The joint influence and profound unity of the Church and the state were the main pivot of the Constantinian age of Christian history. In particular, whereas the whole sacramental-liturgical structure of the Church was determined before the beginning of this age, concentrating round the Hierarch charisma, round simple formula "where the Bishop is, there is the Church", its organization as a whole, expressed in the formation of Metropolitanates and Local Churches took place under the strong influence of Roman statehood.
The collapse of the main centers of this statehood, the West-Roman, the Byzantine and, finally, the Russian centers, confronted the Church each time with the need to explain and reinforce those principles of church organization which proceeded from the very nature of the Church and had to be preserved no matter what changes took place in the life of human society. And each time this was a truly creative, if not prophetic task. The collapse of the Orthodox monarchy compelled the soborny mind of the Russian Church to apply immense spiritual efforts to solve this task, which had unexpectedly acquired a practical importance of the first order.
And this task is still being tackled today as well. Today we are called upon to reap the fruits of the exceptionally profound and rich experience which the Russian Church acquired in its struggle to clarify and develop the canonical principles of its being as a spiritual-corporal organism. Acquaintance with this insufficiently interpreted experience may help us to find a way of restoring the now lost unity of the Orthodox Russian Church. What is more, the author dares to suggest that this experience is essential not only for the future fate of Russia, but also as a valuable contribution to the questings and efforts of the Ecumenical Church which is striving to realize and establish its ontological structure in accordance with Divine Providence.
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The basis of the Orthodox Church as a single whole is formed by the Episcopate. In accordance with ancient Orthodox canons, the Bishop possesses the full range of instructive, administrative and sacramental power within his diocese. The presbyter (priest) is delegated tins power, and not to a full extent, by the Bishop only. Only the Bishop retains the absolute and decisive right of "reproducing" the hierarchical structure of the Church. He can ordain not only priests, but also
other Bishops. Finally, only a Council of Bishops is empowered to take decisions concerning the fate of the Local Church as a whole.
It was precisely this decisive role of the Episcopate in the Church which led Peter I and his heirs to take the most energetic measures to deprive the Russian Bishop of all independence and turn him into a revered, but powerless state official. According to the writer Leskov, who describes church life of the last century so well, the Bishop was a kind of "living icon", a purely symbolical figure respected by the people, hut deprived of any real connection with them. There was a deep division between the Episcopate (and the higher "educated monasticism" close to it), on one hand, and the ordinary clergy and monks who lived in close contact with the mass of ordinary believers, on the other. To put it figuratively, circulation of blood between the head and the body of the Russian Church was greatly hampered for several centuries.
The process of restoring normal church life, begun by the workings of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, proceeded very slowly, meeting powerful resistance from court circles. Only Nicholas II dared to take a real step towards the restoration of Russian church life. The activity during Ins reign of the church group of Anthony Vadkovsky (Metropolitan of St. Petersburg) and then of the Pre-Council Committee prepared church consciousness for the forthcoming profound reforms. One reflection of this preparatory work was, inter alia, the program of the last "prerevolutionary" metropolitan of Moscow, Pitirim (Oknov).
Before this he was rector of the St. Petersburg Seminary, then Exarch of the Georgian Church, where he conducted services in Georgian, Mingrelian, Ossetian and Abkhazian and criticized the policy of the russification of the Caucasus. The following are some of the points in the program: to abolish the division of dioceses into "rich" and "poor"; to stop the moving round of bishops; to increase the number of dioceses and bishops greatly and to make them equal territorially and materially; to bring the bishop closer to his flock; to restore the metropolitanate districts for convenience of administration: to hold local councils of bishops twice a year in accordance with the Apostolic Rules; to set up episcopal sees in the capitals of Western Europe; to translate liturgical and patristic books into European languages; and to compete with the Catholic missionary movement. The tendency towards the enhancement of the role of Bishop, the reinforcement of the sobornost principle and the liberation of the Church from state interference is clear in this program. But the important thing is that in this connection Metropolitan Pitirim categorically opposed the establishment of the Patriarchate! Not only he, but many other church reformers of that day feared that the Patriarchate would only strengthen the bureaucratic centralization
of the Church and hinder the development of independent parishes and dioceses. And without such independence there could be no question of real sobornost!
