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067. Oct. 30/Nov. 12, 1970. Martyrs Zenobius and Zenobia

Dear Father David [Black],

Thank you for your frank letter to Br. Gleb of some weeks ago. Although, of course, your tone was distressing to us, we very much appreciate knowing how you really feel, so that real differences and misunderstandings between us will not be glossed over by polite words. Please permit me to be now just as frank.

We must confess to being uninformed on one point: just what is this “literature,” these “irresponsible mailings” to which you refer as containing “vicious untruths” designed to mislead the faithful? As for our Orthodox Word, we can understand that you do not share the point of view expressed in some articles there; but I am quite certain that there is nothing there that could reasonably be called a “vicious untruth.” If you are referring, therefore, to some other literature of which we do not know, please tell us about it, and if possible send it to us. If there are, indeed, “vicious untruths” there, we would be as anxious as you are to have this situation corrected. The true issues at stake are much too important to approach them with any but the highest standards of integrity.

What are these issues? We have the distinct impression that you have not faced up to them. In your letter you are still talking around them. The question is not who is more “pious” than the other, who keeps or breaks more canons, or how many unedifying cases one can find in the other “jurisdiction.” No one has said that piety or faithfulness to canons are the “special virtues” of the Synod. Of course there are pious and impious, strict and lax, alike in several jurisdictions. But in a day when traditional Orthodox piety is literally trampled on and despised in the highest circles (especially, of course, by Athenagoras and Iakovos), and when through lack of inspiration or examples the faithful are losing the very essence of Orthodox life, it is necessary to defend it and to point out shining examples of it in our day — and these, whether one likes it or not, are chiefly to be found in the Synod.

What about ecumenism? Entertain whatever abstract ideas you like about “good ecumenism,” — can’t you see that those who invented it understand it in a heretical sense, and they see Orthodox involvement in it as a more or less grudging acceptance of that heresy? — or that the actual practice of it is literally dissolving the fabric of the Orthodoxy of those who participate (“the Truth which we have not known”; “refound your Church,” invocations of “Saints” Gandhi, Martin Luther King, etc.). Don’t you see that no one speaks out unequivocally about this except the Synod (and please don’t cite the Metropolias episde of a year or two ago that was condemned by the people in the Metropolia itself for its compromising, lukewarm spirit!), and that Metropolitan Philaret’s heartfelt and truly Orthodox appeal to all Orthodox bishops found no response in the Metropolia except for Fr. Schmemann’s inaccurate and evasive reply wherein he does not answer the Metropolitan’s points, but іnstead argues ad hominem, trying to discredit the Synod’s right to speak the truth to other Orthodox bishops. If the Metropolia is really not soft on ecumenism — then let us see a straightforward epistle from her hierarchs, calling Athenagoras and Iakovos (by name — that is the only brotherly Orthodox way!) to account and showing solidarity with Metropolitan Philaret — but on the contrary, the Metropolia runs away from Metropolitan Philaret straight into the arms of Moscow, which is currently competing with Constantinople for the lead in spectacular un-Orthodox acts and statements, and Fr. Meyendorff states that anyone outside of communion with Athenagoras (I believe you realize he is a heretic?) is outside the Orthodox Church.

