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032. Mar. 23/Apr. 5, 1970. 4th Sunday of Lent

Dear Father David [Black],

Thank you for your letter, which we read with great interest. We appreciate your frankness. On those things which divide us — actually one thing, the Synod-Metropolia question — there is not much to “argue” about; a resolution will be reached not basically through argument but through prayer, earnestly seeking God’s will, patiently awaiting its manifestation, and resolutely following it. Still I would like to say a word or two more to you, speaking as one “convert” to another.

I am no Russian, do not share particularly in any Russian psychology, and don’t think I’m viewing the issues through any rose-colored glasses. Nonetheless, I don’t think it’s possible, in the long run, to stand above the question of “jurisdictions,” — not in the Russian Church, at least. We share your respect for Fr. Georges Florovsky as a theological scholar and interpreter of the Fathers; such respect is widespread in the Synodal Church — his books on the Fathers are basic textbooks. Br. Gleb knows him and received his blessing go to Jordanville to study. But there is also a reason for the lower opinion of him that is widespread in our Church, often among the same people who respect his theological scholarship. Orthodoxy — as is particularly noticeable in times of crisis such as our whole century has been — is not merely a doctrine to be understood, but a conception of life to be lived. Fr. George, it seems to me, has failed in the vital dimension of Orthodoxy in practice. What is the result of his many years of appearances at ecumenical gatherings? Orthodoxy, to be sure, has become better known — but not as the Church of Christ, rather as a “fourth major faith” which used sometimes to give trouble to the Protestants by insisting on making “separate statements,” but now has come around to the general heretical view of the Church which the Protestants expound (Archbp. Iakovos, indeed, states clearly: “The Church in all its denominational forms is the body of Christ“!). In the situation which Vladika Vitaly describes (Orthodox Word, 1969, p. 150-1), Fr. George himself gave a push in the direction of this heresy: not by saying anything heretical himself, but by giving in to the pressures that always exist at ecumenical gatherings to say something that will please the Protestant majority and will be interpreted by them in a heretical fashion. The Orthodoxy of Fr. George at such gatherings is formally correct, but it is thus only formal Orthodoxy, not living Orthodoxy, hot Orthodoxy in practice. And Orthodoxy today is being destroyed from within precisely by this lack of living Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy has one thing to say to the ecumenical movement: here is the truth, join yourself to it; to remain to “discuss” this truth not merely weakens the Orthodox witness, it destroys it. The Protestants long ago were right when they said: If you have the truth, why are you participating in the ecumenical movement, which is a search for an unknown truth.

A second aspect of Fr. Georges failure at “Orthodoxy in practice” was his failure to stay and support the Russian Church Abroad. Where is the heresy or sectarianism involved in the basic idea of the Church Abroad: that all Russian hierarchs should remain united, at least with their fellow hierarchs abroad, but also the extent possible with the Catacomb Church in Russia — and when God shall finally permit, with the visible Church in Russia too? The Metropolia has cut the Church Abroad out of her history books, but she nonetheless was an organic part of it, and the most objective view of the history of Russian Orthodoxy abroad in the last 50 years cannot but conclude that the Metropolia does not want to be in communion with the Church Abroad and has several times deliberately broken off from it. Read the history of Metr. Platon vs. Bishop Apollinary in 1927 (that will be in our new issue!), of Metr. Theophilus who was devoted to our Church and -was forced to leave it, of the infamous Cleveland Sobor (cathedral) vs. Archbp. Vitaly: where is Church truth and justice, where are our confessors who stand for peace and unity — all in the Church Abroad, no doubt of it!

When Fr. George speaks of our supposed tendency to “Catharist sectarianism” — I do not take it lightly. He is a man whose words are to be taken seriously. But how can he back up such a extreme statement? I suspect that he doesn’t make much of an attempt, and that the statement is more emotional than rational — as is Archbp. John Shahovskoy’s recent paid advertisement which accuses the entire Church Abroad of being in a state of “delirium, hatred, and Pharisaic pride”! This is not merely unfair, it is slander! Yes, we are a minority; yes, the rest of the Orthodox Church tries to cut us off — and will redouble its efforts if the “autocephaly” is signed; yes, we are conscious of defending Orthodoxy, which is trampled on today by Orthodox hierarchs themselves. But how are we different in this from St. Athanasius in the 4th century, who found every Church in the city except one in the Arians hands? How are we different from St. Maximus the Confessor, who when informed that three Patriarchs had entered into communion with the Monothelites said: “Even if all the world enter into communion with them, I alone will not!”? (This statement was repeated, by the way, by Metr. Anthony Khrapovitsky in 1927 against Metr. Sergius.) How are we different from St. Mark of Ephesus, who defied an “Ecumenical Council” and every single hierarch with the “Catharist, sectarian, delirious” belief that he alone was in the truth?!!

