Zealots Of Orthodoxy
Zealots Of Orthodoxy
From: Not Of This World, The Life and Teaching of FR. SERAPHIM ROSE
Pathfinder to the Heart of Ancient Christianity
(published 1993 by Platina)
"Many esteemed as the Patriarch shall fall"--Blessed Jerome
In their magazine, the brothers had been upholding the purity of the Orthodox Faith and defending it against the betrayals of some of her members -- particularly her hierarchs. In this regard, the chief issue of the day was ecumenism. According to the understanding of the ancient church, the word oikoumenikos had been used to refer to the bringing of all peoples into the fullness and purity of Truth; but in the modern age this meaning had been twisted into just the opposite--he watering down and glossing over of saving truths for the sake of outward unity. To Eugene, of course, this was one more preparation for the world unity of Antichrist, about which the Holy Fathers had written so clearly. Through out history, countless confessors had died to preserve the Church free from theological error, to maintain her purity as the Ark of salvation. And now some of the leading Orthodox hierarchs, according to their "enlightened" modern understanding, were trying to overlook these errors and were seeking ways to amalgamate with those who held them.
At this time, the most visible Orthodox ecumenist was the Patriarch of Constantinople himself, Athenagoras I. In 1967 he made an attempt to unite Orthodox with Roman Catholics, without first requiring that the latter renounce its false doctrines. As one of his followers in his Patriarchate later wrote: "The Schism of A.D. 1054 which has divided the Orthodox and Roman Catholics is no longer valid. It has been erased from history by the mutual agreement and signatures of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I, and the Patriarch of the West, Pope Paul VI." In December of 1968, Patriarch Athenagoras announced that he had inserted Pope Paul VI's name into the diptychs, therefore signifying that the Pope was in communion with the Orthodox Church. Of course, since Orthodoxy has no single "infallible" head like Roman Catholicism, the Patriarch could not really bring this off without the common consent of the Orthodox world. There were some who hailed Patriarch Athenagoras as a "prophet" of a new age, even calling for his canonization while he was still alive (!), but a great many of the faithful did not go along with him. As in former eras when hierarchs betrayed the Orthodox Faith, it was those who truly loved that Faith who kept it from the taint of heresy. Eugene and Gleb published several articles showing how the Patriarch had gone astray and calling him to return to traditional Orthodoxy. Since they lived in America, they also felt obliged to publish similar pleas to the chief of the American Greek Church, Archbishop Iakovos. Iakovos, who called Patriarch Athenagoras "the spiritual father of the Renaissance of Orthodoxy," followed all his policies, participating in various ecumenical events and services.
Being the philosopher that he was, Eugene was not satisfied to merely know about the errors of modern ecumenism, to know that they were foreign to the consciousness of the true, confession Church of Christ. He wanted to go deeper, to discern why people like Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop Iakovos believed as they did, what caused this obvious reorientation of the traditional view of the "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." The statements of the hierarchs themselves gave him a clue.
We have seen how Eugene felt about the "New Christianity," the scarcely disguised humanism and worldly idealism of contemporary Roman popes. One can imagine, then, how it hurt him to witness hierarchs of his own Orthodox Church following the lead of these popes, espousing the very same fashionable ideas. In a letter of 1970 to a priest who had offered to write an article on this subject, Eugene wrote:
Several years ago I myself began an investigation into what might be called the "basic philosophy of the 20th century." This exists now partly in unfinished manuscript, partly in mind; but I pursued the question far enough, I think, to discover that there is, after all, such a basic philosophy in spite of all the anarchy of modern thought. And once I had grasped the essence of the philosophy (which, I believe, was expressed most clearly by Nietzche and by a character of Dostoyevsky in the phrase: 'God is dead, therefore man becomes God and everything is possible' -- the heart of modern nihilism, anarchism, and anti-Christianity) everything else fell into place, and modern philosophers, writiers, artists, etc., became understandable as more of less clearly, more or less directly, expressing this "philosophy."
