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Letter to Priest Viktor Potapov

Met. Philaret Sketch

by Saint Metropolitan Philaret

June 26 / July 9, 1980.

Father Victor!

For a long time already I was going to write you a few words, but somehow “my hands did not reach [the pen].” But at last I got myself together and am writing.

While I was still in Australia, when I began to receive post factum information from America that there were protests, demonstrations, and even prayers in front of the Soviet consulate, I was greatly alarmed and regretted that I was not there, since I would have resolutely opposed a lot of what happened, especially a prayer service in such a place. Have they not sung the song of the Lord in a strange land? Why was it necessary to bring the holy work of Church prayer right in view of the rabid servants of the Antichrist? Was it really impossible to pray in the temple?

I must say frankly that I am always annoyed when I hear about “protests," “demonstrations," etc. In the USSR, life is ruled by the one (with horns) who fears only Christ and the Cross and is not afraid of anything else in the world. And he only laughs at protests and demonstrations. "Public opinion”? The antichrist power spits on this from the highest platform! They wanted to take Czechoslovakia—and they took it, not paying attention to the uproar that arose. They wanted to enter Afghanistan—and entered, not paying attention to the protests and threats of various cartels and companies. All attempts to influence public opinion in the so-called free world in favor of those who suffer from communism are powerless and fruitless, since the free world stubbornly closes its eyes and becomes like an ostrich that hides its head under its wing and thinks that it is not visible....

With bewilderment, I read in the newspaper how one journalist approvingly quotes your words: “Priest Viktor Potapov is right when he writes: ‘Russia is being raised from the dead! We must believe in this, for we believe in Christ the Savior, risen from the dead.’”

I cannot understand—what is the connection between the one and the other? Personally, I believe in the Resurrection of Christ—for me it is the most precious thing in the world. But I do not see at all why I should believe that Russia is being “resurrected.” I hope that she will really be resurrected when it is the omnipotent beckoning of God that accomplishes this. But at the present time, not only do I not share your enthusiasm, but I am very worried about the Russian people. The lie and emptiness of atheism is clear to them. But, alas, true Orthodoxy is not spreading there. There, under the guise of Orthodoxy, the Russian people are presented with Bulgakovism, Berdyaevism and other rubbish from the Evlogian schism; sects flourish there—Baptists and so on. The official Church preaches cooperation with the atheist government, praising it in every possible way. The true Orthodox Church has gone into the catacombs—hidden from the public eye.... Is this a “revival of Orthodoxy”?… Are you not taking too much upon yourself, proclaiming to the whole world that Orthodoxy is being revived in Russia? May God grant that truth overcomes all delusions and triumphs over them. But it is still too early to talk about this, since the influence of anti-Orthodox principles is still too strong there. Not to mention the fact that the antichrist Soviet power, as long as it rules Russia, will never allow the triumph of Orthodoxy—it is not for nothing that true Orthodoxy has disappeared into the catacombs and is cruelly persecuted there.

A few words about the tragedy of poor Fr. D. Dudko. [He was a Russian dissident, who spoke against the Soviets, but after being pressured, he later recanted and publicly repented of his opposition to the Soviets.]

Even at the very beginning of his activity, when his name was increasingly being associated with a pillar of Orthodoxy, many members in the synod, bishops, were partial to him; I, who am writing these lines, immediately stood on the sidelines and warned my fellows that a catastrophe could happen here. Why? Because in the USSR, according to the perspicacious definition of Fr. Archimandrite Constantine, now reigns a satanocracy. The one who rules there is the one whom the Savior called a liar and the father of lies. That liar reigns there. Therefore, nothing that happens there can be trusted. Any seemingly spiritually encouraging fact can turn out to be a fabrication, a fake, a provocation.

Why did this trouble happen with Fr. Dimitri? Let us assume the best, not suspecting him of conscious cooperation with the KGB and of betraying his convictions, but accepting the sad fact that he could not stand it and was “broken,” capitulating to the enemies of the Church. Why? It would seem that he showed both courage and daring, and suddenly—such an inglorious end! Why?

Because his activity took place OUTSIDE THE TRUE CHURCH.

What is the “Soviet Church"? Fr. Archim. Constantine spoke a lot and persistently that the most terrible thing that the atheist government accomplished in Russia was the emergence of the “Soviet Church," which the Bolsheviks presented to the people as the true Church, driving the Orthodox Church into the catacombs and concentration camps.

