WAY OF THE ORTHODOX
NEWMARTYR METROPOLITAN JOSEPH OF PETROGRAD
This excerpt is from Ivan Andreyev's Russia's Catacomb Saints (Platina, CA:
St. Herman of Alaska Press, 1982), 109-129. I encourage everyone to find a
copy of this out-of-print, 600+ page masterpiece. It is powerful reading
and extremely important for our day.(also Book Newmartyrs of Russia is of
Commemorated Dec. 15
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul;
but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
St. Matthew 10: 28
IN THE HISTORY of the Church of Christ there have been several critical
moments when the official leadership of a Local Church has fallen away from
Orthodoxy, and for a time the faithful hesitate, uncertain whom to follow,
or where the Church Herself is to be found. At such times Christ our Lord,
faithful to His promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against
His Church (St. Matt. 16: 18), raises up a champion to speak the truth and
rally the faithful to the side of Orthodoxy. At the dawn of the modern age
such a champion was St. Mark of Ephesus, who alone of the hierarchs of the
Greek Church fearlessly condemned the impious Council and pseudo-Union of
Florence and awakened the Orthodox faithful to the realization that the
Church of Rome had fallen into heresy, and those who united themselves to
it thereby placed themselves outside the Church of Christ.
In our own century, when a yet more formidable enemy of the Church appeared
in the form of the pseudo-religious totalitarianism of atheistic Communism;
and when the acting head of the Russian Church, Metropolitan Sergius,
proclaimed with his Declaration in 1927 the principle of practical and
ideological cooperation with the forces of anti-Christianity?then God
raised up, at the head of a veritable army of confessors, a champion in the
person of Metropolitan Joseph to oppose and accuse this soul-destroying
legalization and lead the movement of the faithful of the true Russian
Orthodox Church into the catacombs.
The life of Metropolitan Joseph (Petrovykh) before the Revolution is
largely unknown to us, although its general features may be discovered in
his writings, which began to appear in the Russian religious press around
the turn of the century. Thus we know that he was born, approximately
between 1870 and 1875, in Novgorod province in the area of Tikhvin, famous
for its wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God, for which the future
hierarch had great veneration. In 1899 he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land, and perhaps it was there that the spark of his Orthodox faith was
first kindled into a flame of ardent desire to serve Christ's Church. After
spending the whole night of June 18 in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, he
emerged at dawn and, walking through the deserted streets of Jerusalem, he
was filled with the noblest feelings: "It was so good, as it is only at
Pascha, when you return home after the service, burning with the desire to
embrace the whole world, to renounce the earth, to fly somewhere far, far
away, into the depth and breadth of the boundless heavens!..." All his life
he was to remain faithful to this Christ-inspired enthusiasm of his youth.
Years later, sharpened by ascetic labors and refined by suffering, it led
him to become a confessor and martyr for Christ and His Holy Church.
The writings of Metropolitan Joseph on questions of spiritual life reveal a
firm foundation in Orthodox patristic and ascetical literature and draw
much inspiration from the texts of the Church's service books. In 1901,
when he was a hieromonk, he wrote a thorough and precise article on the
question: "May an Orthodox Christian, and How May, He Pray for Non-Orthodox
Christians?" Beginning, in 1905, now an archimandrite, he published his
major work, a whole book composed of brief spiritual reflections with the
title "In the Father's Embrace: From the Diary of a Monk." The following
excerpts from this work will give an idea of the author's sensitivity and
precise insights into spiritual questions.
"Intense sorrows, like gold in a furnace, purify the soul, give it life,
fortify and temper it. A man becomes less sensitive to his everyday sorrows
and sufferings on earth, becomes calmer, more balanced, looks at the world
more seriously and soberly, becomes less attached to the earthly, thirsts
more for the heavenly, the eternal, the unending."
"In a man there is much energy for activity; only it needs to be awakened.
It is awakened by need, sorrow, the battle for existence, love toward God;
thirst for salvation, awareness of the fragility of the present life and
the sweetness of the future life, and much else that is taught by the means
which the Church of God possesses for the guidance and enlightenment of
every man that is given to Her. ."
"The more we trust in man's help and in defense by others, the farther from
us are the saving and merciful grace and help of God. And this is natural:
for after all, if we received help from God at a time when we expected to
receive it from men, we would ascribe what is God's to men, and would turn
the glory of God into human glory. Therefore the Lord arranges it even so,
that His help becomes all the more evident to us, to the extent that our
helplessness becomes sure and obvious and all our hope remains in Him!"
Shortly after 1908 Archimandrite Joseph was consecrated bishop of Uglich.
