is Time to Know Our History
Over the last few months, I have been listening with interest to
various statements on church affairs both in conversations and in
the press. I feel the concern that many people in our Church have,
and I am certain that other believers share it. Of course, any changes
will cause stress, and a sense of disorientation. This is especially
applies when we are speaking of the Holy Church, the bastion and
keeper of the Truth.
I wish to share my thoughts on this matter:
First, there is no doubt that the attitude of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia towards the Russian Orthodox Church in
Russia of the Moscow Patriarchate has undergone essential changes.
These changes are an absolutely natural consequence of the fundamental
changes in social and ecclesiastical life in Russia that have taken
place over the past fifteen years.
During the time that representatives of the Church in Russia was
enslaved and under almost complete control of the God-fighting Soviet
power, unable to speak openly about the true situation, and, in
fact, remaining silent about the persecution that the Church suffered
at the hands of the communist authorities—of course, upon the Church
Abroad lay the responsibility of speaking openly--to remain the
sole free voice of the Russian Orthodox Church, to persistently
witness the podvigi [labors-in-Christ] of the New Martyrs and Confessors
But now—the situation has fundamentally changed. The Church in Russia
is free in its actions—spiritual literature is published, seminaries
are opened along with monasteries and convents, churches are built
and restored, church schools are established, etc. The Church there
now speaks openly about the terrible times of the persecution by
the Soviet state. Huge churches dedicated to the New Martyrs and
Confessors of Russia are being built, and every Church has icons
of these martyrs, especially of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and his
How can anyone say that nothing has changed? These are not "Potemkin
villages" to fool tourists, or the simple "gilding of
cupolas." This is a religious renaissance of truly stupendous
And, we must ask ourselves—do we want to be part of this overwhelming
religious revival or no?
Of course, one can speak of the many everyday problems in contemporary
Russia, including church life. And such problems are inevitable,
especially considering the aftereffects of 80 years of communist
Some people will point out the personal sins of individual clergymen
in the MP and try to use those as an indictment of the entire Russian
Church. But to do so is not only un-Christian, but, in fairness,
it could be pointed out that if one looks carefully at the history
of our own Church Abroad, one will find no lack of individual clergymen
with personal sins equally onerous.
There are those who say that we must "demand" repentance
from those in the MP, clergy and laity. One could ask, first of
all, where in the Scriptures or in Our Lord's sayings, or in the
entire teaching of the Church does it say that we, Christians, have
the right to demand repentance of anyone but our own selves?
But, to return to the crux of the matter, there are those who accuse
the current leadership of the Church Abroad of "abandoning
its historical positions" and "taking a new course."
Those who would say this are simply expressing their own complete
ignorance of the historical course of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia. This course is not defined by the "cold
war" rhetoric that representatives of our Church engaged in
during the time that the Church in Russia was subjugated to the
godless state. No, it is clearly expressed in the foundational documents
of our Church, in Conciliar Epistles of our Sobors of Bishops, and
in such documents as the "Testament" of Metropolitan Anastassy.
The Regulations of our Church Abroad, state in Paragraph 1:
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is an indissoluble
part of the Russian Orthodox Church, and for the time until the
extermination in Russia of the atheist government, is self-governing
on conciliar principles in accordance with the resolution of the
Patriarch, the Most Holy Synod, and the Highest Church Council [Sobor]
of the Russian Church dated 7/20 November, 1920, No. 362."
Note the words carefully: "for the time until the extermination
in Russia of the atheist government, [the Church Abroad] . . . is
self-governing. . ."
This paragraph—the most fundamental paragraph of the entire Regulations
of the Church Abroad, defining its nature and the conditions under
which it exists—states that our Church Abroad is not a completely
independent organization; instead it is only a "part"
of the Russian Orthodox Church, and that its self-governance is
temporary—existing only for the time that an atheistic government
still exists in Russia.