And so it was that the other day, as I was reading Iakovos' article in the July-August Orthodox Observer: "A New Epoch?" that I sudddenly felt that I had found an insight into the 'essence of Iakovism.' Is not, indeed, the basic heresy chiliasm? What else, indeed, could justify such immense changes and monstrous perversions in Orthodoxy except the concept that we are entering entirely new historical circumstances, an entirely new kind of time, in which the concepts of the past are no longer relevant, but we must be guided by the voice of the new time? Does not Fr. Patrinacos, in past issues of the Orthodox Observer, justify Athenagoras -- not as theologian, not a traditionalist, but precisely as prophet, as one whose heresies cannot be condemned because he already lives in the "new time," ahead of his own times? Athenagoras himself has been quoted as speaking of the coming of the "Third Age of the Holy Spriit"-- a clearly chiliastic idea which has its chief recent champion in N. Berdyaev, and can be traced back directly to Joachim of Fiore, and indirecty to the Montanists. The whole idea of a "new age," of course, penetrates every fiber of the last two centuries with their preoccupation with "progress," and is the key of the very concept of Revolution (from the French to Bolshevik), is the central idea of modern occultism (visible on the popular level in today's talk of the "age of Aquarius," the astrological post-Christian age) and has owed its spread probably chiefly to Freemasonry (there's a Scottish Rite publication in America called "New Age").  (I regret to say that the whole philosophy is also present in the American dollar bill with its masonic heritage, with its "novus ordo seclorum" and unfinished pyramid, awaiting the 13th stone on top!) In Christian terms it is the philosophy of Antichrist, the one who will turn the world upside down and "change the times and seasons." ... And the whole concept of ecumenism, is of course, permeated with this heresy and the "refounding of the Church."
The recent "thought" of Constantinople (to give it a dignified name!) is full either of outright identification of the Kingdom of Heaven with the "new epoch" (wolf lying down with the lamb) or of the emphasis on an entirely new kind of time and/or Christianity that makes previous Christian standards obsolete: new morality, new religion, springtime of Christianity, refounding the Chruch, the need no longer to pray for crops or weather because Man controls these now,  etc.
How appropriate, too, for the chiliast cause that we live (since 1917) in the 'post-Constantinian age':  for it was at the beginning of that age, i.e., at the time of the golden age of the Fathers, that the heresy of chiliasm was crushed....  And indeed, together with the Revolutions that have toppled the Constantinian era, we have seen a reform of Christianity that does away with the Church as an instrument of God's grace for men's salvation and replaces it with the "social gospel." Iakovos' article has not one word about salvation, but is concerned only for the "world."
In spite of heartfelt appeals from many other quarters beside the Platina mountain, the Patriarch did not change his course. Although he had the best Orthodox Christians against his actions -- including the clairvoyant Elder Philotheos Zervakos in Greece and nearly all the monks on Mount Athos -- he had with him a powerful ally: the "spirit of the times." We have already quoted the words of his comrade Pope Paul VI: "The voice of the times is the voice of God." How different from those of the great Orthodox confessor of the 4th century, St. Athanasius: "Know that we must serve, not the times, but God!"
It is left for the Orthodox hierarchs of today to heed the warnings which Eugene and others had begun to voice back in the 1960's. At least to some degree, a reversal seems to be taking place today, as non-Orthodox churches stray further and further away from basic Christianity, leaving Orthodox leaders to see the dead end of their last three decades of ecumenical activities. The recent protest of Orthodox participants against the policies of the modernist "National Council of Chruches" is already a step in the right direction, at which Eugene would have rejoiced had he been alive to see it.
As editors and missionaries, Eugene and Gleb had to address another kind of betrayal by Orthodox leaders: that of capitulation to godless Communist regimes. This had become an issue as early as 1927, when Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodosky, after having been released from several months in a Soviet prison, had issued an infamous Declaration which stated that the joys and sorrows of the Soviet government were those of the Russian Orthodox Church. At this very time the government had been staging an assault on the Chruch unprecedented even in pagan times, killing countless clerics, monastics and believers, closing or destroying thousands of churches and monasteries. Succumbing to pressure, Metropolitan Sergius openly denied that people were being persecuted for religious reasons; and when his fellow hierarchs refused to go along with his program he labelled them "political criminals," for which they were sent to Soviet death-camps. His defenders claimed that he thereby "saved" the Church from being liquidated altogether, but, as the modern-day martyr Boris Talantov pointed out, "Metropolitan Sergius by his Adaptation and lying saved no one and nothing, except his own person."
"Sergianism" became the term for this kind of betrayal: selling out faithfulness to Christ for the sake of preserving the external church organization, or, more generally, for the sake of any earthly advantage. Believers were expected to show unquestioning obedience to the official leaders who follow this policy, which was often enforced by the very canons of the Church.
Once the policy had been implemented by Metropolitan Sergius (who went on to become Patriarch) and all opposition had been removed, it became the official line of the Church in the Soviet Union during subsequent decades. This Church followed Sergius' line out of compulsion; what was surprising, however, was that in 1969-70 it was imported to the free West, creating a stir in the Orthodox world. One of the Russian Churches in America, called the "American Metropolia," staged a major political coup: it negotiated to receive official recognition from the enslaved Church of Moscow, and to become an "autocephalous" or "independent" Church under Moscow sponsorship. Again, this was contemporaneous with renewed persecution of the Church of Russia. As it turned out, the negotiations took place in Geneva and New York under the auspices of a leading organization of world ecumenism, "The World Council of Churches," which had a long history of Communist sympathies and refused to speak out about Communsist crimes against Christians. The Soviet hierarch who helped arrange the autocephaly was Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad, a man notorious in the West for his public denial of religious persecution in the USSR.
