Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

An 11/1923 Interview w/Patriarch Tikhon by an American

Expand Messages
  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
    http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/57499.htm       A 1923 Interview with Patriarch Tikhon by an American From The Light of
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 18, 2012
    • 0 Attachment
      http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/57499.htm

       



       

        A 1923 Interview with Patriarch Tikhon by
      an American
      From "The Light of Russia"
      by Donald A. Lowrie

      <table id="art57499" style="margin:20px;" border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0><tr><td style="font-family:Arial;font-size:13px;padding:30px 30px 20px 30px;border:1px solid #cccccc;background:#ffffff;"><a href="http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/57499.htm" style="color:black;text-decoration:none;border:none;" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.pravoslavie.ru/sas/image/100877/87728.t.jpg" border=0 align="left" style="margin:0px 10px 10px 0px;border:1px solid black;float:left;"><em style="display:block;color:#792e00;padding-bottom:2px;">Donald A. Lowrie</em><strong style="display:block;font-size:17px;text-transform:uppercase;text-decoration:underline;">A 1923 Interview with Patriarch Tikhon by an American </strong><em style="display:block;padding:2px 0px 0px 0px;line-height:103%;font-size:15px;text-transform:none;"> From "The Light of Russia" by Donald A. Lowrie</em><span style="display:block;padding:5px 0px 10px 0px;">Patriarch Tikhon's nine years in
      America were important ones in the affairs of the Orthodox Church there. During this period the episcopal seat was removed from San Francisco to New York. During this period Bishop Tikhon became Archbishiop Tikhon, the first American Orthodox hierarch to bear that title. These years made a deep impression upon the future Patriarch himself, and as will later be pointed out, the knowledge of the life and religious ideals of American people he acquired there have been very influential in later events in Russia. America has no better friend in Russia than Patriarch Tikhon and he seems especially pleased to maintain his connection with Americans and things American. </a></span></td></tr></table>
       
      November 5/18 marks the day when Patriarch
      Tikhon (Belyaev) was chosen Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. This event was
      historical for a number of reasons, one of which was the renewal of the
      Patriarchy in Russia after many years.
      This
      excerpt taken from a rare book published by the YMCA in Prague in 1923 entitled,
      The Light of Russia, was republished by Bob Atchinson on his website, Alexander
      Palace Time Machine. Patriarch Tikhon died not long after it was printed,
      most likely poisoned by the Bolshevik persecutors. This account not only gives
      us an intimate picture of the great hierarch and the Russian Church in this
      turbulent historical period, but also a beautiful insight into the openly
      Christian country that America, at the time of Patriarch Tikhon, was.
      * * *
      After the
      decision to restore the Patriarchate, the most important act of the Sobor
      [Church Council—OC] was the election of the man to fill that office. In the
      midst of the three days battle which resulted in the taking of Moscow by the
      Bolsheviks, the Sobor in orderly sittings carried out the routine it had defined
      for the election of a Patriarch. This was a minutely detailed procedure based
      upon the method first employed in 1634 for the election of Joasaf I and followed
      in the choice of all subsequent Patriarchs. A secret ballot of all members was
      taken and the names of those receiving votes tabulated according to the number
      received. The choice of the Patriarch must be made from the highest three in the
      list. In this case they were Tikhon, Metropolitan of Moscow, Antonius,
      Archbishop of Kharkov, and Arsenius, Archbishop of Novgorod. On November 5th,
      after a solemn service in the Church of the Savior, the three names, carefully
      sealed in wax rolls of equal size and weight, were placed in an urn and the
      eldest of the recluse-monks present drew out one name. It proved to be that of
      Tikhon, whose election was forthwith proclaimed. On November 21st (1917)
      occurred the solemn consecration in the Cathedral of the Assumption, and a new
      epoch in Russian church history had begun.
      The man chosen to this high office was without question one of the most
      widely known and loved in all the Russian Church. He had been elected
      unanimously to the presidency of the Sobor. His appointment a few months earlier
      to the Metropolitanate of Moscow had simply indicated his prominence in Russian
      church affairs. The Patriarch is a native of Toropetz, a town near Pskov. His
      theological education was acquired in the Petrograd Academy, after which he
      served for three years as instructor in the Pskov Theological Seminary. In 1891
      he took the monastic vow and after serving for six years as rector of the
      seminary in Kholm, he was consecrated Bishop of Lublin. One year later he was
      appointed Bishop of North America. In 1907 he returned to Russia as Bishop of
      Yaroslavl and in 1913 he became Bishop of Vilna, from which seat he was called
      four years later to the Metropolitanate of Moscow.
      Patriarch Tikhon's nine years in America were important ones in the affairs
      of the Orthodox Church there. During this period the episcopal seat was removed
      from San Francisco to New York. During this period Bishop Tikhon became
      Archbishiop Tikhon, the first American Orthodox hierarch to bear that title.
