Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Next Patriarch should be… a Man of Prayer?

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Editor’s Foreword:

The translations from the Fathers are my own, from the Russian text given in the original article. I’m not a patristic scholar, not in the least. Excuse me for any infelicities.

BMD

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andrei-kuraev

Deacon Andrei Kuraev (1963- ), professor at the MDA and popular preacher

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What the does the Church want to see in its next patriarch? To this question there is no single answer, that is, one that would suggest the continuation of a meaningful dialogue. Obviously, a question immediately arises… whose opinion is the view of the Church? The Church has millions of people, with their differences, yet, they have a point of consensus. But, that point is well-known; it is the “Symbol of Faith (Creed)”. It is silent about what qualities the Patriarch should possess. In addition, all agree that the patriarch must be “a good Christian” and “a good pastor”. But, the interpretation of these honorary titles is slightly different.

Extensive discussions on this topic have developed on the Orthodox Internet. To me, the most interesting viewpoint is one that desires to see the patriarch as a silent man of prayer. I would say that this is a popular position. But, the axiom vox populi, vox dei has never been a tenet of Christianity, nor is it a scientific formula; I will venture to argue with it.

It is clear that Christians find the grace of God the main condition and content of church life. It is understandable that, from a Christian point of view, the grace of God attracts the prayer of sincere, pure, and zealous hearts. Hence, it is completely logical to think that the Patriarch, who is the head of the earthly Church, which means that he is already on the border of the celestial hierarchy, should be an ideal communicator of the needs of the earthly Church upward, and vice versa, he should be a good recipient of the blessings of Heaven for us, those on earth… Nevertheless, this popular theology is completely in the wrong.

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putin-and-patriarch-aleksei

Patriarch Aleksei Rediger of Moscow and all the Russias (1929-2008), with President Vladimir Putin (1952- )

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  1. Christians have only one Mediator between heaven and earth… Christ. The prayer of a mother over the cradle of her daughter is no less than “intelligible” before Christ, than the prayer of the Patriarch in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
  2. The Church does not “rate” those who pray. It does not record the results of their prayers. Accordingly, there are no criteria that you can use to ascertain which of the clergy are “more” or “less” prayerful. You cannot use the duration and frequency of their prayer as a means to gauge their effectiveness.
  3. All of the bishops serve the public services equally well, that is, they are equal in frequency, in duration, in commitment, and in beauty. Only their cell-attendants could judge their private and domestic prayer. So, can we replace the Local Council with an in-depth interrogation of the archpastoral cell-attendants?
  4. In the history of the Church, there is a well-known type of ascetic elder. In silence, they conduct a life of prayer and strict abstention. But, in this case, they lack the gift of the understanding of people and Mercy; therefore, they show no leniency. This is a Pharisee in the original sense of the word (even when this word is not used as a synonym for “hypocrite”). The Pharisee in the Gospel is simply a strict and zealous believer; he is rigid regarding himself, the same as he is to others. Incidentally, the word “Pharisee” became negative after they called in the Roman occupiers to settle their intra-Jewish disputes…
  5. Why disturb your prayer to pray? Why drag it out of one’s private room to the Patriarchal throne? If the ministry of the Patriarch is reduced to prayer, then, why would you interrupt your prayers and go to the patriarch? God finds the prayer of every human being, irrespective of his rank, equally pleasant. He who would pray must ask, nevertheless, why do I pray? However, we do not elect a patriarch merely to read lists of commemorations.
  6. We do not elect a patriarch merely to pray for us. Even monasteries, when they elect a superior, it is often not the most-prayerful who is selected.
  7. Perhaps, we select someone to pray for us because we are too lazy to pray ourselves? By the way, in the history of the Church, there have been many prayerful men who proved quite incompetent as patriarchs.
  8. The patriarch receives wisdom not because he prays more than you, but, because millions of other Christians pray for him. Let’s see, a) on prayers for the Church, and b) for the needs of the Church, the instructions of the Lord to His pastor are much more important than his own merits. The situation of a clergyman is not identical to that of a person in the world. As a priest and bishop, the patriarch gains strength form the prayers of the community (be it a parish, a diocese, or a Local Church), and, through this powerful source, he can compensate for his personal infirmity. It is more important for the Church to pray for the patriarch, than it is for the patriarch to pray for the Church (more precisely, the first is more needful than the second). The entire Church can pray for the patriarch. However, he must think and make decisions himself. So, we should choose someone with a more agile mind, he will bring that along when he ascends to the patriarchal office.
  9. The patriarch has many different tasks besides prayer. First and foremost, he must be a politician and administrator. He is the one who the Church delegates to represent it in the dialogue with the secular authorities. He is the bishop of the capital city. Only in that way is he different from the other bishops. It is easier for him to go to the highest government authorities to uphold the interests of the Church in the community and to aid regional bishops in dealing with their local problems. A provincial bishop is transferred to the capital not so that he could pray more, but, rather, in order to allow him to attend to the secular interests of the Church.

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Patriarch Aleksei Rediger with Metropolitan Laurus Škurla (1928-2008), after the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion on 17 May 2007 in Moscow. Note how Patriarch Aleksei is supporting Valdyki Laurus… he does it discreetly, so as not to demean him.

