The different experience and interpretation of the nature of the Church, which was expressed most acutely in the canonical dispute of two eminent hierarchs, Metropolitan Sergius, on the one hand, and Metropolitan Cyril, on the other, was an expression of two church tendencies, two traditions, which to this very day create a most profound difference of opinion in the Russian Church, similar to the dispute between the "Josephians" and the "Non-Possessors" at the beginning of the 16th century. Russian Orthodox believers abroad were also compelled to choose between these two traditions.
Evidently the time is coming when it will be necessary to continue this great dispute, in an atmosphere of tolerance and churchly brotherly love, but not at the expense of churchly truth. The aim is to achieve an Orthodox interpretation of the nature of the Church, which is indissoluble from the conduct of Orthodox forms of church life.
Such a dispute can be fruitful only if one renounces the widespread delusion that like-mindedness on all unsolved, but important questions is an essential condition of church love. On the contrary, love precedes like-mindedness and engenders it, but does so in travail. In the absence of like-mindedness, brotherly love is, undoubtedly, a heavy cross, but to reject it is to reject the hope of attaining the unity and fullness of the Church. The whole tragic experience of the Russian Church shows that the betrayal of the spirit of brotherly love was the profound cause of its present disastrous position...
The voice of Metropolitan Cyril, the first of the Locum Tenentes named by Patriarch Tikhon and the most authoritative (as a poll showed in showed in 1926) hierarch in the Russian Church, sounded later that the others. On 2/15 May, 1929 he wrote to Metropolitan Sergius from exile in Turukhansk:
"Until Metropolitan Sergius (we omit the surname here and later for brevity - L.R.)
destroys the Synod set up by him, I cannot recognize as binding on myself any of his administrative-church orders issued with the participation of the so-called Patriarchal Synod."
This argument about "exceeding authority" was still not enough for such categorical conclusions, as Metropolitan Sergius's reply pointed out. His profoundly Orthodox experience of the nature of Church power led Metropolitan Cyril to take precise canonical actions, although he found the full justification for these actions somewhat later. In the letter which we quote, Metropolitan Cyril continues to develop the ideas of Metropolitan Joseph and Metropolitan Agathangel:
"I am deeply grieved, - Metropolitan Cyril writes, - that among the arch-hierarchs who think as Metropolitan Sergius, in violation of brotherly love, the name of renegade and schismatic is already being applied to those who
disagree with and denounce their wrongness. / do not break away from anything sacred and truly of the church (our italics here and below - L.R.); I am only afraid of approaching and getting stuck to that which I recognize as sinful in its very origin..."
In another letter which was circulating among church people and clergy at about this time (1929), Metropolitan Cyril expresses important thoughts on the real content of the concept of "church discipline":
"Church discipline is able to preserve its effectiveness only as long as it is a true reflection of the hierarchical conscience of the Soborny Church; discipline can never take the place of this conscience. As soon as discipline makes its demands not by virtue of this conscience's instructions, but from motives alien to the Church and insincere, the individual hierarchical conscience is sure to side with the soborny-hierarchical principle of the being of the Church, which is by no means the same as outward unity at all costs. Then the shakiness of church discipline becomes inevitable, as a consequence of sin. There can be only one way out of sin - repentance and fruits worthy of the latter..."
Whereas individual hotheads among Metropolitan Sergius's adversaries had in the heat of the argument at the early stages expressed blasphemy of the sacraments, the reply was similar blasphemy of church sacraments, but deliberate, responsible blasphemy, reinforced by an official resolution. On 24 July/6 August, 1929 Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod passed this shameful resolution on religious rites performed by those whom he called the "schismatic clergy", thus equating with Renovationists and Gregorians all those who did not agree with Metropolitan Sergius's actions. The resolution read as follows:
"Sacraments performed outside the unity of the church... by the followers of the former metropolitan of Leningrad Joseph (Petrovykh), the former bishop of Gdov Dimitry (Lyubirnov) and the former bishop of Urazovk Alexis (Bui), as also being in a stale of prohibition, are also invalid, and converts from these schisms, if the latter were christened in schism, are to be received through the sacrament of Holy Anointing; marriages contracted in schism must also receive a church blessing and the reading of the closing prayer in the marriage rite 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit'.
...Those who have died in Renovationism and in the above-mentioned schisms should not be given the burial service, even at the insistent request of relatives, just as no requiem liturgy should be performed for them. Only a procession to the cemetery with the singing of the 'thrice-holy hymn'... should be permitted.”
The logic of coercion led Metropolitan Sergius to this extreme method of influencing the psychology of church people: those who thought differently from Metropolitan Sergius must be remarried, reanointed and refused a proper church burial... A temporary
difference of opinion was turned by these actions into irreconcilable enmity. Of all the church crimes of Metropolitan Sergius this blasphemy of grace is undoubtedly the gravest. For differences of opinion (not on questions of faith, but on questions of church policy!). Metropolitan Sergius tried to deprive people not of life and freedom, but, from the believer's point of view, something far greater: he cut them off from the Very Source of Eternal Life. And although this "cutting off" was only on paper, this does not mitigate the grave sin of Metropolitan Sergius, who imagined that Divine Grace was subject to the decrees of his chancellery, which v/ere, moreover, issued in response to orders from the NKVD!
