THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
AT THE CROSSROADS
From 1900 to the Present Day
Introduction: The Church and the Revolution
Ecucommunism and the Church - The Russian-Jewish Revolution - The Revolution: 1. Determinist Liberation - The Revolution: 2. Nationalist Internationalism - The Revolution: 3. Democratic Satanocracy - The Progress of the Revolution....................4
1. Russia: The Killing of the King (1900-1924)
Reform versus Stability – Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and Carpathian Rus’ - The February Revolution – The Moscow Council of 1917-18 - The Murder of the Tsar - The Patriarch and the Commissars - The Requisitioning of Church Valuables - The Renovationist Coup (1) - The Russian Church in Exile - The Renovationist Coup (2) - The Church in Georgia and Ukraine - The Renovationist Council of 1923 - The Lessons of Renovationism……………...……………………………........................18
2. Greece and the Balkans: The New Calendar Schism (1900-1924)
The Balkan Wars - The Ecumenical Patriarchate looks West - The Encyclical of 1920 - The Rise of Meletius Metaxakis – Unrest in Bessarabia - The Imperialism of Metaxakis - The Second Fall of Constantinople - The "Pan-Orthodox" Council of 1923 - The Introduction of the New Calendar - The Sin against Unity…..….............69
3. Russia: The Sovietization of the Moscow Patriarchate (1924-1939)
Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk - The Concept of the Catacomb Church - Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa - The Rise of Metropolitan Sergius - The Epistle of the Solovki Bishops - Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich - The Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius - The Birth of the Catacomb Church: Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd – Metropolitans Peter and Cyril - The Martyrdom of the Catacomb Church - The Fruits of Sergianism – The Vatican and Russia - The Catacomb Council of Ust-Kut.........................…………………………………………..................…...............100
4. Greece and the Balkans: The People's Truth (1924-1939)
The Miracle of the Cross - The Romanian Old Calendarists - The Confessors of Greece and Mount Athos - Not Bowing the Knee to Baal - Three Holy Priests - The Return of the Three Bishops - Signs from Heaven - Persecution in Romania - Divisions among the Greek Old Calendarists – The ROCA and the Greek Old Calendarists………………………………………….……………………...............149
5. Russia: From Hitler to Brezhnev (1939-1970)
The Persecution in Poland – Stalin and the Baltic Orthodox Churches - German-occupied Russia - The Stalin-Sergius Pact – “Patriarch” Alexis I – The Soviet Offensive - The Church Cult of Stalin - The Volte-Face on Ecumenism - The Church in the Catacombs – The Passportless Movement - The ROCA Undecided – Muscovite Ecumenism and the Metropolia.....……......................…………….…....181
6. Greece and the Balkans: Onslaught from the West (1939-1970)
The Genocide of the Serbian Orthodox - The Romanians Acquire a Hierarchy - The Greek Church and the Communists - Further Divisions in the Greek Church - Persecutions in Greece and Cyprus - Ecumenism Gathers Speed - Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina - The World Council of Churches - The Chrysostomites Acquire a Hierarchy - The Lifting of the Anathemas – “Patriarch” Athenagoras and “New Age Orthodoxy” - The Fall of the Serbian and Bulgarian Churches - "The Heresy of Heresies" …..........……………….……………………………................213
7. The Zenith of Ecumenism and the Fall of Communism (1970-1990)
A Failed Attempt at Union - Russian Dissidents and Ecumenists – “Metropolitan” Nicodemus of Leningrad - More Greek Divisions (1) – The Fall of Dissent – Metropolitan Philaret and the Anathema against Ecumenism – More Greek Divisions (2) - “Patriarch” Alexis II ………………………………………………………….256
8. The Return of the Exiles (1990-2000)
Liberation or Deception? - The August Coup – The Ukrainian Schism - The ROCA Returns to Russia – KGB Agents in Cassocks - Chambésy and Balamand – The New Martyrs - The Georgian Church and “The Third Way” – Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal – Right-Wing Catacomb Groups - The Serbian Wars – The Fall of the ROCA………………..………………………………………………..……………287
Conclusion. The Restoration of Romanity.
The Secularization of the Church - The Cross and the Crown - The Obstacles. 1. Nationalism - The Obstacles. 2. Ecumenism - The Obstacles. 3. The European Antichrist - Three Witnesses.................................................................................….334
INTRODUCTION: THE CHURCH AND THE REVOLUTION
On this rock I shall build My Church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.
Ecucommunism and the Church
This book is a history of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in the twentieth century. The denotation of the title “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” will become clearer during the course of the work. Briefly, we may say that it is the Orthodox Church; more precisely: that part of the Orthodox Church which has not been overcome by the complementary scourges of ecumenism and communism – or “ecucommunism”, as I have called it.
Ecucommunism may be defined as that twentieth-century doctrine of man in society that has tried to take the place the dogma of the Church in the consciousness of man. The ecumenist aspect of the heresy attempts to destroy the notion of the Church as “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy. 3.15) by preaching that there is no one truth, and therefore no one Church which it can be the pillar of. Ecumenism maintains that all Churches – and in its more extreme, contemporary forms, all religions – contain partial or relative truths which, on being reduced to their lowest common denominator, will form the dogmatic basis of a new Church or universal religion of a new, enlightened mankind. The development of this doctrine, which first appeared in the West before penetrating into the Orthodox world, is traced especially in chapters 2, 4, 6 and 7.
The communist aspect of the ecucommunist heresy attempts to destroy the moral, social and eschatological teaching of the Church by preaching a new “revolutionary morality” whose goal is not the Kingdom of Heaven but a communist paradise on earth. In place of the Church we have the Party, in place of God – Fate. Communism, like ecumenism, was introduced into the Orthodox world from the West; and we trace its struggle with the Church in chapters 1, 3, 5, and 7.
“The ideologue of ecumenism,” writes Archbishop Averky, “which is the natural consequence of the nostalgia of the Protestant world for the Church that they have lost, was the German pastor Christopher Blumhardt, whom the Protestants call for that reason ‘the great prophet of the contemporary world’. He called all the Protestants to unity for ‘the construction of the Kingdom of God on earth’, but he died before the organization of the ecumenical movement, in 1919. His fundamental idea consisted of the proposition that ‘the old world has been destroyed, and a new one is rising on its ruins’. He placed three problems before Christianity: 1) the realization of the best social structure, 2) the overcoming of confessional disagreements and 3) the working together for the education of the whole world community of nations with the complete liquidation of war.
“It was in these three points that the aims of ecumenism were formulated by the present general secretary of the Council of the ecumenical movement, Visser-t-Hooft, who saw the means for their realization in the Church’s pursuit of social aims. For this it is first of all necessary to overcome confessional differences and create one church. The renewed one church will have the possibility of preparing the way for the triumph of Socialism, which will lead to the creation of one world State as the Kingdom of God on earth…”
The struggle between ecucommunism and the Church was already foreshadowed, at the beginning of the century, by the struggle between the novelist Lev Tolstoy, who stood for a Christianity reduced to “pure” morality without the Church, the sacraments or any other other-worldly element, and St.. John of Kronstadt, who demonstrated by his wonderful life abounding in good works and an extraordinary abundance of miracles, that Christianity “does not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 2.5). This struggle led to Tolstoy’s expulsion from the Church for blasphemy, while St. John has been glorified as a saint throughout the world.
But the confrontation between Tolstoy and Fr. John, like that between Arius and St. Athanasius of Alexandria at the First Ecumenical Council, was only a prelude to the titanic struggle, involving hundreds of millions of people on several continents, which has still not come to an end today. In the course of this struggle the nature of the Church has been clarified by the need to answer the questions: Is the Church One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, as the Nicene Creed defines her? Is she truly of Divine origin and nature, or is she a purely human organization? Does she evolve in her teachings and practice, or does she remain the same? Does she embrace all the vast multitudes who call themselves Christian today, or is she the gathering of a small faithful remnant on earth? Is she truly the only ark of salvation, or only one of many roads leading to God?
However, to understand ecucommunism we must understand that in its attack on the dogma and very existence of the Church, it is only part of a still wider attack on the concept of Tradition as the source of truth not only in the Church, but in all branches of knowledge. This wider movement, which I will call, quite simply, the Revolution, has been through several historical stages, of which the revolution in the Church accomplished by Pope Gregory VII was the first. Papism led to Scholasticism and Humanism, then Protestantism, Scientism, Deism, Materialism, Romanticism, Hegelianism, Darwinism, Marxism, Freudianism, Ecumenism and, most recently, New-Ageism.
It is beyond the scope of this work to show how all these “isms” are interconnected and take their origin from the primal rebellion against the Church which we call “schism”. Suffice it to say for the present that underlying the revolution in all its stages is a single antichristian, antitheist, man-centred philosophy.
This philosophy can be summarized as follows:- Man is his own master. If there is a God, then he is a God in man’s own image, perhaps even of man’s own making; and man does not depend on Him to learn the truth, for his own unaided mind is capable of that. The wisdom of the ages is a myth; tradition is a brake on progress. As man is a product of evolution from the lower animals, so his social and religious and political institutions are in a process of constant upward evolution. Therefore there is no such thing as absolute truth, no sacred, unchanging, God-given authority. Everything is in flux, therefore everyone must change. The only unchanging, ineluctable fact is the fact of the revolution – the social revolution, the political revolution, the religious revolution, and above all the scientific revolution upon which all the other revolutions are based. Therefore the only unforgivable sin (if it is not simply a kind of illness, which can be treated by drug-therapy in a psychiatric hospital) is the sin of counter-revolution, the sin of being bigoted, intolerant of change, out-of-date. Everything is permitted – the craziest of beliefs, the most deviant of life-styles – so long as it does not stand in the way of the revolution, that revolution which is making man master of himself and of his environment. But for those who stand in the way of “progress”, there will be no mercy; they will be cast onto the rubbish heap of history like the extinct species of Darwinian pre-history. For nothing must stand in the way of man’s ascent to godlike status. Just as in physics the anthropic principle “seems to be on the verge of substituting man for God, by hinting that consciousness, unbound by time’s arrow, causes creation”, so in life based on the scientific revolution man must substitute himself for God, removing all those constraints associated with the Divine Creator…
After a couple of “trial runs” in the English and French revolutions, the revolution received its most complete incarnation in the Russian revolution of 1917, which at the same time overthrew the primary stronghold of traditional thinking in the world. Just as all the apostate trends of European history from the eleventh century onwards lead up to, and find their culmination in, the Russian revolution, so all world history since 1917 has evolved from it and under its shadow.
Now it is commonly thought that the anti-communist coups of 1989-91 brought this phase of history to a close. But this is a mistake. If some of the economic ideas of the revolution have been discredited, its fundamental concepts – the replacement of the Church by the State, God by the people, Tradition by science, Spirit by matter – remain as firmly entrenched as ever. The Russian revolution was like a nuclear explosion, splitting the elements not only of religious, but also of all cultural and social life; it attempted to destroy the faith, the family, the nation and the individual. And just as the fall-out from a nuclear explosion are felt over a wide area and over a long period of time, so has it been with the fall-out from the Russian revolution.
For as the hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad have written: “If the results of the Chernobyl catastrophe are still making themselves known in the bodies of the children of the surrounding region, the spiritual catastrophe of all Russia will show its effects for a far longer period of time. Just as Chernobyl’s radiation will continue for many years to annihilate the lives of the children of our land with its sinister, invisible fire, it is clear that the consequences of the spiritual catastrophe will not quickly depart from us.”
The Russian-Jewish Revolution
In order to understand the Russian revolution, it is necessary to understand its roots, not only in the European revolutions of the past one thousand years, but also in the Jewish revolution that took place one thousand years before that. This perception is not a manifestation of “anti-semitism”, as the West would have it; for how can a Christian historian who worships a Jewish God, and is a member of the Church founded by exclusively Jewish apostles seriously maintain anti-semitic ideas? It is the product of the simple but basic and incontrovertible fact that the Russian revolution in its initial phase was the work mainly of Jews inspired by a philosophy of history that is in essence Jewish; and that even when the leaders of the revolution were no longer Jews, they continued to be motivated, consciously or unconsciously, by essentially Jewish ideas. The writer of this work is not anti-semitic, but he is anti-Judaist in the sense that he is against the religion which is founded upon the Talmud and which is fiercely and explicitly anti-Christian in its fundamental beliefs. In this sense all the apostles and fathers and martyrs were, and every consciously believing Orthodox Christian must be – anti-Judaist.
Now when Abraham left his earthly homeland in search of a promised land in which God alone would be King, world history began a series of violent oscillations between the two poles: Zion and Babylon, the God-Man and the man-god, theocracy and satanocracy.
Two thousand years later, the God-Man Himself visited His Kingdom, and a second series of violent oscillations took place. First, the kings of the East came to worship Him – Babylon bowed down before Zion. Then the veil of the temple was rent in twain, the temple itself was destroyed and the people of God were scattered over the face of the earth – Zion became spiritually Babylon, and in the Babylonian Talmud the Jews worked out the apostate creed of Zionism.
But then the new Israel, “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6.16), the Church of Christ, was born in Zion, and the former children of wrath from the Babylon of the West, the pagan Greeks and Romans, came to bow down at her feet. And when Constantine became king of Old Rome, even the pivot and crown of the Babylonian system, the worship of the god-man-emperor, was transformed into its opposite and the God-fighting satanocracy of Old Rome became the God-loving theocracy of the New Rome.
Now, nearly two thousands years after Christ, we are in the middle of the third great series of violent oscillations in world history. In 1917 the God-loving theocracy of the Third Rome, Russia, was transformed into the God-hating satanocracy of the Babylon of the North, the Soviet Union. And the apostate Jews took revenge on the Third Rome for the destruction of their State by the First, Old Rome.
That this was indeed the significance of the Russian revolution was demonstrated by an extraordinary “coincidence” that has been little noted. On November 9, 1917, the London Times reported two events in the same column of newsprint: above, the Bolshevik revolution in Petrograd, and immediately below it, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour’s promise of a homeland to the Jews in Palestine. To the unbeliever, the two events seem to have no relation to each other; the fact that they happened at exactly the same time, and under the leadership of men from the same race and class and locality – the Jewish intelligentsia of Western Russia and Poland – seems purely coincidental. To the believing eye, however, they are two aspects, in two geographical areas, of one and the same event – the event called in the Gospel “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24.8), in the epistles of St. Paul – “the removal of him that restraineth” (II Thessalonians 2.7), and in the Apocalypse of St. John – “the releasing of the beast from the abyss” (Revelation 20.3).
Now if we look at the event from its Jewish aspect, it looks like the triumph of a purely national movement – Zionism. From the Russian aspect, on the other hand, it looks like a purely political-social coup motivated by a purely secular vision of world history – Marxism-Leninism. In truth, however, Zionism and Marxism-Leninism are two aspects of a movement which is neither purely nationalist nor political in essence, but religious – or rather, demonic.
This is most clearly seen in the killing of the Tsar on July 4/17, 1918. On the wall of his death-chamber was found an inscription which fittingly sums up the deed from the point of view of the Jewish revolution. It was a quotation from the German Jewish poet Heine, slightly altered to bring out the word “tsar” and identifying the tsar with Belshazzar:
Belsatzar ward in selbiger Nacht On the same night Belshazzar
Von seinen knechten umgebracht. Was killed by his own slaves.
But the truth was quite the opposite. Belshazzar hated the people of God, and his removal opened the way for the rebuilding of the Temple of God in Zion by Zerubbabel (which means “alien to Babylon, or confusion”). The killing of Tsar Nicholas, on the other hand, opened the way to the destruction of Orthodox Russia and its transformation into Babylon.
Such a view is not confined to Orthodox Christians or “anti-Semites”. Thus Winston Churchill wrote: “It would almost seem as if the Gospel of Christ and the gospel of anti-Christ were designed to originate among the same people; and that this mystic and mysterious race had been chosen for the supreme manifestations, both of the Divine and the diabolical… From the days of ‘Spartacus’ Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky (Russia), Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany) and Emma Goldman (United States), this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It played, as a modern writer, Mrs. Nesta Webster, has so ably shown, a definitely recognizable part in the tragedy of the French Revolution. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the nineteenth century; and now at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire. There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international and for the most part atheistical Jews. It is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others.”
Douglas Reed has proved this point with some statistics: “The Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, which wielded the supreme power, contained 3 Russians (including Lenin) and 9 Jews. The next body in importance, the Central Committee of the Executive Commission (or secret police) comprised 42 Jews and 19 Russians, Letts, Georgians and others. The Council of People’s Commissars consisted of 17 Jews and five others. The Moscow Che-ka (secret police) was formed of 23 Jews and 13 others. Among the names of 556 high officials of the Bolshevik state officially published in 1918-1919 were 458 Jews and 108 others. Among the central committees of small, supposedly ‘Socialist’ or other non-Communist parties.. were 55 Jews and 6 others.”
Even the “pro-Semite” historian Richard Pipes admits: “Jews undeniably played in the Bolshevik Party and the early Soviet apparatus a role disproportionate to their share of the population. The number of Jews active in Communism in Russia and abroad was striking: in Hungary, for example, they furnished 95 percent of the leading figures in Bela Kun’s dictatorship. They also were disproportionately represented among Communists in Germany and Austria during the revolutionary upheavals there in 1918-23, and in the apparatus of the Communist International.”
Of course, the Jewish Bolsheviks were not religious Jews, and were in fact as opposed to Talmudic Judaism as any other segment of the population. Moreover, as Pipes points out, “the results of the elections to the Constituent Assembly indicate that Bolshevik support came not from the region of Jewish concentration, the old Pale of Settlement, but from the armed forces and the cities of Great Russia, which had hardly any Jews”. So blame for the Russian revolution must fall on Russians as well as Jews; and in fact hardly any of the constituent nations of the Russian empire can claim to have played no part in the catastrophe.
Nevertheless, the extraordinary prominence of Jews in the revolution is a fact that must be related, at least in part, to the traditionally anti-Russian and anti-Christian attitude of Jewish culture, which is reflected in both of its major political offspring – Bolshevism and Zionism. For, as Chaim Weitzmann, the first president of Israel, showed in his Autobiography, the atheist Bolshevik Jews and the theist Zionist Jews came from the same milieu, often the very same families; so that his mother was able to witness her sons’ triumph both in Bolshevik Moscow and Zionist Jerusalem…
Moreover, so complete was the Jewish domination of Russia as a result of the revolution that it is really a misnomer to speak about the “Russian” revolution; it should more accurately be called the anti-Russian, or Russian-Jewish revolution. Indeed, the Russian revolution may be regarded as one branch of that general triumph of Jewish power which we observe in the twentieth century in both East and West, in both Russia and America and Israel. It is as if, by God’s permission and for the chastisement of the sins of many nations, there arose in the Pale of Settlement an avenging horde that swept away the last major restraining power and ushered in the era of the Apocalypse.
The Revolution: 1. Deterministic Liberation
If we turn to the philosophical basis of the revolution, we find the same Jewish element seemingly inextricably entwined with it – and this not only because so many of the theorists of the revolution were Jews.
As Bertrand Russell pointed out, many elements of the Marxist system are reminiscent of Judaism: the same striving for the promised land on earth and in time (communism and the withering away of the state); the same division of the peoples of the world into the chosen people (the proletariat) and the goyim (the exploiting classes), and the hatred incited against the latter; and the same cult of the false Messiah (the infallible leader or party).
Utopianism is certainly at the heart of the philosophical system of Marxism-Leninism. Igor Shafarevich has traced examples of utopian thought and statehood in many epochs and geographical regions. He has concluded that it is always (a) totalitarian, leading to the abolition of private property, the family and religion, and (b) guided by a kind of death-wish which results in the physical and spiritual death of the people.
Under the name of “chiliasm” or “millenarianism”, utopianism was one of the earliest Christian heresies (with, as we might now expect, a strongly Jewish colouring). It is possible that the addition of the phrase: “Whose Kingdom shall have no end” to the Nicene Creed at the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381 was aimed against this heresy. For chiliasm essentially amounted to the belief that Christ Himself will come to earth before the Last Judgement in order to install His Kingdom physically for a period of a thousand years, this Kingdom being characterised, according to the heretics, by the triumph of the Jewish race and the Jewish law.
But the Church rejected this, teaching that the true Kingdom of Christ will come only after the Judgement, and that it will then be a spiritual Kingdom that is “not of this world” and “has no end”. We can enter the Kingdom of God partially before the Judgement, but only in and through the Church, which is not, and can never be, a sensually apprehended, temporal kingdom.
Utopianism is based not only on a heretical eschatology, but also on a false anthropology that denies the fall of man. For utopia on earth is possible only on the assumption that the men who live in the utopia are sinless and passionless, being governed only by perfect love and humility. To suppose that any class of men, once delivered from injustice and poverty, will automatically behave like angels, is a myth. Still more mythical is the idea that the kingdom of love and brotherhood can be ushered in by hatred and fratricidal war. The means do not justify the ends; and the employment of evil means leads unfailingly to evil ends.
As Solzhenitsyn has said, the line between good and evil passes, not between classes or nations, but down the middle of each human heart. Therefore the final triumph of good over evil is possible only through the purification of the human heart, every human heart. And that is a spiritual task which is accomplished by spiritual, not material or political means, by confession of the faith and repentance of sin, not by rebellion against the king and the redistribution of property.
This brings us to a still deeper flaw of utopianism – its materialism. For while the heresy of chiliasm at any rate recognized the existence of God and the spiritual nature of man, utopianism reduces everything to the blind determinism of insensate matter. For the ancient heretics, utopia could only be introduced by God, and was awarded to the righteous in response to the right use of their freewill. For the moderns, there is neither God nor freewill – but utopia will come in any case, as the result of the iron laws of necessity. And this fatalistic faith both gives the revolution its frightening power – for men acquire extraordinary self-confidence when they know that they must win in the end – and guarantees its terrifying cruelty – for without freewill there is no responsibility, and, as Dostoyevsky said, “if there is no God, everything is permitted”.
“Cosmic possession,” writes Fr. George Florovsky, “ – that is how we can define the utopian experience. The feelings of unqualified dependence, of complete determination from without and full immersion and inclusion into the universal order define utopianism’s estimate of itself and the world. Man feels himself to be an ‘organic pin’, a link in some all-embracing chain – he feels that he is unambiguously, irretrievably forged into one whole with the cosmos…
“From an actor and creator, consciously willing and choosing, and for that reason bearing the risk of responsibility for his self-definition, man is turned into a thing, into a needle, by which someone sews something. In the organic all-unity there is no place for action – here only movement is possible… There is no place for the act, no place for the exploit (podvig).”
The Revolution: 2. Nationalist Internationalism
If chiliasm-utopianism is one of the earliest Jewish Christian heresies, the division of the world into “clean” and “unclean” classes or nations is the earliest, being the subject of the very first Church Council held at Jerusalem under the presidency of the Apostle James. And if even the great Apostle of the circumcision, St. Peter, fell, albeit temporarily into it, then it is small wonder that apostate Jewry and the Marxist-Leninists should have perpetuated it. Nor is such a temptation confined to the Jews: nationalism, the exaltation of one’s own nation or class as being essentially superior to all others, is a perennial temptation for all nations, and never more so than among certain Orthodox nations now.
When God commanded Noah to lead pairs both of “clean” and of “unclean” animals into the ark, and when He commanded the Apostle Peter to eat of both “clean” and “unclean” foods, He demonstrated that there is no essentially clean nation. “For there is no difference; for all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans. 3.22-23). All outside the ark, the Church of Christ, are unclean; and all inside the Church are, if not completely clean, at any rate in the process of being cleansed. And all, regardless of nationality, can enter the Church. For “is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God Who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans. 3.29-30).
Of course, nationalism is not always a pathological phenomenon, and has often contributed to the saving of a nation and the buttressing of the true faith; so perhaps we should reserve the term “nationalism” for the pathological phenomenon, while using another term – “patriotism”, perhaps – for the positive phenomenon to which we now wish to draw attention.
Thus when, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the Russian Emperor Nicholas I approved of the Slavophile slogan “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Narodnost”, he was referring by “narodnost” to the positive virtue of patriotism or love of country. Narodnost was linked to Orthodoxy, in the minds of Nicholas and the Slavophiles, because it was subject to Orthodoxy and exalted the nation, not for its own sake and not in opposition to other nations, but as the bearer of one aspect of the Divine idea of nationhood. Thus the aim of national self-consciousness, according to this conception, is “the attainment in the destiny and spirit of the people of that ‘which God thinks of it in eternity’, as Vladimir Solovyov put it.”
Now the revolution strives to destroy “the Divine idea of nationhood”, the collective personality of each nation, just as it strives to destroy the Divine image of manhood, the individual personality of each man. Thus Lenin said that the aim of socialism was not only the drawing together of the nations, but also their fusion – i.e. their destruction. For, as Dostoyevsky wrote, “socialism deprives the national principle of its individuality, undermining the very foundations of nationality.” Of course, Lenin was not averse to approving of and stirring up the nationalisms of the smaller nations of the Russian empire in order to destroy the God-bearing nation that he hated and feared the most. But having stirred up nationalist feeling, he then tried to destroy it again, subordinating the nations to the only nation and caste of which he approved – the nation of Jewish internationalism, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The paradox that socialism both incites nationalism and destroys the nation is one aspect of the general paradox of the socialist revolution, that while preaching freedom it practises slavery, while proclaiming equality it creates inequality, and while dreaming of brotherhood it incites fratricidal war. In the same way, the French revolution proclaimed the freedom and equality of all nations; but its first appearance on the international arena was in the form of Napoleonic imperialism, which strove to destroy the freedom of all the nations of Europe. And paradoxically, it was autocratic Russia, the conqueror of Napoleon, which guaranteed the survival of the nations of the West, and their freedom from totalitarianism, for at least another century.
For the truth is that the revolution, while inciting the passions for personal and national freedom in order to destroy the old church and state structures, was aimed at the destruction of all freedom and individuality, both personal and national. And while hypocritically invoking those ecumenical ideals which Christianity gave to the world – “neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female,” – it actually aimed at their complete destruction by destroying the pivot upon which they all rest – “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3.18). Thus like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, it promised life, but delivered death…
The Revolution: 3. Democratic Satanocracy
However, even more than its anti-personal and anti-national passion, the deepest, most characteristic longing of the Jewish-Russian revolution is its worship of the false Messiah. Through its utopianism, the revolution merges the personalities of its adherents into an elemental, all-embracing process to which they surrender their freedom and personality. And through its class-warfare and anti-patriotism, it destroys those last strongholds of personal and collective freedom that stand in the way of its final victory. But what is such a “victory”, if there is no supreme victor to whom to give the spoils, no personal cause and leader of the victory of the proletariat? That is why the revolution is incomplete until it has found its god, why the personal “modesty” of Lenin had to be “corrected” by the “all-wise” Stalin, and why the collective Antichrist of Sovietism must one day reach its apotheosis in the personal Antichrist of Judaism…
In The Brothers Karamazov Dostoyevsky clearly saw this need for universal worship that lies at the heart of the revolution. And he traced its origin to the worship of the infallible Pope of heretical Rome and, still further back, to the worship of the imperator-pontifex maximus of pagan Rome. Deep in the soul of man, as Blessed Augustine pointed out, there is a God-shaped hole; and if that hole is not filled by the worship of the true God, it will be filled by the worship of a false god; and to that god, man will give himself totally. Thus recently, after the funeral of the dictator of the Ivory Coast (who built the world’s largest church on the model of St. Peter’s in Rome), a young man, beside himself with grief, threw himself into the crocodile-infested waters of the moat round the dictator’s palace. This shows how the need for worship and total self-sacrifice is as alive now, in our materialist age, as it has ever been.
Now the West has ascribed the emergence of totalitarianism in Russia to the weakness of her democratic institutions in 1917 and to her long history of autocratic rule. The satanocracy of Bolshevism, according to this conception, is closely akin to the theocracy of Holy Russia, both being opposed to the “true godliness” of western democracy. Indeed, the very institution of kingship is evil in western eyes.
In truth, however, the very basis of society is hierarchically ordered. Thus, as Tuskarev writes: “The cell of the State is the family. In the family the father is the head by nature, while the son is subject to him; the authority of the father is not the result of elections in the family, but is entrusted to him naturally by the law of God (Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow). Just as from the extended family of the tribe there arises the people, so out of the family headed by one man there arises tsarist autocracy. Both the familial and the monarchical organization are established by God for the earthly existence of the sinful, fallen man. The first-created man, living in living communion with God, was not subject to anyone besides God, and was the lord of irrational creation. But when man sinned, destroying the Divine hierarchy of submission and falling away from God, he became the servant of sin and the devil, and as a consequence of this became subject to a man like himself. The sinful will of man requires submission for the restraint of his destructive activity. This Divine ordinance has in view only the good of man – the limitation of the spread of evil. And history itself shows that whatever the inadequacies of monarchies, they bear no comparison with that evil that revolutions and anarchies have brought to the peoples.
“Monarchical administration has been established by God in accordance with His likeness. ‘God being One established the authority of one person; as Almighty – autocratic authority; as Eternal – hereditary authority’ (Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow). Such is monarchy in general, independent of its spiritual content; being established in accordance with the likeness of God, it already has an educational religious significance. Christian monarchy was formed and developed under the immediate leadership and grace-filled sanctification of the Church of Christ, and for that reason has a special spiritual content.”
The revolution strove to overthrow this natural order, not out of a love of democracy and the people, but in order that one people – not the Russian people, but the Jews – should rule over all; for, as the Talmud says, “the Messiah is, without metaphor, the Jewish people” This was clear already in the French revolution, when, having won, by dint of bribery, personal influence and violence, the emancipation of their race, the Jews so abused their newly won privileges that in 1806, on returning from Austerlitz, Napoleon was forced to convene a special meeting of the Sanhedrin in order to ask them the straight question: are you loyal to the French State and its laws? He received the answer he wanted; but the Jews continued to abuse their freedom to dominate others to such an extent that he had to withdraw some of their privileges.
In any case, even as the nineteenth-century democratic revolutions in Europe led to the emancipation of the Jews almost everywhere, the Rabbis, fearing the dissolution of the Jewish identity among the Gentiles, created the Zionist movement in order to recreate the Jewish ghettoes in Palestine. So democracy for the Jewish revolution was only a means towards the dictatorship of the Jewish “proletariat” – ultimately, of the Antichrist. For since the people cannot express their victory fully without having a focus for it in the worship of a leader, the overthrow of theocracy by “democracy” has as its ultimate consequence – satanocracy, the enthronement of the Antichrist. And indeed, democracy of its nature cannot be stable; and in modern times it has represented an ever-quickening descent from theocracy to satanocracy. It cannot be more than a transition because the rule of the people by the people is a contradiction in terms. For “rule” means the imposition of one will on the will of the people, while the will of the people, at least in its fallen state, is always multiple.
That is why the great saints of the nineteenth and early twentieth century insisted on the necessity – the religious necessity – of faithfulness to the Tsar. Thus St. Seraphim of Sarov said that after Orthodoxy, faithfulness to the Tsar was “our first Russian duty and the chief foundation of true Christian piety”. Again, St. John of Kronstadt said: “The autocracy is the sole condition of the piety of Russia; if there is no autocracy, there will be no Russia; power will be taken by the Jews, who greatly hate us…” And Metropolitan Macarius, the apostle to the Altai, said: “You don’t want your own Russian authority, so you will have a foreign power over you.”
The Progress of the Revolution
Thus, to summarize: world history is a perennial struggle between two irreconcilable religio-political principles: theocracy and satanocracy. Theocracy denotes the type of society in which the whole of the life of the people, including politics, is devoted primarily to the service of God, Who is seen as the true King of kings and Lord of lords. Strictly speaking, a true theocracy can only be the Kingdom of God on earth, which is the Church. However, in view of the fall of man, and the consequent necessity of fighting wars and indulging in other such unspiritual activities, theocratic societies from the time of the kings of Israel have created a kind of division of labour between the Church, on the one hand, which occupies itself more or less exclusively with spiritual matters, and the Crown, on the other, which occupies itself with more material matters – although Church and Crown, like soul and body, both serve the same end, in a kind of symbiotic symphony of powers. Satanocracy, by contrast, abolishes the distinction between Church and State and subordinates society in all its spheres to the will of the earthly ruler, who is recognized to be the incarnation of a god (as in Ancient Babylonia and Egypt) or of an impersonal heavenly order (as in Ancient China and the Platonic, Aristotlean and Hegelian philosophies) or, more dynamically, of the March of History (as in Marxism-Leninism). “Pure” satanocracies have been rare since Christ, largely because of the power of the Orthodox Christian theocratic ideal. But that ideal has come to be undermined by, on the one hand, pseudo-theocracies such as Papism and Islam, and on the other, by anti-theocratic theories which have deceitfully pretended to be compatible with true theism, such as Protestant democracy and Jewish nationalism. Finally, after a “trial run” in the French revolution, a “pure” satanocracy came to power in 1917 on the ruins of the Russian theocracy. This satanocracy combined elements of all the previous satanocracies and pseudo- and anti-theocracies: the totalitarianism and individualist man-worship of the ancient pagan monarchies and Papism; the fatalist determinism of Islam; the collectivist people-worship of the Protestant democracies; and the Jewish and other kinds of nationalism.
While, until 1917, the revolution had made only partial inroads into the life of the Orthodox Churches, in the next ten years it penetrated into the very heart of her external organization, removing the last of her pious autocrats, and eventually leading all the Local Autocephalous Churches, with the possible exception of the Mother of the Churches, Jerusalem, to fall away from the Truth. This has led to the arising of movements of resistance to the official, fallen Churches, which have come to be known as “True Orthodox” or “Old Calendar” or “Catacomb” Orthodox Churches in opposition to their pseudo-Orthodox or new-style or above-ground official counterparts. The most important of these have been the True Orthodox or Catacomb Church of Russia, the True Orthodox or Old Calendar Churches of Greece and Romania, and the Russian Church Abroad. Thus by contrast with the externally united, wealthy and numerically large Churches of Orthodox Christendom in 1914, the picture presented today is one of a small, persecuted and externally divided remnant.
The main purpose of this book is to show how this change took place, how the Orthodox Church before the revolution became the Orthodox Church in modern times, and what are the prospects for her recovery now, at the end of the twentieth century.
Of course, it is easy to exaggerate the difference between then and now. Church life on the eve of the catastrophe was, as might be expected, at a low spiritual ebb, in spite of the external pomp. Ecumenism and socialism had already sown their pernicious seeds, especially in the educated classes; and nationalism had already produced at least one formal Church schism – that between the Greek and Bulgarian Churches. The catastrophe was to a large extent simply a reaping of the bad fruits which had already been sown. Moreover, the present divisions between the True Orthodox Churches, damaging though they are, conceal a perhaps greater unity with regard to the main questions of the age than existed at the beginning of the century.
The Apostle Paul said: “There must be heresies among you, that those who are approved may be made manifest among you” (I Corinthians 11.19). Nowhere has the truth of these words been revealed more clearly than in our century, when the martyrs against the heresies of ecumenism and communism have numbered in the millions. A secondary purpose of this book, therefore, is to celebrate the glory of this century, its new martyrs and confessors. For to chart the triumphs of Satan while ignoring the feats of those who have conquered his power in the most difficult of circumstances would be to distort the truth. Christ Himself came “for the rise and fall of many in Israel” (Luke 2.34), and it is in studying the rise of some and fall of others in the Church of the twentieth century that we ourselves come to a fuller knowledge of the truth.
And what is that truth which, it is hoped, this humble work will help to establish? The truth of the Church. The truth that, contrary to the teachings of the heretics, the Church is truly One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The truth that this unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity have been preserved to our day exclusively in the remnant of the Orthodox Church known as the True Orthodox Church. The truth, finally, that in our days of “the triumph of Satan and the power of the Antichrist”, as the Martyr-Patriarch Tikhon said, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church”, which is and always will be the only ark of salvation.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us!
March 11/24, 2001.
St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Martyrdom of Emperor Paul I of Russia.
East House, Beech Hill, Mayford, Woking, England.
1. RUSSIA: THE KILLING OF THE KING (1900-1924)
We have no king, because we feared not the Lord.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Orthodox Church in both the major States in which she lived – the Russian and Ottoman empires – found herself in a position of subservience to the civil government, a position that had certain external advantages but which was contrary to the holy canons of the Church and therefore greatly debilitated her strength in the long run.
Reform versus Stability
In the Ottoman empire, the Muslim State forbade conversions to Orthodoxy on pain of death, restricted the Church in various other ways, and made the post of the patriarch himself subject to the highest bidder in a way that both drained the financial resources of the Orthodox community and made the man who was eventually “elected” patriarch in effect a simoniac. At the same time, this position of the patriarchate had hidden blessings which became clearer only after the collapse of the empire. First, the Ottoman rulers provided a certain protection from the depradations of western missionaries, who, if allowed free access into the Orthodox lands, might well have torn a large part of the largely uneducated flock from Orthodoxy (as happened in Transylvania, where Ottoman power was weaker). And secondly, the millet system of administering the empire according to religious confessions forced the Orthodox nations together in a way which countered the centrifugal tendencies that had already led to wars between Byzantium, Bulgaria and Serbia before the Turkish conquest. The tragedy of Greek and Balkan Orthodoxy in the twentieth century consisted in the fact that, while overthrowing the admittedly uncanonical system of dependence on the Ottoman rulers, the Orthodox subjected themselves to the still more destructive forces of nationalism, on the one hand, and westernism, on the other.
In Russia, Peter the Great’s reglament of 1721 had abolished the patriarchate and made the Church in effect a department of the State under the direction of a Procurator appointed by the Tsar. Again, there were hidden blessings in this uncanonical situation: the State supported the Church financially, encouraging her missionary and educational work, and State legislation muzzled the activities of sectarians and uniates on the borders of the empire. However, by the beginning of the twentieth century these advantages were seen by many in the Church, from the president of the council of ministers and the Holy Synod to the Church intelligentsia and the white clergy, to be largely outweighed by the disadvantages, which included: the impotence of the bishops, whose administrative functions were in many cases superseded by diocesan consistories answerable to the Procurator; the invidious position of priests who were required by law to report on seditious activities by their parishioners, even if this involved breaking the seal of confession; and the identification of preachers among the heterodox as government agents, which greatly hindered the task of converting the Muslims, Old Believers, Protestants and Uniates.
Since the Russian Church was by far the largest and strongest Church in Orthodoxy, and the main bulwark of the empire on which the prosperity of the other Orthodox Churches around the world depended, the reform of her relations with the State and of her internal administration was a most pressing necessity. And this was recognized by the Tsar himself, who from 1903 openly suggested both the restoration of the patriarchate and the convocation of a Local Council. He even proposed that he take monastic vows and become the patriarch himself – to which the Holy Synod replied only with an astonished silence.
However, the disastrous Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5, followed by the revolution of 1905-6, arrested the reform process just as it was getting under way; for at a time when the foundations of the State were being shaken to the core, it was felt that to allow radical change in the Church would encourage further destabilisation – especially when the revolutionary spirit had penetrated deep into the Church herself. And yet the Tsar’s Toleration decree of April, 1905, which allowed all the non-Orthodox confessions in the empire to organize themselves autonomously and to accept converts, while keeping the Orthodox Church chained to the State, made reform even more pressing. For only a reformed and revitalized Church which was in harmony or “symphony” with the State, but did not have one hand tied behind her back by a State determined to use her for political ends, could hope to withstand the sudden resurgence of the non-Orthodox religions, especially the uniates in the south-western regions of the empire.
However, in balancing the need for reform against the necessity for stability the Tsar came down on the side of stability, and his order to convene the Council never came. There followed a decade in which the wounds of the Church continued to fester, and the authority of both Church and State continued to decline. And in the end the much needed Local Council was convened, in accordance with Divine Providence, only when the Tsar himself had been swept away…
And yet there had been spiritual gains in the pre-revolutionary period. The pre-conciliar commission had discussed at length the main issues which were to dominate the history of the Orthodox Church in the coming century, including Church-State relations, the relations between the hierarchy and laypeople within the Church (i.e. sobornost or conciliarity) and the beginnings of Ecumenism. Many of the recommendations of the commission were eventually adopted without major modification by the Local Council of 1917-18.
Moreover, the period had brought to the fore several of those churchmen who would play such important roles, both for good and for ill, in the coming struggle with the revolution: on the one side, men such as Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky), Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and Archbishop Tikhon (Bellavin), and on the other, Bishop Antoninus (Granovsky), Bishop Sergius (Stragorodsky) and Bishop Eulogius (Georgievsky). Thus the battle-lines for the coming struggle had been drawn, and a discerning observer might even have foreseen the outcome of the struggle by examining the events of 1905-07.
Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and Carpathian Rus’
Especially well-known in the pre-war years was Archbishop Anthony of Volhynia. On all the major issues of the day he adopted an uncompromisingly Orthodox position. Thus he supported the Tsar and rebuked the liberal, “unchurched” part of the Russian population, writing of them in 1899: “It is no longer a people, but a rotting corpse, which takes its rotting as a sign of life, while on it, or in it, live only moles, worms and foul insects… for in a living body they would find no satisfaction for their greed, and there would be nothing for them to live on”.
In the revolutionary turmoil of 1905 Vladyka Anthony spoke out courageously on the side of the Autocracy, and was a prominent member of the patriotic “Union of the Russian People”, the so-called “Black Hundreds”. For this he was accused of anti-semitism, to which he replied: “… It is unpleasant to talk about oneself, but if you ask anyone who is close to me or knows me well: what is he most interested in? they would tell you: monasticism, communion with the Eastern Churches, the struggle with Latinism, the transformation of the theological schools, the creation of a new direction of Orthodox theology [in opposition to scholasticism], the yedinoveriye [relations with the Old Believers], the typicon of Divine services, Slavophilism, Orthodoxy in Galicia… etc. But no one would name Judophobia as one of my most important interests…
“… Concerning the Jews I delivered and published a sermon in 1903 (against pogroms), thanks to which the pogroms that enveloped the whole of the south-western region did not take place in Volhynia in that year. In 1905 in the sixth week of the Great Fast the Jews in Zhitomir shot at portraits of his Majesty and were beaten for that by the inhabitants of the suburb. The day before Palm Sunday I arrived from Petersburg and in Holy Week again delivered a speech against the pogrom that was being prepared for the first day of Pascha. This pogrom did not take place, and only after the murder by a Jewish hireling of the popular police-officer Kuyarov on the evening of Thomas Sunday, when I was leaving Zhitomir for Petersburg, did fights begin with the Jews, who later said that ‘the government deliberately summoned our hierarch to Petersburg because while he was in the city they did not beat us’. In 1907 I published in a newspaper, and then a brochure with the article: ‘The Jewish question and the Holy Bible’, which has now been reissued in Yiddish. All this, however, did not stop the liberals from printing about me that I was going in cross processions to incite pogroms. Meanwhile, all pogroms have ceased in Volhynia since the Pochayev Union of the Russian People was formed in 1906…
“… If they are talking about the limitation of rights [of the Jews], not for the highest motives of defending the poor Little Russians from Jewish exploiters, but out of hatred for the latter, then this is truly disgusting, but if the patriots do not hate the Jews, but love and pity them, but do not want to give horns to a cow that butts, then this is reasonable, just and humane…”
Another of Vladyka Anthony’s major concerns was the defence of the Orthodox population of Austria-Hungary. The Hungarian government and the uniates tried by all means to prevent the return of the Carpatho-Russians to their ancestral Orthodox faith. This led to martyrdoms, such as that of the priest Maximus Sandovich, who had been ordained by Vladyka Anthony.
“Vladyka Anthony struggled with the unia and both by the printed word and in his sermons he often addressed this theme. He tried by all means to destroy the incorrect attitude towards the unia which had been established in Russia, according to which it was the same Orthodoxy, only commemorating the Pope of Rome. With profound sorrow and irritation he said: ‘They can in no way accept this simple truth, that the unia is a complete entry into the Roman Catholic church with the recognition of the Orthodox Church as a schism.., with the recognition of all the Latin saints and with a condemnation of the Orthodox saints as having been schismatics outside the true Church…’
“… Vladyka Anthony also laboured much to establish in Russian society an Orthodox attitude towards Catholicism. In educated Russian society and in ecclesiastical circles in the Synodal period of the Russian Church the opinion was widespread that Catholicism was one of the branches of Christianity which, as V.S. Solovyov taught, was bound at the end of time to unite into one Christianity with the other supposed branches – Orthodoxy and Protestantism, about which the holy Church supposedly prayed in her litanies: ‘For the prosperity of the Holy Churches of God and for the union of all’.
“The correct attitude towards Catholicism as an apostate heresy was so shaken that the Holy Synod under the influence of the Emperor Peter I and with the blessing of his favourite, the protestantising Metropolitan Theophanes Prokopovich, allowed Swedish prisoners-of-war in Siberia to marry Russian girls with the obligatory conversion to Orthodoxy. Soon this uncanonical practice of mixed marriages became law and spread, especially in the western regions. In his diocese Vladyka Anthony strictly forbade the clergy to celebrate mixed marriages.
“Vladyka Anthony well knew that Catholic influence in the midst of the Russian clergy was introduced through the theological schools: ‘We have lost (an Orthodox attitude towards Catholicism) because those guides by which we studied in school and which constitute the substance of our theological, dogmatic and moral science, is borrowed from the Catholics and Protestants; we are left only with straight heterodox errors which are known to all and have been condemned by ecclesiastical authorities…’
“Seeing the abnormal situation of church life in subjugated Carpathian Rus’, Vladyka Anthony turned to the Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III with a request to accept the Orthodox Galicians and Carpatho-Russians under his omophorion, since the Russian Synod for political reasons was unable to spread its influence there. The patriarch willingly agreed and appointed Vladyka Anthony as his exarch for Galicia and Carpathian Rus’. The Galicians, after finishing work in the fields and in spite of the great obstacles involved in crossing the border, sometimes with a direct danger to their lives, made pilgrimages in large groups to the Pochayev Lavra. Many Carpatho- Russians and Galicians entered the Volhynia theological seminary.
“Under the influence of all these undertakings, the Orthodox movement in these areas began to grow in an elemental manner with each year that passed. This elicited repressions on the part of the Austro-Hungarian government, which tried to suppress the movement. The persecution grew and soon Vladyka was forced to speak out in defence of the persecuted Christians. In August, 1913 he published an encyclical letter in which he eloquently portrayed all the woes and persecutions of the Orthodox population of the western regions. In going through the various instances of Catholics humiliating Orthodox, he cited the following example of the firmness of the persecuted and the cruelty of the persecutors: ‘Virgins who had gathered together to save their souls in fasting and prayer were stripped in winter and driven out onto a frozen lake, like the 40 martyrs of Sebaste, after which some of them soon died. Thus do they torture our Russians in Hungary and Austria in broad daylight in our civilized age…’
“But when massive arrests and tortures of the Orthodox began, and there was a trial of 94 Orthodox in Sihet, Vladyka Anthony composed a special prayer and petitions in the litanies, which were read in all the churches of the Volhynia diocese in the course of the whole period of the trial, which lasted for two months.
“This was the only voice raised in defence of the persecuted, not only in Russia but also throughout Europe.
“The Austro-Hungarian political circles, in agreement with the Vatican, undertook decisive measures to suppress the incipient mass return to Orthodoxy of the Carpatho-Russians and Galicians. It seems that they undertook diplomatic negotiations in St. Petersburg in order to remove the main cause of the movement that had arisen, Vladyka Anthony, from his Volhynia see.”
On May 20, 1914 Archbishop Anthony was duly transferred from the see of Volhynia to that of Kharkov… However, where human leaders fail, the King of kings intervenes. The First World War, which broke out on the feast of the recently canonized St. Seraphim of Sarov, July 19, 1914, removed – temporarily, at any rate – many of the dangers which had arisen in the pre-war period and against which Archbishop Anthony had struggled. Thus patriotic emotion and reverence for the Tsar revived, and concern for the fate of the Orthodox Christians in Serbia and the south-west regions made the struggle, in the minds of many, into a holy war in defence of Orthodoxy against militant Catholicism and Protestantism.
But let us now turn to that phenomenon which was to sweep away the State and bring the Russian Orthodox Church, and through her the whole of the Church of Christ on earth, to the very edge of total destruction – the revolution.
The February Revolution
“Terrible and mysterious,” wrote Metropolitan Anastasius, second leader of the Russian Church Abroad, “is the dark visage of the revolution. Viewed from the vantage point of its inner essence, it is not contained within the framework of history and cannot be studied on the same level as other historical facts. In its deepest roots it transcends the boundaries of space and time, as was determined by Gustave le Bon, who considered it an irrational phenomenon in which certain mystical, supernatural powers were at work. But what before may have been considered dubious became completely obvious after the Russian Revolution. In it everyone sensed, as one contemporary writer expressed himself, the critical incarnation of absolute evil in the temper of man; in other words, the participation of the devil – that father of lies and ancient enemy of God, who tries to make man his obedient weapon against God – was clearly revealed.”
Great lights such as St. John of Kronstadt had warned of the coming catastrophe. In 1907 Bishop Andronicus, the future hieromartyr, wrote: “It is not a question of the struggle between two administrative regimes, but of a struggle between faith and unbelief, between Christianity and antichristianity. The ancient antichristian plot, which was begun by those who shouted furiously to Pilate about Jesus Christ: ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him: His blood be on us and on our children’ - continued in various branches and secret societies. In the 16th century it poured into the special secret antichristian order of the Templars, and in the 18th century it became more definite in the Illuminati, the Rosencrucians and, finally, in Freemasonry it merged into a universal Jewish organization. And now, having gathered strength to the point where France is completely in the hands of the Masons, it – Masonry – already openly persecutes Christianity out of existence there. In the end Masonry will be poured out into one man of iniquity, the son of destruction – the Antichrist (II Thessalonians 2). In this resides the solution of the riddle of our most recent freedoms: their aim is the destruction of Christianity in Rus’. That is why what used to be the French word ‘liberal’, which meant among the Masons a ‘generous’ contributor to the Masonic aims, and then received the meaning of ‘freedom-loving’ with regard to questions of faith, has now already passed openly over to antichristianity. In this resides the solution of the riddle of that stubborn battle for control of the school, which is being waged in the zemstvo and the State Duma: if the liberal tendency gains control of the school, the success of antichristianity is guaranteed. In this resides the solution of the riddle of the sympathy of liberals for all kinds of sects in Christianity and non-Christian religions. And the sectarians have not been slumbering – they have now set about attacking the little children… And when your children grow up and enter university – there Milyukov [the future foreign minister in the Provisional Government] and co. will juggle with the facts and deceive them, teaching them that science has proved man’s origin from the apes. And they will really make our children into beasts, with just this difference, that the ape is a humble and obedient animal whereas these men-beasts will be proud, bold, cruel and unclean….”
However, the reaction of the Orthodox Church to the revolution was at first muted. The abdication of the Tsar in favour of his brother, Great Prince Michael Alexandrovich, on March 2/15, 1917 elicited surprisingly little reaction in view of the enormous, indeed apocalyptic significance of the event. Sadly, even the Holy Synod failed to measure up to its responsibilities at this time.
The first question that needed to be answered concerned the legitimacy of the new Provisional Government. The constitution of the Russian Empire did not allow for any transition to a non-autocratic, still less an anti-autocratic form of government. However, the Synod not only refused the request of the Tsarist Procurator, Rayev, that it publicly support the monarchy: it welcomed Great Prince Michael’s refusal to accept the throne from his brother, offered no resistance when the Royal Throne was removed by the new Procurator, Prince V. Lvov, from the hall in which its sessions took place, and on March 9/22 published an Address to the faithful children of the Orthodox Church in which it declared that “the will of God has been accomplished” and called on the church people to support the new government.
“This document, which appeared during the days when the whole of Orthodox Russia was anxiously waiting for what the Church would say with regard to the events that had taken place in the country, introduced no clarity into the ecclesiastical consciousness of the people. The Synod did not utter a word about the arrest of the Emperor and even of his completely innocent children, about the bloody lynch-mob trials established by the soldiers over their officers or about the disorders that had led to the death of people; it did not give a religio-moral evaluation of the revolutionary excesses, it did not condemn the guilty ones. Finally, the Address completely ignored the question how one should relate to the deposition and arrest of the Anointed of God, how to conduct Divine services in church without the important prayer for the prosperity of the Emperor’s House…”
For the liberals in the Church, however, the Synod’s Address did not go far enough. They wanted the removal not only of the Tsar, but also of the very concept of Sacred Monarchy. In its sessions of March 11 and 12, the Council of the Petrograd religious-philosophical society resolved that the Synod’s acceptance of the Tsar’s abdication “does not correspond to the enormous religious importance of the act, by which the Church recognized the Tsar in the rite of the coronation of the anointed of God. It is necessary, for the liberation of the people’s conscience and to avoid the possibility of a restoration, that a corresponding act be issued in the name of the Church hierarchy abolishing the power of the Sacrament of Royal Anointing, by analogy with the church acts abolishing the power of the Sacraments of Marriage and the Priesthood.”
