Monthly Archives: July 2019

Return to the Orthodox Church or Continue in Freemasonry?

The battle for the survival of real Orthodoxy in the fragmenting and ever smaller Paris-based Rue Daru group has now reached a culminating point. Thirty years ago we realized what the below author, the daughter of one of my professors, has realized today. In this article she demolishes the arguments of the sectarian ‘Fraternite’ (‘Brotherhood’ – a very apt name) group of Protestant-minded, anti-episcopal modernists and ecumenists who have been sabotaging Orthodoxy within the Rue Daru group for over fifty years. And all this under entirely pseudo-canonical and anti-Russian political arguments.

Anne Andronikof: An Open Letter to Fr Alexis Struve

https://www.egliserusse.eu/blogdiscussion/m/Anne-Andronikof-Lettre-ouverte-au-pere-Alexis-Struve_a5778.html

Dear Fr Alexis,

I was able to read your letter to the members of the pastoral assembly of July 15 2019, of which I am not a member, and I would like to make a few comments.

I fully agree with you that our future in the Archdiocese will inevitably be, and whatever decisions are made, other than what we are currently experiencing. It is indeed illusory to believe that it would be possible to find oneself “as before”.

However, I have an opinion radically contrary to yours on all other points.

Indeed, you write that the Archdiocese is not “Russian”, the vast majority of parishes having very few, if any, people of Russian origin. So far so good. However, we are much more “Russian” than Greek (or Romanian, Bulgarian or others) on the one hand because we have all opted for the Russian-Slavonic tradition. For those of Russian origin it is not really a choice, but for all others it is.

And on the other hand because the Archdiocese came from the Russian emigration and relies on the Moscow Council of 1917; that our attachment to Constantinople was from the beginning conceived as temporary, transitory, in anticipation of the liberation of Russia from the Communist yoke.

I therefore agree with our bishop that the return to the Patriarchate of Moscow is our natural, logical and in keeping with the spirit of the foundation of the Archdiocese.

If this option were chosen, everyone would be free to act according to their conscience, to remain or change their jurisdiction. It’s a personal choice.

You finish on the “scandal” of the prohibition (for clerics) of intercommunion with Constantinople. But the real scandal is the action of the Phanar in Ukraine, with the creation of the false autonomous church based on excommunicated clerics and flouting the territorial principle of the Churches. The rupture of intercommunion was a logical and healthy decision of the Orthodox world, and not at all caused by conflicts between prelates. Personally, if we had continued to commemorate Patriarch Bartholomew during the services, I would already have left.

For me, all this is a matter of the Orthodox conscience, stripped of all consideration of people, nationalities, clans …

Finally, our only hope of preserving our statutes and our functioning lies in our attachment to Moscow, which has officially confirmed their maintenance. In Russia, moreover, the separation of Church and State is inscribed in its constitution (Article 14). The fear of today’s Russia comes from a fantasy carefully maintained by the West, the EU being itself at the boot of the USA.

I would add that, financially, the Archdiocese (what is left of it at least) has every interest in attaching itself to the Moscow Patriarchate, the only one able and willing to invest money for the maintenance of the churches, the restoration of St. Sergius, the revitalization of the Institute. See how Constantinople has never done anything in this sense, see the state of the churches in Biarritz, Cannes …

As you know, my father did a great deal for the creation of parishes in the vernacular, and I myself chose the crypt as a parish, to which I am very attached, and in which I am very involved. It will be heartbreak for me to leave, if the Archbishop decided to sacrifice himself by returning to the jurisdiction of the Greeks.

I am also in favour of a Local Church, but it is clear that the Archdiocese has missed its mission, which will definitely be buried with the Greek option.

Anne Andronikof, parishioner of the crypt (Daru).

Additional remarks

“The Ecumenical Patriarchate remains the first and guarantees the unity and catholicity of the Orthodox Church”.

The primacy of honour does not imply a hierarchy of powers. Constantinople has shown that it is the guarantor of nothing at all, but rather a troublemaker, in constant search for survival.

Regarding Russia: “We live in too different worlds. ”

I have just spent a week in Moscow, where I had the impression of Western civilization. And I recently spent a week in Athens, where I felt in “a different world”, and where the Communist Party is very influential. I do not know what you think.

“The [Russian] Church is at odds with, if not dependent on, the civil authorities. ”

This is false. (See above)

“Yes, our origins and traditions are Russian, and it is certainly a wealth, but our sources are not Russia. Our sources are the renewal created by the “Paris School”, by the creative theologians of the Saint Serge Institute in permanent dialogue with the world. ”

What contradictions! The distinction between origins / traditions on the one hand and “sources” on the other hand is sleight of hand.

The theologians of the St. Sergius Institute have precisely maintained and developed all the wealth of “Russian” Orthodoxy, which has re-seeded Russia.

“One of the arguments of those who today wish to join the Moscow Patriarchate is faithfulness and obedience to the bishop. ”

See the above arguments having to do with faithfulness to the spirit of Orthodoxy and nothing to do with loyalty and obedience to the bishop. If the latter is wrong, it is up to the conscience of each one (as you say yourself) to take a position. It is an insult to, or at least a misunderstanding of, the thinking capacity of the basic Orthodox (of whom I am one).

Anne Andronikof
July 17 2019, Paris

 

Let us Drink of the Cup Which Destiny has Poured

With apologies and gratitude to John Masefield and the poetry in his collection ‘On the Hill’ (1949). To him belongs any merit for the adaptation of his verses below.

 Hope

We pray for any gleams,

For any rays of light,

For any certain beams,

To help us through this night.

