On the Question of the Union of the Churches An Address by His Grace, Archbishop Platon in charge of the Russian Churches in North America [Porfiri Fiodorovich Rozhdestvenski, 1866-1934;
Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America 1907-1914
Exarch of Georgia 1915-1917
Metropolitan of All America and Canada 1922-1934]
Printed by Request, n.p., 1911.
At the invitation of the Faculty of the Divinity School of Philadelphia, of the Clerical Brotherhood, and of The Church Club of Philadelphia, his Grace Archbishop Platon, who has charge of all the Russian Churches in North America, delivered the accompanying address to a large and intelligent audience of clergymen and laymen, in the Church House in Philadelphia, on Monday, February 27th, 1911.
Bishop Darlington, of Harrisburg, one of the Committee of Conference with the Eastern Churches appointed by the House of Bishops in Cincinnati in October, and a Vice President of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union, came down especially for the purpose of introducing his friend, the Archbishop, to the Club. Bishop Darlington spoke of the many courtesies he had received from the Archbishop and his priests, and told how he had been appointed a committee of one to welcome Bishop Raphael, of Brooklyn, to the House of Bishops assembled at Cincinnati, where the Bishop was received by the Presiding Bishop and the Chairman of the House of Bishops to a seat of honor; while Father Turkevich, as the Archbishop's special representative, was also welcomed with Bishop Raphael to various other gatherings of the General Convention. Bishop Darlington also told how being invited by priest and people, he laid the corner stone of the Bulgarian-Macedonian Orthodox Church, of Steelton. The Bishop spoke at length and said that the barriers which now separated the Eastern Churches from the Anglican Communion were more those erected by differing languages and customs, than by differences in belief; and that we are to congratulate ourselves that Archbishop Platon, who has won the love of all Americans who know him, has consented to address our clergy and tell them exactly what the Russian Church desires and believes.
The Archbishop, who is not only a most scholarly and learned theologian, but who has evidently made a most careful and sympathetic study of the whole question of the reunion of the churches, prepared this paper with great care as his contribution toward the solution of this most vital matter.
This paper is printed, not only out of courtesy to the Archbishop, but because of its value as a contribution toward the understanding of this question. It is believed that it will be illuminating to multitudes in the Episcopal Church in regard to the attitude of the Greek Church, both toward the Church of Rome and ourselves. The very slight intercourse which we have had with the Greek Church heretofore, has made it an almost unknown quantity in the eyes of the ordinary Episcopalian. He has not realized that there is a great section of Christendom, the second largest numerically, which stands theoretically on the same basis as his own church, in its appeal in all vital matters of doctrine, discipline and worship, to antiquity and universality, without any question of submission to the claims of a single bishop to supremacy and infallibility, and which is ready and anxious to enter into communion and co-operation with us, provided it is satisfied that we hold substantially the same Faith and Order as itself.
This paper is most valuable as revealing the attitude and temper of the cultured Russian theologian in his approach towards the question of union with the Churches of the Anglican Communion. And it gives several very solid grounds for hope that that union may eventually be accomplished.
First, it is evident from the very sympathetic way in which the Archbishop speaks of Professor Sokoloff having "decided in the affirmative the cardinal question of the life of the Episcopal Church, concerning the apostolic succession of its hierarchy, on a perfectly scientific basis." This crucial question being disposed of, it enables the Greeks to regard us as we regard them, as one of the Ancient Churches of Christendom, for union with which they can long and pray, and to whose ministrations they can, in cases of necessity at least, commend their members.
Secondly, the Archbishop states, as forcibly as any Anglican could, that faith and love are the very essentials of religion, the bonds by which individual souls are bound to God and to each other, rather than by the mere ligaments of an outward order.
Thirdly, while the Archbishop feels, more strongly than we do, the difficulty of worshipping according to each others rites, he holding so to the attitude of standing throughout services, and feeling such repugnance to the use of musical instruments, etc., still he distinctly recognizes the fact that difference in the modes or concomitants of worship should not cause separation between sister churches. Each can follow its own national characteristics and habits and yet both remain united in one bond of fellowship.
We regret that the Archbishop cannot see his way at present even to recommend his clergy to use our churches for their services when placed at their disposal, chiefly it would seem because he does not feel that they could reciprocate the courtesy. But there is no necessity for their doing so when our Churches are so plentiful, and the fact of Greek services being held in our Churches, as our Bishops and clergy have uniformly been ready to allow, would certainly tend toward the cultivation of friendly feeling and relations between the members of the two bodies.
Fourthly, there is the beautiful and most sincerely Christian spirit which breathes through this entire paper, showing how earnest and ardent is the Archbishop's desire that our Lord's prayer for the union of His disciples should be accomplished, and how anxious he is to go as far, and do as much as he can, to further this end.
Although the Archbishop purposely refrains from touching on dogmatic matters, it is evident that they are the questions which present difficulties to his mind and which must be removed or surmounted before complete intercommunion between the Greek and Anglican Churches can be established. The Easterns lay the greatest stress upon Orthodoxy, upon the necessity for the preservation of the Faith--as it was first delivered to the Apostles, has been denned by the Ecumenical Councils, and handed down through the ages. Before union therefore with another church, they must be satisfied that it is as orthodox as their own. And there are certain expressions and statements in the authoritative formulas of the Episcopal Church which require to be at least explained, if not removed, before the Greeks could be satisfied on that point. One of these of course is the word "Protestant" in our official name, a designation which would imply to them that we classed ourselves only as one of those numerous bodies who consider the constitution and teaching of the Church as a matter of individual choice or opinion, every one being free to interpret the Faith, or to form or fashion "the Church" as he may prefer. If it could be made clear that we use the term Protestant only as descriptive of our attitude towards the claims of the Bishop of Rome, and not as meaning that we deny the need of historic orders or of Catholicity as the ground of the Faith, that barrier to union would be thrown down. No one could be more opposed to Rome in this sense, than the Archbishop shows himself to be in this article.
Then there is the Filioque in the Nicene Creed. The representatives of the Eastern Church at the Bonn Conference, held at the call of Döllinger in 1876, were quite satisfied that there was no essential difference between the teaching of the Eastern and Western Churches as to there being more than one arch in the Godhead. But why, they ask, should we go on repeating an interpolation in an ecumenical creed, made only on the authority of the Western Church, which seems to teach a different doctrine.
There is also the implication in our formularies that the Anglican Churches deny sacramental efficacy to any of the seven great rites which the Greeks regard as sacred mysteries, except Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Then there is the fact that we have not only left out of our liturgy all invocations of the Saints, which they regard as a dogma, but in our xxxix Articles it is declared to be "a fond thing, vainly invented, * * * repugnant to the word of God."
So the Articles condemn the use of the word "Transubstantiation" which the Greeks employ, though doubtless in a different sense from the Latins. They appear also to reflect on the authority of General Councils and of Apostolic tradition, and to teach the Lutheran doctrine of Justification by Faith only, and that there is no sacrifice in the Eucharist.
There are too, the difficulties that our Prayer Book provides no offices for unction of the sick, or prayers for the dead. But these are all things which we believe can be explained, or made the subject of accommodation, by full and free conference between the authorities of the two Churches.
We therefore welcome most heartily this response of the Archbishop of the Russian Churches in America to the invitation to set forth his views and to state frankly the difficulties existing in his mind to the mutual approaches of the two Churches. They have the same Episcopal Constitution and historical continuity, their dogmatical position and practical discipline is essentially the same, and there seems to be no reason why national or racial peculiarities or customs should interfere with their having the fullest communion, fellowship and sisterly reciprocity with each other. There is no need, nor question, of proselytizing on the one side or the other, but only of regarding, and acting toward each other as equal members of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God.
ON THE QUESTION OF THE UNION OF THE CHURCHES.
Just as now, standing before you in this distinguished company, I see the blessing of God on the work to which He has called me, so, when I was first invited to this conference, I felt that invitation to be an expression of the will qf God, and replied to it by acceptance; the more so, because at the same time there arose within me a personal wish to see you, to rejoice with you, and to submit to your attention my ideas On The Question Of The Union Of The Churches, a question which I know to be the very life of many among you.
Remembering the rule of the science of logic, according to which he who tries to prove too much proves nothing, I should wish, without arguing or persuading you, simply, and at the same time quite objectively, to depict for you the religious life of our Russian people, hoping that, beholding that picture, you may be convinced of the truth,, the power, and the vitality of our Russian Church, that Holy Apostolic Faith. This would be my mite, contributed to the Treasury of the question of the Union of the Churches.
