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"Mother Church"

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  • Athanasios Jayne
    The reasons for our leaving the Church Abroad... our acceptance of this mode of rapprochement requires us to accept that the [Moscow] Patriarchate is,
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 24, 2007
      "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.)

      Athanasios Jayne

      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,
      p. 262).

      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,
      downtrodden—but 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 way—as some have tried to argue—that
      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 vestments—Evlogy 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 church—that
      is, in the temple; he is, of course, not as he was
      characterized by the revilers, although the last three years
      he has acted unwisely—he outsmarted himself. (Ibid., p. 249).

      Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), who holds a place of great
      esteem in the Russian Church Abroad—for 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 Russia—which he calls the
      "Mother Church"—consistently and constantly. One also can
      see from the context of his statements—which definitely
      express the mind of the ROCOR at that time—since 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
      Russia—but included those in the enslaved Russian Church
      that were faithful to the historical Church of Russia.

      Please let me be clear—he did not EQUATE the Moscow
      Patriarchate with the Mother Church—but 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 infants—the 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 well—we 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.
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