Protopriest Roman Lukianov
Address of Rev. Roman Lukianov at the Round Table of the
Expanded Pastoral Conference of the ROCOR, December 8, 2003
(Published here in extended form)
From December 8th until December 12th, in Nyack, NY, an Expanded Pastoral Conference took place. Clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia from around the world attended. There were approximately 160 priests and 10 archpastors, headed by Metropolitan Laurus at the head. Also there were three representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate who gave reports. I was given 8 minutes to speak on the topic of my impressions of the Church in Russia. I offer my report in a slightly extended version, since everything I prepared would have taken about 12 minutes.
I have been always interested in events in Russia. When our parishioners traveled to Russia, I would ask them to bring me church newspapers and magazines. We made four pilgrimages: in 1991, 1995, 1999, and 2001. We visited churches in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Valaam, Solovki, Pskov, Novgorod, the Borodino battlefield; we went on a pilgrimage on a boat from Moscow to the Ural Mountains with stops at many historical cities. We visited the relics of St. Sergei of Radonezh, St. Serafim of Sarov, St. Alexander Svirsky, St. Serafim Vyritsk, St. Varlaam of Hutynsk and many others. In 2001, we went to Ekaterinburg, to the Ganin's Pit, Alapaevsk and saw the relics of St. Simeon Verkhotursky. We spoke extensively with church people and priests everywhere. We met bishops and attended Patriarchal services. Below I will write about some of my impressions concerning the reestablishment of communication between the Church Abroad and Moscow Patriarchate.
1. The Influence of the “Soviet” Episcopacy in the Church Of Russia. About 20 years ago in a report compiled by Chairman Furov of the Committee of Religion Affairs, it was said that out of 30 bishops in the Moscow Patriarchate, only 10 were completely cooperative with the Soviet government, 10 did not cooperate at all, and 10 attempted to benefit the church whenever possible. Therefore only one-third of the bishops completely supported the Soviet state, and two-thirds tried to benefit the Church to the maximum extent possible under Soviet conditions. I remember the satisfaction that this report produced among the Orthodox emigrants. Now it is rarely remembered. Ever since he was elected in 1990, the Most Reverend Patriarch Alexy II began to renew the episcopate of the Moscow Patriarchate. As the number of restored parishes and monasteries grew, the Patriarch divided large dioceses into a number of smaller ones and ordained more and more new bishops. At this moment there are more than a hundred dioceses and 150 bishops in the Russian Church. Therefore, the number of "Soviet" bishops is not large at all, although their influence can still be felt, since they occupy central dioceses. The same can be said about interest in ecumenism. This existed during the Soviet era, for it opened the possibilities of making trips abroad. Today, disciples of the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg Nikodim Rotov, who died at the Pope's feet, are interested in ecumenism. There are only a few such metropolitans and bishops in dioceses near St. Petersburg. At episcopal gatherings, they have only limited influence. The acts of the Council of Bishops in the anniversary year of 2000 rejected both ecumenism and Sergianism.
2. Veneration of the New Martyrs. During our pilgrimages, we could see how the veneration of New Martyrs grew. In every church we saw either our Bostonian or Jordanville icon of the Holy New Martyrs, or icons of the Royal Martyrs. Fr. Alexander Shargunov compiled five books, Miracles of the Royal Martyrs. Our Boston icon of the Russian New Martyrs became the prototype for the official icon of the Holy Russian New Martyrs during their veneration in the church of Christ the Savior in the year 2000. In Solovki and in many other places, veneration crosses are raised in memory of the New Martyrs. A church is built now on the Butovo ground near Moscow where more than 60,000 people were shot and are buried, among them thousands of priests. On the day of commemoration of those martyrs, hundreds of priests and thousands of faithful gather for a memorial service. St. Tikhon's Institute in Moscow is publishing a multi-volume collection of biographies of these New Martyrs. All this is happening ten years after the fall of the Soviet power, while here, abroad, the Royal Family was only glorified sixty years later!
3. The Patristic Way of the Russian Church. In the year 1991, during our first pilgrimage to Russia, a number of priests and lay people asked me whether I had read Bulgakov, Berdyaev, and other Parisian theologians. My reply that I have not read them was very surprising to them, so I had to explain that religious literature from Paris consists of discussions on Orthodoxy, while we prefer to read holy patristic literature that is published by Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. When we first visited St. Sergius Lavra, their librarian asked us send a bow to Metropolitan Laurus for helping restore the library at the Lavra, made possible by Holy Trinity monastery, which sent them their publications. Holy Trinity monastery sent thousands if not tens of thousands of books to Russia, and through this helped the Church of Russia restore the Holy Patristic content of church life. The veneration of St. John of Shanghai is ubiquitous; his "Life" and articles are printed and reprinted. Everyone in Russia admires the articles and books of Fr. Seraphim Rose. People became excited when they learned that we were personally acquainted. Fr. Seraphim Rose, who retold the holy patristic truths in modern language, did a great deal for the restoration of holy patristic Orthodoxy in Russia. I have heard that he is locally glorified in some places. The Law of God by the other Fr. Seraphim (Slobodskoy) is sold in all church bookstalls, even in provinces, and it is made the basis of an entrance exam into seminary. On the other hand, I have read that in one of the dioceses, an archpastor ordered that the books of Schmemann and Meyendorf be burned, and quite recently a Romanian man, a doctor of theology, told me that Orthodox thinkers in Romania are very critical of Schmemann's “theology.” Thus, glory be to God, the Church of Russia, embarking on the path of freedom, has not been seduced either by the Parisian Russians or by American modernists, but continues on its holy patristic way. The Greeks who wanted to summon the Eighth Ecumenical Council for the “renovation” of the Orthodox Church, are now afraid of the Russian Church, because the latter, being larger than all the Orthodox Local Churches combined, will not allow any such “renovation” of Orthodoxy, whereas the supporters of “renovation” risk being placed with the heretics.