In the revolutionary atmosphere created after the Emperor's abdication these reformatory moods naturally grew much stronger.
Thus, in its communication to the Church of 29 April, 1917 the Holy Synod announced the establishment of the principle "of the election of a bishop by free voting of clergy and laymen". The setting up of a Pre-Council Committee and the convocation of a Local Council as soon as possible were also announced in this communication. On 20 June the Synod passed the "Temporary Statute on the Orthodox parish" which emphasized the independence of the parish as a special church community in contact with the Ecumenical Church through its Bishop.
There can be no doubt that the composition of the Holy Synod and its decisions at that time were largely determined by pressure from the Provisional Government through the Ober-Procuror V.N.Lvov. The socialists and cadets who feared the Church as a single organization which united the overwhelming majority of the people sought to turn it into a collection of disconnected small communities on the Protestant model. On the same day, 20 June, the Provisional Government passed a resolution undermining the role of the Church in public education: 37,000 church parish schools were transferred to the charge of the Ministry of Public Education. Even the most "left-wing" church reformers protested against this resolution. Thus, in the troubled revolutionary period the age-old hopes of church and people for sobornost became intertwined with political demands for "democratization". Without sufficient historical experience it was impossible to understand this tangle of ideas and aspirations.
The question of the structure of church administration was also raised at the Local Council which opened on 15 August, the day of the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.
"The most pressing question arose, - Metropolitan Eulogy recalls, - of how to administer the Church - to support the old Synodal structure or the Patriarchate? The "left", that is, the secular professors of the Theological Academics and the liberal priests, were against the Patriarchate. Again, as in the Pre-Council Committee, there was talk about the odiose monarchic element, about autocracy from which the revolution had freed the people never to return to this principle again. This was the same old liberalism of the intelligentsia, devotion to abstract ideas which ignored the facts of historical reality".
However, as has often happened at decisive moments of church history, the very atmosphere, the very spirit of sobornost engendered a
new consciousness. Member of the Council, Professor - Protopriest S.N.Bulgakov, referring to the "living soborny consciousness, which for a long time suffered the pangs and go through illness of this new birth" testifies that the new birth of the patriarchate in the Russian Church was something more than the simple restoration of the normal canonical system.
"When the members of the All-Russian Church Council assembled Moscow," wrote S.N. Bulgakov in his article-speech prepared for delivery at the Council, "only a few of them had a definite opinion on the question of the patriarchate, and others did not expect that they would soon become ardent champions of its restoration. Something has undoubtedly happened here in this soborny atmosphere; a new spiritual birth has taken place, in the midst of this church sobornost the patriarchate has been born...
The Russian Church could, of course, still stay with the Synodal structure now. There is no need for the restoration of the patriarchate here, and it can only be a question of the tatter's possibility, which becomes reality only in the creative act of church soborny consciousness. The patriarchate being restored is not only a restoration, but a completely new act of the Russian Church, although, of course, here too it is acting in accordance with old tradition". Deyan. Sob. Council Acts. Book 3. Appendix 31. Petrograd 1918.
What meaning did the Local Council attach to the idea of the Patriarchate? Let us listen to the soborny polyphony of witnesses and opinions. Here is the national-historical aspect expressed by Archimandrite Hilarion (Troitsky):
"There is the 'Wailing Wall' in Jerusalem. Old orthodox Jews come up to it and weep, shedding tears for their lost national freedom and former national glory. In the Assumption Cathedral in Moscow there is also a Russian wailing wall - the empty patriarchal throne. For two hundred years Russian Orthodox believers have been coming here and weeping bitter tears over the church's freedom destroyed by Peter and the church's former glory. How sad it will be, if this our Russian wailing wall is to remain forever! May this not be so!