In the end very few refused to swear allegiance to the Provisional Government. Among the few was Count Paul Mikhailovich Grabbe, who later raised the question of the restoration of the patriarchate at the Local Council of the Russian Church and some years after that received a martyr’s crown. Only slightly less uncompromising was the leading monarchist hierarch, Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who on March 5/18 preached to his flock in Kharkov: “When we received the news of the abdication from the Throne of the Most Pious Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, we prepared, in accordance with his direction, to commemorate the Most Pious Emperor Michael Alexandrovich. But now he, too, has abdicated, and has ordered obedience to the Provisional Government, and that is the reason, and the only reason, why we commemorate the Provisional Government. Otherwise no power would be able to force us to cease the commemoration of the Tsar and the Tsar’s House.”
Probably the best justification of the Synod’s line was expressed by Archpriest John Vostorgov, who was to receive a martyr’s crown the next year: “Our former Emperor, who has abdicated from the throne, transferred power in a lawful manner to his brother. In his turn the brother of the Emperor, having abdicated from power until the final decision of the Constituent Assembly, in the same lawful manner transferred power to the Provisional Government, and to that permanent government that which be given to Russia by the Constituent Assembly. And so we now have a completely lawful Provisional Government which is the powers that be, as the Word of God calls it. To this power, which is now the One Supreme and All-Russian power, we are obliged to submit in accordance with the duty of religious conscience; we are obliged to pray for it; we are obliged also to obey the local authorities established by it. In this obedience, after the abdication of the former Emperor and his brother, and after their indications that the Provisional Government is lawful, there can be no betrayal of the former oath, but in it consists our direct duty.”
And yet, when the foreign minister of the new government, Paul Milyukov, was asked who had elected his government, he replied: “The Russian revolution elected us”. But the revolution cannot be lawful, being the incarnation of lawlessness… Therefore confusion and searching of consciences continued.
This can be seen in a letter of some Orthodox Christians to the Holy Synod dated July 24, 1917: “We Orthodox Christians most ardently beseech you to explain to us in the newspaper Russkoye Slovo what.. the oath given to us to be faithful to the Tsar, Nicholas Alexandrovich, means. People are saying in our area that if this oath is worth nothing, then the new oath to the new Tsar [the Provisional Government?] will be worth nothing. Which oath must be more pleasing to God. The first or the second? Because the Tsar is not dead, but is alive and in prison…”
In any case, the Holy Synod was soon to learn from its own experience what the new government really represented. Instead of the separation between Church and State which the government promised and so many Church leaders longed for, the new Procurator, Prince V.N. Lvov, immediately began to act like a new dictator worse than any of the Procurators of the Tsarist period. As we have seen, at the beginning of his first appearance at the Synod on March 4/17, he removed the Royal Throne (it was placed in a museum). Two days later he secured the forced retirement of the Metropolitan of Petrograd, Pitirim, on the grounds that he had been placed in his see by Rasputin. The removal of the highly-respected Metropolitan of Moscow, Macarius, Apostle of the Altai, required a little more time (he was removed from his see on March 20 and retired on April 1), and was accomplished only after a personal visit to Moscow by Lvov to stir up opposition to the metropolitan among his priests and laity.
Metropolitan Macarius was never reconciled with his forced and uncanonical removal from his see. This is what he later wrote about the Provisional Government as a whole and Lvov in particular: “They corrupted the army with their speeches. They opened the prisons. They released onto the peaceful population convicts, thieves and robbers. They abolished the police and administration, placing the life and property of citizens at the disposal of every armed rogue… They destroyed trade and industry, imposing taxes that swallowed up the profits of enterprises… They squandered the resources of the exchequer in a crazy manner. They radically undermined all the sources of life in the country. They established elections to the Constituent Assembly on bases that are incomprehensible to Russia. They defiled the Russian language, distorting it for the amusement of half-illiterates and sluggards. They did not even guard their own honour, violating the promise they had given to the abdicated Tsar to allow him and his family free departure, by which they prepared for him inevitable death…
“Who started the persecution on the Orthodox Church and handed her head over to crucifixion? Who demanded the execution of the Patriarch? Was it those whom the Duma decried as ‘servants of the dark forces’, labelled as enemies of the freedom of the Church?... No, it was not those, but those him the Duma opposed to them as a true defender of the Church, whom it intended for, and promoted to the rank of over-procurator of the Most Holy Synod – the member of the Provisional Government, now servant of the Sovnarkom – Vladimir Lvov.”
On April 14/27, a stormy meeting took place between Lvov and the Holy Synod. The subject was the unlawful transfer by Lvov of the Holy Synod’s official organ, Tserkovno-Obshchestvennij Vestnik, into the hands of the renovationist Professor Titlinov, who was now using it to preach his Gospel of “Socialist Christianity”. The next day Lvov marched into the Synod at the head of a detachment of soldiers and read an order for the cessation of the winter session of the Synod and the retirement of all its members with the single exception of Archbishop Sergius (Stragorodsky) of Finland.
Thus in little more than a month since the abdication of the Tsar, the Church had been effectively placed in the hands of a lay dictator, who had single-handedly dismissed her most senior bishops in the name of the “freedom of the Church”. But who was this Archbishop Sergius, the one member of the old Synod that the revolutionary powers did not want to remove?
Archbishop Sergius (born 1867) was perhaps the most prominent of the learned, academic bishops of Russia after his teacher, Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky). Thanks to his erudition and the well-known “suppleness” of his views, he took a very active part in the work of the society for the rapprochement of the Orthodox and Anglican Churches. This sympathy for the ideas of the West manifested itself also in his active participation in the activities of the liberal religious-philosophical society, and in his sympathy for the socialist revolutionaries. Thus when the revolutionary Peter Schmidt was shot in 1906, Archbishop Sergius, who was at that time rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, served a pannikhida at his grave; and he also gave refuge in his hierarchical house in Vyborg to the revolutionaries Michael Novorussky and Nicholas Morozov. Having such sympathies, it is not surprising that he was not liked by the Royal Family: in 1915 the Empress wrote to the Emperor that Sergius “must leave the Synod”.
Not surprisingly, Archbishop Sergius was among those who welcomed the February revolution – although, as we have seen, there were many other bishops and priests who did the same. Moreover, he was one of only two members of the Synod who approved Lvov’s transfer of the Synod’s official organ, the Tserkovno-Obshchestvennij Vestnik, into the hands of Titlinov. Now Titlinov was a professor at the Petrograd Academy of which Sergius was the rector; the two worked closely together, being inspired by the same liberal views. Archbishop (later Patriarch) Tikhon had protested against this transfer, and the small number of signatures for the transfer made it illegal. Lvov, however, in his zeal to hand this important Church organ into the hands of the liberals, completely ignored the illegality of the act and handed the press over to Titlinov.
At the session of April 14/27, Sergius apparently changed course and agreed with the other bishops in condemning the unlawful transfer. However, Lvov understood that this was only a tactical protest. So he did not include Sergius among the bishops whom he purged from the Synod. He thought that Sergius would continue to be his tool in the revolution that he was introducing in the Church. And he was right in so thinking.
For on April 29 / May 12, the new Synod headed by Archbishop Sergius accepted an Address to the Church concerning the establishment of the principle of the election of the episcopate, and the preparation for a Council and the establishment of a Preconciliar Council. This Address triggered a revolution in the Church. The revolution consisted in the fact that all over the country the elective principle with the participation of laymen replaced the system of “episcopal autocracy” which had prevailed thereto. In almost all dioceses Diocesan Congresses elected special “diocesan councils” or committees composed of clergy and laity that restricted the power of the bishops. The application of the elective principle to almost all ecclesiastical posts, from parish offices to episcopal sees, resulted in the removal of several bishops from their sees and the election of new ones in their stead.
Although the spirit behind this revolutionary wave was undoubtedly anti-ecclesiastical in essence, by the Providence of God it resulted in some changes that were beneficial for the Church. Thus the staunchly monarchist Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kharkov, after being forced to retire, was later reinstated at the demand of the people. Again, Archbishop Tikhon (Bellavin) of Lithuania was elected metropolitan of Moscow, and Archbishop Benjamin (Kazansky) was made metropolitan of Petrograd. However, there were also harmful changes, such as the removal of the metropolitan of Vladimir and his replacement by – Archbishop Sergius.
From June 1 to 7 an All-Russian Congress of clergy and laity took place in Moscow consisting of 800 delegates from all the dioceses. This Congress carried forward the renovationist wave; and with Archbishop Sergius in charge of the Preconciliar Council, it looked as if the All-Russian Council that was being prepared would finally seal the break with the pre-revolutionary past and bring the Russian Church into the mainstream of twentieth-century ecclesiastical life, by which the liberals meant, in effect, her protestantization. But it was not to be.
The Moscow Council of 1917-18
The Council, the first in the history of the Russian Church since 1666, assembled in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow on August 15/28, being composed of 564 delegates, including 350 laymen.
At the beginning there was little sign that more than a minority of the delegates understood the full apocalyptic significance of the events they were living through. Revolutionary sentiment was dominant, and many opposed one of the main items on the agenda, the restoration of the patriarchate, on the grounds that it was a reactionary, monarchist measure (the Pre-Conciliar Council in June had called it “antichristian”!). Paradoxically, it was only after the Bolsheviks came to power in October that a new spirit began to prevail.
One of the delegates, Metropolitan Eulogius of Western Europe, described the change thus: “Russian life in those days was like a sea tossed by the storm of revolution. Church life had fallen into a state of disorganization. The external appearance of the Council, because of the diversity of its composition, its irreconciliability and the mutual hostility of its different tendencies and states of mind, was at first matter for anxiety and sadness and even seemed to constitute a cause for apprehension… Some members of the Council had already been carried away by the wave of revolution. The intelligentsia, peasants, workers and professors all tended irresistibly to the left. Among the clergy there were also different elements. Some of them proved to be ‘leftist’ participants of the previous revolutionary Moscow Diocesan Congress, who stood for a thorough and many-sided reform of church life. Disunion, disorder, dissatisfaction, even mutual distrust… – such was the state of the Council at first. But – O miracle of God! – everything began gradually to change… The disorderly assembly, moved by the revolution and in contact with its sombre elements, began to change into something like a harmonious whole, showing external order and internal solidarity. People became peaceable and serious in their tasks and began to feel differently and to look on things in a different way. This process of prayerful regeneration was evident to every observant eye and perceptible to every participant in the Council. A spirit of peace, renewal and unanimity inspired us all…”
The Council was in session for over a year, until September, 1918. It thus coincided with the most momentous events in Russian history: the war with Germany, the fall of the Provisional Government and the Bolshevik coup, the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and the beginning of the Civil War. On all these events the Council was able to make declarations that expressed the opinion of Believing Russia. In a real sense, in the absence of any other representative assembly, it was the voice of Russia – or, at any rate, of that large proportion of the population which had not been engulfed by the revolutionary frenzy. As for the Bolsheviks, whose decrees with regard to the Church were either ignored or outrightly defied by the Council, they made no serious attempt to impede its work…
The significance of the Council for the understanding and evaluation of the present state of the Russian Church cannot be overestimated. It pronounced authoritatively on almost all the major questions that were to divide Russian Orthodox Christians during the next seventy-five years. Let us look at each of these in turn:-
1. The Election of a Patriarch. As we have seen the pre-conciliar council in June had expressed itself strongly against the restoration of the patriarchate, and at the beginning of the Council proper the proposal met with considerable opposition. However, the opposition steadily declined in strength during the autumn, largely due to the energetic support of the patriarchate by Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and the future Hieromartyr Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky). On October 30 the first ballot produced the following result: for Archbishop Anthony – 101 votes; for Archbishop Cyril of Tambov (the future hieromartyr and first-hierarch of the Catacomb Church) - 27; and for the new Metropolitan of Moscow Tikhon – 23 votes. At the second ballot on October 31 three candidates were elected: Archbishop Anthony of Kharkov, Metropolitan Arsenius of Novgorod and Metropolitan Tikhon of Moscow. On November 5, lots were drawn, and the let fell on Metropolitan Tikhon, who was duly enthroned on November 21 in the Kremlin cathedral of the Dormition to the sound of rifle fire from the battle for Moscow outside. Thus was the wish of one of the peasant delegates fulfilled: “We have a tsar no more; no father whom we love. It is impossible to love a synod; and therefore we, the peasants, want a Patriarch.”
According to the new constitution of the Russian Church agreed at the Council, the Church’s supreme organ was the Sacred All-Russian Council, composed of bishops, clergy and laity, which was to be periodically convoked by the Patriarch but to which the Patriarch himself was responsible. Between Councils, the Patriarch administered the Church with the aid of two permanent bodies: the Synod of Bishops, and the Higher Church Council. Questions relating to theology, religious discipline and ecclesiastical administration were to be the prerogative of the Synod of Bishops, while secular-juridical, charity and other church-related social questions were to be the prerogative of the Higher Church Council.
On January 23, 1918, the Bolsheviks issued their Decree on the Separation of Church from State and School from Church. On January 25, the Council heard that Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev had been murdered by the Bolsheviks. These events concentrated minds on the danger the Patriarch was in; and on the same day the Council immediately passed a resolution entrusting him with the drawing up of the names of three men who could serve as locum tenentes of the Patriarch in the event of his death and before the election of a new Patriarch. These names were to be kept secret, and they were in fact published only after the Patriarch’s death in 1925, when his will (revised by him towards the end of 1924) was read out in the presence of sixty hierarchs: “In the event of our death our patriarchal rights and obligations, until the canonical election of a new Patriarch, we grant temporarily to his Eminence Metropolitan Cyril (Smirnov). In the event of the impossibility, by reason of whatever circumstances, of his entering upon the exercise of the indicated rights and obligations, they will pass to his Eminence Metropolitan Agathangelus (Preobrazhensky). If this metropolitan, too, does not succeed in accomplishing this, then our patriarchal rights and obligations will pass to his Eminence Peter (Polyansky), Metropolitan of Krutitsa.” Since both Metropolitans Cyril and Agathangelus were in exile at the time of the Patriarch’s death, Metropolitan Peter became the patriarchal locum tenens.
Patriarch Tikhon’s choice of Metropolitan Peter turned out to be inspired, although he was not well known at the time of the Council and his meteoric rise through the ranks of the episcopate roused some suspicion among some of the bishops. As Regelson comments: “That the first-hierarchical authority in the Russian Church after the death of Patriarch Tikhon was able to be preserved was thanks only to the fact that one of the patriarchal locum tenentes Patriarch Tikhon chose in 1918 was Metropolitan Peter, who at the moment of the choice was only a servant of the Synod! Many hierarchs were amazed and disturbed by his subsequent swift ‘career’, which changed him in the course of six years into the metropolitan of Krutitsa and Kolomna… But it was precisely thanks to the extraordinary nature of his destiny that he turned out to be the only one chosen by the Patriarch (in actual fact, chosen by the Council, as entrusted to the Patriarch) who was left in freedom at the moment of the death of Patriarch Tikhon. It is difficult even to conjecture how complicated and, besides, tragic would have been the destiny of the Russian Church if the wise thought of the Council and the Patriarch had not been realized in life.”
2. The Attitude towards Soviet power. The Council refused to recognize the legitimacy of Soviet power. Thus when, on the day after the coup, October 26, Lenin nationalized all land, making the Church’s and parish priests’ property illegal, the Council addressed a letter to the faithful on November 11, calling the revolution “descended from the Antichrist and possessed by atheism”: “Open combat is fought against the Christian Faith, in opposition to all that is sacred, arrogantly abasing all that bears the name of God (II Thessalonians 2.4)… But no earthly kingdom founded on ungodliness can ever survive: it will perish from internal strife and party dissension. Thus, because of its frenzy of atheism, the State of Russia will fall… For those who use the sole foundation of their power in the coercion of the whole people by one class, no motherland or holy place exists. They have become traitors to the motherland and instigated an appalling betrayal of Russia and her true allies. But, to our grief, as yet no government has arisen which is sufficiently one with the people to deserve the blessing of the Orthodox Church. And such will not appear on Russian soil until we turn with agonizing prayer and tears of repentance to Him, without Whom we labour in vain to lay foundations…”
The Council’s decree of December 2, “On the Legal Status of the Russian Orthodox Church”, continued to claim for the Orthodox Church the legal status of the national Church of Russia. It ruled, on the one hand, that the State could issue no law relating to the Church without prior consultation with and approval by the Church, and on the other hand, that any decree and by-laws issued by the Orthodox Church that did not directly contradict state laws were to be systematically recognized by the state as legally binding. Church holidays were to remain state holidays, blasphemy and attempts to lure members of the Church away from her were to remain illegal, and schools of all levels organized and run by the Church were to be recognised by the state on a par with the secular schools. It is clear from this decree that the Church was determined to go Her own way in complete defiance of the so-called “authorities”.
On December 11 there was published the decree transferring to the Narkompros all ecclesiastical schools, as a result of which the Church was deprived of all its academies, seminaries, schools and all the property linked with them. Then, on December 18, ecclesiastical marriage was deprived of its legal status and civil marriage introduced in its place. On January 13, Alexandra Kollontai, the People’s Commissar of Social Welfare, sent a detachment of sailors to occupy the Alexander Nevsky monastery in Petrograd and turn it into a sanctuary for war invalids. They were met by an angry crowd of worshippers and in the struggle which followed one priest, Fr. Peter Skipetrov, was shot dead. According to Figes, Lenin was not yet ready for a confrontation with the Church; but Kollontai’s actions had forced his hand, and he decided to publish a draft decree on the Separation of Church and State.
On January 19, Patriarch Tikhon, anticipating the decree, issued his famous anathema against the Bolsheviks. The significance of this anathema lies not so much in its casting out of the Bolsheviks themselves (all those who deny God are subject to anathema, that is, separation from God, for that very denial), as in the command to the faithful: “I adjure all of you who are faithful children of the Orthodox Church of Christ not to commune with such outcasts of the human race in any matter whatsoever; ‘cast out the wicked from among you’ (I Corinthians 5.13).” In other words, the government were to be regarded, not only as apostates from Christ (that was obvious), but also as having no moral authority, no claim to obedience whatsoever – an attitude taken by the Church to no other government in the whole of Her history. The decree ended with an appeal to defend the Church, if necessary, to the death. For “the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her” (Matthew 16.18).
January 19 / February 1 was also the day on which the Soviet State introduced the new, Gregorian calendar into Russia. Thus the day on which the Soviets dragged Russia into the godless twentieth-century, thinking “to change times and laws” (Daniel 7.25), they themselves were expelled from life eternal.
It has been argued that the Patriarch’s decree did not anathematise Soviet power as such, but only those who were committing acts of violence and sacrilege against the Church in various parts of the country. However, this argument fails to take into account several facts. First, the patriarch himself, in his declarations of June 16 and July 1, 1923, repented precisely of his “anathematisation of Soviet power”. Secondly, even if the decree did not formally anathematise Soviet power as such, since Soviet power sanctioned and initiated the acts of violence, the faithful were in effect being exhorted to having nothing to do with it. And thirdly, in his Epistle to the Council of People’s Commissars on the first anniversary of the revolution, November 7, 1918, the Patriarch obliquely but clearly confirmed his non-recognition of Soviet power, saying: “It is not our business to make judgments about earthly authorities. Every power allowed by God would attract to itself Our blessing if it were truly ‘the servant of God’, for the good of those subject to it, and were ‘terrible not for good works, but for evil’ (Romans 13.3,4). But now to you, who have used authority for the persecution of the innocent, We extend this Our word of exhortation… “
Most important of all, when the Patriarch’s decree came to be read out to the Council on January 22 / February 4, it was enthusiastically endorsed by it in terms which make it clear that the Council understood the Patriarch to have anathematised precisely Soviet power: “The Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia in his epistle to the beloved in the Lord archpastors, pastors and all faithful children of the Orthodox Church of Christ has drawn the spiritual sword against the outcasts of the human race – the Bolsheviks, and anathematised them. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church adjures all her faithful children not to enter into any communion with these outcasts. For their satanic deeds they are cursed in this life and in the life to come. Orthodox! His Holiness the Patriarch has been given the right to bind and to loose according to the word of the Saviour… Do not destroy your souls, cease communion with the servants of Satan – the Bolsheviks. Parents, if your children are Bolsheviks, demand authoritatively that they renounce their errors, that they bring forth repentance for their eternal sin, and if they do not obey you, renounce them. Wives, if your husbands are Bolsheviks and stubbornly continue to serve Satan, leave your husbands, save yourselves and your children from the soul-destroying infection. An Orthodox Christian cannot have communion with the servants of the devil… Repent, and with burning prayer call for help from the Lord of Hosts and thrust away from yourselves ‘the hand of strangers’ – the age-old enemies of the Christian faith, who have declared themselves in self-appointed fashion ‘the people’s power’… If you do not obey the Church, you will not be her sons, but participants in the cruel and satanic deeds wrought by the open and secret enemies of Christian truth… Dare! Do not delay! Do not destroy your soul and hand it over to the devil and his stooges.”
Although, as we have said, it was unprecedented for a Local Church to anathematise a government, there have been occasions in the history of the Church when individual hierarchs have not only refused to obey or pray for a political leader, but have actually prayed against him. Thus in the fourth century St. Basil the Great prayed for the defeat of Julian the Apostate, and it was through his prayers that the apostate was killed, as was revealed by God to the holy hermit Julian of Mesopotamia. Not only St. Basil, but also his friend, St. Gregory the Theologian, did not recognise the rule of Julian the Apostate to be legitimate.
This and other examples show that, while the principle of authority as such is from God (Romans. 13.1), individual authorities or rulers are often not from God, but are only allowed by Him, in which case the Church must offer resistance to them out of loyalty to God Himself.
On January 20 / February 2, the Bolsheviks issued their decree on the Separation of Church from State and School from Church, which was couched in terms of a “Decree on Freedom of Conscience, Church and Religious Organizations”. This was the Bolsheviks’ fiercest attack yet on the integrity of the Church; for it forbade religious bodies from owning property, from levying dues, from organizing into hierarchical organizations, and from teaching religion to persons under 18 years of age. Thus, far from being a blow struck for freedom of conscience, it was, as the Council put it, a decree on freedom from conscience, and an excuse for large-scale pillaging of churches and murders, often in the most bestial manner.
The decree elicited strong reactions from individual members of the Council. Thus one exclaimed: “We overthrew the tsar and subjected ourselves to the Jews!” And another said: “The sole means of salvation for the Russian nation is a wise Orthodox Russian tsar!” The Council exhorted the faithful to protect church property, and soon there were reports of people mobbing the officials and soldiers detailed to carry out the decree. Several hundred thousand people marched through Petrograd in protest.
The section of the Council appointed to report on the decree made the following recommendations: “The individuals wielding the governmental authority audaciously attempt to destroy the very existence of the Orthodox Church. In order to realize this satanic design, the Soviet of People’s Commissars published the decree concerning the separation of the Church from the State, which legalized an open persecution not only of the Orthodox Church, but of all other religious communions, Christian or non-Christian. Not despising deceit, the enemies of Christ fraudulently put on the appearance of granting by it religious liberty.
“Welcoming all real extension of liberty of conscience, the Council at the same time points out that by the provisions of the said decree, the freedom of the Orthodox Church, as well as of all other religious organizations and communions in general, is rendered void. Under the pretense of ‘the separation of the Church from the State’, the Soviet of People’s Commissars attempts to render impossible the very existence of the churches, the ecclesiastical institutions, and the clergy.
“Under the guise of taking over the ecclesiastical property, the said decree aims to destroy the very possibility of Divine worship and ministration. It declares that ‘no ecclesiastical or religious association has the right to possess property’, and ‘all property of the existing ecclesiastical and religious associations in Russia is declared to be national wealth.’ Thereby the Orthodox churches and monasteries, those resting-places of the relics of the saints revered by all Orthodox people, become the common property of all citizens irrespective of their credal differences – of Christians, Jews, Muslims and pagans, and the holy objects designated for the Divine service, i.e. the holy Cross, the holy Gospel, the sacred vessels, the holy miracle-working icons are at the disposal of the governmental authorities, which may either permit or not (as they wish) their use by the parishes.
“Let the Russian people understand that they (the authorities) wish to deprive them of God’s churches with their sacred objects! As soon as all property of the Church is taken away, it is not possible to offer any aid to it, for in accordance with the intention of the decree everything donated shall be taken away. The support of monasteries, churches and the clergy alike becomes impossible.
“But that is not all: in consequence of the confiscation of the printing establishments, it is impossible for the Church independently to publish the holy Gospel as well as other sacred and liturgical books in their wonted purity and authenticity.
“In the same manner, the decree affects the pastors of the Church. Declaring that ‘no one may refuse to perform his civil duties on account of his religious views’, it thereby constrains them to fulfil military obligations forbidden them by the 83rd canon of the holy Apostles. At the same time, ministers of the altar are removed from educating the people. The very teaching of the law of God, not only in governmental, but even in private schools, is not permitted; likewise all theological institutions are doomed to be closed. The Church is thus excluded from the possibility of educating her own pastors.
“Declaring that ‘the governmental functions or those of other public-juridical institutions shall not be accompanied by any religious rites or ceremonies,’ the decree thereby sacrilegiously sunders all connections of the government with the sanctities of the faith.
“On the basis of all the above-mentioned considerations, the holy Council decrees:
“1. The decree published by the Soviet of People’s Commissars regarding the separation of the Church from the State represents in itself, under the guise of a law declaring liberty of conscience, an inimical attempt upon the life of the Orthodox Church, and is an act of open persecution.
“2. All participation, either in the publication of the law so injurious to the Church, or in attempts to put it into practice, is not reconcilable with membership of the Orthodox Church, and subjects all transgressors belonging to the Orthodox communion to the heaviest penalties, to the extent of excommunicating them from the Church (in accordance with the 73rd canon of the holy Apostles, and the 13th canon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council).”
These recommendations were then adopted by the Council and became the official reply of the Russian Church to the decree (January 25 / February 7). In the same spirit, on April 15 the Council passed the following decree: “Clergymen serving in anti-ecclesiastical institutions, as well as those who put into effect the decrees on freedom of conscience which are inimical to the Church and similar acts, are subject to being banned from serving and, in the case of impenitence, are deprived of their rank.”
Thus the decrees of the Soviet State followed by the counter-decrees of the Orthodox Church established a state of open warfare between the two institutions.
As we shall see, however, the Church maintained this uncompromising position for only a few years at most…
3. The Glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors. On March 31 / April 13, a Liturgy for those killed for the Orthodox Faith and Church was performed in the Moscow Theological Academy. On April 5/18, in a decree entitled “On Measures Elicited by the Ongoing Persecution of the Orthodox Church”, the Council resolved:
“1. To establish the raising in church during Divine services of special petitions for those who are now being persecuted for the Orthodox Faith and Church and those who have completed their lives as confessors and martyrs…
“3. To establish throughout Russia a yearly prayerful commemoration on January 25 [the day of the martyrdom of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev], or on the Sunday following (in the evening), of all the confessors and martyrs who have fallen asleep in the present year’s savage persecutions.
“4. To organize on the Monday of the second week of Pascha, in all parishes where confessors and martyrs for the Faith and the Church finished their lives, cross processions to the places of their burial, where triumphant pannikhidas are to be celebrated with the specific verbal glorification of their sacred memory…”
Points 3 and 4 of this decree remained a dead letter for most of the Soviet period. However, in November, 1981 the Russian Church Abroad canonized the new martyrs, and since then devotion to the new martyrs and observance of their feasts steadily increased inside Russia, leading, as some have supposed, to the fall of communism in 1991. Thus the glorification of the new martyrs, which began in April, 1918, may be said to be the earnest of, and first step towards, the resurrection of Russia.
These measures implicitly condemn the attitude of the Sovietised Moscow Patriarchate, which for decades declared that the new martyrs and confessors were “political criminals” worthy of derision rather than praise. Beginning in 1989, the patriarchate began to canonize a few, less controversial martyrs, and even, in very recent years, a few genuine catacomb martyrs. Then, in August, 2000, the Royal Martyrs and many catacomb martyrs were canonised – together with some “martyrs” who clearly submitted to the antichristian power.
The Murder of the Tsar
In 1922 Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) wrote “If the [1917-18] Council was at fault in anything, it was perhaps in failing to express with sufficient force its condemnation of the revolution and the overthrow of his Majesty. Who will be able to deny that the February revolution was as God-hating as it was anti-monarchist? Who can condemn the Bolshevik revolution and at the same time approve of the Provisional government?”
The Provisional government was hardly less guilty than the Bolsheviks because it was they who overthrew the Tsar, which led to the overthrow of everything else. For, as St. John Maximovich said: “It cannot be otherwise. He was overthrown who united everything, standing in defence of the Truth.” In fact, according to the profound consciousness of the Church, the murder of the Tsar and his family on July 4/17, 1918 was not the responsibility of the Bolsheviks only, but of the whole people who, directly or indirectly, connived at it. As St. John explained: “All the regicides in Russia’s history were committed by some clique, not by the people. When Paul I was murdered, the people were not even aware of it, and when they found out, they brought their condolences and prayers to his grave for many years afterward. Alexander II’s murder unleashed a storm of indignation in Russia, which helped strengthen the moral fibre of the people, as became evident during the reign of Alexander III. The people were innocent of the Tsar-Liberator’s blood. But here the people, the entire Russian nation, is guilty of the spilled blood of their Tsar. Some partook in the murder, others, just as blameworthy, approved of it, while still others did nothing to interfere. All are guilty, and truly we must say: ‘His blood be on us, and on our children’ (Matthew 27.25)…”
On hearing the news, the patriarch immediately condemned the murder. He had already angered the government by sending the Tsar his blessing in prison; and he now celebrated a pannikhida for him, blessing the archpastors and pastors to do the same. Then he announced in the Kazan cathedral: “We, in obedience to the teaching of the Word of God, must condemn this deed, otherwise the blood of the shot man will fall also on us, and not only on those who committed the crime…”
At one point shortly after the murder of the Tsar, some member of the Council suggested to the Patriarch that he take refuge abroad, so that he not share in the fate of the Tsar. “The flight of the Patriarch,” replied his Holiness, “would play into the hands of the enemies of the Church. Let them do with me what they want.”
On July 26 / August 8, in an address “to all the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church”, the Patriarch said: “Sin has fanned everywhere the flame of the passions, enmity and wrath; brother has risen up against brother; the prisons are filled with captives; the earth is soaked in innocent blood, shed by a brother’s hand; it is defiled by violence, pillaging, fornication and every uncleanness. From this same poisonous source of sin has issued the great deception of material earthly goods, by which our people is enticed, forgetting the one thing necessary. We have not rejected this temptation, as the Saviour Christ rejected it in the wilderness. We have wanted to create a paradise on earth, but without God and His holy commandments. God is not mocked. And so we hunger and thirst and are naked upon the earth, blessed with an abundance of nature’s gifts, and the seal of the curse has fallen on the very work of the people and on all the undertakings of our hands. Sin, heavy and unrepented of, has summoned Satan from the abyss, and he is now bellowing his slander against the Lord and against His Christ, and is raising an open persecution against the Church.”
This address characterized Socialism in similar terms to those used by Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, as the temptation to create bread out of stones which Christ rejected in the wilderness. Rather than seeking paradise in heaven and with God through the fulfilment of His commandments, the Socialists “have wanted to create a paradise on earth, but without God and His holy commandments”. The result has been hell in this life and (to quote from the anathema) “the fire of Gehenna in the life to come”.
This went some of the way to meeting the criticisms levelled against the Patriarch and the Council by Count Olsuphyev and Protopriest Vladimir Vostokov, that the essence of Socialism as an antichristian heresy had been hardly touched upon. As Fr. Vladimir said: “From this platform, before the enlightener of Russia, the holy Prince Vladimir, I witness to my priestly conscience that the Russian people is being deceived, and that up to this time no one has told them the whole truth. So much has been said here about the terrors brought upon the country by Bolshevism. But what is Bolshevism? – the natural and logical development of Socialism. And Socialism is – that antichristian movement which in the final analysis produces Bolshevism as its highest development and which engenders those phenomena completely contrary to the principles of Christian asceticism that we are living through now.
“Unfortunately, many of our professors and writers have arrayed Socialism in beautiful clothes, calling it similar to Christianity, and thereby they together with the agitators of revolution have led the uneducated people into error. Fathers and brothers! What fruits did we expect of Socialism, when we not only did not fight against it, but also defended it at times, or almost always were shyly silent before its contagion? We must serve the Church by faith, and save the country from destructive tendencies, and for that it is necessary to speak the truth to the people without delay, telling them what Socialism consists of and what it leads to.
“We all, beginning with Your Holiness and ending with myself, the last member of the Council, must bow the knee before God, and beseech Him to forgive us for allowing the growth in the country of evil teachings and violence. Only after sincere repentance by the whole people will the country be pacified and regenerated. And God will bestow upon us His mercy and grace. But if we continue only to anathematize without repenting, without declaring the truth to the people, then they will with just cause say to us: You, too, are guilty that the country has been reduced to this crime, for which the anathema now sounds out; you by your pusillanimity have allowed the development of evil and have been slow to call the facts and phenomena of state life by their real names!
“We all must unite into one Christian family under the banner of the Holy and Life-Creating Cross and under the leadership of his Holiness the Patriarch, to say that Socialism, which calls people as if to brotherhood, is an openly antichristian and evil phenomenon…”
The essential incompatibility between Socialism and Christianity was never doubted by the apostles of Socialism. Religion was called “opium for the people” by Marx, and by Lenin – “spiritual vodka”. Again, Lenin wrote that “every religious idea, every idea of a god, even flirting with the idea of God is unutterable vileness of the most dangerous kind”. And in 1918 he said to Krasin: “Electricity will take the place of God. Let the peasant pray to electricity; he’s going to feel the power of the central authorities more than that of heaven.” For, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn says: “Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy. It is not a side-effect, but the central pivot…”
That militant atheism was the central pivot of Marxism-Leninism was to become abundantly evident in the next seventy years. However, it was already clearly manifest in the murder of the Tsar and his family. For by his abdication in favour of himself and his son, the Tsar had already renounced all claims to power, so his murder had no political advantage in view, but was an act of pure malice. It was a trampling on the symbol of the old theocracy by the representatives of the new satanocracy, and an important signal from the new authorities to the people – a signal that there was no turning back. And just as the whole tragedy of the Russian people in the years that lay ahead lay in the fact that they had paved the way for this satanic act, the destruction of the Russian theocracy, and cooperated with it, so the only real hope of their regeneration now lies in their repentance of it…
The Patriarch and the Commissars
The defiant spirit of the Moscow Council and the first year of the Church’s existence under Soviet power continued to manifest itself in the Patriarch’s statements as the Church entered the second year of Soviet power. Now in view of this hostile attitude towards Soviet power it might have seemed logical for the Patriarch to bless the efforts of the White armies to liberate Russia from the Bolshevik tyranny. However, he did not do this, and in October, 1919 he instructed the clergy to stay clear of politics and to obey the Soviet authorities to the extent that their orders did not “contradict the faith and piety”. Indeed, after his and the Council’s condemnation of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March, 1918 the Patriarch never again made what might have been construed as a political statement or intervention in the political life of the country.
The reason for this is to be found in one of the last decisions of the Council, that of August 2/15, 1918, which constituted a refusal by the Church to engage in politics. Past defrockings of clergy for political crimes (Metropolitan Arsenius Matseyevich, Fr. Gregory Petrov) were recognised to be invalid. Each member of the Church was free to engage in political activity in whatever direction his Orthodox conscience intimated to him, but no one had the right to speak in the name of the Church or place upon the Church the responsibility for his own political acitivity.
This decree in no way contradicted the anti-Bolshevik anathema of January, 1918. It was dictated by the simple fact that dioceses of the Russian Church were now to be found in several different States, some in Soviet Russia, others in White-occupied Russia and others still within the German sphere of influence. Orthodox teaching counsels obedience to all legitimate authorities, and the Church by this decree in effect legitimised Her members’ taking different political positions in different countries, without directly antagonizing the Soviet authorities.
Another reason why the Patriarch did not bless the White armies may have been a prophetic intuition that they would fail. For, as Elder Aristocles of Moscow said, “the spirit was not right,” – many of them were aiming, not at the restoration of the Romanov dynasty, but at the reconvening of the Constituent Assembly or the restoration of the landowners’ lands. Moreover, many of them were Freemasons. “And could he have given [his blessing],” asks Michael Nazarov, “if there sat in the White governments at that time activists like, for example, the head of the Archangel government Tchaikovsky, who gave to the West as an explanation of the Bolshevik savageries the idea that ‘we put up with the destructive autocratic regime for too long,… our people were less educated politically than the other allied peoples’?”
In 1922, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) confirmed this verdict: “Unfortunately, the most noble and pious leader of this [the White] army listened to those unfitting counsellors who were foreign to Russia and sat in his Special council and destroyed the undertaking. The Russian people, the real people, the believing and struggling people, did not need the bare formula: ‘a united and undivided Russia’. They needed neither ‘Christian Russia’, nor ‘Faithless Russia’, nor ‘Tsarist Russia’, nor ‘the Landowners’ Russia’ (by which they will always understand a republic). They needed the combination of the three dear words – ‘for the Faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland’. Most of all, they needed the first word, since faith rules the whole of the state’s life; the second word was necessary since the tsar guards and protects the first; and the third was needed since the people is the bearer of the first words.”
Thus one of the major consequences of the overthrow of the Tsar was that the Church, not finding any real support for her aims in any post-tsarist political party or movement, felt unable to bless the anti-Bolshevik forces. This is not to say that the Church was not committed to a rejection of the Bolshevik system, insofar as the latter, basing itself on the philosophical theory of dialectical materialism, attacked Christ and the Orthodox Faith. But anti-Bolshevism alone is not a positive ideal – and only that which is truly positive and spiritual can merit the blessing of God and His Church. So there was no formal contradiction between the politically neutral tone of the Council’s August decree and the anti-Soviet content of the Patriarch’s October Epistle. Nevertheless, insofar as the more-than-political and essentially anti-Christian nature of Bolshevism was not spelled out, a chink was left in the Church’s defences which Her enemies, both political and ecclesiastical, were quick to exploit.
And so the Patriarch’s anti-Soviet statements were construed as dabbling in politics; while his refusal to bless the White armies was construed as the equivalent of a blessing on the Soviet State. In fact, neither the Council nor the Patriarch (in his genuine statements, as opposed to the forged will published after his death in 1925) ever blessed or legitimised Soviet power – which is essentially why Soviet power did not legitimise the Church as long as it remained truly “Tikhonite”.
And even if one of the later statements of the Patriarch, his “confession” of 1923, which was issued under extreme pressure, can be construed as indirectly conferring legitimacy on the State, this cannot, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, be considered binding on the faithful; for no man, however eminent, can be considered infallible according to Orthodox teaching.
For those who were not persuaded by the Council and the Patriarch there was an even clearer witness to the Bolsheviks’ antichristianity: their behaviour in the Civil War and its immediate aftermath. The material damage alone was enormous. Thus by 1921, according to Bolshakov, 637 out of 1,026 monasteries had been liquidated. And on August 25, 1920 the Commissariat of justice ordered the local authorities “to conduct a complete liquidation of relics”….
But the loss in lives was still more staggering. Thus in 1918-19, according to Ermhardt, 28 bishops and 1,414 priests were killed; while by the end of 1922, according to Shumilin, 2233 clergy of all ranks and two million laymen had been executed, and in Petrograd alone 550 clergy and monks of all ranks were shot in the period 1917-1922. These figures prove the truth of Vladimir Rusak’s assertion: “The Bolsheviks’ relationship to the Church was realized independently of legislation. Violence, bayonets and bullets – these were the instruments of the Bolsheviks’ ‘ideological’ struggle against the Church.” At the same time Lenin viewed Islam as an ally in the spreading of world revolution to the countries of the East, and he did not persecute the Catholics or Protestants.
However, the direct, physical assault on the Church had failed. And with the disappearance of all military and political opposition to the Communist party after the Civil War, the Church remained the only significant anti-communist force in the country. So the Bolsheviks were compelled to resort to warfare with a far higher ideological content – a content, moreover, of a much more sophisticated kind than had been produced before.
The Requisitioning of Church Valuables
In the party’s May, 1921 plenum Lenin supported a resolution calling for the replacement of the religious world-view by “a harmonious communist scientific system embracing and answering the questions to which the peasants’ and workers’ masses have hitherto sought answers in religion.” The result was the suspension of the “dilettantist” anti-religious commissions (Lenin’s phrase) which had existed up to that time, and their replacement by a Commission on the Separation of Church and State attached to the Politburo which lasted until 1929 under the leadership of the Jew Emelian Yaroslavsky and whose aim was clearly the extirpation of all religion. The importance of this Commission in the Bolsheviks’ eyes was clearly indicated by the extreme secrecy in which its protocols were shrouded and by the active participation in it, at one time or another, of all the top party leaders. The strategy of the Commission was directly defined, at the beginning by Lenin, and later – by Stalin.
An important aspect of the Commission’s strategy was the tactics of “divide and rule”. For, although physical methods continued to be applied, the Bolsheviks recognized that such a formidable enemy as the Church could not be defeated by direct physical assault alone, and that they needed subtler methods including the recruitment of agents among the clergy and the creation of schisms among them. Thus already in December, 1920, T. Samsonov, head of a secret department of the Cheka, the forerunner of the KGB, wrote to Dzerzhinsky that “communism and religion are mutually exclusive… No machinery can destroy religion except that of the [Cheka]. In its plans to demoralize the church the Cheka has recently focusd its attention on the rank and file of the priesthood. Only through them, by long, intensive, and painstaking work, shall we succeed in destroying and dismantling the church completely.” In the same month, Dzerzhinsky wrote to Latsis: “My opinion is that the Church is disintegrating, and we must help this process, but we must by no means regenerate it in a renovationist form. That is why the church politics of disintegration must be carried out by the Cheka, and by no one else. Official or semi-official relations of the party with the popes are inadmissible. We are counting on communism, and not on religion. This manoeuvre can be carried out only by the Cheka, with the single aim of demoralizing the popes.”
Again, in 1921, in a protocol of the secret section of the Cheka, Trotsky had discussed recruiting clergy with money to report on themselves and others in the Church and to prevent anti-Bolshevik agitation concerning, for example, the closing of monasteries.
But it was the Volga famine of 1921-22, in which about 25 millions were starving, that provided the Bolsheviks with their first opportunity to inflict large-scale damage on the Church.
Solzhenitsyn writes: “At the end of the civil war, and as its natural consequence, an unprecedented famine developed in the Volga area… V.G. Korolenko, in his Letters to Lunacharsky explains to us Russia’s total, epidemic descent into famine and destitution. It was the result of productivity having become reduced to zero (the working hands were all carrying guns) and the result, also, of the peasants’ utter lack of trust and hope that even the smallest part of the harvest might be left to them. Yes, and someday someone will also count up those many carloads of food supplies rolling on and on for many, many months to Imperial Germany, under the terms of the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk – from a Russia which had been deprived of a protesting voice, from the very provinces where famine would strike – so that Germany could fight to the end in the West.
“There was a direct, immediate chain of cause and effect. The Volga peasants had to eat their children because we were so impatient about putting up with the Constituent Assembly.
“But political genius lies in extracting success even from the people’s ruin. A brilliant idea was born: after all, three billiard balls can be pocketed with one shot. So now let the priests feed the Volga region! They are Christians. They are generous!
“1. If they refuse, we will blame the whole famine on them and destroy the Church.
“2. If they agree, we will clean out the churches.
“In either case, we will replenish our stocks of foreign exchange and precious metals.
“Yes, and the action was probably inspired by the actions of the Church itself. As Patriarch Tikhon himself had testified, back in August, 1921, at the beginning of the famine, the Church had created diocesan and all-Russian committees for aid to the starving and had begun to collect funds. But to have permitted any direct help to go straight from the Church into the mouths of those who were starving would have undermined the dictatorship of the proletariat. The committees were banned, and the funds they had collected were confiscated and turned over to the state and to the treasury. The Patriarch had also appealed to the Pope in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury for assistance – but he was rebuked for this, too, on the grounds that only the Soviet authorities had the right to enter into discussions with foreigners. Yes, indeed. And what was there to be alarmed about? The newspapers wrote that the government itself had all the necessary means to cope with the famine.
“Meanwhile, in the Volga region they were eating grass, the soles of shoes and gnawing at door jambs. And, finally, in December , 1921, Pomgol – the State Commission for Famine Relief – proposed that the churches help the starving by donating church valuables – not all, but those not required for liturgical rites. The Patriarch agreed. Pomgol issued a directive: all gifts must be strictly voluntary! On February 19, 1922, the Patriarch issued a pastoral letter permitting the parish councils to make gifts of objects that did not have liturgical and ritual significance.
“And in this way matter could again have simply degenerated into a compromise that would have frustrated the will of the proletariat, just as it once had been by the Constituent Assembly, and still was in all the chatterbox European parliaments.
“The thought came in a stroke of lightning! The thought came – and a decree followed! A decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on February 26: all valuables were to be requisitioned from the churches – for the starving!”
This decree annihilated the voluntary character of the offerings, and put the clergy in the position of accessories to sacrilege.
In order to resolve the perplexities of the faith, on February 28 the patriarch issued the following decree: “… In view of the exceptionally difficult circumstances, we have admitted the possibility of offering church objects which have not been consecrated and are not used in Divine services. Now again we call on the faithful children of the Church to make such offerings, desiring only that these offerings should be the response of a loving heart to the needs of his neighbour, if only they can provide some real help to our suffering brothers. But we cannot approve of the requisitioning from the churches, even as a voluntary offering, of consecrated objects, whose use for purposes other than Divine services is forbidden by the canons of the Ecumenical Church and is punished by Her as sacrilege – laymen by excommunication from Her, and clergy by defrocking (Apostolic Canon 73; Canon 10 of the First-Second Council).”
Although the patriarch did not go all the way in giving in to the Bolsheviks’ demands, this decree nevertheless represents the first major concession made by the Church to Soviet power. Thus no less an authority than the holy Elder Nectarius of Optina said: “You see now, the patriarch gave the order to give up all valuables from the churches, but they belonged to the Church!” And, as we shall see, it led not only to the plundering of the churches and the deaths of many clergy and laity, but also, indirectly, to the appearance of the renovationist schism.
Under the leadership of Trotsky, but with the approval of the whole Politburo (Lenin, Molotov, Kamenev and Stalin), the Bolsheviks now set to work. At the beginning of March Trotsky formed a “completely secret” commission to mastermind the requisitioning. On March 11 he wrote to the Politburo: “This commission must secretly prepare the political, organizational and technical aspects of the matter at the same time. The actual removal of the valuables must begin already in March and then be completed in the shortest possible time… I repeat: this commission is a complete secret. Formally, the requisitioning in Moscow will take place under the direct orders of the Central Committee of Pomgol… Our whole strategy at this time must be aimed at a schism in the clergy over the concrete question of the requisitioning of valuables from the churches. Since the question is a burning one, the schism on this basis can and must acquire a very burning character, and that part of the clergy which will support the requisitioning and aid it will no longer be able to return to Patriarch Tikhon’s clique. Therefore I suggest that a block consisting of this section of the priesthood should be temporarily admitted into Pomgol, especially since it is necessary to avert any suspicion and doubts with regard to whether the requisitioning of valuables from the churches will be spent on the needs of the starving.”
On March 13, the Politburo accepted Trotsky’s suggestion. “Moreover,” writes Gregory Ravich, “the commission was ordered ‘to act with maximal cruelty, not stopping at anything, including executions on the spot (that is, without trial and investigation), in cases of necessity summoning special (for which read: punitive) units of the Red Army, dispersing and firing on demonstrations, interrogations with the use of torture’ and so on. The commission’s members were, besides Trotsky, Sapronov, Unschlicht, Medved and Samoilov-Zemlyachka. It literally rushed like a hurricane through Russia, sweeping away.. everything in its path.”
Soon clashes with believers who resisted the confiscation of church valuables took place. 1414 such clashes were reported in the official press. The first clash took place in the town of Shuye on March 15. Five Christians were killed and fifteen wounded, as a result of which a trial was held in which two priests and a layman were condemned and executed. In 1921-23, 2,691 married priests, 1,962 monks, 3,447 nuns and an unknown number of laymen were killed on the pretext of resistance to the seizure of church valuables in the country as a whole.
On March 19, Lenin sent a long letter to the Politburo marked “Top Secret. No Copies to be Made”: “It is precisely now and only now, when there is cannibalism in the famine-stricken areas and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are lying along the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of valuables with fanatical and merciless energy and not hesitate to suppress any form of resistance… It is precisely now and only now that the vast majority of the peasant masses will either support us or at least will be unable to give any decisive support to those.. who might and would want to try to resist the Soviet decree. We must confiscate in the shortest possible time as much as possible to create for ourselves a fund of several hundred million roubles… Without this fund, government work.. and the defence of our positions in Genoa are absolutely unthinkable… Now our victory over the reactionary clergy is guaranteed… It is precisely now that we must wage a decisive and merciless war with the black-hundreds clergy and crush their opposition with such cruelty that they will not forget it for many decades… The more members of the reactionary bourgeoisie we manage to shoot the better.”
Concerning the Patriarch, however, Lenin said: “I think it is expedient for us not to touch Patriarch Tikhon himself, although he is undoubtedly heading this entire rebellion of slaveholders. Regarding him, a secret directive should be issued to the GPU, so that all of this figure’s connections are carefully and scrupulously observed and exposed, precisely at this moment…”
Lenin wanted Trotsky to be in charge of the campaign against the Church; “but he should at no time and under no circumstances speak out [on this matter] in the press or before the public in any other manner”. This was probably, as Richard Pipes suggests, “in order not to feed rumors that the campaign was a Jewish plot against Christianity,” because Trotsky was a Jew.
In addition to being the head of the secret commission for the requisitioning of the valuables, Trotsky also headed the commission for their monetary realization. And in a submission to a session of this commission he wrote on March 23: “For us it is more important to obtain 50 million in 1922-23 for a certain mass of valuables than to hope for 75 million in 1923-24. The advance of the proletarian revolution in just one of the large countries of Europe will put a stop to the market in valuables… Conclusion: we must proceed as fast as possible…”
If money for purely political purposes was the Bolsheviks’ primary motive in this matter, then they failed miserably – the sale of church valuables fetched only about $1.5 million, while Bukharin admitted to having spent nearly $14 million on propaganda during the famine. In any case, the Bolsheviks already had in their possession Russian crown jewels worth one billion gold rubles and jewels from the Kremlin museum worth 300 million gold rubles – far more than the market price of the church valuables.
But if their primary motive was in fact to destroy the Church, then they also failed – the Church emerged even stronger spiritually from her fiery ordeal. The blood of the martyrs was already starting to bring forth fruit as thousands of previously lukewarm Christians began to return to the Church. However, the crisis gave a golden opportunity to the internal enemies of the Church – the renovationist heretics.
The Renovationist Coup (1)
The idea of splitting the Church hierarchy appears to have originated in 1921 with Lunacharsky, who since the early 1900s had been instrumental in developing a more subtle, less physically confrontational approach to the problem of eradicating religion. It was taken up again by Trotsky early in 1922.
That the Bolsheviks planned on using the internal enemies of the Church at the same time that they exerted external pressure through the confiscation of her valuables is clear from a project outlined by Trotsky to a session of the Politburo attended by Kamenev, Stalin and Molotov on April 2. It declared: “The agitation must not be linked with the struggle against religion and the Church, but must be wholly directed towards helping the starving” (point 5); “we must take a decisive initiative in creating a schism among the clergy”, taking the priests who speak in support of the measures undertaken by Soviet power “under the protection of state power” (point 6); “our agitation and the agitation of priests loyal to us must in no case be mixed up”, but the communists must refer to “the significant part of the clergy” which is speaking against the inhumanity and greed “of the princes of the Church” (point 7); spying is necessary “to guarantee complete knowledge of everything that is happening in various groups of clergy, believers, etc.” (point 8); the question must be formulated correctly: “it is best to begin with some church led by a loyal priest, and if such a church does not exist, then with the most significant church after careful preparation” (point 9); “representatives of the loyal clergy must be allowed to be registered in the provinces and in the centre, after the population is well informed that they will have every opportunity to check that not one article of the church heritage goes anywhere else than to help the starving” (point 13). In actual fact, according to a secret instruction all church valuables taken from “the enemies of Soviet power” were to be handed over, not to Pomgol or the starving, but to the Economic administration of the OGPU.
