A Report to the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
by Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal and Canada
Histories of ecumenism abound, and stalwart defenses of the true Church of Christ
against this modern heresy of heresies have appeared with increasing frequency in
those few Orthodox publications still able and willing to express the truth. But
perhaps not yet with such clarity and succinctness has the very essence of ecumenism
been defined, its causes uncovered, the motives of its followers made clear, and
its plan set forth, as in the present article. Originally de1ivered as an official
report to the full Sobor (Council) of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside
of Russia 1967, and revised this year in the light of the 1968 Assembly at Uppsala,
it can rightfully take its place beside the very recent “Sorrowful
Epistle” of Metropolitan Philaret to all Orthodox bishops in the world 
as a final trumpet call to those who know and love Christ’s Church to stand apart
from the evil of these days and rise to defend the Church. 
+ + +
THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT, which we now see in its definitive form with the “World
Council of Churches” as its chief headquarters, as it were, with its elaborate network
of organizations, has passed by stages through a gradual development.
In the first half of the last century its first predecessors appeared: in 1844 in
London a certain George Williams founded the so-called YMCA, which as its golden
jubilee in 1894 had succeeded in spreading throughout the entire world, and in 1952
counted as many as 10,000 branches with four million members. The founder of this
society was himself awarded the Order of Chivalry by Queen Victoria.
Eleven years after the foundation of the YMCA, two women’s societies were organized
in England—in the south of England a certain Miss Emma Robarts founded a circle
with the purpose of meeting for prayer, and in London Lady Kinnerd founded a society
for young ladies with the purpose of practical philanthropy. In 1894 these two societies
were merged into one and began to be called by the name already known to all, of
YWCA: Young Women s Christian Association.
Although neither the YMCA nor the YWCA had any kind of dogma of its own, still,
by their diffuse, hazy, already semi-Christian ideology they created whole cadres
of people with a world-view of a purely humanitarian character, with a faith in
the organic goodness of human nature in the spirit of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and
Tolstoy, a world-view in which there was no room, naturally, for any idea either
of original sin or of the salvation to be found exclusively in the Church of Christ.
To achieve such results a special tactic was employed, acting in two directions:
on the one hand, special attention was directed to the development of the body,
and under the appearance of preserving health and observing hygiene, there was imperceptibly
established a cult of the flesh. On the other hand the soul was educated within
the strict framework of emotionality, of sensuousness, with a light-minded attitude
toward sin, with playful irony toward the truth of Christian dogmas, encouraging
the contemporary view of philanthropy as the distribution of earthly goods not in
the name of Christ. Toward pious, church-oriented Christians in these two organizations
there was developed a condescendingly-patronizing attitude, as toward good but stupid
and unreasonable children. In such a fashion, several generations were raised in
In 1910, at the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh (Scotland), for the first
time the word ecumenism was employed in its contemporary sense; at the same time
a new society was founded with the title, Universal Christian Council for Life and
Work, which met in 1925 in Stockholm and in 1937 in Oxford, for the study of mutual
relations among the various Christian churches.
Parallel to this movement, there was organized yet another new society under the
name of World Conference on Faith and Order, which met twice, in 1927 in Lausanne,
and in 1937 in Edinburgh, and sec as its aim to bring to light all obstacles to
the union of the churches in the sphere of doctrine.
Finally, in 1937, at the two subsequent conferences in Oxford and Edinburgh, it
was decided to unite these two movements into one organization—the “World Council
of Churches.” The Second World War, however, prevented this organization from undertaking
the realization of its aims, but after the war, in 1948, the first Assembly of the
World Council of Churches was convoked in Amsterdam, and three Assemblies have followed
it: Evanston in 1954, New Delhi in 1961, and Uppsala (Sweden) in 1968.
This brief description of the historical origin of the ecumenical movement would
not be complete if we did not mention also the world organization of Boy Scouts,
founded also in England in 1908 by Lord Baden Powell. This organization solely for
youth, now known to all by its activity, set as its aim to educate youth in an interconfessional,
cosmopolitan spirit, with an ideal of human goodness. These three organizations
are to the present day the three pillars upon which the whole ecumenical movement
rests, and from which it constantly fills up the cadres of its confederates, workers,
and simply the mass of people who sympathize with it.
