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another interesting article from Orthodox England

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  • Graham (Elias) Reeves
    MOSCOW THE THIRD ROME? Russia s inner meaning and calling, the very purpose of her existence, her God-given destiny, is to gather the peoples of the world
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 29, 2003
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      MOSCOW THE THIRD ROME?


      Russia's inner meaning and calling, the very purpose of her
      existence, her God-given destiny, is to gather the peoples of the
      world together, each with its own personality and particularity and
      culture, into the Church of Christ...The Soviet State exported its
      faith to the four corners of the earth. We might suppose that had
      Russia remained faithful to Christ, she would have exported another
      faith to those four corners. Instead of sending kalashnikovs to
      Africa and India, China and Central America, to Afghanistan and
      Vietnam, to Cuba and Korea, she would have sent Orthodox
      missionaries. She would not have translated the works of Lenin into
      a hundred tongues, but the service-books of the Church of Christ.

      From 'The Saints of Russia and the Universality of Orthodoxy',
      November 1993, Pp. 267 and 272 in 'Orthodox Christianity and the
      English Tradition'.


      Talks on the official restoration of communion are afoot between the
      Russian Orthodox Patriarchal Church in Moscow and the Russian
      Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). The November visit to Moscow
      of an episcopal delegation from the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR),
      the Conference of 150 selected ROCOR clergy in the USA and the
      subsequent Council of ROCOR Bishops dedicated to this question
      indicate that both parts of the Russian Church are moving together.
      These events appear to have taken place with conciliatory
      declarations by both sides, each side asking for forgiveness for
      rash and ill-thought-out words and actions in the recent past.

      Personal experience with the old Russian emigration in England and
      with Orthodoxy in Greece and France (1974-1983) and again in France
      (1983-1997), then as priest-in-charge of the only all-new Russian
      immigrant parish outside Russia in Lisbon (1992-97), and then since
      1997 experience with a small multinational parish in England, has
      led me as an observer of these events to a number of thoughts.

      First of all, it is clear that the hackneyed Cold War language
      of 'return to the Mother
      Church', 'absorption', 'liquidation', 'reunion with the
      Patriarchate' are irrelevant. (See the Declaration of Archbishop
      Mark at www.synod.com). We are talking about both parts of the
      Russian Church coming together in mutual repentance without
      politicking of any sort, their unity refound in Church Tradition.

      Other terms have also been defined. The 2000 Statement by the
      Patriarchate clearly means that the erastian position of the
      Patriarchal Church, known by the name of Sergianism, has been
      dropped. The interference of the Russian State in the internal
      affairs of the Russian Church is no longer acceptable. The
      canonisation by the Patriarchate in 2000 of New Martyrs who
      condemned Sergianism and died for the Orthodox Faith makes this
      clear. Perhaps it still needs to be made even clearer by some even
      more formal statement from Moscow, so that doubters can understand
      this.

      Perhaps also some statement on Ecumenism also needs to be issued by
      the Patriarchate. The word Ecumenism itself is notoriously difficult
      to define. Having anathematised the absurd Branch theory in 1983,
      ROCOR needs a clear statement from the Patriarchate on Ecumenism.
      The Patriarchal statement on Ecumenism that the Orthodox Church is
      the One True Church and that its ecumenical witness is purely
      missionary should reassure many. Its recent decision to cut off
      relations with Anglicans who justify the practice of homosexuality
      (See: www.mospat.ru) is also equally clear, as is the desire to
      continue to talk to orthodox Anglicans. But here there are doubts,
      for example with the recent actions of the heirs of the late
      Metropolitan Nikodim. But perhaps the errors of one particular
      bishop could be overlooked, if a clear statement against
      intercommunion were to be issued by the Patrairchate once and for
      all.

      The recent letter of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk to the Greek
      Metropolitan Meliton against the secular position of the
      Patriarchate of Constantinople concerning the proposed anti-
      Christian EU Constitution suggest a very healthy appreciation by the
      Patriarchate of the situation in the Non-Orthodox Western
      denominations. His statement that we need to witness to Christ in
      order to save the last vestiges of Christian Faith in the West are
      very welcome and are in accord with the historic mission of the
      Russian Church. It is exactly what ROCOR has been doing for decades
      (See this site: 'An Alternative Constitution for the EU'). This ties
      in with the declaration of Patriarch Alexis himself that in Russia
      there is no such thing as a 'post-Christian society' (See
      www.radonezh.ru). Russia has been in a post-Christian society, it is
      now coming out of it: let the West which is entering a post-
      Christian society, learn from Russia (See our article on this
      site: 'Church, State and Society in Russia in the Twentieth
      Century').

