ON THE DESTINY OF RUSSIA
Prophecy of St John of Kronstadt
To destroy a country, you first have to destroy its soul. For when a country loses its soul, it loses its spiritual identity. This was the programme of first the Constitutionalists and then the Bolsheviks, who usurped power in the Russian Empire in 1917. In order to destroy Russian spiritual identity, their first target was the Church, the guardian of Russia’s soul.
In their plan to create an atheist State, they failed. Although in 1917, a third of Russians had lost their Faith, today, according to the latest reports, only 15% of Russians are atheists. Moreover, it seems that many of these are the elderly heirs of old-fashioned Soviet atheism. What has brought the younger generations back to their undestroyed Church?
THE COMMON STRUGGLE AGAINST SOVIET PERSECUTION
The’ long, dark night’ of Soviet rule, in the words of St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow (+ 1925), ended sixteen years ago. It was hastened to its end by the miraculous canonization of the New Martyrs and Confessors by ROCOR, the free part of the Russian Orthodox Church, outside Russia, in 1981 in New York. The lives of the New Martyrs and Confessors led to the realization of what the Church means for Russia, bringing about the collapse of Communism after the celebration of the thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of Rus in 1988. Then, many began to understand that ‘Soviet’ meant anti-Russian - hence the great numbers of Russian victims in the Second World War. Many Russians began to realize that they had been the victims of the bloodiest conspiracy in history.
Many began to free themselves from fear and there began the process of Rebaptism. First, there was the formal fall of Communism in 1991 and then, in the year 2000, the recognition of the New Martyrs and Confessors inside Russia, signifying the long-awaited freedom of the Church there. The process of repentance and purification has been under way and still is under way inside Russia. We do not know how many years and decades it will take and when the majority of the population will at last be Churched. For this to happen, they will have to realize that the Western consumerism that they are now largely being fed on is, like liberalism, just another variety of the same Western materialism as Marxist-Leninism.
No objective observer of the events in Russia since 1988 can doubt any of this and no observer can doubt the Providential role of the Church Outside Russia in any of this. Its role in revealing the persecution of the enslaved Church in Russia to the Western world and in canonizing the saints, whom the Church inside Russia was not allowed to canonize, is beyond doubt. As the ever-memorable Metropolitan John of St Petersburg and Ladoga (+ 1995) wrote in 1992:
Having separated administratively, the Russian Church did not lose its spiritual unity. The part outside Russia gained the freedom required to denounce the evil that ruled in the homeland, in Russia. In hostile surroundings, either Non-Orthodox or else surroundings confessing a Non-Christian religion altogether, Russian people abroad showed the world the spiritual feat of standing in the truth of Orthodoxy, the feat of hope and faith, faith that the time would come when the torment of our captivity would end and the Lord would deliver Rus, worn out by suffering, from the yoke of the sacrilegious (1).
THE COMMON STRUGGLE AGAINST MODERNIST PERSECUTION
The common struggle of both parts of the Russian Church against Soviet persecution, inside and outside Russia, was mirrored by their common struggle against renovationist persecution. Inside Russia, the renovationists, or modernists, were sponsored by the Communists in order to destroy the Church from within. They were defeated.
Outside Russia, in conditions of relative freedom, the same struggle went on, but whenever the modernists risked defeat, they ran to another jurisdiction. There, they were free to pursue their errors, which were agreeable to the powers of this world, whether heterodox or purely secular. In recent years, as the part of the Russian Church based in Moscow has come into contact with the outside world, it too has found itself forced to confront modernist renovationism again.
Thus, on 27 March 2007, the Patriarchal Diocese of Korsun in Paris under Archbishop Innokenty, found itself obliged to suspend its participation in meetings of the Standing Committee of Orthodox Bishops in France. This temporary suspension has come about because of the centralizing tendencies of that Assembly around the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the resulting crisis within it. There is also the problem of the modernist elements who run the Service Orthodoxe de Presse (SOP), which calls itself the official organ of the Assembly. In fact, it is an organization which for decades has been engaged in both anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian propaganda and has continually attacked both the Church inside Russia and the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). No wonder that the Church Outside Russia long ago refused to have anything to do with it. Now the Church inside Russia has decided on the same course of action.
For years we have resisted the modernist Renovationists, first in London and then in Paris, confessing the Faith against the tide. In those dark days we stood alone. Now we are being joined by 75% of the Orthodox world. The position taken by ROCOR is confirmed by the rest of the Russian Church, both in its condemnation of Soviet persecution and in the persecution by modernism. Thus, today, both parts of the Russian Church stand together, sharing the same viewpoints, strengthening one another.
TOWARDS THE RESTORATION OF ORTHODOX UNITY
The revival of Orthodoxy in Russia and the baptism of a hundred million into the Church there may mean a change in the fortunes of worldwide Orthodoxy, the rebirth of the Orthodox oikumene. Only on 23 March 2007, Metropolitan Amphilochius of Montenegro, asserted that the position taken by Russia on the question of Kosovo and Metochia would be decisive for the ‘fate of Europe’. Either Western Europe would sink into utter decadence, or else, by following the Russian view and refusing to grant independence to Muslim colonists and bandits, it would stand up for the Christian roots of Europe.