Among other things, I especially thought of bringing forward the idea that the great number of our religious sects does not prove the decline and disintegration of our Russian Church, as its enemies affirm; but that, on the contrary, it shows the strong hold religion has on our people, who ever think of God, and among whom there are many who wish to draw near to God by paths of their own, who not infrequently raise their voices against the Church, their Mother, unwilling to bear her beneficent yoke, and taking up burdens of their own. If you could only see the crowded churches of holy Russia on Sundays and holy days, if you could see our people during public prayer, if you could behold, or, better still, if you could be permeated by their devout spirit, you would understand that the words '' The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew xvi, 18) apply precisely to our Russian Orthodox Church. A Roman Catholic may exclaim: "What assurance!" for it is well known that the Latin Church has monopolized the right to these holy words. To this, I would answer: "It is an assurance which rests upon incontestable historical data. The indestructibility and enduring stability of our Russian Church rests upon the limitless love and limitless devotion of all our people in its entirety to Christ. Doubtless our Church also has its sores, but you will understand my feelings when I tell you that I have not the heart to lay them bare before you. I could not do it, both because in my eyes our Mother Church always stands out pure and blameless, and because these sores are not peculiar to our Church alone.
At present, among the educated classes in Russia, types like Sawa in Audreyeff's novel, have become possible; Sawa, who blasphemously expresses the wish that'' all this antiquated rubbish might be swept away: literature, art and God!" To this, Sawa's own sister Lipa, answers, the religious consciousness of the Russian people, and their love for their Church speaking through her lips:'' Sawa you love no one; you love only yourself and your dreams. He who loves mankind, would not take their all from them, placing his own wishes above that which is their life. To destroy all! To destroy Golgotha! Think, to destroy Golgotha! The brightest event that earth has seen. You may not believe in Christ, but if there is a particle of nobility in you, you must respect Him, and honor His noble memory; you know that He was sorrowful, you know that He was crucified, Savva., crucified! Remember that all our people would gladly kill you, crush you like a poisonous reptile. You know how many they are, and each one of them would be your death. If they beat to death a common robber, a horse-thief, what would they do to you--you, who wish to steal their God?"
The Russian Church has taken possession of the whole Russian man, laying hold on his soul, his will and his heart. Our great writer, Dostoyevsky, says: "That is the most important, in which the masses believe as in their truth, that in which they perceive it, the way in which they represent it, that which they put forth as their best wish, what they love, what they ask from God, what they cry for, when they pray. And the ideal of the masses is Christ; and with Christ, of course, illumination. At the supreme and fateful moments of our national life, our people ever decides and has decided every common national matter in the Christian spirit."
Faith in God and devotion to our Church has brought our people alive out of extremely painful historical trials, and as a result of the position which Russia occupies among the nations, our nation has been a great sufferer in its historical life, a disinterested protector of other peoples, and it still remains great and unshakable in the common family of mankind. This spiritual force and this indestructibility are imparted to the Russian people by their faith in God and their adherence to the Russian Church. The friction between the people and those of the educated class whose type we have described, cannot push the soul of the nation from the pedestal of its devotion to the Russian Church, and so long as the Russian people exists, its devotion to the Russian Church will also exist, and with this devotion and love for the Russian Church will continue the love for all that is bound up with it, in its dogmatical or purely ritual aspects. I am happy that I am justified in saying that our people is pre-eminently a Christian people, and I say this because our people adheres to the Russian Orthodox Church; from my lips this claim is not conceited, for I but state an indisputable fact.
The moral and religious force of our vast and powerful nation lies in the Russian Orthodox Church, and the force of that Church is in its truth.
But, to my great regret, the historical truth of the Russian Orthodox Church has not yet been vindicated among you through a knowledge of that Church acquired in the one sure way of dispassionate scientific-research and vital communion with Russian Orthodox friends. There are among you separate individuals-who are well acquainted with the Russian Orthodox teaching, and who therefore accept it as the only Christian confession which has come down to us from apostolic times pure and undistorted; but the number of such people is few. Even learned theologians like Dr. Briggs, with whose notable work, "Church Unity" I have recently become acquainted, have but a limited knowledge of the Russian Orthodox Church. In his own words, the Holy Spirit led him to the Methodists; to the Lutherans, with whom he spent four years in Germany; to England, and to Rome. He is acquainted with the doctrines, the theology and the government of the Reformed Churches, but I do not know whether he has been in the East; whether he has studied the Orthodox East, as he has studied the non-Orthodox West. He did not study; he did not view so closely, the East, of which Bishop Graf ton speaks as follows: "brightening prospects in the East. Thither, it would seem, God's Providence is directing us. The venerable Orthodox Russian and Greek Church is turning to us with friendly expressions of interest. She says, 'We do not ask you, as Rome does, to "submit," we only ask, "Do you hold the same Catholic faith we have inherited from the fathers?" If you do, we are brothers.' '
However, Bishop Grafton has had the experience of seeing some of those who stood nearest to him and to all appearances shared his views, on the Union of the Churches, in the end turning to Roman Catholicism; which proves that, while they were speaking of the East, they were looking toward the "West, evidently "because they know Rome better than the East.
I can even affirm that Russian theological science knows more of the Episcopal Church than Episcopalians know about the Russian Orthodox Church. If, at the time of his visits to other Christian nations, the learned Doctor Briggs had visited Russia also, he might have made the acquaintance, in Kieff, of Professor Bulgakoff, now dead, who made a profound study of the Anglican Church. ["Christian and Catholic," p. 365.] If Doctor Briggs had visited Moscow, in Sergieff Posad he would have met Professor Sokoloff, who devoted much labor to the history of the Episcopal Church, and, among other things, decided in the affirmative the cardinal question of its life, concerning the apostolic succession of its hierarchy, on a perfectly scientific basis. However, among Episcopalians there are some, invested with episcopal rank, in whose eyes this question appears to have no importance; for example, the Bishop who put forward this view at the recent Church Convention in Cincinnati, and who, if I am not mistaken, has even published a book on the subject. The idea, as a scientific thesis, is very original, but still more original is the position of a Bishop who rejects episcopacy.
Further, if Doctor Briggs had visited Kazan, he might have met Professor Kerensky, who knows your Church, I dare say, as well as any of you, and whose attitude is most sympathetic toward it, holding that "more than other Churches it approaches the Eastern Orthodox Church."
The works of these men of learning and of many others make your Church known to the young men educated in our divinity schools, very talented and profoundly religious young men, who are destined to form the educated element of the clergy, and to become the defenders, not of the Russian Church alone, hut of Christianity in general, against the modern atheistic and anti-Christian powers; who are destined to form the soil of which the question of the Union of our Churches will grow and prosper.
Which of us does not hold dear the question of the Union of the Churches? Who does not long for it? We, members of the Russian Church, pray for it, knowing well that the union of all Christians is a cause dearest to Christ Himself, who demanded that those who believe in him should love one another (John, xiii, 34-35.)
The longing for this union cannot be uprooted from our hearts; for there is not a single soul among us who does not recognize that Christianity must cherish not separateness but union, not estrangement but intimacy, not animosity and conceit, but love and humility.
What, then, are we to do? How are we practically to further the solution of this question? It seems to me that, without setting aside methods hitherto used, even though, in truth, they have not so far yielded in full measure the desired results, we should, so far as is in our power, help both individuals and organizations occupied with this question. Let these organizations work on. In our Holy Synod, we have a Committee specially appointed to further the sacred cause of the Union of the Churches. In this country, the "Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Church Union" is at work, and we must acknowledge that the work of this Society is thoughtful and practical.
With all my heart I invoke the blessing of God on the activity of this Society, since the work of making Christians in this country acquainted with the Orthodox East, and the converse, is exactly the way which leads toward the Union of the Churches.
Let these organizations, and others like them, which may come into existence, work and accomplish their task. But we also must come to their help.
The union of the Churches cannot be thought of as a result created and brought about by mutual agreements and treaties, on the basis of mutual concessions and compromises. Attempts to achieve a union of this kind have been known in the history of the Churches; yet nothing but harm has ever come of them.
Written conditions and treaties can never be binding in the region of interior intuition and interior religious conviction, the region of faith. The union of the Churches is thinkable only as a synthesis of what the members of one Church know and understand concerning the essence and characteristics of the life of another Church. If we add together two unknown quantities, the sum is an unknown quantity. The same thing applies to the union of two parties who do not know each other, or know each other too little. Such a union may bring ultimate disunion. After the Florentine Union of sad memory, the Russian Orthodox Church became finally isolated from Roman Catholicism. This shows that, in the cause of the Union of the Churches, besides good will, knowledge is necessary-- knowledge before anything else, and more than anything else. To understand--this is necessary above all.
