1964 (1) What are We Now Facing!
What are We Now Facing!
Archimandrite Constantine Ziatsev
from Orthodox Life magazine 1964 (1)
The attention of the whole world has been drawn by an event which became the center of the pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land: the meeting of the Pope with Patriarch Athenogoras, which has taken on the significance of a starting point of negotiations for unification of the Orthodox and Catholic churches. This task is definitely posed. The first steps on the way to its speedy realization are fixed. The reaction to this event is essentially different. Amongst people far-removed from true “churchness”, of which there are a great number today, this has been welcomed simply as the latest sensation on the way to world unity now so in fashion. For those who live in the hope of the birth of a new era intended to benefit humanity, this was already a concrete beginning of this coming blessedness. For those who consciously participate in Church life, this event evoked a diametrically opposed reaction. For those who, —— be they Orthodox or Catholic — Truth is conceived of in no other manner than in the form of their respective churches, this could not be anything else but a heart-freezing catastrophe. Of course, the Catholics could not openly reveal their feelings. As to the Orthodox, the renunciation of the acts and even of the very person of Patriarch Athenogoras received at times most decisive expression.
In order to understand what really has taken place, one should clearly realize that here two irreconcilable mentalities are being crossed. One is authentically Orthodox. The Lord came to earth and here established His Church, which will continue up until His Second Coming; however, at the termination of times, it will be persecuted to such a degree that only as a small remnant will it greet the Lord coming in His glory. This Church, persecuted from the start, but namely in these persecutions conquering the world, finally conquered its persecutors — in the person of the Emperor of the Roman Empire, who, having transferred the capital from Rome to Byzantium, became the sovereign protector of the Church. Its era of flowering ensued, when even the deepest internal discords called forth by heresies, led to an increase in glory of the Church, leaving after themselves an exact definition of Truth. Something new arose when Rome fell away from the Church, proclaiming itself as the Church. Here there were elements of both heresy and schism, but this was no more an internal struggle as in the past, but at the same time a self-affirmation as the authentic Church, which considered the true Church as heretical and schismatic. As is known, later in the midst of the Catholic church there arose an analogous struggle which gave rise to the so-called Reformation. New church organizations started to arise, increasing in number: the protestant churches, and later on different church organizations where no traces of authentic Christianity were to be found: the sects.
Orthodoxy continued its long-suffering life. Byzantium came to a fall. Her heritage, however, could be assumed by the newly-arisen Russian Orthodox Kingdom, which from this time carried upon itself the great assignment of protecting the Church.
Amidst its bitterest enemies, equally as “the barbarians”, Orthodoxy saw Catholic Rome, which was ready to annihilate it with fire and sword, doing at the same time all possible and impossible to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism. However, by God’s mercy, Orthodoxy continued to live and blossom, until the Russian Orthodox Kingdom did live and flourish, upon whose Sovereign rested grace of the “Withholding” power, the significance of which is revealed in the Second Chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians.
Everything changed with the fall of the Russian Orthodox Kingdom. The pre-Antichrist time began: the so-called Apostasy. The normal course of life can be restored only with the restoration of the Russian Orthodox Kingdom. As far as this does not occur -— two paths appear before Christian humanity: the path of greeting Christ in faithfulness to Him, and the path of greeting the Antichrist in infidelity to Christ. This infidelity reveals itself not only in open struggle with Christianity; it may also take on the character of revering a falsified Christ. That already is an uncovered preparation for greeting the Antichrist, delusively assuming the likeness of Christ. The open struggle with Christianity received the most striking expression in communism. The falsification of Christianity, garbed in the form of devout reverence, takes on the form of the so-called ecumenism. Recently these two modalities of Apostasy began to approach one another more and more. The process os favored by communism's concealment of itself by the false semblance of a church, as far as Christian churches being under the yoke of communism become dutiful instruments of communism.
Such is the contemporary world, as it is seen by true Christians, that is by those who, in remaining in the bosom of the Orthodox Church, remain entirely faithful to Her. Here everything is clear and there is no place for any misunderstanding, for here Truth reveals itself as it is revealed by the Lord in His Church.
