The antichrist essence of Metropolitan Sergii's Declaration of 1927
and of the heresy of sergianism
(from the reports read at the 2004 ROCA Sobor of Bishops)
The Declaration of 1927 was an Act of betrayal of the Russian Church. Betrayed was the Word of God concerning the concept of authority. Tightly intertwined with this betrayal was the lie concerning the allegedly God-given authority of the God-hating regime.
"The truth of the world was shaken", wrote Hieromartyr Bishop Damaskin, "and the lie became the law and the basis of human life. Man's word lost all connection with the truth, with the Pre-Eternal Word; it lost all right to be trusted and respected. Men lost faith in one other and sank into an ocean of insincerity, hypocrisy and falsehood. But in the midst of this element of universal corruption, protected by a wall of martyrdom and confession of the faith, the Church stood unmoved, as the pillar and foundation of the Truth. Men who had lied to the very greatest extent that they could, and had grown weary with their lies, knew that there is a place into which the murky waters of falsehood are unable to penetrate; there is a throne upon which the very Truth itself establishes its kingdom and where words ring not like a counterfeit coin possessing no value, but as pure gold.
Is it not on this account that so many hearts, which previously had been distanced from her by many years of indifference and distrust, having now been seized by the tremors of faith, have made their way to the Church lately? What will they say, what will they feel, when thence, also, from the heights of the ultimate haven of Truth which the world has rejected, words of hypocrisy, servility and calumny will begin to resound from the pinnacle of the ambvon? Will it not seem to them that falsehood is celebrating its final victory over the world and that there, where the Image of Truth-Incarnate glimmered for them with unfading light, the masque of the Father of Lies is mocking them with a disgusting grin? One of two things is true: either the Church actually is the undefiled and pure Bride of Christ the Kingdom of Truth and then truth is that air without which we cannot breathe or else she, like the rest of the world which lieth in evil, also lives in falsehood and by means of falsehood, and then all is lies, and our every word is a lie, our every prayer, our every sacrament".
This epistle received the highest endorsement from the Confessors of Russia. In 1946, Metropolitan Anastassy made the following commentary concerning it:
"How great the spiritually-moving force, how great the confessional daring and true wisdom that are concealed in these fiery words, in which we hear, as it were, the voice of the apostles, the voice of the ancient fathers and teachers of the Church and the great confessors of Orthodoxy of our Fatherland Saints Philipp and Hermogen. How empty, in comparison with them, are Metropolitan Sergius' cunningingly wicked sophistries and twisted distortions of words, by means of which he attempted to justify his path of falsehood, whereunto he sought to entice the entire Russian Church. Continuing to develop the arguments that he put forth arguments that are based upon the ancient non-Christian principle: "the end justifies the means", his present-day followers have gone so far as to begin sacrilegiously preaching the existence of a "holy lie" and have devised a unique "podvig of lying" for the sake of saving the Church. Is it possible to deviate any further "into words of wicked cunning, in order to invent justifications for committing sin"? Is it possible that these people have forgotten about him whom the Gospel calls "the Father" and progenitor of lies and that any "podvig of lying" (if such a podvig actually exists, for lying is almost always the fruit of faint-heartedness and cowardice, which flees from any podvig), can only be done in his name, and in no way, whatsoever, in the name of or for the sake of the good of the Church, which decisively condemns and rejects falsehood".
But the Declaration does not limit itself to lying, alone. The falsehood contained in it pales before the appeal to the Orthodox to regard the soviet regime as would the most-zealous adherents of Orthodoxy, for whom it is as precious as truth and life, with all its dogmas and traditions, with its entire canonical and divine-service structure.
This means that the Christian is being called upon to serve the Antichrist, in the exact same manner as he served Christ with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his thoughts, with all his senses.
Thus, the Declaration contains within itself not only betrayal and falsehood, but also a definite substitution of anti-Christianity for [true] Christianity and of an anti-church for the [true] Church.
Those people who accept such a radical substitution of Belial for Christ deprive themselves, perhaps forever, of the moral capacity to fight oneself and the enemy of mankind. They become "eternal slaves", in the words of a certain authorized agent of atheism, and are no longer able to withstand making compromises with their conscience; having no hope of saving themselves within the bosom of the Church, they incline towards received earthly compensation ambition, cupidity and libertarianism.
