Chapter 2. What Is Spiritual Sergianism and Its Fruits

Sergianism arose as a political phenomenon. However, soon the political program of Metropolitan Sergius did not only generate a particular style of ecclesiastical life - characterized by canonical turmoil, church discord and betrayal by the disobedient ones; at its very source Sergianism became also a spiritual phenomenon. Its essence lay in the spiritual "revision" of the Gospel.

Proceeding from the conviction that in the history of mankind there arise political and social situations in which the Gospel principles must be adjusted to the circumstances of the situations, spiritual Sergianism suggested that the Russian Orthodox Church change at least two central themes of human life in their Gospel perusal, the two main principles of existence dealing with the hope for salvation. These are the Cross and profession of faith.

The problem of the "elimination of the Cross" as endangering Christianity and the Church had first arisen in the First Epistle of St. Paul to Corinthians. Later, in his Epistle to the Galatians the Apostle expressed his anxiety apropos the fact that by means of a ritual (in this case circumcision) it was possible to eliminate the Cross of Christ. "They constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the Cross of Christ" (Gal. 6:12). This temptation: to replace the Cross by a ritual, and faith by faith in rituals - has always been the most dangerous temptation for the Church. And she has always struggled with it.

Holy men, according to St. Maximus the Confessor, left the "exalted word of knowledge", of contemplation and communion with God and went into the Babylonian captivity along with their people, in order to teach them, thus giving them strength to overcome temptations, similar to the dreadful temptation to eliminate, to replace the Cross.

However in spiritual Sergianism, we encounter the meanings of St. Maximus the Confessor being turned upside down. The Church is called upon to acknowledge the joys of her persecutors as her own joys, and the success in the destruction of millions of people as her own success.

Many times many priests were heard saying that they did not dare to come out in defence of the Truth, with a sermon of the true Orthodoxy only because they were afraid of "losing the parish". They assumed that the parish needed them more than it needed the Truth of Christ, that by "observing rites" and by a sermon of "semi-Christianity" they might be of spiritual benefit to a "parish"! The Apostle Paul remarked with bitterness: "for all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's" (Phil. 2:21).

The history of the Church knows of instances when the priests would leave their "parishes" in order to serve Christ and were rewarded by Him with sainthood. St. Isaac the Syrian, while the Bishop of Nineveh where once the prophet Ionas was sent to preach repentance, left his "parish" and his parishioners who had implored him to be their Bishop. He left them when he learned that they did not wish to follow the Gospel.

St. Isaac the Syrian became a great saint, and his experience of serving Christ, which he recorded, became a treasury of spiritual revelations for many subsequent generations of monastics and lay people.

Every false witness, be it pronounced by a lay person, or a patriarch, a priest, or a bishop, the purpose of which is to deny persecution is certainly denying the Lord's promise regarding the saving power of the Cross, and consequently also the promise of resurrection: for in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Church, resurrection is impossible without the Cross. The Church chants: "Joy will come to all the world through the Cross".

Should one say that it is dangerous to seek death on the cross, if it is not sent by God? The dream about the glory from death on the cross without having mortified our passions, our earthly pretentions - is a self-delusion, forbidden by the Church and perilous for our soul.

When the Lord granted a respite to Christianity matured in persecutions, at the beginning of Constantine's era, the Church was faced with a threatened elimination of the Cross.

The Church reacted with another kind of martyrdom. Monasticism, as martyrdom for Christ's sake, bore fruits of spirituality unprecedented in any era in the life of mankind. It became a new leaven of the world, the salt of mankind, preserving it from moral decay.

The Church left for the hidden desert in order to offer her sacrifice for the preservation of mankind, and to offer to mankind the gift of the power of the Cross which she had voluntarily taken upon her shoulders.

Monasticism blossomed in the period of "calm" when the bloodthirsty persecution of early Christians gave way to persecution instigated by the spirit of malice, the fallen-spirit, who instilled into the world hatred for its Creator.

The profession of faith, as practiced by the desert dwellers and ascetics was invisible and bloodless, but this did not make its power run low and diminish. The Church lived her life imperceptibly to the world, not only guarding it, but secretly regenerating it. The Church is the "great mystery of the universe", according to Khomyakov. This mystery conceals great power, for it was not in vain that St. Irenaeus of Lion said that "when at the end of history the Church will be suddenly taken away from here, there will be such sorrow the like of which from the beginning never was and never will be experienced".*

*>note: St. Irenaeus of Lion. Against Heresies, Book 5.

