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THE MOSCOW COUNCIL OF 1917–18 Crisis, Revolution, and Renewal Conciliarity and Ecclesiological Reform St. Elizabeth and the Order of Deaconesses





The Rebirth of Religion in Russia

Thomas Whittemore

THE CHURCH ACROSS TIME 22 St. Elizabeth the New Martyr: The Quest to Restore the Order of Deaconesses Elena B. and Nadezhda A. Beliakova

29 Composition and Procedural Decision-Making at the Moscow Council: Implementation of a Conciliar Ecclesiology Hyacinthe Destivelle

33 Ecclesiological Insights on the Moscow Council of 1917–18 Christophe d’Aloisio

STATE OF AFFAIRS 39 “To Coin New Names”: the Imperative of Reform and The Danger of Marginalization Pantelis Kalaitzidis

44 The Firmament of Grace: Hospitality in Interfaith Dialogue Richard René

FROM THE ARCHIVES 47 The Truth of Orthodoxy Nikolai Berdyaev

POETRY DESK 54 At the Monastery

Cameron Alexander Lawrence

56 God, If You’re There, I’m Still Awake and It’s 4 A.M. Cameron Alexander Lawrence

Š 2017 The Wheel. All rights reserved. ISSN 2379 - 8262 (print) ISSN 2379 - 8270 (online) May be reproduced and distributed for noncommercial use.

Editorial Board Inga Leonova Michael Berrigan Clark Timothy Scott Clark Joseph Clarke Gregory Tucker Managing Editor Samuel Bauer Graphic Designer Anastasia Semash Advisory Board Archpriest Robert M. Arida Sergei Chapnin Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun Pantelis Kalaitzidis Archpriest Andrew Louth Gayle E. Woloschak

Visit us at or contact us at Cover image: Patriarch Tikhon (Bellavin) presides over the Council of 1917–18 in the Dormition Cathedral, Moscow.

From the Editors 2017 marks the centennial of the Moscow Council of 1917–18. Although technically a regional church council—one whose proceedings were interrupted by the Bolshevik revolution and whose decisions were curtailed by the ensuing government assault on the Russian Church—this council nevertheless had a momentous impact far beyond Russia. Hailed by some as revolutionary (and decried by others for the same reason), the Moscow Council yielded an array of structural ecclesiological modifications unprecedented in hundreds of years. Preparations for the council included years of effort by leading Orthodox intellectuals, including bishops, clergy, and laity. Some of the issues offered for the consideration by the council, such as the role of women in the church, had never before been raised by the ecclesial bodies. Convened under the patronage of the last ruling Russian monarch and dissolved after his abdication and murder, the council managed to accomplish the restoration of the patriarchate in Russia and to set in motion forces that changed the face of Orthodoxy for years to come. As world Orthodox churches continue to absorb the impact of last summer’s Holy and Great Council in Crete, it is pertinent to look back at the history, legacy, and lessons of the Moscow Council. For while the disunity of ethnic Orthodox churches initially produced a dismissive attitude toward the council in places, the geopolitical upheavals of the 20th century carried its momentum into the newly-formed jurisdictions in Europe and America. A hundred years later, it is clear that the council’s voice of reform reverberated throughout the Orthodox world even when it was not explicitly acknowledged. In this special issue, The Wheel has gathered historical documents and contemporary analysis along with other materials related to the council’s enduring legacy. The issue begins with a remarkable firsthand account of the council’s chaotic political context and its internal proceedings written by an American scholar living in Moscow at the time. The text of the article appears here unchanged from its original 1918 publication in National Geographic. We hope that this anniversary, combined with the rekindled conciliar process in the Church, will foster new and fruitful dialogue on the life of the Church in a changing and challenging world.

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View of the Holy of Holies of Russia, showing the high wall and lofty watch-towers which enclose it. Originally a fort, the Kremlin is now a museum, mausoleum, and treasure-house of things precious in Russian life and Russian religion. In no other equal area in the world is there crowded such an array of historic cathedrals and monasteries, sacred relics, trophies of war, sacerdotal robes, gold and silver vessels, precious stones, pearls, and jewels to the value of millions of dollars, etc. Note: The text, photographs, and captions of this article were originally published in National Geographic 34:5 (November 1918): 378–401.


The Rebirth of Religion in Russia The Church Reorganized While Bolshevik Cannons Spread Destruction in the Nation’s Holy of Holies By Thomas Whittemore


he Holy Kremlin of Moscow has

become a Bolshevik fortress. From the 9th to the 16th of November, 1917, for more than seven days under a hurricane of fire, the city was stormed and finally carried by the Bolsheviks in terrible fratricidal war. Since then the sacred citadel has been playing a new and ignominious role in the history of Russia. From the time of the building of the Church of the Beheading of St. John Baptist and of the little Church of our Savior in the Forest, bespeaking the days when the acropolis was still a wooded hill, a multitude of churches and palaces, witnesses of Russia’s glory, have written here a national document in stone. The history of Russia is the history of the monuments of the Kremlin.


During the bombardment a Chinese workman, looking on, was heard to say, “The Russian is not good; bad man; he shoots on his God.” Outraged and despoiled, the Kremlin is in bonds today, guarded by foreign mercenaries. The forty times forty churches of the white stone city seem to draw a little closer in answer to the trumpet calls of the Kremlin domes. The battered towers and shredded gates, from which red flags are defiantly flung in the face of Russia, still stand bravely to protect the sacred site. Deputations from the Sobor, or Russian Council, now sitting in Moscow, have abjectly to ask the Bolshevik committees’ permission to hold services in the churches of the Kremlin. If the Bolsheviks dared, they would

long since have declared the churches of the Kremlin to be museums, and so extinguished their light of faith. The representatives of the Church have acted in fearless determination that the churches should continue to function, and have continued their sessions amid the violence and destruction raging on all sides of them. Entrance to the once always open Kremlin is not only by permit, through the Troitsa gate. All day long a moving line of people on various missions, showing their passports at the window of a little wooden kiosk, beg to be allowed to enter.

A Scene of Sacrilege Within the Kremlin Once within the walls of the Kremlin, one faces piles of ammunition, barbed wire, and ugly miscellaneous heaps of rubbish. Austrian, German, and Lettish soliders, some frankly in their enemy uniforms, are lounging about or standing guard. Army motor-lorries and cars carrying dark, sallow, un -Russian-faced government officials tear up through the gates, shriek-

ing a curse, so it seems, as they enter upon all-hated Christian Russia. The farther one walks about and sees the outraged fabric on all sides, the stronger becomes the feeling of grief. With indescribable emotion, one enters the resounding stone inclosure near the Cathedral of the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God. Here are still to be traced the stains of enormous pools of blood in which floated human fragments, tracked about by daring feet.* The Cathedral itself has been badly treated. A shell struck its central dome and, bursting among the five domes of smouldering gold, viciously smote a second. The hole in the chief dome between the ghostly frescoes of the saints measures 7 feet in length and nearly 6 feet in width. In the drum of the dome is an ominous crack.

Devastation Inside the Cathedral

* Many notes of personal experience and all the photographs of the Kremlin which illustrate this article were graciously given me in Moscow by my friend, Bishop Nestor, the distinguished missionary bishop of Kamchatka, who took them himself in the Kremlin by permission of the Bolshevik government.

The damage has not even yet been examined in detail by architects, and it is not known, therefore, whether such wanton devastation can be repaired. Procession of the faithful in Moscow in the Red Square, showing the walls of the Kremlin and the Church of the Blessed Basil in the distance. The revolution has brought intellectual Russians a long way from the cold indifference, the empty churches, and the forgotten traditions of their faith.

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seems to float through space, are bent as by storm; the Altar and the Sanctuary are strewn with broken glass, brick, and dirt; the Shrine of the Holy Martyr, Patriarch Hermogen, is covered with fragments of stone and rubbish. This is the church built by Fioraventi of Bologna, in which the Tsars were crowned and in which the earlier Patriarchs were laid to rest. It is the precious reliquary of Russia’s rich inheritance of the treasure of the ancient Eastern Church.

The Marvelous Easter Service

Exterior of the Uspenski Cathedral, showing the shell hole in the central dome. In this church the Tsars were crowned.

Interior of the Uspenski Sobor, or the Cathedral of the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God, showing on the pavement the shattered fragment of the shell-struck dome. This great edifice, formerly the burial place of the Patriarchs, was built by Fioraventi, of Bologna, in 1475–79. Though repeatedly devastated by plunderers or fire, it has always been restored in its original form. Among its many relics were “the shroud of Christ, the robe of the Virgin, and a nail of the true cross.”


The window glass is everywhere smashed and shot through. Within the Cathedral there are strewn about splinters of a 6-inch shell, which exploded there, and fragments of white stone, brick, and rubble. The gold and silver candelabra, those constellations among which all within the church

In the days before the suppression of the Patriarchate by Peter the Great, on Good Friday—or, as the Russians say, Great Friday—the Patriarch, in humble imitation of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, rode on an ass from the Church of Blessed Basil, across the mosaic of fluttering doves, through the Gate of the Savior, up to the Kremlin, but this year the new Patriarch, Tikhon, was forbidden entrance in the ancient way. Indeed, it was late on Easter Eve before His Holiness knew with certainty that

he should be allowed to celebrate in his own Cathedral on the morrow.

deacon, Rosov, the Chaliapine of the Russian Church.1

In spite of the desecration, amid the ikon-clouds of steadfast witnesses to the faith, the Patriarch officiated at Easter.

A Holy Monastery Outraged

There, on Easter Eve, for two hours before midnight, one hears the Acts of the Holy Apostles read. Meanwhile the lamps and candles, lighted one by one, swim like planets into our ken. The church swings in the shadows like a huge censer. Then the gates of the sanctuary open and, in the vestments of royal purple, Patriarch, bishops, and priests, with silver and crystal crosses, like a torrent, flood the church with song: “Christ is risen!” they exclaim. “He is risen, indeed!” the people make answer. The jeweled Gospels are thundered in different languages from the four corners of the church to all the earth. In the orchestra of voices the festival bell of the tower of John the Great companions the mighty voice of the arch-

It is all a vision of the forms and color of the Imperial Byzantine Court, in which the Church on earth pays her most splendid homage to Heaven. A dreadful impression is produced by the present appearance of the Chudov Monastery, the “Wonder-Working Monastery.” The façade of the south side has been pierced by six heavy shells. In the rose-red walls are deep breaks and cracks and holes from 5 to 7 feet in diameter.

1 Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin or Chaliapine was a turn-of-thecentury Russian opera singer, renowned worldwide for his deep bass voice. – The Wheel

Two shells broke through the wall of the Metropolitan’s apartments, in which a member of the Council, Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd, was staying. Inside the rooms there is complete destruction. Fragments of furniture are mingled with heaps of stone and rubbish. In one room a shell pierced the immense, thick wall near a window Shattered exterior of the Chudov Monastery, commemorating a miracle of the Archangel Michael. This is one of the most celebrated monasteries in all Russia. It occupies the land which was given to the Metropolitan Alexis in 1358 by a grateful Tatar Khan. Inside there is complete destruction. Fragments of furniture are mingled everywhere with heaps of stone and rubbish.

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Outraged and despoiled: Broken and twisted candelabra, shattered windows, battered ikons, crushed and trampled-upon sacred vessels—such are the scenes which greet the eye of the worshiper in many of the “forty times forty churches” of Moscow today.

and destroyed it as far as an ikon of the Mother of God which stood near, but the ikon and the glass over it and the lamp hanging before it were uninjured. The church in the monastery, where the relics of St. Alexis rest, did not suffer; only the windows were broken. The relics of St. Alexis had been carried to the catacombs church at the beginning of the firing.

of the Sanctuary. The large, magnificent old Book of the Gospels, which was placed against the ruined wall, was thrown to the floor near the Altar. The front cover was torn off, and the precious ikons of the Resurrection of Christ and of the Evangelists adorning the book were broken and thrown about; many leaves were torn and crushed.

There, beneath the low vaults, the Metropolitan, Benjamin; Archbishop Michael, of Grodno; the Prior, of the Chudov Monastery; Bishop Arsenius, the Elder Alexis, of the Zosimov Hermitage, and all the brethren offered their prayers day and night, under the unceasing rattle of the guns which shook the walls of the church.

The Altar of Oblation was broken and the service books were torn. All over the Sanctuary bricks were scattered about, with splinters of shells and various ecclesiastical objects, heaped up between the Altar and the Royal Gates, but the Altar itself, in spite of its nearness to the ruin, was uninjured.

German Invectives Mar Church Walls In the Church of St. Nicholas, in the belfry of the tower of Ivan the Great, a shell crashed through a window and destroyed the east wall of the interior

In the Church of St. Nicholas lies a part of the holy relics of the Prelate Nicholas, a saint honored by all Christians and even by the heathen. The walls of the entrance to this church are written over with the most filthy and sacrilegious inscriptions and invectives, not only in Russian, but (more significant of the leadership in all this despoliation) in German. The entrance of the church where the relics lie was used as an outhouse.

Madmen Direct a Rain of Destructive Shells When raining destructive shells on the Kremlin, the madmen evidently decided beforehand not to spare one of the churches; and, in fact, traces of the crime are left on all. The famous porch of Lodgetti, of the Church of the Annunciation, from which Ivan the Terrible admired the comet, is destroyed by shot and shell. Miraculously, the age-dimmed interior of this remarkable little church is unharmed. The jasper floor which the 10

Despoliation of the Patriarchal Treasury, showing the gold and silver chalices. Among the sand, rubble, shattered walls and fragments of glass, unholy hands rummaged for jewels which were knocked from their settings in the sacred vessels.

Shah of Persia gave to the Tsar Alexis, the floor of many-colored jasper, like an Apocalyptic sea, binding the doorposts and lintels, set with precious stones, remains like a ponderous Byzantine cope-clasp. The Church of the Archangel is scarred with the marks of shells. The Churches of the Resurrection and of the Deposition of the Robe, the oratories of the ikon of the Mother of God of Pechersk, and the Church of the Forerunner, in the Borovitsk Tower, domes like a garden of Hafiz, or Omar Khayyam, all fell beneath sacrilegious fury. The last-named church came in for severe usage, and some shots struck the ikons of the sainted Prelates of Moscow and of the Mother of God of Kazan.

where, among sand, rubble, fragments of the walls, and broken glass, the unholy hand digs for diamonds and pearls. The worst devastation has occurred in Room No. 4, which was pierced by a bursting shell. Here several glass cases and cupboards with precious ancient covers, or palls, ornamented with gold and precious stones, were torn to shreds. Some memorial palls were pierced and completely ruined.

Diamonds and Pearls in Rubbish Heap

A book of the Holy Gospels of the twelfth century (1115), of the Grand Duke Mstislav, of Novgorod, was injured by a splinter. Various precious objects and ornaments of the Patriarchs, such as mitres, gauntlets, church utensils, vessels, and crosses, are all thrown out of the cases onto the floor and broken to pieces.