And Moscow? No one has said that the Metropolia is “soft on Communism”; that is not the question at all. But cannot you see that the position [into] which the Metropolias act has put its own clergy and faithful is such as to make them, willing or not, apologists for the Moscow Patriarchate and, directly or indirectly, for the Communist Government in back of it — this against the best information available in the West concerning Soviet agents inside the Patriarchate (which your Metropolia apologists accept). And against the witness of the brave protesters within the Patriarchate in the USSR, who openly call their hierarchs traitors to Orthodoxy, not to mention other more personal names. Your best people become such apologists — witness your own Bp. Theodosius and his remarks “life is not uncomfortable, people are not unhappy…. We have to reassess our ideas of life in the Soviet Union,” etc. Such remarks can be excused only on the grounds of absolute ignorance — of the prison camps and tortures behind those “not unhappy” people, of the most recent testimony such as that in the book of A. Marchenko (My Testimony), articles and press conferences of A. Kuznetsov, etc., etc. that prison treatment is if anything getting worse, that the only “happy” people are those who escaped the concentration camps through hypocrisy and (often) through willingness to torture others, that “it is impossible to be a Soviet citizen and at the same time a decent human being.” (These are from people who lived the Soviet Life.) Even Bp. Theodosius, in his ignorance, becomes the apologist of the bestial Soviet system — but he literally has to, in order to defend his own position. No, you are not “soft on Communism,” but you are beyond all doubt the dupes of the very skillful politicians of the Soviet Patriarchate.

I hope you will read carefully our new Orthodox Word with its two articles on the Catacomb Church. You will see then that is not only we in the free world, but those over there as well (who have earned the right to their judgment by the tortures which they have undergone for Christ and Orthodoxy) who do not accept the Moscow Sergianists. And perhaps you will begin to see that our uncompromising rejection of the Metropolias concordat with Moscow has nothing to do with theoretical concepts of “canonicity,” but is part of the very life-blood of our Orthodoxy; this concordat is not “uncanonical” — it is treason to the Russian Church and to her new martyrs. You cannot begin to imagine the profound sorrow and tears the “autocephaly” has caused us. And if now representatives of the Metropolia begin to deny the existence of the Catacomb Church (we expect they will, for that is the Moscow “line” — in defiance of present-day documents and information in the Soviet press- — this will only be another indication of that instinctive “defense-mechanism” which forces the Metropolia into an ardent defense of “Sergianism” with all its propaganda line. And even if not a single Catacomb Christian could be found, that would not change the truth of the Catacomb position in 1927 — attested in numerous documents — nor would it make Sergianism true or Orthodox.

When you talk of reconciliation, therefore, you are truly seeing things through rose-colored glasses. In 1946 the Metropolia slapped the Synod in the face and kicked her bishops out (have you really not read that disgraceful history?); in 1970 she betrays the Russian Church entirely. To what, then, are we supposed to be reconciled? To total lack of principle? To the “spirit of the times”? The conscience of your own “silent minority” of older Russian priests is not at ease; should we betray them too by joining you? Our bishops for 25 years have been kind and over-kind, preserving Orthodoxy and being ready at any time for full reconciliation, with no loss of “autonomy” to the Metropolia; but the Metropolia has never wanted this, but waited the time when she could make her separate terms with Moscow — which, you must surely know, has “excommunicated” us just as she had “excommunicated” you — you yourself, in fact, were not even a priest of God until April 9, 1970, if you accept the canonicity of Moscow! The Metropolia has chosen her path — then what rosy-pink idea of Christianity must you have to turn to us for “reconciliation” now? Orthodoxy is more serious than that!

And whatever you may say of “certain circles” of the Synod, I can assure you that our bishops and our priests and most devoted faithful think as we do. Bishop Nektary certainly does, however polite he may be on the telephone; Archbishop John Maximovitch most emphatically did; and as for Father Gerasim, — the fact that he remained in communion with the Metropolia while considering himself a priest of the Synod should not mislead you into rosy ideas about him either. His past statements leave no doubt whatever as to which side he would have been on today; and his correspondence, of which we have seen a large part, contains some statements about the Metropolia and its clergy (by name) that are so strong we would rather not print them.

What, then, would you have us do when our conscience says that the Church has been betrayed? Keep silent — when we are free (for God knows how much longer!) and can speak the truth as we see it? St. Mark of Ephesus was not silent, though he was called a troublemaker; St. Maximus the Confessor would not keep his opinion to himself, even though this “confused” the faithful: the whole history of the Church is an inspiration to us to cry with a loud voice when the Church has been wronged.