LET US CONSIDER now what psychological, social, political, and spiritual causes
favored the appearance and development of ecumenism. As the cornerstone of this
Tower of Babylon in-the-making, it is essential to place the complete spiritual
decomposition of the Protestant heresy. But if we say together with Tertullian that
“the human soul is by nature Christian,” which at that time, in the mouth of this
Western teacher of the Church, meant indisputably “by nature Orthodox, —then we
can affirm that every heresy by its nature is offensive to the human soul, and sooner
or later the human soul must get this heresy out of its system, cast it out of itself.
Thus we are witnessing the disgorging of the Protestant heresy; but since in the
spiritual world just as in nature there is no vacuum, so the place of this heresy
is taken over by ecumenism.
Together with this phenomenon, one should mention the murder of the Imperial Family,
the annihilation of the Russian Orthodox Empire which restrained the evil  that
now without hindrance is poured out over the whole terrestrial globe. Never during
the presence in Europe of the Orthodox Russian State could ecumenism have developed
with such a rapid pace, seizing already in its nets all Local Orthodox Churches.
A third cause—the most ominous, in our opinion—is the consolidation throughout the
world of masonry, which strives to become a secret world government and which in
every way aids, inspires, and finances ecumenism.
In the journal Le Temple, published in Paris, the official organ of Scottish-Rite
Masonry, in the article “The Union of the Churches” (no. 3, Sept.-Oct., 1946), masonry
itself gives the following acknowledgement of its success:
“We are asked why we enter into disputes of a religious nature, to what extent questions
of the union of the churches, ecumenical congresses, etc., can present any interest
for masonry. In the bosom of our workshops all doctrines are studied in order that
no kind of apriorism may enter into our conclusions. Descartes, Leibnitz,
the determinism of Jean Rostand, etc.—everything in which there is some
portion of truth interests us. And it is desired that we have no interest in the
problem of the evolution of Christian thought! Even if we attempted to forget that
masonry has a religious origin, all the same the very fact of the existence of religions
would call forth in us a constant endeavor to bind in unity all mortals, in that
unity of which we always dream. The problem raised by the plan of the union of the
churches that confess Christ closely interests masonry and is akin to masonry, since
it contains in itself the idea of universalism. And let us be permitted to add that
if this union, at least as concerns the non-Roman confessions, stands on the right
path, for this it is obliged to our Order.”
Here is an acknowledgement that reveals to us what it is that is the heart of the
entire ecumenical movement.
As A PSYCHOLOGICAL cause that prepared the ground for the successful dissemination
of ecumenism, there is likewise the whole rather prolonged epoch of the reign of
the English Queen Victoria.
This epoch, with its own special ethics that held the human personality artificially
in a spiritual encasement, not healing the passions but driving them into the depths,
greatly wearied the Protestant world. This cult of external form made of Protestantism
a spiritual compressor of the passions and it, after the death of the Queen—unquestionably
a powerful personality—burst and destroyed not only the form-casing of the Protestant
world-view, but also what remained of its meager dogmatism.
Thus the YMCA, YWCA, and Scoutism, founded and organized by masonry, prepared whole
generations of people  with a special de-Christianized world-view, thanks to
which there could arise also the World Council of Churches, which in fact honors
itself as the True Church and in its four world Assemblies, pseudo-Ecumenical Councils,
has expressed its credo as well.
These four world Assemblies were: Amsterdam, 1948; Evanston, 1954; New Delhi (India),
1961; and Uppsala (Sweden), 1968. Each Assembly has published its acts, from which
one may, not without a little effort, bring to light the main points of this pseudo-Christianity.
One should, in the first place, note immediately that each conference proceeded
under the direction of some principal idea. Thus the Amsterdam Assembly chose as
its theme “Human Disorder and God’s Design.” The Evanston Assembly was conducted
under the watchword “Christ, the only hope of the world.” The conference in New
Delhi proclaimed as its motto “Jesus Christ—the Light of the World.” All these ideas
are lacking a concrete basis in theology; they have in themselves nothing doctrinal,
nothing dogmatic. They may be interpreted by every Christian religion, each in its
own way; there is opened a wide field for wordy debate, an immense opportunity to
think without ever thinking anything out, without reaching anything, without coming
to any conclusion. Above everything there reigns a fear of dogma. All these ideas
are in fact slogans, and if one calls to mind that none of the Assemblies has had
its permanent president, but that a secretary is in charge of everything, these
Assemblies resemble rather the sessions of a League of Nations or a U.N. for spiritual
questions: the same cosmopolitanism, the same vagueness of principles, the same
Babylon. Of all four Assemblies, the most successful from the point of view of ecumenism
was the one in New Delhi, where the atmosphere of Hindu mysticism in this Mid-Eastern
country with its yogis and the particular Hindu lyricism, a cloudy mystique, brought
many participants of the conference into ecstasy.
