ArchPriests Konstantin Fedoroff & Lev Lebedeff
Kursk Icon Hermitage, N.Y. June 1991
Fr. Lev's writings regularly appeared in Russian in our Church's most serious publications, particularly "Russkiy Pastyr" ("Russian Shepherd"), published in San Francisco, to which he was a regular contributor. Taking copies of this journal from the shelf at random one finds lengthy articles in almost every issue providing in depth analysis of the most varied problems: "The spiritual essence of modern business and commerce," "The ontological basis of Church symbolism" "The nature of the Church and its hierarchy." They are less well known to our English speaking readers, probably due to their demanding nature and lack of suitable translations. Recently the editor of "Russkiy Pastyr" asked me to translate an article of his on pastoral problems into English, which I was unfortunately unable to do due to time constraints.
The following articles are presented as a tribute to the departed archpriest. It concerns matters which are currently of great concern to our Church. They will repay close and careful reading. Fr. Lev never approached any subject through superficial arguments or slogans. Almost certainly, everyone will find something to disagree with! Particularly worthy of note is his comment that some of the problems facing the Church today, after all the havoc wrought by the Soviet system in Russia, are simply too complex to be addressed by the ordinary human mind, and can only be resolved through the special help of Divine grace. One is also left with a profound sense of our calling to be the "People of the Church," which is something that hopefully will remain with the reader long after the present controversy has subsided.
In translating the articles (all except the first, was translated by Fr. Christopher Ed.) I have used the accepted initials ROCA (Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which is the same as Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) and MP (Moscow Patriarchate) wherever the author has done so. I have eliminated much of his use of italics and exclamation marks, which are not
as widely used in English as in Russian.
Protodeacon Christopher Birchall
3rd May 1998
June 21, 1990
by Archpriest Lev Lebedeff
I. What is happening?
Something that seems very strange at first sight! In our days within the bosom of the ROCA a move towards gradual rapprochement with the MP has made its appearance, admittedly, so far, just by way of dialogue, and this notwithstanding the fact that to this day the MP has not renounced a single one of its fundamental principles, which for 71 years have made any dialogue with it impossible for the ROCA.
How is it that this move towards dialogue has been able to make its appearance now within the ROCA? People usually cite the fact that communism has collapsed in Russia and the MP has become "free." But here it has also become clear that in these new "democratic" conditions the MP freely preserves everything that it has stood for since 1927, which is:
1. Serving, "not through fear, but as a matter of conscience," the mighty
ones of this world, whoever they may be, in the guise of serving Christ
(this is Sergianism);
2. The heresy of ecumenism, both as an ideology and as the practice of
joint prayer with heretics, which subjects the Orthodox participants in such
prayers to expulsion from their holy orders and excommunication from the Church;
3. Failure to recognize the Royal Martyrs and fully to recognize the New
Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
To this has now been added the scandalous commercial activity of the MP and
its ties with the world of crime.
Knowing and seeing all this, how is it possible for Russian members of the ROCA to seek dialogue with the MP? Some of the motivations for this were very clearly discerned and expressed by Vladika Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany. In his presentation to the "Round Table" (concerning the relations between the ROCA and the MP) at the beginning of 1996 he said that for certain Russians living outside Russia "national interests take priority over those relating to the Church." These people want union (with the MP - Fr. L) only because they are Russian, or think that they are Russian... But this cannot take priority over the Church, or over the values of the Church. I can understand and share in this pain, pain for one's people. But if this people is held in the clutches of a monster, which is swallowing it up, then I must try to tear away from it at least the hands and feet that I can grasp hold of..." ("Messenger (Vestnik) of the Diocese of Germany," No. 2, 1996.) These are magnificent words! They perfectly express the position of the ROCA towards Orthodox people in Russia, who are truly being swallowed up by a monster, which has two paws - the atheistic government and the ever compliant Moscow Patriarchate! In the same presentation, a little earlier, Vladika Mark gave this warning: "Our Orthodox Faith is not a dowry of Russianness.. In the exaggeration of the national element there lurks a great danger for all the Orthodox Churches, where this element of nationalism can easily come to eclipse questions of faith."
