A collection of pre-Laurus Orthodox Life magazines. This will be my next project. My goal is to have searchable PDFs of all the issues up to the Laurus synod. Please send me pdfs or scans of back issues. If you seek an article not yet on this blog, contact me.
V29 #6 Church in the Wilderness
Reprinted from Orthodox Life - Vol. 29 - No. 6 - November - December, 1979
The Russian Church in the Wilderness and in this World
by Bishop Gregory of Manhattan
Those who took part in Church life fifty years ago will, no doubt, recall how many discussions and disputes there were among us concerning the letter of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) of Nizhni-Novgorod, the locum tenens of the guardian of the patriarchal throne, dated June 16/29,1927. Beginning with the first words of that epistle, it was stated that the persecution of the Faith in Russia was, as it were, provoked "principally by statements of enemies of the Soviet government who are abroad." Metropolitan Sergius declared that he considered it necessary "for us to show now that we churchmen have not sided with the enemies of our Soviet government, nor with the mad instru ments of their intrigues, but with our people and our government." He announced that that government had approved his petition that the synod organized by him be permitted "to commence activity for the governing of the Russian Orthodox Church." He wrote that now "in the [Soviet] Union our Russian Church has not only a canonical, but also a completely legal Church administration, in accordance with civil law."
The price paid for these ephemeral benefits was to have been the "disarmament" of the Church Abroad, which had discomfited the Soviets with its outcries against the persecution of the Faith in Russia. Metropolitan Sergius did not proceed from the premise that the Soviet authority was a satanic power, but rather that it was like any other civil authority. As an administrator, and not as a spiritual leader, for him the question rested solely in the realm of materialistic expedience. "Only ivory-tower dreamers can think that a huge society such as our Orthodox Church, with its entire organization, can exist in peace outside the bounds of the government, hidden from the authorities," he wrote. In his desire to cooperate with that government, Metropolitan Sergius demanded in the same epistle that even the clergy outside of Russia "make a written vow of complete loyalty to the Soviet government in all their social activities."
I shall not dwell on how the discord in Church life beyond the borders of Russia was intensified by this demand. To the canonical division already existing was added the controversy over the admissibility of the "allegiance." Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and all his bishops, with the exception of Bishop Benjamin (Fedchenko), utterly refused to give a written oath of allegiance to the Soviet authorities. Metropolitan Eulogius (Georgievsky) gave such an oath, but soon afterwards repudiated it. However, the essence of the divergence between Paris and Karlovtsy lay in the fact that the partisans of Metropolitan Eulogius, like him, considered the acceptance of Metropolitan Sergius' declaration not from the point of view of the confession of the truth, but from the point of view of its expedience in the administrative-canonical sense, ignoring the element of its loyalty or disloyalty to Christ, especially since they could see in the locum tenens of the guardian of the patriarchal throne an ally against Metropolitan Anthony and the Synod.
On the contrary, opposition to Metropolitan Sergius in Karlovtsy and in Russia, without having conferred together on the matter, followed two lines of thought: the competence of thelocum tenens of the guardian of the patriarchal throne was canonically disputed, for he altered the direction of the Ark of the Church in a fundamental manner without the head of the Church, whose position he was filling. Later, there were yet more important arguments which pointed out elements of the betrayal of the principle of confession and also the subjection of the Church to a satanic authority inimical to her. It was precisely in this sense that His Beatitude Metropolitan Anthony responded to the declaration, when Metropolitan Sergius attempted to secure his assent through Patriarch Barnabas of Serbia.
Compiling a collection of documents relative to the declaration of Metro politan Sergius in 1927 and 1928, one could divide them into three groups: those that accepted it, those that vacillated (between acceptance and rejection), and those that rejected it outright. The vacillators criticized the declaration, at times quite seriously, but primarily as a document more of a political that an ecclesiastical nature, failing to delve very deeply into its implications regarding principle and ecclesiology. For the most part, they later joined the outright opponents of this document. The latter, in many cases, ended their lives as martyrs and confessors in prisons and camps.