The Patriarchal Sacristy, containing treasurers of incalculable value, has been turned into a heap of rubbish,

Another shell, in Room No. 6, destroyed a case containing Patriarchal vestments. The historical Russian ec-

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clesiastical treasury, the noble monument of the past Patriarchal life of a great nation, is shattered. Subsequently, after the Bolsheviks had assumed protection of the treasury and locked themselves into the Kremlin, these rooms were broken open and ruthlessly looted by some of their own company.

Gems Gouged from Ornaments In their haste to rifle the cases and in their indifference to the national significance of the treasury, these robbers wantonly ruined ecclesiastical ornaments by brutally gouging out the gems or ripping off their golden mountings, and by cutting out the jewel-studded medallions from the vestments made of ancient stuffs, in which weaver and goldsmith wrought with a mutual hand. Some of the treasure has been recovered, but most of it is either destroyed or irrevocably lost. What hope is there for the safety of the Hermitage treasure brought from Petrograd in wooden boxes now lying in the Kremlin? The Church of the Twelve Apostles is riddled with shot. Furrowed by shells and broken, its east end lighted by holes and cracks, it gives the impression of being held together by some miracle. One shell pierced the wall from the south side, below the window, and burst in the church, causing much destruction; the standard candle-holders were broken and many ikons on the walls injured by splinters. On a large crucifix, standing by the north wall, the outstretched hands of our Saviour were broken off. The 12

figure was gashed with sharp bits of brick, and oil from the hanging lamps had poured over the whole. Red spots made a startling likeness of a living body covered with blood. Some pilgrims who had succeeded in getting into the Kremlin, on approaching this sacred object, were unable to look at it and gave way to their grief, passionately embracing the feet of Christ crucified afresh. The little Nicholas Palace, which formerly belonged to the Chudov Monastery, suffered severely from the attack. From the outside, one peers into great holes in the walls. Inside all is complete devastation. The great mirrors and other furnishings of the palace have been barbarously demolished, cupboards broken into, and their books, deeds, and papers scattered through all the rooms. The Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the palace was pierced by shell and laid waste. The ikonostasis was broken, the Royal Gates forced open by the shock of the explosion, and the curtain rent in twain. Many valuable ikons were stolen. The Law Courts are knocked about, and the cupola of the famous Catherine Hall is pierced by shell. In the rooms of the experts or detectives, the fools of revolutionaries, coming upon the poisoned organs, abortions, etc., had devoured them because they were preserved in spirits! The Nicholas Tower and Gate, where Napoleon, in 1812, broke the ikon of the sainted Prelate Nicholas, but which has remained uninjured since that time, has now been subjected to heavy fire and riddled with shot and shell.

The case covering the ikon of St. Nicholas is ruined; the canopy above the ikon is broken and hangs by a nail. On one side the image of the angel is broken and that on the other side of the image is pierced. The representation of St. Nicholas between has been preserved, but around the head and shoulders there is one continuous pattern of shot holes. At the first glance it seems that there is no ikon, but, on looking more carefully through the dust and rubble, there appears first the stern face of the saint, with a wound on the right temple, and then the whole figure, considered always as the defense of the Holy Kremlin.

The Greatness and the Glory of the Kremlin The Gate of the Saviour was till now honored by traditional custom, where every one who went through, even the foreigner and the pagan, bared his head as a mark of rever-

ence. Now no one enters here and armed guards stand smoking cigarettes, scolding the passers-by, and quarreling among themselves. The famous clock with the musical chimes is shattered. The hands stopped at the moment when a heavy shell broke into the Kremlin wall and left its indelible trail of blood and shame on this hallowed heart of Moscow. One would like, as so many have said, to open the Kremlin gates that all people, not only of Moscow, but of all Russia, might see the ruin of their sacred places. What will wash away all the uncleanness, Russians ask, by which the Russian barbarism directed by the enemy has defiled the Kremlin? It is impossible not to recognize that in the Kremlin are found the history of the art, moral strength, might, greatness, and glory of the Russian land. If ancient Moscow is the heart of all

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A grim monument to the revolutionary sacrilege: furrowed by shells and riddled with shot, this noble edifice, the Church of the Twelve Apostles, presents an even sorrier spectacle within.

St. Nicholas Gate after being subjected to heavy gunfire. The case covering the ikon of St. Nicholas is ruined. The canopy above the ikon is broken and hangs by a thread. The ikon itself, just over the gate, has survived both the guns of Napoleon and of the Bolsheviks. On St. Nicholas’ Day this year it was not only decorated with a garland of fresh flowers, but surrounded by a spiritual wreath of popular fervor.


Russia, then the altar of this heart is the Kremlin.

der how the Kremlin could have been the target of such violence.

A sacrilegious attack upon it could be made only by madmen or by men to whom nothing is holy and who are incapable of understanding (whatever Russia’s future is to be) the significance and importance of this monument of Russian history. It cannot be considered a sufficient reason that the artillery fire directed against the Kremlin had for its object to crush the handful of officers and cadets who were within.

What further struggle and suffering await the Kremlin no one knows. No foreign eyes friendly to Russia remain in Moscow now to see.

Not daring to approach, Bolsheviks searched for them with shell, injuring now the dome of the Cathedral of the Repose, now the Church of the Twelve Apostles, now the Tower of Ivan the Great, now the Chudov Monastery, and so on, in turn, almost to the last church. Alas! This crazy fallacy is characteristic of the self-imposed government. What they did in the Kremlin they are doing today throughout Russia. One would like to believe that, if these men were once Russians, all consciousness of love for their country had been drained out of their hearts before their subservience to the enemies of all that is to a true Russian dear and holy! Now these wounds have been bound up, as far as is possible, by merciful hands, as if bandaged, propped up by splints, and covered with sheets of iron, so that the winter shall not do still greater damage.

The Orthodox Church Rises from the Ruins A seventeenth century tale begins: “What man ever divined that Moscow would become a kingdom?” The twentieth century historian may won14

The violent commotion which is shaking the life of Russia, typified physically by the wrecking of the Kremlin, is finding its first visible reaction in the reorganization of the Russian Church. In the cities, where life courses more rapidly than in the country, the people, or a great part of them, are perceptibly returning to the Church, but in the villages a mental bias, which originated in the cities, amounting to an absolute denial of the Church’s moral and religious teachings, is apparently prevailing. The peasant’s faith is shaken, but the Intelligencia are again kissing the Cross. The manner in which the revolution is affecting the Church, and its consequences with regard to external organization is already sufficiently clear. From the middle of the seventeenth century two opposite paths opened before Russia: the path blazed by St. Serge and the path of Peter the Great. St. Serge’s path led up to statehood in the moral consciousness of Russia. Peter the Great drove Russia into the establishment of an enforced empire held together by autocracy. Peter, in his determination to centralize autocracy in Russia, placed at the head of the Church administration a collegium, to which was given the name of the Holy Governing Synod. This consisted of ecclesiastics of different grades, over whom, by Peter’s decree, the reigning Emperor was instituted supreme civil judge. The Holy

Synod was assisted by the presence of a High Procurator appointed by the Emperor, an official whose duty it was to see that the Synod’s dispositions should conform to the laws of the State and to its interests. The Russian Church has not since that day drawn a free breath. No ordinance of the Synod could be promulgated, unless confirmed by the secular authority. The ecclesiastical members of the Synod were appointed and summoned to take part in its labors by the Emperor alone. When, in 1917, the imperial power was abolished, the Russian Church faced the question of organizing her administration afresh. Under the past imperial régime, the secular element, in the person of the Emperor and of his representative, the High Procurator, assumed a predominance incompatible with the spirit of the canons of the Orthodox Church. There was danger that, as a consequence of the recent revolution, the head of the democracy might as-

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sume a like predominance. The only way out of this menacing situation was to convoke a council, which is the supreme normal organ of Church legislation, administration, and justice. The Council assembled in Moscow on the 15th day of August, 1917. It was opened in the Church of the Falling Asleep (Uspenski Sobor), within the hallowed precincts of the Kremlin. The Metropolitan of Moscow, Tikhon, was elected President; the Vice-Presidents were the two Archbishops—Arsenius, of Novgorod, and Antonius, of Kharkov—and two presbyters, one of whom was Father Nicholas Lubeimov, chief priest of the army and navy, and two laymen—Professor Prince Eugene Troubestskoi and the President of the Duma, M.V. Rodzyanko; later Mr. Alexander Samarin was elected a Vice-President.

“We Wish to Have a Father” The first question to be settled was this: should the Patriarchate be restored? Some of the peasant members spoke energetically to this end, de-

The first All-Russian Council of free Russia: In the Church Council Chamber in Moscow. The Patriarch and the Metropolitans are distinguished by their white cowls in the foreground. The members of the Council represent the national duma, the army and the navy, theological academies, academies of the arts and sciences, and of the universities. It is the most representative party of men assembled in Russia today. The Council’s sessions proceeded calmly, amid the violence and destruction raging on all sides.


claring that such were the instructions from their constituents. One of them said, “We wish to have a father.”

The chapel at the end of the hall in which the Council sits in Moscow. The central figure is Tikhon, the Metropolitan of Moscow, who was elected President of the Sobor and later chosen Patriarch of all Russia. At his right is the Metropolitan of Novgorod and at his left the Metropolitan of Kharkov. From left to right are the Archbishop of Kherson, the Archbishop of Mogilëv, the Archbishop of Grodno, and the Metropolitan of Yaroslav, the Metropolitan of the Caucasus, the Metropolitan of Vladimir, the Archbishop of Tver. In the upper row, from left to right, are the Archbishops of Viatka and Kolonna, and the Bishops of Tchernigov, Kaluga, Olonets, Kamchatka, Smolensk, and Nikolsk. To the left of the Metropolitan of Novgorod are two Vice-Presidents of the Council, Father Lubeimov and Prof. Eugene Troubetskoi.


In Russia’s present condition a declaration from the most numerous class of the Russian people possesses a peculiar weight; but the idea of the restoration was vigorously opposed by a group headed by the liberal professors and by several priests. When, however, a considerable majority declared in favor of the Patriarchate, the opponents received the decision calmly, and most of them set to work heartily to assist in its realization. So the Patriarchate was restored. But it was not restored in the form it had in Russia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In those days the Patriarch was invested with excessive personal power, which did not strictly conform to the spirit of the Orthodox Church. The Council narrowly defined the position of the Patriarch as that of “the first among equals,” on a par with the other organs of the higher Church administration, the Holy Synod, and the

supreme Church Council, of which the Patriarch is president. He is awarded a position much like that occupied by the Patriarch of Constantinople, but with some extension of rights, compared to those given to the latter by the statute of his local Patriarchate.

The Election of the Patriarch The election of the Patriarch took place during the time of the armed conflict in Moscow, when part of the city was cut off from the building in which the Council has its sittings. The election, however, took its perfectly regular course, a sufficient number of members being present. Under strict observance of the rules for elections established by the Council, and with the participation of the members who represented all the Church elements, three candidates were chosen: Tikhon, Metropolitan of Moscow; Arsenius, Archbishop of Novgorod; and Antonius, Archbishop of Kharkov. A few days later a solemn service was celebrated, after which three tickets

bearing the three names were dropped into a special casket. Father Alexis, a holy monk and recluse, vowed to the solitude and absolute silence of the monastery of Zosimov (a dependence of the Troitsa-Sergian Laura), being thereto appointed by the Council, in the presence of the assembled people took out one of the tickets, on which was found to be inscribed the name of Tikhon. As ordained by the Council, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Tikhon was at once proclaimed Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. He represents the new birth of the free Russian Church, the new Father. Two illustrations which accompany this article show the Council of the Sobor in session. At the end of the hall, within the inclosure of the chapel, sit the Patriarch, the Metropolitan, the Archbishops and Bishops, the lay vice-presidents, and the secretaries. In the center sits Tikhon, the Patriarch, President of the Sobor. At his right is the Metropolitan of Novgorod, and just behind him Argafangle, the Metropolitan of Yaroslav, who, by the way, is the Russian Honorary President of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. At the Patriarch’s left are the Metropolitan of Kharkov and the Metropolitan of Kherson, and behind Kharkov are the Metropolitan of the Caucasus and the Metropolitan of Vladimir. They are all wearing the white cowl to distinguish them from the archbishops and bishops. Opposite, facing the prelates, sit the other members of the Council. Speeches are made, not from the floor, but from a rostrum, on the left-hand side of the hall, facing the Assembly. The Council Chamber itself is on the second floor of the building. The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

The entrance hall below is the lobby of the Council, where members walk and talk together, often arm in arm, in animated discussion, and where laymen pause reverently to receive the blessing of Patriarch or Metropolitan. Some of the bishops wear the Cross of St. George for valor on the field. In receiving the blessing a Russian opens his hands and puts them together and the prelate lays his hand in the open hands to be kissed after the blessing.

The Sanest and Most Democratic Assemblage in Russia The Patriarch, accompanied by a single footman, drives daily to the Sobor from his palace in an unpretentious carriage drawn by two black horses. He is often seen giving his blessing from the carriage window as he passes through the street, and there is generally a crowd of people pressing forward to receive his blessing at the door of the Council House. The arrival of the Patriarch at the Sobor at 11 o’clock in the morning marks the opening of the session. The Assembly rises as he enters, “Many Years” is sung, and the House comes to order. Although there are perhaps no conspicuously outstanding and dominant figures in the assembly, it reaches as a whole the highest level of the Russian mind. Here sit men from all districts. It is an all-Russian assembly. There are many strong personalities and many men marked by singularly beautiful and consecrated devotion to their task; nor is there evidence of a desire on the part of any one to dominate, least of all on the part of the Patriarch. I heard no uncommonly stirring speechmakers, but a good deal of clear, 17

cogent statement. It is because there is nothing noisy or spectacular about the Council that it evokes profound respect as the sanest and most democratic, as well as the most spiritual, body of men now assembled in Russia. In contract to the picture Titian has left us of the Council of Trent, all the sittings are open to the public. So republican is the Sobor in its character that visitors who happened to be present when these photographs were taken were requested not to leave the hall. I have had the advantage of knowing the Patriarch and many members of the Sobor and acquiring, in intimate relationships, a knowledge of their hopes for Russia. The election of the Patriarch is the first act of constitutional Russia. It has a precedent in the history of the Russian Church. Although not foreseen by the canons, a similar example may be cited in the election of the Apostle Matthias, of which we read in the Acts. This manner of election answers to Russian ideals, and powerfully contributed to the joyful acknowledgment of the Most Multitudes in the Procession of the Parishes on St. Nicholas’ Day in the Red Square in Moscow, May, 1918. The Bolsheviks know that their aims can be realized only on the ruins of the faith. The day had purposely been declared by the government to be a work day, but thousands came walking under the banner of the cross to the sound of Easter hymns.