Faith

O Spirit ever strong

Beyond all beauty bright

Cancel out all our wrong

And change our speech to song

Our darkness into light.

Love

O Wisdom of Heaven’s birds,

Upon brightest wing that flies,

Speak to us the loving words

That come all from Paradise.

Victory

Death having perished, hell is overthrown

And spirits making glad heavenwards turn,

While we all brim with the happiness known

From sorrows’ ending and our home return.

 

Brexit and the Rue Daru Break-Up: How Politics Strangely Mirrors Church Life

Brexit and the USA

For nearly fifty years it was virtually impossible to get a job in the British diplomatic service if you were anti-Common Market (later called the EEC, then the EC and finally the EU). When the alien UK Establishment turned its back on the English people and the English-speaking world and finally joined the then Common Market on I January 1973, Ireland and Denmark, whose economies depended on the UK, were also reluctantly forced to join it. Today we live in a different world. When a crassly undiplomatic (not to say inept and stupid) British Establishment diplomat in Washington insults the US President, he has to sack himself. The world has changed. Britain has turned to the USA and the stodgy old pro-EU diplomats are lost. They have not seen the way the tide has turned in the last ten years. This is a sea-change but also a return to the past; the European flow has ebbed.

The UK is about to have a Prime Minister who was born in New York and was until recently a US citizen. Shades of the half-American Churchill? The UK is about to dissolve, as the purely artificial Northern Ireland at last returns home to form the long-dreamed of United Ireland. As for Scotland, it will inevitably regain its independence after over 300 years, leaving Wales to become independent. As for England, enslaved to upper middle-class Norman Britain for nearly 1,000 years but the eighth largest economy in the world, it is about to abandon Continental Europe after the Establishment’s disastrous fifty-year flirt with the EU and return to itself. Where does this leave Continental Europe? It will inevitably return to Eurasia – from which it cut itself off. It will increasingly come under the influence of the Russian Federation (China standing behind it), a Russia which is also European.

The Two Parts of the Russian Orthodox Church

All of these present events have been foretold by events in the Russian Orthodox Church. Here an American bishop from the USA has been appointed from the Russian Church in New York to Great Britain and Ireland to replace a Continental European bishop: it is a Church brexit. And so a whole diocese has been reborn under the wise direction of the Canadian-born Metropolitan Hilarion of New York. It is clear that the future of the Russian Orthodox Church here is with the New York-based ROCOR, which over the last twelve years, since Moscow and ROCOR were reconciled in 2007, has become an American-Russian Church, the Church of the English-speaking world and countries in the US ‘backyard’, like Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Haiti, other countries in Latin America, countries of Australian Oceania and now also Great Britain and soon to be reunited Ireland too.

Meanwhile, in Continental Europe at the end of 2018 the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow established an Exarchate, centred in Paris, only last Wednesday opening another new parish, this time in the Faroe Islands. (Eurasian in its double-headed essence, the Church also added nine new parishes to its South-East Asian Exarchate, in Myanmar (one), Vietnam (two), South Korea (two) and the Philippines (four)). Already with some 200 parishes, the Russian Orthodox Exarchate, dependent on Moscow, with its six bishops in Continental Western Europe, is expanding with Rue Daru priests (like the elderly and senior Fr Jean Gueit) and Rue Daru parishes joining it, as they leave the sinking Rue Daru ship. Here there is nothing new: this process has been going on for thirty years already. In the coming months there will be several more newcomers/ returnees.

This tiny group, hopelessly divided, with the ‘liberal’ side insulting its lone bishop in the true intolerant anti-episcopal Rue Daru tradition, has to choose: to be faithful to the Russian Tradition, which it used to claim to belong to, or join the ‘Euroliberal Tradition’ of Constantinople, which the Institut Saint Serge and the Bussy Convent have already chosen. That suicidal and schismatic path is for those who have no tradition, typical of the equally suicidal EU, which has abandoned the Christian Tradition and so has no tradition. Those who choose the Russian Tradition will live and prosper. And this is true for Continental Europe in other senses too. The choice has become clear: either return to your Christian roots or become an irrelevant schizophrenic secularist/Muslim backwater. The EU ship, like the Rue Daru ship, is sinking: stop rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, it is too late.

 

On the Naming of Wars: History is Written by the Victors

Many have remarked how after the Allied victory in 1945 the Nuremburg war crimes trials rightly tried Nazis, but not the Allies, who had bombed and murdered 500,000 German civilians. For history is written by the victors. In the same way the Western world names the wars it starts and wins in a way that does not reflect reality. Thus the two ‘World Wars’ were essentially Western Wars and should be called such. The fact that colonial troops were dragged into them as cannon fodder does not mean that those colonies started those wars and, as for Japan, it was essentially a Westernized country.

For example, in the case of Great Britain, which has invaded most of the world’s countries (exceptions include Luxembourg, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein and the Marshall Islands), we have many examples of deliberately misnamed wars: the so-called ‘India Mutiny’ which was in fact the First Indian War of Independence, or the so-called ‘Boer War’ which was the British Genocide in South Africa in order to steal gold and diamonds. In Vietnam the Wars against foreign invaders from the 1940s to the 1970s are rightly called, respectively, the French War and the American War. Today the United States refers to its wars and battles against the CIA-founded and funded Al-Qaida, Taliban and others as ‘The Global War on Terror’, which is in fact ‘The Global War of Terror’.

