Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, October 1961

Part 2 of 2

In contrast to the total rejection of any significance of Apostolic succession among the heterodox there are those, primarily among the heterodox who exaggerate this significance to an extreme. An ordination within the Apostolic succession is treated as an entity in itself, which can exist within and outside the Church, even contrary to its will. Such an exaggerated concept of Apostolic succession is common primarily in the whole Catholic West and corresponds to the general characteristic of its religious views, in particular with the somewhat spiritually weak understanding of Divine grace. The basic differences here between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on this point were clearly in evidence during the well-known debates of the Palamites and the Barlaamites. The Orthodox Palamites understood energies (the action of God on creation and upon man in particular) as a direct or a personal act of God. Thus they referred to energy simply as God. The Barlaamites (Westerners), seeing the Godhead as inscrutable, looked upon energy as a manifestation of the created world and saw it as a creation separate from God. Reflecting this basic understanding in the teaching on sacraments the result is that grace is Divine energy. For an Orthodox, to say that "grace is given by sacraments" means that "God acts upon man in the sacraments." Here it is extremely difficult to formulate the Orthodox teaching with precision. The form of the sacrament is essential and it is impossible to connect the free creative act of God with a particular symbolic act or a material sign and to make it, so to say, dependent on the celebrant of the symbolic act. The form, for an Orthodox, becomes not so much as a source of grace but a sign or a witness that the Divine act has taken place. Thus the minister of the sacrament is not the empowered grantor of grace but a petitioner for the Divine act to take place and a guarantor that the Divine act will take place. The priest's prayer and assurance thus receives its power from the prayer and assurance of the Church, the "fulfillment of Christ" upon the earth. Thus the sacraments are effective as long as the sacred minister is in communion with the Church and ministers on her behalf.

On the other hand everything is clear and well-defined for the Catholic. Divine grace is a power emanating from God, granted by Him to the hierarchy and as such, having a separate existence from God. It is convenient to attach this impersonal power to a specific form (opus operatum) and to make it depend directly on the will of the minister-celebrant.

It must be admitted that we Orthodox, not infrequently are reduced to such a diminished material understanding of grace and sacraments. This takes place under Catholic influence. Mainly it is easier for the material man, the man "of this world" to operate with material, "mental" ( )
rather than "spiritual" ( ) concepts. But in any case, this is
inconsistent with the purely spiritual Orthodox point of view.

The Western understanding of grace which leads logically to an exaggerated view upon the person of the priest to the diminishment of his significance as a minister of the Church is especially prevalent in Catholicism. Having received grace through a valid ordination the priest becomes to some degree personally as a source of grace, even though as a successor to others. Adding to this the teaching on the indelibility of grace results in the fact that a [Roman] priest can be cut off from his ecclesiastical authorities, become suspended, completely reject Christianity and become for example, a cultist or a declared atheist, nonetheless he remains a [Roman] priest, preserving his apostolic ordination and all his acts as a priest remain valid, even though he celebrates a so-called "black mass". Along the same line a bishop, performing an ordination, acts with the power of hierarchal grace given to him personally and thus, to put it crudely, transmits his own and not the Church's grace and as such it is not essential whether he is acting with the consent of his Church or after he has left the Church. and, inasmuch as the grace of ordination is received not from the Church but from him who ordains, who in turn received it from the one who ordained him, etc. up to the Apostles, so does it matter whether they are Orthodox, whether they belong to the Universal Church or to some heterodox organization? So long as there is Apostolic succession in the given organization, the ordinations will be valid. The one who is so ordained will in his turn, be a personal carrier of grace which he can exercise at his discretion, with no concern about the teaching or the wishes of those who ordained him .

The basic fallacy of such a distorted concept of grace, priesthood and spiritual life in general is clearly exposed by those extreme, distorted conclusions reached by those straightforward and unceremonious seekers of ordination having Apostolic succession. If the grace of the priesthood consists of some unconscious thing indifferent to its fate (as if a piece of merchandise), then there should be no reason why anyone who has the desire could not take advantage of it no matter by what means.

