The Kursk Mother of God Icon in Russia

The Kursk Mother of God icon received the triumphant celebration and veneration in Russia that it so richly deserves. The devoted believers of Russia stood in line for hours and were able to bestow their prayers, supplications, and tears on this sacred icon. The sea of people that met the icon in Kursk is an amazing sight. May the Mother of God through her intercession bring spiritual comfort and strength to the believers in Russia and ease their heavy burden.

The members of the ROCOR(MP) delegation that accompanied the icon are seen in the photos standing nearby like proud owners of this sacred object that belongs to no man. Hopefully, they will be able to withstand the enormous pressure being brought to bear to have the icon remain in Russia. Even Prime Minister Putin paid his respects (and it is hard to say no to Vladimir Vladimirovich). The reception they received most likely only confirms in their minds and those of others how just is their cause to unite with the Moscow Patriarchate (MP).

The reception of the icon is truly awe-inspiring and the ROCOR(MP) delegation would probably say it shows how religious freedom is spreading throughout Russia. Sadly, their innocent optimism blinds them to the fact that just the opposite is occurring; the MP is restricting religious freedom for many religious groups and keeps religious expression under its tight control. Again, optimism or faith would compel some to say that regardless of the attempts of the Russian government and the MP, God’s Will will be done and Russia will throw off the yoke it has borne so long. We all pray that this be so, but we have to deal with the realities in Russia and of a world that is rapidly becoming militantly anti-religious.

The Russian Orthodox Church has become the state religion, completing the misguided work started by Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodskiy) in 1927. The fall of communism brought the end of the political commissars of the Communist Party, who maintained tight ideological control over the people throughout the country. Wishing to prolong this control, the Russian government once again uses the Russian Orthodox Church for this purpose, just as it did in Stalin’s time and throughout the decades. Military chaplains are being trained anew, religious courses are being developed in schools, etc. It seems innocent on the surface, but the focus of these efforts is to keep the people in a passive state, obedient to the government.

Many of the leaders of the MP are avaricious businessmen and politicians in clerical robes, who run the MP like a giant corporation that tolerates no competition. Only large, politically-useful religions are allowed in Russia; Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Judaism and Islam. All other faiths face constant harassment and restrictions. The Old Believers in Russia are being pressured steadily to submit to the official church. Most of the other denominations of the Russian Orthodox Church are being hounded relentlessly and must also either submit or forced to disband. The most glaring example is Metropolitan Valentin’s Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC), whose icons, religious items, and property are being forcibly taken from them by government officials and the corrupt courts.

The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA), headed by Metropolitan Agafangel also faces constant pressure and harassment. Local governments do the bidding of the powerful and try to apply crippling regulations or simply outright threats. Any church not belonging to the MP, are often forbidden to display a cross on their buildings. It is as if, if you did not purchase a franchise from the MP, then you are not allowed to be a church.

Again, ROCOR(MP) members blithely stand by while all this occurs, having forgotten the valuable lesson they learned in America and elsewhere about religious freedom. They cluck knowingly, imitating their new masters, that these disparate groups are schismatic and need to join the MP for their own good. Having compromised their principles, they cannot see how they are also being swept up in World Orthodoxy and how tenuous their own future is. Also, the MP may enter into some sort of alliance with the Catholic Church in the near future. What excuses will ROCOR(MP) use to justify yet another abandonment of the principles of Orthodoxy?

Rather than keep to the teachings of the Church Fathers and the earlier First Hierarchs of the Church Abroad, the ROCOR(MP) leadership continues instead to imitate their new masters and concern themselves with material wealth; suing churches, evicting elderly people, etc. Another scandal is brewing and will be publicized soon. The nuns of the Novo-Diveevo monastery in Spring Valley, New York, USA, were given an ultimatum, recognize the MP as legitimate or be forced out.

Members of the ROCOR(MP) church take heed! Almost all the ROCOR(MP) monastic communities opposed the union and refuse to recognize the MP as the Mother Church. Many that went along with it, did so out of necessity, not conviction. Monastic communities are the conscience of the church, its soul. One ignores their opinions at one’s great spiritual peril. Awaken to the powerful currents of change that are sweeping your church away from traditional Orthodoxy. Awaken before it is too late and you must cry bitter tears.


Reader Daniel said...

To George Mitchell, An excellent article, as usual George!
I was surprised to learn your news about Novo Divyeyevo Convent, as I was not aware that they have not accepted the 'union', etc. And, I with you, do hope that that monastic institution and the other ones still enmeshed inside of ROCOR-MP, can free themselves. But, I fear our American legal system, which does not have a clean record of siding with the little guys. It has a sorry history of giving Orthodox church properties in America, to the wrong side. Hilarion-Kapral and gang, are counting on themselves, keeping their current membership, via the arm twisting THREAT method of: either you obey us, or...we throw you out on the street!...i.e. we own not only your souls, but also your properties!!!
Reader Daniel

Joanna Higginbotham said...

Well that is good news about the Holy icon's reception, and just what we had hoped - that it would be a consolation for our true fellow-believers in Russia.

It is also good news that Novo-Diveyevo does not recognize the MP as legitimate. May God give them strength!

Holy Cross in West Virginia, to all appearances, has swallowed the party-line and closed their eyes and ears to anything anti-union. Mother Theodora, of Holy Cross, just after May 17, 2007, cancelled her PREPAID LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTI0N to Fr. Gregory's Living 0rthodoxy Magazine. Monk Joseph ceased all correspondence with me, the last letter I have from him is posted on this blog [April 2008], even though I continue to write him. I don't even believe he gets my letters.

If the elderly nuns are forced out of Novo Diveyevo, they will need a place to go. We know Mother Agapia is trying to buy property for a convent.