Metropolitan Cyril writes about this with anger and grief in his second letter to Metropolitan Sergius of 28-30 October/ 10-12 November, 1929:
"I learnt of these blasphemies for the first time from You; You can judge what the only possible attitude towards them on my part can be, albeit from the horror with which I 'pushed away the idea of lack of grace in the rites and sacraments performed by the Sergians' (Metropolitan Cyril is quoting here from his first letter - L.R.). You yourself note this horror of mine and, by associating me after this with such blasphemers, are simply not speaking the truth. If such blasphemies really arc uttered by anyone, they are the fruit of the individual temperament of the speaker, the fruit - to use your words - 'of the hopeless ignorance of some and the loss of spiritual balance by others.' And how grievous, Your Grace, that You also to the same extent reveal a loss of spiritual balance. For Your Christian love, which, as you acknowledge 'makes so bold as to believe that the dread utterance of Our Lord (Mt. 12: 31) ('All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto them' - L.R.)
will not be applied to these wretched ones in all its severity,' You do not make so bold, however, as to find a more goodly way of influencing them, than the resolution of Your Synod dated 24 July/ 4 August, 1929 No. 1864, which prohibits, in spite of all requests, a church burial for the dead estranged from your church administration. To say nothing of the re-anointing of those already christened and anointed with the same Holy Myrrh, as your obedient priests use for anointing, - or about the remarriage of those already married. In April, concerned about the errant, you solicited the removal of the vows of the 1667 Council, and in August you turn the as yet still unclear church dispute aroused by your activity into irreconcilable church strife."
Metropolitan Cyril goes on to express the essence of the confrontation between these two interpretations of the nature of the Church, the essence of church unity and the origin of church power:
"You and the Synod regard a negative
attitude to Your activity in church administration as a rejection of the Church, Her sacraments and all Her sanctity. Consequently You are amazed that, in refraining from conducting the liturgy with You, I do not, however, regard either myself or You as standing outside the Church. 'Such a theory is totally unacceptable for church thinking,' You declare, 'it is an attempt to preserve ice on a hot stove.' If there is an attempt here on my part, it is not to preserve ice on a hot stove, but to melt the ice of the dialectically-bookish use of canons and preserve the sanctity of the spirit. I refrain from conducting the liturgy with You not because the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ will not-take place if we perform it jointly, hut because partaking of Our Lord's cup would be a judgement and condemnation of us both, since our inner state disturbed by our conflicting understanding of our churchly mutual relations, would make it impossible to bring the mercy of peace, the sacrifice of praise in full peace of spirit."
Metropolitan Cyril firmly opposed the formal use of the canons, which Metropolitan Sergius was constantly abusing:
"Do not abuse, Your Grace, the letter of canonical norms or else all that remains to us of the holy canons will be simply canons. Church life in recent years has proceeded not in accordance with the literal meaning of the canons. The actual transfer of patriarchal rights and duties to Metropolitan Peter took place in an order which was unprecedented and unknown for the canons, but church consciousness perceived this unprecedented order as a means of preserving the unity of the patriarchal system, believing the latter to be the main guarantee of our Orthodox being..."
Still using the imprecise expression "individual successive authority", Metropolitan Cyril expresses the idea of the charismatic nature of the power of the First Hierarch very clearly in this letter:
"By accepting Your point of view on the equality of Your rights with the rights of Metropolitan Peter, we, in the presence of such acts (a reference to Metropolitan Peter's actions from imprisonment), would have at one and the same time two heads of our Church: Metropolitan Peter and You. But this cannot be in the Church and Your rights in it are only a reflection of the rights of Metropolitan Peter and have no independent light-radiance. The acceptance by You of your powers from Metropolitan Peter without the acceptance of them by the Church in the order in which the acceptance of rights of Metropolitan Peter himself took place, i.e., without the approval of the episcopate, puts you before the Church in the position only of an empowered Metropolitan Peter, for ensuring during the period of his absence that the course of church management adopted by him is preserved, but not in the position of a replacement for the head of the Church or of the 'first bishop of the land'...“ (emphasize by
our - L.R.).
The image of the "light-radiance" of First Hierarchal power serves here as an excellent expression of the Orthodox idea of the charismatic, blessed nature of the office of First Hierarch. Let us remember that the very doctrine on Divine Energies, which was approved at the "Palamite" councils of the 14th century, was based not only on the Hesychasts' many centuries of experience, but also on the Gospel image of the Light of Tabor. It was against the recognition of the Divine, uncreated nature of this Light that St Gregory Palamas' adversaries fought. This Light was won by zealots in their "wise doing"; it is no accident that Metropolitan Cyril uses the same image of "light-radiance". For the total defeat of the modern "Barlaam", Metropolitan Sergius, it was necessary to take one last step, to clarify precisely the canonical conditions, without which church power cannot have this "light-radiance". But until this step was taken, Metropolitan Sergius was still able to defend himself by appealing to the false idea of the Deputyship as the succession of individual power.