The Bolsheviks were counting on a modernist or “renovationist” faction in the Russian Church to provide them with their “loyal” clergy. Already in the revolutionary years of 1905 and 1917, the renovationists-to-be had reared their heads with a long list of demands for modernist reform of the Church. And in March, 1918, Professor Titlinov, who was later to become one of the main ideologists of renovationism, founded a newspaper in Petrograd which criticized the Patriarch’s anathematization of Soviet power.
But the plotters had to wait until the spring of 1922, when both Patriarch Tikhon and Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd were in prison in connection with the confiscation of church valuables, before they could seize power in the Church.
The spiritual calibre of the renovationists, or the “Living Church”, as their main faction was called, can be gauged from the career of perhaps their most moderate leader, Bishop Antonin Granovsky. In the 1905 revolution he had been such a thorn in the side of the Church that the Holy Synod retired him. Thereafter he refused to mention the Tsar’s name in Divine services, and in 1907 he even declared that the Tsarist regime was satanic. In 1921 he was again retired by Patriarch Tikhon for introducing innovations on his own authority into the Divine services. In 1922 he accepted a Soviet invitation to be a member of Pomgol, and in the same year he appeared as a witness for the government in the trial of 54 Shuye Christians who had resisted the confiscation of church valuables.
And yet Granovsky himself characterized his fellow-plotters as “the sewer of the Orthodox Church”, the rebellion of power-hungry priests pursuing their class interests against the bishops and monks. And indeed, this anti-monasticism was, with their socialism, one of the main characteristics of the renovationists – Fr. George Florovsky called it “Protestantism of the Eastern Rite”. Thus Titlinov wrote that the major task of the “Living Church” was “to free church life from the influence of the monastic episcopate and transfer the administration of church affairs into the hands of the white [married] clergy.”
Thus Soviet power may have been justified – in this respect, if in no other – in counting, in E. Lopeshanskaya’s words, “on the classically Marxist ‘inner contradictions’ and ‘class struggle’, which by its ideology was necessarily bound to arise everywhere – including the Church – between the black [monastic] and white [married] clergy, between the hierarchs and the priests, for the income of the Church.”
The first shots in the battle were fired in Petrograd, which was a stronghold of renovationism as it had been of the Bolshevik revolution. According to Levitin and Shavrov, the initiative here came from the Petrograd party chief, Zinoviev, who suggested to Archpriest Alexander Vvedensky that his group would be the appropriate one for an eventual concordat between the State and the Church. Vvedensky then joined Archpriest Vladimir Krasnitsky and Bishop Antonin Granovsky in plotting to overthrow the Patriarch.
The leader of the Patriarchal Church in Petrograd was Metropolitan Benjamin, who had actually come to an agreement with the local authorities concerning the voluntary handing over of church valuables. These authorities evidently did not yet understand that the real purpose of the Soviet decree was not to help the starving but to destroy the Church. Having conferred with the central authorities in Moscow, however, the Petrograd authorities reneged on their agreement with the metropolitan.
Then, on March 24, a letter signed by twelve people, including the future renovationist leaders Krasnitsky, Vvedensky, Belkov, Boyarsky and others, appeared in Petrogradskaya Pravda. It defended the measures undertaken by the Soviet government and distanced the authors from the rest of the clergy. The latter reacted strongly against this letter at a clergy meeting, during which Vvedensky gave a brazen and threatening speech.
However, the metropolitan succeeded in calming passions sufficiently so that it was decided to enter into fresh negotiations with the authorities, the conduct of these negotiations being entrusted to Vvedensky and Boyarsky. They proceeded to win an agreement according to which other articles or money were allowed to be substituted for the church valuables.
Having acquired some credit through this success, and having cemented relations with the Soviet authorities, the group of renovationists set about seizing power in the whole Church, taking advantage of the severe difficulties the Patriarch was in in Moscow.
For as well as having been under house arrest since March 19, the Patriarch had been called as a witness for the defence in the trial of 54 Moscow Christians. In an effort to save the accused, he took the whole responsibility upon himself. And in one of the exchanges the essence of the relationship between the Church and the State was expressed.
The Presiding Judge said:
“Do you consider the state’s laws obligatory or not?”
The Patriarch replied:
“Yes, I recognize them, to the extent that they do not contradict the rules of piety.”
Solzhenitsyn comments: “Oh, if only everyone had answered just that way! Our whole history would have been different.”
And yet the Patriarch’s words constituted a distinct weakening of his position vis-à-vis Soviet power when compared with the absolutely irreconcilable position he and the Council had adopted in 1917-18; for they implied that Soviet power was legitimate, the power of Caesar rather than that of the Antichrist…
The first instinct of the Russian Church in the face of Soviet power, as manifested in the 1917-18 Council, has never been extinguished among Russian Christians. It continued to manifest itself both at home and abroad (for example, in the First All-Emigration Council of the Russian Church Abroad in 1921), both in the early and the later decades of Soviet power (for example, among the "passportless" Christians of the Catacomb Church). However, it was very soon tempered by the realisation that such outright rejection of Soviet power on a large scale could be sustained only by war - and after the defeat of the White Armies in the Civil War there were no armies left to carry on the fight against the Bolsheviks.
Therefore from the early 1920s a new attitude towards Soviet power began to evolve among the Tikhonite Christians: loyalty towards it as a political institution ("for all power is from God"), and acceptance of such of its laws as could be interpreted in favour of the Church (for example, the law on the separation of Church and State), combined with rejection of its atheistic world-view (large parts of which the renovationists, by contrast, accepted). In essence, this new attitude involved accepting that the Soviet State was not Antichrist, as the Local Council of 1917-18 and the Russian Church Abroad had in effect declared, but Caesar, no worse in principle than the Caesars of Ancient Rome, to whom the things belonging to Caesar were due. This attitude involved the assertion that it was possible, in the Soviet Union as in Ancient Rome, to draw a clear line between politics and religion.
But in practice, even more than in theory, this line proved very hard to draw. For for the early Bolsheviks, at any rate, there was no such dividing line; for them, everything was ideological, everything had to be in accordance with their ideology, there could be no room for disagreement, no private spheres into which the state and its ideology did not pry. Unlike most of the Roman emperors, who allowed the Christians to order their own lives in their own way so long as they showed loyalty to the state (which the Christians were very eager to do), the Bolsheviks insisted in imposing their own ways upon the Christians in every sphere: in family life (civil marriage only, divorce on demand, children spying on parents), in education (compulsory Marxism), in economics (dekulakization, collectivization), in military service (the oath of allegiance to Lenin), in science (Lysenkoism), in art (socialist realism), and in religion (the requisitioning of valuables, registration, commemoration of the authorities at the Liturgy, reporting of confessions by the priests). Resistance to any one of these demands was counted as "anti-Soviet behaviour", i.e. political disloyalty. Therefore it was no use protesting one's political loyalty to the regime if one refused to accept just one of these demands. According to the Soviet interpretation of the word: "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one has become guilty of all of it" (James 2.10), such a person was an enemy of the people. In view of this, it is not surprising that many Christians came to the conclusion that there was no gain, and from a moral point of view much to be lost, in accepting a regime that made such impossible demands, since the penalty would be the same whether one asserted one's loyalty to it or not. And if this meant living as an outlaw, so be it…
Nevertheless, the path of total rejection of the Soviet state required enormous courage, strength and self-sacrifice, not only for oneself but also (which was more difficult) for one's family or flock. It is therefore not surprising that, already during the Civil War, the Church began to soften her anti-Soviet rhetoric and try once more to draw the line between politics and religion. This is what Patriarch Tikhon tried to do in the later years of his patriarchate - with, it must be said, only mixed results. Thus his decision to allow some, but not all of the Church's valuables to be requisitioned by the Bolsheviks in 1922 not only did not bring help to the starving of the Volga, as was the intention, but led to many clashes between believers and the authorities and many deaths of believers.
The decision to negotiate and compromise with the Bolsheviks only brought confusion and division to the Church. Thus on the right wing of the Church there were those, like Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk, who thought that the patriarch had already gone too far; while on the left wing there were those, like Archbishop Hilarion of Verey, who wanted to go further. The basic problem was that the compromises were always one-sided; the Bolsheviks always took and never gave; their aim was not peaceful co-existence, but the complete conquest of the Church. And so, as a "Letter from Russia" put it many years later: "It's no use our manoeuvring: there's nothing for us to preserve except the things that are God's. For the things that are Caesar's (if one should really consider it to be Caesar and not Pharaoh) are always associated with the quenching of the Spirit..."
However, the Patriarchal Church remained Orthodox under Patriarch Tikhon and his successor, Metropolitan Peter, for two major reasons: first, because the leaders of the Church did not sacrifice the lives of their fellow Christians for the sake of their own security or the security of the Church organisation; and secondly, because, while the Soviet regime was recognised to be, in effect, Caesar rather than Pharoah, no further concessions were made with regard to the communist ideology.
The Russian Church in Exile
In order to understand the further development of the coup against the Patriarch, we must turn to the history of that part of the Church which found itself in diaspora.
A.F. Traskovsky writes: “The part of the Russian Orthodox Church which was abroad already had quite a long history before the formation of the ROCA [Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, abbreviated to RCA in this book]. In Western Europe Russian Orthodox churches had been built beginning from the eighteenth century at Russian embassies and holy places which were often visited by Russians on trips abroad. In the East, thanks to the missionary activities of the Russian Orthodox Church missions were founded in China and Japan which later became dioceses, as well as a mission in Jerusalem. The spread of Orthodoxy in Alaska and North America also led to the creation of a diocese. In the “Statute concerning the convening of an Emigration Assembly of the Russian Churches”, mention was made that in 1921 there were 15 emigration regions which had Russian bishops and 14 districts where there were Russian Orthodox parishes but no bishops. The regions included: North America, Japan, China, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, France, Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Far East. The districts included: Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, England, Switzerland, Czechia, Hungary, Austria, Romania, Palestine, Greece and the city of Bizert in Tunisia. All the emigration missions, parishes and dioceses were in canonical submission to the higher ecclesiastical authorities in Russia – the Holy Ruling Synod until the restoration of the patriarchate in 1917, and his Holiness the Patriarch after 1917. But then after the revolution there began the Civil War and anarchy. The Bolsheviks began to persecute the Church. The majority of emigration missions and dioceses found themselves either deprived of the possibility of normal relations with the higher ecclesiastical authorities of Russia, or such relations were exceptionally difficult. Moreover, in Russia itself many dioceses were cut off by the front from his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon (Bellavin)’s leadership. After the defeat of the White army, a huge flood of emigres flooded abroad, amongst whom were not a few representatives of the clergy, including bishops and metropolitans. On the shoulders of the clerics who were abroad and the clergy who had emigrated lay the burden of care for the spiritual nourishment of the huge Russian diaspora. That was the situation in which the part of the Russian Church that was abroad found itself on the eve of the formation of the Church Abroad.
“What was the prehistory of the Russian Church Abroad? Her beginnings went back to 1919, in Russia. In Stavropol in May, 1919 there took place the South Russian Church Council headed by the oldest hierarch in the South of Russia, Archbishop Agathodorus of Stavropol. There took part in the Council all the bishops who were on the territory of the Voluntary army, the members of the All-Russian Ecclesiastical Council and four people from each diocesan council. At the Council there was formed the Higher Church Administration of the South of Russia (HCA of the South of Russia), which consisted of: President – Archbishop Metrophanes of Novocherkassk, Assistant to the President – Archbishop Demetrius of Tauris, Protopresbyter G. Shavelsky, Protopriest A.P. Rozhdestvensky, Count V.V. Musin-Pushkin and Professor of theology P.V. Verkhovsky. In November, 1919 the Higher Church Administration was headed by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galich, who had arrived from Kiev.
“The aim of the creation of the HCA was the organization of the leadership of church life on the territory of the Volunteer army in view of the difficulties Patriarch Tikhon was experiencing in administering the dioceses on the other side of the front line. A little earlier, in November, 1918, an analogous Temporary Higher Church Administration had been created in Siberia headed by Archbishop Silvester of Omsk. Later, a part of the clergy that submitted to this HCA emigrated after the defeat of Kolchak’s army and entered the composition of the Chinese dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church. The HCA of the South of Russia, like the Siberian HCA, was, in spite of its self-government, nevertheless in canonical submission to his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, and in this way Church unity was maintained.
“After the defeat of the armies of Denikin, in the spring of 1920 the head of the HCA of the South of Russia, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), was evacuated from Novorossiysk to Constantinople, and was then for a time in a monastery on Mount Athos. However, in September, 1920, at the invitation of General Wrangel, he returned to Russia, to the Crimea, where he continued his work. The final evacuation of the HCA of the South of Russia took place in November, 1920, together with the remains of Wrangel’s army. On the steamer “Alexander Mikhailovich” there set out from the Crimea to Constantinople the leaders of the HCA and a large number of simple priests.
“On arriving in Constantinople, as Archbishop Nicon (Rklitsky) indicates in his Biography of Metropolitan Anthony…, Metropolitan Anthony ‘first considered that from now on all the activities of the Russian Higher Church Administration should be brought to an end and all the care for the spiritual welfare of the Russian Orthodox people should be taken upon herself by the Church of Constantinople and the Local Orthodox Churches in whose bounds the Russian Orthodox people found themselves.’ However, as soon became clear, the realization of this variant became extremely problematic in view of the fact that huge masses of Russian refugees did not know the language and customs of those countries to which they had come, and the nourishment of such a large flock by priests speaking other languages (for example Greeks) presented very many problems. Moreover, the numerous émigré Russian clergy, who were fully able to deal with these problems, would not be involved. Therefore it was decided to continue the activities of the Higher Church Administration.
“In order to work out a plan of further action, the first session of the HCA outside the borders of Russia took place on November 19, 1920… Metropolitan Dorotheus [the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne of Constantinople] gave his agreement [to the HCA’s decisions] and the HCA of the South of Russia was transformed into the Higher Church Administration Abroad.
“Literally the day after the above-mentioned session, on November 20, 1920, an event took place in Moscow that had an exceptional significance for the Russian Church Abroad – his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon passed decree N 362 concerning the self-governance of church dioceses in the case of a break of communications between this or that diocese and his Holiness the Patriarch for external reasons over which they had no control (what they had in mind was war or repression by the authorities). This is the main content of this decree:
“’With the blessing of his Holiness the Patriarch, the Holy Synod and the Higher Church Council, in a joint session, judged concerning the necessity of… giving the diocesan Hierarch… instructions in case of a disconnection with the higher church administration or the cessation of the activity of the latter…
“’2. If dioceses, as a result of the movement of the front, changes of state boundaries, etc., find themselves unable to communicate with the higher church administration or the higher church administration itself together with his Holiness the Patriarch for some reason ceases its activity, the diocesan hierarch will immediately enter into relations with the hierarchs of neighbouring dioceses in order to organize a higher instance of church authority for several dioceses in the same conditions (in the form of a temporary higher church government or metropolitan region, or something similar).
“’3. The care for the organization of the higher church authority for the whole group who are in the situation indicated in point 2 is the obligatory duty of the eldest ranked hierarch in the indicated group…’
“This wise decree of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, which was passed in conditions of anti-church terror, was given to the foreign bishops a year after its passing with the help of Bishop Meletius of Nerchenk. It served as the canonical basis for the formation of the Russian Church Abroad, since the émigré clergy were in the situation indicated in points 2 and 3.
“Meanwhile the HCA in Constantinople continued to work out a plan for its further activities. At the sessions of April 19-21, 1921, it was decided to convene a ‘Congress of the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to unite, regulate and reanimate church activity abroad’, which was later renamed the ‘Russian Church Council Abroad’, which has also become known in the literature as the Carlovtsy Council. Soon, at the invitation of Patriarch Demetrius of Serbia, the HCA led by Metropolitan Anthony moved to Sremskiye Karlovtsy in Serbia – a fraternal country which in the course of many years proved to be a reliable harbour for the leadership of the Church Abroad.”
The Emigration Council, which opened its first session on November 8/21, 1921, called on the Genoa conference to refuse recognition to the Bolshevik regime, to arm its opponents, and restore the Romanov dynasty. In defence of this call, which provoked the frenzy of the Bolsheviks and which many regarded as dangerous dabbling in politics, the First-Hierarch of the Church in Exile, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, said: “If by politics one understands all that touches upon the life of the people, beginning with the rightful position of the Church within the realm, then the ecclesiastical authorities and Church councils must participate in political life, and from this point of view definite demands are made upon it. Thus, the holy hierarch Hermogenes laid his life on the line by first demanding that the people be loyal to Tsar Basil Shuisky, and when the Poles imprisoned him he demanded the election of Tsar Michael Romanov. At the present time, the paths of the political life of the people are diverging in various directions in a far more definite way: some, in a positive sense, for the Faith and the Church, others in an inimical sense; some in support of the army and against socialism and communism, others exactly the opposite. Thus the Karlovtsy Council not only had the right, but was obliged to bless the army for the struggle against the Bolsheviks, and also, following the Great Council of Moscow of 1917-1918, to condemn socialism and communism.”
On May 3 (new calendar), a secret midnight meeting of the presidium of the GPU – Comrades Ushinsky, Menzhinsky, Yagoda, Samsonov and Krasikov – took place, at which it was decided “to summon Tikhon and demand of him that he publish within 24 hours the expulsion from the Church, defrocking and removal from their posts of the above-mentioned clergy [the leaders of the Russian Church in Exile]. If Tikhon refuses to carry out the above-mentioned demands, he is to be immediately arrested and accused of all the crimes he has committed against Soviet power.”
The signed protocol of this meeting was sent to Politburo, where it was reviewed in the presence of Lenin on May 4. It was decided to bring the Patriarch to trial.
On the same day, the Patriarch appeared for the last time as a witness in the case of the 54 Moscow clergymen. After his speech the prosecutor declared that the Patriarch was to be put on trial in connection with the evidence he had given during the trial. It was therefore under conditions of extreme pressure that on May 5, Patriarch Tikhon convened a meeting of the Holy Synod and the Higher Church Council, at which he declared (decree no. 347) that “neither the epistle, nor the address of the Karlovtsy Synod [to the Genoa conference] express the voice of the Russian Church”. And he ordered the dissolution of the Church in Exile’s Higher Church Administration and the transfer of all power over the Russian refugees in Europe to Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris. On the evening of that day, the Patriarch was interrogated by the GPU, and on the next day he was arrested.
Decree no. 347 has been used by the Sovietized Moscow Patriarchate and its satellites to cast doubts on the canonicity of the Russian Church Abroad. However, (i) according to the renovationist Archbishop Eudocimus, Patriarch Tikhon later wrote to Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky): “I wrote that for the authorities, but you sit down and work”; (ii) the ukaz which the Church in Exile received did not have the Patriarch’s signature and was signed only by Archbishop Thaddeus of Astrakhan!; (iii) as Igumen Luke points out: “If one reads the decree one will see that it contains nothing concerning violation of canons by the Higher Church Administration and nowhere declares it to be uncanonical. No one, not even Metropolitan Eulogius accepted the authority of the document. The Patriarch in assigning Metropolitan Eulogius to head the parishes in Western Europe ‘overlooked’ the fact that there were eight other dioceses in the Church Abroad and said nothing about their leadership. This and other confused aspects of the decree only support the universal opinion that it was issued under pressure from the Bolsheviks who desired by all means to weaken the anti-Communist from abroad. Upon receiving notification of his appointment as ruling bishop in Europe Metropolitan Eulogius wrote to Metropolitan Anthony: ‘This decree amazed me by it suddenness and simply shocks one by the possible confusion it could bring into church life’ (exactly what the communists wanted and continue to desire in order to eliminate any opposition to their control of the Church). ‘There is no doubt that the decree was issued under pressure by the Bolsheviks.’ Metropolitan Eulogius continues, ‘I do not recognize this document as having any authority even though it might have been written and signed by the Patriarch. This document is political and not ecclesiological…’”
In any case, the Patriarch did not actually anathematise the émigré bishops, and so the action which was designed to placate the Bolsheviks only served to exacerbate their annoyance.
The leaders of the Russian Church in Exile took the view – and in this they were at first supported, as we have seen, by Metropolitan Eulogius – that the patriarch had been acting under duress at the time. So they acted in order formally to obey the Patriarch’s decree, while in effect ignoring it. They dissolved the Higher Church Administration and created a Synod of Bishops presided over by Metropolitan Eulogius in its place.
The patriarch, as if in tacit acknowledgement of this, issued no further condemnation of the Synod Abroad and acted in future as if he fully recognised its authority.
The Renovationist Coup (2)
On May 12, the renovationist priests Vvedensky, Belkov and Kalinovsky (who, as the Patriarch pointed out, had but a short time before renounced holy orders), visited the Patriarch at the Troitsky podvorye, where he was confined, and demanded that he renounce the patriarchal throne. “After tormented hesitations,” writes Krivova, “well knowing who lay behind this act, Tikhon was forced to concede. But he did not renounce the throne and did not give the reins of the Church into the hands of the renovationists. The meaning of the Patriarch’s actions came down to a temporary departure from work, but he was prepared to renounce the throne only ‘if the coming Council removes’ the patriarchy from him. For the time being Tikhon was transferring power to one of the oldest hierarchs of the Church, Metropolitan Agathangel (Preobrazhensky) of Yaroslavl, about which he officially informed the President of the VtsIK, M.I. Kalinin.
“However, the authorities did not allow Metropolitan Agathangel to leave for Moscow. Already on on May 5, 1922 V.D. Krasnitsky had arrived at the Tolga monastery where the metropolitan was living, and demanded that he sign the appeal of the so-called ‘Initiative Group of Clergy’. The metropolitan refused to sign the appeal. Then, two days later, his signature declaring that he would not leave was taken from him, and a guard was placed outside his cell and a search was carried out.
“After Agathangel there remained in Moscow only three of the members of the Holy Synod and HCC, but they were not empowered to take any kind of decision that would be obligatory for the whole Church. Thus the path to the seizure of Church power by the renovationists was open. Using Tikhon’s temporary concession and the impossibility of Metropolitan Agathangel’s taking the place of the Patriarch, the renovationists declared that Tikhon had been removed and in an arbitrary manner seized power. Arriving on May 15, 1922 at a reception with M.I. Kalinin, they understood that Metropolitan Agathangel’s departure to Moscow was hardly possible. The next day the renovationists sent a letter to M.I. Kalinin, in which they declared that ‘in view of Patriarch Tikhon’s removal of himself from power, a Higher Church Administration is formed, which from May 2 (15) has taken upon itself the conducting of Church affairs in Russia.”
On May 18 the renovationists again presented the Patriarch with a written statement complaining that in consequence of the existing circumstances, Church business remained unattended to. They demanded that he entrust his chancery to them until Metropolitan Agathangel’s arrival in Moscow, in order that they might properly classify the correspondence received. Considering it a useful measure, the Patriarch yielded to their request and inscribed their petition with the following resolution: “The undersigned persons are ordered to take over and transmit to the Right Reverend Metropolitan Agathangelus, upon his arrival in Moscow, all the Synodical business with the assistance of secretary Numerov.”
The next day, having obtained the Patriarch’s transfer to the Donskoj monastery, the renovationists took over the Patriarch’s residence in the Troitsky podvorye. On May 29 the “Living Church”, the largest renovationist grouping, was officially created. Two days earlier, on May 27, Trotsky had written to Lenin: “The separation of the Church from the State, which we have established once and for all, by no means signifies that the state is indifferent to what is happening in the Church”. He spoke about “loyal and progressive elements in the clergy” and set the task of “raising the spirit of the loyal clergy” in indirect ways – through the press. He complained that “the editors of Pravda and Izvestia are not taking sufficient account of the huge historical importance of what is happening in the Church and around her”. Trotsky fully understood the importance of this, “the most profound spiritual revolution in the Russian people”. Lenin commented: “True! A thousand times true!”
However, the renovationists and communists still had to neutralize the threat to their plans posed by Patriarch Tikhon’s handing over of power to Metropolitan Agathangelus. So Protopriest Krasnitsky was sent to Yaroslavl to negotiate with the metropolitan. He placed a number of conditions before the Patriarch’s lawful deputy which amounted to his placing himself in complete dependence on the renovationists. Naturally, the metropolitan rejected these conditions. So Krasnitsky returned to Moscow and the renovationists spread abroad the rumour that the metropolitan was occupied “with his own affairs” and “was not hurrying” to fulfil the Patriarch’s command.
Levitin and Shavrov write: “… Metropolitan Agathangelus’ behaviour would indeed have appeared quite incomprehensible if it had not been for one detail: for a month now E.A. Tuchkov and Metropolitan Agathangelus had been conducting secret negotiations. E.A. Tuchkov, whom the Higher Church Administration considered their main support in negotiations with the metropolitan expressed the desire to separate as quickly as possible from this unsolid institution [the HCA] and support Agathangelus [?!]. However, a series of concessions was expected from Agathangelus; he had to declare that he was renouncing Patriarch Tikhon’s political line. After a month’s negotiations, seeing that no progress was being made, Metropolitan Agathangelus unexpectedly [??] addressed the Russian Church with an appeal [dated June 5/18, 1922, N 214] which was printed by some underground printing-press and very quickly distributed in Moscow and the other cities…
“E.A. Tuchkov was taken completely by surprise. The HCA was also shocked. Metropolitan Agathangelus was immediately arrested and sent into exile, to the Narymsk region. However, the appearance of this appeal showed that the unprincipled line of V.D. Krasnitsky was meeting with a sharp rejection in ecclesiastical circles…”
Metropolitan Agathangelus’ epistle accused the renovationists of “revising the dogmas and moral teaching of our Orthodox Faith, the sacred canons of the Holy Ecumenical Councils and the Orthodox Typicon of Divine services given by the great ascetics of Christian piety”, and gave the bishops the right to administer their dioceses independently until the restoration of a canonical Higher Church Authority.
And so, in the year of the creation of the Soviet Union, Russia was deprived, for the first time in her history since the Time of Troubles, of a legitimate centralized administration in both Church and State.
In Petrograd, meanwhile, Metropolitan Benjamin was brought to trial, accused of resisting the confiscation of church valuables and called an “enemy of the people”. He was given many chances to save himself in a dishonourable manner. Thus even before the trial Vvedensky and the Petrograd commandant Bakayev had come to him and given him the choice: either revoke the anathema against Vvedensky or face trial. But the metropolitan refused to revoke the anathema. Again, during the trial, the judges hinted that he save himself by naming “the authors” of the proposition he had sent to Pomgol. The metropolitan again refused, saying: “I alone did it – I thought everything over; I formulated, wrote and sent the proposition myself. I did not allow anybody else to participate in deciding matters entrusted to me as archpastor.”
It was during this trial that the prosecuting counsel Krasikov made the following remark: “The whole Orthodox Church is a subversive organization. Properly speaking, the entire Church ought to be put in prison!” On the other hand, the counsel for the defence, Gurovich, said: “If the metropolitan perishes for his faith, for his limitless devotion to the believing masses he will become more dangerous for Soviet power than now… The unfailing historical law warns us that faith grows, strengthens and increases on the blood of martyrs.”
Both remarks could be said to have been prophecies – the first of the coming total persecution that was to take place in the thirties, and the second of the final triumph of the Church which has already begun.
In a letter written from prison, Metropolitan Benjamin expressed the essence of what was to become the position of the Catacomb Church a few years later: “The reasonings of some, perhaps outstanding pastors are strange.. – ‘we must preserve the living forces’, that is, for their sake, we must abandon everything! Then what is Christ for? It is not the Platonovs, the Chuprins, the Benjamins and their like who save the Church, but Christ. That point on which they are trying to stand is destruction for the Church; it is not right to sacrifice the Church for oneself.” The metropolitan was shot on the night of August 12 to 13, 1922.
He was replaced by a man with the opposite philosophy - Bishop Alexis (Simansky), the first hierarch to recognize the renovationist Higher Church Administration and the future second Soviet “Patriarch of Moscow”. He it was, moreover, who removed the ban placed by Metropolitan Benjamin on the renovationists and on June 5, 1922 announced their communion “with the re-established Church”. This continuity between the leading hierarchs of the renovationists in the early 1920s and the leading hierarchs of the sergianists from 1927 onwards shows the inner links between the two movements. It shows that sergianism is in fact “neo-renovationism”, the continuation of the same heretical movement in a more subtle form.
The Church in Georgia and the Ukraine
At this point some words should be said about the Church of Georgia, which was going through a very similar persecution at the hands of the authorities.
Just after the abdication of the Tsar, on March 12, 1917, an Assembly of the bishops, clergy and laity of Georgia proclaimed the re-establishment of the autocephaly of the Georgian Church, which, as the Georgians claimed, had never been lawfully abolished.
In September, a General Council confirmed the Acts of the March Council, and on October 1 Bishop Karion Sadzaguelachvili was enthroned as Catholicos-Patriarch in Tbilisi. The Provisional Government confirmed this election. However, on December 29 / January 11, the Russian Church, in the person of the newly elected Patriarch Tikhon, protested against the re-establishment of the autocephaly, pointedly addressing Karion as only a bishop.
When the Russian Civil War began, the Georgians refused to help the Whites. For a few months the British occupied the country, and when they left the Mensheviks came to power. For the next few years the Georgian Church was able to live at peace with the ruling Menshevik party.
In February, 1921, however, the Bolsheviks invaded, and after a short war of three weeks took control of the country. “On February 7, 1922,” writes Fr. Elijah Melia, “the Catholicos Ambrose sent to the Interallied Conference at Genoa (the highest degree of international jurisdiction at that time) a letter of protest in which, recalling the moral obligations towards the nation of his charge, he protested in the name of the people of Georgia, deprived of their rights, against the foreign occupation and demanded the intervention of civilized humanity to oppose the iniquity committed against Georgia. He was arrested in February 1923 with Archbishop Nasaire and all the members of his Council. Their trial, which took place under conditions of semi-liberty, greatly stirred up the country.
“There were three accusations: 1) the letter to the conference at Genoa of 1922, 2) the concealment of the historic treasures of the Church in order to preserve them from passing into the hands of the State and 3) the prohibition imposed [by the] Governmental Commission for Religion against the redemption of precious objects in favour of the starving. Archbishop Nasaire was assassinated during the trial, most probably in order to impress the others accused. All the members of his Council showed their solidarity with the Catholicos Ambrose, who conducted himself heroically, assuming the entire responsibility for his acts, which he declared to have been in conformity with his obligations and with the tradition of the Church of Georgia in similar cases. He was condemned to eight years imprisonment. Two members of his Council were given five and two years respectively. The Catholicos was liberated before the term of his imprisonment was over. He died on March 29, 1927.
“In August 1924, a general insurrection broke out, organized by all the active forces of the nation – the higher ranks of the army, the political parties, the university, the ecclesiastics, the population as a whole. But the uprising was doomed to fail, for the plot had been betrayed. The repression created thousands of victims. Groups of partisans still operated for some time…”
In the Ukraine, meanwhile, the Patriarchal Church was struggling not only against the renovationists, but also against the Ukrainian separatists. Three times in this century the Ukraine has attained independence from Russia, and each time political independence has provided the spur for ecclesiastical schism: in 1917, in 1941 and in 1990. In mid-November, 1917, a committee in charge of convoking a council of the Ukrainian clergy and laity was organized in Kiev under the leadership of the retired Archbishop Alexis Dorodnitsyn. Although canonical in its origins, this committee soon turned its attention to the quite uncanonical goal of creating an autocephalous Church of the Ukraine and the removal of the canonical leader of the Church, Metropolitan Vladimir. These revolutionary demands were vigorously opposed by the metropolitan until his martyrdom at the hands of the Bolsheviks in January, 1918.
In 1920 an “Independent Union of Ukrainian Orthodox Parishes” was formed, which convoked the first council of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church in October, 1921. However, since no bishops had joined the autocephalists, they were forced to create bishops for themselves in an uncanonical manner which no other Orthodox Church recognized, earning for themselves the title of the “Lypkovsky samosvyaty” after their leader Lypkovsky. Later in the 1920s a second autocephalist movement came into being initiated by Bishop Theophilus (Buldovsky) of Lubensk, who received consecration in the Patriarchal Church at a time when the Lypkovsky schism was declining, but who later separated from the Church on the same basis of Ukrainian nationalism and united the remnants of the Lypkovsky schism to his own.
One of the most popular patriarchal priests in the Ukraine at this time was Fr. Basil (Zelentsov). It was largely through his influence that Buldovsky’s schism was rejected by the mass of the people. In 1922 he was put on trial on a political charge, and in his speech at the end of the trial he made one of the clearest statements of how far a Christian could go in recognizing Soviet power: “I have already told you, and will tell you again, that I am loyal to Soviet power as such, for it, like everything else, is sent to us from above… But where the matter touches the Faith of Christ, the churches of God and human souls, there I have fought, do now fight, and will continue to fight to my last breath with the representatives of this power. It would be shamefully sinful for me, as a warrior of Christ, who bear this cross on my breast, to defend myself personally at a time when the enemies have taken up arms and declared war against Christ Himself.”
After his consecration to the episcopate in 1925, Bishop Basil continued to wage a spiritual war against the Bolsheviks, publicly calling them “apostates from God, violaters, blasphemers of the Faith of Christ, murderers, a satanic power, blood-suckers, destroyers of freedom and justice, fiends from hell”. He constantly called on the people “to make them no allowances, to make no compromises with them, to fight and fight with the enemies of Christ, and not to fear tortures and death, for sufferings from Him are the highest happiness and joy”. In 1930 Bishop Basil suffered martyrdom in Moscow for his rejection of sergianist neo-renovationism.
Although the Ukrainian autocephalists were a clearly schismatic movement, they did not share the modernist ideology of the Muscovite renovationists, and entered into union with them only in the autumn of 1924, evidently with the aim of securing the recognition of their own autocephaly from Constantinople, with whom the renovationists were in communion. That is why it was not until January 5, 1924 that the patriarch extended his anti-renovationist anathema of 1923 to the autocephalists. Even then, the autocephalists showed little animosity towards the patriarch, and in their Second All-Ukrainian Council of 1925 the Synod issued an epistle calling for the review of Patriarch Tikhon’s defrocking by the renovationists.
In 1929 Stalin reversed the Bolshevik regime’s tolerant policy towards the Ukrainian autocephalists (who were in any case now largely controlled by Soviet agents), and in January, 1930 the authorities convoked a council which dissolved all the Church’s central and regional organs, although some parishes continued to exist for a few more years under the strict supervision of the authorities.
The Renovationist Council of 1923
In Russia the renovationists continued to gain ground throughout 1922. On June 16, three important hierarchs declared their full adhesion to the “Living Church” as follows: “We, Metropolitan Sergius of Vladimir and Shuya [the future first Soviet “Patriarch”], Archbishop Eudocimus of Nizhegorod and Arzamas and Archbishop Seraphim of Kostroma and Galich, having studied the platform of the Temporary Church Administration and the canonical lawfulness of its administration, consider it the only lawful, canonical, higher church authority, and all the instructions issuing from it we consider to be completely lawful and obligatory. We call on all true pastors and believing sons of the Church, both those entrusted to us and those belonging to other dioceses, to follow our example.”
The Sergianist Metropolitan John (Snychev) wrote about this act: “We do not have the right to hide from history those sad and staggering apostasies from the unity of the Russian Church which took place on a mass scale after the publication in the journal ‘Living Church’ of the epistle-appeals of the three well-known hierarchs. Many of the hierarchs and clergy reasoned naively. Thus: ‘If the wise Sergius has recognized the possibility of submitting to the Higher Church Administration, then it is clear that we, too, must follow his example.’”
Meanwhile, the GPU gave valuable aid to the renovationists, arresting and sending into exile all the clergy who remained faithful to the Patriarch. Also, they handed over to them nearly two-thirds of the functioning churches in the Russian republic and Central Asia, as well as many thousands in the Ukraine, Belorussia and Siberia. However, these figures exaggerate the true strength of the renovationists, in that their churches were almost empty while the patriarchal churches were filled to overflowing.
At their second All-Russian council, which met in Moscow on April 29, 1923, the renovationists first heaped praises on the revolution, which they called a “Christian creation”, on the Soviet government, which they said was the first government in the world that strove to realize “the ideal of the Kingdom of God”. And they were no less generous to Lenin: “First of all, we must turn with words of deep gratitude to the government of our state, which, in spite of the slanders of foreign informers, does not persecute the Church… The word of gratitude and welcome must be expressed by us to the only state in the world which performs, without believing, that work of love which we, believers, do not fulfil, and also to the leader of Soviet Russia, V.I. Lenin, who must be dear also to church people…”
Patriarch Tikhon was tried in absentia (he was still imprisoned in the monastery), and deprived not only of his clerical orders but also of his monasticism, being called thenceforth “layman Basil Bellavin”. Then the patriarchate itself was abolished, its restoration being called a counter-revolutionary act. Finally, some further resolutions were adopted allowing white clergy to become bishops and priests to remarry, and introducing the Gregorian calendar.
When the decisions of the council were taken to the Patriarch for his signature, he calmly wrote: “Read. The council did not summon me, I do not know its competence and for that reason cannot consider its decision lawful.”
46 “bishops” (out of 73 who attended the council) signed the decree condemning the Patriarch. One of them, Joasaph (Shishkovsky), told Fr. Basil Vinogradov how this happened. “The leaders of the council Krasnitsky and Vvedensky gathered all those present at the ‘council’ of bishops for this meeting. When several direct and indirect objections to these leaders’ proposal to defrock the Patriarch began to be expressed, Krasnitsky quite openly declared to all present: ‘He who does not immediately sign this resolution will only leave this room straight for the prison.’ The terrorized bishops (including Joasaph himself) did not find the courage to resist in the face of the threat of a new prison sentence and forced labour in a concentration camp and… signed, although almost all were against the resolution. None of the church people had any doubt that the ‘council’s’ sentence was the direct work of Soviet power and that now a criminal trial and bloody reprisal against the Patriarch was to be expected at any time.”
However, already at this 1923 council the renovationist movement was beginning to fall apart. The 560 deputies were divided into four groups: the supporters of Krasnitsky (the Living Church), of Vvedensky (the Ancient-Apostolic Church), of Antoninus (Church Regeneration) and of Patriarch Tikhon. When Krasnitsky tried to take control of the council and reject any coalition between his group and the other renovationists, a schism amidst the schismatics was avoided only by strong behind-the-scenes pressure on his supporters from the communists, who succeeded in regrouping them under a “Holy Synod” led by Metropolitan Eudocimus.
Meanwhile, the pressures on the Patriarch were mounting inexorably, with daily visits from the GPU agent Tuchkov (Tikhon called him “an angel of Satan”), who made blackmail threats to force him to make concessions to the State. In April, the government announced that the Patriarch was about to go on trial on charges arising from the trials of the 54 in Moscow and of Metropolitan Benjamin in Petrograd the previous year. However, partly because the authorities wanted to give the renovationist council the opportunity to condemn him first, and partly, later, as the result of an ultimatum issued by the British foreign minister Lord Curzon, which was supported by an outcry in the British and American press, the trial was postponed to June 17.
Volkogonov writes: “Tikhon, imprisoned in Donskoi monastery, was being subjected to the standard treatment: interrogation, threats, pressure and bribes. The interrogations went on even after Lenin had lost his faculties, as his instructions on Church affairs continued to be carried out to the letter. In the summer of 1923, the Politburo accepted Yaroslavsky’s proposals: ‘1) That the investigation of the Tikhon case be continued until further notice; 2) That Tikhon be informed that his sentence could be altered if: a) he makes a statement of repentance of his crime against the Soviet regime; b) recognizes the court; c) distances himself from White Guards and other counter-revolutionary organizations; d) declares a negative attitude towards the Catholic Church. If he agrees, he will be freed.’”
At the beginning of June, the Patriarch fell ill, and was transferred from the Donskoy monastery to the Taganka prison. There he was able to receive only official Soviet newspaper accounts of the Church struggle, which greatly exaggerated the successes of the renovationists. Feeling that his presence at the helm of the Church was absolutely necessary, and that of his two enemies, the renovationists and the communists, the renovationists were the more dangerous, the Patriarch decided to make concessions to the government in order to be released. Thus on June 16 and again on July 1 he issued his famous “confession”, in which he repented of all his anti-Soviet acts (including the anathema against the Bolsheviks), and “finally and decisively” set himself apart “from both the foreign and the internal monarchist White-guard counter-revolutionaries”.
As a result, according to Fr. Gleb Yakunin, “all the hitherto righteous and courageous words of the patriarch censuring the moral and spiritual fall of the people, the terrible bloody excesses and murders of innocent people, the wild outbursts of satanic spite and hatred, the profanation of religious and national holy things – all these words of the patriarch calling men to heed their consciences and full of righteous indignation against the evils committed were declared ‘antisoviet politics’ by the patriarch himself. In spite of the greatness of the personality and exploit of Patriarch Tikhon, we must with great sorrow admit that the principle of the use of lies and false witness for the sake of ‘the salvation of the Church’ was applied in the Moscow Patriarchate for the first time by him.
“In its time Patriarch Tikhon’s ‘repentance’ did not elicit wide protests: believers understood the extraordinary difficulty of the situation and hope that the grievous compromise would nevertheless work for the benefit of the Church. Besides, joy at the liberation of Patriarch Tikhon drowned all feelings of alarm. The absence of protests was also elicited by the huge authority that the patriarch enjoyed, and the unquestioning trust people had in all his actions.
“Only a few more sensitive Christians understood the terrible danger of the path chosen by the patriarch.”
However, Archbishop Nicon (Rklitsky) takes a less severe attitude towards Tikhon’s declaration, pointing out that: “1) it did not annul the anathema in the name of the Russian Orthodox Church on Soviet power, 2) he did not declare himself a friend of Soviet power and its co-worker, 3) it did not invoke God’s blessing on it, 4) it did not call on the Russian people to obey this power as God-established, 5) it did not condemn the movement for the re-establishment of the monarchy in Russia, and 6) it did not condemn the Whites’ struggle to overthrow Soviet power. By his declaration Patriarch Tikhon only pointed to the way of acting which he had chosen for the further defence and preservation of the Russian Orthodox Church. How expedient this way of acting was is another question,… but in any case Patriarch Tikhon did not cross that boundary which had to separate him, as head of the Russian Orthodox Church, from the godless power.”
Tikhon was released on June 27, 1923, and his appearance in public – he had aged terribly in prison – was enough to send the Living Church into a sharp and irreversible decline. They remained dangerous as long as they retained the favour of the authorities; but by 1926 the authorities were already turning to others (the Gregorians, then Metropolitan Sergius) as better suited for the task of destroying the Church. And by the end of the Second World War the last remaining renovationists had been absorbed into the neo-renovationist Soviet Moscow Patriarchate.
However, the Patriarch bitterly repented of his “repentance”; he said that if he had known how weak the Living Church really was, he would not have signed the “confession” and would have stayed in prison. And when he was sadly asked why he had said that he was no longer an enemy of the Soviet government, he replied: “But I did not say that I was its (i.e. the Soviet government’s) friend...”
On July 15, the Patriarch anathematized the Living Church, declaring: “They have separated themselves from the body of the Ecumenical Church and deprived themselves of God’s favor, which resides only in the Church of Christ. Consequently, all arrangements made during our absence by those ruling the Church, since they had neither legal right nor canonical authority, are non-valid and void, and all actions and sacraments performed by bishops and clergymen who have forsaken the Church are devoid of God’s grace and power; the faithful taking part in such prayers and sacraments shall receive no sanctification thereby, and are subject to condemnation for participating in their sin…”
Large numbers of parishes, especially in such important urban centres as Petrograd (through Bishop Manuel (Lemeshevsky)) and Voronezh (through Archbishop Peter (Zverev)), now renounced renovationism, and influential renovationist hierarchs such as Metropolitan Sergius hastened (and yet not very quickly, as Hieromartyr Bishop Damascene of Glukhov pointed out) to make public confessions to the Patriarch; whereupon they were readmitted into communion with him.
Some sergianists have tried to show that Sergius did not really share the renovationist position. However, Sergius’ published statements in favour of the renovationists, especially his epistle of June 16, 1922 contradict this view. Moreover, the people did not trust him, shouting to the Patriarch not to receive him; while the renowned Elder Nectarius of Optina said that the poison of renovationism was in him still.
The Bolsheviks continued to back the renovationists, and on December 8, 1923 issued an instruction forbidding the commemoration of the “former” Patriarch at Divine services in that such an act would be seen “as having the character of a clearly political demonstration aginst the Workers-Peasants’ authorities.” Such was the popularity of the Patriarch, however, that neither the renovationists nor the pressure of the GPU could shake the loyalty of the great mass of the people. The Russian Church Abroad also remained loyal to him, as did all the Autocephalous Churches except Alexandria and Constantinople. The Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory VII recognized the renovationists and decided to send a commission “to bring peace and end the present anomaly” – only to be firmly rebuked by Patriarch Tikhon.
“Honour and glory to the late patriarch,” wrote Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) in 1925, “that, with all his good-natured condescension towards people, with all his yearning for peace, he never gave an inch of ground to this barren ‘living church’, but received penitents from her according to the rite for the reception of heretics and schismatics, and re-consecrated churches which were returned from them to their lawful pastors as churches ‘defiled by heretics’.”
The Patriarchal Church had triumphed.
The Lessons of Renovationism
If the Moscow Council of 1917-18 established the fundamental position of the Church vis-à-vis the State, the renovationist council of 1923 revealed the basic modes of attack employed by the State against the Church, and thus provided the Church with valuable experience for the still fiercer struggles ahead. These basic modes of attack were:-
1. Control of the Central Church Administration. Like the State, the Church in Her post-revolutionary structure was a highly centralized organism. The astonishing success of the Living Church in its early stages was partly the result of its usurpation of the central administration and the confusion this engendered in both the higher and the lower ranks of the faithful. The Patriarch was in prison, and some reports said that he had resigned, others – that he had been killed. Although the patriarchal locum tenens, Metropolitan Agathangelus, circulated a secret order directing the bishops to rule their dioceses independently in accordance with the Patriarch’s ukaz no. 362 of November 7/20, 1920, the habit of looking to the centre for all major directives was difficult to break. This habit was broken, for some, only after the still greater shock of the events of 1927, when another unscrupulous hierarch, Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), took control of the central administration of the Church.
2. The Façade of Canonical Orthodoxy. The renovationists originally put on a mask of canonical Orthodoxy, claiming to have received power by legal transfer from the Patriarch. Very soon, however, they threw off this mask – wherein lay their fundamental mistake. Thus, as we have seen, the crudity of their attacks on the basic dogmas of the Faith and on monasticism repelled the people. In future, the GPU would take care that their candidate for the leadership of the Russian Church would have at least the appearance of canonical and dogmatic Orthodoxy.
3. The Lure of State Legalization. In spite of the Patriarch’s “confession”, the Patriarchal Church never received legalization by the State during his lifetime. This meant that the Church was always as it were in the wilderness, without the favour and security enjoyed by the renovationists. The depths to which the renovationists were prepared to go in order to win this security is illustrated by the pannikhida they celebrated for Lenin after his death, in which they described his soul as “essentially Christian”! In the same vein was Vvedensky’s speech to the 1923 council, in which he said: “We must turn to the government with words of deeply felt gratitude. The Church is not persecuted, whatever the calumnies of the foreign propagandists may say. Everyone in Russia can voice his conviction. We must direct this message of thanks to the only Government in the world, which, though it does not believe in God, yet acts in accordance with love, which is more than we, who believe, can claim for ourselves.”
Ironically, therefore, as Fr. Aidan Nichols has pointed out, the renovationists came “to resemble the pre-Revolutionary establishment in their spirit of subordination to the State.” The Patriarchal Church, however, gained in spiritual authority. For, already in the early 1920s, the view was current that the faithful were living, in the Patriarch’s words, “in the years of the triumph of Satan and of the power of the Antichrist”. So the “Living Church”, in coming to terms with Soviet power, was, as the Patriarch said, “an institution of the Antichrist”.
The Patriarchal Church, on the other hand, was like the woman fleeing into the wilderness from the red dragon (Revelation 12); and it was still to her that the faithful children of the Church clung.
2. GREECE AND THE BALKANS: THE NEW CALENDAR SCHISM (1900-1924)
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold
to the traditions which you were taught by
us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
II Thessalonians 2.15.
The disintegration of the Ottoman empire was eagerly awaited and accelerated by the Orthodox Churches of Greece and the Balkans, - the Constantinopolitan, Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian and Romanian. However, it did not open the glorious page in the history that many hoped for and expected, but was rather a precursor and cause of the fall of all the official Churches in the region in the next few decades.
The Balkan Wars
In 1912 Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro united to defeat the Ottomans, who at the Treaty of London in May, 1913 were forced to give up all their possessions in Europe apart from Constantinople and the surrounding territory. However, the partitioning of Macedonia caused jealousies and resentments between the Orthodox States, resulting in the second Balkan war, in which all the local powers, including Ottoman Turkey, united against Bulgaria and defeated her. At the Treaty of Bucharest in August, 1913, Serbia and Greece divided Macedonia between them, an independent Albania was established and both Turkey and Romania made gains at the expense of Bulgaria.
These wars revealed terrible hatreds, not only between Orthodox and Muslims, but also between Orthodox and Orthodox, in the region. Foremost among these hatreds was that between the Greeks and the Bulgarians, which had already led to a schism between the two Churches in 1872. Tim Judah writes: “An example from the Carnegie Endowment report relates to the vilification of the Bulgarians by the Greeks during the Second Balkan War; it is worth quoting in full because precisely the same techniques were used in Serbia and Croatia to incite hatred in the early 1990s. The Carnegie report wryly notes that when the Bulgarians were massacring Turks little was said. Now that Greeks and Bulgarians were heading towards war with each other things were different:
“’Day after day the Bulgarians were represented as a race of monsters, and public feeling was roused to a pitch of chauvinism which made it inevitable that war, when it should come, should be ruthless. In talk and print one phrase summed up the general feeling of the Greeks towards the Bulgarians: ‘Dhen einai anthropoi!’ (They are not human beings)…”
Hardly less terrible was the hatred between the Serbs and the Albanians, on the one hand, and the Serbs and the Bulgarians, on the other: “The Carnegie Endowment’s account of the crushing of the Albanian revolt in Kosovo is also important because in 1913 as in 1941 or the 1990s it was quite clear to all involved what the purpose of ethnic cleansing was:
“’Houses and whole villages are reduced to ashes, unarmed and innocent populations massacred en masse, incredible acts of violence, pillage and brutality of every kind – such were the means which were employed by the Serbo-Montenegrin soldiery, with a view to the entire transformation of the ethnic character of regions inhabited exclusively by Albanians.’…
“Just as conversion had been accepted as a means to escape death in earlier times, in some places it once again became an issue. When the Montenegrins captured the village of Plav, Rebecca West.. characteristically dismisses a major massacre as an ‘unfortunate contretemps. During this little misunderstanding a former Muslim cleric, now converted to Orthodoxy and a major in the Montenegrin Army, demanded that his former congregation convert. They refused and so 500 of them were shot. In another incident, some Macedonian villagers had their church surrounded by Serbian soldiers during the Sunday service. On emerging they found that a table had been set up on which was a piece of paper and a revolver. Either they could sign that they were Serbs rather than Bulgarians – or they could die. They chose the former option.’”
In spite of the terrible passions stirred up by these wars, the Balkans still produced genuine saints of great stature during this period, such as St. Nectarius of Aegina. However, the example of St. Nectarius, who was persecuted by the Church authorities to the end of his life, showed that the evil passions stirred up by the wars were not confined to groups of soldiers, but had their roots in a deeper crisis of faith, which would soon make True Orthodoxy a minority faith in the region.
