ORTHODOX RUSSIA AND A WORLD COUNCIL OF ORTHODOXY
A Talk given at the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow on 18 May 2007.
FOREWORD: RUSSIAN HISTORY IN THE LIGHT OF ORTHODOXY
In the Year 988, by the Providence of God, just as the First Rome and Western Europe with it, were beginning to fall away from the Church, the people of Rus were baptised. For nearly five hundred years after this, Rus was able to do little for the rest of the Orthodox world. At first it was too weak and small, then in the thirteenth century, it was crucified between two thieves, invaded from the West by the Teutonic Knights under their Papal masters, and from the East by the Tartars under their Mongol masters.
In 1453, with the Fall of the Second Rome in Constantinople, Rus became the Third Rome. Slowly, it began to grow in strength and for nearly five hundred years it conquered new territories far to the north and far to the east for the light of Christ. By the eighteenth century, then an Empire, it was strong enough to begin to free Orthodox peoples to the near west, especially in Polish-occupied territory, and in the nineteenth century to the near south, especially in Ottoman-occupied Bulgaria. Orthodox Russia could have achieved much more, had it not been for Anglo-French intervention and support for Ottoman Turkey, causing the Crimean War, and then Austro-Hungarian intervention in Serbia, causing the First World War. Nevertheless, much was achieved.
Tragedy struck in 1917, as Rus walked from Jerusalem to Jericho, it fell into apostasy. It had fallen into the hands of spiritual thieves, possessed by Western materialism, which they put into practice using the ruthless techniques of Eastern despotism. Rus had fallen among the spiritual thieves of East and West, who stripped her of her raiment (her Tsar), wounded her and departed, leaving her half-dead. Seeing her torment, a certain priest, come from the elder branch of heterodoxy, passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, come from the younger branch of heterodoxy, passed by on the other side too.
He Who is the Head of the Church bound up her wounds, pouring in oil and wine (mercy and grace), set her on his own beast (His Divine shoulders), and brought her to an inn (the Church), and took care of her. He asked the host (the clergy) to care for her and gave him two pence (meaning the sacraments and the prayer of her holy Martyrs and Confessors) for that care. At last, after three generations, in 1988, the thousandth anniversary of her Baptism, Rus began to recover and the Communist form of Western materialism collapsed.
TWENTIETH-CENTURY ORTHODOXY OUTSIDE RUSSIA
As a result of the twentieth-century catastrophe, the Orthodox world slipped into decadence. On the one hand, the once Orthodox Empire in Russia, and later all of Slav, Georgian and Latin Eastern Europe, fell to Communist materialism. Resistance came from the free Russian Church Outside Russia, supported by the brave on Athos, in Jerusalem, Serbia, Montenegro and others elsewhere. On the other hand, the small Greek and Arab Orthodox world, deprived of outside support and finance, was forced into compromises with the powers of this world. Under Western, especially Imperial British, influence, freemasonry became the order of the day in the Near and Middle East, together with Greek or Arab nationalism,
Thus, when the Western powers ordered the change of calendar within only a few years of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, much of the Greek world followed its instructions, as later did Greek-influenced Romania and Bulgaria. Resistance came from calendar schisms, but, as sectarian schisms, they only allowed the powers of this world to divide and rule all the more easily. Part of the Greek Orthodox world in Istanbul, deluded itself with imperialistic ideas from the past. Together with emigration, this caused jurisdictional chaos among Orthodox in the diaspora. As for the Arab Orthodox world in Antioch (and to some extent later the Patriarchate of Alexandria), its temptations were to draw near in doctrinal compromises to its ethnic cousins, Monophysites, Uniats and Muslims, in a show of Pan-Arab solidarity.
These trends were heroically resisted by many faithful clergy and people in humble Greek and Arab parishes, especially in Greece and Cyprus, but above all in the monasteries, as on Athos. Nevertheless, some of the upper echelons of the Greek and Arab Churches were occupied by the enemies of the Church or those who, though refusing to join the Lodge, still did whatever they were told by the Lodge. From there, came the greatest temptation that the Local Churches, Greek, Arab and Romanian, and later Slav and Georgian, fell into during the second half of the decadent twentieth century - ecumenism. Originally, a Protestant-founded ideology of syncretism, ecumenism had no respect for Church Truth and Revelation. Sadly, some hierarchs of the Local Orthodox Churches, greatly weakened from outside and undermined from inside, compromised themselves with ecumenism, to the great scandal of the grassroots faithful.