Let me ask the question directly: Do you accept the formulation
here as the binding principle defining the separate existence of
the Church Abroad? If the answer is yes, then how can you be opposed
to the Church Abroad acting in accordance with its own fundamental
constitution, and noting the indubitable fact of the extermination
in Russia of the atheistic government, taking steps to end the separation
of the sundered parts of the Church of Russia, an "indissoluble"
part of which it always considered itself?
Now let us look at the most significant Conciliar Epistle of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia regarding the relationship
between the Church Abroad and the enslaved Church in Russia. This
is the Conciliar Epistle of our Sobor of Bishops of 1933, a whole
23 pages long, in answer to an Epistle of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky)
written earlier that year. The Epistle of the Church Abroad is signed
by Metropolitan Anthony, Archbishop Anastassy (later to be First
Hierarch) and all of the bishops of the Church Abroad.
In it we read:
it is apparent that the organs of the Ecclesiastical Administration
Abroad have in nowise striven to appropriate the rights of autocephaly
for itself, as Metropolitan Sergius accuses us. To the present day
the entire Church organization abroad has considered and still considers
itself an extraordinary and temporary institution, which must be
abolished without delay after the restoration of normal social and
ecclesiastical life in Russia."
Note the words that say that the Church Abroad "considers itself
an extraordinary and temporary institution, which must be abolished
without delay after the restoration of normal social and ecclesiastical
life in Russia."
And let us not try to play with words, trying to say that the social
and ecclesiastical life in contemporary Russia is not "normal,"
that is not the point. It is perfectly clear from the Conciliar
Epistle of the Church Abroad from which this quote is taken, that
the Church Abroad considered the eradication of the atheistic Soviet
government, dedicated to the destruction of Church life, as the
criterion for judging whether "normal" ecclesiastical
and social life was restored. There are those who say that the current
government of the Russian Federation comprises many of the same
people who were part of the Soviet governmental apparatus, so, therefore,
nothing has changed.
We should remember from history, that even though the same people
may have served two different regimes, it is not the individuals
who matter, but the ideology of the state.
There were plenty of government workers and officials in the new
Soviet government who had been government workers and officials
in the Tsarist government—in fact, most of the generals and senior
officers of the Red Army were former Imperial officers. Does this
mean that the presence of these people in the new Soviet governmental
and military apparatus signifies that there was really no change
between the two regimes, before and after the Revolution?
I am quite sure that after the Baptism of Russia, the noblemen and
people in authority who surrounded Grand Prince Vladimir were the
same ones who surrounded him and were in authority when they were
all pagans. Does this mean that their continued service to the Grand
Prince and the State, now as baptized Christians, meant that the
new Christian State was really the same pagan state?
No more, then, does the presence of former communist functionaries
in the new government of the Russian Federation mean that the government
itself is the same old communist government.
The new government is radically different. With regards to the Church,
it not only does not attempt to destroy the Church or to instill
militant atheism into all citizens—but it is actively working with
the Church in giving the Church the ability to have its Church life
develop peacefully and fruitfully.
That is what is meant by the words of the Church Abroad's Conciliar
Epistle "restoration of normal ecclesiastical and social life
Let us turn to one more foundational document, the "Testament"
of Metropolitan Anastassy, which in its concluding paragraph states:
regards the Moscow Patriarchate and its hierarchs, for so long as
they are found in close, active, and benevolent cooperation with
the Soviet regime, which openly confesses its total-godlessness
and strives to implant atheism in the entire Russian nation, then
the Church Abroad, maintaining her purity, must not have any canonical,
prayerful, or even ordinary communion with them whatsoever, at the
same time leaving each one of them to the final judgment of the
Sobor of the future free Russian Church."
This document even more clearly and unequivocally states what the
conditions are for restoration of canonical, prayerful, and even
ordinary communion with the Moscow Patriarchate and its hierarchs,
namely, when they cease to be "found in close, active, and
benevolent cooperation with the Soviet regime, which openly confesses
its total-godlessness and strives to implant atheism in the entire
There can be absolutely no question that the hierarchs in the Moscow
Patriarchate are no longer "found in close, active, and benevolent
cooperation with the Soviet regime, which openly confesses its total
godlessness and strives to implant atheism in the entire Russian
There is no Soviet regime, there is no regime which openly confesses
its total-godlessness and strives to implant atheism in the entire
Russian nation—quite the contrary!
