(This article was written by Monk Zachary of the Russian Orthodox Catacomb Church and was originally published in Pravoslavnaya Rus [Orthodox Rus], No. 10, 1947, Jordanville, NY.)
When I was a child, I heard the following tale:
In very ancient times, in some country or other, there was a gang of bandits whose fierce and furious raids terrorized the entire surrounding population. The fierce leader of this gang had lost all sense of human feeling and wrought unspeakable evil, such as hitherto had been unknown.
On one occasion, these bandits attacked the home of a good and peaceful man. First, they slaughtered the master of the house; then, mocking and outraging her, they bestially murdered his wife, as well, after which they stole all the family’s belongings. They would have killed the master’s son, too — a small child, who was weeping helplessly in a corner but, the leader of the gang, having taken particular note of the little boy’s unusual comeliness, concluded that he could probably demand a huge ransom for the child. Consequently, he ordered that the boy be taken back to their encampment with them.
They brought the little tyke to that cave where the gang hid out. The bandit leader entrusted the boy to the care of his “lady-friend” — a woman truly “worthy” of him — and thereupon forgot all about the child.
Sometime later, upon returning from a raid, the bandit chieftain happened to meet this child and barely recognized him: so much had he changed. He had grown thin and now was possessed of a sickly appearance.
Asked about the reason for such a change, the bandit leader’s paramour explained that the child was grieving sorely for his Mother; that he refused to come near anyone; avoided all and sundry; ate little; and, probably, would soon die.
That evening, poring over his old stash of loot, the bandit leader found a dress and some adornments and foot-gear that had belonged to the child’s Mother, whom he had slain some time previously.
“Listen,” he said to his doxy, “you say that the lad is grieving for his Mother. So, put on all this stuff, go to him, cuddle him, — perchance he’ll take you for his Mother and recover. Otherwise, alas! he’ll perish, when we could get a tidy sum for him”
The bandit leader’s concubine put on the dead woman’s dress, adorned herself with the latter’s brooches and jewelry, assumed a tender and loving appearance insofar as she was capable of doing so, — and went to the child. Terrified, he recoiled from her and screamed.
“Come to me, my darling little one,” the female bandit said, “for, behold: it is I, your Mama. Look: here is the dress, here is the jewelry! Don’t you recognize me?”
“No, no!” the child began to weep, trembling in terror: “the dress is Mama’s, the jewelry is Mama’s, but you, you’re not my Mama”
* * * * *
The present-day situation in Orthodoxy reminds me of this poignant tale, which I had heard in childhood.
With its innate ability to manipulate ideas, the leadership of the Moscow patriarchate seeks to convince everyone that there, in Moscow, attired in Her garments and adorned with Her jewels, we can find our very own natural Mother.
Of course, all this is calculated without taking into account the members of the Catacomb Church, who know well the false gaze of the “mistress of murderers.” They cannot be deceived!
This is a tale that is told to those children who lost their Mother in early childhood; who, hence, are unable to recall Her true face. These, who do not remember their Mother, behold Her dress, Her jewelry, and they begin to doubt, although it pains their hearts to do so: but what if this actually is She! After all, everyone has grown so sick with longing for Her.
For such as these, the flattery of the MP’s hierarchs can be pernicious. It is to them that my voice of warning is directed, the voice of a Christian who spent nearly 30 years in the Catacomb Church.
What are you looking at! Why do you doubt? This is not She; this is not our Mother!
I implore Him Who gives conviction to my words; may He empower my lips to open the eyes, to awaken the awareness of those who doubt. Yea, Lord, bring make it so!
Hearken unto me, you who have grown sick with longing for the Mother-Church! This adulterous lady-friend of the fearsome bandit chieftain in Moscow is not only not the local Russian Church, she is also not Orthodox, — and not even a Christian church, all in all.
What are the distinguishing features of any autocephalous Orthodox Church? They are four: 1. Territory. 2. Nation. 3. A lawful hierarchy. 4. The Spirit of Christ that is, the unsullied keeping of Christ’s Teaching and the dogmas of the Church, which started with the Apostles. Besides that, each and every local Church has Her own, unique, tenor of life, not encountered in any other local Church Her own spiritual-mystical world-view, which is innately Hers, alone.
Only the sum-total of all these features indicates that any given Church is, at present, the very same that She had been since the beginning of Her existence. Taken separately, neither territory, nor nation, nor hierarchy, nor preservation of dogmas, nor tenor of life and world-view, are any evidence of the continuing life of a church and of her selfsameness with the one that had existed in the beginning. After all, the names of the seven Churches that are spoken of in the Apocalypse continue to survive to this day. Yet, who will say that these are still those selfsame Churches! And the Alexandrine or Roman churches are they the very same ones that had existed during the lifetimes of Athanasius the Great and Leo, the Pope of Rome? Even preserving apostolic succession, how little these daughter-churches resemble their Mother.
And the one in Moscow that has occupied the home of our Mother-Church, — imprisoned and tortured beyond endurance, as She was? The one that put on the latter’s garments, that adorned herself with the latter’s ornaments, which were presented to her by bandits, the one that even sings what are seemingly the latter’s songs, what else is there about her wherewith she reminds us of the latter of the one that truly was our very own?
Of all the features, she has, in fact, but one: the house — the territory. The Nation she betrayed, having blessed her master the ataman of the gang of cutthroats — to annihilate all those who refused to recognize him as their “father and benefactor.”
Hierarchy? We know where that is. We know well, where and how the faithful bishops and priests of our true Mother-Church perished or were subjected to torments. We heard with our own ears what the adulterous inamorata of the bandit leader said of them.
The Spirit of Christ. Read any of the magazines of the Moscow Patriarchate, without picking and choosing, and you will find there that the priests and even the bishops of this organization call their children to take vengeance upon, to shed the blood of, to carry out pogroms against, and to hate all those who are unconstrained and unregimented in their thinking. Then will you yourselves see instead of the meek visage and loving eyes of our Mother-Church that bestial, tooth-baring grin of the bandit woman who had sold herself out.
But, perhaps, she is nevertheless Orthodox, even if she is a fallen sinner?
No! For Orthodoxy is defined unconditionally by its recognition of the dogma of ancestral sin and of said sin’s consequences. We believe that human nature, impaired by ancestral sin, is itself inclined towards evil. No economic or political form, in and of themselves, can, without the grace of God that is imparted through the Mystery of holy Baptism, deliver man from the inclination to do evil and set him upon the path of doing good. Left to his own devices, man, who has rejected God and everything that is holy, inevitably rolls down into the abyss of evil. There can be no “paradise” built upon earth; on the contrary, evil will progress ever the more — growing, toward the end of time, to horrifying dimensions, so that barely will one be able to find believing people upon the earth (Lk 18.). Every doctrine that man is good in and of himself; that we need only bring about the necessary economic and political conditions of life, and that man, thereupon, will become an angel of light is unorthodox. Every organization which imparts its blessing to the building of an earthly paradise and by a theomachic state, at that, which rejoices at the joys and grieves at the sorrows of manifestly atheistic satanists, thereby rejects the dogma of ancestral sin, the dogma of the Church as the keeper of Divine Righteousness upon the earth, — and equally, also, many other dogmas. Wherefore, let it be anathema!
Yet, in the end, some of the lukewarm will say: “but it is, nonetheless, a church.”
How few words there are in the human vocabulary! Many simply contradictory concepts sometimes find expression in it through one and the same label. The prophet David, in his own day, could not find a word to convey the concept of that which is opposed to the Church. “I hate the church of the wicked,” he said, as though the wicked have a church.
“I will build My Church,” our Saviour told us. And from that time on, we have associated the concept of salvation with the name of Church. Everything that does not save is — not the Church; everything that deceives is — not the Church; everything that assists the godless in destroying the soul of our nation, exhausted with torments, is not the Church; or, it is the church of the wicked. If it is forbidden to use God’s name in vain, then is not the name of the Church of Christ inapplicable to the handmaiden of satan’s servant - to the Moscow patriarchate?
* * * * *
The true children of the Church of Christ will not be deceived by the attire and adornments which have been removed from our violated and insulted Mother.
We firmly believe that soon, very soon, we will meet Her the true one; Her, who gave birth to us through water and through the spirit; the genuine, natural article, which has come forth from out of dungeons, concentration camps, hidden oubliettes, and pits in the earth. Divine Righteousness will yet triumph.
And then will She, our greatly suffering Mother Russian Church, be set before the Face of the Lord all Her children, who have remained faithful to the end, and She will say:
“Here am I and those children whom Thou hast given me.”
And they who have endured unto the end will exclaim, with great joy:
“Glory to Thee, our Saviour, Who art coming again! Soon!”
Yea, verily, come Lord Jesus!