REPENTANCE WILL NEVER FAIL


….and in our own times the pro-Old Ritualist Solzhenitsyn. His anti-patriotic nationalism, like that of all Russian nationalists, ironically ended up supporting Western liberals.

Father Andrew Phillips

God knows how much I owe spiritually to the writings and the pastoral deeds of father Andrew, but I must confess that I find utterly incomprehensible this statement against Solzhenitsyn.

It won’t be possible in this short address to speak in detail of all the specifics of our Church’s insufficiency in the terrible face of the year 1917 (although we might be able to clarify somewhat by making a comparison with today’s Moscow Patriarchate) but those assembled here know more about this than I do, some of them from personal experience. But I will make bold to call the attention of those assembled here to something else, to another sin of long ago, to the three-hundred-year-old sin of our Russian Church. I shall boldly repeat this word in full voice: It is a sin. I call it this in order to avoid using a harsher word. This is a sin of which our Church and the whole Orthodox people never repented! This sin weighed upon us in 1917, it weighs upon us now and, according to the understanding of our faith, it may be the cause for God’s punishment upon us, for the misfortune that has overtaken us.

I have in mind, of course, the Russian Inquisition: the oppression and subjugation of an ancient and established form of piety, the persecution and disenfranchisement of twelve million of our brothers, co-religionists and countrymen, their cruel torture, the tearing out of their tongues, the pincers, the rack, fire and death, the confiscation of their churches, their being driven thousands of miles and further into strange lands. This was done to people who had never staged a rebellion, and who never took up arms in reply.  It was done to solid and true old-Orthodox Christians, whom I not only refrain from calling schismatics, but I am even careful not to call them “Old-Ritualists” –for then the rest of us would be merely “New-Ritualists.”

For the mere fact that they did not possess the spiritual agility to accept the hasty recommendations of the dubious and globetrotting Greek Patriarchs, and that they retained the two-fingered sign of the Cross, wherewith our entire Church of the seven capitols had crossed herself –for this alone we condemned them to persecutions that were just as bad as those dealt to us by the atheists in the Leninist-Stalinist times. And yet our hearts have never trembled with repentance! Even now in Sergiev Posad there proceeds a never-silent service of prayer amid a stream of believers at the relics of St.  Sergius of Radonezh –while we have thrown the liturgical books that the saint prayed with into bonfires as if they were devilish things. And this unrighteous persecution, so utterly destructive to the Russian root, the Russian soul, to Russian health, has continued for two-hundred and fifty years (not sixty, like the present one). Could not the present persecution have been given to Russia and to all of us as a return blow? During the past few centuries, various emperors have been inclined to bring the persecution of their faithful subjects to an end. But the high bishops of the Orthodox Church have whispered among themselves, and have insisted: Let the persecutions continue!

We have been allowed two-hundred and fifty years to come to repentance. But we have only found it in our hearts to forgive the persecuted–to forgive them, since we have destroyed them! And even this was only in 1905.

A.I.Solzhenitsyn 1974

As far as my poor understanding goes, Solzhenitsyn is only stating the truth here, at least regarding the persecution. Of course, he is mistaken about the merit of the matter: Old Ritualist are cut off from the Church and so their position is heretical ipso facto, as witnessed also by their missing a head, a bishop. Outside the Church you are in heresy even if all you believe is perfectly Orthodox: we believe in the Church, it’s a part of our Symbol of Faith.

Their error is very similar to that of the modern Old Calendarist, exposed very well by elder Ephraim here. They have mistaken a matter of ritual for a dogmatic issue, but at least they have been decent enough to avoid faked ordinations. Moreover, in their case a question is very legitimate: have they cut off from the Church themselves or was the unjust, shameful persecution that they suffered to put them out of the Church?

That persecution is a stain on all of us and we must ask forgiveness. In all truth, I think we should call them back to the salvific bosom of the Church, allowing them to keep the Old Rite, a ritual which has been used for many centuries by the saints of Holy Rus’ to worship God. In this sense, I am a pro-Old Ritualists too.

Surely, repentance is something that is never enough for a Christian.

Of course, that would not guarantee their coming to their senses, back to the salvific bosom of the Communion of Christ. In fact, the ROCOR’s hierarchies have done important steps in that direction many decades ago, only to be met by a stubborn silence and a disdainful attitude by the archipelago of the Old Ritual, with a few exceptions. Deaf to the Lord (if asked, you must forgive seventy times seven, even in a single day) and blind to their dryness, their pharisaic pride and self-righteousness is so strong that it will leave their death-bed only many days after their departure.

Nevertheless, it’s time for the Holy Rus’ to ask forgiveness, formally and worldwide, for that persecution and appeal, formally and worldwide, for their return to the Church, keeping the Old Rite if they so will. Whereupon, we will let the dead bury the dead.

I must also confess that I know nothing about “treasonous Old Ritualists who openly supported the February 1917 revolution”, but I would bet that they were far outnumbered by all the “Orthodox” willing to “renovate” the Church or bowing to the Soviet beasts during the Bolshevik Terror.

Solzhenitsyn supporting Western liberals is a statement even less comprehensible. His critics to the Western system were fierce and even prophetic. Maybe some liberals may have used his words to their benefit, but so what? The devil quoted the Scriptures to tempt our Lord, but we don’t certainly blame the Scriptures for that.

….but to stop commemorating him (the Patriarch) during what is a World War, is almost treasonous.

Even this phrase, which conclude father Andrew’s article (here in Italian), is disturbing.

While I agree that the “non-commemorators” are mistaken and it’s a gross error to give to the joint declaration of the Havana a meaning that it definitely does not have, treason is a word carelessly used here. The bitterness and the fears of those clergy and monastics are at least understandable, if not justifiable.

The unacceptable document come out of Geneva about the relation of the Church with the heterodox galaxy has seen the involvement of high ranking hierarchies of Moscow Patriarchate in its preparation and, while it has been already rejected by many local churches and will not be accepted by almost nobody in the flock of the Rus’, no clear word of condemnation has been heard from her hierarchies. Do they wait for the meeting to express that condemnation? And why? Or do they agree with it? Do they look for a compromise with the apostates of Istanbul? Diplomacy is good in dealing with external structures of the world (such as the Papacy), but in Church matters it resembles dangerously to apostasy. What nationalism has to do here?

This meeting until now and in all its aspect has been nothing but a continual temptation to the faithful and it has never been possible to see its utility for the Church, while I could point out a lot of benefits it may have (and have already had) for Her enemies, the most harmful being the endless sowing of discords and divisions in the Body of Christ, a thing that the apostates of Istanbul have mastered since a century ago!

As the things stand today, the hierarchies of the Moscow Patriarchate stand fully by this temptation. May the Lord call them to their senses!!!

In a World War I’d stay clear of ambiguity! Indeed, this is so compelling a necessity to justify a temporary abandon of the sacred virtue of prudence: in all truth, the verve of Metropolitan Hilarion would better serve the Church in another position, such as the further evangelization of the Far East.

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