Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Suffering (ROCOR/MP) Monk

From Monk Theophan of Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville
October 2/15/, 2010

This letter is a concerned voice from a soul who has always belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR).

In 2001, the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR stated in an Epistle that,

"During these days of universal apostasy, which, through the pan- heresy of ecumenism, has even infected most of the Local Orthodox Churches, we must stand united, that the enemy of our salvation may not use our divisions to destroy the voice of our confession in the homeland and the diaspora." [1]

Sadly enough this voice of confession is not heard anymore. Instead, ROCOR/MP moves closer and closer toward the ecumenical Orthodox hierarchs and clergy, while rejecting the True Orthodox Christians, with whom we once confessed our unity. We promised to defend the Truth, but who reached out to support Vladyka Diomid in his lonely fight for the Truth? Who spoke up against the un-Christian World Summit of Religious Leaders in Moscow in 2006? Why are our spiritual leaders silent?

It is well-known that the Moscow Patriarchate together with World Orthodoxy participates in the ecumenical movement. It is also well-known that the Moscow Patriarchate still believes in the salvific act of the Declaration of 1927. And still our hierarchs state that ROCOR, under His Eminence Metropolitan Agafangel, together with all other True Orthodox Churches, who have walled themselves off "during these days of universal apostasy" are outside the Church and their sacraments invalid. How can this be when we ourselves just recently confessed our unity with them?

We are canonical and in the Church. That is our main argument. And yet, the soul is in dire agony, feeling that something is completely wrong. Fr. Seraphim Rose explains it the following way:

"The apostasy of our times, to a degree unique in Christian history, is proceeding not primarily by false teachings or canonical deviations, but rather by a false understanding of Orthodoxy on the part of those who may even be perfectly Orthodox in their dogmatic teaching and canonical situation. A correct ‘Orthodoxy’ deprived of the spirit of true Christianity - this is the meaning of Sergianism, and it cannot be fought by calling it a ‘heresy,’ which it is not, nor by detailing its canonical irregularities, which are only incidental to something much more important." [2]

Obviously, apostasy is not only a deviation from the canons, but first of all a deviation from the spirit of Orthodoxy. Besides the example of Sergianism, one can also mention the New Calendar. Neither of these two can, strictly speaking, be considered heresies. And yet, we know very well the damage they have both caused the Orthodox Church. Canonicity and apostasy can and do, therefore, easily go hand in hand.

Today obedience is no longer understood as a God-pleasing obedience to Christ and His Church, but rather as a complete submission to Church authority, regardless of its teaching. Salvation is no longer attained by following the conscience of the Church of Christ and one`s own conscience, but by blind obedience to the official Church authorities. To be, not in the Church of Christ, but in today`s World Orthodoxy, has become the absolute criterion for salvation. 

These Church authorities are, therefore, not interested in believers who follow their conscience according to the conscience of the Church. We are not only asked not to think, but made not to think.

In the Church of Christ, though, there can be no violence on the conscience. Such violence breaks people morally and creates a spiritual apathy, depriving them of the ability to freely and truly follow Christ. Every Christian must follow his conscience, should it be even unto death. One, though, must do so in a truly Orthodox manner with Christian love, humility and moderation.

We must try to understand that most of the believers, who are not following World Orthodoxy, are acting by their own conscience and the conscience of the Church. Seeing that World Orthodoxy does not have the correct and saving confession of the faith, many sober and pious faithful have walled themselves off not from the Church of Christ but from apostasy. The Old Calendar Movement is therefore not a heresy, neither is it a schism, but a walling off from falsehood.

Having accepted the position of the official Church leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate and World Orthodoxy, together with their spirit of apostasy and conformism, the spiritual leaders of ROCOR/MP have not only compromised themselves in the saddest way, but have also deeply disappointed many of its faithful, as well as many of our pious brothers and sisters inside the Moscow Patriarchate and World Orthodoxy itself, who expected to see this Champion of Truth courageously expose all falsehood. The pain of witnessing this fall is intensified even more when one is asked to accept it as a glorious victory. The tragedy of ROCOR/MP, therefore, is not so much its formal union with the Moscow Patriarchate and World Orthodoxy, but its wholehearted acceptance of their path and spirit.

