This “Response by Archbishop Anthony Khrapovitskii to the Third Letter of the Secretary of the World Conference of the Episcopal Church in America” was published in Russian in Vera I Razum 8-9 (August-September, 1916): 877-897. Translation into English by Priestmonk Alexis (Lisenko) has been made possible by a generous grant from the American Russian Aid Association – Otrada, Inc. This is the last of three letters written by the future first hierarch of the ROCOR to the secretary of the Commission on Faith and Order, which in 1948 became a major component of the Worl Council of Churches.
In our areligious narrowly practical day, when theological and moral themes, in general, are touched upon, albeit quite rarely, only as utilitarian bases for the interests of political parties or class disputes, in our day, when the golden calf reigns over the world, it is so gratifying to come across a phenomenon of an entirely different nature — the work of an entirely honorable society on issues outside of politics, commerce, and sensual pleasures, that are concerned not with earthly well-being but with eternal salvation.
In particular, I rejoice that my straightforward words, although motivated by sincere sympathy and brotherly respect, but which are foreign to diplomatic flattery and call things by their proper names, not only didn’t tire you and weren’t destined for the waste paper basket, but were received with a kind feeling and total trust in the author’s benevolence. My soul required an immediate response to your third brotherly epistle, but that was the time of Passion Week and Christ’s Resurrection, when we perform services for seven to ten hours sixteen days in a row starting at five in the morning. After the Week of Antipascha I had to visit village parishes, and only on the Feast of the Apostle John (on May 8) did I settle into The Holy Mountains, a wonderful remote monastery where I can formulate my response to you in between services during these four or five days. I am sending you a view of this earthly paradise, where 600 monks attain heavenly paradise through labor and prayer.
I can see from your kind letter that we have determined a certain portion of the problems that are difficult for a mutual agreement, or that at least we can note the path along which they must be clarified. Namely, in your letter you move the issue of the mutual relations between European faith communities into the context of the religious divisions in the era of the Ecumenical Councils. In this way you relieve me from repeating my objections against the viewpoint, which is accepted in secular society but lacks any basis, that the Church was unified before 1054 and was then split apart, and instead of a single grace-filled Church there developed, contrary to the Gospels and the Nicene Creed, eight or fifteen separate, but still grace-filled churches. You do not dispute that the Church’s unity remained the same as it was before Photios and Cerullarios, that as before the Church and heresies exist, and the Church and schismatics as well, that the Church does not split apart, but that heretics and schismatics fall away from the Church. Moreover – and I ask you to remember this – I wasn’t building up the strength to prove that the true Church is precisely our Orthodox Church, while all others who call themselves Christians, are heretics. I only insisted that one of the contemporary faith traditions must constitute the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, while the other communities are heretical or schismatic.
If this idea, at least just this general idea alone, were to be approved by the theologians participating in the Conference, this would be incomparably more important and closer to the goal of unifying all who wish to be Christians than all kinds of agreements regarding controversial doctrines and means of receiving orders of laymen of other faith traditions.
But by drawing together contemporary divisions of believers in Christ with those that took place in the time of the Ecumenical Councils and before them, it might seem that you are coming to the defense the early heretics and schismatics, not in the sense, of course, of approving their errors or justifying their insubordination to the Church, but in the sense of not wishing to acknowledge those devoid of grace as being like heathens and their sacraments as lacking any effect of grace.
The transfer of our discussion to this era gladdens me doubly. In the first place it allows me to avoid having to say something denunciatory to my honorable interlocutor regarding what is precious to him, and about which I, on my part, would wish to say only good things. In the second place, that era contains such definite and clear decisions by the Church itself regarding the issues which interest us that it releases me from imposing any of my own ideas and only requires me to impart the Church’s teaching. Moreover, let me make the reservation that I do not understand at all the sentence, “speak first about anything as a human being, and then as a bishop.” I would never have agreed to become a bishop if I hadn’t first aligned all of my convictions with those that an Orthodox bishop should hold, and there is no separation between my personal and hierarchical self-consciousness in me. Therefore everything that the Church has taught, i.e. everything established in its universal canons or has been determined to be the Orthodox Tradition for the whole Church is also my personal conviction, which becomes clear for me with increasing vividness the more I have to think and learn in this life.
