Diaspora Council in San Francisco in 2006. Although I will say again a part of what I said there, I do not wish to repeat it all. It is not only available on the Internet, but, above all, this happened two long years ago, before the great events in Moscow on Ascension Day 2007 under the leadership of our ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus. What I would like to do is to talk about the renewed significance of our part of the One Russian Church since Ascension Day 2007.
For in Moscow, on Voznesenie, Ascension Day, 17 May 2007, the two parts of the Russian Church entered into canonical communion with one another. Thus, they overcame the secular, political forces that had divided them after the fateful, anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox insurrections of ninety years before in 1917. Like others here, I was an eyewitness of the historic events of 17 May 2007. Since then, we know that there have been many positive changes within the Russian Church. However, events since that day, when the whole Russian Church celebrated together the Ascension of our Lord, have also raised new questions.
Given that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia is one of the two parts of the whole Russian Orthodox Church, both of which for the moment have dioceses outside Russia, what now is our specific role, mission, identity and spiritual significance in this twenty-first century? It is this issue which I will attempt to address now, especially in view of the fact that although I speak before an audience who are all Russian Orthodox living and mostly born outside Russia, not all here are members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. This talk is then entitled the Spiritual Significance of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in the Twenty-First Century.
2. The Twenty-First Century: Globalism
The twenty-first century is dominated by one great movement, that of globalism or globalization. This movement towards world unity is hostile to all local tradition, culture and religion, in other words, it is secular, opposed to the Church. As in Ancient Pagan Rome, beneath the ‘pluralism’ of the globalist movement there is concealed polytheism, the worship of many gods, and not the worship of the One Christian God.
Led by the prince of this world and those dark forces that worship him, the globalist movement of secular humanism is summed up in the phrase ‘The New World Order’. Devout Orthodox in all the Local Churches consider that the plan of secular globalization is to enthrone the prince of this world, the Master of the New World Order, in Jerusalem and that this will be followed by the end of the world.
The Church, the Body of Christ, is clearly not part of this anti-Christian New World Order, which was born outside Her, having been conceived only when Western Europe broke away from the Church. Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly (Psalm 1, 1). In the words of St John the Theologian, although the Church is in the world, She is not of it. Thus, we are not part of this ‘New World Order’, but neither are we some disincarnate sect, outside the world. Our motto is: ‘In the world, but not of the world’.
Having rejected the Church, the Body of Christ, the contemporary world rejects the Person of Christ. Having rejected Christ the God-man, the contemporary world also rejects the human person. Thus, the homicidal ideologies of the 20th century, Communism and Fascism, which hated Christ and hated mankind, murdered by the tens of millions. No peoples suffered from both of them more than the Orthodox peoples.
As far as we can see, the 21st century has not rejected such ideologies which regard human-beings as cannon fodder. Since the end of the Second World War, tens of millions have died in yet more wars, concentration camps and artificial famines. Tens of millions have been massacred in the abortion holocaust, especially since the 1960s. The rejection of the divinity of man has led to the rejection of the humanity of man. The irrational, humanist fear of inevitable death is now leading to an ever-increasing hatred of the human person and the loss of human freedom.
Although the Church, and especially our Church, is global, She is not at all globalist. Unlike globalization, the authentic Christian Faith does not destroy local cultures. She baptises them, saving in them all that is best, all that is compatible with the Word of God. She rejects only what is incompatible with the Word of God. This is because the culture of the Church is Trinitarian, expressing Unity in Diversity, the Unity of Three Persons in One Essence. Unlike globalist culture, Church culture is universal and local, united and diverse.
The consequences of the globalist rejection of the Holy Trinity, unity in diversity, are also manifold. We see them in what is happening to three Trinitarian institutions: National Life, Family Life and Monastic Life:
Thus, firstly, when the Trinitarian Faith is lost, nations may become nationalist and racist, as we saw in the case of Nazi Germany. We can see this also with contemporary Islamic fanatics, for whom the ‘New World Disorder’ of terrorist jihad is merely a reaction to Western globalization. When the Trinitarian Faith is lost, national identities may altogether disappear, as in the contemporary world. In the words of Fr Justin of Chelije, a disciple of Metropolitan Antony, in 1939: ‘Without Orthodoxy, a nation is devoid of eternal worth’.
