This report of Sr. Vassa at the Conference on the History of the Russian Church, November 2002 in Moscow is a fair historical and canonical reconstruction of the development of the ROCOR’s mission. This critique by Vladimir Moss, a research fellow opposed to union with the Moscow Patriarchate, should generate some constructive dialogue.
Canonical questions arising in connection with the divisions in the Russian Church during the Soviet period remain unresolved to this day. In recent times, the idea has even been expressed that maybe the canon law of the Orthodox Church is insufficient for the resolution of the problems of the Russian Church of the 20th century. In this regard, for example, the Russian historian A. Zhuravsky writes in his article “The Ecclesio-Political Aspect of Division and the Prospects for Surmounting Them:”
“We must honestly admit that if existing canon law is unable to resolve the problem, then it is necessary to follow the tradition of the Holy Fathers: either to postulate new ecclesio-canonical norms in a conciliar manner (which one imagines is unlikely), or turn for help to ecclesiastical oikonomia to overcome the situation, which was not foreseen by church law.” (Religia v Rossii.ru, 11 June 2002)
In other words, the author contrasts canon law and oikonomia, understanding the latter as something alternative to canon law, or something which dispenses with it.
Having read A. Zhuravsky’s well-considered essay, we set out to research the questions touched upon therein. Is it correct to consider the principle of oikonomia as an alternative to canon law? What in fact is oikonomia, as this concept was initially applied by the Church? How was the word oikonomia understood, in particular, by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Anastassy, during the period being discussed? We wished to compare the position taken by Metropolitan Anastassy, which most often determined the position of the Council of Bishops Abroad during this time, with the position on this matter of the early Church.
With this in mind, we studied the concept of oikonomia in the available documents of the early Church, and then in the minutes of the Councils and Synods of Bishops of the ROCOR over the period 1938-1962, among which we find pronouncements of Metropolitan Anastassy that are of interest in this regard.
The minutes of the pre-war period (1938-1941) were reviewed in the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow, and the others (1942-1962) in the Synodal Archives in New York. I have the honor of presenting the results of this research in this lecture.
I. The Concept of oikonomia and its Application in the early Church
The literal meaning of the Greek word oikonomia, comprised of the words οικος (house) and νομος (law), are well-known: the “law of the house.” In the New Testament, this word is used in an abstract sense of God=s administration of His house, that is, the Divine plan for the salvation of the world He created (Ioan Meyendorff, Vizantiiskoye Bogosloviye [Byzantine Theology], Moscow, 2001, p. 159), that is, of Divine “house-building.” Apostle Paul writes about this in his Epistle to the Ephesians: “… having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation [εις οικονομιαν] of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:9-10). The word oikonomia is used in the same sense most often among the early Christian fathers and teachers of the Church (GWH Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Oxford 1997, pp 940-941). Holy Martyr Ignatius, for example, writes to the Ephesians that “Our… God… was conceived in the womb of Mary according to the appointment of God [ο γαρ Θεος ημων…εκυοφορηθη υπο Μαριας κατ’ οικονομιαν]” (Epistle of St Ignatius to the Ephesians, 18:2. В: Βιβλιοθηκη Ελληνων Πατερων και Εκκλησιαστικων Συγγραφεων, Εκδ. της Αποστολικης Διακονιας, Αθηναι 1955, T. 1, s. 267).
It can be said that the fundamental meaning of the word oikonomia in the context of canon law designates the obligation of church leaders to decide ecclesiastical questions in accordance with this Divine plan, “house-building” for the salvation of the world (Meyendorff, ibid, p 160), or rather—in the spirit of Divine love of mankind, of God’s wisdom and of God’s will for the salvation of man. It is important to note that here we are not speaking of “exceptions to the rule,” but of the aim of these rules themselves—the creation of a house of God: the Church. A whole series of laws contain directions for employing them in philanthropic aims or towards the good of the Church, and of instances of the harmful use of them in a literal sense (for example, I Ecumenical Council 12; Athanasius the Great 3; Basil the Great 1 and 74; Gregory of Nyssa), in which one observes the “house-building” intentions of the Church. In this spirit, the 12th Canon of the I Ecumenical Council, while establishing the rules of repentance [epitimii] for soldiers who faltered under persecution, notes: “The bishop may determine yet more favorably concerning them.” It is worth noting that the prerogative to apply the law non-literally, when ecclesiastical “house-building”—oikonomia—demands it, belongs to the power of the bishop. The 102nd Trullian Canon prescribes that all epitimias in general prescribed by the holy canons to be applied not only by the letter, but to “guide men judiciously” (οικονομουντι σοφως τον ανθρωπον), with attention to the disposition of each individual repentant, “to mete out mercy to him according as he is worthy of it.” John Zonara, the most authoritative interpreter of the Holy Canons in the Middle Ages, in his clarification of this 102nd Trullian Canon, stressed that this pastoral oikonomia of the Church is not used for the aims of mankind, but those of God—the salvation of human souls: “For as with God, so it is with the pastor of souls,” writes Zonara, “all the care and attention consists of the following: to return the wayward lamb and to heal those bitten by the serpent…” (Pravila Svyatykh Vselenskikh Soborov s Tolkovaniyami [Canons of the Holy Ecumenical Councils with Interpretations] Published by Izdaniye Moskovskogo Obshchestva liubitelei dukhovnogo prosveshcheniya [Moscow Society of Lovers of Spiritual Education], Moscow 1877, pp 611-612).