"The American Metropolia doubtless fell into this trap out of naivete," wrote Eugene in 1970, "and already its hierarchs are demonstrating that its so-called "independence" conceals a subtle form of psychological dependence." Eugene read newspaper articles which showed that Metropolia clergy and bishops had begun to apologize, not only for the Soviet domination of the church organization, but even for the Soviet system itself. One priest, he wrote, "admits some Soviet bishops are Soviet agents, that the whole autocephaly follows political trends set forth by the Soviet government; Bishop _____ is quoted as saying that he found the Soviet people happy and well dressed, and if some complain about the government, well, so do Americans!"
To Eugene it was far worse to capitulate to a nihilist state in freedom than under compulsion. As he wrote to a priest in the Metropolia:
You will find in our midst great sympathy and pity for all but the leading hierarchs of Moscow -- and even for some of them you will find fellow-feeling owing to the inhuman circumstances under which they have been forced to betray Orthodoxy.... But this fellow-feeling cannot allow us who are free to recognize the Patriarchate and thereby freely place ourselves in the same trap she was forced into! And this the Metropolia has done.... With every fiber of our being and every feeling of our soul we are repulsed by this free act of betrayal.... Do you not grasp the immensity of your spiritual bondage?....
Is "stepping out onto the world Orthodox scene" really so important to the Metropolia that it must do it at the expense of the suffering Orthodox faithful? To give one small example: Metrpolitan Nikodim is the Metropolia's great "benefactor," and no one can doubt that his success with the Metropolia has strengthened his position with the Moscow Patriarchate. On the other hand, the layman Boris Talatov in the USSR has openly called Nikodim a betrayer of the Church, a liar, and an agent of world anti-Christianity for which statements (among others) he was imprisoned by the Soviets; Metropolitan Nikodim tells the West that he was in prison for "anti-governmental activities." On January 4 of this year Boris Talatov died in prison, undoubtedly the victim of Nikodim (among others). Can the Metropolia feel itself to be on the side of this confessor? I don't see how it can.
In articles he wrote for The Orthodox Word, Eugene indicated the many self-contradictions of the Metropolia's position. He felt it was especially important to make the faithful aware of these since the Metropolia itself had hidden the more dubious aspects of the "coup" from public attention. To provide background for the whole issue, the brothers even published rare documents of the early days of the Catacomb Church in Russia, written by bishops and priests who had separated themselves from Metropolitan Sergius. But still Eugene wanted to go beyond the mere "political" issue of the Metropolia. Again he had to go deeper, to get at the philosophy behind why such things were taking place in the world. In a letter to a young convert, he addressed this question by first comparing the Turkish and the Communist Yokes:
The Turks persecuted the Church and, when possible, used it for political purposes. But their worst intention did not go beyond making Christians slaves and, in some cases, forcibly converting them to Islam. The Christian thus might be a slave or a martyr, but on the spiritual side he was free; the Turkish Yoke was external.
But with the Soviets, the aim is much deeper: ultimately, to destroy the Church entirely, using the Church's hierarchs themselves (when possible) as the agents of this scheme; and, on the way to this end, getting the Church to defend Communism abroad and to preach a 'Communist Christianity' that prepares the way ideologically for the coming of world Communism, not only as a universal political regime, but as an ideological and pseudo-religious tyranny as well. In order to appreciate this one has to realize what Communism is: not merely a power-mad political regime, but a ideological-religious system whose aim is to overthrow and supplant all other systems, most of all Christianity. Communism is actually a very powerful heresy whose central thesis, if I'm not mistaken, is chiliasm or millennialism: history is to reach its culmination in an indefinite state of earthly blessedness, a perfected mankind living in perfect peace and harmony. Examine the printed sermons of the Moscow hierarchs: again and again one finds the same theme of the coming of the "Kingdom of God on earth" through the spread of Communism. This is outright heresy, or perhaps something even worse: the turning aside of the Church from its very purpose -- the saving of souls for eternal life -- and giving them over to the devil's kindgom, promising a false blessedness on earth and condemning them to everlasting damnation.
The whole of modern Western Christianity is permeated already with this worldy, basically chiliastic oeientation, and the more "liberal," more wordly Orthodox Churches (such as the Metropolia) have been infected from this source; and probably the reason why most people in the Metropolia so easily accepted the autocephaly is because inwardly they do not grasp what is happening....
Just the other day I read an astute comment on the iconoclastic crisis of the 7th-8th centuries. Before the Seventh Ecumenical Council the Orhtodox Church did not have any explicit "doctrine on icons." and so one could argue that the Iconoclasts were not heretics at all, and the dispute was one over the secondary issue of "rite" or "practice." Nonethleless, the Church (in the person of Her champions, the leading icon-venerators) felt She was fighting a heresy, something destructive to the Church Herself; and after Her champions had suffered and died for this Orthodox sensitivity, and Her theologians had finally managed to put down explicitly the doctrine She already knew in Her heart -- then the cause of Orthodoxy triumphed at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, and the Iconoclasts were clearly singled out as heretics.