One can recall incidents from the history of our Old Believer schism which were almost childish (for example, a priest would be immersed in a baptismal font, fully vested, so as not to "remove the ordination"), which took place, to recruit someone with Apostolic succession to their camp and still avoid being contaminated by "Nikonian heresy". To the honor of the Old Believers none of them were tempted by blasphemy: to join the Orthodox Church falsely to obtain valid ordination and return to the fold. They did not go beyond attempts to recruit and enlist Orthodox bishops and priests to their cause.

Such is not the case in the West. There people did not limit themselves to the enticement of alien bishops and priests but went ahead to obtain Apostolic succession for themselves from an alien and even a heretical organization in order to make use of the ordination in their own group, passing themselves off as valid orthodox. An example is Vilatte, who made enough noise in his time. He went as far as India for his Apostolic ordination, to the Jacobites, in order to pass ordinations around to anyone desiring them, including Anglicans (in America), among Old Catholics (for example in France) and more precisely to everyone and anywhere wherever there was a desire to take advantage of the services of a hierarch. Imitators of Vilatte keep cropping up even today. For example in Germany there are several religious groups (not including Old Catholics) who strut about proclaiming their theological erudition and who pretend to be recognized by the Orthodox. One is the "Evangelical Catholic Brotherhood" consisting of several thousand followers. It is headed by a Lutheran pastor Herzog who was ordained bishop by Monophysites. He continues to be a pastor for the Lutherans and carries out the functions of an Orthodox bishop among the "orthodox" Brotherhood. It is said that Bishop Tikhon (Karlovitz group) admits the members of the Brotherhood to prayerful and even Eucharistic communion. There is also a "High Church Society" with more than half a million followers. The group is led by a professor of Lutheran theology Heile, who was consecrated bishop also by Monophysites and by "hundreds" of Lutheran pastors ordained (probably by Heile) to Orthodox priesthood. All of them continue in their Lutheran responsibilities, some as professors some as pastors, and at the same time serve as "orthodox" hierarchs in the "orthodox" societies.

There is also in Germany a "German Orthodox Diaspora" or at best "Spiridon" who styles himself a "Metropolitan" of the diaspora, a rather prominent personality for those seeking Apostolic ordination. According to him he is 33 years old and has been a hierarch for more than seven years. He is a German, baptized and confirmed a Catholic. He completed a course in theology in Belgian and Luxembourg monasteries. At age 19 he left Catholicism for the Old Catholics. He married. Soon became disenchanted with the Old Catholics and from 1926 "firmly stood on the Orthodox foundation". This did not prevent Spiridon, in October 1927, to approach some (apparently a vagans) married Armenian bishop Gregory Guzik who, in about five days ordained him (likewise married) a deacon, presbyter and finally a bishop of the "Armenian Orthodox Church" (without a designated diocese). Having received such an ordination Spiridon considered himself within his rights to proclaim himself a Metropolitan of the German Orthodox Diaspora, a society consisting of 200 adherents with seven priests and he now seeks to be recognized in that title, specifically in a black cowl with a (none other) garnet pectoral cross. Who is this Guzik and where did he get his ordination is apparently a mystery to Spiridon. In any event at first he (Spiridon) said that he cannot correctly determine where Guzik's orders came from because all the participants (and apparently including Guzik) in Spiridon's consecration returned to Rome. Spiridon at first called Guzik an Orthodox bishop of the Renovationist camp but who was not installed by them but by Armenian uniats namely, that Armenian group which in the seventies of the last century broke with Rome along with their bishop Kipellian. Thus having broken with Rome these Armenians did not unite with the Monophysites and Spiridon is quick to call them Orthodox. This "Orthodox Armenian Patriarch" (as Spiridon calls him) Kipellian along with his bishop Kasangian apparently installed the Renovationist bishop Gregory Guzik. It should be noted that Kipellian returned to Rome in 1879 and thus Guzik's consecration must have been earlier. Furthermore, Spiridon reveals that Guzik's second consecrator Kasangian was not a bishop but a chorbishop in the order of presbyters. In subsequent correspondence from Spiridon it is stated that Guzik was not consecrated by Kipelian and Kasangian but by an Anglican Bishop Gore and Kasangian's connection to the consecration was limited to a recognition of Guzik's consecration as valid by his Armenian uniat group. This revelation somehow favors Spiridon inasmuch as Anglican orders are now recognized by some of the Eastern Orthodox patriarchs thus it becomes easier to validate his orders. In this way an Anglican consecration, recognized by an Armenian uniat group separated from Rome, produces a Renovationist bishop (somewhat before the establishment of the Renovationists) who in turn becomes competent to install an Orthodox hierarch for the Germano-Orthodox Diaspora!

