Category Archives: Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

Twelve Parishes, a Monastery?, and Many Hopes ROCOR in Great Britain and Ireland: Better Times Ahead

After almost dying out by 2007, the Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in Great Britain and Ireland has in the very recent past begun to be rebuilt. Now with twelve parishes (London, Colchester, Birkenhead, Norwich, Cardiff, Stradbally, Belfast, Mettingham, Cheltenham, Bury St Edmunds, Wisbech and Ashford), it has hopes of opening a monastery, new parishes in four more places in different parts of our four countries as well as many hopes beyond that. Moreover, it already possesses many premises of its own, including unique, purpose-built churches in the Russian Orthodox style and also the largest Russian Orthodox church in these islands, if not in Western Europe.

This September, the bishops of the Church Outside Russia will be meeting in Synod in London. This will be a historic meeting at which decisions may be made for the longer-term future. The saints of the Isles and of all Europe are calling us: The time for sleep is over, wake up!

 

 

Trends in the Russian Orthodox Church Today

Introduction

After the revolution of the last generation, the generation since the end of the Cold War, what is the situation of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church today, of the Russian Patriarchate and of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)? Once they were bitterly divided. And now?

A. The Russian Patriarchate of the Past

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

In the bad old days, a few prominent bishops of the Patriarchate were forced to sit in front of cameras and tell blatant lies, for example, that there was no persecution of the Church inside Russia. Why? Simply because if they did not, their priests and parishes would suffer. As hostages, they took the political sin of lieing onto themselves. Personally, such blatant lies never really bothered me. I knew why they were doing it. Frankly, I thought the sin was more with those who asked them such compromising questions. However, something else did bother me.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

What bothered me was hypocrisy. There were certain bishops and others of the paralysed Patriarchate who were utterly corrupt, whether sexually or financially. And that corruption rotted all of Church life. Those people were not Christians. As a victim of them at that time, I know what I am talking about.

B. ROCOR of the Past

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

In the bad old days, ROCOR in the USA sometimes took CIA money. That bothered me. At that time, quite a few in ROCOR worked for various anti-Soviet (in fact, anti-Russian) Western spy agencies. These people have today almost all left the Church or else died of old age. Today, for example, I know of people who have joined the Paris Exarchate because they are not allowed to join either part of the Russian Church as they work as spies at GCHQ or spy agencies in Paris. Loyalty to the Western Establishment comes first for them, Christ second. That is clearly wrong.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

Hypocrisy in the old ROCOR also bothered me. Some considered that as long as you were anti-Communist, you were fine, you could be as anti-missionary and racist as you wanted, as well as practise abortion. I could quote names. Fortunately, such outrageous phariseeism was the domain of a minority.

C. The Russian Patriarchate Today

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

Today, the Patriarchate is a Church of 150 million converts and various neophyte deformations can be found on the fringes. For example, we can find secularizing, pro-Soviet attitudes, the arrogance and racism of the old ‘Soviet tank’ mentality that simply wants to barge in and take over everything. This type of imperialism, with an undiscriminating admiration for the present State, pays no attention to pastoral matters and building up parish life, has little understanding of families and children. It is ritualistic, careerist and money-orientated, its representatives never having suffered.

However, we can also find pro-Western (ecumenist, liberal, ‘diplomatic’) attitudes among those from a bourgeois background. They vilify the Soviet past, dismissing its positive preservation of re-Revolutionary cultural values, detest President Putin and adore the Atlanticist Prime Minister Medvedev.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

We can also find a conservative, pietist movement. Piety is good, but pietism generally means ritualism, sentimentalism, zeal without understanding, words without meaning. How many churches have we visited where services are read and sung in such a way that not a single word can be understood. This is what drives away men, meaning that services are attended by 80%-90% women. This may have been normal in abnormal Soviet times, when men would lose their jobs for attending church, but today it is abnormal. A huge work of catechism is under way. There is far to go.

We can also find a pro-social movement. Many of its representatives are very liberal, but they are at least beginning to deal with the huge social problems of post-Soviet society: massive and endemic corruption, alcoholism, abortion, drug-taking, environmental degradation, the handicapped…

D. ROCOR Today

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

Today, there is a danger of ROCOR becoming an Americanized Church, which simply refuses to understand the unpaid clergy and the plight of the mass of poor people who have come to us out of Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe. It does not want to know our sufferings. Here too there is a certain arrogance and spirit of takeover. ‘We are right, you are wrong’. Just as in today’s Russia, there can sometimes be a spirit of show, a concentration on externals. There can also be a spirit of mafia, a concentration of power among the first and wealthy, so that others are excluded as second-class citizens.

This lack of love is also fostering a liberalism, unheard of before in ROCOR, which comes from outside the Church. If unchallenged, this American-style cultural infiltration of ecumenist, liberal and ‘diplomatic’ attitudes from a bourgeois background will hamper our uncompromised witness.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

Exactly as in the Patriarchate, we can also find a conservative, pietist movement. Piety is good, but pietism generally means ritualism, sentimentalism, zeal without understanding, words without meaning. How many churches have we visited where services are read and sung in such a way that not a single word can be understood. This can be accompanied by a self-righteous denial of the ROCOR past. ‘Everything was perfect’. This nostalgia of course is totally unjustified. Many ROCOR parishes are real and model communities, examples for the Patriarchate, but not all.

Pastorally, many are positively moving parish life into the inevitable multinational and bilingual future and creating real communities. Here there is also a danger – that Church life becomes only social, emotional, all words, the ascetic foundation forgotten, as in the Exarchate and the OCA.

Conclusion

Thus, we can see remarkable parallels, indeed convergence, between the two parts of the Russian Church. Clearly, only the positive trends are needed, all that is negative is not needed. Above all, we need the central unity of the spiritual food to be found in the purity of our Tradition of Holy Rus.

The Good New Days

28 January 2018 will go down in our local Orthodox history. Two dynamic, young Russian Orthodox bishops in this country were celebrating in parishes in the provinces, in Cambridge and in Colchester. In the bad old days, there were never two bishops and even if there was one, he would have been found only in London.

27 January 2018 was also a historic day. 33 people gathered at the London church of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russsia (ROCOR) for clergy training. Only 7 were priests; nearly all the others were future priests and deacons. Last year the number of priests in the new ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland doubled. More are coming. Tripling? Quadrupling? More? Everything is possible.

In the bad old anti-missionary days in 1994, I can remember being summoned from the Western European Diocese in Paris to go and serve in London, where there were no priests available. By that time the whole of ROCOR in England had been reduced to just two priests, both of whom later left it. How times change.

Some question why the two spiritually united Russian Orthodox Church still has two parallel dioceses on this island territory. Perhaps we are like two trees, growing side by side in the jungle. The more we grow, the greater the canopy we can produce together over the jungle. That is Providence, which is the Love of God manifested in human life.

 

The Sins of the Fathers: On the Coming Russian Orthodox Church Administrative Unity in Western Europe

 

The Russian Orthodox Church exists in two separate administrations in Western Europe. Although both have the same Patriarch in Moscow, one is directly dependent on Moscow, the other only indirectly on him, as it is primarily dependent on a Metropolitan in New York. The Moscow group numbers some 210 parishes in several dioceses, the New York group some 70 parishes in three dioceses, one third of that under Moscow, though in some local regions it is still a majority. On the other hand Moscow has more or less complete control in Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

As we slowly move towards future administrative unity in a single Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Europe (ROME), all over Western Europe a choice will have to be made: Which administration do parishes wish to belong to? In other words, ultimately, which group is to be absorbed by the other? And will that absorption take place all over Western Europe, or only in some areas? This is not a simple matter because this implies that each administration is going to have to answer for the very saddening errors of the past.  And there were many of these and their consequences have been postponed for a generation and more.

