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Russia and the English Church
During the Last Fifty Years

Volume I.
Containing a Correspondence between Mr. William Palmer,
Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford
And M. Khomiakoff, in the years 1844-1854

Edited by W. J. Birkbeck, M.A., F.S.A.

Published for the Eastern Church Association.
London: Rivington, Percival & Co. 1895.

Chapter II

The sign of the Cross--Communion of prayer between living and dead--Misrepresentations of Mr. Khomiakoff's opinions about England--Reunion of Christendom--Different views of Rome and the Orthodox Church--Obstacles to Reunion between Eastern and Western Communities--Mr. Palmer's eyesight--Report of Dr. Newman's secession.

As has been already stated, Professor Redkin had received from Mr. Palmer a copy of his translation of Mr. Khomiakoff's poem, and showed it to the latter. The result was the following letter, which proved to be the commencement of a theological correspondence which lasted for ten years, and which forms the greater part of the present volume:--

SIR,--The elegant and faithful translation of some stanzas written on the death of my first children, which you have had the goodness to include in your letter to Mr. Redkin, has been received by me with the utmost gratitude and pleasure. Yet give me leave to say, that, highly as I value the honour conferred on my poetry, I rejoice still more in the consciousness that it has been paid rather to the human feeling which has inspired my verses than to the merit of the expression. It is indeed a great joy for me to have met with your sympathy, and the more so as I have met with it in the highest of all regions, in the communion of religious sentiments and convictions. In one respect it is even more than I could have anticipated, [inasmuch] as the sign of the Cross and the belief in a communion of prayers between living and dead are generally rejected by the over-cautious spirit of the Reformation.

You are, methinks, very right in approving of them. Those who believe that the Holy Cross has been indeed the instrument of our salvation cannot but consider it as the natural symbol of Christian love; and if they reject a most natural and holy sign for fear of idolatry, they seem to be almost as inconsistent as a man who should condemn himself to voluntary dumbness for fear of idle words. In the like manner I think [it] rather reasonable [than otherwise] to believe that no bond of Christian love can be rent asunder by death in the spiritual world, whose only law is love. The Episcopal Church of England seems in the last times to have adopted that principle. ['This principle, it appears, has begun to be admitted of late by the Episcopal Church of England.'--R. T.]

Perhaps I should [here] add a few words for my own justification, as some ridiculous calumnies have been circulated in Germany about my having expressed sentiments of hate towards your noble and highly enlightened country, and may have found their way to England. These calumnies originated in the writings of an Oratorian (Theyner), and were repeated by Jesuits and reprinted in some newspapers. It was a strange thing to see England's cause defended by unlooked-for champions seldom considered as her friends. But a deep and implacable hatred towards Russia and the Oriental Church had inspired them suddenly with a fervent love towards England. Yet I will not attempt a justification; I am sure that English good sense and justice will always prove a sufficient defence against the brazen-faced hypocrisy of an Oratorian or a Jesuit. Permit me rather to add some few observations on the last passage of your letter to Mr. Redkin, which he has communicated to some of his friends.

You say: 'Those who desire to be true patriots and true cosmopolites should repeat, not with their lips only, but from their inmost heart, the words "o soedinenii vsikh," whenever they occur in the services of the Church.' ['For the union of them all,' taken from the third clause of the Great Ectene: 'For the peace of the whole world, for the welfare of the holy Churches of God, and for the union of them all, let us make our supplications to the Lord. Kyrie eleison.' The Great Ectene is said at the Liturgy, Vespers and Matins, and many other offices of the Eastern Church.--W. J. B.] Indeed, sir, I think that many are the cultivated Russians who repeat that part of the Liturgy not only with their lips and breath but with their heart and soul. I, for my part, having been educated in a very religious family, and particularly by a pious mother, still living, have been taught to join sincerely in that beautiful prayer of the Church. When very young, almost a child, my imagination was often delighted by a hope of seeing all the Christian world united under one banner of truth. Later, that became less vivid as the obstacles grew more and more visible. At last, I must confess it, what was a hope has dwindled into a desire relieved from despair by nothing but a faint glimmering of a possible success after many and many ages. The South of Europe, in its dark ignorance, is out of the question for a long while. Germany has in reality no religion at all but the idolatry of science; France has no serious longings for truth, and little sincerity. England with its modest science and its serious love of religious truth might [seem to] give some hopes; but--permit the frank expression of my thoughts--England is held by the iron chain of traditionary custom. [In the original MS., as also in his reply when he quotes this passage (see page 17), Mr. Palmer has inserted a question mark after the word 'modest.' But Mr. Khomiakoff obviously intended, in using this expression, to show that he appreciated the more humble tone of Anglican theological literature, as contrasted with that of Protestant Germany.--W. J. B.]

You add that 'most serious people in England think only of union with Rome.'

This conclusion seems to me very natural. Union cannot be understood by any Orthodox otherwise than as the consequence of a complete harmony, or of a perfect Unity of Doctrine. (I do not speak of rites, excepting in the case when they are symbols of a dogma.)

