Two ROCOR Bishops and the Russian Old Believers in Oregon

John Hudanish and his wife Elisabeth on the ferry in BC with Aleksei Revtov, Silvester Valikhov, Stepan Valikhov and Olga Valikhov.

Foreword

As I grow older and approach the end of my life, I feel obliged to record some observations on the Old Ritualist schism and the efforts to heal it, as well as some anecdotes describing my involvement in this effort. I would be remiss if I passed on without first documenting some of my personal dealings with the Old Believer community from 1970 to 2005 in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

I write in part because I believe that the Old Ritualist schism of the mid-17th century can be ended. I hope this record will encourage further efforts at reconciliation with the many thousands of Old Believers in the world today.

I have not done much research on what I am about to commit to paper, largely because I have witnessed so much of it first-hand. I do not claim to having made history, but only to being present when it happened.

 Oregon’s Willamette Valley

When I arrived in Portland, Oregon, in June of 1970, I was a 30-year-old Army veteran of the Vietnam war with a wife and two little sons, Stefan and Philip. I needed a job, and I was willing to do just about anything to support my family.

I had completed a six-year enlistment in the U.S. Army, including 18 months studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute, West Coast (DLIWC) and 18 months in Vietnam. I had a year of Russian literature at American University after my discharge. I could speak and read Russian well enough, but didn’t have much else going for me. Elizabeth and I and our boys moved into her parents’ basement in SW Portland.

I soon heard about the newly arrived Russian immigrants in Woodburn, a half-hour’s drive south on I-5 into the fertile Willamette Valley. So one day I drove down to Woodburn to find employ-ment. Perhaps someone would give me a job because of my ability to speak, read and write Russian.

Woodburn’s base population in 1970 was about 7,100 souls, most of whom were suffering from an acute case of culture shock dealing with the sudden influx of Russians among them.

John Hudanish and his wife Elisabeth on the ferry in BC with Aleksei Revtov, Silvester Valikhov, Stepan Valikhov and Olga Valikhov.
John Hudanish and his wife Elisabeth on a ferry in BC with Aleksei Revtov, Silvester Valikhov, Stepan Valikhov and Olga Valikhov. Photo by Dail Adams

There were about 3,000 Russian Old Believers living in and around Woodburn. Basically peasants, they were at home in the fields picking beans and berries, and training and harvesting hops. Some worked in local canneries. Others were skilled carpenters and found jobs building houses. A few of them were bricklayers and concrete finishers. Still others bought hard hats, caulk boots and chainsaws, and went to work in Oregon’s forested highlands, doing pre-commercial thinning or reforestation, planting young conifers.

They lived together in sub-standard housing, saved their money, pooled their resources and eventually were able to purchase homes of their own. Some of them bought farmland, which they planted in cane berries, kept pigs, chickens and cows, grew vegetables for the table, and baked their own bread. They fished and hunted for subsistence. At first they didn’t see a need for game laws, but they soon learned it was cheaper to obey them.

Three Groups of Old Believers

There were actually not one, but three groups of Russian Old Believers in Oregon when I arrived; the Sintsiántsy, the Kharbíntsy and the Turchánye.

The Sintsiantsy had moved south from western Siberia into China’s remote Xiyu (western regions) during the Civil War in Russia (1918-1922) following the Bolshevik Revolution. They are called “Sintsiantsy” because they had lived in the Altai Mountains around Gulja in Sinkiang Province.

Silvester and Olga Valikhovs. Photo is taken in Woodburn, OR in the early 1970 by Dail Adams or J. Hudanish

The Kharbintsy had lived in the Maritime Provinces on Russia’s Pacific coast up until the harsh period of enforced collectivization and dekulakization (разкулачивание) in the 1930s. Fleeing Soviet tyranny, they began crossing the Amur River into Manchuria in 1931. They did not live in Kharbin, the capital, but in villages they themselves built in remote areas, hoping to minimize contacts with other people.

In 1949, victorious Chinese Communists under Mao Tse-tung drove Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang out of China and across the strait into Taiwan. With Communists in control in China, the Old Believers in Sinkiang and Manchuria knew they must find another country in which to live.

With the help of the United Nations and the Tolstoy Foundation, AND the consent of the government in Beijing, the two groups of Old Believers relocated in 1957 and 1958 to Hong Kong, which was then still a British possession.

Over the course of several months the UN helped them move from Hong Kong to Brazil and Argentina. A small handful were admitted to the United States, and a few went to New Zealand, Australia and Canada, but the majority went into Brazil’s interior where they cleared away the jungle, built homes and planted crops on land given them by the Brazilian government.

The Old Believers traveled from Hong Kong to Brazil in several groups, some by ship, and some by air. One group actually made a stop-over in Los Angeles on their way to Brazil. When they arrived in LA, in 1959 or 1960, they were featured on the evening news, and a group of Russian Molokans there made contact with them before they boarded a ship for Brazil. Old Believers and Molokans exchanged names and addresses.

There is a Molokan community near Woodburn, Oregon, and a few Oregon Molokans have relatives in Los Angeles, from whom they obtained contact information about the Russians in Brazil. The Oregon Molokans soon offered to sponsor Russian Old Believers who wanted to relocate to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The Tolstoy Foundation got involved, and the reset-tlement effort from South America to Oregon began in earnest in the mid-sixties.

The third group of Old Believers, the Turchanye, came to the United States from Turkey. They are not Turks, but the descendants of Russian Old Believers who had lived on or near the northern shores of the Black or Azov Seas until the late 18th century. Some of their ancestors were Kuban Cossacks.

During the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796), the celebrated Russian General Aleksandr Vasilyevich Suvorov drove the Ottoman Turks out of the area. And as the Ottoman Empire retreated, several thousand Russian Old Believers moved with it, preferring the protection of the Turkish Sultan to the oppression of the Orthodox Tsarina, who made the sign of the cross with three fingers and reportedly expected all her subjects to do the same.

These Old Believers withdrew with the Turks to the mouth of the Danube River, not far from the modern city of Braila, Romania. In fact, there is a community of Old Believers living in Braila today. This is the Belokrinitsy group. I shall have more to say about them later. But the ancestors of Oregon’s Turkish Old Believers did not remain in Romania. They moved again in 1878 to Asia Minor, as the weakened Ottoman Empire receded a second time in the face of a vigorous Russian onslaught.

In June, 1919, following the end of the First World War, what was left of the once mighty Ottoman Empire was dismembered in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles. Its successor on the world stage was Turkey, a secular republic, comprising Istanbul and East Thrace in Europe and all of Asia Minor.

From an Orthodox perspective, it would have been wonderful if the victorious Entente had restored the Ottoman Empire’s European possessions to the Greeks. Istanbul would have become Constantinople again, and Orthodox Divine Liturgies would once again be celebrated in Hagia Sophia.

But the victorious British and French didn’t want to give the Bolsheviks access to the Mediterranean Sea, so they left the Bosporus totally in the control of Russia’s old enemy, the Turks, thereby containing the Soviet fleet in the Black Sea.

By 1950, the Turchanye had lived in the country around Konya in Asia Minor nearly four generations. All was not well among them. God had – through Moses – told the people of Israel: “None of you shall approach any close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:6). Read also Canons 53 and 54 of the Council of Trullo (Quinisext Council).

What all this means is that if you are an Orthodox Christian, you may marry any other Orthodox Christian of the opposite gender, provided you are not already related by blood, marriage or through sponsorship in Baptism. The Turchanye were a small group of Orthodox Christians living in a predominantly Muslim society. They typically had large families, so if, say, one of Vasily and Ksenia’s six sons were to marry one of Artemy and Anna’s five daughters, then all the other sons and daughters would be related to each other by marriage, precluding any further unions between the two families.

Or if Artemy had sponsored Kondraty at baptism, then he may not marry any of Kondraty’s sisters, nor may Kondraty marry any of Artemy’s daughters or nieces.

These rules make it hard, even impossible, to find a suitable husband or wife in a small, religiously isolated population. But young people must always find someone to marry, and this compelled the Turchanye in Asia Minor to look for mates for their grown children in other lands.

In the late 1950s, a large number of Turchanye left Turkey for the USSR. Less than a decade later, in the mid-1960s, forty more Old Believer families were paroled into the United States by Attorney General Robert Kennedy. They settled around Lakewood, NJ.

The Tolstoy Foundation let the Turchanye in New Jersey know about the Old Believers moving to Oregon from Brazil, and contact was soon established between the two groups.

In 1967, a small delegation of Turchanye elders packed up several liturgical books and flew to Oregon to meet with the Sintsiantsy and Kharbintsy com-munities. Their aim was to compare liturgical books and practices, and thereby to determine whether or not they were of the same religion, or sufficiently close to each other in faith and worship to provide suitable mates for each other’s children. They happily concluded that they were indeed of the same faith. So in 1968 and 1969, some twenty-two Turchanye families moved to Oregon and built a village in the countryside between Woodburn and Gervais.

The younger generation of Kharbintsy, Sintsiantsy and Turchanye were happy to meet each other. And there followed intensive intermarrying among the three groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

 A Russian First Grade in Oregon

When I arrived on the scene in 1970, the Woodburn School District was badly in need of someone who could communicate with the Old Believer children. Although I initially lacked the basic academic credentials required by law, the District hired me on the spot as an elementary school teacher. I was given an emergency certificate and a classroom full of first graders whose primary language was Russian. My tasks were to teach them the “three R’s” in Russian, and at the same time to introduce English. Not only did I have to learn how to teach in an elementary school setting, I also developed much of my own curricula, visual aids, textbooks, etc., as well.

A groom and his friends at the Turkish village in Gervais, OR. Photo is taken in the early 1970 by Dail Adams or J. Hudanish
Wedding guests at an Old Believer wedding in Bethlehem Village in Gervais, OR. Photo is taken in the early 1970 by  J. Hudanish

I recognized early on that Oregon’s Old Believers were not simply immigrants from another country, but also new-comers from another century and a vastly different culture. I intuitively understood that their native culture was unique and had value in and of itself. So, my approach to teaching the Old Believer children was philosophically predicated on a cultural maintenance model incorporating bilingualism and biculturalism. I resolved not to “Americanize” my students, even before I was able to fully appreciate the significance of their culture from an Orthodox perspective.

It should not surprise the reader that most of the District administrators and teachers, as well as most of the school board, didn’t approve of a cultural maintenance model in an American classroom. The consensus in both the District and the community at large was that the Old Believer children should be assimilated into American society as quickly as possible.

But my pupils’ parents understood and approved of my efforts to maintain their traditional culture. The parents were very concerned that their children would be Americanized and forget their faith and traditions. So I enjoyed an easy relationship with them. They were perhaps as curious about me as I was about them, and they welcomed me into their homes. One Old Believer elder, Gavril Alekseievich Kuznetsov, showed particular concern for my salvation, and he encouraged me to seek the true Faith. His exhortations set my family and me on a journey into the Orthodox Church.

But more about that later…

I taught first grade in the bilingual program at Nellie Muir Elementary School in Woodburn for two years, ending in June 1972.

Solzhenitsyn

Renowned author Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn played a significant role in attempting to reconcile the Old Believers with the Orthodox Church.

Born in Russia in 1918, Solzhenitsyn served as an artillery officer in the Red Army during WWII. Despite his distinguished service (he was decorated twice for valor), he was nevertheless arrested in 1945 for a comment critical of Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin. Tried and convicted under Article 5B, he was sentenced to the GULAG (labor camp) for eight years, followed by permanent internal exile.

Many thousands of political prisoners, Solzhenitsyn among them, were released from the GULAG and rehabilitated after Stalin died (March ’53), and especially after CP General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, in a marathon speech before the 20th Party Congress in February 1956, famously denounced the “cult of the personality” that had surrounded Stalin.

Solzhenitsyn attained international prominence as a writer with his very first book, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. An articulate survivor of the GULAG, Solzhenitsyn wrote a fictional account of a typical day in the life of a prisoner in a Soviet labor camp. It was published in the literary magazine NOVY MIR in 1962. I had read this book in Russian in 1964 as a soldier/student in the Russian Department of the DLIWC, Presidio of Monterey, California.

Following the phenomenal success of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Solzhenitsyn wrote Cancer Ward, The First Circle, The Gulag Archipelago and August 1914. Because these books were critical of Soviet rule, the censors denied them approval for publication. But manuscripts of all his works were smuggled out of the USSR and published in Western Europe. They were all well received and sold briskly.

Solzhenitsyn soon became an international celebrity of the first magnitude. There he was, the plucky little mouse, tweaking the bear’s nose. Watchers in the West waited to see if and when the bear would swallow him. But the bear was well aware the West was watching. So the bear bided his time. And the mouse kept on tweaking.

In 1970, Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he declined to travel to Stockholm to receive it, fearing that, once he was out of the country, the Soviet authorities would not let him return. He was right, of course.

In February 1974, Soviet authorities arrested Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, stripped him of his Soviet citizenship, put him on a plane and exiled him to the West. At first he lived in Switzerland, but then moved to Vermont. In 1994, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn returned to his native land. He died in Moscow on August 3, 2008.

 “As if They Had Never Been”

In the summer of 1974, Metropolitan Philaret, then first hierarch of the ROCOR, wrote to the newly-exiled Solzhenitsyn and asked how the Orthodox in the West could best support the persecuted Orthodox Church in Russia. Solzhenitsyn quickly responded that he was poorly qualified to advise ROCOR on ecclesiastical matters, but then he went on to write eleven and a half pages. A copy of his letter, written in August 1974, is  hereto.

In his letter, Solzhenitsyn brought up the subject of the Old Ritualist Schism, recounted the cruel persecutions the dissenters had endured, and made a strong case for reconciliation.

Two fathers in law. P. F. Kutusov and G.A. Kuznetsov. Photo is taken in or near Woodburn, OR in the early 1970 by Dail Adams or J. Hudanish

ROCOR’s Synod of Bishops responded with uncharacteristic dispatch. On 25 September 1974, they issued a decree on the Old Ritual in which they rescinded “the interdicts and anathemas imposed [on the old ritual]…as if they had never been…” and called upon Old Believers everywhere to come forth and be reconciled with the Russian Orthodox Church. A copy of this decree is also attached hereto.

It is appropriate to mention that the ROCOR’s decree was composed entirely by Father Dmitry Alexandrow, later Bishop Daniel, who was born in Odessa in 1930, and died in Erie, PA, in April 2010. Dmitry first encountered Old Believers in Romania as a precocious teenager as he and his mother fled the USSR in the final months of WWII.

Having promulgated this conciliatory decree in 1974, ROCOR settled back to wait for the Old Believer response. But it is not clear to me at this writing what they did to circulate the decree among the Old Believers them-selves. No one among the Old Believers in Oregon ever made mentioned of it. They anticipated that the Old Believers would somehow be aware of the decree and would respond to it.

Old Believers vs. Orthodox

We have come to a point at which my own journey into the Orthodox Church bears on this narrative, so I cannot avoid writing about it.

Inspired by my Old Believer neighbors, I tried to join the Orthodox Church in 1972. Specifically, I joined St. Nicholas Orthodox Church (OCA) on North Mallory Avenue in Portland. The pastor at the time was Father George Afonsky.

Father George received me into the Orthodox Church by a simple profession of Faith; I recited the Nicene Creed before the Royal Doors during the Divine Liturgy. That was all. Father George didn’t require that I be chrismated.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I had boarded a ship headed in a very different direction from the one I felt I should be going. The contrast between the liturgical services among the Old Believers and those at St. Nicholas ROC in Portland were striking. For example, liturgical services among the Old Believers are not made shorter in deference to human weakness. There is an understanding among them that truncating the services would be offensive to God, and therefore not acceptable. Old Believers’ services are invari-ably much longer than in OCA and even ROCOR parishes.

Old Believer congregations do not sit or kneel in church. There are no pews, so they must stand. Sitting on the floor is permitted during the reading of the six psalms at the beginning of matins, as well as following the third and sixth odes in the canon, at which time a reader stands at an analoi facing the congregation and reads homilies in Slavonic from Zlatoust, a book of homilies by the great St. John Chrysostom – Golden Mouth.

There is a dress code among the Old Believers, and it is enforced. Men wear a black kaftan with no ornamentation. Women wear a sarafan with a hemline well below the knee, and they always cover their heads with a platok (kerchief). Only members of the congregation are permitted in the church itself during services. Sinners and strangers must stand in the narthex.

Old Believers boys always find something to laugh about. Photo is taken by John Hudanish in or near Woodburn, OR in the early 1970s.
The Old Believers boys always find something to laugh about. Photo is taken  by J. Hudanish in Gevais, OR at the wedding in the early 1970s.

Old Believers strictly observe the canonical fasts of the Church, while most Orthodox do not fast as rigorously as the Old Believers do, and some don’t bother to fast at all.

The greatest difference was that priestless Old Believers in the Willamette Valley, lacking an ordained clergy, cannot celebrate the Divine Liturgy. They have readers’ services for vespers, compline, matins and hours. The obednitsa service is essentially the Liturgy of the Word, which includes psalms, troparia, the Symbol of Faith and readings from the epistles and gospels appointed for the day.

The Old Believers know what the Holy Mysteries are, but they also realize that they cannot receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion because, since the schism 350 years ago, they lack bishops, and without bishops, they can have no ordained priests.

It’s worth noting that the Old Believers’ services in Oregon’s Willamette Valley were much better attended by some multiple than the services at St. Nicholas.

I once asked young Avtonom Gavrilovich Martushev how he managed to get though such lengthy services every week. He simply shrugged and said, “Oh, you get used to it!”

Another young Old Believer, Sava Artemievich Zarkov, smiled at my question, and snapped his fingers in response. “When you participate, it goes by just like that!”

The Gregorian Calendar

In the early 1970s, St. Nicholas parish was contemplating going over to the New (Gregorian) Calendar. I found this troubling because the primary objective in embracing the Gregorian Calendar was to make Orthodoxy more convenient for the faithful living in America.

The idea of making changes in the disciplinary canons or the liturgical services for the sake of convenience sends the wrong message. The Church is obliged to teach us how to live a God-pleasing life. Let’s face it; pleasing God is often inconvenient.

Take martyrdom, for example.  Aren’t we Christians supposed to accept martyrdom rather than deny Christ?  And yet, if our bishops drop the Julian Calendar and accept the Gregorian because it is more convenient for us, how can they subsequently expect us to freely choose martyrdom? Martyrdom is never convenient. Martyrdom is often terminally inconvenient. Making pierogi or cleaning up in the parish hall following a holupky dinner are admirable, but they are no substitute for martyrdom! If the faithful cannot live and worship on the Julian Calendar because they live here in the United States, how can they be expected to accept martyrdom for the sake of Christ?

For all their shortcomings, the Old Believers have had more experience with inconvenience than the Orthodox.

Prerevolutionary Elitism

Once in 1972, I managed to persuade Father George Afonsky to drive down to the Woodburn area with me and pay a social call on some Old Believers. My objective was to show Father George that the Old Believers are solid, decent people, and to let the Old Believers know that Orthodox clergy are approachable. My ultimate hope was to stimulate a dialog that would lead over time to reconciliation and the restoration of the priesthood and Holy Mysteries to the Old Believer community.

The Gostievskykh family were pious Kharbintsy. They were poor and lived modestly. Our visit was brief and went well enough. Father George was polite and amiable while we were in the Gostievkykh home, but afterwards, as we were driving back to my home in Woodburn, he gave vent to a lively, largely uncharitable assessment of the Gostievskykh family.

Dismissing them as ignorant peasants whose world-view was very limited, he made sure I understood that the Old Believers had nothing to teach him. He found no value in their culture and simple way of life. His exclusively pejorative observations seemed to arise from a prerevolutionary elitist mindset, which I had encountered from time to time among Russian émigrés in my youth.

Charochka. A. Cam offers advice to Vasili Postnikov and Dunia Yakkis on their weeding day. Photo is taken in or near Woodburn, OR in the early 1970 by J. Hudanish

When I was a young soldier studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey in 1963-64, most of the administrators and teachers in the Russian Department had been born in Russia well before the Revolution, and there were even a few former officers of the Russian Imperial Army who had served under Tsar Nicholas II. They had occupied the upper tiers of society in Imperial Russia, and they were very interesting people, colorful, polished and witty. I admired them, but they had nothing good to say about the USSR and the people who ran it. They were used to looking down on workers and peasants, the very people who were supposed to be the beneficiaries of the Revolution that had uprooted the old way of life and displaced them.

Father George Afonsky was a decent man and a dedicated servant of the Church, but I was disappointed to hear him express such uncomplimentary views about my Old Believer neighbors. Clearly he was not interested in having a dialog with them about reconciliation. I reproached myself for having suggested to him that we visit the Old Believers. It was plainly a waste of his time – but an education for me.

In May 1973, Father George was consecrated Bishop Gregory and as-signed to Sitka, Alaska. I assume that he eventually read Solzhenitsyn’s letter to Metropolitan Philaret, but I can only imagine what his reaction to it might have been.

ROCOR

In December 1973, I stopped attending St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Portland. It was clear to me by then that any Old Believers visiting the parish would not feel at home there. And I wanted a more traditional form of Orthodoxy for myself.

I was then praying fervently with prostrations for some sort of direction. I began going to readers’ services with the Old Believers, but although they welcomed me, they were not certain how to deal with me and my family. My Elizabeth had no interest in becoming an Old Believer culturally, and the distinction between culture and religion was blurred. There arose too many barriers to integration into their way of life.

By far the greatest problem for us was their attitude toward the minutia of ritual. They ascribed an efficacy to the most obscure details of ritual which the ancient fathers of the Church had not anticipated, and against which Jesus Christ had inveighed in His public ministry.

At last, in August 1975 my prayers were answered. I received a letter from Alexey Young, a convert to Orthodoxy living with his wife and two children in Etna, in northern California’s Scott Valley. Young and his family were doing reader’s services in a chapel they had erected in their back-yard. Young taught in the Etna elementary school.

The Youngs were receiving encouragement and guidance from two monks on a mountaintop near Platina, California, Fathers Herman and Seraphim, who had been Gleb Podmoshensky and Eugene Rose, respectively, while they were still living in the world. Gleb Podmoshensky had been one of my instructors at the Defense Language Institute a dozen years earlier.

Alexey Young and I carried on an intense correspondence about Orthodoxy for several months. He encouraged me to join the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). But the closest ROCOR parish at that time was St. Nicholas ROC in Seattle, a good four-hour drive north of Woodburn on I-5. Still, Young’s suggestion made sense. ROCOR appeared to be so much more traditional than the OCA, and therefore more acceptable from an Old Believer perspective.

I first visited Platina in December 1975 with my son, Stefan. I saw Father Herman again after several years, and met Father Seraphim for the first time. Neither one of them had been ordained then.

 Going to San Francisco

In February 1976, I decided to go to San Francisco and personally ask Archbishop Anthony to receive me and my family into ROCOR. Silvestre Feodorovich Valihov and Fedot Semyonovich Kalugin, both Kharbintsy Old Believers, were interested in making the trip with me. In those days I was driving a 1969 VW van, which can get you from Woodburn to San Francisco in about 18 hours on I-5. I was glad to have the Kharbintsy aboard for their company on the road.

Silvestre Feodorovich and Fedot Semyonovich are just a little older than I am. They had no particular reason for going to San Francisco; they just wanted to visit the big city by the bay of which they had heard so much.

We arrived in San Francisco Friday evening, February 13th. The feast of the Presentation was to fall on Sunday.

We needed a place to stay. Someone suggested we contact the nuns on Fell Street, so we did. They were surprised to see us, but they gamely put us up in the basement of a building next to their convent. We slept on the floor that night. This was definitely a low-budget operation.

On Saturday morning we drove from Fell Street over to the Joy of All Who Sorrow, ROCOR’s great cathedral on Geary Blvd. I immediately set about trying to locate Archbishop Anthony.

I soon learned where he was living; his apartment was right around the corner from the cathedral. I also learned that he was scheduled to meet with a group of students in the cathedral basement in ten minutes. I was told to wait for him on the side-walk between his apartment and the cathedral.

Sure enough, he emerged from his apartment in less than ten minutes. He was a slight, intense man with large, kindly brown eyes and a flowing white beard. He was startled at first as I approached him and took his blessing. I introduced myself and told him I had come all the way from Woodburn, Oregon, hoping that my family and I could be received into the Orthodox Church.

At the mention of Woodburn, he immediately asked if I were an Old Believer. I replied that, no, I was not an Old Believer, that I was neither fish nor fowl, but then I added that two Old Believers had come down with me from Woodburn to see the big city.

“Oh, is that so?” he asked. “Where are they?”

“They’re somewhere around here, Vladyko. I can’t tell you exactly just now. They’re looking over the city.” At that moment I didn’t understand why he was so interested in the Old Believers.

“Will they be at vigil this evening?” he asked.

“Yes, Vladyko, I think so.” I replied.

“Ah, khorosho, khorosho! We’ll talk after vigil!” And then he scurried off to class.

The cathedral on Geary Blvd. is the sparkling hub of a thriving, émigré Russian presence in San Francisco. There were clergy and laity, young and old, mostly Russians, coming and going. Some were distant, others were friendly.

Bishop Nektary

Someone suggested I attend a panikhida that very evening before vigil at the tomb of Archbishop John Maximovich in the crypt chapel beneath the cathedral. That’s where I first met Nektary, Bishop of Seattle. He came up to me right after the panikhida and urged me to attend the vigil with my friends. It was obvious that someone had told him there were Old Believers in town.

The vigil was well attended. Silvestre Feodorovich and Fedot Semyonovich stood against the back wall of the cathedral, while I stood near the center of the nave. The service lasted a bit longer than a “normal” vigil, probably because there were two hierarchs serving.

Bishop Nektary had told me to wait for him right there in the church. And so that’s what I did. After the vigil was over, the congregation left. But I stayed in my place, waiting.

Olga Vailkhova emphatically makes a point. Photo by John Hudanish taken in or near Woodburn, OR in the early 1970s.

At last the starosta came ’round and asked Silvestre Feodorovich and Fedot Semyonovich to leave, too. I wasn’t aware of that or I would have intervened, because I knew the hierarchs wanted to speak with them. For some reason the starosta did not ask me to leave, probably because he had seen Bishop Nektary speak to me directly during the service and assumed that I had some business with him.

The starosta started turning off the lights. The great cathedral grew darker and darker. After several minutes Bishop Nektary came out of the altar through the north deacon’s door. He approached me and asked about my Old Believer friends. I turned to call them over to meet Bishop Nektary, and that’s when I first realized they weren’t in the back of the cathedral anymore. I told Bishop Nektary they were probably outside the church, waiting for me. He sighed and motioned me to the back of the church, near the southwestern corner. The cathedral faces north. Bishop Nektary had me sit down on a bench along the south wall, while he took a seat on a bench nearby on the western wall.

Several more minutes passed. At last Archbishop Anthony came out through the north deacon’s door. By this time it was dark in the great cathedral, but Archbishop Anthony came directly over to the corner where Bishop Nektary and I were seated. He carried a notebook and a pen. But he had no sooner settled himself onto the bench next to Bishop Nektary when the starosta, unaware that we were still in the cathedral, turned off the last light. Suddenly the three of us were sitting there in the great cathedral in total darkness.

Archbishop Anthony immediately rose, muttered something about getting a light, and made his way back toward the iconostas. I couldn’t see him, of course, but I was able to follow the sound of his gentle footfalls across the hardwood floor. In less than two minutes he returned, holding a tall candle stand with a single taper. The light was indeed feeble, but as he drew closer to us and set it down, it provided enough illumination for our conversation.

The hierarchs were very gentle in their demeanor. They could not be described as imperious. And they had a number of questions. First, they wanted to know something about me. I volunteered little information, but answered their questions about my background and my family.

Archbishop Anthony recorded whatever seemed important to him in the notebook he carried.

Then they asked about the Old Believers in Oregon. It soon became clear to me that they already had some information about the Woodburn community. And as they asked questions of me, it appeared that they were testing what information they had, while trying to fill in the gaps.

One of their questions came as a surprise. They asked me to describe the Old Believers’ reaction to the ROCOR’s 1974 DECISION CONCERNING THE OLD RITUAL.

I had been aware of the 1974 Decision, and I might even have seen a copy of it somewhere. I told the hierarchs that most of the Old Believers were marginally literate, that they were essentially hard-working, seventeenth-century muzhiki, that they didn’t subscribe to newspapers, and that they were usually unaware of events outside their community. I added, as gently as I could, that the Old Believers had a mostly negative view of the Russian Orthodox Church because of the persecutions of three centuries past, and therefore they don’t follow activities and events in that quarter. It seemed to me at the time that neither Archbishop Anthony nor Bishop Nektary had considered this possibility.

Presently Archbishop Anthony excused himself and disappeared through the iconostas. Bishop Nektary and I rose together and left the cathedral through the front door onto Geary Blvd. Silvestre Feodorovich and Fedot Semyonovich were waiting there for me, and I introduced them to Bishop Nektary. After a few pleasantries, we took our leave of him and went back to our accommodations on Fell Street.

Kind Words

The very next morning, we went to the great cathedral for the Divine Liturgy. It was, of course, a magnificent service with two hierarchs celebrating. Following the Liturgy, Bishop Nektary invited the three of us up to Archbishop Anthony’s apartment for tea.

Over tea, cakes and fruit, Bishop Nektary turned to Silvestre Feodorovich and Fedot Semyonovich and said in Russian:

I have a lot of respect for you. What happened three hundred years ago was a grave mistake, but what can we do about all that now? We are experiencing a general spiritual deterioration here. But you are still struggling, still observing the pious customs and traditions. Many times I have passed Woodburn on the highway. And every time I passed by, I have wanted to stop by and visit your community, but I have always been afraid to impose myself on you. Still, I’d like very much to come by and visit you, to see how you live, how you pray, and to learn from you.”

I had not expected to hear such sentiments from an Orthodox bishop. Much less had Silvestre Feodorovich or Fedot Semyonovich. They responded very positively to Bishop Nektary’s kind remarks, but at the same time I could tell they were wondering how they were going to relate all this to their friends and relatives back home.

At the close of this historical meeting in his apartment, Archbishop Anthony invited us to return to the cathedral to observe a wedding ceremony, which we did from the choir loft. It was indeed a beautiful ritual, followed by a few cordial comments in Russian by Father Ioann. The young couple joined in holy matrimony that day has been married 37 years as I write this. I pray that their marriage has been as beautiful as the ceremony by which God had joined them together.

As we left San Francisco that bright Sunday after-noon, I had the distinct feeling that something significant had occurred, but I wasn’t able to give it a name. Silvestre Feodorovich and Fedot Semyonovich seemed to feel something, too. Even as we were driving north across the Golden Gate Bridge, a lively conversation ensued. Fedot Semyonovich was particularly agitated. At one point he turned to me and vehemently declared:

“Do you think we don’t want the services with priests? Yes, we love the priestly services, too. But we don’t have priests now. They tormented our priests. They destroyed them!”

And at this he gestured back over his shoulder with his thumb, back in the direction of Geary Blvd. and the bishops. But he also seemed to remember the hierarchs’ kind words, and his mood softened.

Nevertheless there were some issues remaining, issues which had to be addressed. The conversation took a more positive turn, exploring ways to bring about reconciliation and the restoration of the priesthood without compromising anything. Despite harsh rhetoric about persecutions and injustices suffered in the past at the hands of the “Nikonians”, I sensed that Silvestre Feodorovich and Fedot Semyonovich recognized that Archbishop Anthony, Bishop Nektary and the other hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church are the legitimate successors to the Apostles.

 A Prostration

When we arrived home safely in Woodburn, I composed and sent Bishop Nektary a letter in which I summarized the comments Silvestre Feodorovich and Fedot Semyonovich had made during the drive up from San Francisco. I went on to write that Old Believer resentment toward Nikonians might be assuaged by formally asking their forgiveness.

To be precise, I suggested that Metropolitan Philaret visit the Willamette Valley and make a prostration before the elders of the Old Believer community. The Old Believers would then have a moral obligation to forgive the Russian Orthodox Church. After all, Jesus had told His disciples to forgive everyone as often as forgiveness is asked, even if it pencils out to 490 times per day.

NB: 70 x 7 = 490.

After all these years, I can’t get over my audacity in writing this letter. But I was still dreaming large in those days, excited by the possibilities. I hope I may be forgiven.

When Bishop Nektary visited the Willamette Valley in June 1976, I took him to the village where the Turchanye live. He had a brief but pleasant visit with the nastoyateľ, Vasily Yakovlevich Yakis, and his wife, Maria. Soon afterwards Bishop Nektary wrote a general letter to all the nastoyatelya in the Valley. His praised them for their faith in God and faithfulness to the pious traditions of the past, lamented that they are without the Holy Mysteries, and ended with a prayer for unity.

Copies of both my letter to Bishop Nektary and his letter to the nastoyatelya are attached hereto.

Vasily Yakovlevich, actually responded to Bishop Nektary’s letter. He summoned me to his home and dictated a brief note to me, which I subsequently printed and returned to him for his signature on September 1, 1976. A translation follows:

Esteemed Vladyko Nektary,

We have received your letter in which you expressed concern for us. We thank you, that you have not forgotten us, and are concerned about us..

Many thanks for your kind words. If you will have an opportunity, then please visit us again. If you would like to see our services, you are welcome.

On this we end this letter. I wish you happiness and a peaceful life, and much success.

We await your reply,

(s)

Vasily Yakis

Metropolitan Philaret never did come visit the Willamette Valley, but Bishop Nektary came again in the fall of 1977 and asked forgiveness of the Old Believers for the persecutions of bygone years. He called to tell me he would be coming,and he asked me to arrange a meeting with the nastoyatelya of the Old Believer community.

I initially approached the mild-mannered nastoyateľ, Abram Antipovich Semerikov. I told him Bishop Nektary wanted to visit him and the other nastoyatelya on a given date, and I asked if it would be alright if they were to gather at his home. He agreed to the meeting, but without much enthusiasm.

Next, I personally contacted all the other nastoyatelya and invited them all to assemble at Abram Antipovich’s home at the appropriate hour and date. There were seven of them, and all said they would come to meet Bishop Nektary.

When Bishop Nektary arrived on the appointed day, we drove over to the Semerikov home. But only Abram Antipovich and his wife were there. No one else showed up. I was disappointed and embarrassed.

Nevertheless Bishop Nektary set about doing what he had come to do. We entered Abram Antipovich’s home and sat down together in the large, sparsely furnished living room.

Bishop Nektary spoke quietly of the persecutions visited upon the Old Believers in the 17th and 18th centuries, and he mentioned in some detail the tribulations suffered in the 20th century by all believers in the Soviet Union. Abram Antipovich, essentially a meek, self-effacing man, listened intently. Expressing regret over the intolerance and oppression of the past, Bishop Nektary suddenly rose to his feet and turned toward Abram Antipovich.

Abram Antipovich hesitated for a moment, and then he, too, stood up. The Orthodox bishop and the Old Believer pastor stood facing each other for a moment. Bishop Nektary took a step backward and then fell to his knees. In another instant, he placed his hands, palms down, on the floor in front of Abram Antipovich’s feet. Then he quickly lowered his forehead to the floor between his hands.

Abram Antipovich, visibly moved, opened his arms, bent forward, grasped Bishop Nektary by the shoulders and helped him to his feet. The two men exchanged the kiss of peace and embraced. I was suddenly aware that I was the sole witness of this truly historical, truly Christian event.

Bishop Nektary was downcast as we left Abram Antipovich’s home. He remarked that he had not accomplished anything worthwhile, but he was mistaken. In subsequent conversations with my Old Believer friends over the next several weeks, I noticed a significant change in their attitude.

Several Old Believers opined that Bishop Nektary had never injured or offended them, so it wasn’t necessary for him to make a prostration and beg their forgiveness. But there was less emphasis on the pain and injustices their ancestors had endured at the hands of the Nikonians in centuries past.

Yet there was no spontaneous movement of Old Believers to contact Bishop Nektary and join the Orthodox Church.

Silvestre Feodorovich later gave me the Old Believers’ answer to Bishop Nektary’s efforts at reconciliation. Of course he spoke only in Russian. Essentially he said:

Some of us have visited your churches. Your services are so much shorter than ours, so you must be leaving out some prayers. Most of your men have no beards, and even some of your priests shave their beards. Most of the women do not cover their heads in church. And in the summer they wear short skirts and their arms are bare. We have also noticed that many people come late to the services, and they wander about lighting candles and venerating icons while the rest of the congregation is worshiping. Bishop Nektary is a good man, but if we were to receive the priesthood from him, then we would be in communion with these people. We would have to let them into our churches. How could we do that?

It isn’t as if Silvestre Feodorovich had been appointed to pass on these sentiments to me. But I do not doubt the observations and concerns he articulated represented those of most Old Believers in Oregon, Alaska and Canada. There is a clear consensus among them that our people have not been taught how to conduct themselves properly in church.

When I mentioned Silvestre Feodorovich’s observations to Bishop Nektary, he remarked that any Old Believer congregations in communion with ROCOR would be permitted to worship separately, and with the understanding that they could set the standards for order and decorum in their own assemblies. Indeed this has been the case with the Old Believer parish in Erie, PA.

And there the matter rests.

Bishop Nektary had never anticipated that three hundred years of antipathy could be overcome with an apology and a single prostration. But I believe he was discouraged to see that there were no scholars among the Oregon Old Believers who could assess the basic antecedents of the Schism and enter into an informed dialog with the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. An Orthodox presence in the Willamette Valley was needed, and that responsibility fell to me.

As events have shown, I was not equal to this responsibility.

Four Baptisms

Toward the end of Dormition Fast in 1976, Elizabeth and I, and both our sons, were baptized by three immersions in a slough on the left bank of the Willamette River, just a few hundred yards downstream from the Wheatland ferry. Our beloved Bishop Nektary was there to immerse us, one-by-one. He stepped into the slough, mantia, klobuk and all, and actually stood with us, chest-deep in the waters of the Willamette as he immersed us three times. Father George Macris immediately chrismated us at an altar set up on the bank. A few days later, Elizabeth and I were married before the Royal Doors in Fr. George’s house chapel in NE Portland.

In June 1977, Bishop Nektary brought the wonder-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God to our modest home in Woodburn. A handful of Old Believers came to see the Icon, although they did not venerate it.

Inspired by the Kursk-Root Icon’s visit in June, I secured blessings from Bishop Nektary, Hieromonk Seraphim and Father George Macris in July, and began construction of a modest chapel in my backyard. The chapel rose very slowly, because I had never before attempted to build any-thing so ambitious. In May 1978, with God’s help, the work was done, and I was able to invite Bishop Nektary to come bless the little building. He asked me to identify the chapel’s patron, and I replied, “The Kursk-Root Mother of God.” This seemed appropriate to Bishop Nektary, and so the chapel, just 14-feet wide and 24-feet long, was so named.

Our Lady of Kursk Chapel

We began doing readers’ services in Our Lady of Kursk Chapel (OLKC), mostly in English. It was my hope that eventually, we would have a small Orthodox presence in Woodburn, giving glory to God and providing an outreach to our Old Believer neighbors.

A daughter was born to us on April 13, 1978, and we named her Maria, after St. Mary of Egypt. When Maria was baptized in our chapel the following August, Bishop Nektary returned, bringing the Kursk-Root Icon. Hieromonk Seraphim came up from Platina to baptize Maria, the first infant he brought into the Church since his ordination.

Several local Old Believers were present in OLKC, as well, to see how the “Nikonians” baptize infants. I never heard any complaints.

Ivan and Ludmilla Assur joined us from Mulino, and we invited the Platina fathers to come one weekend every other month, absolve us of our sins and celebrate vespers, matins and the Divine Liturgy. We added a large dining room to our home so there would be room for trapeza after Liturgy on Sunday morning.

The Platina fathers did start visiting us regularly, beginning with Father Seraphim’s visit in September 1978. Another family, the Serdtsevs, came up from Salem. So we had a community, and all seemed well. Unfortunately the Platina fathers showed no interest in outreach to the Old Believers. Father Herman said simply, “I don’t have a common language with them.”

Prohor Martushev and his daughter. Photo take by John Hudanish in the early 1970s in or near Woodburn, OR

Over time I learned that the Assurs had moved up from the San Francisco Bay area with the intention to establish a ROCOR mission in Oregon. They were surprised to discover we had already built a chapel behind our home. Our Lady of Kursk Chapel presented something of a barrier to the realization of their intentions. How could they justify building a mission when one already existed?

They overcame this barrier by building a much better mission. They owned several acres of land in the country near Mulino. They deeded an acre of their land to ROCOR and on it they built a beautiful log church dedicated to the New Martyrs of Russia. In 1981, the Platina fathers stopped coming to Woodburn and began visiting Mulino instead. We were invited to come join them, of course, but we never really felt welcome there.

We also felt we could not simply abandon Our Lady of Kursk Chapel, so we resolved to continue readers’ services there. And I still had plenty of interaction with my Old Believer neighbors.

Searching for the Priesthood

Once, in the summer of 1982, I was talking with lively old Gerasim Stepanovich Kuzmin, a Russian Army veteran who was captured by the Austro-Hungarian Army and held as a POW somewhere in Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia during the Great War (World War I).

According to Gerasim Stepanovich, “the Church once had priests, but long ago it lost the priesthood because of our sins.”

In reply, I asked him if Jesus Christ is God or man. The old soldier immediately answered, “Jesus Christ is God Who became man.”

I continued, “If Jesus is God, is He all-powerful?”

“Yes, He can do anything!”

“Can He lie?”

Gerasim Stepanovich frowned and hesitated. At length he answered emphatically, “God does not lie!”

“Well then, when Jesus told Peter, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build My Church, and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it,’ was He telling the Truth?”

Gerasim Stepanovich silently nodded.

I went on, “If the Church Jesus established once had bishops and priests, and then lost the priesthood because of our sinfulness, then the Gates of Hell did indeed prevail against His Church.”

I concluded, “The Church Jesus Christ established still exists on this earth, and it still has bishops and priests because the Gates of Hell cannot prevail against it. So if you say you’re a Christian, then you should be searching the world until you find His Church and join it.”

Dyedushka Gerasim sighed and nodded. Lively but frail, he no longer had the strength or the material resources to travel the world, searching for the Church Jesus Christ had established.

But the following year (1983), a delegation of three Old Believer pilgrims left Oregon and traveled to ancient St. Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. The pilgrims were Timofey Ioakimovich Toran (Busurkin), Martin Gerasimovich Kuzmin and Grigory Antonovich Melkomukov, a Turchanin and two Kharbintsy.

Timofey Ioakimovich later told me that a bishop, most likely Archbishop Damianos, had met with them at St. Catherine’s Monastery. After listening to their story and perceiving their simplicity, the Archbishop told them, “Whatever comes, you must not continue as you are. In another generation, there will be nothing left of your community in America. You must find a hierarchy that you can accept. Do not trouble yourselves about whether or not it is canonical. Just find it, and join yourselves to it!”

From St. Catherine’s Monastery on Sinai, the delegation traveled to Braila, near the mouth of the Danube River in Romania. There they visited the Belokrinitsy Synod, the very Orthodox hierarchy they were seeking.

It is appropriate to mention that the Kharbintsy first had contacts with the Belokrinitsy through a small community, including a priest, while they were still living in Manchuria.

But that’s another story.

Metropolitan Ambrose

The Belokrinitsy Synod consists almost entirely of Old Believers whose ancestors fled westward at the end of the 18th century as Tsarina Catherine’s able General Suvorov drove the Ottoman Turks off the Black and Azov Seas’ northern shores. They are related to Oregon’s Turchanye, whose ancestors had lived at the mouth of the Danube from the 1790s until 1878 (See page 3, above). Their hierarchy was created by Ambrose, a Bosnian Serb and the deposed Metropolitan of Sarajevo, who was living in penury in Istanbul in 1845. That’s when an earlier delegation of priestless Old Believers came down from Romania and invited him to travel secretly with them back to their home on the Danube’s Black Sea delta, ordain several worthy men to the priesthood, and then to consecrate a handful of these newly ordained priests to the episcopacy.

An Orthodox hierarch does not perform any sacerdotal ceremonies or functions outside his specific eparchy, or without the blessing of his ecclesiastical superior(s). A deposed metropolitan, Ambrose had no eparchy, and it is not likely he sought the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople to travel to Romania.