Apparently, Metropolitan Joseph (Petrovykh) of Petrograd was the first to reach the practical conclusion that within the Soviet system there cannot be any legal existence for a hierarchy which desires to preserve its spiritual freedom. And he immediately began to prepare himself for the existence of a Church which would be hidden. Thus, underground Christians were often called "Josephites." They were subjected to persecution from two quarters. Metropolitan Sergius erupted against them with ecclesiastical punishments, the efficacy of which, of course, they did not recognize. On the other hand, having separated themselves from Metropolitan Sergius because they were unwilling to subscribe to his oath of "allegiance," they bore, in the eyes of the persecutors of the Faith, the stigma of being disloyal citizens, and by that very fact were condemned to persecution.
In a conversation with a Soviet reporter, Metropolitan Sergius in the News of the Central Executive Committee and the Pan-Russian Central Executive Committee, stated: "We acknowledge the Soviet government as a normal and legal authority, and we submit ourselves with complete sincerity to all its decisions." Hence, it is clear that those who declined to agree with his declaration were rebels.
The consequences attendant upon this are spoken of quite vividly in a document of the "Samizdat" contemporary to the declaration entitled: "A Document from Kiev. - A Critique of the Epistle of Metropolitan Sergius," dated September, 1927. Having cited the declaration's words that the peaceful existence of the Church has been undermined by the disloyalty of Church members the civil authorities, the author of the article remarks that "every where the declaration juxtaposes this disloyal past to a loyal future which will be expressed in deed.
"This is the true cause of our indescribable ecclesiastical calamities," cries the author. "It is within ourselves, in our disloyalty. This is the sole cause emphasized by Metropolitan Sergius.
"Yet Metropolitan Sergius' instruction is not new. More than once we have heard this, both from representatives of the authorities and from our ecclesiastical foes - the renovationists of all sorts who have accused us of disloyalty and criminality.
"But we call such an accusation slander. We have stated that it cannot be supported by facts....
"Yet what can we say when the hierarch who governs us himself pronounces a dreadful sentence upon us, himself speaks of 'words and actions'? Do these words not place a black mark over all the inexpressible sufferings undergone by the Church these past years, over all her heroic struggle for self-preservation? Do they not declare the entire podvig of the Church to be treason?"
When we now deplore the Moscow Patriarchate's having become a tool of Soviet politics, other words from the same document come to mind: "Is not the 'sentinel of the Russian Church' becoming in this manner the watchman of the Soviet machine; and is not the assembly of servants of the Church being transformed into an obedient and meek army of 'open and secret' fellow laborers of the government? And how, then, should church-minded people react to such facts of internal Soviet politics as the mockery of holy things, the razing of churches, the destruction of monasteries?"
Pointing out that Metropolitan Sergius and those with him were held captive "by a dreadful sword which can establish the Church on man-pleasing and injustice," the author states from this point of view: "We maintain that falsehood only begets falsehood and cannot be the foundation of the Church." He predicted what has indeed transpired and continues to transpire before our very eyes: "We have before our eyes the infamous path of the 'church of the wicked,' of renovationism; and this disgrace of gradually sinking into the reeking morass of greater and more dreadful compromises and apostasy, the horror of complete moral decadence, shall be the unavoidable lot of ecclesiastical society if it treads the path marked Out by the actions of the Synod [of Metropolitan Sergius]."
In a particularly profound manner, the question of the new administration of the Russian Church headed by Metropolitan Sergius is considered in the remarkable "Letter to a Friend," dated October 22,1927. The identity of the author is not indicated in the collection, but by the depth and clarity of its uncompromising, dogmatic thought, I have arrived at the conclusion that it was written by Bishop Theodore (Pozdeyevsky), former rector of the Moscow Theological Academy.
The tract begins with an entry, apparently from a diary, dated March 3, 1924: "Perhaps through tribulations we shall be shown to be little islands amid an ocean of godlessness...
Further on, the thought of the author moves from the present to the Apocalypse. Furthermore, he states the reservation that he is not proposing his apocalyptic / eschatological digressions as immutably dogmatic interpretations of given passages of Revelation. He only brings out "the parallel between the images of the Apocalypse and contemporary ecclesiastical events which unwittingly turn one's thought towards such prophetic images, which, for their part, cast a brilliant light upon the events in question. One may repeatedly observe even in the Old Testament that one and the same prophecy is first fulfilled to a certain degree, but later has another, yet loftier and ultimate fulfillment."