Let me ask the question directly.
Do you accept the formulation given by Metropolitan Anastassy as
the binding criterion by which the Church Abroad must be guided
when deciding when to reestablish canonical, prayerful or even ordinary
communion with the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate?
If the answer is yes, then how can you be opposed to the Church
Abroad acting in accordance with its own fundamental principles
as voiced in the Testament of Metropolitan Anastassy, and noting
the indubitable fact that the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate
are no longer found in close, active, and benevolent cooperation
with the Soviet regime, which openly confesses its total-godlessness
and strives to implant atheism in the entire Russian nation— taking
steps to end the separation of the sundered parts of the Church
of Russia, and "indissoluble" part of which it always
The current steps being taken by the Church Abroad are absolutely
in keeping with its historical position, as expressed in these foundational
documents, and, in fact, are dictated by them.
Some critics today state that proof that the Russian Church Abroad
has changed its path is the use in recent official statements and
epistles of the patriarchal title for the present head of the Russian
Church. They say that it was not written that way in the past.
But again, this is evidence of ignorance of historical documents
of our Church.
In October 1945, Metropolitan Anastassy of Blessed Memory wrote
a long Epistle addressed to the Russian Orthodox people. In it,
the name of Patriarch Alexii I (Simansky) is mentioned many times.
Metropolitan Anastassy's Epistle begins with the following words:
"The new head of the Russain Church, Patriarch AlexyÉ"
(p. 213 in Yubilejniy Sbornik trudov Mitropolitan Anastasija po
sluchaju 50-letija ego svjashchennosluzhenija [Anniversary Compendium
of the Works of Metropolitan Anastassy on the 50th Anniversary of
His Clerical Service], Jordanville, 1948).
In that same Compendium, on page 221, we read: "Since the present
head of the Russian Church follows the exampleÉ" And again,
on page 225: "The dependence of the new head of the Russian
ChurchÉ" and further, "Ébetween the bishops of the Church
Abroad and the head of the Russian ChurchÉ"
The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
Russia in Munich in 1946In expressed itself exactly the same way,
in its Conciliar Epistle, which includes the following words: "The
Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration in Russia in the person of
the present head of the Russian Church, Patriarch AlexiiÉ"
In another Epistle in 1945, Metropolitan Anastassy calls Patriarch
Alexii "the new helmsman of the Russian Church."
Without any conditions, the wise First Hierarch of the Church Abroad
calls Patriarch Alexii the Patriarch, and at the same time, the
Head or Helmsman specifically of the Russian Church—not of the Moscow
If our wisest archpastors allowed themselves to express themselves
this way almost 60 years ago, when the entire Church administration
in the Soviet Union was under full control of the godless state,
who can object to the use of such expressions now, when the Church
in Russia is free?
Incidentally, in the Conciliar Epistle of Munich in 1946, there
is a clearly-expressed definition of when it would be possible to
enter into canonical communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, to
wit, that it is impossible: "Éwhile the supreme Church authority
in Russia is in an unnatural union with the godless state and while
the entire Russian Church is deprived of the true freedom provided
to Her by Her Divine nature."
It should be clear to everyone that the criterion expressed here
has already elapsed.
I would like to make some comments on other documents.
In the "Appeal by the Laity" date June 27, 2004, it speaks
of the need for an All-Diaspora Council with the participation of
bishops, clergy and laity before any resolutions regarding any form
of reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate are made.
The Appeal states that this issue "must be examined "soborno"
[with conciliarity] by representatives of all component parts of
our Church, with the aim of reaching spiritual unity. With God's
help, such unity has guided our Church during the course of many
decades throughout many non-Christian and non-Orthodox ordeals and
Regarding this, I would like to state that our Church Abroad throughout
the course of the decades of its existence has never had "spiritual
unity" on many major issues.