The Assembly in Uppsala took as its motto the words of the Saviour: “Behold, I make
all things new.”
However, in studying the acts of these Assemblies, one may see in them a consistent
plan and a definite aim. The richest ideologically was indisputably the first Assembly
in Amsterdam. At it every effort was applied to destroy the doctrine of the one,
true, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, historically living and militant on the
earth and triumphant in heaven. The five most prominent theologians of the Protestant
world presented each his own lecture. In their midst was also the Orthodox Russian
theologian, Fr. Georges Florovsky.
The first speaker, Gustave Aulen, entitled his lecture “The Church in the Light
of the New Testament.” To all appearances, and according to his description of the
characteristics of the Church, it would appear at first that all his judgments are
completely Orthodox; but one is immediately sobered by his indication that all Christians
are members of this Church which he so well describes. The Church is, as it were,
a synthesis of all churches.
Prof. Clarence Craig translates the word catholic—or, in Church Slavonic,
sobornaya—by the word integral. Thus one may say with the ecumenists:
I believe in One, holy, integral, apostolic Church, that is to say, the
Church of the World Council of Churches. Continuing his arguments, the professor
says further: “The Church united the Apostle Paul and the holy Apostle and Evangelist
Matthew. For the former Christ was the end of the Law; for the Apostle Matthew,
Christ was the founder of a new law. The Church equally agreed with the moralism
of the Apostle James and the mysticism of the Apostle John the Divine. If in the
first century there was room in her for such divergences, then there must be a place
today also in the Church for a great variety of expressions. This diversity belongs
to the nature of the Church’s organism.” Prof. Craig deliberately calls these various
gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Apostles “divergences,” whereas it was precisely
divergences that the holy Apostles never had.
Prof. John Gregg adds nothing new, but he does even more sharply abolish the boundaries
of the Church of Christ, calling that in which he includes all Christians of all
persuasions “the Great Church.”
The well-known pro-Communist professor of dogmatic theology at the University of
Basel, Karl Barth, who in the same year of 1948 at one of his lectures affirmed
that “the only hope for Christians to survive in the present age is to find ways
of amalgamating with the most vital current of today—world Communism,” very realistically
criticizes the contemporary (of course, Protestant) world, but unfortunately he
applies his criticism as if it were to the whole of Christianity, being completely
ignorant of Holy Orthodoxy and its grace-giving life. “The Bible,” he says, “dogmatics,
catechesis, church discipline, liturgy, preaching and sacrament have become museum
exhibits. “He sees the only salvation in the reviving of the Church in the ecumenical
movement. Fr. G. Florovsky pays his dues to ecumenism by affirming, like the other
professors, that the Church has not yet defined itself, has not yet worked out its
theological-school definition, has not somehow come to know itself.
By this these professors wish to say that for the definition of the Church no formula
has been found; but Fr. Florovsky should have said in all honesty that for no single
dogma is there a formula. There is the teaching of the Holy Church on every dogma,
including the dogma of the Church itself, but there is no formula, as this exists
in the exact sciences of mathematics, chemistry, and physics.
Having established the fact of the absence of such a formula, ecumenists think that
they have now a legal right to create their own conception of the Church, and they
have formulated it as a synthesis of all existing churches. This is how an Orthodox
priest has served the idea of ecumenism, and this priest has sinned cunningly by
a dishonest conception.
THE SECOND ASSEMBLY, in Evanston, was the most colorless from the viewpoint of ecumenism.
Its aim was, after the destruction of the dogma of the true, or as they call us,
historical Church, to unite all churches that come to them. The reports at the Evanston
Assembly are uninteresting, without content; they rather repeat in other forms the
same ideas that were expressed at Amsterdam. The teachings of all Christian churches
were analyzed and from each there was brought to light that which makes it a part
of this universal ecumenical “Great Church.”
One should note, however, one very interesting fact that occurred at this Assembly.
For the first time Communism was subjected to criticism from the Christian viewpoint;
but even this, to all appearances a positive phenomenon, was rather a fine bit of
politics on the part of the directors of the Assembly, who skillfully threw this
bone to the Moscow Communists. The maneuver was fully successful, and at the next
Assembly of the WCC the Communists compelled the unfortunate Moscow Patriarchate
to take part, in order through the mouths of their hierarchs, if not to defend Communism,
then in any case to give no opportunity to all the Christians gathered there to
raise the question of their persecution of Christianity.