Our author summons up from the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of the Apocalypse the image of the woman seated upon the beast. Applying this to his contemporary situation, he>writes: "Have not events passed before us which involuntarily bring to mind the spiritual contemplations of the New Testament beholder of Mysteries? Compare the above-cited words of the Apocalypse with the activity and actions of our renovationists and the partisans of the Living Church. Can they not be attributed to them down to the last detail? Still more significant are the events of recent days [i.e., of 1927j' connected with the name of Metropolitan Sergius represented in the image of the Apocalypse referred to. It is of greater significance solely in that she who was seated upon the beast which was dyed crimson with blasphemous names is not an arbitrary schismatic, but a believing woman who bears the image of genuine piety which had, apparently, not been defiled by prior apostasy. Herein lies the principal, terrifying side of that which is taking place before our very eyes, which is affecting the deepest spiritual interests of the children of the Church of God, which is immeasurable in its consequences, which cannot be even approximately assessed, but which, in their essence, shall have universal significance.
The author later poses the question as to how one should be during these horrible moments of fresh danger which now draw nigh to the Orthodox Church. He sees an indication in the final images of the Apocalypse, in the words of the angel who came down from Heaven and had great power: "And cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great has fallen, fallen, and is become the habitation of demons, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird" (Rev. 18:2). "And I heard another voice from Heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (18:4).
The author concludes that, under the given conditions, the legal existence of the Church is impossible and that she should depart from the world and betake herself into the wilderness.
These thoughts, so theologically cogent, are developed in another document of the same period: "A Letter from a Bishop who has Departed [from Metropolitan Sergius to a Bishop who has not Departed," which was printed in Pravoslavnaya Zhizn (Orthodox Life), # 7, (1933).
The thought of the author of this remarkable tract (perhaps, as I deduce, the same Bishop Theodore), follows the same path. In the following manner he describes the conditions under which the Church lives in the Soviet Union:
"The Russian Orthodox Church, by the Providence of God, has been placed, of necessity, to live in a realm of an entirely unusual sort (Rev. 2:13) which is initiating a new culture and civilization, is founding a new political and socio-economic order, a new way of life, a new understanding of family, a new and extraordinary personality on an atheistic and materialistic foundation.
Enigmatic words of the Old and New Testaments which have hitherto been obscure have been rendered concrete before our eyes with marvelous clarity; and I, sinful as I am, make so bold as to maintain, on the basis of the exegeses of the Holy Fathers which relate to passages from the Word of God, that on the territory of the Soviet Union the Orthodox Church has entered the era of the "falling away" the apostasy (II Thess. 2:3), the sphere of influence of the harlot of the Apocalypse (Rev. 17) who is awakening to the universal activity at the end of the iron-clay period of the final human kingdom (Dan. 11:40-43)." The "apostasy" referred to by the Apostle Paul corresponds to the harlot in the Apoca!ypse of St. John the Theologian (ch. 17).
The author of the letter recalls that, in similar periods the Church left the historical horizon and lingered among the sands of the desert, so that after- wards, if it were pleasing to God, she could depart there from.
The author of our tract poses the question: What external pathways should the Orthodox Church choose for the realization of her mission while living through the period of apostasy? First of all, he points out the necessity of renouncing all attempts at acquiring legal status. "The recent past," he writes, "confirms our conviction and indicates that even now the time draws nigh when, for the good of the Church, we will have to renounce the legalization even of ecclesiastical communal organizations and return to the pre-Nicean forms of Church life, when Christian societies were organized and united, not by administrative institutions, but by the Holy Spirit." He singles out the iconoclastic period as an instructive example. "The Orthodox Church was found at that time in deserts, caves, tombs (St. Methodius), prisons, exile and grievous labors. And such tribulations for the Orthodox continued not for ten years, as now, but for one hundred and twenty years, with brief intervals of respite for Orthodoxy; and side by side with the impoverished Orthodox Church, legality and prosperity were enjoyed by the harlot-church which, through lawless obedience to the legal authority, obtained for herself a tranquil and undisturbed life."
