"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985

In Defense of Orthodoxy

1975 Epistle of Metropolitan Philaret to OCA Metr. Ireney
from Orthodox Word #60

Editor's Note (Fr. Seraphim Rose):  In connection with the Third All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, Epistles were sent to the "Paris" and "American" Russian jurisdictions in the hope of the eventual restoration of unity in a single Russian Church abroad.  From "Paris" the response was cool, for, in the words of the reply of Bishop Alexander of this jurisdiction, "our understanding of the very foundations of church order, i.e., the Orthodox teaching of the Church (Ecclesiology) is different from yours."  This jurisdiction strives first of all for "recognition" by other jurisdictions, and therefore it has no interest in union with a Church which is now largely "unrecognized" due to its outspoken epistles against the heresy of Ecumenism.  The Epistle to the American Metropolia (OCA), however, met with greater favor, and Metr. Ireney replied with an appeal for restoration without any discussion of ecclesiological differences.  The ecclesiastically-illiterate Russian press thereupon filled the air with talk of "peace" and "love" and "joint celebration."  Metr. Philaret finally placed an end to this talk with the following Epistle.  It was received with utter shock and amazement, both by Metr. Ireney and much of the Russian press – so foreign has the word become to the lovers of the world.  Doubtless it was by the prayers of Blessed Xenia that such an eloquent end – which might seem "foolish" to the "wise" of this world – was put to a "dialogue" that had become pointless.

OUR CORRESPONDENCE in the newspapers has come to a dead end, and there is no point in continuing it.  But I consider it necessary to reply to your latest letter.

Appealing to my conscience, you quote an excerpt from your previous letter and ask: where in it do I see a "pointed polemical approach"?  I do not see any – in this excerpt.  But you did not quote your whole letter,  Your Eminence.  In it there are entirely other thoughts and expressions.

Stubbornly avoiding the chief question which divides us, you insistently call for communion in prayer.  What can one say?  The renewal of such communion would be a great joy.  But one can begin with it only when there are disagreements of a personal character.  In such a case the matter is clear and simple: let there be peace, and we shall celebrate and pray together.  But when there are disagreements on principles, in accordance with the words of the Holy Church – "Let us love one another, that we may confess in oneness of mind" – then the attainment of such oneness of mind is required first.  And only when it has been attained is the joy of the attainment crowned by joint prayer.  Call to mind the historical conference of hierarchs – Metropolitan Eulogius, Metropolitan Theophilus, Metropolitan Anastassy, and Bishop Demetrius – which was called for the examination of the questions which concerned precisely the church divisions, just as in the present case.  Then the hierarchs who conferred did not begin, but ended, their conference with a joint celebration.

And in general, in the history of the Church there has been no joint celebration without oneness of mind.  This latter is a purely ecumenistic attainment of our days.  "Love," understood  according to ecumenistic thinking, opens wide to everyone and everything its "loving embraces," and these embraces are ready to strangle to death true Orthodoxy, burying it in the bosom of unOrthodox ways of thinking.  It is not for nothing, after all, that the Apostle of love says that a man who incorrectly speaks of the truth should not be received into the house, nor even greeted.  For he who greets him participates in his evil deeds...

The chief question separating us is the question of  the Soviet hierarchy.  The Russian Church Outside of Russian will recognize it as the lawful and actual leadership of the suffering Russian Church only when, with all decisiveness, it renounces the disgraceful and frightful declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, comes away from its ruinous path, and enters the path of the church righteousness, openly and fearlessly defending it.  The disgraceful stain must be washed away.  And as long as this does not happen – it remains under the "omophorion" of the God-fighting regime, not daring to take a single step without its "blessing," especially in its activities abroad.  This is clear even to a child!

Here I interrupt my letter in order to quote, word for word, what has been said on this question by Archbishop Andrew of Rockland, who for a long time performed his pastoral service in Soviet Russia and knows well all the nightmarishness of Soviet reality.  Vladyka said the following:

I am reminded of an incident from the life of Blessed Xenia of Petersburg.  She was especially popular among the merchant class.  The merchants noticed that every visit by the Blessed one would bring them success in business.

Once in a certain market place the merchants succeeded in obtaining  honey from linden blossoms and from buckwheat, and also from other flowers and plants.  Each one had its own special taste and fragrance.  And when the merchants mixed all three kinds of honey together in one barrel, such a flavor and such a taste were produced as to be beyond one's wildest dreams.  People bought this honey immediately, not sparing any sum of money.  And suddenly Blessed Xenia appeared.  "Don't take it, don't take it,' she cried; 'this honey can't be eaten: it stinks of a corpse."

"You've gone out of your mind, Matushka!  Don't bother us!  You see what a profit we are making.  And how can you prove that this honey shouldn't be eaten?"

"Here's how I'll prove it!" screamed the Blessed one, leaned with all her might on the barrel, and ... overturned it.  While the honey was flowing on the sidewalk, people closely surrounded the barrel; but when all the honey had flowed out, everyone cried out in horror and revulsion; at the bottom of the barrel lay an immense dead rat.  Even those who had bought this honey for a dear price and carried it away in jars, threw it out.

Why did I recall this incident?  (continued Vladyka Andrew).  I will answer willingly.  A few days ago an American who is interested in Orthodoxy and has been in almost all the Orthodox churches both in the Soviet Union and here in America asked me why I and a whole group of Russian Orthodox people were not participating in the reception of the Patriarchal delegation* and in general seem to shun everything bound up with church life in the Soviet Union, and even here in America, avoid those Orthodox groups which somehow or other are bound up with the Patriarchate MP).  What is the matter?  Are not the dogmas the same, or are the Mysteries different, or is there a different Divine service?  I thought, and replied, "No, that Orthodox faith is fragrant like good honey.  But if you pour this honey into a barrel at the bottom which there is a dead rat, would you want to taste this honey?" 

He looked at me in horror, "Well, of course not."

"And so we likewise," I replied to him, "avoid everything bound up with Communism.  Communism for us is the same thing as the dead rat at the bottom of the barrel.  And if you would fill this barrel to the very top with the very best, most aromatic honey... – no, we would not want this honey.  The honey in itself is superb, but in it has fallen the poison stench of a corpse." 

The American nodded his head in silence.  He understood.  And you?...  Striking and convincing!

In concluding my letter I in turn ask Your Eminence: In your conscience as a bishop do you really consider the servants of the KGB, dressed in cassocks and cowls, to be the true spiritual leaders and heads of the much-suffering Russian Church?  Do you really not see that at the bottom of that quasi-ecclesiastical Soviet organization, with which you have bound yourselves,** there lies the dead rat of Communism?

Or do you prefer to close your eyes and stop your ears in order not to see and not to hear and to fend off the unsightly reality?

Of course, if this is so, then all further negotiations concerning union are superfluous, and there can be no talk whatever of joint celebration.

     February 27/March 12, 1975      Metropolitan Philaret

*A delegation of clergymen, chiefly from the Moscow Patriarchate, sponsored by the National Council of Churches, which visited the United States in February and March of this year (1975), making many "ecumenical" contacts and being officially received by bishops of the American Metropolia (OCA).  (Trans. note)  (Fr. Seraphim Rose)

**That is, the Moscow Patriarchate, to which the Metropolia (OCA) bound itself by accepting from it its fictitious "autocephaly," at the cost of proclaiming to the world the "canonicity" and "Orthodoxy" of this organization.  (Trans. note)  (Fr. Seraphim Rose)