Moscow is called the heart of Russia. But where does Russia's heart beat in Moscow. At the stock exchange? On Blacksmith's Bridge? It beats in the Kremlin, of course. But where in the Kremlin? In the district court? Or in the army barracks? No, in the Assumption Cathedral. It is there, by the front righthand pillar that the Russian Orthodox heart should beat. The Petrine eagle of the autocracy cut to the Western model peeked out this Russian Orthodox heart. The impious Peter's sacrilegious hand cast down the Russian First Hierarch from his age-old seat in the Assumption Cathedral. The Local Council of the Russian Church with the power given to it by God will again place the Moscow
Patriarch on his lawful inalienable throne. And when to the sound of the Moscow bells His Holiness the Patriarch goes to his historical sacred see in the Assumption Cathedral, there will be great rejoicing on earth and in heaven". Deyan. Sob. Appendix 31.
Council member A.V.Vasiliev sees the Patriarchate as an inalienable element of church sobornost, as the free focus of individual principles, and as authority voluntarily accepted and making it possible to overcome the contradictions of individual strivings. This position is undoubtedly a development of the Slavophile ideal:
"The main task of the Holy Synod is to lay the foundations for the restoration in the life of our Church and our Homeland of the principle of sobornost confessed by us in the 9th clause of the Creed, but scorned and repressed in life. If we confess the Church as Catholic and Apostolic, and the Apostle defines it as the body of Christ, as a living organism in which all the members are inter-connected and coordinated with one another, this means that such a co-ordination is not alien to the principle of sobornost and sobornost is not the full equality of identical members or particles, but contains within it the recognition of the personal and hierarchical elements... Sobornost does not deny authority, but demands from it the predisposition to voluntary obedience to it. Thus, authority, which defines itself as service, according to the word of Jesus Christ "the first of you shall be the servant to all" - and those subject to it, who voluntarily obey the authority recognized by them, concord, like-mindedness and unanimity, at the basis of which lie mutual trust and love - this is sobornost. And only with sobornost is it possible to have true Christian liberty and equality and fraternity of people and nations... In sobornost the personal hierarchical and public elements arc in close harmony. The Orthodox interpretation of sobornos contains the concept of universality, but it is more profound and indicates inner self-discipline, integrity, both of the spiritual strength, will-power, intellect and feelings of the individual, and in society and the nation as a whole - on the concertedness of the organism-members which make it up…". Appendix 31.
It would have been possible to agree with this fundamentally important argument, if the role and place of the "personal element" which, the author believes, lies at the basis of both the hierarchy and sobornost had been explained more clearly in it. One can only speak of the church-hierarchical structure if as a prerequisite there is an independent, free personal element capable of defending itself. Only than can the question of voluntary obedience, like-mindedness and love be raised.
If the personal element
is still undeveloped, weak and not free, however, the obedience and consent become compulsory and the church-hierarchial structure is replaced by a patriarchal-family structure. The historical reality was such, however, that the patriarchal-family tradition was represented very strongly in he Russian tradition, whereas the personal element was relatively weak. Therefore the churchification, inspiration and transformation of patriarchality demanded great creative efforts - and the Church was impelled to make these efforts most of all by the incredibly severe tribulation which it had to endure in the forthcoming years.
Another aspect of the Patriarchate as the church summit through which contact is made with the Ecumenical Church was stressed by the self-same S.N.Bulgakov, who detected a great profetic meaning, the pledge of the universal unification on Christianity, in the restoration of the Patriarchate:
“Most important of all, of course, is the question of the basic illness of the hole Christian world, the division between the Eastern and Western Church, which cannot fail to arouse constant pain in the Christian heart. In the European and at the time Russian tragedy which is unfolding before our eyes was not the seed of the evil taking place now sown a thousand years ago, in those had days when the final strife between the Constantinopolitan and Roman sees came to a head? And if it the will of Providence that the historic hour should come at last when the proximity of a miracle is felt - the miracle of a new world for the whole Ecumenical Church, then we should be
ready with our loins girded and our lamps lit. Such are the universal-historical prospects that open up from the heights where we find ourselves today, such are the thoughts that the day of the official enthronement of His Holiness the Patriarch of All Russia inspires. It is in this sense that we accept the ceremony taking place”.
In linking his hopes for the reunification of the Christian Church with the setting up of the Patriarchate, father Sergius Bulgakov proceeds from the fact that the main obstacle to this unity is the question of the power of the Pope. He evidently assumed that the very recognition of the principle of a First Hierarch opens up before the Russian Church the possibility of recognizing in some form of other Papal supremacy, an idea which was vigorously preached by Vladimir Soloviev in his time.