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There is no special sacrament involved in the assumption of the office of patriarch. He is a normal bishop in a not-so-normal city, the capital of the country. Why, is Moscow closer to heaven than Vladivostok? No, of course not. But, in Moscow, the office of the bishop is closer to the Cabinet, to the all-Russian tsar or president. Because of the force of his proximity to the powers-that-be, all the other bishops turn to their colleague in the capital, not so much as to “implore” him, but, so that he could help them defend the interests of the Church (including the provincial dioceses) in the corridors of power in the Kremlin Palace.

In general, the patriarch must not be seen to MORE prayerful than the ordinary bishop. This does not mean that he should not love prayer and the divine services. Simply put, it just means that it is not necessary for us to search for a prayerful man as our SALIENT criterion for the patriarchal ministry. It is not obligatory for him to be more prayerful than any other bishop or any other rural batushka (affectionate Russian usage for a priest: editor’s note), for that matter. But, the Patriarch must be wise, informed, modest, and persuasive.

Today, the slogan “We need a prayerful patriarch” has become the battle cry of faction opposed to Metropolitan Kirill. This seemingly “unworldly” position has quite clear political implications. “Prayerful seclusion” is an old method used to adapt the church to the distortions of secular life. We sit inside the church fence, and we do not go outside of it. Life goes on in front of us, and we just sit and pray (unfortunately, our prayers are not heard, and our sons do not return from the Komsomol). This is what it was like in the Soviet times. Yes, it was like that even in the century before the Revolution, too. Solzhenitsyn, in his literary cycle The Red Wheel, wrote that when he was preparing to write this novel, he read such in a volume of selections from pre-revolutionary newspapers. He was struck by the Church’s response to the major events of people’s lives at that time. There were only two such reactions, one was a Pannikhida (prayers for the dead), and the other was a Molieben (thanksgiving prayer). For example, if there was an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the tsar, there was a Molieben, if there was a successful assassination of the tsar, it served a Pannikhida.

The non-religious world is very satisfied with this deal! On the day of the funeral of the patriarch, a (non-Church) woman said to me, “The Church should not teach us! The Church must pray for us and forgive all of us”. This is a brilliant formulation of the attitude of the self-satisfied to the Church!

However, the Orthodox themselves are not far from such a position. Konstantin Krylov precisely summed up this attitude, “Kirill confuses many Orthodox. God forbid, he may actually do something, rather than just ‘say his prayers’, as befits a man. ‘Pimen, Pimen, we want Pimen again, who prayed for all the sick and for all mankind'” (http://krylov.livejournal.com/1775896.html?thread=62074904).

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st-john-chyrsostom

St John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (347-407).

Naos tis Agias tou Theou Sofias (Church of the Holy Wisdom of God)

Istanbul* (Istanbul ProvinceMarmara RegionTURKEY

*formerly Constantinople New Rome

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The Church, in its pastoral service to the people, is higher than any prayerful seclusion. Here are the words of St John Chrysostom to a monk-hermit. “Leave your mountains and leave there any barren propensity, which cannot serve neither people nor God. Take a stick and cast down the idols in Phoenicia” (cited by: Thierry A., St John Chrysostom and Empress Evdoksiya. Christian Eastern Society. M., 1884. S. 183).

For Chrysostom, in essence, it is more important to be with the people than staying in solitary purity. “Monasticism is a great podvig and the labour of monks is great. But, if someone compares their work with the priesthood, an objective observer will find among them a difference such as that as exists between a king and commoners (Words on the Priesthood, 6.5).

“If a man offered me a choice, where I would like to gain a good name for myself, as a rector of a busy urban church or in the monastic life, I would choose the first a thousand times over” (Words on the Priesthood, 6.7).

“Do not tell me these heartless words. ‘I should worry about that? I don’t have anything in common with that’. We have nothing in common with the devil; however, we have much in common with all other people. We will not say that we shall not have anything to do with them, because that is devilish inhumanity” (Conversations on Statues, 1).

“There is nothing colder than the Christian who does not care about saving others… No one was condemned for their own sins, but, for not being useful to another” (Talks on Acts 20.4).

“Why did Paul confound the Jews living in Damascus, when he had not yet started to make signs? Then, he had not yet started to work miracles, and no one can say that the people were surprised by rumours about his miracles, until now, he conquered only by the force of his words” (On the priesthood, 4.7).

“If we have the force of signs, then, words would not much matter, but, if there is no trace of such force, and we find ourselves amongst enemies coming at us from all sides, it is necessary to us to guard our words, that we are not surprised by the arrows of our enemies… For all this, we have not been given anything other than our words. However, if someone does not have this power, then, the souls of the people under him (I mean the weaker and more meddlesome amongst them) will constantly be in a position no better than that of a storm-tossed ship… How can someone remain ignorant of this and not expose them? All these are inventions and excuses to cover carelessness and laziness… Some matters are not sufficiently taught” (On the Priesthood 4, 5-8).

