THE NATIVITY EPISTLE Of His Eminence VALENTIN, Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church
To All Faithful Children of the Church of Christ, in the Fatherland and in the Diaspora
'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will among men.' (Lk. 2:14)
Beloved in the Lord, my dear brethren-Archpastors, zealous Pastors and Servants before the Altar of the Lord, Reverend Monks and Nuns, Brothers and Sisters, Faithful Children of the Church of Christ!
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:3) I make bold to address you with this sacred Apostolic greeting in this 'chosen and holy day' of the great feast of the Lord's Nativity. Reliving this great event yet again, and contemplating it with the eyes of the spirit, this event that has become the central point of all human history, we are filled with reverent trepidation and holy joy. With trepidation-because the great mystery of God's incarnation is unfathomable; with joy-because we are no longer alone in the face of death and evil, 'for God is with us!'
I would remind you, beloved, of the words that the Angel of God pronounced-that bright herald of heavenly mysteries-almost two thousand years ago. These words were directed to all people, but firstly to Christians, that is, to you and to me. 'I announce to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord, was born to you today in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you: Ye shall find the newborn Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.' (Lk. 2:10-12) The first to hear these words were the pious shepherds of Bethlehem, who with contrite hearts entered into the humble cave of Bethlehem and worshiped the Divine Infant. But how much more blessed are we, who not only worship our incarnate Lord and Savior, but also commune His honorable Body and Blood, becoming one flesh with Him! Here, in this holy temple, in this dwelling place of God's glory, on the holy altar table, surrounded by the bodiless powers who are unseen by the eyes of flesh, as once in the cave of Bethlehem, lies the very King of Glory-He Who created the heavens and the earth, Who gifted us with life, even unto eternity. 'For verily I say to you that many prophets and righteous ones desired to see what ye see, and saw not, and to hear what ye hear, and heard not. (Mt. 13:17)
Can it be that we 'who are burdened by our abundant sins' are to be found more worthy than the great prophets and righteous saints of the Old Testament with whom God conversed 'face to face?' Of course not! The closer that we come to the end of time, we see that lawlessness only increases in the world and this dramatic process cannot but involve us as well. Without question, the prophets and the righteous of the Old Testament lead incomparably holier lives than we do, and were incomparably more worthy of the grace of the New Testament, the fulfillment of which is the Divine mystery of the Eucharist. But the judgments of God are inscrutable-in His limitless mercy, the Lord has arranged things in such a way that it has been given to us, with all of our sins and vices, with all of our weaknesses and passions, to venerate His Nativity, His Resurrection, and even to unite with Him in the most intimate way through the reception of His Body and Blood. Think for a moment about how enormous and limitless our gratitude to God should be for this! Even if we should dedicate the entire remaining portion of our lives to the fervent service of God, spending it in fasting and unceasing prayer, it would seem too meager a sacrifice in comparison with the sacrifice which was offered on Golgotha for the sins of all people. We should always remember this and never consider ourselves worthy of communing with the Divine and abiding within the confines of the Church of Christ which receives us with the loving care of a parent, even with all of our vices.
We meet the present feast alarmed by thoughts about our brothers who once dwelt together with us within the confines of the saving Church, who once communed with us from one chalice, but who are now rushing headlong into the abyss of heresy and of apostasy. Sad tidings have reached us this Nativity Fast from America where the bishops and priests of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, once famed for their unassailable Orthodoxy, seem to have decided to unite with the Moscow Patriarchate, which they have now begun to refer to as no less than the 'Church in Russia.' It was not so very long ago that this very Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia helped many of us, the Orthodox in Russia, and in other countries of the world, to open our eyes to the fact that the Moscow Patriarchate is not the true Church of Christ. The God-inspired writings of the great fathers of the Russian diaspora, whose assembly is now headed by our Father among the Saints Philaret, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, a wonderworker, were and remain for us a pure source of the Truth of the Church. And the truth is that, in the twentieth century, a time during which godless atheism raged over the unfortunate land of Russia, the Russian Church was forcibly divided and almost completely destroyed as a result of seventy years of bloody persecutions. During the Second World War, specifically in 1943, in pursuit of his political aims, the bloody tyrant, Stalin, who had annihilated millions of people, including the New Martyrs of Russia, took a handful of surviving clergymen-frightened and unwilling-and founded his false church which began to pretend to be the Russian Orthodox Church. The real Russian Church went underground, into the catacombs, and the persecution waged against her neither ceased nor decreased over the course of the entire Soviet period, in spite of several 'thaws' and reforms. And this tragic division was always witnessed to by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which in its synodal documents confessed spiritual unity with the Catacomb Church, but labeled the Moscow Patriarchate as the 'church of evil doers' and as a heretical organization.