I fear, by the way, that I will have to repeat here what I have stated in my two previous letters. I will try, however, to clarify what I said with greater detail in passing, and also to dwell upon certain individual points in your epistle.
Allow me to preface all of this with one general position which follows with all clarity from the early canons as the undoubtable teaching of the Church. It lies in the need to distinguish the Church’s axiomatic rule toward schism or heresies from practical directives regarding one or another reception of heretics and schismatics. We cannot look for indications of the acknowledgement that grace is present in the latter. Grace outside the Church was denied absolutely, and your very idea that heretics and schismatics were still considered part of the Church appears, forgive me, paradoxical, at least from the historical point of view. What does excommunication from the Church mean if not casting out of its bounds? Anathema means separation, schism, breaking off, and heresy means division. From whom did heretics and schismatics separate, break off, with whom did they divide? Of course, they separated and broke off from the Church, they are excommunicated from the Church. It is clear, based on simplest logic, that cast-offs who had broken off or split off according to their own will no longer belong to that body, to that institution, from which they separated. So what remains outside this body? The world to which Christ’s redemption is foreign, and which, according to the teaching of the Apostles and their Teacher, is “in the snare of the devil, in the kingdom of the prince of the air, working in the sons of opposition.” (Eph. 2:1-5, 2 Tim. 2:22-25, Col. 1:21-22, 2:13, 3:6) And if the apostle defines the period of even a temporary excommunication by saying, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit might be saved,” (1 Cor. 5:5) doesn’t this denote the return of disobedient disciples into the kingdom not of Christ, into the outer darkness where heathens dwell? The following words have the same meaning: “of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Tim. 1:20; This quote was mistakenly attributed to St. John the Theologian – trans.) Canon 1 of St. Basil, which I repeatedly cited, says with total clarity that bishops who have been excommunicated from the Church have become “laymen” and therefore “impartation thereof [of the grace of the Holy Spirit] ceased.” Canon 68 of Carthage speaks of the same graceless nature of heretical sacraments. For canons are the active rule of the Church. This is not a temporary directive but is precisely a principle and a dogma in the given canon, if you wish to maintain the exceedingly arbitrary Latin teaching that distinguishes dogmas from canons, the actuality of a sacrament from its effectiveness, and their other Talmudic fabrications that have partly migrated into our own academic theology. You present individual objections against this general Church principle, and we will return to them. But any researcher would deny that the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils did not recognize any sacraments performed by heretics and schismatics, considering only itself as the bearer of grace, i. e. the Church from which they fell away. And this same deprivation of grace was conditioned nor by their erroneous faith but precisely by their stepping out of the Church’s bounds with their evil will, which obstinately opposed admonitions by teachers of truth. This is why “It seemed best to the ancient authorities to class them [i. e. schismatics lacking erroneous doctrines] under one head” (i. e. a new baptism) along with heretics, as St. Basil writes in the same canon.
