CHALLENGES FACING OUR CHURCH IN THE 21st CENTURY
Psalm 84, 8-13
Most Reverend Metropolitan Laurus, your Eminences, Reverend fathers, dear delegates, Christ is risen!
A difficult task has fallen to my lot - to speak before you on the challenges faced by the Church in the 21st century. In this talk, firstly I wish to define the identity of our Church, secondly the nature of the 21st century world, thirdly to consider how we can meet the challenges of this world, and finally I will come to my conclusions.
2. Our Church
I believe that we can define the identity of our Church in three words.
The first of these words, the key element in our identity, is our confession of the Faith of Holy Russia - Orthodoxy. ‘No entry without God’, as St Ambrose of Optina said. Orthodoxy is our bearing of the cross and therefore our resurrection, our repentance and therefore our salvation. We witness to our Faith before heterodoxy, but we do not compromise Orthodoxy – for it is Holy. An example:
Last year, three monks visited us from the Trinity Sergius Lavra. They felt at home in our modest churches – not in other jurisdictions, including their own in England. They said: ‘You, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, are the only hope in our struggle to cleanse the Russian Church of Ecumenism’. In other words, they recognized in our humble churches the spirit that has defined Russian Orthodoxy for over a thousand years, the spirit of Holy Russia. For them, our little part of the Russian Church is in this matter the conscience of the whole Russian Church.
Despite all the pressures on the Russian Church since the tragic deposition of Patriarch Nikon in the seventeenth century, despite all the compromises and decadence of the Synodal period, despite all the bitter persecution under the Communist yoke, the faith in Russia is alive – and, as we know, some there even look to us. Amazingly, our responsibility for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy stretches beyond our Church to others, even to other Local Orthodox Churches.
In 1969 the ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret expressed this responsibility in his first ‘Sorrowful Epistle’ to the heads of the Local Churches against the pan-heresy of Ecumenism, in defence of Holy Orthodoxy, in faithfulness to the words of the Apostle: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another (I Cor 12, 25). We have a responsibility towards other Local Churches. Unlike our Church, they are all bound in some way to States and do not enjoy our freedom. However, freedom always entails responsibility. Here we have a responsibility to find allies in other Local Churches in our mutual struggle for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy.
It is often said that most other Local Churches are still members of the WCC. But what does this mean? We know full well that the participation of Local Churches in the WCC is limited to tiny groups of politicians and naive intellectuals. The vast majority of both laity and clergy in the Local Churches has nothing to do with the WCC. In our principled stand against Ecumenism, we will find very many allies in other Local Churches. However, we will not find any allies, if we refuse contact and communion with them, imagining in spiritual illusion that we are somehow superior to them, or that in our Church everything is somehow better than in theirs. Do we condemn the eleven disciples for the treachery of Judas? He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone (John 8, 7). As it is said: ‘He who points at others has three fingers pointing at himself’. In avoiding the condemnation of others, we avoid the threefold condemnation of ourselves.
The second element in our identity is linked to the first – Orthodoxy is handed down through Tradition, the experience of the saints. We greatly value Sacred Tradition. As on the Holy Mountain, in Jerusalem, Serbia, Georgia, Alaska, throughout Russia, and elsewhere, we keep the so-called old style, the Orthodox calendar. The idea of using the new style, would not even enter our minds. The Church calendar is part of our identity. We can say the same of a whole series of customs, which minorities in various Local Churches have adopted. An example: A priest from another jurisdiction visited our church. He wore a suit and collar. My parishioners refused to take his blessing. I understand them.
Such customs are unimportant to some, but we know Sacred Tradition, we know our Orthodox Faith. Tradition does not allow such compromises, which come from the heterodox and renovationist. We have always fought against Renovationism, like the faithful in Russia, like the faithful in all the Local Churches, like the innumerable Holy New Martyrs and Confessors, who are our part of our conscience and identity, all 600 bishops, 40,000 priests, 120,000 monks and nuns and the millions of martyred laity. As St Cyprian of Carthage, who himself was later martyred, wrote in the third century: ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’.