Secondly, when the Trinitarian Faith is lost, the family fails. This is the case today, where divorce rates are reaching 50%. Family life can exist only where there is faith in God. Today, some often talk about the death of the family. It is no surprise, in a world which coined the terrible phrase ‘the death of God’.
Thirdly, when the Trinitarian Faith is lost, monasticism fails. Roman Catholic monastic life in Western Europe and the United States seems to be dying out. The Orthodox world is also affected. We well know that one of the few bastions of Orthodox monasticism in the USA is Jordanville.
Questions arise then. How can our Church exist in the contemporary, globalized world? Before the challenges of globalization, how can we survive, what is the spiritual significance of ROCOR?
3. ROCOR: The Global Church
I am going to take you from Pennsylvania and 2008 to Paris, France and thirty years ago, to 1978. More exactly to a Communist suburb of Paris, where in the 1970s there lived a Russian Orthodox family. In that family, whom I know well, there was a fourteen-year old girl who attended the local school, where of course the teachers were Communist. During one lesson, a question was asked about the nationalities of the pupils present in class. Each gave their answer: French, Algerian, Portuguese, Tunisian, Italian, Senegalese, Spanish, Moroccan, until they came to the girl. When it came to her and the question of her nationality, she answered like the martyrs: ‘My nationality is Orthodox’.
And she was right. You see, our Church is multinational. How many nationalities are there in this hall, even among our episcopate? Our Church is multilingual. We speak different languages. In fact, an outside observer might wonder what we all have in common, where the unity in our global Church comes from. This multinational and multilingual character of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia is obvious. There is no greater example of this than he who reposed forty-two years ago, St John, St John of Shanghai, St John of San Francisco, St John the Wonderworker, whom we venerate as light in our darkness: Rejoice, thou whose love knew no bounds of land or race (Ikos 3 of his Akathist Hymn).
Apart from his titles, ‘of Shanghai’ and ‘of San Francisco’, he is known among us under the title ‘of Western Europe’. In Brussels, Paris and London, people knew him too and very well. St John was our Archbishop of Western Europe for over a decade, for far longer than he spent in San Francisco. His threefold title, his birth and youth in what is now the Ukraine and in Russia, his monastic and priestly life in Serbia and Macedonia, his episcopate in Asia, in China and the Philippines, in Western Europe and North Africa, his visits to South America, the presence of many of his spiritual children in Australia and his last years in North America, make of him a universal example of Orthodoxy, truly, a rule of faith and a model of meekness.
At the Second All-ROCOR Council in 1938, it was he who said: ‘It has been granted to Russians abroad to shine the light of Orthodoxy throughout the world, in order that other peoples, seeing their good works, might glorify our Father Who is in heaven, and in so doing Russians will acquire salvation’. Perhaps St John had in mind the words of the Apostle Luke: Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8, 4). In his Encyclical of 1953, Metropolitan Anastasius took up St John’s words, announcing: ‘God has allowed Orthodox to be scattered throughout the world in order to proclaim the true Orthodox Faith to all peoples and to prepare the Earth for the Second Coming of Christ’.
Yes, St John was global, but he was not at all globalist. He was not globalist, because he was not a secularist. Instead, he proclaimed the global faith, the faith of Holy Russia, the faith of Christ. He proclaimed the global unity of Jerusalem, the unity of the world in Christ, not globalism, the anti-Christian unity of Babylon which is outside Christ. And we are all part of the global Orthodox faith, whatever our name, whatever our first language. As long as we are faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition, to the testament of Holy Russia, our unity is guaranteed, for the Russian Orthodox Tradition has, since the terrible events of ninety years ago, become global.
4. The First Meaning of Voznesensky Prospekt
I come now to the first part of my title, perhaps for some a mysterious part, ‘Voznesensky Prospekt’ What does it mean? First of all it means: ‘The Programme of the Ascension’, in other words, it refers to the new programme that we in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia have had since Vosnesenie, Ascension Day, last year.
Our ‘Voznesensky Prospekt’, our new spiritual programme, is in the spiritual unity of the whole Russian Church, attested to by our canonical communion with one another, has put the role of ROCOR in a new light and given Her a new force. We are no longer a small and isolated part of the Russian Church, struggling against the ways of the world to witness to the purity of Holy Orthodoxy. Our witness is now strengthened, we are no longer a small and isolated part of the Church, but rather the forward but still independent part of the Church.