You mention the antiquity of these rules, the fact that the Catholics deny the significance of the Trullo Council, and that there are canons which have lost their practical and logical meaning, such as not charging interest or not receiving medical treatment from Jews. But the first and third argument equally and to an even greater degree have to do with the New Testament Holy Scriptures (for instance, regarding head covering for women, washing each other’s feet, etc.), and regarding the second one I already had the occasion to write that rejecting the Trullo Council means rejecting the Seventh Ecumenical Council, recognized by the Latins, which confirms it and the rules of local councils and of the Holy Fathers (Canon 1). And now let me add that by rejecting the councils we have no basis for acknowledging the New Testament, for distinguishing the authentic four Gospels from the eight inauthentic ones, for acknowledging the Apostle Paul’s fourteen epistles as divinely inspired and rejecting the fifteenth one (to the Laodiceans), for acknowledging the writings of the disciples Mark, Luke, and James as divinely inspired and, while respecting them, not the writings of Barnabas, Clement, and the Teachings of the Twelve Apostles. Who, besides the authority of the Church, recognized as inerrant, proposed that we make such distinction? I posed such a question three times to our Baptists, and they, having responded (although unconvincingly) to my other questions, were not able to write a single word in response to this question, which is especially important for them. They rest their entire salvation upon the Holy Bible, rejecting everything else, and cannot say why they regard it and only it as the word of God? I believe that the entire University of Berlin cannot respond to this most important question of its hope. They are in a worse position than the followers of the Koran, who are certain that their “revelation” bears its own proof since, they say, anyone who reads its unabridged version will unfailingly believe in it and become Muslim. And when two of our theology professors teaching missionary subjects at the Kazan Theological Academy tried to convince Muslims that they had read the Koran and didn’t become Muslims, their interlocutors, having become convinced of the first part of this assertion, did not believe the second part and, along with the other Tatars in Kazan, insisted that these professors secretly recognize Mohammed and the Koran, but are concealing their convictions for the sake of worldly gain.
With these words I had to stop my written discussion with you, and only today, after five weeks, I am given the opportunity to continue it. On May 12 I left the Holy Mountains Monastery for towns, villages, and monasteries in my diocese, and on the 17th I returned to Kharkov totally sick with my intensified chronic bronchitis, and in the midst of constant services, speeches, and examinations I could not get well until, at the doctor’s insistence, I went away from people for St. Dimitri, another remote monastery, where I settled today, and two hours upon arriving I pick up my pen in order, first of all, to ask forgiveness for the lateness of my reply, and, secondly, to continue the exchange of our thoughts.
We have now immersed ourselves into the area of history, the area of facts, and, besides, it has been determined so clearly that to misinterpret it would be impossible. It’s possible not to approve it, to regard the views of the Early Church as erroneous, as Lutherans, for instance, are forced to do as deniers of hierarchies, icon veneration, prayers for the dead, monasticism, and so on. But there is only one way for any sincere investigator to define or set forth the teaching of the Early Church regarding the issue that interests you, if he becomes free of those accidental, although undoubtedly also sincere, misunderstandings that you put forth against my conclusions in your last letter. But I return to the questions you posed in your third letter. You ask, by the way, something to which I have already had the honor of responding definitely and clearly in my first two letters, not in my own words, but in the words of generally accepted canonical directives: “Does the Church recognize the efficacy of sacraments by heretics and schismatics?” I responded to you with words from Canon 68 of Carthage, which was authorized by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and with the words of the First Letter of St. Basil, which was authorized by the same council. Clearly and definitely, it does not. Responding otherwise would mean writing an obvious historical and factual falsehood. In spite of all this, I do not share at all your view of the Conference’s aimlessness in the face of such a conviction by the Orthodox Church. For we will not be performing sacraments there and will be trying, through mutual effort, to find the true teaching regarding controversial items of faith.
You do not agree with the Early Church’s view of heretics and schismatics, and you try to convince yourself that it didn’t have such a view and didn’t preach it as a doctrine, at least with regard to those heretics who had the correct baptism “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In your first and second letters you were more insistent on another principle determining membership in the Church, or at least you showed a certain solidarity with it, which was belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
I’ll be so bold as to assure you that a correctly pronounced baptismal formula has even less significance. God’s grace is a spiritual treasure of the Church and it pours into it as into Christ’s spiritual body. It really does not conform to the spiritual nature of our faith to bring it down to the level of magic, which is performed outside of any other conditions on the basis of a single spell, as the word “Sesame” opened the mythological cave containing diamonds in the Arabic Thousand and One Nights fairy tales. Why, the Apostle Peter wrote that “not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God saves us.” (1 Pet. 1:21) And in the same exact way, in Exposition of the Orthodox Faith by John of Damascus, which was used as a learner’s catechism until the last century for Eastern Christians, it says outright that grace is not granted in a baptism without correct faith and repentance, and that the water of ablution remains plain water for such a person.
