Second All-Diaspora Council, 1938
Epistle of the Second Pan-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
to the Russian Flock in the Diaspora
“Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” (I Pet. 1:2)
Brethren, endure with great joy the trial of our Faith which is sent down [upon us] by God, and is a sign not only of the wrath, but also of the mercy of God. The mercy of God is clearly made manifest before us, just as it was revealed when we escaped the sharp sword, preserving our life.
Saved from the violent death which was inescapable for many of us in our homeland, we proceeded by many paths—some by sea, others over the desolate steppes, and yet others through the assaults of the enemy—and we reached countries in which we have been able to make homes for ourselves. We were defenseless wanderers, and we knew not what awaited us, exiles from our homeland and sojourners in foreign lands. And the mercy of God has preserved us outside the borders of the fatherland. Indeed, the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the forced exodus of the Russian people from their native boundaries is approaching. Over the intervening years much has been endured, much suffered. Yet the Russian people have not perished in exile, but through all the ends of the world have borne the torch of their Faith, which they brought with them from their homeland.
The Russian Diaspora has spread throughout the entire world. While churches are being destroyed within the borders of enslaved Russia , new churches are being built within the Russian Diaspora. While the enslaved and oppressed Russian people are enduring unheard-of persecution for the Faith and in many places are forbidden to hear the Word of God and to pray during the divine services, the Russians of the Diaspora, often without wishing it, show themselves to be preachers of the Word of God and missionaries of the True Faith. As we can personally attest, when foreigners become acquainted with the divine services of the Orthodox and see the signs and miracles worked through the holy things of the Russians, many of them are converted to Orthodoxy and preach it among their own compatriots.
Woe to us, however, if, having been made the instrument of the Providence of God for the proclamation of the Truth like Israel of old, in our Diaspora we become utterly like the latter, and while advancing the salvation of other nations, we ourselves do not turn to the true path and are rejected by God for our sins. Woe to us if in the events that have taken place we do not see the finger of God punishing us for our sins and pointing the way to salvation. May it not be with us as it is with those from whom the fathers and prophets sprang, but from whom only a remnant will be saved. Let us test how faithful we are to God and how zealous in the doing of His commandments. O Russian people, give an account to God for those promises you gave 950 years ago at your baptism. O Russian Diaspora, stand before your baptizer, the holy Vladimir, the equal of the apostles, and confess your sins to him. Say first of all whether you are maintaining the holy and grace-filled Orthodox Faith in its purity.
It is difficult for us to face the fact that, while we call ourselves Orthodox, we see in our midst many who are seeking new truths and a new wisdom. Paying no need to the word of God, which preaches Christ, the Power and Wisdom of God, certain even of the clergy have been drawn away by the preaching of the new doctrine of a Wisdom of God distinct from Christ and unknown to the holy fathers.
This doctrine, which has become known as "Sophism," is especially dangerous because many can be imbued with its spirit without becoming its committed followers: at its foundation lies the prideful sense of ones own worthiness in the sight of God, in which man is no longer a humble servant of God, but a being essential to the Lord God Himself, whom the Lord will reward not only with His mercy, but with the rights appertaining to man.
There is no need to say how much this spirit is opposed to the spirit of the Gospel and how much he who espouses this doctrine or drinks in its spirit departs from Orthodoxy and becomes alien to it in his spiritual disposition.
Many in the bosom of the Holy Church are likewise turning to various teachings contrary to Christianity, taken in by Theosophy, the cabalistic sciences, spiritualism, occupying themselves with the evocation of the dead or teaching about their reincarnation, perhaps unaware that by this they become enemies of Christianity and fall away from the Church.
All of these teachings contradict the basic dogmas of Christianity; and they are even more dangerous because those who fall under their influence fail to see the poison hidden in them. For this reason one must firmly oppose all seductions and temptations which derive from the sowers of falsehood and ungodliness. All the enemies of Orthodoxy have now arrayed themselves [against us], thinking that with the fall of the Russian Orthodox Empire a time favorable for their success has arrived. Various sectarian societies, which disguise themselves under the name of Christ but in reality pervert the teaching of Christ, have intensified their activity. Each of them maintains that it alone is the bearer of the true Gospel of Christ, and rejects the Holy Church with its divinely ordained hierarchy and the sacraments performed by it. The Word of God has foretold these fashionable teachers, pointing out that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall turn themselves unto fables” (II Tim. 4: 3-4).
