Father Andrei Erastov
Sermon on the Rocor-MP union
Rocana News Update this week includes Fr. Andrei's sermon and the two recent Synod Epistles with this introduction:
There is a great deal to read in this week's update. We pass along two Epistles from our Synod of Bishops: the first on Sergianism and the second marking the fifth anniversary of the disastrous union between the MP and the ROCOR Synod. We also forward here the instructive analysis by Father Andrei Erastov on the union. There is much to chew on in these materials. Father Andrei makes the key point that the ROCOR Synod decision to unite with the MP was taken by the hierarchs against the intense opposition of many clergy and laity. In other words, it was taken in opposition to the Orthodox principle of Sobornost. As Father Andrei puts it: "Bishops should act in the Church not as dictators. When they make a decree, they should listen to the mystical voice of the Church, if it accepts or rejects this decree."
The statement by the Synod on Sergianism and Father Andrei make the important observation that the MP's servility before the Kremlin and the addiction of its most senior clerics to a life of luxury is fueling anti-Orthodox sentiment in Russia. To this we might add that the proponents of union in ROCOR before and at the Fourth All Diaspora Sobor in San Francisco argued that by joining with the MP, ROCOR would help move it in the right direction regarding Sergianism and ecumenism. But what happened instead is that ROCOR-MP bishops have joined the MP in practicing both. For instance, ROCOR-MP Bishop Michael recently attended services with Roman Catholic bishops. And when the MP voted to censure Chukotka Bishop Diomede for criticizing the MP's Sergianist and ecumenist practices, the ROCOR-MP Bishops did not support Bishop Diomede. Metropolitan Hilarion abstained and the other ROCOR-MP Bishops voted for censure.
Father Andrei Erastov, a monk in Jordanville prior to the ROCOR-MP Union is now a ROCA monk priest in Australia. He wrote the following thoughtful commentary on the ROCOR-MP Union:
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Brothers and sisters, the union of ROCOR with MP was signed 5 years ago and now both in Moscow and in New York they celebrate this anniversary. It is appropriate for us also to call to remembrance this event, which they celebrate as joyful, but we regard as a disaster.
Bishops are given authority in the Church to teach and to rule. However when a bishop teaches, he conveys not his own ideas, but the teaching of Christ, the Gospel. Otherwise the congregation would not listen to that bishop and accuse him of heresy.
Likewise, when bishops direct, they do not impose on the Church their own will. The Church is directed by the Holy Spirit and not by humans. Bishops are the instrument, through which the Holy Spirit exercises His administration, as the Apostles say in the resolution of their council, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us..” (Acts 15).
One could say: “They were Apostles, and they were able to directly recognize what seemed good to the Holy Spirit, but how can our bishops, ordinary people, know this?” – They cannot. That’s why they have to act with fear and trembling, so as not to establish something against God’s will, so as not to appear “resisting the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7).
Bishops should act in the Church not as dictators. When they make a decree, they should listen to the mystical voice of the Church, if it accepts or rejects this decree. The defender of truth in the Church is the whole of the Church congregation.
The Church is the Body of Christ, the Divine-human organism; it is not a worldly corporation, whose managers can direct as they like. Such an attitude with regard to the Church is blasphemous.
When the bishops offered the Church the idea of the Union they hadn’t yet sinned; their sin was that they pushed their wish through, in spite of the apparent resistance of the Church.
The process of the unification took several years, during which it became evident that the Church didn’t accept this idea. Was the Union right or wrong? - Let us not forget that the final answer for this question does not depend on logical arguments. The final answer belongs only to the Church. The answer was: No.
Nevertheless, the bishops didn’t change their mind, but instead they started to force the Union through, using hypocrisy, demagogy and intrigue. The Union was organized by people who imagined that they have authority over the Church and they can do with it whatever they want. They imagined that they are the Church. Their sin was that they decided that they can direct the Church as they wish, as if it were a worldly corporation. It was the sin of unbelief in the Church, the sin of Sergianism.
Throughout the several years before the Union it was obvious for any impartial observer, that the final decision had been already made, that it had been made behind the doors by a certain group, - not by the Synod or the Council of bishops, but by an influential clique. It was obvious that the so called “unification process” was only a farce; the decision had already been made, anyway.
The Church was forced into the Union, but the Church is free and cannot be forced into anything. The proof of this is the fact that everywhere, in all dioceses, in all parishes, there are the faithful who resist the Union. They call us schismatics, but in fact this division is a healthy immune reaction of the Church organism to the untruth introduced in the Church; this division is the evidence that the Church is alive and free.
The Church didn’t accept the Union. They went their way, but the Church didn’t follow them. The Church is not where the majority is. In the time of ancient heresies, sometimes only a few remained Orthodox and the great majority joined the heresy. But after some time Orthodoxy triumphed. It will be likewise now as well. The untruth of the Union with Sergianism will be exposed for all.
They demagogically justified the Union by love of Russia and the Russian people, while in reality the Union with Moscow was treason of the Russian people, it was a union with its oppressors. Russia is enslaved by ungodly, criminal authorities; the Russian Church is enslaved by serganists. In such a situation the independent, truthful voice of the ROCOR was precious for Russia. This voice was heard in Russia even behind the Iron Curtain, and especially after the fall of communism.
After the Union ROCOR totally lost its spiritual freedom and as a result lost all its significance and influence, and became just one of the dioceses of MP. Thus, who profited by the Union? – Those, whom the free voice of ROCOR disturbed: Russian civil and church authorities.
We believe, that one day the Russian Church will become free from Sergianism, and then, not from us, whom they name schismatics, but from the Church in Russia they will hear condemnation of their treason.
They say that nothing has changed in the ROCOR after the Union. In reality only daily routine has stayed mostly the same. Most sadly, as a result of the Union they themselves changed. The longer one goes on the wrong way, the more he moves away from the goal. Five years they have been moving in the wrong direction, and they have gone quite far away.
Who would have believed 5 years ago that a bishop of ROCOR would take part in an ecumenical conference, would recognize Roman-Catholicism as a sister-church, as was the case recently; a previously deposed bishop, who has entered into a same-sex union with a male was appointed as a rector of a parish by the Synod in New York. These and similar facts show that their spiritual perception has obscured.
For us the fifth anniversary of the Union is an important milestone. We will now serve a thanksgiving moleben. We give thanks to the Lord, that He didn’t abandon His Church, that He gave Vladyka Agafangel wisdom and strength to lead the Church on the royal path, not deviating to the right or to the left.