Protopresbyter Mikhail Polskii
Witnessing the Truth
The origin of the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” and its parish in San Francisco was a testimony to the truth of the Church by a group of local Russian Orthodox people, and its existence for 25 years is its triumph. “May all be as one,” is the law of Christ our God, and the unity of the church is Divine truth, expressing the very essence of Christianity--love.
If one was in unity, but then fell away, then he has sinned against truth, and therefore, against love. But we must remain faithful to this law of God and of the Church. As it always is, at first, unity and love reigned among us in the diaspora—but then, the enemy came and sowed the seeds of weeds, of schism and enmity. Since the end of the civil war, in 1920, old Russian emigre dioceses and parishes and those of the new emigration, of exile communities, which quickly formed dioceses and parishes all over the world were separated by the “iron curtain” of bolshevism from the central Church administration in Russia and, with the agreement of the entire episcopacy abroad, united under the Supreme Authority of its Council and a single Church Administration Outside of Russia. This temporary united Church administration, until the reunification with the emancipated Russian Church, was an equally necessary and canonical administration for the entire Russian Orthodox Church Abroad as the very central Church authority was in Russia. This was established by the Ukase of the Moscow Patriarchate (No. 362, 1920) on the administration of other parts of the Russian Church in the event that they become separated from it, and confirmed by all the canons of the Church on the principle of unity and conciliarity of the Church authority. This unity existed for five years, until 1926, when the American diocese, now called the “Metropolia,” under the leadership of Metropolitan Platon, along with the Western European diocese, violated that unity, fell away from communion with the other archpastors and dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, all for the sake of self-determination and the arbitrariness of their leadership. Were there, could there have been Russian Orthodox people who desired to preserve our original and crucial unity in accordance with Church law and Christian conscience? There must have been. It couldn't be that there were no Orthodox Christians in North America who knew the truth of the Church. The Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” parish in San Francisco, and the parish of All Saints in New York were at the time the first witnesses and spokesmen for the truth in America.
An unwilling witness to this canonical and moral truth of our unity is the history of the Metropolia over these last 32 years. Metropolitan Platon, choosing the path of schism in 1926, himself participated in the organization of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority Abroad in 1920 and together with Metropolitan Anthony and the other hierarchs requested permission of the Constantinople Patriarchate to organize the same on the latter's territory. Being sent to America in 1922, he was appointed by the Synod of Bishops Abroad to head the American diocese, and in leaving the Synod Abroad after that, in 1927, he declared the autocephaly of the American church, which was recognized by no one. After his death, in 1935, Metropolitan Theophilus restored unity with the Synod of Bishops Abroad, a unity that lived on for 11 years, until the end of 1946, when he switched his allegiance to the Moscow Patriarchate. A year later, he rejected this unity, and the Metropolia was left without canonical leadership, its bishops in isolation, separate from the Council and the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, under which it had twice before existed. This attempt at autocephaly or permanent separation from the Russian Church occurred in a difficult moment in its life, and the attempt to gain communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, with that unfortunate agent and ally of the godless bolshevik authority, is a witness to the errors made every time during its separation from the Synod of Bishops Abroad, for which such ways are foreign. The advice of the entire episcopacy abroad, under the guidance and lawful leadership of the eldest bishops, would have guaranteed a better path for the American part of the church in the diaspora. The same belonging to the Mother Russian Church of all of its parts abroad, the same conditions of its breaking of communion with her, the temporary situation of all in expectation of its emancipation and its expression of free will in the matters of the church, and finally the demands of the Christian conscience and Church laws and regulations persistently and in every way require unity within our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
But still, a great deal of effort is expended in creating impossible, artificial and very unsubstantial reasons for the continuation of the schism, which will continue for the unforeseen future. Still, one cannot but celebrate and rejoice that the canonical path within our American Mission-diocese, from its establishment in 1794 until this day was never broken. At the crucial moment in our Mission, in 1926-1927, when by separating from the canonical ecclesiastical authority of the Council and Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, loyal to its Mother Russian Church, and by unilaterally establishing an autocephalous administration, the canonical thread of its existence could have been torn—and yet caught and restored. The North American Diocese of the Council continues the canonical jurisdiction of the Council and Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in America after the departure of Metropolitan Platon. The path of truth on the territory of our old Mission was preserved. It continues even now in the Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia "[n.b. The North American and Canadian Dioceses were often viewed as a single diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, even though it was divided by region.]."
The beginning of this Diocese, this Parish of the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco, originated 25 years ago for the sake of preserving and continuing, unchanged, the former path of the united Church, which had already existed in America, for the sake of preservign the unity of the Church Abroad and with the Russian Church (but not with its enslaved leadership) and within the Church Abroad itself. God blessed this Diocese to strengthen and to become the home of the Synod of Bishops itself, the ecclesiastical authority of the entire diaspora. At one time those who defended the schism said that the Synod cannot rule the Metropolia, because it is too distant. Now it is here. For sixteen years, all told, the Council and Synod of Bishops was considered the lofty leadership of the Metropolia. For whom did it become an unwelcome guest but for those who departed from the path of truth? The truth of our unity is memorialized by the Diocese in America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, andit will continue to do so.
It will be a thorn in the side of all who follow the wavering path in regards to the truth, and it will continue to be such until our Orthodox unity is restored. The banner of God's truth was raised 25 years ago by the founders of the Parish of the Cathedral of the Mother of God in San Francisco, who is indeed the “Joy of All Who Sorrow.” She Herself felt the weapon pierce Her heart with the lies of mankind against Her Son. She defeated Her sorrow with the joy of His arrival, and so She Herself became the joy of all who sorrow, and those who sorrow from untruth. With heartfelt pain did the Orthodox faithful feel the untruth of schism. They did not follow that path, but with the grace-filled help of the Mother of God they stood fast, and strengthened.
For this they rejoice this day, they celebrate and give thanks to God.
Protopresbyter Mikhail Polskii
San Francisco, 1952
On the 25th anniversary of the Parish of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow”