38. Russia and the Church Today

Russia's Catacomb Saints

38

Russia and
the Church Today
TWO CONTEMPORARY DOCUMENTS
OF THE CATACOMB CHURCH IN THE USSR
TRANSLATORS’ INTRODUCTION
When during the last two years the articles of Boris Ta on “Ser gianism” became known in the West, the depth of the crisis which is cur rently being undergone by the Moscow Patriarchate was revealed to the world. In these articles the Church consciousness of a most sensitive thinker within the Patriarchate itself came to the very bounds of “schism” — to a point just one logical step short of rejecting the Patriarchate itself and acknowledging that the true Russian Church is not to be found in the Patriarchate at all, but in the so-called “Josephite schism” of 1927, in what is popularly called the “Catacomb Church.” After reading Talantov’s reflections on “Sergianism,” some Orthodox believers in the West began to wonder and to hope: what if Talantov or someone else in the Patriarchate were to follow his reflections on “Sergianism” to their logical conclusion? Or, alternatively, what if someone in the Catacomb Church itself were to speak out and make known the authen tic voice of Russian Orthodoxy today, uncompromised by even the slightest taint of “Sergianism”?
This latter alternative, under the conditions of Church life in the Sov iet Union today, was almost unthinkable. By the very nature of the Catacon)b Church its members do not take part in the movement of religious protest by signing petitions for the opening of churches and the like—because the very existence of their churches is illegaL and secret. More profoundly, they do not write criticisms of this or that aspect of the activity of the Moscow Patti archate, as did Talantov, the Moscow priests, and others — because they re ject the Patriarchate altogether and thus have no interest in merely “reform ing” it. They do not sign their names to documents of any sort, for thaii would betray not only themselves, but also numbers of their fellow secret believers.
And yet, by God’s great mercy, the “unthin has now happened The two documents here printed are direct documents of the Cataco Church the first such documents to appear since the epistles of the Josephite bishops in 1927-29 The authors, of necessity, are anonymous; but the language and the content of the documents make it clear that they were not written by any ordinary believers, but rather by theologians who are very likely priests or bishops of the Catacomb Church. The importance of the documents can scarcely be overestimated From Soviet and emigre sources alike the mere existence of the Catacomb Church can be documented through all the years from 1927 to the present; but these are the first Sources in over four decades to give the actual voice of the Catacomb Church from inside the USSR.
The main point of these documents is a repetition of the argument of Metropolitan Joseph and the other bishops who protested the “Declaration” of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927: that Sergianism, even if it does not change dogmas, canons, or rites, has done something far worse in perverting the very nature of the Church, thus sinning against. her internal freedom and placing itself outside the Church of Christ.
But beyond this basic point which reveals that the thought of the Catacomb Church has not at all changed in 45 years — the present documents offer an invaluable commentary on Church life today in the Soviet Union. As the documents themselves state, they are an “eyewitness testimony” of reli gious life in the Soviet Union, and they bring up such crucial matters, rarely if ever discussed elsewhere, as the position of the Moscow hierarchs in rela tion to ordinary believers; the attitude of the latter toward the hierarchs and toward the sermons they hear in Patriarchate churches; the decline of Church consciousness among ordinary believers, leading sometimes to a “magical” view of the sacraments; the fact and the difficulties of “converts” to Ortho doxy today in the USSR; the Church as organization versus the Church as organism, the Body of Christ; the essential “catacombness” of all genuine reli gious life in the Soviet Union, whether inside or outside the Patriarchate; and the perversion by the Patriarchate of Christian virtues such as humility in or der to use them for political ends and crush believers in the name of Orthodoxy. In exposing many of the sad results of the Sergianist concordat of 1927, these documents do not appear as merely another of the recent protests against the Patriarchate; they belong to a different dImension, and in a sense they are more “objective” than any protests from within the Patriarchate could be: they represent the free and independent voice of the authentic Rus sian Church, which can look on the whole Russian Church situation md on the betrayer hierarchs of the Patriarcj calmly and without bittern for the simple reason that it does not regard them as Orthodox. But at the same time there is no note whatever of “fanaticism” or “sectarian” mentality in these documents, which regard the Patriarchate as fallen, perverted, and out side the Church, but not yet. as entirely beyond hope of deliverance; and they look to the future All-Russian Council, after the fall of the Communist Yoke, for the restoration of normalcy to the Russian Church.
Finally, and perhaps most important for Orthodox christians outside of Russia, the authors view the Russian Church situation not in isolation, but in the context of the situation of world Orthodoxy. They view the Commu nist Yoke as a prefiguration of the reign of Antichrist, and the battle between Russian Orthodoxy and Anti-Christianity as merely the central point of a struggle which is world-wide. Boris Talantov had come to a similar conclu sion when he branded the Moscow Patriarchate as “a secret agent of world wide Anti-Christianity.” And indeed, no sensitive observer can fail to notice that the basic position of Orthodoxy in the USSR which these documents re veal is different from the situation outside of Russia chiefly in degree rather than in kind. Many of the basic problems are the same: the profound ignorance of what Orthodoxy is, the political and other influences which enter Church life and attempt to swerve the Church from her spiritual path, the weakening of the spirit of confession; the basic difference is only tbat the Or thodox churches of the free world voluntarily follow the path of apostasy which is followed in the Soviet Union under coercion. The true Orthodox Christians of the free world, in a profound sense, are already a “Catacomb Church” as against the official apostate bodies that are everywhere recognized as “Orthodox.”
