During the reign of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, Patriarch Nikon Minin launched new studies of Russian sacred texts, comparing them with Greek models to identify discrepancies. The reform started with the convening of a Sobor in Moscow in 1654, which decided to bring the liturgical books in line with Greek manuscripts. The Great Moscow Sobor of 1666-67 approved new rites of worship and ranks. The authorities began a crackdown against the opponents of reform, which lasted for about two centuries. The Old Ritualists split at various times, the monarchy varied in its approach to them. At times, the government was lenient; at others, it was severe. Sometimes, the Belokrinitsky Old Ritualist hierarchy could serve legally at the Rogozhskoe Cemetery in Moscow, but at other periods, during the so-called “sealing of the altars”, the state forbade the Old Ritualists to serve the liturgy.
In 1800, some of the “priested” Old Ritualists sought rapprochement with the Holy Governing Synod, which established a special structure for the so-called Yedinoverie (“One-Faithers”, “Unionists”)… maintaining the pre-reform ritual, they submitted to the jurisdiction of the canonical Church, recognising that ritual differences don’t affect general dogmatic teaching. For example, in comparing the sign of the cross, although they used different constructions, both usages symbolise the unity of the three persons of the Holy Trinity and of Christ‘s dual divine-human nature. In 1905, Tsar St Nikolai Aleksandrovich issued a decree on religious tolerance, removing all civil restrictions on the rights of the Old Ritualists, and, in 1971, an MP Sobor adopted a resolution to lift the oaths and anathemas from the old rites.
12 February 2013