These include political and moral compromises, which, even if forgiven, are not forgotten, incompetence in failing to build up infrastructure, obtaining and building churches and encouraging and training local clergy, refusal to look after local people and locally-born children and grandchildren and general lack of pastoral and missionary effort. Refusal to take responsibility and ask for forgiveness with repentance will be dismissed. Childish phrases like ‘We’re right because we’re bigger than you…’, or ‘We were here first’, or ‘We’ve got more money than you’, do not wash with people made distrustful by past sins and errors.

The people, and ultimately the clergy with them, will not choose a cold manager or bureaucrat, but the pastoral bishop who shows genuine love for them and does not neglect, ignore and insult them. However, the lack of love of the past is about to receive its just rewards. The people will choose genuine communities. Parishes where people know one another and to which people feel a sense of belonging will win the day. People will not choose parishes which they pass through like railway stations, which are money-making machines, or are centres of cold and formal ritualism in foreign and unknown languages.

There is a moment of danger here, for Western Europe is already littered with the wreckage of small ex-Russian Orthodox communities, alienated by the heavy-handedness of both administrations. These include the tiny marginal communities of the ‘Paris Jurisdiction’ on the one hand, which on paper are canonical, as well as the tiny fringe communities of various ‘Pure’ or ’True’ sectarian jurisdictions, which even on paper are not canonical. For those who suffered under both administrations and never received an apology, we leave the choice to Divine guidance. The chickens come home to roost; the sins of the fathers have a price.

In 2003 the Paris Jurisdiction, then under Archbishop Sergiy, was negotiating its return to the Russian Orthodox Church. It would have become the local element in hopes for a future Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, the foundation of a new Local Orthodox Church. It was not to be. Archbishop Sergiy died, and his successors took a virulent anti-Russian line. Now it is on the way to becoming a deanery of the Greek Orthodox Church in Paris. However, together with the 70 parishes established in Western Europe for up to 100 years, Moscow can still establish a joint Metropolia. This can heal both past injustices and avoid future injustices.

His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada

http://www.synod.com/synod/engdocuments/enart_archbpgabrielinterview1117.html

– In June, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia concluded with the great consecration of the Cathedral of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in Munich. Would you say that it is impossible to view the sorrowful 100th anniversary of the Second Russian Time of Troubles, which we still call “the Russian Revolution” out of habit, without recognition of the great miracle of the podvigi of the New Martyrs of Russia?

Our Council at Munich sent a special letter to President Putin in which we referred to the Troubles of 1917. We could not do otherwise. We cited the words of St Ignaty (Bryanchaninov): “Understand the times!” He was referring to Elder Isaiah, the ascetic of Nikifor Hermitage, who uttered those words during a discussion. In the letter to the President, we say that for us, maybe like never before, it is necessary to understand what is happening, to understand the times in which we live. The hour has come to reject the deathly legacy of the 1917 Time of Troubles, to return to Russia the historical names of her cities and streets, to finalize the burial of Lenin’s body.

Personally I am convinced that the forces that destroyed the Divinely-ordained reign of the Orthodox Tsar 100 years ago by provoking rebellion in the capital cities which destroyed Russia then are the very same forces which today commit the slander of today’s Russia and her President. It is those forces which painstakingly set the stage for the so-called “Maidan” in Kiev, for which billions of dollars were spent, which Victoria Nuland, former Assistant Secretary of State of the USA, who was entrusted with “the Ukraine project” openly spoke about.

This may be obvious, but even now we lose sight of the spiritual aspect of geopolitical events. The Russian Orthodox nation is subjected to stubborn attempts to divide it from without, and brotherly Orthodox peoples are being pitted against each other. As part of this effort, a conflict was stoked with Orthodox Georgia, relations between Russia and Bulgaria and Romania are being sabotaged. At one time we saved Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. They are trying to weaken Russia’s bonds with Serbia. Evil forces from the West are intentionally gathering against today’s Russia. This is an age-old process: the flourishing of Orthodox Russia, the heir to Orthodox Byzantium, was hated by the forces of evil many centuries ago. This hatred is apparent today. That is why the Russian people must make sense of the events in their nation in the 20th century.

On the Two Jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy Outside the Canonical Territory of the Russian Orthodox Church

Introduction

Some may be surprised to read of the existence of only two jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church (the ex-Soviet Union minus Georgia, plus Japan and China). They say: Surely there are three groups, since there is the Paris Jurisdiction? They forget that that jurisdiction was founded by aristocrats who, obsessed with Western Europe, hated everything Russian. So much so that it betrayed the Tsar for the sake of its class privileges and in Paris exile left the Russian Church for the sake of its privileged fantasies. Thus, the Paris Jurisdiction has never been part of the Russian Church, even though it had an influence on some ex-Uniat Slavs from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire settled in the USA  (now in a group called ’the OCA’). However, those who were involved are all dead now.

Today, the tiny Paris Jurisdiction, at worst, the disgruntled and dissident or, at best, the betrayed and naïve, is dying in lost relevance and lack of Tradition. It continues only as self-justification for its schism and disobedience. All the pro-Russian forces that were once in that jurisdiction have since 1989 gladly returned to one or other of the two jurisdictions of the Russian Church. Cut off and isolated, Paris has been left with nothing to say about the Russian Church. So in the context of Russian Orthodoxy outside Russia, the Paris Jurisdiction, like the North American jurisdiction that is called the OCA (Orthodox Church in America), can be ignored here, for it has for generations not been part of the Russian Church. So which are these two jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church?

  1. The Patriarchal Churches Directly Dependent on Moscow

Once upon a time this was largely an ethnic jurisdiction of those who were at times such Soviet patriots that they were even prepared to lie about the persecution of the Church inside the then Soviet Union, denying even its own martyrs. Once upon a time it contained corrupt and compromised senior figures, both inside and outside Russia, who were allowed to do anything they wanted as a result of the paralysis of the Church administration, which was under KGB surveillance and desperate for ecumenical links to counter persecution. That political enslavement is over and the compromised are dead, though one can still meet ageing individuals who live and think in the past.

A very small jurisdiction a generation ago, today it has over 300 parishes and seven bishops. Notably, it has some 35 parishes in North America, a diocese in South America, all the parishes in Thailand, other parishes scattered throughout Asia and, above all, some 250 new parishes in Western Europe. It is here that enormous growth has taken place through the economic emigration from the ex-USSR , especially from Kazakhstan, Moldova and those ethnically cleansed from the Baltic States and the Ukraine. Thus, those who always belonged to these Patriarchal churches and were both patriotically and internationally minded, their ideal being Holy Rus, have been much reinforced.

  1. The Patriarchal Churches Indirectly Dependent on Moscow

Once dying out, there are now nearly 600 parishes in the self-governing Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), headquartered in New York but part of the whole Russian Orthodox Church. Once, in the bad old Soviet and immediate post-Soviet days, ROCOR was providentially independent of the politically enslaved Church administration in Moscow and so the free voice of the Russian Orthodox Church. At that time,however, there were also some who belonged to ROCOR who were not so much Orthodox as simply anti-Communists. These often worked for Western spy agencies in various countries and saw the Church as a mere vehicle for their right-wing nationalist political ideology.