We reject Renovationism, we keep Tradition. In the words of St Athanasius the Great: ‘We must not serve time, we must serve God’. Tradition is part of the identity of our Church, not an idea, but a way of life. Thanks to our adherence to Sacred Tradition, to prayer, fasting, confession and the liturgical cycle, we still have tightly-knit families and monastic life - our spiritual strength. Sacred Tradition is our churchliness, the spirit of the New Martyrs, who sacrificed themselves for the Tradition. Let us therefore be New Confessors and sacrifice ourselves for Sacred Tradition.
Although we reject Renovationism, we should be careful not to reject its victims, so that we do not fall into the temptation of the pharisees. Let us recall how our great Abba, His Beatitude Metropolitan Antony, who reposed seventy years ago this year, suffered from Renovationist attacks, from 1905 on. But he did not break off communion with the victims of this spirit. Let us recall how he advised Athonite monks against breaking off communion with new calendar bishops, to avoid the even greater error of schism. Both he, in 1934, and the ever-memorable Metropolitan Anastasius, in 1959, refused to consecrate a bishop for Greek Old Calendarists – in order to avoid interference in the internal affairs of another Local Church.
The third element in our identity is our Independence, our freedom, our self-governing status. The Independence of our Church is based on Canon 39 of the Sixth Oecumenical Council. It was confirmed twice in 1920, not only by Decree No 362 of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, but also by Decree No 9084 of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This is our canonical foundation, making us an independent, self-governing part of the Russian Church. Since, by Divine Providence, our Church was outside the Soviet State, beyond the reach of atheist persecutors, we did not suffer from State dependence. Thus, in spiritual freedom, we took a clear and uncompromising stance against collaboration with atheist persecutors, against Sergianism, of which the ever-memorable Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) wrote: ‘Obstinacy in Sergianism is heresy’. We took to heart the words of the holy and faithful prince Alexander Nevsky: ‘God is not in force, but in truth’.
Today, this Independence is still indispensable to us, because we still live outside Orthodox States. We should not forget how, before the catastrophe of the Revolution, the ever-memorable Metropolitan Antony, also fought for Church Independence, the canonical reordering of the Russian Church, independence from a bureaucrat, the Oberprokuror, and for the canonical restoration of the Patriarchate. The Independence of the Church from State meddling is essential. Perhaps our experience here can help other Local Churches.
Orthodoxy, Tradition, Independence. None of us has any doubt that these three elements in our identity are essential. However, we have now reached a turning-point in our history: we must resolve the question of our relations with the post-Soviet Moscow Patriarchate, which seeks eucharistic communion with us. Regarding this question, there has been much disinformation. Sometimes opinions which are political, nationalistic, cultural, but not at all spiritual, have been expressed. Like Metropolitan Sergius, there are those who wish to ‘save the Church’. However, we do not save the Church – the Church saves us. And opinions on this matter are not helpful. The Church is not governed by opinions. The Church is governed by the Holy Spirit through our bishops. Let us recall some facts:
Firstly, we shall always confess Orthodoxy, Tradition and Independence. We shall never accept the opposite of Orthodoxy, Ecumenism. We shall never accept the opposite of Tradition, Renovationism. We shall never accept the opposite of Independence, Sergianism. Why? Because if we were to lose these three qualities, we would fall away from the Church, becoming apostates. This is how heresies begin. Look, for example at Uniatism. First, the Uniats lost their Independence. Then they lost their Tradition. Then they lost their Orthodoxy. They became Roman Catholics in Orthodox wrapping paper. We shall never go down such a path.
Secondly, we shall always strive to follow the ‘Abbot of the Russian Land’, St Sergius of Radonezh and his Lavra, St Seraphim of Sarov and Diveievo, St Job of Pochaiev and his Lavra, the spirit of the Holy and Righteous John of Kronstadt, ‘the Righteous Man of All Russia’, and of the Holy Patriarch and Confessor Tikhon, whose see this city was 100 years ago. We shall always be in communion with the saints, with the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors, whom our bishops, mocked by the world, glorified nearly 25 years ago. The great deed of this glorification led to the appearance of the Myrrh-giving Iviron Icon, under the guardianship of the martyred Joseph, and then the collapse of the dreadful Soviet system.