If we recall how the Moscow Patriarchate replied to the invitation to take part
in the first ecumenical Assembly, we shall be convinced that its participation in
the New Delhi Assembly comprises a slave-like obedience to the Communist Party.
At the Moscow Council of 1948 Archpriest G. Razumovsky was commissioned to reply
to the invitation. Here is the text of this reply:
“The Russian Orthodox Church has not taken part and does not take part in a single
ecumenical meeting or conference... We are hesitant in determining the causes why
representatives of the Church of Constantinople in the ecumenical field of activity,
where meetings have been accompanied by joint prayer, have not refused to participate
in it. Or has the Patriarchate of Constantinople forgotten its honor as first among
Sees in the defense of the canons of the Orthodox Church and not maintained its
Quoting then citations from ecumenical reports to the effect that ecumenism is an
actual Ecumenical Pentecost, Fr. G. Razamovsky continues:
“The Russian Orthodox Church has always taught and teaches that Pentecost, i.e.,
the Descent of the Holy Spirit, has already occurred, and that Christians should
await now not a new manifestation of the Holy Spirit, but the glorious Second Coming
of Jesus Christ. The belittling of the significance of the unique Sacrifice of Jesus
Christ and the foretelling of a future “third hour” in which will be revealed the
awaited Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, are characteristic of the teaching of masons
and sectarians, and the newly-revealed prophecy of the awaited Ecumenical Pentecost
is but an old echo of the false preaching of these seducers.”
The resolution concludes with the words:
“We inform the World Council of Churches, in reply to the invitations received by
all of us to take part in the Amsterdam Assembly in the capacity of members of it,
that all Local Orthodox Churches participating in the present Meeting are compelled
to refuse to participate in the Ecumenical Movement in its present form.” The resolution
was signed by the heads of the Russian, Georgian, Serbian, Rumanian, Bulgarian,
Polish, Albanian and Czechoslovakian Churches and by representatives of the Churches
of Antioch and Alexandria.
After such a devastating resolution by the Moscow Patriarchate with regard to the
World Council of Churches, one may understand the enthusiasm that seized all participants
of the New Delhi Assembly when they accepted, as full members of ecumenism, the
Moscow Patriarchate and with it the Rumanian, Bulgarian, and Polish Churches. In
1968 there entered into the WCC. Likewise the last of all the Local Churches—the
Serbian Church. Thus all Local Orthodox Churches, except for our Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia [and other Churches in Resistance—Webmaster], are now members
of the ecumenical movement. As far as Orthodoxy is concerned, the World Council
of Churches has completed the cycle of its activity. The whole Communist Block,
headed by the Moscow Patriarchate, is already represented there. All the untruths
of the world have been gathered together. There was created at the New Delhi Assembly
for the first time in the history of mankind a single common front of all heresies
and untruths. In the World Council of Churches, as in a kind of conjurers trick,
have been joined and united all blasphemies, errors, and oppositions to Truth of
the whole spiritual history of the human race from Cain and Ham to Judas the betrayer,
Karl Marx, the corrupter Freud, and all the lesser and greater blasphemers contemporary
to us today. Such is the dismal apotheosis of this Assembly.
If it were possible somehow to represent artistically this sinister triumph, it
would have to be performed to the strains of Saint-Saens’ Danse macabre.
FINALLY, THE LAST Assembly at Uppsala chose for its motto the words of the Saviour:
“Behold, I make all things new”... words that gave the Holy Fathers an inexhaustible
source of theological ideas. In the mouths of the participants of the Uppsala Assembly,
however, this Gospel dictum was almost exclusively applied to every kind of social,
charitable, public, class, and sometimes industrial questions.
It should be noted that at this Assembly there were 140 delegates from all Local
Orthodox Churches, not counting their advisors, translators, and secretaries. The
Moscow delegation numbered 35 delegates of episcopal and priestly rank, headed by
Metropolitan Nikodim. The Church of Greece this time sent to the Assembly only two
lay representatives, and they left the Assembly before the end of all the sessions.
Their conduct was officially explained by the fact that in Uppsala several demonstrations
were put on by the Swedish youth protesting against the present Greek military government.