"Nor are my powers restricted, - Metropolitan Sergius replied in a letter to Metropolitan Cyril of 20 December/ 2 January, 1930, - by the fact that I received them not directly from His Holiness the Patriarch, but from the Locum Tenens...
The point of the individual deputyship is precisely that patriarchal power always remains present in the Church in all its fullness, even though it is only in someone's hands for a very short time and even though it goes through many intermediary stages before reaching these hands." (Our italics - L.R.).
Here with the same precision as his opponent, Metropolitan Sergius expressed the opposite, purely bureaucratic understanding of church power. It is clear that only powers of a purely human nature, received in accordance "with mutual obligations, can "be preserved unchanged in their full extent". To speak of the "preservation in its full extent" of Divine Energy would be impossible, for in the case of wrong actions even by the Patriarch Divine Grace would not accompany these actions: the presence of the office of First Hierarch opens up the possibility for the action of church-organizational charisma, but does not guarantee it. Comparing this with another form of charisma, sacramental charisma, we would stress that if there is any significant violation of the order of actions during the performance of a sacrament, it may simply not take place. But in this case the main actions of the priest are laid down and prescribed once and for all, which cannot be said of the actions of the First Hierarch with respect to organizing the Church. This complicates the matter considerably.
Shortly after the letter quoted above, Metropolitan Sergius and the Synod, not leaving received a "repentant" reply
from Metropolitan Cyril, adopted a resolution to commit him to a court of arch-hierarchs and dismiss him from the administration of the diocese. Metropolitan Sergius dared not ban him from divine service, as he had Metropolitan Agathangel.
Church life demanded the development of doctrine on the Church, and did develop it - along two increasingly divergent lines, only one of which was Orthodox.
Metropolitan Sergius found an original solution also for dealing with the fundamental Decree of 1920, as always keeping cleverly to the letter and completely ignoring the real ecclesiological content. In his letter to Metropolitan Eulogy in Paris dated 15/28 October, 1930, he writes:
"Your Eminence wishes to base Your administrative rupture with the Patriarchate (as Sergius's chancellery was now called - L.R.)
on the Decree of His Holiness the Patriarch of November 1920. But this decree provides for, so to say, the physical impossibility of relations with the Church center, whereas with You and me, as You Yourself admit, it is rattier just a case of mutual misunderstanding."
Metropolitan Sergius naturally ignores the fact that the Decree is about a real Church center. Metropolitan Peter could have been such a center, but there really was no "physical" connection with him.
And Metropolitan Sergius?
Metropolitan Sergius was an ecclesiologically fictitious center, and connection with him did not solve anything.
But Metropolitan Sergius was sure that he was First Bishop, at least "in fact":
"You reassure yourself (following the example of the Karlovtzy group)," he continued in his letter to Metropolitan Eulogy, "by thinking that in breaking with the present Moscow Church center, you are not breaking with the Russian Church. Alas, this is the old 'flattery' (self-deception) of all who do not wish to obey an order of the Patriarchate which is not to their liking and, at the same time, who do not have the courage to make a schism openly (because they are aware that there are not sufficient grounds)... In refusing to obey the Deputy, You will disobey the Locum Tenens also and therefore try in vain to shelter behind the offering up of the latter's name, following the example of other schismatics."
Thus, Metropolitan Sergius persistently drives everyone into a false alternative: either unquestioning obedience to his chancellery, or "schism". In 1931 the first issue of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate was published, and the first article in it set out Metropolitan Sergius's fully formulated views on church power. At the basic of the whole construction lies a false interpretation of the Extraordinary Council resolution on the office of Locum Tenens. Metropolitan Sergius explains the handing over of power to the Locum Tenens by Patriarch Tikhon as follows:
"There remained only one way to preserve this power:
to indicate by the Patriarch's individual order the person who in the event of the Patriarch's death would take full Patriarchal power to hand over to the future Patriarch... He had a special request to do so from the Council of 1917-18, which suggested that he should hand over power in this way to a temporary bearer in the event of there not being an institution empowered by the Council."
Here again we have an ambiguous formula. Metropolitan Sergius appears to be talking about one and the same thing, namely, about an Extraordinary Locum Tenens, granted full Patriarchal power, and about an ordinary Locum Tenens, the senior member of the Synod in ordination, who has the very limited function of convening the new Local Council, Metropolitan Sergius obviously knows about the difference, but pretends not to attach any importance to it, relying on the lack of knowledge of his readers. Or else one must assume that he is radically reinterpreting the Council resolutions.
Finally, Metropolitan Sergius expounds his notorious theory of "two First Hierarchs":
"According to our documentary data, - he writes with reference to Metropolitan Peter's resolution on deputyship, - the Deputy is invested with Patriarchal power to the same extent as the Locum Tenens whom he is replacing. And the essence of the matter demands this, otherwise there would be no responsible helmsman for the ship of the Church and no point in lending over power to anyone."
Here the idea of a "single head" is expressed with extreme precision. With regard to statements about the limited nature of his rights, he points to the absence of any such reservation in the text of Metropolitan Peter's resolution and makes a more important remark on the essence of the matter:
"There is no such reservation in the document of 6 December, nor could there be one in essence. For we have the resolution of the Patriarch and Synod of 5/18 May and 7/20 November, 1920 No. 362, according to which diocesan arch-hierarchs are to complete all business (not only current), when the administration connection of the diocese with the center ceases. What would be the point of adding an additional instance, the Deputy, if the latter could do no more that any diocesan arch-hierarch?"