You doubtless disagree. But I hope you can at least glimpse the depth and sincerity of what the “autocephaly” has inspired. “Autocephaly,” by the way, is surely a euphemism for the event that has occurred, when the Metropolia remains exactly what it was, when Moscow keeps every one of its parishes and even sends a new bishop and priests, when no Churches outside the Soviet block recognize it and Athenagoras calls it “non-existent” (and surely we will be allowed to agree with Athenagoras when he speaks the truth?). No, what has occurred is a concordat, a “legalization” of the Metropolia like that of the Soviet Patriarchate in 1927; and if you and the vast majority of even the clergy of the Metropolia were not in fact ignorant of Russian Church history for the last 43 years you would know that Metropolitan Sergius’ act in 1927 was condemned by many bishops in the USSR as initiating a “neo-renovationist schism,” that those bishops were imprisoned and/or killed because they opposed Sergius, and that therefore in your ignorance you are not only receiving “legalization” from a neo-renovationist schismatic body but are acting fully in accord with the Soviet “new church politics” whose aim is to use the Church to destroy itself, after giving maximum benefit to the Soviet Government itself. At the very least, you should have refrained from any kind of concordat when there is the slightest doubt that any of this might not be false, and when the majority of free Russian hierarchs do not agree with you; you should have waited (even [if] it takes a hundred years — truth is that important for the Church!) for a true and free All-Russian Council, instead of accepting the poisoned gift of the Moscow Robber Council.

I am perhaps being unjust when I say “you,” as if you agreed with everything that has been done; but as a matter of fact, whether you agree or not, you are responsible before God and before the Church for what has been done if you do not speak or act against it. And I fear that you will find, if you wish to remain in favor in the Metropolia, that you will have to agree with what has been done, and you will have to apologize for it when it is attacked, and that — unless you are fully in accord with it, which we cannot believe — you will defend it for psychological reasons (because we and other “trouble-makers” are attacking it) and not for reasons of conscience.

You talk about the “unity” of your diocese and the “Orthodox preaching” of your bishop, as though these existed in a vacuum that has nothing to do with the betrayal from on high of your whole Church, in which your bishop very activity participated (doubtless in ignorance — may God forgive him!). By our articles in The Orthodox Word we have no intention to fragment your “unity,” but only to speak the truth. Where that truth leads, we firmly believe, is in the hands of God — and, for Alaska, St. Herman.

And if St. Herman is truly God-pleasing — as no one now doubts — and the Metropolia’s concordat with Moscow is really the monstrous betrayal we firmly believe it to be: then it can scarcely be that Alaska will escape troubles. You perhaps think it evil of us to have connected St. John of Kronstadt with the burning of St. Michael’s Cathedral — but Orthodox piety has always taken such “coincidences” most seriously. And such acts are signs of God’s love, for “whom God loveth, He chastizeth.” May St. Herman act less severely, yet just as openly, for the salvation of Alaska!

There, dear Father, I have spoken my mind and heart, and my conscience is clear and without any bitterness. Please forgive me if anything has offended you. And please, Father, has a litde charity toward Fr. Elias Armistead — he is surely not a “creature” in the sense you mean! We know very little about his activity there; but if there is any serious canonical irregularity there, our Church is surely no less anxious than yours to have it corrected. We would appreciate hearing any facts that disturb you.

In general, as I said at the beginning, we are not in possession of all the information that apparently inspired your letter and we hope you will enlighten us on this. But your tone sounds a little bitter, and I pray that will not last. The past of Orthodox Alaska has seen many sorrows and disappointments, and only God knows what the future holds. May His will be done, through the prayers of St. Herman and — if we can be so bold — of Father Gerasim. Amen.

Since I began this letter, Br. Gleb and I have been tonsured monks, and are now Fathers Herman and Seraphim, by God’s grace.

With love in Christ our Saviour,
Sinful Monk Seraphim

P.s. We hope you will continue to send us Orthodox Alaska — but since we are literally without funds we hope you will consider it as an exchange for your own subscription to The Orthodox Word.

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