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Excerpt from: Ecumenism in an Age of Apostasy

What Is to Be Done? 

This question stands in the mind of many Orthodox Christians today, who daily witness the spread of worldwide ecumenical apostasy on all levels. Numerous examples of modern history clearly show that today everything possible is being done in order to establish an anti-Church, a "reborn" Christianity; dogmas are being revised, church history is being rewritten; there is an intense secularization and modernization of spiritual life. We live at a time that is more dangerous, in many ways, than the time of Saint Mark of Ephesus or the time of the Arian, Monophysite, or Monophylite heresies. At that time our forbears could participate in only one heresy that threatened the Church. Today's ecumenism is like a package, a Pandora's box, from which hundreds of heresies are breaking loose. We know that to this day the Church has always been victorious in her battle against all dangers. For example, after the ill-fated Union of Florence, Orthodoxy experienced a real flowering of its spiritual life. Today there arises a serious question: It is possible that the time has come when Christ's Church can exist only in the catacombs and deserts, and there meet Christ, from where she will return to her historical path.
 At the present time there exist two basic ways in which contemporary Orthodox Christians react to the heresy of ecumenism. The first is battling against ecumenism within the canonically established enclosure of the local Orthodox Churches; the second-leaving this enclosure and cutting off all official ties with those Churches whose leaders actively participate in the ecumenical movement. Those who hold to the first way believe that it is still possible to restore all of Orthodoxy to the patristic path, that the heresy of ecumenism can be overcome, or at least they see that not all possibilities have been exhausted for battling within the established enclosure. They are not creating schisms in the wounded and suffering body of the Church. On the other hand, those who openly leave the official church organization are developing a course that can be defined as an "ecclesiology of resistance." Who is right?
Essentially it is understood that any separation, any divisions in the church body are a negative phenomenon, for the Church is grounded upon love, peace, and concord. In this sense, any division or schism comes from personal and non-church aims and is unjustified, for it rends the robe of Christ. In history, however, we can see that when the Church was attacked by wolves in sheep's clothing, even if these were highly placed church officials, the clergy and the people shunned them and severed relations with them. In this connection it is important to examine the fifteenth canon of the so-called First-and-Second Council of Constantinople from the ninth century:
...So that in case any Presbyter of Bishop or Metropolitan dares to secede or apostatize from the communion of his own Patriarch, and fails to mention the latter's name in accordance with custom duly fixed and ordained, in the divine Mystagogy, but, before a conciliar verdict has been pronounced and has passed judgment against him, creates a schism, the holy Council has decreed that this person shall be held an alien to every priestly function if only he be convicted of having committed this transgression of the law. Accordingly, these rules have been sealed and ordained as respecting those persons who under the pretext of charges against their own presidents stand aloof, and create a schism, and disrupt the union of the Church. But as for those persons, on the other hand, who, on account of some heresy condemned by holy Councils, or Fathers, withdrawing themselves from communion with their president, who, that is to say, is preaching the heresy publicly, and teaching it barehead in church, such persons not only are not subject to any canonical penalty on account of their having walled themselves off from any and all communion with the one called a Bishop before any conciliar or synodal verdict has been rendered, but, on the contrary, they shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honor which befits them among Orthodox Christians. For they have defied not Bishops but pseudo-bishops and pseudo-teachers; and they have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions. (Pedalion, pps. 470-471.)
On the basis of this canon it is evident that a Christian is obliged to show complete and unreserved obedience to his pastors, even if they should exhibit moral weaknesses and other sins that imply all conciliar decisions. The only case in which it is permitted not to wait for a conciliar decision exempting one from obedience to one's superior is if he openly preaches heresy, inasmuch as he thereby ceases to be a true bishop and pastor. The Apostle Paul teaches us obedience to our spiritual fathers:
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation... Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account... (Heb. 13:7, 17).
But how are our teachers to be zealous for good? Saint John Chrysostom replies: "And what if a (leader) is not good? Does that mean one does not have to be obedient to him? Not good in what sense? If it is in relation to faith, then run from him and have nothing to do with him-even if he be not just a man but an angel from heaven." (Commentary on Hebrews, #34) Holy Scripture teaches us the same: Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again: If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal. 1:8-10. Many ecumenists deny that they are preaching another faith. Moreover, they openly declare that they possess the correct interpretation of Christ's teaching. Let us see what Saint Theodore Studite says about this: "We who are Orthodox flee every heresy and accept all generally recognized councils, whether Ecumenical or Local. And we likewise firmly stand by the sacred canons which they adopted. For no one can fully teach the word of truth, supposing himself to have the right Faith, if he does not accept the guidance of the divine canons. " (Letter 1:30)
Can a person who scorns the holy canons be Orthodox? Can one consider oneself an Orthodox Christian and an heir of the Holy Fathers and at the same time do what is contrary to the works of the Holy Fathers, martyrs, and confessors of the Faith?
The example of Saint Theodore the Studite is instructive for our time as well, just as are similar examples of Saint Athanasius the Great at the First Ecumenical Council and of Saint Maximus the Confessor at the Sixth. Saint Theodore saw in iconoclasm not only a fight against the holy icons, but a more wide-ranging heresy. The heretics demanded the implementation of a single, broad church reform that would gradually have done away with the veneration of saints, relics, the Mother of God. The Liturgy was abbreviated, fasts and feasts were eliminated, monastic rules were liberalized, monastic holdings were confiscated, the number of clergy and monastics was reduced, and bishops were chosen only with the approval of the royal council. The result was a kind of Eastern Reformation.