Even wars named after the two main combatants are misnamed, as the order in which the combatants is named is significant of bias. For example the ‘Mexican-American War’ was in fact the American-Mexican War, the ‘Spanish-American War’ was the American-Spanish War, the ‘Franco-Prussian War’ was the Prussian-French War and the ‘Russo-Japanese War’ was the Japano-Russian War, for the first countries were the aggressors. Wars named after locations also often hide the reality of aggression. For instance: the Crimean War was the Western-Ottoman Invasion of Russia, the Korean War was the American Genocide in Korea and the Gulf War or ‘Operation Desert Storm’ was the Western Genocide in Iraq or the Oil Grab War.

We should also be careful of words added to a nation’s name or location to describe a war, such as rebellion, insurrection, revolt, mutiny, revolution, uprising, intervention, coup, troubles and border. Examples include the Philippine Insurrection, in fact The Philippine War of Freedom, the Boxer Rebellion, The Chinese War of Independence, and the Russian Revolution, in fact the British-orchestrated Palace Treason of power-grabbing and treasonous Westernized oligarchs (who closely resembled the spoilt Decembrist aristocrat rebels of 1825, except that the latter fortunately failed). A more recent example is ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, in reality an Irish War of Independence against British Establishment tyranny.

Some wars do have names in certain places that reflect reality: so the American colonial conflicts are correctly known in the ex-British colonies as Queen Anne’s War and King William’s War. This is also true of wars with nicknames. Thus, the American Civil War is sometimes referred to as ‘Mr. Lincoln’s War’, as well as ‘The War of Northern Aggression’, while American participation in World War One is sometimes called ‘Mr. Wilson’s War’, after President Wilson. However, these are the exceptions.

What we need is history to be written truthfully, not by the victors, not by the losers, but by those who love the truth. This is the history that will one day be written – at the Last Judgement. Then we shall see that many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first. Then it will be seen that it is not always good to be a victor.

 

Three Western Failures: Communism, Fascism and Secularism

Communism = Christianity without Christ.

The originally Jewish ideology of Communism, imported from Germany into Russia, failed, and Russia began its long and repentant return to authentic Christianity (Orthodoxy). However, its return has been much slowed by the temptation of the illusions of Western Capitalism, which gives out its glittering technological beads to the natives in exchange for their birthright. Some Russians have fallen to this temptation, its most notable victims being oligarchs and other wealthy Westernized liberals.

Fascism = Catholicism without Christ.

Fascism, which also developed in Germany, but in the twentieth century and so well after Communism, failed in 1945. Thus, Catholicism, which had sponsored Fascism as a political and cultural anti-Russian project, was soon after obliged to protestantize itself in order to survive. The alternative, to repent for its nine hundred years of heresies and to return to Orthodoxy, would have been too radical for it, as it would have meant renouncing its inherent secularity, its corrupting power.

Secularism = Protestantism without Christ.

This is the only surviving Western ideology now. This is today’s globalised Plastic Civilization of secularised Protestantism, the ‘human right’ of Consumerism that ransacks and pollutes the globe. We know that this too will fail, simply because Communism and Fascism failed before it and they were merely variations on the same theme of Materialism. They were the same atheist, capitalist Secularism, even if forms of Materialism run by totalitarian States, whether Communist or Fascist.

All these Western failures are simply variations on a theme, that of the same pseudo-rationalistic ideology, which in fact is deeply irrational. The essence of this ideology consists in the misbelief that human-beings have no souls, that there is nothing after death and that our only care can thus be the organization of our life in this world for our comfort. Any such ideology is doomed to failure for it does not take into account spiritual reality, the origin, existence and destiny of our immortal souls.

 

 

Western Values: The People’s or the Elite’s?

Yesterday, on 4 July, unreported, or rather censored, by the Western media, Pope Francis met President Putin. They spoke of the vicious persecution of the Church in the Ukraine, Syria and the many cases of persecution of Christians in other countries, as well as of the crisis in Venezuela and support for family life and other Christian (‘traditional’) values. Pope Francis needs the support of the Christian President Putin and Russian help in the fight against Secularism. Clearly he will not find it in anti-Christian Western leaders who hate Christ. All of this is a far cry from fifty years ago. Then the Church in Russia had undergone the most terrible secularist persecution in world history and Western leaders still pretended (though only pretended) to be Christians.

We have indeed come a long way in the last fifty years. In July 1969 three astronauts, reading the Bible, landed on the moon. They were all white males. Today, there would be no Bible, one astronaut would have to be black, one Asian, two would have to be women, one disabled and one (if not all three) LGBT. Otherwise, perhaps, they would simply not be allowed to go to the moon. Not that we are against any members of that group: but we do believe that selection should be on ability, not on political correctness.

Western leaders and journalists still crow about Western values; but they are very different ones from fifty years ago. Today Western ‘values’ include millions of child-murders every year, the aggressive promotion of sexual perversions, ruthless asset-stripping and genocides in foreign countries and the terrorization of the Non-Western world through illegal sanctions, especially against China, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Russia. Roman paganism is alive and kicking. The World Metropolitan elite, ranging from the Clinton clan, EU Commissioners, NATO warmongers, the Rothschild banker President Macron to vastly overpaid and vastly biased BBC and CNN journalists, show their utter contempt for ‘the people’ in their openly snide remarks about ‘populism’.

The Western world has lost its bearings because it has renounced its Christian roots. It is set on a clearly suicidal course. Like every house that has renounced its foundations, it will collapse. This will be the end of Western Civilization: fortunately, in Russia, Christian Civilization survived persecution by Western values and we are ready to shore up the West and convert it. All is not yet lost.