The two documents were illegally circulated (in samizdat) in the Soviet Union in the spring of 1971 and came abroad in several copies (the two documents always together) which were received by the Posses’ publishing house in Frankfort am Main, by Radio Liberty in Munich, and by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The translation presented here has been made from the Russian texts circulated in April of this year by Posses’. The two titles and all parentheses, italics, and footnotes are as in the original, except where a “translators’ note” is specifically indicated.

Russia and the Church Today
With time faith will decline in Russia. The glitter
of earthly glory will blind the reason: the word of truth
will be in disgrace. But in defence of faith there will
arise from among the people those who are unknown to the world
and they will restore what has been trampled on.
I. RUSSIA AND THE CHURCH TODAY
THIS PROPHECY belongs to Porphyrius, the ascetic of Glinsk monastery.(1) It was published in 1914 as an epigraph to one of the books devoted to the veneration of the Name of God.(2) The publishers, referring these words to their own lukewarm times, did not know the immeasurable depth of Russia’s fall into the abyss which the Elder Porphyrius had foreseen. But soon, within a few years after these words became known, there burst upon Russia that gigantic catastrophe of which the first part of the prophecy testifies.
Now, when already more than a half- century has passed from the moment when a God-fighting uprising unparallelled in human history began, and in the midst of the continuation in Russia of this fight against God, the opportunity has presented itself to us to make an attempt to arrive at an understanding of the destiny of the Russian church, in the perspective of the past fifty years and of her position today.
For the course already of a number of decades, from the moment of the famous Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius (Staragorodsky) of July 16/29, 1927, and the proclamation of him as Locum Tenens (we will not touch here on the question of the canonical legality of his authority in the Church, first as Locum Tenens and then as Patriarch), the only voice speaking to the world in the name of the Russian Church (in Russia) has been the voice of the Moscow Patriarchate. It is precisely the Moscow Patriarchate that testifies to the world concerning the destiny of Christianity in Russia, and precisely she, as the only Russian Orthodox church recognized by the SQviet government, that takes care, supposedly, for the salvation of Orthodox Christians and the enlightenment of the “peoples of the USSR” (that is, within the bounds of her jurisdiction).
But what is the nature of her activity? To what has the condition of Orthodox Christians come in Soviet Russia as the result of two patriarchs, Sergius and Alexis? And before what does she now stand, on the eve of the election of a new patriarch?
As concerns the official declarations of the Moscow Patriarchate, which are oriented toward world opinion, there is no need to stop on them in detail; even without this, these declarations are zealously propagated and passed off for truth, even though it is known to everyone that they are one and the same constant lie which consists of the attempt to convince the world that there are no religious persecutions in the USSR, that freedom of religion exists in the USSR, etc. It is also well known that this lie exists to cover up, by means of the Church’s voice, a directly contrary condition.
But the dimensions of the lie and its significance can be correctly evaluated only by an immediate eyewitness and member of the Russian Church, who bears the whole burden of religious life in contemporary Russia. And the present essay can be viewed precisely as the testimony of eyewitnesses.
AT THAT PRESENT TIME in the relations between the Moscow Patriarchate there is preserved a status-quo on the basis of the Sergian Declaration of 1927. This is the only fundamental, and in its way “symbolical” document that defines relations with the government and the whole actual activity of the Moscow Patriarchate up to the present day. In view of its exceptional importance, it should be the subject of a special analysis, even though it was many times subjected to deliberation in the 30’s. However, now we can make only an essential observation.
The basic idea of the Declaration is the development of Orthodox life on all levels under the condition of loyalty to the new political, social, and economic order of the government. At first look we have before us an appeal to exclusively spiritual life, purified of the worldly-political sympathies which had been grafted on to the Church in the past. The Declaration evades by silence only one point: the significance of ideology in the new government, Metropolitan Sergius somehow “did not notice” the role of the Party’s ideological guidance in the new governmental life, although the Bolsheviks from the very beginning annouced the total irreconcilability of their ideology with any other. But it is precisely in this that the whole essence of the Declaration and of the whole subsequent history of the Moscow Patriarchate is contained. All who were not in agreement, according to the idea of the “Declaration,” were not ideological but rather political “enemies,” while Sergius and his successors, so well received by the Bolsheviks, bound the Church hand and foot by means of loyalty not so much to the government as, primarily, to Communist ideology.
WE CAN DO nothing else than be bitterly convinced, according to the information that comes to us, that neither the West nor the Eastern Churches understand (and, perhaps, do not wish to understand) all the complexity not only of the outer, but also of the inner condition of the Russian Church. But at the same time, there is scarcely to be found in Soviet Russia a believer who has not experienced an acutely agonizing inner conflict with the policy of the Moscow Patriarchate. For any believing Christian, being one of the members of the Body of Christ, cannot help but feel his own personal responsibility in her life. The thought of this cannot help but arise in a believer at the sight of the condition in which the Russian Church finds herself. It is clear to everyone that this constitutes one of the manifestations of faith. This conflict occurs with special acuteness in the newly converted—in those who, by God’s mercy, even now come to the Faith of Christ.