No less are the Masonic organizations, which often feign zeal for virtue, but strive to do so not in the name of Christ, developing their pernicious work. Borrowing from Christianity individual provisions of its moral teaching, they lure the children of the Church into their nets, trying in vain to found a Christianity without Christ. Many who have joined the Masonic lodges were drawn into them only by the good ideals presented by masonry for show, and which try in vain to hide from those uninitiated into its mysteries that is a most evil enemy of Christianity, for the destruction of which it is exerting all its efforts. For this reason all who have joined the Masonic lodges, in whatever capacity they may serve, consciously or unconsciously act against Christianity, and as enemies of Christ are subject to expulsion from the Church. Let anyone who has joined this society in error and comes to realize the destructiveness of his action, make haste to break out of its nets and confess his sins to the clergy; for if he continues to remain within the Masonic society he will become a conscious enemy of the Church.
And Catholicism too is now waging war against Orthodoxy with particular stubbornness and exceptional guile. True, among its adherents are many persons who are sincerely and unselfishly helping homeless Russians, and their memory will be preserved by the latter with gratitude. Yet we must acknowledge with profound dismay that the general trend is extremely inimical to Orthodoxy. Instead of turning its powers against the enemy who is bestially waging war on the very essence of Christianity and is striving to negate all with which it has enriched the world, the Catholic leadership, taking advantage of the difficult circumstances in which the Orthodox people find themselves, are using every cunning ploy possible to annihilate, or at least weaken, Orthodoxy. In some places they use their own power and position to accomplish this, confiscating Orthodox churches, violently converting them into Catholic churches. In others, the war against Orthodoxy is waged by employing more refined techniques. Those in need are given material assistance, or are offered gainful employment, on condition that they change their religion. The doors of educational institutions are opened wide to the children of the Orthodox, but in them artificial means are used to turn the children away from Orthodoxy.
A particularly cunning and evil method of converting the Orthodox to Catholicism is the introduction of the so-called Eastern Rite. Knowing that the Russians refuse to accept the Unia, the very name of which invokes memories of the oppression of the south-western regions by the Catholics, and also understanding that the preaching of Catholicism in its pure form will meet with no success in Russia, the Vatican is now creating “Catholicism of the Eastern Rite,” which is the same Catholicism in essence, only disguised. The clergymen of this branch wear ordinary liturgical vestments, exactly like those of the Orthodox clergy; they celebrate divine services which do not differ externally from Orthodox services; and for this they set up churches in Eastern Orthodox style. However, all of this is organized for the sole purpose of deluding the Orthodox, who at first may even believe that Catholicism and Orthodoxy are in essence the same thing. This they do by using the principle of “the end justifies the means.”
The Orthodox must become aware that the “Eastern Rite” has been formed for the destruction of Orthodoxy, and for this reason one should beware of all communion with it and in no way cooperate with it, lest one become an ally of the enemies of the Orthodox Church.
One must note with sorrow that many have ceased to be afraid of openly apostasizing from the Church. Some treat all confessions with indifference, seeing nothing in them but external ritualism; others are attracted by the teaching of self-proclaimed preachers, thinking to learn the true path to the kingdom of God from them, and are now exclusively seduced by the benefits they hope to receive by converting to another religion, forsaking the Orthodox Church for such mercenary motives and joining various sects and non-Orthodox religions.
The truth of the Holy Orthodox Faith is borne witness even in our days by the multitudes of signs and wonders, performed in the icons which have renewed themselves in our times and by the holy saints who have shone forth in recent years. Who will dare to say that the true Church of God is not that which produced, and in which was glorified, Saint Seraphim of Sarov? Who will dare to maintain that the Church is devoid of grace which God glorifies by the miraculous renewal of icons, which is taking place before the eyes of many? Only hardness of heart and spiritual blindness can make men conscious enemies of Orthodoxy. Dire will be the judgment pronounced upon such people.
A firm stand in the Orthodox Faith must consist not only of an accurate confession of the doctrine of the Orthodox Church, but of life lived in accordance with faith. This is why we weep over the sins and transgressions with which we have defiled ourselves and incurred the wrath of God; this is why we repent of them with all our heart. Let us first of all remember that sin which lies like a heavy burden upon the entire Russian nation, insofar as it is a single organism, and which serves, perhaps, as the main reason for its present-day misfortunes and our exile from our homeland. This sin is the betrayal of the Anointed of God, with which the creators and inspirers of our Revolution have stained themselves.
