(Translation: Fr Tikhon Kozushin) Due to claims of mistranslation by some of our readers on our last article concerning Metropolitan Seraphim (Prokofiev) of Moscow being a name worshipper, we contracted a professional translation into English by Fr Tikhon Kozushin, a priest who is fluent in English and Russian and is unaffiliated with either Synod for objectivity. The translation follows. — Editors
Portal Credo.Press: At this year’s Local Council of the TOC headed by you, the problem of venerating the name of God was again on the table, and as a result of discussions a resolution was adopted on Imiaslavie. Tell us please, why did you need once again to raise the issue on the council level, whereas at the previous Local Council of 2014 the Homology that had been adopted included an unambiguous and explicit profession of Imiaslavie?
SS: I am an Imiaslaviean (adherent of Imiaslavie), yet I would rather add to this word the prefix “probably”. I have been studying the issue for several years now, and even for several decades. I was introduced to the problem by the late Metropolitan Sergius (Sarkisov). Whence did he bring it in? I suppose it was from your Portal. Having been a thoughtful and meticulous person, he graduallly led me on to it. Later some interest awoke in me, still later the interest became strong. Then I just needed to find my way through it.
Then the Lord allowed me to meet Bp Gregorij (Lourije), Alexander Soldatov – and this resulted in a profound, not a shallow, understanding. On this path I liked most Alexei Zaitsev, the theologian from Kaluga (150 miles south of Moscow). He is a self-denying believer in the Name of God. He never wavered in this belief. I like him being a “blinkerd” man: he concentrates on some problem and he indulges in it, whatever the circumstances. So it was Alexei who advanced me most in this pursuit. We talked a lot, discussed a lot. He speaks a simple language, very easy to understand but very much to the point. He is hard to argue with, but why would you when all is made quite clear. So our Homology of 2014 was based on Imiaslavie
The most important reason why we had come up with this Homology was to persuade the entire Church, and also the entire mankind, that this was the way the Name of God should be revered. And we did it. Then we needed to progress from studying it on to inculcating. Our purpose was to let it be known not only to the Sobor, but also to the people around. We needed now to broadcast the ideas. I wanted very much to have a helpful assistant in the person of Alexei Zaitsev, but he left us. When a man does much work to persuade me and then stops being with us, we are left with a feeling of incompleteness. It is then being fed with all sorts of doubts, all sorts of influences.
Since we are part of the Synaxis of the True Orthodox Churches together with the American Church under Metropolitan John (LoBue) (who is an imia-borets – imiaclast), we have to deal with diametrically different approaches. Things went so far that the American Church very nearly anathematized us. Thereby the Synaxis of TOC began to disintegrate like a living organism. We wrote a letter to him, he answered with refutations, we responded, quite logically. And he is like wrong and we are like right. Then he stopped attending our Synaxis sessions and concelebrating, and says: “That’s all, I leave..”.
At this point I came across correspondence between the Boston Synod of TOC and the President of one of the Greek Churches, Makarios. And this controversy went exactly along the same track as our controversy with LoBue. At the end of the day the Bostonian and Makarios came to a conclusion that they did not have to fight this, because God alone knows what is going on. A neutral position might be the best.
PC: – Neutral in the sense that you preferred to keep aloof from confessing your faith that the Name of God is God Himself?
SS – No. The Bostonians and the Greeks just cut off the extreme positions and left the middle, which is not against the Imiaslavie. The kindness of God may manifest itself in all things and in different forms, so fighting the imiabozhestvo (Name-God-ness), the truth, would be wrong. On the other hand, it may not but be rabid to jettison all the rest. So we came to the one unified agreement which the Bostonians and the Greeks accepted…. Or rather they wanted to accept but failed to. The Greeks renewed their attempts to coerce Bostonians and kept demanding more concessions from them.
So finally we developed an attitude that we should look at the problem from a different angle. Not by any means denying what we have believed, we needed to lay it out in a more human language. Once the question existed, we needed to resolve it and put an end to it. Where this end was to be? Just where it all started – at the Council. We decided we will discuss it on a segmental level rather than plenary.