As all must know, the Church Abroad was deeply divided on the issue
of the restoration of the Romanoff dynasty in Russia. The future
Metropolitan Anastassy and many other bishops were quite opposed
to the position of Metropolitan Anthony on this issue.
In later years, there was great disagreement among the bishops on
the question of the glorification of St. John of Kronstadt, with
Metropolitan Anastassy taking the principled position that the Church
Abroad, being only a temporary part of the Church of Russia, did
not have the authority to glorify any saints on its own.
Some time later, there were great divisions among our bishops on
the question of the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors
of Russia, headed by the Tsar Martyr and the Royal Martyrs.
There was no unanimity among our bishops on the issues of establishing
Eucharistic communion with the Cyprianite group of Greek Old Calendarists
and their affiliated groups in Bulgaria and Romania.
Neither was there unanimity on the question of our Church Abroad
opening parishes in Russia (thus creating the rather ludicrous concept
of parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in
Russia - ROCORIR).
This decision was also in direct contradiction of the Statutes of
the Church Abroad, which, in Paragraph 2, clearly define the canonical
territory of the Church Abroad as being those "outside the
borders of Russia":
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is composed of those
who are outside the borders of Russia and are guided by the lawful
hierarchy of a diocese with their parishes, church communities,
spiritual missions and monasteries."
Notwithstanding this, the Synod, in 1990, made the decision to open
parishes there, a decision with undoubtedly far-reaching consequences.
Let me ask the question directly.
Was there an All-Diasporan Council with the participation of bishops,
priests and laymen called to decide any of these significant issues,
upon which there was no unanimity among the bishops, the clergy,
or the flock?
Why did people not protest, for example, when the decision was made
to open parishes in Russia that "sobornost'" was being
violated, since the clergy and laymen were not able to be heard
on this matter?
Fourth, regarding some recent comments regarding the process of
negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate, it is clear to me that
some do not understand the process, or they would not be questioning
the need for confidentiality of working documents, prior to their
acceptance by both sides.
The ecclesiastical administrations of both sides made the decision
to delegate the negotiations to special commissions appointed by
The Commissions would meet separately, then jointly, to work through
the issues and to propose solutions that would be mutually accepted.
The Commissions themselves are only arms of the Councils of Bishops
on both sides, and do not have the authority to make any decisions
Therefore, their working documents and drafts, both those prepared
by each side, and those that are jointly worked out by the commissions—must
be confidential, until they are reviewed and approved by the actual
Councils of Bishops, which have the authority to do so.
Disclosure of unapproved draft documents would be foolish. Does
the Press Secretary have the right to publish a draft of a presidential
speech that has not been reviewed and approved by the President?
Of course not.
The basic issue is that many people do not seem to be able to understand
the difference between "secrecy" and "confidentiality."
If one is honest, one would have to say that the amount of information
that has been made public about the discussions currently going
on between the Commissions of the Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate
There have been several official statements regarding the work of
the Commissions, both before and after the first joint meeting,
there are published joint statements, and there was a lengthy personal
report by one of the participants that was posted on the Synodal
The fundamental areas of discussion have been announced and are
The Commission of the Church Abroad, after its first working meeting,
met with the Synod of Bishops and explained the methodology and
presented the list of issues that were to be discussed and the approach
to be taken, and received instructions from the First Hierarch and
the members of the Hierarchical Synod and their blessing to proceed.
After the first joint meeting, the President and Secretary of the
Commission of the Church Abroad presented to the Synod of Bishops
a full report on the meeting in Moscow, and went through all of
the documents, word by word. The draft documents worked out at the
first joint session were carefully assessed by the members of the
Synod of Bishops, and nothing in them was found to be in contradiction
to the principle positions of the ROCOR. As noted in its official
announcement, "The Synod of Bishops expressed its gratitude
the Committee on discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate, expressing
the hope that the two committees labor in the future for the good
of the Church in the spirit of brotherly love, holding to the truth
and to the unadulterated Orthodox Confession of Faith."