Yet in this cause practice has unfortunately gone ahead of theory; or, more correctly, we know but little about each other, yet certain steps have already been taken towards union. Little can come of this, but of this I shall speak later on. At present I shall only say: We must state the case properly, and discuss it academically; in this discussion, which I understand to be the scientific investigation of the question, we must help to build up (a result which the work itself will bring about) a body of learned men who will study the question, and make it clear to the consciousness of the Russian Orthodox and the Episcopal Churches. The question must be studied not by individuals alone, but by dozens and hundreds of scientific men; then only will it reach adequate practical realization, I know the young men who study in our Divinity Schools, therefore I can affirm that, if the interest inherent in the question of the Union of the Eastern Orthodox and Episcopal Churches be clearly represented to them, many will step forth from their ranks ready to labor in this field; and their labor will not be in vain. We have already some literature on the subject; but then we shall have masses of scientific investigations, treatises, voluminous works, pamphlets, and our Russian Orthodox people will learn that far away, beyond the ocean, there live noble Americans who wish to believe in Christ in the same way as the Russian Orthodox believe in Him.
The same process must take place in your midst. You must know our faith, our Russian Orthodox Church, in order that among you, men like Bishop Darlington, Bishop Grafton or Bishop Parker may not feel isolated. An atmosphere must be created here, full of ardent longing for this union, not only in order that the interior position of your Church may be strengthened, but also a longing flowing from the consciousness, if not of the already accomplished union of our confessions, at least of their identity.
Your divinity schools should also diligently apply themselves to this question, in order that your students may clearly realize its importance and study our Eastern Orthodox Church. From the school, this question can be carried to the ecclesiastical platform; and then the union between the Eastern Orthodox and the Episcopal Churches will be simply the synthesis of mutual knowledge, mutual respect and love.
When the question has become clear in the consciousness of both sides, and it is clearly seen what is to be done in order that the Union may become a fact, the Church authorities need only sanction the already existing fact of the mutual gravitation of the two Churches and the demonstrated entire possibility of their co-existence.
Then indeed could the holy Union of the two Churches be attained.
As to unions arranged by the orders and through the efforts of lay and spiritual authorities, we have already had enough of them. They have brought to Christianity nothing but harm. We all know of two great unions, that of Florence, and that of Lyons; we know how they were formed, and what was their end. But do you, my American friends, also know of the union of Brest which Rome brought about, three hundred years ago, with a part of our Russian people, who number at present four million? Do you know the present condition of the Russian Uniates? Do you know tow Rome violated and still violates, especially at the present time, the religious rights of these unfortunate Uniates, thus breaking her solemn promises? In the fear 1624, Pope Urban VIII issued decrees, dated February 7, and July 7, that no Russian Uniate or Greek Catholic should become a Roman Catholic; yet in our day Pope Pius X sends to the Russian Uniates of America a Bishop whose special mission is gradually to Deprive the Uniates of the ritual of the Eastern Church, and to make Romanists of them. I cannot speak without profound and heartfelt pain of the doings of the Latinized Russian clergy among the Russian Uniates. I have read and heard much concerning the policy of the Vatican and Jesuitism; of the renegade Russian Uniate clergy, and their attitude toward their own people. But what I have seen and learned here exceeds anything I could expect or imagine.
On American soil, many Uniates began to return to the Church of their forefathers. This sufficed to arouse the Uniate clergy against our Russian Orthodox Church. I could not communicate to you all that is said against our Church; I should he afraid to offend your ears and give you pain. This is not mere lack of culture, or ignorance of the simplest rules of courtesy; it is a deep hatred, in which there is no vestige of anything Christian. It is sufficent to say that the Uniates are told that our Russian Orthodoxy is Tsar-odoxy or even Knout-odoxy; that instead of icons of the Saviour and the Blessed Virgin, our altar screens are adorned with portraits of the Emperor and Empress; that instead of the cross there is a cock, and like lies and fables. You can imagine how painful, how unbearable it is for us to hear such things. God will repay them, and just retribution lies in His holy will; but I pray God that the miserable state of the Russian Uniates may soon end.
My missionaries are eager to combat in defence of these Russian people; some of them use the language and even the methods of the Uniate clergy against them; but this gives me much pain and I have strictly forbidden it. Missionaries are bearers of holy ideas, of Christ's love and truth.
I shall not speak of the local champions of the Russian "Unia," but I must mention Metropolitan Sheptitzky, who recently visited America. This Metropolitan, as is well known, calls together Congresses to bring about a union between Rome and the East. Last year, such a Congress was held in Velegrad, at which the Rev. A. P. Maltzeff, the Archpriest of the Russian Embassy Church in Berlin was present. No doubt to give expression to the delight of his soul, Metropolitan Sheptitzky embraced this Russian priest; yet he said in this country that the Orthodox cannot gain eternal salvation. Does our faith, does Christianity allow those who believe in Christ to act like these Roman priests? Is it possible that, even in our day, it is permissible to speak in one sense and act in another, and thus to act in an unchristian way?
How the Russians are affected by such a policy on the part of their pastors was graphically demonstrated by the reception which the Uniates of Winnipeg and Vancouver gave to this Metropolitan of theirs. "What are you doing?" a policeman shouted at one of the disorderly throng, who threw an egg at the Metropolitan. "Oh, this is the way we greet our bishops in the old country!" was the answer. Later on, I went to Winnipeg, to quiet my flock there, and when, on leaving the train I saw a large crowd of people eagerly watching me, I could not help thinking of the above method of greeting Bishops, and I cannot say that my feelings were pleasant at the moment. But God was merciful to me and the "custom of the old country" was not applied to me.
This, I repeat, is how people are affected by such a policy. It is clear that no one can exalt his own by debasing what is another's. If you believe more correctly, if your faith is better, purer, holier and more salutary, show it to be such not by words, but by deeds. Otherwise you are as the Pharisee, with whose forbidding image the Gospels have familiarized us ever since our childhood. From Roman Catholics, one sees always criticism of others, never criticism of themselves; but profit has there ever been in the pronouncements of one, listening to whom one always says: "Physician, heal thyself!" (Luke iv, 23.)
But let us leave them and their union to God. I have mentioned them only to tell you that three hundred years ago a part of the Russian people did unite with Rome, and you see what came of this union, and what it has finally become. Rome knows no other, and wants no other union. Temporarily, it may admit a union founded on equal rights, but later it will endeavor to turn equal rights into complete subjection, with a complete destruction of all originality in the Church which has joined it, even down to the most insignificant characteristics.
The Roman Church knows no union but complete annexation, in the sense of perfect absorption.
This would, of course, be right, if we had in view the words of the Saviour concerning the unity of those who believe in him (John xvii, 11), but did our Saviour Himself wish that all who believe in Him should form one flock, with the Bishop of Rome as its shepherd? This is a question which is answered in the affirmative only by Roman Catholics in general, and, in particular, by Cardinal Gibbons. Last December (as quoted in The New York Times of December 4, 1910), Cardinal Gibbons delivered an address, in which he invited you to become Roman Catholics, sheep of the Roman fold.
This invitation is so characteristic that I must dwell on it.
If not all, then at least many of you, have certainly read this address by Cardinal Gibbons; therefore I shall only permit myself to remind you of it. Absolutely, not a single new argument, not a single new thought, did the Cardinal express, to found his address upon. In it, every thing is just the same as ever, just the same as everybody knows it, including, of course, the argument concerning the Bock.
Then why did I call this address characteristic? I called it so because of its tone, a tone which the Bo-man Catholic Church has long since dropped in Europe. This tone suggests at least to me that here, in this country, the Roman Catholic Church feels very differently from the way in which it feels in the countries of its formal dominance. In Europe, Pius X himself says his word, and then hastens to take it back, noticing Wilhelm II's frown. In Europe, nowadays, voices are heard, and articles have become possible, such as the recent article of Maximilian of Saxony. This Abbé, formerly a Prince of Saxony, called on me personally in Russia, and he impressed me as a man of true faith and sincerity, incapable of hypocrisy or duplicity. The newspapers inform us that he has already offered apologies, but these apologies, I am profoundly convinced, are merely a conformity with etiquette, which only further proves the awkward situation of the papal throne, which, of course, is well known to the Prince. Therefore, it seems to me that he offered his apologies solely on that account.
