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The Response to Elder Tavrion


THE LIFE of Archimandrite Tavrion published in The Orthodox Word, no. 96, evoked for the most part a positive response: readers on the whole, judging from their comments to the editors, accepted it in the way it was intended to be read—as an inspiring example of genuine Orthodox courage and spiritual life in the almost impossible conditions of Soviet life. The accompanying articles, "What Does the Catacomb Church Think?" and especially the "Catacomb Epistle of 1962," set forth a position of uncompromising non-acceptance of the betrayal of the Moscow Patriarchate and refusal to have communion with it, while at the same time showing pastoral concern for the priests and faithful who try their best to be Orthodox even in the Moscow Patriarchate, where they find themselves by force of circumstances.

Some readers, however, noting that Elder Tavrion was a priest of the Moscow Patriarchate, interpreted the publication of his life as a betrayal of the Catacomb Church and as a total reversal of our stand with regard to the Moscow Patriarchate; and because the life of Elder Tavrion was sent for publication by Metropolitan Philaret, together with the Metropolitan's note explaining Fr. Tavrion's attempt to stand apart from the betraying policies of the Moscow Patriarchate, some of these readers did not hesitate to express their criticism of the Metropolitan himself, as if this indicated that he and even the whole Russian Church Outside of Russia had radically changed their opinion with regard to the Russian Church situation. The disturbance created by this criticism reached the Synod of Bishops and resulted in the "Decision" on this controversy which is printed below in this issue, which reaffirms the unchanging position of the Church Outside of Russia and admonishes those who are too quick in their criticism even of their own Metropolitan.

This disturbance (which one may hope is now a thing of the past, after the authoritative statement of the Synod) has served to remind us all that the position of the Church Outside of Russia within the Russian Church as a whole is by no means correctly understood by everyone. The problem is not that this position is really very difficult to understand, but that it is all too easy to oversimplify it and to state, at one extreme, that the betrayal of Sergianism (the compromising position of the Moscow Patriarchate, which has become a slavish tool of Communist purposes) is something unimportant towards which our attitude can change with time; or, at the other extreme, that the Moscow Patriarchate is entirely fallen away from Orthodoxy and is without grace and its fate is of no more interest to us than that of any sect in Russia.

Since the cause of this disturbance was the mistaken belief that the Metropolitan, The Orthodox Word,and presumably a large part of the Church Outside of Russia had "reversed their attitude" towards the Catacomb Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, let us examine here some of the main aspects of our Church's attitude to the Russian Church situation, comparing statements from the new "Decision" of the Synod of Bishops with other authoritative statements, both within the Catacomb Church and the Church Outside of Russia, and comments made in The Orthodox Word over the years from 1965 to the present.

1. The new "Decision" of the Synod states: "The condemnation by our hierarchy of the agreement with the atheists promulgated by the Moscow Patriarchate at the time of Metropolitan Sergius certainly remains in effect and cannot be changed except by the repentance of the Moscow Patriarchate. This policy, which seeks to serve both Christ and Belial, is unquestionably a betrayal of Orthodoxy. Therefore, we can have no liturgical communion with any bishop or cleric of the Moscow Patriarchate.... We can fully approve only that part of the Church in Russia which is celled the Catacomb Church, and only with her can we have full communion."

The Orthodox Word has set forth this fundamental position of the Church Outside of Russia (which is identical to the position of the Catacomb Church) year after year. The latest expression of it, the "Catacomb Epistle of 1962," states it in the language of a Catacomb Church representative, and this expression is certainly no less strong in tone than the Catacomb document of ten years ago, "Russia and the Church Today" (The Orthodox Word, 1972, no.44). The Orthodox Word in its recent article defending Fr. Dimitry Dudko repeated this position once again: "the very principle of 'Sergianism' is a betrayal of Orthodoxy, as Fr. Dimitry has said; this is why the free Russian Church Outside of Russia can have no communion with this jurisdiction.... We have no communion with his hierarchs and even with him (until he becomes free of them)"(no. 92, pp. 122, 137).