Metropolitan Ambrose must have known that Canon I of the Council of Jerusalem requires three hierarchs to consecrate a bishop, so he was aware that the bishops he would consecrate by himself would not be accepted as hierarchs in any canonical Orthodox synod. But what-ever his reservations, the Romanian Old Believers offered him several hundred ducats to provide them with clergy, and ultimately he agreed. We shall not judge him as avaricious, but he did have a son for whom he wished to provide.

Personally, I prefer to think, as Archbishop Damianos did thirty years ago, that Metropolitan Ambrose sincerely believed the Old Believers in Romania would be better off with an uncanonical clergy than with no clergy at all. So he stole away by night to Romania, quickly learned to do the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church according to the Old Rite, ordained the candidates presented to him to the priesthood, consecrated a few of them as bishops, and then disappeared into the fog of history. But the hierarchy he created, whether canonical or not, endures to this day.

Just before Great Lent in 1984, Timofey Ioakimovich, one of the delegates who visited St. Catherine’s and Romania the year before, was ordained to the priesthood in Braila and returned to Oregon. A mixed community of Turchanye, Kharbíntsy and Sintsiantsy gathered around him and built a church in honor of the Transfiguration on Bethlehem Road in Gervais, OR.

If anyone wishes to see how our forebears in the faith worshiped four hundred years ago, let him go to Gervais and stand in the narthex on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning. But let him wear comfortable shoes; the Old Believers do not shorten the services in deference to human frailty. They always do a full typikon.

As might be expected, the introduction of an Old Rite community with clergy among the priestless Old Believers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley caused a scandal at first. But in time antipathy yielded to grudging acceptance, which then gave way to accommodation. In time practical considerations prevailed over the ecclesiastical. People work together, drink together, bury the dead together, greet each other on the street and in the marketplace, and young people still fall in love, marry and start families. Life changes, but goes on.

Two Hierarchs Together

On 18 July 1985, Archbishop Anthony arrived from San Francisco with the wonder-working Kursk-Root Icon. On that very day, Belokrinitsy Bishop Iosif (Basargin) from Sydney, Australia, was also in Woodburn for a visit. I happened to know where he was staying, so I sent a car for him.

Bishop Iosif came and was present in Our Lady of Kursk Chapel while we sang an akathist to the Mother of God. After the service, Archbishop Anthony and Bishop Iosif venerated the Icon, and then we all sat and broke bread together. The two hierarchs chatted amicably, and then took leave of each other and us, and went about their business.

 Mihei Valikhov

One of my pupils at Nellie Muir Elementary School was Silvestre Feodorovich’s son, Mihei, a bright, beautiful, perpetually cheerful boy who could not have been born on any day but Sunday, if we can believe the nursery rhyme from Mother Goose:

Monday’s child is fair of face.

Tuesday’s child is full of grace.

Wednesday’s child is full of woe.

Thursday’s child has far to go.

Friday’s child is loving and giving.

Saturday’s child works hard for his living.

But the child that’s born on the Sabbath day is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

Mihei was indeed bonny, blithe, good and gay, and even more than all that. Before he had reached his tenth birth- day, Mihei manifested an extraordinary talent for drawing. His father was aware of Mihei’s special gift and, to his credit, he resolved to encourage and develop it.

Silvestre Feodorovich understood that with the proper training and preparation, Mihei could become and accomplished iconographer, an honorable vocation that would provide him with the means to earn his daily bread for as long as he lived.

Although he had never been there, Silvestre Feodorovich had heard of the able iconographers who lived and worked at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. So one day early in 1979, he called on me to ask how he might send Mihei to Jordanville to learn from the monks who toiled there.

I immediately rang up Bishop (now Metropolitan) Hilarion and explained the matter to him. Vladyka Hilarion in turn made some inquiries of his own and then got back to me. Arrangements were made, and soon after Pascha, when Mihei was just 13 years old, Silvestre Feodorovich took him to Portland and put him on an airplane for Syracuse. One of the monks met him at the airport there and took him to the Monastery.

Mihei Valihov evidently spent four very full months in Jordanville before returning to his family in Oregon. He immediately set about “writing” icons, which demonstrated how much he had learned from the masters at Holy Trinity Monastery. The Icon of the Holy Napkin on the cover page of this narrative is among the icons that flowed effortlessly from his inspired brush.

Unfortunately this torrent of talent abruptly ran dry when Mihei died tragically in a traffic accident in the summer of 1980.

He would be close to fifty now if he had lived. May his memory be eternal!

 A Positive Assessment

Late in the summer of 2004, several months before we moved to Scranton, PA, I ran into Abram Antipovich in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Woodburn. We had not seen each other in a few years, so we passed several minutes catching each other up on our respective activities and families. At one point Abram Antipovich asked about the man I had brought to his home. Nearly three decades had passed since Bishop Nektary’s visit and prostration. Abram Antipovich did not remember his name, but I understood he was inquiring after Bishop Nektary.

When he learned from me that Bishop Nektary had died more than twenty years earlier, Abram Antipovich drew a breath, bowed his head and fell silent. At length he smiled, looked straight at me and said with conviction:  “Such a good man. Surely he dwells now among the just.”

When one considers that, after 350 years of antipathy and persecution, a respected elder of the Old Believer community in Oregon was able to unequivocally make so positive an assessment of a Russian Orthodox hierarch, it is clear just how much Bishop Nektary had accomplished with his humble act, his prostration.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

Brother Ambrose Moorman, OSB

This is not a very good photograph, but it is the only photograph I have of the Benedictine monk, Brother Ambrose Moorman. He was actively trying to bring the Old Believers into the Catholic Church.

No narrative on the Old Believers in Oregon would be complete without some mention of Brother Ambrose (Moorman), a Benedictine monk who lived at the Benedictine Abbey in Mount Angel, Oregon, until his death on April 28, 2012.

Shortly after I arrived in the Willamette Valley, Brother Ambrose informed me that it was his mission to bring the Old Believers into communion with Rome, citing modest efforts the Catholic Church had made to this end in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century.

He added that he himself had been to Rome where Cardinal Tisserant (+ 1972), Secretary of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches, blessed him to “create” an Old Ritualist Rite within the Catholic Church in Oregon.

We were still Catholics then, and Brother Ambrose no doubt presumed we would be in favor of such a plan. But after Elizabeth and I joined the Orthodox Church in 1976, he regret-ted taking me into his confidence. He later denied he had ever intended to make Catholic Uniates out of Oregon’s Old Believers.

Nevertheless, we know the Benedictines at Mount Angel supported Brother Ambrose and gave him the sole use of a handsome masonry building in which he lived, had an office and maintained a museum and a modest chapel appointed in the Old Ritualist tradition, and dedicated to Our Lady of Tikhvin.

Brother Ambrose had printed up certificates of baptism under an “Our Lady of Tikhvin” logo. Whenever local Old Believers needed an official-looking document to establish a date of birth with a governmental agency, e.g., like the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration, they could get it from Brother Ambrose. He would sit down with them and fill out the certificate right there in his office.

But the information entered onto Brother Ambrose’s “certificates” was never taken from the parish archives of Our Lady of Tikhvin Old Rite Catholic Church in Mt. Angel, nor from any other church, but simply transcribed from the imperfect memories of the Old Believers themselves.

While patently fraudulent, Brother Ambrose’s baptismal certificates were an expedient which made life easier for both the bureaucracies and the Old Believers. But it cannot be denied that two and three hundred years from now, the Catholic Church will be able to show documentary evidence proving Our Lady of Tikhvin Old Rite Catholic Church in Mount Angel had a goodly number of parishioners from the local Old Believer com-munity, whereas in reality not a single Old Believer regularly attended services there.

It is also a fact that Brother Ambrose himself went to Romania in the mid-1970s where he was received into the Belokrinitsy Synod through baptism by three immersions, but that after his return to Oregon he continued to live at Mount Angel Abbey, and was supported by the Benedictine monastic community there.

In 1977 Brother Ambrose told the Woodburn city government that I had built Our Lady of Kursk Chapel in my backyard, presumably in violation of zoning codes. The municipal authorities looked into his complaint, and then informed him by letter that zoning codes didn’t preclude building a chapel on my lot, and they sent me a courtesy copy. His objective was, of course, to have the Woodburn authorities order me to remove the chapel.

When he died in April 2012, the Benedictine monks at Mount Angel Abbey brought his body to Father Porfiri Toran, the current pastor of the Belokrinitsy parish in Gervais. The Belokrinitsy interred his remains in their cemetery with services appropriate for one of their own.

Brother Ambrose lived and died a Catholic, but his body was committed to the earth among the Old Believers. For all practical purposes, his life’s labors identify him as a 20th-century champion of the Unia. Only God knows what was in his heart at the end.

 Moving to Pennsylvania

After the repose of Bishop Nektary in 1983, and several futile attempts to organize a community around Our Lady of Kursk Chapel, Elizabeth and I decided to move to Scranton, PA, after I retired. Neither ROCOR, nor the OCA appeared interested in reconciliation with the Old Believers in Oregon, and my own efforts to advance that cause had proved to be woefully inadequate. Discouraged, we hoped to end our days as ordinary members in an established Orthodox parish in NEPA.

I retired in July 2001, but Elizabeth continued working until February 2005. We closed the chapel in November 2004, distributed the few sticks of furniture we had, listed our house in Woodburn, and bought another house in Scranton. A Mexican family bought our house in Woodburn, and we moved across the United States to Pennsylvania in March 2005. Five years later we relocated again to our cottage in Carbondale, where we reside as I write this narrative.

 Valikhovs Visit NE Pennsylvania

Although we currently live in NE Pennsylvania, we have maintained contacts with relatives and friends in Oregon. Among the Old Believers, our closest friends were Silvestre Feodorovich Valihov and his wife, Olga Gavrilovna (neè Martusheva), who had moved to Erskine, MN, even before we relocated to the Keystone State.

Silvestre Feodorovich called me from Minnesota late in 2010. Olga Gavrilovna, he explained, had a respiratory problem which was causing her great difficulty breathing during the extremely cold winter in Erskine, which is in northern Minnesota. I immediately invited them to come to our home in Carbondale for the winter, which is mild when compared with the frigid weather up by the Canadian border.

Early in February 2011, AMTRAK brought them to the station in Harrisburg, PA. Elizabeth and I were there waiting for them when the train pulled in. It was good to see our old friends again. Olga Gavrilovna soon found it easier to breathe in NEPA. She was even up for some sightseeing in New York City, Baltimore and Washington, DC.

Silvestre Feodorovich had been dealing with a smoldering scandal in the greater priestless Old Believer community. Some people in Oregon were troubled by the arrangement of fingers (перстосложение) on the right hands of Jesus Christ and several saints in the pre-schism icons handed down from generation to gene-ration over three and a half centuries. Many Russians were making the sign of the Cross with two fingers as early as the 13th century, but the two-fingered sign of the Cross became the standard Russian practice after 1552 when the Council of the One Hundred Chapters (Cтоглав) in Moscow proclaimed this to be the only Orthodox way to cross oneself.

The Stoglav Council anathematized the three-fingered sign of the Cross, because that’s the way the Greeks did it. After Byzantine bishops had capitulated to Rome at the Council of Florence in 1439, Russians took pains to distance themselves from the Greeks. Perhaps it was just their way to repudiate the Council of Florence through ritual.

Oregon’s Old Believers know little-to-nothing about the Council of Florence, but Russians historically ascribe too much importance to the minutiae of ritual, and nowhere was this tendency more evident than in the controversy over the arrangement of fingers in the ancient icons.

Contemporary Orthodox know that liturgical practices will vary from parish to parish, and from one culture to another, but some misguided Old Believers in the United States and Canada began rejecting all icons, including pre-schism icons, in which the fingers on the right hands of Christ or the saints depicted were arranged in any configuration other than the two-fingered sign of the Cross.

These modern icon-fighters advocated altering, or even destroying “incorrect” icons, and they heaped vilification upon anyone who did not see it their way. Vilification was often followed by excommunication, and Sylvestre Feodorovich was among those both vilified and excommunicated.

Although Russian is his first language, Silvestre Feodorovich has never had any formal schooling. So he asked me to help him compose a reasonable, comprehensive and grammatically correct answer to the rambling diatribes sent out by the icon-fighters.

We discussed at great length the contents of his response, and continued this discussion after he and Olga Gavrilovna returned to Minnesota in March. But it wasn’t until May that we completed a final draft of his manifesto. I sent him six or seven copies of it, which he signed and sent off to leaders in the Old Believer community.

Here is English translation of Silvestor Valikhov’s manifesto.

Author: John Hudanish

Silvestre Feodorovich begins his response by describing the current controversy, followed by an explanation – supported by copious quotations from Scripture – of his reluctance to reject the old icons. He acknowledges what Archpriest Avvakum could not have acknowledged 350 years ago, i.e., that the Russians back then really did not know about variations in ritual in other lands. He goes on to urge his contemporaries to cease their bickering, and ends with a call to seek the Church Jesus established, and there to par-take of His precious Body and Blood.

In the fall of 2011, I asked him how the recipients of his manifesto reacted to its contents. Silvestre Feodorovich replied that he had received no response at all. But then when he personally visited and spoke with some of these recipients, they told him they agreed with everything he had written, but now they do not know what they should do next.

Perhaps the next move is up to us. The Old Believers have never seemed so close to reconciliation as they are now. They might respond positively if someone with authority and gravitas were to approach them again. It’s worth a try. Such an effort would cost us little, and could yield a great harvest of love after generations of antipathy and neglect.

I see no significant role for myself going forward. But I do think it would be well for our hierarchs to approach the priestless Old Believer settlements, wherever they may be in Oregon, Minnesota, Montana, Alberta and on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, to assess their attitudes and receptivity to reconciliation with the Russian Orthodox Church, and to take whatever measures they deem appropriate to bring peace and harmony to the Body of Christ, the community of believers.

Grant it, O Lord!

Supplement.

The Russian Old Believer Schism

Introduction

Most people have never heard of the Old Believers, and those that have most generally have heard something negative: Old Believers are “raskol’niki” or schismatics. People say they are uneducated. They are superstitious. They are stubborn. They are xenophobic and unapproachable. Some people have even said they aren’t really Orthodox.

To some extent, many of the negative things they say about them are true. But they are not the whole truth. There are some very positive things about Old Believers that one never hears.

I have had the great good fortune to have lived among them for 35 years in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I taught their children in a public school. I have served as an advocate for them in a number of venues, and I have interpreted for them at public meetings, depositions, in courtrooms and in emergency rooms. I have been there as an interpreter when they have been arrested – usually for hunting violations. And I have posted bail for a few of them. Shovel in hand, I have even helped bury a few of them. I have laughed with them, fought with them, got drunk with them. Over the years I have learned a lot from them. And it is no exaggeration to say that my association with them has profoundly changed my life.

Greeks and Russians

One cannot possibly understand and appreciate the Russian Old Believers without a comparison with the Orthodox Greeks.

The enormous cultural disparity between Greeks and Russians was an antecedent to the Old Believer schism in the mid-seventeenth century.

We have all heard of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Archimedes, Euripides, Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Hippocrates, Pythagoras, and so on. In contrast, very few Old Believers are familiar with any of these famous Greeks.

There’s no shame in that, of course, but the point is that hundreds of years before Christ, the Greeks had a highly sophisticated culture. They had a written language with a phonetic alphabet. They had philosophers, scientists, poets, statesmen and playwrights. They analyzed the world in which they lived, asked questions, and attempted to find answers to their questions. And in the process, they developed a rich vocabulary that enabled them to argue about abstract concepts in a very animated fashion in the agora. Many English words have Greek roots. And even today people study and draw inspiration from classical Hellenic culture.

In contrast, centuries after Christ, the Russians were hunters and gatherers with no written language and no vocabulary to support philosophical debates such as the ones in which the Greeks had engaged more than a millennium earlier.

The first Christians among the Greeks were contemporaries of Jesus Christ and His disciples. We know that St. Paul traveled extensively throughout the Hellenic world, and he brought many Greeks into the early Church. And when Greeks embraced Christianity, they examined and analyzed it through the prism of Hellenic culture – as only Greeks can.

They asked questions about the nature of God, about relationships within the Trinity. They asked whether Jesus had a Divine nature, a human nature – or both. Then they asked whether Jesus had a Divine will, a human will – or both. They asked about Jesus’ relationship with His mother. They asked about sacraments, about appropriate forms of worship, and so on. And for each question they raised, there were answers – most often multiple answers. And there would be intense, animated arguments about these conflicting answers.

Whenever public disputations over theological questions threatened the peace and stability of the Byzantine Empire, someone would convene a council of bishops to resolve the issues under discussion. The assembled bishops would begin by asking the Holy Spirit to guide their deliberations. Then they would systematically address each question before them, articulate the correct answer – and anathematize all the rest.

The next step was to write the correct, i.e., the Orthodox answer in prose form and then to weave it into the tapestry of the Church’s liturgical services so that the people might learn it. That’s why there is so much theology in the services: in the stikheri in Lord, I call upon Thee, in the apostichal verses in vespers, and in the troparia in the matins canons. A priest in Massachusetts once observed that the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church are a course in theology that you get to review every year.

 Brothers from Thessaloniki

By the middle of the ninth century, German missionaries from Passau and Salzburg were working among the Slavs in Great Moravia. The Germans were teaching the Moravian Slavs to pray in Latin, but Moravian Prince Rastislav wanted his people to learn about Christ and to worship in their own language. So around 860 he wrote to Byzantine Emperor Michael III in Constantinople, asking the latter to send someone who could teach his people about Jesus Christ and how properly to worship God in their own language.

Emperor Michael consulted with Patriarch Photios, and Photios decided to send two brothers from Thessaloníki, Cyril and Methodius. The two missionaries to the Slavs arrived in Nitra and presented themselves to Prince Rastislav in 863. They soon set about translating Scripture and the service books into Old Slavonic.

The difficulties were:

(1), the Moravians had no written language, and (2), Greek was so much richer than Old Slavonic, especially in theological vocabulary, that, in order to accurately translate the liturgical services into Slavonic, Cyril and Methodius had to coin words – using Slavonic roots – which the Moravians could not comprehend, because the concepts behind those words were so alien to their culture. So newly coined words like собезначальность (co-begininglessness), единосущность (oneness in essence) and Богородица (Theotokos) had no more meaning to unlettered, 9th-century Slavs in Great Moravia than did their counterparts in Greek.

I do not mean to imply that the Slavs were intellectually inferior to the Greeks. Slavs are not stupid. But in the days of Cyril and Methodius, the cultural differences between Greeks and Slavs were so many and so great that the Slavs were unable to understand the Orthodox Faith in the same way the Greeks did.

Cyril and Methodius soon encountered stiff opposition from the German missionaries who had been in Moravia for around two decades. The Germans insisted that the only appropriate languages in which to worship God were Hebrew, Greek and Latin, that Slavonic was not suitable as a liturgical language. Cyril and Methodius felt they should go to Rome, discuss this matter with Pope Nicholas, and get his support. However, Pope Nicholas died before they arrived in the Eternal City. His successor, Pope Hadrian, readily blessed their efforts to “create” a liturgical language for the Slavic nations.

It must be noted here that Cyril and Methodius never went to Russia. Cyril died in Rome in 867, and Methodius died somewhere in what is now Slovakia in 885.

Shortly after Methodius’ repose, a palace revolution in Great Moravia removed Prince Rastislav from the throne and scattered Methodius’ surviving co-workers. Naum, Clement and others went to the shores of Lake Okhrid where they continued to translate the service books. They established a university at Okhrid early in the 10th century. It was the first university in the world wherein Slavonic was used as a language of instruction.

It wasn’t until 988 that Kievan Rus’ embraced Christianity, during the reign of Grand Prince Vladimir. When the Byzantine Greeks brought Christianity to the Russians, most of the service books had already been translated into Slavonic, thanks to the labors of Cyril and Methodius and their followers.

 Russians Embrace Orthodoxy
– Sort of

Viewing Christianity through the prism of their own culture, just as the Greeks had done several centuries earlier, most Russians understood the totality of the liturgical services as one vast, elaborate, magical incantation, which had the power – if all the prayers were pronounced correctly and completely, and in the proper order – to actually compel the deity to protect you from harm and bring you peace and prosperity.

In other words, if your house burned down, your goats died, the river rose and flooded your home, or the Pechenegi raided, it was your fault, because obviously you hadn’t done the services right.

You might say, “That’s not what the Orthodox Church teaches. That’s ritualism!” And you’d be right! But historically this was a very common mind-set among Russian Orthodox Christians. It lingered up into the 18th century, according to stories from that era. One such story has it that a highwayman often went to church and lit a candle in front of the icon of St. Nicholas before setting out to waylay travelers on the open road. He was essentially asking the saint to abet and protect him in violating the 7th Commandment. Another story has an entrepreneur ordering a molebin to ensure the success of a brothel she was about to open.

I hasten to add that, while this mind-set was common among the Russians, it was by no means universal. There were a number of Russians who correctly grasped the significance of Jesus, the incarnate God, and embraced His teachings. Among these we have St. Sergei Radonezhsky as the most prominent example.

Another important difference between Greeks and Russians was that Greek clergy were usually better educated than their Russian brothers right up through the 16th century. One of the chronicles from the 15th century records the comments of a Russian bishop who was seeking to fill a vacancy in one of his parishes. The parish community recommended a pious candidate for ordination, but upon examining him, the bishop discovered that the candidate was illiterate. However, despite his illiteracy, he knew the entire psalter by heart. The bishop reluctantly ordained the man, largely because he knew how to conduct the services, and there were no other suitable candidates to fill the vacancy.

It should be noted that there were relatively few books in Russia before the 17th century. And that is one reason why the literacy level was so low.

As Christianity grew and spread in Russia, the demand for service books grew along with it. This demand was met primarily by the monasteries. Russian monks slowly and laboriously copied books by hand. But they also penned a number of original compositions.

In Mussorgsky’s opera, Boris Godunov, we find the venerable, old Hieromonk Pimen sitting in his cell at night, writing a chronicle (летопись) by the flickering light of a lampada. He interrupts his labor to sing an aria in a rich bass voice about the misdeeds of Tsar Boris.

This scene gives us some insight into how Russia produced liturgical service books from the 10th to the 17th century. Semi-literate monks labored for hours on end by the dim light from their lampadas. It isn’t surprising that the conditions under which they toiled caused them to make errors in transcription. And the low level of literacy in Russia made it unlikely that all their errors would be caught by the clergy ad laity in the parishes. So, after a few decades of use, when the books they copied were worn out, they were used as models for a new generation of books, and many of the errors were transcribed into the new books along with good text. Of course, the next generation of monk-transcribers added errors of their own. And so it went from generation to generation.

In some monasteries, the hegumen might even compose an excursus on some point and cause it to be inserted into the text. As a result, by the time we get to the fifth and sixth generation of liturgical books, there were marked differences in the various texts which had been copied and recopied from a tenth-century prototype. These differences played a role in the Old Believer schism in the 17th century, as we shall see.

15th Century

Four factors in the 15th century set Russia on the path leading to the Old Believer Schism, to wit: the infamous Council of Florence in 1439, the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in 1452, the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the royal marriage between the Byzantine and Muscovite dynasties 1472.

1. The Council of Florence

In 1438, Pope Eugene IV responded favorably, but his price for military assistance was very high indeed. He insisted that the Great Schism of 1054 be resolved by the Greek Orthodox Church’s submission to the Roman Catholic Church. This historic capitulation was to be accomplished at the Council of Florence in 1439.

The Byzantine Emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople headed a delegation of Orthodox hierarchs and clergy at the Council of Florence with the intent to cooperate with the Pope in every way, just as long as he proclaimed a crusade to deliver Constantinople from the Ottoman Turks.

Among the Orthodox hierarchs at the Council of Florence was the Metropolitan Archbishop of Moscow, a Greek named Isidore, who favored accommodation with Rome. He returned to Moscow in 1441 with a Latin cross and a prayer for the Pope.

Grand Prince Vasily II (1425-62), also known as Vasily Tyomniy (the Blind), was definitely opposed to any accommodation with Rome. He had Metropolitan Isidore arrested, but then let him escape to Italy, leaving the office of Metropolitan of Moscow vacant.

The Russians had a dilemma; they knew the Greeks had apostasized at Florence, so where were they to go for a new Metropolitan? After agonizing over this matter for seven years, Vasily Tyomniy permitted the investiture of Bishop Jonah of Moscow, but this time the Russians declined to send him to Constantinople for a Patriarchal blessing, which amounted to de facto autocephaly. The Russians were not comfortable with this arrangement, and from this time forth they felt they had to justify it by trashing the Greeks, usually by emphasizing the enormity of the Florentine capitulation.

2. Johannes Gutenberg’s Printing Press

About the time the Ottoman Turks were defeating the Byzantine Empire, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany). Gutenberg had actually invented movable type cast from a lead-based metal alloy, and a hand mould. He combined these with an oil-based ink and a screw-driven press, such as the wooden olive press. As primitive as Gutenberg’s press was, it was a major technological improvement over copying page after page by hand, or carving a page full of letters backwards out of a block of wood.

The first book off Gutenberg’s press was the 42-line Gutenberg Bible in 1455, shortly after the inventor had made a lot of money printing indulgences for the Catholic Church.

3. The Fall of Constantinople

On 29 May 1453, Turkish troops entered Constantinople through an unguarded portal in the great wall, marking the end of the Byzantine Empire. Sultan Mehmet II entered the city in triumph the next day. One of Mehmet’s first acts was to find George Scholarios, also known as Hieromonk Gennadios, a prominent theologian, a voluminous writer, and an outspoken opponent of capitulation to Rome. The wily Mehmet caused Gennadios to be installed as Patriarch of Constantinople, fully expecting that Patriarch Gennadios would formally repudiate the Union of Florence. Sultan Mehmet was not disappointed. Patriarch Gennadios quickly denounced the Florentine Union. The Sultan knew the likelihood of another crusade to retake Constantinople would be diminished if the Greeks themselves closed the book on the Union of Florence. And once again, he was right.

4. A Royal Marriage

In 1472, Ivan III married Zoe Paleologa a niece of Constantine XI, the last Byzantine Emperor, who died defending Constantinople from the Turks on 29 May 1453. To emphasize Moscow’s new role as capital of the Orthodox commonwealth, Ivan III adopted the Imperial Byzantine double-headed eagle as his family crest

16th Century

Five more factors in the 16th century pushed the Russian Orthodox Church further along the path toward Schism, to wit: the rise of Moscow as the Third Rome, the Council of the One Hundred Chapters in 1551, the arrival of Gutenberg’s printing press in Moscow in 1563, the establishment, by Polish Jesuits, of a theological academy in Kiev, and the elevation of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Moscow to Patriarchal rank in 1589.

1. Moscow, The Third Rome

The monk Filofey of Pskov observed in a letter to Grand Prince Vasily III (1505-1533), that the first Rome on the Tiber had succumbed to heresy, the second Rome on the Bosporus, i.e., Constantinople, had apostasized, that Moscow was to be the third Rome, and that there would not be a fourth.

Father Filofey’s letter provided a justification for the independence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which set the stage for the Old Believer schism.

2. The Council of the One Hundred Chapters (Stoglav)

In 1551, during the reign of Tsar Ivan IV, AKA, the Terrible, a local council of Russian bishops met in Moscow at the Council of the One Hundred Chapters (Stoglav). Among other things, the assembled bishops (1) anathematized the three-fingered Sign of the Cross, (2) denied a Christian burial to any man who trimmed or shaved his beard, and (3) insisted that the stases dividing the psalms must have two alleluias,rather than three:

“Alleluia, alleluia, Glory to Thee,O God.”

The Stoglav raised Russian liturgical practices to the level of dogma, reflecting their cultural predisposition to ritualism. This predisposition was amplified by a need the Russians felt to distance themselves from the Greeks – who had apostatized at the Council of Florence in 1439.

3. The Printing Press Comes to Moscow

Ivan Feodorov set up a printing press in Moscow in 1563, 108 years after the the Gutenberg Bible appeared in Mainz. This turned out to be another remote cause of the Old Believer Schism.

The xenophobic Russians initially rejected this new device coming from the West: “What good have the Germans ever done?” Ivan Feodorov had to flee to avoid being killed by an angry mob. But the advantages of printing books in quantity over copying books by hand, a page at a time, couldn’t be ignored indefinitely. The Russians soon put aside their misgivings and accepted this new technology . By the end of the century, there were several printing presses operating in Moscow.

Now the Russian Orthodox Church had to decide which set of liturgical books was to be the standard for the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Nikon’s response to this question in the 1650s precipitated the schism that lingers to this day.

 4. A Theological Academy in Kiev

The Poles had occupied a major portion of the Ukraine since the late 14th century, and set about converting the local Orthodox to Catholicism. They succeeded in establishing the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, i.e., the Unia, at the Union of Brest in 1596. But even before that, Polish Jesuits opened a theological academy in Kiev, and made Latin and Greek mandatory courses in the curriculum. That’s what Jesuits do.

The importance of these mandatory courses cannot be overstated. For the first time, Russians were able to access the Patristic literature of the early Church. It was a whole new universe opening up for them. Their understanding of the Faith was immeasurably deepened through reading the ancient fathers in Greek and Latin, and it followed that the “culture gap” between Greeks and Russians began to close. But there was a down side to this epiphany.

As graduates of the theological academy in Kiev took their places among the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, it became apparent that their perception of Orthodoxy was different in some respects from that of their fellow-bishops who had not had the benefit of a formal, theological education. One analyst of this period is pleased to call graduates of the theological academy “southerners,” because Kiev is so far to the south of Moscow. And those Russian bishops who hadn’t gone to school in Kiev he calls “northerners” by default.

Now – and this is an oversimplification – among the main differences between northerners and southerners was their attitude toward the Greeks. The northerners were inclined to say, “Too bad about the Greeks. You really can’t trust them. They apostatized at Florence.” Whereas the southerners would likely respond, “Ah, yes, but the Greeks have the fullness of the Faith!”

Most of the northern bishops were pious, reasonable men. Many of them were able to grasp that the Greeks had not irretrievably abandoned the Orthodox Faith at Florence in 1439. But the lower clergy and laity remained suspicious of foreigners in general, and of Greeks in particular.

5. Patriarch of Moscow

In 1589, during the reign of the pious Tsar Feodor Ivanovich, the Patriarch of Constantinople consented to the elevation of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Moscow to the rank of Patriarch, fifth in honor after Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

17th Century

We come at last to the tumultuous 17th century, full of events and personalities which cast a long shadow, even down to our own times.

1. Controversy Over Printed Liturgical Books

The most proximate cause of the Schism was the unresolved controversy over printed books. The manuscripts for the psalter, apostle, gospel, chasoslov, etc., in each of the Russian towns differed in a few particulars from manuscripts used in other towns. The question was: Which version was to be taken as the most correct, and therefore the standard for the Russian Orthodox Church as a whole? More specifically, which version was to be printed in quantity for distribution throughout the country?

No one wanted to yield on this point. Every city and town had advocates for its own version of the liturgical books, pointing proudly to homegrown saints who had worshiped with the local books and found favor in God’s eyes.

But behind all these arguments ran the old current of ritualism: “if we change any aspect of the liturgical books, they will lose their magical power to make God bless us and keep us from harm.”

2. Patriarch Nikon

Patriarch Nikon ascended the throne in 1652. It was his fate to decide on a standard for the Russian liturgical books.

Although not a graduate of the theological academy in Kiev, Nikon nevertheless appreciated the Greeks as much as those who had studied in Kiev. As he himself put it, “I am a Russian and the son of a Russian, but my faith and my religion are Greek.”

Patriarch Nikon remains a controversial figure. Some historians describe him as authoritarian, egotistical, ambitious and irascible, while others point out that he was a gifted, larger-than-life visionary, articulate and capable of accomplishing great things. Both his admirers and his detractors appear to be correct in their assessment of the man.

Among other things, Nikon wanted to set aside the Council of the One Hundred Chapters and bring Russian liturgical practices into harmony with those of the Greeks. Since there was no consensus among the Russian hierarchs about establishing a standard for Russian Orthodox liturgical books, Patriarch Nikon boldly ordered new translations from the Greeks.

When the new books arrived in Moscow, Patriarch Nikon’s commission examined and approved them, whereupon Nikon publicly burned a large number of the old liturgical books. Then he called a local church council in 1656, which banned the Old Ritual, including the two-fingered Sign of the Cross. By his action, the dissenters were officially deemed schismatics. It seems obvious today that Patriarch Nikon should have behaved with more charity and patience, but let’s not judge him.

In my own dealings with Russian peasants, I have seen how intransigent they can be. The fact that their opinions, which they often advance at the top of their voices, sometimes have little or no basis in fact, makes it very hard to reason with them. Perhaps Patriarch Nikon had run out of patience and concluded that the only way to deal with Old Believers was to meet their intransigence with vigorous repression.

At this point it is worth noting that the very term “Old Believer” is misleading. It implies that the Russian Orthodox Church’s confession of faith was substantially different under Patriarch Nikon, and that the Old Believers were holding on to the Faith that their fathers had passed on to them. The fact is that Patriarch Nikon standardized the rituals, but made no changes in the dogmas of the Orthodox Church. Therefore it would be more correct to refer to the Russians who rejected Patriarch Nikon’s liturgical reforms as “Old Ritualists,” rather than as Old Believers.

Patriarch Nikon’s actions precipitated a firestorm of protest. He withdrew into semi-retirement in 1658, and for the next eight years, Russia was without an active Patriarch. At last Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich stepped in and convened another Church Council in 1666-67. The Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch came to Moscow and presided. The Council endorsed Patriarch Nikon’s reforms but deposed and exiled him to the monastery at White Lake (Byelozersk), and elevated a new Patriarch in his place.

3. Persecution

The Crown, rather than the Orthodox Church, then set about actively persecuting Old Ritualists. Soldiers were sent to arrest them and compel them to make the Sign of the Cross with three fingers. Of course, the Old Believers themselves fervently believed that if any of them were to make the Sign of the Cross with three fingers, even under extreme duress, he would be damned for eternity. So when soldiers appeared in their villages to arrest them, the Old Believers responded by barricading themselves inside their churches and setting them on fire, reasoning that it is preferable to perish by self-immolation, rather than to make the three-fingered Sign of the Cross under torture, and thereby lose any hope of salvation.

One historian has reckoned that some 20,000 Old Believers died in this way by the end of the first quarter of the 18th century.

Reconciliation

These is a growing awareness among contemporary Russian Orthodox Christians, clergy and laity alike, that the Schism could have been anticipated and avoided, if only the principal players in this historic tragedy had been more compassionate and patient, and not so opinionated and judgmental.

Christians today can see the errors made three and a half centuries ago more clearly than those who actually made those errors, and even than those who were victimized by them.

It remains for us, the living, to bind up the wounds inflicted on our brothers and sisters in Christ so long ago.  We must approach this sacred obligation humbly and prayerfully, in patience and charity and above all avoiding all judgment.  Let us reach out to our brothers and sisters with a greater measure of love, to compensate for the love that was so conspicuously missing in the 17th and 18th and 18th centuries.

This present document bears witness to the sincere efforts made by the Orthodox Church, both in Russia and throughout the world, at reconciliation with our Old Ritualist brothers in Christ.

May our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, bless these efforts, that they may bring forth fruit in abundance.

Amen!

SEE MORE PHOTOS IN Gallery.

206 thoughts on “Two ROCOR Bishops and the Russian Old Believers in Oregon”

  1. Wow! This is an amazing article. I am a Russian Old Believer and I think i’m related to some people in these photos. So cool!

    1. Hello Anna,

      I am trying to get in touch with the Old Beliecwr community in Woodburn, Oregon. When I visited my uncle in Belgorod, the Old Belieever community there asked me to help them get in touch with the Old Believers in Oregon . Can you help please, because I am having great difficulty.

  2. Thank you for this detailed account of the Old-Ritualists, and attempts to reconcile the devastating effects of the raskol. I grew up Old-Believer, and wish I had known more about the faith, and the history that brought me here. John, it is a noble thing that you have done. As history shows, it is much too easy to divide over things that ought not be, and to not reunite over these same things. Perhaps, it is the way they happen that make them so hurtful. Every time I read the Lord’s prayer, it brings me sadness. Jesus prayed that we (i.e. 21st century believers) “may all be one” – that our unity would reflect the very nature of the Trinity, “just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” And why this prayer, why is it so important, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). How is the world going to believe in Jesus the Messiah, the Savior of the world, when His followers are busy arguing and slandering one another? John, we need more people like you in the world. As you quoted earlier, I will do so again, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

    1. I heard the rumors. But i dont think they are true. When the split in the church about the sign of the cross happened. The people were angry at everyone and everything. Often repeating stories and sometimes adding to them.

  3. I am an old believer and am very sad how things have turned out amongst our people. Does the bible not say “love one another?” How will we answer to God when he asks? The people that started this turmoil better think long and hard what answer will be given.

    1. To Irene, a very sad Old Believer,

      “The people that started this turmoil” have reposed and have been judged long, long ago.

      Today, right now, it is for us, the living, to reach out to each other and to love one another. The Orthodox Church, specifically the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) , recognizes and regret the mistakes made in the past. In the person of the late Bishop Nektary, the Orthodox Church has prostrated herself and asked forgiveness of the Old Believers. I was there. I saw it.

      Isn’t it time we come together at last and embrace each other with love?

  4. Hi Mr. Hudanish,

    I was born in Woodburn, Oregon area. As you say, I am an Old Believer.

    I have met you a few times in my life and know little about you. The book is informative; it would be nice if you did some research before you started to write this.

    I did learn a few things in your book. That Silvester Valikhov started his agenda 4 decades ago. Plus that Abram Antipovich accepted Bishops Mektary’s forgiveness for the Schism with the “Никонианцы”. (Which I have a hard time believing).

    It was also very interesting that Silvestre, in 2011 asked you to help him to compose the” Letter to the Old Believers Pastors” asking someone’s help from a different religion.

    You mentioned” Oregon’s Old Believers know little-to-nothing about the Council of Florence” this is why I mentioned for some research. We Old Believers have lots of Holy books, and if you had a chance to read some, you would know that in “Книга О Вере, Глава 18” there is a whole chapter on the subject. You would be surprised that the Old Believers do know a little more than you think.

    As per getting together into one religion with you, I don’t see it ever happening. As you know our Fathers and Grand Fathers ran away from Russia from this.

    If I offended you, I am sorry. Take Care

  5. Hello Mary,

    Bernie? No, not me. Russians in Woodburn and elsewhere often call me “Ivan Ivanovich.”

    John Hudanish

  6. I’ve enjoyed reading all the publications on this website. Well written and not inflammatory. It was obviously carefully edited so as not to be overly accusatory. You have an interesting perspective as an “outsider” within the Russian old-ritualists in Oregon. Posting dates, important issues and attaching actual names was a shock to many in the community, I’m sure. They operate as a group, not as individuals.

    Your idea of reconciliation is commendable, tho not realistic. You didn’t touch upon the old-ritualists need to hold on to their religious freedom. For over 300 yrs they knowingly live as ritualists vs Believers, and their one argument is that to be a True Believer isn’t possible anymore. Today, the ritualist “dogma” is as what “Russian Old Believer” stated in the above comment, their ancestors ran away from from it and they are going to continue doing just that. They grow up with rituals holding them together and the elders sitting in judgement of the entire faction (congregation), with excommunication used liberally when “caught”. They uphold this way of life, because they will then inherited this power in their late years. If they reconcile with ROC they will concede their power over their fellow brethren. They will need to submit to the higher power of the Church that Jesus Christ our Lord built with the help of his Apostles. They will loose the freedom to judge from within. They claim the rituals they live by will get them into heaven, if they reconcile, that claim will no longer hold true. What will happen to their ancestors soul who came before them? Who fought, many with their lives, to hold on to the rituals and traditions of Russian Orthodox Old Believer? The ROC needs to come up with a better answer for these ritualist, besides prostrations, if reconciliation can begin to be discussed.

    As you have written within this website, the information is readily available for these ritualists to make the decision of reconciliation as their obvious choice. All said, one has to admire the groups tenacity to live as they do in the USA and to claim they live & worship as their forefathers had in Old Russia.
    Forgive me, a sinner.

  7. It is interesting to me, and seems a bit ironic, that the ROCOR is in search of a reconciliation with the Old Believers. If the Old Believers stayed in Russia and reconciled then rather than running to China and on, they wouldn’t be such a special religious group now, would they? It is obvious that the Old Believers are a precious group and apparently that needs to be changed…

  8. A photo hangs on my living room wall with my father-in-law Alexander Kalinnikovich Barskyh and Ivan Ivanovich Hudanish. I met both John Hudanish and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at my father-in-laws home in the early 1970’s. Our paths rarely crossed with John but I have heard about some of his movements throughout the last forty plus years. His persistence in infiltrating the Old-Believer society is well known by most people my age.

    The opinions stated in John’s journals above are just that – opinions. His knowledge of Old-Believers is what he saw on the peripheral edges of a close knit society that an outsider is only allowed to see. The depth of passion and commitment to faith is imperceptible to someone who has no knowledge of the inherited pain and struggle that exists internally. The pain and suffering and the commitment to hold fast, was handed down for generations. Most of this inherited barrier stems from the religious persecution and discrimination from ROC. The wounds inflicted on peoples, will forever leave unsightly scars. These scars will never be completely erased, no matter what color makeup ROC proposes.

    I would like to ask John Hudanish to think carefully when he writes certain historical facts. His blatant bias towards other religious denominations is transparently obvious.

    Choosing to deliberately dishonor the Old-Rite Church and its priesthood is a common tactic taken by ROC and ROCOR. I doubt that John ever read the true history of Metropolitan Ambrose and the efforts it took to reestablish priesthood for the Old-Believers of Russia and abroad. He doesn’t know about the counter-efforts and actions that the ROC took to defeat this reestablishment of priesthood. The exile and house arrest that Metropolitan Ambrose had to suffer until his death because of agreements made by the Heads of State of both Russia and Austria to appease ROC. John doesn’t know that all of this is documented with original historical documents. When he writes: “So he stole away by night…, quickly learned to do the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church according to the Old Rite…, and then disappeared into the fog of history…” he first needs to get his facts straight and not base them on some pre-formed ROC fabrication.

    John also chose to include Brother Ambrose Moorman into his writing. Again having no corroborating documentation he chose to slander a Christian man. I was with Brother Ambrose in Moscow in 1988. It was his choice to convert to Old-Rite traditions and he converted and was accepted there and then. He frequented the Old-Rite church in Gervais, Oregon where he took confession and communion. He was a Christian that many Old-Believers asked for help. As a Christian he never refused. He was buried with a monk’s honor and Old-Rite burial services at the Russian cemetery. John’s statement: “Brother Ambrose lived and died a Catholic” only emphasizes his prejudice towards others.

    John’s rendition of Russia’s history is constantly laced with ROC’s one sidedness. In his mind he has already decided that the Old-Believers were wrong, thus they need to be assimilated into the ROC or ROCOR. With all the troubles between ROC and ROCOR, the question now is which one is the right one to assimilate to?

    In his personal writings, John never mentions his own original faith. What denomination was he brought up in before he and his family converted to ROCOR? What was his assigned mission?

  9. O. Pavel Fefelov,

    I could have written more about Brother Ambrose Moorman. He had probably written more about me while he lived. But I am content that what little I did write was true. Some of his commentary about me was not.

    Never mind! Let all his sins against me be gotten on Judgment Day! And lest you think me magnanimous, I hasten to add that I have committed a hell of a lot more sins than he ever did, so I shall be needing mercy and forgiveness, too.