Personally I share the ideas of the Syllabus and the Encyclical of Pope Pius X, which he published against the godless Modernists whose teaching leads directly to Atheism; but the measures taken to bring the Abbé Maximilian of Saxony to his senses are an absolutely unjustifiable violence against the truth. All that Pius X will achieve by such measures will be that his successor will be left a devastated Roman Catholic Church. It is said that it is not in vain that the rule of the successor of Pius X is characterized in the prophecy of the Irish monk Malachy by the words Religio depopulate. Perhaps you, worthy and cultured Americans, will say that I speak in this case in too high a tone, but you cannot deny that I am speaking the truth without any embellishment; and if I speak in this way about Roman Catholicism, it is not that I would not wish to speak otherwise, but that I cannot speak otherwise. If you only had experienced what that part of my Russian nation which entered into a union with them have had to endure, then you would understand why I cannot help speaking as I do, I am sincerely convinced that in all this incident of the Prince of Saxony the sacred truth is only in what he wrote, and only a blind man does not see that if today Abbes of that kind are only units in the Roman Catholic Church, tomorrow they will be counted by hundreds, and the day after tomorrow, perhaps, the millions of Roman Catholics, of whom Cardinal Gibbons speaks, will begin to melt away.
I shall not talk about the two hundred and fifty million Roman Catholics towards whom the Cardinal makes so large a gesture; I shall not speak of modern Portugal, France, and even Italy, where Roman Catholicism has grown so decrepit that men like Nathan, the Jewish Mayor of Rome, have become possible. And so, were a simple arithmetical substraction to be made, the Cardinal's two hundred and fifty million Roman Catholics would be shown to exist only on paper. Similarly, it is hardly worth while to speak of the "magical" effect, as the Cardinal calls it, of the name "Roman Catholic" in the eyes of the members of that Church, because this passage of the address may be considered an instance merely of poetical license, a flavoring which gives zest to speech. Further, Cardinal Gibbons says: "Wherever I wander as a pilgrim and a stranger over the face of the earth, I need no other passport in order to find a warm welcome and to be received into the hearts and homes of my brethren in the Lord.'' These words could be disputed by a Roman Catholic monk who is well known as a man of learning, and who, staying at Kiev, not only announced his name, but also, knocked, seeking admittance into the hearts of his co-religionists, but met with a reception from both hearts and Church which could hardly be called genial.
I mention this incident merely because, at the time, I was literally amazed at the heartlessness and coldness his co-religionists showed towards this learned Augustinian monk, in part because at the time he allowed himself to show and express evident respect for our Russian Orthodox Church. So, thinking of this striking incident, and knowing the life of Roman Catholics as it is, I repeat that I cannot take the above words of the Cardinal for anything but an instance of poetical license, or, if you prefer, a metaphor. It is not permissible to idealize to this extent the prosaic Roman Catholic actuality.
It is true that, at a time when there were Christians who were so not in word alone, but in deed, whose place the modern Roman Catholics think they fill, the very Church of Christ was understood as a brotherhood. At that time, brotherly feelings among the members of the Church attained to such power and completeness as St. Paul indicates, when he represents the unity of the Church by the image of the unity which is observed in the human organism (Ephesians iv, 15-16). As in the body, in spite of all the variety of its members, we can observe the most perfect harmony, reached through the inter-action of its members, so in the Church there must exist a unity realized through mutual brotherly love. Brotherhood in Christ imperatively demands peace and harmony from those who believe in Him (Ephesians iv, 31-32), and that they should come together in one body, His Holy Church. And at that time, in the dawn of Christianity, all the brotherhoods united by the bonds of Christianity, no matter to what nationality they belonged, no matter by what great distances they were separated, did actually comprise one people. Basil the Great, for example, writes to the Bishops of Gaul and Italy: "Though we are greatly separated from each other because of the places of our abode, by the power of this (Christian) bond we are near each other."
In the early days of Christianity, Christians truly lived as one family, over the whole surface of the then known world, so that the established sign of religious communion was sufficient to assure to any one the most cordial brotherly reception anywhere.
The brotherliness, the Christian principle and sign of the truly Christian life, the brotherly love which moved you to invite me to come to you, did actually bring me, finding a response in my heart. I came in answer to your call, my brethren in Christ, and I see that you have received me into your love, even before receiving any sign of religious communion from me. I am a Christian, and evidently this is a key in my hand to your hearts, because your hearts are Christian, as you also are Christian, believing in Christ and loving those who are your brothers in your faith in Him, and all men, according to His commandment. This attitude of yours towards humanity is sincere; in this attitude there is not a shadow of hypocrisy, of self-glorification or phariseeism; your attitude is ruled by the spirit of Christian meekness and humility. And meekness is the true face of Christianity, as Christianity in its very essence is opposed to phariseeism.
In brief, it may be generally held that Roman Catholics have more rights in their faith than you, but it is certain that you have more heart in your faith than they.
Therefore, all turn their hearts to you. Coming to you, one need not present his passport; he need not even say "I am an Episcopalian," in order to receive brotherly attention from you. But, as Cardinal Gibbons says, this will not do, where Roman Catholics are concerned. Roman Catholics greet only their own, and give only to their own the reception of which the Cardinal speaks. This is evidently not the attitude which our faith in Christ demands from us. Christ Himself made no difference among persons; He commanded us to do the same. The ancient world was ruled by the idea that people were divided into the chosen, and not chosen, into those who were called to be masters, and those who were destined to be slaves. Christ came, and such divisions among men became impossible. The Saviour of humanity calls all men to Himself, promising rest to their souls. He calls equally the lost sheep of the house of Israel (the chosen people) and all other nations. "Other sheep I have," says Christ, "which are not of this fold; them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd" (John x, 16).
Therefore, in Christian times there should be no distinction between men as to calling, as there is none as to nature and origin, for "G-od hath made all nations of men of one blood" (Acts xvii, 26). The title of man alone makes all equal in the eyes of the Christian. Tertullian and Lactantius argue in this case quite differently from Cardinal Gibbons: "We are no respecters of persons,'' they say alike '' Christian justice makes equal in our eyes all who are called men." And Saint Augustine said "each of us is equally a man." We may find in the works of Saint Cyprian of Carthage : "All men have the same lot at their birth, the same condition of death, the same bodily structure, and the same origin for their souls; and with the same right and the same law they enter this world and leave it."
The holy fathers of the Eastern Church, especially Saint John Chrysostom, say absolutely the same thing concerning this equality of all men. I have quoted the teachers and fathers of the Western Church exclusively, to show the attitude toward humanity of the Bishops of the Western Church before it became Roman, and to show what is the attitude of the modern Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church. In their opinion, one must be a Roman Catholic in order to find a kind reception in the hearts and homes of Roman Catholics. This is a strange opinion, which it is especially hard to admit in everyday Christian practice. It would be different if the words of Cardinal Gibbons could be understood in the ecclesiastical sense. In that case, I should entirely agree with him. If a heretic needed my help, I would give it to him, so far as was in my power, but in the ecclesiastical sense I must observe even with regard to Roman Catholics the injunction of Saint Paul to his disciple Titus (iii, 10). In this sense, there cannot and there must not be any concessions or compromises.
We of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholics can have no Church union or communion on the grounds and under the conditions which Cardinal Gibbons offers to you. He offers to you complete subjection to the Roman Church; and his Church has, for many centuries, addressed the same offers to our Eastern Orthodox Church, knowing that this cannot be and will never be.
That the idea of the impossibility of such a union exists in the midst of the Roman Church also, has been graphically expressed by Prince Maximilian of Saxony, whose article on the union of the Churches, amongst other things, excludes the possibility of the offer made by Cardinal Gibbons. The Abbé Maximilian understands the union of the Eastern and Western Churches in the sense of a brotherhood between them, as equal in rights and in dignity, on the basis of the teaching and Church government which existed before the separation of the Churches, and which the Roman Church set aside.
He says: "People forget history, and do not even know what was in antiquity. This is why they seek to create for the Eastern Church a position which it never held. The Church order now existing differs from that which existed in antiquity. The Lord granted privileges to Saint Peter, yet we never find any traces of Saint Paul's subjection to him. On the contrary, Paul considers himself to be absolutely Peter's equal and brother, and even boasts of having reproached Peter. And in reality for several centuries the Catholic Church was not a monarchy. Each Bishop freely governed his diocese. But from the ninth century the Western Church became a monarchy and grew to be like a State divided into provinces. The Bishop of Rome became the immediate superior of all Bishops. All Church questions had to be decided at Rome. This system in part owed its origin to the Decretals of the Pseudo-Isidore, which appeared about this time. This was one of the chief reasons which brought about the separation of the Churches." Thus writes the Roman Catholic Abbe; and Cardinal Gibbons claims that unity of government in the person of the Pope is in no way less substantial for the Church of Christ than unity of doctrine, and insists on your complete subjection to the Pope, proving the necessity of his rule in the Church of God by quotations from the Word of God. Nevertheless the Prince Abbé shows clearly how these quotations are colored. He writes: '' The least indications of any authority exercised by the Bishop of Rome were used as proofs of the dogma of supremacy as it is held now. They do not discriminate, but carelessly identify texts which are not in the least dogmatical with the dogma itself. By this they greatly facilitate their task, but they do not solve difficulties, and do not even notice them. Of course there is a great difference between an authority which exists in fact, and the doctrine that this authority was established by God himself, and forms the necessary foundation of the Church. Nevertheless, in politics these two things are absolutely identified."
It would be hard to find a better answer than the above, given by a Roman Catholic Abbé to a Cardinal of the same Church. But Cardinal Gibbons acts very simply. Having denned the unity of the Church as unity of government, he takes a series of passages from the Word of God which confirm this idea. But, first, these passages can be, and are, interpreted differently; secondly, there are other passages which overthrow this thesis and which the Cardinal does not mention; and, more than this, what is most important of all, he gives a perfectly wrong idea of Church unity. This idea deals with the idea of the Church as a worldly, material community of human beings, and it pays exclusive attention not to our faith, but to the exterior government of this society. Yet faith saves, only because it is the life not of the material man, but of the spiritual man who finds himself in God alone. Coming out of the depths of the human spirit, faith is directed to a concrete ideal in the person of the Saviour. In Jesus Christ, faith finds the source of eternal life for man (John xv, 5). The Saviour lights up the human soul from without also, knocking at the door of the human heart (Revelation iii, 20), and man, com-ing to himself by means of self-knowledge, answers by opening his spirit and joining it to Christ, whereby the work of God is accomplished (John vi, 29). Thus Christ Himself comes to dwell in the soul of man, and his life becomes the life of Christ in him (Gal. ii, 19-20). This is the life of the Christian faith. Saint Peter means this life, when he reminds Christians that they are made ready for salvation by the power of God through faith (I Peter i, 5). This faith is the stone which lies at the foundation of our salvation; on it reposes the immutable existence of the Church of Christ in the world (Matthew xvi, 18). Faith, since it is the constant dwelling of the human spirit in closest communion with God, makes man invulnerable from without (Matthew vii, 24-25).
Thus, in Christianity, the separate individuality enters a sphere in which it develops on the spiritual path of conforming to the likeness of God. This growing into the likeness of God is accomplished in freedom, because "where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II Cor. iii, 17), and in love, because love comes from God and God Himself is love (I John iv, 7-8). In the measure of their love of God, Christians love each other, and this mutual love among Christians is the chief vital nerve, which, uniting them into a single whole, leads them, and keeps them at one with God in Jesus Christ (John xvii, 21).
In this is the unity of the Church of Christ, and certainly not in the fact that the Bishop of Rome may visibly stand at its head. It is one, because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, and because it lives by communion with God in Christ. Cardinal Gibbons says that the Saviour Himself has said that His Church, composed of many members, must be united in one supreme visible head, whom all must obey. The Church is compared to a vine, all the branches of which, though growing far apart and in different directions, are united in one common stem from which they draw their nourishment. Cardinal Gibbons takes the Pope to be this stem. But among us this passage of the Holy Gospel is understood thus: the Church is one as the branches of the vine are one with the stem, because the sap of Christ's life pours into it, and solely for this reason. A dwelling in union with Christ, who is the only source of life, temporary and eternal, is the condition of remaining within the unity of the Church. Therefore, Saint Paul places the unity of the Church in dependence, not on any exterior government, but on a partaking of that food which is the life of Christ (1 Cor. x, 14-17).
Partaking of one bread, we become one body, the head of which cannot possibly be any mere mortal and sinful man, who is Pope of Borne; moreover, this most Holy Body has a Head, "even Christ Himself" (Ephesians, iv, 13-16).
Besides, as God is not the God of the living only, but of the dead also, as the earthly Church cannot be separated from the heavenly Church, that the Church should have a visible Head is inadmissable and unthinkable.
There is no room for difference of opinion on the subject. Nevertheless, Roman Catholics have a separate opinion of their own and are always as decided as Cardinal Gibbons is in the present instance, in supplying the eternal Body of Christ, which is His Church, with a temporary Head, who is the Pope of Rome, though the Fathers of their own Western Church bear witness against them. For example, Saint Cyprian of Carthage says: in this sacrament (the Eucharist) our people become united; so that, as many grains gathered, ground and mixed together, form one bread, in the same way we may recognize that in Christ, Who is the heavenly Bread, there is one Body, in which all the number of us are bound and united. St. Augustine says: the Head is our Saviour Himself, Who suffered under Pontius Pilate, Who, since He rose from the dead, sits at the right hand of God the Father, and His Body is the Church, not this or that Church, but the Church which is scattered all over the world not only that which exists among men who are still living, but also that to which belong all who were before us and shall be after us, to the end of the world. Because the whole Church, (composed of all who believe, as all who believe are members of Christ,) has its Head, Who is in Heaven, who rules this Body, and Who, though separated from their sight, is bound to them by love.
This is the belief and teaching, concerning this matter of our faith of all the Fathers of the Church, including Saint Augustine, and the best and most orthodox commentators on the Word of God, even among Roman Catholics. Consequently, the Latins who defend the idea of the visible head of the Church are defending a non-Catholic idea, though they think themselves Catholics.
The teaching of the headship of the Pope was never a subject of ecumenical faith, held ubique, semper, ab omnibus.
This should suffice for the discussion of the claims of the Latins; the more so, that I have but little time at my disposal, and should like to say more than I have said; and yet the more, because these claims have been examined from every side by theological science, have been discussed and rejected irrefutably. Very much might be said; but there is nothing new or more convincing to say.
Yet I should wish to say to Cardinal Gibbons that Christ our Saviour spoke of the Bock, and not of rocks, for the reason that he spoke, and obviously could only speak to Saint Peter, of his faith, and not of his faiths. I should like to add that, if there be a head in the Roman Church, it is but an apparent one, only the illusion of a head, and not the real, true Head at all. For it is known that the Roman Catholic Church is not ruled by Pius X, but by Cardinal Merry del Val, the papal Secretary, and by the Curia. Pope Pius X very good-naturedly acknowledges that he is always perfectly satisfied with the reports Cardinal Eampolla composes for him, and is always willing to sign them without reading them. Where, then, is the need of a Pope, as the visible head of the Church of Christ. Everyone sees, and every one knows that the great majority of the Cardinals are chosen from among the Italians, so that the election of an Italian for the papal throne may be assured. Is the infallibilitas ex cathedra most akin to the Latin race? And this infallibilitas! History records such tenants of the papal throne that, to speak of their infallibility, even though it be ex cathedra, would amount to blasphemy. "Wisdom will not enter into a crafty spirit, nor will Wisdom dwell in a body that is subject to sin.'' (Wisdom i, 4.)
We all know that, century after century, every Pope who ascended the throne condemned such Popes as Liberius and Honorius along with heretics. Saint Hippolytus greatly blamed his contemporary, Pope Callixtus, as a destroyer of Church discipline, and even an originator of heresy ex cathedra (vide Cardinal Newman). We know that there have been times when the Roman Church had two or even three Popes at a time. Had the Church of Christ three heads? And it would be interesting to ask Roman Catholics what becomes of their Church when the Pope, its head, dies. No creature can live without a head. Does the Roman Church, then, die at the death of every Pope, becoming a corpse, and then rising from the dead when a new Pope is elected?
The idea of papal supremacy logically involves the Roman Church in these complete absurdities. Yet this idea is the alpha and omega of the life of this Church, and of the religious consciousness and understanding of its humblest members as well as of such as Cardinal Gibbons.
Members of the Episcopalian Church, Cardinal Gibbons invites you to become subject to the Roman Church, which he praises so highly for its order. Your compatriot, Doctor Briggs, holds a very different opinion on this subject. Here is what he says: "The strength of the separated Christian Churches has greatly increased since the sixteenth century. The Greek Church is no longer in that terrible crisis which in the fifteenth century compelled the Greek Emperor to seek reconciliation with Rome. It has the great Russian Empire at its back. The Protestant bodies no longer are on the defensive in ruinous religious wars; they have the three most powerful nations in the world on their side, Germany, Great Britain and the United States. The Catholic nations are all feeble in comparison, and two of the most important of these, France and Italy, are in open war with the Papacy, in which the majority of voters, nominally Catholic, are arrayed against the authorities of their own Church; and in several other Catholic nations the incipient stages of a similar conflict are easy to be seen." (Church Unity, p. 421.)