The Balkan Wars led into the First World War, which again left Serbia and Greece among the winners and Bulgaria and Turkey among the losers. But the losses were terrible – and worse for the victors than for the losers. Thus while Bulgaria lost 100,000 men, with 200,000 more casualties, Serbia lost 275,000 men with wartime diseases accounting for another 800,000 civilians – a quarter of the population and two-thirds of the male population between the ages of fifteen and fifty-five.
In the longer term, the consequences of the War for Orthodoxy were mixed. On the one hand, the great enemies of Orthodoxy in both East and West – Protestant Germany, Catholic Austro-Hungary and Muslim Turkey – had been defeated. Also, the kingdom of Yugoslavia, ruled by an Orthodox king, had been created. On the other hand, the major support of the Orthodox everywhere, Orthodox Russia, had collapsed, and the horrific antitheist system that replaced her was soon to engulf nine out of every ten Orthodox Christians. Perhaps the worst long-term consequence, though this was not immediately evident, was the greatly increased influence of the Anglo-Saxon nations – the chief propagandists of the ecumenical movement. This influence was especially strongly felt in Greece. With the balance of power shifting away from the Germanic powers and towards the Anglo-Saxons, it was not long before the pernicious influence of the characteristically Anglo-Saxon heresy of Ecumenism was being strongly felt by the hierarchy of the Greek Church.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate Looks West
The beginning of the fall of the Greek Church may be said to date from 1919, when the patriarchal locum tenens, Metropolitan Dorotheus of Prussa, introduced two important and closely related innovations in the conduct of the patriarchate towards the Ottoman empire, on the one hand, and the western heresies, on the other.
The defeat of the Ottoman empire in the world war, and the emergence of Greece as one of the victor nations, encouraged the Greeks of Constantinople to think that now, with the help of the western allies, “the great idea” (h m e g a l h i d e a ) of the recovery of all the former Greek lands was about to be realized. In this they were supported by the Athens government led by the Cretan nationalist and Freemason Eleutherius Venizelos. So on January 21, 1919, Metropolitan Dorotheus, protected by a Greek-Cretan regiment stationed in the city, proceeded to abolish the teaching of Turkish in Greek schools. Then, on March 16, a resolution for “Union with Greece” was passed in the Constantinopolitan churches, after which the patriarchate and the Greeks refused to communicate with the Sublime Porte. When the Greeks also refused to participate in the November elections, the break with the Turkish authorities was complete.
The patriarchate had in effect carried out a political coup d’état against the Ottoman empire, thereby reversing a 466-year tradition of submission to the Muslims in the political sphere. Since such a daring coup required the political and military support of all the non-Turkish forces in the area, the patriarchate set about making friends with those to whom, from a religious point of view, it had always been inimical. Thus in January, 1919, a Greek-Armenian conference was held to coordinate the activities of the two groups in the city. Then, in the summer, Metropolitan Nicholas of Caesarea in the name of the patriarchate accepted the invitation of the Joint Commission of the World Conference on Faith and Order, a forerunner of the World Council of Churches, to participate in its preliminary conference in Geneva the following year. He said that the patriarchate was “thereby stretching out a hand of help to those working in the same field and in the same vineyard of the Lord” – probably the first explicitly ecumenist statement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which in effect recognized that the western heretics belonged to the True Church. And indeed, the patriarchate sent representatives to all the movement’s inter-war conferences in Geneva in 1920, in Lausanne in 1927 and in Edinburgh in 1937. The World Conference on Faith and Order was organized on the initiative of the American Episcopalian Church; and the purpose of the Joint Commission’s approaches to the Churches was that “all Christian Communions throughout the world which confess our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior” should be asked “to unite with us in arranging for and conducting such a conference”.
This project elicited the first public debate on the question of the nature of the unity of the Church and the ecumenical movement between leading representatives of the Western and Orthodox Churches. Participants in the debate were, on the one hand, Mr. Robert Gardiner, secretary of the Joint Commission, and, on the other hand, Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kharkov and Archimandrite, later Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky). In the course of this debate, Archimandrite Hilarion wrote:
“I could ask you this question: Do you and I belong to the one Church of Christ? In answering it you undoubtedly would mention the insignificance of our dogmatic differences and the virtually negligible difference in rites. For me, however, the answer is determined not by considerations of dogmatic disagreements but by the fact on hand: there is no ecclesiastical unity in grace between us…
“The principal truth of Christianity, its great mystery – the Incarnation of the Son of God – is acknowledged by all Christian creeds, yet this alone cannot fuse them into one Church. For, according to the Apostle James (2.19), the devils also believe; as attested by the Gospel, they confessed their faith like the Apostle Peter did (Matthew 16.16; 8.26; Mark 1.24; Luke 8.28). But do they belong to one Church of Christ? On the other hand, the Church community undoubtedly embraces people who do not know the dogmas of the Council of Chalcedon and who are unable to say much about their dogmatic convictions…
“If the question of the belonging or non-belonging to the Church be formulated in terms of theological dogma, it will be seen that it even cannot be resolved in a definite way. Just how far should conformity to the Church’s ideas go in dogmatic matters? Just in what is it necessary to agree and what kind of disagreement ensues following a separation from the Church? How are we to answer this question? And who has so much authority as to make the decision stand? Perhaps you will point to the faith in the incarnate Son of God as the chief characteristic of belonging to the Church. Yet the German Protestants are going to argue against the necessity of even this feature, since in their religion there are to be found even such ministers who openly deny the Divinity of the Saviour.
“Christ never wrote a course in dogmatic religion. Precise formulations of the principal dogmas of Christianity took place centuries after the earthly life of the Saviour. What, then, determined the belonging to the Church in those, the very first, times of the historical existence of Christianity? This is attested to in the book of the Acts of the Apostles: ‘Such as should be saved were added to the Church’ (2.45; 6.13-14). Membership of the Church is determined by the unity with the Church. It cannot be otherwise, if only because the Church is not a school of philosophy. She is a new mankind, a new grace-filled organism of love. She is the Body of Christ. Christ Himself compared the unity of His disciples with the organic unity of a tree and its branches. Two ‘bodies’ or two trees standing side by side cannot be organically related to each other. What the soul is to the body, the Holy Spirit is to the Church; the Church is not only one body but also One Spirit. The soul does not bring back to life a member which has been cut off, and likewise the vital sap of a tree does not flow into the detached branch. A separated member dies and rots away. A branch that has been cut off dries up. These similes must guide us in a discussion of the unity of the Church. If we apply these similes, these figures of a tree and a body, to the Church, any separation from the Church, any termination of the unity with the Church will turn out to be incompatible with membership of the Church. It is not the degree of the dogmatic dissent on the part of the separated member that is important; what is significant in the extreme is the fact of separation as such, the cessation itself of the unity with the Church. Be it a separation on the basis of but a rebellion against the Church, a disciplinary insubordination without any dogmatic difference in opinion, separation from the Church will for the one who has fallen away have every sad consequence.
“Not only heretics but schismatics too separate themselves from the Church. The essence of the separation remains the same.”
The Ecumenical Patriarchate would have done well to listen to the reasoning of their Russian co-religionists. However, the time was past when Constantinople could be seriously influenced by the views of the Russian Church; the fall of the Russian empire and Constantinople’s temporary freedom from the Ottoman yoke encouraged the Phanar to take the lead in proclaiming the new heresy of Ecumenism. In any case, the Russians, already under extreme pressure from the Bolsheviks, were soon to become preoccupied with the modernist schism of the “Living Church” renovationists, which left the Greek renovationists free to pursue their own modernist designs without serious interference from the other Orthodox Churches…
The Encyclical of 1920
So in January, 1920, Metropolitan Dorotheus and his Synod issued what was in effect a charter for Ecumenism. This encyclical was the product of a conference of professor-hierarchs of the Theological School at Khalki, led by Metropolitan Germanus of Seleucia (later of Thyateira and Great Britain). It was addressed “to all the Churches of Christ everywhere”, and declared that “the first essential is to revive and strengthen the love between the Churches, not considering each other as strangers and foreigners, but as kith and kin in Christ and united co-heirs of the promise of God in Christ.”
It went on: “This love and benevolent disposition towards each other can be expressed and proven especially, in our opinion, through:
“(a) the reception of a single calendar for the simultaneous celebration of the great Christian feasts by all the Churches;
“(b) the exchange of brotherly epistles on the great feasts of the single calendar..;
“(c) close inter-relations between the representatives of the different Churches;
“(d) intercourse between the Theological Schools and the representatives of Theological Science and the exchange of theological and ecclesiastical periodicals and writings published in each Church;
“(e) the sending of young people to study from the schools of one to another Church;
“(f) the convening of Pan-Christian conferences to examine questions of common interest to all the Churches;
“(g) the objective and historical study of dogmatic differences..;
“(h) mutual respect for the habits and customs prevailing in the different Churches;
“(I) the mutual provision of prayer houses and cemeteries for the funeral and burial of members of other confessions dying abroad;
“(j) the regulation of the question of mixed marriages between the different confessions;
“(k) mutual support in the strengthening of religion and philanthropy.”
The unprecedented nature of the encyclical consists in the fact: (1) that it was addressed not, as was Patriarch Joachim’s encyclical, to the Orthodox Churches only, but to the Orthodox and heretics together, as if there were no important difference between them but all equally were “co-heirs of God in Christ”; (2) that the proposed rapprochement was seen as coming, not through the acceptance by the heretics of the Truth of Orthodoxy and their sincere repentance and rejection of their errors, but through various external measures and, by inference, the mutual accomodation of the Orthodox and the heretics; and (3) the proposal of a single universal calendar for concelebration of the feasts, in contravention of the canonical law of the Orthodox Church. There is no mention here of the only possible justification of Ecumenism from an Orthodox point of view – the opportunity it provides of conducting missionary work among the heretics. On the contrary, as we have seen, one of the first aims of the ecumenical movement was and is to prevent proselytism among the member-Churches.
The real purpose of the encyclical was political, to gain the support of the Western “Churches”, and especially the Anglicans, in persuading their governments to endorse Dorotheus’ and Venizelos’ plans for a Greek Constantinople and the transfer of Smyrna and its hinterland to the Greeks. Thus on February 24, 1920, Dorotheus wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury: “We beseech you energetically to fortify the British government.. in its attempts to drive out the Turks (i.e. from Istanbul). By this complete and final expulsion, and by no other means, can the resurrection of Christianity in the Near East and the restoration of the church of Hagia Sophia be secured.”
The tragedy of the Greek position was that, in spite of the support of the Anglican Church for Dorotheus, the Allies never committed themselves to driving out the Sultan, still less to supporting the creation of a Greek kingdom in Asia Minor, which would have meant full-scale war with Turkey so soon after the terribly debilitating First World War. Thus the Allied troops stationed in Constantinople were there, not as a permanent occupation force, but only in order to protect the Christian minority (which they did to good effect in September, 1922). Moreover, the Greek attitude antagonized the Turks and led to the creation of a powerful Turkish nationalist movement.
In August, 1920, the treaty of Sèvres left the Turks in control of Constantinople, although the rights of racial, religious and linguistic minorities were protected. In November, 1920, Venizelos and his liberal party suffered a stunning defeat in the Greek elections, and in December the Greeks voted for the recall of the moderate King Constantine. However, this did not dampen the nationalist ardour of the Phanar, which called for the resignation of the king for the sake of the Hellenic nation, and even considered excommunicating him!
In March, 1921, a patriarchal delegation headed by Metropolitan Dorotheus travelled to London, where they met Lord Curzon, the British foreign secretary, King George V and the archbishop of Canterbury – the first such trip to the West by the senior prelate of Orthodoxy since Patriarch Joseph’s fateful participation in the council of Florence in 1438. And there, like Joseph, Dorotheus had a heart attack and died, just as he was to receive the honorary vice-presidency of the World Congress for the friendship of the World through the Churches.
The terrible tragedy suffered by the Greek Church and nation in the next few years must be attributed in no small part to the nationalist-ecumenist politics of Dorotheus and his Synod – a classic example of the destructive consequences of the intrusion of worldly, political passions and ambitions into the life of the Church.
The Rise of Meletius Metaxakis
The year 1921 was a transitional one in both Church and State. In July, a Greek army of 100,000 men invaded Anatolia; but as Kemal’s troops, supported by the Bolsheviks, retreated into the interior, the Greeks found themselves in difficulties with supplies, and on September 5, they were halted at the River Sakarya. Then, after suffering casualties of 4000 dead and 20,000 wounded, they began to retreat. However, no attempt was made to evacuate the troops. Although the French and Italian governments recognized the new nationalist government in Ankara, and although the British had never agreed to support an invasion of the interior, the Greeks were still hoping on western support to realize their “great idea”. In Constantinople, meanwhile, a prolonged struggle for control of the patriarchate between the royalist and Venizelist factions was ended by the election of Meletius IV (Metaxakis), a Cretan like Venizelos and an extreme Venizelist in his political views, on December 6, 1921.
The notorious career of Meletius has been outlined as follows by Bishop Photius of Triaditza: “His name in the world was Emmanuel Metaxakis. He was born on September 21, 1871 in the village of Parsas on the island of Crete. He entered the Seminary of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem in 1889. He was tonsured with the name Meletius and ordained a hierodeacon in 1892. He completed the theological courses at Holy Cross and was assigned as secretary to the Holy Synod in Jerusalem by Patriarch Damian in 1900. In 1908 Meletius was evicted from the Holy Land by Patriarch Damian, along with the then administrator Chrysostom, later Archbishop of Athens, for ‘activity against the Holy Sepulchre’. Meletius Metaxakis [became a Freemason in 1909] and was then elected Metropolitan of Kition [in Cyprus] in 1910.”
This election is surprising in view of the fact that the Cypriots only elect fellow Cypriots to the sees of their Church. It is explained by the fact that the Archbishop of Cyprus at that time, Cyril, who later introduced the new calendar into his Church, was also a Mason, and probably helped the advancement of his fellow-Mason.
Bishop Photius continues: “In the years before the war Metropolitan Meletius began successful talks in New York with representatives of the Episcopal Church of America, with the intention of ‘expanding mutual relations between the two Churches’. After the death of Patriarch Joachim III on June 13, 1921, Meletius was nominated as a candidate for the Patriarchal Throne in Constantinople. However, the Holy Synod decided that Meletius could not canonically be registered as a candidate.”
On November 10/23, 1916 a Greek Minister, Andrew Mikhalakopoulos, wrote to President Venizelos, arguing for the necessity of a radical reform of the Greek Church that would bring her closer to the West. And he suggested that Meletius would be a suitable agent of this reform. His letter amounted to nothing less than a proposed wholesale reformation of the Orthodox Church in a Protestant direction:
“Mr. President, I told you a long time ago in the Council of Ministers that after we had brought to a successful conclusion the national struggle that you have undertaken, it would be necessary, for the good of the country, for you to take care of another, equally important, struggle, that of modernizing our religious affairs… To head this truly revolutionary reform, you will need a far-seeing Hierarch, one almost like you in politics. You have one: We are talking of the Hierarch from Cyprus [Meletius Metaxakis]. Under your guidance, he will become the Venizelos of the Church of Greece.
“What are the elements that will require reform (once the political revolution has removed Archbishop Procopius of Athens and those like him) in intellectual and monastic circles, when there will have been put in place an ecclesiastical Hierarchy and a universal Synod, or perhaps only a Greek Synod…?
“1) Abolition of the Fasts, which today are a simple formality. Nobody keeps the Fasts, except one who has nothing to eat. The English and the Germans, and even the northern Italians, who have been liberated from religious fanaticism, eat well, and by eating well they are working well and building a good race. Nourishment brings the necessary strength to work, work brings profit, and profit brings good nourishment. I do not think that the Italians of the north are worse than those of the south, whom the momentous propaganda of the Dante Alighieri Society has not succeeded in snatching from the claws of religious prejudice.
“2) Modernization of the different ceremonies and Liturgies. Less presence of the Priest, the Psaltes, and the Deacon, and increased presence of the expository preacher. What can people who attend religious ceremonies really understand… from these hours that they spend and from standing upright? Nothing. If the Priest were obligated to recite two or three hymns… and to teach during a half-hour period, the listeners would derive much more benefit from this in a very short time, from the social, moral, and patriotic point of view.
“3)… The Priests, by being educated at special schools, will have learned, not the meaning of [a certain phrase from the Liturgy, which Michalakopoulos is not familiar with either, since he misquotes it]…, but how to speak to the people in an intelligible way about sobriety, savings…, love of one’s country, even about the political duties of their listeners, etc., etc.
“4) We will abolish the different Feasts of Saint Athanasios, Saint Andrew, and so on and so forth, which are nothing but an excuse for idleness. A holiday on Sunday and two or three holidays per year will be quite satisfactory for the sluggards. In the villages, holidays are more numerous than workdays… Hence, idleness and its harmful consequences: drunkenness, gambling, and crime, during the time that remains free in the day after the Liturgy. Obviously, it is not possible (unfortunately) to make the idea of holiness disappear… Once there fell into my hands a French book, which my taste for reading made me read, the title of which was Preacher’s Panorama; a large tome… We will publish a book of this type, fruit of the collaboration of good Church and lay writers. And the word ‘holy’ will disappear…
“5) The monasteries, the source of all corruption and of all the abuses of fortune and morals, will be abolished. Their lands will pass into the hands of the peasants…
“Of course, all the foregoing is just a very small part of the program. Many other things will need to be reformed… They will tell you, Mr. President, that putting such a undertaking into effect is an arduous thing; that the people will rise up against the new Iconoclasts; that a revolution will rise up against the impious. Nothing of the kind will happen, from the moment that your own prestige increases… If we succeed on the national level, then the other purge, the interior purge, will follow, and no one will be capable of provoking any troubles… The ecclesiastical Hierarchy that we will train to prepare the reform will hae to respond to the need for regulating our religious affairs, following the abolition of the Turkish state and the reduction of the area in which the Oecumencial Patriarchate exercises its jurisdiction… The struggle which was recently waged in France was no less that the one we foresee here…”
Thus the revolution that was to take place in Greece was designed from the beginning to be as deep and radical as the French Revolution; and it became possible, appropriately enough, in the same year as the Russian revolution – 1917, when Venizelos came to power in Athens through a military coup d’etat, “in tanks from abroad”.
He set to work almost immediately. In 1918 the traditionalist Archbishop Theocletus of Athens was uncanonically defrocked “for having instigated the anathema against Eleutherius Venizelos”. Two years later, Theocletus was vindicated. But the damage was done. Meletius was recalled from America and enthroned as Archbishop of Athens in November, 1918.
Promptly, in January, 1919, Meletius raised the question of a reform of the calendar. The only obstacle to the introduction of the new calendar, he declared, was the Apostolic Canon forbidding the celebration of Pascha at the same time as the Jewish Passover or before the spring equinox. But since, he went on, “the government feels the necessity of changing to the Gregorian calendar, let it do so without touching the ecclesiastical calendar.” And he set up a Commission to investigate the question.
The Commission was set up with Metropolitan Germanus of Demetrias, the future leader of the True Orthodox Church, as the representative of the hierarchy. In May, 1919, at the meeting at which the conclusions of the Commission were read out, Meletius added the following: “We must not change the Gregorian calendar at a time when a new and scientifically perfect calendar is being prepared. If the State feels that it cannot remain in the present calendar status quo, it is free to accept the Gregorian as the European calendar, while the Church keeps the Julian calendar until the new scientific calendar is ready.”
Two things are clear from these events of 1919. The first is that Meletius was very anxious to accommodate the government’s wishes if he could. And yet he must have realized that blessing the introduction of the new calendar into the life of the State would inevitably generate pressure for its introduction into the Church as well. Secondly, while he did not feel strong enough to introduce the new calendar into the Church at that time, he was not in principle against it, because he either did not understand, or did not want to understand, the reasons for the Church’s devotion to the Julian calendar, which, as we have seen, have nothing to do with scientific accuracy, and all to do with faithfulness to the Tradition and Canons of the Church and the maintenance of Her Unity.
The new calendar was not the only innovation Meletius wanted to introduce: what he wanted, writes Bishop Ephraim, “was an Anglican Church with an eastern tint, and the faithful people in Greece knew it and distrusted everything he did. While in Athens, he even forbade the chanting of vigil services (!) because he considered them out of date and a source of embarrassment when heterodox – especially Anglicans – visited Athens. The people simply ignored him and continued to have vigils secretly.”
Finally, in November, 1920, he was defrocked “for uncanonical actions” – mainly his unlawful mixing with heretics (he was received in St. Paul’s cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London). He was reduced to the rank of a simple monk and confined to the Monastery of St. Dionysius of Strophada in Zakynthos.
However, in February, 1921, he was again in America, campaigning on behalf of Venizelos – and taking part in Anglican services. Thus “on December 17, 1921, ‘vested, he took part in a service in an Anglican church, knelt in prayer with the Anglicans before the holy table, which he venerated, gave a sermon, and blessed those present in the church’ of the heretics.”
While in America he won over to his side the epitropos of the Greek Archdiocese, Rodostolos Alexandros, and the two of them first broke relations with the Church of Greece and then, at a clergy-laity conference in the church of the Holy Trinity, New York, declared the autonomy of the Greek Archdiocese from the Church of Greece, changing its name to the grandiloquent: “Greek Archbishopric of North and South America”. This was more than ironical, since it had been Metaxakis himself who had created the archdiocese as a diocese of the Church of Greece when he had been Archbishop of Athens in 1918!
In spite of all this, Metaxakis was then elected – Patriarch of Constantinople! Bishop Photius writes: “Political circles around Venizelos and the Anglican Church had been involved in Meletius’ election as Patriarch. Metropolitan Germanus (Karavangelis) of the Holy Synod of Constantinople wrote of these events, ‘My election in 1921 to the Ecumenical Throne was unquestioned. Of the seventeen votes cast, sixteen were in my favour. Then one of my lay friends offered me 10,000 lira if I would forfeit my election in favour of Meletius Metaxakis. Naturally I refused his offer, displeased and disgusted. At the same time, one night a delegation of three men unexpectedly visited me from the “National Defence League” and began to earnestly entreat me to forfeit my candidacy in favour of Meletius Metaxakis. The delegates said that Meletius could bring in $100,000 for the Patriarchate and, since he had very friendly relations with Protestant bishops in England and America, could be useful in international causes. Therefore, international interests demanded that Meletius Metaxakis be elected Patriarch. Such was also the will of Eleutherius Venizelos. I thought over this proposal all night. Economic chaos reigned at the Patriarchate. The government in Athens had stopped sending subsidies, and there were no other sources of income. Regular salaries had not been paid for nine months. The charitable organizations of the Patriarchate were in a critical economic state. For these reasons and for the good of the people [or so thought the deceived hierarch] I accepted the offer…’ Thus, to everyone’s amazement, the next day, November 25, 1921, Meletius Metaxakis became the Patriarch of Constantinople.
“The uncanonical nature of his election became evident when, two days before the election, November 23, 1921, there was a proposal made by the Synod of Constantinople to postpone the election on canonical grounds. The majority of the members voted to accept this proposal. At the same time, on the very day of the election, the bishops who had voted to postpone the election were replaced by other bishops. This move allowed the election of Meletius as Patriarch. Consequently, the majority of bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople who had been circumvented met in Thessalonica. [This Council included seven out of the twelve members of the Constantinopolitan Holy Synod and about 60 patriarchal bishops from the New Regions of Greece under the presidency of Metropolitan Constantine of Cyzicus.] They announced that, ‘the election of Meletius Metaxakis was done in open violation of the holy canons,’ and proposed to undertake ‘a valid and canonical election for Patriarch of Constantinople.’ In spite of this, Meletius was confirmed on the Patriarchal Throne”
Two members of the Synod then went to Athens to report to the council of ministers. On December 12, 1921 they declared the election null and void. One of the prominent hierarchs who refused to accept this election was Metropolitan Chrysostom (Kavourides) of Florina, the future leader of the True Orthodox Church, who also tried to warn the then Prime Minister Gounaris about the dangers posed by the election of Meletius.
The Sublime Porte also refused to recognize the election, first because Meletius was not an Ottoman citizen and therefore was not eligible for the patriarchate according to the Ottoman charter of 1856, and secondly because Meletius declared that he did not consider any such charters as binding insofar as they had been imposed by the Muslim conquerors.
On December 29, 1921, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece deposed Metaxakis for a series of canonical transgressions and for creating a schism, declared both Metaxakis and Rodostolos Alexandros to be schismatics and threatened to declare all those who followed them as similarly schismatic.
In spite of this second condemnation, Meletius was enthroned as patriarch on January 22, 1922; and as a result of intense political pressure his deposition was uncanonically lifted on September 24, 1922! Thus there arrived at the peak of power one of the men whom Metropolitan Chrysostom (Kavourides) called “these two Luthers of the Orthodox Church”. The other Orthodox Luther, Archbishop Chrysostom (Papadopoulos) of Athens, would come to power very shortly…
Thus did the Masons through the power of money gain control of the senior patriarchate in Orthodoxy, guaranteeing its loyalty to the ecumenical movement. “As was recognised by the Masons themselves,” writes Platonov, “’they ask us why we interfere in disputes of a religious nature; questions of the unity of the churches, ecumenical congresses, etc., can be of interest for Masonry. The problem reaised by the project of the unity of the churches greatly interests the Masons… since it contains in itself the idea of universalism… In any case, when the first ecumenical congresses appeared, the intervention of our brothers was definitive.’”
Unrest in Bessarabia
One of the consequences of the Russian revolution and the First World War was that the Russian province of Bessarabia, which bordered on Romania and 60% of whose population was Romanian, was united to the Romanian State. In this province before the revolution, writes Jelavich, “Romanians as such did not face prejudice, and there were Romanian as well as Russian large landowners. The widespread discontent was economic and social more than national. The position of the peasants was regulated by the Russian emancipation laws of the 1860s and subsequent reform measures, but, as in other parts of Russia, these had not solved the basic agrarian problems. Since conditions were roughly the same in the Regat, independent Romania did not hold a great attraction for the peasant majority. The main demand of all peasants was a breakup of the large estates and a distribution of their lands…
“Because of these conditions, the Russian revolutions in March and November 1917 were bound to have a great effect. They influenced not only the disaffected peasants, but also the many soldiers in the province who had deserted the rapidly disintegrating Russian army… As early as July 1917 the peasants began to seize the land; by the end of the year they had appropriated about two-thirds.
“In October 1917 a provisional government for Bessarabia was organized, with its center at Kishinev… This government remained in control of the province from November 1917 to November 1918. In December 1917 it declared itself the Democratic Moldavian Republic and expressed the desire to join a Soviet federative republic…”
However, by November, 1918 the Romanian army was in control of the province, and in that month the National Assembly voted for union with Romania...
K.V. Glazkov writes: “With one hand mercilessly destroying the communist opposition (for example, mass punitive operation were undertaken against Bolsheviks in the army, and Romanian units took part in the suppression of the red revolution in 1918 in Hungary), with the other hand the Romanian authorities suppressed every kind of dissidence. A number of deputies of the Popular Assembly who were opponents of the union of Bessarabia and Romania were shot, after which the National Assembly itself was dissolved, while on the same day the pro-Romanian deputies triumphantly overthrew the monuments to Tsars Alexander I and Alexander II in the capital. In January, 1920, the White armies of General Bredov…, in whose carts were fugitives, women and children, were shot from Romanian machine-guns as they approached the Dniester. In this way the new authorities in Bessarabia spoiled for good their relations with the Russians.
“We should note that from the very beginning the Russian hierarchy and clergy, as if foreseeing the possibility of church-political disturbances, adopted quite a cold attitude to the inclusion of Bessarabia into Romania. This act was even condemned by Archbishop Anastasius (Gribanovsky) of Kishinev and Khotyn (latter first-hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad). Hoping for the speedy victory of the White movement, the representatives of the Bessarabian Church together with the zemstvo took part in the creation of a Committee for the liberation of Bessarabia. Therefore the Romanian Synod began the canonical submission of the Bessarabian diocese by demanding that Vladykas Anastius, Gabriel and Dionysius separate from the Russian Orthodox Church in spite of the protests of Patriarch Tikhon. When the hierarchs refused to do this, the Romanian military units arrested them and exiled them from the country. But the believers were told that the hierarchs had left their diocese voluntarily. In the place of Metropolitan Anastasius there arrived from Bucharest the Romanian Archbishop Nicodemus; he was met by the clergy and laity by no means in a friendly manner. The ecclesiastical authorites [of the Russian Church] Abroad did not recognise the lawfulness of the union of the Kishinev diocese to the Romanian Church. It was violence, deceit and transgression of the Church canons, and not at all the commandments of God, that were laid at the foundation of their actions on the territory of Bessarabia by the Romanian civil and ecclesiastical authorities. How cold the coming events unfold except in condition of further imposition of terror?
“In the Kishinev spiritual seminary and the spiritual schools the Romanian authorities removed the teaching of the Russian and Church Slavonic languages, clearly intending to create a situation in which in Bessarabia as a whole there would remain no priests able to serve in Church Slavonic. Also, Church Slavonic service books were removed from the churches, and the priests were banned from delivering sermons in Russian. Direct physical persecution began against the zealots for the language of Saints Cyril and Methodius. In the village of Rechul the nuns of the local monastery were beaten with birch-rods by Romanian gendarmes for taking part in services in Church Slavonic, while a old priest of the village of Goreshte who was suspected of sympathising with the opposition was tortured with wet lashes until he lost consciousness, after which he went mad. It may be that the whole guilt of the priest consisted in the fact that he, like many true patriots, did not want to commemorate the Romanian king, his family and the Synod at the liturgy.
“The majority of the zealots for Church Slavonic as the liturgical language were Russians, but many Moldavian priests and laypeople fought steadfastly against forcible Romanianization. ‘The Moldavians,’ reported the Romanian counter-intelligence of Beltsky uyezd, ‘are hostile to the Romanian administration, they avoid the Romanian clergy…, they threaten the priests when they commemorate the name of the king in church.’…
“In July, 1922 there was formed in Kishinev a multi-national ‘Union of Orthodox Christians’. Soon Bessarabian patriots came to lead the Union. They were closely linked with the Russian communion in Kishinev. According to certain information, Russian monarchists led by General E. Leontovich took part in the organisation of the Union. In 1924 the re-registration of another organisation took place – the Orthodox Brotherhood of Alexander Nevsky, which was led by activists of Moldavian, Gagauz and Russian nationalities – Protopriest Michael Chakir, Priest Nicholas Lashku and K.K. Malanetsky, etc. All these were branded by the secret police as ‘ardent pan-Russists’, while the brotherhood was called the centre for the preservation and propaganda of Russian monarchist ideas…”
The Imperialism of Metaxakis
The insecurity of Meletius’ position did not prevent him from trying to execute his nationalist-ecumenist plans. Thus early in 1922, on his way from America to Constantinople, he visited London and Paris in an attempt to drum up support for a Greek kingdom in Asia Minor; and in the same year, not coincidentally, he recognized the validity of Anglican orders. In 1923 the Churches of Cyprus and Jerusalem followed suit, showing how quickly Ecumenism could spread once it had taken hold in Constantinople.
Nor were Meletius’ imperialist plans confined to Turkey. Within the next few years, he and his successor, Gregory VII, undertook what can only be described as a wholesale annexation of vast territories belonging to the jurisdiction of the Serbian and Russian Patriarchates. Basing his actions on a false interpretation of the 28th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which supposedly gives all the “barbarian lands” into the jurisdiction of Constantinople, he and his successor created the following uncanonical autonomous and autocephalous Churches on the model of the “Greek Archdiocese of North and South America”:-
1. Western Europe. On April 5, 1922, Meletius named an exarch for the whole of Western and Central Europe. By the time of Gregory VII’s death in November, 1924, there was an exarchate of Central Europe under Metropolitan Germanus of Berlin, an exarchate of Great Britain and Western Europe under Metropolitan Germanus of Thyateira, and a diocese of Bishop Gregory of Paris.
In the late 1920s the Ecumenical Patriarch received into his jurisdiction the Russian Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris, who had created a schism in the Russian Church Abroad, and who sheltered a number of influential heretics, such as Nicholas Berdyaev and Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, in the theological institute of St. Sergius in Paris.
2. Finland. In February, 1921 Patriarch Tikhon granted the Finnish Church autonomy within the Russian Church. On June 9, 1922, Meletius uncanonically received this autonomous Finnish Church into his jurisdiction. The excuse given here was that Patriarch Tikhon was no longer free, “therefore he could do as he pleased” (Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky). This undermined the efforts of the Orthodox to maintain their position vis-à-vis the Lutherans. Thus under pressure from the Lutheran government, and in spite of the protests of Patriarch Tikhon, Patriarch Gregory allowed the Finnish Church to adopt the western paschalion. Then began the persecution of the confessors of the Old Calendar in the monastery of Valaam.
“Even more iniquitous and cruel,” continues Metropolitan Anthony, “was the relationship of the late Patriarch Gregory and his synod towards the diocese and the person of the Archbishop of Finland. The Ecumenical Patriarch consecrated a vicar bishop for Finland, the priest Aava, who was not only not tonsured, but not even a rasophore. Moreover, this was done not only without the agreement of the Archbishop of Finland, but in spite of his protest. By these actions the late Patriarch of Constantinople violated a fundamental canon of the Church – the sixth canon of the First Ecumenical Council [and many others], which states, ‘If anyone is consecrated bishop without the consent of his metropolitan, the Great Council declares him not to be a bishop.’ According to the twenty-eighth canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the patriarch cannot even place a bishop in his diocese without the approval of the local metropolitan. Based on precisely this same canon, the predecessors of Gregory vainly attempted to realize his pretensions and legalize their claims to control. This uncanonical ‘bishop’ Aava, once consecrated as bishop, placed a monastic klobuk on his own head, and thus costumed, he appeared in the foreign diocese of Finland. There he instigated the Lutheran government to persecute the canonical Archbishop of Finland, Seraphim, who was respected by the people. The Finnish government previously had requested the Ecumenical Patriarch to confirm the most illegal of laws, namely that the secular government of Finland would have the right to retire the Archbishop. The government in fact followed through with the retirement, falsely claiming that Archbishop Seraphim had not learned enough Finnish in the allotted time. Heaven and earth were horrified at this illegal, tyrannical act of a non-Orthodox government. Even more horrifying was that an Orthodox patriarch had consented to such chicanery. To the scandal of the Orthodox and the evil delight of the heterodox, the highly dubious Bishop Germanus (the former Fr. Aava) strolled the streets of Finland in secular clothes, clean-shaven and hair cut short, while the most worthy of bishops, Seraphim, crudely betrayed by his false brother, languished in exile for the remainder of his life in a tiny hut of a monastery on a stormy isle on Lake Ladoga.”
On November 14/27, 1923, Patriarch Tikhon and the Russian Holy Synod, after listening to a report by Archbishop Seraphim decreed that “since his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon has entered upon the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church, the reason for which the Patriarch of Constantinople considered it necessary temporarily to submit the Finnish Church to his jurisdiction has now fallen away, and the Finnish eparchy must return under the rule of the All-Russian Patriarch.” However, the Finns did not return to the Russians, and the Finnish Church remains to this day within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the most modernist of all the Orthodox Churches.
3. Estonia. In February, 1921 Patriarch Tikhon granted a broad measure of autonomy to the parts of the former Pskov and Revel dioceses that entered into the boundaries of the newly formed Estonian state. On August 28, 1922, Meletius uncanonically received this Estonian diocese of the Russian Church into his jurisdiction, under Metropolitan Alexander. The recent renewal of this unlawful decision by the present Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, has led to a schism between the Ecumenical and Russian patriarchates.
4. Latvia. In June, 1921 Patriarch Tikhon granted the Latvian Church a large measure of autonomy under its Latvian archpastor, Archbishop John of Riga, who was burned to death by the communists in 1934. In March, 1936, the Ecumenical Patriarch accepted the Church of Latvia within his own jurisdiction.
5. Poland. In 1921 Patriarch Tikhon appointed Archbishop Seraphim (Chichagov) to the see of Warsaw, but the Poles, whose armies had defeated the Red Army the year before, did not grant him entry into the country. So the patriarch was forced to bow to the Poles’ suggestion that Archbishop George (Yaroshevsky) of Minsk be made metropolitan of Warsaw. However, he refused Archbishop George’s request for autocephaly on the grounds that very few members of the Polish Church were Poles and the Polish dioceses were historically indivisible parts of the Russian Church.
Lyudmilla Koeller writes: “The Polish authorities restricted the Orthodox Church, which numbered more than 3 million believers (mainly Ukrainians and Byelorussians). In 1922 a council was convoked in Pochayev which was to have declared autocephaly, but as the result of a protest by Bishop Eleutherius [Bogoyavlensky, of Vilnius] and Bishop Vladimir (Tikhonitsky), this decision was not made. But at the next council of bishops, which gathered in Warsaw in June, 1922, the majority voted for autocephaly, with only Bishops Eleutherius and Vladimir voting against. A council convoked in September of the same year ‘deprived Bishops Eleutherius and Vladimir of their sees. In December, 1922, Bishop Eleutherius was arrested and imprisoned in a strict regime prison in the monastery of the Camaldul Fathers near Krakow, from where he was transferred to Kovno in spring, 1923’.”
Two other Russian bishops, Panteleimon (Rozhnovsky) and Sergius (Korolev), were also deprived of their sees. The three dissident bishops were expelled from Poland.
In November, 1923, Metropolitan George was killed by an opponent of his church politics, and was succeeded by Metropolitan Dionysius “with the agreement of the Polish government and the confirmation and blessing of his Holiness Meletius IV [Metaxakis]”. Patriarch Tikhon rejected this act as uncanonical, but was unable to do anything about it. In the years that followed, deprived of the protection of the Russian Church and in no way protected by the ecumenist patriarchs of Constantinople, the Orthodox in Poland were subjected to a ferocious campaign of catholicization at the hands of the Polish State and Church.
Then, in November, 1924, Patriarch Gregory VII uncanonically transferred the Polish Church from the jurisdiction of the Russian Church to his own.
5. Hungary and Czechoslovakia. According to the old Hungarian law of 1868, and confirmed by the government of the new Czechoslovak republic in 1918 and 1920, all Orthodox Christians living in the territory of the former Hungarian kingdom came within the jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarchate, and were served directly by Bishops Gorazd of Moravia and Dositheus of Carpatho-Russia.
However, on September 3, 1921, the Orthodox parish in Prague elected Archimandrite Sabbatius to be their bishop, and then informed Bishop Dositheus, their canonical bishop about this. When the Serbian Synod refused to consecrate Sabbatius for Prague, he, without the knowledge of his community, set off for Constantinople, where on March 4, 1923, he was consecrated “archbishop” of the newly created Czechoslovakian branch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which included Carpatho-Russia.
Then, on April 15, 1924, the Ecumenical Patriarch established a metropolia of Hungary and All Central Europe with its see in Budapest (although there was already a Serbian bishop there)
“The scandal caused by this confusion,” writes Z.G. Ashkenazy, “is easy to imagine. Bishop Sabbatius insisted on his rights in Carpatho-Russia, enthusiastically recruiting sympathizers from the Carpatho-Russian clergy and ordaining candidates indiscriminately. His followers requested that the authorities take administrative measures against priests not agreeing to submit to him. Bishop Dositheus placed a rebellious monk under ban – Bishop Sabbatius elevated him to igumen; Bishop Dositheus gathered the clergy in Husta and organized an Ecclesiastical Consistory – Bishop Sabbatius enticed priests to Bushtin and formed an Episcopal Council. Chaos reigned in church affairs. Malice and hatred spread among the clergy, who organized into ‘Sabbatiites’ and ‘Dositheiites’.
“A wonderful spiritual flowering which gave birth to so many martyrs for Orthodoxy degenerated into a shameful struggle for power, for a more lucrative parish and extra income. The Uniate press was gleeful, while bitterness settled in among the Orthodox people against their clergy, who were not able to maintain that high standard of Orthodoxy which had been initiated by inspired simple folk.”
In 1938 the great wonderworker Archbishop John Maximovich reported to the All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Church Abroad: “Increasing without limit their desires to submit to themselves parts of Russia, the Patriarchs of Constantinople have even begun to declare the uncanonicity of the annexation of Kiev to the Moscow Patriarchate, and to declare that the previously existing southern Russian Metropolia of Kiev should be subject to the Throne of Constantinople. Such a point of view is not only clearly expressed in the Tomos of November 13, 1924, in connection with the separation of the Polish Church, but is also quite thoroughly promoted by the Patriarchs. Thus, the Vicar of Metropolitan Eulogius in Paris, who was consecrated with the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarch, has assumed the title of Chersonese; that is to say, Chersonese, which is now in the territory of Russia, is subject to the Ecumenical Patriarch. The next logical step for the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be to declare the whole of Russia as being under the jurisdiction of Constantinople…
“In sum, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in theory embracing almost the whole universe, and in fact extending its authority only over several dioceses, and in other places having only a superficial supervision and receiving certain revenues for this; persecuted by the government at home and not supported by any governmental authority abroad; having lost its significance as a pillar of truth and having itself become a source of division, and at the same time being possessed by an exorbitant love of power – represents a pitiful spectacle which recalls the worst periods in the history of the See of Constantinople.”
In fact, since the inter-war years the Patriarchate of Constantinople has been the leader of the Orthodox apostasy from the traditions of the Holy Fathers, and remains so to this day.
The Second Fall of Constantinople
However, the judgement of God was not slow in falling on the patriarchate. The Greek invasion of Turkey, which had begun well in 1921, collapsed through internal dissension and lack of financial and military backing from the western powers.
In August, 1922, the Turks began a general offensive on all fronts. The result was a massive defeat for the Greeks, the wholesale slaughter of the Greek population of Smyrna (Metropolitan Chrysostom of Smyrna was killed) and the fall of the Greek government. The king resigned, Colonels Nicholas Plastiras and Stylianus Gonatas took control, and Prime Minister Gounaris was executed together with six leaders of the army.
The new revolutionary government favoured Meletius, and, as Stavros Karamitsos writes, “all the participants in the above-mentioned Council [which condemned his election] quickly hastened, one after the other, to recognize Meletius, except for two bishops, Sophronius of Eleutheropolis and our famous Chrysostom,.. [who wrote in his Apology]: ‘I was then summoned, through the bishop of Kavala Chrysostom, to appear before the Minister, who urged me with threats to recognize Meletius. I took no account of his threats and refused to knuckle under. Then, to avoid a second exile to the Holy Mountain, I departed to Alexandria to see my relatives and to recover from my distress.
“’While in Alexandria, I received a summons from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to appear before the Holy Synod and explain why I did not recognize the election of Meletius as Ecumenical Patriarch. But.., being unable to appear in person before the Synod, I sent a letter justifying my refusal to recognize Meletius as the canonical Patriarch on the basis of the divine and sacred Canons. And while he was preparing to condemn and defrock me in my absence, he was driven from his throne by the Turks for scandalously mixing his spiritual mission with anti-Turkish politics…’”
However, the mood in Constantinople had begun to turn against Meletius nearly a year before that, in the wake of the events of August-September, 1922, when the terrified Greeks began to leave at the rate of 3000 a day.
One of those who left at this time was Hieromonk Basil Apostolides. As Fr. Jerome of Aegina he was to become one of the great figures of the True Orthodox Church. He gave as reason to the Patriarch his fear that the Turks would force the clergy to take off their cassocks – a prophecy that was fulfilled twelve years later.
Indeed, the situation became so serious, and the position of the patriarchate so vulnerable, that during the Lausanne conference (1922-23), which decided on the massive exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, the Italian president of the exchange of populations subcommission, G.M. Mantagna, even suggested that “the removal of the Patriarchate [from Constantinople] would not be too high a price to pay for the conclusion of an agreement.”
However, the delegations of the British, French and American governments opposed this. The British in particular (whose troops were still occupying Constantinople and probably prevented a massacre there similar to that which had taken place in Smyrna) suspected the hand of the Vatican in this proposal. For, as the advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury on Near Eastern questions, J.A. Douglas, said: “Noone with the slightest knowledge of the Near East can doubt that Rome is bitterly hostile to the Phanar, and reckons a disaster to it as an institution to be a great thing.”
Lausanne spelt the end of Greek nationalist dreams, and the beginning of the end of Constantinople as a Greek city. Thus the Turkish representative at the conference secured a commitment from Venizelos that he would persuade Meletius to resign from the patriarchate in exchange for the maintenance of the patriarchate as an institution. Meletius agreed to resign, but suggested the postponement of his resignation until the conclusion of the peace negotiations, which took place in June, 1923…
Thus “the second fall of Constantinople” to the Turks took place for exactly the same reason as the first fall in 1453 – the union of the Great Church of Constantinople with the western heretics.
The “Pan-Orthodox Council” of 1923
The centre of attention now moves from Constantinople to Athens, where, at the beginning of 1923, a Commission had been set up on the initiative of the government to see whether the Autocephalous Church of Greece could accept the new calendar. The Commission reported that “although the Church of Greece, like the other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, is inherently independent, they are nevertheless firmly united and bound to each other through the principle of the spiritual unity of the Church, composing one and one only Church, the Orthodox Church. Consequently none of them can separate itself from the others and accept the new calendar without becoming schismatic in relation to them.”
On the basis of this report a royal mandate was issued decreeing, among other things, that “the Julian Calendar is to remain in force as regards the Church and religious feasts in general”, and that “the national festival of the 25th of March and all the holidays laid down by the laws are to be regulated according to the Julian Calendar.”
On February 3, Meletius Metaxakis wrote to the Church of Greece, arguing for the change of calendar at his forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council “so as to further the cause, in this part of the Pan-Christian unity, of the celebration of the Nativity and Resurrection of Christ on the same day by all those who are called by the name of the Lord.”
Shortly afterwards, on February 25, Archimandrite Chrysostom Papadopoulos, was elected Archbishop of Athens by three out of a specially chosen Synod of only five hierarchs – another ecclesiastical coup d’état. During his enthronement speech, Chrysostom said that for collaboration with the heterodox “it is not necessary to have common ground or dogmatic union, for the union of Christian love is sufficient”.
As one of the members of the commission which had rejected the new calendar, Chrysostom might have been expected to resist Meletius’ call. But it seems that the two men had more in common than the fact that they had both been expelled from the Church of Jerusalem in their youth; for on March 6 Chrysostom and his Synod accepted Meletius’ proposal and agreed to send a representative to the forthcoming Council. Then, on April 16, he proposed to the Hierarchy that 13 days should be added to the calendar, “for reasons not only of convenience, but also of ecclesiastical, scientifically ratified accuracy”.
Five out of the thirty-two hierarchs – the metropolitans of Syros, Patras, Demetrias, Khalkis and Thera – voted against this proposal. Two days later, however, at the second meeting of the Hierarchy, it was announced that Chrysostom’s proposal had been “unanimously” approved, but “with absolutely no change to the Paschalion and Calendar of the Orthodox Church”. Moreover, it was decided that the Greek Church would approve of any decision regarding the celebration of Pascha made by the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council, provided it was in accordance with the Canons…
It was therefore with the knowledge that the Greek Church would support his proposed reforms that Meletius convened a “Pan-Orthodox Council” in Constantinople from May 10 to June 8, 1923, whose renovationist resolutions concerned the “correction” of the Julian calendar, a fixed date for Pascha, the second marriage of clergy, and various relaxations with regard to the clothing of clergy, the keeping of monastic vows, impediments to marriage, the transfer of Saints’ feasts from the middle of the week, and fasting.
However, hardly more than ten people, and no official representatives of the Patriarchates, turned up for the “Pan-Orthodox Council”, so discredited was its convener. And even Archbishop Chrysostom (Papadopoulos) had to admit: “Unfortunately, the Eastern Patriarchs who refused to take part in the Congress rejected all of its resolutions in toto from the very outset. If the Congress had restricted itself only to the issue of the calendar, perhaps it would not have encountered the kind of reaction that it did.”
In his “Memorandum to the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy of Greece” (June 14, 1929), Metropolitan Irenaeus of Kassandreia wrote that the council was not “Pan-Orthodox” but “anti-Orthodox”: “It openly and impiously trampled on the 34th Apostolic Canon, which ordains: ‘It behoves the Bishops of every nation to know among them who is the first or chief, and to recognize him as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval… But let not even such a one do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all. For thus will there be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. He replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian in spite of all the prohibitions relating to it; he decided to supersede the Paschalion which had been eternally ordained for the Orthodox Church by the decision of the First Ecumenical Council, turning to the creation of an astronomically more perfect one in the observatories of Bucharest, Belgrade and Athens; he allowed clerics’ hair to be cut and their venerable dress to be replaced by that of the Anglican Pastors; he introduced the anticanonical marriage and second marriage of priests; he entrusted the shortening of the days of the fast and the manner of their observance to the judgement of the local Churches, thereby destroying the order and unity that prevailed in the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches of the East. Acting in this way, he opened wide the gates to every innovation, abolishing the distinctive characteristic of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is its preservation, perfectly and without innovation, of everything that was handed down by the Lord, the Apostles, the Fathers, and the Local and Ecumenical Councils.”
What made the council’s decisions still less acceptable was the reason it gave for its innovations, viz., that changing the Paschalion “would make a great moral impression on the whole civilized world by bringing the two Christian worlds of the East and West closer through the unforced initiative of this Orthodox Church…”!
Archbishop Nicon wrote: “The most important decrees of the Congress were the decisions to change to the new style [calendar] and to allow the clergy to marry a second time. The Alexandrian, Antiochian and Jerusalem Churches did not participate in the Congress, considering its convening untimely [and Meletius an uncanonical usurper]. But its decrees were rejected by them as being, according to the expression of the Alexandrian Patriarch, ‘contrary to the practice, tradition and teaching of our most Holy Mother Church and presented under the pretext of being slight modifications, which are probably elicited by the demands of the new dogma of “Modernism”’ (epistle to the Antiochian Patriarch, 23 June, 1923). The representatives of the Russian Church Abroad [Archbishops Anastasius and Alexander], and after them the Council of Bishops, reacted completely negatively to these reforms.”
Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) called the calendar innovation “this senseless and pointless concession to Masonry and Papism”.
On July 10, harrassed by both Venizelos and the Turkish government, and challenged for his patriarchal seat by the newly formed “Turkish Orthodox Church” of Papa Euthymius, Meletius withdrew to Mount Athos, and in October, he resigned officially.
However, his notorious career was not over yet. Platonov writes that after “hiding with his Masonic protectors in England” for a few years, in 1926, on the death of Patriarch Photius of Alexandria, “with the financial and organisational support of the secret world powers-that-be, Meletius was put forward as second candidate for the throne of Alexandria. The first claimant was Metropolitan Nicholas of Nubia. According to established practice, the first candidate should have been proclaimed patriarch. However, the Egyptian authorities under pressure from the English confirmed the ‘election’ of Meletius. Using his power, the new Alexandrian patriarch-mason introduced the Gregorian calendar [in 1928], causing a serious schism in the Alexandrian Church.” Moreover, he again tried to push many of the Greek Orthodox in America into schism.
Meletius was helped by the fact that in Russia the so-called “Living Church” had come to power in 1922 with a very similar programme of modernistic reforms to his own. And on the occasion of his election as Patriarch of Alexandria, the synod of the “Living Church” wrote to Meletius: “The Holy Synod [of the renovationists] recall with sincere best wishes the moral support which Your Beatitude showed us while you were yet Patriarch of Constantinople by entering into communion with us as the only rightfully ruling organ of the Russian Orthodox Church.” Moreover, his successors Gregory VII and Constantine VI remained in communion with the “Living Church” (communion was broken off only in 1929), and Gregory even called for Patriarch Tikhon’s resignation.
Not content with that, Gregory demanded “that the Russian Metropolitan Anthony and Archbishop Anastasius, who were residing Constantinople at the time, cease their activities against the Soviet regime and stop commemorating Patriarch Tikhon. Receiving no compliance from them, Patriarch Gregory organized an investigation and suspended the two bishops from serving. He asked Patriarch Demetrius [of Serbia] to close down the Russian Council of Bishops in Sremsky-Karlovtsy, but Demetrius refused…”
Gregory then decided to send a special mission to Russia to investigate the church situation there. Gubonin writes: “The initiative of Constantinople with regard to this question had been elicited by the provocative and lying ‘information’ from the renovationist Synod concerning a supposed ‘Tikhonite schism’ in the Russian Orthodox Church (that is, among them – the renovationists) and the supposedly universal desire among the clerical leaders (that is, of the renovationist-synodalists) to bring peace into the difficult situation that had been created with the cooperation of the lofty authority of the Ecumenical Vladyka (since, they said, all means had already been exhausted and they had no other hope!).
