PATH OF THE RUSSIAN CHURCH ABROAD – PATH OF CHURCH TRUTH
Translated by Seraphim Larin
From the very first days of Her creation, the fundamental significance of the Russian Church Abroad was that, beginning with Met. Anthony, She was the bearer of Church Truth in our dark and deceitful times. The Serbian Patriarch Barnabas, in a homily spoken in the Russian Holy Trinity Church in Belgrade, spoke thus of Met. Anthony (Khrapovitsky), the founder of the ROCA: “Among you is a great hierarch, who is the adornment of the Universal Orthodox Church. This towering mind is akin to the first Hierarchs of Christ’s Church at the beginning of Christianity. And it is in him that the Church Truth is encapsulated…”
The authority of ROCA among the Orthodox Churches stood just as high in the following decades. Before anything else, She acquired this position through the eminent spiritual authority of Her First Hierarchs. As humans, Her primates may have made mistakes, but no one would suspect them of dishonesty, faint-heartedness, petty politics and personal gain.
In his epistle on the 15/28 March 1998, Met. Vitaly noted the “exceptional and unique significance of the Church Abroad in the Universal Orthodox Church and all of the non-Orthodox Western Christianity”.
He wrote: “Our Church – is the Virgin, fleeing into the wilderness from the red Dragon… Through our Holy Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, the voice of Holy Rus’ resonates, whose essence and nature is innermost, hidden, spiritual, always insatiable thirst of a Russian soul to live the lives of the Saints, to live according to the Holy Gospel…If this voice is silenced, there will be neither Holy Rus’ – nor Russia Herself…”
The jubilee icon painted in memory of the centenary of ROCA carries in its upper part a depiction of the Saints glorified by the Church Abroad. At the bottom of the icon, are the notables of ROCA – glorified and not glorified. They are those who made the Church Abroad that which She was – a beacon of the Church Truth.
The icon also depicts prominent churches of the Russian diaspora. Although these churches are now in the hands of those united with the MP – holding them physically, they are alien to the spiritual significance of these churches. They were erected through the donations and selfless efforts by those, who have been now betrayed by those united with the MP.
Likewise, the ROCOR-MP is also celebrating this hundred year jubilee, but ineffectively: Her history only began in 2007. What have they in common with Met. Anthony who wrote to Met. Sergius (Stragorodsky) that “if he remains on the wide path, leading to perdition… it will bring him ignominiously to the depths of hell”? What have they in common with Met. Anastasy, who had charged “to have no canonical, prayerful and even simple everyday communion” with the MP hierarchs? What have they in common with Met. Philaret, who didn’t acknowledge the presence of grace in MP’s sacraments? What have they in common with Met. Vitaly, who didn’t bless Brother Joseph to bring the Myrrh-streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God to Russia, where it would have been met by MP Bishops?
For the last hundred years, the Russian Church has endured exceptional trials and thanks to this, She has been enriched with priceless experience which the other local Churches do not have. It is the persecution from the godless Bolshevism and the ensuing emergence of the temptation of Sergianism. Russian Holy Hierarchs – New Martyrs gave a profound spiritual analysis of this phenomenon. However, Sergianism is not a problem of the past; currently, Sergianism changes in appearance, and under new circumstances emerges in a new form.
Today, when many are beginning to see that the apocalyptic process of enslavement of humanity to the forthcoming Antichrist has begun, the official Orthodoxy not only does not oppose the authorities that are closing churches and prohibiting church services, but also supports these rulings, agreeing with them.
During persecution, the Church did not engage in open opposition with the authorities but went into a catacomb status and continued to secretly conduct divine services. Today, through their decrees, the ROCOR-MP Bishops are demanding from their clergy and laity to follow the directions of the civil authorities that prohibit prayer in churches. What can this be other than Sergianism?
World Orthodoxy, imbued with Sergianism, is a salt that has lost its flavour. The Church is by nature alien to the world. The Lord says about His disciples: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). World Orthodoxy is fully “of the world”. It lives in the concept of compromise, directed toward creating its existence in a world of comfort and security while preserving a superficial form of Orthodoxy.
Sergianist official Orthodoxy at times may appear with protests in relation to some individual violation of God’s law by the authorities, but it will do so only up to the point where it is safe. It will never cross the line to become a direct and principled opposition to the authorities.