You assert that according to such a point of view heretics and schismatics are like heathens in every way, and you mention, not without bitterness, my reference to Jews and Muslims. I have already had the occasion to explain that in a certain sense the Lord Himself commands in the Gospel that one disobedient to the Church (even without the presence of heresy), i. e. a schismatic, should be treated like a heathen and a tax collector, but this likeness cannot be all encompassing, since those elevated moods that are characteristic of those believing in the Gospels, prayer to Jesus Christ, and personal love for Him are foreign to a heathen, but all this is accessible to a heretic and a schismatic.
You ask if the denial of grace to heretics’ sacraments is an official teaching of the Orthodox Church. Alas, the contemporary Orthodox Church, enslaved as it was by the governmental power of Peter I, does not have an organ by which it could publicize its teaching anew, since it is denied the opportunity to gather councils of bishops from Turkey, Russia, and Austria. At any rate, here is how I can answer you. None of us doubted that the early undivided Church denied grace to heretics’ sacraments, and that this denial was not and could not be changed in the following periods of the Church’s life.
You write: “If heterodox sacraments are invalid, I cannot explain to myself the practice of the Russian Church with respect to Latins,” whom the Russians do not rebaptize and receive them even as priests and bishops. But I anticipated this question the best I could, explaining the First Canon of St. Basil. Heretics have neither the primacy of priesthood (they are all “laymen”) nor sacraments, but if some of them are received as priests, and especially without repeating water baptism, it is not because they were recognized as baptized or ordained to the priesthood but because the grace of baptism and the priesthood is granted them in the sacrament of chrismation or even by simple confession.
Only in this way can it be explained why the same heretics were received sometimes by baptism, sometimes by chrismation, and sometimes just by confession, (see Ap. Canon 46, 1st Ecum. Council 7, 8, 11, 6th Ecum. Council 95, Carthage 68, Basil the Great 1, etc.) as well as why different local churches receive the same heretics in different ways – through the first order (through baptism), the second order (through chrismation), and the third (through confession). This does not depend and didn’t depend on the evolution of a heresy, as you write, but on divine economy, as St. Basil explains in his First Canon. If a heresy is aggressive, its followers are received through a strict order, to demonstrate its ruinous nature, and if it is obsolete and disappearing the external order of receiving heretics is lightened from the first to the third “so as not to put obstacles to the conversion of many, as is explained in the First Canon of St. Basil. It was according to this very logic that the Russian Church received Catholics through baptism at the beginning of the seventeenth century, when it was besieged by Polish and Latin propaganda, and when Russia started overcoming Poland and gaining possession of seized Russian provinces it started receiving Uniates through the third order to ease their return to Orthodoxy. But even so, take note that a Latin priest who is received by the Church can only be a priest for us without repeating ordination if he received confession from the bishop who, consequently, ordained him as well. And if he was received into the Church by a priest a former Catholic priest can only enter it as a layman.
I think that this question is essentially settled. And now I consider it my duty to look over those individual perplexities and objections which you cite regarding the Church’s attitude toward heretics.