In the opinion of Doctor Briggs, even the administration of the Papacy is very imperfectly organized:
"It is not the Pope himself who makes the decisions, but the congregations into which the Roman administration is organized * * * These congregations are composed, as every one knows, chiefly of Italians, and these in large part from southern Italy. From the very nature of the case they look at everything from a provincial and Italian point of view: they cannot put off the characteristics of their race, their nationality and their Italian training. It is not a question now of the Pope, but of the Cardinals and Monsignori who reside in Rome and the other humbler members of the congregations * * * The question is not of the jurisdiction of the Pope, but the jurisdiction of the Curia, of the black pope and the red pope, and of the little popes of every color and shape, who administer the affairs of the Church with an arbitrariness and tyranny that the Popes themselves, owing to their more serious responsibilities, would not think of.
"These counsellors of the Pope are often not those whom he would prefer, but an inheritance from one or more previous administrations. These not infrequently advise him in their own interests and not in that of the Church; and they sometimes by indirection obstruct and thwart his policy; and they are especially hostile to any and every kind of reform." (Church Unity, p. 422).
Such is the severe verdict of an American Protestant on what an American Catholic praises as ideal.
But no; before asking the Churches for their submission, the Roman Church itself must abandon its errors and give up its perfectly groundless claim. And the Roman clergy must be kinder in their relations with the members of other Christian confessions and juster in their views of their own confession. Among those who believe in Christ, there is no division into fine clay and common clay. This must be especially remembered by those in Holy Orders, to whom it is said: Let priests clothe themselves in truth. The priest must express in everyday life the love of Christ and the ideas of eternal truth. He must always do this, whether he addresses his congregation, or speaks privately, whether he writes learned treatises or short notes for a newspaper. It is regretable that we, the Russian Orthodox, cannot say that the Latins have always been at least impartial in their relations with us, or their spoken opinions about us.
I shall not either accuse or attack any one. This is not our specialty. Our lot is always merely to defend ourselves. I shall allow myself, for the present, only a few words of explanation.
Last December, I was in Canada and visited Montreal. There, I had occasion to talk with the Russian Consul General, Mr. Struve, who told me that, during the Roman Catholic Jubilee festivities in Montreal, he met Cardinal Vannutelli, and heard from him words of warm gratitude to the Russian government for its invariably perfectly correct attitude toward Russian Roman Catholics. When the Consul asked whether he might communicate these words to the Russian government, the Cardinal answered: "Do, please." The Consul wrote this in a letter to Russia.
In Russia, we are all of the opinion that a person in Holy Orders must be believed, and our Montreal Consul, who is a profoundly religious man, respectfully received the words of the Cardinal, who is a prince of the Roman Church, and transmitted them to his government. But how great would be his disappointment, if he read what I have read in one of your Philadelphia papers, The Catholic Standard and Times, in a note entitled "Catholic Clergy Persecuted in Russia." It is persecution by our government which, according to this note, prevents the union of the Churches. The actual obstacle to the union of the Churches is at present not so much dogmatic differences that prevent the union of the Roman and the Russian Churches. It is our present government. If there were no such government, or, if it were different, it is probable that at the present moment your obedient servant would be standing before you, not as a Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, but as a Roman Catholic Prelate!
However, who is right concerning the Russian government? Is it Cardinal Vannutelli, or the author of this newspaper note? Whom are we to believe? I must ask you to believe the Cardinal. I can tell you one thing, gentlemen: at the head of the ministry against which the arrows of the above-mentioned note are directed, there stands an upright man, who is honest and profoundly religious, a man with the mind of a great statesman, as is universally acknowledged. His name, Stolypin, has become a common name, conveying the idea of Russian intellect and worth, a synonym of justice and firmness in word and deed. Whatever he does, he does because the law ordains it. He will allow no overstepping or breach of law. And you, who live in a country where legal order is fully observed, and the law is kept with firmness and respect, will be well able to understand what a statesman Russia has in the person of Minister Stolypin.
The Manifesto of October 17, 1905, proclaimed freedom of conscience in Russia, and the law took under its protection all the religious bodies that exist among us. However, even before that in our country every one had the right to the free exercise of his faith, and this right applies not only to Christians, but also to Jews, Mohammedans and heathens. But, as the Russian monarchy is united to the Russian Orthodox Church, from which is derived the great moral power of the Russian nation, there rests on our government, even since the proclamation of liberty of conscience, the duty of a special care for the Russian Orthodox Church, which continues to possess its right of priority and predominance always guaranteed to it by our fundamental law.
From the Reports of the Minister of the Interior, P. A. Stolypin, in 1907, I made a special study of the attitude of our government toward the various creeds, the various communities which follow a different religion or a different confession, and of the change from one to another and so on; and I am extremely sorry that my memory has not more precisely preserved the contents of these ministerial reports, which I have not at present at hand. This deprives me of the opportunity to demonstrate to you in a graphic way, so to speak, the devotion of our government to the Russian Orthodox Church, and its justice in its relation to other creeds. The instances which the author of the note in the Philadelphia paper takes for repression of the Roman clergy by our government merely inform us, who know the true state of affairs, that Roman Catholicism is seeking to turn its energy in. the direction of proselytizing in our country, which has a Holy, Orthodox and salutary faith of its own, and that this energy finds obstacles in certain acts of the government. In this sense, our government is truly an impediment in the path of a union of the Churches, which is more or less desirable for Roman Catholicism, but wholly undesirable for us.
It is not among us alone that this condition of things obtains, according to the same newspaper note. Papal edicts are not obligatory until they are sanctioned by the civil government. The same thing is to be observed in Germany, Austria and Hungary; and the same principle is applied in all these countries. Why? Evidently because the Vatican is in the habit of mixing politics and religion. In Russia, up to the present, a Roman Catholic is likely to be a Pole; a Russian who becomes a Roman Catholic, in Poland or its vicinity, loses his Russianism. In Russia, we could point to not hundreds but thousands of families, who were Russian not long ago, and are now Polish. It is enough to mention the Kholm question, in which some of you are also interested. This question is not the result of the policies and schemes of the Russian government or Bishop Eulogius, but a result of the acts of the Roman Catholic Polish priests, against whom Bishop Eulogius protects the Russians of that locality. If you could hear Bishop Eulogius you would learn the essence and nature of this question.
In St. Petersburg, I had a talk with the Most Reverend Bishop on this theme, I went to one of the gatherings with him and this talk and especially its end will live forever in my memory. Roman Catholics, who, according to the note in the Philadelphia paper, are so eager to bring about the union of the Churches which the Russian government opposes, have laid a heavy burden on the shoulders of this bishop, in the form of this question. The Roman Catholic Poles of Kholm would wish to enter into a union with the Russian Orthodox of that place, to the evident national and religious enslavement of the latter. Fortunately for them, Bishop Eulogius, an Orthodox Russian, and a courageous fighter for the interests of the Russian people, discovered the lining of the Roman Catholic schemes in that country. This discovery led to the revelation of the ways and means by which the Roman Catholics were preparing for this "union of the Churches." That any one should wish to use such means, is hard to believe, but that they were employed is as undeniable as that I am speaking to you at this moment. I shall not describe them on my own account.