The 102nd Trullian Canon also expresses another principle closely bound to oikonomia: that of the power of tradition in the Church: it states that from the concept of wise oikonomia one must guided in certain cases not through acrivia (exactitude or severity in the observation of the letter of the law), but by tradition: “For we ought to know two things, to wit, the things which belong to strictness (τα της ακριβειας) and those which belong to custom (και τα της συνηθειας).” It is important to note that acrivia is contrasted not with oikonomia, but with custom, for the sake of oikonomia (see the 8th Rule of St Gregory of Nyssa, in which the Holy Father calls leniency the custom [συνηθεια]). The rule thus says that in practice (that is, by custom), departure from the letter of canonical prescription is permissible for the sake of the ecclesiastical constructiveness, “house-building” and oikonomia practiced by the pastors of the Church. The same was written by St Basil the Great in his first rule, as we will see below.
It is notable that even the renowned “acrivists,” the Greek Kollyvades fathers, applied this Trullian rule not only with regard to repentant sinners, but even to heretics converting from heresy. One of the leading Kollyvades fathers wrote about this rule: “For it says we need to know both, the ways of acrivia and the ways of custom—not only for the penitent, but also, as has been shown, for those who convert from heresy” (Metallinos George Protopresbyter, I Confess One Baptism…, Holy Mountain 1994, p. 109: “And Neophytos, relying on Canon CII of Panthekte, also notes: «For it says we need to know both, the ways of acrivia and the ways of custom… not only for the penitent, but also, as has been shown, for those who convert from heresy”). In other words, the concepts of oikonomia are applicable in so-called “inter-confessional” (and in our time, “inter-jurisdictional”) matters. In examining the 1st Rule of St Basil the Great, we return to the question of oikonomia in this regard.
There is a somewhat narrower application of the word oikonomia, in an administrative sense, that is, in civil or ecclesiastical management. We see the word oikonomia among various early Church writers, and also in the Holy Canons. In this employment of the word oikonomia there is also the understanding of Divine “house-building.” Eusebius, in his Oration in Praise of Constantine, lists among the Emperor’s achievements “the administration of civil matters” (τας πολιτικας οικονομιας) (Eusebius [Pamphili] De laudibus Constantini, PG 20, 1440A). The same Eusebius in his Ecclesiasticae Historiae [History of the Church] uses the word oikonomia to describe the episcopal administration of the Church: “[The bishop] ruled the Roman Church for ten years” (επισκοπος τελευτα, δεκατον της οικονομιας αποπλησας ετος) (Eusebius [Pamphili] Ecclesiasticae Historiae, PG 20, 308C). In the above examples, Eusebius has in mind an Orthodox administration benevolent to the Church (the Christian ruler Constantine and a Roman bishop), that is, he refers to an administration in accord with Divine, “house-building” oikonomia. The Second Rule of the II Ecumenical Council in a similar way uses the word oikonomia to refer to any archpastoral ecclesiastical directive: “And let not bishops go beyond their dioceses for ordination or any other ecclesiastical ministrations, unless they be invited” (μη επιβαινειν επι χειροτονιαις η τισιν αλλαις οικονομιαις εκκλησιαστικαις). The verb “oikonomeo” (οικονομεω) is used in the same rule to define a bishop’s administration of church matters: “[L]et…the Thracian bishops [administer] only Thracian affairs” (…τους της Θρακης, τα της Θρακης μονον οικονομειν…). Again, the word oikonomia here is closely bound to church building, “house-building,” since the context is that of the directives of the bishops, for example, ordinations necessary for the development of the Church.