Holy Patriarch Tikhon as the person indicated by the will of God.

The New Patriarch Formerly Lived in America The man chosen to this high and responsible service is 54 years of age. In the world he was called Vasili Ivanovich Bellavin. He was born in the town of Toropetz, in the Government of Pskov, where his father was a priest. He was educated in the Church school of his native town, and later in the Ecclesiastical Academy of Petrograd. On leaving the Academy he was appointed master of dogmatic and moral theology in the Seminary of Pskov. In the capacity of teacher, he knew how to interest his pupils by his excellent method of instruction. In 1891, while carrying on his work, he became a monk. During the next year, 1892, he was named Inspector, and soon after Rector, of the Seminary of Kholm. In 1897, on being consecrated Bishop, he was elevated to the See of Lyublin, and in 1898, it is interesting for Americans to recall, he was translated to the

North American diocese. In America he won universal respect and took an active part in the organization of the Russian Church in North America. It was in his time that the Episcopal See was transferred from San Francisco to New York. From America he was translated to Yaroslav in 1907. The people of Yaroslav fully appreciated the goodness of their Bishop and elected him an honorary citizen of the town. After his translation to the See of Vilna (also in 1907) Bishop Tikhon, in his generosity, made many gifts to various charitable institutions. He remained in Vilna until 1917, when he was called to Moscow. Wherever in the Province of God he has exercised his episcopate, Bishop Tikhon has proved to be exceptional in his simplicity, wide benevolence, and purely Christian character. A gentle, strong, learned man, he has written little. He has been rather a practical church worker, an accessible leader. He compares with the Patriarch Phillip, murdered under John the Terrible, and with Cranmer in England. It is therefore a great consolation for the Russian Church that, in these hard years of the life of the people, such a prelate should have appeared at the head of the government of the Church.

The Patriarch’s Way Carpeted with Golden Flowers

group of the faithful were waiting for the coming of the Patriarch to say the Liturgy. In place of the usual carpet spread for his entrance to a church, some one, just before he came, simply scattered dandelions in flower from the fields. In the sunlight the broken steps suddenly became paved with gold and malachite. A delighted smile touched the face of the Patriarch, and one seemed to see in his anxious eyes a belief that in these spring flowers in the midst of all Russia’s woe grew the symbol of new life for the Holy Church. When the question of the Patriarchate had been settled, the Council proceeded to organize a system of Church administration, ordering that periodical councils should be held in the future.

The consecration of the Patriarch in the Kremlin was the first free act of the Church there after the fierce artillery fire of the Bolsheviks upon the Holy Places.

An important matter decided by the Sobor before its Easter adjournment was the reorganization of parishes. The Sobor restored to the parish much of the independence which it had enjoyed in ancient times, but which had been lost in the growth of bureaucratic centralization.

At the door of the Chudov Monastery, on St. Alexis’ day of this year, a little

The Sobor was also obliged to provide answers to many social problems. The

The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

His Holiness Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The new head of the Russian Church was at one time Bishop of the North American Diocese. It was in his time that the Episcopal See was transferred from San Francisco to New York. He was the head of the Russian Church in this country from 1898 to 1907. A man of gentleness and strength, he focuses the forces of spiritual enlightenment in Russia.


The Patriarch in the streets of Petrograd, May, 1918. The Russian masses will never believe that the return to the Church means the revival of political and social oppression. They never confuse the eternal principles on which the Church rests with the passing political or social conditions.

Sobor and the Patriarch addressed epistles to the clergy, the people, and the army, to strengthen their spirit against the growth of pernicious influences from without, poisoning the life of the nation.

The Patriarch in solemn procession, preceded by the Archdeacon Rosov, the Chaliapine of the Russian Church, and accompanied by other prelates.

The actions of the revolutionary government, directed against the position and rights of the Church, met with the Sobor’s resistance. The latter body protested against the confiscation of the parish primary schools and the schools which prepared for the priesthood; against the abolition of Scripture study in all schools; and against the abolition of Church rights of property.

The measures just mentioned, as contrary to the proclaimed principle of separation of Church and State, were considered by the Sobor as being acts of tyranny against the Church. However, it was the Patriarch, and not the Sobor, who played the most important part in the general movement for the defense of Church rights. His fearless epistles, addressed to the people, explaining the true significance of the measures adopted against the Church by the present rulers of the country, call upon the people to defend their faith and excommunicate the authors of the persecution. The Sobor upheld the Patriarch’s authority as a representative of the Church in its relations with the outside world. It was a source of inestimable comfort to the devoted that the people ardently responded to the Patriarch’s call and by peaceful mass demonstrations of their religious sentiments largely succeeded in putting a stop to the open campaign started against the Church.


The Church Problem in the Ukraine

deficiency of which it often compensated.

In connection with the Ukrainian separatist movement, a group of Ukrainian public men raised the question of the separation of the Church of the Ukraines from that of Russia. It was decided to summon a special Ukrainian Church Council. As Regional Councils are provided for by the organization of the Russian Church, the Moscow Sobor did not protest against the summoning of a Sobor at Kiev, and the Patriarch sent his representative to Kiev with a message of greeting.

Let there be no misgiving; the Church has aided Russia in every crisis. The Church which even in the nineteenth century produced such shining lights as St. Seraphim of Sarov and Father John of Kronstadt, besides hosts of others, that Church is sure to foster and develop its inner life, now that better conditions of external organization are secured.

While the civil war which broke out in Kiev interrupted the work of the Sobor, tendencies were disclosed of a more moderate character than those advocated by the supporters of a complete separation from the Russian Church.

In the present moment of confusion in Russia the Church is the only institution which stands on its feet. May not the example of the Sobor well pave the way in due time for a similar triumphant reconstruction of the Russian body politic?

The Patriarch on his first visit to Petrograd entering the Cathedral of St. Isaac’s. Each new manifestation of popular feeling and of the faith of the people indicates the great spiritual change which is taking place at the present time in Russia.

In the midst of the trials besetting the Russian people, mainly through their own guilt, the Church proves its vitality. It is now reconstructing its outer forms, which had greatly deteriorated during the past from the Orthodox Church order. But outward forms are not vital; inner life is of far greater import. That source of the inner life never ran dry in the Russian Church, in spite of the numerous defects of its outward forms, for the

Thomas Whittemore (1871–1950) was an American archaeologist and art historian specializing in Egyptian and Byzantine art. During World War I, he joined the Red Cross, became involved in efforts to aid Russian refugees, and immersed himself in Russian culture. Later, in the 1930s, he was instrumental in persuading Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to convert Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum and in uncovering the building’s Christian mosaics.

The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

© 2017 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use.



St. Elizabeth the New Martyr: The Quest to Restore the Order of Deaconesses Elena B. and Nadezhda A. Beliakova

St. Elizabeth Fyodorovna (1864–1918) occupies a special place in Russian history. In 1884, Princess Elizabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, who was known as Ella, married Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, brother of the Russian Emperor Alexander III. She was the second child of Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse, and his first wife, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom. Princess Ella was raised in a deeply Christian tradition of serving people. After seven years of marriage, Elizabeth converted to Orthodox Christianity. It was a carefully considered step for her. In 1892, she established the Elizabeth Society—a charity to help children of poor mothers—and very soon branches of the Society were established in 224 Moscow parishes. Elizabeth also headed the Women’s Committee of the Red Cross, and after the beginning of Russo-Japanese War she organized the Special Committee to Assist Soldiers. In 1905, Elizabeth’s husband was assassinated. Four years later, she sold all her jewelry to fund the opening of the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary in Moscow on February 10, 1909. The convent had a dual purpose, focusing on spiritual growth 22

and charity. In his memoirs, Elizabeth’s brother Ernest wrote that she had noticed that Russian nuns did little besides needlework, while nurses were often so uninhibited that many people regarded them negatively. This was why she decided to establish something between a monastery and a community of sisters of mercy. At the same time, Elizabeth became very familiar with the activities of Western European deaconesses. The Russian church press was also covering this topic. In January 1906, Tsar Nicholas II authorized a Preconciliar Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church to discuss necessary church reforms. A presentation made by Archpriest A. P. Maltsev, rector of the Orthodox Cathedral in Berlin, was titled, “Our Mission Abroad Including the Order of Deaconesses.” In his presentation, Maltsev spoke in detail about how priests in Switzerland, Norway, Austria, England, Italy, and Greece served the poorest and how they organized shelters and schools. He also informed the Commission about the charitable work of deaconesses, who belonged to different social classes and were not bound by monastic vows, noting that “it would be highly desirable to restore this forgotten but very useful institution [in the Russian Church].”

Another call for the restoration of the ancient ecclesiastical rank of deaconesses came from Mother Catherine (Countess Efimovskaya, 1850–1925), abbess of Lesna Monastery. The Lesna community had been established in Siedlce Province in western Russia (now Poland) in 1884 by Archbishop Leonty in order to strengthen Orthodoxy in an area dominated by Greek Catholics. Mother Catherine was an energetic and talented woman with a medical degree. She and her nurses of mercy cared for sick peasants, and organized an orphanage and a school for children of all faiths. Mother Catherine believed that deaconesses could play an important role in society and that a number of social problems could be solved with their help. Furthermore, she thought that orders of deaconesses could attract educated women who otherwise would not be interested in joining a monastic community. In her 1905 memorandum on the foundation of a community of women deacons, she wrote: Due to the common belief that monasticism is a strictly egocentric life aimed at individual salvation through fasting and prayer, it is completely alienated from the world. Our monasteries do not meet the high aspirations of educated Christian women who want to dedicate their lives to helping people, so they are usually completely filled with uneducated common girls. Many of them simply seek improvement of their material being or social status. The few intellectual women who do join monasteries for some special reason become completely lost for the mission of educating others and have no influence on society. Women could join the Lesna community for a certain period after which The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

they would decide whether to stay or leave. All of them went through both medical and religious training.

St. Elizabeth the New Martyr.

The Typikon of the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary was written by its confessor, Mitrofan Srebryansky. Due to Elizabeth’s reputation, the convent grew rapidly and soon it opened up new charitable institutions. In her 1910 report, Elizabeth wrote: Every kind of charity we undertook arose as an answer to calls for assistance from the poor, the sick, and the helpless. Some calls required visits to people’s homes in order to see firsthand the extent of their need and estimate what should be done in order to help; others had to be treated for diseases and hunger; still others had to be saved from horrible living conditions in order to enable them 23

to get stronger morally and learn basic literacy and things that every Orthodox Christian ought to know. While coming to these needy with all possible assistance, the monastery has been gradually expanding its medicinal, educational, and compassionate services. . . . Our sisters visit needy people not only for the sake of observing their poverty, sometimes blatant and terrible, but also from the desire to provide fraternal comfort and to embrace the poor, the sick, and the helpless, following the example of the holy Myrrhbearers and the holy deaconesses who would come to the suffering and sinners, bringing them the joy of the Holy Gospel. . . . In Moscow alone there are about 100,000 needy families, and up to 40,000 children in need of help. . . . That is why these visits are becoming an internal mission, to which our sisters have avowed themselves, devoting themselves to serving the Lord and the Holy Church. To find a perishing soul and help its salvation is a great deed of Christian benevolence and a true image of Christianity. Thus, the modes of charity and assistance that were practiced by the sisters of the convent originated from a deep understanding of the reality of life in Russia. Elizabeth observed the contrast between the beauty of the Orthodox tradition and the detachment of the Orthodox world from the grief and distress of others, and this fuelled her desire to find adequate ways to serve all those in need. The sisters of the convent wore special habits and were tonsured as “Sisters of the Cross” in a rite designed by Bishop Tryphon of Dmitrov (Prince Boris Petrovich, Grand Duke of Turkestan). On April 10, 1910, Elizabeth became 24

an abbess, after which she asked the Synod of the Russian Church, on behalf of the convent, to grant the sisters the official title of “Sister-Deaconesses.” She was well aware that the status of the monastery relied only on her authority, and so she wanted to secure its legitimacy, writing in a letter dated January 1, 1912, that “this order should be a specific part of the Church structure; otherwise it will fluctuate and, after my death, who knows? It might be transformed into a traditional Orthodox monastery or community.” Predictably, some members of the clergy accused her of Protestantism. However, Metropolitan Vladimir of Moscow supported Eliz abeth and filed a petition to the Synod asking it to award the title of “Deaconess” to the sisters of the convent. It should be noted in passing that Elizabeth was against the restoration of the liturgical function of deaconesses that existed in the early church because, as she put it in an explanatory note on the purpose of the convent: “The conditions of Church life have changed. The consecration of the ancient deaconesses was necessitated by their participation in the baptism of adult women, the announcement of the baptized, and the old ritual of Communion, when a woman could enter the altar area. Today, this is no longer needed, but there is a need to preach the Christian faith and help others following the example of the ancient diaconate on behalf of the Church and for the sake of Christ.” The Typikon of the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary was sent for review to the church historian Alexey Afanasievich Dmitrievsky and canonist Ilya Stepanovich Berdnikov. In his letter to Elizabeth, Professor Dmitrievsky wrote: “On the basis of a care-

ful study of the Church’s canons and ancient Christian liturgical practice, I have come to the conclusion that the restoration of the order of deaconesses would not contradict Orthodoxy and is desirable in the interests of modern life. Moreover, based on the canons, Your Highness, I . . . agree with your classification of deaconesses: (1) deaconess-sisters are not part of the clergy and can leave the community and even marry, and (2) deaconesses in the proper sense belong to the clergy and receive ordination.” In her response, Elizabeth explained to Dmitrievsky her preference for deaconess-sisters: To tell you the truth, I do not stand for the second form. It’s not a good time to give women the right to participate in the clergy; humility is achieved with difficulty, and the participation of women in the clergy could bring instability. Wasn’t it already an issue (in ancient times) that they had a liturgical role in the administration of baptism? I also know for sure that the question of the restoration of deaconesses got many church people confused by the idea of their ordination and participation in the clergy, while the essence of the matter remains the same: deaconess-sisters do the same mercy work as ordained deaconesses. When I showed our Typikon to many people, including the Church hierarchy, they all approved it for the reason that deaconesses would not be part of clergy and, instead of ordination, would receive the mantle. And in fact, after many years of serving the needy under the direction and the cover of the Church, it is gratifying to be able to dedicate the last years of one’s life to the ascetic feat of praying, away from the The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

madding crowd. . . . If, however, the future Council of the Russian Church recognizes the need to restore the order of deaconesses in full, I, as a loyal daughter of the Church, will be ready to obey. In his report “On Deaconesses” prepared for the Holy Synod, Dmitrievsky argued for the importance of a complete restoration of the ancient ecclesiastical rank of female deacons. He believed that deaconesses should be ordained only after they had reached forty years of age. The cheirotonia (laying on of hands) should take place in accordance with early Christian manuscripts that describe the ordination rite for deaconesses in which, at the end of the rite, a female deacon received the deaconess’ stole as a sign of her ecclesiastical rank: “Having overcome longtime temptations, they should be elected for all senior positions in the monastery, carry monastic obedience serving the clergy in the church and the altar area, and—as faithful and honest women— be trusted to superintend deaconesses of the first category.” Dmitrievsky believed that “the institution of female deacons would free those who decide to join monastic communities from arduous monastic vows that require severe feats of self-denial and self-restraint with the obligation not to eat animal food even on the days permitted by the Church. All this certainly would ensure institutional vitality and its growth, especially among Orthodox intellectuals.” The decision of the Synod was not favorable, however. On November 9, 1911, the Synod declared that “the sisters of the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary who have already been ordained as deaconesses for life may keep their titles. . . . The question of the restoration of the ancient wom25