      On the other hand, it is also clear that the situation of the
      Patriarchate in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious State such as the
      Russian Federation must also be understood. It is inevitable that
      the Patriarchate has to deal with questions concerning relations
      with Islam, Judaism, Catholicism etc in a way that ROCOR simply does
      not. Perhaps a solution acceptable to both sides would be that the
      Patriarchate relinquish full membership of the World Council of
      Churches and adopt observer status, as other Local Orthodox Church
      have done. The advantages of membership of the WCC must now be
      virtually non-existent and the disadvantages overwhelming.

      Then there is the question of more or less well-known controversies
      surrounding certain personalities within the Patriarchate. The fact
      is that during the Cold War and for many years after it, certain
      personalities both inside and outside Russia were allowed to commit
      immoral deeds. Many of us are all too painfully aware of the
      pastoral disasters within the Patriarchate as a result and have
      suffered hugely personally. Although now many of the personalities
      involved have either been removed or else have died, surely
      something better must be done than simply ignoring the consequences
      of these problems. There must be some in the Patriarchate who fear
      that the scandals will come out and be spattered across the pages of
      the Western media. This would do a disservice to all Orthodox.
      Apologies to all concerned, made in a Christian manner, would
      perhaps be enough and nobody would demand payment for damages. Let
      the Patriarchate everywhere behave as a mother, not as a stepmother,
      taking responsibility for its wayward children of the Cold War.

      On the other hand, it is also true that the Patriarchate seems to be
      returning to the Tradition and canonical practices. The recent
      statement by Metropolitan Kirill that there would be no unthinkable
      change from the Orthodox to the Catholic calendar or change to using
      Russian in services are welcome (See www.radonezh.ru). The recent
      plea for a stavropegic parish from Patriarchal faithful in London
      has been dealt with a certain understanding (See this site: 'Old
      Problems Surface Anew at the Patriarchal Cathedral'). Orthodox souls
      have indeed not been understood. The recent and forthcoming
      Conferences in Moscow on Ecclesiology, gathering together serious
      representatives of other Local Orthodox Churches, indicates that the
      Patriarchate is taking up again its historic role as leader of World
      Orthodoxy, as before the Revolution (See www.mospat.ru, in
      particular regarding the Conference 'Russia and the Orthodox World'
      in February 2004). If we could all see an end to uncanonical
      practices and ordinations, weddings on Saturdays, cremations, the
      restoration of fasting, confession and the veneration of the New
      Martyrs and Confessors (as in the Patriarchal church in Dublin),
      this would further reinforce ROCOR confidence in the Patriarchate.
      It is difficult to take seriously Patriarchal churches outside
      Russia which refuse to have icons of the New Martyrs or sell the
      works of the ever-memorable Fr Seraphim Rose, works which are
      bestsellers inside Russia.

      Perhaps the two parts of the Russian Church are indeed going to come
      together in the next few months or years. There seems to be common
      ground that ROCOR should for the present time remain a single
      Autonomous Metropolia of the Russian Church outside the Russian
      Federation, the model for this being the Autonomous Ukranian
      Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Ukraine (See
      www.russian-church.de). Possible in the distant future this would
      turn into different Metropolia (See our article on this site: 'The
      Path to R.O.M.E., R.O.M.A. and R.O.M.A.N.Z.'). The main difference
      would be that sacramental communion and concelebration would be
      restored. We can think back to ROCOR bishops like the ever-memorable
      Archbishop Antony of Geneva and Bishop Mitrofan of Boston and many
      others who sadly did not live long enough in this world to see this
      day that they would so much have wanted.

      As mere observers, it is not possible to predict what will actually
      happen. Indeed the participants themselves do not know exactly the
      timescales ahead. But perhaps it is already possible to see that the
      Russian Orthodox Church is now at last beginning to start again
      where it was forced to leave off in 1917. After a tragic
      interruption of some three generations owing to savage atheist
      persecution, new worldwide perspectives are now opening up. Moscow
      is becoming a global Church, the dream of Moscow the Third Rome and
      Second Jerusalem is perhaps now less unreal. We await further
      events, but we must never forget the fates of both the First Rome
      and the Second Rome.

      The First Rome lost its way because it forgot its martyrs and turned
      itself into a Caesaropapist State. The Second Rome lost its way
      because it forgot its Confessors and was willing to exchange its
      destiny of humility for a betrayal of the Faith. The Third Rome must
      do neither. In the long term it must found new Local Churches
      outside Russia, strengthening the Confederal, Trinitarian nature of
      the Family of Local Orthodox Churches, Unity in Diversity. A unified
      Russian Church of the Martyrs (inside Russia) and of the Confessors
      (outside Russia), a Church of Martyrdom and Confessordom, may be now
      the only bulwark in this world against the coming of Anti-Christ.

      And now ye know what witholdeth that he might be revealed in his
      time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work. (2 Thess. 2, 6-
      7).

      Priest Andrew Phillips,
      Seekings House,
      Felixstowe,
      England

      30 Nov/13 December
      Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called
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