Tag Archives: Orthodoxy

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.

 

 

 

Orthodoxy on Bullfighting, a Possible Future Revolution in Russia, Religious Statues and Homosexuality: Four Questions from Recent Correspondence

Why does bullfighting not exist in Orthodox countries?

J. S., Catalonia

Bullfighting only exists in certain once Catholic countries, Spain, Portugal, southern France and ex-colonies in Latin America. On the other hand, bullfighting is unknown in Ireland, Austria and other Catholic countries. It is also unknown in once Protestant and once Orthodox countries. However, it seems that in pagan Minoan Crete, as in the myth of Hercules who ‘took the bull by the horns’, it did exist. This suggests that bullfighting is a pre-Christian, pagan custom, once prevalent in many parts of the Mediterranean, but which survives only in the Catholic west Mediterranean, not in the Greek Orthodox east Mediterranean, nor in the ex-Greek Orthodox central Mediterranean. Why?

The fact is that Catholicism has a cult of blood and death, what we may call ‘crucifixionism’, which very clearly and suddenly began with its birth in the late eleventh century with images of ‘Jesus’ as a suffering, dying or dead human-being. (See for confirmation any of the studies of the Catholic Middle Ages by the Oxford scholar Sir Richard Southern). This developed into the bloody portrayal of the lives of the martyrs in, for example, the medieval anthology ‘The Golden Legend’ and also into the constipated sentimentalism of Catholic pietism.

This cult of blood, dead bodies and death can be seen in the pietistic Catholic veneration of human organs (bleeding hearts) and wounds, in the tortures of the Spanish (and French) Inquisition, and in Catholic art (Bosch and Goya, for example). However, it also exists in other Catholic countries, where bullfighting does not exist, for example in catacomb mummies, strange funeral customs throughout the Catholic world and customs of flagellation and self-mutilation in southern Italy and the once Spanish Philippines, especially on Great and Holy Friday.

This cult of blood is part of the Catholic cult of suffering and self-flagellation – beloved still today by Mother Teresa’s followers and Opus Dei. Morbid ‘crucifixionism’, as can be seen in Italian films on the Crucifixion or the Gibson film ‘The Passion of Christ’, the portrayal of the bleeding human-being Christ (‘Jesus’) on the Cross, is indeed partly why Protestantism rejects the Cross, seeing it as a symbol of death, instead of what it is, the symbol of Life and victory over death. It may be that the Arian-Protestant sect, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, also rejects blood transfusions as a result of the rejection of what it associates with Catholicism.

Bullfighting is unknown in once Protestant countries (although here bearbaiting, cockfighting and until recently fox-hunting were once very popular). Today, in these countries all such blood-sports are frowned on and even detested because of the prevalence of secularist values with political correctness and animal rights. Since, for secularists, human-beings are merely intelligent animals, we should not treat animals any differently from Western human beings. (Non-Western human-beings may be massacred freely, however, as in Rwanda, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and the Ukraine).

Why then do we Orthodox not cultivate bullfighting? Because in Orthodoxy, although and because we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion, we have no cult of blood, no ‘crucifixionism’. As Orthodox, we consider that we suffer enough simply by being faithful Orthodox Christians – not least through persecution by Catholicism and Protestantism, and we do not artificially seek or create suffering or entertain morbid images of torture of the human body.

We do not tolerate self-flagellation or a morbid cult of death, blood and human remains – the wax dummies that dead Catholic saints are turned into (which is quite different from the veneration of holy relics). This is because we do not imitate Christ outwardly, but imitate Him inwardly. Thus, we live in the Risen Christ, through the Holy Spirit, by Whom the Church, Whose Head is Christ and Which is the Risen Body of Christ, lives. Our cult is not of death, but of Life, of the Spirit, of the Victorious Resurrection, of Christ triumphant on the Cross.

You have yourself written that the restoration of Church life in Russia is very slow and very fragile. What would happen to the Church Outside Russia if there were another anti-Church Revolution inside Russia and the Patriarchate were enslaved again?

R.T., Seattle

I think this very unlikely, but, true, anything is possible in today’s Russia, where there are still statues of Lenin, and his mummy is in Red Square, and public places are named after other sadists and terrorists.

In such a case we would simply return to our situation nearly 100 years ago when Patriarch Tikhon founded the Church Outside Russia, precisely because he foresaw that the Church there was facing enslavement and we would so become the free voice of the Church. And I think that this time, we would be a lot stronger.

Firstly, those who are under the Patriarchate outside Russia, much more numerous than two and more decades ago, would surely quite naturally join us, if the administration inside Russia were enslaved again.

Secondly, I do not think that this time there would be any harmful and unnecessary political schisms in Paris and North America, as there were in the 1920s; this time the emigration is united in its Orthodoxy and would not let anti-Russian renovationist and masonic political interference from Constantinople or elsewhere disturb Church life.

Is it true that Orthodox do not worship statues like Catholics because statues are three-dimensional, whereas icons are two-dimensional? And why does that make a difference?

P. A., Manchester

I think that the truth can be expressed more clearly than this. It is not so much a question of two or three dimensions as a question of our concept of realism.