The heresy of the Moscow Patriarchate became especially evident to the Orthodox people of the Russian diaspora when in 1961 it (the MP) joined the World Council of Churches-an organization uniting every conceivable kind of heretic, and having as its aim the foundation of 'one Christian Church,' into which would be incorporated all of the ancient and newest heresies and false teachings. Not being content to wait for the establishment of this 'universal church,' the members of the World Council of Churches began to pray together and even to perform so-called 'sacraments,' which things are strictly forbidden by the holy Apostles and the Ecumenical Councils. Thus, the 'Orthodox' members of the World Council of Churches, including the Moscow Patriarchate, clearly severed their ties to the holy Apostles and the Ecumenical Councils, and thereby to Orthodoxy. This is exactly what was taught by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which in 1983, on the initiative of St. Philaret, anathematized ecumenism, i.e., gave over to ecclesiastical condemnation and excommunication all who took part in the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement. Until this day the Moscow Patriarchate remains a member of the World Council of Churches, and some of her hierarchs and priests make up the leadership of that heretical organization. And the present day Russian Church Abroad-more correctly that part of her which is headed by Met. Laurus-without formally abrogating the anathema against ecumenism, has announced its approaching unification with the ecumenists. Is this not a classic example of what is called in the Order of the Mystery of Confession 'falling under one's own anathema?' In their blindness, the leaders of the Russian Church Abroad 'didn't notice' that at the same time that their delegation was meeting in Moscow, an ecumenical 'theological conference' was also being held which had been opened by the patriarch. Similarly, the leaders of the Russian Church Abroad are now ready to 'swallow' any apostasy of the Moscow Patriarchate. And this means that despite the hopes of the 'zealots' within the Moscow Patriarchate itself, after uniting with her, the hierarchs of the Church Abroad will become some of the most submissive and silent, in relation to the betrayals of Orthodoxy.
For more than seventy years, the Russian Church Abroad was the custodian of the pure repository of the true Orthodox Faith, and the whole Orthodox world looked up to her with respect and hope. How sad she appears now after her rejection of her great inheritance, in her role as a humiliated petitioner for mercy from the likes of the Moscow Patriarchate. It makes your heart bleed when you look upon such an 'abomination of desolation,:standing in the holy place' (Mt. 24:15). Indeed, the fall of the Church Abroad is a phenomenon more tragic and-I would even say-apocalyptic, than the fall of the Moscow Patriarchate, which from its inception in 1943, was 'conceived in iniquities' and 'born in sins.' The Russian Church Abroad, for almost all of the twentieth century, shone like a torch of Orthodoxy, and for this reason the satanic crime which her present day 'blind leaders' are committing is frightening and unforgivable. Metropolitan Laurus, Archbishop Mark, Archbishop Hilarion, Bishop Kyril-having kissed the hand of the impostor-patriarch Alexis-give the impression of people who have lost their sight, hearing, and have lost all common sense, not to mention their Orthodox Faith. They have likened themselves to the people who were reproached by the prophet Jeremiah, when he said: 'Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not' (Jer. 5:21). Hear now, O hierarchs and clergy of the Russian Church Abroad, not our lowly voice, which for a long time now has meant nothing to you, but the trumpet blast of your own fathers. Hear how your first First Hierarch, the blessed Metropolitan Anthony, implored by the Living God the founder of the Moscow Patriarchate, Sergius (Stragorodsky) to follow the path of the New Martyrs and not betray the Church into the hands of the atheists. Read the sacred lines of the spiritual last will and testament of your second First Hierarch, Metropolitan Anastassy, who forbade not only prayerful, but even simple everyday communion with the false church, founded by Stalin. Behold the incorrupt relics of the great zealot for Orthodoxy St. Metropolitan Philaret, whom you sacrilegiously buried in the crypt of the cathedral church of the monastery in Jordanville! Do you think that you will escape hearing his ominous anathema when you stand before the throne of the King of Heaven where this great God-pleaser now stands pouring out bitter tears over your inglorious end?