But as a matter of fact the Church of Greece is all the time forced to take a backward
look at the constantly growing movement of Old Calendarists; and if one adds to
this the fact that the majority of the Orthodox delegates, apart from certain complete
apostates from Orthodoxy, always feel themselves awkward, uncomfortable, hampered
at the sessions of all ecumenical gatherings, then one may boldly say that these
two representatives of the Church of Greece were happy to leave this Assembly under
such a plausible pretext.
It would not be superfluous to underline here with what caution the chief leadership
of the ecumenical movement treats in general the Orthodox delegates. Having noted
almost from the first Assembly how the Orthodox delegates feel themselves not at
home, are unable to give themselves over entirely to ecumenism and always somewhere
in the depths of their conscience are tormented because of their enforced participation
in ecumenism, the leadership of this movement, having finally gathered in Uppsala
all the representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches, commenced with regard to
them a very subtle politics of training, taming, and gradually attracting this do
yet extinguished Orthodox conscience, in order to melt it in its ecumenical furnace.
Despite the fact that on this occasion at Uppsala there was gathered the greatest
number of Orthodox delegates, at all the general meetings not a single address was
made by any of them. All delegates having been assigned to various committees, the
Orthodox delegates were in fact being trained to ecumenism by the fact that they
were obliged to sign all decisions and resolutions without saying a word, being
silent also with regard to their consciences, which probably in such circumstances
did not cause their masters much suffering. This politics one may call the politics
of lulling the conscience.
At the very opening of the Assembly at Uppsala, there was read on behalf of all
those gathered an ecumenical prayer, which went as follows: “O God, Father, You
can make all things new. We entrust ourselves to You: help us to live for others,
for Your love is stretched out upon all men; to seek the Truth, which we have not
known...” How did Orthodox people feel listening to these last words?! It would
have been curious to look then at the faces of the Orthodox hierarchs, who with
all the Protestants, sectarians, and Catholics—who also were represented this time—declared
in the hearing of all that they also have not known the Truth. Every priest of ours
from the most out-of-the-way village knows the Truth by experience, standing at
the altar of God and praying to God in spirit and in truth. Even the Journal of
the Moscow Patriarchate, which is fully subjected to the censorship of
the Communist Party, in citing in its account of this Assembly the words of the
prayer did not, nonetheless, dare to translate the English word “Truth” as istina,
but translated it by pravda “rightness.” However, everyone well understood
that in the present case the text of the prayer without any kind of ambiguity whatever
spoke of Truth.
Perhaps the Orthodox hierarchs had recourse during the opening of the Assembly to
the old Jesuit practice of reservatio mentalis; but in such a case, if
all these delegates do not repent of the sin of participating in prayer with heretics,
they may be considered as being on a completely false path of apostasy from the
Truth of Orthodoxy.
HAVING BROUGHT to light the essence of all four ecumenical Assemblies, let us proceed
now to an examination of their inspirer, i.e ecumenism, so as to see in essence
the contours of this phenomenon.
Ecumenism is the heresy of heresies, because until now every separate heresy in
the history of the Church has striven itself to stand in the place of the true Church,
while the ecumenical movement, having united all heresies, invites them all together
to honor themselves as the one true Church. Here ancient Arianism, Monophysitism,
Monothelitism, Iconoclasm, Pelagianism, and simply every possible superstition of
the contemporary sects under completely different names, have united and charge
to assault the Church. This phenomenon is undoubtedly of an apocalyptic character.
The devil has fought in turn, almost in sequence, with Christ’s Truth set forth
in the Nicaean Symbol of Faith, and has come now to the final and most vitally important
paragraph of the Creed: “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
We say the most important, because all the truths set forth in the Creed are brought
into life in the final paragraph, are realized in the Church of Christ, Which gives
us not only the true Orthodox Teaching, but also grace-bestowing power to realize
these truths, to live by them, only in the Church and through the Church. The Church,
as Archhishop Hilarion says in his work, There Is No Christianity Without the Church,
is not a dream of the Church, but life in Christ.
Ecumenism, striving to destroy the boundaries of the Church of Christ, itself has
no boundaries whatever. Already there is talk not only of uniting with all Christians
and even with Jews, but that everyone living on the earth is a member of the Church.
The same Karl Barth prophesies the “imminent ruin of the Corpus Christianum”
and says that “we have come to the epoch of the end of time, when there unfolds
the last phase of the history of the relation between God and man, and it will be
crowned, not with a Last Judgment as the Orthodox Church teaches, but with a complete
reconciliation, which will occur between God and all creation.”