Indeed the primacy of the Bishop of Rome among the bishops of the other churches was never disputed by the Orthodox Church - the question was only about the extent of the power and rights of the Pope in relation to the other Patriarchs. But does the deep cause of the division of Eastern and Western Christianity lie in this?
We believe that it does not: the main cause of this division is of a religious-anthropological nature - different approaches o the question of the ways of development of the human personality and the relationship between human Divine will. In connection with this question of the ways of supremacy of the Pope or the question of the uniting in his
person of two authority: the spiritual and the secular - presents far fever obstacles to unification than, for example the rejection by Catholic theology of Gregory Palamas` teaching on Divine Energy.
Here it is a matter not only of two types of theology, but of the two fundamentally different types of spiritual practice from which the two theologians proceed. For the Eastern Orthodox believer, irrespective of whether he is familiar with theological doctrine of Palamism, the experience of Divine Grace as a stream of uncreated energy is an integral part of religious experience. For the Western Christian, however, catholic or protestant his experience is for he most part alien, for all the riches of subjective spiritual-phsychological sates.
Giving such a difference the very aim of religious life, the character and means of man`s union with God, is very different for Easter and Western Christians. It is in this sphere, firs and foremost, that one must search for mutual understanding, and the rest will follow - at least, that is our profound hope. We would reiterate our belief that the accelerated, but unharmonic development of the individual in the Western Christian world has been achieved largely at the price of partial emancipation from God; in the Eastern Christian world, however, the individual is somewhat backward in development, but retains the will and potential to develop together with God, to develop synergetically. These problems have a direct bearing on the fate of the Russian Church in the twentieth century, for the main task with which it is confronted in our day is obviously the resurrection of the age-old tradition
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Witness are unanimous in stating that deciding the question of accepting the Patriarchate was accelerated by the great upheavals in Russian state and spiritual life, which took place during the holding of the Local Council.
“At the beginning of October, - Mitropolitan Eulogy recalls, - news began to arrive from Petersburg, each item more terrible and disquieting than the one before The Provisional Government was living out is last days. A constituent assembly seemed to be a way out of the impasse, but is its convocation kept being postponed. Russian life was collapsing and chaos was imminent…
In these terrible days of bloodshed a great change took place in the Council. Petty human passions subsides, hostile wrangling ceased and Estrangement: abated. The image of the Patriarch, the sorrower, intercessor and leader of the Russian church, began to fill the Council's consciousness. People began to look with hope at the future elect. The mood heightened. The Council, which at first resembled a parliament, began to be transformed into a true "Church Council": into an organic church whole united by a single purpose - the good of the Church. The spirit of God descended upon the meeting, consoling all, reconciling all..."
On 30 October the Council adopted a decision on the restoration of the Patriarchate and the procedure for the election of the Patriarch: by means of a ballot the three candidates who received the largest number of votes were to be elected and then one of them chosen as Patriarch by drawing lots. The voting which took place on the same day produced the following three candidates: Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Archbishop Cyril (Smirnov) and Metropolitan Tikhon (Belavin). However, in view of the absence of a quorum the voting was declared invalid. The next day the first three
candidates were: Metropolitan Anthony - 159 votes, Archbishop Arseny (Stadnitsky) - 148; and Metropolitan Tikhon - 125.
Not only the decision to elect by drawing lots is surprising, but also the composition of the candidates from which Divine Providence was to indicate the most worthy. Anthony later because tile head of the "White Guard", anti-Bolshevik Church; Arseny constantly inclined towards excessive compromise with the "Reds"; and Tikhon became the Patriarch...
On 4 November the Council adopted the following general resolutions on the supreme government of the Orthodox Russian Church:
"1.In the Orthodox Russian Church supreme authority - legislative, administrative, judicial and controlling - shall be vested in the Local Council composed of bishops, clergy and laymen which is convened periodically at certain times,
2.The Patriarchate shall be restored and the church government shall be headed by the Patriarch.
3.The Patriarch shall be first bishop among equals.
4.The Patriarch together with the bodies of church government shall be answerable to the Council".
