"Is the Grace of God Present in the Soviet Church?'

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Book Review
"Is the Grace of God Present in the Soviet Church?"
by Professor I. M. Andreyev

St. John of Kronstadt Press says this book is " ... more pertinent today than when the work was written. Should be considered 'must reading' in assessing the future course of the Orthodox Church of Russia."

Monastery Press says this book is "A profoundly discerning and timely work that discusses the deeper spiritual reality..."

An excerpt from the Introduction to the English Edition of this book:

It should be noted that Andreyev does not conclude with a categorical conclusion that the "Soviet Church" is deprived of the Grace of God, only that there are grounds for uncertainty: "Therefore we do not have communion with the Soviet Church, because we have doubts as to whether the Grace of God is present."

This book is offered by both the St. John of Kronstadt Press and the Monastery Press.

To read the whole of the Introduction click here.

Introduction to the English Edition of
"Is the Grace of God Present in the Soviet Church"

In the Orthodox Church many of the most profound theological works written by the great Church Fathers were written not for the mere sake of discoursing on the sublime truths but to defend the faithful against the appearance of an error -- an innovation, a human invention alien to the Divinely inspired Truth preserved by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Often the Fathers of the Church would have preferred to keep silent, continuing in prayer and living the truths of Divine Revelation, which can at best be imperfectly reflected in human words. The discourses they have left in defense of the Faith are very often more in the nature of fences surrounding the Truth -- declaring what God is not, while God in His essence remains unfathomable to the human mind. Nevertheless, as a result (one might say as a by-product) of their polemical writings, we have received from the Church Fathers a rich heritage of inspired theological writings which help us to better understand what Orthodox Christianity really is.

The present work falls into this category. Unfortunately, however, it will not be valued in this way but rather in terms of the reader's sympathies (or lack thereof) for the present day church organization in Russia known as the Moscow Patriarchate. However in future generations if, God willing, these ecclesiastical troubles cease to be of any practical relevance, this little book will continue to be of great value in terms of what it teaches us about Divine Grace and about the subtle but vital distinction between the realm of the soul and the realm of the spirit in man.

Bishop Theophan the Recluse summarizes the traditional teaching of the Church as follows:

"The natural relationship between the component parts of man should follow the law that the lesser should be in submission to the greater, the weaker to the stronger. Thus the body should be in submission to the soul, and the soul should submit to the spirit, while the spirit in accordance with its nature should be fully immersed in God. Man should abide in God with all his being and consciousness. Here the power of the spirit over the soul depends on the indwelling of the Divinity, the power of the soul over the body is dependent on the soul being ruled over by the spirit. When man fell away from God, inevitably man's whole structure fell into disarray. The spirit, having departed far from God, lost its strength and submitted to the soul, while the soul, no longer being held aloft by the spirit, submitted to the body. In all of his being and consciousness man became mired in sensuality. Before taking upon himself the new life in the Lord Jesus Christ, man finds himself in just this state where the relationship between the component parts of his being is turned on its head, like a telescope when its different sections are collapsed one into the next."

Professor Andreyev was well qualified to understand this along with all its practical implications in the Soviet "paradise." A devout Orthodox believer and confessor of the faith in times of persecution, he was also a qualified physician and psychologist. Ivan Mikhailovitch had three doctorates: in medicine, literature and philosophy, which he obtained from St. Petersburg University shortly after the outbreak of the revolution. However some years earlier he had been expelled from the gymnasia (high school) where he has studying on account of his own revolutionary ideas and sent to study in Switzerland. He had been raised in Orthodox piety but in his late teens went through a period of "rebellion" and became a very serious young man, questioning everything and seeking to find the true meaning of life, which at first he saw in revolutionary ideas which were popular with many of his contemporaries. During his studies in Europe he began to study philosophy (Bergson, Bulgakov, Lossky, Askoldov) and in this way gradually, step by step, came to understand the profundity of what was present in the Orthodox Church. He returned to Russia at the outbreak of the revolution, already clearly understanding the emptiness of materialism and atheism. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not become sidetracked in a pseudo-Orthodox combination of traditional teachings and modern inventions. He sought the true spiritual path of Orthodoxy. A decisive point in his life occurred in 1926 when he made a pilgrimage to venerate the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov at Diveyevo monastery. During the special rule of prayer prescribed for pilgrims he suddenly became vividly aware of the reality and closeness of God and of an entirely real communion in prayer with Him. He asked to be deprived of all earthly things if only he could remember until his last day this blessed experience of the "quiet, joyful gentle and fragrant wafting of the Holy Spirit of the Lord." He wrote: "Everything had become new within me. Previously I had not understood such a simple truth, that spiritual things are more distinct from those of the soul than the latter are from bodily things. But now I understood this well. Within, in the depths of my soul, it was quiet, calm, joyful. The outward miracles at the shrine of St. Seraphim, which occurred before my eyes, did not astonish me. All this seemed simple and natural."