 

On the Coming Centenary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)

 Introduction: The Decisions of the June 2019 Synod of San Francisco

At the meeting of the Synod of Bishops of the Church Outside Russia in San Francisco at the end of June 2019 a number of decisions were taken. Notably the title of Bishop Irenei (Steenberg) was determined as ‘of London and Western Europe’ – a striking title against the political background of Brexit. The archpastors also agreed to have a special Icon painted for the 2020 centenary of the establishment of the Church Outside Russia. The Church was founded on 7/20 November 1920, as expressed in the words of Decree No 362, issued by the holy confessor Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and the Synod in Moscow.

The hierarchs approved the text of the announcement of a competition to paint the Icon in honour of the centenary. They called on all diocesan bishops to organize celebrations and devote youth and music conferences, diocesan assemblies, clergy retreats, symposia and other events to the centenary. Finally, the Synod agreed to call a Council of Bishops on the centenary to be held in Germany. The Synod concluded with the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the canonization of the ‘Abbot of the Russian Diaspora’, St John of Shanghai and San Francisco on 28 and 29 June.

Our Suggestion

It is our humble suggestion that on the anniversary all celebrate a service of thanksgiving, with special petitions of thanksgiving for the past and present and entreating God for his guidance for our Church in the future. These petitions would express the spirit of the twofold task of the Church Outside Russia at its best: a deep love for and faithfulness to the authentic Russian Orthodox Tradition, all the while witnessing and preaching before the Non-Orthodox world around us.

As regards a special Icon, we suggest the following. Let us recall how a thousand years ago, controversy surrounded the question as to who is the greatest Father: St Basil the Great, St Gregory the Theologian or St John Chrysostom. As the question had no issue, following a vision, in the year 1084 the Church established the Feast of the Three Hierarchs on 30 January, after the January feast days of all three of them. Let us now do the same. This new Icon should specifically portray the Three New Hierarchs of the Church Outside Russia, who have all been canonized in the last generation. These are St John of Shanghai, canonized first, St Jonah of Hankou and St Seraphim of Boguchar. The Icon would show them against a world map, with, going from west to east, St John in California, St Seraphim in Bulgaria and St Jonah in China.

St John of Shanghai (Canonized in 1994)

St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, also called St John of Shanghai and Western Europe or simply St John the Wonderworker (1896-1966) was a pastor and spiritual father of high reputation and wonderworker, known for his powers of prophecy, clairvoyance and healing. He is the most international of saints, having visited every continent, except Oceania (though he had and still has many spiritual children there who had known him personally in China). The first global saint, he served in Slavonic, Chinese, French, English, Dutch and other languages.

He was born in 1896 in the village of Adamovka in the present-day Ukraine. He came from the same family – not of Serbian origin (a common myth) – as that of St John of Tobolsk. From 1907 to 1914 he attended Poltava Military School and then received a degree in law in 1918. His family took him to Belgrade in 1921, where in 1925 he graduated from University with a degree in theology.

In 1926 he became a monk and was ordained hierodeacon by Metr Antony of Kiev, who gave him the name of St John after his saintly relative. Later that same year he was ordained priest. For several years afterwards he worked as a teacher of theology and in 1929 he was appointed to teach in the seminary in Bitola. The principal of the seminary was the future St Nicholas (Velimirovich). In 1934 he was consecrated bishop by Metropolitan Antony (the last bishop he consecrated) and assigned to the Diocese of Shanghai.

In Shanghai Bishop John found an uncompleted Cathedral and an Orthodox community deeply divided for nationalistic reasons. Making contact with all the various groups, he quickly involved himself in the existing charitable institutions and personally founded an orphanage and home for the children of the poor. Here he first became known for miracles attributed to his prayers. As a public figure it was impossible for him to completely conceal his ascetic way of life. Despite his actions during the Japanese invasion, when he routinely ignored the curfew in pursuit of his pastoral activities, the Japanese authorities never harassed him. As the only Russian hierarch in China who refused to submit to the authority of Soviet atheists after the War, in 1946 he was made Archbishop of China.

When the Communists finally took power, the Russian colony was forced to flee, first to a camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to the USA and Australia. Archbishop St. John travelled personally to Washington to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the country.

In 1951 St John was assigned to the Archdiocese of Western Europe with his see first in Paris, then in Brussels. Thanks to his work in collecting Lives of saints, several pre-Schism Western saints became known to Orthodoxy and continue to be venerated to this day. His charitable and pastoral work continued as it had in Shanghai, now among a much more widely scattered flock.

In 1962 St John was once again reassigned, this time to San Francisco, where there were apparently intractable problems. Here too he found a divided community and a Cathedral in an unfinished state. Although he completed the building of the Cathedral and brought some measure of peace to the community he became the target of slander from those who became his political and sectarian enemies. They went so far as to file a lawsuit against him for alleged mishandling of finances related to the construction of the Cathedral. He was naturally exonerated, but this lawsuit was a great cause of sorrow to him.

On 2 July (on the secular calendar) 1966 St John reposed while visiting Seattle at a time and place which he had foretold. He was entombed beneath the altar of the Cathedral he had built in San Francisco, dedicated to the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow. In 1994, the 28th anniversary of his repose, he was canonized. His relics occupy the shrine in the Cathedral and his feast day is celebrated on the Saturday nearest to 2 July.

St Jonah of Hankou (Canonized in 1996)

St Jonah (Pokrovsky), Bishop of Hankou (1888-1925), served in Northern China in the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution. Born in Kaluga in Russia with the name Vladimir, he was orphaned at the age of eight and was taken in by a kindly deacon who ensured he received an education. He went on to attend, graduate and eventually teach at the Kazan Theological Academy. While a student, he became a monk of the Optina Brotherhood and was given the name Jonah.

