Orthodox America

  In Hopes of Renewal

"...the power of the Church lies not in an intact external organization, but in the unity of faith and love committed by Her to Her children!"

    Beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, children of the Russian Orthodox Church! The millennial anniversary of the baptism of our forebears is now approaching--an event which marked the beginning of the life of the Church and grace in the Russian land, and which has resulted in us, their posterity, being Orthodox Christians.

     This jubilee must be a festive anniversary for each Russian Orthodox Christian, wherever he may live, as well as for all the non-Russian children of our Church, who participate in Her grace filled life.

     But, alas! our Mother Church has had to live through a terrible era, and is still trying to survive it to this very day. There is no unity among Her reason-endowed flock. Her garments are stained with the blood of the millions martyred for Christ and for being faithful to His Church. Her ancient shrines are mocked; her churches are in ruins. She weeps for Her children. They have received a new baptism in blood as they leave behind a thousand years of their Christian history.

    The persecution of Her faithful children continues, and the gates of the force-labor camps and prisons even today yawn wide to receive them. The Patriarchate of Moscow, officially recognized by the godless dictators of our horn el and, is powerless to help the persecuted or to better its own position in anyway. The millennial jubilee is not a particularly happy occasion for us, even though a "great celebration" is being prepared in our homeland to mark it.

    In the paschal epistle of the Patriarch of Moscow, the faithful read astonishing words about a supposed "universal renewal" of the life of our land. We hope that this renewal will touch, first of all, the life of the much-suffering Church.

    Apparently believing in the possibility of such a renewal, members of the synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow say, in their pre-jubilee epistle of June 21, 1987, that "the coming jubilee must be a celebration also for those children of the Church of Russia who, for various reasons, are not at present in her salvific fold .... " They therefore address to the hierarchs, clergy and laity who comprise the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia...a fraternal appeal to overcome the spirit of bitterness and divisiveness, and to glorify the name of our Lord and Saviour with one mouth and one heart .... that the approaching jubilee may become a celebration for the totality of the Church of Russia..."

     We welcome this good desire and give thanks for the invitation. But even they who call upon us speak in their epistle of the various reasons which divide us.

      The first reason is the denial by the Patriarchate of Moscow of the martyrs and confessors of our time. It is impossible to say that we have had no martyrs for the Faith, as we have beard repeatedly from the lips of representatives of the Patriarchate of Moscow; we cannot remain silent about their struggle or avoid speaking of it, especially at the millennial anniversary of the baptism of Rus', thereby distorting the history of the Church of recent times.

      The fullness of the Church is not confined only to the faithful who live on earth. She cannot be conceived of without all the saints of Russia, among whom are the martyrs of recent decades. It is for this reason that the celebration of the jubilee coincides with the day on which all the saints who have shone forth in the Russian land are commemorated and invoked in prayer. The One Church of Russia, heavenly and earthly, comprise her fullness.

     Thus, keeping in mind the "universal renewal" in which those who invite us believe, we, for our part, invite them fearlessly and openly to confess the struggle of the new-martyrs and confessors of our Church who have now been glorified.

    Without ardent prayers to them, without sharing one mouth and one heart with them, there cannot be a jubilee and the fullness of the Church. They are our brethren and sisters by blood and the Faith; they are the glory of the Church; they are Her victory; their struggle is the justification of the thousand-year history of Christianity in Russia.

    The second reason is that the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius (subsequently Patriarch), that the interests of the Church and the atheistic government are identical, to this day still forms the basis of their relations. It deprives the Patriarchate of Moscow of freedom, justifying the total arbitrary rule of the regime in the affairs of the Church.

    We know that this declaration was not accepted in Russia by the majority of bishop-confessors, by the clergy faithful to them, and the flock, at the time of its promulgation, and on the strength of this they ended their life in martyrdom, in the terrible death camps.

     Even while in the camp on Solovki, these confessors, doomed to death, appealed to the Soviet government with a memorandum in which they spoke of the "irreconcilability of the religious teaching of the Church with materialism, the official philosophy of the communist party and the government guided by it. The soul of the Church, the condition of Her existence and reason for Her being is that very thing which is categorically denied by communism. No compromises and concessions, partial changes in religious teaching or reinterpretation of it in the spirit of communism will satisfy the militant atheists. ' The voice of the pastors who wrote this historic memorandum was at that time, in 1925, the voice of a Church of Russia still free.

     In the situation then created, the Solovki prisoners saw the only way out of the position: the complete and subsequently enacted law on the separation of the Church. from the state.

