Tag Archives: The Holy Spirit

A Russian Tragedy of Errors


Introduction: Three Fragments of the Church

After the overthrow of the Tsar by traitors in the so-called ‘Revolution’ of 1917, and the ensuing substitution of the Russian Empire for the Soviet Union, parts of the Russian Orthodox Church broke away from it. Although divisions of tiny, temporary ‘catacomb’ church communities formed inside the USSR, divisions were nowhere so obvious as outside the USSR, where there was the political freedom to choose which part of the Church to belong to.

The anti-Soviet Russian emigration split into two warring groups, one quite independent of the rest of the Orthodox Church, the other under the British-controlled and, after British bankruptcy from 1948 on the US-controlled, Patriarchate of Constantinople (1). In any case, both groups were independent of the vast majority of the Russian Church, which was under the enslaved and enhostaged administration of the 99% of the Church inside the Soviet Union. Why did these divisions develop?

  1. The Moscow Patriarchate: Bride of Christ or Concubine of the State?

Like all other Churches the Russian Orthodox Church has had a long history of both dependence on and independence from the State. In this respect, people may think of the independence from the State of St Nil of Sora (1508) and the Transvolgan Non-Possessors (1), of Metropolitan Philip of Moscow (murdered in 1569 on the orders of the centralising Tsar Ivan IV) and of the Old Ritualist schism of the 1660s, which was largely created by reaction to the persecution of the centralising State, which demanded absurd ritual conformity. By 1917 some 10% of the Russian population were declaring that they were Old Ritualists, thus showing the strength of opposition to the centralist State. All the above showed independence from the nationalist State, and many showed faithfulness to Orthodox Tradition, placing the Holy Spirit above corruption.

Under the imperialist Emperor Peter I (‘the Great’) (+ 1725), the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate was abolished and replaced by a Protestant-style Minister of Religion. Soon after this there began the persecution of monastic life, when some two-thirds of monasteries were closed by the German Empress Catherine I (‘the Great’) (+ 1796). Nevertheless, the Church continued to live, under the great St Paisius (Velichkovsky), forced into exile in Romania, and in the Russian Lands, in Sarov and Optina, where new saints appeared, and in Kronstadt, where there began the eucharistic revival, and elsewhere. The grace of the Holy Spirit was active and the deadly bureaucrats of the State apparatus did not manage to quench it, despite their best efforts. They were opposed by Tsar Nicholas II, who, despised and mocked by the bureaucrats in cassocks, had such great saints as Seraphim of Sarov canonised.

However, during this Imperial period most Russian Orthodox omitted to take communion more than once a year and lead an active life of prayer and fasting. Church life became largely an empty ritual, an exercise in ritualism. Here is why the Soviet atheists (most of them, like Stalin, were also ritually Orthodox) came to power: there was no Orthodox conscience and so spiritual resistance to the myths and practices of atheism. Under the Soviet regime, which unsurprisingly admired the imperialist Peter I as their centralising model, the Church was run by the Secret Police. Therefore, the enslaved Church hierarchy of the time adopted a subservient pro-State policy called ‘Sergianism’, in order to ensure its survival. Sergianism was massively rejected by the politically free emigration: hence the divisions. Meanwhile, inside the Soviet Union, ordinary bishops, priests, monastics and faithful people were martyred in their hundreds of thousands.

The remnants of these State-subservient attitudes are still very present in the Russian Church today. For instance, churches in towns and cities usually have professional choirs (if parishioners want to sing, they are forbidden, as in the Russian church in Chiswick, a suburb of London, for example), which reduces the church to a ritualist theatre with a choir to listen to. For example, many ordinary Orthodox in Russia today reproach the Church which appears to be run like a business, the main interest seeming to be profit. Also the centralised hierarchy in Moscow actively opposes clergy who have dissident political opinions from the State about the Special Military Operation in the Ukraine. This only creates more scandals.

This centralisation has led to those parts of the Church in independent countries outside the Russian Federation wanting to break away from the centralised control of Moscow. This is for national reasons, for example, there is resistance to the Moscow centralisation on the part of Non-Russians in the Ukraine, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and elsewhere. They all seek Church independence and devolution. However, there are also cases of sectarian and schismatic groups which break away from central authority for purely political, right-wing reasons, both inside the Russian Federation, but also outside it, above all in the highly Americanised ROCOR (see below).

