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Class 45: Faith Comes First, Session 4. 20th Century Apostasy, Part II. A Third Rome Has Arisen, and a Fourth Shall Not Be. Russia and the End of the World, Part A
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Introduction – The Russian Church, Big Subject!
The more I’ve tried to prepare this talk, the more I realized that we have to take a long time with it, and therefore this section is going to consist of several talks. It’s just too big a subject! The title of this section refers to the famous expression of Monk Philothei of Pskov in a letter to Ivan III early in the 16th century: “So know, pious king, that all the Christian kingdoms came to an end and came together in a single kingdom of yours, two Romes have fallen, the third stands, and there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom …”
Intro to Russian history: Need a good book in English! Need for Dr. Talberg’s book to be translated. His papers are archived at Jordanville and on microfilm at the Hoover Institute at Stanford: http://pdf.oac.cdlib.org/pdf/hoover/talberg.pdf Any volunteers?
Secular books: James Billington, The Icon and the Axe (read for data, not for interpretation). Suzanne Massie, Land of the Firebird (sympathetic intro to Russian culture by a sincere Russophil.) But remember, these are neither Orthodox nor culturally traditional sources. Read only to start your study…much will have to be corrected.
Brief outline of Russian history:
A. Kievan Rus’ – Primary Chronicle – Pagan pre-history; conversion, early centuries
B. Rise of northern city-states – Novgorod, etc.
C. Tatar disruption
D. Rise of Muscovy – St. Sergius and monastic colonization
E. Time of Troubles, emergence of the Romanov dynasty
F. 17th century, early Romanovs, Patriarch Nikon and the schism
G. Peter, the 18th century Westernization, bifurcation of Russia
H. 19th century renewal, but bifurcation intensifies; revolutionary activity
I. The 1905 and 1917 revolutions, civil war >> Soviet Union
J. 1990’s – Yeltsin, Post Soviet Russia 1.0
K. 2000’s – Putin, Post Soviet Russia 2.0
I. The Place of Russia in Sacred History
A. We are part of the sacred history begun in the Old Testament and extending through the New Testament and in the history of the Church until now. A fundamental principle of our Orthodox Survival Course is that we have to understand all history through this lens.
B. Whatever have been the failings of the related Russian peoples in general and the Muscovite state in particular, the big picture is that, after the fall of Constantinople, Moscow really did function as the Third Rome, the center of the Orthodox Empire. This does not mean that the Russians are the holiest or best Orthodox people in some absolute sense – there are saints in every nation, and every nation has its faults. But it does mean that providentially Russia functioned as the great temporal power in the Orthodox world. We did not emphasize this in our earlier survey of the second millennium, because our main concern from the High Middle Ages to the Enlightenment period was with developments in the West. As we arrived at the 19th century, however, we returned to the East and discussed, in particular, the spiritual renewal of Russia that began with St. Paissy Velichkovsky and his disciples in the 18th century, and the dramatic bifurcation between the Petrine secularized society and Holy Russia.
C. The fall of Orthodox Russia ended the Constantinian period of world history, in which the Christian Church was the dominant influence in European society. Many holy men, both before and after the Bolshevik revolution, saw this as a prelude to the reign of Antichrist. We do not know that the Antichrist and the Second Coming are imminent. We are commanded by the Lord to read the signs of the times, and it is obvious that whether or not the world is going to end in the near future, the dispensation of the “Reign of the Saints” has at least been decisively interrupted and given way to a period of history dominated by a Luciferian elite. Russia’s past, present, and future are providentially at the center of this great drama, and we would do well to discern what is going on in the Church of Russia, both in the Russian land and in the diaspora.