You lean upon a distinction between canons with a dogmatic meaning and those that don’t have one. This distinction exists only in the scholastic theology of the Latins and the followers of their school, but not in the Church. But even if we accept this distinction, invented by them for their Talmudic tricks, we cannot deny the meaning, based on dogma and principle, that lies behind those definitions by the Church or Ecumenical Council which express the common judgment regarding the efficacy of a sacrament only in the Church and sinfulness of such sacraments by all heretics (Canon 68 of Carthage), even by those received into the Church through the laying on of hands (ibid.). Such is the totally clear judgment regarding the disruption of hierarchical preeminence not only among heretics, but also among schismatics, which is set forth in St. Basil;s First Canon. You write that I allude to St. Basil’s authority. Pardon me, a person’s authority has nothing to do with this. This rule was canonized by the Church, i. e. was recognized as a rule common to the Church. “They do not have dogmatic meaning, i. e. are subject to change, and the rules regarding the reception of orders of repenting heretics changed many times,” but the teaching that they and their sacraments lack grace is a teaching expressed by the “undivided” Church with such clarity that it must either be accepted, or the Early Church must be regarded as false and all of the early Christians in general and all who call themselves Christians must be regarded as erroneous, which is what Lutherans, Reformers, and Baptists do quite consistently, from their point of view. As clear as this is, so little meaning remains in supposedly contradictory sayings of individual fathers and writers whom you cite. Why, Origen, too, had many erroneous ideas, as well as the great father Gregory of Nyssa, who taught the apokatastasis, Theodoret, and many others. By the way, almost all, if not all, of the sayings that you cite have to do not with the issue of heretics’ grace and the salvific significance of their sacraments, but with the practical issue of the means of receiving their orders. We find its various solutions in the Church’s decrees cited above, in which the idea of the lack of grace in the sacraments of heretics and schismatics is expressed with total clarity, and at the same time it is stated directly that in the issue of the order reception of heretics “it is necessary to follow the custom obtaining in each particular country.” In particular, the repeated expression in this First Canon of St. Basil regarding schismatics, “eti ek ekklisias onton” has a totally different meaning than what appears to you. The preposition ek denotes separation from anywhere.
“It seemed best to those . . . to rule that the baptism of heretics should be set aside entirely and schismatics [should be received] as still belonging to the Church.” This is about the generation of schismatics who in the earliest days of Chrstianity, “in the time of the fathers who were from the beginning,” broke off from the Church (ek tis ekklisias) and then asked to be returned back. Such a meaning of this saying can be determined from Basil’s words: “Cathars are to be classed as schismatic, but it seemed best . . . in the party of Cyprian (first half of the third century, so it wasn’t ‘from the beginning’) to class them under one head . . . because the beginning, true enough, of the separation resulted through a schism, but those who seceded from others had not the grace of the Holy Spirit upon them, but after breaking away they became laymen, and had no authority, either to baptize . . . Therefore they bade those baptized by them should be regarded as baptized by laymen . . . and they should have to be rebaptized by the true, church baptism.” Such a baptism, of course, could not be performed over the first generation of schismatics, who had it before they broke away from the Church, but was performed over those who had been baptized by schismatics, i. e. outside the Church. And if later on the visible action of baptism wasn’t performed over them, as is written further on in the same canon, that was only for the edification of many. The grace of baptism was granted them in the sacraments of chrismation or confession. It can be seen from this that the Holy Church’s convictions are only too clear for them to require Theodore the Studite’s commentary, where he refers to those heretics who cannot be received into the Church even on the basis of economy. Canon 95 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council speaks about them. Why is this? In the first place, for the same reason a Jew or a Muslim cannot be received without baptism by water. For all such neophytes, as well as those baptized in the name of Montanus and Priscilla, would themselves not have pretensions to enter the Church without immersion with the words, “In the name of the Father” etc. Only those heretics and schismatics whose baptism, services, and hierarchical structure differ little on the surface from those of the Church can have such a pretension due to a vague understanding of grace in the Church. They find it very offensive to be placed on the same level as heathens and Jews when converting to the Church. This is why the Church, in condescending to their weakness, did not perform the external action of baptism over them, rendering them this grace in the second sacrament.
St. Theodore the Studite, whom you cite, comments so harshly about heretics’ sacraments that I wouldn’t have resolved to mention his comment if you hadn’t started to speak of this father yourself. He writes: “Heretics’ communion is not the body and blood of Christ, but the food of the devil.” Photios wrote about not repeating baptism and chrismation over heretics who had fallen away from the Church themselves, and hardly about those who had been baptized outside it.