  1. ROCOR: Orthodox or Right-Wing?

In 2007 we all at last managed to get the New York-based ROCOR (the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) to rejoin the post-Soviet Moscow Patriarchate. Otherwise, it would have become a schismatic sect, out of communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church. When it reunited with Moscow, it lost some 5% of its 300 parishes. These 5% were extremists who really wanted to be in schism, out of communion with everyone, claiming like pharisees to be ‘True Russian Orthodox Churches’. There were then, and perhaps still are, about four of these tiny squabbling sects, formed in 2007, all cursing each other.

After the wonderful God-sent opportunity of reunion with the bulk of the reviving Russian Orthodox Church and life-giving canonical communion with it for a decade between 2007 and 2017, very sadly, the ROCOR authorities gradually lapsed back into their sectarian temptations from before 2007. Step by step these sectarians took control of ROCOR’s New York Synod in an internal coup d’etat, effectively isolating its ill but charismatic Metropolitan, rejecting all his decisions and using his electronic signature to justify their very strange and deeply uncanonical decisions.

Very sadly, the extremists had learned nothing from being in communion with the Mother-Church for ten years. They had simply camouflaged and justified their pharisaical, schismatic and sectarian tendencies behind their alleged unity with the Moscow Patriarchate. Today ROCOR is out of full communion with Moscow, and so its second state is worse than its first. Instead of Orthodoxy, it has espoused the sectarian American right-wingery of woman-despising ‘Orthobros’ and Trumpism, totally confusing Divine Orthodoxy with mere human conservatism and its lust for money and power.

This pharisaical state of schism and fanatical sectarianism was encouraged by deluded Non-Russian neophytes, who want to be more royalist than the King, more Russian Orthodox than real Russian Orthodox. In reality, these Lutheran and Calvinist sectarians have ended up outside full communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, the King they betrayed. They have painted themselves into their own corner, apparently feeling very comfortable in their isolation. Thus, they have renounced their own saints, who were internationally-minded, not isolated, and concelebrated with and gathered together all Orthodox. These include St John of Shanghai and Western Europe, whom the US right-wingers so cruelly suspended and persecuted, leading to his premature death in 1966.

Some suspect that the new ROCOR division has been encouraged by the CIA, of whose largesse ROCOR was a well-known recipient for a generation between 1966 and 1991, when the Soviet Union finally collapsed. As participants in the San Francisco ROCOR Council in 2006 we all know that the CIA virulently opposed the ROCOR reunion with Moscow in 2007 and from 2017 on tried to censor and then close this anti-CIA (and anti-FSB and anti-MI5) Orthodox England site through an amateur agent. For a few months he succeeded, causing an international scandal and making ROCOR a laughing-stock among the other Local Churches. Perhaps money exchanged hands here too.

  1. Paris: Orthodox or Left-Wing?

The second part of the Russian emigration which split away from the enslaved Church authorities in Soviet Moscow was the group founded by Saint Petersburg aristocrats and intellectuals and centred in Paris. (Some of them spoke better French than Russian; all spoke fluent French). Originally less than a third of the size of the now US-centred ROCOR, today it is called the Archdiocese of Western Europe of the Russian Tradition. In reality it is very small outside France, as it is practically forbidden to expand elsewhere, and now has only some sixty parishes.

In 2019 it too at last rejoined the post-Soviet Moscow Patriarchate, leaving behind in Constantinople, to our open relief, its masonic and modernist wing with its uncanonical practices, losing not 5% of its parishes, clergy and people, as with ROCOR, but over 40% of its parishes, clergy and people. If ROCOR had lost 40% of its body, then it would have remained in full communion with the Moscow Patriarchate after 2017. Too much of the pharisaical, ‘onetruechurchist’, sectarian and schismatic had remained in ROCOR, thus poisoning its potential. Conversely, the much smaller Paris Archdiocese not only remained in communion, but also, to its credit and unlike ROCOR, remained politically free of Moscow centralisation.

Conclusion: Disloyalty to the Testament of the Tsar

In the history of the last generation of pre-Revolutionary Russia under the last Emperor, it is clear that right-wing extremists played as negative a role as left-wing extremists. For example, plotting together, they murdered the Tsar’s adviser, Gregory Rasputin, who was helping him bring the Old Ritualists back into the Church. But this treacherous extremism can above all be seen in the ensuing history of the tragic Civil War between ‘Reds’ and ‘Whites’. Then both sides committed awful atrocities, as described in any history of that dreadful war, where brother killed brother.

