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Triptych of Lies

Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev)
Translated by Dormition Skete, 2021

What is our attitude toward the so-called "Soviet Church"? There is no question that is more important in our time, for the answer to it, in essence, is the answer to a different question: how does one relate to Soviet power? And the fate of the universe depends on the answer to this question.

There are three "lies" characteristic of the three "worlds" into which modern mankind is divided in relation to the Soviet Church. This is the one that is inherent in the external, non-Orthodox world.

The focus of world public attention is the question of the "Soviet Church." It is infinitely difficult for a Western person to form a correct, sober judgment about her, not complicated by an admixture of lies that devalue even successes in discerning the truth. These successes should be applauded. Thus, we note with satisfaction a detailed article signed by B.K. Hillebrandt in the influential Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten, which gives a truthful review of the Church in the USSR. The use of tactics explains the "new course" so emphasized by Stalin's heirs on the eve of the Berlin conference. And already at the end of March of this year (1954), the Congress of the Komsomol complained about the softening of anti-religious propaganda! There is no doubt that the position of the Church has become easier in comparison with the time before the last war, but communism remained communism, and for it religion is still opium, poisoning the minds of the people. Nothing in this sense has changed in the USSR.... Missionary work of the Church remains prohibited. Teaching the Law of God in schools is excluded. In the so-called seminaries, only candidates recommended by the party are allowed to study, and the number of graduates should not exceed two hundred. Freedom of the Church in the USSR is out of the question.

Why does the Soviet government wear soft gloves in relation to the Church? The first reason is that during a quarter of a century of merciless struggle with the Church, it was not possible to uproot the Faith and destroy the Church. The fear arose that in its illegal forms the Church would turn into a greater force. So they made a party instrument out of the Church, finding an advantage in this. First, faith is associated with national sentiment, which must be fueled in the interests of the party. The Church preaches Soviet patriotism. She also preaches Pan-Slavism, which is beneficial to the party and also serves Soviet imperialism, clothed in pacifist clothes. This is how the Church in the USSR turned into a decoration of communism. Led by the patriarch, she serves Soviet propaganda, forced to deny her persecution and praise her persecutors. As an award she received the “converting” of Uniate churches in satellite countries, which was praised even by some anti-communist Russian nationalists. The salary given to Orthodox bishops in the Soviet Union is very large, and the metropolitans allow themselves to be used in every possible way in order to establish contacts with foreign Protestantism, especially with the Anglican Church, as well as to influence, in a direction desirable for the Soviets, Orthodox Christians abroad. Right there the Soviet government dissects Christianity itself so that it could serve its purposes. As an example, the newspaper cites an excerpt of a communist image of Christ: “Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was born the son of simple parents. His mother was, according to the Bible, a landless peasant woman, oppressed and disenfranchised by large landowners. All his life Christ waged a fierce struggle against large property owners, feudal lords, bourgeoisie and exploiters. Among the twelve people devoted to him, there was a man named Judas, who betrayed him to a clique of reactionaries for money, just as modern Judas in the service of the imperialists betray God and the Motherland to the imperialists."

But, the Austrian newspaper continues, it would be a mistake to assess the behavior of the Church in the USSR in a Western European way. It is necessary to reckon with other relationships and with a differently thinking people of the East. The bishops and priests in the USSR, if they did not suit the powers that be, would leave the population to their doom. The five hundred years of activity of the Orthodox clergy in the Balkans under the Turks showed how one can adapt to circumstances, thereby preserving the faith of the people.

Here is the assessment of the "Soviet Church" by the Western press, which soberly evaluates the goals of the Soviet government in relation to the Church, but is still far from understanding the entire tragedy experienced by the Church in the USSR. The Church endured under the Turks, but did the Turkish authorities set up seminaries, admitting only people whom it had verified? Did she demand that the Church be wholly a servant of her political interests and an instrument of her goals? The Church was in bondage, but she remained faithful to her purpose of serving the truth, and since they demanded something different from her, she knew how to display the deeds of confession and martyrdom. The author of this sober article still does not understand the most important thing: There is no analogy with anything in the past of what is happening now in the USSR. It is also an achievement that the Western press does not identify the dependence of the Church on satanic power with the link between the Church and the state power that existed in Orthodox Russia. But still, the lie continues to hold in its paws even a sobering Western thought: the terrible creature of Soviet power has not yet been comprehended, not understood. The truth is hard for the West!