This fact of conversion in itself seems truly extraordinary in Soviet conditions. Without any doubt, there exists a manifest influx of believers into the Church, despite the fact that a governmental machine unprecedented in power and scale is directed toward the extermination of the very feeling of faith in “Soviet” man. Every conception and even the very memory of God and religion, it would seem, have been banished from the life of the satisfactory Soviet inhabitant. The Church also has been brought to manifest silence— however, to a hypocritical silence, since in order to assure the world of the good state of church life in Russia the mouth of her official representatives is open, one may say, uninterruptedly. The Moscow Patriarchate does not so much as think of any kind of apologetics, even though is it not now and precisely “before kings and governors” that those who consider themselves successors of the Apostles should be witnessing the truth of the Christian Faith? Alas, the Apostolic voice of enlightenment does not resound in the Moscow Patriarchate. But, nonetheless, Russian people by the unfathomable ways of God are brought by themselves into the House of God: for where else are they to go in search of the truth? Here is a striking testimony that in truth the Spirit bloweth where He will. We see also obvious examples of God’s Providence for man, when another world is suddenly opened up to him; we know also how a “chance” encounter, a “fleeting” conversation, the testimony of history, even a brochure on “scientific” atheism become, sometimes without its being realized, a turning point in a man’s spiritual life. And then, when he decides, finally, to transform his life and he comes to the Church—here not infrequently there occurs a profoundly dramatic conflict. Often a flew convert, having felt the truth of Orthodox Christian doctrine, comes to a priest and asks to be baptized by him. Then, obtaining in the priest a spiritual father for himself, and having been reborn by the grace of baptism, the believer turns to church life with all the power of his newly-enlightened soul. He wishes to feel himself—and he does feel himself—to be a child of the Church, the child of his spiritual father. And then, having found himself within the church enclosure, without any kind of special knowledge, but only by force of an awakened Christian religious feeling, he suddenly sees that the school of spiritual growth for which his heart thirsts—does not exist! Church life is i profound and total disorder: there can be no talk of any kind of parish I ife—not to mention monasteries. He has nowhere from which to acquire experience in prayer: no one can answer many of the questions which arise before him both in his personal and in public life. But to all the new convert’s perplexities his instructor evasively replies that it is a “difficult situation,” “conditions aren’t right,” there is “pressure,” and so forth. Further, in confidential conditions he can even explain more directly that the whole matter is one of pressure from the authorities, but that out of the “higher considerations” by which the Patriarchate is guided, one must be patient, humble oneself, compromise. And the believer, filled with profound respect for the priestly rank, in reverence before the person from whom he received baptism, knowing, finally, his own inexperience and sinfulness—accepts with trust the instruction of his spiritual father. And now he strives to crush in his soul this feeling of dissatisfaction with the situation of the Church and her relations with the government: he tries to convince himself that he simply does not understand the difficult situation of the episcopate and its wisdom: and he tries to convince himself that in general everything is satisfactory enough. As a result, he is raised on duplicity from the very beginning of his Christian life. The same thing occurs also with the new generation of believers from traditional families, with the sole difference that in the majority of cases they are raised already from childhood in a spirit of unconditional acceptance of all the actions of the Patriarchate. The utilization here of the commandment of humility is very significant: the Christian understanding of humility—the battle against pride—is utilized as a justification for the Church’s inaction when she is attacked whether externally or internally. “Our kingdom is not of this world”—say the defenders of the Patriarchate, justifying her inaction while the Church is beind destroyed in Russia. But is not the Church- organization a manifestation of the Church-organism, and is it not called to action in the world? Otherwise why try so hard to preserve precisely the organization, making for its sake all possible concessions?
The appeal to false humility before the enemies of the Church is the only form of “obedience” which is actively installed into the hearts and minds of the faithful in Russia. Such an “upbringing” is conducted by various means, one of them being directly from the ambo—even by those priests who are considered the best. Sometimes in church right in the sermon one can hear a priest declare, addressing the faithful: “It isn’t y business to judge hierarchs”; or “Your business is to pray—and that’s all”; and so on. Why does the necessity for such exhortations arise? After all, it is well known that the Orthodox Church has always emphasized precisely the participation of the Church’s faithful themselves in the destiny of the Church; that it is precisely they who accept any decision. It is sufficient to recall, in this connection, the Encyclical Letter of the Eastern Patriarchs in 1849. Evidently the Moscow Patriarchate now holds to another opinion in her practice. We think this is bound up with the fact that the people, knowing neither canons, nor rules, nor the history of the Church, and sometimes not knowing even Holy Scriptures— this church people in its heart feels the unsatisfactoriness of the Church’s situation and often does not believe the hierarchs. “We have a good bishop—he’s a believer”—one may hear among the people. Such praises are not apt to make one feel any better! Thus does the Patriarchate instil into her flock norms adopted from no one knows where.