Sadly, just like the Reds, most of the Whites did not support the Tsar: it is reckoned that only 10% of them did so. They were the only real Whites. Most simply wanted their land, property and wealth back from the Marxists. Many ‘Whites’ were quite as openly atheistic as the Reds. As a Russian patriot and real Orthodox, the Sovereign Tsar stood above both Reds and Whites, above and outside the vulgar extremes of both left and right, above and outside their centralisation and nationalism. This is his Testament. This is our heritage. Under him there would have been no tragic war between Russian and American-proxy Ukrainians today.


  1. https://orthodoxwiki.org/Maximus_V_of_Constantinople
  2. It is interesting that the enemies of the Non-Possessors accused them of stealing money! Nothing has changed. We know of a very greedy bishop in England today who accused a Non-Possessor priest, who subsidised his parish from his own money, of exactly the same thing! Of course, the bishop never apologised.


The Battle Against Intellectualism

I can still remember the 1970s when I bought icons (without haloes) from Jordanville, portraying St Elizabeth the New Martyr and St John of Shanghai. They hang in the altar of the Church where I serve to this day. Equally I can remember the abuse hurled at the Church Outside Russia at the long-awaited canonization of the New Martyrs and Confessors in November 1981. Those who hurled the abuse went strangely quiet when what had had to be begun in New York, given the politically enforced paralysis of the Church in Moscow, was confirmed in Moscow in 2000. This merely confirmed the hypocrisy and political prejudice of those who had attacked us.

Thus, I can recall the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva who faced down the proud doubters in the holiness of the Royal Martyrs, including a Roman Catholic baptised in his own blood, among his own ROCOR flock in Brussels and Paris, telling them that they need not venerate the icons of the Royal Martyrs, confident that they would come round in time, as spiritual experience persuaded them that they had been wrong. The same patience was shown in London by Bishop Constantine, a man of holiness himself, towards doubting members of the ROCOR Cathedral there. And in the USA, even the well-known iconographer, Fr Kiprian (Pyzhov) had been opposed to the canonization of the Royal Martyrs, but through prayer, he too came round to the Orthodox view.

Indeed, I can remember one man, now, ironically, a hieromonk ordained by a ROCOR bishop, who on the day of the canonization of the New Martyrs in 1981, vehemently informed me that the Grand Duchess Anastasia had not been martyred because she was identical to a woman known as Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the Grand Duchess. Despite witnesses like the ever-memorable Fr Nicholas Gibbes (The Grand Duchess’ tutor), who had immediately seen that she was a fraud, that man insisted on his opinion. Of course, he came to eat humble pie when DNA tests later proved what the faithful had known all along, that Anna Anderson had indeed been a fraud.

Far more disturbing than the fact that such people attacked us, motivated by secular politics, is the fact that they were attacking the saints. Here great caution is needed. When righteous men and women are venerated among the faithful, when their lives are examined closely and found to contain miracles of healing and prophecies, all of which came true, we should pay attention. Sometimes, their relics are not available because they have been destroyed by infidel liberals like Kerensky or else by Bolsheviks. Such righteous, despite slanders, eventually come to be venerated by many because of the spiritual experience that people have of them in their prayers. Then the hierarchy of the Church investigates and canonizes, always cautiously, always slowly, but the right decision is reached, even though, as in the case of the Royal Martyrs, certain bishops were originally strongly opposed.

The fact that intellectuals do not like the saints is because they do not like holiness, which is what the saints are made of. Why this reaction to the saints? Quite simply because holiness is outside their control, outside the sphere of their purely rationalistic, non-spiritual experience and so they despise it. Such intellectuals study what is called in Russian ‘teologija’ (scientific theology’), not ‘Bogoslovie’ (‘the Word of God’) and come from secular universities and secular-minded institutes, not from monasteries, which are Orthodox universities. It was ever thus. Such was the fate of the Gnostic heretic Origen, so beloved of the Paris-Crestwood School, of the intellectuals Arius, Nestorius and Barlaam, the latter of whom opposed his Western scholasticism to the spiritual experience of St Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica.

This is not to say at all that the use of the intellect (the reason) is bad in itself. Of course not, it is necessary. In the Church we have three great saints who bear the title ‘the Theologian’ – St John, St Gregory and St Symeon. Three – and no more. St Gregory, in particular, was very well educated in the intellect achievements of the day, like indeed, many, many other Church Fathers. Their triumph, however, was not in their use of their intellect, but in the fact of their spiritual experience (holiness), which they expressed with the use of their secularly trained intellect. Intellect is one thing, intellectualism, such as denying the miracle in the life of St John of Damascus and the Three-handed Icon of the Mother of God, is another.