These back-door searches for Orthodox ordinations become more curious since, in Western Europe, there always were and still are close at hand, a number of legitimate Orthodox hierarchs: Greeks, Serbs Romanians and others, not to mention His Eminence Metropolitan Elevferii who oversees our churches in Western Europe. Obviously the wandering Armenians and their kind were more compliant and looked upon the distribution of ordinations to anyone who wanted one regardless of who they were, as something casual and did not set up any serious restrictions or qualifications on the recipients.

These monstrous events are obviously extremes and are judged accordingly by serious people even in the West. Nonetheless the motivation for them is based on completely sincere attempts, by any means possible, to arrive at ecumenical unity (e.g. by Anglicans, Old Catholics, etc.). Exaggerating the significance of Apostolic succession, these seekers for unity assume that a heterodox organization, even if separated from the Church, constitutes a Local Church within the Church Universal if it has preserved Apostolic succession among its clergy. To be sure, the acceptance of erroneous dogmas or the violation of fundamental canonical principles etc., deprived this Local Church of Eucharistic communion with the local Orthodox Churches. But even if removed from communion, that organization as long as it has not completely departed from the Christian faith, continues to exist as a Church, performs sacraments and saves people. Eucharistic communion with the Orthodox is highly desirable for such a local Church, and would be beneficial in the mutual support of Church ministry. In all this, it is a moral obligation (according to Christ's command "That all may be one") perhaps more of a fascinating remote ideal, rather than a practical necessity: having lost communion, the heterodox organization nonetheless believes that it does not cease to be a local Church, part of the Church Universal.

In order to establish itself in communion, the heterodox "Church" must at least recognize its dogmatical and canonical defects and correct them, which it can do on its own initiative and then by that fact of correction it becomes a full member of the union of local Orthodox Churches, joined together by mutual communion in the Eucharist and prayer. In such a case there is no need of an official reception or a union with one of the existing Orthodox Churches. The Westerners, knowing only about unions with Rome which requires the suppression of any local customs or independence, are afraid that an invitation to unite with the Eastern Orthodox Church would result in the same attempt to subject them to the East with a loss of their own originality. This fear of course, chills any already lukewarm thoughts about Church union. In point of fact, if the Eucharistic communion with the Orthodox Church is merely a desirable embellishment of Church life and not life itself, then is it not reasonable from the point of an abstract idea, perhaps one which is fascinating and edifying, but practically not very beneficial, to risk some very precious realities? This leads to an exchange of many sweet words, much erudition, many arguments over secondary matters, much persistence in vindicating principles, but there is not that thirst which forces one " come to the waters" (Is. 55:1), there is no spiritual effort with which one can "accomplish great things" (G. Canon).


An understanding of the Ecumenical Church as a conglomerate of heterogenous parts
But this very attractive, broad and most pleasing to all theory cannot be attributed to the Church. The Church of Christ always understood its unity in the one Eucharist: "all commune from the one bread and the one cup". The hierarchy may be present; it can trace its orders directly to the Apostles; but having broken the Eucharistic communion with the Church, that hierarchy loses the power which remains with the Church, to bind and loose and particularly, to celebrate the true Eucharist. Therefore, the only viable members of the Universal Church of Christ can be only those local churches which have not lost their participation in that one universal Eucharist. The number of such participants can at times be reduced to an absolute minimum; but this does not change the situation for the fallen-away majority and does not permit it to call itself a Church. The most that it can be: the heterodox are in a darkened porch or a courtyard of the Church where sinners and those deprived of communion had to stand, although they were not completely cut off from the Church. The way to restoration of communion and through this to eternal salvation is the same for fallen away organizations as it is for any fallen individual. It is necessary not only to recognize one's sins before the Church but to receive admission to the Eucharist from the Church which has the power to bind and loose, which takes place through the rite of reconciliation. Only such a reception opens the way for the fallen to the full membership in the Church.