So—there is complete and close coordination and direction of the
work of the Commission of the Church Abroad by its Synod of Bishops,
and all of this is being announced to the public through the medium
of the Synodal website.
What would be unethical, however, would be the publication of working
documents of one side that have been superseded by jointly worked
out documents, or the publication of any documents prior to their
review and acceptance by the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authorities—the
Synods of Bishops of both sides.
Again, as I stated, I believe that a significant problem lies in
the fact that many people in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside
of Russia simply do not know the history of their Church.
For example, they do not have a complete understanding of the assessment
of the Church Abroad regarding the Deputy Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal
Throne, Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky).
How many of our parishioners (or even clergy) are aware of the Conciliar
Epistle of the 1933 Sobor of the Church Abroad?
In it, we read:
are taking fully into account the extraordinary difficulties of
the position of Metropolitan Sergius, who is now the de facto head
of the Church of Russia, and are aware of the heavy burden of responsibility
for the fate of the latter, which lies upon him. No one, therefore,
has the audacity to accuse him for the mere attempt to enter into
dialogue with the Soviet regime so as to obtain legal standing for
the Church of Russia. Not without foundation does the deputy locum
tenens of the Patriarchal Throne say in his aforementioned Declaration
that only "armchair dreamers can think that such a vast community
as our Orthodox Church, with all its organization, can exist peacefully
in a country while walling itself off from the authorities."
While the Church exists on earth, it remains closely bound up with
the fates of human society and cannot be imagined outside time and
space. It is impossible for it to refrain from all contact with
a powerful societal organization such as the government; otherwise
it would have to leave the world."
Here we have Metropolitans Anthony and Anastassy and all of the
Bishops of the Church Abroad, six years after the "Declaration"
of 1927, referring to Metropolitan Sergius as the "de facto
head of the Church of Russia," and expressing sympathy with
his position, even quoting favorably from the "Declaration."
Few, however, know this.
At the Pastoral Conference in Nyack, there was a great deal of concern
expressed by some of our clergy regarding the book on Metropolitan
Sergius, "The Keeper of the House of God," recently published
by Sretensky Monastery in Moscow. Those who spoke commented on this
book and its expressions of praise directed to Metropolitan Sergius
as being proof of the resurgence of Sergianism.
Now, I am holding in my hands another book, also published in a
Monastery, only not by the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, but by
Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville: "Motives of My Life,
by the ever-memorable "Avva" of the Church Abroad, Archbishop
In this book there is an essay by Archbishop Vitaly, entitled "Our
Debt [Responsibility] Before the Mother Church."
In it we read the following:
wish to point out our direct responsibility [debt], our great responsibility
[debt] before the Mother-Russian Church and we will speak of this
with all our love and devotion to Her, with deep prostration before
the podvig of Patriarch Sergius, ("s glubokim prekloneniem
pred podvigom Patriarkha Sergiia"), but with full obedience
also to the Truth of Christ and the Church, deeply believing, that
'the Truth is great and can do all.'" (Motives of My Life,
. . with deep prostration before the podvig of Patriarch Sergius.
Truly, what could be more "Sergianist" than that?
Yet this statement appears in a book that was not only printed,
but reprinted in a second edition by our monastery in Jordanville,
under Archbishop Averky, during the time of Metropolitan Anastassy—
a book which contains the Imprimatur of Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky,
the Spiritual Censor of the Church Abroad.
Another fact, in the same vein, that is virtually unknown is that
on October 26-27, 1943, Archbishop Vitaly, Bishop Ieronym, and Bishop
Ioasaph took part in a Sobor of Bishops in North America, which
discussed the election of Metropolitan Sergius to be Patriarch of
Russia, and passed a Resolution accepting this election, and directing
that the Patriarch of Moscow be commemorated during services, together
with Metropolitan Anastassy and the local Metropolitan Theophilus.
Following this decision, Metropolitan Theophilus, on November 11,
1943 issued an edict that the commemoration of all three hierarchs
must be performed in all churches in North America.