In other words, the Church Fathers did not confuse the means (the intellect, the reason) with the end (holiness), which confusion is called not the use of the intellect, but ‘intellectualism’. Intellectualism is the spiritual disease which makes the reason (rationalism) the be all and the end all. It is not. The Church is not rationalist, which ism is tainted by fallen human pride and arrogance, but neither is She irrationalist. Irrationalism is obscurantist and narrow, the domain of phariseeism and spiritual impurity, just as much as rationalism. The Church is ‘meta-rational’, beyond reason, i.e, She follows the path of Holy Wisdom, ‘Sofia’ in Greek, ‘Premudrost’ in Slavonic.

The Christian goal was very well expressed by St Seraphim of Sarov in the century before last. He defined the aim of our lives, not as the collecting of secular knowledge, idle facts, but as the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. We can see this very clearly in the lives of three saints of the last century, St Silvanus the Athonite, a semi-literate Russian peasant, St Nicholas of Ochrid and St Justin of Chelije, the latter two of whom were very well-educated in Western Universities. The latter two used the intellectual formation which they had received in the West in order to express their spiritual experience, that of St Silvanus. No amount of doctorates, imitations and studies of abstract theories will, however, provide such spiritual experience.

In the Russian Church today, no longer persecuted, we are faced by the challenge of secular-minded intellectuals on the fringes of Church life, often with doctorates and degrees, who call themselves ‘theologians’, but who are not, because they do not have the spiritual experience that comes from suffering. Thus, their writings are superficial and do not provide spiritual food for the Orthodox faithful, but simply act as sleeping pills. The antidote to intellectualism is the living experience of the saints, especially, in the Russian Church, the feats of the New Martyrs and Confessors, who preferred the ‘meta-rational’, Risen Kingdom of God to the rationalist and irrationalist fallen republic of man.

Addressing the Seven Billion: On the 2016 Inter-Orthodox Conference

Introduction: The 2016 Conference

Most of humanity’s over 7 billion Non–Orthodox (http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/) have not heard that there is going to be an Inter-Orthodox Conference next year. But then neither have most of the world’s 216 million Orthodox. Information about the proposed 2016 Inter-Orthodox Conference to be attended by a maximum of 24 bishops from each of the 14 Local Churches is, to say the least, sparse. (Will it take place at all? When will it take place? What will be discussed?) Occasional rumours appear on the internet. The vast majority of both Orthodox clergy and people have no idea that such a Conference is even to happen and hardly anyone knows what it going to be discussed. The fact that the conspiracy theorists have been at work regarding it is entirely due to the total lack of transparency and total lack of communications of the highly secretive Conference organizers. It almost seems as though the lack of openness of the obscurantist Conference organizers is deliberately intended to provoke schism. At present, therefore, there appear to be two common scenarios for the outcome of this Conference.

The Apocalyptic Scenario

The first scenario is the apocalyptic one. This is the scenario favoured by the conspiracy theorists, old calendarists, schismatics etc in order to justify themselves. Since all the preparations are going on behind closed doors in Switzerland (of all places!) and hardly anyone even knows what the agenda is and since there has been absolutely no consultation by the bishops with the clergy and people and even many bishops seems to know nothing about this Conference, the internet conspiracy theorists have been having a field day. It seems that we are deliberately being kept in ignorance (shades of the disastrously-organized Nyack Conference in 2003 in ROCOR, of which we were informed after it had happened). Clearly for the conspiracy theorists, the whole agenda of the Conference (for some reason billed as a Council, when a Conference can only be declared a Council if its resolutions are afterwards received by the whole Church) has been dictated by the secularist powers of this world.

According to the conspiracy theorists, the Conference will be a repeat of the 1923 Constantinople meeting, that is a meeting of apostasy which will deny the Seven Universal Councils, close all monasteries, throw out relics, shorten the services, marry the bishops, adopt the secular calendar, abolish fasting, do away with clerical dress etc. In a word, it will simply be a copy of the protestantizing Vatican II and its secularist agenda. Indeed, the apocalyptic scenario even bills this ‘Council’ as ‘The Eighth Universal Council’ – even though in the Greek practice the Eighth Council is that of the ninth century when the Roman Patriarchate repented and for a time returned to the Orthodox fold before its final schism in the eleventh century. I have even been asked what ROCOR will do in such a case. Well, we will simply carry on being a self-governing part of the Russian Orthodox Church, ignoring everything decided by the apostates at such a Conference. As for other Local Churches, including the part of the Russian Church which is inside the Russian Lands, they will be rent by schism. Is this what the secretive Conference organizers want?