Bishops of such confessional cast of mind did not last long on earth. Metropolitan Peter (Polyansky), Metropolitan Cyril (Smirnov) and many other bishops and clergymen who did not agree with Metropolitan Sergius were quickly arrested and ended their lives in exile and prison. Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, however, did not confine himself to words. Quite early, he began to perform secret consecrations, thus forming the Secret or Catacomb Church. In Soviet handbooks his followers are called "Josephites."
Does an organized, secret Church still exist now? Levitin-Krasnov, after his arrival abroad, maintained that it does exist. He even indicated the number of its bishops. On the other hand, not long ago a report was printed in the Vyestnik Khristianskago Dvizheniya (Herald of the Christian Movement) to the effect that the last secret bishop submitted to the Moscow Patriarchate soon after the election of Metropolitan Sergius as Patriarch, and that now this movement does not exist. But we in the Synod have received appeals from a whole group of clergy which had buried its bishop much later and which asked permission to commemorate our Metropolitan Philaret as its head. From time to time accounts reach us of secret monasteries or of the serving of secret divine services by clergymen who belong formally to the Moscow Patriarchate, but who conduct pastoral missionary work outside its official parishes. A certain clergyman of the Moscow Patriarchate, who is known to us and who has served in the West, has recounted a secret journey he made from Moscow to just such a divine service.
If, as one may judge from many facts, a secret Church life continues to exist, it is precisely the Church life in the wilderness, hidden from outward eyes. Those who participate in it can be very numerous.
But at times people who formally belong to the Moscow Patriarchate but who do not share in those grievous aspects of its life, which have been pointed out, participate in this life.
We are not sufficiently acquainted with all the details of this life to give a definition of it with that precision which was possible in the '30s of our century. Furthermore, we know that, as among the Old Believers, several groups of a priestless nature or, in general, without a bishop's spiritual guidance, have been formed, which have turned into various types of sectarians. We can but express our faith and hope that the Lord will mercifully take into account the zeal of those people who have turned aside and their striving to prevent themselves from deviating even slightly from their loyalty to Him, even though that might mean their death.
We do not know if the Christians who conduct their own Church life in Russia have called themselves the Catacomb Church. This appellation appeared abroad. It is not the formal title of any organization, but is, so to speak, a local nickname for those Churches which have departed into the wilderness of secret religious existence, away from a life controlled by anti-Christian bureaucrats. This very existence has necessitated secrecy from the organs of the civil authority, which is cruelly persecuting everything that it does not control. It is so well organized that Christians cannot be too careful in guarding themselves against infiltration by the enemy. This is why they cannot trust outsiders, least of all us, who have not shared their experience of being conspired against and of acting in secrecy.
Now let us turn to the position created after the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius and to its consequences.
At first, he found himself in a somewhat more advantageous position than the Renovationists, but his conscience could scarcely have remained un troubled when, one after another, the honorable hierarchs, clergy and laity who did not agree with his policy were sent to fill the camps. Their refusal to accept the declaration was taken as a witness to their disloyalty. But later, persecutions descended equally upon both the Sergianists and the Renovationists. This was an attempt at the physical eradication of religion.
Prior to the onset of World War II, there were but four free hierarchs able to govern their dioceses in all of Russia, if one does not count the short-lived existence of bishops from Poland before the German occupation. Several of them had just been consecrated in Moscow, but were sentenced to speedy annihilation beforehand by the Soviet authorities. When Stalin decided to hold the election of a patriarch, only eighteen bishops could be assembled from all of Rus~ia! The state of the Renovationists had reached a similar position. Both hierarchies were, in fact, on the verge of extinction.
The war saved them. Because of it Stalin had to evince, as it were, a benevolent attitude toward the Church. One can envision Metropolitan Sergius' wave of optimism and joy when they summoned him to Stalin and the dictator personally proposed to put forward his (Sergius') election as patriarch and the recalling of the bishops frbm exile. Seeing that freedom of religion during the German occupation had become a dangerous weapon of prop aganda against the Soviets, Stalin understood that he could turn this power to his own advantage. At the same time, he saw that even after the war the Church could be of benefit in propaganda abroad. But to accomplish this the status of the Church within the country had to change in a manner evident to all. Thus, the years of the thaw arrived for the Moscow Patriarchate. Many churches were opened, many priests and bishops were installed. Apparently, the KGB did not carefully investigate the candidates at that time, for along with opportunists, people entered positions of ecclesiastical responisibility who sincerely desired to serve the Church above all. At that time several independent men, beginning with Germogen (Golubev), were able to be made bishops.