The Church has in itself nothing of a state, and can admit of nothing like a conditional Union. It is quite a different case with the Church of Rome. She is a state. She admits easily of the possibility of an alliance even with a deep discordance of doctrine. Great is the difference between the logical slavery of Ultramontanism and the illogical half-liberty of Gallicanism, and yet they stand both under the same banner and head. [It must be remembered that this letter was written before the suppression of Gallicanism during the pontificate of Pius ix.--W. J. B.] The union of the Nicene Symbol and Roman obedience in the United Church of Poland was a thing most absurd, and yet that Church was admitted by Rome very naturally, because the Church of Rome is a state, and has a right to act as a alale. [That is to say, the Nicene Creed in its original form, without the Western addition. The Easterns will never admit that the Creed with the addition Filioque is the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed at all. On the other hand, when the Unia was effected in 1596, by the terms of which the Metropolitan of Kieff and several other Orthodox bishops in the Russian and Lithuanian provinces of Poland submitted to the supremacy of Rome on condition that they were allowed to retain the Oriental Rite, the Uniats were not required to bring the Nicene Creed into conformity with the Latin form, but only to acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope. This of course implied the formal acceptance of the Florentine decree in favour of the Latin doctrine, but practically this did not affect the rank and file of the Uniats, who together with the Eastern form retained the Eastern belief. Indeed, in Austria I have come across uninstructed Uniats who to this day are entirely unaware that they are not still in full communion with the Russian Orthodox Church. To understand Khomiakoff's argument, it must be remembered that Eastern theologians maintain that the insertion of Filioque fundamentally alters the meaning of the whole clause of the Creed, and that, as they stand, the Eastern and Western formulas contradict one another, inasmuch as the first implies one arche, the second two archai, in the Godhead. Accordingly he argues, that while it is of course possible for a state to recognise and accept the two forms, and the difference of doctrine which they involve, in two different parts of its dominions, just as with us the State recognises Anglicanism in England and Presbyterianism in Scotland, it is impossible that contradictions in a vital clause of the Symbol of the Faith should co-exist together in the same Church. And therefore he concludes that Rome is not a Church, but a state.--W. J. B.] The Union with Rome seems to me the more natural for England, [inasmuch] as England in truth has never rejected the authority of the Roman doctrine. Why should those who admit the validity of the Pope's decree in the most vital part of Faith--in the Symbol--reject it in secondary questions or in matters of discipline? Union is possible with Rome. Unity alone is possible with Orthodoxy. It is now more than a thousand years since Spanish bishops invented Inquisition1 (in the time of the Goths), and an addition to the Symbol. It is almost as much since the Pope confirmed that addition by his word of might. Since that time the Western communities have nurtured a deep enmity and an incurable disdain for the unchanging East. These feelings have become traditional and, as it were, innate, to the Roman-German world, and England has all the time partaken of that spiritual life. Can it tear itself away from the past? There stands, in my opinion, the great and invincible obstacle to Unity. There is the reason why so many individual attempts have met with no sympathy and no success at all, and why communications on points of theological science not unknown to many of your divines (as for example to the [Scottish] Bishop of Paris, to Dr. Pusey and others), have not even been brought forward to the knowledge of the public. [Bishop Luscombe, consecrated at the request of some of the British residents in France, and with the consent of the heads of the English hierarchy, by Bishop Gleig, Primus of the Scottish Church, assisted by Bishops Low and Sandford, on Sunday, March 20, 1825, on which occasion Dr. Hook preached the sermon. In the letters of Collation delivered to him by his consecrators, it was stated that his administrations were to be confined to members of the Churches of England and Ireland, and of the Scottish and American Episcopal Churches on the Continent, and that he was 'not to disturb the peace of any Christian society established as a national Church in whatever nation he may chance to sojourn.' He resided at Paris, where he built the English Church in the Rue d'Aguesseau. He died in 1846.--[W. J. B.] It is an easy thing to say: 'We have ever been Catholics; but the Church being sullied by abuses, we have protested against them, and have gone too far in our protest. Now we retrace our steps.' This is easy, but to say: 'We have been schismatical for ages and ages, even since the dawn of our intellectual life,' is next to impossible. It would require in a man an almost superhuman courage to say it, and in a nation an almost incredible humility to adopt that declaration.

These, sir, are the reasons why, in Russia, the most ardent wishes for universal unity are so little mixed with hope, or why hope (where it exists) turns itself rather to the Eastern communities, Nestorians, Eutychians, and so forth.

They are certainly further from Orthodoxy than the Churches of the West, but are not withheld from a return by feelings of proud disdain.

Now, my dear sir, permit me to turn to a question more individual, but extremely interesting for me, as it concerns a man for whom I feel the sincerest esteem, and who has had the goodness to give me a never-to-be-forgotten proof of sympathy and goodwill. You complain of the weakness and irritation of your eyes, a terrible complaint for one who loves study as you do. I am somewhat of a physician (a quack doctor, if you like it), and though I am sure you have had the counsels of men by far more able than I am, I will take the liberty of proposing to you a remedy of which I have made many experiences with the best and most astonishing effects. The remedy is simply a dilution of one part of alum with one hundred and fifty parts of water, to be applied to the eyes on very fine linen three or four times a day. If you find it worth trying, I hope it will do you good; if you do not, I am sure my good intention will excuse the absurdity of the proposition. I forgot to say that the first application is a little irritating, but generally the amelioration is very remarkable in the space of a few days.

I pray you, my dear sir, to excuse the barbarous style of a foreigner and the indiscretion of a man who has taken the liberty of addressing himself to you without having the honour of a personal acquaintance, and to accept the assurance of the most sincere respect and gratitude of, your most humble and obedient servant, ALEXIS KHAMEKOFF.

P.S.--Since this letter was written, I have seen in the newspapers the conversion of Mr. Newman and many others to Romanism, and must confess that I think a critical moment very near at hand for the Church of England. [The writer is probably referring to the premature reports which found their way into the London papers of November 2, 1844. (Vide Liddon's Life of Pusey, vol. ii. p. 444.) As a matter of fact, Newman did not join the Roman Communion until October 9, 1845.--W. J. B.] My address is: To Moscow: To Alexis Stepanovich Khomiakoff, In his own house in Hounds' Place, beside the Arbat. Perhaps the way indicated by yourself, through the medium of Mr. Law, will yet be the surest and best. Knowing the interest you take in Russian literature, I take the liberty to send you a little selection of verses by Yazikoff.

The 10th of December 1844.

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