It is absolutely clear that the general church awareness in Soviet Russia stands in sharp contradiction to the declarations of the Patriarchate concerning the “freedom” and “flourishing” of the Russian Church. It is essential to remark on this because in actual fact it does not manifest itself, since the lower clergy, by virtue of canonical submIssion, as is well known, cannot enter into deliberation over the decisions of the upper hierarchy—or else it is threatened with interdiction, as was the case with the well-known letter of the two priests, N. Eshliman and G. Yakunin(3). The laymen also are silent, fearing to become a sacrifice of the authorities—and, what is most important, trusting the clergy, as has already been said. But in reality a paradoxical situation exists, in which even the most “pious” sons of the Patriarchate, striving consciously to follow her policy, in actual fact interiorly stand against her. Just try in conversation with such a believer to say concerning some respected hierarch: “Our Russian Soviet hierarch Anthony Bloom (or Basil Krivoshein)”—this will evoke a burst of indignation! But why? True enough that they are not Soviet citizens, but, after all, these respected persons are in the jurisdiction of the Soviet church, in her spiritual body! In accordance with the canons they participate in her voice! (Let us add: not only in accordance with the canons; in addition, by their silence they confirm the Patriarchate’s lying assertions.) The expression “Soviet church,” of course, will evoke yet greater indignation. But why? Our question is called forth not at all by any separation between the conceptions of Sovietism and Communism, as is done by some people out of naivete or out of hypocrisy, because it is clear that historically these two forms of governmental order and ideology are inseparably connected. No: a church which is directed in its life by an agreement with the State and its direct orders (the control of government officials over the bishops is known to all) is, naturally, a State church. And here there is no help from hypocritical citations of the separation of the church from the State in the USSR, because the real condition of affairs is evident to all. This is not merely the church of the Soviet period, but the church of the Soviet State, precisely the Soviet church, concerning which the official declarations of the Patriarchate also give sufficient testimony: let us recall, for example, the letter of loyalty of Metropolitan Pimen to Kosygin after his designation as Locum Tenens.
Nonetheless, a Soviet believer does not wish to and cannot call his mother-Church “Soviet,” and even if he cannot explain it, all the same he feels that there exists not only the Patriarchate which is bound up with the Soviet authority, not only the church organization, but there exists also the holy and pure, one, catholic, and apostolic Church, in which the lying, deceit, and hypocrisy which proceed from the mouths of the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate have no part. A Soviet believer cannot force his tongue to call Metropolitan Anthony and Archbishop Basil or some revered hierarch in Russia itself “Soviet hierarchs”—truly blasphemous combination of words. May the Lord forgive us that we are forced to use it! The church consciousness naturally strives to find itsspokesmen among the higher clergy in the same Soviet church, the only one in sight—something which is extremely difficult to do, since the KGB vigilantly sees to the advancement of “suitable” candidates.
The Soviet authority from the very beginning put, with regard to the Church, a radical question: “either us—or you.” This question remains until now in all its acuteness and irreconcilability. The aim of the Soviet authority was and is not at all the subjection of the Church to itself, and not even her enslavement, but rather her total and definitive annihilation. Militant atheism is the State doctrine of the USSR. The subjection, the enslavement of the Church are only intermediate moments, steps toward her total annihilation. And every believer realizes this situation of the Church to the degree of his faith.
While the governmental authority openly announces its battle against faith and the Church, the Patriarchate gives the appearance of not noticing this, and even more, it strives to convince everyone of the contrary. From the most general point of view of a man who believes in Christ and the Church, the Body of Christ, what can one call this if not an evident betrayal of the Christian Faith? It goes without saying, and besides they have been assuring us of this since the time of Metropolitan Sergius, that the Church is being betrayed for her own benefit, that at the price of “insignificant” concessions one may preserve (!) (that is buy) the primary thing, the life of the Church; while those not in agreement (for example, the authors of this essay) are declared, of course, politicians who supposedly are thinking not of the Church but of political interests, social order, and so forth. The tradition of accusing those not in agreement of politics was begun by Metropolitan Sergius in his “Declaration” of 1927. We believe the significance of such an accusation under Soviet conditions, even in the form of a hint, is apparent to all.
The Moscow Patriarchate repeats similar arguments at every convenient opportunity without any interference from the authorities. And yet “for some reason” one cannot manage to object to them publicly in Russia. And abroad these “arguments” not infrequently are believed, whether it be from hypocrisy or from want of faith. But they demand the severest kind of reply.
Here we wish to ask the Moscow Patriarchate (although we have no hope of receiving a reply): If disagreement with you on the question of relations to the government is politics, then what is your agreement with the Soviet religious policy, the aim of which—the eradication of all faith in God— is known to everyone? Are you not yourselves politicians, and incomparably worse ones? And at the moment when enemies again have surrounded Christ in order to take Him again to torture on the Cross, how does your “Hail, Rabbi” sound?
In order to perform a betrayal of Christ, one need not declare oneself His enemy; one need not even slander Him. A kiss is sufficient.