His address on this occasion . . . is consciously prophetic. Penetrated
with an awareness of the rising movement of anarchy and unbelief that was
already dissolving the very fabric of Orthodox Russian civilization and was
about to give birth to the hideous Revolution, the young hierarch's words
sound almost like a manifesto of the very soul of Holy Russia as it faces
even today the assembled armies of world-wide satanism.
With the coming of the Revolution the forces of unbelief, whose power the
hierarch well knew, were unleashed with full fury upon the Russian land and
especially against the Orthodox Church, the very existence of which was a
threat to the program of Bolshevism and a reproach to what conscience still
remained in the frenzied atheists. As long as Patriarch Tikhon was alive,
the Church had a visible center of unity. Even when the Patriarch was
imprisoned, when the apostates of the "Living Church" had taken possession
of the vast majority of the Orthodox churches in Russia, and the
"progressive" Church of Constantinople had given international prestige to
this synagogue of satan by recognizing it as the Orthodox Church of
Russia?still the faithful, by remaining with their Patriarch, remained
Orthodox, and their loyalty to the Patriarch became the very test of their
Orthodoxy; and it was this more than anything else that broke the power of
the "Living Church."
But with the death of Patriarch Tikhon in 1925, the situation became much
less clear. Under the conditions of persecution it was impossible for a
Church Council to be called to elect a new patriarch; and, foreseeing this,
Patriarch Tikhon had designated three leading hierarchs, one of whom
(whoever was not in prison or banishment) should become Locum Tenens of the
Patriarchal Throne on his death and safeguard the external unity of the
Church. Of these three hierarchs, only one?Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsk
?was free at the time of the Patriarch's death, and he was accepted, in a
special decree signed by over fifty bishops, by the Russian Church as her
acting head. Metropolitan Peter himself designated three "Substitutes" for
the position of Locum Tenens in case he should be arrested or killed in
turn, one of whom was Metropolitan Joseph (at that time Archbishop of
Rostov), and another, Metropolitan (later "Patriarch") Sergius.
Metropolitan Peter was arrested within a few months for refusing to sign a
"declaration" which would give away the Church's inner freedom to the
atheist regime. From 1925 to 1927 no candidate was able to take his place
for more than a few months before being imprisoned, and it became clear
that the Soviet Government would not rest until it had found or forced a
hierarch to sign a document pleasing to the regime. This hierarch was found
in the person of Metropolitan Sergius, who on July 16/29, 1927, after being
released from several months in prison, issued the infamous "Declaration"
that made him and his followers in effect the agents of the Soviet State.
In publishing the "Declaration" on August 19, the official Soviet newspaper
Izvestia noted that "the far-sighted part of the clergy had already entered
upon this path in 1922"? referring to the "Living Church." Thus did the
atheist regime succeed in introducing "Renovationism" into the Patriarchal
Church itself, and the result was the decisive protest of the leading
hierarchs of the Russian Church, who, when they saw that Metropolitan
Sergius was clearly determined to force his will upon the whole Church,
soon began to break off communion with him.
It thus became immediately dear that the "Declaration" was in flagrant
defiance of the 34th Apostolic Canon, having been proclaimed "without the
consent of all" bishops, being indeed the work of Sergius alone at the
dictation of the atheist regime; and therefore the only ecclesiastical
course open for Sergius was to retract the "Declaration" in the face of
such overwhelming disapproval of his fellow hierarchs. Instead of this,
however, as if to prove that he longer considered or needed the opinion of
the Church, but had become the obedient tool of the regime, he began,
together with his uncanonical "Synod"?the formation of which far exceeded
his powers as Substitute of the Locum Tenens?an unparalleled transference
of bishops from see to see and placed under interdict all who did not agree
with him, founding thus a submissive "Soviet" Church.
Metropolitan Joseph, as one of the first to protest the "Declaration," was
quickly "transferred" from Petrograd, to which See he had arrived only on
September of 1926. By an act of the "Synod" of October 19, 1927,
"Metropolitan Joseph is considered transferred to the See of Odessa, and it
suggested that he not be tempted by the easy possibility of living in
Rostov, which will cause disturbance among the faithful both of Leningrad
and of Rostov..." In reply, Metropolitan Joseph cited those canons that
forbid the needless transference of bishops from city to city and stated,
quoting the canons: "Even if I allowed to be done with me such a thing
contrary to a Council of the Holy Fathers, then still may this order 'be
completely invalid' and may he who has been removed 'be returned' to his
own Church." Giving his case over "to the Judgment of God," he refused to
At this time, in the autumn of 1927, Metropolitan Joseph still regarded his
case as a private one, and, as he states in one of the "Documents" that
follow, he was prepared to retire in disgrace and under interdict in order
not to have any communion with Sergius, but he still had no intention of
becoming involved in any kind of "schism."
