Monday, October 21, 2013

Letter to New England Monks and Clergy

September 3, 2012 (NS)

Dear Fathers,


The topic of name-worshipping came up, of course, at the clergy meeting on Saturday, September 1, since Metropolitan Ephraim’s mishandling of that controversy is one of the reasons given by many of the parish clergy for his resignation.

In addition to my earlier remarks on the English translation of Patriarch Tikhon’s 1921 Nativity Epistle, I would like now to bring the following points to your attention.

I will discuss here the actual teaching itself. You can find much on it elsewhere. Perhaps you already have. I would urge you to read the 25-page study, written by our Fr. Haralampos and Fr. Basil, in refutation of the arguments of the modern adherents of name-worshipping. (To be sent out shortly.)

The excerpt from Patriarch Tikhon’s 1921 Nativity Epistle is just that — only one passage from a longer document. However, it was presented as though name-worshipping was the main topic of Patriarch Tikhon’s letter. It was not. Further, the Patriarch’s comments should not be taken as a dogmatic statement on which to base dogmatic decisions. It’s a “by the way” to his bishops.

Patriarch Tikhon is saying to his bishops, “If you have any living name-worshippers in your diocese, and they want to reunite themselves to the Church, let me remind you that this is the economia set up already by the Church for doing so, but the condemnations of name-worshipping and the Synodal decisions and resolutions still stand and are applicable.” That is a classic case of canonical economia.

As you all know, economia is applicable in a given place and time, and relates to individual people or cases. Economia is meant to facilitate the return of people to communion with the Church. Economia never becomes the teaching of the Church, nor can economia ever be cited as a precedent to be used to alter the Church’s dogmatic stance. It cannot be done so in the present case either.

I wrote my short explanation on the translation of the 1921 Nativity Epistle (q.v.) simply to demonstrate that Metropolitan Ephraim and Bishop Gregory were basing there attempt at “compromise” on a faulty translation. My work can in no wise be used to imply that I myself favor any such compromise, because I am categorically against such a thing, as are the majority of the fathers here at Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

Please know how strongly we feel about this topic. Some of us fathers here at Holy Transfiguration Monastery have ceased to kiss Metropolitan Ephraim or Bishop Gregory’s hand or to take their blessing over this matter. A couple of hieromonks will not serve at all until this matter is resolved. A chanter will not chant at the services for the same reason. The majority of the fathers will not accept a “compromise” on this issue under any conditions. That was one of the points in the petition some of us submitted asking for Metropolitan Ephraim’s resignation.

And why should we compromise at all on this dogmatic issue? This strange teaching was unknown in our Church before Bishop Gregory joined us. It is he who has cultivated and pushed it. If earlier it was known at all by any of our people, it was known as a teaching condemned by the Church. So now, why do we have to “compromise” at all on this issue? To please Bishop Gregory (and Metropolitan Ephraim, who is too stubborn to admit a mistake and back down)?

This strange teaching has never been a part of our spiritual heritage. On the contrary, Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky and Metropolitan Anastasy were actually present and themselves physically signed the documents condemning name-worshipping with their own hands. Saint Metropolitan Philaret was adamantly opposed to it too, as a disciple of Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky. Are we now to deny our entire spiritual legacy to please our junior hierarch?

What sort of pride has seized these modern apologists of name-worshipping to make them think that they comprehend this controversy better than our three Metropolitans of blessed memory, the whole Russian Church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Holy Mountain?! And why should we believe them, or listen to them? They cannot explain that to us.

Fr. Adrian, who knew Metropolitan Philaret well and many of our other older hierarchs in ROCOR, was horrified to learn that the topic of name-worshipping could even be raised among us — we, who consider ourselves to be the direct spiritual heirs of those ever-memorable hierarchs.

Abbot Archimandrite Ilian (Ivan Sorokin) of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery on Mount Athos, who tonsured our Fr. Panteleimon in the 1957, had been on the Holy Mountain since 1905. He was present during the 1913-14 turmoil, and he sided with the Russian Church and accepted the Synodal condemnation of name-worshipping.

Much is made of the interpretation of Patriarch Tikhon’s letter which supposedly states that it is up to a future council of the Russian Church to make the final decision concerning name-worshipping. Even if one accepts such an interpretation, one cannot violate present legal codes based on the hope that those laws will supposedly be abolished sometime in the future by a, as yet to be convened, legislature! So too here: until such time as the Russian Church revokes its previous decisions regarding the name-worshippers, they are still in force. Imagine the reaction of a policeman if someone attempted to tell him that he cannot arrest him for a crime, since the legislature may revoke that law ten years from now!