You know, of course, that among the Early Christians voices were often heard advocating a second baptism for those who had fallen into heresy after their Church baptism, and then returned to the truth. It is against them that the words “I confess one baptism for the remission of sins” in the Creed are directed. Such a demand was made for a new baptism for bishops and clerics who had fallen into heresy and later repented, but this issue was raised by the so-called heresy or schism of Lucifer.
I will not dwell upon the quotes of later writers who never speak of grace in Latin sacraments, but they only say that the external performance of baptism is not necessary and is replaced by chrismation equally with the early heretics (Nilos of Rhodes). But I wish to point out that the Church does not know any chrismation with the words “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” other than the sacrament which the apostles established. The repetition of this sacrament over the Latins by St. Nilos means that he did not recognize their Latin hierarchy and their confirmations. This same view of the graceless nature of this sacrament by the Latins is stated by the eighteenth century Latin writer Chardon in those same words, in which you find the opposite meaning: “In using these rites (i.e. the rites of confirmation) to reunite heretics we did not intend at all to confirm them again, but only to convey to them the grace of the Holy Spirit in order to unite them to the body of the Church internally and fruitfully.” This leads to the deduction that this sacrament did not convey grace for heretics, and that they did not belong to the body of the Church. Don’t you notice Chardon’s sophism as well as a touch of sarcasm? Why, this is just the same as saying, “we won’t kill you, we’ll just chop off your head.” The same view of the laying on of hands while receiving heretics, but this time without sarcasm, is expounded in the words of St. Leo the Great which you quoted, and equally in the words you cited by the generally not at all authoritative and ignorant General Kireev regarding the Latin Church: “The part of the Orthodox Church which broke off from the Universal Church (and, consequently, ceased being part of the Church) and fell into heresy” — this definition applies fully to both Arianism and Monophysiticism. Thus I find totally incomprehensible your statement that the teaching on the gracelessness of heretical sacraments didn’t appear before the eighteenth century. On the contrary, the entire Church in all of its definitions by the Ecumenical Councils taught that heretics were graceless, their hierarchical preeminence ceased, and could not be called Christians, following the Savior’s known words, and no Monk Auxentios could distract the Church from the truth if the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Such paradoxes could be asserted only by “Professir Lebedev,” who spent his whole life plagiarizing German works and printed tens of volumes of foreign wisdom (or rather, stupidity), while his own work amounted to just two small brochures titled “A Week in Constantinople” and “A Biographical Study of Academy Rector Archpriest Gorskii.”
Incidentally, I need to make one more proviso regarding the Latins due to several of your quotes from Orthodox writers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Latinism is a heresy, but it was defined earlier as a schism, as self-will, and so, until a certain point, kinder Greeks starting with St. Photios, looked upon this division as short-lived with an end near in sight, and gave wide scope to the ironic correspondence with them, and the stern anathemas of 1054 were regarded more as a hierarchical conflict than as typical schism or heresy. Such a radical attitude toward the event became entrenched only in the thirteenth century, after the Fourth Crusade with its cruelties and blasphemies over the Orthodox, and the theft of incorrupt relics of holy apostles and great bishops, so precious to an Orthodox heart. Around that time, as you mentioned, Latin patriarchs appeared for the four apostolic sees of the East in the position of in partibos infidelum. Moreover, here, too, there was more schism than heresy. The last one poisoned the West along with the Renaissance, i.e. the rebirth of ancient paganism, and not of science and pseudo-classicism, when Latinism turned into a mixture of Christianity with paganism, while the energy of Church leaders was aimed toward coming to terms with pagan morality while maintaining Christian doctrinal beliefs, perverted as it was by Homer, Ovid, and other philosophers. Here began the striving to replace the ethical bases of religion with juridical ones, and its ascetical demands with ritualistic forms, reducing them to a minimum, because the previous fullness of ritual – vigils, fasts, and penances – required ascetical effort as well.
