At this present time of Church restoration, our Russian Orthodox consciousness and ambitions are clear – our aim is not the restoration of the Church to what it was in 1917. That is not good enough, or else there will be another Revolution. Our aim is more than historical restoration, it is also to make better. What specifically do we need to see?
1. A Patriarchate
Already in 1905 the future Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II proposed the restoration of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate after a sorrowful 200 year interval. Sadly, those who had grown used to the old uncanonical system refused his offer – they were not yet ready for restoration and preferred the bittersweet captivity of the Protestant system of Oberprocurators and Synodal government. Nevertheless, in 1918 the pro-Patriarchate forces, long led by Metropolitan Antony of Kiev, were triumphant. However, this restoration was reversed by Soviet atheism and even after its second restoration during the Second World War, it made little difference, as the militantly atheist Soviet religious affairs bureaucrats dealt with the Church in even worse ways than the worst masonic oberprocurators of the eighteenth century. After the tragic Soviet period, today it is clear that the restoration of the Patriarchate is permanent.
The freedom and independence of the contemporary Patriarchate from the Russian Federation State, subject to the whims and fashions of democracy and party politics, and from other successor States, must continue as it is in today’s post-Soviet times. None must fear any State interference. This principle is all the more important inasmuch as the Patriarchate is by nature and title multinational, representing not merely the Russian Federation, but the whole of Rus and its canonical territories, covering most of the former Russian Empire, as well as Japan and China, as well as shared territories of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia – altogether 62 different nationalities. The Divino-human Church must everywhere resist subjection to the whims of westernising or other States and plainly show her freedom to preach the Gospel of Christ and not to become some mere State institution for moralism.
3. Financial Independence
Next comes the thorny question of Church finance. Before the Revolution clergy often lived in poverty and the Church was often subjected to the whims of wealthy merchants, the equivalent of modern businessmen and ‘sponsors’. Here contemporary States have a role to play. Churches have to be rebuilt by the successor States to the Soviet State which destroyed them. Successors to those responsible for destruction have moral obligations and here there is a long way to go even to return to pre-Revolutionary numbers of Church buildings. Once this task has been carried out, there are questions concerning clergy and choir finance. It is not good enough to allow clergy to live in poverty and force them to work in secular jobs and to rely on choir directors who are never free during the week, meaning that all weekday services have to be sung by priests. There must be financial security.
The question of clergy education is connected with the previous problem, as we saw both before the Revolution and with certain erroneous ordinations of the post-Soviet 1990s. If the Church cannot pay her clergy a living wage, it will find talent going elsewhere. Thus, many study theology, but do not make use of their knowledge as clergy, for they can find better pay and much better conditions elsewhere. Some may be shocked at this, but it is only realistic; inasmuch as parish clergy are married and have children, you cannot torment them even more by depriving their wives and children of sustenance. As regards the nature of clergy education, it must be of due and moral level. Otherwise Church life may be reduced to ritualism. To reduce the Church to external ritualism may be an easy way out, but it is an error and even a heresy, which turns away the faithful who look for inner content.
5. Church Culture: Music, Iconography, Furnishings, Art and Architecture
For two centuries before the Revolution Church music was dominated either by Italianate concert-type professional singing, inaccessible to the faithful, or else by solo singing for lack of choirs. At the same time iconography was also dominated by Roman Catholic imagery of a realistic and humanistic style which expressed nothing of Orthodox iconography. The quality of vestments, at times over-ornate and excessively heavy, and Church furnishings also suffered. On the other hand, just before the Revolution there was a revival of traditional art and architecture. It is to be hoped that traditional forms will continue to revive and that the bad taste of certain ‘sponsors’, in love with gold, can be overcome, in such a way that available funds can be used not to build a few over-elaborate or luxurious churches, but many more functional churches, albeit simpler and more modest in form.
Restoration does not mean the blind repetition of mistakes. Authentic restoration means a return to the best models of the past. The restoration of the free, independent, educated, worldwide Patriarchate of Rus, multinational and multilingual, the protector of the other Local Churches, and a model of Church culture and practices, is our aim.