"The reasons for our leaving the Church Abroad...
<snip> our acceptance of this mode of rapprochement
requires us to accept that the [Moscow] Patriarchate
is, and has been for decades, the Mother Church of
Russia - this is not something that we have ever been
(From: "Move to Fili," by Father Alexis of the Saint
Edward Brotherhood, "The Shepherd," Feb. 2007.)
I suggest that this use of the term "Mother Church,"
which limits its meaning exclusively to the Moscow
Patriarchate itself as an execute administrative organ,
is overly narrow and simplistic. On the contrary,
historically, ROCOR has, in fact, identified the
"Mother Church" with *all* the suffering faithful of
Russia: Clerical, Monastic, and Lay--whether under
the MP, or in the Catacombs.
Both groups--together with ROCOR--together comprise
the One Russian Orthodox Church that is our Mother,
of which ROCOR has always been an inseparable part,
from its inception until now. (See documented sources,
below, by Archpriest Father Alexander Lebedev of ROCOR.)
Excerpts from ROCOR Sources on the Term "Mother Church":
First, Metropolitan Anthony on the Church Abroad:
"The part of the Russian Church that is abroad considers
itself to be a indivisible, spiritually-united branch of
the great Church of Russia. She does not separate herself
from her Mother Church and does not consider herself
autocephalous. . . " (Letters of Metropolitan Anthony,
Second, Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), writing in 1953
(when the situation of the Moscow Patriarchate was very
clear to all):
First of all, with our former steadfastness we confess
our unity with the Mother Church of Russia, now enslaved;
our faithfulness to Her historical thousand-year path, and
we send to Her our cordial prayerful wishes that She may be
freed quickly from the domination of the God-fighters. Without
any compromise, we condemn the collaboration of Her current
leaders in the USSR with the atheistic communist authorities.
But in a like manner, we also condemn all self-created
autonomies, separatism, divisions, and independent-mindedness.
The essence of our Church is not in divisiveness and seeking
power, but in keeping Divine truth in Unity. (Motifs of My
Life, p. 71).
[Actually, in this book, Motifs of My Life, published in
Jordanville in 1955, Archbishop Vitaly (who was a confessor,
himself) uses the term "Mother Church" dozens of times to
refer to the Church in Russia. Yes, enslaved, yes,
downtroddenbut still the Mother Church. Archbishop
Vitaly's statement cannot grammatically be taken to mean
anything other than what it says: "We confess our unity
with the Mother Church. . . We uncompromisingly condemn
the collaboration of Her current leaders in the USSR
with the atheistic communist authorities." In Russian,
"ispoveduem nshe edinstvo c Mater'ju Tserkov'ju Russkoi. . .
Bezkompromissno osuzhdaem sotrudnichestvo sovremennykh
vozglavitelej ee v SSSR s bezbozhnoi kommunisticheskoi
vlast'ju." There is no wayas some have tried to arguethat
these words can be taken to mean the Catacomb Church,
since its leaders were not collaborating with the Godless
And, a little more clarity on the opinion of Metropolitan
Anthony on Metropolitan Sergius (in personal letters,
written after the "Declaration"):
Metropolitan Sergius has scandalized humself: in church
the people yelled at him: "Traitor, Judas!" and chased him
out, tearing off his vestmentsEvlogy has stopped
commemorating him and doesn't know whom he can stick
to now. Nevertheless, I feel sorry for Metropolitan Sergius:
he has no willpower, but his mind is clear and his heart is
good. (Letters of Metropolitan Anthony, p. 221).
I feel sorry for poor Most Reverend Metropolitan Sergius,
who was reviled and whistled at in a Moscow churchthat
is, in the temple; he is, of course, not as he was
characterized by the revilers, although the last three years
he has acted unwiselyhe outsmarted himself. (Ibid., p. 249).
Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), who holds a place of great
esteem in the Russian Church Abroadfor his work in
maintaining a remnant of the Pochaev Lavra in Ladomirovo
in the Carpathians (including its press)which later moved
to Jordanville, and, especially for keeping the Synodal
Church alive here in the States, after being sent here as
a bishop in 1935. He rebuilt the Synodal Church from the
ground up here not once, but twice (first, upon his arrival,
when there was just a handful of parishes, and then again
in 1946, after the infamous Cleveland Council, when again
only a few parishes remained loyal to the Church Abroad).
He was a very well-educated man, graduate of the Kazan
Theological Academy, and was universally revered with the
title of "Avva"a title that only he and Metropolitan
Anthony have had consistently applied to them.
Yet, reading his book Motifs of My Life, one cannot but
come to the conclusion that his heart suffered greatly for
the long-suffering Church in Russiawhich he calls the
"Mother Church"consistently and constantly. One also can
see from the context of his statementswhich definitely
express the mind of the ROCOR at that timesince he was
its chief representative in the States (and, in fact,
during the period of WWII, he was the chief spokesman for
the ROCOR, period, since Metropolitan Anastassy and the
ROCOR bishops in Europe and the Far East were basically
out of reach because of the war).
And, his concept of the "Mother Church" certainly and
unequivocally was not limited to the Catacomb Church in
Russiabut included those in the enslaved Russian Church
that were faithful to the historical Church of Russia.
Please let me be clearhe did not EQUATE the Moscow
Patriarchate with the Mother Churchbut he certainly did
not EXCLUDE it. This becomes clearly evident when one reads
further in Motifs. Archbishop Vitaly, among many articles
in which this subject was discussed, wrote one called "Our
Responsibility before the Mother-Russian Church."
Writing about the change in attitude of the Communist
authorities toward the Church during the War, he writes:
. . .they even permitted the Russian Orthodox Church to
elect Patriarch Sergius for itself.
(Notice the term "Russian Orthodox Church"not "the Moscow
Patriarchate") Further, he writes:
. . . we need to point out our direct responsibility
[debt], our great responsibility [debt] before the
Mother-Russian Church and let us speak of Her with great
love and with devotion towards Her, with deep prostration
before the struggle [podvig] of Patriarch Sergius, but with
full obedience to the Truth of Christ and the Church as well,
believing deeply that "Truth is great, and vanquishes all."
Now, again with all respect, please tell me how "deep
prostration before the podvig of Patriarch Sergius" (in
Russian "s glubokim prekloneniem pred podvigom Patriarkha
Sergiya") can be considered speaking of the Catacomb Church?
This article, published in Motifs and undated, was obviously
written during the short time that Sergius was Patriarch
(1943-1944), and is a very clear analysis of the situation of
the Russian Church at that time. It does not "pull any punches"
in debunking bolshevik propaganda about the "freedom" of the
Read, for example, the following paragraph from the same
Yes, we rejoice in seeing the first glimpses of the
easing [of the situation] of the Russian Orthodox Church,
and for this we are thankful to God. But let us know the
boundaries of all things, and let us not fall into
temptation and go along the path of anti-clerical agitators.
We are no longer infantsthe bitter experience of past years
has taught us to be wise.
I believe that these words can be applied to the current
situation of the Church in Russia, as wellwe must rejoice
for all the positive things we see, while keeping the wool
from being pulled over our eyes.
In any case, it is perfectly clear that Archbishop Vitaly,
key spokesman for the Russian Church Abroad (also as editor
of "Pravoslavnaia Rus'"its key publication) had a very
clear concept of the "Mother Church"and it was much broader
than some would now like to hold.