“The Synod of Metropolitan Cyprian adheres wholly to the exact same ecclesiological and dogmatic principals (sic) as our Russian Church Outside of Russia.” (See “Orthodox Life,” published by the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, Vol. XLIV, No. 4 (1994), pp. 46-50.)
Holy Martyr Evpsychios of Caesarea
To: Exarchate Clergy, Faithful, and Friends
From: Archbishop Chrysostomos
Christos Anesti! Hristos Voskrese! Christ is Risen!
I have received, up to this moment, more than a dozen copies of the following article or links to the journal where it appeared. I do not quite understand why it is having such sudden wide distribution. Whatever the reason, it was written by a Priest of the ROCOR in England, whom I do not personally know.
I do not wish in any way to question the motivations of this individual for harboring such antipathy for the Old Calendarists; nor do I question the sincerity, in most instances below, of the convictions he holds on the basis of the data that he cites.
However, as my Confessor, His Grace, Bishop Ambrose of Methone wrote to me this morning, it is almost impossible to find in these comments any data that are at all factual. The poor man has simply been the victim of false information, whether conveyed to him deliberately or somehow misinterpreted by him because of his preconceived disdain for us Old Calendarists.
As Bishop Ambrose also observed (and rightly so ) silence is probably the best answer to material of this kind. However, in this country misinformation, “disinformation,” outright fabrications, and rumors and gossip abound about Orthodoxy, which is often little known, in its spiritual infancy, and more often than not a home-grown reworking of Orthodoxy under the label of some “official” claim (whether by virtue of Patriarchal approbation, ethnic triumphalism, ecumenical recognition, fantasies of “worldwide status,” or even “Americanism.” I think that silence, therefore, can be dangerous at times. If the writer of this piece considers himself expert enough to write on the subject of Old Calendarism, yet makes so many factual errors, imagine how vulnerable those who know nothing about the subject are to such errors.
I do not, of course, care to address the author’s dislike for Old Calendarists. Perhaps his experiences and limited associations with them have led him to what are, given those experiences and associations, justified misgivings. However, I would like to correct some of his very obvious factual errors, since their perpetuation is harmful.
Falsehood, whether repeated out of ignorance or calculatedly, serves only the Evil One. It thwarts the unity that, in our struggles for Orthodox authenticity and purity, is always our ultimate goal. It is also an impediment to the love that the author correctly says that some of us (and especially extremist) Old Calendarists at times fail to show and which we moderate Old Calendarists, in particular, must restore, along with, and partly by, setting the record straight.
I have made comments within the text, below, between dashes. I hope that they are helpful. I apologize and ask forgiveness for any comments that may seem offensive to the writer of this article. That is NOT by purpose. I offer these corrections with fraternal affection and peacefully to all who read them.
I am in the throes of another horrible virus, so please overlook any typos or unfinished thoughts or lacunae in the text (I think faster than I type!).
* * *
ROCOR and Old Calendarism
Even though there now approaches a Local Council of the Russian Church, at which the bishops and delegates of ROCOR dioceses will take a historic part in electing a new Patriarch, some voices still criticise ROCOR. These voices are those of dissidents who are backed by old calendarist movements in the Balkans or else by the politicised who are keen to make out that the Russian Church is still not free. What can be said in reply to these critics?
With regard to the Sister Old Calendar Churches in the Balkans, the Synod in Resistance of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece, the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, and the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Romania, all of whom were in communion with the ROCOR before its union with Moscow in 2007, while we criticized the ROCOR’s act of union on account of our opposition to the widespread ecumenical activities of the Moscow Patriarch and what we see as its association with the present Russian regime in a spirit that reflects the influence of the secular government of Russia (with its legacy of former Soviet leaders and policies), we back no dissidents in the Russian Church.
It is true that our Sister Churches maintain communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) under Metropolitan Agafangel, the single Bishop in the ROCOR who did not accept the union in 2007 and thus continued the witness of that Sister Church after his fellow Bishops joined with Moscow. However, as such, we see his Church as the continuation of the Church with which we were in communion before the Moscow union. This does not mean that we support dissidence or that we interfere in the activities of the ROCOR. It is simply a statement about what we consider to be the genuine ecclesiastical continuator of the spirit and witness of the Church with which we had communion.