II. The Hidden History of the True Russia – The Life of the Soul
We know that our warfare is not against flesh and blood, as St. Paul writes, but against the fallen angels. So the more important part of the history of the Church, of the world, of every Christian nation, and every soul is actually the invisible history of spiritual life. As a background to understanding the significance of Muscovite Russia in history, then, we have to see its outward history in light of its spiritual history, which is the history of its saints. I recommend that you do a course of reading on this spiritual history of Russia that consists of these books, which cover that history in chronological order:
The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia by I.M. Kontzevich – The roots of Russian civilization in the hesychastic tradition of the Greek Fathers as passed on to the great Russian ascetics. The bridge between Byzantium and Holy Russia. Very hard to find hard copy. Online: https://www.scribd.com/document/363911471/Acquisition-of-the-Holy-Spirit-in-Ancient-Russia
The Northern Thebaid – translations by Fr. Seraphim Rose of lives of northern Russian ascetic saints. This covers the 14th century, beginning with St. Sergius of Radonezh, to the mid-17th century. These lives demonstrate in action what Kontzevitch was describing in theory. Also, introduction by Fr. Seraphim is a short substitute for Kontzevich’s book, if you can’t get a copy. Available from St. Herman Press.
The Life of St. Paissy Velichkovsky – Another out of print book from St. Herman Press. Find one wherever you can. I cannot find an online version. St. Paissy in the 18th century was the key figure in reviving the hesychastic tradition that brought about the 19th century spiritual flowering in Russia. Also see the teachings of Elder Basil, who was St. Paissy’s starets – Available from St. John of Kronstadt Press.
Life of Elder Zosima of Siberia – out of print, copies available for sale online. Valuable not only for the witness of Elder Zosima, but also for portrait of his family.
The Conversation of St. Seraphim with Motovilov on the Aim of the Christian Life http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/wonderful.aspx Here St. Seraphim, who reposed in 1833, restates the fundamental wisdom described by Kontzevich, lived by the lives of the Northern Thebaid saints, and recovered by St. Paissy. Various versions of the life of St. Seraphim, including a good short and readable version in Dr. Cavarnos’s series on modern saints and a collection of his sayings published by St. Herman Press in their Little Russian Philokalia series, are readily available.
Lives of the Optina Elders – Mostly available from St. Herman Press. Lives of Elder Joseph and Elder Moses from Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Optina was not the only center of holiness in 19th century Russia, but it is the best known and most influential, and what happened at and because of Optina is a microcosm of what is best in the entire period. The latest elders – Sts. Nectary and Nikon – were holy confessors and martyrs of the Bolshevik period.
Also, recall that we recommended A Man Is His Faith, the book by Fr. Alexey Young about Ivan Kireyevsky, the 19th century Slavophil philosopher who worked closely with St. Makary of Optina to publish Orthodox spiritual literature. Available from St. John of Kronstadt Press.
The Love of God – Life of Elder Gabriel – St. Herman Press. A novice from Optina whose monastic life goes on to illustrate a great deal that was right and wrong with the 19th century Russian Church. An amazing book. He reposes in 1915, which brings our historical path right up to the era of the revolution.
All writings of Sts. Ignaty Brianchaninov (new series now being published by Holy Trinity at Jordanville) and Theophan the Recluse. They are an epitome of the spiritual and theological achievement of the 19th century Russian Church.
St. John of Kronstadt – My Life in Christ. Life of St. John by Sursky, available from HTM in Boston. Study by Nadieszda Kitsenko, A Prodigal Saint. St. John of Kronstadt is an apocalypse – a revelation – in himself. The “last and greatest prophet” to warn of the revolution. Combined strict spiritual life with apostolic mission and miracle-working. Was a completely consistent monarchist and “far right” nationalist, member of the Union of the Russian Nation (Soyuz Russkogo Naroda). He was also a confessor, having been tortured by revolutionaries, in an episode revealed in Sursky’s book.