Upon the repose of Patriarch Sergius (May 15, 1944), on May 23,
1944, Metropolitan Theophilus issued another edict, directing that
the name of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, Metropolitan Alexei (Simansky)
was to be commemorated in all parishes. This edict was confirmed
on May 31 by the Sobor of Bishops of North America, again, with
the participation of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), who signed the
Therefore, it is a historical fact that from 1943 in all our parishes
in North America (and this would include the San Francisco Cathedral
of the Holy Virgin and our own Los Angeles Cathedral), the Patriarch
of Moscow was commemorated at divine services together with Metropolitan
Anastassy. This lasted right up to the time of the Cleveland Council
Yet how many of our people in the Church Abroad are aware of this
Or, how many are aware of the similar Ukaz, No 650, dated August
24, 1945, by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, directing that
the name of Patriarch Alexei I of Moscow and All Russia be commemorated
at all divine services?
The wise archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
very carefully refrained from direct criticism of the Deputy Locum
Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, Sergius, recognizing the difficult
circumstances in which he found himself. For example, Archbishop
Mefodii of Harbin and Manchuria, at the conclusion of his long article
ÒOn the Recognition of the Moscow Ecclesiastical Authority by the
Soviet State,Ó writes:
ÒRegarding the matter of the recognition by the Church of the
godless Soviet state, we tried in every way not to name the Deputy
and we speak of the Moscow Ecclesiastical Authority, bearing in
mind that the actions of the Deputy may have been coerced through
pressure exerted upon him by the agent of the GPU, Tuchkov, always
by his side, who is a Soviet Procurator of sorts; let any though
of criticism of the Deputy be far from us, for he is an unwilling
prisoner of the tyrannical authorities; especially since we had
no intention of casting stones at our suffering Mother Russian Church,
as we are accused of by some. We examined the very act of recognition,
and our Archpastoral consciences oblige us to answer the matter
which disturbs the believing souls. Everything in this article that
we may be blamed for, if anything at all, is addressed not to the
Deputy so much as to those who speak and act in his name.Ó
So, it should be patently clear that the Church Abroad, as represented
by its eminent archpastors, did not so blanketly condemn Metropolitan,
later Patriarch Sergius, as some may have thought.
We hear the accusation being raised against the bishops and clergy
of the Moscow Patriarchate that they are just "Chekists in
In fact, a conversation I had with one of our clergymen at the Conference
in Nyack, (who was so propagandized that he seemed to sincerely
believe that every priest and bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate
had horns growing out of his head), went something like this:
Me: "But look at all of the churches that are being built,
the monasteries restored, the seminaries opened?"
Him: "Bah! Chekists in ryassas!"
Me: "But look at all of spiritual material that is being published
Him: "Bah! Chekists in ryassas!"
Me: "But look at all of the parish schools that have been opened,
where children are being taught the Law of God?"
Him: "Bah! Chekists in ryassas!"
I would like to ask in all honesty—how can you have an intelligent
conversation with someone who acts like this?
I must say that I was stunned by the unfitting behavior of some
of our clergymen during the Conference in Nyack. They apparently
had forgotten that guests from the Moscow Patriarchate, visiting
from Russia, were invited to participate in the Conference by the
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia,
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus. It is accepted practice that when
a guest is invited to your hoe, it is rude to attack or berate them.
At least, I was reared that way.
Especially upsetting was hearing the simply boorish speeches made
by some of our comrade co-pastors who were educated, or better yet,
raised in the former Soviet Union. Never during the ties of our
eminent archpastors such as Archbishop Nikon or Archbishop Averkii
did any clergyman dare to behave or speak out is such a way in the
presence of the First Hierarch and archpastors of our Church. I
was simply ashamed.
Now let us return to the matter at hand.
There are those who have brought up the book that I wrote on the
Moscow Patriarchate in 1994, and who accuse me of now expressing
views that are diametrically opposed to those which I held before.
The answer is in the title of the book itself, and in its epigraph,
which relate to the teaching of our Lord that a tree is known by
In 1994, the nature of the fruits being brought forth by the tree
of the Moscow Patriarchate were still difficult to discern.