Soon, however, it became clear that his case was only a small part of an
issue that had convulsed the whole of Orthodox Russia. The leading bishops
who were still in freedom and were able to judge the issue came to the
conclusion that Sergius himself had gone into schism by his "Declaration"
and his arbitrary acts directed against the Church, and they hastened to
declare their separation from him, in late 1927 and early 1928.
Metropolitan Joseph all this time was not allowed by the authorities to
reside at his see of Petrograd (Leningrad), but already in December of 1927
he blessed his Vicar Bishops to depart from Sergius; and, being himself in
Rostov, he signed, together with Metropolitan Agathangel and other
hierarchs of the Yaroslavl region, an epistle to Metropolitan Sergius of
February 6, 1928, which declared their separation from him until he should
show repentance for his errors, recognizing in the meantime no head of the
Church apart from the banished Metropolitan Peter.
Petrograd at this time had become the very heart of the Church's protest
against Sergius, and there was scarcely an Orthodox soul in the former
Capital that was not anguished over the question of whom to follow. Many
refused for a time to receive Communion in any church, uncertain as to
whose Sacraments were valid or where the Church of Christ was to be found.
After signing the epistle of the Yaroslavl Archpastors, Metropolitan Joseph
stepped boldly forward into battle for the Church and gave his blessing for
the clergy and faithful of Petrograd to follow his example in separating
from Sergius, offering his own spiritual guidance and care to this
movement, and entrusting the governance of the Petrograd Diocese to his
outspokenly anti-Sergianist Vicar, Bishop Dimitry of Gdov. Blessing the
"good decision the zealots of Christ's truth," he prayed "that the Lord
present us all unanimity and holy firmness of spirit in the new trial which
the Church undergoing."
But against the spiritual weapons of Christ's warriors, the evil one
gathered all the forces of the world's first satanist regime. The
interdiction of Metropolitan Sergius were the sign for the Soviet Political
Police to arrest and banish the protesting bishops; even many who attended
Sergius' own "legal" churches were not spared by the authorities, and the
chief result of the policy of "Sergianism"?to quote the words, born of
bitter experience used forty years later inside the USSR by Boris
Talantov?was that "Metropolitan Sergius' actions saved nothing except his
own skin." A dark night in expiatory suffering settled upon the Russian
land and faithful. "Sergianism" itself was rejected by the faithful,
inasmuch as?in the words, again, of Talantov?"by the beginning of the
Second World War... the greater part of those churches that remained did
not recognize Metropolitan Sergius." Out of the more than 100 bishops known
to be still alive in 1943, Sergius could find only 18 (and some of these
were newly consecrated) to elect him "Patriarch" in that year.
Metropolitan Joseph, by his decisive words and acts and by his position as
one of the Substitutes of the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne became
the factual head of the separatist movement, acting in the name o the
banished Locum Tenens, Metropolitan Peter, whose anti-Sergianist attitude
was not to become known for some time. So powerful was the influence and
example of Metropolitan Joseph that all who followed him came to be called
"Josephites," and to this day all who defend the Sergianist Moscow
Patriarchate refer to this movement of the zealots of Orthodoxy as the
There were "Sergianists" at that time, as there are today, who, even while
admitting that it was the best element among the clergy and faithful who
went over to the side of the "Josephites," nonetheless accuse and condemn
them for their "pride" in believing that they represented the true Orthodox
Church of Russia. The statements of Metropolitan Joseph, it is true, are
extremely outspoken, absolutely uncompromising in principle, and unsparing
of persons. But those who find "pride" in such words are perhaps simply
unaware of the critical urgency of the issues involved. When the Church is
being betrayed and the faithful led astray, it is no time for compliments
and polite "dialogues," nor for placing "sympathy" above truth. For
courageous souls the knowledge that every word may bring prison and death
only increases their boldness in speaking the truth without embellishments.
And thus it has always been in the Church of Christ; Her outspoken
defenders are hymned as champions in the Church's song of praise.
Significantly, the righteous polemic of Metropolitan Joseph and his
followers has emerged again in the contemporary Soviet Union in the
writings of Boris Talantov . . . and other outspoken critics of the
Sergianist hierarchy. By comparison, the criticisms of Sergianism in the
Russian diaspora are quite mild and charitable.
Metropolitan Joseph himself was very soon arrested and sent in banishment
to Central Asia. Even in banishment and prison he authorities persecuted
religion and prohibited services, and so it was that throughout the Russian
land, this one vast concentration camp, in the period after 1927 the
"Josephites" became transformed into the Catacomb Church. The full measure
of the heroic deeds and sufferings of this Church will become known, only
in God's time. But even before that ardently-desired time, it is possible
to glimpse some small fragments of its history. The following first-hand
account was written by Natalia V. Urusova, who was able to escape from the
Soviet Union during the Second World War, and died in 1968 in New York.