“If twelve men ‘leavened’ the whole world, think how great our insipidness must be, if we, being in such numbers, are not in a position to correct the remaining, and, in fact, we should have been enough to leaven a thousand worlds… But, you will say, they were apostles. What is this? Were they angels? But, you will say they had the gift of miracles. For how long shall these miracles serve us as a cover of our negligence?” (Conversations on the Gospel of Matthew. 46, 2-3).

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patriarch-aleksei

Patriarch Aleksei Rediger with his parishioners

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If that was so in the ancient world, then, the modern information society needs one not afraid of the battlefield, a warrior. This is especially needful in the case of the head of the Church. The patriarch has many possibilities to speak a good word. The main thing is that he would say such words that could persuade people not in the Church, and not just sing a well-worn mantra of sweet words for the already-Orthodox.

You will say, “His ‘weak prayers’ from the cell can maintain the preachers of the Church, and he would pray for them”. But, after all, he is the chief, the one who organises the work of his subordinates, protects them, and, you will excuse me, he finds the money to pay for their work and projects.

As the Patriarch is elected for life, then, we must not elect someone who is weak and by nature a hermit. But, you ask, why must we make such a choice immediately? Maybe we should give him at least a few years to work things out?

Soon, the Local Council shall express the Mind of the Church. But, up to this point, these are my thoughts… thusly.

13 January 2009

kuraev-deacon-andrei-5Deacon Andrei Kuraev

Interfax-Religion

http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=analysis&div=113

40th Day Pannikhida Held for Patriarch Aleksei at the Yelokhovsk Cathedral of the Epiphany in Moscow

The grave of Patriarch Aleksei Rediger at the Epiphany Cathedral in Moscow

On Tuesday morning, memorial services for Patriarch Aleksei were held at the Yelokhovsk Epiphany Cathedral in Moscow, on the 40th day after his repose. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, served the Divine Liturgy together with the Patriarchal Vicar, other bishops of the MP, and clergy from the Moscow area.

Today, many clergy from the capital came to the Yelokhovsk cathedral to pray for the repose of the soul of the late Patriarch Aleksei. Together with ordinary believers, they queued up to pray in front of the crypt of the deceased patriarch on the right side of the church. The majority of those coming into the cathedral held bouquets of white roses, white being the favourite colour of the late First Hierarch. In fact, believers threw white roses on the road in front of the hearse carrying the coffin of Patriarch on the day of his funeral at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

After the Divine Liturgy was completed, Metropolitan Kirill served a Pannikhida at the crypt of Patriarch Aleksei. Now, the next major event shall be the election of the new Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, to be held at the Local Council of the MP, which will be held in Moscow on 27-29 January.

13 January 2009

Interfax-Religion

http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=28227

Fr Vsevolod Chaplin says that Russian Citizens shall be Less than Half the Delegates to the Upcoming Local Council

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Fr Vsevolod Chaplin (1968- ), Deputy Head of the MP DECR

Moscow, 13 January 2009 (Interfax):

Probably, Russian citizens won’t be in the majority at the coming Local Council, in the opinion of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the Deputy Head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations. “Citizens of the Russian Federation will make up less than half (of the delegates to the Council: Interfax), as far as we can calculate and figure it out today”, he said live on a radio broadcast on the Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei (Russian News Service). He noted that the list of delegates includes people of many nationalities, such as citizens of Australia, the USA, and some countries of Western Europe.

13 January 2009

Interfax-Religion

http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=28225

Editor’s Note:

Less than half of the delegates to the upcoming Sobor are coming from the RF… That is not good news for Kirill Gundyaev. No doubt, he shall receive the largest number of votes on the first ballot, but, he shall get no majority, that is for sure. This small item only deepens my conviction that the new patriarch shall be non-Russian. I have NO idea who it would be… I have no secret decoder ring or access to high-level scuttlebutt (distrust all who give that impression, by the way, especially some especially vociferous sorts on the so-called “Orthodox Forum”). However, that being said, I would not be saddened to see Archbishop Vikenty Morar of Yekaterinburg (he is from Moldova, by the way) come out the winner… I somehow think that I am not alone in thinking thusly!

BMD

URGENT: Gazprom Turns Down Alternative Gas Routes Proposed By the Ukraine

Filed under: business,diplomacy,economy,EU,politics,Russian,the Ukraine — 01varvara @ 00.00

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Gazprom will use the Sudzha route for gas deliveries to Europe, but, not the alternative routes proposed by the Ukraine because they are not export pipelines, a Gazprom official said on Tuesday. “Valuika and Pisarevka [gas measuring stations] are not export points, but, they service Ukrainian domestic consumers. We have no intention to supply gas to the Ukraine, as no contract has been signed”, said Alexander Medvedev, a deputy chairman of Gazprom’s management committee.

13 January 2009

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20090113/119472042.html

Editor’s Note:

Look for massive spin on this from the Galician Uniate diaspora amen corner in the West. In short, the Orangies show the world that they are nothing but unprincipled thieves. All decent people must oppose this. Russia is in the right, it must be supported. If you took delivery of the gas, or, worse, stole it, you must pay for it in full. It is that simple.

BMD

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