Obsessed and blinded by their right-wing politics, they did not understood that their work against the Soviet Union for Western spy services or propaganda agencies, like The Voice of America or the BBC, was in fact work against Russia and so against the territory of the Russian Empire. This is now history, for today the whole of the Russian Church is politically free. That situation of political enslavement is over, though one can still meet individuals who live and think in the past. On the other hand, those like the ever-memorable Metr Laurus, who belonged to ROCOR and were always both patriotically and internationally minded, their ideal being Holy Rus, have been much reinforced.

The Future

Given the fact that most of the faithful of both jurisdictions are people who have left the ex-Soviet Union since 1992 and frequent churches in both groups, why are there still two jurisdictions when there is fundamental unity under the same Patriarch? Why should past history still play a role? It plays a role because the present unity has existed for only ten years, since 2007, and not a full generation. The influence of the past will continue for some years, perhaps even for a generation, to come. What can we say of the process that will eventually lead to a seamless unity in the future? Then the existence of two jurisdictions will not depend on history, it will depend on efficiency, competence, missionary-mindedness and the decision to treat the clergy and people properly by listening to them. Incompetence will be unacceptable.

Thus, in recent years we have seen that most Russian Orthodox churches in South America have passed to being directly dependent on Moscow and not on ROCOR, whose parishes were lost because of the lack of local episcopal care. Exactly the same thing seems to be happening throughout Western Europe, where parishes directly dependent on Moscow now outnumber those indirectly dependent by three to one and the lack of episcopal understanding is losing ROCOR favour. This too is a total transformation when compared to 25 years ago. As a result, Moscow now has a clear and logical intention of setting up a Western European Metropolia based in Paris. Only in Russophobic North America and Australasia does indirect dependence still prevail. An American-based ROCOR seems to be the future: the rest will depend directly on Moscow.

 

The Spiritual Meaning of the Guiding Saints of Faithful Russian Orthodox Outside Russia

Introduction

The Orthodox Empire of Holy Rus, also called the Empire of The Third Rome, was preserved by its faith in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as expressed in the untampered Nicene Creed, confessed alone by the Orthodox Church. Our pure and uncompromised faith in the Holy Trinity is represented by three basic tenets of belief: Orthodoxy (representing the primacy of the Love of the Father), the Sovereign Monarchy (representing the presence of the Incarnate Body of Christ, the Son), and the Faithful People (representing the bearers of the Holy Spirit).

In the words of the last Christian Emperor, Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the Orthodox Empire fell on account of the vices opposed to these three tenets of the Holy Trinity. In his precise words, the Empire fell because of Treason, Cowardice and Deceit. And indeed, Orthodoxy was undermined by the Treason of spiritual traitors, the Sovereign Monarchy was abandoned by the Cowardice of those who lacked faith, and the Faithful People were deceived by the Deceit of those who promised paradise on earth and instead created hell on earth.

The three vices of Treason, Cowardice and Deceit have since then also threatened the survival of the Church, both inside Russia and outside Russia. Thus, the Church inside Russia was threatened by the pharisaic Treason to Orthodoxy of ritualistic and nationalistic Sergianists who compromised the Church with an atheist State, by the weak-faithed Cowardice of those who would not recognize the Sovereign Monarchy of the Imperial Martyrs and those faithful to them, and by the schismatic Deceit of the Faithful People by those who claimed that the Church needed to be ‘renovated’ with their liberalism and ecumenism.

However, the Church outside Russia was also threatened by Treason, Cowardice and Deceit, and from both left and right: by those who compromised the Church to Western States, whether Masonic and liberal or Fascist and racist; by the Cowardice of those who would not recognize as saints the New Martyrs and Confessors, including the Imperial Family and those close to them, or the local saints of the Ancient West; and by the Deceit of those who claimed that the Church needed to be ‘adapted’, either to renovationist liberalism and ecumenism, or else to formalist ritualism and nationalism.

The three guiding saints of the Church Outside Russia, St Jonah of Hankou, St Seraphim of Sofia and St John of Shanghai, Paris and San Francisco, were sent by God to protect Russian Orthodox outside Russia from precisely these temptations and diseases. Let us recall their lives, so that we can understand their spiritual meaning.

 St Jonah of Hankou (1888-1925), the Witness to the Love of God the Father

Born Vladimir Pokrovsky, the future saint was orphaned at an early age and adopted by a village sexton, who gave the child his own surname and an upbringing. After completing a religious school in Moscow, he enrolled at seminary in Kaluga where he graduated with honours. Thereafter, he went on to the Kazan Theological Academy. In his third year here he was tonsured monk and given the name of Jonah. Here, in obedience to the Optina Elder Gabriel, he took up an academic position. His spiritual father was the renowned Elder Gabriel Sedmiyezersky, locally venerated as a saint.

The revolutionary years brought him great suffering at the hands of the Bolsheviks. He was arrested, brutally beaten until he lost consciousness, and had all his hair violently ripped out. Miraculously, the future saint, now an abbot, survived and managed to escape. Abbot Jonah spent the Civil War in the army of Admiral Alexander Kolchak, within which he founded the Detachment of the Holy Cross. He then served as head priest in the Orenburg Cossack Army. Alongside these men, St. Jonah braved a perilous march across the steppes and overcame the frozen Pamir Mountain pass to find himself in Xinjiang – Chinese Turkestan.

In January 1922 Abbot Jonah sent an account of his life and work to Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky), who was then in Serbia, and offered to devote himself to the Council and its work. In response, the Council entered his name to be considered as a bishop. The consecration of the new bishop took place on 18 September 1922 at the Russian Spiritual Mission in Beijing. As bishop, St. Jonah would head the vicariate in Xianjiang (Hankou) and be appointed Dean of the mission’s church in Manchuria, where he arrived on 19 October 1922.

The zealous servant of God’s church and renowned missionary, the young and energetic Bishop Jonah, took it on himself to establish his flock in the faith. He instituted the prescribed church services, established a wonderful choir and gave sermons tirelessly. Bishop Jonah also served as chairman of the International Committee for Hunger Relief from the day of his arrival in the town of Manzhuria until his very death. The brunt of the work lay on his shoulders. St. Jonah began to gather funds. An intelligent and practical person, St. Jonah created a commercial division within the Committee, the main goal of which was to independently earn money that would fund charities the committee had founded. It was not, of course, without its enemies.

The limitations of some, the envy of others, and the phariseeism and hypocrisy of yet others wove a web of intrigue around the bishop and attempted to compromise his good name by virtue of the fact that he, a bishop, would promote such undignified work as trade. But he paid little attention to all of the attacks, simply prayed to God and said: ‘These rumours spread by our enemies lay down our path to the Kingdom of Heaven’.

Having tasted the bitterness of such a life himself, the saint felt an especially deep compassion for orphans. He opened an orphanage at the old church where he lived to care for orphaned and impoverished children and, relegating it to the authority of the International Committee. Missionary and educational work held a special place in his heart. As many as 500 people attended free of cost the elementary and middle schools founded by Vladyka.

On 1 August 1923 the International Committee had opened a free outpatient clinic providing medical aid and distributing medicine to the most impoverished sectors of the population and surrounding territories. Next door there was a free dental office. Prior to the Saint’s arrival, medicine was impossible to acquire. In addition to medical care and free medicine, certification of illness and disability were provided to the poor and a petition was started to provide passports free of charge. Medical care was given to 6,387 people in one year.

With the backing of patrons he established modest enterprises which, though they provided only a modest income, created jobs for the poorest refugees. Their metalwork and pottery were well known in Harbin for being particularly durable and beautifully made. Here is a list of the enterprises St. Jonah started during the three years he resided in Manzhuria: (1) Orphanage, (2) Elementary school, (3) Middle school, (4) Soup kitchen, (5) Free outpatient clinic, (6) Pharmacy with an allotment of free medicine for the poor, (7) Vocational courses at schools, and (8) Library.