If we look at the inner life of all the Protestant churches and at what ecumenism
is introducing into them, we shall immediately see two currents of thought and life.
The overwhelming majority of Protestant groups, having discarded their heretical
doctrine and, not feeling in themselves any further stimulus so as to find anew
in their religion their centrifugal force, give themselves over to ecumenism. They
are completely indifferent to their one-time world-view, which was nurtured with
blood and suffering, and they represent from within themselves an immense mass of
people who are indifferent to Christ. A second contrary manifestation is sometimes
to be noted, but it is always very small in numbers or even purely personal—this
is the rare individuals in the Protestant world who from a simple feeling of self-preservation
do not wish yet simply to melt into the impersonal and bloodless mass and convert
into a corpse what used to be Western Christianity. To these latter the wise men
of ecumenism employ a refined tactic of fishermen, letting out a line to some freedom-loving
community, in order later to draw it in to the fatal ecumenical shore.
To us Orthodox these Christians are nearer, even if they are in error, but still
burning in their false faith, still preserving some signs of life.
Theologically ecumenism does not bear up under any kind of criticism, because it
runs away from any kind of dogmatics of its own. It is spread not in the depths,
but along the surface, along the layers of heresies which have outlived themselves;
but it is supported by some secret resilient power which itself stands in the shadows.
Behind it is likewise a vast material might with a clever politics of finance, skillfully
giving help or by its gifts inclining to its side of the scale someone who is wavering
or has not lost his sensitivity of conscience.
In its external structure the World Council of Churches is very like the League
of Nations or the present organization of the United Nations with its Secretary
General. Without wishing at all to indicate the times and seasons, which are all
in God’s Right Hand, we may only suppose that Antichrist will preside over both
organizations, but in spirit the closer, more kin to him will be the World Council
CONCLUSION AND RESOLUTIONS
ECUMENISM is now at the very doors of our Church. All local Orthodox Churches have
become its members, the last being the Serbian Church which was accepted in 1968.
If until today ecumenism has not been dangerous for us, now the situation has changed
somewhat, first of all because we have remained the only Church in the whole world
that has not entered the WCC  , and in all probability special steps will be
undertaken for us, a special tactic will be employed. We must be ready for this.
Second, unquestionably a strong attack will be made on the mass of our believers,
among whom there are not a few souls, some of whom will yield being seduced by the
thought of union, fearing their isolation, and others being tempted by advantages,
a better situation, in a word by the golden calf.
If, as we indicated above, the ecumenical movement was prepared by a special world-view
of pseudo-Christianity with total indifference to its truth in the bosom of the
YMCA, YWCA, Scoutism, and other similar organizations, then the same role of spiritual
enfeeblement has been played in our Orthodox world by the scholastic teaching of
the schools—a cold, soulless, only speculative examination of the holy truths of
Christian teaching, in which there is a complete absence of any inclination of the
moral side of each dogma. And the moral teaching of the dogmas is that which captivates,
interests, enlivens and shocks the soul equally of seminarian, believing layman,
learned man and simple folk. Without this moral side of each dogma the whole science
of theology loses the very ground under it and becomes like one of the secular disciplines
and even less interesting than they, because, for example, physics and chemistry
have to do with thing; concrete and tangible, while the poor seminarian does not
see for himself personally the spiritual reality in every dogma without its moral
As a result of such an instruction in this most important theological science there
could come out of the seminaries Stalin, Mikayan, and in all probability not a few
members of the Cheka [Soviet Secret Police]. The poor instructor of dogmatic theology
did nor even suspect that he was preparing a future monster. Indeed, was he personally
to blame when such was the system and such it remains to this day? Today, however,
in our Holy Trinity Seminary [in Jordanville, N.Y.], dogmatic theology becomes spirited,
becomes the power of the whole grace-giving atmosphere of the monastery, its labor
of prayer and fasting.
If ecumenism will begin to fill its ranks with our Orthodox Christians, who will
be indifferent to the truths of our teaching, for this indifference we alone shall
be to blame.
The Holy Fathers deliberately placed the Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan Symbol of Faith
in the Divine Liturgy and other daily services as a prayer, in order to bind the
entire Orthodox teaching of faith, expressed with such perfect, ideal brevity, in
a real tie with our soul, to make the Creed life and not an abstract teaching. The
Holy Fathers by this teach us that with the Lord God there can be communion only
in prayer, that concerning the Lord God one must not reason with our intellect alone,
but must contemplate with all the powers of our soul—mind, heart and will, in prayer
and faith. The Symbol of Faith is not our declaration of our doctrine, not our memorandum
of the faith, but a labor of prayer on the part of all the powers of our soul.
