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After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways ... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church. ~St. Philaret of NY






RTOC Bishop Stefan on Radicalized Orthodoxy

(RTOC is a R-fragment)
(Our ROCA under Agafangel is the sole valid continuation of the ROCOR)



RADICALIZED ORTHODOXY
-in plain language-

      Many will agree with me that we are living inend times’. Satan knows that he has little time left to see to it that Christs promiseUpon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt.16:18) - will not be fulfilled. He has corrupted the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, and has now set his eyes on every one of us individually in an attempt to put an end to the True Church of Christ altogether.

      The words of Christ spoken to His disciple Simon Peter apply to us also: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat”. (Luke 22:31)  It is important that we take heed to these words in earnest, because this is exactly what is happening right now. And yet we erroneously think that this crumbing of the remnants of the Church is something thatis meant to bewithout realizing that it is not! This is the work of satan who is trying to sift us as wheat and scatter us in his heinous attempt to destroy the Church of Christ.

      There have always been ecclesiastical issues to be resolved, and mistakes have been made, but at the present time the greatest stumbling stone (камень предкновения) that is causing a rift amongst clergy and faithful is the question of grace in the Moscow Patriarchate and other ecumenical churches.

      Many have voiced their opinions, but my appeal is not so much concerning the issue of grace itself, as the importance of understanding that an overly enthusiastic desire to convince others of their point of view often leads to fanatical fervency and a radicalization of our faith, which never leads to unity (of our ROCOR remnants.)

      To refresh our memory, let us take a quick look at the issue itself. There are those who say that the M.P. has grace. Does it? I was somewhat surprised by a question from a pious person: “Did the Holy Fathers ever say that heretics have no grace?” The answer isno, they did not’ – but then the opposite is also true: “Did the Holy Fathers ever say that heretics have grace”?

      What gives??

      The ROCOR Church , соборно , never accepted the concept of an ailing church; never considered the MP as having grace, but called it a false church. Saint Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) repeatedly stressed that we must avoid having even any informal contact with the Moscow Patriarchate - He not only called the MP a false church, but adisease’. On Orthodoxy Sunday, February 27, 1972, he gave a sermon in which he said the following: “It is sad that peoples reaction towards the red autocephalyis far from what it should be. We would think that parishes and Оrthodox Russian people would have walked away en masse from this disease. So far we have not seen this.” Would St. Philaret call a church with Grace a disease??

      Metrop. Vitaly (Ustinov) repeatedly denounced the MP as being outside the True Church . Archbishop Averky, Archimandrite Konstantine (Zaitsev) as well as other theologians of Jordanville, all concur that the MP is a false church without grace. I grew up in the Jordanville monastery, and in all the years (?) I never heard anyone question this fact.

      I will not belabor you or myself by quoting their words or the canons. It is likely that you already know them. It is sufficient to know that the MP fell under an anathema as far back as the times of the Holy Hierarch Patriarch Tikhon and fell under yet another anathema because of ecumenism.

      Furthermore, it must be known that beginning with the betrayal by Metropolitan Sergius, all the hierarchs who were faithful to the holy Church were tortured to death and Stalin replaced them with his agents. These wolves in cassocks undertook to ordain other bishops (Stalins appointees) and clergy. Now, sixty years later, it is doubtful that any of the hierarchs within the MP ranks possess apostolic succession.

      The Church is episcopacentric. If an MP bishop is not a bishop, then from whom do the clergy acquire the grace required to perform the sacraments? According to Church canons, a priest, ordained by a bishop who does not possess apostolic succession, is not a priest. The mysteries performed by him are invalid and without grace and in his chalice are not the Body and Blood of Christ God, but the food of demons. (As one of the holy fathers called the false body and blood of Christ.)

      The Church strictly forbids attending services in temples excommunicated from Eucharistic communion or heretics as well as praying jointly with them. In antiquity the Holy Fathers were quite categorical in this regard. Furthermore, the Holy Fathers made no personal judgment of their own, nor did they make any conciliar determination concerning Grace. Such a determination as well as the demise of those fallen away from the Church is not for us to judgethis is Gods matter.