Of course, other parts of the Orthodox world outside the Church in Russia have also always supported an uncompromised Orthodoxy, whether in Serbia and Montenegro, in Georgia and Jerusalem, or on the Holy Mountain of Athos. In all these ‘keys to the kingdom’, there have always been those who understood the importance of keeping Orthodoxy unblemished. However, today, the younger generation in many other Local Orthodox Churches are beginning to bring others to repentance, steering others back to Orthodox ecclesiology, the calendar and other traditions. Thus, it is rumoured that the Finnish Church is considering returning to the Orthodox calendar. A quarter of the parishes in the ‘Orthodox Church in America’ (OCA) are now on the Orthodox calendar and many there are now disenchanted with their previous errors on ecumenism. Some in the Polish, Czechoslovak and Japanese Churches, which allowed some to use the Roman Catholic calendar, are thinking the same way. A return to roots is under way. Relations between the Russian Church and the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, Bucharest and Sofia are good, as also with the Churches of Greece and Cyprus.
However, in the isolationist, modernist axis of Istanbul and Paris there is still stubborn resistance. Those bastions of modernism, the first to go modernist, taking advantage of the Bolshevik coup d’etat in 1917, will no doubt be the last to repent. They look not to the future, but to the past. Similarly, there are those at the other extreme, also frequently elderly, who still look to the past. As yet, they cannot see the wood for the trees and continue to resist Russian-led Orthodox unity and integrity. This is because, dwelling in the past, they look more to the compromises of the past than to the repentance of the present and the hope for the future.
They forget that there are such things as repentance and forgiveness, still confusing Soviet with Russian, in the Western manner. Sometimes, this may be because some lack love for Russia. But, more seriously, this situation may also sometimes be indicative of a lack of love for real Orthodoxy. Some do not understand that the use of the Roman Catholic calendar for the fixed feasts is not a heresy. A grave mistake, yes, but not a heresy. Some do not understand that without love, the canons have no sense. Some do not see in their emotional resistance that those who fight against the unity of the Russian Church are in fact fighting side by side with the enemies of Orthodoxy, the very elements whom they claim to be resisting. Some have yet to grasp that their opposition to a revived, free and united Russian Church is in fact in the interests of the enemies of Orthodoxy.
TOWARDS THE RESTORATION OF AN ORTHODOX EMPIRE
If repentance continues in Russia, not only will the other Local Orthodox Churches further unite, but also political changes will take place in Russia. On 27 March 2007, Metropolitan Kirill of the Patriarchate inside Russia, spoke of the desirability of the restoration of the Orthodox Monarchy in Russia. He wishes to see the moral condition of Russian society restored, so that one day Russians could see Orthodox monarchy restored. However, he also added that Russia is simply not morally ready for this at this time.
Virtually everyone would agree with him, for to have an Orthodox Monarchy, virtually 100% of the people must themselves be Orthodox, seeing in the Monarch their natural leader. For there must be spiritual unity between the Lord’s Anointed and the people he represents. Otherwise, Monarchy will fall into Western errors, either of oppressive Absolutism, or else of feeble Constitutionalism. It was processes of spiritual disunity that originally brought about the fall of the Orthodox Monarchy in 1917, when the people rejected their own Monarch. Therefore, it will require the reverse spiritual processes to change the present situation. And although the processes of spiritual disunity and dissolution are indeed in reverse in contemporary Russia, they are only just beginning.
Any Orthodox Monarchy must be desired by the people from inside, not imposed by force from outside. And, as the Metropolitan commented, any Orthodox Monarchy must be just that, Orthodox, self-sacrificing, ascetic. It must not be as the majority of spoilt Constitutional monarchies of Western Europe, with their constant scandals, the self-sacrificial life of Queen Elizabeth II providing one of the few exceptions here.
However, if the Christian Monarchy were restored in Russia, it would provide a focus and centre of unity for all the Local Orthodox Churches. And it would also restore Russia to its historic role and destiny, since 1453, as the leader of the Orthodox world, the centre of the Orthodox Empire.
Before us we already see two patterns for the future. The first is the continued and increasingly rapid descent into spiritual and moral catastrophe worldwide. The demons who were unleashed in Western Europe in 1914 and went to Russia in 1917 have been leaving the Soviet Union since 1991. They have been moving to the European Union, established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, where they torment and provoke men into the spiritual delusion of atheism. As the prophecies say, at the end of time, hell will be emptied of demons, for they will all be on earth.
The other pattern is the restoration of an Orthodox world, which will put off the end until a later time. The restoration of the historical and ‘meta-historical’ (beyond history) destiny of Russia, and so of the whole Orthodox oikumene, is now the only thing that can hold back the end of the world. This is not a nationalist question, not something that concerns only Russians. Speaking of this in 1992, Metropolitan John of St Petersburg and Ladoga wrote:
The understanding of ‘Russian’…is not exclusively an ethnic characteristic. The participation in the ministry of the Russian people can be undertaken by all who recognize that this ministry has been Divinely established and who identify themselves with the Russian people in spirit, aim and the meaning of life, regardless of their national origins (2).
And before this, nearly twenty years ago, we wrote:
Has perhaps the whole of this (twentieth) century not been a kind of Lent, which is to end, yet, in a great Paschal celebration, the return of man to God through repentance? (3)
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now (Romans 8, 22). As now we prepare to go up to Jerusalem, we too await the Resurrection.
18/31 March 2007
1. The Triumph of Orthodoxy in Russkiy Uzel, p. 50, Tsarskoye Delo, St Petersburg, 2007.
2. The Mystery of Iniquity in Russkiy Uzel, p. 18.
3. 1989 in Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition, p. 101, The English Orthodox Trust, East Anglia, 1995.