First of all, Orthodox do not worship anyone or anything except the Holy Trinity. However, we do honour, revere and venerate holy things, such as icons, the cross and holy relics. We do not have statues in churches (but they may exist as memorials outside churches), because they are an attempt to create realistic representations of God or human beings. For the same reason we do not paint or make realistic, two-dimensional, images of Christ, angels and saints. An icon is precisely not an attempt to create a realistic image (like a statue or a Catholic religious picture), but is a spiritual portrait.

Realism portrays only fallen nature, which we precisely wish to restore. This is why an icon does not have perspective or represent the body anatomically. It is the opposite of a realistic portrait – or a statue. This is why, although there are many Orthodox saints of whom we have photographs, we do not venerate their photographs. We venerate only icons – attempts to produce spiritual photographs, representations of the spiritual essence or soul of the saint in question, restored to their primal beauty as they would have been before the Fall. That is our realism.

Can a homosexual be ordained?

A.T., Norfolk

We condemn the sin, not the sinner.

Many, but not all, homosexuals appear to be of two sorts, though with a multiplicity of variations: he who by repression has become narcissistic (narcissism always come from a personality complex), nasty, aggressive, jealous, backbiting, slanderous and vengeful. On the other hand, there is he who is camp, obviously homosexual, can be kind, charming, boylike and is very popular with females, because, unrepressed, he has no aggression at all and so presents no threat to them.

The question of ordination is for a bishop, though I suspect that any bishop of any jurisdiction, canonical and non-canonical (there are homosexual clergy in all jurisdictions) would either answer a definite ‘No’, or else would ask: ‘Which homosexual’? After all, the custom of classifying people according to a category, ‘French’, ‘homosexual’, ‘English’, ‘Catholic’, ‘Russian’, ‘married’ depersonalizes them: I think we should see people as individuals first of all. As we all know, some homosexuals are ordained.

Thus, the second sort of obvious homosexual would not be ordained (though I have met exceptions among those who have been ordained by homosexual bishops). However, the first nasty narcissistic sort, if ordained – as, sadly, they are, are catastrophes, especially when they become bishops, as many sadly have.

However, there are exceptions. Although there are two main sorts of homosexual, there are also those who have control both over their illness (and the illness of homosexuality is a heavy cross to bear) and over their aggressiveness. With such people bishops would make exceptions.

The Spiritual Meaning of Russian Orthodoxy

Foreword

God granted northern Eurasia, all the riches of the northern third of half the planet, to the Church, specifically to Holy Rus or Russian Orthodoxy. This vast territory was not stolen by warlike massacre, as was North America, but was granted by peaceful expansion. It was granted for the benefit and welfare of all Orthodox. All the other spiritual centres of the Orthodox world, Jerusalem, Mt Athos, Serbia, Georgia and many more, have always looked to Holy Rus for its protection. If these resources are not used for this benefit of all, they will be taken away from those who steward them, as they were in 1917, for the sin of nationalist selfishness.

In its essence, and not in its deformations, Holy Rus is Multinational Orthodoxy. Untrammelled by politics of left or right, it is 75% of World Orthodoxy, free, unlike many other Local Orthodox Churches. These have had to face Westernisation (like Roman Catholicism) through, for example, modernism and the new calendar, as in the Greek and Balkan Churches; or else fragmentation (like Protestantism) through, for example, tiny sectarian and nationalistic movements, as in the Ukraine, Macedonia, Montenegro and in innumerable old calendarist sects. The Westernised have to some extent become puppets of Western powers. Therefore, Holy Rus, now freed, reunited and being restored, has an all the more vital significance.

The Faith of Holy Rus

This principal part of the Church of Christ proclaims Her Trinitarian Faith in Father, Son and Holy Spirit and incarnates it in three words. These are:

Orthodoxy

This does not mean some reactionary, erastian State ideology, run by a Protestant Procurator. It means the Church Christianity of Christ, Incarnate in life, the Living Gospel, the Word of God given to all mankind.

Sovereignty

This does not mean the ‘Autocracy’ of Western Absolutism. It means the people’s monarchy, the opposition to the Absolutist dictatorship of money, so-called ‘democracy’, which rules over the Western world today.

People

This does not mean some narrow, chauvinistic, Western-style nationalism. It means all the peoples of the world, who receive the call of the Holy Spirit and respond to the Spirit in and through the Church of God.

Afterword

In our own times the Russian Orthodox world, inside and outside Russia, has endured Gethsemane and Golgotha. Holy Rus was crucified by and for the sins of the Western world of the last thousand years. Today, the Resurrection is beginning, both inside and outside Russia. These experiences of Crucifixion and Resurrection are the meaning and destiny of Russia, the key to world history and the promise of universal salvation in the last times. This promise of universal salvation is our White Ideal, the Trinitarian Ideal of Orthodoxy, Sovereignty and People, of the Faith of God’s Church, Sovereign over all, and preached to all the peoples of the Earth, not least to Christianising China.

Today, the Western world and Western Europe in particular are not facing Secularisation or Islamisation – Mcworld or Jihad – but Secularisation and Jihad. Why this twofold spiritual catastrophe? It is because the Western world and Western Europe in particular have forgotten their roots and overlaid them by layer after layer after layer spiritual impurity, of idolatrous worship of the world. Having quite literally rejected the Spirit from the Father through its change of Creed, that World lost first the Divinity of the Son, then of the Father, and so now the Divine destiny of mankind. Having rejected the Holy Trinity, it now faces the hell that it has created. Other nations are coming to replace it.

Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called
30 November /13 December