Of course, all this is not news today. Already for decades the world and Christians have been gradually schooled in the acceptance of militant warfare against God as a real, everyday and ordinary, natural fact. It fell to Russia’s fate to be the center of this warfare, and the false testimony of the Patriárchate before the world in this period is especially criminal. For this warfare, without any doubt, has a truly universal-historical significance for the de8tiny of all Christianity, for the destiny of the whole world. It is evident that reconciliation with the Soviet warfare against God in Russia and in the whole world is a testimony not only of a decline of religiousness and faith, but also of a catastrophic fall of moral conceptions in general. The longer this process will continue, the closer humanity will move toward the edge of the abyss!
We repeat again what Soviet propaganda openly declares and over which the Moscow Patriarchate maintains a shameful silence: in the Soviet State ideology and politics are inseparable; politics are only a tool of ideology; ideological coexistence is impossible; the manifestation of any idea foreign to Sovietism-Communism is already politics and hostility. In this light it is evident that the very prideful pretensions of Metropolitan Sergius and his successors to save (!) the Church in Russia are only a hypocritical screen for spiritual worthlessness, for it is clear that Christian faith is being preserved in Russia only by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. But from the external “causal” point of view it is evident that the Communists cannot liquidate entirely the visible church organization because they are striving to create an impression of freedom of conscience in Russia in their battle for world supremacy. They would destroy in a moment, with satanic malice, both Metropolitans Pimen and Nikodim, if they had the opportunity. This signifies that the Soviet kingdom is without doubt an image of the future kingdom of Antichrist; in a long chain of historical analogies (there is no room here to speak of them) with the picture of the Apocalypse,, this analogy is without doubt the closest one to the present day. What we ourselves see today, as also for the course of decades, in Russia, is a stern warning to mankind, a call to repentance—which, alas, the world does not accept.
Returning to the friendly relations of the Moscow Patriarchate with the Soviet regime, we should note that we do not intend to idealize either the Synodal church, or the church of the epoch of Muscovite Russia, or the Byzantine church. We be’ieve that Church and State are distinct by nature and are always foreign to each other to some degree, as Church and world. Therefore, every alliance of Church with State is in some measure unnatural; but from this it is even more evident that an alliance of the Church with a militant anti-Christian State is anti-natural. This is why it is brought about in hypocritical forms, under the appearance of the “separation” of the Church from the State.
What is jt, after all, that the Moscow Patriarchate “saves” at the price of its submission to the State? To this the answer is: the sacraments, liturgical life for the benefit of the peole. Let us see how true this is. There are some tens of churches in Moscow, in Leningrad, a few each in other large cities; but what is happening in the whole of Russia? In the Volga region? In Karelia? In the Urals? In Siberia? In the Far East? In the northern Caucasus? In the North? What did the Patriarchate “save” in all these immense expanses, where tens of millions of people live? Do we really not know that the churches everywhere there have been destroyed, with the exception of a negligible few? It is an ordinary evident when collective farm workers take children hundreds (!) of kilometers to be baptized, and the priests send them back: after all, one is obliged to present a passport, and as is well known, passports are not given out to collective farm workers to keep! Do we really not know that in vast segments of the population there is not only no faith, but there is simply no possibility to find it, since in actual fact in all these immense expanses there are not only no churches, but not even any books. The ordinary Soviet man does not even know who Christ might be, and he has never heard of the Trinity; having seen by chance representations of saints in an art album or in a closed church, he knows only that these are “gods.” We said above that an influx of believers into the Church can be observed; naturally, this is observed more in places where there are more churches, people, books—in Moscow, in Leningrad. We see in this the undoubted action of grace, but one must call blasphemous the attempt to justify the inactivity and negligence of the hierarchy by the fact that believers come “themselves” to the Church, all the more in that this occurs in a quantity that is insignificant on the scale of the whole of Russia. And more than this: for many pure souls the evideht double facedness of the Patriarchate constitutes an obstacle to their joining the Church.
However, perhaps the Patriarchate has protested, has fought against the closing of churches? Perhaps she has attempted to demand thç opportunity for religious enlightenment of the people? Alas, we do not know of a single, even the most timid, statement of the Patriarchate in favor of the opportunity for a minimal maintenance of religious life. Individual believers and their groups write an endless multitude of complaints and demands for the opening of churches, and some of these have gotten abroad; but has there been even a single case where the Patriarchate supported such demands? We do not know of such cases, and this clearly testifies to the genuine abyss between the church people and the hierarchy. With our own eyes we see how the shepherds shepherd themselves. We see how the thief comes and plunders the flock, for the hireling is not a shepherd and careth not for the sheep. Behold the literal indication of the Gospel! It is not surprising, in the light of all that has been said above, that the Soviet church has renounced the very martyrs and confessors of the Russian Church, the numberless choirs of which adorn her and are her glory. But we believe that our true holy hierarchs—Vladimir, Peter, Cyril, Joseph, Benjamin—and with them the great multitude of other known and unknown hierarchs, monks, and laymen headed by Patriarch Tikhon stand before the Throne of God, glorifying God and praying for the Russian Church, the Russian land, and the whole world, and it cannot be doubted that it is by their righteous prayers, and the prayers of other saints and the present-day confession of those who are for the most part unknown to the world, that the Russian Church stands, and not by contrivances, truly lying ones, to “save” the Church by way of some kind of negotiations with satan. Before the greatness of the martyric exploit of the great hierarchs in the recent past, the “merits” of Sergius and Alexis, such as the dispute with Fr. Sergius Bulgakov(4) and the like are ridiculous.(5)
In Russia now there is beginning a very slow and almost unnotjceable awakening from the great shock by which she has been paralyzed for the course of decades. Individual voices of protest are appearing in the midst of the public, attempts to stand against the death-dealing movement of the Party-Soviet machine. What is the position of the Russian Church with regard to these voices?
