Saturday, June 23, 2012
Vol. 2 Issue 3
A BI-MONTHLY BULLETIN OF THE
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD.
No 2 (3)
Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!
The editorial staff of “The Sower”congratulates
its dear readers with the glorious
Feast Day of Christ’s Resurrection
and wishes all of you the peace and spiritual joy
of the Resurrected Christ!
Paschal Epistle of the First Hierarch
of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad,
The Most Reverend Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov)
(1910 – 2006)
(First Hierarch РПЦЗ 1986 – 2001)
Christ is Risen!
I congratulate all of you, our entire flock, which is scattered throughout the nations like God’s wheat.
Pascha, the holy of holies, when Heaven bends down to our impoverished land and transforms everyone and everything with its bright light. That is why Pascha is and always will be for every Orthodox soul the actual, spiritual, final and only goal of all our lives. It is the sacred goal of all mankind to be eternally with our Resurrected Savior after the Common Resurrection.
Still we often forget that Passion Week stands imperturbably along the way to this eternal, blissful Pascha. The dismissals of the Great Thursday and Great Friday of the Holy and Salvific Passions of our Lord Jesus Christ proclaim succinctly and strongly what our Savior endured, “With abundant grace, He showed us the way of goodly humility...” and “Having suffered being spat upon and beaten and scourging, He overcame the cross and death to save the world...”. This path to Pascha is exemplified by two supreme Christian virtues – Humility and Tolerance of Suffering.
If we are not capable of even coming close to such a lofty example as the humility and tolerance of our Lord, then at least we can carry out that which the Church prescribes in these sacred days of Great Lent. One must fast in earnest as instructed by the church rules and not spare oneself in the number of half and full prostrations. If the flesh, our body begins to complain, to cry out from the effort and we resort to the ordinary, polite bowing of our heads, then remind it what the great ascetic of Christ’s Church, St. John of the Ladder, said, “My flesh, my body, you are my friend and you are my enemy ...” (Sermon 15, paragraph 86). I am linked to you for eternity, since you will be resurrected and we will be together forever. Be my friend during this short life on earth and then we will be worthy to celebrate Pascha and never forget It while here on his pitiful coil. We shall labor not pitying ourselves and obtain eternal peace.
I, humble Vitaily, Your Archpastor, wish You a radiant Pascha.
Pascha – 1998
Protopresbyter Valeriy Alekseyev
(1937 – 2011)
Protopresbyter Valeriy Alekseyev was born on February 16\March 1, 1937, in Odessa and was baptized in the church at the St. Dmitriy cemetery. His father, Boris Andreyevich Alekseyev, and mother, Vera Petrovna Alekseyeva-Grossul-Tolstaya, were both Orthodox.
Fr. Valeriy’s mother was persecuted for fifteen years as a member of the nobility and landed gentry. Fr. Valeriy’s father was a lieutenant in General Denikin’s army and earned the Order of St. George, Imperial Russia's highest military order. During World War II, he was a member of the Russian All-Military Union and Russian Corps in Serbia. He was repatriated later to the Soviet Union. He was trained as a medical doctor. He was sentenced to the prison camps for 15 years in 1950. He was rehabilitated posthumously in 1993. The family lived in a house in Odessa on the same street and near the house of the Aleksandrov family, who were parents of ROCA Bishop Daniel.
From the age of seven, Fr. Valeriy was an altar attendant in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Equal to the Apostles, which was known as the “church of the Russian officers.” Orphaned by the death of his mother, who died at an early age from tuberculosis, and his father’s imprisonment, he had a difficult childhood and equally difficult teenage years. The love of the life in the church was felt from an early age and formed the basis of the rest of his life. He began reading on the kliros of the Holy Trinity Church in Odessa, and in the 1970’s, he entered the second class of the Leningrad Theological Seminary.
He completed his studies at the Moscow Theological Seminary. Fr. Valeriy was consecrated a reader, then later a subdeacon and ordained a deacon on October 27, 1994. He was ordained a priest on November 4, 1994. He served in parishes of the Tulsk-Belevsk, Kirovogradsk, Nikolayevsk and Odessa dioceses of the MP. Fr. Valeriy was later named dean of the Izmailovsk district and taught comparative religion and sectology at the Odessa Theological Seminary. He was also the secretary of the MP Odessa diocese administration.
Fr. Valeriy never supported “sergianist” church policies and fought for the truth at every assignment in the church. After long considerations of his life in the church, a pastor’s duty, responsibility before God and his personal salvation, and the grave violations of dogma by the MP episcopate, he decided to join the Russian True Orthodox Church, which was a jurisdiction of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops at that time (it was registered as a ROCA diocese in 2004). He joined as a priest on November 2, 1997, after completing the rite of penitence as instructed by the Holy Gospel, “And ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.”
Fr. Valeriy was the rector of the Church of Holy Martyr Tsarevich Aleksy since March 15, 1997. He also served as dean of the Odessa deanery since February 23, 2001, was the chairman of the Spiritual Court of the diocese since February 5, 2002, and dean of the Sts. Cyril and Methodius theological seminary since 1998. In his years as a priest, Fr. Valeriy was awarded the right to wear a kamilavka, an epigonation (nabedrennik), and a pectoral cross. He became an archpriest in 1986 and was later awarded a palitza, a jeweled cross and a mitre. Fr. Valeriy was elevated to the rank of protopresbyter in May, 2010.