Even in the event that such a one, having inclined towards being in league with the satanic regime, thinks of deceiving that regime, it has already imprinted upon him its seal of the "eternal slave". To suppose that such a man enters into an agreement with the soviet authorities for the sake of saving the Church, such a thing is impossible, for it does not accord with the moral essence of the Church as the pure Bride of Christ, and with the eternal witness within Her by means of confession of the faith and of martyrdom.
"We, on the other hand, declare that falsehood only breeds falsehood, and that it cannot be the foundation of the Church. We have before our eyes the shameful way of "the Church of the wicked" of renovationism; and this selfsame shame of a gradual sinking into the engulfing morass of ever more and more fearsome compromises and apostasy; this horror of complete moral decay, inevitably awaits church society..." (From a letter by Hieromartyr Bishop Damaskin).
But the most astonishing thing of all is that the regime itself, at some moment or other, became troubled about the "moral" condition of the clergy to which it had given birth. K. S. Kharchev, the chairman of the Religious Affairs Council, upon meeting with the instructors of the Supreme Party School (Moscow, at the end of March 1988), offered to change church policy:
"At the present time, a priest frequently is not tied to his parish in any way, whatsoever; he is from elsewhere by origin, frequently even of a different nationality. Such a one visits the parish once a week by automobile, serves a liturgy, and there have been such, and wants to know nothing else. Many even like this, for they are responsible for nothing: neither for the flock, nor for the money, nor for the upkeep of the temple. The commissioner, in issuing a license, warns him: get your 350 rubles and don't stick your nose into anything. What goes on in the parish is known neither to the priest, nor to the commissioner, nor to the party".
Previously, there used to be a practice: to demand a passport at baptism. This provided the party workers with the opportunity to find those who were baptized through their passport data and to act upon believers through administrative methods... Now the practice of presenting passports in church has been done away with through our initiative. And it came to light that it was the priests who opposed this change most of all. The explanation is simple: for an official baptism they were entitled to 6.5 rubles, while for an underground one up to 100 rubles.
We, the party, have become caught in the snare of our own anti-ecclesiastical policy of prohibitions and infringements, Kharchev reports we have cut off the pope [a pejorative term for a priest, in Russian] from the believers, but the believers have not thereby begun to trust the local organs more; rather, the party and the state are losing ever more control over the believers. And, consequently, we have the appearance of unspiritual believers, i.e., of those who carry out the ritual side and are indifferent to everything. But the main thing is that they are indifferent to communism... it is easier for the party to make a sincere believer also a believer in communism. Here there arises before us a task: the education of a new type of priest".
The majority of the New Martyrs and the New Confessors of Russia expressed their firm conviction that the sergianist church is a counterfeit of the genuine Church, that it is an anti-church.
"Truly, these malefactors, ill-intentioned against the Church, are not of man, but of him who from of old was a murderer and who thirsts for our eternal perdition, whose servants have become the new betrayers, having counterfeited the very essence of the Orthodox Christian Church: they have made her not heavenly, but earthly, and converted her from a grace-giving union into a political organization" (Holy New Martyr Bishop Viktor [Ostrovidov] of Glazov and Votkina).
"Two or three weeks ago, I read a letter which quoted the original words of a certain "blessed woman" of renown, spoken by her in response to a question concerning Metropolitan Sergei, in the course of which, incidentally, the questioner pointed out that Metropolitan Sergei had not sinned against Orthodox dogmas; that he was not an heretic. "So what, if he is not a heretic!" the blessed one retorted. "He is worse than a heretic: he has worshipped the antichrist; and, unless he repents, his lot is in Gehenna, together with the satanists" (From a letter of Archbishop Hilarion [Troitsky]).
"Throughout the entire Christian Era, not a single hierarch has introduced so many destructive opinions, overthrowing the great Christian podvig of martyrdom and confession of the faith. Not a single one, as yet, has inspired or taught that one should rejoice at the overthrow of everything that was achieved through the preaching of the Apostles, the suffering of the holy martyrs and confessors... What a shame that the majority of hierarchs, hushing up the very essence of the issue that has been created, are bypassing it, not seeing a canon dealing directly with this subject, and thereby put their consciences to rest. But if there is not a directly applicable canon, there is the Holy Gospel, the basis of all canons" (Zosima, schema-abbot of the Svir Hermitage).
