Pastoral Epistle of the Council of Bishops 2017
the only true stewardship of the earthly flock of Christ of the Russian Church
ROCA: Pastoral Epistle of the Council of Bishops 2017
See then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
Christ is Risen!
Currently, the times are such, that when in both civil and ecclesiastical society, authority is crumbling, numerous false teachings are invented, and many groups refer to themselves as if Christ is among them. How can a person keep one’s balance in this chaos, where the media easily convinces a host of people that black is white and vice versa? It is not within a person’s strength nor within his ability to be able to understand such a variety of lies- it is possible only if God Himself opens the veil of Mysteries before him.
We believe that we have been vouchsafed God's mercy, and that His mercy has been manifested to us by pointing towards the direction of the historical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, as the only true stewardship of the earthly flock of Christ of the Russian Church, through which the earthly Church is ruled by our Divine Savior.
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth like a branch, and is withered" (John 15:5 -6).
We believe that our Russian Church Abroad is the vine of Christ- the vine on which a multitude of genuine spiritual fruits have blossomed- including the parishes of the Catacomb Church, which were deprived of their centralized administration, and therefore have attached themselves to this vine. This vine is the source that gives us eternal life and salvation. If we lose that, we will lose God’s saving grace. That is why Holy Tradition, which is passed down from generation to generation by our spiritual Fathers, is what we must hold on to, in spite of all the trials and temptations. Whoever dares to revise this living Tradition and distorts and rejects it, will deprive himself not only of a spiritual foundation, but will deprive himself of a connection with Christ- a connection that is passed on like a continuous thread from the time of the apostles down to our days.
Sacred Tradition is the only solid ground on which one can protect the Church from schisms. Whichever winds of modernism are raging about, if you stand on the firm rock of Tradition - they are powerless. However, if one gives in just a little to the “spirit of the times” and allows oneself to think for but a moment that tradition is outdated and does not correspond to modern challenges – then one can easily slip from a solid foundation and thus be carried along the waves to eternal perdition.
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell: and great was the fall of it." (Mt. 7.24-27).
So will it be with those who reject the rock of living Holy Tradition, the canons and rules which the Fathers established, declaring them obsolete and not binding, and who justify their unlawful actions for lack of any arguments at all, with some imaginary "spiritual approach" and with the "demands of the times." This baseless justification for lawlessness can be compared to how the supporters of the traitor of the Church Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), justified and justify his betrayal owing to his "special wisdom" corresponding to that time, but not within the boundaries of patristic Orthodoxy. Similarly, the enemies of Christ, the Masons, even blasphemously distort the meaning of the betrayal of Judas, which, supposedly, only those of their initiated can truly understand.
Of course, there are things within in the Church that change with time, subordinating itself to the current period. But this applies only to the external attributes, the forms of the exposition (presentations) of its invisible sacred content. One and the same truth can be conveyed, for instance, in different languages. In this case, the language can change, but the truth does not. The mistake that many make, is that they do not distinguish well enough the difference between where the truth is, and where the form of its presentation is. Having the desire to make the truth more understandable, often and without knowing it - they distort it and smother it.
Nowadays, ecumenism is a particular, subtle evil - a heresy that often enters into the Church and into the soul of a person like some diabolical flattery, gradually and imperceptibly. Thus, unexpected for many, not only were the representatives of the well familiar-to-us official Orthodoxy susceptible to this heresy, but so were some separate old-calendar groups as well, professing that one could be saved in isolation from other Christians, that the Church has ceased to be the One, Holy and Universal, but rather has divided itself into a multitude of supposedly self-sufficient "Church-Synods". It is precisely this thought, through which the heretical, false doctrine hides behind. Insofar as the Church of Christ has always been singular, so will it remain as such - being the only One (Church), according to the Savior's word, until the end of time.
The First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Metropolitan Vitaly, had said that he believes that those whom the Lord has prepared for salvation, He Himself leads, simply guiding them along His pathways, and eventually leading them to our Russian Church Abroad, and, accordingly, cutting off those who are headed towards perdition. Therefore, we must love and appreciate our Church and remember that it is singular, and that a schism in the Church means perdition, and that the (heretical) confession that all the various Churches in which one supposedly can also be saved, of which there are many – amounts to an ecumenical heresy, and to even greater perdition.
The Synod of Bishops warns all of its faithful children of the Church of Christ of the harmful nature of such a false confession of faith that contradicts the words of Christ Himself: "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Mtt.16:18), and likewise the ninth article of the Creed: "I believe ... in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." The Lord created one Church. Therefore, the Head cannot have many Bodies. Thus did the Lord create it, so the apostles taught, so believed the holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church. So do we also believe. "This is the apostolic faith, this the faith of the fathers, this is the Orthodox Faith, this faith confirmeth the universe!" (From the Service of the Triumph of Orthodoxy).
During these festive days of Pascha, The Synod of Bishops addresses our entire flock with a call especially relevant in our times of apostasy: "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." (Rev. 3:11).
Truly, Christ is risen!
Chairman of the Synod of Bishops
+ Metropolitan Agafangel
Right Reverend Bishops:
+ Archbishop George (Secretary of the Synod)
+ Bishop Athanasius
+ Bishop Kirill
+ Bishop Anfim
For Bishop Gregory and Bishop Nikon + Archbishop George (Secretary of the Synod)
April 20 / May 3, 2017, St. Theodore Trichinas.