The life of St. Jonah was very humble. It was unbelievable that he was a ‘prince of the church’. He had neither a cook, nor a kitchen. His meals were humble and simple. His favourite dish was fried potatoes and dark rye bread. Vladyka’s clothing and shoes were more than modest. Patches were the usual adornment on everything. Often the tailor and cobbler refused to mend them – the patches would not hold. He was adept at securing resources for others but spent hardly anything on himself. All his personal funds were dedicated to charity.

Ever friendly, ever cheerful and engaging, the Saint was loved and respected by all those around him. As the accounts of those who knew him attest, a constant stream of people called on him – some for advice, others for help. The doors of his unassuming apartment stayed open from 7 in the morning until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. Then, at 11 o’clock, when there was nobody to disturb him, Vladyka would sit down to work. And on feast days, squeezing into the room was impossible. Russians, Chinese and foreigners alike longed to speak with Vladyka.

St. Jonah left this world unexpectedly, at the age of 37, exactly three years after his arrival in Manzhuria. He was not accustomed to caring for himself, and he developed tonsillitis and died. Before his death the Saint wrote his last will and testament:

In the Name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit. – Too suddenly I have learned of my imminent death. My thoughts are becoming confused.… What do I wish to bequeath unto you? My darling and dear children of Manzhuria and Hankou. I came to you with the Apostle’s words of love: ‘Children, love one another’… and I leave you with these words: ‘Love one another’… This is the will of your shepherd. It is with gladness of spirit that I forgive anyone who has wronged me. Are there even such people? I tearfully ask and stand on my knees before each of him whom I have wronged. Do not give up on the little ones.… Forgive me for Christ’s sake; and do not forget your prayers.… Write my name in your prayer books.… And so, until eternity, until we all stand before the Final Judge. Jonah, Bishop of Hankou. 1925, 4/17 October.

 Three thousand copies of his will were made – barely enough for half of those in attendance at his funeral. Even death would not impede the saint in performing his good work. On the night of his burial, he healed a ten-year-old boy, Nikolai Dergachev while he was asleep. The inflammation in the child’s knees was so severe that he could not stand, much less walk. In his dream Vladyka approached the boy and said: ‘Take my legs. I don’t need them any more and give me yours. ‘He taught: love your neighbour as you love yourself, but his love was even greater than that…’

St. Jonah was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1996. His glorification coincided with the day of his repose and was decreed to be celebrated on the day of his remembrance: 7/20 October.

St Seraphim of Sofia (1881-1950), the Witness to the Incarnation of Christ the Son through the Church and in Sovereign Monarchy

As if sensing what a powerful enemy he would have in Vladyka Seraphim, the devil tried to destroy him while still in his mother’s womb. She had an extremely difficult and painful labour and the doctors decided they would need to operate to extract the infant piece by piece in order to save the mother’s life. At this moment she regained consciousness and, on learning of the doctor’s decision, forbade her husband to permit the murder of her child. The next morning, at the first stroke of the church bell on 1 December 1881, she gave birth without any help.

When she saw the baby, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, what a serious mukhtar!’ The infant was named Nicholas in honour of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, but his family sometimes called him ‘mukhtar’, an apparently meaningless word which he disliked terribly. Years later, Bishop Nestor of Manchuria visited Vladyka Seraphim in Sofia. He presented him with a book of his memoirs, in which, in the chapter about his visit to Jerusalem, it said that the word mukhtar means ‘bishop’ in Arabic. And so, not realizing it herself, his mother had foretold the destiny of her son.

Nicholas was an excellent student and, after attending the local parish school, he entered seminary. There, in the second to last year, he decided to devote his life to God. After graduating he attended Saint Petersburg Theological Academy and here became a monk. The bishop and rector doing the tonsure suddenly remembered that when he was present at the opening of St. Seraphim’s relics, he had made a vow to the saint that if he became rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, the first student he tonsured he would name Seraphim. Thus, he gave this name to Nicholas in honour of the great saint of Sarov.

Graduating near the top of his class, Fr. Seraphim taught for a year at a priest’s school before he was appointed assistant supervisor of the diocesan school in Kaluga. The pupils there greatly loved Fr. Seraphim. In 1912 Hieromonk Seraphim was appointed rector of the seminary in Voronezh. On 1 October 1920, on the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, in the Cathedral of Simferopol, Fr Seraphim was consecrated bishop. It was a great comfort for him that on that occasion, by God’s inscrutable ways, the great sacred treasure, the Wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, was present in the Cathedral.

Soon after this, to his sorrow, Vladyka 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 Russian Orthodox monastic communities there. Living in ceaseless ascetic endeavours, from abstinence and difficult living conditions Vladyka contracted tuberculosis. Despite his serious illness, he cared for his flock with true pastoral fervour. He served frequently and gave sermons three times a week, calling his flock to repentance, to grace-filled renewal and to the most basic virtue – humility.

As an archpastor, Vladyka Seraphim made the rounds of Russian parishes in the provinces and visited the Russian schools. His talks and his warm, loving personality left a lasting, grace-filled impression everywhere. In difficult material conditions, Vladyka also cared for poor and sick Russian people. 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 Vladyka overlook destitute Russian monks on Mt. 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 Vladyka was raised to the position of Archbishop. Spiritually gifted from his early years and constantly engaged in a fiery struggle with the passions, Vladyka, while still a relatively young bishop, attained great spiritual heights. Several of his spiritual children recorded cases of his clairvoyance, which manifested itself even at a distance. For his angelic purity, Vladyka received from the Lord the gift to perceive subtle deviations from Orthodox Christian truth. He watched over Orthodox Christian life and was its conscience, as it were. Where he observed irregularity, he exposed it, not fearing to suffer for the truth. As a result, he produced priceless theological works.

One of Vladyka’s major works was the refutation of the Gnostic, anti-Incarnation heresy of the Parisian philosopher Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov, for which, in 1937, Vladyka received a Master’s Degree in theology. He was rushing to complete this work by a certain deadline when he fell ill. He implored the Mother of God, to whose prayerful intercession he had resorted all his life, begging her to heal him. And what happened? Vladyka’s temperature immediately dropped and he was able to finish his work within the allotted time.

Vladyka poured out all his love for the Saviour in his theological works, fervently defending the truths of Orthodoxy against compromise and ecumenism and also in defence of holy Monarchy. ‘My books are my blood’, he declared. And truly, he lay down his life for Christ in the struggle against heretics, sparing neither his strength nor broken health. Vladyka constantly worked at night, 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 Vladyka to the next world on the very day when the Holy Church celebrates the Triumph of Orthodoxy and its defenders. For the day of Archbishop Seraphim’s repose was 13/26 February 1950. He was canonized jointly by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 2016 and his feast day is on 13/26 February.

 St John of Shanghai (1896-1966), the Witness to the Holy Spirit among all Faithful People

Michael Maximovich, the future Archbishop John, was born on 4 June 1896 in the village of Adamovka in the province of Kharkov in what is at the moment the Ukraine. He was a member of the Little Russian noble family of Maximovich, to which St John of Tobolsk had also belonged. He was a sickly child and ate little. He received his secondary education in the Poltava Military School, which he attended from 1907 to 1914. Upon completing military school he entered Kharkov Imperial University in the faculty of law, from which he graduated in 1918.