On April 4, 2011, at 17:00 Fr. Valeriy suffered a brain hemorrhage and was taken to the hospital. He never regained consciousness.
Protopresbyter Valeriy died on April 7, 2011, at 1800 on the feast day of the Annunciation.
From the Editor: I had the honor of becoming acquainted with Fr. Valeriy at the IV All-Diaspora Council, and met him again later, when he visited America. His kindness and warmth of soul impressed me greatly. Despite the difficulties encountered in his life, Fr. Valeriy radiated Christian love and joy. His life showed that he was a loyal son of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and a true champion of Christ.
God grant him eternal peace!
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№ 2 (6)
A lecture given by Hegumena Aleksandra (Chernyavskaya), the abbess of the St. John of Shanghai Convent in the village of Egorovka, Ukraine, at the second annual conference “ROCA’s Paths in Today’s World” held on August 23-26, 2011, at the Archangel Michael Cathedral in Odessa.
Our Bishops, Examples of Service.
All the bishops of the Church Abroad whom I will discuss today and with whom I was personally well acquainted all shared the same viewpoint. They all grieved deeply over the tragedy of 1917 in Russia and considered the scourge to be God’s punishment for the Russian people’s abandonment of the faith. All our bishops were committed monarchists. All of them believed in the rebirth of Russia and the mighty mission of the Russian people – to be bearers of God.
They considered the mission of the Church Abroad to be the spiritual nourishment of the multitudes of the Russian diaspora, as well as the preaching of Orthodoxy throughout the world. Likewise in regard to church services and the duties of pastors, all the bishops were of one mind in all major matters. They scrupulously followed the guidelines set down by the Synod and Typicon in liturgical practice. The conducting of the services, the ektenias, and the prayers – all were done identically. Prayers and supplications in ektenias that were added were done in strict accordance with the decisions of the Synod. The clergy did not exhibit willfulness or independence regarding prayers and ektenias.
Since every person is an individual, each one of the bishops that I will discuss had their own approach and their own personal style in the conducting of church services. It is such aspects that I will consider in my lecture.
Bishop Vitaly (Ustinov)
I became acquainted with Bishop Vitaly after the death of Bishop Philaret. He was separated from his parents when he was ten years old and ended up with other emigres in Yugoslavia, where he attended a cadet academy. A year later his mother was found. When he was 13, the future bishop lived in France where he graduated from a Jesuit college.
Even though the future bishop lived among the French, he remained a true Russian patriot. The abbot of the college where he studied was very fond of his student and did not constrain his faith and gave him assignments on religious topics connected with Russia (on the works of Pushkin, Dostoevsky). Bishop Vitaly loved Russia with all his soul. He said this regarding Russians, “A Russian is either a pig and animal or a saint.” He believed in the ideal of monarchism as well as the idea of a rebirth of mighty Russia. In sermons, he spoke with great passion about the better qualities of the Russian soul.
Bishop Vitaly went to bed early and would arise at two in the morning to pray and read the midnight office. While living in the Synod building, he observed as much of a monastic life as he could. Bishop Vitaly did not have a good musical ear. Nevertheless, he and all the other first hierarchs before him greatly enjoyed when regular services were conducted in a decorous and beautiful manner and with a full choir. He never missed services. Similarly to all our other first hierarchs, he did not tolerate willfulness, disregard or rudeness.
Bishop Vitaly aroused in people a particular love of Russia and the faith of the revival of the true Orthodox faith. Speaking of the Russian emigration at the time, he said, “The castoffs are coming here, while the Russian soul is an Orthodox soul.” This opinion by Bishop Vitaly led me to go to Russia.
Another trait is shared by all the bishops of whom I will speak today. None of them ever complained about being ill or tired. They considered them to be God’s blessings, which need to be endured and not imposed on those around them. Whenever asked about his health, Bishop Vitaly always answered with a smile, “Fantastic!”
(to be continued)
His memory is from generation to generation...
On the fifth anniversary of the repose of the Most Blessed Metropolitan Vitaly.
Protodeacon German Ivanov-Trinadzty
At each panikhida, we sing “His memory is from generation to generation.” But will many remember the ever-memorable Metropolitan Vitaly in their prayers on this Sunday (October 25, 2006, - ed.) the very day of the fifth anniversary of his passing?
The faithful sons of the Church Abroad will undoubtedly remember and exalt him in fervent prayers of thanksgiving.
The perpetrators of the betrayal, on the contrary, having finally stifled the voice of their conscience through persistent, constant falsehood, have henceforth directed their gaze and their thoughts in a completely different direction and do not wish to remember the past. They have begun to live a new life. It is possible that some among them, at the recollection of their deeds, experience the agonizing torment of conscience, that little voice of God that is put into each person, and, like Boris Godunov who shouted, "Keep away, keep away, child," they try to sweep aside the still recent past, but the face of the profaned Metropolitan and the memory of their iniquities from time to time do not give them rest.