But listen to what is said of these ways and means by Menshikoff, a well-known Russian publicist. The matter of fact tone of his communication is guarantee enough that we are dealing here with no fanciful story, but with a true incident:
"Only five years ago," writes Menshikoff, "scenes took place in the Russian part of the Kholm country which remind one of the deliverance of Moscow from those same Poles. Profiting by the difficulties of the civil powers at St. Petersburg, the Poles announced to the Russians at Kholm, that the Orthodox faith no longer existed, and that every one must become Roman Catholic. The people could not believe that it was possible that all Russia had joined the Roman Church. But the Poles insisted that all Russia had done so. "But the Tsar has surely remained Orthodox?" said the peasants. "Oh, no! The Tsar has also become Roman Catholic," the Polish priest assured them, "there is no more Orthodoxy; it has come to an end.'' The peasants considered a little. "There must be some Orthodox left in Jerusalem," they repeated. "Oh, no," the Poles assured them, "in Jerusalem also Orthodoxy has been destroyed; it has disappeared from all over the world." Then an old woman offered to go to Jerusalem to learn whether it was true or not that the holy faith of Christ had perished, and that there was no more truth on this earth. The old woman went, and returned, announcing in great delight, that Orthodoxy was still alive and that Jerusalem was not yet unfaithful to Christ. Then the peasants began to investigate, whether it was true that the Tsar had changed his faith, and whether the Polish gentry were not deceiving them. Under the leadership of the prioress Catherine, several peasants of Kholm, went, unknown to the Poles, to St. Petersburg. They succeeded in reaching Bulygin, who was Prime Minister at that time. Being very ignorant, these peasants decided on a ruse. It was Easter week, and they agreed to test the Ministers by giving them the Easter greeting. (During Easter, Russians greet each other with the words "Christ is risen," with the response, "He is risen indeed!" and kissing each other thrice). When, to their "Christ is risen!" the great bureaucrat answered "I wish you good health!" they were greatly depressed and thought, "The Poles are right; St. Petersburg is not faithful to Orthodoxy; we are lost!" But the Mother Prioress, after incredible trials, gained admission to the Emperor, and told him of the peasants' sorrow. The Emperor determined to see the peasants himself. They came, deciding to try him also with the same greeting. What was their astonishment and boundless delight when, to their "Christ is risen," the Tsar quite distinctly answered: "He is risen indeed!" and kissed them according to Orthodox custom. They fell on their knees and sobbed with joy: "The faith is living! The Tsar is Orthodox. The Orthodox people live, and the Polish gentry and the priests are deceiving us!" Comforted and pacified the peasant ambassadors returned to Kholm and announced the tidings as joyful as Christ's resurrection: "The Tsar is Orthodox; Russia is Orthodox, and Christ still lives in our land!"
Such is the work of the Roman Catholics among us; such is the Church union they are seeking, and this is why our government opposes their labours. Among us, they continue their religious proselytising, by doing which they do not attract, but repel us. However, the Latin propaganda can have no success among us, for the further reason that our clergy are better educated than the Latin priests, and are, therefore, better able to defend their own faith. But as to the Orthodox East, the Roman Catholics truly find a wide field there. Now they are at work in Bosnia, whieh they recently annexed and proclaimed to be a Roman Catholic country. Of late, they have made a good deal of noise, complaining that in Bosnia, Roman Catholicism is threatened by Orthodoxy. This is, indeed, extraordinary. They spread Roman Catholicism at the expense of the Orthodox Church, and yet they complain that Orthodoxy threatens their Church.
We cannot accept such methods, or be reconciled to them; we cannot accept this kind of Church union or wish for it. We have always understood the latter as a brotherly co-existence with equal rights, full of sincere and pure love. We of the Orthodox Church always pray for this union and long for it, and, as far as the Russian Orthodox and the Episcopal Churches are concerned, we allow ourselves to be quite certain of it.
This assurance rests above all on the mutual attraction between our Eastern Orthodox Church and your Episcopal Church.
On January 2, after I had celebrated Holy Communion in the church of our Russian Orthodox parish of Philadelphia, I visited our other parish in the city, recently formed by the Uniates returning to the Russian Orthodox Church. The priest of that parish had celebrated the Service of the Eucharist for his parishioners in an Episcopal Church, where he was waiting for me, with his flock.
When I arrived, the Episcopal priest of that church met me in full vestments, with signs of perfect respect and a beautiful speech of welcome, the theme of which was the speedy union of the Churches.
I expressed my gratitude to this worthy representative of the Episcopal Church who was showing such brotherly love to our young and still churchless parish, by offering the parishioners the free use of his own church. I must frankly confess to you that, standing in your church, and watching our Orthodox people assembled there for prayer, I could not conquer a feeling of confusion within myself, and even a feeling of pain in my heart.
You are good people, kind people, and good Christians. Many among you have a sincere affection for us, and wish with all your souls to enter into union with us, with our Russian Orthodox Church, ardently longing for the union. You pray to God in all earnestness, but do not pray God as we do. And this difference cannot be evaded; there is no way or method of pushing it aside.
For example, here is my own case. On Christmas Eve of the New Style, I went to one of your churches in New York. I was profoundly impressed by the living, sincere and deeply religious feeling with which the Episcopal pastors and their flock prayed. I purposely did not go to the materially wealthy Grace Church, but to the church of Saint Edward which is less rich. I saw there much that captivated my soul, much that touched and stirred me. But the organ, the parishioners seated in pews during the Communion Service, and certain other peculiarities went very much against the grain with me, to say no more. And in our celebration of Divine Service, there is much by which Episcopalians must be similarly affected. But I am speaking here of myself, and must say that I found it impossible to sit down during your service, but stood all the time, attracting the attention of the Episcopal worshippers, who were seated. I do not know what they thought, especially if my unusual exterior be taken into consideration; but I thought that members of the Orthodox Church will never consent to sit down in church, since a church is not a theatre. Of course you yourselves do not regard your churches in this light, but for us, the Orthodox, it may look as if you did.
Thus I became convinced through experience that not only dogmatical differences, which I do not even touch on for the present, but differences of ritual also, keep us separated from you. Being of the Orthodox church, we cannot pray in your churches without discomfort; their arrangements are too strange to us. I at least felt heavy at heart, when I saw no holy icons on the walls, but found instead an organ and pews, with absolutely nothing that reminded me of a Russian Orthodox church. And I felt very sorry for our Orthodox people, who prayed in an unfamiliar church, having none of their own.
It was rumored that a church was to be built in New York, in which would stand the altars of all Christian confessions. If this were true, that church would forever remain the memorial of one of the most unsuccessful attempts to realize union in an exterior way. Personally, I believe that the builders of such a church might sincerely think they were working at a task well pleasing to God; but at the same time I am convinced that such a plan could not be the result of clear thought. I can say in advance that if, in this church, there were to be an Orthodox altar, the worshippers before it would be few, if any came at all. The reason of this is, that, in such a church even its builders could not feel quite at ease. The Orthodox would say: "Why do they allow instrumental music in a church of God?" And those other than the Orthodox would ask "Why do the Orthodox sing without the accompaniment of instrumental music I" and so on.
It is evident that the words "There is neither Greek nor Jew" must be taken, not in the national, but in the religious sense; in other words, they mean that, for the church of God, national peculiarities have no importance.
The Church of Christ does not demand the destruction of race distinction, nor the transformation of all races into one single race, nor the destruction of national peculiarities. Christ our Saviour did not renounce His own people, when declaring the universality of His Church (Matthew vii, 5-11, xv, 21-28; Mark xvi 15; John iv, 5-24). Neither does Saint Paul say that in the Church of Christ the Greek must cease to be a Greek, or the Jew a Jew. He says only that within the Church national peculiarities have no importance, giving no advantage to anyone; and that, therefore, they must not lead to separation (Romans i, 5; iii, 2-9; x, 12).
Eising above everything temporary and finite, the Church in its content renounces all nationality and territorial elements, all that is conditioned by space and time.
This means that you, Americans, may be Orthodox while remaining Americans, and that we, Russians, being Orthodox, shall forever remain Russian. You have your habits and inclinations, which do not stand in the way of your eternal salvation; and we have ours. Only beyond, in the eternal kingdom of God, will there be neither American nor Russian, neither French nor German, but only children of God, drawing into their being the eternal glory of the eternal God, living forever by this glory, forever drawing it into their being, and developing forever. And here on earth, the Church of Christ calls all men to take part in its life and satisfies the religious needs of all people, without distinction of race.
For the Church, the most important thing is the spirit of man, destined for eternal life; everything else has but a secondary significance, and is not important enough to keep us from agreeing; still less is it important enough to make us disagree.
The Church of Christ is a community representing one whole in Jesus Christ, and deriving its life directly from Him. To deprive the Church of Christ of the Saviour, or to replace Him by some one else, would mean to deprive it of its life. In like manner, it is impossible to be in Jesus Christ independently of the Church; for the Church is His wedding chamber, in which one cannot remain without a wedding garment, which can be received from the Church alone.
As long ago as 1904, the Committee of the Holy Synod for the furtherance of the question of Church Union published its Notes on the American Book of Common Prayer. These Notes may be taken as the Russian Orthodox view of your "wedding garment."
I do not know whether you are acquainted with these Notes. If so, you must certainly know how friendly and sincere is our feeling toward you; you must know what is. our view of your "wedding garment," and how eagerly we wish they were not only like ours, but the same as ours; and yet that, at the same time, it should be becoming to your own Christian features.
How I wish that, at this moment, you not only understood me, but that your souls might be close to me. How I wish that we were sheep of the same Orthodox fold, and that it were impossible to apply to us the words oves non audiunt vocem alienorum.