Patriarch Alexis and Metropolitan Nicholas (Yarushevich) of Krutitsa thought that a really serious change had been wrought in the Soviet authority's attitude towards the Church. Patriarch Alexis delivered a speech triumphantly, speaking of the invincibility of the Church.
The reaction of the civil authorities was not long in coming: despite all the recognition he had acquired in the West, Metropolitan Nicholas was forced to relinquish his post, soon fell ill and died in a hospital, completely alone. His world-wide acclaim could not save him.
Thereafter followed the massive closing and destruction of churches which has continued to the present day.
The enslavement of the Patriarchate was manifest with particular clarity at the Council (Sobor) of 1961, beautifully described by A. Levitin-Krasnov.
In the majority of the cases, the bishops who arrived at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra did not know why they had been summoned. They thought that they had come for a Church festival, but saw to their amazement that they were not alone in receiving a summons; the entire hierarchy was present! Only after the liturgy and the festal meal did they find out, quite unexpectedly and without warning, that a session of the Council was to be held, for which they were allowed no preparation. In the meanwhile, it became known that the purpose of the Council was the alteration of the entire system of ecclesiastical government which had been established in 1945. At the previous Council, a structure had been established which corresponded to the sacred canons. But in 1961, they decided to change it, depriving the bishops of all authority in their dio ceses and transferring it to the parish "committees of twenty," and through them placing it under the complete control of officials responsible to the Soviet authorities.
Precisely in order to guarantee the acceptance of these "reforms," they hid from the bishops the true reason for their summons to the Lavra until the last minute. According to Levitin's description, after the liturgy and the festal meal had come to an end, when an agenda was distributed listing the names of the speakers, the hierarchs were thrown into great consternation. "There was no time to speak with one another, however briefly, about the agenda." They had barely managed to glance through the agenda when they were called to the patriarch's chambers to be photographed.
After this, the patriarch invited the bishops to enter the assembly hall. There were only bishops present, and three laymen who entered unnoticed and sat behind the bishops at separate tables.
As Levitin writes: "They came there, that. by their appearance, they might force the hierarchs to surrender the Church's position and perform an act destructive to the Church. They all understood this well. And each knew that even should he take courage and show himself opposed, he would not find any support, the consequences would fall only on his head, and he would put the patriarch in an untenable position" (Opisanile Arkhijereiskago Sobora 1961 g. [A Description of the Council of Bishops of 1961. Collection of Samizdat Documents, vol.11, AC 701]).
The agenda of the Council consisted of four points: 1) an increase in the number of the members of the Synod; 2) the change of the government of the parishes; 3) the entrance of the Russian Church into the World Council of Churches; and 4) the participation of the Russian Church in the Prague Movement for Peace. Every point was approved by the Council. Of course, the question of the closing of churches, monasteries and seminaries was not brought up. All the decisions were adopted without debate.
The first point presented no difficulties. The second was the most danger ous. The speaker was the present Patriarch Pimen, and the author of the report was A. Th. Shishkin, senior lecturer at the Leningrad Theological Academy, who in the past had been a prominent Renovationist and close collaborator of the Renovationist Metropolitan Nicholas (Platonov). He was also the author of the Council's resolution, which was approved beforehand by government officials. Shishkin, as the author of the report, occupied a seat in the hall somewhat removed from the bishops, just as the representatives of the KGB sat at separate tables behind the bishops' backs.
Archbishop Pimen's report may be summarized as follows: there are many difficulties and complaints in ecclesiastical life, and for the elimination thereof it behooves the hierarchs to relinquish all their canonical authority and for the clergy to divest themselves of the government of their parishes, placing it all in the hands of the "committees of twenty."
Several of the hierarchs spoke in fovor of the proposal, and a decision, aimed directly at the very structure of the Orthodox Church, was unanimously passed to please the atheists. The resolution was them signed by all the hierarchs. Someone muttered: "We have legalized iniquity."
