Feeding the Wolves and Saving the Sheep?

It appears to me this article was first posted in April of 2007 here http://revniteli.livejournal.com/19146.html?thread=14538,  then reposted July 2007 here http://sobor2006.livejournal.com/295688.html at the request of our Fr. Victor. 

№60: Plan to be in the MP, yet not to commemorate Alexis II?
Non-Commemoration of the Prelate and yet Staying Under His Aegis 
Leads ROCOR to Self-Destruction 

Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!

Once again, another very dangerous obstacle has appeared on the road to our salvation. It has arisen in the last few days and can be considered a type of “diaspora neo-sergianism” and presents a compromise to the faithful servants of ROCOR on one of the most important issues regarding relations with the Moscow Patriarchate.

The idea is to create a group of parishes that will remain under Metropolitan Lavr and his Synod and within the Church Abroad, but which will not commemorate the Moscow Patriarch after the ceremonial signing on May 17th of the “Act of Canonical Communion” between ROCOR and the MP. Instead, they will continue commemorating the Metropolitan of the Church Abroad.

Before considering this matter, it is important to remember that not commemorating the Moscow Patriarch is not something new, and in fact, occurred not so long ago in the MP itself. Where are those righteous priests and their parishes now? All of those “protestants” were severely punished and their parishes were returned under MP control. One can be sure that this handful of “non-commemorating” émigré priests will suffer the same fate. The only difference will be that our Russian brothers were unable to escape to religious freedom from their cage, which they desired so fiercely, while our émigré dunderheads are willingly entering the cage, accompanied by festive singing.

Let us now look at the matter of non-commemoration more closely.

It is clearly stated in the fifth paragraph of the “Act of Canonical Communion” that the MP Patriarch is the Primate of the one Russian Orthodox Church. This Act was accepted by our Synod, and after it is signed in Moscow, those faithful of our Church who remain under Metropolitan Lavr and his Synod will have to recognize the Patriarch’s authority over them.

Normally, according to the canons, neither a bishop, nor a priest, can act in separation from their Primate and neglect to commemorate him during the Holy Liturgy and still gain access into the Catholic Space of Divine Grace. (Catholicity has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church.) That is why the commemoration of the Primate of the autocephalous orthodox church is strictly regulated by the Holy Canons. The guarantee of being able to go into the Catholic Space with its associated state of Grace in its Mysteries, is not possible in the Church without a canonical Primate. For a Primate to be canonical, it is essential that the Apostolic Succession remain inviolate along with the correct preaching of Orthodox beliefs. Once these criteria are met, then we can go into to the Catholic Space and through the liturgy, remain one with God Himself.

As a rule, a Primate is the head of an Autocephalous Church, and only in liturgical union with him is this entry into Catholicity achieved for every bishop or priest. This is equally vital for all the Mysteries of the Church. That is why the Primate’s name is proclaimed during the appropriate time in all the litanies. However during the rite of the Mystery of Mysteries -The Holy and Divine Liturgy, this commemoration has a unique arrangement-the canons stipulate that during the Prothesis, the first portion of the prosphora is removed in honor of the Primate of the Church. His name is also proclaimed during the Grand Entrance and during the Consecration of the Gifts.

The Metropolitans of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia have canonical status as Primates. This fact is without question and is recognized by the entire Orthodox world. Perhaps they may be the “lesser” of the others – as Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) pointed out correctly (in his usual humble manner) in his Sorrowful Epistle to the Ecumenical Patriarch – but the question is not of “relative size.” For our salvation it is enough that through their connection to the lawful Primate, our priests can administer the lifesaving Mysteries to the faithful and the faithful can thus enter into living communion with God. 

One sees a completely different situation within the MP in the way it exists today. Setting aside a complete discussion of all the troubling aspects of life within the MP, we will ignore the dubious ordination of the MP episcopate and its steadfast dedication to ecumenism, a dangerous belief that threatens to preach Orthodoxy using secular logic and a belief that is excused by politically-based justifications. Nor will we address the new forms of sergianism, which have become the norm now and which bedevil the church like a chronic illness. Neither shall we dare to entertain the literal question of God knows how the Moscow Patriarchate, a church body rife with so many canonical irregularities, can pass Divine Grace to its Christian believers.

One question only concerns us at this time-is “non-commemoration” a solution, even if only a temporary one, that can safeguard the spiritual state of the faithful of the Church Abroad during these “times of troubles”? 

Therefore, let us begin by discussing the issue of the Primate of the MP. We hasten to add that we are not talking about a specific person. Alexy II is the current Primate of the MP. Tomorrow, it could be Metropolitan Kyrill (Gundaev) or someone else, perhaps even someone more worthy, but this is irrelevant to our discussion.

We will not burden the reader by citing the many quotations from the Conciliar and Synodal Declarations of ROCOR, but we will remind the reader that since 1943, not a single “Soviet” Patriarch, including Alexy II, was considered to be legitimate by the Church Abroad.

It is known to all, that seven years before he became the first Soviet Patriarch, Metropolitan Sergius found himself in schism from the Local (Pomestniy) Orthodox Church. He perpetrated this schism in 1936, when, upon news of the death of the Locum Tenens of the patriarchal throne, Met. Petr (Krutitsky), he did not immediately relinquish his right to succession and did not pass the reins of power in the church to Met. Kyrill (Smirnov), who was alive at the time and was the Locum Tenens chosen by Patriarch Tikhon and the Local Council of 1918.

