Happy Birthday ROCOR Refugees Blog!

January 10/23
St. Gregory of Nyssa (395)
Blessed Theosebia the Deaconess (385), sister of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa
St. Theophan the Recluse, bishop of Tambov (1894).
Woman Hieromartyr Arsenia abbes (1939)



Well it has been quite a year for me. Coming out of the ROCOR(MP) has been like pulling my head out of the sand. Like coming out of a trance. I had been one of those obedient (lazy?) types: "stay out of politics" and "trust your hierarchs." But my hierarchs were suddenly saying different things. I really had tried hard to accept the idea of the union; but it is not easy to kick against the pricks.

When I made my decision to leave ROCOR(MP), I felt an instant relief from the confusion I had been suffering. Suddenly I was back with my familiar hierarchs (St. John, St. Philaret, Blessed Averky, Fr. Seraphim of Platina). This was the old ROCOR that I suddenly realized had been drifting away from me since Met. Vitaly "retired." That relief, and coming out from under what has been called "the ever-deadening hand," was quite an awakening in itself, and a powerful confirmation that I had made the right decision to leave the ROCPOR(MP).

Upon leaving ROCOR(MP), I was thrown into a world of unfamiliar jurisdictions. I had always been very solid in knowing about the "official" churches (SCOBA). In fact, one of the unsettling things about the union was that I found myself back in the "official" churches, as if I had been railroaded back into what I had purposely left before for definite reasons. I remembered that ROCOR used to be "friends" with the Sister Churches, but this memory was not so solid. My knowledge of the "True" Churches was limited to some vague memories of what Fr. Seraphim Rose had written about the Greeks in Boston and the Matthewites, he called them "super-correct" and said it was a spiritual disease. I had heard about the Vitaly-group, but I had no idea they had joined the ranks of the Super-Correct. And I had no idea that there is now a number of Russian "True" Churches, following the pattern of the Greek "True" Churches of continued fragmenting.

For me a big part of this past year has been learning about the Super-Correct vs. the Royal Path. On the surface the Super-Correct look like us, being traditional and appearing steadfast. They certainly do not have their heads in the sand. But a closer examination reveals something quite amiss. One of the first things I noticed is that they seem (as a whole) to be obsessed with the subject of who has grace and who does not have grace. Just read through some of the conversations on the Euphrosynos Cafe. And I've seen them (as a whole) become very frustrated when they can't pin you down to a black&white statement, then they dismiss you with disgust.

In learning about the super-correct I learned about myself. It is not my way to take facts and form my impressions from the facts. This seems to be the super-correct method. My method is the opposite, my impressions are what interpret the facts. And my impression of the super-correct is that they are terribly tragically fragmented, and therefore, disqualified to interpret the facts. The impression I have of the Royal Path is such that I can trust their interpretations. The super-correct can argue/debate facts until they are blue in the face, and it won't make a difference to me.

I want to make note that my impression of the Royal Path has absolutely nothing to do with how "nice" the people are - or how tactfully they word things. Somebody who says they are offended by the way something is said, usually is looking for an excuse to reject what is being said. That makes me roll my eyes. My impression of the Royal Path has its root in a deep inner belief (supported by the knowledge) that my Patron Saint was of the Royal Path.

Bishop Agafangel was the only one of the pre-MP ROCOR Synod with the strength to refuse to go along with the union. The unionites tried to dismiss him as a schismatic. But, despite what they called him, he was a witness. Why did Bishop Agafangel not just join up with the Vitaly group or one of the other Russian "True" Churches? If he was simply looking for a haven to "escape" the union, he could have also chosen a safe Greek jurisdiction for his flock. No, instead he, despite much criticism, took the task of continuing the original old ROCOR. This is another witness.

Looking at the Sister Churches, we see they did not hesitate to re-establish their friendship with ROCOR under Vladyka Agafangel. They issued statements recognizing ROCOR(A) as the valid continuation of ROCOR. This is another witness - one which the opposition just despised. For years the Sister Churches had not recognized any of the Russian "True" Churches as the valid continuation of old ROCOR. Yet, ROCOR(A) they recognized immediately. The super-correct do not understand this, and they seem insulted. We can expect to continue being misunderstood by both the "left" and the "right," as St. Philaret Of New York was also misunderstood by both the left (which said he was too strait-jacket strict) and by the right (which said he was ecumenist)

If I may interject here, this past year I have met a few ROCOR Refugees that want to "prove for themselves" that ROCOR(A) is the valid continuation of old ROCOR. So they pick apart facts and compare official historical and current documents. They critically examine every human slight of imperfection not just of Vladyka Agafangel, but also of the Sister Churches and of individual Royal Path laymen. To those refugees, I say: You can not debate your way into heaven, and we don't need any "armchair canon law experts." You might be more comfortable elsewhere.

Another important witness was/is the priests who did not go along with the union. Fr. Gregory Williams being the one with whom I am most familiar. I met Fr. Gregory in 1999 and recognized him as a Lover of Truth. I recall telling this to Bishop Gabriel a year later, assuming Bishop Gabriel already knew it. Fr. Gregory is criticized for being "isolated" and some unionites blame his "isolation" for the fact that he was not able to "keep up with" events leading to the union. They say he is "stuck" back in the old days. That he knows no other way to serve the Truth except to stand up against an enemy of the Truth. This is how they explain that he can not accept that Communism is over.

Well! There is much to say to that!