"In August of 1936 there was living in Alma Ata (Central Asia) the
comparatively young Archimandrite Arsenius. From him I found out for the
first time that there exists a secret, catacomb Church, headed by
Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd and organized by him with the blessing of
Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsk, with whom he, while being in banishment in
Chemkent, 100 miles from Alma Ata, had secret contact all the time.
Archimandrite Arsenius was ordained by the Metropolitan and had the good
fortune to support him materially, earning his living by the manufacture of
various kinds of mannikins and small articles for museums. He had a church
deep d underground and he and Metropolitan Joseph served in it. The
Metropolita had also consecrated it, secretly, on one of his rare trips to
Alma Ata Fr. Arsenius had dug out this church by great and long labors.
"We had great respect for Archimandrite Arsenius, all the more be cause he
was loved by Metropolitan Joseph and through him we could have contact with
the latter. The Metropolitan at that time was living in Chemkent. Before
that, from the very beginning of his banishment, he had lived in the small
town of Aulieta, where he had not been allowed to live in a room, but had
been placed in a shed with farm animals, his bed separated from them by a
fence of stakes.
"The church dug out of the earth was in the apartment of Archimandrite
Arsenius. The entrance was a trap-door, covered by a carpet. The top was
taken off, and under it was a ladder to the cellar. In one corner of the
cellar there was an opening in the earth, which was covered with rocks. The
rocks were moved aside and, bending down completely, one had to crawl three
steps forward, and there was the entrance to the tiny church. There were
many icons, and lamps were burning. Metropolitan Joseph was very tall, and
nonetheless twice in my presence he traveled here secretly and penetrated
to this church.
"A remarkable state of mind and soul was created by this church, but I do
not hide the fact that the fear of being discovered during the services
especially at night, was difficult to conquer. When the big chained dog
began to bark in the yard?even though it was muffled, still it was audible
underground?then everyone expected the cry and the knock of the GPU. For
the whole of 1935 and until September in 1937 everything was all right. My
son sang here together with one nun. On August 26 Metropolitan Joseph came
and honored us with a visit on my namesday.
"What a marvelous, humble, unshakable man of prayer! This was reflected in
his face and eyes as in a mirror. Very tall, with a large white beard and
an extraordinarily kind face he could not help but attract one to him, and
one only wished never to part from him. His monastic garb was covered up,
as was his hair; otherwise he would have been arrested immediately right on
the street, since he was watched and did not have the right to travel. He
himself said that Patriarch Tikhon had offered, right after his election,
to designate him as his first Substitute. For some reason this has not been
noted anywhere yet in the history of the institution of Locum Tenens. I
recognized Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsk as the lawful head of the Church,
and right up to the latter's arrest in September, 1937, he had secret
contacts with him, even while rumors were circulating everywhere that
Metropolitan Peter was dead.
"Metropolitan Joseph stayed at tea with us for over an hour. Concerning his
banishment of almost ten years, he related that it had been extremely
difficult. He had lived in a sty with pigs in a platted shed, slept on
boards separated from the pigs by a few stakes. In these conditions he had
borne cold and heat, every kind of weather and the stifling air. Once a
snake, clinging to a stake on his roof, crawled down right over his head.
These conditions were also apparently the cause of his illness. At times he
suffered terribly from an intestinal ulcer, or perhaps he had some kind of
internal tumor, perhaps cancerous, and he was on a diet which Archimandrite
Arsenius helped him to keep. He suffered everything like the righteous, and
if he related his difficult persecutions, it was only because we all were
recalling the cruelties of the GPU.
"Fr. Arsenius told here of one form of torture and mockery. When they were
taking us through Siberia, there was a severe frost. In the train there was
a bath-car. They chased us, completely naked, through the cars to the bath.
With joy we drenched ourselves with the hot water and got a little warm
since the cars themselves were almost unheated. Without giving us anything
to dry ourselves with, with wet heads, they chased us back. On the metal
platform between cars they deliberately stopped us, and our wet feet
immediately froze to the metal. At the command to advance, we tore away
with blood the frozen bottoms of our feet...
"On the next day, after staying overnight with Fr. Arsenius, the
Metropolitan returned to his own place. Now he was living in different
circumstances. After many years it was permitted to find an apartment for
him to Chemkent. Archimandrite Arsenius arranged an apartment for him to
live quietly in, saw to his food, not only as to its sufficiency but also
to keep his diet. First a zither, and then a harmonium was obtained for
him, which were a joy for the Metropolitan, who was a good musician. He put
Psalms to music and sang them.