Thirdly, we shall always rejoice when members of the Moscow Patriarchate venerate icons of the New Martyrs, when they celebrate our services to the New Martyrs, when they dedicate churches to them. Our hearts rejoice when we see tears of repentance, running down our own faces, faces in the Moscow Patriarchate, everywhere. In his last sermon, like a Testament to the whole of the Russian Diaspora, the great Metropolitan Antony expressed the thought that: ‘Only tears of repentance can return our crucified homeland to us’ (Letters of Metropolitan Antony, Jordanville 1988, p.124). How can we not rejoice, when Saul becomes Paul, when former persecutors become zealous for the Faith?
Finally, whatever the decisions of the Council of Bishops, whom we shall follow, we are in the hands of the Most Holy Mother of God, whose House is Holy Russia. Let us recall how, in 1922, the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God prevented Metropolitan Antony from leaving us for Mt Athos and how St John departed this life in front of Her. May She now guide us also into all Truth, into God’s Will.
3. The 21st Century World
All agree that the world is dominated by globalization. This Westernizing movement towards world unity is hostile to every local tradition, culture and religion. It is secular, opposed to the Church. Beneath its ‘pluralism’, this movement of secularization conceals polytheism. Led by the prince of this world and those dark forces that worship him, this movement of secular humanism is summed up in the phrase ‘The New World Order’. Devout Orthodox in all the Local Churches consider that the plan of globalization is to enthrone the Master of this New World Order in Jerusalem.
The Church, the Body of Christ is clearly not part of this anti-Christian New World Order, which was born in the West. Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly (Psalm 1,1). In the words of St John the Theologian, although the Church is in the world, She is not of it. Thus, we are not part of this ‘New World Order’, but neither are we some disincarnate sect, outside the world. Our motto is: ‘In the world, but not of the world’.
The consequences of the globalist rejection of the Church, are manifold. As one writer put it: ‘When people stop believing in something, they will believe in anything’. Another predicted: ‘Either the twenty-first century will be religious, or else it will not be’.
Having rejected the Church, the Body of Christ, the contemporary world rejects the Person of Christ. Having rejected Christ, the contemporary world also rejects the human person. Thus, the homicidal ideologies of the 20th century, Communism and Fascism, which hated Christ and hated man, murdered by the tens of millions. No peoples suffered from them more than Orthodox peoples. And as far as we can see, the 21st century has not rejected ideologies which regard human-beings as cannon fodder.
For example, since the end of the Second World War, tens of millions have died in yet more wars, concentration camps and artificial famines. Tens of millions have been massacred in the abortion holocaust, especially since the 1960s. In post-Soviet Russia, it is estimated that every year this genocide results in over two million baby victims, the new Holy Innocents. In recent times, there have also developed hideous technologies of cloning and stem-cell research, whereby the living are killed - only in order to prolong the lives of the dying. And genetic engineering, interfering in the bases of human nature itself, threatens us with an amoral Frankenstein future. The rejection of the divinity of man has led to the rejection of his humanity. The humanist fear of inevitable death is now leading to an ever-increasing hatred of the human person and the loss of human freedom.
Although the Church, and especially our Church, is global, She is not at all globalist. Unlike globalization, the authentic Christian Faith does not destroy local cultures. She baptizes them, saving in them all that is best, all that is compatible with the Word of God. She rejects only what is incompatible with the Word of God. This is because the culture of the Church is Trinitarian, expressing Unity in Diversity, the Unity of Three Persons in One Essence. Unlike globalist culture, Church culture is universal and local, united and diverse.