This false church was twice anathematized. His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon and the All-Russian Church Council anathematized the communists and all their cooperators. This formidable anathema has not yet been rescinded and remains in force, since it can only be lifted by an All-Russian Church Council like the canonical Higher Church Authority. And a terrible thing happened in 1927, when the head of the Church, Met. Sergius, with his shameful apostate declaration, subordinated the Russian Church to the Bolsheviks and announced cooperation with them. And the expression in the prayer before Confession came true in the most precise sense: "I fell under my own anathema"! For in 1918, the Church anathematized all cooperators with communism, and in 1927 she herself entered the company of these cooperators and began to praise the red godless power—to praise the red beast of which the Apocalypse speaks.

This is not all. When Met. Sergius made public his criminal declaration, the faithful children immediately separated from the Soviet Church and the Catacomb Church was created. And she, in turn, anathematized the official church for her betrayal of Christ.

And so, in this church of deceitful ones was the activity of Fr. Dimitri Dudko, who bluntly stated in the press that he did not break with the Soviet Church and remained in it. If his spiritual eyes were open and he saw the true nature of the official church—he probably would have found the courage to say: “I hate the church of the deceitful, and I will not sit with the wicked”—I break with the company of the opponents of God and leave the Soviet Church. Then he would become to us one of our own, his courage would destroy the barrier that invariably stands between us due to the fact that the synod accepted the last will and testament of Met. Anastassy. And in this will it is indicated that one should not have any communication with cooperators with the communists, not only in prayer but even in everyday life. But if Fr. Dimitri would have refused to stay in the Soviet pseudo-church and would have left it—the barrier [between him and us] would no longer hinder him.

I remember one remarkable case of the direct miraculous help of God to those who were faithful to the end. A group of nuns belonging to the Catacomb Church was driven to Solovki. The Chekists told them: Get a job today, and tomorrow you will go to such-and-such a job. But they received an unexpected answer: We will not go and we will not work.

“Are you out of your mind? Do you know what will happen to you?” shouted the Chekists.

The calm answer of people who, in their faithfulness, were not afraid of anything followed: “What will be, will be—and we will be what is pleasing to God, and not to you, you executioners and criminals. You can do whatever you want with us—starve us, torture us, hang us, shoot us, burn us in the fire. But we warn you once and for all: we do not recognize you, the servants of the Antichrist, as the legal authority and we will never carry out your orders!”

In the morning, the enraged Chekists drove the nuns to the “hill of death.” That was the name of a high hill on which an icy wind always blew. In this wind, a man froze to death in a quarter of an hour. The nuns, dressed in their shabby duckweed garments, were led to this hill by the red army men in sheepskin coats. The nuns walked merrily, joyfully, while singing psalms and prayers. The soldiers left them on the top of the hill and went down, hearing them continue their chanting. Half an hour, an hour, two, more—you could still hear singing from above. Evening came. The guards approach the nuns. They find them alive, unharmed, and continuing to sing prayers. The surprised soldiers took them home—to the camp. The news of this immediately spread throughout the camp. And when the next day the guards changed and the same thing happened again—the camp authorities were confounded and left the nuns alone....

Is this not a victory? This is what faithfulness till death means—as the wonderful words of the Apocalypse say: "Keep on becoming faithful until death, and I will give to thee the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). And in this case was a clear miracle, as it was with the three youths in the Babylonian furnace, only there was the deadly element of fire, and here a mortally deadly cold. This is how the Lord rewards faithfulness!

And here is my deep conviction: if the entire multimillion mass of Russian people would show such faithfulness as these nuns and refuse to obey the robbers who have captured the Russian people, communism would collapse instantly, for the help of God would come to the people, which saved the nuns miraculously on their way to certain death. So long as the people recognize this power and obey it, albeit with cursing in their souls, this power remains in place.

Of course, the nuns, like the ancient martyrs, were strengthened by the power of God; without this help, they would not have resisted. But their feat was accomplished in the true Church, filled with grace and truth. For the true Church, according to the teaching of the apostles, is the body of Christ—the Lord dwells in her and rules her as her divine Head.