In 1921, following the Civil War in Russia, the future archbishop together with his parents, his brothers and his sister fled to Belgrade, where he and his brothers entered university. In 1924, Michael was ordained reader in the Russian church in Belgrade by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who continued to exert great influence over him. In 1926 Metropolitan Anthony tonsured him a monk and ordained him hierodeacon in Milkovo Monastery, giving him the name John, after the future archbishop’s own distant relative, Saint John (Maximovich) of Tobolsk. On 21 November of the same year Fr. John was ordained hieromonk.

From here he went to the town of Bitol in the diocese of Ochrid. At that time the ruling bishop of this diocese was the future St Nicholas Velimirovich—a noted preacher, poet, writer and inspirer of a popular spiritual movement. He, as much as Metropolitan Anthony, valued and loved the young Hieromonk John, and himself exerted a beneficial influence upon him. More than once he was heard to say, ‘If you wish to see a living saint, go to Bitol to Father John’.

For indeed it began to become evident that he was an entirely extraordinary man. His own students were first to discover what was perhaps Fr. John’s greatest feat of asceticism. They noticed that he stayed up long after everyone else had gone to bed; he would go through the dormitories at night and pick up blankets that had fallen down and cover the unsuspecting sleepers, making the Sign of the Cross over them. Finally, it was discovered that he scarcely slept at all, and never in a bed, allowing himself only an hour or two each night of uncomfortable rest in a sitting position, or bent over on the floor praying before icons. Years afterward he himself admitted that since taking monastic vows he had not slept in a bed.

Fr John lived by the high ideals of Orthodox Christianity and so of Holy Russia and was chosen to be bishop. His consecration, quite unexpected for him, took place on 28 May 1934. Vladyka was the last bishop of the very many to be consecrated by Metropolitan Anthony and was assigned to the Diocese of Shanghai in China. Vladyka arrived in Shanghai in late November and found a large Cathedral uncompleted and a conflict to resolve. The first thing he did was to restore Church unity, establishing contact with Russians, Serbs, Greeks and Ukrainians.

He paid special attention to religious education and also became a patron of various charities and actively participated in their work, especially after seeing the needy circumstances in which so many of his flock lived. Vladyka himself gathered sick and starving children off the streets and dark alleys of Shanghai’s slums. The orphanage later housed up to a hundred children at a time, some 1500 in all. Vladyka celebrated the Divine Liturgy daily, as he was to do for the rest of his life, and if for some reason he could not serve, he would still receive Holy Communion. No matter where he was, he would not miss a service.

By now it had become known that Vladyka was not only a righteous man and an ascetic, but was also so close to God that he was endowed with the gift of clairvoyance, and there were healings by his prayers. Vladyka loved to visit the sick and did it every single day, hearing confessions and giving Holy Communion. Vladyka visited the prison also, and celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the convicts on a primitive table. But the most difficult task for a pastor is to visit the mentally ill and the possessed – and Vladyka clearly distinguished between the two. Outside Shanghai there was a mental hospital, and Vladyka alone had the spiritual power to visit these sick people. He gave them Holy Communion, and they, surprisingly, received it peacefully and listened to him.

Vladyka possessed great courage. During the Japanese occupation the Japanese authorities tried in every way possible to bend the Russian colony to their will. Pressure was directed through the heads of the Russian Emigre Committee. Two Presidents of the Committee strove to maintain its independence and both were killed. Confusion and terror seized the Russian colony and at that moment Vladyka John, in spite of warnings from Russians who were collaborating with the Japanese, declared himself the temporary head of the Russian colony.

During the Japanese occupation it was extremely dangerous to walk on the streets at night, and most people took care to be home by dark. Vladyka, however, paying no heed to the danger, continued to visit the sick and needy at any hour of the night and he was never touched. With the coming of Communism, the Russians in China were forced to flee once again, most of them through the Philippines. In 1949 approximately 5,000 refugees from the Chinese mainland were living in an International Refugee Organization camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines. This island is located in the path of the seasonal typhoons which sweep through that part of the Pacific. During the 27-month period of the camp’s occupancy, the island was threatened only once by a typhoon, and it changed course and bypassed the island.

When the fear of typhoons was mentioned by one Russian to the Filipinos, they replied that there was no reason to worry, because ‘your holy man blesses your camp from four directions every night’. They referred to Vladyka John, for no typhoon struck the island while he was there. After the camp had been almost totally evacuated and the people resettled elsewhere (mainly in the USA and Australia), it was struck by a terrible typhoon that totally destroyed the camp. Vladyka himself went to Washington D.C., to get his people to America. Legislation was changed and almost the whole camp came to the New World – thanks again to Vladyka.

The exodus of his flock from China accomplished, in 1951 Archbishop John was given a new field for his pastoral endeavours: he was sent by the Synod of Bishops to the Archdiocese of Western Europe, with his see first in Paris and later in Brussels. In Western Europe Vladyka took a deep interest not only in Russians, for whom he exerted himself tirelessly in labours similar to those for which he had been known in Shanghai, but also in the local people. He received into his Diocese Dutch and French people, protecting them and encouraging their Orthodox development. He celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Dutch and French, as before he had served in Greek and Chinese, and as later he was to serve in English.

Vladyka’s interest in and devotion to the Church’s Saints, of whom his knowledge was already seemingly limitless, was now extended to Western European Saints from before the Latin schism. Many of them, venerated only locally, were not then included in any Orthodox calendar of Saints. He collected their lives and images of them and later submitted a long list of them to the Synod.

In San Francisco Vladyka’s life-long friend, the pious Archbishop Tikhon of San Francisco, retired due to ill-health, and in his absence the construction of a new Cathedral came to a halt as a bitter dispute paralyzed the Russian community. In response to the urgent request of thousands of Russians in San Francisco who had known him in Shanghai, Archbishop John was sent by the Synod in 1962 as the only hierarch likely to restore peace in the divided community. He arrived at his last assignment as bishop twenty-eight years to the day after his arrival in Shanghai – on the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple, 21 November 1962.

Under Vladyka’s guidance a measure of peace was restored, the paralysis of the community was ended and the Cathedral finished. Yet, even in the role of peacemaker, Vladyka was attacked, and accusations and slanders were heaped upon his head, including by fellow bishops. He was forced to appear in public court – in flagrant violation of Church canons – to answer preposterous charges of concealing financial dishonesty by the Parish Council. All involved were completely exonerated but this filled Vladyka’s last years with the bitterness of slander and persecution, to which he unfailingly replied without complaint, without judging anyone, with undisturbed peacefulness.

On the evening before leaving for Seattle in late June 1966, four days before his repose, Vladyka astonished a man for whom he had just celebrated a service with the words, ‘You will not kiss my hand again’. And on the day of his repose, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy which he had celebrated, he spent three hours in the altar praying, emerging not long before his repose on 2 July. He fell asleep in his room in the parish building next to the church. He was heard to fall and, having been placed in a chair by those who ran to help him, breathed his last peacefully and with little evident pain, in the presence of the Wonderworking Kursk Root Icon.

Until his canonization the relics of Archbishop John lay in a chapel in the basement of the San Francisco Cathedral (after the canonization on 2 July 1994 the relics were moved to the main floor of the Cathedral). Vladyka also proved to listen to those who revere his memory. To one woman he appeared in a dream and said, ‘Tell the people: although I have died, I live!’ As people are drawn to the Church of Christ before the final unleashing of evil, we look to him as our loving guide and pastor who knows no death. He is a yardstick which indicates the truth in our confusing times. His unit of measure is nothing other than holiness, that is, pure Christian love, which he possessed and distributed in abundance.