Cathedral of the Holy Protection in the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary.

en’s ministry in the Orthodox Church should be decided at the forthcoming Local Council of the Orthodox Church.” This idea belonged to Metropolitan Anthony (Vadkovsky) while Bishop Hermogenes (Dolganev) declared the decision of the Synod to be contrary to the canons. The matter was referred to the Emperor, Nicholas II, who issued the following resolution: “We fully agree with the dissenting opinion of Metropolitan Anthony of St. Petersburg.” This setback did not discourage Elizabeth. Her community continued its multifaceted activities, including the publication of children’s books, illustrated books for adults, and postcards. Elizabeth was personally involved in these publications. During the First World War, Elizabeth and the sisters actively helped the wounded and prisoners. The Local Council of the Orthodox Church opened in August 1917, and the question of deaconesses was on the agenda prepared by the Department of Church Discipline. The Chair26

man of the Department, Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky), prepared a report on the restoration of the ecclesiastical rank of deaconesses. In January 1918, however, he was martyred by unidentified Bolshevik gunmen, and so the members of the Department considered his report as a testament of the slain. In his report, Metropolitan Vladimir reminded the Council about the nurseries and communities (the houses of virgins and homes of deaconesses) of the ancient universal Church—for example, the abode of widows and virgins on the Aventine Hill in Rome that was established by St. Paula and spiritually guided by St. Jerome. And now here, in this ancient capital, we find a similar convent of mercy founded and directed by one of those chosen ones who, from royal palaces, condescended by the sorrowful path of the Cross to humble ascetic cells, and dedicated herself to God. I am referring to the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary, which operates according to a special semi-monastic Typikon under

the leadership of the Metropolitan of Moscow. Kindhearted Russian Orthodox women and girls are gathered there. They have decided to devote their lives to the Church, to bring mercy and grace to the bodies and souls of others. Spending their time in a monastic manner, working, praying, and learning the Word of God, these sisters appear everywhere there is sorrow and sickness, misery and woe, poverty, need, and deprivation. They come in the name of Christ as silent angels of mercy and offer all possible help and words of comfort. O Lord, let such institutions multiply and develop in other areas of our suffering Russia. Such communities could be excellent training institutions to prepare experienced and trustworthy deaconesses who, after reaching the age of forty, would serve in our parishes not only as assistants to the shepherds of the Church, but also in missionary, educational, and charitable capacities. Even though we know from church history that in ancient times deaconesses mostly served as members of the clergy, we also know that the nature of women’s ministry has always conformed to the needs of the Church in each historical period. The Department of Church Discipline continued to consider the establishment of the ecclesiastical rank of deaconesses not only after the death of its president, but also after the arrest and subsequent martyrdom of Elizabeth in July 1918. A report on the restoration of the ecclesiastical rank of deaconess was prepared by the department based on the Typikon of the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary, but it was never submitted to the Council, because the Bolsheviks forced it to cease its work. The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

Despite this, the legacy of Elizabeth has survived. In the times of terror launched by the Bolsheviks after the 1917 revolution, women secretly practiced Christian ministry. While conducting research in the archives of the Soviet secret police, the historian Nina Pavlovna Zimina discovered a document of “Provisions on Deaconesses,” composed in Ufa. Zimina has established that, in the 1920s, small groups of deaconesses in Tashkent and Ufa—probably ordained by Bishop Andrew of Ufa— assisted prisoners of the Gulag. In 1918, in Moscow, women from different parishes formed an organization to coordinate their charitable work: “Often we do not know what is going on in a nearby parish and do not use the good experience of others or we repeat their mistakes.” Seventeen women signed a petition to the Council of the United Parishes in Moscow appealing for approval of a Union of Orthodox Women that would consolidate the efforts of women from different parishes. It was granted and the official launch of the union took place in the Cathedral Chamber of the Diocesan House on June 24, 1918. The chairman of the council, Alexander Dmitrievich Samarin, delivered a welcome speech, which was followed by a presentation by council members P. I. Astrov and M. N. Krivoblotskaya. The goals of the union were explained by Krivoblotskaya, who told those gathered that the idea for its establishment came from the female students of the priest A. M. Ivanntsev-Platonov. She believed that women should carry out their work under the guidance of their priests, and their activities should be imbued with a spirit of meekness, love, and humility, without any sign of political struggle or condemnation even if such were justified. Mu27

tual relations of the members of the Union had to be based on principles of sisterhood, including equality of all members regardless of social, financial, and educational status. Another important presentation was made by S. D. Samarina. She proposed to establish departments within the union: one for gathering data on women’s work in parishes; another for the education of children; a Department for the Religious and Moral Education of Women; a Library Department; a Department for the Assistance of the Needy; a Department for Assistance to Prisoners of Faith; and a Department for the Breeding of Silkworms, “which is easy to do on church properties in order to earn money using the high demand for silk cocoons.” © 2017 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use.

A document issued by Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and the Supreme Church Council, dated April 24–May 7, 1919, indicates that the Department

for Assistance to Prisoners was by then already operating: “Heard: The report of the Union of Orthodox Women in Moscow on the activities of the Department for Assistance to Prisoners from 16 July, 1918, to date. The Department has provided assistance to prisoners in the form of money, food, clothing, and books. Concluded: To express official gratitude to the Department of the Union of Orthodox Women. Signatures: Tikhon, Arseny, Cyril, Eusebius, N. Lyubimov, P. Mirtov, Prot. A. Stanislavsky, P. Kuleshov.” Today, as Russia faces numerous social issues, while the number of new women’s monasteries grows and others are being refurbished, the legacy of St. Elizabeth is as important as ever. Whether these monasteries will take a path of sacrificial service to the needy or will again encounter insurmountable obstacles remains an open question.

Nadezhda A. Beliakova is a senior researcher at the Center of Religion and Church Studies at the Institute of Global History (Russian Academy of Sciences) and an associate professor in the Department of Theology at National Research Nuclear University. Her academic interests include daily church life in the USSR, religious aspects of the Cold War, and the role of women in the history of the church. She has authored or coauthored books on the relationships between Christian churches and Communism, on women in evangelical communities in the USSR, and on women in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the twentieth century. Elena B. Beliakova is a lead researcher at the Center for the History of Religion and the Church at the Institute of Russian History (Russian Academy of Sciences) and a professor of church history at Moscow State University and St. Philaret Theological Institute. She specializes in canon law and the history of Russian Orthodox Church, and has authored monographs on Russian canon law, church jurisdiction, issues of discipline related to the Moscow Council of 1917–18, and the status and rights of women in the Russian Church.



Composition and Procedural Decision-Making at the Moscow Council: Implementation of a Conciliar Ecclesiology Hyacinthe Destivelle Translated by Michael Berrigan Clark

Initial reflection on the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church that met last June in Crete has focused largely on its documents and very little on its procedural functioning. Local churches, however, raised numerous questions concerning the ordering of the council in order to justify their withdrawal or requests for postponement. These questions focused on the composition, decision-making procedures, and working methods of the council: why was the representation of local churches limited (the official order of the council specified that each church would be represented by an equal delegation consisting of the primate and 24 bishops)? Why hadn’t all the bishops of every local Orthodox church been invited? Why were the bishops deprived of the right to vote (the official order specified that the vote was to be by unanimous consent of every local church, not of every bishop)? Was it obligatory to maintain the principle of unanimous decisionmaking or could a majority vote be introduced? Was it right that the official order and agenda of the council had been fixed in advance? And so forth. Such questions clearly show that the problem of conciliar decision-making The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

was tightly bound with that of the council’s composition. They indicate especially that these issues were not only procedural but also ecclesiological. Identical questions arose during the preparation for the Local Council of Moscow of 1917–18. The following reflection has no other ambition than to recall the great principles of the original procedural order of that council, principles that were inspired by the idea of conciliarity.1 It is generally remembered that this council restored the patriarchate. But this restoration of the principle of primacy is inseparable from the idea of conciliarity at every level of the Church, in accordance with the ideal of sobornost’ promoted by the Slavophiles. This conciliarity was supposed to be reflected in the composition and the procedural decision-making of the council itself. This is why the discussion of composition and procedural decision-making of the future council held such a major place in the pre-conciliar debates. Questions concerning the participation by non-bishops, and the modality of such participation, dominated the discussions of the Preconciliar Commission of 1906. For the Slavophiles, 29

1 See Hyacinthe Destivelle, The Moscow Council (1917–1918): The Creation of the Conciliar Institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church, ed. Michael Plekon and Vitaly Permiakov, trans. Jerry Ryan (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015), 35–45, 53–62.

the council should be not merely an assembly of bishops but rather the representation of the whole Church. Everyone agreed to the inclusion of laity and clergy, but a majority interpreted sobornost’ in an “episcopal” fashion, granting to clergy and laity only a consulting role, while a “democratic” minority was in favor of their full deliberative participation. A via media between these two conceptions that one might call “charismatic” attempted to articulate the unique charism of each: bishops, clergy, and laity. It was the role of the Preconciliar Assembly to prepare the “Order for Convocation of the Council.” This Order was approved by the Holy Synod and published July 5/18, 1917. It distinguished several types of members: the ex officio members (in particular, all the functioning bishops), the invited members, and the elected members. Each of the sixty-five dioceses was to send its bishop and five elected delegates: two clergy and three lay delegates. Of the two elected clergy delegates, one had to be of priestly rank while the other could be a bishop (auxiliary or retired), priest, deacon, or cantor. This arrangement made for an equal balance of clergy and laity for each diocese: three members of the clergy (including one or two bishops) and three of the laity. Furthermore, a certain number of institutions (such as monasteries, army, ecclesiastical academies, and the Duma and State Council) each had the right to a certain number of representatives, as did the Oriental Orthodox patriarchates and other autocephalous Orthodox Churches. As a result of this convocation procedure, the council formed an assembly of 564 persons, of which the great majority was elected. In total, there were 156 ex officio members and 434 elected members. Laity formed a majority,


with 299 lay members and 264 clergy (of all ranks). Among the clergy, bishops constituted a minority: 79 clerics were of episcopal rank, as compared with 195 who were not (including 149 priests). Furthermore, members of the “white clergy” were in the majority: there were 165 members of the secular clergy for 99 members of the “black clergy” (which included only 20 monks, to which number the 79 bishops must be added). The singular feature of the council’s composition was the importance of lay representation. This was one of the fruits of 19th- and 20th-century theological reflection on sobornost’, though the influence of the democratic spirit of the era should not be overlooked. The real originality of the council, nevertheless, must be seen in light of its decision-making procedure. On August 11/24, 1917, the Holy Synod approved the proposed Order of the Council prepared by the Preconciliar Assembly. Contrary to the Council Order proposed by the Preconciliar Commission of 1906, the Order of August 11/24, 1917 gave to the lesser clergy and laity a full deliberative voice, not merely a consultative one. Why such a change? Without a doubt, this can be attributed to the increasingly threatening circumstances faced by the church, a church that needed the support and help of everyone. Such a decision allowed for the positive response to Slavophile aspirations, but also helped remedy the isolated position of the Russian clergy and satisfied some of the pro-democracy pressures. In fact, while granting voting privileges to lesser clergy and laity, the Council Order reserved for the bishops in conference the duty of confirming the decisions taken by the General Assembly. The Order distinguished in the council two types of assembly: the

General Assembly, which comprised all the members of the council (including bishops), and the Conference of Bishops, which included all the bishops taking part in the council. Only sitting bishops were ex officio members of the council, but auxiliary or retired bishops could be invited by the council or elected by diocesan assemblies, thus becoming full members of the council and of the Conference of Bishops. This distinction of two “chambers” allowed for a procedure that balanced the vote of laity and non-episcopal clergy.

Afterwards, following a particularly ingenious procedure, the decisions of the General Assembly were submitted to the Conference of Bishops. If, after a three day period of consideration, the Conference of Bishops rejected the decision, partially or in its entirety, the decision would be sent back for examination by the General Assembly. If once again, after this second examination, the Conference of Bishops were to reject the decision, the decision would not have conciliar force. This procedure, while guaranteeing unanimity of decision-making, preserved episcopal supremacy over the decisions of the General Assembly by granting veto power to the Conference of Bishops.

Assembly, not propose amendments. In addition, a three quarters majority of the bishops present was needed. Thirdly, the bishops could only reject decisions adopting “general laws or fundamental principles.” They could not block minor decisions of an administrative nature—nominations, for example. Furthermore, the basis of the rejection could only be incompatibility with “the Word of God, the dogmas, the canons, and the tradition of the Church.” Finally, in order to avoid juridical uncertainty, the right of veto could only be exercised during the session of the Assembly and in the three days following the examination of the text. The decisions of the council were thus defined by the singular acts accomplished by the General Assembly with the Conference of Bishops. This original procedure, inaugurated in 1917 through the careful balancing of the two entities, guaranteed the moderation of decisions and a climate of peace among the diverse members and tendencies of the council. The counterbalance of the two assemblies, far from neutralizing either one, allowed for ever closer collaboration as the communal revolutionary menace weighed heavily on the proceedings.

Nevertheless, this right of the bishops was very strictly framed. Firstly, the bishops could only accept or reject the decision adopted by the General

One should not, however, betray the originality and distinctive nature of the Order by reducing it purely and simply to a “bicameral” parliamen-

Initially, all questions had to pass through the General Assembly, where decisions were made based on an absolute majority of votes, bishops and laity having the same weight. Issues submitted could be proposed either by the Holy Synod, by the Commissions, or by the request of any member of the council signed by at least thirty of its members.

The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

Moscow Council of 1917–18.


tary regime. Indeed, in a truly bicameral system, each assembly has its own unique membership, and they meet separately. In the case of disagreement, inter-parliamentary commissions are tasked with formulating compromises to be reviewed by both assemblies. In its strictest sense, the right of veto is exercised by a person or persons exterior to the assembly that made the decision. Nothing of the sort can be found in the Order of 1917. In fact, the Conference of Bishops was not exactly a second assembly at all since its members were also members of the General Assembly, where they could influence the decision-making with their voices and their votes. Article 1 of the Convocation of July 5/18, 1906, affirmed that the council was composed of “bishops, priests, and laypeople.” Thus the council was a single ecclesial body whose bishops could simultaneously guide and control the legislative process.