There is an obvious confusion of concepts here. Metropolitan Sergius compares the power of a Bishop in his diocese, which he also has by virtue of his office, with the power of the First Hierarch over all other Bishops in the Church - and this is something quite different. The only point on which Metropolitan Sergius is right, is that the appointment of a deputy by Metropolitan Peter in case of his arrest was an innovation not provided for in any of the Council and Patriarchal statutes. After Metropolitan Peter's arrest the hierarchs of the Russian Church should have gone over to self-government, as they did after the arrest of Patriarch Tikhon. However,
fear of new schisms being created on the initiative of the NKVD forced Russian bishops to support the preservation of a single head at all costs.
The only role which Metropolitan Sergius could play in these circumstances was to be Metropolitan Peter's representative empowered to preserve unchanged the course of church policy and the composition of the hierarchy until Metropolitan Peter's case was decided. But in this capacity he could only be recognized voluntarily by the episcopate or part of it, and none of his orders could be binding. If Metropolitan Sergius considered such a deputyship to be useless, he should have refused it and urged the Russian Bishops to govern independently.Metropolitan Sergius developed the idea of deputyship in the diametrically opposite direction. He responded to the danger of a dyarchy, pointed out by Metropolitan Cyril, by firmly "removing" Metropolitan Peter from all real administration. And proceeded to formulate this as a general principle:
"A Locum Tenens can in no way be responsible for the orders of his Deputy, and therefore one must not expect or demand that the Locum Tenens intervenes in the administration or corrects the Deputy's mistakes by his own orders. Such an intervention would lead only to even greater disorder in Church affairs and to anarchy, as would any dyarchy. As an independent manager, the Deputy himself is also accountable to the Local Council for his management."
The power of the Deputy, according to Metropolitan Sergius, was restricted by one thing only:
"If the Locum Tenens leaves his office (because of death, resignation and the like), the powers of the Deputy cease immediately. It goes without saying that when the Locum Tenens returns to the administration, the Deputy ceases to administer."
By 1931 the formation of an artificial church center, a new church structure, with Metropolitan Sergius as its head, was for the most part completed. Let us recall the main stages in the development of this structure: the proclaiming of solidarity with the spirit of revolution; "legalization": the changing of the composition of the Episcopate; the theory of the power of the First Hierarch and the setting up of its own printed organ. To this another most important aspect of the new church center's activity must be added: its false testimony that there was no persecution of the Church - yet another "price" paid for legalization.
In 1929-30 a new campaign of closing churches and suppressing religion began all over the country. According to statistics in the Soviet press, in 1929 alone no less than a thousand "prayer houses" were closed down in Russia, most of them Orthodox churches. In the previous period of persecution, 1922-23, the destruction of religion by force was halted under the pressure of world public opinion, first and foremost, Western Christianity. A similar attempt at resistance was made
this time too. It was initiated by Pope Pius XI, who at the beginning of 1930 summoned believers all over the world to a "crusade of prayer" in defense of the persecuted Russian Church and religion as a whole. His summons was supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
"We are deeply disturbed, - read the Papal Encyclical, - at the thought of the terrible and sacrilegious crimes which are multiplying and intensifying each day and which arc directed against the Lord God, as well as against the souls of the large population of Russia, which is dear to our heart, if only because of the greatness of its sufferings... The growth of such brutality and godlessness, encouraged by state power, demands universal and solemn anger and response."
Two weeks after the publication of the Papal encyclical, Metropolitan Sergius under pressure from the authorities was forced to give an interview to representatives of the Soviet press in which he denied categorically that there was any persecution of the Church in the USSR. A few days later a similar interview was given to foreign correspondents. The false testimony was also signed by all the members of the Sergian Synod. This move greatly impeded the consolidation of the Christian public in the West in the struggle to stop anti-religious persecution in the USSR. In the period 1922-23 the Renovationists had given similar false testimony, but their opinion carried little weight, for the head of the Church Patriarch Tikhon, not only did not deny the fact of the persecution, but was himself a victim of it.
Now, however, Metropolitan Sergius was regarded by Christians in the West as the legitimates head of the Church, and disagreement with his position looked like "interference" in the domestic affairs of the Russian Church. For participating in the prayers about the persecuted Russian Church Metropolitan Sergius banned Metropolitan Eulogy, the head of the West European parishes of the Russian Church, from performing divine service. In response to this Metropolitan Eulogy with all his church administration sent a request to the Ecumenical Patriarch Photius II asking to be temporarily received into canonical communion, which was granted. Some time later one of the members of the Sergian Synod, Archbishop Philip (Gumilevsky) wrote to Pope Pius XI repenting of his participation in the false testimony and expressing gratitude for the support of the persecuted Russian Church. For this Archbishop Philip was arrested (in 1933) together with a large group of Catholic clergy.