    Even more than sixty years later, this is what the best Russian people now desire. Thus, for example, in his article "From Repentance to Action" (Literary Gazette, Sept. 9, 1987), the academic D. E. Likhachev boldly and truthfully wrote that 'ff one would speak of the contemporary Church, one should especially today, on the eve of the millennial anniversary of the baptism of Rus', emphasize: we stand in favor of the complete, genuine separation of the Church from the state."

     These are the changes which the faithful in Russia are waiting for in the life or the Mother Church. They expect the representatives of the Patriarchate of Moscow, during the period of "universal renewal," to find within themselves the strength to tear off the heavy ,yoke imposed upon the Church by the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius.

      The third reason is that the epistle of the Patriarchate of Moscow distinctly maintains, even though it calls us Church, that we are "outside the salvific fold of the Mother Church."

     Is this so? Our Russian Church Outside of Russia is established upon a firm and immovable canonical foundation: the decree of His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon dated 7/20 November 1920, #362. This historic decree is one of the very last--we shall say, more prophetic--acts of the FREE Church of Russia, which has not lost its meaning even to the present day, in view of the fact that the Patriarchate of Moscow is hitherto not free and is enslaved to the atheists.

    The authors of the epistle call upon us to return to what we have never left. We have never thought of ourselves as apart from the Mother Church, preserving a spiritual and prayerful unity with those who have been martyred and who have suffered for the Faith, with those who have departed into the catacombs, with all the true Orthodox Christians, with all the fullness of the Church of Russia, for which time and space do not exist: "The Spirit bloweth whither so ever it wisheth." We, living outside the boundaries of our homeland, have not repudiated the name Russian, have not sought out the omophorion of other bishops, for which for all these years we have had to endure persecution and disdain from false brethren and those who hate not only our Church, but our homeland as well. And now they call upon us to return. But to what?...

    We remain faithful to the testament of the Solovki prisoners, that "the power of the Church lies not in an intact external organization, but in the unity of faith and love committed by Her to Her children.

    These are the basic reasons why we are still unable to glorify the all-holy name of our Lord and Saviour with one mouth and one heart with those who call upon us to do so.

     Yet apart from these very vital impediments, another, no less important matter deeply disturbs us: the direction taken by official representatives of the Patriarchate of Moscow in the province of the confession of Faith. We have observed with bitterness the ever greater attraction of the Patriarchate to ecumenism, with participation in prayer services even with pagans and idolaters (we have in mind here the ecumenical encounter at Assisi).

    All Russian people follow with trepidation what is now happening in the homeland, for they want to believe in the "universal renewal'' in the ecclesiastical, political, social and cultural life of our native land. They want to see sign s of this renewal.

    Forthright voices fearlessly condemning the mistakes and crimes of the past decades in the life of Russia and desiring a better future, are heard. Those in the homeland who ponder over the moral problems of contemporary society, the root causes of the lack of spirituality, falsehood, disintegration, dishonesty, are beginning to realize that formerly the Church opposed evil, that She had experience in moral education which communist ethics are unable to give. The voices of those who demand to be able to live according to their con science, who seek firm and reliable bases for a renewal of life, resound; they think that the fundamentals of the Christian Faith, which the founders of the godless state so arrogantly repudiated, provide such bases. Strivings and demands for justice have begun.

      In the same article, "From Repentance to Action," D.S. Likhachev avers that "We need the truth, The truth not only about the past, but also about the recent past and the present .... If we will tell the truth only with hindsight, this will not deliver us from the repetition of past mistakes. Only trust and openness are capable of withstanding violence and criminality,"

     This is what the children of the Church are waiting for, in the hope that to these bold .voices the free voice of the Church of Russia will be added: a voice demanding religious freedom, freedom to preach Christianity, freedom for the "minister of the cult" to become a pastor of the Church, openly proclaiming the word of the divine Truth everywhere and to everyone, like the apostles, having free access to the faithful, the youth, tile children, the sick, those Who suffer in hospitals and private apartments, the unfortunate, the lonely, those incarcerated in prisons and forced-labor camps.

    Let us all trust in the omnipotent help of God, for what is impossible for men is possible for God Who works miracles. We will await the results of the "universal renewal," believing that what is impossible today may become possible tomorrow.

Nov. 7/20, 1987 

+ Metropolitan Vitaly of Eastern America & New York
+ Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles & Southern California
+ Archbishop Antony of Geneva & Western Europe
+ Archbishop Anthony of Western America & San Francisco
+ Archbishop Laurus of Syracuse & Holy Trim'ty Monastery
+ Bishop Alypy of Chicago & Detroit
+ Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan

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