      These years made a deep impression upon the future Patriarch himself, and as
      will later be pointed out, the knowledge of the life and religious ideals of
      American people he acquired there have been very influential in later events in
      Russia. America has no better friend in Russia than Patriarch Tikhon and he
      seems especially pleased to maintain his connection with Americans and things
      American. In view of his unique position and significance for all the Orthodox
      Church, a brief sketch of the Patriarch as the author last saw him in November
      1920, will possibly here be pertinent.
      An erect, well-built man in a black robe: grey hair and beard which at first
      glance make him appear older than his fifty-six years: a firm handclasp and
      kindly eyes with a decided trace of humor and ever a hint of fire in the back of
      them: those are your first impressions. That, and his beaming smile. The next
      thing I thought of was how little he had changed in appearance in the two years
      since I last visited him. He does not look a day older, and his manner, in
      marked contrast to so many of my friends in Moscow, is just as calm, unhurried
      and fearless as though he had not passed through two years of terrible
      uncertainty and stress. He had put on the white silk cowl with its diamond cross
      and the six-winged angel embroidered above the brow which is the head-dress of
      the Patriarch on all official oceasions, but he had evidently just been sitting
      down to tea and the arrival of an old friend dispelled any formality. So in a
      minute the cape and gown had disappeared and we were sitting beside the samovar
      in his living room. First the Patriarch wanted to know all about the Church in
      America. The only recent news he had was a cablegram which had been over a year
      en route. Then I had to promise to convey his heartiest greetings and special
      blessing to a number of individuals and to "all American friends" in general. He
      was most anxious to know if the letter he addressed to President Wilson on
      Thanksgiving Day, 1918, had ever reached him. In it the Patriarch had expressed
      his Church's participation in offering thanks for victory over the powers of
      evil, and congratulated President Wilson on his fine type of leadership. The
      letter then went on to speak of the seemingly severe terms imposed upon the
      enemy, and urged Christian forbearance and the alleviation of the conditions
      laid down, rather than the creation of a lasting hatred which could but breed
      more war. No reply was ever received, and the Patriarch was curious to know if
      it had ever reached the President. Later, I tried to get a copy of this letter,
      but found that all extant copies had been destroyed during a political raid in
      the home of the Patriarch's secretary.
      All those who know Patriarch Tikhon enjoy his well-developed sense of humor.
      I believe it is this which has helped him retain his poise and cheerfulness
      through the past three years. I asked him how he had been treated. He told me he
      had been under "home arrest" for more than a year, had been permitted to go out
      to conduct service in other churches about once in three months, but aside from
      this had suffered no personal violence; this in marked contrast to many of the
      Church's dignitaries who had been sent to jail or even condemned to execution.
      "They think", the Patriarch smilingly remarked, as he patted my hand
      confidentially, 'Oh, he's an old chap: he'll die soon..... we won't bother him'.
      "Wait and see", he went on, shaking his finger, schoolmaster-fashion—"I'll show
      them, yet". And the roguish twinkle in his eyes, remarkably young in contrast to
      his grey hair, gave you confidence that when the present nightmare has cleared
      in Russia, her Church's leader will be found ready to take a most active part in
      the affairs of the new day.
      But not a political part: we spoke of several churchmen who had dabbled in
      politics, and the Patriarch expressed his sorrow and disapproval; 'What is right
      and just one may openly approve, and what is evil and unrighteous one must as
      openly condemn", he said, "that is the Church's business. But to meddle with the
      affairs of secular politics is neither the course of wisdom or of duty for a
      priest". "What is the most urgent need of the Orthodox Church which the
      Christian world outside can supply?" I asked the Patriarch.
      "Send us Bibles", he replied. "Never before in history has there been such a
      hunger for Scripture in the Russian people. They clamor for the whole book—not
      only the Gospels but the Old Testament as well—and we have no Bibles to give
      them. Our slender stocks were exhausted long ago, and our presses have been
      confiscated, so that we cannot print more". I assured him that Christians in
      other lands would doubtless find a way to supply this need.
      It happened to be Thanksgiving Day at home, and the Patriarch remembered, and
      smilingly referred to its being known as "Turkey Day" in an American family he
      used to visit in New York. This brought on a discussion of American and Russian
      holidays and this in turn led to an interesting conversation about the present
      religious situation in Russia. At every step in this recital the Patriarch's
      clear insight into men and events and his statesmanlike grasp of the affairs of
      the whole Church were clearly evident. I left him with a renewed conviction of
      his fitness for the high post he occupies.
      Russian Christians believe the choice of the Patriarch was directed by Divine
      Providence, and surely Patriarch Tikhon's career thus far, offers basis for the
      belief. It would be difficult to imagine a man better fitted, mentally and
      temperamentally for the peculiarly difficult task of leading the Orthodox Church
      through these years of disorder and suffering in Russia. His good-humored
      friendliness, combined with a kindly firmness have become proverbial in the
      Russian Church. This is even more true of what Russians call his
      "accessibility". It is common belief that anyone, be he bishop or priest or the
      most obscure layman, who has real need of his advice or decision, may get to see
      the Patriarch.