For all his compromises and concessions Metropolitan Sergius was unable to prevent the destruction of the Church. Whereas at the end of 1929, according to statistics quoted by Metropolitan Sergius in an interview, there were about 30,000 parishes in his jurisdiction, ten years later there were only a few hundred. This was the result of two "godless five-year periods"
(as the militant atheists themselves called them). Yet the persecutors did not manage to eradicate faith from the souls of Russian people. According to the statistics of a census at the end of the 1930s, more than two-thirds of the population stated that they were believers. Where did these believers pray to God, where did they gather to worship? The vast majority were simply deprived of this possibility and preserved their faith in their souls only, At the same time this was a period of the growth of sectarianism, which is far more adapted to survival in conditions of total persecution.
The same period saw the opening of one of the most remarkable and unusual pages in the history of the Russian Church: the existence of part of the Church in the form of "Orthodox catacombs" - a kind of religious underground. Future historians of the Church have yet to study this page in detail. Secret services in villages, towns, forests and prison camps; itinerant priests (disguised as stove-repairers, beggars, etc.); a whole network of illegal hierarchies; clandestine monasteries and spiritual elders - this unique experience must become the spiritual possession of the whole Church. This movement was heterogeneous in composition. It was marked by a diversity of political positions and variety of ways of spiritual exploits and searching; but that makes this experience all the more instructive and valuable for us.
The Sergian Synod and its "heirs" frequently proclaimed the "Catacomb Church" as sectarian and schismatic, but all these accusations are unfounded. The Catacomb Church had a reliable canonical foundation - and this foundation was formed during the polemic with Metropolitan Sergius.
In July 1933 a certain hierarch, who did not give his name (it is thought to have been Metropolitan Joseph or Metropolitan Cyril) wrote to Metropolitan Sergius:
"I consider You a usurper of church power and refuse to obey the administrative-church orders of You and the Synod set up by You.
...You showed a proper understanding of your powers and complete correctness to him who trusted you, maintaining business relations with him. Deprived of the possibility of such relations with the conclusion of 'the case of Metropolitan Peter', You were automatically now in the position of your oilier brethren and you should not have set up a new center of church government, but have summoned the rest of the brethren to leadership in church life under the Patriarchal Decree of 7/20 November, 1920, which was published precisely in case relations should become impossible with the real church center and remained within the valid law of the Russian Orthodox Church. If in keeping with this decree some arch-hierarchs had turned to Your brotherly leadership, valuing Your enlightenment, long experience and archipastoral wisdom, you should not have objected to such a voluntary alliance. If, in order to facilitate relations and support
homogeneity of diocesan life, You and the archpastors allied with You had set up for your own group something like a Synod, but had not claimed that the decisions adopted by You were binding for the whole Russian Church, there could have been no objection to the setting up of such a body, Then You would not have needed to burden Your conscience with abundant bans and prohibitions. Everyone, both those allied under Your brotherly leadership and those who delayed in such an alliance, would have remained as before in canonical and liturgical unity under the canonical leadership, impeded but leaving by no means lost its reality, of their First Hierarch Metropolitan Peter."
This time Metropolitan Sergius sent no reply whatsoever...
This document undoubtedly came to the notice of Orthodox hierarchs and formed the basis of the canonical position of the Catacomb Church. The symbol of this canonical position was the remembrance during the liturgy of Metropolitan Peter's name only, as Patriarchal Locum Tenens, but not of Metropolitan Sergius as deputy. Such church groups became known in church circles as the "Non-Rememberers".
In fact the remembering of Metropolitan Peter expressed a categorical resolve not to recognize any other church head until a new Council or until the death of Metropolitan Peter. As we have already said, this position closed the door to any usurper of church power, but it also closed the door to the recognition of a new legitimate Locum Tenens, who could have been only one of two hierarchs: Metropolitan Agathangel and Metropolitan Cyril, who applied himself energetically to the organization of the Catacomb Church during his exile and particularly during the short interval between exiles in 1934. If the church consciousness had recognized that with the arrest of Metropolitan Peter the Russian Church was without a First Hierarch, Metropolitan Cyril would have been obliged at the first real opportunity to assume these powers himself.
But since the Church continued to recognize Metropolitan Peter as Her First Hierarch, Metropolitan Cyril thought he did not have the right to do so, in order not to create new church strife in addition to what already existed. Possessing immeasurably more rights to the office of First Hierarch and the power connected with it, Metropolitan Cyril categorically turned down all the suggestions and attempts to persuade him with respect to this. Thus, in January 1934 he wrote to one of his supporters (this letter circulated widely in the Catacomb Church):
"From a reply to someone's opinion on the need for Metropolitan Cyril to declare himself Locum Tenens until such time as Metropolitan Peter is released.