In 1918 the Revolution forced the young hieromonk to leave Kazan. He was arrested by the atheists and suffered beatings to the point of losing consciousness and imprisonment. Thus, sharing the fate of the New Confessors of Russia, by Divine Providence Fr Jonah was freed by the White Army beyond the Ural Mountains. Fr Jonah withdrew to the borders of Western China and was subjected to all kinds of hardships while crossing the Pamirs, often forced to grab on to jagged ledges and the sparse shrubbery of the ice-covered cliffs with wounded hands. After crossing the Gobi Desert, the group finally reached Beijing, where Fr Jonah was received into the Mission there and soon consecrated Bishop of Manzhuria. (St Jonah was officially the bishop of Hankou in Hubei province, but actually worked in the town of Manzhuria, the modern day town of Manzhouli).

During his short time as bishop, St Jonah transformed the Orthodox community in Manzhuria. He established an orphanage, a school and a dining hall for the poor. He worked tirelessly for his flock and was deeply loved by them. At the end, Bishop Jonah had been caring for a priest who died of typhoid fever, but subsequently contracted chronic tonsillitis and then developed blood poisoning. As he was dying, he wrote a final epistle to his flock, reminding them of the need to love one another, confessed one final time to Archbishop Methodius of Beijing, received communion, blessed those around him. Then he put on vestments which had belonged to St Ambrose of Optina and began, loudly and with prostrations, to read the canon for the departure of the soul. Finally overcome with weakness, he lay down on his bed and said, ‘God’s will be done. Now I shall die’, and indeed within minutes he reposed.

That same evening a ten-year-old crippled boy, who had been suffering from an inflammation of the knee joints, had a dream. All medical efforts had proven fruitless. He was unable to walk or even to stand. In his dream he saw a hierarch vested in white who said, ‘Here, take my legs. I don’t need them any more. And give me yours’. He woke up and was miraculously healed. From a photograph he identified the hierarch in his dream as Bishop Jonah who had reposed that very night on 7/20 October 1925. Though his life was short, his memory endured long after his repose. His feast is on October 7/20.

St Seraphim of Boguchar (Canonized in 2016)

The future St Seraphim (Sobolev), Archbishop of Boguchar (1881-1950), is known as an ardent defender of the purity of the Orthodox Faith and Tradition, standing up for the monarchy and denouncing the Bulgakov heresy, modernism and ecumenism, and is known as a wonderworker. Before his death, he said to his spiritual children, ‘If I find boldness before the Lord, I will not leave you’. The night after his burial, he appeared in a dream to one of his spiritual sons, a monk, and said, ‘Why are you weeping? I have not died, I am alive.’

Born in Ryazan on 1 December 1881, his mother called him Nicholas. An excellent student, after attending the local parish school he entered the local seminary and in 1904 Saint Petersburg Theological Academy, during which this brilliant and already learned student became a monk, taking the name Seraphim. Fr. Seraphim taught for a year at a priest’s school in Zhitomir before being appointed assistant supervisor of the diocesan school in Kaluga. The pupils there loved Fr. Seraphim greatly. While he was still in Kaluga, he often went to the Optina Hermitage, where he visited the elders Anatoly, Barsanuphy and Joseph. Fr Anatoly treated him with special love and was his father confessor. After two and a half years, Hieromonk Seraphim was transferred to the seminary in Kostroma. In 1912, Hieromonk Seraphim was appointed rector of the seminary in Voronezh. Within a year he had so transformed the seminary that it was judged by the Synod inspector to be the best in the country.

On 1 October 1920, on the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, in the Cathedral of Simferopol, Archimandrite Seraphim was consecrated bishop by Metr Antony of Kiev. It was a great comfort for him that on this occasion, by God’s inscrutable ways, the great sacred treasure, the wonderworking Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God ‘of the Sign’, was present in the Cathedral. Soon after this, to his sorrow, he had to leave his native land. He spent a short time in Constantinople before moving to Bulgaria where, in August 1921, he was appointed Director of the Russian Orthodox monastic communities there.

Living in ceaseless ascetic endeavour and difficult conditions in Bulgaria, he caught tuberculosis. Despite his serious illness he cared for his flock with fervour. He served frequently and gave sermons three times a week, calling his flock to repentance, to grace-filled reformation and to the most basic virtue – humility. Especially noteworthy were his sermons on Forgiveness Sunday, when, after his appeal, many people who had quarrelled with each other for years tearfully begged forgiveness of one another.

As an archpastor he made the rounds of the Russian parishes in the Bulgarian provinces, and visited Russian schools. His talks and his warm and loving personality left a lasting, grace-filled impression everywhere. In difficult material conditions, he also cared for poor and sick Russians. For some he arranged free hospital treatment, others he placed in homes for invalids, for some he obtained pensions, some he fed at his place, and some he settled in his monastery. Nor did he overlook destitute Russian monks on Mount Athos. He formed a committee to collect help for them and in his sermons he appealed to parishioners to donate to this holy work.

In 1934 he was given the title of archbishop. Spiritually gifted from his early years and constantly engaged in a fiery struggle with the passions, while still a relatively young bishop he attained spiritual heights. Several of his spiritual children recorded cases of his clairvoyance, which manifested itself even at great distances. For his angelic purity he received the gift to perceive the most subtle deviations from Orthodox Christian truth. He watched over Orthodox Christian life and was its conscience, as it were. Where he observed irregularity, he uncompromisingly exposed it, not fearing to suffer for the truth. As a result, he produced some priceless theological works.