And there is a third category of people: the mass of those who, on account of weakness, on account of spiritual negligence, in observance of “obedience” followed the betrayers and thereby think that they do not bear responsibility or guilt for what has happened, in which they are profoundly mistaken. Let them not lull their conscience; they too, though perhaps to a lesser extent, have also betrayed the Metropolitan and have betrayed their Fathers and their past.
Metropolitan Vitaly was the last link connecting us to the real Russia. He was the last hierarch in the world who was born in Tsarist Russia and who remembered how, as a ten year old boy together with the valiant White Army, he left forever the shores of Russia, which he kept in his heart throughout his long life. He was the last representative of those giants of spirit who created the special image of the Church Abroad that could not be compared with anything else. He was, as Metropolitan Agafangel once wrote, an “icon of the Church Abroad”.
The fate of the reposed Metropolitan is in many ways similar to the fate of the Holy Tsar-Martyr. Indeed, just like him, he could say, “All around are treachery and cowardice and deceit.” Just as till now there is a “huge mass of monarchists” who denounce the Sovereign as allegedly not being in any way a victim, but the very first initiator of the revolution and of the collapse of Russia since he abdicated the throne – yes, there are such cranks! – so too there are people without a conscience who assert that the Metropolitan himself was guilty in the breakdown of the Church Abroad and that it was necessary to “remove” him from the office of First Hierarch in order to save the Church, just as it was necessary to “remove” the Sovereign in order to save Russia. The same falsehood comes through both there and here. The First Hierarch and the Tsar are also not presidents of republics; they are not appointed directors of enterprises for a fixed period – they are the bearers of a special charism, and they are not “removed” as not being needed anymore. They remain on the Throne until the moment when the Lord calls them to Himself. But when, through force or deceit, they are forced to step down from the Throne, that is the vilest overthrow and a revolution, as took place in February, 1917, and as occurred 10 years ago in 2001. Such overthrows cannot be blessed ones, since the driving force in these iniquities is always the same – treachery, wherein the devil serves as an advocate.
No one will dispute that Metropolitan Vitaly, by virtue of his advanced age and memory loss, could not sin and make mistakes, especially when he was intentionally led into error and his physical weaknesses were taken advantage of. But until his last breath, he remained faithful to the Idea, was unbending in defense of the Truth and uncompromising toward evil. The reposed Metropolitan bore a heavy cross during the last years of his earthly life; but like the Sovereign, he bore it completely without complaint. No one ever heard a single word of complaint, reproach or thirst for revenge. Not once. Without complaint, with the greatest humility, he endured both mockery and attempts on his life. The only thing that he said was “ANATHEMA” three times to his tormentor, the unworthy “bishop” Mikhail Donskov, who to this day by his presence defiles our Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Cross in Geneva.
The merciful Lord called him to Himself six months before the union with the MP. And so his eyes did not see that greatest infamy, which was committed by those whom, in the majority of cases, he himself had elevated to the hierarchal rank, seeing in them worthy defenders of the foundations of the Church Abroad. With bodily eyes he did not see, but with spiritual eyes he saw everything. And these emotional experiences were for him undoubtedly much more painful than physical ones.
By forgiving all and through the submission to destiny and the will of God – let is not be afraid to say – he was raised to sainthood.
Let everyone think about this. There is still time for repentance. Metropolitan Vitaly was an “icon” and a "guide". He showed and continues to show to each one the path of honor and truth, the path delineated by his three marvelous predecessors, Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret. But will Christian conscience, or simply ordinary courage, be sufficient for each one of us, who does not want to finally resemble the despicable “Februarists,” in order to stand firmly on this path?
Memory eternal, dear Vladyka Metropolitan!
Vol. 2 Issue 5
Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord September 14\27
Finding of the Cross
The cross was found by the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, Empress Helena, who had come to Palestine, and Bishop Makarios of Jerusalem (314 - 333). Excavations had uncovered the cave of the Holy Sepulchre and three crosses were found not far from it. A sick woman was laid on each cross one at a time and the Cross of Christ was identified when she was healed. According to another tradition, a dead man came back to life after coming into contact with the cross as he was borne along the street for burial (hence the name Life-Giving Cross).
Holy Empress Helen commemorated the places involving the earthly life of the Savior, founding more than 80 churches, including one at the place of Christ’s Nativity in Bethlehem, one on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended into heaven, one in Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings and one where the Mother of God was buried after Assumption. St. Helen brought back with her to Constantinople a part of the Life-Giving Tree and the nails. Equal to the Apostles Emperor Constantine ordered a majestic and vast church to be erected in Jerusalem to honor the Resurrection of Christ, which included in itself the Holy Sepulchre and Golgotha. The construction of the temple took almost 10 years. St. Helena did not live to see the consecration of the temple, she died in 327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. The next day, September 14 , was established as the day to celebrate the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross.
Return of the Cross
Another event associated with the Cross of the Lord is commemorated on this day – its return to Jerusalem from 14 years of captivity in Persia. In a war against the Greeks, the Persian king Hozroy II defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and took captive the Life-Giving Cross of our Lord and Patriarch Zacharias (609 - 633). The Cross remained in Persia for 14 years and only during the reign of Emperor Heraclius (610 - 641), who defeated Hozroy, with the help of God, and then made peace with his son, was the sacred Cross of the Lord returned to Christians.