That this was the original teaching of the Church about itself and that this is the teaching of the ancient "undivided" Church, so dear to the Old Catholics and their types, can be seen not only from written sources from those times but from living witnesses, namely the still viable groups of Nestorians, Monophysites, Armenians and Copts, Maronites, etc. All these organizations split away from the yet "undivided" Church, and when they left her, each of them believed (and continues to believe) that they are the true Orthodox Church of Christ, and that others (including our own Orthodox) are schismatics or heretics. They by no means see themselves merely a part of the Church alongside other independent parts, although superior to them. The Church for them was and is not a sum total of various parts of a whole of one degree or another, but a single monolithic organization united by one Eucharist. Outside that organizations are ecclesiastical splinters which do not have an independent meaning. These organizations learned to believe this from the "undivided" Church.

As for the previously described attempts to obtain the grace of priesthood somehow apart from the Church, that is outside from her or within her but without her consent, all these attempts are in themselves under judgement.
They are unacceptable to the Church and for the seekers themselves, without any value: they do not give them the desired grace of priesthood.

In the first place all such attempts are based on a crudely sensual, superstitious understanding of the Mystery of the priesthood, as if it were some magic talisman which is so powerful that it can perform miracles and at the same time helpless as any inanimate thing. It can somehow be captured from the magician and then used as a talisman according to one's wishes. Such spiritual blindness reflects internal unbelief a "petrified sensation" towards the life of spiritual grace, a general condition of the soul standing in the way of receiving the desired grace. Let us recall that Simon Magus did not receive hierarchal grace precisely because he contemplated about God's gift blasphemously, which showed that "his heart was not right before God" (Acts 8:18, 23). Yes, there are priests in the Church with such a spiritual condition. But as long as the priest is in the Church and acts in her name, his defects are covered by the Church's plenitude. Leaving the Church, what can he offer to his new flock?

In the second place, the above attempts in fact are accompanied with canonical transgressions, which bring about ejection, frequently by way of bribery, especially with the enticement of priests and bishops, as was the case with Amvrosii of Belokrinitza (and here not only those who ordain and were ordained for a reward are deprived of grace, but all those who were with them, laymen and monastics, subject to anathema. E.C. IV:2), or almost always accompanied by fraud in one way or another which is equivalent to bribery and likewise results in the deprivation of grace (Cf E.C.VII:8).

A classic example of an attempt to fool each other in the transmission of the grace of priesthood from the Orthodox Church to the dissidents is the "rite" developed in September of 1925 in Ashkhabad by Bishop Andrey Ukhtomsky and Archimandrite Kliment, who left the Church. Upon instruction from the Old Believers, Kliment came to Bp. Andrey inviting him to go over to the Old Believers. Bp. Andrey knew very well that the Old Believers would receive him only by way of the Second Rite, that is with the renunciation of Nikoniasm and by chrismation and he still agreed. But, in renouncing Nikoniasm he took advantage of a sophism: Nikon's reforms served as an impetus for Church reforms of Peter I and on the basis of the latter a new direction in Church life came about, bringing on the Renovationists. Thus to renounce Renovationism would mean a renunciation of Nikonism. Anointing himself with Holy Chrism, he thought that he is not performing the rite of chrismation but a simple anointing as a sign of spiritual joy on the occasion of the event. Kliment, who was to receive consecration to the episcopate from Bp. Andrey, quickly closed his eyes to these small details. Bp. Andrey became an Old Believer bishop and Kliment was consecrated. However such quid pro quo did not satisfy the Old Believers and they did not recognize Andrey as one of theirs nor Kliment as a bishop.

