Where I Stand And How I Got Here

Joanna had asked me to post part of a letter I sent to Fr. Gregory a while ago, in which I outlined evidences I had come across as I was in the process of going from the OCA to ROCOR that ROCOR was different in spirit from the church of Metropolitan Philaret, St. John Maximovitch, and Fr. Seraphim Rose, and in fact most of the previous generation of ROCOR hierarchs. These are, for the most part, quite trivial incidents; separately none of them would have seemed of great importance to me, but cumulatively they convinced me, some time before the actual union took place, that ROCOR was in the process of acceding to the modern spirit. Being so intensely personal, I don't really expect them to be so meaningful to anyone else, but this was my path, for what it's worth. I decided, rather than publish the text of the letter, to relate my journey in more detail, from the OCA to ROCOR, and shortly afterward, to the conclusion that the union of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchy represents a falling-away from its 80-year testimony against Modernism in the Church; as the Fathers of Esphigmenou Monastery of Mount Athos (themselves currently involved in a terrible legal battle to try to save their ancient monastery from the hands of the Ecumenical Patriarchy) said at the time of the union, "TODAY THE RUSSIAN CHURCH ABROAD FALLS INTO THE ARMS OF GODLESS ECUMENISM!".
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To begin with, while I was still a catechumen I read the book "Not of this World", the combination Life of Father Seraphim Rose and promotional pamphlet for Christ the Savior Brotherhood. Its most immediate effect was to keep me from going to ROCOR at the time; several of the people who were in catechesis with me at Annunciation ended up going down to Holy New Martyrs. Most of them are now part of St. Joseph of Petersburg parish. When Father Herman had his difficulties, I thought that maybe he was wrong about the direction of ROCOR, afterall; but as I observed the political atmosphere of ROCOR, I kept remembering the portrayal in the book of St. John Maximovitch and his generation of prelates, and how none of their proteges ascended into the hierarchy, but were replaced by a new generation of American-born bishops, comfortable with the atmosphere of the West, more equipped to be administrators than transmitters of the Patristic mindset, and how they would laugh at such unworldly figures as Bishop Nectary, who survived to be an anachronism in his church. Much of this seemed to ring true to me. Fr. Herman has proved himself weak, but much of what he said may nevertheless be true. Also around this time I read "The Life of Saint Maximos the Confessor" published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery. It included a miniscule copy of the "Orthodox Christian Witness" article in which they announced their separation from ROCOR. I agreed with them that Metropolitan Vitaly's definition of anathema was balderdash, and I found many of their arguments for the necessity of separation from those engaging in the ecumenical dilution of the idea of the Church to be compelling.
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I also remember, sometime in my years in the OCA, hearing of some OCA bigwig or another talking of a private meeting he had with Archbishop Kyril of ROCOR, after which Kyril embraced him, and said, "Soon we will be in communion with you" (This was some time before union began to be spoken of openly as a possibility). Also, as a member of the OCA, you get an entirely different picture of the MP; our leaders would tell us that, according to the MP, the OCA is the only valid representation of the Russian church in North America; but I also knew a man who had been permitted to join the Moscow Patriarchal Church in America (because he spoke Russian). He had been in direct contact with the authorities in Moscow, and they told him that the OCA wasn't even Orthodox! So I knew, even before I became interested in joining ROCOR, that the MP had a habit of talking out of different sides of its mouth, depending upon who was listening.
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When Fr. Herman was deposed, I began to think seriously about turning to ROCOR; but by that time, reunification talk was already in the air, and Fr. Joseph Sunderland had departed Holy New Martyrs, taking with him every single American convert. That set me back a bit; I thought, "why should I bother going to ROCOR, if ROCOR is coming to us"? Nevertheless, I began to make visits, and told the priest I was talking with that if he could convince me that ROCOR was still the church of Metropolitan Philaret, I would be there like a flash; obviously, since I didn't come to ROCOR for several years yet, he failed to convince me of that. He did say that ROCOR would not be in communion with either the OCA or the Greek Archdiocese even if they did come into union with Moscow. I didn't see how that could be possible, but he made the interesting point that it really wouldn't be much of a change, because ROCOR had been in communion with the Serbians all along, and they were in communion with the EP and OCA, so why not just extend that to Moscow? I wonder if that link to the Serbians didn't prove to be the downfall of ROCOR, after all; obviously, they were eventually going to be forced to choose between maintaining the link with the Serbians, and maintaining communion with the Greek Old-Calendarists. They chose the Serbians, and once the break was made with those who were resisting Ecumenism, the rest followed as a matter of course. It shows the peril of taking an illogical stance; you can say that you are in communion with the Serbians, and that it doesn't extend to being in communion with those that they are in communion with, but you can't really, over an extended time, believe that if it is O.K. to be in communion with the Serbians, that the people they are in communion with can be so very bad, and if they are not so very bad, why not be in communion with them?
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I decided to study the issue of ecumenism, but the OCA books that were available on that subject treated ecumenism as if it were not even a subject of controversy, so I ordered some books from St. Nectarios Press, "The Struggle Against Ecumenism" from Holy Transfiguration Monastery, and "The History of Ecumenism, 1923-1969" by a ROCOR priest. These works unfolded to me the full scope of what Ecumenism is, where it comes from, and where it is directed. For the first time I realized why Father Seraphim, St. John, and Metropolitan Philaret took the stance they did against the OCA, and the other jurisdictions involved in the ecumenical movement. I also became aware at this time that, despite the reassurances of my priest, the Antiochians were indeed in communion with the Monophysites.