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The procedure of the Council of Moscow of 1917–18, by which it granted a deliberative voice to all its members—reserving to the bishops, sitting in conference, the task of confirming the decisions adopted by the plenary assembly—was certainly its most original aspect. It was a particularly ingenious procedure thanks to which the council functioned efficiently and

adopted balanced decisions, articulating the authority of the patriarch, the bishops, and all the faithful. From an ecclesiological perspective, the Council of Moscow anticipated in an astonishing way ecumenical declarations made 10 years later, during the first Faith and Order Conference at Lausanne in 1927, interpreting the authority of the one, the few, and the multitude: “In the constitution of the primitive Church, one finds episcopal care, the council of the elders, and the community of the faithful. Each of these three systems of ecclesiastical organization (episcopal, presbyterian, and congregational) was accepted for centuries in the past and is still practiced today by important portions of the Church. Consequently we believe that, under certain circumstances to be specified later, all three should take their place simultaneously in the organization of the reunited Church.” One can hope that the Order of the Council of Moscow of 1917–18, less in its concrete details than in its spirit, might inspire the current synodal practice of our churches in their efforts to articulate the three principles—the authority of the one, the few, and the multitude—as formulated by the Lausanne Conference. This would certainly be a determining factor in their coming together.

Hyacinthe Destivelle, OP, is a member of the Vatican Council for Christian Unity. A graduate of St. Petersburg Theological Academy, he holds a doctoral degree in theology and philosophy from the Sorbonne, the Catholic Institute of Paris, and St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute. He is former director of the Istina Research Center in Paris and editor of its journal, and is a member of the Joint Committee for Catholic–Orthodox Theological Dialogue in France.



Ecclesiological Insights on the Moscow Council of 1917–18 Christophe D’Aloisio For the great majority of Orthodox Russians who found themselves in exile after the Bolshevik Revolution, but remained committed to the life of the church, the Moscow Council of 1917–18 appeared as a heavenly gift granted to the Church in Russia before a long time of tribulation. And so it surely was. But this council was not a gift only to the Church of Russia and those churches subject to it at the time: it was relevant for the whole Church, although it was, strictly speaking, a regional council. Because of the political situation in Russia, the work of the council could not be completed, but its method—its preparation, constituency, and decision-making processes—as well as its decrees should certainly be considered to have left a universal legacy for all Christians, especially for the Orthodox. Within the framework of Eastern Orthodoxy, although every church should convoke ordinary councils on a regular basis, extraordinary councils are held only when the Church is confronted with a catholic problem—that is, a problem which is so grave that the life of the Church cannot continue normally. This means that an extraordinary council is a moment of re-evaluation, clarification, and possibly reformation of church life. Contemporary extraordinary councils should always be oriented to a positive understanding of church reform and held in a spirit of humility towards the world The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

which the Church is called to serve, not to dominate. Being faithful to the Fathers, as all church councils aim to be, means being devoted to the apostolic faith and being creative at the same time. This was the attitude of those who participated in the uncompleted regional Moscow Council of 1917–18. This extraordinary assembly proved to be an essential step on the path towards a more theological understanding of the Church, opening the way for a more fruitful dialogue between the Orthodox Church in her historical context and the modern world. Indeed, the 20th century was to be a turning point in the history of almost all Christian communities toward a more theological understanding of the Church, and the Moscow Council was a first and important part of this movement. Before the generation of theologians which included Sergei Bulgakov, Nicholas Afanasiev, and Georges Florovsky, studying the Church meant describing it merely as a juridical body, not as the sacrament of Christ’s epiphany, as they came to speak of it. These theologians, as well as the whole Paris School, were directly linked with the reception of the Moscow Council. In what follows, I intend neither to assess the documents issued by the Council of 1917–18, nor to provide a comprehensive analysis of the history 33


See my articles: “Le ‘Grand Concile Panorthodoxe’: Théologie et politique,” Études 4228 (June 2016): 65–77; and “Authenticité et autorité du futur concile général de l’Église orthodoxe,” in Autorité et pouvoir dans l’agir pastoral, ed. Arnaud Join-Lambert, Axel Liégeois and Catherine Chevalier (Brussels: Lumen Vitae, 2016), 337–351.

of this unique event in the life of the Church. Rather, I will confine myself to discerning the status of this event and its potential value for the entire Orthodox Church, beyond its reception by the Church of Russia alone. I will engage specifically the theology of Nicholas Afanasiev (1893–1966), who was certainly the most influential Orthodox ecclesiologist of the past century but whose work is still not well known in the Orthodox Church. Afanasiev, a prominent theologian of the Orthodox theological Paris School, is generally considered to have been very critical, if not wholly negative, toward the Moscow Council. I will argue that there is no ground for such an assessment of Afanasiev’s reception of the council: on the contrary, he allows theologians to distinguish between ecclesiological principles and palliative responses to the Church’s historical weaknesses. This article therefore seeks not to contribute another historical assessment of the Moscow Council, but rather to examine some ecclesiological principles which were dear to Afanasiev and his followers and are useful tools for today.

A Council Relevant for the Entire Church Before we begin to identify how the Moscow Council might bear fruit for the entire Church, it is necessary to reflect on the reach of this council and on the nature of councils themselves. A church council, whether it is a large gathering or a simple local council, always has the potential to be of universal ecclesiological value. This principle can be established, for example, from the account of the apostolic council in Acts 15: its authority certainly cannot be reckoned to depend on numbers or universalist intentionality, but its teaching is universally binding in church tradition. From this, we may deduce that the reach of any church 34

council dealing with issues of a catholic nature is, at least potentially, the whole Church. In light of this, we should note that an authentic Orthodox ecclesiology cannot but exclude the concept of the “Pan-Orthodox council” as a separately defined category of church assembly. As I have argued elsewhere, neither the Church nor its orthodoxy are quantitative units which can simply be added together.1 There are no incomplete local orthodoxies which can combined into a hypothetical “Pan-Orthodoxy.” This further implies that there can be no distinction between properly “local” and properly “Pan-Orthodox” business, and the business of local councils cannot therefore be excluded from wider discussion. The Council of 1917–18 was a gathering on a large scale, an event of unprecedented dimension in modern church history. It is sometimes referred to as the “All-Russian Council,” although this appellation is apt to be misunderstood today since, volente o nolente, the delegates to the 1917 council were not all members of what is today called the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian Empire had conquered territories outside the borders of the autocephalous Church of Russia and the council gathered participants from across the imperial territories, which fall today within the Patriarchates of Moscow and Georgia and the territories of the Churches of Poland, Estonia, and Finland. There were also delegates from Japan and the U.S. In this respect, the constituency of the assembly exceeded what we would expect of an assembly of the Church of Russia today. The diversity of the council’s membership enriched its debates and the sense of responsibility towards a large portion of Christ’s Church. With the collapse of the Russian Empire and the emergence of the USSR,

the decisions which were the fruits of the Moscow Council could not really be implemented. Outside Russia, some communities were founded in accordance with the most important principles for church life renewed by the council, especially a participatory understanding of church administration. The most obvious examples here are the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and the Archdiocese of Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe, also known as “the Exarchate,” whose administration is based in Paris. We can see, therefore, that this council did have impact in a broader context than that of the Church in Russia and its neighboring countries. Perhaps the reason why the uncompleted Moscow Council bore fruit outside its national context may be found in the fact that the Church, through this ecclesiastical gathering, was boldly trying to address issues of modernity facing both East and West. As church tradition recognized the universal legacy of some provincial councils of the first centuries, so also for the Moscow Council of 1917–18: although many Orthodox Churches today reflect atavistic tendencies toward nationalism, the Moscow Council shows that it is possible to overcome this tendency and convey a relevant message to the whole of Orthodoxy, even when the process does not gather delegates from everywhere.

A Regional Council An important distinction between “local” and “regional” church life is often overlooked in English. Following strict ecclesiological language, “local churches” are what we call today “dioceses”: ecclesial communities governed by a single presbytery, headed by a single bishop. This idea was developed systematically by John Zizioulas in the collection of essays published as Being as Communion: Studies The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

in Personhood and the Church. The local church properly has a conciliar life of its own. As Afanasiev argued on theological grounds, all members of the local church—the bishop, presbyters, deacons, and all the laity—are welcome to participate in the local council (the assembly of the local church), under the presidency of the collegial pastoral ministry of the local church (the presbytery chaired by the bishop). If a local church is deprived of the experience of local conciliarity, as is often the case, she is weakened, as she lacks an essential element of her identity. It is necessary to remind ourselves of the fundamental ecclesiological principle of the fullness of each diocesan church and to foster its capacity for self-administration.2 Regional churches, by contrast, are gatherings of local churches. According to Zizioulas: “a metropolis, an archdiocese or a patriarchate cannot be called a church in itself, but only by extension, i.e., by virtue of the fact that it is based on one or more episcopal dioceses—local churches which are the only ones on account of the episcopal eucharist properly called churches.”3 Among regional communions of churches, one local church (often headed by a metropolitan, archbishop, or patriarch) presides in love and facilitates the communion of all local churches. Thus, at a regional council, the host community, which is usually the church over which the metropolitan bishop presides, receives delegates from the local churches. The ordinary delegates of the local churches are the bishops—those who live both in constant communion with the people of their respective local churches and in confraternal understanding with the presbyters who share the task of the pastoral care of the local church. These two conditions are not secondary aspects of the bishop’s ministry. If they are not the case, the bishop is


See Nicholas Afanasiev, Церковные соборы и их происхождение (СвятоФиларетовский ПравославноХристианский Институт, 2003), 25–26.


John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993), 252–253, n. 7.



in an inadequate position to embody the consciousness of his local church as her delegate in a council. One of the most essential functions of the episcopal minister is to be the accountable “mouth” of his community in its relations with other local churches.

ber, therefore, that the Moscow Council was a regional council, and we should not confuse the palliative measures they proposed with the proper diagnosis and cure of the underlying sickness in accordance with ecclesiological principles.

The Moscow Council of 1917–18 is often referred to as a “local council,” but this appellation is misleading, even though this is a literal translation of the Russian expression pomestnyj sobor. The council was a regional council—in fact, a multi-regional council, bearing in mind the diversity of its constituency. This corresponds to the fact that the Church of Russia was and is not properly a local church, but a regional church enjoying the status of autocephaly, in accordance with the definitions set out above. Despite the rich results yielded by the pre-conciliar preparatory process for the Moscow Council, which began in 1905, the bishops of the church in the Russian Empire were unable adequately to represent their local churches when the council convened in 1917. As a result, the council resolved that the bishops should be accompanied by other delegates from their local churches, who would make the assembly more representative of the entire church body.

The real illness of the Church of Russia during the centuries preceding the council was the inadequacy of the bishops, when considered in the light of a proper theology of episcopal ministry. Let it also be recognized that this problem was certainly not restricted to bishops in Russia. In all the regional churches, the fundamental understanding of the various ministries, which were established to serve the local church, was corrupted over time, leading to a misunderstanding of pastoral ministry. The nature of the church’s ministries has been studied extensively in contemporary ecclesiological research, which has enabled us to recover a better understanding of their functions. Furthermore, if one keeps in mind the difference between the real illness and the palliative solution offered by the Moscow Council, one can approach more attentively the criticisms which have been expressed about the council by some theologians and contemporary church leaders.

The council’s intention was certainly good, and, perhaps even necessary as a response to the malfunctioning of episcopal ministry in the Orthodox Church. But their proposal potentially threatened the important theological distinction between local and regional church life. This may not seem of great importance to most observers. Does it really matter if a council is—and is called—local or regional? I would argue that it does. One must remember that, if the local (diocesan) level of church life is neglected, the local church may lose awareness of its genuine catholicity. We must remem-

Afanasiev’s Contribution Among these critics Nicholas Afanasiev is prominent. He argued that the main error of the council was to consider the Russian Church as if it were a single diocesan church. He praised the desire to hold a council open to the universal constituency of the local church, but he denied the principle of representation which undergirded this. When proper ecclesiological order is observed, according to Afanasiev, local councils should be open to all members, but regional councils only to bishops—who, by the very defini-

tion of their ministry, enjoy the gifts of the Spirit necessary to represent their local church in council—together with all the members of the hosting local church. Afanasiev criticized the denial of the catholicity of the diocese implied by the Moscow Council’s constitution. He insisted that it is the diocese—not the autocephalous (regional) church— which is the local catholic church, and one can hardly disagree theologically with his premise. Although he made these criticisms, Afanasiev recognized the Moscow Council as “an unequaled phenomenon in the life of the Church”—a moment of grace at a very critical time in her life.4 The point of his criticism was to clarify an ecclesiological principle, not to slam the efforts of a whole generation of committed church members ready to serve her renewal. In fact, the participation of lay members in councils seemed an unavoidable historical necessity to Afanasiev, on account of the poor quality of episcopal ministry in actuality: “Even though I am reluctant about these forms of active participation given by the council to laypeople, I have never thought and still do not think that we should renounce these ways of active participation immediately. We have nothing to propose with which to replace them.”5 So perhaps we can affirm Afanasiev’s appreciation of the Moscow Council, with respect to its historical and pastoral value to the Orthodox Church: he did not want to undermine entirely the work of the Council of 1917–18, but rather to distinguish between fundamental principles and stopgap measures. This discussion of the constituency of councils and the nature of episcopal ministry would be of only historical interest, were it not ongoing in contemporary Orthodoxy. An example of its direct relevance can be seen in the The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church which was held in Crete in 2016. The long period of preparation for the global council presumed that the catholic unit of the church was the regional church and not the local church (diocese). The delegates to both the pre-conciliar meetings and the council itself were not the mouths of their local churches but representatives of regional communions of churches—patriarchates, autocephalous churches, and (until the Preconciliar Conference of 2009) autonomous churches.6 Some episcopal delegates at the council were without pastoral charge of a local community, that is, they were sacramentally qualified as bishops to attend but not pastorally qualified as representatives of local ecclesial communities.7 This kind of ecclesiological oddity arises when one forgets or neglects the catholicity of local churches. Furthermore, only the primates of regional churches were entitled to vote at the 2016 council. It appears, therefore, that most primates have openly become hierarchical chiefs of diocesan bishops, even as Orthodox ecclesiology would categorically exclude this phenomenon. The reality that diocesan bishops have often been considered merely as deputies to the primate of a regional church—a practice sometimes historically counterbalanced by the reverse erroneous principle of denying primacy, as in the Synodal period in Russia or in the system of “Gerontismos” in Constantinople—is well known. But the fact that this theological error has occurred frequently throughout history does not make it worthy of repetition, when it is so easily recognized as contrary to basic ecclesiological principles and when it is no longer imposed by political force. This matter still needs to be addressed in contemporary ecclesiological and pastoral studies and practice. Afa-


Nicolas Afanassieff, “Le concile dans la théologie orthodoxe russe,” Συνοδικά 1 (1976): 50.