While we may have firm and open differences with the course of the ROCOR with regard to its union with the Moscow Patriarchate in 2007, as well as deep regrets about this, we have always agreed to disagree with its Bishops, allow that they have their own rationale, and state our objections logically and without undue offensiveness, and certainly without churlishness.
As we know, the new calendar was introduced into the Church by freemasons (and those who stand behind them). Their aim was to divide the Church. This move was highly successful and every time there is a calendar schism, the freemasons rejoice. The old calendarists with their traditionalism become, despite themselves, the tragic tools of freemasons. For example, after the Second World War some Romanian old calendarists were used by the Secret Police (Securitate) in the same way as freemasons used the calendar to divide there before the Second World War. In other words, their aim was to weaken the new calendar Romanian Church.
The New Calendar was, of course, adopted by Bishops who, in some cases, were Freemasons. But more to the point, the New Calendar was adopted as part a move to play down the Orthodox Church’s claims to historical primacy and thus to pave the way for its open and active participation in the ecumenical movement. The original Old Calendarists saw this move as one which comprised the Church’s claim to primacy. This claim is, of course, the VERY SAME claim that has always kept the Roman Catholic Church, in its historical opposition to the Orthodox Church, from joining the ecumenical movement officially.
Whereas Rome took the spirit of ecumenism (even while maintaining an unofficial role in the ecumenical movement) as an opportunity to unite Christians under the Papacy, the Orthodox entered into the movement (with the exceptions of such outstanding voices as that of Father Georges Florovsky and a handful of others) by accommodating itself to the ecclesiastical relativism of such bodies as the World Council of Churches (WCC), thus ultimately coming to the point of publicly calling Orthodoxy one lung of the Church. and Roman Catholicism another; or, indeed, of characterizing Orthodox primacy as a “Medieval” idea. (This trend is the very thing that separated Father Florovsky, in his later years, from the WCC, which he helped found.)
It was a prophetic fear of this outcome that led the original Old Calendarists to oppose the New Calendar as a tragic step towards compromise and a relaxation of the teaching that Orthodoxy is the criterion of Christianity and the inheritor of the communities founded by Christ and the Apostles.
The history of the Romanian Old Calendarists, who gave their blood for their resistance movement and whose confessors were imprisoned for the Faith, were the victims of the Romanian Communist Securitate, as any reading of the history of the movement proves. Nothing else has ever been claimed by anyone educated in the history of the Old Calendar movement. One might begin a basic education in the history of the movement with a reading of the life of St. Glicherie, which is available in English.* One sees clearly its oppression by the Securitate and the collaborators in the Romanian Patriarchate.
Also, see my book (in Romanian) with Hieromonk Patapios, The Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Romania, published in Bucharest by the Ion Mincu University Press in 2006.
Who are the old calendarists? There are many different people, from the utterly sincere, zealous and well-intentioned, especially perhaps in troubled Bulgaria, to ruthless manipulators and cultish exploiters.
The Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria received its Hierarchy, of course, from the Synod in Resistance. I was one of the Co-Consecrators of its erudite First Hierarch, Bishop Photii of Triaditza, and he is one of my closest friends. I believe that his friendship with me and the Bishops of our Sister Churches, which constitute the vast majority of Old Calendarists, suggests that “clever” manipulators” and “cultish manipulators” are terms that the author of these comments should more circumspectly and more reservedly employ, given his respect for the Bulgarian Old Calendarists.
At the beginning there were heroes among them (I myself have an icon of the Romanian Metr Glicherie – whose relics are incorrupt – and of St Catherine the Greek New Martyr for the calendar, both of whom I venerate). These were saintly people who suffered for the Faith. But today old calendarist elites (unlike the simple faithful) seem to be falling under the control of empire-makers and dividers – schismatics – unlike in the beginning. Indeed, as time goes on, the schismatic nature of old calendarism is becoming clearer. To St John of Shanghai it was clear in the 1950s and he refused to help the old calendarists. But St John was an utterly spiritual man. To the not so spiritual, the nature of old calendarism often did not become obvious until later.
St. John was, in fact, a great friend of the Old Calendarists. He not only visited Old Calendarist communities but can be pictured concelebrating with them. His approbation (or condemnation for that matter) of the movement is not, indeed,a significant point. Consensus and deliberation are the standards of Orthodoxy, and individual holy men and women, with respect to opinions about this or that movement, are not necessarily definitive or a measure of correctness.
