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Thoughts on Russian Church Abroad Unity

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/STATII/churchunity.html (in Russian) Thoughts on Russian Church Unity (From the editor s foreword in the journal Svyataya
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2004
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      http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/STATII/churchunity.html (in Russian)
      Thoughts on Russian Church Unity
      (From the editor's foreword in the journal Svyataya Zemlya [Holy Land], No.
      11, 1935, Jerusalem)

      We are experiencing especially important times in our Church. Having no
      government of our own, a government under which our lives would follow the
      ways dictated by the moral ideals of the Russian people, we live in various
      countries among those of various faiths, often among heathens, or worse,
      former Christians who are now without faith, the Russian people are forced
      to adopt the ways of life of those peoples among whom the Lord scattered
      them. The way of life of these nations reflects their moral ideals; it
      cannot but have an effect on Russian life in the diaspora. In every
      country, Russian Оmigrants developed their way of life, their own views.
      But this leaves a mark on a person?s character, and on his inner world. The
      only thing that unites the Russian people is the unity of the moral ideal
      of the Russian people, and the preserver of the purity of this moral ideal
      is the Russian Church Abroad, whose hierarchs united in a Council of
      Russian archpastors abroad, independent of any political or material

      Only the Church, the keeper of the untouchable treasure of the Orthodox
      Faith, this life-creating essence of Russian national life, can now be
      trusted to guide the world-view of the Russian people and to keep safe the
      essential traits of the Russian soul in inviolability from external

      Of course, the guarantee of the preservation of our national unity, the
      guarantee of the preservation of the sanctity of the finest traditions of
      the true Russian Orthodox ideal only exists in that organ which is entirely
      independent of any outside influences, and, having no interests at all
      except for the preservation of the purity of the faith of the Russian
      people in the diaspora, is prepared for patriotic self-sacrifice in its
      confession of the truth.

      He who fully understands the spiritual needs of the Russian people in the
      diaspora, who experiences heartfelt suffering for their sorrows completely,
      can only be one for whom the Russian diaspora and the Russian people are
      not only a brother nation, but for whom they are of one flesh and blood and
      soul. Only that person for whom the spiritual state of the people is that
      of his own can properly lead the people on the path of salvation, without
      falling into temptation and without being repulsed by instances of
      disgraceful distortion of their souls. Only he who is an organic part of
      the diaspora, not only spiritually, but physically, can pastorally combine
      in his heart the sorrows of the diaspora, and will be prepared for pastoral
      and patriotic self-sacrifice.

      That is why we cherish the holy Conciliarity of our bishops, for it is from
      them that we hear the bold voice of the hierarchs who are enduring,
      alongside of us, both the spiritual and material difficulties of exile.

      We hold dear the Council for the very fact that it expresses the spiritual
      unity of our diaspora and its spiritual independence, and for this reason
      it by its very essence it can be dependent upon no one, to fully defend the
      interests of the Russian Orthodox people scattered throughout the world,
      serving only them, and not the special interests of those organizations and
      political unions, faiths, jurisdictions or nations which would exert their

      Any person who submits to another obligates himself to assume the interests
      of the latter. By entering a non-Russian jurisdiction, one would need to
      protect the interests not of the Russian nation, not of the Russian Church,
      not the spiritual interests of the Russian people, but first of all of
      those, to whom he submitted.

      At the same time, today, when the Russian people in exile have no national
      property?territory having been taken from them--no national rulers to whom
      the treasure of the national spirit is dear, they have only spiritual
      leaders. They assumed the entirety of Russian national interests,
      possessing the mysterious essence of the Russian national spirit, and they
      manifest these spiritual and moral ideals. Our faith and traditions of
      Orthodox piety cannot be taken from us; one can reject them out of
      blindness or ignorance, but they cannot be taken away by force. This
      tradition of Russian piety, preserved from external influence, the
      independence of our Council, gathered from all points of our diaspora, will
      preserve for us Holy Russia.

      In the present difficult daily circumstances of the Russian Church abroad,
      as we said, our hierarchs must truly be patriotically self-sacrificing
      confessors of the truth. Indeed, insults from those of other nations,
      material hardships, betrayals from false brothers, sorrows even from our
      own brothers, from those of other faiths, ahead lying only unremitting
      darkness, the striving of the enemies of unity to dismember it?all this,
      instead of consolation and joy, is what our archpastors and pastors see
      around them, this is what they must struggle against, overcoming the
      helplessness which such circumstances evoke. That is why a person who does
      not feel prepared for self-sacrifice cannot understand the situation,
      cannot find the proper and necessary paths of our treasure of the Orthodox
      faith and Russian Orthodox piety. Of course, it is easier from afar, from a
      point of safety a judicial security, to bear some platonic sympathy for
      those unbelievable difficulties caused by internal and external forces and
      endured by the pastors in the emigration. It is a great podvig [spiritual
      struggle] to lead an unruly flock, who often demand that their pastor
      fulfill their own capricious desires, which sometimes contradict the basic
      principles of Orthodoxy, even of Christianity itself. These pastors protect
      us from straying to non-Orthodox ideas and the temptation of compromises,
      which could lead to the appearance of some external Тsplendid and peaceful
      life,У and they protect us from the wolves who try to exploit the
      incredible lack of awareness of the flock in questions of faith, not to
      speak of canonical law.

      In this silent, unnoticed great podvig of suffering over the spiritual
      impoverishment of the Russian emigration is the greatness of the Council of
      our hierarchs, in it lies the historical justification of its existence.
      The colossal significance which the Council has for preserving us as
      Orthodox and pious people will be fully recognized only by the future
      historian, who will draw conclusions without bias on all that transpired
      with the Russian people.

      If we had no Council to spiritually unite the entire Russian emigration
      from one end of the earth to the other, if Russian church groups
      differentiate in their own countries, or, worse yet, went under the
      omophorion of non-Russian jurisdictions, then the spiritual division
      occurring as a result of their dissemination among other peoples would
      gradually lead first to the external, then to the internal disappearance of
      the Russian spiritual character, in awesome proportions. Unwillingly, the
      traits of other nations (first external, then internal) would be assumed,
      and the following generations raised in this way, and in 15 years, no more,
      there will no longer be Russian people. There will be Russian surnames, but
      not that which comprises Holy Russia: there will be no Russian spirit, nor
      its life-giving origins?Russian Orthodox piety; instead there will be
      Frenchmen and Americans with Russian surnames.

      The truly Orthodox Russian person is most alarmed at that mark which causes
      division in the Russian Church Abroad. It happens that autocephaly (that
      is, full independence in governance) is obtained by a local church as a
      result of external circumstances, preserving at the same time full unity of
      faith and unity in prayer with other Local Churches. For in principle, if a
      church is Orthodox, its members are humanity that is saving itself, the
      Head of which is the God-Man Jesus Christ. In this way, the following
      churches found their identity in an administrative sense: the Churches of
      Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Rumania, etc.--in a purely
      administrative sense, but not at all in an ideological one. The unity of
      mankind which is seeking salvation is not violated by this, the salvific
      path and attitude is not violated. This seeming division did not alarm the
      Orthodox person very much who strove for salvation.

      But if we closely examine the reasons which cause unrest, we will see that
      division arises not on a personal and administrative basis, as the
      newspapers attempt to portray it, relying on the insufficient awareness of
      the Russian intelligentsia in matters of faith, but on an ideological

      These are the bases upon which divisions and groupings of people occur in
      various ecclesiastical unions: 1) compromise with non-Orthodox, accepting
      ideas alien to Orthodoxy, 2) modernism. The first tendency abides in
      Western Europe, the second in the newly-formed governments, especially in
      the New World.

      The limitations of space do not allow us to examine these bases; let us see
      how the two directions lie at the foundation of the sorrowful ideological

      The Council of Russian Bishops, gathering from all parts of the Russian
      Diaspora and headed by the staid protectors of Orthodox tradition, firmly
      stood guard to this day over the purity of this tradition. The unity of the
      Church and the uniting of all hierarchs at the Council would demand
      following the traditions of Orthodox piety in the full sense of the term.
      At the same time, this way contradicts the inclinations and desires, it
      contradicts the very mood of those who know only a part of the truth, from
      the heterodox (and some untruth from us), who sympathize with the modernist
      tendency, which has already shown its lack of saving grace.

      This is what makes the Conciliar manner of preserving the purity and
      wholeness of the Orthodox attitude unacceptable for those who no longer
      sense the Church as a constantly-renewing entity which saves mankind, but
      sees in her only a political force or a recollection of a splendid past.

      Look how the people in these various groups have fallen together. They
      united in the commonality of their mood: modernist with modernist,
      inter-confessionalists with inter-confessionalists, Orthodox with the true
      preservers of the Orthodox spirit (and not only its external aspects) of
      apostolic tradition.

      It is in this and nothing else that the root of division lies. This is
      simply the expression of the inner world, the spiritual state of mind, but
      in fact it occurred in the soul first, before it was written about and
      brought to life.

      In that case, they will say, this is not a matter of divisions, but the
      separation of traditional Orthodox from non-traditional Orthodox, that is,
      of real Orthodox from those who mix into Orthodoxy something novel, or from
      those who hinder piety. Alas, this is true. For those who left and adopted
      other ways will more easily accept novelties in emulation of the
      non-Orthodox, then one cannot be held responsible, one can be free (not in
      an administrative sense?this is only an excuse?but in a moral sense,
      freedom from conscience and responsibility before the Church, the Council,
      this is the subconscious root of division). Division is rooted in moral
      disharmony. That which Christ spoke of (Matth. 25:32). This happens from
      the attitude of the soul, from the free choice of either the path to
      salvation?in agreement with the fullness of Orthodox piety loyal to God, or
      the path to perdition, by seeking one?s own ways, in freeing oneself from
      the moral imperatives, which is developed through communion and unity with
      the Council of true preservers of apostolic tradition?our Hierarchs.

      From Svyataya Zemlya [Holy Land], No. 11, Jerusalem, 1935
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