The trouble in the Russian Orthodox Church to my mind comes not from the content of Her doctrine, but from Her government. The preservation of the proper order in church government after the death of His Holiness
Patriarch Tikhon and up to the convocation of a legitimate Church Council was provided for by the Will of His Holiness the Patriarch, left by virtue of a special right given to him only and not transferable to appoint his own deputy. This Will regulates the administration of the Russian Church until its content is finally exhausted. The hierarch who bears the duties of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens retains his church powers up to the election of a new Patriarch by the Council. Should there be any delay in the election of the Patriarch, the Locum Tenens remains in his post until his demise or his voluntary resignation from it or dismissal by a church (underlined by Metropolitan Cyril - L.R.) court. He is not empowered to appoint himself a Deputy with rights identical to his rights as Locum Tenens. He can have only a temporary deputy for day-to-day business, who acts on his instructions. It is in this point that the error on the part of Metropolitan Sergius lies, who recognizes himself in the absence of Metropolitan Peter as leaving all the latter's rights of Locum Tenens. His sin is in exceeding his power, and the Orthodox episcopate should not have recognized tins power and, convinced that Metropolitan Sergius was administering the Church without the guidance of Metropolitan Peter, should have governed itself by virtue of the Patriarchal Decree of 7/20 September, 1920, preparing to account for its activity to Metropolitan Peter or the Council. If the Locum Tenens dies before the convocation of the Council, it is essential to turn again to the Patriarchal Will and recognize as Locum Tenens one of the hierarchs still alive and indicated in the Patriarchal Will. If none are still alive, the operation of the Will ceases, and the Church itself goes over to administration in accordance with the Patriarchal Decree of 7/20 September, 1920, and by the concerted efforts of the episcopate the Council is convened to elect a Patriarch.
Therefore only after the death of Metropolitan Peter, or his legitimate removal, would I find myself not only able, but also obliged to intervene actively in the general administration of the Russian Church. Until then the hierarchs who recognize only Metropolitan Peter as their First Hierarch, remembering his name during divine service, and do not recognize the lawful succession of Sergius's administration, can exist until the Council passes judgement parallel with those who do recognize it; those who have been driven out of their dioceses, spiritually guiding the few who recognize them as their archpastors, and those who have not been driven out, guiding the spiritual life of the whole diocese and doing their utmost to support the mutual connection and church unity.
It would be impossible for me personally to take action now, since I am by no means sure enough of the character of Metropolitan Peter's relations to be persuaded of the genuineness of the latter's moods and to decide how to act. In any case I
cannot be Metropolitan Peter's Deputy without his order to that effect, - but if Metropolitan Peter renounces the office of Locum Tenens voluntarily, by virtue of His Holiness the Patriarch's Will and the promise I made him I shall do my duty and take on the burden of the office of Locum Tenens, even if Metropolitan Peter appoints a different successor to himself, for he has no right to make such an appointment."
Metropolitan Sergius, already paying no attention to the denunciations and activity of the "Non-Rememberers", continued to strengthen the "Moscow Patriarchate", the fictitious center of church power created by him.
On 14/27 April, 1934 the Synod and the arch-hierarchs who supported it (21 bishops in all, together with the Synod) granted Metropolitan Sergius the title of "His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna." Metropolitan Peter, who occupied the Krutitsky cathedra, thus became the vicarial bishop of his own deputy.
On 9/22 June, 1934 Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod carried out a demand, on which the authorities had insisted during the time of Patriarch Tikhon: they banned from divine service the bishops of the Russian Church abroad, the so-called "Karlovtzy" church. Let us recall that, according to Metropolitan Sergius's theory, the "ban" imposed by him and his Synod automatically made all the church sacraments of "schismatics" (except christening) invalid.
On 14/27 December, 1936 an Act was adopted "on the transfer of the rights and duties of the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne of the Orthodox Russian Church to the Deputy Patriarchal Locum Tenens, His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna Sergius (Stragorodsky), in connection with the death in exile on 29 August/ 11 September, 1936 of the Metropolitan of Krutitsky Peter (Polyansky). Let us recall what Metropolitan Sergius wrote in his article in the "Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate" in 1931:
"If the Locum Tenens leaves his office (because of death, resignation and the like) the Deputy's powers cease immediately."
In accordance with the extraordinary resolution of the Local Council of 1917-18 on the office of Locum Tenens and Patriarch Tikhon's order indicating the names of the candidates he had chosen for this post, - after the death of Metropolitan Peter, Metropolitan Cyril "automatically" became the lawful Locum Tenens, endowed with full Patriarchal rights. Thus, from 1936 up to the death of Metropolitan Cyril (thought to have taken place in 1942), Metropolitan Sergius bore the title of Locum Tenens "while the lawful Locum Tenens was still alive". As Metropolitan Sergius had once written to Metropolitan Agathangel, for such an act a hierarch was subject even to "defrocking".
We do not know how Metropolitan Sergius himself got round the question of Metropolitan Cyril's rights,
but evidently lie "thought the committing of Metropolitan Cyril to an Arch-hierarchs' court" sufficient grounds for ignoring these rights. Some unease appears to have remained, nevertheless, for a month after Metropolitan Sergius was proclaimed Locum Tenens, in an act of 11/12 January, 1937, the Synod "took note" of Metropolitan Peter's order of 5 December, 1925 in the event of Ins death, in which, following the example of Patriarch Tikhon's "Will", the following were indicated in this order: Metropolitan Cyril, Metropolitan Agathangel, Metropolitan Arseny and Metropolitan Serguis, Metropolitan Joseph also referred to this document in his instruction of 25 December/ 8 January, 1926. Metropolitan Peter, of course, had no right to introduce the practice of transferring the powers of First Hierarch, which had been condemned by the Ecumenical Councils. But if even Metropolitan Peter made this mistake, it was revealed quite convincingly in Metropolitan Cyril's letters to Metropolitan Sergius. Knowing the thoroughness with which Metropolitan Sergius was able to detect the slightest inaccuracy or error in the canonical arguments of his opponents, we cannot admit the possibility that "lie was not aware of what lie was doing." Hence it follows that he himself did not attach any decisive importance to his own arguments, hut was guided by other considerations. A hint of this can be found in his well-known remarks such as:
"My program is the program of the Holy Spirit",
"I act as each day demands",
"It's a question of who is outwitted by whom: me by Tuchkov or Tuchkov by me" and so on.