PC– So after a period of doubts you decided to learn from other jurisdictions and somewhat play your position down?
SS –Those were not doubts. Rather it was insufficient information that we needed to supplement. We began searching for the necessary supplement and just came across the documents of the Boston Synod.
Frankly, I do not see it as a problem for myself. Unfortunately, not all members of the Holy Synod, let alone the Archpastoral Sobor, share my convictions. Perhaps we by nature look for milder formulas in order to alleviate the internal turmoil in our Church. While people around Bp Gregory are all of same mind with him without a shadow of a doubt, with us it is all a bit different. On the ground of these controversies we had to suspend from service our Metropolitan Ioann of Saint-Petersburg. I did regret losing him, he is a sober man, staunch, but his flock rejected Imiaslavie, and forced him to act like this. But this does not mean he acted right.
Unity is more precious than any talk of unity. This was the reason why we adopted the Confession of Faith, edited it in the same manner as did the Bostonians.
PC– Your Holiness, I read on the CP Portal that the law-enforcement bodies began to show interest in your activities, that there have been several searches of your office. Has this bad streak come to an end, have you been able to avoid pressure and how you handle these misfortunes today?
SS– We stopped reacting to these things and be afraid of them. And when the guys see that we show no fear but instead exhibit absolute indifference to whatever they do, they think: OK, they are not afraid, what can we do to them?” And they leave us alone. You need to know their “thinking traits”. They want to threaten you, and the fear they impose is their main weapon. I spoke much about this at the Sobor.
PC – Your Address was a very brave one. I noted the phrase: “We need to pray about the True Anointed of God, not the President of the Russian Federation” – and some other phrases that sounded very audacious.
SS– Do you mean to say I must feel very scared?
PC –I mean to say, your address was in prophetic style. Some men in the Old Testament went that far…
SS– At three courts I was pleaded guilty of extremism, three times I was found guilty of administrative violations. And then they opened a criminal case against me. As part of this criminal case they subpoenaed nearly a hundred and a half persons for interrogation, they searched through every little thing, the smallest paper in the Monastery, in Ostrovo, in Solnechnogorsk. Investigation embraced all our communities in Moscow and Moscow Region. They spent about a year looking for things criminal, but came up with naught. We were not informed if the case was closed or not, but anyways they stopped sending out subpoenas. It is now more than a year past.
I am not sure whether it was the Moscow Patriarchate that initiated this persecution, I have no reasons to be affirmative. Yet some evidence indicates that it was them. Because when they ask questions, they sound unintelligible on the one hand, but on the other their questions could not but have originated in an ecclesiastical organization. For example, -Why did you call the Catholic Church as one that fell off communion with the True Church?” To answer this question reference must be made to resolutions of at least several local councils that took place after the 1054 Division. Or rather not local, but the ecumenical, the Palamite councils which have the reputation of being sequels to the ecumenical ones – where it was said in no ambiguous terms that they are a parasynagogue, and cannot be communicated with, and the like. If you hold some Ecumenical Council to have been wrong – it is your business. I, instead, follow the acts of the Ecumenical Council and quoted some passages from the Acts to the investigators. We can cite plenty of examples how Catholics were derogatory towards Orthodoxy, wherefore the latter had to take such decisions. I see in this neither extremism nor anything at all that might be of interest to the investigation.
Hey, and how for Lord’s sake can you call me an extremist?! I am a patriot of our Fatherland, I am a colonel of the Soviet Army, I served 27 years in the military, I am a first degree invalid, in real fact I have no legs. I came into Church not because I wanted to make any acquisitions, I came to bring in myself. After I retired from Army, I became a clergyman, and then everything went the way it went. Now, since all my life I defended my Fatherland, I simply cannot be a different man. If need arise to choose between my life and Fatherland I will not hesitate to sacrifice it for the Fatherland. This is my stand. I am old but I will not change my stand.
To be continued.
Collocutor was Dmitriy Khabarov,
Exclusively for the Credo.Press Portal