«I, a sinner, think that such ecclesiastical activists should be called not only heretics and schismatics, but also apostates. Metropolitan Sergei introduces into the divine service a heresy of modernized apostasy unheard of in the history of the Church... Metropolitan Sergei has trampled down not the external side, but the very inner essence of ecclesiastical Orthodoxy. For the "hosanna" to both Christ and Antichrist, which is being sung today in Christian temples!, touches upon the very essence of the Christian faith and is manifest apostasy a departure from the faith, a falling away from God...
And that is why I reject the sergianist church. The body of the church, from without, appears to be whole and entire, and everything seems to be in order; but, because of its falling away from God, it has already been beheaded. Regardless of how much Metropolitan Sergei might scream about his fidelity to Orthodoxy, the principal thing is already missing. What we have now is not the Church, but an ecclesiastical party organization. Present before us now is not an ecclesiastical barque, but a sergianist dinghy "the destroyer of souls"» (New Hieromartyr Bishop Pavel [Kratirov])
"It, i.e., "the Declaration" [of Metropolitan Sergei], let us here employ the words of St. Hilary of Pictavia, directed at the Arian Constantia, "[...] creeps up quietly in our name; [...] slays with affection; [...] commits iniquity under the guise of extreme piety. [...] Destroys the faith of Christ by being a false prophetess of Christ. [...] Always disposes the horrors of persecution by destroying pardon in sin and martyrdom in confession... [...]Teaching people to confess the faith without belief..." (From "An Appeal To All The Faithful Sons And Daughters Of Christ's Church", Autumn 1927).
"This church has done something even more terrible than violating canons and dogmas: it has been unfaithful to the Holy Spirit, having lied before all the world that in Russia, now called the USSR, there rules not a God-abominated government of theomachic despotism in the spirit of antichrist, which hates Christ and the True Orthodox Church that shall be faithful to Him to the end, but "the Lord's chosen one, leading our fatherland to well-being and glory" (Confessor of the Faith, Prof. I. Andreyev).
"Metropolitan Sergei fell away from the Church; that is, by his actions, he violated the canons of the Church; Metropolitan Sergei is no longer within the bosom of the Orthodox Church. That Church which has recognized truth in communism is not the Church". An "organization", bought at the price of worshipping the antichrist is unworthy of the Church". (New Hieromartyr Archbishop Serafim [Samoilovich] of Uglich).
It is natural that in connection with such a generally held opinion there arises the question of grace within the sergianist church: does the grace of God abide in a manifestly anti-Christian society? This question, of course, did not touch upon God's grace, in general, which upholds life upon this earth, but rather upon the grace of the mysteries, given by the Church.
The majority of the Confessors responded to this question in an identical manner:
"While there exists a temple of God that is not of "the Church of the wicked", go to church, when possible; but, if not pray at home..... You will say: but where is one to receive communion? From whom? I will answer: the Lord will show you; or an Angel will commune you, for in "the Church of the wicked" the Body and Blood of the Lord are not present, nor can they be..." (Confessor Sergei Nilus).
"One of two things is true. Either the Church is actually the unsullied and pure Bride of Christ, the Kingdom of Truth, and the Truth, then, is the air, without which we cannot breathe, or else she, like the entire world that lieth in evil, lives in falsehood and by means of falsehood, and then everything is a lie each and every word, each and every prayer, each and every mystery..." (From "The Kievan Appeal", composed by holy New Martyr Bishop Damaskin Glukhovsky).
"In the affair of laying waste the Church, in addition to his betrayal, Metropolitan Sergei also uttered an onerous blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which according to the true word of Christ will never be forgiven him, either in this life or in the next... Having kneaded into one in the great and most-holy mystery of the Eucharist, in opposition to the word of God, "the faithful with the unfaithful" (2 Cor. 6, 14-18), the Holy Church and her enemies, waging a war against her to the death, the Metropolitan, by this, his blasphemy, violates the prayerful sense of the great mystery and destroys its grace-endowing significance for the eternal salvation of the souls of Orthodox believers. Hence, the divine service also becomes not only devoid of grace on account of the gracelessness of the worker of the sacred rite, but it also becomes an abomination in the eyes of God, wherefore both the one performing it and the one participating in it are subject to particular condemnation" (Holy New Martyr Bishop Viktor [Ostrovidov] of Glazov and Votkina).
