Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff
It 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 of Russia.
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 Family.
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 proportions.
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 rule.
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:
"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:
"Hence, 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 in Russia."
Let us turn to one more foundational document, the "Testament" of Metropolitan Anastassy, which in its concluding paragraph states:
"As 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 Russian nation."
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 nation."
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 considered itself?
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 Patriarchate.
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 temptations."
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":
"2. 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 each side.
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 themselves.
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 is unprecedented.
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 web site.
The fundamental areas of discussion have been announced and are no secret.
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:
"We 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 Vitaly (Maximenko).
In this book there is an essay by Archbishop Vitaly, entitled "Our Debt [Responsibility] Before the Mother Church."
In it we read the following:
"We 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, p. 71.)
". . . 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 Resolution.
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 in 1946.
Yet how many of our people in the Church Abroad are aware of this fact?
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 ryassas."
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 and distributed?"
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 its fruits.
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, this continued.
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 four hours.
And, what— all of the participating clergymen were really "Chekists in ryassas"?
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 destroyed.
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 homeland.
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