Conclusion

A witness to the Father, Who is Love, and so to the two great commandments to love God and our neighbour, as an apostle of Love, St Jonah thus showed faithfulness to Orthodoxy against those who committed Treason. Pharisaic ritualists, the sort who would treasonously later support the Nazis, accused him of ‘socialism’, where there was only Love for our neighbour, the authentic Orthodox way of life.

A witness to the Incarnation of the Son, St Seraphim supported the doctrine of the Incarnation, the Kingdom of God on earth in the form of the Christian Monarchy, against the disincarnate heretics and ecumenists. These modernists showed Cowardice in abandoning the teachings of the Church, including the Orthodox teaching on the Sovereign Government of the Tsar. They preferred Western freemasonry to the Church and the recognition of the Imperial Martyrs.

A witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit among all faithful Orthodox People everywhere, St John showed that the fruit of the Spirit is the saints whom he so loved. It was he who had already called for the canonization of the Imperial Martyrs in the 1930s against the views of others who delayed that canonization until 1981. The worldwide mission of St John was opposed to the Deceit of narrow nationalism and racism of all sorts, loving all people and using all languages to speak of Christ.

Church life is full of temptations. There is only one way to overcome them – by faithfulness to the Holy Trinity. Whatever form the organization of the Church outside Russia may take, we must remain faithful to the Holy Trinity in the Orthodoxy, Sovereign Monarchy and Faithful People of Holy Rus. We must resist those who think that church buildings are more important than the souls of the flock, the anti-Orthodox Treason of the flattering rich, the Cowardice of power-seeking plotters and the Deceit of the pharisaical superficial.

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

 

 

On the Identity of ROCOR as a Self-Governing Part of the Russian Orthodox Church and On What We Can Offer the Church Inside Russia

‘We must fight for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy’.

Words said to me by the Ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus at the Fourth All-Diaspora Church Council in San Francisco, May 2006

 Introduction

Orthodox from Russia very often ask us what the difference is between the very large Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia (35,000 churches, often called the Moscow Patriarchate, which paradoxically includes some parishes which are geographically outside the ex-Soviet Union) and the very small Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR with 500 churches), whose administrative centre is in New York and whose territory covers the Western world. ROCOR only came into existence by Patriarchal decree in 1920, but today, as then, both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church have the same Patriarch Kyrill. To most of us who live outside Russia, the difference and our identity are clear, even obvious, and they cover six different areas, both dogmatic and pastoral.

Political Independence

First of all, ROCOR has complete political independence from the Russian Federation. It particular, we thoroughly reject that form of political dependence known as Sergianism, which refers to Patriarch Sergius who died in 1944 and whom a great many Russian Orthodox, not only in ROCOR, consider compromised the Church with the Soviet State. Thus, inside Russia it is actually possible to meet Orthodox who admire Stalin! Such Soviet nationalism is unthinkable for us. Such Sergianism has led to careerism, papalistic authoritarianism and an admiration for Roman Catholicism among a few senior clerics inside Russia, such as the late Metropolitan Nikodim and his followers. Why? Because of their admiration for a all State institutions, which is what the Vatican is. Such a mentality is quite alien to ROCOR.

Keeping the Tradition

ROCOR has always remained faithful to the pre-revolutionary Church Tradition. It has not suffered Soviet-period alterations to the Tradition and relics, however liturgically minor, such as using different Paschal liturgical colours, and in particular it does not suffer from the form-filling bureaucracy, centralization and almost superstitious Soviet ritualism which can often be found in the Church inside Russia. On a more important level, ROCOR does not therefore suffer from the spiritual disease of ecumenism, which affects certain individuals in the Church inside Russia and which distresses many there and in ROCOR. In the same way, ROCOR has always looked forward to the restoration of the Monarchy inside Russia. This view is shared by many in the Church inside Russia, our allies, though not by all.

Veneration of the Saints

ROCOR has a strong love of the Saints, especially of the New Martyrs and Confessors, but also of the Local Saints, the ancient saints of Western Europe, few of whom were until recently included in the Russian Church calendar. ROCOR canonized the Royal Martyrs and some 8,000 New Martyrs and Confessors 19 years before the Church inside Russia. Indeed, many in ROCOR had very much wanted these canonizations decades before even this. These canonizations included some (but still not all) of the servants of the Imperial Family. Interestingly, two of these servants were not members of the Orthodox Church. For ROCOR this presents no problem at all. For us, they were simply baptised in their blood, like many ancient martyrs. This thought seems to be alien to some in the Church inside Russia.

Financial independence

I remember how someone from Russia came here and saw a bishop sweeping the floor of his Cathedral. He was astonished and at once thought he was a saint! How absurd! Bishops and priests cleaning their churches is perfectly normal for us, though, sadly, we are not saints. For us it is the opposite that is abnormal. For instance, I can recall a few years ago how a bishop from Russia was appointed to a church that was geographically outside Russia. The first thing he did was to buy himself a luxurious black car. Automatically, he had lost all respect, he was finished and should have returned to Russia there and then. Clerical opulence with meaningless, militaristic pomp and ceremony are not for us. Our priests usually work in secular employment, even if only part-time, and choirs are hardly ever paid anything.

Closeness to the People

Just as in ROCOR we sing out of love for the church, we have no scandalizing price lists for baptisms, weddings etc. People simply donate whatever they can. Thus, simply by virtue of being in the Non-Orthodox world, ROCOR is adaptable, less insular, more multinational (just look at the nationalities of our bishops), much more even than the Church inside Russia. ROCOR adapts to local people, uses local languages and has a far more open and missionary outlook. In this way, although ROCOR keeps the Tradition, we are actually more ‘liberal’ in some ways because of the realities of life. For instance, as a small minority in Non-Orthodox countries, we pray for Non-Orthodox and welcome them to our churches, but we would not dream of making dogmatic compromises of the ecumenistic sort, such as intercommunion.

Real Parishes

One Russian from Russia told me: Our churches are like railway stations, people coming and going, staying for a few minutes and leaving, nobody knows anyone, people never belong. The fact is that parish life was destroyed in Russia by the Soviet period, whereas in ROCOR we have real parishes, communities to which people belong. Our parishes are smaller, our parishioners know one another, they receive personal attention, our churches do not operate like factories, we baptise individually, not en masse. Almost every week I do two or three baptisms, which are done properly and individually. We understand our parishioners, we accept prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs, we baptise babies in warm water, after the service parishioners sit down and socialize, drink and eat something together.

Conclusion

Members of ROCOR sometimes visit cathedrals and large monasteries in Russia or large churches in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Although we appreciate what we see, admiring the infrastructure and organization, wondering at the gold, marble, general ornateness, ritual and the singing, we tend to come back with the words: ‘It was good to be away, but it is better to be at home’. The words ‘Home Sweet Home’ are how we feel about ROCOR. We are a family to which we belong. Our churches may be small and modest, wooden and plain, our choirs amateur, our theology unsophisticated, but we belong to our Church, as did the simple fisherman of Galilee. Here we are at home and no-one can take that away from us. Here is something that the Church inside Russia can learn from us.

 

 

 

From Recent Correspondence (September 2017)

Q: What is the Russian Orthodox view of patriotism?