One sees the use of the term oikonomia in the sense of prudence, foresight, or even a sort of pious deception (Lampe, pp. 942-943: “prudent handling of any matter; discretion; manoeuvre, stratagem involving ‘pious deception’”). Yet in this sense the term oikonomia is employed by the Holy Fathers only to describe the loftiest examples we should strive to imitate: Christ Himself, the Apostles, the Saints. For example, Origen writes that the God-Child Christ, while fleeing to Egypt “…with prudence turned away from dangers (μετ’ οικονομιας περιισταμενον τους κινδινους), avoided them…” (Origen, Kata Kelsou, Βιβλιοθηκη Ελλ., T. 9, s. 114. Translation of the author). Here Origen emphasizes that the Savior’s oikonomia was conditioned “not by the fear of death, but by the intention and desire… to bring benefit to mankind.” That is, we are again speaking of building the church, of “house-building.” From the above we see that acts borne of human fear cannot be called oikonomia. Similarly, St John Chrysostom says about Apostle Paul’s words: “Unto the Jews I became as a Jew…” (I Corinthians 9:20) that Apostle Paul’s circumcision was oikonomia: “He performed circumcision,” writes Chrysostom, “in order to destroy circumcision. That is why he did not say ‘Jew,’ but ‘as a Jew,’ since it was oikonomia [οπερ οικονομια ην].” In the Synodal translation it says: “since it was with a preconceived goal” (Tvoreniya Sv. Ioanna Zlatousta, Beseda XXII na pervoye poslaniye k Korinfyanam [The Works of St John Chrysostom, Conversation XXII on the First Epistle to the Corinthians], St Petersburg 1904, t. X, p. 216; PG 10, 195A). And this oikonomia of Apostle Paul is conditioned on the construction, the acquisition of the Church, as the Apostle himself clarifies: “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews.” One must assume that the “foresight” of a pastor intended not for acquisition or creation but for the destruction or reduction of the Church cannot be called oikonomia in the sense meant by the Holy Fathers.
It is also worth discussing the First Rule of St Basil the Great, in which the word oikonomia is used with the above senses with particular clarity, and acrivia and custom are contrasted. This rule is of special interest also because Metropolitan Anastassy based his ecclesiological position on it, as we will see. St Basil, discussing ways of accepting various heretics and schismatics into the Church, writes that in his opinion it was appropriate to re-baptize Cathars and others who had broken away. Still, notes the Holy Father, since in practice, several fathers in Asia recognized their form of baptism, then for the sake of oikonomia it would be acceptable. We refer to the Russian translation of this section: “Because some in Asia have found it decisively beneficial, for the sake of edification of many, (οικονομιας ενεκα των πολλων) to accept their baptism: let it be allowed.” The Russian translation does not err with regard to the Greek original, maintaining in the word “edification” [nazidaniye] the main principle of oikonomia—constructiveness (nazidaniye: na [upon] + z’dati [build]; Fasmer, M.: Etimologicheskii Slovar’ Russkogo Yazyka [Etymological Dictionary of the Russian Language], Moscow, v. II, p. 89). St Basil further writes in this Rule that the Encratites should be re-baptized. “But,” continues St Basil, “if this is to be an impediment for the common good (τη καθολου οικονομια ): then again custom (εθος) is to be observed and the Fathers, who prudently administer (τοις οικονομησασι) our work.” Let us note here that oikonomia is translated here using a term meaning construction, building, positive creation. At the end of this rule, St Basil, using the term “acrivia,” notes that we are in principle “to strictly obey the canons” (δουλευειν ακριβεια κανονων), but since the bishops Zois and Saturninus were “received to the Episcopal chair… those in communion with them [the Encratites] we cannot in strict judgment banish from the Church, making, through accepting their bishops, a canon, as it were, of communion with them.” Here we find important for our topic St Basil’s notion of tradition or custom in the Church which assumes the force of law (νομου δυναμιν), (for further clarification of the force of custom in the Church, see Rule 91 of St Basil the Great), with consideration of ecclesiastical oikonomia, church building. For breaking with established tradition would contradict the fundamental aims of the Holy Canons—not to destroy, but to create, οικονομειν. Sacrificing his opinion for the sake of the opinions of the other bishops, the saint points to another, no less important, task of ecclesiastical oikonomia: the preservation of church unity. Insisting on ones own opinion in this matter would not be constructive but destructive for the Church by breaking away from other bishops, which St Basil the Great could not allow himself to do. On the basis of this rule, one can conclude that “standing firm for canonical truth,” if it leads to the fragmentation of the Church, does not fall in line with the Holy Canons, but should be viewed as contrary to their spirit and main goal.