“Taking into account the complete isolation of the Russian Church from communion with the external world at that time, the falsely informed Patriarch Gregory VII fell into this renovationist trap, but was stopped in time by the sobering epistle of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon.”
Thus the Patriarch wrote to Gregory as follows: “Attached to the letter of your Holiness’ representative in Russia, Archimandrite Basil Dimopoulo, of June 6, 1924, no. 226, I received the protocols of four sessions of the Holy Constantinopolitan Synod of January 1, April 17, April 30 and May 6 of this year, from which it is evident that your Holiness, wishing to provide help from the Mother Great Church of Christ of Constantinople, and ‘having exactly studied the course of Russian Church life and the differences and divisions that have taken place – in order to bring peace and end the present anomalies’, .. ‘having taken into consideration the exceptional circumstances and examples from the past’, have decided ‘to send us a special Commission, which is authorized to study and act on the spot on the basis and within the bounds of definite orders which are in agreement with the spirit and tradition of the Church’.
“In your Holiness’ instructions to the members of the Mission one of the main points is your desire that I, as the All-Russian Patriarch, ‘for the sake of the unification of those who have cut themselves off and for the sake of the flock, should sacrifice myself and immediately resign from the administration of the Church, as befits a true and love-filled pastor who cares for the salvation of many, and that at the same time the Patriarchate should be abolished, albeit temporarily, because it came into being in completely abnormal circumstances at the beginning of the civil war and because it is considered a major obstacle to the reestablishment of peace and unity’. Definite instructions are also given to the Commission regarding which tendencies [factions] they should rely on in their work.
“On reading the indicated protocols, we were in no small measure disturbed and surprised that the Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the head of the Constantinopolitan Church, should without prior contact with us, as the lawful representative and head of the whole of the Russian Orthodox Church, interfere in the inner life and affairs of the Autocephalous Russian Church. The Holy Councils.. have always recognized the primacy in honour, but not in power, of the Bishop of Constantinople over the other Autocephalous Churches. Let us also remember the canon that ‘without being invited, bishops must not pass beyond the boundaries of their own jurisdiction for the sake of ordination or any other ecclesiastical affair.’ For that reason any attempt by any Commission without consulting me, the only lawful and Orthodox First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and without my knowledge, is unlawful and will not be accepted by the Russian Orthodox peoples, and will bring, not pacification, but still more disturbance and schism into the life of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has suffered much even without this. This will be to the advantage only of our schismatics – the renovationists, whose leaders now stand at the head of the so-called (self-called) Holy Synod, like the former archbishop of Nizhegorod Eudocimus and others, who have been defrocked by me and have been declared outside the communion of the Orthodox Church for causing disturbance, schism and unlawful seizure of ecclesiastical power.
“I, together with the whole mass of Russian Orthodox believers, and with all my flock, very much doubt that your Holiness has, as you declare, ‘studied exactly the course of Russian church life’. I doubt it because You have not once turned to me for documentary explanations of who is the true and real cause of disturbance and schism.
“The whole Russian Orthodox people long ago pronounced its righteous word concerning both the impious meeting which dared to call itself a Council in 1923, and the unhappy leaders of the renovationist schism… The people is not with the schismatics, but with their lawful Orthodox Patriarch. Allow me also to be sceptical about the measure your Holiness suggests for pacifying the Church – that is, my resignation from the administration of the Church and the abolition, albeit temporary, of the Patriarchate in Rus’. This would not pacify the Church, but cause a new disturbance and bring new sorrows to our faithful Archpastors and pastors who have suffered much even without this. It is not love of honour or power which has forced me to take up the cross of the patriarchy again, but the consciousness of my duty, submission to the will of God and the voice of the episcopate which is faithful to Orthodoxy and the Church. The latter, on receiving permission to assemble, in July last year, synodically condemned the renovationists as schismatics and asked me again to become head and rudder of the Russian Church until it pleases the Lord God to give peace to the Church by the voice of an All-Russian Local Council.”
Tikhon signed his letter: “the brother in Christ of your beloved Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon”. So it is clear that he had not broken communion with Constantinople. And Gregory abandoned his plans to send a mission to Russia…
In a letter to Gregory’s successor, Constantine VI, dated February 4/17, 1925, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, the second hierarch in rank after the Patriarch and President of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, both defended Tikhon and compared Meletius and Gregory to the heretical patriarchs of Constantinople condemned by the Seven Ecumenical Councils: “It is on this same path of disobedience to the Holy Church and the canons that the two last predecessors of your Holiness descended.”
Relations between Constantinople and the ROCA continued to be very frosty for several years. Nor did the reception into the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris, a rebel from the ROCA, improve matters. However, there was no formal, de jure as opposed to de facto, break of communion.
When Metropolitan Peter came to power in Russia in April, 1925, he was presented a letter from Patriarch Basil III which called on the “Old Churchmen” to unite with the renovationists. His comment was: “We still have to check whether this Patriarch is Orthodox…” Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) was also sceptical; he reacted to Constantinople’s recognition of the renovationists as follows: “Let them recognize them; the renovationists have not become Orthodox from this, only the Patriarchs have become renovationists!”
The Introduction of the New Calendar
After Meletius’ expulsion from the Ecumenical throne, it was Chrysostom Papadopoulos who took the lead in introducing the new calendar. He did so with great haste and an extraordinary display of power politics that suggested (in view of his recent opposition to the calendar change) that certain very powerful extra-ecclesiastical interests – the Greek government is the obvious candidate, but some have also discerned International Masonry and the Roman Papacy behind it – were exerting pressure on him. But the way in which he was able to sweep aside the resistance not only of his own hierarchy, but also of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, suggests that the pressure was not only on him but on almost all the Greek hierarchs at this time.
The Council began with the decision by the revolutionary Greek government to suspend the old Constitutional Law in accordance with which the Greek Church had been administered for the previous 70 years. According to the new Law, passed on December 14, 1923, the Hierarchy would meet only once a year, and between sessions would be represented by the Archbishop of Athens alone. Moreover, metropolitans would have to retire at the age of 65, which conveniently neutralized the influence of the older and more conservative hierarchs.
Invested now with almost dictatorial powers, Chrysostom convened a meeting of the Hierarchy, which, on December 24, voted to thank the government for emancipating it from the previous administrative system (!), and, on December 27, decided to introduce the new calendar with the agreement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – no mention, this time, of the need to seek the other Orthodox Churches’ agreement.
It is clear that the decision to change the calendar was imposed by the government. Thus at the meeting of December 24, Nicholas Plastiras, the President of the Council of the “Revolutionary Government”, said to the hierarchs: “The Revolution requests you, then, my respected Hierarchs, to leave all personal preference to one side and proceed to purge the Church… The Revolution hopes that a useful work for the new generation will result from your labours, and that it will reckon itself happy to see the rebirth of the Church being set in motion… Consequently, it wishes you not to limit yourselves to the ancestral Canons, but to proceed to radical measures.”
It is striking how similar were the programs of the renovationists in Greece and Russia at this time. Both were far from modest in their aim: a complete reformation of the Church. And both had the same power pushing them from behind – the Revolution…
On January 4, 1924, Chrysostom wrote to the Ecumenical Patriarch asking, in a rather lordly tone, for his agreement to the calendar change. He said that it was “sad” that the other Orthodox Churches had not agreed to this, but did not suggest that this might be an impediment. The Patriarch replied on February 14 in a much more sycophantic tone, suggesting that the change should take place on March 10 (henceforth March 23), but asking that he be informed of the agreement of the other Orthodox Churches. Chrysostom immediately telegraphed his agreement to this date, and asked the Patriarch to inform his metropolitans in the New Territories about it.
His haste was probably elicited by the Alexandrian Patriarch Photius’ message to the Ecumenical Patriarch on January 15, which declared: “Taking into consideration the letters from the Churches of Romania and Serbia, we abide in these things which have been dogmatized in former Synodal Congresses, and we reject every addition or any change of the calendar before the convocation of an Ecumenical Council, which alone is capable of discussing this question, concerning which Ecumenical Council we propose a speedy convocation.” On February 16 Chrysostom telegraphed Photius, saying that an Ecumenical Council could not be convened immediately, and that the calendar change was an urgent necessity “for the sake of millions of Orthodox people”. After asking him to change the calendar on March 10, he added, rather craftily, that there would be no change in the Paschalion, for such a change would have to be referred to an Ecumenical Council (as if the addition of 13 days to the calendar was a much less important change that did not require a conciliar decision).
On March 3, Chrysostom wrote to all the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece that “in accordance with the decision of the Holy Synod the Church of Greece has accepted the correction of the Julian calendar defined by the Ecumenical Patriarch, according to which March 10 is to be considered and called March 23…”
Finally, on March 4, he completed his coup, asking the Foreign Ministry to “send urgent telegrams to the Blessed Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Serbia, and the Archbishops of Romania and Cyprus, informing them that the Church of Greece has accepted the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning the convergence of the ecclesiastical and political calendar, calling March 10 March 23, and to inform the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople that the Church of Greece had put his decision into effect.”
What were the reactions of the other Churches to the Greek Church’s adoption of the new calendar? As we have seen, the Ecumenical Patriarch accepted the change, albeit with the proviso that it should be with the agreement of all the Orthodox Churches. This acquiescence is largely explained by the very weak position of the patriarchate in the wake of the Asia Minor catastrophe; it was economically dependent on the Greek Church and could not afford to disagree. In fact, Patriarch Gregory VII was personally opposed to the change. But he accepted it because, as he told the Holy Synod: “Unfortunately, the change in the calendar was imposed by the Greek government.”
The Romanian Church also accepted the change. The leader of the Romanian Chuch at that time, Metropolitan Miron Christea, was a former uniate and a Freemason who was even to change the date of Pascha in 1926 and 1929 to bring it into conformity with the western Paschalion. In 1936 he accepted the validity of Anglican orders.
However, all the other Orthodox Churches, including the Slavic Churches and Jerusalem, rejected the innovation. Thus Patriarch Damian of Jerusalem and his Synod wrote: “The most holy Mother of the Churches is unable to accept the change at present because of the disadvantageous position in which, as is well known, she finds herself in relation to the Latins in the holy places, and because of the dangers of proselytism.”
Patriarch Gregory of Antioch and his Synod wrote: “Political factors produced the change of the calendar even though the whole of the Eastern Church keeps to the Julian calendar. The tendency to change the canons represents a great danger in our eyes.”
Patriarch Demetrius of Serbia wrote: “We have indicated the necessity of postponing for the time being the council that has been convened in order that the question be examined before an Ecumenical Council so as to decide on a single calendar for all the Orthodox Churches.”
Patriarch Photius of Alexandria wrote: “Your announcement that, without any real cause or dogmatic or canonical reasons, the brotherly advice and entreaties of the four Apostolic Thrones has been rejected, and the ‘reform of the calendar’ has taken place, caused us great grief and surprise. You are in danger of alienating all the Orthodox peoples of the Church. Therefore I suggest the convening of a council to examine the question.” When Chrysostom replied that a council could not be convened at that time, Photius still refused to accept the innovation.
Patriarch Tikhon, pressurized by the GPU agent Tuchkov, was deceived into believing that the new calendar had been accepted by all the Eastern Churches, and temporarily allowed it. But the weakness of the administrative system was useful at this point, for it hindered the dissemination of a decision which the people in any case opposed. Later, Metropolitan Anastasius of Kishinev sent him a telegram from Constantinople reporting that not all the Churches had accepted the new calendar. So Tikhon reversed his decision, and Tuchkov dropped the idea.
Three things should therefore be pointed out concerning the way in which the new calendar was introduced in the Church of Greece. The first is the massive influence of the State, first in changing the Constitution of the Church, and then in announcing the fait accompli to the other Churches. As is clear from Chrysostom’s final messages, it was the convergence of the Church calendar with that of the State that was the real motive, concelebration with the western heretics being the ultimate goal. Secondly, the initiative for the change is cunningly ascribed by Chrysostom to the Ecumenical Patriarch, whereas the real leader and agitator for reform was himself.
And thirdly, whereas lip-service was paid in the early stages to the need to acquire the consent of the other Orthodox Churches, in the end the change was made without their approval and in effect by one man only – the Archbishop of Athens.
The result was a schism in the Orthodox Church, with the Churches of Constantinople, Greece and Romania adopting the new calendar in 1924. Alexandria (under Meletius Metaxakis again) followed in 1928, Antioch somewhat later, and in 1968 – Bulgaria. The other Slavic Churches and Jerusalem continue to follow the Julian calendar to this day.
The Sin against Unity
According to the Holy Fathers of the Church, the creation of a schism is no less abhorrent and deadly a sin than heresy. Even martyrdom, writes St. Cyprian of Carthage, followed by St. John Chrysostom, cannot wipe out the sin of him who divides the Body of Christ. For as Christ is one, so is His Church one; indeed, the one Christ cannot be separated from the one Church in that “the full and perfect Christ”, in St. Augustine’s phrase, “is Head and Body” together.
“Since the Church,” writes Fr. Justin Popovich, “is catholically one and a unique theanthropic organism for all worlds, she cannot be divided. Any division would signify her death… According to the united position of the Fathers and the Councils, the Church is not only one but unique, because the one unique God-man, her Head, cannot have many bodies. The Church is one and unique because she is the body of the one unique Christ. A division in the Church is ontologically impossible, for which reason there has never been a division in the Church, only a division from the Church. According to the word of the Lord, the Vine is not divided; but only those branches which voluntarily refuse to bring forth fruit fall away from the ever-living Vine and are dried up (John 15.1-6). At various times heretics and schismatics have been separated and cut off from the one undivided Church of Christ; they have subsequently ceased to be members of the Church and united with her theanthropic body. Such were, first of all, the Gnostics, then the Arians and Spirit-fighters, then the Monophysites and Iconoclasts, and finally the Roman Catholics and Protestants and Uniates and all the rest of the heretical and schismatic legion.”
For, as the Athonite zealot Fr. Augustine writes: “It is a dogma of the Faith that the Church is not only Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, but also One, so that even though the Churches are seen to be many, one and one only is the Church composed of the many that are seen in different places. This is the teaching of the Holy Creed, this is the message of the Divine Scriptures, the Apostolic Tradition, the Sacred councils and the God-bearing Fathers. From this we conclude that the union of the Church is a most important dogma of the Faith.
“We have seen.. that St. Constantine and the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council reestablished both the inner and the outer unity of the Church, which is why the joyful autocrat cried out: ‘I have reaped a double victory, I have both reestablished inner peace through the common confession of the Faith and brought the separation which existed before into the unity of the Church through the common celebration of Pascha.’
“This, then, is unity, as we are assured by the Acts of the First Council, an inner unity and an outer unity, and neither can the first be a true unity without the second, nor can the second exist without the first. The relationship between them is like that of faith to works and works to faith. The one without the other is dead. Thus inner unity without outer unity is dead, and outer unity without inner unity is dead. And the first is defined by the common confession of the Faith, and the second by the visible harmony in accordance with the laws and institutions of the Church, both constituting the one and only true unity, the essential unity of the Church.”
More specifically, the introduction of the new calendar was the first practical step in the implementation of the ecumenist heresy. Ecumenism is the heresy that there is no such thing as heresy as the Apostles and Fathers of the Church understand that term – that is, a false teaching on a matter of the Faith which estranges those who adhere to it from the unity of the Church. Ecumenism is the heresy that there is no single Faith, whether Orthodox, Papist or Protestant, which expresses the fullness of the truth, and that all existing faiths (except Ecumenism itself) are more or less in error. It implies that the One, Undivided Church of Christ has foundered on the reef of sectarian strife, and that She has to be re-founded on the sands of doctrinal compromise and indifference to the truth. It is the tower of Babel rebuilt, a babble of conflicting tongues united only in their insistence that they all speak the same language…
Finally, let us consider a letter of the Abbot Philotheus Zervakos of Longovarda monastery, Paros, to the new calendarist bishop Augustine of Florina in 1968: “Since the old calendar is a written tradition, and since the new one is an innovation of papist and masonic origin, whoever despises the old calendar and follows the new is subject to anathema. Every excuse and justification is unjustified and ‘excuses in sins’…
“Last Sunday I had to go to the peak of All Saints and the Prophet Elijah… and as I was kneeling in front of their venerable icon I tearfully besought them to reveal to me which calendar I the wretched one should follow together with my brethren, my spiritual children and all the Orthodox Christians. Before I had finished my humble and pitiful petition, I heard a voice inside me saying: ‘you must follow the old calendar which the God-bearing Fathers who brought together the seven holy Ecumenical Councils and supported the Orthodox Faith handed down to you, and not the new calendar of the popes of the West, who have divided the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and depised the Apostolic and patristic traditions’!!!
“At that moment I felt such emotion, such joy, such hope, such courage and greatness of soul as I have hardly ever felt in the hour of prayer in the whole of my life…
“Do not suppose that following the papist calendar is a small thing. It [The Orthodox Julian calendar] is a tradition and as such we must guard it or we shall be suject to anathema. ‘If anyone violates any tradition, written or unwritten, let him be anathema’, declares the Seventh Ecumenical Council… This is not the time to continue to be silent… don’t delay, hurry.”
And Fr. Philotheus described another sign in his letter. He wrote that Chrysostom Papadopoulos told him during a meeting they had: “If only I hadn’t gone through with it, if only I hadn’t gone through with it. This perverse Metaxakis has got me by the throat”!
Nor did Metaxakis escape retribution. In 1935, on the death of Patriarch Damian of Jerusalem, he tried to acquire that see, too, but failed. It is said that he then went out of his mind, and six days later, grinding his teeth and wringing his hands, he died, groaning plaintively: “Alas, I have divided the Church, I have destroyed Orthodoxy.”
He lied to the end; for while he destroyed himself, dividing himself from the True Church and Orthodoxy, the True Church herself remained undivided, and Orthodoxy will continue unassailable to the ages of ages.
3. RUSSIA: THE SOVIETIZATION OF THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE (1924-1939)
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
Although Patriarch Tikhon had defeated the threat posed by the renovationists, he had not yet seen off the threat posed by the communist government which supported the renovationists, who were no less hostile to the Church than before and who, through the Patriarch’s “confession” of 1923, had succeeded in forcing him to mute his criticism of them.
The Pressures on the Patriarch
From July, 1923, the GPU agent Tuchkov placed several demands before the Patriarch. The first was that he should commemorate the Soviet authorities during the Divine services. The following form of commemoration was established: “For the Russian land and its authorities”. Fr. Basil Vinogradov, who was entrusted with the distribution of the order round the parishes, said that Tikhon issued it under pressure from Bishop Hilarion (Troitsky). However, in the parishes, instead of the word “authorities” (vlastyekh) the similar-sounding word “regions” (oblastyekh) was substituted. Soon the whole phrase was dropped.
Although the Patriarch had yielded on the question of commemoration, he adamantly refused, according to Rusak, “to recognize the principle which was imposed on him of registering clergy and church communities and of agreeing with the authorities about appointing bishops, and in general he rejected any measures which meant the interference of the State in the inner affairs of the Church,” in which refusal he was strongly supported by Bishop Hilarion.
Tuchkov’s second demand was the introduction of the new, Gregorian calendar instead of the ecclesiastical, Julian one. As Tikhon himself wrote, “this demand was repeated many times, and was reinforced by the promise of a more benevolent attitude on the part of the Government towards the Orthodox Church and Her institutions in the case of our agreement and the threat of a deterioration in these relations in the case of our refusal”. Tikhon’s attitude towards the calendar change was comparatively “liberal”, and he and a “Little Council” of bishops actually issued a decree introducing it on October 2/15, 1923. But when he learned that the patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem, as well as the Russian Church in Exile, were against the change (as proposed by Metaxakis), and when he saw that the Russian people were also strongly opposed to his decree, as they had been to the renovationists’ similar decree some months earlier, he reversed his decision “temporarily”.
When, in spite of this, agents of the government posted up notices of the now annulled decree on the introduction of the new calendar, the people saw in this the clear interference of the State in the matter, which made it impossible for the patriarch to proceed with his plans for the duration of his patriarchy.
Tuchkov’s third demand was that the Patriarch should enter into communion with the renovationists. This was a difficult demand to resist because, apart from external pressures, some of the Patriarch’s closest assistants, such as Bishop Hilarion (Troitsky) were in favour of making concessions for the sake of church unity. But at this point the former rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and superior of the Danilov monastery in Moscow, Archbishop Theodore (Pozdeyevsky) of Volokolamsk, came to the rescue of the beleaguered Patriarch.
The future Archbishop Leontius of Chile, who was staying in Vladyka’s stronghold, the Danilov monastery, during this period, recalls: “The whole Orthodox episcopate and people venerated him [Vladyka Theodore] for his principled, uncompromising and straight position in relation to Soviet power. He considered that until the Orthodox Church received the right to a truly free existence, there could be no negotiations with the Bolsheviks. The authorities were only deceiving them, they would fulfil none of their promises, but would, on the contrary, turn everything to the harm of the Church. Therefore it would be better for his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon to sit in prison and die there, than to conduct negotiations with the Bolsheviks, because concessions could lead, eventually, to the gradual liquidation of the Orthodox Church and would disturb everyone, both in Russia and, especially, abroad. [He said this] at a time when his Holiness the Patriarch had been released from prison. Archbishop Theodore honoured and pitied his Holiness, but was in opposition to him. In spite of the persistent request of his Holiness that he take part in the administration of the patriarchate, he refused.
“He did not receive those bishops who had discredited themselves in relation to the ‘Living Church’. He had little faith in their repentance. Only firm bishops were received in the Danilov monastery, and lived there often. Sometimes there were as many as ten or more. All those who had been released from prison or were returning from exile found refuge there. The brotherhood consisted of principled and highly cultured people. Not a few of them became confessor-bishops. The strict spiritual school of Vladyka Theodore left a special imprint on the monastery. With the exception of two novices the whole brotherhood of the Danilov monastery carried their confessing cross in a staunch and worthy manner. In those years the monastery churches of the Danilov, Donskoy and Simonov monasteries were always full of people. As were the parish churches. But one could already feel that this situation was coming to an end… And when his Holiness came out of prison the arrests of bishops did not cease.”
On being released from prison, in the summer of 1923, the patriarch convened a Council of Bishops in the St. Michael’s church of the Donskoy monastery.
Gubonin writes: “’The Little Council’ took place in connection with some bishops’ raising the question of the expediency of the patriarch’s administering the Church after his release from prison, since he was due to appear as a defendant in the civil courts. Reasons were produced in favour of his being kept away from the administration until the trial.”
Moreover, one of the bishops claimed that his Holiness had compromised himself as head of the Church by showing himself incapable of averting in a timely manner the appearance of the renovationist rebellion and by allowing this catastrophic disintegration of the Russian Church.
However, several of the “Danilovite” hierarchs at the Council expressed themselves clearly and forcefully in defence of the patriarch, declaring that his activity had been blameless and without spot. As a result, the rebellion against the patriarch was suppressed, and the Council officially declared its filial obedience and gratitude to his Holiness for the burdens he had undertaken for the Church. Moreover, he was asked not to abandon his post, but to continue bearing the cross of leadership.
Later the patriarch sent a letter to Bishop Theodore thanking him for the line the “Danilovite” bishops had taken at the Council.
But the pressure on the patriarch to make concessions continued, even from those bishops closest to him. Thus in Moscow in August, 1923, his assistant, Bishop Hilarion, expressed the following pro-Soviet sentiments: “A change of landmarks is taking place. The Church is also changing the landmarks. She has definitely cut herself away from the counter-revolution and welcomes the new forms of Soviet construction.”
It was inevitable that another confrontation would soon take place between the “left wing” of the Patriarchal Church, represented by Bishop Hilarion and Archbishop Seraphim (Alexandrov), and the “right wing” represented by Archbishop Theodore. The confrontation duly took place when the patriarch convened a meeting to discuss a renovationist proposal for the re-establishment of unity. The price the heretics demanded was the patriarch’s voluntary abdication from his patriarchal rank…
“In spite of the insulting tone of the [renovationists’] epistle,” writes Protopriest Vladislav Tsypkin, “the patriarch was ready to enter into negotiations with the renovationists for the sake of the salvation of those who had gone astray and church peace. In this he was supported by the Temporary Patriarchal Synod. Archbishops Seraphim (Alexandrov), Tikhon (Obolensky) and Hilarion (Troitsky) opened negotiations with the pseudo-metropolitan Eudocimus concerning conditions for the restoration of church unity. [But] the former rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and superior of the Danilov monastery, Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk, was decisively opposed to such negotiations…
“At the end of September, 1923, 27 Orthodox bishops met in the Donskoy monastery to discuss the results of the negotiations with the pseudo-metropolitan Eudocimus concerning the dissolution of the schism. Archbishop Theodore did not appear at the meeting, but many of his supporters who believed as he did participated in it…”
Bishop Gervasius of Kursk wrote about this Council: “At the end of his short report, Archbishop Seraphim (Alexandrov) remarked that it would be very desirable to have the presence of Archbishop Theodore (Pozdeyevsky) at the meeting, since he was a learned bishop who was popular in Moscow. An official invitation was given to the archbishop, but he did not reply and did not appear himself at the assembly. But if Archbishop Theodore was not there, his fervent supporters and admirers were. Thus Bishop Ambrose, formerly of Vinnitsa, a vicariate of Podolsk [and in 1923 bishop of Podolsk and Bratslav], who admired and held the same views as Archbishop Theodore, gave a speech which touched on the essence of Archbishop Seraphim’s report. He began his speech approximately as follows: ‘I am surprised why you, your Eminence, should call Eudocimus a metropolitan. Do you recognize him to be a lawful hierarch?’ A secret ballot was taken on the project for reconciliation and union with the renovationists, and by a majority of votes the project was defeated and the assembly was dissolved.”
Bishop Gervase continues: “Archbishop Theodore lived at that time, as was well known, in the Danilov monastery, which was the residence of several extremely conservative and staunch bishops of the school of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Bishop Pachomius and others. Constant visitors at the monastery included Archbishop Seraphim (Samoilovich) of Uglich [the future hieromartyr], Archbishop Gurias (Stepanov) and Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov)… Archbishop Theodore severely criticized Bishop Hilarion and told me that he would destroy Patriarch Tikhon and the Church, and that in the patriarch was all salvation. If there were no Patriarch Tikhon, then the authorities would abolish the patriarchate completely, and without the patriarchate there would be disaster for the Church…”
Although the Patriarch jokingly called the “Danilovites” “the clandestine Synod”, he continued to express his warm appreciation for their stand. Thus in October, 1923, he offered Vladyka Theodore the see of Petrograd with promotion to the rank of archbishop. Vladyka Theodore declined the offer. But Tuchkov continued to press for a union between the Patriarchal Church and the renovationists. In 1924 he demanded that the president of the “Central Committee” of the “Living Church”, Krasnitsky, be permitted to enter into communion with the Patriarchal Church, and to prepare for the convening of a Local Council which would include both Tikhonites and renovationists. The aim was to create a union between the two Churches which would allow the communists to have ultimate control.
At first, on May 19, 1924, the Patriarch, “for the sake of peace and the good of the Church, as an expression of patriarchal mercy”, agreed to admit Krasnitsky into communion and to present the question of his inclusion in the Higher Church Council before the Holy Synod. And on May 21, Krasnitsky was officially included in the Higher Church Council. However, Krasnitsky soon showed his true face by moving into the Patriarch’s residence in the Donskoy monastery without asking him, and by demanding that he retain the title “Protopresbyter of All Russia” accorded him by the renovationist council of 1923. Finally, after Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, on returning from exile, persuaded the Patriarch to exclude Krasnitsky, this demand, too, was dropped.
During this period, the Patriarch, as well as being under the most extreme pressure from the GPU, was in essence not in control of the Church: “I send bishops to the south,” he said, “but the authorities send them to the north.”
And yet the Church, while lacking a central rudder on earth, remained governed by her Head in heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, even if the Patriarch could not effectively administer the Church, the very fact of his existence at the head of her administrative structure was of great importance in holding the Church together. For the commemoration of the Patriarch in the Divine Liturgy was the outward and visible sign of faithfulness to Orthodoxy and freedom from the dark forces of the revolution.
The Concept of the Catacomb Church
“The first secret Orthodox communities,” writes Danilushkin, “appeared in the Soviet republic soon after the October coup – in 1918, immediately after the publication of the January appeal of Patriarch Tikhon delivering the persecutors of the Church to anathema. During the years of the Civil War peasant uprisings… appeared very often on religious soil. Soviet investigators even supposed that as a consequence of the Patriarch’s appeal in January, 1918 there were 1414 rebellions and protests of believers. This figure is probably greatly exaggerated. However, such a link did exist. Thus the historian K. Kripton, an eye-witness of the peasant uprising in Tambov province, who later emigrated, produced many proofs of its religious character in his works. And in the Central Black Earth district of Russia secret communities of believers appeared precisely in the period of the rebellions of the ‘Union of Working Peasantry’, of the activity of the detachments of A.S. Antonov and N. Kolesnikov in the years 1918-1922…”
Some words about the concept of the “Catacomb Church”. The term brings to mind the situation of the Christians in Roman times, and again during the iconoclast persecutions, when the Church was forced to live in a semi-legal or illegal position vis-à-vis the State. If such a move was necessary under the pagan Roman emperors and heretical Greek emperors, then it was only to be expected that it would again become necessary under the militant atheist commissars of the Soviet anti-State, whose enmity towards religion was much fiercer than that of the pagan Roman and heretical Greek emperors, and whose first leader was buried in a mausoleum copied from the first altar dedicated to the worship of the Roman emperor, “Satan’s seat”, at Pergamum (Revelation 2.13).
The first Catacomb hieromartyr was probably the priest Timothy Strelkov, who, after being executed by the Bolsheviks in June, 1918 and then having his severed head miraculously restored to his body, was forced to go into hiding until he was caught and executed for the second time in 1930.
In the same year of 1918, Patriarch Tikhon himself had called on the faithful to form brotherhoods to defend the Orthodox Faith. Shemetov writes: “The brotherhoods which arose with the blessing of the Patriarch did not make the parishes obsolete where they continued to exist. The brotherhoods only made up for the deficiencies of the parishes.”
In fact, the organization of unofficial, catacomb bodies became inevitable once it became clear that the God-hating State was bent on destroying the Orthodox Church. Thus according to Archbishop Lazarus (Zhurbenko), “the catacombs began in 1922, when renovationism began. The Optina elders blessed the Christians to go into the catacombs. The first catacombs known to us were formed in the town of Kozlovsk (now Michurinsk), where Schema-Archimandrite Hilarion lived. In 1927, after Metropolitan Sergius’ declaration, with the blessing of the hierarchs Peter (Zverev) and Alexis (Buy) [of Voronezh], catacombs began to be formed all over Russia.”
Meanwhile, the “Danilovites” in Moscow and the “Andrewites” in the Urals were already preparing for a descent of the Church into the Catacombs. They clearly saw that the Church could no longer at the same time serve openly and have a pure confession of faith, untainted by compromise with the communists or renovationists. The history of the Church in the late 1920s and 1930s was to prove them in large measure right…
Shortly before his death, on the Feast of the Annunciation, 1925, the Patriarch confided to his personal physician and friend, Michael Zhizhilenko, that he felt that the unceasing pressure of the government would one day force the leadership of the Church to concede more than was right, and that the true Church would then have to descend into the catacombs like the Roman Christians of old And he counselled his friend, who was a widower, that when that time came, he should seek the monastic tonsure and episcopal consecration.
That time came in 1927 with the notorious declaration of Metropolitan Sergius; and Michael Zhizhilenko, following the advice of his mentor, was consecrated as the first bishop of the anti-sergianist Catacomb Church in 1928, for which he paid with his life in Solovki in 1931. Thus was the concept and even the name of the Catacomb Church foreseen by the Patriarch himself; it was, and is the “Tikhonite” Church. The involved story of how the Patriarch’s prevision became reality is the subject of the rest of this chapter.
Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa
On April 7, 1925, his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon reposed in the Lord (there are strong suspicions that he was poisoned). According to his cell-attendant, Constantine Panshkevich, his last words, uttered with an unusual severity, were: “Now I shall go to sleep… deeply and for a long time. The night will be long, and very dark…”
On April 12, the deceased Patriarch’s will of January 7, 1925 was discovered and read out. It said that in the event of the Patriarch’s death and the absence of the first two candidates for the post of patriarchal locum tenens, “our patriarchal rights and duties, until the lawful election of a new patriarch,… pass to his Eminence Peter, metropolitan of Krutitsa.” At the moment of the Patriarch’s death, the first two hierarchs indicated by him as candidates of the post of locum tenens, Metropolitans Cyril of Kazan and Agathangelus of Yaroslavl, were in exile. Therefore the 59 assembled hierarchs decided that “Metropolitan Peter cannot decline from the obedience given him and.. must enter upon the duties of the patriarchal locum tenens.”
However, not all even of the Orthodox bishops accepted Metropolitan Peter’s leadership. Thus Archbishop Andrew of Ufa, who had already proclaimed his diocese autocephalous on the basis of Patriarch Tikhon’s ukaz no. 362 of November 7/20, 1920, declared: “I cannot recognize any leadership over myself, as a diocesan bishop, until a canonical Council. I am very firmly aware of my canonical duties, so as not to forget my rights to protect my flock from every unworthy ‘episcopate’ and from all dark powers plundering our spiritual sheep. Besides these considerations, I, on the basis of the 76th Apostolic Canon and the 23rd Canon of the Antiochian Council, cannot recognize the transfer of the administration of the whole Church by any secret spiritual testaments. This game with testaments is completely uncanonical.”
The transfer of ecclesiastical power by testaments was indeed unprecedented; but insofar as it had received the approval of the Council of 1917-18, it could hardly be said to have violated the conciliar conscience of the Church. There would come a time when “this game with testaments” would come to end, and the ukaz of 1920 would indeed become the basis of the Church’s structure. But for a precious two more years at least the patriarch’s testament enabled the Russian Church to maintain a visible as well as a sacramental unity under the leadership of Metropolitan Peter. This gave the Church time to see off the renovationists’ challenge before the still fiercer struggle against the neo-renovationist sergianists began. Then, and only then, would the Church have to enter the catacombs in order to preserve the purity of her confession.
At the same time, there is no doubt that Metropolitan Peter, like Patriarch Tikhon before him, was distrusted by many churchmen at this time, who suspected that he was too close to the communists. According to A. Smirnov, “priests and monks in opposition to Patriarch Tikhon and Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa founded the first wave of underground communities and secret sketes and founded their own Hierarchy. Sergianism arose much later [in 1927]; the first catacombniks entered into conflict already with Patriarch Tikhon and Metropolitan Peter on the grounds that they were collaborators…”
The first need of the Church at that time was the convocation of a Council to elect a new Patriarch. But, of course, the GPU had no intention of allowing this. Their aim was a tamed Church – that is, a Church that accepted legalization from the government on the government’s terms. Or, failing that, another schism. And that only as a stage towards the Church’s final destruction; for, as the Central Committee member and leading party ideologist, I.I. Skvortsov-Stepanov, had said in 1922, although the schisms in the Church were in the party’s interests, in principle the party remained the enemy of all religion and would eventually struggle against all of them.
Encouraged by the Patriarch’s death, the renovationists energetically tried to obtain union with the Patriarchal Church in time for their second council, which was due to take place in the autumn of 1925. Their attempts were aided by the Soviet authorities, who put all kinds of pressures on the hierarchs to enter into union with the renovationists. Metropolitan Peter, however, proved to be, in the communists’ phrase, “a tough nut”, a rock against which the gates of hell surged in vain. He rejected all overtures towards union with the renovationists.
And in a public proclamation dated July 28, 1925, after protesting against the propaganda of the uniates and sectarians, which was diverting attention away from the main battle against atheism, he turned his attention to the renovationists:-
“At the present time the so-called new-churchmen more and more discuss the matter of reunion with us. They call meetings in cities and villages, and invite Orthodox clerics and laymen to a common adjudication of the question of reunion with us, and to prepare for their pseudo-council which they are convening for the autumn of this year. But it must be clearly recalled that according to the canonical rules of the Ecumenical Church such arbitrarily gathered councils as were the meetings of the ‘Living Church’ in 1923, are illegal.
“Thus the canonical rules forbid Orthodox Christians to take part in them and still more to elect representatives for such gatherings. In accordance with the 20th rule of the Council of Antioch, ‘no one is permitted to convene a Council alone, without those bishops who are in charge of the metropolitanates.’ In the holy Church of God only that is lawful which is approved by the God-ordained ecclesiastical government, preserved by succession since the time of the Apostles. All arbitrary acts, everything that has been done by the new-church party without the approval of the most holy Patriarch now at rest with God, everything that is now done without our approval – all this has no validity in accordance with the canons of the holy Church (Apostolic canon 34; Council of Antioch, canon 9), for the true Church is one, and the grace of the most Holy Spirit residing in her is one, for there can be no two Churches or two graces. ‘There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all’ (Ephesians. 4.4-6).
“The so-called new-churchmen should talk of no reunion with the Orthodox Church until they show a sincere repentance for their errors. The chief of these is that they arbitrarily renounced the lawful hierarchy and its head, the most holy Patriarch, and attempted to reform the Church of Christ by self-invented teaching (The Living Church, nos. 1-11); they transgressed the ecclesiastical rules which were established by the Ecumenical Councils (the pronouncements of the pseudo-council of May 4, 1923); they rejected the government of the Patriarch, which was established by the Council and acknowledged by all the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs, i.e. they rejected that which the whole of Orthodoxy accepted, and besides, they even condemned him at their pseudo-council. Contrary to the rules of the holy Apostles, the Ecumenical Councils and the holy Fathers (Apostolic canons 17, 18; Sixth Ecumenical Council, canons 3, 13, 48; St. Basil the Great, canon 12), they permit bishops to marry and clerics to contract a second marriage, i.e. they transgress that which the entire Ecumenical Church acknowledges to be a law, and which can be changed only by an Ecumenical Council.
“The reunion of the so-called new-churchmen with the holy Orthodox Church is possible only on condition that each of them recants his errors and submits to a public repentance for his apostasy from the Church. We pray the Lord God without ceasing that He may restore the erring into the bosom of the holy Orthodox Church.”
The epistle had a sobering and strengthening effect on many wavering clerics. As the renovationist Vestnik Svyashchennago Synoda was forced to admit: “Immediately Peter’s appeal came out, the courage of the ‘leftist’ Tikhonites disappeared.” So at their renovationist ‘council’ “Metropolitan-Evangelist” Vvedensky publicly accused Metropolitan Peter of involvement with an émigré monarchist plot. And in support of his claim he produced a patently forged denunciation by the renovationist “bishop” Nicholas of Latin America.
The Bolsheviks gave ready support to the renovationists in their battle against Peter. Thus Savelyev writes: “On November 11, 1925, Yaroslavsky, Skvortsov-Stepanov and Menzhinsky were discussing Tuchkov’s report ‘On the future policy in connection with the death of Tikhon’. A general order was given to the OGPU to accelerate the implementation of the schism that had been planned amidst the supporters of Tikhon. Concrete measures were indicated with great frankness: ‘In order to support the group in opposition to Peter (the patriarchal locum tenens…) it is resolved to publish in Izvestia a series of articles compromising Peter, and to use towards this end materials from the recently ended renovationist council.’.. The censorship and editing of the articles was entrusted to the party philosopher Skvortsov-Stepanov. He was helped by Krasikov (Narkomyust) and Tuchkov (OGPU). This trio was given the task of censuring the declaration against Peter which was being prepared by the anti-Tikhonite group. Simultaneously with the publication in Izvestia of provocative articles against the patriarchal locum tenens, the Anti-Religious commission ordered the OGPU ‘to initiate an investigation against Peter’.”
Meanwhile, Tuchkov initiated discussions with Peter with regard to “legalizing” the Church. This “legalization” promised to relieve the Church’s rightless position, but on the following conditions:
2) the exclusion from the ranks of the bishops of those who were displeasing to the authorities;
3) the condemnation of the émigré bishops;
and 4) the participation of the government, in the person of Tuchkov, in the future activities of the Church.
However, Metropolitan Peter refused to accept these conditions and also refused to sign the text of the declaration Tuchkov offered him. And he continued to be a rock in the path of the atheists’ plans to seize control of the Church. For, as he once said to Tuchkov: “You’re all liars. You give nothing, except promises. And now please leave the room, we are about to have a meeting.”
Metropolitan Peter must have foreseen his fate. For on December 5, 1925 he composed a will in the event of his death. And on the next day he wrote another in the event of his arrest, indicating three deputies: Metropolitan Sergius of Nizhni-Novgorod, Metropolitan Michael of the Ukraine, and Archbishop Joseph of Rostov. On December 9, the Anti-Religious Commission (more precisely: “the Central Committee Commission for carrying out the decree on the separation of Church and State”) met and approved of the activities of the OGPU in inciting the Church groupings against each other. They also determined the timing of Metropolitan Peter’s arrest. And the next day, December 10, Metropolitan Peter was placed under house-arrest…
On December 12, Metropolitan Peter was taken to the inner prison at the Lubyanka. At the same time a group of bishops living in Moscow whom the GPU considered to be of like mind with him were also arrested: Archbishops Nicholas of Vladimir, Pachomius of Chernigov, Procopius of the Chersonese and Gurias of Irkutsk, and Bishops Parthenius of Ananievsk, Damascene of Glukhov, Tikhon of Gomel, Barsonuphius of Kargopol and others. The communists had removed the last canonical leader of the Russian Church, and they were ready now to place their own candidate on the throne of all the Russias…
The Rise of Metropolitan Sergius
The events that followed Peter’s arrest and imprisonment are not at all clear. We know that a struggle for power took place between a group of bishops led by Archbishop Gregory of Ekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk), on the one hand, and Metropolitan Sergius of Nizhni-Novgorod (Gorky), on the other, a struggle which Sergius eventually won. It is usually considered that the Gregorians were the agents of the atheist authorities, whose plot was foiled by Sergius, and this seems likely to have been the case. However, it may be closer to the truth to say that the authorities were playing the two groups off against each other, and would have been happy with either outcome provided it gave them a more malleable church leader than Metropolitan Peter.
The more generally accepted version of events goes something like this. On December 14, although unable to leave Nizhni-Novgorod at the time, Metropolitan Sergius announced that he was taking over the Church’s administration in accordance with Metropolitan Peter’s instruction. However, Metropolitan Sergius was prevented by the OGPU from coming to Moscow, and on December 22, 1925, a group of nine bishops led by Archbishop Gregory gathered at the Donskoy monastery. The Gregorians, as they came to be called, gave a brief description of the succession of first-hierarchal power since 1917, and then declared concerning Metropolitan Peter: “It was not pleasing to the Lord to bless the labours of this hierarch. During his rule disorders and woes only deepened in the Holy Church… In view of this we… have decided to elected a Higher Tmporary Church Council for the carrying out of the everyday affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church and for the preparation of a canonically correct Council… Moreover, we have firmly decided not to enter into any relationship or communion with the renovationists and renovationism in all its forms… Instead, we consider it our duty to witness to our complete legal obedience to the powers that be of the Government of the USSR and our faith in its good will and the purity of its intentions in serving the good of the people. We in turn ask them to believe in our loyalty and readiness to serve the good of the same people…”
This paragraph clearly revealed the pro-Soviet inspiration of the group. The next day they sought legalisation from the GPU, and ten days later, on January 2, 1926, they received it. On January 7, Izvestia published an interview with Archbishop Gregory thanking the authorities for this.
On January 14, Metropolitan Sergius wrote to Archbishop Gregory demanding an explanation for his usurpation of power. Gregory replied on January 22, saying that while they recognized the rights of the three locum tenentes, “we know no conciliar decision concerning you, and we do not consider the transfer of administration and power by personal letter to correspond to the spirit and letter of the holy canons.” This was a valid point which was later to be made by several catacomb bishops. But Sergius wrote again on January 29, impeaching Gregory and his fellow bishops, banning them from serving and declaring all their ordinations, appointments, awards, etc., since December 22 to be invalid. On the same day, three Gregorian bishops wrote to Metropolitan Peter claiming that they had not known, in their December meeting, that he had transferred his rights to Sergius, and asking him to bless their administration. The free access the Gregorians had to Peter during this period, and the fact that Sergius was at first prevented from coming to Moscow, suggests that the GPU, while not opposing Sergius, at first favoured the Gregorians as their best hope for dividing the Church.
On February 1 the Gregorians obtained an interview with Metropolitan Peter in prison, in which they asked him to annul Sergius’ rights as his deputy and, in view of Sergius’ inability to come to Moscow from Nizhny and the refusal of the other deputies, Michael of Kiev and Joseph of Rostov, to accept the deputyship, to hand over the administration of the Church to them. Fearing anarchy in the Church, Metropolitan Peter went part of the way to blessing the Gregorians’ undertaking. However, instead of the Gregorian Synod, he created a temporary “college” to administer the Church’s everyday affairs consisting of Archbishop Gregory, Archbishop Nicholas (Dobronravov) of Vladimir and Archbishop Demetrius (Belikov) of Tomsk, who were well-known for their firmness. The Gregorians and Tuchkov, who was present at the meeting, were silent about the fact that Nicholas was in prison and that Demetrius could not come to Moscow.
Tuchkov proceeded to a further deception: he agreed to summon Demetrius from Tomsk, and even showed Peter the telegram – but never sent it. When Peter, feeling something was wrong, asked for the inclusion of Metropolitan Arsenius (Stadnitsky) in the college of bishops, Tuchkov again agreed and promised to sign Peter’s telegram to him. Again, the telegram was not sent.
Now it has been argued by Regelson that Metropolitan Peter’s action in appointing deputies was not canonical (as the Gregorians also implied), and created misunderstandings that were to be ruthlessly exploited later by Metropolitan Sergius. A chief hierarch does not have the right to transfer the fullness of his power to another hierarch as if it were a personal inheritance: only a Council representing the whole Local Church can elect a leader to replace him. Patriarch Tikhon’s appointment of three locum tenentes was an exceptional measure, but one which was nevertheless entrusted to him by – and therefore could claim the authority of – the Council of 1917-18. However, the Council made no provision for what might happen in the event of the death or removal of these three. In such an event, therefore, patriarchal authority ceased, temporarily, in the Church; and there was no canonical alternative, until the convocation of another Council, but for each bishop to govern his diocese independently while maintaining links with neighbouring dioceses, in accordance with the Patriarch’s ukaz no. 362 of November 7/20, 1920.
In defence of Metropolitan Peter it may be said that it is unlikely that he intended to transfer the fullness of his power to Metropolitan Sergius, but only the day-to-day running of the administrative machine. In fact he explicitly said this later, in his letter to Sergius dated January 2, 1930. Moreover, in his declaration of December 6, 1925, he had given instructions on what should be done in the event of his arrest, saying that “the raising of my name, as patriarchal locum tenens, remains obligatory during Divine services.” This was something that Patriarch Tikhon had not insisted upon when he transferred the fullness of his power to Metropolitan Agathangelus in 1922. It suggests that Metropolitan Peter did not exclude the possibility that his deputy might attempt to seize power from him just as the renovationists had seized power from the patriarch and his locum tenens in 1922, and was taking precautions against just such a possibility.
The critical distinction here is that whereas the patriarchal locum tenens has, de jure, all the power of a canonically elected Patriarch and need relinquish his power only to a canonically convoked Council of the whole local Church, the deputy of the locum tenens has no such fullness of power and must relinquish such rights as he has at any time that the Council or the locum tenens requires it.
Nevertheless, the question remains: why did Metropolitan Peter not invoke ukaz no. 362 and announce the decentralization of the Church’s administration at the time of his arrest?
Probably for two important reasons. (1) The restoration of the patriarchate was one of the main achievements of the Moscow Council of 1917-18, and had proved enormously popular. Its dissolution might well have dealt a major psychological blow to the masses, who were not always educated enough to understand that the Church could continue to exist either in a centralized (though not papist) form, as it had in the East from 312 to 1917, or in a decentralized form, as in the catacombal period before Constantine the Great and during the iconoclast persecution of the eighth and ninth centuries. (2) The renovationists – who still constituted the major threat to the Church in Metropolitan Peter’s eyes – did not have a patriarch, and their organization was, as we have seen, closer to the synodical, state-dependent structure of the pre-revolutionary Church. The presence or absence of a patriarch or his substitute was therefore a major sign of the difference between the true Church and the false for the uneducated believer.
Let us now return to the sequence of events. On February 4, 1926, Metropolitan Peter fell ill and was admitted to the prison hospital. A war for control of the Church now developed between the Gregorians and Sergius. The Gregorians pointed to Sergius’ links with Rasputin and the “Living Church”: “On recognizing the Living Church, Metropolitan Sergius took part in the sessions of the HCA, recognized the lawfulness of married bishops and twice-married priests, and blessed this lawlessness. Besides, Metropolitan Sergius sympathized with the living church council of 1923, did not object against its decisions, and therefore confessed our All-Russian Archpastor and father, his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, to be ‘an apostate from the true ordinances of Christ and a betrayer of the Church’, depriving him of his patriarchal rank and monastic calling. True, Metropolitan Sergius later repented of these terrible crimes and was forgiven by the Church, but that does not mean that he should stand at the head of the Church’s administration.”
All this was true; but these arguments, well-based though they were, were not strong enough to maintain the Gregorians’ position, which deteriorated as several bishops declared their support for Sergius. In particular, Archbishop Hilarion of Verey, who had been released from prison for talks with the GPU, refused to recognise the Gregorians – for which he received an extension of his sentence. Another bishop who strongly rejected the Gregorians was Basil of Priluki.
Yaroslavsky, Tuchkov and the OGPU had already succeeded in creating a schism between Metropolitan Sergius and the Gregorians. They now tried to fan the flames of schism still higher by releasing Metropolitan Agathangelus, the second candidate for the post of patriarchal locum tenens, from exile and persuading him to declare his assumption of the post of locum tenens, which he did officially from Perm on April 18. They also decided, at a meeting in the Kremlin on April 24, to “strengthen the third Tikhonite hierarchy – the Temporary Higher Ecclesiastical Council headed by Archbishop Gregory, as an independent unit.”
Only two days before this, on April 22, Metropolitan Sergius wrote to Metropolitan Peter at the Moscow GPU, as a result of which Peter withdrew his support from the Gregorians, signing his letter to Metropolitan Sergius: “the penitent Peter”.
It would be interesting to know whether Sergius knew of Metropolitan Agathangelus’ declaration four days earlier when he wrote to Peter. Hieromonk Damascene (Orlovsky) claims that Agathangelus did not tell Sergius until several days later. But the evidence is ambiguous; for Gubonin gives two different dates for the letter from Agathangelus to Sergius telling the latter of his assumption of the rights of the patriarchal locum tenens: April 18 and 25. If the later date is correct, then Sergius cannot be accused of hiding this critical information from Metropolitan Peter. If, however, the earlier date is correct, then Sergius already knew of Agathangelus’ assumption of the rights of locum tenens, and his keeping quiet about this very important fact in his letter to Metropolitan Peter was highly suspicious. For he must have realized that Metropolitan Agathangelus, having returned from exile (he actually arrived in his see of Yaroslavl on April 27), had every right to assume power as the eldest hierarch and the only patriarchal locum tenens named by Patriarch Tikhon who was in freedom at that time. In view of the very ruthless behaviour now displayed by Metropolitan Sergius, it seems likely that he deliberately decided to hide the information about Metropolitan Agathangelus’ return from Metropolitan Peter – and Tuchkov, quickly reassessing the situation, fell in behind Sergius’ ambitions.
In fact, with the appearance of Metropolitan Agathangelus the claims of both the Gregorians and Sergius to supreme power in the Church collapsed. But Sergius, having tasted of power, was not about to relinquish it so quickly. And just as Metropolitan Agathangelus’ rights as locum tenens were swept aside by the renovationists in 1922, so now the same hierarch was swept aside again by the former renovationist Sergius.
The chronology of events reveals how the leadership of the Russian Church was usurped for the second time.
On April 30, Sergius wrote to Agathangelus rejecting his claim to the rights of the patriarchal locum tenens on the grounds that Peter had not resigned his post. In this letter Sergius claims that he and Peter had exchanged opinions on Agathangelus’ letter in Moscow on April 22 – but neither Sergius nor Peter mention Agathangelus in the letters they exchanged on that day and which are published by Gubonin. Therefore it seems probable that Peter’s decision not to resign his post was based on ignorance of Agathangelus’ appearance on the scene. Indeed, there can be little doubt that if he had known he would have immediately handed over the administration of the Church to Agathangelus.