This lucid and exact mentality, authentically-Orthodox, is countervailed by another mentality, at unity only in its incapacity of accepting the just mentioned Truth, and that for the reason of being influenced by Apostasy without any possibility of a successful reaction against it. Even the Orthodox become sacrifices of Apostasy in so far as they fall under the influence of the age. Only the Orthodox faithful to their Church have the capacity of seeing matters as they actually are, and for that reason possess the adequate power to oppose Apostasy. Everyone else, seeking salvation in his church, does not obtain the fulness of Truth in it and therefore finally sees himself helpless before the temptations of Apostasy.
Two processes of struggle with Apostasy can be observed. One signifies the organization of external resistance. This — is a general front, a heterogeneous coalition, unified only by a task of a negative nature: a struggle with outright Evil, which takes on the form of communism. Here everyone is defending his own Truth without any pretension of converting one’s brothers-in-arms, having no other aim but resistance to communism. This front, however, remains only in outline form and never becomes a reality, being eaten away from within by apostatic influences. Experience shows that one can not count on anything more in this direction. In theory such a unified front against “ecumenism” can be conceived of, but here even an outline is hardly to be expected. Another process signifies an internal struggle which has, so to say, a separate character. Here a confession of one’s Truth is manifested, giving at times a rise to real martyrdom. By the force of events. with the growth of Apostasy, this struggle has a chance of giving birth to a rise of spiritual regeneration, opening to members of other faiths the possibility of a conscious return to the true faith. In the pre-Antichrist perspective an image arises of a unified, —— of course, “small” —— flock, unified at last in a true, not in an “ecumenical” sense.
Keeping in mind all that has been said, one can understand the meaning of the event that took place in the Holy Land. It has a twofold meaning. If one views that “dialogue” between the Pope and the “universal” Orthodox Patriarch, so to say “confessionally”, then we see here a capitulation of Orthodoxy before Catholicism, analogous to those two which took place in past history. We mean the Lyon and the Florentine “unions”, which already have been mentioned by Catholic commentators of the rising rapprochement between the Vatican and the Orthodox primates, as precedents, unsuccessful in the past, but now, at last, having the chance of being realized. The position of capitulation is clearly expressed by Patriarch Athenogoras in his continued disdainful evasion of the dogmatic content of the divergencies between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, at times taking on the character of simply discarding these differences, as something history has shaken off.
This is what we read in The Word:
After the meeting, Patriarch Athenogoras, who was housed at the Orthodox patriarchal residence after arriving in Jerusalem from Istanbul via Rhodes, Greece, declared that "there are no differences except theological ones between us."
Implying that the differences were often more a matter of words than of meaning, he said many of the phrases and words used in the theology of both East and West had lost their "meaning over the centuries."
Patriarch Athenogoras said that he hoped as soon as possible to send an Orthodox delegation to Rome to talk over problems. “From now on." he added, "we mean business.”
The Word, No. 2, February, 1964.
On the contrary, faithfulness to Catholicism personified in the papacy shows itself with sufficient clarity in the various statements of the Pope and his collaborators. However, this “confessional” character of the started “dialogue” sinks without a trace in the abyss of ecumenism, which forms the real essence of the historical meeting, equally detrimental for both, Orthodoxy and Catholicism, as well as for protestantism, which, though indirectly, yet likewise has been brought into the started “dialogue”. This tendency receives formal expression in one point: all members of the “dialogue” in principle and demonstratively give the first place not to the task of serving Truth, but to the task of unifying humanity and this in the name of a certain n e w revelation of Truth which often takes, if not always directly, the appellation of a “Second Pentecost”, then, in any case, a declaration of an awaited action of the Holy Spirit.
The Church knows of the Second Coming of Christ, but the Church knows of no Second Descent of the Holy Spirit. In the awaiting of this one can only see the confession of the coming of the Antichrist. This already is an evident victory of Apostasy, in its figure of a triumphant welcome of the coming Antichrist.