From the above examples, then, we can define several criteria for the proper understanding and use of the term oikonomia. First of all, a slight correction should be made in the usual understanding of the word oikonomia as a kind of dispensation with or weakening of the canons, in contrast to acrivia.
oikonomia, as ecclesiastical creation, “house-building,” is the fundamental aim of canonical rules, that is, it is not a means, but a goal of the canons. So the oikonomia of the Orthodox Church is not the same as the Roman Catholic “dispensation,” which permits the church authorities to “remove obligation from a person” to fulfill church law (“Die Dispens ist ein hoheitlicher Akt, der die Verpflichtungskraft eines Kirchengesetzes zugunsten einzelner Personen od. bestimmter Personenkreise aus besonderer Veranlassung teilweise oder vor_bergehend aufhebt.” [“Dispensation is a sovereign act which for a special reason partly or temporarily waives the obligatory nature of a church law for an individual or a community.”] Buchberger M., Lexikon fur Theologie und Kirche, herausg. Von J Hufer und K Rahner, Verlag Herder, Freiburg 1986, B. 3, S. 419). The Orthodox Church seeks no such escape from ecclesiastical laws, since the laws do not fetter the Church, on the contrary, they are wielded by the Church, so to speak, as tools of construction. So oikonomia does not fall outside of the laws themselves, but applies them in a constructive way, in accordance with the constructive goals of the laws themselves, and not in any way counter to them. More specifically, from the concepts of oikonomia (for example “for the edification of many”), one can at times also apply acrivia. From the Holy Fathers, as was shown, acrivia is not contrasted with oikonomia, but with custom, that is, in practice, which often parts ways with theory.
From these examples one can also determine what the conditions are for departing from the letter of the law, specifically to benefit, to develop, to grow the Church. From this positive understanding of the word oikonomia it follows that apostasy from the teachings of the Church, from the Truth, is not present in the concept of oikonomia, because the diminishment or destruction of the foundation of the Church—Truth—would contradict the basic meaning of oikonomia, which is creation.
So as we have seen, the Holy Fathers could for the sake of oikonomia depart from the external forms of the law or even the Mysteries (see 7th Canon of the II Ecumenical Council and the First Rule of St Basil the Great), but could not depart from the Truth, to which they sought to attract the greatest number of human souls—and save those who wished salvation. The decision as to which actions are justified by notions of oikonomia, belongs, as stated above (see the 12th Canon of the I Ecumenical Council), to the authority and conscience of the bishops. Judgment over unlawful actions of individual bishops, as we know, belongs to the competency of the Local Council.
Let us turn now to examine a few statements made by Metropolitan Anastassy from the Minutes of the Councils of Bishops of the ROCOR between 1938-1962 reflecting his approach to canonical oikonomia and to the Holy Canons in general. We will concentrate on three canonical questions most vital during the post-war period: 1) The attitude of the ROCOR to other jurisdictions abroad; 2) The attitude of the ROCOR towards the MP in concelebrating with its clergymen; and 3) The attitude of the ROCOR to the Greek Old Calendarists.
We hope that even now the thoughts of Metropolitan Anastassy serve to benefit the Russian Church, the “house-building” of which he labored over for several decades, both in Russia and abroad.
II. The Attitude of Metropolitan Anastassy to other Jurisdictions Abroad
At the Council of Bishops of 1953, a great deal of attention was paid to the matter of the relationship between the Church Abroad and the American Metropoliate. The Synod of Bishops, having finally moved to America—in the person of Metropolitan Anastassy—by the end of 1950, was immediately faced with the local church troubles caused by the events following the Cleveland Council of 1946. The break with the Metropoliate, as we know, was final, but in 1953, rapprochement and unification still seemed possible not only with the Metropoliate, but with the Paris Exarchate as well, on the basis of the Temporary Statutes.
While studying the draft appeal to the bishops of the Metropoliate, the bishops expressed different thoughts: there were those who were absolutely implacable, there those who were prepared to unify. At the end of the discussion, Metropolitan Anastassy spoke, proposing a middle road, in many ways reflecting concepts of oikonomia. In the words of Metropolitan Anastassy, which we will reference below, one sees several such notions, to wit: care for the preservation of ecclesiastical unity, loving care for the good of the flock, and with this benefit in mind, great foresight: “We must be guided,” says Metropolitan Anastassy “by the words of Christ: ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you,’ and ‘be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.’ Yesterday two opposing points of view were expressed: that of love without truth and of cold truth without condescension and love. Truth is found in the concordance of love and truth” (Synodal Archives [SA], Council of Bishops, 1953, Protocol No 5, 3/16 October, p. 9. Many documents from the Synodal Archives are not catalogued. In the future, the author will reference the folder names in which the cited documents are found.)