The decree of the Council freed the hierarchs from their responsibility for parish affairs before the civil authorities, delivered the clergy into the hands of the church wardens (starosty), who quite often and to an increasingly great degree, act to please their Soviet overlords.
Thus, yet another great payment was made against the debt entailed by the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927. The closing of churches gained momentum and control over hierarchal consecrations increased.
If we now see some signs of religious re-awakening, on the other hand the influence of the turbid waters of former Renovationists which have been poured into the Church and of a hierarch freed from parish problems by way of transferring them into the hands of church wardens and supervisors appointed by the civil authorities is made use of all the more for political activity abroad.
Such heroes as Fr. Dimitry Dudko must carry on their labor of confession without the support of their bishops who, on the contrary, often show them selves to be their persecutors.
It is not amazing that, before all else, they seek moral support and are not always discriminating therein.
More than others, we hear the self-deprecating voice of Fr. Dimiry Dudko. He is seeking our sympathy; he wants support, but some obliging 'friends" frighten him with the specter of our "lack of understanding."
Probably, nearly everyone has read the widely circulated letter of Fr. Dimitry to our Metropolitan, written after a certain lady had told him that we are shunning him and all believers in the Soviet Union. Archbishop Anthony of Geneva has replied to him and satisfied him with his answer. Their correspondence has yet to be published.
Yet, nevertheless, Fr. Dimitry's sorrowful perplexity consists in the fact that, from, the words of the lady he conversed with, he understood that we were disassociating ourselves, as it were, from pastors like him and not permitting our spiritual children who travel to Russia to receive Communion in the homeland.
It occurs to me that we may reply to this as follows: all Russian Orthodox people, both those that live in Russia and we abroad, belong to the Russian Church, which we have cherished and continue to cherish. We have always experienced all the pain of the Church in the homeland as the pain of the entire organism to which we ourselves belong.
It is true, the parts of that Russian Church, both in Russian and abroad, live under different conditions, and thus they often have differences in temptations.
Furthermore, Metropolitan Sergius' declaration in 1927, which provoked the division in Russia, has also divided us to a great degree. The same questions were discussed in copies we received of handwritten literature of that period in Russia and in our articles abroad. To a great degree, the difference between us and other ecclesiastical organizations of Russian people in western Europe and America also depends on this. The former, who for a short while sided with Metropolitan Sergius against us, later avoided our problems by joining themselves to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, becoming a part of his Church; and the latter have opted for "autocephaly" and Americanization. But we continue to live as a part of the Russian Church and are trying to be its voice for the West a free voice, aloof from all the influence of all powers outside the Church who are striving to use it to create the kingdom of antichrist in the world.
Those in Russia who are holding fast to Orthodoxy and preaching the truth, not submitting to the influence of outside powers, are not merely our allies, but our brethren in one and the same Church. But can we see brethren in the official spokesmen of the Moscow Patriarchate who tell foreigners over and over again about the alleged "freedom" of religion in communist lands, who preach the falsehood of the contemporary "theology of peace," and so forth?
In the division between the followers of Metropolitans Peter, Cyril, Joseph, et al. and Metropolitan Sergius in 1927-1928, we have sided with those confessors, and for us, after the declaration of 1927, the head of the Russian Church, following the repose of Metropolitan Peter, was Metropolitan Cyril and not Sergius, whose election as patriarch, as well as those of his successors, we hold to be uncanonical.
They let the tortured confessors perish in the camps, and then they tell us that the Catacomb Church no longer exists. But has this very idea, for which our confessors have given their lives, really been slain? Has their martyrdom justified the idea of compromise, an idea they did not accept and against which they fought, laying down their lives?
This idea is not confined within the boundaries of Russia; it is universal, and we run into it in the West. Though we be alone in our struggle against it, yet remember that it is not by a multitude of votes that truth is determined. Are we not all the more so forced to be more cautious in the directions given to our spiritual children?
Zealots of the true Faith in Russia have nurtured within themselves a feeling of a certain type, which alerts them to those of the clergy whom they can find to be true pastors, and to those they find to be otherwise. People who travel to the Soviet Union for a short while do not have this experience, and thus they easily err in turning to the wrong person for the Mysteries. Fr. Dimitry himself has written about how the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate has been formed without freedom; and we here read of a considerable number of its representatives who confirm this and themselves declare that it is essential to be scrupulous in our relations with them.
