Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The More Things Change…

Aleksandr Vvedensky (1888-1946), head of the Living Church heresy, seen here with his second wife. He was married twice, yet, called himself “Metropolitan”. He also styled himself, “Most Holy and Blessed Lord and Father” (Святейший и Блаженнейший Великий Господин и Отец). He was the greatest influence on Aleksandr Dmitrievich Schememann.

Some went to martyrdom. Others fled into exile or hid in forests and ravines. Still others fled into an internal exile of silence, outwardly inconspicuous, their prayers are secret, their prayer is a consuming fire. However, there were… others. Without coercion, they told the Bolsheviks, “Yes, we are with you, not only in words, we will back them up with action. We will fulfil your every demand, we will back up your lies, and we will participate in your deceptions. We will work hand in glove with the political police, we will raise their credibility in the eyes of the people, we will pray for them in public, and publicise their achievements. We will take over the nationalism of the Russian emigration, and, thus, turn the Orthodox Church into a true and obedient instrument of your worldly revolution and man-centred godlessness…”

We have seen these people. Their faces are nothing out of the ordinary, but they have disingenuous visages and cunning eyes. They do not hesitate to utter brazen untruth, moreover, they do not have qualms about lying about the most important and sacred things, such as the situation of the Church and of the confessors tortured by the Bolsheviks. They agree in their hearts with the Soviets. Since they do not care at all about following the ecclesiastical canons, they “isolate” the Church from living society, which pleases the Bolsheviks; their “Patriarch” formally heads a new and paradoxical religion, an incredible “Soviet Church”… That is the meaning of what happened. Then, ask yourself some questions and answer them honestly. In all of its actions, the “Soviet Church” does not do the will of the Church; it does the will of the Soviets. Only the blind and the hypocritical can embrace such a monstrosity.

Ivan Ilyin

On the Soviet Church


The legacy of “Sergianism” lives today. Let’s leave aside the historical personalities for the purpose of this essay. Sergianism is a fawning attitude towards the “powers-that-be”, it needn’t be merely Communistic. It posits that we must adapt ourselves to the regnant ideology in secular society, and that the Church must conform itself in all ways to that perspective. Taken in that light, we Orthodox in America are in the deep kimchi. The OCA, admittedly, is the worst example of such, but I would argue that the rot has invaded all sectors of the Church, and that we have to cut it out ruthlessly, or our Church shall become a mere collection of rituals that we perform in order to please our aesthetic and/or philosophical prejudices.

History never repeats itself directly, but the reason that the study of such is important is that we can draw lessons from analogous situations in the past. Just as Russians faced the lie of the Living Church in the 1920s, just as they faced the reality of a persecuted actual Church and a seemingly flourishing sham edifice headed by the heretic Vvedensky, we have a similar choice. No, the Church has not succumbed to Communism… here, it is a case of a bending of the knee to Godless California New Age Therapeutese. To be sure, we are not alone. I was reading, about ten years ago, an article in Touchstone about how psychologists would smear traditional candidates for ordination with labels such as “rigid” and “authoritarian”. I asked a Russian friend if they do this in Russia. “No… why?” “They do it here in America”. “Why would you ask a psychologist? It’s better to ask an elder”. The long and short of it came down to the fact that the Russian Church respects the wisdom of the ages… it knows that the only way to weed out the baddies is to have a long-enough seminary period. In Russia, that’s seven years in all. Since vetting by a shrink is what the “trendy” groups in this country do, there are those amongst us who wish us to capitulate to the zeitgeist. As for the effectiveness of such screening… it didn’t filter out Timothy Blumentritt! I should also note that the HOOMie and Gillquistite clergy did not receive such an examination… we screen men who grew up in the bosom of the Church, yet, we freely and promiscuously admit those who came from cult-like bodies. Hmm…

Some are going to say, “Ilyin is talking about a period that is dead and gone”. Is it? Is there an actual link between the Living Church of Vvedensky and the OCA of Jonas Paffhausen? Yes… (drum roll, please)…

Aleksandr Dmitrievich Schmemann.

No, ADS was NOT responsible for dandruff, the common cold, and the heartbreak of psoriasis. However, he was responsible for setting the tone at SVS, for he was its effectual founder in its modern form. It’s interesting to note that SVS has always ignored pastoral reality. Over the years, it has propounded an airily discarnate Orthodoxy that is not related to what is found in grounded parishes. Indeed, one of the reasons that SVS became disenchanted with Herman Swaiko is that Herman demanded that it cease its artsy-fartsy pretensions and pay attention to pastoral reality. After his fall, one of the SVS partisans wrote into the Stokoe website saying that it was wrong for Herman to expect that a seminary, which is a trade school for priests, after all, to attend to pastorality. It had more important fish to fry, you see. Oh, yes… the poster signed himself as “Reader”… I kid you not. It’s a common affectation amongst the konvertsy. They believe that they are above the common herd by being “minor clergy”.