The consequences of the globalist rejection of the Holy Trinity, unity in diversity, are also manifold. We see them in what is happening to three Trinitarian institutions: National Life, Family Life and Monastic Life:
Thus, firstly, when the Trinitarian Faith is lost, nations may become nationalist and racist, as we saw in the case of Nazi Germany. We can see this also with contemporary Islamic fanatics, for whom ‘New World Disorder’ of terrorist jihad is merely a reaction to Western globalization. When the Trinitarian Faith is lost, national identities may altogether disappear, as in the contemporary world. In the words of St Justin of Chelije, a disciple of Metropolitan Antony, in 1939: ‘Without Orthodoxy, a nation is devoid of eternal worth’.
Secondly, when the Trinitarian Faith is lost, the family fails. This is the case today, where divorce rates are reaching 50%. Family life can exist only where there is faith in God. Today, some often talk about the death of the family. It is no surprise, in a world which coined the terrible phrase ‘the death of God’.
Thirdly, when the Trinitarian Faith is lost, monasticism fails. Roman Catholic monastic life in Western Europe and the United States is dying out. The Orthodox world is also affected. We well know that one of the few bastions of Orthodox monasticism in the USA is Jordanville.
Question arise then. How can our Church exist in the contemporary, globalized world? Before the challenges of globalization, how can we survive and defend the values which define our Church - Orthodoxy, Tradition and Independence? I will attempt to answer these questions in the third part of this talk: meeting the challenges of the 21st century world.
4. Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century World
The Church is a unique organism. As the Body of Christ, She possesses the two natures of Her Head, Jesus Christ, She is both divine and human. As we have said, the Church is also Trinitarian - She bears in Herself both unity and diversity. This unity and diversity of the Church are particularly visible in the Russian Church. Although She is One, She has always been missionary, multinational and multilingual - diverse. She is unlike other Local Churches, the Greek, the Bulgarian, the Serbian, the Romanian, which generally look after only one nationality and speak only one language.
It is not surprising that the best of the Russian Church has always been missionary. Ultimately She owes her own foundation to missionaries, Sts Cyril and Methodius, who translated everything from Greek for Her. The Russian Church followed their model. Sts Stephen of Perm, Tryphon of Kola, Gury of Kazan, Philotheus and John of Tobolsk and many others come to mind. They took Orthodoxy across Siberia to Kamchatka and the rim of the Pacific Ocean. Then others, like Sts Herman and Innocent of Alaska, or St Nicholas of Japan and the Russian missionaries to China, crossed the Ocean and preached in other lands. These missions continued in the early twentieth century, in Korea, in many cities of Western Europe, especially in Germany, in South America and, of course, here in San Francisco, under the future St Tikhon.
The multinational, multilingual and missionary character of the Russian Church is especially apparent in the foundation of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. There is no greater example of this than he who reposed forty years ago this year, St John, St John of Shanghai, John of San Francisco, John the Wonderworker, whom we venerate as light in our darkness: Rejoice, thou whose love knew no bounds of land or race (Ikos 3 of his Akathist Hymn). He is here among us now. Why do we Orthodox, among ourselves, not rename San Francisco, Saint John’s?
Apart from his titles, ‘of Shanghai’ and ‘of San Francisco’, he is known among us under the title ‘of Western Europe’. In Western Europe, we have not forgotten that St John was for over a decade our Archbishop too. His threefold title, his birth and youth in what is now the Ukraine and in Russia, his monastic and priestly life in Serbia and Macedonia, his episcopate in Asia, in China and the Philippines, in Western Europe and North Africa, his visits to South America, the presence of many spiritual children in Australia and his last years in North America, make of him a universal example of Orthodoxy, truly, a rule of faith and a model of meekness.
At the Second All-ROCOR Council in 1938, he said: ‘It has been granted to Russians abroad to shine the light of Orthodoxy throughout the world, in order that other peoples, seeing their good works, might glorify our Father Who is in heaven, and in so doing Russians will acquire salvation’. Perhaps St John had in mind the words of the Apostle Luke: Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8, 4). In his Encyclical of 1953, Metropolitan Anastasy took up St John’s words, announcing: ‘God has allowed Orthodox to be scattered throughout the world in order to proclaim the true Orthodox Faith to all peoples and to prepare the Earth for the Second Coming of Christ’.