The Bureaucratic Scenario

that the apocalyptic scenario is highly unlikely and has been engendered only by the total lack of transparency of those preparing the Conference, what is far more likely? Given the highly detailed preparations going on, it is that the Conference will take place and produce a document of extraordinary blandness, couched in Chancellery-speak and meaningless pseudo-intellectual waffle about ‘being’ and ‘communion’. The result will be that the whole Conference will continue to be totally ignored by the people, the guardians of Orthodoxy, and will pass immediately into the dustbin of history. Of course, there will be total unity – but such is the effect of blandness. Rumours from Switzerland that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is promoting homosexuality, obeying its paymasters in the US State Department (and sadly, certain of its bishops), and that this is being opposed by the other Local Churches, tend to confirm that the result will indeed be a meaningless document written in diplomat-speak.

The latest rumours that Patriarch Bartholomew wants to use the Conference to promote a hopelessly old-fashioned 1960s liberal-type secularist agenda of ‘human rights and racial equality’ are laughable because of their hypocrisy – or is it simply profound ignorance of the real world? Go to almost any Greek parish in Western Europe and ask to join and you will be told to ‘go away (and often much ruder than that) because you are not Greek’. This is commonplace and I could quote several examples with details. Amidst the forest of Greek flags (and the Patriarchate of Constantinople is not the only guilty party – is flag-waving a special parochial Balkan phenomenon?) of the average Greek parish ethnic club, where is the place for Christ? Surely if there is to be a Conference, we could talk about the real problems of the Church in the world, which are not doctrinal, but administrative, and are all due to the utter failure to implement Orthodoxy, that is, to go beyond empty words to deeds.

The Third Scenario: The Holy Spirit

In 2006 I was honoured to be present at the Fourth All-Diaspora Council in San Francisco. There was only one real question on the agenda: whether the Russian Church inside Russia was free and so ROCOR could at last link up with Her, as we had been waiting for over three generations to do. I had definitely made up my mind only on the aeroplane coming from London, when I had learned the news that the local diocese of the Church inside Russia, the Sourozh Diocese, had at last freed itself from modernism and ecumenism, from its hatred for the Russian Church Tradition and its contempt for the New Martyrs and Confessors, and that therefore the last obstacle to unity had gone. However, I seemed to belong to a small group, sure that the time was ripe for unity; equally, there was a small group that was definitely opposed to any sort of unity, declaring that it was premature. The majority at the Council, including most of the bishops, seemed not to have come to a decision. All appeared to be at an impasse.

Those present will remember the third day of that Council, when a miracle happened and suddenly virtually everyone came together and the path to the future opened up before us. What happened? What is the authority of the Church? Who is the most important person at a Council? What is the difference between a Council and a mere Conference? The answer to all these questions is: The Holy Spirit. Suppose such a miracle happens at the 2016 Conference? Suddenly then all those worldly, weary words will vanish ‘as wax melts before the fire…at the presence of God’. All those tired secular agendas will return to the dust from which they are made. Then we could talk about the really important tasks of proclaiming the authentic Christian Tradition to the world, about updating the real situation of the Church to 2016 and forgetting 1453, when for some history stopped. The possibilities are endless – if the bureaucrats heed the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion: Endless Possibilities

A real and free Inter-Orthodox Council could first consult with monastics, parish clergy and people about what all the diocesan bishops of the whole Church (some 800 of them – who knows?) could discuss. It could reaffirm the Orthodox truths before the end to the apostate West and to all those parts of the world which after 2,000 years have still not heard of the Church and Orthodoxy, only of compromised and deformed colonial versions of Christianity, from which Orthodoxy must be distinguished and distanced. Support could be given to the Patriarchate of Alexandria for missionary work in its huge territory of Africa, a potential flock of over one billion Non-Orthodox. Support could be given to the Russian Church for missionary work in its huge territory of Asia, a potential flock of nearly four and a half billion Non-Orthodox. Support could be given for Orthodox unity and missionary work, instead of ethnic rivalry, in Western Europe, North and South America and Oceania (over one and a half billion Non-Orthodox), where new Local Churches have to be set up, given the millennial apostasy of heterodox structures, which are not going to return to Church Christianity. The possibilities are endless because with God in the Holy Spirit all things are possible.