A striking temptation for the Catholics, first of all, becomes papacy in its new tint of ecumenism. Papacy becomes the central figure of Apostasy, in its organizational task of preparing that all-embracing throne upon which the Antichrist could sit. From this point of view the very institute of papacy takes on a mystically ill-omened character, in its essence of creating upon earth a infallible substitute for Christ. From this point of view the possibility opens for allowing all kinds of deviations from “Latinism”, as the historical inheritance of Catholicism, in the present unification headed by the Pope. From this point of view there opens in all its ineffable depth the tragedy into which the children of historical Catholicism are submerged: on the one hand they are tempted by their infallible head, covered by the name of Christ, in the direction of Apostasy, and on the other hand traditional Catholicism confessed by them is losing its meaning as the absolute Truth in which one cannot but believe, becoming one of many conditional modalities of Christianity, all bearing in the eyes of an infallible pope the same relative weight with regard to their essence.
It is difficult for one to realize the real significance of the dead end that the conscious Catholic is brought to by the now arising “ecumenical” transformation of the institute of the papacy. On the one hand the institute of the papacy is preserved, it would seem, in all its power; the Pope deemed it necessary to formulate this in a definite manner on his return to Rome. “What is the Pope?” —— this question was posed by Paul VI in his following sermon. This is what we read in The Register:
". . . it is evident that Jesus gave His chosen one a particular virtue and a particular office, enshrining the one and other in the image of stone, of rock, that is the virtue of firmness, of stability, of solidness, of immobility and of inability to be defective, both in time and in the vicissitudes of life."
The Pope declared that "the thought of the Lord is most clear, and it is that which gives the Papacy its unique nature and its wonder. For those who have some knowledge and some experience of the fragility of human beings, the words of Jesus to Peter appear thus, (showing) His divine daring which triumphs over human weakness and which challenges the frailty of constructions built in the sands of time. It is a miracle of equilibrium, of resistance, of vitality, which finds its explanation in the presence of Christ in the person of Peter."
"St. Peter speaks of it in his first letter, calling Christ the Living Rock, the cornerstone. By Jesus the figure of the rock is then attributed to the first of His Own Apostles. St. Leo the Great well says, ‘Jesus willed that Peter should bear the very name that He Himself gave him.’
“A meditation upon the design of God, upon the thought of Christ, upon the function of His Vicar must come from having an audience with the Pope, so as to understand and confirm our common vocation of being Catholics, of being men and women who know and live the great plan of salvation offered to the world by Divine Goodness.”
The Register, Vol. XL, Feb. 16, 1964.
The authority of the Pope was not shaken but only increased during the Vatican council. Not only was the final word always left to the Pope, but there was a tendency to do away with all which in the order of the routine of many ages preserved a continuity that locked the authority of the Pope within the framework of specifically Catholic tradition. The institute of the papacy is elevated to an unheard of height, on the threshold of the renewal of the whole internal content and the entire external form of Catholicism.
By what is this renovation inspired, and what is its task? ls it the strengthening of the Truth of Latinism, as it revealed itself in the secular practice of the Vatican? No! A different task has been set — an ecumenical one! So the Catholic sees before himself not only a picture of the crumbling of that whole by which he was accustomed to exhaust his understanding of Truth. He sees a notorious, obvious, boundless transformation of the very concept of Truth, which finally turns out to be nothing more than the papacy itself. The papacy is ready to cover over everything that bears the name of Christianity; it will find a common language with Judaism; it will include in the sphere of influence of its infallibility finally all within the world which “believes” in one way or another — not excluding in principle, in expectation of their “evolution,” even those who now struggle with Faith and have as their task the establishment of universal atheism. And it is in this direction that Pope Paul is in unanimity with Patriarch Athenogoras, who, without any reservation, also awaits a renewal of the whole world-complex of “faiths.” If he was so anxious to meet the Pope, it was not because he looked for unification on these or other foundations of Orthodoxy and Catholicism: with his inspired gaze he envisages a new era, in which both Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and in general all faiths — will disappear in the rays of a New Pentecost.
This is what we are now facing!