And if we should compromise now to “keep peace in the family”, what interpretation can Metropolitan Ephraim and Bishop Gregory put on name-worshipping in the future? What other strange teachings can subsequently be introduced under the same banner of “compromise”?

Bishop Gregory feels a great need to rehabilitate, to vindicate, to exonerate those Athonite monks whom he feels have been unfairly treated. Those fathers and the Synodal hierarchs who opposed them have all gone to stand before the Judgment seat of Christ long ago. Our Lord can set all thing straight among them. In any case, the Orthodox world will never accept any “resolution” of this problem, or “compromise”, from our tiny, marginalized group, so what is the point of all this?

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we or the parish clergy meet Metropolitan Ephraim and Bishop Gregory’s call for “compromise” on this issue. If later asked by their parishioners or any of the laity: “What is this teaching called ‘name-worshipping’? And what sort of compromise have you agreed upon?” — how many of our clergy or of us monks could give an intelligent reply?

And no matter how many qualification we might try to attach to such a compromise, the rest of the Orthodox world will simply consider us to be bona fide, 100%, name-worshippers. And they will brand us as such. Don’t we have enough epithets attached to us already; do we need this added one?! And what can we reply to them: “Oh, you don’t understand: We are ‘name-worshipping Lite’. Or ‘tweaked name-worshipping’. Or ‘name-worshipping, with the following caveats’”??! They will simply laugh us to scorn.

And there is really no need to compromise anyway. If a modern-day adherent of name-worshipping wishes to join the True Orthodox Church, then all we have to do is apply the economia of the Russian Church which is already in place. There is no need to fabricate some false compromise in order to facilitate a persons return to the Church. But this presently proposed compromise has a much broader, and perilous purpose — to allow unrepentant name-worshippers to still consider themselves to be True Orthodox Christians.

And in this particular case, the enticing term “compromise” is extremely dangerous. By convincing us to accept the 1921 Nativity Epistle as a document on which we can all agree, Metropolitan Ephraim and Bishop Gregory are seeking to reduce the objections to name-worshipping merely to those four points which they themselves have extracted from the text of Patriarch Tikhon’s letter. Thereafter, anyone suspected of name-worshipping by the rest of us can be asked by them: “Do you accept our compromise based on the 1921 Nativity Epistle and reject those four points?” If the person answers in the affirmative, which most people probably would, then it can be declared by Metropolitan Ephraim and Bishop Gregory that such a person is not a name-worshipper, and hence, we can be in full communion with them, etc.! This opens the door into our Church to all sorts of people with whom most of us want nothing more to do with: Bishop Gregory Lourie, Bishop Job, and many others, who indisputably are unrepentant and militant name-worshippers.

Recently, Bishop Gregory Lourie and the now Bishop Job have claimed in postings on the Internet that HOCNA helped them to coordinate Bishop Job’s consecration to the episcopacy, that we approved of it, and that we are still in communion with each other. When some parish clergy sought a written statement from Metropolitan Ephraim and Bishop Gregory declaring that such was not the case, they were stonewalled. Bishop Gregory said that a phone call would be enough.

Name-worshipping is a Pandora’s box which we must not open on any account.

We beg and implore you not to do so, and we tell you bluntly that most of the fathers here will never accept such a decision.

We have no further need to hear from Metropolitan Ephraim or Bishop Gregory on this matter. We made it abundantly clear at the HTM synaxis that we want to drop this topic totally. We accept the Russian Synodal decisions and condemnations of name-worshipping, and those of Constantinople and the Holy Mountain. And we want that stated publicly by our Synod. Period!

We are at the breaking point over this, and will not be provoked further.

Fr. Nicholas Holy Transfiguration Monastery September 3, 2012 (NS)

P. S. As an example of how insidious this teaching can be, take our own Fr. Panteleimon for a warning. We all know the great love and reverent awe he once had for Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, and which he inculcated in us all. Metropolitan Anthony was considered to be an unglorified saint. Then gradually, to the degree that Fr. Panteleimon began to imbibe the teachings of name-worshipping, his admiration for Metropolitan Anthony began to wane, and eventually it grew very cold. Fr. Panteleimon began to make derogatory remarks about Metropolitan Anthony: that he was a scholastic, an administrator, that he didn’t understand hesychasm, that he wasn’t a man of prayer, and so forth. I actually heard him say that those who oppose name-worshipping fall under the condemnations against Varlaam and Akindynos! Recently Fr. Panteleimon angrily told our Fr. Haralampos and Fr. Basil that, for having written the refutation of name-worshipping, they would not decompose when they die. Sad…