The holy New Martyrs the Bishops Aleksy (Bui) of Voronezh, Dimitry (Liubimov) of Gdov, Hierotheus (Afonik) of Nikolsk, and Viktor (Ostrovidov) of Votkina in their sermons, labeled the ecclesiastical organization headed by Metropolitan Sergei "the kingdom of antichrist", the sergianist temples "dens of satan's thieves", the sergianist hierarchy "servants of satan"; the communion of the sergianists they styled "the food of demons" (Letter 1 of Metropolitan Sergei to Metropolitan Kirill of Kazan', dated 18 September 1929).
Holy New Martyr Bishop Hilarion (Belsky) denied [the efficacy of] the mysteries wrought by the sergianists, baptizing infants anew and re-marrying those already wedded in the "soviet church" (Protopriest M. Polsky, "The New Martyrs Of Russia", vol. 2, p.124)
Despite the fact that the above-cited opinions are personal opinions, they nevertheless are authoritative indicators for all Orthodox Christians. If one is to consider that approximately three quarters of the Russian episcopate did not recognize Metropolitan Sergei, then the opinions expressed above acquire universal significance [sobornoye znacheniye]. In addition, the Catacomb Church condemned sergianism as an heresy and anathematized it. Concerning this, we have the testimony of New Hieromartyr Bishop Maxim (Zhizhilenko), cited by Protopresbyter Michael Polsky: "He (Bishop Maxim of Serpukhov) again re-iterated that I was never to take a blessing from obstinate "sergianists". "The soviet and the Catacomb Churches are incompatible", Vladyka Maxim stated meaningfully, firmly and with conviction, and then, being silent for a moment, quietly added: "The secret Catacomb Church of the wilderness anathematized the sergianists and those with them". (Protopresbyter Michael Polsky "The New Martyrs Of Russia", part 2, Jordanville, 1957, p.30). Here we find also another testimony: "The supreme, spiritual and holy judgment and condemnation of sergianism has been carried out by impartial witnesses of its very origin faithful "Tikhonites", these genuine martyrs, who have sealed this, their witness, with their deaths" ("The New Martyrs Of Russia", part 2, Foreword, p. XII).
The text of the anathema adopted by the Josephite communities (around 1928-29), which is used to this day in the Catacomb communities, states:
"To those holding fast to the most-insane renovationist heresy of the sergianists: to those who teach that the earthly establishment of the Church of God is maintained by rejecting the truths of Christ; and to those who declare that the Church of Christ is saved by serving the theomachic authorities and carrying out their godless commands, even unto the trampling down of the sacred canons, the traditions of the Holy Fathers and the divine dogmas, and to the destruction of all Christianity; and to those who revere the antichrist and his servants, and his forerunners, and all his minions, as a legitmate authority and one established by God; and to all the leaders of that antichristian heresy, those who revile the Confessors and New Martyrs (to Sergei of Nizhegorod, to Nikolai of Kiev and to Aleksy of Khutyn), and to those who would repeat their doctrines, and to the renovationists, and to other heretics, anathema".
There also exists a slightly different version accepted by the Josephite hierarchy of the Catacomb True-Orthodox Church (TOC). In its spirit and sense, it is the confession of faith of the TOC from the very beginning of the sergianist schism:
"To those who madly proclaim the renovationist heresy of sergianism; to those who teach that the earthly existence of the Church of God can be based upon the denial of the truth of Christ and proclaim that serving God-hating authorities and being faithful to their atheistic commands which trample upon the sacred canons, the tradition of the Holy Fathers and the divine dogmas, and destroy all of Christianity, saves the Church of Christ; and to those who revere the antichrist and his servants, and his forerunners, and all his minions, as a legitimate authority from God; and to those who blaspheme against the new confessors and martyrs Anathema!". This text of the anathema against the heresy of sergianism was published in "Orthodox Rus" ¹14 (1563), 1/14 July, 1996).
There are also other versions, adopted by various Catacomb communities:
"To the sergianists, who, with their mentor Sergei Stragorodsky, teach that a blaspheming, godless and iniquitous "authority" is a God-given authority, according to the words of the Apostle, and who, by means of this iniquitous doctrine, rend the Body of Christ: Anathema".
Or: "To those who insanely teach that any authority on earth is of God, contrary to the holy Apostles and Fathers, and who thus recognize an authority from out of the satanic depths as being legitimate and revere it as one established by God Anathema.
To those who say and teach that it behooves us to save the Church by means of sycophancy,for fear of those who can kill the body, and who thereby attempt to maintain the earthly establishment of the Church, while sweeping aside the truth of Christ, and thus adhere to the sergianist heresy Anathema.