      I recall a small incident which gives point to this statement. One day in
      1918, late in the afternoon I called at the Patriarch's house, by appointment,
      for in those troubled months the Patriarch was so busy and his presence so much
      in demand that we used to wonder when he found time for sleep. And as I passed
      through the hall I noticed a woman in a peasant's dress, sobbing in a corner. In
      response to my question she poured out a long story of how some canonicaI
      difficulty in the marriage of her daughter could only be solved by the personal
      decision of the Patriarch. "I've been here since early morning", she said,
      wiping her eyes, "without eating or drinking, and now they say the Patriarch is
      home from the Sobor but he is too busy to see me". The tall servant in the hall,
      who by the way was also in America with Patriarch Tikhon, told me in English
      that he felt the Patriarch was too busy with matters of national importance to
      be troubled with one woman's private request. Knowing the Patriarch as I did, I
      ventured to tell him of the petitioner in the hall, and as I left he asked to
      see her. In some Russian village today there is a peasant family who think
      Russia's Patriarch is the kindest man who ever lived.
      But these glimpses of fatherly kindness in the leader of the Russian Church
      must not be allowed to give a one-sided impression. On account of his good
      nature a Russian writer has compared him to the first Patriarch of Russia, Job.
      In view of his proven statesmanship and his fearless insistence upon justice as
      well as the remarkable skill with which he has held the Church together when
      everything else in Russia was falling into ruin, it seems to me he more nearly
      resembles Hermogen, whose influence moved so powerfully in unifying and
      inspiring Russian spirit to throw off the Polish yoke. From the closing of the
      Sobor in September, 1918, the Patriarch continued its policy of protest against
      increasing encroachments of civil powers upon church property and church
      direction. With constantly increasing severity the government punished anyone
      who questioned or opposed its decrees, so that to make a public protest was
      something which might bring the gravest personal consequences. The policy of Red
      Terror had gone into effect. In the face of this, the Patriarch issued his
      classic Epistle to the "Soviet of People's Commissars": —"Whoso taketh a sword
      shall perish by the sword", it begins. "The blood of our brothers shed in rivers
      at your order, cries to Heaven and compels us to speak the bitter words of
      truth. You have given the people a stone instead of bread, a serpent instead of
      a fish. You have exchanged Christian love for hatred: in the place of peace you
      have kindled the flames of class enmity". A few lines later we read "Is this
      freedom, when no one may openly speak his mind without danger of being accused
      as a counterrevolutionary? Where is the freedom of word and press? Where is
      freedom of church preaching?" The epistle concludes with the formal
      excommunication of all those connected with the terroristic movements in the
      government. He is a stern man and a bold one, who can publish such sentences in
      the face of powerful enemies against whom he has not the slightest physical
      defense. The Head of the Russian Church has been absolutely fearless in
      condemning wrong and insisting upon justice and right.
      This boldness, tempered with a well-seasoned moderation, has enabled the
      Patriarch to maintain his position as leader and center of the whole church
      organization. With clear consistence he has refrained from interference with
      purely political affairs, save in so far as they touched upon matters of public
      morals or common justice. He is probably the only man of similar importance who
      was able to speak his mind so freely without punishment by imprisonment or
      worse, during four years of the Soviet government in Russia. His life during
      this time has been of the greatest importance to the Russian Church. In his
      person all Orthodox thinking has centered. His personality has kept alive the
      spirit of a Church unified in a time when every other institution had gone to
      pieces. His example has inspired new ideals of religion and life in the hearts
      of millions of his people.
      Chaotic as these years have been, they have witnessed at the same time a
      momentous deepening of religious feeling and spirit in Russia. Religion has
      become in the lives of most people something far more than ever before. What
      once was more or less formal theory has now been transmuted by the fires of the
      past four years into vivid reality, into lifeblood to strengthen men and women
      through boundless hardship. In the old days, one was often charmed by the
      peculiarly intimate and conscious sense of God shown by a peasant or a workman,
      something one finds much more rarely in western lands. Now, it is an experience
      to make one stop and think, to discover in the lives of the "intelligentsia", as
      well, exactly the same vivid certainty of God's presence and of the actuality of
      communion with Him. Is it something they have just learned, in these years of
      trial, or have they simply rediscovered the sense of God which has been latent
      all their lives? I think most Russians feel the latter is true, although most of
      the people I know frankly confess that never before has religion meant so much
      to them.
      The Countess L. is an example of what I mean. As one knew her in the old days
      she was typical of her class of the "intelligentsia" in her attitude toward the
      church and toward religion in general: a mild respect for the feeling of other
      people in matters religious but a very frank skepticism, at least on the
      surface, so far as her own interest in religion was concerned. That was three
      years ago. The reign of terror and the general suffering of these years have not
      passed her by, and she has undergone such experiences as at once horrify you and
      inspire you by the heroism exhibited. Today she is a striking personality, who
      impresses you primarily in a religious way. It is difficult to say what it is
      about Countess L. which so inspires you, whether it is her serene faith in the
      goodness of God and the power of prayer, her sincere charity toward those who
      have caused her so much ill, or the transparently beautiful character which has
      grown in the midst of so much sorrow. I only know that a talk with her makes
      one's own faith seem so small and one's own religion so puny, that you are
      driven to a resolve to deepen your own spiritual life, and make it count more
      than ever before for the service of others.
