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Christ is Risen!

Truth is sprung out of the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven.

Psalm 84, 13

As the twenty-first century moves forward, we begin to gain some understanding of the spiritual significance of the twentieth century. This was an age dominated by spiritual decadence, that is spiritual disease, affecting the whole human spirit, body, mind and soul - politics, society and religion. Only this can explain the tragedies of two World Wars in the first half of the twentieth century. Only this can explain the extraordinary loss of spiritual and moral values in the Western world in the second half of the twentieth century.

In the Orthodox world, the situation was no different. Only spiritual decadence can explain the tragedy of the Russian Revolution and the savage martyrdom of millions of Orthodox. Only spiritual decadence can explain Communist Party-appointed Orthodox bishops inside Russia denying even the existence of the greatest persecution of the Church in world history. Only spiritual decadence can explain Orthodox bishops outside Russia becoming freemasons and openly proclaiming to Non-Orthodox that the Orthodox Faith itself is of little account and needs to be ‘reformed’.

Whether in Communist Eastern Europe, or elsewhere in the Orthodox world, including in the diaspora, Orthodox monks worthy of the episcopate were ignored. Zealous married clergy and laity were punished for their piety. The fact that many Orthodox ‘leaders’ lived lives of dubious morality is not of importance. Private morality is the affair of consciences and the Last Judgement. However, the fact that many of them openly proclaimed their hostility to monastic life, privately denied the dogmas of the Church and the existence of saints, and persecuted the faithful, is of importance. The public governance of the Church is the affair of all, here and now.

However, periods of persecution of the Church are always followed by periods of renewal. Renewal is guaranteed not only by the sacrifices of the Martyrs, but also by those of the Confessors. Thus, many often refer only to ‘the New Martyrs’, forgetting that twenty-five years ago, at the vital turning-point of 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), mocked, slandered and isolated, heroically glorified not only the New Martyrs, but also the New Confessors (itself an act worthy of the New Confessors). For if the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, then the sweat and tears of the Confessors bring the Church into flower.

In Russia, the Church was not only physically persecuted, but also spiritually persecuted. The Martyrs witnessed with blood, but the Confessors witnessed with sweat and tears. Whereas the Martyrs struggled mainly against the militant atheism of Communism, the Confessors struggled mainly against the militant modernism of Renovationism. In the twentieth century, this struggle took place not only inside Russia, but also outside Russia. Therefore, the struggle of the Confessors has been, and is, the common struggle of the whole Russian Church.

Thus, when St Jonah of Manchuria (+ 1925), Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky (+ 1936), Archbishop Seraphim in Sophia (+ 1950), Archbishop Vitaly (+ 1960), Metropolian Anastasius (+ 1965), St John of Shanghai (+ 1966), Archbishop Averky of Syracuse (+ 1976) and so many other clergy and laity of ROCOR fought against modernism and ecumenism, speaking out openly against the heterodox practices widely adopted by other Orthodox jurisdictions, ROCOR was completely at one with the Confessors of the Patriarchate in Russia. Whether it was such holy men as St Alexis of Carpatho-Russia (+ 1947), Schema-Archimandrite Laurence of Chernigov (1950), St Sebastian of Karaganda (+ 1966), the Blessed Elder Sampson (+ 1979), Schema-Abbot Sabbas of the Pskov Caves (+ 1980), Archimandrite Seraphim of Belgorod (+ 1982), Schema-Metropolitan Zinovy (+ 1985), Schema-Archimandrite Vitaly (+ 1992), Schema-Archimandrite Zosima (+ 2002), there was no difference of view with the Confessors of ROCOR as regards the purity of the Faith.

Inside Russia, they vigorously opposed the ‘Living Church’, the death-bearing modernism and ecumenism, which wanted to destroy the Orthodox Tradition for its own dark purposes. Outside Russia, it was exactly the same. In other words, the struggle against Renovationism, modernism and ecumenism, that is secularism, that is spiritual impurity, is the common struggle of both parts of the Russian Church. Purity of faith is the common struggle to keep both the letter and the spirit. This means struggling both against the temptations of the left (Renovationism), and also against the temptations of the right (sectarianism).

Since the 1990s, both parts of the Russian Church have begun canonizing yet uncanonized Confessors, whether, for example, St John of Shanghai in 1994, St Jonah of Manchuria in 1996 or St Sebastian of Karaganda in 1997. In so doing, both parts of the Russian Church are deliberately opposing the ethos of Renovationism and, inasmuch as that, they are opposing the ethos of spiritual impurity which dominated the twentieth century. After the stunned silence of the twentieth century, the Russian Church is awakening to its messianic mission in the Orthodox and the Non-Orthodox world.

In the twentieth century, one of the main tasks of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was to witness to the Orthodox Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in the West. The time may yet come when the persecution of Orthodox in the West will be such that one of the tasks of the Russian Orthodox Church Inside Russia will be to witness to the Orthodox Martyrs and Confessors of the West in Russia. The Lord may be calling us to a new age of Martyrdom in the West and a new age of Confessordom in the East. However, even if the twenty-first century roles of Orthodoxy in Russia and the West are to be inverted from their twentieth-century roles, the Church will go on to the end of time. We too go on and pray for a celebration of spiritual truth, of the Orthodox Faith, a triumph of Orthodoxy within the Russian Church, both outside and inside Russia.

Fr Andrew

Bright Wednesday, 2006

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