This is a quite astonishing statement, that there is a greater difference between the spirit and the soul than there is between the soul and the body. Mostly we do not clearly appreciate this at all -- that all the wonderful "heritage" of Orthodoxy which so impresses the outside world -- icons, singing, the order of our church services -- is only a vessel which contains, and makes us more receptive to the actions of the Divine Grace of God. By the same token it is quite possible to maintain a humanly constructed facade containing all the outward elements of the Orthodox "heritage" but lacking the true contact with the Living God. Blatant examples of this are the Uniate church, which is not Orthodox at all, but Roman Catholic, and the self-consecrated Ukrainian church, which was formed by nationalists in the 1920Õs and had no semblance of an apostolic succession in the consecration of its hierarchy whatsoever. It is only in rare moments of enlightenment that we are able to perceive this distinction between the things of the soul and those of the spirit in full clarity. Mostly we must have recourse to the Canons of the Church to help us in our need to "discern the spirits, whether they be of God," to avoid the risk of being deceived and accepting a surrogate in place of the Church of Christ. This is not a question of following the letter of the law, or self-righteously claiming to belong to the "right" jurisdiction, but rather following the striving of a loving heart which thirsts for prayerful communion with the Living God.

Thus this theme of distinguishing between the things of the spirit and the things of the soul was fundamental to Andreyev's understanding of Orthodoxy. It was only natural that he would apply it to find a way through the most burning problems of the day -- those caused by the Soviet persecution of Orthodoxy and the creation of a church apparatus subservient to the Soviet state following the infamous Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927. It is this ecclesiastical organization that Andreyev refers to as the "Soviet Church." He was actively involved in protesting against the declaration and then suffered imprisonment and exile for his religious views. In the 1930's he formed part of the "Josephite" movement of the catacomb church. Thus his convictions were far from being an abstract form of philosophizing, but on the contrary were born out by his own personal sufferings. The article appended at the end of this book gives a vivid illustration of this period in his life. During the German occupation Andreyev managed to escape to the west and in later life he became a teacher at the Holy Trinity Seminary at Jordanville, New York, where he was buried after his repose in the Lord in 1976.

During Andreyev's lifetime the Soviet Church was clearly enslaved to the Communist regime. Nobody ever imagined that it could outlive the Soviet system which had created it. In his book, "Motives of my Life," Archbishop Vitaly Maximenko wrote of how, in past ages, those who had fallen during times of persecution had been treated with varying degrees of condescension. Looking forward to the day of the collapse of the Soviet system, he urged compassion towards the repentant hierarchs of the Soviet Church who he assumed would be subjected to due ecclesiastical judgment by those who had not submitted to the communist yoke, which group would include the emigre hierarchs of the Church Abroad. What never seems to have been contemplated by earlier generations of hierarchs was that the Soviet Church would continue its existence, going from strength to strength, after the collapse of the Soviet system itself. Yet this is precisely what we see today, with the same church organization continuing its existence as a powerful ally of the emerging "post-Soviet" Russian state. Andreyev's profound analysis provides a basis for orientation in approaching the problem of the status of this organization. Specifically, he addresses the fallacy of the widespread "bottom up" approach to ecclesiology, which says that because many suffering, sincere people seek God within a given church organization it must be the true one. This approach, one could say, denies the Divine-Human nature of the Church and makes it only human-democratic. As a professional psychologist and a Solovki confessor he is the ideal spokesman for explaining this. It should be noted that Andreyev does not conclude with a categorical conclusion that the "Soviet Church" is deprived of the Grace of God, only that there are grounds for uncertainty: "Therefore we do not have communion with the Soviet Church, because we have doubts as to whether the Grace of God is present." We can recall the attitude of Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, who had initially counseled caution in separating from Metropolitan Sergius. In the late 1930's, shortly before his execution, he wrote in a letter that since enough time had passed since the Declaration and Metropolitan Sergius had shown no sign of repenting, "the Orthodox can have no part or lot with him." "No part or lot" may not be a precisely definied scientific term, but its practical implications are quite clear. Andreyev's contribution is to demonstrate quite clearly, and in fact frighteningly, how it is perfectly possible for an organization to have retained all the trappings of an Orthodox "heritage" but have lost the essential thing, the one thing that is needful, the presence of the Holy Spirit of God.

