The year 2010 marks the 90th anniversary of the canonical founding of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. This significant event in Russian history was solemnly celebrated in the Canadian Diocese.
With the blessing of His Grace Gabriel, Bishop of Montreal and Canada, it was decided to hold the celebration on November 7/20 and 8/21, at Holy Trinity Church in Toronto, Ontario– the largest parish of the Church Abroad. The date for the celebration was not chosen by accident. It was during these days in 1920, aboard the ship Great Prince Alexander Mikhailovich (one of those used by the Russian exiles leaving Crimea), near the shore of Istanbul-Constantinople, then in the city itself, that the first sessions of the Provisional Supreme Church Administration in the South of Russia took place under the presidency of the Most Blessed Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), which gave the beginning to the existence of the Russian Church beyond the borders of our Fatherland.
The first session took place on November 6/19, 1920, then, a day later, on November 7/20. That same day, the well-known ukase number 362 of St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and the Holy Synod and the Highest Church Council of the Russian Church, was issued which stated, in particular:
“2) In the event a diocese… finds itself completely out of contact with the Supreme Church Administration, or if the Supreme Church Administration itself, headed by His Holiness the Patriarch, for any reason whatsoever ceases its activity, the diocesan bishop immediately enters into relations with the bishops of neighboring dioceses for the purpose of organizing a higher instance of ecclesiastical authority … 3) Care for the organization of a Supreme Church Authority is the objective of an entire group of dioceses which find themselves in the position indicated in paragraph 2, is the indispensable obligation of the senior bishop of such a group.”
Nine decades later, on exactly the same day, in the parish hall of the Holy Trinity cathedral in Toronto, a youth conference began, which also opened the Diocesan solemnities. In his opening remarks, Vladyka Gabriel, in particular, touched upon those numerous difficulties, experienced by the bearers of the Orthodox worldview in contemporary setting, especially for the Russian people outside of Russia. Vladyka noted that in our times, when maybe even the Gadarene demoniac, whose story is related in Holy Scripture, would be considered if not healthy, then at least only in need of a psychotherapist, people do not notice the influence of the evil spirits, although their activity now is seen almost more than in the times of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ. He especially underscored that one may find salvation from the demonic activity of this world exclusively within the fold of the Church, and that the founding, by the will of God, of the Russian Church Abroad allowed our emigration to preserve both our spiritual and Russian identity.
After a lively discussion of Vladyka’s opening remarks, participants in the conference were offered a presentation prepared by the choir conductor GA Skok. His presentation offered a detailed look at the history of the Canadian Diocese of the Russian Church Abroad.
The conference was concluded by Protopriest Vladimir Morin, rector of the Church of Christ the Savior in London, Ontario, talking about the first visit of the wonderworking icon of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God to the Fatherland in 90 years. Protopriest Vladimir was a member of the delegation that took the Directress of the Russian Diaspora on the trip to Russia. This trip became a great spiritual event, in some way a crowning moment of the grace-filled process of the reestablishment of the unity of the Russian Church. He illustrated his story with a documentary film about both the wonderworking Kursk Icon of the Theotokos and about the way in which the regenerating Orthodox Russia met this holy icon.
At 7:00 pm, all-night vigil began; it proceeded with a special pious inspiration, assisted in this greatly by the tender singing of the cathedral choir under the guidance of Mr Skok. During the polyeleos, Vladyka Gabriel served with the Rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Mitred Protopriest Vladimir Malchenko; Mitred Protopriest Sergey Rasskazovsky (Patriarchal Representation, Parish of St Tikhon, Moscow Patriarchate), who came especially for the feast; Protopriest Vladimir Morin and Protopriest Michael Lyuboshchinskiy (Protection Church, Hamilton, Ontario); Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko (Toronto); Priest Alexey Pjawka (Protection Memorial church, Ottawa, Ontario), along with Protodeacon Vasili Milonow; Deacon Alexander Morin; Deacon Ilia Grozdanov and Deacon Eugene Schukin.
For Sunday Liturgy, which took place with a great gathering of the faithful (more than eight hundred), Relics of the Baptizer of Russia, Holy Equal-of-the-Apostles Grand Duke Vladimir, being in Canada with the blessing of His Eminence Vladimir, Metropolitan of Kiev, were brought to Trinity Cathedral.
The above-mentioned clergy of the Russian Church Abroad, joined by Protopriest George Lagodich (St Nicholas Cathedral, Montreal, Quebec), concelebrated with Vladyka Gabriel.