2. We have no hope that the church situation in Russia will change in any fundamental way as long as Communism is in power. This admittedly is a private opinion rather than an official position, but it is an opinion widely shared among the clergy and laymen of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, and over sixty years of experience with the Communist regime has only confirmed it. In particular, every "liberalization" in the regime's attitude towards the Church has only been a tactical device within the larger purpose of the total liquidation of the Church.

The Orthodox Word in 1966 stated:"The rescue of the Soviet Church... cannot come from within itself, and most definitely not under Soviet conditions.... Nothing is to be hoped for from any 'changes' within the USSR; the necessary precondition for the healing of the infected organism is the total overthrow of the Communist system. Only then can there be even talk of a return to normal religious life in Russia" (no. 10, p. 148).

The same thin" was repeated in 1981: "The Moscow Patriarchate has not changed and undoubtedly will not change until Communism itself falls in Russia; there is no hope whatever that a return to normal Orthodox church life will occur through the official church"(no. 96, p.22).

3. The "Decision" of the Synod of Bishops states: "The situation of the Church in Russia is without precedent, and no norms can be prescribed by any one of us separately."Despite the uncompromisingness of our stand against the betrayal of "Sergianism," we make no "definitions" about it; in particular, our bishops have refused to make any statement that the Moscow Patriarchate is "without grace" and "fallen away" from Orthodoxy. This position has been set forth many times in The Orthodox Word in an uncompromisingly anti-Sergianist article in 1974 (no. 59, pp. 240-1).

This position is very difficult to understand for those who would like the church situation to be "simple"and"black or white." For such people it is incomprehensible how a Catacomb Church zealot like the author of the "Catacomb Epistle of 1962" could recommend that his spiritual children receive communion in a Sergianist church if they can find no Catacomb church, or how a Catacomb priest like Archimandrite Tavrion could join the official church. Not all members of the Catacomb Church, to be sure, would approve such actions: but those who do approve and practice them have in mind only the benefit of their flocks, who might otherwise be deprived entirely of church communion and fall into despair. Such practical questions, in Soviet conditions, cannot always be given categorical answers. The "Decision" of the Synod of Bishops notes positively that "we see some efforts to remain outside the apostate policies of the Patriarchate's leaders in an attempt to attain salvation even in the territory of Antichrist's kingdom."

That at least a part of the Moscow Patriarchate is still regarded by the free Russian Church as not entirely having lost its Orthodoxy may be seen in the 1976 Epistle of the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, "To the Russian People in the Homeland, "where the bishops address the courageous priests both of the Catacomb Church and of the Moscow Patriarchate as genuine priests (The Orthodox Word, 1976, no. 70, p. 164). Expressing the same view, Bishop Gregory of Manhattan has written: "Those in Russia who are holding fast to Orthodoxy and preaching the truth, not submitting to the influence of outside powers,, are not merely our allies, but our brethren in one end the same Church" (Orthodox Life, 1979, no. 6, p. 40). Ten years ago The Orthodox Word remarked: "As John Dunlop has noted, on the popular level the boundary between the 'official' and the 'catacomb' Church is somewhat fluid. The writings of Boris Talantov testify to the presence of a deep division today within the Moscow Patriarchate between the 'Sergianist' hierarchy with its 'Communist Christianity' and the truly Orthodox faithful who reject this impious 'adaptation to atheism"' (1971, no. 36, p. 38).

Perhaps the best statement on this whole question comes from a leading Catacomb hierarch of the 1920's and '30's, now to be canonized as a New Martyr, Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan. In answer to the ecclesiastical legalism of Metropolitan Sergius, he wrote to him in 1929: "It amazes you that, while refraining from celebrating Liturgy with you, I nonetheless do not consider either myself or you to be outside the Church. 'For church thinking such a theory is completely unacceptable, ' you declare; 'it is an attempt to keep ice on a hot grill.' If in this case there is any attempt on my part, it is not to keep ice on a hot grill, but rather to melt away the ice of a dialectical bookish application of the canons and to preserve the sacredness of their spirit. I refrain from liturgizing with you not because the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ would not be actualized at our joint celebration, but because the communion of the Chalice of the Lord would be to both of us for judgment and condemnation, since our inward attitude, disturbed by a different understanding of our church relation to each other, would take away from us the possibility of offering in complete calmness of spirit the mercy of peace, the sacrifice of praise. Therefore, the whole fullness of my refraining concerns only you and the hierarchs one in mind with you, but not the ordinary clergy, and even less laymen" (The Orthodox Word, 1977, no. 75, p. 183-4).