A: As President Putin has put it: ‘For Russians […] patriotic sentiment, the sense of national belonging that is now, to their sorrow, being eroded in certain European countries, is very important’. In today’s Europe, the attention of those who seek to preserve their national identity, those who are patriots and nationalists in the best sense of the word, is fixed on Moscow. Conversely, those who yell the loudest about a ‘Russian threat’ and ‘European unity in the face of Russian aggression’ are precisely those who want to destroy European faces and borders and reviving identities, like that of Catalonia, as they are oriented towards the EU headquarters in Brussels and the White House.

Russia is the Motherland of patriotism in Europe and in defiance of the artificial denationalisation imposed by Western-imposed Soviet Communism, it is returning to the old mission of keeping the flame of national identity in Europe alight, preserving it as a Europe of homelands and not a public thoroughfare. Although the State-run media like the BBC try to slander all moderate patriots as ‘Neo-Nazis’ and ‘the far right’, in reality there are very few ‘Neo-Nazis’ and ordinary people, both on the normal right and the normal left, are patriots. 52% of British people voted for Brexit, surely even more would vote for Brexit today, given Juncker’s recent speech on the abolition of Europe (‘Eurofederalism’) in Brussels.

Q: Why is the West so aggressive?

A: The West is far more aggressive than many people even realize. Its wars of aggression are always camouflaged by code-names. For example, the multinational Western invasions and Western wars of aggression against Russia are variously known as ‘The Teutonic Crusades’, ‘The Napoleonic Campaign’, ‘The Crimean War’, ‘World War One’, ‘World War Two’ etc. In the same way, today the USA has a ‘Department of Defense’, and yet no-one has ever tried to invade the USA and that Department is notorious for its Offense.

Britain’s ‘Ministry of Defence’ has similarly always spent its time invading and bombing countries far away, all in the name of ‘national security’. Apparently Britain has invaded some 150 foreign countries in its history! This British Establishment aggressiveness goes back to its founders, in their so-called ‘Battle of Hastings’, which did not take place in Hastings and should actually be called ‘The Norman Invasion and Occupation’ or ‘The Defeat and Rape of England’.

The roots of this Westernwide aggression go back even further than 1066, to the anti-Christian Charlemagne, who revived the dead pagan Roman Empire – the model for all aggressive, asset-stripping and war-based systems – under the code-name of a ‘classical revival’. He told his people that they were superior to Christians (‘Greeks’) and also to anyone else, because the Holy Spirit came from their leader, the Pope of Rome, whom Charlemagne had made infallible with his filioque ideology. Later this mythical superiority was spread downwards to anyone who agreed with the Western Establishment and anyone who was ‘Western’ was thus considered superior. ‘Black, brown, red and yellow peoples’ were inferior and therefore could be enslaved and massacred by ‘White’ Western people. Here is the fruit of the filioque, from the Crusades to Iraq.

Yet another example: On 25 September the BBC programme ‘Beyond Belief’ (Radio 4, 4.30), the programme I spoke on twice after the Pussy Riot blasphemy, the subject was ‘The Persecution of Atheism in Russia’! I could hardly believe what the BBC has come to. It really is Beyond Belief! Not content with supporting the US installation of lesbian politicians and Zionist atheists as leaders in Eastern Europe, from Serbia to the Baltics and the Ukraine, the BBC are now directly plugging Western atheism in Russia, where a few decades ago Western Marxist atheists martyred 600 bishops and 120,000 clergy, under the pretext of ‘freedom of speech’.

Q: What worries you most about the situation of the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church? Ecumenism?

A: Definitely not ecumenism. That is a bedtime fairy-tale for old people. It was abandoned as a failure long ago. No, it is something else. Let us try and understand the context in which we live.

We live in the fourth century. We in the Russian Church have come out of persecution and are being recognized, moving forward into the rest of the fourth century. (Unlike the West, where the heterodox have been in the fourth century and are now heading backwards towards the third century and persecution by various atheist emperors). What was the problem in the fourth century? There were no outward enemies, but there were inward enemies, all those who swam with the tide, the ‘fairweather Christians’ who joined the Church for their careers, for worldly advantage. Martyrdom is largely over for us: the ‘easy way’ to salvation has gone: all we had to do was to be killed. For a believing Orthodox that is not a problem. This is why in the fourth century, there was a huge growth in monasticism. Opportunities for martyrdom were mainly over, but the faithful still needed the real thing.

In times of peace we face not outward enemies, but inward enemies, as we in the Church Outside Russia, know only too well. We in our part of the Russian Church did not face martyrdom, what we have faced for nearly 100 years is inward enemies. We faced multiple schisms, by modernists (in the Paris Jurisdiction and in the USA), then by old calendarists (in the USA, France, South America and Great Britain), we faced racism and nationalism (the policy of excluding certain people from the Church because they had ‘the wrong blood’), we faced careerism, false brethren and slanders, backed by certain bishops. This type of persecution is insidious and calls on us to be confessors and not martyrs. That is much more subtle.

We have a great example in St John of Shanghai, who was put on trial in a secular court by so-called ‘ROCOR’ bishops, clergy and people. Shame on them! But who came out of this affair a saint? It is the insignificant and derided little man on the court bench who prayed: the others are, at best, forgotten. Something similar happened to Fr Seraphim (Rose), who faced persecution from inside. Our greatest enemies have always come from inside the Church. Our enemies confess not the Orthodox Faith, they confess ‘religion’, the outward ritualistic system of phariseeism, spiritual dryness and literalism, together with a systemic personality cult and academicism, sometimes homosexual, all of which persecute, mock and despise any authentic, living spiritual experience.

The souls of these go dry at Pentecost, they feel nothing, not the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit, not new green life, but they rattle off the prayers to the Holy Spirit without feeling, looking at their watches. These people have no Love, no Theology, no Knowledge of the Living God (St Alban), no compassion, all they have is their ill psychology, which they use for self-justification and persecution of the righteous.

Today we can see such tendencies inside Russia (and among some of its representatives outside Russia). Careerism, the interest in ‘awards’, rationalism, knowledge only of the outward, Spirit-free academicism, the rush for ‘degrees’, the salt that has lost its savour. It does not matter whether the tendency is new calendarist and modernist or old calendarist and traditionalist, it is the same anti-spiritual tendency.

Q: Was the Russian emigration a good thing?

A: Its causes were of course bad and émigrés suffered. But the spiritual life of the emigration itself was very mixed, both pure and impure. In the 1930s St John of Shanghai reckoned that only 10% of the emigration was Churchly. This corresponds to my own experience. Many Russians were ‘White’ only inasmuch as they were greedy for money and property and had no time, either for the Faith or for the Tsar, whom so many of them had actively betrayed. Many were racist and nationalistic, opposed to multinational Rus, so denying the words and commandments of the apostles to go out into all the world and teach and baptise ‘all men’.

There are still parts of the Russian emigration which have not returned to the Russian Church and, incredibly, are still on the Catholic calendar, which was introduced by the masonic Anglicans into Constantinople for a fee of £100,000 in the early 1920s. Still no repentance for such unspeakable spiritual decadence! In years to come we shall be amazed that any of this was possible, let alone justified by ‘theologians’, ‘the great and good!’

And yet the emigration also produced saints. As ever, I will say to you: Follow the Saints! Yes, the rest existed and exists. Ignore them, let the spiritually dead bury the spiritually dead. There can be no nostalgia for them. Follow the Chains of Love and you will set your soul free. The Russian emigration was caused by evil, but God’s Providence can always make good from evil.

Q: Is it true that ROCOR has never had a scandal?

A: I do not know who told you such a fairy tale. Sadly, very sadly, just think about the Antony Grabbe scandal in Jerusalem, about the consecration of Valentin of Suzdal (I remember how Archbishop Antony of Geneva prayed for a snowstorm so that his plane could not take off and he would not have to take part in his consecration under obedience), about Grabbe’s bishop-father who ended up in a right-wing sect outside the Church and banned anyone from attending his funeral, about the defrocked….

