March 25, 2013

Letter written in 1918 by Michael Alexandrovich Novoselov (future Catacomb Bishop and Hieromartyr Mark, + 1937).

Dear NN! Peace be unto you, and rejoice in the Lord.
This letter will probably surprise you, and maybe also sadden you, but I cannot remain silent on these matters which fill my soul. I will start from the very beginning… At the last session of the Missionary Council, which I attended, one of its members (it could have been you) offered the Council that he might speak on the subject of immediately preparing apologetic Christian literature – brochures, articles, maybe even bigger works – with the purpose of spreading it among the people, because a plentitude of harmful anti-religious materials are already circulating among them. Regarding that proposal I replied that even if we could cover the whole of Russia with such apologetic literature, it would not bring much benefit to the Church, because the main affliction of church life in Russia is established much deeper within the church, and thus it can not be cured by such superfluous means of apologetics. And this affliction is nothing else but the lack of Orthodox understanding, Orthodox feeling perception, the abandonment of the patristic foundations of the religious life and religious thought. And this affliction, I pointed out, affects, first and foremost, our hierarchs (surely you remember, that I gave examples and names), and representatives of our academic circles, and clergy, especially the learned ones. Naturally, this spiritual sickness spreads from these heights wide and deep into the whole Church, society and people. I will not repeat here in detail what I said back then, because you recorded my words in the Council minutes yourself. Here I will only continue what I began at the Council, but could not finish. That last speech of mine I ended with these words, which, it seems, were not really heard by the attendees: I said that after pointing out all the sores that afflict the earthly body of our Church, I will not speak about the one wound that I consider to be the most grievous – for I think speaking about it would be untimely and premature. This is what I did not talk about the last time; this is what I want to tell you now. The most severe abandonment of Orthodox reasoning I see is in the so-called name-fighting, that is, in that peculiar message, which was articulated in the infamous epistle of the Synod “to all the brothers, struggling in monasticism”, published in May 1913, and the reports attached thereto.

The exceptionally significant and mysterious question, concerning the all-holy and aweful Name of our Lord, was then “resolved” by the Holy Synod [May 1913] with surprising frivolity towards the inscrutable Name of God, and with cold-heartedness towards the Athonite monks. Afterwards, the same question was rushed, without due scrutiny, through the Moscow Synodal office of Metropolitan Makarios, with a result that the excommunicated Athonites were accepted back without renouncing their name-glorifying. Those Athonites who were clergy could even serve the Liturgy, and all the monks were allowed the Communion of the Holy Mysteries. This is how things went during the War, up to the point when Fr. Antony Bulatovich and other name-glorifiers returned from the front lines.

Then Fr. Anthony [Bulatovich], who humbly resided in the Pokrovsky Monastery allocated to Athonites, was suddenly forbidden to serve. Appeals to lift the prohibition did not lead anywhere, except that other monks from Pokrovsky Monastery also were put under that prohibition – the same monks who were living there in peace during the War.

Thus, that first peace turned out to be a mere ceasefire, and then the Church hierarchy, rejuvenated after the All-Russian Church Council [1917-1918], again raised up the sword of name-fighting against the dwellers of the Holy Mountain.

It is worth noting that the new documents of the name-fighters, which now came out of the Patriarchal Synod, were signed not only by the old name-fighting hierarchs, but also by the new ones, who, as I have enough grounds to say, did not even personally research the great question of the Name of God, and do not even hold any kind of personal belief regarding the decision. It is with great anguish that I note this sad fact, which is criminal in terms of the extent of its carelessness.