4. In accordance with the famous "Testament" of Metropolitan Anastassy, Chief Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia from 1936 to 1964, a final judgment of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian church situation cannot be made now, but must wait for a free Church Council, which can obviously be assembled only after the fall of Communism. The last paragraph of this "Testament" states: "As for the Moscow Patriarchate and her hierarchs, inasmuch as they are in an intimate, active, and well-wishing union with the Soviet power which openly confesses its complete godlessness and strives to implant atheism in the entire Russian people, with them the Church Abroad, preserving its purity, must not have any communion whatever, whether canonically, in prayer, or even in ordinary everyday contact, at the same time giving each of them over to the final judgment of the Sobor (Council) of the future free Russian Church" (The Orthodox Word, 1970, no. 33-34, p. 239).

(Some have quoted this passage to indicate the impossibility of our having any contact whatever with priests of the Moscow Patriarchate. It should therefore be noted that Metropolitan Anastassy here points only to the "hierarchs" who are in a "well-wishing union with the Soviet power. " The priests and laymen who are bravely protesting against the "Sergianism" of the Patriarchate are clearly in a different category.)

The subject of this future free Council is one that has occupied the thoughts both of the Catacomb Church and the Church Outside of Russia ever since the Sergian Declaration of 1927. In that year Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, the first real head of the Catacomb Church, wrote: "In separating from Metropolitan Sergius and his acts, we do not separate from our lawful Chief Hierarch, Metropolitan Peter, nor from the Council, which will meet at some time in the future, of those Orthodox hierarchs who have remained faithful. May this Council, our sole competent judge, not then hold us guilty for our boldness" (The Orthodox Word, 1971, no. 36, p. 26).

Similarly, in 1934 Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan wrote: " I firmly believe that the Orthodox Episcopate, with brotherly union and mutual support, will preserve the Russian Church, with God's help, in age-old Orthodoxy all the time of the validity of the Patriarchal Testament (of Patriarch Tikhon), and will conduct it to a lawful Council" (The Orthodox Word, 1977, no . 75, p. 189).

In 1962 the anonymous author of the "Catacomb Epistle" wrote: "We believe that if human life is to continue on earth, then some time there will gather a council which will justify our boldness and will justly evaluate the 'wise policy' of Metropolitan Sergius and his followers who wished to 'save the Church' at the price of her immaculateness and truth" (The Orthodox Word, 1981, no. 96, p. 31).

In 1970 the Catacomb authors of "Russia and the Church Today" stated: "We believe that if the world does not perish, sooner or later in liberated Russia there will be a Local Council of our Church, to which the fruits of their labors and exploits for the long period without a Council. . . will be brought forth by the Moscow Patriarchate and by the persecuted Russian ‘Catacomb' Church, to which the authors of this article belong" (The Orthodox Word, 1972, no. 44. p. 132).

And in 1971 The Orthodox Word, commenting on the writings of Boris Talantov, nosed that they "will doubtless be used as testimony at that longed-for Council of the entire free Russian Church, including the Churches of the Catacombs and of the Diaspora, that will finally judge the situation created by the Communist Yoke and Sergianism" (no. 36, p. 38).

5. The "Decision" of the Synod of Bishops states: "Any departure from atheism and 'Sergianism' must be seen as a positive step towards pure Orthodoxy even though it not yet be the opening of the way to ecclesiastical union with us... Our interest in all aspects of religious life in Russia cannot ignore any positive event we see against the background of total apostasy. We should not focus our attention exclusively on those facts which merit unconditional condemnation."