The Cross of faithful belief.
A sermon on the feast day of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Archbishop Averky (Taushev).
The Cross is the keeper of the world, the Cross is an adornment of the Church, the Cross is a symbol of the power of tsars, the Cross is a symbol of faithful belief, the Cross is the glory of angels and the plague of demons. (Hymn to the Cross)
The Cross of the Lord is such a mighty sacred object for us that besides the frequent entreaties to it and its mention in daily services and prayers, the Holy Church deemed it necessary for all of Orthodoxy to establish a great feast day dedicated to it – the feast day of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross of the Lord – and have the feast day join the list of the most important so-called Twelve Great Feasts.
It is a wonderful autumnal feast! In a way it completes all the other feasts and sums them all up. Having painted a picture of the Divine Economy of God to soothe our souls, including the grace-filled and wise counsel of God concerning our salvation embodied in all the great feasts dedicated to the Lord and the Mother of God, the Holy Church concludes by leading us to worship at the Lord’s Cross as if to say, “You have seen all that God has done for your salvation, but you do not know yet what you should do to be saved. I say to you on this day, if you desire to be saved, then cling to Christ’s Cross and you will be saved. It harbors miraculous life-giving powers which will resurrect your soul that has been deadened by sins. Learn to love the Lord’s Cross, which is a mighty symbol of God’s love and an instrument of your salvation, learn to love the Lord’s Cross above all else in the world, cling to it not only with your adoring lips, but with all your soul, with all your body and you will be saved!”
That is because the Lord’s Cross is a wonderful instrument of our salvation, our redemption from sin, damnation and eternal death. Christ “nailed a record of our sins” to the Cross. On the Cross, “Christ the King willingly spread his arms and lifted us to the first blessing, if thine enemy absconds with thy goodness, he will be driven out by God.” On the Cross, Christ “endured crucifixion and conquered death by death.”
That is why the Cross for us Christians is no longer an instrument of terrible humiliating punishment, as it was in ancient times when it was an instrument of damnation, “cursed…hanging on the tree” as told in the Old Testament, but an instrument of God’s blessing, a symbol of joy.
The Cross of the Lord is also for us Christians a great and wonderful symbol of the infinite love of God for fallen man which cannot be expressed in any human language: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16). The Cross of the Lord constantly reminds us of that great truth which was revealed to us only by the beloved student of Christ, the apostle of love St. John the Theologian, that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16), because “since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4;11)
How many important, no, very important instructive truths do we receive from venerating the Cross of Christ!
Convent of St. Nicholas
Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, the Wonderworker
24 Tynan Road, Cleveland, NY 13042, USA
A youth summer camp was held at the St. Nicholas Convent from July 31 to August 13. The first week was devoted to those from 13 to 20 years old, with 22 children in attendance. Among other activities, they also studied choral singing and serving at the kliros. The second week was for those from 6 to 12 years old and 25 children took part in a range of activities. Services were held every day and all the children took confession and communion. The camp was organized by the convent abbess, Mother Agapia. More details and photos are available on the monastery website: http://www.stnicholasconvent.org/.
Vol. 2 Issue 4
Volume II Issue 4
An excerpt from the Special Session of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad on May 14\27, 2011:
Resolved: After reviewing and discussing the request, the Synod of Bishops RESOLVES: That until their status is decided at the upcoming Council of Bishops meeting, the parish of Holy Royal Martyr Nicholas in Zavyalov, the parish of St. Sergius of Radonezh in Meshcheryak (Udmurtia oblast, RF), and priests Archpriest Sergey Kondakov, Archpriest Mikhail Karpeev and Fr. Aleksandr Malykh will be considered parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate within the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and temporarily under the authority of the First Hierarch.
A notice on the Forum section of the Live Journal of the ROCA First Hierarch, Metropolitan Agafangel, on June 8, 2011 (http://agafa-angel.livejournal.com/):
Our Future – Page 75
Somehow without noticing it has become acceptable to consider the ROCA separate from the Moscow Patriarchate, when our fathers considered themselves a part of it. The Church Abroad also has always differentiated between the Moscow Patriarchate (the religious Russian people) and the Moscow Patriarchia (the church administration which voluntarily entered into a state of dependence from the Soviet regime). This is discussed in part in the Encyclical of the ROCA Council of Bishops of 1927. This Encyclical is applicable and binding today as well.
A notice on the Forum section of the Live Journal of the ROCA First Hierarch, Metropolitan Agafangel, on June 12, 2011 (http://agafa-angel.livejournal.com/):
An answer to questioners.
We cannot cede the entire Moscow Patriarchate, that is the complete Local Russian Church, to the “Moscow Patriarchia.” The title itself “Moscow Patriarchia” for those whom we call by that name is too laudatory and has been impertinently labeled as such with the help of the Soviet regime. Since that is what has happened, we (ROCA) have accepted the historical appellation, while always considering it the pseudo-religious administration created by Stalin. It is now time to state categorically and unequivocally that the title “Moscow Patriarchia” applies only to the unlawful administration and in no way to the entire Russian Church. The ROCA has never recognized the “patriarchs” of this “Patriarchia” and continues not to recognize them.
