Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs -  Kiev: the Inside Story

      In the ancient ruined monasteries of our land Divine Liturgy is once again celebrated and the sound of prayer is heard. Here and there monasteries are opened, holy things are returned. Believers have spent long years fighting for many of these.

      There is news that holy skulls in Kiev have begun to stream myrrh, news that the relics of the newly glorified Saint Ambrose [of Optina] are fragrant, news that an icon of the Mother of God in the Optina Hermitage exudes a fragrant [myrrh]...

      But in spite of the joy, fear has not left God's people; in the past millennial year it has even grown, because the incipient changes have not made the believer master in his own house. This fear, this anxiety is for native Orthodoxy.

      What is to be the future of these newly recovered monasteries and churches? Are they to become attractive playthings with castrated innards? Or will spiritual life be reborn behind the restored walls? Is a real improvement in the relationship between Church and State taking place, or do we have before us the old show with a new face?

      Our saints warned us of this last, frightful deception, when the Church leadership and the civil rulers try to utilize the people's faith for their own ends. We have not forgotten their prophecies. We must test the reality of what is taking place. Those changes which were made towards a positive end must not be subverted. 

    Not tong ago I visited Kiev. And I was told the following.

      Half a year hadn't passed since the opening of the Dormition men's monastery on the territory of the Far Caves, and already Abbot Isaiah, Abbot Paphnuty and a whole group of novices were kicked out,

      There are at the monastery now about 30 monks and novices. Most of them are very young. And because of this the presence among the brethren of Abbot Isaiah, an experienced monk, was of essential significance. In his time (in the '70's) he was evicted from Pochaev Lavra. He is widely known among churchgoers as a spiritual father and a self sacrificing priest.

      Abbot Paphnuty was a resident of the Kiev Caves Lavra before its closure in 1962. Now, when he went with a blessing to visit his relatives, his [residence] permit was revoked and his things were thrown out of his cell.

      Every monastery depends on its elders or its experienced monks, who form its spiritual framework. It is from them that the young ones can learn and grow. And it is precisely these monks who are now being evicted by order of the metropolitan and the superior. Metropolitan Filaret (Denisenko) of Kiev appointed the young Archimandrite Jonathan from Leningrad as superior of the monastery. The archimandrite installed his brother (a married man and--in the opinion of pilgrims---one who is not a believer) as assistant steward of the monastery, a position which places him in virtual control of all financial matters. The superior is crude towards the brothers. /.../

      "I give my entire pension to the monastery. I'm going to die soon and can manage without it. But I had hoped for some consolation at the Lavra; now our elders have been kicked out, and there's no one to go to for counsel."

      "The young ones---they're the same Komsomol members; who would go to them for confession?"

      This is what one hears from parishioners and pilgrims. 

      The Orthodox people, who stream to the relics of the righteous Fathers of the Caves, have, through their repentance and prayers, caused the Lord to manifest a great grace: four myrrh streaming skulls have now begun to exude myrrh. People donate money and their own labor for the restoration of services on the holy hills of Kiev. At the same time, those monks who enjoy the trust of the people cannot serve in the monastery and are persecuted merely for their zeal concerning the Church canons and the monastic tradition,, for their piety. 

    In our church life a very tragic situation has developed. The people, who have defended and are defending their holy things, have no voice, nor do those clergy who labored so hard and suffered for the holy faith, those whom the people know and respect. At best, they quietly go about their business, but as often happens, even now, they are obstructed by force, chased from their place of service, as though forgotten by those whose duty it is to attract the best talents for set x ice to God. /.../

      It turns out that there is a faithful flock, there are also pastors who enjoy its trust, but they are somehow cut off from guiding the ship of the Church. Driven into prisons, silent, we can pray there; but the direction and order on the ship are determined by someone unknown.

      The situation which developed from the very beginning of the rebirth of the Kiev Caves Lavra is characteristic also of other monastic communities m the country. Because now the time has come for the pernicious fruit of "Sergianism' [1] to be fully revealed. The higher Church leadership is acting on interests which are foreign to the Church. And in fact, all around are proteges of the Council for Religious Affairs and the KGB. Thi s could only happen in view of the cruel and bloody massacre of the Church-something that went on for decades.

      That society, which desires a moral renaissance, must help the Church to be free, in accordance with her patristic ordinances. It is essential to assist in the normalization of the situation in the Lavra, in the return of those monks who were evicted. in the opportunity to have an Orthodox superior who--I would emphasize is known and revered by the church-going people. The Lavra should become a place of prayer, the father's house, a place close to the heart--and not the same state institution.

      Orthodox in Russia will not tolerate any substitute for the spirit of Orthodoxy in the Church, or accept a shiny exterior for the freedom of the Church. And the persecutors e; Christ should know this, as well as those who are trafficking with the interests of the holy Faith.

      Saints Anthony and Theodosius, and all the holy Fathers of the Caves, pray to God for us!

Pavel Protsenko
Consultant for religious affairs of the Moscow group of the International Society for Human Rights

January 1, 1989
Week of the Holy Fathers

 [1] Derived from the 1927 Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius who pledged the Church's loyalty and cooperation with the Soviet atheist regime





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