And in fact, the interest and sympathy which the Church Outside of Russia as a whole has shown to such priests as Fr. Dimitry Dudko and Archimandrite Tavrion is by no means a thing of the past few years. This interest and sympathy has been reflected in the pages of The Orthodox Word from the very first year of its existence.

The third issue of The Orthodox Word in l965 published an "Appeal" from believers of the Moscow Patriarchate in Pochaev. A number of suffering clergy of the Patriarchate are mentioned, with a special description of "Abbot Joseph... a great man of prayer and our spiritual and bodily physician" (p. 109). This same "Appeal" states that "the Orthodox Church is in great danger. . . Only the Pochaev monks and a small number of the clergy stand firmly for the apostolic traditions and don't give in an inch to the Antichrist" (pp. 110-111). The editorial comment at the end of this "Appeal" stated: "One must choose: to support, in any way, the puppets of Communism, who serve the ultimate aim of the complete liquidation of religion; or to stand with the persecuted believers" (here, specifically of the Moscow Patriarchate) "who have dared to tell the world what is really happening today behind the Iron Curtain" (p. 114).

The next issue of The Orthodox Word in 1965 contained a favorable description of a "Brotherhood of Orthodox Youth" composed of "sons and daughters of the Orthodox Church" which acts because the clergy is not free, but "without making any attempt against the canonical authority of the hierarchs" (no . 4, p . 159) .

In 1971 a large part of two issues of The Orthodox Word was devoted to the life and writings of Boris Talantov, a layman of the Moscow Patriarchate who mercilessly exposed the betrayal of Sergianism even while believing that the Catacomb Church, while fully Orthodox, was a "sect. " In the title of one article about him he is called an "Orthodox confessor," and in the article he is presented as "an inspiring example of Christian courage against overwhelming obstacles" and "a fearless confessor of the holy Orthodox faith" (1971, no. 36, p. 35). Like Fr. Dimitry Dudko, Talantov believed that "because of the corruption end betrayal of the bishops the believers should not disperse to their homes and organize separate sects, but rather preserving unity, they should begin the accusation by the whole people of the corrupt false pastors and cleanse the Church of them" (1971, no. 41, p. 292).

In these years, despite such support shown for courageous members of the Moscow Patriarchate, there were no Protests at all against these articles in The Orthodox Word. The articles in recent years on Fr. Dimitry Dudko and Archimandrite Tavrion, and remarks on other courageous priests of the Moscow Patriarchate, are only a continuation of these earlier articles.

Perhaps the most eloquent expression of the sympathy of the free Russian Church for the struggling priests within the Moscow Patriarchate who have spoken out against Sergianism is the statement addressed to them by the Sobor of Bishops of the whole Russian Church Outside of Russia in 1976, in their Epistle "To the Russian People in the Homeland": "We kiss the Cross which you also have taken upon yourself, O pastors who have found the courage and the power of spirit to be open accusers of the faint heartedness of your hierarchs who have capitulated to the atheists, to be fearless gatherers and instructors of those who seek spiritual food—first of all young people. We know of your exploit, we read about you, we read what you have written, we pray for you and ask your prayers for our flock in the Diaspora. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

"The life of the Church continues even under the pressure of atheism, often taking, thanks to the pressure and violence, forms unusual in peaceful circumstances, breaking out through the bonds and chains into the freedom of spirit and the victory of the children of God! With love we follow this process in our Homeland and rejoice over it" (The Orthodox Word, 1976, no . 70, p . 164).

The "Decision" of the Synod of Bishops notes that the criticism evoked by the "Elder Tavrion" Article involved "especially those who are not very familiar with the conditions of church life in the USSR." Such critics have failed to notice, as the "Decision" also says, that "the situation of the Church in Russia is without precedent, and no norms can be prescribed by any one of us separately." The attempt to fit the Russian church situation into some standard canonical "norm" that will enable one to dismiss the Moscow Patriarchate entirely as a formal "schism" or even "heresy"—is a mistake.

The "Decision" of the Synod of Bishops is a welcome correction of this mistake and is a clear sign to us that in these perilous days our Orthodoxy must not become something narrow, negative, and critical. We must temper the overlogicalness of our Western mentality (which has formed all of us in the modern world, whether we realize it or not) with a loving, pastoral concern for all those who still wish to be Orthodox, despite the terrible conditions of our times and even the outright betrayal of many hierarchs.