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A monk that I had been in communication with told me if I were going to go to ROCOR, I shouldn't make the break suddenly, out of concern for the small group of people that I have influence with, so that they wouldn't be scandalized, and possibly be led to reject Orthodoxy entirely. So I decided to start attending an Old-Calendar OCA parish. This led me to become more familiar with the political maneuverings of the OCA Diocese of the West, as well as to acquaint me with a recent graduate of St. Tikon's Seminary (one of the more traditional OCA seminaries). While I had learned long ago to hold St. Vladimir's in great suspicion, I had always been told that the other seminaries of the OCA were very traditional; I now learned that the traditionalism of even the more traditional elements of the OCA was rather superficial. In the meantime, I had begun subscribing to Orthodox Life, (the english version, of course) and while it contained much that was of value, I was occasionally shocked to find papers written by current students of Holy Trinity which made frequent reference to works of Bulgakov and Berdyaev, in a manner which suggested that these were works which they were accustomed to regarding as normative and authoritative references. At the same time, in my continuing discussions with the ROCOR priest that I was in contact with, (who had graduated from Holy Trinity less than a decade ago) I discovered that he had very little familiarity with ROCOR documents such as the "Sorrowful Epistles" of Metropolitan Philaret and the Anathema against Ecumenism, which only a short time ago would have been regarded as the authoritative statements of the position of the Russian Church Abroad; these things caused me to believe that whoever was in charge of Holy Trinity Seminary was consciously giving the instruction of the seminary a turn toward modernism. I wondered if those in authority in ROCOR were aware of this creeping influence; I then discovered that the person who was in charge of Holy Trinity Seminary, and who had been for many years, was the current Chief Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. Around this time, I made contact with the "Orthodox Information Center" on the Internet; here I learned a lot about Church Tradition, and it all seemed to make good sense to me. The man who publishes this page was, I believe, ROCOR when he started, then moved to a place where there wasn't a ROCOR parish in the vicinity, and started attending a Greek Old-Calendarist parish (I believe they were affiliated with St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Etna). He became disenchanted with them eventually, and now attends a Serbian parish, and has deleted many of the articles which were most helpful to me, and begun to publish papers of a more accomidationist bent. Nevertheless, it is still a good source for articles from a traditional perspective.
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Eventually, I decided to make the move to ROCOR, though I had doubts about the union, and the priest I had been talking with never really encouraged me to join, seeming to think it a matter of indifference whether I stayed in the OCA or not, but at least they weren't in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch, with whom I was thoroughly disgusted at this point. Shortly after I started attending, the priest of our parish was sent back to school to study theology, and many of his opinions began changing; he told me once "There are many things I told people two years ago that I'm embarrassed about now". "Two years ago" was about the time I first started visiting that parish; it made me wonder how many of the things he had said then that reassured me that ROCOR was not about to collapse completely into the arms of Modernism he had changed his mind about in the meantime. He also told me around this time that he didn't see any essential difference between Orthodox and Roman Catholic spirituality.
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The process of unification continued. I had hoped the prospect of uniting with ROCOR might lead the Moscow Patriarchate into a complete break with the Ecumenical Patriarch, as they were in almost continual political conflict anyway, and the "Kelliotes Letter" of the Sketes of Mt. Athos to the ruling Monasteries gave me hope that they were about to separate, as well. Nothing seemed to come of the protests of the Elders of Athos, and over time it seemed to me to be ROCOR that was making all the concessions; the very things that previous leaders had said would make it impossible to unite were being treated as of no consequence. Several months before the union took place, we received a visit from a high-ranking prelate. One of the things he did was to mock my beard, saying I looked like an Old Believer; I had been used enough to people in the OCA scorning those who chose to wear their hair in the traditional way, but it surprised me to meet with it in ROCOR, particularly from a high-ranking figure in the hierarchy. Right after he left, our priest cut his hair, and our Matushka got a perm, and "modernized" her dress, so I concluded he had been sent to tell us that ROCOR was part of the modern world now, and we should "get with the program". A little over a month later, the Bishop was in Corvallis for the Holy Unction service; I had been told that the practice in ROCOR was to do seven annointings, but before the service, the Bishop informed us that, according to "contemporary" practice, there would be only three annointings. So it seems to me that ROCOR had already begun to conform its practice to that of Moscow some months before the actual union took place.
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In retrospect, the dealings of the Synod with the people of ROCOR seems to have consisted largely of outright lies and manipulation, and that's only when the veils of secrecy were pierced at all. I began to get very tired of it. Some time before I had sent away for a St. John of Kronstadt catalog, and Fr. Gregory included with it a copy of "Living Orthodoxy" in which he expressed his reservations about the up-coming union, or "submission" as he rather more accurately named it, and I started an e-mail correspondence with him. When I had had time to become thoroughly disgusted with the aspects of the union as they manifested themselves, such as the uncontrolled (and seemingly uncontrollable) concelebrations with clergy from the most modernist jurisdictions, and to fully discern what "Permissive Non-Commemoration" means, (which is that ROCOR itself is in full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch, but those who have a problem with that are permitted to not commemorate him, at least for the time being) I contacted Fr. Gregory, and asked him what the result of the Astoria Sobor had been. He sent me a very informative e-mail, and told me I should get in touch with Joanna, and gave her my e-mail, and here I am.
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I'm not quite clear yet what this all means; obviously, we have only a very rudimentary organization in this area. All I'm sure of at this point is that I don't want to be in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch. I regard all those as brothers who hold to the ways of the Fathers, no matter what their jurisdiction, but I can no longer be in communion with Bishops who are betraying the Faith, and deceiving their Flock into believing that these things don't really matter; I do think we should be in union with all the jurisdictions which are in opposition to the Ecumenical Spirit, so that we may behave like the Church of Christ by being One, as He called us to be.


1 comment:

Joanna said...

This man ended up in the world-orthodox Serbian jurisdiction (Platina) within a year.