We recall here what was written above on the role of the love for mankind in Divine and pastoral house-building of the Church, or oikonomia, and of the meaning of this oikonomia for inter-jurisdictional, inter-confessional relations (see the 102nd Trullian Canon). Metropolitan Anastassy continues: “Archbishop John [Maximovich—NV] said very well that we confess truth, but this does not mean that everyone else is in sin. Even if we alone knew truth, we must not be proud, but we must fear the temptation of pride.” Note here that Metropolitan Anastassy is alien to the exclusionism of some who “stand for canonical truth,” so sadly seen in the recent history of the Church Abroad. (On the refusal of St Basil the Great to assume such exclusionism, on his attentive attitude towards the opinion of other bishops, see above.) “And it is correct to note,” continued the President of the Council, “that Fr Konstantin [Zaitsev, archimandrite and editor of Pravoslavnaya Rus’ [Orthodox Russia] for many years—NV] often irritates his opponents. They do not have the fullness of truth, they deviate, but this does not mean that they are without grace. We must maintain objective calm with regard to them. We must strive for such unity on the same fundamental concepts of the Temporary Regulations upon which we stand today. Yet it is fair to say that all unity begins with personal contact: Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess.” (Please note here that the thought of Metropolitan Anastassy—that all unity begins with personal contact—is doubtless in accord with the idea that gave birth to these conferences of ours.) For Metropolitan Anastassy, the call “Let us love one another…” is not an empty adornment of his speech, but a fully realistic, canonical, constructive proposal. Further we read the words of Metropolitan Anastassy: “But we seem to regret that the keenness of jurisdictional quarreling has been dulled. But our goal is unity. Certain boundaries were needed as for disciplinary purposes. Now, when many extremes were abandoned in the American Metropoliate, we still sharpen the question and speak of them as heretics with whom we can have no contact. Bishop Nikon said that we are very weak. This is not quite true. But externally, we are weaker than our opponents, who have money and the press on their side. The battlefield is not even. If we elevate the conflict, a very difficult situation will arise” (ibid, p. 10). These last words reflect the great sobriety and foresight of Metropolitan Anastassy’s prudence, which, without wandering irresponsibly in ponderings of love, has in view the real situation of the Church and takes measures to thwart certain dangers. Metropolitan Anastassy stresses the destructiveness of the printed word for the Church in certain cases, mentioning the press, and in particular the articles in Pravoslavnaya Rus’ that irritate its opponents. The importance of avoiding sharpening enmity, first and foremost through the printed word, for the sake of ecclesiastical constructiveness probably has great meaning at the present time for the oikonomia of the Russian Church. It is interesting to ponder whether Metropolitan Anastassy would say now about the Moscow Patriarchate what he said in 1953 about the Metropoliate: “Now, when in [the Moscow Patriarchate], many extremes were abandoned, we still sharpen the question and speak of them as heretics with whom we can have no contact.” Further, Metropolitan Anastassy touches upon the question of concelebration with those jurisdictions (the American and Parisian)—and here, one can say, he “taps on the brakes.” Feeling that the time for full liturgical communion had not yet arrived, Metropolitan Anastassy stressed that in the area of the Sacraments, a “broad view” cannot be without its limits, although in certain circumstances he saw the possibility of leniency for the sake of the good of the Church, that is, for oikonomia. “It is fairly said that a broad viewpoint cannot be unlimited and uncontrolled. One must set certain standards. There was the question of concelebration… At the last Council, this question remained unresolved. But it turned out that sometimes such contact was unavoidable for the sake of the good of the Church. We must establish limits to such communion. Since ancient times, the concelebration of Liturgy was considered more important than that of molebens and pannikhidas. It must be decided whether the time has come for full communion or not. The President thinks that the time has not yet come, from the point of view of either side. Metropolitan Leonty often says this himself. Prayerful communion is possible, but with discernment… Until now, priests have been allowed to concelebrate with priests. The time for concelebration between bishops has hardly come yet, having the ‘little ones’ in mind” (ibid). In these last words we see an interesting example of acrivia for the sake of oikonomia, that is, non-concelebration for the sake of the good of the ‘little ones,’ who might be troubled by such an act. In the post-war period, inter-jurisdictional passions were of course well-stoked, so concelebration with other jurisdictions would hardly have incurred sympathy within the flock.
At the Council of 1956, during the discussion of the matter of concelebration with the Evlogians, in connection with the report of Archbishop John of Brussels and Western Europe, Metropolitan Anastassy spoke with particular clarity on oikonomia as something that benefits the Church, and that bishops in this regard must be guided not by some general rule, but by the principle of oikonomia.