A young priest of the Greek Archdiocese in America, before his tragic death several years ago, once called The Orthodox Word a "conscience of Orthodoxy" today. This is precisely what the Russian Church Outside of Russia could and should be for the Orthodox world today. This church body has maintained its existence now for sixty years in a Russian church situation that is entirely abnormal and in some respects unprecedented in church history. It has done so by means of a kind of church "instinct" which has not betrayed it, end which allows it to maintain its separateness from the betrayal of a large part of the Orthodox Church leadership today without losing contact with the still living conscience of the sound part of the Orthodox clergy and faithful in many jurisdictions.

This church instinct is by no means blind, but is quite capable of discerning mistaken attitudes even in the suffering faithful for whom our Church is at pains to show such support. Thus, in en open letter to Father Gleb Yakunin, a courageous and self-sacrificing priest now suffering ecclesiastical suspension and cruel imprisonment in Russia for his defense of believers' rights, Metropolitan Philaret not long ago found it necessary to point out this priest's mistaken support for the Roman Catholic religious literature being sent into Russia, poisoned as it is by false teaching and heresy (Orthodox Russia, June 28, 1979, pp. 1-2). Likewise, The Orthodox Word in 1966 criticized the false "ecumenical" and "Berdyaevan" views of the famous open letters of the two Moscow priests (no. 10, pp. 145-148). Such criticism, it is true, must be charitable and take into account the poverty of the Orthodox literature available in Russia; one very conservative emigre, Eugene Vagin, has pointed out that often pseudo-Orthodox writings like those of Berdyaev are almost all that is available to a sincere Orthodox searcher, and the mistakes such a searcher might make under their influence can be corrected later on by exposure to sounder Orthodox texts. In our freedom, we are able to help with this process of correction, but we must do so with patience and love, especially bearing in mind that we in the West are exposed to the ravages of a different spiritual infirmity—the Western passion for over-logicalness and "super-correctness" which makes us want to "define" church matters more precisely than our abnormal conditions will allow.

In such conditions we should keep more often in mind the prophetic words of the last testament of Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd (martyred in 1922): "Now we must put off our learning and self-opinion and give way to grace." It is this grace, and not our calculations and definitions of it, that has preserved the Russian Church in this frightful century of its worst trial, and it is nothing else that will yet preserve it until the calling of the free Council that one day, as we all hope, will at last bring peace and order to church life.

From The Orthodox Word, May-June 1981 (98), 123-136.

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The Decision of the Synod of Bishops

The following document is printed at the request of the Synod of Bishops and Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco. The editors of The Orthodox Word are entirely in agreement with it and pray that it will cause an end to discord in the Church.

On 12/25 August, 1981, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia heard the report of the President of the Synod of Bishops on the following matter: the appearance of an article about Archimandrite Tavrion published in issue number 96 of The Orthodox Word has caused great consternation among some readers, especially those who are not very familiar with the conditions of church life in the USSR. In my covering letter to the editor of the magazine (which was not intended to be published with the article), they saw what they believed to be a kind of approval of the dual position taken by the late archimandrite rather than the simple forwarding of some interesting, informative material. Archimandrite Tavrion, after long years of imprisonment as a member of the Catacomb Church, somehow came to join the Moscow Patriarchate while never sharing its policies. None of us has ever had any relations with him. We only know that he advised those of his spiritual children leaving the USSR and going West to join the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. It is also known that when talking to his spiritual children, he condemned the political subservience of the Patriarchate to the atheistic authorities. His pastoral and spiritual methods were rather unusual. In the favorable description of his life written by his spiritual daughter, some readers found not only the fact that he brought people into the Church, but they also suspected us of approving his compromising attitude toward the Church This is not true.