      And although the common folk of Russia have learned much in the past four
      years, and although many attempts to teach them have had a decidedly
      anti-religious color, the total new culture has not altered that depth of
      religious feeling which has already been mentioned. I remember riding with a
      woman conductor on a freight-train, in 1920, who illustrated this point. She had
      been telling me of the different train-loads of troops, war prisoners and the
      like, it had been her fortune to help transfer. Then later we spoke of schools
      under the Soviet government and she expressed her chief criticism against the
      fact that no religious instruction was offered. "It's a bad thing for folks who
      lose God," she told me. "So many other people seem to have lost Him of late
      years. Thank Heaven we in Russia haven't. Why just last week I had a trainload
      of Austrian communists and some of them tried to prove to me that there is not
      any God at all. 'I don't want to listen to your talk', I told them, 'you don't
      act as though you had anything better than the old religion, and you need not
      talk to me against a God I know'''.
      Even where common folk have been led to attempt casting off their faith
      together with everything else connected with the old life, the success of the
      assault upon religion has been only superficial. People could be harangued into
      a superficial acceptance of infidel doctrine, but when the matter actually came
      to the test, they discovered that the old faith still remained. I know no better
      illustration of this than an incident in Yaroslavl in Easter week, 1919. The
      radicals in charge of the town, apparently moved by the notable religious
      feeling among the populace, called a meeting to discuss religion. Among others,
      representatives of the clergy were invited. Some of the best communist orators
      of the district were brought in to present the case against religion. First a
      skillful speaker discussed the "Christ myth". He explained that simple people
      had once been easily misled by priests into belief that Jesus was something more
      than a man, that He had worked miracles, had even risen from the dead. Now while
      Jesus deserved honor as the first Communist, He was simply a man, and an
      enlightened and revolutionary people should put "way all their old superstitions
      about Him."Long live the Communist Internationale" —and he was fairly well
      applauded by the people. The second speaker was a Jewess who attacked the
      ancient stories about the birth of Jesus. When she closed with a statement that
      Mary was simply a woman of the streets, and nothing more, the applause was
      somehow less vigorous.
      Now it came the turn of the senior priest of the town to present his case. He
      rose, made the sign of the cross, stood a moment silently facing the crowd and
      then pronounced the age-old Easter greeting: "Christ is risen." Without a
      moment's hesitation the crowd swayed toward him in reply: "He is risen indeed".
      "Christ is risen"! the priest repeated, and the answer came almost before he had
      pronounced the words. A third time he said it, with" thunderous response from
      the people, then, waiting a moment, he asked simply, "What more is there to say?
      Let us go to our homes", and the anti-religious meeting adjourned. It is this
      deep-seated sense of religion in the hearts of Russian folk of all classes which
      has come so mightily to the front in the past four years.
      Concomitant with this rise in spiritual values, there has come notably
      broadened popular interest in any sort of religious instruction. Moscow, in the
      autumn of 1920, was placarded with posters, practically the only ones visible
      which were not put up by the government, announcing a series of meetings
      organized by the Russian Student Christian Movement, with Professor
      Martsenkoffsky as the chief speaker, all on purely religious themes. "The Way to
      New Life" and "The Coming Christ" were among other lecture topics. These
      meetings were held in one of the largest auditoriums in Moscow, and roused such
      popular interest that eventually the leaders were arrested, lest the movement
      turn against the government. To one returning to Russia after an absence of two
      years, it was astonishing to see many churches open for service every day, with
      a sermon at each service. In former times, a sermon was a rarity. Most
      congregations did not care for them, and even those priests who would have been
      glad to preach were under such restraint from the government that they found it
      very difficult. A popular lecturer on religious subjects in Petrograd some years
      ago once remarked that frequently priests who came to his lectures told him how
      they envied the freedom with which he was allowed to speak of religion. Now the
      whole picture is changed, people demand sermons, and sermons of the most
      practical character. The few specimens which have gotten into Russia of such
      books as Fosdick's with their very modern application of Christian teaching to
      everyday life, have been fairly worn out, passed from hand to hand by people
      eagerly seeking guidance in this new comprehension of religion. And priests have
      risen to meet this need, speaking truth in vigorous style, often at the risk of
      the gravest personal consequences. Sermons are no longer the pious,
      half-sentimental homilies such as one used to hear, and as are sometimes
      encountered today in old-fashioned churches in Europe or America, but open,
      direct instruction in the duty of Christian living. One of the most striking
      changes in the Russian Church in the past four years is that of clergy who
      practically never prepared a sermon, now metamorphosed into a body of fearless
      preachers of the Gospel.