Vladyka Metropolitan at this time apparently rejected the notion expressed in 1953 that “certain standards” for concelebration needed to be made. In response to the comment made by Bishop Leonty of Chile that Evlogians were to be dealt with as members of the Living Church [obnovlentsy], and that “no concelebrations” could be allowed, “The President explains that the obnovlentsy are another matter. They are in essence heretics. But attitudes towards them changed in different periods. When they weakened, greater condescension was employed in the practice of receiving them. The Church behaved this way in the past, too. We are not talking about the obnovlentsy in this case. The principle of oikonomia was always adhered to in the Church. Its goal is to save the person, not push him away. No law or rule can envelop all the multitude of circumstances of ecclesiastical practice. That is why the principle of ecclesiastical oikonomia was established, that is, of ecclesiastical benefit. That is why each bishop must be guided in difficult circumstances by this principle” (SA, Council of Bishops 1956, Protocol No 15, 6/19 October, p 10).
III. The Question of the Acceptance of Clergymen of the MP and Metropolitan Anastassy
Until 1959, the Church Abroad accepted clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate “without any rite,” that is, as their own clergymen. The question of the propriety of this practice was first raised at the Council of 1938. On the basis of the opinions of Metropolitan Anastassy, the Council decided not to change this custom. Below is a brief excerpt of the Protocols of the Council’s discussion:
“DISCUSSED: concelebration with the clergymen of the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod.
METROPOLITAN ANASTASSY points out that clergymen arriving from Russia from this jurisdiction are immediately admitted into prayerful communion, and refers to the opinion of Metropolitan Kirill of Kazan in his epistle, published in Tserkovnaya Zhizn’ [Church Life], that Metropolitan Sergius’ sin does not extend to the clergymen under him.
DECREED: To recognize that there are no obstacles to prayerful communion and concelebration with clergymen of Metropolitan Sergius.”
In this section, Metropolitan Anastassy gives little argument for his position, referring only to the opinion of Holy Martyr Metropolitan Kirill. Below we will cite a lengthy exposition on this same matter at a later Council. Still, the very fact of Metropolitan Anastassy’s unity of mind with Metropolitan Kirill in this ecclesiastical question is very interesting for us. For the foundation of his ecclesiastical position of St Kirill was not the letter of the law, but the real meaning of the Holy Canons constructive for the Church, opposing his understanding to the formalism of Metropolitan Sergius. In his famous (second) letter to Metropolitan Sergius of 28-30 October 1929, St Kirill writes that he does not consider Metropolitan Sergius as without grace and at the same time, while not concelebrating with him, does not at all try, as Metropolitan Sergius wrote, “to keep ice on a hot stove,” but “to thaw the ice of a dialectic, Scribe-like use of the canons and preserve the holiness of their spirit” (Regelson, Lev, Tragediya Russkoi Tserkvi 1917-1945, Paris, 1977, p 170). St Kirill further writes in his letter: “…do not abuse, Vladyko, the letter of canonical norms, so that all that is left of the Holy Canons is simply canon law. Church life in recent years is not developing according to the literal meaning of the canons” (ibid, p 171). The words of Metropolitan Kirill reflect the use of the Holy Canons by the Holy Fathers in the spirit of freedom, or more accurately, in the freedom of spirit which is seen also in the words of Metropolitan Anastassy.