On May 13, Agathangelus met Sergius in Moscow (Nizhni-Novgorod, according to another source), where, according to Sergius, they agreed that if Peter’s trial (for unlawfully handing over his authority to the Gregorians} ended in his condemnation, Sergius would hand over his authority to Agathangelus. However, Sergius was simply playing for time, in order to win as many bishops as possible to his side. And on May 16, he again wrote to Agathangelus, in effect reneging on his agreement of three days before:
“If the affair ends with Metropolitan Peter being acquitted or freed, I will hand over to him my authority, while your eminence will then have to conduct discussions with Metropolitan Peter himself. But if the affair ends with his condemnation, you will be given the opportunity to take upon yourself the initiative of raising the question of bringing Metropolitan Peter to a church trial. When Metropolitan Peter will be given over to a trial, you can present your rights, as the eldest [hierarch] to the post of Deputy of Metropolitan Peter, and when the court will declare the latter deprived of his post, you will be the second candidate to the locum tenancy of the patriarchal throne after Metropolitan Cyril.”
In other words, Sergius in a cunning and complicated way rejected Agathangelus’ claim to be the lawful head of the Russian Church, although this claim was now stronger than Metropolitan Peter’s (because he was in prison and unable to rule the Church) and much stronger than Sergius’.
On May 20, Agathangelus sent a telegram to Sergius: “You promised to send a project to the Bishops concerning the transfer to me of the authorizations of ecclesiastical power. Be so kind as to hurry up.” On the same day Sergius replied: “Having checked your information, I am convinced that you have no rights; [I will send you] the details by letter. I ardently beseech you: do not take the decisive step.” On May 21, Agathangelus sent another telegram threatening to publish the agreement he had made with Sergius and which he, Sergius, had broken. On May 22, Sergius wrote to Peter warning him not to recognize Agathangelus’ claims (the letter, according to Hieromonk Damascene, was delivered personally by Tuchkov, which shows which side the OGPU was on!). However, Peter ignored Sergius’ warning and wrote to Agathangelus on May 22 (and again on May 23), congratulating him on his assumption of the rights of patriarchal locum tenens and assuring him of his loyalty. At this point Sergius’ last real canonical grounds for holding on to power – the support of Metropolitan Peter – collapsed.
But Agathangelus only received this letter on May 31, a (OGPU-engineered?) delay that proved to be decisive for the fortunes of the Russian Church. For on May 24, after Sergius had again written rejecting Agathangelus’ claims, the latter wrote: “Continue to rule the Church… For the sake of the peace of the Church I propose to resign the office of locum tenens.”
On the same day Sergius, savagely pressing home his advantage, wrote to the administration of the Moscow diocese demanding that Agathangelus be tried by the hierarchs then in Moscow.
When Agathangelus eventually received Peter’s letter (which was confirmed by a third one dated June 9), he wrote to Sergius saying that he would send him a copy of the original and informing him that he had accepted the chancellery of the patriarchal locum tenens. And he asked him to come to Moscow so that he could take over power from him. But it was too late; Sergius was already in control of the Church’s administration and refused to come to Moscow saying that he had signed a promise not to leave Nizhni-Novogorod (although he had gone to Moscow only two weeks before!). And on May 30 / June 12, in a letter to Metropolitan Peter, Agathangelus finally renounced all claims to the locum tenancy.
Why did Metropolitan Agathangelus renounce the post of locum tenens at this point? The reason he gave to Sergius was his poor health; but some further light is shed on this question by Schema-Bishop Peter (Ladygin), who wrote that when Metropolitan Agathangelus returned from exile, “everyone began to come to him. Then Tuchkov with some archimandrite came to Agathangelus and began to demand from him that he hand over his administration to Sergius. Metropolitan Agathangelus did not agree to this. Then Tuchkov told him that he would now go back into exile. Then Agathangelus, because of his health and since he had already been three years in exile, resigned from the administration [the post of locum tenens] and left it to Peter of Krutitsa as the lawful [locum tenens] until the second candidate, Metropolitan Cyril, should return from exile. I heard about this when I personally went to him in Yaroslavl and he himself explained his situation to me. And he said that the canonical administration was now really in the hands of Cyril, and temporarily, until the return of Cyril, with Metropolitan Peter. He did not recognize Sergius or Gregory…”
The astonishing extent of Sergius’ usurpation of power is revealed in his fifth letter to Agathangelus, dated June 13, in which he refused to submit even to Metropolitan Peter insofar as the latter, “having transferred to me, albeit temporarily, nevertheless in full, the rights and obligations of the locum tenens, and himself being deprived of the possibility of being reliably informed of the state of ecclesiastical affairs, can neither bear responsibility for the course of the latter, nor, a fortiori, meddle in their administration… I cannot look on the instructions of Metropolitan Peter that have come out of prison as other than instructions or, rather, as the advice of a person without responsibility.”
As a recent patriarchal writer has commented on this letter: “It turns out that, once having appointed a deputy for himself, Metropolitan Peter no longer had the right to substitute another for him, whatever he declared. This ‘supple’ logic, capable of overturning even common sense, witnessed to the fact that Metropolitan Sergius was not going to depart from power under any circumstances.”
Metropolitan Sergius also said that Metropolitan Agathangelus was given over to a hierarchical trial for his anticanonical act, for greeting which Metropolitan Peter “himself becomes a participant in it and is also subject to punishment”.
In other words, Sergius, though only Metropolitan Peter’s deputy as locum tenens for as long as the latter recognized him as such, was not only usurping the rights of the full (and not simply deputy) locum tenens, but was also threatening to bring to trial, on the charge of attempting to usurp the locum tenancy, two out of the only three men who could canonically lay claim to the post!
The Epistle of the Solovki Bishops
At this point, while consolidating his relationship with the authorities, the wolf cunningly decided to put on sheep’s clothing, pretending to defend the spiritual independence of the Church in a way that lulled the suspicions of the other bishops.
On June 10, he petitioned the NKVD for legalisation of the patriarchate. Then he distributed an “Address to the all-Russian flock”: “… On receiving the right to a legal existence, we clearly take account of the fact that, together with rights, obligations are also laid upon us in relation to those authorities that give us these rights. And I have now taken upon myself, in the name of the whole of our Orthodox Old-Church hierarchy and flock, to witness before Soviet power to our sincere readiness to be completely law-abiding citizens of the Soviet Union, loyal to its government and decisively setting ourselves apart from all political parties and undertakings directed to the harm of the Union. But let us be sincere to the end. We cannot pass over in silence the contradictions which exist between us Orthodox people and the Bolshevik-Communists who govern our Union. They see their task to be the struggle against God and His authority in the hearts of the people, while we see the significance and aim of our entire existence in the confession of faith in God as well as in the widest dissemination and affirmation of that faith in the hearts of the people. They accept only the materialistic conception of history, while we believe in Divine Providence, in miracles, etc. Far from promising reconciliation of that which is irreconcilable and from pretending to adapt our Faith to Communism, we will remain from the religious point of view what we are, that is, Old Churchmen or, as they call us, Tikhonites…”
This epistle was close in spirit to another epistle written at about the same time (May, 1926) by several bishops imprisoned on Solovki, in which the relationship of the Church to the State and Communism was expressed as follows:-
“In spite of the fundamental law of the Soviet constitution guaranteeing believers full freedom of conscience, religious assemblies and preaching, the Orthodox Russian Church has until now experienced very substantial restraints on Her activity and religious life. She has not received permission to open correctly functioning organs of central and diocesan administration; She cannot transfer Her activity to Her historical centre – Moscow; Her bishops are either not allowed to enter their dioceses at all, or, while allowed there, are forced to abstain from the most essential duties of their service – preaching in church, the visitation of communities recognizing their spiritual authority, sometimes even blessing services. The locum tenens of the patriarchal throne and about half the Orthodox bishops languish in prisons, in exile or in forced labour. Without denying the veracity of the facts, the government organs explain them on political grounds, accusing the Orthodox episcopate and clergy of counter-revolutionary activity in their secret thoughts, directed to the overthrow of Soviet power and the re-establishment of the old order. Already many times the Orthodox Church, beginning with the person of the reposed Patriarch Tikhon, and then in the person of his deputies, has tried in official declarations to the government to dispel the atmosphere of distrust that envelops Her.
“Their lack of success and sincere desire to put an end to the grievous misunderstandings between the Church and Soviet power, which is burdensome for the Church and needlessly complicates the State’s execution of its tasks, arouses the governing organ of the Orthodox Church, once more and with complete justification, to lay before the government the principles defining Her relationship to the State.
“The signatories of the present declaration are fully aware of how difficult the establishment of mutually reliable relations between the Church and the State in the conditions of present-day actuality are, and they do not consider it possible to be silent about it. It would not be right, it would not correspond to the dignity of the Church, and would therefore be pointless and unpersuasive, if they began to assert that between the Orthodox Church and the State power of the Soviet republics there were no discrepancies of any kind. But this discrepancy does not consist in what political suspicion wishes to see or the slander of the enemies of the Church points to. The Church is not concerned with the redistribution of wealth or in its collectivization, since She has always recognized that to be the right of the State, for whose actions She is not responsible. The Church is not concerned, either, with the political organization of power, for She is loyal with regard to the government of all the countries within whose frontiers She has members. She gets on with all forms of State structure from the eastern despotism of old Turkey to the republics of the North-American States. This discrepancy lies in the irreconciliability of the religious teaching of the Church with materialism, the official philosophy of the Communist Party and of the government of the Soviet republics which is led by it.
“The Church recognizes spiritual principles of existence; Communism rejects them. The Church believes in the living God, the Creator of the world, the Leader of Her life and destinies; Communism denies His existence, believing in the spontaneity of the world’s existence and in the absence of rational, ultimate causes of its history. The Church assumes that the purpose of human life is in the heavenly fatherland, even if She lives in conditions of the highest development of material culture and general well-being; Communism refuses to recognize any other purpose of mankind’s existence than terrestrial welfare. The ideological differences between the Church and the State descend from the apex of philosophical observations to the region of immediately practical significance, the sphere of ethics, justice and law, which Communism considers the conditional result of class struggle, assessing phenomena in the moral sphere exclusively in terms of utility. The Church preaches love and mercy; Communism – camaraderie and merciless struggle. The Church instils in believers humility, which elevates the person; Communism debases man by pride. The Church preserves chastity of the body and the sacredness of reproduction; Communism sees nothing else in marital relations than the satisfaction of the instincts. The Church sees in religion a life-bearing force which does not only guarantee for men his eternal, foreordained destiny, but also serves as the source of all the greatness of man’s creativity, as the basis of his earthly happiness, sanity and welfare; Communism sees religion as opium, inebriating the people and relaxing their energies, as the source of their suffering and poverty. The Church wants to see religion flourish; Communism wants its death. Such a deep contradiction in the very basis of their Weltanshauungen precludes any intrinsic approximation or reconciliation between the Church and the State, as there cannot be any between affirmation and negation, between yes and no, because the very soul of the Church, the condition of Her existence and the sense of Her being, is that which is categorically denied by Communism.
“The Church cannot attain such an approximation by any compromises or concessions, by any partial changes in Her teaching or reinterpretation of it in the spirit of Communism. Pitiful attempts of this kind were made by the renovationists: one of them declared it his task to instil into the consciousness of believers the idea that Communism is in its essence indistinguishable from Christianity, and that the Communist State strives for the attainment of the same aims as the Gospel, but by its own means, that is, not by the power of religious conviction, but by the path of compulsion. Others recommended a review of Christian dogmatics in such a way that its teaching about the relationship of God to the world would not remind one of the relationship of a monarch to his subjects and would rather correspond to republican conceptions. Yet others demanded the exclusion from the calendar of saints ‘of bourgeois origin’ and their removal from church veneration. These attempts, which were obviously insincere, produced a profound feeling of indignation among believing people.
“The Orthodox Church will never stand upon this unworthy path and will never, either in whole or in part, renounce her teaching of the Faith that has been winnowed through the holiness of past centuries, for one of the eternally shifting moods of society…”
Another commendable act of Metropolitan Sergius’ at this time was his response to the request by some bishops of the Russian Church Abroad to mediate in the dispute between the Synod of the Church Abroad and Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris, who refused to recognize the Synod’s authority. In his reply of September 12, 1926, Sergius refused “to be a judge in a case of which I know absolutely nothing… And in general, can the Moscow Patriarchate be the leader of the life of Orthodox émigrés?” No, he replied. And he called on the émigré bishops to create a single “central organ of Church administration which would be sufficiently authoritative to resolve all misunderstandings and differences, and which would have the power to cut off all disobedience, without recourse to our support. For grounds will always be found to suspect the authenticity of our instructions.”
This letter is important as it constitutes a de facto recognition of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad by the Moscow Patriarchate. That recognition was withdrawn only when the ROCA refused to accept Sergius’ demand, in 1927, that her hierarchs swear loyalty to the Soviet Union…
Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich
At this point, however, Sergius committed a serious blunder. On the initiative of Archbishop Cornelius (Sobolev) and Bishop Paulinus (Kroshechkin), Metropolitan Sergius and other bishops close to him wrote a secret letter to the other bishops concerning the election of a Patriarch by means of a collection of signatures. By November, 1926, seventy-two signatures had been obtained for Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, the first patriarchal locum tenens mentioned in Patriarch Tikhon’s list. Somehow the GPU learned about this, Bishop Paulinus’ messengers were arrested, and there were immediate massive arrests of the bishops who had signed – including Metropolitans Cyril and Sergius.
However, according to the author of a work entitled, “The way of the cross of his Eminence Athanasius Sakharov”, the initiative for the election of Metropolitan Cyril came from Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky), who was at that time in prison on Solovki. And, according to this version, it was Metropolitan Sergius who informed the authorities. This latter version of the story is the more convincing of the two. Having ruthlessly swept aside the claims of Metropolitans Agathangelus and Peter, it is hardly likely that Sergius would now have started campaigning on behalf of Metropolitan Cyril; and he may have thought to ingratiate himself with the GPU by revealing the identity of the signatories.
But the authorities took the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: to exile the supporters of the intransigeant Metropolitan Cyril, and to make quite sure that Metropolitan Sergius remained completely malleable…
In any case, on December 8 Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd took over as Peter’s deputy, in accordance with the latter’s will of one year before. But Joseph was prevented from leaving the Yaroslavl region by the authorities, so he handed over the leadership of the Church to his deputies: Archbishop Cornelius (Sobolev), Archbishop Thaddeus (Uspensky) and Archbishop Seraphim (Samoilovich) of Uglich. Since only Archbishop Seraphim was in freedom at the time, he now (on December 29) took Metropolitan Joseph’s place. If Archbishop Seraphim had not been in freedom, then, according to Metropolitan Joseph’s epistle, the bishops were to govern their dioceses independently.
The pressure on all the leading hierarchs was very intense at this time. Thus in the same month of December, 1926, Tuchkov proposed to Metropolitan Peter, who was in prison in Suzdal, that he renounce his locum tenancy. Peter refused, and then sent a message to everyone through a fellow prisoner that he would “never under any circumstances leave his post and would remain faithful to the Orthodox Church to death itself”. Then, on January 1, 1927, while he was in Perm on his way to exile in Siberia, Metropolitan Peter confirmed Sergius as his deputy, being apparently unaware of the recent changes in the leadership of the Church.
From this date, Metropolitan Peter was to have no further direct effect on the administration of the Church.
At the beginning of March, Archbishop Seraphim was summoned from Uglich to Moscow and interrogated for three days by the GPU. He was offered a Synod, and indicated who should be its members. Seraphim refused, and put forward his own list of names, which included Metropolitan Cyril.
“But he’s in prison,” they said.
“Then free him,” said the archbishop.
The GPU then presented him with the familiar conditions for legalization of the Church by the State. Gustavson writes: “He refused outrightly without entering into discussions, pointing out that he was not entitled to decide such questions without the advice of his imprisoned superiors. When he was asked whom he would appoint as his executive deputy he is said to have answered that he would turn over the Church to the Lord Himself. The examining magistrate was said to have looked at him full of wonder and to have replied:
“’All the others have appointed deputies…’
“To this Seraphim countered: ‘But I lay the Church in the hands of God, our Lord. I am doing this, so that the whole world may know what freedom Orthodox Christianity is enjoying in our free State.’”
This was a decisive moment, for the central hierarch of the Church was effectively declaring the Church’s decentralization. And not before time. For with the imprisonment of the last of the three possible locum tenentes there was really no canonical basis for establishing a central administration for the Church before the convocation of a Local Council, which was prevented by the communists. The system of deputies of the deputy of the locum tenens had no basis in Canon Law or precedent in the history of the Church. And if it was really the case that the Church could not exist without a first hierarch and central administration, then the awful possibility existed that with the fall of the first hierarch the whole Church would fall, too…
The communists also wanted a centralized administration; so Tuchkov now turned to Metropolitan Agathangelus with the proposal that he lead the Church. He refused. Then he turned to Metropolitan Cyril with the same proposal. He, too, refused. The conversation between Tuchkov and Metropolitan Cyril is reported to have gone something like this:-
“If we have to remove some hierarch, will you help us in this?”
“Yes, if the hierarch appears to be guilty of some ecclesiastical transgression… In the contrary case, I shall tell him directly, ‘The authorities are demanding this of me, but I have nothing against you.’”
“No!” replied Tuchkov. “You must try to find an appropriate reason and remove him as if on your own initiative.”
To this the hierarch replied: “Eugene Nikolayevich! You are not the cannon, and I am not the shot, with which you want to blow up our Church from within!”
The battle between the Church and the State had now reached a complete impasse. On the one hand, 117 bishops were in prison or in exile, and the administration of the Church was in ruins. On the other hand, the spiritual authority of the Church had never been higher, church attendance was up, and church activities of all kinds were on the increase. In the words of E. Lopeshanskaya: “The Church was becoming a state within the state… The prestige and authority of the imprisoned and persecuted clergy was immeasurably higher than that of the clergy under the tsars.” Only betrayal on the part of the first hierarch could threaten the Church – and that only if the rest of the Church continued to recognize his authority…
The Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius
On March 20, 1927, Metropolitan Sergius was released from prison and was given back the reins of the Church by Archbishop Seraphim. We have seen Sergius’ leading role in the first Church revolution in 1917. In the second Church revolution of 1922 he played a hardly less important role, officially declaring the renovationists’ Higher Church Authority to be “the only canonical, lawful supreme ecclesiastical authority, and we consider all the decrees issuing from it to be completely lawful and binding”. In 1923 he supported the renovationists’ defrocking of Patriarch Tikhon as “a traitor to Orthodoxy”. True, on August 27, 1923, he was forced to offer public repentance for his betrayal of Orthodoxy in renovationism. But as Hieromartyr Damascene later pointed out, he had not been in a hurry to offer repentance; and now he showed the world how superficial that repentance really was…
According to the Catholic writer Deinber, “the fact of the liberation of Metropolitan Sergius at this moment, when the repressions against the Church throughout Russia were all the time increasing, when his participation in the affair of the election of Metropolitan Cyril (Smirnov), for which a whole series of bishops had paid with exile, was undoubted, immediately aroused anxiety, which was strengthened when, on April 9/22, 1927, Bishop Paulinus [Kroshechkin] was freed, and when, on April 25 / May 8, a Synod was unexpectedly convoked in Moscow. It became certain that between Metropolitan Sergius, during his imprisonment, and the Soviet government, i.e. the GPU, some sort of agreement had been established, which placed both him and the bishops close to him in a quite exceptional position relative to the others. Metropolitan Sergius received the right to live in Moscow, which right he had not enjoyed even before his arrest. When the names of the bishops invited to join the Synod were made known, then there could be no further doubts concerning the capitulation of Metropolitan Sergius before Soviet power. The following joined the Synod: Archbishop Sylvester (Bratanovsky) – a former renovationist; Archbishop Alexis Simansky – a former renovationist, appointed to the Petrograd see by the Living Church after the execution of Metropolitan Benjamin [Kazansky]; Archbishop Philip [Gumilevsky] – a former beglopopovets, i.e. one who had left the Orthodox Church for the sect of the beglopopovtsi; Metropolitan Seraphim [Alexandrov] of Tver, a man whose connections with the OGPU were known to all Russia and whom no-one trusted…”
On May 20, the OGPU officially recognized this Synod, which suggested that Metropolitan Sergius had agreed to the terms of legalization which Patriarch Tikhon and Metropolitan Peter had rejected. One of Sergius’ closest supporters, Bishop Metrophanes of Aksaisk, had once declared that “the legalisation of the church administration is a sign of heterodoxy.” If so, then Metropolitan Sergius fell away from Orthodoxy at this point.
In any case, Metropolitan Sergius and his “Patriarchal Holy Synod” now wrote to the bishops enclosing the OGPU document and telling them that their diocesan councils should now seek registration from the local organs of Soviet power. Then, in June, Sergius wrote to Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris directing him to sign a declaration of loyalty to the Soviet power. He agreed…
On July 14, in ukaz number 93, Sergius demanded that all clergy abroad should stop criticizing the Soviet government, and that they should sign a formal pledge to this effect. It also stated that any clergyman abroad who refused to sign such would no longer be considered to be a part of the Moscow Patriarchate.
This ukaz, which completely contradicted his previous ukaz of September 12, 1926, which blessed the hierarchs abroad to form their own independent administration, even included the actual text of the pledge that was to be signed: “I, the undersigned, promise that because of my actual dependence upon the Moscow Patriarchate, I will not permit myself in either my social activities nor especially in my Church work, any expression that could in the least way be considered as being disloyal with regard to the Soviet government.”
The clergy abroad were given until October 15 to sign this pledge. Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris, who had by this time separated from the Russian Church in exile, agreed to sign, “but on condition that the term ‘loyalty’ means for us the apoliticisation of the émigré Church, that is, we are obliged not to make the ambon a political arena, if this will relieve the difficult situation of our native Mother Church; but we cannot be ‘loyal’ to Soviet power: we are not citizens of the USSR, and the USSR does not recognise us as such, and therefore the political demand is for the canonical point of view non-obligatory for us…” Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), first-hierarch of the Russian Church in exile, issued an encyclical in which he wrote: “Now everywhere two epistles are being published in the newspapers and are being read in many churches which until recently were Orthodox – epistles of two, alas, former beloved pupils of mine with whom I was once in agreement, Metropolitans Sergius and Eulogius, who have now fallen away from the saving unity of the Church and have bound themselves to the enemies of Christ and the Holy Church – the disgusting blaspheming Bolsheviks, who have submitted themselves in everything to the representatives of the Jewish false teaching which everywhere goes under the name of communism or materialism… Let these new deceivers not justify themselves by declaring that they are not the friends of the Bolsheviks and Jews who stand at the head of the Bolshevik kingdom: in their souls they may not be their friends, but they have submitted, albeit unwillingly, to these enemies of Christ, and they are trying to increase their power not only over the hapless inhabitants of Holy Russia, but also over all Russian people, even though they have departed far from the Russian land.” On July 5, 1928, the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA decreed: “The present ukaz introduces nothing new into the position of the Church Abroad. It repeats the same notorious ukaz of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon in 1922, which was decisively rejected by the whole Church Abroad in its time.”
In response to this refusal, Metropolitan Sergius expelled the hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad from membership of the Moscow Patriarchate. So the first schism between the Russian Church inside and outside Russia took place as a result of the purely political demands of Sergius’ Moscow Patriarchate.
The position of the Church Abroad was supported in their refusal by the Solovki bishops, who wrote: “The epistle threatens those church-servers who have emigrated with exclusion from the Moscow Patriarchate on the grounds of their political activity, that is, it lays an ecclesiastical punishment upon them for political statements, which contradicts the resolution of the All-Russian Council of 1917-18 of August 16, 1918, which made clear the canonical impermissibility of such punishments, and rehabilitated all those people who were deprived of their orders for political crimes in the past.”
Ominous events were taking place in Georgia at this time. “Between June 21 and 27, 1927,” writes Fr. Elijah Melia, “a Council elected as Catholicos Christopher Tsitskichvili. On August 6 he wrote to the Ecumenical Patriarch Basil III who replied addressing him as Catholicos. The new Catholicos entirely changed the attitude of the ecclesiastical hierarchy towards the Soviet power, officially declared militant atheist, in favour of submission and collaboration with the Government.”
There followed, as Fr. Samson Zateishvili writes, “the persecution of clergy and believers, the dissolution of monasteries, the destruction of churches and their transformation into warehouses and cattle-sheds… The situation of the Church in Georgia was, perhaps, still more tragic and hopeless [than in the Russian Church], insofar as the new trials were imposed on old, unhealed wounds which remained from previous epochs.”
In October, 1930, the future Archbishop Leontius of Chile was sent on an obedience to Tbilisi by his spiritual father, Schema-Archbishop Anthony (Prince Abashidze). “I arrived in Tbilisi in the evening,” he wrote in his Memoirs, and went straight with my letter to the cathedral church of Sion… The clergy of the cathedral were so terrified of the Bolsheviks that they were afraid to give me shelter in their houses and gave me a place to sleep in the cathedral itself.”
As if taking his cue from the Georgians, on July 16/29, Metropolitan Sergius issued the infamous Declaration that has been the basis of the existence of the Sovietized Moscow Patriarchate ever since, and which was to cause the greatest and most destructive schism in the history of the Orthodox Church since the fall of the Papacy in the eleventh century.
First he pretended that Patriarch Tikhon had always been aiming to have the Church legalized by the State, but had been frustrated by the émigré hierarchs and by his own death. Then he went on: “At my proposal and with permission from the State, a blessed Patriarchal Synod has been formed by those whose signatures are affixed to this document at its conclusion. Missing are the Metropolitan of Novgorod, Arsenius, who has not arrived yet, and Archbishop Sebastian of Kostroma, who is ill. Our application that this Synod be permitted to take up the administration of the Orthodox All-Russian Church has been granted. Now our Orthodox Church has not only a canonically legal central administration but a central administration that is legal also according to the law of the State of the Soviet Union. We hope that this legalization will be gradually extended to the lower administrative units, to the dioceses and the districts. It is hardly necessary to explain the significance and the consequences of this change for our Orthodox Church, her clergy and her ecclesiastical activity. Let us therefore thank the Lord, Who has thus favoured our Church. Let us also give thanks before the whole people to the Soviet Government for its understanding of the religious needs of the Orthodox population. At the same time let us assure the Government that we will not misuse the confidence it has shown us.
“In undertaking now, with the blessings of the Lord, the work of this Synod, we clearly realize the greatness of our task and that of all the representatives of the Church. We must show not only with words but with deeds, that not only people indifferent to the Orthodox Faith or traitors to the Orthodox Church can be loyal citizens of the Soviet Union and loyal subjects of the Soviet power, but also the most zealous supporters of the Orthodox Church, to whom the Church with all her dogmas and traditions, with all her laws and prescriptions, is as dear as Truth and Life.
“We want to be Orthodox, and at the same time to see the Soviet Union as our civil Fatherland, whose triumphs and successes are also our triumphs and successes, whose failures are our failures. Every attack, boycott, public catastrophe or an ordinary case of assassination, as the recent one in Warsaw, will be regarded as an attack against ourselves. Even if we remain Orthodox, we shall yet do our duties as citizens of the Soviet Union ‘not only for wrath but also for conscience’s sake’ (Romans. 13.5), and we hope that with the help of God and through working together and giving support to one another we shall be able to fulfill this task.
“We can be hindered only by that which hindered the construction of Church life on the bases of loyalty in the first years of Soviet power. This is an inadequate consciousness of the whole seriousness of what has happened in our country. The establishment of Soviet power has seemed to many like some kind of misunderstanding, something coincidental and therefore not long lasting. People have forgotten that there are no coincidences for the Christian and that in what has happened with us, as in all places and at all times, the same right hand of God is acting, that hand which inexorably leads every nation to the end predetermined for it. To such people who do not want to understand ‘the signs of the times’, it may also seem that it is wrong to break with the former regime and even with the monarchy, without breaking with Orthodoxy… Only ivory-tower dreamers can think that such an enormous society as our Orthodox Church, with the whole of its organisation, can have a peaceful existence in the State while hiding itself from the authorities. Now, when our Patriarchate, fulfilling the will of the reposed Patriarch, has decisively and without turning back stepped on the path of loyalty, the people who think like this have to either break themselves and, leaving their political sympathies at home, offer to the Church only their faith and work with us only in the name of faith, or (if they cannot immediately break themselves) at least not hinder us, and temporarily leave the scene. We are sure that they will again, and very soon, return to work with us, being convinced that only the relationship to the authorities has changed, while faith and Orthodox Christian life remain unshaken… ”
The radical error that lay at the root of this declaration lay in the last sentence quoted, in the idea that, in an antichristian state whose aim was the extirpation of all religion, it was possible to preserve loyalty to the State while “faith and Orthodox Christian life remained unshaken”. This attitude presupposed that it was possible, in the Soviet Union as in Ancient Rome, to draw a clear line between politics and religion. But in practice, even more than in theory, this line proved impossible to draw. For the Bolsheviks, there was no such dividing line; for them, everything was ideological, everything had to be in accordance with their ideology, there could be no room for disagreement, no private spheres into which the state and its ideology did not pry. Unlike most of the Roman emperors, who allowed the Christians to order their own lives in their own way so long as they showed loyalty to the state, the Bolsheviks insisted in imposing their own ways upon the Christians in every sphere: in family life (civil marriage only, divorce on demand, children spying on parents), in education (compulsory Marxism), in economics (dekulakization, collectivization), in military service (the oath of allegiance to Lenin), in science (Darwinism, Lysenkoism), in art (socialist realism), and in religion (the requisitioning of valuables, registration, commemoration of the authorities at the Liturgy, reporting of confessions by the priests). Resistance to any one of these demands was counted as "anti-Soviet behaviour", i.e. political disloyalty. Therefore it was no use protesting one's political loyalty to the regime if one refused to accept just one of these demands. According to the Soviet interpretation of the word: "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one has become guilty of all of it" (James 2.10), such a person was an enemy of the people.
The Birth of the Catacomb Church: Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd
The publication of Metropolitan Sergius’ declaration was greeted with a storm of criticism, for which he must have been prepared. The opponents of the declaration saw in it a more subtle version of renovationism. Even its supporters and neutral commentators from the West have recognized that it marked an important change in the relationship of the Church to the State.
Thus the American scholar Professor William Fletcher comments: “This was a profound and important change in the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, one which evoked a storm of protest.” According to the Soviet scholar Titov, “after the Patriarchal church changed its relationship to the Soviet State, undertaking a position of loyalty, in the eyes of the believers any substantial difference whatsoever between the Orthodox Church and the renovationists disappeared.” Again, according to Archimandrite (later Metropolitan) John (Snychev), quoting from a renovationist source, in some dioceses in the Urals up to 90% of parishes sent back Sergius’ declaration as a sign of protest.”
Vladimir Rusak writes: “The Church was divided. The majority of clergy and laymen, preserving the purity of ecclesiological consciousness, did not recognize the Declaration… On this soil fresh arrests were made. All those who did not recognize the Declaration were arrested and exiled to distant regions or confined in prisons and camps. [In 1929] about 15 hierarchs who did not share the position of Metropolitan Sergius were arrested. Metropolitan Cyril, the main ‘opponent’ of Metropolitan Sergius, was exiled to Turukhansk in June-July. The arrest procedure looked something like this: an agent of the GPU appeared before a bishop and put him a direct question: what is your attitude to the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius? If the bishop replied that he did not recognize it, the agent drew the conclusion: that means that you are a counter-revolutionary. The bishop was arrested.”
The first recorded verbal reaction of the anti-sergianists (or, as they now came to be called, the “True Orthodox Christians”) came from the bishops imprisoned on Solovki. On the initiative of Bishop Basil of Priluki, who in a letter dated September 27, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, they wrote: “The subjection of the Church to the State’s decrees is expressed [in Sergius’ declaration] in such a categorical and sweeping form that it could easily be understood in the sense of a complete entanglement of Church and State… The Church cannot declare all the triumphs and successes of the State to be Her own triumphs and successes. Every government can occasionally make unwarranted, unjust and cruel decisions which become obligatory to the Church by way of coercion, but which the Church cannot rejoice in or approve of. One of the tasks of the present government is the elimination of all religion. The government’s successes in this direction cannot be recognized by the Church as Her own successes… The epistle renders to the government ‘thanks before the whole people to the Soviet government for its understanding of the religious needs of the Orthodox population’. An expression of gratitude of such a kind on the lips of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church cannot be sincere and therefore does not correspond to the dignity of the Church… The epistle of the patriarchate sweepingly accepts the official version and lays all the blame for the grievous clashes between the Church and the State on the Church… In 1926 Metropolitan Sergius said that he saw himself only as a temporary deputy of the patriarchal locum tenens and in this capacity as not empowered to address pastoral messages to the entire Russian Church. If then he thought himself empowered only to issue circular letters, why has he changed his mind now? The pastoral message of Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod leads the Church into a pact with the State. It was considered as such by its authors as well as by the government. Sergius’ action resembles the political activities of the ‘Living Church’ and differs from them not in nature but only in form and scope…”
Meanwhile, antisergianist groups were forming in different parts of the country. Thus between October 3 and 6 an antisergianist diocesan assembly took place in Ufa. Other groups were forming in Moscow and Petrograd.
On October 21, Sergius directed all the clergy in Russia to commemorate the Soviet authorities, and not to commemorate any of the bishops who were in exile. This measure greatly increased the anxiety of the faithful. The commemoration of the Soviet authorities was seen by many as the boundary beyond which the Church would fall away from Orthodoxy. And the refusal to commemorate the exiled hierarchs implied that the hierarchs themselves were not Orthodox and constituted a break with the tradition of conmmemorating exiled hierarchs that extended back to the time of the Roman catacombs. Sergius was in effect cutting the faithful off from their canonical hierarchs.
On October 25, Bishop Nicholas (Yarushevich) proclaimed in the cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Petrograd the decision of the Provisional Synod to transfer the city’s metropolitan, Joseph (Petrovykh) from Petrograd to Odessa (the secular authorities had already forbidden Metropolitan Joseph to return to the city). This event caused major disturbances in Petrograd, which was henceforth to be one of the major centres of the True Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Joseph himself refused to obey Sergius, regarding his transfer as “anti-canonical, ill-advised and pleasing to an evil intrigue in which I will have no part”.
Now the transfer of bishops from one see to another, though uncanonical, had been a common phenomenon in Russian Church life even before the revolution. But Metropolitan Joseph reacted so strongly now because he clearly saw in it the hand of the OGPU, to which Metropolitan Sergius was simply giving in. Certainly, the fact that more than 40 bishops were transferred by Sergius in this period was one of the main complaints of the confessing bishops against him, and seems hard to justify by any purely ecclesiastical considerations.
Paying no attention to the disturbances in Petrograd, Metropolitan Sergius took upon himself the administration of the diocese, and sent in his place Bishop Alexis (Simansky), who was distrusted by the people because of his role in the execution of Metropolitan Benjamin in 1922. So already, only three months after the declaration, the new revolutionary cadres were being put in place… Then, on October 31, Archimandrite Sergius (Zenkevich) was consecrated Bishop of Detskoye Selo, although the canonical bishop, Gregory (Lebedev), was still alive but languishing in a GPU prison. From that moment many parishioners stopped going to churches where Metropolitan Sergius’ name was commemorated, and Bishop Nicholas was not invited to serve.
On November 8 Archbishop Andrew of Ufa issued an encyclical from Kzyl-Orda in which he said that “even if the lying Sergius repents, as he repented three times before of renovationism, under no circumstances must he be received into communion”. This encyclical quickly circulated throughout Eastern Russia and Siberia.
It may have elicited the departure from Sergius, in November, of Bishop Victor of Glazov, a spiritual son of the highly respected Catacomb Elder-Bishop Stephen (Bekh), who had especially noted the phrase in the declaration that “only ivory-tower dreamers can think that such an enormous society as our Orthodox Church, with the whole of its organisation, can have a peaceful existence in the State while hiding itself from the authorities.” He saw in this the same over-valuation of the Church’s external organization at the expense of her inner faithfulness to Christ, as he had detected in a book of Sergius’ in 1911, when he said that the time would come when he would shake the Church…
To Sergius himself Bishop Victor wrote: “The enemy has lured and seduced you a second time with the idea of an organization of the Church. But if this organization is bought for the price of the Church of Christ Herself no longer remaining the house of Grace-giving salvation for men, and he who received the organization ceases to be what he was – for it is written, ‘Let his habitation be made desolate, and his bishopric let another take’ (Acts 1.20) – then it were better for us never to have any kind of organization. What is the benefit if we, having become by God’s Grace temples of the Holy Spirit, become ourselves suddenly worthless, while at the same time receiving an organization for ourselves? No. Let the whole visible material world perish; let there be more important in our eyes the certain perdition of the soul to which he who presents such pretexts for sin will be subjected.” And he concluded that Sergius’ pact with the atheists was “not less than any heresy or schism, but is rather incomparably greater, for it plunges a man immediately into the abyss of destruction, according to the unlying word: ‘Whosoever shall deny Me before men…’ (Matthew 10.33).”
In the same month of November antisergianism also began to develop in the Ukraine with the publication of the “Kievan appeal” written by Schema-Archbishop Anthony (Abashidze), Bishop Damascene of Glukhov and the priest Fr. Anatolius Zhurakovsky. They wrote concerning Sergius’ declaration: “Insofar as the deputy of the patriarchal locum tenens makes declarations in the person of the whole Church and undertakes responsible decisions without the agreement of the locum tenens and an array of bishops, he is clearly going beyond the bounds of his prerogatives…”
In Petrograd, meanwhile, probably the largest antisergianist group was being organized by Bishop Demetrius of Gdov with the blessing of Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd. The “Josephites” were later to assume the leadership of the antisergianists in Tver, Moscow, Voronezh and still further afield. On December 12, they sent a delegation led by Bishop Demetrius and representing eight Petrograd bishops, clergy and academics to Moscow to meet Sergius. Here the conversation centred, not on Sergius’ canonical transgressions, but on the central issue of his relationship to Soviet power. At one point Sergius said: “By my new church policy I am saving the Church.” To which Archpriest Victorinus Dobronravov replied: “The Church does not have need of salvation; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. You, yourself, Vladyka, have need of salvation through the Church.” After further delegations and dialogues in this vein, Bishops Demetrius of Gdov and Sergius of Narva signed an act of separation from Sergius on December 26. This was approved by Metropolitan Joseph (who had been prevented from coming to Petrograd) on January 7.
In a letter to a Soviet archimandrite, Metropolitan Joseph rejected the charge of being a schismatic and accused Sergius of being a schismatic. He went on: “The defenders of Sergius say that the canons allow one to separate oneself from a bishop only for heresy which has been condemned by a Council. Against this one may reply that the deeds of Metropolitan Sergius may be sufficiently placed in this category as well, if one has in mind such an open violation by him of the freedom and dignity of the Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. But beyond this, the canons themselves could not foresee many things, and can one dispute that it is even worse and more harmful than any heresy when one plunges a knife into the Church’s very heart – Her freedom and dignity?… ‘Lest imperceptibly and little by little we lose the freedom which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Liberator of all men, has given us as a free gift by His Own Blood’ (8th Canon of the Third Ecumenical Council)… Perhaps I do not dispute that ‘there are more of you at present than of us’. And let it be said that ‘the great mass is not for me’, as you say. But I will never consider myself a schismatic, even if I were to remain absolutely alone, as one of the holy confessors once was. The matter is not at all one of quantity, do not forget that for a minute: ‘The Son of God when He cometh shall He find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18.8). And perhaps the last ‘rebels’ against the betrayers of the Church and the accomplices of Her ruin will be not only bishops and not protopriests, but the simplest mortals, just as at the Cross of Christ His last gasp of suffering was heard by a few simple souls who were close to Him…”
At this most critical moment in the Church struggle, the Bolsheviks dragged out of a museum the relics of perhaps the most revered saint in the Russian Church, St. Seraphim of Sarov, and mocked and blasphemed them. This demonstrated, if further demonstration were needed, that Metropolitan Sergius’ assertion that the authorities looked after the interests of the Church and did not persecute religion, was an outright lie.
In the spring of 1928 the last major antisergianist group came into being – that of Yaroslavl, under the leadership of Metropolitan Agathangelus of Yaroslavl.
On April 29 the leading sergianist Bishop Manuel (Lemeshevsky) said in the Petrograd church of the Holy Trinity: “There have fallen away and cut themselves off the best pastors, who by their purity in the struggle with renovationism stood much higher than the others.”
It remained now to unite these scattered groups under a common leadership, or, at any rate, under a common confession and discipline. We can infer from a remark of Hieromartyr Maximus, Bishop of Serpukhov, that there was some Catacomb Council in 1928 that anathematized the Sergianists; and another source has described a so-called “Nomadic Council” attended at different times by over 70 bishops which likewise anathematized the Sergianists. Nevertheless, the majority of True Orthodox commentators remain sceptical about the existence of such a Council…
There are stronger grounds for believing that a “Little Council” of Catacomb bishops took place in Archangelsk in 1935. They met in order to approve an epistle issued in the previous year by Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich placing Metropolitan Sergius under ban for the anti-church actions he had committed since 1927. One of those participating in this Council was Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk.
Whether or not the Catacomb Church formally anathematized the Sergianists at this time, we know that Metropolitan Sergius considered the Catacomb Church to be graceless. Thus on August 6, 1929 his synod declared: “The sacraments performed in separation from Church unity… by the followers of the former Metropolitan Joseph (Petrovykh) of Leningrad, the former Bishop Demetrius (Lyubimov) of Gdov, the former Bishop Alexis (Buj) of Urazov, as also of those who are under ban, are also invalid, and those who are converted from these schisms, if they have been baptized in schism, are to be received through Holy Chrismation.”
All this took place against the background of the First Five-Year Plan, the collectivisation of agriculture and renewed attack on the Church spearheaded by Yaroslavsky’s League of Militant Godless (who numbered 17 million by 1933). Husband writes: “On 8 April 1929, the VtsIK and Sovnarkom declaration ‘On Religious Associations’ largely superseded the 1918 separation of church and state and redefined freedom of conscience. Though reiterating central aspects of the 1918 separation decree, the new law introduced important limitations. Religious associations of twenty or more adults were allowed, but only if registered and approved in advance by government authorities. They retained their previous right to the free use of buildings for worship but still could not exist as a judicial person. Most important, the new regulations rescinded the previously guaranteed [!] right to conduct religious propaganda, and it reaffirmed the ban on religious instructions in state educational institutions. In effect, proselytising and instruction outside the home were illegal except in officially sanctioned classes, and religious rights of assembly and property were now more circumscribed.”
That was the legal framework, but, of course, extralegal violence, so-called “administrative measures” continued as before on an ever-increasing scale…
Metropolitans Peter and Cyril
What of the position of the exiled leader of the Church, Metropolitan Peter? Bishop Damascene claimed to have made contact with him through his cell-attendant, who reported that Metropolitan Peter expressed disapproval of Sergius’ policies. On September 17, 1929, the priest Gregory Seletsky wrote to Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd on behalf of Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov): “I am fulfilling the request of his Eminence Archbishop Demetrius and set out before you in written form that information which the exiled Bishop Damascene has communicated to me. He succeeded in making contact with Metropolitan Peter, and in sending him, via a trusted person, full information about everything that has been taking place in the Russian Church. Through this emissary Metropolitan Peter orally conveyed the following:
“’1. You Bishops must yourselves remove Metropolitan Sergius.
“’2. I do not bless you to commemorate Metropolitan Sergius during Divine services…”
In December, 1929 Metropolitan Peter wrote to Metropolitan Sergius accusing him of “going beyond the limits of the ecclesiastical authority entrusted to you” and reminding him that “I did not give you any institutional rights”. He accused him of removing, rather than deputizing for, the central office of Church administration, the locum tenancy, and said that “Church consciousness cannot, of course, approve of such big changes [in Church administration]”. He said that it was hard for him to number “all the details of the negative attitude expressed towards your administration” by hierarchs and laity. The picture of Church life he had received was “shocking”. Finally he asked him to correct the mistakes he had made, which had caused such damage to the Church. Two months later, the metropolitan repeated his plea in still stronger language.
Moreover, Protopresbyter Michael Polsky reported that Metropolitan Peter had written to Sergius: “If you yourself do not have the strength to protect the Church, you should step down and hand over your office to a stronger person.”
But the best evidence for Metropolitan Peter’s essential faithfulness to the truth is that the Bolsheviks never released him from prison, preferring the “more reliable” Sergius to lead the Church.
After Metropolitan Peter, the most authoritative hierarch of the Catacomb Church was probably Metropolitan Cyril. In the first years of the sergianist schism, he took a relatively “lenient” attitude towards the sergianists, as we see in a letter he wrote in 1934: “If we reproach them for not resisting, and, therefore, of belonging to heresy, we risk depriving them of the psychological opportunity to reunite with us and losing them forever for Orthodoxy.” This relative leniency has been exploited by those who wish to make out that the Moscow Patriarchate is a true Church even now, over seventy years after Sergius’ declaration. However, there are several reasons for thinking that Cyril was less “moderate” than he has been made out.
First, as his correspondent, another Catacomb hierarch said, he was being “excessively cautious” because of his insufficient knowledge of the Church situation from his position in exile. Secondly, he was in the unique position of being the only legal locum tenens who was able to correspond and reason with Sergius. He therefore naturally steered the dialogue to the theme of the canonical rights of the locum tenentes and their deputies, convicting Sergius therein of usurpation of the power of the First Hierarch.
The consideration of this canonical-administrative aspect of the matter, without entering into the still more serious dogmatic aspect of Sergius’ subordination to the atheists, was bound to lead to a less serious estimate of his sin. Nevertheless, a close examination of Metropolitan Cyril’s epistles to Sergius between 1929 and 1934 provides cold comfort to the Sergianists and their fellow-travellers. Thus in 1934 he wrote that while the Sergianist priests administered valid sacraments, Christians who partook of them knowing of Sergius’ usurpation of power and the illegality of his Synod would receive them to their condemnation.
Several points were made by Metropolitan Cyril in his correspondence with Metropolitan Sergius which are of vital importance in evaluating the significance of the various schisms that have taken place in the Orthodox Church in this century. The first is the priority of “the conciliar hierarchical conscience of the Church”. As he wrote in 1929: “Church discipline is able to retain its validity only as long as it is a true reflection of the hierarchical conscience of the Conciliar [Sobornoj] Church; discipline can never take the place of this conscience”. Sergius violated the hierarchical, conciliar conscience of the Church by his disregard of the views of bishops equal to him in rank.
The second is that a hierarch is justified in breaking communion with a fellow hierarch, not only for heresy, but also in order not to partake in his brother’s sin. Thus while Metropolitan Cyril did not consider Sergius to have sinned in matters of faith, he was forced to bread communion with him because “I have no other means of rebuking my sinning brother”. If clergy have mutually opposing opinions within the Church, then their concelebration is for both “to judgement and condemnation”.
Thus in November, 1929, Metropolitan Cyril refused to condemn Metropolitan Joseph and his supporters, who had broken communion with Sergius; and he did not agree with the bishops in exile in Tashkent – Arsenius (Stadnitsky), Nicodemus (Krotkov), Nicander (Fenomenov) and others – who condemned Joseph, considering their hopes of convening a canonical Council to be “naivety or cunning”.
Thirdly, while Metropolitan Cyril did not deny the sacraments of the sergianists, he did so only in respect of those clergy who had been correctly ordained, i.e. by non-sergianist hierarchs.
A fourth point made by Metropolitan Cyril was that even when such a break in communion occurs between two parties, both sides remain in the Church so long as dogmatic unanimity is preserved. But this immediately raised the question: had Sergius only sinned “administratively”, by transgressing against the canons, as Metropolitan Cyril claimed (until 1934, at any rate), or had he sinned also “dogmatically”, by transgressing against the dogma of the One Church, as Archbishop Demetrius of Gdov, among others, claimed? We shall return to this question in a later section.
In about the middle of the 1930s Metropolitan Cyril issued an epistle in which he called on the Catacomb hierarchs to confirm his candidacy as lawful patriarchal locum tenens in the case of the death of Metropolitan Peter. We know the reaction of one hierarch, Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk, to this epistle. He was not enthusiastic, because he considered that in times of persecution a centralized administration was not obligatory for the Church.
Recently, clear evidence has emerged that Metropolitan Cyril’s position hardened towards the end of his life. This is evident from a letter he wrote in March, 1937: “With regard to your perplexities concerning Sergianism, I can say that the very same questions in almost the same form were addressed to me from Kazan ten years ago, and then I replied affirmatively to them, because I considered everything that Metropolitan Sergius had done as a mistake which he himself was conscious of and wished to correct. Moreover, among our ordinary flock there were many people who had not investigated what had happened, and it was impossible to demand from them a decisive and active condemnation of the events. Since then much water has flowed under the bridge. The expectations that Metropolitan Sergius would correct himself have not been justified, but there has been enough time for the formerly ignorant members of the Church, enough incentive and enough opportunity to investigate what has happened; and very many have both investigated and understood that Metropolitan Sergius is departing from that Orthodox Church which the Holy Patriarch Tikhon entrusted to us to guard, and consequently there can be no part or lot with him for the Orthodox. The recent events have finally made clear the renovationist nature of Sergianism. We cannot know whether those believers who remain in Sergianism will be saved, because the work of eternal Salvation is a work of the mercy and grace of God. But for those who see and feel the unrighteousness of Sergianism (those are your questions) it would be unforgiveable craftiness to close one’s eyes to this unrighteousness and seek there for the satisfaction of one’s spiritual needs when one’s conscience doubts in the possibility of receiving such satisfaction. Everything which is not of faith is sin…”
This is an important document, for it shows that by 1937 Metropolitan Cyril considered that enough time had passed for the ordinary believer to come to a correct conclusion concerning the true, “renovationist” – that is, heretical – nature of Sergianism. So from 1937, in Metropolitan Cyril’s opinion, “the excuse of ignorance” was no longer valid. What had been involuntary ignorance in the early days of the schism was now (except in exceptional circumstances caused by, for example, extreme youth, mental deficiency, isolation, etc.) witting ignorance – that is, indifference to the truth or refusal to face the truth.
The ROCA was in harmony with the Catacomb hierarchs. On August 22, 1928, her first-hierarch, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev issued “the completely definitive declaration of our Synod of Bishops that the Moscow Synod has deprived itself of all authority, since it has entered into agreement with the atheists, and without offering any resistance it has tolerated the closing and destruction of the holy churches, and the other innumerable crimes of the Soviet government… That illegally formed organization which has entered into union with God’s enemies, which Metropolitan Sergius calls an Orthodox Synod – but which the best Russian hierarchs, clergy and laymen have refused to recognize - … must not be recognized by our Orthodox Churches, nor by our Synod of Bishops with its flock here abroad. Furthermore, the organization of the Moscow Synod must be recognized to be exactly the same sort of apostates from the Faith as the ancient libellatici, that is, Christians who although they refused to blaspheme openly against Christ and offer sacrifices to the idols, nevertheless still received from the priests of the idols false documents verifying that they were in complete accord with the adherents of pagan religion…”
Metropolitan Anthony secretly distributed this encyclical with an appeal to all the faithful archpastors to join the ROCA; it was widely read among the Josephites.
In 1933 he wrote to Sergius: “We the free bishops of the Russian Church, do not want a truce with Satan, although you are trying to obscure the question by calling our hostile relationships only a policy, while we believe that in the struggle with them ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’. We have no intercourse with the Orthodox archpastors, pastors and laymen who are imprisoned in Russia, except that we pray for them and know that they suffer only for the faith, though the persecutors charge them with State crimes which are alien to them, as the enemies of the Christians loved to do in ancient times…
“You direct all your energies to living in the world with the revilers of Christ, the persecutors of His Church, and you even help them by demanding from them a statement of loyalty and placing the stamp of counter-revolutionaries on those who commit no wrong against the Soviet government other than steadfastness in the faith. I implore you, as a pupil and friend, free yourself from this temptation, renounce publicly every lie which Tuchkov and other enemies of the Church have put into your mouth, do not yield in the face of probably tortures. If you are counted worthy of a martyr’s crown, the earthly and heavenly Churches will combine in glorification of your courage and of the Lord Who strengthened you; but if you stay on this wide path leading you to perdition (Matthew 7.13), on which you stand now, you will be ignominiously led to the pit of hell and until the end of its earthly existence the Church will not forget your betrayal. I always think of this when I look at the panagia of the Vladimir Mother of God with the engraved inscription which you presented to me twenty years ago: ‘To a dear teacher and friend.’ Your further words in this inscription are: ‘give us some of your oil, for our lamps are fading.’ Here we offer you the salutary oil of faith and loyalty in the Holy Church. Do not refuse it, but reunite with it as in 1922 when you solemnly declared to Patriarch Tikhon your repentance for your former wavering loyalty. Do not refuse the friendly appeal of one who tenderly loved you and continues to love you. Metropolitan Anthony.”