But this falls far short of determining an exhaustive resolution of the question of relations to one or another liturgical act in general. One must keep in mind that the lack of communion is not always connected with a denial that there is grace in the Mysteries. Such was that long period during the Bulgarian Schism. At that time it happened that the people were in communion with all the Churches, but the Bulgarian bishops could not concelebrate with others. In 1920, the Bulgarian Metropolitan Stephen came to our bishops in Sremsky Karlovtsy, but, at the Serbs' insistence, he had to leave, having served with no one. Yet, the Serbs did not reject the baptisms or the marriages of the Bulgarians.
It is easy to understand in current life Fr. Dimitry's train of thought, when he desires a general resolution of such questions from us, based on a feeling of sympathy. Of course, this feeling is alive within us, and the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils teach us this. On the one hand, they were strict in their confirmation and protection of the Truth, but on the other hand they were inclined to lenience, for, as the Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council wrote in their Canon 102: "All that matters to God and to the person undertaking pastoral leadership consists in the recovery of the straying sheep, and in healing the one wounded by the serpent. Accordingly, he ought not to drive the patient to the verge of despair, nor give him rein to dissoluteness and contempt of life..."
Insofar as a special duty rests upon us, as free people, to confess the Truth and to denounce the wicked devices of the enemy, often so difficult to do so under the conditions of Soviet life, we sometimes have to confine the openness of our hearts when we hand down our decisions, so that principle is not harmed. In this also there is a manifestation of love.
It is quite easy to close one's eyes to falsehood, and it is all the more terrible when this falsehood, as took place during the spread of Arianism and Monophysitism, is spreading throughout the whole world. Often they tell us, as they once told St. Maximus the Confessor, that the whole world has reconciled itself to it, and they reproach us because we alone do not accept compromise with communism, nor with ecumenism, nor in general with any form of renovationism.
Should we yield? In no way!
Fr. Dimitry recalls what was said on one occasion, it seems to me, by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, that if a priest be unworthy, an angel celebrates the Mystery in his stead. But this refers to the personal sins of the priest, and St. John Chrysostom writes in one passage that a believer suffers no detriment in the Mysteries, even if the priest who has celebrated them be extremely depraved. However, personal sins do not constitute heresy or schism. In the first instance, sin can deprive a priest of salvation, but his service is performed within the Church and by a member of the Church; but in the second case, the service takes place outside the Church and outside the current of the grace of the Church, even though the priest's personal life be virtuous.
It can be asked: what if we do not wish to commune from the same chalice with a bishop-agent, i.e., one who serves Belial? Which of us two has departed from "universal Orthodoxy," as Fr. Dimitry writes, "this bishop, or us?" He that betrays the Church, "like Judas," into the hands of its enemies, or he that, in consequence of this, does not wish to be in union with them? If the Church forbids not only communion of the Mysteries, but also communion in prayer with heretics and schismatics, then does this not pertain to an even greater degree to those who emulate Judas?
However, here the question arises: can we unerringly point the finger at who is a traitor and who is only in error and only mistakenly or in ignorance tries to serve Belial, hoping that thereby he may find it possible to serve Christ as well?
One can judge people differently, and one would wish not to condemn anyone, but, the judging of individual persons aside, we cannot say that the Apostle is mistaken when he says that one cannot serve both Christ and Belial. In life, good and evil are often bound up together because of our weakness, but Metropolitan Sergius frightened us because he took this amalgam, not as the norm of piety, but as an indifferent phenomenon, permissible in the work of salvation. On the contrary, according to St. Gregory of Nyssa, this type of sin is related to the mental province of the soul and "has been judged more harshly by the Fathers as meriting greater and longer and more painfully laborious repentance" (Canon 2). For this cause, we should be very careful in our judgments concerning from whom one can and from whom one cannot receive Communion. To those of us who travel to Russia we, ill-informed as we are, cannot indicate this precisely. We can with confidence indicate only one indisputable criterion: if in doubt, abstain; for one cannot commune when in doubt. If for the short time of one's sojourn in Russia one does not receive Communion on this account, one's soul does not sustain any damage. One receives Communion when one returns home.
