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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






Who Are We?

Undated SJKP Leaflet publication.  By the content we know it was published after 1988 and before 2001.

WHO ARE WE?

THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
OUTSIDE OF RUSSIA

Who are we?  What exactly is this Orthodox Church to which we belong?  To answer these important questions we must go back to the very begininng. 

Man was created by God to live in full communion with his Creator and share in His Divine Glory.  But Adam's rejection of life with God because of personal pride plunged all mankind into sin and separation from God.  Because of his sinfulness, man cannot save himself or discover Truth through the efforts of his own reason or experience.  God alone can save man, and God alone reveals Truth to sinful mankind.  The Old Testament is the history of God's preparing mankind to receive the Truth, the Resurrection and the the Life –– God in the flesh, Christ Jesus.  The Lord Jesus Christ, by His earthly life, sufferings, and Resurrection, opened the way for men once again to come into full communion with God. 

After ascending into heaven, the Son of God sent the Holy Spirit upon His apostles.  We read in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: "Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like the rushing of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues like flames of fire, divided among them and resting on each one.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit!"  So does the history of the Church begin, with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles at Jerusalem during the feast of Pentecost.  On that same day, through the preaching of Apostle Peter, 3,000 men and women were baptized, and the first Christian community at Jerusalem was formed. 

Before long, the members of the Jerusalem Church were scattered by the persecution which followed the stoning of St. Stephen. the first martyr, "Go forth therefore," Christ had said, "and make all nations My disciples" (Matt 28: l 9).  Obedient to this command, they preached wherever they went – at first to Jews, but before long to the Gentiles also. 

Thus, the apostles established the Church throughout the ancient world.  St. Peter and St. James founded the Church of Jerusalem.  St. Paul founded the Church of Antioch; St. Andrew the Church of Constantinople; St. Mark, the Church of Alexandria; and Sts. Peter and Paul, the Church of Rome.  Some accounts of the apostolic missionary journeys are recorded by St. Luke in the Book of Acts; others are preserved in the Holy Tradition of the Church.  Thus was founded on earth Christ's Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; and thus it began its spread to all the ends of the earth.

The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.  It is One Body, Unique and Indivisible, with the Lord Jesus Christ as its Head.  It is made holy in an its members by the grace of the Holy Spirit.  The Church is catholic (in the original sense of whole and universal) both because it includes true Christians of all times and places, and also because it makes all its members one in Christ.  The Church is apostolic because it was founded on, and organized by, the apostles chosen by Christ for that purpose, and preserves intact the sacred Tradition they established in the Holy Spirit.  The Church is a mystical Body which lives both in heaven and on earth, including those who have finished their earthly course and come into eternal blessedness, and those who are still struggling to work out their salvation here on earth.  In prayer, in faith, and in spirit, those in heaven and on earth are united with one another and in the Lord and Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. 

The visible part of the Church is likewise fully united in prayer, faith and spirit. No doctrinal differences divide Her members.  Guided by the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Church since Pentecost, the Church on earth lives by the original and unchangeable Faith of the apostles.  In administration, of course, the Church is divided into various branches, like the living branches of the True Vine of Christ.  The apostles founded churches throughout the world, but the churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome, being located in major cities, acquired special administrative importance.  Their bishops came to be called patriarchs or popes.  Later, other patriarchates were established in Russia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, when these lands became Christian.  These patriarchs stand as first among equals with the bishops of the national churches, whose primates bear the titles of archbishop or metropolitan.  Local councils of bishops and the Seven Ecumenical Councils, acting with the grace of the Holy Spirit, have settled major disputes concerning Church doctrine and practice, beginning with the First Council of Jerusalem, recorded in the Book of Acts.

The Roman or Western or Latin church separated from the Eastern Church in the year 1054, after changing the Creed and claiming supremacy of the Bishop of Rome (i.e., the Pope) over the other bishops.  The Western church was then shattered into a multitude of sects by the Protestant Reformation.  However, in Greece, Russia, the Balkans, Middle East and elsewhere, the Eastern Church continued to fl‚ourish, preserving the Faith of Christ pure and unchanged.  Today, this Church is known as the Eastern Orthodox Church.

We belong to the Russian Orthodox Church –– specifically, the Russian Orthdoox Church Outside of Russia.  Let us briefly backtrack historically to find out exactly what this means. 