The birth of the Catacomb Church in 1927-28 may be said to have been the rebirth of the spirit of the 1917-18 Council of the Russian Church. In the previous decade, first under Patriarch Tikhon and then under Metropolitan Peter, the original fierce tone of reproach and rejection of the God-hating authorities, epitomized above all by the anathematization of Soviet power, had gradually softened under the twin pressures of the Bolsheviks from without and the renovationists from within. Although the apocalyptic spirit of the Council remained alive in the masses, and prevented the Church leaders from actually commemorating the antichristian power, compromises continued to be made – compromises that were never repaid by compromises on the part of the Bolsheviks.
However, these compromises did not pass beyond the thin line separating compromise from apostasy. That line was passed by Metropolitan Sergius when he recognized the God-cursed power to be God-established, and ordered the commemoration of the God-cursed authorities while banning the commemoration of the confessing bishops. At this point the spirit of the Council flared up again in all its original strength. For, as a “Letter from Russia” put it many years later: “It’s no use our manoeuvring; there’s nothing for us to preserve except the things that are God’s. For the things that are Caesar’s (if one should really consider it to be Caesar and not Pharaoh) are always associated with the quenching of the Spirit.”
The Martyrdom of the Catacomb Church
The year 1928 was the last year of relative freedom for the True Orthodox. From 1929, the Bolsheviks began to imprison and exile them on the basis of a belonging to a “church monarchist organization” called “True Orthodoxy”. Osipov notes that the numbers of True Orthodox Christians arrested in the period from 1929 to 1933 exceeded by seven times the numbers of clergy repressed from 1924 to 1928.
In 1930 Sergius claimed that he had 70% of the Orthodox bishops on his side (this figure does not include the renovationists and Gregorians), which implies that about 30% of the Russian episcopate joined the Catacomb Church. But this 30%, if it was only that, included most of the senior and most respected bishops. According to another calculation, out of the approximately 150 Russian bishops in 1927, 80 declared themselves definitely against the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, 17 separated from him without making their position clear (to modern investigators, at any rate) and another 9 at first did not support Sergius but later changed their mind.
If Sergius thought that by his declaration of 1927 and his subsequent betrayal of the Catacomb hierarchs he could buy some peace for himself and those who followed him, the experience of the next fifteen years proved him terribly wrong.
As we have seen, the beginning of the year 1929 coincided with the first five-year plan, collectivization and a new and intensified campaign against all religion. Indeed, collectivization (which, together with the artificial famine that followed, claimed as many as 14 million lives) has been seen, not without reason, as an attempt to destroy religion in its stronghold, the countryside, by destroying the economic base of village life and forcing all the villagers into communes completely dependent on the State. By 1933 half the churches in the land had been closed or destroyed.
In the same year of 1929 the so-called uninterrupted work week was introduced, and Sunday lost its privileged status.
This wave of persecution did not prevent Metropolitan Sergius from saying, in an interview with TASS in February, 1930, that “in the Soviet Union there was not and is not now any religious persecution”, that “churches are closed not on the orders of the authorities, but at the wish of the population, and in many cases even at the request of the believers”, that “the priests themselves are to blame, because they do not use the opportunities presented to them by the freedom to preach” and that “the Church herself does not want to have any theological-educational institutions”.
Commenting on this statement by Metropolitan Sergius, Archbishop Andrew of Ufa wrote: “Such is the opinion of the false-head of the false-patriarchal church of Metropolitan Sergius… But who is going to recognize this head after all this? For whom does this lying head remain a head, in spite of his betrayal of Christ?… All the followers of the lying Metropolitan Sergius.. have fallen away from the Church of Christ. The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is somewhere else, not near Metropolitan Sergius and not near ‘his Synod’.”
According to the words of Archbishop Bartholomew (Remov), who never joined the Catacomb Church, the whole activity of Metropolitan Sergius was carried out in accordance with the instructions of the Bolsheviks.
However, religious life did not cease but rather intensified in the underground conditions which could alone sustain it. Wandering bishops and priests served the faithful in secret locations around the country. Particular areas buzzed with underground activity. Thus Professor Ivan Andreyev testified that up to the end of the Second World War he personally knew some 200 places of worship of the Catacomb Church in the Leningrad area alone.
The Tambov area had a particularly strong underground network which has persisted until very recent times, according to the studies of Soviet sociologists. Another area which has continued to produce Catacomb confessors right up to the present day is the Urals. And other mountainous areas such as the Caucasus and the Altai in Siberia have continued to provide shelter for zealots of Orthodox piety.
Popovsky writes: “The Catacomb or Underground Church arose in our midst at the end of the 20s. First one, then another priest disappeared from his parish, settled in a secret place and began the dangerous life of exiles. In decrepit little houses on the outskirts of towns chapels appeared. There they served the Liturgy, heard confessions, gave communion, baptized, married and even ordained new priests. Believers from distant towns and regions poured there in secret, passing on to each other the agreed knock on the door.”
In May, 1932, Stalin declared an anti-religious five-year plan, at the end of which the name of God was to disappear from the Soviet Union. But a census taken in 1937 established that two-thirds of the peasantry and one-third of the city-dwellers were still prepared to say that they believed in God. This impressive figure, considering the conditions in which it was obtained, owed nothing to Sergius’ pact with the State, which rather divided the faithful and gave the atheists an extra and extremely effective weapon against them. Moreover, it was in 1937 that the persecution of the clergy reached its height. According to figures released by the Russian government, in that year alone 136,900 clergy were arrested, of whom 85,000 were killed.
As for the leader of the Catacomb Church, Metropolitan Peter, his ability to influence events directly was severely limited by the remoteness of his exile in the North Siberian village of Khe. According to some recently published letters by Metropolitan Peter to OGPU agents, he not only refused to give up the locum tenancy himself, but also rejected the right of Metropolitan Sergius to take it over after his death. Thus on March 11, 1931, he posed the following question to I.B. Polyansky: “Will not a change in locum tenens bring with it a change also in his deputy? Of course, it is possible that my successor, if he were to find himself incapable of carrying out his responsibilities directly, would leave the same person as his deputy – that is his right. But it is certain, in my opinion, that the carrying out of his duties by this deputy would have to come to an end at the same time as the departure of the person for whom he is deputizing, just as, according to the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, with his departure the synod created by him would cease to exist. All this and other questions require thorough and authoritative discussion and canonical underpinning…” Metropolitan Peter repeated the same argument in a letter to Menzhinsky later that month.
In 1933 Metropolitan Sergius stated officially in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate that he “as the deputy of Metropolitan Peter, had not only the temporary authority of the First Hierarch but the Patriarchal Power as well”. He also declared that Metropolitan Peter, the lawful First Hierarch, did not have the right “to interfere in the administration of the Church or even correct the mistakes of his deputy.” As a result of this statement, Bishop Athanasius (Sakharov) of Kovrov broke communion with Sergius, as he stated in a letter to him on his return from exile in December, 1933.
In April, 1934 Metropolitan Sergius’ Synod gave him the title of Metropolitan of Kolomna – Metropolitan Peter’s see – thereby making him in effect an “adulterer bishop”. In August, 1936, the NKVD spread the rumour that Metropolitan Peter had died. The Sergianist Synod promptly – and completely uncanonically – passed a resolution transferring the rights and duties of the patriarchal locum tenency to Metropolitan Sergius. The ROCA, however, began commemorating the last surviving locum tenens, Metropolitan Cyril. When Metropolitan Peter was actually shot, in October, 1937, the last link between the True Church and the sergianists was broken.
There is some evidence that Metropolitan Peter in his last years had made secret contact with Metropolitan Joseph and had appointed him as “Extraordinary Locum Tenens”, in accordance with a little-known decision of the Council of 1918 and with the approval and support of Metropolitan Cyril. If so, then Metropolitan Joseph became leader of the Russian Church for 42 days after the death of Metropolitan Peter and until his own death. For at midnight on November 20-21, Metropolitan Joseph was shot in Chimkent together with Metropolitan Cyril.
The Vatican and Russia
How did Russia’s age-old enemy, the Vatican, look upon the revolution in Russia? Was there a uniting of religious forces against militant atheism? Unfortunately the answer is clearly no: the Vatican used communism against Orthodoxy in Russia, just as, a few years later, it used fascism against Orthodoxy in Yugoslavia.
Deacon Herman Ivanov-Trinadtsaty writes: “Pope Pius X (who was canonized in 1954) pronounced on the very eve of World War I, ‘Russia is the greatest enemy of the [Roman] Church.’ Therefore it is not surprising that the Roman Catholic world greeted the Bolshevik Revolution with joy. ‘After the Jews the Catholics did probably more than anyone else to organize the overthrow of tsarist power. At least they did nothing to stop it.’ Shamelessly and with great candour they wrote in Rome as soon as the Bolshevik ‘victory’ became evident: ‘there has been uncontainable pleasure over the fall of the tsarist government and Rome has not wasted any time in entering into negotiations with the Soviet government.’ When a leading Vatican dignitary was asked why the Vatican was against France during World War II, he exclaimed: ‘The victory of the Entente allied with Russia would have been as great a catastrophe for the Roman Catholic Church as the Reformation was.’ Pope Pius conveyed this feeling in his typically abrupt manner: ‘If Russia is victorious, then the schism is victorious.’..
“Even though the Vatican had long prepared for it, the collapse of the Orthodox Russian Empire caught it unawares. It very quickly came to its senses. The collapse of Russia did not yet mean that Russia could turn Roman Catholic. For this, a new plan of attack was needed. Realizing that would be as difficult for a Pole to proselytize in Russia as for an Englishman in Ireland, the Vatican understood the necessity of finding a totally different method of battle with Orthodoxy, which would painlessly and without raising the slightest suspicion, ensnare and subordinate the Russian people to the Roman Pope. This Machiavellian scheme was the appearance of the so-called ‘Eastern Rite’, which its defenders understood as ‘the bridge by which Rome will enter Russia’, to quote an apt expression of K.N. Nikolayev.
“This treacherous plot, which can be likened to a ship sailing under a false flag, had very rapid success in the first years after the establishment of Soviet power. This too place in blood-drenched Russia and abroad, where feverish activity was begun amongst the hapless émigrés, such as finding them work, putting their immigration status in order, and opening Russian-language schools for them and their children.
“It cannot be denied that there were cases of unmercenary help, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, this charitable work had a thinly disguised confessional goal, to lure by various means the unfortunate refugees into what seemed at first glance to be true Orthodox churches, but which at the same time commemorated the pope…
“In Russia the experiment with the ‘Eastern Rite’ lasted more than ten years… The heart and soul of the papal ‘Ostpolitik’, its eastern policies, was a Jesuit, the French Bishop D’Erbigny, who was specially authorized by the pope to conduct negotiations with the Kremlin for the wide dissemination of Roman Catholicism in the Soviet Union and by the same token the supplanting of Orthodoxy in Russia and in Russian souls.
“With this in mind, D’Erbigny travelled three times to the Soviet Union on a French diplomatic passport. He consecrated several Roman Catholic hierarchs with the aim of building up a group of Russian Catholic clergymen who would be acceptable to the Soviet authorities. Let us listen to the degree of open amorality that these clerics were capable of: “Bolshevism is liquidating priests, desecrating churches and holy places, and destroying monasteries. Is this not where the religious mission of irreligious Bolshevism lies, in the disappearance of the carriers of schismatic thought, as it were presenting a “clean table”, a tabula rasa, which gives us the possibility of spiritual recreation.’ For those to whom it is not clear just what kind of spiritual reconstruction the Benedictine monk Chrysostom Bayer is referring to, his thoughts can be amplified by the official Viennese Catholic journal, Bayrischer Kunier: ‘Bolshevism is creating the possibility of the conversion of stagnant Russia to Catholicism.’
“No one less than the exarch of the Russian Catholics, Leonid Fyodorov, when on trial in March of 1923 along with fourteen other clergymen and one layman, pathetically testified to the sincerity of his feelings in relation to the Soviet authorities, who, Fyodorov thought later, did not fully understand what could be expected from Roman Catholicism. He explained: ‘From the time that I gave myself to the Roman Catholic Church, my cherished dream has been to reconcile my homeland with this church, which for me is the only true one. But we were not understood by the government. All Latin Catholics heaved a sigh of relief when the October Revolution took place. I myself greeted with enthusiasm the decree on the separation of Church and State… Only under Soviet rule, when Church and State are separated, could we breathe freely. As a religious believer, I saw in’ this liberation the hand of God.
“Let us not lose sight of the fact that all these declarations by Roman Catholics, who were quite friendly with the Soviets, were pronounced during the nightmarish period when the Soviets were trying to eradicate the Orthodox Church. Keeping in mind that Vatican diplomacy adheres to the principle that the end justifies the means, which is illustrated throughout its many-centuried history, the game which the Vatican has been playing with Moscow should be clearly understood. The essence of the matter is that Russia has become a sacrifice to two principles hostile to it, Catholicism and godless communism, which are drawn together by a curious concurrence of interests. Moscow realizes that the eradication of faith from the Russian soul is a hopeless task. As long as the Russian Church remained faithful to itself, and uncompromising towards the godless power, courageously witnessing to the fundamental incompatibility between Christian and communist principles, the Soviet leader were ready for two reasons to graciously study the variant of Roman Catholicism offered to them. By this means they hoped to manipulate the religiousness of the Russian soul.
“The first reason was Rome’s consistent, impeccable loyalty to the communist regime, both in the U.S.S.R. and outside it [until 1930]. Secondly, it was advantageous to the Kremlin, or simply entertaining, that the religious needs of the Russians should be satisfied by this centuries-old enemy of Orthodoxy. For their part, the Catholics were ready to close their eyes to all the atrocities of Bolshevism, including the shooting of the Roman Catholic Bishop Butkevich in April of 1923 and the imprisonment of Bishops Tseplyak, Malyetsky and Fyodorov. Six weeks later, the Vatican expressed it sorrow over the assassination of the Soviet agent Vorovsky in Lausanne! The People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs told the German Ambassador, ‘Pius XI was amiable to me in Genoa, expressing the hope that we [the Bolsheviks] would bread the monopoly of the Orthodox Church in Russia, thus clearing a path for him.’
“We have discovered information of the greatest importance in the archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A secret telegram No. 266 of February 6, 1925 from Berlin, stated that the Soviet ambassador, Krestinsky, told Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pius XII) that Moscow would not oppose the existence of Roman Catholic bishops and a metropolitan on Russian territory. Furthermore, the Roman clergy were offered the very best conditions. Six days later, secret telegram No. 284 spoke of permission being granted for the opening of a Roman Catholic seminary. Thus, while our holy New Martyrs were being annihilated with incredible cruelty, the Vatican was conducting secret negotiations with Moscow. In short, Rome attempted to gain permission to appoint the necessary bishops and even permission to open a seminary. Our evidence shows that this question was discussed once more in high circles in the autumn of 1926. In all likelihood, it had not been satisfactorily settled earlier. This might be viewed as the culmination of the unnaturally close relations between the Vatican and the Soviet government.”
In July, 1927 Metropolitan Sergius wrote his notorious declaration. Having found their ideal vehicle for the undermining of the True Russian Church, the Bolsheviks no longer needed the Catholics. And so, as an “unexpected and indirect result” of the declaration, writes Ivanov-Trinadtsaty, “Moscow put an end to the negotiations and the attention it was devoting to Vatican offers… The restitution of the traditional [in appearance] Russian Orthodox Church, neutralized as it were, seemed more useful to the Soviet authorities than, the Vatican. From then on, the Soviets lost interest in the Vatican. Only at the end of 1929 and the beginning of 1930 did the Vatican finally admit that it had suffered a political defeat and began to condemn vociferously the Bolshevik crimes. It had somehow not noticed them until 1930. Only in 1937 did Pope Pius XI release the encyclical Divine Redemptori (Divine Redeemer), which denounced communism…”
The Catacomb Council of Ust-Kut
With the death of her de facto leaders in the decade 1928-37, Metropolitans Cyril and Joseph, the Church’s descent into the catacombs, which had begun with the rise of renovationism in 1922, was completed. From now on, with the external administrative machinery of the Church destroyed, it was up to each bishop – sometimes each believer – individually to preserve the fire of faith, being linked with his fellow Christians only through the inner, mystical bonds of the life in Christ.
Thus was the premonition of Hieromartyr Bishop Damascene fulfilled: “Perhaps the time has come when the Lord does not wish that the Church should stand as an intermediary between Himself and the believers, but that everyone is called to stand directly before the Lord and himself answer for himself as it was with the forefathers!”
This judgement was supported by the ROCA at its Second All-Emigration Council in 1938: “Since the epoch we have lived through was without doubt an epoch of apostasy, it goes without saying that for the true Church of Christ a period of life in the wilderness, of which the twelfth chapter of the Revelation of St. John speaks, is not, as some may believe, an episode connected exclusively with the last period in the history of mankind. History show us that the Orthodox Church has withdrawn into the wilderness repeatedly, from whence the will of God called her back to the stage of history, where she once again assumed her role under more favourable circumstances. At the end of history the Church of God will go into the wilderness for the last time to receive Him, Who comes to judge the quick and the dead. Thus the twelfth chapter of Revelation must be understood not only in an eschatological sense, but in a historical and educational sense as well: it shows up the general and typical forms of Church life. If the Church of God is destined to live in the wilderness through the Providence of the Almighty Creator, the judgement of history, and the legislation of the proletarian state, it follows clearly that she must forego all attempts to reach a legalization, for every attempt to arrive at a legalization during the epoch of apostasy inescapably turns the Church into the great Babylonian whore of blasphemous atheism. The near future will confirm our opinion and prove that the time has come in which the welfare of the Church demands giving up all legalizations, even those of the parishes. We must follow the example of the Church prior to the Council of Nicaea, when the Christian communities were united not on the basis of the administrative institutions of the State, but through the Holy Spirit alone.”
Perhaps the most striking and literal example of the Church’s fleeing into the wilderness is provided by Bishop Amphilochius of Yenisei and Krasnoyarsk, who in 1930, after breaking communion with Metropolitan Sergius, departed (according to Archimandrite John (Snychev), on the advice of Metropolitan Cyril) into the Siberian forests, from whence he did not emerge until his death in 1946.
However, in case the lure of an external organization and open churches (although there were very few of them by the end of the thirties) should tempt believers into recognizing the false church, Divine Providence convened a Council of the Catacomb Church in July, 1937, in the depths of Siberia:- “In the last days of July, 1937, in the Siberian town of Ust-Kut, on the River Lena (at its juncture with the River Kut), in the re-grouping section of the house of arrest, there met by chance: two Metropolitans, four Bishops, two Priests and six laymen of the secret Catacomb Church, who were on a stage of their journey from Vitim to Irkutsk, being sent from Irkutsk to the north.
“It was difficult to anticipate a similarly full and representative gathering of same-minded members of the Church in the near future. Therefore those who had gathered decided immediately to open a ‘Sacred Council’, in order to make canonical regulations concerning vital questions of the Catacomb Church. The time of the Council was, as it seemed, limited to four hours, after which the participants in the Council were sent in different directions.
“The president was Metropolitan John (in one version: “Bishop John”), and the Council chose the layman A.Z. to be secretary. The resolutions of the Council were not signed: A.Z. gave an oath to memorize the decisions of the Council and to pass on to whom it was necessary whatever he remembered exactly, but not to speak at all about what he confused or could not remember exactly. A.Z. in his time succeeded in passing on the memorised decisions of the Church. His words were written down and became Canons of the Church. Among these Canons were some which are especially necessary for the Church:
“1. The Sacred Council forbids the faithful to receive communion from the clergy legalized by the anti-Christian State.
“2. It has been revealed to the Sacred Council by the Spirit that the anathema-curse hurled by his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon is valid, and all priests and Church-servers who have dared to consider it as an ecclesiastical mistake or political tactic are placed under its power and bound by it.
“3. To all those who discredit and separate themselves from the Sacred Council of 1917-18 – Anathema!
“4. All branches of the Church which are on the common trunk – the trunk is our pre-revolutionary Church – are living branches of the Church of Christ. We give our blessing to common prayer and the serving of the Divine Liturgy to all priests of these branches. The Sacred Council forbids all those who do not consider themselves to be branches, but independent from the tree of the Church, to serve the Divine Liturgy. The Sacred Council does not consider it necessary to have administrative unity of the branches of the Church, but unity of mind concerning the Church is binding on all.”
Thus Sergius’ organization was to be avoided and condemned, not primarily because he was a usurper of ecclesiastical authority (although he was that), nor because he violated the sacred canons (although he did that), but because he had imposed upon the Church an essentially heretical attitude towards the antichristian authorities. This intuition had been perhaps best expressed by the president of the “Nomadic Council”, Bishop Mark (Novoselov), when he wrote: “I am an enemy of Soviet power – and what is more, by dint of my religious convictions, insofar as Soviet power is an atheist power and even anti-theist. I believe that as a true Christian I cannot strengthen this power by any means… [There is] a petition which the Church has commanded to be used everyday in certain well-known conditions… The purpose of this formula is to request the overthrow of the infidel power by God… But this formula does not amount to a summons to believers to take active measures, but only calls them to pray for the overthrow of the power that has fallen away from God.”
Again, in another catacomb document dating from the 1960s we read: “Authority is given by God in order to preserve and fulfill the law… But how should one look on the Soviet authority, following the Apostolic teaching on authorities [Romans 13]? In accordance with the Apostolic teaching which we have set forth, one must acknowledge that the Soviet authority is not an authority. It is an anti-authority. It is not an authority because it is not established by God, but insolently created by an aggregation of the evil actions of men, and it is consolidated and supported by these actions. If the evil actions weaken, the Soviet authority, representing a condensation of evil, likewise weakens… This authority consolidates itself in order to destroy all religions, simply to eradicate faith in God. Its essence is warfare with God, because its root is from satan. The Soviet authority is not authority, because by its nature it cannot fulfill the law, for the essence of its life is evil.
“It may be said that the Soviet authority, in condemning various crimes of men, can still be considered an authority. We do not say that a ruling authority is totally lacking. We only affirm that it is an anti-authority. One must know that the affirmation of real power is bound up with certain actions of men, to whom the instinct of preservation is natural. And they must take into consideration the laws of morality which have been inherent in mankind from ages past. But in essence this authority systematically commits murder physically and spiritually. In reality a hostile power acts, which is called Soviet authority. The enemy strives by cunning to compel humanity to acknowledge this power as an authority. But the Apostolic teaching on authority is inapplicable to it, just as evil is inapplicable to God and the good, because evil is outside God; but the enemies with hypocrisy can take refuge in the well-known saying that everything is from God. This Soviet anti-authority is precisely the collective Antichrist, warfare against God…”
But what of the future? What hopes did the Christians of the Catacomb Church nurture with regard to a deliverance from their terrible sufferings? If some, like Bishop Maximus of Serpukhov, were pessimistic about the future, thinking that the very last days of the world had been reached, others prophesied the resurrection of Holy Russia before the end, such as the clairvoyant Eldress Agatha of Belorussia, who was starved to death by the authorities in 1939 at the age of 119. She told her spiritual children concerning the Soviet Church: “This is not a true church. It has signed a contract to serve the Antichrist. Do not go to it. Do not receive any Mysteries from its servants. Do not participate in prayer with them.” And then she said: “There will come a time when churches will be opened in Russia, and the true Orthodox Faith will triumph. Then people will become baptized, as at one time they were baptized under St. Vladimir. When the churches are opened for the first time, do not go to them because these will not be true churches; but when they are opened the second time, then go – these will be the true churches. I will not live to see this time, but many of you will live to this time. The atheist Soviet authority will vanish, and all its servants will perish…”
However, the immediate outlook at the end of the thirties was bleak indeed. E.L., writing about the Catacomb Hieromartyr Bishop Damascene, comments: “He warmed the hearts of many, but the masses remained.. passive and inert, moving in any direction in accordance with an external push, and not their inner convictions… The long isolation of Bishop Damascene from Soviet life, his remoteness from the gradual process of sovietization led him to an unrealistic assessment of the real relations of forces in the reality that surrounded him. Although he remained unshaken himself, he did not see.. the desolation of the human soul in the masses. This soul had been diverted onto another path – a slippery, opportunistic path which led people where the leaders of Soviet power – bold men who stopped at nothing in their attacks on all moral and material values – wanted them to go.. Between the hierarchs and priests who had languished in the concentration camps and prisons, and the mass of the believers, however firmly they tried to stand in the faith, there grew an abyss of mutual incomprehension. The confessors strove to raise the believers onto a higher plane and bring their spiritual level closer to their own. The mass of believers, weighed down by the cares of life and family, blinded by propaganda, involuntarily went in the opposite direction, downwards. Visions of a future golden age of satiety, of complete liberty from all external and internal restrictions, of the submission of the forces of nature to man, deceitful perspectives in which fantasy passed for science.. were used by the Bolsheviks to draw the overwhelming majority of the people into their nets. Only a few individuals were able to preserve a loftiness of spirit. This situation was exploited very well by Metropolitan Sergius…”
Sergius has had many apologists. Some have claimed that he “saved the Church” for a future generation, when the whirlwind of the persecution had passed. This claim cannot be justified, for by 1939 there were only four bishops at liberty, and a tiny handful of churches open, in the whole of the country. If any man can be said to have saved the Church, then this debt is owing, not to Sergius, but either to Hitler, whose successes, as we shall see, forced Stalin to make some concessions to official religion, or to the Catacomb Church, which, as Alexeyev writes, “in a sense saved the official Church from complete destruction because the Soviet authorities were afraid to force the entire Russian Church underground through ruthless suppression and so to lose control over it.”
Others have tried to justify Sergius by claiming that there are two paths to salvation, one through open confession or the no less difficult (in Soviet conditions) descent into the catacombs, and the other through compromise. Sergius, according to this view, was no less a martyr than the Catacomb martyrs, only he suffered the martyrdom of losing his good name. However, this view comes close to the heresy that there can be salvation through sin – in this case, the most brazen lying, the sacrifice of the freedom and dignity of the Church and Orthodoxy, and the betrayal to torments and death of one’s fellow Christians!
Sergius, followed by all his apologists, made the basic mistake of forgetting that it is God, not man, Who saves the Church. This mistake almost amounts to a loss of faith in God Himself – not so much in His existence, as in His Providence and Omnipotence. The faith that saves is the faith that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19.26). It is the faith that cries: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 19.7). This was and is the faith of the Catacomb Church, which, being founded on “the Rock, which is Christ” (I Corinthians 10.7), has prevailed against the gates of hell. But Sergius’ “faith” was of a different, more “supple” kind, the kind of which the Prophet spoke: “Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, and with hell we have an agreement; when the overwhelming scourge passes through it will not come to us; for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter’; therefore thus says the Lord God,… hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter. Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with hell will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through you will be beaten down by it…” (Isaiah 28.15, 17-19)
In recent years, even patriarchal sources have begun to speak about the falsity of Sergius’ declaration, the true confession and martyrdom of those who opposed him, and the invalidity of the measures he took to punish them. Thus: “Amidst the opponents of Metropolitan Sergius were a multitude of remarkable martyrs and confessors, bishops, monks, priests… The ‘canonical’ bans of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) and his Synod were taken seriously by no one, neither at that time [the 1930s] nor later by dint of the uncanonicity of the situation of Metropolitan Sergius himself…” And again: “The particular tragedy of the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius consists in its principled rejection of the podvig of martyrdom and confession, without which witnessing to the truth is inconceivable. In this way Metropolitan Sergius took as his foundation not hope on the Providence of God, but a purely human approach to the resolution of church problems… The courage of the ‘catacombniks’ and their firmness of faith cannot be doubted, and it is our duty to preserve the memory of those whose names we shall probably learn only in eternity…”
Let the last word on this most catastrophic, but at the same time most glorious period in the history of the Church of Christ come from a Catacomb Appeal of the period: “May this article drop a word that will be as a burning spark in the heart of every person who has Divinity in himself and faith in the our One Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“Beloved brethren! Orthodox Christians, peace-makers! Do not forget your brothers who are suffering in cells and prisons for the word of God and for the faith, the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, for they are in terrible dark bonds which have been built as tombs for all innocent people. Thousands and thousands of peace-loving brothers are languishing, buried alive in these tombs, these cemeteries; their bodies are wasting away and their souls are in pain every day and every hour, nor is there one minute of consolation, they are doomed to death and a hopeless life. These are the little brothers of Christ, they bear that cross which the Lord bore. Jesus Christ received suffering and death and was buried in the tomb, sealed by a stone and guarded by a watch. The hour came when death could not hold in its bonds the body of Christ that had suffered, for an Angel of the Lord coming down from the heavens rolled away the stone from the tomb and the soldiers who had been on guard fled in great fear. The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. But the thunder will also strike these castles where the brothers languish for the word of God, and will smash the bolts where death threatens men..."
4. GREECE AND THE BALKANS: THE PEOPLE’S TRUTH (1924-1939)
He that is not with me is against Me; and
he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.
The adoption of the new calendar by the State Church of Greece came at a very vulnerable time for the Orthodox Church as a whole. The outward position of the Church had changed radically in the previous ten years. The Russian empire was gone, and the Ecumenical and (especially) the Moscow patriarchates, to which the vast majority of Orthodox Christians belonged, were fighting both external foes (the Bolsheviks and the Turks) and internal schism (“the Living Church” and “the Turkish Orthodox Church”). Neither the remaining Eastern patriarchates, on the one hand, nor the Serbian patriarchate and the Russian Church Abroad, on the other, could take the place occupied by the Russian empire and the Ecumenical patriarchate in the preceding centuries. If, as was (temporarily) the case, none of the hierarchs of the Greek Church would refuse to accept the calendar change and break communion with the Archbishop of Athens, there was only one force remaining that could take up the banner of truth – the people.
The position of the laity in the Orthodox Church has often been misunderstood. In Orthodoxy, the laity are neither the inert, impotent, blindly obedient mass of the Roman Catholics, nor the all-powerful, revolutionary horde of the Protestants. There are two vital functions which can only be performed by canonically consecrated clergy: the administration of the sacraments, including the ordination of bishops and priests, and the definition of the faith, including the position of the Church in relation to heretics and schismatics. But while the laity cannot take the leading role in these two functions, they do have an important confirmatory role in them. Thus strictly speaking a bishop or priest cannot celebrate the Divine Liturgy without the presence of at least one layman. Likewise a bishop cannot ordain a priest without the consent of the people (expressed by shouting “axios!” or “he is worthy!”). And a definition of the faith that is rejected by the people will remain a dead letter.
In the long, over 1000-year struggle with the western heresies, the Orthodox people had never found themselves so bereft of clerical leadership as in 1924. The signing of the uniate council of Lyons in 1274 and the deposition of the true patriarch Arsenius the next year had been largely the work of the emperor and his stooge, John Beccus; and there were many clergy who resisted the Unia, which in any case lasted only eight years (to 1282). The position after the council of Florence was more serious: St. Mark of Ephesus was the only Greek hierarch who refused to sign the Unia. And it lasted for a longer period of time (1438-80).
There followed a long period in which, although there were some latinizing (and protestantizing) patriarchs, the Church as a whole remained united against the western peril. Thus when the new calendar was introduced by the Pope in 1582 in order to create divisions among the Orthodox, it was synodically condemned no less than eight times: in 1583, 1587, 1593, 1722, 1827, 1848, 1895 and 1904. Towards the end of this period ecumenist tendencies began to increase in the Orthodox Churches, but opposition to the new calendar remained strong.
However, already in their encyclical of 1848, the Eastern Patriarchs had hinted at the role the people would have to play independently of the clergy: “With us neither Patriarchs nor Councils could ever introduce anything new, because the defender of religion is the very body of the Church, or the people itself, who wanted their religion to remain forever unchanged and in accord with the religion of their Fathers.”
The question that arose in 1924 was: did the people (and a handful of clergy) have the right to separate themselves from all the bishops and, in the absence of any hierarchs to support them in their struggle against innovation, declare themselves to be the truly Orthodox Church? The answer supplied by the Holy Tradition of the Church was a clear: yes. While certain functions that can only be performed by bishops, such as the ordination of priests, are temporarily suspended in such a situation, the Church does not cease to exist, and remains there, and only there, where the True Faith is confessed.
For “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them”, said the Bishop of bishops, the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 18.20). And the 15th canon of the First-and-Second Council of Constantinople praises those who break with a heretical bishop even before the passing of a synodical decision against him. Indeed, there are several cases in the Church’s history of holy men either breaking immediately in this way with heretical bishops – St. Hypatius in the fourth century, for example; or dying out of communion with all the bishops of the Church and yet being praised and glorified by succeeding generations – St. Maximus the Confessor in the seventh century, for example, and St. Arsenius of Paros in the nineteenth.
The Miracle of the Cross
The calendar change in the State Church of Greece took place on March 10, 1924 (March 23, according to the new calendar, which we shall cite from now on). On that day, which was a Sunday, the future hierarch-confessor of the True Orthodox Church, Archimandrite Germanus (Varykopoulos) was serving the Divine Liturgy in his church of St. Alexander in Palaion Faliron. Having come to the end of the Liturgy, he commemorated “the holy 13 days whose memory we celebrate!”
On March 25, 1924, two important events took place simultaneously in Athens. The great feast of the Annunciation was celebrated according to the new calendar by Archbishop Chrysostom (Papadopoulos). And the Greek monarchy was abrogated (without a vote) by the revolutionary government.
As the journalist Nicholas Kraniotakis wrote: “Under strict orders, and to the sound of trumpets, the soldiers detached the Crown from the Cross and threw it to the ground! And Greek democracy was born!..”
This is another indication of the close spiritual link between events in Greece and in Russia in those years. In both, anti-monarchism in politics was joined to renovationism in religion.
In Greece since 1917 the anti-monarchists and renovationists had been led by Venizelos in the State and Metaxakis in the Church – Freemasons both. Their leading opponents on both accounts were Metropolitans Germanos of Demetriades and Chrysostomos of Florina – the first metropolitans of the True Orthodox Church of Greece from 1935.
On April 6, the eve of the true feast of the Annunciation, a vast crowd gathered in the courtyard outside the Annunciation cathedral. The next day the newspaper Vradini reported: “The priests have been forbidden, under pain of defrocking, to liturgise or chant the troparia of the Annunciation today. Also forbidden is the ringing of the bells of the Russian cathedral (of the Philhellenes), and today’s celebration of the Liturgy at the metochion of the Holy Sepulchre, although the Patriarchate of Jerusalem has not accepted the new calendar.
“In spite of all the measures that had been taken, multitudes of the faithful inundated the metropolitan cathedral from the afternoon to late at night, and at their persistent entreaty one priest was found who chanted a paraklesis, being ‘obedient,’ as he said, ‘to the threats of the people’. The wardens wanted to close the church, but in view of the fanaticism of the worshippers the cathedral remained open into the night. Three miracles took place at the metropolitan cathedral.. Seven-year-old Stasinopoulos, a deaf-mute and paralytic since birth, was brought by his mother to the icon of the Mother of God, convulsed by spasms. A little while later he arose amidst general compunction, pronounced the words “mama-granny-papa” and began to walk.
“A little later a seventeen-year-old paralytic was healed, and.. a hard-working deaf-mute. The latter spoke yesterday for the first time in thirty years, declaring that he would not go to work today. Although the cathedral wardens know the names of these two, they refuse to publish them, affirming that no miracle has taken place, although the contrary is confessed by the whole congregation.”
Another newspaper, Skrip, reported on the same day: “Movement inside the cathedral was impossible. The faithful listened to the vespers, and after the dismissal anxiously discussed the change in the worshipping calendar and the transfer of the feast of the Annunciation.
“Two thousand pious Christians, together with women and children, unanimously proclaimed their adherence to the holy dogmas of religion, which the democrats have come to change, and one voice was heard: ‘We will not become Franks! We are Orthodox Christians, and we will remain Orthodox Christians!’”
Similar scenes, and similar miracles, took place in other regional centres, such as Nauplion, Tripolis, Thessalonica and Corinth. The secular authorities everywhere supported the new ecclesiastical regime.
The resistance of the people in this first phase of the struggle was greatly helped by the very pious and traditionalist refugees from Anatolia, such as the great wonderworking priest Arsenius of Cappadocia.
The faithful Christians, obeying the teachings of the holy Fathers and imitating the Christians of old who in similar situations broke communion with the innovators, themselves broke off all ecclesiastical communion with the innovating Church of Greece. They prayed at home or in country chapels, served by a very small number of priests who were continually persecuted by the police at the instigation of Chrysostom Papadopoulos.
From the beginning the Lord showed by many signs and wonders that He was with the adherents of the Orthodox Calendar. Thus a miracle took place on January 6, 1925 – that is, the eve of the feast of the Nativity of Christ according to the Orthodox Calendar and the feast of the Theophany according to the new. The parishioners of the new calendar church of the Holy Apostles in Acropolis were following the Divine Liturgy. Suddenly they saw that tears were flowing from the eyes of the icon of the Mother of God, and blood from the heads of the Apostles.
The amazed parishioners were not slow to see in this a sign of God’s anger at “the change in religion”, that they were baptizing Christ when He had not yet been born. The church authorities sent an archimandrite to convince the people that it was no sign from God but “an effluence from the wood, which is fir and is acted upon by excessive heat or also by… cold”! The archimandrite was laughed off the ambon. Finally, the authorities closed the church, preventing worshippers from entering. Today the church is denuded of icons and visited only by… tourists!
A critical turning-point in the history of the Greek Old Calendarist Church was the appearance of the sign of the Cross in the sky over an old calendarist monastery near Athens, which greatly encouraged the people in their faith that God was with them in the struggle against the innovators.
Bishop Lazarus (Puhalo) writes: “In 1925, on the eve of the Exaltation of the All-Honourable and Life-giving Cross of our Saviour, September 14 according to the Orthodox Church calendar [27 according to the new], the all-night vigil was served in the church of St. John the Theologian in suburban Athens. By 9 o’clock that evening, more than 2000 true Orthodox faithful had gathered in and around the church for the service, since very few true Orthodox churches had been accidentally left open by the civil authorities. Such a large gathering of people could not, however, go unnoticed by the authorities. Around eleven p.m. the authorities despatched a battalion of police to the church ‘to prevent any disorders which might arise from such a large gathering.’ The gathering was too large for the police to take any direct action or to arrest the priest at that time and so they mingled with the crowd of worshippers in the already over-flowing courtyard of the church.
“Then, regardless of the true motives for their presence, against their own will, but according to the Will which exceeds all human power, they became participants in the miraculous experience of the crowd of believers.
“At 11.30 there began to appear in the heavens above the church, in the direction of the North-East, a bright, radiant Cross of light. The light not only illuminated the church and the faithful but, in its rays, the stars of the clear, cloudless sky became dim and the church-yard was filled with an almost tangible light. The form of the Cross itself was an especially dense light and it could be clearly seen as a Byzantine cross with an angular cross bar towards the bottom. This heavenly miracle lasted for half an hour, until midnight, and then the Cross began slowly to raise up vertically, as the cross in the hands of the priests does in the ceremony of the Exaltation of the Cross in church. Having come straight up, the Cross began gradually to fade away.
“Human language is not adequate to convey what took place during the apparition. The entire crowd fell prostrate upon the ground with tears and began to sing hymns, praising the Lord with one heart and one mouth. The police were among those who wept, suddenly discovering, in the depths of their hearts, a childlike faith. The crowd of believers and battalion of police were transformed into one, unified flock of faithful. All were seized with a holy ecstasy.
“The vigil continued until four a.m., when all this human torrent streamed back into the city, carrying the news of the miracle because of which they were still trembling and weeping.
“Many of the unbelievers, sophists and renovationists, realizing their sin and guilt, but unwilling to repent, tried by every means to explain away or deny this miracle. The fact that the form of the cross had been so sharply and clearly that of the Byzantine Cross (sometimes called the Russian Cross), with three cross-bars, the bottom one at an angle, completely negated any arguments of accidental physical phenomena.
“The fact that such an apparition of the cross also occurred during the height of the first great heresy [Arianism – the reference is to the appearance of the sign of the Cross over Jerusalem in 351] must strike the Orthodox with an especial sense of the magnitude of the calendar question and of all that is connected with it. No sensible person can discuss this question lightly, with secular reasoning or with worldly arguments. Renovationists, like the Arians in 351, are left without extenuation or mitigation.”
The Romanian Old Calendarists
In other countries, too, the introduction of the new calendar was encountering resistance – more often from the people than from the bishops. The Russian people had already rejected the sly attempts of the Bolsheviks to introduce the new calendar the previous year. And Russian monks continued for several decades to struggle against the new calendar in the monastery of Valaam, which until the Second World War was in Finland and therefore in the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
“On September 25, 1925,” writes Schema-Monk Nicholas of Valaam, “there was a division of people in Valaam as to the ‘old’ and ‘new’ style. Many of the brothers remained true to the old style. Legal proceedings began. The church administration arrived; there was a court with Abbot Paulinus in charge. They began to summon the brothers one by one, and many were expelled from the monastery. Then my turn also came. I went into the room, and there sat Abbot Paulinus with others from the church administration. Father Abbot said, ‘Here is a slave of God; ask him.’ One of them said that he would speak and that everything should be recorded. They asked, ‘Do you accept Fr. Paulinus as Abbot?’ ‘Will you go to church services according to the new calendar?’ I could not answer this question; it was as if my tongue had become paralysed. They hesitated and said, ‘Well, why aren’t you answering?’ I couldn’t say anything. Then they said: ‘Well, go on, slave of God, and think this over.’
“I began to pray to the Mother of God, my ‘Surety’, in my heart. ‘Tell me and indicate my life’s path: Which side should I go to, the new or old style? Should I go to the cathedral or somewhere else?’ And I, the sinful one, prayed to the Mother of God during my obedience in the kitchen. When I finished my evening obedience, I went to my cell and thought in the simplicity of my heart, ‘Why don’t you answer me, Mother of God?’ But the grace of God did not abandon me, a sinner. He wants salvation for all. Suddenly the cathedral appeared before me, the same as it is: the same height, length and width. I was amazed at this miraculous apparition – how could it enter my small cell? But my inner voice said to me: ‘Everything is possible with God. There is nothing impossible for Him.’ ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘one must go to church in the cathedral according to the new style.’ Then, as I was thinking thus, a blue curtain came down from above, in the middle of which was a golden cross. The cathedral became invisible to me, and the inner voice said to me: ‘Go to the old style and hold to it.’ And I heard a woman’s voice coming from above the corner: ‘If you want to be saved, hold fast to the traditions of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers.’ And then the same thing was repeated a second time, and the third time the voice said: ‘If you want to be saved, keep fast to the tradition of the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers, but not these “wise” men.’ After this miracle, everything disappeared and I remained alone in my cell. My heart began to rejoice that the Lord had indicated the path of salvation to me, according to the prayers of the Mother of God.”
Especially heroic was the struggle of the Old Calendarists in Romania, where the new calendar was introduced in the same year as in Greece, October 1, 1924 becoming October 14. In reward for this, on February 4, 1925, the Romanian Church was proclaimed a patriarchate by Constantinople. And on November 1, Metropolitan Miron (Cristea), a former uniate, was enthroned as new calendar patriarch of Romania.
Resistance to the reform was particularly strong in Bessarabia, where, as we have seen, there had already been strong resistance to the union of Bessarabia with Romania and the removal of Church Slavonic from the churches. “The patriotically minded Bessarabian population,” writes Glazkov, “who took a very cautious attitude to any attempt by the Bessarabian authorities to liquidate the national particularities of the Moldavian people, met the reform with protests. ‘The Union of Orthodox Christians’ immediately condemned Metropolitan Gurias, who carried out the decision of the Synod, and began an active campaign against the new calendar style by publishing apologetic literature and conducting popular meetings and processions. Some of the Bessarabian priests who considered the reform of the calendar to be uncanonical supported the protests of the laity and rejected the Gregorian calendar. Around the churches where the Church Slavonic language and the Julian calendar were preserved (for example, the church of the Alexander Nevsky brotherhood), there gathered priests and laity. Thus in April, 1926 thousands of believers gathered at the church of St. Panteleimon in Kishinev for a pannikhida for Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II. Some priests openly celebrated all the feasts according to the old style in front of a large number of believers, which was defined by the authorities as rebellion, for many lay Old Calendarists were subjected to direct humiliations by the new style clergy. There was an attempt to build, in Kishinev, a church in direct submission to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who had remained faithful to the old style. According to the police, the majority of the population resisted the ecclesiastical reform, only individual parishes passed over to the Gregorian calendar. It is noteworthy that if, at the beginning, the civil authorities were quite conciliatory towards the Old Calendarists, allowing them to celebrate Pascha and other Church feasts according to the old and new styles, the official Romanian Church authorities took upon themselves police-fiscal functions in exposing and repressing them…”
In Bessarabia, or former Russian Moldavia, the leadership of the movement against the new style had been taken up by the white clergy and the city intelligentsia. In inner Moldavia, however, the leadership was taken up by the monks. The only bishop to oppose the reform was Bishop Gerasimus. He was told that if could not accept the new style, he should leave the country. So he left and went to live in Paris.
Out of the 14,000 parish priests, almost none stood up against the calendar reform. The only exception to this, as Metropolitan Blaise, the present chief-hierarch of the True Orthodox Church of Romania, writes, was “Archimandrite Galacteon (Kordun), who at that time was serving as parish priest in the metropolitan cathedral in Bucharest and who used to preach there when there was no bishop.
“… Fr. Galacteon, who later became our first metropolitan, fought against the reform, but was unable to do anything, since he was only an archimandrite. He was very capable, and had studied in Petersburg with the future Patriarchs Alexis of Moscow and Cyril of Bulgaria, graduating with the degree of doctor of theology. Later, in 1935, he was consecrated to the episcopate – they thought he had changed his views. Three bishops who had been consecrated before the change of calendar participated in the consecration, so [apostolic] succession was not broken…
“This is what happened, for example, in Neamt monastery, where St. Paisius Velichkovsky was once the abbot. When the reform took place there were about 2000 monks in the monastery, 800 of whom were clergy. This was the biggest monastery in Romania. It was here that the strongest movement against the new style arose. Two months before the reform the abbot warned the brotherhood: be careful, reforms are coming, do not accept them. This was as it were a prophecy. But out of the 800 hieromonks only 30 (not counting the monks) were against the reform; and of these 30 only 6 stood out openly in opposition – the rest did not separate for material reasons. By a decree of the metropolitan of Moldavia all the clergy who did not accept the new style were threatened with deposition, exile from the monastery and confiscation of their property – the man would be outlawed. Then a small group of monks with the most devoted and zealous priests left the monastery, and it is from this group that our Church begins its history. Neamt monastery as a whole accepted the new style, later they also renounced St. Paisius’ rule, for the keeping of which the monastery was renowned. Our monastery of Slatioara, which is not far from Niamt, inherited this rule and tradition.
“Here are the names of the (clerical) inhabitants of the monastery who resisted all their lives: Hieromonk Fr. Glycerius (later metropolitan), Hierodeacon David (the first abbot of the monastery at Slatioara), Hieromonk Pambo, Fr. Baruch, Fr. Gimnasius, Fr. Zosima, Fr. Gamaliel, Fr. Damascene, who died in the woods near the monastery. We also know the names of other monks of Neamt who resisted the new style. There were also nuns: Mother Macaria, who was the helper of the abbess of the biggest women’s monastery in the country, St. Agapia’s, which became new calendarist (it now has 450 nuns), and who with her nuns founded the first women’s monastery in our Church.
“The small groups of clergy and monastics of these men’s and women’s monasteries – the purest, who had God in their hearts and not their property, rejected the reforms and were driven out of the monasteries – had to live in the world. The pious laity who supported them became like bees constructing hives, the churches, while these clerics were like queen-bees. That was how our Church came into being.”
“Two months before the calendar change,” writes Metropolitan Blaise in another place, “something very momentous happened in the great Church of the Neamt Monastery. It was on the Eve of the Dormition of the Mother of God. The Ecclesiarch went to the Church to prepare all that was needed and to light the candles and kandelia for the Midnight Service. The weather was calm, with clear skies and numerous stars; no cloud was in sight. Suddenly, a great bolt of lightning cme down from the heavens and, passing through a window in the dome of the Church, struck in front of the Miracle-working Icon of the Mother of God. It hit the stone floor, and a section of stone collapsed; from the impact, the candlestand that was affixed to this slab in front of the Icon was knocked over. When the Fathers and Brothers came to Church, the Priest who was serving told them what had happened; seeing the damage done by the lightning strike, they all concluded that it was a Divine sign.
“Here is another incident. When Father Glycherie reached the Coroi Ravine, a spiritual uneasiness overcame him. One night, after lengthy prayer, he was beset by heavy thoughts. ‘How is it possible,’ he said, ‘that in our country many Priests with advanced theological training, together with a large number of intellectuals, are leaving the Old Calendar, as it was bequeathed to the people by the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, who have honored it from times of old? Should I not abandon the Old Calendar and be one of these? Am I making a mistake before God by not changing?’ Late in the night, he had a beautiful vision: from the West, a dark cloud appeared; it tried to cover the whole world and was moving furiously towards the East, howling like a monster. In front of the cloud, a powerful storm formed, adorned with a chain as black as tar, on which black Crosses appeared. Everyone was frightened. But looking towards the East, he saw a snow-white cloud, glittering like gold; before it was a chain of gold, from which there were hanging Crosses of gold.
“A choir of Hierarchs also appeared – all with golden vestments, - walking towards the black cloud. In a designated place, the two clouds collided and the dark cloud fell; and in its place, a sea of water appeared, engulfing the earth…”
Metropolitan Cyprian writes: “The Romanian Patriarchate, both in 1926 and 1929, celebrated Pascha with the Latins, constituting an infringement of the Orthodox tradition of centuries. Indeed, on the second occasion that this was done, Patriarch Miron, having the undivided support of the Uniate (Greek-Catholic) prime minister, Julius Maniu, and several others among the clergy, compelled all of the Romanian Metropolises to proceed with the common celebration of Pascha with the Papists, a fact which evoked great commotion in the ranks of the Romanian Church. Metropolitan Gurias of Bessarabia openly criticized Miron and, ignoring the Patriarchal decree, ordered his churches to celebrate with the other autocephalous Orthodox Churches (i.e. with the entire Orthodox world, with the exception of the innovative Church of Finland). Patriarch Miron’s action also scandalized these other Orthodox Churches, many of which reacted in protest. As well, the White Russian clergy of Bucharest took a particularly strong position during those trying days, ignoring the Patriarchal order and celebrating Pascha in accordance with the traditional canonical decrees.
“The uncanonical and un-Orthodox celebration of Pascha with the Latins deeply grieved the reverent Romanians, many of whom returned to the Old Calendar. Among them were three Hieromonks, as well as two Romanian Priest-monks who had returned to Romania from Mt. Athos. Hieromonk Glycerius, who had taken a leading position in the Old Calendar movement from the beginning, began to build churches in the vicinity of Neamt Monastery. The first was established in the village of Vanatori. By 1936 he had built about forty large churches, the majority of them in Moldavia.”
The Romanian monks on Mount Athos fully supported their Old Calendarist fellow-countrymen in the homeland. Thus in 1930, “there arrived in the Moldavian skete [of the Forerunner] from Romania one of the skete’s hieromonks, Simeon, a fifty-year-old who had been sent by Patriarch Miron to propagandise the new style on Athos. He brought with him a lot of money… from Romania. He also brought with him from Romania a lawyer, who was armed with an agreement obtained in Athens to conduct negotiations over the return of the metochion on the island of Tasso. The skete-dwellers received him with honour. They promised to gather the brotherhood and speak to them in the church about accepting the new style. But they prepared a trap for him. They summoned him to the hall, cut off his beard and pigtail, took the money sent for propaganda, put a jacket and hat on him and drove him out.. He appealed to the police in Karyes [the capital of Athos] for help, but they replied that this did not come within the compass of their responsibilities. This was the end of the propaganda for the new style on Athos. This was already the Romanians’ second piece of trickery. The first time they had received a letter from the patriarch suggesting that they change to the new style. The skete-dwellers, on receiving this letter, served a triumphant all-night vigil, and, on the next day, a liturgy with a moleben, after which they pronounced an anathema on the patriarch, composing an official document which they sent on to him.”