November 21, the day when the Church celebrates the Synaxis of Holy Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Hosts, was the 25th anniversary of the blessed repose of the ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), third in the succession of the First Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. This great man of prayer was commemorated in the entire Canadian Diocese, in accordance with the ukase of Bishop Gabriel, and at Holy Trinity Cathedral, where the 90th anniversary of the Church Abroad he once led was being celebrated, and Eternal Memory was sung after dismissal. Eternal Memory was also chanted for all the ever-memorable First Hierarchs of ROCOR and for all the Russian people, who gave their lives for the faith, for the Tsar, and for the Fatherland, for all who fell asleep in diaspora and for all who fell in fratricidal war. A prayer service to Holy Equal-of-the-Apostles Grand Duke Vladimir was served and Many Years was intoned for His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the current First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion, all hierarchs of ROCOR, and also for the rector, clergy, and the many parishioners of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Toronto – the hospitable hosts, who labored much for the success of the current celebration.
At the banquet, which was attended by more than three hundred people, Bishop Gabriel addressed all present with the words of gratitude and once again turned to the historical events, the memory of which gathered all the children of the Russian Church Abroad on that day. “Let us recall, brothers and sisters,” said Vladyka, “that in the years of civil trouble and rule of the godless authorities in the Russian land, almost one and a half million people fled from its borders. Among them were notable politicians, military commanders, famous writers, philosophers, and scientists. They created political, military, and creative organizations. Already in the first half of nineteen twenties, many publishing homes, newspapers, and magazines appeared in the diaspora. Russian political, scientific, and literary life possessed a striking richness and diversity. Yet, by the unfathomable will of God, all of it, with the passing of the historically-speaking brief nine decades, almost completely vanished, and in any case, took on a very humble resemblance. Conditionally speaking, only one immigrant “organization” continued to grow steadily. Despite all obstacles, difficulties, and troubles, it remained the sole organization that united within its borders everything that was called and is now called the Russian Diaspora. The entire essence of the mission of the Russian Immigration was concentrated in it. For this ‘organization,’ as it is said in the Scripture, came to be ‘not of men and not according to men.’ This is our Russian Church Abroad. Had it not been established by Divine Providence, the Russian Orthodox Diaspora would not have been preserved.’
Bishop Gabriel also reminded everyone that the well-known ukase number 362 of Patriarch Tikhon, along with the “tomos” of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the two that served as the foundation for the canonical activity of the Russian Church Abroad, were adhered to strictly. And when, by the mercy of God, the Russian Church in the Fatherland, after long sufferings, once again obtained freedom to carry on its ministry, canonical communion between the two parts of the Russian Church, in the Diaspora and in the Fatherland, was reestablished. Yet, that does not mean that our special ministry is fulfilled. Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was always faithful to its mission: the care for the Russian Orthodox people who for different reasons happened to be outside of Russia, and the preaching of Orthodoxy among the nations, on whose lands we carry out our ministry. In his recent interview to the magazine Troitskoye Naslediye [“Trinity Heritage”], His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion underscored that after the reestablishment of the canonical unity of the Russian Church, these two main directions of our mission do not lessen, but rather are broadened and strengthened.
Then, there was a concert of the cathedral choir under the guidance of Mr Skok. The broad program of the concert was grounded, one might say, on a historical canvas, being in a way a vocal chronicle of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Diaspora. A good combination of the Church and secular songs, and masterful, penetrating performance: all of it evoked real ecstasy in the listeners.
Those present were then greeted by the Rector of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Protopriest Vladimir Malchenko and Protopriest Sergey Rasskazovsky, Rector of the Patriarchal Representation in Toronto. In conclusion, Reader YG Miloslavsky, author of a number of articles on the history of the Russian Church Abroad, gave a small lecture. In particular, the lecturer touched upon the role that the two great hierarchs. St Tikhon the Confessor, Patriarch of Moscow, and Most Blessed Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) played in ordering and developing the activity of the Russian Church in the years of persecution. In his words, each one of them received the obedience prepared for him, and each one fulfilled it completely. St Tikhon the Confessor, contrary to all the efforts of the antichrist’s powers, was granted – as St John of Shanghai later said: “by the cross to hold the Russian Church on the surface of Russian life.” The ministry of Metropolitan Anthony was different: it was given to him to preserve the Russian Diaspora. In actuality, only on account of the colossal, unequaled authority of Metropolitan Anthony among the First Hierarchs of the Eastern Churches it was possible to continue the activity of the Highest Church Administration in the South of Russia abroad on canonical grounds.
This ministry continues to this day.