Our Church is multinational. How many nationalities are there in this Cathedral, even among our episcopate? Our Church is multilingual. Each of us speaks different languages. An outside observer might wonder what we all have in common, where our unity is. Of course, it is in our common values - Orthodoxy, Tradition, Independence. Indeed, whenever personalities and political convictions are put above our unity, our common values, our catholic principles, then people fall away from the Church. This happened in the pernicious Eulogian political schism of eighty years ago, and again in the tragic events at the beginning of this millennium, when a tiny group split off from our Church and isolated itself. Then diversity became adversity. But when we put first our common values, Orthodoxy, Tradition, Independence, then we draw close to one another and feel the strength of our common Faith.
Multinational and multilingual, we still remain faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition and spirit. An example: I was serving the liturgy in France. Everything was in French. Two elderly Russians had been present, accompanying their grandchildren. After the liturgy I spoke to them in Russian. They both remarked on how well the choir had sung - in Slavonic. In other words, these two pillars of the Russian Church had not even noticed that the liturgy had been sung in French, because the whole service had been faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition and spirit.
Here I would like to pay a particular debt of gratitude to all who labour in the field of liturgical translation. As regards English, I would like to publicly thank Reader Isaac Lambertson, who has laboured selflessly for many years. I know that he is not the only one engaged in this holy work.
Our Church faces then unique challenges. We are that part of the Russian Church which is truly implanted worldwide, which is multinational and multilingual. We face global challenges - to preach Orthodoxy worldwide, in faithfulness to the Tradition, while retaining our Independence. Here, we face three challenges: internal mission, external mission, and mission in Russia and the CIS.
Our first challenge is internal missionary work. This starts at home. If we cannot keep our own people in the saving fold of our Church, then we have no hope of preaching the Gospel to others. We do this through warm-heartedness. Orthodox know when a priest is not a ‘good shepherd’, when he is a hired servant, when he demands money for sacraments, when he is cold and calculating, when he is a brain without a heart. The faithful avoid churches which resemble financial concerns. As the Apostle Paul wrote: For I seek not yours, but you (2 Cor 12, 14).
As the ever-memorable Metropolitan Antony used to say: ‘The worst praise for a pastor is to say that he is a ‘good administrator’. Administration is not the main thing. The very first duty of the pastor is prayer’. It is better not to have gilded onion domes, if they merely cover a museum, a club, or a business, and not the House of God. Our Metropolitan Vitaly explained very clearly that a church whose parishioners observe only outward rites and do not pray with their hearts is not pleasing to God. ‘Why does the Lord allow churches to be destroyed?...Because there are no longer ‘people with hearts’ in the church...The Lord seeks people who are the crowns of creation, not stones, not buildings’ (Orthodox Russia, No 13, 1997).
When a priest is warm-hearted, when father serves from the heart, when he prays, when he is responsive, then people come to the services, to confession and communion, to talks, they phone him up and ask for advice, they consider him truly a ‘little father’, whatever his personal weaknesses. Then the parish works as a loving family, which is what it should be, a feeling of prayerfulness inhabits the church building and people love and adorn their church. This spirit fosters piety and zeal to help. People want to sing, they want to repent, and without repentance there is no salvation. And the salvation of souls is our aim. Did not St Seraphim say: Save your soul and thousands will be saved around you?
Our churches should be warm-hearted oases of liturgical and sacramental life, of prayer and mutual help, in this alien, secularized, globalized world of the 21st century. They should be living Orthodox communities, where others are not rejected, as so often happens, but made welcome, places where the Word of God is incarnate. Here we would emphasize the importance of talks given after Sunday liturgies, or on weekdays, after Vespers or Akathists. At such talks, we can find ways of protecting our flocks from all sorts of dangers and temptations, which threaten our threefold identity - Orthodoxy, Tradition, Independence. We cannot meet the challenges of the globalized world, if we do not have such parish bases, where all feel at home, where all belong.