Vladyka Met. Vitaly wrote thus in his Report to the Bishops Council in 1983, named by him as “Apocalypse in our days”:
“Our Pastors and their congregations are living in contemporary conditions of a specific spirit, which – without any minute exaggeration or some type of mystical fascination, can be called pre-apocalyptic…”
Similar sentiment was characteristic for the whole of the Church Abroad. Anticipation of Apocalypse’s nearness was part of the worldview for many of Her faithful. The Hierarchs of the Church Abroad possessed a clear vision of the universal apostasy and the spirit of the approaching Antichrist.
Astonishingly, as soon as unification occurred in 2007, this insight was erased completely from the ROCOR-MP Church’s consciousness, and this of course, was not by chance. There must have been deep spiritual reasons for such a change in consciousness. First, the trampling of conscience and calculated renunciation of ROCA’s tradition and Her ideals was a profound spiritual downfall, which engendered an indelible imprint on the soul. As a result, there was an obscuration of conscience and loss of spiritual vision.
On the other hand, while in Russia there is a very strong apocalyptic sentiment among specific circles of faithful, it is alien to the MP official ideology. The MP ideology was formulated in the spirit of compromise with the Communist doctrine, which proclaims a utopia of a Communist paradise on earth. It’s understandable that Apocalypse and the “bright future” of Communism cannot be combined in any way. That’s why after the unification with the MP, it became impossible for ROCOR-MP to adhere to its former convictions. In such new surroundings, to speak about the approaching end of the world would be incongruous, incorrect.
According to the interpretations of the Holy Fathers, “restraining” the coming of Antichrist (2 Thes. 2) – from the political side, is a Tsar’s autocratic power, while from the spiritual side – the grace of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s Church is a treasury of God’s grace. The grace of the Holy Spirit that abides in the Church preserves Her in truth and keeps Her pure, and alien to all delusion and falsity.
Antichrist’s authority will be established on deceit; this will be a kingdom of universal deceit, allurement. Humanity, that has fallen away from Christ, will trust the seducer and believe in him as a god. Understandably, Christ’s true Church – “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), appears as an invincible obstacle on the path of Antichrist’s seduction of the human race.
After the fall of ROCA in 2007, a spiritual vacuum arose, because there is no other Church that upholds that ministry which ROCA carried – to be the voice of truth in the world.
To be witness of the Gospel’s truth to the world – this is the Church’s ministry, without which the existence of the world becomes senseless.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that as a voice of the Church truth, the Russian Church Abroad was the last restraining principle on the path of the Antichrist. It was imperative to get Her out of the way; and when this occurred, there was no longer a “restrainer” left in the world. The fact that ROCA was insignificant in size, didn’t belittle Her significance and Her witness of Truth. “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5). The nature of light is such that in the darkness, even a small source of light can be seen clearly and at a long distance. After the fall of ROCA in 2007, there weren’t any obstacles left for the appearance of Antichrist – neither from a political standpoint nor spiritual.
In the same report to the Bishops Council, Vladyka Vitaly wrote:
“To everyone… the fateful question will be put to them: who are you with? With Christ or with demons? And there won’t be any place for a spiritual neutrality – it will no longer be possible to remain as if on the sidelines… The choice is simple and clear: Light or darkness, Christ or Belial… A great multitude of Orthodox Christians will not be able to endure such a searing trial and will fall mightily… The only ones left will be those with unhypocritical love for Christ, loyal to Him even unto death…”
The time of this trial, about which Met. Vitaly spoke prophetically, has arrived, and found us unprepared. Today, when the powers of evil have begun to act with unheard-of arrogance and force, it’s essential for us to forsake mutual divisions and old scores, and unite around the Chalice of Christ. We must learn to look upon the remaining ROCA “fragments” as part of the one and only Russian Church. Indeed, in accordance with Patriarch Tikhon’s Ukase No.362, this is the way the Russian Church has to be arranged today: like autonomous church groups, found in Eucharistic communion with one another.
We must do everything in our power to overcome the divisions that exist among us. These divisions don’t have any serious canonical basis supporting them. They happened as a result of human prejudices and passions, as well as – one can suppose – by clandestine schemes of the Russian Church’s enemies, who have organised the unification in 2007; they too took time out to slander and fragment us.
However, the Russian Church Abroad is alive; Her history did not finish in 2007. We are not delivering a requiem on the Church Abroad. Those at the time who did not follow the Bishops – traitors, must take heart and realise the enormous responsibility that has befallen us. Whatever trials and tribulations that the Lord will allow His Church to experience, we must stand firm on the historical path upon which our ROCA followed for 100 years – the path of Church Truth.
May God’s power be made perfect in our weakness!