It is difficult to judge, from the vantage point of freedom, the manifold problems created by the persecutions, the activity of the secret police, and the compromises made, perhaps at times with good intention, in order to survive and to have the possibility of furthering the faith of others. To what extent the Lord covers them with His love, and also whether to some degree, even with some compromise, there might be an element of confession, it is impossible for us to judge here. How are we to judge here who has entered into com promise to the degree of falling away from Christ (serving Belial more than Him), and who can be, as St. Athanasius the Great puts it, acknowledged as "those... who have not disavowed the religion of piety, but have been dragged
away as a result of necessity and violence" (Second Canonical Epistle, "To Rufinian")? He was writing about bishops who were officially Arians and who maintained "that they will not change over to the religion of impiety. But in order to prevent any who have become most impious from corrupting the Church, they have preferred to go along with violence and carry the burden, rather than to let the laity go to destruction" (ibid.). St. Athanasius judged them after the persecution had ended, when the picture was clearer. But the very fact that condescension was shown was already an acknowledgment that the path of such a compromise was not of itself free from sin, which was compensated for by the preservation of true faith and piety among the flock.
The Holy Fathers have not left us a guide sufficiently practical for the present time. With the exception of what has been quoted from St. Athanasius above, the canons preclude the admissibility of any compromise, judging differently only one or another form thereof according to the degree of sin. This is explained by the fact that they indicate to us not so much the details in various cases, as the principles of conduct, when it follows that this or that form of behavior is sinful. Thus, in the majority of cases the canons are maximal istic. Yet, however much they concern individual acts, the canons of the Synod of Ancyra, of Peter of Alexandria of St. Gregory of Nyssa and others also give examples of deviation from straightforward confession, which is covered by mercy under the unavoidable circumstance of a preservation of loyalty to Christ based on principle. They give the reaction of the Church to persecution of the Faith under the conditions of the first centuries of Christianity. Now, apparently, there also exist various other causes unforeseen 1790 years ago and which we, outside the Soviet Union, cannot assess. For this reason alone we have been compelled to abstain from very decisive judgments concerning personalities and certain phenomena of the religious life in the Soviet Union, both from condemning them and approving them, with the exception of individual cases that are sufficiently clear.
However, that which Fr. Dimitry suggests to Metropolitan Philaret in his open letter, viz. that we visit the Soviet Union to exert an influence on Church life and for certain relations with the Patriarchate, would be impracticable and incorrect in principle.
We have no awareness of our own "righteousness," but there is the awareness that the Lord has placed us under the conditions of freedom so thaf we might openly come forward in defense of the Truth, hindered by no one. If we now embark upon the path of unification with the Moscow Patriarchate, that would be the voluntary taking upon ourselves of the compromises into which it has fallen under the pressure of persecutions and threats. This would be a sign of recognition of its canonicity and an indication for the outside world that, contrary to reality, it is really as free as the propagandists say. This would be a refusal of the duty incumbent upon us to bear witness to the entire world concerning the anti-Christian character of that most godless power. It is not for this that the Lord has given us freedom. Apart from prayer, it is solely through our protests and denunciation of the persecution of the Faith that we are able to help our brethren in the homeland.
As concerns our sending bishops or priests into Russia, there is no point even in speaking of it. Our 'contact" with the confessors is prayer one for another and the sending of literature to them as far as we are able. But since prayer is a real power, aid amid all the weakness of our spirit, it nonetheless can have significance.
And in regard to confessors in Russia like Fr. Dimitry, they show us help by their writings which have reached us.
The history of the Church has heretofore not known such a troubled time as the present. The matter is further complicated by the fact that not one Orthodox hierarchy has been able to comprehend the full depth of Russian ecclesiastical problems. They relate to them as to matters which do not concern them. This, of course, is a mistake. We have not the faculties to explain this to them and can only hope that the Lord not attribute this to them as sin.
And we Russians, on whichever side of the frontier we find ourselves, cannot escape from all the complexity of the problems of our Church. But we should seek answers not from spiritual weakness and compromise, but from our duty to confess the Truth, without regard to the majority, and in readiness to be faithful to the Church even unto death.