    I need no “corroborating evidence” when I write about Brother Ambrose, because whatever I wrote about him was taken from my own direct, personal contact with the man. However, since you have asked for corroboration, I offer the following obituary from The San Francisco Chronicle dated 5 May 2012;

    “Brother Ambrose Moorman OSB aka John Carroll June 18, 1934 – April 28, 2012 Brother Ambrose was internationally known in Russian religious circles and as publisher of genealogical research (seven books are listed on Amazon.com on his relatives: Gormanly, Moorman and McKay.) He graduated from Sacred Heart High in 1954 after spending time at St. Boniface and the Franciscan seminary. He entered Mt. Angel Abbey in 1955 and took the name Ambrose with final vows in 1957. He began working with “Old Ritualist” emigrants in 1965. Rome allowed him to become an “Old Believer” monk. He went to Rome several times to tell the Old Ritualist story to the Vatican( Russicum) including a private audience with Pope John Paul II. He started OUR LADY OF TIKHVIN museum and chapel painting hundreds of icons himself. He gave tours to seminarians for generations. He interpreted in the courts and curated the Russian cemetery. During the Millennium he was given a “privilege” in Russia similar to the title of monsignor. His genealogical research tied the family back to European and Russian royalty as well as saints, the McKay schooner builder of Nova Scotia and the New England settlers as well as the revolutionary fighters. He enrolled a nephew in the Cincinnati Society in Washington. He also published a book on the Hermann St. home built in 1879 in San Francisco by his grandfather John Mckay. The family lived there for three generations. It was sold and completely restored in 1981. His funeral was May 1 and burial at the Russian cemetery in Gervais OR. Survivors are brothers Gerald Moorman of Moorman & Co. Palo Alto and Professor emeritus Lawrence Moorman of Aptos, nephews Michael, Steven, Tony, Timothy and nieces Anna and Amber (Lobdell) all of the Bay area. The family thanks Prior Vincent Trujillo OSB, the monks of Mt. Angel and the Russian community for taking him to his rest.”

    If you wonder what OSB signifies, it stands for “Order of St. Benedict” after the Italian St. Benedict of Nursa, Italy, a 5th Century monastic who reposed at Monte Cassino in 547 AD. He founded a monastic order which still bears his name. This obituary corroborates my assertion that “Brother Ambrose lived and died a Catholic…”
    When does corroborating evidence become prejudice?

    The fact that Old Believers buried this Catholic brother “with a monk’s honor and Old-Rite burial services at the Russian cemetery” in Gervais is a monument to Brother Ambrose’ success in infiltrating Old Believer society. Is it also a testimonial to the gullibility of those who participated in that burial service?

    And yet, “Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him I the midst of them, and said, ‘Verily I say unto you, unless ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’” (Matthew 18:2-3) So perhaps gullibility is a virtue, after all.

    Let Brother Ambrose’ bones lie undisturbed in the Russian cemetery in Gervais as a monument to the child-like gullibility of the Old Believers who put them there. May the presence of his bones in that cemetery aid their passage into the Kingdom of Heaven when their time comes!

    For my part, I never attempted to infiltrate Old Believer society. I never represented myself as an Old Believer, never pretended to be something I am not. I was raised in the Catholic Church, specifically I was a Uniate, but after Bishop Nektary baptized me and my family by three immersions in the Willamette River, I always claimed to be Orthodox. And I always made the Sign of the Cross with two fingers, because it is part of the sacred traditions of the Orthodox Church, and because Bishop Nektary blessed me to do so.

    I suppose I could have become an Old Believer, but it would have been dishonest of me to go in that direction. I had come to appreciate that the Holy Mysteries, i. e., the precious Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, are greater than all the minutiae of ritual. And since the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR had – in the 1974 Decree on the Old Rite – removed all the anathemas placed upon the Old Rite by ROC Councils of 1656 and 1667 AS IF THEY HAD NEVER BEEN, I saw clearly that I could worship the Holy Trinity according to Old Ritual AND receive the precious Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Mysteries. As an Orthodox Christian under the omophorion of a bishop in the line of Apostolic Succession, I can have it all.

    AND SO CAN YOU!

    As for Metropolitan Ambrose, I will not judge him. He lived in difficult times under the Turkish Yoke. He performed sacerdotal functions without the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople, ordaining several men to the priesthood and consecrating some of them as bishops by himself, for which he received payment of 500 ducats. I am sure o. Pavel Fefelov knows precisely against which canons of the Orthodox Church he transgressed thereby.

    It was appropriate to let Old Believers know what efforts ROCOR has made to end the schism and be reconciled with the Orthodox Church, e.g., the 1974 Decree on the Old Rite and Bishop Nektary’s prostration before Avram Aintipovich to ask forgiveness for the persecutions in the 17th century and subsequently. 

    The Schism has lasted 350 years. The Russian Orthodox Church has asked forgiveness for Her part in it. Her efforts at reconciliation deserve a response. SEE Matthew 18:21-2. 

    Now that they have been made aware of the Russian Orthodox Church’s plea for forgiveness, the Old Believers must decide whether to respond in kind, embrace the Orthodox Church and have the priesthood and the Holy Mysteries restored to them, or else to reject these efforts and the spirit that quickens them, and continue as schismatics, remembering past wrongs and hating the descendents of those who persecuted them. 

    The Old Believers may choose to forgive and to love, or to withhold forgiveness and continue hating.

    We shall know who they are by their choice.

  10. I’ve heard about your tiffs with Brother Ambrose, so relax, don’t get hot behind your collar. I’m not here to spar with you. We are both on the same mission – salvation of souls. I will not judge you or your actions – I will leave that to Almighty God and His Judgment Day.
    John, it is EASY to crash and damage your car. Afterwards, it is EASY to apologize for the crash. You can continue driving the damaged car – fixing it to the ORIGINAL mint condition is usually impossible.
    Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with you about The Holy Mysteries of the Church. Without the Seven Holy Mysteries there is NO church, NO salvation. Jesus Him Self spoke through the Apostles, and the Holy Fathers have covered that in volumes of literature. I became convinced of that thirty two years ago. When it was time for me to make a choice, I chose not to get a damaged car – I chose a car that was in mint condition.
    You, John, are trying to sell your damaged car as mint condition to these, how did you call them, “gullible” Old Believers. Don’t be a pushy salesman; let them read the “car facts”. Let them make their own decisions. ROCOR is not the only choice and ROC doesn’t have a monopoly on salvation. There is an Old-Rite archdiocese right in their back yard.

  11. O. Pavel Fefelov,

    “Hot behind the collar?” Me!? No way!
    ***************************************************
    I suppose some people might say I have good reason to get hot behind the collar. After all, I have been accused by someone who barely knows me of nefariously infiltrating Old Believer society, of dishonoring the Old Rite Church, of slandering a Christian man, of being a pushy salesman and of blatant bias toward other religions. But I expected all that and more. I have observed in Oregon how Old Believers reduce each other to rubble when disagreements arise. So you are behaving toward me now as if I were one of your own. I am honored.
    ***************************************************
    When I began writing about my experiences among the Old Believers in Oregon, I knew even then that some of them would read my observations, find fault with them and impugn me. I have not been disappointed. From a spiritual perspective, it is better to be slandered than to be praised. As Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, taught: “Blessed are you when men revile and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven.”
    ***************************************************
    So I sincerely thank you for your frank comments. I assure you that I am not at all offended by what you have written. And if you knew me better, you would know I don’t mind sparring at all. Bring it on!
    ***************************************************
    However, the point is not to spar or to engage in fruitless disputations. My 35-year sojourn among the Old Believers in Oregon was a life-changing experience for me and for my family. We owe the Old Believers in Oregon much more than we could ever repay them. Influenced by the example of our Old Believers friends and neighbors in Oregon,we left the Catholic Church and embraced Orthodoxy. In many respects the Old Believers are an exemplary Christian community. As the late Bishop Nektary told Silvestre Valihov and Fedot Kalugin long ago, the Russian Orthodox Church of today has much to learn from the Old Believers.
    ***************************************************
    In this spirit, I make bold to ask you two questions:
    ***************************************************
    1. Would you please identify the “Old-Rite archdiocese” which you have compared to a car in mint condition? How does one contact it?

    2. Read Apostle Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 1:10-13, and then respond to his question: “Is Christ divided?”

  12. I’m a struggling Old Believer woman. It is very liberating to get a simplified outline of where I come from. For that, I pray God blesses you abundantly here on earth and there after. You’ll never know the magnitude your bravery in writing this has affected those who read it. I’m seeing it first hand. Myself included.
    I refer myself to a “struggling” Old Believer because although the schism is still a hot topic amongst my people and divisions are still occurring, a bigger problem lurks in its darkness. Although I was raised to follow the traditions, preserve my culture and carry our the church services passed down from our forefathers, I understand none of it. It’s heartbreaking as much as it is embarrassing for me to admit. I can not speak for those who do understand, but only those who don’t and have no place to go for guidance. I believe that my generation and those ahead of me have taken on english as a primary language that complicates this mess even further.
    The knowledge about God’s word, namely The Gospel, I’ve attained outside my culture in secret, afraid to offend those who claim to be leading me to God. I mean no disrespect to those leaders, but that is my experience. Please forgive me if my words seem harsh.
    Have we been fighting about this schism so long that we have forgotten to teach God’s word? Have we been trying so hard to preserve our traditions that we have lacked to teach its divine meaning?

    I believe we need more guidance than we choose to accept, if we want to preserve the fullness of our roots. More knowledge, less judgment. More God, less us.

  13. You have already mentioned the archdiocese in your writing above.

    As for your statement: Read Apostle Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 1:10-13, and then respond to his question: “Is Christ divided?” you need to reread the first part 1:10 – I APPEAL TO YOU, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, THAT ALL OF YOU agree with one another in what you say and that there be NO DIVISIONS AMONG YOU, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. So I ask you, the same question “IS Christ divided?”

    You may also want to read 2 PETER 2:1-22. It may be a valid reason why Old Believers are quite hesitant about ROC.
    I do commend your efforts to strengthen your spiritual faith – May the Good Lord Bless you and your family during these Great Lenten days. May you greet the Holy day of Resurrection with love and peace in your heart.
    I will leave you with these final words: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 PETER 1:5-8

    Forgive me for I am but a sinner.

  14. Dear Struggling Old Believer,

    You will be happy to know that there is an Old Rite Prayer Book available, with Slavonic on one side and English on the other. It was translated from Slavonic into English by a ROCOR hieromonk, Hegumen German Ciuba.

    If you will contact me directly (amboyjohn@gmail.com) and give me your mailing address, I shall be happy to send you a copy.

    But be patient! I am leaving for Florida right this minute to visit an ailing relative. I won’t be back until the last week in March.

    John Hudanish

  15. I would like to respond to something you said in your comments to Pavel.

    “Now that they have been made aware of the Russian Orthodox Church’s plea for forgiveness, the Old Believers must decide whether to respond in kind, embrace the Orthodox Church and have the priesthood and the Holy Mysteries restored to them, or else to reject these efforts and the spirit that quickens them, and continue as schismatics, remembering past wrongs and hating the descendents of those who persecuted them.
    The Old Believers may choose to forgive and to love, or to withhold forgiveness and continue hating.”

    You seem to be under the impression that Old Believers have a deep hatred for ROCOR and their attempts for reconciliation. This is simply not true. We do not hate them, we accept their apologies. We just can’t reconcile with their changes to the practices of the Church.

    If you refer to Silvestre Feodorovich’s answer to Bishop Nektary that you included above:

    “Some of us have visited your churches. Your services are so much shorter than ours, so you must be leaving out some prayers. Most of your men have no beards, and even some of your priests shave their beards. Most of the women do not cover their heads in church. And in the summer they wear short skirts and their arms are bare. We have also noticed that many people come late to the services, and they wander about lighting candles and venerating icons while the rest of the congregation is worshiping. Bishop Nektary is a good man, but if we were to receive the priesthood from him, then we would be in communion with these people. We would have to let them into our churches. How could we do that?”

    All of these words still stand today. We have no desire to reconcile with a church that is so different from our own. The schism didn’t happen because of the persecution, but rather because of the church reformations that we are not comfortable with.

    Telling us to reconcile with ROCOR is similar to telling Catholics to reconcile with Protestants. Their churches and customs do not align, why should they reconcile? We do not see ourselves as part of ROCOR, so why should we reconcile with them?

    One last statement for you to think over. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe Old Believers are not searching for reconciliation? If we were, we would go in search of it ourselves.

  16. АВВАКУМ В ИЗГНАНИИ

    Укрепи меня, О! Боже, на великую борьбу,
    И пошли мне мощь Самсона, недостойному рабу.

    Как в пустыне вопиющей, я на торжищах взывал
    И в палатах и в лачугах, сильных мира обличал.

    Как, на бесы мчатся с криком, чрез болото и пустырь
    Чернецы везут разстригу Аввакума в монастырь.

    Привезли меня в Андроньев, тут и бросили в тюрьму,
    Как скотину без соломы, прямо в холод, смрад и тьму.

    Из Москвы велят указом, чтоб на самый край земли
    Аввакума протопопа, в ссылку вечную везли.

    Десять тысяч верст в Сибири, в тундрах, дебрях и лесах
    Волочился я на дровнях, на телегах и плотах.

    Пять недель мы шли по Нерчи, пять недель все голый лед.
    Деток с рухлядью в обозе, лошаденка чуть везет.

    Протопопица бывало, подскользнется, упадет.
    «Протопоп ты горемычный, долго ли нам еще страдать!»

    «Видно, Марковна до смерти»! Тихо с ласковым лицом,
    «Что ж, Петрович, отвечает, С Богом дальше побредем».

    Вижу, меркнет Божья вера, тьма полночная растет,
    Вижу льется кровь невинных, брат на брата восстает.

    Что же делать мне! Бороться и неправду обличать,
    Иль, скрываясь от гонений, покориться и молчать.

    И сидел в немом раздумье, я, поникнув головой.
    Но жена ко мне подходит, тихо молвит, что с тобой,

    Встань, родимый, что тут думать, встань, поди скорее в храм.
    Проповедуй слово Божье. Смерть пришла сегодня к нам.

    А сегодня рано утром, пред народом поведут
    На костер меня расстригу, и с проклятьями сожгут.

    Но звучит мне чей-то голос, и зовет он в тишине
    «Аввакумушка мой бедный, ты устал, приди ко мне.

    Дай мне, Боже, хоть последний, уголок в твоем раю,
    Только видеть малых деток, видеть Марковну мою.

    Потрудился я для правды, не берег последних сил
    Тридцать лет, никониане, я жестоко вас бранил.

    Если чем-нибудь обидел, вы простите чудаку,
    Ведь и мне пришлось немало натерпеться старику.

    Вы, простите, не сердитесь, все мы братья о Христе.
    И за всех нас, злых и добрых, умирал Он на Кресте.

    Так возлюбим же друг друга, вот последний мой завет,
    Все в любви, Закон и Вера, выше заповеди нет.

  17. To a Proud Old Believer:

    You ended your commentary with a question, to wit: Has it ever occurred to you that maybe Old Believers are not searching for reconciliation?
    *****************************************************
    As a matter of fact, it has indeed occurred to me that Old Believers are not searching for reconciliation. I have known this since I first arrived in Woodburn 40 years ago. Old Believers are complacent. They are proud. They think they have it all. But pride and complacency are spiritually dangerous. Pride is a sin. So is complacency. It is also called prelesť. Because the fact is that most Old Believers do not have a canonical hierarchy. They don’t have bishops in the line of Apostolic Succession. So they lack priests. And without priests they cannot receive the Holy Mysteries (Communion). But because they have gone a dozen generations without the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, they don’t feel a need for Them. They no longer understand – as their ancestors did – how important the Holy Mysteries are. This is the great tragedy of the schism. You really SHOULD BE searching for reconciliation, but you’re not.
    ****************************************************
    And yet, even if you don’t feel the need for reconciliation with us, your indifference does not absolve us of the obligation before God to offer it. Our responsibility is to do whatever we can to restore the grace of Apostolic Succession to the Old Believers so that they may receive, in their own churches and from their own priests, the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
    ****************************************************
    You wrote, “Telling us to reconcile with ROCOR is similar to telling Catholics to reconcile with Protestants.”

    This statement is incorrect. The Catholic Church claims its bishops are canonical, i.e., in the line of Apostolic Succession, and therefore Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood are present in the bread and wine distributed to the faithful at the Eucharistic sacrifice (Mass), even as His Body and Blood were present in the bread and wine Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper, just before His betrayal by Judas Iscariot and subsequent death on the Cross.

    Protestants have bishops, but they make no claim to be in the line of Apostolic Succession, so they reject the notion that Jesus’ Body and Blood are present in the bread and wine they distribute in their churches. Their communion is just a “symbolic reenactment” of the Last Supper. So Catholics and Protestants are divided over the Holy Mysteries (Communion), and this division has shown itself too wide to breach.
    ****************************************************
    The Orthodox Church also claims to be in the line of Apostolic Succession, but it has not altered the Nicean Creed as the Catholics did twelve centuries ago with the insertion of the “filioque” clause. Nor has the Orthodox Church introduced new dogmas, as the Catholic Church did twice in the 19th Century, i.e., the immaculate conception (1854) and papal infallibility (1870). And it was the Catholic Church that excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1054 AD because the latter did not agree to the Catholic claim that all hierarchs are subordinate to the Patriarch of Rome (the Pope).

    Because of this history, the Catholics are in schism. They have stepped outside the line of Apostolic Succession, so their bishops are no longer canonical, and Christ’s Body and Blood are not present in the bread and wine they distribute to the faithful at Mass.
    **********************************************
    It follows, therefore, that the Orthodox Church is the last remnant of the Church Jesus Christ established.
    ***********************************************
    Old Believers left the Orthodox Church during the schism in the 17th Century. They refused to accept the “innovations” of Patriarch Nikon. But Patriarch Nikon’s so-called innovations were merely the result of his commendable attempts to standardize Russian liturgical books. Old Believers and Orthodox share the same Confession of Faith. Both recite the Nicean Creed. They use the same liturgical books (Gospel, Epistle, Psalter, Chasoslov, Trebnik, etc.) And the typika and ustav are essentially the same, as well. The Nikonian innovations which they rejected three hundred fifty years ago involve differences in ritual. They do not disagree with each other on the Holy Mysteries or on any other dogmatic tenet.
    ********************************************
    Before the printing press came to Russia, all liturgical books were manuscripts laboriously copied by hand from older manuscripts by semi-literate monks working under abysmally difficult conditions. These pious monks did the best they could, but inevitably differences crept into the texts. Over the centuries after 988, the liturgical books in Veliky Novgorod, were slightly different from the same books used in Pskov. And Chernigov, Yaroslavl, Moscow, Ryazan, Tver each had their own versions.
    *********************************************
    The printing press arrived in Russia during the reign of Tsar Feodor Ivanovich, but xenophobic Russians initially rejected it as some infernal machine from Hell. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, and the printing press was tolerated in Moscow, but very soon disagreements arose when it came to printing the liturgical books. The chief question was which of the several versions of the liturgical books was correct enough to be used as a model to publish liturgical books for the entire country. Every one of the aforementioned cities claimed its books were the best of them all, and no city would yield to any other on this matter. So Patriarch Nikon did what any modern executive would do; he made a decision on his own. Nowadays they call it “an executive decision.”
    ********************************************
    Patriarch Nikon decided to have the Greek Orthodox Church in Constantinople send a complete set of liturgical books and rubrics in Greek to Moscow and then to translate them all into Church Slavonic. When the new translations were ready, most Russian Orthodox Christians, including clergy, accepted them. All the Russian Orthodox bishops accepted them.

    The Russian Orthodox Christians who rejected the translations and preferred to worship according to the older, pre-Nikonian books, were called “Old Believers,” or, more correctly, “Old Ritualists,” because there is no difference between the old, pre-Nikonian belief and the newer, post Nikonian belief. The differences are all in ritual.
    *******************************************
    But I have already explained all this in my book. Perhaps you didn’t read it all. Perhaps you grow weary reading what I have written. If this is so, let me recommend to you The Russian Religious Mind by Georgy Petrovich Fedotov, Religion and the Church in Russia by Pavel Nikolayevich Milyukov and The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware. All these books will give you insights into your own great cultural and religious heritage. But be warned! Once you have come to understand that heritage, you will be humbled by it, and you will no longer be able to sign yourself as a “Proud Old Believer.”

    1. John, you wrote:

      “The Orthodox Church also claims to be in the line of Apostolic Succession, but it has not altered the Nicean Creed as the Catholics did twelve centuries ago with the insertion of the “filioque” clause.”

      The Catholic Church acknowledges the fact that there is only one definitive creed. The Catholic Church uses the “filioque” creed in its liturgy. It’s not as problematic as you might think: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/ecumenical/orthodox/filioque-church-dividing-issue-english.cfm

      “Nor has the Orthodox Church introduced new dogmas, as the Catholic Church did twice in the 19th Century, i.e., the immaculate conception (1854) and papal infallibility (1870).”

      Neither was “new” nor “introduced…in the 19th Century”. Debates over the Immaculate Conception that I know of took place already in the 1430s. All that was done in 1854 was that the doctrine was defined. St. Symeon the New Theologian wrote: “God is holy, just as He was and is and shall be, and the Virgin is immaculate, without spot or stain, and so, too, was that rib which was taken from Adam” (Discourse XIII in On the Mystical Life, vol. 2, trans. Alexander Golitzin (SVS Press, 1996). Maybe he knew what he was talking about.

      Papal Infallibility was already being debated in the late 1200s and early 1300s. Just a fact. It was not “new” to the 19th century. To say these doctrines were “new” or “19th Century” is like saying Hesychasm was entirely new to the 14th century.

      “And it was the Catholic Church that excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1054 AD because the latter did not agree to the Catholic claim that all hierarchs are subordinate to the Patriarch of Rome (the Pope).”

      No. First of all, the Catholic Church did not excommunicate anyone. One delegated bishop, Humbert) whose authority ended when the pope who sent him, Leo IX, died, excommunicated the Patriarch. And that was after, in 1053, the Patriarch (Michael) had closed all Latin parishes in Constantinople (and it can easily be argued the Patriarch had no authority to do that). Humbert and the two other men in his delegation carried conciliatory two letters in the hopes of easing tensions between Rome and Constantinople. The delegation was well received by the emperor but utterly rejected by the patriarch. On July 16,1054, three months after Pope Leo IX’s death in April and nine months before the succeeding pope took office, Humbert excommunicated Cerularius. He clearly had no authority to do it. Four days later Cerularius returned the favor. The simple fact is the idiocy of what happened in 1054 is as overblown as it is misunderstood. As Fr. Francis Dvornik noted: “In spite of what happened in 1054, the faithful of both churches remained long unaware of any change in their relations and acts of intercommunion were so numerous that 1054 as the date of the schism becomes inadmissible.” Church History and Christian Reunion; Eastern Churches Quarterly. January-March 1945, pp. 29–30. In my experience as a Church historian, Eastern Orthodox believers often know less than they believe they know. If you tell them that the earliest known use of “filioque” in England was during its “Orthodox” period (as “Orthodox England” romantics and fantasists like to put it) and that it was a Greek bishop who did it, they call you a liar! Then you have to point out to them that
      “filioque” was introduced into England BY A GREEK (named Theodore of Tarsus who lived from 602-690 and was the Archbishop of Canterbury). He presided over the the Council of Hatfield in 680 where he introduced the “filioque” as a response to Monothelitism. (The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy, by A. Edward Siecienski, page 88).

      “Because of this history, the Catholics are in schism.”

      And, by your definition, so would be the Eastern Orthodox. See how that works? Maybe that’s why the Orthodox can’t even agree on a Pan-Orthodox Synod!

      “They have stepped outside the line of Apostolic Succession, so their bishops are no longer canonical, and Christ’s Body and Blood are not present in the bread and wine they distribute to the faithful at Mass.”

      If our bishops are no longer canonical, since 1054, then that means we have no priests and essentially no valid sacraments (other than perhaps baptism according to some Orthodox). Yet some Orthodox freely and readily admit that Catholic sacraments are valid – which could only be the case if there was a valid Apostolic Succession. Look at this stunning admission from the OCA:

      “Concerning Roman Catholic orders: Within the OCA Roman Catholic clergy generally are received into the Orthodox Church through “vesting”; that is, they are not ordained anew. While there are some Orthodox Christians today who would not follow this practice, there is evidence that this was in fact the practice in Russia several centuries ago. One must also keep in mind that the practice of the Orthodox Church on this issue has been subject to change from time to time and place to place, often depending on situations appropriate to the setting.”

      That is amazing. The OCA – undoubtedly an “Orthodox Church” (please don’t try any “not canonical” nonsense as a rebuttal) says Catholic priests are real priests and that the ROC accepted them as such even “several centuries ago”. And note: It says: “Roman Catholic Orders” not “Eastern Catholic” or “Uniate”. But then there is that last stunning admission: “the practice of the Orthodox Church on this issue has been subject to change from time to time and place to place, often depending on situations appropriate to the setting”. In other words, stick your finger in the air and feel which way the wind is blowing! Absolutely shameful! And wouldn’t each change in that “practice” be like bringing in a “new” doctrine?

      Honestly, I’m just here to keep you humble.

      One last thing. What I am about to say may come across as insulting but that honestly is not my intention. Years ago, when I was in the habit of going to major conferences on medieval history, I attended a session on the Fourth Crusade which deviated from its stated purpose and attacked Constantinople. There were several scholars of Greek extraction in the audience who launched into a frenzied debate about what happened in 1202. This was not history to them. This was right now, this moment, and they almost came to blows. Thinking about it later, I realized John Paul II’s analogy of breathing with both lungs was a good one but a better one is complementarity of men and women. This is where you might get mad. I realized the West is like a Man: Rational, reasonable, organizing and ordering, forgetful, oblivious to hurts he causes. And the East is like a Woman: Emotional, intuitive, more relational, easy hurt and never forgetting past hurts (even when 800 years old). And she can’t decide if she wants to go to the Pan-Orthodox Synod because she looks in her full closet and says, “I have nothing to wear.”

      vladimir998

  18. John Hudanish, I have read most comments written to you and I have few simple questions of my own. I asked you on the wrong article about this. I see that you are an outsider and most often outsiders do study religion more before they actually do join. 40 yrs. of study is a long time!

    1. Nikon changed text in Russian Orthodox bible from исус to Иисус.
    Can you explain to old believers what is the difference between them two simple words. Why they ordered thousands to be slaughtered if they didn’t accept that certain text??

    2. When you go to your church, how do they read it in Holy bible, исус or Иисус?

    3. Old believers can’t trim or shave their beards. Can you explain why they can’t and why you and your priests can?

    Thank You,

  19. To Alexey,

    The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written in Greek. Jesus, in Greek, is “Ιησούς.”

    I cannot say specifically when, where or by whom Jesus was first written “Исуc” in Slavonic. I doubt very much that Saints Kiril and Mefody, who were Greeks from Thessaloniki, would have rendered the name Ιησούς as “Исуc” when they were translating the Gospels into Slavonic for the Moravians back in the 9th Century. Иисус is simply a more accurate transliteration of Ιησούς than Исус is. There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Иисус and Исус. Write it either way. Both Иисус and Исус refer to the same Divine Person, and both are appropriately translated as “Jesus” in English. The Russian Orthodox Church uses both Иисус and Исус. Some Orthodox parishes have the pre-Nikonian, Old Rite Gospels in Slavonic, but most parish Gospels are the newer, more accurate versions. And since English is the primary liturgical language in the United States, this issue isn’t so important here.

    *****************

    Remember, Jesus sent His disciples to go and preach to all nations.
    So whether you call Him Иисус, Исус, Ιησούς, Ježiš, იესო, Isus, ព្រះយេស៊ូវ, İsa, Gesù, or Jesus, His message of repentance and love is the same for all men everywhere.

    *****************

    As for the persecutions, my understanding is that the Old Believers in the 17th Century insisted that Иисус was heretical, whereas they believed there is only one correct way to write Jesus’ names, and that is “Исус.” It isn’t just a matter of not accepting Иисус, but rather condemning in the most vile and offensive manner those who DID accept the more accurate transliteration. But even so, it was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong to persecute those simple people. The Russian Orthodox Church acknowledges and regrets this enormous mistakes, which is why Bishop Nektary, representing the Russian Orthodox Church, made a prostration before Avram Antipovich Semerikov and asked forgiveness of the Old Believers in Gervais nearly forty years ago.

    ******************

    As for trimming or shaving one’s beard, the Russian Orthodox bishops who assembled in Moscow at the Council of the One Hundred Chapters (Стоглав) in 1552 during the reign of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich (the Terrible) decreed in the 40th Chapter that it was unlawful for a man to trim or shave his beard, because, they reasoned, God created man in His own image, and since man naturally has a beard, a man who shaves his beard is defacing an image of God.

    ******************

    It must be remembered, however, that the decrees of the Council of the One Hundred Chapters applied ONLY to the Orthodox Christians who were living in Russia. Orthodox Greeks, Serbs, Rusyns, Armenians, Arabs, Copts, Romanians, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Montenegrans, etc., who were not under the omofor of a Russian Orthodox bishop, were NEVER forbidden to shave.

    *******************

    Over time, the Council of the One Hundred Chapters was either repudiated or ignored by subsequent generations of bishops. They had the authority to do so. Each bishop has the right – since the first centuries of Christianity – to decide which of the canons to enforce with his own eparchy. And any council of bishops may overturn decrees of earlier councils.

    *******************

    In the United States of America, an Orthodox priest who serves in the armed forces is an officer, and no soldier, sailor or marine may wear a beard. So the various Orthodox jurisdictions in this country permit Orthodox priests in uniform to shave.

    ********************

    Personally, I avoid priests who trim their beards. I prefer a pastor who is more traditional. But although the length or a priest’s beard may be an indication of where he stands on the traditional-modern continuum, I must acknowledge that beards are NOT sacraments, and that shaving is NOT heresy. I may not like it, but that’s how it is….

    ********************

    Thank you for your question. I hope this explanation works for you.

  20. So Nikon made an Executive Decision…that reminds me of our current president. He, (Obama) is constantly going against the American Constitution by passing legislation through “executive decisions” without the support of the majority of Americans. Therefore resulting in the steady destruction of the American foundation. Few can deny that America would not be as great of a country without her Constitution. Obviously, going against what made this nation great will destroy it.

    I do not say that just to change the subject to politics. I believe that it is a good and simple comparison to Nikon’s actions, those that he made on a religious level. By making those choices on his own, he has also destroyed parts the foundation of the core beliefs of the true Apostolic church. Without that true foundation, I’m afraid a lot of followers are headed in the wrong direction.

    No change is small. All change has it’s repercussions.

    In modern times, it’s the political progressives who would like to change or even completely do away with the Constitution. In my opinion, the likes of Nikon were religious progressives in their time. To claim that the changes he/they were somehow small or unimportant doesn’t change the fact that they were changes, nonetheless. Unfortunately, any changes result in getting farther away from the original truth.

  21. To Ak49ian,

    You really ought to research topics before you post them on a public forum. Your recent comments demonstrate that:

    1. You are opposed to any change.
    2. You do not understand how our Constitution works.
    *******************************************************************
    Decision-making in large organizations usually involves a process called “staffing.” The boss, i. e,, the head of the organization, whether he be the president of a private-sector company, the president of the United States of America, or the head of an agency, will sit down at a large table with his department heads, identify a specific problem or challenge, solicit in-put from all persons at the table, consider all options and ramifications, and then summarize the consensus that emerges from the discussion that ensues.

    If, however, there is no consensus among the persons at the table, then the boss has the authority AND the obligation to make the decision on his own. That’s essentially what defines an executive decision.
    *******************************************************************
    Executive decisions made by the President are called “Executive Orders.” The President’s source of authority to issue Executive Orders can be found in the Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution which grants to the President the “executive Power.” Section 3 of Article II further directs the President to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”
    ******************************************************************
    Executive Orders do not require Congressional approval to take effect but they have the same legal weight as laws passed by Congress. To implement or execute the laws of the land, Presidents give direction and guidance to Executive Branch agencies and departments, often in the form of Executive Orders.
    *****************************************************************
    Executive Orders have been used by every chief executive since the time of George Washington. Most of these directives were unpublished and were only seen by the agencies involved. In the early 1900s, the State Department began numbering them; there are now over 13,000 numbered orders. Orders were retroactively numbered going back to 1862 when President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and issued the Emancipation Proclamation by Executive Order.
    ***************************************************************
    Many important policy changes have occurred through Executive Orders. Harry Truman integrated the armed forces under Executive Order. President Eisenhower used an Executive Order to desegregate schools. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson used them to bar racial discrimination in federal housing, hiring, and contracting. President Reagan used an EO to bar the use of federal funds for advocating abortion. President Clinton reversed this order when he came into office.
    ****************************************************************
    If Congress does not like an Executive Order, it has two main options. First, it may rewrite or amend a previous law, or spell it out in greater detail how the Executive Branch must act. Of course, the President has the right to veto the bill if he disagrees with it, so, in practice, a 2/3 majority if often required to override an Executive Order.
    ****************************************************************
    The current president’s use of Executive Orders is well within Constitutional parameters. HE IS NOT GOING AGAINST THE CONSTITUTION BECAUSE HIS AUTHORITY TO ISSUE EXECUTIVE ORDERS IS UPHELD BY THE CONSTITUTION.
    ****************************************************************
    These comments are meant to enlighten you with respect to the parameters of the US Constitution on Executive authority. If you don’t agree with any of this, you could look it up, which is what you should have done in the first place. It is obvious that you do not approve of President Obama, but this forum on the Old Believer schism is not the place for a political discussion.
    ***************************************************************
    Patriarch Nikon had to decide on the best way to make use of the printing press. This new technology in the 17th Century provided obvious advantages to supply the parishes with the liturgical books they needed to celebrate the liturgical services properly and in accordance with the rubrics of the Orthodox Church. The old method for supplying liturgical books to all the parishes was to have monks laboriously copy them, page by page, by hand. The printing press enabled two monks to print several hundred copies of each book and perhaps another three or four monks to bind them. Clearly this is a much more efficient process. And it would also serve to establish a standard for liturgical practices across the entire Russian land.

    **************************************************************

    The main question was to determine which liturgical books were sufficiently error-free to be used as an example for printing hundreds more. And it was on this question that there was no consensus among the Russian Orthodox bishops in Nikon’s day. So Patriarch Nikon resolved to have new translations made from the Greek Orthodox liturgical books in use in the Byzantine Empire at that time. As far as I know, none of the Russian Orthodox bishops in Nikon’s day opposed this decision.

    **************************************************************

    You have stated that Patriarch Nikon “has…destroyed parts the foundation of the core beliefs of the true Apostolic church.”

    I hereby challenge you to identify those parts of the foundation of the core beliefs of the true Apostolic Church Patriarch Nikon destroyed.

    To be sure, it will take an effort on your part. You must first acquire or get access to the liturgical books used by the Russian Orthodox Church since the 17th Century, then compare each book with its Old Believer counterpart, and identify which core beliefs were destroyed. It will be a lot of work. But you have made a very serious allegation. You must be prepared to stand by it and defend it.
    **************************************************************
    And please, let us leave politics out of it.

  22. To John Hudanish

    Looks like you just want to tell people some, but not all.

    Here are a few examples why we can’t shave or cut our beards

    Кормчая VI Вс. Собора 6 правило 96

    Постановления святых апостол, книга 1, стран. 6-7

    Никон Черныя горы, слово 37, лист 284

    Кормчая, гл. 47, лист 388, оборот

    Номоканон, правило 174, лист 702

    Книга О вере, глава 28, лист 257

    And you wrote about the Стоглав Council

    Стоглав, глава 40, стран. 124 Такоже священная правила возбраняют православным христианом во всем, чтобы не брити брад и усов не постригати. таковая несть православных, но поганых латынская и еретическая предания, греческаго царя Константина Ковалина. и о сем отеческая и апостольская правила вельми запрещают и отрицают, сице глаголет: Аще кто браду бреет и умрет тако, не достоит над ним служити, ни сорокоустия по нем пети, ни просфиры, ни свещи по нем в Церковь принести, с неверными да причтется, от еретик бо се навыкоша. (стр. 125) Что же о пострижении брады не написано ли в законе: не постризайте брад ваших, се бо женам лепо, мужем же неподобно. создавый Бог рече Моисеови: постризало да не взыдет на браду вашу, се бо мерзость пред Богом. ибо се Константина царя Ковалина еретика. на том вси бо знаху, яко еретические слуги есть брады постризати. се же творяще человеческаго ради угождения, противящеся закону, ненавидими будут от Бога, создавшаго нас по образу своему. аще кто хощет угодити Богу, отступи от зла. глагола Господь сам о том к Моисеови рече, и святии апостоли запретиша, и святии отцы прокляша. и того ради страшнаго прещения, православным христианом таковых не подобает творити

    And then there is

    Потребник Большой, гл. 71, лист 12 об., 2-го счета. «Проклинаю богоненавидимую блудолюбнаго образа прелесть, душегубительныя помраченныя ереси, еже остругати браду. ей же бысть начальник беззаконный Петр гугнивый, римский папа. во царех же тоя ереси начальник гноеименитый Константин Ковалин иконоборец. и в той ереси и прочии римстии папы погрязоша, и вси латыньстии епископы и попове. мнози же и мирстии человецы, ум погубившее, низпадоша в таковое прокажение. лица своего губящее доброту, Богом созданнаго им образа. ею же добротою украси Бог человека, по своему образу и подобию. окаяннии же латины в ереси многия впадоша. и на святых иконах, писанным, Божию образу, и святых Его угодник не поклоняются, ни почитают. к сим же и своего благообразия ненавидят, и ругаются ему. и проказят лице подобия своего, иже Божиима рукама сотвореннаго, и таковаго богоделаннаго благолепия не даст им диавол ни видети. но всегда поощряет их остругати брады своя, и усы притинати постригалы и бритвами. еще злейше творят, яко и своими зубы укусывают власы брады своея, усы. самоядцем подобящеся. его же не деяху ни в древнем законе, даннем от Бога Моисею. и в новой благодати никтоже того не творяше, до совращения преже реченных еретиков».

    As you know most of these examples are before “One Hundred Chapters (Стоглав)”

    Please research before you post.

  23. To a proud Old Believer,

    In my lifetime I have met many proud Old Believers. Which one are you? Surely you have a name. What is it? Or is there some reason why you prefer to remain anonymous?

    As for the “few examples” why you can’t shave or cut your beards, I have them here:

    Кормчая VI Вс. Собора 6 правило 96 or (in English) Rudder 6th Ecumenical Council, Rule 96

    This is actually the Quinisext Council, convened in Trullo in 692 AD. And here’s Rule 96:

    “Those who by baptism have put on Christ have professed that they will copy his manner of life which he led in the flesh. Those therefore who adorn and arrange their hair to the detriment of those who see them, that is by cunningly devised intertwinings, and by this means put a bait in the way of unstable souls, we take in hand to cure paternally with a suitable punishment: training them and teaching them to live soberly, in order that having laid aside the deceit and vanity of material things, they may give their minds continually to a life which is blessed and free from mischief, and have their conversation in fear, pure, and holy ; and thus come as near as possible to God through their purity of life; and adorn the inner man rather than the outer, and that with virtues, and good and blameless manners, so that they leave in themselves no remains of the left-handedness of the adversary. But if any shall act contrary to the present canon let him be cut off.”

    Since this is a canon of an Ecumenical Council, I have translated it into English for the benefit of those who don’t know Slavonic. But I see no instructions or prohibitions about shaving or trimming beards or mustaches here. How does this prevent you from trimming your beard?

    Постановления святых апостол, книга 1, стран. 6-7 or Didache of the Holy Apostles

    This short book has no instructions or prohibitions on shaving or trimming one’s beard. Perhaps
    we are talking about different books. Do you have another name for it?

    Before I offer any comments on the the following references, I would like you to explain why they direct Old Believer men to refrain from trimming or shaving their beards.

    Никон Черныя горы, слово 37, лист 284

    «По проповеди апостольстей, муж бо, рече, не должен есть растити власы, образ и слава Божия сый. Злейше еже и сопротивное инии творящее, браду стригут. В заповедях апостольских глаголет Божественное слов: не тлити образ брады ради… Глаголет же (апостол), аще кто сопротивен мнится бытии, мы таковаго обычая не имамы, ниже Церкви Божия, изведе убо таковая делающих и творящих, и волю бо преносящих, от степени апостольскаго и от Божия Церкве».

    Кормчая, гл. 47, лист 388, оборот

    «Что же о пострижении брады; не писано ли есть в законе: не постригайте брад ваших: се бо женам лепо, мужем же не подобно: создавый Бог судил есть, Моисеови бо рече, постризало да не взыдет на брады вашы, себо мерзость Господеви. Ибо от Константина царя Ковалина и еретика суща се узаконено есть: на том бо вси знаяху, яко еретическия слуги суть, имже брады постризаны. вы же се творяще человеческаго ради угодия, противящеся закону, ненавидими будете от Богат создавшаго вас по образу своему. Аще убо хощете Богу угодити, от всего того отступити, его же Той ненавидит, и ничтоже неугоднаго Ему не творите».

    Номоканон, правило 174, лист 702.

    «Матфей же в девятой главе, третияго стиха, возбраняет верным украшати себе, или власы брады стрищи, уширяти власы, или плести власы главы своея. Не повинующихжеся отлучати повелевает: се же приводит от правила девятьдесять шестаго, шестаго собора, иже в Трулле».

    Книга О вере, глава 28, лист 257.

    «К сему же и сие безумие западных мнимых духовных воспомяну о оголении усов и брад. Тому началника поведают, Петра гугниваго папежа. а в царех Константина Кавалина еретика, иконоборца, иже обезумившеся, Богом созданную доброту в первом человеце губят, и проказят лица своя, евнухом подобящеся».

  24. Priest-less old-believers seek an excuse to refrain from seeking and attaining Holy Communion.
    Holy Communion with Christ is the core of Christianity. To be a Christian is to seek the Holy Communion. John Chrysostom said “If we do not partake in Holy Communion at least once a year it would have been better not to be born.”
    To obtain Holy Communion priest-less old-believer leadership would have to relinquish their power to a Higher authority. Priest-less old-believers would need to back out of their dark corner and see religion in a completely different Light. Their leaders know that to get Holy Communion, they have to accept the Seven Mysteries of Christianity; which includes Priesthood. This would mean a complete turn in direction and probable loss of control. Therefore stronger and stronger enforcement is required – to the point of collapse of authority and division of power – Schism! Future schisms are already in the works, the tight knit society of priest-less old-believers is splitting at the seams.
    Shaving and other “major” excuses are just a smoke screen to keep ignorant people in line – i.e. Executive Decisions without repercussions. Martial Law.

  25. Mr. Hudanish, Thank You for answering my silly questions. I read that you were a teacher, means you know a few things.

    I have more questions if you don’t mind. You don’t have to answer them if you think this is all just nonsense.
    I like to read Holly Bible, I think it’s a great History, good education.

    1. Why is it written in Holy Bible that Sun circles the Earth? Now days we all know it’s not true. Then why why why??

    2. Holly Bible says that there was a flood that covered the whole planet 3-4 thousand years ago. Russians went to Antarctica, drilled 13,000 feet deep hole found no trace of salt water. How should a small brain like mine believe that there was actually a flood?

    3. Pyramids, There is around 1,000 pyramids on planet earth. How were they built? No trace of any kind of technology, built with highly sophisticated machinery. All disappeared without a trace. Every documentary tells us that Pharaoh’s built them with bronze chisels??

    4. Holly Bible tell us that Earth is 7,500 years ago. Then how did dinosaurs end up in the mountains covered with glacier ice, turned into fossils. We all know what a fossil is. It has to be at least 10,000 years old. Yet bible tells us that earth is 7,500 years old.

    Now we sit and argue, that if we cut hair off of our face we will burn in a lake of lava for eternity.
    We need Priesthood, we need higher authority to tell us to drink wine and think it’s Jesus blood.
    Is this all some kind of playing house to keep ignorant people in line.
    What if Jesus came on this small tiny planet to explain to us that all we need to do is to believe, fast, be calm, be happy, take what we need to survive off this planet. Raise our children and then when time comes, go back into the soil where we came from and stop arguing who’s stick is longer.

    I have many more questions. This are just most important ones for now.

    Thank You again!

  26. Alexey,

    None of your questions are silly. The only silly questions are the ones you don’t ask because you are afraid someone will ridicule you. You want to know: “Why does it say in the Bible that the sun circles the earth? We all know that’s not true.”

    Yes, today we know that the earth circles the sun. But what does the Bible actually teach on this subject?

    Most biblical scholars believe Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy around 3,400 years ago. Moses grew up in Egypt in the Pharaoh’s household, and then he left Egypt and lived forty years as a shepherd in Midian. Finally, he brought the Jews out of Egypt and spent the next forty years wandering in the Sinai desert. Moses probably wrote the account of creation (Genesis 1:1-25) in Sinai, but he did not say specifically that the sun circles the earth.

