Voices from Russia

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A I Osipov: “It’s Easier to Conduct a Divine Service or to Defend It Than to Pray Reverently During It”… An Interview with an Old Ritualist Website


 Ruskaya Vera

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the Sobor held in 1666-67, which imposed oaths on Old Ritualists and made a number of other acts that led to a schism in the Local Orthodox Church in Russia. In 1971, the Church abolished the oaths; however, many other dubious decisions remained intact. For example, that the soul enters the body of a child on the fortieth or eightieth day after conception or that the change in the Eucharist follows the Catholic doctrine or eccentric doctrines that God gave man fingers to fold the letters IC XC. Now, we hear opinions that it’s necessary to abolish all the acts of this Sobor. What do you say about this?

Professor A I Osipov

One may hold different views on any subject. However, I don’t think that someone now told you that we’re going to abandon the “eccentric” decisions of this Sobor. Moreover, on such a basis to talk about abolishing all the acts of this Sobor, of course, is illogical. This is a serious question. I haven’t heard that anyone raised it.


This year marks the centenary of the two Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the subsequent persecution of religion. There are different interpretations of these events, for example, that the Revolution was a punishment for the country’s secularisation. Others say that these events helped to purify the Church, so now it shines without blemish. What’s your view of these events?


The Bible is full of warnings that always and everywhere all tragic events happen because of the sins of men, families, and peoples… that everything that happens is a direct consequence of us violating the spiritual laws of life. However, since Christians know Christ’s Laws and Commandments, they’re all the more responsible for this evil and sorrow. In spite of this, God is Love; He’s a doctor, not an executioner. Therefore, suffering isn’t God’s vengeance upon people; rather, I’d call it a therapeutic agent that helps to heal their souls. Of course, this healing and cleansing depend on how a person carries their sorrows. If you look for culprits outside yourself and blame them, you’ll not receive any benefits. If you say as the Wise Thief said:

I received the recompense of my works; I thank Thee, O Lord, have mercy on me!

Then, together with him, you’ll receive relief from your suffering, peace in your soul, and eternal life. However, my impression is that repentance, and so, purification isn’t so common amongst Christians. Therefore, one can’t say that the Church shines without blemish.


Why do we hear, more and more, talk in churches and sermons about how spirituality and the moral state of society is lower than it was in the Soviet era? Why are we increasingly talking about the phenomenon of “burnout in the priesthood” and the frustration amongst ordinary believers and young monastics?


Unfortunately, actually, we hear more talk about wonderworking icons, relics, holy sites, miracles, new elders, festive celebrations, and religious services, festivals, and so on. However, we hear less and less about patristic spirituality. Therefore, we have disappointment, burnout, and the decline of the moral state of society. Of course, the strongest negative influence on our people is the now-corrupted and long essentially atheistic Europe.


Is the scope of today’s problem smaller is than the problem of “juvenilia” (младостарчества: mladostarchestva) (also translated as “Young Eldership”: editor) that crippled so many people’s souls in the ’90s and 2000s?


This problem has always been with us. It stems directly from False Eldership (лжестарчества: lzhestarchestva), which comes from the self-conceit and pride of ignorant priests and monks who don’t read and don’t know the Holy Fathers. They don’t want to hear what our mentors, the Holy Saints, say:

The so-called “elders” who assume the role of ancient holy elders without having their spiritual gifts bring nothing but spiritually pernicious imposture and sad comedy. Indeed, they’re unaware that most of their resolution and their very thoughts and ideas on obedience (the greatest thing in the monastic life) are false, that most of their thinking, their “wisdom”, and their knowledge exemplify self-delusion and demonic prelest.


Why does the MP accept Roman Catholic clergy in their existing orders, but they demand that Old Ritualist priests must receive reordination? Why do they receive the Renovationist (обновленческой: obnovlencheskoi) clergy the same as they do Roman Catholics, although it’s clear that Old Ritualists and Renovationists are closer to the MP than the Catholics are?


We believe that Catholicism and Renovationists historically preserved succession of ordination, but the Old Ritualists violated this line. Therefore, penance is sufficient for Catholic and Renovationist clergy.


There’s evidence that St Isaac the Syrian belonged to the Church of the East (Nestorian), which recognises only two Ecumenical Councils. However, he was always amongst the saints of the Orthodox Church. Is there a contradiction here? How should we deal with this and with similar cases?


There’s no doubt that because of the nature of his ascetic works, above all, Ascetical Homilies, he reached the highest degree of spiritual perfection. At the same time, he was little interested in doctrinal questions, and, in any case, some say that wasn’t a Nestorian. His main thrust in dogmatics was that the Creation of the World and Christ’s Sacrifice was the result of the same unchanging Love of God. Therefore, he didn’t share the legalistic view of salvation that Lord Jesus Christ was a ransom (atonement) for sin. There was no “ransom”… deification is the point of the Creation of Mankind and the purpose of Christ’s Podvig*.

