Was it worth breaking communion with the head of the Church of Greece?
This is an Orthodox answer to those who blame the opponents of the schism for self-isolation.
On November 3, 2019, at the Liturgy in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus, did not for the first time commemorate Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Hellas among the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.
This was to be expected since it was spelled out in the decision of the Russian Orthodox Church Synod of October 17: “The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church authorizes His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia to stop commemorating the name of His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece in the diptychs if the primate of the Greek Church begins to commemorate the head of one of the Ukrainian schismatic groups during Divine services or takes other actions testifying to his recognition of the Ukrainian Church schism.”
The Russian Orthodox Church has published a list of Greek dioceses, the pilgrimage to which is not blessed.
In response to the misperception of Archbishop Ieronymos, there was a strong collective voice about the "self-isolation" of the Russian Orthodox Church and the "exclusion zone" into which it supposedly pushes itself, as well as about the unacceptability of using the Cup of Christ to sort out church-political relations.
According to this logic, the Russian Church should have quietly watched them trying to take away the canonical territory from it. It should have “engaged in dialogue” when believers were beaten, and churches seized. It should have passively “expressed concern”, seeing the schism being legalized.
But the decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church is consistent with the ancient canonical practice of breaking the Eucharistic communion with schismatics and with those who entered into liturgical relations with them. The Church has always done so in such cases.
There have been many schisms in the history of the Church against which the same measure was used: the breakdown of Eucharistic communion. The Novationian Schism (III-VII centuries), the Acacian Schism (484-519), the Antiphotes Schism (863-867), the Great Schism (1054), the Hellas Schism (1833-50), the Bulgarian Schism (1872-1945) ... The Church of Constantinople itself has many times ceased liturgical communication with various groups of believers, using this means as a tool to influence them.
For example, in 2004, Patriarch Bartholomew, on the basis of the decision of the Synod of his Church, broke the Eucharistic communion with the Greek Church. The conflict concerned the procedure for appointing 36 dioceses of the so-called New Lands to the episcopal thrones. Moreover, the Phanar accused Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens of his "conspiracy" with the Russians in order to weaken the influence of the Throne of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The reprisal was effective. A month later, the Churches reached reconciliation and restored relations in general under the conditions of Constantinople.
The decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church is consistent with the ancient canonical practice of breaking the Eucharistic communion with schismatics and with those who entered into liturgical relations with them. The Church has always done so in such cases.
Yes, the ban on joint prayer and communion is a very painful measure. But it is sometimes the last, forced step to heal serious intra-church problems. And for the Russian Orthodox Church, this is truly an extreme and forced decision.
At one time, the Russian Church used all possible means to resolve difficulties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. There was everything: conversations, requests, phone calls, written and oral appeals, a collection of signatures of parishioners of the UOC to the Patriarch of Constantinople, a humiliating flight of the Patriarch of Moscow to Istanbul for negotiations, a visit of the delegation of the UOC, etc. But it did not work out. In this situation, there was only one way left: ceasing the Eucharistic communion with Constantinople and those Churches that support the schismatic structure.
Everything has gone too far. Conversations and discussions were left behind. Sooner or later a choice was to be made. And the Greek Church made it. And we cannot accept this choice and agree with it. We do not want to maintain the schism.
You shouldn’t frighten with “self-isolation” the largest and most powerful Local Church in the world. Moreover, supporters of the OCU – the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of Greece – still remain in the minority in comparison with those Churches that do not recognize the OCU.
However, the point is not in quantity but in quality. The cessation of liturgical communion with the Churches of Constantinople and Hellas (more precisely, with the hierarchs who supported the OCU) is standing for the truth rather than “self-isolation”. I would not want to switch to a pathos tone, but St. Athanasius the Great, and the Monk Maximus the Confessor, and Saint Mark of Ephesus were in the same “self-isolation” at one time. They remained alone, but subsequently, their truth (or rather the truth of God) won.
It happens that for the truth to triumph in the majority, it is necessary that at first a certain strong minority preserves it. Maybe in the future, we will have to become this minority.
The cessation of liturgical communion with the Churches of Constantinople and Hellas (more precisely, with the hierarchs who supported the OCU) is standing for the truth rather than “self-isolation”.