On 5/18 November the official ceremony of electing the Patriarch took place. One of the Council member, Prince I.Vasilchikov, describes this event as follows:
"On the appointed day the huge Church of Christ the Redeemer was packed with people. It was open to all. The liturgy was conducted by Metropolitan Vladimir with many other hierarchs. The full choir of Synodal choristers sang, and sang beautifully. At the end of the liturgy tile metropolitan carried out of the sanctuary and placed on a small table in front of the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, to the left of the Royal Doors, a small shrine with the names of the candidates for Patriarch elected at the Church Council. Then he stood in. the Royal Doors facing the people and surrounded by the hierarchs. In front of him facing the sanctuary stood Archdeacon Rozov of the Assumption Cathedral. Then out of the sanctuary came the elder Father skhimnik Alexis in a black monk's robe, who went up to the icon of Our Lady and began to pray, with a low bows to the ground. There was total silence in the church, and you could feel the general nervous tension rising. The elder prayed for a long time. Then he knelt down, took a piece of paper out of the shrine and handed it to the metropolitan, who read it and passed it to the archdeacon. Then the archdeacon, in his powerful and velvety bass voice famous all over Moscow began slowly to intone the "Many years". The tension in the church was at its height. Whom would he name? "...Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and Russia!" resounded all over the church, and the choir joined in the "Many years"! These moments were profoundly moving for all those who had the good fortune to be present. They are still vividly engrained in my memory, many years later".
"Novy Journal". Book 102. 1971, p. 149.
When the Council deputation led by Metropolitan Veniamin appeared to His Eminence Tikhon at the Trinity Court (the candidates were not present at the election ceremony) to inform him of his election as Patriarch, he said in reply:
"...Your news of my election as Patriarch is for me the roll on which was written: "lamentations, and mourning, and woe" and which the prophet Ezekiel had to eat (2:10 and 3:1). So I shall have to swallow tears and utter groans in the Patriarchal service which awaits me, and particularly in the present time of tribulation! Like the ancient leader of the Jewish people Moses I too shall have to say to the Lord:
'Wherefore hast Thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favor in Thy sight, that Thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them that Thou shouldest say unto me: carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing fattier beareth the sucking child... I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me' ". (Num. 11: 10 -14).
There can be no doubt that the Patriarch was a focus for the patriarchal and monarchist sentiments of Russian church people. But in setting up the Patriarchate the Council could not limit itself to this motive, A profound historical and, most important, theological substantiation was essential. Historical tradition left no doubt as to what these dogmatic arguments were. The following tierce points were advanced in support of patriarchal authority:
1. The monarchy of the Father in the Council of the Holy Trinity. According to Orthodox dogma the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are equal, and at the same time the Father, from Whom the Son is eternally generated and the Holy Spirit proceeds, is first in the Trinity Council. This was seen the beginning of all hierarchy in general.
2. Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church. According to an old church tradition, this prototype served as the basis for the authority of the Bishop. For the Bishop was seen as the image of Christ in the small Church, the community. Confusion arose here, of course, as to whether the First Hierarch of a Local Church could be regarded as its head in the same sense as the Bishop is head of the community or Christ is Head of the whole Church.
3. The Apostle Peter as head of the Apostolic Council. This argument is the most traditional one, in particularly, it is on this fact that the authority of the Bishop of Rome as the successor to Apostle Peter is based. But the question of the nature and extent of Peter's authority over the other apostles has been a subject of dispute for many centuries. For example, did he have the right to set up cathedras and appoint
apostles to them? There can be no doubt, however, that he was granted a certain amount of administrative authority. For the Orthodox consciousness the main question is as follows: is the First Hierarch's administrative authority of a charismatic nature, i.e., is there a specific grace, charisma, or, which is the same thing, Divine Energy of First Hierarchship?
With respect to sacraments, the First Hierarch charisma has no advantages over any other Bishop; it is a question of whether the actual administrative, organizational activity of the First Hierarch should have a charismatic, lawfully synergetic nature. If First - Hierarchal charisma exists, then what are the conditions of its manifestation? How is it coordinated with church sobornost? The crucial importance of these question for the practice of church life was soon to become obvious...
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