"On September 23, 1937, everywhere in the neighborhood of Alma Ata
throughout Kazakhstan, all the clergy of the underground Josephite churches
were arrested, after having served their terms of banishment for refusing
to recognize the Soviet churches. All of them were sentenced to ten years
more without right of correspondence and, as I discovered later,
Metropolitan Joseph also was among them. Archimandrite Arsenius was also
arrested. After the arrest of my son, being beside myself, I was running to
Fr. Arsenius right at dawn, and coming up to his house I saw an automobile
and the GPU going in to him. Fortunately they did not see me. The
underground church of Fr. Arsenius was discovered. Through lack of caution
he once revealed its secret to an elderly man, respectable in appearance,
who turned out to be an agent of the GPU.
"On returning to Moscow after my three-year voluntary banishment together
with my son, I very soon found out about the existence here also of secret
Josephite churches?that is to say, not churches, but services in secret
rooms, where sometimes twenty to twenty-five people would gather. The
service would be conducted in a whisper, with strict control by the
faithful in view of the possibility of betrayal. People came usually at
dawn according to an agreed signal. For the most part they would carefully
tap at the drainpipe by a window, where someone would be standing and
"Until the arrival of the Germans in Mozhaisk in 1941 I lived peace fully
in this city and went to catacomb services in Moscow."
At the end of 1938 Metropolitan Joseph was executed by firing squad for the
"crime" of giving encouragement to wandering priests. Years before he had
spiritually prepared himself, as it were, for this, his own martyrdom. He
wrote in his "Diary of a Monk," in an entry published in September, 1905:
"Love your enemies (St. Luke 6: 35). To say this is easy, but how difficult
to do it. This is much higher than simply love of neighbor. It is the
supreme triumph of love, its true essence and most superb expression... In
order that one's heart might be inflamed with love toward one's enemy,
there must be a special, grace-given state of soul, a special heavenly
attunement of the heart?there must be that inexpressible and indescribable
quality that abundantly filled the soul of the First Martyr Stephen when
he, being stoned, his face shining like an angel, prayed for his murderers:
Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (Acts 7: 60). Oh, in this great
moment for him what small place did everything earthly around him find in
him! What were the executioners to him? Before him were the opened heavens,
the Son of God right hand of the Father; heavenly glory poured into kits
soul and seized entirely with an incomprehensible ecstasy, and the
executioners with all heir pitiful malice not only could not prevent this,
but even assisted it; at this moment they were even, as it were, his
benefactors, hastening his departure from the body and the utter immersion
of his soul in these oceans of heavenly ecstasy and blessedness... In this
blissful moment, could the tortured sufferer cry out in any other way than
with the voice of the supreme triumph of love for one's enemies?!"
The example of this fearless confessor and champion of Christ's Church has
not been in vain. After Patriarch Tikhon himself, the name of Metropolitan
Joseph stands out as a symbol of the integrity and genuineness of the
Orthodoxy of the Russian Church. Even after half a century of persecution,
terror, and betrayal, the true Orthodox Church of Russia, though hidden,
has not been vanquished. To the present day one can accurately call this
Catacomb Church either the Church of "Tikhonites" or the Church of
"Josephites", but most accurately of all, it is known, even to the Soviet
authorities themselves, as the "True Orthodox Church." In the following
Soviet account, taken from the Atheist's Dictionary (Moscow, 2nd Edition,
1966)?a practical handbook for anti-religious agitators?one may see, behind
the exaggerations and fabrications of the Soviet mind, the true and
confessing Orthodox Church of Russia today. One may note in this account
that the Soviets themselves are well aware of the historical continuities
involved; for they date the origin of the "True Orthodox Church" to the
years 1922-26, i.e., to Patriarch Tikhon and his followers; whereas the
"Sergianists," as Izvestia saw clearly in 1927, have their origins in the
"Living Church" of that same period.
TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH (TOC): An Orthodox-monarchist sect, originating in the
years 1922-26, which was organized in 1927, when Metr. Sergius proclaimed
the principles of a loyal relation to Soviet authority. Monarchist
elements, united around the Metropolitan of Leningrad Joseph (Petrovykh),
or JOSEPHITES, in 1928 established a directing center of the TOC, and
united all groups and elements which had come out against the Soviet Order.
In the country the TOC had support among the kulaks and together with other
anti-Soviet elements came out against collectivization and organized
terrorist acts against Party and Soviet activities, uprisings, etc. It
directed into the villages a multitude of monks and nuns, who roamed about
the countryside spreading anti-Soviet rumors. The TOC was a widely ramified
monarchist-rebellious organization. In its composition were 613 priests and
monks, 416 kulaks, 70 former tsarist officials and officers. The more
fanatical members, crazy women, passing themselves off for prophets,
saints, healers, members of the imperial family, spread monarchist ideas,
conducted propaganda against the leadership of the Orthodox Church, called
on people not to submit to Soviet laws.