The disciples of Christ were taught to lose their life in this world, in order to find it (Mt. 10:39), they were taught to become Christ's witnesses of the Truth in all its fullness.

Profession of faith is a special life in Christ. It is the witness of another kind of existence, of hope and of a chance of resurrection. This witness is necessary to the world, it is more precious than all the sciences and all aspects of culture, created by man. It is more precious than politics in all its aspects and manifestations, more precious than all social achievements. Because anyone witnessing about Christ, about His resurrection, witnesses also about the possibility of overcoming death. Therefore profession of faith becomes an ascetic feat in the world, which does not want to believe that it is possible to overcome death.

In order to be serious about the profession of faith, about love and salvation, it is not enough to be called a believer, to attend Church services and to take part in the rite "performing the religious cult" and to observe Church holidays. The church teaches us that one may only be Christ's witness in the world which hates its Creator through suffering for Christ's sake, or as St. Maximus the Confessor said: "Blessed are those who act and suffer for Christ and about Christ."*

*>note: Philokalia. v. 3, p 42.

How frightening is this Gospel maximalism to the soul, how scorching is the fire of the Divine love!

How fervent and incomprehensible is Christ's love in allowing His most beloved ones, most devoted and pure ones to suffer so much, in allowing the most precious ones to die on the cross, for the sake of saving at least one of these little ones!

Such are the Gospel love and foolishness of the Cross.

Is it possible to offer a new Christianity to mankind, a new faith which, out of consideration for the "special wisdom", refuses to become the light of the world?

The keeper of the world throughout history has always offered and will be offering until the end of ages HIS OWN Christianity. This will be the basis of the Antichrist.

He will be suggesting the idea about the necessity to RENEW it in one way or another, creating a "contemporary" a "better" Christianity, than the one that was, a contemporary new religion.

Regardless of where in the universe severe struggle for the "new Christianity" were to begin, the entire Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church scattered throughout the face of the earth would experience upon herself, to a greater or lesser extent, and at times unique consequences of the satanic onslaught.

Innocent blood cried out to God during the periods of Inquisition and Schisms, during the periods marked by the dark fratricidal treachery of the false Christians. "The Great Inquisitor" written by the patricide and fratricide Ivan Karamazov in a capacious form expressed the essence of various modernizations of Christianity. "We have corrected Thy work"...

Spiritual Sergainism is namely a "correction of Christ's work".

What are the spiritual fruits of this new Christianity manifested to us by God today, 60 years after the decisive steps of Metropolitan Sergius who chose "the new course" for Orthodoxy?

Bowing down to the verbal idols created a new idolatry. Acknowledging the joys of persecutors as their own it was necessary to acknowledge as their own also the realities which formed the new paganism.

Sin is monotonous, according to St. John of Kronstadt. Any modernization of Christianity generates idolatry.

The Biblical purity of words, or as the Apostle Peter said: "pure milk of the word" cannot, in any historical situation, contain any ADMIXTURE without losing its God-chosen meaning. When Elder Eleazarus was ordered by the ruling power "to renounce the law of the Fathers and to live not according to the Law of God" (2Mak. 6:1) it was suggested that he might make a compromise and just pretend (only pretend!) that he eats sacrificial meat. Eleazarus refused despite the threat of death.

The story is remarkable not only because in it we learn about devotion to God and about readiness to die a martyr's death for its sake. It also contains another meaning, universal for all times: for the persecutors of ancestral faith it is less important that their persecuted victims worship the state or political idols, so to say ACCORDING TO THEIR CONSCIENCE - for conscience may be disregarded - but it is of far greater importance to them that the victims ACKNOWLEDGE their religious doctrine, even if only hypocritically.

It is important to them to destroy the WHOLENESS OF FAITH by means of lies, to destroy its Divine maximalism.

At this point we should note an important aspect to which we will often return in this discussion. Eleazarus died a martyr's death as a STATE criminal for refusing to acknowledge, even hypocritically, the dominant religious doctrine.

He was a political criminal just like the three youths thrown into the Babylonian furnace - Ananias, Azarias and Mishael who refused to worship the state idols. The prophet Daniel also, who was cast into a lion's den for continuing to worship his God despite the orders of the state, was, a political criminal.