Those priests who still have a conscience of necessity lead a life. On the one hand, such a batiushka carries out the “loyal” policy of the Patriarchate with regard to the State, that is, he limits himself in church to the minimum ritual requirements. On the other hand, subjecting himself to every danger (if he is sufficiently honest), he transgresses this line: he celebrates baptisms secretly (without registration), tries to attract someone to the Church (which he cannot do openly), gives the Gospel and spiritual books to read, and so forth. Thus, authentic religious life always has in reality a “catacomb” character. But the opportunities for its devolopment are insignificant: after all, the lower clergy is in the leash of the Patriarchate and cannot overstep the limits of the concordat. It need not even be said that the higher clergy in essence has no contact at all with the believing masses. The contemporary hierarchs are genuine princes of the church, for the most part far from the people as, let us say, the Secretaries of the Regional Committees.(6) And indeed, why should they get close to the people? What can they say to the people, they who have bound themselves by loyalty and submission to an anti- Christian authority? The Soviet church hierarchy, not desiring to become a “catacomb” church, ha been converted into a self-isolating “church.” It is foreign to the people and does not try to get near to them. The contemporary Soviet man, stupefied by vodka and political enlightenment looks at churches with a stupid-indifferent look, not expecting from them any kind of voice that could warm him and reveal the truth to him. There is no such voice, but man thirsts for it because he is weary from the endless lie everywhere. True, forms of the Divine services are fundamentally the same as before, the rites for the time being (for the time being!) are not being changed. Yes, liturgical life exists. But of what sort is it? The absence of opportunities for any kind of correct church life deprives believers of preparation for the sacraments. Communion is accessible essentially to anyone at any time, because faith in the church people has been widely replaced by superstition, and this means that the relationship to the Sacrament also acquires essentially, as it were, a formal magical meaning: deprived of any conception ofasacrament, believers sometimes come to the Chalice several times each. It is totally forgotten that this is a great and fearful Sacrament, before which Angels tremble, in the words of the Holy Fathers. Truly, the profound carelessness that may be observed toward the Sacrament of the Eucharist is possible only in the absence of the fear of God. Magism is present also in Soviet hierarchs, inasmuch as the awareness of their hierarchical dignity is turned in them within themselves. Shut up in their own inaccessibility, they as it were compensate for their non-participation in the life and sufferings of the Church. This is accompanied by profiteering on the profound respect of believers for the priestly rank. Here there is manifested a conviction of their own exclusive indispensability, that is, a conviction that the preservation at any price of the position of the hierarchy is precisely the preservation of the Church.
“If everyone goes underground,” says the representatives of the Patriarchate, “then who will take care of the people?” But we have already shown that authentic religious life all the same inevitably strives toward the underground: Soviet actuality itself compels this. It is said likewise that the hierarchs are bad, of course, but that they are also as it were a transitional bridge to the future, when the Church will be free. To this let us say that it is gratifying to us, to be sure, to see faith in the future freedom of the Church; but one must also believe unwaveringly that the preservation of the hierarchal succession in the Church belongs to her Head, Christ, and not to human contrivances; if the meaning of the contemporary upper hierarchy is only in being a “bridge,” is it really necessary to seek from the Soviet authority the supports for this “bridge”? This after all is already unbelief in the fact that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her (the Church), if one must seek support from the gates of hell! Or do you think that Christ will not preserve the Church in the midst of persecutions? But where then is faith? To the fate of the Church at the time of persecutions one may apply the words concerning salvation: With men it is impossible, but not with God. Alas, those who have bound the Patriarchate with the Soviet regime are such that there is no hope for her own internal regeneration. Leaning upon the Soviet authority, she will share its fate until the end of the Soviet regime.
The conviction of the apologists of the Moscow Patriarchate noted above, that there will be freedom in future for the Church and Russia, is remarkable in its own way. This conviction is widespread. But we turn to them again with a question: with what do you intend to enter on this period of freedom? Conviction of the future liberation of the Church is precisely the fruit of faith, which, consequently, is alive to some degree. But how can one unite faith in the liberation of our Chur by Christ with a conviction of the indispensability of the hierarchy’s apostatical compromise with Soviet atheism? In this case the Church, essentially, is identified with the hierarchy, that is, with the church-organization.