ENCYCLICAL EPISTLE OF THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS
OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD
AUGUST 27\SEPTEMBER 9 1927
“Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love
our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
We inform you, our beloved faithful, of the latest events of note in the life of our Holy Church.
In July of this year the deputy locum tenens, Metropolitan Sergius of Nizhegorod, and the Provisional Patriarchal Synod published an important epistle regarding the status of the Church in Russia and its relation to the Soviet regime and the flock abroad.
This epistle is quite remarkable.
It announces that with the start of the Patriarchal Synod’s activity, our Church in Russia “not only has a canonical, but also in light of civil statutes, a completely legal central administration” and it calls on us to “express publicly our gratitude” to the Soviet regime “for its consideration of the spiritual needs of the Orthodox population and to consider it legal and pledge loyalty to it ‘not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake’ (Romans 13:5), and to see the Soviet Union as our national homeland, whose triumphs and successes are also our triumphs and successes, whose failures are our failures” and that “every attack on the Union, will be regarded as an attack against the representatives of the Church.” The epistle deems it necessary and mandatory that all of us for whom the “interests of the Church are dear,” for those who “wish to lead it on the course of a legal and peaceful existence,” that we “representatives of the Church” show that we “are not with the enemies of the Soviet government and their senseless games of intrigues, but with our people and our government.”
The epistle also judges our clergy and laity abroad for their disloyalty to the Soviet regime and for coming out against it, with the epistle demanding that the clergy issue a written pledge of its total loyalty to the Soviet government “in all its national service,” and threatening to expel our clerics from the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchia.
Finally, the epistle reminds us that Holy Patriarch Tikhon allegedly dissolved our Synod of Bishops in 1922, that the Synod is “unchanged politically,” and allegedly “its claim of authority has even divided the church abroad into two camps.”
Such is the latest decision of the deputy Patriarchal locum tenens and his Provisional Holy Synod.
How should we comment on it?
The sacred and responsible duty of the bishops of the Church and our Christian conscience command us to say the following about this action:
The epistle of Metropolitan Sergius and members of the Holy Synod was not written freely, but under powerful pressure from the persecutors of our Holy Church and tormentors of the Russian people – the Bolsheviks, as not a single bishop free of the oppression and captivity of these evil enemies of Christ can consider their government to be lawful, cannot trust their peaceful intentions to the Holy Church and cannot hope to establish normal relations between it and the Church. The whole world knows the enormous number of servers of the altar of the Lord and the faithful sons of the Church – the laity – that has been slain by the proponents of the godless Soviet government, how many sacred sites of the Russian people have been violated and desecrated or even destroyed, how many bishops, pastors and laypeople are now enduring imprisonment, exile and deportation, abuse and suffering for the holy faith and the patristic teachings. The diabolical persecution of Christ and His Holy Church in tormented Russia have gone on for almost ten years, persecutions which bring to mind the first centuries of Christianity. How can one express gratitude publicly to such a government? How can one take joy in its joys and lament its failures? No, the goodwill of our bishops did not produce this epistle; it was done by the evil enemies of Christ.
The epistle declares an unattainable goal – to establish an unheard of and unnatural union between the atheistic government and the Holy Orthodox Church.
It can be expressed by the words of the Gospel, “what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). The successes of the Soviet government result in the impoverishment of religion and piety, an increase in lawlessness, the corruption of the people, the destruction of the Church, the suffering of faithful sons and daughters of God, the spilling of blood of the righteous and the enthronement of the kingdom of the Satan on earth. Can this possibly be a joy for the Church?
Metropolitan Sergius’ epistle is not that of a bishop or of the church. It is political and therefore cannot have any ecclesiastical or canonical significance and is not binding for us, since we are free from the oppression and bondage of the anti-God and anti-Christian government. Under the pretext of peaceful relations with the Church and allowing Metropolitan Sergius to establish a Holy Synod, the Bolsheviks compelled him and the other bishops to declare that the Soviet government is a legal one, that it should be obeyed, that it is created by God, that its interests coincide with the interests of the Holy Church and that all opposition to it is criminal and should be punished through the chastisements of the Church. In this way, the epistle of the Church’s bishops has become one of the means of propaganda for the Soviet government and the insinuation of its atheistic policies into the life of the Church.
In this way the bishops bless the anti-Christian policies of the enemies of all religions. The situation is completely unnatural for the Church and is harmful and dangerous and is capable of creating new and difficult troubles for the Church and give grounds for doubt of the purity of Orthodoxy in Russia. The Church cannot bless policies that are anti-Christian and especially atheistic. Having said that, we do not want to say that the Church has to be separated from the government. The Church must be above all political machinations and party affiliation, yet it must bless not only the Christian policies of a government, but also its battle with those opposed to Christianity and especially those who are atheists.
What else can we say? Can we consider the Soviet government to be legal? Can we sign a pledge of loyalty to this government?