III. Who initiated it?
However, at the very same time, in 1996, a dialogue was already taking place in Germany under the direction of Archbishop Mark between the clergy of the Church Abroad and the bishop and clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate. In private conversations the same Archbishop Mark explained this as follows. Now the ROCA is encountering serious problems. Our Church is called Russian, but there are less and less Russians in it and the majority of our bishops are men of advanced years; we must keep the Church Russian, otherwise we will have to call it the Eskimo Church, or something else, which will be completely absurd. Here Vladika Mark emphasized that his education had instilled into him a love for Russia.
How these thoughts are to be reconciled with those quoted previously, which he himself expressed at the Round Table, can be explained by nobody other than Vladika Mark himself. A year later, in his official explanation of his new policy of dialogue with the MP, in his article "The strength of the Church is in the unity of faith and love" ("Vestnik of the Diocese of Germany," No. 4, 1997), Vladika Mark completely confirmed what he had been saying in private conversations. Thus, answering his own question as to what unites us (with the Moscow Patriarchate) he wrote, "We are united by the people of God, which we have been ordained to shepherd and to lead along the path to salvation..." "We are all (i.e. the ROCA and the MP - Fr. L.) responsible for the enlightenment of the once Orthodox Russian people, as well as for its descendants outside Russia, and also for those who have accepted the Orthodox faith as a result of the missionary activities of Russian emigrants. Under these circumstances slandering the Church Abroad by declaring it to be "schismatic" does nothing to help the healing of the wounds of the Russian Church..."
Here, it seems, is the main reason why, despite everything, a bishop of the Church Abroad has entered into dialogue with those who are the source of this slander against the Church Abroad (i.e. with the slanderers): it is the "once Orthodox Russian people," inasmuch as it supposedly "unites" the ROCA and the MP.
IV. The People of the Church
Vladika Mark chose his words well when he used the expression "the once Orthodox Russian people." This expression presupposes that now the Russian people is not Orthodox. And this is quite true. So how can it unite the Orthodox Church? Let us look a little more closely at the actual state of affairs.
It is a long time since a Russian people united in the Orthodox faith and the Russian Church has existed in Russia. In the present conglomerate of Russian speaking population most people are atheists, but there are also fair numbers of Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, followers of Hare Krishna, Satanists, and Pagans. These are all ethnically Russian people, who are well aware of Orthodoxy, see Orthodox churches before their eyes and now have every opportunity to read from a wide array of edifying Orthodox literature, but consciously do not wish to be Orthodox. Neither the hierarchs of the MP, nor, certainly, the hierarchs of the ROCA can be "responsible" for such people. The Church bears no responsibility for those who consciously remain outside the Church. So the supporters of dialogue with the MP cannot be referring to that "unchurched" part of the Russian speaking population.
Certainly, another concept is also used in the aforementioned article by Vladika Mark - that of the "People of God." One might suppose that this refers to the believing Orthodox people, the People of the Church.
The People of the Church outside Russia and in the bosom of the ROCA is the flock of the ROCA. The MP makes no claim to it, bears no responsibility for it, and can take an interest in it only with a view to creating a new schism in the ROCA. The People of the Church in Russia in the bosom of the MP is the flock of the MP. This flock has nothing whatever to do with its kinsmen after the flesh living outside Russia; this flock is completely faithful to the hierarchs of the MP and usually has a hostile attitude to the Church Abroad, or at best one of indifference. For this People of the Church in the bosom of the MP the bishops of the Church Abroad clearly cannot bear any responsibility. It is the MP that bears the responsibility.
So where is the "People of God" which "unites" the ROCA and the MP? Nowhere! Such a people simply does not exist; it is a myth, an illusion.
V. The Mother Church
The concept of the "Mother Church" is also being used by the members of the ROCA who have begun dialogue with the MP. But with them this concept gives rise to complications and leads to unimaginable confusion and contradictions.
At first Archbishop Mark put forward an idea, or an image or metaphor, which we can recognize as a real contribution to our ecclesiastical thinking. In his Round Table presentation in 1996 mentioned above, describing our disagreements with the MP, he said, "We have clearly delineated the areas where we do not agree. One of them is what is known as Sergianism, i.e. that through which that part of the Russian Church, the MP, was conceived." A year later, in his article "The strength of the Church is in the unity of faith and love" Vladika Mark wrote, "The Russian Orthodox
Church is our common (with the MP - Fr. L) Mother Church; this goes without saying. However, by "Mother" we understand "that which gives birth." The governing structures of the Moscow Patriarchate such as they have been from 1927 to the present in their relationship with the Russian Church Abroad cannot make any claim to be called the "Mother" which has given birth to it."