      This same interest in religion is again exhibited in the universal demand for
      Scripture. I have mentioned the Patriarch's opinion on the matter. The same
      situation persists everywhere. Two different women, one a lady formerly of high
      estate and the other a working girl, told me in Russia how they had been unable
      to buy a Bible. Red Army troops returning after eight months internment in
      Germany, begged relief agencies at the border for some bit of Scripture to take
      back into Russia with them. A talk with Father Hotovitsky brought out the same
      hunger for the Book, of which the Patriarch spoke. Three months later a British
      commercial agent, with no special interest in religious teaching, brought out
      another formal request from representatives of both the Orthodox Church and the
      Tolstoyan movement for assistance in procuring copies of the Bible for
      distribution. The fever of interest in Scripture which swept through peasant
      Germany at the dawn of the Reformation seems to have found a modern-day
      counterpart in Russia. Here however the Church, instead of attempting to
      suppress the spread of the Book, is the chief agency urging its use, and asking
      aid of foreign Bible Societies in producing the Scriptures which it cannot
      itself print since the confiscation of all its publishing plants. This hunger
      for Scripture is another indication of the new interest and meaning which
      religion has for all sorts of people in Russia since the Revolution.
      It is also interesting to see how inevitably people connect their new-found
      religion with the old Church. To me this has been a new proof of the inherent
      vitality of Russian Orthodoxy, in this as in other times of crisis. The churches
      are crowded, and the worship in them is if anything more devout than before, but
      one senses a new spirit of comprehension, of the practicability of faith, if the
      term may be applied, which was not generally present four years ago. To be sure,
      there may be emotional or sentimental elements in this. One woman told me: "The
      church is the only place where one can get away from the terrible existence we
      must endure". Another person, thinking along the same line, said: "O, Russia
      isn't Russia anymore; the only place you can feel at home is in church". Be that
      as it may, the Church itself has made great advances in adapting itself to the
      newly apparent needs of its people, and religion as preached daily in its
      sanctuary has a new meaning for Russia. Take the purely external alterations,
      for example.
      One of the differences from old times which immediately strikes a visitor in
      present-day Russia are the posters at the church door. Here is one announcing
      congregational singing-practice; another lists the services for the week, and
      you are surprised to note that there is a service with a sermon every day.
      Another gives notice of a special collection for a choir-director and a fourth,
      perhaps, appeals to all members to remain after this morning's service and help
      put in place the mats which are used in winter to cover the cold pavement. In
      the congregation the men are surprisingly predominant, many of them wearing Red
      Army insignia. You notice that while people are constantly entering the church,
      as in the old days, there are practically none leaving it, a phase of church
      service which was always very disconcerting to a western visitor in a Russian
      church before the Revolution. Now people come and stay for the entire service,
      especially the sermon, an institution which in the last few months (autumn 1921)
      has become, except for government deliverance, the most liberal and fearless
      public utterance to be heard. In general, the preachers confine themselves and
      their remarks pretty well within the limits set by the Patriarch in his quoted
      statement regarding the political activity of priests, but within these limits
      there has been the most vigorous, speaking of the "bitter truth". The preaching
      priesthood has attained a new respect in the eyes of Orthodox people, through
      the power of the spoken word.
      The anecdote I heard in Moscow about Father Hotovitsky, of the Church of the
      Savior is indicative of the sort of priests here mentioned. There is probably no
      more remarkable preacher in Russia than Father Hotovitsky. His sermons are very
      modern both in their theology and in their practical application. He was drawn
      into a discussion with Lunacharsky, Commissar of Education, on the omnipresence
      of God. "You say that God is everywhere", Lunacharsky told him. "Now you will
      surely admit that one could imagine a small box somewhere without God's being in
      the box". "But why suppose an imaginary box", Hotovitsky retorted, when we have
      you, Mr. Commissar?"
      Easter, 1921, in Moscow was another indication of the present position of the
      Church. The Patriarch was released from his "home arrest" to officiate at the
      midnight service in the Church of the Savior. But even that great temple,
      accommodating ten thousand people, was utterly inadequate to serve the crowd
      which came. The whole of the grand square about the church was flooded with
      worshippers and several extra services were conducted simultaneously, in the
      open air, to meet the exigencies of the occasion. One very significant item
      about this service was the insistence of the people that it should occur at
      midnight by sun time, instead of by the daylight-saving chronometry of the
      Soviet government. So while the street clocks of Communist regime marked
      three-thirty a. m., the Orthodox people of Moscow celebrated midnight service at
      midnight as the sun indicates time.
      There is much more to be said of religious life in Russia today. These
      paragraphs have merely hinted at what will someday require volumes properly to
      outline and portray, but they will perhaps have indicated the remarkably
      deepened spirituality of these present times in Russia, with religion a more
      vital reality in the lives of all classes than ever before, with this new
      spiritual life manifesting itself in a keen interest in religious discussion and
      literature, with the old Church rising to meet the newly awakened needs of its
      people.
      These needs present far more searching problems than merely those of
      organization or of church discipline. The new day in Russia demands new modes of
      thought, even new phases of religion. By its preaching the Church must endeavor
      to guide the thinking of its people as they grope their way in the dazzling
      light of a freedom they were as unprepared for as owls for sunshine. The
      Byzantine elements in religion, emphasizing the mystic in the teaching about
      Christ, and the less positive than negative attitude toward joyous activity,
      must gradually give part of their place to more modern ideas of the Christian
      conquest, the blessedness of Christian service, the reality of Jesus'
      comradeship. This is not to say that the past as a whole is to be sloughed off
      like an outgrown shell. Such elements as the beautiful humility which has
      characterized Russian Christianity for so many centuries, or the mysticism in
      devotion which is one of its greatest charms, must not be permitted to fade from
      the picture. Rather, the idea of activity, of service for Christ who is living
      and loving men must be engrafted into the old stock, retaining all the beauty
      and usefulness of the old, but providing a combination of religious thought
      better fitted to meet present-day needs. These ideas must be embodied in the
      homiletics of the new Russia.