The condemnation by our hierarchy of the agreement with the atheists promulgated by the Moscow Patriarchate at the time of Metropolitan Sergius certainly remains in effect and cannot be changed except by the repentance of the Moscow Patriarchate. This policy. which seeks to serve both Christ and Belial, is unquestionably a betrayal of Orthodoxy. Therefore, we can have no liturgical communion with any bishop or cleric of the Moscow Patriarchate. But this does not prevent us from studying with love and sorrow the religious life in Russia. In some cases we see a complete collapse while in others we see some efforts to remain outside the apostate policies of the Patriarchate’s leaders in an attempt to attain salvation even in the territory of Antichrist's kingdom (as in the case mentioned in Canon II of St. Athanasius), and bearing in mind the words of our Saviour that by a hasty judgment one might root up the wheat along with the tares (Matt. 13:29). Under varying circumstances. the venom of sinful compromise poisons the soul in varying degrees.

As the free part of the Russian Church, we can fully approve only that part of the Church in Russia which is called the Catacomb Church, and only with her can we have full communion. Yet any departure from atheism and "Sergianism" must be seen as a positive step towards pure Orthodoxy even though it not yet be the opening of the way to ecclesiastical union with us. Beyond this, our present evaluation and judgment cannot proceed, due to lack of information. However, our interest in all aspects of religious life in Russia cannot ignore any positive event we see against the background of total apostasy. We should not focus our attention exclusively on those facts which merit unconditional condemnation.

In light of this, the life and activity of the late Archimandrite Tavrion was an interesting phenomenon. And for this reason, I found his biography worthy of attention and publication while certainly disapproving his membership in the Sergian church organization. This was apparently misunderstood by some readers: I was not offering his example as worthy of imitation.

RESOLVED: To take into consideration the report of the President of the Synod of Bishops and, sharing his opinion, to publish his account in the religious press. At the same time, the Synod of Bishops deems it necessary to remind its flock that first of all, we must strongly uphold our own faith and exercise our zeal in the authentic life of the Church under the conditions in which God has placed each one of us, striving towards the salvation of our souls. Due to insufficient information, deliberations about the significance and quality of various events in Russia do not at present provide adequate guidance for the faithful. Indeed, in the majority of cases these deliberations cannot serve as instruction but must rather be regarded as personal opinions.

The Synod of Bishops is grieved by the reaction to the article about Archimandrite Tavrion and the hasty conclusions which some zealous believers, and even some clergymen, have drawn. Mutual love and concern for Church unity, which is especially necessary in times of heresy and schism, require from each of us great caution in what we say. If no one is supposed to condemn his neighbor in haste, even more care is demanded where our own primate is concerned. Rash implications about his allegedly unorthodox preaching as well as open criticism in sermons reveal a tendency towards condemnation and division which is unseemly in Christians. The Apostle said, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?" How much more appropriate might it be to say. "Who art thou that judgest thy metropolitan?" Such an attitude, which can easily develop into schism, is strongly censured by the canons of the Church, for it shows willful appropriation by clerics of the "Judgment belonging to metropolitans" (Canon XIII of the First-and-Second Council). Everyone must be very careful in his criticism, particularly when expressing it publicly, remembering that "Judgment and justice take hold on thee" (Job 36:17). If, contrary to the apostolic teaching about hierarchical distribution of duties and responsibilities all the clerics and laymen were to supervise their hierarchs (I Cor. 12:28-30), then instead of being a hierarchical Body of Christ, our Church would turn into a kind of democratic anarchy where the sheep assume the function of the shepherd. A special grace is bestowed upon bishops to help them in their work. Those who seek to control their bishop should be reminded of Canon LXIV of the Sixth Ecumenical Council which quotes the words of St. Gregory the Theologian:

Learning in docility and abounding in cheerfulness, and ministering with alacrity, we shall not all be the tongue which is the more active member, not all of us apostles, not all prophets, nor shall we all interpret.

And again:

Why cost thou make thyself a shepherd when thou art a sheep? Why become a head when thou art a foot? Why cost thou try to be a commander when thou art enrolled in the number of the soldiers?

The canon ends with the following words:

But if anyone be found weakening the present canon, he is to be cut off for forty days.