Initially, Protestantism appeared in reaction to such a rejection of Gospel faith, but it inherited from Latinism its narrowly juridical attitude and formal concepts regarding divine services. This is the source, forgive me, also of your distinction between the efficacy and actuality of sacraments, the excessive significance of the baptismal formula, the various dogmatic and canonical definitions, and so on. You recognize the actuality of heretical sacraments, but are ready to reject their sanctifying power. But then what remains? Apparently, you share the Latin understanding of a sacrament, which, although not expressed with full clarity in their courses, is assumed by them everywhere. They look upon sacraments as a magical power that is infused into a person’s body and is being transferred through it into his soul with one or another consequence for his moral life. But the latter is secondary, while the former is what is most important, for it contains the efficacy of a sacrament. The latter doesn’t depend upon the mood of the sacrament’s receiver or administrator, but places the person into a new and better juridical relationship to God. This is why their teaching about sacramental formulas, about opus operatum, supplanted the ecclesial meaning of a sacrament as an infusion of a ray of grace into a Christian soul out of the treasure house of spiritual light, filling up the Church, and only the Church.
In this degradation of the moral basis of religion, in its substitution by formalism, in the affirmation that the attainment of Christian sainthood isn’t required of us (“This is the will of God — your holiness.”), while for the Catholics it is “your sanctification” in a juridical sense, lies the difference of Western religions from Orthodoxy and other Eastern faith traditions.
You also do not have full knowledge of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Russian Church, along with the Greeks, does not admit the Bulgarian church into communion. True, our hierarchs, suppressed by the despotism of the Ober-Procurator D. Tolstoy, delayed raising their voice during the 1872 excommunication of the Bulgarians, but when their persistent fanaticism didn’t cease even with their liberation from the Turks in 1878, the Russians stopped allowing them to celebrate, and Kllment, the most pro-Russian Bulgarian metropolitan, was not allowed to celebrate in Russia in 1893. On my part I ordained two Bulgarian students to the priesthood in the Volhynia Diocese not before uniting them into the Church through the laying on of hands and their rejection of the schism.
In all three of my responses I tried to elucidate the idea that the denial of grace to heretics is not connected to a demand for a new external action of their baptism, chrismation, and ordination to the priesthood. Even to a lesser degree can we obligate heterodox churches to change their rite in those of its parts which weren’t clearly defined at the Ecumenical Councils, but what is required in the third rite of reception, i.e. of those being received through confession, are a renunciation of the heresy and an acknowledgement of the definitions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Neither do I have a firm conviction that an Anglican bishop being received into Orthodoxy must be ordained anew to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate. This is still an open question for me. But the one being received must renounce his previous heresies and can remain pastor to his flock only if it, too, is received with him into the Church. The actions of certain English priests about twenty years ago could bring me tears and laughter. They questioned the validity of their ordination and the truthfulness of their church, and, having gotten hold in London of a certain wandering Greek adventurer bishop (I think his name was Lycurgios), prevailed upon him (with the help of money, of course) to reordain them to the diaconate and priesthood, but since they were on the territory of their English bishops they set off with the Greek into the sea on a ship, where they had him reordain them in a field church, after which they returned to their Anglican parishes.
Such are the kinds of absurdities that are brought about by a mechanical view of sacraments. If their church isn’t true, how can they serve in it? And if it is true, how can they be ordained (and a second time, no less) by a bishop whose church is alien to them and not in communion with theirs? But isn’t such an abnormal view of the matter close to that held by those theologians who consider it possible in the future to unite believers in Christ, not in the sense of bringing into the true Church (at least through chrismation with the preservation of their ranks) all who belong to churches that had fallen into error, but of a simple union of everyone in some kind of religious Volapuk.