      Such preaching you may hear in Russian churches today sermons by Russian
      priests. A Westerner would never be able to produce the desired result: he would
      be too brusque, too positive, too little able actually to get within the Russian
      religious thought of the past generations. Among American Protestants there have
      been numerous volunteers to go and "Christianize" Russia—they may better remain
      at home and preach to folk whose temperament and background they can comprehend.
      In Russia they would shout to unresponsive listeners. The Orthodox Church wishes
      every aid other Christian bodies can give it, but its preaching must be done by
      Russians if it is to appeal to the Russian mind.
      With a rising culture in Russia, another age-old custom of Orthodoxy may come
      up for consideration. What will be the future of the holy pictures (icons) of
      Russia? There are those who think icons will gradually disappear from the
      service. If they do, it will be in the distant future. But even in these
      post-revolutionary years, events have often shaped themselves in a way to bring
      forcibly to mind the actual inconsequentiality of "holy" things and "holy"
      pictures. Popular feeling has revolted at cinematograph photos of the
      desecration of a shrine like that of Saint Sergius, but at the same time the
      half-unconscious impression has been made that the place or the relics are in
      themselves of small real worth to a Christian. The priceless treasures adorning
      some specially-revered icon have been stolen and the century-old sanctity of the
      holy picture violated. And folk, half unknowingly, begin to take less interest
      in the ancient painting. It is somehow discovered to be not so efficacious as an
      aid to Christian living. Are these indications of the future? Perhaps, but with
      a custom as ancient as the usage of icons in the Orthodox Church, alterations
      will be made but slowly. If the question may be called a problem at all, it is
      surely a secondary one. It is so unimportant in comparison with the new
      developments in religious thinking and comprehension that while the topic will
      interest future students of Russian life, it need not further occupy us here.[1]
      There are educational problems for the Church to face, as well as
      theological. How shall it provide a body of clergy with a training adequate to
      meet the demands of its membership, especially in times like the present when
      church schools of all sorts are quite eliminated from the government's list of
      possibilities? This is one of the most immediate problems the Church has to
      solve. Up to now a general solution has not been discovered, the chief reliance
      at present being a return to the ancient custom of training young men in each
      church, a sort of apprentice-system for the priesthood. The ranks of the clergy
      have also been augmented by the ordination of many religiously minded laymen
      with suitable education. Although perhaps nothing better, it is possible just
      now, both of these schemes have their serious deficiencies, of course, and the
      Church's leaders are keenly alive to the situation. The future will doubtless
      discover effective means to provide an adequately trained clergy. But the
      Church's efforts along educational lines are not to be limited to the training
      of priests. The Church has gone vigorously about the task of providing a
      substitute for its parish schools, and organizations of various sorts among the
      congregations have opened religious instruction for all the church membership.
      Bible-study groups and something like our American mid-week prayer meetings have
      appeared. Preaching missions to the villages have been encouraged. The Church
      has given its support to other than strictly ecclesiastical movements for the
      spread of religious instruction.
      And not purely religious education alone, has received the support of' the
      Church. As in former times, so now it is anxious to cooperate with every worthy
      agency working for the general cultural uplift of Russia. The Patriarch's open
      letter, prepared to accompany a rural-education expedition, is an example of the
      attitude of the Orthodox Church toward all sincere efforts for the well-being of
      Russia:
      "The Young Men's Christian Association is undertaking the support of a series
      of movements having for their object the improvement of the moral atmosphere of
      Russian life, the preaching of God's Word and, abstaining from politics,
      cooperation with Russian educational and economic improvement societies.
      "With this object in view, an expedition is proposed with a special steamer
      on the Volga, stopping at different villages and landings. On this boat there
      are to be lectures on agriculture and other topics valuable for popular
      education, also short religious services with appropriate moral instruction by
      Orthodox priests.
      "Sympathizing with everything which may be helpful, materially or morally, to
      our Russian people, we hereby confer our blessing upon the organizers of this
      good work, praying God's aid for its successful accomplishment.
      (Signed) Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia."
      The content of such an epistle evidences the remarkably modern position which
      this ancient Church has assumed in the face of the modern educational
      requirements of its people.
      The widespread demand, already noted, for the Bible, indicates another line
      of development where the Orthodox Church has to blaze away. Although the Church
      has used and taught the Gospels and the New Testament generally, until
      Leroy-Beaulieu could write that "the Gospels are undoubtedly the book dearest to
      the Russian", the Old Testament has been very little known, hence the Church
      faces just now an interest in Scripture study quite unprecedented in its
      history. And again the need evidences itself for a transition from the old,
      mystic usage of Scripture to a vitalizing practical study, relating with
      ever-growing distinctness the life-giving Book to life itself.