In this sense we are perhaps the forerunners of the whole Russian Orthodox world, providing a network of outposts of the huge Russian Orthodox Church and her uncompromised Tradition all over the world. Our mere survival is a token of spiritual victory against all the secular powers arrayed against us, whether semi-Orthodox, uniatising and ecumenist powers from a few inside some Local Orthodox Churches, or Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Communist or Fascist powers from outside, or the even more sinister secularist forces which hide behind and manipulate them all.
In ROCOR we are implanted worldwide, we know local conditions, we know local languages and mentalities, we know how we can, if we are faithful, resist the temptations and compromises of the Western world, because we have already done it. We are the Church of St John of Shanghai, we are the Church of Fr Seraphim Rose, we are the Church that has worked out an Orthodox attitude towards ecumenism. In this we are unlike those few old-fashioned individuals who are still to work through their difficulties and complexes regarding ecumenism and other modernist movements. We should recall that the voices of these extremists are countered by others, at the opposite extreme, for the vast Russian Church inside Russia is hardly monolithic.
But as for us, we ignore such lone and off-centre voices. We will continue in the mainstream, for our part of the Russian Church has already worked out a balanced but uncompromised attitude towards so many modern Western movements, not because we face them now, but because we faced them already ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years ago. In a word, simply by being in the West but remaining faithful to Orthodoxy, we are ‘ahead of the game’.
In this, however, we are not alone, because the vast majority of faithful Russian Orthodox bishops, monastics, clergy and people inside Russia support us. These are all those who pleaded for the canonization of the New Martyrs and Confessors in the Year 2000. Yes, the people are the guardians of the Church. We are not clericalists, like Roman Catholics or Protestants who pay much attention to the personal opinions of one or two senior individuals. Yes, it is true that in Russia today there are still one or two signs of the Soviet winter of the past, but spring is here and it is all-conquering.
Yes, it is also true that some, often of the older generation, have not yet followed the ROCOR episcopate. They have not yet had time to catch up with the march of history, so bold and so forward-looking was the movement to bring both parts of the Russian Church together. However, I believe that those of our brothers and sisters, whose faith is alive, and not a dying ideological vestige, will eventually follow us, when the time comes for them to do so and providing that we show them the patience, understanding and love that they deserve.
Yes, it is true that for the moment we have lost a few of our numbers, but, in the meantime, we have gained the people and faithful clergy of all Four Russias, Great, Little, White and Carpathian Russia. The territory of these Four Russias covers one seventh of the world. It stretches from the Polish and Slovak borders to the Pacific Ocean, a distance greater than that between Poland and California, including all Western Europe, the Atlantic Ocean and the breadth of the United States. Yes, look at it on a map, if you do not believe me. Today 75% of all Orthodox faithful worldwide are with us in ROCOR and we are with them.
Now therefore, we can concentrate on our essential mission, without the inessential temptations and distractions of the past, which threatened to take us along the thorny and winding path of the temptations of isolationism and even sectarianism. Now, we in ROCOR have an added force, strength is behind us. The ship of ROCOR sails on, a fresh, new wind from the East billows in our sails. It is the wind sent to us by the Orthodox grassroots bishops, clergy and people of Russia, by the Holy Russia so beloved of our ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus. And not to be in communion with them would be a grave mistake.
When, nearly five years ago, the former Russian President, Vladimir Putin, first visited our Synod in New York, he remarked, as one of our hierarchs told me, that to him it seemed logical that all Russian Orthodox living outside Russia should be part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. I agree. But I am also a realist, through my own experiences of the realities of ROCOR life. I believe that it will require special qualities to gather together all the Russian Orthodox of the many nationalities and languages who live outside the Russias into one Church structure.
Too much has happened in the past on all sides to divide people, too many divisive personalities and their ambitions have worked against us people and clergy and so against the unity of all Russian Orthodox outside Russia and on all sides. But now, and not the past, is the time to gather stones together and not to cast them away (Ecclesiastes 3, 5). How is such unity possible? I would suggest that the unity of all Russian Orthodox, of all nationalities and languages and living outside the Russias, is possible, but only through three virtues that we must cultivate in ourselves. What are they?