Basic characteristics of the sect: (I) rejection of the Orthodox Church
headed by the patriarch/ as having 'sold itself to Antichrist,' to the
world; 2) recognition as canonical of only those clergy who have been
ordained by followers of Tikhon; (3) acceptance of Orthodox rites; (4)
propaganda of the approaching 'end of the world'; (5) cult of members of
the imperial family of Romanov: their portraits are preserved as holy
objects, and believers in secret make prostrations in front of them; (6)
assumption of the name of tsars and the relatives by the leaders of the
sect; (7) preservation and spread of counter-revolutionary monarchist
literature; (8) estab1ishment of catacomb churches and monasteries in
houses. The institution of priesthood is preserved, but in many places
certain rites are performed by ordinary believers. On great religious
holidays the members of this sect gather at so-called sources (lakes,
springs, and the like), where propaganda is conducted by various kinds of
clairvoyants, foretellers, crazy men, and holy fools, who enjoy special
honor in the sect. Striving to fence off the members of the sect from the
influence of Soviet reality, the leaders of the sect in order to frighten
believers make use of the myth of Antichrist, who has supposedly been
reigning in the world since 1917. So as not to fall into his nets,
Christians are to lead a closed-up, hermitic form of life, spend all their
free time in prayer, and not take part in pub1ic life.
The Soviet press in recent years has given ample evidence of the existence
of this True Orthodox Church. Its existence is illegal, and its members are
treated as criminals by the regime. Of necessity its governing principle
must be Metropolitan Joseph's instruction to his followers in 1927: "Govern
yourselves independently"; and its members are chiefly, as he foresaw . . .
, "not only not bishops and not archpriests, but the simplest mortals."
The existence of this Catacomb Church today is surely a sign to world
Orthodoxy: the age of Orthodoxy's grandeur is past; the last age of
catacombs is in our midst. In Russia this truth is more than evident; among
its many proofs, perhaps the most striking is the history of the Church of
Christ the Savior in Moscow. Once a magnificent temple, a monument to God's
preservation of the Russian land in 1812 and a visible symbol of the faith
of a whole people, it was entirely destroyed by the Soviets, and to this
day nothing has been built on its site, and it remains a gaping hole m the
center of the capital of world atheism. A surprising testimony of its
meaning for the Russian people even today may be found in a short novel,
Iskupleniye ("Redemption"), by the Soviet writer Yuly Daniel; while not a
believer himself, his observations touch something very deep within Soviet
life. "I met Mishka Lurye at the Metro station 'Hall of the Soviets' near
the board fence surrounding the excavation. Interesting: will they build
something here,or will this hole remain this way as a monument to the
blown-up Church of Christ the Savior? How many years the boards have been
here, posters stuck up on them. 'Mishka, when did they blow up the church?'
'What church?... Oh, they blew it up in '54....'29 years ago they blew up
the church. Despite the proverb, the holy place is empty. Of course, I
don't argue, there's no benefit in churches, not a bit; they're
architectural monuments, no more: but all the same... They blew up God, and
the shock-wave from the explosion wounded man, gave him a confusion.
Deafness, dumbness... The pus flows from under the bandage, from under the
articles on humanism..." (Author now in prison.)
Even so, he who looks for the Church in the Soviet Union today finds ?a
hole in the earth, a deep wound in the Orthodox Russian people that is not
at all hidden by the false front of the Moscow Patriarchate. But is the
situation so very different in the free world? Here voluntary apostasy,
Renovationism and heresy have achieved much the same result as the coercion
of the atheist regime in the USSR. Behind the glittering facade of almost
all the free Orthodox Churches, with their "ecumenical" triumphs?is a
gaping hole in the earth, all the abyss of difference that exists between
the "official" apostates and the "simple mortals": the saving remnant of
Orthodox faithful of many nations. Even now these faithful are being driven
into the voluntary catacombs of separation from the ecumenist heresiarchs,
gathering around the few truly Orthodox bishops who remain. Thus the Divine
Head of the Church prepares them for the greater trials that seem to lie
ahead. The prophecy of the holy and clairvoyant Elder Ignaty of Harbin,
made some 30 years ago, no longer seems remote: "What began in Russia, will
end in America."
But if such terrible days be truly upon us, even Orthodox America so weak,
so inexperienced, so naive?has all that is necessary to face the days in
the example of Metropolitan Joseph and the True Orthodox Christians of the
first land to experience the fearful yoke of satanic atheism.
Holy New Hieromartyr Joseph and all the new-martyrs of the Communist Yoke,
pray to God for us!
THE EPISTLES OF METROPOLITAN JOSEPH
The following are the principal epistles that have come down to as from the
first head of the Catacomb Church, demonstrating his fearless stand against
Sergianism at its very outbreak.