      Realizing the need for expert direction in the religious life of his Church,
      one of Patriarch Tikhon's first official acts was to call from New York Father
      Hotovitsky who for some years in America had been specializing in church
      organization, young people's work and the like. As early as the autumn of 1918
      parish organizations similar to the "Brotherhoods" in many American churches,
      had begun to make their appearance. They were followed by women's organizations
      with the object of Bible study as well as assistance in church maintenance.
      Children's, particularly boys' groups. have been formed, until today in Russia
      thousands of congregations have one or more organized clubs of women, men or
      young people, existing for self-help in religious and moral education, and for
      helping others along the same lines. The preaching missions already mentioned,
      which from time to time have gone from city centers out into the villages, have
      been another evidence of the Church's capacity to cope with this need for a more
      general education in practical religion.
      Surely the history of the Church since the revolution offers a guarantee for
      its future place in the life of the Russian people. During times when all other
      phases of national life and organization were dissolved in a national disorder
      such as no other country of modern times has experienced, merely to have held
      itself together in unbroken unity would have been a performance worthy of the
      world's notice. This the Church has done, but beyond that it has succeeded, in
      the face of all the forces striving for its dissolution, in building for itself
      a new form of organization and government, with principles of democratic control
      such as it had never known before. In the Patriarchate, which as has been seen
      is not a restoration of the old autocracy or a centralization of authority in
      one person, the Church has found for itself a new center around which it has
      crystallized a firm unity.
      In establishing the principle of conciliar management, with democratic
      legislative bodies representing all classes of the people, men and women, clergy
      and lay, it has provided a form of government which harmonizes with the best
      progressive spirit of the Russian world. The Church has remodeled its
      administration to meet the new situation.
      It has revised its services as well, so that now as never before the services
      in its sanctuaries are not merely for the people, but of the people. The new
      economic conditions have helped to bring each communicant into a position of
      participation in the affairs of his parish. The management of parish business by
      a committee chosen by the people has given them a new sense of responsibility
      for their Church. The introduction of congregational singing and the entirely
      new emphasis upon preaching brings worship into a new phase of actual
      commonality. All the people are participants in the services, and these services
      are so ordered as to meet the marvelously new interest in practical religion
      which exists throughout Russia today.
      These changes the Church has made in itself in order to minister to the new
      needs of the Russian people are simply what might have been expected in the
      light of its historic past. When Christianity first dawned in Russia, it was the
      Church which spread the light of learning and the acceptance of Christian
      morality throughout the land. When much of the old order was dissolved in the
      two hundred years Russia bowed beneath the Tatar yoke it was the Church again
      which offered a rallying point and actually inspired the effort which threw off
      the Asiatic tyranny. It was the Church under Hermogen, in the "Troubled Times",
      which kept alive the spark of patriotism, for Russians always linked in an
      indissoluble way with the idea of Orthodoxy, and the glorious defense of the
      Sergievskaya Lavra marked a new turning point in Russian national affairs, with
      the Church in the leader's role. In the light of the Church’s glorious past,
      when in every time of national crisis it has somehow maintained not only its own
      unity, but has been the center around which the spirit of the nation could
      rally, is it unduly optimistic to suggest that in our day we are witnessing
      another repetition of history! Surely the events of the past five years, with
      the Church as the only organization which still exists, standing like a temple
      miraculously preserved amid a city devastated by fire, offer ground for the
      belief that the Church in Russia will not belie its past performances. It is not
      only preserved amidst general ruin, but it has purged itself of the evils which
      a time of servitude had fastened upon it, remodeled its forms of government and
      worship, and ministers today to the needs of Russian people with a completeness
      it has never before known.
      And if the history of the past offers bright hope for the future of the
      Orthodox Church, just as truly does the personality of the men who are guiding
      its affairs in the present. What has been said of the liberality and breadth of
      mind of the Patriarch, of his keen appreciation of the needs of Russian
      Christianity today and the measures the Church must take to meet them, is
      typical of the church leaders who form his immediate circle of advisers. It is
      no exaggeration to say that the most able and the most liberal men in the
      Orthodox Church are guiding its present efforts. Perhaps the fact is significant
      that many of them, like Patriarch Tikhon himself, have spent some years in
      America, where acquaintance has been gained with western religious ideals and
      practice. Father Hotovitsky using his knowledge of young people's organizations
      in America to build up throughout the Russian Church similar groups, or Bishop
      Anatolii of Tomsk who even before the assembly of the Sobor began parochial
      organizations modeled after those he had known in America, are outstanding
      examples of the progressive leadership in the Orthodox Church today. Besides
      forming one of the strongest possible ties of friendship with America, these
      will by the very fact of their acquaintance with life in our country are bound
      to be of most valuable service in bringing the Russian Church up to the new and
      lofty standards she has set for herself. Their background of acquaintance with
      Western ideals of religion is likely to be of large influence in the progress of
      the Church of Russia.