But let us return to the ecclesiological basis of "Orthodox resistance." It comes from the contention that those church communities that participate in the ecumenical movement are a sick part of the Church of Christ. This contention differs from the radical ecclesiology of extremist traditionalist groups, that go so far in denying that these Churches have grace that they fall into a much greater danger than ecumenism itself. What at the present time is the basis of the above-mentioned church communities that constitute the front for the Orthodox resistance to ecumenism? These are very diverse. On the question of the Russian Church Abroad alone there are disagreements. On the one hand, the official Moscow Patriarchate never stripped hierarchs of the ROCA of their rank, nor anathematized them; nor did the ROCA do so in regard to hierarchs of the MP; the Serbian Church unofficially is in communion with the hierarchs of the ROCA in view of their spiritual faithfulness to Tradition.
On this question Constantinople [i.e., the ecumenical Patriarchate] holds an extreme opinion. Still earlier, the patriarchs of Constantinople fought to gain a consensus on the matter of the ROCA, officially and definitively declaring it a schismatic group. This harsh contention was prompted by the fact that hierarchs of the ROCA had ordained several bishops for the Greek Old Calendarists, which enlivened that movement considerably. Additionally, the ROCA assisted many opponents of Constantinople's ecumenical course, receiving them around the world under its omophorion. Currently, there is a great deal of controversy over the fact that the ROCA has opened dioceses of its own in Russia, a fact that has badly strained its relations with the MP. The hierarchs of the ROCA explain this by the need to meet halfway those individual parishes and priests that are clearly displeased that Moscow has not renounced Sergianism point-blank, that it does not acknowledge the truth concerning the suffering of the Russian Church, and that it continues to participate in the ecumenical movement. The Moscow Patriarchate accuses the ROCA of fanatical extremism, of broadening the schism within the Russian people, and of taking away her right to assert that she herself underwent those sufferings that came upon the Church in the homeland.
Concerning the Old Calendar question in Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria, the Local Churches that remained faithful to the Julian Calendar had no desire to imitate that movement under threat of severing ties with the new calendar Orthodox Churches, which have an extremely intolerant and aggressive attitude towards their Old Calendarist brethren, an attitude that has frequently resulted in terrible persecutions.  Besides, they see no difference between the quite dissimilar positions of the various Old Calendarist groups. The conduct of the Jerusalem Patriarchate is unique; in recent times it has purposely maintained ties with some moderate Old Calendarists and the ROCA, which has had a long-standing presence there in the Holy Land.
However, independent of official church positions and other grounds for schism that have received attention, we cannot but note that these church communities, without going into their irregular and uncanonical status (from the point of view of the modernists-Russian editor), through their anti-ecumenical position, serve today as a living voice of Orthodox Tradition, serving as a strong support for all those who are battling against ecumenism within the official Orthodox Churches. We have only to recall the impact of the so-called "sorrowful epistles" of the head of the ROCA, Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) (1965-85), who, in 1966, began an active battle, with his open letters to the heads of the local Orthodox Churches and other bishops, in which he exposed the pan-heresy of ecumenism as a sign of the coming kingdom of Antichrist. While these epistles received a very positive response among some Orthodox Churches, the official reaction of all local Churches to this "voice crying in the wilderness" was and remains silence. In agreement with these epistles were Archimandrite Justin (Popovich) and Elder Philotheos (Zervakos), when they warned not only the faithful people but the hierarchy of the danger of the false path of ecumenism. In their works, just as also in the works of Bishop Nikolai (Velimirovich) and Archbishop Averky (Taushev), we can see how the Orthodox Church in truth views ecumenism and the "reforms" of Orthodoxy. Fathers Justin and Philotheos  shared the same considerations as those people who left the official Churches in sign of protest against ecumenism, modernism, growing secularization, and cooperation with godless authorities, although they themselves never took that path and from the outset did not approve it, trying to avoid a still greater schism and disturbance. But they continued until they died to profess standing fast in the Truth.