Would anyone dare to assert that the Lord and His grace dwells in the church of the deceivers, which praises and cooperates with His devoted enemies, which for this is under a double anathema, as indicated above? Can it be a blessed church that united with the fighters against God?! The answer is clear!

The holy hierarch Theophan the Recluse warned at one time that a terrible time was approaching, when before all the people there would be an appearance of the splendor of the Church—solemn services, Church orders, and so on—but inside, the complete betrayal of Christ's Spirit. Isn't that what we see in the Soviet Church? Patriarchs, metropolitans, “the entire priestly and monastic order”—and at the same time an alliance with the fighters against God, that is, a clear betrayal of Christ.

Fr. Dimitri Dudko’s ties lie with this company of men. Of course, his sincere religious feeling made him preach about God and disagree with many ugly phenomena in the life of the Russian people. But for him, Pimen was probably, and now is, the spiritual head of the Soviet hierarchy, while for us this is not at all the case, for the Council of 1971 issued a resolution: on the basis of such-and-such canonical rules, to consider the election of Pimen illegal and invalid, and consider all his orders and decrees as having no force and significance.

How difficult is the situation of poor Fr. Dimitri! What should he do? Continue his pastoral work? And what will he say to the believers? The same things that he said before his “repentance"? But he denied it! Say the opposite? But they believed him when he preached something that won him the trust and respect of believers, and now—how will he look them in the eyes?… One girl rightly said that there was a way out for him—to offer repentance for what he had done right now. But for this he needs to leave the church of the deceitful for the true Church and make repentance there. But for this, undoubtedly, the red authorities will deal with him with deep malice and cruelty. Of course, having passed into the true Church, he will move into the realm of grace and divine power, which can strengthen him in the same way as it strengthened the catacomb nuns. God grant that he finds the true and saving way.

I would also like to note this: the Catacomb Church in Russia treats the Church Abroad with love and full confidence. But one thing is incomprehensible to the Catacombniks—it is not clear why our Church, knowing with certainty that the Soviet hierarchy has betrayed Christ and is no longer the bearer of grace, nevertheless accepts clerics from the Soviet Church in their existing orders, without re-ordaining them as if they already had grace. After all, both the clergy and the flock receive grace from the hierarchy—and if it betrayed the truth and deprived itself of grace, then where did the clergy get grace from? This is what the Catacombniks ask.

The answer to this is simple. The Church has the power in certain cases to apply the principle of so-called oikonomia—condescension. Even St. Basil the Great said that in order not to alienate many from the Church, sometimes we allow condescension and do not apply the Church’s rules with all strictness. When our Church accepted Catholic clergy in their existing orders, without ordaining them, she acted according to this principle. And Met. Anthony [Khrapovitsky], clarifying this issue, pointed out that the Catholics have an external form—successive ordination from apostolic times—and that those who are joined receive the grace lost by the Catholic Church from the fullness of grace inherent in the Orthodox Church at the moment of their joining. “The form is filled with its content,” says Vladyka Anthony.

In exactly the same way, when accepting the Soviet clergy, we apply the principle of economy. And we receive clergy from Moscow not as having grace, but as having received it in the very union. But we, of course, cannot recognize the church of the deceivers as the bearer and guardian of grace. For there is NO grace outside of Orthodoxy, and the Soviet Church has deprived itself of grace.

At the end of a long letter, I want bring something before your eyes, Father Victor. The Council of Bishops accepted the will of Metropolitan Anastassy for guidance and fulfillment, in which the late First Hierarch bequeathed us [the order] not to have any communication with the Soviet Church, not only in prayer but also in everyday life. On what basis did you and other clergymen have direct contact with Fr. D. Dudko? They wrote letters to him and so on. No matter how sincere a person you think he is, can your personal opinion abolish the rule adopted by the Church? Now, if Fr. Dudko said: “I break with the official church and leave it”—then you could enter into live communication with him. But without this, your actions are a violation of Church discipline. Dudko wrote to me personally, but I did not answer him—although I could have said much.... By the way—on what basis did you even earlier decide to commemorate the bishop of the Soviet Church at the Great Entrance? Who gave you the right to this, what bishop—who, how, where, when? Be careful, my kind and zealous, but overly impetuous colleague!

Peace to you and the mercy of the Lord. And to Matiushka Masha "with the children."

With love,

† Metropolitan Philaret

Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
Contact: Archbishop Gregory
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