Why the Tomos for schismatics is the grace of God
What have Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and in the world gained thanks to the Tomos on autocephaly for OCU?
“And we know that all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8, 28), wrote the apostle Paul. These words come to mind when reflecting on church-related affairs in Ukraine.
True, the UOC is very troubled today. But shouldn't we thank God for His mercy? The situation is really complicated, but it clearly feels the effect of God's providence, His love. From whatever side you look, everything that is happening is God's great mercy. In all events, the caring hand of the Lord is felt, leading us to salvation.
The full mercy of God cannot be completely perceived with our narrow gaze; it is all the more impossible to somehow count the blessings of God toward us. But one feels like expressing thanks to the Lord, and this thanksgiving can be eventuated by some facts and occurrences. What are these facts in today's church situation in our country?
Grace of God 1
Breakaway groups have fully demonstrated their entrails over the past six months. They keep seizing the UOC temples, beating believers, driving the priests out of churches and houses. The whole civilized world already knows about their “exploits”. There are hundreds of video footage and photos of the crimes of this religious organization. Any sane person can easily understand who the schismatics are and what their spirit is.
The OCU was originally born as a secular Russophobic organization within the paradigm of Poroshenko’s “three pillars” – army, language and faith. There is no Christian spirit in it. The aggression of the OCU against the believers of the UOC is the grace of God, therefore, all masks are torn off and fierce wolves show their evil nature, despite their semblance of meek lambs. For a person who is honestly looking for the true Church, all these facts (I emphasize the facts!) certainly help to make the right choice.
Moreover, what the dissenters do in relation to each other demonstrates their anti-Church hue better than any words and references to canons. Anger, hatred, insults and war of incriminating evidence – all this is so incompatible with the works of God that even the most inveterate of their supporters cannot but wonder – do their idols really have something to do with the Church?
Grace of God 2
Before granting of the Tomos, there were several aggressive splinter groups in Ukraine who openly antagonized the UOC. Now they are fighting each other. Undoubtedly, this is the path to decay, self-destruction. “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12, 25).
Filaret Denisenko and Epiphany Dumenko will not stop the war against each other, since they don’t need some power – they need all the power. There will be no peace in this terrarium of friends; there will be a merciless struggle to the end instead. And this is the evident grace of God: the Lord is fighting the dissenters with the hands of the dissenters themselves.
Grace of God 3
The Patriarch of Constantinople and the Ukrainian schismatics did not succeed in winning the blitzkrieg and seizing the ecclesiastic Ukraine despite the fact that the entire state machinery of Ukraine and the President personally worked for them. Trampling upon the law of Ukraine on non-interference of the state in the affairs of the Church, Petro Poroshenko went on Tomos-tours, preached from the rostrum, campaigned for the OCU on the city squares – but nothing came out. The OCU has never became popular and is still not recognized by any of the Local Churches.
Filaret Denisenko and Epiphany Dumenko will not stop the war against each other, since they don’t need some part of power – they need all the power.
This is also the grace of God because this situation has revealed: God loves his Church and stands up for it. All state power, all the efforts of the press, all the efforts of the former President, all the machinations of Patriarch Bartholomew failed to destroy the canonical Church in Ukraine. This is a miracle, the mercy of the Almighty God one also has to thank for.
Grace of God 4
The adventures of Tomos in Ukraine reflected the position of the majority of the church people in the country. Now that seven months passed after the “Unification Council,” it is quite obvious that the OCU has not become and will not become a Church for the people, and the Ukrainians did not at all waited for the Tomos for a thousand years. In fact, they did not wait for it at all and did not want it to be.
Those who sought God in the Church found Him a long time ago. Those for whom the Church is only part of the tradition learned the word “Tomos” from the TV screen six months or a year ago and fell for a primitive manipulation: an independent state has an independent Church!
And this is also the grace of God, because the Tomos has sifted out wheat from the weed. It became clear who is who. We have seen truly practicing people who do love their church and do not want to betray it. On the other hand, we have seen those who call themselves Christians but at the same grab the temples, beat the priests, insult other believers. Thank God, the latter are considerable less than the former. And it was the Tomos that showed this relationship, revealed the inward nature of the phenomenon of schism, and separated the lambs from the goats.
Grace of God 5
The story of the Tomos, like an x-ray, highlighted the quality of the episcopate of the canonical Church and those who call themselves bishops in the schismatic body. Of 88 bishops of the UOC, only two have betrayed their Church. All the rest remained loyal to their Primate and their flock.
Furthermore, their choice cost them a lot. Some of the bishops were summoned for interrogation by the SBU, brought to private conversations with government officials, and blackened in the media. But they did not flinch, they withstood – because they fear the judgment of God and have Christian conscience.
Most “hierarchs”, whom Filaret ordained during the existence of the UOC KP, betrayed their chief. His number 1 creature, Epiphany (Epifanios), rebelled against him and has been fighting with the one whom he owes his whole career.
All the state power, all the efforts of the press, all the initiatives of the former President, all the machinations of Patriarch Bartholomew failed to destroy the canonical Church in Ukraine.
Zoria, who is also indebted to Filaret for literally everything, is now publicly insulting her recent patron and practically naming him imbecile.
All this was initially predictable because in the OCU the relations are not Christian but secular, the main focus being money and business, power and ambition. OCU is a secular semi-church organization serving trendy political ideologies, including nationalist ideologies. And when its “hierarchs” faced a dilemma – Filaret or state support – they made a completely natural choice. In spite of the fact that only yesterday Filaret was praised as a saint, as a national hero.