  • Podvig: Should NEVER be “Englished”… one of the most powerful words in the Russian language. There are literally no English equivalents strong enough. Podvig has overtones of “epic”, “heroic”, “bravery”, “self-sacrifice”, “victory”, “effort”, and “triumph”. It’s best to leave it as is, and admit that English lacks the necessary material to give meaning to this word.


The Old Ritualists have preserved a treasure of liturgical singing, Znamenny Chant. The point of this chant isn’t to present a gala concert; it’s to help a person to pray during worship. In your opinion, can this form of singing once again become significant in the Russian Orthodox Church?


Indeed, such is the purpose of church singing, and Znamenny Chant embodies this. However, the Italianate mode is too far gone in our Church; it’s difficult to hope for a positive change.


How can we best transmit our ways of Russian ecclesiastical tradition and culture to new generations?


We must do this through upbringing, education, example, and labour.


You’ve attended services in various Christian denominations. What do you think, compared to all the rest, why only in the Russian Orthodox Church there isn’t a clear order of action in the services (when we stand, when we kneel, when we sit, when we venerate the icons, and so on).


Firstly, that’s not the way of it in our Church. The so-called order amongst Catholics, Protestants, and some Orthodox (e.g., the Greeks and others) is due, mainly, to the fact that everyone sits for most of the service; also, western Christians don’t have the same attitude to icons as we do. However, there, too, being there is enough.


Can one fulfil the established and traditional church canons and rituals, but not remember Christ, so that it’s all pointless, so that people go to services all their lives, do everything in order, but it doesn’t make them a Christian?


This same problem existed during the time of Jesus Christ when the Jews reduced their religion to fulfilling the ceremonial Law of Moses and the tradition of the elders. After all, such a religion is easier than to struggle with your passions and desires. It’s easier to conduct a divine service or to defend it than to pray reverently during it, such as the Prayer of the Heart (“Jesus Prayer”). Christians forget that you achieve salvation by sincere repentance, not by an annual report on the sins that one has done. Humility consists in purifying the soul, not the merits of podvigs and good deeds before God (such is the Catholic doctrine), and the awareness of one’s sinfulness and inability to eradicate the passions through your own strength. That is, don’t go after enthusiasm and experiences, which put you on the road to prelest. Moreover, if you forget this, you can go to church all your life, but the Lord Himself will reject such “righteousness”.


The Holy Fathers teach that the demons aren’t aware of our thoughts, as God knows our thoughts, but they understand it from our external behaviour. Therefore, they advise us very strongly to listen to our conscience. What do you think… isn’t the main idea here self-control, that the mind stays focused inwardly, and not thinking that the demons know our moods and thoughts?


Yes, but do you understand what “the mind stays focused inwardly” means?


What’s your opinion of the phenomenon of “neophyte zealotry”, where recent converts suddenly start to consider themselves “holier than the Pope?”


Through ignorance of themselves and of their passions, they have scatterbrained ideals and zeal not according to knowledge… something close to Young Eldership.


How did the Devil get into heaven to tempt Adam and Eve?


Most of all, we are talking that our First Parents had the proud (devilish) idea that they were like God. After all, someone who sees themselves as like unto God doesn’t need God.


Each year, we struggle against St Valentine’s Day. Instead, we offer the holyday of Ss Peter and Fevronia as patrons of the family. However, their life is also in doubt… we know nothing about their children, and one can see in Fevronia’s behaviour that their marriage might’ve been due to blackmail. Do you think that St Valentine’s Day is harmful?


Modern life is full of “love”, and [St Valentine’s Day] is just another boost and goad in that direction. However, one only needs a spark to blow up a powder keg. Moreover, St Valentine’s Day for many becomes such a spark. I don’t see anything wrong if Peter and Fevronia didn’t have children. In addition, the behaviour of a girl who wanted to marry such a person, and seeing that she liked the prince, it’s understandable, although somewhat culpable. Nevertheless, they really showed such an example of selfless love and fidelity that they’re worthy patrons of the family.

25 April 2017

Ruskaya Vera


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Orthodox Hieromonk sez Refusal of Medical Treatment is a Sectarian Notion, Not Truly Religious


On Wednesday, Hieromonk Makary Markish, the head of the internet project Batyushka Online, told us that only sectarians refuse necessary medical treatment, for all traditional religions hold that medical intervention is a good thing. Earlier, the Leninsky Raion Court in Ivanovo granted the Prokuratura’s demand that a blood transfusion for a girl should go ahead despite her father’s refusal on grounds of religious belief. Fr Makary noted:

We don’t need to involve the concept of “religion”. This belief (of the girl’s father: RIA Novosti) isn’t religious, it’s sectarian. It’s an attempt to put people in irons using pseudo-religion. We must rigorously draw a line between religions and sects. Unfortunately, the law hasn’t defined this border yet, although work on it is already in underway. We don’t know what religion the girl’s father professed. However, such a situation arose with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their prohibition of medical procedures is one of their tricks to limit human freedom. In Orthodoxy, such a situation is impossible. For us, religious life is a mixture of human earthly life and the Heavenly Kingdom. In this context, we see that medicine is an honourable profession; it benefits both bodily health and the soul’s health. In principle, it simply isn’t contrary to religious beliefs.