There is no need for us to go into the "psychology" of Metropolitan Sergius, however. As it is said of the difference between true and false prophets -
"by their fruits you shall know them."
The question of the fruits is disputable, to say the least. We believe that Metropolitan Sergius did not do any real good for the lawful Church or delay the process of its destruction in the slightest by his uncanonical actions. But at the same time it is indisputable that his actions did great harm to the illegal Catacomb Church, severing a large section of pastors and, in particular, flock from it.
This Church could have been much stronger and more numerous, if the fictitious Sergian center of church power had not existed. And by the time the Soviet state was forced to address itself to the restoration of the Church, Her hierarchic composition and spiritual traditions could have been quite different. It is sometimes argued with respect to this, that Stalin would not have thought of restoring such a Church, but would have turned for this purpose to the Renovationists, for example, in spite of their unpopularity with the people. All this simply goes to show that the fate of the Church (and of
the world too) is decided in the final analysis not by our mind, but by Divine Providence: the canonical rules of the Church indicate the direction of our activity and at the same time place limits on it. Metropolitan Sergius dared to exceed these limits, and from this point of view one can express the general conviction that, by hampering the manifestation of the will of God in the fate of the Church, Metropolitan Sergius did considerable harm to the Church.
And this conclusion does not depend on our assumptions as to how events might have developed had Metropolitan Sergius not violated church truth so grossly.
The hierarchical structure of the present Russian Church and the dominant- types of spirituality in it have grown from seeds planted by Metropolitan Sergius. The Church began to be restored during the war. On the personal decision of J.V.Stalin its hierarchical backbone was also regenerated. On 8 September (New Style), 1943 nineteen arch-hierarchs elected Metropolitan Sergius as Patriarch, and on 15 May, 1944 in connection with his demise, the Synod took note of his "testamentary order" concerning the locum-tenenship of Metropolitan Alexis (Simansky) of Leningrad and Novgorod.
From 31 January to 2 February a Local Council was held, in which 45 arch-hierarchs and 126 representatives of the clergy and laity took part and the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Georgia were present as guests, as well as representatives of the Constantinopolitan throne and other Local Churches. The Council unanimously elected Metropolitan Alexis Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia. It is known that before the Council Archbishop Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) proposed electing the Patriarch by drawing lots from several candidates, as in the case of the Local Council of 1917-18. This proposal was not even considered, however, and Patriarch Alexis was elected by open voting.
The "Non-Rememberers'' were now faced with a difficult question. With the election of Patriarch Alexis the earlier canonical justification for independent administration, namely the usurpation of the power of First Hierarch by Metropolitan Sergius, had disappeared. At the same time, however, the whole practice of Metropolitan Sergius both in relations with the state and in domestic church affairs was continued by Patriarch Alexis. In this situation part of the Catacomb Church adhered to its former position, while the other part recognized the legality of Patriarch Alexis and submitted to his authority.
The following objections can be advanced against the canonicity of the Moscow Patriarchate:
1. The Council of 1945 consisted of arch-hierarchs who were not independent in their decisions, but depended entirely on state power. Therefore the Council itself and all its resolutions are invalid.
2. The Council of 1945 was convened by usurpers of church power, namely, all the members of the Synod under Metropolitan Sergius and, first and
foremost, Metropolitan Alexis (Simansky) who received the power of Locum Tenens from a usurper and, moreover, unlawfully - by testament. It is assumed, of course, that. the Council of 1943 was also invalid for the same reason.
3. Of the various hierarchical groups in the Russian Church which adopted fundamentally different positions, namely, the "Sergians", "Non-Remeinberers", "Parisians", "Americans", and "Karlovtzys" (we give the conventional, but generally accepted names at that time), only one group was represented at the Council of 1945 - the "Sergian". Its numbers are of no importance, as they varied considerably, depending on external factors: thus, in 1940 there were only 4 ruling Sergian bishops, in 1943 - 19 and in 1945 - 49.
The Councils of 1943 and 1945 shared all these canonical defects with the Renovationist Councils of 1923 and 1925. The support of the Eastern Patriarchs in both cases does not decide the matter.
The only "advantage" of the Councils of 1943 and 1945 over the Renovationist Councils was the absence in 1943 and 1945 of a legitimate Patriarch, with whom these Councils would have been in schism. We think that this fact was a decisive one and believe that the grace of God made up for all the blatant canonical defects of the Council of 1945, and Patriarch Alexis was a real First Hierarch, i.e. he received the charisma of the power of First Hierarch.