The fact that such a breakdown is now obvious and clear as day is also God’s mercy.
Grace of God 6
In light of all the events, the UOC has embarked on the path of renewal in a good sense, a kind of revival. We woke up from certain hibernation, shook ourselves, mobilized, and grew more united. We are able to grasp the issues we have been unaware of before. We felt that we must answer for our religious choice and we must be able to give an answer to everyone who demands our account in our hope (see 1 Pet. 3, 15). We discovered many of our mistakes, understood what we lack and what was redundant in our church life.
For all this we thank Tomos, or rather, God, Who let it happen.
Grace of God 7
The raider seizures of the UOC temples made many people realize that the church and church community is not just some kind of foreign community where we can come from time to time in order to satisfy our religious needs. This, in fact, is the family and the greatest value, which, as it turns out, can easily be lost. We have become much closer to understanding the early Christian community, when in order to serve Christ, people sacrificed all the most valuable things they had. This is not only money and material resources. We see that in the villages in western Ukraine, believers defend their temples being threatened and even cruelly beaten.
In those communities where the raiders have taken away the temples of the canonical Church, the believers have become much closer to each other – they are setting up and building new temples, regardless of either time or health. Not only people within one community become closer, Orthodox Christians realize themselves as part of the whole united Church. A lot of people dispatch material assistance to distressed parishes not only from Ukraine, but from all over the world. And it is impossible to deny that the Tomos played a very significant role in this process.
Grace of God 8
The situation in Ukraine pushed the Local Churches to decide on the Ukrainian schismatics. Churches are compelled to evaluate the OCU in terms of canons. Half of the Churches have already expressed their opinion unequivocally against the OCU. Not a single Church supported the new pseudo-church structure.
The Local Churches have talked about this before but not conciliarly, not officially. Primates of Churches or individual hierarchs spoke their mind. Now, with regard to the Ukrainian issue, they talk about the need to assemble a Council, write theological decisions with all the necessary reasoning. What was not done voluntarily before is now done upon compulsion. The situation is overdue. So what is happening is the grace of God.
Grace of God 9
The situation is a "robust test" for our pastor, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, who has persevered without flinching. The Metropolitan’s personal information is published on Mirotvorets ("Peacemaker"), he has been repeatedly declared traitor of Ukraine, Kremlin accomplice, etc. But he is not afraid of anyone and relies on the will of God – and God keeps him safe. Thanks to his confessional stance, people began to feel even more affection toward him. His Beatitude Onuphry became a role model for millions of people. And we are now convinced even stronger what gift the Lord sent us in the person of our Primate.
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We do not know how and how much the diseases of the church consciousness that undoubtedly were and still remain inside us would have developed in our lives – unless we had received the Tomos. We can talk about these diseases for a long time: this is about the problems of education, missionary work, attitudes towards liturgical life, the theme of communities and parishes, and the issues of catechesis, volunteering, knowledge of Holy Scripture and canons, the difficult topic of schism, ethnophyletism, false and true patriotism, etc.
The situation with the Tomos has exacerbated all these things and we can no longer dissociate ourselves from the whole spectrum of “evil” questions of our time. Thank God! It would be necessary to deal with them sooner or later. A blessing in disguise, as the proverb goes. As a rule, it is quite difficult for us to sort it out – because these are God's works.
With regard to the Ukrainian issue, they talk about the need to assemble a Council, write theological decisions with all the necessary reasoning. What was not done voluntarily before is now done upon compulsion.
It seems that during the times of unrest, political upheavals, persecutions – does a person fully understand everything that occurs to him and his people? Yes, he is terrified of bloodshed; he grieves over innocent victims, suffers at the sight of bitter injustice; he is sick of streams of lies pouring on him. He cannot but see and understand all this. But this is only an external outline of those great processes, closed to man, which are created by the will of God.
“The great and unexplored, glorious and terrible, theirs are innumerable” (a morning prayer rule, the sixth prayer) works the Lord on us, Christians. The ways of God are inscrutable, without Whose will even a hair will not fall from the head of a man. “For I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you” (Acts 13, 41), the Lord tells us. “His destinies are incomprehensible and his ways are unsearchable!” (Rom. 11, 33), the apostle Paul writes about the Lord.
True, a person can assume something, engage in some vectoring. But the mystery of the Providence of God, leading a Christian to salvation, is as impenetrable as the ocean's depth. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord (Is. 55, 8). As a rule, a person does not understand anything unless God reveals it to him – but this understanding also comes much later. For the sake of the good of the person himself, the Lord sometimes allows very difficult trials to take place in human life, causing a believer to torment and bewilder.
The current situation in Ukraine teaches us: a Christian, in the dark time of social unrest, political turmoil, rampant sin, during the sinister darkness, when it seems that the ground is slipping from under our feet and there is nothing to lean on, remember – "God's will is good, pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12, 2). What is going on is allowed because of our sins. Rely on Christ – there is no other support. Live by faith and hope and be comforted by prayer. God will not leave His flock, as long as you belong to Christ. Rely on the Lord’s will, preach His Name, and your sorrows will turn into joy.
May God give us the right orientation in the changeable space of modern life and stand firmly on the stone of faith, which is our Lord Jesus Christ, worthy of all glorifications. Glory to Him for everything!