H e refuted the heresy of name-worship, but his major work was the refutation of the modernist Sophianist Parisian philosopher Fr Sergius Bulgakov, for which in 1937 he received a Master’s Degree in theology. He was rushing to complete this work by a certain deadline when he fell ill with a fever. He implored the Mother of God, to whose prayerful intercession he had resorted all his life, begging her to heal him. And what happened? His temperature dropped immediately and he was able to finish his work within the allotted time.

He poured out all his love for the Saviour in his theological works, fervently defending the truths of Orthodoxy. ‘My books are my blood’, he declared. And truly he lay down his life for Christ in the struggle with heretics, sparing neither his strength nor broken health. He constantly worked at night. This upset his brother, Archimandrite Sergius, in view of his weak health. Knowing this, he wrote secretly. In the evening he would lie down and when everyone else had fallen asleep he would get up and continue writing, taking advantage of the night-time quiet, considering it his pastoral duty to defend the truth. It is not by chance that the Lord called him to the next world on the day when the holy Church celebrates the Triumph of Orthodoxy and its defenders, on 13/26 February, his feast-day.

The Three Temptations

The Church has always faced three temptations, both past and contemporary, but they have never been as strong as in our day. These temptations are: ritualist and sectarian nationalism (phyletism); corrupting mammonism; secularist liberalism.

Ritualist and Sectarian Nationalism (Phyletism)

The first global saint, St John was entirely international and politically free, not fanatically narrow, sectarian, racist or ritualist. He faced down the temptations of nationalist flag waving, uniting the Orthodox communities in Shanghai, Western Europe and San Francisco. He always placed Christ above any nation and people and was never influenced by any worldly political pressures, either from the Japanese Empire, the Soviet Empire or the American Empire. He was always faithful, resisting sectarianism of all sorts. He strongly disliked the ritualizing tendency of some to cut services short, reading and singing very quickly, with the result that people cannot understand the services.

Corrupting Mammonism

St Jonah transfigured Church life in Manzhuri, establishing an orphanage, a school and a dining hall for the poor. He worked tirelessly for his flock, and was deeply loved by them. We see that he was loving, he did not seek to amass money, but worked voluntarily, showing the Church to be a community, that we are saved together. He thus avoided the temptations that tempted the Church before the Revolution and today, especially perhaps, though also in many Local Churches, in contemporary Russia: the idolatry of Mammon, chasing after money, setting tariffs for every sacramental action, which so discredits the Church and repulses the people. He was utterly detached from love of money, love of ‘gold and marble’, remaining incorruptible.

Secularist Liberalism

St Seraphim was faithful to the Tradition, not modernist and ecumenist. He never suffered from the immigrant inferiority complex of conformism to this world. He was profoundly Patristic, filled with the grace that comes from ascetic life. He was not in any way afraid to stand up to heresy, as in the case of his resistance to the fantasies of Bulgakov. And at the Moscow Council of 1948 he stood up for Orthodox unity, resisting the tide of Secularism, which the Western Powers were trying to impose on the Orthodox world through the Greek-speaking Churches, notably standing up for the Orthodox calendar and also the Orthodox, not absolutist, principle of the monarchy.

Conclusion: The Three New Hierarchs

All three hierarchs expressed the Unity, Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity of the Church, all having the essential in common, however each having a special ‘hypostatic’ characteristic. This characteristic put them above the world and its triple temptations. St John resisted through his humility, St Jonah through his non-possession and St Seraphim through his obedience to the Tradition.  If these temptations are resisted, the Church Outside Russia will continue. If ever it forgets them, it will face extinction.

The feasts of these Three Hierarchs are evenly spaced throughout the year, approximately every four months, in February, June/July and October. We suggest that their commemoration and celebration of their Icon be introduced on 7/20 November, after their three feasts, on the anniversary of the foundation of our Church. Eventually, a special service, based on the separate services to the three saints, or an akathist, could be compiled, entitled to ‘The Three New Hierarchs’.

Holy Hierarchs John, Jonah and Seraphim, pray to God for us!

Archpriest Andrew Phillips,

Church of St John of Shanghai, Colchester, England

St Alban’s Day, 5 July 2019

 

It’s 1055 in Lubbock

By Dionysius Redington

The appointment (one can call it “election” only in the narrowest etymological sense) of Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) as Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will no doubt be remembered as a significant turning point in the history of the twenty-first Century Church. Whatever hope might have existed that the schism between Constantinople and Moscow over Ukraine is merely a temporary, unimportant event has surely now been extinguished

Archbishop Elpidophoros is a distinguished and knowledgeable theologian. As a Turkish citizen, he is a leading and obvious candidate someday to succeed His All-Holiness Bartholomew on the Ecumenical Throne. In the major controversies of Bartholomew’s reign (the Cretan Council as well as the Ukrainian schism) he has consistently and staunchly defended the Patriarch’s positions and authority. While there is no reason to doubt the sincerity with which he has taken these stances, it is evident that he has a vested interest in strengthening a presently feeble jurisdiction which he is one day likely to command.

Thus his appointment to the second-most powerful post in the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a two-fold significance.

On the one hand, it telegraphs that there is unlikely to be any backtracking at the Phanar when Patriarch Bartholomew leaves the scene. On the other, it raises the theological stakes, because Archbishop Elpidophoros does not consider the Ukrainian affair a trivial matter of reasserting Constantinopolitan control over a wayward province illegally dominated for a few centuries by Moscow.

