On the eve of 2017, the centenary year of the catastrophic Russian Revolution and a decade since the triumphant reunion between the Patriarchal Church inside Russia and the emigre Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 2007, we may wonder what will become of the heritage of the Russian emigration of 1917? After all, the generation of adults that emigrated into exile in and soon after 1917 has long since died out and we are now onto the generation of their great-great-grandchildren. In Church terms, this emigration, almost wholly rejecting the compromised authority of the then enslaved Church inside Russia, consists not just of ROCOR, but also of the small Paris splinter group. What will survive spiritually from the two parts of the Russian emigration?
The tiny Paris Archdiocese part of the emigration, perhaps 10% of the whole, survives. However, as a splinter group of dissident and disincarnate philosophers, intellectuals and aristocrats that went into schism from the Russian Church for political reasons 85 years ago, it has long been without Russian bishops because of its inherent anti-monasticism. It is tending to become a sub-group of untrained convert clergy wishing to become a tiny ‘French Orthodox Church’, though some in it imagine becoming a ‘Western European Orthodox Church’. But that is megalomania. The group often reflects Schmemannite modernism, ecumenism and liberal French Catholicism (i.e. Protestantism), having steadily abandoned the Russian Orthodox Tradition.
True, there are still a few faithful, Orthodox calendar parishes run by priests mainly imported from Russia and the Ukraine and some selected Russian customs remain, though with little understanding of their meaning. The tendency is to try and proselytize middle-class liberal intellectuals, sometimes with contempt for ordinary people, an ethos that also used to infect parts of the OCA in North America and renovationist groups in the Soviet-period Patriarchate of Moscow. The Archdiocese generally tends to cut corners, failing to observe the canons and attract cradle Orthodox, whom as a non-inclusive group it rejects. Certainly it attracts none who is anchored in the Tradition.
However, the overwhelming majority of the emigration, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), exists outside France and French philosophical intellectualism, mainly in North America, Australasia and Western Europe. As such it has from the start been responsible for much missionary and translation work in many languages. Without the protection of any State it has in its near-100 year history also been subject to many slanders, mockery and persecution for its faithfulness to the Tradition. It has often been the voice crying in the wilderness of Secularist materialism, whether Communist or Capitalist, witnessing and prophetically calling like the Forerunner and Baptist John to repentance before the apocalyptic events of the last century.
However, it is also true that in the past parts of ROCOR were also compromised and infected by Russian nationalism, excessive strictness to the point of negative phariseeism and depressing right-wing politics – some fringe elements were even so blind as to support Hitler. However, the best of ROCOR has been revealed as a Church of Confessors and Missionaries, as in its three saints: St Jonah of Hankou, St Seraphim of Sofia and St John of Shanghai. Moreover, further saints are yet to be revealed. Whatever the future shape of the present administrative structures of ROCOR, these saints have given ROCOR eternal significance, as only the saints can do, as everything else gathers the dust of history, being only passing fashion and political intrigue.
Ten years ago, in 2007, seeing the Church inside Russia at last free, ROCOR rejoined Her and in the last ten years the two parts of the Church have worked closely together. Some therefore ask why does ROCOR still exist? The answer is simple: we have a mission to witness to the Orthodox Truth specifically outside Russia. When in the past the Church inside Holy Rus was enslaved and fell silent, with the representatives of the Soviet-period Patriarchate abroad mostly abandoning ideals, sometimes disgracefully compromising themselves in renovationism, ecumenism and other ills, ROCOR spoke out. So also today ROCOR continues to proclaim outside Russia what the best of the rest of the Church proclaims inside Russia – the ideals of Holy Rus. What are these?
These ideals are Trinitarian, reflecting on earth the heavenly reality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These Christian ideals can be expressed as: Faith, Throne and People, that is, the Orthodox Faith, the Christian Emperor, the Faithful. All three go together. If any one element is compromised, then all three are compromised. Thus, if we reject the Orthodox Faith, we do not build the Christian Empire among the People, as has happened in the Western world. If we reject the Incarnation of the Christian Empire, we fail to reflect the Faith in the Father and fail to preach the values of the Holy Spirit among the People, as has happened in disincarnate Parisian philosophy. And if the People lose the Orthodox Faith, there will be no Empire, as happened in 1917.
Just as we cannot have the Father without the Son and the Holy Spirit, so we confess all three of these ideals of Holy Rus together. This means that we are called on to proclaim the uncorrupted Orthodox Faith of the Church (the Father), the restoration of the Incarnate Christian Empire and Emperor (the Son) and that we call all the peoples of the world to join us (the Holy Spirit), as St Seraphim of Sarov prophesied nearly 200 years ago. These are the Trinitarian Orthodox Civilizational values of the Returning Christian Empire which is coming soon. Thus, we clergy and people of ROCOR are the free and conscious servants of the Faith and People of the Tsar-Martyr, called on to reverse the treason of 1917 and its disastrous worldwide consequences.