    It is only when we come to Ecclesiastes 1:5 that we read, “The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.” This relationship between earth and sun was assumed by the ancients, because that is what they perceived. Some astronomers in ancient Egypt had the notion that it was the earth circling the sun, but their speculations to that end were largely ignored or dismissed as esoteric nonsense.

    As one wise man once told me years ago: “Common sense is that which tells you the earth is flat!”

    Similarly, we know that the universe came into being billions of years ago. And although there probably was, in ancient times, a great flood which destroyed many people, we cannot say its waters covered the entire earth.

    The great danger here is to take Genesis as a natural history text. It was never that. Moses was not a scientist. But let’s not throw out the entire Old Testament because Moses and the other prophets who contributed to the Old Testament lacked the modern scientific knowledge we have today. Rather, let us focus on the most important lessons of Genesis:

    Genesis teaches us that God created the universe and then made man, Adam, in His own image. He set Adam in the Garden of Eden, created a woman, Eve, from Adam’s rib to be his companion and helpmate. Adam and Eve knew God and spoke with Him in the Garden.

    God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But Eve, and then Adam, disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. So God cast them out of the Garden and made them subject to illness, pain and death. This was the Fall of Adam, and all mankind – born after the Fall – inherited Adam’s fallen state.

    But God did not totally abandon His creation. He promised Adam that He would eventually send a Redeemer to restore mankind to life in an eternal paradise.

    This is the sublime message of Genesis. I can offer you no proof that this message is true. Nor can any man. You may either believe it or reject it. It is your choice. If you choose to believe it, this is an act of faith.

    And here you must understand the difference between faith and knowledge. Knowledge is based on evidence, on verifiable proof. When you hold a slice of bread in your hand, you are having an empirical experience of the slice of bread. You KNOW it is bread because you can see it, feel it, smell it and taste it. This is knowledge. It comes from direct experience.

    Faith does not require proof. You must believe in the existence of something without seeing it, feeling it, smelling it, hearing it or tasting it. As St. Paul observed, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

    That is why faith is a personal choice. Faith is the “YES!” that allows God to come into your life. It is the acceptance of His love.

    As for the pyramids, there are a number of very interesting theories on how the ancients built them. Unfortunately all of these theories are based on assumption and speculation, and have little or no tangible support. My best answer to your question on how the pyramids were built is a very short one: “I don’t know.”

    Please don’t be too hard on your elders. It isn’t that they are trying “to keep ignorant people in line.”

    They are doing the best they can to get you into heaven.

    When I was a boy, a very long time ago, I thought my father knew everything there was to know.
    I went to him with all kinds of questions, which he found amusing at first, and he did his best to provide answers in terms that I could understand.

    But as I grew, so did my curiosity about the wide world around me. My questions became more complex, and I sought knowledge far beyond my own father’s limited frame of reference. In time he was not so amused by questions he couldn’t properly answer. And he was understandably reluctant to admit he didn’t have answers for me. Our relationship gradually changed, and he became somehow diminished in my eyes, a development we both regretted.

    I see you are blessed with a very precious gift, and that is intellectual curiosity. I encourage you to use this gift freely, but with discernment. Your faith in God is of great value, and you must never forget that it came to you from your community and your immediate family. Discernment is realizing that while God our Creator is perfect, his creatures are not. We are weak and we sin. We spend our lives striving to be perfect, as God is perfect. And as we struggle, we must do our best to avoid judging our brothers and sisters.

    May God bless you now and throughout your life!

  27. Then the eleven disciples (of Jesus) went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the VERY END OF THE AGE.”
    Matthew 28:16-20
    Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
    He said to them, “Go into ALL THE WORLD and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in NEW TONGUES; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
    After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached EVERYWHERE, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
    Mark 16:14-20
    He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: EVERYTHING must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
    Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
    Luke 24:44-49
    Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter,b and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will bed bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will bee loosed in heaven.”
    Matthew 16;17-19

    God trusting humanity? Trusting humans to judge?
    BAD mistake! In human terms.

    YET! GOD TRUSTED humans to make the RIGHT choice.

  28. For all it worth, John, I apologize if I unnecessarily opened up a can of worms by using politics as an example. But now, in response, I must say this: I did research the American constitution. In fact, I use a fantastic app that is downloaded into my phone from the Google store. There are several to choose from. I chose one that is an accurate copy (according to the comments about the app) and have thoroughly enjoyed using it for the past 3 years.

    I never said that executive decisions are against the constitution. In fact this is from my previous post:

    March 19, 2015 at 11:22 pm
    “So Nikon made an Executive Decision…that reminds me of our current president. He, (Obama) is constantly going against the American Constitution by passing legislation through “executive decisions” without the support of the majority of Americans.”

    It may not be clearly stated, but if you reread that part, you may more accurately understand what I meant by that. I am talking about how his LEGISLATION goes against the constitution and is unsupported by the majority of Americans. The means (through executive decision) of getting that legislation passed is not in question. The end result is still the same: bad ideas leading to the destruction of the Constitution. All that was simply a comparison to Nikon’s actions. How he made wrong decisions for everyone else and destroyed/changed a lot of the original beliefs.

    But please don’t forget why the words “executive decision” were brought up in the first place: You said – “So Patriarch Nikon did what any modern executive would do; he made a decision on his own. Nowadays they call it “an executive decision.” ….Once again, I apologize for choosing a political example.

    I submit to you that Nikon did not have the authority nor support from the true apostolic church to make such decisions.

    You are correct if it seems to you that I’m against change. Тоже есть писано что Бог сказал “Время идет, мое слово не мимо идет.” Seems like you are obsessed with Nikon and his printing press. Just remember that his books are inaccurate. Again I say- with all change come repercussions.

    You challenged me to bring you proof to support my “serious allegations”. I maintain to you that they are not simply allegations. They are facts. At the time of posting that comment, I knew that I should have provided examples (there are many), but since I use my phone for this, I decided not to at that time (thanks to the small keyboard).

    But now, I would have, except for after reading your response to Proud Old Believer’s excellent post of a nearly perfect response to beard shaving questions, it seems to me that there is nothing that will change your mind and lead you to the truth. Something about pearls and swine comes to mind (no offense, that is also scripture). It is obvious that you a part of the “Nikonians” as they are called where I come from. We will never agree if you do not completely accept the evidence, against beard shaving alone, provided by Proud Old Believer.

    Plus, why would you need his/her name? If a stranger, let’s say his name is Ak49ian, where to walk up to you and say 1+2=3, would you immediately wonder why he wants to remain anonymous, or would you whip out a calculator and verify that he is correct? Trust me, if verified, the answer would be: He’s correct. The question then would be, do you accept the right answer?

  29. John seems to me ak49 has a point , u asked where does it say people can’t shave beards and a person gave u a lot of quotes from many bibles and it seems to me u dodged the facts Mabe u need to get ur facts stait and read the bibles some more . I apologize if I affended any body God bless

    1. In my original post, I compared this ROCOR/Old Believer reconciliation with a Catholic/Protestant reconciliation. You responded with an explanation why this is not the same, but I do not agree with your explanation. You said the Catholic/Protestant differences are a “division that has shown itself too wide to breach.” What makes you think the ROCOR/Old Believer division is narrow? It may seem so to the people of ROCOR, because the importance of traditions seems to have been lost. You say the “differences are all in ritual,” as if they are insignificant. They hold the highest significance for us, which you do not seem to understand. As Ak49ian said, “No change is small. All change has it’s repercussions.” You yourself said that you “avoid priests who trim their beards” and “prefer a pastor who is more traditional,” yet you do not see the importance of our traditions? You cannot simultaneously hold to your own traditions, yet discount ours as unimportant.
      I have read books on our heritage and I have not been humbled. I am okay with my sin of pride. We all sin, and this will be my vice, in that case. I am proud that my our ancestors were able to withstand persecutions and stay strong in their faith. You may not have my pride, but I hope you have my strength and faith in your beliefs. I have no problem with your beliefs, why do you have a problem with mine?

      P.S. It’s interesting that me not using my name is bothering you. Does it matter? Does that make my statements less valid? You seem to be bothered by such small details and don’t focus on actually answering the questions proposed to you.

  30. To Ak49ian,
    ************************************

    We are having a discussion, and we disagree. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t owe me an apology.
    ************************************

    But you do owe me an explanation. You have stated that Patriarch Nikon “has…destroyed parts the foundation of the core beliefs of the true Apostolic church.” I challenged you to identify those parts of the foundation of the core beliefs of the true Apostolic Church Patriarch Nikon destroyed.
    ************************************

    To be sure, it will take an effort on your part. You must first acquire or get access to the liturgical books used by the Russian Orthodox Church since the 17th Century, then compare each book with its Old Believer counterpart, and identify which core beliefs were destroyed. It will be a lot of work. But you have made a very serious allegation. You must be prepared to stand by it and defend it.
    ****************************************

    Rather than defend your allegation, you wrote that it isn’t an allegation, but a fact.
    ****************************************

    That’s fine. Facts are verifiable. At present, your fact is nothing more than an unsubstantiated opinion. Once again, I challenge you to identify those parts of the foundation of the core beliefs of the true Apostolic Church Patriarch Nikon destroyed.
    *****************************************

    And in your latest post, you made another allegation: You wrote that Nikon’s books are inaccurate. This is another unsubstantiated opinion. Please provide the substance to back it up. Please identify at least a few of the inaccuracies in Nikon’s books.
    ******************************************

    We have come to a pivotal point in this discussion. You made two allegations with which I do not agree. I have asked you to defend them, but you respond by writing “…it seems to me that there is nothing that will change your mind and lead you to the truth.”
    *********************************************

    You have, essentially, said that I have a closed mind, that there’s no point in responding to my very reasonable request for substance because there’s nothing you could write that would change my opinion. You said you won’t cast pearls before swine. And then you added that you meant no offense.
    *********************************************

    In my long life I have never met a swine I didn’t like, so I am not offended. But whatever my faults may be, and I have many, they do not constitute a defense of your opinions.
    *********************************************

    This discussion is moving us closer to the truth. Defend the aforementioned allegations and we shall be closer still. Please don’t abandon this journey. Let us travel this road together.
    **********************************************

    As for the anonymous Proud Old Believer’s “…excellent post of a nearly perfect response to beard shaving questions,” I have asked him/her for a clarification:
    **********************************************

    I wrote, “Before I offer any comments on the the following references (Никон Черныя горы, слово 37, лист 284, Кормчая, гл. 47, лист 388, оборот and Номоканон, правило 174, лист 702, Книга О вере, глава 28, лист 257), I would like you to explain why they direct Old Believer men to refrain from trimming or shaving their beards.”
    *****************************************

    People engaged in discussions often ask each other for clarifications. My request is not unreasonable. And I believe his/her response will bring us several more steps along the road leading us to truth. But it has been 13 days since my reasonable request, and he/she has made no response. I hope he/she hasn’t abandoned this journey.
    *****************************************

    And permit me to ask your forgiveness. I have lived among the Old Believers long enough to understand that Old Believers may not express views and opinions at variance with the community consensus. In challenging you to provide substance to the opinions of the Old Believer community, I am putting you in a very precarious position. If you find you are unable to substantiate those opinions, or if you find yourself in agreement with something I have written, you are risking censure by your community. This is no trivial matter.
    **************************************

    I am truly sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, but I see no way of continuing this journey without challenging you and asking you to substantiate your opinions.
    *****************************************

    Remember, my ultimate goal is reconciliation. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul asked whether Christ is divided. The answer, of course, is that Christ is NOT divided. And the clear implication here is that we who follow Him shouldn’t be divided, either. So let us identify address whatever it is that divides us so that we can put it aside and walk together.
    **********************************************

    And please don’t take offense and anything I have written. I do not mean to offend you.

  31. So the beard trimming discussion , is one point that was proven to u by, proud old believer , from many holy books. My question to u john would b is , do u think a Russian Christian should or shouldn’t trim his beard? If u say yes he can then there is no point is talking any more , if u say no he can’t then u go against Nikon s beliefs and ur with the old believers , and we don’t need this conversation. So there is no winning or losing with this whole discussion , so u live ur life ur way and leave the old believers to save there soul there own way . It seems that would b for the best , because y would u want to pressure any body into sme thing they don’t want , think that one over whole heartedly.

  32. I’m not sure what you would like explained. It was pretty clear in the examples, and even in your response as well. I will include rough English translations for those that cannot read Russian.

    From the first example:
    Стоглав, глава 40, стран. 124
    -Такоже священная правила возбраняют православным христианом во всем, чтобы не брити брад и усов не постригати. (The holy canons forbid orthodox christians to shave their beards and trim their whiskers)
    – Аще кто браду бреет и умрет тако, не достоит над ним служити, ни сорокоустия по нем пети, ни просфиры, ни свещи по нем в Церковь принести… (Those who shave and die shaven, they do not deserve their last rites, nor can they be prayed for, they cannot have the sacraments and cannot have candles brought to church for them.)
    – Что же о пострижении брады не написано ли в законе: **не постризайте брад ваших**… (Concerning beards, does it not say “do not cut your beards”)
    – создавый Бог рече Моисеови: постризало да не взыдет на браду вашу, се бо мерзость пред Богом. (God the Creator spoke to Moses, “a cutting instrument shall not touch your beard, for it is an abomination in the eyes of God”)

    Your own responses gave reasons why men should not shave as well, so I’m not sure why you needed an explanation.

  33. To the Proud Old Believer,

    I am glad you are still with us on this journey.

    But I am very sorry to hear that you are at peace with your sin of pride. This is the first and greatest of all sins. It was the sin of Lucifer and led to his fall. And it is as common a sin among Old Believers, as it was with the Pharisees 2,000 years ago. You must repent of this sin before it brings you down.

    You cited a number of references which direct Christian men to refrain from shaving. I asked you to explain why the references you cited forbid Old Believers to cut or trim their beards. You provided a partial translation of one of the references, and it clearly states that men shouldn’t shave, but then you failed to explain why.

    Perhaps my question wasn’t clear. So let me try to put it a different way.

    Do you believe that the references you cited direct me not to shave or trim my beard? If yes, please tell me why…

    Your answer is very important in this discussion.

  34. Wow a full 360 and still john is asking y ,huh! I don’t know much about religion but I think old believer explained it very well , because its a abomination in the eyes of God what else do u want to know. Lets put it this way if u ( John) Nikon over steped his athority by saying u can shave ur beard and that’s y all old believers will never go back to his congregation . That was one of his wrong doings there are way more like him ordering to kill old believers who wouldn’t follow him. Killing his own kind!!! And go back to him I don’t think that will ever b an option. Don’t bother

  35. Why this….? Why that… ?

    How about: because rules are rules and when it comes to religion, the common saying “rules are meant to be broken” does not apply.

    It’s quite disturbing that even though “Proud Old Believer” has already answered your question several times, you fail to accept the truth and continue to invite him/her on some sort of “journey”.

    Trust me, John, my friend, if you read any holy books from the true Apostolic church, you would know that life isn’t some sort of “journey”. In fact, it is much like a test.

    Imagine a teacher telling a student to complete an assignment after which they would be tested on. But instead of studying and completing the the assignments, the student would instead ask silly questions like “why” and make excuses. I am convinced that it would not go over well for the student.

    The same applies to all of us, except that holy scripture is our teacher and we are the students. Some very important holy books were quoted to answer your question, and the only thing that you can come up with is “why?”? Too many people are trying to find out why about many things which leaves no time for practice. But when the test comes, it will be too late.

    Allow me to ask you a couple questions…

    1. Do you accept ALL of the holy books that Proud Old Believer quoted? Because, if you DO, then why is it so hard for you accept what’s written in them and USE them as guidelines? But if you DON’T, then why do you call yourself Old Believer?

    2. Why are you seemingly so inclined to change the name “Old Believers” to “Old Ritualists”?(I read you whole article) For as long as I can remember, Old Believers were Old Believers. Please don’t call a dove a rooster. Because it’s not.

    Also, I am aware of your challenge to me, but it is simply pointless to even begin showing and providing to you examples of the Nikonian differences which are completely unacceptable in the true church. The thing is, you have written many times of how many things are simply “rituals”. I can tell you five huuuge differences just off the top of my head, right now, but you will turn around and brush them off as rituals. No, thanks. I’m not going on your “journey”. I have a test to study and practice for, and I cannot afford to fail. Failing would mean an eternity of major discomfort. Meanwhile, my question to you should be fairly easy to answer. Your answer will, undoubtedly, speak volumes (no pun intended).

    Note: Nikon’s changes were not because of the arrival of a press or because of needed corrections. They were deliberate changes, because of which many are still being mislead.

    To those Old Believers who believe that they have already found and rejoined the genuine Apostolic church, maybe God be with you. Also, to those who are still in search of the true Apostolic church, you will not find it by reconciling with a Nikonian church that your ancestors were not even, ever, a part of.

    May God forgive and bless us all, sinners.

  36. Absolution of Sin

    The biggest issue that is being skirted in these discussions is the core reason for Christian religion – Absolution of Sin!
    In John 8:2-11, Jesus shows an example of Absolution of sin.
    “At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
    But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
    At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
    “No one, sir,” she said.
    “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    Priest-less old-believers have no mechanism for Absolution of Sin. Some may go and confess their sins to each other but the sin is never absolved (pardoned, released and forgiven). Therefore the sins reside perpetually within the sinner. All sin has become equal, be it adultery, fornication, incest, false testimony, shaving or trimming of beards, etc., etc., carry a similar penalty (with shaving possibly a far stricter penalty because it is visual), some form of expulsion from the parish. After an uncertain number of days of pleas and petitions the person is allowed back into the group. This does not absolve the sinner, it only reconciles the sin. The only hope a sinner has is that God absolves them at Judgment day.

    In Luke 13:22-30 it says:
    Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
    He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
    “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
    “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
    “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
    “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

    The question all priest-less old-believers need to ask themselves is “Do they want to take the chance? Do they want to risk their salvation because of pride?”

    In Acts 2: 37-39 during Pentecost, the people asked Apostle Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
    Peter replied, “REPENT and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

    Matthew 7: 1-27 pretty much covers it all where Jesus preaches:
    Judging Others
    “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
    “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
    “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
    Ask, Seek, Knock
    “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
    “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
    The Narrow and Wide Gates
    “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
    True and False Prophets
    “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
    True and False Disciples
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
    The Wise and Foolish Builders
    “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

    To all the Ak49ians, Proud Old Believers, and Bystanders I have only one question, “On a personal level, what have you done to secure a guarantee for the forgiveness of your sins and the salvation of your soul?”
    “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

    1. In response to this question, “On a personal level, what have you done to secure a guarantee for the forgiveness of your sins and the salvation of your soul?”

      I cannot answer this question the way it is worded. I have done nothing to “guarantee” this. I do not claim that I can understand the mind of God, therefore I cannot “guarantee” that he will forgive my sins.

      I do, however, have faith and hope, if that is what you are asking.

      1. James 2:14-26 should be your answer.
        Faith and Deeds
        What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
        But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
        Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
        You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
        In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the SPIRIT is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
        James 1: 2-8
        Trials and Temptations
        Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

        As for “guarantee”; if you can follow the teaching of Christ and His Apostles, God WILL guarantee your salvation.
        In John 6: 35-40 ‘Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”’

    2. Actually, let’s not ask questions on a “personal level” because my personal choices are irrelevant to the salvation of your soul.

      I cannot tell you that my salvation is guaranteed because I am still “knocking”, as we all are, until we pass away. I will tell you in confidence that heaven IS guaranteed to those who pass through the right “door”.

      Now, please, answer to me on how one can be sure that his/her salvation is “secured”? I believe that is impossible to know without speaking to God personally or until Judgment Day. We all know what is “guaranteed” to us if we practice and believe in the true Apostolic church, but to claim to know what we have “secured” would be quite presumptuous.

      What we are “guaranteed” and what we have “secured” are two completely different things. Through prayer, and faith, I hope to secure God’s guarantee while I’m alive and knocking.

      1. Ak49ian, again you are avoiding the main subject “Absolution of Sin”. You became hung up on the words of “personal choice and guarantee’. My answer to Proud Old Believer applies to you likewise.

        1. O.Pavel, we have discussed this at length in Nat Geo’s reality show “Red Alaska” forum. That seems to have been a fruitless discussion, but if you’d like to refresh your memory, feel free to go through that forum again.

    3. I agree with you that faith without deeds is dead. But that was not your question.

      How do you answer your own question, I wonder? “On a personal level, what have you done to secure a guarantee for the forgiveness of your sins and the salvation of your soul?”

      Do you believe that you have secured salvation? Do you believe that God has opened the door to your knocking?

      Ak49ian answered wonderfully, as usual. We are all still “knocking”. I will knock every day until Judgement day. Until then, I will hope, pray, and have faith that God will grant me salvation. I would never claim to know what God has or will grant me.

  37. John:

    I’m not going to argue with you about the sin of pride, but my sins and repentance are my own. It is nice of you to care for my soul, but I would rather speak to you about these other questions we have all been asking you.

    I’m not sure how else you would like me to explain the restriction on shaving. You have read the examples and agree that they state “that men shouldn’t shave.” There is nothing else to explain.

    “Do you believe that the references you cited direct me not to shave or trim my beard?”
    Yes, I do believe this. It clearly states that shaving is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. It is not up for discussion in these references, therefore it is not up for discussion to me.

    Ak49ian responded quite well. Why do you keep asking “why” when your questions have been answered? Also, why do you ignore some questions asked of you and focus on others?
    You did not respond to this part of my earlier response:

    “In my original post, I compared this ROCOR/Old Believer reconciliation with a Catholic/Protestant reconciliation. You responded with an explanation why this is not the same, but I do not agree with your explanation. You said the Catholic/Protestant differences are a “division that has shown itself too wide to breach.” What makes you think the ROCOR/Old Believer division is narrow? It may seem so to the people of ROCOR, because the importance of traditions seems to have been lost. You say the “differences are all in ritual,” as if they are insignificant. They hold the highest significance for us, which you do not seem to understand. As Ak49ian said, “No change is small. All change has it’s repercussions.” You yourself said that you “avoid priests who trim their beards” and “prefer a pastor who is more traditional,” yet you do not see the importance of our traditions? You cannot simultaneously hold to your own traditions, yet discount ours as unimportant.”

    I shall ask you again, how is it that you can hold to your traditions, yet consider ours unimportant?

  38. To Ak49ian,

    Since you appear to have abandoned this discussion, I shall do my best to respond to your last posting.

    You wrote: Rules are rules, and when it comes to religion, the common saying “rules are meant to be broken” does not apply.
    I agree. But who said anything about breaking rules?
    ********************************************
    It’s quite disturbing that even though “Proud Old Believer” has already answered your question several times, you fail to accept the truth and continue to invite him/her on some sort of “journey”.
    *********************************************
    Obviously you understand what the Proud Old Believer writes. But I have a different frame of reference. And some of his truth, as well as some of your facts, are frankly neither true nor factual. Some of what you and he/she hold as factual and true is clearly misinformation.
    Trust me, John, my friend, if you read any holy books from the true Apostolic church, you would know that life isn’t some sort of “journey”. In fact, it is much like a test.
    **********************************************
    I have lived on this earth 75 years and in all this time I have indeed read a number of “holy books from the true Apostolic church.” And I am convinced that life is a journey.

    Imagine a teacher telling a student to complete an assignment after which they would be tested on. But instead of studying and completing the the assignments, the student would instead ask silly questions like “why” and make excuses. I am convinced that it would not go over well for the student.

    I have been an elementary school teacher. And I have also taught in college. I have even been a guest lecturer in two theological institutes. And I am ALWAYS pleased when any of my students ask “Why?” It shows they are paying attention.
    **********************************************
    You ask whether I “accept ALL of the holy books that Proud Old Believer quoted.”
    Yes, I accept them all, but I believe I understand them somewhat differently that he/she does. And that’s why I repeated my questions which you find so disturbing.
    **********************************************
    You ask why I call myself an Old Believer.

    I don’t call myself an Old Believer. Never have. I am an Orthodox Christian. I was baptized by three immersions in the Willamette River and chrismated by an Orthodox priest. I choose to wear a beard and to make the Sign of the Cross with two fingers, but that doesn’t make me an Old Believer.
    **********************************************
    You ask why I am inclined to change the name “Old Believers” to “Old Ritualists.” And you chided me: “Please don’t call a dove a rooster. Because it’s not.”

    Someone else came up with the term “Old Ritualist” long before I was born. It is more accurate than the term “Old Believer” because the Old Believers and the Russian Orthodox Church have the same Confession of Faith, i. e., the same dogmas. The Old Believers and the “New” believers are the same in terms of dogma. All the differences are in the rituals. I might add that by calling yourself an Old Believer, YOU are the one calling a dove a rooster.
    **********************************************
    I challenged you twice to defend your unsubstantiated allegations that Patriarch Nikon somehow altered the dogmas of the Russian Orthodox Church and that his books are inaccurate. And this was your response:
    **********************************************
    I am aware of your challenge to me, but it is simply pointless to even begin showing and providing to you examples of the Nikonian differences which are completely unacceptable in the true church. The thing is, you have written many times of how many things are simply “rituals”. I can tell you five huuuge differences just off the top of my head, right now, but you will turn around and brush them off as rituals.

    You refuse to defend your allegations because you say I will just brush them off, as if I could brush off verifiable facts. And now I am asking you a third time to provide me with facts that support your allegations. You have added a third allegation, to wit: “Nikon’s changes were…deliberate changes…” unrelated to the printing press, Please tell us where you got this last bit of misinformation.
    **************************************

    Your write that you find my questions disturbing. This is obvious from the tone of your latest posting. Your remind me of my father who was often disturbed when he didn’t have answers to the questions I asked as a boy growing up in his house. I think you are disturbed because you cannot defend your allegations. And you cannot defend them because they are not verifiable, i. e., they have no basis in fact. And now, I suppose, you are embarrassed because you have presented untenable opinions as the TRUTH, and now you have been exposed.. I don’t blame you. I’d be embarrassed myself if I were in your place.
    ***************************************
    But who can blame you? This is how the Old Believer community functions. The elders pass on what they have heard from THEIR elders when they were young. Questioning the veracity of the elders is discouraged. The younger generation coming up is obliged to accept what their elders say just because the elders have said it. Any youngster who asks too many questions risks excommunication. So the younger generation learns to keep silent and go along with the community consensus.

    You are undoubtedly uncomfortable because you cannot intimidate me or silence me with the threat of excommunication. You can, of course, vilify me til Hell freezes over. I fully expect it. Beyond that, you must either respond to my questions or else ignore me altogether.
    ***************************************
    Because of my love for the Old Believers in Oregon, I felt obliged – before I die – to leave a chronicle of my experiences among them with a view toward reconciliation. And when Father Deacon Andrei put my chronicle on the ROCOR STUDIES website, it precipitated an avalanche of comments and questions, to which I felt a further obligation to respond.
    **********************************************
    You went on to write: “No, thanks. I’m not going on your ‘journey’. I have a test to study and practice for, and I cannot afford to fail. Failing would mean an eternity of major discomfort.”

    I pray that you will pass your test with flying colors. But then I hope you’ll return to this journey with me. We getting closer to our destination. I’d like very much to spare you an eternity of major discomfort of another kind.
    ***********************************************
    In the meantime, I really must comment on your latest allegation, to wit:

    ***********************************************

    To those [Old Believers] who are still in search of the true Apostolic church, you will not find it by reconciling with a Nikonian church that your ancestors were not even, ever, a part of.

    **********************************************

    There’s not a shred of truth here. I would be remiss if I didn’t step up and say so. This allegation is revisionist history of the first magnitude. It is so far from the truth that it casts a shadow over just about anything else you have written thus far. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of today’s Old Ritualists are descendants of Russian Orthodox Christians who refused to accept the liturgical reforms promulgated by the Russian Orthodox Church in the mid-17th Century, when Nikon was Patriarch of Moscow. We know this because their ancestors were Russian Orthodox Christians during the reign of Tsar Ivan Vasiliyevich (the Terrible) when the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church gathered in Moscow at the Council of the One Hundred Chapters (СТОГЛАВ) in 1552.

    There’s so much more to write, but this posting is already long enough. Please believe me when I tell you that I look upon you, not as upon an adversary, but as my brother in Christ.

    Since so much has been made about beards, I feel obliged to say that I am free to wear a beard or not. My bishop will not deny me the Holy Mysteries if I were to trim beard or even to shave it off altogether. No one in the Russian Orthodox Church will ever forbid you to wear a beard all the way down to your knees. It is your choice, rather than a rigid directive.

  39. To “Proud Old Believer” I am sorry; I used your user nick name earlier in the postings. I didn’t know we have to use our own nick names. I just referred to being a Proud Old Believer. Sorry.
    *************************************************************************************
    To Mr. Hudanish you wrote “This is how the Old Believer community functions. The elders pass on what they have heard from THEIR elders when they were young. Questioning the veracity of the elders is discouraged. The younger generation coming up is obliged to accept what their elders say just because the elders have said it. Any youngster who asks too many questions risks excommunication. So the younger generation learns to keep silent and go along with the community consensus.”
    Again you go and say something without any knowledge. Wow, how can you say this? You were never in our religion. Is that what your friend Silverstre Feodorivich Valihov told you? To the people that don’t know Silverstre Feodorivich Valihov he was a “Настаятиль” for many years in Oregon and again in Minnesota. Now he prays all alone at home, in Minnesota, as he was kicked out of his own church, for reasons I don’t think we should discuss here.
    I have mentioned, i have few dozen Holy Books in my library, don’t you think we can read? Or as you’re painting us that we only learn what our elders want us to know? I will have to say you are wrong.
    I was brought up in this religion, and never ever seen that if someone asks too many questions he or she is to be silenced. It is the opposite of what you are saying; this just proves that you lived all these years with our people and don’t know much about us.
    At first you were answering questions politely, now it seems you are getting agitated. As you know this is lent let’s not try to get too excited.
    *************************************************************************************
    To Pavel Fefelov
    Is this you’re new job now, trying to recruit Russian Old Believers?
    *************************************************************************************
    If I offended anyone, I am sorry.

    1. Not really Russian Old Believer, I went to work for Jesus Christ close to 30 years ago. I’m only the messenger, He is the One Who is trying to recruit you.

    2. Russian Old Believer,
      I don’t mind that you hijacked my name for the beard post, you brought up good points and I was okay with being associated with them. :)

  40. John your journey, so u call it is to reconcile the differences between the two groupes and make them one agin? Right, since ur such a believer in nikons parish or flock and ur ok with his changes he made in some rituals and beliefs ask ur self what gave him the athority to do so,it is my understanding u had to b a saint or equivalent . Well in my book if u kill thousands of ur own people for not following u and ur beliefs how can u b a saint . Even Christ himself a God didn’t kill people so they would follow him, mull that one over.

  41. John, you asked “…But who said anything about breaking rules?…”
    Actions speak louder than words. POB (Proud Old Believer) presented tons of references to prove cutting the beard is forbidden. Yet you choose to ignore the very scripture that you claim to accept.

  42. John, you asked “…But who said anything about breaking rules?…”
    Actions speak louder than words. POB (Proud Old Believer) presented tons of references to prove cutting the beard is forbidden. Yet you choose to ignore the very scripture that you claim to accept.

  43. John, you asked “…But who said anything about breaking rules?…”
    Actions speak louder than words. POB (Proud Old Believer) presented tons of references to prove cutting the beard is forbidden. Yet you choose to ignore the very scripture that you claim to accept.
    ***********************************************************
    You say: “…And some of his truth, as well as some of your facts, are frankly neither true nor factual. Some of what you and he/she hold as factual and true is clearly misinformation…”
    It must be nice to debate with your technique… Everyone who does not believe in Nikonian ways you automatically lable as misinformed.
    ****************************************************
    You say: “…I have been an elementary school teacher. And I have also taught in college. I have even been a guest lecturer in two theological institutes. And I am ALWAYS pleased when any of my students ask “Why?” It shows they are paying attention…” Also, In a post by you above you say:”… it clearly states that men shouldn’t shave, but then you failed to explain why…”
    Why should he explain why? The holy books that you read or accept as a references clearly state that you are not supposed to cut your beard. So if someone tells you that you cannot commit adultery or you can not kill, etc., do you ask why? Or do you accept that as a written law?
    **********************************************
    In reference to the question of the holy books that POB quoted, you said “…I accept them all, but I believe I understand them somewhat differently that he/she does. And that’s why I repeated my questions which you find so disturbing…”
    You see, I don’t find your questions disturbing. What I find disturbing is that someone of your education cannot understand something as simple and straightforward as this:
    Стоглав, глава 40, стран. 124 Такоже священная правила возбраняют православным христианом во всем, чтобы не брити брад и усов не постригати. таковая несть православных, но поганых латынская и еретическая предания, греческаго царя Константина Ковалина. и о сем отеческая и апостольская правила вельми запрещают и отрицают, сице глаголет: Аще кто браду бреет и умрет тако, не достоит над ним служити, ни сорокоустия по нем пети, ни просфиры, ни свещи по нем в Церковь принести, с неверными да причтется, от еретик бо се навыкоша.
    ******************************************
    You said: “…Someone else came up with the term “Old Ritualist” long before I was born. In you above article/book you write “…At this point it is worth noting that the very term “Old Believer” is misleading………Therefore it would be more correct to refer to the Russians who rejected Patriarch Nikon’s liturgical reforms as “Old Ritualists,” rather than as Old Believers…”
    That tells me that you are inclined to change the name Old Believers to Old Ritualists.
    Note: Old Believers never accepetd Nikon’s reforms. Therefore, they remain Old Believers. Those who accepted his reforms are Nikonians. Forget about the “ritualist” nonsense.
    **********************************************
    You say that I “…. have added a third allegation, to wit: “Nikon’s changes were…deliberate changes…” unrelated to the printing press, Please tell us where you got this last bit of misinformation…”
    Well, among other more accurate sources, I also got a part of it from your own writing. You wrote “… it would be more correct to refer to the Russians who rejected Patriarch Nikon’s liturgical reforms as “Old Ritualists,” rather than as Old Believers…”
    So you know that Nikon reformed the Russian liturgy, he reformed it because he did not like it the way it was. That means he did it deliberately. I find it mind boggling that anyone could/would do such a thing, under whose authority? I know that you have said before that he had to make an “executive decision”. I still have not heard from you about who gave him the authority to do so.
    ******************************************************
    You said: “…You write that you find my questions disturbing. This is obvious from the tone of your latest posting. Your remind me of my father who was often disturbed when he didn’t have answers to the questions I asked as a boy growing up in his house. I think you are disturbed because you cannot defend your allegations. And you cannot defend them because they are not verifiable, i. e., they have no basis in fact. And now, I suppose, you are embarrassed because you have presented untenable opinions as the TRUTH, and now you have been exposed.. I don’t blame you. I’d be embarrassed myself if I were in your place.

  44. Hmmmmm. For a guy who claims to be looking for facts, your analysis of my emotions is waaaay off. Again, your questions are not as disturbing as the fact that you can’t understand something like the stoglav. For a lecturer of theology, I expect more from you. But I guess that is to be expected from someone who has gone through the higher brainwashing institutions.
    ***************************************
    Then you write: “…But who can blame you? This is how the Old Believer community functions. The elders pass on what they have heard from THEIR elders when they were young. Questioning the veracity of the elders is discouraged. The younger generation coming up is obliged to accept what their elders say just because the elders have said it. Any youngster who asks too many questions risks excommunication. So the younger generation learns to keep silent and go along with the community consensus. You are undoubtedly uncomfortable because you cannot intimidate me or silence me with the threat of excommunication. You can, of course, vilify me til Hell freezes over. I fully expect it. Beyond that, you must either respond to my questions or else ignore me altogether…”
    Woow.Very interesting. Seems like someone is turning a bit sour. Talk about a statement without a shred of truth. What’s also interesting is the bit about intimidation…and vilification. …I wonder if you are intimidated for some reason? Perhaps someone has gotten close to a nerve, mmm? Because I most certainly don’t recall trying to do any of those things to you.
    **********************************************
    So finally you wrap it up with: “…Since so much has been made about beards, I feel obliged to say that I am free to wear a beard or not (sure, ok, but not). My bishop will not deny me (of course he won’t) the Holy Mysteries if I were to trim beard or even to shave it off altogether. No one in the Russian Orthodox Church will ever forbid you to wear a beard all the way down to your knees. It is your choice (sure it is), rather than a rigid directive…”
    *Its heresy. Regardless of how YOU interpret our holy books.
    *You and I are on two very different paths. Don’t bother with this reconciliation business. The last time our ancestors had anything to do with your church was before the aforementioned reforms. Schisms happen when liberal, Nikonian-like actions are made without God’s authority.

  45. Ah! Ak49ian, the unknown, masked representative of the priest-less old-believers who hides behind a pseudonym in fear of reprisal from his own people. I thought the name sounded familiar. I see that you have been quite busy in your community, since last we spoke. Great work on the schism that went rampant among your peers. Was that your impressive internet research that found all the demonic depictions for comparison against the Holy Icons. You should change your nick-name to Iconoclast. (That was sarcasm, in case you don’t understand.)
    Or, perhaps you have no affiliation with priest-less old-believers at all. Perhaps your mission is to create further disparity among people already bleeding from internal struggle with Faith. You could be anyone from any point on Earth; an atheist, a convicted felon perhaps, clean shaven wearing a nose-ring and tattoos? – We don’t know.
    This is the first time, in the history of Christianity, where we discuss theology on a blank screen with phantom, anonymous and cowardly opponents from across the world.
    May God help us all! Even God became man so we all could see and know Him.
    Until you can man-up or woman-up (what ever you are), and step out of the darkness, there is very little point in further discussion. What needed to be said has been said. Further conversations with fathom opponents will only create more hostility.
    I ask for forgiveness for pain I may have caused or mistakes I may have made. With humility and repentance; God’s servant and priest P.F.

  46. Aahh. How refreshing. Looks like have ourselves a comedian priest. :D

    And, no, I have done zero research on any icons, nor have I personally affected any outcomes on schisms. Sorry to disappoint.

    Peace

  47. Wow, a serous push to Uniat the two groups just resantly ,,,??!?!?! Huh, must b a quota the nikonians have to fill. Lol but not going to happed sorry the Obove stated facts where brushed aside like they were nothing. So the bible rules don’t mean nothing to nikonians, and that is y old believers will never go back . And in case u wanted to know there is still holy water , and bread of Christ people have from the old days , so who are u to say old belivers will not go to heaven. Sorry to burst ur bubble !!!

    1. Holy Water was at one point blessed by a bishop or priest. Old Believers have diluted it as many as 350 times. God’s mercy and blessing still resides in the water but only to the true of heart. To those that reject God’s commandments, it is only water. Bread (Body) of Christ was at one point blessed by a bishop or priest. Common man has no authority to even touch it with their hands. If it is given to a baptized Christian for safe keeping, it can only be used by that person because the priest was not readily available to administer it. To administer Holy Communion without confession and absolution from a bishop or priest is a mortal sin. The amount that is usually given for safe keeping is the size of a pea and is usually consumed by the keeper just before he/she passes away. So what are your chances to get Communion? Sorry to burst YOUR bubble !!!

  48. To one Proud Old Believer,

    *******************************************
    Your wrote, “Why do you keep asking ‘why’ when your questions have been answered? Also, why do you ignore some questions asked of you and focus on others? You did not respond to this part of my earlier response….how is it that you can hold to your traditions, yet consider ours unimportant?”
    *******************************************

    Alright, I shall try be more responsive in this post. Please be patient with me! As I wrote at the very outset, I have lived among the Old Believers for 35 years, during which time I learned much from them. I have said it before, and I shall repeat it again now: I shall never be able to repay the Old Believers community in Oregon for the numerous benefits and blessings I have received simply by being among them.
    ********************************************
    Lest you think I am patronizing you now, let me assure you that I am aware of the Old Believer community’s very human faults and shortcomings. I understand that you are not a gathering of saints, although I believe some of the Old Believers I have met in Oregon and elsewhere are indeed righteous in the sight of God.
    ********************************************
    Of course, it is not my place to judge them, one way or another. Be assured that I wish you well, that I seek reconciliation and peace.

    Now, as for your questions, a number of the traditions to which I hold I have actually learned from Old Believers. An early mentor was Gavril Alekseyevich Kuznetsov. He explained a number of your customs to me, e.g., the two-fingered Sign of the Cross, the “double Alleluia” during the Kathisma readings, why men wear beards, why processions around the church go clockwise, i.e., with the sun, – and the way he explained these matters to me made sense.
    *******************************************

    So I certainly do not consider your traditions unimportant. In fact, I have adopted some of your traditions and made them my own. But, frankly, I do disagree with some of your opinions, even as you disagree with mine

    *******************************************
    Each of us in this exchange of views brings certain premises to the table. It is obvious to me, and perhaps to you, as well, that we both use the same words, but as the discussion unfolds, it becomes clear that we understand the concepts behind some of these words very differently.

    *******************************************
    So it happens that when you respond to my postings, I find your comments somehow off the mark. And when I ask you to explain and amplify, I sense your frustration. You believe what you had posted earlier was clear enough, that there’s nothing more you can add to what you have already written.

    *******************************************
    Furthermore, the manner in which you write to me suggests that you view me as your enemy. You seem to think I am attacking you and your community of Old Believers. I feel your hostility, and that saddens me.
    *******************************************
    I could correct your misconceptions and share with you some information about the Church which you appear to lack. But would you accept a gift from someone whom you regard with hostility? Perhaps it is too much to expect that you would even consider reading dispassionately what I have to offer, and then to independently verify the things about which you have doubts.

    ********************************************

    While you are thinking about this, would you mind looking into your Rudder and seeing if your version of the 96th Canon of the 6th Ecumenical Council corresponds with the following?

    ********************************************

    Правило 96
    **************
    Во Христа крещениемъ облекшиеся, дали обетъ подражати во плоти житию Его. Того ради власы на главе, ко вреду зрящихъ, искуственными плетениями располагающихъ и убирающихъ, и таким образомъ неутвержденныя душы прельщающихъ, отечески врачуемъ приличною епитимиею, руководствуя ихъ ани детей, и научая целомудренно жити, да , оставивъ прелесть и суету плоти, къ негиблющей и блаженной жизни умъ непрещениимъ жития, елико можно, къ Богу приближаются, и внутренняго паче, нежели внешняго человека, украшаютъ добродетелями и благими и непорочными нравами: и да не носятъ въ себе никакого останка порочности, произшедшия от сопротивника. Аще же кто вопреки сему правилу поступить: да будетъ отлеченъ.

  49. To anonymous , so ur telling me that people like hermits and peolpe who live alone in mountains in seclusion, go to hell,?! Well ur wrong there is many documented cases by the holy books that it’s not the case , sorry to BURST ur bubble ! There has been many cases like the one where the hermit not seeing any man sence childhood was visited by a paster, and the paster tried to teach him how to pray and then time came the paster had to leave and left on boat and a few hours later the hermit is running on top of water giving chase to the boat and caught up and says to paster , sorry I forgot all ur teachings ,; the paster with amazement siad just pray the way u did and u will go to heaven ;;;;;??!!! So there is always an acaption ,, always ! Old believers would rather take the exception then to take communion that is tarnished by nikon and it is tarnished weather u believe it or not. Sorry to burst ur bubble. Good day!!! By the way the last part is my personal opinion .

  50. John Hudanish, I hope the following will help explain why there can be no reconciliation between the Old Believers and your church.

    Just because ROCOR’s Synod of Bishops rescinded the anathemas imposed on Old Believers as if they had never been, doesn’t mean that we the Old Believers had rescinded the anathemas our forefathers had imposed on the Nikoniane. Those anathemas will remain in place. We are NOT of the same faith, you and I. Old Believers believe in all those ‘trivial details’ that you call minutiae, because ‘Капля освещает, и капля оскверняет’.

    Some of these ‘trivial details’ are not shaving for men, head covering for women, dress code for all, fasting, the sign of the cross, etc. You say we can establish a dress code in our churches and that we would be permitted to worship separately. Problem solved. That is beyond ridiculous!

    Let’s say a family happened to be visiting in California and decided to attend one of the Nikoniane churches. “Look,” the son would say, “these men are shaved, why can’t I shave?” Or the daughter, “If it’s ok for these girls to wear short dresses to church and not cover their hair, why is it not ok for me, aren’t we of the same faith?” And the wife would think, “The women here cut their hair and don’t wear сашмуры…” How do we answer them? Exactly! We are NOT of the same faith!