On the contrary, he uses the most serious term of opprobrium in all of Orthodoxy to describe his opponents, one the Phanar generally goes out of its way to avoid employing. He says they are heretics.

In 2009, then-Archimandrite Elpidophoros delivered a memorable speech at Holy Cross School of Theology which may still be found online, for example at https://www.aoiusa.org/ecumenical-patriarchate-american-diaspora-must-submit-to-mother-church/. In this speech he makes the following interesting statements, which he has elsewhere expanded into his well-known thesis that the Ecumenical Patriarch is “primus sine paribus”:

“Let me add that the refusal to recognize primacy within the Orthodox Church, a primacy that necessarily cannot but be embodied by a primus (that is by a bishop who has the prerogative of being the first among his fellow bishops) constitutes nothing less than heresy. It cannot be accepted, as often it is said, that the unity among the Orthodox Churches is safeguarded by either a common norm of faith and worship or by the Ecumenical Council as an institution. Both of these factors are impersonal while in our Orthodox theology the principle of unity is always a person. Indeed, in the level of the Holy Trinity the principle of unity is not the divine essence but the Person of the Father (“Monarchy” of the Father), at the ecclesiological level of the local Church the principle of unity is not the presbyterium or the common worship of the Christians but the person of the Bishop, so to in the Pan-Orthodox level the principle of unity cannot be an idea nor an institution but it needs to be, if we are to be consistent with our theology, a person… In the Orthodox Church we have one primus and he is the Patriarch of Constantinople.”

Note first the phrase “constitutes nothing less than a heresy”.

Note second the theologoumenon that the person who acts as the principle of unity for the Church Universal is not Christ Himself, but rather some bishop.

Note finally that the bishop in question is not (as a naively literal reading of the Holy Canons would seem to indicate) the bishop of Rome, but that of New Rome. (This latter is a serious point much neglected in the present controversy. Whatever the role of the Primus may be in Orthodoxy—i.e. whether the he is “primus inter pares” or “primus sine paribus”—there is no doubt that for centuries the historical Primus was the Roman Pope. The only reason for rejecting Roman primacy today is that the Roman Church has abandoned Orthodox teaching. And yet Constantinople, with its lifted anathemas, has more than any other Orthodox Patriarchate seemed to imply that no such apostasy exists. How then can the Phanar claim to be essential to the Church, when the Vatican would have to have a stronger claim? If the ecumenical movement were to succeed and full communion with Rome be re-established, would Constantinople gladly cede its primacy? And how does the existence, if only formerly, of Orthodox Rome agree with the Phanar’s claim that the Church “cannot exist” without the Patriarch of Constantinople?)

Perhaps his words are subject to misinterpretation, but Abp. Elpidophoros seems to believe that the Ecumenical Patriarch is a sort of Pope, the Vicar not of Christ, apparently, but of God the Father! He also seems to believe that those who disagree with this view are heretics.

This is a rather more serious claim than “You know, now that the USSR is gone, there really should be an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church free from Moscow.”

How can world Orthodoxy maintain communion with a Patriarchate that promotes an alien ecclesiology, and refers to those who object as “heretics” (a term it does not apply to Roman Catholics and Protestants)?

There is another aspect to Elpidophoros’s elevation that the 2009 speech also illuminates. Although the Phanar has historically been very opposed to ethnophyletism (in part to stop the incursions of the Bulgarian and other churches into its canonical territory), it is a matter of historical record that the Patriarchate has always seen itself as the bulwark of Greek nationalism. (Patriarch Bartholomew himself would probably neither deny this nor see any problem with it, as is clear from his 2018 remarks about the “predecence” of “our people”.)

In his speech, delivered at America’s only Greek seminary, Elpidophoros is largely concerned with this exact issue. He says that “ecumenicity is the heart of Hellenism and by definition alien to any form of nationalism or cultural chauvinism.” He adds that “diaspora” refers not to people temporarily living in lands beyond the Roman Empire, but to those who live there permanently. Nevertheless, in a seeming contradiction, his vision of these people is limited to immigrants from traditionally Orthodox countries and their progeny. His primary concern is the maintenance of (in this case Greek) culture and tradition without assimilation, and he has this to say about “converts”:

“Another great number of candidates to the priesthood come from converts, who possess little, if any, familiarity with the Orthodox experience and they are usually characterized by their overzealous behavior and mentality. It is of interest that the converts who become ordained into priesthood represent a disproportionally greater percentage than the converts among the faithful. The result of this disanalogous representation is that, more often than not, convert priests shepherd flocks that are bearers of some cultural tradition, but because their pastors either lack the necessary familiarity with that tradition or even consciously oppose it, they succeed in devaluing and gradually eradicating those cultural elements that have been the expression of the parishes that they serve.”

While this is a legitimate concern, it is notable that Elpidophoros nowhere talks about an evangelical mandate to bring Americans as an whole into Orthodoxy, nor does he discuss parishes which do not have a single (or any) ethnicity. In the context of a talk at a seminary (where the Dean at the time was named Fitzgerald) the speech seemed to have a clear message summed up in the sarcastic nickname some people gave to it: the “Too Many Xenoi” speech.

I am a xenos. So far as I know, the interaction of my post-Schism ancestors with Orthodox Christians was limited to fighting them on the Eastern Front. My wife and I converted to Orthodoxy in 1988 at the OCA cathedral in Boston. We were the founders and editors of the now-dormant Saint Pachomius Library, one of the first Orthodox patristics websites, in 1994. We used to teach Church history online, and I was involved for a number of years in Orthodox evangelical outreach to the Rastafarian sect. In 1997, we moved from Boston to Lubbock, Texas, where I was ordained a reader in GOARCH and served as a chanter at Saint Andrew Greek Orthodox Church until last October.