      As these men go forward in the work of leading Russian Christianity out along
      lines of freer activity and more vital religion, they are looking to the
      Christians of other lands for support and assistance. It would be difficult to
      imagine an organization more truly desirous of learning from the best in others,
      of profiting by experience along the same paths it has laid out for itself, than
      is the Russian Church. It confidently expects that Christians of other nations
      will gladly offer whatever assistance is within their power. What contributions
      can members of other Christian confessions make toward the progress of
      Christianity in Russia?
      To be of service to the Church of Russia, Christians of the West must first
      cultivate acquaintance with it. A study of its ideals and its history, a genuine
      effort to appreciate all that is valuable in its past and present—these must
      first lead us to a sincere recognition of the breadth and depth of Russian
      Christianity. Study its literature; if possible become familiar with its
      service. There are many Russian churches in America where one may begin this
      helpful acquaintance and any sincerely friendly approach will be met with equal
      friendliness.
      Practical aid may be extended in the provision of books. The whole realm of
      our modern religious literature may be opened to Russia: educational courses for
      use in church schools and organized Bible-study groups will be eagerly utilized.
      Such books as homiletical aids, guild and society handbooks, would be most
      useful if translated and adapted to modern Russian conditions. The best
      religious thought of the modern West should be put at Russia's disposal by
      translation and publication in Russian. In the interval until the Church is
      again in a position to publish the Bible and portions of it for itself, the
      other Christian communions will find it difficult to turn a deaf ear to the
      appeals of both the Church and the Russian people for copies of the Word of God.
      Cooperation should be encouraged along all lines of religious endeavor and all
      our own experience in religious organization and method should be open for the
      use of the Russian Church. They seek our aid, and we must not withhold it.
      Any such assistance offered to Russia by Western Christianity will be
      welcomed with open arms, and if the suggestions here contained are borne in mind
      there will be no possibility for misunderstanding. Once a thorough appreciation
      of the essential "Russianity" of the Orthodox Church is established, there will
      be no misguided efforts to help Russian Christianity through the propagation of
      other forms of church organization or sectarian propaganda. What Western
      Christianity gives to Russia must be given through the Orthodox Church and not
      in any sort of opposition to or competition with it. A church which regardless
      of the barriers of distance and language, has prayed daily for a thousand years
      for "the welfare of God's churches and the union of them all" will welcome every
      sincerely friendly approach from other Christian bodies.
      In all this talk of efforts toward the rapprochement of other Christian
      bodies to the Russian Church, and methods of extending aid in these trying
      years, one possibility overtops all the rest. We must cultivate acquaintance
      with the Orthodox Church and personal contact with its leaders. We must learn to
      appreciate the beauty and value in its worship and its teaching. We must realize
      that the Russian Church is essentially indigenous and adapt to that cardinal
      fact our efforts at effective assistance. We should put at its disposal the best
      of our modern religious thought in the form of books and periodicals. These are
      particularly vital for those Americans who go to Russia or who are directing the
      home churches. To all Christians at home, however, there remains the privilege
      of all Christians everywhere, that of intercession. It is doubtful if anywhere
      in the Christian world today there is a more vital belief in the value of
      prayer, than in Russia. When the Russian Church asks for our prayers, the
      request is more than an empty formality. Russia believes, she knows from
      experience, how the power of God may be invoked, and her people confidently
      expect the prayer support of Christians of other lands. In the midst of the
      terrible uncertainty of the summer of 1918, when no one dared plan anything more
      than a few days in advance, and even the Sobor carried on its orderly
      deliberations only in the face of unbelievable hindrances, the proclamation of
      President Wilson appointing "a day of humiliation, prayer and fasting" made a
      deep impression upon the leaders of the Russian Church. The feeling of the
      Patriarch is evident in his letter, written at that time, to his friend Dr.
      Mott, as one of the leaders among the Christian forces of America:
      "It was with especial sympathy that we
      together with all believing Russians heard that the members of the churches of
      God in America had been assembled by your President and church leaders in the
      houses of God Memorial Day to fast and pray for peace among the nations at war.
      We also recall with deep gratitude the friendly feelings repeatedly expressed by
      your President toward Russia.
      "It would comfort us to know that the
      Christians of America will continue to remember our Russian Church and people in
      their prayers. We would feel deeply grateful if you could express to the
      Christian people in America our profound desire for their intercession,
      especially at this crisis in Russia. We are conscious in this dark hour that the
      moral support and prayers of all Christendom are vital for the rebuilding of
      Russia through Christ to her former strength".
      The head of Russia's Church is here
      expressing the feeling of most of its leaders and millions of its people. Such a
      letter brings an almost irresistible appeal. As the old Church of Russia moves
      out into new fields of service for a people rising to the ideals of a modern
      world, may Christians of the West be not unmindful of this desire for their
      prayer-support. Joining in its age-old prayer for the welfare of all God's
      churches, may we open our thought to every means of cooperation and assistance
      for the Church of Russia.
      Donald A. Lowrie
      18 / 11 /
      2012
      [1]This aspect of those times in Russia
      is here seen through the eyes of a Protestant, albeit one with great sensitivity
      toward the Orthodox religion. Needless to say, time has shown that icons and
      holy relics are no less important to the Russian Orthodox faithful than they
      were before the revolution.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.