Q: What would you like to see the Orthodox Church do as a whole?

A: Publish statistics and facts! For example, I reckon that there are about 800 Orthodox bishops, 80,000 priests and 217 million Orthodox. However, these are merely informed guesstimates and I do not know the truth. I have no idea how many deacons, monks and nuns there are in the Church and in each Local Church. I would be very grateful to see some central statistical Orthodox authority issuing such information. (If any readers can correct my estimates, please will they contact me).

Q: In the light of what happened in Crete in 2016, what should be done about the state of the Orthodox episcopate, where there are so many who are clearly unprincipled?

A: That is of course a question for the episcopate, not for me. However, my suggestion would be something like deposing all bishops who do not confess that:

1. The Orthodox Church alone is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

2. The application of the canons which state that if they have been appointed by secular authorities (e. g. the State Department in Washington), they must be deposed.

3. The application of the canons which state that if they practise simony, they must be deposed.

4. The application of the canons which state that if they practise homosexuality, they must be deposed.

5. That if they are freemasons, they must be deposed.

Q: You are educated, how can you believe in heaven and hell?

A: We know from the unique revelation of the New Testament that God is Love. Therefore, it is clear that heaven is the presence of Love and hell is the absence of Love. It is very simple. It is even clear from this that heaven and hell, although in undeveloped forms, already exist on earth. People create their own heaven and hell. Please forget the primitive notions of atheists about heaven and hell that you seem to have. It reminds me of the incredibly primitive peasant Khrushchev who said that Gargarin had proved that God did not exist because he had been in space and had not seen Him! The only thing that this proved was Khrushchev’s own primitive ignorance and spiritual blindness.

Q: Why does the Church have rituals? Surely they are unnecessary?

A: The angels do not have rituals. So why do we? Obviously, because we are not angels, that is, we have bodies, a material nature. All people have rituals. Protestants have rituals (sit down, stand up, prayer, hymn, guilt-making sermon, collection of money to pay for the guilt, which is merely a copy of Catholic indulgences), secularists have rituals, parades, processions, the opening of Parliament, both military and civilian etc. Let us therefore make sure that our Church rituals are beautiful and meaningful.

People will always make rituals to worship something higher and greater than themselves, whether the True God or an invented one – drink, football, the sun on the beach, a human ideology…As we know that we are inferior and need to worship something, so let us worship the True God and not such false gods.

A: What is the situation in the Ukraine now?

A: I have not been there for a year now, but with the persecution of most of the people (‘ethnic minorities, of whom over 50% are Russian’), the continuing civil war, the fleeing of millions abroad (especially to Poland and Russia) and the fact that the government is propped up only by US money and money from US organizations like the IMF, I think the future is grim. It seems probable to me that in a few years from now, the country, which is an artificial conglomerate founded by Lenin and Stalin, will split between Russia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, leaving a possible Little Russian rump around Kiev.

Q: What are we to make of the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and the earthquakes in Mexico?

A: There have always been such events. When you hear ‘the most powerful hurricane for 100 years’, it means that there have already been others at least as powerful in recorded history. None of this is the first time, it is just that the media are here to report these events. But the Caribbean and Florida are well known as places of crime, gambling, prostitution, drug-dealing and money-laundering. It is clear that only Faith can avert such catastrophes, not vice. Nearly 70 years ago on Tubabao St John of Shanghai protected that island from a typhoon through his prayers, going around the island with the cross and praying. This is what needs to be done here. But is anyone doing this?

In the USA some fear a great eruption in Yellowstone that could almost wipe out life in North America, or an earthquake in San Francisco. But what do people do in these places? Do they pray, do they repent? Some of course yes, but it seems that most just have more and more hubris. Just like Pompeii of old. Just like the Tower of Siloam. Little wonder that people speak of ‘Eurosodom and Gomorrhica’.

Q: Whose side are you on in the Brexit conflict between the Chancellor Philip Hammond and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson?

A: That is a political question. All I can say is that I support neither of them. The Anglo-Turkish Old Etonian Boris Johnson is, despite his Russian Christian name, a fanatical Russophobe who supports a new Cold War. As regards the multi-millionaire Philip Hammond, I knew him personally, as he was in the same year in the same college in Oxford and also born in Essex (though at the wrong end). Even then, as a teenager, he was quite a ruthless careerist. True, he has done very well for himself in this respect, but has not yet got the top job, which is what he wants. However, regardless of that, both of these politicians are pro-British, i.e., anti-English, which is because they are pro-UK Establishment. The last pro-English politician I can think of is the long ago-retired Sir Richard Body. I am not sure that there is a single pro-English politician left in Parliament today.

Q: Should we be worried about the conflict between the USA and North Korea?

A: For the moment there is no conflict, just mutual insults. What worries me is that both leaders have terrible inferiority complexes that produce paranoia. One wants to be taken seriously as a President, instead of as a horse-trading businessman of limited intelligence, the other is a shy man who is trying to live up to his father and grandfather in cruelty, bluster and everything else. And his country is surrounded by aggressive US ships and planes (the USA is not surrounded by North Korean ships and planes), which only deepens national paranoia.

They both remind me of Kaiser Wilhelm who also had a terrible inferiority complex, caused by his deformed arm and his profound jealousy of Great Britain, and so started the Great War, with all its appalling consequences. ‘Inferiority complexes’ (= the sins of jealousy, vanity, selfishness and pride) cause many problems in world history. They are dangerous. As for these leaders, you should give children toys to play with, not guns, missiles and nuclear bombs. That is worrying.

More Historic Developments in the ROCOR Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland

At the Clergy Meeting and first ever meeting of the Diocesan Council of the ROCOR Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland, presided over by the Diocesan Administrator, Bishop Irenei, on Saturday 2 September, it was resolved to hold a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Alban every year. Also, in another historic event, all parishes were blessed by Vladyka to keep the third Sunday after Pentecost as the Sunday of All Saints of the British Isles and Ireland, using the service composed by Archpriest Andrew Phillips fifteen years ago.

It was notable that the Clergy Meeting was for the first time ever attended by representatives from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as from England. Both meetings were informed that the finally magnificently frescoed London church (with images of the local saints) will be consecrated on Friday 21st September 2018 and that the church in Colchester will at last be consecrated, probably in 2019, on its eleventh anniversary. There were also lengthy discussions about new missions, among several other places, including in Kent and Cambridgeshire, the need to found a monastery, about publications, websites and the involvement of the young people of the Diocese and the need to nurture their faith, as with the new Searchlight youth magazine.

The Diocese now has thirteen priests, a number never exceeded even in the 1950s. Moreover, they are multinational in background and ROCOR seems to becoming the only multi-ethnic Orthodox Diocese in these lands. Bishop Irenei’s visit to the reborn Diocese is the fourth episcopal visit this year, and not the last. Other candidates for ordination are coming forward, encouraged by Bishop Irenei who will not reject worthy candidates. One parish which had only had two episcopal visits in nineteen years has now had four episcopal visits in eight months.

It is remarkable what an episcopal presence can do, just as we had always thought, and all look forward to Bishop Irenei’s permanent return to this country in the near future. All are grateful to him and especially to the Most Reverened Metropolitan Hilarion and the Very Reverend Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco, without whom none of this would ever have been possible. It has taken a great deal of effort over the last nine years to arrange all this after a long and dark period in our 300-year history.