4. The Restoration of Churches. While traveling in Russia and visiting renovated or newly built churches, one marvels: where do all those icon-painters, architects, church choir conductors, chanters, and other masters of church art come from? Despite seventy years of the persecution and annihilation of the Russian people, the national genius did not die, and now, led by the Holy Spirit, it finds its expression in the opening of thousands of churches, hundreds of monasteries, in renovation and myrrh-flowing of thousands of icons, in conversion to Christ of millions of people who grew up in atheism! Where else has any of that happened? Truly, the church in Russia is Heaven on earth, the House of the Most Holy Theotokos.
5. In Conclusion. I would like to retell one conversation which took place in the church of Christ the Savior immediately upon its consecration. A delegate of the Greek Seminary in Boston, a Greek priest, after the consecration of the church, entered into a conversation with a Russian priest. The Greek priest praised the church, praised the solemnity of service, but complained on its length and on the absence of pews on which people could sit. The Russian priest replied: “They kept us sitting in prisons for seventy years. Now we stand erect and we'll continue to stand!”
6. The Lives of the Saints--Our Contemporaries. Great books are being published in Russia now--the biographical data of confessors of the twentieth century. I dare say: these are the Lives of the Saints of our times. Lately we read Beautiful Pascha, the life of three monks in Optina and their murder by a satanist. In Thy Name, the life of a deacon from the town of Kurgany in Ural who spent ten years in a concentration camp in Magadan and who became a priest upon his return. The episodes when he was saved by God's power are absolutely unimaginable. Paternal Cross is the biography of a village priest on the eve of revolution and afterwards; Notes of an Old Woman is by a pre-revolutionary female doctor who became a nun in Shamordino and who was exiled near Arkhangelsk. She provides information about the last whereabouts of the Optina elder Nikon and his invaluable teachings. The Lives of the elder Amfilochiy of Pochaev; Serafim Vyritsky; lives of the Moscow elder, Presbyter Alexei Mechev and his son Sergius who was executed in 1941. Paschal Memory is the story of a priest from Diveevo, Vladimir Shikin, who literally burned out for the three years of his priestly service. These are only the books which we have read, but there are so many books still waiting on the shelves written about our contemporaries, confessors of the twentieth century! These books should be read along with the Lives of the Saints, for they are the saints of our times.
7. The Catacomb Church. The years of 1941 and 1942 were to see the total extermination of all forms of religion in the Soviet Union. According to historical data, by the beginning of war on the territory of the USSR in 1939, there remained only 600 (according to other data, 150) open churches. The war started on the feast day of All Saints of Russia. By the end of 1941, 25% of the population of the USSR was under the German occupation. Everywhere on the occupied territory, churches began to open, for the Germans did not object to this. Altogether on the occupied territories, up to 3,500 churches were opened (according to other data, the number was up to 10,000). Priests emerged from the “underground.” Thus, it could be said that the Catacomb Church came out from hiding.
In 1943, after the defeat of the Germans in Stalingrad, the Soviet army steadily began to move west. At the end of 1943, Stalin called Metropolitan Sergius to the Kremlin and, having immediately returned 12 surviving bishops from the concentration camps, commanded them to choose a Patriarch. Stalin needed an obedient administrative apparatus for governing the thousands of parishes on the territory that was being liberated, as well as supervision over them. Simultaneously, Stalin permitted the opening of a series of spiritual academies and allowed the reopening of churches on the entire territory of the Soviet Union. Metropolitan Sergius was a good proxy for this. This propaganda measure led many catacomb people to return from hiding and to the opening of many churches. In the 1950's, the territory of the USSR had already up to 20,000 churches. Not all, however, entrusted themselves to the Soviet power and left the catacombs.
In about 1960, I read in the magazine Ogonyok a report about how police smashed a secret enclave of Tikhon church-followers. Several years later a navy sailor fled to Canada from a Soviet boat. He said that during his stay in the Far East he participated in the brigade of Young Communist Leaguers who were attacking secret communities of faithful and beating them. The sight of one young woman who meekly accepted the beating shook him so much that he began to think about what was happening, and after a while, escaped to the West. For this he paid with his life: he was found in a motel, allegedly having committed suicide. This was the time of arguments between Professor Andreyev and Fr. Adrian about whether the Catacomb church existed at all. The article in Ogonyok and the information of the sailor confirmed that the Catacomb Church still existed in the sixties. I remember Metropolitan Vitaly saying that every Russian priest who secretly performs a marriage or baptism, in essence, acts as a priest of Catacomb church. During our pilgrimage in 1991, we became acquainted with a Moscow priest, a doctor of geology, a member of the Academy of Sciences who at the same time was secretly a priest. With the blessing of the Most Reverend Patriarch, he ceased hiding his priesthood only when he retired. By the 1990's, a clear division between Catacomb Church and Moscow Patriarchate no longer existed: the former members of the Catacomb Church had biologically died, while the priests of Moscow Patriarchate became more and more audacious in carrying out their priestly duties in opposition to the Soviet laws. In this way, by 1990, the border between the Catacomb and Patriarchal Churches was practically erased, whereas the reestablishment of the Catacomb Church in our day, when the Church in Russia is free, is an anomaly.
Protopriest Roman Lukianov
2 December (19 Nov.) 2003