No, we cannot and should not do this. We consider the Soviet government to be illegal and not established by God and that it exists by the wisdom of God for our sins and for our enlightenment. We consider the Soviet government as one which abhors God and is atheistic and which is destroying the Church and Russia. We pray to the Lord that He free our Church and Russia from the oppression and bondage of this government.
Can we consider the resolution of the Provisional Patriarchal Synod legal when it forces bishops and other clerics to relinquish their responsibilities and removes them from the ranks of the Moscow Patriarchia if they refuse to sign a pledge of loyalty to the Soviet government? Such a resolution of the Synod cannot be considered legal and canonical. It must be considered an abuse of power and that it contradicts not only the holy canons of the Church and the epistle from the imprisoned bishops of Solovetsky to the Soviet government, but the epistle of Metropolitan Sergius himself from 1926, when he said it was not possible to accept punishing the clergy abroad “for their disloyalty to the Soviet Union.”
We cannot help but note that the enemies of the Church showed their hand in the section of the epistle that speaks about our Synod of Bishops. The epistle incorrectly states that the Holy Patriarch purportedly adjourned the Holy Synod in 1922. We must declare that at that time it was not the actual Synod of Bishops that was adjourned, but the Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority abroad. Our actual Synod was not adjourned by His Eminence Tikhon and not by his successor who now leads the Church, even though they all knew fully well of its existence. This is corroborated now by Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod, who did not dare declare it adjourned. By blending these two different bodies – the Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority abroad and the Synod of Bishops – the enemies of the Church tried to confuse its loyal members and deepen the turmoil in the Church abroad. The epistle falsely accuses our Synod of dividing the church body into two camps. Just the opposite, it always strived to unite all the dioceses and church missions abroad into one. Our church body was split by two metropolitans – Platon and Evlogiy. Earlier they had answered to our Synod and availed themselves of its help and support, but in 1926, unlawfully and without authorization, they separated from it and desired to head their dioceses on their own without answering to anyone and not recognizing any authority over themselves, thus placing themselves above the autocephalous hierarchs.
After a careful review of the epistle of the deputy Patriarchal locum tenens and the Provisional Holy Synod and bearing in mind that the governing church administration in Russia finds itself under great duress by the enemies of the Church and is not free to act, and that it is not possible for us to have normal relations with it, the Holy Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has decided:
1. The part of the All-Russia Church abroad must cease all relations with the church administration in Moscow in light of the impossibility of normal relations with it and in light of its subjugation by the atheistic Soviet government, which has deprived it from the independent and canonical administration of the Church.
2. To release our episcopate in Russia from the responsibility of the part of our Church which is abroad not recognizing the Soviet government, and until we can restore normal relations with Russia and until our Church is freed from persecution by the atheistic Soviet government, the part of our Church abroad must administer itself, in accordance with the Holy Canons, the rulings of the Holy Council of the All-Russia Local Orthodox Church in 1917-18 and the decisions of Holy Patriarch Tikhon, the Holy Synod and the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority in November 7\20, 1920, and by the Synod of Bishops and Council of Bishops headed by Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev.
3. The part of the All-Russia Church abroad considers itself the indivisible branch that is united spiritually with the mighty Russian Church. It does not separate itself from its Mother Church and does not consider itself to be autocephalous. As before, it considers its primate to be the Patriarchal locum tenens Metropolitan Peter and commemorates his name during religious services.
4. If a decree of Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod follows which excludes the bishops and clerics abroad who did not desire to sign a pledge of loyalty to the Soviet government from the ranks of the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate, then such a decree will be uncanonical.
5. We categorically reject the proposal by Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod to sign a pledge of loyalty to the Soviet government as being uncanonical and extremely harmful to the Holy Church in Russia as well as abroad.
In announcing our decision to all the faithful members of the Holy Church, we hope that our Mighty Elder Pastor, the Lord Jesus Christ, leads us to blessings, peace and joy and puts all of its enemies to shame.
“Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered…” (Psalm 68:1)
Metropolitan Anthony, Archbishop Theophan, Archbishop Seraphim, Bishop Sergius, Bishop Gabriel, Bishop Germogen, Bishop Theophan, Bishop Damian, Bishop Seraphim, Bishop Tikhon.
August 27\September 9, 1927
“Church Gazette.” 1927. Issue 17-18. Pages 1-3.
Vol. 2 Issue 2
The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete as a call to repentance.
Holy Metropolitan St. Philaret
As you can see and hear, dear ones, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is uniquely filled with a spirit of deep repentance. When St. Andrew of Crete, the great righteous luminary of the Orthodox Church wrote it, he firstly judges himself in all things then humbles himself before God and like a rank sinner asks for His forgiveness of his sins.
Sometimes in life a person’s conscience suddenly awakens, as they say, and loudly speaks to the person. This is especially true when a person has lived a dissolute life up to that point. The person gave no thought to God, or of the soul, or of eternity – or of anything! Later, the pure Light suddenly shines in the person’s soul and the person sees in the light of this truth, his or her entire sinfulness.
