If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it… In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand”… The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail – if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate, or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later, the victory is sure to come.
A House Divided: a speech before the Illinois Republican State Convention
16 June 1858
Over the past ten years, one of the things that I have noticed is how the konvertsy increasingly distance themselves from real Church life. They are building an incestuous little circle particular to their exclusive, but, diminutive (but, as Fr Alexander Lebedeff noted in regards to those who opposed the ’07 reconciliation, such groups are much louder than their small size warrants), coterie. In short, they have become an identifiable faction with a life of their own, a dangerous situation in any institution, not just a religious one. This state of affairs is NOT new; it has brewed since the mid-60s at the least. What exacerbates it is that there are now “convert parishes” and “ethnic parishes”… and the two hardly mix at all… a VERY bad sign, I would say.
Firstly, were they ever completely one with us? Sadly, I believe the answer is no. As proof, look at this very short item from oca.org:
Love it, don’t you? A non-monastic is speaking on the Prayer of the Heart… “The Jesus Prayer”… that’s how heterodox refer to this practise! In any case, the Prayer of the Heart is a VERY serious exercise that one engages in only under the supervision and guidance of an experienced and grounded monastic elder. Ms Matthewes-Green is not such (neither am I, but, I don’t have hubristical ideas about my spirituality)… any road, if you DO receive such instruction and help from a starets, you are NOT supposed to pass it on to others. The general rule is that the advice of an elder to a private layperson is normally not for publication. It is always very specific, tailored for the unique needs of a particular Orthodox Christian. The Prayer of the Heart is an extremely dangerous thing to muck about with in such a cavalier way! It is, perhaps, one of the easiest things to turn demonic if one does not practise it with care and discernment. I do NOT have the level of spiritual clarity necessary to use the Prayer of the Heart… neither does Ms Matthewes-Green.
This is, perhaps, the main difference between grounded Orthodox and konvertsy. I KNOW what is on my plate… it does not separate me from God and His Love… but, it does tell me that I am no saint or spiritual giant. If I were to give a public lecture to you, I would speak of the fine and performing arts (both Russian and in the world at large), Russian and Central/Eastern European history, the scenic and historical beauty of the Northeastern USA and Québec, and how an ordinary laywoman does her best to live a Christian life. I would NEVER lecture you on the Prayer of the Heart. THAT is arrogant, conceited, and delusional beyond all words. Only a monastic elder could give such a talk… and, then, only to an individual, and only if that person was ready to hear it (a state that I, of all people, would be unable to judge aright… and neither can Ms Matthewes-Green). If this does not show you that konvertsy have not learned the most basic lessons of Orthodoxy, nothing shall.
You see, the konvertsy are ploughing their own furrow, and have done such since the beginning, I fear. One of the things that one hears from them nowadays is how irrelevant being out of communion with the other Local Churches is. THAT is dangerous. They believe that they can live outside of the Visible Body of Christ. I can see now who these people are, and they are not merely a set within the OCA… there are three main groups that are coalescing together into a new church-body. Firstly, there are the OCA modernists such as JP, BP, Hatfield, Brum, SVS, New Skete, the ex-HOOMies, and, probably, the OCA Dioceses of the South and the West. Secondly, there are the ex-EOC crowd and the Anglican konvertsy in the AOCANA. They are one in mind with the SVS lot. Thirdly, there is the Orthodox Christian Laity bunch in the GOA… they have broken with their Greek roots in their heart-of-hearts… they are OCA in all but name. These sorts share an ideology, a vision, and a campaign-plan. They do NOT like us… they hold us in utter contempt, in fact.
This all leads to an unstable situation. Eventually, the Church is going to reject this foreign entity, just as the human body rejects anything that is not of it. I have no insider knowledge of what shall cause this split or when the break shall occur. However, it is clear to everyone who appraises the situation objectively. The konvertsy are “living separately”, just as the papists started living separately in the ninth century, not in 1054. Just like Cardinal Humbert, they are going to lay a bull of excommunication on the altar and they are going to prance out with their noses up in the air. We should NOT follow them… they are not of us, they never were… they came to us because they hated what had happened to their former confessions, not because they loved Christ and His (Unique) Church.
I can see the coming schism clearly; I can see the sect gelling into form. There are deep divisions in the house of Russian Orthodoxy here in the USA and Canada… and “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. When it falls, we shall have to build anew from the ruins. It shall remind us, yet again, if the Lord builds not the house, the workmen labour in vain. God willing, the lesson shall sink home, this time.
Sunday 8 November 2009