All the arguments in defense and justification of the Moscow Patriarchate which we have attempted to examine are contradictory and, in the last analysis, are not serious. They are based on a desire to view the existing situation in the church as natural and, from the spiritual point of view (supposedly), satisfactory. The contradiction, as was shown above, is easily laid bare: when talk is of the external assault upon the church, it is said that “our kingdom is not of this world”; but when the spiritual compromise with
the prince of this world is pointed out, it is replied that this is essential for the preservation of the hierarchal succession, churches, etc.—that is, the external organization of the church. Naturally, such an indefiniteness testifies to the
- ritual unsureness, the internal (not to mention external) disorder of the .,Ioscow Patriarchate. Such a situation cannot continue forever. Religious wareness must either entirely become aware of itself, or else disappear altogether as religious awareness. The latter course, abstractly speaking, is likewise, possible: after all, the once flourishing Church of Carthage disappeared. We, however, fortify ourselves with the faith that the spiritual renewal of Russia and the liberation of the Church will yet occur. We believe that if the world does not perish, sooner or later in liberated Russia there will be a Local Council of our Church, to which the fruits of their labors and exploits for the long period without a Council (for one cannot call Councils those convocations of Soviet hierarchs which the Council of Religious Affairs organizes together with the Patriarchate) will be brought forth by the Moscow Patriarchate and by the persecuted Russian “Catacomb” Church, to which the authors of this article belong, and of the continuing existence of which they consider it a sacred duty to bear witnes8 at the first opportunity that has offered itself. To this future council the “Catacomb” Church will bring the testimony of the purity of her faith, unstained by any kind of compromises with the enemies of Christ; for prayer that has been bought is impure prayer. The “Catacomb” Church will bring also the testimony of the exploits in the name of Christ of her martyrs and confessors, whom we have already mentioned above. She will bring also the testimony of her unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, by which alone she has fortified herself and lived already for decades, preserved by Divine grace amidst persecutions and betrayals. For just as the Soviet kingdom is a prefiguration of Antichrist, so also the “Catacomb” Church is the nearest of all prefigurations of the Church at the time of Antichrist—the Woman clothed with the sun who has fled to the wilderness.* Her garments are woven of the exploits of saints. Just as in the time of the Prophet Elijah, the Lord has preserved for Himself seven thousand faithful, until the time known to Him alone.
Our Church lives a difficult life; her members are mercilessly exterminated by the authorities; we are betrayed by brethren who consider themselves Orthodox. We are scattered like wheat, but we believe that in the hour when it is necessary Christ will send His faithful disciple, who will strengthen his brethren. Together with the Apostle Paul we dare to say: We are not of them that shrink back into perdition, but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul (Heb. 10:39). And this our faith, by which kingdoms are subdued (Heb. 11:33), gives us the strength to await the hour of God’s visitation. God is with us, understand, ye peoples, and submit, for God is with
us!

1 Father Porphyrius, at first a priest in the world, rose up against the unrestricted liquor business, for which he suffered much injustice; he spent some time in Valaam Monastery, and ended his life of great asceticism as a holy man of the Glinsk Monastery in 1868. (Trans. note.)
2 The Orthodox Church on the Veneration of the Name of God and on the Prayer of Jesus, St. Petersburg, 1914, published by Ispovednik.
3 The Moscow priests whose open letter to Patriarch Alexis in 1965 concerning uncanonical conditions within the Patriarchate resulted in their suspension. (Trans.
note.)
4 In the 1930’s, having learned from the fiasco of the “Living Church,” the Moscow Patriarchate tried to present itself as theologically “conservative,” and thus it condemned the heretical “Sophiology” of Fr. S. Bulgakov. Such “conservatism” on a particular point, of course, is far outweighed by the submission of the whole church to communist ideology and purposes.
5 Here we cannot refrain from citing an example of how the Russian church shows concern for the imprisoned and persecuted Sons and daughters of... the Greek people. Patriarch Alexis wrote in this regard (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, 1968, no. 3, p.1, “On the Situation in Greece and the Church of Greece”) to Archbishop Jerome of Athens: “In the days of the Feast of the Theophany we have the moral necessity (!) to address you our word of uneasiness of soul over those sons and daughters of the Greek people, who for their views and strirings for freedom and democracy have for a long time been unjustly confined to prison. We address to you our brotherly appeal to raise your hierarchal word, which could have its influence, for the liberation of all of them from prisons and camps, which without doubt would serve for the restoration of normal life in Greece and bring joy to all men of good will. This statement of yours would be a gift (I(’C())t(Ibl( to flu Lord .Jesus, tIe So ‘i r of he uorld(!), Who came to lay down Hislife for the deliverance of many, ‘to proclaim release to the captives, and to set at liberty them that are bruised’ (Luke 4:18). With brotherly love (signature).” And there are a multitude of such examples.
We do not know whether it is necessary to comment on this “moral necessity” in the mouth of the head of a church who not once in his whole 25-year activity in the rank of Patriarch ever remarked that the sons and daughters of his own homeland for the course of decades have undergone such horrors of actual genocide, not to speak of prisons and concentration camps of which, to their good fortune, the Greeks have never dreamed. Therefore, it is clear what relationship the late Patriarch Alexis and his present successors had and have to any opposition to the Soviet regime: this is not an entirely innocent withdrawal from politics!