18 January 2017

RIA Novosti


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Patriarch Kirill: If Love is There, Christ is There! If There’s No Love, There’s No Christ!


There’s unity where there’s love; where there’s love, God is there. If someone comes up with an idea to say something about our doctrine that diverges from the tradition of the Holy Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils, then, thinking people should ask, “For what, in the name of what purpose, do they offer a particular innovation?” If from the mouth of a man we hear invective, sometimes, we even hear dirt that afflicts the Church and its ministers, if we hear fervent appeals to struggle, for separation, to save Orthodoxy even at the cost of one’s death, when we hear them exclaim and shout, “Orthodoxy or death”… you need to be wary of these preachers.

Never did the Lord say, “My teaching or death”. None of the Apostles said, “Orthodoxy or Death”. Because Orthodoxy is life eternal, it’s joy in the Holy Spirit, it’s the joy of life, but death is decay that came because of the Fall and the devil’s action. Now, we see, from time to time, false teachers who seduce people by calling to save Christianity, to save its purity, who repeat this dangerous, sinful, and self-contradictory slogan “Orthodoxy or death”. In the eyes of these people, you won’t find love; there burns a fire of demonic pride, a desire for power, which destroys the Church’s unity. Of course, they put on a good show, they hide behind pious visages, and they enjoy adulation from a certain set of people.

What we say against heresies, is true of any other division. Sometimes, in our parishes, there are divisions amongst the clergy and believers. Often, these divisions are associated with a struggle for superiority, for a certain power in the parish. We know how sometimes congregations divide, clustering around one or another priest. The veneration of a shepherd and adulation for him… so-called division in the name of love… is sinful, because there can’t be separation where love exists.

We must keep the unity of Universal Orthodoxy not only free from any heresies and schisms, we must keep the unity of our Local Church as our foremost care, as the suffering of the Martyrs of the Church gave us the gift of being one and indivisible. We must maintain the unity of our parishes and monasteries, bearing in mind that the most important criterion for evaluation of any Christian… from the Patriarch to the simplest believer… is love. If Love is there, Christ is there! If there’s no love, there’s no Christ!

Yes, may the Lord help all of us to keep the unity of our Church, to keep it as our foremost care, taking heed of chilling and dangerous examples from the past, but at the same time being inspired by the podvigs* of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, who protected and maintained the unity of the Church of Christ, asserting that Church life is based only on the tangible Law of God… only the law of love saves.

  • Podvig: Should NEVER be “Englished”… one of the most powerful words in the Russian language. There are literally no English equivalents strong enough. Podvig has overtones of “epic”, “heroic”, “bravery”, “self-sacrifice”, “victory”, “effort”, and “triumph”. It’s best to leave it as is, and admit that English lacks the necessary material to give meaning to this word.

Sunday of Orthodoxy 2009

His Holiness Kirill Gundyaev

Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias

8 March 2009


MP official website


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

18 April 2017. The Imperial Family… What They Were, What They Weren’t


The Imperial family aren’t “Martyrs” in the Church’s eyes… they didn’t suffer for the Faith. They’re “Passionbearers”… those who bore their suffering and deaths in a Christian manner. This isn’t a minor distinction. It means that the hoorah that you hear from certain ROCOR elements is pure BS. The Church doesn’t endorse monarchy… it never did… it doesn’t… it won’t. Individuals within the Church did… but that doesn’t mean that the Church “as Church” endorses and blesses monarchy. It’s just one of the many forms of human government out there. The Church DOES bless the Christian forbearance shown by the Romanov family. It says “amen” to that. However, that doesn’t mean that it approves of the system that they headed. If the Church called them “Royal Martyrs”, it’d give monarchy a boost, but the Church chose not to call them that. The ROCOR had to adjust its terminology at the Reconciliation… the Centre made it clear that “Royal Martyr” was unacceptable (it also made it clear that the ROCOR couldn’t canonise non-Orthodox just because the Reds killed them).

In this year of the centenary of the October Revolution, we’re going to hear much rubbish from the usual sources. I’d remind you that many of them had Nazi collaborators in their families… that doesn’t bother them. Puts a far different face on their rants, doesn’t it? Let’s honour the Romanov family’s faith and let’s fight the loudmouth anti-communists. After all, they gave succour and support to Hitler… what more need I say?


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