In this extract it is not entirely clear why we are concerned only with the relationship of the MP's governing structures with the ROCA, and not with Christ, and with God's truth. But let us focus our attention on the most important aspect. The image, or metaphor, of conception and giving birth is very accurate and lets us see everything in its proper perspective. Using this excellent metaphor, we can clearly see that the Russian Church Abroad is the direct, natural continuation of its Mother, the Russian Orthodox Church, such as it was from the beginning in Russia up to the revolution and even up to 1927. And then the Moscow Patriarchate was truly "conceived" and "born" by what had fallen away from God's truth and from the Mother Church - by Sergianism.
From this follows irrefutably what the Russian Church Abroad has always said - that the Sergianist MP is not the continuation (or daughter) of the Mother Russian Orthodox Church, that the MP is a Bolshevik forgery of the Church. Consequently the ROCA and the MP do not have a common Mother Church. Their "Mothers" are different.
VI. The logic of the dialogue
But to make a declaration of this nature to the representatives of the MP participating in the dialogue would immediately make the dialogue impossible and meaningless. A "dialogue of love" requires playing at "equal rights," requires that we recognize the other side as being just as "correct," "valid" etc. This is the inevitable logic of any ecumenical "dialogue of love." So, once he had entered into the dialogue, Archbishop Mark inevitably found himself forced to submit to this purely ecumenical logic.
We cannot help noting that in the above-cited extract from the April 1997 article it is no longer said that the MP was "conceived" by Sergianism, it is said only that its "governing structures" cannot be called the "Mother Church," which is synonymous with saying that the ROCA and the MP have one, common Mother Church... However, this is still an almost imperceptible slide into the realm of untruth. The headlong rush into this realm took place in December 1997 and was vividly expressed in the joint "Declaration" of the participants in the 9th conference of representatives of the ROCA Diocese of Germany and representatives of the MP.
1. Archbishop Mark and his clergy recognize themselves as children of the one (together with the MP) Russian Church;
2. above all, "they recognize the positive (!) development of Church life" in the MP, - they recognize that the one Mother Church in its "spiritual foundations" "is manifested in the spiritual life both in Russia" (in vodka sales?) "and outside Russia";
3. "they have agreed" and note that "the grace of the sacraments, priesthood and life of the Church (!!) in the MP are not in question";
4. "They recognize the essential fullness of Church life" in the MP (despite its unshakable Sergianism, the ecumenical heresy, and the ties to the Mafia!)
Such are the fundamental ideas of the "Declaration." And there is not a single word about the fact that the ROCA and the MP were "conceived" and "given birth to" by different "mothers." However there is an admission that "the problems which still exist between us... do not constitute an absolute impediment to Eucharistic communion."
What can you call all this? Let each reader chose the right word for himself.
VII. The reasons for the fall
We have already pointed out one of the reasons for this headlong landslide into utter untruth: it lies in the logic of ecumenical "dialogue." We cannot help recalling the explanation given by some of the Fathers that the first mistake of our ancestor Eve was that she engaged in any conversation (dialogue!) at all with the serpent - the liar and slanderer (for he began immediately with a slander: "Is it really true that God has forbidden you to eat from every tree in Paradise?"). Vladika Mark, as we have seen, has also testified to the slander against the Church Abroad uttered by the MP. It must be said that notwithstanding the "conferences" on the territory of Germany, the MP is continuing to utter its slanders among its own flock. But outside it, in "conferences" and "dialogues" in foreign territories the representatives of the MP wallowing in ecumenical ideology and psychology are always ready to recognize the "grace" and "fullness" of Church life not only in the ROCA, but in any group you like - in Christians of any confession, and now also with Moslems, Jews, Buddhists and pagans. For the MP such compromises of their conscience have long been commonplace in their multifarious "dialogues of love." But how is it possible for educated and well-tried theologians of the Church Abroad to start following this same ecumenical path?