Old calendarists attempt to justify themselves. For example, they quote that Elder Philotheos Zervakos was for them. But which Church did the Elder Philotheos belong to? The Church of Greece (new calendar). All this is self-justification for disobedience. The Romanian Elders Cleopa and Arsenie (Boca) and many others expressed the Orthodox understanding – as did other Elders in other countries. This understanding is that clearly the old calendar is the Orthodox calendar, but schism and disobedience are even more dangerous than having the fixed feasts on the wrong calendar.
Here, one must do his homework. The only Old Calendarist Hierarch who was a spiritual son of the holy and Blessed Elder Philotheos (Zervakos) was Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Phyle, the First Hierarch of oour Synod in Resistance. It was Elder Philotheos who first directed me to Metropolitan Cyprian, after the latter had joined the Old Calendar movement with Elder Philotheos’ blessing. With regard to the Blessed Philotheos’ actual views, the following document is pivotal and critical:
As for Father Philotheos’ membership in the New Calendar Church of Greece, Professor Constantine Cavarnos (who, though sympathetic to us, is not an Old Calendarist) notes that Father Philotheos, at the end of his life, had decided to return to the Old Calendar. But the Abbot of his monastery protested that this would “have grave consequences” for the monastery and that “the monks would be expelled by the local police” because it was in the jurisdiction of a New Calendar Bishop. Instead of provoking this kind of situation, Father Philotheos asked for a Hieromonk from the Holy Mountain, who followed the Old Calendar, to confess him and to conduct his funeral. Thus, he was to the very end very cognizant of the importance of the Calendar issue. (See Constantine Cavarnos, Blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos, Volume 11 inModern Orthodox Saints [Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1993], pp. 74-75.)
While I would be the first to characterize extremist Old Calendarists with very negative language, on account of their violations of the primacy of love and the separations that they have engendered, we moderate Old Calendarists have every right to invoke the names of pious and sober New Calendarists who indeed support us, often secretly confess to us, and who, were it not for certain considerations that not all have the Grace to face, would be publicly with us.
Another example of self-justification is in the welcome given to a small Greek old calendarist delegation in Romania. Just because they welcomed a delegation of Greek old calendarists in the new calendar monasteries of Romania, it does not mean that they agree with them. This is used as propaganda. We welcome contacts with old calendarists, as with others, because we hope and pray for their repentance. We all support the old calendar – but we do not support old calendarism. That is totally different. Every ism contains a sin against the Church.
I have no idea what event the writer is citing here, but I have visited New Calendar monasteries in Romania, where I was very cordially received. However, they very clearly understood that I did not agree with their positions and they quite clearly stated that they did not always agree with mine, despite great sympathy on the part of some for my concerns as a traditionalist. Nothing in this impeded our spiritual exchanges. I cannot imagine how this, at least in my case, was in any way motivated by self-justification. One need not justify what he sincerely is.
As for “isms,” asceticism is an “ism” which surely does not constitute a sin against the Church. Here, too, we must avoid hyperbole both in concept and expression. What can become a sin is “criticism” improperly used, in a hyperbolic manner, to make arguments that divide and do not unite.
Some people try and make out that ROCOR as a Church was old calendarist. That is not true, but it is true that some individuals in ROCOR were very tempted by it. We should not confuse individuals with the Church and her catholic (soborny) conscience. Such people refer to the generation between the 60s and the early 90s, when the Secretary of the ROCOR Synod in New York and his family came to power and tried to impose extreme views on ROCOR. Notably, great power was amassed during the time of Metropolitan Philaret, a saintly monk but weak administrator, who in his innocence consecrated the Secretary bishop.
The Secretary’s end was tragic indeed, for, like his son, he died outside the Church. He himself forbade anyone from ROCOR to attend his funeral. Most ROCOR people and clergy (centred at the true heart of ROCOR in Jordanville) patiently defied him, his politicking and his encouragement of old calendarism. Indeed, the error of consecration by ROCOR bishops of an old calendarist to the episcopate had already before the time of the Secretary been condemned as uncanonical by the Synod itself, without whose canonical authority it had taken place. The bishops concerned had been severely censured.