Why is this? Because the West never knew it, and it needs to assimilate it for the first time, overcoming not only that thick and impenetrable cloud of deliberate lies that now envelops our motherland, but also the legacy of centuries [of heresy], which has settled in the consciousness of mankind and is, perhaps, a cloud of prejudices, delusions, and distortions which is even thicker and more difficult to overcome than the current lies that come from a murky source.

Therefore, immeasurably great responsibility falls on those who are able to know the truth and who, nevertheless, consciously assimilate a deliberate lie, becoming not a victim of it, as it happens to an enormous extent with the West, but a participant in it. This is the free Orthodox world: it is not able not to know what Russia is and what Orthodoxy is.

What, then, can be said about the Russian Church organ of the free Diaspora, which is published in the country with the maximum rule of freedom, about the journal Svet (Light), an Orthodox weekly serving the American Metropolia?

In the issue dating 23 April, 1954, in the material that is presented each time to the reader under the heading “Truth, truth—here it is!" the Church of Rome, headed by the pope, is resolutely opposed, at this time, to the Orthodox Church, which does not need an earthly leadership, since it is headed by Christ the God. It manifests plurality, but it is one in its inner unity. And so, in confirmation of this holy truth—how is this Orthodox plurality actually demonstrated by the Svet journal?

"With complete unity of faith, teaching, and rituals, the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ,” says Svet, "uses autocephalous variety." This "autocephalous variety" is represented "historically" in church patriarchates. They are immediately listed: 1) Jerusalem, 2) Antiochian, 3) Alexandrian, 4) Constantinopolitan, 5) Russian, 6) Romanian, 7) Bulgarian, 8) Serbian, 9) Georgian, 10) Polish, 11) Czechoslovakian, 12 ) Finnish, 13) Latvian. Then some brief relevant information is given about the number of Orthodox Christians, the location of each patriarchate, its hierarchical structure, its personal composition. All patriarchates are ranked in one row according to their dignity—both the ancient, truly historical ones and those that are artificially and arbitrarily brought to life by the Soviet regime for aggressive political purposes, against the Church, against those whom Christ directs. Our readers should remember the text offered by us regarding the creation of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. We also provided material about the Czechoslovakian, Romanian, and other patriarchates. There is nothing more to say about the Moscow one. The canonical and spiritual integrity of the latter is recognized by Svet as something indisputable. Here we quote what is said about her:

“Godless Bolshevism in Russia has caused irreparable damage to the Russian Orthodox Church. The holy churches were not only robbed but also half destroyed, and the believers were scared to death. Despite this attack, the Russian Orthodox clergy and believing people defended their Church and continue to remain Holy Russia.

“By now, since the patriarchate was restored in Russia in 1917, the Russian Orthodox Church has: 70 dioceses, over 20,000 churches, 90 monasteries. There are again the following lavras: 1) Trinity-Sergievskaya (near Moscow, where the Theological Academy is located); 2) Kiev-Pecherskaya, and 3) Pochaevskaya.

“The Patriarch of Moscow, under the full Bolshevik supervision and control, is His Holiness Patriarch Alexei.

“The total number of Orthodox believers is not given, but we, knowing the pious soul of the Russian people, of which now there are 140 million, decide it to be 134,000,000. We arrive at this conclusion in this way; out of 140 million we exclude 5 million Bolsheviks and 1 million Protestants.”

Regarding the Church in Czechoslovakia, it is further said that "in 1951 the Church in Czechoslovakia was declared autocephalous by the Moscow Patriarchate, but it is ruled by the Russian Metropolitan Eleftherius." It is said about Pryashevskaya Rus: "In 1952, a populous church-laity council of the Orthodox Church took place in Pryashevo, at which the former Uniates unanimously decided to break their Uniate chains to the Roman Papacy and solemnly transferred to their great-grandfather, Orthodoxy."

It is not necessary to go so deeply in order to switch from these judgments to the atmosphere of the third evidence of a lie—already open and manifest. The first issue for 1954 of the organ of the Patriarchal Exarchate in America, United Church, with a report on the March church congress has just been published. A certain "layman," the personal secretary of the Archbishop Hermogen also spoke at it, an associate professor of the Leningrad Theological Academy A. F. Shishkin, who was the first to speak after the report of Archbishop Adam. Let us cite the following passage from the report:

