A Letter of Met. Philaret to Mother Magdalina

Bishop Nikodem welcomes Metropolitan Philaret arriving from France at Waterloo Station. 1965. 2nd l.: Archdeacon Gelassy; 3rd l.: George Knupffer. (Source: Michael Knupffer). Credit: Archimandrite Alexis (Pobjoy), "In Memory of Archbishop Nikodem of Richmond, England," Historical Studies of the Russian Church Abroad

A Straightforward Canonical Logic

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), First Hierarch of the ROCOR, wrote the following letter to the Abbess of the Lesnensky Convent in France, Mother Magdalina (Grabbe) on this day in 1979.


We have already seen that, not according to current soft-hearted reasoning, but according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers, schism is as terrible an evil as heresy – and obviously its end will be the same. I do not dare to pronounce judgment on the contemporary initiator of the schism, M. Evlogii [Georgievskii -ed.], who separated from the ROCOR bishops in 1926], but I fear for his soul, and I fear for all those who have been seduced and drawn into schism by him and his successors. And I do not understand the position adopted in this matter by the late Vladyka John [St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco -ed.], a true servant and man of God. Why did he not “dot the i’s”  from the very beginning and explain to the Evlogians all the unrighteousness of their path and position! For, precisely because of this, because of the fact that it was not immediately and clearly stated what is true and untrue (there cannot be two truths), what is white and black, light and dark, which way is right and which way is wrong – there would not have been this “inter-jurisdictional mishmash,” and the situation would have been clear…

I believe (speaking, of course, only for myself) that the schismatics – whether America and Paris – do not have grace, for otherwise it is absurd to allow for the existence of several true Churches that do not recognize each other and have no spiritual communion. This is absurd not least because the Divine Founder of the Church said: “I will build My Church,” and not “My Churches.” I was led to this conviction both by the words of the ancient Holy Fathers (cited by me), and by the words of Abba Antonii [Khrapovitskii –ed.] about the apparent celebration of the sacraments by those who have broken away from the true Church. And I do not believe in the graciousness of schismatic “manipulations” to such an extent that, if I were dying and needed a viaticum, I would not accept it either from a “Parisian” or from an American false autocephalist, lest instead of the Blessed Sacrament I swallow a mere piece of bread and wine.

But I forgot to emphasize that, by virtue of this situation, the most sad phenomenon is our own people from the Church Abroad also go to schismatic shrines and “confess” and “receive communion” there. What communion? If the Blessed Sacrament, then we do not have the Blessed Sacrament, as Chrysostom clearly explained. And if we have the Blessed Sacrament, then they do not, and these poor people are going there in vain. “Apparent” sacraments, according to Abba Anthony’s definition, are what the ministers of schism present to gullible people! I understand perfectly well the confusion that what I have written here would bring into the lives of Russian people who believe in the exarchate [In 1930 Metropolitan Evlogy became an exarch of Ecumenical Patriarch] and false autocephaly, if it were to be published. But would it be better to keep silent about all this and take comfort in “peace and quiet,” as Vladyka A[erased] [Archbishop Antonii Bartoshevich –ed.] would have wanted?

Some may object to this: did not the Third All-Diaspora Council [held at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY in 1974 – ed.] address both, the Parisians and the Americans, with an appeal for peace and unity? Yes, it did, but not in the right way. That is why this appeal did not produce results, or rather, it produced negative results. I was sure that this would be the case. For what needed to be said to them was: you have gone astray and have fallen away from the Church – try to return to Her! Yet the address makes it seem as if they were in the Church just as we are, with equal rights and in an equal position. This is where we should have told them: you are not some “different jurisdictions,” you are just schismatics, and you have no rights as a church… come to your senses and return in repentance!

It is likely that such a message would have caused only an explosion of rage among the leaders of the schism (let it be, God, that I am wrong, but their attitude is there for us to see)… I might have been asked why I did not say at the Council that I thought the message was wrong. I would have answered: because I saw the mood at the Council and feared an explosion and possible catastrophe. I was warned that the enemies of the Church wanted to organize such an explosion and blow up the Council from within. Therefore, I had to avoid questions that could cause major aggravations. If the Lord leads me to remain alive until the next Council of Bishops, I will put this issue on the table.



Monk Benjamin (Gomarteli), “Letopis’ tserkovnykh sobytii Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi nachinaia s 1917 goda,” [Timeline of the events in the History of the Orthodox Church Beginning With 1917. Part VI] Historical Studies of the Russian Church Abroad.

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