It is true that some old calendarists had other admirers in ROCOR, but they were few. In the Western European Diocese we were prohibited from having anything to do with any old calendarists – not that the prohibition was necessary, we had no desire to do so. Thus, when some Romanian old calendarists tried to interrupt the glorification of St John in San Francisco in 1994, they were not allowed to concelebrate. As one ROCOR bishop present said at the time: ‘If they are allowed to concelebrate, then I shall not’. These Romanian old calendarists are today among one of three small warring groups to have canonised Metr Philaret in an attempt to justify themselves and give themselves authority. His relics of course remain with ROCOR. Indeed, his possible canonisation has, if anything, been delayed by his ideological promotion by groups with which he had nothing to do and one of which did not even exist until two years ago.
It is not mine to enter into the unedifying issues of political differences and arguments over ecclesiastical polity in the ROCOR. However, I can say that it still follows the Old Calendar, as it did when we were in communion with it, and that, whatever the differing views of the Old Calendarist factions, in 1994, the following statement was entered into the union document between our Synod in Resistance and the ROCOR. Unanimously accepted by the Synod of Bishops and signed by every Bishop, it at least bears witness to the fact that our ecclesiology was not considered at odds with the Church at that time:
Whether the Russian Church Abroad changed its position or whether certain parties did not agree with the Holy Synod’s decision is another matter. But the facts are as I have presented them.
With regard to the Glorification of St. John in San Francisco, the writer has seriously misunderstood the facts. The Romanian Old Calendar delegation, under Metropolitan Vlasie, had already opened communion with ROCOR at the time of the Glorification of St. John, in which they participated by the invitation of Metropolitan Vitaly. They concelebrated with the ROCOR Bishops, in fact. The Bishops of the Old Calendar Church of Bulgaria and those of our Synod in Resistance were also invited to the Consecration. Though we did not serve, that very week, since we were Sister Churches of the Old Calendar Church of Romania, the ROCOR opened full communion with the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria and our Synod in Resistance of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece.
Our three Sister Churches are in harmonious union, not three “warring” groups. And the Romanian Old Calendarists, incidentally, did not Glorify Metropolitan Philaret of New York. This is an erroneous statement. As for his “ideological promotion” of various groups, this is a distasteful accusation against a holy and much respected man that I suspect the writer will regret on reflection.
It is very interesting to note that virtually all those who left ROCOR at the time of the reconciliation between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate were products of the Secretary. He ordained them personally or had them ordained. The departure of these elements has been a relief to many. Some of those who left ROCOR in the USA were retired CIA agents, as the Secretary was himself rumoured to be. They put anti-Communist politics first, the Church second. Many people were persecuted by them, like St John (put on trial by them), Fr Seraphim Rose, Bp Mitrophan of Boston, Metropolitan Laurus and many, many others. The full story of the persecution of ROCOR by Russian and Non-Russian sectarianism alike will one day be written.
Accusations of CIA involvement are difficult to prove. They are also irrelevant, since the CIA is not a criminal organization, however vehemently one may agree or disagree with its goals and methods. Intelligence agencies, moreover, are not always unidimensional in character, and often good causes are embraced by good people in many different contexts in such agencies.
Dissidents will tell you that Metr Philaret was against the Moscow Patriarchate in 1985, but that was because the then MP had not repented and glorified the New Martyrs. As a matter of fact we were all against the Moscow Patriarchate in 1985. There is no doubt, as the late Fr Roman Lukianov pointed out two years ago, that Metr Philaret would have been for the reconciliation today. Just because someone was against this 25 years ago, does not mean that they would be against it today. Personally, I was also against the reconciliation even 10 years ago. This was simply because the main representatives of the MP had not then repented.
Personal opinion is something that we should respect. But one must not consider his or her personal opinion infallible or a standard by which to condemn and berate those who may hold other opinions on the basis of other evidence and data.