      The most dreadful punishment for a believing Orthodox person is to be excommunicated from Christ, from union with Christ through Holy Communion. It is said, “whosoever will pray with a heretic, shall he be cast out”. Would someone be subjected to such a strict punishment for praying with those who had gone astray if the Holy Fathers considered that within them the salvific Grace of God was nonetheless present, “which always heals the infirm and supplements that which is lacking” (from the order of ordination to the office of priesthood). Note the use of the wordalways”. One RTOC Church writer, possibly attempting to justify his personal views concerning this matter wrote: “the MP has grace, but that grace is inert”. How can we mortals formulate such a determination concerning Grace, that it is supposedly inert?

      There exists yet another incongruity: where is the limit? Who gave us the right to determine in which heretical church isGrace present”, and in which it is not? Did the Holy Fathers give us such instructions? No!

      I recall something of interest from a lecture by Archimandrite Konstantine (Zaitsev) in a class at Jordanville Seminary: “There exists one and ONLY one Church of Christ. There is no other like Her and in the event of some sort of calamity, She has no substitute. She is irreplaceable. I once had the occasion to hear a person who expressed his view that of all the churches, the Anglican church was closest of all to the Orthodox, closer even than the Catholic. How should one understand this? In what sense is itcloser”? In no sense. They are both heretical and without grace. Could we possibly say to a person who does not have an Orthodox church nearby: it would be better if you went to the Anglican church than to the Catholic one?!”

      A few words about those who say the reverse, that there is no grace in the churches which have fallen away from the Truth. This is correct, but one must nonetheless avoid extremes. Extremes do not yield spiritual instructiveness but sow disdain toward those who think differently as well as unnecessary strife. I will cite an example ofinappropriate extremes”:

THE DETERMINATION OF THE HOLY SOBOR OF THE RUSSIAN 
TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH, 13/26 October 2008 states:

      “The Moscow Patriarchate… is not the True Church of Christ and its sacraments cannot be valid unto salvation”. 

This, so far is acceptable. But what is NOT acceptable is the last line of this DETERMINATION

Outside the Church it is impossible for the soul, stricken by passions to receive true spiritual healing and salvation.” 

I repeatedly wrote to the RTOC Synod, asking them to REMOVE the word "impossible"It is impermissible to say that 'Outside the Church salvation is impossible', but my pleas have been ignored.

      The Holy Gospel gives us a definite answer to this question concerning salvation. To the disciplesquestion: “Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:26-27). Repeatedly I wrote to one RTOC bishop, that the final judgment over each person and his salvation is Gods matter. If you consider that you know for sure for whom salvation is possible and for whom it is impossible; then you contradict Christ Himself, if you say: “not all things”, because Christ said: "all things are possible for God."

      In response to (...) the question of salvation, the Holy Hierarch Ignatius Brianchaninov gave a significant answer: “I dont know whether a Catholic will be saved, but I know that if I abandon our patristic Orthodox faith and convert to the Latin one, I know I will not be saved.”  In the {erroneous} opinion of the one RTOC bishop, the Holy Hierarch Ignatius should have answered: “I know that salvation is impossible for a Catholic”.  Despite all of my admonitions, this one RTOC bishop did not move from his self-confident convictions and to this day maintains his own belief.

      To trumpet over the course of many years that Cyprianism is a most terrible heresy does not yield significant fruit, but on the contrary does harm and gives others cause to accuse us of fanaticism. Those, who despite our admonitions continue to maintain that heretical churches have grace will have to answer for themselves. It is not for us to judge them, it is not for us to have wrath against them. If we are angry then we are not the preachers of Grace, nor confessors, but fanatics. The holy martyrs, sufferers and confessors were not angry at their tormentors, but prayed for them.

      Our Lord Jesus Christ gave everyone an indication of how to express our annoyance with those who refuse to heed our exhortations: ”And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” (Matt.10:14). In obeying these words, we ought to go with our preaching into another house, into another city, without wrath and lift up our prayers in peace.

 Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America
The Holy Pre-eminent Apostles Peter and Paul
June 29/July 12, 2016

[edited for clarity]