Look into the eyes of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia-both those who were 'glorified' hypocritically by the Moscow Patriarchate without first repenting, and those whom they continue to blaspheme. What do you expect to hear from that 'Divine Army,' the many millions of Saints 'of whom the whole world was not worthy' when you try to justify your treachery? For now you are about to cross the threshold of that same Moscow Patriarchate, for which many bishops, priests, and lay people, the salt of the Russian land, because they refused to recognize her, were summarily shot, without any trial or due process. You kiss the cold hand of the successor of that same Sergius who once openly, before the entire world, renounced the New Martyrs and blasphemed them saying that they were political criminals, and that the Church distances itself from them. And this at the same moment when these New Martyrs were witnessing to their fidelity to Christ and His Church by incredible sufferings!
You, the unworthy successor to the former glory of the Russian Church Abroad, sing Hosanna and Many Years to the so-called 'most holy patriarch' who not only has never uttered a word of repentance for directly collaborating with the KGB (formerly the NKVD), but has increased his apostasies since the fall of the Soviet authorities. In 1990, none other than the present leader of the Moscow Patriarchate announced, while speaking before a group of rabbis in New York, that he and the followers of the Talmud have but 'one father.' But was it not the Lord Himself Who said to the Jews who rejected Him that their father was the devil? Under Alexis II, the Moscow Patriarchate signed two unions: the Chambesy Union with the Monophysites, and the Balamand Union with the Catholics. This is the same false patriarch Alexis who covers over all of the transgressions of the post-Soviet authorities, because of which a large portion of the Russian people continue to suffer.
And finally, you, the church of Met. Laurus, are betraying your own flock in Russia, which trusted you and which now, it seems, is not even worthy of being called 'the Church in Russia!' What will become of this admittedly little flock which consciously chose to depart from the unrighteousness of the Moscow Patriarchate, but has now suddenly found itself to be unneeded and even a 'liability' for its own church leaders? At the Last Judgment, each pastor must give an answer for every soul that has been destroyed and betrayed by him, for the entire world is not worth even one human soul.
The spiritual essence of what is now taking place with the Russian Church Abroad is clear-it is part of the process of the worldwide apostasy from the Truth which will precede the glorious Second Coming of Christ. The Savior forewarned us about this saying: 'When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find the Faith on the earth?' (Lk. 18:8) Alas, it is already the case in this imperfect world, which reposeth in evil, that the 'little flock' of true Orthodox Christians is getting smaller and smaller, and it is becoming more and more difficult for it to survive under these conditions of universal apostasy. Nevertheless, besides the spiritual aspect, the process of unification between the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate has another, purely secular, mercantile side to it. Apparently, this secular concern controls the activities of the hierarchs of the synod of Met. Laurus, which from a spiritual point of view, appear completely absurd and unnatural. The secular aspect of this process results in the fact that over the course of the past few years, the Russian Church Abroad has consistently been losing its properties and flocks abroad. This may be explained by the fact that the major portion of the Russian emigration is now comprised of people who have emigrated recently from Russia, where they were raised and educated under the Soviet regime. For the majority of these people, those ideals which were insisted upon in the past by the Russian Church Abroad, have no meaning, and the Church for them now is simply a 'link to the motherland.' Besides this, the Moscow Patriarchate is also very actively opening new parishes abroad, and snatching away the properties of the Russian Church Abroad. Thus the leadership of the Russian Church Abroad is compelled to 'capitulate' in order not to lose the latter. This means that the underlying stimuli for the 'reunification' that is taking place are not spiritual, theological, canonical, or even patriotic ones, but purely economic and financial ones. And this imparts a certain cynicism to the betrayal that is being carried out, and to the self destruction of the Russian Church Abroad.