Our second challenge, external mission, does not mean going away to some exotic jungle to preach the Gospel. The possibilities for external mission are all around us in this world - this is our jungle. These possibilities are in inevitable contacts with other Orthodox, with the heterodox and Non-Christian world, they are in daily life, with the masses who do not believe in anything. This is external mission. And such mission is not done by fire and sword, as so often heterodox missionaries have done. They do not understand the Scriptures, which do not promise the earth to the proud, but on the contrary affirm: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
In other words, mission is done through ‘models of meekness’, through humility, as for example with St Herman of Alaska. A simple monk, not a priest, living among the pagan Aleuts, he converted them to Orthodoxy through his example of humility: Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation (I Peter 2, 12).
Only by setting an example of humility, obtained through fulfilling the commandments, can we ever hope to be successful missionaries. We must practise what we preach. We have nothing to give, if we cannot first give an example of humility. Our great Abba, Metropolitan Antony, began his missionary service as Bishop of Ufa, among Muslims and Old Believers, then in Zhitomir, among Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews. He was no racist - to his seminary in Zhitomir he welcomed Orthodox of other nationalities, Syrians, Arabs, Czechs, Galicians, Serbs, baptized Jews. In his missionary work among all these peoples, he always stressed the vital importance of personal example. He spoke to others, he was open to them, he wrote missionary conversations which expressed our viewpoints, he set an example of humility. And humility does not at all mean weakness, for God...giveth grace to the humble (I Peter 5, 5) and My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12,9).
Finally, there is a third challenge for our Church. This is in Russia and the CIS. I hesitate to speak about this before representatives of our Church, born, living and working there today, because they know all this already, far better than I do. But I would suggest that as regards contemporary Russia, we must have a particular attitude. This attitude is one towards people who for three generations have largely been deprived of Orthodox practice, who have suffered as victims or hostages of an alien ideology.
This attitude is our spiritual legacy, the theological understanding and leitmotif of Metropolitan Antony. It is the attitude of compassion - compassionate love. As the Apostle Paul wrote nearly two millennia ago: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, 1 am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that 1 could remove mountains, and have not love, 1 am nothing. And though 1 bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though 1 give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing (I Cor. 13, 1-3).
If we members of ROCOR have no love for those former Soviet citizens who have been deprived of compassion, then we are like the Gentiles. These are not my words, these are the words of the Apostle John the Theologian: If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the Gentiles so? (Matthew 5, 47). If only all in Russia would take these words to heart. If they did, then all those grievous divisions, created by Renovationism, created by the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, created by Ukrainian nationalism, would not have taken place. Compassion does not in any way mean weakness, that we are indulgent to ideologies hostile to the Church. As every confessor knows, although we must hate the sin, we must love the sinner.
However, I do not wish to say that lack of compassion is only a problem inside Russia, it is universal. We can all think of parishes here, which have experienced divisions, or which have rejected others because of their nationality, because of a lack of compassionate love. Unity is completely beyond us, if we have no compassion for one another. The Saviour said: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this all men shall know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13, 34-35). These were the very words repeated to us by the ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret in his ‘Spiritual Testament’ (Orthodox Russia, No 23, 1994), yet unfortunately, after nearly 2,000 years, for many this commandment still seems new.
For a thousand years, Orthodox Carpatho-Russia has survived outside the frontiers of any Russian State, an island of Orthodox Russia. It has never been part of a Russian State and there they do not speak Russian. They speak their own language. The Orthodox there have always been part of something greater than Russia, like us, because we are also outside Russia and are part of something greater than Russia. Perhaps there are those among you who are asking: ‘But what can be greater than Russia?’ The answer to this question is the beloved theme of the ever-memorable Archbishop Averky. As he spoke in his inspired sermon, fifty years after the martyrdom of the Holy Royal Martyrs: ‘It is not just ‘Russia’ that is dear to us, but ‘Holy Russia’, it is not just ‘Russia’ that we need, but ‘Orthodox Russia’ (Sermons and Speeches Vol. II, p. 524). And our Metropolitan Vitaly also wrote in 'Orthodox Russia', No 1, 1996: ‘We must repent in order to restore in ourselves...the spiritual ideal of Holy Russia’.