It is this present refusal/inablity to recognise the repentance, not only in the words, but also in the actions of representatives of the MP, on the part of the dissidents, which is the most disturbing thing here. Metr Philaret himself acknowledged such a refusal to recognise repentance to be Donatism. In ROCOR we never had any problem with the Moscow Patriarchate itself, providing that it could be freed of Communist control inside Russia and freed of renovationism outside Russia (‘the Sourozh syndrome’). Once the New Martyrs and Confessors had been canonised inside Russia (in 2000) and renovationism defeated outside Russia (the May 2006 defection of 300 members of Sourozh to Constantinople), there were no longer any difficulties for ordinary ROCOR believers. Thus ROCOR and the MP were reconciled, as Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky) said we would be, as integral parts of the whole and freed Russian Church.
There are those who doubt the nature and sincerity of the changes in post-Communist Eastern European countries. This is a not a denial of repentance to anyone. Moreover, no moderate Old Calendarists hold to the view that the Churches in these countries have no Grace, even if they have walled themselves off from what they consider their errors. They thus do not deny them the possibility of salvation, which is the aim of repentance.
Arguing for the restoration of the fullness of Holy Tradition and for the correction of errors in a Church, which has led to cessations in communion between entire national Churches at times, is not something that can be glibly covered by references to “syndromes” or the like. Such argumentation is often nuanced and complex. It must be approached with charity and a willingness to listen to all sides.
It is true that dissidents have noted that the Moscow Patriarchate has still not canonised St Joseph of Petrograd. This is largely irrelevant, because ROCOR has canonised St Joseph and his icon can be found all over Russia and inside churches of the Patriarchate. St Joseph of Petrograd is a saint. However, it is true that there were former disciples of St Joseph who are not saints, but embarked on a schismatic course. They claim the authority of St Joseph, but do not have it. This is precisely why the MP has not yet officially canonised St Joseph, because of those sectarian elements inside Russia who use his good name to justify their actions. Sadly, this is an exact parallel to the situation in ROCOR, which has not yet canonised Metr Philaret – because such a canonisation now would be exploited by sectarian elements.
We might do well to leave Church politics behind when we begin speaking of the sanctity of those transformed in Christ. Debates about personal skills, administrative debilities, or the possible political ramifications of the Glorification of a holy person are not consistent with the sobriety of the Church’s understanding of Sainthood and the process by which it is acknowledged formally.
The problem is not the calendar, it is all about humility, obedience and love. It is the problem of the Jews who condemned Christ for healing on the Sabbath. They made an idol out of the Sabbath. Today’s old calendarists are tending to do the same. They are losing sight of the most important thing, because they are attached to the details. The proof that they have a problem is in their divisions, the countless, bickering, ‘old calendarist’, ‘True Orthodox’, ‘catacomb’ sects. The Church does not divide, it unites. This is not at all because there are no sinful people in the Church, but because the Holy Spirit is in the Church. We are not saved because of our sinful selves, but in spite of our sinful selves, saved by the mercy of God. However, outside the Church, outside the Holy Spirit, you will not find unity, only sinful people and where there are only sinful people, there is only division.
Orthodoxy is about the humility, obedience, repentance, and love that lead us to preserve with our whole hearts the entirety of Holy Tradition, constantly battling the forces of the Evil One, who seeks to politicize, defile, and divide the Church. In our efforts, we should never make the divisions that he exploits matters of who is “in” and “outside” the Church. This is not in the spirit of Christ. I do not for a moment believe that everyone outside Orthodoxy is sinful, if simply because all of us within Orthodoxy are sinful. It is not our task to condemn others for sin, but to call them to salvation.
We should see the Church only through that prism and understand our temporary divisions only in that way, seeking absolute humility in obeying and preserving Holy Tradition, repenting for the divisions that all of us cause by our sins, and with great love asking the forgiveness of those who have wronged us and knowing that, in so doing, we cover the wrongs that we have visited on others. It is in this spirit that we should approach our differences. In this spirit alone will they be resolved.
May God save us all!
Rather, may God forgive us for our quick condemnations of others, such that we have sullied the perfect core of His Church, which is preserved in Orthodoxy and which we are denying to others by our proud hatred of our brothers and sisters and our arrogant, sinful desire to divide permanently with animosity the Church in its purifying temporary divisions. Shame on all of us! We Orthodox should humbly prostrate before the rest of the Christian world for what we squander and deny them with our scandals!
In HOLY TRADITION in its fullness, we will preserve the Faith and fulfill the greatest commandment of Christ, spreading His salvific message to all, Baptizing all into Orthodoxy, and bringing mankind into union, by Grace, with Him.