For wishing this means not only refusing to acknowledge one’s own previous errors, but also giving up forever finding the true church on earth. All churches cannot be true if they were outside communion, but if I continue to regard the church to which I was born (even if it’s the Anglican one) to be the true one it loses this status if enters into communion with heretics without converting them to itself, i. e. to the true Church, at least through confession. And if the true Church isn’t the one in which I had been until now, this means that I am a heretic or a schismatic, and that I can enter into the true Church only by condemning the heresy and undergoing confession (at the very least).
I am posing this final dilemma with total objectivity and without making any claims regarding the true nature of the Orthodox Church. Would European pride not allow the thought that even while totally doubting the true nature of their church the followers of some confession would decide to act according to this common sense conclusion, according to this direct demand of Christ’s teaching? In any case, we must keep in mind that we cannot do anything great in life and salvific for our souls without effort: “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Mt. 11:12) If any kind of union would come about anywhere without inner struggle, without an agonizing deadening of pride and obstinacy, that would be a portent of its fragility or proof of its incorrectness, its falsehood.
You dwell upon the idea that the Conference is impossible if one group, the Orthodox, come to it convinced of its correctness and of the graceless and ruinous situation of the others. I, on the contrary, regard the Conference to be possible even if such a view of one’s own church and of the other ones will have representatives from all churches, and I consider this situation much closer to the goal than that uncertain attitude to the concept of one church whose ambiguity for yourself you admit at the end of your letter. I believe that your concern over the attitude of Orthodoxy toward heretics and schismatics serves absolutely no purpose. It would be another matter if it required an external action of baptism and ordination/consecration for all who are being received. I think that Anglican bishops who are disposed toward our Church should be much more interested in this question: Is it possible on the basis of spiritual economy to receive their bishops without repeating their ordination and consecration? And I would have answered this question will all sincerity, but I do not like to speak about things in which I have little competence, as I haven’t studied the history and canonical order of your church. Our theologians, (for example, Professor V. A. Sokolov) have written much, both for and against, about this over the past years, and I regard Archbishop Sergii of Finland to be particularly authoritative in this matter. But just allow me to repeat that conviction of the correctness of one’s own church and of the graceless condition of all heretics and schismatics does in no way stand in the way of objective and patient debate on matters of faith and definitely cannot instill in its followers a prideful and scornful mood. For we always have before us Christ’s words: “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 8:10-11) We can also recall what the Lord said about the Canaanite woman and about the centurion Cornelius, and how he conversed with the Samaritan woman at the well and with Saul from heaven.
Those who are certain of the rightness of their faith, for example the Orthodox, are always with an oppressive awareness of their sinfulness, and then, believing unwaveringly in the holiness of the Orthodox Church, can we Russians, for example, deny that shameful enslavement of our Church leadership by the state, which began with Peter I and was doubled with the establishment of the State Duma, whose members look upon our Synod as a subordinate office of the Spiritual Ministry and dictates its laws to it.
No, it is not a desire to look better before others but a zealous desire to elucidate the truth that is precious to all which will guide those Orthodox Church representatives who will take part in the conference you are arranging.
But it can hope for some kind of success only if its members will remember that the tongue is given to us to reveal our thoughts, and not to conceal them. If the exchange of thoughts becomes just an exchange of compliments, as it so often happened in meetings between Russians and Anglicans or Old Catholics, the results of such a meeting will as fruitless as in previous meetings. I will be especially glad if your conference will be attended by Archimandrite Ilarion, the talented inspector of the Moscow Theological Academy whose wonderful dissertation, “A Study of the Doctrine of the Church in the First Three Centuries” as well as his brochure, “Christianity or the Church,” I recommend for your attention. He will probably send all of this to you soon. On my part I am sending you two of my brochures in French, “L’idee Morale des Dogmes” etc. I will be very glad if you favor them with your attention.
May the Lord help you in your noble and holy undertaking. With sincere respect and devotion I have the honor of being your well-wisher.