5 Nicholas Afanasiev, О церковном управлении и учительстве, in Церковный вестник ЗападноЕвропейского Православного Русского Экзархата, 60 (1956), 23–24. 6

Calling the ancient patriarchates “autocephalous churches” is very common, though not very accurate canonically, since the church established the system of autocephaly in 431 (in the case of the Church of Cyprus) and the system of patriarchates only twenty years later, at the Council of Chalcedon: if the two canonical concepts were identical, the two notions would not have been distinguished historically. Further ecclesiological and canonical studies could be dedicated to this issue.


John Zizioulas very accurately criticizes the possible participation in church councils of bishops without pastoral charge of a diocese. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 258, n. 15.


nasiev’s commentary on the Moscow Council provides a salient reminder of the importance of living in accordance with our theology.

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Finally, the decision to invite lay people to participate in the Moscow Council was made possible by the rediscovery of a notion of the prophetic, priestly, and royal ministry of the whole Church and of each member of the ecclesial body. This had been forgotten, though not abolished, because it is part of the very essence of the Church. The Moscow Council could not have granted the possibility to lay people to take part in the conciliar proceedings—whether as a new principle or as a palliative response to an ecclesiological illness of the Church’s pastoral organs—were not the laity capable of accepting co-responsibility of church governance and church teaching. Afanasiev, again, has been the theologian most dedicated to recalling and developing this theological principle. Through his all work, Afanasiev restored a comprehensive theology of the laity in the Orthodox Church. In his work, in place of the ordinary Russian word for a lay-person, мирянин (miryanin)—derived from the root міръ, which means “the world”— he often substituted a neologism, лаик (laik)—derived from the Greek word for layperson, λαϊκός (laïkos). While the former originated in a period of history in which monastics had become the archetypes of orthodoxy (the миряне were the non-monastics—the ones living in the world, not in the desert), with the latter Afanasiev emphasized

clearly the normative participation of the laity, as the people, in the life of the Church.

Conclusion What emerges here, as a fundamental demand on Orthodox conciliar theology, is the need for further deep reflection on the relationship between the Church and her structures. The ecclesiastical renewal heralded by the Moscow Council was made possible first by a destabilization of the Russian Empire in 1905 and, second, by the storm of the Bolshevik coup in 1917. But is it necessary to await historical catastrophes before we seek necessary reform? Would it not be expedient to conceive of renewal as a constant element of church culture, of her modus vivendi? The Moscow Council reestablished that the council is the proper organ of the Church, facilitating a culture of renewal. Furthermore, Nicholas Afanasiev, who must be rehabilitated as an ecclesiologist who made a positive assessment of the Moscow Council—a real theological receptio— has drawn our attention both to the importance of not misunderstanding some temporary measures considered necessary by the council as normative principles for the Church and to the central significance of the laity in the ordinary local conciliar life of the church. Holding these insights together, we must work to ensure that ecclesial deliberative assemblies can again become fruitful and prophetic councils of Christ’s Church.

The Rev. Christophe d’Aloisio is rector of Holy Trinity and Saints Cosmas and Damian parishes and director of the St. John the Theologian Institute in Brussels, Belgium. He is also chief editor of the journal Le Messager orthodoxe (Paris, France), member of the Board of the Orthodox Fellowship in Western Europe, and former president of Syndesmos, the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth (2003–2014).


Mosaic icon of St. Gregory the Theologian. Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, Palermo, Italy. Photo © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons.


“To Coin New Names”: The Imperative of Reform and the Danger of Marginalization Pantelis Kalaitzidis Translated by Christopher Sprecher As is known, the Orthodox Church defines itself as the church that preserves the fullness of faith and truth, deeming Christian catholicity and universality as its own characteristics. The Church’s tradition is presented by contemporary Orthodox theologians—such as Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, Nikos Nisiotis, and Vladimir Lossky—as what is new, what is novel in history and comes from the depths of the age to come in order to restore everything “once with Christ, and afterward continually with the Holy Spirit through the Church.”1 However, such a familiar overemphasis on tradition in Orthodoxy, combined with historical factors that signaled the end of Eastern Christianity and its enslavement under the Ottoman yoke for about five centuries, resulted in every change in how we do things being viewed as a betrayal, and The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

every push for reform or even renewal appearing as problematic or foreign to Orthodox tradition and spirituality, despite the intense spiritual variation that has characterized and continues to characterize Orthodoxy. Thus, if some Protestant churches still suffer today from a certain biblical fundamentalism or literalism, the Orthodox Church for its part finds itself trapped and stuck in a “fundamentalism of tradition,” which makes the Church problematic in practice with regard to both its pneumatology and its charismatic and prophetic dimensions. This situation prevents the Church from participating creatively and actively in today’s world, which is changing so rapidly and in which it is visibly in danger of marginalization.

Note: This article was originally published as “‘Καινοτομεῖν τὰ ὀνόματα’: Τὸ αἴτημα τῆς ἀνανέωσης καὶ τῆς μεταρρύθμισης καὶ ὁ κίνδυνος ἱστορικῆς περιθωριοποίησης τῆς Ὀρθοδοξίας,” Νέα Εὐθήνη 15 (JanFeb 2013): 50–56. The most likely source for the phrase in the title is Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 39:12 [PG 36.684D], where one reads “καινοτομῆσαι περὶ τὰ ὀνόματα.” – Trans.

However, in the course of the historical journey of Orthodoxy, there has been 39

Nikos Nisiotis, “Ὀρθοδοξία: Παράδοσις καὶ Ἀνακαίνισις. Τὸ πρόβλημα τῶν μορφωτικῶν σχέσεων Ὀρθοδοξίας καὶ Ἑλληνισμοῦ στὸ μέλλον,” in Ὀρθοδοξία, Παράδοση, Ἀνακαίνιση (Athens: Analogio/Efthyni, 2001), 93–94.


Lewis J. Patsavos, “Ecclesiastical Reform: At What Cost?” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 40 (1995): 1.



Nicholas Afanasiev, “The Canons of the Church: Changeable or Unchangeable?” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 11 (1967): 61–62. 4

Ibid.; see also Patsavos, 1–2, 4.


no lack of critical points that signaled changes and further developments, and even serious attempts at reinterpretation and reformation—a history that is at odds with the present immobility and stagnation. These points, in our opinion, must be considered as the natural continuation and extension of the theology of the incarnation and of the Orthodox pneumatological tradition. We should see them in the light of the continuing Pentecost which the Church lives, or even as a result of the Church’s presence in the world and in history. Moreover, it is rightly noted that “the call for reform and renewal in the Church is always legitimate, if we believe that the Holy Spirit has not stopped working in the Church.”2 It is easy to understand how this particular idea provides the Church’s journey in the world with both its historical dimension and its eschatological end goal or telos. According to this pneumatological and eschatological perspective, it is possible to make room for reforms within the Orthodox Church, especially when we bear in mind that the latter do not affect the core of the faith and do not pertain to fundamental doctrines, such as the teachings on the Trinity and on Christ, but rather belong to the realm of the temporal and mainly pertain to issues of a practical, ethical, canonical, or even liturgical nature. As the great Orthodox theologian and canonist Father Nicholas Afanasiev elucidates, the canons of the Church constitute temporal expressions of eternal truths.3 This implies that alongside the fundamental teachings of the Church—which do not admit any change or modification in accordance with time, season, social or cultural relevance, or new philosophical orientations—there also exists in history the temporal expression and application of these

truths, which is subject to changes, modifications, and reforms.4 In other words, the reforms often sprang from efforts to formulate and reformulate the “how” of truth while keeping its core intact. Reforms pertain to the comprehension and interpretation of the truth, to its being adapted and applied to a specific time and place, and not to the essence of the truth. Moreover, if we exclude the Trinitarian and Christological dogmas—the core of the Church’s faith and experience, which does not admit reform— we see that for what remains, inquiry is permitted and sometimes even required, since all these matters belong to the temporal sphere and not to the central tenets of faith. Therefore, true traditionalism in the Church does not preclude development. On the contrary, tradition lives and grows. Consequently, being faithful to tradition does not signify an obstinate fidelity to the Church’s past, even to the apostolic past. Fidelity to the apostolic tradition is above all fidelity to the apostolic message. This message is a seed that is regarded as authoritative. . . . For, after all, tradition is only a witnessing of the Spirit who continually reveals and renews the message that was in times past deposited in the Church. Thus, tradition is not solely a historical authority imposed from outside on the living members of the Body of Christ. Rather, it is the uninterrupted Word of God himself that is seized by faith; it is not only a witness of the past, but above all, a witness of eternity. . . . Moreover, true fidelity to tradition does not imply only an accord with the past, but also in a certain sense, a freedom with regard to the past understood as an authority that is completely exterior and formal to the catholic experience. In this sense, tradition is not only a principle of

conservatism, but also a principle of living progress, a principle of growth, of regeneration, of reformation. The Church unceasingly reforms itself because she lives in the tradition. True traditionalism is always opposed to the tendencies of servile restoration that consider the past as a formal criterion for the present. The preceding daring formulations do not proceed from the pen of some Protestant theologian, or from the sick imagination of a “post-patristic” theologian, as the (Greek) Orthodox fundamentalists who clamor and behave outrageously around the world might allege, but from an ecclesiological text of Father Georges Florovsky typical of his style. In fact, they were written as an Orthodox contribution to the inaugural General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948.5 In glaring opposition to this theological perspective, Orthodox fundamentalists and traditionalists today, by reason of a supposed fidelity to patristic theology (but actually in full disagreement with and dissension from one of its fundamental and characteristic elements, namely, the continual and fruitful dialogue with the philosophical currents and hermeneutic methods of its time), systematically oppose and array themselves against every change or attempt at renewal, such as the use of contemporary hermeneutic methods with regard to biblical interpretation or a more historical and more critical approach to sacred texts and events in church history. Their approach to and interpretation of patristic theology—a theology that is eminently exegetical and historical—is distinguished by its ahistorical, metaphysical, and almost mythical character, and this ahistoric approach to paThe Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

tristic theology, despite what is said to the contrary, actually constitutes a betrayal both of the spirit of the Fathers and of the theological vision of the so-called “neo-patristic synthesis” (a term coined by Florovsky). The wider dissemination, popularization, and ostensible compulsoriness of the command to “return to the Fathers” has not only made the Fathers an integral element of a certain Orthodox “fad” and of a kind of prevailing Orthodox “establishment,” but has also come to characterize and ultimately accompany a neoconservative and fundamentalist version of Orthodox theology, thereby contributing decisively to the emergence of a peculiar “patristic fundamentalism,” equivalent to the biblical fundamentalism of extreme Protestant groups.6 Thus, it is not only by chance that the Orthodox fundamentalists (or, to use a Greek root, themeliocrats), imitating to the letter their Roman Catholic counterparts of like mind, such as the defenders of the exclusive use of Latin for worship, collectively fight against the movement for liturgical renewal with infamous persistence and intensity. They take comfort in stagnation and immobility, which they identify with the very essence and deepest nature of the Church. They find every kind of change and transformation to be unbearable and frightening, equating these with betrayal and a falling away from the authentic ethos and tradition of the Church. This tradition is perceived as being an essentially unchanged reality over time and without modification, having the same form from place to place. For this reason, they also target the task of translation and those who undertake it, since they fear it may open the door to other undesired changes. Thus, they abhor history as well as any critical or comparative approach to the subject, since


Georges Florovsky, The Body of the Living Christ, trans. Robert Arida (Arlington, Mass.: The Wheel Library, forthcoming 2017), 38. In his other writings, Florovsky supports the thesis that Eastern and Western Christianity are “Siamese twins” and “the two lungs of the Church,” so that Christian catholicity could not exist with the East or the West alone. See Florovsky, “Ἡ κληρονομία καὶ ὁ σκοπὸς τῆς Ὀρθόδοξης θεολογίας,” Θεολογία 81:4 (October–December 2010): 21–29; idem., “Οἱ Δρόμοι τῆς ῾Ρωσικῆς θεολογίας,” trans. P. Pallis, in Θέματα Ἐκκλησιαστικῆς Ἱστoρίας, Φλωρόφσκυ Ἔργα 4 (Thessaloniki: Pournaras, 2003), 233–37; idem., “Some Contributors to 20th Ecumenical Thought,” in: Ecumenism II. A Historical Approach, vol. 14 in Collected Works of Georges Florovsky (Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1989), 209–210.

6 For a lengthier analysis of this thesis, see: P. Kalaitzidis, “From the ‘Return to the Fathers’ to the Need for a Modern Orthodox Theology,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 54 (2010): 5–36.



See especially Pantelis Kalaitzidis, “Ἡ ἀνακάλυψη τῆς ἑλληνικότητας καὶ ὁ θεολογικὸς ἀντιδυτικισμός,” in the compilation Ἀναταράξεις στὴ Μεταπολεμικὴ Θεολογία. Ἡ «θεολογία τοῦ ’60», ed. Kalaitzidis, Athanasios N. Papathanasiou, and Theophilos Abatzidis (Athens: Ἴνδικτος, 2009), 429–514.


according to their logic, one cannot seamlessly connect the two chronological poles that define the development of tradition and span the distance between the furthest annals of the past, the life of the Church today, and the hoped-for and awaited “not yet” of the coming Kingdom. They prefer to approach church history in piecemeal fashion, and usually perceive the current state of things—say, the last two hundred years or so—as being the authentic tradition.

entire Orthodox world, a reform that will have catastrophic results for the very unity, structure, and composition of the body of the Church. In rejecting now every change and reform, often in the name of preserving the unity and cohesion of the Orthodox Church, we run the risk in the end of seeing Orthodoxy later become fractured and fragmented, while the danger of not only historical but also theological marginalization is even more readily apparent.