The fatal mistake of the leadership of the Russian Church Abroad was made in 1994, when it actually pushed away its faithful children in Russia who were then joining her in droves. After the fall of the Soviet regime, the future of the Russian Church Abroad was only in Russia whither she was to have returned the unspoiled repository of Orthodoxy which she had been keeping. And the process of this return had already been begun-in just a few short years there appeared hundreds of Orthodox parishes and communities which had renounced the heretical Moscow Patriarchate and had joined themselves to the Russian Church Abroad. Such a development of events, threatening the Moscow Patriarchate itself with ruin, frightened many of those in power-both in the church and in the government. With the help of various provocations and slanders, the seeds of mistrust between the parts of the Church in the Russian homeland and abroad were sown, and soon afterward, the Church abroad set out on the course of compromise and rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate, which had never been an acceptable possibility for the part of the Church in the Russian homeland from the beginning. But in any case, the Russian Church Abroad did manage to return the repository of unspoiled Orthodoxy to the Russian homeland, even if only at the last moment. Canonical episcopal consecrations were performed, and the living bearer of the great tradition of the Russian Church Abroad-the ever-memorable Bishop Gregory (Grabbe)-not long before his repose, bound to a wheelchair, visited Suzdal, where he blessed the path of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church. Thus, the thread of succession, stretching from Apostolic times, through the pre-revolutionary Russian Church, through the Church of the New Martyrs and the Russian Church Abroad, was transferred to us. The repository was returned to the homeland, and the historical mission of the Russian Church Abroad was accomplished.
Many of the great Churches of the past fell away into heresy or ceased to exist. Before the end of time, only the Universal Church of Christ will survive, but independent Local Churches can come and go. Now that the Russian Church Abroad has fallen from Orthodoxy, an especially providential mission has been placed upon us, dear hierarchs, fathers, brothers and sisters. We should do everything possible, and everything that is not possible, in order to preserve the true Orthodox Faith without any distortions, modernizations, and false interpretations. And if it is ordained that Russia should experience a renaissance, then this will only happen on the foundation of true Orthodoxy which our Church confesses and preaches. However, our preaching should not be confined by the traditional territorial borders of the Russian Church. Now, when the official local churches have fallen away from Orthodoxy, our preaching should resound across the entire world, 'from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof.' And we note with joy the increasing numbers of our flocks abroad-in places like America, Western Europe, Bulgaria, Korea, etc. We should be prepared for the task that the Lord has assigned to our Church in particular-to continue the service of the Russian Church Abroad, even beyond the borders of our homeland.
I call upon you, beloved brethren and children, to increase your prayers for the salvation of all true Orthodox believers, who for one reason or another continue to remain aboard the sinking ship that is the Russian Church Abroad. It is necessary to serve special moliebens to ask God's help for those people in their imminent search for the path which leads to the true Church. May the Lord enlighten our brothers abroad so that we might one day again, with one mouth and with one heart, glorify Christ our Savior with the words of the angelic doxology of the feast of the Nativity: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill amongst men.'
Beloved in the Lord children of the Church of Christ!
Once again, I sincerely and heartily greet you with the light-bearing and saving feast of the Nativity of Christ! With all of my soul, I wish all of you good health, the salvation of your souls, perseverance and courage, and also spiritual discretion which is the mother of all virtues!
With enormous love and care for your salvation,
Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church
Suzdal, Nativity 2003(2004)