Forgive me if my zeal runs away with me, but I wanted you to see my point clearly: the Church Abroad today is the focal point of the battle for Orthodox truth and principle. Of course we have many faults, of course the general decay has infected some of our members too — but we are still fighting for the truth, and there is frankly no sign that any of the “Fourteen Autocephalous Churches” or the American jurisdictions is doing so. If you are encouraged by Fr. Schmemann’s recent semi-conservative statements — -well, I can only say that they seem to be a faint reaction to Metr. Philaret and to the effect he has produced on the conscience of a part of the Metropolia; but that will soon pass, and particularly if the autocephaly is put over the path of the “American Church” is clear: in harmony with the spirit of the times to the Unia and “Eastern-rite Protestantism.”

Actually, don’t think I’m trying to convert you back to the Synod (though it might seem like it!), I cannot presume to advise you; you have your own conscience, and your desire to be with the Metropolia in Alaska — given the mutual semi-recognition that has prevailed until now between the Metropolia and the Synod — I can view as a possible alternative. But our concern is with the Alaskan Church under the conditions of the “autocephaly” — and when we spoke of Alaska joining our “small flock” we mean not merely the Russian Church Abroad but the Church of Christ, for we are convinced that they who accept the autocephaly will thereby place themselves outside the Orthodox Church even without the Synods excommunication that will probably follow. What connection can there be between light and darkness, Christ and Beelzebub, the Church of Christ and the system devised to infiltrate, weaken, and destroy it!

Archbishop Anthony, by the way, reminded us of a point which we haven’t seen mentioned anywhere in the autocephaly arguments: Moscow in 1933 excommunicated Metr. Platon and everyone in the Metropolia; if the Metropolia recognizes Moscow as “canonical,” then this act too is “canonical” — and the Metropolia has had no sacraments for 36 years! If I were a priest or layman in the Metropolia, that would give me cause for worry, indeed — to have to live with the realization that until the autocephaly is signed (when, presumably, “economy” would take effect) every sacrament that I administered or received would be invalid, and thus a mockery and blasphemy of God! Of course, we do not believe that the excommunication was canonical, any more than we believe that the autocephaly will be canonical. But whatever the one is, the other must be the same!

Every Orthodox Church has its faults and weaknesses, and there are times when one can only suffer in silence certain things that are done by the Church’s representatives; but if this silence must be stretched to include actual violence to one’s conscience and the defense of unprincipled “canonical” acts that affect the very validity of the sacraments — then how can one be Orthodox at all any more?

But I have carried on long enough. About Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky I can only say: some of our own people have criticized one or two points of his theology, although to my knowledge the only people who find fault with any doctrine of his on the sacraments can do so only by drawing conclusions for him which he never made himself and which would have horrified him. In any case his “Catechism” is taught nowhere and his influence is entirely in a different sphere: precisely in “living Orthodoxy,” in the whole idea of a unified Russian Church abroad that preserves the “old” Orthodoxy and, in the midst of heretics, tells them straightforwardly that Orthodoxy is not merely one other denomination but the Church of Christ. Whereas the ecumenist heresy that Archbp. Iakovos explicitly expounds is the current in which all Orthodox will be carried unless they stand apart and confess Orthodoxy, at the risk of being cut off by the others and condemned to absolute aloneness.

By the way, we hear from Hieromonk Seraphim of St. Tikhons Monastery that he was asked to go to Spruce Island, but will not because he would have had to remain in the Metropolia, and he has now come to us. It will be no easy task in our day to establish a monastery there, and I’m convinced that unless Alaska shows solidarity with the Church Abroad and rejects the “autocephaly” Father Herman will not bless a monastery and it will not succeed. If we are not mistaken, your Athonite monk is Archimandrite Makary Kotsyubinsky — ? — whom Gleb knows.

Forgive my frankness, and pray for us. We would like to hear from you again. We are happy to hear from Daniel Olson that Father Herman’s relics are soon to be returned to Spruce Island. May Father Herman guide and protect us all!

With love in Christ our Saviour,

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