The Orthodox Church reveals the true meaning of these Biblical stories in her liturgical life. Their meaning remains immutable in any historical time.

One of the spiritual consequences of Sergianism is the politicizing of the church hierarchy. Regardless of the fact that the Council of the Russian Orthodox Chruch of 1917-18 considered it impossible for the Church to participate in a political struggle, every member of the Church retained his individual right to participate or not participate in political life. But the Chruch is free from politics.

Nevertheless, the church hierarchy of the Sergius trend, paying no attention to the council's opinion on this problem, has generated and developed a new type of Christianity: POLITICAL CHRISTIANITY.

The latter developed and gained strength in its struggle with the renovationist's schism, in its competition with renovationists for recognition by the state.

In the future, Soviet historians of religion will note, not without reason, that having defeated Renovationism, Sergianism adopted its principles of politicizing of Church life (bad habits are contagious, as they say; Renovationism passes on to Sergianism not only its "political methods", but also its tradition of "married bishops", which is flourishing in the Russian Orthodox Church today).

Political Christianity, as a variety of the "new Christianity" or Renovationism, develops its own conception of interrelationship between the Church and the world, its own interpretation of the mission of the Church in the world.

This interpretation radically differs from the Gospel revelation about God, man and the Church.

According to the Gospel revelation, Christianity may have no part in any politics, because it is called upon to remain OUTSIDE all political institutes and their doctrines, and it does not have any pretentions to any good things in this world. "My kingdom is not of this world" - said the alord to a representative of the earthy power (Jn. 18:35).

The Kingdom of Christ which Christians are admonished to seek before everything else is above any politics, any ideology, created by people of this world. Those who seek it, spread the good news about the eternal CELESTIAL life, while all political systems are preoccupied with the EARTHLY life.

The Church is called by God to a certain kind of service to the world, it is called to bring the good news of hope in resurrection. Politics repudiates this mission, because it is unable and POWERLESS to spread the good news about salvation of the soul. God does not give strength to political Christianity to occupy itself with apologetics, which society needs.

We are taught not only to pray for those in power and persecutors, but also to preach to them about hope and deliverance from the eternal death, in order that at least one soul might learn about the thirst for salvation through a Christian sermon.

Insisting on his right to defend his faith, to preach, a Christian is not preoccupied with himself: he is called upon to bring the gift of faith to another person whoever this OTHER person might be - a sympathizer, or persecutor.

Christ said to His disciples: "Ye shall be brought before the rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony before them (Mk. 13:9). BEFORE THEM - means FOR them. Every soul is precious to God, it is worth the whole world. The history of Christianity knows of many instances when the courage of Christians facing their tormentors turned these tormentors to Christ...

But did we hear a word of defence of the Truth, even once, from those of the archbishops who are given an opportunity to preach from television screens and newspaper columns?

Political Christianity is like a fig tree showing off its leaves - its vestments - but having no fruit to feed the hungry (MK.11:13).

During the long years of catastrophic stagnation and cold war our church hierarchy was particularly preoccupied with "peace-making". So many peace-making speeches were pronounced, one like another, at all kinds of forums and congresses! So many billions of church money were spent on these talks and on the banquets crowning these talks! While it was precisely during these years that thousands upon thousands of lives were lost in Afghanistan and wars were fought in other regions of the world.

Today 'glasnost' has revealed the vices of the foreign policy of Brezhnev's era. Why, then, did the church power find itself drawn into this vicious circle? Why did the peace-makers keep silent about the death of thousands of our country's sons in Afghanistan?

When God was about to destroy the inhabitants of Sodom for their unprecedented moral shamelessness and disintegration, when Sodom turned into a temple of all kinds of depravity (our own earthly home, our world may become such a temple), it was condemned to the all-consuming fire.

It was then that Abraham "stood before the Lord" and began imploring Him to spare Sodom, to spare mankind. "Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt Thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?" The fifty righteous were not to be found in Sodom, and Abraham knew it, too. He began "haggling" with God. He talked of forty-five, forty, then thirty, twenty and, finally of ten righteous. God promised to spare Sodom if ten righteous were left in the city.

But they could not be found (Gen. 18:22-32), except Lot and his family who were then led out of the city, whereupon fire destroyed its inhabitants.

The idea of this Biblical story is very edifying for those who crave for salvation of the world, for the salvation of their homeland; it is also edifying for professional peace-makers. If you want to save the world from complete destruction by fire - be righteous...