My brethren in Christ, our life is moved by ideas, and not by exterior circumstances and interests, which also include both our national and our individual peculiarities. So our nearness will be realized only when our religious ideas are not only not alien, but are near and akin.
Every man lives as is most convenient to him. On the same day in New York one man may go out in a light overcoat, while here in Philadelphia another may have to wear something warmer; while in Canada, which I recently visited, one needs a fur coat. Or, in order to be alike, should we all take off our clothes! But if, in Paradise, Adam went about unclad, does this mean that whoever takes his clothes off will find himself in Paradise, or that would make Adams of us all? Of course this is absurd.
What is most important of all! Christ said: "If ye continue in my word * * * ye shall know the truth" (John viii, 31-32). In this rests the substance of our faith, and the substance of the question of the Union of the Churches. I find more religious significance in my Church, while you find more in yours. Why is this so? Because in my Church I want to pray, finding there alone the familiar conditions which best correspond to my mood of prayer. Why is this? For the reason that a Russian church is one thing, while an American church is another. You sit in your churches; we stand in ours. And in order to bring about union, it is not necessary to carry the pews from your Church to ours, forcing you to stand and us to sit. We shall not sit, and you, from lack of habit, could not remain standing through such long services as ours.
But Union does not demand this. Otherwise the pews might become the barrier over which the Orthodox could not step into your Church, or you into ours.
Custom is a second nature. It was said of one of our recently deceased Metropolitans, that he never sat down before the altar: "How can I sit before the face of the Lord?" he said. This is the attitude of all the Orthodox. Antonius, the present Metropolitan of St. Petersburg, is reported to have spoken as follows: "I am willing enough to perform the liturgy in a Co-believer's church, but I could not make the sign of the Cross with two fingers, as they do." Yet our present Metropolitan of St. Petersburg is a most cultured theologian. Of course you must know that our Russian sectarians would go to the stake to preserve the custom of repeated Alleluias, of crossing themselves with two fingers and using seven loaves. These sectarians are no exception; all Russians are as devoted to their ritual, and could not think of their Orthodoxy apart from it.
This you may think somewhat extreme. But you have your way, and we have ours. What is yours, is dear to you; and what is ours is dear to us.
It would be difficult to bring about a union which would enable you and ourselves to feel at home in each others' churches. It would be hard for you to transform yourselves into Russian Orthodox, and for the Orthodox to become Episcopalians.
But is this necessary? If until the eleventh century there existed an Orthodox Eastern Church and an Orthodox Western Church, why should this be impossible now, in our day?
Could we not think of the parallel existence of the two Churches, the Russian Orthodox and the Episcopal, if the former proclaims the latter its beloved sister, whose faith conforms to its own? This can take place, when your Church removes all the dogmatical differences separating it from the Orthodox Church, which has preserved pure, primitive Christianity. Until this happens, though I have friends among your Bishops whom I value highly and for whom I have a profound respect, as a faithful son of my Church, knowing its dogmas and devoted to its ritual with my whole soul, I cannot admit of any compromises which would entail the smallest and seemingly most insignificant belittling of our Orthodoxy. I am sure you yourselves could not wish this.
Some of you may say: "If we are so circumspect, the Union of the Churches will be postponed to the Greek Kalends." True enough, delay may chill the will, and, if the will be chilled, doubt and depression may come, the grave of all activity. Nevertheless, haste in this cause would be highly dangerous; haste can most easily bury the Question of the Union of the Churches.
For this reason and also because we have as yet no sanction from the Holy Synod for any such close relations with your Church, I desire my clergy not to be too zealous to profit by your kindness and especially to take no steps which, instead of bringing us closer together, would really separate us.
I mean, for example, the celebration of Divine Service by some of our priests for their flocks, in your Churches, even in case of need. At present, we could not give you permission to hold your services in our churches. Therefore, for the time being, we should not hold service in yours. Such a service is not the beginning of the practical realization of the Union of the Churches, but a menace to the very possibility of this union, because it means a not very serious treatment of a very serious problem.
Attempts to solve this question which, in a way, are methods of annexation and judicial denunciation, may alienate some who are really working hard for its solution, not to mention that the bulk of the Russian Orthodox and Episcopalians may be very unfavorably impressed by all this haste. It stands to reason that, if it is so easy to solve the question of the Union of the Russian Orthodox and Episcopalians, one may ask why should we not include the Roman Catholics, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Calvinists, and so on?
In such a case, what would be the value of all that has been said, during centuries, concerning differences of confession? What would it matter that Protestantism is divided into so many fractions? In such a case, it would matter nothing whether a church had the symbol of the Cross on it or not; one could go in, pray, confess his sins before the man who called himself its pastor, enter into communion with its flock, forgetting the apostolic injunction of St. Paul to Bishop Titus concerning the right attitude towards heretics. I must say that, as far as my own flock is concerned, such an attitude toward the question would be almost violence to their consciences. It would be as though we tore them from the hands of Rome to place them under a Protestant flag, leading them from Rome, not to the East, but, let us say, to New York. This is no part of our task. We have our Church, our rights and our duties.
In a cause which is related to our eternal salvation and which, therefore, is most important for us, clearness and precision above all are needed. I am sure that my Episcopal friends will not be offended with me, but will understand and appreciate the motives which lead me to speak and act as I do. They also are eager to leave the region of the obscure, the indefinite, the unspoken.
It is time for both sides to pass beyond their present position, which may be described as mutual amiability. This amiability has the appearance of faintheartedness, leading to mutual concessions, which verge on an indifference to belief, very close to unbelief.
Let us be friendly and kind toward each other; let us be considerate in our personal intercourse. But, in all that touches our faith, let us stand only on the ground of historic truth, and let us not build a throne on which the Episcopalian and the Russian Orthodox can sit together, on the ruins of their devotion to their own familiar faith and their own Church ritual. This is entirely undesirable, either for you or for us. There will be no concessions or compromises from our side. Nor do you require them.
You will illumine your dogmatical digressions by the light of the science of history, and will see for yourselves what is to be done. When we agree concerning dogmas, there will be no need to speak of rites. They will not prevent us from being one in Christ and having the same belief in Christ. Only the more so, because both among you and among us there are many people who wish to do so. Here is an example.
When I had almost completed the writing of this lecture, and was about to come to a conclusion, a book was brought to me: The Editorial Review for this month. I think there are none among you who do not know the worthy Dr. Lowndes, who enjoys a wide popularity among the learned, a popularity which he fully deserves. In this book Rev. Arthur Lowndes publishes an article, "The Christian Unity Foundation." This learned divine visited me several times, so I also know him, and am very far from taking him to be an enthusiast capable of going to any extreme, in order to solve any serious question. Here is what he says, among other things, concerning the union of the Churches, a cause which he considers to be full of paradoxes and difficulties: "As we ponder over the great underlying unity which binds all Christians together, we cry out in amazement, 'Sirs, ye are brethren, why do ye wrong one to another?'
"Personally, I believe that visible Christian union will be achieved, if only because it is so difficult of realization and appears so utterly impossible. Difficulties do not appall the soldier, the engineer, or the scientist; on the contrary, such difficulties appeal to their combativeness. Why, then, in the realm of religion should not a similar aggressiveness be aroused? Fortresses are impregnable only so long as they are feared. Once let the grim fortress of discord be resolutely attacked and it will be taken, and when its walls have all been razed, then shall there be clearly revealed the City of the Prince of Peace, that City of God which Ezekiel saw in vision."
Thus your own man of learning speaks to your ears. What can I add to his words t Perhaps it would be better for me to conclude with these words of his, the more so, because I know that, for your hearts, his voice is not the voice of one crying in the wilderness. You already have an army ready and able to demolish the fortress of disagreement, the division which rends the seamless cloak of the Church of Christ. But this army still needs a fuller knowledge of the breadth and power of the Church of Christ in that epoch when it was not divided into factions. In my eyes, gentlemen, if you really possessed this knowledge, without any doubt you would have confessed in the face of all the world, with one mind and voice, that our Orthodox Eastern Church is the Church founded on earth by our Lord Jesus Christ "for us, men, and for our salvation." It is also beyond doubt that in that case you would have expressed the desire to be members of the Orthodox Western American Church.
May the Lord God grant to us the possibility to see the blessed day when we can give to you, Americans, the same name of Orthodox Christians. That would be a great mercy from God both for ourselves and for you. Let us believe that it will come, and let us pray that it may come soon.
(Signed) ARCHBISHOP PLATON.