To the pseudo-patriarchs and persecutors of the true Church of Christ: to Sergei Stragorodsky, the originator of the heresy; to Aleksy Simansky, to Pimen Izvekov, to Aleksy Ridiger, as well as to pseudo-metropolitan Nikodim Rotov, a zealot and champion of this God-abominated heresy of sergianism, and to all those who would repeat their doctrines and their followers Anathema".
We also have preserved the testimony of the Ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), the third first-hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, concerning the anathematization of the soviet pseudo-church.
From a letter of the Ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky):
"What is the "soviet church"? Fr. Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev) spoke extensively and insistently concerning the fact that the most dreadful thing of all that the theomachic regime did in Russia, was the bringing into being of the "soviet church", which the bolsheviks presented to the people as the true Church, having chased the Orthodox Church into the catacombs and concentration camps.
This pseudo-church was twice anathematized. His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon, and the All-Russian Church Sobor anathematized the communists and all their collaborators. This fearsome anathema has not been removed to this day and preserves its force, inasmuch as it can be removed only by another such All-Russian Church Sobor, as the canonical Supreme Church Authority. And a frightful thing occurred in 1927, when Metropolitan Sergei, who was heading the Church, by means of his disgraceful apostate declaration subordinated the Russian Church to the bolsheviks and proclaimed collaboration with them. And thus was exactly fulfilled the expression contained in the prayer before communion: "fell under [his] own anathema!" For in 1918, the Church anathematized all those who would collaborate with communists, and in 1927 itself entered into the company of those collaborators and began to laud the red, God-hating regime to laud the red beast spoken of in the Apocalypse.
And that is not all. When Metropolitan Sergei publicized his criminal declaration the faithful sons and daughters [of the true Church] immediately separated themselves from the soviet church and thus did the Catacomb Church come into being. And she, in her turn, anathematized the offical church for its betrayal of Christ".
"Will someone dare to claim that the Lord and His grace abide in the church of the wicked, which lauds His satanized foes and collaborates with them, and which consequently finds itself under a double anathema, as specified above? Can a church that has united with God-haters have grace?! The answer is clear!
Saint Theophan the Recluse, in his day, warned that a frightful time was drawing near, when people would see the appearance of church splendour solemn services, ecclesiastical ranks, and so on while within there would be a complete betrayal of the Spirit of Christ. Do we not see this in the soviet church? Patriarchs, metropolitans, "all the ranks of clergy and monastics" and at the same time, union with God-haters, that is a clear betrayal of Christ".
...accepting the soviet clergy, we employ the principle of economia. And we accept the clergy from Moscow not as having grace, but as receiving it in the very act of unification. But we cannot, of course, recognize the church of the wicked as being a bearer and keeper of grace. For outside Orthodox there is NO grace, and the soviet church has deprived itself of grace".
What is sergianism? Sergianism is the false teaching of anti-Christianity, in accordance with which each and every regime and, moroever, a godless, anti-Christian regime, at that is a legitimate and divinely-established authority, which the Church must serve, not out of fear, but for conscience's sake, at the same time preserving the external ceremonial and order of Orthodoxy. Thus, it is the conjoining of that which is not compatible: serving God and Belial, simultaneously.
Sergianism is the declaration and confession of the view that it is supposedly the people who save the Church, and not the Church that saves the people; the recognition of the satanic communist regime as a God-given authority, the blessing of this God-hating regime and collaboration with it, the promulgation of the shameless lie that there is no persecution of believers or of the Church of Christ, when such actually has occurred; the betrayal to torture and death of Orthodox Christians who refused to agree with all this falsehood, and the slandering and stigmatization of them as counter-revolutionaries and criminals; and also the proclamation of many years to the God-hating authorities.
Sergianism is the trampling down of the Church's inner freedom in order to satisfy Her satanized foes; it is the distortion of the very nature of the Church and of the Dogma of the Church; it is the false conviction that preservation of the Church of Christ is dependent upon the preservation of the external ecclesiatical administrative apparatus. Sergianism, according to the teaching of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, is neo-renovationism and, consequently, a new renovationist heresy.
Sergianism is a spiritual fall in the creedal and canonical, as well as in the moral, sense. In the final analysis, sergianism manifests its anti-Christian essense in adhering to various heresies (the heresy of ecumenism, among them) and in persecuting those Orthodox Christians who are not in agreement with it. Sergianism is the best form and the best "spiritual" establishment for the swifter and more convenient acceptance of the Antichrist and the worship of him.
Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko):
"They say: the patriarchate has changed nothing, be it in the way of dogmas, or of services, or of rites.
No, we will answer, the Patriarchate has violated the essential dogma of the Church of Christ; it has rejected Her essential appointment to serve for the renascence of men and has replaced it with service to the godless aims of communism, which is unnatural for the Church. This apostasy is more bitter than all the previous Arianisms, Nestorianisms, Iconoclasms, and others. And it is not the personal sin of some one hierarch or another, but the root sin of the Moscow patriarchate, confirmed, declared, bound with an oath before all the world; it is, so to speak, dogmatized apostasy" (Archbishop Vitaly "Motifs Of My Life", p. 25, Jordanville, 1955)
№16: Letter to "Nasha Strana"
by Father Michael Ardov
OPEN LETTER OF FR. MICHAEL ARDOV,
RECTOR OF MOSCOW ROAC PARISH
TO THE EDITOR OF NASHA STRANA
(OUR COUNTRY), BUENOS AIRES
Dear Nikolay Leonidovich,
Please accept my immense gratitude for the copies of the newspaper that you sent, and for the flattering references concerning me. I have read Nasha Strana only sporadically until now, but each time that I have read it, I have been struck by the main characteristics of your publication - honesty, and a stand which is rooted in principle. I was thoroughly delighted to see in your newspaper the first use of the term RF-ia. This was a true find, indeed! With the red banner flying overhead, the Masonic pentagram on its forehead, and Mikhalkov’s anthem on its lips, RF-ia looks like the direct descendent of the bloodthirsty Sovdepia.
And now, on to the issues of Nasha Strana that you sent me. I read them all at once. God bless you and your staff! The White emigration is, indeed, still alive! There is still some powder left in the magazine!
But I will cut directly to the problems concerning the Church, which is the main area of interest for me. All of your writers and reporters suffer from one essential flaw; they are too obsessed with current events, and do not bother to look into the not-too-distant past.
If we compare the history of the ROCOR with the history of Russia, we can find some similarities. It is appropriate to compare that which took place at the Sobor of October, 2000, which destroyed the reputation of the Church Abroad, with the revolution of October, 1917. In both cases, there was a usurpation of power by completely cynical people who were, to put it simply, “agents of Moscow.” But nowadays, practically no one remembers that the Church Abroad also had its own sort of February revolution, perpetrated by the same powers, which pushed the present shameless bishops into the embrace of President Putin and Patriarch Ridiger.
In my opinion, the ROCOR was, for decades, the most implacable of the enemies of Communism. It suffices to recall the Epistle to the World Conference (Genoa) of 1921, which was published by the Sobor held in Sremsky Karlovtsy. In part, it says the following:
“Peoples of Europe! Peoples of the world! Have compassion on our good, open, noble-hearted Russian people who have fallen into the hands of criminals on a world scale! Do not support them, do not strengthen them against our children and grandchildren! Rather, show assistance to those of our Russian citizens who are honest. Arm them, send them your volunteers, and help them to eradicate the Bolsheviks - that cult of murder, pillaging, and blasphemy - from Russia, and from the entire world.”
The Church Abroad always exposed the Bolsheviks and their accomplices for what they were, independently of how “cold” the war may have been between the USSR and the West, without looking over its shoulder all the time at the statements of the Kremlin’s ideologues about “peaceful coexistence” or “détente.” And, understandably, the Soviet agents waged a merciless war against the “Karlovtsy.”
We remember that after the end of the WWII, when the expansionism of the Communists grew by leaps and bounds, there were two major victories over the Church Abroad. The first was when that part of her that existed in China was destroyed. The second was when, in 1948, the Israeli government gave all of the properties within its territory that had belonged to the “Karlovtsy” over to the “Soviet church.”
However, the agents of the Soviet Union were unable, at that time, to destroy or enslave the Church Abroad, partly because the person managing the affairs of the Synod was the unbending and uncompromising Count Yury Pavlovich Grabbe, (later, Protopresbyter George, and from 1979 on, Bishop Gregory), the confidant and right-hand man of three First Hierarchs: Metropolitans Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Anastasy (Gribanovsky), and Philaret (Voznesensky).