Even more anguish and astonishment comes from the treatment of the problem at the All-Russian Church Council [1917-1918]. As you know, the Council did not merely adopt the decision of the previous Synod [1913], but it determined that the question of the Name of God must be researched in detail. So, what led the Council [1917-1918] to this course of action? Was it the importance of the matter at hand that did not allow the Council to simply adopt the resolution of the earlier Synod [1913]? If that is the case, then why was the Council, which was held over several months, and addressed all sorts of minor questions, not able to find time to deal with the question which, according to them, was outside the competence of the Synod? In fact, the Council, in the vast majority of its members, was so far removed from this matter, that it simply "delegated its resolution to the committee”, in order to get rid of this unpleasant trifle, which makes some quarrel, and then trouble the Council with their declarations and petitions! Had the members of the Council understood the significance of this Athonite question, which was the biggest testimonium paupertatis of the whole Council, they would not have treated it with such indifference. And if earlier, the Holy Synod showed an unbecoming haste and flippancy in so serious a question, then the Council, due to its lack of understanding, dealt with it with inexcusable slowness. In short, both the Holy Synod [1913] and the Council [1917-1918] were not on a level to answer the question that, by the Providence of God, had arisen on the Holy Mount Athos.

Speaking on this subject, the late M. D. Muretov, professor of the Moscow Theological Academy, traced the historical road of Name-glorifying in the Church like this: the Gospel, Apostle Paul etc, all the way to Palamas and then to Father John of Kronstadt. As for name-fighting, its trail can be traced in the following manner: “the hierarchs who crucified Christ, Ebionites, Arius, etc, all the way to Barlaam and then to Count Tolstoy.” This was said by a respected Orthodox theologian at a time when the Synod [before May 1913] was still silent about the matter. But when the latter started to speak, it spoke and acted, in words of M.D. Muratov, as did the high priests that crucified Christ.

I believe, together with Prof. Muratov, that “Name-glorifying lies at the very foundation of the teaching about the One Essence and Three Hypostases of the Godhead, about the Divinity of the Saviour, about the Church, the Mysteries – especially the Eucharist – about the worship of the Icons, etc.” I see in name-fighting a religious relativism that severs the real link with God and which, by making relative that which is all-binding, and making psychological that which  is ontological, is shaking the very foundations the divinely-working
Faith of Christ and of the Church, and directly pushes one towards atheism (ultimately – to man-worshipping and anti-Christianity).

The name-fighting tempest poisoned our theological schools, our hierarchy, our pastors, and, naturally, it is poisoning the whole society of the Church. The fruits of this poisoning are evident to all. There is no need to explore the depths of Russia – right here, in Moscow, in Russia’s heart. Only a blind man, or somebody who has covered his own eyes, will fail to see the corruption that has entered into our Church and is the fruit of long-standing de facto name-fighting, and which was de jure adopted by the Holy and Patriarchal Synods [1913, 1918]. This protestant principle (which, in its essence, I repeat, is man-worshipping)  of religious relativism is being offered to us on an official level, as a norm of spiritual life. That [Synodal] decree provides the basis for the flowering apostasy of our days. Nothing is universal, nothing is objectively true, for there is no common Christian consciousness, no unity in faith. No more “Guardians of Israel”, who would direct the river of our lives, with the Church as its riverbed. No one is actively protecting the unity of faith, because even the feeling of that unity is lost by the pilots of the Church, for they themselves are now floating out of that riverbed, wherever the tides of church anarchy will carry them. And what a sham is "The Triumph of Orthodoxy" in our days! That  grandiose proclamation of our supposed unity with the "Apostolic, Patristic, Catholic, Faith, which establishes the whole universe"! When I attended this great Church feast this year and I listened to the resounding anathemas of the patriarchal Archdeacon, it seemed to me that the anathemas were falling with all their force not on the absent heretics and the Bolsheviks, but on the name-fighting bishops that were present there. With all seriousness, I relate to these hierarchs that terrible prophecy of St. Seraphim, spoken by him a hundred years ago: "The Lord showed me that there will be a time when the bishops of the Russian land and other clergy will deviate from the purity of Orthodoxy and for that reason, God's wrath will come upon them. Three days I stood and besought the Lord to have mercy on them, and asked Him to deprive me, the wretched Seraphim, of the Kingdom of Heaven, but not to punish them. But the Lord did not condescend to the request of the wretched Seraphim, and said that He would not have mercy on them, for they "teach the doctrines and commandments of men, and their heart is far from Me." (“Spiritual readings”, 1912, pp. 242-243) Did not this wrath of God, predicted by the Saint, already come upon our hierarchy, and with it, on the rest of our Russian Church for their "deviation from the purity of Orthodoxy"!? Is it not for the blasphemy against the terrible Name of God that our hierarchy has been suffering those terrible blows from the very beginning of the revolution? Is it not this blasphemy that is the cause of that paralysis in which  our hierarchs are found; who realize their condition but do not understand the cause thereof? The rational flock is being dispersed in all directions “carried about with diverse and strange doctrines”, while pilots of the Church, like infirm old men, are simply watching from their retirement houses,  as their rational sheep are being offered, instead of one, strict, age-old, living and life-giving Truth of Orthodoxy - all sorts of counterfeits: humanistic morality, dramatical sermons, false aestheticism in divine services, and of late - “socialist Christianity.” I said that they are just “looking”, but in fact, sometimes  they are even directly involved in the cultivation of these counterfeits. And if this is the case, then what need do they have of the divinely-working, unconquerable and terrible Name of God, which is  near and dear only to those, and is needed and understood only by those, for whom Christianity is a “Great Mystery” of transformation of the old man into a new creature, a deification of man through the indwelling of God, which is accomplished by the wonder-working Name of Jesus, mysteriously making its dwelling in the heart of man? Dear NN! I tell you, as to a friend and a  brother: study this great debate concerning the Name of God, which until now you have been avoiding, as if fearing to burn yourself. You must do it, if not as a Christian, then at least as a missionary. But, of course, you will see nothing if you approach it without that fear of God, which is the beginning of true wisdom. Believe me, that problem is by far the most important of all the problems mentioned by the All-Russian Church Council, and discussed now by the Supreme Church Authority [Patriarchal Synod, 1918]. The future of our religion depends on the correct answer to this question.

