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When at last comes freedom from atheist government, then there will be rejoicing and triumph at the restoration of the Russian Church...We pray to the Lord, that He will hasten the coming of that long-desired and awaited hour, when the First Hierarch of All Russia, going up to his Patriarchal place in the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow, will gather around him all the Russian Archpastors, come from all the Russian and foreign lands.

St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Wonderworker

In the course of eight incredible, very tense, exhausting, but historic days in San Francisco, every morning spent praying before the indescribable fragrance of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God and the holy relics of St John of Shanghai, we have witnessed the beginning of the Triumph of Truth, the Triumph of Tradition, the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

Arriving on the 6 May, the day when St George ‘slew the dragon’, we have this week witnessed the beginning of the reconstitution of the Russian Church. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church Inside Russia are, it seems, soon to enter into communion with one another, after over eighty years of pain inflicted by the forces of this world. We are surely about to witness the canonical reconstitution of the One Local Russian Orthodox Church. The Mother Church of all Russian Orthodox is to be recovered.

This is also the Triumph of Humility and Wisdom in the person of our Metropolitan. Metropolitan Laurus, the boy who lost his mother, the young monk come from the lowly village in the Carpathian foothills and fled to the New World from the hatred of Nazi and Communist alike, today is in San Francisco, greeted by four Patriarchs and surrounded by eleven bishop-disciples and sixty priests of a dozen nationalities, but all firmly hoping for the same heavenly homeland. It is not only that the Patriarchal Church is conceding everything of importance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, recognizing the errors that men of this world had forced on her in the grim past, it is also that ROCOR herself is overcoming within her a tiny minority of dissidents and their sectarian tendencies. Everyone will benefit. This will be the Triumph of the Whole Church.

At the same time, as the Tradition triumphs, the modernist former fragments of ROCOR which long ago broke away from her, are in turmoil. Thus, the tiny Paris Exarchate is split between Orthodox parts which are, of their own free will, returning to Russian Orthodoxy and leaving the modernist compromises of this world, which seek a watered-down Russian Tradition, without Russian Orthodox discipline. It cannot have it. The Tradition can only live in canonicity. The Orthodox Church in America (OCA), precisely on account of its much doubted canonicity, its episcopate split, falters, as the long-rumoured financial and moral scandals of the last thirty years and more are revealed in the open. Most dramatically of all, as we have long predicted, the tiny, modernist Sourozh Diocese of the Patriarchal Church tries to enter into schism and leave the Russian Church, just at its historic moment of destiny, of reconstitution. Thus it shows its long-held lack of love for both the Orthodox Tradition and for Russia.

The fate of the Sourozh Diocese, as it changes its locks on its London Cathedral doors and bars the profoundly hurt faithful, comes as no surprise. It has been locking its doors on the Orthodox faithful for decades, setting up whole jurisdictions of those who refused to give up their Orthodox principles, and because of their faithfulness to Russian Orthodoxy, were forced to live Orthodoxy outside it. Over decades, Sourozh became notorious for its scandals, notorious for refusing to venerate all the New Martyrs and Confessors, cremating the departed, refusing to publish the Lives of the Saints, refusing to sell the books of Fr Seraphim Rose, scandalizing all those who follow the Tradition of theological, liturgical and sacramental life.

‘Western and in spiritual illusion’ (‘zapadnaya, prelestnaya’), so has Professor Osipov of the Moscow Theological Academy perfectly characterized the type of ideology which Sourozh and all the other modernists fragments of the Russian Church have been preaching for decades, to the profound spiritual hurt of the faithful. Sourozh has been very successful in converting thousands of English people to itself - but not to Orthodoxy - and, as a result, has been very successful in not keeping these converts. It was successful in the short term, but a total failure in the long term, because what it offered was not the Living Tradition of Orthodoxy, but merely a superficial and illusory ideology. It offered not spiritual food, but mental anguish. Thus, thousands joined it and thousands left it. It is not that Sourozh wishes to turn to Constantinople for a ‘modern, liberal and Western-oriented’ form of Orthodoxy, as the BBC has reported. It is rather that it utterly rejects Orthodox Tradition and so turns its back on the Russian Church in Her hour of Triumph. Now its bishop is retired and a Commission comprising both Archbishop Mark of ROCOR and Archbishops Innocent and Anatoly of the Patriarchal Church has been appointed to investigate.

Thus, those who stood up all these long years for principles and for Church canonicity are vindicated in San Francisco. As I look back on my life, I see that everything has led me here, to this day of destiny. All the persecution is being vindicated. As the cameramen of Russian Television and the journalists of Russian radio flock here to report the news in the homeland, women weep with joy and men sigh with relief, and the mysterious black SUV, which has been parked outside all week, creeps away from Geary Boulevard, its antenna symbolically drooping. Our dragons are being slain and our sorrows are turning to joy.

Why am I for the unity of the Russian Church? I will tell you why: it is because the devil is against it.

Fr Andrew
Cathedral of the Mother of God, Joy of All That Sorrow,
San Francisco

Thusday 28 April / 11 May

Apostles Jason and Sosipater of the Seventy and their Companions
Repose of Hieroschemamonk Dionysius Ignat on the Holy Mountain (2004)


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