This position, we can say with full justification, represents the royal, middle path, which on the one hand openly opposes the heresy of ecumenism, and on the other avoids the chaotic panic and confusion caused by new schisms, and, at any rate, the "super-orthodox" opinions of individual zealots. In other words, they always bore in mind that it was essential for Orthodox truth to be preached to the heterodox with love, without embellishments-not by means of any false "dialogue of love," but rather by means of a true Orthodox life, by following the Holy Fathers and the holy Ecumenical Councils. The "super-orthodoxy" of individual zealots differs significantly from the spirit of the Holy Fathers, who were strict concerning questions of the truth while at the same time they had ample capacity for love-not for heresy, for heresy itself merits abhorrence and condemnation, but for people who become victims of this great spiritual deception. The exaggerations of the zealot extremists in the battle with ecumenism only harm the truth of Orthodoxy and do not serve for its benefit. Today, unfortunately, many zealots of Orthodoxy declare all ecumenists to be heretics. There used to be people who courageously confessed before heretics the truth of the one Orthodox Church as the Church of Christ. Unfortunately, in recent times more and more people are silent on this score. In so doing, they come to the verge of heresy, for they are silent about the truth of love, which is the same as to deny truth.
In any case, one must not imagine that some Great united Council could bring a complete stop to the apostasy or hinder its advance. It is possible, however, that a local Church, or at least a part of it, can free itself from these destructive nets by hasting to withdraw from the WCC and to cut off all communion with heretics. It is very important here to expose the heresy of ecumenism, which exists and is spreading thanks to the fact that many are unaware of its true course and of its real aims. In any case, if ecumenical activity continues to increase, and if eventually communion with heretics is legitimized, it will be necessary to act according to the above-mentioned canons, i.e., to separate oneself from the ruinous influence of heretics.
Furthermore, on the basis of some writings of more modern church fathers as, for example, Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov) and Bishop Theophan the Recluse, we can conclude that it is precisely in our time that the apostasy will overtake the mainstream and that heresy will take complete hold even of the official church administration, compelling the true Orthodox Church to go into the catacombs. Concurring with this prophecy, many contemporary spiritual fathers-for example, Elder Lavrenty of Chernigov, Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), and Archbishop Averky (Taushev)-foresaw that the new, false "united Christianity" will spread the lie that in all the world it alone is the Church of Christ. Churches will be built, majestic ecumenical "liturgies" of peace (very likely of the type we saw in Canberra and Assisi) will be held, and everywhere there will be talk of a new era of peace and truth. But in all this tower of Babel, which may well bear a perfect external resemblance to the Church, there will be no truth, God's Spirit will be absent. The One and true Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church, living in little catacomb communities in towns, in deserts, and in forests, headed by God-bearing bishops, priests and monks, will be completely hidden from the bright lights of projectors and TV cameras. Many of these little ones will not know of one another. They will be united not by apparent administrative ties but by a unity of Orthodox faith, of patristic tradition, and, most importantly, by a unity of communion in the Body and Blood of the Lord. These communities of faithful may be cruelly persecuted, just as in Roman and Soviet times. The adherents of the false "Christianity" and other united religions will accuse them of being fanatics, of being intolerant and hateful people, opponents of the New World Order and, by extension, of the welfare and happiness of mankind.
Many may be imprisoned in special camps for "reeducation," where they will be severely tortured in an effort to force them to deny the Living God and His Church, and to bow down before the rulers of this world. And thus the Church, like a pure and undefiled virgin, washed in the blood of martyrs and confessors just as in the early years of Christianity, will wait to greet her Bridegroom.
Thus, we are faced with a number of questions. How many Orthodox Christians will be able to await that day, remaining in the faith of the fathers, for the Lord Himself said: When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8) How many Christians will there be then who claim to be Orthodox but who will be separated from the spirit of truth? The answers to these questions will become evident only with the times that are already drawing near.