The Old Believers not infrequently resort to such trickery themselves. For example they make sure that someone leaving the Church to join them, so to say jumps the fence, that is he goes through the rite of reception as an Old Believer before there is time for the Church court to suspend him or deprive him of Orders. They forget that in addition to the earthly court there is the judgement of God from which no one, no where, can hide. "Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them" (Amos 9:2). Even the earthly Church court can reach the one who ran away, wherever he may have gone: according to the canons a vagrant cleric remains a cleric of his former diocese and as such is subject to judgement by his bishop, likewise a vagrant bishop is still subject to his superior. Joining a dissident organization does not shield one from a Church court but merely an additional reason to deprive the vagrant from his Orders or at least to suspend him and declare all his ministrations after leaving the Church to be ineffective.

Even more questionable and hopeless is the attempt to obtain ordination from some heterodox organization. For example, one Archimandrite, who was not really a bad sort, lost his patience in waiting for an Orthodox bishopric and decided to get what he wanted by indirect means: he went over to the Renovationists, obtained a consecration and soon after that came to me with repentance and with a request to be taken back to the Church. An even better case: a young Hieromonk who was very active and received awards from his bishop for among other things his struggles against Renovationists and Gregorievites, all of a sudden becomes a Gregorievite bishop and writes to me requesting admission to the Church, promising to bring over the whole episcopate. Their logic is understandable: "To be sure, it is a sin to go over to the Dissidents; the Church court will impose a penance; I will repent of my sin, perform the penance but nonetheless I will remain a bishop". Certainly, it is not possible to receive those two in their present rank even if we recognized Gregoriavite ordinations and (after 2 April 1924) those of the Renovationists. A considerable condescension in both cases would be not to deprive them of Orders for their blasphemous fraud but to retain the one as an Archimandrite and the other as a Hieromonk.

Such are the voyages of the learned German professors to the Monophysites for ordinations. The candidate for ordination is obviously lying: he reads the Monophysite confession, he promises loyalty to the Monophysite hierarchy and he knows very well in his soul that he doesn't want to nor will he be a Monophysite, that he will immediately cut all ties with the Monophysite hierarchy because he wants the bishopric for himself alone and for his organization. If those who ordain are not fooled by the true intentions of the candidate, then they are acting dishonestly with respect to their Monophysite organization. It is no wonder that suspicions arise that the alertness of the guardians of the Monophysite integrity in such cases is made dormant by some unspiritual means. Even if those who ordain are motivated by self-imagined benevolence that is, to provide hierarchs for the wandering organization, having left the Lutherans or Roman Catholics but who did not join the Church, then the Church has the right to view such an ordination as an act directed towards harming the Orthodox mission and to apply all the strictness and force of canons to such an extraterritorial ordination (Ap. 14; E.C.I:16; Sard. 15, etc.).

With respect to the above mentioned Gregory Guzik and his candidate Spiridon, neither one nor the other can be recognized as bishops even if both of them were not married. Guzik received his Orders from Anglicans, whose orders are not recognized by the Russian Church. The recognition of that ordination by Kasangian, who broke away from Rome, an Armenian Uniate, is not binding on anyone. One must wonder about Spiridon, why did a person with a theological formation, allow himself to be ordained by some wandering bishop with questionable orders, and then proclaimed himself an Orthodox bishop.

By the same token those who reject all signs of Apostolic succession in heterodoxy are likewise wrong, as is the case of extreme protectors of Orthodox dogma, but those are even more in error who see that succession as some value in itself which can be utilized without and outside of the Orthodox Universal Church. The heterodox group have a great advantage who have preserved Apostolic succession in that the Church still considers them "of the Church" (ek tis ekklisias), "not yet foreign to the Church". She still preserves "a certain order of communion" with them, on the same level as she has with the sinners and those under penance. However if this impaired and hopeless communion does not lead to full unity with the Church in the one Eucharist, then all the advantages of such heterodox organizations fall away without any benefit. (Rom 9:4-5; 10:4).

Translated by Alvian N. Smirensky
October 26, 1995

Part 1 of this document.

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