In such an instance, the Church helps the sinner who has realized his or her extreme irresponsibility or fault by showing examples of those who repented and through repentance were able to rise from the depths of sin straight to the heavens. That is why a penitent person should never fall into despair. One should humble oneself, when sins eat away at one’s conscience and when one’s soul aches from them. One must humble oneself before God acknowledge one’s worthlessness in all things and how useless one is, but never despair.
We hear of blessed Mary of Egypt in this canon. It is hard to imagine falling lower than she did, having disgraced her female honor and dignity completely, yet her repentance made her, as the Church says, a handmaiden of Christ. The venerable Zosima, a great saint in his own right, saw with his own eyes how she crossed over the Jordan River as if on dry land and ascended from the earth to the heavens while praying. This is what repentance bequeaths to all who repent sincerely!
A sermoner noted, while offering another example, that St. Mary’s repentance was longlasting. She asked for repentance even longer than all the many years that she sinned, until she truly became “an earthly angel and a person of heaven.” The other example is that of the Good Thief, who did not repent like St. Mary, but came to his senses only while suffering horribly on the cross just hours before his death, and what is it that he hears? He asks the Lord only to remember him in His Kingdom. As is often noted, our Lord fondly gives more than He is asked and that is why the Good Thief heard this answer, “Today (not on that day, when I shall return, but this day, today) you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) In citing this example of how a person who had sinned all his life and came to his senses only at the very end had been received, the sermoner notes that an Orthodox person does not have the right to despair, does not have the right to worry that his or her repentance will not be accepted, when the repentance of the thief was accepted.
Let us also consider the words of St. John Chrysostomos, who the Church calls the “prophet of repentance” for his special standing in the Church, as he liked to underline that where there is repentance, God’s mercy must be present. In a sense, the Lord welded, joined His mercy to the repentance of humankind. With good reason, He had said already in the Old Testament that who so ever comes to Him with genuine repentance then as the Lord said, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson (that is dark red), they shall be white like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Therefore, while acknowledging one’s sinfulness, remember at the same time that true repentance is a feeling not only of sorrow or dejection, but a genuine understanding of one’s sinfulness and dissoluteness along with joy, since we know that if we truly repent, that the Lord will not turn us away and will accept us as He accepted the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Amen.
SUNDAY OF THE PRODIGAL SON
This Sunday is called the Sunday of the Prodigal Son because of the Gospel parable read on this day. We have come to the end of the second preparatory week before the Holy Fast established by the Church for our benefit. The preceding week was fast-free, that is, there was no fast on Wednesday and Friday.
Last Sunday we heard the Gospel parable about the Publican and the Pharisee, in which the publican, realizing his sinfulness, could say nothing good about himself except for "God be merciful unto me, a sinner." The Pharisee, on the other hand, listed many of his supposed merits before God Who is All-knowing, among which was fasting, saying, "I fast twice a week". We do not know whether the publican fasted or not, but the Pharisee's fasting did not bring him benefit and was not credited to him as a virtue.
In order to feel the bitterness of sin more acutely, the Holy Orthodox Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has done away with fasting on Wednesday and Friday of the preceding week as a reproof of pharisaic fasting. But as this canceling of fast days before Lent may be a cause of some confusion, the Holy Apostle Paul in today's Apostle reading explains this, saying, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." (1 Cor. 6, 12).
Blessed Theodorit said, “This is because you live not under the law, but you are free and have the full right to choose. It is not always beneficial for you to take advantage of this right, for as soon as you commit an impropriety you lose this right and become a slave to sin."
Indeed, if we take a quick look at the Old Testament, which is based on the Law of Moses, we notice that the people of the Old Testament had few choices. Actually, they generally did not have any choices, except on rare occasions. If someone committed a sin, he was punished, often condemned to death by stoning. For example, the sin of fornication was punished by death, murder was punished by murder. The basic rule was "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." There was no place in the Old Testament for such strugglers as St. Mary of Egypt, the Holy Apostle Paul, the Canaanite woman, and others, because there was no spiritual freedom. Everyone was under the law, and the law was, if you sinned, you were punished.
In the New Testament, sin could be atoned by repentance, while true repentance can be attained only by a free realization of one's sinfulness. As a result, no one can be forced to repent!
And the Holy Apostle goes on to say, "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them... " (1 Cor. 6:13)
Whoever wants to exercise this freedom, let him do so, for the belly is made for food, but he should remember that this will come to an end, for in the life beyond the grave any food will be superfluous for people.
Thus, food was made by God to be used properly and not to be abused. This can be applied to all things in general, for the Apostle teaches us saying, “I will not be brought under the power of anything.” The improper use of fasting by the Pharisee did him harm, as shown by the Apostle reading and the fact that the Holy Church reproves it.
This does not mean that fasting should be set aside completely, as the Protestants have done, and it seems, Catholics now as well. Our Lord Himself set an example for fasting, and the Apostles fasted also as indicated in the Gospel. For the healing of a possessed person, the Lord clearly prescribed fasting, telling His disciples that this kind is not cast out except by prayer and fasting. Therefore, anyone who rejects fasting in general is implying that the Lord was not right when He fasted or he or she is contradicting themselves.