“Do not be afraid,” (Matthew 14, 27) says the most repeated commandment of the Gospel. Don’t be afraid when defending the truth. Don’t be afraid of breaking the Eucharistic communion with the Greeks and those who recognize the OCU. On the contrary, one must be afraid to agree with the spirit of cunning and pride, hypocrisy and lies, which pervaded the hierarchy of the Greek Churches. If they agree to take communion with Filaret Denisenko and Epiphany Dumenko, this is their choice, for which they will be responsible before God. But we won’t go for it, even if we had to suffer for our faithfulness to the Church.
Church history is full of descriptions of the sufferings of those who did not agree with the majority in their untruth and suffered from schismatics, heretics, or simply from human untruth. The untruth is always aggressive, it will never allow the truth to be.
For example, during the time of St. Gregory the Theologian, Constantinople was in the hands of the Arians and the Homoeans for 40 years. Arriving in the city, the saint discovered that all the churches were in the hands of the Arians. He began to serve in a small house church, which was called Anastasia (“Resurrection”). The Arians tried in every possible way to expel Gregory from the capital. At first, he was accused of “triteism”, saying that instead of a single God, he introduced many gods. Then he was threatened physically. On Great Saturday of 379, when the saint performed the sacrament of Baptism, a crowd of Arians broke into the temple. They demanded the expulsion of Gregory and threw stones at him. Then he was accused of murder and brought for trial to the city rulers.
I recall St. John Chrysostom, slandered and deposed by his fellow bishops and ending his days in exile. St. Philip of Moscow, convicted by the Council of Bishops and strangled in a monastery prison, also comes to mind. Or the glorious name of the holy martyr Nicephorus, the exarch of the Patriarch of Constantinople in Moldova and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, who was tortured by the Uniates. How many innocent sufferers who suffered from aggressive untruth were there?
Untruth must be revealed and convicted. There is no place for it in the Church.
Don’t be afraid of breaking the Eucharistic communion with the Greeks and those who recognize the OCU. On the contrary, one must be afraid to agree with the spirit of cunning and pride, hypocrisy and lies, which pervaded the hierarchy of the Greek Churches.
Now the power in Ukraine has changed, the wave of persecution has subsided a little, but the UOC believers still have their temples taken over and those earlier seized haven’t been returned yet. However, we “have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12, 4) – in the future everything can be much worse. There were times when people fight for the Church to death. It is possible that all this will be repeated in one way or another.
Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye and Melitopol wrote the other day: “Our Church must stand firmly for the truth. Firmly, decisively and uncompromisingly. Such a position will not only cause respect but also serve as a magnet for many true Orthodox from other Churches, who are not ready to betray Orthodoxy for the sake of the Phanar’s ambitions for power.”
Yes, that’s right. May God grant our clergy firmness, courage and reasoning these days for the truth of God to sound clear, strict, without any reservation and half-tones.
The main essence of the sсhism is pride. For any schismatics, personal ambition becomes the only criterion of truth. According to the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, "those who do not want to sacrifice their <...> egoism to universal truth cannot and should not be called Christians". Pride cannot be recognized as the norm in the Church; one cannot agree with it. In this case, indulging the pride of the Greeks and schismatics would mean blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, i.e. be an obvious opposition to the truth.
What about those who strongly criticize the decisions of the Patriarch and the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and who know better what to do ... Of course, everyone can have their own opinion in the field of church politics and inter-church relations in general. But there is a well-known saying: "A friend in need is a friend indeed." In the same way, a faithful child of the Church is tested. In the troubled times, it is strange to call yourself a member of this Church and at the same time blame it for all mortal sins. At a time when the Church especially needs prayers and support from its children.
It is amazing that when the Russian Orthodox Church and with it the UOC are a victim of the aggression of Constantinople, there are Christians who strive to kick their own Church and also to justify the Phanar’s violence and blame the suffering party for the fact that it is to blame for all the sorrows. God be their judge.
And do not say beautiful but fake words that those breaking the Eucharistic communion “have no love”. Love for man is impossible without love for truth, the Church, and God. Love is where the truth is. You cannot love a lie by loving God. The recognition of the OCU is the recognition of a great lie, and true love is to expose this lie.
Christ will never leave His Church. The main thing is that we do not leave Him. And our faithfulness to Christ today is including faithfulness to church canons and the courage to call things by their proper names. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church did just that: he called it what it is and took measures appropriate to the situation. We will wait for the Synod of the UOC to announce the same position at its next session.