(Editorial) A popular (and controversial) television news host in America has recently revived a pretty old maxim, specifically in reference to divining the real agendas of government: “watch the other hand”. The truth of this statement is so old it goes back to the scriptures, where Our Lord Jesus Christ even describes the giving of alms in terms of the division of the hands: But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. (Mt 6:3,4).
As I watched this television program recently and the host made reference to this oft-repeated maxim as though he conceived it himself, I thought to myself: “this is really true when dealing with events in international Orthodoxy”. The public image of so many in world Orthodoxy is one of very real purity of faith and when that image is challenged it creates a wave of anger and confusion among the confronted. So I started thinking about this article (having more writers gives me more time to think) and got to the question of “watching the other hand”. I found it works just as well when you are dealing with the political leaders in the Patriarchates, et cetera.
Take this sudden interest on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate in providing “pastoral care” for members of other religions in schools and the military. Sounds like the Moscow Patriarchate is concerned about religious freedom, right? Watch the other hand. By consolidating control of who gets what kind of “pastoral care”, the Patriarchate guarantees control over the religious bodies which aren’t part of the Patriarchate. And when it has that sort of control even over other religious bodies, True Orthodox, Old Believers and others who lay claim to Orthodoxy have little power to stop it. You say you’re Orthodox? You will be under the Patriarchate. That’s it. It’s the only way to interpret the fact that the Patriarchate is sponsoring the wholesale theft of Churches throughout Russia. One Protestant minister saw right through the sham and realized the Patriarchate’s moves aren’t about Orthodoxy– they are about state control.
Consider also, if you will, the recent discussions on the unity of American jurisdictions in world Orthodoxy and the recent high level meetings between the Pope and higher-ups of the Patriarch of Moscow. It’s about getting Orthodox together according to the canons, right? It’s about closer friendships with the Papal Catholics on social issues, right? Watch the other hand. The “Ligonier Meetings” are nothing but a sham since most of the episcopates represented have already signed onto making not national episcopal assemblies but multinational ones. (North American Union, SCOBA-style!) And yet here’s the best part. Nobody seems to care about what organizing body is making these decisions– the “Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference” in Chambesy. Does this sound only vaguely familiar? That’s intentional. The “Pre-Conciliar Conference” hasn’t been active since the 1970’s and was only revived last year. Back in 1976, the Orthodox Word reported the following about the goals:
“Two more Pan-Orthodox Conferences were held in Rhodes (1963, 1964), but only at the Fourth Conference (Chambesy, 1968) was “systematic preparation” begun for the “Ecumenical Council.” Only six of the subjects proposed at Rhodes were kept, and these were assigned to various Local Churches for elaboration. The “Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission” then met (Chambesy, 1971) to express the “common Orthodox opinion” on these subjects, which were: (1) Economy. (2) Participation of the Laity. (3) Revision of fasting rules. 4) Revision of the rules for marriage of the clergy. (5) The calendar question. (6) Divine Revelation. The very subjects chosen, of course, already give a fairly good indication of the renovationist intent of all these “pre-Synodal” preparations….”
Yes, you read correctly. This is the same “Eighth Ecumenical Council” idea that St Philaret of New York condemned, the holy Fr Justin Popovich condemned, and countless others. The one everyone said would be a false council except for those REALLY interested in uniting with Rome. Fr Justin wrote sharply: “Are we to believe that Constantinople, which in the persons of its holy and great hierarchs, its clergy and its people, so boldly opposed for centuries past the Roman protectionism and absolutism, is today preparing to ignore the conciliar traditions of Orthodoxy and to exchange them for the neo-papal surrogate of a “second,” “third” or other sort of Rome?” If Fr Justin would have been alive to see how commonplace are the high-level communications with Moscow and Rome, the annual concelebrations in Rome and Constantinople, he would not have needed to ask why Constantinople would be willing to make such a trade. He would have already seen the other hand at work.
In closing, a simple slogan has a lot of meaning, if applied philosophically to how we pay attention to things. If we go looking for temporal happiness, that’s what we are going to get. But if we are serious, and we want to know the truth, we have to watch the other hand. One can get depressed over the current state of things or say “no! I am an Orthodox Christian and this isn’t how we do things!” But that’s your choice. And it’s a choice you can only make when you can assess the situation realistically. Keep reading, keep watching. Be vigilant. And more than anything else, pray. NFTU