If our Christian life is to be truly pleasing to God, both a Christian loving heart and a true confession of Faith must be present. It is not only a question of where, but also of how one confesses his faith. Without a Christian loving and humble heart, one`s "confession of Faith" will have no justification in the eyes of God, but will only harm oneself and the sacred unity of the Church. On the other hand, if we reject the salvific Truths, Traditions and spirit of the Church, or perhaps just indifferently follow along, then that will equally endanger our salvation. Both extremes lack the "spirit of true Christianity" - the divine Love of God ̶ and should be avoided. Apostasy, therefore, is simply the deviation from the Royal Path of Christian love towards God and man manifested in heresies and the lack of the spirit of true Christianity.

We observe that World Orthodoxy is getting more and more infected by "the pan-heresy of ecumenism," estranging itself from the spirit of Christianity, while preserving the outward forms of the Church. This has been prophesied by the Holy Fathers and Holy Scripture and the process began a long time ago. That is why many pious Orthodox Christians are quietly stepping aside, in order to protect themselves. Many faithful in World Orthodoxy itself are also slowly beginning to lose patience.

This letter is a concerned and quiet voice. Such voices, though, are labeled as proud, rebellious and full of self-deceit.

World Orthodoxy has taken its course. It is a course based on the wide path of love for this world. It is not the narrow path of the Cross and it is not a path which should be followed.

Monk Theophan Holy Trinity Monastery
Jordanville, NY USA Ss Cyprian and Justina, October 2/15, 2010.

[1] Living Orthodoxy, Epistle of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, 2001. #126, vol.XXI # 6, p.26, left column, last par., line 5. [2] Andreyev Ivan: “Russia`s Catacomb Saints, Lives of the New Martyrs”. Saint Herman of Alaska Press, Platina, California, 1982, p. 257, par. 2.


  1. Anonymous7:26 PM

    I was Baptized about a year ago by a ROCOR/MP priest. I have since come into information similar and in agreement with what is written above. It has thrown me into much turmoil, anxiety, confusion and despair. Was there Grace in my baptism? Do I have what I need to wage spiritual battle? If not, what am I to do when the closest church not affiliated with ecumenism/world orthodoxy is several hundred miles away? It seems it is not enough to find the true church anymore(Orthodoxy), now you have to decipher which represents the truest expression of the true. How a simple layman is supposed to discern and distinguish this is beyond me. What can be recommended, staying in the ROCOR/MP parish and receiving the sacraments there on a regular basis or hoping to travel once or twice a year,if that, to the
    "nearest" church not associated with world orthodoxy? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  2. My blessed Anon! The fact that you see these things is reason for hope and purpose not "turmoil, anxiety, confusion and despair"! Neither I nor anyone in my Orthodox jurisdiction, ROCA (Agafangel), presume to know when God's grace ends or where it is or is not. We can and should choose, however, not to be in communion with those who have become heretical or apostate. Our journey is the theosis of our own soul-to be holy even as He is holy. Christ told us this would be a narrow path, not the most traveled one. One must be careful to not fail to see that we are at a very historic point in history-the path has become even more narrow in some areas of the world. There has come a great falling away. We are told that "He who is faithful to the end" will be saved. Look for the faithful Bishops (Notes From The Undergound link on the JTO blog is a good source.) How does a simple laymen discern? By doing exactly what you are doing-"seek and you shall find." Connect with others as you are doing here. (Email or Skype me if you like.)

    Where to commune and how far to drive? When you aksed that, I thought of the Russian Revolution when the entire church went underground. (8 million martyred) The rules had changed and they recognized it, and remained faithful, worshiping in secret. Yes, most of our members drive from 4-10 hours, as often as they can, to worship and partake of the Eucharist. They stay in submission to our priest and keep in touch through e-mail amd other internet methods. This has been the history of the church at various times. This is why we have reader services for "when a priest is not present." Families worship at home and gather together as often as they can to commune in person. It seems that, as of 2007, this is our lot. But praise be to our GOD we still have faithful Bishops here in the USA. How far would one travel for that pearl of great price?