It is time for us, in all our textbooks of dogmatic theology, to add to the essential,
characteristic marks of Orthodox Christian dogmatics (theologicalness, Divine-revealedness,
and Church-orientedness) prayerfulness, so as to bind all dogmas immediately
to our soul. When the Holy Fathers teach us their doctrine, they do this from the
fullness of their life, which is penetrated with prayer. All their dicta were acquired
by them, if one may say so, in prayer and contemplation, and not from the intellectual
syllogisms of the analytical mind. In the merely speculative study of dogma which
was practiced in our seminaries and academies is hidden a subtle pride interwoven
with a subtle vein of blasphemy. I recall how one of the disciples of Metropolitan
Anthony (Khrapovitsky), after an inspired talk of the great Abba concerning the
dogma of the Holy Trinity, exclaimed: “Vladika, after your explanation of the dogma
one wants to weep from emotion.”
With the intellect alone one may arrive at blasphemy, and examining holy truths
by it alone may find oneself at one table with the Protestants in their dialogue
The prayer-imbued power of our faith in dogmatic truth is a genuine source for us
of moral power which comes out from each dogma. This is true to such an extent that
if we prayerfully believe in the omnipotence of God, we are clothed, according to
God’s mercy to our entreaty, in the power of God in the measure accessible to us.
If we prayerfully believe in the omniscience of God, we receive, according to God’s
mercy to our entreaty and to the degree of our purification, knowledge, wisdom,
and judgment. Thus from each dogmatic truth we prayerfully receive the gifts of
the Holy Spirit. In other words, upon a correct labor of faith and prayer depends
a correct life, life in Christ, life in the Church.
We likewise prayerfully believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church, and at
the same time lightmindedly affirm here that in other churches too there are the
holy sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism. Where, then, is our faith in the One,
that is, only, exclusive Church, the exclusive, only preserver of all sacraments?!
But here I wish to offer the following resolution.
We must ourselves discard, definitively have done with a certain deeply-penetrating—to
our good fortune, only in our minds—scholastic ecumenism. I say scholastic and mental
only, because to any sound-thinking Orthodox person the idea could not occur to
receive communion in a Protestant or Catholic church, and this because with all
his being, organically, he knows with an inner intelligible knowledge that there
is no holy Communion anywhere but in the Church of Christ.
The matter is not at all so well with our thinkers, however, the intellectual class.
Here there is such incoordination, such a diversity and variety of errors, that
one may boldly say that there are no two persons who think alike. Here one may meet,
side by side with emotional ladies who beside an icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov keep
an image of the Catholic saint Teresa, those who practice yoga as, in their opinion,
a Christian asceticism. Some think that in all Christian religions all sacraments
are valid; others make certain reservations according to which one can supposedly
recognize the sacrament of Baptism but not the sacrament of the Eucharist. But there
is no possibility even to enumerate all these errors; it is a regular witches’ brew
of opinions. The most tragic thing is that these errors, thanks to our old scholastic
conception, are shared even by some of the clergy. Completely forgotten is the patristic
dictum that “the communion of heretics is the food of devils. ” And if there is
no holy Communion, there cannot in general be any sacrament whatever, because God
the Holy Spirit descends in all sacraments for the sake of the Incarnation of the
Son of God, His Godmanhood. And the holy sacrament of sacraments, the Eucharist,
is the sacrament of Godmanhood.
In the present instance we should have accepted the point of view of the highest
principles of the uncompromising Orthodox world-view. There is God, there is His
One, only Holy, Apostolic Church, and there is the whole human race, all called
to God through His holy Church. All other religions, so-called Christian, monotheistic
or pagan, all without the slightest exception, whether it be Catholicism, Protestantism,
Islam or Buddhism—all are obstacles placed by the devil as his traps between the
Church of Christ and the whole human race. Only in personal relationships with those
of different faiths, for the sake of church economy, for the sake simply of knowledge
and criticism, we can view certain of them as more capable of becoming Orthodox,
and others as farther away, but in principle they all without exception belong to
falsehood, having nothing in common with truth.
Here it would be opportune to recall the vision of St. Macarius of Egypt : the
devil was going to tempt the brethren and was all hung round with certain vessels.
The great elder asked him: “Where are you going?” Satan replied: “I am going to
visit the brethren.” “But why do you have these vessels?” the elder asked again.