I suspect that the very same thing, only much vaster and more complicated, is happening today: that those who feel Orthodoxy (through living its life of grace and being exposed to and raised on its basic treasures -- Lives of Saints, Patristic writings, etc.) are battling together against an enemy, a heresy, that has not yet been fully defined or manifested. Separate aspects or manifestations of it (chiliasm, social Gospel, renovationism, ecumenism) may be identified and fought, but the battle is largely instinctive as yet, and those who do not feel Orthodoxy in their heart and bones (e.g., those who are brought up on "Concern" and "Young Life"  instead of lives of saints!) do not really know what you're talking about and they can't understand how you can get so excited over something which no council has ever identified as a heresy. In the testimony of the Catacomb bishops of the late 1920's one finds again and again that the GPU agents asked them first of all whether they were for or against Sergius, and if they were against, then these agents demonstrated that Sergius had "violated neither dogmas or canons." Thus, either atheistic torturers are "defending the Church" -- or else there is something dreadfully wrong, and the Church is up against an extremely formidable enemy. As it turns out, however, there are several dogmatic and canonical grounds on which Sergius was wrong; but first of all the soul sensed that he was on the wrong side.
In the face of the apostasy of Orthodox Churches, Eugene felt that he had to bring more people into the fold of the Russian Church Abroad, which he saw as one of the last holdouts against compromise; and he wrote many letters towards this end. Here he could work together with other young zealots who had already joined this Church. Among these was Fr.Tarasios , a Greek-American priest-monk who was the same age as the brothers. Gleb had known him since 1960. At that time Fr. Tarasios had been trying to establish a monastery in America together with his friends from seminary, but the Greek Archdiocese had forbidden him to do so. Later, when Eugene and Gleb were living in San Francisco, Gleb suggested that Fr. Tarasios join the Russian Church Abroad, but Fr. Tarasios objected that this Church was unrecognized because of its refusal to be under the authority of the State Church in the Soviet Union. To this Gleb responded that one has to understand the nature of Communism in order to understand the existence of the Russian Church Abroad. Fr. Tarasios, being Greek, was familiar with the Turkish persecution of the Greek Church, and thought this commensurate with the persecution of religion under Communism.
Gleb turned to Eugene as one better qualified to explain the spiritual and philosophical basis of Communism and how its yoke was different from that of the Turks. "Fr. Tarasios is a good man," Gleb said. "And he's enthusiastic about the same thing we are -- the transplanting of Orthodox monasticism in America -- just what American converts need. You should help him."
Eugene gladly consented. In the course of their correspondence, Fr.Tarasios was convinced of the soundness of Eugene's views. He thanked him, saying that he would be joining the Russian Church Abroad, where he would find a stronger confession of the Faith and less opposition to his monastic endeavors. By 1970 his monastery was a renowned spiritual center, publishing classic Orthodox texts and church services in English.
Eugene was to learn through bitter experience, however, that the deceptions of the times were not so simple or clear-cut that they could be solved by just "joining the Russian Church Abroad." He was to learn that there could be a peculiar kind of liberalism within the most conservative churches, and a peculiar kind of Sergainism within the most anti-Communist ones.
In later years Eugene was to put it this way: "The heart of Sergianism is bound up with the common problem of all the Orthodox Churches today -- the losing of the savor of Orthodoxy, taking the Church for granted, taking the 'organization' for the Body of Christ, trusting that Grace and Mysteries are somehow 'automatic.' Logic and reasonable behavior are not going to get us over these rocks; much suffering and experience are required, and few will understand."
 How prevalent has this term ("new age") become in the years since 1970 when Eugene wrote this!
 This last statement was made by the above-mentioned priest in an article for The Orthodox Observer.
The Constantinian era ended in 1917 with the fall of the Orthodox monarchy of Moscow, the "Third Rome," the successor of Constantinople.
 At the First Ecumenical Council of 318 A.D., convoked by Emperor Constantine, the Holy Fathers condemned the heresy of chiliasm. They deliberately inserted an article in the Nicean Creed ("and His Kingdom shall have no end) to counteract the false teaching that Christ will have a political, earthly reign of 1000 years. Here we are to note that Protestant churches, which have rejected the Christianity of the Constantinian era (prior to the Reformation), are almost all adherents of chiliasm. Their expectations put them in danger of folllowing Antichrist, who will set up an earthly Kingdom, claiming to be Christ.
 Two magazines, which Eugene found quite worldly in content, published by the Metropolia for children and teenagers.
 His name has been changed.