Here is a notable episode from the history of the 20th century. During the spring of 1972, an important pilgrim visited the Holy Land - Patriarch Pimen of Moscow, who had just recently been elected to that lofty position. Visits of this kind always had a propagandistic effect as their aim. They were designed to convince the outside world that there was “freedom of religion” inside the USSR, and that the Moscow Patriarchate was no puppet of the Bolsheviks, but a completely normal local church. In those days, the head of the Church Abroad’s Mission in Jerusalem was Archimandrite Anthony (Grabbe), the elder son of Protopresbyter George. Through the efforts of these two men, the significance of the Patriarch of Moscow’s visit was lessened and watered down. In the archives of Bishop Gregory, there is a copy of a letter that he had once written to one of his supporters, V.I. Alekseev. The future bishop wrote:
“May 25/June 7, 1972
Dear Vasily Ivanovich,
My doctors have been insisting that I get of New York for a while and go to a place with a warmer and more moderate climate. So, I have chosen Jerusalem, from where I am writing this letter. I am staying at the highest point, on the Mount of Olives, and the air here is wonderful.
I arrived on the second day after Patriarch Pimen and his entourage left. For now, my general impression is that his visit didn’t do much for Moscow in spite of the great expense and all of the pomp and circumstances. Pimen showed only too clearly that he is not someone who amounts to much. Both the Jews and the diplomatic corps noticed that he didn’t say anything without having a specially prepared cheat sheet in hand. The main theme of his speeches was attacking us. The most active one of them was Juvenaly. In every case, if he didn’t have his cheat sheet, Pimen deferred all questions to him for an answer.
I haven’t met with the Greeks yet, who are clearly confused when face to face with us, and who have the feeling that by bowing down in front of the Muscovites and receiving their gifts, they have somehow been sullied by it. By the way, several of them showed a rather open disdain of them since Fr. Anthony has been doing a good job here of informing them about the true nature of the Moscow Patriarchate…
I am sending you a copy of a rather important statement concerning the visit of Patriarch Pimen. I consider it to be very important. As you know, there was a ten year gap in the biography of Patriarch Pimen, ending in 1946. If he, being a hieromonk, served in the military and reached the rank of colonel, then he would have had to renounce his faith. Aside from that, military service is incompatible with the priesthood.
Thus, he may have been liable to being defrocked, let alone being a candidate for the patriarchal throne, and, in general, couldn’t even be a bishop.”
It is my deeply held conviction that this very incident, the somewhat unsuccessful visit of Patriarch Pimen to the Holy Land, is what motivated the powers that be in Moscow to make an important decision: the Grabbes, both father and son, must be removed from the leadership of the Church Abroad at any cost. However, as long as Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) was the First Hierarch, this goal was unattainable. But as soon as this hierarch went to the Lord, Moscow’s agents, who were already in force inside the Church Abroad, were able to realize what can only be called a revolution.
At the Sobor of 1986, in addition to violations of canonical and civil law, the manufactured “case” of Archimandrite Anthony (Grabbe) was examined, resulting in his being chased out of the Church Abroad. And his father, Bishop Gregory, a man who had run the affairs of the Synod for 55 years, was literally forced into retirement. His newly vacated position was filled by none other than Archbishop Laurus (Shkurla), presently First Hierarch, who, as we now see, was assigned the job of completing the process of the inglorious unification with the patriarchate, i.e. of the complete subjugation of the remnants of a once valiant Church to the dictates of Moscow.
Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) was covered with all kinds of filth his entire life. This continued on even after his retirement, and in a certain sense, continues on even until today. Alas! Amongst the Russian émigré society there have been found but few people who bothered to question the nature of the incessant slander and ask themselves: Who profits from this harassment, and what could be the goals of the evil persecutors of such a wonderful man? There is another question: Is it really possible that Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret were so stupid? And yet, not only were they well disposed toward their assistant, they trusted him completely.
We have to hand it Vladyka Gregory. He understood exactly which way the wind was blowing, and that is why he reacted so stoically to his evil-breathing detractors, and, one may say, with true Christian meekness. In 1963, he wrote to one of his supporters, Archpriest Alexander Trubnikov:
“Thank you for your letter and for your kind words. This is not the first time that I have been the subject of intrigues and attacks. For now, they have abated a bit, but at one time, they were very intense, and, of course, have yet to be be exhausted. They will come back to bite me whenever they get a chance. My only consolation is that they arise not so much from personal enemies, but from those who wish to weaken our center and divide our Church.”