Strangely, and even fearfully, I say that our Church, the shrine of our heart, is being saved not by the Council, not by the Synod, nor by the Supreme Church Authority, but by this horrible press of socialism, which wrings, as it is written in Apocalypse, out of the dying Church of Sardis (Rev. 3:1) the faithful Church of Philadelphia, which “hast kept my word, and hast not denied my Name”, and separates from it the lukewarm, “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” Church of Laodicea (“democratic” – “socialist Christian”) (Rev. 3:15,17).

May the Lord save us from communion with the Laodiceans, and may He lead us into the houses of the Philadelphians – not populous, but they are the ones that “have kept the word of Christ, and have not denied His Name”.

I have hastily sketched for you my thoughts which I found impossible to keep to myself. What use you will make of them, I do not know. But this I can tell you about myself. I realize the utmost importance of the question of the pious veneration of the Name of God; our present depends on it, as well as our future, leading into eternity. And I realize that name-fighting – which is both the seed and the fruit of religious unbelief and absence of fear of God - must be called out as the foremost enemy of Orthodoxy; just as the opposing truth, name-glorifying, must be proclaimed. But I know I lack the strength to successfully tackle this complicated problem, and therefore I am trying to find others, who are more capable than me.

If you would want to learn more from the existing name-glorifying literature, I have almost everything at my home. Until then, I ask you to read, carefully and without prejudice, two of the attached documents, analyzing the Synodal decree [May 1913]: one by V.F. Ern, another by an anonymous layman.

All of this I am writing to you, but I have nothing against – rather, I would welcome it – if you were to share my thoughts with your colleagues, especially with those, who emulating the priests of the old Jerusalem, “went, and made the sepulchre sure (oh, but in vain!), sealing the stone, and setting a watch”.

I embrace you. May the Lord strengthen you in all your works.

Yours in love,

Mikhail Novoselov

P.S.: Of course, you must understand that I did not present here the task of a detailed analysis of the problem – that is why I am prompting you to read the “literature”.

First published by Hegumen Andronik Trubachev, Tomsk 1998, p. 181-186.