The Orthodox Church News Magazine
Editorial of Summer 2007
“The Orthodox Church” News Magazine
Editorial of Summer 2007
On May 17, 2007, the Act of Canonical Communion was signed at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral by Patriarch Aleksy of Moscow and Metropolitan Laurus of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia [ROCOR], ending the 80-year division within Russian Orthodoxy. At this ceremony, Patriarch Aleksy and Metropolitan Laurus, as well as the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, offered reflections on the significance of the day.
The celebration of the Divine Liturgy of the Feast of the Ascension followed the ceremony. Bishops, priests, and deacons of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia concelebrated with Patriarch Aleksy and Metropolitan Laurus, thus sharing in the eucharistic communion which is at the heart of canonical communion.
Several days earlier, Metropolitan Herman wrote to Patriarch Aleksy, expressing thanksgiving to God for the ecclesial reconciliation within the Russian Orthodox, and stating that this reconciliation “has also opened the way towards mutual understanding between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Orthodox Church in America.” The Primate of the OCA then observed that “we are already engaged in a mutual effort to strengthen our relationships here in the United States and Canada.”
Finally, Metropolitan Herman wrote, “in order to give a sign that we will continue on this road in North America” he was sending me, as Director of External Affairs for the Orthodox Church in America, to be present at the divine services and the other events accompanying the historic canonical reconciliation within Russian Orthodoxy.
On May 17 at Christ the Savior Cathedral I was present at the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion and at the Divine Liturgy. It was a joy to receive Holy Communion, and thus to be not only a witness but also a participant in the restoration of eucharistic communion. Archimandrite Zacchaeus, the representative of the Orthodox Church in America in Moscow, after celebrating the Divine Liturgy of Ascension Day at our Saint Catherine’s Church, by invitation of the Patriarch also participated in the banquet following the events at Christ the Savior Cathedral. The other Orthodox representatives residing in Moscow were invited to the banquet as well, and Bishop Nifon of the Patriarchate of Antioch offered greetings on behalf of the representation churches in Moscow.
On May, 19 both Archimandrite Zacchaeus and I were invited to participate in the concelebration of the Divine Liturgy at Butovo, joining Patriarch Aleksy and Metropolitan Laurus, as well as hierarchs and clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate and the ROCOR and several representatives of other Orthodox Churches. This joyful concelebration was quiet testimony to the restoration of eucharistic communion between the ROCOR and the whole family of Orthodox patriarchates and churches. We all participated in the fellowship of the banquet afterwards.
On May 20, I was invited to the Divine Liturgy in the Uspensky Cathedral in the Kremlin, where I received Holy Communion, and to the banquet which followed.
The customary order at each Liturgy was followed, with commemoration by name of the heads of all the Orthodox patriarchates and autocephalous churches, beginning with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and ending with Metropolitan Herman of the Orthodox Church in America.
At each of the banquets, Patriarch Aleksy gave me his blessing to offer greetings on behalf of Metropolitan Herman. On each occasion, the greeting began with congratulations on behalf of the Primate and Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, as well as the clergy and faithful of our Church, and expressions of shared joy at the reconciliation.
During the three days, the greetings I offered included several additional themes.
- The Orthodox Church in America is not and cannot be indifferent to the joys and sorrows of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- The Orthodox Church in America is especially mindful of the Church of Russia’s missionary work in North America, starting with the arrival of missionary monks from Valaamo [Karelia] on Kodiak Island [Alaska] in 1794, and continuing with Saint Innocent [priest and bishop and great missionary in Alaska and Siberia], Saint Tikhon [Archbishop in North America and Patriarch and Confessor of Moscow], and the Tomos of Autocephaly in 1970 [which affirmed both Orthodox mission and Orthodox unity].
- The ecclesial reconciliation between the Moscow Patriarchate and the ROCOR opens the way to collaboration between the ROCOR and the OCA in Orthodox witness and mission in North America.
- The consecration of three altars at the new church [Resurrection of Christ, New Martyrs, and Saint Tikhon] in Butovo brought to mind the relation of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and the Orthodox Church in America to the martyrs and confessors of Russia. The Church in Russia offered the martyrs themselves, while being prevented from publicly bearing witness to their sacrifice; the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, separated from the Moscow Patriarchate and living outside of Russia, publicly honored and glorified the martyrs; the Orthodox Church in America, in eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate after receiving autocephaly in 1970, never betrayed its duty of bearing public witness in the world to the martyrs and confessors.
- The celebrations of the Divine Liturgy at the Uspensky Cathedral in the Kremlin—starting in the early 1990s—offer a sign of the return of the Russian Orthodox Church to its historic role of offering public testimony to the Orthodox faith in the midst of Russian society.
These themes are relevant not only to the events in Moscow. They are appropriate themes for further reflection as we build our common Orthodox witness in collaboration with all Orthodox Christians in North America, including the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
As I recall the events in Moscow in mid-May, in midst of the many vivid memories, the service at Butovo has a special place. In the years 1937-1938, the place called Butovo—then in the countryside, now at the outskirts of Moscow—was a killing field. More than twenty thousand people were shot and buried there in mass graves by the NKVD. Approximately one thousand of the people killed at Butovo died for their Orthodox faith—hierarchs and clergy, monastics and laity, men and women. More than three hundred of these have been canonized as martyrs. Patriarch Aleksy, recalling the place of the crucifixion of Christ, has called the Butovo site one of the many Russian Golgothas. In the Butovo church’s lower level [which is also a church], the prison photos of some of the victims are arranged in a very moving wall exhibit, and in several glass cases there are selections of the personal belongings of victims. The priest of this newly-built church is the grandson of one of the martyrs who died at Butovo.
May the memory and witness and prayers of the martyrs of the twentieth century give life and steadfastness to our own witness in the twenty-first century.