So, the Holy Apostle Paul at the end of today's Apostle reading calls us “to glorify God in your body … and in your spirit...,” saying that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How is this so? When we partake of the Christian sacraments, we receive the gifts and the seal of the Holy Spirit. This can be compared best of all to a seed; if we receive a seed and we water it, it will sprout. If we neglect it, it will not bring forth anything, and if we neglect it further, it will dry up completely. Likewise with the gifts of the Holy Spirit; they are given to us, but we can fail to use them!
These are all laws of spiritual life and how difficult they are for us to understand, mainly due to our carelessness. Indeed, we understand physical laws of nature and we do not consider them outdated. We accept them as they are, while with spiritual laws, there are always the “educated” people who want to change them. The laws which God established can never be abolished and the consequences of such “wisdom” are always sorrowful.
There are many things we can do, but they are usually far from useful to our spiritual and physical life. The Lord did not forbid us to use earthly blessings in “moderation.” Bearing in mind Holy Apostle Paul's counsel that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, let us present it as a sacrifice of abstinence and sanctify our soul with the remembrance of God's various blessings to us. Let us try somehow to adorn our spiritual life, so that our body can truly be called temples of God. The Lord will not disdain our efforts, as the father of the prodigal son did not disdain his son, but will bless us in this life here, and will not leave us when we cross over into eternity, to Whom is due glory to the ages. Amen.
Bishop of Washington, D.C.
February 7/20, 2011
A Christian Presses On
Nikolay Vasilievich Gogol
(A letter to Mr. S.)
My dear friend, consider yourself nothing less than a school kid or student. Don’t think you’re too old to learn. That your abilities have achieved true maturity and development and that your character and soul are fully formed and cannot be improved upon. There is no final course for a Christian, he or she is an eternal student and a student to the last days. Ordinarily, a person usually achieves full mental development at thirty years of age. From thirty to forty, a person’s abilities can still improve somewhat, but after forty there is little progress and everything he or she accomplishes is not only not better than before, but even worse and less vital than before. This is not the case for a Christian. Where others are constrained by their finished state that is where it starts for him or her. After even the most capable and most gifted people get past forty years of age, they get dense, tired and weak. List all the philosophers and the leading geniuses of this world. Their best years are at the peak of their maturity. Later, they slowly outlived their brilliant mind and in their older years even fell into their second childhood. Remember Kant, who in his final years lost his memory and passed away like a child.
Take a look at all the saints and you’ll see that they became stronger mentally and spiritually the closer they get to old age and death. Even those who weren’t endowed by nature with any amazing gifts and were considered ordinary and dimwitted all their lives impressed everyone later with the wisdom of their speeches. How’s that possible? It’s possible because they always embodied that strength to achieve, which most people usually have in their youth, when they see achievements before them for which they will be rewarded by general applause, and when distant horizons loom and are a lure for the young. The horizons and deeds have faded and the strength to achieve has faded, but for a Christian, the horizon radiates eternally and deeds shine eternally. Like a youngster, the Christian thirsts for the battles of life and he or she has what it takes for the fight and how to win, because his or her opinion of oneself as someone always eager to learn reveals new personal shortcomings, which necessitate new battles. That is why all of his or her abilities not only can’t fall asleep and weaken, but are stimulated constantly, and the desire to be a better person and earn applause in the heavens spurs the person more than even the most ambitious person is prodded by his or her ambitions. That is the reason why a Christian advances when others retreat and that is why he or she becomes wiser the farther they go.
Intellect is not our highest quality. Its duty is no more than being a policeman. It can only bring order and arrange all that which we have already. It cannot advance forward until all our other abilities improve, which then improves our intellect. Preoccupied with reading, thinking and listening to all the school materials forces it to advance only slightly forward. Sometimes it holds it back by interfering with its development. It relies to a great extent on our spiritual condition. As soon as passions begin to boil, it already begins to act blindly and stupidly. If the soul is at peace without any roiling passions, the intellect becomes clearheaded and acts properly. Reason is without a doubt a noble quality, but it is obtained only after defeating ones passions. Only those who don’t neglect their personal character possess reason. Yet reason is not enough for a person to progress forward. There is another noble quality called wisdom, which only Christ Himself can give us.
Wisdom is not allotted to any one of us at our birth, it is not inherent in any of us, but is a heavenly blessing. Those who already possess intellect and reason can obtain wisdom only by praying for it day and night and asking God for it day and night, lifting ones soul to a dovelike peace and cleansing ones soul as much as possible to accept this heavenly guest, which is frightened by domiciles where the spiritual home has not been set right and which is lacking in complete harmony. If it enters the home, then a heavenly existence begins for the person and he or she experiences all the pleasure of being a student. Everything becomes a teacher to the person, the entire world is a teacher, the lowliest of people can be a teacher for them. He or she can extract wisdom from the advice of a simple person. A simple object can lend a grain of wisdom and the entire universe opens itself to that person like an open book. The person will mine it for its treasures more than others, because unlike the others he remains a student. But if this person thinks even for a second that his or her education is complete, that he or she is no longer a student and takes umbrage at some lesson or schooling, then wisdom will be taken instantaneously from that person and he or she will remain in the dark, like King Solomon in his final days.