Today, as has already been the case for several decades (if not centuries), the traditional Orthodox world has been constrained by immobility, its gaze stuck on the glorious imperial Byzantine past. It understands history more as a fait accompli, as a set of events that are all connected to the past and imposed either from without or from above, rather than as a dynamic reality that is always open to the unforeseen and to the free love of God. Furthermore, Orthodoxy, which for primarily historical reasons has been equated with the peoples and nations adhering to it, has failed to break free from the ancient demons of religious phyletism and ethnocentrism, while continuing to feed (with the exception, perhaps, of the diaspora) on the outdated figure of a comparison between East and West and on a political and theological anti-Westernism.7 The concepts of renewal, development, and reform continue to cause this world fear and embarrassment. In refusing to consider and discuss the abovementioned necessary changes and reforms, and in closing its eyes to the development of society and to the upheavals—at times violent—that beset its own flock, which is itself the body of Christ, Orthodoxy is in danger of beholding, as a mere spectator, the explosion of a great and uncontrolled reform that will sweep and shock the

Those who insist on associating the reforms of the Second Vatican Council with the gradual weakening and depopulation of Western churches— even those who, inspired by a kind of Stalinist reasoning (which holds that ultraconservatism and the rejection of development ensure the cohesion and unity of the party, the organization, or in this case the Church), argue against every change and transformation—should study what happened in Francophone Catholic Canada in Quebec. This area was once the most traditional Catholic region of North America, where the dominance of ultraconservative Catholic clergy and anachronistic Catholic values was absolute until the early 1960s. Because it had categorically refused to be reformed and to change, Catholicism there suffered a complete collapse and Quebec became perhaps the most secular and religiously indifferent part of the world. Experts have called this phenomenon the “Quiet Revolution” (la Révolution tranquille). Our own church leaders would do well to ponder and reflect on this shocking turn of events, which seems to be quite similar to our own ongoing situation. Let us not be fooled by appearances and by fleeting impressions or coincidences. The churches that are full

at Christmas, during Holy Week, and on Pascha, as well as the influx of the disadvantaged into our churches due to the dire economic crisis, cannot hide the fact that for the coming generation, the generation of our children—for many and various reasons—the Church in Greece will run the risk of complete failure and historical marginalization. The image of a chicken-hearted hierarchy that insists on electing to episcopal office colorless executives from its own bureaucratic machinery, and which tolerates bishops and members of the hierarchy who hold to anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, anti-ecumenical, or most recently, racist and pro-Nazi sentiments; the progressive professionalization of the clergy and their complete estrangement (to the point of intellectual squabbling) from theological criteria and sensibilities; the continually diminishing number of catechetical lessons, already almost entirely absent from high school curricula, and the glaring absence of Orthodox catechesis among the supposedly “Orthodox” staff; the depressing (with some exceptions) level of teachers and students at theological schools, the so-called “higher” ecclesiastical academies, and in what remains of ecclesiastical education: these all ring the alarm bells of impending collapse. Orthodoxy

in Greece—and more broadly speaking—is in urgent need of radical cuts and reforms, of a new “coining of names” (καινοτομεῖν τὰ ὀνόματα), to recall the formulation of Saint Gregory the Theologian. Orthodoxy is endangered by stagnation and immobility, by the threat of historical marginalization, not by its own tradition or its creative encounter in the Holy Spirit with what is new. As Vladimir Lossky also points out: If Tradition is a faculty of judging in the Light of the Holy Spirit, it obliges those who wish to know the truth in the Tradition to make incessant efforts: one does not remain in the Tradition by a certain historical inertia, by keeping, as a “tradition received from the Fathers,” all that which, by force of habit, flatters a certain devout sensibility. On the contrary, it is by substituting such “traditions” for the Tradition of the Holy Spirit living in the Church that one runs the most risk of finding oneself finally outside the body of Christ. It must not be thought that the conservative attitude alone is salutary, nor that heretics are always “innovators.”8 Whoever has a mind, let him understand!


Vladimir Lossky, In the Image and Likeness of God (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), 155–56.

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Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis is director of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies. He has been a Visiting Scholar and Visiting Research Fellow at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Princeton University. He teaches Systematic Theology at the Hellenic Open University. His 2012 book Orthodoxy and Political Theology was published by WCC Publications in Geneva. He has edited many collections of essays and also edits the English-language theological series “Doxa & Praxis: Exploring Orthodox Theology” (WCC Publications).

The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017


state of affairs

The Firmament of Grace: Hospitality in Interfaith Dialogue Richard René My work as a prison chaplain in a secular, pluralistic institution frequently throws social questions into sharper relief. For example, I have a mandate to maintain the institutional chapel not just as a “faith-neutral space” but as a sacred precinct that is hospitable to those of all faiths and of none. This understanding reflects a larger trend in at least some forms of secularism that views the public forum as an opportunity for all to have a “seat at the table” and to engage in discourse and dialogue on respectful terms. This vision is challenging for some. In its traditional form, Christianity asserts that it alone is the fullest expression of reality and truth. It also affirms the imperative to promote and spread that reality and truth to others. Like the servants in Jesus’s parable, we are commanded to “compel” others to come to the feast of the kingdom (Luke 14:15–24). How are adherents of traditional forms of Christianity to fulfill this imperative for compulsion when the public space—whether in a prison context or in the broader society—is understood as a “level playing field” from which coercion is excluded? It may be helpful here to make a distinction between coercion and compulsion. While coercion involves persuading people by using an external force against them, compulsion suggests that they are persuaded by an 44

internal impulse, because they find something attractive. In the parable of the king’s feast, the servants are called to compel those in the highways and hedges to come to the feast not by applying brute force, but by offering them a level of hospitality so attractive (one assumes a kingly banquet in a palatial setting) that they can hardly resist it. Thus, hospitality is the first and most important way to fulfill Christianity’s imperative to “compel” (rather than coerce) others to join the feast of the Kingdom of God. In the world of chaplaincy, hospitality is a commitment to welcoming all who reach out, in whatever condition (spiritually blind, lame, maimed, poor, or homeless) they may be. Further, hospitality is a commitment to make no demands on others to conform to our beliefs, or to any belief at all. We make every effort not to coerce them in any way, striving to enable them to practice their own beliefs as unrestrictedly as is possible, even if those beliefs are opposed or even hostile to our own. In chaplaincy terms, hospitality means welcoming and serving others without demanding anything of them at all. In theological terms, hospitality is a self-emptying act of establishing and preserving a “firmament of grace” in which others can incarnate their otherness in noncoercive freedom.

In creating the cosmos, God establishes “firmaments” (Gen. 1:6–8) within which each of his creatures can multiply and live freely “according to its kind” (Gen. 1:11–12, 21, 25), that is, in accordance with its unique nature. When human beings disobey God, he temporarily permits a breach in those firmaments (Gen. 7:11) but then heals the breach, making a covenant to maintain the integrity of his creation, even when his creatures behave in ways contrary to his intentions (Gen. 8:2–21). In breaching the firmaments, God eradicates sin (at least temporarily), but also deprives human beings of the ability to choose to love him freely in accordance with our nature. We exist in a coerced state and as such, we are not truly other, but merely extensions of God. Since God’s love can only be perfected if its objects are truly other, the integrity of the firmaments is an integral part of the perfection of his love for us. Of course, the love of God expressed in this model must be understood in the light of the Incarnation, wherein God’s love culminates in the perfect depths of his self-emptying service and death for his creatures (Phil. 2:7), even as it is made absolute and perfect by his absolute otherness from humanity, his equality with God, whose ways are as far above ours as the heavens are from the earth (Isa. 55:9). In this light, the firmaments of creation may be understood as a type of the “line of unconfusion” between the divinity and humanity in the person of Christ. The firmaments described in the book of Genesis are fulfilled in the firmament of grace: God’s self-constraint in allowing for the full humanity of Christ, and by extension allowing all human beings to exercise their wills and choose him freely, without coercion. The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

This has concrete implications for Christian life. Just as Jesus Christ epitomizes God’s love by the inseparable but unconfused union of his two natures, we, in our entirely human nature, are committed to expressing the reality of Jesus’s dual nature through our relationships with other human persons. Our relationships with others must be “inseparable,” insofar as we are committed by our very identification as Christians to a familial bond with those whom we might consider “others,” outsiders, and even those alien to us—theologically, ideologically, socially, culturally, ethnically, or sexually. At the same time, these relationships must also remain “unconfused,” as we allow others to be wholly “other” from us without

Icon of the Hospitality of Abraham (the Holy Trinity). Novgorod, 16th century.


Icon of Christ as the Good Samaritan.

© 2017 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use.

coercion, even if they make choices that we view as dehumanizing or immoral. Only when we allow genuine otherness can there be the potential for the other to make the opposite choice, and become more, rather than less, human. Only under the firmament of grace—our self-constraint in relating to others that allows for both repentance and rejection—is real repentance meaningful. Giving others a space to exercise their freedom in no way implies that we must be “neutral” about their choices, thus compromising the integrity of our beliefs. Our commitment to an unconfused union with others is simply

allowing them the freedom to choose what we view as error—and “taking the form of a servant” even so—in the hope that they might see our love and choose just as freely the truth we proclaim. This allowance—this firmament of grace that is inherent to the Christian vocation—is the heart of hospitality, which is essential in making the Christian faith inviting and compelling to outsiders. When we receive each human being as wholly other, we epitomize the love that inseparably unites the unapproachable God to human life. That divine love itself is what will finally compel our brothers and sisters to join us in the feast of the Kingdom.

Born in the Seychelles, Fr. Richard René is an M.Div. graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary and a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He lives in British Columbia, where he works as a chaplain in a multifaith prison ministry.



The Truth of Orthodoxy Nikolai Berdyaev Translated by Alvian Smirensky

The Christian world does not know Orthodoxy well. It knows only the external and, for the most part, negative features of the Orthodox Church, while her inner spiritual treasures remain unknown. For a long time Orthodoxy was locked inside itself; it did not have a spirit of evangelism and did not reveal itself to the world. Orthodoxy did not have the worldwide significance of Catholicism and Protestantism. For hundreds of years it remained apart from passionate religious battles, it lived under the protection of large empires—Byzantium and Russia—and preserved its eternal truth from the destructive processes of world history. It is characteristic of Orthodoxy’s religious nature that it was not substantially actualized [that is, it was not instrumentalized as the basis for social order] nor exposed externally, it was not militant, and precisely because of this the heavenly truth of Christian revelation was not distorted as much. Orthodoxy is the form of Christianity that has suffered the least distortion in its substance as a result of human history. The Orthodox Church had its moments of historical sin, for the most part in connection with its external dependence on the state, but the Church’s teaching, her inner spiritual path, was not subject to distortion. The Orthodox Church is primarily the church of tradition, in contrast The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

to the Catholic Church, which is the church of authority, and to the Protestant churches, which are essentially churches of individual faith. The Orthodox Church has never been subject to a single authority, but has been held together unshakably by the internal strength of tradition. Of all forms of Christianity, it is the Orthodox Church which has remained the most closely tied to early Christianity. The strength of internal tradition in the Church is the strength of spiritual experience and the continuity of the spiritual path, the power of superpersonal spiritual life, in which every generation shakes off feelings of self-satisfaction and exclusivity and is united with the spiritual life of preceding generations extending back to the Apostles. In that tradition, I have the same experience and the same sagacity as the Apostle Paul, the martyrs, the saints, and the whole Christian world. In tradition, my knowledge is not only personal but also superpersonal, and I live not in isolation but in the body of Christ, in a single spiritual organism with all my brothers in Christ. Orthodoxy is, first of all, an orthodoxy of life and not an orthodoxy of indoctrination. From this point of view, heretics are not so much those who confess a false doctrine but those who lead a disordered spiritual life and follow a false spiritual path. Orthodoxy is, before all else, not a doctrine, not an

Note: When it was originally published in Вестник РХД in 1952 (no. 11), this text by Berdyaev (1874–1948) included the following editor’s note to clarify some of the philosopher’s more difficult formulations: “When Berdyaev, insisting on the pneumatological character of Orthodox theology, speaks of ‘the expectation of the new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the world,’ he does not mean a ‘Third Covenant’ or some new era of the Holy Spirit to replace the Christian revelation. It is clear from context that these words refer to the eschatological fulfillment, the ‘Heavenly Jerusalem.’ Similarly, Berdyaev’s mention of apokatastasis (as an alternative to the Western doctrine of predestination) should not necessarily be understood as heresy on his part: indeed, the idea of a divinely determined universal salvation would not have been acceptable to a philosopher whose thought was founded on the pathos of freedom.”


external organization, not an external norm of behavior, but a spiritual life, a spiritual experience, and a spiritual path. It holds the substance of Christianity to consist in internal spiritual activity. Orthodoxy is less the normative form of Christianity (in the sense of a normative-rational logic and moral legalism) but is rather its more spiritual form. And this spirituality and “innermostness” of Orthodoxy have not infrequently been the sources of its external weakness. The Church’s external weakness and insufficient development, her insufficiency of external activity and realization, are evident to everyone, but her spiritual life and treasures have often remained hidden and invisible. This is characteristic of the spiritual nature of the East, in contrast to the spirituality of the West, which is always active and outward, but often exhausts itself spiritually because of this activity. Likewise, in the non-Christian East, India’s spiritual life is especially hidden from outside eyes and is not actualized in history. This analogy could be extended, although the spiritual nature of the Christian East is far different from the spiritual nature of India. Holiness in the Orthodox world, in contrast to holiness in the Catholic world, did not leave written monuments after itself; it remained concealed. But this is not yet the reason why it is difficult to judge Orthodox spiritual life from the outside. Orthodoxy did not have its Scholastic age; it experienced only the age of Patristics. And the Orthodox Church to this day relies on the Eastern teachers of the Church. The West sees this fact as a sign of Orthodoxy’s backwardness, of a dying out of creative life. But it can be given another interpretation: in Orthodoxy, Christianity was never rationalized as it was in the West, in Catholicism, thanks to the influence of Aristotle. In Orthodoxy doctrine 48

has never attained such a sacred significance and dogmas have not been so attached to mandatory intellectual theological teachings; they have always been understood primarily as mystical truths. We were less confined by theological and philosophical interpretations of dogmas. Nineteenthcentury Russia witnessed a genesis of creative Orthodox ideas, which expressed more freedom and spiritual talent than did Catholic or even Protestant thought. To the spiritual nature of Orthodoxy belongs the primordial and inviolable ontologism which first presented itself as the manifestation of Orthodox life and only then of Orthodox thought. The Christian West followed avenues of critical thought in which subject was opposed to object, and the organic whole of thinking, the organic connection with life, was thereby violated. The West has shown itself more capable of a complex unfolding of its thinking, its reflection and criticism, its refined intellectualism. But here is a violation of the connection between the one who knows and thinks and the primordial and original existence. Cognition was expelled from life and thinking, from existence. Cognition and thinking did not pass through the spiritual wholeness of the person in the organic unity of all his strengths. The West accomplished great feats on this foundation, but this resulted in the falling apart of the primordial ontologism of thinking: thought did not enter into the depth of substance. This resulted in Scholastic intellectualism, rationalism, empiricism, and the extreme idealism of Western thought. In the Orthodox sphere, thinking remained ontological, joined to existence. This is evident throughout the whole of Russian religio-philosophic and theological thought in the 19th and 20th centuries. Rationalism, legal-

ism, and all normativism are alien to Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Church is not defined in rational concepts; only those who live within her and who share in her spiritual experience can understand her. The mystical types of Christianity are not subject to any kind of intellectual definition, they do not have any juridical or rational signs. Genuine Orthodox theologizing proceeds on the basis of spiritual experience. Orthodoxy is almost completely lacking in Scholastic manuals. Orthodoxy understands itself as the religion of the Holy Trinity: not an abstract monotheism but a concrete Trinitarianism. The life of the Holy Trinity is reflected in its spiritual life, its spiritual experience, and its spiritual path. The Orthodox Liturgy begins with the words: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.� Everything comes from above, from the divine Triad, from the heights of him who Is, and not from man and his soul. In Orthodox understanding it is the divine Triad which descends and not a man who ascends. There is much less of this Trinitarian expression in Western Christianity, which is more Christocentric and anthropocentric. This difference was already apparent in Eastern and Western Patristics: the latter begins its theology from the divine Trinity and the former from the human soul. Thus the East first of all proclaims the mysteries of Trinitarian and Christological dogmas. The West primarily teaches about grace and free will and about ecclesiastical organization. The West came to have greater wealth and also greater internal variation in its ideas. Orthodoxy is the branch of Christianity with a greater revelation of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Orthodox Church did not adopt the Filioque, which was viewed as a subordinationist teaching about the Holy Spirit. The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

The nature of the Holy Spirit is revealed not so much by dogmas and doctrines but by its action. The Holy Spirit is closer to us; it is more immanent in the world. The Holy Spirit acts directly upon the created world and transfigures creation. This teaching is revealed in the greatest of Russian saints, Seraphim of Sarov. Orthodoxy is not only Trinitarian in essence, but sees as the task of its earthly life the transfiguration of the world in the image of the Trinity, that the world should become pneumatic [that is, spiritual] in essence.