The devil replied: “I am carrying food for the brethren.” The elder asked: “And
all these have food in them?” “Yes, ” replied satan; “if one of them doesn’t please
someone, I’ll give another; and if not this one, I’ll give yet a different one.”
Thus all these religions are they that have accepted food from the devil: here is
the subtle seductiveness of Francis of Assisi in one vessel, and beside it nirvana
in another, and there Mohammed, Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII, with food corresponding
to their tastes.
How can we fight successfully with ecumenism if we are ourselves divided in our
ideas and do not have a pure and clear Orthodox worldview and do not sense the holy
exclusiveness, the uniqueness of the holy Orthodox Church? In directing our youth,
such a dividedness works especially ruinously on young souls.
One should consider that all our lack of success in work with youth may be ascribed
fifty per cent to this sinful indeterminateness in our ideas with regard to the
truth. Proper to youth are heroism, sincerity, an impulse toward truth, and for
it there will always be unacceptable any idea of fragments of truth scattered throughout
Finally, as a last resolution we may indicate that it is indispensable that in all
cathedral churches of our Church on the Sunday of Orthodoxy the rite of the Triumph
of Orthodoxy be celebrated.  This always deeply touches all the faithful and
inspires in them a real sense of the holiness and unshakableness of the Orthodox
Church. During this service the faces of all present are moved by a kind of trembling
joy at the mystical forefeeling of the final triumph of the Church of Christ over
evil. I shall allow myself to call this rite the mystery of spiritual renewal, the
mystery of affirmation in truth.
In concluding my review, I wish to note that my description of the ecumenical movement
in such unattractive colors is due to the fact that I have attempted always to view
this whole diabolic question that urgently burns like a sting, in its essence, from
the point of view of the principles of uncompromising Orthodoxy. However, the representatives
of ecumenism, however harmful may have been their ideas, remain nonetheless weak
and limited people, and it may be that satan most of all even hates these his most
obedient slaves, because in their limited human nature the unlimited pride of satan
is painfully reminded of the limitedness of his diabolic all-destroying malice.
Not wishing my report even in the smallest degree to harm the work of love, I consider
that in principle we must be completely uncompromising with ecumenism, this most
contemporary evil, but in personal encounters, which are always unavoidable, we
should ever be true disciples of the Son of God, the God of love.
1. Complete English text in Orthodox Life (Jordanville, N.Y.), July-August,
1969, and in the “St. Nectarios Educational Series” (Seattle, Wash.).
2. Text translated from the Russian in the periodical published by Archbishop Vitaly’s
“Monastery Press” in Montreal: Orthodox Observer, June, 1969, pp. 14-30.
3. The mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth
now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one...
(II Thes. 2: 7-8). Concerning the idea of the orthodox Empire as the power
that restrains the appearance of Antichrist until the epoch of apostasy, see The
Orthodox Word, 1968, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 155ff (Tr. note).
4. The importance of these organizations in the preparation especially of the leaders
of the ecumenical movement is confirmed in one of the standard histories of ecumenism.
”...Study the ‘World Council of Churches’ platform at Amsterdam and other such ecumenical
assemblies; four-fifths of those assembled on these platforms probably owed their
ecumenical inspiration to some connection with the YMCA, with the YWCA, or with
the closely-connected Student Christian Movement.” (A History of the Ecumenical
Movement, ed. Ruth Rouse and Stephen Charles Neill, SPCK, London, 1967,
p. 317.) (Trans. note)
5. An important theological treatise in the form of letters from exile, written
by a new-martyr of the Communist Yoke who spent six years in the infamous concentration
camp established by the Soviets at Solovetsky Monastery, and died in the USSR in
1929. This work was published by Archbishop Vitaly, the author of this article,
in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 1954 (Ed. note.). It is still in print and available from
St. Nectarios Press.
6. Again, there are other Orthodox churches now in resistance who remain apart from
the WCC. [webmaster note].
7. See The Orthodox Word, 1969, vol. 5, no. I, p. 25.
8. In cathedral churches and monasteries on the First Sunday of Lent there is a
special service commemorating the Triumph of Orthodoxy over the Iconoclast heresy
and in general over all the Church’s enemies; adherents of the chief heresies are
solemnly anathematized each in turn, “eternal memory” is sung to the chief defenders
of the Faith in ages past, and “many years” to living Orthodox patriarchs, bishops,
and rulers (Tr. note.)