ON THE QUESTION OF WESTERN ORTHODOXY
[Letter from Patriarch Sergii of Moscow to Vladimir N. Lossky]
Dear Vladimir Nikolaevich,
Your missionary efforts amongst the non-Orthodox cannot be other than praiseworthy. The thought that our mission should develop on the order of private initiative is very appropriate, and thus it should enjoy certain independence from ecclesio-administrat ive organs or, more precisely, from the administrative paperwork with which they are burdened. The Church is not completely responsible for private initiatives which in turn allows the mission to have freedom of initiative which is so important for its ac tivity. You write about a sad experience of a Frenchwoman who applied to become Orthodox to me in Moscow. Having passed through channels, her request found its way to Fr. Afanasii who simply marinated that "little paper" on his desk. Thus the Frenchwoma n was not heard and was not received. Had she for example applied to the Brotherhood, the result would have been different; at least there would have been an exchange of correspondence if not a face-to-face conversation. On the other hand you are afraid of hindrances on the part of our Western deanery council which consists of priests from our Western parish. As recent converts you find that they are not dependable leaders for the mission and furthermore they themselves are often in need of direction. T hus, among the variants you propose for the structure of the mission I would limit myself to the one wherein the mission is assigned to the Brotherhood which was organized for the study of heterodoxy and with the aim of exposing the Westerners to Orthodoxy which had once been native to them. I think that the Brotherhood should be responsible primarily for the preliminary task: contacts with those interested in converting, a development of necessary prerequisites (the procedures and conditions for receiving a particular group, either under Western or Eastern rite, its parish organization, pastoral care, etc.). The approval of the terms and their implementation, as well as the examination of the petitioners and their acceptance into the Church, is a function of the hierarchy.
The Western rite accepted by us, should be looked upon as a first step which was hurriedly put together and thus it is subject to modifications on the basis of further experience. For example, some write to me that our Western Rite people are confused on the subjects of the veneration of icons and the restriction of Holy Eucharist only to Church members. Probably, there are a number of items in the text of the services and rites in need of revision. In other words our existing version of the Western Orth odox liturgy (the texts, rites and customs) cannot be considered as the final established form and the only acceptable one. Therefore, should some group approach us and offer its own form of Western liturgy, one more complete, nothing would stop us from a ccepting it. A parallel use of two versions of services and in particular, of the Divine Liturgy, would not be contrary to Church Tradition: for in our Eastern Church along with the Liturgy of J[ohn] Chrysostom, the Liturgies of the Apostle James and Basi l the Great are also celebrated. The only requirement would be that the new version not be "home made" and be clearly based upon some authentic Church tradition: Gallic or (for example for non-Frenchmen) some other not excluding the Roman (with correction s).
The desire of some (who write to me) to have in Paris our normal Eastern or Russian Divine Services in French should not be ignored. This, I am told, is essential not only for the French as for the émigré itself, particularly the youths which gradually fo rget the Russian language and understand Church Slavonic even less.
All this leads to your suggestion to establish a special parish in Paris, in addition to the present Western Orthodox one. It can be called a mission or a Brotherhood parish or something else. The important thing that we can, without inconveniencing our Western Orthodox and not loading them with new assignments, introduce when needed, a Western rite in a new version and Eastern services in French. What are the possibilities of establishing such a special parish?
In passing I would like to remind you: we should not impose our Western rite on anyone, whatever the version, and allow such choice to those who are entering the Church. When there was a move toward Orthodoxy among the Czechs, the late A. A. Kireyev raise d an alarm: "Why do the Czechs need Orthodoxy? Orthodoxy for Westerners is in the Old Catholic Church." Let's not make the same mistake. Whoever wants the Western Rite, let them use it. The presence of Western Orthodoxy has a deep sense. This is also very good for the immediate aims of the mission. However, we know of formerly heterodox people, theologically educated and deep thinkers, who were attracted precisely by the profundity and the religious richness of our Eastern Rite.
For us Easterners the Western Rite is an interesting novelty, for the Westerners it is an accepted event....
Calling for Divine blessing upon the Brotherhood and upon you personally for your efforts on behalf of the Church,
I remain yours in Christ,
Translated by the Rev. A. Smirensky
from "Patriarkh Sergii i ego dukhovnoye nasledstvo." [The Patriarch Sergius and His Spiritual Legacy.] Moscow Patriarchate, M., 1946, pp. 72-74.
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