6 The factual heads of the Communist Party organization in each region. (Trans. note.)
7 Apocalypse, ch. 12 (Trans. note.)

II. CHURCH AND AUTHORITY
There is no authority but of God. Romans 13:1
THE CHURCH DOCTRINE concerning authority is based on the Divinely-revealed word of the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans. Every existing authority is established by God. It is given to men for the good, for the ruler is the mini8ter of God, and good is from God. Wherefore ye must needs by in subjection for conscience’ sake, for one is in subjection to principles of good. The conscience always accuses injustice, as the Apostle Paul has testified: I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in .the Holy Spirit (Horn. 9:1). Authority is given by God in order to preserve and fulfill the law. But the law, in the Apostolic teaching, can be fulfilled only when it is fulfilled in love. The essence of life is love. And love is life. Love is always revealed in relation to some object. Created human nature in its original form could live only by love for its Creator. He who wishes to live in love inevitably turns to the Source of love, to our Lord Jesus Christ. Where there is no God, there is no love.
But how should one look on the Soviet authority, following the Apostolic teaching on authorities? In accordance with the Apostolic teaching which we have set forth, one must acknowledge that the Soviet authority is not an authority. It is an anti-authority. It is not an authority because it is not established by God, but insolently created by an aggregation of the evil actions of men, and it is consolidated and supported by these actions. If the evil actions of men, and it is consolidated and supported by these actions. If the evil actions weaken, the Soviet authority, representing a condensation of evil, likewise weakens. Evil arises when the Will of God is transgressed. For man this is the ransgression of God’s commandments. The enemy of the human race instructs in this. Satan wages war with God, and the field of battle is the hearts of men. This authority consolidates itself in order to destroy all religions, simply to eradicate faith in God. Its essence is warfare with God, because its root is from satan. The Soviet authority is not authority, because by its nature it cannot totally fulfill the law, for the essence of its life is evil.
It may be said that the Soviet authority, in condemning various crimes of men, can still be considered authority. We do not say thataruling authority is totally lacking. We only affirm that it is an anti-authority. One must know that the affirmation of real power is bound up with certain actions of men, to whom the instinct of preservation is natural. And they must take into consideration the laws of morality which have been inherent in mankind from ages of old. But in essence this authority systematically commits murder physically and spiritually. In reality a hostile power acts, which is called the Soviet authority. The enemy strives by cunning to compel humanity to acknowledge this power as an authority. But the Apostolic teaching on auth is inapplicable to it, jsut as evil is inapplicable to God and the good, because evil is outside God; but the enemies with hypocrisy can take refuge in the well-known saying that everything is from God.
This Soviet anti-authority is precisely a collective antichrist, warfare against God. Therefore also the Apostle has testified from the Holy Spirit:
There is no authority but of God. Evidently it is our lot to live during the approach of the last times, when the enemy by a form of truth cunningly entangles men, while in essence it offers anti-truth.
After the appearance of the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, the Sergianist church organization irreversibly entered into an adulterous tie with the Soviet State. Immediately there was introduced into Divine services the commemoration of the God-hating authorities. This was a blow at the Christian heart, a sinister trampling down of souls, a mockery against the memory of the ranks of new martyrs. The history of the Church of Christ had not yet known such a terrible fall of a church organization, at the head of which there stood fighters against God.
The pure conscience of the faithful could not accept this. It could not accept the enforced bond of a free, pure organism with evil. It could not accept the bond of an organism of love with hatred for this organism. It could not in eucharistic love be together with the Judas-betrayers. There was only one way out: to depart from evil so as not to commit iniquity.
In the purity of her fundamental principle the Church is always free. Where the Holy Spirit is, there is freedom. Love lives in freedom. The believer with a pure conscience irrepressibly strives toward such an organism, that is, toward the Church of Christ. In an organism of purity and sanctity he receives a free absolution from sin. Christian souls in the Church of Christ are seized by an unfathomable joy of freedom. Then the world is powerless in the spirit of malice, because in the heart love triumphs. It can only physically destroy earthly life, but it is not given it to destroy life that has been redeemed.
Can one leave the Sergianist church? The Sergianists constantly deceive the church people, affirming that in their church there is no perversion of dogma. Our conscience testifies that it is not dogmas affirmed by the Church that have been perverted, but rather the very nature of the Church—the freedom given her by our Lord Jesus Christ has been trampled on. The soul of a sincere believer can never come into contact with the fullness of freedom in the Sergianist church, because the Sergianist sin will constantly torture it. Sergianism has perverted the doctrine of the Holy Church which was handed down by the Apostles and in the writings of the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church. Concerning this there is the testimony of the exploit of martyrdom and confession of the saints who have departed from the Sergianist church organization.
In this terrible period of human history—the fall of the world into the abyss of hell—the shattered Christian world, which is close to our heart, must become inflamed with universal love. The sufferings of the Russian martyrs call to a joining together around Christ in a great triumph of love. Then God’s love will pour out its grace in abundance on His Church. The Church of Christ will recognize herself, her fullness, and will incarnate this in the last church dogma, which manifestly will show that Sergianism is outside the Church.