But I would like to return to the Sobor of 1986. The Canadian bishop Vitaly (Ustinov) became the new Metropolitan of the Church Abroad. God bless him, but aside from his inarguable piety, he is a man of limited mental capacity and extreme pridefulness, and it is not very difficult to gain control over such people. “Moscow’s agents” manipulated this First Hierarch for as long as it took for all of the older bishops of the Church Abroad to die off and it became possible for the course of the ship of the Church to be radically altered. Then the unfortunate Metropolitan Vitaly was kicked out into “retirement” so that he would not be underfoot and get in the way.
But let me return to the fate of Bishop Gregory. Even though he was already retired, he nevertheless tried to take part in the life of the Church. In particular, there are no less then seventeen letters and reports addressed by him to the Sobors, the Synod, and the Metropolitan in which he warned his fellow bishops, literally pleaded with them, not to swerve from the salvific course upon which the Church Abroad had always proceeded. But, alas, this was a voice crying in the wilderness. Take, for example, the report of Bishop Gregory to Metropolitan Vitaly of July 17/30, 1993, Concerning Rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate. Here he mentions the regular contacts with the “Sergianists” that were already taking place with Archbishop Mark (Arndt). This report concludes with the following sentence:
“I must again ask for an answer to my prior question: When, and from whom, did Archbishop Mark, or any of our bishops, receive the authority to enter into a dialogue or talks with the Moscow Patriarchate?”
Vladyka Gregory received no answer to his question this time either.
Less than a year later, he wrote a lengthy letter to the Metropolitan which one could call sorrowful and prophetic. Here are several excerpts from it:
“For all these years of the existence of our Church Abroad, we were respected and famous for nothing less than our uncompromising adherence to the canons. Others hated us, but they dared not show disrespect for us. Now, however, we have shown to the whole world that the canons are nothing more to us than empty words, and we have become a laughingstock in the eyes of all who have any kind of connection to ecclesiastical questions.
At the Lesna Sobor, you yourself permitted yourself to tell those of us who were in attendance, that now is not the time to be bothering with the canons, but that we have to act quickly. You, who are the helmsman of the ship of the Church, triumphantly, before the entire Sobor, announced to us that we have to hasten to set sail upon a course without sails and without a rudder. At the time, I was greatly dismayed by your words, but knowing your irritation with me for insisting upon the necessity of abiding by the canons, I nevertheless hoped that all was not lost and that our bishops would somehow be able to shake off the nightmare of the last few years.
Think, Vladyka, of the tens of thousands of Orthodox souls that we have scandalized, in Russia and abroad. Do not console yourself with the thought that if there is blame to be had, that it lies equally upon the shoulders of all of our bishops. The main part of the blame lies squarely upon your shoulders, as the leader of our Sobor. …
I was a witness and participant in the glorious period of the life of the Church Abroad, and now, with pain I look upon what I regard to be her inglorious end. …
It is absolutely essential for you to abruptly and decisively alter the course of our Church’s administration back in the direction of observing the canons, before it is too late. Vladyka, please do not allow your name to go down in the history of the Russian Church as being connected, not with the peaceful continuation of the development of church life, but with her radical and shameful destruction, in Russia and abroad.
March 24/April 6, 1994
As can be expected, there was no response.
I would be very pleased, my dear Nikolay Leonidovich, if my letter to you would happen to appear on the pages of your most esteemed publication.
With that, I call down God’s blessing upon you and your staff.
Archpriest Michael Ardov
©Vertograd, 2004. http://www.vertograd.blogspot.com/
Vladyka Vitaly being "kicked out into 'retirement'" is not hard to imagine. The Laurus synod insisted he retire voluntarily because of his admitted "dementia." It is easy to imagine that the suggestion to him to go into voluntary retirement was rather insistently repeated until he gave in.
This is important history, and true, but it is not a reason to run and join ROAC. If all the strong people who understood the situation had stayed home, in ROCOR, then maybe we would have had a fighting chance against the Laurus synod. But as it happened, many of us conveniently stepped aside and cleared their path to the union. That was wrong. All the schisms [ROCIE, ROAC, RTOC] served to weaken ROCOR, and cooperate with the aim of the MP to annihilate the ROCOR, whether they are aware of it or not. And it is certain that some of the hierarchs were and are quite aware.
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