“The Russian Orthodox Church, in the entire centuries-old history of its existence, has never been a martyr. It has not been so over the past 36 years. In a halo of unearthly grandeur, she entered the world ten centuries ago and is now the most fruitful branch of the universal Church of Christ. It is true that on the historical path of its development the Russian Orthodox Church has experienced certain difficulties at times. But these difficulties have never darkened the brow of the Russian Orthodox people and their hierarchy. They saw in these difficulties the providence of God, directing the life of the Church towards her good and prosperity. They also comprehended the providential right hand of God in the events that arose in their homeland 36 years ago [in 1918]. Many were offended in those days. Part of the Orthodox hierarchy could not resist the political temptation either. They left their flock and “without anyone chasing them," withdrew "to a country far away." But thanks be to God, they turned out to be a small group in comparison with the multimillion mass of the Russian Orthodox population. It remained faithful to its Motherland, to its Mother Church and joyfully toiled and continues to work in the name of the Lord in the new conditions of its earthly existence.”

We called this article "Triptych of Lies." How is the lie arranged? On the one hand, there is an almost involuntary lie, behind which one can feel a striving for the truth, but this truth cannot be fully assimilated by a Western person and degenerates into a lie. One can only wish from the bottom of one’s heart that the mental gaze of Western people, striving for the truth, would continue to be enlightened. May the Lord enlighten them and make them wise, so that they can embark on the true path of struggle against the Lie that conquers the world. On the other hand, the deliberate lie, both by the setting in which it is witnessed, and by the person by whom it is spoken, which is, in its essence, open and clearly deceitful. And in the middle is the testimony of a free Orthodox Church organ, in which, on the contrary, everything speaks to the fact that the truth is being communicated here—both in the setting in which it is witnessed, and in the person by whom it is said, and by the very coloring of what is said. After all, here, even with "fearless" objectivity, it is pointed out that Patriarch Alexei is completely dependent on Soviet power! It also points to the troubles that the Church suffered from the Soviet power! But how is all this indicated? The recognition of the complete dependence of the patriarch on the satanic power does not prevent the assertion that the Church has defended itself and Russia continues to be Holy Russia. There is not a hint of everything that is now known to everyone and what the above-quoted foreign journal is talking about, nor the very persecution of the Church by godless Bolshevism! With what words can one adequately evaluate the exhaustive image of it by the Russian Orthodox free journal, as something “with which the believers were scared to death”?!

We perceive with sympathy the speeches of those who, making their journey to understand the truth, are still unable to extricate themselves from the snares of lies—even if they are still stuck on the most important one. This is the bitter fate of the West, determined by its entire past. We look with pity at the personal fate of those who can no longer not tell lies and for whom a certain excuse can only be their confidence in their knowledge; and for all that, nothing can come out of their mouths but a lie everyone already knows. But what can one say about those from the Russian clergy abroad who, in freedom, of their free will, occupy themselves with a despicable task by using crafty and rotten words to justify, encourage, and engender that lukewarmness towards the truth that makes peopleaccording to the experience of those who know the nature of the Soviet evilnot experienced fighters against it, not enlighteners of the universe in this struggle on which the fate of the world depends, but its evil promoters?!

But here it is not so important what the motives of such indulgence in evil are. Let it sometimes be just laziness of thought and a weak-willed giving of oneself to the mercy of influential currents. One should think about the sin of "ignorance"! The "ignorance" of the sinful is always based on one's own will for evil, one's personal and conscious decision on the path of evil. If this is so in relation to the most average person, then what about the "shepherds"? Must we always talk about "ignorance"? Is there not often a greater sin?

And how gratifying it is to realize that you belong to a Church family openly proclaiming the truth on this most obligatory issue! Under the sign of this truth, the recently concluded Diocesan Assembly took place—and the introduction for it written by Met. Anastassy can rightfully be called historical.

The truth is always simple. There are infinitely diverse varieties of lies, fancifully arranged according to the conventional scheme, which we have designated as the "triptych of lies." It is opposed by a clear understanding that the "Soviet Church" is not a capturing of the Church, not an oppression of the Church, not a persecution of the Church, but something fundamentally different. All this was and all this still remains, but all this [evil] has already achieved a result that one must have the courage to see. That which is called the "Soviet Church" serves the Soviet power, and since this power is a militantly atheistic power, then the "Soviet" Church is already not the Church; you cannot serve God and Belial at the same time.

Metr. Anastasy testified to this on behalf of our Church. Those who are able to understand and share this are on one side: they are with God. Those who do not want to or cannot understand this, those who have not already made their final choice, are thereby hanging over an abyss, and it is our holy duty to warn them with a full voice against the danger that threatens them. This defines our historical place in the world.

(Pravoslavnaya Rus’ [Orthodox Russia]. No. 10, 1954. Pp. 1-3.)

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