    We still believe that if we were to make the Sign of the Cross with three fingers or with that new ‘благословящий крест’, even under extreme duress, we would be damned for eternity. Also, history is usually written by the victors, which were obviously the ‘Nikoniane’ back then during the persecutions. The Old Believers did barricade themselves inside their churches, but they did not set them on fire so that they might perish by self-immolation. Those churches full of Old Believers were set on fire by the Nikoniane soldiers. It was the Church that anathematized and suppressed the Old Believers—with the support of Muscovite state.

    We too know of the Old Believer history, as it is written in our books, about Nikon and the reason for the schism. We are not the раскольники that the Nikoniane deem us to be. Old Believers continued liturgical practices that the Russian Orthodox Church maintained before the implementation of Nikon’s reforms. If Nikoniane Church would not have purposefully killed off our priests in order to force us to join them, we would not be having this conversation today. We would not be priestless today, and we would not have to go looking for holy sacraments like the Prohoriane have done.

    We have nothing personal against the Nikoniane, or the Protestants, or the Mormons, etc. We live next to them, we work with them, some of them are our friends, but we do not go to church with them.

    The people of your church may believe what they have been taught as correct, but the beginnings of the Nikoniane was based on fear, not faith.

    With all the terrible persecutions, including both torture and executions that were going on, have you ever considered that maybe people joined the Nikoniane church because they were afraid, and not strong enough in their faith?
    “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

    1. Your words: “We still believe that if we were to make the Sign of the Cross with three fingers or with that new ‘благословящий крест’, even under extreme duress, we would be damned for eternity.”, tells me you’re from the new extremist group that just broke away from the priest-less Old Believers. The new separatists/schismatic.
      You write: “We are not the раскольники that the Nikoniane deem us to be.” You are right; you are the new раскольники that the Old Believers deem you to be. How do YOU plan to rewrite future history – what will be your excuse for the damage you’ve done? What is your plan for reconciliation?

      When you quote Mathew 10, you should read the whole chapter and understand who Jesus was talking to. I don’t see “Humble Old Believer” mentioned anywhere except maybe in “21“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.”.

      Mathew 10:1-31
      Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
      1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
      2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
      5 THESE TWELVE JESUS SENT OUT WITH THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
      9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
      16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
      21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
      24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
      26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
      32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
      34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
      “ ‘a man against his father,
      a daughter against her mother,
      a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
      36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
      37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
      40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

  51. Actually, Anonymous, you should read the book called “Духовная Беседа” before you go making claims about who broke away from who in this unfortunate new schism. This book was written up by the “двух перстники”. In it, you will read and find yourself mistaken about your accusations. If you read with any attention, you will find that they made the first move, in writing, forbidding their churches (that accept two different crosses on their icons) from mixing with the “single crossers” in prayer, weddings, etc. In your research, it is important that you note the date of the release of the book Духовная Беседа by the “double crossers” and the date of the release of the соборное уложение by the “single crossers” in which they responded to the issue. It is no surprise that so many of you are so wrong about Nikon’s intentions/actions (which happened hundreds of years ago) when this new schism isn’t even a decade old and people like you, Anonymous, have already forgotten the facts.

  52. To the Humble Old Believer,

    I thank you most sincerely for your comments.
    ********************************************

    This is a very busy time of year liturgically, and so I was not going to post any more comments until after Pascha, but I do appreciate your candor. And I am moved to answer you in the same gentle spirit in which you recently shared your convictions.
    ********************************************

    You state very clearly that there can never be reconciliation between the Old Believers and the Russian Orthodox Church. Many Old Believers agree with you, but reconciliation is a Christian imperative. Jesus Christ directs it. And since He directs it, I have no choice but to attempt it.
    ********************************************

    Your concerns about reconciliation are reasonable. I do not know who you are, and I do not feel you have anything against me, but I realize you may feel uncomfortable dealing with my efforts at reconciliation, especially after you have stated so clearly that reconciliation is impossible. Nevertheless, you have posed several questions, and I shall attempt to respond to each one separately.
    ********************************************

    Before I begin, however, I want to share with you a current list of autocephalous (self-governing) Orthodox Churches:
    *******************************************
    1. Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
    2. Patriarchate of Alexandria
    3. Patriarchate of Antioch
    4. Patriarchate of Jerusalem
    5. Patriarchate of Moscow
    6. Patriarchate of Serbia
    7. Patriarchate of Romania
    8. Patriarchate of Bulgaria
    9. Patriarchate of Georgia
    10. Church of Cyprus
    11. Church of Greece
    12. Church of Poland
    13. Church of Albania
    14. Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia
    15. Church of Sinai
    16. Church of Finland
    17. Church of Estonia
    18. Church of Japan
    19. Church of the Ukraine
    20. Archdiocese of Okhrid
    ********************************************

    These twenty (20) Orthodox churches serve 225 to 300 million Orthodox Christians. All the hierarchs of these Churches are in the line of Apostolic Succession. All are happy to have their men grow beards, although none of them forbids their men to trim their beards or shave. And only one of them (Moscow) was involved in persecutions of your ancestors. The faithful of all twenty churches recite the Nicean Creed (Символ Веры) in their morning prayers and during Great Compline (Великое Поверчерие) and the Divine Liturgy (Божественная Литургия). You have more in common with them than you think. You antipathy toward the Moscow Patriarchate is understandable, even despite the fact that Bishop Nektary of Seattle visited Abram Antipovich Semerikov in his home and there made a prostration before him to ask forgiveness for the persecutions your ancestors suffered three centuries ago. But if you cannot forgive the Moscow Patriarchate, what would your attitude be toward the other autocephalous Orthodox churches who never did you any harm?
    ******************************************************
    All the faithful in these autocephalous Orthodox churches around the world will be celebrating Christ’s Resurrection in much the same way as your will in your community this coming Sunday. Please remember that as you chant the Paschal tropar.

    **********************************************************

    I shall write more later.

  53. TO A HUMBLE OLD BELIEVER

    I see you are concerned about beards. Christ would have us love God, our neighbor and even our enemies, do good to those who hate us, give generously to those less fortunate than ourselves, minister to the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and shelter to the homeless. He never said anything about beards. So why are beards so important to you? Please help me to understand your point of view.
    *****************************************************
    My bishop never told me to grow a beard. And I do not grow a beard in obedience to any canon (правило). But yet I have had a beard since I moved to Oregon in 1970. An Orthodox bishop baptized me and my family by three immersions in Oregon’s Willamette River during the Dormition fast in 1976. I wear a beard by choice. And I always make the Sign of the Cross with two fingers. And I recite the Nicean Creed (Символ Веры) with the very same understanding that you have. Please tell me in what way is my faith different from yours?
    *******************************************************
    One respondent wrote recently that shaving one’s beard is HERESY! Now a heresy is a belief which is at variance with a dogma (догмат) . But I am not aware of any dogma of the Orthodox Church that directs an Orthodox man to have a beard, or forbids a man to trim his beard or shave it.

    ALL the dogmas of the Orthodox Church are in the Nicean Creed (Символ Веры). And there is nothing in the Nicean Creed about beards. Not one word. The Nicean Creed was written by the bishops assembled at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicean (325 AD) and the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (381 AD). These councils were convened to address the Arian heresy, which denied the Incarnation, and to define the doctrine of the Trinity.
    ***************************************************
    A man who steals, lies, murders or takes God’s name in vain is a sinner, but he is not a heretic. A heretic is someone who denies the Virgin birth, the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Resurrection of Christ or the general resurrection of all mankind.
    ***************************************************
    Having a beard is NOT a dogma. So shaving one’s beard is NOT a heresy. The question is, “Is it a sin to trim one’s beard or to shave it off altogether?” You already know what is written in Leviticus 19:27 (Левит 19:27): “Ye shall not round off the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beards” (Не стрегите головы вашей кругом, и не порти края бороды твоей.)
    But are you aware that the 19th chapter of Leviticus begins with: “And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel and say unto them:” followed by verse after verse of rules? In fact, many chapters in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy begin with these words, followed by a multitude of rules by which to live, work and pray. And if you number all the rules in all the chapters that begin with “And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel and say unto them:” you will find there are 613 of them. These rules concern rituals, fasting, sacrifices, burnt offerings, clothing, facial hair and punishments for sins and transgressions. Collectively, these 613 rules are known as “the Mosaic Law,” after the Prophet Moses who wrote them down.

    The point I am trying to make here is that the Mosaic Law was quite obviously directed at the “Children of Israel,” but not to the children of the British Isles, the children of Siberia, the children of the Carpathian Mountains, the children of Russia, etc.
    **************************************************
    Only the children of Israel are obliged to follow the Mosaic Law. This was made clear in the 10th and 11th chapters of the Acts of the Apostles and in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (Gal 2:11-19). But if you can’t see it, please let me know and I shall explain it to you.
    *************************************************
    I recently opened my Concordance to see what is written in the Bible about beards.

    A concordance is an index of all the words in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. I was searching for the words “beard” and “beards” in the Bible, and consulted The New Strong’s Compact Bible Concordance, published by Thomas Nelson. I found the word “beard” in the following books:
    Leviticus 13:29
    Leviticus 13:30
    Leviticus 14:9
    Leviticus 19:27
    Leviticus 21:5
    1 Samuel 17:35
    1 Samuel 21:13
    2 Samuel 19:24
    Ezra 9:3
    Psalm 133:2
    Isaiah 7:20
    Isaiah 15:2
    Jeremiah 48:37
    Ezekiel 5:1
    ********************************************************
    The word “beards” is to be found in the following books:
    2 Samuel 10:4
    2 Samuel 10:5
    1 Chronicles 19:5
    Jeremiah 41:5

    You will note that “beard” and “beards” are mentioned ONLY in the Old Testament. These words do not appear in the New Testament at all. The significance of this fact is that Jesus Christ Himself never spoke about beards, never insisted that anyone grow a beard and never told anyone NOT to shave. He never gave a sermon about beards, never even mentioned them.
    ********************************************************
    There’s no mention of beards in the Didache (Teaching) of the Twelve Apostles.
    There’s no mention of beards in the 85 canons of the Council of Jerusalem (The Apostolic Canons).
    There’s no mention of beards in the 20 canons of the 1st Ecumenical Council held in Nicea (325 AD).
    There’s no mention of beards in the 7 canons of the 2d Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople (381 AD)
    There’s no mention of beards in the 8 canons of the 3d Ecumenical Council held in Ephesus (431 AD)
    There’s no mention of beards in the 30 canons of the 4th Ecumenical Council held in Chalcedon (451 AD)
    There’s no mention of beards in the deliberations of the 5h Ecumenical Council in held Constantinople (553 AD).
    There’s no mention of beards in the 102 canons of the 6thth Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople (691 AD)
    There’s no mention of beards in the 22 canons of the 7th Ecumenical Council held in Nicea (783 AD)

    There were nine Regional Councils between 453 and 603 AD at Carthage (2), Ancyra, Neocaesaria, Gangra, Antioch, Laodicaea, Sardica and Constantinople, producing a total of 307 canons. Not a single one of these Regional Councils deliberated on the subject of beards in any of the canons they passed.
    *******************************************************************
    It is only when we arrive at the Council of the One Hundred Chapters in Moscow in 1552 AD that the assembled bishops wrote a canon prohibiting men from trimming or shaving their beards. This canon did not, of course, apply to Orthodox men in the Ottoman Empire, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Egypt, Georgia, or anyplace else outside Russia. And the Council itself was repudiated in the following century.
    ******************************************************************
    Nevertheless, you may grow a beard if you like. But you may not judge anyone who shaves or trims his beard.

  54. Hi Mr. Hudanish
    We had “Пасха” last week, and i got to visit a few friends. Talked to Sergey Reutov from Alaska and he said that he phoned Silvester Valikhov, and asked him if he wrote the “ Письмо безпоповцам живушим в США и Канаде” and Mr. Valikhov said he had nothing to do with this letter. I would like you to clarify this on your site, did he write this letter or not? Please clarify, thank you.

      1. Hi again Mr. Hudanish,
        You are asking me to identify myself. Why? First, you will not know me, I only know you because of my father. You were never my teacher and I your student. Second, when I talk to my friends about your site they make fun of me that I am even reading your comments, as some of my friend truly knows you. If my friends knew that I am commenting here, I would never hear the end of it.
        ************************************************************************************
        I asked if it was true if Silvester Valikhov wrote the letter. As he is saying to some people he had nothing to do with the letter, I just wanted you to clarify, if you wrote the letter or did Silvester Valikhov? I know you mentioned that you wrote the English version, just need to know about the Russian. Sorry if I offended you.

        1. To the Russian Old Believer,

          Why have I asked you to identify yourself? It is merely a matter of etiquette, of good manners. Everyone knows who I am. Why are are hiding your identity.
          *****************************************************************
          But then you wrote and explained why. You are afraid! You made it very clear. You wrote:

          ******************************
          “When I talk to my friends about your site they make fun of me…If my friends knew that I am commenting here, I would never hear the end of it.”

          *******************************
          Ah, I understand. My old friend, Silvester Valihov, is currently receiving a lot of criticism from within the community. They call it “peer pressure,” and it is a very effective method in enforcing members to conform to community standards. He is afraid that he’ll be excommunicated. And perhaps you are afraid of ridicule and excommunication, as well. I get it.

          *******************************
          Believe me, I am not unsympathetic. I understand your predicament. You are in bondage. You live in a free country, but you are NOT free. You are compelled to obey the dictates of your community, even though you realize they are misinformed. You obey because you cannot imagine yourself living OUTSIDE your community.
          *******************************
          The interesting thing here is that the letter circulated over Silvester Valihov’s signature is true from beginning to end. Every assertion in that letter is verifiable fact.
          But since these facts appear to contradict some community consensus, the community responds by threatening Valihov with ostracism. He is being persecuted for speaking TRUTH. He has a choice; he must either follow his own conscience and do what he knows is right and true, or else he must bow to threats in order to remain within the community. THIS IS NOT AN EASY CHOICE! Not for him. Not for you. Not for any Old Believer.
          ******************************************************
          Now, as for clarification: There can be no question that Silvester Valihov signed “Письмо безпоповцам живушим в США и Канаде.” But if he insists that he had nothing to do with this letter, I shall not contradict him. Never.
          *******************************************************
          The real question is “How long can you live and worship within a community that suppresses freedom of conscience?” That question is for you to answer within your heart.

          If you wish to liberate yourself from this odious form of oppression, pray daily for God to show you the way.

    1. AS A MATTER OF FACT, IT WAS NOT THE OLD BELIEVERS WHO ‘ELEVATED THEIR CUSTOMS INTO THE RANK OF DOGMAS.’ THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX BISHOPS AT THE COUNCIL OF THE ONE HUNDRED CHAPTERS DID THAT DURING THE REIGN OF TSAR IVAN VASILIEVICH (THE TERRIBLE) IN MOSCOW IN 1552. IT WAS A MISTAKE WHICH THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CORRECTED IN 1974 BY LIFTING THE ANATHEMAS PLACED ON THE OLD RITUAL BY THE COUNCILS OF 1656 AND 1667.

  55. Hi John
    I would like to thank you for opening up our eyes to all of our
    old believer issues… which i totally agree with. GOD has given a short time on this earth.. too short to be debating beards. like really?? who cares?? there is bigger things to worry about. like we are loosing our youth. & not to mention theres a dying world out there. a lot of people i talked to dont understand slavonic in our churches.. i would like to ask why do the old believers condemn english in our churches? whats the big deal? is it a sin? if so please tell me where i can find it in scripture? i have a very big problem going to a church service which i do not understand. & i think a lot of old believers can relate to this as well. i am trying to learn. but i have a hard time understanding the new testament even in english. It can have so many meanings. i can read slavonic great but understand only a handfull of words. forgive me if i have offended anyone. my question is only for the new generation and how fo we bring them closer to god if we ourselves dont fully understand..

    1. Hello all, I was married to an Old Believer for over 10 years, we lived on a berry farm in Woodburn. I am american and was drawn to the Russian religion. After seeing all of the alcoholism, drugs, men and women cheating on their spouses, men beating their wives, etc. I do not understand what all of the talk about the churches is all about. Things need to change ASAP regarding the youth amoung the Old Believer community. They have all learned by watching their parents drink, do drugs, etc. The Old Believers have all of these rules and no one follows them. You will go stand all night in church praying and listening to a language that none of the younger people understand and then everyone goes home and turns on the TV or radio and starts drinking/partying. It is so sad. Every religious holiday is a reason to party…I am sacred to death that my children are going to fall victim with the younger Old Believers. They are dropping like flies, committing suicide, getting in car accidents from driving drunk, over dosing, etc. Is there an answer??? So Sad :-(

  56. To Confused:

    You have asked: “Why do the Old Believers condemn the use of English in churches?”
    ************************************************
    In my opinion, it is a matter of inertia: The Old Believers have always used Slavonic as a language of worship, and so it is easier to go right on doing what they have always done up to the present time.
    ************************************************
    It is also a matter of authority: Who among the Old Believers has the authority to introduce English into the worship services of the church?
    ************************************************
    It is also a matter of courage: Who among the Old Believers has the courage to risk the venom and vitriol of criticism he will surely get from his brothers and sisters if he even so much as suggests substituting English for Slavonic in the worship services of the Church?
    ************************************************
    It is also a matter of where to find appropriate English translations for all the liturgical services of the Church: Of course most – if not all – the worship services of the Church have been translated into English, and there are literally hundreds of parishes in the United States and Canada wherein English is exclusively the liturgical language. These parishes are to be found in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America, the Antiochian Orthodox Church, and the Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Church. But would the elders of the Old Believer communities accept the liturgical texts in English used by these Orthodox jurisdictions?
    ***********************************************
    Probably not. They would reject them because of xenophobia (hatred or fear of strangers). And it is this fear that keeps them from making the necessary changes to adapt to living in America and Canada. The sad truth is that your youth will seek a closer understanding of God elsewhere, and the essential aspects of Christ’s teachings will be lost among your successors.
    May God preserve you from this fate! Amen!
    ************************************************
    You have asked if it is a sin to worship God in English. The answer is a clear, unequivocal “NO!”
    IT IS NOT A SIN TO WORSHIP IN ENGLISH or Spanish or French or German or Italian or Greek or Serbo-Croatian or Arabic or Coptic or Rumanian or Armenian or Georgian or in any other language spoken under Heaven. How could it be a sin? Is salvation only for the Russians?

    Now if you wish to obtain copies in ENGLISH of the Chasoslov. Veliky Sbornik, Apostle, Evangelia, Psalter, Ustav (Book of Needs), Zakon Bozhiy, Kormchaya, Lives of the Saints and other liturgical and instructive books, you may contact St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary of the Orthodox Church in America located in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. Here is their website: http://www.stots.edu/bookstore.htm

    They have a catalog of all their books. You may order them on line.

    MAY GOD GUIDE YOU IN YOUR SEARCH FOR TRUTH!

  57. John,
    The Russian state was wrong in persecuting Old Ritualists, but did Russian Orthodox Church compare rituals to doctrine? I think on contrary it was emphasized that reforms were permissible because they did not affect core Christian teachings.

    1. Editor:

      Unfortunately, it WAS the Russian Orthodox Church that elevated Russian practices to the level of dogma. They did it at the Council of the One Hundred Chapters (Stoglav) which convened in Moscow in 1551 AD.
      *******************************************************************
      And here’s how it came about:
      *******************************************************************
      As you already know, Russia received Christianity from the Byzantine Greeks in the 10th Century.
      *******************************************************************
      In 988 AD, when Kievan Rus’ was baptized in the Dnieper by bishops from Constantinople (Tsargrad), the Russian Orthodox Church was a daughter church of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Greek patriarchs on the Bosporus consecrated bishops for the Russians in Constantinople and sent them to Russia. These Greek bishops in Russia ordained worthy Russian men to the priesthood. In time, there were native Russians who were consecrated to serve as bishops in Russia. But whenever the chief Russian hierarch died, his successor always had to travel to Constantinople to receive a patriarchal blessing before he could ascend the Patriarchal Throne in Moscow.
      *************************************************
      But late in the 11th Century the Byzantine Empire began to decline. The Seljuk Turks were on the march. They conquered the Holy Land and all of Asia Minor, and then crossed the Bosporus into Europe and took over all of Greece and Thrace. The once powerful Byzantine Empire was reduced to the royal city of Constantinople. And Constantinople became a shrinking island in a surging Muslim sea.
      *************************************************
      By the beginning of the 15th Century, Constantinople had to seek help from western Europe. The Pope of Rome agreed to raise another crusade to defeat the Turks and relieve Constantinople, but his price was very high. Military aid would come from western Europe, but only if the Patriarch of Constantinople would capitulate to Rome and end the Great Eastern Schism on Rome’s terms. By 1438, the Byzantine Emperor, John VIII Palaiologos, desperate for help from the Pope, sent a delegation of Greek Orthodox hierarchs to Florence, Italy, to participate in the infamous Council of Florence. He instructed these hierarchs to agree to anything that Pope demanded of them.
      *************************************************
      The Pope demanded that the Orthodox bishops from Byzantium acknowledge him as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the head of the Church of Jesus Christ, with authority over all the patriarchs.
      **************************************************
      The Greek bishops did as Emperor John VIII told them; they went off to Florence, agreed to the Pope’s terms and signed the infamous Union of Florence, thereby ending the Schism. In a word, they entered into Rome’s errors and apostatized. The year was 1439 AD.
      **************************************************
      The Archbishop of Moscow at that time was a Greek named Isidore. He left Florence and returned to Moscow with a Latin cross and a prayer for the Pope. But Veliky Kniaz Vasily II wouldn’t accept any of it. He arrested Archbishop Isidore and confined him to the Chudov Monastery. Then he called the Russian bishops together to determine the best course of action.

      Vasily II (the Blind) and the Russian hierarchs understood that the Greek bishops in Florence had apostatized, so they could not recognize the authority of Archbishop Isidore or the Patriarch of Constantinople. But as long as Isidore lived, they couldn’t replace him. They decided to let him escape. Isidore immediately ran off to Rome where the Pope embraced him and made him a cardinal in the Catholic Church.
      *********************************************
      So the Russian hierarchs elected a new Archbishop of Moscow, but because the Greeks had fallen into apostasy, they decided this time NOT to send him to Constantinople for a Patriarchal blessing because they In this fashion the Russian Orthodox Church became de facto an autocephalus Church.
      **********************************************
      On 6 April 1453 AD the Ottoman Turks – led by Sultan Mehmet II – attacked Constantinople. The Greeks fought bravely, but they were badly outnumbered. The Turks found a way into the city on 29 May, and the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI, died in a vain attempt to drive them out.

      Mehmet entered Constantinople the following day. He was concerned that the Pope in Rome would call for a crusade to take back what he had won with so great an effort. So he resolved to win the loyalty of his Greek subjects by promising to respect and protect the Greek Orthodox Church in Constantinople and throughout the Ottoman Empire.
      **************************************************************
      Mehmet therefore sought the most anti-Western cleric he could find as a figure of unity for the Greeks under Turkish rule – and Gennadius as the leading anti-Union figure was a natural choice. On 1 June 1453, just three days after the fall of the city, the new Patriarch’s procession passed through the streets where Mehmed received Gennadius graciously and himself invested him with the signs of his office – the crosier (dikanikion) and mantle. This ceremonial investiture would be repeated by all Sultans and Patriarchs thereafter.
      **********************************************************
      Patriarch Gennadius immediately repudiated the Union of Florence. And – as Mehmet had expected – the Pope did not call for a crusade to liberate Constantinople from the Turkish yoke.
      **********************************************************
      When news of the Fall of Constantinople reached Moscow, the Russians were convinced this disaster was God’s punishment on the Greeks for their apostasy at the Council of Florence. But when the Russians learned that Patriarch Gennadius had rejected the Union of Florence, they were undecided whether or not to trust the Greeks.
      **********************************************************

      Many Russians thought it best to keep their distance from the Greeks, as if to emphasize that they had no part in the Byzantine Empire’s capitulation to Rome at Florence in 1439. And so it was that in 1551 AD, Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) summoned a synod of the Russian Church to discuss the ritual practices that had grown up in Russia which did not conform with those of the Greek Church. The decrees issued by the Synod, known as the Stoglav, rule that they were all correct. This unilateral decision shocked many of the Orthodox. The Stoglav dogmatized the native Muscovite rituals and anathematized those accepted in Greece and other Orthodox countries. As a result the Stoglav was never accepted by the Russian monks residing on Mount Athos.
      ***********************************************************
      In the mid-17th century, the Old Believers championed the Stoglav in order to undermine Patriarch Nikon’s authority and his ecclesiastical reforms. The church council of 1667 condemned The Stoglav and its practices as heretical and banned the book from usage for 200 years. This contributed to a great schism of the Russian Orthodox Church which has lasted more than three and half centuries.
      **************************************************************
      The Russian Orthodox bishops at the Council of the One Hundred Chapters acted as if they were the ONLY Orthodox Christians left on the planet. – which was certainly NOT the case. There were thousands of Orthodox Christians in southern and eastern Europe, including my own ancestors, who were living outside Russia and therefore NOT subject to the decisions of the Russian hierarchs in Muscovy. The Greeks, Serbs, Montenegrans, Romanians, Bulgarians and Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Christians had their own bishops and therefore were not bound by the any of the chapters of the Stoglav.
      ***************************************************************
      The Stoglav anathematized the three-fingered Sign of the Cross.(Chapter 21)

      **************************************************************

      The Stoglav anathematized trimming or shaving one’s beard. (Chapter 40)

      **************************************************************
      The Stoglav anathematized the triple alleluia at the end of each stasis when the kathesmas are read at vepsers and matins. (Chapter 42)

      **************************************************************
      It’s a sad history, but what I have written is factual.

  58. You mr. hudanovitch ( notice small case) if u have any understanding u will now why they are small case. Nice mouth pice for (rocor) all u proved is (rocor) is biased against true Russian Othodox Old Believers we are right they are wrong. It was written buy Apostles. Man seeks religion then he wants to change it to fit his desires. Religion/faith didn’t look for him he sought for it. We common man have likes & dislikes. We THE TRUE OLD BELIEVERS. If ur In ur faith ur religion & u go looking for something better u already lost ur angel ur no longer faithfully that’s what happenend with the. Who we call them prohorani. Our time will come for accepting the rights when the 3 saints come from heaven until then we would be accepting -o blood because it fits all maybe I’m wrong on type of blood but u get the pic. We have to wait fro true. Us u seem to not want to post (silvesters ) real letter tells us ur bidding something’s

    1. Before you ramble yourself further into your dark corner – listen to this stih and relax:

  59. Dear Confused (and Mr. Hudanish)

    The Church Slavonic language is the Sacred language of the services of the the Old Believer Church. It is not only the heritage of our Church, but also our cultural heritage, which must be protected and saved. Church Slavonic is the language of prayer, of conversation with God, while literary language is quite often aimed in a different direction, away from God.

    It does not seem right to use the same words to converse on the street and also use them to commune with God and the heavenly world. It ought to be an entirely special language, which is our Church Slavonic, created by the saintly brothers Cyril and Methodius with the aid of the Holy Spirit. It was a gift to our people from the Lord Himself.

    The Slavonic language is a living link between modern Old Believers and our religious past. We associate the Church Slavonic language with sanctity. How could anyone change sanctity? In this melodious language our forefathers and our saints prayed to God and the Virgin Mary. This language connects the living and the deceased members of our Church in one prayer to the Lord. The Church Slavonic language, with its resonance and beauty is much better suited for communion with God than an everyday language. It beneficently influences the souls of those who pray in it.

    It is necessary to remember that our church services are meant to turn our souls and minds to God, to a higher spiritual realm, which cannot be compared to everyday life. Therefore the language of worship cannot be in regular conversational speech, it must be elevated above that. The Church Slavonic language is beautiful, rich and expressive. Church Slavonic greatly surpasses modern languages as a vehicle for expressing the depth and beauty of our Christian faith.

    Translating our prayers to English will be like turning them into water, they may quench the thirst, but will leave the heart cold. The ancient Slavonic language is like wine, which gladdens the heart. People are attacking the Slavonic language for being old, decrepit and unintelligible. Well, Church Slavonic may be old, indeed about a thousand years old, but it is not weak or decrepit. Rather, it is strong and mighty, it was a path to enlightenment for our ancient people, and it is still that for us contemporary people. But it cannot be learned right away. An infant in a cradle hears his mother’s song and only over time begins to understand the words. Similarly, our Church is the mother singing the song and slowly we begin to understand by repetition.

    Any translator would admit that much true meaning of an original is inevitably lost in a translation, and the more you simplify, the more you lose. We know that the Church Slavonic texts are the best existing translation of the ancient Greek texts, because they were translated with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

    Translation of the Holy text is a very responsible work. Few if any in these modern times are fully qualified. The ancient translators of the Septuagint Bible come to mind. Tradition has it that St. Simeon the God Receiver was one of these translators. The saint was translating a book of the Prophet Isaiah, and read the words: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son”. He thought that “virgin” was inaccurate, and he wanted to correct the text to read “woman.” At that moment an angel appeared to him and held back his hand saying, “You shall see these words fulfilled. You shall not die until you behold Christ the Lord born of a pure and spotless Virgin.” According to this tradition, St. Simeon died at age 360, after receiving the Lord, born of a Virgin, in his hands. This is a lesson to translators, that not all revealed truth is logical and understandable at first glance, and the translation process of sacred Christian text takes place not without unseen, divine supervision.

    The obvious objection to translation as a means of raising the level of knowledge is that knowledge levels can and should be raised in other ways: classes in Church Slavonic for those interested, sermons that elaborate upon and explain the texts of both the scripture and the services, making dictionaries available. Broader education is needed, and people should make use of it once it has been made available.

    You can learn Church Slavonic words. Many complain that there simply is no time for this educational process, and it is not so easy to do. But many spend much time in front of the TV or the computer, or on their cell phones. Of course, one has to work hard to get anything good in life. Where there is a will, there is a way. Take the matter into your own hands and find someone who can teach you the basics. Beyond that, all I can say from my own experience is that the more you study Slavonic, the more wisdom God gives you to comprehend it and to love it with your whole soul. It is truly a majestic language, so full of Life and Power.

    This leads to the next and final point concerning translations of the Church Slavonic texts. With all the serious issues and problems of today, is this work really necessary? Just look at what is going on around us in this day and age, how many factors of modern life prevent people from going to Church and participating in its life that have nothing to do with Slavonic. To those who consider that the most important thing is that the services be understandable: A Church service is not a lecture directed at us, but rather us directing ourselves to God, something we learn how to do over many years. Those who demand a translation not only do not understand the complexity of the task, but also do not understand the services in a traditional way. They look at them as lectures that we have to comprehend immediately, or we won’t understand what happens next, and we’ll be hopelessly left behind. Translations will not bring Christianity closer to the people. It is up to us to bring ourselves closer to God. We need to start with the best, most elevated and refined translations from Greek, which is the Church Slavonic, and strive to understand them—not to simplify them.

    It is not a sin to pray in languages other than Slavonic, but it is a sin to pray in poorly translated versions of our prayers. Translation without divine supervision leads to distortion of holy texts, and distortion leads to heresy. There may be a myriad of scriptures translated to English, but were they done so with the aid of the Holy Spirit?

    The only thing I would do with these translations is maybe use them to help me understand Slavonic better. But I certainly wouldn’t use them when praying my morning and evening nachal. In fact I have looked online for a translation of the Creed for someone and there were several versions. I had to cut and paste to get a version that I thought matched ours. But I can’t say that I was guided by the Holy Spirit. The Creed (Верую во Единаго) sounds so much more poetic and more powerful in the Slavonic language, as do all the prayers!

    Please take the time to learn Slavonic, it is a Sacred Language. Start slow and learn a prayer at a time. God will help you.

  60. Sophia,

    Your commentary is beautiful. And I agree with most of it. I am an American, born in New Jersey, and I spoke just English until I was 18 when I began studying Russian in college. Originally an Eastern-Rite Catholic, I converted to Orthodoxy in my mid-thirties, and began learning Slavonic. Slavonic was a language created for worshiping God, and I prefer to use it in Church – but with certain reservations.

    ****************************************************************

    You wrote: “Any translator would admit that much true meaning of an original is inevitably lost in a translation, and the more you simplify, the more you lose.”

    *****************************************************************
    I do not agree with this statement. As one who is familiar with English, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese, I believe that any thought expressed in Russian or Slavonic can be translated accurately into any other language and expressed without losing its true meaning. The assertion that one language is more beautiful, poetic or powerful than any other is subjective. The assertion that any given language is more accurate in expressing a concept than any other language is patently false.

    *****************************************************************

    You also wrote: “A Church service is not a lecture directed at us, but rather us directing ourselves to God, something we learn how to do over many years. Those who demand a translation not only do not understand the complexity of the task, but also do not understand the services in a traditional way. They look at them as lectures that we have to comprehend immediately, or we won’t understand what happens next, and we’ll be hopelessly left behind.”

    ****************************************************************

    I am afraid I disagree with this statement, too. The services of the Orthodox Church are didactic. They teach theology. This is true of the Epistles and Gospels, but it is also true of the Prokemena, Troparia and Kondakia, the Psalms, the Sticheri on “Lord, I Call Upon Thee…,”and the Aposticha in Vespers, the Sedalia, Irmosy and the Troparia following each Irmos in the Canon of Matins.

    One must have a very good command of Slavonic to understand, for example, the Tropar and Kondak written specifically for St. Aleksandr Nevsky and chanted (or sung) at the services on his feast day. And then there are Sticheri in his honor for “Lord, I Call Upon Thee…” and the Aposticha, and still more Sticheri in the Canon at Matins. And St. Aleksandr is just one of
    literally thousands of saints, with corresponding thousands of Troparia, Kondakia, Sticheri, Sedalia and Irmosi. The concepts they convey are too valuable to be missed because no one bothered to translate them into the several languages the faithful bring with them to church.

    **************************************************************
    Or would you compel non-Russian converts to Orthodoxy to learn Russian and/or Slavonic so they can participate in the Liturgical services?

    **************************************************************

    This would, in my opinion, amount to a stumbling block that keeps the faithful from approaching God.

    And by the way, have you not read some of the commentary submitted by young Old Believers?

    **********************************************************

    They want to keep their Faith and Traditions, but so many of them know neither Slavonic nor Russian. They go to church and stand there, listening without comprehension. They are suffering, dying to receive God’s word. But they are not getting it in a language they can understand…

    If all you can say to them is, “Go learn Slavonic,” they may go off someplace else where they can hear the Gospel in a language they know from childhood. Let’s hope they don’t go to the Baptists, Adventists or Pentecostals.

    I wholeheartedly agree that Russian culture is rich and beautiful. But culturally I am an American. And so are my children and grandchildren. And so, by the way, are the aforementioned Old Believer youth.

    **********************************************************

    You go on to write, “Translations will not bring Christianity closer to the people. It is up to us to bring ourselves closer to God. We need to start with the best, most elevated and refined translations from Greek, which is the Church Slavonic.”

    This is perhaps the most amazing assertion of all. How can anyone even begin to comprehend God if he cannot understand what the Church teaches about Him? Of course translations bring people to Christ…

    **********************************************************
    Think back to the lives of Saints Kiril and Mefody, brothers from Thesalonika. In 860 AD Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia wrote a letter to Byzantine Emperor Michael III, lamenting that missionaries from Pasau and Salzburg were teaching the Gospel to his subjects, compelling them to pray in Latin. He pleaded with Michael to send him missionaries to teach his Moravians about God and to worship in their own language.
    *************************************************
    Emperor Michael showed the letter to is good friend, Photios, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Photios soon dispatched Kiril and Mefody to Great Moravia to meet with Prince Rastislav.

    ***************************************************
    It never occurred to Kiril and Mefody to tell Prince Rastislav that he and his Moravians must learn Greek instead of Latin. They quickly set about devising an alphabet for the Moravians and translating the liturgical books into Slavonic. They set a precedent worth following. And the Church has been following it ever since when it goes forth to preach to all nations.

    ******************************************************
    I ask you to reflect on Chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles:

    ******************************************************
    “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
    And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled
    all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as
    of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began
    to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at
    Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised
    abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard
    them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to
    another, ‘Behold, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how then do we each hear
    them speaking in our own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians, Medes, Elamites and
    the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, about Cyrene,
    and strangers from Rome, both Jews and proselytes. Cretans and Arabians – we hear them
    speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”

    Here we see the Holy Spirit giving the Apostles the ability to speak in languages they had never studied to bring the Word of God to all men everywhere. How can it be wrong to pray in other languages?

    *****************************************************
    It is certain the Old Believers – especially future generations – need the Gospel preached to them in a language they can understand, whatever that may be. And they need to be able to pray to God in that same language. Deny them this and your communities will died out gradually. Alas, it is happening even as I write this.

  61. Sophia, after reading your commentary, I am humbled by your ability to answer that question in such a simple and beautiful manner. I believe it would be hard to say it any better.

    Yet, it appears to have still raised more questions to some. To those, I would like to simplify it even more (I understand this may sound silly to the reader, but I believe that it’s a close enough example):

    Imagine a fellow has a vehicle, made by Ford. Now, this fellow loves how it looks, but does not like the engine and interior or the way it sounds. So, he goes and modifies it by changing out the interior and installs an engine made by Chevy. Now this fellow is happy with his newly modified vehicle, but what do you call it? It’s neither a Ford nor a Chevy. Of course, the fellow is happy, but a Ford enthusiast wouldn’t want it. Neither would a Chevy guy.

    The point I’m trying to make here is, if one wants to translate everything from the Old Church into a different language, that’s fine, if it makes him/her happy. But those who change things around without the aid of the Holy Spirit, should be aware that it will no longer be the original. And anyone joining them should also know that they are joining a different church. A modified church. To fit their needs.

    Also, after the modifications, don’t go calling it what it no longer is.

  62. St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

    Everybody must preserve what was defined by common ecumenical decisions, but a particular opinion of a church father or a definition issued by a local council can be followed by some and ignored by others. Thus, some people customarily shave their beards; others reject this practice by local conciliar decrees. Thus, as far as we are concerned, we consider it reprehensible to fast on Saturdays, except once a year (on Holy Saturday), while others fast on other Saturdays as well. Thus, tradition avoids disputes by making practice prevail over the rule.

    In Rome, there are no priests legitimately married, while our tradition permits men, once married, to be elevated to the priesthood. When the faith remains inviolate, common and catholic decisions are also safe; a sensible man respects the practices and laws of others; he considers it neither wrong to observe them nor illegal to violate them. (To Pope Nicholas I of Rome Ep. 2, PG 102, cols. 604-605D)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Paisios Epistle to Patriarch Nikon of Moscow May 15, 1655

    You complain strongly regarding disagreements in certain practices which exist in local churches, and you wonder whether these various practices damage our faith. We praise this notion, for whoever is afraid of falling into minor sins protects himself from also falling into large sins. But we correct this thought, for, with regard to heretics, we do in fact have a commandment from the Apostle to avoid them as perverted after the first and second admonitions (Tit. 3:11), just as schismatics who, although they agree with the Orthodox in the most important dogmas, still have certain peculiar beliefs foreign to those accepted by the entire Church. But if it happens that a certain church differs from another in certain practices which are not important and essential to faith, or which have nothing to do with the chief articles of faith, but only in insignificant practices, such as for example the time celebrating the liturgy, or which fingers a priest uses to give the blessing, and the like, then this should not cause any division, as long as one and the same faith is preserved. This is because our church did not receive the entire present typikon from the beginning, but little by little. (Paul Meyendorff: Russia, Ritual and Reform pg. 56)

  63. Hi

    First of all can I say, YOLO!! Therefore can we all agree that we must keep GOD in our hearts at all times!!!! This life is meant to be lived praising GOD! For GOD loved us so much that He sent His only Son to save us. I know for one I don’t deserve Gods mercy, but I know to repent of my sins.

    If reading in English gives me understanding of the power and love of God, then forgive me for I have sinned. But I believe that God will outweigh the bigger sins amongst the smaller ones. Please don’t be quick to judge me as I study Slavonic and know my nachal. Unfortunately, that is all I know. I know that God is letting me understand the meaning of Slavonic as I study. I do know that my nachal means nothing without the love of God in my heart. To pray with God in your heart means to pray with your eyes, ears, mouth, heart, body, and with your fingers making the sign of the cross without impure thoughts. All the while keeping GODs powerful love. You are totally in gaged. Nothing else matters at that point but the praise that you are offering GOD.

    The three greatest virtues are Faith, Hope and Love. With the greatest of all, Love. For if we have love in our hearts, GOD will guide us to the TRUE salvation. I have faith in this. And we shall be able to uphold traditions and defeat sin.

    YOLO so we should all love GOD, Jesus with everything and anyway possible. This life is our one chance to show GOD. What have you got to lose in believing full heartily in Jesus? Salvation of your soul from eternal torment….

    Please forgive me should anyone feel hate at my opinions. It’s just how I feel. Please stop for a moment and let us remember why Jesus came down to earth. He came to save the wicked, not the righteous. Jesus loves everyone, and so should we.

    Thank you John! And if anyone is reading this, please put in a prayer. Please ask GOD to have HIS will done upon our church.

    Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages, Amen.
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

  64. To Sophia.
    Thank you for your kind words… Thats the kind of stuff we never ever explain in church, & we really really need to start doing those kind of sermons.. something.. anything!!
    I feel I am fluent in the slavonic language .I feel I make the initiative to learn! and feel i am trying very hard. Its a lot of work! & not everyone is up for the task either. I can lead a church service start to finish no problem.. I understand the ustav well. But when it comes to the gospel or poychenia for some reason i have a very hard time.. i think i understand it ,but when i read it in english.. im waayy off, & in the meantime i can see that the youth are joking around, some are sleeping, most just go outside and talk, when i ask them why? the same answer as always is they dont understand. Some say its the parents resposibility, but not everyone has parents that know slavic themselves much less teaching there children. As one person said to me… they might as well put up chinese cuz thats all i see! And i 100% agree with john about who of us dares to bring this up with the elders!! idk but i can see the issue get tossed out in a hurry. I agree with a lot of things you have said, but as john also said.. the youth will just find gods word elsewhere.. and you know what? im aready seeing it more and more. & when they do they’re excomunicated! All i know is if we dont do something soon, like at least have slavic service and something in english just for people to follow along with, We will loose what we have!! I keep asking myself, what if every other christian church did exactly what we did? I mean really think about it? I think christianity whould be extinct within 100 years! At least thats what i feel. I ask for everyones forgivness.. And remember.. that when its just you talking to god…. there is no religion.. its just you and him.

    Thank you

  65. To John

    I just want to say thank you for what you are doing here. You are clarifying what i have felt for a long time now. Your comments are making an impact. Almost everyone i ask if they read this article yet said yes.. People are listening! And the majority that i ask agree with your explanations. We need to wake up!! religion shouldt be this complicated! And im sure most would agree that we need some kind of church revival. Then again maybe its just me.. Like Alex S said in the first few comments… Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be sons of god.

    Keep up the good work John.

    Thank you

    1. To Confused
      I am confused about some of your statements. You referred to ” i have a very big problem going to a church service which i do not understand” and yet you say,”I feel I am fluent in the Slavonic language”and “I can lead a church service start to finish no problem.. I understand the ustav well” Which is it do you understand it well or you have a big problem going to church which you don’t understand?
      Very confusing.