A particularly clear example of the breadth of Metropolitan Anastassy’s attitude is found in the Protocols of the Council of Bishops of 1953. At this Council, the question was again raised (after 1938) of the means of accepting clergymen of the MP. After a lengthy exchange of opinions, among which suggestions of the lack of grace in the MP were expressed, and of the wrongness of the acceptance by the Church Abroad of its clergymen in the past, etc., Metropolitan Anastassy asks that the First Rule of St Basil the Great be read, that is, the one we examined in detail above. We recall that in this rule, St Basil, out of considerations of oikonomia, agrees to accept Encratites bishops in their existing rank, only because this was already practiced by other bishops. For this reason, St Basil agrees to recognize the baptism of other schismatics, though he personally felt that they should be re-baptized. Here is the full text of Metropolitan Anastassy’s conclusion:
“The President proposed making certain conclusions from everything that was said. Do we recognize in principle the authenticity of the ordinations of today’s Patriarch and his bishops? But can we even question them? Then we would have to declare the entire Church without grace. Do we have the audacity to declare her entirely without grace? Until now we have not posed this question so radically. When Metropolitan Philaret was asked about the Catholics, he said: ‘How can I judge a Church which the entire Ecumenical Council did not judge?’ What example shall we take? The President feels that it was not idly that that he asked that the First Rule of St Basil the Great be read aloud. The Holy Father says in it that one must take a broad view. He speaks about baptism very well. Ordination is less important than baptism. Metropolitan Anthony was guided by this rule of St Basil the Great when he said that he was prepared to accept through the third rite both Catholics and Anglicans. He was of the view that as soon as organic ties to heresy are torn and Orthodoxy is accepted, grace is received, as if an empty vessel were filled with grace. We hold to the principle that we can accept those through the third rite whose thread of succession had not been torn. Even the Armenians, who confess a definite heresy, are accepted in their existing rank. Concerning the Anglicans, the question arose because they themselves are not certain that they have succession. If we accept those who depart from heresy, how can we not accept our own [emphasis mine—NV]? They say that Patriarch Alexy sinned more than his predecessor. Whether he sinned more or less, we cannot deny his ordination. Much is said of their apostasy. But we must be cautious. We can hardly make an outright accusation of apostasy. In no place do they affirm atheism. In their published sermons they attempt to hold to the Orthodox line. They took and continue to take very strict measures with regard to the obnovlentsy, and did not tear their ties with Patriarch Tikhon. The false policy belongs to the church authority and the responsibility for it falls on its leaders. Only heresy adopted by the whole Church tarnishes the whole Church. In this case, the people are not responsible for the behavior of the leaders, and the Church, as such, remains unblemished. No one has the audacity to say that the whole Church is without grace, but insofar as priests had contact with the devious hierarchy, acted against their conscience, repentance is necessary. There can be no discussion of “chekists in cassocks.” They are worse than Simon the Sorcerer. In this regard, in every individual case, one must make a special determination, and, if there is suspicion that a chekist is asking to come to us, we must not accept him” (SA, Council of Bishops 1953, Protocol No 5, 3/16 October, p. 16). Although Metropolitan Anastassy touched upon the need for repentance, the Council of 1953 established no other general rite of repentance for clergymen received from the MP. Such a rite, as mentioned, was developed only at the Council of 1959.
Of note is Metropolitan Anastassy’s reference to specific bishops, first of all St Basil the Great, then St Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow (Metropolitan Anastassy especially revered St Philaret since his early years: see EI Makharoblidze, “Vysokopreosvyashchenneishii Mitropolit Anastasii” [His Eminence Metropolitan Anastassy], Tserkovniye Vedomosti Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi v Germanii [Church News of the Orthodox Church in Germany], Nos 7-8-9, 1956, pp 8-9), as already mentioned, St Kirill, Metropolitan of Kazan and Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), whose ecclesiology was characterized by great breadth, especially in inter-confessional matters. Delving into the examination of the viewpoints of each of these bishops is impossible in this short lecture. Still, one must presume that in his approach to the Holy Canons, especially in their constructive, “oikonomic” employment, Metropolitan Anastassy thought along the same line as these bishops.
What Metropolitan Anastassy said of the Moscow Patriarchate cannot accurately be called simply leniency. The idea of oikonomia, that is, of church-building, as we saw above, is not simply bound to some sort of openness, but specifically to love, which this speech by Metropolitan Anastassy is particularly characterized by.
Speaking of the Patriarchate, he starts by pointing out all the positives. Moreover, he senses his own people among the clergymen of the MP. “If we accept those who depart from heresy, how can we not accept our own?” Maybe even today it is difficult to exaggerate the value of this approach to inter-jurisdictional dialog between of the Russian Church: the children of the MP, raised in Russia, would be accepting the historical legacy of the part of the Russian Church abroad, as their inheritance, and the children of the ROCOR raised abroad would assume all the historical legacy of the part of the Russian Church in Moscow as their own. For both experiences form the legacy of the Russian Church. In other words, Metropolitan Anastassy again calls upon us to “Love one another…” For dialog based on this approach will have the power to build the house of the Church, that is, lead to unity: “…that with one mind we may confess.”