RESOLUTION ON THE REPORT OF THE PETROGRAD VICARS
Document of December 23, 1927
In order to condemn and counteract the latest actions of Metropolitan
Sergius, which are contrary to the spirit and the good of the Holy Church
of Christ, under present conditions we have no other means apart from a
decisive departure from him and an ignoring of his orders. Let these orders
be accepted henceforth only by the paper they are written on, which
tolerates anything, and by the unfeeling air which contains everything?but
not by the living souls of the faithful children of Christ's Church.
In separating from Metropolitan Sergius and his acts, we do not separate
from our lawful Chief Hierarch, Metropolitan Peter, nor from the Council,
which will meet at some time in the future, of those Orthodox hierarchs who
have remained faithful. May this Council, our sole competent judge, not
then hold us guilty for our boldness. May it judge us, not as despisers of
the sacred canons of the Fathers, but only as fearful to violate them. Even
if we have erred, we have erred honestly, out of zeal for the purity of
Orthodoxy in the present evil age. And if we turn out to be guilty, then
may we be even especially deserving-of condescension, and not of
And so, even if all pastors should leave us, may the Heavenly Pastor not
leave us, according to His unfailing promise to remain in His Church to the
end of the age.
APPEAL TO THE FAITHFUL OF PETROGRAD
Document of early 1928, written from Rostov
The Archpastors of the ecclesiastical province of Yaroslavl?Patriarch
Athanangel, Metropolitan of Yaroslavl, Seraphim Archbishop of Uglich,
former Substitute of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, Archbishop Varlaam,
formerly of Pskov, now ruling the Dashedovsky Vicariate of the Diocese of
Yaroslavl, and Eugene Bishop of Rostov?by a special document have declared
their separation from Metropolitan Sergius and their independent governance
from now on of the flocks entrusted to them by God. This document, signed
on January 27 (February 9), has to such an extent been called forth by the
conditions of the times and the attitude of the faithful masses of people,
and this separation is so well founded, that I, residing in the Yaroslavl
region, have taken part in it and added my own signature to it.
Thus, henceforth all the orders of Metropolitan Sergius have no force for
us. This gives me grounds to protest anew my unlawful removal from the
flock of Leningrad and to ask for a canonically correct decision on this
question at an appropriate trial by Orthodox bishops. And until such a
decision I consider myself to have no right to leave the flock entrusted to
me (in the sense of the 16th Canon of the First and Second Council) to the
arbitrary whim of Church administrators who do not have our confidence and
before the Lord God and my conscience I accept the obligation to take
measures to pacify my disturbed and agitated flock. To this end I call
first of all upon my vicar bishops to serve the flock of Leningrad in
concord with me. To the Right Reverend Bishop of Gdov, Dimitry, I give over
the temporary governance of the Diocese of Leningrad. The Right Reverend
Gregory I likewise request to continue serving in the St. Alexander Nevsky
Lavra as my substitute, in concord with me.
Invoking God's blessing upon the shepherds and all the faithful I request
and beg you to trust our leadership and our archpastoral concern,
peacefully and quietly continuing the work of prayer, salvation of and
Divine service, humbly submitting to the civil authority, which for the
time being has not found it possible to permit my unworthiness come into
immediate communion in prayer with the flock entrusted to me. Being away, I
shall nonetheless be in constant prayerful remembrance of and concern for
you, requesting that my name be pronounced at Divine services in the
customary way. May the Lord hear our common lamentation, and may He bless
with peace and quiet our much-suffering Church.
EPISTLE TO AN ARCHIMANDRITE OF PETROGRAD (1928)
Until lately I thought that my dispute with Metropolitan Sergius was
finished and that, refusing to offer myself as a sacrifice to the crude
politics, intrigues, and pursuits of the enemies and betrayers of the
Church, I could peacefully go off to the side, voluntarily offering myself
as a sacrifice of protest and warfare against this foul politics and
arbitrariness. And I was entirely sincere when I thought and said that "I
am not starting any kind of schism," and I will submit to the unlawful
punishment against me?all the way to interdict and excommunication, hoping
in God's justice alone.
But it turned out that ecclesiastical life does not stand at freezing
point, but bubbles and foams above the normal boiling point. My "small
case" soon turned out to be only a small part of such a monstrous
arbitrariness, flattery of men, and betrayal of the Church to the interests
of atheists and the destruction of this Church, that it remained for me
henceforth to wonder not only at my own calmness and patience, but now as
well at the indifference and blindness of those others who still suppose
that those who have allowed and done this hideous thing are doing the work
of God, are "saving" the Church, are governing and not crudely injuring
Her, mocking Her, numbering themselves among Her enemies, cutting
themselves off from Her?for it is not they who are cutting off those who
cannot bear any longer this bacchanalia, this crude coercion and hideously
Perhaps I could have borne even this. I could have assumed that it was none
of my business, just as my affair now is none of yours. But, dear Father, I
suddenly with particular pain began to feel myself to a significant degree
responsible for the Church's misfortune. After all, as you know, I am of
the Substitutes of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens who is obliged by an
obligation of suffering not only to take the place of my arrested
predecessor, but also to be for him, even when he is free, a precaution,
ready to take his place in case he should spiritually fall. To be sure,
such a spiritual fall should be, in the normal conditions of ecclesiastical
life, accompanied by a trial and a conciliar decision. But what kind of
trial and conciliar decision are possible now, under present conditions?