Ten years later, these fruits are clearly seen—and there is no doubt
that these fruits are good and even more than good, and, since our
Lord said that an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit—then the
tree itself must be good.
The fact of the matter is that remarkable religious renaissance
is taking place in Russia—something to which I can attest as a witness.
After the conclusion of the joint meeting of the two Commissions,
I stayed in Moscow for several days, living at the Sretensky monastery.
On Saturday, June 28, the Vigil began at 6:00pm and ended at 9:30.
After that, I was invited to a small supper in the brotherhood's
dining room, then went to my room for a brief rest.
At twelve midnight, hundreds of parishioners gathered outside the
Sretensky Monastery, where they and the brethren of the monastery
were taken by bus to the Christ the Savior Cathedral, where the
Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God was.
The monastery, as all monasteries and parishes in Moscow, had been
assigned a particular time slot to serve moliebens and akathists
before the Tikhvin Icon. The Sretensky Monastery's time slot was
1:00 am - 5:00 am on Sunday morning.
It was an amazing sight, as throughout the night, thousands of people
were streaming into the enormous Cathedral to venerate the icon,
young and old, in two rapidly moving files. Three in the morning—four
in the morning—the lines never stopped. For four days, day and night,
We left the Cathedral around five in the morning, got back to the
monastery at 5:30, just in time for morning prayers and the rule
before Communion. The early Liturgy started at 7:00am; the later
one at 10.
At 4:00 pm, the buses were back. The brethren and parishioners of
the Sretensky Monastery (and I, as their guest) were taken back
to the Christ the Savior Cathedral, where 1,200 clergymen were arrayed
to participate in the Procession of the Tikhvin Icon around the
Christ the Savior Cathedral and then on, down the Kremlin embankment,
and up past St. Basil's Cathedral and across the Red Square to the
Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God.
Over 250,000 people participated in this procession, which lasted
And, what— all of the participating clergymen were really "Chekists
I don't think so!
If any of those reading these lines could have been there, I am
sure they would have been moved to tears, as I was.
In Ekaterinburg, on the day of the Royal Martyrs (July 4/17), an
all-night service is held in the huge Church on the Blood, built
on the spot of the murder of the Holy Royal Martyrs.
This is not an "All-night Vigil" like we are used to.
This was, literally, a service that lasted all night, with liturgy
ending at about 5 in the morning.
And then, after serving and praying all night, the Archbishop, 50
priests, and 7,000 parishioners set off on foot in a Procession
of the Cross, following the exact path by which the bodies of the
Royal Martyrs were taken to Ganina Yama to be disposed of.
This procession covers 18 kilometers—something like 12 miles, and
takes four and a half hours. The Procession ends at the Memorial
Cross at the Monastery of the Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, where
a Molieben and Akathist are served.
Do we, in the emigration, have the will and the stamina to do this?
Do you think that such a demonstration of devotion to the Tsar-Martyr
and the other Royal Martyrs is something that would be pleasing
to Chekists in ryassas?
The fundamental reality is that the Russian people have spoken.
To them, there is only one Russian Church—that of the Moscow Patriarchate.
We, who have for eighty years had our spiritual eyes always turned
to Russia and to its faithful people, cannot now, when the terrible
shackles of communist oppression have been shattered, turn our backs
on the Russian people who have suffered so much, and who are now
returning to openly confess their faith and restore that which was
Instead, we must be with them, in body and in spirit, and in prayerful
communion with the Russian people and the Russian Church in the
This is the moment that our teachers, the First Hierarchs of the
Church Abroad and its other great spiritual directors have always
been awaiting—the time when we can be one again with the faithful
Russian people in the holy land of Russia.
The choice is a simple one.
Do you wish to be with the Russian people and the Church of Russia?
I appreciate this opportunity to express my opinions on the issues
that concern us all.
With deep affection and esteem for all who love our Church, and
with love in Christ,
Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff
August 5, 2004
Bell Canyon, California