The answer to this can be traced to the very recognition of what is "ours" as being "yours" and what is "yours" as being "ours." This immediately recalls Metropolitan Sergius's "Declaration" of 1927. Even the formal motivation is the same - "saving the Church" (the Church Abroad) which is growing fewer both in its total numbers and in its numbers of ethnic Russians. It is not just for its own sake, but for the sake of the Church that our supporters of dialogue with the MP have entered into this inadmissible dialogue with its enemies. And once they started talking they have suddenly "seen the light" and come to realize that these people are not our enemies at all, but our "brothers," members of the "same, " or even "one and the same" "Mother Church."
Can it really be that Vladika Mark does not want to understand, or does not understand, what Sergianism is? It would seem that he really does not want to, or does not understand that which he openly admits. In his presentation to the Round Table in 1996 he said: "They (the representatives of the MP - Fr. L.) moved immediately from Patriarch Tikhon to Sergius and tried to explain all the actions of Metropolitan Sergius on the basis that Patriarch Tikhon had already laid out this path out beforehand. To a certain extent this is true, in fact to a larger extent than I had realized. (The MP has opened the eyes of a bishop of the ROCA who did not know Soviet history - Fr. L.). But fundamentally, it is not true. Where the line is to be drawn here, we have not yet clarified for ourselves, but I think that we are on the way towards it."
If we have still not clarified such an important question for ourselves, how can we enter into dialogue with the MP, which is more experienced in Sergianism and skilled in lies? It is hard to accept that such an admission of ignorance is correct. In the ROCA it has been clarified long ago based on fundamental principals where to draw the line between concessions and compromises, which were made by Patriarch Tikhon, and full scale fraternization with antichrist, in which Sergius engaged together with his unlawfully constituted synod.
Under pressure from the Bolsheviks Patriarch Tikhon certainly gave way within certain limits. Usually this is defined by the concept of simple civil loyalty to the Soviet government, which is to say, loyalty understood as renunciation of any political struggle against it, recognizing it as a competent civil authority. On this basis, in his famous "Statement" to the Supreme Court of the RSFSR of 16th June 1923, Patriarch Tikhon repented of his "acts against the state system" and wrote: "from henceforth I am not an enemy of the Soviet government." But when he was later sadly asked why he had said this, his Holiness replied: "But I did not say that I was its (i.e. the Soviet government's) friend."
"Not an enemy, but yet not a friend," - this was the formula for drawing the line. And Patriarch Tikhon stood firmly on this line and did not yield a further inch to his very death. It is well known and has long since been proved that Patriarch Tikhon's so called "Testament" ("Testamentary Epistle") of 1925 is a forgery, fabricated by Tuchkov. The Bolsheviks very much wanted the Patriarch to issue this letter, they even wrote the text for him, but he did not issue it. He died!
In the 1927 "Epistle" or "Declaration" of Metropolitan Sergius (Starogorodsky) something immeasurably greater than simple "civil loyalty" to the Soviet regime is asserted. This is not simply a "crossing of the line" in the form of further concessions or heaping praise on the government, albeit false and hypocritical, but nevertheless explicable - i.e. it is not simply an "adaptation" as Vladika Mark calls it. The Declaration contains a deeply embedded renunciation of serving Christ on the part of Sergius and his unlawful Synod; and this in order "not out of fear, but as a matter of conscience," as he here expresses it, always to serve only the enemies of God or antichrists, in a spirit of complete unity with them! It was not enough for Sergius to say, "Your joys and successes are our joys and successes, and your failures are our failures," - he went on to enumerate the "blows" directed against the Soviet Union which he, Sergius, categorizes as "blows against us," i.e. against his "church": "The war, the boycott, any national disasters or simply murders "like the one in Warsaw"." This murder in Warsaw was the murder by B. Koverdaya of the Bolshevik Voikoff (also known as Weiner), who was one of the principal organizers of the murder of the Imperial Family, which fact was well known then, in 1927. So Sergius let the Bolsheviks clearly understand that he and his entourage were at one with them in all their evil deeds up to and including regicide. This is how it later proved to be. And so it continues to this day. In the guise of serving Christ the MP, "not out of fear, but as a matter of conscience" serves the mighty ones of this world, whoever they may be, being always at one with them in everything.