You have to immerse yourself thoroughly in the lives and teachings of these saints in order to have the right lens through which to view Russian history in general and the events of the revolution and the 20th century and 21st century Russian Church divisions and controversies. If you really acquire their mindset, it will be obvious to you that only a thoroughgoing monarchist, nationalist, and patriarchal political, social, and family philosophy, combined with uncompromising traditional Orthodoxy, expresses a comprehensive vision of the true Holy Russia. (Holy New Hieromartyr Vladimir of Kiev said that all the good clergy were monarchists and that a republican could not be a good priest.) Any other synthesis is a distortion created by a pick-and-choose approach of modernists and secularists who serve the spirit of Antichrist.
III. Understanding the Bolshevik Revolution
A. Recall that in our Survival Course, we have characterized the entire period from 1789 and the beginning of the French Revolution, until now, as the Age of Revolution. You could also call it the Age of the Spirit of Antichrist, which followed the Age of Constantine. Fr. Seraphim explores the roots of the revolution especially in his Lecture Six, on the French Revolution. He does not shy away from the role of the secret societies, etc. The Bolshevik revolution is the pivotal moment in the ongoing revolution (the pivot from the end of the Constantinian era to the beginning of the unfettered rule of the globalist Luciferian elite), because it removed the greatest Orthodox power, the katechon – that/he which restraineth (II Thessalonians 2: 6-7).
B. Right now, in our Faith Comes First section, we are focusing on the Church. Later we will return to Bolshevism when discussing Family and Society. Now we are trying to discern “Where is the Church,” and therefore our focus will be not on Russia as a whole but specifically on the Moscow Patriarchate/ Church Abroad (MP and anti-MP)/ Catacomb Church, etc. But to discern “Where is the Church?”, to understand the divisions in the Russian Orthodox ecclesiastical sphere, we do have to have a basic understanding of the Russian – or, rather, anti-Russian – revolution and its spiritual significance.
C. As a general principle of discernment, we can adopt this approach: To discern where the true Church of Russia is, you have to discern which hierarchy or hierarchies most thoroughly reject the Revolution whole and entire without compromise, in all of its manifestations and throughout all of its history until now. What is going on now in mainstream Russian conservatism is not a thorough rejection of the Soviet period in all of its manifestations but a synthesis of Orthodoxy with Sovietism. This is shown in the ecclesiastical realm by the supposed reconciliation of the Sergianist approach with the confessional approach to the Soviet power, and in the political reading of 20th century history dominated by the Great Patriotic War ideology. I am not talking here about judging anyone morally – Who knows how each of us would have responded to the pressures of Soviet life? God alone judges. (Critics of the uncompromising anti-Sergianist position try to disable discussion by saying, “Who are you to judge? You would have compromised also.”) I am talking about our forming intellectual, moral, and theological positions on the basis of which to make informed choices. For example, you can say, “Metropolitan Sergius’s statement on 16/29 July 1927 that the joys and sorrows of the Soviet power are the joys and sorrows of the Orthodox Church” is a profound error without saying, “I know that Sergius was condemned by God to eternal punishment for making this statement.”
D. Reading List on the Church and the Revolution: Above we gave a course of reading about the Russian Church leading up to the Revolution. To read about the Church and its response to the Revolution, the first must-read book is Russia’s Catacomb Saints by I.M. Andreyev and Fr. Seraphim Rose. This book was published by St. Herman Press in the early 1980’s and has never been reprinted. The present management at St. Herman has to re-write the book to justify their belonging to World Orthodoxy, and therefore they have not re-issued it. When it does come out in a new edition, expect them to omit or distort a lot of the authors’ original statements about the Catacomb Church vs. the Soviet Patriarchate. It’s hard to find actual copies of the book, but you can find links to downloading it online from two different sites at https://russiascatacombsaints.blogspot.com/ .
We’ll continue our reading list during our next class! But do get started on Russia’s Catacomb Saints!
Next time we will discuss Dr. Matthew Raphael Johnson and Dr. Vladimir Moss’s contributions. Their role in giving English speakers access to Russian sources.