Two chapters from the book of the same title, published in Prizren, 1995. Translated from Serbian into Russian by K.V. Glazkov inPravoslavnaya Rus, #1 and 2, 2000 [1646, 1647], Jordanville, NY.

 Church tradition and the example of the Holy Fathers teach us that no dialogue is conducted with Churches that have fallen away from Orthodoxy. To them is always directed sooner the monologue of the Church's preaching, in which the Church calls them to return to her bosom through rejection of every teaching not in accord with her. A genuine dialogue supposes an exchange of opinions, admitting the possibility of the persuasion of the participants in it for the attainment of agreement.... [A]ny agreement with error is foreign to the whole history of the Orthodox Church and to her very being. It could lead, not to unanimous confession of the truth, but to a visionary external union similar to the agreement of the differently-minded Protestant societies within the Ecumenical Movement. May such a betrayal of Orthodoxy not penetrate to our midst! Metropolitan Philaret, "An Appeal to Patriarch Athenagoras," 1966.

And what do we see now in contemporary "Orthodoxy" -the "Orthodoxy" that has entered into the so-called "Ecumenical Movement"? We see the ... renunciation of true Orthodoxy in the interest of spiritual fusion with the heterodox West. The "Orthodoxy" that has placed itself on the path of "Ecumenism" thinks not of raising contemporary life, which is constantly declining with regard to religion and morals, to the level of the Gospel commandments and the demands of the Church, but rather of "adapting" the Church herself to the level of this declining life. Archbishop Averky "Should the Church Be In Step with the Times?"

...For what does it mean to be Orthodox? It means: to be constantly struggling away from man toward the God-man, to be constantly making oneself divine-human through struggles.  In Western Europe, Christianity has gradually been transformed into humanism .. In both [Roman Catholicism] and Protestantism, man has re-placed the God-man as both the supreme value and the supreme criterion. A painful and sorrowful "correction" has been made of the God-man, of His work and of His teaching. Archimandrite Justin Popovich, "The Supreme Value and Infallible Criterion".

...The Eastern Orthodox Church does not have a habit of making innovations, but rather follows the teachings of the Apostles, the Teachers, the Holy Fathers and the Seven ‘cumenical Councils, whose teachings the wise among the Latins and Protestants ought also to follow..., so that they might be delivered from the penances the anathemas and excommunications of the holy ‘cumenical Councils and of the Holy Fathers. We are obligated to pray for them so that God may return them from delusion to the straight path, and so that we may all become one flock with the Ruler and Founder of our true Orthodox Faith as Leader, our Lord Jesus Christ and Saviour, the Deliverer and Liberator of our souls and bodies. Elder Philotheos Zervakos Paternal Counsels.

By Hieromonk Sava (Yanjic), Orthodox America: