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In Memoriam: Metropolitan Laurus:
on the Holiness of the Church
and the Healing of the Russian Emigration of Extremism

Foreword: The Russian Emigration

‘Through their superficiality and lack of ability to think though problems, our mindless and pitiful intelligentsia lost the faith of their forebears, the faith which is the firm foundation of our life in all its sorrows and misfortunes, the solid and dependable anchor to which our life and our native land are unwaveringly attached amid the storms of life….From the heights of your positions you showed only contempt for the Lord and God Almighty, failing to notice that your end was coming…I warn you that you will be wiped off the face of the earth by Divine Justice’.

St John of Kronstadt

The Russian emigration was and is a complex phenomenon. First of all, not all of its members were and are Russian. Secondly, it consisted and consists of different generations and all their descendants. Finally, there are among it those who are not actually emigres at all, but Non-Russians who with their descendants have felt called by God to partake of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Russian Church.

An example of this was seen at a meeting held in Paris in the 1970s. People tried to bring together members of the first emigration, adults before the 1917 Revolution and nostalgic for the old order, with those who had escaped in 1945, often former members of the Red Army, and Soviet dissidents of the ‘third wave’ of the 1970s. (This was before the fourth wave, the economic emigration since the 1990s and the Soviet collapse. This would have complicated matters even more, though by then the representatives of the first generation, who had nearly all died out, would have been represented by their elderly children). In any case, in Paris and in the 1970s, three emigrations met and the meeting was a disaster. The representatives, not of the emigration, but of the emigrations, were psychologically and above all spiritually so varied that they found little common ground.

For example, spiritually, quite a few of the older generation were only nominally Orthodox and treated the Church as cultural baggage. Church for them was a piece of theatre and they, literally, rented seats at the Rue Daru Cathedral in Paris for any grand events, in the old St Petersburg manner. The 1945 generation was split between those who were firmly Orthodox, unlike some of the 1917 wave, and those who were Sovietised to such an extent that they knew nothing and wanted to know nothing about ‘primitive obscurantists’, who ‘still believed in God in an age of electricity’. Finally, since so many of the 1970s dissidents were Jewish or else altogether ignorant of the Church, it was almost impossible to get any of them to come.

We should have no illusions. When at the Second ROCOR Council in 1938 St John of Shanghai gave his report on ‘The Spiritual State of the Russian Emigration’, he did not paint a glowing picture. It was apparent then that only some 10% of Russians practised their faith – a figure not so different from that of before 1917. The fact is that many who were called ‘White’ were not White at all. Many of the so-called Whites had not wanted the restoration of Imperial Russia, some ‘Whites’ were even atheist enemies of the Church, others committed atrocities during the Civil War. By no means all deserved the title ‘White’. Fifteen years ago I buried the last authentic White officer in Meudon and perhaps in all of Paris, Vladimir Ivanovich Labunsky. What he told me in the years preceding his passing and what I have heard and read elsewhere since, including that written by the ever-memorable Archbishop Averky of Jordanville, have made all this very clear to me.

Divisions in the Emigration

‘It was neither a class war, nor a revolutionary situation, nor masonic intrigues that led Russia to the catastrophe of 1917. The spiritual cause of the chastisement permitted by Divine Justice was the increasing coldness towards the holy faith, tantamount to apostasy, of a significant part of the Russian aristocracy and intelligentsia. Over three centuries this class had become contaminated by the free-thinking philosophy of Voltaire, amorality and Western revolutionary theories. There are innumerable testimonies which show that by the beginning of the twentieth century the upper classes in Russia had committed apostasy. But those thrown out of Russia by the Bolshevik coup d’etat, even they - yesterday’s occultists, Darwinists, liberals and socialists – suddenly realised what they had lost’.

Vladimir, Archbishop of Tashkent and Central Asia

One of the greatest weaknesses in the emigration in Paris was the number of aristocrats, often with Non-Russian names, and others who had had no interest in Orthodoxy before the Revolution. They had indeed dabbled, and worse, in freemasonry, the alcoholic Soloviov, Blavatsky’s theosophy, gnosticism, spiritualism, hypnotism, Hinduism, Buddhism or simply the straightforward occult. They were still performing black masses on the grave of one of them in Paris, a former Tsarist diplomat and noted hypnotist, in the 1970s. Another émigré, to whom I am related, the son of a Tsarist ambassador to a very important Western country, told me that his father had been a convinced atheist and had rejoiced when the Revolution came. Countless are such stories and we all know many more of them.

When, out of nostalgia for Russia, some of the intellectual emigres came to Orthodoxy, as converts they quite often confused their gnostic philosophies a la Soloviov with Orthodoxy. Fr Sergius Bulgakov, the former Marxist Professor of Economics, was typical. The even more obvious pseudo-mystics, for instance the gnostic philosopher Berdiaiev, were clearly not Orthodox, except perhaps in emotion. Of the three main clerical representatives who began their careers in Paris and remained in Western Europe, Evgraf Kovalevsky, who created a peculiar, gnostic ‘French Orthodox’ group stands out. However, the two others probably did more harm, because they were assumed to be ‘canonical’ Orthodox, even though their writings resemble those of Roman Catholic ‘mystics’ and Protestant preachers.

But in fairness to the Paris emigration, where there were and are many who are authentic Orthodox, not all those who were in a state of spiritual delusion or ‘prelest’ were Parisians. I know of another, a bishop who had never set foot in Paris, who was an anthroposophist, a follower of Rudolph Steiner. After he died, those who went through his papers discovered to their naïve amazement that he had been preparing to preach anthroposophy in Russia, once Communism had fallen. Those of us who had known him as a bishop (and had heard him speak about Atlantis!) were not in the least surprised.

All of the above explains why there were so many groups who broke off from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) from the twenties on. ROCOR, the United Church of the Emigration, could not remain united in the face of spiritual impurity. Thus, in the 1920s there were the repeated Paris schisms under the freemasons who manipulated Metropolitan Evlogy and the repeated schisms in North America. However worthy and kind the simple people in North America were, they were former Uniats, people who had never lived in the Russian Empire and who did not call themselves Russian. It was all too easy to mislead them. Then there were separatist Ukrainians, Belarussians and Carpatho-Russians. And finally, there were those few who had such a patriotic nostalgia for Soviet Russia that they set up a Moscow Patriarchate outside Russia.

Unity: When

‘I call on you to keep the traditions of the holy fathers in purity, as well as the age-old customs of our Mother-Church, to resist influences and teachings that are alien to the Holy Orthodox Church’.

Patriarch Alexis II

Since the nature of the Russian emigration was complex, so also reconciliation to the Church inside Russia had and has to be complex. In 1988 there began the Second Baptism of Russia. Miracles took place. In 1991 the relics of St Seraphim were recovered and many healings occurred, the sun danced and a rainbow halo was seen over the Cathedral of the Trinity in Diveyevo. The same happened above the Cathedral of St Sophia in Novgorod and another appeared over Lake Issyk-Kul, the waters of which conceal the relics of the holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. At Ganina Yama near Ekaterinburg, where the Royal Martyrs were buried, a yellow-green light that appeared only on photographs developed later, grew up out of the earth. It dawned on the Russian emigration that this renewal was for real, but we patiently waited until the grassroots movement there began to affect the elite to such an extent that they would act.

Meanwhile, the supposed Consumerist (post-Communist) paradise of Western free market ‘democracy’, which came to Russia after the fall of Communism in the 1990s, proved to be a disastrous failure. As also did the pseudo-religious sects imported into Russia from the West. These were only secularist, materialist ideologies merely reflecting Western Consumerism and had no spiritual value or content. Free market democracy failed because it is based on the same immoral Western materialist fraud as failed Communism. And Western-supported privatisation was shown to mean massive theft of the assets stolen after 1917 by the Soviet State and supposedly held by it on behalf of the people. The Western myths of democracy and freedom proved to be as anti-patriotic as they are in the West, as for example in Great Britain, they consisted of an elected dictatorship, mass embezzlement and the promotion of debauchery and abortion. So in Russia mafia rule began under an alcoholic President and the word ‘Russian’ came to be associated with words like ‘criminal’, ‘prostitute’ ‘abortion’ and drunkard’. Shame and disgrace.

Only in 2000 did there come hope, when at last the elite of the Russian Church felt free. The old Communist mentality that had hung over it throughout the 90s, the reflexes of fear of Party apparatchiks, began to dissolve. In August 2000 the Orthodox people felt strong and numerous enough to demand the first canonisations of the New Martyrs and Confessors. The episcopate felt strong enough to grant this through the support of the people and publicly renounce the errors of the past. After that Jubilee Council, a cross appeared in the sky in Moscow, saying: ‘In this sign, conquer’.

In this way, the Second Baptism of Rus, the baptism of tens and tens of millions into the Russian Church, was called on to rebuild Orthodox Society and therefore an Orthodox State in the East Slav lands. Thus today, we have a Patriarch whose patron saint is St Alexis of Moscow and a President in waiting who is named after St Dimitry Donskoi, the disciple of St Alexis - those who between them saved Russia in times past. Is history repeating itself? Not yet, because the process is only just beginning and 95% of the people still have to be Churched. And also because there can be no repeat of history until unity with the emigration is achieved.

Unity: Who

‘Russian Orthodox and Orthodox in general must be one in spirit and deed’.

Metropolitan Laurus

Only in 2007 did unity with the emigration begin (yes, begin). This was possible through two men and all those many who supported them.

On the one hand, there was he who was born to an émigré family in Estonia and who has émigré cousins in Estonia, Germany and Australia. Speaking Estonian and Russian, he had an openness to the culture of the country where his family had taken refuge and he understood the needs of Estonian Orthodox as well as Russian Orthodox. Already in 1983 the holy elder, Fr Nikolai Gurianov, had prophesied his future. No, this émigré was not the head of ROCOR, but the head of the Moscow Patriarchate, Patriarch Alexis II.

On the other hand, the head of the émigré Church was not even an émigré, not even a Russian, but one born without a country inside another country, which had been created only in 1919 - Czechoslovakia. This man was a Lemko from Presov Rus, that is, he came from the westernmost branch of the Carpatho-Russian people. In 1944 he had become a refugee and emigrated, as many at that time, to the United States. This was Metropolitan Laurus.

Both men were of the same generation, born only thirteen months apart. The ironies of their origins, an émigré Russian Patriarch and a Carpatho-Russian ROCOR Metropolitan, contributed greatly to the process of unity.

Unity: Where

‘I ask for your holy prayers that the Lord may make us worthy to be together with the saints, especially with the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, who suffered and abundantly watered our Russian land with their blood’.

Metropolitan Laurus

The place of the unity of the Russian Church was the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Originally, this Cathedral had been built in thanksgiving for the victory over Napoleon, called by Russians an antichrist. He had thought himself the conqueror of the world, an earthly deity and had himself crowned Emperor by the captive, sergianist Pope of Rome. However, he was miserably defeated by Russian forces, who freed Western Europe from his tyranny and chased him all the way back to Paris.

Nearly a hundred years after its construction, the same Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was destroyed on the orders of a new antichrist, Stalin, on 5 December 1931. On its site Stalin intended to build a grandiose Palace of the Soviets, 400 metres high, surmounted by a giant statue of the syphilitic mass-murderer Lenin, that was to stretch into the clouds. The Third Rome had become the Third International. But by the grace of God, this new tower of Babel with its titanic statue of a titanic madman was never built.

And after bankrupt Communism had collapsed in 1991, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was rebuilt, a replica of that which had stood there before the Soviet nightmare. The Cathedral was consecrated on the last day of 1999, the symbol of the spiritual rebirth and the unity in Christ of the newly-baptised Rus as the new millennium approached.

Afterword: Your Measuredness

‘Our God is the God of order and measure’.

St Maximus the Confessor.

Both Patriarch Alexis II and Metropolitan Laurus have been noted as men of moderation. Both of these spiritual helmsmen steered the ships of their Churches away from the reefs of the modernist pride of Renovationism, death by spiritual lukewarmness, both inside Russia and outside Russia, and from the reefs of the pharisees’ pride of obscurantism, death by spiritual ghetto, both inside and outside Russia, towards the calm haven of Christ. Given their spirit of moderation, it is little wonder to learn that a title used for the heads of Local Orthodox Churches is ‘Your Measuredness’ (in Russian, ‘Vasha Mernost’). For it is moderation, avoiding extremes, that brings unity.

It is on this policy of faithfulness to the full-blooded Russian Orthodox Tradition, veering neither to the left nor to the right, that not only the Moscow Patriarchate and ROCOR were reconciled, but also that the whole of the emigration will be reconciled. Here language is not the problem. We well remember the futile battles of the 1970s and 1980s, when émigré parishes, with fewer and fewer of the first generation surviving, split over the proportion of Slavonic and the vernacular to be used in services. This was in fact a non-problem, which merely distracted from prayer and repentance. As an émigré, who as a priest and the son of a priest served in both Slavonic and Estonian in dual-language parishes in Estonia, His Holiness knows this. Metropolitan Laurus also knew it, as was witnessed by the dual-language parishes and clergy who celebrated all around him, including at his funeral in New England.

At the moment, the vast majority of the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and of the Patriarchate in Russia are united in communion in one Russian Orthodox Church. They have put their house in order after the Cold War. However, it is time for others to do the same, for there are others in the emigrations who are not yet united, who still have work to do. Thus, there are a few former members of ROCOR who have not yet made the step. They need more time, perhaps even years. And then there are groups which long ago broke away from ROCOR, in the bitterly divided Paris Jurisdiction in France and in the now fragmenting Cold War creation of the OCA in North America.

It is true that there is no hope that those who do not love Russian Orthodoxy will ever unite within the One multinational and multilingual Russian Church. It is sad, but there are people who do not wish to belong to it. We must be realistic. They will go off to their politically or ideologically-driven divisions and fragments, forgetting for the foreseeable future the ‘Measuredness’ of the Church which unites 75% of Orthodox worldwide. Nevertheless, there are also those to whom unity will come, because in their hearts they know that it is right. For them, it is all a question of time, for all who actually love Russian Orthodoxy will come round in the end.

St John of Kronstadt prophesied: ‘A new Rus, strong in its faith in Christ God and in the Holy Trinity, will be raised up on the bones of the martyrs’. This new Rus we already see being raised up in the Russian lands, though the final unity of all four parts of Rus, Great, Little, White and Carpathian, has still to come. But it is vitally important to understand that St John’s prophecy does not only concern those who belong to the territorial Rus, East Slavdom. It also concerns the spiritual Rus, to which we who are scattered across the face of the earth, in Alaska and Belgium, England and Brazil, France and New Zealand, Italy and Argentina, Germany and Indonesia, Canada and Peru, the United States and Venezuela, Switzerland and Chile, also belong. For it is we too who must yet be ‘raised up on the bones of the martyrs’.

Priest Andrew Phillips,
East Anglia

17/30 March 2008
Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross
St Alexis, the Man of God,
St Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland

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