Let us recall how we treated the events which destroyed Russia, how many joyfully welcomed the usurpation of authority by those who rebelled against the Sovereign and turned away from him whom not long before they had greeted everywhere ecstatically. Reviling, listening to and spreading slanders against the innocent sufferer, the Russian people permitted the enemies of Russia to deprive him of his freedom and to banish him deep into the countryside, leaving him defenseless in the hands of criminals. The martyrdom of the Imperial Family was the direct result of these crimes and lies on the conscience not only of those who played an immediate role in this greatest of evil acts, but upon all of us as well, insofar as we did nothing to wrest the Sovereign from the hands of the criminal murderers.
When innocent blood is shed, it cries out to God from the earth, like the blood of Abel, and testifies against those who caused it to be spilled. Let each one of us repent, without attempting to justify himself, earnestly beseeching God to forgive him this great sin against himself and the whole Russian nation, and offering up prayers for the repose of the slain imperial martyrs and all who unjustly suffered with them. Furthermore, let us entreat God, that, having clothed the Tsar-Martyr with incorrupt glory, He show His mercy to His Russian nation and return to the throne of Russia His anointed one, the Orthodox Tsar. And let us offer up heartfelt prayers to God, that He hasten the salvation of our homeland and make us worthy to return to a liberated native land.
The education of children is one of the most important goals, not only of parents, but of society as a whole. Many Russian children are now being educated in various foreign educational institutions, which sometimes provide excellent knowledge of individual fields and subjects, but are unable to nurture a child in the Orthodox Faith and love for Russia . By now many of the upcoming generation are being raised as foreign to Russia and inimical to Orthodoxy; there are among them those who are prepared, whenever the possibility arises, to sow in Russia those very poisonous seeds which they themselves have ingested while growing up in a foreign land. Who will be to blame if in the future these children perhaps cause great evil to their own native land? Who if not the parents who, while trying to provide their children with the education essential for employment in the future, made no effort to insure first of all that they be educated as Orthodox and Russian. It is the duty of the Russian Diaspora to preserve the spiritual values of Holy Russia and to transmit them to the future generations, to prepare them for service to a reborn Great Russia.
The path of the salvation of our homeland lies through our personal struggle to perfect ourselves. The enslavers of Russia have raised the banner of atheism and armed themselves with the weaponry of the spirits of wickedness. Our banner is the holy and life-creating Cross, and our armor must be the virtues indicated by the Word of God. The rebirth of our homeland must begin with the spiritual rebirth of each of us individually. The conflict with the current regime in our much-suffering homeland is a conflict between two principles, a conflict between faith and unbelief, a conflict between atheism and belief in God. To be on the side of light and righteousness and to accomplish a holy work one must purify oneself and be reborn within. It is impossible to do battle with evil outside oneself while being full of it inside. The Lord has indicated that the devil's tribe is driven out only by prayer and fasting (Mt. 17:21; Mk. 9:29). Armed therewith, and paying strict attention to the divine services and the reading of the Word of God, let us try to embody the teaching of Christ in our own lives, faithfully carrying out what the Church asks of us. Only in seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness will we become true warriors against the kingdom of Satan and unrighteousness and be able to rebuild a resurrected Great Russia. The rebuilding of Holy Russia is attainable only by those who breathe the spirit of its right faith and piety. Thus are our homelands‹that in heaven and that on earth‹inseparably bound to one another. Prospering in the moral life, we prepare ourselves for that which is to come, while at the same time we approach the moment of the liberation of our native land. When the Russian nation is flooded by a wave of repentance, salvation will ensue. Then the Lord will send His blessing upon our works and intentions, and our path will become blessed. God will not deny our petitions; He will hearken to our prayers. Then, in the purity of our intentions and actions, we will receive power from God, and our advance upon the enemy will be a whirlwind sweeping him from our path like dust; his legions will not withstand our pitiful handful. Then will the Lord fill our enemies with confusion and, causing them to fall into our hands, will bring us into our homeland, where He will set us to minister to justice and will permit us to treat the wounds of our native land and our wounded and boundlessly suffering brethren.
The end of all of this is at hand. Be chaste, and be vigilant in your prayers. Turn to the Lord in fasting with all your heart, weeping and lamenting, that He take pity on us. Then will the Lord rouse Himself for His land and spare His people. Then will He again permit times of prosperity for our land, and before [passing on to] the heavenly homeland we will see our earthly homeland in glory. But if we do not come to our senses, we will die in our grief, and our very name may be erased from the book of those who dwell on earth.
O Russian Diaspora, heed the word of the Lord: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:19).