As a philosopher who had come to Orthodoxy after a long intellectual search, Andreyev never lost sight of what is called "Apologetics" -- the study of why we believe as we do and how to explain it to others. His understanding of the difference between things of the soul and things of the spirit makes a very important contribution in this area in the face of present day indifference and unbelief. On the one hand we are surrounded by other forms of Christianity, which appear to have many of the same things as the Orthodox Church. People turn to God in prayer, they read the same Gospels that we have. And yet --an Orthodox soul will find that these religions are just religions, ultimately religions that it is possible not to believe in, because they are missing that "One thing that is needful." They fall down before the onslaughts of present day psychology which says that religions are the opium of the people and just feed certain needs of the psyche, or human soul. Andreyev is saying in effect, "Yes, you are quite right, it is quite possible to have a religion which is just made up of psychological effects." The same psychologists would look at our churches and say they too are just made with human hands. The iconostasis is carved out of wood, the altar table is erected and covered with cloths, we hang a lamp outside the sanctuary, and the lamp is made of glass and metal and filled with olive oil. Then we train our singers and organize church services of astounding majesty and beauty, but these too are all material and psychological effects. And Andreyev as it were replies, with that characteristic twinkle in his eye which you see in photographs of him, "Yes, I agree, it is quite possible to have the most impressive religion which would still be one that I would not believe in. That is why we are so cautious not to be deceived, because all you unbelieving psychologists are quite right, many of these religions really are human creations. What the Orthodox believer is seeking is something which goes beyond all the outward forms and is able to nourish the spiritual side of his being, not just the soul. We understand all your criticisms of religion in general and Orthodoxy in particular, but we invite you to probe more deeply and open yourselves to perceive the presence of God beneath all the outward forms in the Orthodox Church."

Much of the book is devoted to describing the process of formation of the Soviet Church and its separation from the confessing hierarchs who were either exterminated or went in to the catacombs. Andreyev writes with the authority and the suffering of heart of one who was personally involved in these tragic events. Yet at the same time there is no trace in his writings of that harshness which can be observed in some present day opponents of the Moscow Patriarchate -- those who have fallen into an error opposite to that indifference to the truth which is so generally prevalent today. Professor Andreyev was a man of great learning and a true "aristocrat of the spirit," whose writings will repay serious study.


Anonymous said...

thegreeks left cause they were never with us? come on they left because they saw this unfolding many many years ago, thats why there are russians in the greek old calendar churchs as we speak , because they knew and hold a remnant of true Orthodox, that has become lost

Joanna Higginbotham said...

You are referring to the quote in the header of this blog:

"After my death our beloved Church Abroad will break in three ways..first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us...then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow...what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." --Blessed Metropolitan Philaret 1985†

We (ROCOR-PSCA) understand Blessed Philaret to be referring to the Panteliemonites. They were the only Greeks ROCOR was in communion with at the time Blessed Philaret spoke this, which was two weeks before his righteous repose on St. Michael's Day 1985. And as time went on it did become more and more apparent that "they were never a part of us."

As for the other Old Calendar ("True Orthodox") Greek Churches, it is a shame they are so fragmented. Fr. Seraphim Rose guessed correctly that the ("True Orthodox") Greek Churches would continue to split and none of them would be in communion with each other. This fragmenting is starting to happen in the ("True Orthodox") Russian Churches, too.

One common characteristic we can find in both the Greek and Russian ("True Orthodox") Old Calendar fragmented jurisdictions is the disease Fr. Seraphim Rose called "super-correctness". It is my understanding they prefer to be called the "True Orthodox", and not the "super-correct".