In connection with the acknowledgment of this fact, an authoritative leader of the Catacomb Church, Archbishop Athanasius (Sakharov), immediately after the election of the Patriarch, adopted a decision together will) the hierarchs with him that "it is fitting to remember in prayer the name of Patriarch Alexis as our Patriarch."
We assume that this step of Archbishop Athanasius (or Afanasy) was perfectly right, but actual administrative subordination to Patriarch Alexis is a completely different question. In his treatment of this question Archbishop Athanasius repeated the old mistake of a purely liturgical understanding of the charisma of First Hierarchical power. This mistake was that in drawing a picture of the outpouring of Divine Grace through the Heads of Local Churches to Bishops and from them to priests, Archbishop Athanasius had in mind in this picture sacramental grace. However, in accordance with church tradition, approved by the decisions of the Local Council of 1917-18, every properly ordained Bishop possesses full sacramental charisma, without a direct link with the presence or absence of a First Hierarch. Being a head of a Local Church, each Bishop is in communion with the Ecumenical Church.
Whereas Archbishop Athanasius writes:
"Apart, from the first hierarch of the Russian Church, none of us - neither laymen, nor priests, nor bishops - can be in communion with the Ecumenical
Church. Those who do not recognize their first hierarch remain outside the Church, from winch may God spare us."
In objecting to these conclusions, we would again recall the Decree of 1920 winch, while envisaging the possibility of Bishops and dioceses existing for a long time without a First Hierarch, did not have in mind that they would thus remain outside communion with the whole of Christ's Ecumenical Church. One can agree only with the fact that a flat rejection of First Hierarchical charisma in the lawful First Hierarch really would mean a falling away from the fullness of a beneficial church life; the liturgical remembrance of the First Hierarch testifies to recognition of such charisma. But Archbishop Afanasy 's argument may be understood as substantiating the imperative need for each Bishop to obey all the orders of the Patriarch, irrespective of whether these orders are in keeping with canonical truth and the Bishop's religious conscience.
It was precisely this understanding of church discipline and the nature of the First Hierarch's power that Metropolitan Sergius defended and against which Metropolitan Agathangel, Metropolitan Cyril, Metropolitan Joseph and Metropolitan Evlogy fought, following the spirit of the Council and Patriarchal resolutions. Although Archbishop Afanasy, as a continuer of this church tradition, stresses that the question of recognition or non-recognition of Patriarch Alexis, the attendance or non-attendance of the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate, is a "matter of conscience”, so he does not condemn those who do not recognize him, although such a conclusion is contrary to the picture he draws, for whose religious conscience could allow them to stay outside "communion with the Ecumenical Church", or, to put it simpler, "outside the Church"?
The vagueness of the ecclesiological consciousness still hampers the struggle against the false doctrine of the Church and leads to a kind of "canonical captivity", when for the sake of the demands of church discipline the demands of church conscience are silenced. Such a state of affairs cannot exist in the Church. The whole experience of the Russian Church after the Council of 1917-18 shows that this false and intolerable position can be overcome only by developing an Orthodox understanding of the essence of First Hierarchical power and the place of the Bishop in the Church.
The essence of this understanding, however, as we conclude from a survey of this experience, is that the charismatic nature of First Hierarchical power shows itself precisely in the church organizational actions of tins power, in the actual administration of the Church. The recognition that the First Hierarch possesses this charisma, on the one hand, excludes the possibility of the creation of false centers of church power and, on the other, demands from all members of the Church, first and foremost, from the Episcopate, constant
soborny control over the actions of the First Hierarch.
The judgement as to precisely which of the First Hierarch's actions are in keeping with canonical truth and God's will concerning the Church and which actions are the fruit of alien influence, personal arbitrariness and canonical errors, belongs to the Church as a whole. In this sense the position of those Bishops who do not obey the Patriarch's orders which are dictated by the demands of the state, or by erroneous judgement, or by the personal arbitrariness of the Patriarch is also justified. The idea that a modern Ober-Procuror, i.e., an official empowered by the Council for Religious Affairs, has the power to give orders to Divine Grace, or that Grace could assist acts harmful and destructive for the Church, is blasphemous.
However, this leaving to the Bishop and church people of the right to judge the actions of church power should not mean a break of canonical and prayerful communion with that power. As soon as the First Hierarch begins to perform actions in which a bishop's religious conscience, based on the soborny judgement of church people, detects the participation of First Hierarchical Divine charisma, the bishop should obey the First Hierarch and his orders, as the expression and fulfillment of God's will concerning the Church. And non-obedience in this case really will mean arbitrary, schismatic action.
Such a view help us to preserve two most important contributions to an understanding of the nature of the Church which have been made by the experience of Her history after 1917: on the one hand, an elevated idea of the Patriarchate as the conductor of Divine Authority and the grace-giving crown of church life; and on the other, confirmation of the dignity and church freedom of each bishop, as a pastor, who bears personal responsibility for the small Church entrusted to him. At the base of everything, however, lies sobornost, which should manifest itself constantly in each church action, so that no act of church power can be performed without the soborny "Amen", which testifies to the presence in this act of Divine Grace.