In 1925 Metropolitan Anastasy of Kishinev wrote to Protopriest Vladimir Polyakov saying that he still considered himself head of the Bessarabian Church and was waiting for the opportunity to return there. In 1930 he concelebrated with Fr. Glycerius in Jerusalem…
The Confessors of Greece and Mount Athos
Let us now briefly recount the history of the persecution of the True Orthodox (or “Old Calendarists”) in the next few years:-
On October 25, 1925, four nuns from the monastery of St. Pelagia on the island of Tinos were sent for trial before an ecclesiastical court for breaking communion with the new calendarists. The court decreed that they should be exiled, but they ignored this order and continued to carry out missionary work among the pilgrims who came to venerate the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God on Tinos. On April 14, 1926, three of them were sent for trial in Athens. During the trial, Bishop Sinesius of Thebes said to one of the nuns, Abbess Eupraxia, who was also his cousin: “If you do not repent and accept the decision of the Holy Synod concerning the calendar, I personally will take off your cassock.” “I grieve,” replied the abbess, “that kindred blood flows in our veins, and that you have broken your hierarchical oath. I will say just one thing to you: ‘I prefer to go to Paradise in coloured clothes but Orthodox, than to be in hell in my cassock but together with schismatics!’ Seven hierarchs under the presidency of Chrysostom Papadopoulos sentenced the nuns to be deprived of their monastic schema and excommunicated. Then the ten leading zealots in the monastery were expelled. But the rest continued the struggle.
On Great Thursday, 1926, 450 hieromonks and monks on Mount Athos led by the Romanian Fr. Arsenius Kotteas signed “The Sacred League of the Zealot Monks” for the defence of Orthodoxy against the new calendar. In the same year the League published its Constitutional Charter under the heading “The Anchor of Orthodoxy” until it was banned by a new Charter for Mount Athos ratified by the Greek government in 1927. This did not stop the zealot monks, however, who initiated a vigorous campaign against the new calendar throughout Greece. This led to the expulsion of nineteen zealots from the sketes of Vatopedi and Koutloumousiou in 1927. Some were allowed to circulate freely through Greece, while others were confined to a monastery in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos.
In 1926 the “Association of the Orthodox” in Athens was replaced by the “Greek Religious Community of the True Orthodox Christians”. This Community now joined with the Athonite Sacred League to work for the return of the Orthodox Calendar. In 1926, Hieromonk Matthew (Karpadakis), the confessor of three of the Athonite monasteries, went to Athens to help the True Orthodox there, and in 1929 the Sacred League sent two more hieromonks.
The spirit of the zealot monks is well caught in the following excerpt from the life of the zealot monk Habbakuk “the barefoot”: “After the adoption of the new calendar, a large number of Athonite Fathers decided to stop commemorating their bishop, who was subject to the Patriarch, and to break communion with the latter and with every church that accepted the innovation of the new calendar or even continued to be in communion with the innovators. But the majority of the monks did not dare to subscribe to this decision; whence the schism which continues to this day and whose effects are felt more and more acutely. At the beginning, twenty-four monks from the monastery of the Great Lavra rebelled, among whom was the peaceable Habbakuk.
“The quarrel was so intense that shouting could be heard even in the courtyard of the monastery. For a place in which a tranquil calm had reigned only shortly before, it was a harsh trial that suddenly flared up. Father Habbakuk shut himself in his cell. Prayer-rope in his hand, he prayed without ceasing that God bring back peace to sorely tried Athos. The monks who were faithful to Tradition continued, as before, to work in the monastery, but since they could no longer accept the commemoration of the patriarch they were not in communion of prayer with the other Fathers and celebrated separately, in a large chapel which had been granted them. Soon Fr. Habbakuk was exiled for a certain period to Vigla, to the cave of St. Athanasius. But very quickly the Fathers, seeing how noble his cause was and how much they loved him, could not stand it any longer and asked for his recall to the monastery. This time he was given the service of nurse; he was attached to the great hospital which the Lavra had for the numerous old or sick members of the community…
“However, the evil one again lay in wait. Soon his position as an old calendarist brought the elder a second exile to the cave of St. Athanasius. It was not long, however, before the sick complained: the nurse who had replaced Fr. Habbakuk did not have the strength to follow the routine of his predecessor in the very testing service of helping the sick. For Fr. Habbakuk was known to have a very strong constitution, he was the most dedicated worker of them all and never felt tired. So the sick very quickly got him back through their supplications! And one should have seen the enthusiasm with which the monks and the sick, who all loved him, reserved for his return.
“At the beginning of 1927 the community wanted to put an end, once and for all, to the pitiless quarrel which would end by destroying the monastery. And to assure them of a better success, they sent a written invitation to the governor, asking him to come and preside over the synaxis of the elders which would debate the question of the zealots faithful to the calendar of the Fathers for the last time. At the suggestion of a brother doctor, Fr. Athanasius Kambanaou, who was himself a zealot, they had elected Fr. Habbakuk to represent these Fathers. All the elders were present with the governor in the chair.
“He immediately asked Habbakuk: ‘Father, how do you explain your deserting a community in the heart of which you had previously sown anarchy? And tell me: why are you not in communion with the other Fathers?’ Fr. Habbakuk replied with meekness and humility: ‘Has your Excellency the Governor read the holy canons of the Rudder?’ ‘And what does the Rudder say, Father?’ asked the other. Fr. Habbakuk replied promptly: ‘If you don’t know it, Sir, go and read it first. Then you can come and judge us.’
“Judging that this reply constituted a grave insult to authority, the synaxis immediately exiled its author to the holy monastery of Xeropotamou. Poor Habbakuk was driven out of his place of repentance for the third time.
“About two months later, he was recalled from his exile. That day, which was March 9, they even asked him to be present at an all-night vigil with the governor. And in the morning, immediately after the service which had lasted all night, the governor mounted his mule and hurried back in haste to Karyes. Then Fr. Habbakuk, seeing an opportunity to make him hear the voice of reason, took the animal by the halter and set off on the path with him. And as they were going along he spoke to him as he knew how. He explained to him in a gentle way which had its effect on the author why the Fathers of the Holy Mountain were opposed to the change in the calendar, and he made him see how the ecclesiastical texts formed a good basis and justification for such an opposition. Very soon the governor was moved by the simplicity and childlike enthusiasm which Habbakuk put in his words, as well as by his admirable mastery of Holy Scripture. And it did not take him long to come to the conclusion that he was dealing with a virtuous man who was in love with an ideal. So immediately he arrived at Karyes he asked for the zealot to be returned without delay to his home monastery. Some days later, the Great Lavra received Habbakuk into its bosom again.
“However, his return did not take place without disappointment. Of the zealot fathers who had been his companions in the struggle, almost all had fled, some of their own free will and others constrained by force. And the few who remained had hastened to rejoin the Catholicon. From then on, Fr. Habbakuk had no peace until the day when, with one of the brothers who also loved the virtues, he left the monastery…
“Thus it was his love for the apostolic Tradition of the Church, a pure and disinterested love which was proof against tribulations and penalties, that always made him struggle to discern the will of God in everything. It was this love that had merited him exile to Vigla. But he had his reward: for it was also there, in the solitude of Vigla, that he was granted a multitude of spiritual goods, goods which were clearly not earned without sweat and grief, but which were great gifts for all that.
“… One day a monk whom he loved very much, Fr. Ephraim who was from the Great Lavra like himself, asked why he had become a zealot. He was given a reply full of a frank realism: ‘Because God will call me to account; he will say: “Habbakuk, you knew the law of the Church, how did you come to trample it underfoot?’ And he added that the new calendar was a ‘sacrifice of Cain’.”
In 1926, in the village of Nicetas in Khalkidiki, the True Orthodox priest, Archimandrite Hilarion Ouzounopoulos, was arrested and given three months in prison in spite of the resistance of his parishioners. Fr. Hilarion was called a “counter-revolutionary”. From this it is evident that the True Orthodox in Greece shared not only their name and their faith but even the form of their accusation with the True Orthodox of Russia.
At Christmas in the year 1926, Chrysostom Papadopoulos ordered the closing of the True Orthodox church of St. Parasceva, Aiantios on the island of Salamis. So the priest, Fr. Christopher Psillides, decided to celebrate the Divine Liturgy outside, opposite the doors of the church, in spite of the December cold. The ecclesiastical authorities on the island sent some sailors to the church to seize the priest, but after arriving and surrounding the worshippers they decided to disobey orders and go back.
In Thessalonica on the Sunday of the Samaritan woman, 1927, Fr. Stergius Liouras, the married priest of the True Orthodox Church of the Three Hierarchs, was arrested after the Liturgy on the orders of the new calendarist metropolitan. In 1935 he was again seized on the order of the same metropolitan and beaten by the police. He died a few days later.
On November 21, 1927, the local authorities moved to arrest the priest of the True Church in Mandra, Attica. However, the parishioners formed a wall to defend their pastor, and in the ensuing scuffle a young married woman, Catherine Routti, was fatally wounded. She died on November 28, the first martyr of the Old Calendarist movement in Greece.
On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 1928, on the orders of Chrysostom Papadopoulos, police came to seize the priest of the True Orthodox church of St. Marina, Liopesi, Attica. The priest escaped, but several parishioners were taken to Koropi prison.
On April 22, 1928, Hieromonk Arsenius Sakellarios was taken to Lamia police station. Then the local new calendarist metropolitan put him on public trial, at which he was officially defrocked and the hair of his beard and head cut off. Then he was released.
On April 7, 1929, the Annunciation Liturgy at the True Orthodox church of the Annunciation, Kertezi, Kalavryta, was forbidden by the police because the priest did not have the permission of the local new calendarist metropolitan. The church was besieged, and the chief of police on horseback threatened to shoot the whole congregation. But the people refused to hand over their priest, saying, “We’ll all die with him”. The policeman took out his revolver, but the people stood firm. Eventually he had to give in.
In 1929, on the feast of St. George according to the new calendar, Fr. Nicholas, the new calendarist priest of the church of the Forerunner, Mesoropi, Pangaion was struck by the incongruity of celebrating the feast of St. George during the period of the Great Fast (something that never happens according to the Orthodox Calendar). He went to his local bishop and asked him for permission to celebrate the feast of St. George according to the Orthodox Calendar. The bishop gave permission. However, when Fr. Nicholas continued to celebrate according to the old calendar, a persecution was stirred up against him. And as he felt the approach of death, he told his parishioners: “When I die and they stop you from burying me in the cemetery, bury me in my garden. But if they come and take my body away by force, I adjure you not to follow my funeral procession!”
The new calendarists set the date of Fr. Nicholas’ trial for November, but he died on October 19. The new calendarists came to bury him, but his widow refused to hand over his body. Then the new calendarist bishop came to the town, and sent a priest to the widow. He, too, was rebuffed.
Then the True Orthodox laypeople began to bury their pastor in his garden, as he had ordered. But then the bishop came with police and forbade the burial, ordering the police to seize the body. The parishioners at first resisted, but then, not wanting bloodshed, they kissed the body, threw some earth on it and then allowed it to be taken away.
While the Greek confessors were suffering in this way, the Eastern Patriarchs were one by one entering into communion with Metropolitan Sergius in Russia. Sergius’ church organisation was legalised by the authorities in August, 1927, after which first Patriarch Damian of Jerusalem, then Patriarch Gregory of Antioch and then, in December, Patriarch Basil III of Constantinople wrote to Sergius recognising him – although Basil did not immediately break relations with the renovationists. Thus did the traitors of Orthodoxy in the Greek- and Russian-speaking Churches join hands over the tortured minds and bodies of the True Orthodox Christians.
Not Bowing the Knee to Baal
Although the people with their few priests were essentially alone in openly opposing the calendar change, there were still some who had not “bowed the knee to Baal” in “the king’s palace” – the hierarchy headed by Chrysostom Papadopoulos.
Thus Metropolitan Germanus of Demetrias protested against the introduction of the new calendar and held it in abeyance in his diocese until February 15, 1928. Again, “on July 2, 1929, in the presence of forty-four metropolitans, Chrysostom suddenly demanded the immediate signature of the hierarchs present to a report he had prepared approving the calendar change and condemning those who stayed with the old. This satanic plan of Chrysostom’s was opposed by the metropolitans of Kassandreia, Maronia, Ioannina, Druinopolis, Florina, Demetrias, Samos and Khalkis. When the archbishop insisted, thirteen hierarchs left, while of the fifty-one who remained twenty-seven against four signed Chrysostom’s report.” Indeed, it was the hope that the State Church would eventually return to the Julian Calendar, that persuaded those bishops who later joined the True Orthodox to stay where they were for the time being.
Bishop Ephraim writes that at a “Pre-Council” held at the monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos in 1930, “the representatives of the Serbian and Polish Churches (the Churches of Russia, Georgia, and Bulgaria were not represented at the council; Russia and Georgia were not present because, at the time, they were weathering the third wave of persecutions under Stalin, Bulgaria was not present because the ‘Bulgarian schism’ was still in effect) asked for a separate chapel. When the Greeks insisted that they all celebrate together the Slavs refused, excusing themselves by saying that the language was different, as well as the typicon, and that there would be confusion. The Greeks kept insisting and the Slavs kept refusing, and in fact, to the end of the council, the two did not concelebrate, and it became clear that the Slavs considered the calendar issue important enough at the time to separate themselves from the Greeks. When they said that their typicon was different, the calendar obviously weighed heavily as a part of that difference…
“In fact the Serbian Church even supported the Old Calendarist movement in Greece by sending them Chrism across the border secretly.”
During this council Bishop Nicholas (Velimirovich) of Ochrid vehemently defended the Orthodox Calendar, declaring that the 1923 Congress which approved the new calendar had created a schism. “Does the present assembly,” he said, “have any relation to the Pan-Orthodox Congress of Constantinople, from which the anomalies known to us all proceeded? The Church of Serbia was stunned when she saw the decisions of that Congress put into practice.”
Again, in 1929 the Russian Metropolitan Innocent of Peking wrote an open letter on the calendar question in which he said: “In the Church of Christ there is nothing of little value, nothing unimportant, for in every custom there is incarnate the Spirit of God, by Whom the Church lives and breathes. Does not everyone who dares to rise up against the customs and laws of the Church, which are based on sacred Tradition and Scripture, rise up against the Spirit of God and thereby show to all who have eyes to see of what spirit he is? Worthily and rightly does the Holy Church consign such people to anathema.”
But these were foreign bishops; in Greece there was no bishop serving according to the Julian calendar. However, the number of True Orthodox parishes in Greece had multiplied (800 were founded in the years 1926-30 alone), and, helped by a parliamentary decree of 1931 granting freedom of worship to the Old Calendarists, the numbers of the faithful had swelled to over 200,000 by October, 1934. Moreover, by that time it was becoming clear even to many new calendarist hierarchs and theologians that the introduction of the new calendar had been an unmitigated disaster.
The disastrous consequences of the innovation have been summarized by Nicetas Anagnostopoulos as follows: “The Greek Church infringed on the dogma of the spiritual unity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for which the Divine Founder had prayed, because it separated itself in the simultaneous celebration of the feasts and observance of the fasts from the other Orthodox Churches and the Orthodox world, 8/10ths of which follows the Old Calendar (the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Holy Mountain, Russia, Serbia and others).
“In Divine worship it has divided the pious Greek people into two worshipping camps, and has divided families and introduced the simultaneous feasts of Orthodox and heretics (Catholics, Protestants and others) as well as confusion and disorder into the divine Orthodox Worship handed down by the Fathers.
“It has transferred the immovable religious feasts and the great fasts, handed down from ages past, of Christmas, the Mother of God and the Holy Apostles, reducing the fast of the Apostles until it disappears when it coincides with the feast of All Saints; and has removed the readings from the Gospel and Apostle from the Sunday cycle.
“From this it becomes evident that the Calendar is not an astronomical question, as the innovators of the Church of Greece claim in their defence, but quite clearly a religious question, given that it is indissolubly bound up with the worshipping, and in general with the religious life of the Orthodox Christian.
“Through the calendar innovation the new calendarist Church has transgressed, not only the perennial Ecclesiastical Tradition of the Patristic and Orthodox Calendar, and not only the above-mentioned Apostolic command [II Thessalonians 2.15; Galatians 1.8-9] and the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council concerning the anathematisation of those who violate the Sacred Tradition [“If anyone violates any ecclesiastical tradition, written or unwritten, let him be anathema”], but also the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Patriarchal Councils of the years 1583, 1587 and 1593 under the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II and of 1848 under the Ecumenical Patriarch Anthimus, which condemned and anathematized the Gregorian calendar.
“It has also transgressed the Sacred Canons which order the keeping and observance of the Sacred Traditions, which are: a) the Third of the Council of Carthage, b) the Twenty-First of the Council of Gangra, and c) the Ninety-First and Ninety-Second of St. Basil the Great, as well as the Forty-Seventh canon of the Council of Laodicea, which forbids the concelebration with heretics, which is what the Latins and the Protestants are, and the First of the Seventh Ecumenical Council concerning the steadfast observance of the complete array of the divine Canons.”
Nor did the new calendarists lack direct warnings from the Heavenly Church that the path they had embarked on was false.
One such warning was given to the new calendarist Bishop Arsenius of Larissa on December 12/25, 1934, the feast of St. Spirydon according to the Old Calendar, but Christmas according to the new calendar.
“In the morning the bishop went by car to celebrate the Liturgy in his holy church. When he arrived there, he saw a humble, aged, gracious Bishop with a panagia on his breast. Arsenius said to him: ‘Brother, come, let’s proclaim the joyful letters of Christmas and then I will give you hospitality.’
“The humble Bishop replied: ‘You must not proclaim those letters but mine, St. Spirydon’s!’ Then Arsenius got angry and said: ‘I’m inviting you and you’re despising me. Go away then.’
“Arsenius went into the church, venerated the icons and sat in his throne. When the time for the katavasias came, he sang the first katavasia, and then told the choir to sing the second. Arsenius began to say the third, but suddenly felt anxious and unwell. He motioned to the choir to continue and went into the altar, where they asked him: ‘What’s the matter, master?’ He replied: ‘I don’t feel well.’
“When Arsenius’ indisposition increased, they carried him to his house, where his condition worsened, and the next day he died. He had been punished by God for his impious disobedience to St. Spirydon. This miracle is known by the older Orthodox faithful of Larissa.”
Three Holy Priests
During this early period of the struggle against the new calendar, many people sympathized with the True Orthodox but did not join them because they did not yet have bishops. Others continued to worship according to the Orthodox Calendar without openly breaking communion with the new calendarists. Among the latter were two holy priests, Fr. Nicholas Planas of Athens and Fr. Jerome of Aegina.
Fr. Nicholas was the priest who was called to conduct a service of Holy Water to bless the “Society of the Orthodox”, which effectively marked the beginning of the Old Calendarist struggle. At that service he said: “Whatever has been done uncanonically cannot stand – it will fall.” And he celebrated according to the Orthodox Calendar until his death in 1932.
Once “he wanted to serve according to the traditional Calendar on the feast of the Prophet Elisseus [Elisha]. But since he feared that obstacles might arise, he agreed with his assistant priest the night before to go and serve at Saint Spyridon’s in Mantouka. In the morning his chantress went to Saint Spyridon’s and waited for him. Time passed and it looked as though the priest was not going to come to serve. She despaired. She supposed that something serious had happened to him, and that was why he hadn’t come. She left and went to Prophet Elisseus’ (because the ‘information center’ was there), to ask what had happened to the priest, and there, she saw him in the church preparing to celebrate the Liturgy! She chided him for breaking the agreement which they had made, and asked furthermore why he was not afraid, but came there in the center, right in the midst of the seething persecution. He said to her, ‘Don’t scold me, because this morning I saw the Prophet and he told me to come here to serve and not to fear anything, because he will watch over me.’ His helper was left with her argument unfinished! ‘But, how did you see him?’ she asked him. He told her, ‘I got up this morning and got ready for Saint Spyridon’s. I was sitting in an armchair while they brought me a carriage. At that moment I saw Prophet Elisseus before me, and he told me to go to his church to celebrate the Liturgy!’…
“Another example similar to that of Papa-Nicholas is that of the priestmonk Jerome of Aegina, who followed the same path. Shortly after his ordination to the priesthood, a year or so before the calendar change, Fr. Jerome ceased from serving because of a vision that was granted him during the Liturgy. According to some accounts this occurred within forty days of his ordination. He continued to preach, however, at a hospital chapel where he lived, and which he himself had built there on the island of Aegina. Although this chapel officially was under the new calendar diocese of Aegina, Fr. Jerome always celebrated the feast days according to the traditional ecclesiastical calendar… Although he himself did not serve as a priest, nevertheless, because of his saintliness and his popularity among the people and because of the obvious gifts of the Holy Spirit which he possessed, he had great influence among the faithful who looked to him for direction and guidance. This came to the ears of Procopius, the Bishop of Hydra and Aegina. As a result, the bishop sent word to Fr. Jerome that he was going to come and impose on him to concelebrate with him. Up to this time, Fr. Jerome had sought to remain faithful to the Church’s tradition and to his conscience without making an issue of it publicly or in street demonstrations. He saw, however, that the bishop was determined to create an issue now and force him into communion with him. As a result, Fr. Jerome sent the bishop a short note and resigned from the diocese, saying among other things: ‘I ask you to accept my resignation from the Hospital, because from 1924 and thence, my longing, as well as my zeal, has been for the Orthodox Church and Faith. From my childhood I revered Her, and dedicated all my life to Her, in obedience to the traditions of the Godbearing Fathers. I confess and proclaim the calendar of the Fathers to be the correct one, even as You Yourself acknowledge…’”
An especially active role in the struggle was played by Hieromonk Matthew (Karpadakes), who in 1927, in response to a Divine vision, founded the women’s Monastery of the Mother of God at Keratea, Attica, which soon became the largest monastery in Greece.
In 1934 he wrote: “For every Christian there is nothing more honourable in this fleeting life than devout faith in the Master of all things, our Lord Jesus Christ. For what else can save the soul from death, that is, from the condemnation of eternal punishment, than this faultless Orthodox Christian Faith of ours, about which the Lord speaks clearly, saying: ‘He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned’ (Mark 16.16). This Faith was compared by the Lord to a valuable treasure which a man found hidden in a field and to buy which he sold all his possessions (Matthew 13.13).
“Therefore the blessed Apostle Jude exhorts everyone ‘to contend for the Faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Catholic epistle, v. 3). And the divine Apostle made such an exhortation because there were appearing at that time men of deceit, the vessels of Satan, guileful workers, who sow tares in the field of the Lord, and who attempt to overturn the holy Faith in Christ. Concerning the men of impiety and perdition, the holy Apostle went on to write: ‘For admission has been secretly gained by some who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.’ Because of these innovators and despisers of the Faith in the Holy Church of God which has been handed down to us, the Apostle of the Gentiles and Walker in heavenly places Paul hurled a terrible anathema, saying: ‘If any one preaches to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed’ (Galatians 1.9).
“Therefore our Lord in the Holy Gospel cries to all His faithful servants: ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… Take heed that no one leads you astray… And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.’ (Matthew 7.15,16, 24.4,11)
“Against these innovating false-bishops and their followers the synodical decrees of the Church through the Most Holy Patriarchs declare that ‘whoever has wished to add or take away one iota – let him be seven times anathema’…
“Thus with what great attention should every Orthodox Christian care for the valuable treasures of the Faith, so as to keep it undefiled, as the divine Apostles and Godbearing Fathers handed it down to us, and that he should struggle to preserve the state which is fitting for Christians of penitence, the fear of God, good works; for we live in an age in which, as the Evangelist John says, so many antichrists have appeared. He writes: ‘Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.’ (I John 2.18-19)
“… Those who govern the Church of Greece today have, together with the clergy who follow them, persisted in error, kakodoxy, schism, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the heresy of the Papist calendar! And they have led the people into error and become ‘heresiarch’ hierarchs according to the divine Fathers!
“… What great wealth of the grace of God is brought into the soul of the Christian by a little patience in afflictions! Although the holy martyrs, confessors and righteous ones passed their lives in persecutions and afflictions, nevertheless they endured and triumphed over this world which ‘lies in evil’ and found the unfading glory of the Kingdom of the Heavens, because they hoped in the Lord. Our Fathers hoped and were not ashamed, for the unlying mouth of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ confirmed: ‘Behold, I am with you all the days of your life until the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28.20) That is why the Church of Christ, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, although furiously persecuted by the Jews, the idolators, the pseudo-wise, the atheist heretics and in general by the organs of the devil, emerged always victorious and resplendent. ‘In truth nothing is stronger than the Church’; for Her Founder and Head is the God Who became man for our sakes, He Who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit is worshipped and glorified in heaven and on earth, He Who is blessed to the ages. As every Christian can see, Orthodoxy is passing through a terrible winter. Piety is persecuted, virtue is derided, Church tradition is scorned. It is frightful that Shepherds of the Church should turn into Her persecutors.
“St. Basil the Great once wrote: ‘The one crime that is severely avenged is the strict keeping of the patristic traditions… No white hair is venerable to the judges of injustice, no pious asceticism, no state according to the Gospel from youth to old age… To our grief we see our feasts upturned, our houses of prayer closed, our altars of spiritual worship unused.’ All this has now come upon us. Many and clearly to be seen by all are the great evils that the anticanonical renovationists introduced into the menology and calendar of the Orthodox Church. Schisms, divisions, the overthrow of good order and complete confusion, violation of the most ancient laws of the Church, a great scandal for the conscience of the faithful were the consequences, though anathemas on those who violate ‘any ecclesiastical tradition, whether written or unwritten’ had been sounded by the Holy Ecumenical Councils. On the basis of the apostolic maxim, ‘Obey those who have the rule over you and submit to them’ (Hebrews. 13.7), the Shepherds of the Church who support this anticanonical innovation expect absolute obedience from the fullness of the Church. But how can the true children of the Church obey those who at the same moment disobey the holy Fathers, of whom the prophet says: ‘The Lord chose them to love them’, and do not venerate the Church’s established order that has been handed down and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, while the Lord says concerning them: ‘He who hears you hears Me, and he who despises you despises Me. And he who despises Me despises Him Who sent Me’? How can pious Christians shut their ears to the voices and work of such great Saints of God, and so be deprived of the praise and blessing of the Holy Trinity, which we hear in the mouth of the Apostle Paul himself: ‘I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you’ (I Corinthians 11.2); thereby receiving diverse and strange teachings ‘according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ’ (Colossians 2.8), inventions of men in which there lurks a special danger for the soul? The faithful children of the Church, with fear of God in regard to the commandment of the Holy Spirit: ‘Stand firm and hold to the traditions’ (II Thessalonians 2.15), and in conformity with the other commandment: ‘Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it’ (II Timothy. 3.14), have a reverent and Godpleasing answer to give to the unproved claims of today’s innovating shepherds with regard to obedience: ‘We must obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5.29).
The Return of the Three Bishops
Now the True Orthodox Christians both in Greece and in Romania conducted the first phase of their struggle against the innovating State Churches without bishops. This was a severe handicap, for while it is better, as St. Basil says, to have no bishop than a bad one, the absence of bishops endangers the long-term survival of a Church for the simple reason that without a bishop it is impossible to ordain priests. Moreover, those in the camp of the innovators who secretly sympathize with the confessors are less likely to cross over to the latter if they have no bishops.
However, as we have seen, pressure for a return to the Julian Calendar had been building up within the State Church; and in May, 1935 eleven bishops decided to return to the Julian calendar. However, pressure was exerted on them, and eight withdrew at the last moment. This left three: Metropolitan Germanus of Demetrias, the retired Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina (who had already distinguished himself in the early 1920s by refusing to recognize the election of Meletius Metaxakis) and Metropolitan Chrysostom of Zakynthos (who was accepted by the first two by the laying-on of hands, since he had been consecrated after the calendar change)..
On May 25, 1935, the Community of the True Orthodox Christians invited the three metropolitans to break communion with the State Church and take up the leadership of the True Orthodox Christians. They responded positively, and on Sunday, May 26, in the Community’s little church of the Dormition at Colonus, Athens, and in the presence of 25,000 faithful, they formally announced their adherence to the True Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Germanus was elected president of the new Synod. This joyful event was the people’s reward for their steadfast confession of the Faith and the necessary condition for the further success of the sacred struggle of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece.
The three metropolitans then issued a Confession of Faith in which they declared, among other things: “Those who now administer the Church of Greece have divided the unity of Orthodoxy through the calendar innovation, and have split the Greek Orthodox People into two opposing calendar parts. They have not only violated an Ecclesiastical Tradition which was consecrated by the Seven Ecumenical Councils and sanctioned by the age-old practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church, but have also touched the Dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Therefore those who now administer the Greek Church have, by their unilateral, anticanonical and unthinking introduction of the Gregorian calendar, cut themselves off completely from the trunk of Orthodoxy, and have declared themselves to be in essence Schismatics in relation to the Orthodox Churches which stand on the foundation of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Orthodox laws and Traditions, the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Serbia, Poland, the Holy Mountain and the God-trodden Mountain of Sinai, etc.
“That this is so was confirmed by the Commission made up of the best jurists and theologian-professors of the National University which was appointed to study the calendar question, and one of whose members happened to be his Blessedness the Archbishop of Athens in his then capacity as professor of Church History in the National University.
“Let us see what was the opinion given by this Commission on the new calendar: ‘Although all the Orthodox Churches are autocephalous in their internal administration, nevertheless, in that they are united to each other through the Dogmas and the Synodical decrees and Canons, none of them can separate itself off as an individual Orthodox Church and accept the new Church calendar without being considered Schismatic in relation to the others.’
“Since his Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens has by his own signature declared himself to be a Schismatic, what need do we have of witnesses to demonstrate that he and the hierarchs who think like him have become Schismatics, in that they have split the unity of Orthodoxy through the calendar innovation and divided the Ecclesiastical and ethnic soul of the Greek Orthodox People?”
This very important document was confirmed as expressing the Faith of the True Orthodox Church in several subsequent Confessions (notably those of 1950, 1974 and 1991). It declares that the new calendarists are not only schismatics but also, by clear implication, heretics in that (through ecumenism, the real goal of the calendar innovation) they have attacked the dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Concerning the meaning of the word “schismatic”, the three metropolitans made themselves crystal clear in an encyclical issued on June 8/21, 1935: “We recommend to all those who follow the Orthodox Calendar that they have no spiritual communion with the schismatic church of the schismatic ministers, from whom the grace of the All-Holy Spirit has fled, because they have violated the decisions of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council and the Pan-Orthodox Councils which condemned the Gregorian calendar. That the schismatic Church does not have Grace and the Holy Spirit is affirmed by St. Basil the Great, who says the following: ‘Even if the Schismatics have erred about things which are not Dogmas, since the head of the Church is Christ, according to the divine Apostle, from Whom all the members live and receive spiritual increase, they have torn themselves away from the harmony of the members of the Body and no longer are members [of that Body] or have the grace of the Holy Spirit. Therefore he who does not have it cannot transfer it to others.’”
By a “coincidence” rich in symbolical meaning, it was precisely at this time – June, 1935 – that the Turkish law banning Orthodox clergy from wearing their religious garb came into effect. Although this regulation was strongly resented by the Ecumenical Patriarch Photius, the lower clergy greeted it with delight, shouting: “Long live Ataturk!” And indeed, deprived now of the inner vestment of grace, and governed by “human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2.8), it was only fitting that the Patriarchate should lose even the outer sign of its former glory.
On May 23, 24, 25 and 26, 1935, the three metropolitans consecrated four new bishops: Germanus (Varykopoulos) of the Cyclades, Christopher (Hatzi) of Megara, Polycarp (Liosi) of Diauleia, and Matthew (Karpadakis) of Bresthena. For this they were tried in an ecclesiastical court by the State Church, and exiled by the police to three different monasteries.
At a later trial the four newly consecrated bishops were also condemned and defrocked. Two of them – Polycarp of Diauleia and Christopher of Megara – then petitioned the State Church for clemency, but the remaining two – Germanus of the Cyclades and Matthew of Bresthena – refused to recognize the decision of the court. Germanus was then exiled, while Matthew was hidden by his spiritual children in the Monastery of Keratea.
The exiled Chrysostom of Zakynthos soon repented and was restored to his metropolia by the State Church. However, in October the two other metropolitans were freed before time by the government (a minister, G. Kondyles, sympathized with the True Orthodox).
Signs from Heaven
In December, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina set off for Jerusalem and Damascus in order to discuss the possibility of convening a Council to resolve the calendar question. The two Patriarchs received him kindly and promised to help towards this goal. However, as he prepared to return to Greece, the Greek consul in Jerusalem, acting under orders from Athens, refused to stamp a visa into his passport.
For several months Metropolitan Chrysostom languished in Jerusalem as a virtual prisoner of the Greek consul. But Divine Providence, through the intercessions of “the liberator of captives”, St. George, found a way out for him. This miracle was recounted by Chrysostom himself as follows:
“I was depressed by my captivity since I had no information about how the Sacred Struggle was going and did not know what would be the outcome of my arbitrary detention in Jerusalem.
“With this serious problem weighing on me, I went, the next day, which was April 23, to the Divine Liturgy. With pain and faith I called on St. George to help me:
“’Holy Great-Martyr of Christ George, you who are the liberator of captives and defender of the poor, perform your miracle and deliver me from this captivity.’
“That evening, when I was in my house and before going to bed, I heard a knock on the door of my house:
“Immediately the door opened and there entered a good-looking young man, who said:
“’You are free to leave. No-one will give you the news.’
“’Go and look at my passport.’
“The young men promptly left and, returning soon after, said:
“’Everything is ready.’”
The bishop was about to give the young man a tip when, to his amazement, he vanished. He pondered what this could mean. However, his heart was full of peace and joy.
The next day he again went to the church. On glancing at the icon of St. George, he remembered the previous day’s incident and noticed that the face of the saint on the icon looked exactly like the young man he had seen.
With great enthusiasm he chanted the troparion to the saint: “Liberator of captives and defender of the poor”, and then turned to him as if to a close friend:
“St. George, I, too, am a prisoner. But since you promised that no-one would give me the news, I’m going. Protect me.”
Immediately after church he went to the house where he was staying and said to the landlady:
“I’m going to Piraeus.”
“But, your Grace, where will you go? Your passport doesn’t have a visa.”
“St. George will help me.”
When he got to Haifa, from where the boats left for Piraeus, he began to worry again, because he did not know the language and had no-one he knew to talk to.
As he was setting foot in a boat, he saw a monk whom he did not know, who approached him, bowed and said to him in Greek:
“Your Grace, how can I be of service to you?”
“How can you be of service to me? I want to leave, but my passport has not had a visa stamped in it by the Greek consul.”
The monk took the passport, went to a travel agency, and although the passport did not have the seal of the Greek consul, obtained a ticket.
The two metropolitans continued to be harrassed by the State Church. Thus in 1937 a magistrate’s court tried Chrysostom on the charge of having served in the church of the Three Hierarchs in Thessalonica. He was declared innocent; but further trials followed in 1938 and 1940.
But the Lord also continued to give signs from heaven to His faithful.
Thus the True Orthodox Christians of Crete were going to celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross with an all-night vigil in the church of the same name on the peak of Mount Kophinas. “On the eve of the feast, which was a Sunday (13/9/1937), when it began to grow dark, the faithful were arriving in groups from the various villages in the area, some on foot, some riding on animals.. The old men together with the priests Fr. Demetrius from Krousona and Fr. Charalampus from Kapetaniana were waiting for them at the little church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, which was on the foothills of Kophinas. That evening, above the peak of the Cross, there was a lot of mist and thick fog, and climbing was very difficult. The faithful numbered more than 500, and according to others – more than 1000.
“At ten o’clock a detachment of police arrived led by a sublieutenant. They justified their presence by saying that ‘they came to maintain.. order!’ Of course, their motive was quite different. However, when they saw the numbers of the faithful they were forced to change their minds.
“At midnight the priests began to chant the Rejoices to the Honoured Cross. In spite of the fog and the cold, strong wind, the faithful prayed on their knees, and they all together repeated the ‘Rejoice, blessed wood’ or the ‘Alleluia’.
“At the end of the Rejoices the wind suddenly stopped blowing and the mist began to disperse. The peak of Kophinas and the little church of the Honoured Cross came clearly into view.
“Before they realized what was happening, the whole area began to be illumined by a light and a sweet peace spread everywhere. Then, with fear but also with ineffable joy, they saw a cross of light shining on the peak of Kophinas and casting its rays over the whole area. The night suddenly became day! Nothing could be heard except the ‘Kyrie eleisons’ and the mute weeping of the Faithful. None of the eyewitnesses could say how long the miracle lasted.
“Finally, after quite a long time, as it had appeared, so it gradually disappeared again… And again, as at the beginning, the wind began to blow and a thick fog covered the area.
“The faithful continued with renewed zeal and compunction to pray the whole night. The priests celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the little church of the All Holy.
“At dawn the Divine Liturgy came to an end, whereupon the whole crowd of the faithful began to move, returning to their villages and houses, discussing amongst themselves and the police the wonderful miracle of the divine appearance of the Honoured Cross…”
Persecution in Romania
During this period, the True Orthodox Christians of Romania were also undergoing persecution. Metropolitan Blaise writes: “The Romanian King Charles II left his wife Maria, who came from Constantinople and was married again to a Jewess. Charles II did not want to abandon his throne, but was forced to abdicate since he had married a non-Christian. His son Michael was only 8 years old, so a regent was needed. Patriarch Miron became the regent. The political circumstances of that time were complicated by the fact that the government had been dissolved, and in order to maintain the constitution the regent had to become Prime Minister. Thus in 1936 the patriarch became both regent and Prime Minister – the complete master of the country. He had the power to annihilate our Church, and he used it in full measure: he destroyed all our churches and arrested all the clergy, the monastics and the leaders of the Old Calendarist groups.
“This was the first major blow against our Church, and many did not survive it. Take, for example, Fr. Euthymius – he was in a concentration camp for 3 years with Fr. Pambo, and he told us how they tortured him: they threw him into a stream and forced other prisoners to walk over him as over a bridge: he was at that time about 27 years old.”
In Bessarabia, writes Glazkov, “the priests Fathers Boris Binetsky, Demetrius Stitskevich and Vladimir Polyakov were put on trial for serving according to the old style. The establishment of the dictatorship of King Charles II in Romania in February, 1938 was accompanied by an increase of persecution for national and calendarist reasons. The point was that the Romanian kings were of Austrian origin and were only formally Orthodox Christians, they were not much concerned for the fate of Romania, the people and the Church. On the whole they were only a façade behind which various civil and ecclesiastical functionaries committed their deeds of darkness.
“One of the accusation laid at the door of the Old Calendarists, including Fr. Glycerius, was their links with the ‘Iron Guard’ (or legionaires) organisation, which had been forbidden by the king. In the autumn of 1938 many arrests, trails and shootings of prominent legionaries took place round the country. This movement was quite often false accused of Nazism. But what did this right-wing organisation really represent in Romania? Once could hardly call a movement whose main task was the education of his supporters in the Orthodox faith and in faithfulness to the Church of Christ – a Nazi organisation. Being not only a political, but also a spiritual opposition to the totalitarian-military authorities, and at the same time waging an inexorable struggle against any physical or spiritual manifestation of communism in Romania, the legionaires often went against the political ambitions of the unspiritual politicians. At the end of the 1930s massive blood persecutions of the legionaires began, as a result of which the leaders of the movement (for example, Kornel Kodryanu) were shot, while ordinary members, including adolescents, were imprisoned in prisons and camps, in which many died from unbearable labours and humiliations, while many spent decades in them. …
“In 1939 Fr. Glycerius found himself, as the result of the denunciation of a new calendarist priest, in a special camp for legionaires in Myarkuya Kyuch. In November of the same year there came an order to divide all the prisoners into two parts and shoot one part and then the other. When the first group had been shot, Fr. Glycerius and several legionaires who were in the second group prayed a thanksgiving moleben to the Lord God and the Mother of God for counting them worthy of death in the Orthodox faith. The Lord worked a miracle – suddenly there arrived a governmental order decreeing clemency.
“A few months late Bessarabia was occupied by the Red army, and a year after that Romania entered into war with the USSR. The Old Calendarists, in order to preserve Orthodoxy unharmed, were forced literally to enter the deep catacombs, founding secret sketes in the woods and the mountains…”
Metropolitan Cyprian has provided us with some more details of the persecution of the 1930s: “[Patriarch Miron] ordered all of the churches of the True Orthodox Christians razed, and imprisoned any cleric or monastic who refused to submit to his authority. The monks and nuns were incarcerated in two monasteries, where they were treated with unheard of barbarity. Some of them, such as Hieromonk Pambo, founder of the Monastery of Dobru (which was demolished and rebuilt three times), met with a martyr’s end. During the destruction of the Monastery of Cucova, five lay people were thrown into the monastery well and drowned. By such tactics the Patriarch wished to rid himself of the Old Calendarist problem!
“Hieromonk Glycerius was arrested in September of 1936 during a large demonstration at Piatra Neamt, where many were killed. He was taken under guard to Bucharest and there condemned to death. He was, however, miraculously saved, in that the Theotokos appeared to the wife of the Minister of Justice and gave her an order to intercede with her husband on Father Glycerius’ behalf. Her husband did not react in the manner of Pilate, but rather commuted Father Glycerius’ death sentence and ordered him imprisoned in a distant monastery…
“The zealous Father Glycerius made two trips to Greece. During his first visit, he became a monk of the Great Schema at the Skete of St. John the Baptist on Mt Athos. On his second visit, in 1936, he met several bishops of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, viz., Germanus.. and Matthew (Bishop Chrysostom.. was away in the East), who decided to consecrate him a bishop. Before Bishop Chrysostom’s consent to proceed with this was obtained, however, Father Glycerius was expelled from Greece…
“With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Father Glycerius was set free and, along with his beloved co-struggler, Deacon David Bidascu, fled into the forest. There the two lived in indescribable deprivation and hardship, especially during the winter. In the midst of heavy snows, when their few secret supporters could not get frugal provisions to them, the Fathers were obliged to eat worms! However, Divine Providence protected them from their persecutors and, directed by that same Providence, the birds of the sky would erase traces of the Fathers’ footprints in the snow by flying about and flapping their wings in the snow. And despite the harsh cold, not once did they light a fire, lest the smoke might betray their refuge. (We might note that the cold often approaches thirty degrees below zero during the winter in Romania.) Other ascetics were also hidden in the deserts, among them Father Damascene, Father Paisius, et al.”
Divisions among the Greek Old Calendarists
Returning to Greece, we come to the tragic division that took place in 1937 between Metropolitans Germanus of Demetrias and Chrysostom of Florina, on the one hand, and Bishops Germanus of the Cyclades and Matthew of Bresthena, on the other. This division between the so-called “Florinites” and “Matthewites” greatly weakened the struggle of the True Orthodox and has continued (with further splinterings) to the present day.
The cause was a letter which the two metropolitans wrote in June, 1937 to the Monk Mark (Khaniotes), in which they said: “When a Church falls into what St. Basil the Great calls a curable error, as is the error of the Calendar, the hierarchs as individuals can wall themselves off and break their spiritual communion with the Church, so as not to become partakers of their error. However, they do not have the right to declare the Church schismatic. That is the right of a Pan-Orthodox or Great Local Council alone. In this case those who break communion with the erring Church before Synodical clarification appeal against it to a Pan-Orthodox or Great Local Council, so as to lead it back onto the Orthodox way, or, if it remains in its error, to have it proclaimed as heretical or schismatic by the Pan-Orthodox Council after the first and second admonition – heretical, if its error affects Dogma, and schismatic if it affects the Typicon and the administrative side of the Church. This is what we have done in a rigorous manner, breaking spiritual communion with the Hierarchy of the Great Church because of the error of the calendar innovation, and appealing against it to a Pan-Orthodox or Great Local Council, which is the only competent authority having the right to judge it for its error and either persuade it to forsake its error, or if it remains in it, to declare it schismatic. Thus insofar as it is one error of one Church which does not directly affect a dogma of the faith but is related to ecclesiastical anticanonicities and irregularities that are curable, in St. Basil the Great’s words, it makes the erring Church potentially [en dunamei] schismatic, but not actually [en energeia] so, until it is condemned and declared actually schismatic by a Pan-Orthodox Council…
“But let your holiness know that the Holy Chrism which is celebrated and sanctified by the Church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate retains all its grace and sanctifying energy, even if this was done by the Patriarchate after the introduction of the calendar.”
This statement clearly contradicted the three bishops’ Confession of 1935, which both declared that the State Church was fully schismatic and deprived of the grace of sacraments, and indicated that the dogma of the One Church had been affected by the introduction of the new calendar. Therefore on September 18, Bishop Matthew wrote an encyclical to Metropolitan Germanus reminding him of a request he had made to him in writing on June 30 for a clear statement that the new calendarists were deprived of the grace of sacraments. Since he had received not reply, wrote Matthew, he was now breaking communion with him.
A disturbing feature of this encyclical was the way in which it was addressed to “the former Metropolitan of Demetrias Germanus, until now president of the Sacred Synod”, as if the latter were already defrocked. But by whom had such a defrocking been carried out, and on the occasion of what trial? Matthew refers to no such trial, and he himself could not possibly have tried Germanus in absentia…
However, a little later, on September 9, the two metropolitans, alarmed by the confusion which their statement had created, seemed to backtrack, writing: “As regards the validity or invalidity of the sacraments performed by the new calendarists, we abide by what we proclaimed in June, 1935, that the sanctifying grace of the sacraments is found in and works through [energei] those ecclesiastical ministers who keep to the sacred traditions and canons without making any innovation, but not through those who have distanced themselves from the sacred canons and remain under the curses of the Fathers.”
This clarification appeared to avert the danger of a schism among the Old Calendarists – which would, of course, halt the growth of the True Orthodox Church its tracks. However, on November 9 Metropolitan Chrysostom again, in a letter to Bishop Germanos, wrote that the State Church of Greece was potentially, and not actually schismatic and deprived of the grace of sacraments, and declared that it could be said to be actually schismatic and graceless only on the basis of a decision of an Ecumenical or Pan-Orthodox Council. In fact, it seems that Metropolitan Chrysostomos was hopeful that such a Pan-Orthodox Council was about to be convened.
Bishops Germanus and Matthew considered this letter a betrayal and separated from the two metropolitans. And so in little more than twenty years the Orthodox Church had been reduced from a position of external power and unity to a state of almost complete chaos…
The ROCA and the Greek Old Calendarists
What was the attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) to the Greek Old Calendarists? As we have seen, the Russian Church in all its jurisdictions retained the Old Calendar, and in outlying parts of the former Russian empire which came under the power of new calendarists, such as Valaam and Bessarabia, Russians offered strong resistance to the innovation. The ROCA condemned it, and Metropolitan Anastasy, as we have seen, concelebrated with the leading Romanian Old Calendarist, Hieromonk Glycerius.
However, the first-hierarch of the ROCA, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), adopted a more ambiguous position. In 1926, writing to the Russian Athonite Hieroschemamonk Theodosius of Karoulia, he refused to break communion with the new calendarists of the Constantinopolitan and Greek Churches: “You know the 13th, 14th and 15th canons of the First-and-Second Council, which speaks about separating oneself from a Bishop or Patriarch after his conciliar condemnation. And then there is the canon (the 15th), which says that that clergyman is worthy, not of condemnation, but of praise, who breaks with links with him [the heretic] for the sake of a heresy condemned by the holy councils or fathers…, and besides ‘when he (that is, the first-hierarch) preaches heresy publicly and teaches it openly in the Church’. But this, glory to God, neither P[atriarch] Basil [III of Constantinople] nor [Archbishop] Chrysostom [of Athens] have done yet. On the contrary, they insist on keeping the former Paschalion, for only it, and not the Julian calendar itself was covered by the curse of the councils. True, P[atriarch] Jeremiah in the 15th [correct: 16th] century and his successor in the 18th anathematised the calendar itself, but this curse: 1) touches only his contemporaries and 2) does not extend to those who are frightened to break communion with him, to which are subjected only those who transgress the canonical Paschalion. Moreover (this needs to be noted in any case), the main idea behind the day of Pascha is that it should be celebrated by all the Christians (that is, the Orthodox) on one and the same day throughout the inhabited world. True, I myself and my brothers do not at all sympathise with the new calendar and modernism, but we beseech the Athonite fathers not to be hasty in composing letters (Romans 14). – Do not grieve about our readiness to go to the C[onstantinople] Council. Of course, there will be no council, but if there is, and if we go, as St. Flavian went to the robber cou[ncil], then, of course, we will keep the faith and deliver the apostates to anathema. But as long as the last word has not been spoken, as long as the whole Church has not repeated the curses of Patriarch Jeremiah at an ecumenical council, we must retain communion, so that we ourselves should not be deprived of salvation, and, in aiming at a gnat, swallow a camel…”
In another letter he admitted that akriveia was on Fr. Theodosius’ side, but argued in favour of oikonomia: “It is in vain that you torment your conscience with doubts about continuing to be in communion with the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate. Present this matter to the judgement of the hierarchs, and until it has taken place remain in communion…”
However, the wording of the 16th century Councils that anathematised the new calendar do not support the metropolitan’s interpretation: “Whoever does not follow the customs of the Church,… but wishes to follow the Gregorian Paschalion and Menaion [calendar],… let him be anathema.” Moreover, there is no word about the anathema applying only to the generation of the anathematisers. In general, anathemas, as expressing the unchanging decision of God with regard to something that is eternally false, are necessarily applicable, if valid and canonical, in all places and at all times.
A different opinion to that of Metropolitan Anthony was expressed by the second member of the ROCA Synod, Archbishop Theophanes of Poltava and Pereyaslavl. In the same year of 1926 he wrote:-
“Question. Have the pastors of the Orthodox Church not made special judgements concerning the calendar?
“Answer. They have, many times – with regard to the introduction of the new Roman calendar – both in private assemblies and in councils.
“A proof of this is the following. First of all, the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II, who lived at the same time as the Roman calendar reform, immediately, in 1582, together with his Synod condemned the new Roman system of chronology as being not in agreement with the Tradition of the Church. In the next year (1583), with the participation of Patriarchs Sylvester of Alexandria and Sophronius VI of Jerusalem, he convened a Church Council. This Council recognised the Gregorian calendar to be not in agreement with the canons of the Universal Church and with the decree of the First Ecumenical Council on the method of calculating the day of Holy Pascha.
Through the labours of this Council there appeared: a Conciliar tome, which denounced the wrongness and unacceptability for the Orthodox Church of the Roman calendar, and a canonical conciliar Decree – the Sigillion of November 20, 1583. In this Sigillion all three of the above-mentioned Patriarchs with their Synods called on the Orthodox firmly and unbendingly, even to the shedding of their blood, to hold the Orthodox Menaion and Julian Paschalion, threatening the transgressors of this with anathema, cutting them off from the Church of Christ and the gathering of the faithful…
In the course of the following three centuries: the 17th, 18th and 19th, a whole series of Ecumenical Patriarchs decisively expressed themselves against the Gregorian calendar and, evaluating it in the spirit of the conciliar decree of Patriarch Jeremiah II, counselled the Orthodox to avoid it…”
“Question. Is the introduction of the new calendar important or of little importance?
“Answer. Very important, especially in connection with the Paschalion, and it is an extreme disorder and ecclesiastical schism, which draws people away from communion and unity with the whole Church of Christ, deprives them of the grace of the Holy Spirit, shakes the dogma of the unity of the Church, and, like Arius, tears the seamless robe of Christ, that is, everywhere divides the Orthodox, depriving them of oneness of mind; breaks the bond with Ecclesiastical Holy Tradition and makes them fall under conciliar condemnation for despising Tradition…
“Question. How must the Orthodox relate to the new calendarist schismatics, according to the canons?
“Answer. They must have no communion in prayer with them, even before their conciliar condemnation…
“Question. What punishment is fitting, according to the Church canons, for those who pray with the new calendarist schismatics?
“Answer. The same condemnation with them…”