Because of this, when I believe I'm talking to someone from one of the "True Orthodox" Churches, I try to use that term. But otherwise I just say "super-correct" and I do not mean it in a demeaning way. Some of ROCOR-PSCA's strongest members have come to us from the "True Orthodox"/"super-correct" jurisdictions.

The one thing that seems to unite the "True Orthodox" - even tho' they are not in communion with each other - is that they decidedly do officially declare the SCOBA and MP to be graceless. And the one thing the "True Orthodox" cannot accept about ROCOR-PSCA is that we do not do likewise. While many of us have our opinions - and Blessed Philaret certainly had his opinion on this subject - we do not make an official declaration. At least not at this time.

Here is an excerpt from NOT OF THIS WORLD that relates to this:

*** In an article on the current chief hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Philaret, Fr. Seraphim wrote how this prelate, while being wrongfully regarded as a fanatic by the ecumenists on the left side, had been equally misunderstood on the right side. "There are those," wrote Fr. Seraphim, "who would wish to make everything absolutely 'simple' and 'black and white.' They would wish him and his Synod to declare invalid the Mysteries of the new calendarist or Communist-dominated Churches, not realizing that it is not the business of the Synod to make decrees on such a sensitive and complex question." -The Orthodox Word no. 66 (1974) p. 4***

The "Royal Path" is neither to the "left" (modernists, renovationists, ecumenists) nor to the "right" (super-correct). It is the path taught by the Holy Fathers who say that the extremes of both sides are equally harmful. Another excerpt from NOT OF THIS WORLD explains this:

*** "Applying this teaching to our own situation," Fr. Seraphim wrote later in his article, "we may say that the 'royal path' of true Orthodoxy today is a mean that lies between the extremes of ecumenism and reformism on the one side, and 'zeal not according to knowledge' (Rom 10:2) on the other...Perhaps no Orthodox teacher in our days provides such an example of sound and fervent Orthodox moderation as the late Archbishop Averky of Jordanville; his numerous articles and sermons breathe the refreshing spirit of true Orthodox zealotry without any deviation either to the 'right' or to the 'left,' and with emphasis constantly on the spiritual side of true Orthodoxy." -The Orthodox Word no.70 (1976) pp. 147-148***

ROCOR-PSCA is recognized as the valid continuation of ROCOR by the other "Royal Path' jurisdictions (Old Calendar Bulgarians, Old Calendar Romanians, Synod In Resistance) all of which are in communion with each other, calling ourselves the "Sister Churches". ROCOR-PSCA is also recognized as the valid continuation of ROCOR by the EP, but for obvious reasons we can not be in communion with them. Still, it is nice that they recognize us for what we are...

One thing you wrote that I noticed too, is that the "super-correct" saw the shipwreck of ROCOR coming long before it happened. And it is true that it can be traced back pretty far. Apparently KGB infiltration of ROCOR started maybe even before the 1950's. But many of us were caught quite by surprise.

What happens in a shipwreck? You grab on to anything that floats! I am very grateful to the super-correct who helped me. Some people say the super-correct are hard-hearted. I find the opposite to be true. None of the super-correct ever said "I told you so" or anything like that. Instead they consoled me and encouraged me and helped me to understand what happened. They gave me needed information to sort things out which helped me to start healing from the shock and grief. And many things posted on this blog are from their archives. This blog is a collection of things that helped and continues to help me, and I hope it can help other ROCOR refugees, too.

Joanna Higginbotham said...

From an article about Archbishop Averky:

Clearly he saw the two dangerous extremes in church life today, both of which involve 'playing a role' and not letting Orthodoxy penetrate deeply into the heart: on the one hand are the ecumenists, playing the "role" of brotherly-love at any price, no matter how great are the compromises demanded of them; and on the other, the elitists, playing the "role" of knowing better than anyone what Orthodoxy is, of constantly correcting and belittling all that do not agree with their "party." These are the ones, Archbishop Averky explained, that act as though there is no one to defend the Church but themselves, and to defend it they adopt or borrow quite worldly elements and passions "which are hostile to the Church and will rather hasten its fall."

source: http://www.stjohnthebaptist.org.au/articles/way-averky.html