And by what kind of trial and conciliar decision was there administered to
me a punishment which is permissible according to the canons only for a
great sin on my part? Why is it that, demanding a trial and conciliar
decision in one instance you allow their absence in another?
Such an argument can be no more than material for a section on
incongruities in a textbook on logic. Just wait; the time will come, we
hope, when we shall speak of our events also at a trial. And there is still
a great question as to who will then be the more accused. But for the time
being the matter stands thus: We will not give the Church as a sacrifice
over to the mercy of the betrayers and foul politicians and agents of
atheism and destruction. And by this protest we do not cut ourselves off
from Her, but we cut them off from us and boldly say: not only have we not
gone away, do not go away, and will never go away from the bosom of the
true Orthodox Church, but those who are not with us and for us, but against
us, we consider Her enemies, betrayers, and murderers. It is not we who go
into schism by not submitting to Metropolitan Sergius, but rather you who
are obedient to him go with him into the abyss of the Church's
condemnation. We call upon you and fortify your powers for battle for the
independence of the Church, only not at all in the way you suppose is
required: not by agreement with the enslavers of this Church and the
murderers of Her holy independence, which is manifested now in Her holy
righteousness, but rather by a loud and decisive protest against every
acquiescence, against hypocritical and lying compromises and against the
betrayal of Her interests to the interests of godless satanism and a bitter
warfare against Christ and His Church.
Do you really not see the contradiction and incongruity, which are not
compatible with anything, in your dilemma? (You say:) "Will you take away
our obedience to you by going into schism, or, by submitting to
Metropolitan Sergius, fortify our powers for the battle for the
independence of the Holy Church?" I am going into schism?! Submission to
Sergius is a battle for the independence of the Church?! My dear! Any old
lady in Lenin will laugh that out of town!
Perhaps, I do not dispute, "there are more of you, presently, than of us.
And let it be 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? (St. Luke l8: 8). And perhaps the
last "rebels against the betrayers of the Church and the accomplices of Her
ruin will be not only not bishops and not archpriests, 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.
And so, dear Father, do not judge me severely, especially by means of your
Balsamon. I reckon that he is quite far from being the same thing at the
very authors of the holy canons wrote in a sense understandable to everyone
even without commentaries, and that in any case this Balsamon cannot be an
authoritative and faithful commentary of our circumstances, which were not
foreseen by any commentaries and canons at all.
Do not judge me so severely, and clearly understand the following:
1. I am not at all a schismatic, and I call not to a schism. but to the
purification of the Church from those who sow real schism and provoke it.
2. To indicate to another his errors and wrongs is not schism but, to speak
simply, it is putting an unbridled horse back into harness.
3. The refusal to accept sound reproaches and directives is in reality a
schism and a trampling on the truth.
4. In the construction of ecclesiastical life the participants are not only
those at the head, but the whole body of the Church, and a schismatic is he
who assumes to himself rights which exceed his authority and in the name of
the Church presumes to say that which is not shared by his colleagues.
5. Metropolitan Sergius has shown himself to be such a schismatic, for he
has far exceeded his authority and has rejected and scorned the voice o
many hierarchs, in whose midst the pure truth has been preserved.
You remark incidentally that among the number of ways to truth, "Christ
indicated to us yet another new path: that ye love one another"; About this
I only remind you, Father, of the marvelous conclusion of Metropolitan
Philaret in his sermon on love for one's enemies: "And so, despise the
enemies of God, strike the enemies of the Fatherland, love your enemies,
Amen! (Vol. I, p. 285. See also the Apostle of love, John I:10-11).
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 view 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
one can 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?
Which is more harmful, a heretic or a murderer (of the Church)?
. . . 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)
>>>>>>>> article taken from ORTHODOXINFO.COM <<<<<<<<<<<<<
This excerpt is from Ivan Andreyev's Russia's Catacomb Saints (Platina, CA:
St. Herman of Alaska Press, 1982), 109-129. I encourage everyone to find a
copy of this out-of-print, 600+ page masterpiece. It is powerful reading
and extremely important for our day.(also Book Newmartyrs of Russia is of