In addition to this irrefutable fact of church history, we can add another, no less important fact: while in schism Met. Sergius was elected Patriarch not by a Local Council as stipulated by the Declaration of the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1918, but by a Bishops’ Council. (And can one really call this a council, as it was made up of bishops frightened to death by Stalin and summoned hastily to Moscow by the “Great Father and Teacher”? Would it not be more correct to say that the “Father” of “All People” actually decided and “blessed” this nomination?) That is when the most horrible moment occurred – the break in the apostolic succession of the Primacy.

As a result, the Moscow Patriarchate is a religious body headed by an uncanonical Primate, which leads us to the main point of our discussion-What does this mean for us? 

It would seem that the “non-commemoration” of an uncanonical Primate would be the most correct action to take in this situation, but let us look a little more closely.

Being a Primate is a mighty Gift of God, and like all of His Gifts, it requires careful attention, lest we repeat the fate of Esau of the Old Testament, who exchanged his birthright for a stew of lentils.

Sadly, that is what has already happened to ROCOR in a legal and substantive sense, when Met. Lavr signed the Synodal Declaration accepting the “Act of Canonical Communion,” which establishes his subordination to the Primate of the MP Patriarch, once the two churches become one on May 17th. Met. Lavr will completely lose his canonical “birthright” – his Primate status – when, according to the accepted protocol, he serves with the Patriarch after the signing of the “Act.” At that liturgy, he will remove a portion from the prosphora during the Proskomedia in the name of “His Holiness, Our Great Lord and Father, Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia” and will also commemorate him during the Grand Entrance. From that moment on, having recognized the Primate pre-eminence of someone above him, Met. Lavr will lose his Primate status.

For those members of ROCOR who accept the “Act of Canonical Communion” with the MP, Met. Lavr will remain their First Hierarch, the most senior bishop of all the ROCOR bishops, but the Primate will be someone else, Alexy II in this case, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

Herein lies the travesty of this situation. Having willfully relinquished his status as Primate, Met. Lavr also denies us this privilege as well. Instead of having a lawful and real Primate, we will recognize one that is uncanonical, born of schism, sullied by sergianism and ecumenism, and therefore without Grace.

But that’s not all! What is most tragic, and not quite yet understood by many, is that the entire population of Russian faithful will not only lose its lawful Primate as represented by the First Hierarch of the Church Abroad, through which and with the help of whom they could have reestablished in Russia in due time a legitimate Primacy but will also lose its only link to the canonical, legitimate church hierarchy. As a result, the Local Russian Church, whether She understands it or not, whether  wants to admit  or categorically reject it, She will find herself in a state of canonical chaos. How this will affect the lives of our brethren in the homeland and in what way, only time will tell.

To return to the matter at hand, we must conclude that commemorating the uncanonical Patriarch of the MP will not grant us the Grace of the Church’s Mysteries, no less than the continued commemoration of the ROCOR Metropolitan, who willfully surrenders his Primacy.

To not commemorate the MP Patriarch and commemorate the ROCOR Metropolitan instead makes no sense, because after May 17th, neither one can be considered the canonical Primate of the Russian Church. This is what the “non-commemorators” do not understand or perhaps choose not to understand, and therein lies their grave and dangerous mistake as regards to the canons. Further, this can lead to a disastrous canonical schism and not only a separation from the Local (Pomestniy) Russian Church, but from the entire Ecumenical Orthodox Church. An Autocephalous Church is no longer an Apostolic Church if it is led by a Primate who does not have Apostolic succession!

Sadly, the level of knowledge of the Holy Canons in the Russian Church Abroad is not very advanced. As a result, those who sense the spiritual ruin of the “Act of Canonical Communion” with the MP unfortunately run off every which way! There are even those among us who seek a “temporary” safe haven in the schismatic "Russian True Orthodox Church" of Bp. Tikhon, or the "ROCOR" that was based around Met. Vitaliy.

There are others who believe they can remain after May 17th in the Canonical Field of the “ Act of Communionunder the MP Patriarch and the ROCOR Metropolitan, and ask them to assign one of their ROCOR bishops and  allow to commemorate only him. Lack of knowledge of the canons,as they say, knows no bounds!

Matters relating to our salvation always require total honesty, and it would seem, that it is better to stare difficult and grave truths in the face than to fall into self-deception.

As faithful Christians, we must never lose hope in God’s charity right up to the last minute, however, if the “Act of Communion” will be signed, we will have but one correct action to take – the restoration of the canonical structure of the Church Abroad.

To this end, it is imperative to announce one’s opposition to the union. This is critical, since all bishops and clergy who do not publicly declare their opposition to the “Act of Communion” between ROCOR and the MP will become canonically and legally subordinate to the MP starting on May 18th and will suffer all the resulting changes and consequences. Met. Lavr and his Synod will enter into schism on May 17th and any dissenting ROCOR clergyman who openly frees himself from subordination to them will risk losing his church property,possibly be evicted into the streets, and most likely will be deposed, which from Met. Lavr and his Synod’s perspective will be legally and canonically correct given their newly-created church structure.

There will be dioceses without bishops who have declared their intention to remain in the true ROCOR. These need to immediately call a diocesan conference on May 18th or as soon as possible. It does not matter if the diocese has many people or not, those that wish to remain in the true ROCOR will inevitably grow. At these meetings, everyone in the diocese needs to announce their intention not to remain subordinate to Met. Lavr and his Synod (after these bishops leave ROCOR) and go under the omofor of Orthodox bishops who will create a Provisional Supreme Church Administration, who will convene a V-th All-Diaspora Council, and who will restore the canonical structure of the ROCOR church administration based on Holy Patriarch Tikhon’s Ukase #362.

Of course, the path we propose here, will interest only those who wish to remain in the real Russian Church. It may seem difficult, but it is the only way to preserve the Church Abroad.                                  

All other roads lead to schism.
•The Editorial Board of Sobor2006

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