Christianity was first brought to the Russian land by the holy Apostle Andrew, but it was not until the year 988, under Grand Prince Vladimir, that the Russian people and land were baptized into Christ by missionaries from Constantinople and Bulgaria.  Thus, Holy Russia was born and grew into a great Christian empire, by the Orthodox Tsar, rich in great saints and wonder-working icons, adorned with great cathedrals and monasteries, and filled with pious and God-fearing people.  Missionaries from Russia brought Orthodox Christianity to North America, first to Alaska and then to California.  Later, immigrants from Greece, Russia, and other Orthodox lands spread the Orthodox Faith throughout the continent. 

The I917 revolution dethroned the Russian Tsar, and the Communist takeover in 1918 destroyed the Russian Empire and plunged the world, and especially the Orthodox world, into darkness.  The Church of Russia was subjected to incredible persecution and abuse by the atheist Bolsheviks.  Patriarch Tikhon, Primate of the Church, anathematized the Bolshevik rulers, and suffered imprisonment, torture and finally death for his refusal to submit to their demands.  His successor, Metropolitan Sergius, however, submitted and made his notorious Declaration in 1927, which made the Church in the Soviet Union a political tool of the atheist government.  The majority of the bishops vehemently protested against this concordat, but they were systematically liquidated.  The faithful Christians in the Soviet Union went underground into the "catacombs" (the magnitude of this movement is only now becoming clear as recent events in the U.S.S.R. have allowed a number of those in the catacombs to come into the open) to keep the Faith secretly under the persecutions, just as the first Christians had.

Millions of Russians fled their homeland and settled in exile after the Bolsheviks established their control over Russia.  On November 7, 1920, Patriarch Tikhon issued Encyclical #362, ordering all Russian Orthodox bishops outside the Soviet Union to organize a supreme Church authority and establish Church life and order independent of the Church in the Soviet Union, which was and remains under Communist domination.  Thus, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was organized under the senior bishop outside Russia, Metropolitan Anthony. 

This free part of the Russian Orthodox Church has carried on Church life under its governing Synod of Bishops, headed first by Metropolitan Anthony, then by the late Metropolitan Anastassy, then by Metropolitan Philaret who passed away in 1985, and presently by Metropolitan Vitaly.  After World War II, the Synod moved from its original headquarters in Karlovtzy, Yugoslavia, to Munich, Germany, and then to New York City, where it is now located.

The Church Abroad has parishes on every continent throughout the non-communist world.  In Her faithfulness to the Holy Orthodox Faith, she strives to remain faithful to Christ and to bear witness to His Truth without compromise.

Throughout the years of the existence of the Russian Church Abroad, and especially in recent years, many natives of the lands in which the Church finds itself have converted to Orthodox Christianity, joining the Church and becoming zealous. energetic members, furthering the spread of the Light of Christ “to all the Nations.” 

The current relationship of the Russian Church Abroad to the Church in the Soviet Union was summed up by the Sobor of Bishops in their jubilee epistle of 1988:
“Beginning in 1917, raging, merciless, unprecedented persecutions began against the faithful of the Church of Russia.  Tens of millions of the slain, tortured, those who perished in exile and forced-labor camps — bishops, priests, monastics, and faithful lay folk — were subjected to unheard-of repressions by the militant atheists.  Yet the Church survived by the blood of the martyrs.

Today, the Church of Russia is, first of all, the vast sea of the believers of our land, who are harassed and persecuted for the sake of Christ and His truth — pastors who have withdrawn into the catacombs of their hearts, fathers and mothers who save their children from atheism and unbelief by their prayers, children-confessors — all mighty in their weakness, of whom today's world is not worthy. 
We also, who love them, together with them, though we are beyond the boundaries of the homeland, are the Church of Russia, over which the glory of the Lord has shone throughout the thousand years of its existence. 

We believe that the hour is not far off when today's persecutors, like Julian the Apostate, will say to Christ: "Thou hast conquered us, O Galilean!"  Then will the Church of Russia arise, cleansed by persecutions, washed in the blood of the martyrs...

...Only then will the Church Abroad and the Council of Russian Bishops beyond the boundaries of the homeland bring to an end its independent existence.  But while confessors of the Faith of Christ languish and die in prisons and camps, while the ecclesiastical administration of the Patriarchate of Moscow is stricken by “non-glasnost" and cannot speak the truth, we, the Russian bishops outside of Russia, feel an awesome responsibility lying upon us for the WHOLE Church."


— Compiled by Fr. Gregory and Matushka Naumenko 
from various sources

published by
The Saint John of Kronstadt Press
1180 Orthodox Way
Liberty TN 37095-4366
615/536-5239 • web: sjkp.org
Leaflet #2276