    World Othodoxy is becoming agressive and even violent toward those who won't comply. Just look at whom they are persecuting for a good idea of who is authentic...and be ready to suffer persecution for going where God is leading you.

    Pray for me.

  3. Anonymous11:28 AM

    Thank you so much for your reply. I feel what you say makes sense. It is good to hear and connect with others of like mind and understanding. I appreciate what you're doing here.

    I have frequently wondered and speculated where the great spiritual giants like Met. Philaret, Archbishop Averky, Fr Seraphim Rose, Theophan the Recluse, St Seraphim of Sarov,etc..would associate themselves in 21st century America(in regards to jurisdiction) if they were still on earth. Any ideas about this?

    Thanks again for your prompt and articulate reply.

  4. Anon, It seems a less hypothetical test would be to ask the question: "who, today, would associate with these saints?" This is less hypothetical becasue it can be verified by the actions of those who discount the warnings and teachings of these men. Met. Philaret has walked the property and fished in the pond of the church where I now worship. He was one of the main inspirations that led to the faithfuless of Bishop Agafangel and Archpriest Father Gregory Williams of ROCA. Philaret spoke boldly against the union of ROCOR with the MP. I have an idea that he would not have gone with them in their apostacy nor led them there. He and Agafangel (the latter being the only ROCOR Bishop who would not go to the MP in 2007) would be tightly fitted. It is clear that the MP is a false church and the World Orthodox have become apostate as they are are now in union with Rome. None of the saints you mentioned would have anything to do with either and would be maligned as schismatics or heretics.

    "Prompt" and "articulate". Wow! Thank you...just don't check my spelling :)

  5. Anonymous6:24 PM

    Yes,indeed. As far as I can see your spelling is fine! I have spoken with Fr Gregory before. He has been very helpful with some questions I've had in the past. Very knowledgeable as well. Do you attend his parish?

    What have you seen is the main reason for half a dozen or so "true" Russian Orthodox jurisdictions?

    Thank you so much!

  6. Anon, I am so glad you have spoken with Father Gregory and, yes, he is my priest. God knew that I needed a man with as strong a personality as my own to give me balance and to temper my proclivity toward passionate discourse. I am blessed to know him and to serve him.

    "Jurisdictions" do not equal divisions. They are often a result of time, geography and events. I am impressed that, as these jurisdictions evolve, the bishops, for the most part, attempt to unify as one. I'm not an accute historian of the Russian ethos. Others would speak to this much better than I could.

    That being said...truth is truth and it is absolute. If a Russian jurisdiction is true(faithful to the faith of our fathers)then it is true. Separate jurisdictions can be obstacles to unity, but do not prevent the indivdual members from achieving theosis.

  7. Anonymous8:48 AM

    Hello to anonymous from anonymous. I understand the turmoil in your heart, but you must understand that this is the goal of the devil. If the official church didnt have grace, then the holy fathers of mount athos, most of them, wouldnt be commemorating the ecumenical patriarch. Not that everything today is good, but the church is still the church never the less. Mr. Nathan's opinion that the mp is false, is false in itself. So you can be at peace. If you suppose that you should become an agafangelite, why not become a tihovinets instead, or a mathewite, or a chrisostomovets, have you heard of these? Its more complicated than Mr. Nathan thinks. If you follow mr. nathans opinion, then I would assume your disregarding the athonite society? If your thinking about changing churches, visit greece first, go to russia. Its not so simple. You can still be at peace because the devil agitates. Agitation is his goal.

  8. Anonymous8:51 AM

    p.s to anonymous from anonymous. Baptised a year ago and already thinking of switching? Your baptism is full of grace and so are you. Dont listen to what people say.

  9. Anon 2,
    I believe Anon 1 adequately stated why, after a year, he was thinking about "switching". What you infer to be instability, some would see as an action based on revelation.

    "More complicated than Mr. Nathan thinks"? Wow! It must be quite complicated then, since I have never implied that the search for truth or the straight and narrow path is simple.

    Your sarcasms and criticisms aside (I am a Christian. I am no one's "ite") ,I appreciate your input.

    Oh..and research the use of "your" and "you're", "its and it's.(From one challenged speller to another)


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