Not only did some hierarchs consort with Roman Catholics, certain even giving them communion, but they also joined the Protestant World Council of Churches (WCC). Admittedly, by the early twenty-first century, the WCC membership of some Local Orthodox Churches, the Georgian and the Bulgarian, had ceased, and that of some others, like the Russian, had changed. For by then the Russian Church had specifically condemned the syncretist branch theory. Nevertheless, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, some representatives of some Local Churches are still hung over with the ecumenism of the twentieth century. It is our belief that the solution to this scandal lies in the hands of a revived Orthodox Russia and a World Council of Orthodoxy.
TOWARDS A REVIVED ORTHODOX WORLD
We speak here of a revived Orthodox Russia for two reasons. Firstly, because it is the only potential force that can stem the compromises made by parts of the Orthodox world in the twentieth century. The new calendar and ecumenism will die out only when there exists once more a strong Orthodox Power, which is respected by the rest of the world. Secondly, Orthodox Russia is also the only Power that can stem the jurisdictional chaos in the diaspora.
Thus, in order to return to the diaspora situation of North America in 1917, when all Orthodox nationalities were gathered together in unity under the Russian Church, will require not only repentance. It will also require an Orthodox Power that can provide spiritual authority, confederate infrastructure and the organizational and administrative capacity to unite different Orthodox under one Local Metropolitan Church. This is also the model for other regions, like Western Europe and Australasia, where Orthodox of different nationalities and languages also live in jurisdictional chaos and paralysis. To remedy this, we suggest that far from needing the WCC, what the Orthodox world needs is a WCO - a World Council of Orthodoxy.
It is absurd that in order to meet one another, Orthodox have to belong to heterodox organizations, whether the WCC or, locally, the Episcopal Council of European Churches etc. In order to meet inter-Orthodox concerns in the globalized world, Orthodox need to meet one another in an Orthodox forum - a WCO. Thus, although freemasonry was long ago condemned by the Church of Greece and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, it still has not been dealt with by all Orthodox. Thus, although the vexed question of ecumenism has been dealt with theologically and philosophically by such lights as the Righteous Fr Justin (Popovich) of Serbia and the branch theory has been utterly rejected by the whole Russian Church, the issue of ecumenism has still not been dealt with at a Conciliar level. And as regards the problem of the diaspora and its reorganization and restructuring, no solution has even been attempted.
The mere existence of an inter-Orthodox forum would mean that the Orthodox Churches would no longer need to have any connection with the WCC. It could be left to be what it always has been in its essence - an inter-Protestant forum. Similarly, the absurd situation whereby Orthodox meet one another only at Dialogues with Anglicanism or Roman Catholicism would also disappear. The WCO would provide a place where Orthodox could meet together freely, without political interference, discuss their mutual problems and find solutions in an Orthodox spirit. Where could such a World Council of Orthodoxy meet and work?
AFTERWORD: TOWARDS A NEW JERUSALEM
It is our suggestion that such a World Council of Orthodoxy be set up in or near Moscow. This is because there seems to be nowhere else in the world where such a Council could be established with the infrastructure that is necessary. We cannot but recall that all Seven Oecumenical Councils took place in or close to, or with Ephesus, not so far from, the Second Rome of Constantinople. Such a World Council of Orthodoxy could be the future solution to the inter-Orthodox problems of the recent past and present.
we would dare to suggest an actual location for this World Council - at
the New Jerusalem complex, west of Moscow. Built in the seventeenth century
as a counterbalance to Imperial ideas of the State, this complex, centred
around the Monastery of the Resurrection, was chosen to embody parts of
Jerusalem and the Holy Land, with the River Istra representing the River
Jordan. It was meant to be open to all peoples and there monks of different
nationalities, including those converted from the West, strove together
in true catholic unity. Although still to be restored, this site is surely
most appropriate, since it is centred around a Monastery, dedicated to
the Resurrection of Christ. It stands in stark contrast to Chambesy in
Calvinist Switzerland. There, Protestantism financed a basically secular
conference centre for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, with its pseudo-Orthodox
As to whether any of this vision will actually take place, it is not for us to know. The present Orthodox revival in Russia, the Churching of Russian society, has only just begun and so far concerns only a minority. There are immense problems and many are pessimistic. However, if there is repentance, a World Council of Orthodoxy would be indispensable in order to rise up from the paralysed situation of the present. But for a paralytic to take up his bed and walk, it will require first the miracle of faith and then the miracle of healing. May Thy will be done, O Lord!
of the Paralytic,
Institute of Philosophy,