So it is one thing not to resist (where this is impossible) the regime of antichrist, as something allowed by God, and quite another to enter into complete union with it, approving all the deeds and misdeeds of this regime, as if it were something blessed by God.
This terrible nature of Sergianism and the MP was known and sensed by the ROCA from the very beginning. On this subject there is the very well known letter by Bishop Victor (Ostrovidoff) of Isha written in October 1927 and published many times since, in which he defines the essence of Sergianism as expressed in the Declaration to be a "mockery and desecration of the Holy Orthodox Church," as "renunciation of the Saviour Himself," and as "a sin no less than any heresy and schism, but in fact incomparably greater, since it casts a man directly into the pit of perdition." This pit of perdition was "conceived" by the Moscow Patriarchate, not by the Russian Orthodox Church, with which the MP deceptively numbers itself, but from which it has really taken only its outer wrapping, its clothing - its mask.
VIII. The sacraments
If there are indeed no questions about the Church life of the MP, because it is not life, but a steady disintegration of Church life, then the presence of grace - the validity of the sacraments - of the MP always has been and still is very much in question!
On this question arguments among the Orthodox began in 1927 and continue to this day. There is the well known letter of 1934 by the Holy Hieromartyr Metropolitan Kyrill (Smirnoff), in which he writes that the sacraments of the Sergianists are validly performed but they can be unto salvation only for people "who approach them with simplicity of heart, not suspecting anything untoward in the Sergian order of the Church." For those who celebrate these sacraments, and also for those who know about their apostasy and nevertheless, ignoring the truth, approach them, these sacraments are performed "unto condemnation."
Apparently it is these thoughts that Archbishop Mark has in mind when he calls upon us to "look closely" at the "irreproachable ecclesiology" of Metropolitan Kyrill ("Messenger of the German Diocese" No. 4, 1997). However, this ecclesiology is far from irreproachable, it received numerous "reproaches" even then, in the middle of the 1930's. The Hieromartyr Metropolitan Joseph (Petrovykh) asserted the opposite: that no sacraments are performed by the Sergianists, that they are invalid. Many bishops in prisons and exile supported his point of view, as did all the bishops of the Catacomb Church of Russia. Finally, in 1937, shortly before his martyr's death (by shooting) together with Vladika Joseph, Vladika Kyrill of Kazan wrote that since enough time had elapsed since the Declaration of 1927 and Sergius had shown no repentance, "the Orthodox have no part or lot with him."
IX. Where is the real Russian Church now?
The answer already seems clear. But on the way towards it stand some historical and canonical misconceptions which the supporters of rapprochement with the MP often latch on to, and which therefore need to be completely laid to rest.
A very feeble defense! We can and, it would seem, we must say to Archbishop Mark: "Respected Vladika, there are far more enemies of our salvation and various "forces," both open and secret, whose interest is first and foremost in destroying the Russian Church Abroad. For in her is truth, in her is the voice of genuine Orthodoxy. In our times they are trying to destroy it by way of schisms. And the latest schism is now being created by you. You could not have failed to realize that your words and actions directed towards rapprochement with the MP would bring about a division, so far only on the level of ideas, within the ROCA, a division between those who support and those who oppose your position. So you have preferred unity with the apostate and heretical MP to inner unity with the Mother Church which gave you birth - the Church Abroad. This is your decision! But do not attempt to pour oil on the fire by deliberately accusing all those who disagree with you of hindering God's work. It is they who are doing God's work."
X. The last word on "dialogue" and "love"
So the dialogue initiated by the representatives of the Diocese of Germany of the ROCA with the representatives of the same diocese of the MP is, we are convinced, purely ecumenical in nature, although the participants on the ROCA side are far from sharing the ecumenist ideology. As in the ecumenical movement, in this dialogue much is said of the division of the Russian Church into different parts, as a result of which it is essential to overcome this division with love. And even when this suddenly occurs to those involved in the dialogue and they try to escape from blatantly ecumenical categories of thought, they find themselves forced to repeat the same thing that the ecumenists say, which is that although the Church is visibly divided, it is invisibly, somewhere in its deepest essence, nevertheless one... So our participants in the discussion with the MP have fallen into the ecumenical trap which they have laid for themselves.
Archpriest Lev Lebedeff
Great Lent 1998