  66. To confused
    *****************************************************************
    Thank you for your kind words.
    *****************************************************************
    You do not appear to be confused to me. You are obviously a thoughtful person on a journey. May God guide you along the way!
    *****************************************************************
    Seven weeks ago AK49ian asserted that he is opposed to change. He’ll stubbornly refuses to use English in the liturgical services of the Church to make them more accessible to the younger generations who don’t know Slavonic. He rejects the idea of worshiping in any language but Slavonic, even as fewer and fewer of the faithful understand it. And in support of his inflexible position, he offers the following analogy:
    *******************************************************************
    “Imagine a fellow has a vehicle, made by Ford. Now, this fellow loves how it looks, but does not like the engine and interior or the way it sounds. So, he goes and modifies it by changing out the interior and installs an engine made by Chevy. Now this fellow is happy with his newly modified vehicle, but what do you call it? It’s neither a Ford nor a Chevy. Of course, the fellow is happy, but a Ford enthusiast wouldn’t want it. Neither would a Chevy guy.”
    ********************************************************************
    This is an interesting analogy. People buy cars to go places, e.g., to work, to shop, to visit cousin Vasily in Gervais when his son takes a bride, to go to church. And just as a Chevy will get you to church as well as a Ford, Plymouth, Volkswagen, Toyota or GMC, you can worship God in any language once you get there. In insisting on using Slavonic exclusively to worship God, AK49ian is focusing on the vehicle, rather than on the destination. He needs to get his priorities straight.
    ********************************************************************
    Words are no more than the clothing of thought. And since God knows our thoughts, one may pray to Him silently in any language. But when we gather in our churches with our brothers and sisters in Christ to worship together, we chant or sing psalms and hymns. Obviously we cannot worship together without a common language. And each community must decide what that language should be.
    ********************************************************************
    Slavonic may be mellifluous, beautiful, expressive and traditional, but if a majority of the congregation doesn’t know Slavonic, then they cannot worship with the minority. Preserving Slavonic serves no purpose. If Slavonic is used in worship to the extent that a majority of worships cannot participate, it becomes detrimental. The faithful really need to be active participants in worship, not mere spectators.
    *********************************************************************************
    The designated language in any gathering of worshipers must be inclusive, it should give the greatest number of worshipers the ability to actively participate in offering a collective sacrifice of praise. That designated language could be English or Spanish or Greek or Hungarian or Portuguese or Tagalog or Norwegian or Italian… It could even be a mix of languages. God, after all, understands them all.
    **********************************************************************************
    AK49ian may soon find he is driving a car with no passengers…

  67. John,
    Thank you for referring me to Stoglav. I checked Chapter 31 (ЛА) on the sign of the cross, and found exactly what you meant. Yes. This proves your point that Stoglavyi Sobor assigned to ritual customs doctrinal meaning. However in the Orthodox Church councils are accepted as far as they subscribe to universally hold believes. And it is problematic to state that the sign of the cross has the same standing as a doctrine about Holy Trinity. This may explains a perplexed passage about Holy Trinity in Protopot Abbakum’s letter to the fathers of Solovki monastery.

    1. To editor:

      According to Pavel Milyukov, there was a very strong cultural tendency among the early Russians to try to control natural phenomena thru rituals. There was a belief that if you performed some rituals perfectly, the ritual was powerful enough in itself to compel the deity to give you rain when you needed rain, make your hens lay eggs, make your cows give milk, keep the creek from rising too far and keep the Polovtsi and Pechenegi from raiding your home, and so on….

      There is a story about an enterprising woman in 19th-century Russia who was about to open a brothel in some city. She went to church and lit a candle before the icon of some saint to petition his blessing on her enterprise. Lighting the candle and placing it before the icon of a particular saint was a ritual she supposed would compel him to ensure her brothel would be successful. You can see the disconnect between morality and enterprise here. Whether or not the story is true, the point it makes is valid.

      The bishops assembled at the Stoglavi Sobor in 1551 were at pains to distance the Russian Orthodox Church from the Byzantine Greeks who had apostatized at Florence in 1439. And they erroneously ascribed too much significance to the minutiae of ritual. But given their cultural proclivity toward the efficacy of ritual, it is understandable why they assigned doctrinal significance to their rituals.

      Even now – in the responses to “With the Old Believers in Oregon,” even articulate Old Believers in the 21st Century are still confusing ritual with doctrine. I first came across the Old Believers in Oregon in 1970, so I have been personally aware of this cultural trait for over four decades.

  68. To Editor:

    The Stoglav’s error in assigning doctrinal significance to Russian rituals was unprecedented in the history of the Church. As you can see, that 464 year-old error casts a shadow even into the present day.

  69. To russian old believer

    You are right, i see now how i made it confusing. i guess i dont know how else to say it. i read slavic everyday, i read it quite a bit i feel like. maybe fluent was the wrong word to use..but in church i understand the repetative parts well or well enough. but most of the psaltir is hard for me to understand and the gospel and some of the poychenia we put up during the kanon. or even some of the kanons are hard to understand. what i should have said was i understand the repetative parts but dont understand some of the other parts that we do. i was ystavshic for a few years so i understand that well or well enough. but as you know every service has different kanons & gospel & poychenia.. its just frustrating for me is all. i cant imagine whats its like for the people that dont participate or dont know slavic at all.

    Apologies

  70. To russian old beleiver

    I recomend you get the orthodox study bible.. it gives an expanation for every verse.. really interesting stuff.

  71. John, you missed the point I was making, again. It’s your call on what church you want to be a part of. You can go and find something that “fits” you better. But once you change things up, it is no longer the same church. If that church gets you to the intended destination, great. But remember, after reformation, it is no longer the same.

  72. To AK49ian

    You are mistaken. I understand the point you were trying to make. I just happen to disagree with it.
    You believe that worshiping God in a language other than Slavonic involves a change so fundamental that the result would be a different church. This just isn’t so! There are 20 autocephalous Orthodox Churches on this earth. Together they serve more than 230 million Orthodox Christians in nearly every country in the world. They all recite the Nicean Creed, all believe in the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit and Christ’s Second Coming. In other words, they all have the SAME DOCTRINES. Yes, they use a variety of liturgical languages in their worship services, but the order and structure of the SERVICES ARE ESSENTIALLY THE SAME. Any Old Believer could enter any Orthodox parish during a service anywhere in the world and know immediately what services was being celebrated, whether they were worshiping in Spanish, Italian, German, English or Slavonic. DESPITE THEIR DIFFERENCES IN LANGUAGE, THEY ARE ALL PART OF THE SAME CHURCH.
    You prefer to hide your identity behind a pseudonym, So we don’t know who you are. But what you have written tells us something about your character and your knowledge of Church history.
    **********************************************
    Back on March 19th you wrote: “…By making those choices on his own, [Nikon] has also destroyed parts the foundation of the core beliefs of the true Apostolic church…In my opinion, the likes of Nikon were religious progressives in their time. To claim that the changes he/they were somehow small or unimportant doesn’t change the fact that they were changes, nonetheless. Unfortunately, any changes result in getting farther away from the original truth.”
    **********************************************
    YOU ABHOR CHANGE, EVEN WHEN CHANGE IS NECESSARY. That’s really unfortunate. You needn’t be afraid of changes when circumstances require them. The ability to adapt is what enables mankind to survive.
    **********************************************
    The United States is a nation of immigrants and the descendents of immigrants. And when immigrants arrive in this country, they are assimilated and woven into the American tapestry by the third generation. Giuseppe Belotti arrived here in 1900. He spoke Italian, but learned English. None of his grandchildren speak Italian today. Alberto Lopez came from Cuba in 1960. He grandchildren don’t speak Spanish today. Hugo Schneider was a Hessian trooper who landed in New York in 1777. He spoke only German, but his grandchildren never learned it, and none of his descendents in the United States today speak German. Viktor Kowalski came from Poland in 1902 and went to work in a coal mine. None of his seven grandchildren or twelve great-grandchildren know more than a few words of Polish today. And that’s what happens to immigrants in America. They are assimilated, and the languages they spoke before they arrived were forgotten. Their descendents learned to pray and to study and to work in English.
    **********************************************
    The Russian Old Believers are just like all the other immigrants in this respect.
    *********************************************
    I have asked you again and again to identify those parts of the foundation of the core beliefs of the true Apostolic Church Nikon destroyed, but you have declined to do so. You wrote something about casting pearls before swine, but never responded to the question.
    *********************************************
    The fact of the matter is that you have not identified the core beliefs of the true Apostolic Church Patriarch Nikon destroyed because you can’t. Patriarch Nikon destroyed no core beliefs of the Church. But you keep on rambling about basic differences the Old Believers and the Orthodox Church, even though you are unable to tell us what they are….

  73. Please indulge me as I return to the subject of beards. Be patient with me. I now understand I should have written this earlier.
    ****************************************

    Last week on 6 May, Maxim made a point worth noting. He wrote: “Everybody must preserve what was defined by common ecumenical decisions, but a particular opinion of a church father or a definition issued by a local council can be followed by some and ignored by others. Thus, some people customarily shave their beards; others reject this practice by local conciliar decrees. Thus, as far as we are concerned, we consider it reprehensible to fast on Saturdays, except once a year (on Holy Saturday), while others fast on other Saturdays as well. Thus, tradition avoids disputes by making practice prevail over the rule.”
    ****************************************
    What Maxim says is true. An opinion of a church father or a definition issued by a local council does not have the same weight as a Canon promulgated by an Ecumenical Council. All Orthodox Christians are obliged to obey the Canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, unless absolved by their bishops for a particular reason. But the opinions of pious church fathers or rules defined by a local council are not binding on all Christians everywhere under heaven.
    ****************************************
    Now I had thought all this was common knowledge, i. e., that everybody knew it. But I was mistaken. Several Old Believers have posted comments which, when read in the context of Maxim’s recent posting, suggest that many Old Believers do not in fact distinguish between pious opinions and the Canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Those who make no such distinction look upon anything written in the books they have received from their ancestors as immutable law, which must be obeyed.
    ****************************************
    On 20 March 1, when I wrote to the Proud Old Believer, “Before I offer any comments on the the following references, I would like you to explain why they direct Old Believer men to refrain from trimming or shaving their beards, ” I thought he knew more than he does.

    ********************************************************************
    The references about which I had asked for a clarification were:
    1. Nikon of the Black Mountain, Slovo 37, sheet 284
    2. Book of Faith, Chapter 28, sheet 257
    3. Nomokancon, Rule 174, sheet 702
    4. Kormchaya Kniga, Chapter 7, sheet 388 (on the back)

    ******************************************************
    My request for a clarification was based on the assumption that the Proud Old Believer was aware that the first three of these references do not have the same weight as any of the Canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. This was a false assumption on my part, because the Proud Old Believer responded on 1 April: “I’m not sure what you would like explained. It was pretty clear in the examples…”
    *******************************************************
    And it is pretty clear from this response that Proud Old Believer considers himself bound to obey prohibitions against shaving that DO NOT BIND ANYONE.
    *******************************************************
    If elders in the Old Believer community in which he resides and worships require men to have beards, they should know that they do not have the Canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils to support them. Nevertheless, all men in that community MAY have beards if they choose, but men with beards should avoid judging men who shave.
    *******************************************************
    As for the fourth reference (Kormchaya Kniga, Chapter 7, sheet 388 (on the back)), it does appear to be taken from a Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. So I looked it up. On 3 April I sent a copy of Rule #96 to the Proud Old Believer. I noted that it contains no prohibition against shaving. And then I added: “Would you mind looking into your Rudder and seeing if your version of the 96th Canon of the 6th Ecumenical Council corresponds with the following?”
    *************************************************

    Правило 96: “Во Христа крещениемъ облекшиеся, дали обетъ подражати во плоти житию Его. Того ради власы на главе, ко вреду зрящихъ, искуственными плетениями располагающихъ и убирающихъ, и таким образомъ неутвержденныя душы прельщающихъ, отечески врачуемъ приличною епитимиею, руководствуя ихъ ани детей, и научая целомудренно жити, да , оставивъ прелесть и суету плоти, къ негиблющей и блаженной жизни умъ непрещениимъ жития, елико можно, къ Богу приближаются, и внутренняго паче, нежели внешняго человека, украшаютъ добродетелями и благими и непорочными нравами: и да не носятъ въ себе никакого останка порочности, произшедшия от сопротивника. Аще же кто вопреки сему правилу поступить: да будетъ отлеченъ.”
    *************************************************
    I have heard nothing from the Proud Old Believer since then.
    *************************************************
    I wonder if Old Believer youth in the United States and Canada understand the concept of Apostolic Succession (Апостольское Преемство) and the scriptural basis from which bishops derive their authority. These are important concepts because they underscore the importance of being under the omofor of a canonical bishop. I shall write more on this subject later…

  74. Mr. Hudanish,

    Those words about beards and ecumenical councils belong to a Patriarch of Constantinople: St. Photios the Great.

  75. Hi again Mr. Hudanish
    I am sorry that you are picking on Proud Old Believer, as I was the one that wrote the references about shaving beards. I somehow used his name and I did apologize to him earlier on your site. And the only reason I didn’t get back to your request is I know you are a “Никонянин” I only put up the references so the Russian Old Believer that are reading this site to give them some knowledge. As per you, I know I will never ever ever persuade you, and I don’t intend to. As I can see you are saying “Стоглав” is not written the way it should have, why should I comment more?
    *********************************************************************
    Here are some more references for the Russian Old Believers.
    Кормчая, гл. 47, лист 388, об. Что же о пострижении брады; не писано ли есть в законе: не постригайте брад ваших: се бо женам лепо, мужем же не подобно: создавый Бог судил есть, Моисеови бо рече, постризало да не взыдет на брады вашы, себо мерзость Господеви. Ибо от Константина царя Ковалина и еретика суща се узаконено есть: на том бо вси знаяху, яко еретическия слуги суть, имже брады постризаны. вы же се творяще человеческаго ради угодия, противящеся закону, ненавидими будете от Богат создавшаго вас по образу своему. Аще убо хощете Богу угодити, от всего того отступити, его же Той ненавидит, и ничтоже неугоднаго Ему не творите.
    ********************************************************************
    Потребник Большой, Соборное Изложение патриарха Филарета, Чин от ереси приходящих к Церкви Христовой, гл. 71, лист 12 об. Проклинаю богоненавидимую блудолюбнаго образа прелесть, душегубительныя помраченныя ереси, еже остругати браду. ей же бысть начальник беззаконный Петр гугнивый, римский папа. во царех же тоя ереси начальник гноеименитый Константин Ковалин иконоборец. и в той ереси и прочии римстии папы погрязоша, и вси латыньстии епископы и попове. мнози же и мирстии человецы, ум погубившее, низпадоша в таковое прокажение. лица своего губящее доброту, Богом созданнаго им образа. ею же добротою украси Бог человека, по своему образу и подобию. окаяннии же латины в ереси многия впадоша. и на святых иконах, писанным, Божию образу, и святых Его угодник не поклоняются, ни почитают. к сим же и своего благообразия ненавидят, и ругаются ему. и проказят лице подобия своего, иже Божиима рукама сотвореннаго, и таковаго богоделаннаго благолепия не даст им диавол ни видети. но всегда поощряет их остругати брады своя, и усы притинати постригалы и бритвами. еще злейше творят, яко и своими зубы укусывают власы брады своея, усы. самоядцем подобящеся. его же не деяху ни в древнем законе, даннем от Бога Моисею. и в новой благодати никтоже того не творяше, до совращения преже реченных еретиков.
    *********************************************************************
    And a person can almost say it started from here.
    Книга Кирилова, о латинских ересех, глава 26, лист 234 об. Последи же философ Панагиот ко Азимиту рече, чесо ради, папы ваши, и вси церковницы стригут брады рцы ми. Азимит. Прииде ангел Господень нощию к папе, и рече ему, аще хощеши быти яко ангел, остризи браду, понеже ангели без брад предстоят престолу Божию. Панагиот. Несть тако, но солгал еси. слыши Азимите, аз ти исповем истину. понеже пишет в писании, аще вы сие умолчите, то камение возопиет. хотяше бо папа ваш, дабы имел жену, и тако посла к некоей жене, да не идет к нему на ложе. жена же пусти к нему рече, аще хощеши да прииду к тебе на ложе, то остризи браду. папа же послушав ея, остриже браду свою, и посла к жене вскоре, глаголя, уже есмь остригл браду свою, прииде ко мне на постелю мою. и рече ему жена, понеже остригл еси браду свою, и посрамил себе, погубил еси сан свой, и честь свою, за мою женскую подпупную браду. жив Господь Бог, аз не хощу приити к тебе на ложе. и тогда папа ваш бысть в велицей печали и беде, и мысляше в себе зело некое великое сотворити. и тако умысли себе папа, нача голуби из уха своего кормити, и тако приучи их. и влезе в полату свою, и голуби полетеша за ним, и седоша по плещама его, и кормяше их из ушей своих крупою просяною, и рад бысть о том вельми папа. и потом сотвори епистолию, и посла во всю свою область по всем странам по вся епископы и попы, и диаконы. и приидоша к нему. папа же созва их в церковь. голуби же за ним влетеша в церковь. и седоша на плещу его, и зобаша крупу из ушей его. Рече папа ко всем епископом и попом, и дияконом, мир вам, слышите братие и чада моя церковная, яко хощу вам глаголати мирную любовь, яже откровена мне смиренному, о вашем спасении. посла Бог ангела своего ко мне с сею эпистолиею в голубине образе, и рече ми, аще хощеши, ты и чада твоя, быти яко ангели, и у престола Божия стояти, остризите си брады, понеже ангели без брад предстоят у престола Божия. и аз чада моя повеленное ми от Бога сотворих. и вы чада моя такоже сотворите, яко же и аз, да достойни будем ангельскому чину. они же слышавше, и вземше бритвы брады своя остригоша вскоре. видев же папа себе не обличена, и возврадовася радостию великою. тоя же вы и до днесь держитеся прелести, понеже жена посрамила есть вас, и бриете брады своя подпупия ради женскаго.
    *********************************************************************
    As for Mr. Hudanish, you first should get together with O. Pavel Fefelov church, Old-Rite. And when your church is going to be as one, then try to approach the Russian Old Believers. As you know, we Russian Old Believers are a lot more compatible in religion to Old-Rite church then we are to the ROCOR church.
    Take care, sorry if I offended anyone.

    1. Again I go and use the wrong name Sorry Proud Old Believer. The above should read “Russian Old Believer”

    2. Would you mind translating your reference in English? I apologize but I am not very well educated in Russian. I am yearning to find out more about our religion and history. The translation would help me understand. Thank you!!!!

    3. To Proud Old Believer,
      ***********************************************
      I am sorry you think I am picking on you. We are having a discussion, that’s all, and I am trying to find areas in which we are in agreement. In the process I hope to correct some of your old misconceptions which date back to the 16th Century. Please don’t be so quick to reject what I offer. I am NOT your enemy! If you don’t realize that by now then I must conclude you don’t know much!
      ***************************************************
      You may call me a “Nikonianan” if it pleases you, but that would be giving him too much credit (or too much blame, depending on your point of view).
      ***************************************************
      To the best of my knowledge, Patriarch Nikon never had much t say about beards, one way or the other. The person most responsible for banning beards in Russia was Tsar Peter Alekseievcih (the Great) 1682-1725.
      ******************************************************
      Tsar Peter was a larger-than-life westernizer. He believed Russia was lagging western Europe in technology, and he was determined to make Russia “catch up.” He actually visited varous countries in western Europe incognito and personally learned various technological skills, hands on, so he could bring them back home and teach them to the Russians.
      *************************************************************
      Tsar Peter was arguably the strongest personality in Russian history – just in terms of the changes he forced on Russian society. He built a new capital (Saint Petersburgh ) on a marsh where the Neva flows into the Gulf of Finland, abolished the Patriarchate, made the Orthodox Church subservient to the Imperial Government, and actually levied a fine (or a tax) on men who grew their beards out. He also personally – with scissors in hand – snipped several inches off the kaftans the Russian boyars were wearing in court, bringing them closer to the frock coats fashionable in western Europe at the time.
      ********************************************************
      You can bet he met with resistance, but he didn’t bend. He simply ran right over anyone who even tried to soften his reforms. He even had his own son put to death once he learned his son would reverse everything he was trying to accomplish. Patriarch Nikon was long gone by then.
      *********************************************************
      And did you know Tsar Peter stood 6′ 8″ tall?
      *********************************************************
      Please find a copy of Vasily Kluchevsky’s book, “Peter the Great.” Read it, and you will see straight away that Tsar Peter made most of the changes you’re pinning on Patriarch Nikon.
      **********************************************************************
      Peter the Great died in 1725, and was succeed by his wife, Empress Katherine. In 1918, after the Bolsheviks murdered Tsar Nicholas II and his entire family, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church convened and re-established the Patriarchate of Moscow.
      ***********************************************************************
      The first Patriarch of Moscow in the USSR was Tikhon, who had served as Archbishop of North America for several years. The Soviet government murdered Patriarch Tikhon in 1925, and Stalin forbade the Russian bishops to elect a new Patriarch of Moscow. Stalin relented, however, in July 1941, after the Nazis invaded Russia and Archbishop Sergei went on the radio and broadcast a message calling all Russians to rise, take up arms and defend Holy Mother Russia. Millions of Russians answer the call – and the rest is history.
      *******************************************************************
      As for o. Pavel Fefelov, I already feel we have much in common. I am very glad to read that you think well of him, too. In fact, the only thing separating us now is χειροθεσία.

  76. Hello all, I was married to an Old Believer for over 10 years, we lived on a berry farm in Woodburn. I am american and was drawn to the Russian religion. After seeing all of the alcoholism, drugs, men and women cheating on their spouses, men beating their wives, etc. I do not understand what all of the talk about the churches is all about. Things need to change ASAP regarding the youth among the Old Believer community. They have all learned by watching their parents drink, do drugs, etc. The Old Believers have all of these rules and no one follows them. You will go stand all night in church praying and listening to a language that none of the younger people understand and then everyone goes home and turns on the TV or radio and starts drinking/partying. It is so sad. Every religious holiday is a reason to party…I am sacred to death that my children are going to fall victim with the younger Old Believers. They are dropping like flies, committing suicide, getting in car accidents from driving drunk, over dosing, etc. Is there an answer??? So Sad :-(

    1. To the concerned mother who was married to an Old Believer,
      ***************************************************************
      Thank you for sharing. What a sad tale you are telling us! It’s worse than I thought.
      Can’t the Old Believer elders see what’s happening? They have a responsibility which they
      are not fulfilling. May God have mercy on them. .
      ****************************************************************
      You are to be commended for taking your children out of that milieu.
      ****************************************************************
      No doubt your children have been baptized. If you have custody of your children, you should take them to an Orthodox Church for instruction and the Holy Mysteries (Communion).
      *****************************************************************
      If you have access to the Internet, search for and log on to “Orthodoxy in America.” Enter your ZIP CODE into the field on the upper right hand side of the screen and click on “search.” You will get a list of the Orthodox parishes in your area. My God guide you!

  77. i would have to agree with you. its sad. we need god in our lives asap! I will say not everyone is like that though, we just need an understanding of our religion. It doesnt help that the youth have no understanding in church. i pray that we figure something out soon, and not cause another schism amonst our people.

    god bless everyone.

  78. Χειροθεσία – laying on of hands – ordination – a ceremony during which somebody is consecrated as a priest.
    From a distance, it may look like we have many things in common, John; but only from a distance. The same differences that separate the Old Believers and the ROC, separate the Old Rite church from ROC. The Old Believers and the Old Rite churches are one and the same. The only difference is the Old Believers have no priesthood. All their religious services are identical to what the Old Rite church performs in the absence of a priest. We follow the same Typicon (устав), we sing from the same text books in the same one-voice (единогласное) singing.
    The main reason for the Old Believer’s mistrust of priesthood comes directly from ROC. To stop and eradicate Old Believers in Russia; ROC took every step to impede revival of priesthood in Old Believer communities. Lies and propaganda were quickly distributed against any movement to revive Old Rite priesthood. Even in your writing above, John, there are hints of illegitimacy for the Old Rite priesthood (a DEPOSED metropolitan, Ambrose had no eparchy, and it is NOT LIKELY he sought the blessing of the Patriarch). Two different false claims in one sentence; no corroborating facts, just ROC propaganda. Once bit, twice shy.
    Religious persecution has ended for the Old Believers upon arriving in the USA but a new enemy for final destruction sits on the horizon. Language. Like in the time of Moses in the desert; over 40 years has passed since the arrival of the first Old Believer immigrants to the US. Most of the original refugee parents and leaders have passed away. Second, third and even fourth generations of children have been educated in the English language. Very little effort has been applied to teach the Russian language to these children. Even less effort to teach Church Slavonic. All Old Believer religious doctrine is in the Slavonic language. Simply put; vary few people can fully understand the complexity of church doctrine. Most doctrine is passed on verbally to the next generation. This is the pitfall. Interpretations and self-serving changes and adaptations have created a dictatorial society where true doctrine is never exposed. Control becomes key; Faith and the Salvation of souls takes a back seat. All sin is scrambled under one penance; fear of sin becomes irrelevant. Fear of God is overpowered by fear of man.
    Church doctrine was set in motion by the Apostles, students of Jesus Christ, Son of God. Over the next four centuries these doctrine were fine tuned to create the foundation for the liturgical and personal life of every Christian. Without understanding the Word of God and following the dictates of religious doctrine (ALL aspects of it), chaos will take over and lawlessness will rule. This is what is happening in the Old Believer society. There is no formal leadership (bishops, priests) that is accountable for the responsibility of the law. There is neither confession of sin nor absolution of sin therefore there is no differentiation in the severity of sin and the administration of proper penance. The stronger control the weaker which leads to crimes committed (such as rape, child abuse, spousal abuse, etc.) that are never disclosed due to fear of man. In extreme cases there is only a change of the guard, leaving no one accountable; the same law may be used to the extreme on one person and not at all on another perpetrator. Visual infringements such as shaving and clothing get far more recognition compared to rape, fornication or adultery.
    Therefore it is an advantage for the leadership of priest-less Old Believers to stick to Slavonic language, it gives them far more control of a public that has to rely on them for understanding of Church Law.
    Needless to say, Slavonic is not the only language that God understands. God has no language. He simply understands. Language has been the downfall of many churches around the world, including my own. We fight so hard for a language, we forget the human soul. In order to feed the human soul, it needs to know God. It needs to understand His Law. It needs to have faith in the Lord. It needs to believe in salvation; it needs to believe it has a very good chance to receive God’s Mercy.
    To most Old Rite and Old Believers in USA, Slavonic is no different than Hebrew or Chinese. They only go through the motions of religion, trying to please the elders; but in their soul there is emptiness that can only be filled with a full understanding of the Word of God. To do this they need a language they can understand; to understand His infinite Wisdom and Mercy. A great example of this is written in Matthew 9:1-12:
    Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
    At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
    Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
    As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
    While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
    On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

    My heart fills with pain, reading comments from people like Confused and Was Married to Old Believer. Having taken confession from people of various walks of life, I know first hand how hard it is to express censured feelings. The fear of retaliation is enormous.
    I would like to applaud Sophia for her statement on language.
    o.P.F

  79. To o. Pavel

    Does your parish have english service? or is it something your church is considering? I think it would be great if you guys did!

    1. While there have been frequent discussions on the subject, no actions have been taken by the hierarchy in regards to the services themselves. The local priest will do confessions, baptisms and wedding ceremonies in English, if requested. The younger deacons hold Sunday school classes in English. I understand that is not nearly enough but it is a start. The reasons behind this delay are the same with all Old Believers around the world. They are sticklers when it comes to doting the i’s and crossing the t’s. With so few competent and educated people to take on such a large project, the question in the back of everyone’s mind is “What if they do it wrong?” Sadly, in the meantime hundreds of souls are being lost due to their lack of understanding the Law of God.

  80. Seriously, о.П.Фефелов, what planet do you live on?

    You say: “…The stronger control the weaker which leads to crimes committed (such as rape, child abuse, spousal abuse, etc.) that are never disclosed due to fear of man. In extreme cases there is only a change of the guard, leaving no one accountable; the same law may be used to the extreme on one person and not at all on another perpetrator. Visual infringements such as shaving and clothing get far more recognition compared to rape, fornication or adultery…”

    What on earth are you talking about? All that may be true in YOUR church (as you admitted to “having taken confession from people of various walks of life”), but of the thousands of Old Believers in America, I doubt their percentage of “rapists”, etc. per capita is as high as it is among the “American” population. Yet, as it happens to be, the laws are written in English against that sort of thing. Dare I say, any and all transgressions committed are not because of some sort of language barrier in a particular church.
    Please stop trying to vilify the Old Believers with your obvious exaggerations. It’s not healthy to your credibility because sometimes (rarely, but it happens) you actually say something that is sensible, for example, when you say: “The main reason for the Old Believer’s mistrust of priesthood comes directly from ROC.” That may be a fair assessment.

    1. I never said there were more or less perpetrators of sin within the Old Believers. I meant these heinous sins exist throughout all aspects of humanity. I spoke of how these sins were dealt with by the Nastavnik or Nastoyatel of the priest-less Old Believer church. I know there are government laws against rape and child abuse. No law against consensual fornication or adultery. What would your Nastoyatel do to you if you were to commit one of these sins? And what about other sins such as false witness, witchcraft, theft, incest, gay and lesbian activity, etc. etc.? Would he give you the same penance as your friend who trimmed or shaved his beard? Would he make you stay in back for a few weeks and not participate in prayer? And then what?

      In Church Law these sins carry a very strong penance and excommunication(1) from communion(2). These laws are applied equally to every person that comes to confession and confesses his/her sins. {1. Excommunication – to exclude a baptized Christian from taking part in Communion because of doctrine or moral behavior that is adjudged to offend against God or the Christian community. 2. Communion – a Christian sacrament that commemorates Jesus Christ’s Last Supper, with the priest consecrating bread and wine that is consumed by the congregation.}. Some penance can have a sentence of over 20 years. These Laws discourage the Christian from committing these sins just as jail time in civil laws. On the other hand, Church Law dose not prohibit a person from prayer. On the contrary, it encourages it. It encourages the sinner to attend services and pray with the other sinners for forgiveness of sin from the Lord. After the sinner completes his time and penance, the priest absolves(3) him of his sin. {3. Absolve – to forgive somebody’s sins, especially formally in a Christian church service or sacrament}. He/she becomes freed of this sin in the face of God.

  81. Clarification for о.П.Фефелов: The Old Believers actually do trust “priesthood” and that is proven by these words “Верую….во едину святую сборную апостольску церковь…”

    They just don’t trust yours. Nothing personal.

    1. If that was the case, and they did trust “priesthood”, they wouldn’t stay priest-less; would they?

  82. Using two fingers to make the sign of the cross is found in the writings of Theodoret of Cyrus (393–457): “Thus does one bless with the hand and cross oneself: Holding three fingers together evenly the thumb and the last two fingers-confesses a mystery in the image of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There are not three gods, but one God in Trinity; there is a distinction of names, but one Godhead. The Father is unbegotton; the Son is begotten of the Father, yet not created; the Holy Spirit is neither begotten nor created, but proceeds. They are three in one Godhead; but one in power, one in honour, one in the adoration of all creation, angels and men. Such is the explanation of these three fingers. Joining two fingers together-the index and the middle finger-and extending them, with the middle finger slightly bent, represents the two natures of Christ: His Divinity and His Humanity. He is God according to His divinity and Man according to His humanity, perfect in both natures. The index finger represents His divinity, while the middle finger represents His humanity, since He came down from on high and saved those below. The bending of the middle finger is interperted to mean that He bowed the heavens and came down upon the earth for our salvation.”
    St. Meletius (ca. 357) and Saint Peter Damascene (+ 775 A.D.) also confirm the two fingered sign of the cross.

    The most ancient of Orthodox icons prove that at least the blessing was performed using the two finger gesture of the hand, as is still the practice among Old Believer priests to bless the flock, and to make the sign of the cross upon themselves.

    By the time the Russian lands were enlightened in the 10th century, it was this tradition that prevailed. Hence, the Russian Church received this ancient tradition right from the very beginning, and preserved it for several centuries afterwards.

    However, by the 9th century, the practice had become prevalent throughout the Orthodox West for the sign of the cross to be made using three fingers instead of two and thus was practiced by Italians, Spaniards, French, Germans, and English. In the East it had reached the Greeks, Bulgarians, Georgians, Albanians, Serbs, Wallachians, Moldavians and Poles around the 15th century. It had also reached the Egyptians, Syrians, Armenians, Mesopotamians, Persians, and even the far off Ethiopians and Indians. But it had not reached the Russians!

    The Orthodox Church of Russia continued to observe the ancient practice of making the sign of the cross with two fingers, as had been prescribed by the ancient fathers. When by the middle of the 16th century, the Russians had realized their practice differed from the others, measures were taken to decide which practice was more original. These issues were addressed at the Stoglav Council Convened by Emperor Ivan the Terrible in the year 1551.

    Canon 31 of the Stoglav Council reads as follows: “The sign of the cross must be made according to the rules, in the form of a cross; and the right hand must be used in crossing oneself, with the thumb and the two lower fingers joined together, and the extended index finger joined to the middle finger, slightly bent; thus should prelates [and] priests give their blessing and thus should men cross themselves… It befits all Orthodox Christians to hold their hand thus, and to make the sign of the cross upon their face with two fingers, and to bow, as we said before. If anyone should fail to give his blessing with two fingers, as Christ did, or should fail to make the sign of the cross with two fingers, may he be accursed…”

    To this day Old Believers adamantly argue that Nikon was wrong in introducing his reforms because they flew in the face of the Stoglav Council which was a venerable all-Russian council, rather than the whim of one man (Patriarch Nikon).

    In 1666 Nikon called a Council, with the Czar’s approval, in which he requested revisions to be made to liturgical texts, as well as for the Russian Church to adopt the practice of using three fingers to make the sign of the cross. However, this immediately led to sharp opposition. Representatives from the Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople and elsewhere were invited. However, none of the guests were Patriarchs, and some of the bishops had already been deposed by their own Churches. Furthermore, it is believed that many of the bishops were paid by the Russian State, with money and products, to vote in favor of the reform. The following is an account by Protopop Avakum regarding his dialogue with the Greek and Russian bishops at that council:

    “The last word they said to me was, “Why are you stubborn? All of Palestine – and the Serbs, the Albanians, the Wallachians, the Romans and the Poles – all of them cross themselves with the three fingers and only you remain obstinate and make the sign with two fingers. That is not fitting!” And I answered them for Christ as follows: “Ecumenical teachers! Rome has long since fallen and lies prostrate, and the Poles perished with them, and are the enemies of Christians to the end. Among you Orthodoxy has become mottled because of the violence of Mehmet the Turk – and one must not be amazed at you: you have become powerless. And so henceforth, come to us to study, for, by the grace of God, we have autocracy. Before Nikon the apostate, in Russia, under our pious princes and tsars, Orthodoxy was complete, pure and undefiled and the church without uproar. Nikon, that wolf, and the Devil ordered us to cross ourselves with three fingers: but our first pastors crossed themselves with two fingers and likewise gave their blessing with two fingers according to the tradition of the holy fathers.”

    Why I am I giving you all this history on the the sign of the Cross? Because it is an ancient tradition that the Old Believers have preserved over the centuries. And to show you that the three fingered cross that Nikon forced upon the Russians was actually a contemporary one that came from the West. Just as all of Nikon’s reforms were – contemporary.

    Nikoniany have generally accepted the ‘official’ interpretation of the reform of the liturgical books conducted in Russia as a “correction” made on the basis of the ancient Greek sources. In fact, the reform was based exclusively on contemporary sources, chiefly seventeenth century editions. Far from being a ‘return to the sources,’ or a ‘correction,’ the reform consisted simply in the transposition of contemporary Greek practice onto Russian soil. The Russian use was, in fact, more faithful to the original liturgy than the Greek books being used as the basis for the reform, for the Greek liturgical books have been altered over time, just as the two fingered Cross has been traded for the three fingered cross. The Greeks were tainted by Roman Catholic influences, especially after the Council of Florence (1439) which was called in an attempt to reunite the Eastern and Western Churches (and where Isidore tried to sell Russian Orthodoxy out). The Russians were long suspicious of the Greeks, even before the Council of Florence. A number of events that occurred between 988 and 1588 led to the Russians feeling that they were already an independent Church. These events began to distance the Russians from their Greek ‘baptizers’ and to make them suspect that their “teachers” had lost their Orthodox purity and independence from the Roman Catholic Church.
    ********************************************************************************************************
    I wrote earlier about the church slavonic language and I maintain my stance, but not because it is a sin to pray in other languages. Where would we get the proper English translations of our ancient texts? From the Nikoniany? The paragraph above clearly demonstrates why we must not do that. Their English text would contain all of Nikon’s ‘corrections’, or more accurately ‘mistakes’. Translation is a challenging activity and who of our people would be up to that task? We do not have anyone who has an in-depth knowledge of both Slavonic and English. Translation involves discussions about the use and meaning of words with many bilingual people around a table to make decisions about the best terms to use. Where would we find these people? Even if we did find a group of translators, it would take years to translate all of our holy books. If someone was to take on this monumental task so that others would be able to understand the church service, then I can’t see why each of us as individuals can’t learn for ourselves instead of relying on someone else.

    1. To Sophia,
      *************************************
      Whenever you have rules, it follows that there will be Pharisees. Jesus called them “hypocrites,” because they are always pointing fingers at people who break the rules, even while they themselves are guilty of the very transgressions of which they accuse others.
      ***************************************
      I have seen this happen among Old Believers in Oregon.
      *************************************
      With all due respect to Theodoret of Cyrus (393–457), St. Meletius (ca. 357) and Saint Peter Damascene (+ 775 A.D.), the Orthodox Church of Christ has always “permitted variations in local usages on condition of unity in the truths of the Faith.” The early Christians made the Sign of the Cross in divers ways.
      **************************************
      Anyone who makes beards and the arrangement of fingers the very centerpiece of Christianity misses the whole point of the Christ’s Incarnation, the Gospels, His passion and death on the Cross, His Resurrection and Ascent into Heaven.
      ***************************************
      The centerpiece of Christianity is LOVE. In the Gospel of St. Mark we read of a conversation between Jesus and a scribe:
      ****************************************
        One of the scribes came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
      “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
      “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
      *************************************
      And more than beards and the arrangement of fingers in making the Sign of the Cross….
      *************************************
      And while I agree that Slavonic is a beautiful language made for worshiping God, of what use is it to anyone who doesn’t understand it? Rigidly holding on to Slavonic when your young people need English is not a virtue, especially when English translations of your ancient texts are readily available – and have been for three decades. Just log onto the following website: http://www.churchofthenativity.net.
      **************************************
      This is the website of the Old Rite parish in Erie, PA. The pastor, Rev. Father Pimen Simon, will be happy to help you.

  83. John,
    I am going way back to your statement that we need to forgive ROCOR and join their church. And if we don’t join their church it must mean we are unforgiving of the past persecutions. I didn’t live in Nikon’s time and my immediate family wasn’t persecuted by anyone. And those who did the persecutions then are not even alive this day, so who do we forgive? So the need to forgive and forget and join some church and be happy seems like such strange thing to ask. Anyway here’s my version of a little parable:
    *************************
    there once lived a husband and a wife. They seemed to have a good loving relationship. The wife had a girlfriend that used to come over often to visit the couple and have dinner with them. Then one time the wife came home and caught her husband in an embrace with her girlfriend. The husband said he wanted a divorce so he could marry her girlfriend! The wife was experiencing such terrible pain and loss, not only did she lose her husband, but also who she thought was her best friend. But as time went by the pain receded and she was able to forgive both her husband and her girlfriend. She forgave them, but that doesn’t mean she is now going to get together with them anytime soon for dinner!
    *******************
    or maybe she never forgave them. But their great grand-children decided they needed to forgive each other…. for what?

    1. To the humble Old Believer,
      **************************************
      You wrote: “I didn’t live in Nikon’s time and my immediate family wasn’t persecuted by anyone. And those who did the persecutions then are not even alive this day, so who do we forgive?”
      ****************************************
      You are indeed fortunate if you feel no antipathy toward the Russian Orthodox Church. But you must know that many Old Believers still do. When you read the responses posted on this site by some Old Believers, it must be obvious to you that, although both your ancestors and those who persecuted them have all reposed long ago, the memories of the persecutions remain. Contemporary Old Believers still feel resentment today toward the descendants of those who persecuted them.
      ***************************************
      Surely within your communities offenses are given every day. How are you reconciled with each other when this occurs?
      ***************************************
      Do you reconcile as Jesus told His disciples, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment,’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefor if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21-25)
      *************************************
      And so it was in Oregon nearly 39 years ago that Bishop Nektary, the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Seattle, mindful of the resentment the Old Believers feel toward the Russian Orthodox Church, came to the home of the Old Believer nastoyateľ, Abram Antipovich Semerikov, and humbly made a prostration before him, asking forgiveness for the persecutions his ancestors suffered in Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries.
      ***************************************
      Abram Antipovich was too startled to make a response, but it cannot be denied that Bishop Nektary, representing the Russian Orthodox Church, made an attempt at reconciliation with the Old Believers, as Jesus Himself directed. I was there. I witnessed it. And I have written down what I saw, so that you may know it is true!
      ****************************************
      So what should the Old Believer response be? Read the Gospel according to St. Matthew:
      **************************************
      Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him” Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
      ****************************************
      But all this your already know, and I have nothing to add to it…
      **************************************
      If you are able to set aside your antipathy and mistrust of the Russian Orthodox Church and be reconciled with her, you would NOT be required to start attending liturgical services in one of her parishes. You could continue to worship in the church where you currently read and chant vespers, compline, matins, hours and obednitsa. You could most certainly continue to worship according to the ustav of the Old Rite. And your bishop would very likely ordain a worthy man from your community to serve as your priest. If you don’t have a candidate for ordination from within your community, your bishop would send a priest to celebrate the services in your church.
      ************************************
      In short, you would lose nothing, but you would gain the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
      ************************************
      And your children and grandchildren would be able to meet and marry young men and women from among the 230 million Orthodox Christians on this planet.
      *************************************
      But there’s more. Some of the respondents have stressed the importance of beards, and of the two-fingered Sign of the Cross. Your men could still grow beards and make the Sign of the Cross with two fingers. But your bishop wouldn’t require that of you. He would not deny you the Holy Mysteries if you shaved.
      *************************************
      And beards or no beards, we could all get together for dinner!