Lubbock is a university town with a population of about a quarter-million. It lies in the center of the Llano Estacado, a vast thinly-populated plateau straddling the Texas-New Mexico state border. The first Orthodox in Lubbock were probably Lebanese merchants who arrived around 1900, but there was no parish until a few Greeks decided to found one in the 1970s. They succeeded, after great struggle and many difficulties: Lubbock, although fairly large, is invisible to most Americans because of its isolation. St. Andrew did not have a priest until 1996; before that, people would drive over 100 miles to Amarillo for liturgy.

When my wife and I arrived, we were not sure what to expect. We found a parish that was part of the Greek Archdiocese, but also very multi-ethnic and welcoming. The liturgical rubrics and music were Byzantine, but the services were entirely in English, and every effort was made to accommodate people of different backgrounds: Greeks of course, and converts, and Arabs, Ukrainians, Russians, Serbs, Romanians, Bulgarians… and probably members of other nationalities I am forgetting. The “Greeks” in the parish were themselves a mixture of recent immigrants and families that had been in the US for several generations. Both of the priests who served in my 21 years at Saint Andrew parish were graduates of Saint Vladimir’s (OCA) Seminary.

The parish was not utopia, but it had its successes. Two of the parish’s young men (both of them converts, as Archbishop Elpidophoros might have predicted) went on to become priests of the Greek Archdiocese, a remarkable record for a parish so small and young by Greek standards. They are both, I might add, outstanding, even saintly, clergymen. One of them, whom I especially admire, was featured on the national GOARCH webpage in March. Neither of them answers to Abp. Elpidophoros’s caricature of the convert-priest as a fanatic ignorant of Greek culture (indeed, both of them married Greeks!)

My wife and I were very impressed by the generosity of the Greek parishioners at St. Andrew, their commitment to the religious education of their children, and above all by their sheer persistence in keeping alive a parish in an uncomprehending Protestant fundamentalist town, ignored by the rest of the country, always on the edge of financial collapse. At least twice, the parish seemed certain to close; once it was saved by an “anonymous” donation actually from the diocesan bishop, a very good and holy man.

Then in 2018, the current schism happened. My wife and I had been unhappy with the direction of the Greek Archdiocese for some time (I had been parish council president during the Council of Crete) but had always managed to convince ourselves to stay, if only because there was nowhere else to go: The Amarillo parish 100 miles away was still the nearest, and it, too, is Greek. Moreover, we did not want to cause a division in the already embattled local community; we respected our metropolitan; and (as I remember saying on more than one occasion) “If this were really heresy, and not just rhetoric, surely at least one of the other Orthodox churches would break communion over it”.

The Ukraine issue, however, made Patriarch Bartholomew’s more-than-papalising claim of being “primus sine paribus” impossible to ignore. We decided to leave the parish, and to hold reader’s services privately. We did not however tell anyone what we were doing except for the parish priest. We did not wish to be seen as sowing dissension, and we still hoped that the affair would be resolved in a few weeks. Then we found out that other people had noticed our absence, and eventually we decided to announce publically that we were starting a new parish, under the protection of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

At first we had no place to meet, so we met outdoors, at a park bench on the university campus, with the dome of heaven over our heads, flocks of pigeons (and the occasional hawk) circling above us. A few joggers looked at us in amazement, but for the most part we were ignored. For three months, this was our church.

I had imagined that once we announced our existence, many of our fellow-parishioners at Saint Andrew would wish to join; after all, the theological issues seemed rather clear-cut. This did not happen. Instead, the old parish split along neatly ethnic lines. Nearly all of the parishioners who came from the former Soviet Union joined our group; almost no-one else did. (It might interest Archbishop Elpidophoros that the converts have—so far—stayed with GOARCH.)

This is the tragedy of what is happening: an already barely-viable multi-ethnic parish has become two. Our parish is, I am confident, the Orthodox one, and the other is under a Patriarch and an Archbishop who are in communion with schismatics. But this is not the fault of the remaining parishioners of Saint Andrew. Few if any of them care at all about Constantinopolitan hegemony, much less Ukrainian autocephaly. For them, the parish of Saint Andrew is the Orthodox church, the church they or their parents built from nothing with sweat and sacrifice, the church where they were baptized or married or where they expect their funerals to be served. It is where they have met the Lord every Sunday in the Eucharist. Perhaps it is as impossible for them to leave GOARCH as for French peasants in the twelfth Century to have repudiated papism; for them, it would be “leaving the Church”.

But with the elevation of Archbishop Elpidophoros, surely that is what things are coming down to.

At the mission parish of Saint Catherine, we have had rapid progress.  We were accepted into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia almost immediately. The Dean of Texas, Fr. John Whiteford, has been named our acting Rector; although distance has prevented him from yet visiting in person, we have had two liturgies served by Hieromonk Aidan (Keller) from Austin.

We no longer have to worship on a park bench; an Anglican parish allowed us the use of their abandoned Sunday School chapel, complete with amusing stained-glass windows depicting happy 1930s children from around the world. A parishioner (Alexey Ageev, who deserves mention by name) built a traditional wooden altar and donated some hundred icon prints. God willing, through the prayers of St. Catherine the Great Martyr (and of St. Andrew the First-Called!), we will perhaps, despite our sins and weaknesses, be able to ensure a witness for Christ on the Llano Estacado.

But what about the other parish? What about the Greek “diaspora”? How will they fare under Archbishop Elpidophoros?

The year is now 1055.