Nikolai Berdyaev in 1947.

I am speaking about the depths of mysteries in Orthodoxy and not of superficial trends. Pneumatological theology, the anticipation of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the world, arises more easily on Orthodox soil. This is the remarkable particularity of Orthodoxy: on the one hand it is more conservative and traditional than Catholicism and Protestantism, but on the other hand, within the depth of Orthodoxy there has always been a greater expectation of a new religious manifestation in the world, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the coming of the New Jerusalem. Orthodoxy did not develop in history for nearly the whole second millennium; evolution was a stranger 49

Nikolai Berdyaev with Mother Maria Skobtsova.

to it, but concealed within it was the possibility of religious creativity, held in reserve for a new, not-yet-arrived historical epoch. This became evident in Russian religious trends of the 19th and 20th centuries. Orthodoxy makes a more radical division between the divine and natural worlds, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Caesar, and does not accept the kinds of analogy between the two that are frequently employed by Catholic theology. The divine energies act covertly in man and in the world. One cannot say about the created world that it is a god or is divine, nor can one say that it is outside the divine. God and divine life do not resemble the natural world or the natural life; one cannot make analogies here. God is eternal, while natural life is limited and finite. But divine energy is poured out upon the natural world, acts upon it, and enlightens it. This is the Orthodox understanding of the Holy Spirit. Thomas Aquinas’s teaching about the natural world, positing it in opposition to the supernatural world is, for the Orthodox, a form of 50

secularization of the world. Orthodoxy is in principle pneumatic, and in this is its uniqueness. Pneumatism is consistent Trinitarianism brought to perfection. Grace is not the mediation between the supernatural and the natural; grace is the action of divine energy on the created world, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world. It is precisely the pneumatic nature of Orthodoxy that makes it the most open form of Christianity, showing its roots to lie predominantly in the New Testament rather than the Old. At its apex, Orthodoxy understands the purpose of life as the acquisition or attainment of the grace of the Holy Spirit, as the spiritual transfiguration of creation. This understanding is essentially opposed to a legalistic understanding in which the divine, supernatural world would be regarded as the law or norm for the created natural world. Orthodoxy is primarily liturgical. It instructs and enlightens not so much by sermons or the teaching of norms and laws, but by liturgical services which give a foreshadowing of transfigured life. It teaches likewise through the examples of saints and instills a cult of holiness. But the images of saints are not normative; they demonstrate the graceful enlightenment and transfiguration of creation by the action of the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy’s refusal of normativity orients it more at odds with the ways of human life, with history; it makes Orthodoxy less useful for any kind of organization or for cultural creativity. The hidden mystery of the Holy Spirit’s activity upon creation has not been transferred onto the ways of historical life. Characteristic for Orthodoxy is freedom. This internal freedom may not be noticed from the outside but it is everywhere present. The idea of freedom as the foundation of Orthodoxy was

developed in Russian religious thinking of the 19th and 20th centuries. The admission of freedom of conscience radically distinguishes the Orthodox Church from the Catholic Church. But the understanding of freedom in Orthodoxy is different from the understanding of freedom in Protestantism. In Protestantism, as in all Western thought, freedom is understood individualistically, as the right of a person who preserves himself from encroachment on the part of any other person, and who defines himself in isolation from others. Individualism is foreign to Orthodoxy; to it belongs a particular kind of collectivism. A religious person and a religious collective are not in opposition to each other. The religious person is found within the religious collective and the religious collective is found within the religious person. Thus the religious collective does not become an external authority for the religious person, burdening the person externally with teaching and the law of life. The Church does not exist outside of religious persons. The Church is within them and they are within her. Thus the Church is not an external authority. The Church is a grace-filled unity of love and freedom. “Authoritativeness” is foreign to Orthodoxy because this form engenders a fracture between the religious collective and the religious person, between the Church and her members. There is no spiritual life without freedom of conscience, without freedom of the spirit. Without this freedom, there is not even a concept of the Church, since the Church does not tolerate slaves within her. Only the free are needed by God. But authentic freedom of religious conscience, freedom of the spirit, is made evident not in an isolated autonomous personality, self-asserted in individualism, but in a personality conscious of being The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

in a superpersonal spiritual unity, in a unity within a spiritual organism, within the body of Christ, that is, the Church. My personal conscience is not placed outside, in opposition to the superpersonal conscience of the Church, but is revealed only within the Church’s conscience. But without an active spiritual deepening of my personal conscience, of my personal spiritual freedom, the life of the Church is not realized, since this life cannot be external to nor be imposed upon the person. Being within the Church demands spiritual freedom, not only from the first entry into the Church, which Catholicism also recognizes, but throughout one’s whole life. The Church’s freedom with respect to the state was always precarious, but Orthodoxy always enjoyed freedom within the Church. In Orthodoxy freedom is organically linked with sobornost’, that is, with the activity of the Holy Spirit upon the religious collective, the activity that has been with the Church at all times, not just during the times of the Ecumenical Councils. Orthodox sobornost’, the life of the Church’s people, has never been distinguished by external juridical signs but only internal, spiritual characteristics. Not even the Ecumenical Councils enjoyed indisputable external authority. Only the whole Church collectively, throughout her whole history, has enjoyed the infallibility of authority. The bearers and custodians of this authority are the whole people of the Church. The Ecumenical Councils enjoyed their authority not because they conformed to external juridical legal requirements but because the people of the Church, the whole Church, recognized them as Ecumenical and genuine. Only that Ecumenical Council is genuine in which there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit; the outpouring of the 51

Holy Spirit has no external juridical criteria but is discerned by the people of the Church in accordance with internal spiritual evidence. All this indicates the Orthodox Church’s non-normative and non-juridical character. By the same token, the Orthodox consciousness understands the Church more ontologically: it does not view the Church primarily as an organization, as a society of faithful, but as a spiritual, religious organism, the mystical body of Christ. Orthodoxy is more cosmic than Western Christianity. Neither Catholicism nor Protestantism sufficiently expresses the cosmic nature of the Church as the Body of Christ. Western Christianity is primarily anthropological. But the Church is also the cosmos rededicated to Christ; within her, the whole created world is subject to the effect of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s appearance has a cosmic, cosmogonic significance. It signifies a new creation, a new day of the world’s creation. The legalistic understanding of redemption as a judicial process between God and man is entirely foreign to Orthodoxy. It holds rather to an ontological and a cosmic understanding of the appearance of a new creation and a renewed mankind. The Eastern Fathers maintained as central the idea of theosis, of the deification of man and of the whole created world. Salvation consists in this deification. The whole created world, the whole cosmos is subject to deification. Salvation is the enlightenment and transfiguration of creation, not a legal acquittal. Orthodoxy treats the mystery of the resurrection as the summit and the ultimate goal of Christianity. Therefore, the central feast in the life of the Orthodox Church is the feast of Pascha, Christ’s glorious resurrection. The shining rays of the resurrection per52

meate the Orthodox world. The feast of the resurrection has immeasurably greater significance in the Orthodox liturgy than in Catholicism, which reaches its apex in the feast of the nativity of Christ. In Catholicism we meet the crucified Christ and in Orthodoxy the resurrected Christ. The way of the Cross is man’s path, but it leads man, along with the rest of the world, towards the resurrection. The mystery of the crucifixion may obscure the mystery of the resurrection. But the mystery of the resurrection is the utmost mystery of Orthodoxy. The resurrection mystery is not only for man; it is cosmic. The East has always been more cosmic than the West. The West is more humanistic; in this are its strength and meaning but also its limitation. The spiritual basis of Orthodoxy engenders a desire for universal salvation. Salvation is understood not only as individual but collective, embracing the whole world. Thomas Aquinas’s idea that the righteous person in paradise will delight himself with the suffering of sinners in hell could not have emanated from Orthodoxy’s bosom. Nor could Orthodoxy proclaim the teaching of predestination, neither in its extreme Calvinist form nor in that imagined by the Blessed Augustine. The greater part of Eastern teachers of the Church, from Clement of Alexandria to Maximus the Confessor, were believers in apokatastasis, the doctrine of universal salvation and resurrection. This is characteristic of [contemporary] Russian religious thought. Orthodox thought has never been constrained by the principle of divine justice and has never forgotten the principle of divine love. It has chiefly defined man not from the point of view of divine justice but from the idea of the transfiguration and deification of man and cosmos. Finally, the definitive and most important feature of Orthodoxy is its escha-

tological consciousness. Early Christian eschatology, the anticipation of Christ’s second appearance and the coming of the resurrection, was preserved to a greater extent in Orthodoxy. Orthodox eschatology entails a lesser attachment to the world and earthly life and a greater propensity towards heaven and eternity, to the kingdom of God. In Western Christianity, actualization of Christianity in the paths of history and a propensity toward earthly order and earthly organization have tended to obscure the eschatological mystery of Christ’s second coming. In Orthodoxy, primarily as a result of its lesser historical activity, a greater sense of eschatological anticipation has been preserved. The apocalyptic dimension of Christianity has been less expressed in the West. In the East, in Orthodoxy, and especially in Russian Orthodoxy, there have arisen particular apocalyptic tendencies, an anticipation of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy has preserved the ancient truths in its more traditional or conservative form of Christianity, but has also allowed for the possibility of greater religious innovation—not innovations of human thought, so prominent in the West, but the innovation of the religious transfiguration of life. The primacy of the fullness of life over the differentiation of culture has always been especially characteristic of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy has never given rise to the kind of monumental culture that arose on the grounds

of Catholicism and Protestantism. Perhaps this is because Orthodoxy is turned toward the kingdom of God, which will come not as a consequence of historical evolution but as a result of the mystical transfiguration of the world. It is not evolution but transfiguration which is characteristic for Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy cannot be known through surviving theological tracts and is expressed least of all in concepts; it can be known only through the life of the Church and the Church’s people. Yet Orthodoxy must come out from its condition of being shut up and isolated, it must actualize its hidden spiritual treasures. Only then will it attain worldwide significance. The recognition of Orthodoxy’s exclusive spiritual significance as the most pure form of Christianity must not engender internal self-satisfaction, leading to a rejection of the meaning of Western Christianity. On the contrary, we must acquaint ourselves with Western Christianity and learn many things from it. We must strive toward Christian unity. Orthodoxy is a good basis for Christian unity. Orthodox Christianity has experienced very little of secularization, and can therefore contribute an immeasurable amount toward the Christianization of the world. The Christianization of the world must not mean a secularization of Christianity. Christianity cannot be isolated from the world. It continues to move within it, without separation, and while remaining in the world, it must be the conqueror of the world— not be conquered by it.

© 2017 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use.

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (1874–1948) was a existential philosopher and Orthodox intellectual. His writing reflected an abiding concern with social and cultural issues, even as his early engagement with Marxism gave way to an interest in Christian spirituality. He spent the latter part of his life in Paris.

The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017



At the Monastery Cameron Alexander Lawrence

Spectators of separateness, we plunder the quiet lives of men who turn their hands into rosaries, gardens wed to prayer. We walk beneath dogwood’s bloomed milk, shins licked by tongues of purple heart. And at the basilica door, push through its heaviness to find sunlight turned blue, poured into panes of storied glass, the empty choir stalls each a potent suggestion of singing. No sound but a mother praying beside her daughter, praying,


Santa María, Madre de Dios— the beads they handle bright against the oak railing, ruega por nosotros pecadores— I listen, quieting the city in my mind—ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte—listening until the surprise of feet shuffling down the center aisle, a monk in gray cassock, feathered white hair, with eyes locked on the eyes of the crucified. I watch him stop to bow, small as a handful of ash beneath that hollowed body, the stone of his head resting on the cold ground— an offering to the silence, to whom the people come hungry as little children, running home for some warmth to eat.

The Wheel 8 | Winter 2017

© 2017 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use.


God, If You’re There, I’m Still Awake and It’s 4 A.M. Cameron Alexander Lawrence Up with the moon again, I stand at the sink filling a glass. And because of my life’s long desire, I think I hear it: your voice like an axe through knotted pine. But who can be sure? So I wait and drink, holding out for what presence the silence might keep. After hours, when once again you don’t show, I choose what I always choose: to continue believing that, one day, after years on foot in the dark forest of my heart, you’ll appear— dividing what I am from what I’m not. At last I’ll know: if you are the man chopping down row after row of tall swaying trees, or if you are the fire tearing through the abandoned © 2017 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use.

mountain village. How is it, Lord, I should pray you are both or nothing at all? Cameron Alexander Lawrence is a graduate of the University of Arizona and lives in Decatur, Georgia, with his wife and three young daughters. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Image, West Branch, the Pittsburgh Poetry Review, the Saint Katherine Review, Forklift, Ohio, and elsewhere.


Submissions The Wheel publishes essays, reviews, poetry, fiction, and images. Writers should familiarize themselves with the journal before contacting the editors. A query for an article submission should include a basic thesis statement, an explanation of why it is important to argue in this journal, and a short biography. The editors will also consider unsolicited manuscripts; these should include a cover letter giving the same information as for a query. The Wheel rarely publishes articles over 3,000 words. Manuscripts should be sent in Microsoft Word format. Manuscripts and queries should be submitted to editors@ wheeljournal. com. If you have not received a response within four weeks, please send a follow-up query. Letters in response to articles published in The Wheel are welcome, and will appear in the following issue if they are deemed to contribute to the discussion. Letters should be submitted promptly in order to meet editorial deadlines. Submissions under four hundred words are preferred, and may be edited for length and clarity. Please send them to editors@wheeljournal. com.

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The Wheel Issue 8  

The Wheel Issue 8