IV. Metropolitan Anastassy and the Greek Old Calendarists
In order to understand the oikonomia of Metropolitan Anastassy, particularly interesting is the question of the consecration of bishops for the Greek Old Calendarists raised at the Council of Bishops in 1959. The Greek Old Calendarists, deprived of their last lawful bishop with the death of Bishop Chrysostom of Florina in 1955, appealed in 1957 to Metropolitan Anastassy with the plea to consecrate a candidate of theirs to the episcopate, the elderly Archimandrite Akakios Papas (AV Psarev, “Archbishop Leonty of Chile,” Pravoslavnaya Zhizn’, No 5, 1996, p 9). At the time, in 1957, Metropolitan Anastassy refused to consecrate Archimandrite Akakios, considering such an action an uncanonical intrusion in the matters of another Local Church. Still, the Old Calendarists repeated their plea to consecrate a bishop for them. At the Council of 1959, following the opinion of Metropolitan Anastassy, the Council decided to once again decline the request of the Old Calendarists. While considering this matter, the opinion was expressed that through the principle of oikonomia, they could help their Greek brethren. Metropolitan Anastassy rejected this oikonomia, finding that the ordination of a bishop in this instance would not be constructive but destructive for the Church, first of all because of the condemnations such an act would invoke among the other Local Churches and the Moscow Patriarchate. In the following words of Metropolitan Anastassy, one hears the profound grief over the rift between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the other Churches, a grief that was sensed more and more in the post-war period, and one also senses his care that this separation should not be widened: “We are too weak to help our suffering Greek brethren, though we live in freedom. Before, we were supported by the Serbian and Antiochian Patriarchates. Now we have lost them and we hold on through the inertia of the old authority of Metropolitan Anthony. We have great problems in Jerusalem, though we did not create them ourselves. But our position will worsen still if we are openly accused of violating canon laws. Moscow will undoubtedly use this as an excuse to show that there is a direct reason to suspend the Karlovtsy group. We cannot do this, and of course should avoid artificial measures. We would deprive ourselves of our last support. Considerations of oikonomia are one thing, but it is another thing to consider if we have the right to risk our position.” Further in the Protocol we read: “The words of the President are accepted into consideration and execution” (SA, Council of Bishops 1959, Protocol No 15, p 10). It is interesting that in this question, Metropolitan Anastassy acted in the same way as Metropolitan Anthony, to whom the Greek Old Calendarists appealed, and were refused, in 1934 (Psarev, ibid). How carefully Metropolitan Anthony approached the observance of church unity is particularly clear in his letters to the Mt Athos monk Fr Theodosius. The latter, considering breaking with his archbishop for accepting New Calendar Greeks and writing to Metropolitan Anthony about this, received the following response: “Of course, I do not agree with your conclusion at all. The question remains that while recognizing holy tradition and witnessing their violation, in this case by the Greeks, one must still pose the following question: does such violation justify ecclesiastical separation or only reproof? You, Father, are one step away from falling into prelest’ [spiritual delusion]. May the Mother of God preserve you from the next step. I write to you as a benevolent friend: do not destroy your 40-year podvig [spiritual struggle] by a judgment of the Church on the basis of your relative formalism—relative and also arbitrary [emphasis mine—NV]. The new calendar is no less distasteful to me than it is to you, but even worse is a break from Orthodoxy and its hierarchy by self-loving monks” (SA, Letters of Metropolitan Anthony, Letter No 17, April 18, 1930). We cite this passage from Metropolitan Anthony’s letter to once again point to the canonical premises forming the basis of the thought of Metropolitan Anthony and Metropolitan Anastassy, and reflected in particular in their decision regarding the Old Calendarists: the wholeness of the Church house, that is, of Church unity, as a basic concern of the holy canons cannot be sacrificed for the letter of the law, not even in the case of the new calendar so opposed to the Orthodoxy of these hierarchs. The Encratites’ form of baptism, so fully alien to Orthodox consciousness, was for the same reason accepted by St Basil the Great, that is, for the sake of oikonomia.
In conclusion, we will try with a few general remarks to sum up the importance of the principle of oikonomia for the Russian Church today. In Regelson’s book, the understanding of this specific concept is indicated as one of the main tasks of the students of the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 20th century: “The impossibility of finding a positive resolution to this problem, remaining within the boundaries of common understandings and historical precedents,” writes an anonymous author in the preface to Regelson’s book, “is attested to by the fact that the Russian Church is faced with a profound ecclesiological crisis, the resolution of which cannot be manifested except through the path of deepening and clarifying the Orthodox concept of the nature of the Church—in the sense of its ecclesiastical establishment” (Regelson, p 13). As we have seen, ecclesiastical structure is closely bound to the understanding of oikonomia, or the oikonomia of the Holy Fathers. Without a doubt, delving into an understanding of oikonomia will clarify our understanding of the nature of the Church and Her fundamental “house-building” task on earth. We hope that the experience of the Russian Church abroad described above might serve towards just such a clarification sought by the author of the preface to Regelson’s book, and might bring the Russian Church closer to a resolution of the ecclesiological crisis which has brought us all, Her children in Russia and in the emigration, together at this conference.