The situation of the Church in Russia is without precedent, and no norms can be prescribed by any one of us separately. If the position of the Catacomb Church would change relative to its position in past years, any change in our attitude would have to be reviewed not by individual clergymen or laymen but only by the Council of Bishops, to which all pertinent matters should be submitted.

The above decision must be published and a copy of it forwarded to the Secretariat of the Council while the diocesan bishops should give instructions, each in his own diocese, to the clerics who have too hastily voiced their opinion.

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A Related Excerpt

Let us here make clear several points, because the proponents of a "liberal" Orthodox theology and ecclesiology have so clouded the issue with their emotional arguments that it has become very difficult to see things clearly and calmly as they actually are.

Let it be said first of all that those, whether in Russia or outside, who accuse the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate not of any personal sins, but of apostasy, do not in the least "curse" or condemn the simple people who go to the open churches in the Soviet Union, nor the conscientious priests who serve as well as they can under the inhuman pressures exerted by the Communist Government, nor even the betraying hierarchs themselves; people who say this are, purely and simply, slandering the position of the True-Orthodox Christians. While considering the clergy and faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate as participants in apostasy and schism, True-Orthodox Christians view them with sympathy and love, but also speak the truth about them and refuse to participate in their deeds or have communion in prayer and sacraments with them, leaving their judgment to the future free All-Russian Council, when and if God should grant that it might be convened. In previous Councils like this in the history of the Church, those most guilty for schism have been punished, while the innocent followers of schism have been forgiven and restored to communion with the Church (as indicated in the Epistle of St. Athanasius the Great to Rufinianus).

Secondly, True-Orthodox Christians do not at all regard the Moscow Patriarchate simply as "fallen" and its followers as equal to heretics or pagans. There are degrees of schism and apostasy, and the fresher is the break with the true Church of Christ, and the more it has been caused by outward rather than inward causes—the greater is the possibility for the eventual restoration of the fallen-away body to the Church. True-Orthodox Christians, for the sake of the purity of Christ's Church, must remain separate from the schismatic body and thereby show it the way of return to the True Church of Christ.

Solzhenitsyn speaks, not with the voice of Christian truth, but only with the voice of human common sense, when he writes in his Letter: "The majority of people are not saints, but ordinary men. Both faith and the Divine services are called to accompany their usual life, and not to demand every time a super-heroic act." Yes, it is true: True-Orthodox Christians today are the heroes of Orthodoxy in Russia, and the whole history of Christ's Church is the history of the triumph of Christ's heroes. "Ordinary" people follow the heroes, not vice versa. The standard is heroism, not "ordinary life." The confession of the True-Orthodox Church is absolutely indispensable for the "ordinary" Orthodox Christians of Russia today, if they hope to remain Orthodox and not go further on the path of apostasy.

Finally, the True-Orthodox Church of Russia, as far as we know, has made no official proclamation as to the Grace, or lack of it, of the Sacraments of the Moscow Patriarchate. Individual hierarchs of the Catacomb Church in the past have expressed different opinions on this subject, some actually allowing the reception of Holy Communion from a Sergianist priest when in danger of death, and others insisting on the new Baptism of those baptized by Sergianist clergy. This question could be decided only by a Council of Bishops. If the schism of the Moscow Patriarchate is only temporary, and if it will eventually be restored to communion with the True-Orthodox Church in a free Russia, then this question may never need to be officially decided at all. Individual cases of True-Orthodox Christians in Russia receiving or not receiving Holy Communion in Sergianist churches do not, of course, establish any general rule or decide the question. The strict rule of the Russian Church Outside of Russia forbidding her members from receiving Sacraments from clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate is not founded on any statement that these Sacraments lack Grace, but rather on the sacred testament of Metropolitan Anastassy and other great hierarchs of the Diaspora forbidding any kind of communion with the Patriarchate as long as its leaders betray the Faith and are in submission to atheists.

From "The Catacomb Tikhonite Church, 1974: First Public Information in the West Concerning", by Metropolitan Theodosius, Chief Hierarch of the True-Orthodox Church of Russia (The Orthodox Word, Nov.-Dec., 1974, 240-241).