5. Warm Heartedness
First of all, we must not be sectarian, but must have warm hearts. This starts in our own parishes. If we cannot keep our own people in the saving fold of our Church, then we have no hope of preaching the Gospel to others. We do this through warm-heartedness. Orthodox know when a priest is not a ‘good shepherd’, when he is a hired servant, when he demands money for sacraments, when he is cold and calculating, when he is a brain without a heart. The faithful flee churches which resemble financial concerns and I have seen that. As the Apostle Paul wrote: For I seek not yours, but you (2 Cor 12, 14). As the ever-memorable Metropolitan Antony used to say: ‘The worst praise for a pastor is to say that he is a ‘good administrator’. Administration is not the main thing. The very first duty of the pastor is prayer’. It is better not to have gilded onion domes, if they merely cover a museum, a club, a business, and not the House of God.
When a priest is warm-hearted, when father serves from the heart, when he prays, when he is responsive, then people come to the services, to confession and communion, to talks, they phone him up and ask for advice, they consider him truly a ‘little father’, whatever his personal weaknesses. Then the parish works as a loving family, which is what it should be, a feeling of prayerfulness inhabits the church building and people love and adorn their church. This spirit fosters piety and zeal to help. People want to sing, they want to repent, and without repentance there is no salvation. And the salvation of souls is our aim. Did not St Seraphim of Sarov say: Save your soul and thousands will be saved around you?
Our churches should be warm-hearted oases of liturgical and sacramental life, of prayer and mutual help, in this alien, secularized, globalized world of the 21st century. They should be living Orthodox communities, where others are not rejected, as so often happens, but made welcome, places where the Word of God is incarnate. We cannot meet the challenges of the globalized world, if we do not have such parish bases, where all feel at home, where all belong.
The second virtue is humility, the opposite of triumphalism. Humility means being alive to witnessing to the faith in the world around us. The possibilities for this are all around us in this world. These possibilities are in inevitable contacts with other Orthodox, with the heterodox and Non-Christian world, they are in daily life, with the masses who do not believe in anything. This is external mission. And such mission is not done by fire and sword, as so often heterodox missionaries have done. They do not understand the Scriptures, which do not promise the earth to the proud, but on the contrary affirm: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
In other words, mission is done through ‘models of meekness’, through humility, as for example with St Herman of Alaska. A simple monk, not a priest, living among the pagan Aleuts, he converted them to Orthodoxy through his example of humility: Having your conduct honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation (I Peter 2, 12).
Only by setting an example of humility, obtained through fulfilling the commandments, can we ever hope to be successful missionaries. We must practise what we preach. We have nothing to give, if we cannot first give an example of humility. Our great Abba, Metropolitan Antony, began his missionary service as Bishop of Ufa, among Muslims and Old Believers, then in Zhitomir, among Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews.
In his missionary work among all these peoples, he always stressed the vital importance of personal example. He spoke to others, he was open to them, he wrote missionary conversations which expressed our viewpoints, he set an example of humility. And humility does not at all mean weakness, for God...giveth grace to the humble (I Peter 5, 5) and My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12, 9). And much more recently, we have had before us the personal example of our ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus, probably the greatest example of humility most of us will ever see in our lives. True, he wrote and spoke little, but that was because he lived the faith.
Finally, the third virtue necessary to us is compassion, which is opposed to narrow-minded nationalism. This attitude is our spiritual legacy, the theological understanding and leitmotif of Metropolitan Antony. It is the attitude of compassion - compassionate love. As the Apostle Paul wrote nearly two millennia ago: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, 1 am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that 1 could remove mountains, and have not love, 1 am nothing. And though 1 bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though 1 give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing (I Cor. 13, 1-3).
If we members of ROCOR have no love for others who have been deprived of compassion, then we are like the Gentiles. These are not my words, these are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the Gentiles so? (Matthew 5, 47). If only all in Russia would take these words to heart. If they did, then all those grievous divisions, created by Renovationist modernism, created by the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, created by nationalism, created by an arrogant intellectual contempt for the simple faithful, would not have taken place. Compassion does not in any way mean weakness, that we are indulgent to ideologies hostile to the Church. As every confessor knows, although we must hate the sin, we must love the sinner.
However, lack of compassion is universal. Sadly, we all know parishes, which have experienced divisions, or which have rejected others because of their nationality, because of a lack of compassionate love. Unity is completely beyond us, if we have no compassion for one another. The Saviour said: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this all men shall know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13, 34-35). These were the very words repeated to us by the ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret in his ‘Spiritual Testament’ (Orthodox Russia, No 23, 1994), yet unfortunately, after nearly 2,000 years, for many this commandment still seems new.
