Unity in Truth – Unity with Christ
Unity with Falsehood – Unity with Satan
“For the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”
Increasingly, I receive letters from clergy and laity, who for various reasons have been forced to remain in the ROCOR(MP), but are searching for a way out of their dismal situation. Also there are issues of the so-called “fragments”-which are anti-union (with the MP), and ask: “Is not the situation aggravated by the fragmentation and the negative attitudes of hierarchs and clergy towards each other?”
In recent years, in both Russia and abroad, there appeared, alas, various “fragments” and divisive groups who are against each other, some even with their own metropolitans, all saying that they are the “only” correct church. They demand obedience, and some even prohibit asking questions! In one such a structure, some recognize us as legitimate ministers of the True Orthodox Church Abroad, as well as the legitimacy of the RTOC – which is helping us in the reconstruction of overseas dioceses and churches, while others, including their superiors, ridicule us. They say, “Do not enter into their ‘church’, do not read their literature.” They continue to defame us and others in order to bring faithful to themselves.
No, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the True Church does not put down others in order to promote themselves. It withstands any criticism and suffers libel with humility. It does not avenge those who libel but prays for them. It does not forbid them to ask questions, but is guided by the Holy Apostle Paul’s instruction: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Col 4:6) We must always be prepared to give a truthful response concerning our faith, our hope. The Deceitful One, who is able to appear as “an angel of light”, and is likewise shrewd enough to use our fervor in preserving the truth of the Church to further fragment the True Church if we allow ourselves to be ruled by our passions: anger, condemnation, falsehoods, desire to be foremost….
“To this end was I born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” the Lord said to Pilate. He added, “and every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:37) So it is! These “true worshippers” (John 4:23) are asking us the ever important question- where is there truth, integrity, and honesty, so that we may know who to follow? The woeful plea of one woman should make us all take notice: “I am sick and tired of falsehood! In Soviet times, we were afraid to talk with our neighbors. Then came ‘perestroika’ and freedom. We all rushed to, what we thought, was the free Church, but saw that it is still wrapped up in Soviet politics. Even the good priests of the official Russian Church (MP) justify the heretical leanings of their superiors. Abroad, finally, I found comfort in the Church. But my spiritual joy was not to continue for long: I lost friends close to me, who were lured into this horrendous union with the МP. I subdued my inner disappointment and again went to seek a fertile Church. And what happened? Again I met clergy, who spoke of their persistence in Truth, but behind the scenes, behind closed doors, in private make contracts with those who have distorted views concerning grace, the heresy of ecumenism, Sergianism. Are there no more honest servants of the Truth?”
I remember how, in blessed memory, Archbishop Averky (Taushev) would often stop the reading of the lives of the saints during the dining of the monastics [as was the custom of the Jordanville Monastery] and talk about the current situation in the Church. Repeatedly, he said that “in the Church there can not only be any compromise with this world which wallows in evil, but, no innovations whatsoever. The Church is fullness. The Holy Spirit through the teachings of the Church and the Holy Fathers, has given us everything that we need until the end of days. We should not just shy away from those who say that we now live in a new era, and therefore should keep up with the times – we should RUN from them!”
The unity of the “fragments” is good and desirable, but only in uncompromising truth. Compromise is NOT the “average line”, or moderation, or economia. It is a retreat from truth ALREADY! Who or what is a compromise? Can Truth compromise with the Truth?! Sometimes a compromise – which is always foreign to both Christ and His Church – takes on the form of a poison secretly sprinkled onto food, and presented to the faithful as something edible: “We do not accept the heretical teachings of our fellow brothers, but we consider that to be their personal opinion.” (Where and from whom have we heard this??) Our sacred duty is to guard the Church of Christ from deceit –in any form.
We not only pray for unity, but also act in this direction. It would have been wonderful, especially at this time of the year, to have praised our Lord’s Resurrection with united – in truth- words! There are those who invite us to negotiations without any preconditions. We decline this offer. Our predecessors Metropolitans Anastassy, Philaret, and Vitaly, Abp. Averky and other pillars never accepted such “conditions”. (The ROCOR(L) Synod has shown us the results of this kind of “negotiation”.) There is one precondition that should always be; and that is: “with the fear of God, in the light of Christ’s Truth!”
The “Tiny Gem” that was characterized by St. John of Shanghai, can only be the Church that retains its integrity and remains UNBLEMISHED.
+Bishop Stefan (Sabelnik)
of Trenton and North-America