  84. To o. Pavel,
    *******************************************
    On 14 May I ended my response to the Proud Old Believer with the following comment: “As for o. Pavel Fefelov, I already feel we have much in common. I am very glad to read that you think well of him, too. In fact, the only thing separating us now is χειροθεσία.”
    *******************************************
    You were quick to refute me: “From a distance, it may look like we have many things in common, John; but only from a distance. The same differences that separate the Old Believers and the ROC, separate the Old Rite church from ROC. The Old Believers and the Old Rite churches are one and the same. The only difference is the Old Believers have no priesthood. All their religious services are identical to what the Old Rite church performs in the absence of a priest.”
    ********************************************
    You are articulate. You write very well in English. I agree with much of what you have posted. I find it beautiful, even moving. And that’s why I feel we have much in common. But it isn’t difficult for me to understand why you don’t want other Old Believers to think you and I are close. After all, you and several others respondents see me as “the enemy.” I suppose your standing among the Old Ritualists would be compromised if you were to agree with me on any subject.
    ********************************************
    Well and good! After three-hundred-sixty years of antipathy and mistrust, I couldn’t expect you to embrace me. But at the risk of driving you even further away from me, I must tell you I am surprised at your assertion that “The Old Believers and the Old Rite churches are one and the same. The only difference is the Old Believers have no priesthood.” Incredible!
    *******************************************
    Surely you can see that this is no minor difference! They don’t have priests because they lack bishops. Without bishops, they cannot receive Chrismation or the Holy Mysteries. And – sad to say – many 21st-Century Old Believers don’t even understand and appreciate the importance of the Holy Mysteries, the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!
    *******************************************

    You went on to observe that “All their religious services are identical to what the Old Rite church performs in the absence of a priest. We follow the same Typicon (устав), we sing from the same text books in the same one-voice (единогласное) singing.”
    *******************************************
    And this you offer as a difference between the Old Rite church and the Russian Orthodox Church. This, too, surprises me. Yes, you have the same liturgical books and the Old Believers, but the Russian Orthodox Church has those very books, too.
    *******************************************

    Apparently you have not read “The Decision of the Council of Bishops of the ROCOR Concerning the Old Ritual,” which was promulgated in New York in September, 1974. Here follows a copy of that Decision for you – and for everyone else – to read:
    *******************************************
    The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has considered the question of the attitude of the Russian Church to the customs and rites which She observed in former days, known by the general name of the old ritual, and contained in the liturgical books printed before the middle of the 17th century, and also the interdicts and anathemas which were imposed by the Moscow Councils of 1656 and 1667, and by individual persons in respect to the observation of these customs.
    *******************************************
    Whereas:
    1. The Orthodox Church of Christ has from ancient times permitted variations in local usages on condition of unity in the truths of the Faith;
    2. The old rite does not express any un-Orthodox teaching of which the participants of the aforementioned councils accused them;
    3. The anathemas pronounced by these councils were the cause of many disasters for the Russian Church, and led not to peace in the Church, which was the aim of their authors, but to schism and the falling away from the Church of many adherents of the old ritual, in the midst of which intolerable “slanderous expressions” were employed by both sides, and also to the persecution of those who held differing views, as a result of which many zealots of the old rite suffered;
    4. The old rite comprises a part of our common heritage which should not be uprooted;
    5. From the year 1800, the use of the old ritual was permitted by the Russian Church, and the interdicts on active members were lifted and revoked;
    6. In the last century, the Russian Church, headed by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, took steps to revoke the anathemas on the old ritual, but this was not achieved due to misunderstandings;
    7. The Pre-Council Commission of 1906, in which Metropolitan Anthony [Khrapovitsky] actively participated, resolved to petition the future local Council “to revoke the anathemas on the faith who use two fingers to make the sign of the cross, as they were imposed because of bad feelings” and “to rescind [the anathemas], just as the Council of 1667 rescinded the anathemas of the Council of the One Hundred Chapters (Stoglav) on those who did not use two fingers in their devotions”;
    8. The Council of 1917-18, although it did not formulate a conciliar act concerning this question (since it had no possibility of peacefully concluding its business), still it resolved, on the testimony of Metropolitan Anthony, to rescind these anathemas, to accept into our Church the Old Ritualist bishops at the rank then held and to provide Old Ritualist bishops for the Orthodox Old Ritualists.  But Patriarch Tikhon, shortly after his accession to the patriarchal throne, appointed the first Orthodox Old Ritualist bishop (who was subsequently martyred) as bishop of Okhten, Simon (Shleyev), a defender of the old rite and supported of the rescinding of the anathemas;
    9. Their Beatitudes, Metropolitans Anthony [Khrapovitsky] and Anastas [Gribanovsky], themselves repeatedly served according to the old books in Orthodox Old Ritualist churches;
    10. The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, by a decree dated 26 August/8 September 1964, recognized the old rite as Orthodox, and blessed its use by those who so desired;
    11. The Third Council Abroad, with the participation of the clergy and laity, persistently request the Synod to lift those anathemas….
    ********************************************** 
    NOW THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS of the RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD resolves:
    1. To consider the ancient liturgical customs and rites contained in the service books of the Russian Church before the middle of the 17th century as Orthodox and salvific;
    2. To consider the interdicts and anathemas imposed in the past of the Councils of 1656 and 1667, and also by certain individuals who took part in the Councils, because of misunderstandings, as null and void and rescinded AS IF THEY HAD NEVER BEEN;
    3. To permit the use of the old rite by who wish to observe it, and who are in communion with the Orthodox Church, provided, however, that this does not result in any confusion in the church life of existing parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
    4. Not to demand from those Old Ritualists, who wish to be accepted into liturgical communion, a renunciation of the Old Rite,  nor acceptance by them of contemporary rites.  Also, to appoint priests for them and, if necessary, bishops who will be obliged to observe accurately the ancient ceremonies;
    5. To call upon the Old Ritualists, on their part, to respect our rites as worthy of equal honor as the old;
    6. While grieving over the split that occurred and, in particular, over the persecutions inflicted on the adherents to the Old Rite, the Synod of Bishops, however, does not consider that it has the right to judge concerning the responsibility of specific individuals for what took place, since the participants have long ago appeared before the judgment seat of God to Whom they had to give an account for their deeds.  The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has never participated in inimical actions against the Old Ritualists.  Therefore, the Synod of Bishops appeals to them to forget those previous offenses and injustices, and instead of remembering this evil, to consider rather how to so arrange their church life in exile in the best way for the salvation of Christian souls
    7. The Synod of Bishops calls upon all Orthodox Christians not to resume, out of imaginary zeal for Orthodoxy, unnecessary disputes over ritual, and in particular, not to repeat the intolerable and censorious expressions, since both rituals have been sanctified.  Such expressions, whenever and by whomever used in the past, the Synod of Bishops rejects and considers rescinded.
    ************************************
    + Metropolitan Philaret
    President of the Synod of Bishops
    Members of the Synod
    +Archbishop Nikon
    +Archbishop Seraphim SF
    +Archbishop Filofei
    +Archbishop Vitaly
    +Archbishop Antony
    +Archbishop Antony LA
    +Archbishop Antony SF
    +Archbishop Seraphim
    +Archbishop Theodosy
    +Bishop Nektary
    +Bishop Constantine
    Secretaries
    +Bishop Paul
    +Bishop Lavr
    ****************************************

    So you see, the RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH DOES NOT REJECT THE OLD RITE. In fact, far from rejecting it, it declares the Old Rite to be “Orthodox and salvific” and “a part of our common heritage which should not be uprooted.”
    ******************************************
    The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) has at least two (2) Old Rite parishes and has appointed a bishop to minister to them.
    *******************************************
    If you can spare the time and expense, I invite you to come visit Pennsylvania. I will be happy to put you up in my home, feed your at my table, and gladly take you to the Old Rite parish of the Nativity of Jesus Christ in Erie. There you will see the full and complete typikon of liturgical services celebrated according to the Old Rite in English. If you can’t come personally, then visit their website: http://www.churchofthenativity.net. And please understand that this Old Rite parish is in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church.
    ********************************************************************
    All the Old Rite services in English were translated directly from Slavonic Old Rite liturgical books by an American-born scholar, Hegumen Germann (Ciuba), who was born in New Jersey, but is currently serving a small ROCOR parish in Old Forge, PA.
    *********************************************************************
    You may purchase any of these liturgical books in English (chasoslov, psalter, apostol, evangelia, menaion, etc.) and books about the Church, including “Lives of the Saints” in 12 volumes, online from the parish bookstore.
    *********************************************************************
    The Old Rite church could be reconciled with the Russian Orthodox Church and still worship God according to the old, pre-Nikonian rite. And so could the priestless Old Believers. All the anathemas against the Old Rite have been recinded AS IF THEY HAD NEVER BEEN.

    If you persist in resenting the Russian Orthodox Church for the unfortunate events of the 17th and 18th centuries, you are missing a great opportunity to be reconciled with it…

  85. John,you said: “If you persist in resenting the Russian Orthodox Church for the unfortunate events of the 17th and 18th centuries, you are missing a great opportunity to be reconciled with it…”
    Well if I felt no antipathy toward nikoniane before, I sure am beginning to feel it now. You are going on like a broken record. Forgive and join, forgive and join. Forgive? Sure. Join? No!!!! You seem to be missing the fact that we Old Believers don’t see joining the nikoniane as a great opportunity for us.
    *********************************************************************
    Old Believers have not been feeling antipathy towards ROCOR, OCA, GOA, MP or any other churches of the Orthodox Alphabet soup. Just the same as we aren’t angry with either Catholics, Baptists, and the rest of that soup! Yes, the memories of the persecutions remain, but we are only angry at Patriarch Nikon for having had caused the schism and the death of our clergy. And we are not asking for his forgiveness for he is not our brother in Christ. Just as all the followers of Nikon are not our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is true that Christ directs us to forgive those who trespass against us up to seventy times seven, but at the same time Christ does not require us to kiss and make up with His enemies!
    ***************************************
    John, you say: “Surely within your communities offenses are given every day. How are you reconciled with each other when this occurs?”
    When this happens, the two parties get together and make prostrations before each other and ask for forgiveness before witnesses. With our brothers and sisters in Christ, we kiss and make up all the time for we do believe that even to recite the prayer Our Father in Heaven is wrong until we have forgiven those (our brothers and sisters in Christ) who trespassed against us. But the nikoniane will never be brothers and sisters with our Old Believers. Besides, we have nothing to forgive you all for, unless you plan on persecuting us when your persuasions fail…..
    ***************************************
    In Oregon 39 years ago Bishop Nektary had asked forgiveness from our Old Believer nastoyateľ, Abram Antipovich Semerikov. There was absolutely no rhyme or reason in that, for he had done us no harm and also was not our brother in Christ. Even if Bishop Nektary decided then to join our church, we would not have required him to ask for our forgiveness for the persecutions that he had taken no part in. All he would have had to do was join our church by the usual procedures.
    **************************************
    John, you said: “If you are able to set aside your antipathy and mistrust of the Russian Orthodox Church and be reconciled with her… you would lose nothing, but you would gain the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
    You just don’t seem to understand that the Old Believers do not want to reconcile with the nikoniane because of some kind of antipathy and mistrust, but because we believe that the followers of Nikon are not followers of Christ. And if we were to reconcile with your orthodox alphabet soup, we would lose our salvation, which is everything! We do not want to accept the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord from the nikoniane, because the Holy Spirit does not reside in it, therefore it is no more than plain bread and wine, the kind we make at home. And your shaved Bishops, who do not deny anyone the Holy Mysteries, whether they are shaved, baptized, etc., they have not the Holy Spirit in them and are regular men, just like you and me. I am sorry if you find this information offensive, but you know very well that is what Old Believers believe… or you would know it if you had actually studied our history.
    ************************************
    John, you keep saying: “All the anathemas against the Old Rite have been rescinded AS IF THEY HAD NEVER BEEN.”
    I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the fact that the nikoniane have put those anathemas on us centuries ago and have now rescinded them matters not one iota. The Catholic church has anathemized the Greek orthodox church after the Great Schism in 1054, and which the Pope finally nullified in 1965. But this nullification was essentially a goodwill gesture and did not constitute any sort of reunion between churches. That is exactly what we need to do. Leave it at that. But….
    ************************************
    John, you say to us: “you would NOT be required to start attending liturgical services in one of the ROCOR parishes. You could most certainly continue to worship according to the ustav of the Old Rite. Your men could still grow beards and make the Sign of the Cross with two fingers.”
    All I can say to that is why didn’t the Russian Orthodox forgive the Catholics and join them? After all, the anathemas have been rescinded! I am sure the Catholics will graciously allow you to keep believing and praying as you have been. If you haven’t reconciled with the Catholics, then you must not have forgiven them. You need to practice what you preach.
    ************************************
    Sorry, but we don’t do dinner with our exes.

  86. To Humble Old Believer,
    **************************************
    Ah, now we are getting somewhere. You say we Orthodox Christians are not followers of Christ. Don’t you think you reach too far in your judgement? How can you condemn an entire nation in this way?
    You say we are not following Christ. But yet we have so many hundreds of pious men and women from the 10th century thru to the present day who have followed Christ and were glorified by Him. Thousands of our brothers and sisters in Christ were martyred for Christ by the Communist regime in the 20th century, and thousands more lived, worked and prayed in monasteries and parish churches, fasting and worshiping in accordance with the Orthodox ustav. They are continuing to live, work and pray to this very hour.
    ****************************************
    Although I am usually self-reliant, there have been times – especially in Vietnam – when I was afraid and I prayed for deliverance from dangers and afflictions, and God has been merciful to me and preserved my life. Would God have answered my poor prayers if I were not a follower of Jesus Christ?
    **************************************
    You call us “nikoniane,” but we are not followers of Patriarch Nikon. We are Christians, Orthodox Christians, and we try to live as Jesus Christ taught us. We recognize that mistakes were made way back in the 17th century, and although none of us were participants in the persecutions against your ancestors, we can see the bitters fruit of the antipathy and mistrust that followed, to wit: Old Believers resent the Orthodox Church – and even refer to its members as “nikoniane”, clearly a pejorative term, used with intent to offend. And beyond that, you are without clergy and the Holy Mysteries.
    ***********************************************
    We all would like to see an end to this antipathy and mistrust. Our hierarchs want to restore the Holy Mysteries to you. And that is why I will continue in this discussion while I have life and breath in me. And it seems to me that I have more to fear from you than you have to fear from me.
    ***********************************************
    As for the relations between the Orthodox Church and Rome, we reach out to each other, but we cannot pray together because we do not have the same confession of Faith. Before the Great Schism (c. 1054), the Catholic Church inserted the “filioque” clause in the Nicean Creed. In 1854 the Catholic Church added a doctrine, i.e., the immaculate conception to its confession. Then, in 1870, it added still another doctrine, papal infallibility.
    ***********************************************
    We are not angry with the Catholics, but we recognize that we cannot worship God together because we do not have the same confession of Faith.
    ***********************************************
    In contrast, the Orthodox Church and the Old Believers still recite the very same, original Nicean Creed, and neither the Orthodox Church nor the Old Believers have added nor deleted any doctrines from our confession of Faith.
    ***********************************************
    So our relationship with you is much closer than our relationship with the Catholic Church.
    ***********************************************
    You are mistaken when you say that Bishop Nektary’s prostration was meaningless and unnecessary. He made his prostration in obedience to Christ’s instruction: “…if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
    ************************************************
    Bishop Nektary humbled himself and acted in obedience to Christ’s word. But it is obvious that you cannot bring yourself to acknowledge this. You really do not want reconciliation. You prefer to continue hating us. But your hatred does us no harm. Your hatred towards us poisons YOU, not us. How will God judge you if you died hating us? You should give that some thought.
    *************************************************
    You wrote: “It is true that Christ directs us to forgive those who trespass against us up to seventy times seven, but at the same time Christ does not require us to kiss and make up with His enemies!” Tell us, please, what is it – in your opinion – that makes us enemies of Christ!”
    ************************************************
    We are weak and sinful, but we try to live as Christ would have us live. How is it that we are His enemies?

  87. John,
    You treat forgiveness and joining your church as two inseparable things. That is not so. Christ teaches forgiveness, not joining ourselves to whatever. If someone stole money from me, Christ would wish me to forgive that person, but I would not be required to open a joint account with him as proof of my forgiveness. If a man raped a woman, she would be required to forgive him, but not join him in holy matrimony.
    —————————-
    I have led an Old Believer life now for 50 years, and the few discussions I was in about our lack of clergy and the Holy Mysteries, there was never any anger or hatred directed toward the contemporary Orthodox Church. If there was any emotion, it was sadness, not anger. The talk about Nikon was generally historic in his causing the death of our clergy and the schism. The hatred that you accuse us contemporary Old Believers of towards your church is not there. Whatever hateful words that are being thrown out at this site I believe are mainly directed at you, for your wrongful accusations, your pushiness, your threats of damnation, your inability to understand that forgiveness and joining your church are not indistinguishable.
    ——————————————————–
    Jesus Christ came in meekness and humility. He did not impose his ways on anyone or force a form of worship, as Nikon had done. Nikon took Greek texts, recently printed in Roman Catholic publishing houses, as the pattern for his reforms. Then, with the long arm of Russian law he tried to force everyone to accept them. Nikon’s reforms may no longer seem important to you, but they were extremely important to Nikon and his followers, hence the persecutions of those who defied him. Well these “minor” changes are still important to us Old Believers.
    ————————————–
    There are several places where the Lord Himself explains the importance of small things, Mt. 12:34 “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful in small things, I will make thee ruler over many: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”.
    ——————————————————————————–
    At the very meeting where Nikon announced his plans for reform, Pavel the presbyter of Kolomna calmly said he could not comply. Nikon removed him from office and had him beaten before the council. Then Pavel was sent into the far north, where he died after repeated tortures. This clearly demonstrates that the Nikoniane church was based on fear.
    ———————————————-
    Nikon’s patriarchal staff descended with crushing force upon anyone who disagreed with his scheme of reform, which included not only service-books and ceremonies, but also the use of icons depicting a two-fingered cross, for which he ordered a house-to-house search to be made. His soldiers and servants were charged first to gouge out the eyes of these holy icons and then carry them through the town in derision. He also issued an указ threatening with the severest penalties all who dared to make or use such icons in future.
    ——————————————
    Those icons depicted Christ himself, His Mother and His Saints! And Nikon gouged their eyes out! If that doesn’t make you an enemy of God, I don’t know what does. But now, centuries later, you are telling us to form the cross any way we want, no big deal. Seemed like a pretty big deal then!
    ——————————-
    Some of the contemporaries describe Nikon as an extremely dominant person, maybe mentally ill, obsessed with the idea of his own majesty/grandeur. He ordered to make for himself a throne of pure gold, which was the exact replica of the throne of the Tsar, and wanted it put in the Cathedral in the Kremlin, side-by-side with the Tsar’s throne. He insisted that everyone address him as “великий государь'” (The Great Lord), again, exactly copying the way people addressed the Tsar.
    —————————–
    Self-exaltation is not the way of Christ. Luke 18:14 – “…For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Humility is the opposite of self-exaltation and self-righteousness. For a patriarch, Nikon was in every way a sorry example of Christianity. His ruthlessness goes far to explain the hatred with which our forefathers regarded Nikon and all his works.
    —————————–
    But that was then, and this is now. As I am writing this, I am trying to be in tune with my emotions, and I’m really not experiencing any kind of hatred, just sadness over the events that took place then. I am glad for the opportunity to educate and enlighten our younger generation in the history of Old Believers. As most of them do not know of those horrific events, how can they possibly hate the Nikoniane?

    1. To the Humble Old Believer:
      ******************************
      Way back on May 22d you wrote:
      *********************************
      “John,
      I am going way back to your statement that we need to forgive ROCOR and join their church. And if we don’t join their church it must mean we are unforgiving of the past persecutions. I didn’t live in Nikon’s time and my immediate family wasn’t persecuted by anyone. And those who did the persecutions then are not even alive this day, so who do we forgive?”
      **********************************
      This looks like a question to me. SO I answered it on May 24, and I added an invitation to get together for dinner.
      *********************************************************

      You responded to my response on May 25, acknowledging that you are now feeling antipathy toward the Russian Orthodox Church, whom you dismiss as “Nikonians,” and you added your opinion that the Russian Orthodox Church has lost the Grace of Apostolic Succession, that her bishops are not really bishops, that her Holy Mysteries are nothing more than bread and wine, and that members of the Russian Orthodox Church are “enemies of Christ.” Then you admonished me to practice what I preach and be reconciled with the Catholics, and closed by spurning my invitation: “Sorry, but we don’t do dinner with our exes.”
      **************************************************************
      These are heavy accusations. They certainly sound like hatred to me.
      And if the Russian Orthodox Church has indeed lost the grace of Apostolic Succession, has no canonical hierarchy and Christ’s Body and Blood are not present in her Holy Mysteries, then I am afraid that Christ Himself was mistaken when He told the Apostle Peter that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18). But how could Christ be mistaken?
      ******************************************************************
      I am afraid you are the one who is mistaken.

      ******************************************************************

      On May 26 I asked you to explain how is it that we members of the Russian Orthodox Church are enemies of Christ?
      ******************************************************************
      On May 31 you wrote again. You responded with a list of Patriarch Nikon’s misdeeds. Am I to assume that his sins make the rest of us enemies of Christ? Is that what you mean to say?
      *******************************************************************
      You continue to deny you have any feelings of hatred toward the Russian Orthodox Church, but then you added:
      ******************************************************************
      “Whatever hateful words that are being thrown out at this site I believe are mainly directed at you, for your wrongful accusations, your pushiness, your threats of damnation, your inability to understand that forgiveness and joining your church are not indistinguishable.”
      ********************************************************************
      But I have made no wrongful accusations, nor threatened anyone with damnation. It is not my place to judge.
      *********************************************************************
      And I fully understand that forgiving Patriarch Nikon and joining the Russian Orthodox Church. Are two distinct actions.
      ************************************************

      As for my “pushiness,” need I remind you that my comments are made in response to your questions and observations? If you will continue to post comments on this site, you can be sure I will respond to them.
      *************************************************
      And please don’t be offended if you find my responses do not agree with your opinions. I intend no offense. My goal was always reconciliation, but I must address opinions which I know to be inaccurate. Please do not harden your heart against me. I am not an enemy of Christ. And I am not your enemy, either.
      *************************************************

      I know the two-fingered Sign of the Cross and beards are important to you.
      Are they really so important that they keep you from receiving the Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?
      *************************************************
      My invitation to dinner stands…

  88. I’ve lived near Old Believers my whole life and befriended quite a few in school and on the job site. I can honestly say they are among the most hypocritical people who profess to live a chaste and Godly life.

    They are prejudice toward all non believers but seem to enjoy making fun of Blacks and Mexicans the most. Once you are accepted in there group, you will hear them openly mock all minorities.

    Their men hit their wifes and children. Their women view a good beating as a sign of affection. In their community it is frowned upon to report domestic violence to the authorities, so this why you don’t hear about it. But an Old Believer giving his family a good what for is as common as underage drinking.

    Their children start drinking in the womb. As a kid attending North Marion High school my Old Believer buddys would tell me the craziest Easter party stories that consisted of binge drinking for days. We were all about 14-years-old at the time.

    I don’t know if cheating on one’s spouse is as prevalent as an earlier poster claimed, but I do know they are as promiscuous as non believers if not more so.

    Some of their construction practices are questionable, i.e., I’ve witnessed them cheat Mexican day laborers out of their pay and laugh about it years after the incident.

    My point: Old Believers, maybe you should stop thumping your Bible and get off your high horse. That pony is getting tired. Secondly, just be nice to everyone…afterall we are all children of God.

  89. Hubbard resident, it is said one can tell a lot by one’s friends so I advise you to get new ones. The “old believers” that you claim to have befriended are clearly not following the rules that the old believer church teaches.

    In fact, everything that you mentioned your friends do is wrong of them. The Old Believer church most certainly does not condone such behavior and actually teaches against it.

    In short, your slanderous comment makes no point and proves nothing about the true Old Believer church.

  90. To all the old Believers how can you be so blind to the false gospels that your being thought? You say I’m a Christians because I was baptized, I have a belt and cross on me, does water alone makes you a christian? or your customs?

    John 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

    4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

    5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’

    Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

    Corinthians 12 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many

    Romans 6 Alive in Christ
    6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

    Your religion makes you get baptize on the 8 day after you where born, do you know Christ at that time? just because you are baptize don’t make you a Christian, you can baptize 10 times but if you don’t accept Jesus Christ as your savior and be reborn again, it’s worthless

    You say your Holy Fathers/Saints wrote your religion, Who are your the Holy Fathers? Or Saints? Don’t you know what God say’s

    Matthew 23:9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
    Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse

    Through out the whole Bible Lord rebukes Images and Idols, and yet your church is base on your Icons?

    Exodus 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

    Leviticus 26:1 “‘Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God.

    Numbers 33:52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.

    Deuteronomy 4:16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman,

    Psalm 97:7 All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols— worship him, all you gods!

    Isaiah 41:29 See, they are all false! Their deeds amount to nothing; their images are but wind and confusion.

    Isaiah 42:17 But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.

    Jeremiah 10:14 Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. The images he makes are a fraud; they have no breath in them.

    Jeremiah 16:18 I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols.”

    Jeremiah 32:34 They set up their vile images in the house that bears my Name and defiled it.

    Jeremiah 51:17 “Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. The images he makes are a fraud; they have no breath in them.

    Ezekiel 5:11 Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you.

    Ezekiel 11:21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

    Ezekiel 20:7 And I said to them, “Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

    Ezekiel 20:30 “Therefore say to the Israelites: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Will you defile yourselves the way your ancestors did and lust after their vile images?

    Habakkuk 2:18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.

    Nahum 1:14 I will destroy the images and idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.”

    New Testament

    Acts 17
    22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

    24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]

    29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

    2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

    Romans 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

    Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

    Romans 1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

    How blind can you be? Look how beautiful the Truth is, don’t you know that you only can call 1 bible and that is the “Holy Bible” the rest you can say they are man made books full of nonsense and rules , I once was blind like you and GOD called me by grace. Thank you Lord for reveling the truth to me and set me free! Amen!

    sorry for a long post , the truth is so amazing

  91. Why dont u read the whole bible here?a lot of people read the bible , still doesn’t make the point of y the old believers should join the rocor, if eny thing , most point to the contrary. As for u leaving the old believers ( personal option) ether u were to weak to b in that religion or ur a quitter , no offense, the truth speaks for its self

  92. Comments written concerning our old believers culture and traditions influencing our elders and children. The knowledge known to me and concerns I have about that is said about our culture and traditions.

    1. Shaving, trimming, biting (eating of humans flesh) of a mans beard and whiskers.

    God made man in the image of himself making a beard and whiskers, makes a man of what he is. Shaving a beard or whiskers of a man is sin to god and is excommunicated from God and the Holy Church until the beard is fully grown and the individual repents for his sin.

    King David sent 3 of his most trusted men to send a message to afar when the 3 men came there the people of the city smiled upon them and forcefully shaved there beards. Upon return to Jerusalem to King David, King David sent them away into the wilderness telling them not to return until there beards were fully grown so they wouldn’t in any way influence the Holy Culture.

    The Holy Scripture makes a statement about a High Priest that fell in love with a woman purseuding her for his own sexual encounter asking her to sleep with him, she tells the priest that if he shaves his beard she will fulfill his sexual desires. The priest knowing the law of god about shaving of the beard knowenly shaves his beard anyways for the love of a woman. Calling upon the woman the priest shows himself to her in his chambers, the women frowning upon the high priest that he has shaven, telling him I have more hair between my legs than you have on your face, what kind of man is a man without a beard, the woman leaves in disgust. The Priest dissapointed, imbaressed of what he has done. Knowing that the church followers would excommunicate him from his place, The Priest becomes proud and greeds. Training a bird to eat seedlings out of his ear while the bird sits on his shoulder. Calling out all the priests popes and church followers to him saying that he has a word from God to tell them. Gathering all church followers, when they look upon the priest there shocked to discover him without a beard. The Priest tells them that god is speaking to him by the holy spirit through the bird that sits on his shoulder. ( as the bird sits eating seedlings from his ear). Lying to himself forsaking the church, missleading the followers of god. Benefits hisself not admitting the sin, Instead of repenting of what he did the Priests Pride and Greed Leads people to deception. (even to this day), saying that god has said that they shave there beards like he did or god won’t permit them into heaven. In a hurry they shave off there beards without question. Now the Priests, Popes, People shave because of him having faith in a person but not in God.

    Forsaking and critizing the True Old Believers of there faith making fun of the only True Old Believers. How imbarassing and blasfamass of the people not knowing the facts and judging the True Old Believers makes me sick to my stomach.

    For the individuals that are asking why? Can’t we shave the beard. Why are you even asking why? Its GODS LAW THATS WHY!!!! men can’t shave there beards its the law of god don’t pride and greed like the Priest did. God made laws that we must follow. Asking why or why not or I can’t read or understand is not an excuse when judgement day comes. Gods laws supersede any laws. It is written that if even one word is changed in the Holy Scripture an individual will be dambed unless he repents for his or her sin because GODS LAW IS LAW.

    The Holy Trinity that we as Old Believers pray with is Gods law. There are so many cultures that call themselves old believers but in church there shaven and or smoke etc.. How can an individual follow a Priest that is shaven and does not follow the Holy Trinity. Saying that our elders said or have a written story in a book. THE TRUE OLD BELIEVERS trust and follow the apostoles Holy Scriptures and live by it, saying that a beard is a small sin to other sins is to proud and greedy, not wanting to admit to his own sin, just like the priest did. True old believers follow the Holy Scripture. Gods law is law. No questions. Once an individual starts asking why ? That’s when trouble accures. Its like catching a speeding ticket the court don’t care why ? They give u a fine and it needs to get paid for there is no why? The law is not to speed on the roadway, just as scripture is to follow gods laws. Questioning why from some of the comments I read and critisizing our old traditions and culture is either not thinking and judging for his or her own behalf and benefit.

    The one individual accusing the old believers of abusing children, is either childish or to proud to understand. There is a difference between abuse and discipline. Old believers or not will be punished and have to repent for the sin on abusing anyone including children, abuse is when an individual is hit for a reason or not. Getting hit hit with a bat etc. Either hurting a person to the point that the individual is impaired is against any religion and the Holy Scripture. Then there is the fact of Discipline.

    Discipline is allowed by the holy scripture discipline meaning either by whipping or talking to an individual and or child. Most individuals and children understand by talking and some need physical whipping to the butt.

    The American society these days are so obsessed and influenced by domestic violence child abuse divorces etc. Divorces in American Society have become like buying candy from a store. once the candy is sucked away the people buy another one. Infuencing the Old believers in the corrupt culture of Divorse. Divorces espessially destroy childrens humanity. as children scream and fight with parents and a parent cant say a word. If a child hits a parent its okay but if a parent disciplines a child by whipping the childs butt the child is then taken away by child services and the parent goes to jail and is charged with domestic violence. What has become of the American society parents without children fight against parents with children and children fight against parents teachers etc. Parents can’t even stand up to there beliefs and culture. If a parent disciplines a child then the parent(s) are at fault and is in trouble what has become of this American Society. The Parents forget to stand up for themselves and the Holy Scripture that represents what is right or wrong. again following the law of people but not the Law of God. If our children are not disciplined what is to become of our world and our future children,

    The Holy Scripture states that if a child is misbehaving, not following the rules, of the parent than the parent has the right to discipline his or her child (children) its for the childs own benefit and the child will love and cherish the parents for the discipline given unto him at young age and will thank the parents when grows into adult, If the child is not disciplined at young age for his or her actions then the parent will suffer at old age. Its written in the Holy Scripture, like I said before the people need to follow the Holy Scripture. Not a word can be added or deleted from the Holy Scripture.

    Everyone has theories and stories to tell, the fact stands follow the Holy Scripture even one word that is said that is not from the Holy Scripture that individual will be judged in this life and the next. So before judging the ONLY TRUE OLD BELIEVERS ask yourself have I read somewhere from the Holy Scripture, before accusing the Old Believers for there faith and why we as Old Believers stand as one. The stories that we hear and read from our elders or the people that write them are somewhat interesting sometimes. So are we going to follow someone that said unto us or are we obeying the Holy Scripture and Following Gods Law trough our Only True Old Believer Culture.

    God wont Judge us he gave all the power to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ Will Judge us

  93. To the question of our baptism and critisicim against our Culture, The Baptism into our culture the individuals that should or want to come to our religion must be tested first on how there faith is to the Old Believer Culture. To be strong and faithful in all, as the benefit being an old believer receives if accepted into heaven will have the best in Gods Kingdom. if fails to be accepted into heaven and falls into hell than the torture will be worse than to the non believers is because the old believers need to know the Holy Scripture there is no choice. To the old believer saying that he never knew about the Holy Scripture and the sins that were made is no excuse.

  94. I would like to ask all my friends from the Old Bilievers community to stop talking with this man. He is a con man that is very close with Sylvester V. And we all know what how Sylvester has turned against us. And how he prayed on little girls. Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools,
    or you will become as foolish as he is. This Hudthrashian is a man I would never let in my house knowing that he is friends with Sylvester. And he doesn’t deserve any recognition especially not from our community. Please don’t reply!

  95. It’s time to point out to the mission statement of this Web site: “This Web site has been set up by Subdeacon Andrei Psarev as a meeting place for those who are concerned about the past and present of the ROCOR. A variety of opinions is encouraged as long as academic standards are upheld: claims should be supported by evidence and controversial views must be couched in an inoffensive tone. This discussion board is moderated. Offensive or potentially libelous comments will be removed.”

    1. How is that last post not offensive? Its supported by no evidence and is slanderous! How is this NOT seen as prejudice and offensive to this whole conversation?! Please take a closer look at how you run this blog. This will not be tolerated or ignored.

      1. Hi, Руская! Below is your post. You called Mr. Hudanish, “a con man.” This defamation is exactly against the rules of this site I was referring to. Please note that you are visiting my Web site, and therefore my guest and now you are threatening me (“this not will be tolerated or ignored”).

        70.199.181.227
        Submitted on 2015/06/03 at 12:52 am

        I would like to ask all my friends from the Old Bilievers community to stop talking with this man. He is a con man that is very close with Sylvester V. And we all know what how Sylvester has turned against us. And how he prayed on little girls. Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools,
        or you will become as foolish as he is. This Hudthrashian is a man I would never let in my house knowing that he is friends with Sylvester. And he doesn’t deserve any recognition especially not from our community. Please don’t reply!

  96. please be a very cautious when you talk on this blog. There is no reason to discuss anything about our religion here. We have no idea how all this information will be used. Plus it’s pointless when the man is not of our faith. Just a note from a concerned old believer.

  97. To Whom It May Concern,

    First of all, I try to befriend everyone because of my personal ethos, which mandates that I try to get along with everyone regardless of race, creed, religion, sexual preference, etc. Therefore, if an Old Believer were to find their way in my house, they would be welcomed with open arms. I would even furnish them with some paper plates so they would not have to eat off a heretic’s dinnerware
    .
    Secondly, my “claims” are not against the Old Believer Faith, they are against those who choose to sully the dogmatic tenets with their wanton debaucherous acts. I know firsthand from experience of hypocritical behavior from otherwise good people through my Catholic upbringing. My point: You cannot become chaste or Godly just because you attend mass. It takes a deep contextual understanding of the scripture, which are often allegories and should not be taken literally a lot of the time, e.g., the universe took longer than six days to create.

    Thirdly, I am not the first poster to make claims of rampant drug abuse and domestic violence in the Old Believer community. Was married to Old Believer brought up the rampant drug abuse and wife beating among your community. Perhaps ex Old Believer can substantiate my other claims? I also dated an Old Believer but broke up with her because of her and her family’s narrow-minded worldview and overall prejudices toward minorities. Therefore, my point of view about Old Believers is a close and intimate one.

    Lastly, Old Believers are ignoring the fact that you are losing your youth. You only need to stroll through Wal-Mart to see that a substantial amount of your community no longer grow their beards. Sadly, a lot are using harder drugs because of an early introduction of alcohol, and they have no qualms getting behind the wheel when inebriated. I do not care if you use two or three fingers to make the sign of the cross, nor do I care if you grow beards of not. I only care that we start treating each other better … because God wants us to live as brothers and sisters.

  98. My question is for ak49ian, true old believer, russian old believer, & humble old believer… I would have to agree with hubbard resident and ex old believer about some of our youth behaving the way they do, I agree because i used to be like that youth, and have seen it first hand.. I still stand firm on the fact that our youth is acting out the way they do is because they dont understand gods word, slavic is something they just dont understand. I know this because like i said, i was that youth, and only after i started learning orthodoxy in english did i see the truth.. Im still in the old believer church and still see the beauty in the church and slavic language. But after talking to some of our elders about what are we to do about our youth not understanding in slavic… the most common answer i got was(and i quote) yes yes its too bad our youth doesnt want to learn in slavic, scripture says that at the end of days there will be no true christians left, its too bad. (end quote). My question for you is.. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do we just give up or do we do something? It just seems like the elders are ok with lets just keep on doing what were doing, when its obvious its not working anymore. Maybe you dont see the problem first hand where you’re from..Maybe things are different where your from.. but where im from its bad! just go on facebook and look at some of the “married” old believer youth taking selfies in bars and clubs, taking shots and shotgunning beers… But not all old believers are like that either… Several weeks ago ak49ian made it clear that he’s opposed to change.. So what do we do? How can we make the youth see the truth without change? What are your thoughts?

    Im not looking for an argument. only solutions.. lets put our heads together on this matter

  99. We all tend to say that the youth is in big danger of losing their heritage (as witnessed of their actions). But in my opinion, the real problem is the lack of proper parenting examples. There is no doubt that our children learn first and foremost from us, parents. A child is a rare gem that cherishes the Old Believer church more than his/her parents. Almost never happens these days. A child will go to church as much as the parents do or less. Rarely more.

    Now take, for example, anyone who doesn’t understand the Old Believer church language. Why is it that they don’t understand? More than likely it is because of a lack of studying. If only as much effort was put into the lessons of the church as is put into the English school academics, I doubt this problem would exist. Especially on such a grand scale. Plus, why are modern day youth embarrassed of the Russian language? If one truly cared about his/her church, they would cling to the Russian language. I personally thank my parents for keeping the language alive while I was growing up because it would be much, much harder to learn church slavanic straight from english, rather than Russian. A lot of the words are similar.

    Note: I, too, once was amazed at my elders’ ability to understand what is read in church. I approached my father about that. I believe I was about 14 years of age at the time. He told me to never give up. Just keep reading. It will come to you. In the end, it’s not that far from the Russian language. He was right.

    As I type this, I recall reading in the Златоуст about how if one doesn’t understand what is read in church or simply cannot follow, that is ok (definitely not quoting, just paraphrasing, at best). All one needs to do at that point is repeat the prayer “Господи Исусе Христе Сыне Божии Помилуй Меня Грешного”. And that would be sufficient. I wish that I could direct you all to the exact page, but I simply don’t remember it now. Perhaps one of you will remember?

    But, dear confused, what can I tell you to automatically turn all of of the youth around? That is impossible to do right off the bat. What would be a start is for every parent to realize that they will answer for their children. It starts at home. If every home did it’s part, there would be no teens out and about after the wee hours of midnight, doing only God knows what. Then, show by example. Open up the holy books and start to read them. And make sure that they learn to read too. It’s was your parent’s responsibility to teach you, and now it is your responsibility to teach yours (if any).

    Bottom line: Conform yourself to fit the church. Not the other way around. Translation is out of the question.

    1. Hubbard resident & Ak49ian – It is not only the youth that are in trouble in the Old Believer community…The middle aged people are ruined as well…Hubbard resident is TOTALLY ACCURATE in his previous statements. The children start drinking “partying” at 11 or 12 and now are starting to abuse drugs instead of alcohol . I am terrified that I have to send my daughter there to visit her dad because of court papers. I know that the day will come when a Russian “holiday” comes and she will be invited to get in the car with her cousins and they will force her to drink. To the youth and even older Russians, a religious holiday is only merely a reason to go party. Hubbard resident is correct in saying they are hypocrites, even some priests come home from church and sit and drink coffee, alcohol and watch the hidden TV in their closet. Is is so silly…I still speak to my ex-sister in law and she tells me how bad everything has been since I moved away. It is so sad…She is also telling me that many of the youth are committing suicide because of depression stemming from alcohol abuse, etc. I have witnessed so much that I could go on and on…What is the answer?

  100. Was married to Old Believer, being that this discussion is (more or less) about the difference between ROCOR and the Old Believer church, and changes in churches, what exactly are you saying?

    Are you saying that the Old Believer church teaches all of those things that you talk about? In the decades of being a part of the Old Believer church, I have never encountered any scripture that would lead a person to behave in such ways.

    Sounds to me like you’re just describing the people surrounding you (your friends, relatives, etc.) If you truly take part in the church, you will find that you cannot live without it. If you participate in all of the teachings, you will find that you will actually be led away from all of those bad things you write about.

    You say that you WERE married to an Old Believer (obviously past tense)…may I ask…did you leave because you disagreed with the church? If so, what part of the church teachings do you disagree with?

  101. To all the old Believers you have fasting right now for Paul and Peter why? What did Peter say

    ********************
    Acts 10:25
    As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

    ****
    Paul said this

    *************
    1 Corinthians 1
    13. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
    17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
    *************************************************************************
    So why do you fast for them? My Father was Priest I ask him this question, his reply was( I don’t know or understand it myself but that is what the holy saints worte ) then one day he started to read the Holy Bible in the language that he understood **(not the old believer books but the Holy BIble) **, many times he would say (Daughter: what the Holy Bible say’s and what we do, I don’t know how god will be judging us this is so scary) This was scary to him because he knew what was thought to them for many generations and yet it was the opposite of what the Lord is teaching us to be, and yes it was hard for him to let go, but at the end he did, I thank the Lord everyday that he got saved and became christian before he passed way.

    ***********************
    You guys Fast yet you substituted everything , why do you bother Fasting Don’t you know what fasting is?

    *********************************************

    What is fasting and why should I do it? and why does the Bible encourage us to fast?

    from the Greek word nesteuo , meaning “to abstain.” For spiritual purposes, it means to go without eating and drinking (Esther 4:16).

    The Day of Atonement—also called “the Fast” (Acts 27:9)—is the only fast day commanded by God (Leviticus 23:27), though other national fast days are mentioned in the Bible. Also, personal fasts are clearly expected of Christ’s disciples (Matthew 9:14-15).

    We encourage those with health problems to consult a qualified medical practitioner before fasting.

    The Bible gives examples of God’s people occasionally combining fasting with their prayers so as to stir up their zeal and renew their dedication and commitment to Him. King David wrote that he “humbled [him]self with fasting” (Psalms 35:13). Fasting is a means of getting our minds back on the reality that we are not self-sufficient. Fasting helps us realize just how fragile we are and how much we depend on things beyond ourselves.

    The Bible records that great men of faith such as Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Paul and Jesus Himself fasted so that they might draw closer to God (Exodus 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8; Daniel 9:3; Daniel 10:2-3; 2 Corinthians 11:27; Matthew 4:2). Jesus knew that His true disciples, once He was no longer there in the flesh with them, at times would need to fast to regain and renew their zeal to serve Him (Mark 2:18-20).

    James tells us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Constant prayer and occasional fasting help us to do this.

    We are not to fast to have people feel sorry for us or to think we’re pious (Matthew 6:16-18). Isaiah 58 gives both bad and good examples of fasting, contrasting wrong attitudes and actions (Isaiah 58:3-5) with the right approach of outgoing love (Isaiah 58:6-10). Daniel and Nehemiah set the example of having a repentant frame of mind (Daniel 9:3-4; Nehemiah 9:1-2).

    Fasting also helps us learn the lessons of the Day of Atonement : forgiveness, reconciliation to God and the need to resist Satan and pray for the time of his removal (Revelation 20:1-3), which was portrayed in type by the Azazel goat on Atonement (Leviticus 16:20-22).

    ******************

    Matthew 6 (Fasting )
    16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    ****************************************

    I constantly pray for the Old Believers to see the truth and come to Christ. I also was once blind to the hypocrisy and lies of that Cult now I know the truth .
    Please don’t get me wrong I don’t hate the Old Believers, I actually feel sad that they are in darkness

    **********************

  102. Darkness!!???!!?? Wow u really don’t like these people!!! Ur ex old believer spouse must have gotten more then 50% in ur split up, lol. As for the substitutions ur talking about in (food) , that is a sin and u repent for it, but u wouldn’t know anything about that u probably don’t sin.

  103. To “bystander” No, I was born in Old Believer Culture and No, I’m not divorced. And yes I’m a sinner, Praise the Lord that he sent his Only SON who every believes in Him will not parish but have every lasting life!
    Don’t you know once we repent we become white as snow? We as humans sin every minute of the day and that is why we ask repentance daily basis.
    Not once a year like they did in the Old Testament and the sins where not forgive only cover by blood (that is why Jesus was crucified his blood washed our sins)
    “The OLD Believers still do tell this day repent once a year and believe that will be judge by our sins. ” Not at all, when I ask God for forgiveness and he forgive me why would he be judging me by my sins again ?? Does that make sense ? NO

    ****************************
    Romans 3:10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one

    ***************************
    Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
    Luke 15:7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
    Luke 15:10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
    ***************************
    That to me is SO amazing! The love that GOD has for us.

    We are set free
    ******************
    Romans 7:6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

  104. All organized Christian religions have undergone gone some change since the time of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth preached about the need of reform in the Jewish faith and ushered in the Catholic faith by allowing anyone to partake in the celebration of Christ the Lord.

    John Wycliffe transcribed the bible from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek to English so that more people could understand the word of God. His reformation eventually led to the creation of the Protestant faith.

    Italian artists such as Leonardo de Vinci and Michelangelo depicted Jesus as fair skinned, blue eyed with blond hair; he altered the more than likely dark skinned man (whose mother was from the black tribe of Judah) because of the need to have a savior that looked similar to themselves.

    Therefore all religions including the Old Believer Faith have evolved overtime, but the basic tenets have remained the same, e.g., love thy neighbor, thall shalt not kill, etc. Old Believers in the Willamette Valley will have difficulty accepting that because of the inherit power that their faith gives them, such as patriarchal family authority. In lament terms, Old Believers want the right to beat their wives. They love making fun of minorities and all non-believers.

  105. Don’t mean to just barge in on this conversation, but after randomly finding this site (I was searching for info on Old Believers in Oregon) and reading through all the comments, I became concerned! I’m Russian Orthodox and a member of a ROCOR parish actually, so its very unsettling that this site is allowing ignorant and borderline bigoted/Russophobic comments about Old Believer to be published by random people (I’m specifically talking about comments above, as apposed to the article itself). That is nothing that should be associated with our church and yes I know this site is not official, but still.

