ON FULFILLING THE LAW OF CHRIST:
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we therefore have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of the faith (Galatians 6, 8-10).
It is now more or less confirmed that the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church (the Moscow Patriarchate - MP - centred in Moscow, and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia - ROCOR - centred in New York) will enter into eucharistic communion soon after Easter 2007.
Thus the large Patriarchate, with its 27,000 + parishes, nearly all inside the former Soviet Union, will be united with the tiny ROCOR, with its 300 parishes, nearly all outside Russia. The importance of this unity is not in numbers, however. The importance is in the historic reunion of the free Church of the Russian emigration and its missions outside Russia and the once enslaved Church inside Russia. This follows their tragic separation by State political persecution after 1917 and the mass martyrdom of the Church inside Russia under Soviet atheism.
During those dark years of persecution some 600 Russian Orthodox bishops, 120,000 priests, monks and nuns, and millions of laypeople were slaughtered under Bolshevik rule. At that time the tragic silence of the surviving representatives of the Church inside Russia, hostages of the Soviet regime, was fortunately compensated for by the free voice of ROCOR. The ROCOR faithful were in freedom not only able to speak and write of the reality of the situation in Russia, but were also able to witness to an Orthodoxy uncompromised by the ideologies of the prince of this world.
Thus, in freedom, ROCOR spoke truthfully of the Orthodox view of modernism, ecumenism, the so-called 'new calendar', freemasonry and many other secular ideologies or 'isms'. Indeed, for some decades during the tragic twentieth century, ROCOR was the only part of any of the Orthodox Churches in the whole world which was able to communicate Orthodox truths to the rest of the world. As the Local Orthodox Churches were tragically enslaved by Communism or else Western ideologies, only ROCOR could preach the Truth in public.
More than this, however, ROCOR was able not only to defy the silence of worldly compromise by speaking, ROCOR was also able to act. Thus, 25 years ago in 1981, herocially, ROCOR alone was free to canonize the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. It was this act which led to the disintegration of Soviet ideology, which at that very time still boasted that it would within a few years show its Soviet audience the death of the last Russian Orthodox priest on television. Within seven years of the canonization in New York, the Patriarchate was able to celebrate the thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of Russia.
This was to coincide precisely with its Rebaptism, as tens of millions of Russians flocked to be baptized. Three years after that, the Soviet Union collapsed altogether. Since those dramatic days, the Moscow Patriarchate has moved forward from enslavement to freedom. The turning-point came in August 2000, when, gathered in Council, the Patriarchate at last canonized its New Martyrs and Confessors, rejected the old erastian collaboration with the State, known as Sergianism, and also the old-style modernist syncretism, so-called 'ecumenism', of the twentieth century.
So, seven years on, the two parts of the Russian Church are able to come together. Like two communicating vases, each has helped the other, as has so often happened in the past, when free parts of the Serbian Church were able to speak up for enslaved parts, or today when Mt Athos is able to speak up for the captive Patriarchate of Constantinople. With its 700 + monasteries, Academies and intellectual resources, high-level international political contacts, TV and radio broadcasts, massive publishing capacity for books and magazines, as well as online, financial resources and general infrastructure, the Patriarchate is now in a position to help ROCOR, just as in the recent past ROCOR helped the Patriarchate out of its enslavement to the Soviet State by speaking the truth for it.
However, ROCOR still has roles to play. Just as in the past ROCOR spoke the truth about ecumenist ideology, it can now work together with the Patriarchate to witness and preach to the heterodox world in languages which it can understand. In other words, both parts of the Russian Church together are able to conduct true 'ecumenism', that is universalism, the ecumenism which makes universal the Orthodox Faith, in whatever forum they can. The old ecumenism of the old World Council of Churches, with its branch theory, joint prayers and political activism, so vigorously denounced over the decades by ROCOR, and now by the Patriarchate also, is dead. Now the two parts of the Russian Church can move together in their common understanding of true, Orthodox, ecumenism.
With its decades of pastoral experience and liturgical translations, ROCOR is also able to help the Patriarchate understand the needs of the multinational Orthodox flock outside Russia, needs which will be reflected also inside Russia, as Western influences enter Russian society. Thus the popularity of the writings of the Californian Fr Seraphim Rose of ROCOR inside Russia today. Whatever the longer-term destinies and structures of the Russian Orthodox Church in countries outside the territories of the former Soviet Union, the two parts of the Russian Church will now be able to help one another in close co-operation, making use of their common strengths and the opportunities afforded and warding off weaknesses and threats.
This can be seen very clearly on a miniature level outside Russia. For it is the case in our own tiny British Isles, where the Moscow Patriarchate in 1945 set up a parallel jurisdiction to ROCOR, the Sourozh Diocese. By the 1960s this Sourozh Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate was becoming enslaved to a strange modernist ideology. Cut off from Russia and its life-giving New Martyrs and Confessors, whom it was not even allowed to admit to, and with its rejection by the vast majority of Russian emigres in England who preferred ROCOR, it recruited its members among Non-Orthodox.
Sourozh then became tragically involved in a secular path, which led it to lose and even deny the Orthodox Tradition. Its acceptance of new calendar modernism, ecumenism and intercommunion, its acceptance of communion without confession, freemasonry, cremation, weddings on Saturdays, its virtual dropping of fasting, its banning of headscarves in its churches, and general rejection of anything resembling the Orthodox Tradition (including the sale of the writings of Fr Seraphim Rose). On the other hand, in spiritual and moral freedom, the parallel ROCOR Diocese was able to witness to the authentic Orthodox Tradition, without making ecumenist compromises to the Baal of the modern, politically correct and anti-Christian Western world.
By the grace of God, just as ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate decided in principle to enter into communion with one another in May 2006, the Patriarchal Sourozh Diocese was liberated from those who had jealously guarded their old-fashioned worldly ideology. On 26 November 2006, the Sourozh Diocese will at last receive a new bishop. This means that for the first time since the repose of Bishop Nicholas of London, on 11 October 1932, Russian Orthodox in the British Isles will again have a young, uncompromised bishop resident in London. There is no doubt that both parts of the Russian Church will, uncompromised by others, now be able to help one another to confess the Russian Orthodox Tradition and Truth in the atheistic British Isles of today.
The Moscow Patriarchate is politically free and rejoices. ROCOR celebrates together with it, for its time of valiant confession has been rewarded. This is the victory of spiritual and moral freedom. This is the victory of all Orthodox who are spiritually and morally free. Only those enslaved to tyrannical and secular Western ideologies turn their backs in sorrow and anger on the imminent unity of the Russian Orthodox Church and free confession of the Russian Orthodox Tradition. Thus, we see that the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church have helped and continue to help one another towards building a Local Church here, for without them no Local Church will ever be built here. Though their separation was created by the politics of evil, through His loving Providence, the Lord made their separation beneficial. The spiritual meaning of the twentieth century division of the Russian Orthodox Church is that of Love, that we are called to love one another, bearing one another's burdens:
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6, 1-2).
Priest Andrew Phillips
28 October/ 10 November 2006
Terence, Neonilla and their children