The spirit of Holy Russia is not the spirit of the Russian State and does not even mean the use of Russian. For Holy Russia is not only a local, Russian ideal, it is also a universal ideal. If we preach Orthodoxy to those who do not speak Russian, we do not use Russian. We must use their language, the language which they understand. We cannot use Church Slavonic in missionary work with those who do not understand it, we must use faithful translations. We have to speak the language of the peoples who come to us, whom we do not not turn away, because the Lord God Himself has sent them to us.
In Carpatho-Russia an elderly man asked me: 'Father, where is your parish?' I answered: ‘In Felixstowe’. He asked me a second question: ‘What province is that in?’ I answered ‘In the English province’. Yes, I rejoice that I serve in the English province of Holy Russia. I believe that you too rejoice, that you serve and pray in the American, Argentinian, Australian, Belgian, Brazilian, Canadian, Danish, French, German, Indonesian, Korean, Russian, Swiss, Ukrainian and Venezuelan provinces of Holy Russia. Whatever language we use, whatever local saints we venerate, we strive to preserve the spirit of Holy Russia, the spirit of Christ, our Orthodox roots. Although we are not always bound to one another by nationality and blood, we have something stronger than blood; it is the water of holy baptism, binding us together by the Holy Spirit. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body (I Cor 12, 13).
After a few generations outside Russia, Russians lose the Russian language. Despite all the wonderful efforts of Russian schools, gradually the third, fourth, fifth and following generations of the Diaspora lose the Russian language. However, Holy Russia outside Russia can always exist, because it is not a linguistic phenomenon. It is a spiritual phenomenon, which lives because we guard our identity, the identity of our Church. So, like the Carpatho-Russians, we too live as islands of Holy Russia, which for a thousand years have been scattered outside the frontiers of any Russian State. Thus we live thanks to our faithfulness to the spirit of Sts Stephen of Perm, Herman and Innocent of Alaska, Nicholas of Tokyo, of the holy martyr of San Francisco, Peter the Aleut, and of the two former bishops of this see, the holy hierarchs Tikhon and John. We do this by keeping faith with the spirit of Holy Russia, Orthodoxy, Tradition and Independence.
Thus, today a unique challenge faces ROCOR. This challenge does not face other Local Churches. Our unique challenge is to gather together and nurture all those islands of Holy Russia which, scattered across the face of the earth and speaking in different tongues, remain faithful to the Orthodox Tradition, to the spirit of Christ. Moscow the Third Rome is fallen, but Holy Russia exists unto the ages of ages. ROCOR is Independent of whatever political system may exist in Russia, for our Church is not the Church of any Russian State, but, by the Providence of God, the Church of Holy Russia.
At the beginning of this talk, I defined the identity of our Church by the spirit of Holy Russia - Orthodoxy, Tradition and Independence. At the end, I defined three ideals of Holy Russia, which define how we can meet the challenges of the contemporary world - by Warm-Heartedness, Humility and Compassion. In conclusion, I wish to bring all of these values together and affirm that:
Orthodoxy without Warm-Heartedness becomes a mere rite, rite-belief, an outward show.
Tradition without Humility becomes hypocrisy and phariseeism, for only living the God-inspired Tradition brings humility.
Independence without Compassion becomes haughty pride, sectarian Donatism, the condemnation of our unfree brothers.
Of this talk of six thousand words, I hope that you will remember especially these six words: Warm-Hearted Orthodoxy, Humble Tradition, Compassionate Independence.
In this world, which is ever more embracing anti-Christian values and now seems to be hastening to its end, these six words define the Messianic significance of Holy Russia, the Russian Word, the New Word. Whatever the decisions of this Council, I shall always struggle for Warm-Hearted Orthodoxy, Humble Tradition, and Compassionate Independence. In these days of destiny, before the Second Coming of Christ, I believe that only these values, the values of the Church of Holy Russia, can meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Thank you for listening to me.
Priest Andrew Phillips
Nectarius of Optina