    Finally, Mr. Hudanish, I’m assuming you’re coming from a good place and I too want and pray for our schism to be healed, but your comments on giving up Russian and “assimilation” even made me cringe. Orthodoxy and Christianity are universal, but no one wants to give up their language or culture and they should not!

  106. @sergei, most of the people posting don’t want the Old Believers to give up their culture or language. I merely ask that should make their youth wait till the are older to drink. They should stop beating their wives. And maybe more accepting of other races, creeds, religions.

  107. @Hubbard resident, with all due respect, you are not in a position to ask anything of anyone, especially not of other religious or ethnic groups and especially not in that bigoted manner and tone. Do you even realize how absurdly hypocritical and ignorant you are sounding?

  108. @Sergei, If respecting the law and other ethic groups is bigoted, then i’m a proud bigot. Shame on me for wanting a few absurdly hypocritical things such as respect and tolerance.

    My thirty or so years interacting with Old Believers on the job site and in the surrounding community have given me a comprehensive narrative about the Old Believers currently living in the Willamette Valley.

    They have proven time after time to have no loyalty to the State of Oregon and the people who have helped them in their time of need. They move as if they were wandering gypsies to Alaska or Canada to take advantage of any public assistance programs they can. They fish the waters annoying others by fishing too close to other fishermen’s nets. Their brazen attitude has won them little to no friends outside of their family. They often quarrel with each other over the most trivial things.

    They do not care about politic correctness on the job site. I have often heard them say the most racist and sexist things.

  109. @Hubbard resident, yes, calling or insinuating that a whole ethno-religious group of people are criminals or some kind of deviants as you do is bigotry! If you feel someone is breaking the law, call the police, its that’s simple. As for respect, with your ridiculous and condescending attitude and tone its not going to be very likely you’ll get that from anyone.

    Loyalty to the state of Oregon?! You have to be joking! Did Oregon somehow secede from the US and now requites loyalty tests for people living there? Does freedom of movement no longer apply? That’s news to me. Considering how Portland has grown in the last 20 years, probably half the current population of Oregon wasn’t born in the state to begin with.

    As for “gypsies”, what a great choice of words! Really demonstrates your commitment to political correctness and anti-racism! Frankly, I can see why you may have had problems dealing with other people in the past.

  110. @sergei, you claim to belong to the Russian Orthodox religion and yet somehow come to the defence of The Old Believers. What interactions do you have with these people? And for your information, Sergei, the state of Oregon and the United States deserve some loyalty for the grants (e.g., loans and land) given to the Old Believers. You criticize me for using what you deem a condescending tone but do not lambast the Old Believers for their wife beating and underage drinking. I think you need to prioritize what really matters in the grand scheme of things.
    My usage of the word gypsy to describe the Old Believers was a poor choice; I apologize to all the gypsies for the unfair comparison.

  111. @Hubbard resident, yes I am Russian Orthodox and a member of a ROCOR parish and of course I’m going to come to the defense of Old Believers. I don’t want for this kind of ridiculous mud slinging to be associated with anything related to my church. Not to mention that I’m not going to stand for any kind of anti-Russian remarks or generalization. And no, I don’t have any connection to the Old Believers in Oregon, the closest I’ve been to the area was driving down I-5 to California. As I said, I happen to randomly find this site, just because I was curious.

    Any and all fidelity owed to the federal or state government is prescribed by law and is exactly the same for all Americans, irrespective or religion, ethnicity, etc. What you are suggesting is beyond absurd! It would a) be illegal discrimination, b) be morally reprehensible as there are millions of other Americans who’s ancestors received as many or more benefits when they originally settled.

    Obviously I don’t condone spousal abuse! What I object to is your ridiculous and offensive generalizations.

  112. @Sergei, I completely agree with Hubbard resident. You should really look into the actions of the Russian Old Believers in Oregon before you comment about them. They are all terrible people and hypocrites! Trust me, unless you know them and have seen how they treat anyone that is not Old Believer, you cannot relate. I have been around them for the past 18 years. I do anything and everything possible to keep my daughter away from the Old Believers. It is VERY SAD!!!!!!!!!

  113. Hi John,
    I’m writing to inform you that our mutual friend Dr. Richard A. Morris has passed away. He was dedicated to the study of the Russian Old Believers to the end. I met with him many times through the years, since the first time when we first met at the Marion County Russian Resource Committee in Woodburn in 1976. Here is a web page with his obituary: https://sites.google.com/a/lclark.edu/tatiana/richard-morris-1933-1915

    Paul J. Wigowsky
    P.S. I ran across this web page when I was gathering info on Richard Morris.

  114. To Sergei,
    *****************************************
    If, by your own admission, you have never had any direct contact
    with Old Believers, how can you object to any statements or generalizations
    about them, whether positive or negative?
    *****************************************
    For my part, I came to know and love several individuals and families
    in the Woodburn community, and had numerous substantive conversations
    with elders in their community over the years. I was a frequent guest in their
    homes and always wore a rubashka and poyas when I attended liturgical services
    in their houses of prayer. It was largely due to their influence that my family
    left the Catholic Church and joined the Orthodox Church in 1976. A ROCOR
    bishop, Vladika Nektary of Seattle, came and baptized me, my wife and our
    two sons by three immersions in the Willamette River, just a few hundred yards
    downstream from the Wheatland Ferry.
    ******************************************
    My contacts with them were essentially positive and pleasant. However, there is
    a lingering suspicion of outsiders, which is largely due to the fierce persecutions
    their ancestors endured in the three-hundred-fifty-plus years since the schism. And
    this suspicion – let us call it “xenophobia” – often manifests itself in negative
    behavior toward members of the dominant society. They are more comfortable living
    in isolation from the mainstream. Some Old Believers – but not all – actually do
    cheat and/or mistreat non-Russians, considering that it isn’t a sin to victimize outsiders.
    ******************************************
    I have seen some of this negative behavior, so I can tell you that the “ridiculous and
    offensive generalizations” to which you object are not at all ridiculous. They are based
    in fact. It isn’t really bigotry at all.
    ********************************************
    As for spousal abuse, it does happen. It seems to be a cultural phenomenon. You find it
    mentioned often enough in classical Russian literature…
    ********************************************
    You really have no credibility attempting to defend something of which you have
    no knowledge or direct experience. You also wrote that my “comments on giving up
    Russian and ‘assimilation’ even made [you] cringe. Orthodoxy and Christianity are
    universal, but no one wants to give up their language or culture and they should not!”
    *********************************************
    Sergei, I have never recommended that the Old Believers give up their language and
    culture. I was a first-grade teacher in Woodburn’s Nellie Muir Elementary School, and
    as I wrote in my narrative: “my approach to teaching the Old Believer children was
    philosophically predicated on a cultural maintenance model incorporating bilingualism
    and biculturalism. I resolved not to ‘Americanize’ my students, even before I was able
    to fully appreciate the significance of their culture from an Orthodox perspective.” Did
    you miss that paragraph?
    ********************************************
    The language of instruction in my first-grade classes was Russian, and I personally
    developed numerous materials and visual aids in the Russian language so my pupils
    cold learn to read and write in the language they brought with them to school.
    ********************************************
    Need I tell you I had to fight with the administrators and patrons of the school district to
    whom bilingual education and biculturalism were alien concepts?
    *********************************************
    So, it is patently unfair to accuse me of any attempts to assimilate my pupils into the
    American mainstream and to deprive them of their cultural heritage. You may cringe,
    if you like, but not because of me! You have a tendency to rush to judgment before you
    have all the facts. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions, but facts are objectively
    verifiable. Get the FACTS, Sergei!
    *********************************************
    At the same time, it must be recognized that assimilation does happen to just about
    every group that comes to live in America. The first generation retains their native
    language and cultural identity, while the second generation transitions into the American
    society and culture. By the time we get to the third generation, they may know a few
    words and phrases in the language from the “old country,” but they are culturally American.
    They communicate with each other in English. This process applies to all newcomers and
    to their children and grandchildren. I don’t approve and I did not make it so. But it is what it is!
    *********************************************
    The sad thing is that the third generation loses the beauty of their ancestral homeland’s
    language and culture. It is tragic, really. And I can relate because I myself am a third-
    generation American. My Carpatho-Rusyn and Slovak grandparents arrived 115-125 years
    ago from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. My grandparents were gone when I was born, and so I learned nothing from them about my Easter European culture, language and traditions.
    ********************************************************
    Of course you are right that Orthodoxy is universal, but my first-graders of fifty years ago are now grandparents and even great grandparents. The Old Believer youth today are culturally American or Canadian. They do not use Russian in their day-to-day communications with each other. They need English to comprehend the gospels and to participate in the liturgical services.
    ********************************************************
    Without English, they cannot participate in the liturgical services of the church. They cannot understand the sublime lessons of Christ’s teachings. It is heartbreaking…
    *************************************************************
    If all you can say is “Go and learn Slavonic!” that just isn’t going to do it. That’s like telling a downing man to go take swimming lessons, rather than throwing him a rope and pulling him
    out of the water…

  115. Hello John,

    I live in the Pacific Northwest and I am Russian, I have ran into Old Believers in the past (including in Russia) just not specifically in Oregon. I have also heard many second hand accounts regarding Woodburn, OR from members of my church who I very much trust. Additionally, I have in the past met someone who was involved with the Tolstoy Foundation, which I believe is the organization that originally helped the Old Believers settle in Oregon. So, I feel like I have more then enough knowledge to speak in this instance.

    As I’ve said in my first comment, what I wrote was not directed towards you, but mostly against other comments, which I already responded to. I don’t want to see anything that can even remotely be considered Russophobic/anti-Russian associated in any way with my church.

    I am very glad you and your family is Orthodox (as I think anyone with any Rusyn ancestry should be), that is a very beautiful story and I am happy that we are members of the same church. I think you are coming from a good place, but some of the things you are saying are not coming off well (in my humble opinion). Perhaps that is only due to my own perceptions of tone in an internet conversation, but nonetheless that is what I’m pointing out.

    Old Believers are a relatively small insular community, so of course they are going to be protective of their own and closed off to outside influence to some degree. That is natural and a very good thing, otherwise, they would have died out as a unique community long ago. I think calling that “Xenophobic” is completely inappropriate, as at least in today’s world that has an extremely negative connotation of ignorance or even a character flaw. It comes off as insulting and it makes no sense to me to insult a community of people because they are trying to maintain and preserve themselves.

    Pointing out that someone has cheated/mistreated/etc someone else outside of their community is also completely unfair! If you take any group of people of any religion/ethnicity/race/etc or even select a group of people at random, you will find that some in that group lie, cheat, commit crime, etc. That is the nature of man, we all have free will, all us have capacity to do good or evil and sometimes people do evil (and find all kinds of ways to justify it). That is not representative of Old Believers as a whole. In fact I am quite sure if you look at the various religions, ethnic, racial, etc communities in Oregon and rank them by crime rate, the Old Believers would rank very favorably.

    In the same way, spousal abuse happens in all communities and I’m fairly certain its quite well represented in English and American classical literature as well. Case in point: “Nearly 1 in 4 women (22.3%) and 1 in 7 men (14.0%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/intimatepartnerviolence/consequences.html All things considered I would guess that rate is probably lower not higher for Old Believers.

    Regarding assimilation, I am very happy to hear about your efforts as a teacher, I greatly respect your work and I thank you for your efforts to preserve Russian culture in general. However I completely disagree with the conclusions you are drawing. As soon as Old Believers assimilate into American culture, they will completely disappear as a community and their religion will most certainly die out! That has happened to countless other groups in the past, and it will invariable happen to the Old Believers unless they maintain their separate community and way of life. You are exactly right that in the past most groups have assimilated in about 3 generations, but as you probably know that’s not true of everyone, there are numerous communities, esp. religious communities, that have persisted. The most obvious such community that comes to mind are of course the Amish. That in my opinion is the model that should be emulated.

  116. How convenient for Hubbard resident and Ex-old believer to lump all Old Believers into one pot and call it the ethnic stew of hate, bigotry, spousal abuse and alcohol abuse. If that in itself isn’t bigotry, I don’t what is then. You are stereotyping and discriminating against a whole group of people… Its like saying all black people are bad. That’s not true but that’s what some people believe… or, All rich people are snobs..All blondes are dumb, all popular students are mean, all Old Believers are bigoted alcoholics who abuse their wives and the system.
    ——————————
    BIGOTRY
    Definition of bigotry is intolerance, hatred or aggression towards toward those who hold different opinions from oneself. Bigotry is stronger than prejudice, a more severe mindset and often accompanied by discriminatory behavior. It’s arrogant and mean-spirited. Bigotry is stereotyping people because of their race, ethnicity, sex, nationality etc. Bigotry is common among atheists, elitists, racists, liberals, Muslims, homosexuals, religious extremists, politicians…. and everyone else not on this list.
    ——————————
    We are all bigoted to some point, some more, some less, but I personally try to treat everybody equally and with respect, no matter what race or religion they may be, unlike some of Hubbard’s Old Believer friends. At the same time I wouldn’t want to walk down Harlem street (me being a white woman dressed in Old Believer clothes). How bigoted of me! Although I prefer to think that I am just being cautious and safe.
    ————————–
    SPOUSAL ABUSE
    The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.
    —————————-
    Domestic violence is an insidious problem deeply rooted in all cultures, not just in the Old Believer culture — and these numbers prove that.
    ——————————–
    3 – The number of women murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the U.S.
    ————————-
    1 in 4 – The number of women who will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.
    —————————-
    A woman is beaten every 9 seconds in the US.
    ————————
    10,000,000 – The number of children exposed to domestic violence every year.
    —————————-
    18,000 – The number of women who have been killed by men in domestic violence disputes since 2003. (Some Old Believer husbands may be abusive, but I haven’t heard of anyone killing their wives so far)
    ——————————–
    4,774,000 – The number of women in the U.S. who experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year.
    ————————————-
    We are inundated with news stories about domestic violence, from athletes beating their significant others in public elevators or in their own homes to celebrities publicly abusing their girlfriends. So as you can see it’s not just an Old Believer problem. But even here it is pretty bigoted of Hubbard resident and ex-old believer to dump all of us into one pot again.
    ————————————-
    My husband has never hit me in our 30 years of marriage. My girlfriends father-in-aw abused his wife, but their son never mistreated my girlfriend. My daughter and her husband love and respect each other. My neighbor’s husband worships the ground she walks on.
    ————————————-
    I have many brothers and sisters, and some are not as lucky or happy as I am. The husband of one sister did not drink, but he often abused my sister. Another sister’s husband was a nice quiet man until he got drunk, Now that he hasn’t been drinking for over 10 years, he couldn’t be a better husband. Another sister put up with her husbands drunken abuse for several years until she threw him out of the house. Now they are back together – no more drinking or abuse. One of my brothers drinks and sometimes lashes out at his poor wife . but she called the police and he learned to restrain himself… So 4 out of 14 children (yes, large family), it is about 70% good. I sincerely wish it was better, 100% good would be super! But at least it’s not 100% bad as some people try to make it out to be.
    ———————————-
    I am really sorry that Ex-old believer had such a bad experience. A couple of my relatives did not fare too well either when they married someone outside the Old Believer community. One of them was married to a drunken, verbally and financially abusive (non-Old Believer) man for about 15 years before she finally left him. She is now happily married to another non-Old Believer. The other relative left her abusive Old Believer husband and married another man outside our community. Life was not all golden with this man either. Not only did he abuse her, but so did her new mother-in-law! Now she is back in our fold with her reformed first husband, who has decided to become the better man and husband.
    ————————————-
    If marriages were so wonderful outside the Old Believer community, the divorce rates wouldn’t be so high in the U.S. – which is a whopping 40 to 50 percent.
    ———————————–
    DRINKING
    A Serious Problem Facing Teenagers Today, (not only Old Believer teens).
    Underage drinking is a national concern that’s leading to more injuries and deaths than people realize. In fact, nearly 11 million underage people consume alcohol in the United States alone.
    ——————
    **4,300 deaths annually are caused by underage drinking.
    **People aged 12 to 20 years old drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in U.S.
    **More than 90% of alcohol consumed is considered as binge drinking.
    **In 2010, there were 189,000 emergency room visits for injuries related to underage drinking.
    —————————-
    Russian Old Believer teens do drink too much too often, I agree with you there, but underage drinking seems to be a problem nationwide. I wish it weren’t so. My husband and I tried to be a good example to our children. Now that they have all married and moved out of the home, some of them drink only occasionally and when the sisters (my daughters) get together, they prefer to drink tea. A couple of them haven’t outgrown the partying yet, and I do worry about them and often speak to them about the evils of drinking.
    —————————
    PUBLIC ASSISTANCE
    Hubbard resident accuses Old Believers of taking advantage of any public assistance programs they can. But the states that Russian Old Believers live in are not in the list below of the 11 states with most people on welfare. So who is taking advantage of the system in those states?
    ————-
    * Alabama
    * California
    * Hawaii
    * Illinois
    * Kentucky
    * Maine
    * Mississippi
    * New Mexico
    * New York
    * Ohio
    * South Carolina
    ————————–
    My parents moved from South America with 14 children. We did not speak English and did not know of any assistance programs. We all worked in the fields to help support the family. Later when my parents developed health problems that prevented them from working, someone helped them file for food stamps. I was one of the younger children and I grew up on assistance, but my mom was very frugal and only bought the essentials like flour, salt, sugar, vegetables and fruit. All food was cooked at home. Years later when I worked at a grocery store myself, I watched people on food stamps buy what I personally called non-food items: chips, pop, etc. Also very few of my customers were Russian Old Believers. None of my children grew up on welfare, and none of them are receiving any type of assistance as we speak. I am proud to say that most of them graduated from high school and some of them went on to college and earned their BAs..
    ————————————
    Hubbard resident, you sound like one teen boy I a had a run in when I was a teenager myself. I went to work when I was about 15. The summer I was 19, I got a brother to cosign for me and bought myself a brand new car, and made my own payments, paid for my own car insurance. Some teenage boys walking down the road saw me driving it. One threw a rock and yelled: “You F..Russians! You drive new cars because your parents F…spoil you!”
    ——————–
    Hubbard resident, I wonder now…. was that you?
    —————————-
    Sergei, thank you so much for your kind intervention!

  117. @Sophia, I would have to know what kind of car you drove back then to answer your question. Just kidding. Nice try in trying to paint me as a lascivious hate-mongering bigot. But if you take the time to actually read what I posted, then you’ll clearly see that I preach of tolerance and respect. I have dealt with many Old Believers in my day and can honestly say from experience that most (not all) are racist wife beating drunks. And don’t come back at me with a false equivalency, such as walking down the streets of Harlem. Please don’t hesitate to use a statistic that doesn’t pertain to you or this argument, such as 4 out 5 dentist recommend chewing trident after eating. I have witnessed a disproportionate amount of Old Believers spewing racial pejoratives at Blacks and Latinos. How dare Old Believers think you are on par with either of those groups. First of all, both those ethic groups fought bravely for this country in most of the major wars. They earned their spots in the welfare line! They earned their prison cells! Half a million Mexican Americans fought in World War II…many of them immigrants. So you see that the fact i stick up for the Raza proves I’m no bigot.

  118. Very well put, Sergei and Sophia. Keep up the good work!
    Commentators like Hubbard resident and Was married to Old Believer are what are known as “Trolls” around the Internet. They exist by the thousands, online. Especially in political comment sections and places like this. Not many people will read what they write and say “Wow, what a beautiful piece, and so full of facts! His/her mother must be proud!” In fact, quite the contrary.

  119. Wikipedia’s definition of “Internet Troll”: In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[3]

    This sense of the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, but have been used more widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment. For example, mass media has used troll to describe “a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families.”
    ************************************************
    That is a perfect description of Hubbard resident’s and Was married to Old Believer’s incendiary commenting techniques.

  120. @AK49ian, nice use of an ad hominem to try to negate the validity of my arguments. But I’d have to post comments not relative to the discussion in order for me to troll. Everything I posted are examples and reasons that proves the Old Believers in the Willamette Valley need to change their ways.
    ______
    ad hom·i·nem  (hŏm′ə-nĕm′, -nəm)

    adj.

    1. Attacking a person’s character or motivations rather than a position or argument: The candidates agreed to focus on the issues rather than making ad hominem attacks against each other.
    ______

    AK

  121. @ AK49ian and @Sergei

    MORON

    [mawr-on, mohr-]
    Spell Syllables
    Word Origin
    noun

    1. Informal. a person who is notably stupid or lacking in good judgment:
    I wonder why they elected that narrow-minded moron to Congress.
    2. Psychology. (no longer in technical use; now considered offensive) a person of borderline intelligence in a former and discarded classification of mental retardation, having an intelligence quotient of 50 to 69.

    Unless you have dealt specifically with the Old Believer community in the Willamette Valley, you cannot comment or have opinions regarding this topic. You are completely clueless.

  122. Hubbard resident, I have thoroughly read all of the comments above and have been following since the beginning. You do point out the Willamette Valley Old Believers a few times, and not necessarily classify ALL Old Believers as the same. Yet, your distinction is not very clear because you go on to say things like “….. most (not all) are racist wife beating drunks…”. Considering that most of the Old Believers I know are either originally from (including my family) or still in the Willamette Valley, you have kindly included people like me in your generalization. Surely, you must see how your comments are beyond inflammatory. Sergei’s and Sophia’s posts are full of facts. Feel free to study up on that.
    ****************************************
    Also, from what I remember, the original point of this whole discussion was about the church differences between Old Believers and ROCOR, etc. Nothing, you (and Was married to Old Believer) posted, remotely describes what the Old Believer church teaches. Therefore, it is not unfair to say that the both of you are “trolling”.
    ******************************************
    Was married to Old Believer, thank you for proving my point :) Note: Even though your intelligence quotient may be above 69, you are still “trolling”. Calling me a moron, retard, etc., I completely understand. But Sergei doesn’t deserve it. That is specifically attacking his character. Hubbard resident should agree, since that comes from his/her definition of an ad hominem.
    ************************************************
    I’m sorry, Sergei, for getting you hit with a ricochet from a shot aimed at me. Was married to Old Believer is right at least this once, I must have an IQ of 50-69 (probably less), for acknowledging her trolls.

  123. Just in case you missed it, Hubbard resident, all that you have been telling us about the Old Believers’ behavior you have experienced ARE character flaws, so it goes without saying, your own posted definition speaks to you more than anyone else. Again, none of those actions/flaws are taught, encouraged or condoned in the Old Believer church, inside or outside of the Willamette Valley.

  124. @Hubbard resident, when someone writes things like, “They earned their prison cells!” and “i stick up for the Raza proves I’m no bigot” it become difficult to actually respond with anything of substance, on the plus side I did have a very good laugh. Nonetheless, even if you are just trolling online, you really should tone down the bigoted and russophobic comments.

    @Was married to Old Believer, as I already explained I am familiar with Old Believers and obviously Russian culture in general. If what you write about your family life is true, you must be in a terrible position. Obviously I understand that there probably isn’t anything I can say to influence your opinions or views right now, but I genuinely hope you can get to a better place and eventually change your mind.

    @Ak49ian & @Sophia, no worries, glad to be of help. This whole discussion really opened my eyes, didn’t realize before how much negatively and social pressure Old Believers must deal with on a daily bases. I hope you folks know that you have a lot of supporters from the Russian community at large. С Богом.

  125. @Sergei, when did I ever refer to an Old Believer as a Russian? I made it very clear that my comments are about the Old Believers living in the Willamette Valley. Therefore, if you feel I made any inflammatory remarks about Russians, then that is solely on you and your inability to comprehend what you read. Furthermore, if you knew anything about the Hubbard/Woodburn community, which you don’t, then you would know there are three basic groups of people living here (for the most part, there are some other ethnic groups but there numbers are so small I won’t mention them): Whites, Old Believers and Mexicans. And if you knew anything about the Old Believers living here, which you don’t, then you would know that they (most of them, not all) look down on the Mexicans. AK49ian can attest to that if he is honest. the point I am trying to get across is that Sophia has no write to compare the Old Believers to any statistic. Nor do you have the right to compare the Old Believers to any group and proclaim them favorably. They have not earned the right! Let’s see how many Old Believers fought for America in World War II 0 + 0 = 0; Let’s do one for Vietnam 0 + 0 =0…As you can see they have not earned the right to draw public assistance or commit any crimes. I used Mexicans as an example because Old Believers (most, not all) in the Woodburn/Hubbard area look down at my little buddies. There are Chicanos/Mexicans whose bodies will never be found in Vietnam. How dare any Old Believer think they are on par with any Chicano/Mexican.
    ___________________________________________
    @Ak, the article is about John’s efforts in trying to mitigate the differences between Old Believers and The Orthodox Church. That mitigation can only occur with change. My post are about changes that need to be made in the Old Believer community in the Willamette Valley…therefore they pertain to this discussion, thus no trolling on my part. Thank you, good night and God bless the USofA.

  126. No, Hubbard resident. I AM honest, so honestly, I can attest to no such thing (as far as looking down at anyone goes). The ONLY time I can think of myself looking down at anyone, while standing on my feet, (ladders, etc., not included) is if I’m talking to someone considerably shorter than I am. That doesn’t happen very often being that I am a whopping five feet, seven and thirteen sixteenths (rounded up) inches short. Same goes for my Willamette brothers and sisters. Most are hard working, tax paying, eye contact kind of people, granted, not ALL of them are tall (which makes them actually look up at others, not down). Maximum pun intended. Are we all perfect? No, none of us are. But, we also do not fit the painting on your canvas. Your artwork (trolling skills) may be appreciated by some of your friends, but I really don’t get it. I don’t see how anyone could possibly benefit from it, especially you. If you are better than the Old Believers you describe, then you shouldn’t be saying all of those things (it doesn’t present you as a nice person). But if you are like them or worse, then you STILL shouldn’t be saying all of those things. Surely, you must be noticing by now, if you think you are helping solve a problem, you have made ZERO steps in the right direction. Please reconsider your approach and choice of words. That may be a start. Aaaaaand….yes, I know, you have the RIGHT to say anything you want. But, after reading your last post about “[Old Believers] have not earned the right to draw public assistance or commit any crimes…”, I believe that you may be having some difficulty in understanding what “rights” actually are. Waiting for your response. Should be an interesting one, if nothing else, you’ve proven to be consistent in that regard…. ;)

  127. Looks like Mr. Hudanish article turned into Russian Old Believers bashing. If I would have known this was his intent, I would have never entertained commenting on this site. Plus looks like the “editor” is not intervening, but I can see he removed some comments from other posters. But it is OK to slander the “group” this article was written about, yet it was from and outsider. This will be my last post, sorry I participated. Take Care

  128. Dear Russian Old Believer,

    Why is this prohibited for an outsider to talk about your group? I would listen to an outsider, like you, if you would speak about my own group (Russian Church Abroad). All comments by Mr. Hudanish were rendered in respectful tone. For instance he didn’t put “Russian Old Believer” in quotation marks as you marked me (“editor”) in your last comment. All his historical points regarding Old Ritualists were supported by conventionally accepted evidence, unlike personally charged statements that were removed from this site.

  129. Below are some of the allied countries that Old Believers lived in during World War II. The numbers show the casualties. A total of about 32 million people died in these countries alone. Many Old Believers fought and died for their countries.
    ————————————-
    **Soviet Union: 25,000,000
    **Poland: 5,720,000
    **Yugoslavia: 1,363,500
    ————————————–
    Total casualties of World War II: 72,468,900 (almost half of the casualties were just from countries above!)
    ————————————–
    Compare the above numbers to the total casualties in the following 2 countries:
    ————————————
    **United States: 418,500 (9,000 of which were Latinos, according to Senator Menendez, way short of the Half a million Mexican Americans Hubbard Resident quoted!)
    **Mexico: 100
    ————————————
    Different sites vary although most agree with the above statistics. (One other site states 1,078,162 to be the total US casualties in the second World War. And another sites says that Russia has put total losses in the war, both civilians and military, at over 40 million).
    ———————————————
    World War II began in 1939, but United States didn’t get involved until the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Since the war wasn’t on U.S. soil, I guess Americans didn’t feel the need to. Russia and all the other countries didn’t have that option. The allies (British, Chinese, French, Mexican, Russian, etc.) were all fighting for One World Cause, trying to stop the Axis Powers of taking over. So it doesn’t matter that Old Believers weren’t part of the U.S. Forces, plenty of our people died for the Cause.
    ——————————————
    Lets see what was happening in the U.S. after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Racism against Japanese-Americans intensified. Like Muslims after the 9/11 attacks, Japanese-Americans were targets of harassment, discrimination, and government surveillance. They were now deemed enemies of the state and lost their homes, jobs, and businesses. By order of the President, Japanese-Americans were relocated and housed in barracks without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind. These overcrowded camps were surrounded by barbed wire. President Roosevelt himself called them “concentration camps.”Over half of the 120,000 Japanese-Americans sent to the camps were born and raised in the U.S. and had never set foot in Japan. Half of those sent to the camps were children. Some of those imprisoned died in the camps due to a lack of proper medical care. Others were killed for not obeying orders.
    ———————————————
    Now if anyone has earned their spots in the welfare line or their prison cells, its the Japanese-Americans!
    ———————————————-
    Oh, and speaking of racism and bigotry, African Americans have been the victims of racial oppression throughout the history of the United States, starting with slavery. But they have always supported the nation, especially during wartime. Despite a high enlistment rate in the U.S. Army during WW2 (Over 2.5 million), African Americans were not treated equally and were kept in segregated units (The Latinos did not serve in segregated units, like African Americans.). Although many soldiers of color served their country with distinction during World War II, they went back to their bleak segregated homes where nothing was changed for them, not until the late 60’s.
    ———————————————–
    So we can also say that African-Americans have earned their spots in the welfare line or their prison cells.
    ————————————————-
    Since I personally wasn’t in the US Army, maybe I haven’t earned my Spot in the welfare line, but that’s ok, because I am not on welfare, never have been, and don’t plan to be. I worked most of my life, 20 years with one company and already have a retirement pension waiting for me when I turn 60. (Although I would think that since I contributed to Welfare via taxes by working, that I should be eligible for some compensation???)
    —————————————–
    As far as my spot in the prison cell, well, the worst crime I have committed so far is going over the speed limit. I prefer not to have a spot reserved for me in prison, if you know what I mean.
    ———————————————–
    By the way, racism continues to be a major issue throughout the world, not just in the US. It divides people over race, religion or just skin color. Here is a list of 10 most racist countries in the world:
    ——————————————
    United States
    Saudi Arabia
    Rwanda
    Russia
    Pakistan
    South Africa
    Japan
    Israel
    Germany
    India
    ————————————
    (http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/most-shocking/the-10-most-racist-countries-in-the-world/?view=all)
    —————————————-
    I believe everyone is prejudiced to some degree. Although I have friends who are of a different race, color and religion than me, I do not tolerate fools.

  130. @Ak49ian, your attempts to refute anything I have negative to say about the Old Believer community by calling me an internet troll proves you have little or nothing intelligent to write. Go ahead and call me whatever names you want; it does not affect me whatsoever because it holds no truth. If I wanted to troll this site, I would write stuff such as this: (1) I am not afraid of any Old Believers because they can only beat up their wives. (2) I went to an Old Believer Baptism today, which is different from any other type of religious ceremony I have ever attended. They locked-up a young boy/girl in a full porta potty and knocked it down a hill. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, pee to poop…the young boy/girl is now an Old Believer. (3) @Sophia, you remind of a girl I went to school with. She would steal chalk when the teacher was not paying attention and eat it them like potato chips. I wonder now…. was that you? Those three comments are perfect examples of trolling. Furthermore, by all accounts, I am the only one currently living in the Willamette Valley, so therefore, my posts carry more validity because of my close proximity to a band of miscreants that should have never been given entry to my country.
    ___________________________________
    @Humble Old Believer, half a million Mexicans/Chicanos served…that number does not reflect the numbers killed in action. You really need to learn to comprehend what you read because it could help when trying to understand the bible.

  131. Hello my name is Shawn Beekman and I desperately need to ask for your churches help. My fiancé and I have two beautiful babies together and I was introduced to the old believer community after the kids were born. Her and I want deeply to get married correctly in her mothers eyes, the eyes of the lord, and also the community. I’ve done exstensive research on the old believer community, it’s history and also that of the church and it’s something I really believe in, and I’d like to raise my children with her in the willamite valley. Please help!!

    1. Shawn. Perhaps you could contact the priest, Father Parfiri? I know that they receive others, because they did me and my children. They traveled across the country to baptize us in the river and to have services.If you email me I will try to help you gain contact.

  132. Mr. Beekman,

    I see no one has responded to your post on February 25, more than six weeks ago. You had asked for help, but it has not been forthcoming.

    I feel I have waited long enough to extend a hand to you…

    As you probably understand by now, I am not an Old Believer. I am an Orthodox Christian living in NE Pennsylvania, and I attend St. Basil’s Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR). All the ancestors of the Old Believers, including your fiance’s ancestors, were members of my Church until the middle of the 17th Century.

    I suggest you contact the pastor of the Russian Orthodox parish nearest your location, explain your circumstances and then follow his direction. You and your lady could then be married in the Orthodox Church, your children baptized, and all of you could then receive Holy Communion, i.e., the precious Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

    If this suggestion seems good to you, but if you don’t know of any Orthodox churches in your vicinity, please post your ZIP code and I shall provide you with names, addresses and telephone numbers of parishes of the Orthodox Church near you.

  133. Dear John, I am very interested in your experience working with Old Believers in Oregon in the 1970s. How can I contact you directly? I am researching the family history and would like to trace my ancestors.

    1. Irina,

      If you wish to contact me directly, my e-mail ađress is amboyjohn@gmail.com.

      I am not a genealogist, but I do know something about the history of the Old Believers who arrived in Oregon fifty years ago. I shall be happy to share with you whatever information I have.

  134. This is a very interesting article! I am a most unworthy convert to the Old Believers…I first was in the O.C.A and later in ROCOR before they entered union with the MP. I converted in 1999 and received Holy Baptism 2000. I would like to say that in my humble opinion…the impediment to reconciliation is the endless compromises that have been ongoing since the time of Nikon. It seems more and more apparent that ROCOR as well as others are looking for a unity, a false unity that will come soon from Antichrist. It is not just the persecutions of the past, for indeed those can be and are forgiven, but, there seems to be no repentance for what brought the schism in the first place. The mainstream Russian Church schismed from her brethren to be more palatable to the heretical West. Now, in 2016 we see this spirit of Antichrist gaining momentum. As far as I understand, Old Believers are not seeking to unite with such deception. I am quite sure that should Russian MP/ROCOR repent of their compromises, then their gestures of regret for the martyrs of the Old Belief would be received as authentic sorrow and remorse. This will not happen.The true Christian is not seeking “World Peace”. Christ will bring this at His Glorious Coming. Until that day…we will continue to be scattered and persecuted as The Holy Angel Gabriel prophesied to the prophet Daniel concerning the Last Times. Forgive me.

  135. I would like to add, from my ongoing experience…It was said here that ROCOR does not reject the Old Rite…while it is true that many of them are enchanted with the Old Rite customs and prayers, they do not believe that we are in THE Church. They believe WE are the schismatics and that we must repent and return. For a simple minded soul such as myself, I reason here that the one to return would be the one who left, no? The one who changed would be the one to change back…

    On the issue of personal sins…drunkenness, violence, abuse, these are not condoned by the Church. There is sin and carnality that we must all repent of.:
    “1But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

    4For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 5And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;” II Peter 2

  136. Fr Seraphim Rose’s letter to Alexis Young, mentioning John Hudanish’s visit to Old Believers. (Source: Viacheslav Marchenko)

    Letters of Fr. Seraphim Rose
    187. Sept. 21 /Oct. 4, 1975. St. Demetrius of Rostov

    Dear Alexey,

    Just a note to go with Daniel tonight. He seems to be in the best state we’ve seen him in two years. We discussed the “Fr. Panteleimon situation” with him, and he had already decided, when he just heard of the breaking of communion, that he himself would not even think of leaving the Synod if Fr. P., should. The “whole mess” which is supposedly cleared up now is, of coursed, 90% a “Fr. Panteleimon mess,” and far from being cleared up, it bodes very ill for the future. About that we shall have to wait and see, remembering that Fr. P. is no authority in our Church and that his next “dramatic move” must be regarded with extreme suspicion. There is a strong smell of politics behind him, and one day he is going to make the fatal political mistake. Let us be sober and prepared.

    About the Hudanish-Old Believer visit. Yes, you are blowing it up too much. It is not possible to have a “dialogue” with them. They are sectarians, and their spirit, not just their externals, separates them from Orthodoxy. If God can somehow draw one or many of them to Orthodoxy, very good, but the measures of “penitence” which John Hudanish describes would be simply a flattering of their sectarian pride. Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky was against receiving Old Believers even if they asked nothing but to keep the two-fingered cross—not because of the small act, but because this revealed they still had the sectarian mentality. Of course, since then the Russian Church has allowed Old Believers to retain the two-fingered Cross and their service books, but as a gesture of economy rather than an admission that Patriarch Nikon was wrong. For an Old Believer to become Orthodox there must be an awareness that the externals they preserve are not of the essence of Orthodoxy. Fr. Dimitry Alexandrov, by the way, has visited them, or at least some O.B.’s in Oregon, and saw no hope for “dialogue.”

    As for the visit, let it be just a visit. Talk about what interests you and them, but don’t be defensive about not living according to “rules” like theirs. If they want to dispute anything, have an answer, as the Apostle Peter says, to the best of your ability.

    John Hudanish, from his letter, is an “idealistic” American full of unrealistic hopes. His talk of repentance and of learning from you does not seem to strike true. Be as simple and unpretentious as possible, and don’t even think of being the representative of a “dialogue.”

    Our green truck runs fine. How should we arrange to get it to you for a weekend or more?

    With love in Christ,

    Seraphim, monk

    P.s. The Old Believer Pimen Sofronov (the iconographer), under the persuasion of Fr. Dimitry Alexandrov, received Holy Communion some months before he died, in one of our churches in the Holy Land. But, of course, he was not at all a “strict” Old Believer as the real sectarians are. I don’t know if he was “in communion” with the Oregon “O.B.’s” or not, but if so, they would never believe that he had done such a thing!

    1. Dear Emila,
      I believe that Old Believers were still connected with the Church. That is why we don’t baptize them. Their forefathers suffered a lot unjustly because of the persecution from state and imperial church. But we are only permitted to brake communion with our bishops when they preach heresy. And I don’t know what heresy Patriarch Nikon publicly proclaimed.

  137. I have been very busy and have not posted anything for several months. From the very beginning I had attempted – in good faith – to open a door and encourage discussions that would lead to better understanding and, hopefully, reconciliation between the Old Believers and the Orthodox Church. But where did it go?

    We’ve all witnessed how a handful of Old Believers, hiding behind pseudonyms, rejected this peace initiative, but some among the younger generation have privately expressed appreciation to me for shedding light on history of the schism.

    Let me say that I have written nothing that cannot be independently verified by objective historians and other scholars, but those who have vilified me for holding out an olive branch to the Old Believer community are obviously uncomfortable with the very notion of even considering information that does not support their predisposition to reject the Church from which their ancestors separated themselves more than three-hundred-sixty years ago.

    It is not my purpose to make my Old Ritualist brethren uncomfortable. Nevertheless, our sister Emilia deserve a response to her posting of May 7th, six months ago:

    “I would like to add, from my ongoing experience…It was said here that ROCOR does not reject the Old Rite…while it is true that many of them are enchanted with the Old Rite customs and prayers, they do not believe that we are in THE Church. They believe WE are the schismatics and that we must repent and return. For a simple minded soul such as myself, I reason here that the one to return would be the one who left, no? The one who changed would be the one to change back…“

    First of all, the Orthodox Church of Christ is much, much bigger than the Russian Orthodox Church. It includes the following self-governing churches; the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Istanbul), the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Serbia, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, the Patriarchate of Georgia, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania, the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, the Church of Sinai, the Church of Finland, the Church of Estonia, the Church of Japan, the Church of the Ukraine and the Archdiocese of Okhrid.

    Count them! There are twenty (20) self-governing Orthodox churches. These twenty Orthodox churches serve 225 to 300 million Orthodox Christians. And all are in communion with each other despite the fact that all of these churches have unique and distinct liturgical customs. THEY ARE ALL PART OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF CHRIST, BECAUSE THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF CHRIST HAS, FROM ANCIENT TIMES, PERMITTED VARIATIONS IN LOCAL USAGES ON CONDITION OF UNITY IN THE TRUTHS OF THE FAITH.

    All the hierarchs (bishops, archbishops, metropolitans and patriarchs) of these Churches are in the line of Apostolic Succession. All are happy to have their men grow beards, although none of them forbids their men to trim their beards or shave. And only one of them (Moscow) was involved in persecuting the Old Believers. The faithful of all twenty churches recite the Nicean Creed in their morning prayers and during Great Complines and the Divine Liturgy.

    But the Old Believers continue to insist that there is only one correct way to worship God, and they hold themselves apart, not only from the Russian Orthodox Church, but from all twenty churches of the Orthodox Church of Christ.

    So, Emilia, please ask yourself, is it reasonable to say that the hierarchs of all twenty aforementioned Orthodox jurisdictions, plus the 300 million faithful they guide, are in schism just because they don’t make the Sign of the Cross with two fingers as the Old Believers do?
    If you believe that it is indeed reasonable to make such a statement, then you must understand that such a statement is not what Jesus Christ taught, nor is it what His Church teaches. The very notion that one may make the Sign of the Cross only with two fingers is ritualism. It is not the essence of Orthodoxy. It is not Orthodox Christianity!

    There is no need for anyone to “change back.“ Personally, I always make the Sign of the Cross with two fingers. My neighbor uses three fingers. We don’t judge each other. It simply isn’t an issue.

    Yes, the Old Believers are in schism from the Orthodox Church of Christ. They are schismatics.
    That’s what Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) asserted forty-one years ago in his letter to Alexey Young.

    It is interesting to note that Father Seraphim and I had not yet met when he described me – in that same letter – as “an ‘idealistic’ American full of unrealistic hopes.“ He never mentioned that to me personally, but I suspect he never changed his mind about me after we got to know each other.

    In any case, I admit I have been accused of idealism several times throughout my life, to which I can only reply, “Guilty as charged!“ As for my hopes being “unrealistic,“ well, that’s true, too. Unless, of course, you believe that with God all things are possible. (Matt 19:26)

    But here I must add that Father Seraphim had only read about the Old Believers in books. His analysis of them is that of a erudite scholar. It is accurate.

    But I knew the Old Believers as people. They are warm, xenophobic, pious, rowdy, hardworking, generous people. I worked with them, taught their children in elementary school, helped them fill out forms, interpreted for them in courtrooms and emergency rooms, laughed with them, got drunk with them, cried when some of them died, I pray for them, and I shall always be glad I know them.

  138. A whole year has passed since I last posted a comment on this website. In fact, there have been no comments here since January 7th. I was encouraged by the number of postings in response to TWO ROCOR BISHOPS AND THE RUSSIAN OLD BELIEVERS IN OREGON first appeared here in February 2015. Some folks appreciated what I had written, while others disagreed with some of my comments and observations. It’s all good! And we’ve had a lively discussion.
    ***************************************************************
    I am writing today to recommend a book about the Old Ritualist schism in the 17th century. The book is entitled RUSSIA, RITUAL & REFORM, by Dr. Paul Meyendorff, Associate Professor of Liturgical Theology at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. It was published in 1991 by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press in Crestwood, NY 10707.
    ***********************************************
    Fr. Deacon Andrei Psarev gave me a copy of RUSSIA, RITUAL & REFORM about two weeks ago, and I am pleased to recommend it to every Old Ritualist in North America. It’s an easy read and not a particularly long one. Dr. Meyendorff’s research meets the highest academic standards and is well-documented. He does his best to tell it like it is. The book includes brief biographies of Patriarch Nikon, Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich, Arsenios the Greek and Epifanii Slavinetskii, as well as specific information on what reforms were actually introduced. Dr. Meyendorff even explains why Patriarch Nikon introduced the reforms in the first place.
    ************************************************
    Dr. Meyendorff’s depiction is critical of Patriarch Nikon, but I think readers – even Old Ritualist readers – will find that Nikon was NOT the monster contemporary Old Ritualists think he was.
    Old Ritualists of every persuasion really should get this book and read it two or three times as they contemplate the future of their church and how best to help it face the future.

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