First of all we are the Church Militant. What? ...the Mystery of Iniquity doth not work anymore? Communism is not over. Proof after proof of that has been revealed. And as many times as it has been shown, that's how many times it gets ignored. So, who is it with their heads in the sand now? And even if Communism were over, the MP is in World Orthodoxy. Since when did ROCOR belong in World Orthodoxy? Only since the union. Second of all is something that Fr. Gregory noticed right away. The people who did not go along with the union are those who have the ability to stand alone. I can not fault anyone who does not have this ability. I believe it is God-given. Those who do not have the ability to stand alone, do have the ability to offer much welcomed support to those who otherwise would be standing alone.

So what is going to happen in 2009? We can expect trouble because we are getting bigger and stronger. That means MP will send us more and more infiltrators. More and more trouble-makers who work to cause internal strife and schisms. (We've already seen some of this.) We need to pray that God not allow any false bishops in our Synod. (By "false" I mean KGB agents.) And to thank God for the Faithful Hierarchs and Clergy He has given us. May we be worthy of them.

We can expect to see more progress in the 5-year MP plan to absorb ROCOR completely. I really grieve for the parishes that might want to leave ROCOR(MP). It is already too late. Their property belongs to MP, now. They would have to start over. We are nearing the end of the times where the wealth of the world will be concentrated in the hands of a few, so says St. Seraphim of Sarov.* We can not expect our American government to side against this trend, since our government plays into the hands of Antichrist. *See Prophecies About Russia


Reconnecting With Real ROCOR
Church Life Under Isolated Circumstances
Between Portland and Eugene

This report is on how I am able to make Church life work in my isolated situation. My example may not be of interest to everyone. It's not a form or an ideal, but it shows a sense of priorities.

Once I knew for sure I was unable to go along with the union, I emailed Fr. Gregory Williams about it.

Next I emailed my old ROCOR(MP) parish priest writing that I had made my final decision. I said that I loved everything about his parish- the fellowship, the icons, the choir. But there was one important thing missing: namely, I need to be able to love and trust my bishops. I said I hoped we could stay on friendly terms.

Then I sent a copy of that email to Fr. Gregory. This way Fr. Gregory would have something concrete. People say this and people say that all the time. I wasn't just thinking aloud, and I wanted to make that clear. Fr. Gregory responded by welcoming me as one of his flock.

I tithe to Fr. Gregory's Annunciation Parish in Tennessee. I am commemorated at the altar there. Weekly I mail in my Commemorations list along with a dollar for a prosphora that I've asked somebody eat on my behalf (rather than try to mail it back to me). Fr. Gregory is my "spiritual father" (ie: my parish priest).

It seems absurd to be living 2,000 miles away from your parish. But this works in lieu of a normal situation. What does not work is dangling out there not connected to anything while waiting for an imagined ideal situation to bloom forth.

The first months after leaving ROCOR(MP) I commuted up to Portland to attend services in a really nice Super-Correct church. I was welcomed as a visitor from ROCOR(A). The services are sweet and have a natural easy flow, which was very refreshing to me. Even though there was that "grace" issue, I felt far more spiritually akin to this particular super-correct parish than my old ROCOR(MP) parish. Also, these people were very kind to me, helping me sort out what had happened. It was quite a drive, though, 5-6 hours roundtrip. Soon I started going up only for Vigils and doing Typicas at home.

Then the gas crunch came around the same time that Vladyka Agafangel scandalized the super-correct world by accepting help from SIR in ordaining bishops. Those two things together caused me to start doing Vigils at home, also. I purchased the series of the Music for the All-Night Vigils in the 8 Tones from SJKP. I think it was about $160, but I figured I was saving on gas.

With the Music Books and the All-Night Vigil Services in the 8 Tones online, I was able to put together Services that really do tap into the otherworldly reality of the Church in heaven. I was surprised and I was not surprised at the same time. Same still today.

The left side bar of the ROCOR Refugees Blog has a Link List, "Help With Reader Services." These links helped me. Someone who does not read music would surely prefer to have audio music links. So, if anyone finds good audio links that will help with reader services, please tell me so I can put them on the blog. My computer does not play audios (because of dial-up) so I have no way of testing them.

As for my receiving the Holy Mysteries, I do not know yet. I've asked Fr. Gregory for a blessing and an introduction to maybe go to the SIR monastery in Etna, California for a day or two during Great Lent. These are not easy times. But pilgrimages have historically been a normal part of an Orthodox life.


Anonymous said...

Yes. Congratulations! on your ROCOR Refugees Blog!
Keep up the good work, Joanna. May God bless your work.
Reader Daniel Everiss

Joanna Higginbotham said...

There is another thing that I've come across this past year that is new to me. That is the "Pro-MP Loyalist." Two of them have left a series of hateful comments on the blog which I have deleted.

It shows how these Pro-MP truly hate all of ROCOR. Not just the ROCOR they are in the process of annihilating. But also the ROCOR that got away (us).

I saw this first in some extremely hateful comments about Bishop Gabriel, despite the fact that Bishop Gabriel is now serving the MP!

There is no way to please a demon. If you do not do what they want - they hate you. If you do what they want they laugh at you and despise you the more. There is no pleasing the MP except to die - to go back into non-existence like before 1917.

These ROCOR-haters are in MP Churches in America. The two that have left comments (if you can call them comments) on this blog have shown unChristian (if not, inhuman) hatefulness.