If you look at all of the “innovations” propounded by Schmemann… low (or no) iconostases, married bishops, or odd notions about the laity being “co-celebrants” of the liturgy (both Prof Aleksei Osipov and the late Fr Daniil Sysoev shot down that in flames), there is no difference between Schmemann and Vvedensky. NONE WHATSOEVER. If such is so, then, Ilyin’s words on the “Soviet Church” apply, in all of their fullness, to the OCA under Paffhausen. I feel sorry for the konvertsy. Due to their lack of facility with Russian (they need not speak it… they need only be able to read it), what they believe to be “original thought” is nothing but a rehash of a heretic’s maunderings. Vvedensky died outside of the Church in the end. However, can we call the konvertsy heretics? For heresy has to be acknowledged openly for one to be a heretic in the fullest sense of the word. They’re on the wrong road due to their shocking ignorance… that’s true. They refuse to see the evidence… that’s true too. Yet, they have not taken a decision against Christ’s Church… up to the present, that is.

One of the main things that we believe (brace yourselves, I have to use some ten-dollar words here) in is that the Church is a discrete and objective ontological reality anchored in and beyond all spatiality and temporalities. Whew! That’s why we don’t believe in the Branch Theory, and cannot. I can’t understand why Paffhausen is dallying with Episkies, of all people. Anglicanism lacks any tie to apostolic reality, thus, they are nothing but Fancy Dress American Sectarians. As Cardinal Manning put it, “Ritualism is Private Judgement in gorgeous raiment, wrought about with divers colours. Every fringe in an elaborate cope worn without authority is only a distinct and separate act of Private Judgement; the more elaborate, the less Catholic; the nearer the imitation, the further from the submission of Faith”. Modify Ilyin’s words slightly, and you come up with, “Then, ask yourself some questions and answer them honestly. In all of its actions, the “[Anglican] Church” does not do the will of the Church; it does the will of the [powers-that-be]. Only the blind and the hypocritical can embrace such a monstrosity”.

JP, by his actions, does “embrace such a monstrosity”. Remember… he also spoke in favour of the reception of the cult-like HOOMies. One of the arguments used was that they were very particular in liturgical matters (I recall a particularly foul and fulsome internet post by one calling himself “The Young Fogey”). Quite a witch’s brew in the cauldron, no? I believe that Ilyin was right. We can have Christ or we can have a monstrosity. Cardinal Manning was right in saying imitations are not the real thing. So, why is JP palavering with those who can never be part of the Church? Aleksandr Vvedensky begat Aleksandr Schmemann… Aleksandr Schmemann begat Thomas Hopko… Thomas Hopko begat Jonas Paffhausen… shouldn’t we end this line of “begats” now? Each progression along the line becomes more and more diffuse…

The more things change…

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Albany NY

Editor’s Postscript:

A pompous little convert demanded “evidence” from me that ADS taught heresy. Here is an excerpt from the late Fr Daniil Sysoev:

Here are some examples. Their custom of banishment from the temple dates back to the idea of the Eucharist articulated by Schmemann (see his book, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom), which has its dogmatic basis the Protestant doctrine of the universal priesthood of the laity. Consequently, he teaches that the laity concelebrates with the priest, who is only a chairman, not the performer of a sacrament. Of course, with this understanding of the Eucharist at the Liturgy, there is no place for the laity not receiving the Eucharist, just as the priest must always receive at the Liturgy in the Orthodox Church. However, if you follow this view, it is unclear why the Apostle Paul calls only the apostles stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4. 1), not the whole Church. When Christ established the Sacrament of His Body and Blood with the words, Do this in remembrance of me (St Luke 22. 19) He said this only to the twelve, not to everybody. The people by themselves do not have sacerdotal authority, for it is the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the accomplisher of all ordinances through His apostles and their successors, the bishops and their presbyters, who are not creators, but the channels of grace.

The rest of the article is available at:


Truly, these children should gain facility in reading Russian or Greek so that they could have access to solid food. Most material in English on Orthodoxy is either third-rate, Renovationist propaganda, pseudo-Anglican nonsense, or of heterodox provenance (Jacobses or Reardon are blown away by Osipov and Narochnitskaya). I am NOT being phyletistic… I am merely pointing up where the righteous material is… and it’s not at SVS or Platina, that’s for bloody certain.


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