All of these values can be cultivated within ourselves through our adherence to the Russian Orthodox Tradition. We do not have to be a part of sin, we must not be a part of sin. Sin is our battlefield. The word sin sums up all the words and groups that are hostile to the Faith which we in the Russian Orthodox Church confess.
Do not be distracted and confused by all those groups and organizations that wish us Russian Orthodox ill. They are only puppets in the hands of those whose souls are shackled by sin and so mislead the simple into the delusions of spiritual blindness. We all have only one common enemy, that is satan. And he now operates through secularism, through the vast spiritual vacuum and so spiritual impurity, that is now in the world.
And I will now give a word of warning. Unity among virtually all the multinational and multilingual Russian Orthodox living outside Russia is possible through these values of warm-heartedness, humility and compassion. We in ROCOR are called to achieve this unity, ours is the responsibility. But if we do not take up this challenge, then history will brush us aside and others will take our place and attempt to fulfil the necessary historic mission in which we will have failed.
8. Conclusion: The Mystical Sense of Voznesensky Prospekt
I would like to conclude this talk by referring now to the other meaning of this title ‘Voznesensky Prospekt’. This title not only means the new programme that we have had since Ascension Day 2007. There is another and mystical meaning. I do not know if the members of the two Commissions of the Russian Church realised this when they determined that the celebration of our spiritual unity should take place a year ago on Voznesenie, Ascension Day, but here is a fact.
Exactly ninety years ago, in 1918, there was in Russia a town called Ekaterinburg. And in that town there was a wide street, a broad avenue, called ‘the Avenue of the Ascension’; in Russian, ‘Voznesensky Prospekt’. And on that Avenue there stood a house, called the Ipatiev House. And inside that house, in the basement, there took place a momentous event, an event of such mystical horror that it changed World history for the rest of the twentieth century and has scarred its soul for ever. World history did not change for ever with the beginning of the Great War in 1914, nor with the two anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox insurrections of 1917. It changed for ever on 4/17 July 1918, with the slaughter of the Imperial Family in the Ipatiev House on Vosnesensky Prospekt in Ekaterinburg. Thus, the dynasty that had begun in the Ipatiev Monastery some 300 years earlier in 1613 ended in the Ipatiev House.
But as Orthodox Christians we know that the blood of the Imperial Martyrs spilled on that day, together with the blood of hundreds of thousands of other faithful Russian Orthodox on other days, indeed, the blood of millions, is the seed of the Church. And Russia’s holy men and women know the same. Thus, the Russian Hieroschemamonk Athanasius of Karaoulia on Mt Athos (+ 1937), speaking of Russian emigres who had given up hope, said prophetically: Do they not want to see the Russia of Christ, which stands before us? And in 1939, in the darkest night of Stalin’s atrocities, the holy elder, St Seraphim of Vyritsa, prophesied exactly what is happening today:
Пройдет гроза над Русскою землею,
And much more recently, there was another righteous and saintly man, who all his life lived by the hope of the restoration of Holy Russia. This was our beloved Vladyka Lavr, who fell asleep at the end of 15 March, the day on which we commemorate the Sovereign Icon of the Mother of God. And having prayed to her that day, he awoke in Paradise, on the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, where he beheld his beloved Royal Martyrs, come from Voznesensky Prospekt, and he was greeted by them.
Her knew that from 1917 on, the Russian Church lived through Her Crucifixion. But in the last twenty years She has risen from the Tomb and we have seen Her Resurrection. One year ago we lived through Her Ascension, when She was united again. Now, together, we move on, in the united Russian Church, to Pentecost, the Day of the Holy Trinity, and the sending out of new Apostles all over the world, north and south, east and west.
What then is the spiritual significance of Russian Orthodoxy, both inside and outside Russia, in the twenty-first century? What is this Voznesensky Prospekt? I will tell you. Voznesensky Prospekt is the Great Avenue that goes up, that ascends, rising from the basements of the Earth to the heights of Heaven. You see, the path taken by the Royal Martyrs and by all those Russian Orthodox New Martyrs and Confessors with them, leads to Holiness, for the path of the Cross leads to Resurrection, the Final Victory. Не бойся, малое стадо! Fear not, little flock! Азъ есмь с вами и никтоже на вы! I am with you and none is against you! Симъ знамениемъ победиши! In This Sign, you will conquer!
Priest Andrew Phillips,
6/19 June 2008